Friday, July 30, 2010

"Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus." - 2 Timothy 2:3

Given this, should Christian discipleship be more like the following clip?

"There is currently no public access to the work area, therefore there will be no disruption of pedestrian vehicular traffic."

This notice arrived on my front porch.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556): Seeking poverty.

"In the afternoon I once more weighed up the choices for another hour and a half or more, and made the choice for complete poverty." - Saint Ignatius of Loyola Personal Writings, Spiritual Diary.

Ignatius seems to start his Christian life deliberately abandoning all financial security and going about begging. If he got too much, he gave it away, and then continued this habit. He follows this pattern because he believes that this is what Jesus did and he should likewise do it as an example. This has me actually wondering, did Jesus beg? Certainly Jesus lived in poverty, but the only example I can think of for begging is when Jesus asks of water from a Samaritan woman which is really a lead in to something much bigger. On other occasions, we see Jesus as the main provider of food, as in the loaves and fishes. Another example is John the Baptist who eats locusts and honey, so I have an impression that he provides for himself almost as an aborigine would.

One of Ignatius' reasons is the following:

"In general, people are more impressed if they see that nothing of this world is being sought." - Saint Ignatius of Loyola Personal Writings, Pros and Cons.

Certainly people are naturally and legitimately inclined against trusting those who preach religion and live luxuriously as a result. Ignatius pushed hard to make poverty the pattern of the Jesuits, but was overruled.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Pain ...

Several days ago my old North Face Prophecy shoes developed a hole in the heel that I ignored. A rock got in it when I was running hard down hill and left me bruised. Today I switched to an old pair of Vasque shoes with some new shoe laces. Big mistake. Now my toes are all bruised and I will probably lose both big toe nails. My new North Face Prophecy II shoes have arrived from REI, so I should really get them into use quickly.

In spite of this, things started well. I made Rose Peak in 2 hours, 25 minutes, and had enough strength to push through the tough ravine of the North Fork Indian Creek. (This adds about another 800 feet of climbing to make the total effort about 1 mile of elevation gain.) The turn around point was a quarter mile past marker 31 which is almost 12 miles outbound from Sunol Park. A bit of fog for the start was quite a treat. If I can lose another 10 pounds, maybe I can sign up for a 50k trail run again.

Mount Diablo poking up through the fog.

Looking towards the turn around point.

Looking back at Mission Peak from the turn around point.

Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556): Thee'ing and Thou'ing.

Before starting this, I am informed that neither Greek nor Hebrew have a distinction between formal and informal pronouns. When Jerome (347AD-420) wrote the Vulgate, he thus used or adapted conventions of Latin regarding the use of formal or informal language into the Vulgate that were the norm about the year 400AD. The best I can tell, these conventions were carried into English, Spanish and other European languages. The KJVonly crowd still has to deal with this, while most Christians only take note (if they haven't tuned out) when a worship song like "Be Thou My Vision" shows up on the PowerPoint.

"It was his custom to speak, whoever the person might be, using the word vos, having this as a matter of devotion, in that Christ and the apostles etc. used to speak in this way. As he went thus through these streets it occurred to his imagination that it would be good to desist from that custom at that juncture, and address the captain as Sir - this together with some fears of the tortures that they could give him etc. But when he recognized it was a temptation, 'Since that's what it is', he said, 'I won't call him Sir, nor do him any reverence, nor doff cap at him'" - Saint Ignatius of Loyola Personal Writings, The Pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

"And, recounting faithfully to him what had happened, he said to him that, although he was not now within his jurisdiction nor obliged to observe the verdict, nevertheless he would do what the Archbishop ordered (using vos with him, as he did with everyone)." - Saint Ignatius of Loyola Personal Writings, Studies and Conflicts in Spain.

My understanding is that vos is a formal version of you. These little bits reminded me of another founder of a religious order, George Fox 1624-1691), who founded the Quakers:

"Moreover when the Lord sent me forth into the world, he forbade me to put off my hat to any, high or low; and I was required to 'thee' and 'thou' all men and women, without any respect to rich or poor, great or small. And as I travelled up and down, I was not to bid people 'good morrow' or 'good evening', neither might I bow or scrape with my leg to any one.

