Saturday, December 30, 2006

The Year in Review?

Well, if you check November's archives, I would say confronting (in a nice way) Richard Dawkins was a highlight.

Helping Jews for Jesus via blogging and street evangelism for their New York City Behold Your God campaign was a highlight.

My wife got a job she likes.

There were others, but right now it is about the puppy. She's adorable, but puppies are a lot of work. Good preparation for real babies I'm told.

Which I have a lot more respect for.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Puritans Weren't All That Bad

Philadelphia Inquirer had an article on how the Puritans aren't understood and how misconceptions abound about them.
Actually, most accepted notions about Puritans are untrue. For example, the Massachusetts law prohibiting Christmas grew from the Church of England's penchant for observing dozens of annual religious holidays. Puritans wanted many fewer church/state-sanctioned ceremonies, and eventually rejected all legally enforced regular religious observances except the Sabbath.

There are other myths:

Puritans repressed sexuality. America is squeamish about sex, but not because of Puritans, who discussed sex frankly, and usually to praise its virtues. Although the law prescribed harsh penalties for fornication, adultery and sodomy, magistrates knew conduct rarely matched the ideal, and they punished lightly (by 17th-century standards, and except for sodomy). In fact, in today's sex-education debates, one almost yearns for some good old Puritan common sense - an unambiguous advocacy of standards, mixed with a pragmatic acknowledgment of behavior.

Colonial Massachusetts was a theocracy. Ministers had less direct political authority than in any other government in the Western world. While only male church members could vote and hold office, such provisions were restrictive by today's standards, not those of the time. Even if theocracy means the influence of religion in public life, early Massachusetts may not qualify. A slew of historians have shown that official Puritanism held little sway over significant portions of the populace.

Witchcraft trials typify Puritan zealotry. Perhaps no image of colonial New England grips our collective imagination tighter than that of square-buckled, black-brimmed, sour-faced killjoys pounding their fists into their hands and demanding random killings of suspected witches. But the Salem episode was an aberration and, even in its extremity, mild for its time. In Massachusetts from 1630 to 1691, about a dozen executions for witchcraft occurred, compared with hundreds in England and thousands in Scotland, Germany and Scandinavia. At Salem in 1692, 20 were executed. Clearly, the authorities erred by allowing convictions based on "spectral" evidence, or accusations from alleged victims the devil supposedly possessed.

Why Does a Particular Word Matter?

The Philadelphia Inquirer had an article about the new civil union legislation and the language used which gay partners refer to each other.

From the article:
"We hear some people using the term spouse. We hear some saying partner," she said. "A few use husband and wife, but most want to save those for when marriage is legalized."

New Jersey's law came in response to an October state Supreme Court order that gay couples be granted the same rights as married couples. The court gave lawmakers six months to act but left it to them to decide whether to call the unions "marriage" or something else.

Gay couples welcomed the law, but some argued that not calling the relationship "marriage" creates a different, inferior institution.

Now, if you get all the rights of marriage but not the word "marriage", what's the problem? Well, that's an easy one. You want approval. And, it seems to me, that seeking approval shows that many aren't convinced in their conscience that what they are doing is right.

This practice is endemic to the human race. Paul wrote:
Though they know God's decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. (Romans 1:32)

Giving others approval of what your conscience struggles with helps ease feelings of guilt. That's what I take out of this verse.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

A Little Live-Blogging on CNN on the Early Christians

I'm looking for things about the apostles and the earliest followers of Jesus.

"Protests against the Romans..." Are we talking about the person who said "give unto Caesar"?

12:03- They establish that the earliest message contains the Resurrection.

12:06- Keying in on the importance of Easter. Good.

12:07- Pentecost. Good. They are doing neat things with still pictures I first saw in the surfing documentary "Riding Giants".

12:08- Doubting details of Luke's Pentecost account. I'm going to give Luke the benefit of the doubt.

12:09- Recognizing that they went from fearful to bold followers. And that they saw themselves as Jews. And their claims sound like blasphemy.

12:10- Rabbi mentions that divinity of Jesus was key problem with Jewish community. That doesn't mean it isn't true though.

12:14- Did Stephen say the temple would be destroyed? I don't remember that. Jesus did however.

12:15- Establishes Paul at the forefront of persecuting believers in Jesus.

