Monday, March 31, 2008

The modernist guide to counseling those who are struggling with sin.

Fundamental Concept #1: If you haven't experienced the sin, then you can't counsel, because you really don't know what it is all about.

Fundamental Concept #2: If you have experienced the sin, you can't counsel because that would make you a hypocrite.

Conclusion: It is impossible to counsel those who are struggling with sin. The only solution is to redefine sin so that it doesn't exist.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Saturday, March 29, 2008

California Commuter: $1,200 per month on gasoline.

I am wondering when the legislature is going to make gasoline payments tax deductible. This would be the "caring" thing to do, but would be a negative incentive on conservation.
An Atheist's Conversion. Give it a read.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Point Bonita is in the middle of this photo, although the lighthouse is just a speck. Mount Tamalpais is in the background.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

This isn't Hillary's economic speech, but I felt a video link was needed anyway.

Hillarynomics 101.

Hillary just gave a speech on economics. It was the usual modern Marxist variant: Class warfare between the middle class (the proletariat) and abstract corporate entities (the bourgeoisie) is the dominant characteristic. One thing she noted was that growing industries have salaries that are on average 11% less than stagnant industries. The deduction that Hillary seemed to make was that the growing industries were exploiting their workers. This morphed into a need to make corporations pay their fair taxes. What Hillary didn't say was that most of the stagnant industries with good salaries and benefits are locked into a death grip by unions.

Both McCain and Hillary talked about the mortgage mess. Certainly this was a result of loosening credit standards, which created a housing bubble that was the bulk of the growth during the Bush years. Prior to that, the Clintons were geniuses due to the Dot-com bubble. Now what do we do? Hillary would do more bailing out. McCain offers more tough-love. Certainly we need to clean up the economic mess, but neither offers a vision beyond this. What is holding the economy back? Reagan knew.
Yesterday afternoon, we enjoyed a little hike at Lands End in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Global Warming Heats Up Egypt, Politically.

The immediate cause is higher food prices which rose 16.8% last year and 16.2% the year before. In a poor country where food is 40% of the average person's income, this is a big ouch. The same article reports that the international market for food went up 70%. The end result of all of this is that the poor are starving while rich Westerners soothe their consciences by driving biofuel powered SUVs.

Continuing along this line, The Economist has an article on the increase in rice prices. This isn't directly connected to wheat prices in Egypt at the moment, although there is certainly an ability to switch between wheat and rice for rich countries. At some point, however, rice paddies will be taken out of production to grow sugar cane for ethanol.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Expelled The Movie.

This should be fun. The Darwinistas will do a lot of howling that Intelligent Design is impossible, oblivious to the fact that their credentials are all based on Intelligent Design. In the end, they will cry to the lawyers who, being the true arbitrators are truth since civilization began, will rule that Intelligent Design is unconstitutional, because it violates a supreme court interpretation of a private letter of Thomas Jefferson (who was in France when the US constitution was written) that had nothing to do with this subject.

And so our drug and gang infested, failing schools that can't teach reading, writing and arithmetic will be protected from the evil that children might hear that God might have invented the unfathomably complex machinery of their bodies. Ben Stein, keep on rebelling.

Who dewya think you are tryin' to Mentor?

"Everyone in the church needs a Mentor."

Today I am Looney the Grouch. Where does the term "
Mentor" come from and why do we need it in the church? Mentor was a character from Greek mythology that transformed into our current usage by a French writer in "Les Aventures de Telemaque" in 1699. The modern usage comes from the book, but in the Greek mythology, Mentor was the goddess Athena in disguise. So why do we need to adapt Greek mythological terminology to help us raise young people in a Christian church? Doesn't Christianity have its own concepts?

The sad answer is that most of us leaders have blindly learned from others and are all too happy to blindly pass things along to the next generation. There really is a Christian paradigm for leadership, but the pagan derivatives are more enticing.

Going back to the Old Testament, we have Proverbs 27:17 - "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another." The first leadership concept we have is that we each need to help each other grow together, whereas Mentorship is more of a superiority thing. Matthew 28:19 says "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you". This is a bit close, but disciple here means a follower and we are really teaching people to follow Jesus first. In this endeavor, there is no single mentor, but instead many teachers who have affected me throughout my life. At this point they are mostly a blur in my memory, but the Lord knows each one of them and will reward them for their service.

Jesus also gives us many warnings about teachers. In Matthew 23, we have "but you are not to be called 'Rabbi', for you have only one Master and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth 'father', for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called 'teacher', for you have one Teacher, the Christ. The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted."

