Friday, October 17, 2014

If Jonah Were a Scientist

In this post:  Jonah, Ninevah, the Scientific Method and the patterns that point to destruction

Jonah, the Old Testament prophet, got swallowed by a whale before visiting Ninevah with God's message of destruction.  His story is mocked by the world, quoted by Jesus, and retold by motivational speakers because of it's epic quality.

Jonah responds to the call to go to Ninevah with fear.  He is emotional rather than logical.  After the whale swallows him, he has a change of heart.  He submits to God and takes the message.  But what if Jonah had been logical rather than emotional?  What if he had used the Scientific Method to tackle the problem of warning Ninevah?

Jonah by Gustave Dore

The first thing the Scientific Method relies on is a problem.  Jonah's problem was given to him -- the impending destruction of Ninevah.  A scientist takes the problem and begins to gather observations.  What if Jonah had collected statistics on the decadence in Ninevah?  I know what statistics he needed...the divorce rate, the poverty rate, the religious views, the violence per capita, the wealth to poverty ratio, the tax rate, the political corruption, the GDP.  Say he gets all that, and from the data he predicts that if he does nothing the city's social fabric will decay.  Maybe he sees enough corruption to predict political instability.  Certainly there are obvious patterns.  

Jonah decides to test his hypothesis that doom is imminent if he doesn't take God's message of warning.  He concludes that the benefits of warning the city outweigh the personal risks he must take including damage to his reputation, bodily harm, and even death.  He courageously completes the test.

Scientists are careful counters.  Jonah counts the people who repented.  Since the majority of people living in Ninevah repent in sackcloth and ashes, they avoid destruction.  His results are duplicated by and independent group of Assyrian scientists.  

Since Jonah is also a prophet, he reports back to God on the call he was given and asks if there is anything else God wants him to say or do.

But then again, since Jonah took the fear route, he got to study the inside of a whale for three days -- something any scientist would find fascinating!

Which route do you take in life?  Fear, Logical Analysis or Submission to God's Will -- or all three?

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