But oh, the rage that then was in the priests, magistrates, professors, and people of all sorts, but especially in priests and professors! For, though 'thou' to a single person was according to their own learning, their accidence and grammar rules, and according to the Bible, yet they could not bear to hear it, and the hat-honour, because I could not put off my hat to them, it set them all into a rage." - The Quaker Reader, The Message Of George Fox.

I noted earlier Ignatius' passion to start a new sect. In searching for this text from George Fox, I came across this:

"And I was to bring people off from all the world's religions, which are vain, that they might know the pure religion, and might visit the fatherless, the widows and the strangers, and keep themselves from the spots of the world." - The Quaker Reader, The Message Of George Fox. (Quoted from James 1:27.)

My understanding is that the traditional English usage of thee and thou was as a familiar pronoun (most Christians believing the opposite!), while vos is a formal pronoun, but I might be wrong regarding the Spanish/Latin. (Max, you there?!) What strikes me about these two characters is the similarity of passion and mission, combined with the similar raised consciousness regarding sin - and the similar response.

Monday, July 26, 2010

"First, do some harm." - The Post-Modern Hippocratic Oath.

There are plenty of advertisements all over Fremont for the upcoming "Medical" Marijuana Convention in San Jose. There is an $18 fee (+$2.40 service charge) and it looks to be open to everyone.
Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556): Which church to join?

Going through the conversion of Ignatius, it is clear that he became passionate about Christianity and was regularly having visions. Just one incident to give an idea of the passion as he made the journey to Jerusalem:

"On that ship there was some open dirty and obscene behavior, which he would severely criticize. The Spaniards who were traveling on it were warning him not to do this, because the crew were talking of leaving him behind on some island. But Our Lord willed that they arrived quickly at Cyprus ..." - Saint Ignatius of Loyola Personal Writings, The Pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

Today you can get in trouble for criticizing "dirty and obscene behavior" too. At this time the conflict between Protestantism and Catholicism was in a frenzy, which had the inquisition at its height and anyone who hadn't associated with a Catholic order but wanted to talk about Christianity was risking everything. (It seems that 16 century polite people didn't talk about religion and didn't criticize bad behavior!) Thus, Ignatius and his friends ended up in prison a few times, although the Inquisitors were more lenient than the accusers. At the same time, the established Catholic structure was having some issues:

"There was also another bad practice there, namely this: the girls in that country always go round with their heads uncovered, and they don't cover them except when they marry. But there are many who become concubines, of priests and of other men, and remain faithful to them as if they were their wives. And this is so common that the concubines have no shame at all in saying they've covered their heads for so-and-so, and they're known to be such. Through this custom much evil arises." - Saint Ignatius of Loyola Personal Writings, Interlude at Home.

The root cause of the evil, as usual, is the insistence that only celibate men can serve as spiritual leaders, so that those who are properly married and exemplary family men are banned, while others who illicitly indulge their promiscuity are accepted. So which group was Ignatius to join?

"And when thoughts of entering a religious order came to him, at once there would come the desire to enter a decadent one, little reformed: he was to enter religious life so as to be able to suffer more in it. He also thought that perhaps God would help those in that order, and God would give him a great confidence that he would be able to suffer all the insults and hurts they would inflict on him." - Saint Ignatius of Loyola Personal Writings, Studies and Conflicts in Spain.

It would be nice if this had a bit more explanation, but some can be filled in from other places. Ignatius starts out both convicted and conflicted. Because the thought of joining an existing order brought about the sinful thoughts, it was clear to him that this was not his calling. As a result, he went off to the University of Paris to pursue a proper education and degree through tremendous hardship, and eventually would get approval from Rome to start the Jesuits without the corrupt baggage of the existing Catholic orders.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556): Musketeers for Christ ... and the New Media.

Time to leave the classics behind and jump into the 16th century. Ignatius was the founder of the Jesuits - The Society Of Jesus. People tend to love them or hate them, but until recently no one could accuse them of being irrelevant slackers. Ignatius was wounded in a battle, had his legs shattered, and was recovering. His biographer gives us this note about how he spent his time:

"And because he was much given to reading worldly and false books, which they normally call 'tales of chivalry', he asked, once he was feeling well, that they give him some of these to pass the time. But in that house none of those books which he normally read could be found, and so they gave him a life of Christ and a book of the lives of the saints in Spanish." - Saint Ignatius of Loyola Personal Writings, Reminiscences.