The Bible must, however, be taken as a whole and we do see that parents have a duty to raise their children and teach them obedience. When they have gone out from under the authority of their parents, however, the commands of Jesus are what we give attention to first.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Thoughts on Tibet.

As a free-market capitalist and Christian, there is little that would make me sympathize with the communist government of China. That being said, I think that China is getting a raw deal this time over Tibet.

First, according to the New York Times, these riots started as the ethnic Tibetans started destroying and looting ethnic Chinese shops and property. No, we don't have a license to target others by race. Whether we are talking the LA riots or the Sunni/Shiite battles in Iraq, this is just plain wrong.

To add more confusion to the fog, Nancy Pelosi's meeting with the Dalai Lama certainly isn't helping. With theocracy being condemned as a greater evil than Kim Jong Il style atheist cultism, why on earth would she be meeting with the Dalai Lama? Are the Buddhist monks really protesting for freedom of religion? Or for a Buddhist theocracy? Furthermore, can we really imagine the same circumstances, but Pelosi meeting with a Bishop Lama of the Tibetan Orthodox Church? Or imagine her meeting with Reverend Dalai of the Tibetan Fundamentalist Charismatic Christian Association! I can't help but feel that the Dalai Lama enjoys a special reputation among Western elites because he is Buddhist and not Christian.

Now it may be that China shouldn't have encouraged Chinese to move into Tibet a few years back, but they do have a right to bring a halt to ethnic terror in ways that we would not find acceptable if employed in Seattle, Washington. The West should not encourage this kind of ethnic rioting.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

How To Handle A Public Lynching, by Rev. Otis Moss III of Trinity United Church of Christ.

Part 1:

Part 3, Part 4, Part 5.

Ah, an Easter Sermon. Actually, it is more of a Good Friday sermon delivered on Easter, because there isn't much about the empty tomb and resurrection. I must say that I love hearing African American preaching and Rev. Moss doesn't disappoint. The emphasis on our need to be gracious and forgiving while suffering is truly a Christian message. What is awkward for me is that I am not used to this theme on Good Friday or Easter. Yes, what Jesus did on the cross is an example to us which we need to remind ourselves of throughout the year, but on Good Friday and Easter, it is the crucified Lamb of God and the risen Lord that we focus on. It is the sacrifice that God planned for us before time began. I go to Jesus because I am a sinner in need of salvation. Maybe I am also being unjustly lynched figuratively and need someone to empathize with me and show me how to respond according to how God wants me to respond. Still, Easter is about the sins I have committed. Not the sins that someone else committed against me.
California Bicycle Safety Quiz.

With my knees giving me more trouble and the weather turning nicer, I should probably get back on the bicycle for exercise. I scored an 11 out of 12 on this quiz. I missed number 4, but I will not change my riding behavior to conform to the correct answer.
Christianity Today: New Atheists Are Not Great, a review of a book by D'Souza by Tony Snow.

Hmmm. A review of a review when I haven't read the original book. Anyone who reads this will thus know how many grains of salt to start with. The original book and the reviewer both take a shot at Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens. I probably don't need to throw more rhetorical stones at Dawkins and Hitchens at the moment.

There are a few things commendable in this article, such as a reminder that the first explicitly atheist modern movement was the French Revolution. This was a rather nasty affair, but also leads to one of the cruelest possible insults to be hurled at British New Atheists: Stop acting French! I'm sorry. That was too nasty.

Both Tony Snow and D'Souza seem to have adapted the modernist world view that mental endeavors are divided into religion and science. My fundamentalist world view is the three-way religion-science-intellectualism divide, of which intellectualism is by far the most common and has no validity at all, but likes to exploit science and religion like a tic exploits a dog. But back to the two-way split world view: Dawkins and Hitchens think that religion and science aren't reconcilable. Snow and D'Souza apparently think that they clearly are reconcilable because we can clearly pray to both God and Darwin. OK, that wasn't exactly what they said, but it you start with an Atheist world view, it is hard to argue your way out of it.

The review asserts the Christianity gave us free markets and democracy. Apparently Themistocles was a Christian according to their history lessons. The review mentions only 2,000 lives lost in the inquisition over 3.5 centuries which does help to put some context into this, but doesn't mention that property confiscation was probably much more common. I tend to look at the Inquisition as more of an early form of Tax & Spend, which is done more subtlely today. Snow's review gets better when he starts dealing with the human, existential aspects of Christianity. Indeed, this is truly the focus of Christianity and the reason it is something that people find so compelling. Jesus loves me, saves me from my sins, and rose to give me new life.

