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Wednesday, January 12th, 2011
9:56 pm
Lecture 5: Descartes
This lecture is all about Rene Descartes and his relationship to philosophy. Again, I'm not going to spend an exceptional amount of time breaking down what was said, but rather trying to demonstrate my views as pertains to the lecture in general and Descartes. This post is going to sound very harsh on Descartes, but I truly believe he was groundbreaking and essential to our modern world. My criticism centers on taking much of his theories beyond what they are capable of handling.

First, I would say that Descartes recognizing that to create a complete philosophy, you must begin with a (nearly) blank slate. If something is not either an axiom or proven, it is a flaw and either must be explained or the philosophy must be false. Many people are willing to simply paper over this, by saying it better fits than other existing approaches. While I believe in acting empirically, claiming Truth must be done philosophically and ideally these should match in a coherent worldview. Descartes views math as a reasonable tool to approach the problem with and by choosing a clean axiomatic system, it fits with his premise.

The second area where I think Descartes cannot be undersold is his acknowledgment of thinking as fundamental and necessary. Any philosophy that does not give room for thinking and purposeful action is flawed at its core. Descartes spent much of his life devoted to the interaction of the mind and body, which I admire for his dedication both to the fundamental premise of his philosophy and his trust in science. Though he largely failed, no coherent position can be taken without reconciling these two aspects.

From this point I find his arguments weak to erroneous. His Ontological Proof for the Existence of God seems just bizarre and wrong. Reality is ordered based on an objective distinction in his mind (i.e. x is "more real", therefore it cannot be caused something "less real"). I think that Jung's arguments about what characteristics a "God" must have show his argument against an imperfect God. I have not read Descartes philosophy well enough to know if he does employ similar arguments. Descartes then takes this opportunity to say that his ability to think (taken as an axiom originally) must derive from God (shifting the axiom to God exists and ruining any "proof"). From here it is impossible to accept any further argument based on Descartes own terms, so I won't continue.

Descartes helped provide the modern distinction of philosophy and laid some excellent ground rules for what is coherent. These are truly important and should raise him to the level of Giants of History. The success in these areas should not be construed to indicate that his conclusions were accurate or even followed his own rules. I appreciate that Prof. Roberts made this distinction to an extent and would discourage over analysis of Descartes' final positions.
Friday, December 10th, 2010
10:07 pm
Theology Series Lecture 4: Schisms
The theme of this lecture is various splits/schisms. Included splits include protestant/catholics, politics/religion, science/religion and philosophy/theology. As you either have the lecture and have listened or don't have access, I'll continue focusing on points interesting to me rather than doing a recap (Joe has been doing excellent recaps for all lectures so far anyway at cheglabjoe.blogdrive.com). As this is a scattered lecture, I'll also be a bit scattered in my post.

The first topic is the Protestant/Catholic split, primarily concerning the reformation and counter-reformation. This immediate aftermath of the foundering of Lutheranism can be viewed as a sad chapter in church history. Basically, Protestants shored up political support for their theological issues with the church by supporting the divine right of kings and the ability to appoint a state church. Meanwhile, Catholics responded by basically declaring Protestants the enemy and rather than respond to the (reasonable/necessary) theological points presented sought to create a better political system. These choices would lead to war raging through Europe for the following century and hard-line doctrine that has alienated many until and through the 20th century (and these doctrines and political choices carrying forward are why I will never be a Catholic, Lutheran or Calvinist). As Professor Roberts notes, the "wars of religion" weren't solely (or even always primarily) about religion, but it was a tool that was bent horribly for political purposes and not straightened. The Peace of Westphalia (before looking it up, only knew it ended the 30 years war as my ancestors were involved in it) in many ways marked the end of these wars. It established freedoms for sovereigns and limited individual religious freedom, which was key towards establishing the principles of the US (note this happened after the pilgrams/most puritans had come here, but well before independence).

The next crucial division addressed is presented in the figure of Thomas Hobbes and the book Leviathan. This is truly an important work and critically understudied in my opinion (then again many things are). Hobbes argued that man's natural state was that of war for resources, safety and glory. To improve life, there must be some way of declaring a temporary peace: the social contract. Hobbes addresses two forms of the social contract: religion and politics. Because man cannot serve two masters, one must dominate the other. Hobbes observed that most religions are twisted to serve the needs of the ruler and can be viewed as false, so the answer is to set up an earthly god, whose decisions/policies are by definition right/good (aside: I see too much of this in regards to world governments both currently and since the rise of communism/fascism/socialism/etc.). This social contract theory is the basis of most current government, though there seems to have been little thought on the interaction of cultures where government is dominant with those where religion is dominant (as can be seen as the Islamic world interacts with the west).

Next Prof. Roberts addresses the scientific revolution. Basically he addresses the idea of natural causality. At this point Roberts essentially drops the concept of realism. By having scientific laws, Roberts says that nature becomes further separated from God, rather than the Realism approach where this reinforces the concept of God (as was promoted by many/most of the scientists in their writings of the time). I agree that this is the current view, but it is revising history to say it was the case at the time (and really only took off with the German philosophers coming out of the Lutheran [nominalism] traditions vs. the French/English philosophers out of the Catholic [Realism] traditions). I was highly disappointed that this was merely glossed over, especially as Roberts had been building up along these lines in earlier lectures. The Leibniz/Newton feud for example defined the study of science profoundly and led to differences in university structure, but Roberts assumes the German position [which largely won in the end] and goes off to talk about French thinkers [who were influential at the time] without noting this.

I assume Descartes will be talked about in the next lecture, so I will wrap up the post here and leave him for next time. Overall, this lecture addressed a lot of important splits but (in my opinion) missed key points badly. That they are addressed is good, but strongly encourage people not to swallow the lecture whole and do their own research (on this lecture especially, less so on previous cases).

I start real work on Monday, so it may be a while before the next post.
Friday, November 12th, 2010
4:33 pm
Theology Lecture Series: Lecture 3
This lecture is on the Catholicism/Protestantism break. This lecture focuses on early Protestantism and does not reflect the changes that have taken place since then including within the Catholic Church. Also much of the lecture deals with historical events and doesn't need commentary at this time.

The early part of the lecture focuses on the differences between Realism and Nominalism. Realism is basically the idea (taken from the Greeks and that I largely agree with) that there exist ideal forms and nature is various imperfect copies of these forms (i.e. there is an ideal horse and individual horses are bad copies of it). This also says that the idea of horse is more real than any individual horse. Nominalism basically says that concepts are just our mind categorizing individual things to make it easier on ourselves and that the individual entities are what is truly important (i.e. there is true horse, just how we categorize similar things).

