Thursday, December 21, 2006

Merry Christmas!

First of all, a hearty "Merry Christmas" to each and every person who comes to this site. May each one of you know the blessings of the Savior as we celebrate His birth.

Kudos to Gene Veith, by the way, who has come up with a bunch of research that demonstrates that "what we all know" about Christmas is wrong. No, Rome didn't celebrate the Saturnalia when Christians started celebrating Christmas. Yes, there is actually evidence for a December birth of Christ. No, the Christmas tree does not appear to have clear pagan origins.

I'd like to add; no, there is no connection to the Mythra cult and "Invincible Sun" being changed to "Invincible Son." Sorry, but the Latin for the latter would be "Filius Invictus," and there is no pun for "Sol Invictus."

So while I have no problem with those who decide not to celebrate Christmas due to excesses of mammon in gift giving, veneration of "Santa Claus", and general excesses in food and drink, I do ask one little Christmas gift from them; lay off the "Christmas is from Babylon the Great" rhetoric. The claims made simply do not stand up to even a cursory examination.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Anti porneia

I've seen a few posts recently, most notably from Shawn, about how we ought to deal with a son who is found looking at pornography or other materials of a "dubious moral nature." But hey--Gallup polls tell us that there are an awful lot of adults indulging in this, so maybe we ought to ask this:

"How does a man confront himself and help himself to refrain from using porn?"

Ouch. OK, let's start with a simple axiom: every woman (or girl, sigh, that happens) in every picture is created in the image of God, is someone's daughter, and could (should?) be someone's wife. It's almost trite, but let's face facts; if we saw our Lord, the woman's father, or the woman's husband in the room, we'd have our attention somewhere else besides the picture.

Let's go on: few women willingly shed their clothes for strangers. Rather, it takes drugs, debt, or degradation (like rape) to get her to that point.

No kidding. Something like 95% of prostitutes are on drugs, and even mainstream modeling is riddled with drugs, anorexia, forced sex, and more. So when one ogles a pornographic picture (movie, whatever), one is more or less taking part in the systematic degradation of a woman created in the image of God.

So when tempted to view that "Victoria's Secret" catalog--or whatever else there might be out there--ask yourself whether you'd willingly rape that woman, or inject her with heroin, or brutalize her until she lost weight to suit your taste. Ask yourself if you'd do that in front of God, her father, or her husband.

It sounds harsh, but don't forget; in a manner of speaking, that's EXACTLY what is going on. And dads, here are a few thoughts from Doug Giles about how to inoculate your daughters against this sort of thing.

I quibble with his order, though; IMO, it's far more important to know Him and recognize a situation than to be able to shoot or fight one's way out of one.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Why not you?

One of the unifying themes in troubles we face today is, IMO, our failure to realize that all too often, the buck stops with us. We want government to solve our problems--forgetting that we can do it a lot cheaper. We hire pastors to reach the lost--forgetting that Jesus told everyone to do it. As employees, we all too often clamor for "more benefits"--forgetting that hiring more staff to implement them pulls resources away from profitability and our own wages.

In other words, we've more or less lost our concept of federalism, to our great loss. If you want liberty for Christmas, consider taking back some of the roles that have been lost in the past few decades. Educate your children (or help others educate theirs). Turn on the porch light at night to discourage crime, or get your carry permit. Start your own retirement fund, or your own business. Join your church's visitation time. Watch your diet and get some exercise. Clean up messes in the neighborhood and get to know your neighbors.

After all, if you won't take care of yourself, why would you think that your church, government, and company will?

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Agrarianism, simplicity, and health

A bit of perspective on all of the time, effort, and money used into raising food in our country. Has it given us more food to eat?

Believe it or not, it's actually debateable. On one hand, grain yields per acre have risen by half an order of magnitude or more. On the other hand, we shouldn't forget that 70% of grain is fed to livestock, so probably the better measure of how much food we get--especially in light of our meat-heavy diets--is how many meat animals we have.

On that score, it's said that our continent supported 60-100 million bison in the mid-1800s, and the USDA estimates about 45 million adult cattle today.

In other words, all of the subsidies, fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, and such that we use to "grow more food" may, or may not, result in actually having more food to eat.

Plus, grazing cattle are more picturesque and healthier to eat. Seems that the simple life may have more going for it than we thought!

Tired of paying for illegal immigration?

The precise numbers are disputed, but few thinking people would deny that illegal (or "undocumented") immigration has costs that are paid by citizens. Put gently, they tend to work in low wage jobs, pay little in taxes, and yet receive publicly funded education, welfare, medical care, and so on. My best guess is that the overall cost is hundreds of billions of dollars.

What to do? Well, look at your credit report. No kidding. Those who are not legally here are likely to use your credit to get a job, a home, and consumer credit. If something appears on it, tell the credit issuer and the INS.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Another surreal bit...

Apparently, the INS has raided six meatpacking plants and arrested about 1250 people for immigration and other law violations. Swift & Co. is irate because this move is likely to shut down large portions of their operation, and apparently even sued the INS to prevent it on the grounds that they'd done due diligence to ensure their workers were legal.

Perhaps, but what puzzles me is why Swift would put large, razor sharp butcher knives into peoples' hands without doing a basic background check. Had they done this basic, common sense operation, they wouldn't have hired these people in the first place. They would have known that they were not who they claimed to be.

Hanukah

The "Feast of Dedication", which Jesus appears to have celebrated, begins this Friday. Take a look at the link for Michael Medved's take on this holiday, and get some olive oil and potatoes ready this Friday as the sun sets.

A rough history for the uninitiated; the Syrian descendants of Alexander the Great's empire tried to impose Greek pagan ways in Jerusalem, including sacrificing a pig in the Temple. Incensed by this, Jewish partisans began a revolt which eventually drove the pagans from Jerusalem and most of Israel.

The significance for Gentiles? This revolt more or less preserved the Scriptures. Fry up some latke to celebrate!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Why not today? Part 3

It turns out that Dan Phillips of "Pyromaniacs" says it better than I did. Take a look--I think you'll be glad you did!

Friday, December 08, 2006

Getting ready for Christmas

As my family gets ready for Christmas, it seems we find ourselves somewhat in the same mood as Madame Blueberry when she arrived home to see what the "stuff" she had purchased had wrought. Unlike her, my family awaits another onslaught of "stuff" from our dear relatives--and we are already enduring the wish lists of our precious little ones.

Just as Madame Blueberry found out, we're also learning how having too much stuff can wreck your home. So four to six times per year, we end up loading a few boxes of excess clothes, toys, kitchen gadgets, and more into the minivan or pickup to take it to Goodwill. The scary thing is that we generally didn't buy a bit of it.

Such is the nature of our society. Anyone who isn't careful can quickly fill a 3000 square foot home (or larger) with things that are essentially garbage, locking himself into huge debt and quite likely a job they can't stand. Christ was truly right when He noted that we cannot serve both God and mammon.

Let's keep this in mind for His birthday party--maybe by choosing gifts of high quality that can be consumed instead of the biggest box we can get for < $50 at Wal-Mart or Target.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Why not today, part 2.

Of course, not all of us have to worry about the tax man taking our wealth away from our heirs yet. Even so, let's not forget that "man knows not his time," and that maybe, just maybe, we ought to consider getting something done today.

Tell someone about Christ. Propose to that gal you've been dating for far too long. Have some kids. Start family devotions. Start a business doing what you love. Read that book that's gathered dust. Shoot your television.

Man knows not his time.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Why not today?

I'll admit that I have something of a love/hate relationship with the estate tax. Hate is obvious--it's the government's unconstitutional claim on wealth, a direct tax not levied in any clear way on income. It keeps a good friend of mine at church busy writing A/B trusts and other estate plans designed to minimize its impact and keep businesses intact.

