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June 29, 2016

trenchant.org daily

Post-modern IRC

The last time I regularly used IRC was sometime in college to keep up with the underground classic arcade and console game piracy/preservation community.

I didn’t pay much attention to IRC itself — it was just an interesting way to communicate with a weird subculture I was on the periphery of.

Now that I’m looking at IRC with fresh eyes as a technologist and conscientious objector of modern social media, all the wondrous beauty, potential, incomprehensibility and flaws seem all the more apparent.

Protocol

Unlike proprietary modern tightly coupled solutions, IRC is a protocol with an RFC from 25 years ago. So it runs everywhere, there’s clients for every platform, servers galore, and whole ecosystem of related software.

There’s a certain durability and comfort to these kinds of standards running on commodity hardware with an open source operating system. You can be pretty sure if you set some unix server to run IRC, you’ll be able to keep using IRC in some form years from now.

I love boring software now in a way I never thought I would.

If you choose some hot shit modern chat app thing, who knows where it will be in a few years. (On that note, does anybody still use XMPP? Wasn’t it funny that in the late 90’s when using XML for everything seemed like a modern and awesome future-proofing idea?! We’ll probably feel that way about Javascript in 20 years.)

Usability Nightmare

Unlike proprietary modern tightly coupled solutions, IRC is an old school protocol where everything is an incomprehensible nightmare of disparate configuration files, arcane commands, usability nightmares, security flaws, and duct tape and chewing gum to keep it all together.

It’s great though. Really. Really? Really. Maybe.

Missing Pieces

Ignoring the general incomprehensibility of IRC and the vocabulary that is required for a user, setting up a private IRC server actually isn’t that bad as far as services go. At its core, typing in a box to send a message is more or less something that makes intuitive sense once you get people there.

(That was one of the only things that people could figure out how to do on Orkut and social networks.)

Some of the challenges with IRC —

  • authentication and identity — IRC has always had a weird hodgepodge of “services” built on top to try and handle identity to fill the gaps but it feels particularly awkward now in an age of single-sign on services
  • persistence — the ephemeral nature of IRC is kind of wonderful, but makes it hard to keep up with things, and the weird world of bouncers and loggers to fill in are not super easy to comprehend or deal with it
  • mobile — native mobile clients for IRC exist but the protocol (and the lack of push notifications easily available) make using IRC as a modern messaging platform on the dominant platforms challenging to normal human beings who aren’t in front of a keyboard all day

Don’t Let That Stop You

Never one to let usability, security, or sanity stop me in technical endeavors for antisocial software, I now have a setup that includes:

  • IRC daemonngIRCd set up to only allow connections from my server
  • preconfigured web client that connects to it for easy access — Lounge
  • loggerLogBot
  • bouncer to enable persistent connection for myself and BFFs — znc
  • Mac clientLimeChat
  • iOS clientMutter with push notifications
  • no friends actually using it

I declare that a huge success, personally.

Anyway, give it a shot. Relive the glory days of the trenchant.org webarrific discussioney board but in realtime over IRC at irc.trenchant.org

Or don’t. I’ll probably just ignore whatever happens on there anyway, and regret that I just made a thing that allows anyone to anonymously send me push notifications.

TODO

Ppersistence/login working seamlessly on a web version without a complicated bouncer setup would be nice.

Figuring out a way to integrate images/image hosting.

IRC bouncers are great but the multiple level of authentication / logins / etc needed to get all this to work is pretty daunting — something that handled all that seamlessly would be interesting.

Bots. There should probably an adammathebooks bot on the channel at all times, and really a host menagerie of bot pals since the internet for me has always fundamentally been about me talking to myself in various ways anyway.

At what point do I just give up and decide we all should just use the same UNIX server to talk to each other.

I feel like I’m inching ever and ever closer to just throwing everything out the window and trying to find a way to live in hacked up Raspberry Pi’s.

June 29, 2016 08:00 AM

Table Titans

Tales: The Napping Tree

I DM for a few different groups, one of which is a couple that I run a game for online.

They were walking down a path when they came upon a Hangman's Tree. I called for Will saves from them both, which he failed, and she passed.

To him (the Human Fighter): You see a lovely shady tree with…

Read more

June 29, 2016 07:00 AM

The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

Can You Really Become Unoffendable?

Article by: Benjamin Vrbicek

WARNING: You might not want to read Brant Hansen’s Unoffendable: How Just One Change Can Make All of Life Better because, as you read it, you’ll have more opportunities to practice being unoffended. 

At least that’s what happened to me several times. As a teaching pastor in a local church, there always seems to be a cluster of people who run a low-grade fever of disappointment with me. Recently, the fever spiked. And despite my “warning” above, I was thankful to have Unoffendable coach me along the way.

But this isn’t just my life, is it? Likely you’ve also found ways to offend others. It’s not hard to do; it’s natural for us as sinners. Moreover, our world—sometimes even Christian subculture—trains us not to have a chip on our shoulder but a lumberyard. We see this when the predictable cultural “buttons” are pushed concerning issues like abortion and marriage, and now bathrooms, but also in less expected ways. Consider John Piper’s article last winter on guns and self-defense. The volley of response articles revealed his article didn’t simply touch a nerve; it grabbed one with tweezers and yanked.

And surely this presidential election year, as it has already, will continue to multiply opportunities for offense. How shall we respond to these provocations? I loved how Russell Moore responded to Donald Trump when Trump tweeted that Moore is “A nasty guy with no heart.” Moore replied:

[This is] one of the few things I agree with Donald Trump on. I am a nasty guy with no heart. We sing worse things about ourselves in our hymns on Sunday mornings: we’re a wretch and in need of God’s grace.

But where does this ability to be unoffendable come from? Is it as simple as making a choice to not be offended? And backing up a bit, should we really seek to be unoffendable? Isn’t there a place for legitimate, non-sinful anger?

Good questions. Hansen offers provocative answers to both.

Do You Have a Choice?

Let’s start with the first question. This is where Hansen opens Unoffendable. It’s also the central idea behind the subtitle.

It seems the answer is yes and no. I do think we can choose not to take offense. This choice, however, isn’t made in isolation; the choice to be unoffendable is an interlocking one determined by our answers to a host of other questions. To use an analogy, is the choice to run a marathon just one choice? Well, yes and no. To be sure, it’s a choice, but it’s not a choice made in isolation from other choices about diet, sleep, training, and rest. The same can be said about choosing which car to own. It’s a choice, but one contingent on other things, such as one’s career and income and family size and comfort with debt.

It’s the exposing of this interlocking nature of anger and offense which I found so helpful in the book. That angry father in your church might not be able to stop his rage because his ego is inflamed (184). That guy flabbergasted on social media might not be able to stop because he doesn’t believe in God’s final punishment (69) or is insecure about his own standing before God (128, 181) or doesn’t believe in the biblical view of human depravity (65–67). And I might not be able to overlook the low-grade disappointment in my ministry because I’ve lost my servant-minded approach (150). In other words, being unoffendable isn’t a mere choice to grow “thick skin” (whatever that means), but the holistic choice to pursue a gospel-saturated life.

Is Anger Always Wrong?

But might there be a legitimate place for righteous anger? Are there times we should be offended? What Hansen wants us to ask, in theological terms, is whether anger is a communicable or incommunicable attribute of God. That is to say, is anger an attribute God shares with people?

Hansen repeatedly argues the provocative thesis that righteous anger belongs to God and God alone. He cites things like the frequent admonitions in the Bible to get rid of it (Eph. 4:31; Col. 3:8), the danger of it (Jas. 1:20), and its connections to folly (Eccl. 7:9). As for the “Be angry and do not sin” passage (Eph. 4:26a), Hansen points out that the rest of the verse tells us that we, as sinful humans, are not to hold onto it (v. 26b). Oh, don’t forget, anger’s not listed as a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22, 23). He also employs quotes from Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Martin Luther King, Jr., to buttress his argument.

On this point, however, I think Hansen is wrong. Consider systematic theology textbooks (such as Erickson, Frame, and Grudem, as well as Bavinck, Berkhof, and Bird). It would appear they all see included within the imago Dei a sharing of God’s love, holiness, and justice, and it seems to me (and others) that as these shared attributes combine, there ought to be a place—albeit a small and delicate one—for an affection that accords with the injustice of our world. Could we call that affection “righteous anger”? Consider the exchange between Nathan and David in 2 Samuel 12:1–15. God uses the prophet to arouse a flash of anger in David, which prompts his repentance (vv. 1, 5). And consider Jesus’s praise of the Ephesian church for “hating” a particular false teaching (Rev. 2:6). Other passages seem to argue the same (see, e.g., Ps. 97:10).

But I must also say that on this point, before reading Unoffendable, I was wrong. I’m so thankful Hansen showed me this. Whatever space I thought “righteous anger” could legitimately occupy, I’d assumed it was much larger than it really is. I’d assumed anger was like a huge Humvee when God wants human anger to be more like a tiny Smart Car with the battery on low. 

Least Offendable People Around

Unoffendable is very accessible, even conversational. Hansen is an excellent storyteller. You’ll love the story he tells about doing mission work in Indonesia. A Muslim cleric was so impressed with Hansen that he implored him to take his children back to America (167–70). And personally, I enjoyed the goofy chapter titles. For example, chapter 22 “Here’s the Part Where I Talk about Some Danish People,” and chapter 23, “Forget Danish People—Let’s Talk About Your Elbow.”

Brant Hansen works for CURE International, a Christian organization that operates charitable hospitals all over the world. But if you’re familiar with him, it’s probably as the host of a syndicated Christian radio program (also available by podcast). If I had a working radio in my car, I would surely listen to him. But my radio is broken. A few years ago, my kids stuffed coins into its CD player because they thought that’s what the slot was for.

When it happened, it’s possible I got “a little” angry. I could’ve used Hansen’s book back then. I’m glad I have it now, because Christians, as Hansen says, should be the least offendable people in the world.

Brant Hansen. Unoffendable: How Just One Change Can Make All of Life Better. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2015. 214 pp. $15.99.

Benjamin Vrbicek is a teaching pastor at Community Evangelical Free Church in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Benjamin and his wife, Brooke, have five children. He earned an MDiv from Covenant Theological Seminary. Benjamin blogs regularly at Fan and Flame, and you can follow him on Twitter.

by Benjamin Vrbicek at June 29, 2016 05:02 AM

Blue-Collar America as an Unreached People Group

Article by: Timoteo Sazo

Noah Gallop is an ASE-certified master automotive technician. He grew up in the West African country of Niger, where his parents served as missionaries among the Tuareg people. Noah lives in Northern Virginia with his wife, Anna, and their three children.

How do you describe your work?

I’m a mechanic, which is a lot like being a doctor: I listen, examine, diagnose and, if possible, fix. If you’ve ever had a car and taken it in to the shop, you know what I’m talking about.

As an image-bearer of God, how does your work reflect some aspect of God’s work?

There is a real beauty in what I do—restoring broken things. I begin with a car that’s in bad shape and then, at the end of the day, it’s back on the road. Looking at something that I’ve fixed and saying, “Here’s what I did today,” gives me great joy, and I think God takes pleasure in that, too. After all, he’s restoring broken things.

How does your work give you a unique vantage point into the brokenness of the world?

In my line of work, I see broken cars, but I also see broken individuals and broken motivations.

While studying at a tech school and working at various shops, I meet a lot of entry-level mechanics with problems. Some, for example, are coming out of correctional facilities and trying to acquire skills to get back into society. I’ve found that, in many ways, blue-collar America is an unreached people group.

Also, the automotive repair industry as a whole has a reputation of being dishonest. Since customers don’t really know much about cars or about what happens behind the counter, it’s easy to pass off mistakes in the shop as issues that came with the car. Moreover, most mechanics get paid by the hour, so there’s a constant pressure to do more in less time, which often means lower quality work and giving up the ability to take pride in it. And, although it’s true that giving an accurate estimate can be difficult, and sometimes jobs end up taking longer than expected, there’s also the temptation to exaggerate estimates and bill the customer more than the job is worth.

Jesus commands us to “love our neighbors as ourselves.” How does your work function as an opportunity to love and serve others?

I get to serve people by taking care of their automotive needs with love and integrity. Customer satisfaction is really pushed in American management—yet quite often to the detriment of customers. People aren't always happy even with a good job, and lots of people are happiest with places that have morally questionable sales policies. As long as I can say I have served with love to the best of my ability, that’s enough for me, even if this may not always be recognized.

Editors’ note: TGCvocations is a weekly column that asks practitioners how they integrate their faith and their work. Interviews are condensed and edited.

Timoteo Sazo is an editor for The Gospel Coalition. He holds a BA in English literature and linguistics from The Catholic University of Chile. He and his wife, Kaitlin, live in the Washington, D.C., area and are members at Sterling Park Baptist Church. Timoteo attends Reformed Theological Seminary. You can follow him on Twitter.

by Timoteo Sazo at June 29, 2016 05:01 AM

‘50 Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die’: 10+ Years of God’s Stunning Global Work

Article by: Alex Duke

It’s been more than 11 years since Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ came to the silver screen. Earning more than $370 million in the United States, the film remains the highest-grossing R-rated movie in American history. 

A few weeks before the film’s release, on January 1, 2004, a different Passion-centered resource released: John Piper’s 50 Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die.

The project was born out of sanctified opportunism. Crossway, the book’s publisher, wanted Christians to have something they could pair with the film, a conversation starter for people who, having seen Gibson’s Passion, were unusually willing to consider for themselves the meaning of Jesus’s death.

“It was a deeply moving experience when I saw an advance showing of The Passion of the Christ,” Piper said. “It clarified, as few things could, the raw fact that Jesus died. But the movie didn’t answer the question, Why did he die?”

Discerning this crucial gap, Crossway president Lane Dennis and Desiring God co-founder Jon Bloom seized the chance to create a resource that would explain the gospel more clearly. But there was a problem: though Crossway and Desiring God wanted to give the book away, they needed to cover their costs to remain sustainable.

“We couldn’t sell them in ways that would unfairly compete with bookstores,” Bloom said. “So we decided not to sell them at all and offer cases of books for whatever churches or individuals could afford—including giving them for free if people asked. We knew this was financially risky, but we also knew the gospel-spreading opportunity was worth the risk.”

At his most wildly optimistic, Bloom thought they could distribute 50,000 copies. But less than three months later, he’d need to double that number and add a zero—and then add some more. From the end of January 2004 to just before Easter, they distributed more than 1.2 million copies, plus another 100,000 in the UK.

“It was amazing,” Bloom said. “Likely a once-in-a-lifetime moment.”

Indeed, an eternity-changing moment for many around the world who read the book in translation thanks to International Outreach.

Ending Theological Famine

In 2006, Bill Walsh began International Outreach as a branch of Desiring God. Previously he had worked as Desiring God’s manager of customer service and inventory, so he had worked closely with their resources, 50 Reasons chief among them.

Thinking through the new ministry’s desire to end theological famine, Walsh asked himself which books were worth spreading around the world, which ones would serve pastors with both an eager mind and an eighth-grade education.

Immediately, Piper’s 50 Reasons came to mind as a short, accessible, and unrelentingly Christ-exalting and gospel-centered resource. So the International Outreach team set to work, translating the book into Khmer by 2007.

In the decade since, the response has remained astounding. International Outreach has given away tens of thousands of copies in translation, and God has seen fit to expand the book’s influence far beyond original expectations. To date, 50 Reasons has been translated and published in 20 languages,[1] with more than 100,000 printed and distributed across the globe.

Somewhere along the way, the book fell into the hands of two men—an Ethiopian theology professor and a Ugandan imam.

Story of Frew

Christianity in Ethiopia dates back to the first century. Luke details its first moment in Acts 8:26–40, when Philip shares Christ with an Ethiopian eunuch. Philip encounters the man reading Isaiah 53, puzzled by the prophecy of Israel’s Suffering Servant. God uses both this scripture and Philip’s obedience in telling the good news to save him. Philip then baptizes the eunuch, and Luke makes sure to note he “went on his way, rejoicing.”

Nearly 2,000 years later, 62 percent of Ethiopians claim some form of Christianity. Forty percent identify as Orthodox (often called Coptics), 20 percent identify as Protestant, and 2 percent identify as Roman Catholic. In such a religious climate, traditions abound. For example, during Lent most Christians fast from meat, milk, and other delicacies.

Yet despite centuries of tradition, there are few evangelical resources in Amharic, Ethiopia’s native tongue.

“Trustworthy theological books in Amharic are rare,” says Frew Tamrat (pronounced Free-oh). “There are maybe 40 or 50 altogether.”

Tamrat is vice president for academic affairs at Evangelical Theological College in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital. He estimates that since 2012, when 50 Reasons was translated into Amharic, his seminary has given away more than 5,300 copies.

This year, during the 55 days of Lenten fasting, Tamrat and other Ethiopian Christians devised an ambitious way for biblical content to reach the masses. And to make it happen, they turned to an unlikely place: local television.

“So many people treat Lent as an empty tradition,” he said. “They only go through the motions. We thought, Why don’t we use the media to teach people about the cross?

And they did. Every morning for the next 50 days—one day per chapter in Piper’s book—different local teachers gave a 10-minute devotion in Amharic that sought to answer a simple question: Why did Jesus have to die? Yet again, God brought astounding results such that by the end of Lent, even some monasteries asked for copies of the book.

After Lent ended, the church that sponsored the telecasts hosted an evangelism week. Each participating member of the congregation wore the same T-shirt. On the front was a question: Why did Jesus come to die? On the back, an answer: For me.

During that week, more than 350 people professed Jesus as their Savior.

“So many people have confessed Christ,” Tamrat said. “I really praise God.”

Story of Omar

Omar (pictured above) was a sheikh and imam in Uganda. Fluent in both his native Aringa and Arabic, he studied Islam at the University of Riyadh in Saudi Arabia, as well as in Canada.

But sometime late last year, after several meetings with local Christians, Omar confessed Christ in a private conversation.

“We saw the work of God in his life,” said Jacob Lee, a longtime missionary in Uganda. Lee says that in the months since Omar has been “devouring” whatever Christian resources are given him, an appetite sparked after reading an Arabic translation of 50 Reasons.

Though Uganda has many Christians, Omar’s Aringa tribe is sadly under-reached, with evangelicals making up less than 1.5 percent of the population. As a result, Lee encourages other Christians to pray for him, asking the Lord to use Aringa believers like Omar to bring other Islamic leaders to a vibrant and multiplying faith in Christ.

Though new in his walk with Jesus, Omar agrees. Reflecting on his past six months, he wrote these words:

I am Omar Atibo, a Muslim convert who has been blessed after reading the Arabic version of the book 50 Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die. The following are ways I have benefited by reading this book:

I have learned that Jesus came to pay the sins of the world. Without him coming there would be no forgiveness of sins.

Jesus is the only way to the Father, and unless you believe in him, you can’t go to heaven.

Jesus’s blood washed the sins of all the people on earth.

Jesus is the light of God, and without him there is darkness.

Before creation Jesus is.

I believe Jesus is the Son of God because of his wisdom when as a young boy in the temple he spoke with authority. When I read this book, it gave me an assurance as a new believer in Christ, and I surely know that through Jesus I will one day see God the Father!

There Are Others

Frew and Omar offer but two stories of God’s work among the nations through a book written more than 10 years ago. There are indeed others, and they are all astounding.

From Ethiopia to Uganda, from Nepal to Poland, from Myanmar to China, God has seen fit this past decade to grant favor to many around the world who read 50 Reasons. Upon reading, they have seen and believed why Jesus came to die. Upon seeing and believing, they have gone on their way, rejoicing.

[1] Amharic, Arabic, Bengali, Burmese, English, Farsi/Persian, French, Haitian Creole, Hindi, Khmer, Manipuri, Nepali, Polish, Swahili, Swedish, Tamil, Telegu, Thai, Ukrainian, Urdu.

Alex Duke is an assistant editor for The Gospel Coalition, where he oversees the Arts and Culture channel and writes for TGC, International Outreach. He also works as the editorial manager for 9Marks. He lives in Louisville, Kentucky, with his wife, Melanie. You can follow him on Twitter.

by Alex Duke at June 29, 2016 05:00 AM

Life After Death Begins with Life Before Death

Article by: Staff

“The arms of John’s Gospel open as wide as the whole inhabited world. But there is a sense in which John is very exclusive. Having called upon all the world to believe and to come and receive these things, we are told there’s only one name by which we can receive them.” – Dick Lucas

Text: John 11:25–27

Preached: April 11, 1993

Location: St. Helen’s, Bishopsgate, London

Dick Lucas is a minister in the Church of England and the founder of The Proclamation Trust, an organization that trains Christians in Bible exposition. He was Rector of St. Helen’s, Bishopsgate, in London from 1961–1998 and still maintains an active preaching and teaching schedule as rector emeritus.

You can stream this episode of TGC Word of the Week here.

by Staff at June 29, 2016 04:59 AM

June 28, 2016

Blog – Cal Newport

Aziz Ansari Ignores His Email

aziz-620px

Deep Thoughts with Aziz Ansari

Last summer, comedian and actor Aziz Ansari was a guest on Stephen Dubner’s Freakonomics Radio show.

The stated purpose was to discuss Ansari’s book, Modern Romance, but the conversation wandered toward a wide-ranging exploration of Ansari’s complicated relationship with the Internet. I thought I would excerpt some choice quotes below.

Here’s Ansari on email versus depth:

“I would just get so many emails. And then when I started filming my TV show I just set up a thing that said, this email is dead. I’m not checking email…And I had an assistant on my show and I was like, you can call her…And you know what you realize is, all that shit people email you about all the time, all day, none of it is important. None of it is pressing…I found that I’m much more focused when I don’t have those little questions. And then at the end of the day I just have someone fill me in on everything or I call someone on the phone.”

And here he is on his social media habits:

“I deleted Twitter and Instagram off my phone. I mean I use them to like post stuff but I don’t have them on my phone. I don’t have, like, a feed. I don’t follow anyone. And I used to read that stuff a lot. And now I don’t read it. I don’t see those pictures. And I don’t miss it.”

And on why people spend so much time online:

“What you’re reading it for, and this is just my personal theories about this stuff, what you’re reading it for is a hit of this drug called the Internet.”

And his novel idea for putting the value of most Internet content into perspective:

“Like, here’s a test, OK. Take, like, your nightly or morning browse of the Internet, right? Your Facebook feed, Instagram feed, Twitter, whatever. OK if someone every morning was like, I’m gonna print this and give you a bound copy of all this stuff you read so you don’t have to use the Internet. You can just get a bound copy of it. Would you read that book? No! You’d be like, this book sucks. There’s a link to some article about a horse that found its owner somehow. It’s not that interesting.”

These insights, of course, all lead me toward an insistent question: How can I get this man a copy of Deep Work?

by Study Hacks at June 28, 2016 11:40 PM

Connected #97: 70% Optimistic

This week:

Federico’s back, to talk about iOS 10 and Messages while Stephen gets sad about his Thunderbolt Display.

A big thanks to our sponsors:

  • Ministry of Supply: Dress smarter. Work smarter. Use ‘connected’ for 15% off your first purchase.
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by Stephen at June 28, 2016 07:23 PM

From the Study

Religious Liberty in Jeopardy for Christian Colleges in California

A few days ago the California State Senate passed SB 1146. The bill, presented by Senator Ricardo Lara and co-authored by Senator Mark Leno, seeks to amend the current state discrimination protection laws by removing the exemption for religious post-secondary schools. The bill is now set to be heard by the Assembly Judiciary Committee on Thursday, June 30.

Whereas the Federal law (Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972) and the current state law (Equity in Higher Education Act) require discrimination protection for prospective participants (students, employees, faculty) of public post-secondary schools, colleges that are “controlled by religious institutions” (SB 1146) have been exempt from these requirements. SB 1146 seeks to now apply these protections to prospective participants of religious institutions as well. Schools that exist specifically to train ministers (e.g., seminaries) would remain exempt but would be required to post a formal notice of their exemption in a “prominent place” on school grounds.

How Would This Bill Affect Christian Colleges in California?
The bill would severely limit Christian colleges in their ability to freely apply their theological convictions to a myriad of important school policies. The website Oppose1146.com explains:

The provisions of the proposed bill represent a dramatic narrowing of religious freedom in California. It would mean faith-based institutions would no longer be able to determine for themselves the scope of their religious convictions as applied in student conduct policies, housing and restroom/locker facilities, and other matters of religious expression and practical campus life.

Holly Scheer, writing at the Federalist, further explains the implications:

[The bill] threatens religious institutions ability to require that students attend daily or weekly chapel services, keep bathrooms and dormitories distinct according to sex, require students to complete theology classes, teach religious ideas in regular coursework, hold corporate prayer at events such as graduation, and so on. In other words, it threatens every practice that makes religious institutions distinct from secular institutions.

Beyond the silliness of eliminating such substantive differences between religious and secular organizations, the chief problem with the wording of SB 1146 as it relates to religious institutions is that it follows the Equity of Education Act by including gender, gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation alongside disability, nationality, ethnicity, and race as protected classes. I attended a Christian college from 1999-2002 and remember specific paragraphs included in every class syllabus that granted distinct provisions for students with disabilities. My college was also attended by students from multiple countries and various ethnic backgrounds. Such provisions and student diversity at a Christian college makes sense in light of what the New Testament teaches about loving one’s neighbor and the nature of the gospel: Christ died to save sinners from every tribe and language and people and nation (Rev 5:9-10).

The point of recalling my college experience is to highlight the reality that Christian schools are not opposed to SB 1146 because it requires protection from discrimination on the basis of nationality, ethnicity, race, or disability. Nor do Christian colleges desire to discriminate against members of the LGBT community as a specific class of people and restrict their opportunities for post-secondary education. Rather, Christian schools are seeking the freedom to craft their school policies and curriculum according to their religious convictions as they relate to sexuality and gender. For example, Christian schools desire the freedom to maintain gender specific bathrooms that allow only those with the corresponding biological gender to use a given bathroom. These institutions also desire the freedom to uphold the goodness of a New Testament sexual ethic among students, faculty, and staff without fear of legal reprisal.

Are Christian Colleges Fighting This Bill Because They Want to Discriminate Against the LGBT Community?
The real motivation for the Christian colleges who are fighting this bill is not to promote discrimination, but to protect religious liberty. Christian colleges like Biola University are committed to “providing safe environments for all students.” And the Biola-sponsored website Oppose1146.com states that “Many of California’s faith-based institutions would support SB 1146 if section 1 was amended or struck from the bill.” It’s not the protection of those who identify as LGBT that these Christian colleges are against. “It is the dramatic narrowing of the religious exemption in section 1 that prevents them from supporting the bill.”

Those who oppose this bill recognize that states have every right to develop, fund, and oversee public post-secondary institutions according to principles they deem are most conducive to human flourishing. Private, non-religious schools are also free to create school curriculum and policy they believe will best benefit students and faculty. In California, there are over two-hundred such options among four-year, accredited schools. In other words, no one is required to attend or work at a religious college in California, so it makes little sense to restrict the religious liberty of these schools if citizens have the “secular liberty” to avoid them.

What Can I Do?
In the end, SB 1146 would essentially devastate all faith-based post-secondary institutions in California. There are 40 such institutions currently operating in the state. If this bill is passed into law, the future of these schools will be unstable at best, non-existent at worst. But there are actions we can take to ensure this bill is written in a way that protects the religious liberty of faith-based schools in California.

  1. Learn – Gain a working knowledge of the bill and its implications for Christian institutions. You can read SB 1146 for yourself here. Joe Carter has a good introduction to the whole issue here. Biola University has a regularly updated blog post here. You can also visit their website Oppose1146.com. William Jessup University has some helpful summary of the bill here. Holly Scheer’s article at The Federalist is helpful. Senator Joe Moorlach (37th District) opposes the bill as it is currently written. And Christian College Daily provides a running list of articles related to SB 1146 here.
  2. Pray – God is the ultimately the one who turns hearts and changes minds. He installs leaders and removes them according to his good purpose and plan. He is our only refuge and strength, and he loves to answer the prayers of his saints. Pray that religious freedom would prevail, not for the sake of the institutions primarily, but for the glory of Christ so that these institutions can continue to equip and train and teach students according to God’s Word without fear of drastic state interference (see 1 Tim 2:1-4).
  3. Write – Write the Assembly Judiciary Committee members. Here is their contact information. You can use this sample letter to help you prepare your statement. You can also get on social media and use #SB1146 to express your concern over this bill as it pertains to religious liberty.
  4. Call – Alternatively or additionally, you can also call Assembly Judiciary Committee members.  A blog post at Biola.edu provides some helpful guidance. “Identify yourself and express that you have strong concerns about SB 1146, offering any reason you choose, or no reason at all. The important thing is to express your concerns about the narrowing of religious freedom this bill would impose on Biola and all of California’s faith-based colleges and universities.”
  5. Act – There is an opportunity on June 30 to register your concern over SB1146 at the state capitol. See here for more information about this opportunity.
Photo: Marcin Wichary

 


by Derek J. Brown at June 28, 2016 04:45 PM

don't code today what you can't debug tomorrow

Using Zopfli to Optimize PNG Images

PNG format is very useful because it preserve all the colors, making it suitable to depict a screenshot faithfully. Unfortunately, many graphics applications do not produce a PNG file with the smallest possible size. Fortunately, this situation can be remedied using an additional tool such as Zopfli from Google.

Zopfli is an encoder implementation of DEFLATE, a compression method commonly used in PNG format (among many other usages, e.g. ZIP, etc), designed to produce the likely smallest compressed output. Since it is a lossless transformation, a PNG file that is recompressed with Zopfli still retains all the pixels as expected.

zopflipng

For a web site that serve a lot of PNGs, it is beneficial to run Zopfli on all the PNG images. Making the files smaller (without losing any pixels) means that the web site visitor will enjoy an improved experience due to a faster transport. If the site is extremely popular, the total bandwidth saving could be significant.

Compiling Zopfli on Linux or macOS (formerly known as OS X) is easy:

$ git clone https://github.com/google/zopfli.git
$ cd zopfli
$ make zopflipng

After this, usually I stash the zopflipng executable to my ~/bin:

$ cp ./zopflipng ~/bin
$ ./zopflipng
ZopfliPNG, a Portable Network Graphics (PNG) image optimizer.
 
Usage: zopflipng [options]... infile.png outfile.png
       zopflipng [options]... --prefix=[fileprefix] [files.png]...

To optimize a single image:

$ zopflipng screenshot.png screenshot_small.png

Note that since Zopfli’s compressor is a CPU-intensive operation, the process often takes a few seconds.

For a batch conversion, a simple script can be helpful. For instance, I have this png-press.sh:

#!/usr/bin/env sh
 
tmpfile=$(mktemp)
zopflipng -m -y $1 $tmpfile
mv $tmpfile $1

Now go to a directory full of images and run:

$ find . -iname *.png  | xargs -I % ./png-press.sh %

As an illustration, this blog site has over 280 PNG images (mostly screenshots), taking a total of 24.4 MB in space. After running the above step, the space consumption is reduced to only 19.1 MB. A good 5 MB saving!

Now, what’s your excuse not to Zopfliy your screenshots?

by Ariya at June 28, 2016 03:38 PM

Front Porch Republic

Who Are Public Monuments For?

History is a lie. Or, rather, a complex galaxy of truths, half-truths, exaggerations, and downplayings that together form a narrative. We don’t write histories because we want to record what really happened; we write them in order to provide ourselves with a meaningful story. We write history because we, as humans, have a fundamental need for meaning in life. We yearn to make order out of chaos, we feel we have to derive positive significance from the hardship and the trials of the everyday. In this sense, history, far from being an accurate record of reality, is an escape from reality. We write our stories so that we can be better people.

The acceptance of these stories, however factually flawed, forms a sort of social contract. We tell ourselves and each other that perhaps our motivations were more noble than they really were at the time. We tell ourselves that what we did, we did because a greater good necessitated it. We tell each other that it’ll all be okay in the end because we lived in pursuit of a noble cause. What action arises from these untruths is, we trust, better than what could have been were we to view ourselves with the coldly rational light of pure record.

In this sense, history is aspirational. As peoples, we want to be more than our ancestors were. We want to imagine that our motivations are superior to theirs, that our dreams and desires make for a better world than theirs did. In the end, we want to be able to say that we’re better people. And it’s for this reason that we play up perceived goods and disregard or explain away the wrongs. It’s not because we don’t know the truth; it’s because locking our eyes on the truth is too painful an experience to bear without going mad. History-writing is a means to cope with the trauma of life without slipping into depression, without collapsing under the weight of the way we really are as human beings- selfish, greedy, self- and other-harming.

History, then, is not a science, but an art. And it is an art that can heal. One might say that history is the ultimate form of therapy because not only does it place a bandage over the wounds of the past, but it positively directs new growth. To say against all plain fact that we are superior to our forebears creates the possibility to truly surpassing them. In striving for nobility, we create the possibility of true nobility.

The erection of monuments is a form of history-writing. The figures we memorialise, the texts we select, are not chosen because they held real significance, though often they did. They are chosen because we wish to see ourselves bettered by their example. Monuments are not primarily about the event being commemorated; they’re about the ones doing the commemorating. And what they say about the past is far less weighty than what they say about the future.

There has been much ink spilled recently over the remaining Confederate memorials standing on public land across the United States. The question has been asked — rightly — for whom does the government, which pays for the upkeep of these memorials, stand. The obvious answer is that it stands for everyone. But this is more complex than saying that is stands for white and black. To say that the government stands for all is to say that the government stands for a social narrative.

In saying that these monuments should be altered or removed, what is really being said is that confidence has been lost in the collective narrative of a people. No one would suggest that those who originally erected these monuments really believed that the cause of the South in the Civil War was wholly just, at least not for the reasons given in many an inscription. What those who built them were doing was writing a therapeutic history. They were dealing with the grief of loss, both personal and social. They were seeking to redeem the past, to place a bandage over the gaping wound of war and hundreds of thousands of sons lying dead on battlefields across the country. They were hoping for a better world in the full knowledge that it was selfishness and denial of the humanity of others that had led to such pointless slaughter.

It could be said that to preserve at public expense a narrative that is untrue is harmful. But is it harmful to preserve symbols of aspiration to a better world? Is there not something still to be learned from the way in which our fathers and mothers dealt with their grief, their anger, their confusion? When we walk past that soldier standing stalwart on a pillar, may we not see their hope?

Every day we tell each other lies. “How are you?” “I’m fine, thanks.” This is a form of social contract, a narrative that says we care about our collective wellbeing. If one were to pry, one might find a great deal of pain, loss, excitement, joy, anger. But we know that to do so, to seek the bare fact at all cost, would to be to cause harm, to offend, to damage the complex fabric that is our everyday life. History is simply this same impulse writ large. Our memorials are one way in which we say to each other, “I’m fine, thanks.” To insist on the cold, hard fact of the matter is to take away the only defense we have as human beings, the ability to tell a story about ourselves, a story that may be riddled with exaggerations and falsehoods, but a story that, hopefully, helps us to be better people.

The post Who Are Public Monuments For? appeared first on Front Porch Republic.

by Evan McWilliams at June 28, 2016 03:34 PM

Evernote announces new pricing

Evernote’s Chris O’Neill has published a blog post explaining price increases coming to the platform. Plus and Premium are now $3.99 and $7.99 a month, respectively, with discounts for annual buyers. For those customers, Plus is now $10 more a year, while Premium has gone up $20.

Then there’s this:

Beginning today, the prices for our Plus and Premium tiers will change for new subscriptions, and access from Evernote Basic accounts will be limited to two devices. Current subscribers and Basic users who are using more than two devices will have some time to adjust before the changes take effect. If you are impacted, look for a message from us in the coming days.

In short, if you use a iPhone, iPad and a Mac, you’ll need to pay for Evernote starting soon. Or just switch to Notes.app.

by Stephen at June 28, 2016 03:32 PM

Kbase Article of the Week: Apple Thunderbolt Display (27-inch): F8 key does not work using Windows with USB keyboard connected to display

Uhhhhhh:

You may notice that when using Windows and a USB keyboard that is connected to a Mac via the USB port on an Apple Thunderbolt Display (27-inch), the F8 key is not recognized by Windows when you attempt to accept the Terms and Conditions agreement or start up into Windows Safe Mode.

To restore the use of the F8 key, connect your USB keyboard directly to the computer’s USB port.

by Stephen at June 28, 2016 03:20 PM

John C. Wright's Journal

Sci Phi Journal Hugo Packet

Sci Phi Journal, which is a fine and thoughtful publication up for an award this year, is making their Hugo Packet available free of charge. Simply follow the link:

http://www.sciphijournal.com/news-20/

HugoPacketCover

by John C Wright at June 28, 2016 03:16 PM

Stratechery by Ben Thompson

The Brexit Possibility

The TV upfronts that I wrote about last week may seem like an odd entry point to discuss Brexit and its relationship to technology, but the core insight in that piece is critical. From my follow-up in The Daily Update:

While it is fine and useful to look at industries like TV or transportation or consumer packaged goods or retail in isolation, if you step back far enough all of these industries are interconnected and symbiotic. TV and our modern transportation system and big consumer packaged goods conglomerates and brick-and-mortar retail all came of age in the post World War II era, and all were built with the same assumptions like the importance of scale, controlling distribution, and crucially, that each other existed. There were positive feedback loops driving the growth of all of them together (and many other industries as well).

The implication of this symbiosis is that just as these different industries rose together, they will assuredly fall together as well, and indeed that is slowly but surely happening for all the reasons I detailed last week. For now, though, leave these particulars to the side; I’ll return to them later.

The key takeaway, and my starting point, is the realization that no single issue or company or industry or country stands alone: everything operates in systems, and both influences and is influenced by the system within which it operates. By extension, any change to one part of the system must impact and change other parts of the system: the greater the change, the greater the upheaval until the system can return to equilibrium. Sometimes, though, the change destroys the system completely.

The Old System

During the 20th century, particularly the post World War II era, the United States led the formation of a multinational system that balanced the government, large corporations, and labor.

stratechery Year One - 283

The U.S. focused its foreign policy on the interrelated goals of containing communism, preventing inter-European wars, and creating markets for the massive industries that had sprung up during World War II and now needed to accommodate millions of returning soldiers. In Europe the headlining effort was the Marshall Plan that combined aid used primarily to buy American-produced goods with an insistence on reducing trade barriers; the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade came a year later. The Marshall Plan was administered by the Organisation for European Economic Co-operation, one of the first pan-European bodies that started the continent on the long road to the European Union (a road that was paved with U.S. government money1). This dual mission of peace through bureaucracy paid for with trade has endured.

For their part, increasingly massive corporations built out the U.S.’s military power, manufactured most of the industrial and agricultural equipment on which Marshall Plan money was spent, and produced all of the accoutrements of a booming middle class: said middle class worked at those massive corporations, building everything from tanks to cars to washing machines, and spending their money on the same.

The implicit deal was this: the government created markets for the corporations, who in turn provided not just employment but also security for their employees, funding health insurance and pensions, while employees (and corporations) paid for the government: in 1960 the lowest income bracket paid 20%, while the highest paid 90%, and the corporate tax rate was 52%. Europe followed a similar model, but spared of the burden of a huge military, nationalized most social security programs, especially health care but also pensions. And, for two decades, the systems were in equilibria.

How Globalization Upended the System

Globalization is by no means a recent phenomena: the idea of trading goods with other groups, so as to realize the benefits of comparative advantage2 dates back to the earliest recorded human civilizations in the third millennium B.C.E. More pertinent to this discussion, the combination of the industrial revolution (which supercharged the idea of specialization) and steamships massively increased trade in the 19th century, where the freedom of movement of goods was primarily guaranteed by colonialism: colonies supplied the raw materials and bought the finished goods, giving colonial powers massive trade surpluses that could be used to fight intermittent wars with each other.

This system was utterly destroyed by two World Wars, resulting in the U.S.-dominated system above; still, though, the flow of goods was similar: the U.S., the world’s new superpower, was a net exporter, even as Europe and Japan in particular built up their own industrial base first with U.S. funds, and then by selling goods both to the U.S. and to each other. The deal was intact.

Then, in the years leading up to the 1970s, three technological advances completely transformed the meaning of globalization:

  • In 1963 Boeing produced the 707-320B, the first jet airliner capable of non-stop service from the continental United States to Asia; in 1970 the 747 made this routine
  • In 1964 the first transpacific telephone cable between the United States and Japan was completed; over the next several years it would be extended throughout Asia
  • In 1968 ISO 668 standardized shipping containers, dramatically increasing the efficiency with which goods could be shipped over the ocean in particular

These three factors in combination, for the first time, enabled a new kind of trade. Instead of manufacturing products in the United States (or Europe or Japan or anywhere else) and trading them to other countries, multinational corporations could invert themselves: design products in their home markets, then communicate those designs to factories in other countries, and ship finished products back to their domestic market. And, thanks to the dramatically lower wages in Asia (supercharged by China’s opening in 1978), it was immensely profitable to do just that.

It is difficult to overstate the positive impact of this particular period of globalization. Billions of people were lifted out of abject poverty, especially in China but also throughout Asia, and the United States and other western countries became significantly richer as well; trade is absolutely a win-win. Critically, though, while everyone benefited from cheaper goods, the profits were not shared equally: the managers of multinational corporations and their owners reaped the vast majority of the benefits, even as their employee base effectively shifted from their domestic markets to Asia.

This undid the post-World War II deal: middle class jobs began to disappear, and along with them the economic and social security that had been provided by corporations. It took time, to be sure, but the ascension of China to the WTO in 2001 dramatically accelerated this shift, and while its full effects were hidden by a massive expansion in credit fueled by a housing bubble, once that came crashing down in 2008 the former middle classes of developed countries came to realize just how deep was the hole they fell into.

The Inevitable Fallout

Remember, everything is a system. And, given the changes wrought by the post 1970s wave of globalization, it is foolish to think that a core component of society — labor — can be fundamentally changed without there being knock-on effects on the other components of that system. The first murmurs were the 2009 rise of the Tea Party on the right, and the 2011 Occupy Wall Street movement on the left. While the participants of the two groups couldn’t be more different — indeed, they loathe each other — both were outraged at “the System”.

Both movements have flowered this election cycle, both in the United States and the United Kingdom: an old-school leftist was elected the leader of the U.K.’s Labour Party, and another nearly nominated by the Democratic Party. On the right the Republican Party has nominated Donald Trump, aided in no small part by the dramatic weakening of media institutions, while the U.K., in a campaign led by Conservative Party insurgents and the far-right U.K. Independence party, has just voted to leave the European Union with the support of many traditional Labour voters. In both cases there is a new cleavage: less right versus left, and more elites who have benefited from globalization and a middle class that has been left behind.

Again, there are clear differences between the left and right: the former sees Wall Street or The City as the villain, while the latter blames immigration. Both, though, in their own way, want a return to the old deal: honest work for an honest wage, and an increasing sense of having nothing-to-lose until it happens.3

Tech and A New System

A return to the old deal won’t happen, of course, nor should we want it to: the last thirty years have made both the world generally and developed countries in particular richer than ever. What is needed, though, is a new system, and here the tech industry has a critical role to play.

While the first twenty years of the modern tech industry (starting with the personal computer) primarily benefited corporations, the last fifteen years have dramatically improved the quality of life for consumers. The defining quality of technology, particular Internet-based companies, has been the generation of massive amounts of consumer surplus. How much is it worth to have access to all of the world’s information in the palm of your hand, or to be connected with friends and family wherever they are, or to make new connections with people you have never met? Far, far more than however much one pays for a smartphone and a data plan.

That this largesse is financially viable for tech companies is a testament to their tremendous scale. While the old order was about multinationals, Google and Facebook and the rest are supranational: their addressable market is the world.4 Moreover, consumers’ benefit is incumbents’ pain: as I detailed above the new world order is slowly but surely drowning the old one. The question is just how transformative will that new world order be?

If the old system was defined by the government, big corporations, and labor, the new system should be about government, technology, and individuals. It looks something like this:

stratechery Year One - 284

Government

The first implication of the supranational nature of technology is that unlike the old multinationals, there is no need for government support to open markets and guarantee trade; for the most part, the less government involvement the greater maximization there will be of the consumer surplus that is already being generated. Rather, it is the government that ought take a much more active role in supporting individuals.

At the most basic level this should include security: while universal health care would be ideal, for lots of reasons both practical and political it may not be viable in the U.S. Given that, Obamacare is a huge step in the right direction; other developed countries like the U.K. are obviously well ahead here.

Second, instead of trying to recreate a 1950s fantasy of employment for life on an assembly line, the goal should be to create a far more dynamic labor market with a defined floor and significantly greater upside than the old system:

  • First, a universal basic income, facilitated by the government, should be set at the lower bounds of what is necessary to escape poverty. Globalization may have been the first shoe to fall on the middle class, but automation is the other, and it will affect just as many jobs as manufacturing, including — especially — white collar ones
  • Second, the government should be loosening regulations on the “gig” economy: technology has dramatically increased the degree to which work can be segmented, and that’s a good thing. Moreover, these sorts of jobs provide the upside to a universal basic income’s floor: our goal should be to make it vastly easier for individuals to better themselves if they choose to do so (while the basic income provide protection against the gig economy’s inherent uncertainty)
  • Third, there should be a significant loosening of the regulations and taxation around business creation. One of the many benefits of technology and the Internet has been to make all kinds of new businesses far more viable than ever before, but it is far too hard to get started, and the bookkeeping requirements are far too onerous. This sort of loosening, combined with the reduction in risk resulting from a better safety net and basic income, plus the possibility of building working capital through gigs, could lead to an explosion in creativity and entrepreneurial activity

Each of these factors is critical: a universal basic income alone offers some degree of financial security, but it does not offer dignity to the recipient, or any return for society beyond a reduction in guilt. What is most important, and what offers the highest return, is enabling more and better ways to work and ultimately create: that requires fewer regulations and simpler taxation.

Individuals

I purposely changed the name of this part of the system from “labor” to “individuals”. While collective action was absolutely appropriate in a world where employment was dominated by massive corporations, collectiveness and the work it was appropriate for has its costs: a ceiling on the individual, both in terms of income and also creativity.

What makes today’s world so different than the 1950s are the means with which ambition and creativity can be realized. I can write a newsletter without owning a printing press; someone else can create jewelry without a physical storefront; another can make music without a recording studio, and distribute it without a record label. Those are the easy examples — who knows what sorts of products and services might result from an emboldened and secure middle class?

Young people in particular should relish this new world of opportunities: yes, the world of your parents is gone, but it does not automatically follow that the alternative is worse. Even with today’s mess there are far more entrepreneurial opportunities than ever before, and the younger one is the more one can accept the unnecessary risks that unfortunately still exist. And, on the flipside, opportunities predicated on the old system are themselves riskier than they have ever been.

Tech

It’s understandable why so many in tech are dismissive of the old order: beyond the consumer surplus being generated, and the systematic destruction of incumbents, the industry is increasingly the primary economic driver of the United States in particular, which offers a certain sense of invincibility. It would be against the self-interest of both consumers and politicians to hold tech back.

And yet, there is an aspect of that calculation not far removed from measuring computers based on speeds and feeds. Yes, any rational calculation about the impact of the tech industry shows how indispensable it is, but people are not always rational, especially when they are desperate. It is absolutely in the industry’s best interests to not only participate in but lead the creation of a new system that works to the benefit of all.

To that end, technology executives and venture capitalists should lead the campaign for the type of reforms I have listed above. More importantly, they should match their rhetoric with actions: companies like Apple and Google should strive to be technology leaders, not tax avoidance ones. Successful entrepreneurs and their investors should champion increased capital gains taxes with a bias towards much longer-term investment: this both encourages the long view even as it accounts for the massive return that comes to investors and shareholders in a winner-take-all world. VCs in particular should be willing to close the carried interest loophole, and everyone in the industry should be willing to shoulder higher tax rates.

The payoff is equilibrium: the chance to build fabulously successful businesses that go with the current, not against it. The alternative is far worse: once automation arrives, guess who is going to be the scapegoat?

Brexit: Wrong Reasons, Right Results?

To be clear, this is a package deal: higher tax rates to fuel a misguided attempt to recreate the 1950s would be just as much of a disaster as undoing the old deal has been for the middle class. The world has changed.

Indeed, this is why I’m not quite prepared to join in the panic over Brexit, although I understand and acknowledge the very real downsides. I keep coming back to the fact that the European Union is a product of the old order — a world where government entities existed to enable trade for multinationals and rules for everyone else. Small wonder the EU has been the most hostile to the changes wrought by tech! There is no question that undoing 40+ years of integration will be extremely painful — if indeed the U.K. leaves the EU at all — but given that the old order has already been disrupted, how much is to be gained by continuing to pretend that nothing has changed? Alternatively, might there be potential in building something new?

To be sure, there is no evidence that Brexit was driven by a vision of a new world order; quite the opposite in fact. And, unlike many Brexit voters, I am mindful of the elite consensus about the problems with a withdrawal: trade still matters, and the loss of access to the European market, plus the internal side effects with regards to Scotland and Northern Ireland, are huge problems (and I can read a stock ticker!). But then again, the very definition of who is elite, and why, is as much a part of the system as anything else, and the fact there are so few voices even acknowledging the increased restrictiveness of the EU, or its complete lack of economic growth, much less grappling with why it is the EU came to be and how deeply entwined that is with the old system,5 is to my mind a missed opportunity to at least think about how things could be different.

Everything is connected, everything is a system — and a crisis is a terrible thing to waste.

  1. The CIA financed nearly all the various organizations and individuals pushing for political integration
  2. Comparative advantage is the idea that collective productivity can be maximized if every person/group/country specializes in what they are best at, and then trade for what else they need, as opposed to every person/group/country being entirely self-sufficient. This is one of the most important factors underlying economic progress; to take a very fundamental example, few of us grow our own food, as it is more efficient for farmers to do that at scale. We, in turn, sell our specialization to others giving us the means to buy food.
  3. Is there a racial component to the opposition to immigration? Almost certainly. But I suspect the ugly manifestations of whatever darkness lies in people’s hearts would be much less common in a thriving economy
  4. Except China, thanks to the Great Firewall
  5. Above and beyond a desire to keep the peace, which is deeply meaningful

by Ben Thompson at June 28, 2016 02:41 PM

The Finance Buff

The Biggest Rock

No doubt you heard of the Big Rocks metaphor in setting priorities, focusing attention, and managing one’s time. It says you should focus on things that make the biggest difference and not get distracted by small things. When you put big rocks, pebbles, and sand into a jar, you should put the big rocks in first, followed by pebbles, then sand. If you put sand and pebbles in first, your big rocks won’t fit.

In personal finance we face a lot of decisions. Some of them are big rocks; some are pebbles; some are just sand. If you ask people who don’t read a lot of financial media and blogs, it’s very obvious to them what is the biggest rock. People who pay a lot of attention to their finance, however, can easily get distracted by pebbles and sand and forget the biggest rock.

I do a number of things to manage my financial affairs. In doing so, I accumulated knowledge and experience, which I share here. Some of them, to be honest, are just sand. Not that sand is useless, it’s just you shouldn’t mistake sand for big rocks.

I list below in random order a number of things that contribute to one’s financial well being. You tell me which ones are big rocks and which ones are just sand:

  1. Contribute to retirement plan at work, ideally to the maximum allowed by law.
  2. Invest in index funds and/or ETFs.
  3. Pay your credit card balances in full every month.
  4. Know which credit card to get and which one to use where for maximum rewards.
  5. Use a high deductible health plan with HSA.
  6. Stay in your “starter” home forever.
  7. Find the best provider for investing your HSA money.
  8. Get the best rate for your mortgage.
  9. Understand I-Bonds and TIPS.
  10. Know which cell phone plan to use.
  11. Only buy term life insurance.
  12. Get a 15-year mortgage instead of a 30-year.
  13. Do home maintenance jobs yourself to save money.
  14. Know how to do tax loss harvesting.
  15. Contribute to a Traditional IRA or Roth IRA. Understand how to do a backdoor Roth.
  16. Come up with the best asset allocation for your investments.
  17. Stay away from financial sales people masquerading as advisors.
  18. Drive a 15-year-old car.
  19. Send your kids to public school.
  20. Understand tax efficiency and which investments to put in which accounts.
  21. Figure out which bank to use for a savings account.
  22. Pretend you want to cancel cable and ask for a lower price.
  23. Figure out the best way to get and use frequent flyer miles for international travel.
  24. Participate in ESPP.
  25. Pay cash when you buy a car.
  26. Decide on whether to use CDs or bond funds for fixed income.
  27. Find and use coupons when you buy groceries.
  28. Know when to claim Social Security.
  29. Figure out the best method to rebalance your portfolio.
  30. Find the best rate for auto and home insurance.
  31. Minimize eating out.

Over 30 action items and counting. Some of them may qualify as a big rock, but the biggest rock is not in the list. If you manage your biggest rock well you can do none of the above and still be more financially secure than someone who does all of the above.

What is the biggest rock? It should be super obvious when you take a step back. If not, allow me to offer this one hint for what I regard as the biggest rock:

Do you think Dave Ramsey’s financial success comes from paying off his debt and refusing to borrow? Do you think Tim Cook knows how to do a Roth conversion ladder?

Why then do we see a lot of sand in the financial media and blogs? Because sand is easy and filling — there’s a good reason McDonald’s gets more revenue than Whole Foods — and because there’s money in making you do those sand things.

“I switched to this cell phone plan and I saved $_______.”

“I’m getting ___% rewards from this credit card.”

“I refinanced my loan to _____%.”

“I cut my spending on eating out by $______ a month.”

These are all small victories worth doing but remember they are not the biggest rock. Your biggest rock is your human capital, your ability to add value and do things fewer others can. It’s backward to treat your biggest rock as something that should be thrown away ASAP.

There are only very few big rocks. Next time we continue with sand. 🙂

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The Biggest Rock is copyrighted material from The Finance Buff. All rights reserved. ( b87e8215d24496480249d6aaf20c77ea )

by Harry Sit at June 28, 2016 01:48 PM

The Art of Non-Conformity

“Traveling Taught Me How to Be a Parent”: On the Road with Christine Gilbert

This is a reader profile. (Read others or nominate someone to be featured.)

Several years ago, Christine Gilbert packed up the kids and hit the road. She and her family have been roaming the world ever since.

Here’s her story:

I’m a writer and photographer who was trapped for years in the Ann Taylor-clad body of a corporate manager, until one day I did something completely ordinary but entirely unexpected. I quit a very nice job and convinced my husband that we were moving overseas.

Since then we’ve reinvented our careers and lives at some point between wandering creatives and ill-equipped adventurers. We have two very American kids who have never lived in the U.S. Instead, they’ve grown up speaking Spanish and English (plus several other languages along the way) and sincerely believe that “America” is the place we go to get new iPads when they break (which is true, actually).

