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Saturday, August 03, 2002

Grace Awakening has an interesting question.
Personally, I'd be interested in knowing if anyone is aware of a weblog that has been intentionally designed to reach the outsider? I don't know if the new, awesome Blogs4God site has the technology to tell us about the referrals they get...maybe Bene Diction or Dean Peters can inform us here. What is the ratio of referrals from sites outside the Christian community to those within the Christian community?
Well, for me, it's about two-thirds Christian baced on referral sites. I added a hit counter on March 20th, so the first two-and-a-half months of blogging aren't recorded. Not counting Google hits, I had 4670 unique (per day) hits from Christian sites and 2424 unique hits from non-Christian sites among my top 100 sub domains (making up over 90% of my overall hits). Here's the top twenty in each catagory. Note that some of the "secular" sites might be run by Christians, but I included the ones with significant Christian content in my Christian side (sorry, Lee Ann, I put Spinsters in the secular column. Tough call. At least you make the cut in that one)
Top 20 Christian Sites
1 Jeffery Collins 411
2 David Heddle 387
3 Josh Claybourn 371
4 Ben Domenech 354
5 Midwest Conservative Journal * 349
6 Emily Stimpson 265
7 Vertias 255
8 Eve Tushnet * 235
9 William Sulik 221
10 Martin Roth 191
11 Kevin Holtsberry 143
12 Gary Peterson 132
13 Mark Butterworth 119
14 Louder Fenn * 115
15 Amy Welbourn 82
16 Hokie Pundit 80
17 Goliard Blog 78
18 Peter Sean Bradley 78
19 Mere Madness* 76
20 Junkyard Blog 67


Top Twenty Secular Sites
1 Instapundit * 355
2 Rantburg * 184
3 Dr. Weevil 182
4 Beauty of Gray 136
5 Patrick Ruffini 117
6 Possumblog 114
7 Kyle Still 95
8 USS Clueless 86
9 HawkGirl 85
10 Dodgeblog 69
11 Dispatches 60
12 Right Wing News 47
13T Blogs of War 45
13T Justin Slotman 45
15 Patio Pundit 44
16 Airstrip One 29
17 Spinsters 23
18 Andrea Harris 20
19T Townhall 16
19T Natalie Solent 16

The asterisks are for the sites that had more than one domain over the months; I lumped in Questions for Objectivists into Eve's total. When I started out, there were few Christian sites out there. Of that Christian Top 20, only six have seniority over me in the Blogosphere. Of the secular top twenty, only five weren't there when I started and Beauty of Gray came on line a week after I did. I had a bit less Christian content in the first few months, as I had few people to talk theology with. The early evangelical bloggers were more political pundits than theologians. Now, with the advent of a vibrant Catholic and evangelical corner of the Blogosphere, I get more hits from Christian blogs as I'm interacting with the secular blogs less. In the early going, all I had was outsiders. Now, I'm reading the Augie Doggie section of my favorite folder more than the Conservative or Libertarian section.

The Elephant in the Living Room-That horrible sound coming from the east was Beijing going postal. Taiwanese president Chen Shui-bian is talking about an independence referendum (thanks to Kyle Still for the heads-up). We've had two Koreas for a half-century plus and had two Germanys for nearly a half-century. In fact, we've had two Chinas for a half-century plus as well, but geopolitics has dictated that there is "one China." It's time for the Taiwanese to make it official and let the chips fall where they may. It's also time for the US to allow Taiwan to make that choice and say to Beijing "Don't even think about invading or attacking." It might be dicey, but if we're serious about supporting democracy overseas, we need to back up Taiwan. Taiwan has developed into a functioning democracy after years of de-facto dictatorship under the KMT government and one of the best high-tech outlets in the world. I think that Dubya had more backbone than Kyle gives him credit for; I don't think we'll let the Taiwanese roast slowly over a mesquite flame while we play footsie with the mainland. There are enough conservatives, ex-pats and Taiwanese business interests, not to mention some good warbloggers without a cause, to keep Dubya from going soft on Taiwan.

Edifier du jour-Romans 4:2-7
For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say?
"ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS CREDITED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS."
Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing on the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works:
"BLESSED ARE THOSE WHOSE LAWLESS DEEDS HAVE BEEN FORGIVEN, AND WHOSE SINS HAVE BEEN COVERED.
I remember a Bablyon 5 episode where someone was talking to the human Ranger Marcus, complaining that life isn't fair. Marcus replied, "That's good, for if it were fair, we'd each get exactly what we deserve." If we are trying to justify our status in Heaven on our works, we're not going to get much. The gift that God gives us through faith is far beyond what anyone can earn on their own. God isn't playing fair, but don't complain, since we don't deserve eternal life.

