Monday, September 26, 2005

Juicy Quote.

I've been reading James Boswell's Life of Samuel Johnson, a truly delightful work. Now I have nothing against the French, except their liberal political views, but it's obvious the English have this fetish for French-bashing, which I find quite amusing. Here is Dr. Johnson's opinion.

"Dr. Adams found him [Samuel Johnson] one day busy at his Dictionary, when the following dialogue ensued. - 'Adams. This is a great work, Sir. How are you to get all the etymologies? Johnson. Why, Sir, here is a shelf with Junius, and Skinner, and others; and there is a Welch gentleman who has published a collection of Welch proverbs, who will help me with the Welch. Adams. But, Sir, how can you do this in three years? Johnson. Sir, I have no doubt that I can do it in three years. Adams. But the French Academy, which consists of forty members, took forty years to compile their Dictonary. Johnson. Sir, thus it is. This is the proportion. Let me see; forty times forty is sixteen hundred. As three to sixteen hundred, so is the proportion of an Englishman to a Frenchman."

Hope you liked.

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Saturday, September 24, 2005

Universities, I think.

In the movie The One, starring Jet Li, the idea of the "multiverse", in contrast to the "universe" as we think it, is put forward as a premise. Things are slightly different in each universe, and there is a copy of each person for each universe. The story goes that one of Jet Li's characters discovers if he kills one of his copies, the energy is not diminished, but divided among the survivors. So he goes on a rampage, until there are only two left. Then there's the big show-down.

Have you ever wondered why universities are called universities? Why aren't they called multiversities? Looking at the way universities view "subjects" as watertight, highly compartmentalized separate fields, the term "multiversity" really does seem to fit the modern university better than does the term "university".

Universities were called universities because once upon a time, in the Middle Ages (I refuse to call them the dark ages), scholars viewed theology as the "mistress science." All knowledge had its unification in theology. I would hazard a guess that no public university today is aware of this aspect of its origins. If they were, they would probably scramble to change their name so as to be in conformity to the mythological "separation of church and state."

What are the consequences of such splintering, such fragmentation in academia? I think one of the biggest consequences, aside from general relativism (pun intended) and atheism, is a degree of specialization to the point of specialists from one field not even being able to communicate remotely with someone of a very closely allied field. For example, in mathematics you have algebraic number theory, and analytic number theory. Perish the idea that these two should ever meet! At least, so say the current scholars. But there are problems with this, not the least of which is the forbidding aspect taken on by so many disciplines. It's hard to get into these fields now, because the research papers in each field are so full of jargon and poorly worded ideas that the newcomer is frustrated, and rightly so.

N. David Mermin, in his amazing book Boojums All the Way Through, addressed this issue of over-specialization quite adequately, so I won't rehash it. Read that book! One very interesting distinction he makes is between research and scholarship. Research is coming up with new ideas, whereas scholarship is the making clear and logical arranging of known material. Mermin's opinion, with which I heartily agree, is that one good scholarly paper is worth a hundred research papers. Mermin even proposed having a different degree for scholars versus researchers.

Modern universities have lost sight of the fact that Jesus Christ is the center of all knowledge. What if they got it back? What if a university or two realized its roots and went back? I think there would be a tremendous resurgence of interest in fields like mathematics and physics, which are typically shunned by most people.

My father and I both have a dream. At least, I used to have this dream: start a university on a par with the big universities in terms of science and engineering. But make it a true university: Christ-centered. Then one man asked me why my dream was so small. A true university ought to be better than the public universities! Just imagine, being able to go to a Christian university and get an advanced degree in physics, without having to battle political correctness, evolution, and sheer secular humanism.

Such a dream is expensive. Certain people have gone somewhat in this direction. There are a few colleges that at least are Christ-centered. That's a start, but I believe advanced degrees from such a place would be a great service to the Christian community.

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Monday, September 19, 2005

The Close of Feminism

In my mind, it's simple. I hate feminism with a passion. But even more than that, I hate the two kinds of men that have caused feminism. You read that right. I strongly believe that feminism exists because of two kinds of men: domineering tyrannical men, and wimpy abdicating men. I don't care what woman you are, I guarantee you don't want either of these two. If you think of yourself as perverted, you might go so far as to say you want one of these, but you wouldn't be happy with him.