Realists believe that the workings of nature demonstrate the nature and reasoning of God. The nominalists argued that this limits God's power. Personally I agree with the realists here and feel it is well supported in the Bible, though creation is said to be an imperfect form after sin (thus allowing for miracles to fix deviations, particularly if you feel that humans have a supernatural element distinct from God i.e. dualism). One of the advantages of Nominalism is that it cleanly divides God from nature (while with realism it is with form vs. instance). I find realism compelling as it provides a motivation for science and study, but studying the instance (nature) we can gain insight into the form (God).

The obvious downside with Realism is when it comes into contact with evolution. Assuming humans and apes are from a common ancestor, which is the better copy and which is the degenerate? Partially I think is addressed by the concept of having fewer forms than there are animals (i.e. beasts of the field being a form vs. horses, cows, pigs, etc. being separate). Still I don't know how to reconcile this fully. But this does allow for "common grace" in that nature is an instance of God's desire for our habitat. Though marred, it still carries much of the grace of God to all who inhabit it. Beyond nature, there requires a special grace (i.e. saving grace) as humans specifically repudiated their position as an instance in Eden according to the Bible.

I think Roberts could have done well by describing the conflict between Realism and Nominalism in Islam, where Nominalism won completely. This affected the science of muslim nations for centuries and the discussion of the rights of individuals. In Christianity, humans are a form of God and require rights. In Nominalist thought there is reason for these rights (or way to discover the will of God).

Roberts then spends significant time on the need for reform in the church, both with regards to power of the pope and forgiveness of sins. I think these were needed and in some sense led to an over correction by the initial Protestants. With both sides assigning divine right to rulers, the need to differentiate was great and rather than address the corruption, the philosophy that allowed it to arise was attacked. The concept of works and grace is difficult, but a clear difference must be made to persuade a non-educated leader. Both modern Catholics and Protestants have largely come towards the middle of the initial positions and I think wisely so. For how much I disagree with the conclusions of the initial Protestants, I think the five solas were a massive development (Roberts lists 3) and are largely where I think the Catholic Church erred and continues to error.

I'll be traveling a lot in the next month, so posts may be rare just as a warning.
Friday, October 29th, 2010
11:22 pm
Theology Lecture Series
It's been awhile since I've blogged, but this will be a set of directed blogs (perhaps I'll start doing general blogging again sometime later). With Joe and Brett, I'm going through the a series from The Teaching Company titled: Skeptics and Believers: Religious Debate in the Western Intellectual Tradition and writing about my impressions and hopefully making some sense.

I'm starting with Lecture 2: "From Suspicion to the premodern Cosmos" as I've put my thoughts on lecture 1 on Joe's blog (cheglabratjoe.blogdrive.com) in the comments section.

In this lecture, Prof. Roberts starts by introducing the idea of being suspicious of religion and focuses on Marx, Nietzsche and Freud. He does not talk much about Freud, which is disappointing, so I will comment regarding the other two.

He starts with Marx and the concept that religion covers up the sufferings of humanity by redirecting concerns towards sin (and following up with the opiate of the masses quote). Here I wish I knew Marx a bit better to understand what his moral proposition was (particularly for the time of transition to his Utopia, though even when reached he is a bit hazy as I recall). Marx will be explored again later (I'm pretty sure), but here he merely challenges religion as not addressing his concerns in the way he wants without the thought of it being true, rational, or the best coherent system to address the concerns. His argument for religion not being a good thing seems like arguing that prices are too high without acknowledging the law of supply and demand.

Nietzsche is addressed next and is presented as a pessimist and emphasizes the story of the madman running through town declaring "God is dead". Here I think Roberts does a disservice as he does not complete the story of the madman visiting the churches and their poor reaction to him. I really want to hear his later lectures on the implications of addressing the unbelievers (and how he addresses the believers). Roberts then focuses on Nietzsche noting that without God there are no moors to the universe.

This I think is a key that many atheists fail to address adequately and to which Nietzsche presents Nihilism as the answer. While this is often viewed as overly pessimistic, it merely means value, purpose and morality are arbitrarily contrived (it doesn't say science/order invalid though). It is not that we are insignificant, just that we have no drive greater than ourselves and define our own significance. Unfortunately it is a difficult position to argue for rights or even the existence of evil from and was an underpinning of many brutal regimes. So while it is coherent, when carried out it is viewed as unjust or impractical.

From here Prof Roberts jumps back to St. Thomas Aquinas. He highlights the importance/authority of tradition to the doctrine of the Catholic Church. Roberts seems to downplay the influence of Aristotle and Plato (and general nostalgia for the grandeur of Greece/Rome) in the church at this time and hence Aquinas' goal to harmonize teachings of the church would require his inclusion of Greek thought. Aquinas' response is to insert the supernatural into every aspect of nature. This allows Aristotle to be accurate but incomplete in saying that virtue and wisdom were the goal of man (rather God is, but these come for the ride). As a result, he can pull the teachings based off Aristotle into doctrine without causing too many screams about heresy. An offshoot of this was Aquinas that "supernaturalizes the natural".

I am very upset that Prof Roberts does not address the concept of "common grace" (grace that is offered to saved and sinner alike as God's favor on humanity and the goodness of the first days of creation) as this is key to understanding the last 1/3 of the lecture. This differentiation from saving grace is key to the protestant split (and especially to Calvinism). To some extent, common grace would be viewed as the "natural" with saving grace being the "supernatural", but this leaves the question of where humans and free will fall. It's a question that I hope is addressed in lecture 3, but doubt it is.

Overall it is a decent quick overview, but it has left me with a number of questions and a tough view of where Prof Roberts is going with the series. A lot of potential, but he seems to gloss over key points at times.
Friday, June 6th, 2008
2:38 pm
All I have to say is that if you haven't tried bacon wrapped, sausage stuffed, deep fat fried Twinkies covered in powdered sugar, you have not truly lived. That was amazing, though the general consensus was that using chocolate syrup as a coating was a terrible idea (I did not try that and my heart thanks me somewhat). That and I can't believe how economically naive our candidates for major office are, in addition to being willfully ignorant of scientific alternatives.

Two more theological things that have been weighing on my mind and depending upon time and response I may get back to doing more than just highlights.

First is a more personal issue. I've struggled with what it could mean that there wasn't a literal Eden and Adam and Eve. Given the claims of evolution and even theological versions there of, creation doesn't follow the pattern given in Genesis and the garden cannot follow. This model easily eliminates the concept of corporate headship and a number of Pauline ideas on salvation. The lack of "original sin" also makes a number of claims upon our actions of today. If there was error and death before sin, clearly in is not necessary to eliminate pain and death in order to eliminate sin. So then what defines sin and what is should be alleviated becomes a clear question, especially since my profession is more concerned with alleviating suffering (which the fall idea would say is related to original sin) than direct change of spiritual beliefs. This is just the tip of the iceberg, but the loss of Eden affects more than simply how much trust we put in the Bible and is one of the key questions in how we are to behave in the world today.

