Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Welcome to 2015

We are one year closer to the end of everything!

This year's goals (besides working and church):

1. Continue swimming in the lake regularly throughout the winter.

2. Finish another semester of Greek.

3. Dabble regularly into Hebrew.

4. Keep up a steady diet of reading and blogging.

This is all progressing nicely at the moment.  Today's Greek Linguistics readings featured this note:

"Two arguments are used in support of the eight-case system - one historical, the other linguistic.  First, through comparative philology (i.e. the comparing of linguistic phenomena in one language with those of another), since Sanskrit is an older sister to Greek and since Sanskrit has eight cases, Greek must also have eight cases." - Greek Grammar, Beyond the Basics, by Daniel Wallace

Apparently it is necessary to study Sanskrit in order to understand Greek, according to some linguistiticians.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Pondering Anti-Semitism Part II: Gathering Data

"For jealousy makes a man furious, and he will not spare when he takes revenge." - Proverbs 6:34

"Wrath is cruel, anger is overwhelming, but who can stand before jealousy?" - Proverbs 27:4

The sources I have used for this quick survey is the 1910 Encyclopedia Brittanica article on Anti-Semitism and The Shield: Russia and the Jewish Question - Russian Intellectuals on Anti-Semitism, published in 1916.  Between these two, I certainly have a good collection of English and Russian views prevalent around the earliest part of the 20th century.

The point that these articles both agree upon is that Anti-Semitism was a German export that seems to have begun with Hegel.  Blaming things on the Germans, however, is really too easy and doesn't at all explain why nearby countries should have embraced German Anti-Semitism while rejecting bratwurst, sauerkraut and Octoberfest.   Banking was an industry that was dominated by Jews making them quite prominent as wealthy capitalists, even though most Jews were working class.  Socialism (and its twin, Fascism) was also on the rise at this time, thus, making the Jews the perfect bogey man for the demagogues. Thus, in much of Europe the anti-semites were closely allied to the socialists, including some parties that went by the name "Christian Socialist".

Russia seems to have been where the most action was taken during this period, and is also the most complicated.  The dysfunction of the Tsar's government was combined with the other agitations of the demagogues resulting in many of the Jewish bankers exiting the country, and this caused a further spiral down of the economy, which provided more fodder for the demagogues.  The Jews who stayed seem to have sided with the revolutionaries, and the revolutionaries were leftists, thus, making it hopeless to categorize the Jews, unless we want to label them as "Leftwing Capitalists".

The Shield emphasized the inherent Russianness of the Russian Jews, which is in direct conflict with the racist assertions of the Anti-Semitic movement.  Likewise, the German Jews were German, and this undoubtedly was true throughout Europe.  The end result of the period was that a disparate group of people who had not considered themselves a race were coerced by the fanatics to embrace such an identity:

"So far from injuring the Jews, it has really given Jewish racial separatism a new lease of life.  Its extravagant accusations, as in the Tisza Eszlar and Dreyfus cases, have resulted in the vindication of the Jewish character.  Its agitation generally, coinciding with the revival of interest in Jewish history, has helped to transfer Jewish solidarity from a religious to a racial basis." - Encyclopedia Brittanica, 1910.

Thus, the irony of the modern Jews having viewed themselves principally as a race, based on shoddy accusations by uneducated and/or malicious anti-Jews.  The holocaust was still to come at this point, but the Zionist movement is well underway.

As a Christian, some comments are needed about this period.  In Western Europe, modernist protestantism was dominant with its belief in the superiority of man's intellectual over the Bible, making it little more than atheism under a thin religious veil.  Catholicism with its emphasis on ritual and ritual and ritual wasn't really in any good position to intellectually address anything.  Russia still didn't have any kind of serious education system for the masses, so the people were not in a good position to study what the Bible taught for themselves.  In the US and to a lesser extent England, the study of the Bible was more common, which I believe to be the best remedy against anti-semitism.  This situation - that of Biblical literacy - however, has been confronted head on in the US so that those graduating from high school in the US today have never been taught anything correct about Christianity unless they were part of the tiny fraction that attended Sunday School at a plausibly Christian institution.  The same can be said for a good portion of America's Doctors of Philosophy, including many with theology degrees.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