But love? Yes, love, in a way. The estate tax can serve as a reminder that one needs to determine what to do with wealth before one dies, or else risk its confiscation and use for purposes one rejects.

I would even argue that we might do well to even go a step further; apart from resources needed to support one's self in one's old age, shouldn't we be a bit like Carnegie and allocate the surplus while we're still living? If a business should be run by one's child after one dies, why not while you're still alive to guide them? If a ministry or charity is worth remembering in one's will, why not give while we're still around to keep them accountable? Sometimes it seems that we think that those around us will function better without us...

Don't get me wrong; I think that the estate tax is a repugnant implementation of the Communist Manifesto. However, there is yet a small silver lining in this dark cloud.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Skimming the newspaper,

I am SHOCKED, SHOCKED, I tell you that such and such a celebrity has been caught on film or tape doing such and such a thing!

Wait a minute. No, I'm not. All publicity is good publicity for most of them, and what isn't simply fits into the self-destructive lifestyles so many of them are (alas) too well known for.

Who did I think I was kidding? :^)

Seriously, when we express outrage at the public actions of public figures, perhaps we need to take care lest we inadvertently give them exactly what they want--free publicity that helps them sell their product.

Somebody said once that we ought to be wise as snakes, yet innocent as doves. We are to warn people of sin, but discreetly, I dare say.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Three wonderful books

Apart from the Bible, I'd tend to recommend three books for people to read to better understand Biblical economics and politics.

The first is Marvin Olasky's "The Tragedy of American Compassion," which demonstrates clearly that a permanent underclass did not occur until government started providing welfare assistance without a moral component. It should be required reading for all who want to get into politics, especially those who take Ron Sider, Jim Wallis, and "Sojourners" seriously. (for the uninitiated, these are the primary Christian advocates of more government involvement in charity)

The second is "The Millionaire Next Door," by Stanley and Danko. Those who believe that wealth is a result of "winning life's lottery" and advocate its confiscation via income or estate taxes desperately need to read this. Contrary to popular opinion, millionaires generally won't be found driving BMWs, sitting in a corner office, eating caviar or drinking $100 per bottle wine. Rather, you saw them in an older F150 on their way to fix someone's plumbing or electrical issues.

The third, and newest, is Arthur Brooks' "Who Really Cares; the Surprising Truth about Compassionate Conservatism." Although it's (IMO) slightly misnamed--it's really about private, not public, initiative--it's valuable in that it makes the point that the religious, conservatives, and family men are the most likely to contribute to all kinds of charities. They are more likely to give time, money, blood, United Way and other contributions by statistically significant margins despite earning less money than their theologically, culturally, and politically liberal peers.

In other words, the old joke is true; a liberal is one who is generous with someone else's money.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Oh, the horror!

Encouraged by my pastor's sermon on Romans 12 and hoping to implement God's command to let my mind be transformed, I went through my record and CD collection to remove objectionable music. Much to my horror, I was reminded that most of the musicians I listened to in my teens wore the dreaded poodle hair mullet--long permed hair, even longer in back.

Even scarier, they say that 1980s fashion is coming back. Friends, you might do well to get one of these to help a friend in need eliminate his poodle hair mullet.

Of course, "Poodle Hair Mullets" would, as Dave Barry says, make a great name for a band. But let's not go there right now.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Moderns, mystery, and meditation

One of the myriad afflictions of coming from a modern--or postmodern for that matter--society is that we too often don't know how to simply contemplate something we don't completely understand. We might try and put things into a ten (or 12) step "how to" program, or we might give up altogether, but we seem to have lost the ability to simply meditate on these things.

Some examples? You betcha. What about the mystery of a wife--or husband, whichever is appropriate? Solomon notes it as a mystery in Proverbs, but we're happy to distill it down into a Myers-Briggs test, couch time, and a weekly date away from the kids. Postmoderns might add a little dose of changing the ground rules that Scriptures sets up for wedlock, I'd guess. In either case, we simply don't spend the time meditating that our forefathers used to.

Others? Well, what about the mystery of why Cain's offering wasn't accepted, or how it is that God so loved us that He gave His only Son for us?

I would submit that these things are not to be understood completely, but rather simply...appreciated.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

"Evangie-Tales"--baby steps to winning souls.

Like many others, my approach to evangelism has all too often been described as "punctuated terror"--silence through fear most of the time punctuated by the terror of actually being asked about my faith.

Thankfully, that's changing. My church began a "canvassing" effort on its own behalf and that of a church we're founding. Since my wife had frittered away my golf money on groceries, we decided to get a walk through town helping reach people for our churches.

The experience is wonderful. Fresh air, meeting people on the street, and lunch afterwards. For reference, it can be good to have your kids with you--they're a magnet for getting people to talk.

Only one odd or bad experience so far. An older, Garrison Keillor-like gentleman (I am not making this up) pulled into his driveway as I was approaching his door, looked at my pamphlet, and growled "we're Lutherans" and handed it back to me. I wished him a blessed day and walked on. I'll pray that he doesn't become prey to the Bilderbergers.

Many thanks, BTW, to brother and friend Steve Sanchez, for reminding me of my duty here.

A surreal ruling

...from Hennepin County judges. Minnesota's "shall issue" carry law (gun carry permits) allows private entities to exclude firearms in their buildings if they notify people on their properties of this policy, either with a sign or orally. Two churches (not Bible-believing ones, thankfully) have objected to this on the grounds that the state is somehow telling them how to communicate their policy to congregants.

Now, maybe I'm dense here, but if not orally or in writing, exactly how are they going to communicate their policy to visitors? Perhaps via ESP or facial gestures? Maybe slap them upside the head with one of John Spong's books? Or perhaps they can sing "give peace a chance" halfheartedly and off-key, and offer the permit holders a "dead fish" handshake?

Methinks the judge should have simply pointed out that as long as these churches have new visitors (hopefully not often, given their theology), there is no way they can enforce their policy other than to use the means provided for in the law. Unfortunately, logic and common sense do not appear to be prerequisites for a Hennepin County judgeship.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Some Excellent News

Eating nuts, especially oily ones like hazelnuts, is evidently good for heart health. Hazelnuts can be found in a really nice form in spreads such as Nutella.

To make matters even better, the chocolate found in Nutella is also known to be good for your heart. God is good!

What to do....

...about the reality that liberals now do more or less hold the levers of power? Walter Williams has an interesting point about what has happened to blacks--arguably the most impacted group by our governments (federal, state and local) over time.

Put gently, while adverse actions like slavery and Jim Crow discrimination (both in South and North) could not keep the black man from advancing, theoretically "affirmative" actions like the War on Poverty and Affirmative Action have.

So what do we do about possible liberal moves in government? As Professor Williams notes, the answers aren't in government. The answers lie in family life, the church, learning a profession, and real education. In other words, we counteract the malignant influence of the state by living like free men as much as we can.

Monday, November 13, 2006

To join, or not to join?

Given my political and religious views, as well as my work interests, I get all kinds of opportunities to join all kinds of organizations--and of course pay $20 annually for the privilege (or more), and of course to allow them to use me as a springboard for various actions more or less on my behalf.

Apart from my church, however, you won't find too many actual memberships. And why? Well, at one level, I'm not a joiner. At another, my resources are finite. And at a final level, well; there just aren't that many organizations with which I agree.

For example, I was almost ready to join a well known conservative/libertarian organization when I noticed something; the founder claimed that it didn't matter what specific theology one held as long as one was pledged to oppose Godlessness and a conspiracy.

At first glance, that sounds great--let's prevent a holocaust that would make Hitler and Stalin proud, right? But think about it; the Scriptures (Daniel and Revelation) seem to indicate that someone's conspiracy will eventually succeed. Our hope for avoiding it lies not in political action, but the Gospel. To fight this conspiracy actually means to consign more people to its atrocities because it means you're taking resources you could use to preach Christ and diverting them to stop the Bilderbergers.

