Some More Thoughts on Gnosticism

I see that in my earlier post on Gnosticism, both problems I suggested were manifestations of Gnosticism in the church today – elevation of the immaterial over against the material, especially the human body, and an extreme fixation on the visible/invisible church distinction – will be solved at the last day (when Christians receive their glorified, resurrected bodies, and the church will be filled with the “visible elect”.) I think that this could have been an interesting coda to my earlier post but didn’t include it.

Some Thoughts on Gnosticism

I think that creeping Gnosticism (unintentionally) infects some Christian thinking today. This is a danger. I keep wanting to use this word in my posts, as opposition to Gnosticism is important to me. However, properly defining the term has to come first. Here are four approaches.

1. definition:

Google Gnosticism

2. definition:

Dictionary Gnosticism

3. Dr. Benjamin Wiker, a Roman Catholic ethicist, provides good overviews of both the 2nd century and modern forms of Gnosticism in this article. While the article carries on at length concerning the modern form (and is worth reading), his definition of the ancient form is succinct:

The heresy of Gnosticism had its origin in paganism but burst into full flower in its disruption of early Christianity. At its heart is a hatred of the material world, in particular, the human body. Gnostics rejected the material world as the evil creation of an inferior Demiurge, the world-making deity that the Gnostic heretics identified with Creator God revealed in the Old Testament. Against the orthodox understanding of the goodness of all creation, they believed that the material world was irredeemable, and therefore that human redemption meant salvation of the immaterial soul — the divine spark—from its imprisonment. (emphasis mine)

4. The Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry (CARM) has a page. Not much difference here:

Gnosticism taught that salvation is achieved through special knowledge (gnosis). This knowledge usually dealt with the individual’s relationship to the transcendent Being.

You can see the opportunity for abuse here: certain individuals possessing special knowledge can abuse anyone’s interest in receiving this knowledge. In contrast, the gospel is free.

Gnosticism is protean. It appears here as an obsession in the difference between body and soul; over there as a fixation on the distinction between the visible and invisible church. These are the two main problems with it in the church today.

Adam did not have a soul breathed into his body by God; he had life breathed into him, and then became a living soul. His personhood was not some laminate of a body and a soul; he was a person and therefore had both. When Christians die, and their bodies decay in the earth while their souls fly to heaven, this is a temporary state, and not glorious. The glorified, permanent state happens when body and soul are reunited after the resurrection.

Likewise, while the distinction between the visible and invisible church is real, it only exists because of human limitations. God knows His bride. He is not double-minded on the one He loves and died for. We must make this distinction because we do not know God’s eternal decrees before they are made manifest at the last day. Unfortunately, an over-reliance on this distinction usually elevates the invisible over the visible, as if the former were more real, and the latter more suspect (see the Gnosticism inherent in that?) As men, we ought to be more humble and realize that the visible/invisible distinction is about our limitations, not any actual division.

Lufthansa Ab Initio Training Part II

In this blog post I discussed the amazingly low attrition rate of Lufthansa’s ab initio (from the beginning) pilot training program.

Today, something a little different: the change that has ensued in the actual flying portion of pilot training. In 2006, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) created a new qualification, the Multi-Crew Pilot License (MPL). This license was designed to qualify a pilot to act as a flying crewmember in the cockpit of an airliner. I could have written that it was designed to qualify a pilot to act as a First Officer; however, a First Officer is really a pilot who can act as a Captain in case the latter becomes incapacitated. The First Officer is even expected to take the airplane controls from the Captain in extremis.

Lufthansa ATP to MPL

It wasn’t evolutionary: how Lufthansa replaced the Airline Transport Pilot syllabus with the Multi-Crew Pilot License syllabus

In other words, at U.S.-based airlines, a First Officer is a Captain who is waiting to upgrade (this is another reason why the media’s habit of referring to the Captain as “the pilot” and to the First Officer as “the co-pilot” is so aggravating to actual pilots.)

Lufthansa’s presentation to the NTSB (at left) graphically shows how things have changed with the introduction of the MPL license: you can see how the basic flying skills phase of the syllabus (the part done in an actual aircraft) has been de-emphasized.

The MPL program is almost a wholesale change to the way airline pilots are trained. Here is a good discussion of the pluses and minuses of the program from the point of view of Europeans seven years after the introduction of the MPL. Summary:

    • Drastic reduction of real aircraft flight time and landings
    • Reduction of real solo flight hours
    • Some currently approved MPL syllabi do not include real Instrument Flight Rules flight or upset recovery training
    • Little to no consolidation time (i.e. time to allow for reinforcing the just acquired skills)
    • Limited sample of MPL graduates flying the line today
    • No proof of capability for a MPL license holder to upgrade to captaincy (no MPL trainee has graduated to Captain yet, and no requirement for Pilot in Command task analysis)

To this pilot, the worst aspects of the MPL program are that its graduates are not taught to think like Captains, and the risibly low amount of aircraft flight time, landings (as low as six) and upset recovery training (to Lufthansa’s credit, they actually incorporate upset recovery training, but many do not.) The bottom line: there are no MPL graduates flying as Captains anywhere. What will happen if/when an MPL grad, lacking the seasoning of a military- or civilian-bred ATP license holder, bids a Captain’s seat at his airline, goes through 6 weeks of (simulator only) Captain training, and then flies with another MPL co-pilot at the controls of an airliner? You will then have an actual innovation in airline staffing: no Captain in the cockpit.

