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Archive for the ‘scribbling’ Category

History buffs – with cable/satellite – might like to know about a 7 part mini series on the life of John Adams currently showing on HBO. It’s based on David McCullough’s Pulitzer Prize winning book John Adams, and produced by Tom Hanks who has filled a producer role on other compelling projects like “From the Earth to the Moon” and “Band of Brothers.”

It apparently started a week or two ago and the parts will air on Sunday evenings with re-runs during the week. I caught part one tonight and found it to be very much worth the hour and fifteen minutes spent staring at the “stupid-tube.” It centered around Adams’ role as defense attorney for the soldiers of the Boston Massacre and ended with him leaving for Philadelphia on a “plain horse.” It also left me eager to see the rest of the series, just as I was with “From the Earth to the Moon” and “Band of Brothers.”

The series is from HBO Films, so don’t expect a 1776 type song and dance. What you can expect is a well told story with periodic doses of harsh reality served up fairly raw. A scene from part one depicting a man tarred, feathered, and run out on a rail, while overdone, vividly displays the heart and mentality of the mob who would engage in such a practice. It might also bump up the viewing age threshold to somewhere north of 15 depending on the viewing youth in question. In any event, it’s reasonable to assume that more unsettling scenes will come in the series and to act accordingly.

That scene is not necessarily out of place or gratuitous as the practice, along with a few lynchings and general property destruction, were not uncommon for pre-Revolution mobs. It also serves as an exclamation point for the larger philosophical thrust of part one in this series, which is a juxtaposition of mob rule, the rule of man (personified in King George III), and the rule of law (where Adams stands).

A quick internet search turned up at least one review critical of Paul Giamatti’s performance as John Adams but I think he plays the role quite well. Adams was not dashing and charismatic like George Washington, nor amiable and witty like Benjamin Franklin. If Giamatti is over shadowed by other actors in a story that focuses on the character he plays, then the series will only reflect the reality that Adams was overshadowed by others during his life. He was short, fat, opinionated, stubborn and if you will, “obnoxious and disliked.” But he was highly regarded for his integrity. And it’s conceivable that without an Adams in the Continental Congress, there may have been no Declaration of Independence. It’s also conceivable that without an Adams as president, a young United States may have fallen apart due to engaging in an ill advised war with France. All of which makes John Adams a Founding Father worth knowing better.

The scheduled show times can be found at HBOFilms’ John Adams page.

Things that make me go “hmm”:

This post gives a good segue into a question that I’ve often wanted to ask: The Continental Congress orchestrated, and the Continental Army and militias engaged in armed, violent and bloody rebellion against their legitimate government. What should a Christian think of the American Revolution in light of Romans 13:1-7?

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Waxing Political

Thursday night I did something that I haven’t done in about four years, I paid attention to politics. Specifically, the Republican portion of the Hawkeye Cauci. I haven’t seen a breakdown of the results the way I would prefer (a distribution that shows relative strength throughout the state), so I offer one below which can be verified here.
Statewide:
  1. Huckabee – 40,246 – 34.46%
  2. Romney – 29,674 – 25.41%
  3. Thompson – 15,726 – 13.46%
  4. McCain – 15,383 – 13.17%
  5. Paul – 11,726 – 10.04%
  6. Giuliani – 4,039 – 3.46%
Number of first place county finishes per candidate (99 counties in Iowa):
  1. Huckabee – 74
  2. Romney – 24
  3. Paul – 1
Number of second place county finishes per candidate:
  1. Romney – 54
  2. Huckabee – 25
  3. Thompson – 10
  4. McCain – 6
  5. Paul – 4
Number of Third place county finishes per candidate:
  1. Thompson – 49
  2. Romney – 19
  3. McCain – 19
  4. Paul – 11
  5. Huckabee – 1

While I happen to believe that the eventual Democrat Nominee will win the general election, I have no interest in following (news wise), or supporting any Democrat for president. In addition to their general support for government intervention into and control over nearly every sphere of life, and a general call to “Give Class Warfare a Chance“, the Democrat party is first and foremost the pro-infanticide party. So I’m not a Democrat. Now, not all Democrats are pro-abortion, and not all Republicans are anti-abortion, but no Democrat can win that party’s presidential nomination without being pro-abortion. If you haven’t heard it come up among Democrats on the campaign trail, that’s because the vocabulary has changed. It’s no longer “I will protect a woman’s right to choose“, it’s “I will protect privacy.” Privacy is the penumbra from which the Supreme Cort pulled it’s decision in Roe vs Wade. Listen to Democrat usage of the word and see if I’m not correct.