Be careful what you join.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Political postmortem

It's intriguing to me that I only received two political mailings from liberals this year, neither of them directly from the Democrats. One was from a group called "Coloradans for Life", and attacked Marilyn Musgrave with false allegations. Another was from a group called "Faith and Family Values," and attacked the GOP in general with false allegations. In both cases, the real identity was hidden, and the allegations were misleading to downright false.

I'm sure that liberals can point to conservatives doing some of this, too. For my part, though, I'm going to do what I can to see if political debate can be brought a bit out of the gutter. I will remember the depths to which many will go in order to win.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Another axiom

Whenever you visit a website, and the "gracious host" constantly accuses his opponents of lying, especially without providing independent evidence, you can generally assume that you know who's lying. The host, of course.

Apply this one especially to political websites like Daily Kos and "Internet Assasins".

A little ray of sunshine..

...in an otherwise gloomy election night for conservatives. Government sponsored race-based affirmative action is now officially dead, or at least on life support pending court action, in the state of Michigan.

Some will tell you that this means bad things for minorities, but the experience in California is telling. The statistics are clear; minorities (except for Asians) are less likely to get into elite universities (UCLA, Beserkeley), but more likely overall to graduate.

So ask yourself; would you be more willing to hire a Michigan or Berkeley dropout, or a Ferris State or Cal-Northridge graduate? This is some of the best news that minorities have had in years, even if many don't realize it.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

An axiom:

When someone tells you that "the debate is over" in any given area, you can generally assume that the person speaking is trying to gloss over the fact that the debate is very much alive.

Secondary axiom; the use of this phrase also tends to betray the fact that not only is the debate still ongoing, but the speaker's side is losing. Having lost in the arena of ideas, they're trying to win in the arena of public opinion.

Here's some information on global warming theory that demonstrates these axioms are operating quite well within the IPCC. Evidently, it turns out that those "historical" graphs of global temperature will generate the famous "hockey stick" graph even when fed noise for data.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Good Bacon

On a politics' day eve, one might expect bloggers like me to post something about politics. No such luck here; I'm going to comment about something far more important; bacon!

Interestingly, "bacon" does not appear as a topic in my 1979 Encyclopaedia Brittanica. I guess it shows how much Mortimer Adler really knew, huh?

But down to business. Far too many people think that the water-cured stuff you get in the supermarket is real bacon--as it clogs your skillets with the remains of the sugar they pour in there to increase the weight, and the water remaining completely messes up the anti-stick properties of your 1945 Griswold.

No, real bacon is smoked in a smokehouse, and actually has very little water in it. It leaves very little residue in your skillet, and doesn't crinkle up, either. Oh, and the taste--did I mention that most makers of supermarket bacon don't actually smoke it, but use liquid smoke?

So get yourself down to the local butcher shop and get some of the real stuff. Your taste buds and your skillets will thank you....not to mention your wallet. Although the real stuff costs more ($4-5/lb instead of $2.50-$4/lb), you actually get more pure bacon goodness (little water remains) with the real item.

Try it with some Kaiserschmarrn or waffles.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Time spent working and achievement...

In response to the last post, Joe wondered about how we evaluate the use of one's gifts in either "sacred" or "secular" occupations--specifically how we respond to the investment of large amounts of time (say well over 80 hours per week) in one's occupation. My response is simple; virtually anyone makes a mistake to invest that much time in one's occupation: pastor, athlete, lawyer, or business executive. Here's why.

First of all, each of us has about 110 to 120 hours of waking time each week. If we spend 80 hours at work, 5 more eating lunch, and 10 more commuting, we necessarily push out other activities. To be fair, of course, it should be admitted that a typical man's time with his wife and kids (besides watching the idiot box) is better measured in minutes per week, not the 15 to 25 hours that even the 80 hrs/week worker still has left over.

More importantly, I'm not persuaded that long hours at work actually improve the quality of one's work. Thomas Edison does appear to be one counter-example, but think about it; Menlo Park went bankrupt a few times. Perhaps a bit of time off from the lab would have helped Edison get the perspective he needed to get his 1000 patents to market, and hire men to do even more good?

To use Joe's example of the athlete, I remember a marathoner named Alberto Salazar--in some ways the U.S.A.'s last great distance runner. (sorry Mark Plaatjes and others!) He won the NY Marathon in then world record time on a training schedule of about 80 miles per week--about eight hours at the pace he typically ran. Intoxicated by this, he then increased his mileage to 110-130 miles per week, if I remember correctly--and never again came close to his world record time. He more or less burned himself out, and admitted as much. In the same way, college football players are restricted to 20 hours per week of training--but they're bigger, faster, and as skilled as ever. (except for my Spartans this year...sigh!)

In other words, I seriously doubt that any man can really exercise either mind or body for 80 to 100 hours per week without putting one or both out of commission. We should keep that in mind, especially as we view our Commission.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

What really matters....

Mercy Now appears to have supplanted Skeeter Joe (come on back bro!) as the cure for writer's block for now. A great point is raised; if we concentrate on work, don't we simultaneously choose that which does not matter over the real relationships which do?

And so a corrollary axiom comes up; we derive most joy not from activities for which we get paid, but rather from activities we perform gratis. In the same way, God receives His glory in great part for something He did gratis, didn't He?

What a nice turn as well; gratis, of course, comes from the root word gratia, and we celebrated the dawn of sola gratia last night. Not a bad deal at all.

Especially since nobody came by our house last night and the ice cream bars are all ours!

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Trick or Treat?

Given that it's going to be in the 20s tonight, I think I'll get some ice cream bars for any trick or treaters that might come by.

Happy Reformation Day!

Monday, October 30, 2006

Executive bonuses

A friend at work recently dropped by my cube with a paper explaining the bonuses of senior executives--they were, of course, the multi-million-dollar type that has many rejoicing when a jury puts one of them in jail. My friend fully expected me to join in with the resentment and jealousy he had, but something intervened.

Specifically, I thought of the fact that the vast majority of those executives were going to keep working 80 hour weeks with grueling travel schedules for a number of years, where most of the rest of us would quickly figure out what we really wanted to do and use that bonus to make it happen.

One might infer that some--most?--of us simply don't know when enough is enough. Is Bill Gates happier in his $100 million home than others are in their "mere" $500,000 homes? Is Ted Turner happier on his 100,000 acre ranches than others are on their "mere" quarter sections?

I doubt it. However, I know that a lot of people are working awfully hard to find out.

Friday, October 27, 2006

What could be worse...

....than a wannabe global government where Communists and the French have veto power? Unfortunately, the world is in the process of learning just that.

Specifically, what's worse is a wannabe global government where the Communists and French not only have veto power, but also claim the power to commission non-governmental organizations (read "unelected busybodies") to write treaties that they will apply to all nations based on the signatures of a minority of nations--and where our veto does not apply. For example, the "International Criminal Court" (ICC) was created with the signatures of only 60 nations. If Gitmo scares, you, this should terrify you.

Why? Well, it doesn't define clearly what it presumes to punish, and the ordinary protections defendants are entitled to here don't exist. There is no jury trial, no habeas corpus, and you're likely to be tried before a judge from Cuba.

Perhaps in the future we'll be reading "Turtle Bay Archepelago" by a former inmate of Kofi's gulags.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Why didn't...

...the United Nations "work" as was stated in its charter? After all, if all the nations of the world were working together to prevent the next Hitler from victimizing the world, how could they fail?

The answer, of course, is that a man more brutal than Hitler already held veto power in the Security Council, and it's arguable that the U.N.'s founders intended this; 14 of 17 have been found to have been Communist Party members at the time they wrote the U.N. Charter. Despite the rhetoric of the U.N. Charter and the promises made when that charter was approved as a treaty, it turns out to have been virtually designed to enable dictators to take advantage of their neighbors at will.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Happy United Nations Day!

