Saturday, October 27, 2007

A 490th Anniversary Conference

Today I went to a conference in Toledo, Ohio with a friend from my church. The conference was at Providence Reformed Baptist Church. and was in celebration of the 490th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.

I really enjoyed the messages by Ken Jones (a pastor from Compton, you may know him from The White Horse Inn show or Modern Reformation magazine) and Calvin Walden (a pastor from Michigan). It was also a pleasure to meet both of them for the first time.

Here is my recollections on two of the messages (highly summarized, not verbatim at all):

Ken spoke about the false apostles that challenged the early church. He focused on II Corinthians 11. He followed the context within I & II Corinthians, expounding on the details of what was going on in that situation. And he also applied it to our day, giving a powerful picture of how the church in our day is challenged with those who present "another Jesus" "another spirit", and "another gospel".

Calvin spoke about the atonement, doing a wonderful job of presenting the Biblical message of particular redemption. He spoke about John 10, and showed how Christ's death accomplishes exactly it was intended for, the salvation of His church. His mission is accomplished without failure, and He is fully satisfied with the end result of His sacrifice.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

On Russian Literature

"Russian literature varies greatly, but I would suggest the main features
are that dialougue plays for more of a part than in western novels, whole chapters sometimes being given over to one argument. There is more emphasis on characters and less on plots than with other cultures, and political ideas and opinions are often expressed freely by all the characters." - "Perspective on Russian Literature" by Dave Astley

I'm not anywhere near being an authority in Russian literature. However, from my meager readings of Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy, I tend to agree with Dave's analysis here. Until you are used to the peculiar style, it can be a challenge. You may feel a bit disoriented as you try to follow the prolonged dialogs and the different method of advancing the plot. There are other challenges, such as the frequent use of abbreviations for proper nouns and also the occasional multiplicity of names for individuals.

Understanding and following the flow will be a matter of getting the essence of the dialogs. Don't get held up if you have difficulty following the plot or remembering every name that is mentioned. Just make sure you allow a picture of the characters to unravel through their dialogs.

If you are involved in reading Russian literature, stick with it! It is worth it! Russian literature from the 19th century is particularly remarkable.

Besides Dostoyevksy and Tolstoy, there are other authors of novels, plays, and poems that may be worth your attention. Such as: Vladimir Nabokov, Alexandr Solshenizyn, Boris Pasternak, Boris Akunin, Anton Chekhov, Alexander Pushkin, and Ivan Turgenev. Once I'm done what I'm currently reading (Crime and Punishment by Dostoyevsky), I plan to explore some of these other authors.


Friday, October 19, 2007

Alice D. Millionaire On Global Warming

Augustus Owsley Stanley was an underground chemist and patron of The Grateful Dead. He's best known for his underground work in the production of the drug LSD, and also for innovation in audio engineering. A newspaper ran a story on him entitled "LSD Millionaire", which led to the song "Alice D. Millionare". That was the 1960's. Owsley now lives in Australia and is outspoken on a number of issues, including that of climate change. And he's known to be the master of the monologue.

I'm not particularly settled on whether global warming is a problem or not. I guess you could say I don't accept all the hype, but at the same time I'm not as skeptical about it as others. I am, however, very skeptical about the motivation of Al Gore and others. I think this would need to be an issue that would require rational consideration and discussion, not politicized fear-mongering. Rather than drawing a conclusion based on rational inquiry, it seems many (if not most) people who are pushing a frenzy on global warming are treating it as a "given". They have turned it into a sentimental dogma that couldn't be challenged. And no questioning of their dogma can be made without them slinging accusations of "heresy" or "evil corporate pawn".

For all I know global warming may be going on, or perhaps global cooling. I feel dreadfully uninformed in the relevant scientific facts, statistics, etc. to make a definitive decision on that. I know there are legitimate scientists on both sides of the issue. And I know there are people who don't know too much on both sides of the issue. And by all means I don't want the government and laws to be proposed as the solution to the global warming problem, if it is a problem in the final analysis.

Anyways, here is what Owsley had to say (this was written well before the current flood of media attention over global warming):

"The greenhouse effect is a myth. Extensive and complete measurements which show absolutely NO increase in the average global temperature have been taken over the entire surface of the planet by the Pan Global Temperature satellite, which follows a polar orbit, It and its replacements have been there since 1979. Measurements are taken at a consistent height above the surface, about 300 m, to avoid local variations in terrain. The change it measured is a constant, continuing decline in temperature of 0.01 degree C per year, thus the current glabal temperature is now a full quarter of a degree LOWER than it was 21 years ago. Perhaps the decrease is due to the melting of polar ice. Measurements showing a rise are taken exclusively from the temperate regions, and may reflect the transport of heat on its way to the polar regions. Quite simply, Global warming does not exist. There are so many buffers in the atmosphere that it is highly unlikely to ever happen, even if the so called "greenhouse gas" content were to increase hundreds of times over.

