Sunday, September 30, 2007

How is the trinity both three and one? Early Christian Doctrines

The struggle over the comprehension of God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is well covered in J.N.D. Kelly’s book, Early Christian Doctrines.

Some viewed Him as one who manifests himself in three roles (modalism/Sabellianism/monarchianism). Some only gave the Father due worship as God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit sub-god roles (Arianism/Jehovah's Witnesses). A couple guys named Greg and someone named after a spice, Basil, had some better ideas.
This brings us to an element in the Cappadocians’ thought which their critics often ignore, viz. their belief in the simplicity and indivisibility of the divine essence. In certain moods they seem reluctant to apply the category of number to the Godhead at all, taking up the old Aristotelian doctrine that only what is material is quantitatively divisible. How can we be accused of tritheism, exclaims Evagrius, seeing we exclude number entirely from the spiritual nature of deity? According to Gregory of Nyssa, number is indicative merely of the quantity of things, giving no clue as to their real nature; and Basil insists that if we use number of deity at all we must use it ‘reverently’… pointing out that while each of the Persons is designated one, They cannot be added together. The reason for this is that the divine nature which They share is simple and indivisible. As Gregory of Nazianzus remarks, it is ‘absolutely simple and indivisible substance’, ‘indivisible and uniform and without parts’ …In other words, they have transferred their emphasis from mere numerical unity to unity of nature. Evagrius says as much when he writes, ‘In answer to those who upbraid us with tritheism, let it be said that we worship one God, one not in number but in nature. Whatever is described as one in merely numerical sense is not simple in nature; but everyone recognizes that God is simple and incomposite.’ But the corollary of this simplicity is the tritheism is unthinkable. (268-9)

Put simply the Christian understands that God has revealed himself in three persons who are of one nature: three Who’s and one What. Pretty cool. 
The Mormons are polytheists, which puts them out of bounds of the catholic, orthodox church.

More to read at the previous blog on this book, book reports in general, theology, and the Mormons I have met and listened to, questioned and contended with.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Nazi genocide before WW2: blog a book: Blood and soil

My library acquired the just-released book Blood and Soil, a world history of genocide and extermination from Sparta to Darfur, by Ben Kiernan, and I was the first to check it out. I don't think I will be able to finish it then record all the quotes before it's due date. So I'm sharing some as I go along. The trauma of this book for me is reading about so many genocides I never knew about before. Kiernan is a fair author so far. The only one guilty is mankind. Sadly, victims become victimizers. It is a terrible cycle. Today's quote points out that victimizers will repeat their crimes when opportunity affords.
Genocides not only exhibit similarities, many are actually related events. Their relationships are often personal and generational. For example, we can identify the German precursors of individual Holocaust perpetrators. Heinrich Goring, father of the future Nazi leader Hermann Goring, served in 1885-91 as Reichskommissar of German Southwest Africa (now Namibia). There, German participants in the 1904-8 genocide of the Herero and Nama peoples included the future Nazi governor of Bavaria, Franz Ritter von Epp, who during World War II presided over the liquidation of virtually all Bavaria's Jews and Gypsises. At the Nazis' 1931 Nuremberg rally, von Epp and Hermann Goring stood together in front of Hitler. (35-6)

Sadly, practice at genocide in Africa led to efficiency during the War and not abhorrence and repentance.

Similar articles at World War 2, atrocities, genocide, book reports

Friday, September 28, 2007

Missions giving and utility bills

Guy Muse references a Southern Baptist missions article. I really like this quote from it.
"I often ask, 'How much does your church pay for utilities each year?' Then I ask, 'If you are paying more for your utility bill than you are giving to reach a lost world for Christ, how does that make you a missions-minded church?'"

Mary and the early church; blog a book

When you read a very interesting 500 page book on the development of Christian creeds it's hard to write a one blog book report. I have too many pages dog-eared. Instead of a book report, I will do a blog-a-book and highlight some interesting passages. The book under discussion is by J. N. D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines, the 1978 edition. I've already quoted once from this book in regards to the treatment of adulterers in the early church.
Over and over again I find myself most frequently endeared to the North African Tertullian. He was one of the earliest proponents of Trinitarian theology. He also became a raving charismatic in his twilight years. For some people that's a negative, but I like him even more because of that.
There are a lot of players in the development of church doctrine. Some are saints, some are heretics. No one has it all correct, neither do I. I have given a link to everyone in except for the ones who only show up in Wikipedia. Unfortunately, the nature of the internet means that might disappear tomorrow. Therefore, check the links early, before they become dead ends.