One thing that is left hanging is the long list of pejoratives that are hurled at God at the beginning: God is "jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser, ...". How do we answer this? More than half of the problem begins with the fact that Atheists don't accept God as God and begin their moral reasoning with themselves at the center of the universe. If God really isn't the creator of the universe, then he is just someone down the street who conjured up God in order to all kinds of wild things to others, including me. If, on the other hand, God is who he says he is, then moral reasoning doesn't begin with us, but it begins with God. All of the invective that we have hurled at our Creator as if he were some bloke down the street with an overgrown ego suddenly has a different meaning. We are simply shown to be little ingrates who were given life to do something good and chose to focus on ourselves. That later focus, speaking from experience, is bound to disappoint.

This won't be the end in this shouting match.
Happy Easter.

This picture was borrowed from a Shroud of Turin website, which is too technical for me.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Cure for Boredom: Check out the Trans-Allegheny Looneytic Asylum. Can you find the reference to the theory of evolution in this article?
Good Friday Reminder: Join a Good Friday service to ponder the execution of Jesus instead of yourself for your sins.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Looney Global Warming Carbon Tax Proposal.

This is a suggestion to simultaneously reduce America's usage of foreign oil, cut fossil fuel consumption, and put the federal budget in the black. Basic facts:

The US consumes roughly 20 million barrels of oil per day or 306 billion gallons per year.
The US Federal budget is more than $3.1 trillion. (Keep in mind that there is some funny money spent outside of the budget such as social security.)

For a gasoline tax to have any kind of meaningful change on the behavior of Americans, it would need to be on the order of a 100% increase over existing prices. That would be around $4 per gallon. At this level, and assuming minor change in the behavior of consumers, we could get about $1 trillion in revenue from gasoline taxes. Moving to a level of $10 per gallon, we could eliminate the IRS and most corporate taxes. Yes, this would be a big consumer ouch, but it would go a long way to balancing America's trade, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and the need for an army of tax specialists.

Unfortunately, polls show that 48% of Americans don't want to pay 1 penny more for gasoline taxes and only 8% of Americans would be willing to pay $1 per gallon. Fortunately my house is 83 feet above sea level.

Disclaimer: I work from home and don't commute.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Economist discusses the evolution of religion.

One of the good aspects of the absolute certainty of European evolutionists these days seems to be that they are willing to discuss more openly the holes in their theory. This article discusses one hole and one gotcha. The hole is that religious people are demonstrably better at group cooperation. Unfortunately, survival of the fittest is primarily about individuals so this situation would seem to be unstable. A person who pretends to be religious, but cheats is certainly better off than one who cooperates faithfully. The cheater will have the better chance of passing his genes on. Perhaps we have an evolutionary explanation for hypocrisy? The gotcha is the simple fact that if evolution gave rise to religion, then obviously there are major benefits to religion, especially given the observable costs. Atheist evolution researchers are thus in the wonderful situation of delving into the specifics of why natural selection didn't seem to favor atheism.

One interesting notion in the article is that religion gave groups advantages because the belief in a supreme being looking over the shoulders of people to make them behave well is what provides the group harmony that is observed. This seems to me to be problematic based on the book by John Walton on Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament. The reason is that for the most part, the ancient world was not interested in a God who promoted morality. In this case, the researchers are pursuing a hypothesis that seems uniquely to fit the Judaeo-Christian-Islamic view of morality in religion, but which would not be appropriate for primitive religions that are common to stone age groups.

One thing that does seem apparent from the initial attempts to locate the neurological center of religion in the brain is that it is diffused and involves many aspects. I guess this means that there won't be a simple way to simply remove a portion of the brain either genetically or with a knife to take away religious impulses. I will be curious to see how this kind of research progresses.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

More on the cryosphere wars:

The Cryosphere Today website shows that world wide arctic/antarctic ice cover is more than average since recordings first began. The northern hemisphere is much closer to average now, especially when compared to the record setting of last summer.

Looking at the same data, a NASA researcher worries that long term ice cover is less. We will know in September whether he is right or not.
An artificial intelligence pioneer is unplugged.

I never heard of Joseph Weizenbaum until his obituary showed up. It seems that he succeeded in developing a program that mimicked a psychiatrist, giving much hope to early AI enthusiasts. What about difficult problems? His more realistic assessment was that AI would never happen, which is something that seems apparent to me also based on my many years of looking at software.
Obama's speech on race.

