My Subscriptions

September 12, 2016

Table Titans


Review: Lupi, Posavec, Dear Data


Giorgia Lupi and Stefanie Posavec have turned their Dear Data project into a book. It's a great example of the kind of creative work you can do around visualization without computers, entirely by hand. What started with a simple idea turned into an amazing project.

Dear Data consisted of Giorgia and Stefanie, who are both visual designers, tracking an aspect of their lives for a week and then drawing a sort of visualization onto a postcard that they'd send to the other. They did that for an entire year.

What's great about the project is that they tracked things that you can't track with the activity trackers we now all carry around. They didn't look at steps taken or stairs climbed or heart rate, though, but at how many times they smiled, how often their partners made them feel loved vs. annoyed, how much they interacted with friends, etc. The resulting images are also not your usual charts, but some really beautiful and unusual sketches.

Why buy a book when you can just see all the postcards on the website? For one, they're much nicer to look at on paper than on a screen. Each chapter is also a little story about the topic of the week, told with a lot of humor. It's great to leaf through the book and look at one postcard here or there, read the text around them, etc.

Confusingly, there are two versions of the book, one published by Princeton Architectural Press and one by Particular Books/Penguin. You can get the U.S. version of the book on Amazon US or the U.K. version on Amazon UK (or both).

by Robert Kosara at September 12, 2016 05:57 AM

sacha chua :: living an awesome life

2016-09-12 Emacs News

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

Past Emacs News round-ups

The post 2016-09-12 Emacs News appeared first on sacha chua :: living an awesome life.

by Sacha Chua at September 12, 2016 05:18 AM

The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

A Personal Theology of Race and Reconciliation

Article by: Scott Redd

The problem of the 20th century is the problem of the color line. I pray you, then, receive my little book in all charity, studying my words with me, forgiving mistake and foible for sake of the faith and passion that is in me, and seeking the grain of truth hidden there. 

— The Souls of Black Folk (1903)

The quote above, with which W. E. B. Du Bois opens his groundbreaking account of race in America, calls to mind the best of public intellectualism—unwavering but humble, firm but honest. Du Bois is a juggernaut of authentic humanity who calls forth the best parts of who we are and can be by speaking the truth about how we’ve failed and can succeed. He resists the habit common to gifted minds to appraise abstract reasoning as somehow more legitimate than the concrete. His experience undergirds his discussion and gives rise to his passion about the subject. 

In a similar way, the contributors to Heal Us, Emmanuel: A Call for Racial Reconciliation, Representation, and Unity in the Church approach our cultural moment with similar concern about the racial divide and need for reconciliation. Like Du Bois, they offer their own impassioned experiences and pleas. The book’s anthological format—with 30 chapters from 30 authors—presents us with a variety of perspectives on the issue of race in the church.

Narrative of Reconciliation 

One might expect an anthology of so many new or previously unpublished writers to sound more like a cacophony than a polyphony. Such is not the case here. The essays are organized into six sections which provide the argument’s narratival arc. Through this six-part narrative, we’re invited to explore the implications of the gospel for racial reconciliation in the following ways:

  1. Listening to our brothers and sisters in the faith who’ve suffered as a result of racism in the United States. 
  2. Waking up to the privilege the majority culture enjoys in our country, a privilege that can be wondrously difficult to perceive from within, but that can become painfully obvious when compared to the experience of a friend from a minority culture.
  3. Examining what recognition and confession of sin in the area of race might look like, both as individuals and as communities. 
  4. Understanding the deeply woven threads of racism found in various expressions of American Christianity, most notably in the Presbyterian church of the South.
  5. Aligning our hearts to the implications of the gospel for racial reconciliation in the church of Jesus Christ.
  6. Committing to deliberate, gospel-centered, non-paternalistic efforts, programs, and modes of thought that encourage the unity of the believing community across ethnic lines.

A book that could otherwise lose its coherent message is well-organized into a thoughtful, personal reflection on race and the church.

Around the Family Table

Each of the authors in Heal Us, Emmanuel is an ordained elder in the Presbyterian Church of America (PCA), a denomination that just recently passed a resolution of confession and repentance for sins related to race committed during and after the American civil rights era. The timing of the book’s publication with the denominational vote in June is no chance occurrence, but rightly looms large in the background.

I’m not a member of the PCA, though I’ve served in several PCA churches and know many, if not most, of the authors in this book. Some are my friends. A few have taught on the seminary campus where I work. All that to say, there’s a familiar element to this discussion. The issues facing the PCA also confront the churches in my denomination, and so the discussion found in these essays reminds me of a conversation around a family dinner table. Matters of discrimination, prejudice, privilege, and reconciliation affect all of us living in America, but they affect the church at large in a one particular way, and the Reformed and Presbyterian church in another.

This Presbyterian provenance is apparent in these essays in multiple ways. For instance, several exegetical arguments in support of segregation formerly used by certain southern Presbyterians are examined for their exegetical value (see Greg Ward’s “Are Segregationist Hermeneutics Alive in the Church Today?”). Elsewhere, we are challenged to consider the biblical validity of the idea of corporate repentance, an issue of special relevance to the PCA resolution (see Duke Kwon’s “Why We Must Confess Corporately”).

