My own personal musings, wonderings, thoughts, and results of personal studies. Also, occasional comments on world events.

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Sunday, June 30, 2002
More terrorist thugs have been found hiding in Red Crescent ambulances. (Link via GedankenPundit.)


Orrin Judd thinks that the numbers of anti-semites in Europe identified by poll is probably low. He's almost certainly right. One of the problems with polls is that they tend to underestimate the prevalence of highly unpopular opinions. This is often because people want everyone to think they are nice. Consequently, people sometimes don't tell the pollster what they really think because they're afraid the pollster will think their mean, angry, etc. Seems odd when you consider that they'll probably never speak to this person again, but it does seem to happen.

So, the North Koreans sink a South Korean patrol boat and then accuse the US of trying to start a war. Cute.

Saturday, June 29, 2002
I've gotten a few e-mails from people who said they are praying for my health. Thanks. I thought some of you want to know that today is the best day I've had in a while. I was actually able to stay out of bed all day. Haven't had much trouble with dizziness today and the headaches weren't too bad either. (You can probably tell that by the amount of posting today.) Prayers are still appreciated and hopefully this thing will be licked soon.

Perhaps I just have low standards.

Joshua Sargent is the most recent Christian blogger (that I know of) to ask some variation of the question, "What are we doing and why are we doing it?" While I share his concern about the content of some blogs billed as Christian as well as the language employed, (thankfully I don't seem to have run into what he has on the language front) I'm not as concerned about whether I'm making a difference.

The reason for that is that I never expected to make a difference. In fact, I never really expected much of anyone would ever see this site. I started this out more as a hobby than anything else. I figured it would give me a reason to write. For me that is vitally important because it is when I write that I really develop my thoughts. The thing is that I have to have a reason to write. I rarely just sit down and start pounding out my ideas on scripture or anything else unless I have a reason. (Unfortunately, when politics is involved, being angry sometimes counts as a reason.) Anyway, basically, I saw this site as something to do in my spare time that would hopefully give me an chance to grow spiritually and intellectually.

It was actually a shock to me the first time some one actually linked back to one of my posts. (I believe that was Mark Byron actually.) At that point I hadn't even bothered to install a site meter because it had never occurred to me that there might be more than 5 or 10 people even reading what I was writing. As it turns out, there are quite a few people who read this site. (Not InstaPundit numbers, but the roughly 40 hits a day is more than I would have ever dreamed.) That's something of a blessing because people who read me often have there own blogs reading their responses to my writing actually gives me a chance to refine my thinking. (The result, as MarkV likes to say, of "iron sharpening iron.) I have found this to be a usefule experience.

I've also gotten e-mail from people telling me that they find my comments useful and uplifting. I never expected to have a chance to "sharpen my iron" or to uplift and encourage others. I find that this blog has already acheived two things (one personal and one less so) which I never expected. I guess my expectations were low, but they've already been far exceeded.

I guess the question now is, now that I know that people are reading this blog, should my own expectations change? At this point, I don't know.

On a related note, this whole introspection on blogging seems to be almost unique to the Christian elements. The only non-Christian blogger who I've read who's spent any serious blogging time asking "Why do I blog," was Seargent Stryker. He eventually chucked the whole thing and shut down his original blog and moved to a new one where he just does whatever he wants and doesn't worry too much about what anybody expects of him. For the most part, other non-Christian bloggers just seem to shut down when they reach that point. In the sites I visit in the Christian corner, this agonizing over why seems to be almost universal. I've even done a bit of it myself. (Some in this post.) I'm sure there's a good explanation for the difference, but I don't know what it is. (On the other hand, my evidence of a difference is entirely anecdotal. Maybe I'm imagining things.)


Lately many in my corner of the blogosphere have been tossing around the Old Earth - Young Earth debate. Surprisingly (to me, I don't know about anybody else) I haven't had anything to say on this issue. That's partly because I was feeling really bad while the debate was heaviest. But largely, its because I've decided it just doesn't matter a whole lot. I know what I believe, but its not worth fighting about as far as I can tell.

The normal reason that I know of that people find it really worthwhile to defend a Young Earth position is that this is the point where many who challenge the validity of the scriptures start out with. However, none of those I've seen arguing the Old Earth position have questioned the validity or inspiration of the scriptures. (I could have missed them, but I haven't seen any such references.)

All the Old Earth arguments I've seen accept the scriptures, they just don't see them the way the New Earth people do. As such, I see no reason to participate in the discussion on either side. I can't conclusively prove either position and I see no signs that those on either side are likely to be lost as a result of their position. Consequently, I just can't get worked up for the debate.(Addendum. This was not an attempt to go around saying who's lost and who's saved. It is just an observation that I don't see any evidence that your position on the age of the earth has any direct bearing on your salvation.)

I hope this is a sign of growth. There certainly was a time that I would have charged into this debate with both pistols cocked ready for a down and dirty shoot-out. Now none of this is to say that the debate is, per se, not worth having. Its just not one I can work up any enthusiasm for.

Somebody actually came to this site by Googling the phrase, "Robert Byrd Atheists leave the country." Scary thing is that at the moment, I come up 4th in this site. As far as I can tell, you've got to combine 3 or 4 posts to get this combination of words.


I was over at the Theology Department and noticed that B. Preston was commenting pre-destination and free-will. He had this to say in relation to prophecy:

But looking further afield, Calvinism helps explain how prophecy works. The standard for evaluating whether or not someone claiming to be a prophet from God is 100% accuracy. A prophet can make 100 prophecies, get the first 99 correct, but if #100 fails then he's a false prophet. Jeremiah 28:9 is one passage to cite as to a prophet's accuracy test. A prophet's source of knowledge is God, and God alone. If things are left to man's ultimate choosing and will, how then can God accurately predict through a prophet events of the future? He can't, because man's exercise of free will can ultimately override God's plan. In that scenario, even a prophet of God could fail, because God's own foreknowledge of events could fail.

This view overlooks several important points. One of those is that God's omniscience means that he knows not just what will happen, but what could happen given every possible permutation of events. This is so because God is non-linear. He stands completely outside time. As such, he can influence events to provide the proper stimulus, knowing that given a certain set of circumstances, I will react in a certain way. I am still free to do otherwise, he simply knows that I won't. But more than that, he is capable of doing the same with every person who has/is/will exist. Based on this knowledge, he could easily know what will happen in the future because he engineered the future to fall out as he planned. He is capable of doing all of that based on his knowledge. It seems to me that Preston's view places limits on the knowledge of God. I will grant that this does not prove that this is what God is doing. However, it seems to me that basing an argument for pre-destination on the premise that God doesn't have the capacity to operate in this fashion is both unsound and insulting to God.

Further, just because I say I believe in free will doesn't mean that I believe God never steps in and takes direct control of a situation. It just means that I don't believe this is how God ordinarily operates.

Probably my view of God's influence on this world could best be described as Temporal Engineering. He designed the universe knowing every possible event that could take place and influences man to make the choices that advance his will. Periodically man is simply not capable of getting from where he is to where God wants him to be. At those points, God intervenes directly to insure the result that is his will. This is why I have no problem believing in the absolute sovereignty of God and believing in free will. God's sovereignty is absolute. Man's free will is not. Man has free will only to the extent that it is reconcilable with His plans.

While I'm on this subject, I'll go ahead and comment on David Heddle's post on God's sovereignty. David describes three types of will belonging to God:

1. His Sovereign will- Those things which God has decreed and are not subject to change.

2. His preceptive will- Those things God wishes us to do, but allows us a choice.

3. God's permissive will- Those things God does not decree or desire, but which he allows. (For reasons only He knows.)

I'm not certain of the reason for dividing 2 and 3. It seems that in most instances 2 and 3 will be diametrically opposed. God wishes us to do 2, but He allows free choice in the matter, so we (rather frequently I'm afraid) choose to do 3. The will of God which gave us the freedom to choose 2 (which was his will) also allowed us the opportunity to do 3 (which his will allowed.) These categories are essentially 2 sides of the same coin. C.S. Lewis illustrated this point by describing a mother who informs her children that she will no longer clean there room for them. From now on, they must clean it themselves. That night, she comes in and finds the room a mess. It was her will that they clean the room, but her will allowed them the freedom to not do so. Another illustration would be the classes I teach part time at Oklahoma State. It is my will that everyone pass. For that matter, it is my will that they all get A's. I could guarantee this result with very little effort. I could simply give every one an A. But then the A would mean nothing. Instead, I lay down the conditions required to get an A and they either fulfill them or not. Neither are perfect analogies, but both illustrate how something can be God's will in one way and opposed to his will in another.

