Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Party of Death

I'm listening to the "Dividing Line" from September 6 (I'm behind, surprise!).  Doc got a hold of the Democratic platform, and is (for some reason) shocked by it.

I previously ran some numbers pertaining to the charge that the Democratic Party is the "party of death".

Apparently, they just come out and say it...
"The Democratic Party strongly and unequivocally supports Roe v. Wade and a woman's right to make decisions regarding her pregnancy, including a safe and legal abortion, regardless of ability to pay. We oppose any and all efforts to weaken or undermine that right." (emphasis added)
It would appear that anyone pro-life, or even not 100% pro-death is not welcome...

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Women's Rights

This article from CNN pretty much speaks for itself:
"Michigan Rep. John Conyers, the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, asserted Wednesday that the bill 'tramples (on) the rights of women under the guise of nondiscrimination, while doing absolutely nothing to provide women with needed resources for their babies, female and male.'"
So, stopping the disproportionate killing of baby girls is protecting women's rights.

Monday, July 30, 2012


A telling editorial from CNN:
"According to a paper in a recent American Sociological Review, conservatives with at least a bachelor's degree have, over the last several decades, lost their faith in science to an amazing degree."
 It appears we are in a war of words.  If you define "science" as common descent or anthropogenic global warming, then sure.

Similarly, people are redefining "pregnancy":
"pregnancy, which occurs at implantation" (quoting James N. Martin, Jr., president of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists)
 So, abortifacients are not abortion, because abortion deals with pregnancy, and pregnancy doesn't start until implantation - neatly side-stepping the issue of whether a human life is extinguished.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

More and Frith

I wanted to give an in depth example from the life of Thomas More.

Shakespeare came after all this, but when he said "life is a stage, and we are actors upon it" - that would resonate with the people of England at this time.  More's life and death had this idea of display (nothing wrong with that, we are telling the story written by God, if you will).

What is surprising is the lack of introspection; the comparison of what is happening to the climax of the story - the death of Jesus.

John Frith was the student of William Tyndale.  He had fled England, but was convinced to return, as the king was showing Protestant (or "Lutheran") tendencies.

However, his return was too soon.  The king was looking to break from Rome, but was still looking to be seen as "Catholic".  Frith was captured, imprisoned in the tower, and executed.

What was More's role in all this (p 333)?
"One of More's informants, probably a member of the network which had flourished during his chancellorship, obtained a copy of one of these works [by Frith, on the "new faith"] and brought it to Chelsea [More's primary home]"
So, More had spies who would betray men.

More's reaction to reading Frith's work was (pardon the old English):
"his treatise 'sholde cost hym the beste bloude in hys body'"

Now, More had retired at this point, so his charges were not legally binding.  However, that is precisely what happened.  More's response:
"'I fere me sore that Cryst wyll kyndle a fyre of fagottees for hym, & make hym theirin swete the bloude out of hys body here, and strayte frome hense send hys soule for euer into the fyre of hell'"

It's remarkable that no one gave any pause in all this.  "Hey, here we are paying 30 pieces of silver to traitorous men to put to death those who challenge our traditions - doesn't this remind anyone of some other story?"

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Life of Thomas More

"The Life of Thomas More" (Peter Ackroyd) - I touched previously on why this was a painful book to read.

But the most painful part was extracting the theology of the thing.

The facts are pretty clear cut:
  1. Henry VIII declared the independence of the Church of England (following the Pope's refusal to grant him an annulment with Catherine)
  2. There followed an edict to swear an oath of loyalty to the King as the head of the Church of England - which More refused to sign (claiming it was contrary to his conscience)
  3. More was eventually tried for treason, and executed for the same
It's easy to read this into a context of martyrdom - executed for refusing to act contrary to one's conscience.

But, things are not so cut and dried.  Is Servetus a martyr because he was executed for his beliefs?  He denied the Trinity, which most would interpret (via 2 John) that he did not know the right Christ and did not have the Father.

So, the question is - did More die for the right thing?  And, if he died for the wrong reasons, was this a simple error on his part ("dying a stupid death" as might be said), or was it worse - the final act of the self-righteous?

What worries me is the proclamation - what are we saying.  The best is to die for the proclamation that Jesus Christ paid the price for sin, that we can be made right with God through trusting in Him and what He did.  That we will turn from sin and forsake it.

Ackroyd sums up More's life on page 400:
"He embodied law all his life, and he died for it."
Where is the Gospel?  Where is the forgiveness of sins?  Where is the finished work of Christ?