Thus, through a little event is a transformation of the world initiated. This note struck me as I was reading and reminded me of the beginning of another Spanish work, Don Quixote by Cervantes (1547-1616):

"You must know, then, that the above-named gentleman whenever he was at leisure (which was mostly all the year round) gave himself up to reading books of chivalry with such ardor and avidity that he almost entirely neglected the pursuit of his field-sports, and even the management of his property; and to such a pitch did his eagerness and infatuation go that he sold many an acre of tillage land to buy books of chivalry to read, and brought home as many of them as he could get." - Don Quixote.

There is much more to say on this by Cervantes as his character is led on by his vainglory to become a laughingstock of civilization. Would things have come out differently if Don Quixote only had a lives of the saints, and Ignatius only had tales of chivalry? To put dates into context, the printing press was invented in 1440, so that by the 1500's book printing and reading had transformed society. As usual, the new media was used for different purposes, some good and some not so good. The theme of vainglory also shows up in Ignatius' biography, but here it is a slow process of being led out of it. Thus, the biography begins with this sentence:

"Until the age of twenty-six he was a man given up to the vanities of the world, and his chief delight used to be in the exercise of arms, with a great and vain desire to gain honor." - Saint Ignatius of Loyola Personal Writings, Reminiscences.

In spite of the 16th century context, it seems that all this is universal. Time to go entertain myself with an action movie ...

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Xenophon (430-354BC) quoting Socrates (469-399BC): On the Truly Good.

"But I had a passionate longing to meet one of those people who have this awesome designation of being 'truly good'; I wanted to find out what they produced to make them deserve the name." - The Estate-Manager, 6.13.

As the dialog proceeds on, the definition of 'truly good' seems to be someone of outstanding character and piety. We admire people for various reasons and seek to emulate them, but when was the last time that we were attracted to someone simply because they were 'truly good'? Another observation is that if I cited an example of 'truly good', it is certain that the example would generate howls of rage in some quarters. The Bible quote that probably best expresses this is the following:

"'As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. 'Good teacher," he asked, 'what must I do to inherit eternal life?'

'Why do you call me good?' Jesus answered. 'No one is good—except God alone.'" - Mark 10:17-18

I do hope my attention can be more directed towards things that are 'truly good'.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Xenophon (430-354BC): The Parable of the Sower.

"You see, it is not like the other arts, where it is possible for people to plead ignorance if they fail to achieve anything: everyone knows that if you do good to the land, you will achieve good results, so failure on the land is a clear indictment of a bad character." - The Estate-Manager, 20.12.

This is a wonderful bit to put side by side with the Biblical Parable of the Sower. In The Estate Manager, Xenophon reports conversations with Socrates regarding the proper management of farms which he claims is much easier to learn than any other skill. The end conclusion was that if one farmer succeeds while another fails, the failure must be attributed to the sloth of the latter, rather than the expertise of the former. Would any of us be happy to see that same logic applied to our effectiveness as Christians? And what of the vast oceans of learning and training that are always available, yet we are some how believing we can do nothing without the training. But just as for the farmer, it is God who brings about the increase.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Socrates (469-399BC): Regarding the how the seasons occur.

"'And then, since it is also plain that we could not endure either the heat or cold if it came on suddenly, what about the fact that the sun approaches and recedes so gradually that we don't notice that we are passing into either extreme of temperature?'" - Memoirs of Socrates, 4.3.6

There is a longer quote related to the same theory just before this one. This quote stood out because of the notion that seasons were due to the sun being closer or further away, rather than due to the angle of the sun. A contrasting correct description is given by Bede (672AD-736). Now I am wondering when the first correct description of the cause of the seasons shows up.
City of Oakland: We want industrial drug growing.

I have to wonder if any government in history has deliberately advocated producing drugs in order to addict its own citizens.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Swimming: Nose clip report.

Yesterday I swam 2 kilometers at Quarry Lakes. This would normally have put me into a day and a half of misery as the lake water reacted with my nose, even after taking a strong dose of allergy medicine. This time I didn't use any allergy medicine, and the symptoms were completely gone. The only problem is keeping the clip adjusted properly and getting used to the discomfort and inability to breathe through the nose while swimming. After visiting REI, I found that they also sell other kinds of nose clips for swimming. This leaves me wondering if a Chinese nose clip is the same as a Western long-nose clip. More things to research ...