Onto Mary, the God bearer.
But the work which most richly embroidered the gospel narratives and was destined to exert a tremendous influence on later Mariology was the Protoevangelium of James. Written for Mary's glorification, this described her divinely ordered birth when her parents, Joachim and Anna, were advanced in years, her miraculous infancy and childhood, and her dedication to the Temple, where her parents had prayed that God would give her 'a name renowned for ever among all generations'. It made the point that when she was engaged to Joseph he was already an elderly widower with sons of his own; and it accumulated evidence both that she had conceived Jesus without sexual intercourse and that her physical nature had remained intact when she bore Him.
These ideas were far from being immediately accepted in the Church at large. Iranaeus, it is true, held that Mary's childbearing was exempt from physical travail, as did Clement of Alexandria (appealing to the Protoevangelium of James). Tertullian, however, repudiated the suggestion, finding the opening of her womb prophesied in Exodus 13, 2, and Origen followed him and argued that she had needed the purification prescribed by the Law. On the other hand, while Tertullian assumed that she had had normal conjugal relations with Joseph after Jesus's birth, the 'brethren of the Lord' being his true brothers, Origen maintained that she had remained a virgin for the rest of her life('virginity post partum') and that Jesus's so-called brothers were sons of Joseph but not by her...In contrast to the later belief in her moral and spiritual perfection, none of these theologians had the least scruple about attributing faults to her. Irenaeus and Tertullian recalled occasions on which, as they read the gospel stories, she had earned her Son's rebuke, and Origen insisted that, like all human beings, she needed redemption from her sins; ... (492,493)
Tertullian definitely comes across as the church father for Protestants. I was delighted to find out about the fount for much of Marian legend, the Gospel of James c. 150.
To start with the East, the title Theotokos, or God-bearer, applied quite naturally to Mary...was now becoming widely much so that Julian the Apostate mocked the Christians for their incessant use of it...The title 'ever-virgin' was also coming into vogue; but we should note that, while Cyril of Jerusalem was silent on the point, not only the Antidicomarianites attacked by Epiphanius and the Arian Eunomius openly taught that the 'brethren of the Lord' were Mary's sons by Joseph, but Basil of Caesarea, when criticizing the latter, implied that such a view was widely held and, though not accepted by himself, was not incompatible with orthodoxy. Athanasius, however, stoutly defended Mary's virginity post partum, and in addition held her up as the ideal pattern for Christian virgins. While Epiphanius still maintained that 'the Only -Begotten opened the virginal womb', we are not surprised to Chrysostom at one with Gregory of Nyssa in proclaiming Mary's virginity in bearing her child as well as after His birth. It was indeed Mary and her virginity, according to Gregory, that finally halted the long reign of death.
The ancient parallel between Eve, the cause of death, and Mary, the cause of life, continued to be everywhere exploited and was sometimes given fresh nuances. (494, 495)
From this perspective, 1600 years later, I don't understand the contortions taken to defend a minor point and not even explicit in the text of the New Testament. They are arguing over a piece of tissue and whether it was torn or not during birth. I have to give them credit for their literalness though.

Augustine often seems to be the one who holds the keys to church doctrine, rightly or wrongly.
Augustine drew together and refined the now established themes of Mariology. He was an eloquent exponent of her permanent virginity, arguing that since the risen Christ could enter through closed doors there was no reason why He should not emere from her womb without violating it. Like Ambrose, he stressed the special relationship between Mary and the Church, the one a virgin who brought forth Christ and the other a virgin who brings Christ's members to birth. The question of her sinlessness arose in the course of his debate with Pelagius, who had cited the Blessed Virgin as an example of a human being who had remained wholly untouched by sin by her own free will. Augustine denied the possibility for all other men (the saints themselves would have been the first to avow their sinfulness), but agreed that Mary was teh unique exception; she had been kept sinless, however, not by the effort of her own will, but as a result of a grace given her in view of the incarnation. On the other hand, he did not hold (as has sometimes been alleged) that she was born exempt from all taint of original sin (the later doctrine of the immaculate conception). Julian of Eclanum maintained this as a clinching sin, but Augustine's rejoinder was the Mary had indeed been born subject to original sin like all other human beings, but had been delivered from its effects 'by the grace of rebirth'. (497)

Augustine's nuance is too fine for me. I think Pelagius tripped him up here.

Related topics: History, church, theology, book reports,

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Why are black people so sensitive to nooses?

Perhaps a perusal of this collection of lynching memorabilia will provide an answer. You can also see more at the African American Holocaust.
Warning; graphic portrayal of the depths of depravity of the white, American soul...
White on black lynching still happens in our modern times, the last one in America in Texas in the late 1990's.

There are more blog thoughts here (over 90 at this point) on the African-American experience. I also have many blog thoughts on human rights abuse.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

10 C's #10: Lust, part b

"You shall not covet your neighbor's house. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor." Exodus 20:17 (NIV)

Does this command make the godly life incompatible with capitalism? No. Capitalism allows one who desires something to acquire it if means are sufficient to complete the exchange. In capitalism, if I like your car, I can go out and buy one just like it. The issue with this command is not that I want something just like yours, rather, I want yours. It's not, I want a wife like yours, but I want your wife. This reveals an attitude toward God, ungratefulness. When we recognize God's blessing in someone's life, we should rejoice with them and praise God with them because, Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. James 1:17 (NIV) Thus, the positive version of this command is: See my blessings in others as reminders to praise me for my generosity.

Lust, part a, is here as well as links to the entire series.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

what are blogs?

Great quote from Ted Olsen at Christianity Today in his article on the death of blogs.
The blog world risks becoming one giant midrash on The New York Times front page.


By the way, I've added this to my shared feeds feature, which has its own syndication feed.

The article is insightful. I don't feel the need to write as much as I used to. I consider this blog as one for feed readers who don't care if one feed isn't tickled 3 times a day. I have more feed readers than daily visitors, hence, I'm trying to include links to past articles, since there is no past in the reader.