On the subject of God's sovereign will, it seems to me that everything God wills to happen falls under this category. God has absolute authority. Its just that most of the time, he does not excercise this authority through direct control. He influences us to make the proper choices. However, God has the right and the ability to exert direct control any time he so desires.

Because I hold these views, I'm not sure I see David's classifications of God's will as valid. Largely, I guess, because God's will seems to fluid to me to be able to categorize in any meaningful fashion. This is one of the flaws with systematic theology; The assumption that any system God might happend to follow is one we would be able to discern.

In answer to David's difficulty in understanding my positions on God's sovereignty, I can only offer this: God has absolute authority and absolute ability to assume direct control of anything anytime he wishes combined with the ability to predict and orchestrate the actions of everyone who ever lives. Compared to the sheer power of God listed here, man simply doesn't have the ability to interfere with God's plans, even when God has granted him free will. In fact, the more I think about, the more I think that it is Preston and Heddle's position that actually has a problem with God's sovereignty because they seem to be limiting his power and his knowledge.

This has been long and rambling, but I hope of some value.

BTW - I almost forgot this point. In 1 Peter 5:8 Peter warns us to resist the devil. If our faith is predetermined, what is the point of this charge. If we are of the elect, we will resist him and if we aren't, we won't. There doesn't seem to be anything we can do about, so why bother with this kind of instruction?

Apparently I'm not the only one who doubts North Korea's version of the Naval skirmish.

Well, occassionally even Tom Daschle can get something right. Speaking of the 9th Circuit's ruling on the Pledge:
This decision is nuts.

I found something disturbing in this story though. The guy who brought this suit in the first place claims he's getting death threats. This is totally unacceptable.

A would-be mass murderer has been sentenced to life in prison. The judges rejected the pleas of his lawyer to limit his term to five years. It seems that the judges were a little confused about why a guy willing to blow himself up, now wanted to be able to live out the rest of his life outside prison walls.
"This is an absurd situation – that someone who agreed to lose his life is suddenly showing interest in life and excitedly demanding a short jail sentence," the judges wrote.

So it is.

I remember hearing someone ask an interesting question several months back. I don't remember who it was or where, but the gist of the remark was this: Why is it that the Palestinians are always telling us how eager everyone is to be a martyr, but when the Israeli's actually kill one of these guys they get all outraged? Well of course the answer is that when the IDF kills him before he has a chance to get his mass-murder gear, he dies, but Jewish civilians do not.

Kevin Holtsberry has posted some thoughts on the issue of Free Will and God's Sovereignty. (By the time this is over, maybe I'll actually remember how to spell "sovereignty." For some reason, that's a word whose spelling escapes me.)

A guy in Britain who ran amok with a Samurai sword in a Catholic church two years ago has been released. Doctors say he's no longer a threat.

But Marjorie Wallace, chief executive of mental health charity Sane, said the public should not fear Strang.

"People with schizophrenia can live safely in the community provided they receive consistent care and treatment and a quick response if their condition deteriorates," she said.

Yeah, but will Ms. Wallace be the one in his way if his condition deteriorates and he decides God wants him to kill somebody else next time?

There's been a minor naval battle between North and South Korea. Of course both sides claim they were acting in self-defense after the other invaded their waters. I'm naturally suspicious of anything coming out of the Magic Kingdom of North Korea. Even if I wasn't, I'd find the claim that the South, "fired hundreds of bullets and shells," before the North Koreans returned fire to be, well, less than credible.

A Palestinian asks this question:
The people of Hebron have been under four days of curfew, being humiliated," said Fawzi Owaiwi, 79, who has not left his home, which is in view of the battered Palestinian compound, since Tuesday. "How would Americans feel if they were under this situation? Our people are asking for one thing: their legitimate rights. Americans should be fair.

How would I feel? Well, if I was in this situation for the same reason he is (My government was sponsoring terrorist attacks on my neighbors and calling for their total destruction.), I'd probably rise up in revolt against said government and try to install a government that wouldn't do such things. This would eliminate the need for my neighbors to keep invading my town looking for the terrorist. (Hey, he asked.)

Also in this story, I found this gem in reference to the baby bomber picture.

Ghassan Khatib, the Palestinian labor minister, said Friday that the Israeli Army released the picture to "tell the world that the Palestinians are teaching their children how to hate Israel and how to act against Israel and I just want to say that is correct."

Well, at least he's honest. And on this subject, one of the excuses being foisted on us about this picture is that it was "just" a joke. Let me just point out that we all know they weren't actually going to send this kid out on a suicide mission. Yet. But as far as I can tell, that's only because a kid this age doesn't have the ability to carry out a succesful attack. However, a society that can even joke about sending toddlers out with explosives strapped to it in an effort to blow people up is seriously diseased.

Update - I almost forgot. Our guy with a "question" also says that all the Palestinians want is their rights. If that's the case, they've got a pretty strange idea of what their rights are. Last time I checked, the PLO charter still called fort the destruction of Israel.

So the Palestinian deny that Arafat is suffering a degredation in his mental abilities. I guess that means that when he pulled a gun on his chief of security, he was acting normally. I feel so much better now.

Update: Here's some more information on this topic.

Here's an interesting column on the Pledge flap. I like the title: In God we trust . . . Calif. judges are another story

Hey, can we try this.

Apparently the Finance and Foreign ministers of India are about to trade places. Now, for us to do the same would mean Paul O'Neill becoming Secretary of State and Colin "Partner in Peace" Powell would move to Treasury. Somehow I doubt O'Neill would run around all the time insisting that we negotiate with Arafat. On the other hand, if Colin took the same strategy towards taxpayers as he does towards terrorists, the IRS would become a LOT easier to deal with.

Friday, June 28, 2002
Thomas Sowell says that the really important thing about the 9th Circuit's ruling on the Pledge of Allegiance is that it illustrates a disturbing trend of judicical usurpation of power.

Oliver Tseng has some good observations about God's sovereignty and free will.

Red Letter Edition
Matthew 5:21-23 ISV "You have heard that it was said to those who lived long ago, 'You must not murder,' and 'Whoever murders will be subject to punishment.' But I say to you, anyone who is angry with his brother without a cause will be subject to punishment. And whoever says to his brother 'Raka!' will be subject to the Council. And whoever says 'You fool!' will be subject to hell fire.

One of the mistakes people make is in thinking that Jesus presented new laws or a new morality. Under that view, you would look at these statements by Christ and assume that he was just giving us some new rules that were a little more expansive than the old ones. In point of fact, the law and morality had not changed. The law was just the bare minimum of expected behavior. What Jesus was telling his disciples was that God does not ask us for the bare minimum. He wants us to pursue His will. So to the one who says, "I have not slain men," (From Confessions of a Righteous Soul in the Egyptian Book of the Dead) Christ would reply, "But did you hate men?" The point is that we should not look at Christ's teaching as simply raising the bar on the minimum standard of acceptable behavior. Instead, we are to attempt to achieve perfection.

Orrin Judd is in rare form today. I'd suggest you at least scan everything he's written today. If you don't have time for that, at least read his idea about school vouchers.

Read this post now. It ought to warm your heart a little.

You know, in this whole predestination discussion, Robert Bauer may be the wisest of us all.
Finally, we can simply put it down to insufficient knowledge at this time, and have faith that all will be revealed eventually. In the absence of a better option, I'm sticking with this one.


David Heddle says that he wasn't able to understand my point about science yesterday. That's probably because I misunderstood his position in his original post.

I understood him to be arguing that God "mircomanages" the entire universe. It was probably the line about every atom in the universe that through me off. However, in his post on God's sovereingty today, he wasn't saying that at all. In fact he specifically disclaimed the idea that God goes around manually positioning each angstrom. The confusion was entirely on my part, I'm afraid.

