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Saturday, July 06, 2002

Last Blog as a Single Guy-I know the next few days (and weeks, months and years) will be weird, learing how to live with Eileen as her husband, physically, emotionally and spiritually. However, despite being a bit fearful of how my emotions will handle the changes, I know God put Eileen into my life and has already made us a team. She has improved my spirit immencely since coming into my life sixteen months ago, and I want to spend the rest of my life with her. She's not perfect, but she's perfect for me. On with the next phase of my life as Professor Byron, with a loving wife by my side.

Voucher Wars-Den Beste had an interesting take on vouchers that shows off his optimistic curmudgeon streak in full bloom. He's a friendly skeptic on the issue, pointing out the problem areas. However, school choice, whether it include charter schools or vouchers for private schools, should improve options for the vast majority of kids
The dirty little secret of the educational system, which everyone knows and no-one wants to talk about, is that kids do not all have the same potential. Some kids are smarter than others. Some kids will absorb knowledge like a sponge; but on others all attempts at education will bounce off like rain on a newly-waxed car. If you take Johnny Genius from the top 5 percentile, and Danny Dullard from the bottom 5%, then Johnny Genius is going to outscore Danny Dullard on those tests no matter what educational environment each of them is in. Put Johnny Genius in a mediocre school and give Danny Dullard the best tutors that money can buy, and Johnny Genius will still get a higher score on the tests when evaluation day comes.
However, with more tailor-made schooling, we can give JG a better outlet for his skills in a more-challenging environment. With the right environment, we might get to get enough into DD's brain to make him a functional citizen rather than a drain on society. In the Midland area, there are charter schools for gifted kids (my niece is in one) and another for ADD kids. Den Beste was on the same wavelength: "Even Danny Dullard can benefit from a good learning environment and might even move up to just below the level of accomplishment of Mary Middle." If you want to see how private schools are doing, I would suggest longitudinal testing, seeing how much a school teaches given what the kids knew coming in . If a inner-city school's 8th grade kids started the year reading at an average of the 5th-grade level and ended the year reading at the 7th grade level, they would be accomplishing more than Blueblood Academy whose kids started at the 9th grade level and get to 10.25 at the end of the year.

NFL Predictions-Here's my wild stab at predicting the next season. Due to a very weak NFC South, I see Tampa Bay having the best regular-season record, although I expect St. Louis to get to the Super Bowl to face the Ravens
NFC
East Washington 10-6
Philadelphia 10-6
Giants 9-7
Dallas 5-11
North Minnesota 11-5
Chicago 10-6
Detroit 8-8
Green Bay 8-8
South Tampa Bay 13-3
Atlanta 6-10
New Orleans 4-12
Carolina 4-12
West St. Louis 12-4
San Francisco 11-5
Arizona 5-11
Seattle 3-13
AFC
East New England 8-8
Miami 7-9
Buffalo 7-9
Jets 7-9
North Baltimore 12-4
Pittsburgh 10-6
Cleveland 9-7
Cincinnati 3-13
South Tennessee 11-5
Jacksonville 9-7
Indianapolis 9-7
Houston 2-14
West Oakland 11-5
Denver 8-8
Kansas City 7-9
San Diego 7-9

Splendly Cocky Splinter-Red Sox slugger Ted Williams died yesterday; he was arguably the best all-around hitter for combining average and power in baseball history. I wasn't even born when Teddy Ballgame hung up the spikes, but he was part of baseball folklore. As the last guy to hit .400 for a full season, his name would come up when someone would flirt with .400 by mid-summer. He was a notorious left-handed pull hitter to the point where opposing teams would be playing the shortstop on the first base side of second and have the third baseman playing about where the shortstop would normally be. When you saw that type of exaggerated positioning over the last quarter-century, it would be called a "Williams Shift." He was also one of the cockiest and most profane guys to play the game. IIRC, Ball Four has a vignette about him taking batting practice, talking trash about his hitting prowess and the lameness of certain opposing pitchers, punctuated with "I'm Ted F-ing Williams!" The story in this ESPN piece makes that story seem about right.

Edifier du jour-Ecclesiastes 4:7-12
Again I saw something meaningless under the sun: There was a man all alone; he had neither son nor brother. There was no end to his toil, yet his eyes were not content with his wealth. "For whom am I toiling," he asked, "and why am I depriving myself of enjoyment?" This too is meaningless- a miserable business! Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
Versus 9-12, especially 12, have been our favorite verses in our courtship. Having God as a deliberate third strand has seen us through some tough patches. In our case, two are truly better than one. I'm suprisingly calm this morning leading into our wedding, more worried about how tight the dress shoes will be on my ankles than the merits of marriage.

Friday, July 05, 2002

Evening Musings-Last evening as a single guy; got to say goodbye and goodnight to Eileen for the last time. We managed to save the first real kiss for the wedding, unless you count a Gomez "You spoke French!" imitation up the arm. She's out with her gal-friends while I polished off the last of the programs. We printed them ourselves; running herd over 100 two-sided copies on my dad's color printer was a bit of a pain but cheaper and less worrysome than farming them out. Two more hurdles to clear before Eileen and I get to head off to an undisclosed secure location in the Tri-Cities: the marriage ceremony and the reception. We made it through the rehearsal in one piece; despite a late-arriving brother-in-law/sound guy and a nervous pianist, things went well. The flowers got rave reviews; my mom's a florist (if you're sending flowers to Midland in the future, call for Lil' Pear Tree flower shop where she works), so she got the flowers wholesale and did it right herself; that's one way of cutting wedding costs.