The Afghan Wars 1839-42

This is a story of the madness of the English as they sought to, well, they don't seem to be quite sure, so neither should I be.  So far the English have managed to displace a popular tyrant in Cabul with an unpopular one who is known for a "mixture of timidity and duplicity" that leaves him despised and hated while the English are compelled to stay and keep him propped up.  The logic seems to have been something like the enemy of the enemy ... of my enemy is certainly going to be my friend, although the character of this leader is such that he would have had trouble being the friend of anyone, while the former ruler wasn't the enemy of the English.  The author gives this little note at the start:

"The Duke of Wellington pronounced with prophetic sagacity, that the consequence of once crossing the Indus to settle a government in Afghanistan would be a perennial march into that country."

Afghanistan wasn't any kind of western centralized government, but instead a collection of tribal groups that supported a central monarch.  Maybe.  Dealing with these leaders is what required an expert leader, which unfortunately was the one the English had just ousted.  Then there is this note on the character of the Afghan leaders:

"When historians write of Afghan treachery and guile, it seems to have escaped their perception that Afghan treachery was but a phase of Afghan patriotism, of an unscrupulous character, doubtless, according to our notions, but nevertheless practical in its methods, and not wholly unsuccessful in its results."

At the end of chapter three, the first year of the occupation has now ended, the former ruler, Dost Mohammed, has just given himself up.  The English can feel smug, and the catastrophe is still to come.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

The Birds

Merry Christmas!

Today we celebrate the coming of Christ.  Since many are fond are quoting sentimental things from the Bible, I will need to do the opposite.  Jesus said:

"Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth.  I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.  For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.  And a person's enemies will be those of his own household.  Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.  And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.  Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." - Matthew 10:34-39

And so Christ promises peace between his followers and God, in exchange with conflict with the world, reaching even into family relations.  I find this to be more reflecting of the times than the sentimental versions.  And yet it is the peace with God that is the most precious.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Pondering Anti-Semitism Part I: Etymology

This will (hopefully) be a series of short notes on this subject, which is more or less along the lines of the Protestant Dispensationalists.  This is a distinct view from the Eastern Orthodox, Romanist, and European state churches and is one of a few areas where I deviate from classical orthodoxy, although this is certainly not a central doctrine to classical orthodoxy.  Some of this is a reflection on a modern Russian Orthodox article, which was brought to my attention by Max.

The phenomenon of persecution of Jews is one that I want to get to, although admittedly I have very few original sources to go on, which really is crucial in properly understanding the subject.  Perhaps some will turn up along the way.

Etymology of Anti-Semitism:

Although the phenomenon of Anti-Semitism can be quite distinct from the origin or the word, the choice and origin of the word often gives some additional insights or nuances to the discussion.

We must begin with the root word "Semite".  This goes back to a Biblical origin with the names o the sons of Noah.  Shem (שם) is the father of those who settled in the middle east.  Shem gave birth to Eber (עבר), which I understand is the origin of the word, Hebrew (עברית).  Although perhaps technically a term referring to a people group and race, we primarily use Semitic to refer to a common set of languages that have similar patterns.  This includes Hebrew, Arabic, Aramaic, Babylonian, Akkadian and Ugaritic, and Amharic.  It does not include Persian, Hittite or Egyptian.

What has always been puzzling to me is why the term "Anti-Semitism" was chosen in the first place, since this clearly refers to a group that is both broader and perhaps distinct from those who have been the target of the attacks.  Checking Dr. Wiki, it seems that the first usage of the term Anti-Semitism was by a German Jewish Scholar, Moritz Steinschneider, in response to a French Scholar, Ernest Renan.  Both seem to be experts on Middle Eastern languages.  A follow up on this topic would be to read what both of these men had written.

The wiki article asserts that Renan was a proponent of the idea of Aryan superiority, which leaves me wondering if this notion is of French origin!  He also asserted that the European Jews were of Turkish descent, which would leave them as neither Aryan nor Semitic.  Reading between the lines, Renan was an atheist, and engaged in the sort of intellectual malpractice regarding the Bible that atheists are famous for.  At the same time, he had not fully distanced himself from the church, like most of the other modernists both in Europe and America.