Here are my other articles on blogging.

Dealbreaker review of Cruzbike

From the Recumbent Cyclist. His bottomline
FOR: There is nothing like it, something new for the bent rider who has everything, easier than I thought to ride, but difficult to master (tracking it straight).

AGAINST: Mediocre components, poor climbing ability (lack of low gears), heavy, unusual technique and the only commercially available FWD.

Previously, I had hoped this would be my next bike.

Night soil units

I wrote about Humanure awhile ago as an option for die hard conservationists such as myself. Well, Sun-mar has a wife-friendly option. Imagine spreading this on the green roof garden.

10 C's #10: Lust, part a

"Do not covet your neighbor's house; do not covet your neighbor's wife, his male or female slave, his ox, his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor." Exodus 20:17 (The Complete Jewish Bible)

In short, if God wanted you to have it you would get it. As a parent, I say similar things. Our children do not have many popular toys, at least at the same time as they are popular. When the popularity cools and the price drops, then they may get it, and, surprise, they aren't as interested in it. Why did they want it so bad? Lust. It gets everyone. Even if you could keep all the other 9 commands, they are external in their manifestation. But this one is internal. It proves our hearts are depraved. Paul writes about this in his letter to the Roman church.

7 Therefore, what are we to say? That the Torah is sinful? Heaven forbid! Rather, the function of the Torah was that without it, I would not have known what sin is. For example, I would not have become conscious of what greed is if the Torah had not said, "Thou shalt not covet." 8 But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, worked in me all kinds of evil desires - for apart from Torah, sin is dead. 9 I was once alive outside the framework of Torah. But when the commandment really encountered me, sin sprang to life, 10 and I died. The commandment that was intended to bring me life was found to be bringing me death! 11 For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me; and through the commandment, sin killed me. 12 So the Torah is holy; that is, the commandment is holy, just and good. 13 Then did something good become for me the source of death? Heaven forbid! Rather, it was sin working death in me through something good, so that sin might be clearly exposed as sin, so that sin through the commandment might come to be experienced as sinful beyond measure. 14 For we know that the Torah is of the Spirit; but as for me, I am bound to the old nature, sold to sin as a slave. 15 I don't understand my own behavior - I don't do what I want to do; instead, I do the very thing I hate! 16 Now if I am doing what I don't want to do, I am agreeing that the Torah is good. 17 But now it is no longer "the real me" doing it, but the sin housed inside me. 18 For I know that there is nothing good housed inside me - that is, inside my old nature. I can want what is good, but I can't do it! Romans 7 TCJV

A couple verses later Paul exclaims, What a wretched man am I! v.24 As Paul explains, these laws serve as our tutors.
23 Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. 24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. (Galatians 3 ESV)
The good news is that now we who have believed on Jesus have the Holy Spirit as our tutor and guardian. As our wickedness manifests, the Spirit awakens our conscience and points us to the Cross where the final sacrifice of Jesus was made where we can get forgiveness and healing.

The series on the 10 Commandments can be viewed here and here.

Monday, September 24, 2007

shipping container houses

When the going gets desperate, the desperate get going. Perhaps a Quik House is the way. It's the next level in modular building. Shipping containers are abundant. Steel is strong. Recycling them is green. Green roof possibility. Pour a foundation drop the prefitted modules with a crane, make the connections, and BAM! you are in your house in 3 months. There is already a 6 month waiting list. It comes out to $125- 165 psf excluding land.

Some other entries of mine on alternative houses:

Kid Nation hero

I don't have cable or satellite or even rabbit ear television, so when we vacation, we tend to over-indulge. One indulgence this weekend was a repeat of a new Survivor style show involving 8-14 year olds who are dropped in a ghost town to learn how to survive together, Kid Nation. What a miserable premise, eh? A summary from Slate is here. Of course our thoughts turn to Lord of the Flies, which is a brilliant argument for the total depravity of the human soul, no matter what age. In this situation though the depravity is perhaps more evident in the producers of the show than the children, who, nevertheless, do manifest their depravity. Who is my hero of the show? I give the gold star to 8 year old Jimmy from New Hampshire. He missed his family. He was under the impression things would be more like a summer camp. He wanted to go home. He resisted tremendous pressure from the host and fellow "citizens" in a public forum and stuck to his principles. He at least has principles. I don't know what ones the producers have.

Related thoughts on family and culture

Friday, September 21, 2007

10 C's #9: Lying, perjury and slander, part c

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. Exodus 20:16 (ESV)

Why the lawyerly finesse on this command? Why doesn't it just say, "Don't lie?" I think the concept of neighbor is important. It is so important a scholar asked Jesus for a definition of neighbor, in the context of the command, "Love your neighbor as yourself." Jesus responds with a story, the good Samaritan, in Luke 10:25-37. At the end of the story Jesus asks the scholar, which one was the neighbor, to which he replied, the "one who showed him mercy." Neighbors are like extended family in the same way that families look out for each other. It comes back to community, which God values. So if the command was simply, don't lie, then there would be no opportunity for devout Christians such as the ten Booms to hide Jews from the Nazis with clear consciences. In the context of loving their neighbors, hiding them and lying to protect them was the right thing to do. There are justifiable occasions to lie. Consequences will come as they did to the ten Booms, many of whom eventually died in the concentration camps.