Pork Barrel or Helping Dad?-My dad turned 65 today; I have to remember to wrap the presents I got him Wednesday before heading off to the rehearsal dinner. Turning 65 makes him eligible for Medicare. Should that make me a big fan of the AARP so I can make Medicare lest costly for him (and my mom in 25 months) at the expense of the rest of the non-elderly population? Good question. I'd want to say no. Do I honor my parents by advocating making their medical care bills a bit lighter or do I better honor them by taking a skeptical look at big-government programs and help the country as a whole by setting up a better economy? That's the dilemma a lot of swing voters my age have to face. Democrats love to put adult children into a guilt trip by focusing on the cost of health care for their parents. If we have as a goal making the country a better place, it is hypocritical of us to tailor our political stance to help us or our loved ones at the expense of the commonweal. I can't get on Robert Byrd for his Porkasaurus Rex routine while I'm looking to bring home the bacon to my corner of the world. I've been light on the economics posting for the last few weeks, but this might jar the muse into action.

Dingell's Not Toast- Contrary to this article that A Dog's Life pointed to, I don't think that Lynn Rivers will get past John Dingell for the 15th District nomination. Ss the Commerce Committee chair in the bad-old-days of Democratic house rule, Dingell would terrorize people he disagreed with, gaining quite a few enemies on the right. However, he does play well to the blue-collar voter in that he is a Kyoto-skeptic and is largely anti-gun-control. True, that won't play as well in Ann Arbor as it does in Flat Rock or Monroe, but River's college-town liberalism won't sell that well downriver. The EPIC-MRI poll listed here points out that Democrats wind up voting for Rivers when pro-Rivers information is provided may give her backers some hope, but the polls still seem to favor Dingell. I think that Dingell's pro-gun record might be a bigger positive factor than people think. There are a lot of hunters in Michigan and many of them are otherwise liberal union folks. If you've ever seen the pickup trucks heading north on I-75 on November 14 (the day before deer-hunting season starts), you'd understand that that is a factor for a lot of people in the blue-collar suburbs of Metro Detroit. I hope my words are sweet and tender, 'cause I may have to eat them if Rivers pulls an upset next month, but I'm not counting on it.

Double Predestination-"I'll take Limited Atonement for $600, Alex."Interesting David Heddle piece on the topic. We're getting into pinpoint-angel-census mode, but if an omnipotent, omnitemporal God doesn't save people, he is at best saying "Helen Waite's got your file; if you want help, you can go to Helen Waite." If God's grace is the only way to avoid Hell and He only gives it to some people, the others are doomed. Heddle's response to the idea that God predestines the non-elect to Hell seems to be summed up here
Double predestination would mean that God looks at all men (before they were ever born) and says to the some: “To you I will impute a saving righteousness” and to others “to you I will impute a damning evil”. This would make God the originator of the sin in the reprobate, which is unthinkable. Even worse, when God punished men for sin that he placed in their hearts—well that would be an unjust, unloving, mean and capricious god. Not our God. Maybe Allah, but not our God.
God created an universe that includes sin. Since we are not hard-wired to love God, we are free to not love Him unless He softens our hearts. We may choose not to love God, but He gave people the option not to. Sin didn't sneak up from out of nowhere; it is part of the universe. Our lack of a perfect, 24-7 love of God points to a problematic will that God allows at best. Did God originate sin? If He didn't, how did it get started? My best guess is that he created Man with a mind and will of his own, but a will that can be overruled by God. God didn't originate sin, but He set up a framework for it to exist. He didn't put the doggie droppings on the front yard, but He created the dogs that would do so. If God knows everything and he isn't going to help person X get into Heaven, he is allowing person X to go to Hell if X can't get to Heaven on his own and their are only two destinations. It's then a question of nomenclature whether God merely allows the person to burn or has predestined him to. God could chose to save him, but did not. God knows it from the get-go and is content with it, else He would change it. It's effectively double predestination, even if you don't want to call it that.

Moring Musings-I think I saw the fastest active response to a negative image in channel-surfing history last night. My Dittohead father-in-law-to-be was in charge of the remote, casually flipping through the channels at a two or three second clip. Until he got to C-SPAN and Hillary. It was more than a millisecond, since the image actually registered, but not much more. Paraphrased from a South Carolinian-The Wise Men got to Bethlehem on a hook-and-ladder, since they came from afar. NOTE-the last part has to be said with the proper drawl in able to work.

Edifier du jour-1 John 1:5-2:2
This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives. My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense--Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.
I remember a quip about a football coach saying " I demand perfection from my players. I don't expect perfection, but I demand it." In a way, I think that's what God's shooting for here. God is demanding perfection, commanding us to walk in the Light. However, He can't expect perfection, since He knows that our sin nature will cause us to fall short to that perfection. He knows that fact all too well, as he sent a part of Himself to take upon Himself all of our sins. While we shouldn't fall into the antinomian trap of rejoicing in sin since it's forgiven anyway, we need to recognize that we have and will screw up on a daily basis and need to be forgiven for those sins. The trite but true bumper-stickery "We're not perfect, just forgiven" has few better parts of Scripture to call its home than this one.