12:16- Paul's experience on the Damascus Road.

12:18- Good job explaining that Christianity is more than the teaching of Jesus while He was on the Earth. It is a religion about Jesus. Good point. But they make Paul a Prosperity Gospel preacher. Not that I'm aware of. Not in Acts nor his epistles.

12:20- Made Peter a Judaizer. That's not right, albeit there is stuff in Acts and Galatians.

12:22- They really understand that this is a Jewish thing. Do Gentiles need to become Jews to believe in Jesus?

They also aren't underplaying James's importance to the early church. Obviously, Peter was important. But they aren't assuming the papacy.

12:28- Importance of the Roman Empire in enabling the ease of travel to get out the gospel.

12:29- Earliest surviving New Testament documents are Paul's epistles.

I gotta go to bed. This is taping on my VCR. I'll blog the rest of this later. Obviously, live blogging would be a little silly in a taped situation. But I wanted to get my impressions down in a note format. And, hey, it is my blog afterall.

And I need my sleep.

Al Mohler on CNN's "After Jesus" Special?

I plan on taping this and watching this myself. I'll report back if I do, but Al Mohler is more than capable of dissecting the program.


Hugh Hewitt Airs 3-Hour Broadcast Covering Handel's Messiah

I'm through most of the first two hours as I type this. It is wonderful. I love Handel's Messiah.

It takes the Scriptures concerning the Messiah and sets it to incredible music, which allows me to meditate on the Scripture. And it gets the Scripture into my head. More than that, it helps penetrate the Scripture deep into my soul.

One of my favorite things I did on my website was to compile a commentary on the Messiah's libretto.


Christmas Greetings
Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit, our best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low-stress, non-addictive, gender-neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasion and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all. We also wish you a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the generally accepted calendar year 2007, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make America great. Not to imply that America is necessarily greater than any other country nor the only America in the Western Hemisphere, and without regard to the race, creed, color, age, physical ability, religious faith or sexual preference of the wishes. By accepting these greetings you are accepting these terms. This greeting is subject to clarification or withdrawal. It is freely transferable with no alteration to the original greeting. It implies no promise by the wisher to actually implement any of the wishes for herself or himself or others, and is void where prohibited by law and is revocable at the sole discretion of the wisher. This wish is warranted to perform as expected within the usual application of good tidings for a period of one year or until the issuance of a subsequent holiday greeting, whichever comes first, and warranty is limited to replacement of this wish or issuance of a new wish at the sole discretion of the wisher.

Found here.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Cur Deus Homo: Why the God-Man?

St. Anselm tackled it. The White Horse Inn radio program tackled it as well this week. will cover it on the radio as well.

Anselm's insight into biblical truth changed the course of Western Christianity. And it refreshes my soul.

God is just. He must punish my sin. If I am to escape God's just punishment, God must punish someone else in my place. My sins can't go unpunished. For that, I need a man to be in my place. A perfect man. A second Adam.

Anselm's second insight: But my sins deserve an infinite punishment because I have sinned against an infinite God. That is why the Savior had to be both fully God and fully man.

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified (declared just or righteous) by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation (something that satisfies the demands of God's wrath) by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. (so that he might be just/righteous and the One who declares that he can justly declare sinners just without compromising his righteousness)

Romans 3:23-26, words in parentheses mine


Philadelphia Inquirer Tackles How We Evolved Into Male and Female

It's actually a very well done article. And I suspect it is good because the author was being honest from a Darwinian perspective, without considering the implication with regards to Intelligent Design.
The first sexual beings to emerge perhaps 2.5 billion years ago were what biologists call isogamous - which is a little like being gay, except everyone is somewhere between male and female.

Many organisms, including some fungi, algae and single-celled pond-swimmers, still practice isogamy. In doing so they offer clues to the mystery of why and how the sexes ever evolved.

To understand life before the advent of males and females, you need a universal definition of each: Males produce a smaller sex cell (sperm or pollen) than their female counterparts.

Isogamous algae, on the other hand, still have sex but instead of mixing sperm and eggs they mingle sex cells of roughly the same size - generically known as gametes.

Good summary.
What scientists find puzzling is that most of them still use a system of two sexes - in their case plus and minus rather than male and female. Though plus and minus create the equal-sized sex cells, plus mates only with minus and minus with plus.