Friday, August 02, 2002

Unpleasant Opinions-Part 1: Eileen's off talking to her mom, so I'll get part of the Fisking of Derb's piece in now. Side thought: could he be pulling a false-flag thing, playing the devil's advocate to get all good positive conservatives to return blogfire? Please note that I majored in PoliSci and not Pollyanna at Central Michigan University. Well, lets get at it.
Most of us will die in poverty. There is no way that systems devised to provide for mid-20th-century retirees will be able to cope in the mid-21st, with imploding demographics and a centenarian on every block. "Defined-contribution" pension plans will have to be baled out by the federal government, if private enterprise is to survive. The dollars we get from them will therefore be massively devalued. Since there is no one to bale out Social Security, benefits will soon be restricted to citizens more than 80 years old. Similarly for Medicare. In fact...
This assumes that the economy tanks; if productivity continues to improve, we'll be able to support a big pack of seniors. A good immigration policy can offset the demographics and some solid reform of Social Security in a few years will ease things.
Quality health care for all is not possible. Quality health care is what rich people get. (Actually, according to one of the depressingly tiny number of rich people I know, even they have trouble getting it.) The rest of us must wait on line to be misdiagnosed by ill-trained, paperwork-swamped, litigation-shy doctors, assisted by nurses imported from the less hygienic parts of the Third World, and unionized hospital staff with no-way-you-can-get-me-fired attitudes. This could only change if the U.S.A. devoted her entire Gross National Product to health care; and even then, it probably wouldn't stay changed for long.
We may well have to slide a point or two more of GDP over into the health care section, but a growing economy should be able to afford it without sacrificing our standard of living in other areas. Getting good health care to the poor will remain a challenge, and the rich will always be a step ahead of the rest of us, but the vast majority of Americans will continue to get good health care. He has a moment of sanity when he gives both barrels to pop culture and a funky French quote, however, he then has another relapse.
The environment is collapsing. The U.S. will get the blame for it, of course, but the main culprit is the Third World. Take a trip to China: The air is a soupy smog, even in quite remote places. Vast dust storms sweep periodically across the north of the country, sometimes continuing right on across the Pacific. (And in one case last year, the Atlantic, too!) The rivers run purple, orange, and turquoise. People tell me India is worse. The inhabitants of Africa are busily stripping their continent of all vegetation, having already pretty much exterminated the fauna, except in a few tourist reservations. The oceans are being fished out, and near-earth orbit is filling up with lethal junk.
The last quarter century has seen improvement in pollution in the west, not deterioration. Where has he been hiding? If we work on developing the rest of the world, they'll have the money to do things right
Science has stopped. None of the really major scientific advances that you have been reading about since 1970 as "just over the horizon" is ever going to happen. Cheap fusion power; the colonization of Mars; artificial intelligence; supersonic air travel you can afford; contact with extraterrestrial civilizations; the conquest of cancer, tooth decay, or the common cold; fuhgeddaboutit.
Yeah, I remember the 1970 blogs. If we had less environmental controls, we might have had affordable supersonic stuff, but we do have more affordable subsonic stuff thanks to deregulation. AI is closer, fusion's closer, cancer treatment is vastly improved and we're starting to make dents in tooth decay and the common cold. Mars is still always off; that's one that seemed closer in 1970 than today, as is ET. OK, Eileen's getting off the phone. Part two tomorrow.

Derb's Curmudgeon Pill OD-He's not in a good mood, and I disagree with most of his conclusions. I'll have to give it a good Fisking tomorrow, but time with wife (she's presently on the phone with a seminary buddy) beckons.

Goin' South-After getting arrested, the Big Dog got shipped to Atlanta, as Milwaukee picks up Toni Kukoc and a first rounder next year. I think Kukoc will be a better fit for Milwaukee, as he'll be a better fit for a free-flowing Milwaukee offence than Robinson. I see Kukoc and Ray Allen coexisting better than Allen and Robinson. My Piston-fan schadenfreude over Robinson's legal hassles just got whupped upside the head; this new batch of cheese-heads got game.

The Jewish-American Ex-Pat-Jonah had an interesting post over in The Corner this morning on the Hebrew U bombing
I can't shake the feeling that the murdered Americans at Hebrew University are being treated differently because they're Jewish. Or perhaps, it's more appropriate to say it's because they're Jewish Americans in Israel. If five Americans -- Jewish or otherwise -- were killed at a French or German or Indian university, I can't help but think that the media and political class would make a much bigger deal.
Lord, keep me from falling into stereotypes on this one. I can't quite put a finger on it, but Jewish Americans living in Israel are treated as de facto Israelis, both by the Arab world and by Americans. There seems to be both a portrayal of and a real sense of dual loyalties that other hyphenated-Americans don't have. The flow of American-based Jews to Israel, coupled with hearing a large number of Israelis on TV and radio speaking English with American accents (they're more likely to interview English speakers) make the line between ex-pat and émigré seem rather blurred. For instance, Robert Bauer's over in England this summer, and no one's thinking of him as a de facto Brit. Nor would we if he decided to get a master’s degree over in England. However, if Aspragirl or Howard Fienberg went ex-pat on us, we'd be more likely to think the move was permanent, due to the stronger ethnic and religious ties that a Jewish American typically feels to Israel than an Gentile Euro-American feels to his forebear’s homeland (if he's not a multi-ethnic Euromutt like many Americans).
"I want to be where my people are." "You're moving to Israel?" "Nah. West Palm Beach."
The desire to be in the majority and not be crapped on as a minority is a powerful urge. Gentile Euro-Americans aren't an oppressed minority, as with the exception of a the occasional reference to the Mafia or Cheese Eating Surrender Monkeys, we don't pick on European ethnic groups too much anyone. The Polack joke and most anti-Catholic slurs have gone the way of the dodo. However, anti-Semitism is still alive and well, albeit at a lower level then in the past. This coupled with the difficulties of practicing your faith when you have few fellow believers in town makes heading to where your coreligionists are in the majority a potent attraction. This gives Israel an allure to Jewish Americans that, say, Ireland doesn't have for Irish-Americans. It's an odd dance between respecting Jewish-Americans as fellow citizens and not dwelling on duel loyalties and recognizing that their experience is different from other Americans.