In honor of the "World's last great hope for peace," or whatever, I'd like to bring some honor to the United Nations in the name of those whom the United Nations has been a great hope for peace. People like this:

25 million victims of Stalin's gulags

Up to 50 million victims of Mao's "Cultural Revolution."

Up to 5 million victims of Ho Chi Minh's collectivization.

Up to 2 million victims of Pol Pot's Maoist regime.

300,000 victims of Idi Amin.

Four million victims (and counting) of Sudan's civil war.

800,000 victims in the Rwandan genocide. Rwanda was, after all, abandoned by the U.N. just as things got "hot" there.

Up to 2 million victims of starvation in North Korea.

Hundreds of millions of victims of abortion, encouraged and endorsed by United Nations population control initiatives.

....and quite a bit more. Yes, happy birthday to the world's last great hope for.....

Genocide.

Monday, October 23, 2006

More on Evangelical Fratricide

David makes a good point about many so-called "evangelical" ministries; what is to be done if you believe they're not responding to ethical criticism in a way corresponding to Matthew 18 and 1 Corinthians 6? I would once again suggest that we ought not implement "radical measures" for a simple reason; the Scriptures command something else. Let's take a look.

The first question to ask is whether they're a ministry at all. If a "ministry" proceeds without the Gospel, then the first rebuke is to note that they're not proclaiming Christ Crucified and Risen. Many--perhaps most--problems really ought to end there.

Next, one ought to consider the nature of and evidence for the allegations. If it's just anonymous weblogs, perhaps a letter might be in order--to the owner of the weblog, generally speaking. Again, one who claims Christ really needs to be submissive to Matthew 18, and spreading allegations around the world without providing evidence does not fit within this paradigm.

If the evidence holds up, I can understand a note to boards of directors, accountability organizations (e.g. EFCA), and perhaps even lawful authorities if the evidence suggests a broken law.

But maintain a website devoted to tearing down others? No--1 Corinthians 6 tells us to rather be wronged than go to the unbeliever for judgment. Separate, yes. Warn, yes. Try opponents in the court of public opinion? Absolutely not.

And why not? Well, the Scripture doesn't say as much, but I suspect that our Lord wants us to be serving Him and spreading His Gospel, not living for the destruction of others.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Internet Assassins

Yikes. I do hope that I shall not become one. I took the liberty of visiting a few sites more or less dedicated to attacking one or more Christian leaders, and let's just say the wisdom of Matthew 18:15-20 has never been more apparent.

Why? Well, "liberated" from the requirements of establishing facts and standing by them, it seems that many of them continue to make allegations long after they have been refuted. Not acknowledging the facts, they seem to pick more fights with others--and in doing so, end up fighting with virtually every prominent evangelical or fundamental theologian or pastor out there.

What can be done? I don't know. A rebuke--a personal one--may be in order, and minding one's own business might be wise as well. It's very sad to see this fratricide, though.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Parachurches

David commented recently about his opinion of parachurch organizations. I was going to write a long post about the distinctives that make a parachurch organization Biblical or not, but then I ran into a problem.

To wit, there is only one thing that distinguishes a Biblical ministry from an unBiblical one; is it under the authority of the Church? Is it under the headship of Biblically chosen elders and deacons, or does it run independently?

And like I've noted before, churches really ought to be careful about delegating tasks to parachurch ministries. For example, there really is no good reason to delegate tasks like edifying parents to those who are not speaking to their daughters and have left three churches under an ethical cloud. Not to name any names, of course.

Oh, my tummy hurts!

...from laughing at employees of the State of Ohio, who are trying to encourage the Amish to accept food stamps. Yes, they're trying to tell farmers that they're at risk of going hungry without government help, and farmers who (wow) actually reject government aid as a matter of principle to boot.

And we're paying their salaries. Sigh.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Hebrew abuse part 2

Another fun bit of Hebrew abuse came to me from someone who contacted me on the subject of whether homosexuality was Biblically permissible. I hesitated to respond to him, but then thought "what's to lose? He might repent!" and reminded him of the numerous passages explicitly banning such practices.

It turned out that he wasn't interested in listening to an argument, but rather in beating me down until I would superficially "agree" with him--a regrettably common postmodern tactic, I'm afraid. One of his arguments was very interesting, though.

More or less, argued that the word "abomination" in Leviticus 20:13 ought really be translated "idolatry." When I visited Brown-Driver-Briggs, of course, I found that it meant "abomination," derived from the verb "to abhor", and also learned that that's exactly how the Septuagint and Vulgate render the word. Again, my correspondent was someone who knew Hebrew better than the Alexandria rabbis, Jerome, or Luther!

But again, that's not the saddest, most darkly amusing part. The amusing part is that if one accepts this mis-translation, the typical pro-homosexual argument against the Levitical code is overturned. That argument is that certain practices were banned because they were part of Canaanite idolatry; abominable because of the practices of the conquered peoples.

However, if we state point blank that these practices are idolatry, we can no longer state that it is an abomination because of its connection with pagan practices. We must concede that it is an abomination because it is itself idolatry.

Once again, a strategic mis-translation turns out to backfire on those who made it. If we doubt the importance of learning something about hermeneutics, exegesis, and the original languages, the postmodernists are emphatically making that point for us.

Hebrew abuse!

One of the most endearing things about some postmodern theologians is the apparent claim that they know Hebrew better than those Alexandria (Egypt, not Virginia) rabbis who translated the Septuagint (Greek OT) from the original Hebrew/Aramaic. They were, of course, unqualified to translate from the language they used every day--and two millenia of other translators simply have no authority in this matter.

Example 1 is evangelical feminists who believe that God created Eve not as a "helper", but rather as a "warrior." The logic, apparently, is that when God is the "helper" ('ezer) of Israel in battle, He's clearly a warrior.

Now let's not get too wrapped up in the fact that 'ezrah is the verb meaning "to help," and that Hebrew already has words for soldier and warrior. It'll be more fun to take a look at the (IMO) hilarious contradictions required by this mis-translation.

1. Adam is given a companion whose job is to kill people and destroy things--in a world that knows no sin. Can't you imagine Adam asking "Lord, why is she going around destroying the garden You called good? Can You keep her from swinging that sharp piece of metal around me? Please?"

2. A woman is described as a warrior, while the prophets mock the (male) warriors of Asyrria and Babylon by calling them "women."

3. The reason for re-translating "helper" is because it is seen as a demeaning role. What then do we make of Christ's admonition that he who would be great must be the servant of all? Doesn't this motivation demonstrate a fundamental misunderstanding of service to Christ?

Finally, the most hilarious thing (IMO) is that a warrior is actually LOWER than a "helper." Think about it; except for the king, every warrior can be ordered at any time to throw his very life away in an attack on a fortified position. Not so with one's "helper" or "helpmeet."

And such is the most delicious irony of those who think they know Hebrew better than the Alexandria rabbis of the 1st century B.C. In mistranslating these words, they actually weaken their argument.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Darwinism, or materialism

Skeeter and I have recently had an interesting discussion on whether atrocities linked to evolution are attributable to Darwinism itself, or to materialism. Specifically, are genocide, abortion, 20th century wars, eugenics, and such the result of Darwin's theory?

Certainly the perpetrators used Darwin; that much is not debateable by informed men. It also should be noted, however, that Darwin himself allows for an initial Creation in Origin of Species. He afterwards posits that the species as we know them evolved--really an application of the deism common among Unitarians (which Darwin was) to biology, more or less.

So we should at least admit that the closing chapter suggests that those who would misuse his hypothesis would at least face judgment after death. So it was materialism, right, that led to the Holocaust?