Such pickiness is an enormous paradox, says Laurence Hurst, a biologist at the University of Bath. Without sexes, you wouldn't have to limit your choice of a mate to half the population. Anyone else would be fair game.

Well that be a paradox, but I see another problem. I'll just print out the email I sent the author and then try to clarify what is bouncing around in my head:
I thought your article was very good.

However, there is a bigger problem you should have gone over (maybe for a later article): how sexual reproduction (of any type) gets off the ground in the first place.

Assume you start with reproduction by self-replication. If that's the starting point, the finish line is some sort of sexual reproduction that involves two cells creating another cell.

You start with one becoming two and you go to two forming one. I don't see how the steps in between can work.

Not only is the flow reversed, but for reproduction to work you need two mutually compatible organisms to arise at the same time.

If you can make this the subject of an article, I would appreciate it.

I am not a biologist, but I do build software for a living. I just don't see a bridge between a program copying itself and two separate executables creating one new executable program.

Does that make sense? That's a chasm that no step-by-step bridge can cross.

But if you are willing to give it a shot, feel free to leave a comment.

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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

20/20 on the Historicity of the Nativity

By and large, the experts they had assembled were against the Nativity story being true. Here were the two most pertinent things in the segment.

1) An anti-supernatural bias. If you start with the premise or the faith commitment that God cannot do these things, guess what you end up with? God didn't do those things and the Nativity story is wrong.

2) Some scholar said that the ancients had a looser view of a story being true than we do. The story doesn't have to be literally true, but it was meant to be a story for some other purpose. She gave no basis for this. She doesn't explain why Peter explicitly says they didn't follow designed myths. "For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty." (2 Peter 1:16)

She doesn't explain why Paul explicitly says that if the Resurrection didn't really happen, Christians would be accursed by God. (1 Cor. 15) Does that sound like a story that doesn't have to be true?

She doesn't explain why the reaction by the Sadducees, who didn't believe in resurrection generally, is incredibly negative to Paul's preaching. (Acts 23:6-10) I mean it is just a nice story, right? Why did some Greek philosophers mock Paul's preaching the Resurrection if Paul isn't preaching a real resurrection from the dead? (Acts 17:32)

In other words, the people preaching this message didn't think it was an Aesop's fable. They died for this message. And, more importantly, the people who disagreed with the message realized they believed what they were preaching and it wasn't a fable.

This particular scholar 20/20 seems to want to say something positive about the biblical accounts. But the accounts don't leave room for her interpretation. They are either lying or telling the truth. There is no other option.

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Saturday, December 16, 2006

Lawn Darts

Lawn Darts were just ranked the #1 most dangerous toy.

A buddy from college and I found lawn darts in a closet at my mom's house one summer. I can tell you first hand that they are a lot of fun. And if you aren't careful, they are extremely dangerous.

But oh so much fun.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Kofi Annan's Farewell Speech- Translated

Courtesy of Powerline.

The Big Mistake in Iraq

Of all the things that we haven't done right in Iraq, I believe our reaction to Iran and Syria has been the most problematic.

Iran and Syria have been destabilizing Iraq. They have been waging war against us via their proxies.

They need to feel severe consequences. Not just because it is the right thing to do. Not just because they need to be defeated. But because we owe it to Iraq.

In Praise of John Bolton

Monday, December 11, 2006

Suspicions About Flying Imams Growing

Friday, December 08, 2006

Steyn's Insights on Israel and the Iraq Report
Of course, Syria “should” do this and Iran “should” do that and, if they were Sandra Day O’Connor, I’m sure they would. But they’re not. And the only specific strategic proposal is a linkage between Iraq and a “renewed and sustained commitment” to a “comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace” – which concedes the same ludicrous rationale that the Saudi King Abdullah and all the rest of them make: that one tiny ten-mile sliver of Jews is the reason why millions of Muslims from the Straits of Gibraltar to the Emirates are mired in dictatorships, failed economies and jihadist fever. For the Baker group to endorse this clapped out pan-Arabism is disgusting. An “Arab-Israeli peace”? What does that mean? What exactly is Israel doing to Iraq, or Tunisia, or Qatar, or any other Arabs except those in the “Palestinian territories”? To frame it in those terms is to adopt the pathologies of the enemy. Shame on Baker, Hamilton and all the rest.