I should stop here and give some sort of a wrap-up.  It is clear that the modern term Anti-Semitic is a reaction to atheist views of racial evolution that were prevalent in the 19th century.  The irony here being that even if I accept atheist notions of the independent evolution of different races, the concept of Semitic as applied to European Jews is deserving of an F.

Personally, I should prefer the term anti-Jewish to anti-Semitic, as this is much more accurate.  Anti-Zionist might be an alternate, to refer to those who are opposed to the Jewish state, but aren't necessarily anti-Jewish, like the orthodox Jews.  And so here is a list of the eras to which this category belongs:

Classical Era:  This would range from Antiochus IV to the Bar Kokhba revolt and would be characterized as a conflict between Judaism and Pagan rulers.  As the Pagan rulers always had a tight merging of religion and state, a religion that was distinct from the state and would not submit to the state was hopelessly conflicting.

Intermediate Era:  This is the various anti-Jewish events in the Christian world.

Modern Era:  There are two distinct types of anti-Jewish in the modern era with entirely different motives.  The first is the modernist Christian / atheist view which is hostile to Jews and/or Israel for reasons that are unfathomable to me.  Perhaps the visible claim that God exists and would work through a people group is sufficient to outrage them.  The second is the Mohammedan view, which is likewise hostile, but this relates to the tenets of their religion, especially that of Jihad, and the fact that it is mandatory for clerics to stir up jihad fervor in this religion, while it is always "safe" to direct this fervor at the Jews and/or Israel.

As a Christian, it is the era when the Christian religion was dominant and Jews were treated badly that deserves some exploration.  I don't think I will quite get there in this series, but at least I should start working in that direction and perhaps find out where the sources are for this.

Postscript:  Having written this, I checked my 1910 Encyclopedia Brittanica and found that they had a lengthy article on this topic which is certainly valuable since it predates most of the modern political correctness and revisionism.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Why there must be One China.

This comes from Herbert Giles' (1845-1935) "China and the Chinese", which was a series of lectures given at Columbia University in 1902.

"Theoretically speaking, the Empire of China is ruled by an autocratic monarch, responsible only to God, whose representative he is on earth.  

Once every year the Emperor prays at the Temple of Heaven, and sacrifices in solemn state upon its altar.  He puts himself, as it were, into communication with the Supreme Being, and reports upon the fidelity with which he has carried out his Imperial trust."


"And just as the Emperor is responsible to Heaven, so are the viceroys and governors of the eighteen provinces-to speak only of China proper-nominally responsible to him, in reality to the sex departments of state at Peking, which constitute the central government, ..."

Elsewhere, it appears clear that there can only be one legitimate ruler and one empire, because of this unique relationship between the emperor and heaven.

This generates some curious conclusions as we fast forward to our current era.  For example, the communists are technically atheists, so on what basis do they derive a "one China" principle?  As for Taiwan, their current leaders seem to be too muddled in their thinking to contemplate such lofty notions as a Heaven and how their authority might be related to it.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Looney DNA Analysis

This came from my sister from her DNA test:

"Great Britain 59%, Scandinavia 24%, European Jewish 8%, Ireland 6%, Finland/Northwest Russia 2%, Europe West 1%".

I was in some doubt as to whether or not Jewish was a race, but it seems to be.  Clearly my foray in to Russian history was needed to explore my "roots".  And it is good to know that my name, Looney, is connected to Ireland by DNA.

I am much disappointed that there wasn't any Vulcan or Klingon DNA found.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Lenin: "The revolutionary democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry"

Having finished this work, I now have some sort of understanding of what it is that he is trying to say, although Lenin insists that no one who is a member of the Bourgeois is capable of gaining such an understanding.  Of course Lenin himself came from the Bourgeois classes, as did all the other communist leaders, but we must let this bit of cognitive dissonance pass or we won't get through things.

Much of the thesis that Lenin is putting forward is that the Mensheviks want to have a democratic assembly and work with the liberal democrats (i.e. capitalists), and Lenin sees a hidden hypocritical agenda in this:  The Mensheviks will necessarily be coopted and assimilated into the Czarist/Bourgeois agenda, and the proletariat will be cheated out of their revolution.