Not so fast. Let's examine the implications of gradual (or even punctuated) evolution and "survival of the fittest." The first will tend to blur the definition of "human"--who am I to say that the Neanderthal or Lucy is, or is not human? It's heavily debated even today. In the same way, who am I to say that we may not define superior and inferior subspecies based on evolved characteristics? Why not use the trail of descent to define us a bit?

In a similar way, "survival of the fittest" will tend to obscure traditional morality. Who am I to say that Bob's death was a tragedy? Doesn't getting eaten by a bear indicate that he was simply unfit? Why not use this principle to organize society? Wouldn't God, who organized the world along these lines, approve of things working out this way?

One can see that, while those who led the atrocities generally were materialists, philosophically speaking, the theoretical and moral framework for them really can be attributed predominantly to Darwin.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Update on backdating of options

The news today has items on how about 30 executives have been fired for their part in recent options "backdating" scandals. For the uninitiated, this means they got to choose the most advantageous time for their stock options to vest, which more or less means that they got huge pay for no work.

Firing the executives for crafting and accepting these deals is a good start, but I'd suggest that this egregious abuse of the interests of stockholders (and employees) would have been prevented had another group of people responsible for monitoring executive compensation been doing their job. Let's hope that investors take note and start sacking some boards of directors.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

On pietism

When I was a young believer, I learned about about Philip Jacob Spener and the "pietistic" movement he started. At the core of it, more or less, is the assumption that faith isn't real if it's not expressed in daily devotion, acts of personal holiness, and the like. In its historical context, it confronted a church where even gross violations of moral law were common, especially among the clergy and aristocracy--in many regards much like today.

More recently, I've learned that "pietism" has become something of a dirty word to many, but also that the definition appears to have changed somewhat. The pietistic insistence on personal piety and evidence of one's salvation (by their fruit shall you know them) is transformed into works salvation.

Not fair, IMO, as Spener and his colleagues by and large remained in fellowship with orthodox churches. Yes, some of his followers, such as the "Holy Rollers," did give cause to believe they believed this, but a man can hardly be blamed for what happens with sinful men centuries after his death, can he?

Never mind that we again today find ourselves in situations where pastors and the elites (not to mention ordinary folk) are increasingly plagued by modernized versions of the same besetting sins Spener fought.

Perhaps, instead of fighting pietism, we ought to endorse a bit of it.

Friday, October 06, 2006

An ecclesiastical tragedy

I read today about a situation where one weblog had incurred the ire of a well known parachurch ministry--let's not name names, because that's not the point. The basic details are simple. The weblog, run by a group of pastors, commented that the theology of the parachurch ministry was likely to exert a bad influence on the church. The ministry, in return, published a pair of articles commenting on the theology of the weblog. Neither set of articles was particularly complimentary, though my opinion was that those of the ministry scored a bit higher on the "ad hominem equation."

It's very disappointing, and one might be tempted to send off a few (angry?) letters to those involved. However, that again misses the point, in my probably not humble enough opinion.

The point; the only reason that ministry B is able to come alongside the church and interfere with its workings is because, for too long, many churches have failed to effectively preach the Word and motivate its members in the Gospel. Every church? Certainly not, but even a minority of churches that fail to do this will motivate their members (by inaction) to be taught elsewhere. It might be a parachurch ministry, or the Internet, or (God forbid) a cult.

Moreover, even orthodox parachurch ministries (such as the one I speak of) can go astray if their contributors are not being motivated by the preaching from their own church's pulpit.

It also wouldn't hurt if people eschewed the ad hominem attack, but then again, that misses the main point.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Scandal? Shock?

Let me get this straight; in a culture where daughters are too often dressed as whores and sons as gangsters, in a culture where most spend over a day a week watching fornication, rape and murder on television and in movies, in a culture where we applaud the deviance shown in "Pride" and "Love" parades as the actions of those who are otherwise just like us, we are somehow surprised, shocked, and scandalized when we see the exact same thing happen in Congress?

One would have thought that our computer literate generation would have known the implications of GIGO. Evidently not, however.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

A scary thought

The headlines are flying like confetti about a certain congressman's sexually explicit messages to a 16 year old page. On the bright side, he's confessed and resigned, as he should. On the down side, he tried to divert attention from this to alcoholism.

What strikes me, though, is the apparent fact that quite a few people--perhaps dozens--knew of these messages nearly a year ago and took no action until now. This is almost as repugnant as the acts of the Congressman, in my opinion--how many more acts were allowed because nobody spoke up?

It is, I'm afraid, a sign of how sick our political culture is on both sides of the aisle. One side keeps things quiet to avoid embarrassment, the other keeps things quiet for a time to manufacture the greatest embarrassment. Both forget that innocents are harmed while they wait for an opportune moment.

Going out on a limb--a sturdy one I think--I dare suggest that they forget about those harmed because they know this kind of thing happens all the time in politics.

In other words, because they know that if they report such acts in a responsible, timely manner, the bell tolls for them as well.

Addendum: in today's "Hot Air" segment, Michelle Malkin reports that she was propositioned by a member of Congress while interning in Washington.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Fruit spreads

It should be remembered that, as wonderful as maple syrup is on one's pancakes, Kaiserschmarrn, or waffles, even the greatest lover of this natural sweetener needs a change once in a while.

To help, take about 1 tbsp of corn starch (or white flour) and mix it with 1/2 cup granulated sugar. Mix this in turn with about 1 cup of water, and pour the mixture over 1 pint of berries--strawberries, blueberries, whatever. Heat to a boil and stir as it thickens. Add lemon juice or spices to taste. Serve over your favorite breakfast breads, oatmeal, or grits.

Friday, September 29, 2006

On Peer Review

When a distinguished professor like Philip Johnson or Michael Behe makes comments contrary to Darwinian theory, one can count on the response "what have they ever published in a peer reviewed biological journal?" Unfortunately, most do NOT understand that this is simply the logical fallacy called "appeal to authority," and thus I--having been on both sides of the peer review process--feel somewhat compelled to explain exactly why "peer review" has more or less the value of a Reichsmark in Weimar Germany.

In a nutshell, peer review guarantees nothing because it's an inherently political process, and this is especially so in politically charged areas like biology. What is unpopular is often excluded from peer reviewed journals. I've seen it happen. On the other hand, garbage research is often included in peer reviewed journals simply due to professional connections. I've seen that happen, too.

A classic case of the failure of peer review is shown in the recent government "study" of research linking abortion with breast cancer. 28 peer reviewed studies were reviewed by 100 workers in the field, and 16 of them were thrown out based on a perceived methodological error. What we clearly have here is two sets of peer review directly contradicting each other--peers selected by the same group of researchers, no less.

Whatever side of the debate one falls upon, one must concede that peer review is decidedly fallible, and all the more so as the issue becomes politically charged. Insisting on "peer review" instead of presenting evidence is a sad substitute for argument.

A way to reduce tuition costs

Evidently, Education Secretary Spellings has an interesting plan to reduce college tuition costs and make education more accessible; tracking the jobs and wages of college graduates (by college) over time. The Detroit News points out that this is idiotic from a bureaucratic point of view, as it would put yet another layer of bureaucracy (and more cost) into the educational process.

More importantly, it's not their job, and others are quite willing to do this. Fraternities have pointed out for years that their members have a leg up in employment--and if Harvard is superior to the U. of Southern N. Dakota at Hoople in various regards, they'd be foolish not to put together evidence that proves their point. (they'll lose at musicolology, of course)

No, if the government wants to reduce the cost of higher education, all it needs to do is stop fueling the fire with student loan guarantees and grants. If higher education is a good deal, colleges will provide the evidence to bankers, who will in turn underwrite those loans. If not, they won't.

