On Moral Genius, Vicious Deception, and Amazing Faith

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Notre Dame had the football. My team, Michigan State, was behind. “This would be a great time for Notre Dame to fumble,” I said out loud—and they did. On the very next play they lost the ball to Michigan State.

That actually happened while I was a student at MSU.

But that’s not all. A while later in the same game Notre Dame had the ball again. “This would be a great time for them to fumble again,” I said—and they did! On the next play they turned it over one more time. (Honest.)

It was great. I don’t remember who won the game, but the turnovers sure helped. As Notre Dame committed their second fumble, though, I couldn’t help thinking, This had better not work a third time.

I tried, of course. It didn’t work. It’s never worked again in the thirty-five-plus years since then (don’t think I haven’t tried!). Honestly, I was relieved—not surprised, but relieved nonetheless. Imagine if, like some lucky(?) character in a movie, I had been gifted with the ability to speak and make Notre Dame fumble. There’s no way I could have handled the power. It would have destroyed Notre Dame first; for to destroy Notre Dame football is, I take it, to destroy Notre Dame. Soon after it would have destroyed me.

For every game Notre Dame played, I would have had to decide who would win. Empires—both scholastic and gambling—would have risen and fallen on my word. Please don’t think I’m getting grandiose: I’m only imagining, based on a couple of lucky guesses and a great big what-if.

There’s something instructive in the thought, though. To handle that kind of power successfully is quite beyond anything I could imagine. Think of it this way. Picture yourself writing a novel about someone who could speak and change the outcome of sporting events. Take it up a notch and imagine that person being able to predict and to control the stock markets with a simple word. Think of how you would make that character a model of genuine self-giving love and virtue, and at the same time interesting—a genuine human being—rather than flat, dull, and preachy.

I’m seeing such a character in my mind’s eye, actually, and I’m imagining that novel. It’s the story of some gifted person’s  deep inward struggle, as he fights daily to do what’s right rather than what serves himself.

Rather than having to come up with such a character creatively, though, I can see one truly presented in literature. This was one who experienced no such struggle, though. Still his life has inspired millions of others, and indeed countless other works of literature. Of course the person I’m speaking of is Jesus Christ.

I want to run a bit further with the idea of such a character in the realm of imagination, though.

Suppose the Bible were a work of fiction. If so, it’s the only fully original literature I know of in which the authors envisioned men and women who had such great power, yet who weren’t ruined by it. Many characters in the Bible failed morally, but the prophets and historians who wrote of them kept their moral compass clear, and the failures only serve to reinforce the successes, through which men like Isaiah, Daniel, and of course Jesus Christ became our greatest models of serving others above self.

Their stories remain not just readable but compelling. Jesus above all was a character with unparalleled power, yet one who did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life for many (Mark 10:45). There was no sense in him that he had to struggle internally to restrain and direct his power for the good of others.

If he was a fictional character, then he was a character invented by the greatest moral thinkers in history: for whoever invented him (if he was indeed invented) came up with the one original story in all history of a man who wielded such unbelievable power, with such an unbelievably relaxed sense of himself, and yet with such unsurpassed other-centeredness.

If it’s fiction, it’s the greatest fiction of all time, far surpassing Shakespeare, Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, and Dickens—or even J.R.R. Tolkien or J.K. Rowling. I mention Tolkien and Rowling because they envisioned characters of power combined with virtue; but they made it clear, both in their actual works and in discussions of their work, that biblical themes infused their stories. The inventors (if there were such) who came up with the Hebrew prophets and with Jesus Christ had no such template to work from. They were inventing from scratch.

Which leads to two determinative questions:

  • Who could create characters of such moral leadership but a person (or a community) of the greatest moral insight?
  • Who could pawn off such a hoax as Jesus (if he was a hoax), but a person or community of the greatest moral confusion?

If the New Testament is fiction, it’s the product of the most viciously deceptive yet other-focused, loving, moral and literary geniuses in history. But how on earth does that make sense?

Believe it if you must: but I cannot. I think that to do so must take a much more amazing kind of faith in your unbelief than I could ever muster in my belief.

