Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Quote of the Week: Michael Ruse on Darwinism

"One thing that does worry me is the belief by many Darwinians, especially, that their position implies atheism. If it does, then I think the creationists have a good point—Darwinism is getting close to religion, or at least to implications about religion. In which case, does it not violate the constitutional separation of church and state? My personal response has been to write a book (Can a Darwinian Be a Christian?) arguing that Darwinism does not imply atheism—it does not imply God, either, but that is another matter."

- Michael Ruse, An Interview with Michael Ruse

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Quote of the Week: Chad Meister on the Conclusion of an Atheistic Worldview

While it is good that Ruse and Wilson acknowledge this conclusion and don’t try to smuggle in an objective morality in their atheistic worldview, I wonder if they have contemplated the moral ramifications of their position. On their worldview, we are merely evolved brutes whose very existence is derived from the naturalistic laws of evolution, including random mutation and survival of the fittest in which the strong survive and the weak die off (and sometimes the strong kill off the weak in their struggle for survival). We are simply the byproducts of a “nature red in tooth and claw,” to quote the poet Tennyson. Is it any wonder that the atheistic regimes of Mao Zedong, Joseph Stalin, Vladimir Lenin, and Pol Pot—devoid as they were of any significant Christian influence—were responsible for the mass murder of over 100 million people in their quest for dominance, more lives destroyed than in all of the religious wars in the history of the human race? These regimes were not discordant with an atheistic basis of morality; they were consistent with it.

Christopher Hitchens and his ilk are wrong: Christian morality, rooted as it is in a transcendent, personal, omni-benevolent God, has truly been good for the world. Heaven help us if an atheistic morality, rooted in evolutionary theory or otherwise, should ever become the guiding moral force on a global scale.

- Chad Meister, Atheists and the Quest for Objective Morality

Monday, October 28, 2013

Quote of the Week: Alvin Plantinga on Moral Freedom

Now God can create free creatures, but He can't cause or determine them to do only what is right. For if He does so, then they aren't significantly free after all; they do not do what is right freely. To create creatures capable of moral good, therefore, He must create creatures capable of moral evil; and He can't give these creatures the freedom to perform evil and at the same time prevent them from doing so. As it turned out, sadly enough, some of the free creatures God created went wrong in the exercise of their freedom; this is the source of moral evil. The fact that free creatures sometimes go wrong, however, counts neither against God's omnipotence nor against His goodness; for He could have forestalled the occurrence of moral evil only by removing the possibility of moral good.
Alvin Plantinga, The Nature of Necessity. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1974

Monday, October 14, 2013

Quote of the Week: Aristotle on God

If, then, God is always in that good state in which we sometimes are, this compels our wonder; and if in a better this compels it yet more. And God is in a better state. And life also belongs to God; for the actuality of thought is life, and God is that actuality; and God's self-dependent actuality is life most good and eternal.

Aristotle, Metaphysics, Book XII, 1072.b24

Monday, October 7, 2013

Quote of the Week: Thomas Nagel on Mind

Eventually, I believe, current attempts to understand the mind by analogy with man-made computers that can perform superbly some of the same external tasks as conscious beings will be recognized as a gigantic waste of time. 

- The View from Nowhere. New York, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986, p. 16. ISBN: 0195056442

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Thoughts on the Government Shutdown

DISCLAIMER: The following viewpoints are not those of the blogger, but a friend of his. If this point of view upsets you, you may vent, but don’t yell at the person who posted them. Start a discussion, express and opinion, but don’t yell at the person who didn’t write it, that is just senseless…These writings are the intellectual property of me, the Author, with permission granted to the blogger who is positing them. They may not be reposted or used in any form without express written consent by either myself or the blogger of Reformed Seth.

Congress. WOW! Here we are, the supposed greatest country the world has ever known, and we have a political morass that is beyond belief.  We elect people to congress to represent us, and our best interest, but have they really been doing that? And I am not talking about just this congress, but let’s go over the last 70 years of congress, just as an example…

Currently, the government is on a shutdown. Why? People can’t seem to play well with one another. We have the left blaming the right, the right blaming the left, and intelligent people blaming Obama, which they should, and less intelligent people asking, “Why do I have to pay for insurance, or pay a penalty for not having insurance? What happened to my free ride? Why are you forcing me to accept responsibility for my own life? THIS ISN’T FAIR!!!” And in a way, they are also right.

The masses have forgotten the lessons that were passed along by our elders. THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A FREE LUNCH. And now the masses are waking up from the stupor to realize, THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS FREE INSURANCE. I blame this on the 74th congress and Franklin Delano Roosevelt.  That’s right, FDR, the “greatest” president we were to ever have had, until Barrack Hussein Obama was elected, and he decided that HE was the greatest president, hell, citizen of the world. As I had to explain to a person at the doctor’s the other day, at a free clinic, because I have no job, and of course no insurance, Social Security started handing out checks a year or so after it was passed. Up until then, there was a surplus in the federal budgets, and all was good. Yet, as I had to explain, people were being paid with money they hadn’t put in; someone else had put the money in that they were handing out to those collecting. So the money that this gentleman had put into Social Security was already gone, having paid for people before him.  In any other world, this would be a Ponzi Scheme, but with this being the United States, it is Social Security, and very legal.

So, why blame the continuing congresses after the 74th? Because they all allowed it, and then started adding programs that would suck up money we didn’t have, to pay people who haven’t put into the system. I imagine had they stopped the free lunch with Social Security, that would have been great, and we could have handled the rest, maybe even find a way to make sure the program was solid. But nope, had to go into areas we didn’t need to go into. Like paying farmers NOT to grow crops. EXCUSE ME? Why are we doing this? ESPECIALLY when we have people in our own country starving, children going hungry, foreclosed houses with people being homeless! Why isn’t the congress, ANY congress, doing something about it?

The simple answer: entrenchment.  Yep, the people who we have elected to congress are entrenched in their ideologies, saying this is what the people who elected them, want them to do. And boy, isn’t that a lie! McCain, so far off the reservation, needs to retire. Reid, so far off his meds, seems to think he is 20 years old, and has 80 years to fix the mess he has continued to create, like the current government shutdown.  Harry has decided that he and his party, Democrats, have the right vision for the country, which is to take all the money from everyone and they get to decide who gets what, how much, and when. And make no mistake, Harry and Obama shutdown the government.  Harry and Barry, kind of like Heckle and Jeckle, have decided that they and their staffs do not need to be involved in Obamacare, which their friends, the unions, need to not be involved, and any FOB, Friend of Barack, need not be saddled, with massive cost, and little coverage; EVEN THOUGH, they make enough money, they can afford the top tier insurance, that allows the rich to continue to get great insurance and coverage, and those without money, again, get screwed. If YOU were a FOB you would most likely get one of the over 1000 waivers, and not be bound by the law itself. How is that for a crock of crap?

So, with the magic pen he carries in his pocket, Barry gave all of congress a waiver, (which is against the law, as only CONGRESS can change a law once it is passed, but since Barry is a supposed constitutional professor he would already know that) they wouldn’t have to abide by the law that was passed, to affect everyone else, not the privileged few.  And THAT is what this shutdown is really about. Republicans in the House of Representatives says, YOU PASSED IT, YOU HAVE TO LIVE WITH IT, NOT EXEMPT YOURSELVES FROM THE PAIN YOU ARE PLACING ON OTHERS. So, were the Republican Party is saying they are standing for the people, the Democrats are showing, they are standing for themselves. Now they might be screaming that it is about the debt ceiling, but Republicans offered a continuing resolution to fund the government, but Harry and Barry say it’s the Republican desire to make America go into default on its money obligations to everyone else.

And this is where entrenchment is involved. Instead of listening to the people they are supposed to represent, they listen to the lobbyist,  their friends in the Senate, the WAY LEFT LEANING Main Stream Media, who is only repeating the crap they say, thinking they are giving gold to the masses instead of the horse crap it really is. They say they know more of what is good for the people, than what they want. There is no bipartisanship, unless it is to bash the Tea Party, which is making McCain, Graham, Reid, Pelosi, Waters, among so many others, look like asses and idiots. Where it would be best that they actually listened to people, like Cruz, Paul, and the new crop of statesmen and women, the older crowd stay entrenched in a ideology that is ripping the country apart. And the uninformed, which is way more than the informed, keeps voting the same old guard in, to continue giving them free stuff, and damn the expense.