On another note, Pat Buchanan has a very interesting column on how our tax system effectively subsidizes imports and penalizes domestic manufacturing. I don't agree with everything Pat says, but if he's right here, he's got a very good point.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Necessary and sufficient

Although I like to pretend to be one on TV, I am by no means a practiced logician. However, I cherish the bits and pieces that I've learned, and one of those is that any position has what is called "necessary and sufficient" conditions to be accepted or rejected. In a nutshell, what this means is that one does not need to know "all of the evidence" before arriving at a conclusion about a subject. One merely needs to know, with confidence, certain points.

For example, many will argue that when one must know all about the formative years of a criminal to adequately render judgement. It is absolutely false; all that is necessary is to demonstrate that a crime was committed by that man while of sound mind and without provocation. We need not go into how his clothes were stolen when he was 11 while skinny-dipping.

In a similar vein, evolutionists might argue that one must understand all the complexities of radioisotope dating before judging its effectiveness. Again, horsefeathers; all that is necessary is to view a tree growing through ten layers of rock spanning (according to the method) tens or hundreds of millions of years. If trees do not live in rocks, or for millions of years, we must admit some weakness in radioisotope dating. We do not need to specify what it is, or suggest an alternative.

All too often, we get bogged down in the infinite details of a situation, to the point that we fail to discover what is necessary and sufficient. Let's stop buying "big mud tires" and instead walk around the marsh.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Reasons not to trust in government

Not that my august readers need this, but a couple of things come to mind in reasons not to trust government for a solution to life's problems.

1. The recent hullabaloo about a classified intelligence report claiming that the situation has gotten worse since we invaded Iraq. Whether the report is true or false, any politician worth his salt ought to be calling for the heads of those who broke the law by releasing this report, not making political hay out of it.

2. "Means testing" for government "charity" programs tends to promote the very behaviors (not saving, not working) that tend to result in a need for charity.

As Ronaldus Maximus noted, the most terrifying words in the universe are "I'm from the government, and I'm here to help you."

Monday, September 25, 2006

Top 10 reasons..

...to join your church's visitation/outreach efforts. I had the pleasure this weekend of helping Bible Baptist Church of Elk River, MN in canvassing efforts to let that community know about this new work. Here is a lighthearted list of reasons to join that--apart from saving souls.

1. Your doctor told you to take nice long walks, but your wife frittered away the greens fee on frivolities like groceries.

2. Your doctor told you to take nice long walks, but your husband frittered away the greens fee at Home Depot.

3. That green roofed building at exit 207.

4. You might find a nice new restaurant while canvassing. (Daddy-O's diner downtown, to be specific)

5. You might find a nice butcher shop while canvassing.

6. Nursery workers won't get their "diaper changing fix" (oops, "baby fix") if we don't reach out to new families.

7. More people in the pews means lower heating bills in the winter.

8. You memorized the Saturday morning cartoons decades ago, and don't want your children to do the same.

9. Wonderful coffee and scones before setting out. The pastor's belt isn't just a fence on a graveyard for fried chicken, but rather for his wife's cooking too!

10. Finally a serious one; if you want a heart for people, there is no substitute for taking a walk through the neighborhoods where they live and work.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Another reason to consider becoming an entrepreneur...

...was given by ABC News in an article today. More or less, about half of graduate students--and more than half in business and hard science/engineering--feel that it is "standard practice" to cheat in what they do.

It's truly scary to think that many of these guys are going to end up doing quality assurance in medical or other critical applications. "We'll just fudge this a little bit and it certainly won't make any difference...."

Yeah, right.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Another surreal piece from World Magazine

One might not believe it from reading my weblog, but ordinarily I have a lot of kind things to say about World Magazine. Writers such as Marvin Olasky, Joel Belz, Gene Edward Veith, and Andree' Seu have really revolutionized my worldview.

The most recent issue, on the other hand, has a very, um, "interesting" interview with Randall Balmer, a professor at Barnard College who evidently believes that the state has a crucial role to play in charity, that the Social Security trust fund was somehow diverted or stolen from the program, and that tax cuts predominantly benefit the rich.

While I'm certainly happy to engage those of other opinions, I think it's pretty sad that Dr. Olasky doesn't really see fit to confront Dr. Balmer with reality. Ask him exactly what kind of "lock box" would generate interest like the Social Security trust fund. Ask him how the workers who found jobs due to the Reagan recovery qualify as the "rich" who "overwhelmingly benefited" from those tax cuts. Ask where the Bible tells the state to become involved in charity.

Again, yes, we need to engage those of other opinions. The linked article, however, clearly demonstrates how we need to respond when opinions clearly at variance with known facts are presented. There are an awful lot of people who take this sort of thing seriously simply because the facts are not presented.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Joys of parenthood

I recently taught my girls the fine art of mock gun battles using the Dole banana as a weapon. I'm sure that the Brady Campaign would approve.

They're doing fine on the shooting, but the falling down while pretending to be shot still needs some work, as does remembering that they "need" to reload. Still, it was a good evening's fun.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Did you ever wonder

...where Samson got that donkey's jawbone? Think about it; it was a fresh jawbone, meaning that it'd been killed recently. However, they were in Israel, where donkeyflesh isn't exactly kosher, and the donkey also isn't an animal suited to battle. So we can infer that Israelites didn't provide this weapon for Samson, or suffer its loss in a skirmish with the Philistines.

That leaves one alternative: the animal was probably killed by the Philistines for either food, or as a sacrifice. In other words, the army that thought to kill Samson probably ended up giving him the weapon he used to kill them instead.

What a delicious irony--far better than donkeyflesh, I dare say.

The sin of alogicality

One of the major tragedies of modern "fundagelicalism" is what the head of my church's seminary calls "alogicality"; the refusal to apply the principles of logic to the study of theology. On the surface, it almost sounds reasonable; doesn't Paul, after all, exhort us to reject the wisdom of this world? Should we not then reject even the tools of the pagan philosopher?

Of course, the answer is "no." "Logic" itself is derived from the Greek "Logos," or "Word". If we are to be people of the Word, do we not need to use logic?

In other words, the tragedy of "alogicality" is to confuse the process of logic with the false starting points used by the pagans. Or as we way today, "garbage in, garbage out."

Friday, September 08, 2006

How do I?

...work to end monstrous factories, offshoring, fiat money, national insecurity, and the debt based economy? We could insist on a political solution, but since when can we expect that the majority of politicians will voluntarily relinquish the power they have over our lives?

No, if we want to end fiat money and the debt based economy, we need to get out of debt. Christians could reduce the money supply about 20-30% if they just did this. Think that might get Bernanke's attention?

National security issues? Let's remind the next Yamamoto that there is indeed a rifle behind every blade of grass, OK?

Outsourcing? My family is learning that you can actually beat Chinese prices and quality if you do some things yourself. We haven't figured out how to do computers yet, but Blumenkinder Heirloom Sewing did just receive its first shipment of fine fabrics today (website may come soon) . Anybody need to buy white broadcloth, floral batiste, or a wonderful 100% cotton corduroy, perfect for smocking?

What about...?

the fact that large portions of manufactured goods are made in large factories, in China by more or less slave labor, national security issues when we can't make our own, fiat currency, fractional reserve banking and a debt-based economy?

Are these characteristic of capitalism, or of mercantilism?

My answer; neither. Some of this is inherent in any economic system, and the rest is classic statism--of which mercantilism, fascism, socialism and communism are variants.

Regarding "offshoring" and fractional reserve banking, you'll find those everywhere except where the state explicitly bans them. This is where Adam Smith and his followers are at their best, pointing out that certain things are, economically speaking, nearly inevitable. Banks loan out money, and manufacturers don't like to spend more money than they need to.

Along these lines, bigger factories occur whenever transportation is cheap and economies of scale are to be had. They're associated with mercantilism and socialism because these "isms" tend to subsidize transportation.