All this talk though, reminded me of one of my great fears. That fear is of allowing philosophy to influence our theology. Ideally, we would all come to the scriptures with a clean slate. No preconceived notions at all. We would then read the scriptures and allow our doctrine to flow from our reading. Then our doctrine would form our theology. Finally, our theology would form our philosophy of the world.

My dialogue with David reminds me that this is very seldom what happens. All to often, the reverse is true. We start out with a philosophy about how the world works. Because of our disparate backgrounds, that philosophy can be truly diverse. Our philosophy influences which theological perspectives we can bring ourselves to accept. In turn, the theology we accept (how we believe God functions) will influence which doctrines we will accept. Then, with our doctrines already in hand, we come to the scriptures. By this point we have almost always guaranteed that we will find what we expected to find.

A very simple fact convinces me that this is just what is happening with David and I here: I read all the scriptures that David laid out to defend his position, and I simply don't see what he sees in those passages. In a couple of instances, I don't have the foggiest idea how he thinks the passage relates to his point.

None of this is meant as a jab against David. I'm not even saying that he is in fact doing what I describe. I'm virtually certain that I am though. Worse, I'm convinced that we all do it at least some of the time.

Early in the Church's history, the great struggle was with gnosticism. The gnostics had some pretty strange beliefs. The real problem wasn't really their beliefs though. The real problem was their approach to Christianity. The gnostics were steeped in Dualism. (As I understand it, it was the gnostics basic philosphy that there was the spiritual, which was all good, and the physical, which was all bad.) They allowed this philosophy to pervade all their thoughts about Christianity. They were engaging in a philosphical approach to theology. That is to say, they were trying to reason there way up to God rather than simply accepting his revelation. Their particular philosophy made it impossible to accept Christ as God and man simultaneously. They were convinced he must be one or the other. They therefore constructed elaborate explanations to explain Christ.

Eventually, the church stopped having problems with the gnostics. The reason was not that they had engaged the gnostics in some sort of theological battle and emerged triumphant. The reason was that the church became gnostic. Not in teaching. As far as I know, the church always condemned the teachings of the gnostics. What I mean is that they adopted the gnostics approach to theology and doctrine. They started with their philosophy and worked up.

I'm convinced that one of the major reasons for schisms among Christians is that we are still doing the same thing. We are allowing our philosophy to dictate our theology, our doctrine, and our reading of the scriptures. Because we start with different philosphies, it is hardly surprising that we view the scriptures differently.

Now, I've defined what I see as the problem. Do I have a solution? I wish. The only thing I know to do is try as hard as possible to make sure I approach the scriptures with as little baggage as possible.

Thursday, June 27, 2002
Christopher Johnson puts the ruling on the Pledge of Allegiance into perspective.

Red Letter Edition
Matthew 5:17-20 ISV "Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I didn't come to destroy them, but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not one letter or one stroke of a letter will disappear from the Law until everything has been accomplished. So whoever sets aside one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness greatly exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven!"

Warning. Philosophy and Theology ahead.

David Heddle has a rather lengthy post on pre-destination. I'm afraid I'm not up to an in depth analysis of David's post, nor am I up to digging through the scriptures copiously to devlop my thoughts on the subject. However, I've got a couple of thoughts to get off my chest.

1. David says that if the Calvinistic interpretation of pre-destination is rejected, that doing so leads to a big and complicated problem with the sovereignty of God. I disagree. This may be a difference of definitions, so let me be clear. Easton's defines sovereignty in reference to God as, "his absolute right to do all things according to his own good pleasure" I would pretty much agree with this definition, but I would add that it is His right and ability to do all things. I have no trouble recognizing God's right and authority to excercise absolute power with the belief that we have free will. (at least mostly) While I believe God could control everything in minute detail and has the right to do so, I also believe that he has chosen not to do so. I see no contradiction here. I also don't find this to be terribly complicated. For me at least, that solves this problem.

2. Until reading David's post, it had certainly not occurred to me that the Calvinistic doctrine extended pre-destination to all things. That God exerts specifc control on every particle in the universe. (It is the logical extension, it simply hadn't occurred to me.) It would appear then, that this essentially would divide Christians into two camps. (At least two relevant for this discussion. There are also those who deny the sovereinty of God outright, but we are not concerned with them for the moment.)

On the one hand would be what David refers to as the Arminians who would say that God created the universe and set it in motion under very specific rules that He laid out in advance. In that sense God is in control of everything because he defined how it would work from the beginning. He is also believed to be non-linear (existing outside of time) and therefore having perfect knowledge of how things would play out. He also reserved to Himself the right to insert Himself into the universe as He sees fit by inserting His Presence in some way in order to alter the results to work out as He desired. These events would be supernatural, i.e., miracles. Under this view, what natural scientists are studying are the fixed laws God set down at the creation of the universe.

On the other hand would be the Calvinists who would hold that God created the universe, but rather than setting up fixed rules which He occasionally interferes with, God is actually controlling the motion of every quark, atom, creature, and everything else. It seems to me that in this view, there would be nothing supernatural at all. Supernatural implies something happening outside the normal rules of nature. But if the normal rule of nature is God physically directing all things, than even the unusual, (such as virgin birth) would not be supernatural. At most, it would be God acting in a way that he does not normally act. Unusual, certainly, but by definition, not supernatural.

On this view, it seems to me, scientists are not studying laws of nature at all. Instead, they are actually attempting to map the mind of God. It also seems that on that view, those things which we normally call supernatural events are not explainable only because there is some nuance in God's thoughts which have not been discovered. Considering how totally unpredictable the social sciences are at predicting human behavior, you would think that sciences bent on mapping the mind of God would be both totally audacious in their goal (at least for a Calvinist scientist) and not likely to make much progress in actually predicting how things will work. However, the physical sciences, on the whole, do a pretty good job of predicting how the world will work. If the Calvinist view is correct, this success implies an incredible predictability in God's actions. (This may be true.) It also implies a staggering ability by unknowledgeable men to understand the workings of the mind of the unsearchable God. (This I find difficult to accept.)

I'm curious to know how, given this position, David reconciles his position as a Calvinist with his position as a scientist. Specifically, I'd like to know how he deals with what seems to me to be the sheer audacity of trying to predict God's thoughts. As I mentioned, under the view he espoused (God exerting direct, contstant control over every atom), this must be what scientists are doing. I'd also like to know how he reconciles the apparent success of science in predicting how things will behave in the universe with the scriptures which tell us the mind of God is unsearchable.

3. It seems to me that the Calvinist view has difficulty explaining the presence of sin, especially in the elect. The only credible explanation I have heard for the presence of sin and evil in the world is that God has given us free will. It is the only theory I have heard which at once reconciles the almighty power of God with his goodness. (All other theories tend to leave us with a God who is not really good because he permits or causes evil or a God who is not all-powerful because he is unable to prevent the evil which is against his will.) As David explains it, the Calvinist view essentially elminates free will, at least in one respect. They argue that it is impossible for those chosen by God to resist the call he gives them. But if free will is no longer considered important, from whence flows sin? At the very least, how are we to explain the need to sacrifice God's Son. When I read the gospels and epistles, I get the definite impression that God did not want to sacrifice His Son. He apparently did so because there was no other way. Certainly, Christ's prayer in John 18 speaks of someone who is going through a sacrifice because it is the only choice. The only way I can reconcile Christ's prayer with the power of God is to conclude that God himself put some sort of limitation on himself. That limitation would appear to be our free will. If free will is not an issue, then why would God not have simply made it impossible for the elect to sin? Then they would not be in need of redemption and Christ need not have died. This point is highly speculative, but I think deserving of consideration.

I had another thought that was percolating, but won't coalesce. I've already spent more time at this than I had planned. Back to bed with me.

Somebody stole my idea. Looks good so far. Check it out.

Wednesday, June 26, 2002

I've noticed some comments about my health so I thought I'd take a few moments to tell people what's going on. For several weeks I've been having episodes where I would get light-headed and have some minor equilibrium problems. Recently these spells have been more frequent and the equilibrium problems have worsened. So far, the doctors have not been able to determine what is wrong, although it appears to be some sort of problem with my left ear. Last Thursday, I was at work and started getting very dizzy. As I was walking down the hall, I blacked out and fell. Since that time I've been having headaches and dizziness almost constantly. All of this also makes it hard for me to hold a train of thought for very long, which is why I haven't been posting very much. I have an appointment next week with a specialist, so hopefully we can find and clear up these problems soon. In the meantime, I'll be posting whenever I can think straight for extended periods of time. Any prayer would be appreciated.