So what can “We the People: do? Get involved, go to town hall meetings, make your voice heard, get small groups of your neighbors together, and discuss what is best for you and yours.  Which of course is also dangerous, because we need compromise to legislate, and when everyone is grabbing their own piece of the pie, then we get more gridlock. But if you are smart, bring people up from ignorance, like I did with the gentleman at the clinic, who suddenly realized, the past 40 years of his working, actually has netted him NOTHING.

Or at least, this is how Mark C’s it.

Quote of the Week: J.P. Moreland on the couch potato

"The couch potato is the role model for the empty self, and there can be no doubt that Americans are becoming increasingly passive in their approach to life. We let other people do our living and thinking for us: The pastor studies the Bible for us, the news media does our political thinking for us, and we let our favorite sports team exercise, struggle, and win for us. From watching television to listening to sermons, our primary agenda is to be amused and entertained. Holidays have become vacations. Historically, a holiday was a "holy day," an intrinsically valuable, special, active change of pace in which, through proactive play and recreation, you refreshed your soul. A vacation is a "vacating"-even the language is passive-in order to let someone else amuse you. The passive individual is a self in search of pleasure and consumer goods provided by others. Such an individual increasingly becomes a shriveled self with less and less ability to be proactive and take control of life."

- J.P. Moreland, The Lost Virtue of Happiness, 2006 

Monday, September 23, 2013

Quote of the Week: Socrates on Death and Unrighteousness

I would rather die having spoken in my manner, than speak in your manner and live. For neither in war nor yet in law ought any man use every way of escaping death. For often in battle there is no doubt that if a man will throw away his arms, and fall on his knees before his pursuers, he may escape death, if a man is willing to say or do anything. The difficulty, my friends, is not in avoiding death, but in avoiding unrighteousness; for that runs deeper than death.

- Socrates, The Apology, 38e - 39a

Monday, September 16, 2013

Quote of the Week: James Madison on definition of tyranny

“The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, selfappointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.”
― James Madison, Federalist Papers

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Quote of the Week: Mortimer Adler on Schools

"...our political democracy depends upon the reconstitution of our schools. Our schools are not turning out young people prepared for the high office and the duties of citizenship in a democratic republic. Our political institutions cannot thrive, they may not even survive, if we do not produce a greater number of thinking citizens, from whom some statesmen of the type we had in the eighteenth century might eventually emerge. We are, indeed, a nation at risk, and nothing but radical reform of our schools can save us from impending disaster... Whatever the price... the price we will pay for not doing it will be much greater."

- Mortimer Adler, Reforming Education: No Quick Fix

Friday, September 6, 2013

What if there were no Trinity?

h/t The Gospel Coalition

“If there were no Trinity, there could be no incarnation, no objective redemption, and therefore no salvation; for there would then be no one capable of acting as Mediator between God and man. In his fallen condition man has neither the inclination nor the ability to redeem himself. All merely human works are defective and incapable of redeeming a single soul. Between the Holy God and sinful man there is an infinite gulf; and only through One who is Deity, who takes man’s nature upon Himself and suffers and dies in his stead, thus giving infinite value and dignity to that suffering and death, can man’s debt be paid. Nor could a Holy Spirit who comes short of Deity apply that redemption to human souls. Hence if salvation is to be had at all it must be of divine origin. If God were only unity, but not plurality, He might be our judge, but, so far as we can see, could not be our Saviour and sanctifier. The fact of the matter is that God is the way back to Himself, and that all of the hopes of our fallen race are centered in the truth of the Trinity.”

Loraine Boettner, “The Trinity”

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Quote of the Week: Milton Friedman on Unfairness of Life

 What kind of a world would it be if everybody was an absolute identical duplicate of anybody else. You might as well destroy the whole world and just keep one specimen left for a museum. In the same way, it's unfair that Muhammad Ali should be a great fighter and should be able to earn millions. But would it not be even more unfair to the people who like to watch him if you said that in the pursuit of some abstract idea of equality we're not going to let Muhammad Ali get more for one nights fight than the lowest man on the totem pole can get for a days unskilled work on the docks. You can do that but the result of that would be to deny people the opportunity to watch Muhammad Ali. I doubt very much he would be willing to subject himself to the kind of fights he's gone through if he were to get the pay of an unskilled docker.

-Milton Friedman, from Created Equal, an episode of the PBS Free to Choose television series (1980, vol. 5 transcript).

Monday, August 26, 2013

Quote of the Week: Nietzsche on Christian Morality

When one gives up Christian belief one thereby deprives oneself of the right to Christian morality. For the latter is absolutely not self-evident: one must make this point clear again and again, in spite of English shallowpates. 

Friedrich Nietzsche, Expeditions of an Untimely Man §5.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Quote of the Week: Kelley Ross on the absurdity of life

While traditional Christian theologians, like St. Thomas Aquinas, saw the world as providing evidence of God's existence, and also thought that rational arguments a priori could establish the existence of God, Kierkegaard does not think that this is the case. But Kierkegaard's conclusion about this could just as easily be derived from Sartre's premises. After all, if the world is absurd, and everything we do is absurd anyway, why not do the most absurd thing imaginable? And what could be more absurd than to believe in God? So why not? The atheists don't have any reason to believe in anything else, or really even to disbelieve in that, so we may as well go for it!

- Kelley L. Ross, in the "Existentialism" article at The Proceedings of the Friesian School

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

What should men look for in women?

* This post is the first opinion piece I've wrote on dating. If you have critical comments, I urge you to be constructive because I'm sure this post isn't very strong *

What are things to look for in a woman? You're sure to find countless writings on the best things to look for in a woman so I hope this post doesn't find you uninterested or expecting the same old information. I hope to bring something refreshing, interesting, and to borrow a phrase from Greg Koukl, to "put a stone in your shoe." This is going to be the typical Reformed Seth post in that it will be *quick* thoughts on the subject and not exhaustive thoughts on the subject.

Reason and Virtue
I'm persuaded that one of the traits to look for in a woman is reason. Is she a student of reason? Is she a lover of truth? Often, I'm guilty of this, man will look past 'reason' in a woman because physical traits are what attract him first which is understandable but if a man pursues the woman packaged with traits prized by the superficial man who is void of reason instead of the woman who is a lover of truth then he is destined to meet regret in the future. A woman devoted to wisdom, reason, truth etc. is a woman worth pursuing. You can find this out during your courtship. Ask her questions to see if she is open to following evidence wherever the evidence may take her. See if she can follow the evidence past tradition, society, and dogma.

Good reason will also lead to virtue. I'm not going to explore that idea here in this post but understand that a person of reason will also be a person of virtue. A pursuit of truth is a life of virtue because a reasonable person understands the need to let virtue and reason govern her passions, which leads to the next trait to be valued in a woman.

Passion
Some may disagree with me on this, but a woman without passion just doesn't seem right you know? Often, in literature and in film, a woman's passion is her downfall; it's frowned upon by others which is understandable because this passion that is her downfall is ungoverned passion. For example, think of the character Lorelai Gilmore in the tv show Gilmore Girls. If ever there was a modern example of a woman who is ruled by her passions it is Loerelai Gilmore. She makes one immature decision after the next without any consideration of the risks involved or the conclusions of her decisions. I think the only wise decisions she makes is in her career at the Inn she runs with two business partners. This woman is run by her passions. If you've never watched the show check it out because you can learn from this woman about the good life in that if you want such a life don't pattern your life after Ms. Gilmore. An example from literature of a woman enslaved to her passions is Emma Bovary from Flaubert's Madame Bovary which is a book worth reading.

Passion governed by virtue is the best passion. A life without passion would be just terrible wouldn't it? No laughing, longing, music, etc. Human beings, women more so than men, experience passions and not just passions but colossal passions that are destructive if not governed by virtue, e.g. moderation, to guide the ever moving from high to low ship of passion named human life. A woman who is a slave to her passions isn't to be desired but a woman who has reasonable passion is definitely a woman to be desired because she understands and seeks the balance between high and low, virtue and passion, evidence and intuition. She lets the best of her passions stand out while putting into submission her extreme passions. A woman like this understands emotions and isn't scared of them.