Worthless fiat money and debt based economies have been implemented by all statists (mercantilists, totalitarians, kings, socialists, fascists, etc..) since paper money was invented by the Chinese, but I'd suggest that the Keynesian debt-based economy is connected primarily with socialism.

And we still do have hints of mercantilism in our economy today. Whenever we read about a trade deficit, we are absorbing the mercantilist arguments that Smith and Bastiat did their best to refute. Subsidies for industries are also mercantilist policy--though also socialist. They are, again, both forms of statism.

How to counteract these problems? Next post.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Capitalism, or mercantilism?

I've been having an interesting discussion with David about whether the industrial expansion (and personal liberty contraction) of the late 19th and early 20th centuries are the result of capitalism or mercantilism. He's quite right that the "anything for a buck" ethic that permeated certain parts of the "gilded age" did huge damage to the prior culture of small businesses and farms. Real quality has trouble competing with authentic-looking forgeries, as anyone who competes with Wal-Mart knows all too well.

However, he's also absorbed the same lesson we were all told in school; that the excesses of the gilded age were representative of capitalism, and that the 20th century shift to mild socialism occurred due to the excesses of capitalism. Unfortunately, this explanation of history is one of the most egregious examples of bait & switch that I can think of.

Let's start with definitions. "Capitalism" is an economic system based on free markets and minimal government intervention. "Mercantilism" is an economic system where governments make intensive use of tariffs, subsidies, and colonization to create markets for industrial goods and achieve a positive trade balance.

The bait is obvious; the late 19th century featured, at least in comparison to today, very few of the governmental regulations which today amount to a 14% or so tax on all business conducted here. So at least at a superficial level, the late 19th century does appear to be a great example of laissez faire capitalism.

Now the switch; the late 19th century also featured a 45% tariff, massive subsidies of railroads and other enterprises, and aggressive colonization of the Great Plains, Mexico (U.S. Southwest), and the South. Emphasis was placed (and remains to this day) on the balance of trade.

In other words, government policy of the time (which continued to the mid-20th century) was strongly mercantilist, not capitalist.

Now let us consider the case of a factory owner in New England. Does it matter how greedy or wicked he is if the means to get his product to consumers in Iowa, Alabama, and so on is more expensive than manufacturing that item locally, or importing it from England?

One sees rather quickly that the key element in the formation of huge factories in the U.S. is not capitalism, but rather the mercantilist ethic which subsidized internal transportation (railroads) and levied huge tariffs on foreign competition. What a tragedy that this horrendous bait & switch by Marxist historians promotes the problem (government involvement) and slanders the solution (free markets).

And how to fight "anything for a buck" and monstrous factories? Learn to recognize junk, and stop buying it. Corporate product managers can't resist the urge to cut another penny from the bill of materials, and hence the products made by the millions tend to be junk.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

A note about gossip

The much ballyhooed "Valerie Plane/Joe Wilson" case illustrates brilliantly what is wrong with Washington, DC's culture of gossip. Far too often, denizens of that foul city decide that it's their right to share "private" or even "classified" information with the Washington Post or New York Times to achieve their policy objectives--never mind what the fallout might be in other peoples' lives, or to the nation or world as a whole.

In this case, Dick Armitage's gossip (and he even admits that it was!) cost journalists years of their lives in jail, wasted tens of millions of dollars in special prosecutors' fees, and trashed the reputations and livelihoods of many public servants. If this is how DC intends to attract good men, they need to consider another strategy.

What's really crazy: Armitage was hired despite a long and admitted history of such gossip, going back to Iran-Contra in the 1980s.

What's crazy and funny: I was banned from another weblog because I pointed out that to use the "Washington Gossip" (as the papers refer to it) was, indeed, the same sin referred to in Proverbs.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Yet another thing that I cannot explain...

...is how many people think that government, which derives its entire income from taxation and produces no useful goods or services, can somehow create prosperity for its citizens more or less ex nihilo (out of nothing).

Even more puzzling than the idea that government can create things ex nihilo is the idea that God cannot, a concept shared by all too many, even many who claim His name. Far too many of us trust Uncle Sam, but not our Lord, for our daily bread.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Real unity

My church operates a seminary, and each Friday, the president of the seminary sends out a note "In the Nick of Time." This week's edition exegetes the parable of the flock and the fold in John 9, and points out that those in the fold are kept by an external force--the walls and gate of the sheepfold--while the flock is kept together by the voice of the Shepherd. The first is external, the second internal.

Dr. Bauder ends with a plea; if we desire unity, let us not talk about unity, but let us talk about and desire Christ. In doing so, we shall attain real unity.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Sigh

The most recent issue of World Magazine has what I must consider to be a breathtaking bait & switch. In the main body of articles, the stories of fifteen highly effective (as judged by the Acton Institute) ministries to the poor are given. By and large, they do not accept large amounts of government money, and as such, they are free to act on the strength of the Gospel--and they do.

Then, in Marvin Olasky's page, the editor-in-chief uses the examples of these more or less independent charities as a justification to increase government funding for them. As if government funding for the Red Cross, Salvation Army, and others has failed to degrade the very factors that made them effective--specifically, the liberal application of the Gospel.

Perhaps we might persuade Dr. Olasky to read a very interesting book about what happens when we allow government into the business of charity. It's called The Tragedy of American Compassion, by Marvin Olasky.

Again, sigh. Bible-believing Christians have few greater needs in charity than to forget about government help and dance with the girl that brought them; the Gospel. God is not glorified when we downplay the Gospel in order to pillage the pocketbooks of nonbelievers for "our" charities in the name of "compassionate conservatism."

Monday, August 28, 2006

When you're at the witness stand,

you may be "asked" by the questioning lawyer "Now, Mr. So and So, you DO remember that you're under oath, right?" It's a typical way of impugning a witness to suggest that they're not reliable.

My carry permit teacher suggested a good response: "Yes, Counsel, let the jury know that I am under oath and you are not."

Sad to say, as bad as the credibility of some witnesses might be, the credibility of many lawyers is worse. Justice might someday depend on someone pointing this out to a jury.

Sigh.

On a brighter note, my pastor preached on the Beatitudes on Sunday, and in discussing the "pure" in heart, noted that one part of being pure (and encouraging that in others) was to be modest. He did well, but for the sake of those who are younger, I almost wish he'd given even more hints. Somehow it seems that my generation and those younger have more or less forgotten what modesty is all about.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Another reason...

to love living in Minnesota is that OUR Dairy Queen, Princess Kay of the Milky Way, has her likeness carved in about 90 pounds of pure butter. If any single gentlemen out there are smitten, please keep in mind that this year's Princess Kay is from New Ulm and is protected by Herman the German. Don't mess with her unless you want to get seriously roughed up. Also keep in mind that the Jolly Green Giant (in Jordan) and Paul Bunyan (in Brainerd) are pledged to protect Princess Kay.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Surprise?

Recent news reports note that the politically and theologically liberal aren't having babies at the rate of their conservative rivals. Wow--when you tell people that the biggest hazard to the world is population growth and encourage them to have sex (using condoms of course) outside of marriage, you find that the people who believe you don't end up having very many babies. When you tell people that career matters more than family, they don't have families.

I could go on, but let me just admit that I'm shocked, SHOCKED to learn this. I'd suggest that a primer on logic might help them out, but if they learned that ideas and actions have consequences, there'd be fewer liberals anyways.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

An interesting rule of logic

I was discussing some topic or other with a friend a few years back, and he shared with me an interesting lawyer's aphorism.

If the facts are on your side, pound the facts. If the law is on your side, pound the law. If neither, pound the table.

In other words, one can infer the strength or weakness of a man's argument by the methods he uses. If he's bringing forth data, he believes that the evidence he presents makes his case. If he cites principles of conduct, he believes that moral law makes his case. If he cites opinion polls, refers to politics, or simply tries to shout you down, he has without knowing conceded your point.