On page 402 (regarding the disposition of his items):
"He gave into [his wife] Alice More's keeping his hair shirt and scourge"
More wore a hair shirt nearly continuously his adult life.  It served to chafe and aggravate his skin.  I don't think anyone today does such a thing - it is entirely foreign to our thinking (similarly, the scourge was for whipping himself).

Could this be done in a godly fashion?  Maybe.  The problem is, it detracts from the finished work of Christ.  It can be seen as "I must pay the price".

That's the overview.  I will cover at least one more topic later.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Medieval Times

I finally finished The Life of Thomas More (Peter Ackroyd).  As I mentioned previously, it was pretty painful (as evidenced by how long it took to finish).

The greatest error a student of history can make is that of anachronism - reading historical events into one's current context (ironically, this was common in medieval times).

So, when we think of the Popes, Kings, nations, and Church of More's time - we must not think of those things as they are now - but seek to set them in their own context.

For example, More's trouble (which led to his death) stemmed from the King of England (Henry VIII or H8) seeking a divorce (or annulment) from his wife.  The Pope would not allow it, and the King declared the independence of the Church of England from the authority of Rome.

But the context is much deeper.

For example, there were four major super-powers in the West at this time: France, England, the Holy Roman Empire (effectively Germany), and the Vatican (which had its own armies for attacking neighbors) (there was also Spain, but it was unified with the HRE in 1516).

Furthermore, H8's wife (Catherine) was the sister of the mother of the Holy Roman Emperor (aunt of Charles V).  But, the HRE and England often fought together with the Vatican against France.

Royal marriage was a diplomatic matter.  Ann Boleyn was English, but had grown up in the royal court of France.  Divorce was not just a theological or civil matter.

In the same vein, there were parallel secular and religious courts (heretics were tried in religious courts and then handed over to the secular authorities).  Part of the issue was which court would have the highest authority - secular or religious.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Almost Done with More

Reading has been painful these last few months.

After finishing Tyndale's biography, I decided I should see the other side.  Teems recommended the biography of Thomas More by Ackroyd - which happened to be in my local library.

These two books have been like night and day.

Some of the differences must be attributed to the talents of the biographers, but some is certainly due to the subjects.

The English language has been shaped by the Bible.  And the English Bible was heavily influenced by one man - William Tyndale.

To read Tyndale's writing is to hear the Bible.  Some of it is due to him having steeped himself in Biblical themes and principles - but some of it is common authorship.

Teems did an excellent job of letting Tyndale speak for himself (from his own writing).  The old English was almost always cleaned up for easy reading.

Ackroyd seems to do the opposite.  There is much analysis and consideration, with only snippets of original material - always in the old English.  This breaks up the flow, and makes it hard to extract the person behind the writing.

But More was a lawyer, very much in the modern sense.

His job was to represent his client's interests, and to submerge his own opinions and positions.

So, for More, there is always the audience in mind.  What to reveal, what to hide, what to spin.  How best to influence, how it will reflect and interact in the big picture.

It is that big picture which I will need to develop more.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Hyper-skepticism and Hyper-credulity

What is the connection between: Bart Ehrman (athiest), Paul Tsoukalos (guy from the History channel), and certain Catholic apologists on Facebook?

Their reasoning is all along the lines of:
"I can't trust the Bible, therefore X"

Where X is:
  1. Mud+time equals man
  2. Aliens are responsible for everything in history
  3. I can only trust the Catholic Church

It's really a variant on "Anything but God" (anything but the Bible)

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Perspicuity of Scripture

It saddens me when people who call themselves Christians go on to doubt that we can understand the Bible (what is sometimes called "The Perspicuity of Scripture").

Understanding this principle is really quite simple:
  1. God has chosen to reveal Himself.  This has included many different methods (Heb 1:1-2), but for us, is in the Bible.
  2. God is always successful in His plans and purposes
To deny #2 is effective atheism.

But what about #1?

Some will say that God can only be known through a mediator.

However, this runs into the problem of "why can we communicate".

That is, we can only communicate clearly because we are in the image and likeness of God, and God communicates clearly.

If God does not communicate clearly, then we have no reason to believe that we can communicate clearly (or we are greater than God in this regard - and God is not God, back to effective atheism).

So, if God cannot communicate clearly, we cannot communicate clearly - and thus you cannot communicate your argument.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Father Hunger

"Father Hunger" (Doug Wilson) - I read a lot of what Doug Wilson writes (second only to John Macarthur and related things from the Pyromaniacs).

Doug Wilson is a writer.

I don't just mean that he writes stuff.  He reads a lot, and writes a lot.  This shows up in his writing style.  He makes allusions to other writers, and he has a pithy way of compressing big ideas down and making them understandable and memorable.