The second issue is much more academic and deals with the nature of the mind/brain and soul. With all of the improvements in technology, we are gaining insight into how the brain works and thoughts are processed into actions. Essentially there are two divisions with two categories in each: monism (all that exists is physical and can be measured) vs. multism (usually dualism, that there exists a substance unable to be measured or noted, yet can and does immediately affect physical responses such as neurons firing) and reductionism (higher order behaviors can be explained through low order circumstances i.e. if you know properties all the water molecules you can describe a wave happening) vs. emergence (when critical points are hit, higher order processes emerge that can't be predicted from studying components).

Each of these stances has direct implications upon Christianity and will undercut most current theological debates. For example if reductive monism is the case, then there becomes intense implications regarding free will (won't work), resurrection even mundane topics such as organ donation. On the other hand if dualism is accepted, there are severe philosophical and scientific hurdles to be handled. Similarly, emergence puts us in the ever shrinking God of the gaps mode as the gaps are slowly getting filled through more detailed study. I've read the book "In Search of the Soul" that addresses this issue among others and am working through Nancy Murhpy's "Did My Neurons Make Me Do It?", but if anything this has muddied the waters by removing a lot of the convenient positions, leaving points that are at best challenging and at the least forcing me to say most of my positions, while possibly still viable, are likely built using wrong premises. That said, there are still a number of very wrong positions being held. We are called to be judges of all things and use all of our faculties to discern what is best and true and right, but it becomes challenging. That does not mean we are to give up, but to trust God and continue to pursue them through the difficulty.
Saturday, May 31st, 2008
5:43 pm
Because this type of thing really interests me (perception vs. reality and value on the dollar, etc.): 8 leading economists (including 5 Nobel laureates) were essentially given a $75B budget to implement 30 programs to address the worlds greatest problems at the Copenhagen Consensus 2008 Conference. I'm generally proud of how they did with the following points sticking out.

#1) Giving Vit A and Zinc to children in developing countries at a cost of $60M. Especially nice since it holds no value to stopping or hoarding (unlike food), so it is likely to get through as well as being cheap and plentiful. [est. benefit $1B/year]

#2) Pass the Doha Development Agenda to boost free trade at a cost of FREE. Even though this boosts all countries involved, a number of special interests would lose out, so likely won't happen, still ranked so high because it can be implemented piecemeal and it has such amazing benefits. [est. benefit $3T/year]

#3) iodinizing salt at a cost of $286M/year.

#7) Improving access to schools through vouchers $5.4B/year. Low because implementation hurdles as almost every government demands the right to educate (or in some cases deny education) to those (and in the manner) they see fit.

#14) Low Carbon Energy R&D: combats global warming, allows carbon to be used for higher priority biological needs (pharmaceuticals, foods,easily portable fuel, etc.)

#19) Combating HIV/AIDS no funding allocated as too low on the chain. Very expensive for relatively little benefit. Very faddish, while other diseases such as malaria are more deadly and easier to treat.

#22) Microfinance low because of political will against and so many wonderful things above it. Might place it a touch higher myself, but hey.

#23,25,26,27) pollution control (rocket stoves at 23, 25-27 various diesel initiatives) basically they said this was lucky to get return by the time the tech became too expensive or outdated.

#29) Tobacco Tax, just stupid though reduces indoor air pollution so it doesn't count as a complete waste. Unlike:

#30 [last]) Global warming mitigation. This got a ton of bad press for being so low, but their comment is that even the best plan required $800B up front (not counting lost opportunity cost to get this money) and returned $685B in value with most after 2100, while a number of ideas returned $.05 or less on the dollar with most actually hurting the problem, by shifting production from efficient areas to inefficient areas.

They also presented the same items to a Youth Forum held at the same time. While these are still some of the best and brightest young economists, the decisions seemed much more bent to political fads.

Some notable deviations (youth rating/Copenhagen rating):
Borehole Wells(3/16): A good concept, except the people this helps already have access to some water, so you aren't solving that problem. Instead this is primarily a disease prevention measure and analysis I've seen puts it at $.80 on the dollar value. Important, but sand filters (Copenhagen #15) accomplishes the same thing only cheaper.

TB treatment(8/13): Good to treat, but the fact that Copenhagen put it 4th on their list of diseases (after basic immunizations, heart disease and malaria) says something about priorities.

Doha (26/2): Just dumb to write it off to political will problems and not being targeted at the poor. This works, just ask the US poor if they'd be middle class in Africa while costing essentially nothing, except immediate votes.

I would say things about their higher rankings of global warming and tobacco tax, but it's just dumb and think the real economists hit it much closer to the mark.

Current Mood: quixotic
Thursday, May 29th, 2008
1:22 pm
Couple of quick things: I forgot how bitter diet pop tastes after I bought some on sale. Turns out I was wrong in my quick gas calculations last post (oil uses the 42 gallon barrel instead of the standard 31.5 gallon for other liquids) this puts gas at a more reasonable $4.50 for July (also includes a slight drop in oil prices). Otherwise I have bought a bike and found out just how out of shape I've gotten.

In great science/energy news: Under development (expected ready in 2012) is the focused fusion reactor. Because it uses boron and hydrogen (standard, not heavy) as fuel the byproduct is helium (via carbon12) and fuel is cheap. The other advantage is that the particles come out of the reaction charged allowing bypassing of the whole steam turbine and resulting inefficiencies (also will help immensely with the coming potable water shortage). Estimated cost is less than 1 cent/kWh. Currently in prototype development, but this is the energy home run every one has been looking for, especially as even though it is fusion, the failure is not lighting the atmosphere on fire (the energy is primarily through kinetic alpha particles instead of general heat, with magnetic fields focusing them enough to be useful). Research is being sponsored by Sweden and Chile and I just hope the US doesn't make another terrible policy decision on something like this.

Couple of theological points are really bothering me lately and I know I have alluded to them before, but figure I may as well put them out again. Why as Christians do we go out of our way to avoid hurting peoples sensibilities? Yes, throughout the gospel prophets and preachers used the tools and allusions of their time and worked for the betterment of such, but never did they tolerate it. There is a reason that they were continually hunted and martyrs were common (the Bible seems clear that we shouldn't seek martyrdom and God works against it in many cases, but that it does happen, even to the most devout). We are trading this for the wisdom of this world, the greatest worship sets, the biggest name pastor, the best child care, the most people in the seats, etc. The result is declining church membership and a terrible atrophy in the youth movement of the church. The more liberal denominations are all but disappearing in the US and Europe, yet more and more they are held up as examples of what other churches should be like, thanks in large part to fitting into culture and being media darlings (Rowan Williams anyone). In this process we are losing the incredible gift of spiritual infrastructure that was left to us. I'm reminded of the story in 1 Kings 17-18. Elijah is willing to destroy many lives by declaring a drought and abandon those living in Israel for the sake of 1 person. On the other hand you have Obadiah who is taking the modern approach of gathering together the few faithful, trying not to get them killed or anger the powers that be. Yet it is through this callous and foolish approach of Elijah that God works wonders to the great benefit of Israel and believers.

