Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Maybe This Explains Jim Morrison?

"At that point art itself becomes a sideshow of no genuine intrinsic value. All that matters is disturbance from which art might emerge, given the right, distraught talent and the right, disastrous circumstances. In other words, the artists whom the '60s public found most alluring were those who knowingly cooperated in their own destruction. Having created myths of themselves as a byproduct of creating art, they finished by sacrificing themselves to those essentially trivial myths." - A. Alvarez in "The Writer's Voice"


Saturday, November 24, 2007

Chess Master Arrested

Chess expert Gary Kasparov was arrested at a rally organized by his "Other Russia" coalition. The rally was a group of about 3,000 people calling for the removal of Putin and criticizing the lack of choice in the upcoming parliamentary election. The trouble apparently began when 100 people tried to break through police lines.

Here is what Time magazine had to say about Kasparov: "Garry Kasparov likes to say he has been in politics all his life. In the Soviet Union, the nation in which he grew up, chess was a way of demonstrating the superiority of communism over the decadent West, and a chess prodigy was inevitably a political figure...he took on...the darling of the Soviet chess establishment...his image as a prominent outsider—Kasparov is half Jewish, half Armenian—was fixed. Kasparov's status has been maintained in post-Soviet Russia. His organization, the Other Russia, a coalition of those opposed to the rule of President Vladimir Putin, has held a series of demonstrations, often broken up by the police... Kasparov, 44, insists he is just a moderator, not a leader, of the movement. But by giving a voice to those who believe that Russia can develop in a way different from the authoritarianism..."

In case you are interested in find out more about this, here are some links

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Friday, November 23, 2007

Some Things I'm Thankful For

Here are some things I'm thankful for. Some of them are sort of "stereotypical" and others are clearly not. Here they are in no particular order:

* God's grace in Christ Jesus, without which I'm a miserable, lost sinner. There's nothing I could have done to merit this, and I continually must lean on this as my only hope. God is incredibly merciful in this matter.

* For my family. For my wonderful mom, my brother, and sister! And all 6 of my nephews/nieces, who are amazing! I've been blessed to be an Uncle for a pretty good chunk of my life, and watching the nephews/nieces grow and mature is excellent! And for my extended family, a great bunch of cousins, uncles, aunts, etc.

* For friends and even casual people passing by who in some way helped me, spoke with me, etc. Especially people who've taken initiative to help me out or perhaps straighten me out sometimes :)

* That winter only lasts a few short months.

* That a bit over a year ago I found a wonderful, solid church and I can gather with wonderful believers there! This includes the delight of observing the Lord's day, taking the Lord's supper every week, singing hymns, listening to sermons, fellowship, prayer meetings, etc.

* Specifically for all of the wonderful brothers and sisters at my church whose support and friendship I benefit from so much!

* For food and drink. Whether it is nice tasty lamb, pizza, a good burger, different ethnic foods, shrimp, fresh fish, barbeques, garlic milkshake (mainly for making everything else taste better), wonderful desserts, salads, pasta, trinidad style hot sauce, hot papers, beer, wine, water, juice, etc. Isn't it just great? Especially when made well and eaten in good company! And trying new restaurants is great too!

* That God has promised His good-will towards me (Rom 8:28), and that everything He sends me works together for my good! In specific, for the several things in my past that might seem to be classified as "worst" but I'm actually seeing how they in some ways may even be truly the best things that ever happened to me!

* For the Bible and the easy access we have to it in our times

* For my particular gifts and talents, and also unique quirks which make us all unique.

* For the measure to which I've been able to enjoy the good life.

* For having a job and living in a prosperous country. I guess I must be thankful for computer technology, which I've almost always made my living off of!

* My health, and the specific ways that I've recovered well in my past.