Thursday, July 04, 2002

Evening Musings-Wedding prep is going smoothly. Our project for today was to set up the church, as we moved the proper chairs, screens and candelabras to set up the sanctuary for Saturday's ceremony and then set up the downstairs hall for the reception. Afterwards, we had an extended bi-family 4th cookout, with Eileen, myself, both sets of parents, both our sisters, three of her college buddies and a buddy's husband, my brother-in-law, my niece and my friend Alan, who was a last-minute add due to a weekend umpiring job having him booked solid from tomorrow on. By 6:30, I was peopled-out and napped for an hour. I'll be rejoining civilization shortly. Someone shot up the El Al terminal at LAX this afternoon, killing two Israelis before being killed by security, according to early reports. The piece mentions the Gray Gentleman's comments ""Like all Californians, I am outraged and deeply saddened to learn of today's shooting at Los Angeles International Airport...." Two problems with that line. There are some people up at SFSU that might be happy and he needs to fire his speechwriter, since that is one lame piece of boilerplate. It's not a true 4th piece, since it was written late last year, but Patrick Ruffini linked to a good David Brooks piece on a trip to rural Pennsylvania, comparing the bobos of his native metro DC to this Red State (well, a Red part of a Blue State) turf.

The Fourth-I'm a bit tied up in wedding stuff to properly appreciate Independence Day, but I sense that there is a more patriotic feel about the day than in years past due to being the first July 4th since 9/11. It would be an advantageous day for our foes to strike; a dirty bomb at the Boston Pops concert would be a good counterpunch by the bad guys. However, I don't think that's going to happen; heat stroke is likely to claim more lives in America today than terrorists. I don't have a good and poignant essay on what America means to me. However, I am well educated, teaching at a nice college where I don't have to pull my punches when talking about spiritual matters and am able to carry intelligent conversations with people around the world via the magic of the blog. Last, but not least, I'm 52 hours away from sharing all this with a smart, sweet, godly and pretty lady. This is a goooood country; in no other country would I be able to do all this quite as easily. Today, we sit back and thank a bunch of rich white males who got together in Philly 226 years ago to codify the process of starting this grand experiment called The United States of America. Despite a bigger government than we might like and something of a rear guard action against increasing immorality, this it still the best place in the world to enjoy life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. P.S.-Via Jeff Collins' suggestion, I read Lilek's bleat on the 4th-En Fuego!

The Pelican Brief Marriage-My Dad's comment this morning on Julia Robert's wedding a cameraman was "Who's going to start the pool?" She lasted 22 months with Lyle. I'll put in my guess at 27 months; she'll be a single women by Dubya's next inaugural. Oh, I'll put the guess in the pool on my own marriage at 52 years with an optimistic estimate of me living to 93 and Eileen making it to at least 81. It's sad when it seems that the long-time unmarried couples in Hollywood seem more honorable that the married ones who matrimonial half-life matches that of some of the more volatile transuranic elements.

Sealed with a Kiss-Thank's Mr. Shea. When I first read that article, I took it as a bit of a insult/challenge that I and other evangelicals were dishonest in our emphasis on the Bible over the Church's post-Bible teachings. To be honest, I wasn't sure I could pull off my piece when I started. The case for the Holy Spirit's a bit loose, but I can say with a straight face that the doctrine of the Trinity is biblically sound. I'm having to remember what I taught my students last Tuesday about conflict resolution: first check to see if there really is a conflict. I think it's orthodox to say that not everything of God is in the Bible, but everything in the Bible is of God. Our knowledge of God is based on the Bible but is complemented by the knowledge and insight the Holy Spirit has passed on to believers through the generations. I may not call it Sacred Tradition, but there is a body of knowledge and interpretation that we 21st Century believers can call upon. We are spoken to not just by the Word but by the Holy Spirit, who allows us to understand and apply what is written. However, we need to treat the Bible as our spiritual constitution and to reject anything that runs counter to the Bible, just as laws that run afoul of the constitution are supposed to be shot down by the Supreme Court. We need to test the teachings of the past and present to see if they are truly from God. Where I will occasionally trade fire with Catholics is where I mull over and reject things that they consider pre-checked as part of the Church's Sacred Tradition. The Trinity is one that we both emphatically agree on. Contrary to what Peter Sean Bradley's commenter Moe would think, I don't base my theology on bashing Catholicism. The first three-quarters of our Christian history was centered around the Roman Catholic Church; our understanding of God's word didn't jump from Revelation straight to Luther and Calvin, as Bradley's fair comment on the Nicene Creed points out. However, I'm lead to check that wisdom with that of the Bible and to take only that which passes scriptural muster. That may fall a bit short of literal Solo Scriptura, but it isn't quite a Catholic-style Sacred Tradition either.

Edifier du Jour-John 21:15-19
When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?" "Yes, Lord," he said, "you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Feed my lambs." Again Jesus said, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me?" He answered, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Take care of my sheep." The third time he said to him, "Simon son of John, do you love me?" Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, "Do you love me?" He said, "Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Feed my sheep. I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go." Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, "Follow me!"
This exchange is clearer in the Greek, for in the first two "Do you love me?" statements, Jesus is using agape ( the all-out, no-reservations love) and philios (brotherly love) in the third, while Peter responds with philios in the first two and agape in the third. Very often, our love of God is rather lukewarm, like the Laodiceans. That kind of love that's more of a like, a mild preference, makes God want to barf; the word "spit" in Revelation 3:16 would be better translated vomit. The exchange between Jesus and Peter reminds me of how often I have pitched my tent in Laodicea and how often I fail to truly love God. Unlike Sally Field, God's not going to get excited over the fact that we like him. We're supposed to all-out agape Him, but we only get there by drawing close to him and allowing the Holy Spirit to show us the agape flowing from Him.