Monday, July 19, 2010

Socrates (469-399BC): Know Yourself.

"Socrates said, 'Tell me, Euthydemus: have you ever been to Delphi?'
'Yes indeed, twice.'
'Did you notice the inscription "Know yourself" somewhere near the shrine?'
'Yes, I did.'
'Did you ignore the inscription, or did you pay attention and try to examine what sort of person you were?'
'Good heaven!' he said. 'No, I didn't. You see, that was one thing I thought I did know. I could hardly have known anything else if I hadn't even been acquainted with myself.'
'Who do you think knows himself - the man who merely knows his own name, or ...'
'To my mind, the man who doesn't know his own ability is ignorant of himself.'"- Memoirs of Socrates, 4.2.24

I have heard 'Know Yourself' before, but always thought it was an abbreviated version of the advice from Sun Tzu. Now I know better. Socrates' definition of knowing yourself includes character, intellect and ability, but he doesn't provide any methodology for self assessment. This does remind me a bit of the following Bible verse:

"Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does. " - James 1:22-25

And so the Bible is something that helps us to look into our character, which is the most important part of knowing yourself.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Socrates (469-399BC): Parents and Intelligent Design.

"Don't you know that the State cares nothing for any other kind of ingratitude, and prescribes no penalty for it, but turns a blind eye when beneficiaries fail to repay a favour; but if anyone shows no consideration for his parents, the State imposes a penalty upon him and disqualifies him from holding public office, on the presumption that the sacrifices could not be performed on behalf of the State with proper piety if he performed them, nor any other act be well and duly carried out if he were the agent?" - Memoirs of Socrates, 2.2.9

This has parallels to Biblical commands to honor and provide for one's parents. I have to wonder about our society with government provided pensions, or even private pensions which cut the bond between children and parents. Most of the Chinese I have been involved with still have this strong family bond, whereas it seems to me that Americans are different. Just wondering if a long history of social security might have a negative effect on the family.

"'Some things have no purpose so far as we can tell, and others are obviously useful for some end. Which class do you assign to chance and which to design?'
'Those which are useful should be products of design.'
'... And the mouth, through which the things that living creatures like are admitted, is situated close to the eyes and nose, whereas the outlets for excrement, which is disagreeable, are directed as far as possible away from the senses. Are you in real doubt whether such provident arrangements are the result of chance or of design?'" - Memoirs of Socrates, 1.4.4
Socrates (469-399BC) and Biblical parallels.

"As for my not being a slave to my stomach, or to sleep, or to lechery, what better reason for it can you imagine than that I have other more pleasant occupations, which cheer me not only when I am engaged upon them, but also as giving me ground for hoping that they will benefit me always?" - Memoirs of Socrates, 1.6.5

There is some dispute as to whether Xenophon (430-354BC) is correctly quoting Socrates or merely putting his words in to the mouth of Socrates. Regardless, the concept of being a slave to appetites was well established. There are several similar passages in the Bible, but I will only highlight one:

"Don't you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness. " - Romans 6:16-18

Putting these together, I have to conclude that Paul usage of "Don't you know ..." is because the notion of vice being something that leads to slavery is already well established, even among the classical pagan philosophy. Or to put it another way, Paul is explaining the Christian primarily from the foundation of Christ, while acknowledging certain common sense principles which were also affirmed by the pagans and had become part of the cultural framework.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Xenophon (430-354BC): Regarding the martyrdom of Socrates (469-399BC).

"'Do you really think it's remarkable that God should decide that it is better for me to die now? ... Now, if my years are prolonged, I'm sure that I shall have to pay the penalties of old age: impaired vision and hearing, and increasing slowness at learning and forgetfulness of what I have learned. And if I am aware that I am deteriorating and find fault with myself, how could I live pleasantly then?'" - Socrates' Defence.

Those are supposedly the words of Socrates as he argues with one of his supporters that it is time for him to die. At 70 years old, perhaps there is some practical logic to this. To compare with other philosophers, Cicero (106-43BC) was executed at 63 years old while Seneca (3BC-65AD) was 68. Much of Stoic philosophy was about how to deal with the ailments of old age, or to take the easy option of suicide. In the case of Cicero and Seneca, it should be noted that they were heavily involved politically and were executed more for political reasons. The other thing to note is that all these philosophers were executed in a minimally painful manner.