36 Responses

  1. G. Rodrigues says:

    @Tom Gilson:

    This has always been one of the most personally compelling arguments for Christianity; that the Bible is, to put it simply, the most original and persuasive literary work the Western has, ever had, or ever will have (*). The literary character of Jesus Christ, and for different and more complex reasons, that of Yaweh itself in the OT, is particularly baffling and puzzling. Everyone that reads the Gospels, a believer or not, comes away with *his own* idea of Jesus Christ; you cannot pin him down as he contains you, virtually and pre-eminently; you can only project onto him what is best and most generous within yourself.

    But enough rambling. You say all the right things, so I will just add: thanks for the great post.

    (*) I say Western, because I am entirely ignorant of eastern literature, so out of cautiousness I am leaving it out.

    Final note: Tolkien and (gasp) Rowling in the company of Shakespeare, Tolstoy and Dickens? The blasphemy, the blasphemy!

  2. BillT says:

    Just to add the classic apologetic to this for those who claim the NT to be a work of fiction. To claim that the NT is fiction is to say that a largely uneducated group of writers, working 2000 years ago, invented the modern form of the novel. These writers did this without any literary precedents or antecedents. This utterly groundbreaking work went unnoticed until the (re!)invention of the novel 1800 years later. And they claim it’s believers that accept things on “faith”.

    Or as was more simply put to me once. For the NT to tell the story it does and have had the influence that it has, it simply has to be true.

  3. SteveK says:

    I’m seeing such a character in my mind’s eye, actually, and I’m imagining that novel. It’s the story of some gifted person’s deep inward struggle, as he fights daily to do what’s right rather than what serves himself.

    I could not help but think of the movie, Bruce Almighty. While it’s a comedy, I thought the script writers did a good job.

  4. Victoria says:

    Actually, many years ago, a physicist/Christian named Alan Hayward wrote a nice book called God’s Truth, where he has two or three chapters devoted to this very topic. He states (I’m paraphrasing from memory)
    At the time the gospels were written, the authors could not have invented Jesus, and Alan goes on to present a pretty good argument for this case.

    http://www.amazon.com/Gods-truth-scientist-shows-believe/dp/0840758618/ref=sr_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1349212569&sr=1-4&keywords=Alan+Hayward

    It’s probably out of print, and some may look askance at Hayward for being involved with the Christadelphians, but it is still a pretty good book

  5. SteveK says:

    “This would be a great time for Notre Dame to fumble,” I said out loud—and they did.

    I had something similar happen to me, but it didn’t feel like coincidence. We’ve all had deja vu moments, but recently I had one where it went much further than the usual experience. Typically it’s a hindsight reaction to what you just went through and you say to yourself “I’ve seen this before” and it feels kinda weird.

    About 2 months ago, as we were in the car driving to our vacation destination, not only did I have the typical deja vu experience, but as soon as I picked up on it I was able to know what was going to happen next. I was so aware of it that I consciously called out the next several moves in my mind.

    As soon as I sensed it I knew that my daughter in the back seat would ask me for a particular kind of candy we just bought, that I would look in a bag next to me in the front of the car, that I would tell her it’s not there, that she would then ask me to look in the other bag by me and that I would look by me and find the bag was not there. It was weird watching this play out as if I had been in this exact same situation before.

    I’ve never experienced that before – anyone else, or am I the only weirdo? 🙂

  6. G. Rodrigues says:

    @SteveK:

    I’ve never experienced that before – anyone else, or am I the only weirdo?

    Yup you are weirdo. But I say this with a smidge of envy.

  7. Good post, Tom. Of course, Shakespeare, Dickens, Tolstoy and Dostoevsky were also deeply influenced by biblical themes. My old Russian history prof called the Brothers Karamazov “the Fifth Gospel” — makes a much better one than The “Gospel” of Thomas, in which Jesus is reincarnated (well-reinspiritualized) as a self-centered New Age blowhard.

    The closest parallel I have found, developed in Why the Jesus Seminar can’t find Jesus, is the Analects of Confucius. Of course, no one made Confucius up, either. And of course, Jesus is still harder to invent than Confucius would be.

  8. Sault says:

    ” And of course, Jesus is still harder to invent than Confucius would be.”

    Is he? In the Dead Sea scrolls we see mention of the Teacher of Righteousness. I’m not claiming that it was Jesus (that’s an issue for the scholars to determine) but the fact that he could even be considered speaks to the cultural context of the time – a messiah was expected, and not all views about what that would mean were the same.