The other point that bothers me is that too many Christians aim for moderation in everything. I am coming to believe that we are encouraged to be bold in all things. Too often we put things as false opposites and say that we must accept them as such and become tepid. Justice and mercy is the classic example (though things such as faith and works also come up along with a number of others) and it just frosts me. I really should post about my thoughts on this perceived contradiction, but for now I'll just say that we are called to wholeheartedly pursue every attitude presented to us in the Bible (though striving for more love, knowledge and depth of insight the whole time). No other religion has the same idea of sinning boldly that has come out of Christianity. We instead to act boldly and be corrected accordingly, yet we are tentative in or positions and actions and encourage others to do the same.
Friday, May 23rd, 2008
10:54 pm
As a quick start: If you think $4 gas is outrageous, you haven't seen anything yet. Based on oil prices at $135/barrel, assuming 15% refining cost (currently refiners lose >$10/brl of gas they refine which they won't put up with for long) and 20% tax rate (fairly standard, some higher/lower) you'll pay $6/gal for gas in July.

Had a good trip to west this past weekend. Got a lot of reading done and finished a couple of Kipling books. Even his children's lit is amazing compared to most of what is available today. We really are at a depressing state of education as I read things like that. Prince Caspian was a decent movie, and the chance to see people made it more fun, though otherwise I can't imagine many (any?) movie being worth $9 in theaters when so many other venues are available and so many great movies I haven't seen. Really would have liked to spend more time in Rapid and stopped by the school (or even have had Marci join us after the movie).

For all the good of the trip this is also forcing me to confront some of the bad as well. For the first time in my life I encouraged someone to get a lawyer to sue their employer. A couple marriages are in trouble from my perspective and I hate the way the airlines run things. Sometimes when you are busy you can ignore things like this, which is what I had been doing, but it is never good.

Another author I have been reading is Ravi Zacharias and wanted to do a quick post about his three layers of discussion (and the fact that doctrine is both necessary and inherently divisive), but don't really feel like it at the moment. Take care and enjoy a long weekend while remembering those who have done so much for our country.
Saturday, May 3rd, 2008
9:39 am
Random Real Life Things
Haven't really kept people up to date on my real life (though thoughts can be more important and insightful, events are handy).

Last week I had a choir concert that was a lot of fun and handled well for it's subject matter: the progression of heresies in the mass. It started with the idea of singing the mass, then adding instruments, special choir lofts, then soloists, then secular settings and finally spoofing. Some really amazing pieces (well not the P.D.Q. Bach) but even the lyrics remind me how much we've slipped in modern perspective. You weren't allowed to start the service with out calling out to God and Jesus to have mercy (and most of the masses make it sound like you are pleading, which is totally appropriate), how different and humbling is that compared to now.

In a bit of car envy, I found out about the Ariel Atom 2. A $50K street legal vehicle that can do 0-60 in under 3 seconds. Yeah it is just a go-kart on steroids with appropriate modifications to be street legal, but man does it look sweet (I recommend watching the Top Gear episode about it on YouTube).

Investors Business Daily used one of my favorite insults! While they actually used it in an appropriate context, they called outgoing London mayor Ken Livingston a Roundhead. How cool is that (though Livingston really needed to go and I'm glad he lost and got insulted).

Other happy news is that my stock market investments are finally positioned to do better than bonds/CDs for the first time since January. If only Steve Ballmer weren't doing his best to ruin Microsoft, I would be doing exceptionally well. As it is I'll mark it up to experience and hopefully aim for 15% for the year instead of 20%.

Current Mood: hungry
Sunday, April 20th, 2008
7:59 pm
Heaven on Earth?
Things aren't going the best here, so could use some prayer on housing and research.

One of the biggest challenges facing the church today is how we behave in this world. This is greatly influenced by our views of what heaven is and what salvation means. Clearly we are not bound by the law, yet we are not called to throw it out. When everything is permissible, the onus is upon us to determine what is beneficial and this burden can be greater than simply following the edicts of someone else. Because we don't have enough time or ability to determine what is right for ourselves, we outsource most of these decisions to others. The problem with this approach is that a charismatic person can lead many astray quickly, many times without even realizing they are misguided.

After going through Velvet Elvis, I now have a couple of these sources pulling in opposite directions in my life. The lazy thing is to say they are both right and changing lives for the positive while winning people to Christ. This is both a cop out and simply wrong. As they give opposite grounding, one of them must be wrong (and possibly both). Apart from the idea of make or break doctrines (don't feel like touching on that one, though I strongly believe that there), one of the biggest differences is in how heaven is defined.

The underlying question is whether we are to try and create heaven on earth or even facilitate it. Despite the fact that we are called to do God's will in all our actions, and that heaven is where God's will is obeyed perfectly, this is not as simplistic a question as seems at face value. Edit: I will assume that there is a heaven we go to when we die, this may seem obvious given the abundance of scripture on the subject, but sometimes it's necessary to state the obvious.

What can possibly be wrong with trying to bring heaven to earth then? The answer can be broken into 3 parts.
1) Despair over failure: we will never succeed. There are numerous sources of scripture that indicate the end times will be traumatic and then there is the whole issue of the tribulation. If the earth has achieved the status of paradise, this would never happen as many of the acts show willful sinning rather than acts of nature/God. This is ultimately ended by Christ's reign on earth, but not through any human acts leading up to it. No matter what we do, we will fail in bringing heaven to earth before this time.
2) Misguided purpose: If we spend all our time trying to bring heaven to earth, we will forget that our true purpose is to bring people to the true heaven. How does this happen? By instituting policies/actions that would be present in actual heaven, but not work in a sinful environment. Many of our government programs are structured this way, and most were done with the best of intentions before becoming boondoggles. If we spend our energies this way, many will slip through the cracks and ultimately be lost in exchange for a slightly more pleasant life on earth, which is not what we are called to. As these fail, we may worsen the problem by redoubling our efforts to make them work, because that is how it would be in heaven.
3) Pride: Even assuming God's help, this is hubris at its finest. To assume that a flawed creation can create a perfect one or even help create one is pride beyond imagination. When pride is present, it is easy for other sins to quickly take hold (telling a lie to achieve a good end? dismissing others because they don't have as grand of vision?...).

So what should we do if not aiming to bring heaven to earth? First, avoid sin, sounds obvious, but sometimes we need to be reminded. Second, realize that God is in control, the world may be looking really bad, but we know the way it ends and don't need to become overly worked up about it. Third, God's power is present in His word and it is the only explicit weapon we are told of for spiritual warfare. We are to study it, use it, mention it, allow it to do what it will.