At the same time, I disagree with Wilson on some pretty major theological points: he is a Presbyterian (a sort of uber-Presbyterian, called "Federal Vision") and post-millenial - while I am a Baptist, and pre-millenial.

If Presbyterians have any advantage, it is that their theology more naturally integrates the family - which is just the subject at hand.

This is a short book, at 207 pages (plus a short study, end notes, and an index) and Wilson starts right in.

First, he identifies our cultural problems as fundamentally theological - that bad theology leads to bad thinking and bad doing ("we become like what we worship", as he would say).

We have a father problem in our country, because we do not seek our heavenly Father.

Wilson covers this from every angle, with his usual insight and wit.  He makes a compelling case, and gives the Biblical solution - we need repentance, lots of it.

This problem affects every facet of life.  Children related to their parents, husbands and wives, even roles in the church.

He rolls the controversy of "The Shack" (where the Trinity is portrayed as two women with Jesus) into a one liner:
"You need a father?  Here, talk to your mother about it."

This book is excellent for anyone who wonders why things are so wrong, and is interested in making them better - whether it is a better father, or son, or wife, or daughter.

The appendix has an economic study on the impact of fatherless homes.  It shows clearly that divorce and abandonment by fathers is not zero, and not "better for the kids" (to avoid arguments).

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Judgment and Salvation

Last month, I finished reading through the book of Isaiah (approximately) twenty times (I spent about a year in it).

Isaiah is a challenging book, for a number of reasons.

The first is length: at 66 chapters it takes a long time to get through one time (about two weeks), and you can forget the beginning by the time you get to the end.

Second, the book is mostly prophetic utterances - not a story or narrative, with clear boundaries (people did this, then they did that).  This makes it hard to break up into smaller chunks to be processed.

The third challenge is related to the second - because it is prophetic language, it is often hard to grasp, or unclear in meaning or subject.

Nevertheless, there is a clear message which comes through - that of God's judgement on sin and His provision of salvation.

I took several style of notes as I was reading; in one, I wrote a word or two to summarize a chapter.  You see: judgment; salvation; judgement and salvation.

This makes sense in context.  Israel had disobeyed God for some time, and was about to go into the Babylonian captivity.  We also see many strong messianic prophecies (God ultimate plan of salvation)

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


"Tyndale: The Man Who Gave God an English Voice" (David Teems) - This book is really excellent in every way.  If I had to sum up everything in one quote, it would be:
"In the age of Tyndale, there was very little that was laughable.  It was a rather humorless age." (p. xv)

For those who do not know, William Tyndale was a Bible translator.  He produced the first English Bible from the Greek (John Wycliffe had earlier produced an English Bible from the Latin Vulgate, but it was not widespread).

At the time (the Protestant Reformation, 1517 and on), this was considered an evil and rebellious act.  In England, the Bible was in Latin (even though the people - and often the parish priests - knew no Latin).  In 1519, a family of six was burned at the stake (in Coventry) for teaching and reciting the Lord's Prayer in English (p. 264).

Tyndale was initially a priest (as most educated people were).  When Erasmus' Greek New Testament was published (and things started to boil), he asked for permission to produce an English translation.  This was refused, but we see the beginnings of the drive that Tyndale had to see God's word made available to everyone.  Shortly after, Tyndale fled England, never to return.  Teems wonderfully documents his trials and tribulations as an exile.

Teems handles this weighty subject with aplomb.  You would have to have a heart of stone not to weep at times, but that is the nature of the matter.  Teems avoids sentimentality, or polemic.  He maintains objective distance, while letting the people of the time speak for themselves.  I came to feel that Tyndale was a brother I would have gotten along with very well.

There are also humorous moments, which Teems is eager to bring forth.  This is not a sad and dreary tale, I was eager to finish it - eager to get back to it when life kept me away.

I'd like to read bios of Erasmus and (Sir Thomas) More now, for comparison.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Game Theory and Evolution - pt 2

(continuing from the last post)

We've analyzed some simple (always choosing the same) populations (all silent, all squealers, mix of both).

Now, let's imagine some more complex strategies.

In a population of all silents, everything is stable.  Everyone is benefiting equally from each transaction.  We introduced a single squealer, and things got bad for all the silents.

Now, imagine some of the silents have "recognition" - either from communication or remembering some trait (either preventatively, or over time).

So, a "recognizer" will squeal against a squealer, and be silent against a fellow silent or recognizer.

Now, the population is more dynamic.  Pure silents will decrease (are "selected against"), while recognizers win all the time.  Squealers lose to recognizers, but win against silents.  If the silents disappear completely, then this will cascade into squealers disappearing completely.

Thus, a long-time stable population of "silents" will become a stable population of "recognizers" (after a fiery period of transition).