DSC00252

How did this all start? For me, it came when I landed my dream job. I got the big office with a view. I was clicking around Boston in my heels and using my corporate credit card to expense lunches – it was great. Except, of course, the catch: I was bored out of my mind.

I’d reached the level in my career where I wasn’t doing hands-on project work and all I could see was an endless ladder of promotions an increasing distance from any of the real work. Then about a year in, I couldn’t sleep. I wasn’t stressed out, I wasn’t under a ton of pressure, I was just so unhappy that I could no longer close my eyes and drift off to sleep. I bought lavender oils and all-natural sleeping pills, but nothing worked. There was nowhere to go. If I didn’t like this job, all I could hope for was slightly less impressive jobs at competing companies.

My body was simply rejecting my life. I had no choice but to do something drastic.

When I quit that corporate job, it was just a gesture, but an important one. It’s not all about travel for me. I’ve chosen to be a seeker, to continually look for meaning in my life, to make everything from raising toddlers to building my business align with my core values, and to constantly challenge myself to try things that are just on the edge of my comfort zone. It’s this sense of possibility that changes everything, and that gesture all those years ago shifted my thinking from a rigid place of set expectations to the expansive sense that anything was possible.

To me, that’s freedom.

DSC00393

Traveling taught me how to be a parent.

In the first year after Cole was born, we went everywhere. Because I was carrying around this big blue-eyed baby, people would flock to us, sometimes literally drawing crowds. Seeing how other cultures instinctively handled kids was so curious to me. In Thailand, they had this magical way of turning a crying baby around, trying to distract him. In fact, they didn’t get mad when babies cried, they just handled it.

I saw this in India too. The children didn’t cry because they were always held, passed around from family member to family member. It changed how I thought about raising children, instead of little creatures that needed to be sleep-trained or corrected, they were perfect the way they were—if only the people around them were flexible, giving and present. They just wanted our attention.

This became my framework, and it was reinforced in each country we visited. In Italy, I saw an old man yell at his neighbor and make wild gestures at him before storming off. A few minutes later, the kids were outside playing, and soon enough, a fight erupted and the kids yelled at each other in an almost identical way. Yet in China, the children were so quiet and reserved, exactly like their parents.

By traveling so much while my children were young, I was freed from any cultural expectations about parenting. Most parenting wisdom has an agenda. It’s either designed to make some parents feel superior or designed to make parents feel less powerless. But we are powerless in many ways. That’s what I’ve surrendered to as a parent, that no matter what we do, we end up raising kids who are just like us.

The best we can do, really, truly, honestly, is to just try to be best versions of ourselves.

kidsInVan

Dive in. 

When my daughter was two, we signed her up for Mexican preschool. It seemed way too young to me, but her older brother was going and she was determined to go too. It wasn’t until the school holiday season began and they prepared for Mexican Independence Day (which is in September) that I saw the enormity of what she was taking on.

There was my daughter, blonde, the only foreigner in her class, in an oversized red school uniform, singing a song in Spanish about the women of the Revolution with her classmates in front of all the parents. And she knew the words. And the dance. And my heart wanted to burst for her bravery and also the great gift she gave me, by showing me a way into this culture.

I felt like it spoke to every moment when I worried about saying the wrong thing in a foreign language or I paused to make a new friend or I held back at all because I wasn’t sure. Here was my two-year-old fearlessly and open-heartedly embracing the moment and just diving in.

Learn more about Christine and her book Mother Tongue, and follow her on Instagram.

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by Chris Guillebeau at June 28, 2016 12:30 PM

Market Urbanism

ReasonTV on SF’s YIMBY Movement

Last week, Reason.tv (the multimedia outlet of Reason Magazine) published a video about San Francisco’s YIMBY movement.  The video describes the decades of underdevelopment in San Francisco as the result of community activism intended to limit the supply of new construction.  As a result, San Francisco’s housing market is severely supply-constrained, and outrageously expensive.  The problem has gotten so bad that pro-development, “YIMBY” organizations such as SFBARF and Grow San Francisco have sprung up to counter the anti-development forces.

It’s great to see Reason taking notice of the YIMBY movement, and we’d love to see more attention paid to urbanism at libertarian sites.  Three of us at Market Urbanism attended the first nationwide YIMBY conference in Boulder the video mentions, and we’ll be sharing our thoughts on the conference soon.

(h/t Jake Thomas at the Market Urbanism facebook group)

by Adam Hengels at June 28, 2016 11:52 AM

Hacking Distributed

Ethereum's DAO Wars Soft Fork is a Potential DoS Vector

It has been 10 days since the DAO was hacked on Friday June 17th, when someone moved around $53M USD worth of ether to an object now nicknamed the “Dark DAO.” The mechanics of the attack have been discussed extensively. The hacker further stalked investors who were splitting from The DAO, obtaining the right to attack them as well, initiating an attack that we had cautioned about. A group of whitehat hackers responded by using the same exploit to drain the remaining funds from the DAO, originally worth around $100M USD, to a “Whitehat DAO.”

This is where things sit today. The hacker cannot start the process to extract the funds in the Dark DAO for at least another 17 days, so for now, the funds are not going anywhere. In the meantime, the Ethereum community has spoken resoundingly in favor of a soft fork to freeze all further movement of funds in the Dark DAO. If all goes well, the soft fork will activate on Thursday, June 30th, 2016, and buy the community some additional time to debate longer term strategy.

In this post, we make the case that the soft fork itself can introduce a new attack vector for denial of service (DoS) attacks on Ethereum. We describe how these DoS attacks would work, what effect they would have on the network, and what alternatives we might have. Interestingly, if the community understands and expects such attacks, then any DoS attack is actually much less likely to achieve its aims, and might not be mounted in the first place.

With that in mind, let’s look at the DoS scenarios.

DoSing the Soft Fork

The current soft fork implementation, incorporated into the latest version of Ethereum mining software, dubbed “DAO Wars,” deems as invalid any transaction that invokes the Dark DAO contract, and rejects any block that includes such a transaction [1].

The intended effect is to freeze the attacker in their tracks: if a majority of the miners buy into the soft fork, then they would ignore any block that contains a transaction that helps the attacker move the Dark DAO funds. Forever trapped, the Dark DAO funds would essentially be excised out of the system, and the whitehat funds can be returned to The DAO investors, at 0.70 ether per each ether invested.

But the soft fork creates a denial of service attack vector which, if exploited, would prevent the network from processing valid transactions at negligible expense to the attacker. Specifically, an attacker can flood the network with transactions that execute difficult computation, and end by performing an operation on the DAO contract. Miners running the soft fork would end up having to execute, and then subsequently discard, such contracts without collecting any fees.

One simple example of this type of malicious transaction is shown below:

for(uint32 i=0; i < 1000000; i++) {
   sha3('some data'); // costly computation
}
DarkDAO.splitDAO(...); // render the transaction invalid

Root Cause

At a high level, recall that Ethereum miners are currently protected from DoS attacks by gas payments: the more computation they perform, the more gas they collect, and the more money an attacker has to spend. But with the soft fork in place, miners are in a new position where they end up having to perform substantial work without collecting any compensation, at no penalty to the attacker. The soft fork creates a new and fundamentally different class of transactions in contrast with those that currently exist within the protocol. Currently, transactions either complete successfully and cause a state transition, or run into an exception, in which case state is reverted but the maximum possible gas is still charged. With the soft fork, transactions which interact with a DAO will not fit within these two classes: they will fail execution but no gas will be charged. This must inevitably be the case in any soft fork that aims to freeze the stolen funds; since the protocol does not specify a “DAO Interaction Exception,” miners must either include the transaction in their block along with all of its resultant state changes, or they must exclude the transaction entirely, and forfeit any gas reward. Attempts to include a transaction without its proper state transitions will cause the block to be invalid and not propagated by other nodes. This provides an enormous amount of amplification to the attacker.

And it gets worse: miners typically prioritize transactions by gas price. Because malicious transactions don’t actually pay gas, an attacker could set an extraordinarily high gas price to trick miners into wasting all their computation. This could result in blocks entirely empty of any valid transactions.

Attack Outcome

This DoS attack is not the end of the world: it would not cause further theft, nor would it confer a substantial advantage to the DAO hacker. The main outcome is that the Ethereum blockchain would consist mostly of empty blocks, as the soft-fork-supporting miners, who are in the majority, waste their time on transactions that are invalid by the soft fork rules. Non-SF miners would mine more useful blocks, but these blocks would be discarded by the SF majority. Ethereum contracts would thus fail to execute or proceed much more slowly for as long as the attack is taking place. The safety of the system would be maintained, while progress is hampered.

DoS Defenses Are Ineffective

One might try to thwart DoS attacks on the soft fork by checking the contract code for references to the Dark DAO address. This is known as static analysis, and naive attempts, such as scanning transactions for a call to the DarkDAO address, are easy to fool through program obfuscation, for instance, by XORing the address and performing a hash lookup. More intelligent detection attempts that use conservative static analysis can easily take more time and resources than actual execution, exacerbating the DoS vector. In general, due to the halting problem, there is no general analysis algorithm that can determine the outcome of all possible Ethereum programs, short of performing the computation and observing the result.

IP Blacklists Are Worse

One possible approach that has been suggested is to require that nodes in the network execute the transactions they receive to determine if they are soft-fork compliant (i.e. they do not invoke the Dark DAO), and only ferry them onto the miners if they are safe.

This is a terrible idea, for three reasons, listed from least bad to really bad.

Recall that Ethereum nodes currently check transactions solely for well-formedness, that is, validity of the format and signature, but not of the content. Actually executing a transaction is left up to the miners, who understand and buy into the economic game of executing the code in return for rewards. Forcing the intermediary nodes to validate the content of a transaction can cause nodes to voluntarily drop out of the network due to increased CPU costs.

Further, recall that a transaction executes in a particular context on the blockchain, assigned by a miner. Intermediaries do not have the definitive context, and it’s therefore possible to write transactions that seem to execute safely when checking during transmission, but to end up invoking the Dark DAO when in a block. A simple way to do so would be to follow conditional paths depending on block number. If it’s above T, the transaction invokes the DarkDAO. The attacker would have to time it such that the transaction is transmitted while block height is T-1, but reaches the miners at time T.

But most importantly, blacklists are a terrible idea because they are no longer soft forks: nodes need to be updated to perform the requisite checking, or else they can be cut off from the network. There is no universal agreement on what exactly constitutes a soft fork, because the blockchain would continue to be parsed, but these nodes would be cast aside, fracturing the network.

Creative Solutions Considered Harmful

Almost any protocol can be deployed as a soft fork, especially on top of a versatile platform such as Ethereum, using clever tricks. In this specific instance, one could modify all SF-supporting software, including all nodes, wallets and exchanges, to use a different transaction format (e.g. one where all transactions necessarily predeclare all call targets for easy analysis), but to continue to accept old transactions. If the new format can be engineered to parse as a valid transaction under the old rules, it just might be possible to keep all nodes connected to the network, to create a backwards-compatible blockchain, and thus to keep chugging along while banishing the DoS vector.

But this would simply introduce unnecessary complications to a clean, elegant, freshly-designed system. It would be a big mistake for Ethereum to repeat Bitcoin's SegWit soft-fork mistake. Such clever tricks incur not a technical debt, but a social one, as they overwhelm newcomers with quirks and discourage new people from wanting to learn about the system.

Luckily, the code deployment timelines render this a non-option. There just isn’t time to develop, test and roll out such a trick, which is good.

Partial Measures

Gas Limits: One workable solution to reduce the amount of amplification available to the attacker is to simply reduce the transaction gas limit. This would freeze out complex contracts, but it can provide some limit on the leverage available to the attacker. It is only a partial fix, which could detract from an attack’s effectiveness and allow simple transactions to find their way into the blockchain but does not address the root cause of the attack.

Banning Spam Addresses: Another partially workable solution is to ban any address that issues a transaction that invokes the Dark DAO. This means that an attacker cannot repeatedly use the same address to continually spam the network, which in turn would force her to spend gas on creating additional wallet addresses. This can reduce the attacker's leverage, but does not completely eliminate attacks, and needs to be implemented carefully to avoid banning contracts that are tricked into invoking a DAO function.

Would Anyone Launch DoS Attacks?

It is quite common for network protocols to harbor opportunities for attack, and yet flourish in the real world because no one would have any incentive to take advantage of them. Sadly, we are concerned that this is not the case for this particular attack on Ethereum.

There are three categories of people who might launch a soft-fork DoS attack, two of which are unlikely, while a third is quite dangerous.

A non-SF miner might take advantage of this vector to attack rival SF-supporting miners. While we have seen malicious behaviors by miners in the Bitcoin world, they are rare.

The DAO hacker may take advantage of this vector to attack SF-supporting miners to drop their support for the soft fork. We would expect the attacker to launch this attack on or around the day he is able to start moving his funds in the Dark DAO, some time in July. However, Alex van de Sande has reported that the hacker is not the curator of the Dark DAO, so, even if the hacker were to break down the miner-imposed soft fork, that would not enable her to retrieve the funds.

The most dangerous group are “griefers,” people who might short ETH and launch a DoS attack to profit off of the impending drop in the coin’s value. Similarly, extremists who falsely believe cryptocurrencies to be a zero-sum game might want to sabotage Ethereum for a perceived increase in the value or stature of their coins. And of course, there are people who might want to attack the Ethereum miners for the amusement value. Because the attack currently has no cost, it is quite possible for these groups to launch it.

Alternatives

Soft forks are difficult to get right. They introduce a new attack vector, mangle the economics of running a node, and can potentially cause the network to split.

No Fork: One alternative is to avoid forking at all. Depending on how events play out, this would lead The DAO investors to lose somewhere between 30% to 100% of their investment. Recall that these people were among the earliest and most optimistic adopters of a brand new technology. A substantial loss would deliver a substantial kick to the nascent world of smart contracts.

Soft Fork with a Stiff Upper Lip: We can continue with the current soft fork plan, fully cognizant that there is an opportunity for DoS attacks. Now that they can be expected and their impact has been discussed, their shock value, and the ability to profit off of them, will be diminished. Users will have to steel themselves for a period of time when the Ethereum blockchain may make progress at a slower pace than usual. Desperate measures, such as blacklists, might cause the Ethereum network to shrink and fracture, and should be avoided. Stopgap measures, such as reducing the gas limit or permabanning addresses, may lead to certain contracts becoming inaccessible. This period of DoS vulnerability and/or diminished Ethereum operation would have to end in an abandonment of the soft fork in favor of either the no-fork option or a hard fork.

Hard Fork: A hard fork would put a decisive end to the ongoing corewars game that is being played. From a technical perspective, it is the cleanest, simplest, and most secure option on the table. It is beyond the scope of this post to debate the ideology behind a hard fork, so we will refrain from it, even though it is an interesting and worthy topic.

Conclusions

The current soft fork deployed in Ethereum poses a DoS vector. If the soft fork activation goes ahead as planned, the community should be prepared for potential DoS attacks, which would lead to diminished performance for the network. We urge the community to come to consensus on the ultimate resolution of The DAO saga as quickly as possible.


[1]The soft fork code also restricts what can happen with the Whitehat DAO, but those restrictions are not germane to this discussion.

by Tjaden Hess and River Keefer and Emin Gün Sirer at June 28, 2016 09:22 AM

trenchant.org daily

Operators Are Standing By

In the absence of twitter — the last social media site I used with any regularity — I’ve been thinking a lot more about centralization of communication, publishing, and its impacts.

Orange XML Buttons Were Ugly And Unusuable But Now All We Have Are Embedded Tweets

The death of RSS as a platform for decentralized notifications and re-engagement of audience has had a crippling effect on the ability of publishers (small and large) to keep audiences coming back. Pretty soon I will need to sell a Winer was right t-shirt next to the RMS one.

I apparently realized this six years ago when one of my first post-Google projects was mailmedaily — a simple RSS to email subscription toolset. But I didn’t realize how drastic the changes would be over the next few years.

Email is the last open protocol with notifications that people actually rely on, so it makes sense to retreat and retrench there.

Like most of my projects, this one failed to get traction and I shut it down due to other things that required my time, even though it did have a tiny active user base. (Also, running email services and avoiding being marked as spam is really, really hard.)

I probably should have thought of publishers as the customers rather than readers, and figured out how to make that work, but I think that market is pretty crowded and I wasn’t interested in solving that problem at the time — only scratching my own itch of subscriptions for myself and readers. But there’s something important to this one — re-engagement is actually the longer term problem to solve rather than mass audience. Mass audiences may live on social media, but trying to be a personal publisher within that cesspool seems like a Faustian bargain.

Well, that seems unfair — at least the devil felt obligated to do cool shit for Faust for 24 years in exchange for his soul — nobody will give you that sort of value for your soul in an algorithmically optimized feed!

Anyway, I should be thinking about how to deal with this sort of thing if I’m regularly writing again and want an audience, but luckily I do not care about the size of my audience anymore. (I mean, I care in the sense that I’m probably better off if it’s smaller.)

The Other Forgotten Text Protocol

In the near term I’ll just let my weird custom CMS tweet out my writing and have it do battle against the auto-delete bot because that seems like the most entertaining approach. (I was going to do that on Medium too but it seems too complicated to get my Medium posts auto-deleted.)

I’m also setting up a private IRC server. Which seems ridiculous that I’d even consider when I’m too lazy/weird/whatever to even respond to any of the personal inquiries I get and am avoiding all social media but it makes sense in my head.

Web version is available to play with if I haven’t messed it up yet. I may be unqualified to manage UNIX services but in the modern era everybody is dev-ops whether they like it or not.

June 28, 2016 08:00 AM

Table Titans

Tales: Out of Their League

About a year ago, two of my friends and I were playing the 4e premade scenario, A Knight in Shadowghast Manor. Considering their party was only two men strong (and both of them level 6) they were way out of their league for the later parts of the scenario. Unfortunately, they did not last that…

Read more

June 28, 2016 07:00 AM

Reformedish

The Secret Things Belong to the Lord (Evil, the Will of God, and the Cross)

GrunewaldWhy should the nations say,
“Where is their God?”
 Our God is in the heavens;
he does all that he pleases.

(Psalm 115:2-3)

Believers will always have questions about the will of God.

For instance, can God do whatever he wants?

Well, when reading texts like that posted above, it seems quite obvious that he can: “he does all that he pleases.” Other translations say, “he does whatever he wants.”

Beyond a simple proof-text, though, it seems very apparent in Scripture that God is not hedged in or boxed in at all. The Triune Creator freely brought everything into existence out of nothing by his word and maintains it at every moment (Col. 1:15-20; Heb. 1:1-3). He is all-powerful—there are no metaphysical limits to stop him.

And he seems to have the right to dispose of all of his works as he sees fit—I mean, doesn’t a potter have the right to do what he wants with his works? (Isaiah 45; Romans 9) He is the Lord of history who directs the courses of nations, which are but a drop in the bucket compared to him (Isaiah 40-55). Certainly the Author has authority over his creation?

Whatever He Wants? Really?

At the same time, there’s a scary edge there, if you’re paying attention. Some people have worried about this kind of talk. I mean, can God really do whatever he wants? Can he make what we currently call evil good and vice versa? Can he break his promises or violate his word just because he feels like it at a given moment?

In other words, when some hear the phrase, “God can do whatever he wants”, they hear “God is arbitrary and capricious—he might do good and he might do evil. He can do whatever he wants.”

Now, this could truly fall into a dark, arbitrary understanding of God’s “sovereignty.” In some of the grizzlier versions of Calvinism and pop-level preaching, you can unfortunately find that. We can call that a caricature if we want, but sadly the caricatures live in real churches. For that reason, some imagine that’s the only or classic version of what that doctrine teaches.

And I get how things can get that way. Reformed theology has typically followed the great Church Father Augustine in affirming that the will of God is the deepest cause of all that exists, and why it exists. Augustine, assuming he was summarizing Scripture (especially the Apostle Paul), taught that nothing precedes God’s will or even causes God’s will to will what he does.

Of course, the hitch is in what sense have people accepted Augustine’s claim here as true?

A Non-Arbitrary God

John Calvin was very clearly (and to some, notoriously) on Augustine’s side in saying that there is no cause beyond God’s will. Quotes to this effect can be found all over his works. But at the same time, it’s often not noticed he also repeatedly condemns “that absolute will of which the Sophists babble, by an impious and profane distinction separating his justice from his power” (Institutes 1.17.2).

In other words, Calvin was critical of a certain ham-fisted view of God’s will. God’s enacting of his power is never divorced from the rest of who he is: loving, just, wise, holy, merciful, gracious, and so forth. God is one and so traditionally it is taught that God is simple (not made up of different, separable parts). So his act of willing is consistent with all of what he is. God won’t will or want something out of the character he has shown himself to be in history and Scripture, so to speak.

A contemporary of Calvin’s, Wolfgang Musculus, similarly said that while we should accept Augustine’s statement in the sense that “there is nothing prior to or greater than the will of God…if we understand it of those things that are not in God” (cited in R. Muller, Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics, Vol 3: The Divine Essence and Attributes, p. 437). In other words, God’s will is not forced by things outside of God (creation, other wills, etc). The things that God causes directly, or permits to happen indirectly, and so forth, happen because God has chosen to act this way or allow these things for his own reasons.

Now, God either permits something willingly or unwillingly. If he permits it unwillingly, then it’s not really permission. It’s coercion. And to say that God can be coerced—that there is a power that is greater than God and can force his hand—is repugnant to Scripture and absurd. This is why Musculus says we ought to agree with that God’s will is ultimate over and against anything outside of him.

What’s more, it should be noted that for the Reformed tradition, creation is a free act of God. The only necessary object of God’s will is his own perfect life—the eternal love and delight of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Triune God’s perfect aseity or independence means that God is complete within himself. For that reason, God does not need to create, to initiate history as some sort of self-completion project.

As Dutch theologian Wilhelmus à Brakel puts it, “God is all-sufficient in himself, having had no need to create any of his creatures. The creature can neither add glory nor felicity to him” (The Christian’s Reasonable Service, Vol. 1, 193-194).

But none of this means that God’s will is absolutely arbitrary in the sense that God wills things for no good reason at all or that his will could wander in any direction regardless of God’s character. As Bavinck says, “God’s will is one with his being, his wisdom, his goodness, and all his other perfections” (Reformed Dogmatics, Volume 2: God and Creation,  240).  God’s will is what it is—good—because he is eternally and un-changingly good.

So God can do whatever he wants, but what he wants is not arbitrary.

At this point we run up against a number of issues when we think about things like God’s will for history, his will for humans, his will for good, and the problem of evil.

Are Sinners “Doing” the Will of God?

Let’s get at the question another way. When we look at someone who is committing a sin, can we say that they are fulfilling the will of God in any sense?

When it comes to God’s will for history, Scripture points in some complicated directions worth exploring first.

Let’s start with a modest case. God tells Abraham in Genesis 15:12-16 that his descendants would be taken as slaves in a foreign land for hundreds of years before they inherit the promised lands he will give them. Surely we see that he knows the evil that’s going to happen–the hundreds of years full of generations born into cruel slavery, violence, oppression, and death–and he just as surely could stop it. I mean, given the Exodus, the mighty signs and wonders he works there to set them free, and the dozens of miracles, providential turns that he works later in Scripture, he very obviously could have stopped it. But he very clearly doesn’t. Here we reach at least one sense where the evil that occurs happens only because God willingly allows it. And if he willingly allows it, then there is a clear sense in which it happens “according to his will”—at least in the sense that he doesn’t step in to stop what he could. He wills not to interfere.

Later in Genesis we encounter a far bolder sense of God’s will in relation to evil, when we read of Joseph being sold into slavery by the wickedness, jealousy, evil, and malice of his brothers. Yet when talks to them years later, he doesn’t excuse them or say they didn’t really do evil, but he also says that they did these things according to God’s will. Indeed, he goes further and said that there is a way that God was working good through their evil. Given his position in the kingdom of Egypt, he can say, “you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life” (Gen. 45:5), and “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” (Gen. 50:20). God did not only work good after the fact–after the brothers did what he couldn’t prevent–no, God sent Joseph ahead.

Now, we could examine any number of similar Old Testament narratives, but this isn’t only an Old Testament thing.

Indeed, we see the same thing in the preaching of the apostles about the death of Jesus. Peter preached that Jesus was “delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God” to be “crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men” (Acts 2:23). Or again, in his prayer after being released from being beaten, he states that “in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place” (Acts 4:27-28).

On this apostles’ read, the free actions of the evil-doers who crucified Jesus were decreed and predestined by God to take place so that the world might be saved.

In this, the disciples didn’t depart from their master. When he sent them out, Jesus told them “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father” (Matt. 10:29). Jesus’ comfort to his disciples is not merely that God sees sparrows fall. The point is that even sparrows are under God’s providence. No evil can befall them without his permission, so they should take heart in God since they are worth more than mere sparrows.

More importantly, in his hour of fear, it was to that same Father that the Beloved Son prayed in the Garden of Gethesemane “not my will, but thine be done” (Luke 22:42)—right before he was led away by the hands of sinful men to be crucified so that Scripture might be fulfilled. Indeed, it was precisely for that hour that he had come (John 12:27). It is quite clear that Christ understands the events to follow—the perversity, rebellion, and blasphemy of the High Priest and Pilate—as in some sense conforming to the will of his Father. Otherwise, “you would have no power over me” (John 19:11).

The Secret Things Belong To the LORD

And with these kinds of testimonies in mind, we come to some helpful dead guy distinctions.

Even though they said that God had only one will (in the sense of “faculty of willing”), and ultimately one will for everything, texts like these pushed the older theologians to distinguish between aspects or dimensions of God’s will. While Roman Catholics, Lutherans, and others carved things up a little differently, the Reformed most typically spoke of God’s “prescriptive will” and God’s “decretal will”, or God’s “revealed will” and his “will of good pleasure.”

The first is God’s revealed “will” consisting in his commands for us and our good like the 10 commandments, the promises we’re supposed to believe, specific commands given to historical figures, and so forth. There is the will of command which we can obey or disobey which verses like Psalm 143:10 talk about (“teach me to do your will”). It is moral will for our conduct that conforms to our nature as his dependent, obedient creatures.

The second is God’s ultimate will for what he will either do or permit to be done “according to his good pleasure” (Eph. 1:5; 5:10; cf. Matt. 11:26; Romans 9:19; Phil. 2:13), as we have been examining in the preceding passages. It is this God’s will of decree which is sure, constant, and unchanging like we read in other verses like Romans 9:19 (“For who has resisted his will?”), or Ephesians 1:11 which speaks of God working out his predestined purposes according to his “eternal counsel” to work out all things.

So then, there are two senses (at least) in which we can talk about humans relating to God’s will.

Many theologians have pointed out that Moses sums this dynamic up well in the covenant renewal ceremony at Sinai. After warning the Israelites of the (likely) judgments they would suffer for their (likely) disobedience, he says, “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law” (Deut. 29:29). It’s almost as if to say, “The future is in God’s hands, though—for now your only concern is to be obedient to what he has openly commanded us.”

Of course, these sorts of distinctions are not without tensions, but I think you can see that none of this is speculative. It’s not about coming up with some perfect idea of God and then shoving it onto the Scriptures to make the verses fit. These are the kinds of distinctions that arise when you try read the narrative of Scripture, the Gospels, the epistles, and especially the story of Jesus as one grand, singular drama with the Lord of Heaven and Earth as the prime (though not sole) Author and character.

So what’s the answer to our question? How are creatures who are sinning relating to the will of God?

Well, in the sense of God’s will of command, they’re obviously being disobedient. What’s more, there is a clear sense in which God hates and is opposed to those things he forbids us. And yet, it’s also clear (in at least those cases listed above) that they’re conforming to God’s will of decree. God could at any time stop, hinder, influence, etc. any of them to do otherwise and yet he does not, so at least in the minimal sense of permission, they are sinning “according to his will.”

It’s important to note that these “wills” are not ultimately at odds, since in God they are angles on one ultimate act of willing. Nor is it inconsistent for God to forbid the human sins God know he will end up incorporating his ultimate plan for all things. This is where the Creator/creature distinction plays a role in reminding us, as Bavinck puts it, that a father may forbid his child to use a sharp knife, though he himself may use it without any harm.

I should say more here, but God’s infinity needs to play a greater role in our thinking in these areas. Far too much theology operates under the assumption that God is simply a much larger version of ourselves. That God must related to creatures and the creation in the same way that we do. We forget that God’s relationship to creation is sui generis, utterly unique.

Evil, Complex Goods, and God’s Will

All the same, it’s not a wild question to ask how could God will to allow evil? Or even ordain and intend it in the case of Joseph at the hand of his brothers, or Christ at the hand of persecutors?

Well, C.S. Lewis has a very helpful passage here in his classic The Problem of Pain where he delineates varieties of goods and evils. In the first place, there are simple goods, unproblematically considered in themselves to be good (ice cream, love, sunsets). Second, there are simple evils (paper cuts, murder, 3rd degree burns). Third, there are “complex goods”, which are packages of events, states of affairs, etc. that contain “simple evils” within them, but which God uses to produce more complex, redemptive goods. The cross and resurrection of Jesus is the prime example of this, but Joseph’s story is as well. And this seems amply demonstrated in Scripture beyond these two.

Now, we must say a few things here.

First, simple evils can be part of complex goods doesn’t mean that—considered in themselves—they don’t remain evil. Cancer, in itself, is evil. Murder, in itself, is evil. Divorce, in itself, is evil. But what these distinctions remind us is that these simple evils take place within a nexus of a broader context that as a total state of affairs cannot be considered unremittingly evil.

Second, the older Reformed theologians were careful to point out that God’s “willing” of simple evils, sins, is not on the same plane, or in the same way as he willed positive goods. Yes, evil only comes about by God’s permission or ordination, but God does not have a “flat” will, so to speak. He only “wills” to permit evil events in a derivative way, as a necessary constituent of complex goods which are the proper object of his good will.

This, incidentally, is why I think it’s a mistake (both theological and pastoral) to speak so straightforwardly or bluntly about God “ordaining” this or that specific instance of evil. Yes, it does have its place somewhere in God’s broader providence because it happened. But very often (indeed, most often) we have absolutely no idea where it fits or why it was included. As such, it is misleading to suggest that God wanted x-event to happen for its own sake. It is wise to remember that “the secret things belong to the Lord.” In any case, we have a great many other doctrines with which to comfort the grieving, so it’s not always pastorally necessary or wise to immediately pull out or doctrine of providence in any given situation. (Though, see Heidelberg Catechism Q& A 26).

Third, some of you may be wondering about my jumping back and forth between the language of “ordination” and “permission.” For many this might seem like impermissible fudging. It might be. But without going into all the distinctions that I probably should, I will simply note that despite Calvin’s criticisms of abuses of the language of “permission”, the majority of the tradition still thought it useful (on this see J. Todd Billings Rejoicing in Lament).  This language of permission helps preserve the different ways that God’s preserving activity and causality are involved in human free acts.

God at every moment preserves and sustains all persons, things, acts in existence. In that sense (at least), he is the primary cause of all secondary causes. He is also the primary, non-competitive cause of free causal agents such as humans and angels. But with this in mind, we also want to say that God is positively involved causally in the good acts of creatures, enabling, encouraging, guiding, and so forth. This is essential (though maybe not exhaustive) for not being a reductionist about human freedom and divine sovereignty–recognizing that divine and human agency operate on different levels of being.

At the same time he is involved only negatively, or by a sort of absence, in not restraining the free, sinful acts of fallen humans who tend towards evil without his sustaining activity. It’s sort of like the difference between the Sun being the “cause” of heat directly (by way of proximity) and indirectly the “cause” of cold (by way of distance or a cloud-cover, etc). As Francis Turretin says, “So although sin necessarily follows the decree, it cannot be said to flow from the decree. The decree does not flow into the thing, nor is it effective of evil, but only permissive and directive” (Institutes of Elenctic Theology, 4.4.10).

In that sense, we can speak of this permission of evil acts as a form or a part of God’s ordination of history, as long as we think of this as part of the broader work of God in predestining, creating, preserving, and sustaining all things in order that he might sum them up in Christ (Eph. 1:10).

The Horror of Purposeless Evil

Now, admittedly this is not all easy to swallow. It doesn’t take much imagination to think of any number of horrible events and ask, “Are you saying that God ordained this as part of his will? That it’s part of some greater good? What possible good could come from this? No, to say that this was in any way a part of the eternal plan of God is to justify it and make God complicit with evil and this something we cannot do when we look at Christ. God is entirely only opposed to evil and only ever redemptively works after the fact, fixing what we have broken, but not purposing the break which has absolutely no place in God’s eternal purposes.”

I get this line of thought. Honestly, I do. But I think it fails us for a couple of reasons we have already raised.

First, simply consider the absolute horror of what it would mean for God to have no good purposes or reasons whatsoever for allowing all of the evil that he clearly could stop. Every example of every horrible event that you just came up with, would be totally and utterly pointless in every sense, and yet something God is still responsible for because he could have stopped it.

Because—unless you’re working with a tiny, little mythological Zeus-god—the Triune Creator of heaven and earth could stop each and every act of evil should he desire it; again, either God’s permission is willing or coerced. Assuming it’s not coerced, if he doesn’t stop an act of evil, he either has a good enough reason or purpose for it or not.

On this point even the Arminian and the Calvinist is agreed. It’s only that the Arminian typically appeals to a general good reason or purpose (libertarian free will or libertarian-freely chosen love) and that the Calvinist some more meticulous, specific (though probably unknown) providential purposes. So if you appeal to the mystery of free will which is necessary for love, moral choice, etc. (a venerable move), you’re still saying God had a good enough reason for evil. It’s just happens to be a very, very generic one.

At which point, you have to begin to push further back into and beyond the act of creation. Unless you’re an Open Theist or a Process Theist, you still have to face the fact that God freely created this world with a perfect knowledge of every nook and cranny of sin, evil, and the goods connected to them that would unfold. He willed to create this world and derivatively these evils exist as a part of his providential order. I know there are important distinctions to be made there and I’m glancing over them far too quickly, but the point stands. It’s not only the Reformed Calvinist who must reckon with God’s eternal plan or divine reasons, at this point.

Coming back around, let me just put it this way: many will object that sounds awful, cruel, or crass to tell someone who has suffered the loss of child some pious platitude about “God had a reason”, or “it’s all a part of God’s plan.” And done crassly, it is. But consider that it is equally awful, if not more so, to crassly say, “Thank God that was pointless”, or “Isn’t it a comfort to know that preventable evil and your suffering were allowed to come to pass for no reason whatsoever? That God stood there, doing nothing, for no purpose at all.”

Unless you can say that God had purposes for his permission of evil, you’re just left with a black hole of the collateral damage of either divine apathy or incompetence.

The Comfort of a Purposeful Cross

Secondly, the “hands-off” view fails us more clearly because we have already seen in Scripture that God ordained, according to his plan and foreknowledge, the very great and glorious salvation of the the human race through the damnable evil of Christ’s crucifiers. God handed the Son over to be betrayed into the hands of sinful men in order to raise him up, justify him and thereby justify us in him.

This was no purposeless evil, then. Nor was the resurrection a happy result of God’s clever ability to turn a frown upside down—it was the center of God’s eternal plan for redemptive history.

My focus on the God’s handing over a Christ to suffer, be crucified, and then rise again is purposeful. It is important for us to know that this is not an abstract or distant will. Scripture is clear that God planned beforehand to sum up all things in Christ (Eph. 1:11), and that he was “foreknown” for this task “from before the foundations of the earth” (1 Peter 1:20).  But this is only the case as he is also the “Lamb that was slain before the foundations of the earth” (Rev. 13:8) in order to ransom his people from their sin.

Yes, it was an hour that made the soul of the Son of Man “greatly troubled”, that tempted him to ask, “Father, save me from this hour”, but about which eventually resolved, “for this purpose I have come to this hour” (John 12:27). In this, the Triune God is not immune from his own sovereignty, so to speak. Rather, we see God’s will to “do whatever he wants” most clearly in his willing to be the Father who sends the Son in the power of the Spirit to become incarnate, live under the conditions of a weakness, suffer brutally, die forsaken, and rise again in glory on our behalf.

At the center of the divine will for the history of the cosmos, then, shines the blinding light of God’s self-giving beauty in the face of Christ.

Post-Script

Of course, there are are probably a dozen or so sub-topics I barely grazed in this discussion and so if you’re far from convinced, especially on the difficult issues of freedom and sovereignty, that’s more than reasonable. This is a limited (if absurdly lengthy) blog post. I think some of the resources I pointed to above are good places to go digging (Herman Bavinck, Richard Muller, and especially Todd Billings).

For instance, some will object that none of this proves his ordination of every matter in history. Yes, but I do think it does show that God has ordained, permitted, or purposed at least some. Therefore he can do so in others. And then from there it’s a matter of seeing whether the categories provided seems to present an overall consistent picture with Scripture.

To cap it off, though, for those who find themselves put off by the whole discussion, or disturbed, I’ll simply point out that Calvin himself warned that the one who tries to pry too deeply into God’s secret counsels “plunges headlong into an immense abyss, involves himself in numberless inextricable snares, and buries himself in the thickest darkness.” (Institutes. III.xxiv.4) Instead, it’s best to simply look to Christ, rest in his grace, trust that “although there were wise and holy reasons” for God’s decrees about history, “nevertheless these reasons, though known to him, are not known to us.”

The secret things belong to the Lord, but Christ crucified and risen is what he has revealed to us.

Soli Deo Gloria

 


by Derek Rishmawy at June 28, 2016 05:05 AM

The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

Keep Christianity Strange

Article by: Chris Martin

A couple of weeks ago my pastor opened his sermon with an illustration from Lost—my favorite TV show of all time. He observed how strange the plot of Lost sounds when you try to summarize it in just a few minutes. He then showed how our faith can sound equally strange when we explain it to others.

I resonated with this point and thought about how Christians should see the strangeness of our faith as an encouraging thing. Here are three reasons why we should acknowledge and embrace the strangeness of our faith.

1. In human terms, it is strange.

Think about it. If you were to summarize the plot of Scripture in a concise way, here’s one way it could sound:

A married couple was in a garden, and they were unashamedly naked. Then, a snake talked to them, and tricked them into disobeying God. They became ashamed, and they broke the way the world was supposed to be. God kicked them out of the garden, so they were free to roam the world and mess everything up.

Generations passed, God saved some people from slavery, and then gave them 10 important rules to live by (and a bunch of others, too). Kings eventually came to rule God’s people, one of whom was David. He killed a giant with some stones when he was a kid, and grew up to write a lot of worship songs.

Generations later, God’s Son—who’s as much God as God is—who had always existed but never as a human, became a human to be killed. Yes—to be killed. He lived perfectly, which no one had ever done before, and then people nailed him to a cross. Then he literally got up from the dead. Somehow, in God’s economy, this act paid for the screw-ups of everyone who has ever lived, so that whoever believes this good news can spend forever with God.

Oh, and one day he’s going to return in the sky on a horse.

If you aren’t familiar with the biblical narrative, much of that account will sound utterly odd: talking snakes, a “perfect” world, God’s Son pinned to a tree, bodily resurrection. Like, what?

The story of the Scriptures on which Christians build their life is otherworldly, which makes it sound ridiculous. This is normal. But it doesn’t take away from the grandeur of the gospel.

We do well when we learn to defend our faith logically and rationally; such a pursuit is wise. But we must understand that no matter how compellingly we explain the Christian faith, much of it will continue to sound strange because, often, God’s workings don’t cooperate with the five senses.

2. It allows us to meet people where they are intellectually.

This point is intimately tied to the first.

When we are willing to acknowledge the strangeness of the Christian faith, it allows us to meet unbelievers where they are on an intellectual level.

We can’t expect the inner workings of the gospel—that make sense to us but sound nonsensical to unbelievers—to get wholly believed by someone who hasn’t received the gift of the Holy Spirit. After all, only by the grace of the Holy Spirit is God’s story more than gibberish to those of us who do believe (1 Cor. 1:18; 2:14; 2 Cor. 4:4–6).

By acknowledging that God’s actions in this world seems a bit odd, we take strides toward making unbelievers less apprehensive about discussing matters of faith. If our first response to gospel confusion is defensiveness, we have likely created another obstacle to sharing the gospel.

We must have the grace to understand the weirdness of our faith in the eyes of unbelievers in our effort to engage in constructive conversations.

3. We don’t lose the glory of the gospel by acknowledging its strangeness.

Quite the opposite, actually. The strangeness of the Christian faith affirms the miracle of the gospel. The legitimacy of God’s grace isn’t established by its logical coherency (though it is logically coherent), but by its eternal veracity.

The apparent absurdity of the gospel is a human problem, not a divine problem.

When we acknowledge the ridiculous nature of our faith, we’re not indicting God under the laws of logic. Rather, when we understand that our faith sounds funny to some, we’re affirming that our God defies finite logic before he’s bound by it.

Brothers and sisters, almost every day that passes I’m made more aware of our desperate need to take ourselves a little less seriously than we do. Let’s embrace the strangeness of the faith and allow the glory of God to shine through it. 

Chris Martin is an author development specialist at LifeWay Christian Resources. He blogs regularly at MillennialEvangelical.com to help pastors better understand, reach, and equip millennials. He and his wife, Susie, are from Fort Wayne, Indiana, but now live in Nashville, Tennessee. You can find him on Twitter or on Facebook

by Chris Martin at June 28, 2016 05:02 AM

5 Reasons Why Teenagers Need Theology

Article by: Jaquelle Crowe

The world can be really confusing for teenagers. We’re coming of age in a shifting moral landscape, where the most pressing challenges and culture’s loudest critics are ever changing and perpetually conflicting. We see scandals and soundbytes, terrorism and Trump, new sexual ethics and harsh racial tensions, and we wonder, How am I supposed to think about all this?

Secular society throws its own answers our way, but they’re never compatible with a Christian worldview.

I see a better tool to meet the questions of Christ-following teenagers like me: theology.

Why Theology for Teens? 

I’m pretty sure you know what theology is. But sometimes people have such nuanced and experiential conceptions of what a word means that they obscure its plain definition. I want you to know I’m talking about the plainest definition of theology there is: the study of God.

As a Jesus-following teenager, I believe studying God’s character is what teenagers need in order to face our terribly complicated world. It’s what will give us lasting hope to face our future with a firm commitment to God’s truth.

Let me explain how theology answers our biggest questions and meets our greatest needs. Of course, this is only the briefest beginning, but it gets us started.

1. Studying God’s justice equips us to do what’s right.

In God’s Word we discover that God hates evil (Zech. 8:16–17) and loves truth. He cares about the oppressed and outcast, and he values all life.

Knowing this character of God gives teenagers the drive to care about justice too. It pushes us to stand up for the oppressed and voiceless, and speak out against the injustice we see. It shows us the importance of submitting to God-given authorities—our parents, pastors, teachers, and government. And it fuels our obedience to God’s Word as the ultimate standard of justice.

2. Studying God’s love gives us the foundation for all our relationships,

God loves his people unconditionally (Neh. 1:5; John 16:27). He doesn’t show favoritism, and his love is never selfish. Nor can it be stopped or exhausted, for it’s unmerited and undeserved.

Knowing this character of God compels teenagers to love others because of God’s love for us. It compels us to love those who are most difficult to love—all the way from ISIS to the bullies at schools—while still hating our own sin. It compels us to fight against racism, sexism, and any other -ism that undermines the inherent value of every human. It compels us to embrace compassion and mercy.

3. Studying God’s holiness reveals who we are and what our purpose is.

Since he is supremely perfect and totally set apart from us (2 Sam. 22:31), God hates sin (Amos 6:8). Grasping the beauty of his holiness helps teenagers understand our own sin and the need to persistently war against it. It gives us a more biblical and realistic perspective of the world. It leads us to repent of the sin in our own lives and seek accountability from those older and wiser. And it demonstrates for us how to actively pursue holiness—on social media, at school and work, with parents and friends, and in every sphere of life.

4. Studying God’s sovereignty gives us answers amid cultural confusion.

God isn’t chaotic, capricious, or unpredictable; he’s in perfect control of the universe (Acts 2:23). Knowing this attribute of God keeps teenagers from growing discouraged at the world. When politics seem hopeless or terrorists attack or we get an unfair grade, teenagers can be content in our circumstances because God reigns. When we ask “Why is this happening to me?” or “Does God even care about my life?” his sovereignty is our answer. C. S. Lewis explained this point well:

I know now, Lord, why you utter no answer. You are yourself the answer. Before your face questions die away. What other answer would suffice?

5. Studying God’s goodness gives us comfort in our pain.

God isn’t mean. He isn’t a career fun-sucker, toying with our lives like a cruel board game (Mark 10:18). He is completely good, unfailingly kind, and always doing what’s right and best for us.

Knowing this character of God gives teenagers a rock-solid foundation of faith in the midst of suffering. Teenagers can have peace about our unknown futures. We can have certainty of our salvation and combat the pressures of doubt. We can trust God in the everyday troubles, problems, and failures of life with an unshakeable assurance of his goodness.

Teach Us What We Need 

I’m 18. I’ve studied and been taught theology all my life. It’s given me many things: a richer relationship with God; a stronger and more submissive relationship with my parents; a more discerning relationship with my friends; a more edifying approach to social media; a zealous desire to do my best in school; a biblical worldview; a bigger vision for my future; and a greater passion to follow God no matter what.

I want that life for every teenager, and I think you do, too. So parents, pastors, youth leaders, church members, please teach us theology. More than anything else, we need to know God. He’s the answer to our questions, the solution to our problems, the only One worthy of our worship and trust.

We need him, which means we need to be taught about him.

Which means we need theology. 

Jaquelle Crowe is the 18-year-old editor-in-chief of The Rebelution and a writer from eastern Canada. Her first book is set to release from Crossway in 2017. You can follow her on Twitter

by Jaquelle Crowe at June 28, 2016 05:00 AM

Is Preaching Really Still Relevant Today?

Article by: Staff

Is preaching really still relevant? Should it be exalted above other forms of communication, such as teaching or discussing? What’s the difference between teaching and preaching anyway? In this podcast, Voddie Baucham, John Piper, and Miguel Núñez work through these questions, as well as the preacher’s responsibility to submit himself to the authority of God’s Word. As Baucham says, “I don’t preach what God says to them; I preach what God says to us.”

Piper is founder and teacher of DesiringGod.org, chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary, and a TGC Council member. At the time of this recording, Baucham was a TGC Council member and pastor of Grace Family Baptist Church in Spring, Texas, and he now serves as dean of the seminary at African Christian University in Lusaka, Zambia. Núñez is senior pastor of International Baptist Church and president of Wisdom and Integrity Ministries in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. He is a Council member of both TGC and Coalicion por el Evangelio.

You can stream this episode of The Gospel Coalition podcast here. You can also watch a video of the discussion.      

by Staff at June 28, 2016 04:59 AM

eagereyes

An Illustrated Tour of the Pie Chart Study Results

variations-error-relative

In two papersDrew Skau and I recently showed that our idea of how we read pie charts is wrong, that donut charts are no worse than pie charts, and a few more things. Here is a detailed walk-through of the results of the three studies we conducted for this purpose. Let’s go on a little journey through some real data and do a little science together!

For my talk at Information+, I redid the figures we had used in the EuroVis pie chart papers, both for the papers themselves and for the presentations. The result is much clearer, I think. I figured I’d share them here since they give a nice walk-through of the study results using the real data, but without too much detail. While the violin plots provide useful information during analysis, they’re just too detailed for presentation – I feel like I should have seen that coming.

How the Charts Work

What I’m about to show are the results of three studies, each of which had about 80–100 participants who each answered about 60 questions (for details see the papers).

The charts are all based on the difference between what people thought they were seeing and what we were showing them – called error. If we showed them a value of, say, 27% and they answered 29%, that means they were 2% off. The 2% would be the same if they had said 25%, at least in absolute terms. I’m also going to use signed error below, which would be +2% if they answered 29% in my example, and -2% if they answered 25%. In the papers, we used the logarithm of the error, which made things more complicated (but followed what others had done before).

I’m showing all the results using confidence intervals, or CIs. They have the advantage that they give us an idea of the data without being too overwhelming (I hope!). I use 95% CIs here, which means that we’re 95% confident that the real value of what we’re measuring lies inside those intervals.

ci-explain

For every measure, I will show two images: the raw error and absolute error, which will give us a sense the differences, and then the difference in error between each particular case and the baseline (which is always the pie chart). The latter allows us to make judgments about which of them are really different. This all might sound confusing, but it’ll become clearer below.

Study 1: Arcs, Angles, or Area

To figure out how people read pie charts, we decided to deconstruct them so that we could test their visual properties separately. A pie slice has three visual cues that all change linearly with the percentage it represents: its central angle, its area, and its arc length (the length of the circle arc on the outside).

The designs we came up with are shown below. In the top left, there’s the pie chart itself, which acts as a baseline, and next to it, the donut chart. In the second row, we have a very thin donut, which can only be read using arc length, and a chart that is round but uses only area to show the value. Finally, in the right-most column are the two arc-only charts: one that connects in the center and is based on the pie, and one that doesn’t and is based on the donut.

pie-deconstructed

We had people go through a number of these – with different percentages being shown and rotated randomly –, and gauge the percentage they were showing. When we had the results, we looked at how well people had done in their guesses relative to what they were actually seeing. Here are the results.

aaa-error

Each of these bars shows us the signed error. That means we can get a sense of the deviation from the real value (the lengths of the bars), but especially the bias: were people systematically over- or underestimating?

However, to do this properly, we need to look at the difference of each of the cases from the pie chart. That accounts for people who always over- or underestimate. It also lets us compare the intervals for the cases other than the pie chart to a single value (that is important for statistical reasons).

aaa-error-relative

All of the intervals intersect the zero line, so we can’t say that any of them lead to over-or underestimates. There is some variation, of course, but that is to be expected from a study like that. None of this clearly says that there is a difference, though.

More interesting than signed error (where we take the average of all the errors, both above and below) is absolute error, where we count all deviations in the same direction. That means errors don’t even out, so we can see how far off people are, no matter if above or below the correct value.

aaa-abs-error

Now that is much more dramatic! The two final cases where people could only go by angle seem to be doing much worse. Let’s look at these relative to the pie chart.

aaa-abs-error-relative

The last two intervals clearly do not intersect the zero line. We’re clearly seeing much higher error here, not just statistical deviation. Arc length and area are no different from the pie chart, and neither is the donut chart!

Several things are surprising here. First, the donut chart is doing better than most people would have expected. I’m also still surprised how well the area-only one is doing, I had figured that would be much more difficult. And then of course the real stars here, the angle-only charts. They’re not just doing a little worse, but much worse than the others.

Study 2: Donut Radii

Given the lack of difference between the pie and donut charts, we wondered: does it matter what size the hole in the center of the donut is? Perhaps a very thin donut is harder to read than a thicker one? After all, if we read pie and donut charts by angle, the larger the hole, the less chance you have to see that properly.

So we tested six different donut hole diameters. The baseline is a pie chart, or a donut with a 0% hole in the center. The actual donuts have holes with a radius of 20%, 40%, 60%, 80%, or 97% of the donut radius.

donuts

Just like in the first study, we asked people to guesstimate the percentage they were seeing.

donuts-error

Looking at signed error first, there appears to be some bias in the middle two donut hole diameters. So let’s look at the error relative to the pie to see if these are in fact statistically significant.

donuts-error-relative

And it turns out they’re not: all the CIs cross the zero line. The second-to-last one looks a bit different, but this might just be a coincidence. It certainly doesn’t mean that there’s a bias in that particular donut configuration.

donuts-abs-error

Looking at absolute error next, we see some variation, with the second-to-last again looking different. Anything different from the baseline? Looking at the difference from the pie chart again…

donuts-abs-error-relative

Interestingly, the thinnest donut shows up here as being just about a meaningful difference. The confidence interval is so close to including the zero though that it’s hard to say. This does show up as a significant difference in the ANOVA we ran for the paper, but looking at it here it’s a lot more doubtful. It’s possible that a few more study participants would have pushed the mean down or widened the CI to include zero.

To be safe, you should probably stay away from very thin donuts. But none of the others differ from the pie chart, corroborating what we saw in the first study. This also again suggests that central angle is not important, since the absolute error would otherwise be much higher for the donuts.

Study 3: Pie Chart Variations

People do all sorts of things to pie charts. Are those okay, or are they problematic? To test that, we designed a few pie chart variations that mimicked those.

pie-variations

These also give us a chance to make and test some predictions. For example, we no expect the second chart to be overestimated, because the larger slice increases area and arc length of the blue segment relative to the rest of the chart, while not changing the angle. We also of course expected the irregularly-shaped charts at the end to do worse due to their distortions.

Looking at error again first, things are looking interesting.

variations-error

Look at that larger-slice chart! This is the first chart we’re seeing here that has a very visible bias. Let’s do the math to see what this looks like compared to the regular pie chart.

variations-error-relative

If the decomposed pie charts in the first study didn’t convince you, this definitely should: the larger slice gets overestimated systematically. This is exactly what you’d expect if pie charts were read by arc length or area (since those are larger in comparison due to the larger radius), but not if you’re in the angle camp. This is the smoking gun, right there!

It’s also interesting to note that the square pie chart has a slight but significant-looking negative bias. This one is harder to interpret though because real irregular pie charts aren’t usually exact squares, and the ellipse doesn’t show the same bias (also, area and arc for these charts behave in very strange ways).

The latter two should be interesting when looking at the absolute error, though.

variations-abs-error

It appears that the exploded pie chart and the two irregular ones have higher error. Again, switching to absolute error relative to the pie chart…

variations-abs-error-relative

Well, look at that! The irregular pie charts have significantly higher error than the basic pie. That is expected, but why? If angle is how we read them, how would the shape cause that error? We haven’t messed with that. Clearly, area and/or arc length must be what we read.

It’s also interesting to note that the exploded pie chart has higher error. We haven’t changed anything about the slice: not the angle, not the area, not the arc. It’s possible that there are some strange effects here because of the way the gap interacts with the rest of the chart. More research is needed here, but just looking at this, I’d say: avoid exploded pie charts.

Conclusions

These three studies clearly show that we do not read pie charts by angle. Whether it’s arc length or area is not clear from this work, but my money is on either arc length alone or arc length and area in some sort of combination.

To be clear, these studies say nothing about the suitability of pie charts. We used judgment error to gauge how well people can read different variations of pie charts as a way to find out what visual cue they were using.

What we did find, however, is that the donut chart is no worse than the pie chart. That is new, and it’s a direct consequence of the fact that we’re not reading pie or donut charts by angle. Donut charts are popular and are useable wherever a pie chart can be used.

What is more, we questioned and debunked the prevailing idea about how pie charts work that people have believed for 90 years – a paper by Walter Crosby Eells in 1926 appears to have been the basis for many assumptions about these charts. Nobody seems to have bothered to question them since. It’s time somebody did.