But if I say I hate feminism, you feminists are immediately going to cry out that I hate women. Pardon me, but that is a non sequitur of the first rank. As one wise man used to say, "It followeth no way." What I am objecting to is an ideology, not those who hold the ideology, and certainly not those who don't hold to it. See my earlier blog on logic for an explanation as to why it is possible to attack an idea without attacking the people who hold the idea.

If you want to know what I hate about feminism, just go here.
The funniest thing about feminism, to my mind, is that feminists want to make women to be like men, of all things. I thought they hated men? Or at least regarded them as second-class citizens? Generally, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but I'm not sure I can say that that works in this case. The male sex is not an enviable one; ladies, you really need not envy it.

Another funny thing about feminism is the lack of perspective. Feminism wants to empower women. I presume that means that the feminists want to make women more powerful. More powerful than what? Than the idea of being a mother at home? What is power? To me, the idea of a woman being more powerful in the workforce is laughable. Here's an idea that not one feminist I've ever run across has ever been able to refute.

The hypothesis is this: women are more powerful (defined as the ability to change society, to influence society) in the home raising children than doing about anything else. Why? Let's make it concrete. Take Jim, a man in the workforce. He interacts with lots of people in his daily work, but almost all of them are grown-ups. Suppose he wants to influence other people; well, most of them have already formed their opinions, and are not likely to change. Now take Susan, a stay-at-home mother. She has major, major influence over her children because she is with them all the time, helping them to form good opinions in the formative years of their lives. Now you tell me, who's more powerful: Jim or Susan? The answer is clear. Not one man in a million has the power to influence society so much as a woman raising children at home.

I had my doubts about posting this. Here I am, handing a most potent weapon to the feminists, should they choose to use it.

I would say one thing more. The feminists have wanted equal power for men and women. Aside from the silly category of "power" being used in the first place, I'd say you've managed to shift the power in the other direction. Suppose a woman has a complaint against a man. It is the woman's word that is taken at face value, and the man has to prove his innocence (if he really is innocent). I suppose I'm thinking generally of sexual harrassment. All of a sudden, our standards of proof have vanished into thin air. All that is required to convict a man of sexual harassment is for a woman to say it is so. (At this point, men should be quaking in their shoes. If some woman just "has a thing" against a man, she can ruin his life for good.) The reasoning is that a woman wouldn't have the courage to stand up to him unless it were that easy. Excuse me, but doesn't the Bible say that only on the testimony of two or three witnesses can a man be condemned of anything? I seem to recall reading that somewhere.

Let's get rid of this modern ugliness and silliness and return to a biblical view of manhood and womanhood: the complementarian view. This view states that men and women are equal in the sight of God, but have different roles to play. And having different roles, feminists, does not imply one is superior to the other! Which is better: a china teacup, or a sledgehammer? It depends on what you want to do.

Men, the buck stops with us. We have to understand the biblical idea of covenant (marriage is a covenant), and then execute our office of covenant head. Not domination, nor servility, but dominion. Yet again, we seem to find that the truth is a knife-edge: stray but a little, and you will fall, to the ruin of many. Dominion is a complicated animal, and not well served in a blog. For further teaching on this concept, I would refer you to two Douglas Wilson books. One is Reforming Marriage, and the other is Federal Husband.

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Saturday, September 17, 2005

On Reading a Good Book

Here is a poem I wrote after reading the book Good Morning, Miss Dove, by Frances Gray Patton.

On Reading a Good Book

What skill the author has, to write,
Invite, you in his world – a world
Of his own making! What is sight
Or sound compared with words so hurled

At me, that I lose consciousness,
Identity, and see, myself,
What sights he chooses to express,
And sounds he puts upon my shelf?

Ah, wisdom does not let me go
That far: God gave me eyes and ears
For measuring; and yet, although
That use is present, it appears

My mind is more engaged elsewhere.
For story will be measured not,
And fantasy defies compare.
But my imagination it has caught!

- Adrian C. Keister, September 17, 2005.