But I’m no Republican either, though I once was. I’m a political libertarian (note the small “l”), and if you know what that means then you probably have a good idea why a daily dose of politics doesn’t interest me, and also why the current Republican primaries do. Now, there’s a lot of weirdness in the Libertarian movement and I’m not going to pretend otherwise (I would count the predominance of open theism among Christian libertarians here), but it’s not all tomfoolery. While some may disagree with me, I would say that libertarianism is nothing more than classical liberalism. The type of liberalism espoused by men like Adam Smith, Frederic Bastiat, and Ludwig von Mises. And if those names don’t ring a bell, then I would name men like Washington, Adams, and Jefferson.

The move over to the libertarian portion of the political spectrum was a slow one for me. I was a hard core “conservative” which, like many who would describe themselves as such, means that I rooted for and defended the guy or gal with the big “R” after their name no mater what. But in doing so, I began to see that my principles were being bent, broken or abandoned in order to continue routing for the big “R”. I also began to see that both liberals and conservatives had a common fear, that one side would gain power and enact laws and policies the other side considered a violation of freedom. And both sides had a common goal, which was to do precisely that! So the question of the proper scope of government power under our Constitution became an important question to me. I was won over to the Austrian School of economic thought about the same time I reached the conclusion that much of what the Federal government does today lacks Constitutional authority, and that much political bickering could be avoided all the way around if our government would simply abide by the limits set out in its Constitution. And so I found myself out of step with the conservative movement and walking into the libertarian camp.

There are many dead advocates of liberty that one could read to get a grasp of libertarian thought (I’ve mentioned some already), but I would like to point out three living advocates that had a great deal of influence on me. Two are economists, which shouldn’t surprise any one, especially if you can agree with the following:

The idea that political freedom can be preserved in the absence of economic freedom, and vice versa, is an illusion. Political freedom is the corollary of economic freedom.
~ Ludwig von Mises, Planing for Freedom

Dr. Thomas Sowell

I believe in libertarian principles but not libertarian fetishes. In any context, the difference between principles and fetishes can be the difference between night and day.

Now that Congress has violated the First Amendment by restricting free speech with “campaign finance reform” laws, in the name of getting the influence of money out of politics, have you noticed any less influence of money in politics?

Before we panic about “global warming,” we should take a look at six-day weather forecasts and see how much they change during those six days — quite aside from how much they differ from what the weather actually turns out to be.

Dr. Sowell can either be considered ultra conservative or libertarian light, depending on your point of view. He is an economics professor, author, columnist, Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institute, and fellow Marine (Semper Fi). His columns are available at Townhall.com, and I particularly enjoy his “Random Thoughts.”

Dr. Walter Williams

My personal preference is a constitutional amendment limiting federal spending to a fixed percentage, say 10 percent of the GDP. You say, “Williams, why 10 percent?” My answer is that if 10 percent is good enough for the Baptist Church, it ought to be good enough for the U.S. Congress.

“I don’t fell no ways tired. I come too far from where I started from. Nobody told me that the road would be easy. I don’t believe He brought me this far,” drawled presidential aspirant Hillary Clinton, mimicking black voice to a black audience, at the the First Baptist Church of Selma, Alabama. I’m wondering if Mrs. Clinton visits an Indian reservation she might cozy up to them saying, “How! Me not tired. Me come heap long way. Road mighty rough. Sky Spirit no bring me this far.” Or, seeking the Asian vote she might say, “I no wry tired. Come too far I started flum. Road berry clooked. Number one Dragon King take me far.”

The first thing that struck me about Dr. Williams was his sense of humor. He has a way of using it to confront foolishness that typically throws the foolish off balance. Think of it as shock and aah! Stun the target, then gently walk them through a thought process until they say “Aah! I get it!” Examples of the shock part would include his Proclamation of Amnesty and Pardon Granted to All Persons of European Descent, or the time a feminist colleague referred to him as “chairperson,” to which he responded that it was perfectly acceptable address him as chairman. And if there were any doubt, he could provide “unambiguous evidence” that he was, in fact, a man.