Intelect and the Modern College-Joshua Claybourn wanted me to weigh in on his piece the lack of apprecation of the intelect in modern education. There are a number of reasons for the loss of the classic intelectual endevour of college and in education in general. Let me try to identify a few. The first is that in earlier eras, people were developing an general intelect rather than a set of skills. Buisnesses would hire smart college grads and teach them the details of a position rather than expect that the student had a mastery of a field before hiring them. In the 60s, a History major could get a job as an accountant, or an English major could get a management job at a bank. Today, the BBA would be the gateway for both jobs, unless you have killer connections with the business. This creates a desire to develop particular skills and knowledge rather than a small-l liberal education. Most colleges have some sort of general studies requirement, where each student has to take something like two social studies classes, two science classes, two humanities classes and two international-multicultural (often with a de facto X-studies PC class requirement) classes. However, many students will treat these as time cards that need to be punched on the way to their degrees. Secondly, we have become a captive of credentialitis. Larger organizations (also having to deal with a raft of labor laws) will tend to screen by degree and major rather than skills. Despite having a college teaching background, I couldn't teach high school in most states without a education degree. My friend Alan was an accounting major in college, but because his school labled it as a Management major, he gets turned down for accounting jobs unless he gets a chance to show the employer his transcripts. In an increasingly litigeous society, going by credential rather than a more subjective feel for the person's ability to do the job will leave employers less liable to lawsuits. Thirdly, with the increase in credentialitis and demand for detail skills for many jobs, many people that would be working with a high school degree and learing on the job are being forced to get a college degree to get by. People with college degrees will go on for MBAs to differentiate themselves from the huddled masses with mere BBAs. Note the number of smallers schools (including Warner Southern) that have added MBA programs to meet this credentialitis-driven demand. This brings a lot of people who aren't overly interested in a broad, classic liberal education but want to get their credential rather than a education. Fourthly, this new crop of students makes the modern campus more egalitarian. The old collegiate intelectual order had a blend of elitism and meritocracy, where the "best and the brightest" met, networked and got a broad understanding of the world. There are pockets of that still remaining, but a different paradigm, creating experts not intelectuals, has been created. That elitism was first altered by the GI Bill, enabling the non-elites to more easily go to college. Later, the addition of women and minorities to the mix further changed the dynamic of an affulent-male universe. Modern liberalism questioned the classical foundations of the old system, as Aristotle was replaced by Angelou and Latin with Lesbian Studies. The rights-based arguments of modern discourse made meritocracy harder to enforce; standards were weakened so as to not offend the new members of the expanded community. Such an intelectual haven will be assailed from the populist right as a bunch of liberal egg-heads out of touch with reality and from the "progressive" left as worshiping dead white males and the idea of absolute truths. The natural meritocracy of the classic college makes the less-talented jelous. It will rarely be popular, but will continue to exist if there are people willing to go beyond the short-term and continue to think about the Big Picture.

It's a Small Blogosphere After All.-Bloggedy Blog had a Seven Degrees of Separation blog game going, picking a random blog, and coming back home in three links via Dr. Weevil and yours truly.

Morning Musings- Just got back from Goodyear, playing husband. Eileen hit something Wednesday that did a number on one of Sparkle's wheels. So, I had here take my Buick into school this morning while I tootled Sparkle over to get fixed after going to a men's breakfast with the guys from New Hope Assembly. I had time on my hands as they put on a new tire and wheel (thanks, Sloughfoot, nice try) and did a cover-to-cover on the Lakeland Ledger. Lots of food for thought. Alexander the Plaid got past Bryant 54-43 in the Tennessee Senate primary yesterday. It's probably good news for the general election, since Lamar! will be a easy winner in November. Katherine Harris, the now-former Florida Secretary of State is in some doo-doo over not resigning as state law requires when officially filing papers for running for Congress two weeks ago. The law requires elected officials to do so, but since her position will be appointed from here on out, she thought she was exempt. She'll likely win that House seat, but she looks like more than a bit of a doofus, and the Democrats will make a truckload of hay over this. She's now retroactively resigned as of two weeks ago. Run that by me again: retroactively resigned? Dubya got fast-track through the Senate, 64-34. That will help expand NAFTA southward to such developing Latin economies such as Chile, as this allows the President to negotiate trade deals that Congress can't modify but only vote up or down upon. There was a bit more bipartisanship in the Senate, as opposed to a nail-biting vote in the House. The Ledger pointed out that both of Florida's Democratic senators voted for the bill. I saw this trade in the agate type on the Ledger sports page, and it screamed salary dump. Orlando traded Don Reid (a solid backup 4-5 and former Piston) and a future first-rounder to Denver for a 2004 second-rounder. "Here, take him, please. We'll even give you a first round pick if you do." The Sentinel article backed up the idea of a salary dump so that the Magic can sign their draftees.

Edifier du jour-1 Peter 3:1-2
In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior.
I'm drawn today to the idea of living a life that is a witness to God without having to say so; while this verse is about wifely sumbission, it got me thinking about a well-lived life in general. A lot of mainline churchgoers I've met have gotten the message that they are to evangelize more with their life than with their words. I used to recoil at that, for it seemed to give my tender heart and lazy mind an excuse not to evangelize. However, the more I've encountered the Francis of Assisi quote, "Preach the good news and where necessary use words," the more it seems to sink in. Our witness is hampered if we don't live a life of joyful service to our fellow man. That doesn't mean we're not to present the Gospel to people, but it helps to live it first, providing an attractive package to present the Gospel from. If you're a selfish sourpuss, why would people buy the idea of the unspeakable joy waiting for the new believer? James 1:22 comes to mind, "But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves." Such a believer who can quote you all the right verses yet doesn't allow that knowledge to transform their lives isn't much help at expanding the kingdom.

Thursday, August 01, 2002

Methodists Door-to-Door?-I'm not sure if it's a sign of desperation or an actual revival happening in this neck of the woods, but the local Methodists have a big community outreach push going on. A half-dozen churches have been advertising "block parties" for tomorrow for the last few weeks. Turns out that they are working with a British-based outreach ministry (dare I say consultant?) call Celebrate Jesus that's helping orchestrating a two-week push to reach the unchurched, according to this article. The push must be getting somewhat serious, since we had a flier on our door when we got back from the Vineyard cell group this evening.