From a rhetorical standpoint, I guess it was good. Reading between the lines, there are a number of things that bug me.

"But it means binding our particular grievances for better health care, and better schools, and better jobs to the larger aspirations of all Americans ..."

But what does he propose? Will the health care givers to the poor be lawyers, litigators and regulators? Or more doctors and nurses? Will the better schools be provided by the teachers union? My local high school, Mission San Jose High School, is a slum, but it is also the top ranked public high school in the San Francisco bay area because the minority parents care about education. Is change more of the same? Or are we going to go with vouchers and break out of the union/education establishment tyranny and financial black hole that sucks up all funds?

And what of the better jobs? The governator promised California business relief from disability fraud, but there is no relief in sight. Hiring a minority frequently means being hit with a discrimination suit when markets turn sour and down sizing occurs. Better not to hire the minority in the first place. Better to set up a subsidiary overseas and hire there.

Barrack, I am one who has lived most of my life with minorities, understands their concerns, and wants to see them prosper. When are you actually going to propose something constructive?

Monday, March 17, 2008

Bill and Hillary's church sacrifices a pig on the altar.

For those of you who don't know, the story of the pig being sacrificed on the altar in Jerusalem is a reference to Antiochus IV who became king of Seleucia about 175BC. He also referred to himself as Theos Epiphanes, which means "god revealed". The story of his reign of terror in Jerusalem is described in the book of Maccabees.

The United Methodist are apparently holding worship services to celebrate quasi-marriages of GLBT types. Given that this behavior is condemned in the old testament, the new testament, and the elimination of homosexuality was one of the major changes that the early church made on the Roman Empire, this is more than a bit theologically problematic. The Bible, however, tells us that marriage is a symbol of Christ and the Church. It is this later fact which makes the ceremonies of the United Methodists into an act of desecration comparable to what Antiochus IV did.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Philo of Alexandria comments on Eliot Spitzer, GBLT's, and others.

"Nor does it follow that, because for the perpetuation of your race you have been endowed with the powers of generation, you ought to pursue pollutions and adulteries and other impure connections; but only such as, in a legitimate manner, engender and propagate the race of mankind."

(From The Worse Attacks the Better, XXVII, 102)
The Atheist Delusion, thanks to Drew.

Apparently the author has a precise definition of the word "theory" which Dawkin's memes don't seem to fit. I wish he would have defined his personal usage of the word "theory" before invoking it in a technical manner. Otherwise, the article provides much amusement. I think a polemic entitled, "Darwin is Not Great" should sell well, given the catchy title. Taking pride in my Creativity, however, I would not want to simply engage in a minor Evolutionary tweak of someone else's title.
Caractacus and Palm Sunday.

Yes, Palm Sunday is the day to remember Caractacus. My first encounter with Caractacus was while enjoying a Saturday bicycle ride off into Exmoor starting in Tiverton. I climbed a hill, ran out of breath and stopped at the Caractacus Stone, but it meant nothing to me. Upon telling my story at the office on Monday, they informed me that I had seen the Caractacus Stone. Being a dumb American, I gave the predictable response: What is the Caractacus Stone?

Based on the histories of Tacitus, Caractacus seems to have lived about the time of the gospels and the book of Acts. He was eventually defeated by the Romans in 51AD and taken to Rome as part of one of their triumphal processions. Caractacus gave a speech that is recorded by Tacitus where he attributes Rome's glory to defiant upstarts like himself who make battles difficult so that victories become glorious. The Romans were pleased with the sophistry and pardoned him. It is doubtful that the rest of Caractacus's soldiers were so treated, because the triumphal entry frequently involved parading prisoners stripped naked through the city before selling them into slavery.

Palm Sunday is the day that Christians celebrate the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. The palm leaves were symbols of victory. In Luke 4:18-19, the reason for this becomes apparent when Jesus says:

"The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."

The triumphal entry of Jesus has so many similarities and so many contrasts with that of the Romans. Jesus is celebrating spiritual freedom from sin, whereas the Romans were celebrating physical enslavement. The Romans would have preferred an uppity war horse. Jesus chose the foal of a donkey. The campaign and victory begins with Palm Sunday, whereas the Romans were celebrating after the victory had been accomplished. It is a good day to remember enslavement. And to give thanks for freedom because Jesus Christ is Lord of all.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Scientific Researchers: Abstinence causes the spread of STDs.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Simon and Levi.