I have created a github repo with the code and data to recreate these images, as well as versions of them in three different formats: PDF, PNG, and SVG.

by Robert Kosara at June 28, 2016 03:37 AM

June 27, 2016

Workout: June 29, 2016

5 rounds for max reps: Deadlifts (1.5  body weight) Ring dips

by Mike at June 27, 2016 10:24 PM

Workout: June 28, 2016

Back squats 8-8-8-8-8-8 Every minute on the minute for 10 minutes: X muscle-ups

by Mike at June 27, 2016 10:22 PM

Light Blue Touchpaper

CFP: Passwords 2016

====================================================================
Call for Papers
The 11th International Conference on Passwords
PASSWORDS 2016

5-7 December 2016
Ruhr-University Bochum, Germany

https://passwords2016.rub.de/
https://passwordscon.org/
====================================================================

The Passwords conference was launched in 2010 as a response to
the lack of robustness and usability of current personal
authentication practices and solutions. Annual participation has
doubled over the past three years. Since 2014, the conference
accepts peer-reviewed papers.

* IMPORTANT DATES *

Research papers and short papers:
– Title and abstract submission: 2016-07-04 (23:59 UTC-11)
– Paper submission: 2016-07-11 (23:59 UTC-11)
– Notification of acceptance: 2016-09-05
– Camera-ready from authors: 2016-09-19

Hacker Talks:
– Talk proposal submission: 2016-09-15 (23:59 UTC-11)
– Notification of acceptance: 2016-09-30

* CONFERENCE AIM *

More than half a billion user passwords have been compromised
over the last five years, including breaches at internet
companies such as Target, Adobe, Heartland, Forbes, LinkedIn,
Yahoo, and LivingSocial. Yet passwords, PIN codes, and similar
remain the most prevalent method of personal
authentication. Clearly, we have a systemic problem.

This conference gathers researchers, password crackers, and
enthusiastic experts from around the globe, aiming to better
understand the challenges surrounding the methods personal
authentication and passwords, and how to adequately solve these
problems. The Passwords conference series seek to provide a
friendly environment for participants with plenty opportunity to
communicate with the speakers before, during, and after their
presentations.

* SCOPE *

We seek original contributions that present attacks, analyses,
designs, applications, protocols, systems, practical experiences,
and theory. Submitted papers may include, but are not limited to,
the following topics, all related to passwords and
authentication:

– Technical challenges and issues:
– Cryptanalytic attacks
– Formal attack models
– Cryptographic protocols
– Dictionary attacks
– Digital forensics
– Online attacks/Rate-limiting
– Side-channel attacks
– Administrative challenges:
– Account lifecycle management
– User identification
– Password resets
– Cross-domain and multi-enterprise system access
– Hardware token administration
– Password “replacements”:
– 2FA and multifactor authentication
– Risk-based authentication
– Password managers
– Costs and economy
– Biometrics
– Continous authentication
– FIDO – U2F
– Deployed systems:
– Best practice reports
– Incident reports/Lessons learned
– Human factors:
– Usability
– Design & UX
– Social Engineering
– Memorability
– Accessibility
– Pattern predictability
– Gestures and graphical patterns
– Psychology
– Statistics (languages, age, demographics…)
– Ethics

* INSTRUCTIONS FOR AUTHORS *

Papers must be submitted as PDF using the Springer LNCS format
for Latex. Abstract and title must be submitted one week ahead of
the paper deadline.

We seek submissions for review in the following three categories:

– Research Papers
– Short Papers
– “Hacker Talks” (talks without academic papers attached)

RESEARCH PAPERS should describe novel, previously unpublished
technical contributions within the scope of the call. The papers
will be subjected to double-blind peer review by the program
committee. Paper length is limited to 16 pages (LNCS format)
excluding references and well-marked appendices. The paper
submitted for review must be anonymous, hence author names,
affiliations, acknowledgements, or obvious references must be
temporarily edited out for the review process. The program
committee may reject non-anonymized papers without reading
them. The submitted paper (in PDF format) must follow the
template described by Springer at
http://www.springer.de/comp/lncs/authors.html.

SHORT PAPERS will also be subject to peer review, where the
emphasis will be put on work in progress, hacker achievements,
industrial experiences, and incidents explained, aiming at
novelty and promising directions. Short paper submissions should
not be more than 6 pages in standard LNCS format in total. A
short paper must be labeled by the subtitle “Short
Paper”. Accepted short paper submissions may be included in the
conference proceedings. Short papers do not need to be
anonymous. The program committee may accept full research papers
as short papers.

HACKER TALKS are presentations without an academic paper
attached. They will typically explain new methods, techniques,
tools, systems, or services within the Passwords scope. Proposals
for Hacker Talks can be submitted by anybody (“hackers”,
academics, students, enthusiasts, etc.) in any format, but
typically will include a brief (2-3 paragraphs) description of
the talk’s content and the person presenting. They will be
evaluated by a separate subcommittee led by Per Thorsheim,
according to different criteria than those used for the refereed
papers.

At least one of the authors of each accepted paper must register
and present the paper at the workshop. Papers without a full
registration will be withdrawn from the proceedings and from the
workshop programme.

Papers that pass the peer review process and that are presented
at the workshop will be included in the event proceedings,
published by Springer in the Lecture Notes in Computer
Science (LNCS) series.

Papers must be unpublished and not being considered elsewhere for
publication. Plagiarism and self-plagiarism will be treated as a
serious offense.  Program committee members may submit papers but
program chairs may not.  The time frame for each presentation
will be either 30 or 45 minutes, including Q&A. Publication will
be by streaming, video and web.

* ORGANIZERS *

– General chair: Per Thorsheim, God Praksis AS (N)
– Program co-chair and host: Markus Dürmuth, Ruhr-University Bochum (DE)
– Program co-chair: Frank Stajano, University of Cambridge (UK)

* PROGRAM COMMITTEE *

– Adam Aviv, United States Naval Academy (USA)
– Lujo Bauer, Carnegie Mellon University (USA)
– Jeremiah Blocki, Microsoft Research/Purdue University (USA)
– Joseph Bonneau, Stanford University (USA)
– Heather Crawford, Florida Institute of Technology (USA)
– Bruno Crispo, KU Leuven (B) and University of Trento (IT)
– Serge Egelman, ICSI and University of California at Berkeley (USA)
– David Freeman, LinkedIn (USA)
– Simson Garfinkel, NIST (USA)
– Tor Helleseth, University of Bergen (N)
– Cormac Herley, Microsoft Research (USA)
– Graeme Jenkinson, University of Cambridge (UK)
– Mike Just, Heriot-Watt University (UK)
– Stefan Lucks, Bauhaus-University Weimar (D)
– Paul van Oorschot, Carleton University (CA)
– Angela Sasse, University College London (UK)
– Elizabeth Stobert, ETH Zurich (CH)

* STEERING COMMITTEE *

– Per Thorsheim, God Praksis AS (N)
– Stig F. Mjolsnes, Norwegian University of Science and Technology (N)
– Frank Stajano, University of Cambridge (UK)

More and updated information can be found at the conference website
https://passwords2016.rub.de/

by Frank Stajano at June 27, 2016 09:48 PM

Front Porch Republic

Gene, Everlasting (1932–2016)

For some time, I saw Gene Logsdon as a wiry bearded fellow in slouch hat and knee boots, striding purposefully across a field he was sowing by hand. That was the picture at the top of his stationary, a piece of line art called “The Country Rover,” who was also broadcasting words across a page, or that was how I saw it. This, of course, gives you some idea of how long I’ve known him: how long has it been since people actually used stationery and wrote letters to one another?

So for several years our friendship grew by those ancient instruments, the telephone and the typewriter, and by the antecedents we had in common. We were both farm boys, and we’d had too many heretical questions for our respective religions — his Catholic, mine Baptist — to put up with either of us, and so we’d been set out in the contemporary wilderness. We were both writers, too, branded — yet again — by a lean toward people and sensibilities usually found to be somewhat out-of-favor.

Before long, Gene was not just the country rover; he’d become — his name — “the contrary farmer.” And his wilderness turned out to be a small piece of ancestral farmland south of Toledo where he and his wife, Carol, began a life in sustainable farming. It was all entirely in keeping with his nature as recusant, and his joy at flouting most of the prescribed orthodoxies around him, both secular and ecclesiastical.

Lest you have begun to picture Gene as some grim, back-to-the-land Jeremiah, I assure you that nothing was farther from the truth. He was a man suffused with joy: with Carol and his family, his farm, his writing, and all manner of odd things, such as softball, which he played forever. “One keeps playing until he can’t stand to be humiliated any longer,” he wrote once. “But what are the limits of degradation?”

After Gene had been seriously ill for the first time, he even gained an affection for chickweed, a noxious plant that is normally the bane of gardeners everywhere. Gene, though, decided that he was dealing with a form of eternal life, or as he said, “another version of my bewilderment about life everlasting.” When he learned that someone had made a salve out of chickweed that was good for rashes and abrasions, he mused that if he smeared enough on himself, he might live forever.

When I read the passage on chickweed, I heard Gene’s good voice as I’d first heard it, inseparable from the telephone or the written page, and imbued with his sly humor and idiosyncratic way of seeing things. I believed his agricultural writing, of course (his longtime friend Wendell Berry said he was “the best agricultural writer we have”) but it was his manner — and his humanity — that drew me to him. It was Gene writing to me that we should start an organization for People Who Once Milked Cows. “There are four kinds of people who have the motivation to keep on writing,” he said. “Jews who feel persecuted, ex-Catholics who feel persecuted, Southerners who feel persecuted, and people who milk cows.” And we both adopted the mantra of Gene’s friend Michael Perry, another writer (and onetime milker), who said that writing was a lot like cleaning out a cow stall: “Keep shoveling and pretty soon you have a pile somebody might notice.”

That reminded me of the first time I met Gene in person. By this time I was an editor at Ohio magazine, and another editor and I drove up from Columbus to his farm to discuss article ideas. He actually looked like The Country Rover, minus the beard but hearty and trim. He’d just come from helping one of his ewes who’d gotten her head stuck in a fence, merely one of the many odd problems that crop perpetually up to test the resilience of the small landholder.

A sheep is an intransigent creature, Gene explained, and would mule forward until she died, never thinking to back herself out. Gene solved the problem by holding a handful of fresh sheep manure under her nose, and the ewe promptly reversed herself and backed out of the fence.

“You’ll forgive me for not shaking hands,” I said, also backing up. And we laughed. When you were around Gene, you were always laughing. We also laughed at the picture of the other editor, a striking woman with an East Coast pedigree wearing expensive boots who walked across one of Gene’s pastures as though it were a minefield. Even she found it amusing.

“How does one get safely from place to place out here?” she asked Gene.

“Oh, we look at these as little beacons that give us direction,” Gene said.

In time, Gene even wrote an entire book about manure. I recalled him talking about a book on composting but I didn’t take him seriously. Then one day Holy Shit — what other title? — arrived in the mail. It was a masterful little book of great clarity and greater wit, in which Gene provided mankind with a design for managing what he called “our most misunderstood natural resource.”

I wrote him, asking forgiveness for underestimating his ability to find art in even the most suspect places. “Not only is your book a great piece of reportage,” I said, “but it’s a handsome little tome, and I’m sure the writing of it required great intestinal fortitude. Obviously we are embarrassed by our eliminations, and haven’t the slightest idea where to put them. Your book will serve as our new GPS — Global Positioning of you-know-what.”

The book, I told him, actually seemed warm to the touch, which meant, I supposed, that it was beginning to break down and compost itself, a wonderful solution to the old publishing problem of remaindered books. He immediately replied, and I could hear his laughter between the lines. “Everywhere I turn now I run into shit,” he said. “You probably think I’m making this up but a South Korean professor interviewed some North Korean defectors and they said that the hottest commodity right now in North Korea — along with skinny jeans — is the shit shop. Yeah, public toilets where you can buy manure to take home for your garden…”

In early June, just after he died, I began re-reading his books and articles, and our correspondence. There was this note from 2005: “John, I am not making this up,” he began. He often began letters and notes to me in this way, as if he’d discovered something so unusually delightful that he was afraid I might miss it. “There is an old Franciscan priest in Rome, age 98, who fell out of bed the other night and could not get to his phone to call for help. He has survived so far, but some fifty years or so ago, he told me I was going for hell for giving the finger to the whole Catholic Church in general and him in particular. Well, I have his email address, and I plan on emailing him with instructions on how not to fall out of bed and to let him know I am not yet in hell. Or perhaps I’ll get myself another email address, such as gene@hell.com, and send him regards.”

In 2007, he included me in an essay in his book, The Mother of All Arts, a chronicle of his friendships with creative types who had agrarian backgrounds. I wasn’t sure I was, indeed, an agrarian writer, but I was pleased to be there, right beside Michael Perry, one of our favorite writers. Until I read Gene’s overly generous essay there, I had forgotten that, early on, when Gene was working for Robert Rodale and his publications, he’d tried to get me into print there. What followed was a humorous exercise in editorial whimsy.

As Gene reported, Mr. Rodale didn’t know what to make of the essay I wrote for Gene on crime in the countryside, and so he had it critiqued by a sociologist, an obviously sober man who was disappointed that I hadn’t included any statistics on rural crime and certain I’d “demeaned the seriousness of the problem.” (The essay finally went off to Richard Ketchum at Country Journal who immediately bought it, even bereft of statistics.) Gene, though the rejection was no fault of his, was contrite, and all he could offer me by way of solace was an anecdote about Mr. Rodale.

Rodale was a man of enthusiasms, Gene said, and while some of them were lasting (as were his contributions to the organic farm movement), others were of briefer duration. One summer, for instance, there was a pronouncement in his offices to the effect that tight jockey shorts were unhealthy, and he encouraged his employees to, in effect, loosen up. One day, as Gene recalled it, a very loose Mr. Rodale was working, standing up, one foot on his desk, when he accidentally slammed a desk drawer on his tender hanging parts. In a few days, a small notice appeared on the office bulletin board, rescinding any previous instructions about underwear.

This wasn’t reported in Gene’s essay, because he admired Mr. Rodale, and while it was a wonderful story, he’d save it for his friends in conversation, understanding full well that — like my editor picking her way across Gene’s pasture — life was always one small gesture from unintended consequences.

I got a note from Gene when the book appeared: “I suppose your mail box and computer have been flooded with celebratory remarks now that I have made you famous. No? Well, The Mother of All Arts is out and the bells of favorable reviews are ringing throughout the land. No? Damn…”

When he wrote his first novel, Lords of Folly, I sent him a mock obituary. “Gene Logsdon, essayist, rural philosopher, and of late, novelist, yesterday baled himself into a New Holland Model 580 with its exclusive feeding system,” it read. “The accident occurred while Mr. Logsdon stood atop the New Holland reading reviews of his new novel, The Lords of Folly. The grieving widow said she planned to leave Mr. Logsdon in the hay mow for the time being, as he looked good in twine.”

Lords was a book of great spirit (pun intended), but Gene was just getting warmed up for what I think is his best book — Pope Mary and the Church of Almighty Good Food. It was a cross between P.G. Wodehouse and William Dean Howells, a kind of fable containing everything Gene believed about people, agriculture, and the church. It featured a sheep-herding priest and an iconoclastic woman farmer, and when Rome decided to close their church, the venerable old St. Philodendra, a cast of wonderful irregulars emerged from the parish closet, unleashing anarchy in all directions.

Behind the satire is an ultimate richness that goes to the heart of Gene’s beliefs: the idea of converting empty ritual into a genuinely spiritual subsistence — the Host made literal, you might say. That notion arises so nicely that when the reader finally sees what Gene is up to, he/she is perfectly taken in, sitting expectantly at the Communion table as if it might have a platter of fried chicken on it.

“Well, it was just a matter of time until you got your two lifelong topics — religion and agriculture — under the same roof and thoroughly dealt with them,” I wrote him.

“Oh, yes,” he wrote back. “I was surely meant to be some kind of preacher myself.”

My other favorite book of his is Gene Everlasting, his last one, a manual of devoutness in which it’s revealed to the careful reader how truly religious this maverick — who’d studied years for the seminary — really was. Even amidst such gravity — the notion of his own passing — his customary humor never left him. “Dying is the best story we will ever cover,” he said, “and the only sad part of it is that good writing requires experience in the subject, which is kind of hard to do.”

It is filled with resonate imagery — Mr. Henderson prying parsnips from the winter ground with a crowbar, the Wool King being thrice baptized because the first two times he came up sputtering profanity, and old Mr. Harrison asleep in his garden chair, awakening to ask Gene, “Wouldn’t it be nice if I could just die sitting here asleep in my garden?”

Death was closer to him then, for he wrote Gene Everlasting while in remission. His book was not about death, however; it was an affirmation of life. Almost everything Gene ever did contained that affirmation. Written two years ago, Gene Everlasting concluded with a paean to spring (and Carol’s first rhubarb custard pie of the season). By then he had arrived at an almost Buddhist sense of life, understanding fully how we are all an integral part of existence, flowing from the food chain and back into it. “We are not god-like spirits, apart from the planet and destined for a kind of spiritual afterlife that in reality does not exist,” he wrote. “We are an inseparable part of all life.”

By the small connections Gene made between himself and every part of the varied life all around him, he had become — my term, for he would have disputed me — holy. He was kind, generous, cheerful, ribaldly humorous, and unceasingly productive. He was a sweet man. I didn’t see him often, but he was often in my presence. I thought of him as an exemplar for the well-lived life, and when I read Henry James’s quote about being “one of the people on whom nothing is lost,” I thought first of Gene.

Wesley Jackson, president of The Land Institute, said that Gene was one of only three people he knew who was able to make a living out of writing exclusively what should be common sense. Verlyn Klinkenborg in The New York Times said he was “the best — and most plain-spoken — philosopher of rural living I know.” And while Gene was not the first advocate for a personal, sustainable agriculture, he became its modern statesman. When he returned to his family’s land back in the 1970s, that kind of agriculture was a curiosity. Today, in my county alone, we probably have a dozen thriving small-practice farmsteads.

It was surely providence that the publisher of Gene Everlasting was committed to ecological stewardship, using recycled paper and vegetable inks. Even as Gene was leaving us, Chelsea Green’s production values were lending him a kind of eternal life, or what passed for it in publishing circles. Writing, after all, can be a kind of immortality, and in one of my last — unsuspecting! — letters to him, I teased him about my discovery of “the cloud,” whereby my Orange Frazer publishing office was now storing its manuscripts on off-site servers by way of the internet.

“It sounds suspiciously like an electronic euphemism for heaven,” I wrote. “I’m thinking that for a lapsed Catholic such as yourself, you can now send all of your writing to the cloud and you will live forever, in spite of your ecclesiastical errors.”

The notion amused him. “Who would have thought that an old Luddite such as myself might be delivered by technology?” he said.

Gene, however, had been delivered long before. It was when he and Carol returned to the farmland owned by his maternal kin, the Ralls, who once had owned sixteen farms outside of Upper Sandusky, fourteen of them contiguous. The town was five miles away, Gene said, and as a boy he could walk to town and never leave Rall land except for one short span. There, on his own small piece of land, he found the sublimity he couldn’t find in church. The rituals he and Carol observed didn’t seem to be that different, either, requiring, as they did, a similar and difficult faith. He’d connected himself to similar verities, equally eternal, of which he reminded us in the wonderfully serene concluding passage to Gene Everlasting.

“The summer solstice came,” he wrote, “the end of the great awakening. I still heard the sound of sheep baaing plaintively for me to turn them into a fresh pasture plot. I still heard me calling them as they came rushing, phantom-like, to the gate. In fact, I could still hear, as clearly as if it were yesterday, cousin Adrian calling his sheep over these same hills three-quarters of a century ago. As long as there was memory, sheep were immortal.”

In the days since his death, reading his books, I keep returning to that final chapter, in which he rejoiced in the spring of his remission, uncertain whether he’d have another. I loved that last scene, hearing his good voice as I’d always heard it and recalling his vast constancy, as writer, farmer, family man, and friend. And I thought: What else is immortality?

The post Gene, Everlasting (1932–2016) appeared first on Front Porch Republic.

by John Baskin at June 27, 2016 09:41 PM

Science on the Mac

Filed under “webpages Apple forgot were published:”

The Mac platform is the simple solution for complex scientific research. It lets you leverage all the power and utility of UNIX, even if you never look at a line of code.

Run anything and everything your work depends on, including scripts, open source and commercial software, and even Windows. Program in any language from C++ to Python. And publish and present your work with easy-to-use multimedia tools. The Mac is intuitive, so you’re free to focus on your research. And top-performing Intel processors let that research happen faster than ever.

by Stephen at June 27, 2016 09:33 PM

Market Urbanism

Do The Rich Cause High Rents?

One common argument against building new housing is that new construction will never reduce housing costs, because the influx of ultra-rich people into high-cost cities creates an insatiable level of demand.

I recently found a source of information that may be relevant to this argument: the Wealth Report, which lists the number of high-wealth individuals in a set of world cities, including five American cities (New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston and Miami).  In particular, the report lists the number and percentage growth of “ultra high net worth individuals” (UHNWIs), which it defines as those with over $30 million in wealth.

It seems to me that if UHNWI growth was related to high housing costs, then the most expensive cities in this group (New York and Los Angeles) would have the highest UNHWI growth.  In fact, the number of UHNWIs grew most rapidly in Houston (63 percent) between 2005 and 2015.   By contrast, UNHWI growth in the other four cities ranged between 31 and 34 percent.

In Canada, UNHWI growth was higher, but roughly equal (ranging between 65 and 70 percent) in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal- despite the fact that these cities have radically varying housing costs. The median housing unit price in Vancouver tops $1 million, about three times the median price in Montreal.

What about UNHWIs as a percentage of city population?  New York has 5600 of them in a city of 8.1 million*- just under 700 per 1 million.  Low-cost Chicago has 2030 in a city of 2.7 million- about 750 per 1 million. Houston has 1318 in a city of 2.1 million, or around 625 per million.  These differences don’t strike me as significant.

 

*I am assuming these people all live in the central city; I am not actually sure this is the case, but even if I am wrong this doesn’t change my conclusions.  Although NYC comes out ahead, all three cities would have between 200 and 280 UNHWIs per 1 million people.

 

by Michael Lewyn at June 27, 2016 07:20 PM

Zippy Catholic

An unexpected connection between usury and sedevacantism

Warning: in this post I am kind of talking out of my hat, just sharing something I recently discovered.  I haven’t done the sort of due diligence that would warrant a strong view on my part.  This is just one of those things that make me go “hmmm.”

A personal admission: I tend to get bored out of my mind when I start to read sedevacantist material (articles expressing and attempting to justify the view that there is presently no Pope of Rome, and that the man who presently appears to be Pope is not in fact the Pope).  In my experience, the folks advancing those arguments tend to be completely unaware of their own metaphysical baggage.  At the very least their metaphysical baggage remains hidden and unacknowledged — perhaps because acknowledging it would weaken their arguments, or perhaps because they simply suffer from a limited imagination and are unaware of all of the questions they are begging.

Life is short, and when writers issue too many promissory notes of which they seem utterly unaware themselves I tend to lose interest in what they have to say.

It was interesting to discover though that sedevacantist arguments seem to draw heavily on the Jesuit School of Salamanca: the same “Georgetown of the Middle Ages” that (arguably) brought us Jesuit economic anti-realism  and waffliness on usury.


by Zippy at June 27, 2016 03:23 PM

Aaron M. Renn

Smaller Opera Companies Do Marketing Right

On Site Opera Production of Marcos Portugal's "Marriage of Figaro"

On Site Opera Production of Marcos Portugal’s “Marriage of Figaro”

My post on opera’s missing audience development gene ended up getting some viral pickup. One particularly interesting follow-up resulted.

I got a card in the mail from a group I’d never heard of before called On Site Opera. They are one of the many smaller companies in the city that do smaller, more innovative productions.

In their case, they produce lesser known works in various venues that they source around the city that they feel are particularly appropriate, then embed the audience into the performance. Hence the “on site”.

They are doing a three year series of alternative settings of Beaumarchais’ famous trilogy of plays. This year was a version of the Marriage of Figaro by Marcos Portugal, staged in a West Village townhouse that served as Count Almaviva’s manor.

They sent me a card inviting me to the event, along with a cocktail reception beforehand.  There was even a nice handwritten note from the General Director on the back.

Aaron, are you saying that they gave you free stuff and now you’re writing about them?  Yes, yes I am.

I want to point out the pretty savvy marketing that went into this. First, reciprocity is one of the key principles of persuasion, hence the idea that you have to “give to get.” They obviously understand. That’s one reasons book publishers give free review copies to people, and critics often are able to attend performances for free. So far, this was just standard operating procedure (in case you didn’t know).

But they also clearly saw that my original piece hit a nerve, and saw an opportunity to both promote themselves and to try to create a loyal patron in the form of Your Truly.

Obviously being small gives them the ability to do things that big companies can’t. But I want to highlight some things about their superior marketing techniques.

One comment left on another site about my piece was from someone who said she donated thousands of dollars per year to a particular opera company, but didn’t feel appreciated. She noted that this company insisted on scanning her donor card every time she used their patron lounge.

This is where the data driven marketing approach breaks down. Obviously this company was trying to collect data on engagement. The problem is, when you insist on scanning someone’s member card, you’re broadcasting at maximum volume the message that “We don’t know who you are.”

For the average guy like me, I don’t expect major organizations to personally know me, but you’d think even the biggest companies would treat people who donate thousands of dollars per year like a name not a number. (Front line personnel at major opera companies often actually pull this off. The bartenders at the Met and Lyric do a good job of recognizing regular attendees, for example).

At On Site, however, when I got there I was greeted by name by someone who had never seen me before. I happened to catch a glimpse of the papers she was holding. It not only had a list of names, but thumbnail pictures of the people. They must have googled me up and downloaded a pic, along with everybody else too.

Little things like this make an impression.

The General Director also multiple times mentioned that the show had sold out in three hours. My date asked why he did this. It was no accident. Another key principle of persuasion is scarcity. We want things that are perceived as scarce. It’s another bit of evidence that they know how to hit the levers of persuasion.

Obviously these guys have no trouble selling tickets. I think a number of these smaller companies are so popular it’s hard to get tickets. But they aren’t resting on their laurels and are still pedaling hard to get the word out.

In my original post I talked about how Tony Hsieh had set out to create a “WOW” experience at Zappos, by doing things like giving out surprise complimentary upgrades to overnight shipping.

Well, On Site Opera created a WOW experience for me – they even called the next day to see how I liked it. Am I likely to buy tickets in the future? You bet – if I can get them.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I’d be remiss if I didn’t say that the opera was great too. Their approach is highly intimate settings. There were only 50 people there. As we walked in, the performers where mingling and greeting us in character. The setting of this elaborately decorated townhouse (which is an event space at 632 Hudson where I could definitely imagine hosting a party) was perfect. The audience got to be involved at points, such as when they distributed small cups of madeira to toast Figaro and Susanna.

Listening to an opera in a small room gives a completely different, and revelatory experience. It’s sort of like hearing chamber music in an actual salon after only having experienced it in an auditorium before.

The plot was obviously familiar, though there was a sense of dislocation when expecting a Mozart aria and hearing something else entirely.

This must have been quite an effort to pull off. It’s the North American premier of the opera, so none of the performers knew the parts already. Somebody had to translate it into English, and re-orchestrate it for an eight piece ensemble. That in addition to the ordinary business of putting on a production.

For more details on the music, you can also read reviews in the Times and Parterre Box.

This performance also highlighted for me another advantage of New York City. It was sponsored by the Portuguese consulate, and the Consul General of Portugal was there. Foreign countries are always interested in promoting their culture abroad, and NYC is the location of choice in the US.  The vast number of foreign missions here is a source of funds most cities’ cultural institutions can’t easily access. It’s another example of how the rich get richer.

by Aaron M. Renn at June 27, 2016 03:22 PM

Daniel Lemire's blog

A fast alternative to the modulo reduction

Suppose you want to pick an integer at random in a set of N elements. Your computer has functions to generate random 32-bit integers, how do you transform such numbers into indexes no larger than N? Suppose you have a hash table with a capacity N. Again, you need to transform your hash values (typically 32-bit or 64-bit integers) down to an index no larger than N. Programmers often get around this problem by making sure that N is a power of two, but that is not always ideal.

We want a map that as fair as possible for an arbitrary integer N. That is, ideally, we would want that there are exactly 232/N values mapped to each value in the range {0, 1 ,…, N – 1} when starting from all 232 32-bit integers.

Sadly, we cannot have a perfectly fair map if 232 is not divisible by N. But we can have the next best thing: we can require that there be either floor(232/N) or ceil(232/N) values mapped to each value in the range.

If N is small compared to 232, then this map could be considered as good as perfect.

The common solution is to do a modulo reduction: x mod N. (Since we are computer scientists, we define the modulo reduction to be the remainder of the division, unless otherwise stated.)

uint32_t reduce(uint32_t x, uint32_t N) {
  return x % N;
}

How can I tell that it is fair? Well. Let us just run through the values of x starting with 0. You should be able to see that the modulo reduction takes on the values 0, 1, …, N – 1, 0, 1, … as you increment x. Eventually, x arrives at its last value (232 – 1), at which point the cycle stops, leaving the values 0, 1, …, (232 – 1) mod N with ceil(232/N) occurrences, and the remaining values with floor(232/N) occurrences. It is a fair map with a bias for smaller values.

It works, but a modulo reduction involves a division, and divisions are expensive. Much more expensive than multiplications. A single 32-bit division on a recent x64 processor has a throughput of one instruction every six cycles with a latency of 26 cycles. In contrast, a multiplication has a throughput of one instruction every cycle and a latency of 3 cycles.

There are fancy tricks to “precompute” a modulo reduction so that it can be transformed into a couple of multiplications as well as a few other operations, as long as N is known ahead of time. Your compiler will make use of them if N is known at compile time. Otherwise, you can use a software library or work out your own formula.

But it turns out that you can do even better! That is, there is an approach that is easy to implement, and provides just as good a map, without the same performance concerns.

Assume that x and N are 32-bit integers, consider the 64-bit product x * N. You have that (x * N) div 232 is in the range, and it is a fair map.

uint32_t reduce(uint32_t x, uint32_t N) {
  return ((uint64_t) x * (uint64_t) N) >> 32 ;
}

Computing (x * N) div 232 is very fast on a 64-bit processor. It is a multiplication followed by a shift. On a recent Intel processor, I expect that it has a latency of about 4 cycles and a throughput of at least on call every 2 cycles.

So how fast is our map compared to a 32-bit modulo reduction?

To test it out, I have implemented a benchmark where you repeatedly access random indexes in an array of size N. The indexes are obtained either with a modulo reduction or our approach. On a recent Intel processor (Skylake), I get the following number of CPU cycles per accesses:

modulo reduction fast range
8.1 2.2

So it is four times faster! No bad.

As usual, my code is freely available.

What can this be good for? Well… if you have been forcing your arrays and hash tables to have power-of-two capacities to avoid expensive divisions, you may be able to use the fast range map to support arbitrary capacities without too much of a performance penalty. You can also generate random numbers in a range faster, which matters if you have a very fast random number generator.

So how can I tell that the map is fair?

By multiplying by N, we take integer values in the range [0, 232) and map them to multiples of N in [0, N * 232). By dividing by 232, we map all multiples of N in [0, 232) to 0, all multiples of N in [232, 2 * 232) to one, and so forth. To check that this is fair, we just need to count the number of multiples of N in intervals of length 232. This count must be either ceil(232/N) or floor(232/N).

Suppose that the first value in the interval is a multiple of N: that is clearly the scenario that maximizes the number of multiples in the interval. How many will we find? Exactly ceil(232/N). Indeed, if you draw sub-intervals of length N, then every complete interval begins with a multiple of N and if there is any remainder, then there will be one extra multiple of N. In the worst case scenario, the first multiple of N appears at position N – 1 in the interval. In that case, we get floor(232/N) multiples. To see why, again, draw sub-intervals of length N. Every complete sub-interval ends with a multiple of N.

This completes the proof that the map is fair.

For fun, we can be slightly more precise. We have argued that the number of multiples was maximized when a multiple of N appears at the very beginning of the interval of length 232. At the end, we get an incomplete interval of length 232 mod N. If instead of having the first multiple of N appear at the very beginning of the interval, it appeared at index 232 mod N, then there would not be room for the incomplete subinterval at the end. This means that whenever a multiple of N occurs before 232 mod N, then we shall have ceil(232/N) multiples, and otherwise we shall have floor(232/N) multiples.

Can we tell which outcomes occur with frequency floor(232/N) and which occurs with frequency ceil(232/N)? Yes. Suppose we have an output value k. We need to find the location of the first multiple of N no smaller than k 232. This location is ceil(k 232 / N) Nk 232 which we just need to compare with 232 mod N. If it is smaller, then we have a count of ceil(232/N), otherwise we have a count of floor(232/N).

Further reading: Agner Fog, Pseudo-Random Number Generators for Vector Processors and Multicore Processors, Journal of Modern Applied Statistical Methods, 2015.

(Update: I have made the proof more intuitive following a comment by Kendall Willets.)

by Daniel Lemire at June 27, 2016 03:17 PM

sacha chua :: living an awesome life

2016-06-27 Emacs News

Links from reddit.com/r/emacs, /r/orgmode, Hacker News, planet.emacsen.org, Youtube, the changes to the Emacs NEWS file, and emacs-devel.

Past Emacs News round-ups

The post 2016-06-27 Emacs News appeared first on sacha chua :: living an awesome life.

by Sacha Chua at June 27, 2016 03:15 PM

The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

The FAQs: Supreme Court Rules on Texas Abortion Case

Article by: Joe Carter

What just happened?

In one of the most significant rulings on abortion in decades, the Supreme Court ruled on Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt in a 5-3 decision to overturn state laws designed to regulate abortion clinics in a way that would protect women’s health.

What was the case about?

After the Kermit Gosnell scandal created an awareness of the unsafe, unsanitary, and largely unregulated conditions in abortion clinics in America, the State of Texas passed House Bill 2. According to Alliance Defending Freedom, HB2—which became law in 2013—mandates that abortion facilities adhere to ambulatory surgical center requirements common to most outpatient facilities, and it also requires abortionists to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the abortion facility to be able to handle emergencies when something goes wrong.  

Whole Woman's Health, an abortion provider in Texas, challenged the law in federal court, claiming it was expensive, not medically necessary, and interfered with women's health care.

What was the lower court ruling?

In June 2015, the Fifth Circuit Court in New Orleans disagreed with the claims of Whole Woman's Health and largely upheld the contested provisions of the Texas law. The Fifth Circuit ruled that, with minor exceptions, the law did not place an undue burden on the right to an abortion.

Why did the case go to the Supreme Court?

The plaintiffs on the side of Whole Woman's Health Women appealed the case to the Supreme Court, arguing that when applying the “undue burden” standard of Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the Fifth Circuit court erred by refusing to consider whether and to what extent laws that restrict abortion for the stated purpose of promoting health actually serve the government’s interest in promoting health; and that the Fifth Circuit erred in concluding that this standard permits Texas to enforce, in nearly all circumstances, laws that would cause a significant reduction in the availability of abortion services while failing to advance the State’s interest in promoting health—or any other valid interest.

What is the federal government’s position on the case?

The Obama administration joined in the case in full support of the abortion clinics and their doctors.

Was the law responsible for shutting down abortion clinics?

Prior to the adoption of the new restrictions by the Texas legislature, the state of Texas had 41 clinics performing abortions. But as a result of partial enforcement of the new law, Lyle Denniston says, that number has dropped to 19, and clinic operators have argued that the total number may drop to 10, statewide, if the Court were to uphold the law. The conservative justices on the Court, however, said there was little evidence that clinics have closed or would close because of the law.

What was the opinion of the liberal justices on the ruling?

The liberal majority (Justices Breyer, Kennedy, Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan) claimed that the regulations impose an “undue burden” on women seeking abortions. According to the opinion:

The dramatic drop in the number of clinics means fewer doctors, longer waiting times, and increased crowding. It also means a significant increase in the distance women of reproductive age live from an abortion clinic. Increased driving distances do not always constitute an “undue burden,” but they are an additional burden, which, when taken together with others caused by the closings, and when viewed in light of the virtual absence of any health benefit, help support the District Court’s “undue burden” conclusion.

Their ultimate determination:

We have found nothing in Texas’ record evidence that shows that, compared to prior law (which required a “working arrangement” with a doctor with admitting privileges), the new law advanced Texas’ legitimate interest in protecting women’s health.

What was the opinion of the conserative justices on the ruling?

Justice Thomas wrote a separate dissent to “emphasize how today’s decision perpetuates the Court’s habit of applying different rules to different constitutional rights—especially the putative right to abortion.” Thomas notes that throughout the nation’s history, third parties have been barred from bringing a case challenging a statute by asserting someone else’s constitutional rights. Yet exceptions are commonly made by the Court on abortion-related cases. He writes:

Ultimately, this case shows why the Court never should have bent the rules for favored rights in the first place. Our law is now so riddled with special exceptions for special rights that our decisions deliver neither predictability nor the promise of a judiciary bound by the rule of law.

Justice Alito also wrote a dissent noting that the Court appears to have special rules when it comes to abortion. Alito said, “determined to strike down two provisions of a new Texas abortion statute in all of their applications, the Court simply disregards basic rules that apply in all other cases.”

In his dissent (which was joined by Thomas), Alito notes, “The Court’s patent refusal to apply well-established law in a neutral way is indefensible and will undermine public confidence in the Court as a fair and neutral arbiter.”

Joe Carter is an editor for The Gospel Coalition, the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible, and the co-author of How to Argue Like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History’s Greatest Communicator. You can follow him on Twitter.

by Joe Carter at June 27, 2016 02:47 PM

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by Stephen at June 27, 2016 01:41 PM

Greg Mankiw's Blog

Zondervan Academic Blog

The Subtleties of Word Order (2 John 3) – Mondays with Mounce

This is a little thing, but it shows how subtleties can be lost in translation. In the salutation of 2 John, word for word we read, “will be with us (ἔσται μεθ᾿ ἡμῶν) grace mercy peace (χάρις ἔλεος εἰρήνη) from God the Father (παρὰ θεοῦ πατρὸς) and from Jesus Christ the Son of the Father (καὶ παρὰ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ τοῦ υἱοῦ τοῦ πατρὸς) in truth and in love (ἐν ἀληθείᾳ καὶ ἀγάπῃ).

The Greek reads, ἔσται μεθ᾿ ἡμῶν χάρις ἔλεος εἰρήνη παρὰ θεοῦ πατρὸς καὶ παρὰ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ τοῦ υἱοῦ τοῦ πατρὸς ἐν ἀληθείᾳ καὶ ἀγάπῃ.

The word order makes it clear that “grace mercy peace” not only “will be with us” but also that it is from God. That is why it is placed between the triad and the verbal phrase. The problem is that in English you can’t keep the same word order, and once you shift phrases around you lose connections.

For example, the ESV reads, “Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ the Father’s Son, in truth and love” (see also the NASB, HCSB, NET). No doubt you can figure out that “from God …” refers to the triad of grace, mercy, peace, but the intervening “will be with us” makes it a little difficult to see.

The NIV keeps the phrases closer, and the comma reconnects the verbal phrase with the triad. “Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Father’s Son, will be with us in truth and love.”

The NLT actually makes the connections the best, I think. “Grace, mercy, and peace, which come from God the Father and from Jesus Christ—the Son of the Father—will continue to be with us who live in truth and love.”

There is no perfect way to connect the two phrases to the triad, and you can see how some of the translations struggle to help us see the connection. But in the end, there is no better solution than to know the Greek, at least know a little Greek.

If you don’t mind a slight ad — that is why I wrote the Greek for the Rest of Us textbook, video series, and companion books. One of the advantages of learning just a little Greek is that you can work through an interlinear and learn from the word order.

All translation involves a slight loss in meaning, so let’s get behind the English to God’s words, however you want to do it.

***

Greek for the Rest of UsOrder your copy of Greek for the Rest of Us today at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Christian Book.

by Bill Mounce at June 27, 2016 01:09 PM

Reformedish

None Like Him (By Jen Wilkin)

none like him.jpgI have to admit, I have never aspired to become a “God-fearing woman.” I benefited, nonetheless, while reading Jen Wilkin’s new book None Like Him: 10 Ways God is Different From Us (And Why That’s a Good Thing). In it, she issues a winsome, if bracing call for women to become wise, rock-solid, and whole by knowing what it is to “fear the Lord”—to respect, love, and trust their Creator and Maker. But if women are to become truly God-fearers, they must know just who their God is.

But how can they love him who they have not trusted? And how can they trust him who they have not known? How can they know him who they have not studied? Not very well.

So with biblical care, narrative, and a sharp, insightful wit, Wilkin begins the first half of a two part project in studying the “attributes of God.”

The Attributes

Traditionally, theologians have recognized that you can understand God according to two aspects. First, you can study his triune glory, recognizing God as Triune: Father, Son, and Spirit, with their distinctive properties, mutual relations, and saving works in history.

Second, you can study the attributes of the one, shared essence of the three persons—the characteristics and properties that we speak of him on the basis of what he has said and done for us—like God’s power, love, beauty, and wisdom.

Well, these attributes are also often split up into two categories: the incommunicable and communicable. The communicable attributes are those that we say that as image-bearers, we can “share” or imitate. Things like his love, grace, mercy, wisdom, and so forth. And second, the incommunicable attributes are those attributes which belong to God alone as the infinite Creator. These are attributes like his limitless power, his infinite knowledge, or his self-existence.

We Are Not Rivals

Wilkin’s driving insight in this work is that the incommunicable attributes give us our measure in light of the measureless God. We were created as finite, contingent creatures, made to enjoy communion with and the blessings of our infinitely good God. Our call as Image-bearers is not to rival God, but to reflect him in the world. But ever since the Fall, we have constantly been striving to somehow overtake, or compete with God’s limitless life. And that’s exactly when the trouble starts for us.

And when we think about it, how many of us can’t recognize the problem in our own lives? How many of us aren’t trying to live as if we were the only self-sustaining being in the universe? Never flagging, never resting, but simply pushing on from commitment to commitment, without regard for our human limits. How much better would our life be if we could rest in the fact that our self-existent God is the one sustaining our lives in existence? If we could “topple the myth” of our self-sufficiency and lean on the one who never slumbers nor sleeps because he is watching us?

In ten chapters, Wilkin goes down the line of God’s incommunicable attributes “toppling the myth” of our omniscience, sovereignty, knowledge, and so forth, in light of the beauty and glory of the infinite God we see in Scripture.

Reasons to Read The Book (For Everyone)

I have to say, I really loved this little book. For one thing, as I already mentioned, Wilkin is a good writer. She can turn a phrase, tell a story, all the while keeping your attention on the matter at hand: God and his greatness.

Oh, and for those who are worried about time—she also knows how to get to the point. The chapters are about 10 or so pages, but if you do want to go deeper, she’s provided extra Scriptural texts and questions to meditate on. Which actually makes it perfect for a Bible study group too.

Second, this is a fantastic example of what good theology and doctrine looks like applied practically. I am a strong believer in the proposition that theology is important, not just for having your heavenly GPA straight when you get there, but for the actual living we have do down on earth. Wilkin takes the truths of Scripture and some of the best insights of systematic theology and shows in practical, tangible ways, how they should impact our day to day life.

In a lot of ways, it’s like the old-school works of someone like Thomas Watson who would preach a very careful sermon on a doctrine, and then list about 10 “uses” for it in everyday life. Wilkin puts these attributes to work in the everyday world of work, parenting, marriage, and everywhere else we do our living.

For myself, I found this to be a personal benefit reading a chapter a day in the morning before having to go in and try to study German. Day by day I have been reminded of my very, very human limits. But day by day I was encouraged as I remembered that God has no limits and it is he who will sustain me in a thousand different ways during my studies.

Third, I love that Wilkin pitched this at women, because I get the sense that much of the devotional and theological literature that is on offer for ladies in our churches is sub-par (that thankfully seems to be changing). But I have to say, I don’t think this is just a book for women. It’s not “women’s theology” focused on (as Hannah Anderson puts it) the “pink passages.” It’s just good theology for everyone because it’s biblical, and it just happens to have women in view in terms of some of its application.

(For that reason, though, I think it may behoove a good many young, male preachers to pick up the book, simply to learn how to think outside your own experience to be able to apply the Word of God to your whole congregation.)

To conclude, Wilkin’s None Like Him is a great book. You should considering buying and reading it. Take the time this year to focus on resting in the beauty of the fact that God is God and we are not. And that’s just okay.

Soli Deo Gloria


by Derek Rishmawy at June 27, 2016 11:59 AM

trenchant.org daily

Globalization and The Economics of Fear

More importantly still — and directly contrary to what establishment liberals love to claim in order to demonize all who reject their authority — economic suffering and xenophobia/racism are not mutually exclusive. The opposite is true: The former fuels the latter, as sustained economic misery makes people more receptive to tribalistic scapegoating. That’s precisely why plutocratic policies that deprive huge portions of the population of basic opportunity and hope are so dangerous. Claiming that supporters of Brexit or Trump or Corbyn or Sanders or anti-establishment European parties on the left and right are motivated only by hatred but not genuine economic suffering and political oppression is a transparent tactic for exonerating status quo institutions and evading responsibility for doing anything about their core corruption.

Glenn Greenwald, Brexit Is Only the Latest Proof of the Insularity and Failure of Western Establishment Institutions

Globalization, the frictionless flow of capital, labor, and ideas has been great for a lot of people — including myself, I work in tech in silicon valley! — but it’s had devastating impacts elsewhere, without key political institutions taking them seriously or addressing them.

This combined with the very large increases in wealth inequality over the past four decades are having a cumulative effect. Blaming “the other” is unfortunately a historically effective tactic for channeling that anger — and in the absence of better ideas to address the root causes and effective policy it’s likely to become even more effective and damaging to western culture.

I am perhaps less surprised by all this since I spent my teenage years reading Thomas Frank articles in The Baffler that mostly seemed shocked this sort of thing wasn’t happening sooner, and how weird it was that populist tactics had been co-opted by plutocratic establishment figures so easily.

Meanwhile In Neo-Liberal Utopia, Nobody Can Afford To Live

While those like myself in the cosmopolitan California peninsula may claim to be beyond the reach of such base tactics, ask your liberal friends in CA (the ones that are renting and complaining about housing costs and threatening to leave for Portland) the following thought experiment —

Would you support a candidate that promised to decrease housing costs 25% by banning foreign investors from residential real estate purchases?

Blaming foreign money for the Bay Area housing debacle — when it’s statistically pretty much the fault of increasing wages, geography preventing sprawl, and mostly a decades long refusal of local governments to increase housing supply, density, and infrastructure to meet increased demand — is the kind of thing I have heard regularly over the past couple years. And while there may be some shred of truth to some tiny bit of it, it’s more indicative of the potential for xenophobic policies to ignite even where people least expect when there’s just the slightest economic pain and lack of security (even amongst the well off) to fuel the fire.

Expect The Unexpected

Bernie Sanders — a 74-year-old socailist who until recently wasn’t even in the Democratic party — led a campaign that nearly beat the establishment candidate.

Donald Trump — a reality television actor and living lifestyle brand of questionable products and services — did beat the establishment candidates on the Republican side, somehow.

Clinton and Trump have historically high negative favorability ratings so we are in uncharted territory in US politics for a lot of reasons.

Regardless of what happens in this election cycle — seems hard to fathom Clinton losing given polling, demographics, and Trump’s inability to stop saying crazy things — the economic stagnation, voter sentiment, and other indications mean we should expect to see more outcomes that are at odds with conventional wisdom and establishment predictions soon.

June 27, 2016 08:00 AM

Table Titans

Tales: Charmed, I’m Sure

Many years ago I played Advanced Dungeons & Dragons with my high school buddies. Our party consisted of a spastic Fighter named Tac who carried everything with him (including a kitchen sink). Then we had a Wizard named Kara, played by a 6-foot tall burly guy. And finally, my pious Elven Cleric,…

Read more

June 27, 2016 07:00 AM

Zondervan Academic Blog

Why You Shouldn’t “Preach the Gospel at All Times and Use Words When Necessary”

preachgospelatalltimes

There’s a famous quote. You’ve probably heard it:

“Preach the gospel at all times. Use words only when necessary.”

The original quote is attributed to St. Francis of Assisi. It’s been echoed by generations of Christians.

The spirit of the quote is good, and it makes a good point. Our actions matter. What’s more: actions usually speak louder than words. People are watching what we do.

But there are some good reasons why this quote does not present a good approach in relating with others.

The first reason is that, in many cases, people use it as an excuse to avoid articulating their faith.

How many times has the gospel not been shared, because we’ve embraced a version of Christianity where words don’t matter?

The second reason is more important:

The Bible tells us that there are certain truths. Faith comes by hearing. And hearing by the word of God. Other people hear when someone declares the message.

You can love people, serve people, care for people and model a great life. Your actions will nudge people. They will create curiosity. They will open hearts to an interest in the gospel.

Others may even model your actions—and this is a good thing.

But there will come a moment when you will need to tell your story. When you will need to tell the story from start to finish: sin and redemption, death and resurrection—and why it matters.

You need to be equipped and prepared to tell the story and articulate your faith.

The truth is that no matter how much we try to live in a way that reveals the presence of Jesus, words will still be needed. At some point along the way, everyone needs to hear and comprehend the content of the gospel.

Learn how to tell the story

Learn practical, biblical principles for sharing your faith with others. Sign up for a free online mini-course, Sharing the Good News: The Law of Love, taught by Kevin Harney.

takethefreecourse_button

 

***

The above post was adapted from material in the Organic Outreach online course, taught by Kevin Harney.

by ZA Blog at June 27, 2016 05:17 AM

The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

Devouring God’s Word in Uganda

Article by: Laura Miller

The request made the mission leaders pause. Why did the woman want an English-language Bible if she couldn’t read English?

Sam Soita, executive director of Mission: Moving Mountains Uganda (M:MM Uganda) in Mbale, wondered what Margaret Masai would do with an ESV Global Study Bible. They gave her one anyway.

Although English is the country’s official language, some older Ugandans cannot read it. Access to God’s Word is limited since only the New Testament is available in Lumasaba—the Bantu language spoken by more than 750,000 in eastern Uganda. M:MM Uganda works around this challenge by providing Bible teaching in English for all members of the community. They also train those who are able to teach and disciple others.

Soita recalled how Margaret regularly participated in the leadership sessions at M:MM Uganda’s mission compound. She yearned to share Scripture with her unbelieving children, but they weren’t interested in reading from the Lumasaba-language New Testament. However, she knew they took pride in their English skills and suspected they’d jump at the opportunity to serve as “experts.”

New Bible in hand, Margaret returned from the daily sessions and asked her children to read the lesson’s passages. Then, applying what she learned, Margaret probed their understanding. The story of Daniel in the lions’ den led to a discussion about miracles, God’s provision, and the need to believe. “We want to be like the king and believe in Daniel’s God, too,” the children told their mom.

M:MM Uganda’s training—facilitated in part by Packing Hope resources from TGC International Outreach—has equipped Christian workers to understand biblical truths and apply them in everyday life. 

Passion for Bible Training

Operation World reports that 85 percent of Ugandans are Christian. Nevertheless, faith-based training and mission groups observe a widespread ignorance of basic tenets of the faith. As Soita explained, M:MM Uganda’s vision is to reverse that trend: “My passion has been for obtaining available discipleship materials to teach the people to dig deeper.” 

At a seminar in Nigeria several years ago, Soita met Rob Warland, a ministry associate with the leadership development program at Hope Community Church (HCC) in Minneapolis. Since then, HCC mission teams plan projects, raise funds, and send workers to collaborate with M:MM Uganda in transforming communities for God’s glory through agricultural, health, entrepreneurial, and spiritual programs.

Warland led teams to Mbale twice in 2015, taking Packing Hope materials. The resources included 36 ESV Global Study Bibles; 80 copies of the guidebook One to One Bible Reading by David Helm; 40 copies of Everyone’s a Theologian by R. C. Sproul; 64 copies of Tim Chester’s study Titus for You; and three Pastors Book Sets (Crossway).

One to One Bible Reading helps with mentoring and discipleship, and the Pastors Book Sets benefit participants and local pastors—including pastors’ wives—“who will have the greatest impact on the community.”

Soita serves as a regional overseer of 120 Baptist churches, and he encounters many who profess Christ but know little about him. The numbers reported to mission boards are impressive but misleading. “Because there is no follow up,” he laments, “they can’t contend for the gospel and they are not rooted in Christ.”

More on the Way

But more Mbalians are looking for gospel-centered instruction. As a result of last year’s deliveries, registration for M:MM training events is up by more than 60 percent. 

In March 2016, an HCC missions team helped M:MM Uganda conduct two-day workshops on Christian leadership based on 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus. Ninety Ugandans attended, though many more desired to participate. Organizers capped attendance both for the sake of logistics and as a way to gauge commitment. “If their interest is more than passing, they will be first in line next time,” Soita said.

Next time is not far away. An upcoming workshop will incorporate Titus for You for selected candidates. Soita believes this training demonstrates discernment and careful stewardship of contributions, consistent with 2 Timothy 2:2: “What you have heard from me . . . entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”

Like Hot Cakes

The pastor of Bungwanyi Anglican Church of Uganda in Mbale saw slow progress in biblical understanding among his small-group participants, which he attributed to a lack of Bibles. Discouraged, he expressed his frustration to Soita.

“They read and hear the Word in the study,” Soita explained, “but often they go home and have no Bible, so there is no meditating on the Word or teaching they’ve heard.”

M:MM Uganda has now provided the Anglican pastor with ten ESV Global Bibles for his small group studies. With Bibles in their homes, participants study the Scriptures deeper and faster.

“In half the time!” Soita said. “The members are holding family altar time every day, and they report more unity in the family. The Bible is like hot cakes: every hour it looks like somebody is holding it and eating it.”

The Anglican pastor now searches for more demanding material because his small group is ready for meatier instruction—a joyful dilemma. He and Soita envision a generation of Ugandans rising up—future leaders of the church—through deliberate training in Christian faith. Children witness men and women committing themselves to in-depth study of God’s Word.

They’re all digging in as if the Word is hot cakes.

Laura Miller returned to freelance editing and writing after homeschooling and raising four children to adulthood. She blogs at There You Go Thinking Again and lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with her family.

by Laura Miller at June 27, 2016 05:02 AM

Counterculture for the Common Good

Article by: Timothy Kleiser

In a dusty spot along the ancient King’s Highway in Jordan lies a cultural oasis: King’s Academy. Modeled after New England’s fabled Deerfield Academy, the academy was founded by King Abdullah II to train up a new generation of Arabs to lead the Middle East into a pluralistic future. The academy itself embodies the pluralism it envisions: actual princes and paupers from all religious and cultural backgrounds live, study, and play alongside one another.