Not every believer thinks that there are justifiable reasons to lie, but I do believe it's right in the cause of mercy for my neighbor.

Previous entries on commandment 9 are here. Part A, Part B, the whole series the 10 Commandments can be found here.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

10 C's #9 Lying, perjury and slander, part b

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. Exodus 20:16 (NASB)

Yesterday, I shared my childhood experience of perjury which cured me of it. I also talked about unfulfilled promises. I was convicted of some of my own on my bike ride this morning. I need to call a friend up and renew my offer of assistance. I'd like to look at slander a bit today.

Like perjury, slander is a way to elevate yourself and denigrate your neighbor. Gossip is a milder form of slander. Gossip can be less about hurting someone and more about portraying yourself as a source of all things private and juicy. Slander is often blatant lies designed to harm the reputation of your neighbor. A gossip might slide into slander when truth is less interesting causing a decline in popularity. Sometimes, though, we might feel the desire to take someone down a peg or two. Why? It's God who elevates. Who are we to contradict God? Nevertheless, it ruptures community. Community is important to God. He wants us to live in peace with each other. Mothers pass down ancient wisdom to children, that, although not in the Bible, interprets this verse very practically. They say, "If you have nothing nice to say about a person, say nothing." Perhaps short term popularity will diminish but long term trust will emerge in community.

The mess in Jena Louisiana

One story here. Should the assaulters be tried for assault? Yes. Vigilantism is wrong. But should the noose hanging resulted in a strong school response? Yes. But why was there even a segregated tree to hang out under?

more non-embryonic stem cells

The cells that make sperm in mice can also be directed down the path to heart and muscle cells. The technique hasn't been found yet to do it with human cells but the lack of ethical issues makes it worth the investment.
In general, the more primitive the stem cell, the more flexible it is and the more various tissues it can be used to make.

"Adult stem cells are much more difficult to work with," Rafii said in a telephone interview. "But now we have another potential source and in this paper we have delineated all the things we have to do to get these amazing stem cells."

A small little sample of flesh from the testicles should provide enough cells to work with, Rafii said.

Once isolated, they grew the mouse cells into blood vessel, heart and muscle cells. These could provide a perfectly matched transplant for the patient himself and perhaps others as well.

"They can also be transferred to other individuals who are a genetic match. You could even give it to a sister if they are genetically compatible," Rafii said.

Yahoo News

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

test your American civics knowledge

Kids at Harvard only averaged a D+. I scored a B (52/60). How do you fare? Let me know. Story at Acton"s Powerblog. The quiz is here.

10 C's #9: Lying, perjury and slander, part a

The penultimate command of the ten says,
You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor. Exodus 20:16 (NIV)
Notice it doesn't say you shall not lie. I think there is good reason for that, which I will come back too. The key question I ask myself is, what situations would I find myself tempted to give false testimony against my neighbor? Immediately, I remember a traumatic scene from my childhood when I was 6 and my brother was 3. I had broken a house rule and the violation was quickly discovered by my mother. This violation was of the hands-on discipline kind. When my mother asked in frustration who committed the crime I immediately blamed my brother, who was unable to muster a reasonable defense. I then ran behind a door and peaked through a crack witnessing the punishment I should have received. My perpetration of injustice in that instance destroyed any inclination to ever lie again. Lying is not one of my struggles. Judgmentalism toward those who don't value integrity as I do is one of my struggles.

Some of us have been given promises that have never been fulfilled. This is a false testimony. Of course the person making the commitment never took an oath when making the commitment but Jesus said the oath is ridiculous anyway, even evil.
33 “Again, you have heard that it was said to our ancestors, You must not break your oath, but you must keep your oaths to the Lord. 34 But I tell you, don’t take an oath at all: either by heaven, because it is God’s throne; 35 or by the earth, because it is His footstool; or by Jerusalem, because it is the city of the great King. 36 Neither should you swear by your head, because you cannot make a single hair white or black. 37 But let your word ‘yes’ be ‘yes,’ and your ‘no’ be ‘no.’ Say what you mean and mean what you say Anything more than this is from the evil one. Matthew 5 (HCSB)
Jesus' point is to not make rash vows to God. Do what we say we'll do. Don't give a testimony that is false. Don't make a commitment that is flippant or not possible. We are tempted to tell someone, Yes, just to make them leave us alone. That's a false testimony.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

goodbye zoomclouds

The zoomcloud feature was directing traffic to a Spanish site and no longer serving it's purpose, so, "Goodbye Zoomcloud." If anyone knows of a good replacement, let me know. Thanks

new blog toy

The Tall Skinny Kiwi introduced Blogrush on his page. It's supposed to provide new links to and from one's blog. Unfortunately, the tuning isn't so fine. I chose to belong to the religion/spirituality group. I wish one could belong to multiple groups which would refine what blogs show up. Hopefully, my blog will appear on some other random sites. If you click the bottom of the widget to get your own blogrush, or click right here, you will help me get some traffic. It's like a social network/technorati mashup in a way. We'll see how it goes. I'll need to keep my post titles interesting. You wouldn't believe how many people searching for "passed out drunk and naked" end up on my post about Noah...