Not everyone can pull off such stunts, and I recommend that most refrain from trying, but it’s the “aah” part where Dr. Williams acquits himself. I know of no other commentator who is able to say so much, with such sound logic, in so short a space. You can find his web page at George Mason University and his column archive is available at Townhall.

Congressman Ron Paul (so that’s where this was going…)

The neo-cons claim surrender should not be an option. In the same breath they claim we were attacked because of of or freedoms. Why then, are thy so anxious to surrender our freedoms with legislation like the Patriot Act, a repeal of our 4th amendment rights, executive orders, and presidential signing statements? With politicians like these, who needs terrorists? Do they think if we destroy our freedoms for the terrorists they will no longer have a reason to attack us?

[The] money we owe to our seniors is not even included in official budget deficit figures. In fiscal year 2006 alone, $185 billion was borrowed from Social Security. The official deficit was reported to be $248 billion. The actual deficit for 2006 would be $433 billion when combining the two. This sort of accounting would land private sector executives in prison for fraud.

Let’s be perfectly clear: the federal government has no business regulating speech in any way. Furthermore, government as an institution is particularly ill suited to combating bigotry in our society. Bigotry at its essence is a sin of the heart, and we can’t change people’s hearts by passing more laws and regulations.

The right of an innocent, unborn child to life is at the heart of the American ideals of liberty. My professional and legislative record demonstrates my strong commitment to this pro-life principle.

Today we are the strongest economy in the world, and have much to be proud of, but Congress doesn’t seem to understand that we did not tax our way here.

I’ve been reading Ron Paul for years, going back to my time as a conservative, so you now understand my interest in the current Republican primaries. I’m under no delusions about Paul’s chances of winning either the Republican nomination or the general election. I realize that his (and my) concept of political and economic liberty is a foreign concept the average modern American, whither liberal or conservative. And I realize that, after 9/11, the average conservative would rather gnaw their right arm off than adopt a foreign policy that resembled that of Washington, Adams, and Jefferson. But Ron Paul is the only candidate with a consistent record of defending life and liberty, and the only candidate from the two major parties that I can support. So I would encourage all interested parties to consider his positions on the issues, and perhaps peruse his speeches and Texas Straight Talk and consider if he 1) makes sense, and 2) reflects your beliefs and your concerns. He’s about the only politician who makes sense to me, and defiantly reflects my beliefs and concerns.

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A story is told about an atheist friend of Sir Isaac Newton. This man dropped by one day and found in Newton’s residence a working mechanical model of the solar system. He was fascinated by it and asked Newton who had built it. Newton turned to his friend and answered “No one.” The friend understood Newton’s point. He saw this amazing model and knew that it didn’t make itself, but when he looked at the amazing world around him he couldn’t see any need of its having a creator. Newton, on the other hand, couldn’t conceive of our universes existence without a creator.

Among the scientific ranks today, there are undoubtedly more who would agree with Newton’s friend than Newton. And according to those who would fall into the former category, the latter doesn’t, or at least shouldn’t, exist among modern scientists (as an aside, Ben Stein is making a documentary about how scientists who dissent from the scientific party line are treated by those who hold that line). But it strikes me that those who insist that there is no room for God in science conflate two very different ideas, scientific fact and scientific theory.

The the composition of gases that makes up the air that we breath is known as a scientific fact. “The Big Bang” is just a theory. The magnitude of acceleration for falling bodies near the surface of planet Earth is known as a scientific fact. “Evolution” is just a theory. The speed of light is known, at least approximately, as a scientific fact. “Anthropogenic” global warming is just a theory.

I have no problem with scientific fact, I wouldn’t be studying engineering if I did. And I don’t have a problem with scientific theory, unless that theory is held up as a fact that must be dogmatically accepted as true. This is a problem because theory (or hypothesis) is the first step in the scientific method, not the last. But the biggest problem with this type of thinking is that it sets up a belief system that is in opposition to both scientific fact and ultimate Truth.

Atheists won’t typically acknowledge that their beliefs regarding topics like evolution are nothing more than, well, beliefs. In fact, the language they typically use is designed to leave the impression that evolution, or any other such theory, is an absolute and undeniable fact. But evidence that many scientific theories are nothing more than belief systems often rise to the surface. One of the more glaring examples I’ve come across came in the form of my former “Logic” professors textbook. The first line of his text reads:

One of the fundamental beliefs of the science of Archaeology is that the history of the human species, at least the history of our kind of humans, stretches back some one hundred and fifty thousand years.