Then there are the anarchist who see revolution as the end, and that action must always be from the lowest levels.  This Lenin sees as problematic.  The revolution isn't the end.  The revolution is the means to the end.  The end must have unlimited power to reform, thus, it must end in dictatorship.  The end must also have complete legitimacy, hence, it must be a democracy, never mind that democracy and dictatorship are mutually exclusive.  Lenin tries to merge these two by noting that dictatorship need not be that of an individual, and by extension proves that the dictatorship can include everyone, provided they are all empowered.  Finally, it must specifically enumerate who the dictatorship is allegedly for, and who it is not for.  Thus, it is for the factory workers and the peasants.  Only.  Don't ask any more questions.  Period.

Some of this discussion reminds me of America's persistent problem with RINO's (Republicans In Name Only).  They seem to have a somewhat opposite mentality to what Lenin claims will happen with the Mensheviks in that the RINO's routinely compromise with the Socialists, although Lenin honors the Mensheviks more by implying that they would need to be coopted first, whereas the RINO's don't even need that as an incentive.  The parallel breaks down if you go any further, because Lenin and the Anarchists are for completely overthrowing the legal framework, whereas America's Tea Party is for restoring the legal framework.

Another thing I sense from these writings is that the socialist in various groups have been brooding over power for a very long time, and this has caused them to carefully study history and generate a vocabulary for themselves.  The French Revolution figures very high on this, as well as the Paris Commune and the German Revolution of 1848.  Thus, to really put their thinking into perspective will require a more careful study of these events, along with the writings of Marx and Engels.

A final note is that there is not one reference to Christianity or the church in all these writings, which if I recall correctly was true to Trotsky's "From October to Brest-Litovsk" also.  This contrasts strongly with Leo Tolstoy's hatred for Christianity in his religious writings that were done towards this period.  Where was the church?

Monday, December 15, 2014

Vladimir Lenin: Two Tactics of Social Democracy in the Democratic Revolution

This work describes gives an account of the disputes over methods of accomplishing the communist takeover of Russia that were being proposed in the year 1905.  It is also a very sarcastic work, so I am having a little difficulty at times knowing if Lenin is advocating a position or citing a position for the purpose of mocking it.

The way I understand it is that Lenin is in favor of an armed overthrow of the government only, whereas others wanted a progressive set of changes towards socialism.  In this discussion a distinction that I wasn't aware of before shows up in the vocabulary.  The proletariat are the working poor of the cities, whereas the peasantry are the working poor of the country.  Lenin believes that these two large groups can be aligned in their revolutionary dreams, which is contrary to the belief of the other communists.

The problem as Lenin sees it is that Bourgeois democracy (i.e. capitalism) will both ally with the Tsar and co-opt the socialists, thus, precluding a revolution.  Thus, his insistence on armed revolution as being the only way to achieve communism.  What I found surprising in this was the degree to which Lenin was worried about capitalism:

"Since the rule of the bourgeoisie over the working class is inevitable under capitalism, it is quite correct to say that a bourgeois revolution expresses the interests not so much of the proletariat as of the Bourgeoisie.  But it is entirely absurd to think that a bourgeois revolution does not express the interest of the proletariat at all.  ...

In countries like Russia, the working class suffers not so much from capitalism as from the insufficient development of capitalism. ... The working class is therefore decidedly interested in the broadest, freest and most rapid development of capitalism."

Then it launches off into some confused speculation about how this should lead to Socialism. The only reasoning that would make sense to me is that having tasted the good life of Capitalism, and craving more, the masses should proceed to vote to get more, which leads to the transition to Socialism.  Throw in a few mendacious politicians who quietly change the laws to undermine capitalism, then blame the chaos they caused on capitalism, from which they are then given a populist mandate to implement socialist policies while enriching themselves, and there seems to be a logic to Lenin's thesis:

"The more complete and determined, the more consistent the bourgeois revolution, the more assured will be the proletarian struggle against the bourgeoisie for Socialism.  Only those who are ignorant of the rudiments of scientific Socialism can regard this conclusion as new or strange, paradoxical."

I am about half way through this work.

Herbert Giles: Religions of Ancient China

Herbert Giles (1845-1935) was a Cambridge Professor and Sinologist who left us with the Wade-Giles phonic system for Chinese.  This work is much too short for my liking, but at the same time contains a number of curiosities, along with perhaps a caution that his scholarship might be no more accurate than his phonic system.