Physical Beauty
In Emile the author, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, goes into detail about the woman who is right for his student Emile. The young woman's name is Sophie and Rousseau writes, "Sophie is not beautiful, but in her company men forget beautiful women, and beautiful women are dissatisfied with themselves." I'm fascinated at how well Rousseau described Sophie in that short sentence. Notice he doesn't say Sophie is ugly just that she isn't beautiful which is probably compared to the superficial standard of the day but there is much more said about Sophie in that sentence than what is said about her beauty. Rousseau wrote that men in the company of Sophie forget "beautiful" women and that "beautiful" women become dissatisfied with themselves in the presence of her. Physical beauty is important to finding a future spouse, but it's not the core of a person, it's not the soul of a person. Sophie obviously is a woman of virtue. She is an Elizabeth Bennet. A woman of virtue draws men, good men, in with her mind and her heart; she cuts away the presuppositions of what is considered "sexy" and she reveals the artificiality of the women around her just by being herself. A virtuous woman can and may be physically beautiful. I'm not saying don't go by physical attraction or that it's not important. I am saying that physical beauty should be the backup singer to the lead singer, i.e. reasonable passion. 

I think the above three traits are what men should look for in a woman: reason/virtue, passion, and physical beauty. You may not find a woman possessing all three in the beginning which is fine because we are all (hopefully) maturing every day and are on different paths at different times in life. Why are these traits desirable? Because a woman with these traits means she is on the path to understand the rich, romantic essence and philosophical depth of love; the truth of the world; how to raise a family; basically learning what the good life is here on earth.

What you must find out during dating is if she is willing to try a new way of thinking about reality. Does she see the importance of reason in her life? She may be full of reason and no passion so I would ask: does she see the importance of healthy passion? What is her view on life? Does she care and see the importance of having a view of reality? You may find a woman you're physically attracted to who is going to be your partner in the grandest adventure of all from friendship to love to marriage.

This little list also isn't exhaustive. I think it's very important that two people agree on the essentials before they marry, i.e. that their worldviews match. If a couple disagrees on the essentials then their marriage will likely fail. Shared interests in movies, shows, music and recreational activities won't save two people who can't agree on how to raise a child or how to live the good life (or if there is even a good life to live).


Related posts
The Foundation of Love  
WK Blog: How Christian women can make Christian men marry without using sex appeal 

Is rolling out Affordable Care Act comparable to Apple rolling out an iPad?

Disclaimer: Ask the programmer is a guest post by a friend of the blog.

Question

Mr President is quoted as saying, "There is no doubt that in implementing the Affordable Care Act, a program of this significance, there are going to be some glitches. ... That's true, by the way, of a car company rolling out a new car. It's true of Apple rolling out the new iPad." Is this true? Can we compare rolling out the ACA to Apple rolling out a new iPad? Also, in the same article Rand Paul says it's illegal to delay the employer mandate of the ACA. How does the President get punished for doing something illegal? Let's ask The Programmer.  

Answer
No one can foresee all the consequences of a law, I'll grant him that, and adjustments are sometimes required. However, the fact here is that the consequences were unforeseen because of the way he and his lieutenants handled the legislation in the first place. They treated it like Roosevelt's request for a declaration of war on Japan (what an antiquated concept, this notion of asking Congress for a declaration of war!) - something that had to be acted on right now for the good of the country. The truth is, the only reason it was "urgent" to pass Obamacare was because the Dems feared losing their Senate supermajority before they could get it through, and even then, they had to resort to every parliamentary tactic and "incentive" (i.e. taxpayer funded bribes to Nebraska and Louisiana) to get it done. Forget the smaller changes like tort reform and eliminating barriers to competition between insurance companies across state lines. Those had more support and would have brought eventual price drops, but why do something that will work eventually when you can blow up everything in the course of a few months on a scheme that nobody knows will work because nobody has read it?

Further, when adjustments to legislation are required to combat unintended consequences, they are implemented in Congress, not the executive branch. If the law said that the executive branch could enforce these mandates at its discretion, he'd be within his rights to do what he's doing, but it doesn't. It gives a date certain, and he is openly acknowledging that he's going to flout that because he deems it necessary (without any input from Congress) in violation of the oath he swore when he was inaugurated. Not to mention, these "unforeseen" consequences were not "unforeseen". They were legitimate objections raised by conservatives during the push to pass the law and summarily dismissed and steamrolled by the Obama PR machine, including the mainstream media. Now they want to delay the consequences they were aptly warned about until a "convienent season", like Felix in Acts 24. (How'd that work out for him?) So really, it's a false analogy, which invalidates any conclusions he might use it to support.

As for what will come of it, the answer is nothing. Is it impeachable? Possibly, but you know Congress as constituted won't take that step. I suppose it could go to the courts, but by the time the appeals wound up, Obama would be out of office anyway and any decision would be mostly moot. Not to mention that I lost faith in the court system years ago. The namby-pamby establishment politicians don't want to call Obama on the unconstituionality of these actions because when "their guy" gets in, they want him to be able to do it, too, but it's a really dangerous precedent. Seems only constitutionalists like Paul understand that. The American public sure as heck doesn't, and the lame-stream media isn't about to give them a civics lesson.

- The Programmer

Source article: ObamaCare cap on out-of-pocket costs delayed, Sen. Paul calls illegal

Monday, August 12, 2013

Quote of the Week: C.S. Lewis on 'death doesn't matter'

It is hard to have patience with people who say 'There is no death' or 'Death doesn't matter.' There is death. And whatever is matters. And whatever happens has consequences, and it and they are irrevocable and irreversible. You might as well say that birth doesn't matter.

- C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed, 1961

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Krauss is a goon


Yes he is. Krauss may be amazing in his field, his daily work, etc. but he can be and is a goon. I'm saying this because of what I've read of his actions during his recent debate with William Lane Craig. On Craig's facebook page he wrote:

Last night's "dialogue" with Krauss was like gladitorial combat! He even had a buzzer which he was pushing at various times during my speech to register his disapproval and try to disrupt my speaking!
Let me imitate the Miz for a bit and say the following to Krauss: really? Really? Really? If what Craig said is true that's what I'm left thinking about Krauss. Really Krauss? Really? Krauss has reduced seeking truth in debate to an episode of "America's got talent." Is this how man decides truth now? He decides something is true with a touch of a buzzer? That was easy. Finding truth is easy when truth is whatever lines up with your personal opinion. This reminds me of the thinking of a toddler; no offense to you toddlers out there. 

If Krauss did in fact do what Craig has said then I'm very disappointed. I cannot take Krauss seriously when he speaks of his reasonableness, his love of facts, and such. How can I? Krauss hasn't shown, to me, that he is serious about truth, that he is serious about finding the answers to life's "permanent questions." It is hard for me to believe that Krauss lives a serious life. What is a serious life? Allan Bloom wrote that, "A serious life means being fully aware of the alternatives, thinking about them with all the intensity one brings to bear on life-and-death questions, in full recognition that every choice is a great risk with necessary consequences that are hard to bear."A serious inquiry of the truth will not lead to acting like a goon in a debate. Krauss is an embarrassment to atheism and should not be taken seriously in matters of ultimate truths. There are plenty of respectable atheists out there who are serious about finding answers to life's biggest questions and those men should be the ones representing atheism in public debates instead of goofballs like Krauss. Of course, charisma, jokes, and bad philosophy are the qualifications for a good representative for atheism today right? Those things are the values that people want in their "hero" to go against theists in public debate. What a shame. I'm not saying theism is absent of such public defenders (because they're out there...) but this arrogant, intolerant, close-minded, childish behavior is more visible on the "new atheism" or "new-new atheism" side of the debate in my opinion.

Never fear though. There are quite a few debates worth your time if you are serious about finding answers to such questions on life. There are too many to list here in this post. I will list some of them though.

William Lane Craig vs Dacey - Also notice in this post, WK lists two other great debates I recommend: Craig vs Millican and Craig vs Walter Sinnot-Armstrong. Since you can find those debates in this one link I won't list them here.