Wednesday, July 03, 2002

Evening Musings-Just got back in from a day spent with Eileen, her mom, dad, sister and two college buddies of hers. We got the lion's share of her apartment loaded onto her dad's pickup, leaving pretty much only the stuff she'll need to live with for the next three nights. The Houston contingent brought their weather with them, 95 and muggy, making Central Florida seem arctic. 63 hours to go. I haven't looked at it yet, but my hit meter's getting a load of traffic from Mark Shea-he must have responded to my Trinity post of last night. I'll try to get to first thing tomorrow-from the looks of the traffic, I must of gotten a good Fisking. The Detroit newscast I saw before leaving my future in-laws hotel room had a pair of newlyweds suing the priest for giving a snide, sarcastic ceremony due to a smaller-than-desired donation. At least that's the couple's story, the priest is saying "Who? Me?". Remind my to write the check to the church mission fund after the ceremony.

Just Say No to the ICC-The US is floating a trial balloon on the ICC, asking for a Security Council veto on prosecuting members of peacekeeping missions. I smell a rat here, and the stink comes from the internationalist wing of the State Department. Why not give the five permanent members vetoes over all cases? That would allow the US and Britain to block unjust prosecutions of businessmen, politicians, comedians and pundits who run afoul of world opinion for politically-incorrect behavior.

Cujo to Hockeytown-The sports news of the day (at least to me) is the signing of top goalie Curtis Joseph by the Red Wings, just after losing Dominik Hasek to retirement. I'm reminded of the old quip for college football factories; they don't rebuild, they reload. I'll ask all three of my hockey-fan readers this question-Are the Red Wings on the verge of becoming the New York Yankees of the NHL? {7/4 Spudlets agrees] Mike Illich seems to be playing the role of Boy George, whipping out his Pizza Pizza checkbook to get the top free agents, creating a team that is hard to beat and possibly easy to dislike. The mitigating factor for that love-to-hate realm is that the stars that have made their way to Motown aren't prima donnas, with Steve Yzerman leading the way in the Detroit tradition (Howe, Kaline, Trammell, Sanders, Dumars) of the Gary Cooper lead-by-doing school.

Morning Musings-The wedding's just 76 hours away, and my mind is starting to get a bit numb with all the little details that have yet to be done, like set up the church (upstairs for the wedding proper and downstairs for the reception) and get Eileen and I packed up for the move down to Florida. I was out running errands yesterday, heading over to Saginaw and using some good county roads to get around a detour. There was a half-dozen trucks on the side of the road as workers were out in a particular field. A few of the trucks had Florida license plates, which didn't hit me for a moment, since I've grown accustomed to seeing them, being a new resident of Florida. After a couple of seconds, it dawned on me; these guys were likely migrant workers coming up here to work for the summer. That's one of the surprising demographics of central Florida, especially Polk County. There is a large Mexican community, drawn originally as migrant laborers working on the citrus groves in the area. When most of us think Florida and Hispanic, you think Cuban, not Mexican; not so in this part of the state. The local generic-food store has a big rack of masa (tortilla) flour, and the Super Wal-Mart in Lake Wales has a big Mexican section, complete with Spanish-language magazines on the aisle ends. Rifle Range Road on the south side of Winter Haven looks like it could be on the south side of San Antonio, with its big Mexican feel. On a lighter note-You know you've been in Florida too long when ...
You see shuffleboard pointers in the newspaper Palm trees don't look weird. Hurricane evacuation signs aren't weird. You can give the weather forecast without looking-High of 90±2, Low of 72±2, 40% Chance of afternoon thunderstorms. You can drive through Yeehaw Junction without affecting a down-home accent. You are no longer freaked out by Miami or Tampa signs on the freeway. You wish you were 55-it would improve your housing options. You catch yourself when you say "when I lived down in Ohio."
Let me get my tongue out of my cheek and add that it is a nice place to live, and will be even better when winter comes and Midland has a foot of snow on the ground. I hated it when my Grandpa Byron would snowbird near Fort Myers and call up to ask "How's the weather" as an excuse for bragging about going golfing that morning while we had negative wind-chill factors. Not its my turn to be tempted to fall into weather schadenfreude. .

Mark of the Beast on the Thames?-The Labour government is seriously looking at a national ID card for all government benefits, including education. Similar post 9/11 proposals were promptly shot down in the US, but it gave us one more reason to dislike Larry Ellison. I saw this piece and looked over to Samizdata for some of their British members to go properly ballistic. No launches as of yet. {Update 7/4-Missile spotter Mr. Collins reported a lauch from Samizdata's Tom Burroughs, and Mr. Dodge reminded me that he's on the case (and on Blunkett's case) as well.]