Religions of Ancient China begins with a description of the oldest Chinese religion, which he asserts to be monotheistic with two separate names for God.  One is an abstract one, 天, while the other refers to a more animate deity, 上帝.  Gradually a large number of other spirits appeared, but the earliest Jesuit missionaries found these original terms to be so similar in concept to Christianity that they adapted them, although the Pope insisted on the variant, 天主, "Lord of Heaven", which confusingly matched another Chinese deity.  Confucianism tried to manage the multiplication of deities, but then Confucius was deified and a mess ensued.

Taoism had its beginnings primarily as a philosophical endeavor in speculating about theological matters.  But then Buddhism came along as a distinct religion, and we have this note:

"Each religion began early to borrow from the other.  In the words of the philosopher Chu Hsi, of the twelfth century, 'Buddhism stole the best features of Taoism; Taoism stole the worst features of Buddhism.  It is as though one took a jewel from the other, and the loser recouped the loss with a stone.'

From Buddhism the Taoists borrowed their whole scheme of temples, priests, nuns and ritual.  They drew up liturgies to resemble the Buddhist Sutras and also prayers for the dead.  They adopted the idea of a Trinity, consisting of Lao Tzu, P'an Ku, and the Ruler of the Universe; and they further appropriated the Buddhist Purgatory with all its frightful terrors and tortures after death."

Reading between the lines, Buddhism didn't have any significant philosophical theology until it encountered Taoism.  All this just sets up a big red flag in my mind regarding how little I actually know about Buddhism and Taoism, but it certainly reaffirms my suspicion that modern Westernized Buddhism is even further from original Buddhism than I had thought.  There is also a note that Chinese Buddhism would have been unrecognizable to Buddha.  My problem is that I have zero confidence in westerners to properly teach this subject, while the original texts aren't accessible to me.

Exodus. In 3D.

There is plenty wrong and much right in the story line, but I will leave that to others to talk about.  I just found the movie a visual treat, especially with swarms of locusts flying at you in 3D.  Too bad they didn't do this with the crocodiles.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Tolstoy: Resistance is Futile

Getting towards the end of Tolstoy's work, his rhetoric gives way to rage against the church, whether Eastern Orthodox, Romanist, or Protestant.  He then pronounces them to be so utterly corrupt that their destruction is inevitable.  Non-judgmentalism in action?

But let's rewind a bit.  There is a long winded Ecclesiastes style rant where he mocks all those who have not brought their life to a clear meaning and purpose.  Presumably he has found his own clear meaning and purpose, but I can't actually find a quote in this work.  Maybe I will run across this in a different work.  He vents against the idle rich and notes that their physical and mental health problems vastly exceed those of the working poor, while medicines cause them more problems than they solve.  While I can certainly appreciate this viewpoint, I wonder what he would think of today's large percentage of idle poor who suffer from obesity, STDs and various addictions, all fueled by government policies that are in turn inspired by his spiritual descendents in moralizing.

As for his true view of Jesus, we have this in Tolstoy's commentary on Jesus feeding 5,000:

"That many had brought provisions with them is evident from there being twelve basketfuls gathered of what remained, as we read in all the four gospels.  (If nobody had had anything except the boy, there would not have been twelve baskets in the field.)  Had Christ not done what He did, that is, the 'miracle' of feeding thousands with five loaves, what now takes place in the world would have taken place then.  Those who had provisions with them would have eaten all they had and would have over-eaten rather than see that anything should be left.  ..."  What I Believe, by Leo Tolstoy

And so Tolstoy reinterprets the text in order to eliminate the miracle:  In the Tolstoy retelling, many were secretly carrying food, and were enticed into sharing due to the example of Christ.  Based on this statement and several others, I think it is safe to say that Tolstoy was an atheist.  He did not believe that Jesus had any supernatural powers.  He was simply a teacher.  Where this gets problematic is that the disciples - the same fools or charlatans who twisted the story of the feeding of the 5,000 - these idiots are the ones who told us of the moral code that Jesus taught, apparently leaving nothing to the imagination by employing a pure literalism, which they completely failed to do elsewhere.  At this point it is important to note that Tolstoy is pretty much giving us a straight Mainline Christian teaching.  He goes on to prophecy the doom of the church:

"The life of the world in our time follows its own course, independently of the teaching of the Church.  That teaching has remained so far behind that men of the world hearken no more to the voices of the teachers; and indeed, there is nothing worth listening to, because the Church only gives explanations that the world has already grown tired of - explanations of an organization that is rapidly decaying."