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Sunday, September 11, 2005

Constructive Criticism

If someone criticizes you, what is your reaction? Does it matter if the critic means well or not? Do you attempt to act on criticism to make you better? Do you learn better by people telling you the things you're doing right, or the things you're doing wrong?

I have only one verse to quote here. It is Proverbs 9:8, which is this:

Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you.

The logical implications of this verse are rather interesting.

I am of the opinion that the postmodern relativism so rampant these days has made people devalue criticism. Any sort of criticism tends to be viewed as bad, even if it is intended to be constructive. If you have read my post entitled, "Why don't they teach them logic at these schools?", you will see that it is quite possible to attack someone's position or thoughts without attacking the person. So people can mean well, point out a flaw in someone, and yet incorrectly be attacked in return for attempting to correct in the first place.

Now let me look at the first verse. Warning: you are approaching some logic here. All fuzzy thinkers beware! You might want to skip to the conclusion in the next paragraph. Examine the second part of this verse: reprove a wise man, and he will love you. I can rephrase this as follows: If a man is wise, and you reprove him, then he will love you. Let W represent that some particular man is wise, let R represent that you reprove this man, and let L represent that he loves you. Then we can represent our statement as follows: (W and R) implies L. Now what do most people do when they are criticized? They hate you for it. They certainly don't love you for it. So that means you have reproved them, and they do not love you. What is that going to mean? Well, let's take a look at the contrapositive of our statement. The contrapositive (which is equivalent to the original) goes like this: not L implies not (W and R). Now by DeMorgan's rules, we can distribute the second "not" by changing the "and" to "or". So again, we have: not L implies ((not W) or (not R)). Going back to our example, we see that the person you reproved does not love you. That means the "if" part is satisfied, and we are forced to conclude the "then" part, which means either not W or not R. So either this person you reproved is not wise, or you have not reproved him. But we assumed that you did reprove him. That means he must not be wise. Get that?

The implication goes like this: if you reprove a man, and he does not love you, then he is not wise. Think about that for a moment. Responding poorly to criticism (reproof, in the biblical language) is not wise. Period. So if you want to be wise, you have no choice but to respond well to criticism and reproof.

Something else I'd like to point out is that this verse makes no mention of whether this reproof was offered in a friendly or hostile manner. So according to the verse, it doesn't matter whether someone reproves you in a nice or not-so-nice way, you should still love the person (and by a clear implication, absorb what he says.)

Some people have remarked that I respond well to criticism. That may well be true. If so, I have two comments to make about that. The first is that you cannot prove the following: if you rebuke a man, and he loves you, he is necessarily wise. That simply does not follow from the verse we have been examining. So I am not necessarily wise simply because I accept criticism well. Wisdom is more complicated than any formula, this one included. The other, far more important thing I should mention is that even if I do accept criticism well, I do so only on the strength of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. God has to give me grace to be humble and to accept criticism, or I'd never do it. And it must be the same for anyone, I believe. Why is that? Because criticism always implies that you are not as good as you could possibly be. You can improve. Such a statement flies in the face of the American way, the do-it-yourself, pull yourself up by the bootstrap mentality. The kind of humility that says, "You're right, I can improve," comes only from God. So I still have nothing to boast about, except that I know God. And even my knowing God only happened because God revealed Himself to me. As the Reformers would say, Soli Deo Gloria, which means "To God alone be the glory." As far as I'm concerned, this is the way I learn best. I have a big enough head to know what I'm doing right most of the time; I don't need more people telling me what I'm doing right, or I'll just get more puffed up. I need people telling me what I'm doing wrong! Then I'll make progress.

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Thursday, September 08, 2005

The most-abused commandment.

Which one am I talking about? Well, that's a good question. They're all broken about the same. I don't really think people single out any of the Ten Commandments these days. However, for the purposes of having a catchy post title, I mean the Fourth Commandment: remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy.

What I think singles this one out is that many people are not even aware of this commandment. Alternatively, even if they do, they think they are obeying it, when in fact they are not. Most people, for example, if they steal something, have a conscience telling them they did something wrong. However, many people work on Sunday in clear violation of the law, and have no qualms about it. Maybe they never had any. Please note: there are exceptions to the prohibition of work on Sunday. I do not intend to address them here. Exceptions make bad law, so I'm assuming you're a typical Christian with a rather 9-5 job.