Not long ago, I visited King’s Academy to participate in a roundtable discussion on the promises of pluralism in the Middle East. A philosophy teacher boasted of the academy’s own commitment to pluralism and told of Buddhist students observing Ramadan, Muslim students observing Easter, and Christian students practicing transcendental meditation—all in a show of solidarity with one another. I later asked the philosophy teacher how these syncretistic practices might disrupt a student’s commitment to his or her own faith. “That’s the price of pluralism,” he replied.

But is syncretism and assimilation really the only way to survive in a pluralistic context?

Not according to David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons in their latest book, Good Faith: Being a Christian When Society Thinks You’re Irrelevant and Extreme. Kinnaman is the president of Barna Group, a leading research company, and Lyons is the founder of Q, a TED-style learning community that educates and mobilizes Christians for the good of society. Together they contend that “holding tight to biblical conviction is not only worthwhile and critical but also absolutely doable” for Christians in our pluralistic society (15).

Their conclusion is refreshingly optimistic considering the bleak portrait they initially paint. Based on thousands of interviews they conducted, Kinnaman and Lyons report a growing number of U.S. adults perceive Christianity to be irrelevant and extreme. Whereas most U.S. adults once shared a moral center with Christianity, the dominant culture now follows a new moral code of self-fulfillment. Now, any belief system (such as Christianity) that would constrain this pursuit of self-fulfillment must itself be constrained—at all costs.

Love + Believe + Live

Counterintuitively, the appropriate Christian response the authors present isn’t to take defensive measures, but to make ourselves vulnerable by practicing “good faith”—trusting God and living to bless others:

Living in good faith means helping the world and the people in it to be orderly and right, abundant and generous, beautiful and flourishing with life and relationships—just as God created them to be. (71)

They continue, “The recipe for good faith boils down to this: how well you love, what you believe, and how you live. If you don’t have all three, your faith isn’t good—it’s half-baked” (72). Although all the three ingredients are co-dependent, there’s a logical order. First, Christians must love God and love others. Next, we must believe orthodox Christian teaching because without it we can’t really know how to love God and others. Third, love and belief must be tied together in a coherent pattern of living; otherwise, our faith will have no tangible effect on the world.

Confident Pluralism

If Christians in America—not just individually, but in community—took this pattern seriously, the American church would become “a counterculture for the common good” (75). This isn’t your father’s moral-majority version of counterculture. The authors call for “confident pluralism” (others would call it “principled pluralism”). In other words, Christians don’t need to assimilate to the mainstream culture but should instead accommodate the culture by “support[ing] the right of every person to live by his or her conscience” (112).

Throughout the remainder of Good Faith, Kinnaman and Lyons put this principle into action by showing how the “love + believe + live” pattern might address some of the most pressing cultural needs of our day. In the final chapter, they summarize the ways the Christian community should be a counterculture, which include:

  • Love others well
  • Remain committed to orthodox beliefs
  • Make space for those who disagree
  • Live under God’s moral order
  • Offer a vision of human intimacy beyond sex
  • Practice hospitality
  • Do the good, hard work of racial reconciliation
  • Value human life in every form, at every stage
  • Love our gay friends and trust God’s design for sex
  • Make disciples and faith communities that are Christlike

In the face of mounting cultural opposition, Christians can be tempted to place their hopes in political candidates, boycotts, programs, and other human solutions. While these solutions have value, placing our hope in anything but God betrays lack of trust in his providence. At such a time as this, the primary strength of Good Faith is its urgent reminder that “[Christians] are called not to determine the outcome but to be faithful” (262).

By answering the call to faithfulness with their “love + believe + live” formula, the authors have taken an ancient message about the integrated Christian life (e.g., Jas. 3:13; 1 Cor. 13:1) and repackaged it in a way that’s memorable and teachable. While thinking through the various cultural issues covered in Good Faith, I often asked the Lord to help me see which of the three components I might be missing.

Perplexing Ambiguities

Unfortunately, this book’s urgent message is weighed down by some serious ambiguities. For a book with “faith” at its theme, I was surprised to find no clear statement of the gospel. The authors come close at times by acknowledging that “we have no real ability to be or to generate good on our own” (71) and that “before we can run around doing good, we must acknowledge our need to be healed and restored” (78). But healed from what and restored to what? I understand this book isn’t meant to be a theological treatise, but by failing to clearly explain this fundamental prerequisite for good faith, their call to practice good faith suffers.

Also, the description of “confident pluralism” lacks nuance, which could prove disastrous in the hands of some readers. The authors argue that “people of good faith do not insist that those who don’t share our values be legally compelled to live by them” (105). Rather, “We must support the right of every person to live by his or her conscience” (112). But how far do we take this view? Do we support the legalization of abortion so that others won’t be compelled to live by our pro-life values? Do we support same-sex marriage or gender-neutral facilities on that same basis? In fact, don’t all laws compel some people to live by the values of others? If so, how practical is their version of “confident pluralism” after all?

Perhaps Kinnaman and Lyons were intentionally ambiguous so their writing could reach a more ecumenical audience. After all, they’re conservative evangelicals, but they speak in general terms to describe Catholics as our “brothers and sisters” (203). This bent toward ecumenism paired with a host of ambiguities will make it a little harder for some conservative evangelicals to heartily embrace this book. This is unfortunate since Good Faith contains a timely message that demands careful consideration from evangelicals everywhere.

David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons. Good Faith: Being a Christian When Society Thinks You’re Irrelevant and Extreme. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2016. 288 pp. $19.99.

Timothy Kleiser teaches theology and philosophy at Boyce College. He lives in Louisville, Kentucky, with his wife, Jenna, and their daughter, Everly. They are part of the Sojourn Community Church family. You can follow him on Twitter.

by Timothy Kleiser at June 27, 2016 05:02 AM

What Does Jesus Have to Do with Jihad?

Article by: Nabeel Qureshi

Did you know Jesus is prominent in Islamic eschatology?

Not only do Muslims believe Jesus is a miracle-working prophet, he’s also the Messiah who will return from heaven at the end of days.

The Qur’an underlies these beliefs in two passages. First and foremost in the mind of many Muslims is the understanding that Jesus didn’t die on a cross. As 4:157–158 states, “[Jesus] was not killed, nor was he crucified, but so it was made to appear. . . . Allah took him up to himself.”

Yet the Qur’an also shows Jesus asserting his own death. In 19:33 he says, “Peace is on me the day I was born, the day I die, and the day I rise alive.” If Jesus didn’t die on the cross and was instead raised directly to heaven, how can he say “peace is on me the day I die”? Only if he will return to earth once more and die then.

On account of these verses the Qur’an is understood to teach that Jesus is currently in heaven, awaiting his return to earth after which he will initiate the latter days and then die before the final day of resurrection. This belief is nearly universal among Muslims.

Furthermore, in the hadith Muhammad says:

Surely Jesus the son of Mary will soon descend among you and will judge mankind justly; he will break the cross and kill the pigs and there will be no Jizya. (Sahih al-Bukhari 4.55.657)

Jesus the Future Jihadist

Also prominent in Muslims’ view of the end times is a battle between Jesus and the Antichrist, the Dajjal. According to Sahih al-Muslim, “The Last Hour would not come until the Romans would land at al-Amaq or in Dabiq.” After this battle with the Romans, the Antichrist will challenge Muslims and even have the upper hand against them until Allah sends Jesus back from heaven. Then “Allah would kill them by his hand and he would show them their blood on [Jesus’s] lance” (Sahih al-Muslim 2897).

Beyond this point, Islamic eschatology begins to vary widely depending on one’s denomination. Many believe Jesus will fight alongside Muslims, who will be fighting Jews, and even the stones will cry out against Jews on that day. Muhammad said, “The Hour will not be established until you fight with the Jews, and the stone behind which a Jew will be hiding will say, ‘O Muslim! There is a Jew hiding behind me, so kill him’” (Sahih al-Bukhari 4.52.177).

Some believe Jesus will appear with another apocalyptic figure, the Mahdi, either equal to or superior to Jesus. But details vary among Muslims on these matters, and apart from these two figures are many other signs of the end of days. (You might consult David Cook’s Contemporary Muslim Apocalyptic Literature for more information.) Regardless of the specifics, though, it’s a common Muslim view that Jesus will engage in jihad at the end of the world.

Life without Fear

The Christian gospel message is this: God entered the world out of love for us, paid the penalty of our sins by dying in our place, and rose from the dead as proof he had defeated death. “Gospel” means “good news,” and it’s the message that, on account of what God has done in Christ, we will live forever with him.

Since Christians will live forever, we’re told not to fear in the face of death. “Where, O death, is your victory?” the apostle Paul asks. “Where, O death, is your sting?” (1 Cor. 15:55). Since we know we will be with God forever, there is no more fear of death for the Christian of true faith. In fact, death benefits the Christian since it sends him to God, with whom he is longing to be. As Paul declares, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21).

The security of our salvation is what liberates Christians to follow Jesus’s difficult teachings and to self-sacrificially love our enemies—even being ready to die for them. That’s why some Christians have been willing to go to tumultuous Muslim contexts and serve those who could do nothing for them, even in the face of death. Ronnie Smith was a Texan science teacher who decided to move his family to Benghazi when the Libyan revolution was underway. For a few years he taught chemistry to high school students in the wartorn country, bringing them hope when they had little. He wanted to serve people just as Jesus had. And just as people killed Jesus, so a group of radical Muslims killed Ronnie Smith.

Shortly before his death, Ronnie Smith answered a survey indicating that the gospel is what encouraged him to serve people despite the risk of death. He knew his life was in danger before moving to Libya, but Jesus enabled him to answer jihad with compassion.

Through the message of the gospel, Jesus made Ronnie Smith invincible. He was able to love without fear.

Moreover, Japanese journalist Kenji Goto went to Syria to rescue a new friend, Haruna Yukawa. Goto had met Yukawa six months prior when Yukawa was trying to turn his life around after a failed suicide attempt following his wife’s death. When ISIS captured Yukawa, Goto believed there was a chance he could help rescue him. In an interview he said it was “necessary” to try and rescue Yukawa, and that his faith gave him the courage to go. Goto had accepted the gospel in 1997, enabling him to answer jihad with compassion.

Jesus made Kenji Goto invincible. He was able to live without fear.

Radical Gospel Love 

Jesus has much to do with jihad, both in Islam and Christianity.

In common Islamic eschatology, he personally wages war on behalf of Muslims, breaking all crosses and killing all swine. In this war Muslims will kill Jews and defeat them, and Jesus will destroy the Antichrist for their sake.

In Christianity, Jesus shows Christians how to answer persecution with love. Although this suggestion might seem impossible to some and ridiculous to others, Jesus’s teachings were always radical, and they are only possible to follow if the gospel is true. If through trust in Jesus we will live eternally with God in bliss, then we can lay down this life to love even our enemies.

In the face of jihad, the Christian Jesus teaches his followers to respond with self-giving love.

Editors’ note: This is an adapted excerpt from The New York Times bestselling author Nabeel Qureshi’s new book, Answering Jihad: A Better Way Forward (HarperCollins, 2016). The former Muslim offers challenging, respectful answers to the many questions surrounding jihad, the rise of ISIS, and Islamic terrorism in this book.

Nabeel Qureshi is a speaker with Ravi Zacharias International Ministries. He holds an MD from Eastern Virginia Medical School, an MA in Christian apologetics from Biola University, and an MA in religion from Duke University. He is the author of Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity (Zondervan, 2014) and Answering Jihad: A Better Way Forward (Zondervan, 2016). His new book is No God but One—Allah or Jesus?. You can follow him on Twitter

by Nabeel Qureshi at June 27, 2016 05:00 AM

Roads from Emmaus

Jesus vs. My Family?

Sunday of All Saints, June 26, 2016 Hebrews 11:33-12:2; Matthew 10:32-33, 37-8; 19:27-30 Rev. Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, one God. Amen. He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; ... READ MORE ›

The post Jesus vs. My Family? appeared first on Roads from Emmaus.

by Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick at June 27, 2016 01:30 AM

June 26, 2016

Light Blue Touchpaper

Inaugural Cybercrime Conference

The Cambridge Cloud Cybercrime Centre is organising an inaugural one day conference on cybercrime on Thursday, 14th July 2016.

In future years we intend to focus on research that has been carried out using datasets provided by the Cybercrime Centre, but for this first year we have a stellar group of invited speakers who are at the forefront of their fields:

  • Adam Bossler, Associate Professor, Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology, Georgia Southern University, USA
  • Alice Hutchings, Post-doc Criminologist, Computer Laboratory, University of Cambridge, UK
  • David S. Wall, Professor of Criminology, University of Leeds, UK
  • Maciej Korczynski Post-Doctoral Researcher, Delft University of Technology, The Netherlands
  • Michael Levi, Professor of Criminology, Cardiff University, UK
  • Mike Hulett, Head of Operations, National Cyber Crime Unit, National Crime Agency, UK
  • Nicolas Christin, Assistant Research Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Carnegie Mellon University, USA
  • Richard Clayton, Director, Cambridge Cloud Cybercrime Centre, University of Cambridge, UK
  • Ross Anderson, Professor of Security Engineering, Computer Laboratory, University of Cambridge, UK
  • Tyler Moore, Tandy Assistant Professor of Cyber Security & Information Assurance, University of Tulsa, USA

They will present various aspects of cybercrime from the point of view of criminology, security economics, cybersecurity governance and policing.

This one day event, to be held in the Faculty of Law, University of Cambridge will follow immediately after (and will be in the same venue as) the “Ninth International Conference on Evidence Based Policing” organised by the Institute of Criminology which runs on the 12th and 13th July 2016.

For more details see here.

by Richard Clayton at June 26, 2016 11:15 PM

ASCII by Jason Scott

The Fundamental Kickstarter Film Incompatibility

(This is being crossposted between my weblog and my kickstarter campaign for my three documentaries currently in production.)

So, Kickstarters are now simply “part of the landscape” of filmmaking, just like it became part of the landscape of an awful lot of things out there which were previously cases of passing the hat, sinking personal cost, or otherwise having to squeeze blood out of the social network’s stone. I’ve heard countless rough plans that get a Kickstarter thrown into the mix like some sort of financial MSG that will paper over the small cracks here and there and get the intended show (or product, or event) on the road.

So, in the years hence, I’ve seen Kickstarter used for dozens of films, including a good bushel of ones that I’ve backed in some small or large way. And I have something entirely unhelpful to report:

Film Kickstarters almost always end in heartbreak.

Now, let me be clear, I don’t mean they don’t get finished. They most certainly do, to the vast majority. Before I switched over almost exclusively to the “digital download” option for kickstarters, I built up a pretty tidy set of Blu-Ray and DVD sets with the names of the documentaries I backed (I almost always back documentaries exclusively) and those things are done, done, done. And well made! Enjoyable.

But what almost always seems to happen is that down in the clutch, at that point where the films are somewhere in the twilight zone between final mixdown and the copies (digital or physical) fly out into the world, there’s a rapid breakdown of communication and happiness between the backers and the creators. Almost every time.

I don’t think I can solve this problem, per se, but I can mention it and mention what I’m doing, which is likely not going to work for anybody else in this situation.

Pulling my long-dormant mass communications degree from decades-old muck, I’ll say that films in the digital era are subject to a few properties that make them very different than, say, music albums or software programs. This especially comes into play with the concept of “release”.

It’s a given that in the digital world we live in, a thing that’s a bitstream that is somewhere in the Internet is officially all over the Internet. This is both delightful (the file can go everywhere) and to some, terrifying (the file can go everywhere). This property is out there and it is permanent – no amount of coming up with idiotic gatekeeping streams or anti-copying measures are going to stop a file in the wild from being a file in the wild everywhere. (Unless it’s boring or broken.)

With music albums, you can release what counts for “singles” now – single .mp3 files of one song on the album, maybe the one you want heavily rotated or available. You don’t have the full album out there, and you get to still choose when the whole thing goes online. (A couple album kickstarters I’ve backed have released singles before release, for example.) And with software, there’s always “demos” that you can put out, which let you play the first level or some aspect of the program without it all being out there. (Some entities can be lazy and just “tie off” the content, which means it’s trivial to unlock and get the full version, but that’s the lazy group’s fault, not the fault of the nature of what’s being done.)

But with films, you kind of have to do an all-or-nothing deal. You throw the movie out into the world, or you don’t. You can argue about the bonus features and the packaging, but the central X minutes of film are not something easily put out as a “single” or in a “demo mode”.

Oh, sure, you can have trailers, and selected scenes released, but that’s not the same as releasing the whole movie, at least to many backers. It’s out or it’s not.

Therefore, in that moment when the film is nearly done, and the backers who have so generously given money to see the film hit that point are waiting, the filmmakers find themselves seeking some level of professional distribution. And if you want old-school “waiting for this internet to go away”, you definitely are going to find a lot of that in professional distribution.

So right then, in that critical point which should be a celebration, is when there is awful heartbreak. All true examples:

  • The film is shown at a premiere of a major event relevant to the next step of getting distributed. The backers, not shown the film first, are furious.
  • The film is finished, but can’t be released for X amount of months while the distributors grind through their “process” which is like putting a ship in a bottle. Backers, furious.
  • Components of the film or the things that were previously available to see are taken down so the distributors can have all the control of how the film will be promoted. Backers. Furious.
  • Digital copies are available before physical copies, which are often backed at a higher rate. The backers who did physical copies are completely furious that the “deluxe” edition didn’t arrive before the casuals could watch it in digital form.

And so on, through many iterations and variations.

The thing is, I think the patient may be terminal – I think in that period between “oh man, we have a movie” and the movie hits hands, there’s so much going on in the way of ensuring the content is paid for, not duplicated, not out of the control of the people who want to get recompense for the finished effort. But at the same time, the number of folks who are expecting it at the first few seconds of availability can be significant and large.

I’ve seriously watched this so many times, it’s almost become an expected milestone for me when these projects wind down into “finished”. But for the backers who are only backing that particular film, it can seem a horrible shock that the film got shown at Maybe-Get-Your-Film-Sold Fest instead of online-debuted to the backers only. Or the aforementioned physical-comes-after-online orders. Or any of the other pitfalls.

There’s several solutions. They’re all pretty crazy. I’m trying one myself.

As each of the documentaries I’m working on are finished, I’m releasing them online as pretty much fast as possible. I’ll make sure the backers have access to everything. I’m not going to play games with holding stuff back.

The physical, deluxe editions will have components of the physical products that will make them interesting and enjoyable on their own, but not controlled by being able to see or not see the movies and the content. I am working on them as separate, involved endeavors.

But I’m nuts. I don’t like the whole “sign your work away to a distributor” thing, and my particular project is so over-time that I feel very beholden to getting it into hands the second it’s out there. It’s also my 4th (through 6th) rodeo; I’m happy to change things up.

But my contention stands: Films are difficult things to not get through a kickstarter without broken hearts. I don’t know how to walk it back, and I don’t know what people can do, other than be super educating at the start of a campaign so backers (and creators) are not heartbroken at the end.

Thanks.

by Jason Scott at June 26, 2016 08:41 PM

Karen De Coster

The Case Against Stay-At-Home Parents?

I only take the time to comment on this piece in Bloomberg (“The Hidden Cost for Stay-At-Home American Parents”) because I see many opinion pieces on this topic that are so poorly thought out and written, and they are rarely challenged for the shallow analysis that is presented.

The writer, Michelle Jamrisko, has cited a report that attempts to quantify the costs to a family when a parent stays at home to care for children. And this report is presented without introducing the qualitative aspects of having a stay-at-home parent, a decision that is subjectively determined by the participating individuals so that they may add more value to the family life than a paycheck, missed potential raises, and retirement assets (which are already based on the flawed conventional wisdom of a constant value or always-increasing stock market).

The decision around whether to go back to work after having a baby — and pay for childcare — is already difficult. American parents can now add another stark financial figure to their calculations: Each lost year of employment could cost a family more than three times a parent’s annual salary. *

They’re missing out on a regular paycheck, but also the opportunity costs including lost wage growth and retirement assets, according to a report released Tuesday from the Center for American Progress.

“Given the importance of parents’ careers in ensuring financial stability for their children, it’s a sign we’re not thinking through childcare as an economic problem when parents are deciding to take time off or not without good tools to see how it affects their incomes,” said Michael Madowitz, co-author of the report and an economist at the liberal Washington-based research institution.

This article presents the stay-at-home-parent family as a robotically-inclined one where the parents have not intelligently quantified all economic costs, including opportunity cost and future lost incomes that are, in reality, based on multiple fallacies. The lifetime economic loss quantified in this overly-simplistic scrutiny does not take into affect the base skill set of the stay-at-home parent; the potential earnings power based on that skill set, motivation, and work ethic; the ability or desire for the parents to save for the future; or the costs of childcare and part-time parents for a working couple, and how those costs impede the ability to save for retirement even if they desire to save.

The author brings up opportunity cost without bringing into question the opportunity costs of not raising your own children and instead allowing strangers to play that role 40+ hours per week while the parents come home for a few hours at night to scramble to keep the household in order. But mostly, the article never once takes into consideration why a parent chooses to stay home with their children – reasons which are mostly qualitative and based on the subjective preferences of the parents and the lifestyle they desire for themselves and their children.

Since a report by the Center for American Progress was the focal point of this article, one only need to take a slightly deeper dive into the story to understand that this is part of an ongoing plea on the part of the Left to obtain welfare - government-mandated benefits – for women who have children so they can get paid to stay home, or allow them to opt for government-subsidized (“affordable”) child care. In short, these reports and studies and articles are contrived to build mainstream support and drive political legislation for economically-dependent families that will be forever on the dole.

The view set forth to support the notion of family welfare for all is that parents are not capable of making decisions about caring for their own children because they have not used the appropriate conventional (flawed) models to quantify staying at home vs. choosing a paying career. So therefore, government should step in, and, if a parent does choose to stay home, there should be child care welfare provided so that family does not have to rearrange their priorities, or lifestyle, based on what is important to them.

The left is not at all concerned about why parents leave the workplace to have children or the vastly improved quality of life that these families benefit from by having a parent remain happily on the homefront in a full-time role. Left-wing institutions and special interests are only concerned with enlarging their constituent base and moving forward with their anti-family, welfare-based agenda.

Just for fun, I plugged in my own numbers into this interactive graph to determine my “economic losses” had I missed out on my career to care for children at age 30. My “losses” went into the many millions of dollars, with one component hinging on the “security” of government benefits and financial markets:

LOST RETIREMENT ASSETS AND BENEFITS: The combined losses from missed 401(k) plan contributions while on leave and the lost growth of those assets until retirement and reduced Social Security benefits.

This is in spite of the fact that current statistics show no or greatly reduced savings on the part of the baby boomer generation and beyond.

* In spite of the article reading “more than 3 times annual salary,” the report from CAP reads “up to 4 times annual salary…” So which is it, and how do we know that? This is the numbers game, with numerous institutions and associated special interests intentionally citing hollow sound bites as factual statistics because it is known that most readers will process and believe exactly what they read.

by Karen De Coster at June 26, 2016 05:30 PM

confused of calcutta

Of certainties and doubts

Still continuing with my experiment, in writing on medium and cross-posting here. I tried it the other way some years ago and it died a death. Let’s see. View story at Medium.com

by JP at June 26, 2016 07:07 AM

June 25, 2016

confused of calcutta

The Web and serendipity

Another cross-post from Medium. Still investigating how that pans out. View story at Medium.com

by JP at June 25, 2016 09:08 PM

ASCII by Jason Scott

Atari and Arcade Kickstarters To Back

I’m going to suggest two kickstarters you might consider backing.

The first is a consumer hardware thing: The folks at Dream Arcades, who I interviewed for my own documentary, have a new easy-to-use emulation station that they’re making available. As of this writing, the Kickstarter is at about 25%. It’s not for everyone – not everyone wants to spend a few hundred bucks on a professional-grade setup for playing old games. But if you think that it might be nice to have something that “just works”, then I can tell you I’ve toured this business, inspected the work they do, and interviewed the owner and employees about their outlook and approach to making something that sits in the home and office and works nicely. They make a nice thing, and this set of “Retro Consoles” is more of that. So back it if you’d not heard of it and decide you might want one, because they’re offering a nice discount via the Kickstarter.

(There’s a set of people who responded to this kickstarter by saying “I could do this so much cheaper using a [roll of toilet paper and a ham radio and a hacked Parker Brothers Merlin].” and yes, you probably could. You’re also the kind of person who does the oil change yourself and wouldn’t call Geek Squad if you were trapped under a boulder. I get that. It’s not something you want. But it’s a nicely made thing if you do.)

Nolan Bushnell
The second kickstarter warms my heart because it’s for episode 2 of a documentary that I was pleased even saw the light of day, much less start to achieve the road to being a mini-series: 8-Bit Generation Episode 2: Easy to Learn, Hard to Master.

With dozens of interviews conducted, many in-depth, I knew just from talking to the filmmakers over the past couple of years that they were hoping to have made the whole thing a mini-series, and now they were struggling to make just one episode. They decided to do just that episode on Commodore, and the resulting work definitely came out, and I saw it, and have a copy. It happened!

So the fact they’re moving on with an Episode 2 means that they are still trying to achieve the dream of a full miniseries, which is fantastic, because they have so much good material in it.

As of this writing, it’s at 50%, and that’s slightly troubling, because you think this would be a slam dunk. But there we are, and so if people want to see some truly unique historical interviews see the light of day as well-produced episodes, now’s your chance.

Anyway, there you go. I mention stuff like this on my twitter account, but it’s quite obvious that between non-linear timelines, spam, and who knows what else, something a person says on Twitter is no longer really guaranteed to reach an audience, so we’re back to weblog-land. And that reminds me: More entries to come!

by Jason Scott at June 25, 2016 08:17 PM

John C. Wright's Journal

Heroic Tales in the Twenty First Century – Conclusion

Here is the conclusion to my previous essay on heroic tales in the Twenty First Century, which time erenow forbade me to write:

The Twenty Firsters are in rebellion against all moral authority, in the name of independence, or of self actualization, or of self esteem, or something of the sort. Being against moral authority, they are also in rebellion against the truth about himself.

What is the truth about Man? It is mysterious, but certain facts about the human condition are so obvious that men prefer to forget them.

One such fact is this: Man is a creature who can envision what good and heroic life should be, and who falls short just often enough to let him realize that he cannot, under his own power, live such a life.

But the vision haunts and torments him. Despite his best and desperate efforts to lower himself to the moral condition of an animal who lives for nothing higher than simple, immediate gratification of appetites for food or mate or warmth or revenge against whatever frightens him, the vision of heroism will not let him be. The conscience that man by his own unaided, natural means cannot satisfy will not stay silent.

Without being literal, stories, even fantastic stories about impossible things can be truthful in three chords. Tales can be truthful and idealistic, telling about man as he should be in a better world, or be truthful and cynical, telling about man as he is in this fallen world. Some can even be truthful and despairing, warning of how much worse it might be in men surrendered to their base instincts.

But stories can also be lies.

I do not mean a story is a lie because it is not literal: no story is literal. I mean it lies fundamentally about the human condition.

The lie that currently preoccupies the Twenty Firsters is a false promised, offered by many liars under many different names, that man can find heaven on earth if only he disobeys all moral authority. The Socialist, for example, promises that if man breaks faith with the covenants and laws that make private property, liberty, and goodwill sacrosanct, abundance will shower from nowhere upon one and all. The Nazi promises that breaking faith with the brotherhood of man, the weakness caused by the Christian religion, and the chains placed on the bold, new leader by the dead hand of law and order, that all will be well. The Pop Psychologist promises likewise that if men cease to attempt to avoid guilt by avoiding bad acts, but instead commit the bad acts and merely wish the guilt not to trouble them, they will be guilt-free and filled with self-esteem. The Feminist promises that by violating the sacredness of matrimony and virginity, overturning the authority of males, abolishing masculinity from men and femininity from females, all the evils of the world will vanish like bad dreams. Once all the evil slut-shamers are shamed to silence, for example, we can all be sluts together, and happy.

The modern lie is that there is some third option, some new form of mankind, different from the ideal man, the hero, as once he was before the fall, and different from the common man, the sinner, as we all here and now find ourselves to be. This new man will give up on moral rules he cannot follow; he will write his own; he will invent a new morality as different from old morality as a new primary color is different from red or blue or yellow.

But this third man is not found in nature and not found in our consciences. We have neither experience nor instinct to tell us what he should be like. He is a mere extrapolation invented by an intellectual of what a man would be like if he lacked one of the most basic truths about human nature. He is an homunculus, a mannequin.

And so all stories are staffed with the mannequins that the Twenty-Firster theory of how men should live dictate. The mannequins neither act like real people you know nor like heroes and heroines you can, in the light of your conscience, you can see and recognize as an ideal.

They are a false ideal, a self-contradictory ideal, an ideal based on a lie, and so their stiff painted smiles and dead eyes eventually repulse any normal man of good taste or proper artistic insight.

On the theory that there is no difference between black and white historical experience, the mannequins are stuffed awkwardly into roles of the wrong race. On the theory that there is no difference between male and female psychology, the mannequins are stuffed into roles of the opposite sex. On the theory that all moral authority is false, male figures such as fathers and husbands are shown to be despots or fools or both. On the theory that sex is so important that it gives once license to violate all fealty and good faith between the sexes, and at the same time so unimportant that only a fool would expect fealty and good faith, sex is always portrayed as if marital sex is unappealing, but adultery, fornication, and perversion are daring and romantic and consequence-free.

The fakes don’t act like real people, or like ideal people.

And that is why the Twenty Firsters, even if otherwise superb in their skill at telling tales, always veer into the boring, stupid, unconvincing swamp of political correctness, and take a beloved character who otherwise lives and breathes and has verisimilitude, kill him, dunk him in wax, and turn him into a waxworks doll, just enough like a real storybook character should be that a man of taste and sense sees how unreal the mannequin is.

You can have political correctness in a story, You can have heroism in a story. But the more you have of one, the less you have of the other.

by John C Wright at June 25, 2016 06:10 AM

The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

The Main Message of Your Bible

Article by: Bryan Chapell

The Bible declares its main message right at the dawn of human history: After God made all things “good,” everything went bad as a consequence of the evil that entered the world through human sin. In order for everything to be made right again, God designed a plan to rescue humanity and the broken world from sin’s corruptions. He told Satan, who first tempted humanity to sin:

I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel. (Gen. 3:15)

These emblematic words, sometimes called the “First Gospel,” are God’s inaugural announcement of the solution he will provide for humanity’s sinful predicament. They also establish the theme for the rest of Scripture. From this point forward, the great battle unfolds between the offspring of Satan (his evil forces) and the offspring of the woman (God’s appointed Redeemer), and the outcome of the conflict is certain: Satan will wound the Redeemer (“bruise his heel”), but the Redeemer will deal Satan a mortal blow (“he shall bruise your head”).

God will graciously provide a divine deliverance from the human dilemma.

All About Christ

This theme of gracious provision is the context of all that follows in the Bible. All the subsequent history and messages of Scripture are elements in this unfolding story of divine rescue. Every battle, famine, disease, betrayal, enslavement, and evil is Satan’s attempt to hinder the work of the offspring of Eve coming to crush him. And every rescue of the weak, provision for the needy, maintenance of a remnant, restoration of the broken, protection of the defenseless, pardon of the prodigals, forgiveness of the faithless, preservation of a people, covenant with the undeserving, supply of beauty for ashes, and mercy for the repentant is an expression of the grace that will culminate in the victory of the divinely appointed Redeemer.

God doesn’t intend for this divine crusade of redemption merely to interest us. As the apostle Paul writes, “Whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Rom. 15:4). The history, poetry, symbols, and instructions of Scripture vary greatly in style but not in their intention: all are intended to affect our response to life in our fallen world. Though evil is always present and frequently prevails, we are not to despair. With a patient confidence in God’s ultimate providence, and the assurance of the Scriptures that his redemption is ongoing, we always have hope.

Such hope isn’t in our own strength, wisdom, or goodness, but in the gracious plan and purposes of God. This means that we’re to trust him, believing that he will provide for our needs. Our most basic need is for spiritual and eternal security. That’s why Jesus said, “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:36).

Our souls are made secure by our union with Christ through faith in his redeeming work (Gal. 2:20; Eph. 2:8–9). All of Scripture points us toward trust in Christ as our Redeemer. Jesus himself taught this when, “beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to [his disciples] in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27). Earlier he had explained that all of the Scriptures “bear witness” about him (John 5:39). Jesus wasn’t claiming that every verse of the Bible mentions him (though many obviously do), but rather that all Scriptures coordinate their message to reveal the grace of God that culminates in Christ.

Four Categories of Texts

All scriptural texts give us a way of interpreting our world and of understanding our God from a redemptive perspective. Some predict the coming of Christ; some prepare us to understand aspects of his nature or ministry; some reflect the human predicament that requires rescue; and some encourage a grateful and obedient response as a result of God’s redemption.

These four categories can help us see how passages that don’t specifically mention a Redeemer still reveal his grace. For example, the apostle Paul teaches key truths about the gospel in his discussions of the law. Though he never denies the importance of obedience, he confesses that the righteous requirements of a holy God were always beyond his grasp (e.g., Gal. 2:16). No one is capable of holiness by his or her own efforts. The Old Testament says that even our best works are “like a polluted garment” in God’s sight (Isa. 64:6), and in the New Testament our Savior echoes this theme, declaring that, even when we have kept God’s commands to the best of our ability, our attitude should be that “we are unworthy servants” (Luke 17:10).

Thus, the same law that reveals the requirements of God’s holiness simultaneously reveals the inescapable reality of our own unholiness. Because of the great disproportion between our best works and God’s righteousness, we are always and forever incapable of the righteousness that would reconcile us to a holy God. This hardly seems like a redemptive message in itself. Indeed, we would have no hope, unless God were to provide some way (i.e., some One) to rescue us—and he does.

By revealing the holy nature of the God who provides redemption and the finite nature of humanity that requires redemption, the law points to the necessity of a Redeemer and prepares the human heart to seek him. The law, however, is only one aspect of Scripture that helps flesh out the person and work of Christ without making explicit mention of him. Ultimately all the Scriptures are pointing both to our inescapable need and to God’s unconditional provision of a Savior.

Grace for Change

In no way does this unfolding message of grace diminish our responsibility to honor and obey our God, but it does change the priorities of our interpretations of Scripture. Most people approach biblical texts with only one question in mind: What does the Bible tell me to do? But if we only use biblical texts to tell us what to do, we are actually pointing away from the hope the Bible is designed to convey.

Many biblical texts clearly teach moral imperatives, but to teach or attempt these in isolation from the Bible’s theme of redeeming grace destroys hope. Human effort alone is incapable of meeting the requirements of a holy God (Rom. 3:23; 1 John 1:8). Simply challenging ourselves, or charging others, to live a holy life according to all the Bible’s standards will lead either to despair (“I cannot do this”) or to false pride (“I can do enough to be holy”).

No one can serve God without Christ’s enabling. Apart from him we stand condemned; apart from him we can do nothing (John 3:18; 15:5). His grace alone frees us from the guilt and power of sin. Freedom from guilt fills us with the desire to honor Christ according to the standards he provides (Rom. 12:1–2), and the indwelling of his promised Holy Spirit gives us the power to do so (1 John 4:4).

Thus, the grace of God provides our motivation and ability to serve him. Hearts filled with thanksgiving for his unconditional love do not turn away from his standards (John 14:15). On the contrary, the love of God controls us (2 Cor. 5:14) as we seek to demonstrate love for the One who first loved us (1 John 4:19). Such demonstration of our love for God requires instruction in the imperatives of God’s Word. If we love him, we want to know how to serve and honor him.

This same love changes the desires of our hearts that otherwise lead us into temptation (James 1:14). And when the desire to sin diminishes in our hearts, the power of sin over our lives dies (Rom. 6:14).

Thus, when we teach the imperatives of the Bible, we must also show how such texts reveal the grace that motivates and enables us to accomplish what God calls us to do.

The Bible’s message of grace does not ignore or minimize the commands of Scripture. Grace gives broken people in a broken world hope for a better future and better lives. They have an eternal future because the grace of God frees them from the guilt of sin, and they have joyful lives because the grace of God frees them from the grip of sin. As this message of God’s grace in Christ dominates our understanding of Scripture, we bring glory to God by serving him, his purposes, and his people. 

Editors’ note: This excerpt is adapted from the ESV Men’s Devotional Bible (Crossway, 2015). 

by Bryan Chapell at June 25, 2016 05:02 AM

Hope After Brexit

Article by: Bernard N. Howard

Yesterday, June 23, a national referendum was held on the question of Britain’s future within the European Union—a group of 28 nations united by free trade, freedom of movement, and institutions such as the European Commission and the European Parliament. The choice was simple: leave or remain. (“Brexit,” short for “British exit” is the popular term for the first of those options.) To the surprise of the world’s financial markets and the pollsters, the British people narrowly voted to leave the EU, by a margin of 51.9 percent to 48.1 percent.

If we’re to follow the example of the men of Issachar, who “had understanding of the times” (1 Chron. 12:32), what should we conclude about this decision? What are the likely ripple effects when the nation with the world’s fifth-biggest economy and a long history of Christian mission steps away from partnership with 27 neighboring nations?

I voted for Brexit, so the observations below will inevitably tilt toward that side of the debate. Many committed Christians were for remain, and their thoughts will be different. Rather than pouring fuel on the flames in a time of concern, this article is intended as a defense of Britain’s decision that may offer people some reassurance.

Reasons for Alarm

At first glance, the prognosis might seem gloomy. The International Monetary Fund has predicted that Brexit will lead to a British recession, which would inevitably hit poorer people hardest. Early financial indicators could be used to support that negative outlook: the British pound initially lost more than 10 percent of its value, and the FTSE 100 (the main British stock market index) fell more than 8 percent when the market opened. But snap reactions from the markets aren’t a reliable guide to long-term economic effect. And just as British trade didn’t begin in 1973 when Britain entered the EU, it won’t end in 2016 with Britain’s vote to leave. Many smaller nations trade successfully without participating in wider trading blocs; the world’s fifth-biggest economy will be able to do the same.

Aside from the economy, some have claimed that Brexit was the result of hostility toward immigrants coming to work in Britain from elsewhere in the EU. According to that analysis, Brexit fits a global narrative of rising aggressive nationalism, arguably paralleled in the United States with the Republican presidential campaign of Donald Trump.

With that in mind, any weakening of the EU—whose existence has coincided with 70 years of peace in Western Europe—looks worrying. It would, however, be more accurate to credit recent decades of peace to NATO than the EU, as demonstrated by the two organizations’ respective roles in the war in the former Yugoslavia. And tensions over immigration in the UK are actually likely to decrease thanks to Brexit, now that the United Kingdom Independence Party, often accused of stirring up hostility, no longer has a reason for being.

Turning to specifically Christian matters, Philip Moore (Acts 29’s Europe director) said before the vote,

The EU . . . offers more gospel opportunities and therefore church-planting opportunities than it denies, and [Britain] remaining in offers British citizens and British churches more scope and ease for their work.

Now that Brexit is on the way, it seems fair to say that those opportunities won’t be so readily available. British missionaries in Europe will, in time, face the administrative burden of applying for visas and a new uncertainty over their residency status. Yet Jim Sayers, who is employed by a mission agency supporting missionaries in Europe, is confident that mission will continue:

The mission agency I work for has been helping support missionaries in Europe for 50 years. We sent missionaries into Spain when Franco was in power, into Belgium and France before we entered the EEC (as it was then) and long before free movement was introduced. We sent missionaries into Austria and Latvia a decade before either of those countries joined the EU. No one had their visas refused.

So the reasons for apprehensiveness have probably been overstated. And a strong case can be made that the referendum’s result is, in fact, something Christians should positively welcome. Two main reasons for cheering Brexit particularly stand out.

Reasons to Take Heart

1. The EU’s deeply ingrained faults justify departure.

The ideals and aspirations of the EU—harmonious international co-operation and peace—are admirable. But the gap between those ideals and the actual nature of the EU has now become so wide that, arguably, it can’t be closed. While it was said during the referendum campaign that remaining in the EU would allow Britain to speak up for reform, one voice among 28 has slim influence. And the following select examples of the EU’s faults have an ingrained nature that makes it hard to see how reform could ever come about:

  • According to the London Times, the European Court of Auditors has now refused to give the EU budget a clean bill of health for 21 years in a row. In the words of The Times, “More than €133.6 billion of European Union budget payments last year were ‘affected by material error,’ with official auditors expected to brand them as irregular and possibly illegal.”
  • Even when money is spent legally by the EU, it’s not spent well. For example, every single month, for just four days, the whole European Parliament moves to an entirely different country, traveling from Brussels (in Belgium) to Strasbourg (in France). The estimated cost, every year, is €180 million ($200 million). Politico explains: “Strasbourg is the official seat of the European Parliament, but Brussels is home to most of its permanent staff and committees and hosts several plenary sessions a year. The dual citizenship means that up to 10,000 people must travel twelve times a year from Brussels to Strasbourg to debate and vote on legislation.” When one considers that youth unemployment in Greece, Spain, and Italy—three of the EU’s core countries—is 48.9 percent, 45.3 percent, and 39.1 percent respectively, the wastefulness of this perpetual motion substantiates the view that a lost generation of young people is being ill-served by the EU’s wealthy bureaucrats.
  • The most serious example of the harmfulness of the EU is its effect on Africa. From Africa’s perspective, the EU is a group of wealthy nations that have banded together to protect their own interests from African competition. The result is that European farmers can prosper while much needier African farmers face the unfair barriers of EU tariffs and subsidies. It’s often said that poorer people and countries should be given fishing rods rather than fish. When that proverb is translated into global economics, it suggests doing whatever possible to assist African trade. But the EU does precisely the opposite. For decades it has been, as it were, breaking African fishing rods in two. This is one of the factors leading many Africans to risk their lives sailing on rafts across the Mediterranean, desperately trying to get into the EU. They realize that everything is currently loaded in Europe’s favor. Brexit will allow Britain to form new trading partnerships with African nations without the barriers that currently get in Africa’s way.

2. The Bible takes a dim view of empires.

On the Canongate Wall in Edinburgh, these words from Alasdair Gray are carved in marble: “Work as if you live in the early days of a better nation.”

It’s a powerful quote because we can all imagine the hope and energy a people would share as they begin building a new nation. Try substituting “empire” for “nation” in the quote. It doesn’t have the same ring, because we don’t relate to empires in the same way. When different nations are clustered into one empire, the people in that empire become utterly insignificant and disposable. Their voice no longer has any sway. In George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, the world is divided between three superstates: Oceania, Eurasia, and Eastasia. Great Britain has become a portion of Oceania known as Airstrip One. The sheer scale of these superstates is one of the reasons why the people in the novel are so helpless.

The Bible similarly treats empires as threatening and dangerous. In the Book of Daniel, for instance, the four successive empires that ruled over the ancient world in the 600 years before Christ are depicted as terrifying beasts. Nations, on the other hand, are portrayed as God’s invention and a means of grace. As Paul explains to the Athenians,

From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. (Acts 17:26, 27)

While some might dispute the idea that the EU is an empire, it can’t be denied that its legislation takes precedence over the internal laws of its member states. And its trajectory has only ever moved in one direction: from a trading partnership, to an economic community, to a pan-national political union. Since 1999 its core nations have shared the same currency. Its leaders, the EU Commissioners, can’t be voted out of office by the people of its member states. These are all imperial traits.

Of course, those who belong to an empire must submit to it as the authority God has set in place (Rom. 13:1). And just as Paul enjoyed freedom of movement throughout the Roman Empire, pan-national union will inevitably have some advantages. But if the opportunity comes for a nation to gain freedom, to take responsibility for its own laws, and to make its leaders accountable to its own people, then from a biblical perspective that is something to be seized with both hands.

Ultimate Hope

The Christian faith should make us more concerned about the health of our nation than we otherwise would be. Paul tells Timothy,

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. (1 Tim. 2:1, 2)

In the same letter, Paul points out that God’s law has been laid down not only for believers but for everyone (1 Tim. 1:8–10), which means Christians ought to know what will work best for whole societies.

We should, therefore, have more to say about politics, economics, and international relations than narrow reflections on how those things might affect the work of the gospel (as important as that question is). It’s a mistake to isolate ourselves through pietism, which is defined by Tim Keller in his book Center Church as a focus “on the inner individual experience [that] does not expect or ask how the experience of salvation will change the way we use our money, do our work, create our art, pursue our education, etc.” In pietistic Christianity, “personal salvation is offered without much thought as to how Christianity substantially changes a people’s attitude toward power and powerlessness, art and commerce, cultural ritual and symbolism.” No doubt many British Christians in recent weeks have wanted to crawl under a rock to escape all discussion of the pros and cons of Brexit, but ultimately it’s right to engage as broadly as possible in the disussion.

Yet even while our faith fuels interest in national affairs, it should also enable us to hold these developments loosely. In Psalm 2, the nations gather together in rebellion against God and his anointed one. God responds by saying to his Son,

Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,     and the ends of the earth your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron     and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel. (Ps. 2:8, 9)

This is the fate of all nations, so our only hope is to pay homage to the Son (Ps. 2:12). He saves us from the rod of punishment by receiving it himself, in our place, that we might receive eternal life in his perfect kingdom.

Bernard N. Howard is a Jewish believer in Jesus and British exile living in New York. He and his wife, Betsy, are seeking to plant a new Anglican church in Manhattan in 2017. Now and again Bernard blogs at sixtyguilders.org. You can follow him on Twitter.

by Bernard N. Howard at June 25, 2016 12:02 AM

June 24, 2016

Market Urbanism

Market Urbanism MUsings June 24, 2016

George Lucas gives up battle against Chicago NIMBY group that defends a parking lot

 

1. This week at Market Urbanism

Brent Gaisford contributed Lack of New Housing On The Westside Is Causing Gentrification Of East And South LA

There are a lot of reasons for gentrification, but the lack of new housing on the Westside deserves a lot of the blame in recent years. As we’ve discussed, social and economic changes are pulling new people into LA, many of them young and affluent. A lot of those new people would probably like to live on the Westside, but we aren’t building any places for them to go.

2. Where’s Scott?

Scott Beyer flew back Monday from Boulder to Dallas. The most surprising thing he found about the YIMBY conference was how dramatically the fight for land-use deregulation has become a progressive cause. Almost everyone there identified as liberal, and was representing cities like New York, San Francisco, Portland, Los Angeles and Seattle. This growing bipartisan consensus around zoning reform is a subject Scott will soon cover for Forbes.

3. At the Market Urbanism Facebook Group:

Jeff Andrade-Fong introduces a new YIMBY org: Tech for Housing

Roger Valdez at Forbes: Seattle Mayor’s Affordability Scheme Is More Politics, Less Helpful Change

Roger Valdez at Smart Growth Seattle: Lot Suit: City’s Motion to Dismiss Fails, Compares Housing to Porn, Drugs

Adam Milsap‘s latest at Forbes: Los Angeles’ New Manufacturing Hub Won’t Generate Innovation

Krishan Madan is curious how to respond to arguments that new housing burdens local schools

via Nolan Gray: Why the elevator could be the next great disruptive technology by Matthew Yglesias

via John Morris: Are artists abandoning NYC? (audio)

Jedediah Mackenzie Weeks wants to know what Market Urbanists think of Baltimore‘s Port Covington redevelopment proposal

via John Morris: Local Businesses Clash with the City of Portland Over Major Thoroughfare’s Road Diet

Bob McGrew wants to hear from Market Urbanists attending the Boulder YIMBY conference.  (I’ll be posting something soon)

John Morris sparks several conversations about Chicago‘s inability to capitalize on its rail system to promote transit oriented development (several posts and threads)

via Nick Zaiac: “It’s not often that Cato actually publishes market urbanist friendly pieces.”

Lancer Davis Burguière introduces “Lean Urbanism,” which certainly ties in well with Market Urbanism

via Nolan Gray: What is Austrian Economics Good For?  (“More market than urbanism”)

via Nick Zaiac, who says, “New Zealand seems to be getting on the congestion pricing train:” Government Warms to Auckland Road Tolls

Nick Zaiac is doing research on historic districts, and is looking for “good papers on the percentages of different (US) cities that are in historic districts”

Sam Goetz is looking for a “definitive study or article out there that really tackles the question of how / if AirBnB raises rents in cities”

via David Brickford: What’s Your Definition of Affordable Housing? Phoenix Tries To Answer

via Adam Hengels: Chicago‘s Advantages by Aaron Renn

Adam Millsap “can’t shake the idea that the success of Indianapolis, Columbus, and Minneapolis-St. Paul is in part due to them being state capitals.”

via Roger Valdez: Sure The Middle Class Is Shrinking: 30% Of Americans Are Now Too Rich To Be In The Middle Class

4. Elsewhere:

Planetizen summarized Dan Keshet‘s Three Lessons Public Transit Can Learn From Uber

“YIMBY” Movement Heats Up in BoulderNext City

Tired of battling a NIMBY organization, George Lucas Officially Pulls Plug on Museum Plan for Chicago and shifts search to West Coast – Curbed

Chicago developers are revising plans to take advantage of a new bonus program – Curbed

The Center For State & Local Government Excellence summarizes urban America’s lousy unfunded pension situation

5. Stephen Smith‘s tweet of the week:

by Adam Hengels at June 24, 2016 09:00 PM

Englewood Review of Books » ERB

ERB Weekly Digest – Harper Lee, Will Willimon, White Trash, George Herbert – June 24, 2016

 
 

Study the NT with Scot McKnight

 

Robert Putnam’s AMERICAN GRACE is on sale now for $3.99 for Kindle!
PLUS, books by Sarah Bessey, Douglas Coupland, Chris Hedges, and others.
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Reviews, etc. posted this week on The ERB website:

  • William Willimon – Fear of the Other [Feature Review]
    What if the problem is not out there, but in our own hearts? A Feature Review of Fear of the Other: No Fear in Love William Willimon Paperback: Abingdon Press, 2016 Buy now:  [  ]   [  ]   Reviewed by James Honig   The long months of the presidential campaign have given people of […]
     
  • 5 Essential Ebook Deals for Christian Readers – 24 June 2016
    Here are 5 essential ebooks on sale now that are worth checking out: ( Sarah Bessey, Robert Putnam, Dallas Willard, MORE) Via our sister website Thrifty Christian Reader… To keep up with all the latest ebook deals, be sure to connect with TCR via email or on Facebook…   Sarah Bessey *** $3.99 *** NEXT […]
     
  • George Herbert – Five Favorite Poems
    In honor of the elegant new collection of George Herbert’s poems from Cambridge University Press, here are five of our favorite poems of his that are featured in this new book:   George Herbert: 100 Poems Hardback: Cambridge UP, June 2016. Buy now: [  ]   The Holdfast George Herbert I threatened to observe the […]
     
  • Robert Orsi – History and Presence [Review]
    Hopeful Suspence   A Review of History and Presence Robert Orsi Hardback: Harvard UP, 2016 Buy now: [  ]  [  ]   Reviewed by Ben Brazil     In 1988, Robert Orsi, an eminent historian of American religion, visited a shrine in a dead boy’s bedroom.  The shrine’s story had begun a decade earlier, just […]
     
  • Nancy Isenberg – White Trash [Video Introduction]
    The most important new book release of this week was most likely: White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America Nancy Isenberg Hardback: Viking Books, 2016 Buy now:  [  ]  [  ]   Here is a great video of a talk in which she overviews the argument of the book…       […]

     

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by csmith at June 24, 2016 08:39 PM

Workout: June 27, 2016

Every minute on the minute: Minutes 0-4 2 high-hang snatches Rest minutes 5 & 6 Minutes 7-11 2 hang snatches Rest minutes 12 & 13 Minutes 14-18 2 full snatches

by Mike at June 24, 2016 08:00 PM

Workout: June 26, 2016

The Pull-Push Party 10 rounds of: Row 100 m Sled push 100 ft.

by Mike at June 24, 2016 07:57 PM

Karen De Coster

Intellectually Gifted Children: the New Retarded

A friend of mine has been having school problems with her two male children, ages 9 and 7. Issues of behavior, “inappropriate” comments (meaning, brutally honest), and a lack of “fitting in.” Hearing the problems at hand, and knowing their parents are smarties, it always seemed to me that these kids were very likely intellectually gifted.

She took these kids to a respectable assessment center, this month, where they were both tested extensively by PhDs who specialize in such stuff. High overview is: they tested with IQs of 132 and 147, respectively, with even higher vocabulary skills, and that was no surprise. Of course, they will be yanked from the government prison they are in, but appropriate schools around here are more pricey than college, and it takes months to comb through applications, search for private financial aid, and win acceptances.

In the meantime, I read an exchange between my friend and the school principal that infuriated me, and they ain’t even my kids. This person is entirely focused on the 7-year-old’s (IQ of 147) “lack of performance” lately, and his falling test scores, in spite of the fact that he’s doing complex math problems way beyond his grade level. On and on this guy went, completely focused on percentiles and scores and comparing this brilliant child to the other kids who have the ability to robotically “cram” for tests and get higher grades than her son.

Oh, and this 7-year-old boy with a 147 IQ? He had been placed in Special Education a few years ago because … he just wasn’t fitting neatly and quietly into the little round hole that had been assigned for him. This is why the government indoctrination system is a criminal entity that is entirely destructive of human capabilities. This is why government schools – unlike free institutions – have to *force* children to attend by threatening parents with charges and jail time.

by Karen De Coster at June 24, 2016 06:32 PM

The Art of Non-Conformity

4 Travel Hacking Tricks for Domestic Trips

I received a note from a reader who wanted to know about traveling domestically. I admit that most of what I get excited about in the world of travel hacking relates to international travel. I like flying around the planet and changing as many as twelve time zones at once, only to do it again a few days later.

But not everyone feels the same way, and besides—even if you travel far and wide, you still probably need to travel shorter distances from time to time too.

How can you benefit from travel hacking when planning relatively simple trips? Here are four very helpful tricks.

 

1. Use Skiplagged for hidden-city ticketing.

Hidden-city ticketing is the art of booking a flight to nowhere—a throwaway segment that you don’t use, but you purchase just because it’s cheaper than buying the ticket to the city you’re transiting through. Airlines don’t like it when you do this, but there’s nothing illegal or morally wrong about it.

The challenge is that unless you have a very good understanding of fare pricing, you don’t really know how to search for hidden-city itineraries. Say you’re going to Chicago, and the flight is super pricey—but if you fly via Chicago on a ticket to Madison, Wisconsin, it’s $150 less. How do you know to search for Madison in the first place?

Well, now there’s a site (and an accompanying app!) that will do it for you, and it’s totally free.

Hop over to Skiplagged.com for your next search, and see if you can save. Oh, and when traveling on a hidden-city ticket, be sure you don’t check bags, since you’re not going all the way to your “final destination.”