Tennessee Stuff-I've heard of Saturday primaries, but other than the fact that it's August 1, why is Tennessee running a primary on Thursday? It could be the last gasp for Alexander the Plaid; if he gets beat by Ed Bryant in the Senate primary, it will put the fear of a higher power into other moderates and RINOs. The polls for the GOP gubernatorial primary have Van Hilleary whupping on Jim Henry; all the billboards ("Ready for the Job" IIRC) Henry put up on I-75 don't seem to be helping. Either would be an improvement over tax happy near-RINO Sundquist.

Transitions-Went up to the license bureau and got my Choose Life plates. I'm not normally a bumper-sticker kinda guy, but I felt it was $20 well spent (with the proceeds going to non-abortion crisis pregnancy centers). For the last two months, I've been able to pick out my car because of the Michigan plates; now, I can look for the white Buick with the Choose Life sticker. When the snowbirds arrive, a Choose Life plate might be rarer than a Michigan plate in these parts. The other first was running into someone from church while grocery shopping this afternoon. The time schedule of a college professor floors some people; I'm free at 3:00 in the afternoon while my wife is off at her teaching job.

Tempest in a Teapot Dome-Christopher Johnson among others pointed out the lack of scandal in this NYT front-pager. They're trying to make Cheney look bad for some asbestos liabilities of Harbison-Walker, who Halliburton (where Cheney was CEO between government stints) bought in 1998. The liabilities were from a subsidiary Harbison-Walker spun off in 1992, promising to share the asbestos-related expenses with the buyer of the subsidiary. OK, so Cheney and others might not have properly anticipated the HW asbestos tab. Quite a few businessmen have made comparable mistakes This is a classic case of questioning your political enemies. Like the Harken flap, you don't have to prove anything or even allege anything, you just keep saying "What about X?" Since there's no charge to fight, there's nothing to refute, but it sounds like a scandal when played up by the media.

Support Your Local Pastor-I was over at the website of Kevin Pierpont today. I had been over there some in the past, but I noticed via his Blogs4God blurb that he's a Baptist pastor in southern Michigan. He joins Joshua Sargent (an AoG pastor, IIRC) as two pastors who've permalinked me, not to mention seminarians and church employees. That's flattering but bracing that church pros are appreciating what I write. I hope to keep it edifying, even though I can get a little sarcastic and revert to some mild scatalogical references from time to time.

Good Day for Blind Squirrels-The UN just announced that there was no massacre when the Israelis went into Jenin during the big West Bank offensive (or would that be counter-offensive, given all the autoboomers) in April. Sorry, guys, when you can't even get the UN to split the difference, your case is suitable for use as fertilizer. Hmmm. I could talk to some of the phosphate plant people between Bartow and Mulberry and see if a Ramallah plant would be practical; it's a rough neighborhood, but, boy, do they have a supply.

Is Tax Avoidance Immoral?- Sign of too much free time, I'm reading the New Republic without someone like Ruffini or Judd leading me to it. Jonathan Chait's latest dig at the Harken psudeo-scandle had this head-scratcher
Yesterday's New York Daily News reported that Harken Energy Corporation--President Bush's now-infamous oil firm -- set up an offshore subsidiary in the Cayman Islands to minimize its taxes. Was this illegal? No. Was this immoral? Some say "no," but many say "yes." And, unfortunately for Bush, Republicans have been among those saying "yes." "The president is concerned about corporations in America who take advantage, set up operations outside of America, in an effort to lower their taxes," White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said just this week. "It's not illegal, but it is immoral," said Charles Grassley, the Republican chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.
If the current tax laws allow companies to direct profits towards subsidiaries in lesser-taxed countries, is it wrong to do so? Note that Grassley and Chait both used the word immoral. If they said unethical, they might have a point. I think I'm on base with this following differenciation, which I used with my MBA class last week:
Ethical-Things that people approve of Moral-Things that God approves of
It might be unethical in the eyes of the average American, or especially to the average neoliberal, to use the tax code to get out of paying your "fair share" of taxes. However, what does God think about legal tax shelters? I hear the liberal section of the Peanut Gallery about to say, "Yeah, sure, Jesus would have Swiss bank accounts and loophole subsidairies in Bermuda." Why not? If the money saved furthered His kingdom more than having it being used by the government, yes He would. He did say "Give to Caeser what belongs to Caeser" but if Caesar lets you keep some more of your tax money if you do X, Y or Z, then Caeser's giving up his claim to that money. It might be immoral if the tax shelter profits were being use for immoral means, but if you were doing more good with the money than the govermement would (You, there in the right bleacher. Stop snickering!), I think God would smile upon honestly taking advantage of the tax code. Note that this doesn't give an blessing for tax evasion. Tax aviodance (using the code to your advantage) is legal, evading you tax burden isn't. We're supposed to obey the law unless it directly goes against the Gospel, including (darn!!) paying our taxes.

"Which broadband did you get, Luscious Jackson, ZoeGirl or the Go-Gos?"-None of the above, I got my cable modem up and running just now. This is a tangential cost of blogging; were it not for the blog, I'd likely be using a dial-up account at half the cost. It also lets me listen to a lot of good radio stations that simulcast on the web. Yes, you can get streamed radio stations on a dial-up connection, but you have to suffer through For some reason, all the contemporary Christian stations are just far enough north or west of Winter Haven to be picked up on the car radio only, while the numerous Christian stations we can pick up are either talk/teaching shows or hymns/Southern Gospel music. Two good simulcasting CCM stations from Central Florida are The Joy FM and Z88.3. A national CCM network, K-Love, is another good one that has a station in Flint I used to listen to.