Allen Iverson on Practice

Since he will soon be leaving Philly, I thought I'd link to this.

McCain and Lieberman on the Iraq Report and Iran
Sen. Joe Lieberman, Connecticut Democrat and a staunch supporter of the war, commended the group for some of the choices it made, but said most of its recommendations are no different from "the policies that we have been following." And some recommendations, he said, seemed unrealistic.

"I'm skeptical that it's realistic to think that Iran wants to help the United States succeed in Iraq," Mr. Lieberman told the group's co-chairmen, former Secretary of State James A. Baker III and former Rep. Lee H. Hamilton, yesterday. "They are, after all, supporting Hezbollah, which gathers people in the square in Beirut to shout, 'Death to America.'"

Observed Mr. McCain: "I don't believe that a peace conference with people who are dedicated to your extinction has much short-term gain."

Pearl Harbor: a Movie That Will Live in Infamy

The Iraq Study Group and John McCain

My respect for Senator McCain is growing. Do I think campaign finance reform is unconstitutional? Yes.

But his willingness to challenge the report, along with Lieberman and Susan Collins, is a good thing.

Talking with Iran from a position of weakness is a very bad idea.

And what does Israel have to do with Sunni-Shi'ite conflicts? If they have anything to do with it, we must conclude that the people we are dealing with have some pathologies.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

The National Geographic Channel's Naked Science: Was Darwin Wrong?

I'm only a little bit into this show and I'm seeing major problems.

Thus far, they are only considering Young Earth Creationism as the opponent to respond to. A shame really.

They also seem to be skipping over the biggest problem naturalistic evolution has. The minimal complexity which life requires to get off the ground in the first place.

They are about to tackle the problem with the irreducible complexity of the eye. I'll report back and see how they do.

UPDATE: Ok, I'm back. My thoughts on the show: "The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him." Proverbs 18:17

They did not present the best arguments of Darwin's opponents. They did present arguments against, but only in a cursory fashion. Without a cross-examination, their defense seems stronger than it is.

Still, I must reiterate that the biggest hurdle for Darwinian thought was side-stepped: getting life off the ground out of a pre-biotic soup.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Will Bunch Argues That Conservatives Smearing Journalists in Iraq

And it seems that we don't have a clear idea of whether the events in the story in question happened or not.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Superman II: the Richard Donner Cut
Superman: The Movie director Richard Donner actually shot much of Superman II, with the plan being for him to make both films simultaneously. But conflict with the producers led them to replace him with Richard Lester, who reshot more than 50% of Superman II to receive DGA credit. Now, thanks to fan's interest and Internet campaigns, Donner's vision for Superman II has been restored. To celebrate the DVD release on Nov 28th 2006, Donner, his cast mates and other celebrities attended a screening of the newly restored version.

Breyer Sort of Admits That Campaign Finance Reform Violate Our Freedom of Speech

My comment at the end.
WALLACE: Well, let me give you another example, a very specific example. You voted in 2003 to uphold the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform law.

Now, you acknowledge that by setting spending limits on advertising that you were, as you put it, interfering with free speech. But you said that there is a higher purpose here.

Higher than the First Amendment?

BREYER: That isn't quite what I said. I think what I said was, when you get a case like that, you start to look to slogans to decide the case. It won't work.

The First Amendment itself, "the freedom of speech," doesn't tell you the answer. Nor does a slogan.

If you want to use the slogan, "Money is at stake, not speech," that seems to work. That means they can regulate anything. But if you think about it for two minutes, you realize that money is very important to speech, because no one can run for office and have his message heard without money. So the First Amendment is involved.

Then if you think the opposite, "Well, wait a minute, these campaign finance limits, what they're doing is they are telling the person who wants to give $20 million that he can't finance all the speech he wants. Doesn't that violate the First Amendment?" I'd say that's a slogan. Why? Because think about that First Amendment. It was done, enacted, passed, to help our country of now 300 million citizens run fair and free elections.

The very point of speech in an election is to get a message across. And that may mean, in part, that you don't want one person's speech, that $20 million giver, to drown out everybody else's. So if we want to give a chance to the people who have only $1 and not $20 million, maybe we have to do something to make that playing field a little more level in terms of money.

If you accept that at all, you've suddenly bought in to the proposition that there are First Amendment interests on both sides of this equation.