Red Letter Edition
Matthew 5:13-16 ISV "You are the salt of the world. But if the salt should lose its taste, how can it be made salty again? It's good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled on by people. You are the light of the world. A city located on a hill can't be hidden. People don't light a lamp and put it under a basket but on a lampstand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before people in such a way that they will see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven."

Marc over at Spudlets has a good point in response to my parenthetical question in this post.
So if the truth is not being taught, why remain? You can't be an effective agent of change outside of the organization. Everyone, though, has their breaking point, and eventually needs to be fed, rather than dishing out all of the time.

David Heddle had some comments on Christian Fellowship. I think you can stop trembling David, we seem to be pretty much on the same page on this one.

Tuesday, June 25, 2002

Thanks for the kind comments from Josh Claybourn. I'm still not feeling very well, but I've had a thought about bouncing around in my head for a while. My head's pretty foggy, but hopefully this will make sense.

David Heddle was talking about faith and belief. His comments reminded me that in a post several weeks ago, Mark Byron commented that it is easier for Protestants to leave their church than for Catholics. He may be correct, but I hope his reasoning is not. Mark indicated that Protestant churches are "interchangeable." Is this really true? To an extent, it may be, but logically, they cannot be completely interchangeable. There are reasons why there are different "denominations." One of the primary differences is that they teach different things. I would hope that the reason people are at a church is because they have compared the teachings of that church to scripture and found those teachings to be true. (If the truth is not being taught, why would you remain?)

Now the fact of the matter is that it is absolutely possible for people of good faith to examine the scriptures and come to different conclusions about a great many things. There will be differences of opinion. To the extent that churches teach different things, they have a difference of opinion about what the facts are. Paul chastised the Corinthian church for its divisions, but did sanction one type of division: Divisions that serve to separate the genuine from the false. This certainly seems to leave open the possibility that there will be those who call themselves Christians, but will be rejected. It certainly shows that we are to stand up for the truth.

However, are we required to separate ourselves from everyone who doesn't see exactly eye to eye on every passage? Dr. Heddle certainly doesn't think so. In fact he lists a number of things that he doesn't find to be vital to Christianity. I certainly sympathize with his belief that in heaven he will find out he was mistaken about a great many things. I believe I will do the same. Also, I can find nothing that indicates that a flawless theology is necesssary for salvation. But how are we to determine which things are absolutely vital?

I read a fascinating scholarly paper a few months ago. (The link is here but wasn't working at the time of this post.) The article was about who it is acceptable to have fellowship with. I will have to summarize since I can't access the article at the moment, but the premise was structured around this passage.

John 17:20-23 ISV "I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their message, that they may all be one. Just as you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be one in us, so that the world may believe that you sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, so that they may be one, just as we are one. I am in them, and you are in me. May they be completely one, so that the world may know that you sent me and that you have loved them as you loved me.

The author's premise was based on the fact that Jesus prayed that those who believed through the message taught by the apostles would be united. From that he launches into a discusion that concludes with the idea that we should have fellowship with all those who teach what the apostles taught about salvation, irregardless of how far off base we think they are on other doctrinal issues. He did not say we shouldn't endeavor to teach them better on those issues, only that those issues are not vital. They are the things that won't make any difference if we get to heaven and find out we were wrong. (Essentially the artilce divided doctrine up between saving orthodoxy, the actual message of salvation on which there can be no compromise, and sustaining orthodoxy on which there can be differences of opinion.)

I found the article to be an immense comfort because it helped me to channel my energies into the most effective areas. It also convinced me that some battles simply aren't worth fighting. At the same time, I look around and I see that many churches teach things about salvation which I cannot reconcile with the message of the apostles, no matter how much room for interpretation I try to allow for. Based on what I have seen some churches teach, they simply do not seem to be teaching people the same message of salvation that the apostles taught. I must conclude, with sadness, that no matter what they believe about themselves, they are not part of the body.

Now when I find people like that, what should I do? Well, when Priscilla and Aquilla hear Apollos teaching an incomplete message, "they took him home and explained God's way to him more accurately." I think that's good advice for me as well.

So, to the question, "Are Protestant churches interchangeable?" I would have to answer, "Only to the extent that they teach the same message of salvation taught by the apostles."

I hope this post makes a modicum of sense as I've been writing it in something of a daze. I also hope it was helpful to someone.

Monday, June 24, 2002
I'm still not feeling very well at all. Posting is going to be rare to nonexistent until my health improves. I apologize to my regular readers and I'll try to get back on track as soon as possible.

Friday, June 21, 2002
Sorry about the lack of posting, but I'm not feeling at all well today. I'll try to get back in the groove tomorrow.

Thomas Sowell has some interesting things to say about the Supreme Court:
The pretense that these judicial self-indulgences are based on the Constitution has been dressed up in words about protecting the "values" of the Constitution -- as distinguished from following its plain words and the meanings that those words had when they were written. Since the whole point of a constitution is to restrain what all branches of government -- including courts -- can do, escaping from its plain words in the name of "a living constitution" turns it into a dying constitution that means whatever judges happen to like.

Thursday, June 20, 2002
Read this story. Then write the President at and tell him what you think about rewarding the people who did this of with their very own country. (Link via Little Green Footballs.)

Christopher Johnson isn't at all impressed with the administration's reaction to the latest round of murders in Israel. Neither am I.

NRO confronts dishonesty about Jihad.

Now this is a somewhat bizarre story.

Note to search engine users. People keep coming to this page via search engines looking for the words to Toby Keith's "Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue." I don't have them.


Well, this isn't encouraging news. The F-16s dispatched to intercept a plane in White House airspace arrived four minutes too late. This raises the question of why we don't actually have planes flying Combat Air Patrol while the President is in the White House.

And on that subject, the same Secret Service who had the President flitting all over the country on September 11th didn't even bother to tell him about this potential threat, even though they were evacuating reporters and staff. Ari Fleischer says the President has complete confidence in the Secret Service. I do not. (BTW - I'm not questioning the Service's treatment of the President on Sept. 11th. I think they acted properly then. That is what makes this story so inexplicable.)

Red Letter Edition

Matthew 5:10-12 ISV "How blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to them! "How blessed are you whenever people insult you, persecute you, and say all sorts of evil things against you falsely because of me! Rejoice and be extremely glad, because your reward in heaven is great! For that's how they persecuted the prophets who came before you."

Jesus makes it very plain that following him will not be easy. You will be persecuted. As David Heddle noted, you will be called names. We should have no illusions that in this life, following Christ will make our lives free and easy. But, we have a promised of better things to come.

Orrin Judd has quite a bit to say about the Supreme Court's death penalty decision today. This paragraph nicely isolates the poor logic of the Court;
There's a flip side to all this too. The mainstreaming of the retarded into society has gone way too far if we're allowing people who we can not hold morally accountable for their actions to roam the streets. For a society to function it is necessary for each citizen to accept responsibility for himself and his actions. If you can't do so, it seems fair to say that you can't be a full citizen with full civil rights. In order to protect such people and ourselves from the dire consequences that may flow from their uninformed actions--for instance, the defendant in this case, Daryl Renard Atkins, had "20 previous felonies on his record" when he committed the murder for which he was sentenced to death--it may well be necessary to incarcerate them in some way, shape, or form--most likely in state-run medical facilities--not as punishment but as a way of supervising them.

Just think of the noise the ACLU would make if we actually did this though.

GedankenPundit compares the administration's Israel policy to day trading.

So the President's speech is off for the time being because of the bombings of the last few days. Presumably the Administration is hoping that things will get better, and then the President can give his speech.

If I used this strategy to invest our 401(k) money my wife would kill me, and she'd have good reason to. The market's going up!! Let's get in!! The market's going down!! Let's get out!! That's how you lose your shirt. The fact that day-to-day events in the Middle East can have such a large effect on declarations of American policy tells me that no one in the Administration is doing his homework. I'd never pick stocks based on what happened today, or yesterday, or even a month ago. I pick stocks for long-term value, and I hold stocks for years. Trying to ride the daily, weekly or even monthly ups and downs of the market isn't investing; as the good folks at the Motley Fool like to say, that's gambling.