* That I'm single rather than with a Pro 21:19 or Pro 27:15 woman (look up those verses if you aren't sure what I mean). And conversely, that I haven't signed any Bachelor For Life covenant yet :)

* For women! I could only imagine what the world would be like if there were no women, who are in so many ways a blessing to the world and are complementary to men. There are so many Biblical and modern day examples of women of virtue and what I call "gentle fortitude". Their lives are so inspiring! My hats off to the fairer gender!

* Music (in many different forms) and the way it speaks so powerfully! I'm thinking particularly of musicians whose soulful and genuine work have touched me in deep and meaningful ways. And especially the amazing flexibility and skill with which people can use musical instruments and their voices.

* The Christians around the world who stand strong in the face of persecution, ridicule , and other injustice (and often put me to shame in the process, with my lukewarmness).

* The ease of obtaining Information (the Internet, podcasts, etc.)

* For laughter, jokes, and joviality that so heals the soul from perpetual gloom and seriousness.

* For being Canadian (it ain't all that bad!)

* Animals, plants, and all other forms of beauty found outside! And the ability to walk, bike, and generally enjoy the world around us! And specifically for the Cardinals that grace my yard with their presence every year.

* Warm beaches, oceans, Caribbean getaways in the middle of winter, beach volleyball, and all that goes along with that!

* For being born in an exciting and unprecedentedly strange age of history, and all the excitement and uncertainty that goes with it!

* For fun mind games like chess, scrabble, etc.

* Eschatology (not the study of it, but I mean the anticipation of the realization of it!)

* For the deep, deep honor of being able to bring my requests before the creator of the Universe.

* Books! Books! Eyes to Read! Literature! Good poetry! Fiction! Theology! Philiosophy! Puritans! Non Fiction! Science Fiction! Geeky Stuff! Devotional Stuff! History! Weird and Obscure Books! Library Thing! I'm thankful for it all and how the written word has been so helpful.

I'm probably missing some stuff, but I think this is a pretty good list! I got hyped up just writing it! The sum total of all of this is: God is good. Each item on here, even if it doesn't explicitly mentioned God or "religious" aspects, ultimately is a gracious gift of God that I'm thanking Him for.


A Mandate To Be Thankful

While I'm not American, it is hard to ignore that the American thanksgiving has recently passed by. So, my thoughts turn to the topic of being thankful. Really, being thankful is not something we should rekindle merely once a year. We have repeated instruction in the Bible to be thankful. For example:

And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. (Col 3:15-16)

The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me; to one who orders his way rightly I will show the salvation of God! (Psalm 50:23)

Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! (Psalm 100:4)

Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. (Ephesians 5:4)

do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. (Phillipians 4:6)

May we all obey these calls to thanksgiving!

As a side note: In a recent sermon, Douglas Wilson made an excellent point about Jesus Christ's thankfulness. Jesus thanked God for the cross even before He asked if He could be spared it and before He actually went through all that agony! With that pattern, we ought to thank the Lord for good things and even for hard and terrible things, thanking Him for the deliverance ahead of time!


Saturday, November 17, 2007

The London Baptist Confession on Foreknowledge/Election

It is common in Christian circles to explain election/predestination on the basis of mere foresight. Predestination, it is reasoned, is merely God looking into the future and seeing what man would decide, and then electing the believing ones. The main point of this conclusion seems to be that it is an attempt to avoid concluding that God actually predestines who will be saved via a decree.

This explanation, though, is deficient on a number of different levels.

First, the Bible clearly refutes it (some quick examples: study Ephesians 1, Romans 9, etc).

Second, it is a self-defeating argument and philisophically bankrupt. You can't consistently hold that God's knows the future perfectly and that fallen humans have initiating autonomous free will to arbitrarily initiate whether they will be elect. Consider this: If God knows the future perfectly, which would include Joe being saved, is it possible for Joe not to be saved? Hence, the consistent application of this argument defeats its self by leading to the denial of its underlining premise. Most modern intellectual Arminians have recognized this dillema. When forced to chose between God's perfect knowledge of the future or their assumption of autonomous free will, they've chosen autonomous free will. This decision has led them to reject the fact that God has perfect knowledge of the future (this comes in various forms: Open Theism, Molinism, etc.).