Dinesh D'Souza vs Michael Shermer Some might disagree with me on this, but Shermer is definitely a respectable guy in debate and so is D'Souza. I think this is a great debate. It's one that definitely opened my mind to checking out Christianity.

Source:
1. Allan Bloom, The Closing of the American Mind

Monday, August 5, 2013

Quote of the week: Allan Bloom on truth

Socrates’ way of life is the consequence of his recognition that we can know what it is that we do not know about the most important things and that we are by nature obliged to seek that knowledge...I am now even more persuaded of the urgent need to study why Socrates was accused. The dislike of philosophy is perennial, and the seeds of the condemnation of Socrates are present at all times, not in the bosoms of pleasure-seekers, who don’t give a damn, but in those of high-minded and idealistic persons who do not want to submit their aspirations to examination

-Allan Bloom, Giants and Dwarfs, “Western Civ,” (1990) pg 18 - 19 

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Quote of the week: Wayne Grudem on the being of God

“It is not just that we exist and God has always existed, it is also that God necessarily exists in an infinitely better, stronger, more excellent way. The difference between God's being and ours is more than the difference between the sun and a candle, more than the difference between the ocean and a raindrop... God's being is qualitatively different.”

- Wayne Grudem, 

Monday, July 22, 2013

Quote of the Week: Jonah Goldberg on how wealth and technology shatter primitive culture

There was an NPR story this morning, about the indigenous peoples of Australia, which might make a good column. Apparently they want to preserve their culture, language, and religion because they're slowly disappearing, which is certainly understandable. But, for some reason, they also want more stuff — better education, housing, etc. — from the Australian government. Isn't it odd that it never occurs to such groups that maybe, just maybe, the reason their cultures are evaporating is that they get too much of that stuff already? Indeed, I'm at a loss as to how mastering algebra and biology will make aboriginal kids more likely to believe — oh, I dunno — that hallucinogenic excretions from a frog have spiritual value. And I'm at a loss as to how better clinics and hospitals will do anything but make the shamans and medicine men look more useless. And now that I think about it, that's the point I was trying to get at a few paragraphs ago, when I was talking about the symbiotic relationship between freedom and the hurly-burly of life. Cultures grow on the vine of tradition. These traditions are based on habits necessary for survival, and day-to-day problem solving. Wealth, technology, and medicine have the power to shatter tradition because they solve problems.

-Jonah Goldberg, National Review 

Monday, July 15, 2013

Quote of the Week: Charles Hodge on faith

Faith is not a blind, irrational conviction. In order to believe, we must know what we believe, and the grounds on which our faith rests.

- Charles Hodge

Monday, July 8, 2013

Quote of the Week: B.B. Warfield on following evidence

We must not, then, as Christians, assume an attitude of antagonism toward the truths of reason, or the truths of philosophy, or the truths of science, or the truths of history, or the truths of criticism. As children of the light, we must be careful to keep ourselves open to every ray of light. Let us, then, cultivate an attitude of courage as over against the investigations of the day. None should be more zealous in them than we. None should be more quick to discern truth in every field, more hospitable to receive it, more loyal to follow it, whither soever it leads. 

- B.B. Warfield, Selected Shorter Writings (Phillipsburg: PRR Publishing, 1970), p. 463

Monday, July 1, 2013

Quote of the Week: John Stuart Mill on Arguments and Certainty

Strange it is, that men should admit the validity of the arguments for free discussion, but object to their being "pushed to an extreme"; not seeing that unless the reasons are good for an extreme case, they are not good for any case. Strange that they should imagine that they are not assuming infallibility, when they acknowledge that there should be free discussion on all subjects which can possibly be doubtful, but think that some particular principle or doctrine should be forbidden to be questioned because it is so certain, that is, because they are certain that it is certain. To call any proposition certain, while there is any one who would deny its certainty if permitted, but who is not permitted, is to assume that we ourselves, and those who agree with us, are the judges of certainty, and judges without hearing the other side.

-John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, 1859, pg 29 

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Quote of the Week: Allan Bloom on the role of the family

The family requires a certain authority and wisdom about the ways of the heavens and of men. The parents must have knowledge of what has happened in the past, and prescriptions for what ought to be, in order to resist the philistinism or the wickedness of the present. The family...has to be a sacred unity believing in the permanence of what it teaches. … When that belief disappears, as it has, the family has, at best, a transitory togetherness. People sup together, play together, travel together, but they do not think together. Hardly any homes have any intellectual life whatsoever, let alone one that informs the vital interests of life. Fathers and mothers have lost the idea that the highest aspiration they might have for their children is for them to be wise—as priests, prophets or philosophers are wise. Specialized competence and success are all that they can imagine.

-Allan Bloom, The Closing of the American Mind, p. 57, 58

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Global Warming since 1978? A debate!



The full debate can be found over at Forbes. I'm only posting the first statement from each person.

John Nielsen-Gammon:
What would it mean to say that global temperatures are rising?  Global temperature anomaly measures how much global temperatures differ relative to a reference period, and the anomoly here often changes erratically from year to year.  Some years are warmer than the previous one, some are colder.  Underneath that year-to-year variation, though, is a longer-term time-varying trend.  Standard global time series show an upward trend from about 1910 to about 1940, a weak positive or negative trend from about 1940 to about 1975, and an upward trend since then.
It’s conventional to define the trend by the slope of the trend line, a best-fit straight line through a segment of the data.  There’s no reason to expect that the Earth is actually warming at a perfectly steady rate, but the slope of the trend line is a convenient measure of the average rate of warming.
With those preliminaries out of the way, here are the global temperature trends in the two most well-known global analyses, from 1978 to the most recent time available:
  • NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (NASA-GISS) : +0.3 F/decade.
  • Hadley Centre/University of East Anglia: +0.3 F/decade.
These numbers are not perfect, and they come from observations that are definitely not perfect.  For example, there are concerns about urban heat islands and about siting issues, concerns which I share and have helped publicize.  So these trends need to be double-checked and confirmed in some way.
One good way is to look just at ocean surface temperature trends.  That’s 70% of the Earth’s surface, with no urban heat islands! According to the Hadley Centre, this increased warming amounts to +0.2 F/decade. So yes, it’s still rising, but not as much.  What does that mean for the trends just over land? It indicates that that increasing land temperatures must be larger…and according to the University of East Anglia, that trend is +0.5 F/decade.  Since most of us live on land, we experience the land surface temperature trend.
Are land temperatures really rising that rapidly?  Let’s take a look at what some independent experts from UC Berkeley came up with. Their “BEST” project calculated that land temperatures are rising at a rate of +0.5 F/decade.  Really, no matter how you slice and dice the actual temperature observations, you get roughly the same answer.
So how can we check this independently ourselves?  We could use microwave satellite retrievals of temperature from the lowest few miles of the atmosphere. That’s not exactly surface data, but the two are strongly connected.  Most computer models indicate that the trend in the lower atmosphere ought to be just a little bit larger than the surface temperature trend.
On this basis, two different research groups have independently done their own merging and intercalibration of the data from various satellites which have been in orbit at various times since 1979:
  • The University of Alabama-Huntsville (UAH) Land-only TLT trend is +0.3 F/decade.
  • The Remote Sensing Systems (RSS) Land-only TLT trend is +0.3 F/decade.
Those also aren’t as large as the surface data would indicate, but TLT represents the average temperature in the lowest three miles or so of the atmosphere, not at ground level.  Still, climate models predict that the TLT values ought to have a slightly higher warming trend than the surface temperatures, not the lower trend that the data indicates.
In this case, it’s hard to know which is wrong: the models, the surface data, or the satellite data. Most likely, they’re all wrong to some degree: no data are perfect, and no models are perfect. The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle.
These are not the only data sets that point to unambiguous warming. Night time marine air temperatures (NMAT) measured on ships show warming.  Also, a recent study analyzed the weather using only sea surface temperature and sea level pressure observations.  The resulting temperatures over land produced a trend of +0.4 F/decade.
We also see an unambiguous response to warming in the environment: glaciers, combined Arctic and Antarctic sea ice, ocean heat storage, the ranges of species and so on. On a multi-decade time scale, there’s no global indicator that presently shows cooling.
In summary, the reported land surface temperature trends over the land portions of the globe since 1978 are about +0.5 F/decade if measured directly, and they are around +0.3 to +0.4 F/decade if we use independent methods immune to urban heat islands.  Ocean-only and land+ocean temperatures are rising, too, but at a somewhat lower rate.
Sure, there are corners of the Earth that have gotten colder, and some that haven’t changed much.    There are also some places that have warmed much more than the global average.  Overall, though, all lines of evidence point in the same direction: warming.