    It is within the realm of speculation to say that Jesus could be a sort of Everyman prophet whose story became entwined with the cultural and theological expectations of a messiah.

    What is not within the realm of speculation is the fact that the Bible as you understand it was not delivered to Man – it was constructed and pieced together by Man.

    There were many gospels circulating at the time, but Irenaeus argued that there should be only four gospels, to mimic the concept of four pillars. What if he was wrong?

    The Shepherd of Hermas was quite popular among Christians in those early years, and even though Irenaeus and Origen both cited it as scripture, it was eventually excluded from the canon. Was that really the right decision?

    Some of the early church fathers considered Revelations to be scriptural, others did not. Who was right?

    The point is that each of these texts had a certain theological element and by picking and choosing hundreds of years later, certain views could be promoted as “the truth”, even if they weren’t the most popular or widely-held… or even whether they were true or not!

    Luckily, though, you have faith – and just like every other believer in every other religion and denomination, your faith tells you that your interpretation of (insert deity and holy text here) is true.

    We should be thankful that faith is such a good indicator of the truth!

    “For the NT to tell the story it does and have had the influence that it has, it simply has to be true.”

    And 50 million Elvis fans can’t be wrong. Oh, wait, sorry, to modernize the expression – 33 million “likes” on Justin Bieber’s Facebook can’t be wrong.

  9. Tom Gilson says:

    Sault, thanks for your thoughts.

    The Teacher of Righteousness was also anticipated throughout the Old Testament. Jesus as described in the Bible was a man of not only righteousness but unparalleled power. That’s the point of my post, and it’s just one of the things about him that makes him really quite unique in literature. It’s what makes it very unlikely that he was an “entwined” figure. The idea that this could have just happened, the way rice and beans get entwined in a bag if you shake them together a bit, is really quite at odds with the historical reality as provided in the documents we have.

    The Bible was both delivered to Man and written and “constructed” by Man. That is to say, God used Man (and Woman) in the process.

    There were objective criteria that eventually determined the form of the canon, with apostolic authority (written by an apostle or a close associate), early adoption by the church being at the top of the list. The other writings you mention did not meet that criterion.

    There’s more in this relatively short PDF.

    The point is that each of these texts had a certain theological element and by picking and choosing hundreds of years later, certain views could be promoted as “the truth”, even if they weren’t the most popular or widely-held… or even whether they were true or not!

    First, these texts shared a theological point of view, yes. Why not?

    Second, the picking and choosing was done by the church as a process beginning almost immediately.

    Third, the canon was chosen partly on the basis of the books’ being widely agreed upon.

    Fourth, no historical investigation since then has been able to show any error in any of the texts, unless you assume that the texts must be wrong to start with.

    So while you congratulate us on our faith, consider how much faith it takes to think that any of your criteria in that paragraph might have anything to do with reality!

    Meanwhile,

    “For the NT to tell the story it does and have had the influence that it has, it simply has to be true.”

    And 50 million Elvis fans can’t be wrong. Oh, wait, sorry, to modernize the expression – 33 million “likes” on Justin Bieber’s Facebook can’t be wrong.

    Really. The story of Jesus is not the story of Elvis or Justin Bieber. If you intended that to be analogous, well, I’m dumbfounded. And if you intended us to think that these two singers’ influence matches that of Jesus, then call an ambulance, I’m catatonic from dumbfoundedness.

    In other words, that’s a cute ending you gave us there but it is completely irrational to think it means anything whatsoever relevant to the discussion.

  10. BillT says:

    Sault,

    You comprehension of NT historicity, authorship, authenticity and the formation of the cannon is so meager as to be virtually nonexistent. Heck, even the biblically challenged posters at someplace like richarddawkins.net would be embarrassed for you.

  11. Tom Gilson says:

    On a second reading this is particularly interesting, Sault:

    It is within the realm of speculation to say that Jesus could be a sort of Everyman prophet whose story became entwined with the cultural and theological expectations of a messiah.

    What is not within the realm of speculation is the fact that the Bible as you understand it was not delivered to Man – it was constructed and pieced together by Man.

    First, anything is within the realm of speculation, or, just watch an episode or two of Doctor Who.