So it bothers me that the Administration has put itself in the position where speeches do or don't get delivered based on how good things look on any particular day. Someone in Washington had better do some thinking and come up with a viable long-term position. Someone there had better look at the players, decide who our friends are, and stick with them.

Otherwise, the President is just day trading.

As depressing as this comparison is, I'm afraid he's got a point.

Read this now. Link via Best of the Web.

Best of the Web has some observations about civil liberties and the current war.

It's established U.S. and international law that the government has the power to declare a citizen an enemy combatant and hold him for the duration of the war. But the Justice Department's position here goes too far. Without judicial review, it would be too easy for an administration to abuse this power.

On the other hand, civil libertarians should take note of two points: First, there's no reason to think the current administration has abused this power. Second, the administration's position on judicial review is itself undergoing judicial review. Civil liberties are alive and healthy in post-Sept. 11 America.


In Bangledesh, the President was asked (and agreed) by his party to resign because they felt he didn't show proper respect to a predecessor. In the US Bill Clinton's party defended him to the end, even after he desecrated his office. I'm confused.

Executing the marginally retarded. Eugene Volokh posted links to this article on the Supreme Court's decision as well as Justice Scalia's dissent. (Yes, he posted the opinion too, but I didn't find it compelling enought to get past the first few lines.) Here's one of Scalia's observations:
Once the Court admits (as it does) that mental retardation does not render the offender morally blameless . . . there is no basis for saying that the death penalty is never appropriate retribution, no matter how heinous the crime. As long as a mentally retarded offender knows “the difference between right and wrong,” . . . only the sentencer can assess whether his etardation reduces his culpability enough to exempt him from the death penalty for the particular murder in question. (Emphasis in original. Ellipses represent omitted citations.)

More murders in Israel. Israel is calling up more reservists.

Pakistan is holding seven men in connection with the bombing of the US consulate. All seven belong to Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a Sunni Muslim group that spends most of its time attacking other Muslims.

I was having trouble formulating my thoughts on the new McCain-Feingold Bill. John Hawkins doesn't appear to have that problem.

Fred Barnes on The Palestinian State:
The State Department recently persuaded him that Palestinian conduct would improve and terrorism would cease if only Palestinians had real hope of statehood. And Bush agreed to give a speech supporting a provisional Palestinian state, one without final borders or other details worked out with Israel, but a state nonetheless. The one condition: Palestinians must first clean up their act a bit, reforming Yasser Arafat's administration and cracking down on terrorists. So what happened when news of this upcoming speech spread? More Palestinian terrorism.

That just about sums up the whole messy situation, doesn't it?

Gary Peterson has some thoughts about study Bibles. Like Gary, I have used the Life Application Bible, and like Gary, I have found places where the study aids were misleading or just plain wrong. This is, of course, something that cannot be avoided in any study Bible or commentary. When humanity attempts to interpret the Word of God, we will inevitably make mistakes. This is part of the reason I have a problem with the increasing prevelance of study Bibles. People seem to be putting too much emphasis on flawed human writings.

Now I certainly believe that the mass murders going on in Israel deserve more attention than they sometimes get. However, I don't understand why the latest attack would have hurt the stock market. Wishful thinking aside, the attack didn't change the political climate anywhere by ane appreciable standard. The chances of peace aren't any less because of the bombing. Why would this spark a big sell-off?

Now as an accountant, this hurts.


Well, another mass murderer struck in Israel. Seven people were killed yesterday and the Guardian managed to publish an entire story about the murder without ever actually mentioning the victims. We know how many people died. That's it. We don't have a single name. We don't know how old they were from this story. I couldn't even tell you the of women to men. I'm afraid we've become desensitized to the whole thing. If I were the publisher of a newspaper, I'd require every story about a bombing in Israel to have one paragraph on each victim before discussion of the policy implications would be allowed.

It looks like Israel may have struck on a good idea. They are apparently goint to seize land from the PA every time there is an attack. I think its a good idea. Suicide attacks keep happening because the Palestinians are convinced that they are weakening Israeli resolve. Some of them might think twice if they knew that one of the results of the attack would be an immediate seizure of land by the IDF.

Of course there is one tactic that would almost completely end these attacks. Israel will never use it though. They won't use it because they are civilized. Once a bombing happens, they usually know who did it. They know who the faimily is. Shoot, sometimes the family gives an interview praising their brave son. How long would the bombings last if it was known that if you blow yourself up in a pizza parlor the IDF will locate every member of your family and execute them? I suspect things would begin to change dramatically. As I said, Israel will never do it.

The point is not that I think they should. They manifestly should not. The point is that it is a tactic that would probably work, but has not been pursued. The thing to remember here is that lots of people genuinely believe that Israel's treatment of the Palestinians is somewhere between that of Hitler and Satan. They are portrayed as murdering, fascist, nazi, racist blowhards with no respect for human rights. Yet they don't take this action that would work. They don't do so because the stories about the IDF from the PA are just that, stories. If Israel was the kind of place Arafat describes, they would kill the families of terrorist. They'd do much worse and be more arbitrary. The very fact that Arafat is still around to call the Israelis a bunch of Nazis is prima facia evidence that he's all wet. If his statements were true, he'd be dead.

Wednesday, June 19, 2002
It's a good thing this didn't happen before the collapse of the Soviet Union. Every time the Soviet people said they wanted democracy, the government could just point out the "purple M&M fiasco" and everyone would have just said, "Oh, good point. Hadn't thought of that. Sorry to bothe you." Of course they would then go back to standing in line for bread for 3 hours.

Red Letter Edition

Matthew 5:1-9 ISV When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a hillside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he opened his mouth and began to teach them, saying,
"How blessed are those who are destitute in spirit,
for the kingdom of heaven belongs to them! "How blessed are those who mourn,
for it is they who will be comforted!
"How blessed are those who are humble,
for it is they who will inherit the earth!
"How blessed are those who are hungry and thirsty for righteousness,
for it is they who will be satisfied!
"How blessed are those who are merciful,
for it is they who will receive mercy!
"How blessed are those who are pure in heart,
for it is they who will see God!
"How blessed are those who make peace,
for it is they who will be called God's children!

This part where Christ promises all these wonderful blessings is a great comfort. Of course, we usually don't like the next few verses so much. I'll try to hit the tribulations of faith tomorrow.


I linked to this story by David Heddle this morning, but reading it made me think of something from my own history. First though, I want to say that David's story about his son ought to make all of us think long and hard about making sure our projects are oriented on God's goals not ours. His story particularly struck me because he talked about the members of his congregation wanting to have a school with a "classical education." Over the last couple of years I've become more enamored with that idea. This is largely because I've started reading lots of old books. In doing so, I've found quite a bit of evidence of the degredation in education over the last 100-150 years. I bring this up because if I'd been in David's congregation, I could have easily become enamored with the idea of a classical education. I could have fallen in love with the idea so much that I fell right into the trap that so many in his congregation apparently did. I would have been doing something that I thought was for God, but was really for me.

And that's what I really want to talk about. David mentioned something about finances in his post.

If what you intend to do is really for God’s glory, then you should trust Him to provide the resources.

This is an example of a sound principle that gets people in lots of trouble. The problem of course is determining if what you are doing is really from God. I also have a Christian school story.

I attended a Christian school from the 6th grade on through high school. Not long after I started school there, the board of the school found a building that had been taken back by a bank and was being offered at a deep discount so the bank could get it off their books. It seemed like such a good deal. Everyone was just sure that this building must have been a gift from God. A deal was struck quickly and a remodel of the building began.

For about a year and a half things seemed to be going fine, but there was trouble on the horizon. You see, the cost of the new building was far and away above the rent expense in the old building. The school did not have the money to keep up the loan payments on the new building and no plans to get it. (The fact that they had substantial loans on the building should have been a warning sign right there, but this isn't really a church finances story.)

In retrospect, everyone had been sure the building was a God given plan and that he would provide the resources. That is not the problem. The problem is that very little was done to actually try to verify that this was the will of God. While I was too young to really understand at the time, I have talked to my parents and others who had seen some of this going on. From the information I have gathered, it seems very likely that everyone prettty much made up their minds that they wanted to do it and then convinced themselves it was God's plan.

