The Ten Words-of-advice Revisited

Laws like gravity are universal laws we simply cannot break. Laws like our present legal system are a social convention we shouldn't break. The Law of Moses presents a system of ten conventions that shouldn't be broken. It is wise to understand why each of these are the way they are.

God of the Games

The modern idea of Game Theory gives us a context in which we can better explain what the Bible means by God. For every well defined game, there will be a well defined notion of optimal or perfect play. A perfect player is a player who can or will (depending upon how you define him or her) achieve this optimal or perfect play. But such a player will not break the rules of the game he or she is playing. This idea is so general that we can express life problems as games, and use Game Theory to contemplate strategies for solving these problems. Then the notion of perfect player converges with the Biblical notion of God: God will not violate rules He has created, but can if he chooses behave optimally with respect to these rules (although He may choose to behave otherwise if he so chooses).

If we consider two parallel games of chess, with the same moves, one of which has the aim of winning, the other the aim of losing, we see that God himself could not possibly succeed at both. Either he will win the winners game, or he will win the losers game, or he will draw (and hence fail) both. Depending upon how the game of chess works, all these are possible. This is how you escape the philosophical trap of 'knots tied by God that he cannot untie'.

Relationships

Friendship is a relationship, obedience is a relationship, so is ownership. Wanting things is a kind of relationship too, albeit a potential relationship. In the system presented by the Bible, potential relationships matter too.

The 'Ten Commandments', or as I prefer to call them, the 'Ten Words-of-advice', are not absolute laws, but good default positions on moral issues: without solid justification you should follow these laws, but sometimes there is good justification not to follow them, and this is the position that Jesus takes.

The Ten Words-of-advice are all about relationships: about a right relationship with God, albeit an abstract entity as modern philosophy would have it: just as abstract maths underlies our understanding of physics, yet the implications of physics are real, so it is with God: the implications of God are real, and Jesus was and is real (which gives us an important nontriviality condition). There is no qualiatitive improvement upon assuming Jesus is as the Bible describes, so we assume that as our default position. We then see that Jesus teachings are often reiterations of the spirit of the Ten Words-of-advice.

So we must have a right relationship with God, a right relationship with our parents, and must not interfere unnecessarily with the relationships of others. To interfere with another person's marital relationship is adultery, to want to intefere is to covet. To interfere with another person's ownership relationship is stealing, to want to interfere is to covet. Thus it continues, and Jesus teachings are often reiterations of principles such as this.

John