A Cure for Senioritis?-I bashed the local Polk County school board twice earlier in the summer, and it's time to give them a pair of praises. First, one of their schools (albeit a charter school) hired my wife; she's in the belly of the beast today in Bartow for the county-wide part of new-teacher orientation. Second, they seem to have come up with a way for kids to get a jump start on college, setting up a dual-enrolment program with the local community college. Of course, plenty of wimps are trying to slow it down, fearful of lack of proper counseling, but it appears that even a blind squirrel will snag an acorn now and then. I'm not sure what we should do with the transition between college and high-school, but in a good college-prep program, much of one's freshman year in college is redundant. My sophmore Western Lit class at Midland High was tougher than the Intro to Lit class at Eastern Michigan, and my high school Government class made the Delta College version look like a cake-walk. There should be some way to smooth the transition so that, once you hit high school, a class covered the same material and would allow you to bypass that class at the college level. Yes, they do have AP or CLEP tests that allow you to test out of the college class, but a better model would be to make classes a notch more universal, especially between high schools and colleges in the same area. Even better would be scrapping the current model and allowing students to get into an college-level program by at least their would-be junior year in high school. I think a 16-year-old could handle community college classes in US History, Chemistry and Algebra about as easily as he could a high school class. College classes assume a bit more initiative in the student, so that less-driven kids would be better off in a traditional setting. However, an integrated program would turn teens into taxpayers faster, if we can rethink the paradigm. Yes, my experience in Midland was a bit special, as the Dow Chemical influence brought a lot of high-achieving parents to town, but even less-rigorous schools could benefit from a better transition to college-level education.

Edifier du jour-Romans 3:21-30
But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith. For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is He not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since indeed God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith is one.
This isn't a verse pluralists like, since belief in Jesus is pointed out as the way to salvation. Jews don't get squatter's rights on salvation as God's chosen people, nor are Gentiles (that means most of us) excluded from God's grace. It's open to all, but requires an active faith in Jesus. This isn't a verse that worksies like, either, since Paul gives both barrels to that idea. No one’s good enough to get into Heaven on his own. Worksies might point out that James 2 says faith without works is dead, but I'll counter that it the regenerative work of the Holy Spirit that comes concurrent with one's faith that produces the works. An earnest faith in and love of God will be expressed by various works, but will not be the cause of one's salvation. This passage is an equal opportunity offender, ticking off most heterodox theologies at once. However, it gives us good news to give to the world. It doesn’t matter how bad a person you are; you still have the prospect of eternal life through the blood of Jesus. It doesn’t matter how good a person you are, for you’re still not sinless and still need God’s grace. It’s also an equal opportunity reformer as well.

Wednesday, July 31, 2002

Cut to the Chase and Rename it New Sweden-It looks like the Liberals north of the border have drifted to the left, looking to double maturity leave to two years and adding childcare and broadband projects to the list. Is Chretien playing to the left in a pending leadership fight with the Rubinesque Paul Martin or are the Liberals simply showing their true colors?

The Lesser Angels of our Nature-I'm more disturbed by this Chicago story about a mob beating a van driver and his passenger to death after the van ran over three people (who all are still alive at this point) than the latest boomer at Hebrew U, killing 7, including two Americans. I've grown to expect a steady diet of autoboomers (this looks like a standard non-suicide bombing), but the Chicago story makes me a bit nauseous over what the average guy in the street is capable of. P.S. Hebrew University seems to have named the bombed cafeteria for that great Zionist, Frank Sinatra. Go figure.

When We All Get to Heaven-David Heddle has a goodie today on the afterlife
The question before us: what happens in between death and the resurrection of the dead? The two possibilities are:
1. Soul Sleep. This is a state of unconsciousness. The effect would be a seemingly instantaneous transition from life on earth to the final glorified state, including your incorruptible body. Thousands of years may have passed, of which you will have no awareness.
2. The Intermediate State. In this view, your soul, immediately upon death, goes to heaven. There you are made perfect in holiness and enjoy a conscious relationship with Christ (and presumably other saints). In that state you await the bodily resurrection to come at the second advent.
Let me take a stab. As I understand it, God and Heaven are trans-time, existing outside of our space-time universe; you can't go to Alpha Centuri, hang a right and fly three parsecs to get to Heaven. If I'm right, God will make a truly instantaneous transition for each believer. Transitioning from the timed to the timeless does a number on our since of time and causation. If that's right, then everyone will get to heaving simultaneously. Weird, but I think the best fit