CATS and DOGS Living Together-Nothing like a good government shutdown to liven up the summer; Tennessee is working without a budget since Monday's beginning of FY03. Non-essential personnel are off work for now, which always begs the question, "If they're non-essential, why are we paying them?" The powers that be in Tennessee, including GOP Gov. Sundquist, have been itching to install a state income tax for years and a big budget deficit is their trump card. They're asking for a "small" 1% tax rate, but conservatives don't want that nose under the side of the tent, and are plugging for budget cuts to balance things. Once a tax gets established, it's easy to bump it up a quarter-percent here and a half-percent there until you're at the 4% we have here in Michigan. The pro-income-tax forces have their budget plan, Continuing Adequate Taxes and Services, while the conservative forces have their plan, Downsizing Ongoing Government Services. Like most good conservatives, I like DOGS better than CATS.

Political Ecologists Mourn the Death of a White RINO-New York congressman Benjamin Gilman is hanging it up. The liberal Republican decide to retire rather than take on fellow incumbent Republican Sue Kelly in a new 19th district. He had toyed with the idea of becoming a Democrat, but opted for retirement instead. The WaPo is mourning the "dwindling number of World War II veterans in Congress -- he flew 35 missions over Japan and earned the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal with Oak Leaf Clusters." Well, last I checked, WWII ended 57 years ago. Anyone who fought in WWII is now in their late 70s or older, and people that age are usually dead or retired. This is another case of the ideological bipoliarisaztion of the political parties. While you will have a few Southern Democrats who will be to the right of a few Northeastern Republican, we have seen an increasing amount of uniformity among the parties over the last three decades. The outliers on the Republican left and the Democratic right will typically be a one-generation thing, as conservative Democrats are replaced by conservative Republicans and liberal Republicans are replaced by liberal Democrats.

Edifier du jour-John 20:24-31
Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord!" But he said to them, "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it." A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe." Thomas said to him, "My Lord and my God!" Then Jesus told him, "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
We don't have Thomas' advantage of seeing the nail holes, yet we have the witness of the Holy Spirit and the witness of the believers down the ages who have been brought to a saving faith in Jesus.

Tuesday, July 02, 2002

"I can Do it with One Book"-"Name that Trinity"-Mark Shea had a post on Reformed theology this morning that linked to a piece he did last year. In that piece, he questioned whether Protestants are really in Solo Scritpura mode when talking about the Trinity.
Take, for instance, the typical non-Catholic Christian who says he accepts only "Scripture Alone", yet stoutly defends Trinitarianism. Such a one actually believes in Sacred Tradition far more deeply than he realizes, for the dogma of the Trinity is not clear in Scripture alone and is only defined by the Church's Magisterium in light of Sacred Tradition.
OK, Mr. Shea, the gauntlet has been picked up. The concept is in the New Testament even if the word Trinity isn't. Here's my quick stab at going after the Trinity by using just the Bible proper. Yes, I will make some inferences, but I'm going to base the inferences on the text. It might not be clear enough in Shea's eyes, but it'll do for me. First, let's make this binary by making Jesus and the Father of one essence. John 10:30 has Jesus stating "I and the Father are one," which got the Jews properly hot and bothered; only the Messiah could make that claim. John 1:1 does it even better-"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." This runs sufficiently counter to unitarian theology that the Jehovah's Witnesses had to redo this verse, making it end with "and the Word was a god" to make it fit. These and other versus (John 8:58 & 14:10 come to mind) point to Jesus and God the Father being one in essence with two personalities. Next, lets bring the Holy Spirit into the mix. The best text that supports the Holy Spirit's belonging in the club it is the Great Commission in Matthew 28:19-"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." This is a joint name that believers are to be calling upon, thus implying a joint honor and essence that is to be respected. Not only does the Holy Spirit get equal billing there, dissing Him is unforgivable, worse than insulting Jesus in all three of the Synoptic Gospels(Matthew 12:32, Mark 3:9 and Luke 12:10). As we go through Acts and the episiles, it's clear that the Holy Spirit is a person and not some Force. He's has a voice of His own and is an instruction-giver, capable of being lied to, an encourger and strengthener. This isn't God's little gofer. Given the passages I've cited and many others, you can make a solid case for the Trinity with just the Bible and few implications.

Today on Collins and Byron-Dating a Non-Believer-Jeffrey Collins (who currently has a Googlewhack on "Temporal Engineering" Calvinism) had a small nit to pick on my courtship post
Mark might want to revise point number 1. Dating can be a powerful tool to bring people to Christ. My mom did it for my dad. Now she didn't tell him at the time, but she wouldn't have married him if he hadn't converted. Maybe, "Don't pursue a relationship with someone who doesn't share your faith once you reach the point that you know they won't accept it." Or something to that affect.
I'm going to beg to differ with him. While some people will save the unsaved person they are dating, they are flirting with fire. An unsaved beau is more likely to lure the believer into pre-marital sex and other bad behaviors. If the believer becomes attached to their beau, they may wind up marrying the non-believer, ignoring the proscription against being yoked together with unbelievers. That marriage might save the unbelieving spouse, but is it more likely to stifle the spiritual life of the believer. I think your mom was the exception to the rule, Jeff. I think that dating a non-believer is more likely to harm the believer than it is to help the unsaved party. By the time you know the person won't accept Jesus, you may be too attached to the person to break away and may be dragged down into more sin in the process.