The first line of the second paragraph reads:

All the same, before we can accept even this relatively recent date for the origin of modern human beings we must be willing to admit that Archaeology is reliable.

and later:

[W]e cannot accept the story that Archaeology tells us about our origin unless we are willing to admit that science in general can produce dependable results.

I appreciate the professors wording in his opening as it states his position truthfully. That is that modern archaeology has a set of fundamental beliefs that make up a story describing how some believe humans came to be what we are today. The problem comes in when he argues that this story must be accepted because science in general is reliable. It’s odd that a “logic” professor would make a category error (~ also called a distributive fallacy) such as this, but for me, it further demonstrates that those who impugn the the Christian faith are capable of the very same poor thinking that they attribute to Christian thought. I can, however, agree with him when he states the following:

[I]f the methods that archaeologists employ in order to support their theories are not reliable, then nothing that archaeologists tell us will be of value.

This is where the rubber meets the road. It’s at this point where scientific fact and scientific belief must be strictly distinguished from one another, and healthy doses of scientific skepticism judiciously employed. For instance, we are told that the age of a bone is known because of the rock in which it was found. We are then told that that rocks age is known because of the bones found in it. And carbon dating is almost always wrong when relatively new items are tested, but always assumed to be correct when old items are tested. So hypothesis is submitted as evidence in support of hypothesis. The theory grows, scientific fact gradually leaves the scene with speculation gradually taking over. Speculation is then held up as inviolable truth and defended with a religious fever. Then, when scientific belief becomes more predominant than scientific fact, we are asked to believe ridiculous notions like no one + nothing = everything, and considered scientific heretics if we don’t.

But scientific theories are shifting sand and always will be. If there is any area of our existence where evolution occurs, it’s scientific theory. What is true one day is false the next. Albert Einstein initially denied that the universe had a beginning, not because the evidence pointed that way, but because that would indicate the existence of a creator, a personal God. Today a beginning is largely assumed, even by atheists. Modern physicists like Michio Kaku and Stephen Hawking have embraced the theory of alternate universes, a theory they once shunned and thought ridiculous. But that was before shortcomings in string theory arose. Only ten or so years ago string theory was heralded as the long sought after “theory of everything.” And I have no doubt that in ten or so years alternate universes will be out of style as well.

So why are Christians asked to exchange our Savior – who is the same yesterday and today and forever – for constantly changing theories which violate reason? The best answer I can give would be that these theories represent belief systems in search of converts, complete with Ph. D’d high priests.

For a more compelling look at what scientific fact points to check out John MacArthur’s message from Ligonier’s 2007 national conference. It’s titled “The Challenge of Science”. The video is available for viewing online at Ligonier.org.

**I haven’t had a chance to view them yet, but a couple of semi related messages from the same conference by John Piper are there as well. They are titled “Faith and Reason” and “The Challenge of Relativism.”

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Civics Quiz

You answered 56 out of 60 correctly — 93.33%
Average score for this quiz during September: 75.2%

I’m not a big fan of internet quizzes, especially those like “What Simpson’s Character are you?” or “What Mammal are you?” or some other such nonsense. You know the type. They give answers like “You are 87% Groundskeeper Willie” or “You are 98% Polecat.” These are pure time-sinks, nothing else.

But I eat up quizzes like this one from The National Civics Literacy Board. It’s a real quiz on a real topic that test one’s real knowledge. So if you have the time, take the quiz. And I suppose there’s no need to feel bad if you don’t score that well as it seems that even Americas top colleges can’t put together an average better than D+. It’s a shame, given the amount of money spent on education, both public and collegiate.

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Sin will be in us; it will lust, fight, and entice us; but the great question, as unto our peace and comfort, is, whether it hath dominion over us or no. ~ John Owen

Although I’ve read bits and pieces of John Owen’s writing, this is the first that I’ve read all the way through, and I have to agree with those who say that Owen is “hard to read.” It’s not the Kings English or archaisms or extra long sentences that gave me trouble, but instead it’s what a few have referred to as his density. Owen’s writing is very dense. To clarify, I mean dense as in a large mass occupying a small volume. Just about every paragraph or two could stand on its own as a solemn warning or useful instruction. There is very little filler material here. So while reading I was alternately blown away by an insight or slapped in the face by reproof (I’m dense in the other meaning, so this is a good thing). The result is that I often lost sight of how the part fit in the whole and had to retrace the route in order to make the larger connection. And while I didn’t think of it until after finishing the piece, the solution to this problem is present in the piece itself. Owen writes in outline form (numbered sections, subsections, &c) so by keeping a notepad at your side and making an outline of your own, one could more easily see those larger connections. I intend to try this method for the next piece from Owen that I read.