Debunking The Coming Democratic Majority-Patrick Ruffini gave a good vivisection to Judis and Teixeira's New Republic piece that previews their forthcoming book The Coming Democratic Majority. Go thou and readeth, if you haven’t already. When you get back, you can watch Dr. Byron do some forensics work on the body parts. Religion-To downplay the fact that church-going people strongly lean Republican, J&T point out that church attendance has gone down since the 70s and "Religious Right" self-association dropped between '96 and '00. A four point shift in the latter in one poll is likely due to either a statistical fluke or some of the issues defining what defines RR than a sea-change in opinion. The fact that fewer people go to church isn't news; mainline denominations are bleeding members, as their more theologically conservative members head to evangelical churches and the less observant ones stay home. There's less stigma of not belonging to a church these days and there are lots more interesting things to do at home on Sunday morning than there were in the early 70s. If this trend was turning conservative church stalwarts into good secular liberals, J&T would have something to crow about. However, I think the trend is that secular-leaning church-goers (or more likely their now-adult children) stopped going to church over the last 30 years. Those two factoids don't take away the problem of church-going people moving away from the Democratic Party. The core of the Barone thesis is that morals are trumping class in determining voting patterns, and J&T fail to make a good case against it. Geek City-The second screen of the piece talks about the growth of the "Ideopolis," the professional-driven white-collar metropolitan areas that are now solid Democratic. I'm not sure if these more-secular cities are drawing more of the unchurched, and that the effect is not of professionalism but of secularism. I'm drawn to this paragraph
If you look at the 263 "ideopolis counties"-- counties that are part of metro areas with high concentrations of high-tech economic activity or that contain a front-rank research university--most of them voted for Republican presidential candidates in 1980 and 1984. But in 2000 Gore garnered 54 percent of the vote in these areas, compared with 41 percent for Bush.
First of all, check out "front-rank research university." The big research universities have a highly secular and liberal population, which will tend to skew things to the left. Secondly, many of the Ideopolises weren't so in '80 and '84. A lot of the high-tech growth has occurred since Reagan got out his can o' whuppin on Carter and Mondale. Yes, Silicon Valley might have been an Ideopolis in the early 80s, but places like North Carolina's Research Triangle area or Austin weren't high-tech centers twenty years ago, IIRC. The Ideopolis has attracted a group of socially-liberal, sorta-libertarian geeks that weren't living there 20 years ago. For now, social issues have made them lean Democratic, but that group is in play, and will likely be more at play as they get older and start looking at what kind of would they want for their older children. Thirdly, J&T chose the Democrat's low-water mark of the last quarter-century to start from. Gore's going to look like a giant-killer when compared to Mondale and Carter. Minority Report-A big fear amongst Republicans is whether Hispanics will be won over to the GOP and whether blacks ever can be won over. On both fronts, gradual assimilation should produce a weaning effect; as second and third generation Hispanics become part of a broader culture, they will become more and more Republican. The same should be true for blacks. The Democrat’s best hope is for continued segregation and separateness, for then they will see themselves as minorities rather than as people. If integration and assimilation allows them to see themselves as individuals rather than as of a certain ethnic group, then they will become more and more Republican. I don't think any grand strategy will help the GOP get the minority vote. The basic policies of creating a vibrant economy, good schooling and a strong moral tone will allow minorities to get out of the 'hood and the bario and be part of the larger economy. As the older rednecks leave the stage, it will become easier for the GOP to preach a color-blind message that will be harder for the Democrats to demagogue against. Once they get that message, we'll start seeing a larger black and Hispanic GOP vote. Gender Gap- This is real, but not because of abortion or other "women's issues." It's largely because women are the more economically vulnerable of the sexes and thus tend to be more interested in a governmental safety net. Having a greater maternal instinct to protect, they tend to want to take less risks, being more cautious (dare I say "conservative") than men. Women will be far more likely to be single custodial parents, whether by divorce or out-of-wedlock births, thus wanting more government help. Women tend to be more morally conservative then men are, but economics has tended to trump morals in the recent past. While maintaining a vibrant economy, a key to reaching the swing woman voter will be to assure them that the safety net will still be there, but will have better ladders to climb out of, thus avoiding the safety net turning into a sticky spider's web. The other flip side of the gap is that the GOP does well with men. With less worries about being single parents, guys are willing to take a more free-market. The key to Bush's "Compassionate Conservatism" is to sooth the fears of the women while still keeping the free-market economy that guys tend to like. J&T try to make comparisons with 1960 Kennedy-Nixon race. However, the comparisons to 1960 aren't overly valid, as the parties weren't as differentiated as they are today. Nixon and Kennedy weren't that far apart on economics; you could make a good case that Kennedy was less of a statist than Nixon was. Summary-I don't think that Judis and Teixeira's hypothesis is valid. Only a plea to racial and anti-religious sentiments will allow this scenario to run true. Assimilation and integration of minorities will work against the Democrats, and the basic God-fearing nature of the America people will make true anti-religious campaigning hard to do. The Ideopolis effect is more due to secular professionals moving into techie enclaves rather than a sea-change in attitudes of the people already there. In the short term, we'll see more of the status quo, but I can see where good conservative policy will allow for more minorities and swing voters to have more confidence in a free-market economy and move to the GOP in the decade to come. That may sound like whistling past the graveyard with this WorldCom/Enron bear market, but I'm bullish on the next decade for the economy, the country and the Republicans.

Edifier du Jour-Romans 2:14-16
For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them, on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus.
This isn't the easiest teaching for a pluralist to take, for they are looking for an out for the people who haven't heard the Gospel. God has given every person a conscience that testifies against them for their transgressions, whether he has darkened the door of a church or not. The plea of the pluralist is that that all religions have a core sense of right and wrong. However, that points not to one generic God but to that basic conscience that is native to every man. This conscience does not lead directly to salvation, but points out the need for it. Could someone lead a sufficiently moral life without knowing Jesus? Not if we are to take the Bible at face value. More on that tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 30, 2002

Return to Normalcy-My posting's been sporadic since I've been married, since Eileen's not been working since we've been married and I've had a light schedule. I haven't had as much "I-time" as I've been used to, as we've been busy being newlyweds, not wanting to be apart much. However, Eileen starts her new teaching job tomorrow, giving me the daytime to prep for classes and blog (Lord, make it in that order) without depriving myself of my bride's presence. I'm also getting a cable modem installed at the Byron household as of Thursday, replacing the AOL dial-up account we've been using this month. Flextime. Bandwidth. Move over, Reynolds, you've got company.

Big Brother (not plural)-The national Big Brothers/Big Sisters organization has demanded that its affiliates accept homosexual mentors. I'd expect some nasty fights over this, as many would-be mentors will leave and many parents would be unwilling to have their kids mentored in the new PC organization. This might be the time to start a national parachurch organization that nurtured single-parent households, that coupled the mentoring aspect of Big Brothers with spiritual and practical support for single moms (and single custodial dads) and their kids. Programs might include
Classic BB style mentoring, giving extra nurture for kids while adding a spiritual dimention. Handy-man support to single moms Summer and vacation programs to look after kids while mom's at work. Family-for-a-day programs that will "adopt" kids for a few days if mom is sick or has to be out of town. Financial advice and career counseling
I know that there are churches that do this, but is there a umbrella organization that can refer people to churches with such a single-parent support network?