Going for the Goyim-I've gotten a lot of positive feedback and linkage on my post on courtship yesterday. Even the Patio Pundit chimed in, as he took it upon himself to blogwatch in Papa Blog's absence.
Most of them would apply equally well to Orthodox Jews. Actually, all of them, except for the Corinthians 7 part.
Well. even that is applicable if you substitute God for Jesus; the questions about being able to serve God better without the distractions of tending to a wife would still apply. [Update 8PM-Maybe not quite as well as I thought. Patio Pundit has a good response to this, pointing out that Orthodox Judaism is more marriage-centric than Christianity. Point taken, sir] That got me thinking about the issue of interfaith marriages, which I warned against in my post. Intermarriage has been a big issue in the Jewish community, as marriages to Gentiles is increasingly common. As a kid who was brought up to be unbigoted, the idea of people not wanting their kids to marry out of their religion seemed bigoted. The media has portrayed mixed marriages in a positive light from Bridget Loves Bernie to Mad About You, where nice Jewish guys were happily married to shiska cuties. However, the problem with such interfaith marriages is that they are usually between rather secular couples who don't take their faith seriously. If you don't take your relationship with God seriously, a Jewish guy could fall for Helen Hunt (or the nice Gentile lady down the hall) very quickly or a Christian guy could be making goo-goo eyes at Natalie Portman (or the cute Jewish girl in Psych class). Marrying that cutie from another religion will draw you away from your own faith, as your spouse will give lukewarm support at best for your walk with the Lord. If you have kids, you will be of two minds of how they will be brought up spiritually if they get any education on that front at all; interfaith marriages produce a high percentage of secular kids. Some interfaith parents give them a full dose of both religions and let them decide for themselves when they grow up. If one parent is stronger in their faith, the weaker partner might allow that religion to predominate. The kids stuck in this situation will have to choose between parents when they choose between religions. Parents can try to put a brake on this by making God a big part of their lives. If you make your faith an active, day-to-day part of your life, your kids will want the same in their lives. Then, they will want a spouse that shares their faith rather than picking a nice gal/guy from another religion. I was taken aback by this quote from Rick McInnnis (via Relapsed Catholic) who was watching a show "Married in America," which looked at a number of newlyweds, including a Jewish-Filipina pair
There's an argument to be made that Neal's mother's wish for a Jewish daughter-in-law might be as much a defense of class as religion or race, that American Jews live in a parallel class structure that's evolved over a century of prosperity and adversity, and which some Jews will defend as vociferously as any WASP, but that's an argument for another day.
Secular people don't get the idea that one's faith is important. The Jewish mama isn't looking down on the nice Filipina because she's Catholic, she's doing so because she's not Jewish. Likewise, cute Jewish ladies (or nominal Christians) wouldn't be on my list to marry (I'm already spoken for, thank you) since they don't share my faith. I'd pass on dating Ms. Portman not because she's Jewish but because she's not a Christian. It may come across as being against someone else's faith, but it is more accurate to being for your own faith. [P.S.-In my single years, I saw many a cute and smart lady on TV and thought-"If she showed up in Sunday School class, I'd be interested." Having a faith in Jesus was a prereq for any relationship I would get into]

Edifier du jour-John 19:28-30
Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, "I am thirsty." A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus' lips. When he had received the drink, Jesus said, "It is finished." With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
"It is finished" was a financial term of the day having the meaning of "paid in full." By his death, he rendered all the animal sacrifices of the Mosaic Law moot. He took the rap for us for all our sins for all time; the slate has been wiped clean. I had written back on Good Friday about the story about the sacrificial lamb of Yom Kipper not being effective after Jesus died, that the usual miracle of the red ribbon turning white ceased from then until the destruction of the temple in 70AD. I had the story right but the source wrong; it was the Talmund, not Josephus, that had the story. That miffs modern Jews that they're having their religious commentaries quoted back at them to show they've missed out on the Messiah.

Monday, July 01, 2002

Canadian Liberal Pride?-For our friends north of the boarder, it's been Canada Day, their big national holiday. The conservative National Post barely mentions it in their front page, while the more liberal Globe and Mail has a big Canada day spread in the right column. Are liberals more proud to be Canadian than conservatives?

God and Martians-This was an interesting post over at Kesher Talk, as a very orthodox rabbi had this comment on a Jewish scientist's questioning whether searching for life on Mars was proper
"Dr. Greene, look for life on Mars! And if you don't find it there, look somewhere else in the universe for it. Because for you to sit here and say there is no life outside of planet earth is to put limitations on the Creator, and that is not something any of His creatures can do!"
Genesis 1:1 says "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." Genesis 1 goes into a lot of details on the earth but very little about the heavens. I don't see where Genesis or any other part of the Bible would preclude life elsewhere. Finding intelegent life elsewhere would be problematic to our theology, but I don't see finding lichen under the rocks on Mars or hydrothermal critters on Europa a danger to Christian theology.

Blog Monsoon-I'll have a lot of time to write the next few days due to the fact that Eileen will be busy with girlfriends and family for the next two days. She's got one seminary buddy due to drive in this evening. She and her mom (who's been here two weeks already) picking up her sister from the Detroit airport early tomorrow morning and is picking up another college buddy at Tri-City Airport tomorrow afternoon just in time for the PJ party her sister's throwing for her and her gal-friends and gal-kin tomorow night. Me, all my close friends from the past are in town or dead, so there isn't this flood of people here to see me. Thus I get to prep for my class that starts in two weeks and/or blog. Mostly or. I do have a second bout of packing, going through my closet a second time for stuff that needs to head south, but that's far from a two day job.