    Second, a whole lot of very highly informed people have not only speculated but concluded that the Bible was delivered to Man. (Although of course as I have already said, it was delivered to humans in a manner consistent with human involvement in the process.)

    So I have to wonder how you get off thinking you can pronounce that this is not within the realm of speculation? Isn’t that just incredibly closed-minded of you?

  12. Sault says:

    “First, anything is within the realm of speculation, or, just watch an episode or two of Doctor Who.”

    Love the show, btw. Yeah, I phrased that rather poorly.

    Our understanding of Jesus may or may not have some “myth”-ing links. That is speculation, but not unreasonable. We do know (no speculation needed) that Man assembled the Bible (especially the NT) in a democratic way. Call me jaded, but that doesn’t sound like a recipe for truth.

    The point of bringing up the popularity of singers is this – if you ask one of those 30 million Justin Bieber fans who the greatest singer of all time is, it is more likely that they will say “Justin Bieber” (ditto from the Elvis fans) rather than someone else. Again – the Shepherd of Hermas was popular, but not canonized, even though some early church fathers believed it to be authentic. Some of Origen’s ideas shaped Christian theology – but his viewpoints about canon aren’t as valid as other church fathers?

    I may not have a knowledge of Biblical history as deep or extensive as BillT’s, but it seems pretty reasonable to question the validity of the process – the outcome, I mean. Would the Bible even have been formed if it wasn’t because of someone like Marcion of Sinope, i.e. as a reaction to what many considered heresy?

    That is why I mentioned a theological agenda. After all, sometimes truth is sacrificed upon the altar of an ideological agenda (e.g. Fox News). Add political influence and a desire to keep the Roman Empire stable, and it raises further the likelihood that the Bible was crafted not just for ideological reasons but political ones as well.

    I don’t have complete and total trust in these ideas – I do not have “faith” in them, as you so fallaciously allege. I doubt, and allow for the possibility that I could be wrong – the antithesis of someone who has “faith”.

    I wish that I had more time to engage on this forum – real life does get in the way sometimes.

    I don’t know if anyone else is experiencing this, but I haven’t been getting any notification emails for some time, and the preview button isn’t working.

  13. Tom Gilson says:

    Sault, I’ll credit you with toning down your speculations. At first it was,

    It is within the realm of speculation to say that Jesus could be a sort of Everyman prophet whose story became entwined with the cultural and theological expectations of a messiah.

    Now it’s just,

    Our understanding of Jesus may or may not have some “myth”-ing links. That is speculation, but not unreasonable.

    Of course our understanding of Jesus is missing things. Every Christian agrees with that. But you mean also that our documents concerning Jesus are “myth-ing:”

    We do know (no speculation needed) that Man assembled the Bible (especially the NT) in a democratic way. Call me jaded, but that doesn’t sound like a recipe for truth.

    Hi, Jaded, I’m Tom, nice to meet you. No, that’s not jaded, that’s just bringing in a naturalistic preconception to another topic. It’s relevant to questions like, Did the people who assembled the NT get everything right? How does that affect hermeneutics? What does it tell us about deep questions concerning God’s truthfulness in relationship to man? But I don’t think those questions have come up here.

    The question that I brought up here was, how believable is it that the Jesus account we have in the Bible was produced as fiction? I don’t think it’s at all believable, as I wrote in the OP. What do you think? What do you think of the reasons I set forth there? Your earlier discussion about other literary figures was a start toward that discussion, but you got off track for some reason.

    Ditto for Elvis and JB: sure, it’s easy to idolize any famous person, but that’s not what happened with Jesus, not in anything like the same kind of way. Check out the OP again; there are really, really significant differences there.

  14. BillT says:

    “I may not have a knowledge of Biblical history as deep or extensive as BillT’s, but it seems pretty reasonable to question the validity of the process – the outcome, I mean.”

    Actually, I wouldn’t consider myself any great expert. However, some facts surrounding the books of the NT cannon are outside of speculation. All of the books of the NT were written in the 1st century. All of the books of the NT have known authorship. All of the authors of the NT books are apostles or are close confederates of apostles. All of the books of the NT have extensive historical and archeological “paper trails”.

    In contrast, the other books that people have touted as deserving consideration for inclusion in the NT canon have exactly none of the above qualifications. Further, the process of the formation of the canon was not one of some person or persons deciding which books belonged and which didn’t. The books of the canon were not those that some person or persons decided should be included. They were the books that over time and with careful consideration couldn’t be excluded.