I can certainly understand that. There have been times in my life where I thought I knew what God wanted, but my plan crashed and burned. When looking back, I see that I was not so much asking God to tell me what he wanted as informing him of what I'd already decided and offering him a veto. Then I didn't pay much attention for a while just in case he did want to veto my action. Usually when I fall into this trap, things go horribly wrong. There have been a couple of times that I've acted in this manner and then felt God holding me back. I assume these were instances where what I wanted to do would have been to big a disaster for me to be able to recover.

I said all of this just to offer a warning which I will now try to sum up.

1. It is true that if what you are planning to do is from God, you should go ahead and move forward with faith that God will provide.
2. If you are going to do that, it is incumbent on you to go to great length to make absolutely sure that the plan in question really is God's will. This will require an open mind, lots of intense study, extensive prayer, time to meditate, a willingness to listen when God calls (sometimes He whispers), and the ability to accept God's decision. The willingness to accept is especially important if the answer is no.
3. The knowledge that God will provide the resources for those things that are part of His will is no excuse for poor planning.


Mark Byron launches into yet another trip into joytron land. Speciically he's looking at government programs that may slow down the economy, but provide a boost to overall well-being. In his discussion of the FDIC he lays out a fairly good argument in support of deposit insurance as a good idea. What he totally failed to address is why the government should be mandating such a program. Just because something is a good idea, it does not necessarily follow that the government ought to do it.

I am generally suspicious in nature, mostly because I know that humanity is a fallen race. I see great danger in allowing government to amass more power than it actually needs because I believe that concentrated power almost always leads to increased corruption. I see no reason why deposit insurance couldn't be optional. Some banks would have it and some would not. Those people who believed deposit insurance was important would use banks that had it. Those that didn't would not.

Byron also talks about agricultural price supports. Despite spending much of my life in rural areas, I must plead rational ignorance on this subject. About all I have to add is that I have a general aversion to price controls of any kind and I can't say that I was convinced to think any differently. As I say though, my actual knowledge in this area is to limited to provide any useful analysis.

Well, I finally got the Nigerian e-mail scam letter. The one which claims to be from an attorney who has a client who desperatetely needs your help to get the illegal funds out of the country. Can anyone explain to me why you would seek a "reliable and trustworthy partner" with random e-mails?

If anybody reads this page, but doesn't read David Heddle, I hope they will at least read this post. The issues he raises ought to have us all asking questions about whether the things we're doing are really for God.

If we're going to discuss economics (in any sense) I offer for consideration today's column by Walter Williams. It is, of course, much more pessimistic than most of our conversations to date. It is probably also more realistic.

Michelle Malkin has some thoughts about the end of the "F."

GedankenPundit has some more good reasons to doubt peace is possible between Israel and the Palestinians.

Check out Happy Fun Pundit on bad airplane reportage.

Oh and while I'm at it, there's the PLO charter:
Article 15: The liberation of Palestine, from an Arab viewpoint, is a national (qawmi) duty and it attempts to repel the Zionist and imperialist aggression against the Arab homeland, and aims at the elimination of Zionism in Palestine. Absolute responsibility for this falls upon the Arab nation - peoples and governments - with the Arab people of Palestine in the vanguard. Accordingly, the Arab nation must mobilize all its military, human, moral, and spiritual capabilities to participate actively with the Palestinian people in the liberation of Palestine. It must, particularly in the phase of the armed Palestinian revolution, offer and furnish the Palestinian people with all possible help, and material and human support, and make available to them the means and opportunities that will enable them to continue to carry out their leading role in the armed revolution, until they liberate their homeland.

Article 16: The liberation of Palestine, from a spiritual point of view, will provide the Holy Land with an atmosphere of safety and tranquility, which in turn will safeguard the country's religious sanctuaries and guarantee freedom of worship and of visit to all, without discrimination of race, color, language, or religion. Accordingly, the people of Palestine look to all spiritual forces in the world for support. (Editorial comment:Take a look at all the other Arab nations, including the Saudi entitiy, and tell me how likely freedom of religion in a Palestinian state is.)

Article 19: The partition of Palestine in 1947 and the establishment of the state of Israel are entirely illegal, regardless of the passage of time, because they were contrary to the will of the Palestinian people and to their natural right in their homeland, and inconsistent with the principles embodied in the Charter of the United Nations, particularly the right to self-determination.

Article 20: The Balfour Declaration, the Mandate for Palestine, and everything that has been based upon them, are deemed null and void. Claims of historical or religious ties of Jews with Palestine are incompatible with the facts of history and the true conception of what constitutes statehood. Judaism, being a religion, is not an independent nationality. Nor do Jews constitute a single nation with an identity of its own; they are citizens of the states to which they belong.(Italics are mine throughout.)

No one has ever revoked this charter. How are you supposed to live in peace with people who believe: 1) your existence as a nation is a fiction, 2) your state is illegal, and 3) that it is their God-given obligation to fix 1 and 2 by force? Even if you believe the PLO charter is 100% right, you have to admit that it is incompatible with the notion of a Palestinian state and a Jewish state living side by side in peace.

In point of fact, that is exactly what a large number of Palestinians do believe and there actions prove it.(See the interview a few posts down.)

Tuesday, June 18, 2002
For more on why I doubt a peaceful resolution is possible with the Palestinians, watch this. Then look at this. (As an addendum read this.)

An excerpt from a interview with the mother of a mass murder.* (Translated by Memri.)

"Muhammad was willing to carry out any martyrdom operation... He swore to me that the only reason he loved life was Jihad. He would say to me that if his turn for Jihad did not come he would quit the military arm of the movement, take his weapon, and go to the battlefield to fight on his own."

"He tried several times. He would go out to the Al-Muntar road, taking his gun and bombs, but an opportunity did not present itself. He would return with his blood boiling because he hadn't managed to carry out an operation. He would brandish his weapon and tell me: 'Mom, this is my bride.' He loved his gun so much."

Here we have a guy who refers to his gun as his bride. His mother says he loved his gun. Why doesn't Rosie O'Donnel give the NRA a break and start trashing these guys?

"He would tell me, 'I am going out now [to an attack]. I cannot control myself.' I would answer him, 'You will yet have a great opportunity. Be patient, plan well, so that you don't sacrifice yourself in vain. Act with your mind, not your emotions...'"

"On the day of the operation, he came to me and told me: 'Now, mother, I am setting out for my operation.' He prepared for the operation two days in advance, when the video was filmed. He asked me to be photographed with him, and during the filming he brandished his gun. I personally asked to make the film so as to remember."

My sister died four and a half years ago. My mother still hasn't recovered. After seeing that, the idea of a mother actually wanting to revel in her son's death is more than a little frightening. In fact, it totally freaks me out.

"He set out to carry out the operation, and when he got to the area he spent the night with his friends there. I was in contact with him and I asked him about his morale. He told me he was very happy. Indeed, I saw his face happier than I had ever seen it."

"He set out for his operation with cold nerves, completely calm and confident, as if convinced that the operation would succeed."

"But I worried and feared greatly that the operation would not succeed, and that he would be arrested.

Just think about what kind of sicko operations this implies. In a normal military operation, mothers worry that their children will die in combat. Here we have a woman who is afraid her son won't die on his mission.

I prayed for him when he left the house and asked Allah to make his operation a success and give him martyrdom. When he entered the settlement, his brothers in the military wing [of Hamas] informed me that he had managed to infiltrate it. Then I began to pray to Allah for him."

"I prayed from the depths of my heart that Allah would cause the success of his operation. I asked Allah to give me 10 [Israelis] for Muhammad, and Allah granted my request and Muhammad made his dream come true, killing 10 Israeli settlers and soldiers. Our God honored him even more, in that there were many Israelis wounded."

"No really, it's just fine for my son to die. As long as he takes a bunch of Jews with him when he goes, that is."

"When the operation was over, the media broadcast the news. Then Muhammad's brother came to me and informed me of his martyrdom. I began to cry, 'Allah is the greatest,' and prayed and thanked Allah for the success of the operation. I began to utter cries of joy and we declared that we were happy. The young people began to fire into the air out of joy over the success of the operation, as this is what we had hoped for him."