The Wages of Virtue-News for Christians has a piece on Christian based mutual funds. Yes, mutual funds will underperform the market due to the cost of running the fund, but they are still a good vehicle for the individual investor who doesn't want to do his own research. The common advice is to look for funds that have low expense ratios and tend to have a small portfolio turnover. Unfortunately, many of the screened mutual funds have smaller portfolios and thus have higher expense ratios. I did some unpublished research on socially-responsible mutual funds (usually having a 60s liberal worldview) while working on my Ph.D. While individual SR funds underperformed the S&P 500 on a risk-adjusted basis, a portfolio of socially-responsible mutual funds did as well as the S&P 500. While I haven't had a chance to test the newer Christian funds, I would expect that they would do as well. The smaller number of stocks in the typical SR fund might create nonsystematic risk (under-diversification), thus a portfolio of those funds might be the ticket.

Judge, Jury and Anti-Executioner- Federal district judge Jed Rakoff took in upon himself to declare the death penalty unconstitutional, pointing out that the number of overturned decisions make it likely that an innocent man could be executed. It is good that being an idiotarian isn’t a crime under the new ICC, for Hizonner might be hauled up on charges for this one. Rakoff notes the number of overturned sentences, but it is precisely that strong appellate system that found these convictions that insures that the current law is constitutional. I’m not a fan of the death penalty. The decade-plus of appeals for most cases (five years if the convict wants to be executed) delays justice and costs the taxpayer a big chunk of changed for two legal teams for a decade, since public defenders will be dealing with most convicts’ cases. For all but the most aggreious mass murders, it is better to lock ‘em up for life than to string the process along for a decade. I can remember when John Gacy was executed in 1994, thinking to myself “It was over a decade ago that he confessed; the bodies were in the cellar.” He confessed in 1978; it took them sixteen years to execute a dead-to-rights guilty man. I’m also not comfortable with a secular government having the power of life and death over an individual. The Mosaic Law had capital punishment for far more crimes than today, but that government was a theocracy that was in better contact with God than today’s system. It doesn’t make us look good overseas, either, as it gives the Euroweenies more ammo to bash the US with; the US would have a better position to preach Anglospherian ethics without capital punishment gumming up the works. That being said, capital punishment is constitutional. It may be cruel, but (as Tom Jones would say) it’s not unusual. It’s been part of our judicial system since day one. The extensive appellate process gives excellent insurance that innocent people aren’t executed. Not perfect insurance, true; the Supreme Court hasn’t installed the hotline to God. I’d like the capital punishment foes to come up with one case of an innocent person being executed in the last 30 years since the current appellate system was instituted in the 70s. Just because something is wrong doesn’t mean it’s unconstitutional. We all need to remember that, including Judge Rakoff.

International Court Flak-A new International Criminal Court was set up; the US is emphatically not a signatory. Josh Claybourn has a good essay on the subject at his Hoosier Review "day blog." The problem I see with this is that is both too vague and too potent. Things that run against international political mores will become criminal offenses. The naming of the Axis of Evil alone caused EUnuchs "serious injury to mental health." That's stretching it, Mark. However, other geopolitical decisions or honest international commerce could become criminal offences. I look at some of the clauses that Claybourn and picture them being handled by a Euroweenie goon like the Spanish jurist who was out to get Pinochet. Not that Pinochet didn't deserve to be hauled into such a court, but I could easily see a Chompskyite prosecutor wanting to see Clinton tried for the high-altitude bombing of Serbia or Dubya tried for any number of perceived injustices with the War on Terror. Such prosecutions would be detrimental, allowing any aggrieved party to press charges against their enemies by claiming "serious injury to mental health" or "outrages upon personal dignity." The free market system is an outrage against personal dignity in the eyes of your typical IMF-protestor; being a member of the GOP could thus be a criminal offence with the right prosecutor. That might be a bit of a stretch, but not by much, as there seems to be few safeguards to keep an American oversees from being snagged by this court if they have fallen out of the good graces of the international poobahs. If this does in US participation in UN peacekeeping, I won't lose too much sleep. While I'm not in the black-helicopter crew, it may be time to abolish the UN or start a serious overhaul, as it is gradually becoming more and more malevolent.

Citizen Watts-J.C. Watts is leaving the House at the end of this term, deciding not to seek a fifth term. He might be able to do more good as a private citizen than as a congressman. As a spokesman for any number of conservative causes, he could do more than just be "the only black Republican in Congress." I didn't see him advancing through the congressional hierarchy, so it seems to be the right time for him to go into private life. He won't go wanting, for any number of Christian organization would love to have him on their board, as would any number of politically conservative organizations. He could make a good living by simply hitting the rubber chicken circuit, but he'll to do more than that. The interesting thing will be whether his post-congressional career moves in a spiritual direction (he's an ordained Baptist minister) , a political direction or a combination of the above. He'd be on my short list for VP if I were advising Dubya on a replacement for Cheney if the decision is make to change the #2 slot in '04. If he finds the right job with a good chunk of public exposure, he might even be a viable presidential candidate in 2008. Keep a tab on this guy.