Apparently, God considered this law on a par with "Thou shalt not murder." There are good reasons for this, but I don't intend to get into those either. All I want right now is to motivate this discussion. It is important, this law, and we should know what it is saying.

There have been several interpretations of this law. One, which I'll call the puritan view, held that not only should you not work, you should not indulge in normal recreations on the Sabbath. This was based on Isaiah 58:13-14, which reads thus:

If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on my holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight and the holy day of the Lord honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, or seeking your own

Now the puritan view, it seems to me, is nothing more nor less than an attempt to take this passage seriously. I have yet to see a different view explain this passage in some other way than the plain meaning.

Another view, which for lack of a better term I'll call the relaxed view, states that recreations are ok, but work is not ok. (Of course there are works of necessity that are allowed, and Jesus Himself said it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.) This is the seeming view of guys like John Calvin and Martin Luther. They went bowling on Sunday. But I ask you: the real question is, did they bowl on the other six days? I don't know the answer to that, but if they didn't, then they were closer to the puritan view than you may realize. The reason for that is that they viewed bowling as something different they did on Sunday. At the risk of sounding trite, bowling was a holy recreation. They did not do it the other days. And maybe they used bowling to relax, the better to get on with their Sabbath duties. Taking a nap would be in the same category, actually.

Another view is simply do whatever you want, whether work or study or playing or sleeping or whatever. I do not think this view holds water.

I am tending towards the puritan view right now, because of its clear interpretation of the Isaiah passage. Now if someone wishes to dissuade me (using the Bible!) of this view, I am open to it. But I should warn you that any argument to the effect of, "Well, that's in the Old Testament, therefore we can ignore it," won't work with me. I am what I call covenantally Reformed, which means among other things that I believe that while there are some discontinuities between the Testaments, there is in general more continuity. I believe the Isaiah passage applies today, so you better do some careful exegesis!
pleasure, or talking idly; then you shall take delight in the Lord, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken. (emphasis mine)

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Law and Grace

The Bible speaks of law and grace, especially in Romans. Have you ever wondered what the relation is between these two?

Well, perhaps we should define these terms before using them. The law is what God has commanded us to do, and what He has forbidden us to do. There is more than one kind of law. In the Bible, you have ceremonial law, moral law, and civil law. The ceremonial law is given mostly in the book of Leviticus. It is concerned with the worship of God, and the sacrifices. I believe that all the ceremonial law pointed to Christ, and that Christ was its fulfillment. Therefore, since it is fulfilled, we no longer observe it. The moral law, as the catechism says, is summarily comprehended in the Ten Commandments. The moral law is the following: "The Lord our God the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind. You shall love your neighbor as yourself." The first of these, to love God with your whole being, is expanded into the first four of the Ten Commandments. The second of these, to love your neighbor as yourself, is expanded into the last six of the Ten Commandments. It is this law that is in question in most people's minds these days. Should we obey the Ten Commandments? Finally, the civil law contains rules like "You shall not boil a young kid in its mother's milk." Also, rules such as the establishment of cities of refuge in the Old Testament. I believe that the civil laws should in general take their form from the Ten Commandments. That's a qualified statement, so before you accuse me of being a theonomist, it might be better to clarify with me.

Grace is a gift from God when we deserve the opposite. I like the following illustration. Suppose someone hires me to wash their car for $10. I wash the car, and I get the $10. I have received a wage: it was what I deserved. Now suppose I did nothing, and still got the $10. Then I got mercy. But now suppose I took a sledgehammer and smashed the car to smithereens. And I still got the $10. That is grace.

So now that we have defined law, and more particularly the moral law, let me ask the question again: what is the role of the moral law (from now on in this post, law means the moral law) in the world? Well, the Reformers had a three-fold answer to that question. The first use of the law is to restrain evil. The law, they argued, was imprinted on every person, and thus their conscience led them to be not as bad as they could possibly be. The second use of the law is to convict a man of his sin. Sin is defined as any want of conformity unto, or transgression of the law of God. The word literally means, "to miss the mark." So sin is doing what God forbids, or failing to do what God requires. More on this second use of the law later on. The third use of the law is as a guide to Christian living. The Christian is to follow the law.