Fred Singer:
First, there would be very little public interest in funding climate science, were it not for an assertion by alarmists in the political and environmental communities that a human-caused (“anthropogenic”) global warming crisis exists, which can be mostly attributed to carbon-dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels to generate energy.
Debates about those claims revolve around several contentious issues.  Key among these are: whether there is, in fact, reason for alarm; what reliable evidence supports that supposition; i.e., what degrees of impact do human have versus natural influences on global temperature changes (both warming and cooling); and what trends can be observed and projected to guide prudent responses? It is not my intent to argue that the global climate has been cooling since the late 1970s, but merely to present a case that there is no convincing evidence that it has been warming.

John, With regard to the matter of species migration you raised, I believe that this topic is entirely too speculative to discuss here. There are too many variables, too many special circumstances, too many uncertainties. Likewise, ocean heat content data is very poor, requiring numerous “adjustments”. Vertical temperature profiles are most surely controlled by currents that vary with depth. They are not one-dimensional as implied by the data.
Since I am primarily a data guy, I’ll confine my comments here to discussing recent climate trends but note that the global climate has warmed since the Little Ice Age (about 1400-1700 AD), and it will likely continue to warm for another 200-300 years, in fits and starts, towards a max temp roughly matching that of the Medieval Warm Period. In this context, “recent” refers to the decades since 1978 when satellites became available to measure atmospheric temperatures globally to supplement global radiosonde (balloon) records that reach back to about 1958.
We also get temperature information from (non-thermometer) ”proxy” data. And while all of these methods present specific problems and have limitations, let’s review what we can learn.
John opened his discussion with a statement that there has been a (reported) rising global temperature trend since 1975, while in fact broad agreement exists that there has been no warming for at least a decade. Phil Jones has stated that global temperatures have been flat for 17 years.
John also provided earlier surface data compiled by NASA-GISS and the Hadley Centre/University of East Anglia (Hadley-CRU).  The close agreement between those trend results does not indicate independent confirmation. This shouldn’t be at all surprising when we consider that they use mostly the same raw data.
Problems with surface measurements are notorious.  Recording stations are sparse, even nonexistent in vital global locations, most particularly throughout the Southern Hemisphere and in remote polar regions.  After 1970 the number of reporting stations dropped suddenly and drastically.  (Stations at airports have seemed to be unaffected, and may even have increased in number.)  And as John noted, urban heat islands have developed over time, not to mention problems resulting from faulty placements of temperature recording instruments which have to be “corrected” by applying subjective ‘homogenizing’ (tuning) procedures.
Even then, according to U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) figures, the reported global temperature increase between 1942 and 1995 was approximately +0.5C, while U.S. and Western European data showed approximately zero.
While the IPCC claims that a large temperature increase occurred between 1977 and the turn of the century (presumably based mainly on sea surface temperatures (SST), recent SST data published by Viktor Gouretski and John Kennedy in Geophysical Research Letters (2012) and the latest Ocean Heat Content (OHC) data from the National Oceanic Data Center (NODC) show only a minor warming between 1975 and 2000, Hadley NMAT data show nearly the same results.  In short, SST and NMAT show a ~zero difference between 1942 and 1995, while OHC showed a difference of less than 0.1 C.  These comparisons are summarized below.
  • Global land-based surface temperature differences (UN-IPCC)=  approx. 0.5C
  • However, U.S. land-based surface temp. differences (NASA-GISS) = approx. zero
  • Sea surface temperature differences (Victor Gouretski-GRL, 2012)=  approx. zero
  • Nighttime marine air temp (NMAT) differences (Hadley Center)=   approx. zero
  • Ocean heat content differences, 1979-1997… average (NODC)=  less than 0.1C
  • Atmospheric satellite temp. differences, 1979-1997  (MSU-LT)=  approx. zero
  • Atmospheric radiosonde temperature differences, 1979-1997= approx. zero
  • Proxy sample temperature differences (mostly land surface)=  approx. zero
Despite some discrepancies between various data sets, the global temperature differences between 1942 and 1997 are small to none – except for land-based thermometer data outside the U.S. This disparity with your warming premise demands an explanation – as do the much larger in trends of the Northern Hemisphere compared to the Southern Hemisphere.
Further, satellites show atmospheric trends that are smaller than surface trends – even though atmospheric theory (and the models incorporating that theory), show the opposite.  Instead, models predict that there should be an “amplification” of the surface warming trend to produce a “hot spot” in the tropical troposphere.  Instead, both satellite data and independent balloon data show a near-zero trend from 1979 to 1997, followed by a well-known 1998 temp “spike” which is universally attributed to a Super-El- NiƱo.  This absence of an observed hot spot suggests that the land-surface temperature warming trend (1979-1997) is greatly over-estimated, and should be close to zero in the Tropics.
Various scientists attach different interpretations to this disparity between models and direct atmospheric observations. Some suspect the fault lies with the quality of the atmospheric temperature data; some blame the models; while others merely note that the disparity exists and do not attempt to reconcile it at all.
John also mentioned sea surface temperatures (SST), which avoid urban heat island influences. These measurements, covering (imperfectly) 71% of the planet’s surface, are taken by four different methods, each introducing unique problems and uncertainties as well as referring to different depths of the ocean:
  • The bucket method has been used since earliest times. The samples come from near the surface (about 1 meter), and temperatures are recorded manually. They should show a pronounced max after noon due to direct solar heating.
  • The ship-engine cooling-water intake method collects and records ocean temperatures at depths of several meters.
  • Floating surface buoys (“drifters”), record temperatures within a meter below the actual sea surface.   The temperature data is collected by satellite, and should show a post-noon maximum.
  • Nighttime marine air temperature (NMAT) is taken by thermometers at the decks of ships, well above the sea surface
The relatively minor warming of the ocean surface (71% of the Earth surface), stands in contrast to the reported global warming between 1970 and 2000.  It suggests that land surface warming has been greatly over-estimated.
A similar conclusion is indicated from atmospheric temperature measurements. Although they use two independent methods, and as with other tools, each is imperfect, satellite and radiosonde data confirm each other’s trend results quite well. Satellite temperature records, which have only been in existence since 1978, cover the whole globe, but are subject to problems associated with various drifts which must be accounted for and corrected. Balloon-borne radiosondes are best used for data at detailed altitudes, but have problems with instrument calibration and interference from direct solar radiation.
Still, taken together, the data reveals a consistent and convincing picture of near-zero warming trends in the tropical troposphere –i.e., absence of an observed “hot spot”.   Coupled with a modeled trend “amplification”’ of about 2, this suggests an extremely low value for the land surface trend – hence low values of climate sensitivity to increases in CO2.

Read the rest: Any Global Warming Since 1978? Two Climate Experts Debate This - Forbes

Quote of the Week: J.P. Moreland on God and freedom

“If you were to force people to do something against their free choice, you would be dehumanizing them. The option of forcing everyone to go to heaven is immoral, because it's dehumanizing; it strips them of the dignity of making their own decision; it denies them their freedom of choice; and it treats them as a means to an end. When God allows people to say 'no' to him, he actually respects and dignifies them.”
― J.P. Moreland, Love your God with all your mind: the role of reason in the life of the soul

Monday, June 10, 2013

Homosexual activists or homosexual sloths?

DISCLAIMER: The following viewpoints are not those of the blogger, but a friend of his. If this point of view upsets you, you may vent, but don’t yell at the person who posted them. Start a discussion, express and opinion, but don’t yell at the person who didn’t write it, that is just senseless… These writings are the intellectual property of me, the Author, with permission granted to the blogger who is positing them. They may not be reposted or used in any form without express written consent by either myself or the blogger of Reformed Seth.

Activists or sloths?