And once you're there, you see this problem is complicated. And once you see it is complicated, you begin to factor in to what extent do we defer to Congress. And the answer is going to be quite a lot but not completely.

You see what I've done? I've showed you how to go back to that quote.


BREYER: I used that word, "purpose," to help me in a case where the language isn't clear, where the history isn't clear, where the tradition isn't clear, where the precedents aren't clear, that we have to decide how in that realm of ambiguity to apply the value that's permanent and always there, free speech, to a modern, difficult situation.

Breyer wants to limit the rights of the guy with a lot of money in order to give the guy with less money with more of a voice.

That's all well and good. But the Constitution says you have a freedom of speech which cannot be abridged. It doesn't say everyone has a right to be equally heard. A radio or TV host has more ability to be heard, but that doesn't mean everyone should get their own show.

Maine Bans Beer with Santa on the Label

The reasoning is that the beer will be attractive to minors. But if minors can't buy alcohol, why would that be an issue?

I think there is a place for cartoon images on adult beverages. They are meant to be fun, not attract minors. These beers come over from Britain if memory serves.

Special beers for festive times. I would expect Santa to be on some sort of label.

Find a Book You Are Unlikely to Read

A new tool allows you to put in a book and find a book you are unlikely to like.

For instance, readers of Mists of Avalon are unlikely to read Desiring God by John Piper. Readers of the Confessions of St. Augustine are unlikely to read Night Pleasures.

A lot of Reformed Christian books make the unlikely matches.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Pope Turns Toward Mecca in Mosque
AFTER offending the Muslim world by linking their religion with violence, Pope Benedict XVI, in an exceptional gesture, turned towards Mecca in an attitude of Muslim prayer at the Blue Mosque in Istanbul today, Turkish state television showed.

Benedict XVI, who became the second Pope in history - after John Paul II in Damascus in 2001 - to set foot in a Muslim house of worship, made the gesture at the suggestion of Istanbul Mufti Mustafa Cagrici, his guide for the occasion.

The Pope's spokesman, Federico Lombardi, was quick to point out to journalists afterwards that the Pope had not actually prayed but was "in meditation".

After explaining the basics of Muslim prayer to the pontiff during the early part of the tour, Cagrici said: "Let us turn toward the Kiblah" - the direction of Mecca, which all Muslims must face when they perform their five-time-a-day prayers.

The Pope complied.

Showing a sign of respect to a false god is not good. The pope will probably argue that it is the same God. Why don't we ask a Muslim if they feel the Muslim god is the Triune God of the Bible?

Friday, December 01, 2006

What You Get When You Show Weakness in the Face of Terrorism

Always a bad idea to show weakness to terrorists. They haven't been influenced by a culture with Judeo-Christian roots. Those of us who have been raised in such a culture need to learn this lesson.

Around the Evolutionary Horn

My Interaction With a Buddhist on the Internet

Buddhist: There is no pebble, for all things are impermanent.

Me: If there are no pebbles or anything because nothing is permanent, that means that you don't exist either. And if you can say that, you really don't believe it.

Buddhist: In the grand scheme of things; No, I don't exist and neither do you.

Me: Whom, may I ask, wrote this?

Around the Beer Horn

Joe Sixpack covers Christmas (and more generally Holiday Season) beers.

An article on New Belgium, one of my favorite breweries.

New York Times covers stronger beers.

In the last article, I read the following:
Jim Koch, the founder of the Boston Beer Company and no relation to Greg Koch, high-alcohol brews “can stand with many wines and spirits in terms of their complexity and depth.”

I think there are beers that aren't high-alcohol that have complexity and depth too. It all depends. And sometimes you want a straightforward beer. In other words, I'm not sure I agree with the comment if it implies lower-alcohol beers lack complexity.

Democrats to Make College Tuition Tax Deductible
Included in their "Six for '06" platform that they say helped them win majorities in the House and Senate, Democrats promised to: "Make college tuition deductible from taxes, permanently."

Their tax cut promise is neither an election-year gimmick, Democrats say, nor a reversal in their long-standing opposition to Mr. Bush's tax cuts.

"Democrats have made it clear that the middle class will be our priority and making college more affordable is a key concern of working families," said incoming House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat.

I have a prediction. Tuition will go up if this is implemented. When you increase the supply of money for tuition, tuition cost will go up.

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