Ten Suggestions for Godly Courting-Ben seems to have a special lady in his life and wanted a post on my "perspective on relationships (proposal/marriage, something like that)". Here goes nothing. I'll be talking from a male perspective, but most everything will apply to ladies looking for Mr. Right as well. (1) Don't pursue a relationship with someone who doesn't share your faith. God needs to be the third strand in any working marriage, and marrying someone who isn't on the same page with you spiritually is a recipe for disaster, especially if you plan to share your faith with your kids-"Dad, why doesn't Mom go to church with us?" An unbelieving spouse can be a drain on a spiritual life; few people are able to be truly fruitful with a spouse that doesn't share their passion for the Lord. (2) Ask yourself-"Is this someone I want to be best friends with for the rest of my life?" You will be spending the majority of your time with this person if you wind up marrying them, and that person better be someone you get along will very well. (3) The goal in a good courtship is to get to know each other spiritual, emotionally and intellectually, seeing if the two of you will be good helpmates for each other. I use courtship even though it sounds quaint as all-get-out because you are looking at choosing a wife rather than finding someone to go to the movie with tomorrow night. It is "dating with purpose," as one of my church people put it. (4) Keep the physical stuff to a minimum. Even if you are saying "We will wait until we are married to have sex," passions can get out of control in a hurry, so don't even thing of getting past "first base" with your intended. Better yet, lay off the kissing altogether to avoid the temptation of taking a wide turn at first. (5) Pray with her daily, or at least every time you talk to her. This will help to build up spiritual bonds between you and to better open your souls to one another. (6) When it becomes time to "pop the question," rephrase #2 above as "Do I want to be stuck being best friends with her for the rest of my life?" To borrow from the old Huey Lewis song, you'd better be happy to be stuck with her, or else you're making a mistake marrying her. If we're doing this biblically, divorce isn't an option we want to use The unstated factor in this is that you should be comfortable with her flaws and quirks and not count on changing them. She's not likely to change much, so if there are things about her that you don't like, make sure you can live with them. (7) You should talk about marriage and engagement between the two of you, making a slow, mutual decision, rather than the storybook ring-in-hand, on-one-knee "Susie, will you marry me" thing. Be like the good trial lawyer and not ask the question if you don't know the answer. (8) Don't be speedy in getting married. Give at least a year between meeting someone and getting married. You need to see your intended in a variety of circumstances, in the up and down times. My sister was engaged to a nice guy from church, but early in the engagement, her fiance manifested some psychological problems that Kathy wasn't willing to live with, and she broke off the engagement. Too fast of a marriage will result in seeing some of these problem areas after getting married. (9) Have a second and third opinion on your lady from friends and family before getting hitched. You may very well have blind spots you haven't seen, and godly advice from trusted friends might avoid some pitfalls. "What about _____?" can be helpful to clarify problems areas that you may have neglected in your mutual admiration for each other. (10) Finally, can you serve the Lord better with her than without her? Can she serve the Lord better with you than without you? Having a wife is time consuming, but if the support you get from one another make your walk with God better, then it is worth getting married. Give 1 Corinthians 7 a read over.

Back in the Saddle-I fixed the network card problem on my home computer, and I'm now able to post from my own computer without using a dial-up connection. I also saw that the template fubar did a number on the counter over the weekend, which I seem to have fixed. Now I might be able to get an accurate idea of who's visiting.

Edifier du jour-John 18:33-38a
Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, "Are you the king of the Jews?" "Is that your own idea," Jesus asked, "or did others talk to you about me?" "Am I a Jew?" Pilate replied. "It was your people and your chief priests who handed you over to me. What is it you have done?" Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place." "You are a king, then!" said Pilate. Jesus answered, "You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me." "What is truth?" Pilate asked.
The last part of the passage is particularly pointed for the present age. The followers of Jesus are on the side of the truth, while the world asks what truth is. Unfortunately, we need to get people to seek the Truth before they can find it, and the modern world questions the concept of absolute truth. If we can get people out of a relativistic framework, we have a shot at getting them there.

Template Problems Fixed-Somehow my links got fubared over the weekend-they appear to be fixed. That might explain the rousing 17 visitors I got yesterday, all from search engines.

Sunday, June 30, 2002

Morning Musings-The posting may not be quite a trickle as Spudlets suggests, but my posting will be limited to the times I'm not with Eileen and my folks. I'm finding that early in the morning or late at night are the times I wind up getting free, since I have a fiancee that I have dearly missed, and spend most of the day with her. I'm heading off to church and most likely won't post 'til nine-ish this evening. Brazil 2 Germany 0. Renaldo nets both goals, tying Pele for most goals in World Cup play. Good ending to a good tourney.

Edifier du jour-John 17:20-23
My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me
Christian unity is a tough subject. The common focus of serving a risen Savior helps to bind us together, yet some small doctrinal differences will draw us apart. Liberals will tend to brush over basic concepts like Jesus' divinity and saving death on the cross in order to achieve unity. However, the pan-evangelical spirit of fellow believers seems to mark the discussions in the newly emerging Christian Blogosphere. We recognise that God's perfect, we're not and that Jesus died to bridge that gap. Baptists, Reformers, Catholics, Episopalians, Pentecostals and Charismatics are all putting their $0.02 in, agreeing on most things and politely disagreeing on some things. I'm finding my Calvinist streak firming up in this discussion and becoming a bit more of a literalist as I get my personal theology picked over by some smart people. Laymen tend to be more open to politely talk through doctrinal differences that the pastors, and this discussions that have popped up in the past few months have been enlightening.

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