Edifier du jour-Romans 1:18-23
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.
I've never been a big fan of evolution, even in my generic theist youth. I saw the universe to be too complex to have happened by dumb luck. God shined through His creation to give evidence of Himself. The sheer long-shot nature of the universe, coupled with the need of a First Cause for the Big Bang, pointed to some sort of God as a Creator and First Cause. While it took my Dad's witness when I was 23 to bring me to the Lord, the natural evidence of a orderly God helped keep me from heading off into hard-core atheism or agnosticism. I find verse 23 interesting. While Paul was railing against idols, I can read that to also bash the evolutionist and the animal-rights backer, who worship creation rather than the creator. They are trading God for a foolish view of the world that makes us an naked ape, merely a smart animal. If we're mere animals, than nothing better than animal behavior can be expected. However, we are more than animals; we've been created in God's image. As a God-like being, we are expected to be better behaved than mere animals. If that makes me a speciesist, I stand guilty as charged.

Monday, July 29, 2002

Don't Worry, Ben-It's the liberal wing of evangelicaldom that's wobbly on Israel in this WaPo piece. Look at the last paragraph and you'll see two of the most liberal (on non-theological issues) evangelicals I know of, Ron Sider and Tony Campolo, as well as a number of people with titles that would indicate a center-left political bias. Campolo was a speaker at the Urbana '87 missions conference I attended (his animated speaking style had the front row wearing raingear) and has been an anti-poverty activist for at least the last decade-and-a-half. I remember the Eastern Baptist seminary near Philadelphia he was affiliated with had an emphasis on economic development as an evangelistic tool. Campolo was a Clinton advisor during the last administration. Sider has a comparable track record as a anti-poverty wonk, writing a number of books on evangelical responses to poverty that were on the shelves a decade ago when I ran InterVarsity's Cedar Campus conference center's bookstore. It's not surprising that people who hang out with liberals on non-theological issues might develop a liberal foreign policy. Some of the names seem solidly evangelical without a liberal spin, but the crowd seems to lean to the left on balance. [Update noon 7/30 Bobby Allison-Gilmore does a background check on some of the other signees. It ain't pretty.]

Good and Bad Sports News-I didn't blog on it while it was going on, but kudos to Lance Armstrong for winning the Tour de France. Armstrong makes Tiger Woods look like a wimp by comparison. We're starting to expect him to run away with it. When he was slightly behind in the early going, my mind was saying "just wait for the mountains." Now, he's not only made the comeback from cancer to win the Tour but to own it outright, winning four straight. He's a story that you can use to inspire people. The other news of note was Derrick Coleman's DUI bust north of Detroit, going 100MPH on I-696 while plastered. When he came out of Syracuse, he looked to be a potential Hall-of-Famer, with a good inside and outside game with a enforcer's body. Now, he looks like George Foreman's evil twin, being overweight and a chronic menace on the highways. It might not be cool to say this, but this last month's crime sheet appearances of Iverson and Glenn Robinson highlights the "dis culture" that pervades a good hunk of America, epescially in the inner city areas. That subculture's disrespect for laws and traditional mores make it a toxic part of the larger culture, as these athletes become negative role models. People who come against that dis culture are often branded racist or prudish, but I don't seem much edifying in the personas of Coleman and Iverson.

Theology of On-line Rebuking and Correction-Last week, I criticized Josh Claybourn's direct quotation of profanities, finishing by declaring my critique a "gentle, loving rebuke." Bobby Allison-Gilmore had an interesting series of e-mails with the other participants and this passage from Matthew 18:15-17 came up as part of questioning my action.
: Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that 'by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.' And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church.
The quote Allison-Gilmore leaves off is
and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.
In the areas of church discipline, the Matthew passage is wise council. Before taking someone before the whole church about an apparent sin, one should talk to the person first. There might well be a misunderstanding or a rumor that you've picked up, and a heart-to-heart with the "sinner" would be able to clear things up. A second conversation with a small number of other people will keep a personal vendetta from getting played out before the church, as a number of friends of the accuser might head off a foolish confrontation. My mind is thinking of a parallel of a grand jury hearing to check the evidence and charges before proceeding to trial. Once it's clear that there is a problem and two closed conversations have both determined sinful behavior and the sinner's unrepentantce does a church hearing get called. If he's still unrepentant, then the church is in their rights to show him the door. However, the Blogosphere isn't a church. I wasn't looking or even thinking of excommunicating Josh from St. Blog's Parrish but to give instruction on what I would see as proper behavior. I was looking for education, not discipline. There are plenty of passages in the Bible on educating ourselves on how to live. Proverbs 1:2-7 comes to mind
To know wisdom and instruction, To discern the sayings of understanding, To receive instruction in wise behavior, Righteousness, justice and equity; To give prudence to the naive, To the youth knowledge and discretion, A wise man will hear and increase in learning, And a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel, To understand a proverb and a figure, The words of the wise and their riddles. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; Fools despise wisdom and instruction.
While I'm a bit nervous in claiming to instruct others in proper behavior, I still feel I am right to correct bad behavior when it arises. I've been properly corrected in a less-than-proper use of the word rebuke, but my effort was designed to point out that such quotations have the effect of coarsening our conversations and becoming part of a fallen culture rather than standing in loyal opposition to it. While this corner of the Blogosphere isn't a church per se, it has a community of believers interacting with one another. It is part of the capital-C Church but not a congregation. We have no punishment to give transgressors other than the cold shoulder of ignoring/delinking them or (politely, I hope) Fisking their more egregious posts. As fellow Christians, we have a duty to educate one another in proper behavior, even is those people are a thousand miles away and only known by their postings and e-mails. Iron sharpens iron.