That's the "proof" for evolution (at least, as presented in "The Selfish Gene").

There's a number of things to keep in mind:
  1. It assumes an operating ecology (the initial stable population)
  2. It assumes a mechanism for new features
  3. It assumes that because something might happen, that it necessarily did happen
The fourth point is the main one.  In logic:
if (p) then q
q, therefore p

This is an error (or logical fallacy) known as affirming the consequent.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Game Theory and Evolution

It's been several years since I read Dawkin's "Selfish Gene" (where I mentioned it is an overview of game theory).

I realized that some people might want a tl;dr version of game theory.  I think I can fit it in one or two (longish) blog posts:

First, I play a lot of games (to the point where I consider myself an amateur game designer).  Game theory has little or nothing to do with actual, fun games.  It also has nothing to do with "gaming" (the self-respecting term for gambling).

Game theory deals with logic puzzles.  Both in finding the optimal solutions for them, and dealing with "populations" (numbers of agents all involved in the puzzle).

A classic example is the "prisoner's dilemma":

Two prisoners each have two choices, (0) remain silent, or (1) squeal on the other prisoner.

This yields four outcomes:
00(Both silent) Each receives a small benefit
01(One squeals) The squealer receives a large benefit, the silent a large penalty
10(As above, roles reversed)
11(Both squeal) Each receives a small penalty

The actual numbers used can vary, and the numbers (and their ratios) will determine the outcome in the later simulations.

The optimal strategy is to remain silent (since both win).  However, if you know the other will be silent, you can "cheat" him and squeal (getting yourself a large bonus).

Now, let's apply that to populations.

Imagine a large population of "silents" (agents who always choose the silent option).  This population is stable, it always generates benefits, which allows it to continue (propagating more silents).

Now add a single "squealer" to the mix.

This squealer will reap large benefits in every transaction, and never have a penalty.

In the next generation, there will be more squealers.

However, the population will never reach all squealers.

This is because when two squealers meet, they are both penalized. The final ratio will depend on the relative values for the four outcomes.

A population of all squealers might disappear (since they are all penalized), depending on the rules of the simulation.

To be continued!

Sunday, January 22, 2012


"Evangelism: How to Share the Gospel Faithfully" (John MacArthur, et al) - This was a really good book.  Different chapters written by different people at Grace Community Church.  The best quote is "work like an Arminian, sleep like a Calvinist".  I also found a new appreciation for short-term missions, which must be viewed as first-most for encouraging long term missionaries.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

State of Marriage

An old post from Albert Mohler I found at the bottom of my inbox...

I'm fascinated by the degree to which Postmillenialism dominates Christian thinking.  I would presume Mohler is a Premillenialist of some sort (being Baptist).  At most, amil.

We must understand that, fundamentally, the majority will always reject God ("the wide road").  The founders of America were not strong Christians, but they did operate under the assumption of a Christian worldview - and that the population would continue to hold that view.

We see now, the consequences of such a system; where the population ceases to hold that view.

Why does the State involve itself in marriage?

From a "Christian nation" point of view, it is to encourage the formation of families.  Tax breaks (in the form of tax tables, and benefits like health care) allow for one parent (originally the man) to provide for a family.  Single people complain of unfair treatment, and the "marriage penalty" is born.  Other groups seek State sanctification of what they call marriage - in order to access the benefits.
"There is no major society that exists without marriage, and those rare movements in history that sought to eliminate marriage led to disaster."
While true, we cannot operate from this motive (pragmatism, or even "the ends justify the means").

We are seeing the fallout of where a Christian derived system is reconciled with the majority rejecting Christ.  The question is: can a stable (and God-honoring) system be derived where the majority reject Him?

I don't know, but I don't know if anyone else is even asking the question.

Some are calling for the State to withdraw from involvement in the regulation of marriage - and I must agree (and disagree with Mohler's claim this "would lead to legal, moral, and cultural chaos").  There are standard forms for wills, etc. which are not blessed by the State.  Christian men will continue to provide for their families as best they are able.  Non-Christians will continue as well as they are able.

But this is just removing a vestigial remnant of the Christian worldview.  It does not address replacing and fortifying underlying structure.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

End of Capitalism

(continuing my series on economics)

Finally getting around to another article which triggered this whole excursion...

I like his insight.  Marx saw inevitable problems with Capitalism, which made it unsustainable.  Marx then assumed there was a better way, and created Communism (of course, being blind to its own unsustainable problems :)
"Because the truth might just be that the global economy is in historic, generational trouble, plagued by problems the orthodoxy didn't expect, didn't see coming, and doesn't quite know what to do with."