Not that everyone catches on to how the argument has been lost, of course. Maybe we can help by pointing out who's playing "Nikita Kruschev" in the arena of ideas.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

An interesting hermeneutic

I recently had the opportunity to discuss what the Bible says about homosexuality with a gentleman who appeared to be persuaded by arguments such as those of the "Metropolitan Community Church," a pro-homosexual (and decidedly heterodox) denomination. He emailed me and challenged me to provide a "single" verse that demonstrated that "same sex romantic love", in his words, was wrong.

Well, I gave him the "traditional" answers (references to Sodom and Gemorrah, Leviticus 18 and 20, Paul's warnings) as well as an argument from creation (the helpmeet is opposite sex) and God's use of marital sexuality as a picture for His love for His people. I reminded him of the basic fact that 2000 years of theology and Bible translation clearly demonstrate that Jews, Catholics, Orthodox Christians, and Protestants all agreed that homosexuality was a sin.

The response? More or less to flat out ignore Paul and make a false claim about the Hebrew word for "abomination." The hermeneutic of many, it seems, is to ignore two millenia of learning and insert one's own meaning into the Scriptures--thoroughly postmodern, I dare say. Pray for Brian and others like him, that their hearts might be made alive.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

How did we ever...

...have any kids make it to adulthood before Gary Ezzo wrote "Babywise"? Reading it, one would think that either earlier generations of parents instinctively knew to schedule their children's feedings, or that life was nasty, brutish, and short (thanks Hobbes) because mothers didn't have Ezzo's "sage" advice.

Let's be serious, though. Imagine you are a mother in cloudy northern Europe, 500 years before mechanical clocks were widely available(1700s/1800s). How exactly are you going to schedule feedings?

Further, let's imagine that it's winter, and that effective house heating is still several hundred years away (the Franklin stove). Do you put your child in a crib to freeze to death?

The answer, of course, is that for most of history, mothers have fed their children on demand and kept them in their own beds while they were nursing--if not longer--because weather, technology, and economics did not allow any other arrangement. Despite Ezzo's quasi-historical analysis, his work is simply an attempt to treat a child as if he were a component or subassembly in a factory.

Is this what we really want? If a "part" doesn't work, do we ship him back to the manufacturer or discard him? Do we use the harmonious operation of the "factory" as an excuse to compel parents to do what they would not otherwise do?

This really gets to the core of what's wrong with Ezzo's work. The key issue isn't that he's not an expert in the area, or that he's split churches (and his work has split many more), or that the pediatricians and lactation consultants recommend demand feeding. The key issue, rather, is that families aren't factories, and children aren't "parts." If treating people like "parts" in factories leads to unions, what should we expect when we treat people like parts in our families and churches?

We'd expect exactly the same results that have been observed with implementing GFI. Children who don't "fit the mold" fail to thrive, and families and churches turn on each other.

See www.tulipgirl.com and www.ezzo.info for other information about Ezzo if you like.

Monday, August 14, 2006

And, or or?

One of the most persistent errors in logic, IMO, is that of the false dilemma; where two alternatives are presented as incompatible, whereas in reality they are not. They have some nasty side effects in our lives.

For example, parents often discuss whether they're being too strict/disciplinarian, or too loving. Lost in the rhetoric is Scripture, which notes that every father who loves his son is careful to discipline him. It's not "or," it's "and." Or we might discuss whether unity or theology are more important--not realizing that unity in anything besides the Gospel is meaningless as far as the church is concerned.

The cost can be huge. We know quickly when we've met a child whose parents "loved" him too much to spank him, or when we enter a church where the Gospel is subordinated to an imagined "unity." Let's never forget to ask ourselves "and, or or" when presented with dilemmas like this.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Calvinism vs. Arminianism, Part 2

The head of my church's seminary sends out a weekly letter, and this week's edition is a simple plea to those who will go into churches and Bible studies and divert the topic at hand to an argument of Calvin vs. Arminius:

"STOP IT."

Now this is a good plea, and my friend does well to note that we ought not be stirring up dissention in our own and other churches over this issue. Debate it, yes, but stir up problems, no.

We ought to go even further, though, in my (not humble enough?) opinion; we ought to challenge those who "know everything" on this subject with a simple question:

"Have you ever read anything by Calvin or Arminius?"

My hunch is that most haven't--not even in translation. As such, I've got a hunch that a potentially divisive argument can be transformed into a golden opportunity for growth with a simple reply:

"No? Then perhaps instead of debating these issues with me, you ought to pick up a copy of the Calvin's Institutes and read it."

To be sure, there will be those who simply enjoy strife, and they'll ignore you. But maybe, just maybe, 1% of those we confront in this manner will take us up on this challenge, and the Church will be the stronger (and perhaps more bulbous) for it.

Funeral luncheons

I once heard a joke that the main reason an Irishman dreads dying is that it's going to be the best party he ever pays for, and he doesn't get to enjoy it.

Apart from probable drunkenness, this picture of a funeral luncheon may have a lot going for it. One of the attractions of Heaven, after all, is the banquet laid out by our Lord for His Church, and making a funeral luncheon "palatable" certainly is at least a dim reflection of this truth.

So what do we think might be good for our own funeral luncheons? I bet Mark might say "Lefty's Pizza." (would Craig deliver to the Springs?) Here in the Great White North, one possibility would be Famous Dave's BBQ, and if I moved southwards, I just might have to investigate whether Big Bob's would do the same.

Your thoughts?

Thursday, August 10, 2006

"Studies Prove"

Another grand slam from Thomas Sowell. And yet another.

If we doubt the need to learn our logic and rhetoric and use these skills to evaluate supposedly authoritative sources, Sowell might just set us straight.

Another thought on this has to do with the current war between Israel and Hezbollah. Many would take us to sites where pictures of supposed atrocities have occurred and tell us we ought to plead for a cease-fire. Many have tried to point out that many of these pictures are fabrications, and I commend their work.

However, there's an easier way of addressing the situation; to remind people who attacked whom, and who is hiding behind women and children. Our demand ought not be for a cease-fire, but rather that Hezbollah fight like men or surrender.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The need for out of shape workers

Yes, you are reading this correctly. I am offering the hypothesis that companies today actually want people who are out of shape. Here is my logic:

When I work out seriously--say riding my bike 30 miles in a day, or going swimming for a while, or running any significant distance (> 2 miles or so), I find that I sleep much more deeply and much longer. The Bible even notes how well the worker sleeps (in Proverbs), whether he eats little or much. Even hunger is not a big barrier to sleep for a man who has wearied his body.

On the other hand, when I look at the corporate world, I see the "movers and shakers" sleeping four or five hours a night and taking conference calls in the wee hours of the morning. Even the "plebians" are well known to take six hours or less of sleep.

So it seems to me that the behaviors that lead to personal fitness are actually opposed to those which lead a man to success in the corporate world. And of course, it doesn't hurt, either, that a lot of people work in the corporate world because they need the medical benefits. Hmmm....

Monday, August 07, 2006

Hymns at your funeral

Having recently buried my grandfather, I've thought a little bit about what hymns I might like sung/played at my own funeral. While I'm not thinking it'll be anytime soon, I'm hoping that those who bury me will make sure that "Wonderful Grace of Jesus" is part of the service--optimally sung by the mourners in four part harmony with feeling.

Any other suggestions?

Friday, August 04, 2006

An interesting penalty

My family is going through the book of Judges in evening devotions, and there is a very interesting penalty for disobedience described in Judges 2:1-5; the angel effectively says "You failed to drive out the Canaanites, so you will live next to them."

No fire from Heaven, no war by the Levites, no invasion from Assyria or Babylon. More or less, it's "you made your bed, now you'll sleep in it."

The result? Israel repented for decades--until the elders who had served Joshua died. Let this be a lesson to those who would shield us from the natural results of our sin!