This site has gone from being something I check once in a while to something I check almost every time I book a domestic ticket. You won’t always save, but often you will—and if not, at least you know you’re not missing out.


 

2. When booking at short-notice, award tickets are your friend.

Buying plane tickets at the last-minute can be expensive. Airlines are smart, and they know that people who purchase on short notice are in a much different position than people who plan three months in advance. If you buy a ticket to leave tomorrow, chances are it’s not a leisure trip. Therefore, the last-minute airfare market is much more focused on business travelers, who (at least in theory) can pay more than leisure travelers.

But there’s a simple strategy that can very often eliminate not only the price gap, but actually the price altogether: use your miles!

As long as seats aren’t filled, award availability tends to open up A LOT in the days leading up to departure. Most people don’t think to use their miles when time is short, but it’s often the best time to do so.

This is yet another reason why you should be earning points and miles in different programs, even if you don’t have a trip in mind at the moment. Think of it like having a whole set of emergency plane tickets in your pocket.

Lastly, be aware that some airlines charge “close-in” ticketing fees, which is annoying. These can sometimes be waived if you have elite status in that airline. Still, paying $75 + miles for a ticket is better than paying a very expensive walk-up fare.


 

3. Hack your way to the Southwest Airlines Companion Pass.

Southwest Airlines is loved by many U.S. travelers, and its business model has been copied all over the world. The airline has no real hubs and mostly operates point-to-point flights.

With other airlines, you want to earn elite status so you can get upgraded. With Southwest, there are no upgrades, but if you earn enough points in any given year, you gain the ability to bring a companion of your choice on all your flights for free during the next year (they just pay the taxes). Wow!

Even as a non-Southwest flyer, I admit that this is a pretty nice perk. So how do you earn 110,000 points if you don’t spend your life on airplanes like I do? Simple: you get both the personal and business Southwest Airlines cards. During limited time offer periods, which tend to come around at least twice a year, both cards will get you 50,000 points. To find the link for the Business card, click on “Are you a business owner?” from the application link.

Getting both cards brings you to 100,000 points, just 10,000 points away from that elusive Companion pass. Or actually, you’ll only be 6,000 points away, since the 4,000 points you earned for the $4,000 in minimum spend for the cards ($2,000 each) will also count. Bam!

Read more | Apply here


 

4. Get at least one hotel elite status.

Hotel elite status gets you free breakfast, upgraded rooms, and late check-out—at minimum. In nicer hotels you may also have lounge access and additional perks.

If you haven’t had status before, you may think you have to spend 100 nights a year at any particular chain to get it. But no! Hotel status is easily hacked. Very often, opportunities pop up where you can earn at least mid-level status merely for signing up. You can then use that status to get “matched” elsewhere, and the match is usually good for at least one year.

Oh, and one tip: it’s usually much easier to maintain a legit hotel elite status than it is to maintain a legit airline status. Airline status can get matched too, but maintaining it over time requires a lot of work. Hotels are easy.

Also, these credit cards also come with built-in elite status just for carrying them.


 

Bonus Tip: Drive a rental car across the country.

OK, I’ve never actually done this. But it’s totally possible!

If you’d like to take a one-way road trip with someone else’s car (you’re essentially delivering it for them), take a look at either AutoDriveaway.com (U.S.) or HittheRoad.ca (Canada + U.S.).

These services exist because people often need to move their cars cross-country and aren’t able to do it themselves. They pay a fee and the service arranges logistics and insurance. If you’re approved as a driver, you’re free to roam as soon as you pay a refundable deposit. You don’t have to be from the U.S. to do a U.S. road trip—as long as you have a passport with a valid visa and a drivers license from your home country, you can qualify.

For any given assignment, you’re allowed a certain number of days and what they call “an appropriate amount of miles” to complete the trip. I assume that means you can sightsee a little along the way, but you can’t drive 1,000 miles in the opposite direction of your destination.

After dropping off the car you’ll have to get back to where you started, of course. But that’s why you have miles and points… right?

Even if you don’t want to take showers on airplanes or fly around the world in a week, travel hacking can still help you. Get those points and put them to good use!

###

Images: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

by Chris Guillebeau at June 24, 2016 06:17 PM

John C. Wright's Journal

From the pen of John Lott

John R. Lott, author of MORE GUNS LESS CRIME, holds forth on the unwisdom of so called Gun-free zones. They are, of course, Self-Defense-free zones, herds of prey were there are no bulls with sharp, scary horns to defend the cows and calves.

These shooters are crazy, but not stupid. Even dumb beasts know to attack the weakest member of the herd.

http://www.nationalreview.com/article/425802/look-facts-gun-free-zones-john-lott

Mass killers have even explicitly talked about their desire to attack gun-free zones. The Charleston, S.C., church shooting in June was instead almost a college shooting. But that killer changed his plans after realizing that the College of Charleston had armed guards.

The diary of the “Dark Knight” movie-theater killer, James Holmes, was finally released just a few months ago. Holmes decided not to attack an airport because of what he described in his diary as its “substantial security.” Out of seven theaters showing the Batman movie premiere within 20 minutes of the suspect’s apartment, only one theater banned permitted concealed handguns. That’s the one he attacked.

Or take two cases from last year. Elliot Rodger, who fatally shot three people in Santa Barbara, Calif., explained his reasoning in his 141-page “manifesto.” He ruled out various targets because he worried that someone with a gun would stop his killing spree.

Justin Bourque shot to death three people in Canada. On Facebook, Bourque posted a picture of a defenseless victim explaining to killers that guns are prohibited. Shooters have good reason to be concerned.

Here are some examples from the past few years.

— Conyers, Ga., May 31, 2015: A permit holder was walking by a store when he heard shots ring out. Two people were killed. The permit holder started firing, and the killer ran out of the store. Rockdale County Sheriff Eric Levett said: “I believe that if Mr. Scott did not return fire at the suspect, then more of those customers would have [been] hit by a gun[shot]. . . . So, in my opinion he saved other lives in that store.”

— Chicago, April 2015: An Uber driver who had just dropped off a fare “shot and wounded a gunman [Everardo Custodio] who opened fire on a crowd of people.” Assistant State’s Attorney Barry Quinn praised the driver for “acting in self-defense and in the defense of others.”

— Philadelphia, Pa., March 2015: A permit holder was walking by a barber shop when he heard shots fired. He quickly ran into the shop and shot the gunman to death. Police Captain Frank Llewellyn said, “I guess he saved a lot of people in there.”

— Darby, Pa., July 2014: Convicted felon Richard Plotts killed a hospital caseworker and shot the psychiatrist that he was scheduled to meet with. Fortunately, the psychiatrist was a concealed-handgun permit holder and was able to critically wound Plotts. Plotts was still carrying 39 bullets and could have shot many other people.

— Chicago, July 2014: Three gang members fired on four people who had just left a party. Fortunately, one of these four was a military serviceman with a concealed-handgun permit. He was able to return fire and wound the main attacker while keeping the others at bay. The UK’s Daily Mail reported, “The night might have had a very different outcome had the incident occurred a year earlier [before Illinois’s concealed-handgun law was passed].”

— Plymouth, Pa., September 2012: William Allabaugh critically wounded one man inside a restaurant and murdered a second man on the street outside. Luzerne County Assistant District Attorney Jarrett Ferentino said that without the concealed-handgun permit holder who wounded Allabaugh, “we believe that it could have been much worse that night.”

— Spartanburg, S.C., March 2012: Armed with a shotgun, Jesse Gates kicked in a door to his church. Concealed-carry permit holder Aaron Guyton drew his gun and held Gates at gun point, enabling other parishioners to disarm Gates. Spartanburg County Sheriff Chuck Wright called the churchgoers heroes. Though Gates was stopped before anyone was harmed, he was still charged with one count of kidnapping and three counts of pointing and presenting a firearm.

None of these stories received national news coverage.

by John C Wright at June 24, 2016 05:45 PM

Front Porch Republic

The Day the Improbable Happened

In 2014, I was in Glasgow for the Scottish referendum. I had spent the day before the referendum out and about in Glasgow and the “Yes” for independence vote was out in force, and as such I got a very different impression about which way the vote might go based solely on what I saw “on the ground.” The same thing happened last night. As I observed Londoners yesterday 8 out of every 10 stickers I saw people wearing were “In,” and I told more than one friend before I went to bed that I thought the Remain camp had just edged it, 52-48. It turns out I was right about the margin, but wrong about the winner. It’s the morning of a shocking result for everyone, even those unabashedly “Leave” like myself. Many of us have never had a political result go “our way” in our lifetimes.

During the campaign those of us who wanted to Leave were told we were racists, isolationists, and economic naïfs. If only we were smart enough to trust the so-called experts (who had warned what would happen to the UK economy if it didn’t join the euro). I had already lost interest in answering these accusations and in a way, I had already moved on. Whatever way the vote went, I was happy that the arguments had been made, for both sides, and I was wearied by the long campaign. Frankly, I wasn’t prepared for Leave to win, and perhaps neither were the official Leave campaign. Boris Johnson was said to have told someone going home on the Tube last night that he thought Leave had lost.

As I woke up to dozens of overnight texts and emails from the U.S., who had watched Sky call it for Out early in the morning UK time, I was anxious to get to find out reaction from the populace itself and set out for a coffee shop in Central London to get a sense of the mood. I watched two clearly very close friends who often get coffee together quickly decide, after a terse and quickly escalated exchange, that they were just going to discuss other things (the Remain lady was more upset and tried to find her solace in some sudoku). The Korean War veteran I managed to speak with for a few minutes shared with me an unpleasant conversation he had had with David Cameron earlier in the year at a British Legion event at which he told the PM what for. But I knew these views were just a small part of the bigger story, and a coffee shop would only give me a steady drip of opinion, whereas I was ready for the firehose of freewheeling interviews with politicians across from Westminster on College Green. I headed over with a friend I had met for coffee, a fellow Brexite(e)r, and went to look upon the media fracas.

It was really a great opportunity to engage with both the people who had made a compelling case during the referendum – I met people like Peter Bone, Jacob Rees-Mogg, Mark Reckless, Daniel Hannan, and the like who had been calmly putting forth the Euroskeptic case for years. I spoke with curious Americans and Aussies and Kiwis who had come out, curious, to see what was going on — many of them not really acquainted with the arguments of either side of the debate.

I also talked with some of the more reasonable Remainers, who had come out to put their understandable “what happens now” questions to some of the MPs and MEPs in question. Most of them, including a Ph.D. Candidate at the LSE, were willing to admit that it wasn’t so much that Britain was done for economically – they knew that there were no tariffs going up tomorrow or even 5 years from now on the most important goods and services in the UK economy, and readily admitted that this would be a huge rebirth of the fishing industry in the UK – they were more concerned about the optics of the event: did Britain look racist to the rest of the world? They certainly felt that way – and to be fair to them, there are ugly elements within the Leave camp who stand guilty of those charges. But from my experience, both with the British people, and in observing this referendum which I knew was coming once UKIP won the European elections in 2014, those small and ugly voices are simply not an engaged majority who will influence governance. Common sense will prevail, as will mutual self-interest. Perhaps that’s the sunny and optimistic American in me, but that’s because I was born and spent the first decade of my life in a country that left the UK and went on to thrive (Singapore) so it’s very believable to me that the UK could leave the EU and go on to thrive too.

I stayed for a couple hours and many of the media were on “Boris standby” in the hopes that the boy-man with the messy hair would show up and say a few words. He would have been absolutely mobbed on this mixed zone in which no one was checking press credentials (I and some friends casually strolled in after watching proceedings for an hour) and where prank comedians were busy trying to embarrass politicians by asking why we couldn’t “send all the plumbers home now.” I picked a favorite noodle shop on the South Bank and took in the sunshine and enjoyed lunch where I still couldn’t really believe it had happened.

Alex Salmond led a campaign for “Yes” in Scotland 2 years ago that was an optimistic and hope-filled one that I heartily supported. What many Remainers should know today is that there are many Leavers who are just as optimistic and hope-filled, not just because we don’t see the EU as synonymous with Europe, but because there are so many options available to everyone, not just the UK, now that Fortress Europe has been breached. We aren’t racist, we aren’t hateful, and we know that the only way for the UK to move forward is for the new government to take account of the 48 percent of those who “respectfully disagreed” and create a roadmap for the UK that inspires everyone, both inside and outside it.

Picture taken this morning of an interview of MEP Daniel Hannan, who in helping to lead the Leave campaign, just voted himself out of a job in the European Parliament.  You’re looking a turkey who voted for Christmas.  We could use a few more politicians like him.

The post The Day the Improbable Happened appeared first on Front Porch Republic.

by Stephen Heiner at June 24, 2016 05:27 PM

Zippy Catholic

Sex and money in the Novus Ordo Pecunia

I hold Aquinas in very high esteem. In fact it is in part my high esteem for him that makes me especially careful when some writer or commentator starts playing the game of “Aquinas says”. “Aquinas says” is frequently a way for a writer to try to spin a subject to make it appear that his own (the writer’s) views are being spoken in Aquinas’ voice.

Sometimes this is done maliciously, and other times it is simply a kind of wish-fulfillment or prejudice-fulfillment expressed hermeneutically (think of the faction of ‘manosphere’ protestants who are always trying to read permission for ‘Christian polygyny’ and other sexual license into the Christian Scriptures: they are probably sincere enough at a certain level, but their reason is ‘bent’ by conscupiscient arrogance and several layers of metaphysical error).

What I am suggesting in the previous post, consistent with what I have suggested many times before, is that a kind of Hegelian dialectic is often taking place among Catholics (and others too, but my focus in the previous post is on Catholics in particular). It goes something like this:

As a more liberal view of some particular moral question takes hold in society, progressive theologians start showering thinly disguised contempt on Aquinas and explaining how dumb he was about (e.g.) money and finance.

At first this is resisted by ‘conservatives’. But eventually people get old and die. Ideas, on the other hand, live on and develop in a social context.

New generations of ‘conservatives’ start to engage in Aquinas revisionism: rather than rejecting the progressive principles which have taken hold (e.g. that “the nature of money has changed” – which is another way of saying that money has no nature – and therefore charging a ‘reasonable’ amount of contractual profit on a mutuum loan is acceptable in most circumstances today), — rather than rejecting progressive error they argue that the Novus Ordo Pecunia brought into being by modernity was compatible with Aquinas all along, and anyway at worst Aquinas was not infallible so it really just takes a few tweaks of his views here and there to morally justify (e.g.) contractual profits on mutuum loans, whether of money or of shoes.

This has all already happened with usury: the progressive victory was complete before any of us were born. Doctrine was banished into a vault behind an impregnable translucent glass wall, where it remains as a kind of barely visible decoration which is not permitted to touch on practical real-life ‘pastoral’ matters.  And the most traditional of traditionalists will often argue that the nature of money has changed, that contractual profit from mutuum loans is at least sometimes morally permissible, and that in any event it is impossible to avoid interest on ‘loans’ (understood equivocally).

And this very same process is happening right now, before our very eyes, with sex and marriage.


by Zippy at June 24, 2016 04:59 PM

Stratechery by Ben Thompson

Podcast: Exponent Episode 084 — A New World Order

On the newest episode of Exponent, the podcast I co-host with James Allworth:

Ben and James discuss how the TV industry and the companies that advertise on TV are interconnected, and how they will rise and fall together.

Links

  • Ben Thompson: TV Advertising’s Surprising Strength — and Inevitable Fall — Stratechery
  • Ben Thompson: The Cord Cutting Fantasy — Stratechery
  • Ben Thompson: Why Disney and ESPN Will Be OK — Stratechery
  • Ben Thompson: Old-Fashioned Snapchat — Stratechery
  • Ben Thompson: How Technology is Changing the World (P&G Edition) — Stratechery
  • Ken Doctor: The Macy’s Factor — Politico
  • Ben Thompson: Cars and the Future — Stratechery
  • Ben Thompson: Publishers and the Smiling Curve — Stratechery
  • Ben Thompson: The Changing — and Unchanging — Structure of TV — Stratechery
  • Ben Thompson: Netflix and the Conservation of Attractive Profits — Stratechery
  • Ben Thompson: The FANG Playbook — Stratechery
  • Ben Thompson: Aggregation Theory — Stratechery

Listen to the episode here

Podcast Information: Feed | iTunes | SoundCloud | Twitter | Feedback

by Ben Thompson at June 24, 2016 04:21 PM

Zondervan Academic Blog

Work, Play, and Worship – An Excerpt from A Doubter’s Guide to the Ten Commandments

“If you’re someone who enjoys a weekend, you owe it to Moses” says John Dickson in A Doubter’s Guide to the Ten Commandments. In today’s excerpt, Dickson explains the fourth commandment and reveals how a weekly day of rest was a completely unique idea in the ancient world and that it was especially designed for our benefit.

 

doubters-guide-ten-commandmentsIn the fourth commandment we find a little relief from the seriousness of the first three. In fact, it is all about relief, or rest from work. If you’re someone who enjoys a weekend, you owe it to Moses:

(Exodus 20:9 – 11; see also Deuteronomy 5:12 – 15)

THE MYSTERIOUS ORIGINS OF THE SABBATH

The Sabbath day of rest is a historical mystery. After decades of searching, specialists have been unable to find any precedent or parallel that might have prompted the ancient Jews to propose a day off every seven days. There were days in pagan calendars when some forms of work were forbidden. Hesiod, one of the earliest known Greek writers (700 BC), tells us that no one should sow seed on the thirteenth day of a moon cycle, or plant crops on the sixteenth day, and so on. Legal business was also forbidden on certain days in the Greco-Roman world. These were all considered “unlucky” days and were associated with lunar movements. They had nothing to do with promoting rest and recuperation. As much as it galls some historians to concede, it really does look like those ancient Jews invented the tradition of a weekend off for all. (For the theologically minded, I should of course say that God invented it.) The authoritative Anchor Bible Dictionary acknowledges:

In spite of the extensive efforts of more than a century of study into extra-Israelite sabbath origins, it is still shrouded in mystery. No hypothesis commands the respect of a scholarly consensus. Each hypothesis or combination of hypotheses has insurmountable problems. The quest for the origin of the sabbath outside of the OT [Old Testament] cannot be pronounced to have been successful. (ABD 5:851)

Wherever the Sabbath day of rest came from, it seems to have caught on. By at least the first century AD, more than a millennium after Moses, some Greeks and Romans had borrowed aspects of the Jewish day off. An aristocratic Jewish resident of Rome in the late first century wrote:

The masses have long since shown a keen desire to adopt our religious observances; and there is not one city, Greek or barbarian, nor a single nation, to which our custom of abstaining from work on the seventh day has not spread. (Josephus, Against Apion 2.282)

Josephus is exaggerating. Plenty of nations and cities ignored Jewish customs. But there is something in what he says. People were adopting the Jewish custom in Greco-Roman times. This only increased with the rise of Christianity.

A DOUBLE CORRECTIVE

As hard as it is for many Westerners to understand, weekly scheduled rest was a novelty in the ancient world. For most of history, the elites of a society tended to work as little as they possibly could, and the peasants worked pretty much all the time, week in, week out. The Sabbath command corrects both pagan traditions.

On the one hand, the fourth commandment strongly endorses work: “Six days you shall labor and do all your work.” This is phrased like a command. Work is strongly affirmed. Jews took labour and output very seriously. Elites and peasants were both expected to live productive lives. In the biblical perspective, work is not a “necessary evil.” It was part of the blessing of being a creature in God’s good world. In the garden of Eden before the “fall” into sin Adam was productive: “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it” (Genesis 2:15).

Productive work is part of the blessing of creation. And so the fourth commandment begins with a reminder of its importance. The idea of not contributing in some way to the productivity of the world is very far from the Bible’s idea of the Good Life. The goal to “retire by 50” is quite contrary to the Jewish and Christian Scriptures, which celebrate work as part of our purpose as human beings. The strong correlation between unemployment and depression today will be partly explained by loss of income and partly by the loss of a sense of usefulness.

The main point of the Sabbath command, however, is to urge rest from work: the word sabbath itself comes from the verb “to cease, rest.” The instruction offers a corrective to overwork. You honour God not only by working but also by resting. The fourth commandment — in the version in Exodus, anyway — drives this home by pointing back to the creation story itself: “in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day.” Leaving aside the thorny question of six-day creationism, discussed at length in my Doubter’s Guide to the Bible, these words appear to be added to provide a powerful rationale or motivation for adherence to the command: God himself works and rests, he creates and enjoys. (Deuteronomy gives a different rationale, as we will see in a moment.)

There is a curious twin purpose of Sabbath rest. It honours God and benefits humankind (the twin purposes of the whole torah). Moses emphasises that “the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God.” The day of rest is meant to have a Godward dimension. In the course of history, Jews have expressed this by making the Sabbath — which runs from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset — a day of study and prayer. I guess the Christian parallel is Sunday church attendance.

But there is also a “humanitarian impetus for such an institution,” says Old Testament expert Carol Meyers (Exodus [Cambridge University Press, 2005], 132). Sabbath is about us. It mandates rest for workers. And notice that all are to rest. This is not just for elites and landholders. It is for sons and daughters, male and female servants, foreigners, and even animals. The version of the Ten Commandments in Deuteronomy seems to lay stress on the humanitarian purpose of the Sabbath. All are forbidden to work, “so that your male and female servants may rest, as you do.” Sabbath is a gift to humanity, just as much as it is a duty.

There is a sense in which all of the Ten Commandments are intended for our good: living God’s way puts us in harmony with his world and with his purposes for our lives. It is following the “manufacturer’s instructions.”

***

doubters-guide-ten-commandmentsBuy A Doubter’s Guide to the Ten Commandments today at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Christian Book.

by ZA Blog at June 24, 2016 03:33 PM

Front Porch Republic

The United Kingdom Votes “Localism”

When Front Porch Republic came into the world seven years ago, it did so largely on the strength of an intuition.  Everyone was weary of “bigness.”  The financial collapse triggered by the failure of banks that were “too big to fail”; the ever expanding war on terror, which had led to the biggest American foreign policy disaster in one hundred years; an Obama administration that promised to add an average of 1 billion dollars to the national debt annually (a promise it has kept); such items ran in big block letters on the front pages of our newspapers.

But in the back pages, one saw many smaller signs of such weariness.  An interest of those living in big cities to “know their farmer” and to buy what they ate from places near where they lived; a rise in the number of young people, mostly by necessity, returning to their hometowns, and seeking to improve them where they could; a rise in young “aspirant” farmers and a tremendous increase in the number of intergenerational households across the American landscape.  Thanks to Bill Kauffman and others, one also  began to hear tales of secessionist movements in all fifty states: from liberal socialists in Vermont seeking to carve out a fleecy paradise of freedom in the north woods to rural Californians sick of financing the unsustainable welfare and cultural schemes hatched in the liberal corridors of power in Sacramento.  Finally, it just seemed that everyone regardless of politics was reading the books of Wendell Berry and finding nourishment in them.

Could this convergence of interests among “bourgeois bohemian” locavores buying kale at their co-op, and liberal policy analysts with an appreciation for the cultural capital produced by community self-government, with “fire-eating” Jeffersonians, Kirkian traditionalists, the odd monarchist, and a handful of Chestertonian distributists, come to anything? I, a mere student of Aristotle in search of a way to live in accord with nature, was anxious to learn.

But, I rather doubted it.  But there were occasional small signs that something may be striking home.  First, there was the modest rise of Phillip Blond’s Red Toryism, in the United Kingdom (not to mention the sensation it created here).  And then, for goodness sake, Rod Dreher moved home!  The most promising signs were, sad to say, the continuing discontent among the electorate in the United States and abroad.  In every instance, the theme was the same.  The deracinated, globalising elites that constitute the supermajority of the political class in western nations viewed their people with contempt and were, more and more, being held in contempt by the people.

Yesterday’s vote by the people of the United Kingdom to withdraw from the European Union is — by several orders of magnitude — the greatest sign that the peoples of the West have lost trust in the institutions of “bigness” with all their empty utopian promises and would rather participate in the difficult work of shaping their own future.

Such a vote was certainly a vote against the ongoing bureaucratic regime of the Union, against its reduction of member states to servile clients, and against the suicidal immigration and migration policies that have brought the Union to intractable crisis.  It was not, therefore, primarily a vote for a restoration of genuine self-government seen as a good in itself.

As Blaise Pascal once suggested, all philosophy begins in disappointment.  Our vision of the political good, of justice, emerges out of our encounter with failure, injustice, and discontent.  One has first to know one knows nothing before one can seek after wisdom, and one must sense the “pain of loss” that comes from sin before one can seek redemption.

Those positive elements we saw years ago converging on a preference for, even a sense of the necessity of, the local — in food, in culture, in sacred rite, and political act — however genuinely good they were, were also first born of disappointment.  Alienation in a world of institutions grown teratological — too big for their own good or the good of those they claimed to “serve” — occasioned the rediscovery of such things.  Liberal rationalism, with its obsession for the totalizing system, of bringing every dimension of human life under the rule of administration, with its conviction that every serious distinction between persons was a policy problem to be solved rather than a cultural condition to be reckoned with and even revered, was bound to end in failure.  And so, our moment, with its myriad and mostly inadequate quests after a proper human scale, was inevitable in turn.

But let us be clear.  The vote yesterday was no vote in favor of those good things.  It was a vote that revealed the fraying of elite consensus and the submission of the masses to it.  It was a vote that testified to how little, how weak, a sense of nationality, shared culture, shared faith, and a shared sense of the common good is left in the United Kingdom.  And the votes that, I presume, will follow in other member states will corroborate this general loss of faith.

Ours, therefore, should be thought a populist moment.  The people do not believe their leaders have either their own interests or the common good of their polities at heart, and so those leaders are being rejected.  We have had several years now to try to come up with some political vision to replace the one those leaders tried, to our loss, to put in place.  Now is the time to bring that political vision to some kind of clarity and coherence.

The rise of Donald Trump’s candidacy has certainly brought some of the questions essential to that vision to the fore — a need to reassume our political responsibilities on immigration and citizenship, on the defense of the republic (as opposed to the prosecution of empire), on trade policy and a concern for domestic industry and manufactures.  These are matters of great import.  But they are small potatoes in comparison with the necessity of having a shared vision of the common good and the Good Itself.  I doubt any western country, the United States included, has a sufficient remnant of moral imagination and cultural capital to restore such a vision.  And I am hardly alone in doubting that Trump, for all the real questions about policy he has raised, has anything like the integrity or intelligence to help us do that.

And so, yesterday’s vote affirms that we are in an age of widespread political disappointment, one that has gone so far that calls for change can win a majority.  But we do not have sufficient resources, at least not yet, to do the hard work of political “philosophy,” to discern, as a people seeking to be virtuous together, a genuinely good alternative to the status quo ante.  Unless we can find them, the fracturing and withdrawal of polities will remain what it presently is — a mere politics of dissolution that will gain in force as it approaches entropy.  But if we continue to make the case, in ever new and ever more compelling ways, that Aristotle first made twenty-five-hundred years ago — that all politics is local, because human nature finds its fulfillment in the shared life of a city — perhaps present disappointment and dissolution will finally become a prologue to an order more modest and befitting to human nature, and to a politics not of optimism but of hope.

 

The post The United Kingdom Votes “Localism” appeared first on Front Porch Republic.

by James Matthew Wilson at June 24, 2016 03:32 PM

Aaron M. Renn

Vote For Brexit Explodes the Myth of the Global City-State

Image via Shutterstock

Image via Shutterstock

The UK has voted to leave the European Union.

The Brexit campaign was revealing because it was based on the exact opposite of the urban triumphalist vision that so often dominates the discourse.

Globalization doesn’t respect borders we’re told. Cities, not provinces or nation-states, are the real actors in the global economy.  Some have fantasized about the Singapore model of the city-state as ideal.  Virtually all mayors express great dissatisfaction about their national governance arrangements. Benjamin Barber even wrote that mayors should rule the world.

The ultimate vision of this would be an independent, polyglot London, arguably the world’s most truly global city, bestriding the global economy like a colossus.

Yet most of the London establishment – and 60% of Londoners themselves in the vote – strongly supported the Remain option. They warned of disaster for London if it lost access to the EU single market.

This more or less demolishes the arguments for the city-state. If London, the world’s ultimate global city, can’t thrive without access to a continental scale de facto state in the EU, there’s little prospect anyone else can either.

It’s telling that so many city leaders hate their state or national governments, but love supra-national governments like the EU.  The shows that their real desire isn’t to go it alone in the marketplace, but to create replacement governance structures that are more amenable to their way of thinking, that constitutionally enshrine their preferences, and are insulated from democratic accountability.

What’s more, if London suffers because it loses access to the single market, it shows that borders to matter to globalization, and that states and quasi-states like the EU very much can exert control on global flows. They are not simply helpless in the face of the global marketplace.

Of course when I say these arguments are destroyed, I only mean that the people advancing them don’t really believe them themselves. We will find out in a real life test to what extent those ideas are actually valid. Will London’s unparalleled global orientation, talent concentrations, unique and specialized functions enable it to thrive outside the EU? Or will it take a permanent hit? (This assumes, of course, that Brexit actually does happen).

If London does actually continue thriving in the long term, then that would actually back up the city-state idea to some extent, as London will have gone from being part of a gigantic state to a much smaller one. That might suggest that a further devolution to a greater London city-state might be viable after all, if highly unlikely.

But if London can’t recover from the inevitable turbulence around Brexit, this would show that not only do cities need to be part of states, they need to be part of very large and powerful ones.

If you think about it, history suggests that is the case to some extent. London is London because it was the capital of the British Empire. Dittos for Paris and Moscow, both imperial capitals. New York isn’t New York just because of its own characteristics – though those do play a role – but because it is the most important city in the world’s most important country. Shanghai and Beijing are coming on strong because they are in China.

In any event, the city-state theory is going to get something of a trial run, if an imperfect one. Ironically, that real life trial will come over the objections of the city itself, and much of the urbanist class who otherwise preach urban independence.

by Aaron M. Renn at June 24, 2016 02:53 PM

John C. Wright's Journal

100 Patrons!

Well, well. According to Patreon, I now have one hundred patrons for my pulp novel SUPERLUMINARY. That is about one hundred more than I estimated I would glean. My profoundest thanks and humblest gratitude to all my kind readers and supporters. May God bless such generous souls.

by John C Wright at June 24, 2016 02:42 PM

The Switch to Intel

This month in my Apple History column at iMore:

In his keynote address, Jobs addressed the challenges in front of Apple working with the PowerPC roadmap. Apple hadn’t been able to deliver the 3.0 GHz Power Mac G5 the company had promised:

We can envision some great products we want to build for you, but we don’t know how to build them with the future PowerPC roadmap.

(That’s a pretty sick Steve Jobs burn.)

by Stephen at June 24, 2016 02:41 PM

Table Titans

Tales: A Tale of Two Siblings

It was a Sunday afternoon, and we were bored. So I decided to make a little mini-adventure for my nine-year-old son and six-year-old daughter.

My son was a Dwarf Knight named Ellington III, who was descended from a royal family. But, due to their mines drying up, the family title had been…

Read more

June 24, 2016 07:19 AM

The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

Ugly Stain, Beautiful Hope: My Response to Mika Edmondson

Article by: Albert Mohler

I am deeply and profoundly thankful for Mika Edmondson’s address, “Is Black Lives Matter the New Civil Rights Movement?” My only regret in the publication of his urgently important address is the fact that reading it, or even hearing the recording, cannot come close to the emotional experience of hearing it in person. Nevertheless, take time to read his address and listen to the audio.

Mika did not just present his address; he delivered it. Heart and mind, prophecy and scholarship were combined in a prophetic tour de force. All who heard it are indebted to Dr. Edmondson for trusting us with his message.

No Right to Respond 

What I do not feel qualified to do is to respond to Mika’s address. Why? Just consider the responsibility entrusted to me for almost 25 years. I am president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, the mother institution of the Southern Baptist Convention. Let those words settle a moment.

The Southern Baptist Convention was birthed in national division over slavery, and it was established primarily so that Southern slave owners could continue to serve as foreign missionaries and to send missionaries from their Southern churches. Almost 15 years later, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary was established to provide a learned ministry for those churches.

When the Civil War interrupted classes at Southern Seminary, the faculty took roles in the Confederacy. James P. Boyce and John A. Broadus became chaplains to the Confederate Army. When the war was over, the seminary took up where it left off, eventually relocating to Louisville, Kentucky—a border city that had largely escaped the war’s destruction.

In terms of the race issue, nothing changed.

For generations thereafter the Southern Baptist Convention took up the Lost Cause, the argument that the South had been robbed of its moral innocence by the Union’s combination of military force, political repression, and commercial exploitation. The relationship between slaves and slaveholders was romanticized through the outright rewriting of history and an entire worldview was constructed, along with theological justifications for white superiority and racial segregation.

The South did not decide to end legal segregation. That end, at least legally speaking, was forced by federal courts and legislation. Segregation has not actually ended, of course. Jim Crow may be dead, but America—and not just the South—is in many ways as segregated as it was when George C. Wallace and Martin Luther King Jr. walked the earth.

That is why I feel disqualified to respond. What does the president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary have to say to Mika Edmondson? What right has the president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary to say anything?

Responsibility to Respond 

I do respond, however, because I have to be far less concerned about my right to speak than my responsibility to speak. I am not at all sure of the right by which I speak, but Dr. Edmonson himself has made clear my responsibility to speak.

My Presbyterian brother hit me with the Westminster Larger Catechism, Question 135. What, it asks, are the duties required in the sixth commandment? The answer includes the requirement to “preserve the lives of ourselves and others by resisting all thoughts and purposes, subduing all passions, and avoiding all occasions, temptations, and practices, which tend to the unjust taking of the life of any.”

As Dr. Edmonson made clear, this means any Christian must be urgently concerned with anything that leads to the devaluing of the life of any human.

Ugly Stain 

That brings us to Black Lives Matter. “We have,” Dr. Edmondson declared, “a natural tendency to actively resist dealing with racial sin.”

He documented that “natural tendency” all too well. His argument is that Black Lives Matter is judgment on the Christian church, which it surely is. The rise of Black Lives Matter points to the failure of the Christian church to make the cause of human dignity and racial equality our own.

Brilliantly, Dr. Edmondson traced the emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement and made careful distinctions between #BlackLivesMatter and the Civil Rights Movement (CRM). The CRM emerged from the black church and through the black church, with a hierarchical structure and a core of male-ordained leadership. Virtually every important figure was a “Reverend.” The CRM carefully selected which victims of racial injustice would be set before public attention, playing by a set of moral rules common to the entire culture at the time.

By contrast, the Black Lives Matter movement began by arguing there is no need to play by those rules when lives are at stake. It has emerged with a decentralized leadership and is neither led by ordained Christian ministers nor organically related to the black church.

Mika argues the words “black lives matter” should really be heard as “black lives matter, too”—just like we would naturally understand if we heard “children’s lives matter.”

Why do we hear those words differently?

Dr. Edmonson is actually quite adept at asking the hard questions. Why, he asks, when Martin Luther King Jr. was looking for theological groundings for racial equality, did he have to go to a liberal seminary and study under liberal professors to find help?

Why could he not attend The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary or Westminster Theological Seminary, he asks. Though even in those days Dr. King could have attended either seminary, neither was then a welcoming place for a young black minister.That truth is a savage judgment against our institutional honor.

I am increasingly convinced that the stain of racial prejudice and the historical sin of slavery may be a permanent stain God intends for our nation—and, more pointedly, my denomination and my seminary—to see daily, lest we forget.

Deep Gratitude 

My central response to Dr. Mika Edmondson is gratitude. I am so thankful for his passion and clarity in this address. He was able to document the great moral and theological problems involved with the #BlackLivesMatter movement, but he made us all see—even helped us all see—the truth that our own failures led to the emergence of this movement. He helped us see that a real crisis of human dignity, and every real threat to black lives, require that the church in America answer this movement and respond to this crisis with the full power of the gospel of Christ and the full richness of Christian truth.

I also realize that, even just a few years ago, Dr. Mika Edmondson’s address could not have been heard in the way it must be now. I can only pray that even just a few years from now, his address might no longer be necessary. Black lives do matter. We have to say that even more powerfully than #BlackLivesMatter does.

At this point I owe a debt to history. During the 1950s and 1960s, and until the early 1990s, Southern Seminary was under the influence of a far more liberal faculty. My assignment as president was to reverse that trajectory and return the school to confessional fidelity. That is why I am morally bound to acknowledge that many of Southern Seminary professors during those years of a more liberal theology demonstrated genuine courage in teaching black students in open defiance of Kentucky’s infamous Day Law outlawing racially mixed classes. A debt to their courage must be paid, and their example must be continued. 

R. Albert Mohler Jr. is president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, and a Council member with The Gospel Coalition. For more resources visit AlbertMohler.com.

by Albert Mohler at June 24, 2016 05:05 AM

How to Become Holy

Article by: Joe Carter

Among God’s characteristics, as he has revealed himself, none is more significant than his holiness (see Lev. 11:44–45; 19:2; 20:7). “Holy” and “holiness” occur more than 900 times in Scripture, and both the Old and New Testaments speak more about his holiness than any other attribute. Because of this characteristic God is not able to tolerate our sin. As Habakkuk 1:13 says, “Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrongdoing.”

Christ does not just save us from our sin, though, he saves us so that we might become holy (Eph. 1:3-4). And as Peter says, “just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy’” (1 Pet. 1:13).

“The Bible could not be any clearer,” Kevin DeYoun says, “The reason for your entire salvation, the design behind your deliverance, the purpose for which God chose you in the first place is holiness.”

Holiness is associated with separation from the ordinary or the profane, on the one hand, and connection with God or the divine, on the other. Holiness is not only being separated from sin and worldliness but also being set apart for God’s purposes. Sanctification is the lifelong process by which we become holy. But there are five specific ways we strive to become holy.

Make Holiness Your Purpose

Of all the goals we have for our life, the most important is to pursue holiness because it is God’s goal for our life. As Oswald Chambers said,

God has only one intended destiny for mankind—holiness. His only goal is to produce saints. God is not some eternal blessing-machine for people to use, and he did not come to save us out of pity—he came to save us because he created us to be holy.

If we truly love God we will commit to making holiness the primary purpose of our life.

Don’t Resist the Holy Spirit

Sanctification is by the Holy Spirit and is part of our conversion (1 Pet. 1:2). In this form, known as definitive sanctification, the Spirit sets us apart in Christ so that we might be saved. The Spirit also works in us so that we can be obedient to Christ, a process referred to as progressive sanctification, because we are progressing toward holiness.

In this latter sanctifying role, the Spirit: (A) exposes our sin so that we may recognize and turn away from it, (B) illuminates Scripture so that we may understand its meaning, and (C) helps us to see the glory of Christ. The Spirit is always willing to do this for us, which is why we must not “resist” (Acts 7:51) or “quench” (1 Thess. 5:19) the Spirit.

Commit to Obedience

There is no holiness without obedience. As Peter hints at in verse 2, the Spirit’s sanctifying work is done so that we may be obedient to Christ. As Jerry Bridges notes, “The heroes of faith in Hebrews 11 . . . obeyed by faith . . . obedience is the pathway to holiness.”

Pursue Jesus, Not Moralism

As we become holy we will naturally become more moral. But that is not the goal of growing in godliness. Our pursuit is of Jesus, not moralism. “Holiness is not ultimately about living up to a moral standard,” DeYoung says. “It’s about living in Christ and living out of our real, vital union with him.”

Expect Improvement, Not Perfection

Too often Christians don’t strive to be holy because we consider it an impossible standard. But God is not leading us to an unattainable level of perfection. Our lack of perfection should merely lead us to continually strive to meet God’s goal for us. John Calvin wrote,

As even the most perfect are always very far from coming up to the mark, we ought daily to strive more and more. And we ought to remember that we are not only told what our duty is, but that God also adds, “I am he who sanctifies you.”

Because We Are Loved

As believers we are to be holy not because we want to be loved by God but because we are already loved in Christ. We love because he first loved us (1 John 4:19). And the best way to show that we love God is by seeking to become holy because he is holy. 

Editors’ note: This is an excerpt from the NIV Lifehacks Bible: Practical Tools for Successful Spiritual Habits

Joe Carter is an editor for The Gospel Coalition, the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible, and the co-author of How to Argue Like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History’s Greatest Communicator. You can follow him on Twitter.

by Joe Carter at June 24, 2016 05:03 AM

Wholehearted in a Busy World

Article by: Jeremy Linneman

“You know the antidote to exhaustion is not necessarily rest?”

In our busy, frantic, and divided lives, most of us long for a type of rest that seems constantly elusive. Even when we do get physical rest or take a vacation, we still feel overwhelmed by hurry and worry. Pastoral counselor Chuck DeGroat draws us into this common bind as he recounts hearing this question posed to an old poet. If rest isn’t the answer to exhaustion, what is?

“The antidote to exhaustion is wholeheartedness.” 

Wholehearted living. How could this be?

Understanding Wholeheartedness 

In his new book, Wholeheartedness: Busyness, Exhaustion, and Healing the Divided Self, DeGroat, who teaches pastoral care and counseling at Western Theological Seminary in Michigan, seeks to “re-imagine holiness not through the lens of perfectionism but through the lens of our utter oneness with God” (5).

Have you ever felt pulled in a thousand directions? Do you frequently wonder if it’s even possible to attain a sense of balance and harmony? Do you feel your relationship with God has been replaced by the demands of relentless duty? Perhaps you even feel utterly exhausted, at the end of your rope, about to give it all up. What’s the path back from such burnout and despair?

DeGroat suggests these experiences arise not from busyness, physical fatigue, or lack of effort, but instead from the divisions in our lives. We may be worn out from an inner sense of perfectionism or from a lack of rootedness in our identity in Christ. To develop new habits and disciplines that promote flourishing, DeGroat focuses on a path to holiness described by Jesus (e.g. Matt. 11:28–30) and supported by a wide range of biblical texts, poets, and researchers in psychological and social studies. DeGroat first provides a synthesis of research to help us understand the common experience of dividedness, then suggests we learn from three seemingly disparate tribes of thought: Christian contemplative literature, the liturgical tradition, and developmental psychology. 

Taken together, we can slow down our busy lives, center our thoughts and affections on the Lord Jesus, and experience renewal and wholeness—all without necessarily retreating to a monastic life or spending decades in therapy. Impressively, Wholeheartedness practices what it preaches: it brings about seemingly disconnected ideas, theories, and subject matters, and weaves them together into a single narrative. 

Assuming DeGroat is writing for a Christian audience (given his vocation and that Eerdmans is the publisher), Wholeheartedness starts with what will be unfamiliar for most of his readers (neuroscience and poetry) before describing the familiar (Scripture’s teaching on the subject). Hopefully, no readers will be lost before DeGroat’s entire argument comes together—and that critics won’t read only the opening chapters and write him off. 

Gospel, Psychology, and Wholeness

Most notably, some readers may be skeptical of DeGroat’s background in and use of psychology (he holds a PhD in educational psychology). Wholeheartedness contains numerous psychological concepts, and he quotes as comfortably from popular psychologist Brené Brown and neuroscientist Daniel Siegel as he does from Martin Luther, John Calvin, and C. S. Lewis. Many of his concepts—from the Internal Family Systems Theory to Siegel’s developmental approach to the mind—will be new to the average reader.

Of course, few topics are as controversial for the church today as the role of psychology in Christian counseling. DeGroat’s model of spiritual formation and soul fits in both the transformational model and the Christian psychology approach to pastoral counseling. More so than the biblical counseling model, Wholeheartedness embraces a psychologically informed approach to transformation in Christ. (See Five Views on Psychology and Christianity for a helpful overview of Christian counseling approaches.) 

The most important test for any Christian counselor or author is his or her own fidelity to the gospel. Although Wholeheartedness is not explicitly “gospel-centered,” I would consider it “Christ-centered”—focused more on the person and presence of Jesus than the announcement of his work on the cross. I count at least three ways in which DeGroat applies aspects of the gospel to personal change.

First, DeGroat affirms the necessity of God’s self-giving presence in our healing and transformation: “Fractured and divided, we stumble our way around, choosing whatever path seems to lead up to the holy place. This is why God comes. Emmanuel, God-with-us, comes down to meet us in our despair, our exhaustion, our shame. God bears it all—shame, humiliation, persecution” (98). Indeed, there is no healing without atonement.

Second, as DeGroat reflects on our longing for wholeness, he points us back to our union with Christ. Where do we turn amid anxious thoughts and constant temptations to sin? DeGroat reminds us that the church has always practiced the Lord’s Supper as a means of remembering our oneness with our risen Lord: “Bread and wine. Body and blood. Christ dying, Christ rising, Christ coming again” (169). 

Third, DeGroat encourages churches to boldly preach the gospel as the means of forming believers: “[Preaching] is where pastors offer verbal testimony to the One who bridged the gap—Jesus—whose very being as fully God and fully human provides the ultimate picture of a divided cosmos made whole. Jesus is central because Jesus is Wholeness among us, the incarnate God embodying, abiding, suffering, dying, and re-merging from death’s door of division to make all things new” (181).

Personally, I wanted to see DeGroat articulate the good news clearly and demonstrate its centrality to personal change in a more comprehensive way. I’m also concerned that Wholeheartedness makes little to no mention of conversion, which raises the question, “Can a person grow into wholeness apart from new life in Christ?” I believe DeGroat would say “No,” but the book does not make this point clear. 

Powerful Vulnerability 

Nonetheless, this volume makes two helpful contributions to Christian formation and counseling literature. First, Wholeheartedness strongly advocates for spiritual life existing within the daily life of a local church community. Too often Christian psychologists and therapists present personal change and growth only as an individual endeavor—a weekly professional session with personal homework. But DeGroat puts the Christian community—and specifically the local church—as the God-given, non-negotiable place of personal transformation. 

In keeping with the Christian tradition, DeGroat affirms our human need for belonging (29), the context of healing within regular relationships (151), and the community’s role in revealing our lack of wholeness in Christ (167). In his own words, he suggests we make it our goal to “offer a pathway to wholeness and wholeheartedness that doesn’t circumvent the church” (172). 

Second, I was moved by DeGroat’s vulnerability. Too many Christian authors posture themselves above the regular struggles of real-world believers, but DeGroat presents himself alongside the reader, struggling with failed strivings after holiness, wrestling with the complexities of life in a broken world. His suggested way forward, awaking to the glories of God through a busy schedule, comes from experience. This is not simply the work of an academic; it reads as the reflections of one who has suffered, counseled, and learned through persevering reflection.

These two qualities, taken together, give us an accessible and honest (even if incomplete) view of the Christian’s spiritual life.

So the challenge today is to find wholeness right where we are—in the world, amid broken and divided souls like us, and in imperfect churches with imperfect pastors and imperfect singing and imperfect community. The challenge is to move into dark places, both in our own hearts and in our own communities, and bring them light. And while we may separate from others for a time, we must recognize that wholeness never comes in isolation. (186)

Though the book will leave the reader with as many questions as answers (which DeGroat seems comfortable with), Wholeheartedness is a useful addition to the church’s resources on spiritual formation and soul care, and anyone with an interest in spiritual renewal or pastoral counseling can thoughtfully engage it. Though DeGroat and I may not see eye-to-eye on every point, his book ministered to my soul as I read it, and for that I’m deeply thankful. 

Chuck DeGroat. Wholeheartedness: Busyness, Exhaustion, and Healing the Divided Self. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2016. 208 pp. $15.00. 

Jeremy Linneman is pastor of community life at Sojourn Community Church in Louisville, Kentucky. For the past six years, he has primarily overseen community groups, member care, and leadership development at its East Congregation. He writes on community and culture at jslinneman.com. Jeremy and his wife, Jessie, have three sons.

by Jeremy Linneman at June 24, 2016 05:01 AM

Is Black Lives Matter the New Civil Rights Movement?

Article by: Mika Edmondson

Editors’ note: Mika Edmondson delivered this talk in May 2016 to Council members of The Gospel Coalition as they gathered for three days of prayer and discussion on the campus of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. TGC’s Council meets every year to challenge and encourage one another in a private setting by sharing prayer requests and engaging with especially sensitive and urgent issues facing the church. In that spirit the Council invited Dr. Edmondson to help them consider how God is working for justice and mercy in our racially charged and polarized society. (See also Albert Mohler’s response, “Ugly Stain, Beautiful Hope: My Response to Mika Edmondson.”)

In Mark 11:15–19, Jesus returns to the temple to cleanse it the day after his triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Part of the corrupt situation he finds involves race-based systematized injustice. While the religious leaders protected the peace of the inner courts where Jews prayed and worshiped the Lord, they brazenly turned the court of the Gentiles into a noisy smelly livestock exchange and marketplace because of racialized bitterness. Jesus smells the ethnocentrism and the injustice, and it infuriates him.

Everything about the temple was intended to point to the coming Christ. And Jesus knows this ethnocentrism is a complete misrepresentation, a repudiation of the saving purposes of the God who would make his Christ to be a “light to the nations” (Isa. 49). In his zeal, Jesus completely dismantles the livestock exchange, refuses to let anybody pass through, and so restores the court for the Gentiles to pray. Then he exposits Isaiah 56:7: “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’?”

Our Church and Our Gospel

I began this way because I want you to know it’s right and good for us to be talking about ethnocentrism and racism in the church. Jesus still sees it, and Jesus still hates it. But our hope is that Jesus still cleanses it out of his church. And, despite our historic failures and present struggles, Jesus will make his house a house of prayer for all nations.

I think the very question we’re considering today is evidence of that work.

Is Black Lives Matter the new Civil Rights Movement? This is a well-formed question because it reveals that some of us are ready to talk about how racialized injustices affect the church, not just from the safe distance of 60 years ago but also today. We have a sense of angst because we know our failure to speak and act in the face of blatant race-based injustices 60 years ago has had a devastating effect on the local church today. Our denominations, churches, and seminaries continue to reveal patterns of ethnic homogeneity and exclusivity that do not fully express the glory of the unity for which Christ prayed in John 17, and defended in Mark 11, and for which he died. Racial hatred and disobedience has often gone unrepented, unchecked, and in some cases even more deeply entrenched in the church than in the world. (We all know some of our churches can be dangerous places for people of color.) Liberal churches and seminaries are lined with the casualties of conservative hypocrisy, as morally conscious young people and many ethnic minorities look for theologies with a robust enough social ethic to speak to the obvious suffering they experience and see all around them. This is the fruit of simply ignoring these issues.

Refusal to address racialized sin has undermined our capacity to fulfill our Romans 12:15 calling to “mourn with those who mourn.” The unique calling of the church (as opposed to the institutions of the world) is not simply to tolerate one another, or even simply to understand one another, but to mourn with one another and bear one another’s burdens. To deliberately devote ourselves to listen to one another for understanding, and then to empathize with one another to the point of shedding tears with one another. That’s certainly not what so many of the talking heads on cable TV and talk radio are advocating. They’re not talking about mourning with those who mourn.

But in the church, white suburban men are called to cry tears with the black inner-city woman scared to death her husband is going to be the next Eric Garner, or that her teenage son is going to be the next Trayvon Martin or Tamir Rice. And if you are so entrenched in your socio-political camp that you can’t shed some tears with Tanisha, something is deeply wrong. Because that’s who the church is called to be. That’s the kind of thing that makes our unity in Christ really conspicuous and causes people to see that there is a unique power at work in the church unlike anything in this world.

And I hope that’s what our discussion about “black lives matter” helps equip us to do better.

What Is the Black Lives Matter Movement?

The phrase “black lives matter” was born the night of July 13, 2013, when Alicia Garza, an Oakland-based community organizer, learned that George Zimmerman had been acquitted in the shooting death of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin. Garza immediately thought of her younger brother, who is about the same size and build as Martin, and felt it could just as easily have been him who was killed. In a 2015 interview, Garza recalled:

The one thing I remember from that evening, other than crying myself to sleep that night, was the way in which as a black person, I felt incredibly vulnerable, incredibly exposed and incredibly enraged. . . . It was a verdict that said: black people are not safe in America. 

That’s a feeling most black folks had, a feeling that I certainly had, and that many black folks in your churches had. Garza immediately logged onto Facebook and posted an impassioned message that ended with the words, “Our lives matter, Black Lives Matter.”

When fellow activist Patrisse Cullors saw Garza’s post, she combined the now famous final phrase with a hashtag and began sharing it to foster a discussion about protecting the dignity and affirming the value of black lives. The next day, Garza and Cullors spoke together about organizing a campaign around the discussion. Finally, the two reached out to Opal Tometti, another activist they knew in the field of immigrant rights. The three women started by setting up Tumblr and Twitter accounts and encouraging users to share stories of why black lives matter just as much as any other lives. The slogan gained traction on social media, and with some initial gatherings, the Black Lives Matter protest movement we know today was born.

The movement gained national attention about a year later when another unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown, was shot to death by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. The three organized a freedom ride to Ferguson to protest Brown’s killing under the auspices of the #BlackLivesMatter campaign. In the face of the social unrest that swept through Ferguson, the Black Lives Matter sentiment best captured the collective frustrations of the beleaguered black citizens of Ferguson and all over the country. Since then, more than a thousand non-violent protests have operated under the banner of the movement with chapters spread across approximately 30 cities.

Inspired by sources like civil-rights icon Ella Baker, the movement is a self-consciously decentralized network that uses a variety of non-violent tactics to dramatize race, class, and gender-based injustices. Their website claims: “Black Lives Matter is an ideological and political intervention in a world where Black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise. It is an affirmation of Black folks’ contributions to this society, our humanity, and our resilience in the face of deadly oppression.”

Black Lives Matter does not mean ‘black lives matter only.’ It means ‘black lives matter too.’ It’s a contextualized statement, like saying ‘children’s lives matter.’ That doesn’t mean adult lives don’t matter. . . . Ironically, saying ‘Black Lives Matter’ is really a contextualized way of saying, ‘All Lives Matter.’

Before we go any further, I just want to clear up a common misconception about the Black Lives Matter sentiment. Black Lives Matter does not mean “black lives matter only.” It means “black lives matter too.” It’s a contextualized statement, like saying “children’s lives matter.” That doesn’t mean adult lives don’t matter. But in a culture that demeans and disparages them, we understand we have to say forthrightly and particularly that children’s lives matter. In the face of a historic and contemporary context that has uniquely disparaged black life as not worth valuing or protecting in the same way as others, they are saying black lives matter just as much as every other life. Ironically, saying “Black Lives Matter” is really a contextualized way of saying, “All Lives Matter.”

Is Black Lives Matter the New Civil Rights?

The Black Lives Matter movement is best understood as one modern expression of a 350-year-old struggle to affirm the dignity of black life in a society that has systematically and historically denied it. This struggle has taken a variety of forms. However, the black church has been its most consistent champion, providing the theological foundation and often the only platform for the full affirmation of the humanity and dignity of African Americans. The most famous expression came during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and ’60s.