Recently, in the past few days, there was a story about two homosexuals suing a baker in Colorado, because he wouldn’t bake them a wedding cake. It was against the beliefs of the owners, so of course, instead of finding another baker, they decided to get a lawyer and sue the owner of the bakery. Because it seems that even though smoking pot is legal in Colorado, freedom of expression isn’t.

So, when it is brought up on the internet, Facebook, chat rooms, that kind of thing; when someone mentions that there is an homosexual agenda, well, they get laughed at, because there has been no big meetings where homosexuals all gather together and decide what to do, and who to sue, for what they consider discrimination. However, I have to ask, doesn’t it seem like there is an agenda? Being from California, I remember when churches were in an uproar over new work guidelines, which would make it impossible for churches NOT to hire someone who was openly homosexual. (Admittedly with a tad of hypocrisy, as they will allow adulteress to work there) So, why do I stop and think, there just might be something to the thought of an agenda? Well, how about the forcing of a religious organization, the Boy Scouts, to accept openly homosexual members. Now let’s face it, children have no idea as to their sexuality at that age. If a boy or girl gets their heart broken by a member of the opposite sex, in today’s society, they may think, well, I must be gay, and they go off the deep end. Gender confusion has got to be hard, probably harder than when I was a kid. Now the Boy Scouts of America are being challenged by atheists about the use of God in their pledge, and to me that is what really shows an attack being made against the Christians of our country. Let’s look at another instance. Who remembers a few years ago when a homosexual sued eHarmony for not allowing homosexuals to use their service? What does the Dr. who started eHarmony know about the homosexual brain, the dating thoughts, they lifestyle most chose to lead? NOTHING, because when he was in college, and learning human behavior, he learned and observed straight people, not homosexuals. So, why is it fair that he gets sued, loses, has to change his site to cater to the homosexuals who want to use his site, AND pay out legal fees and 50,000.00 to the person who felt slighted???

So, after listing the above thoughts, I have to ask, are the majority of homosexuals lazy? Ignorant? Stupid? Do they not go to college? Why sue companies and organizations to meet their specific needs, instead of starting their own companies? Sure, they can sue a baker in Colorado, but how about OPENING YOUR OWN BAKERY? Imagine the money you would make, if you are any good, by catering to your own specific clientele! Same with a dating service, unless they want to admit, the homosexual brain is so far different, they can’t come up with their own algorithms, and questioners. Why force a Christian owned Bed and Breakfast to cater to their wants and needs, instead of opening your own B&B? And therein lies the thought that twist my shorts, chaps my hide, and pisses me off. Why are people being FORCED to accept a lifestyle they do not agree with? It isn’t about dragging people into the 21st century, it is about making people accept someone who wants to force their choices on someone else, and that right there takes away the very freedom that we have been fighting for. For over 200 years. Freedom of choice is meant to be for more than just a woman’s choice for an abortion. Freedom of Expression, and Religious Freedom. When those freedoms are attacked, because a group wants special consideration, then again, we find the liberties that our country was founded on, being beaten and taken hostage by political correctness, because it isn’t right unless you accept everything you don’t agree with, but they don’t have to do the same.

Sadly, this makes me change a previous stance I had taken on homosexual marriage. I believe I have to go back to the previous stance, that since marriage is considered a religious construct, and more disbelieve than believe, then why have a wedding in a church, unless it is to force a belief or agenda, that most don’t agree with.

When the A.I.D.S. crisis hit, there was a prevailing cry that ‘partners’ wouldn’t be able to see the love of their lives pass away. So, it was pointed out that a will would resolve that issue, that a person could chose which person could, or couldn’t be allowed to be with them at the end. Then it was about being accepted as being normal, and being allowed to be married, which in and of itself, points to an admission of abnormality. So, civil ceremonies were allowed to be legal, it was a justice of the peace, and move on with life. And they could be as manly, frilly or butch as you wanted it to be. But that suddenly wasn’t good enough, now it is forcing churches to marry. Again, that also has some hypocrisy in it, as they will allow adulteress to get married, after going to counseling, to admit what you did was wrong.

So, dear reader, is it a conspiracy? Is there an agenda? G.L.A.A.D., which is always pissed off and MAD, seems to be pushing a nationwide agenda, and so I would say yes, there is an agenda, and it has brought us to a slippery slope, as the group, NAMBLA is starting to speak out about allowing them to have sex with eight year olds, and let’s not forget the case in Florida when an 18 year old girl was caught having sex with a 14 year old girl on school grounds, and her family and friends, and the radical homosexual element and agenda, are saying, it is just because she is a female homosexual, that she is being charged, that is it just true love, and her parents are pushing the case because they don’t like their 14 year old daughter being gay. WHAT A LOAD OF HORSE CRAP! It has been shown that children cannot make appropriate choices about love until they are at least 16 to 17, as they don’t have the maturity or understanding as to what romantic love is. Just as honest psychiatrists will tell you that a brain scan can tell you what part of the brain isn’t working properly at birth, and can predict those who will be gay.

Or at least, that is how Mark C’s it.

Quote of the Week: Ron Nash on Apologetics

"It is helpful to distinguish between negative and positive apologetics. In negative apologetics, the major objective is producing answers to challenges to religious faith. The proper tack of negative apologetics is removing obstacles to belief... In negative apologetics, the apologist is playing defense. In positive apologetics, the apologist begins to play offense. It is one thing to show (or attempt to show) that assorted arguments against religious faith are weak or unsound; it is a rather different task to offer people reasons why they should believe. The latter is the task of positive apologetics."

- Ron Nash (Faith and Reason, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1988: 14-15.)

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Does a new Christian have to understand the OT to be a Christian?

Sometimes I hear skeptics/non-Christians/atheists poke fun at new Christians for not knowing the Old Testament or completely understanding the New Testament. I think it's fair to say that the insults or questions are getting at this: your belief is on this very minimal god that doesn't lineup with the god explained in the Old Testament or even in all of the New Testament; your belief is a fraud, it is fake, simply not justified. What I want to ask is: does a person have to understand the entire bible before he can justifiably claim to trust in the life, work, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ?

I don't think a person has to understand the entire bible before she can trust in the gospel. Why? Because the person is responding to the gospel that's why. What is the gospel? The Apostles describe the gospel, as I understand it, as the good news of Jesus Christ. What is the good news of Jesus Christ? One, that people by default are in rebellion against God. Two, that people cannot by themselves be good enough to stand before God in a not-guilty position (or put another way they cannot by themselves not be in rebellion against God). Three, that Jesus Christ paid the debt to God on account of his rebellious people. Fourth, now because of Jesus Christ his people can access God, i.e. worship him in spirit and truth. That is the gospel. Put another way that gospel is that God saves sinners. A person can hear the gospel and justifiably believe it without ever opening a bible. Why? Because that is what is required to be a Christian: hear the gospel, then repent, and then trust in Christ to do what he said he will do. That's it. A person doesn't have to respond to an entire reading of the bible in order to be a Christian. Think about this. The Apostles gave the gospel to people for salvation. That is what their audience had to respond to. The Apostles didn't approach a group of people or even one person, get out their old testament scrolls then start reading word for word the entire old testament then ask their audience (if the audience was still awake or even present) what they thought about that reading. Instead, they delivered the gospel. They didn't even deliver the gospel in the same way every time, e.g. Paul's address in Acts 17 is different from his other gospel messages (in style - the basic theme is the same). Well then, why have a bible? Hey, that's a good question.

Why do we have the bible? The bible is a collection of copied manuscripts from the ancient world. People of that time wanted a written record of the oral tradition. I understand that. Let's write it down to have a copy of this oral religion. I think that is why we have a bible. "Stuff" was going on at that time and it was worthy of being written down. Let's remember: back then, things to write on weren't easy to come by. If it was written down, then it was super important to the person or group of persons who wanted a written copy. The Israelites wanted a written history of their people, their theocratic society, to pass on to their children. Even the prophetic books are historical accounts of what was going on in that time of Israelite history. There are very few, if any, straight-up doctrinal books like in the new testament. This same kind of thinking can carry on into the new testament as well although the genre of written record is different in that the new testament is made up mostly of letters written to churches in doctrinal style. The bible is a copy of what was going on orally at that time and place. The bible is an excellent resource for the new and old Christian alike to learn, read, and hopefully apply the instructions written by the Prophets and Apostles. Do we blindly apply them? Not at all. The Christian is called upon by the Apostles to know why you believe what you believe. So, while the new Christian is justified in his belief in the gospel, he needs to go further. He won't find that the bible and the gospel contradict each other. Will he find some things in the bible that aren't tidy? Sure, for example, what does it mean to "live by the Spirit?" What did Paul mean by that? Obviously there are some different answers to that all through history. It's not tidy. However, just because it's not tidy doesn't mean there isn't stronger evidence for some positions over others. What is tidy is the broad them of Christianity. The essentials are super tidy. The non-essentials aren't and I wouldn't expect them to be tidy because they're non-essentials (like what kind of music do Christians play for worship?).