What then should we do about the hurting in our society? We should reach out to them as Christians and in His name. We are to model Christ's behavior so that they can see him and turn to him for eternity, not for any earthly goals. We are part of the kingdom of God the instant we accept Christ, but that doesn't mean it will be physically manifest until he is. Part of this is acknowledging that sin is present and won't be eradicated. This includes taking steps to prevent it from entering our fellowship including recognizing it, judging it as such and taking appropriate action (sometimes this is as simple as quiet acknowledgment, sometimes it requires excluding someone from the fellowship as a last resort). The other thing we need to remember is not to try and force others to do what we view as God's will. We guide, we set an example, but as soon as force is introduced, sin enters the picture no matter how noble the cause (this doesn't exclude withholding voluntary rewards or necessarily meant in regards to child raising, but people get caught up in all kinds of mistakes). Finally, I am not omniscient so some of this may be wrong, but everyone has access to someone who is, so check with him and test everything I say.

Current Mood: Weary
Sunday, April 13th, 2008
8:35 pm
The Greatest Commandments
On a side note, I highly recommend reading Rudyard Kipling for excellent insight on humanity. There is a reason that he is the youngest person ever to receive a Nobel Prize (in literature) and brilliantly recognized the position of imperialism (something our leaders would do well to recognize).

Too often people use the greatest commandments out of context to either beat on Christians as hypocrites or try and advocate a stunted view of Christianity. Here (as elsewhere) context is important, though a simple reading could clear up most of the misinterpretation. The account in Mark 12 gives an excellent run up to the problem at hand and I will try and do some justice to it in a very limited space.

It is important to realize that in Jerusalem at this time, there were a number of major sects of Judaism struggling for religious and political power, where it was assumed that total control of one would lead to the other. As such, Jesus is presented by the stumbling block of the three main groups the Pharisees, the Sadducees and the Herodians (it happens that the Herodians and Pharisees were fighting over the same issue, taxation which is why they would come together). While the purpose may have been to stump Jesus rather than obtain an answer, he responded extraordinarily well (and I feel his answer in 12:16-17 presents an interesting take on Christians involvement in politics, but that would be another post).

The final question comes in regards to the other Rabbi enjoying rock star status in Jerusalem at the moment, Gamaliel I. The best analogy I can think of would be to say that he was to Rabbis what Einstein was to physicists, both in terms of ability and renown. Ongoing at the time was a fierce debate carrying over from the Maccabean revolt almost 200 years previous. Essentially it was decided that not all Israel was "True Israel" and get to share in the eventual messiahs reign. The question was, who would be part of "True Israel". Each of the major groups had their answers, realizing that people couldn't uphold the entire law they chose portions to emphasize. Gamaliel was technically a Pharisee, but his goal could be said to be improving the lot of the common man. He realized that Judaism had essentially created a religion of laws, but lost the concept of God along the way and came very close to true interpretation a number of times.

Following the amazing answers to the questions of other groups, up steps a scribe (the area where Gamaliel had the most influence, which along with the nature of the question and that he is the last remaining religious power to be represented are why I tie this to him) with a serious question that appears to be designed at an answer rather than a trick. Jesus delivers perhaps the most quoted verse of the Bible (Deut. 6:4-5) as his answer, something that was required by orthodox Jews to recite twice a day. The translation into through Greek into English adds a term into the version we know that is very important and easily missed, specifically that we are to worship with all of our mind as well, this was understood to be part of the soul in the Deut. version, but puts a larger burden upon us today. This means to study God and his works, and discern what his will is in all aspects of our life.

The way the second commandment is presented carries implications for the first. First, it is not an almost rote passage like the Shema (technical name for the passage the first was taken from). This indicates that the first is not to be taken as part of a rote recitation, but rather to studied extensively on its own. Second, it is clearly given a lower place, in part shown because it is not commanded to be repeated daily. We are never to let our actions towards our neighbors come into conflict with God's will towards our lives or our love of him. A good litmus test for determining true Christians is seeing in which order they put these (not the only or the best, but you'd be surprised at how many put loving our neighbors first. Third, using the Matthew passage, the "And the second is like it" might be reinterpreted as the second is of it or a corollary to it. Essentially this is saying that the second will follow naturally from the first (loving God, you will love the image of God). Meanwhile the first does not flow from the second instead it has lead down numerous wrong paths such as pantheism. Granted this is on much shakier theological ground but the ground is there and should be considered.

While I could go into what it means to love your neighbor as yourself, this is getting long and would love to refer you to an excellent passage in Mere Christianity where C.S. Lewis does a much better job than I ever could. My final note is that nowhere does Christ say this is sufficient law and his listeners would have understood that. While it may be the underpinnings of all other laws, they have their place and importance, just these are the two that must be drilled into peoples heads and all others interpreted in light of these. To ignore the rest of the law would actually be violating the first commandment. Christ frees us from the penalty of the law (and hence the requirements of the law), but to separate these from the rest of the law is wrong and knowing them out of context will lead to problems. I strongly suggest reading Romans 10:1-4 and realizing that this applies not just to Israelites, but also those of us who establish a system of righteous leading to salvation (even if it based on love being center of it or these two commandments).

Sorry about this being so long, just there is so much I wanted (and more still I want) to say on the subject as I've seen it so abused over time. Take care and wishing you all the best.

Current Mood: grateful
Friday, April 11th, 2008
11:44 pm
Random Overview
So a number of things have happened since I last posted and I've been seriously rethinking why I believe what I do (rather than what do I believe). Mainly it's been a very rough time with a lot of bad news and hoping I would just make it through to the next day, but that is hopefully behind me. Really helped out by Daniel 3:16-18 (made famous in the evacuation from Dunkirk). The phrase "But if not" has become my touchstone so to speak to make it through. Really weird stuff has been happening, from missing a trip to Argentina to random research breakthroughs to being offered a hand job in public just so they could see me squirm (that is a weird experience when you are hanging out with non-christians who know you are).

As you know, I really encourage knowledge of the scriptures and the law. The question that had been hounding me isn't whether this was important (as I feel it is), but rather why and how I could explain this compulsion to other people. The basic answer is summed up in Philippians 1:9-10 " 9And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ" Without knowledge our ability to get a deep insight is severely hampered as well as our ability to discern what is best. That isn't to say we can't find what is best out of ignorance or always choose something good, yet too often we come up short. This is sort of like saying John Daly won tournaments without putting in all the time of Tiger Woods, why should I spend time on knowledge when I could "reaching out". Much of religion today can be characterized as sugar (almost want to say saccharine) in my mind, sweet, filling, but ultimately empty and providing no growth. It has it's place, but we have made it our entire diet and grown fat and lazy on it (this is especially evident in worship music to me, but also in other areas).

I'd really like to go in depth on the 2 great commandments, but it is past midnight and I'm not thinking clearly, just wanted to give a quick update on my thought process. Perhaps tie it in with Micah and Romans (though could easily be with others). Hopefully you have some thoughts.

Current Mood: exhausted
Saturday, March 8th, 2008
2:45 pm
Global Warming?