So let's ignore the first use of the law for now, and concentrate on the second and third. Here's what I believe happens. A man is unregenerated by the Holy Spirit. Then someone comes to him and gives him the law. He is convicted of his sin, and by regeneration of the Holy Spirit, he is enabled to accept Jesus Christ as his personal savior. It is by grace that this man is saved. It is a gift from God, not by works lest he should boast. But now this mans is saved from sin and to good works. In other words, he must now follow the law. In my post entitled The Meaning of Life, I explained why loving God and obeying Him are precisely the same things. It is important to realize that even though he must obey the law, such obedience has nothing to do with his conversion. God didn't save him on the basis of what this man had done. Rather, God saved him on the basis of what Christ had done. But now, this man is trying to live according to the law, because he knows that's the right thing to do. He still will not have the strength to do it on his own; he needs God's strength. In other words, more grace. So here's the pattern: law-grace-law-grace. They work together, in perfect harmony. Both are essential for salvation. Law tells us something about what salvation is, and grace actually saves us.

I mentioned earlier about the second use of the law. Here is where the law actually helps me in my sanctification (the process started when you are saved and continuing until you die). The law, through the Holy Spirit, convicts me of my sin. Now this, I believe, is one of the surest signs of my salvation. It is assurance of salvation. I can know that I am saved, because the Holy Spirit keeps bringing me back.

I hope I've answered the question: what has law to do with grace, to some extent. I'd welcome comments.

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Why don't they teach them logic at these schools?

For those of you hyper-familiar with C. S. Lewis, you will no doubt recognize that quote. It comes from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, the speaker is Professor Digory Kirke, and the audience is Peter and Susan. Peter and Susan have just shown that they do not quite buy Sherlock Holmes's statement that, "Whenever you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth." The Professor is lamenting their ignorance.

What's so great about logic? Why should anyone use logic? Of what value is it? Now in the following arguments (and I mean the word in its logical sense, as in debate, not altercation), I'm going to make a few rather large assumptions. The most important assumption I'm going to make is that you, the reader, believe there are absolute truths that man can know. In today's postmodern world, this is certainly an unwarranted assumption. I'll only reply that if you believe there are no absolutes, haven't you just uttered an absolute? I mean, are you saying that there is no absolute truth except for the truth that there is no absolute truth? Certain it is that the statement, "There is no absolute truth" is making a universal, absolute claim. Thus you have contradicted yourself.

The next assumption I'm going to make is what is called the Law of Non-contradiction. It goes like this: A cannot be A and not-A at the same time and in the same respect. This seems inherently obvious to many people (because I believe God has built this into our brains), but its implications many people seem unwilling to accept. As a rather trivial example, consider the statements, "I see at least one car,” versus "I do not see any cars whatsoever." These two statements might both be true, but they can't both be true at the same time, with the same speaker. Either you see a car or you don't. On a much more important and far less trivial note, consider the following statements: "Jesus said, I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." Here Jesus is claiming that He is the only road to salvation. Now Islam says that their religion is the only true religion. These two religions are making simultaneous claims that they are absolutely the only way to salvation (as defined by each group separately!). Can they both be true? Well, I believe the Law of Non-contradiction says they cannot both be true. Either Jesus is the way, or He isn't. But you can't have it both ways.

If you accept these assumptions, that there are absolute truths, and the Law of Non-contradiction, then you are forced to accept quite a few more things. This may sound like a bad thing, and it would be, unless these new things are true. And I believe they must be, because of where I believe logic comes from. Logic comes from God. He gave it to us, as a tool (merely a tool!) to discover truth. God knows everything, but He has commanded us to fill the earth and subdue it, and this is one way in which we subdue the earth. God is above logic. I don't mean that He is illogical, but that He created it. He certainly lives by it Himself, but He is not restrained by it. The Bible gives us logic. You can find instances of nearly every kind of reasoning you can think of somewhere in the Bible. Paul's writings are perhaps the best place to find them.