Then there are those who inevitably want to compare the execution of philosophers to the crucifixion of Jesus (apparently oblivious to the crucifixion as the sacrifice for our sins). Jesus is believed to have been 30-33 years old at the time of the crucifixion - still in the prime of life. Certainly if you have dreams going forward or a family depending on you, death means something quite different than when your family has already been raised and gone, a career has been finished, and what you have to look forward to is deteriorating health and being a burden to your loved ones. On the other hand, God still has a purpose for us and it is for us to seek that out, even though we feel our life is spent.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Gaiter Aid.

My new REI Desert Gaiters are here which make me happy to go off trail again. I should have bought these long ago.

Today was supposed to be a scorcher, so it was best to push up the mountain as fast and early as possible.

This should give a sense of the change of climate zones as you move up Rose Peak.

My favorite Acorn Woodpeckers, who always remind me of Bunc. Hope he is doing well.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The banking reform bill.

According to the article, the scheme makes it easier for unions and other activists to get onto banks' board of directors. It also provides for a number of government offices of gender and race equality, along with support for political activism of the ACORN variety. Given that the current banking crisis was caused by the government via the Community Reinvestment Act, and the new 'reform' makes the old problems worse ...

But the good news is that there should be plenty of opportunities for Christian charity in all this!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Oakland cuts 10% of its police force.

Given Oakland's reputation for crime, this certainly isn't good. California desperately needs reform(s), but hasn't yet started to contemplate anything other than raising taxes. The immediate problem that caused the layoffs seems to be a public sector union.

The new "reform" has the police not responding to most crime. Instead, the victim will be required to go online and fill out forms. What to do if your computer was stolen hasn't been specified. Whether this would be better or not than asking a friend to blog about the break in and robbery that took place is still to be determined.
Thucydides: The pre-game prayer.

"As this proposal was not accepted, the Eleans tried a second. Instead of restoring Lepreum, if this was objected to, the Spartans should ascend the altar of the Olympian Zeus, as they were so anxious to have access to the temple, and swear before the Hellenes that they would surely pay the fine at a later day. This also being refused, the Spartans were excluded from the temple, the sacrifice, and the games, and sacrificed at home; the Lepreans being the only other Hellenes who did not attend. Still the Eleans were afraid the Spartans would sacrifice by force, and kept guard with a heavy-armed company of their young men; being also by a thousand Argives, the same number of Mantineans, and by some Athenian cavalry who stayed at Harpina during the feast." - The Peloponnesian War, 5.50.

Reading between the lines, it seems that to participate in the original Olympic Games you must first perform a sacrifice to Olympian Zeus, and the right to do this was a fighting matter.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Feeling the heat.

Below, a Young Turk tries to be inconspicuous. Certainly this isn't a good sign.

A glimpse of the horse herd behind Mount Allison.

Heading towards Monument Peak.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Nose Gone Wild.

I love to swim, so today had a good two mile workout at Quarry Lakes. The only problem is that I am allergic to lake water. A few allergy pills are needed before I swim and continuing for the next 36 hours afterward, but the nose still gets clogged making it difficult to sleep at night. Too bad the bay isn't closer. There are pools nearby, but they generally cost a lot and can be quite problematic to use due to the large number of other swimmers, or even people just wading and disrupting the lanes, while the water temperature is too warm. In the lake, there usually are only a few geese and the occasional cormorant to deal with. I will stick with the lake. Sniffle.

Update: Looks like there are nose clips out there for swimming. I should give it a try.
Thucydides: Omens and Oracles

This portion of text comes at a point where the Athenian forces are totally destroyed at Syracuse, while all the enemies of Athens are gathering with hopes of a final victory:

"When the conviction was forced upon them, they were angry with the orators who had joined in promoting the expedition, just as if they had not themselves voted it, and were enraged also with the reciters of oracles and soothsayers, and all other omenmongers of the time who had encouraged them to hope that they should conquer Sicily." - The Peloponnesian War, 8.1.