After a white neighbor refused to let their children play with him because he was black, a 6-year-old Martin Luther King Jr. was bewildered and distraught. King’s mother, Alberta, sat him down and gave him a familiar talk almost every black parent gives his or her child growing up in America. After a brief history lesson spanning from slavery through segregation, she told him: “M. L, never forget that you are just as good as anybody else.” King went on to find philosophical and theological categories to express this long-held biblical belief. Under the tutelage of mentors like George Kelsey and Benjamin Mays at Morehouse College, King learned how theology could affect the black social situation so as to affirm black dignity. To his mind, the segregation, police brutality, and inequities in the criminal justice systems were social embodiments of the belief in black inferiority and white superiority. Under the instruction of Harold DeWolf, King critically engaged theistic personalism and liberal Protestant concepts precisely to develop categories that would help him address these matters. (It grieves me deeply to say that King simply could not have attended conservative seminaries like The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary or Westminster Theological Seminary. Since conservatives were not using their theological resources to affirm the equal value of black life, King critically engaged the liberal theological sources that were.)

It grieves me deeply to say that King simply could not have attended conservative seminaries like The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary or Westminster. Since conservatives were not using their theological resources to affirm the equal value of black life, King critically engaged the liberal theological sources that were.

Central to the Civil Rights Movement of the ’50s and ’60s was an acknowledgment of the full humanity of African Americans, a concept often known as “somebodiness.” In this way, Black Lives Matter and the Civil Rights Movement stand in substantial agreement as organized affirmations of black folks’ full humanity.  

Major Similarities and Differences

Similarity #1: Tactics

Both movements dramatize injustices (through various forms of non-violent protest) to make the suffering of the oppressed visible and unable to be communally ignored. This was part of the genius of the Civil Rights Movement. During the advent of network television, freedom fighters staged non-violent protests in order to expose the daily indignities experienced by blacks all over the South. Images of Bull Connor’s fire houses, attack dogs, and billy clubs pummeling women and children exposed the true brutality of segregation.

This practice was known as creative tension. Since deep injustices often hide beneath the veneer of normalcy, they needed to be exposed in dramatic ways. Through “die-ins” and other forms of creative protests, Black Lives Matter also dramatizes racialized injustices.

Similarity #2: Near-Term Goals

Both movements see black liberation as a key to communal liberation for all peoples. They explicitly reject nationalistic ideologies, viewing oppression as damaging to the oppressed as well as oppressors. For both movements, injustice anywhere threatens freedom everywhere.  

Similarity #3: Rejection

Both movements officially reject social passivity on the one hand and violent militancy on the other. Both movements use non-violent direct action.

There are some major differences, however.

Difference #1: Roots, Foundation, and Ultimate Aims

The Civil Rights Movement was birthed out of the black church, and its theological foundation was rooted in Scripture and the black church tradition. It held that God calls us to affirm the fundamental dignity of black life (as people made in the image of God) in our context and to oppose societal structures that denied it.    

The Black Lives Matter movement was started outside traditional church circles, does not trace its grounding to biblical theology, and self-consciously distinguishes itself “as not your parents’ Civil Rights Movement.”  

Difference #2: Leadership Structure

The highest levels of the Civil Rights Movement were highly centralized within the black Baptist church with clear hierarchal structure comprising exclusively black male ministers. Although they provided much of the energy behind the scenes, women were often excluded from the highest public levels of the movement. For all its successes, a well-documented and troubling strain of male chauvinism marked the Civil Rights Movement.    

Black Lives Matter, on the other hand, prioritizes folks who have been historically marginalized in black liberation movements. It’s a self-consciously decentralized movement comprising mostly young black female leadership focused on voices outside the church or academia. In this way, Black Lives Matter is responding to the historic sexism that marked the Civil Right Movement.  

Difference #3: Organizing Cases

The Civil Rights Movement staged “perfect victim” cases in order to make suffering undeniable to those prone to ignore black suffering, criminalize blacks, and engage in character assassination. Rosa Parks wasn’t the first black woman to refuse to give up her seat on a bus in the South. However, she was carefully chosen because other victims would be too easily dismissed as somehow deserving the treatment they received.  

Black Lives Matter organized around what critics might call “morally ambiguous cases” to make its point. They insist that no one should be tried, convicted, and executed on the street. Extra-judicial killings constitute gross injustice and a disparagement of human life, regardless of the previous lifestyle of the victim.     

Difference #4: Priority of LGBTQ Issues

The Black Lives Matter founders, some of whom identify as queer and/or a sexual minority, list the affirmation and inclusion of LGBTQ individuals in their platform. The Civil Rights Movement did not.

In sum, there are enough major differences to say Black Lives Matter is not an extension or rebirth of the Civil Rights Movement. Still, I strongly recommend full engagement with the concept and critical engagement with the movement, especially since there’s no evangelical alternative to Black Lives Matter. It grieves me deeply to say there’s no evangelical movement robustly, consistently, and practically affirming the value of disparaged black people. So we must be careful how we criticize Black Lives Matter in the absence of an evangelical alternative.

There are enough major differences to say Black Lives Matter is not an extension or rebirth of the Civil Rights Movement. Still, I strongly recommend full engagement with the concept and critical engagement with the movement, especially since there’s no evangelical alternative to Black Lives Matter. It grieves me deeply to say there’s no evangelical movement robustly, consistently, and practically affirming the value of disparaged black people. So we must be careful how we criticize Black Lives Matter in the absence of an evangelical alternative.

Like the Civil Rights Movement, Black Lives Matter addresses racialized inequities in the criminal justice system and policing, disparities in education and healthcare, mass unemployment and underemployment. The church cannot affirm their Black Lives Matter leaders’ view of sexuality. We must maintain a biblically rooted sexual ethic. Nevertheless, we must critically engage the ethical questions they raise and decry the injustices they’ve highlighted.

Critical Engagement with Black Lives Matter

I know not all of us in the room are Reformed and Presbyterian. But did you know you can’t even be a good Presbyterian unless you engage some of these issues? We have a great confessional tradition. If you’ve never read the Westminster Larger Catechism, let me highly commend it to you. The catechism exposits the Ten Commandments, listing not only the sins forbidden but also the positive requirements of the commandments. Westminster Larger Catechism question 135 asks, “What are the duties required in the sixth commandment?” Answer: 

The duties required in the sixth commandment are, all careful studies, and lawful endeavors, to preserve the life of ourselves and others by resisting all thoughts and purposes, subduing all passions, and avoiding all occasions, temptations, and practices, which tend to the unjust taking away of the life of any.

I can’t even be a good Presbyterian unless I make a “careful study” of issues that tend to the unjust taking away of life! That means I can’t even be a good Presbyterian unless I’m carefully engaged with issues like the Flint Water Crisis, mass incarceration, disparities in housing and healthcare, and yes, police brutality.

And then the catechism gets into our thought life. I have to “resist all thoughts” that could lead to the unjust taking away of life. Am I buying into the sinful belief that black folks are more inherently criminal than other people? When I hear about unarmed black people being killed, is my kneejerk reaction that they somehow deserved whatever terrible thing happened to them? Am I cold and hardened to black suffering? Why am I not as torn up over this as non-Christians are? Why is Black Lives Matter more torn up over black people dying than we are? The fact that Black Lives Matter leaders distinguish themselves from the church and has queer leadership is just an indictment against the evangelical church. They have more moral sense than we do! 

My wife has to beg me (a grown 37-year-old man) not to go out to Walmart at night, not because she’s afraid of the criminal element, but because she’s afraid of the police element. Because she knows that when the police see me, they aren’t going to see Mika Edmondson, pastor of New City Fellowship Presbyterian church. When they see me, they aren’t going to see Mika Edmondson, PhD in systematic theology. When they see me, all they’re going to see is a black man out late at night. And she knows we’re getting stopped at 10-times the rate of everybody else, arrested at 26-times the rate of everybody else, and killed at 5-times the rate of everybody else. Black Lives Matter can see the injustice in those statistics. How can Black Lives Matter see the value of black life better than we can? Why does Black Lives Matter care more about the value of my life than you do?

Why am I not as torn up over this as non-Christians are? Why is Black Lives Matter more torn up over black people dying than [Christians] are? . . . They have more moral sense than we do! How can Black Lives Matter see the value of black life better than we can?

Finally, the Catechism calls us to act. Not just to think but to act, to “resist” any purpose that “tends to the unjust taking away of the lives of any.” So I can’t just study the issue and walk away saying, “Hmm, that was interesting.” If I’m going to be a good Presbyterian, I have to actually do something about these injustices. (You’d be amazed what’s in the Reformed tradition. Because it seeks to be a biblical tradition, it reflects truths that call us beyond our socio-political comfort zones.) So we should engage these issues not despite being Presbyterian and Reformed and Calvinistic, but because we are Presbyterian and Reformed and Calvinistic.

Challenges to Critical Engagement with Black Lives Matter

There’s a reason many of us have not addressed these issues. We know well the cultural risks involved and the pushback we’ll get in our churches and institutions. It’s risky to address racial sin. If you don’t believe me, just ask Russell Moore of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. Sin fundamentally twists the ways in which we view one another. Remember from Genesis 4 that sin so distorted Cain that he killed his brother in cold blood. And the first thing Cain did after killing his brother was nothing. He completely neglected the issue, as if it had no religious significance. He didn’t come to the Lord and repent. Cain thought he could sort of waltz back before the Lord and not have to deal with this sin, as if what he did out in the world had no bearing on his worship or relationship with God. But the first thing the Lord asks him is, “Where is your brother?” When it comes to race-based sin, people just don’t want to bring it up in the church. They don’t think it has religious significance. “What does the gospel have to do with that?” they will say. Or, “That’s politics, not religion. These discussions have no place in the church.” But we see that the Lord holds us accountable to be our brother and sister’s keeper and to repent where we have not.

The first thing Cain did after killing his brother was nothing. He completely neglected the issue, as if it had no religious significance.

Not only did Cain not bring up his sin, he became irritated when God brought it up. When God confronted him, Cain actively tried to bury the whole thing. He denied knowing anything about it. You will hear people actively deny this racial injustice is even an issue. We wouldn’t have a race problem if you didn’t keep bringing it up. Then Cain got irritated with the whole idea he should know about his brother’s whereabouts and protect his well-being. He asked with a sneer, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

When you bring up racial sin, people will say, “Why should I care about that? You are just playing the race card.” This is just a modern way of saying, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” We have a natural tendency to actively resist dealing with racial sin.

How else can you explain a theology that comfortably co-existed with chattel slavery, the lynching tree, Jim Crow, segregation, and myriad ways black folks suffer today? How else could Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield have had such great theology but think that it had nothing to say to the black suffering they saw all around them? (Edwards wrote copious notes on the duty of Christian charity to the poor on the one hand, while callously purchasing trembling little African girls off the auction block on the other.) Edwards and Whitefield were good churchmen, but that’s the theological equivalent of saying, “Am I my brothers keeper?” Evangelicals have a social ethic, but it’s a strangely selective social ethic. We show our feelings about the Lord by how we treat our neighbors made in his image.

If someone broke into your home and defaced all your pictures, you wouldn’t say, “That person has a problem with pictures.” You would say, “That person has a problem with me.” The Bible often uses the second table of the law (the ethical side of theology) to show our commitment or lack of commitment to the first table (the epistemological side of theology). Despite the challenges, I think the church is called by God to critically engage and address the ethical issues and concerns related to Black Lives Matter today. 

Mika Edmondson is the pastor of New City Fellowship OPC, a church plant in Southeast Grand Rapids. He recently earned a PhD in systematic theology from Calvin Seminary, where he wrote a dissertation on Martin Luther King Jr.'s theology of suffering.

by Mika Edmondson at June 24, 2016 05:00 AM

June 23, 2016

RIP, Thunderbolt Display

Apple's Thunderbolt Display

It seems that Apple has discontinued the Thunderbolt Display. Here’s Matthew Panzarino:

The current Mac’s display is 5k and can be extended (in lower res) to the existing Thunderbolt Display which runs at 2560×1440 but I can tell you from personal experience that the difference in resolution sucks from a usability standpoint.

“We’re discontinuing the Apple Thunderbolt Display. It will be available through Apple.com, Apple’s retail stores and Apple Authorized Resellers while supplies last. There are a number of great third-party options available for Mac users,” said an Apple spokesperson.

Apple introduced the Thunderbolt Display way back in 2011:

With just a single cable, users can connect a Thunderbolt-enabled Mac to the 27-inch Apple Thunderbolt Display and access its FaceTime camera, high quality audio, and Gigabit Ethernet, FireWire 800, USB 2.0 and Thunderbolt ports. Designed specifically for Mac notebooks, the new display features an elegant, thin, aluminum and glass enclosure, and includes a MagSafe connector that charges your MacBook Pro or MacBook Air.

“The Apple Thunderbolt Display is the ultimate docking station for your Mac notebook,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing. “With just one cable, users can dock with their new display and connect to high performance peripherals, network connections and audio devices.”

The display never saw a hardware update, even after MagSafe 2 replaced the old charging standard, not to mention when Thunderbolt 2 and USB 3.0 started showing up on Macs of all sizes.

I gotta say, there’s nothing so sad in the entirety of the Apple universe as using a $10 MagSafe adaptor with a $1,000 display.1

The real question here is what happens next. Clearly, the external display business is not one Apple is super excited about, but I can see Apple wanting to offer a nice 5K external display to users who want it. My guess is that more Thunderbolt Displays have sold than one might think, and those users are often the most demanding of their hardware.

I really do hope there’s a Thunderbolt 3/USB C/Magic Unicorn Tears external 5K display on its way. While it’d require a new MacBook Pro, living in an all-Retina world sounds really appealing.2

If that’s still a few months out on the horizon, why pull the plug on the non-Retina Thunderbolt Display now? Or is this a sign that Apple’s packing up their desktop display business?


  1. Trust me on that; I have a Thunderbolt Display on my desk. 
  2. Seriously, Apple. Take. My. Money. 

by Stephen at June 23, 2016 11:36 PM

Workout: June 25, 2016

Bulgarian split squats 10-10-10-10 Romanian deadlifts 10-10-10-10 100 V-ups

by Mike at June 23, 2016 07:03 PM

Workout: June 24, 2016

No Rest for the Wicked Fit Minutes 0-12 12-9-6 reps of: Bar muscle-ups Squat-clean thrusters (115/ 75 lb.) Minutes 12-27 3 rounds of: 3 legless rope climbs 20 box jumps (24/20 in.) Run 200 m Minutes 27-40 10-8-6 reps of: Power snatches (115/ 75 lb.) Bar over burpees

by Mike at June 23, 2016 07:01 PM

To Yida

My brother’s non-profit Operation Broken Silence has worked in Sudan and South Sudan for many years. They just spent two weeks in Yida, a refugee camp that has swelled to hold 70,000 who have fled the genocidal acts of Sudanese dictator Omar al-Bashir. The purpose of the trip was to film a documentary about life in the camp, in the shadow of the unspeakable crime of genocide at the hands of the Sudanese government.

Mark Hackett, meeting with leaders in South Sudan

Here’s The Memphis Flyer’s Chris McCoy writing about the trip:

“Yida is sort of a microcosm of what’s wrong with Sudan right now,” [Mark] Hackett says. “No schools, people who don’t have jobs, people displaced by the conflict. We wanted to go to Yida to get eyewitness interviews about what’s happening. But it’s also where most of our classrooms are. In Yida alone, it’s estimated that there are 20,000 to 25,000 kids. We’ve only put 700 of those kids back into a classroom.”

The teachers Operation Broken Silence supports are all local. “Before the war started, there were about 200 schools in the Nuba Mountains. Now there are fewer than 100, and none of them are functioning anywhere close to capacity. The schools that were destroyed, almost all of the teachers escaped, alongside the kids. They’re the only ones who understand the cultural context, and they understand what these kids have been through, because they’ve been through it, too. They’re better than any teacher we could bring in.”

I’ve said it before, and I’m sure I’ll say it again, but I could not be prouder of Mark and the work he and his team are doing. In a world where people are jumping up and down about headphone jacks, it’s good to be reminded that there is some serious shit in the world, and that people are busying trying to make it right.

by Stephen at June 23, 2016 04:57 PM

Justin Taylor

21 Questions With Barronelle Stutzman

Rod Dreher writes:

This is amazing. Barronelle Stutzman is the Washington florist sued by a gay man, a friend and client of almost a decade, who was outraged by her refusal to do the flowers for his same-sex wedding. Whatever you think you know about her case, I bet you don’t know a lot of things in that short three-minute video.

by Justin Taylor at June 23, 2016 02:52 PM

Ungeniused #2 Dancing Mania

On the second episode of my new podcast about weird Wikipedia articles, Myke and I talk about dancing mania:

In mainland Europe between the 14th and 17th centuries, large groups of people would dance in the streets. Were they sick? Was it just a form of escape? Did someone curse them?

If you didn’t hear our inaugural episode, be sure to subscribe:

by Stephen at June 23, 2016 01:51 PM

Hacking Distributed

Smart-Contract Escape Hatches: The Dao of The DAO

The largest cash robbery in U.S. history was the 1997 Dunbar Armored robbery, where $18.9 million dollars (worth about $27.9 million today) was taken. The recent exploit of The DAO already involves $53 million, making the Dunbar robbery look like stealing children’s lunch money by comparison.

Two excellent posts by my IC3 colleagues — one by Emin Gün Sirer and another by Phil Daian—unpack the technical details of the exploit, which has rightly prompted calls for technical safeguards like formal verification, more rigorous debugging of contracts, and richer high level languages. Without question, these —and principled design, where code-independent specifications are carefully crafted for each contract— should form the foundation of smart contract engineering going forward.

Preventing Another The DAO Requires Not Just Prevention, But Also a Way Out

Houdini

Even if these precautions are taken, though, oversights tantamount to those in The DAO will inevitably occur in smart contracts. It’s nearly impossible to avoid errors or unforeseen exploits in an environment as intricate and dynamic a smart contract system like Ethereum. The technical solutions above would not have thwarted, for example, the game-theoretic and application-design problems in the DAO moratorium proposal of Gun, Vlad Zamfir, and Dino Mark, including the stalking attack that the heist perpetrator performed. Modeling errors, complex contract interdependencies, and many other issues could similarly result in contracts failing to reflect the intentions of their creators.

So the best response to The DAO is, well, somewhat Daoist: chaos will always exist. Rather than deny it, let’s embrace it with smart contract design approaches that accept this inevitability.

A key way to do so is to include “escape hatches” —i.e., clean paths for modifying and undoing contracts in light of unforeseen eventualities (something the DAO lacked entirely). It’s something I’ve been pushing for as far back as October at DEVCON1 (when Slock.it was still known mostly for producing a door lock), reiterated during a talk at the IC3 retreat in May, and also advocate in a paper, co-written with Ari Juels, that I will present July 9 at RuleML 2016.

Escape Hatches Can and Should Draw from Contract Law

Houdini

The good news is that, in creating escape hatches for smart contracts, we needn’t start from scratch. In the real world, contracts already include escape hatches of a kind, embodied in a rich existing body of contract law. Over the years, the legal community has defined and refined a spectrum of remedies for errors and unforeseen eventualities in conventional contracts (e.g., modification, reformation, termination, and rescission). We can translate these into similar tools for smart contracts.

In the wake of The DAO exploit, the most immediate lesson contract law offers about escape hatches is simply that they should exist. Right now, in the smart contract world, they generally don’t. In contract law, though, they have as far back as the Roman Republic, when actio redhibitoria (rescission and restitution) —i.e., undoing a contract and restoring each party to their pre-contract standing— was one of the chief remedies available if someone sold you bad fruit at the market.

Of course, contracts at law have the advantage of post-agreement malleability. Smart contracts don’t. This means that implementing smart-contract escape hatches requires greater prescience from contract creators, library, platform, and language designers, and/or Ethereum developers.

How Escape Clauses Might Have Saved Some Folks $53M

Houdini

The problem function in DAO.sol was splitDAO, which is vulnerable to a recursive send pattern. As Phil Daian explained, though, the send pattern requires multiple calls of splitDAO by the attacker. Had there been an escape hatch in-place that disabled splitDAO or swapped it out for a better implementation, the draining of The DAO could have been stopped soon after it was noticed.

Disabling splitDAO is the worse option here because it means permanently crippling The DAO’s functionality. That said, a disablement mechanism would have been easy to build (though it would have to have been built long ago). Simply conditioning splitDAO’s innards on a boolean that could be toggled by, for example, community quorum, The DAO’s Curators, or Ethereum’s overseers would do the job. It’s not very nuanced. But these sort of escape hatches might be an appropriate fix for other noxious contracts that simply need to be stopped and not delicately unwound like The DAO. Thus, they should be a more widespread fixture in contracts.

Swapping out splitDAO for a version of itself without the flaw is better than wholly disabling it, since The DAO could continue. And there are ways this could have been enabled. For example, the splitDAO function —or for that matter, any of DAO.sol’s functions— could have been put into separate satellite contracts. DAO.sol would then get pointer functions that call these satellite contracts’ functions externally using addresses and ABIs that are captured in easily-swappable string variables. If a satellite function has a problem, simply create a new one and swap the pointer in the main contract. Easy. (Naturally don’t want everyone having the power to change the pointers, so you’ll have to limit access to the functions that do the variable swapping.)

This last approach is, I believe, actually the contract modification route hinted at by Vitalik in the White Paper. If we build contracts that are modifiable in this way, we move towards a world where smart contracts can nimbly respond to bugs and other unforeseen circumstances. Further, if protections are built into the functions that initiate the swap (e.g., having all parties approve and maybe only if certain conditions are satisfied), this flexibility can be circumscribed such that it doesn’t realistically threaten the immutability of smart contracts (which, of course, forms their core appeal).

How Escape Hatches Can Reverse —and Not Just Curb— Damage

Houdini

The above are just a few examples of the most naive escape hatches currently available to all. In reality, contract law escape hatches are quite nuanced and many of their gossamer details would serve us well now, too. Contract law rescission, for example, calls not just for a contract to be undone, but for the parties to be made whole, with any partial performance being unwound. Some have hoped for the same with The DAO and, in an ideal world, smart contract escape hatches will handle this task, too —maybe even automatically (keeping with the promise to reduce intervention by courts or their look-alikes).

Imagine, for example, that The DAO payouts had spent some quarantine time in temporary escrows that, upon a cancellation of The DAO, were automatically harvested and used to repay all investors in a proportional way. If a nuanced mechanism like this had been in place, we might now be debating the option of cancelling The DAO, instantly refunding its investors, and starting from scratch with a new, error-free clone contract tomorrow.

Who would control such a cancellation? Contract law is very strict —but also very transparent— about who has the right to alter and undo contracts (basically, just the parties and courts). And we could be, too, crafting a protocol that only lets parties, unanimously, or a “trusted authority” like the Ethereum founders pull the cancellation trigger. Some may argue that the latter path undermines the distributed nature of blockchain. But, in that case, so did the Curator-driven structure of The Dao. And so does asking the founders to make a centralized decision to fork Ethereum in response to its exploit. The fact is, custodial models —and, even better, mixed models that fuse custodial control with consensus—are already out there. With blockchain architecture already providing additional accountability of custodians, we shouldn’t feel shy about exploring these models for escape hatches.

Final Thoughts

Houdini

To conclude, we need more research on how to create nuanced and robust escape hatches. And we need more engineers in the field creating and testing them.

Ethereum’s stewards may also spend some time thinking about global escape hatches —like a global selfdestruct for removing toxic contracts from the blockchain (regardless of whether the code includes the function) or like forcing boilerplate escape hatch code, that lets a contract be cancelled with the consent of all contracting parties, on all contracts. I’ve seen some ideas proposed this week that are not too far afield (like this contract “failsafe” mode proposal by Dr. Christian Reitwiessner).

On the micro level, there is value to standardizing escape hatch code and open sourcing it for use in all contracts. This will not only make escape hatches reusable but will let us subject them to even greater scrutiny than we ought to subject our contracts (which are often one-offs) to going forward. Naturally, in designing them, we need to employ the same good engineering practices I shouted-out at the start of this column: formal verification, careful modelling, good minimizing size of the code base in order to concentrate scrutiny, and offering bug bounties (if anything, The DAO, if we simply see it as an enormous bug bounty, seems to have proven their worth).

If these sorts of practices and more brainpower had been dedicated to escape hatches months ago, we could be patting ourselves on the back right now for how quickly we swapped out splitDAO or how quickly we terminated The DAO and returned its investors’ ether, rather than contemplating IRL litigation to sort out the mess. (Unfortunately, the idea that smart contracts will totally erase the need for court intervention has also been exposed as farcical the last few days...with even the alleged hacker of The DAO threatening lawsuits.)

Basically, it’s too late to do much about escape hatches in The DAO. But it’s not too late to build them for the future and ward off —or, adopting the Daoist mindset, reduce the damage of— The DAO part Deux.


Bill Marino is a lawyer and computer scientist, researcher for IC3, and CEO of computer vision startup Uru.

  • The soon-to-be published RuleML 2016 paper mentioned above is here.
  • Thanks to Andrew Miller and Peter Vessenes for double checking some aspects of this post.

by Bill Marino at June 23, 2016 10:11 AM

Table Titans

Tales: If Horses Had Stealth

A group of friends and I were playing 3.5, and my character was a Weretiger Ranger. Our plan was to ambush a group of bandits, and we were really keen on getting that element of surprise. As we were in a forest, the party members could hide just fine. The problem was our horses.

We didn't want…

Read more

June 23, 2016 07:00 AM

The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

First-Time Attendee Recaps TGCW16

Article by: Kristi James

Two years ago I read a report of The Gospel Coalition’s 2014 National Women’s Conference in Orlando. That year, a fire alarm went off at one of the main conference hotels in the middle of the night. Mindy Belz wrote about how beautiful it was to see thousands of women evacuate calmly and graciously, many with babies in arms. My own (third) baby, a chubby six-month-old, wiggled on my lap as I read and dreamed about attending the next women’s conference in 2016.

When I arrived in Indianapolis last week, I realized the dream had come true. I also realized that in so many ways I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. As the pre-conference with Tim and Kathy Keller started, I got a glimpse:

  • 7,200 women.
  • 50 states.

  • 38 countries.

Sometimes I picture these big Christian conferences as idyllic playgrounds for middle-aged and retired women—something I’ll have more time for when I'm older. But the truth is that God brought a beautiful diversity of women from various ages and lifestages. A staggering 55 percent of attendees at TGCW16 were younger than 35. At 33, I barely made the cut! And no, I don’t want to talk about how I’ll affect the statistics in 2018. The implication is thrilling—women of all ages committed to rearranging their lives for a weekend of excellent teaching, worship, prayer, and fellowship.

I did some preparation for the conference—planning meet-ups with friends, with my new boss at P&R, with potential authors, and with my roommate. As I left my family to head north, though, I realized I hadn’t done much to prepare my heart.

Not surprisingly, my heart was the aspect most affected.

Challenged, Convicted, and Recharged  

Working through 1 Peter session by session was such a joy. Kathleen Nielson brought steady, faithful instruction that laid the groundwork for the rest of the conference (1 Pet. 1:1–12). Jen Wilkin brought Texas twang and her delightful personality to solid exegesis of the next section (1 Pet. 1:13–2:3). Starting with a hilarious breastfeeding story and ending with analogies for the womanly privilege of childbirth. Several comments were made about Carrie Sandom’s delightful British accent (1 Pet. 2:4–10). It brought an unexpected layer of depth to her discussion of the local church, and of our status as the people of God. “Once we were not a people, but now we are,” she said. Hearing those words pronounced slightly differently than my own reminded me of the global scope of those whose citizenship is in heaven. Mary Willson blew everyone out of the water (1 Pet. 2:11–3:12). Her delivery was powerful and brave. She knows God’s Word and her culture, and God has given her a voice that I pray will do great things for the kingdom. 

Don Carson brought wisdom and a pastoral tone to an especially difficult passage (1 Pet. 3:13–4:19). His humility and encouragement will not be forgotten. A panel on suffering hosted by Nancy Guthrie and featuring Nastaran Farahani, Mindy Belz, Karen Ellis, and Carson informed us of real women facing real persecution across the globe. May we remember them in our thoughts and actions every day. Our sisters are suffering and God is moving mightily. How will we respond? John Piper tackled 1 Peter 5. His care for us—and his passion for God’s glory and our joy—were on display. The progression through 1 Peter was informative, encouraging, convicting, and incredibly freeing. We can live a resurrection life, and we are living a resurrection life, even in a world of suffering.

In addition to a pre-conference on prayer with Tim and Kathy Keller, workshops and focus gatherings added layers of learning, discussing, exploring, and refinement to an already challenging conference. So many speakers addressed so many beautiful topics with wisdom and without fear. Spoken-word poetry by Blair Linne and worship by Keith and Kristyn Getty (on their 12th anniversary, no less), as well as an evening with Sandra McCracken, rounded out the sessions. (You can watch or listen to all conference media on a wide array of topics from waiting on God to praying together to glimpsing God at work to dating in the 21st century and much more.)

Inhale-Exhale Element

A friend texted before the conference wishing me a great trip “in my element.” As I walked around the Indianapolis Convention Center, which we shared with Indy PopCon and the Indiana Democratic Convention, I saw many “elements”—some dressed as superheroes and video game characters, others with buttons touting their favorite Democratic candidates. I knew my friend was at least partly right. While none of these “elements” was mutually exclusive (perhaps someone hoped to attend all three—surely there’s at least one Reformed PopCon Democrat in our crowd), I realized that this conference was also family. And the family of God, expressed last week as TGCW16, is my favorite element.

My pastor-husband sometimes talks about worship in terms of inhale-exhale.

Inhale: We come in together, gathering as the body to sing, pray, study, and respond. 

Exhale: We spread out, the Spirit of God bringing breath and life to our everyday elements—our 50 states and 38 countries—in the world.

May it be so for the women of TGCW16 and beyond. 

Kristi James is a writer, editor for P&R Books, church-planter’s wife, and mom to three pretty spectacular little girls. She and her family live in Asheville, North Carolina, and they don’t take it for granted. Find her on Twitter and Instagram or at her blog.

by Kristi James at June 23, 2016 05:04 AM

Does Your Preaching Have Calories?

Article by: John Starke

A few friends recently suggested I read Quack This Way: David Foster Wallace and Bryan A. Garner Talk Language and Writing, and I found it surprisingly prophetic to common habits and assumptions of modern preaching. The book is a long interview between lexicographer Bryan Garner and late author David Foster Wallace on writing.

I’m a preacher more than a writer, yet these insights illuminated some of my flagrant fouls as a preacher. Wallace is concerned about good communication—that is, why some material transforms readers and why other material, well, doesn’t. His words on writing reawakened my imagination for preaching.

Here are a few lessons.

Discipline of Clarity

I’ll begin with what Wallace dubs most important: clarity. “Probably the biggest thing for [young writers] to remember,” he says, “is that someone who is not them and cannot read their mind is going to have to read this.” May I translate for preachers? Probably the biggest thing for us to remember is that someone who is not us and cannot read our minds and did not read the books we read will have to listen to our sermons and understand them.

Like anyone else, preachers are forgetful people. We forget what it’s like not to be at our level in knowledge or training. This is really a sign of immaturity.

A sign of maturity would be to love people with our words in a way we know they understand. Preachers have an edge on writers in this regard, since there are actual people we know personally who will listen to us each week. Will Carol understand this argument? Will Felix catch this allusion?

Having persons we know and love in mind as we construct our sermons goes a long way.

Electricity in the Sermon

At the beginning of the book, Wallace is asked how he would describe good writing. He responds:

In the broadest possible sense, writing well means to communicate clearly and interestingly and in a way that feels alive to the reader. Where there’s some kind of relationship between the writer and the reader—even though it’s mediated by a kind of text—there’s an electricity about it.

In the Reformed circles I run in, we tend to focus on fidelity to the text more than anything else. I’m thankful for that focus. But we often underestimate how the medium of preaching and our use of language can function like smelling salts to awaken our listeners to the truth of the text.

Is there any “electricity” when you speak to your people? I’m not talking about the volume of your voice or merely heightened emotions. I’m talking about your use of words—words that make people feel things. Do your words of your message carry the weight of your message?

Jonathan Edwards once compared our efforts to subdue God’s wrath with our works to a spider web trying to stop a boulder rolling down a hill. There! In a sentence, the doctrine of justification by faith alone becomes three-dimensional. As Wallace put it, our writing should have calories in it for the reader. So should our preaching.

Finding Your Voice

Wallace also commends “learning to pay attention in different ways”—that is, learning to pay attention to all your writing (or preaching) does. The tip he gives is to get a book you love, read a page of it three or four times, put it down and

try to imitate it word for word so that you can feel your own muscles trying to achieve some of the effects that the page of text you like did. If you’re like me, it will be in your failure to be able to duplicate it that you’ll actually learn what’s going on.

This brings up an awkward subject for preachers. We’ve probably all listened to someone and thought, Man, that guy’s just trying to do his best impression of John Piper up there. Somewhere Don Carson gave the advice: If you listen to one preacher and you become a clone; listen to two and you sound confused; listen to dozens and you become wise.

I think that’s true. Wallace, however, has a slight variation on Carson’s advice: “Probably the smart thing to say is, if you spend enough time reading or writing, you find a voice, but you also find certain tastes. You find writers who when they write, it makes your own brain voice like a tuning fork, and you just resonate with them.”

I remember taking Carson’s advice to heart. I listened to dozens of preachers. But at some point I began resonating with a few, and others began falling off my listening list. I don’t think I began copying what those preachers did, but I began learning how they did it. And soon, my own voice started to develop. 

At this point, though, you’re no longer looking for a voice. Instead, having found one, you begin to nurture what’s there. You’ve found a “taste,” and that taste needs to grow up.

At this point, I believe, preaching becomes interesting. I don’t mean clever or smart. But a preacher with his own voice begins to give meaningful sermons in a way he didn’t before. Why? Something of his inner life begins to come out. In other words, something that set his heart on fire begins to catch fire in his listeners. That’s something more than just being able to effectively outline your sermon.

Avoiding Insider Jargon

There’s an interesting section when Garner asks Wallace about why academic writing is, by and large, overly complex and dense. Wallace’s initial response is that “a lot of people with PhDs are stupid, and like many stupid people, they associate complexity with intelligence.”

But more intriguing is how Wallace brings out the subtext of those in the academy using overly dense language:

I think a smarter thing to say is that in many tight, insular communities—where membership is partly based on intelligence, proficiency, and being able to speak the language of the discipline—pieces of writing become as much or more about presenting one’s own qualifications for inclusion in the group than transmission of meaning.

Think about that last part with me. It’s important for preachers to realize our words communicate more than the argument we’re trying to make. There are subtexts as well. Wallace goes on to argue that our words often “signify membership,” that our language “stems from insecurity and that people feel that unless they can mimic the particular jargon and style of their peers, they won’t be taken seriously, and their ideas won’t be taken seriously.” The dangerous part, he says, is that our language “excludes people who aren’t in that group.”

Preachers, we must avoid constructing our sermons to address questions like: “Don’t you think I’m smart enough? Don’t you think I know what I’m doing? Don’t you want to invite your friends to listen to me?” At some point, hopefully, we grow out of that striving.

But in more subtle and subconscious ways, we do communicate a desire for inclusion into a particular group. This way of communicating “enters the nervous system,” Wallace says. Writers “get the idea, without it ever being conscious, that this is the good current credible way to say this.”

Our language can leave those of other ethnicities and socioeconomic levels feeling out of sorts and excluded. We offend and never understand why. People leave, confused, and we just assume they didn’t listen. Wallace encourages us to think more carefully about this problem.

Subcultural vs. Countercultural

One example is the use of language that comes from particular Christian subcultures. Specific words and phrases get into the muscle memory of our communities, and we have no idea it renders outsiders lost and excluded.

There’s a difference, however, between “Christianese” and the language of Christianity; there’s a difference between something being subcultural and something being countercultural.

You learn the difference as you mature as a Christian and a good neighbor. Both languages are learned at a subconscious level. Christianese is a marker of comfort and inclusion. The language of Christianity is the language of a living organism. One is faddish and fades; the other grows and develops, like a tree grows both out, into the sky, and in, deep into the soil.

The more pastors can use electric words in the language of Christianity with their own voice, the more people will find their preaching interesting and engaging, rather than adding to the offense of the gospel. 

John Starke is pastor of preaching at Apostles Church in New York City and co-editor of One God in Three Persons (Crossway, 2015). You can follow him on Twitter.

by John Starke at June 23, 2016 05:03 AM

What You Have in Common with Kate Middleton

Article by: Tim Chester

Who am I?

Our contemporary Western culture invites us to ask this question all the time. Identity has become fluid and malleable. We can invent and reinvent ourselves almost on a daily basis. We switch careers. We move around. We join subcultures. We assume online identities. We can even “change” our gender.

But this world of opportunity also fosters deep angst and anxiety. There’s nothing bigger than us to form our identity. The breakdown of families, national identities, and belief in God mean we have become the measure of our lives. In the past you may have had a humble job, but you were proud to be part of your company, proud to be part of your nation. But those corporate identities don’t matter so much now. Now identity is down to me—something I achieve rather than something I receive.

So we have a problem. We enjoy creating our own identity, until we find ourselves unable to deliver. For many, the pressure to achieve and sustain a self-built identity becomes too much. Rates of depression are higher than ever. Our sense of self is brittle. We are constantly evaluating and reevaluating our identity, striving to confirm it, and dealing with failures to live up to it.

The question remains: Who am I?

Curious Answer 

We find the Bible’s answer to this exact question in a surprising place—the account of Moses meeting God in the burning bush. Overwhelmed by the size of the task the Lord has just given him, Moses asks: “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” (Exod. 3:11).

God’s answer? “I will be with you” (Exod. 3:12).

Is that really an answer? How does knowing someone is with you help you to know who you are? I think it is an answer—the answer. Moses’s identity is tied to God’s. “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh?” Moses asks. We might have said: “Moses, you’re the ideal person. You were brought up in the Egyptian court. You have seen your people’s suffering. You can do it.”

But God simply says, “I will be with you.”

He is the one who will make the difference. Moses doesn’t need a higher self-esteem; he needs a deeper sense of God’s presence.

Better than Self-Made

You can be a self-made person, and you may enjoy your autonomy for a while. But it’s hard work. Whether you’re trying to fit in at school or prove yourself in your career or keep up with the latest fashions, eventually the cracks will appear. Always the question remains: Will my self-made identity withstand the pressures of this life, and then the test of divine appraisal beyond this life?

But God makes a better offer. “I will be with you,” he says. “You can walk through life with me. You can ground your sense of self in your knowledge of me. You can find your confidence and worth in knowing I’m there for you, and here with you. You can know I’m with you, and your achievements and failures won’t affect that status.”

Imagine trying to visit the Queen of England at Buckingham Palace in London. You’re going to be asked, “Who are you? What gives you the right to be here?” Most of us aren’t going to get past the front gate. But what about Kate Middleton? When she was 15 years old, she would have gone no further than we could. But now she can say, “I’m with him. I married the prince.” Who is she? She is Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cambridge. She gets that identity from her husband. In the same way, we get our identity from Jesus our Husband. United to the Son, we’re now family.

Defined By God

Later in Exodus God describes Israel as his “firstborn son” (Exod. 4:22). In the New Testament, he gives that same assurance to those who receive him through Jesus: “To those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12).

Who am I? One of God’s royal children. A person defined by him.

You may have just been a great employee, or you may have had a terrible day at work. You may have been a great parent or child, or a selfish one. You may have been praised, or mocked, or ignored. You may have been mainly obedient or horribly sinful. But if you have embraced Christ as your Lord and Savior, then you are a child of the King—and nothing can change that identity. Today you can go out with confidence—not in what you can do, but in who is with you. 

Who am I? I am a child of God. And today God speaks these wonderful words to you: “I am with you.”

Editors’ note: This is an adapted excerpt from Tim Chester’s Exodus for You (The Good Book Company, 2016). 

Tim Chester is a pastor at Grace Church Boroughbridge, North Yorkshire, a tutor with the Acts 29 Oak Hill Academy, and the author of more than 30 books, including You Can Change, A Meal with Jesus and Everyday Church.

by Tim Chester at June 23, 2016 05:02 AM

TGCW16 Conference Media Now Available

Article by: Kathleen Nielson

At TGCW16 in Indianapolis, 7,200 women from 50 states and 38 countries gathered around God’s Word. They were older and younger (55 percent younger than 35), and they were purposeful. They leaned into seven plenary sessions that led them right through the book of 1 Peter. They bought a record number of books in the bookstore. They raised $55,000 (including $20,000 matching from Samaritan’s Purse) for the translation of biblical resources for women into Farsi and Arabic. They overflowed workshops and focus gatherings, many relating to the theme of gospel hope in the midst of suffering.

God blessed this gathering, and we are grateful. We’re glad for the rich variety of voices—from Blair Linne’s powerful spoken-word poetry; to Karen Ellis’s a cappella singing of “I Am a Poor Wayfaring Stranger”; to the Gettys’s lifting high the name of Jesus; to Sandra McCracken’s call to feast in the house of Zion; to the unfolding tones of male and female teachers as they expounded the Word of God; to the blending of women’s words in all directions processing, chatting, praying, praising.

We’re delighted to share the blessing of TGCW16 through the conference resources now available. Please pray with us that the seeds of the Word planted would grow, by God’s Spirit and among God’s people. Please seek the Lord with us to know and share resurrection life in a world of suffering—for the glory of Christ alone.

All TGCW16 media—including the plenaries, the pre-conference sessions on prayer, and workshops throughout the conference—are now available in our resource library.

Kathleen Nielson serves as director of women’s initiatives for The Gospel Coalition. She holds MA and PhD degrees in literature from Vanderbilt University and a BA from Wheaton College. Author of the Living Word Bible studies, she speaks often at women’s conferences and loves working with women in studying the Bible. She shares a heart for students with her husband, Niel, president of Covenant College from 2002 to 2012 and now leading a network of Christian schools and universities in Indonesia.

by Kathleen Nielson at June 23, 2016 05:00 AM

First-Time Attendee Recaps TGCW16

Article by: Kristi James

Two years ago I read a report of The Gospel Coalition’s 2014 National Women’s Conference in Orlando. That year, a fire alarm went off at one of the main conference hotels in the middle of the night. Mindy Belz wrote about how beautiful it was to see thousands of women evacuate calmly and graciously, many with babies in arms. My own (third) baby, a chubby six-month-old, wiggled on my lap as I read and dreamed about attending the next women’s conference in 2016.

When I arrived in Indianapolis last week, I realized the dream had come true. I also realized that in so many ways I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. As the pre-conference with Tim and Kathy Keller started, I got a glimpse:

  • 7,200 women.
  • 50 states.

  • 38 countries.

Sometimes I picture these big Christian conferences as idyllic playgrounds for middle-aged and retired women—something I’ll have more time for when I'm older. But the truth is, a staggering 55 percent of attendees at TGCW16 were younger than 35. At 33, I barely made the cut! And no, I don’t want to talk about how I’ll affect the statistics in 2018. The implication is thrilling—women of all ages committed to rearranging their lives for a weekend of excellent teaching, worship, prayer, and fellowship.

I did some preparation for the conference—planning meet-ups with friends, with my new boss at P&R, with potential authors, and with my roommate. As I left my family to head north, though, I realized I hadn’t done much to prepare my heart.

Not surprisingly, my heart was the aspect most affected.

Challenged, Convicted, and Recharged  

Working through 1 Peter session by session was such a joy. Kathleen Nielson brought steady, faithful instruction that laid the groundwork for the rest of the conference (1 Pet. 1:1–12). Jen Wilkin brought Texas twang and her delightful personality to solid exegesis of the next section (1 Pet. 1:13–2:3). Starting with a hilarious breastfeeding story and ending with analogies for the womanly privilege of childbirth, it’s evident she knew her audience. Several comments were made about Carrie Sandom’s delightful British accent (1 Pet. 2:4–10). It brought an unexpected layer of depth to her discussion of the local church, and of our status as the people of God. “Once we were not a people, but now we are,” she said. Hearing those words pronounced slightly differently than my own reminded me of the global scope of those whose citizenship is in heaven. Mary Willson blew everyone out of the water (1 Pet. 2:11–3:12). Her delivery was powerful and brave. She knows God’s Word and her culture, and God has given her a voice that I pray will do great things for the kingdom. 

Don Carson brought wisdom and a pastoral tone to an especially difficult passage (1 Pet. 3:13–4:19). His humility and encouragement will not be forgotten. A panel on suffering hosted by Nancy Guthrie and featuring Nastaran Farahani, Mindy Belz, Karen Ellis, and Carson informed us of real women facing real persecution across the globe. May we remember them in our thoughts and actions every day. Our sisters are suffering and God is moving mightily. How will we respond? John Piper tackled 1 Peter 5. His care for us—and his passion for God’s glory and our joy—were on display. The progression through 1 Peter was informative, encouraging, convicting, and incredibly freeing. We can live a resurrection life, and we are living a resurrection life, even in a world of suffering.

In addition to a pre-conference on prayer with Tim and Kathy Keller, workshops and focus gatherings added layers of learning, discussing, exploring, and refinement to an already challenging conference. So many speakers addressed so many beautiful topics with wisdom and without fear. Spoken-word poetry by Blair Linne and worship by Keith and Kristyn Getty (on their 12th anniversary, no less), as well as an evening with Sandra McCracken, rounded out the sessions.

Inhale-Exhale Element

A friend texted before the conference wishing me a great trip “in my element.” As I walked around the Indianapolis Convention Center, which we shared with Indy PopCon and the Indiana Democratic Convention, I saw many “elements”—some dressed as superheroes and video game characters, others with buttons touting their favorite Democratic candidates. I knew my friend was at least partly right. While none of these “elements” was mutually exclusive (perhaps someone hoped to attend all three—surely there’s at least one Reformed PopCon Democrat in our crowd), I realized that this conference was also family. And the family of God, expressed last week as TGCW16, is my favorite element.

My pastor-husband sometimes talks about worship in terms of inhale-exhale.

Inhale: We come in together, gathering as the body to sing, pray, study, and respond. 

Exhale: We spread out, the Spirit of God bringing breath and life to our everyday elements—our 50 states and 38 countries—in the world.

May it be so for the women of TGCW16 and beyond. 

Kristi James is a writer, editor for P&R Books, church-planter’s wife, and mom to three pretty spectacular little girls. She and her family live in Asheville, North Carolina, and they don’t take it for granted. Find her on Twitter and Instagram or at her blog.

by Kristi James at June 23, 2016 05:00 AM

John C. Wright's Journal

Superluminary, Episode 06, DEATHSTORM

Superluminary, Episode 06, DEATHSTORM, is posted on Patreon:

Episode 06 Deathstorm

In this exciting episode, Aeneas plunges helplessly toward the black hole at the core of Pluto’s tower, while all the undead vampire-creatures haunting the ruins reach out silently with their morbid power of life-absorption, and create a storm of death energy.

Our Story so Far:

Episode 01 Assassin in Everest

In which Aeneas Tell, the youngest member of the Imperial family of mad scientists who rule the solar system with an iron fist, is decapitated by a high-tech vampire.

Episode 02 The World of Death

In which Aeneas Tell is flung in his pajamas onto the surface of planet Pluto.

Episode 03 The Dark Tower

In which Aeneas breaks into the forbidding and forbidden tower looming above the ices of Pluto, and finds it void of living things, but not uninhabited nor unguarded.

Episode 04 The Technology of Tyranny

In which Aeneas, paralyzed, falls facefirst into the plutonian secret it is death to glimpse: a raging singularity at the engine core of the very antique superspaceship his grandfather once used to conquer to Earth!

Episode 05 The Many Murders of the Mad Emperor

In which the helpless Aeneas delays his death sentence to sate his lonely  captor’s curiosity, and his own. Lord Pluto reveals the startling truth of their family’s bloody past. Was the Emperor a savior? Or a maniac?

by John C Wright at June 23, 2016 04:09 AM

June 22, 2016

NASA launches Apple TV app

NASA PR:

The agency released on Tuesday its popular NASA app for a new platform, the fourth-generation Apple TV. This version joins the app’s other versions available for iOS in iPhone and iPad versions, Android and Fire OS. The NASA app has been downloaded more than 17 million times across all platforms.

“The NASA app has been a fantastic way for the public to experience the excitement of space exploration from their mobile devices,” said David Weaver, NASA associate administrator for Communications. “Now, users with the latest Apple TV can explore and enjoy our remarkable images, videos, mission information, NASA Television and more on the big screen with the whole family.”

The app is a little clunky in places but includes a ton of great content, including access to NASA TV, live video from the International Space Station, mission information and access to over 15,000 agency images. If you’re into space, you should go check it out.

by Stephen at June 22, 2016 09:41 PM

Early 2001: The iMac G3 goes psychedelic

At Macworld Tokyo 2001, Steve “Business Suit” Jobs showed off what would be the last two new iMac G3 designs: Blue Dalmatian and Flower Power.

Blue Dalmatian

Flower Power

Like Sage and Ruby before them, Blue Dalmatian and Flower Power were used for just one generation of iMac: the Early 2001 models.

According to Jobs, the new cases took 18 months to develop. They weren’t “colors,” but rather patterns molded “right into the plastic.” While some companies may have just used a decal, Apple wanted something special with these machines.

There’s no denying that the designs were a line in the sand. A lot of people liked them, but even today, people poke fun of them, too.

(I think it’s telling Apple returned to more sensible colors for the last set of iMacs, later in 2001.)

Blue Dalmatian features a pattern of white blobs on a blue and green background. It’s a little bit like a cartoon disco ball.

Flower Power is way out there. The pattern of simplistic flower shapes may have been colorful, but it soon picked up nasty nicknames comparing the design to moldy bread left in the refrigerator too long.

Both of these machines were a big departure from the previous colors used, and it feels a bit like Jobs (and Jony Ive, maybe) really wanted them to exist.

All “Early 2001” iMacs came with FireWire and iMovie, but Apple still shipped multiple lines of iMacs within this generation.

Our old friend Indigo sat at the base of the “iMac” line with a 400 MHz G3, a 10 GB hard drive and a $899 price tag.

The $1,199 mid-range Blue Dalmatian and Flower Power machines ran at 500 MHz with 20 GB of storage.

The high-end “iMac SE” (sold in Graphite, Blue Dalmatian and Flower Power) came with a new 600 MHz G3, 40 GB of storage and CD-RW optical drives for burning music. It sold for $1,499.

This was part of Apple’s Rip. Mix. Burn. campaign:

The Early 2001 iMacs were even featured in print and banner ads:

Rip Mix Dalmatian

With the Early 2001 iMacs, Apple didn’t simplify the line up all that much, but I think people were starting to wonder how long the iMac G3 would stick around.

At this point, the PowerMac, PowerBook and Cube were all running with G4 chipsets, leaving just the lower-cost iMac and iBook with the G3. The division made the overall product line a little easier to understand, but some wanted more power out of a consumer machine.

To be fair, Apple was still updating the internals of the iMac at this point. The G3s used in these models was markedly better than before, and the inclusion of CD-RW drives was a big deal. Remember, these machines shipped months before the iPod would be announced.

The G4 was the chip of the future, but the iMac would have one more round in the ring after these extra colorful machines.

by Stephen at June 22, 2016 09:14 PM

Justin Taylor

5 Practical Steps Creative Professionals Can Take to Protect Themselves

Screen Shot 2016-06-22 at 7.50.49 PMAlliance Defending Freedom has a very helpful and attractive booklet for creative professionals that can be downloaded for free at CreateFreely.org.

If you are a creative professional, they include this helpful checklist of things you should do to protect your religious liberty to carry out your vocation in ways that do not compromise or contradict your faith convictions.

  1. Include a statement of faith and religious purpose in your bylaws or corporate policies to provide clear evidence of your religious beliefs.
  2. Adopt a policy statement on company expression that clarifies that your business engages in its own expression through the services it provides.
  3. On your company website, include language that describes the expressive nature of the services your company provides.
  4. Implement a personnel policy that requires employees to review and understand your statement of faith and religious purpose.
  5. Get informed about the public accommodation laws in the state, county, and city where your business is located.

They also add: “While these five steps can help protect your ability to express and promote only those messages that coincide with your faith, it is best to have an attorney review your policies and documents. Call ADF at 800-835-5233 to have an attorney review these FOR FREE.”

by Justin Taylor at June 22, 2016 08:01 PM

BusyCal 3

BusyCal has been on my Mac’s Dock for a long, long time. Version 3 is a great upgrade if you’re looking for a powerful calendaring program.

by Stephen at June 22, 2016 07:04 PM

Karen De Coster

The Empathy Industry

Empathy is a wonderful trait for humans to possess. It is a trait that is learned through maturity and emotional intelligence. Empathy is not supposed to be a form of self-punishment, but a characteristic of understanding another’s place and time, and yes, feelings.

Corporate America has long been at the head of the line in diversity training, and that all started out with companies scattering to develop a playbook for political correctness which has morphed into a gigantic industry of privilege shaming and political coercion through schemes promoting victimology.

Apparently, there is such a thing as an “empathy index” that can be leveraged by consulting firms to make oodles of profits off of cash-rich corporations with bloated human resource departments while also appeasing the Government-Victimology Complex that promotes so-called equality through divisiveness, coercion, and intolerance. This article in the Wall Street Journal shows a male Ford employee wearing a pregnancy suit, complete with pointy boobs, so that he may begin to empathize with pregnant women.

About 20% of U.S. employers offer empathy training as part of management development, up significantly from a decade ago, estimates Richard S. Wellins, a DDI senior vice president. He expects that percentage will double in 10 years.

The empathy industry fabricates statistics to present to corporations that state, to quote: “the top 10 businesses among 160 in a 2015 Global Empathy Index generated 50% more net income per employee than the bottom 10.” And this B.S. is enough for HR strategy hacks to go off on their merry way and concoct business cases “proving” value from such training by quantifying it through mindless mounds of unproductive paperwork.

wsj

by Karen De Coster at June 22, 2016 06:34 PM

Roads from Emmaus

The Great Orthodox Council: The “Diaspora” as Key to Unity

At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him… Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere ... READ MORE ›

The post The Great Orthodox Council: The “Diaspora” as Key to Unity appeared first on Roads from Emmaus.

by Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick at June 22, 2016 05:58 PM

Snell, on macOS Sierra

Jason Snell at Six Colors:

The X is dead—long live macOS. With this fall’s release of macOS Sierra, Apple is bringing some familiar iOS features to the Mac, along with interesting interactions with iOS hardware, a dramatic expansion of iCloud, a major update to Photos, and a lot more. I’ve spent the past few days using an early beta, and here are some first thoughts about where Apple is taking the Mac in 2016.