Wrapping this post up, I want to say that the new Christian is justified in his basic belief in the gospel. The gospel has nothing to do with ancient Israel's form of government. The gospel has nothing to do with ancient Israel's dress code, dietary laws, arranged marriages, polygamy, or other recorded historical acts of an ancient people that wasn't necessarily condoned by God. The gospel is that God saves sinners. If the person who responds positively to the gospel then that person is justified in that belief. It is wise for that person to read about the problems and solutions the new testament has in its collection as well as in the old testament just as it is very important for him to read about the author of the gospel: Jesus Christ. The new Christian should read John's historical account of Jesus Christ to further his knowledge of the Hero described in the entire bible that he heard about in the gospel. The new Christian begins on a road she has never been on before. The road is bumpy, but it has a beautiful destination.

Related posts
Theism as a properly basic belief - highly recommend
What about the OT? It's unethical
OT laws on relations between adults
Can we trust the bible?

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Water Cooler Wednesday: Marriage and Government


Brian: Hey Andy, how is everything going?

Andy: Oh, you know, plugging along with these reports.

*both sip water*

Andy: Hey, did you read where Rand Paul talked about government getting out of marriage? What are your thoughts on government getting out of the marriage business? You're all for "small government" so you probably think it's a good move I bet.


Brian:
The government "getting out of" the marriage business is a very libertarian viewpoint. There are, I suppose, some attractive things about that, but "getting the government out of" what are euphemistically called "social issues" is usually where libertarians and I part company. John Stossel, for example, has long been one of my favorite commentators, but he's too liberal on the social issues for me. I really feel like it's important for us as a society to say "This is OK, and this is not." Sadly, our society seems to think homosexual marriage is OK, when it is clearly unnatural. I know it's been said before, but it is a slippery slope. When you accept homosexual marriage, there is a clear path to acceptance of polygamy, beastiality, and even necrophilia. The other side will try to dismiss that as extreme, but think how extreme homosexual marriage seemed as little as a decade ago. It's coming; hide and watch.

Andy:
Well, what do you think of marriage licenses and the like not coming around until the 1920s? I understand that marriage wasn't a government thing until that time.

Brian:
I've never looked into it, but I'm sure that's true. Problem is, prior to the 1920s (and for a good while afterward), nobody considered homosexual "marriage" legitimate. Same with polygamy, which was actively condemned from the time of the Mormons. If we went back to that lax standard today, you could get five wacko witnesses to say they saw you marry a ham sandwich, and that would have to be legal. The cat is out of the bag, now. Unfortunately, I think Rush Limbaugh is right. This is a lost issue. It's just a matter of how long it takes. Once that happens, we begin the descent toward recognizing other deviant relationships as "marriage". Eventually, we end up where the Roman Empire did, with flagrant, open promiscuity of all kinds displayed everywhere.

Andy: I guess I'm
on the fence with this issue. I see and understand both sides. On the one hand, I want the State out of the marriage business because, quite frankly, I don't like being married to my wife and the state right? The state has a part in my private life and my future children, etc. I don't like that. Since that didn't come around until the 1920's why do it today? Especially since men I admire, from what I've read about them anyway, didn't have marriage licenses! (Abe Lincoln and George Washington). I guess the character of our citizens was quite different back then. People focused more on their actions and such when "no one was looking" instead of, remarkably, around the 1920's and 30's people focused more on their public image and their public character, caring less about their private character. What you did when no one was looking or just when a few people were looking no longer mattered. So, the moral climate changed a lot. I see that as a decent blow to the "get the state out of the marriage business" position.

I also see the good points of the state being in the marriage business. This positions says society can't survive without the family unit. The state wants the society to survive and prosper so it can survive and prosper. They say the family unit is the blood of the country and without it, America will fall. So, the state has an interest in making strong families by rewarding strong, monogamous, traditional families that will raise children to raise children to raise children and keep America strong. I understand this position also says that since no-fault divorce came along, the state really had to promote the traditional family. Is it too much intervention on the personal lives of Americans? Well, it doesn't help. If more intervention was done away with, then this intervention would be minimal I guess. I think the state can still promote and reward strong traditional families without such intervention like child services and family court. 

Brian:
Yes, I too am a bit on the fence about just how much state intervention there should be. There are lots of whack jobs out there who abuse spouses and children, and without legal (i.e. the state's) authority, there's very little intervention that can happen short of vigilante justice, which is a bad thing. Problem is, the state too often makes bad decisions or is ineffective in enforcing the laws aimed at protecting the vulnerable. Unfortunately, that's usually the case any time the state gets involved - they have a noble idea, but they are horribly ineffective in their execution. Hence, libertarianism. I get that, even when I don't agree with it.


The promotion of a strong family unit should be the goal of the state, but clearly it isn't. Welfare benefits that promote single-parent households, free distribution of condoms and sex education classes (both of which promote promiscuity "without consequences"), recognition of homosexual marriage and homosexual adoption, relaxation of indecency standards to allow relentless promotion of deviant and dangerous sexual behavior in the media, no-fault divorce, legalization of abortion on demand... all of these things - and no doubt many more - actively work against the formation of strong families. So government has not only made ineffective use of the mechanisms at its disposal to promote strong families; more and more, it has actively abused those mechanisms to weaken the family.

Andy: *looks at wall clock* Well, break is over.

Brian: Yep. Time to get back at it.

*both sip water then throw cups away*

IRS: I got the power!


That power is from Obamacare boi-boi. I read the following "by the numbers" from the Morning Bell about the powers granted to the IRS as a result of Obamacare.
18New taxes in Obamacare, including 12 that directly violate then-Senator Barack Obama’s “firm pledge” to those making under $250,000 per year that he would not “raise any of your taxes.”
47—New provisions Obamacare charges the IRS with implementing, according to the Government Accountability Office.
$695Tax for not buying “government-approved” health insurance the IRS will be charged with enforcing on all Americans.
1,954—Full-time bureaucrats the IRS wants to devote to Obamacare implementation and enforcement in the upcoming fiscal year.
60,000,000—Medical records the IRS has been charged with improperly seizing, raising concerns about whether the agency can handle the personal health insurance information all Americans will be required to submit to the IRS.
$439,584,000—The IRS’s request for new spending on Obamacare implementation in the upcoming fiscal year; the request did not specify how much of those funds the IRS will spend on the “Cupid shuffle.”
6,100,000,000—Man-hours Americans already devote to tax compliance, according to the National Taxpayer Advocate, a burden that will rise significantly thanks to Obamacare.
$1,000,000,000,000—New revenue raised by Obamacare in its first 10 years alone, according to the Congressional Budget Office, sums that will only rise in future decades.
Awesome huh? Read the whole post here.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Quote of the Week: Luther on Apologetics

If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved; and to be steady on all the battlefield besides, is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point. 

-Martin Luther

Friday, May 24, 2013

What about that Old Testament stuff? It's unethical!

Often, the main offense people take to the Bible is the old testament. They see the actions of God in the old testament as cruel, unjust, unloving and that's just some of the nice things said; I've heard worse about the old testament and of God. At first read, sure, there are cruel and unjust things (according to us) done in the old testament, there's no doubt about that. After a second read, a second thought, and looking at another viewpoint the old testament is understood clearly.

I've read a good essay about the old testament and its ethics, so I thought I would share it here. This essay is from the Apologetics Study Bible and it's written by Christopher Wright.