Fast forwarding to our era, Christianity certainly has had a struggle, but this has mostly been due to atheists infecting the schools, seminaries and pulpits and systematically mis-teaching Christianity.  Yet contrary to Tolstoy's prophecy, Christianity is still growing in spite of the storm.

"All religious creeds, except that of the Christian Church, enjoin, besides the observance of certain rites, good deeds and forbearance from evil ones."

This is a fascinating statement in that it is in direct contradiction to those faiths which exist only for the purpose of providing health, wealth, and prosperity to their adherents, and the others which command their followers to kill, maim, enslave and torment others until world domination is achieved.  Still others demanded human blood or immoral sex acts.  But Tolstoy will have none of this.  All religions are good, except for the single exception, which is Christianity.  And if the non-Christian philosophies promote evil, it is only - in his mind - because they have accepted the teaching of the church.  This does remind me of Augustine's assertion that there were no moral teachings in the Pagan religions of his time.

I still have another 40 minutes of this rant to listen to.  One thing to note is that Tolstoy's religion has neither judges nor courts of any kind, so that there is "no controlling legal authority" for anything.  There is also no resurrection, and thus no final judgment after death, so he needn't worry if anything he says isn't quite correct.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Tolstoy: Religion in the Borg Collective

"This is the reason why those who believe in the happiness of an individual life cannot believe in the doctrine of Christ."  - What I Believe, by Tolstoy

The novel part of this work is the notion that there is no literal, bodily resurrection of the individual.  Tolstoy further claims that Jesus never taught the doctrine of any bodily resurrection, and he proceeds to dismiss all the statements that indicate Jesus did teach bodily resurrection as being figurative.  All the remaining new testament statements on this subject are ignored, while Tolstoy claims that Jesus was correcting the Pharisees in their erroneous notion of resurrection, which he deems to be a holdover from the most primitive and barbaric forms of religion.  The faith in a resurrection and heaven are mocked as a heretical perversion of the Christian religion and there is apparently no need in Tolstoy's religion to even speak of a judgment or hell.  In his view, we only have the now to do good and any energy expended in a hope for the hereafter will only distract from doing good in the present and, perhaps worse, tempt us to believe that we needn't give everything now in our struggle for good when there is a future in which we will be made perfect.  Instead, death is simply a state when our soul is assimilated into the collective oneness of God, as happened to Christ on the cross.

I see this as an attempt to merge an atheist theology with a pseudo Christian morality in a mix that more or less follows Mainline Christianity.  Since Tolstoy doesn't claim to have discovered this "correct" teaching of Christ until he was 55, it becomes much easier for him to imagine that he could fulfill the requirements.  Yet why bother?  His claim is that by following Christ's commands in detail we should have greater personal happiness.  Yet he ignores what Jesus really said, "take up your cross and follow me", as if this were to be a source of joy without the hope that Tolstoy denies nor the work of a Holy Spirit, which has not yet been mentioned in this work.  And if a madman deems that he will find personal satisfaction in robbing and killing his neighbor, he will never face a judgment, which is really where this religion is hopelessly defective.

One thing I did like that Tolstoy mentioned was the need to literally understand Christ's teaching regarding adultery.  He doesn't dwell on this like he does the other, unfortunately.  Today, the mainliners who follow this line of rhetoric have pretty much abandoned any attempt to restrain immorality and completely committed themselves to a doctrine of perversion.  Doing good to others is all about using someone else's money.  I still have a few chapters to go, so we will see what else is exciting here.  Will resistance be futile?  I can't be sure yet, but Tolstoy has accused the church of resisting Christ's teaching for 1,800 years.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

San Francisco Bay Area Drought Flood Warning

It is always one extreme or the other here in California.  The storm with flooding warning is here.  There is a drought story here from today's San Jose Mercury.  I included a photo of one of my neighbors who is happy to get outside after the current series of rains.