"Calling the Twelve to him, he sent them out two by two and gave them authority over evil spirits." - Mark 6:7

By special revelation, ;-) , I have learned that Jesus sent Simon and Levi out together as one of the pairs. Now Levi was a tax collector and a representative of the Roman Empire. They were known for oppressing the people, taxing the people to death, and being as rude as possible in the process. Simon, on the other hand, was a Zealot. The Zealot's were fanatical about the need to have an independent Israel and went around slitting throats of tax collectors and other government officials in the middle of the night. These two were political polar opposites, almost as extreme in their conflict as Republicans and Democrats. How did they get along? Fiction writers, here is the book of the year for the one who takes this theme.

There is, unfortunately, one weakness in comparing Simon/Levi to today's Republican/Democrat fuss. The problem is that Simon and Levi knew the same Jesus. Republicans and Democrats have a different Jesus. In many cases, it is a polar opposite Jesus. Of course, it may be that the real Jesus is neither a Republican Jesus or a Democrat Jesus. Anyway, this is always a good theme for blogging.

David Mamet discovers human nature.

And things will continue to be slow while my primary computer gets triple bypass surgery.

Monday, March 10, 2008

System crash. :-( It may be a while before I am up and running fully.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

This picture is from last week's short 9 mile excursion in Pleasanton Ridge Park. Today's was a 27.5 mile route from Sunol Park to Murrieta Falls and back with about 1 mile of elevation gain going up and over Rose Peak. The old man's knees were giving me some trouble, so the time was a poor 7 hours, 52 minutes.

Friday, March 07, 2008

While we are off into the surreal, the BBC reports that Tony Blair will come to the US to take a position as a professor of divinity and teach Americans about faith and religion at Yale. Bunc, would you like to do this too? Can I take your class?

It is rare that a picture conveys the bulk of the content of a philosophical movement, given that a picture is only a thousand words. This is a higher resolution picture based on Drew's post which seems to accomplish just that.
All your children's minds are belong to us.

A California appellate court reaffirms that children's minds are government property. Therefore homeschooling is illegal, unless the parent has teaching credentials and only teaches in ways that don't disrupt the harmony of The Force.

UPDATE: Chris Heard has a more intelligent summary of this here.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

The Churches the Apostles Left Behind, by Raymond E. Brown, 1984.

I just finished reading this little book written by a Catholic professor who held a Protestant chair at Union Seminary in New York. Prof. Brown passed away 10 years ago according to the wiki article. Union Seminary is basically Universalist in their religion, rather than Christian and to listen to Catholics discussing church organization is, well, you can imagine how my Fundamentalist heritage would cause me to react.

Then there is the Historical-Critical method which Prof. Brown adapted. This was considered forward thinking at one time and Prof. Brown was honored for being one of the first Roman Catholic theologians to embrace the method. I am one who is quite enthusiastic about using historical sources in comparison with the Bible to gain greater insights and many recent authors have made some great contributions with this method. Traditionally, however, the Historical-Critical method would be best characterized as 1) speculate about a historical scenario that would offend Bible literalists, 2) if there is no directly conflicting historical data, assume the historical scenario to be true, 3) re-interpret the impacted Bible passages according to the speculative historical scenario, and 4) publish some peer reviewed papers. Grrrr!

The older Historical-Critical application to the New Testament basically went roughly like this: Jesus may or may not have been a real person so that in the mid-first century, there were a number of Jesus-myths that also evolved in sophistication with time. Different anonymous writers came to represent those myths towards the end of the 1st century and early 2nd century and forged various letters that helped consolidate traditions. The letters have been grouped together according to similarities, so that we now have Pauline, Johanine, Petrine, Matthean and Lukean traditions along with a separate Ephesians/Colossians tradition and some miscellany. There were several other traditions, however, these were gradually marginalized and the incompatible remaining traditions were fused together much later in church history to form our New Testament. This is the extreme minimalist outline.

In my case, I am much more interested in the evolution of the Historical-Critical interpretations, as I think this is considerably more researchable than the evolution of opinions in the brains of writers who died almost 2,000 years ago. Prof. Brown is a product of this Historical-Critical mindset, although he is much more conservative than the extreme case I presented above. Still the notion of different conflicting traditions is there and Prof. Brown is supposed to be a specialist in the Johanine tradition. This I find amusing because this is where he is most off into the speculative ether and least connected to reality, while his best discussions are on the book of Matthew.