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Yummy Land Shrimp

update below...
I enjoyed eating some land shrimp tonight from my friend Dave. What? You've never heard of land shrimp? You should read about it at Dave's website and buy some from him. I enjoyed crickets, local cicada, and spiced Mexican grasshoppers. They were dehydrated and yummy. Oh! I also had a silk moth larva. Yes, I have joined the rest of the world in entomophagy. A homeschooler has a great site called for more info. Dave has a blog with some pictures and explanations too. It's called Bugs for Dinner!

I don't have a category for this. I put it in conservation because if we all got our protein from things other than large mammals we'd waste less. Since March I have almost completely dropped out of the meat-eating population and it's going well. I get my protein from seafood and dairy as well as nuts, legumes, and other vegetable sources. I will not be afraid to add bugs to my sources now too!

Update: I now have pictures of my entomophagy!

Friday, September 14, 2007

Early Autumn cycling

One of my recent bicycle commuting pleasures is the smell of the ripened wild grapes alongside the Interstate. It transports me to my childhood when I played in the woods every day outside my back door. That was before Lyme disease was a concern.

I also enjoyed a commute in warm rain this week.

I feel bad for the people stuck in vehicles.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

10C's #8 Stealing part b

You shall not steal. Exodus 20:15

What does stealing have to do with God? It's the ultimate expression of a renunciation of faith in God's provision. When we steal we deny that our Father can provide for us. Apostle James gives good insight into our dissatisfaction with our stuff and the solution to it.
4:1 Where do the conflicts and where do the quarrels among you come from? Is it not from this, from your passions that battle inside you? 2 You desire and you do not have; you murder and envy and you cannot obtain; you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask; 3 you ask and do not receive because you ask wrongly, so you can spend it on your passions. 4 Adulterers, do you not know that friendship with the world means hostility toward God? So whoever decides to be the world’s friend makes himself God’s enemy. 5 Or do you think the scripture means nothing when it says, “The spirit that God caused to live within us has an envious yearning”? 6 But he gives greater grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but he gives grace to the humble.” 7 So submit to God. But resist the devil and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and make your hearts pure, you double-minded. 9 Grieve, mourn, and weep. Turn your laughter into mourning and your joy into despair. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will exalt you. (NET)

If we want something, we should ask our Father about it. The answer might be "No." The desire might be selfish. The proper response is to humble ourselves before God, not fight or take what isn't ours.
I tend to own inexpensive things so that when they break or disappear, their minimal hold on me leaves me less emotional. But even when small things were stolen from me, I've gotten really mad. Theft is a different form of violation. It diminishes the community trust. When I am a victim of theft I lose confidence in my social network. Theft is more than taking other people's stuff, it's violating community, and community is important to God.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Illegal Immigration

I came across an interesting article at the Out of Ur blog regarding ministry to illegal immigrants. I left a brief comment there, the third of the day, and the first one not nodding in complete agreement. Two comments later the Nazi trump card was played. I really don't think my comments regarding civil disobedience that compelling to draw the nuclear weapon of internet debate. Two other commenters, a minority, also questioned the illegal means of assistance to illegal immigrants. Since I've learned to bite on my tongue and hold my replies for awhile, I let it go until this morning where I saw someone else making points I thought needed to be made.

I surfed around to get some more perspective on the issue and found a great series at the blog, Another Think. I haven't read everything, and I don't know if I'll agree with the conclusions, but I fully appreciate the attempt to shine a light on all the angles.

I have a friend who is not a believer. He is a home contractor who employs an illegal immigrant. The laborer works hard and he costs less than any legal worker, not only in wages but also in the legal/moral incidentals such as taxes and social security and workers compensation, etc. The worker rents a house with 16 other illegals. They are living illegally in this residence which is not permitted to have so many unrelated adults there. They have to sleep on blankets so that when the police come, the house will look no messier than a normal family. The worker can't open a bank account so he asks my friend to keep all his wages. I think my friend is trustworthy. The worker sends money home to Mexico to provide for them.

Are there not enough problems with this scenario to understand why illegal immigration is illegal? How is a worker without any rights or protections any different from a slave? Why are Christians supporting a kinder, gentler slavery? Why are American Christians sending so much money to the eastern hemisphere if there are so many needs in the country right next to us? Shouldn't a Christian support, for example, a legal immigrant who has earned a contractor's license and pays taxes and seeks a living wage to support his family before paying an illegal immigrant who has flouted the law, does not support the government infrastructure he benefits from, and only asks enough to support a family at 3rd world levels? Why not pay the legal immigrant to do the work and send a check to ministries who help those at 3rd world living conditions in Mexico?

When churches minister to illegal immigrants and those immigrants come to faith, what does repentance over breaking the law of their host country look like?

In case I need to deflect ad hominem attacks as being a racist. I live in a neighborhood of immigrants. English is not the main language on my street, Spanish is, and some Creole. I am proud of those who have started their small businesses with a truck and rake on my street. They pay taxes and support our town and its services.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

pastor in Bangalore beaten

I don't post these stories as often as I used to because it happens so frequently. But this one is so frightening....
A pastor who runs an orphanage and Bible college in Kothanur, Bangalore, was beaten Monday by a group of 35 men who damaged his legs and fractured bones his back and neck.