Thucydides has been given a special authority as the founder of scientific history, which certainly is well earned from the way he handles the material and tries hard not to pass any judgments on anyone, except to pass on the judgments of various factions. From reading most of his narrative, it seems that Thucydides takes a neutral tone towards everything supernatural also. The above quote comes after years of fighting which have ended in disaster for Athens, so the reaction of despair is certainly appropriate. My sense from reading the introduction is that Thucydides (and Xenophon) has been further elevated by modern historians, while others discounted. The basis for this judgment is that Thucydides’ attitude towards omens and oracles is more to modern tastes.

To put things into some context using historical writers, Thucydides (460-395BC) is ambivalent towards these things. Herodotus (484-425BC) is definitely enthusiastic towards the superstition of his day. Xenophon (430-354BC) who comes after Thucydides and is also an Athenian remains quite enthusiastic towards omens - especially the reading of entrails from sacrifices. I can't quite remember clearly about Polybius (203-120BC), but he was certainly pro-religion in general. Josephus (37AD-100) uses omens in his history also as in the famous account of Herod Agrippa and the owl, which is parallel to the account in Acts 12 which refers to an angel of the Lord rather than an omen.

Moving forward, it is my impression that Christianity is what brings an end to oracles and omens, but this is not so clear-cut as I like. For example, we have this quote from Bede regarding events around about 700AD:

"Then he asked when the girl had been bled and, on hearing that it was on the fourth day of the moon, he exclaimed, 'I remember how Archbishop Theodore of blessed memory used to say that it was very dangerous to bleed a patient when the moon is waxing and the Ocean tide flowing. And what can I do for the girl if she is at the point of death?'" - The Ecclesiastical History of the English People. Book 5, Chapter 3.

In this instance, a bishop steps in and heals the girl through the power of the Holy Spirit and defeats the superstition. Clearly the old has not been abandoned, yet there is also a new paradigm in effect.

At another level, Thucydides story reminds me of the Lying Spirit discussed in 1 Kings 22 and 2 Chronicles 18. I am a believer in such things, while they can work through many people, from religious leaders to politicians to intellectuals - especially intellectuals.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Alameda Creek Bicycle Trail.

Today I took Mrs. Looney for a bike ride. We haven't done this for years, but it was an enjoyable, scenic time. Below is a California Yawning Eagle that I saw yesterday. Everything is getting too laid back in this state.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Biting more than you can chew.

You can't swallow them sideways!

I almost bit off too much also. The Rose Peak weather station gave a temperature of 85 at the higher elevation, but I haven't been training in the heat and this was another one of my extreme diet versions with no calorie intake. I cut it short just below the summit for perhaps 18 miles of workout.

Nature itself has organized to celebrate our president.

Death of a church.

This article is about the PCUSA from an insider. It came to me via Jim West.

"When the autopsy is performed (and sooner or later the focus will shift from ‘save the patient’ to ‘why did we lose her?’), it is likely to highlight all sorts of secondary traumas. But the underlying cause of the decline and death of the PC(USA) will be that we traded the New Testament gospel of salvation from sin and death for a lesser model, equipped with all the religious-sounding language, ‘holding to an outward form of godliness,’ as Paul warns Timothy, ‘but denying its power.’ (2 Timothy 3:5)"

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Presbyterian Church USA: Jesus came to save us from good so that we can live a life of evil.

To be a bit clearer, their national assembly just ruled that promiscuous gays can serve as clergy. The title is the message I am getting from their conference, although I don't believe all of their affiliated churches are that far gone. Many Christians live in a bubble and aren't aware that America's race towards Sodom and Gomorrah is being driven by modernist pastors and theologians.

Then there is the judge's ruling that the federal definition of marriage being between a man and a woman is unconstitutional because it discriminates. Apparently they don't teach people in law school that the purpose of a law is to discriminate - between right and wrong, good and evil. No doubt the US will reap from what it is sowing.
Thucydides: First Fruits.

This is part of my collection of notes on tithing from non-Biblical, and frequently non-Christian sources, in case someone wants to do a thesis on the subject!

"Look at the tombs of your fathers, slain by the Persians and buried in our country, whom year by year we honored with garments and all other dues, and the first fruits of all that our land produced in their season, as friends from a friendly country and allies to our old companions in arms!" - The Peloponnesian War, 3.38.