Does anybody have figures on how many Arabs have been killed when some idiot fired his machine gun in the air to celebrate something? As much as it seems to happen, I would expect the numbers to be pretty high.

"After the martyrdom [operation], my heart was peaceful about Muhammad. I encouraged all my sons to die a martyr's death, and I wish this even for myself. After all this, I prepared myself to receive the body of my son, the pure shahid, in order to look upon him one last time and accept the well-wishers who [came] to us in large numbers and participated in our joy over Muhammad's martyrdom..."

The thing that's scary is that as far as I can tell, this woman is a perfectly normal Palestinian. That's why I'm pretty sure that Israel can never be at peace with a proposed Palestinian state. You'll still have all these people running around who had mothers that taught them that the most important thing in life is killing Jews.

*=Editorial choice. No more anguishing over what to call these people. A mass murderer is someone who kills several people, usually at one time. From now on, I'm calling a spade a spade.(And a mass murder a mass murder.)

Okay, if you want to take a trip into a dream world, read this article. I especially liked this:
The violence "is setting back chances for peace," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Tuesday.

You think? You know one of the things that really bugs me about this? We pay for the State Department to come up with idiotic drivel like this.

If I was elected President, I would have two goals. One of them would be 100% turnover at State in less than one year. My other goal? Thanks, but considering my job as a CPA, I think I'll just have to keep the specifics under wraps. (But it involves a certain agency.)

Red Letter Edition
Matthew 4:18-22 NAS Now as Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who was called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. And He said to them, "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men." Immediately they left their nets and followed Him. Going on from there He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and He called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him.

Even today, Jesus still calls people to follow Him. This is sometimes a life altering experience. (It was for these men.) It often requires sacrifices. (They left their jobs and families behind.) There is often great risk. (Most people in this day and age earned enough in a day to be able to eat that day and no more. These disciples were risking their ability to eat.) When Jesus calls to you, "Follow me," what will you be willing to leave behind?

John Hawkins asks:
How many Israeli school children and women waiting for buses have to die before we get serious about this? 100, 200, 500, 1000, 10,000? Would that be enough or would we still be calling for "restraint" even then?

It is a good question. I wish I knew the answer.

Read this postby NZ Bear now! (Linked via MCJ)

On the subject of Christian economics, in the real world sense, I've got a thought here. I'm going to start out with a quote from CS Lewis called, "Christianity and Literature."
And if we enlarge the idea of Christian Literature to include not only literature on sacred themes but all that is written by Christians for Christians to read, then, I think, Christian Literature can exist only in the same sense in which Christian cookery might exist. It would be possible, and it might be edifying, to write a Christian cookery book. Such a book would exclude dishes whose preparation involves unnecessary human labour or animal suffering, and dishes excessively luxurious. That is to say, its choice of dishes would be Christian. Buth there could be nothing specifically Christian about the actual cooking of the dishes included. Boiling an egg is the same process whether you are a Christian or a Pagan. In the same way, literature written by Christians for Christians would have to avoid mendacity, cruelty, blasphemy, pornography, and the like, and it would aim at edification in so far as edification was proper in the kind of work in hand. But whatever it chose to do would have to be done by the means common to all literature; it could succeed or fail only by the same excellences and the same faults as all literature; and its literary success or failure would never be the same thing as its obedience or disobedience to Christian principles.

I think that what Lewis was trying to get across was that anytime you take an ordinary field of study and amend it with the word Christian, you don't automatically get a new field of study. In the field of Christian economics I believe this applies as well. It seems to me that "Christian economics" is actually two separate fields of study that have converged. Economics is a social science that serves to tell us what methods will be more or less successful in accomplishing certain objectives. Christianity is a theological, moral, and ethical system (plus a whole lot more, but those are the things important in this essay) that tell us both the goals we should be chasing and the methods that are permissible.

In essence, we would first look to scripture to find out what goals a Christian should want an economic policy to accomplish. We would then study economics to discover which methods could accomplish those goals. Then, we would return to Christian principles and determine if any of the options offered by economics are forbidden by Christian principles. If we find some policy offered by economics is in conflict with Christianity, no amount of utilitarian arguments should convince us to accept it. The ends almost never justify the means.

This applies in other area as well. Lots of people try to convince Christians who oppose therapeutic cloning that they should support it because it has the potential to save so many lives. They fail to understand that most of us don't oppose these procedures because we believe they will be ineffective. Christian principles tell me that killing one arbitrary person in order to save the life of another (or even thousands) is wrong because that life was not mine to give. We call it murder. To me, it is evident that human life begins at conception. When I combine those two thoughts, I have no choice but to call therapeutic cloning murder. I therefore oppose it as an unacceptable method of medical science. Whether it will actually work or not is completely beside the point.


An observation (and request) on Christian economics. My understanding when Mark Byron first started this line of discussion was that he was trying to develop a theory of economics based on Christian principles. This would be very real world look at things. However, I've noticed that this is actually developing into two separate conversations. One on how to apply Christian principles in the world we actually live in. The other seems to be an ivory tower, what would and economic system look like if it were truly Christian type of thing. Both are interesting concepts, but there not actually the same thing. (Ideally though, we could use the "truly Christian" model we develop and compare it with what we've actually got to find deficiencies. That's pretty much what Orrin Judd did in his last post.)

Switching back and forth can be confusing, so I suggest that at some point during posts on these subjects, we try to specify which of these two concepts we're actually addressing.

If anyone ever publishes a book about great moments in Christian blogging, I nominate this post by Orrin Judd. I won't reproduce the whole thing here, but some was just to good not to be repeated.

This world, let's be quite honest, is repellent to us. We don't particularly want a house full of family--we want our "space". We don't want to have to ask for help--we want someone to have to give it when told to. We don't want to be asked for help by some smelly homeless person or some white trash unwed mother--we want some agency with an acronym to deal with it. We don't want to have to go to church and to neighborhood groups and to PTA meetings and to Masonic Lodges and Bowling Leagues and all the rest, just to re-develop the network of community that once served where government now stands. We want to pay our taxes and be left alone, so very alone, in our own splendid isolation.

But as we look around us, at the nation we've become and at the kind of people we're becoming, mightn't it be time to ask ourselves if we're really well served by our distance from each other? Isn't it possible that the psychic and physical violence we increasingly find ourselves perpetrating against one another--from divorce to abortion to euthanasia to road rage to workplace and classroom shootings and all the myriad little ways in which our society has become routinely profane and abrasive and discourteous--is a function of this distance that we maintain from one another and that our current social structure, which enables us to depend on government instead of on each other, is a major contributor to the problem? Would I treat you in such a manner if I needed you, which, thanks to government programs, I don't?

Finally then, this leaves us to consider the possibility that both axes upon which we might graph the Byron Curve may in reality represent detrimental effects of government on our society. If every additional dollar we spend on social services ends up not merely being ineffective in alleviating the suffering of the poor but also distancing us further each from the other then we may have to reconsider the whole thing. If the overarching effect of social spending is to create a social structure in which the primary relationship is between the individual and his government, while destroying the sinews of pre-existing non-governmental relationships, we're in real trouble. Our best intentions (as reflected by the willingness to transfer money from the wealthy to the poor through the medium of government) may turn out to lead us into a world in which there is a high level of well-being (defined as a purely socio-economic matter) but where there is no love, for each of may depend solely on the government for our care and sustenance and one can't love a government. We may create a world that's filled to overflowing with joytrons, but which is devoid of Joy. Is not such a world the very approximation of Hell?

Sounds like Hell to me.


This morning David Heddle was talking about lying. He offers this analogy:

I want a different word so that I can make this analogy: Rahab's untruth is to lying as killing is to murder. We know that justified taking of a life (killing) is not the same as murder. In the same way, a justified untruth is not the same as a self-serving lie.

David's analogy may well be correct. It certainly seems compelling. Let me expand on it a little. It is true that some killings are justified and therefore not murder. However, whether justified or not, all killings are undesirable and to be avoided if possible. Likewise, while it may be true that some untruths are justified and therefore not sinful, they are still distasteful. Given that, even justified untruths should be avoided if possible.