Lufthansa Ab Initio Training, Part I

Here’s a presentation by Lufthansa to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) on their ab initio (from the beginning) pilot training syllabus. Some thoughts on this:

Lufthansa Selection Process

The Lufthansa Pilot Section Process – slide 6

Slide 6 depicts the Lufthansa pilot selection process. What is striking about this graphic is the 95-98% success rate in step 3, “pilot school,” (aka flight school.) This is a dramatically high number.

Compare this with the attrition rate in Navy flight school during the period 1989-1992 (see page 20 – I graduated Navy flight school in 1989, so this data concerns the flight training I remember.) The difference is striking: leaving out ground school (“AOCS” and “API”) and pipeline training, the “success rate”

Navy Pilot Attrition 1989-1992

Navy Pilot Training Attrition 1989-1992

was 88.8%, even though Navy primary flight training had a smaller scope than the Lufthansa training (designed to prepare a pilot to fly as second-in-command of an airliner.)

I am not saying that Lufthansa training is bad. Lufthansa is an excellent airline. This is only to say that, assuming the Lufthansa training is a typical modern ab initio flight training program, especially as used by European airlines, it displays a key difference in method between the European and American systems.

The “weeding out” process in the European system (I’ll repeat the assumption: Lufthansa’s method typifies the whole European system) happens during Basic Qualification and Company Qualification (between 25-35% successful). In other words, unreliable pilots are removed from their pipeline primarily during a non-flying portion of their syllabus.

In the American system, unreliable (or, indeed, unlucky) pilots are more often weeded out while flying. I realize this sounds less civilized (i.e. a pilot removing himself via mishap.) Nobody thinks that weeding out by mishap is a good thing. But it’s not the only way pilots fail to complete their training.

Maybe the European system is better for that reason; recent events might only be highlighting the fact that, given a much smaller pool of general aviation or military pilots, the Europeans are doing a bang-up job screening out unreliable pilots.

But in America we have yet to see anything like Germanwings.

Great Crosswing Landings Video – Terrible Video Title

The first landing shows a good example of the wing-down, top rudder technique, even though the downwind gear touches first. The last landing looks like a fully crabbed landing without any of the crosswind heading taken out at touchdown, which is hard on the landing gear. Some of these pilots go around, probably because they are drifting past the touchdown zone, a no-no. Passengers should understand that a go-around is not an indication of pilot error, but an indication of a pilot being careful; so there’s no reason to call this footage “terrifying.” That’s an indication of ignorance about aviation. A better modifier, from the pilot’s perspective, would have been “difficult.” My first ever landing was a crosswind landing in a Beaver at Patuxent River, Maryland.

Psalm 126 Study

Sycamore Presbyterian Church Friday Men’s Bible Study Psalm 126 (see notes)

This is a Song of Ascents (Psalms 120-134). There are many explanations for this subtitle but there does not seem to be any consensus. One explanation is that these psalms were sung by the Levites as they ascended the fifteen steps from the Holy Temple courtyard to the inner section of the courtyard. Other ideas Read more

The Republican Establishment Hates Liberty

It’s hard to get more “establishment” than the highest ranking Republican officeholder in the U.S., Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. He and Sen. Richard Burr (also, of course, a Republican) are attempting to reauthorize the section of the Patriot Act that the government uses as a legal fiction to unconstitutionally spy on the phone calls and emails of ordinary Americans (by storing “metadata”). This section is to expire on June 1st. They want to reauthorize it through 2020. It will be interesting to see how many Republicans support this ongoing violation of the 4th amendment.

Note: I know I’ve written that the constitution is non-Christian; however, the Bill of Rights is one of the few things we have left against the continued arrogation of power by the Feds. I believe the Bill of Rights ought to be viewed as the “noble pagan” portion of the otherwise plain old pagan constitution.

Note: Also, I’ve been dumping on Republicans a lot, even though I’d style myself a quasi-libertarian conservative and should try to support them. My animus against the Republicans stems from disappointment; for a long time I bought their sales pitch only to discover later that how manipulative they really are. Also, I think they’re riper for reform than that other party.

Why Christians Should Stop Voting for Republicans

Each of the two major political parties has its bases: the groups of people that provide support to its candidates either via money (the corporate base) or votes (the electoral base). For the Republicans, the corporate base is heavily influenced by the military industrial complex (MIC). The Republican electoral base is profoundly influenced by evangelical Christians. The MIC is entirely dependent on increasing amounts of government spending (foreign and domestic), and, like any special interest, uses its money influence to wing. It loves big-spending, pro-war Republicans. It intends to win. It has a fantastic tool:


Evangelical Christians hate it (with good reason: between 1973, the year Roe v. Wade was decided, and 2011, abortion claimed the lives of 53 million people). To attract their votes, every four years the Republican Party nominates for President a man who claims to be against it (or: “pro-life”). 2012’s version was Mitt Romney, who was not pro-life. See for yourself in this tortuous sequence; Romney was pro-choice when campaigning in liberal Massachusetts, “pro-life” just in time for the 2012 Republican primary, and indifferent to abortion after winning the nomination.

Lucy Charlie football

It must be time to vote for President again.

This happens every four years.

It’s embarrassing. It’s also a sin; Jesus commanded us to be as “wise as serpents” when dealing with the wolves found in this world. But in 2012, evangelical churches handed out voter guides suggesting that Romney was “pro-life”. That’s scandalously unwise; in fact it’s plain lazy.

The Republican Party has cornered the market on providing “pro-life” candidates who aren’t. The party (not to say some of its actual pro-life members) doesn’t really want to end or even curtail abortion; doing so would damage a major, and recurring, electoral strategy.

The military industrial complex can’t take that risk.

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