In spite of my critical attitude, I always find that there are a few useful gems to be obtained provided there is some reasonable scholarly discipline, even if the author is an atheist. The notion of a church (assembly) is one that was quite valuable. Prof. Brown scoffs at the American tradition of emphasizing personal salvation and individualism where the church is almost an afterthought. The better emphasis is that we are being saved into a church. I have also been taught since I was young that the word "church" is first used in the Bible in Matthew 16:18. Wrong! Using the Septuagint, there are instances in Deuteronomy chap 23:

2 Οὐκ εἰσελεύσεται θλαδίας οὐδὲ ἀποκεκομμένος εἰς τὴν ἐκκλησίαν Κυρίου.

The Septuagint was widely used by the authors of the New Testament, so at least for me, this is revolutionary in my understanding. Prof. Brown, I am indebted to you.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

This is for Bunc and me. I lifted it from Esteban Vazquez.
Voltaire, ID and Bible Literalism.

In Voltaire's Philosophical Dictionary, there is this little statement:
"He interprets in his own way the very words that have been put into
Jesus Christ's mouth: '... have ye not read that which was spoken unto
you by God, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and
the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living'".

Looking at the context, Voltaire is referring to the author of the book of Matthew as having put words into the mouth of Jesus. In other words, the book of Matthew is a work of fiction as far as he is concerned, although he finds much laudable in Christianity. I have noted this because of the widespread misconception that ID arguments such as Voltaire also used are only accepted by Bible literalists.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

You can't argue with the data ...
Voltaire's Intelligent Design Argument, from Dictionnaire philosophique, section on Atheism.

"We are intelligent beings: intelligent beings cannot have been formed by
a crude, blind, insensible being: there is certainly some difference
between the ideas of Newton and the dung of a mule. Newton's
intelligence, therefore, came from another intelligence.

When we see a beautiful machine, we say that there is a good engineer,
and that this engineer has excellent judgment. The world is assuredly an
admirable machine; therefore there is in the world an admirable
intelligence, wherever it may be. This argument is old, and none the
worse for that.

... "

I was searching for something else, but this caught my eye.

Monday, March 03, 2008

"For success in schools, teach character first, then content".

That is the title of an editorial in the San Jose Mercury News written by a public school teacher. As he points out, most of what educators emphasize is the last few percent of what makes a child successful, but character is more than the first 50%. The question that isn't asked, however, is where does character come from? Parents are certainly the primary factor. Religious communities and national or tribal communities have historically provided the rest throughout recorded history. The religious source of character, however, has largely been marginalized by secularists. The multi-culturalists have marginalized the other sources of character. Fortunately we still have parents, but today's parents are already the product of a weakened upbringing for character, so they have less to teach their children. As evidence of this, I cite another quote from the editorial: "Honesty, discipline, compassion, patience, perseverance and self-respect will help the student excel in school as well as in life". When I was growing up, "self-respect" would have been "respect for others". More has been lost than the author realizes.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Fire for refining: OT, NT and Philo.

The old testament has several such references, but here is one:

This third I will bring into the fire; I will refine them like silver and test them like gold. They will call on my name and I will answer them; I will say, 'They are my people,' and they will say, 'The LORD is our God.' " - Zechariah 13:9

Now the Apostle Paul:

By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames. - 1 Corinthians 3:10-15

And Philo:

And let the ripeness of the new soul be toasted. That is to say, as gold is tried in the fire, let this also be tested by powerful reason. And the being consolidated is a sign of having been tried, and tested, and approved. - The Sacrifices of Abel and Cain, XXIV (80).

Most of the imagery of the NT shows up in Philo, but the use is almost always different. Philo is always contrasting reason (good) with passion (bad) and it is painfully tedious. (Obviously I am trying myself in the fire to read it!) In Philo's discussion of Cain and Abel, he spends almost no time on the subject matter and launches into the same discourse as all the rest of his commentaries. There is no sense of the overall plan that God is working through the universe that shows up in the NT. In some ways, I feel like an atheist or agnostic who was comfortable with Greek philosophy would find much appealing in this writing.

Both Zechariah and Paul have a different usage for the refining fire: It is about the works of man and whether or not they are acceptable in God's sight. Here I should probably link to a more competent commentator. My main purpose, however, was to give a glimpse at the difference between how Philo looked at the Bible and how Christians interpret things.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Bible Hermeneutics Test.

I scored a 42 out of the range from 20 to 100. Liberals will rank that as an F-. Anything from 20 to 52 is considered Conservative. The testing method, however, is like golf scores: The lower, the better.