One disclaimer, and it is an important one: logic will not guide you into all truth. It is simply not possible to take a set of assumptions and reason your way into all knowledge. Many people have tried this. However, Kurt Goedel actually proved that you can't do this. This is not to say that you can't get quite a bit of truth this way: you can. And I claim that if you take the Bible as your Great Assumption, and you apply logic back to the Bible, then you will get an awful lot of truth, certainly enough to live by.

Because the Bible uses logic, it becomes acceptable, even advisable for us to use it. What are the ramifications of this?

Well, perhaps that questions is best answered by listing a few fallacies (fallacies are errors in reasoning, things that go against logic.)

The great granddaddy of them all is the ad hominem (Latin for "against the man") fallacy. This fallacy says that what a person says is not true because of what he is. The textbook example of this fallacy is the alcoholic speaking out against alcoholism. Some one would object, saying that because he is an alcoholic, what he says about alcoholism is not true. I would be tempted to say rather that because he is an alcoholic, what he says about alcoholism might be especially valuable. Actually, there are two kinds of ad hominem. The example above is termed "ad hominem circumstantial.” So because of the circumstances surrounding this man, what he says is not true. The other kind of ad hominem is called "ad hominem abusive." This is just name-calling. Politicians seem to be rather adept at using this fallacy. Again, name-calling does not have anything directly to do with the argument at hand.

One huge application of this fallacy, or perhaps I should say knowledge of this fallacy, is the idea that you can attack an argument without attacking someone who holds that argument. The number of times I have run into people who, when you attack their way of thinking, assume you are attacking them, is astronomical. It really is very tiring to have to continue to explain that no, I'm not attacking you. It's much the same as in the martial arts, when you do sparring. You are not literally attacking the other person. You are sham-attacking them (though perhaps you do attempt some degree of realism) for the purposes of making them a better person. So if I attack someone's argument, I am not attacking the person.

Another quite common fallacy is the "post hoc ergo propter hoc" fallacy. The Latin there means "after the fact, therefore because of the fact." This fallacy says since I brush my teeth every morning very early, and after that the sun rises, therefore my brushing causes the sun to rise. So the idea here is that just because one event follows another in time does not mean that the earlier event causes the later event.

As Dorothy Sayers once said, "Indeed, the practical utility of Formal Logic today lies not so much in the establishment of positive conclusions as in the prompt detection and exposure of invalid inference." Yes, logic is one way we can discover positive truth. But the exposure of a falsehood is just as important, and is where logic perhaps excels.

I would encourage you to study logic. If you want to know where to begin, I'd say there are a number of places. You could take a course at one of your local colleges, most of which offer at least one course in it. You could get Copi and Cohen, which while expensive, is definitely worth it. Once you get into logic a bit, you might want to do some symbolic logic. For that I would highly recommend
Language, Proof, and Logic. These would certainly get you started.

So on to the world of clear thinking!

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Tuesday, September 06, 2005

When Life has you Down

You probably have an idea of what I mean here. Your relationship with your spouse is not what it could be, so you're discouraged. Or maybe you're not getting done in work what you should be. Maybe the kids are unruly and you seem unable to settle them. Perhaps there are issues in church you think should change, but the inertia of the members seems too much. You feel lethargic, as if you can't do anything, and worse, you feel trapped into this.

It would be easy for me to say, "Just break out of it!" With God's strength you can do anything! There's even a verse that says this, "I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me."

But I have found, as have others, that God is not to be manipulated into getting you out of your slump. There's no making deals with God: "Lord if you just get me out of this, I'll..." Prayer is good; however, while God will answer the prayer, it may not be the way you expect. I read somewhere that a little boy prayed very hard for a bicycle for Christmas. His family was very poor, and he didn't get one. So a friend of his said, "Well, it sure sounds as if God didn't answer your prayer!" But the boy, showing a remarkable maturity, said, "Yes, He did. He said no."

I once heard George Grant speak in person; it was at the 2003 ACCS Conference, and the title of his talk was "Slow Miracles, Small Graces." His point was that God usually works by showing you one step at a time, not the entire remainder of your path. The idea is generally to keep your mind on the here and now, the next thing you should be doing. It's human nature to despair of ever achieving gigantic goals, but small ones we think we can handle. But even then, if we decide we're going to do it on our own strength, God has a way of tripping us flat on our face. No, God's strength is made perfect in weakness: our weakness.