An associate of Dr. T.L. Angan Haokip, who contacted the New Delhi-based Christian Today newspaper, reported that the pastor was driving along a busy road in Geddalahalli village when a group of 35 men sporting long marks on their foreheads and wearing red threads on wrists stopped his vehicle and inquired if he was a pastor.

Upon discovering that Angam was a pastor, the men said, "It is because of you that the nation is getting ruined," according to the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), and proceeded to brutally beat him and assault him in full public view. They also damaged the jeep in which he was traveling...

Surprisingly, when the police were contacted, they were hesitant to file a complaint and even falsely accused the pastor of rash and negligent driving. The incident has shocked and alarmed the Christians of Bangalore, who are concerned about how the police have turned a blind eye to the incident.

Are Christians allowed to practice their religion in India? What are Indians so afraid of?

10C's #8: Stealing, part a

You shall not steal. Exodus 20:15

A popular song from my college days by Jane's Addiction was called Been Caught Stealing with these opening lyrics
I've been caught stealing;
once when I was 5...
I enjoy stealing.
It's just as simple as that.
Well, it's just a simple fact.
When I want something, and
I don't want to pay for it.

I walk right through the door.
Walk right through the door.
Hey all right! If I get by, it's mine.
Mine all mine!

It sure was fun to sing along with even though I only knew a couple of the words. But songwriter Perry Farrell made the same observation of the 5th century Christian philosopher Augustine who reflected on his theft of pears. I quote a short summary from here.
Augustine’s Confessions deal primarily with his spiritual journey through which he gains reconciliation with God. Throughout his self-examination, Augustine struggles to know why he sinned and why he cannot overcome his desire to sin. We find that this passage wrestles with the motivation behind Augustine’s most pronounced sin: the theft of pears from a tree. What made this sin so conspicuous was the lack of an apparent reason, since Augustine neither wanted to eat the pears nor could he sell them, and after stealing them he simply threw them away. He conjectures that he stole the fruit to be able to steal and, thus, exercise some form of liberty. Indeed, by stealing the pears, Augustine was able to outwardly manifest the state of his heart which was in rebellion to God.

The thrill of the offense drove him.
Augustine’s Confessions, Book II, chapter 6, page 49.

What then was it that I loved in that theft of mine? In what way, awkwardly and perversely, did I imitate my Lord? Did I find it pleasant to break your law and prefer to break it by stealth, since I could not break it by any real power? And was I thus, though a prisoner, making a show of a kind of truncated liberty, doing unpunished what I was not allowed to do and so producing a darkened image of omnipotence? What a sight! A servant running away from his master and following a shadow! What rottenness! What monstrosity of life and what abyss of death! Could I enjoy what was forbidden for no other reason except that it was forbidden?

How much theft is out of necessity? I never shoplifted. I never had to make complicated moral justifications like Brad, a funny story. But I was guilty of a subtler thievery. Way back in 1991 I had a Co-op position at my current employer. At that time, the lab I was in all used Macs and I owned a Mac LC. I desired the fish tank screen saver for my home computer. Plenty of those discs were laying around and software theft back then was not discouraged. I rationalized. I took the disc. I installed the program at home. I returned the disc. There was no physical evidence, just 1's and 0's in a different order on my machine. My conscience (AKA the Holy Spirit) kept bothering me and I kept ignoring it/him. But my life of larceny was cut short at a prayer meeting. We met to intercede for the church but we started the meeting with personal confession and repentance. I was attending a Vineyard and was still appreciating charismatic gifts so I didn't know what to make of a woman in the group telling us that we couldn't move on until some more confession. I'm thinking, "What's this all about?" But I knew it was about me and my sin. In hindsight I would call her input a word of knowledge. After an eternity of awkward silence as we all bowed out heads I gave up and repented for such a stupid petty sin that was holding up our prayer meeting. It was stupid and petty because I was holding on to something stupid and petty. After my confession we moved forward with the prayer meeting. My rationalizations caved in under the conviction of the Holy Spirit. I was caught stealing.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Homosexual orientation is not fixed?! Mother Jones!

Quite the article from Mother Jones, not quite the bastion of conservative values, which asks whether pursuing proof for biological determinism for homosexuality is wise or even possible in an article titled, Gay By Choice? The Science of Sexual Identity by Gary Greenberg. Here are a couple choice excerpts.

Cahill—who says he doesn't think he was born gay—points out that even if it is crucial for public support, essentialism has a dark side: the remedicalization of homosexuality, this time as a biological condition that can be treated. Michael Bailey, a Northwestern University psychologist who has conducted some of the key studies of the genetics of sexual orientation, infuriated the gay and lesbian community with a paper arguing that, should prenatal markers of homosexuality be identified, parents ought to have the right to abort potentially gay fetuses. "It's reminiscent of eugenicist theories," Cahill tells me. "If it's seen as an undesirable trait, it could lead in some creepy directions." These could include not only abortion, but also gene therapy or modulating uterine hormone levels to prevent the birth of a gay child.

Psychology professor Lisa Diamond may have the best reason of all for activists to shy away from arguing that homosexuality is inborn and immutable: It's not exactly true. She doesn't dispute the findings that show a biological role in sexual orientation, but she thinks far too much is made of them....