1) Prejudice against scripture
  • OT portrays a violent God
  • OT portrays a violent people
  • OT is filled with narratives recounting horrendous events
  • Disreputable people playing major roles
2) Reasons the Old Testament is Ethical
  • It was ethical for Jesus
  1. He accepted the truth and ethical validity of the OT in His life, mission, and teaching.
  2. Mt 6-7 sayings don't contradict, but deepen/correct popular inferences.
  3. Jesus reminded His hearers that Leviticus 19 also says, "Love the alien as yourself," extending this to include "love your enemy."
  4. Jesus affirmed and strengthened the OT ethic.
  • Narratives describe what happened, not what was necessarily approved.
  1. We assume wrongly that if a story is in scripture, it must be "what God wanted."
  2. Biblical narrators dealt with the real world, with all its corrupt and fallen ambiguity.
  3. Shouldn't mistake realism for ethical approval.
  4. OT stories challenge us to wonder at God's amazing grace and to patience in continually working out His purposes through such morally compromised people.
  5. OT stories challenge us to be discerning in evaluating their conduct according to standards the OT itself provides.
  • The Conquest of Canaan
  1. Must be understood for what it was.
  2. It was a limited event. The conquest narratives describe one particular period of Israel's long history. Many of the other wars that occur in the OT narrative had no divine sanction, and some were clearly condemned as the actions of proud, greedy Kings or military rivals.
3) An eye for an eye is remarkably humane
  • Metaphorical, not literal
  • Not a license for unlimited vengeance, but the opposite; it established the fundamental legal principle of proportionality.
  • Punishment mustn't exceed the gravity of the offense.

More OT ethics resources:
Peter S. Williams on the ethics of the Old Testament here
Questions about the Bible
Questions about God
Moral and ethics resources at Apologetics315

Friday Mentionables: Piper's tweet, origin of life, and the IRS


 Those Deleted Tweets - Desiring God blog
Tweet by John Piper after Oklahoma tornado - Knue 101.5

Origin of life debate between Michael Ruse and Faz Rana (debate summary/review)
Owning Human Genes - Talking Philosophy 

IRS fascist Lois Lerner pleads fifth to avoid transparency and accountability - WK blog


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Watercooler Wednesday: The Honeymoon is over or The Obama Admin Spied on Fox Reporter


It's here! And a day early at that. I wanted to go ahead and get it out. Starting next week, Watercooler Wednesday will actually be on Wednesday. Andy and Brian are two characters I've constructed out of personalities from my past and the present of people I've met in person and online. They will develop more as weeks go by. Also, these conversations have been edited from emails and messages I've had with real people. I've done my best to edit them to fit the characters of Andy and Brian. I will have profiles on Andy and Brian a little later when I actually decide what to do with them in this series. For now, just know they are two guys at work talking at the watercooler.

Andy: Brian, what up my man? *laughs* Did you read the "chilling" report on twitchy? I read about it on that right-wing nutjob blog Wintery Knight. Why are right-wingers so upset about it? Scanning emails is a form of safety. I'm not that angry with what happened, although, I have to admit I was a little surprised by it.

Brian: The only surprising thing here is that this got out. Anyone who hasn't seen - nearly from the day he took office - that Eric Holder is the very definition of government corruption is blind as a bat. The dude is evil, and I don't use that term lightly. Cover-ups everywhere, and they all lead back to him. He, of course, not only doesn't remember anything - a la Hillary in the Whitewater investigation - but he actively lashes out at anyone who dares question him. This is a guy who is committed to fundamentally restructuring our government in very radical ways and using all means, legal and illegal, to get it done. In some ways, I think he's more of a villain than Obama.

All that said, Obama knew what he was getting with Holder. He got exactly what he wanted and has backed Holder to the hilt. If the fecal matter ever contacts the air circulation device - and it looks like maybe it has - Holder becomes a martyr to protect Obama. Actually, I think Holder would relish that role, politically dying for the cause of statism. Some of Obama's picks - like Hillary - were concessions to the political establishment, but Holder and Emanuel were clearly the picks of the young, Alinski-trained revolutionary Obama. The one I can't decide on is Sebelius. She didn't strike me as that radical, more of your average, run-of-the-mill liberal, when she was nominated. Not a lot of radicals can get elected governor of a pretty conservative state like Kansas, but HHS has been one of the more aggressive agencies in promoting statism in this administration. Is she just a willing tool or does she actively seek to radically increase the size and scope of government? I can't decide.

I think it's interesting to examine this Rosen story in light of what else was going on around that time... the "war on Fox News". People forget that the administration was trying to de-legitimize FNC as a news organization at that time. Was that to weaken or remove Rosen's press protections? Was it simply another tactic to silence a critical voice? Was there another motive that isn't yet clear? The fact that all the other news orgs would play along was sure to help. Not only is Fox the only conservative news network out there, they also tend to spank the others in the ratings. All that allowed the war on Fox to continue with almost no protest in the MSM. Only now, when the parallels between Obama and Nixon, the press's favorite Republican whipping boy (and with good reason), are too obvious to ignore, does all this get the play it deserves.

I only worry that the issues involved are too arcane to resonate with the public at large. "We were just trying to keep you safe" is something people understand and buy into. "We need the right to publish classified information in order to keep the government honest" is a harder case to make to the average Joe.

Andy: You know I think this issue might be too arcane for the very reason you mentioned. I like safety. A lot. If the government can be there and protect me then I'm all for it, especially if it looks like a bad guy is the recipient of justice. Some say I do not realize the huge amount of freedom Americans lose for "protection" like that. For example my friend Julia particularly likes to point out that I like government safety, that I talk highly of the FDA, foodstamps, and Homeland Security (police state stuff) but then I also hate when some of my freedoms are taken away, e.g. taxes being too high or religious freedoms. She tries to explain to me that is the result of having a large federal government and police state. She also tries to explain those programs are how "it" (government) gets so large. It's hard for me to see that and after she points it out, sometimes (depending on my mood) I'll relent and say, "Well, I do like the safety those programs bring." I really like the idea of our budget getting balanced, getting out of debt, and I am a big fan of political and religious freedom, but I also really like safety at a higher level. As some wise guy once said, "Safety first!" 

Brian: "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." - Benjamin Franklin

I think a lot of folks have the mindset that, if you have nothing to hide, you shouldn't fear government monitoring of your activities. I myself have subscribed to that notion in the past, and I'm still a little conflicted on the idea of a "right to privacy". It isn't explicitly in the Constitution - it's derived from the Fourth Amendment, I think - and the courts have convoluted this implied right to defend everything from abortion to same-sex marriage. On the other hand, it gets a little dicier with the press, since their job is to report the facts, however they came by them.

As to your friend's point about how "it" gets so large, it's because bureaucracy naturally seeks to perpetuate and expand itself. Consider the Census, for example. The Census was mandated to take a count of how many people live in a particular place to determine congressional apportionment. That's it. Have you seen a Census form? Should be about the size of a pack of gum or a business card at most: "How many folks, counting you, live at your house? OK, thanks. U.S. Census Bureau" Instead, it asks a lot of personal questions about income, race, your job, etc. And that's the "short form". I've not seen a "long form". Now they send people to your house to interview you about all this personal stuff. It costs a fortune! (Remember when Obama was touting the job growth that resulted from hiring a bunch of temporary census workers?) And then they do all these estimates and stuff in between years. Why? They have one job. Find out how many people live in a place every 10 years! But no, they had to expand to do all this other "useful" stuff. Like we don't have polling agencies and whatnot for that. And don't give me that crap about getting unbiased data. We've seen just how "unbiased" the federal government is in the last couple of weeks, haven't we?

What about the National Weather Service? Like we don't have the Weather Channel and umpteen local stations with Doppler radars! But no, now we've got the NWS inventing global warming to perpetuate its own existence, make a case for more funding, etc. The postal service? The only reason UPS and FedEx don't do the same job cheaper is because the federal government outlawed them from competing with the USPS and its bloated union contracts!

Listen, on some things, I think Ron Paul is a straight up nutjob, but give him or someone like Tom Coburn about a week to hack out the stupid crap that the federal government either isn't explicitly authorized to do or shouldn't be doing, and the national deficit is gonna sink like the friggin' Titanic.

Andy: Humph.You righties are so dumb.

*Andy takes a long drink then goes back to his office*

Brian: Sigh. That is some good water.

*Brian whistles back to his office*