I don't know any songs about rain in Northern California, so this one from Southern California will have to do.

Friday, December 05, 2014

Greek Semester 1: Complete

What a relief.  There are two more semesters to go, but I will delay until the summer before starting the second one.  The first semester had us go through all the basic Greek grammar along with a few hundred vocabulary worlds.  The second semester supposedly has us going through the material again with an eye on the linguistics aspects.  I will get the books for the second semester and study ahead.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Tolstoy: What I Believe

This work was written by a 55 year old Tolstoy and is nearly 30 years removed from his trilogy on childhood.  From his testimony, he spent considerable time studying the Bible, reading commentaries and theologies, and discussing theology and moral principles with those around him.  The result is something that might be termed Tolstoyanist Dogmatics, except that it is presented more as a novelist might do rather than as a blinkered theology professor.  I have listened so far to about 1/4 of this work, so will give my preliminary impressions.

A key theme that Tolstoy is developing in the early part of this work is that the Biblical command, "do not judge", is an absolute command that covers all possible human judgements, whether individually or collectively.  He goes on to judge that almost all Christian thinkers prior to himself have judge wrongly in their judgement of the meaning of this phrase, which he judges to be a primary Christian imperative.  And he judges that he judged correctly.

From this description it should be clear as to what I think is the subtle flaw in his thinking:  Humans have a brain and a free will so that we might make judgments, and I have no doubt that Tolstoy made tens of thousands of judgments in the process of writing his work that condemned judging. Don't we judge what would be the most persuasive choice of words in order to entice others to judge that our judgment is the correct one?  And if he hadn't judged that his writing was worthwhile to others, would he have published it? Thus, he has already fallen into the trap of the Academic philosophers who dogmatically asserted that all dogmatic assertions are false.  Only the dead can escape judging.

The problem that Tolstoy stumbles over is fairly basic.  He quotes Matthew 7:1-2, "Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you."  We must interpret this in a way that is consistent with the rest of scriptures.  Thus, we go down a few more verses and we see Matthew 7:15-16, "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.  You will recognize them by their fruits".  Is this not a command to judge?  And if I judge wrongly with respect to a false teacher, will this not potentially be catastrophic?

The there are the contrasting verses, such as John 7:24, "Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment".  The issue here is not that judging is wrong, but rather that we should not expect to escape a final judgment where whatever standards we used are thrown back at us.  It is a command to judge correctly, because we ourselves will not escape judgment.  There are countless other verses to support this point, and once we go this way we are much more in conformance with Old Testament teaching.  Thus, I take this command more as a "Beware when you judge!".  Especially to be avoided are judgments that needlessly make pronouncements on the character of others.  But how is a novelist to function if he never makes a judgment regarding the character of those he writes about?  Stop it!  Looney, you may not be directly judging, but you are implying that he is a hypocrite and thus judging by stealth!

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

"About 100 brains missing from University of Texas"

It seems to me that brains becoming lost in institutions of higher learning is a problem that has been with us since the beginning of the university system about a thousand years ago.  Yet for the first time in history, a university is beginning to take notice, identify and quantify the losses, and take precautions to avoid a recurrence.  Maybe there is hope for the future?

Pondering Riots

The recent Ferguson events have me thinking of the 1992 LA riots.  I was flying back from the east coast and went into LA at night, which is usually a mass of lights going forever.  The situation was visibly different, since many blocks were blacked out due to the vandalism.  We normally make the final approach into LAX going from the land, due to the sea breeze coming off the ocean.  In this instance, however, the landing was reversed because air traffic control didn't permit the planes to fly low over the neighborhoods where shots were constantly being fired.  Eventually I got home to my worried wife with nothing more remarkable to note.

So has there been any progress since 1992?  One observation is that the chaos spread far and wide after Ferguson so that even San Francisco was treated to protests and vandalism, although formerly they had been safely separated from the chaos in Oakland.  In terms of the rhetoric, the main difference seems to be that the voices of the anarchists, social justice theologians, and ethicists are much stronger in pointing out the obvious fact that if there were no law enforcement, then there wouldn't be any police brutality.  And while we are at it, if there were no laws, then there would be no law breaking.