But just because we are supposed to rest on God's strength doesn't mean that we are not involved in doing things. I remember a Peanuts cartoon, which shows Snoopy at an intersection, wanting to cross the street. He pushes the button marked "Push button to cross street" and then he waits... and waits... and waits. Then along comes Linus, hoofing it over the street and he says, "You have to move your feet, too." Snoopy remarks, "How embarrassing." The Bible speaks of God's sovereignty and man's responsibility. That's a paradox, and I don't know how it works, but it's not a contradiction. It's a paradox, a seeming contradiction to my expectation. Of course, my expectation could well be wrong in this case, and almost certainly is.

So the thing to do is ask God for the daily strength you need, and then go out and do what you need to do. Of course, making more long-range plans is not wrong, and helps to determine what your daily plans will be. It is, however, imperative that you submit all your plans to God's will. "Not my will, O Lord, but Yours be done."

In Christ,

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Sunday, September 04, 2005


Eternal youth. Wisdom of the young. Young is beautiful. Image is everything.

These statements in combination produce a powerful and incredibly... shallow viewpoint. Is beauty skin-deep? Should we desire youth, or old age, or something in between? To some extent, these questions are completely irrelevant, because we don't control any aspect of our age whatsoever. Thus, in my mind, it is futile to have "What if's" floating around in my brain. On the other hand, the Bible does have something to say about youth and old age. Here these now:

For at the window of my house I have looked out through my lattice, and I have seen among the simple, I have perceived among the youths, a young man lacking sense, passing along the street near her corner, taking the road to her house in the twilight, in the evening, at the time of night and darkness. - Proverbs 7:6-9.

[Note: "her" in the above verses means the adulteress. The writer is warning his son against her.]

Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life. - Proverbs 16:31.

Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. - Titus 2:3-5.

Apparently, old people in the Bible are in no way reviled, or looked down upon, or are in any way viewed as inferior to younger people. In fact, the Bible portrays older people as being wiser than younger people.

However, we need a qualification here. Am I talking about believers or unbelievers here? I think the Bible is talking about believers when it hints at the older being the wiser. Consider: if a man is not saved, he can never reach true wisdom. He may increase in worldly wisdom (which is certainly not all wrong!), but never get the fear of the Lord. On the other hand, a saved man will become increasingly sanctified, more and more like Christ, as he gets older. Thus, his wisdom will increase.

Where am I going with this? I am talking about the way the modern world idolizes youth. It rather puzzles me, because a man is more than his body. He has his soul, his mind, and his heart. Does the world think that a man is pure body? If so, then maybe the world's idolizing of youth is understandable. But if a man is more than his body, then physical attributes are not all that is to be desired. What we should desire is all these things, because that is what glorifies God. Christians are not Gnostics, and so we do not say the body does not exist, or is not important. We believe there is a balance here. A materialism which says the here and now is all that matters, in other words the opposite of the Gnostic view, is not correct either.

So if we believe that the whole person is important, what does that mean? Well, it certainly does mean that we should "Get wisdom; get insight; do not forget, and do not turn away from the words of my mouth. Do not forsake her, and she will keep you; love her, and she will guard you. The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight. Prize her highly, and she will exalt you; she will honor you if you embrace her. She will place a garland on your head a graceful garland; she will bestow on you a beautiful crown." - Proverbs 4:5-9.

Nowhere does the Bible say we should get a merely outward personal beauty. But rather, in what I think is a legitimate extension, we should "let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious." - 1 Peter 3:4b.