The framers of the London Baptist Confession of 1689 anticipated this issue and spoke of it in Chapter 3: "Although God knoweth whatsoever may or can come to pass, upon all supposed conditions, yet hath he not decreed anything, because he foresaw it as future, or as that which would come to pass upon such conditions."

The language there may be a bit hard to grasp, but basically it outlines the following things:

1. God sees the future perfectly.
2. God sees what could happen hypothetically.
3. But when God decrees things, he doesn't do so because He saw them in the future as happening.

If God doesn't elect people based on His foreseeing of their choice, then on what basis does He do it? The confession answers with a very Biblical answer to that: "according to his eternal and immutable purpose, and the secret counsel and good pleasure of his will"

Is this hard to swallow? Sure. But it is the truth! And, really, it is a glorious truth!

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I'm currently hand-compiling X-Windows in Linux for the first time. I'll be sure to report on the result when I'm done!

One doesn't easily realize how many dependencies a piece of software like X-Windows has until one tries to compile it by hand!!


Saturday, November 10, 2007

Mitt Romney, A Conservative By Name Only?

Harper's magazine this month has a provocative article named "Making Mitt Romney: How To Sell A Fake Conservative" by Ken Silverstein. Whatever you think about the magazine or the author, I think you'd find the article interesting. It focuses on Mitt Romney's reliance on consultants to trump up his reputation among social conservatives. It shows Mitt Romney for what he is, probably more of a opportunist than a real social conservative. And it makes some pretty astute points regarding how Romney is perceived by conservatives in South Carolina.

Phoniness is a real problem in modern politics, especially in the major parties. Why would one vote for a conservative who is really a liberal just trying to get votes, or a liberal who is really a conservative trying to get votes? At least vote for the genuine thing! This article further supports my conclusion that, were I American, I could not in good faith support any Republican candidate besides Ron Paul.

Here are a few excerpts from the article:

"In 2002, a Democratic opposition-research specialist named Jason Stanford was hired by a pro-choice group to research a number of Republican candidates nationwide. In the end the group decided Romney was too liberal to oppose. 'He wasn't pure on choice, but they thought he was saying the right thing from a liberal Democratic perspective'"

"A related problem is the sense that whatever his political convictions may be, he's not passionate about them. "

"Some voters, understandably, question what Romney truly stands for, if anything. Conservatives in particular seem unconvinced of his sincerity, and that could be fatal in a state like South Carolina."

"Its a question of trust...He says all the right things, his speeches run through the litmus test on conservative issues, but there's no conviction behind it." (a quote from the article by a conservative politician regarding Romney)

I sure hope the libertarian wing of the Republican party gains more prominence in the future, because the candidates being offered by the Republican mainstream seem to be getting worse and worse.

I personally think that the "religious right" in America often gets duped by smooth talking "conservatives" who know how to speak the right lingo and appeal to the right issues. But time and time again, they are disappointed by posers who were just wooing their votes. Unfortunately much of evangelical Christianity (and I include myself in that category, though politically I don't necessarily like the "right winger" label, I'm a libertarian) has abandoned the use of the mind, and a symptom of that is the inability to detect posers through the use of critical thinking.

I think the situation could be greatly improved if Christians constituents of various areas started using their minds in a more agile manner and realized that things aren't always as they appear on the surface, and that campaign promises and image doesn't make a good candidate, or even an honest candidate. Appeals to "family values", and believe me as a Christian I am all for "family values", have often been the basis of much political deception. A "friend" in need (of your vote), isn't necessarily a friend indeed.

At least look for a long term, consistent track record of a politician sticking to his principles. And that is something Mitt Romney certainly doesn't have.

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