The context is that the men from the city of Platea are pleading to the Spartans to spare their lives. In an earlier time Platea and Sparta allied in the great battle against Xerxes, but things had soured during the Peloponnesian War.
Researchers: Drug legalization will save the California economy.

After post-modernism comes post-sanity. Part of the idea is to legalize marijuana so that it can be taxed, with the hope that this will boost the economic revenues. They admit that this may cause marijuana use to increase by 75% to 150%, but there is no recognition that drug heads are less productive. The new idea for me is the concept of drug tourism - the idea that people would fly to California to get high, and maybe even buy drugs in bulk to take back to the other American states and resell. Thus, California could replace Mexico as drug trafficking haven, but without all those pesky border controls. The only negative they can see in all this is that the forecast tax revenues might be too high.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

NASA Chief: Our mission is to boldly go to the Muslim worlds ...

There is a surreal sense to the news these days.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Aquinas: Regarding science.

"It should be said that since it is the definition of science that from some known things other things are necessarily concluded ..." - Theology, Faith and Reason.

This seems to me a bit simplistic on the science, albeit far advanced compared to the post-modern versions prevalent in academia for the last two centuries. Theology, Faith and Reason gives us a good theoretical view of science as Aquinas summarizes and compares views going back to the time of Aristotle. Since my degrees are in Engineering Science, this is all quite fascinating to me, but I wish I had seen it when I was younger. As it was, we discussed nothing of a philosophy of science in college, although going through math, physics, programming and engineering classes.

Aquinas discusses two erroneous methods whereby people try to reconcile things:

"But one can err in two ways in using philosophy in sacred doctrine. One way is to use things contrary to faith, which is not philosophy, but its corruption or abuse; Origen did this. Another way is this, that the things of faith are reduced to the measure of philosophy, such that someone wishes to believe only what can be established in philosophy. It is rather the reverse that should be done, philosophy reduced to the measure of the faith, following the apostle in 2 Corinthians 10.5: 'bringing your mind into captivity to the obedience of Christ.'" - Theology, Faith and Reason.

My impression of much of the modern efforts to reconcile philosophy with Christianity is that it is done by theistic evolutionists who try to put the square peg of atheist pseudo-science into the round hole of Christian theology. The end result is bad science, bad theology and bad philosophy, but somehow they believe that this reinforces their faith. It certainly spares the compromiser the unpleasantries of having to face up to the "corruption or abuse" (and likely persecution) of intellectuals as the church fathers were compelled. Then there is the bit of denying the historicity of major parts of the Bible while affirming Inerrancy, which is the second error Aquinas lists. Part of my thinking as I grow older is that - as long as Jesus Christ is proclaimed Lord and Savior - I should grit my teeth and get along. This is primarily because I believe Christianity to be a relationship with God through Jesus, while we will all have errors in our theology that will be corrected when we see God as He truly is.
Anise Swallowtail?

I have seen these hovering around the top of Mission Peak a few times, but they never want to stop and pose - until a few days ago. This allowed me to get a good look and see that it wasn't the same as the other Swallowtails I have photographed.
Thucydides: Themistocles and some notes on Esther.

Themistocles led the Athenian campaign which defeated Xerxes. For those who study the book of Esther, the first chapter describes the preparations for this campaign from the point of view of the kitchen staff. There is a gap in the narrative corresponding to Xerxes' military expedition to Greece, followed by the narrative resuming three or four years later in chapter 2. Herodotus gives us the details of what happened to Xerxes in the interim period. Years later, Themistocles was ostracized from Athens and condemned to death, thus, he fled to the Persians. Thucydides gives us his communications with Xerxes followed by this:

"It is said that the King approved his intention, and told him to do as he said. He employed the interval in making what progress he could in the study of the Persian tongue, and of the customs of the country. Arrived at court at the end of the year, he attained to very high consideration there, such as no Hellene has ever possessed before or since; partly from his splendid reputation, partly from the hopes which he held out of effecting the subjugation of Hellas, but principally by the proof which experience daily gave of his intelligence. ... there is a monument to him in the agora of Asiatic Magnesia. He was governor of the district, the King having given him Magnesia which brought in fifty talents a year for bread, Lampsacus, which was considered to be the richest wine country, for wine, and Myos for other provisions." - The Peloponnesian War, 1.138.