When predicting gloom and doom, this is why you always check your valid range. In this case, leaving off an "insignificant" term (probably valid for the original calculations) applied to the runaway case turns out to be vitally important. Don't think this is conclusive by any means, but given other things I've been hearing, seems like it deserves further investigation. Plus having seen their training program, I'm a huge fan of Hungarian mathematicians.
Friday, March 7th, 2008
10:46 pm
Why not Eden?
When you just feel so detached and tired, just have to go back to where you do feel a connection. Fortunately, that is one area where I have nothing and everything to live for and am thoroughly unqualified to make any statement so here goes.
I've been doing some thinking and the question has come up in my mind: why did Adam and Even have to leave Eden? (I've had some questions/thoughts on the role of the life of Jesus [as opposed to simply being the atoning sacrifice] as well, but that is a different post) The obvious follow up is can we have Eden on earth again. The easy answer is so they couldn't eat from the tree of life, but this could have been guarded just as the garden was and is thereby insufficient.

Clearly this shows there is a double curse with sin (death and eviction) meaning salvation must be a double cure as well, rather than the simple pardon. In fact the simple pardon for sin motif would suggest eviction from the garden as the stated penalty rather than death. Clearly sin damages us as well, this would address the issue of our dying. Similarly this would indicate that salvation will change our actions as freedom from sin would allow the marring to be healed (while the pardon model simply says that we will behave better out of gratitude and wish to be closer to God and there is a number of scripture references that would refute this. So assuming that there is the double curse and double cure, can we then work to recreate Eden on earth? Simple answer (in my opinion): no. Eden contained the presence of God and sin still remains barring this, so there can be no true Eden on earth again by our doing. Can we even build a facsimile? again, no. Sin mars the person and creation only if every person were cured of the taint of the sin, but God clearly states this won't happen. So should we try? There's the rub, but I would say that as Christians we can't even help but do so. As the effects of sin on are lives are erased, we will more clearly reflect the nature of God. Part of this is working towards building a more perfect world through the gifts he has given us. As we grow in faith, the image becomes clearer and our works become better in spite of ourselves. Does this mean it is a winning battle? The Bible clearly says we won't even come close to winning before his return, but also that we will bring more to him as we model him. Still I think this says don't depend on the world to work with us towards Eden (it has no concept and anything it does would fail horribly likely through unintended consequences), but do work for it. Also, God has built a number of failsafes into the system if he is to keep his promises don't worry about the doom of the earth (though the fate of individuals we are truly called to watch).

Current Mood: thirsty
Tuesday, March 4th, 2008
1:05 am
Thoughts on March 1st and the Emergent Church
This is a very important topic to me, but it should be noted that this is written without much editing and would greatly appreciate any input on errors or fallacies contained.

Even before attending the March 1st get together with Leron Shults, I had serious misgivings about the Emergent Church. This will be a longer post simply because there are so many areas I want to at least touch on, but I will try and keep each of these shorter. I also intend to differentiate between my thoughts on Leron and general principles.

Regarding Leron, it seemed that I was watching the manifestation of 2 Peter 2. I know it isn't an exact match, but several points jumped out at me: despising authority (vs. 10), entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error (vs. 18), They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity—for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him (vs. 19) and I don't remember how many times he mentioned that the sex chapter was his favorite, a topic covered in several verses in the chapter. I don't know what was in his heart or his standing with God, but I would openly call his general message heresy. Don't believe there wasn't a large amount of truth in his talk (there was and I enjoyed fitting parts of it together with a biblical basis in my mind), but misapplied this is a terrible thing and can be heresy. It should be noted that the false teachers are from "among you" (vs. 1), rather than from outside the church, which is especially dangerous and applies in this situation.

I strongly believe that to build a strong faith it is necessary to have a strong foundation. The two basic elements are a way to build knowledge (truth/logic) and a starting point (for Christians, this would be revelation of God). I take this approach since I believe true faith depends upon knowledge and growth occurs through study and improvement (it also depends upon actions, but actions out of ignorance often cause problems). Classic example of someone attempting to grow without knowledge is Jephthah's vow in Judges 11:29-39. Here he makes three mistakes in knowledge of God (the purpose of vows, what is an acceptable burnt offering and the abandonment of vows) and essentially commits an abomination as he is spiritual to the point of personal sacrifice.

Truth: This is one of my biggest points of contention with the Emergent Church in general and Leron in particular. Truth is by its nature discrete, either it is or it isn't. For a true and false quiz, there is no way possible way to rate things continuously (i.e. this is a 6.8 out of 10 on a truth scale is an impossibility). The post-modern approach (embraced in my view by the Emergent Church) is to say that truth is relative to the individual and their situation, taken to its conclusion, this either leads you back to either absolute truth or the idea of no truth. Leron stated that he would like to find a compromise between these stances, but there is no continuity to discrete items and the post-modern approach was the first attempt and collapsed back to the original propositions. Using the position of no absolute truth, there is no room to persuade or come to consensus and you should stop reading (of course this also precludes the option of God, heaven and hell in addition to the core of Christianity). With the position that truth is absolute, it is necessary to understand that we don't know the Truth and perhaps can't even understand it in all of our frames of reference, but it is up to us to seek it. If I were to suggest one modern person to read in regards to the importance of this concept it would be Ravi Zacharias, though I strongly suggest you look into him regardless.

Revelation of God: In order to seek truth using logic/judgment, it is necessary to have a starting point. X implies Y is worthless without X. For Christians the obvious choice is God (not just Christ, but also the Father and the Holy Spirit). I strongly believe that there are two books presented: the Bible and the book of nature. Unfortunately, nature is corrupted by sin and will not lead to a true revelation empirically. While individual churches may not agree on the canon, there are a number that are agreed upon (the old testament is even acknowledged by Jews, giving it extra relevance yet it is often ignored, especially the first five books to which they give special importance). Anything presented in these books should be accepted as the basis with additional weight removed as fewer people are willing to accept it as the inerrant word of God (and anything that contradicts any single item on a higher level must be thrown out whole cloth. I have not encountered a single "contradiction" in the 66 books of the protestant Bible that wasn't a misreading/misunderstanding on the part of the reader or willful ignorance. God set forth the standard for regarding prophets of his word [and holy writings would apply] and we are called to stand by it). The fact that most people haven't read the Bible or want to give weight to modern circumstances is no excuse and if you can exhaust the entirety of that book and then come up with a new revelation I would love to chat with you, because those few books utterly amaze and baffle me most of the time and I would love to have them explained in full (before you reveal the new revelation). Creation can help in this interpretation, but being subject to the curse and having this revelation available to us (I know not everyone does, but you do so don't argue about these hypothetical others), while under the precepts of God being supreme and absolute truth existing, there is no more reasonable choice than to begin with the inerrancy of His word.

I have a number of issues, but this is getting long and it is necessary to have a solid foundation before anything can be built upon it. I'll close with a brief analogy to why I don't think we should be quick to fall for something because of it's apparent benefits to our lives (or even how it seems to resonate with us).