Hopefully, I've convinced you that youth isn't everything, it isn't even much of anything. At least, it's nothing more or less than old age. What are the applications of this? I think one application is that nursing homes, most of them, are an abomination. What tends to happen at these places is that as people get old, their sons and daughters despise them and want to get rid of them. They don't want to take the time to care for them or even to see them. So they put their parents in these very lonely places with no family near to comfort them. Sometimes they are surrounded by people who tell them lies about their health in the effort to get them better, or to make them feel better. That should not be. C. S. Lewis apparently didn't think much of nursing homes, either. In Screwtape Letters, Letter V, Screwtape writes, "How much better for us if all humans died in costly nursing homes amid doctors who lie, nurses who lie, friends who lie, as we have trained them, promising life to the dying, encouraging the belief that sickness excuses every indulgence, and even, if our workers know their job, withholding all suggestion of a priest lest it should betray to the sick man his true condition!"

One interesting story my mom likes to tell goes like this: an old woman and her middle-aged daughter went to a doctor to discuss the mother's health. But the doctor kept talking with the daughter instead of the mother. The mother finally got rather annoyed, and asked him, "Excuse me, doctor, but do you do crossword puzzles?" The doctor said that he did. She asked, "Do you do yours in pencil or in pen?" The doctor, in rather a condescending manner, replied, "Well, I do mine in pencil." The old woman said, "Well, I do mine in pen. You can talk to me."

I don't think the Bible teaches that we should despise anyone, young and old alike. But perhaps I do get the impression that the Bible says we should reverence the older people, and perhaps more so than the younger. And so I think that jokes about peoples' ages are out of line. Whereas jokes about the hubris of the young are just fine, because young people more often than not need to be taken down a notch or two. I need that all the time.

Here's a little secret that you might not have thought of, ladies. If you are married, your beauty depends a good deal on your husband's love. I have seen it more than once, where a woman gets married, and she's not all that attractive on the outside. But she is attractive on the inside, and her husband loves her, more or less, as he should. The result? She becomes increasingly beautiful as time goes on. She becomes so beautiful that if I were to look at a picture of her before or just after she got married, I might not even recognize her. So the secret is that your beauty will depend more on your husband's love for you, than you having to "keep up your beauty" for him.

I have a quote I like to put at the end of my emails: I have never met a beautiful woman; I know quite a few. What I mean by that is that a woman's beauty, to me, is unavoidably affected by her inner qualities. Take a woman attractive on the outside, but find out that she is backbiting, or unkind, or lazy, and all of a sudden I don't think she's that pretty on the outside. Conversely, take a plain woman, and suppose she is gentle and kind, loving, giving, not a nagger, etc., and she will become very beautiful.

Perhaps one of the most annoying things when I talk about this subject is that people don't seem to understand what I'm saying. I was talking the other day with someone about this, and the person made comments that indicated a desire to be "young again." I was thinking that this person did not understand what I said in the slightest. So I have strong reason to suspect that everything I have just written probably did not make any sense whatever to you, the reader. So if there is one thing I should like you to come away from this post with, it's this: avoid what C. S. Lewis calls chronological snobbery. This is the idea that age corresponds exactly with quality. And this can work both ways. Mostly, the perception these days is that newer is better. This is often true in the case of technology. But there the analogy ends. A few people have the tendency to say that older is automatically better. I wouldn't say that either. I will say that if something is old, and it's still around, there's a good chance it's better. In any case, I would say avoid chronological snobbery with people, too. Do not avoid older people, but get to know them. They can offer you many things your young friends cannot. Do not be afraid to grow old. It will come to you whether you desire it or not.

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Saturday, September 03, 2005

The First President of the United States

There's not going to be a single original thought in this ditty; everything is George Grant's. So anyway, on to the first President of the United States. That's right: Peyton Randolph. Peyton Randolph was the first President of the United States. Henry Middleton was the second President of the United States. John Hancock, of large ligature legend, was the third. By now you should be screaming out in confusion that this was not what you were taught in school. Precisely! And therein lies the problem. You have been robbed. Of course, with schools the way they are these days, I shouldn't be surprised if you didn't even know that George Washington was the first President of the United States under our current
Constitution. Public schools these days have a lot to answer for. For my views on this matter, simply read Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning, by Douglas Wilson.

Anyway, I thought I'd give an anecdote about Peyton Randolph. John Adams said of him, "Peyton Randolph is remarkable because he can write two letters simultaneously in two different languages on two different subjects." John Adams, it must be confessed, could only write two letters simultaneously in two different langauges on the same subject. How about that?


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