Popeye the Blasphemer?

Do Jews wince when they hear Popeye’s blasphemous self-determination, “I yam what I yam, and that’s all what I yam”? Should Christians? (How about when we hear Frank Sinatra singing, “I did it my way”)

The connection between Popeye and God’s name for Himself was made by R. C. Sproul, in Consequences of Ideas CD series, a survey of philosophy from the ancient Greeks on up. In session 3, Sproul discusses the debate between proto-existentialist Heraclitus (“All things are always in flux”, “You can never step into the same river twice”) and realist Parmenides (“Whatever is, is”). This post is basically a blatant rip-off of Sproul’s content.

In a sense, I can truly say (a la Heraclitus)

“You are not what you are”

because in the time span it takes for me to speak (or you to read) from “are” to “are”, you have aged, maybe a hair or two fell out, your constantly-pumping heart has changed the positions of your blood cells (not to mention the translation of every molecule in your body due to a spinning earth which orbits around a sun in an expanding universe), your cells have metabolized sugar into energy, your lungs have exchanged oxygen for carbon dioxide, toggling the status of those molecules between part of you, and not part of you, etc. In that sense, you are not a Human Being, but a Human Becoming. Because of this eternal flux of all things, there is no concrete reality; you can never say that anything IS (obviously, Slick Willie was fan).

But we know that God truly IS, and is not in flux. He does not exhibit the same changeableness as his creation. And we do not have to sink into this morass of existentialism, relativity, illusion, and deconstruction (all modern outgrowths of Heraclitus’ philosophy), because (as Paul explains to an audience no doubt well aware of the Heraclitus / Parmenides catfight), the God who IS, imparts that reality to his creation as well:

In Him we live, and move, and have our being


2 Responses

  1. I remember watching Popeye as a kid and thinking the same kind of thing but I remember also that Popeye was in the clear because to say “I am what I am” is a lot different from saying “I am that I am.”

    What I didn’t know as a kid was that Popeye hijacked his song from 1 Cor 15:10 “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain.”

    So, my body has changed even at the molecular level but being transformed by the renewing of my mind is not a molecular thing and I must say it has not been going well.

    How about you?

  2. […] turns up #1 for a Google search of bed post rail bolt hidden. I occasionally get hits concerning popeye, like popeye and i am god (currently I’m the second result from Google on this search). I […]

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