CO2, this important gas is the principle 'culprit' according to the eco-terrorists. The CO2 content in the atmosphere is only a very tiny amount, about 300 parts per million (.03%). This CO2 stays in the air in equilibrium with the CO2 dissolved in the oceans. Since CO2 has a very steep curve of solubility in water, the amount found in the air is critically dependent upon the sea surface temperatures (cold rain falling is an excellent CO2 scrubber). World CO2 measurements have traditionally been based on the levels tested in the air at Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii. The charts of the levels fluctuate seasonally, rising in the early summer and falling in the early winter. If the levels are compared to the actual sea surface temperature measurements taken at Hilo, which is at the base of Mauna Loa, the seasonal variations are seen to track exactly with the temperature. Even the gradual increase over time is duplicated in the temperature reading, as the average SST temperature at Hilo has been rising in exact lock step with the rise in the Mauna Loa CO2 levels. (The charts of these measurements are available, making this a trivial exercise if you wish to verify my statements).

Burning fossil fuels is probably one of the most important aids to the life cycle on this oxygen-rich, carbon-poor planet that man can do. Most of the primeval carbon is locked away in the oil and coal deposits formed over the ages by cell death of the phytoplankton (diatoms), which created the oxygen-rich environment by decarboxylating the CO2 in the primitive atmosphere. The limits placed on CO2 are unreasonable and impede the creation of wealth which benefits everyone, and are harmful to the plant life at the same time."



Thursday, October 11, 2007

Psalm 137:1-4

"By the rivers of Babylon,
There we sat down and wept,
When we remembered Zion.

Upon the willows in the middle of it
We hung our harps
For our captors demanded of us songs,
And our tormentors mirth, saying,
'Sing us one of the songs of Zion.'

How can we sing the Lord's song
In a foreign land?"


Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Docile Pupils of The System Rebelling Against It

In speaking of the radical students of the 1960's, Ayn Rand once said:

"Such are the products of modern philosophy. They are the type of students who are too intelligent not to see the logical consequences of the theories they have been taught--but not intelligent nor independent enough to see through the theories and reject them. So they scream their defiance against 'The System,' not realizing that they are its most consistently docile pupils, that theirs is a rebellion against the status quo by its archetypes, against the intellectual 'Establishment' by its robots who have swallowed up every shopworn premise of the 'liberals' of the 1930's"

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Friday, October 05, 2007

Thanksgiving Thought..Meat Isn't Murder When Cooked To Perfection

Bear with me here...The first part of this post is "top heavy", but perhaps you will find this interesting..On occasion I've read books by Alan Watts. I'm an evangelical Reformed Christian, so I obviously don't agree with his eastern philosophy/religion. However, he was one of the most skilled Western teachers of Eastern religion, and I've found familiarizing myself with his material very helpful in understanding Eastern religion. I've felt a great deal of ignorance regarding eastern religion and philosophy, and reading Watts has helped in a small measure. The clarity of Watts' presentation is very condusive to the sort of understanding that a Christian apologist would need to have. Part of this is due to his sharp wit and and clear communication skills that he utilizes to explain Eastern philosophy to people brought up in a Western world.

Alan parts ways with many many Eastern religionists over the acceptability of killing animals. I found this particular gem in a book of his entitled "Does It Matter?" It is a response to the predicament of humans killing animals. Certainly I'm opposed to the underlining world view he is continuing to develop through this book, but it is sure interesting to see Watts take the "don't hurt a fly" advocates to task from an Eastern philosophy perspective. And Watts is actually thinking more consistently than the other Eastern religionists who claim we shouldn't hurt a fly. That is because from a consistent Eastern perspective, there is no category to describe what taking life really is. From an Eastern perspective it is just part of the game, the "grand play", the great facade of the Universal.

Here is the quote where he discusses his comfort with killing animals for food in a humane sense:

"The first is we admit that deciding to live is deciding to kill, and make no bones about it. For if I have really made up my mind to kill I can do it expertly. Consider the agony of being halfway decapitated by a reluctant executioner. Death must be a swift as possible, and the hand that holds the rifle or wields the knife must be sure...

The second is that every form of life killed for food must be husbanded and cherished on the principle of 'I love you so much I could eat you,' from which it should follow that 'I eat you so much that I love you.'...Whatever is unloveable on the plate was unloved in the kitchen or on the farm...

The third has been expressed by Lin Yutang as follows: 'If a chicken has been killed, and it is not cooked properly, that chicken has died in vain.' The very least I can do for a creature that died for me is to honor it, not with an empty ritual, but by cooking it to perfection and relishing it to the full.

To the Eastern religionist who deals consistently with his own ideas, eating meat isn't murder, but rather the absorption of one part of the facade into another. This is why Watts can say of his eating meat, "Any animal that becomes me should enjoy itself as me". Kudos to Watts for dealing consistently with his own philosophy. Too bad his worldview isn't true, though!