Smoking can reduce stress and help with weight loss (among other potential benefits). For a stressed out person who is slightly overweight, getting them to start smoking can improve these results with very little willpower (you don't hear people say, "I forgot to smoke my cigarette this afternoon" like you hear them say, "I put off working out because I was busy"). In some cases it may even be medically advisable for them to do so as an stop gap procedure. The benefits are quickly realized and apart from monetary penalties there is almost no immediate downside. People who are starting smokers often feel better and healthier, yet this is a habit that long term is destructive and leads to worse problems down the road (such as emphysema or cancer). On the other hand diet and lifestyle changes (such as forced relaxation) are hard work and generally don't produce as dramatic of results. False doctrine can prove the same. It can appear to save us from sin such as sexually immorality or hate, but lead to the abandonment of truth and ultimately close relationship to God. We have an exceptionally short frame of reference, so always compare your teachings to the (whole, not just the epistles or gospels) Bible and decide accordingly. While "this caused me to sin rampantly" says it is not from God, "this has cured ___ area of my life" does not say it is from God. I will never accept a temporary change in behavior as an indication of absolute truth being found, though it is an extremely tight correlation and should be used as such.

Random Closing thought: heard a country song on the radio. The chorus went something like, I was drug to family reunions, I was drug by my ear when I did wrong, I was drug..., and I think we'd be better off if more people had a drug problem like that. If you know the title of the song and who sang it, I would appreciate knowing.

Current Mood: exhausted
Sunday, February 24th, 2008
9:05 pm
So I was wrong
I was musing about philosophy and politics, but the sermon today just got me thinking about something else. More specifically, each Sunday they pass out a study guide for small groups regarding the sermon. The sermon was on Judges and specifically Jephthah and there is clearly a lot of meat there to dig into. Bonus points if you can name 3 things wrong with his statement in Judges 11:35 (When he saw her, he tore his clothes and cried, "Oh! My daughter! You have made me miserable and wretched, because I have made a vow to the LORD that I cannot break.") Hint: bookend Leviticus for the two tough ones.

So the first thing on the study guide: Draw a picture of God. What crossed my mind was: it's okay to break the ten commandments, because this is church and we want you to learn something. I mean, why don't they just say: Go kill a wino. You would think they could at least avoid the 10 commandments for goodness sake.

Another question is to describe God in three words. My mind immediately went Revelations 4. The creatures do an excellent job and I can't presume to have more knowledge than them (though the elders do an excellent job of interpretation/summary later in the chapter). It is one thing to acknowledge biblical illiteracy, but to encourage it and pander to it is amazing.

I appreciate the fact that they are willing to address Judges (as opposed to focusing primarily on the Epistles as a number of churches do, which represent a summary of the rest of the bible, though much easier to understand). Just if you are going to do something like this reach out and do it right.
Saturday, February 23rd, 2008
11:00 pm
Went to hunt for a Wii (those things hook you good once you try them). Apparently Nintendo is terrible at mastering supply and demand or something. It's only been a year and half since releasing and there aren't even online retailers that carry it. Guess they'll just have to do without my money.

I've probably touched on this topic before, but I'll try and make up for it next post (I'm contemplating emergence versus reductionism and applying it to politics). Topic on my mind: males in church. Almost every survey out there shows that men aren't going to church and this is a serious issue. While I don't have any real answers, I'm the demographic that is particularly hard hit being male and in my 20s. Something has to be done and if you know me, pure pandering will only go so far (though it will get you somewhere).

The obvious first question (if it isn't, you need to learn to think): Is this a bad thing? I would argue that even if you could save every woman at the expense of all men, a net gain, this would clearly be violating the will laid out by God in the Bible. Furthermore it would be setting us up for problems down the road (look at the cycles of the Israelites when they allowed infidels to live, only in this case it would be marrying infidels). Genesis 1:27 says So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. Clearly both men and women are created in God's imagine, so by excluding either, we are cheapening God. I could go further, but yes, this is a problem.

2nd question: Why is this happening? Here I don't have answers, though I can make some comments based on my experience and I encourage you to think about it for yourself. Listed are my quick thoughts, though you can feel free to disagree.
1) Emphasis on relationship to God: This is the heart of Christianity and we are created for it, so what can be wrong, right? Except we have totally destroyed the word and for a number of reasons our culture discourages males to build strong relationships (especially the legal system nails men, but pop culture does as well). Here I think that it is necessary for the church to step up to the plate and reclaim language, but it's a big hurdle to overcome)
2) Female lay leadership: In general this isn't a bad thing. Still check the percentage of women in lay leadership. Just as most secular teachers are female (not too long ago this was an almost exclusive male profession) more and more females are taking lay positions. Almost every position that my church has not set aside exclusively for males (pastors, elders, deacons and a couple misc. positions that interact with the public) has been taken over by females. This includes dealing with kids, leading worship, decorating the church, organizing events, etc. It is good for women to be involved in leadership, but when they are making all the decisions, things take a definite feminine flavor and discourages men from coming.
3) Worship music: I have a hard to finding guys who are enthusiastic about contemporary worship music (this includes the husband of our worship leader). Generally their responses are tepid, but they see the enthusiasm from women and are willing to put up with it. This is a situation where, individually it wouldn't be a problem, but combined with other issues it discourages men.
4) Lack of doctrine: Men have a lot of pride and the church does very little to either address or channel this. Calling men to be humble over and over, but not really giving solid reasons why this is so important (other than it can damage relationships, darn). Doctrine gives a church its drive, and men thrive on drive. Use pride to encourage following the law. Use pride to show how there is nothing they can do by themselves, yet a man plus God is unstoppable. Straight up challenge the pride to show how broken their lives are as they try to live good lives. Without hard doctrine, pride says that church is a crutch and "fire insurance" Christianity is enough (which we are strongly encouraging). By emphasizing relationship instead of truth, men will see God as a buddy and treat him as badly as they treat all their buddies, close but not too close, because that would betray weakness.

This is a problem that needs addressing, I also think emphasis on the power/majesty/otherness of God is important. I'm just reminded of the lyrics to Rich Mullins version of Awesome God:
When He rolls up His sleeves
He ain't just putting on the ritz
(Our God is an awesome God)

There's thunder in His footsteps
And lightning in His fists
(Our God is an awesome God)

And the Lord wasn't joking
When He kicked 'em out of Eden
It wasn't for no reason
That He shed His blood
His return is very close
And so you better be believing that
Our God is an awesome God

Our God is an awesome God
He reigns from heaven above
With wisdom, power, and love
Our God is an awesome God

And when the sky was starless
In the void of the night
(Our God is an awesome God)

He spoke into the darkness
And created the light
(Our God is an awesome God)

Judgment and wrath He poured out on Sodom
Mercy and grace He gave us at the cross
I hope that we have not
Too quickly forgotten that
Our God is an awesome God

These are very real and very harsh, yet display the character and love of God more clearly than simply saying you are holy and you are great a hundred times. This even fits the bill of contemporary worship music, except that it isn't soft at the center. Why don't you hear lyrics like this in church much?