    P.S. Sault, my apologies for the tone and personal nature of the criticisms in my prior post. It was uncalled for.

  15. Tom Gilson says:

    One exception: we’re not sure who wrote Hebrews. A recent archaeological find suggests it was Paul. Some think it was Apollos. Every scholar I know of thinks it was a close associate of Paul’s, if not Paul himself.

    Based on internal evidence there is hardly any room to doubt it was written before the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. It was quoted in 1 Clement, a letter written around AD 95-100, so there’s no doubt whatsoever that it’s a first century writing.

  16. Victoria says:

    @Tom
    Hi Tom – I’d be interested in seeing that reference to the archaeological find regarding the authorship of Hebrews 🙂

  17. Tom Gilson says:

    It’s very circumstantial, not at all definitive. See the video here. The whole page there is informative and important.

  18. Victoria says:

    @Sault
    Where are you getting your ‘facts’? From NT historical scholars? OR, from atheist and skeptical websites?

    Try this site
    http://bible.org/topics/420/Canon

  19. Victoria says:

    @Tom
    Thanks – I’m sure I’ll be looking forward to the full publication of the analysis 🙂

  20. SteveK says:

    We do know (no speculation needed) that Man assembled the Bible (especially the NT) in a democratic way. Call me jaded, but that doesn’t sound like a recipe for truth.

    I think Sault is trying his atheistic-best to focus our attention on known generalities (humans get some things wrong), rather than focus on the known specific reasons for accepting the decision.

    If one adopts his reasoning, then we should also conclude that it’s pretty reasonable to question the validity of any decision / conclusion – because humans make mistakes, you know. I mean, people make mistakes so that means scientific conclusions are questionable at best.

    Beware the sword, Sault, because it cuts both ways.

  21. Sault says:

    @BillT

    No biggie, no offense taken.

    @Tom

    “that’s just bringing in a naturalistic preconception to another topic”

    Gotta love the red herring that Tom is throwing out here. If I don’t share the same presuppositions that Tom does then my entire argument *must* be suspect. C’mon Tom, let’s not fall into the Conservative Christian trap, mmkay?

    Let’s imagine that I *was* a supernaturalist… does that automatically imply that I’d consider it plausible that a divine agent acted to thwart Man’s imperfections? Would “Buddhist Sault” sagely nod his head and agree that yes, it is entirely plausible that God would keep Man from making mistakes regarding the formation of the Bible?

    Why are my doubts not justified? I look at the history of the Bible and I errors and inaccuracies in translations. How dare I question the possibility that the same God who permitted Man to copy His Word incorrectly would allow Man to get it right in the first place!

    @SteveK

    ” I mean, people make mistakes so that means scientific conclusions are questionable at best.”

    Sure… sometimes. Luckily the scientific method allows for this. What allowance is given in religion and faith for error and doubt? People make mistakes. Churches make mistakes. In the Christiance parlance, pastors “fall”. Man effs up. Without presupposing the supernatural, without presupposing a God, without presupposing the character/nature of the Christian God specifically (this final matter is what the NT largely means to establish)… what are we to argue from?

    I welcome the sword, SteveK, if its cuts lead us further to the truth. If I’m wrong, I want to know.

    If I may present a simple example… In my continued studies and attempts to rectify my lack of knowledge, it appears that the formation of the New Testament canon may not be solely due to a reaction to Marcion of Sinope, something that I had previously understood to be the case. Fascinating! This syncs up with my understanding of Jewish culture much better – a culture that not only treasures the written word of God, but expects it, having the tradition of the Torah ingrained in them. Jews collecting the letters of Paul and regarding them as sacred? Sounds pretty legit, actually. But yet, some of those letters weren’t necessarily written by Paul (Hebrews, as noted). If church tradition can get the origin wrong, what does that say about the process of canonization?

    Which goes on to address Tom’s OP…

    Do I think that the authors and the compilers of the modern Bible were intentionally fabricating? Absolutely not. It hasn’t been my impression that most atheists believe this. (On the other hand, I’m going to a few Atheist groups on Facebook and asking them!)

    I have responded to Tom’s article because it has been my impression that he’s presenting an overly simplistic view of the debate – either it’s all fiction or it’s all completely true.