Certain polemics against the book of Esther complain that the Persians would never have used foreigners for high up administrative positions, so that the story of Mordecai and Haman is purely fictional. I can't prove independently from the Bible that Mordecai and Haman existed, but this is quite clearly an example of a foreigner being chosen for a high up administrative position by the Persians.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Thucydides: A plague and the Apocalypse.

At the beginning of the Peloponnesian War, Athens was hit by a terrible plague that killed a large fraction of the population. Thucydides was taken ill and describes the horrible symptoms, but he continues with this:

"Nor was this the only form of lawless extravagance which owed its origin to the plague. Men now did just what they pleased, cooly venturing on what they had formerly done only in a corner, seeing the rapid transitions produced by persons in prosperity suddenly dying and those who before had nothing succeeding to their property. So they resolved to spend quickly and enjoy themselves, regarding their lives and riches as alike things of a day. Perseverance in what men called honor was popular with none, it was so uncertain whether they would be spared to attain the object; but it was settled that present enjoyment, and all that contributed to it, was both honorable and useful. Fear of gods or law of man there was none to restrain them. As for the first, they judged it to be just the same whether they worshiped them or not, as they saw all alike perishing; and for the last, no one expected to live to be brought to trial for his offenses, but each felt that a far severer sentence had been already passed upon them all and hung ever over their heads, and before this fell it was only reasonable to enjoy life a little." - The Peloponnesian War, 2.53.

There are quotes regarding plagues afflicting Christian communities by Eusebius and William Bradford which show a dramatically different reaction. I should add these to the blog eventually. Meanwhile, I am interested in two related observations from the apostle John in Revelation:

"The rest of mankind that were not killed by these plagues still did not repent of the work of their hands; they did not stop worshiping demons, and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood—idols that cannot see or hear or walk. Nor did they repent of their murders, their magic arts, their sexual immorality or their thefts." - Revelation 9:20-21

"They were seared by the intense heat and they cursed the name of God, who had control over these plagues, but they refused to repent and glorify him. The fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and his kingdom was plunged into darkness. Men gnawed their tongues in agony and cursed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, but they refused to repent of what they had done. " - Revelation 16:9-11

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Rose Peak.

I forgot my camera so the picture is stolen from last year. Today was gorgeous clear skies with a good view of the Bay Area and the Sierras. The main shot I missed was of a medium sized rattlesnake swallowing a squirrel. Hopefully my readers won't be too disappointed in not getting to see this.

My weight has gotten out of control again, so it is back onto the Looney diet. That means slowing down a bit, but going long on exercise, while skipping lots of meals. Normally I eat a good breakfast before the 5 hour Rose Peak effort, but this morning I skipped. Too much sweating must be made up with electrolytes, so the "slowing down" is to cut down on the sweating so that water is all that is needed. Based on my memories of using a heart rate monitor in the past, today's effort should be worth about a pound of fat: 3,600 calories. The next trick is to keep my meals small, low on calories, and avoid munching.
Thucydides: A patriotic speech for the Fourth of July.

This is a quoted speech from Pericles. Democracy:

"Our constitution does not copy the laws of neighboring states; we are rather a pattern to others than imitators ourselves. Its administration favors the many instead of the few; this is why it is called a democracy. If we look to the laws, they afford equal justice to all in their private differences; if to social standing, advancement in public life falls to reputation for capacity, class considerations not being allowed to interfere with merit; nor again does poverty bar the way, if a man is able to serve the state, he is not hindered by the obscurity of his condition." - The Peloponnesian War, 2.37.

Aliens, Education and War:

"We throw open our city to the world, and never by alien acts exclude foreigners from any opportunity of learning or observing, although the eyes of an enemy may occasionally profit by our liberality; trusting less in system and policy than to the native spirit of our citizens; while in education, where our rivals from their very cradles by a painful discipline seek after manliness, at Athens we live exactly as we please, and yet are just as ready to encounter every legitimate danger. In proof of this it may be noticed that the Spartans do not invade our country alone, but bring with them all their confederates; while we Athenians advance unsupported into the territory of a neighbor, and fighting upon a foreign soil usually vanquish with ease men who are defending their homes." - The Peloponnesian War, 2.39.

Thursday, July 01, 2010