As a parting shot, here’s a quote regarding an idea that I for one would do well to keep in mind.

Carefully inquire and try whether such things which you may do or approve of in yourselves do not promote the power of sin, and help on its rule in you. This method David prescribes, Ps. xix. 12, 13. “Secret sins,” such as are not known to be sins, it may be, to ourselves, make way for those that are “presumptuous.” Thus pride may seem to be nothing but a frame of mind belonging unto our wealth and dignity, or our parts and abilities; sensuality may seem to be but a lawful participation of the good things of this life; passion and peevishness, but a due sense of the want of that respect which we suppose due unto us; covetousness, a necessary care of our selves and our families. If the seeds of sin are covered with such pretences, they will in time spring up and bear biter fruit in the minds and lives of men. And the beginnings of all apostasy, both in religion and morality, lie in such pretences. Men plead they can do so and so lawfully, until they can do things openly unlawful.

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The Man of Sin

    From the Left Behind books to two hour specials on the History Channel, Antichrist sensationalism is wide spread. Hal Lindsey and like minded thinkers believe this emissary of Satan and harbinger of the end times is currently alive and well, living in Europe. And according to these adherents of the Dispensational school, soon the Church will be raptured from the earth leaving this embodiment of evil to unleash a reign of deception and terror on those left behind. But if you find the current and popular conceptions of Antichrist portrayed in film and fiction to be a little over the top, or are worried that such sources have informed your understanding of this figure to a greater degree than Scripture, then I have a book for you.

    Written by Dr. Kim Riddlebarger, pastor of Christ Reformed Church in Anaheim California and a visiting professor at Westminster Seminary California, The Man of Sin is a sober look at a topic that is often presented with something less than sobriety.

Pros:

    Riddlebarger spends a good bit of time on the Dispensational view of this figure and and its impact on pop culture. From my reading, he presents this school of thought fairly while arguing strongly against it. He covers the various points of view regarding topics such as “the mark of the beast”, the 70 weeks in Daniel and the different identifications of the pronouns used in that portion of Scripture, proto-antichrists of the Old Testament, the abomination of desolation, &c; basically everything one would expect to see in such a book.

    The section on the doctrine of Antichrist throughout church history was quite informative, dealing with the Church Fathers, the Reformers and Catholic thought. An appendix deals briefly but convincingly with the dating of the book of Revelation.  And I particularly liked the discussion of antichrist in the epistles of John, where Riddlebarger reiterates the biblical teaching that “many antichrists have come” already.

Cons:

    Riddlebarger frequently uses words like ‘obvious’ and ‘clearly’ and at a few of these points I would have preferred ‘probable’ or ‘possible’, but Riddlebarger is writing as a convinced Amillennialist, a position I am sympathetic to but not yet fully on board with. I suspect that those in other millennial camps will react in a similar manner.

Conclusion:

    Written on a very specific and narrow topic, Riddlebarger’s book is informative on historical, scriptural and cultural levels. I would recommend it to any layman seeking to gain a broader understanding of the topic in these areas.

______________

Perspective: Amillennial
Pages: 191 text, 236 total
Documentation: end-notes, selected bibliography
Index: Scripture and subject indexes

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An old friend called tonight to see how my summer class is going. I’m taking chemistry II in a short summer session and as I recounted the harrowing details of attempting such a feat he gave me the following encouragement:

I remember back when I was in college and taking archery. It was pretty tough. Sometimes I even had to practice by going hunting. But ya know, all that hard work paid off and I got an A. So when you get discouraged, just remember me and my archery class. Who knows? If you work hard you might even get an A, just like I did.

That’s what friends are for…

—And here’s something on an education related note. It seems that the folks over at American Heritage® have made a list of 100 Words That All High School Graduates Should Know. They seem to fall into the expected general categories of math, science, political indoctrination science, and words only found in literary works 250+ years old. But being both conscious of my gaucheness and unaccustomed to circumlocution, I will only say that a certain moiety of the list was unknown to me. And thus having done, lugubriously return to my jejune study of the chemical science as blogging is deleterious to such an endeavor.

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