Heady Stuff-Gary Peterson has a good run of posts on whether the proscriptions on mens and womans head attire in 1 Corrinithians 11 are still valid today. The string starts here, and follows here, here and here. Outland has chimed in as well. Once I figure out a theology of on-line rebuking, I might chime in myself on this one.

Speak, Louder, We Can't Hear You-Louder Fenn broke radio silence this weekend as well. It's touching that both Chris and Louder mentioned my wedding when they came up for air.

Unbanned in Lake Wales-Blogspot's now accessible on the WSC network. It was blocked last Tuesday, now I can get my favorite blogs in my office again. I didn't get to do my list of edifying blogs to unblock. My first acid test was Veritas, who took a break from the dissertation wars this weekend to post some, relieving my fears that he might of fallen off the planet. I'm flattered to be on his short list or recommended blogs. Yes, I like the Vikes to do well; with the Kory Springer death a year behind them, they're too talented to bomb two years in a row.

Charisma and Liturgy-Here's an interesting back-and-forth on Catholic charismatic services from Gregory Popcak of HMS Blog (pro-leaning) and Kevin James (skeptical). When I first heard of Catholic charismatics a decade and a half ago, I thought it was a oxymoron; how could that hierarchical organization accept the free-wheeling nature of charismatic stuff? Nonetheless, there is an active charismatic movement within the Catholic church. My charismatic Methodist dad was part of a charismatic Catholic prayer group that would meet on Tuesday nights at St. Bridget's in Midland. I went to a handful of them in the late 80s, and they didn't seem that much different than a co-ed Full Gospel Businessmen's meeting, except for a rare reference to Mary and the one communion service (yes, complete with priest) with real wine. However, that was a Tuesday night thing, not an everyweek Mass. The basic problem with incorporating charismatic elements into a traditional liturgical structure is that it requires a somewhat looser liturgy. You can't say "The prophecy goes between Give Thanksand The Heart of Worship," for you can't plan what the Holy Spirit will do. Charismatic services will have a looser structure; often, there will be a contemplative spot in the music where the instruments will be playing softly and someone with a prophetic utterance will have a chance to speak up and say what God's given them. Sometimes you get something direct from God, sometimes you don't, but a good worship leader will leave room for the Holy Spirit to do His thing. I'm not familiar enough with Catholic liturgy to say whether you can put such contemplative spots into the standard Mass framework, but it could be done with some musical creativity. You could even use classic instruments and hymns with a little creativity and Spirit-led musicianship. The bigger issue for Catholics and other non-charismatic churches thinking about being open to such activity is four-fold (1) It's an ad-lib thing, and many churches strive for order. The church leadership may not want the Gump Chocolate Box service-they want to know what they're gonna get. The lack of control makes people nervous. (2) It cuts out the middle-man. If a layman can be speaking for God, what does that mean to the pastor-laity relationship? Churches with a more top-down structure, such as Roman Catholicism, may have their traditional lines of authority called into question. (3) The message may be more challenging than the pastorate wants. Many prophetic words will wake people up from a spiritual slumber. The church leadership may like being asleep and cozy rather than have their faith challenged. (4) Fear of heresy- The church might not feel up to the challange of weeding out the false prophets from the true ones. Before a church becomes open to charismatic stuff, they need to know that it might go in ways that they are uncomfortable with. However, the church may realize that they have room for improvement (don't we all?) and that they will be willing to listen to what He might have to say.

Slick Willy Rides Again-The FPOTUS is trying to say that Enron or WorldCom wouldn't have happened if his beefed-up accounting standards had been passed. While there is some merit in not allowing the same firm to do both consulting and auditing, much of this is a classic case of the cops unable to be everywhere at once. Would beefed-up accounting enforcement caught Enron or WorldCom? Only if they were looking at the right place at the right time. If you doubled the number of independent audits, you might double the number of errors caught, but there would be no gaurentee that you'd catch every shady piece of bookkeeping. JYB guest blogger Chris Regan pointed out that an early AP piece had Clinton thinking about blaming Bush 41 for the "Blackhawk Down" debacle in Somolia. Classic "The Buck Stops Someplace Else" mentality.

Blogger fixes-Spudlets came up with a good solution to the archive problems: change something in your template (like add a new link) and change something in the archive template (I just added a blank line). So far, the Spudlets fix works.

Blood Rivalry in the Sunshine State-I'm beginning to get the feel of the Florida-FSU rivalry down here; it's got much of the Michigan-OSU feel except the people have to live with each other. Getting cut off on the road by someone with a license plate of the other school could start a dose of road rage. I've got a slight bias for FSU in that Bowden has the persona of a good Christian Southern gentleman while Florida was headed until this year by Steve "Antichrist" Spurrier. This piece on pre-season press conference might make the rivalry a bit less intense, as new Florida coach Ron Zook is trying to keep a lower profile. I remember the Michigan-OSU rivalry wasn't as much fun when Woody Hayes retired; the Buckeyes weren't as easy to hate. However, the rivalry will stay put despite the new head coach.

Edifier du jour-Revelation 12:10-11
Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, "Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, he who accuses them before our God day and night. "And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death.
This was my take-away from the sermon I heard Friday night. Satan has three main tools, according to the preacher: Temptation, confusion and accusation. God will use us despite our weaknesses and failings, and any suggestion that we are unable to do so should be met by questioning the basis of the inadequacy. If the only reason we are feeling inadequate is a vague fear, that's Satan talking, and not God. Those of us who believe in Jesus as our Lord and Savior have overcome this Accuser through Jesus' blood. I'm not quite sure how to take the "word of their testimony" part, but I think it is well expressed in Romans 10:9-10
if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.
I think I'm on theologically sound footing to say that the blood of the Lamb's activated (or acknowledged) by the belief and confession of the believer. Once that occurs, we can take confidence that we have no condemnation, for the accuser is out of commission in our lives.

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