    @Victoria

    Thank you for the link. I will add it to my ongoing reading. FWIW, I have been reading what I believe to be a scholarly approach to the subject.

    I’m really missing that preview feature – I normally use it to easily review what I’ve written and try to clean it up a bit. I apologize for any sloppiness or undue length of this post.

  22. Tom Gilson says:

    Sault, I’m sorry to break it to you about this:

    Gotta love the red herring that Tom is throwing out here. If I don’t share the same presuppositions that Tom does then my entire argument *must* be suspect. C’mon Tom, let’s not fall into the Conservative Christian trap, mmkay?

    … but the context in which I said that was this:

    We do know (no speculation needed) that Man assembled the Bible (especially the NT) in a democratic way. Call me jaded, but that doesn’t sound like a recipe for truth.

    … which wasn’t an argument. It was an assertion sans argument.

    So now you offer something like an argument:

    Let’s imagine that I *was* a supernaturalist… does that automatically imply that I’d consider it plausible that a divine agent acted to thwart Man’s imperfections?

    And the answer to your question is of course not. It would depend on what kind of supernaturalist you were. Buddhist Sault need not agree. But the relevant idea here is that a naturalist must discount the idea that God was involved in assembling Scripture, where is it is not true that a supernaturalist must do so.

    Why are my doubts not justified? I look at the history of the Bible and I errors and inaccuracies in translations.

    What history and which inaccuracies?

    How dare I question the possibility that the same God who permitted Man to copy His Word incorrectly would allow Man to get it right in the first place!

    Now you’re importing more presuppositions: if God did it through man, he would do it with absolute perfection throughout all centuries through man. Where did you get that from?

    The fact is that we have complete confidence on textual grounds that we have substantially the text that was originally written. We have the message that was originally written, and we have it in accurate form.

    No Christian would agree with you that the word of God must be perfect in every copy in order to be the word of God. If that were true, then it would be impossible for me at this moment to type, “For God so loved the wolrd that he gave his only begotten Son…”, which is ridiculous. So your presupposition there is inapplicable to the Christian Bible. (It is accurate with respect to the transmission of Qu’ran, according to Islamic belief, or so I’m told, but we’re not Muslims.)

    What allowance is given in religion and faith for error and doubt? People make mistakes. Churches make mistakes. In the Christiance parlance, pastors “fall”. Man effs up. Without presupposing the supernatural, without presupposing a God, without presupposing the character/nature of the Christian God specifically (this final matter is what the NT largely means to establish)… what are we to argue from?

    The answer to this is too large and long for this venue. Please read a good history of Christian thought. Your answer will be found on every page. And why not, by the way, presuppose at least the possibility of a God? To do otherwise is to presuppose the impossibility of God, which is completely overreaching.

    If church tradition can get the origin wrong, what does that say about the process of canonization?

    Church tradition didn’t get the origin of Hebrews wrong. You might need to study up further on that.

    I have responded to Tom’s article because it has been my impression that he’s presenting an overly simplistic view of the debate – either it’s all fiction or it’s all completely true.

    Wow.

    No, in this post I was focused strictly on the record and character of the central person in the debate, and I made the point that his story would have been extremely likely to have been created as fiction, for the reasons cited.

    You responded to that contention briefly with your reference to the Essenes’ teacher of righteousness. Would you care to continue down that track? I gave an answer to in in #10, if you want to follow through on it.

  23. tester says:

    testing the preview and follow-up notifications (per Sault’s comment above)

  24. Tom Gilson says:

    Still not working, I’m trying again.

  25. tester 2 says:

    what about this

  26. tester 2 says:

    Last try for the night

  27. SteveK says:

    The preview function works for me.

  28. Sault says:

    Okay, I figured it out (no, the test posts weren’t from me). I’ve been using Chrome now for the last few weeks; the preview function works with Firefox etc but does not work in Chrome. Would be kinda nifty if a little note could be added to explain that?

  29. SteveK says:

    I use Chrome and the preview function works for me so don’t give up.

  30. Tom Gilson says:

    It works for me in Chrome too, as a non-logged in person. What platform are you running? I’m using a Mac.

    I’m aware of the problem with subscriptions not working. I spent close to an hour on it last night, and I’m going to keep working on it as time allows.