One general observation I can make is this: just like women, men want to be in the "in crowd". One difference is that men often see anything that comes too cheap as worthless. Groucho Marx is famous for saying: I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member. Part of luring males to church is identifying that God saw this exact same paradox and answered it, both why they aren't allowed to join, but how they can get in on a guest pass.
Sunday, February 17th, 2008
10:40 pm
Haven't posted in a while and a bunch of things have happened since then, so I'll just give quick thoughts.

Went to listen to Bill Clinton. The guy is an excellent speaker and a guy in our research group got his signature. I'll probably vote for Hillary in the primary though the more I listen the more I hope people like her never become President. Why vote for her then? Barack is worse (despite the thousands of bills passed by congress, only two are sponsored by him, one renaming a post office and one a general call for peace with no weight, while Hillary has only a dozen or so that is more and they carry a bit more weight).

I'm sick of winter, Madison already has 90" of snow this winter (plus 2.5" of rain). The previous record was 78.5" and we are out of road salt (having gone through 12,000 tons already). Called my parents and they've had >30" despite being in MN.

Playing the stock market a bit. Must say Microsoft is killing me with their bid for Yahoo. They've dropped 13%, which comes out to a few hundred dollars despite the fact the bid was rejected, beat analyst expectations and had record profits they are still down. Figuring I might try an Eastern European mutual fund (figure I can afford a bit of risk at this point in my life) in hopes of getting a nice return this summer when I have a CD coming due.

Current Mood: cold
Monday, January 28th, 2008
10:49 am
Libertarianism? No!
I've been asked if I'm a libertarian and I hold many of their views, but I'm becoming increasingly disillusioned with the idea (and why I wouldn't vote for Ron Paul even if he wasn't crazy). Most problems get solved by individuals working to solve their own problems and as you remove the decision making process to government it usually becomes inefficient. That much of the argument I buy, but that doesn't mean that the government doesn't serve a purpose beyond the minimal reading of the constitution. There are a number of reasons for this ranging from the practical to the religious to the theoretical.

The first and easiest answer is that the US tried something like this before and it was called the Articles of Confederation. Needless to say that didn't work well and even though the country is much more stable, I'm 100% confident this approach won't work today. Unfortunately we don't have modern examples to work with, but I guess it's part of the unique place the US holds that we shouldn't expect too much.

The inherent assumption of the libertarian argument is that things will settle out to an equilibrium of people making individual decisions that are either positive or negative and have to live with the consequences. Quietly hidden in this is the assumption of knowledge (i.e. free trade benefits both people) in today's diversified economy this is at best impossible (sucker born every minute and all). Even with perfect information we would head towards a point known as the Nash Equilibrium (for all you A Beautiful Mind fans). This is generally much better than any external heuristic approximation (which governments would have to use), but it is very rarely the optimum (in optimization a number of algorithms search for this point because it is easy to find iteratively then work to find the true optimum).

From a religious perspective, there are moral flaws in the libertarian argument (a large reason why it never caught fire actually). The biggest argument is that it encourages everyone to what is right in their own eyes, a thought condemned in the Bible. It also assumes that there will be direct consequences for wrong behavior. A number of times, in the Bible it describes the wicked prospering without the just having recourse except God. Libertarian thought removes even this recourse, and the man with the gun and the town on his side can do whatever he wants. If nothing else this encourages good liars, another anti-biblical concept.

So if libertarianism isn't the answer what is? I would say that the Bible would argue for divine dictatorship, but that isn't available here on earth. The best earthly system I can see is federalism, most easily accomplished through representative democracy. The essence of the matter is you need an unstoppable force to deal with misbehavior, such that "I'm bigger than you" will never cheat a person and cronyism doesn't work. On the other hand, that force must be constrained from blocking good behavior. Basically the role of government is to enforce the breaking human rights (misrepresentation, stifling of speech, removal of self-defense, blocking of trade, murder/maiming, etc.) otherwise it is to make no judgment of choices or recompense for bad decisions. It also must not prevent citizens from exercising the rights to self-limit these rights (i.e. restaurants that ban smoking, stores discriminating on religion, etc.). I would recommend people read the Federalist Papers, but they can be heavy sledding.

Current Mood: calm
Tuesday, January 22nd, 2008
10:02 pm
So many things I could post on right now, yet most of them either I don't know what I think or this isn't the appropriate forum or you would know nothing about. Biggest frustration of the day: by 9:00 the 80 bus was already 10 min off schedule, by 10:30 it was back on schedule a full bus late. This is the first day back on the normal schedule, at least try people.

Rant (borrowed from Robert Heinlein):
‘If you are part of a society that votes, then do so. There may be no candidates and no measures you want to vote for . . but there are certain to be ones you want to vote against. In case of doubt, vote against. By this rule you will rarely go wrong.”

“If this is too blind for your taste, consult some well-meaning fool (there is always one around) and ask his advice. Then vote the other way. This enables you to be a good citizen (if such is your wish) without spending the enormous amount of time on it that truly intelligent exercise of franchise requires.”

Solid advice the more I follow politics. Just really burns me that it isn't followed even for this minimal amount of effort.
end rant.

Right now it just seems there are some voids in my life. More the surface is vacant, but the core is intact. Unfortunately, the surface is what we deal in and it just seems to be shredding. I can go back to the Bible and it brings a sense of proportion to a lot of it, but the daily activities pull like there should be other things in place that aren't. One thought I've been having for a couple of weeks is the girlfriend issue, but I'm becoming more convinced that isn't the whole of the issue at all (though I also am becoming more convinced it's part of the issue). Another part of the facing life right now is that I'm becoming more convinced that it isn't about top down direction, but rather top down authority to encourage individual direction (I know it sounds weird, but it would take too long to go through). This is true of politics, religion and commerce as well as most other areas of life. The hardest part of it is that this means there is no flag to rally around, except perhaps the idea of "it works". Simple example: environmentalism, great cause easy to identify the goal easy to preach what must be done, noble, etc. vs. capitalism terrible, evil, ruins the environment for future generations, blah, blah, blah. Yet capitalism introduced the mp3 player, which saves millions of tapes, millions of batteries (with terribly toxic chemicals another innovation of capitalism), thousands of man hours (rewinding, sorting, storing tapes, cds, records, etc.). All for a lower price and more environmentally conscious than a crusade to reuse tapes you don't listen to anymore. Hundreds of these examples, but capitalism, federalism, multi-denominational (though many are wrong and those should be fixed) Christianity, concept is hard to fight for and easy to give up a corner for expediency and seeming improvement. Just blows my mind, yet there is no real rallying cry and it becomes hard to fight.

Current Mood: depressed
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