Diamond has spent the last 12 years doing her part to fill in this gap by following a group of 79 women who originally described themselves as nonheterosexual, and she's found that sexual orientation is much more fluid than activists like Besen believe. "Contrary to this notion that gay people struggle with their identity in childhood and early adolescence, then come out and ride off into the sunset," she says, "the more time goes on, the more variability comes out. Women change their identities and find their attractions changing." In the first year of her study, 43 percent of her subjects identified themselves as lesbian, 30 percent as bisexual, and 27 percent as unlabeled. By year 10, those percentages had changed significantly: 30 percent said they were lesbian, 29 percent said they were bisexual, 22 percent wouldn't label themselves, and 7 percent said they were now straight (the remaining 12 percent had left the study). Across the entire group, Diamond found that only 58 percent of her subjects' sexual partners were women; in year eight, even the women who identified as lesbians reported that between 10 and 20 percent of their sexual partners were men. Diamond concludes that the categorization of women into gay, straight, and bisexual misses an important fact: that they move back and forth among these categories, and that the fluidity that allows them to do so is as crucial a variable in sexual development as their orientation.

Diamond cautions that it's important not to confuse plasticity—the capacity for sexual orientation to change—with choice—the ability to change it at will. "Trying to change your attractions doesn't work very well, but you can change the structure of your social life, and that might lead to changes in the feelings you experience." This is a time-honored way of handling unwanted sexual feelings, she points out. "Jane Austen made a career out of this: People fall in love with a person of the wrong social class. What do you do? You get yourself out of those situations." For the women in Diamond's study who tell her, "'I hate straight society, I don't want to be straight,'" Austen's solution is an effective treatment for unwanted other-sex attraction. "If you're around women all the time and you are never around men, you are probably going to be more attracted to women," she says. Such women sometimes end up falling in love with women, and their sexual feelings follow. And it can work the other way, Diamond says: Women who identify themselves as gay or bisexual sometimes find themselves, to their own surprise, in love with men with whom they then become sexual partners. Indeed, she says, "love has no sexual orientation."

Which isn't all that different from what they say at narth—that people like Aaron who hate the gay lifestyle and don't want to be gay should leave the gay bars, do regular guy things with men, and put themselves in the company of women for romance. And indeed the narthites know all about Diamond's work. "We know that straight people become gays and lesbians," narth's outgoing president Joseph Nicolosi told the group gathered in Orlando. "So it seems totally reasonable that some gay and lesbian people would become straight. The issue is whether therapy changes sexual orientation. People grow and change as a result of life experiences, especially personal relationships. Why then can't the experience of therapy and the relationship with the therapist also effect change?" Diamond calls this interpretation a "misuse" of her research—"the fluidity I've observed does not mean that reparative therapy works"—but what is really being misused, she says, is science. "We live in a culture where people disagree vehemently about whether or not sexual minorities deserve equal rights," she told me. "People cling to this idea that science can provide the answers, and I don't think it can. I think in some ways it's dangerous for the lesbian and gay community to use biology as a proxy for that debate."

Sunday, September 09, 2007

why riding a recumbent isn't weird enough for me

Not only do I want the a front wheel drive bike but now I want it with a drive shaft. Check out this technology on a normal bike.

intelligent design rejoinder

I recently blogged a humorous criticism of Intelligent Design, but now I feel bad. I recently finished watching with my kids a DVD produced by the Discovery Institute called Unlocking the Mystery of Life. My kids really liked it, but this biology major kept falling asleep. However, the difference between evolution and meteorology is the coding. There isn't an alphabet in the clouds but there is in DNA. That alphabet is specific and intelligent and points to a writer very clearly. There is no push back from these scientists in trying to uncover how the writer did it, in the same way that sculptors shouldn't figure out how Mt. Rushmore was made. Oftentimes, knocking down strawmen is much more fun.

Friday, September 07, 2007

10 C's: #7 Adultery part c

You shall not commit adultery Exodus 20:14

The church in Jerusalem wanted the Gentiles to avoid a couple really important behaviors. In Acts 15 (vs. 20, 29) we learn the big ones to avoid were food sacrificed to idols, blood, strangled animal meat, and immoral sex. In Paul's letters to the church in Corinth he assured them eating sacrificial food is fine if your conscience isn't bothering you and no one with a sensitive conscience sees you do it. The other two are never mentioned again. But sex comes up frequently. There are sin lists such as in 1 Timothy 1
8 We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. 9 We also know that law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious; for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, 10 for adulterers and perverts, for slave traders and liars and perjurers--and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine 11 that conforms to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me. (NIV)

and the last half of Romans 1. Two hundred years after these verses were penned the church looked down hard on some of these sins if committed after baptism. They figured something begun in the Spirit could be finished in the flesh. So some big sins like adultery, murder and idolatry were unforgivable after baptism. Many other things could be overcome with some hard penance, but not adultery. Kelly writes in Early Christian Doctrines
The most noteworthy advance in the theology of penance in the third century was in connexion with the Church's attitude to certain sins esteemed particularly heinous. In the last decades of the second century adultery, homicide and idolatry (or apostasy) seem to have been treated in practice, if not in theory, as irremissible, even by means of the once-for-all exomologesis [hard core post-baptism penance] described above...Certainly Hippolytus, protesting against Callistus's innovations, and Tertullian in his later Montanist phase took it for granted that it had been the Church's practice to reserve such sins hitherto. Origen supplies confirmatory evidence for the East, explaining that, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the good bishop 'forgives whatever sins God forgives, but reserves others which are incurable....' He quotes 1 Sam. 2:25 ('If a man sin against the Lord, who shall intreat for him?), a classic text in discussions about penance, and adds that idolatry, adultery and fornication figure among these sins for which there is no remedy. Cyprian is an important witness, for he shows (a) that, while sexual sins were irremissible at Carthage in his day, there had previously been disputes on the subject: and (b) that idolatry, irremissible in the past, only came to be included among sins capable of forgiveness as a result of the Decian persecution. (217-219)