There are a lot of previews of macOS Sierra floating around today, but this is the one you should read. Lots of nerdy little details.

by Stephen at June 22, 2016 05:57 PM

Karen De Coster

Janet Yellen’s Ticking Sound

This article on Yahoo provides some good analysis on the state of the Fed’s no-exit strategy: no matter which way it turns, there are land mines between that beast and all of its purported save-the-day fiscal policies. Here’s a mouth full of marbles from Yellen on the rate hikes, yesterday, in her semi-annual purple prose to the U.S. Senate Banking Committee.

“The committee expects that the federal funds rate is likely to remain for some time below the levels that are expected to prevail in the longer run because headwinds, which include restraint on U.S. economic activity from economic and financial developments abroad, subdued household formation and meager productivity growth, mean that the interest rate needed to keep the economy operating near its potential is low by historical standards.”

The “headwinds” for which she is so intentionally allusive are the economic contraction in retail and industrial production; lack of a large enough fire under the housing bubble (including new housing starts); and a worldwide financial crisis that Yellen and the Fed, no matter what they do, cannot wash away with wizards and wands. Headwinds, meaning an “opposing” motion for which the Fed bears no responsibility, rather than a fundamental reality as a consequence of years of government-planned economic stimulus.

What Yellen essentially says above is that because of these “headwinds” the Fed committee expects these currently low rates to continue in spite of the fact that higher rates are expected in the “future” (whenever that is), and these current near-zero rates are acknowledged as being, yes, historically low, but they need to be that way in order for the central planners to continue to mange the economy like a boat with its rudder stuck. So essentially, she said nothing.

Every other issue she addresses is stated in words such as “we need to watch,” “we need to monitor,” “we are looking into it,” “very hard to predict.” According to Yellen, the labor market is not deteriorating or sliding or showing signs of recession, but rather it is seeing a “loss of momentum.” And an entire committee sits there on their collective hands. Although I did like the Tweet from Bill Gross that Yellen was speaking from “a 50-year-old textbook.”

rate_hike_cartoon_10.15.2015_large

 

 

by Karen De Coster at June 22, 2016 04:28 PM

Kbase Article of the Week: AppleCD SC: High Sierra CDs Are Accessed Like Any Other Volume

I searched the kbase for “Sierra” for this week’s post and found a goodie:

Accessing the information on a CD-ROM volume isn’t much different than accessing the information on most magnetic disks, whether the CD-ROM discs use HFS (Hierarchical File System) for Macintosh files, ProDOS (Professional Disk Operating System) for Apple II files, or the High Sierra format for either system. Generally, if you know how to work with files and folders (subdirectories) on a hard disk, 3.5-inch disk, or 5.25-inch disk, you know how to work with the files on a CD-ROM under these formats.

High Sierra is a standard way of organizing the information on a CD-ROM. CD-ROM discs that conform to the High Sierra standard can be accessed from a variety of computers. The discs need not be customized for each different computer’s operating system. You don’t need to know anything about the High Sierra format to use High Sierra CD-ROM discs. You communicate with application programs as you always have.

by Stephen at June 22, 2016 02:01 PM

Workout: June 23, 2016

Triple Twos Row 2,000 m 200 double-unders Run 2 miles

by Mike at June 22, 2016 01:18 PM

The Art of Non-Conformity

How an Excel Spreadsheet Led One Woman to Change Careers

This is a reader profile. (Read others or nominate someone to be featured.)

When even the unconventional life isn’t working out as you planned, how do you course correct to get on a more fulfilling track? Bethany Butzer broke out a spreadsheet and charted her way to a life more aligned with her values.

Here’s her story.

I’ve never really followed a linear path. I graduated with a Ph.D. in Psychology, turned down a job in academia to work in the corporate world, but very quickly realized that the 9-to-5 cubicle life wasn’t for me. After a year and a half, I quit.

Next, I started my own business blogging and coaching. I enjoyed the freedom and flexibility, and loved the work itself, but something was still missing. I felt like I was going through the motions, and the next step was supposed to involve having a child and living happily ever after.

Around that time, a job opened up at Harvard Medical School for someone to help research school-based yoga interventions. This seemed like a perfect opportunity to combine my passion for research with my interest in well-being, so my husband and I sold our house and we moved to Boston.

To my surprise, Harvard didn’t end up being what I’d hoped for. The work environment was extremely competitive and exhausting. The cost of living was through the roof. I spent most of my time at work or recovering from work. After two years of this lifestyle, I realized that something needed to change. The following four guidelines helped guide my husband and me through some major lifestyle changes to get us where we are today.

bethany prague2

1. Get clear about what you value.

We realized that we needed to figure out what our core values were in the context of how we were living our lives. So we brainstormed and came up with several core values: meaningfulness, low cost of living, personal growth, friends and family, adventure, culture, and flexibility.

Once we had clear values in mind, the scientist in me took over and created an Excel spreadsheet to rate cities we had an interest in exploring in terms of how well they aligned with each value. We completed individual ratings and then discussed our results as a couple.

This systematic analysis revealed that Prague most clearly aligned with all of our values. My husband was born and raised in Canada, but his parents are Czech, so the move would also give us an opportunity to reconnect with his family. We’d be able to immerse ourselves in Czech culture, have quick access to many European countries which would feed our sense of adventure, plus the cost of living would be half of what it was in Boston (for a nicer apartment and a better quality of life).

Once again I quit a perfectly respectable job, we sold most of what we owned, and we spent a few weeks saying goodbye to friends and family before hopping a plane to Europe.

2. Get realistic about costs.

We didn’t buy the first flight to Prague the minute we finished our Excel analysis. First, we needed to get our financial ducks in a row. This took a few months of tightening our belts and considering thoughtful career moves.

My husband already owned his own recruiting business that he can manage from anywhere, so his income stream was simple enough. But my previous positions were more traditional and required me to think outside the box as to what I would do in the future. I started cold emailing universities in the Czech Republic to ask if they’d be interested in having me teach a course or two at their institution. Eventually, one invited me to teach on Positive Psychology, which was right in line with my values. I also started marketing myself as a research consultant and attracted clients that wanted their school-based yoga programs evaluated.

bethany

3. Be flexible.

I have a degree in Psychology, but I spent close to 2 years doing IT research. I’ve never held a full-time faculty position at a university, but I continue to do research on topics that interest me. My non-traditional career has given me the flexibility to make a reasonable income while working from anywhere, and also allowing me to honor my values.

4. Know when to say no.

For most of my life I’ve been a “yes woman.” I often agree with what people say, sometimes before I’ve even thought through what they said. The process of clarifying our values has allowed me to more consistently stand up for myself.

I was initially worried that people would be angry or disappointed when I switched away from my “yes” tendencies. But, oddly enough, this hasn’t been the case. Over time I’ve noticed that people respect the fact that I have the courage to make decisions that are right for me. I have yet to burn a bridge with a professional colleague. And people who have known me for awhile have gotten used to trusting my strange ideas because they’ve seen how decisions that are aligned with my values tend to work out in the end.

bethany vienna

We’re still getting accustomed to life in the Czech Republic, but we’re planning to live in Prague for at least 2-3 years to get a feel for whether we want to stay here permanently. I fully expect my non-linear path to continue, whether I stay in Prague or not. Either way, I’ll continue to check in with my values to make lifestyle decisions that feel right for me, regardless of whether or not I’m following a traditional trajectory. Only time and my heart will tell!

Learn more about Bethany on her website, and follow her on Facebook

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by Chris Guillebeau at June 22, 2016 12:33 PM

Table Titans

The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

The Beautiful Trial of Raising Kids with Special Needs

Article by: Paul Martin

I had a flashback while reading Andrew and Rachel Wilson’s new book, The Life We Never Expected: Hopeful Reflections on the Challenges of Parenting Children with Special Needs. It was to a time when we were young and living far from home, sitting around with a bunch of other moms and dads, talking about the joys and struggles of being parents.

When you read The Life We Never Expected, you feel like you’ve been transported into the Wilsons’ living room to shoot straight with them about life and parenting—only with a twist.

God, in his great wisdom, saw fit to bless the Wilsons with two children with autism. It may be worth stopping here to say what autism is and isn’t. Some tend to think a few good spankings, more rigid discipline, and a parenting course or two will straighten things out, but you cannot discipline genetics. Autism is “a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by impaired social interaction, verbal and non-verbal communication, and restricted and repetitive behavior.” Its cause is unknown, and it manifests in a variety of ways—Asperger syndrome, pervasive developmental disorder, not otherwise specified PDD-NOS, and childhood disintegrative disorder are all related disabilities on the Autism Spectrum.

Raw Honesty 

In the case of the Wilsons—who are part of the leadership team at Kings Church in Eastbourne in the United Kingdom—both their children (Zeke and Anna) showed signs of autism around age 3. It was regressive autism, meaning both had been meeting typical developmental milestones, but then started going in reverse.

I still remember the day we received the diagnosis of my son’s disability. He was barely six months old. There was a kind of relief knowing the cause of his delays, but the Wilsons had a different experience. And Andrew isn’t ashamed to tell us how, when the second diagnosis came, he

was overwhelmed by the most sweeping, drowning sense of pain and anguish I had ever experienced, ran into the playroom, curled up on the floor, and wailed until I thought there was nothing left. It was, and still is, the lowest point of my entire life.

That’s the kind of raw honesty that pervades The Life We Never Expected. And that’s what I loved most about it. There’s a kind of denial the Christian church tolerates when it comes to disability. We often ignore things that scare us or we don’t understand. The Wilsons, however, bravely invite us into their world to taste their anguish and joys.

This book is much more than a lament. It’s that, but it’s also a vivid description of God’s dependability amid the sorrow and chaos of disability.

Care of the Local Church

The Wilsons humbly describe how the particular disabilities of their children exposed some of their own idols and taught them the value of the greatest commandment. As Andrew observes, “I love my kids most not by loving them the most but by first loving God.” They are a couple with extraordinary needs trying to learn to live with authentic gratitude to their Maker:

If what you think you have is greater than what you think you deserve, then that’s where thankfulness comes from. If what you think you deserve is greater than what you think you have, then that’s where bitterness comes from.

This isn’t easy. Ask Christian parents of a special-needs kid and they’ll tell you how all the temptations to sin as a parent are still there, just intensified. For instance, every parent gets tired, but when those short nights and long days stretch into months and years, a parent can lose hope. As the Wilsons elaborate:

It is the day-to-day challenges that you don’t remember, which are thoroughly unremarkable and which require no special mention, that are undoubtedly the hardest—the daily grind of early mornings, dressing your children, repeating instructions more times than you can count, trying to remain calm as they insist on buckling their own seatbelt and take 10 frustrating and tearful minutes to do it, collapsing in an exhausted heap at the end of the day. Crises are horrible, but they don’t last. Normality, meanwhile, rumbles on. . . . In our case, the most draining day-to-day reality is the lack of sleep. When people ask how they can pray for us or what would make life easier for us, sleep is almost always the thing we talk about first.

Isn’t it here where the church of Jesus can serve parents like the Wilsons with long respites, free childcare, fresh encouragement from the Word, or just taking the kids for a walk so Mom can catch a quick nap? We tend to look for big institutional, sweeping ministries to “take care of those people.” But our churches already have all the resources we need to care well for “those people.” All we need is a loving, interested, and humble group of friends who will take the time to ask, “How can we help?”

When you consider that close to 20 percent of the world’s population is disabled in some form, you realize how much we need The Life We Never Expected. Because God has such a heart for the destitute and marginalized, we need parents like the Wilsons telling us what that life is like, since so many churchgoing parents of disabled kids simply give up attending services. When life is already deeply draining, it’s easy to lose heart, especially if the church doesn’t try to understand or suggests your kid isn’t really welcome.

Courageous Writing, Compassionate Walking

I’d perhaps challenge the Wilsons on a few issues, but I’m hesitant to do so here. It takes a lot of courage to write a book on parenting special-needs children when you’re smack dab in the middle of it. The Wilsons do this remarkably well, and in so doing have served the church.

Whether you’re a pastor or a compassionate church member, I’d urge you to buy The Life We Never Expected and walk in their shoes a little. It will not only help you love those with disabilities, it will help you love your entire church and praise God for his all-sufficient grace. 

Andrew and Rachel Wilson. The Life We Never Expected: Hopeful Reflections on the Challenges of Parenting Children with Special Needs. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2016. 160 pp. $12.99.

Paul Martin is the senior pastor of Grace Fellowship Church in Toronto, Ontario. After leading the plant in 2000, he was involved in helping three other churches start in the city. His love for the kind of gospel cooperation modeled by his hero, George Whitefield, inspired his work with many groups, including The Gospel Coalition's Ontario chapter. His affection for the disabled community, especially after disability entered his family through his son, has given him opportunities to speak for The Elisha Foundation and the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. He has been married to Susan for more than 25 years and loves to spend time with their four children.

by Paul Martin at June 22, 2016 05:02 AM

Reimagining Your Work as Offering

Article by: Bethany Jenkins

Ollie Watts Davis (DMA, University of Illinois) is a professor of music at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and conductor of the award-winning University of Illinois Black Chorus. As a vocal artist, Davis made her New York debut at Carnegie Hall in 1990, has been heard on NPR, and has released three albums. She is a life member of the National Council of Negro Women and co-founder of the TALKS Mentoring Leadership Program. She is actively involved in Grace Fellowship Church in Champaign where her husband, the Rev. Dr. Harold D. Davis, serves as pastor. They have five adult children and three grandchildren.

What do you do every day?

As a professor, I’m usually either meeting with other faculty at the school of music, teaching aspiring singers in my studio, or conducting my favorite choir, the University of Illinois Black Chorus. As a performing artist, I’m usually at the piano in my house, doing vocal exercises or learning new music for a concert program. I also read literature, study languages, and do translations.

Have you ever had a vocal injury that has kept you from work?

Whatever is happening to me affects my voice, so I try to live a healthy lifestyle. As a Christian, I have the comfort of the Spirit and the truth of the Scripture, which has had a calming effect on my instrument. Thankfully, in more than 30 years of performing, I’ve never had to cancel a concert.

How do you love and glorify God in your work?

God has given me a tremendous gift, and I want to offer my body as a living sacrifice to him, holy and acceptable, which is my spiritual worship (Rom. 12:1–2)—even as I recognize that what I offer as my gift to him was first his gift to me, since all things come from him (1 Chron. 29:14; 1 Cor. 4:7).

Where do you see your personal brokenness cutting against your calling?

In my field we audition and compete, so I can be tempted to strive for wordly achievement and success. Years ago, though, as I was preparing for an audition, my manager told me that, even though they weren’t looking for my voice type, she wanted me to do the audition to meet the maestro. I was frustrated, thinking it was a waste of my time, but then I was liberated, realizing it didn’t have to be a competition; it could be an offering. When I finished singing, the maestro put his pencil on the score and simply said, “Bravo.” I got the job, and I worked with that maestro 21 times. This story, along with prayer and Bible study, reminds me to seek my identity in Christ alone.

How do you love your neighbors, or what do you hope your listeners will hear when they experience your music?

When people attend concerts, they want more than a musical performance. They want to know that they’re okay, that they can move beyond their current circumstances and imagine what is possible. I want to create spaces for them to do that. I want them to experience beauty, love, and light.

I also want to be a good host. So even if some of the music may be unfamiliar to them, I try to include pieces that make them feel at home. Sometimes this means an African-American spiritual. Other times, when I’m singing in another country, this means a set of pieces in their own language, hoping they understand—despite the space between us—that I’m trying to connect and converse.

Editors' note: TGCvocations is a weekly column that asks practitioners about how they integrate their faith and their work. Interviews are condensed. 

Bethany L. Jenkins is the Director of The Gospel Coalition’s Every Square Inch, the Director of Vocational & Career Development at The King’s College, and the Founder of The Park Forum. She previously worked on Wall Street and on Capitol Hill. She received her JD from Columbia Law School and attends Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, where she is a current CFW Fellow and a former Gotham Fellow through the Center for Faith & Work. You can follow her on Twitter.

by Bethany Jenkins at June 22, 2016 05:01 AM

Parents, Spare Not the Rod of Comfort

Article by: Irene Sun

I discipline you because I love you. I discipline you because you are mine.

I heard these words years ago when my husband disciplined our oldest son for the first time. I wept in the next room. It was a day of tremendous pain—and growth—for us as young parents. In training our child to obey, we were learning to obey our heavenly Father. But it was hard.

No book, song, or curriculum can bring children nearer to God than parents seeking to be conformed to Christ’s image. We are God’s witnesses to our children, the visible faces of our invisible God.

And parents are given the rod—the disciplining of children—as a peculiar means to bear witness to God’s love for them. The Lord disciplines his children whom he loves, “as a father the son in whom he delights” (Prov. 3:12).

Likewise, we are commanded to love our children by disciplining them: “Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him” (Prov. 23:24). And we are commanded to discipline because in that “there is hope” (Prov. 19:18).

Rod of Comfort

The book of Proverbs instructs me to discipline my child, but Psalm 23 strengthens me to do so. I go to this famous psalm for the power to do this difficult thing.

David begins Psalm 23 by describing Yahweh, his shepherd, who provides, leads, restores, and guides the sheep. David, the sheep, walks through “the valley of the shadow of death” (v. 4). Valleys are usually interpreted as the hard places in life. What makes this valley so difficult?

The “shadow of death” is one word in Hebrew, and in the prophets and Job it’s translated “deep darkness” (ESV). “Deep darkness” is an image of death. Four times in the Psalms the word depicts lifeless places. Twice in Psalm 107, the “shadow of death” is the dwelling of those who have rebelled against God and rejected his Word (vv. 10, 14). The deep darkness is a stark contrast to places of light, life, and liberty.

The concept of “walking” in Scripture points to a way of life. The book of Psalms opens with a person walking: “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked” (1:1).

In Psalm 23, the shepherd leads his sheep to places of life and safety—green pasture, still waters, paths of righteousness. And then, David says “I walk.” In contrast to the shepherd, the first act of the sheep is to walk through “the valley of the shadow of death.”

Yet even there, in deep darkness, David rests assured. “I will fear no evil, for you are with me.” By the shepherd’s rod and staff, the sheep knows the shepherd’s nearness. David is confident that God’s rod of discipline will restore him and bring him back to safety: “Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

The purpose of God’s discipline is to save us from the eternal shadow of death. The motive of God’s discipline is love. Indeed, discipline is a mark of being a child of God (Heb. 12:7–8). He disciplines us to deliver us from condemnation “that we may share in his holiness” (1 Cor. 11:32; Heb. 12:10). The Father’s purpose for his children is to conform us into the image of his Son (Rom. 8:28–29).

God chastened David in two ways: through pain and loss. He disciplined him by giving him bodily pain, and by consuming what was dear to him (Pss. 38:1–6; 39:10–11). Love says no to the desires of our flesh, the lust of our eyes, our pride in possessions (1 John 2:16).

The rod is a comfort to God’s people because it reveals his faithfulness. When he corrects us, his instruction reassures us that we are his sheep. We are not alone.

‘Behold,’ Not ‘Behave’

We bear witness to the love of the Great Shepherd when we discipline our kids. Again, we are the visible faces of our invisible God. We are saying “Behold!” not merely “Behave!” Behold, this is love. Because I love you, I will not leave you in your disobedience.

I attended public schools in Malaysia where teachers freely punished students. Some of their methods were cruel. Their goal was simply to provoke fear and shame. This is not love.

Godly discipline is without contempt: “The LORD reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights” (Prov. 3:12). Do we communicate to our children that we delight in them—even as we are disciplining them?

Discipline and the assurance of love must always come together. So, we speak in a firm and gentle voice. We respect our children by bringing them to a quiet place, away from the gaze of others. We discipline and delight in them all at once—because this is love. Who brought you to the playground today? Who picked you up when you fell? I really enjoyed baking cookies with you. I am so proud of you when you share. It hurts Mommy so much when you disobey God.

Love seeks to restore, never to destroy. Love puts the interests of the child before our own. Love sacrifices. Love is patient and kind. Love grieves over sin. Godly discipline “yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (Heb. 12:11). Indeed, godly discipline is not about retribution at all; it is about repentance and restoration.

Wounded Hand 

Love requires self-denial and self-discipline. As the Good Shepherd lay down his life for his sheep, we must lay down our lives for our children (John 10:11; 1 John 3:16). The training of kids requires the readiness to surrender our plans, and accept with courage what we perceive as “interruptions.” It is much easier to turn a blind eye, especially when we have company or when we are at church. But love requires sacrifices and faithfulness.

No doubt the charge to discipline with diligence (Prov. 13:24) is difficult. The training of our children reveals our inadequacy, weakness, and helplessness. I see my own failures, selfishness, and bad judgment in living color. I do not desire holiness as I ought. Parental discouragement can at times be a deep darkness.

Even here, though, the shepherd is with me. His rod and his staff, they comfort me. He gives me pain and crushes my pride not for my harm, but for my holiness. The Lord disciplines me even as I am disciplining my own children.

Sometimes, in the throes of God’s discipline, we forget the wound on the shepherd’s hand because we see only the rod. We forget his tender care. When we were sinners, the shepherd “bore our sins in his body on the tree . . . By his wounds you have been healed” (1 Pet. 2:24). Behold, this is love. 

We are powerless to change hearts, but our confidence rests in God’s faithfulness. His love for our children far exceeds our own. He charges us to discipline, so we trust in his command and obey in faith. We cry out to the Great Shepherd:

We are thine, do thou befriend us,

Be the guardian of our way;

Keep thy flock, from sin defend us,

Seek us when we go astray.

Irene Sun studied Old Testament theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and world literature at Yale University. She homeschools her three boys and learns from her husband, Hans, a theology student and preacher in the greater Chicago area. Irene blogs at by the waters.

by Irene Sun at June 22, 2016 05:00 AM

Things Get Worse Before They Get Better

Article by: Staff

“The temptation is to think, because I've obeyed God and this hasn't gone well, now I need to do my own thing. That's the last thing you need to do.” — Thabiti Anyabwile

Text: Exodus 5–6

Preached: October 2, 2011

Location: First Baptist Church of Grand Cayman

Thabiti Anyabwile is one of the pastors of Anacostia River Church in southeast Washington, D.C., and a Council member of The Gospel Coalition. He is the author of several books, including Reviving the Black Church.

You can stream this episode of TGC Word of the Week here.

by Staff at June 22, 2016 04:59 AM

eagereyes

Publicize, Don’t Just Publish!

how-much-science

What does it mean to publish a paper? Is it just to add a bullet point to your CV, or do you want the world to know about your research? What does it mean to publish today? Here are some thoughts and pointers on how to get the word out about the amazing work you do.

Publishing your results is an integral part of doing science. Why work on figuring out something new if you’re not going to tell anybody? Exchanging ideas, critiquing them, building on them, and then publishing new ones is the way science works.

There is another aspect of publication, though: publicizing and socializing your work. You can’t expect people in your field to know what you wrote, just because you published a paper. There’s too much going on even within visualization, and certainly if you try to go outside your narrow field (see this wonderful comic Randall Munroe did for Science in 2013).

And yet, it’s still rarely done. Many of the talks I saw at EuroVis recently did not have any sort of URL on the slides. That makes it hard for people to follow up and learn more, and it also makes it hard for me to write about the work. It’s not very interesting to write about some great paper without being able to point my readers to something – anything. If you want me to write about your stuff, you have to have a URL.

Why Publicize?

You may not care about all those random people reading your paper. But perhaps you care about impact? Citations? People in the field recognizing you by your work at conferences?

Your fellow scientists cannot cite a paper they don’t know about. If your work only shows up in your publisher’s specialized search, it’s much less likely to be read and cited.

Perhaps you subscribe to the idea that publicizing science waters it down or makes it somehow less important. Perhaps somebody told you as much and suggested not to fall in with the blogging crowd. Well, that person is an idiot who is stuck in the 19th century and should not be listened to. We’re lucky to have left that kind of nonsense behind us for the most part. And where we haven’t, it needs to be rooted out as soon as possible.

Also, if you’re working at a public university, your work is paid for with taxpayer money. You have a moral obligation to not just sit on your results and do your work for your own pleasure, but to share. What other reason is there to pay you for research?

How to Publicize

Now that you’re convinced that publicizing your work is a good idea, here are a few things you can do to go about it.

  • Landing page. This is the minimum. Put up a webpage somewhere. I’m not going to tell you where to find webspace – this is 2016. You have a website. Make a page. You’re smart enough to write a paper, you’re smart enough to make a webpage.
  • Materials. What goes on the landing page? At a minimum, there has to be a title and abstract, plus at least one image. In addition, put any materials there that you can share: code, study data, etc. Plus of course the next item:
  • Put the paper PDF online! It’s so obvious, and yet I’m amazed by how many papers I can’t find online. Don’t expect everybody to have access to the various digital libraries (especially Eurographics is really hard to get to outside of Europe, making your EuroVis papers all but inaccessible). Put it out there where people can find it with just a simple Google search and a click. The more hoops I have to jump through to get to your paper, the less likely I am to read it.
  • Have a blog. I don’t understand why academics don’t blog. I really don’t. It makes no sense. If you have no other reason to blog than to publicize your work, then do it for that! Write a posting once a month. Even if you have a small blog, that likely gives you many times the reach your paper would otherwise have.
  • Make noise on Twitter. The visualization community is pretty active on Twitter. Talk to people. Tweet stuff (and include pictures!). People tend to be receptive and Twitter is a great way to reach a lot of interested people.

There are always questions about putting the papers online. The major publishers in visualization let you do that without issue. You’re always allowed to have a copy of your paper on some institutional or personal website. There are some technicalities around whether it’s the final version or not, and whether it’s allowed to go up before actual publication. But in reality, nobody cares and nobody polices this (and what could they possibly do?). So put your papers online if you want people to read them.

It’s so ridiculously easy with today’s technology to reach a lot of people with your work. It’s time academics figure out how to use that technology to tell the world about the cool stuff they do.

by Robert Kosara at June 22, 2016 04:07 AM

June 21, 2016

John C. Wright's Journal

Writer’s Forum?

I fellow writer just wrote me and asked if I knew of any writers’ forums (fora?) where he could get useful feedback on “Blue SF with frequent Catholic themes.”

I had no answer, being an emotionless Houyhnhnm, I’ve never thought of asking for advice, but I know such things are useful to people who can more easily pass for human than I.

Do any readers out there know of use a forum who could look over stories? If so, leave a comment in the comments box below.

by John C Wright at June 21, 2016 09:16 PM

Blog – Cal Newport

Milton Friedman’s Deep Work Seasons

Deep Economics

I’m always looking for particularly inspiring or exotic examples of deep work habits. With this in mind, I was pleased when an alert reader named Stepan recently sent me an interesting case study concerning the Nobel Prize winning economist Milton Friedman.

The following quote is taken from an interview with Friedman published in a macroeconomics textbook:

“[W]e typically spent three solid months in the country at our second home in New Hampshire to begin with and later on in Vermont. Then later on I split my life 50–50: we spent six months a year in Chicago and six months a year in Vermont. Almost all of my writing was done in Vermont or in New Hampshire, relatively little during the actual school year.”

Friedman goes on to elaborate how he maximized depth during his periods away from Chicago:

“I managed pretty much to keep down outside activities. I didn’t go away from Vermont or New Hampshire to make speeches or to address committee meetings or hearings. There were occasional exceptions but for the most part I made it an absolute rule. When I look at my remaining diaries from that period I am shocked by how full the pages are when I am in Chicago and how empty they are when I’m up in Vermont or New Hampshire [laughter]. So that’s the only reason I was able to write as much as I did.

Readers of Deep Work will recognize this as an extreme version of the bimodal method deployed by deep thinkers as varied as Adam Grant to Carl Jung.

It also reminds me of my time at MIT. When summer rolled around, it sometimes seemed as if most every important professor at Harvard and MIT would decamp to northern New England to do the type of thinking that made them important professors in the first place.

It has always surprised me that these bimodal rhythms aren’t more widely used in other fields were elite level deep thinking produces high value results. Put another way, the key in the above quotes is not how much work Friedman accomplished at his country house, but is instead how little was accomplished at his office.

#####

P.S., for another interesting discussion of deep work, listen to Tim Ferriss’s recent interview with Jamie Foxx. About an hour into the interview, Ferriss details his theory about how social media is hurting some high-level creatives more than it helps them by crippling their ability to go deep. Foxx, who knows a little something about high-level creative output, enthusiastically agrees.

 

by Study Hacks at June 21, 2016 08:36 PM

Liftoff #23: Inside a Bendy Straw

This fortnight: China talks to the United Nations, Blue Origin plays with parachutes and a quick trip to Mercury.

My thanks to our sponsors this week:

  • Luminos: A fantastic astronomy app, 10 years in the making! Now with an Apple Watch app for skygazing!
  • CuriosityStream: The world’s first, ad-free non fiction streaming service. Use the code RELAYFM to get two months free.

by Stephen at June 21, 2016 08:29 PM

Stratechery by Ben Thompson

TV Advertising’s Surprising Strength — And Inevitable Fall

It’s been a good few months for TV executives, who are in the middle of upfront negotiations with advertisers for the 2016-2017 television season. Variety reports:

After several years of moving money out of TV ad budgets to experiment with new digital outlets and social media, several big advertisers are spending more on the boob tube – and the result, according to ad buyers and other executives familiar with the pace of this year’s “upfront” negotiations, are a series of rate increases that TV has not won since the end of the last U.S. recession.

“It’s all about money coming back into the marketplace,” said one media buying executive, noting that consumer packaged goods companies, quick-service restaurant chains and pharmaceutical companies are moving money into TV’s annual upfront market, when the nation’s big media companies try to sell the bulk of their ad inventory for the coming programming cycle. Some of the money is coming back from digital spending, and some of it is being moved from TV’s so-called “scatter” market, when advertisers pay for commercials much closer to their air date.

Reports indicate those rate increases are running between 7% and 12%, and follow on a 2015-2016 season that saw scatter advertising — advertising purchased closer to the airing date — up 16% year-over-year. Apparently all that digital advertising hype was just a fad, right?

I wouldn’t be so sure.

Advertising and Attention

Despite all of the upheaval caused by the Internet, there are two truths about advertising that have remained constant:

  1. Advertising’s share of GDP has remained consistent for 100 years1
  2. TV’s share of advertising, after growing for 40 years, has also remained consistent at just over 40% for the last 20 years

Those twenty years have seen the emergence of digital advertising generally, and, over the last five years, mobile advertising: while this emergence is likely responsible for the halt in growth for TV, the real victims have been radio, magazines, and especially newspapers, which have shrunk from a nearly 40% advertising share to about 10%.

Still, digital and mobile’s 33% share of advertising falls well short of the amount of attention attracted. Digital accounted for 47% of time spent with media in 2015, up from 32% in 2011, while TV has fallen from 41% in 2011 to 35% in 2015.2 This decline, though, is not evenly distributed: this jarring chart from Redef about the change in hours spent watching TV by age group shows that the situation for TV is much worse than the top-line numbers suggest:

REDEF_Feeds_v1.2

The three age groups with the biggest declines — millennials, basically — are the most attractive to the brand advertisers that dominate TV advertising: for one, the younger you are the less likely you are to have developed affinity for a particular brand, and for another, the younger you are the more years a brand has to earn back the money spent building said affinity. Small wonder brands have been so eager to jump on new digital platforms where said millennials are actually spending their time.

So why is money suddenly flowing back to TV?

The Relationship Between TV and Advertisers

The most obvious reason for TV’s enduring appeal to advertisers is that it is a pretty fantastic advertising medium: relaxed viewers, immersive experience, etc. The appeal, though, goes deeper: the very institution of television advertising is intertwined with the kinds of advertisers that use it the most, the products they sell, and the way they are bought-and-sold. And what should be terrifying to television executives is that all of those pieces that make television advertising the gold mine that it has been are under the exact same threat that TV watching itself is: the threat of the Internet.

Start with the top 25 advertisers in the U.S. The list is made up of:

  • 4 telecom companies (AT&T, Comcast, Verizon, Softbank/Sprint)
  • 4 automobile companies (General Motors, Ford, Fiat Chrysler, Toyota)
  • 4 credit card companies (America Express, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Capital One)
  • 3 consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies (Procter & Gamble, L’Oréal, Johnson & Johnson)
  • 3 entertainment companies (Disney, Time Warner, 21st Century Fox)
  • 3 retailers (Walmart, Target, Macy’s)
  • 1 from electronics (Samsung), pharmaceuticals (Pfizer), and beer (Anheuser-Busch InBev)

Notice that the vast majority of the industries on on this list are dominated by massive companies that compete on scale and distribution. CPG is the perfect example: building a “house of brands” allows a company like Procter & Gamble to target demographic groups even as they leverage scale to invest in R&D, bring down the cost of products, and most importantly, dominate the distribution channel (i.e. retail shelf space). Said retailers, meanwhile, are huge in their own right, not only so they can match their massive suppliers at the bargaining table but also so they can scale logistics, inventory management, store development, etc. Automobile companies, meanwhile, are not unlike CPG companies: they operate a “house of brands” to serve different demographics while benefitting from scale in production and distribution; the primary difference is that they make money through one large purchase instead of over many smaller purchases over time.

Similar principles apply to the other companies on this list: all are looking to reach as many consumers as possible with blunt targeting at best, all benefit from scale, and all are looking to earn significant lifetime value from consumers. And, along those lines, all can afford the expense of TV. In fact, the top 200 advertisers in the U.S. love TV so much that they make up 80% of television advertising, despite accounting for only 51% of total advertising (and 41% of digital).

Note, though, that many of the companies on this list are threatened by the Internet:

  • CPG companies are threatened on two fronts: on the high end the combination of e-commerce plus highly-targeted and highly-measurable Facebook advertising have given rise to an increasing number of boutique CPG brands that deliver superior products to very targeted groups. On the low end, meanwhile, e-commerce not only reduces the shelf-space advantage but Amazon in particular is moving into private label in a big way.
  • Relatedly, big box retailers that offer few advantages beyond availability and low prices are being outdone by Amazon on both counts. In the very long run it is hard to see why they will continue to exist.
  • The automobile companies, meanwhile, are facing three separate challenges: electrification, transportation-as-a-service (i.e. Uber), and self-driving cars. The latter two in particular (and also the first to an extent) point to a world where cars are pure commodities bought by fleets, rendering advertising unnecessary.

The other companies face less of a long-term threat, some because they are already commoditized — telecoms, credit cards, electronics — and others because they will probably grow: big movies are only getting bigger (entertainment), and the population is getting older (pharmaceuticals). Still, the inescapable reality is that TV advertisers are 20th century companies: built for mass markets, not niches, for brick-and-mortar retailers, not e-commerce. These companies were built on TV, and TV was built on their advertisements, and while they are propping each other up for now, the decline of one will hasten the decline of the other.

TV Advertising’s Dead Cat Bounce

I also suspect the nature of the biggest TV advertisers explains TV’s dead cat bounce: brands uniquely suited to TV are probably by definition less suited to digital advertising, which at least to date has worked much better for direct response marketing. No one is going to click a link in their feed to buy a car or laundry detergent, and a brick-and-mortar retailer doesn’t want to encourage shopping to someone already online. So after a bit of experimentation, they’re back with TV.

Still, I think Facebook and Snapchat in particular will figure brand advertising out: both have incredibly immersive advertising formats, and both are investing in ways to bring direct response-style tracking to brand advertising, including tracking visits to brick-and-mortar retailers. It wouldn’t surprise me if brand advertising on digital is following the hype cycle:

stratechery Year One - 282

This is the story of most things Internet-related, not just narrowly but broadly: it’s no accident many of today’s startups are repeating ideas from the dot com era; it’s not that they were wrong but that they were too early. And, when it comes to old world companies, if you turn that graph upside down, the “trough of disillusionment” looks a lot like a bounce-back!

Ultimately, given the shift in attention, the threats faced by their best advertisers, and the oncoming train that is Facebook and Snapchat, were I a TV executive I wouldn’t get too excited about one nice week of ad sales. Indeed, the industry has been shifting to subscriptions for years, and while advertising will hold up for a while, the big drama is who will be left without a chair when the music stops.3

Coda: Aggregation Theory

One more thing: I wrote a piece earlier this year called The Fang Playbook that posited that Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, and Google (plus Uber) were structurally very similar companies: all leveraged zero distribution costs and zero transaction costs to own users at scale via a superior experience that commoditized suppliers and let them skim off the middle, either through fees, subscriptions, or ads.4

What I described above is the opposite side of the coin: linear television and its advertisers were all predicated on owning distribution and thus owning customers. The Internet has or is in the process of destroying their business models for broadly similar reasons; for now the intertwinement of these models is keeping everyone afloat, but that only means that when the end comes it will come more swiftly and broadly than anyone is expecting.

  1. Although this may be slowing; more on this tomorrow
  2. Note that the advertising-free Netflix is categorized as digital; although the streaming service still serves a minority of U.S. households, its subscribers watch an average of 1 hour and 33 minutes a day, and are responsible for a good deal of TV’s fall-off.
  3. Viacom, for example
  4. Aka Aggregation Theory

by Ben Thompson at June 21, 2016 05:27 PM

Workout: June 22, 2016

Back squats 10-10-10-10-10 Rest 2 minutes Lunges 12-12-12-12 Rest 2 minutes

by Mike at June 21, 2016 05:17 PM

Connected #96: Simplified the Paradigm

With post-WWDC flu raging throughout Europe, most of the Connected crew talks about the winners and losers of WWDC including watchOS, macOS Sierra and the iPad.

My thanks to our sponsors this week:

  • PDFpen, from Smile: The ultimate tool for editing PDFs.
  • Ministry of Supply: Dress smarter. Work smarter. Use ‘connected’ for 15% off your first purchase.
  • Willing.com: The best free way to make a will. Get 50% off additional services with the code ‘CONNECTED’.

by Stephen at June 21, 2016 04:28 PM

Keeping Busy

Just a Different Kind of Customer

As a Sand Hill Angels member, I sometimes have the privilege of being the Director of a portfolio company, and, as such, get to work closely with the CEO. I recently spoke with a CEO who was struggling to communicate effectively … Continue reading

by Mark Mitchell at June 21, 2016 03:00 PM

Daniel Lemire's blog

I do not use a debugger

I learned to program with BASIC back when I was twelve. I would write elaborate programs and run them. Invariably, they would surprise me by failing to do what I expect. I would struggle for a time, but I’d eventually give up and just accept that whatever “bugs” I had created were there to stay.

It would take me a decade to learn how to produce reliable and useful software. To this day, I still get angry with people who take it for granted that software should do what they expect without fail.

In any case, I eventually graduated to something better: Turbo Pascal. Turbo Pascal was a great programming language coupled with a fantastic programming environment that is comparable, in many ways, to modern integrated development environments (IDEs). Yet it is three decades old. It had something impressive: you could use a “debugger”. What this means is that you could run through the program, line by line, watching what happened to variables. You could set breakpoints where the program would halt and give you control.

At the time, I thought that programming with a debugger was the future.

Decades later, I program in various languages, C, JavaScript, Go, Java, C++, Python… and I almost never use a debugger. I use fancy tools, and I certainly do use tools that are called debuggers (like gdb), but I almost never step through my programs line-by-line watching variable values. I almost never set breakpoints. I say “almost” because there are cases where a debugger is the right tool, mostly on simple or quick-and-dirty projects, or in contexts where my brain is overwhelmed because I do not fully master the language or the code. This being said I do not recall the last time I used a debugger as a debugger to step through the code. I have a vague recollection of doing so to debug a dirty piece of JavaScript.

I am not alone. In five minutes, I was able to find several famous programmers who took positions against debuggers or who reported barely using them.

I should make it clear that I do not think that there is one objective truth regarding tools. It is true that our tools shape us, but there is a complex set of interactions between how you work, what you do, who you work with, what other tools you are using and so forth. Whatever works for you might be best.

However, the fact that Linus Torvalds, who is in charge of a critical piece of our infrastructure made of 15 million lines of code (the Linux kernel), does not use a debugger tells us something about debuggers

Anyhow, so why did I stop using debuggers?

Debuggers were conceived in an era where we worked on moderately small projects, with simple processors (no thread, no out-of-order execution), simple compilers, relatively small problems and no formal testing.

For what I do, I feel that debuggers do not scale. There is only so much time in life. You either write code, or you do something else, like running line-by-line through your code. Doing “something else” means (1) rethinking your code so that it is easier to maintain or less buggy (2) adding smarter tests so that, in the future, bugs are readily identified effortlessly. Investing your time in this manner makes your code better in a lasting manner… whereas debugging your code line-by-line fixes one tiny problem without improving your process or your future diagnostics. The larger and more complex the project gets, the less useful the debugger gets. Will your debugger scale to hundreds of processors and terabytes of data, with trillions of closely related instructions? I’d rather not take the risk.

My ultimate goal when work on a difficult project is that when problems arise, as they always do, it should require almost no effort to pinpoint and fix the problem. Relying on a debugger as your first line of defense can be a bad investment, you should always try to improve the code first.

Rob Pike (one of the authors of the Go language) once came to a similar conclusion:

If you dive into the bug, you tend to fix the local issue in the code, but if you think about the bug first, how the bug came to be, you often find and correct a higher-level problem in the code that will improve the design and prevent further bugs.

I don’t want to be misunderstood, however. We need to use tools, better tools… so that we can program ever more sophisticated software. However, running through the code line-by-line checking the values of your variables is no way to scale up in complexity and it encourages the wrong kind of designs.

by Daniel Lemire at June 21, 2016 02:14 PM

The Finance Buff

The Best Visa Card To Use At Costco Is Not The Costco Visa

Costco started accepting Visa this week. Costco American Express cardholders received the replacement Costco Visa card from Citi.

I don’t have the Costco American Express card. Nor do I have the new Costco Anywhere Visa card by Citi.

Back when Costco only accepted American Express cards, you could use any American Express card, not just the the Costco AmEx card. In fact the Costco AmEx card wasn’t the best American Express card to use at Costco. The Fidelity AmEx card was, because you could get 2% rewards instead of just 1% from the Costco AmEx card.

Now that Costco switched to Visa, you are able to use any Visa card, not just the new Costco Visa by Citi. As I predicted in my previous post Anatomy Of A Co-Branded Credit Card, it still remains that the best Visa card to use at Costco isn’t the Costco Visa.

You will get 2% rewards from the new Citi Costco Visa for purchases at Costco, which is better than the 1% rewards from the old Costco AmEx. Several Visa cards match it at 2%, including Citi’s own Double Cash Visa Capital One’s Spark Cash for Business and the new Fidelity Visa by Elan. Several other cards actually beat it by quite a bit.

The Bank of America Travel Rewards Visa with Preferred Rewards program at the 75% bonus tier pays 2.625% rewards on every purchase, whether at Costco or not. That’s a good 30% more than the new Costco Visa, without having to worry about which card to use where. Just use the same card everywhere.

The grandfathered Priceline Rewards Visa pays 3.33% on every purchase if you redeem the rewards against Priceline Name Your Own Price or Express Deals purchases. You get 2/3 more in rewards, although you must already use Priceline’s Name Your Own Price or Express Deals often enough to redeem your points at the higher rate. You also must already have a grandfathered Priceline Rewards Visa card because the current cards aren’t as good.

It gets better. The Bank of America Cash Rewards Card pays 2% on wholesale club purchases. At the 75% bonus tier in the Preferred Rewards program, it pays 3.5% rewards on Costco purchases. That’s 75% more than the Citi Costo Visa pays.

You get to the 75% bonus tier under Bank of America’s Preferred Rewards program when you have a Bank of America checking account and you hold say $100k in ETFs at Merrill Edge. Holding $100k in ETFs at Merrill Edge costs you nothing. You actually get a welcome bonus and monthly free trades. At the 75% bonus tier, the Bank of America checking account is also free, with no minimum balance or direct deposit requirement.

The rewards from the Bank of America card can be automatically deposited to your Bank of America checking account whenever you reach a threshold. You don’t have to wait until the end of the year. There’s a cap for $2,500 per quarter in combined grocery/wholesale club/gas purchases each quarter. At my spending level, I expect to come well under that cap.

Coincidentally, Chase Freedom card put wholesale clubs into its 5% rewards categories at least through September 30, 2016. Several places said it would be through the end of the year although Chase’s official quarterly calendar doesn’t show it yet.  In the next few months, and possibly through the end of 2016, up to $1,500 in purchases in the special categories per quarter, using Chase Freedom at Costco will get you 2-1/2 times the rewards as using the new Costco Visa.

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The Best Visa Card To Use At Costco Is Not The Costco Visa is copyrighted material from The Finance Buff. All rights reserved. ( b87e8215d24496480249d6aaf20c77ea )

by Harry Sit at June 21, 2016 01:55 PM

Reformedish

Mere Fidelity: The Pursuing God with Joshua Ryan Butler

The Pursuing God.jpgJoshua Ryan Butler is a friend and one of my favorite newer authors. I got to know him after I reviewed his last book The Skeletons in God’s Closet for the Gospel Coalition and ended up loving it.

Well, now he’s back with a follow-up book The Pursuing God: A Reckless, Irrational, Obsessed Love That’s Dying to Bring Us Home.  In this book, he tackles the difficult issues like incarnation, atonement, wrath, and the Trinity in order to show that the God of the Gospel really is good, and the gospel really is good news.

Now, I’d typically give you a full review, but I sort of already blurbed it, so I’m just going to share my endorsement and urge you to pick the thing up:

Joshua Ryan Butler is enthralled by the vision of a beautiful God whose goodness goes down deep into his bones and he wants us to share it. Unlike so many today, though, his way of inviting us into that vision is not to paper over the dark stains that mar our popular pictures of God, but to face them head-on. In The Pursuing God, Butler sets out to restore a portrait of the biblical gospel of God’s incarnate, crucified, and risen Son, correcting our worst caricatures of sacrifice and atonement, and revealing the glory of the triune God who has been relentlessly seeking to restore us to himself.

Honestly, this is one of those books I’m sort of bummed I didn’t get to write myself. That said, I’m also glad Josh did. He’s got a way with images and metaphors that flip things on their head and show you that all the stuff in Christianity that we’re tempted to do away with are actually what we need most.

Also, I have to say, I was extremely impressed with the way he was able to take some of the best, recent scholarship on the issue of wrath, judgement, and penal substitution, and present it in a non-academic, life-giving way, without selling you short theologically. This is probably now my favorite, popular-level book on the subject to date, and I think it’s the place to start if you’re either having trouble with these issues, or are looking to preach to those who do.

Buy it. Read it. Get copies for your friends and family and you’ll have birthdays and Christmas covered for the next 6 months.

But in case none of this has sold you, yet, Alastair and I had Josh on the podcast to chat  about the book. I hope this whets your appetite to pick it up.

Soli Deo Gloria


by Derek Rishmawy at June 21, 2016 01:18 PM

The Art of Non-Conformity

Let the Wave Crash Over You: One Year Later

16566654384_b0e6305c4a_z

Orion image via Ryan Hallock

Readers: One year ago today I lost my brother, Ken. This difficult subject isn’t relevant to everyone, but for those who are interested I’ve written about it in a few different ways since then. Today’s post contains my one-year reflections. Like the first time I told the story, it’s written as a direct letter to him.

***

Dear Ken,

I’d say it’s hard to believe a year has passed, but the greater truth is that it’s hard to believe it happened at all. When I think of it now, as I do every day, my mind still runs to the same place of shock and disbelief.

There were days during the year when I thought about it less than others, and maybe some days when I began to look forward. As today’s date approached, though, I reverted to that place of disbelief where everything feels suspended in time.

The passing of seasons and events that you aren’t here to experience has been one of the hardest parts. In the fall we had what would have been your 32nd birthday, and then Christmas and New Year’s Day rolled around.

The arrival of 2016 was especially tough to face, since it brought with it the fact that this calendar year is one you will have no knowledge of or experience with. Against all of our hopes and wishes, an entire cycle from January to December will pass without you. Again, shock and disbelief.

Since you’ve been gone, I wrote and published a new book. The book is dedicated to you, of course, and I wish you could have been around to see it.

When I went on the road I had the idea of saying something to dedicate each stop along the way to you too. Every time I rehearsed the talk, though, I couldn’t find a way to make it work without falling apart. So instead of doing it publicly, every night for 30 cities I thought of you as I was standing on the side of the stage waiting to be introduced, and sometimes as I looked out into the crowd.

13118019_617985831692891_479921344_n

Live in Chicago

When I talk to my therapist (a new thing I’ve been doing—you should have tried it) or even my closest friends, I can talk about you in general terms but when it comes to specifics I still have an instant reaction of grief that I am unable to hide.

But hey—what else has been happening all this time? You wouldn’t want me or anyone else you loved to mope around every day.

In Which Your Brother Gets His First Tattoo

I’ve thought about a lot about shame during this year. When I was sitting in an airport on my tour I had a memory that I wrote down before it could escape me. The short version is that a couple of years ago I had the opportunity to share more of myself with you, but I chose not to. I wish I could go back and make a different choice.

Anyway, there’s a more positive story that involves a tattoo. A few months before you died, you got a tattoo of Orion—your first and only one.

One day about a month or so after losing you, I suddenly realized that I wanted a tattoo, too. And literally around the same time, without speaking about it, your wife Nicole and your sister-in-law Jolie, who knew you since you were 11 years old, also decided to get tattoos in your memory.

We each had our own process for it. Nicole went first, then Jolie, and finally me. I dithered over mine for a long time, considering different designs without feeling a sense of recognition. In desperation I contacted Ella Frances Sanders, a British artist whose work I’ve long admired from afar. She agreed to a very unconventional commission and spent more than 10 hours working with me on the design.

I wanted to do Orion, just like you did, but with a different interpretation. In the end I chose leaves instead of stars, set in a Japanese style (you always liked Japan). After some more dithering I went to the tattoo shop … and then before I knew it, it was done!

It’s funny, you spend 10 months procrastinating over something and then a lot of back-and-forth over the logistics, but when it comes time to lie down on the table, it’s all over in 11 minutes. There’s a lesson there somewhere.

CG Tat!

OMG My First Tattoo!

At the old age of 38 and having never had a tattoo before, I worried I wouldn’t like it—but I did! It felt right from the very first few minutes. It will always be there, a physical representation of how your life will always be with me.

Action Steps: Do Nothing

At the end of my last therapy session, I asked, “Okay, what’s my next action step?”

Because I always love action steps. Proceeding with confidence and charging through obstacles is my forte—and you were pretty good at it, too. The more I learn of your life, putting together puzzle pieces via stories from everyone else in your circles, the more impressed I am. But this is different. This year I’ve learned that there are some things I can’t fix, no matter how hard I try. So when I asked for my next action step, my therapist said, “Try doing nothing and see what happens.”

I thought that was so funny! Try doing nothing … what a concept. I literally have no idea how to do nothing.

Hard as it still feels, I do think there’s some sort of road ahead. This road does not lead only to acceptance, as important as that may be. Somehow the road will also lead to some sort of meaning. Finding meaning is different than believing “it will be okay” or “something good can come from this” or “everything happens for a reason”—all things that well-meaning people sometimes say because they don’t know any better.

Still, there has to be a third option between passive acceptance and fighting a battle that’s impossible to win. I can’t change what happened, as much as I would give for such an option. And I also don’t want to just accept and “let go.” I will never let go of you.

One Year Later: The Wave

When I look back at what I wrote when I shared your story with my readers, many of whom knew you, I think much of it holds up fairly well. I tried to be as honest as possible about both your life and death.

Two things stand out to me about that post now. First, I said last year that I would never be angry with you for the impulsive decision you made that night. One year later, this conviction holds up absolutely. I feel overwhelming grief and regret of my own—more than anything, I wish I’d known you were suffering and done something to help. But not for a single moment have I felt any sort of anger or resentment toward you.

12797898_1669151913345708_80360548_n

Chris and Ken, ages 7 and 2, in the Philippines

There’s something I was wrong about, though. I wrote about how you said that when you get sad, you can’t fight it. To be precise:

Just a few months earlier, you were talking with a close friend about a struggle that she was going through. You told her what you did during your own struggles. “When I feel the wave coming,” you said, “I just let it crash over me. I don’t try to mask it or run from the pain.”

Let the wave crash over you. Don’t try to run from the pain.

When I first heard that story, it caused me to reverse my decision to try going on anti-depressants for a while.

Well, here’s the thing—maybe the answer isn’t always to be so strong. The ocean is a powerful, unstoppable force. We do have to let the wave crash over us. But because it’s so powerful, that’s why we sometimes need help.

This realization, along with the stark fact that I wasn’t getting better on my own, is what led me to therapy. It’s a whole new world, and as I said, I wish you could have experienced it. I also started taking medication again, for both the ongoing depression and the situational anxiety I’ve been having. Drugs aren’t a magic solution, of course. My hope is that I won’t stay on them forever, but they do provide some degree of relief and I’m glad I reversed my initial decision.

Now that I think about it, I wish you could tried something similar. Maybe it would have helped you get through the wave, and we could all be doing something different now.

One final thing: in that post I also wrote about how kind you were, the characteristic that remains the central theme of your life as I view it. We know now that you were better at being kind to others than you were at being kind to yourself.

A whole ecosystem of shock and loss has resulted from the events of one year ago, Ken. As your brother I see large parts of it but surely not all. You were loved by many, even if you couldn’t see it the night you left us.

So here is my current set of those action steps that I always long for. It’s essentially a search of sorts, and a quest much more significant than going to every country in the world.

Step 1: “Do nothing.” -via my therapist

Fair enough; I certainly have a lot to learn about mindfulness and acceptance. I’m essentially an absolute beginner in this world, so the good news is that there’s nowhere to go but up.

Step 2: Honor your memory and make sure you are never forgotten.

Well, at least this part is easy. A year later I still think of you every day, over and over. And now I have some insurance: just in case I ever miss a day, that tattoo on my arm isn’t going anywhere.

Step 3: Find meaning in your loss and always be kind.

As I see it, this is a two-part process: be kind to others, just as you were, and be kind to myself, which I also don’t always do so well.

All of this will be hard, but since losing you is the hardest thing, I’ll do everything I can to persevere in the quest. You would have wanted me to, and I hope to eventually learn how to do it justice.

You often told people that you were proud of me. Even in the one-year-later phase of shock and disbelief, I am so proud of you too, Ken. I miss you so much and will continue to learn as much as I can about you.

Love always,

Your Brother

***

Previously:

###

by Chris Guillebeau at June 21, 2016 01:00 PM

Zondervan Academic Blog

How Jesus’ Murder-Is-Wrong Ethic Is Deeper than Atheists’ Ethic

doubters-guide-ten-commandmentsFor the past few months, my pastor has been preaching the Ten Commandments. Though the first four gave me pause, causing me to consider my singular worship of God, and the fifth one about parent honoring resurfaced vivid childhood memories, I sighed in relief at the sixth: “You shall not murder.” I could safely say I’d never murdered anyone.