Watts' justification for eating meat comes both from three basic sources: 1. the inevitability of causing animal death (even if we were vegetarians), 2. The fact that from an Eastern philosophy, one can't strictly deliniate between plant and animal life, and 3. If all is part of the Universal, as the Eastern religionist holds, you can't hold "IT" culpable for swallowing up itself.

I, on the other hand, justify eating meat in a different way, but come to a similar conclusion..that it is OK to kill animals for food if it is done with a sense of good stewardship and not excessively torturous. Part of this arises from my belief in the distinction between humans and animals. Another part of it arises from my belief in a dominion mandate. But, in the New Testament, I have additional guidance when the Apostle Paul says:

"every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving" (I Timothy 4:4)

So, now, on this thanksgiving weekend, I can enjoy turkey and thank God for such a creature. Lo, is its body shape not particularly suited to being edible? The provision of it for food is not murder, and if cooked well, it isn't even a waste. I can eat it with a good conscience toward God, knowing that if I am a good steward and do it all to the honor and glory of God, I am honoring the turkey's proper purpose, and more importantly the wonderful triune God who created the turkey.

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Complexity in Language

".. despite what might have been expected, the languages of primitive peoples are found to be just as complex as the languages of more advanced societies. Only the vocabularies of the languages of primitive peoples tend to be smaller, partly of course because they do not have access to the vast range of man-made objects and concepts that surround us." (from "The Words We Use" by Robert Lord)


Thursday, October 04, 2007

The Golden Rule Applied to Government Intervention

Special interest groups are constantly clamoring for government intervention. They are simply doing what is in their best interest, so I feel the government is more culpable for it. They repeatedly shown that they their will is easy to bend when confronted with a loud enough voice or when enough money is involved.

But taking things a bit further, the core problem is that most people only want the government to intervene in THEIR favor. Most people are decidedly authoritarian when a thing affects another's rights, but decidedly libertarian when it affects their own rights. This seems to be the "natural" way that we humans operate. What people don't often realize, though, is that the system is so interconnected that the violation of their neighbor's rights leads to the violation of their own rights.

When a person advocates intervention X, which may be favorable to him, he is also potentially laying the framework and precedence for intervention Y, which may not be so favorable to them. To use an image from the riots that occurred in the 1960's, they are throwing tear gas canisters, not realizing they will just be picked up and thrown back.

I believe we should apply a form of the Golden Rule to government intervention. "Do Unto Others As You Would Have Them Do To You" could be rephrased and applied to this by saying (in a long, run-on sentence): "Your advocacy of government intervention should be limited to cases where you'd be happy with roughly similar sorts of treatment on roughly similar types of issues that more directly restrict your life.". By applying this maxim, sometimes we will miss opportunities to act in what appears to be our best interest, but ultimately it will be for our own good because we will be consistently upholding the matter of individual liberty in politics.

If our society had more people who think like this, we would tend to have a freer, less polarized society. And a lot of money could be saved. It wouldn't be perfect, but most likely every segment of society would be more fulfilled that they are now, except of course the segment (whoever it may be) that takes a special delight in using legislation for the purpose denying the satisfaction of others.

To apply this to modern society.. You (or I) may not like having people in our society using pesticides, being selfish, smoking cigarettes, driving gas guzzling cars, growing questionable plants, having certain unpopular opinions, donating to questionable organizations, eating unhealthy foods, adhering to a false religion, drinking alcohol, being greedy, etc. But before we think about using government to try to intervene in those matters, we better think long and hard about how we might be empowering and encouraging the government in a way that will cause them to feel more free to restrict things that we treasure, enjoy and/or believe in. You can't just increase the power of the government to do good without also simultaneously increasing their power to do evil.

I think a great way to conclude this would be to paraphrase what a great statesman once said: I'd rather put up with the inconveniences of too much liberty rather than the inconveniences of not enough liberty.

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How My Schools Are Ranking

According to The Fraiser Institute, the places I've attended elementary and
secondary school are ranked as follows:

Note: This ranking is provincial, there results are Ontario-wide and over the last 5 years.
Note: This ranking is based on academic (reading, writing, math) skills.
Note: Elementary rankings are based on Grade 3 and Grade 6 classes.
Note: Secondary school rankings are based on Grade 9 classes.

Elementary School:

Sandwich West Public School (Gr.1-3) - 668th of 2399 schools
Prince Andrew Public School (Gr.4-8) - 1231st of 2399 schools

Secondary School:

Sandwich Secondary School (Gr.9-12) - 45th of 664 schools


Tuesday, October 02, 2007

New Perspective on Ron Paul

Douglas Wilson has a posted about a New Perspective on (Ron) Paul. The post is a bit hard to follow, but quite witty and overall pretty supportive of Ron Paul.

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