The early church was wrong about unforgiveness but were right about the gravity of the sin, but anyone who has been betrayed in their marriage could confirm that.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

book report: The Rape of Nanking by Iris Chang

The depravity is so intense it was hard to read. A short history can be found at the History Place. In fact, the atrocities recounted and photographed in this book were so disturbing I had to take a break from this genre for awhile. I'm reading JND Kelley's Early Christian Doctrines for a breather.
In her assessment of the mentality of the Japanese army she touches on the reality of total depravity.
Looking back upon millenia of history, it appears clear that no race or culture has a monopoly on wartime cruelty. The veneer of civilization seems to be exceedingly thin - one that can be easily stripped away, especially by the stresses of war.
How then do we explain the raw brutality carried out day after day after day in teh city of Nanking? Unlike their Nazi counterparts, who have mostly perished in prisons and before execution squads or, if alive, are spending their remaining days as fugitives from the law, many of the Japanese was criminals are still alive, living in peace and comfort, protected by the Japanese government. They are therefore some of the few people on this planet who, without concern for retaliation in a court of international law, can give authors and journalists a glimpse of their thoughts and feelings while committing World War II atrocities. p.55

As she elaborates at the end of her book, the U.S. needed Japan as a buffer against Red China so war crime trials were not as satisfactory. The organ for justice in the east was called the International Military Tribunal for the Far East (IMTFE), staged in Tokyo for two and a half years.
During the trial thousands of horrific details of Japanese behavior across Asia came together in reams of news reports, surveys, statistics, and witness testimony. The IMTFE not only created an enduring oral history record of the Nanking massacre but proved that the massacre was just a tiny fraction of the totality of atrocities committed by the Japanese during the war. The prosecution learned, among other things, of Japanese medical experiments on their captives, of marches (such as the infamous Bataan Death March) in which gravely ill and starved prisoners dropped dead from exhaustion, of the savage conditions behind the construction of the Siam-Burma Death Railway, of the Japanese "water treatment" that pumped water or kerosene into the noses and mouths of victims until their bowels ruptured, of suspension of POWs by wrists, arms, or legs until their joints were literally ripped from their sockets, of victims being forced to kneel on sharp instruments, of excruciating extractions of nails from fingers, of electric shock torture, of naked women forced to sit on sharcoal stoves, of every imaginable form of beating and flogging (a favored method of torture by military police officers involved tying prisoners to trees, surrounding them, and kicking them to death in a method they euphemistically called "triple attack," or "converging from three directions"), even of vivisection ond cannibalism. It was later determined that Japanese treatment of their POWs surpassed in brutality even that of the Nazis. Only one in twenty-five American POWs died under Nazi captivity, in contrast to one in three under the Japanese. p.173

The Japanese behavior in Nanking was not a unique situation, it was par for the course. In the course of 6 weeks, the Japanese army killed approximately 300,000 people directly. The other half of the population that hadn't escaped before their arrival were protected in a self-proclaimed international safe zone by Western missionaries, doctors, and Nazi businessmen. The Nazi, John Rabe, worked for Siemens in Nanking and wrote many letters to Hitler complaining of their allies' behavior. Even those in the safe zone weren't completely safe. Repeatedly troops would enter to kidnap women. Many were gang raped to death or killed after the gang sated themselves. No ages were safe. The Japanese ran out of oil burning all the bodies they generated. Many trench graves were dug and many bodies were simply dumped inthe river to float away. Green troops were trained on bayonets with live prisoners. There were beheading competitions.

Chang concludes that "the Japanese killed more than 19 million Chinese people in its war against China." (p.217) It's amazing to me that Mao Tse Tung was able to find an equal amount to kill when he rose to power afterwards, but then Stalin was able to find an equal number to kill and match his country's war sacrifice.

One of the delusional double speak that is eerily familiar to that used in cults struck me deeply. Quoting the Japanese General Matsui:
The struggle between Japan and China was always a fight between brothers within the "Asian Family."...It had been my belief during all these days that we must regard this struggle as a method of making the Chinese undergo self reflection. We do not do this because we hate them, but on the contrary we love them too much. It is just the same as in a family when an elder brother has taken all that he can stand from his ill-behaved younger brother and has to chastise him in order to make him behave properly. p.219

Indeed the veneer of civilization is truly thin.

For more blog posts on mankind's atrocities against itself click here.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

back from vacation

which means a great deal of work to catch up on. The luxury of blogging follows that. I have a book report, 5 more commandments, political thoughts, etc.