Not so fast! Because as John Dickson explains in his new book A Doubter’s Guide to the Ten Commandments, “For Jesus, the command about murder is a shadow of a deeper reality in which God calls on us to revere people so much that we will refuse even to denigrate another…” (125)

Jesus’ murder-is-wrong ethic is a strong one. Even stronger than atheistic, secular notions. Because as Dickson reveals, his logic goes deeper.

The Atheist Ethic of “Murder is Wrong”

First, Dickson insists Christians aren’t better than atheists, happily acknowledging “that secular humanitarians frequently put believers to shame with their commitment to justice and compassion.” (129) Yet the logic of such justice and compassion is problematic. Where does their logic lie? Social order and utility.

He explains that for atheists, “the grounds for such an absolute moral statement [murder is wrong] would probably include reference to the kind of society we want to live in. To countenance murder is to countenance a society without order, and so everyone suffers.” (122)

Though some may root a murder-is-wrong ethic in so-called “inalienable rights,” Dickson notes atheist philosopher Raimond Gaita says such language is “problematic and contentious” without a religious framework. “These are ways of trying to say what we feel a need to say,” Gaita notes, “when we are estranged from the conceptual resources we need to say it.” (122) Meaning: “these are Judeo-Christian ways of talking about human obligations…[that] are inappropriate for a mature secular society.” (122)

And here’s the problem: “how to endorse the basic ethical norms granted to the West by centuries of biblical influence without holding any biblical beliefs about the world and humanity?” (122–123)

The Biblical Ethic of “Murder is Wrong”

Unlike atheism, whose murder-is-wrong ethic is rooted in social order and results-oriented utility, biblical social ethic is “more driven by a recognition of the high value of human beings. Every man and woman, regardless of capacity or utility, is intended by God to bear his image in the world.” (123)

Though all reasonable people hold to a murder-is-wrong ethic, Dickson argues that “the Judeo-Christian worldview provides a powerful additional rationale…” (123) He goes on:

For those who see humanity as intended by God to bear his image, expressions such as “sanctity of life” and “inalienable rights” are not outmoded expressions. They are reflections of reality. The high value placed on humanity in biblical logic means that the command “Do not murder” could never be read as permission to mistreat one’s neighbour all the way up to, but not including, the premeditated taking of their life!  (124)

Jesus built upon and deepened this logic in offering his own murder-is-wrong ethic.

Jesus’ Deeper Ethic: The Law of Love

It should be no surprise that Jesus’ ethic takes our sixth command in a direction that neither atheists have nor even Moses himself did. After all, he did it with idolatry, intensifying it to include greed. Read Matthew 5:21–24 and you’ll see he did it again with murder, giving it “the most extraordinary extrapolation of its intention.” (124)

Dickson argues Jesus’ “dazzling move” from banning murder to pitying the poor is premised on a simple logic and rationale that sits at the heart of all social ethics in the Bible:

Human beings are loved and valued by the Creator. Not only are they made in God’s image, they are creatures for whom Jesus Christ died. If that is true, a straight conceptual line can be drawn from murder to uncharitableness. Both are acts of demeaning what is inestimably precious. (127)

He quotes John Calvin to reiterate this love-ethic: “If we do not wish to violate the image of God, we ought to hold our neighbor sacred. And if we do not wish to renounce all humanity, we ought to cherish his as our own flesh.”

Such a logic is what gave rise to “the colossal tradition of charity that has characterized the West from the first century to today.” (127) From orphan care to food pantries and hostels to even the modern human rights movement, the sixth command, deepened by Jesus to include neighbor-love broadly, is their foundation.

***

“As a historical not theological claim,” Dickson argues, “both secular humanitarians and contemporary believers have inherited their way of thinking about the Good Life in large part from the specifically Judeo-Christian tradition of, as Calvin put it, ‘reverencing God’s image imprinted in man.’” Including our thoughts preserving and promoting human life.

 

doubters-guide-ten-commandmentsEngage Dickson’s book on the Ten Commandments yourself to better understand and live the six commandment.

Buy today at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Christian Book.

by Jeremy Bouma at June 21, 2016 12:00 PM

Aaron M. Renn

Chicago’s Advantages

"Chicago sunrise 1" by Daniel Schwen - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

“Chicago sunrise 1” by Daniel Schwen – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

When I wrote that Chicago is the duck-billed platypus of American cities, I noted that there were a lot things about Chicago that were unique – both good and bad – putting it in a class of its own and making it hard to compare Chicago with other cities.

Today I want to put together a starter list of some of the positive distinguishing factors about Chicago. This doesn’t include things like a downtown construction boom because lots of places have one of those. If Chicago’s boom is big, well, it’s a big city. I only want to put something on the list if it is truly distinguishing, or perhaps something limited to only one or two other places.

I’ll create a starter list. Feel free to share yours in the comments, and if I see any ones I agree make the cut, I’ll promote them to the home page.

  • Cheap – least expensive major urban center in America. A middle management level couple can afford a very nice condo in Chicago.
  • Only globally important financial exchange in America outside NYC (the CME Group)
  • Only full slate of globally renowned cultural institutions outside NYC
  • Only large scale, transit oriented central business district outside NYC – and with a skyline to match
  • Fantastic architecture
  • Not only does Chicago have great skyline, it’s got great vistas of the skyline even from within the city (something missing in NYC inside Manhattan)
  • It’s the alley capital of America
  • Improv capital of the world, and one of only three major training locations for comedy in the US (with NYC and LA)
  • Incredible lakefront park system
  • Most car friendly urban big city in America (traffic is bad, but much of housing stock comes with a parking spot, and there are plenty of stores you can drive to – great for families)

There are probably some things like food and music scene were you can rate Chicago as in a league above most cities, but it’s tougher to make that case since you can get great food everywhere now, etc.

Share your thoughts in the comments because I don’t want to leave anything out.

by Aaron M. Renn at June 21, 2016 11:50 AM

Greg Mankiw's Blog

Karen De Coster

The Omnipotent Hag on Innocence

The presumption of innocence is a staple of Anglo-American common law, except in Feinstein-Land. She states, here, that Americans shall ”petition to prove they are innocent and get off of the watchlist.” That is, the arbitrary, totalitarian “watchlist” that the United States government randomly assembles by way of secret evidence and uncorroborated sources and information based on the low standards of “reasonable suspicion.”

by Karen De Coster at June 21, 2016 10:47 AM

Light Blue Touchpaper

Cambridge and Brexit

If the UK leaves the European Union, it will cost Cambridge University about £100m, or about 10% of our turnover.

I present the details in an article today in the Cambridge News.

I reckon we will lose at least £60m of the £69m we get in European grants, at least £20m of our £237m fee income (most of which is from foreign students), at least £10m from Cambridge Assessment and Cambridge University Press, and £5m each from industry and charities. Although I’m an elected member of Council (the governing body) and the committee that sets the budget, all this comes from our published accounts.

And my estimates are conservative; the outcome could easily be worse, especially if foreign students desert us, or just can’t get visas after a popular vote against immigration.

Now everyone on Britain pays on average £4 a year to the EU and gets £2 back. The net contribution of £2 amounts to £12.5m for a town the size of Cambridge. The University alone is getting more than four times that back directly, and yet more indirectly. And the same goes for many other university towns too; even Newcastle gets more than would be raised by everyone in the city paying £2 a year.

But this is not just about money; it’s about who we are, and also about what other people perceive us to be. If Britain votes to leave Europe following a xenophobic campaign against immigrants, people overseas may conclude that Britain is to longer a cool place to study, or to start a research lab. Even some of the people already here will leave. We will do the best we can to keep the flame alight, but it will be very much harder for Cambridge to remain a world-leading university.

See also the Cambridge News editorial, and my piece yesterday on Brexit and tech.

by Ross Anderson at June 21, 2016 09:59 AM

The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

9 Things You Should Know About Physician-Assisted Suicide

Article by: Joe Carter

Earlier this month a new law took effect that makes California the latest—and most populous—state to legalize physician-assisted suicide. A similar law was passed last week by the Canadian parliament. Once approved, Canada will join Albania, Colombia, Switzerland, and the Netherlands in implementing nationwide laws allowing assisted suicide.

Here are nine things you should know about physician-assisted suicide:

1. Physician-assisted suicide (PAS) (also known as physician-assisted death, or PAD) occurs when a physician facilitates a patient’s death by providing the necessary means and/or information to enable the patient to perform the life-ending act (e.g,. the physician provides sleeping pills and information about the lethal dose, while aware that the patient may commit suicide). The distinction between PAS and euthanasia is that in the latter, the lethal dose is administered by someone other than the patient. So if a physician directly administered a lethal drug it would be euthanasia, either voluntary or non-voluntary (i.e., against the will of the patient).

2. Five states—California, Oregon, Washington, Montana, and Vermont—have legalized physician-assisted suicide in some form. PAS remains illegal by statute in Montana, but a 2009 Montana Supreme Court decision shields doctors from prosecution so long as they have the patient's request in writing. New Mexico's statutes continue to list assisted suicide as a fourth-degree felony, but the courts briefly made the practice legal in 2014 before the New Mexico Court of Appeals ruled against it. 3. Currently, one in six Americans lives in a state where a doctor can prescribe a lethal dose of drugs to a patient. However, that number may soon increase since nine other states have pending PAS legislation: Kansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and Pennsylvania,

4. The American Medical Association opposes PAS and says it is “fundamentally incompatible with the physician’s role as healer, would be difficult or impossible to control, and would pose serious societal risks.”

5. In the case of Washington v. Glucksberg (1997), the Supreme Court ruled that the Due Process clause of the 14th Amendment does not guarantee an individual the right to PAS. The Court ruled that since the individual states can have a legitimate interest in prohibiting PAS. The ruling made it clear that legalizing or criminalizing PAS is a matter of states' rights.

6. Even in states where it is legal, there is not much demand for PAS. In 2015, 132 people died by PAS. Similarly, in Washington in 2015 there were 166 deaths due to PAS. Only 24 PAS-related deaths were recorded by Vermont from 2013 to 2016. (If PAS was legal in all 50 states and accounted for 0.25 percent of deaths in 2014 (2,596,993), there would have been 6,492 physician assisted suicides.)

7. Complications that occur during PAS are almost never reported. The main reason may be because doctors are not present when the patient takes the lethal dose. A ten-year study of PAS in Oregon found that physicians were not present in about one-fourth of the cases. But the reason may also be that physicians are merely underreporting the actual number of complications. A lead author of one of Oregon’s official reports on PAS said there is no systematic way of finding out and recording complications other than “asking physicians.” She also acknowledged, “After they write the prescription, the physician may not keep track of the patient.”

8. According to a Gallup survey taken in 2015, nearly seven in ten Americans (68 percent) say doctors should be legally allowed to assist terminally ill patients in committing suicide. Support for PAS has risen nearly 20 points since 2013 and stands at the highest level in more than a decade.

9. A report by the National Institute of Health notes that in published studies, pain is not a dominant motivating factor in patients seeking PAS. The reasons for seeking to die are usually depression, hopelessness, issues of dependency, and loss of control or autonomy.

See also

The Toxic Lie of ‘Me Before You’

When ‘Sanctity of Life’ Includes the Right to Choose Death

Other articles in this series:

Nuclear Weapons • China’s Cultural Revolution • Jehovah’s Witnesses • Harriet Tubman • Autism • Seventh-day Adventism • Justice Antonin Scalia (1936–2016) • Female Genital Mutilation • Orphans • Pastors • Global Persecution of Christians (2015 Edition) • Global Hunger • National Hispanic Heritage Month • Pope Francis • Refugees in America • Margaret Sanger • Confederate Flag Controversy • Elisabeth Elliot • Animal Fighting • Mental Health • Prayer in the Bible • Same-sex Marriage • Genocide • Church Architecture • Auschwitz and Nazi Extermination Camps • Boko Haram • Adoption • Military Chaplains • Atheism • Intimate Partner Violence • Rabbinic Judaism • Hamas • Male Body Image Issues • Mormonism • Islam • Independence Day and the Declaration of Independence • Anglicanism • Transgenderism • Southern Baptist Convention • Surrogacy • John Calvin • The Rwandan Genocide • The Chronicles of Narnia • The Story of Noah • Fred Phelps and Westboro Baptist Church • Pimps and Sex Traffickers • Marriage in America • Black History Month • The Holocaust • Roe v. Wade • Poverty in America • Christmas • The Hobbit • Council of Trent • C.S. Lewis • Halloween and Reformation Day • Casinos and Gambling • Prison Rape • 6th Street Baptist Church Bombing • 9/11 Attack Aftermath • Chemical Weapons • March on Washington • Duck Dynasty • Child Brides • Human Trafficking • Scopes Monkey Trial • Social Media • Supreme Court's Same-Sex Marriage Cases • The Bible • Human Cloning • Pornography and the Brain • Planned Parenthood • Boston Marathon Bombing • Female Body Image Issues • Islamic State

Joe Carter is an editor for The Gospel Coalition, the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible, and the co-author of How to Argue Like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History’s Greatest Communicator. You can follow him on Twitter.

by Joe Carter at June 21, 2016 07:16 AM

Table Titans

Tales: The Great Anvilkrag Beer Contest

Our party had arrived in a Dwarven town where my Human Fighter was raised. Yes, my Human was raised by Dwarves.

I’d received word that a rival clan was, heaven forbid, trying to tax our ale. We spent the evening enjoying the revelry of our clan champion's return. The next day, we set out to…

Read more

June 21, 2016 07:00 AM

The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

On My Shelf: Life and Books with Scott Sauls

Article by: Matt Smethurst

On My Shelf helps you get to know various writers through a behind-the-scenes glimpse into their lives as readers.

I corresponded with Scott Sauls, senior pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church in Nashville, Tennessee, and author of Jesus Outside the Lines: A Way Forward for Those Tired of Taking Sides (Tyndale, 2015) and Befriend: Create Belonging in an Age of Judgment, Isolation, and Fear (Tyndale, forthcoming) about what’s on his nightstand, books that have shaped him, his favorite fiction, what he’s learning, and more.

What’s on your nightstand right now? 

I just finished a pre-release copy of a deeply moving book called Struck by Russ Ramsey. It’s a memoir on affliction and grace. I think it releases sometime in 2017. I’m also plodding through a handful of other books, including Tim Keller’s book on the Psalms, Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead, and Richard Rohr’s Breathing Under Water. On deck is Eugene Peterson’s Run with the Horses, Martyn Lloyd-Jones’s Spiritual Depression, and a collaborative book just released by several PCA ministers on racial reconciliation and belonging, titled Heal Us, Emmanuel. Ann Voskamp also has a book called The Broken Way that I can’t wait to read, but it hasn’t yet released.   What are some books you regularly re-read and why?   Outside of the Bible, Mere Christianity seems to be the book I return to more than any other. I’m also greatly helped by Paul Tripp’s book for pastors titled Dangerous Calling. In a day where many pastors seem to be stumbling and even losing their ministries (some of whom are friends of mine), Tripp’s book feels especially urgent. I also find great encouragement from Brennan Manning’s The Ragamuffin Gospel and Tim Keller’s The Prodigal God, who both encourage heart application of biblical sonship, but in two distinct voices. Because my heart is prone, perhaps more than many others, to wander from the identity secured for us in Jesus’s death, burial, and resurrection, I need books like these to lead me back home. Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together reminds me there’s often a difference between our dream of what true Christian community should be, and what true Christian community actually is.   What books have most helped you teach Scripture to others?    Tim Keller’s sermon archive in Logos is tremendously helpful, not only as a practical commentary and source of great anecdotes and quotes, but also devotionally. (If you have read this far, you should be able to tell Keller’s voice is very significant in my life.) I also find N. T. Wright’s For Everyone commentaries on the New Testament immensely helpful. I’m drawn to Wright’s obsession with Jesus’s kingdom already being here, and with how the resurrection of Jesus moves us out in the world to love people, and also places and things, to life. I’m also deeply grateful to those who contributed to the notes in the ESV Study Bible, including my predecessor at Christ Presbyterian Church, Ray Ortlund. Jonathan Edwards’s On Revival and Charity and Its Fruits provide fresh reminders that good theology is meant to catch fire in the preacher’s heart. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Testament of Hope helps me remember the importance of life experiences and perspectives different, and less privileged than, my own—which I believe is essential to understand for a preacher. Preachers must have high levels of cultural and emotional intelligence, especially as the landscape in the West diversifies. Speaking of that, I find anything by Soong Chan-Rah to be both prophetically challenging and inspiring.   What books have most influenced your views on culture and cultural engagement?   That’s easy. The Gospel in a Pluralist Society by Lesslie Newbigin and The Reason for God by Tim Keller.   What are your favorite fiction books?   John Steinbeck’s East of Eden, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, and C. S. Lewis’s Narnia Chronicles. Regarding Lewis, his are among my favorite fiction books chiefly because, in truth, they aren’t fiction at all.   What are you learning about life and following Jesus?   These days, I’m learning that by virtue of being a pastor, I’m vulnerable. Satan hates the ministry, and the flesh is always at war against the Spirit. I’ve been deeply affected by the number of pastors who’ve lost their ministries due to isolation that led to moral compromise, and know deep down that under different circumstances, it could be me instead of them. I recently wrote a blog post called “Thoughts on the Rise and Fall of Pastors,” which seemed to resonate with fellow pastors especially. What I’m learning is that we pastors need more friends and fewer fans. We need to pay more attention to Scripture and less to building platforms. We need people in our lives to remind us that God hasn’t called us to be heroes or celebrities, but humble, forgiven, faithful sons and servants to Jesus.

Also in the On My Shelf series: Karen Swallow PriorJackie Hill PerryBruce AshfordJonathan LeemanMegan HillMarvin OlaskyDavid WellsJohn FrameRod DreherJames K. A. SmithRandy AlcornTom SchreinerTrillia NewbellJen WilkinJoe CarterTimothy GeorgeTim KellerBryan ChapellLauren ChandlerMike CosperRussell MooreJared WilsonKathy KellerJ. D. GreearKevin DeYoungKathleen NielsonThabiti AnyabwileElyse FitzpatrickCollin HansenFred SandersRosaria ButterfieldNancy Guthrie, and Matt Chandler.

Browse dozens of book recommendations from The Gospel Coalition’s leaders and sign up your church at Hubworthy.

Matt Smethurst serves as managing editor of The Gospel Coalition. He and his wife, Maghan, have two children and live in Louisville, Kentucky. They belong to Third Avenue Baptist Church, where Matt serves as an elder. You can follow him on Twitter.

by Matt Smethurst at June 21, 2016 05:02 AM

6 Ways a Fictional Church May Wreck Your Ministry

Article by: Jeff Robinson

His words rang in my ears for days and triggered more than a few nights of nocturnal unrest.

What were you expecting in the pastorate? You’re not in seminary anymore, and this church isn’t filled with your seminary buddies. You’re in the real world now, son.

I’d been on the job exactly five days when a man who’d been in ministry for five decades struck down my beautiful and peaceful—and yes, fictional—church with the effect of an F-5 twister.

I’m not certain what my expectations for ministry were as a rookie pastor. But it didn’t take me long to realize that, prior to arriving on the battleground known as the local church, I had unwittingly constructed in my mind a church that was nothing like the congregation who now called me “Pastor Jeff.” And I suspect I’m not alone.

Poison Ivy of Expectations

I had built a ministerial Shire that doesn’t exist in this fallen world. It was long on success, as some who analyze churches reckon success, but it was decidedly slim on tribulation, anxiety, and pain. It was a church who loved everything I “brought to the table.” It was populated by those who delighted in my preaching, my family, even my personality. I simply showed up, preached, and watched it grow spiritually and numerically. My “honeymoon period” would endure indefinitely.

But it was pure fiction, ministerial Disneyland. Given the number of times I’ve read Genesis 3, I should have known better.

And if you’re not careful, you may construct a variation of this church, too—whether you’re in seminary or in a difficult ministry context fantasizing about your “next” congregation. 

After a few years in the pastorate—and in the wake of too many foolish pastoral missteps on my part—I realize this fiction plagued the early days of my non-fictional pastorate. It even grew into sinful (but thankfully, temporary) disillusionment. In his excellent mercy, God has used it to teach me lessons about the glories of ministry as well as the poison ivy of self-centered expectations that tend to grow along the walls of my heart.

So why does a fictional church bear such lethal potential? Here are six reasons:

1. Your fictional church might make it difficult to adjust to your real church.

Failure is inevitable if you arrive with false expectations of your congregation, of staff members, of yourself. And it won’t take long.

Ministry is difficult, after all. If you’re preparing to be at ease in Zion, the first appearance of the Philistine giant on the hill will send you running for cover.

2. Your fictional church might leave you disappointed with your real church.

You may be trying to reach an artificial—perhaps even unbiblical—standard that neither you nor those under your care are able (or should be striving) to meet. You will be frustrated with them, and they will be frustrated with you.

But you are called to love the congregation you have, not the one you desire. Yes, it’s easier to be orthodox than loving (see 1 Cor. 13). But God has called you to love and shepherd these flawed sheep, not the you-centered sycophants who populated that fictional church. Remember, you are deeply flawed too.

3. Your fictional church might unleash your inner Pharisee on your real church.

As the next step down the path from danger number two, you may be tempted to hold them in contempt due to the barrenness of their theological knowledge, their lack of zeal for your ministry heroes, or their disinterest in talking about the things of God. Your inner Pharisee will tempt you to be proud that you’re not like them, that you possess deep theological knowledge, that it’s far more spiritual to talk about divine decrees than the NBA Finals.

But you are called to be a shepherd, and it is your privilege to lead them—slowly, patiently, and humbly—to the green pastures of delighting in the things of God. There was a time when you didn’t know the Bible well, a season when you were not well-versed in theology. You must never forget. Besides, learning about the things that interest your people—like professional sports—will greatly improve your ability to relate to them.

4. Your fictional church may have equipped you with an encyclopedia of cut-and-dried answers to questions that aren’t cut-and-dried.

Real-life ministry requires wise nuance in the application of Scripture and theology. It requires others-focused relational savvy. In a former venue of service for me, the church was constitutionally elder-led, but had no elders in place when I arrived. In my fictional church, we would have elected elders the first month. After all, plural-elder leadership is the New Testament pattern, and we want to be biblical, right? But I had to take time to see whether there were qualified men in the church. I needed to get to know them well before this right and good step could be taken. 

Sadly, years later I’m convinced I wasn’t patient enough.

You will face many challenges for which there are no cut-and-dried answers, challenges that require careful, patient, wise, nuanced application of God’s Word. Some of them will call for seeking wisdom from pastors more seasoned than you. Drench yourself in the wisdom of Proverbs 15:22. Build relationships with faithful pastors who have lived many years in the trenches. 

5. Your fictional church may have subtly contorted your theology of suffering.

You may even begin to wish—in some dark corner of your fallen mind—that a theologically respectable version of the prosperity gospel was true. You always knew ministers suffered. You’ve read about Charles Simeon and Jim Elliott and the Reformers, but if you’ve lived too long in a ministry fantasy camp you’ll be shocked—perhaps even a bit peeved at God—that it’s actually happening to you. But listen carefully to Peter:

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. (1 Pet. 4:12–13)

You will suffer in ministry. It’s axiomatic. And it’s glorious (2 Cor. 4:17–18). Paul devoted an entire letter—2 Corinthians—to tracing out the pastor’s job description. He tells us that at times it won’t be pretty. He tells us church leadership isn’t for the squeamish. And know this: the cauldron of real-life ministry will either confirm your calling or make it evaporate like summer mist. You must cling to the one who suffered in your place and learn to find your contentment in him alone (Phil. 4:12).

6. Your fictional church may cause you to forget who builds the church.

You are the undershepherd of Christ’s church. He is the hero, not you. He builds his church, not you (Matt. 16:18). Whether your ministry efforts seem to bear fruit that is puny or plentiful—and the difference is often impossible to discern—God is strong and you are weak. Ministry has nothing to do with your glory, and everything to do with his.

Just as the Lord calls us to perpetual self-examination (2 Cor. 13:5), so pastors—both present and future—must always be weighing their ministry motives. We must keep a sharp eye trained on the landscape of our hearts, lest we build on it unreasonable—fictional—expectations of ourselves or of those God grants us the privilege of shepherding.

Jeff Robinson (PhD, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is a senior editor for The Gospel Coalition. He also pastors a church plant in Louisville, Kentucky, and serves as senior research and teaching associate for the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies and adjunct professor of church history at Southern Seminary. Prior to entering ministry, he spent nearly 20 years as a newspaper journalist in Georgia, North Carolina, and Kentucky, covering various beats from politics to Major League Baseball and SEC football. He is co-author with Michael Haykin of the book To the Ends of the Earth: Calvin’s Mission Vision and Legacy. Jeff and his wife, Lisa, have four children. You can follow him on Twitter.

by Jeff Robinson at June 21, 2016 05:00 AM

Did Jesus and Paul Preach the Same Gospel?

Article by: Staff

Panelists: John Piper, Tim Keller, Don Carson

Date: May 22, 2012

Event: The Gospel Coalition 2012 Council Colloquium in Louisville, Kentucky

John Piper is a TGC Council member, founder and teacher of DesiringGod.org, and chancellor of Bethlehem College and Seminary. Tim Keller is senior pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Manhattan. Don Carson is research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois. As president and vice president, Carson and Keller founded The Gospel Coalition.

You can stream this episode of The Gospel Coalition podcast here or watch a video of the discussion.   

by Staff at June 21, 2016 04:59 AM

The Third Bit

In That Dawn

"Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive..."
— Wordsworth

Jerome Ravetz's recent article How should we treat science's growing pains? made me realize something about open science. He writes:

[Science]'s present problems can be explained partly by the transformation from the 'little science' of the past to the 'big science' or 'industrialised science' of the present...

There are two familiar qualitative aspects of the steady quantitative growth of the scientific enterprise. The first is the loss of 'Gemeinschaft', where all communities...have become so large that personal acquaintance no longer dominates in the professional relationships. The old informal systems of rewards and sanctions are no longer effective. Under the new 'Gesellschaft' conditions, such intimate tasks of governance must be made 'objective'. Ironically, applying a 'scientific' methodology to the tasks of governance of science leads directly to corruption, since any such system can be gamed. Allied to that development is a second one, the hugely increased capital-intensity of science, so that the typical context of discovery is no longer the scientist with his [sic] test-tube, but a large lab with division of labour on an industrial scale...

Just as this new system was becoming dominant, by a cruel accident of fate a third element has intruded: stasis. The social subsystem of science whereby it reproduces itself, namely the training and certification of postgraduates, depends on the possibility of recruitment of at least a significant minority... [W]hen...that prospect vanishes, recruitment stalls, and the existing corps of researchers is squeezed, many pathologies inevitably ensue. The obvious one is the proletarianisation of research work. Recruits (and teachers) face the prospect of a lifetime sequence of short-term jobs on contracts...Maintaining the lofty ideals of independence and integrity becomes increasingly difficult.

"...all communities...have become so large that personal acquaintance no longer dominates..." "...the typical context of discovery is no longer the scientist with his [sic] test-tube, but a...division of labour on an industrial scale..." Maybe that's what we're really rebelling against: not the lack of reproducibility, or our inability to re-use our colleagues' data, but the loss of community. Maybe the fact that the same people show up over and over again at open science meetings isn't a weakness, but a reason to be there: after all, it's more fun to be part of a tight-knit band of rebels than it is to be a faceless drone working for the empire they're trying to overthrow.

Ravetz's article may also explain why so many people in open science are drawn to open source software. It isn't so that they can check each other's code—as far as I can tell, scientists still don't do that to any significant degree. Instead, it's that when you're building something new, you can do something on a human scale that actually matters. As just one example, the Jupyter Notebook is a big deal in open science, but it's a lot smaller than a particle accelerator or space telescope, which means everyone who works on it can see the difference they're making.

Nobody becomes a scientist in order to figure out how to increase the frequency resolution of a linear chirp filter. We become scientists because it's an adventure. Open science is still new enough—still open enough—that individuals can still feel that. And it's still small enough that you can look left and look right and recognize the faces you see, and recognize the same excitement on them that you feel yourself.


Later: I got mail overnight about this post from someone who follows me on Twitter who said that they wished the "open" in "open source" and "open science" meant "actually open to all comers". They pointed me at this depressing story I'd retweeted about a woman's experience at a recent high-performance computing conference, and at this picture from a meeting about engineering academic software where their presence would apparently have increased the number of visible minority participants from zero to one, and asked whether I thought they had the same freedom I did to build something new, and whether I thought they could look left and look right and recognize themselves in the faces they saw. The honest answers are "no" and "no"...

by Greg Wilson (gvwilson@third-bit.com) at June 21, 2016 03:00 AM

June 20, 2016

Workout: June 21, 2016

Eva 5 rounds of: Run 800 m 30 kettlebell swings (55/35 lb.) 30 pull-ups

by Mike at June 20, 2016 11:19 PM

Greg Mankiw's Blog

On the Alesina Hypothesis

In my  recent NY Times article, I explored several hypotheses to explain slow growth. One was based on work by Alberto Alesina and Silvia Ardagna suggesting that the standard Keynesian view of tax and spending multipliers is inconsistent with the international evidence. 

Paul Krugman says the Alesina-Ardagna work has been "refuted."  Nothing could be further from the truth.  See this recent paper by Alesina, Favero, and Giovazzi on fiscal consolidations, which reports evidence consistent with the earlier work and is forthcoming in the peer-reviewed Journal of International Economics.  (By the way, this work is also consistent with the Romers' finding of large tax multipliers, much larger than the literature finds for spending multipliers.)

To be sure, these issues continue to be debated. Remember: My piece was presenting hypotheses about what has been happening in the economy, not taking a stand about which one is right. From my perspective, the Alesina work suggests a still plausible hypothesis.

by Greg Mankiw (noreply@blogger.com) at June 20, 2016 10:06 PM

sacha chua :: living an awesome life

2016-06-20 Emacs News

Links from reddit.com/r/emacs, /r/orgmode, Hacker News, planet.emacsen.org, Youtube, the changes to the Emacs NEWS file, and emacs-devel.

Past Emacs News round-ups

The post 2016-06-20 Emacs News appeared first on sacha chua :: living an awesome life.

by Sacha Chua at June 20, 2016 09:44 PM

‘Can you take our picture?’

Visiting the Apple Campus

During WWDC last week, I took a drive down to Apple’s campus with CGP Grey, Federico Viticci and Myke Hurley. Ticci needed to pick up an iPad for his iOS 10 review and everyone wanted to get a photo in front of 1 Infinite Loop before Campus 2 opens.

Once we were in front of the sign, we asked two Chinese men who were there as well to take the photo you see above. They didn’t speak much English, but they were willing to help us out, taking several photos of our field trip.

I offered to take their photo to return the favor. When the older man handed me his iPhone 6, I couldn’t help but notice it was set in Chinese. While that in and of itself isn’t remarkable, it’s the first time I’ve used an iOS device set in any language other than English. I snapped a few photos of them, smiling under the flags just as we had. They reviewed the photos, thanking me for giving them a hand.

Our entire interaction took place in just a couple of minutes, but it’s really stuck with me. It’s easy to think about the community surrounding Apple being our favorite group of writers and podcasters, but it’s far bigger than that. I don’t know if those guys were attending WWDC, or lived in the area and were just checking Apple’s campus out, but clearly they were excited to be there. Had we been able to communicate any more deeply, I’m sure we could have compared thoughts on the keynote and shared our hopes for Apple’s platforms in the future. We probably aren’t all that different when it comes to our interests and obsessions. That’s pretty cool, and I enjoyed the reminder that all around the world, people are nerdy about the same things.

by Stephen at June 20, 2016 09:04 PM

Sierra’s new system requirements

Since Mountain Lion, Apple hasn’t changed the system requirements for its desktop operating system. Since 2012, these Macs could run the current OS:

  • iMac (Mid 2007 or newer)
  • MacBook (Late 2008 Aluminum, or Early 2009 or newer)
  • MacBook Pro (Mid/Late 2007 or newer)
  • Xserve (Early 2009)
  • MacBook Air (Late 2008 or newer)
  • Mac mini (Early 2009 or newer)
  • Mac Pro (Early 2008 or newer)

With macOS Sierra, that list has changed:

  • iMac (Late 2009 and later)
  • MacBook (Late 2009 and later)
  • MacBook Pro (2010 and later)
  • MacBook Air (2010 and later)
  • Mac Mini (2010 and later)
  • Mac Pro (2010 and later)

It was initially though that Sierra requires Intel chips with the SSE4.1 instruction set, removing machines with silicon older than the 45nm Penryn Core 2 Duo family of processors.

However, if SSE4.1 was the hard cutoff, some older Mac Pros — that Apple has cut off — would be able to run macOS Sierra that Apple, so there may be other factors like GPU support in play as well.

Apple’s been really good about supporting old machines longer and longer, but some users are understandably upset that their machines are being left behind this time around. If you’re one of those users, I’ll just leave this link here, but something like this should is definitely not supported by Apple.

by Stephen at June 20, 2016 08:40 PM

Karen De Coster

Condos for Car Nuts, or, the $100k+ Man Cave

Surely it’s ironic that a closed General Motors assembly plant in Pontiac, Michigan would become the new home to a “car aficionado playground,” or what is known as the M1 Car Condo project. To quote an article from MLive:

DETROIT – There are many places where people meet in Metro Detroit to proudly display their cars and trucks, or just gawk at other people’s, or both.

But Brad Oleshanksy said there are few if any dedicated spots in Southeast Michigan with a closed track, private garages and public retail all in one setting.

That changes this summer when Oleshansky’s M1 Concourse opens on 87 acres of land in Pontiac.

The $50 million project, in the making since 2013, has already had 8,000 tons of asphalt laid for its 1.5-mile track, and will open in time for Woodward Dream Cruise in August, with some events planned before then.

This project, called M1 Concourse, is an 87-acre “car enthusiast destination” that is a race track lined with nearly 300 car-condos, or private garages, ranging in price from $105k to $1M. These are deemed the “ultimate man caves.” Upcoming phases call for all the usual trappings of these bubble-economy, luxury undertakings: event space, a car-themed restaurant, and plans for extensive retail and commercial space into the year 2018. (We’ll see how that goes.)

This whole venture is described as a glorious “coming together” of the public and private sector with public funds being snatched to pay for cleaning up and redeveloping the site, and providing infrastructure.

Thus developers here descended upon mounds of cheap credit to borrow and build a luxury project, and they merged these borrowed monies with funds swindled from taxpayers via congressional dictates under the guise of “revitalizing Pontiac.” Pontiac is a city that has long been dead as a doornail, largely empty and abandoned, including empty auto plants and a shoddy downtown. The only renovations in this city have come from an economy bubbling with excess credit and Federal Reserve-gifted bargain interest rates. There is no genuine grass roots interest or demographic stability to support a project of this type, which is why it became infused with the promises of politicians and taxpayer dollars.

How long this multi-million dollar man cave will stay afloat will depend on how quickly the next Meltdown will bear down upon us. Perhaps it can join the Pontiac Silverdome one day in the Pontiac graveyard for formerly fabulous projects. Thanks to James Nellis for the tip. Follow me on Twitter @karendecoster.

 

by Karen De Coster at June 20, 2016 08:21 PM

Iconfactory turns 20

The Iconfactory:

This page marks a milestone in the life of our hobby turned business. We’ve been pushing pixels professionally for twenty years!

What an amazing run.

by Stephen at June 20, 2016 06:45 PM

Zondervan Academic Blog

What is an “Accurate” translation? – Mondays with Mounce 294

A friend asked me this question the other day, and I thought I would take this opportunity to flesh out what I think the answer is.

The standard answer is that a “literal” Bible is the most accurate, and by “literal” they generally mean word-for-word. If the Greek has a verb, the English should have a verb. If the text uses the same Greek three times, the same English word should be used three times.

This understanding is seriously flawed at two levels.

First, the English word “literal” has to do with meaning, not form. Webster gives these three definitions of “literal.”

  1. Involving the ordinary or usual meaning of a word
  2. Giving the meaning of each individual word
  3. Completely true and accurate: not exaggerated

Meaning 1 and 3 are purely about meaning. A “literal” translation of a hyperbole is a hyperbole. A “literal” translation of a sentence is one that says what the original means and not exaggerating it.

Even meaning #2, at second glance, has to do with meaning. It doesn’t tell you how to give the meaning of each word. Maybe the best way to give the meaning of a single word in Greek is with a three-word phrase in English. Try translating any of the σύν verbal compounds with one word: συνακολουθέω.

Secondly, this common understanding is a misunderstanding because all translation involves meaning. Even the most word-for-word translations of the Greek know this. Other than an interlinear, all translations seek to convey meaning. Let me give you a couple examples.

The ESV says that Jesus “is the propitiation (ἱλασμός) for our sins” (1 John 2:2). Is that a “literal” translation? If you don’t know what “propitiation” means, then I would argue that it is not “literal” because it doesn’t mean anything, and how can something that doesn’t mean anything to 99% of the English readers be a “literal translation.” The NIV’s “atoning sacrifice,” with which I had nothing to do, unfortunately, at least means something, and I would argue is a more literal translation since it conveys meaning. I know the counter argument; you can always look “propitiation” up in a dictionary. But then the question becomes, how does that qualify as a translation?

Or how about πόλις. It occurs 163 times in the NT. I believe the NASB, every time, translates it as “city.” The problem of course is that the “city of Nazareth” had about 600 people in Jesus’ day. No one today, in the US, would call Nazareth a “city.” It isn’t. It is a “village,” perhaps. But the point is that in the NASB’s victory of form over meaning, it seriously mistranslates by ignoring the meaning of “city” and πόλις.

This is a debate that will go on for decades, but can we at least agree on two things?

1. Please stop using the word “literal” with reference to form. It simply is not what the English word means.

2. Can we become a little more nuanced in our discussion, recognizing that accuracy has to do with meaning?

***

Basics of Biblical Greek GrammarIf you’d like to continue to sharpen your Greek skills, buy Basics of Biblical Greek at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Christian Book.

by Bill Mounce at June 20, 2016 03:53 PM

The Art of Non-Conformity

If You Have No Challenges, Maybe It’s Time to Change Your Life

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Have you ever walked around endless airport highway ramps for more than a mile? When it’s after 10pm and you’ve got your carry-on bags with you?

Yeah, so I did that the other night. Short version: when you land in DFW and are staying at the off-airport Hyatt Regency, you’re supposed to take the SkyTrain to the C gates, and then hike through the parking garage to the entrance. I’ve done it that way before, and it’s not terribly difficult.

This time I was hanging out in the D terminal, working from my favorite U.S. airline lounge, and I decided to walk outside and skip the whole SkyTrain thing. How hard could it be? I’ve been to DFW, oh, I don’t know—several hundred times if not more. Sure, it’s a big place, and there was that time I got lost trying to return a rental car and missed my flight, but still.

It turns out it’s actually quite difficult to walk that way, and it took me more than 35 minutes. I first went to the D parking garage, only to realize that it is in no way connected to C. OK, no problem. I could see the hotel about 300 yards away, so I decided to walk across the exit ramp. No big deal.

Problem was, as I approached the end of the exit ramp, it went nowhere near the hotel. Instead, the elevated ramp curved around. Waaaayyyy around.

Thus began the more interesting part of the journey, in which I was passed by approximately seventy-five vehicles proceeding in my direction. I clung to the side of the road and hoped that the shuttle drivers and passenger drop-off cars would stick to their lane and not swerve off to the left.

It was a mistake, for sure, but the whole time it felt like some sort of meaningful experience. This year I’ve been thinking about risk a lot, and this was definitely risky behavior. While I was schlepping down the road with no end in sight, I decided that while I probably shouldn’t have chosen this course of action, now that I was committed, I didn’t wish to undo it.

I thought of the Churchill phrase: “When you’re going through hell, keep going.”

I also thought, you can learn a lot about yourself when you’re scared.

I finally arrived at the hotel drenched in sweat, but I felt like a champion. I don’t run marathons anymore; I just do dumb things like get lost at the airport and decide I can find my way by walking on the highway.

It’s a funny thing: I’ve been to this hotel a dozen times before, and every other arrival has been uneventful. Yet I’m pretty sure that every time I stay there from here on out, I’ll remember my highway schlep.

When we look back at our lives, we don’t remember the times when everything went well. If you don’t have challenges in your life, maybe you should change your life.

If you don’t ever struggle, and you don’t ever fail, maybe your goals are too small.

###

Image: Paulo

by Chris Guillebeau at June 20, 2016 03:13 PM

Light Blue Touchpaper

The tech industry and Brexit

The debate on whether Britain should leave the EU has largely ignored a factor of huge importance to the tech industry – network effects.

So I’ve written an article on what Brexit means for the tech industry from the viewpoint of information economics.

Network effects mean that the value of a transaction often depends on how many other people make similar transactions. They make our industry prone to monopolies. They ensure that the UK, with 1% of world population and 3% of GDP, has little influence on tech markets, which are mostly global. But the EU has real clout; Silicon Valley sees it as the world privacy regulator, as Washington doesn’t care and no-one else is big enough to matter. And most of the other regulations that IT people find annoying, from IP laws to export controls, are also embedded in international treaties. We can’t just tear up the annoying “red tape”, as the Brexit crowd suggest.

Brexit would not only diminish our influence on the laws that affect tech – many of which reflect negative network effects. It would make startups more expensive, so UK firms would have a harder time exploiting the positive network effects that are often the key to success. And it would damage the successful tech clusters we do have in Cambridge and in London.

Tech clusters need a number of things to thrive; and it’s not just technical network effects that matter, but labour-market network effects too. And there’s quite a lot of research on that. As good engineers can earn good money and live wherever we want, we congregate in places that are good places to live. They are always open and liberal places, where it’s fine to be from an ethnic minority, or an immigrant, or gay. What would the world’s best and brightest engineers think about moving to Britain if we vote for xenophobia on Thursday?

The article is in Computer Weekly, and there’s also a pdf here.

by Ross Anderson at June 20, 2016 03:06 PM

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by Stephen at June 20, 2016 02:52 PM

Front Porch Republic

Maintenant, ça suffit

I’ve been out of Paris for a week now, and apart from a brief stop there on my way to London to watch the Brexit vote unfold, I will be out of my adopted home for another week still.  I continue to be bemused that such a generally kind and often generous populace is acting out in the most vicious and selfish of ways – and the current strikes are perhaps a visible sign of a silent sickness that has plagued France for some time.

Now, I want to make it clear – I understand and respect that strikes are a way – sometimes the only way – for workers to maintain their rights.  It is a step that should be taken only after all other means have been exhausted.  And given the context of the last four weeks, the timing of the strikes are such that any reasonable French person should say that really, this is too much.

To start, we had some of the worst rains in France (and across Europe) for many decades.  Crops and animals have been destroyed, people have died, and people were only just beginning to get outside again.  The weather might have no effect on the French who have cushy union jobs, but the travel industry, which depends on fair weather and a well-running city, was hit pretty hard.  And when some of us were finally able to take our guests outside last week, we were confronted with massive piles of trash in the streets, as the trash men were on strike.  Indeed, the Mayor of Paris had to call in a service from out of town to pick up the trash as she continued her negotiations with the garbagemen.  Add that to the Air France pilots striking some time after the air traffic controllers had their own strike, which was then followed by a metro strike, and you have a conspiracy to make life for visitors and ordinary people in France miserable.  Those of us who live here, or those in town for the football tournament, will simply deal with the inconveniences.  But other visitors, who couldn’t get on flights, perhaps watched lifelong travel dreams go up like the smoke of a protestor’s flare.  And the people in Paris who depend on public transportation to go to work – they are the ones hit – not the “elite” who the protestors say they are attacking.

What these strikers are protesting – the loi travail – a new labor law that was passed by decree (a vestigial power of the French kings held by the President of the Fifth Republic) is, among other things, going to make it easier for employers to hire and fire employees.  It’s nothing so ruthless as the labor laws in America.  Not even close.  So, don’t let the protestors tell you that they are “fighting for their rights.”  They are “bullying for their benefits.”  French workers are absolutely pampered, by any standard, and any who would tell you otherwise has either never worked outside of Europe or is detached from reality.

When I was chatting about this with a friend recently, she said, “Well, there’s no trash strike out in Clichy” (which is a suburb just outside the peripherique that marks the outer boundary of the city proper).  “Of course not,” I replied, “because the trashmen live in Clichy.  They aren’t going to subject their friends and neighbors to such idiocy.”  She gasped, but didn’t disagree.

It doesn’t take a royalist to know that the French love and crave “daddy” presidents.  It’s to be expected of a people that have lived under kings for millennia.  And perhaps that is the next sort of President on the horizon for the Gauls.  But for now what we do have is a Socialist French president trying to force through necessary labor reform in a country naturally suspicious of such things.  And yet do the French really consider Hollande a stooge of the Right or a parrot for unfettered “free market capitalism,” as if such a thing exists (or is desirable) anywhere?  No, they are just out-of-control spoiled children who need what spoiled children always need: a father to discipline them and tell them it’s time to grow up.

But they will probably resist the call to maturity, not just because Hollande is weak and lacking in courage (though, he must be given credit for standing tall so far and not folding to a lot of pressure), but because the French themselves don’t have the courage to reform.  But these inconveniences of strikes and unreformed labor laws will pass as the summer goes on and we head towards the union elections in the autumn.

France will remain the country that is rightly trying to hold on to her identity, like a little comet caught in the gravitational pull of the dueling stars of the EU and the USA, which exert a lot of competitive pressure.  But France should hold on its patrimony and traditions.  It preserves, in a way, hearth and home for everyone who cares for such things.  But they should do so in a thoughtful and mature way that convinces and persuades, not a childish and destructive way that irritates and alienates.  The Euro 2016 tournament, which was a golden opportunity to showcase France for the lovely country that it is, has instead turned the spotlight on a country that is deeply troubled, from top to bottom.

The French can, and should do better than this.  But will they?

The title of the article is French for “now, that’s enough” which is how many of us who live in France feel about the current state of affairs.

The post Maintenant, ça suffit appeared first on Front Porch Republic.

by Stephen Heiner at June 20, 2016 02:47 PM

Reformedish

What I Can’t Know If I Don’t Know the Trinity

the trinityI’ve already written of the recent controversy over the Trinity and my hope that solid, theological and spiritual reinvigoration would come from it. All the same, I ran across a fantastic passage in the great divine Herman Witsius’ treatment of the Trinity in his Sacred Dissertations on the Apostle’s Creed (a remarkably careful and pastoral work).

In his comment on the Trinitarian shape of the Apostle’s Creed, he has a short segment arguing for the importance of our knowledge of this chief point of Christian doctrine. It’s not only that a proper understanding of the Trinity is some sort of arid proposition we need to check off a list of “need to know” facts to be “good Christians.” Rather, it’s that without a knowledge of the Trinity, we are simply robbed of all of the chief comforts of Christian faith:

When the Trinity is not known, the necessary consequence is, that the principal foundation of our faith and comfort, are unknown. All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hid in the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ.

In order to explain this, he goes on to expound the importance of recognizing the work of each person individually, beginning with the Father:

I cannot know how God can show mercy to a sinner in a manner worthy of himself, unless I know he has a Son whom he could send to make satisfaction for sin, and a Spirit who can apply to me the merits of the Son.

Right off the bat, you see the Trinitarian shape of the heart of God’s atoning, justifying, and sanctifying work with the Father sending the Son in the economy of redemption and the Spirit’s application. Continuing on:

If I know not that the Father is God, I shall be ignorant that I am a Son of God,–which is the sum of our felicity.

Without a knowledge that God is eternally Father to the Son, we will not understand the marvel of that highest privilege of the gospel: the adoption unto Sonship into which are admitted in union with Christ by which we can cry “Abba, Father!”

But according to Witsius, that Fatherhood is only good news to us if we recognize God the Son:

If I know not that the Son is God, I shall not form a right estimate of the love of God the Father who has given him to me, nor of the grace of the Son, who, though possessing inconceivable majesty, humbled himself so wonderfully for my sake;

It’s fascinating to see how Witsius is at once trying to point out the importance of each of the persons in the work of salvation, but can only do so with reference to the other persons. (Indeed, earlier on, he spends a good deal of space explaining the unified activity of the whole Trinity in every act ad extra, the one will, mind, and operation of the Godhead and so forth.) But here we see that we can only understand the love of God the Father being magnified in the gift of the eternal Son, whom we can only recognize as majestic in his self-humbling in the working of salvation.

But he pushes on to point out further how the Son’s divinity is crucial to our soul’s peace:

 –nor shall I be able to place a firm dependence upon his satisfaction, which could not be sufficient unless it were of infinite value, or to rely securely on his power, which cannot save me unless it be evidently omnipotent;–it will be impossible for me, in short, to regard him as my Saviour and my Chief Good, because none excepting the true God of Israel is Israel’s God and Redeemer.

The Son’s divinity matters because otherwise, any satisfaction he makes would be merely finite, insufficient for the weighty work of a cosmic atonement. Second, we have strong enemies—sin, death, and the devil—how can I have assurance of the Son’s victory if he is not almighty God himself? Only the “the true God of Israel is Israel’s God and redeemer.”

Finally, he turns to the person of the Holy Spirit:

If…I am not sure that the Holy Spirit, to whose direction and government I ought to commit myself, is God, I shall not be able to esteem my subjection to him as true liberty, to maintain a holy acquiescence in his protecting care, or to rely on his testimony respecting my salvation as a most ample security.

If the Spirit is not God, then submitting to him isn’t the true freedom and dignity of serving the highest Lord. Nor is receiving the Holy Spirit as another counselor the great gift that Jesus says it is (John 16). And listening to his internal witness or testimony via Scripture isn’t hearing the voice of God himself assuring me of my salvation.

For Witsius, then, the Trinity isn’t the doctrine that you get to once you’ve built up all the rest of your faith and you sort of add it as the cherry on top. No, it’s foundation upon which everything is built, and if the foundation is weak, everything comes crumbling down:

Christian faith is of so delicate a character, that it can firmly acquiesce in none but the Most High God. It must, then, be of the first importance and necessity for us to know a doctrine, one which the knowledge of so many necessary points depends.

He concludes this point with a historical example:

This argument is confirmed by experience; for, as we see in the Socinians, the same men who deny the Trinity, deny, also, the satisfaction of Christ, the invincible power of the Spirit in our regeneration and conservation, the certainty of salvation, and the full assurance of faith. The mystery of our salvation through Christ is so intimately connected with the mystery of the Trinity, that when the latter is unknown or denied, the former cannot be known or acknowledged.

The Socinian heretics were remarkable in their day for having denied just about every chief point of doctrine from the deity of Christ, to the atonement, assurance of salvation, an everything else. Witsius says that their chief mistake was the loss of the Trinity. To miscontrue the nature of God is to inevitably misconstrue the nature of God’s salvation. When you lose the Trinity, you pull on the thread that unravels the seamless garment of Christian salvation and comfort.

The point is, when you don’t know God as Trinity, there’s not much you can know about the Gospel.

Soli Deo Gloria


by Derek Rishmawy at June 20, 2016 01:24 PM

Market Urbanism

Lack of New Housing On The Westside Is Causing Gentrification Of East And South LA

[Research help for this article was provided by UCLA student Mitchell Boswell]

The past 15 years have seen a hell of a lot of gentrification in LA. 15% of our poor neighborhoods have undergone gentrification since the year 2000, and it feels like things have only accelerated since the end of the financial crisis. That’s putting a huge strain on communities across the city, from Boyle Heights to Leimert Park. But before we get into why, let’s get one thing out of the way…

Academics love to debate about whether gentrification is good or bad for residents of poor neighborhoods. Maybe we should try listening to what people actually want.

Some argue that when a neighborhood gentrifies, more of the existing residents stay in the neighborhood than they otherwise would (one of the many, many hard things about poverty is housing insecurity, so folks tend to move around a lot no matter what), and also tend to be more satisfied after the change.

On the other side of the debate are people arguing that as gentrification occurs, the investment and new residents push up rent prices and drive out poor residents who made that community home. It’s not clear who’s right.

That all seems pretty academic – it’s an argument between folks who are well-off about whether or not people in poor neighborhoods should be happy. Instead of telling people how they should feel, maybe we should stop and listen, just for a minute, to what they want. And a lot of those people sure as hell don’t seem to want gentrification.

The lack of new housing on the Westside is driving gentrification

There are a lot of reasons for gentrification, but the lack of new housing on the Westside deserves a lot of the blame in recent years. As we’ve discussed, social and economic changes are pulling new people into LA, many of them young and affluent. A lot of those new people would probably like to live on the Westside, but we aren’t building any places for them to go.

This gif shows housing production across LA by decade. As you can see, since 1990 the Westside has gone quiet, while the Eastside has lit up with new construction. So when those new people arrive they’ve got nowhere to go on the Westside. Instead, they’re moving to South LA and the Eastside, driving gentrification in those neighborhoods.

New housing construction in LA

But it isn’t development that causes prices to rise in low-income neighborhoods. It’s a shortage of housing.

Some people blame developers for causing prices to rise. But new developments are actually a symptom of the rising prices, rather than the other way around. When a neighborhood becomes more desirable, more people want to live there, and that new demand is what drives up prices. Then developers chase those rising rents, and start building.

New construction can even help alleviate the pressure on existing residents. Without any new construction, every new person who moves into the neighborhood will have to take a home that was occupied by a previous resident. If the new construction includes more places to live than what it was replacing (for instance, a new mixed use residential building where a one story storefront used to be) then it actually creates more room for those new residents without pushing existing residents out.

But neighborhoods which undergo gentrification will never be able build enough housing to stem the tide on their own. LA is growing too fast for a handful of neighborhoods to handle. Even if they could, it’s hardly fair to ask a few communities to accommodate every single new person who wants to come to Los Angeles.

To stem the tide of rising rents, we need to upzone Los Angeles. Every neighborhood and council district needs to pitch in.

Neighborhoods across the Westside need to pitch in, upzone, and do their part to accommodate LA’s growing population. The South and Eastside need to do the same, and allow construction of large, new buildings so all the new people who move in aren’t replacing existing residents.

I’m not saying we need to change every part of LA. I can’t speak for your neighborhood, and which places and streets are right for new construction. The people who live in each community are the best placed to make those decisions.

The mayor, city council, and planning department recently began updating the community plans that govern development across the city. This is an amazing opportunity to come together as a city, but it won’t happen without strong leadership. Some communities are going to drag their feet, and say that they don’t need to change. If everybody does that, we’re right back to the broken system we’ve got today.

I don’t know what it’s like to live in fear of gentrification. But I know we need to stand together as a city if we want to make it better.

I’m a privileged white male from the Westside, but it sure seems to me like poor communities of color are being asked to do too much of the hard work in our city. We need to grow, evolve, and change to make LA an even better place to live. But too much change can be hard to handle. If we all pitch in, it doesn’t have to be.

[Originally published on the blog LA Rent Is Too Damn High]

 

by Brent Gaisford at June 20, 2016 12:00 PM