There is another issue as well. David points out in an update that Oliver Tseng also discussed this issue. (His post is incredibly comprehensive and must have taken forever to compile.) After examining practically every example of deceipt in scriptures, Tseng says this:

My conclusion would be that lying is acceptable based on the intentions of the heart. Since we do not even know our own heart, only God knows our heart, it is ultimately only God who can judge. The Holy Spirit will convict if our intentions are/were wrong.

Our part is to be truthful and honest in all that we do. And our greatest example is Jesus, in which no deception was ever uttered by Him.

Isaiah 53:9b he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.

The part about only God knowing our heart and therefore only he be able to determine if our motives are pure struck me. It is certainly true. It also seems to me that studying this subject in intense detail could easily descend into "loophole hunting." That is, trying to find a time that it is acceptable to do that which we ordinarily know we should not do. If we reach that point we have certainly lost sight of the spirit of God's commands. (A huge part of the Sermon on the Mount was dedicated to denouncing that type of thinking.) Consequently, this is an area we should approach with care.)

I also note that Tseng found 3 examples of deceipt being approved by God.

Rahab lied to protect the spies.

The Jewish midwives lied to protect infants.

David pretended to be insane so the Philistines wouldn't force him to fight against his own people.

Based on those examples, I would say that the only time lying can be acceptable is when it is done to protect others. (Specifically their lives.) Even then, this could get extremely dicey. I'm not sure I've cast much light on the subject. I guess where I'm at is that it may be possible for some untruths to not be sinful but that those times are few and far between. Best to steer clear entirely.

This brings me to my basic theory on all things ethical.

Rule 1:Better safe than sorry. I'd always rather find myself in a position of not doing things that I wasn't sure about, but which God wouldn't condemn than to be in the reverse situation.

Rule 2:Even if there's nothing anywhere that says something is wrong, if it violates your conscience than don't do it.

Rule 3:When faced with two options that both seem sinful, look for another option.

Rule 4:If no other option can be found, choose the one that seems less selfish.

There is, of course, a corollary to these rules:Rules 1-4 are easier said than done.

On another note, Tseng raises the possibility that light timers when away from home and make-up constitute deception. I'd never considered this. It sent my head spinning and I still don't know what to think about those.

The Fruited Plain has some interesting thoughts about the atheism embodied in the EU charter.

If you want to understand a little more what it is like to deal with terrorism as a way of life, read TalG today. This sentence stopped me cold:
Your sense of outrage is restored when the bombing is in your neighborhood.

Yes, these attacks have been going on so long that he finds it difficult to work up a sense of outrage.


This economics thing is spiraling out of control. There are several posts I want to address, but the rest will have to wait. For now, let me just say that while I agree with a lot of what Josh Claybourn wrote today, he is incorrect about one thing. The Old Testament actually has quite a bit to say about interest. For instance, there is this passage:

Deuteronomy 23:19-20 NAS "You shall not charge interest to your countrymen: interest on money, food, or anything that may be loaned at interest. "You may charge interest to a foreigner, but to your countrymen you shall not charge interest, so that the LORD your God may bless you in all that you undertake in the land which you are about to enter to possess."

Now this passage may well explain why Jews in Florence could get rich on interest and honor the Torah's injunctions on interest. They were lending to Gentiles, not to Jews. (This is supposition. My history of medeival Florence is practically nonexistent.)

There are several other passages about interest, but I don't think I'm up to an economics discussion at the moment.


David Heddle is talking about lying today. When he started talking about Rahab, I thought he might go into more detail about why Rahab's "untruth" was not a sin. Still, I found this thought interesting:

Rahab's untruth is to lying as killing is to murder. We know that justified taking of a life (killing) is not the same as murder. In the same way, a justified untruth is not the same as a self-serving lie.

David also added to his thoughts on perseverance of the saints. I keep thinking I'm going to have time to sit down and really work through my own thoughts on this subject, but it hasn't happened yet.

Monday, June 17, 2002
In an article not designed to win friends, espeically among liberals, Mark Levin argues that Nixon was not our worst President. Instead, he proposes FDR. Read the column. Its worth a look.

Maybe I should have said posting will be "sporadic" instead of "limited." But, how will you tell the difference.

Proverbs 3:5-6 WEB

Trust in Yahweh with all your heart,

And don't lean on your own understanding.

In all your ways acknowledge him,

And he will direct your paths.

A new search engine claims to have a larger data base than Google. That may be, but do you want to guess where I found this story?

This better result in some really good chocolate chip ice cream.


After an internet cafe in China burned down killing 24 people officials in many of China's largest cities started shutting down the cafes. Many people are speculating that Chinese officials are just using the fire as an excuse to claimp down on internet freedom.

For some reason I'm cynical about China. Controlling information is key to the communist government staying in control there. The internet is threatening that control. If we found out that the government started the fire to manufacture an excuse to clamp down on internet cafes, that wouldn't surprise me.

While checking out my referrer logs, I found a link from GedankenPundit. I've been poking around his site for a little while. Its a good read.

I want to clarify me earlier post (scroll down) about Israel's defensive fence. I seriously doubt that it will be effective in curbing terrorism. I hope it does, but I doubt it. But calling the fence "fascist" or comparing it to apartheid is just stupid.

My parents are in town, so blogging may be limited for a couple of days.

Red Letter Edition

Matthew 4:1-11 ISV Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting for forty days and forty nights, he finally became hungry. The tempter came and said to him, "If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become loaves of bread." But he answered, "It is written, 'One must not live on bread alone, but on every word coming out of the mouth of God.'" Then the devil took him to the Holy City and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. He said to Jesus, "If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down. For it is written, 'God will put his angels in charge of you,' and 'With their hands they will hold you up, so that you will never hit your foot against a rock.'" Jesus said to him, "It is also written, 'You must not tempt the Lord your God.'" Once more the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. He said to Jesus, "I will give you all of these things if you will bow down and worship me!" Then Jesus said to him, "Go away, Satan! For it is written, 'You must worship the Lord your God and serve only him.'" Then the devil left him, and angels came and began ministering to him.

When I read this passage, I am reminded of some things. The first is that scripture can easily be perverted by Satan. He's real good at it. He knows the scriptures very well. However, Christ shows us that the scriptures, used correctly can help defend us from temptation.

This site pops up first on Google for "devil knicknames." I'm pretty sure the person who came here with that search left empty-handed. Those words were used in entirely different posts.

Oh, you've got to love Yasser:
Yasser Arafat blasted U.S. national security adviser Condoleezza Rice on Monday for comments condemning his Palestinian Authority, saying she has no right to dictate to Palestinians how their future state should look.

He's constantly demanding that we tell the Israelis what to do, but he sure gets in a snit when we tell him what to do. Yasser, boy, I got a tip for you. The only chance you have of getting a state at all lies in our ability to influence Israel. If a state is what you really want, you better listen up.

Of course, a state is not what he wants. At least not until he's destroyed Israel (hey even Yasser can dream), at which point our ability to influence Israel wouldn't matter.

And on the subject of the security fence:

"This is a fascist, apartheid measure being done, and we do not accept it,'' Arafat said of the fence. "We will continue rejecting it by all means.''

Wow! The Israelis are practicing fascism and apartheid at the same time. They must be really bad.

Fascism is defined as "A system of government marked by centralization of authority under a dictator, stringent socioeconomic controls, suppression of the opposition through terror and censorship, and typically a policy of belligerent nationalism and racism."

Israel is a free market democracy. If there censoring the opposition it isn't working very well (see yasser's comments above and constant press releases from Hamas). Israel responds to attacks by retaliating against military targets. There may be some belligerent nationalism and racism in Israel, but I haven't seen much sign of it and its sure not government policy.

The PA has no economy. Their "President's" term ended in 1999, but he's still in office. He now talks about holding elections "later." You don't hear much Palestinian dissent so either everyone agrees with Yasser or he's censoring the daylights out of his critics. (The criticism you do hear is that he's to soft. If I were Yasser, I'd want that out because it makes him look "moderate.") Palestinians have this habit of blowing up pizza parlors. The policy of the PLO is "from the river to the sea" which sounds like belligerent nationalism to me. Arabs keep referring to Jews as pigs and monkeys and I understand that Mein Kempf is a big seller over there right now.

This is by no means a perfect take down, but I think the point is made and I'm running out of time here. The apartheid comment will have to wait.