Bloody Legacy

Every American Christian is touched by our nation’s terrible racial history, from the slave period to the Jim Crow era and beyond. Ours is a blood-stained legacy we cannot easily forget. It will take more than good intentions or well-meaning attempts to “forget about it and move on.”

True healing and reconciliation will require the work of the Holy Spirit to unify us as one people, one multiethnic body of which Christ is the head (Col. 1:18; John 17:20–26). This is the outworking of the gospel in the Christian church, and though such unity doesn’t earn us our salvation, it is a clear and necessary expression of it. The tree planted by streams of living water will always bear the fruit of reconciliation.

Finally, I should add that many of the essays in Heal Us, Emmanuel are a bit raw. Like DuBois, many of these authors bring a deeply felt passion to their writing, one that emanates from personal experience. Nearly every essay strikes an autobiographical tone; they’re personal accounts, confessionals, memoirs about different experiences. The reader immediately senses the legitimate hurt behind some of the accounts, but there’s also a display of grace in repentance and forgiveness. While reading I found myself praying, giving thanks, or begging for mercy.

Heal Us, Emmanuel isn’t a theological treatise, but it includes a good bit of theology. It’s not a work of biblical exegesis, but it includes a healthy dose of biblical insight. Ultimately it is a personal theology, a look at the racial landscape of the church in America—past and present—and the application of the Scriptures to the issue. In doing so, these writers can’t be satisfied with a mere description of the state of race, but, in accordance with the Scriptures, they summon to listen and respond.

In that way, the book is performative. It does something—and the thing it does is very important indeed.

Doug Serven, ed. Heal Us, Emmanuel: A Call for Racial Reconciliation, Representation, and Unity in the Church. Oklahoma City, OK: White Blackbird Books, 2016. 326 pp. $16.99. 

Scott Redd is president and associate professor of Old Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary in Washington, DC. He is the author of Wholehearted: A Biblical Look at the Greatest Commandment and Personal Wealth (Institute for Faith, Work, & Economics, 2016) and he regularly blogs at

by Scott Redd at September 12, 2016 05:03 AM

4 Proofs That if God Is for Us, Nothing Can Be Against Us

Article by: Andy Naselli

When it comes to Christian theology, just about all roads lead through Romans. Paul’s letter to the Romans is arguably the single most important piece of literature in the history of the world. And chapter 8 is perhaps its greatest section. And Romans 8:31–39 is the climax. It is actually an inference from everything Paul says in Romans 5:1–8:30 about the glorious results of our justification.

It’s as if the apostle takes a deep breath as he thinks back over Romans 5:1–8:30, and then asks God’s people, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom. 8:31).

That second question is rhetorical, so it has the force of a proposition: Since God is for us, nothing can be against us. Paul then supports what he asserts with four proofs.1

Proof 1: God will graciously give us all things (Rom. 8:32).

Paul is arguing from the greater to the lesser. If God gave us the greatest gift (i.e., he did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all), then God will certainly give us everything else we need (i.e., he will also with Jesus graciously give us all things).

That is evidence that since God is for us, nothing can be against us.

Proof 2: No one will bring a charge against us (Rom. 8:33).

No one can take us to court before God and win a case against us because God himself is the one who has declared us righteous.

That is further evidence that since God is for us, nothing can be against us.

Proof 3: No one will condemn us (Rom. 8:34).

No one can condemn us to hell on judgment day because Jesus himself died for us, was raised for us, and is now at the right hand of God interceding for us. We are eternally secure in Christ.

That is even more evidence that since God is for us, nothing can be against us.

Proof 4: Nothing will separate us from the love of Christ (Rom. 8:35–39).

Christ loves us, and no enemy or weapon or calamity can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

What more evidence do we need that since God is for us, nothing can be against us?

1 The above phrase diagram graphically discerns and displays the text’s logical flow of thought by dividing up the text into propositions and phrases and then noting logical relationships between them. It indents clauses and phrases above or below what they modify and adds labels that explain how the propositions and phrases logically relate

Andy Naselli (PhD in Theology, Bob Jones University; PhD in New Testament exegesis and theology, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) is assistant professor of New Testament and theology at Bethlehem College & Seminary administrator of Themelios, and an elder of Bethlehem Baptist Church. You can follow him on Twitter.

by Andy Naselli at September 12, 2016 05:02 AM

My 3 Biggest Fears as a Teenager

Article by: Jaquelle Crowe

The teen years can be scary. Adolescents stand on the cusp of adulthood and face a flood of newness—new feelings, new experiences, new relationships, new responsibilities, new decisions, a whole new stage of life. It’s overwhelming, like we’re standing at the edge of a cliff, told to jump but unfamiliar with what’s below.

And we’re afraid.

As a teen just now crossing into the threshold of adulthood, I’m all too familiar with the fears of adolescence. All that instability, confusion, and decision-making can be stressful and even painful. I’ve laid awake at night because of a melting pot of fears bubbling in my mind, poisoning my peace.

Three Fears

Above all, there were three fears that have screamed the loudest and lasted the longest: fear of the future, fear of failure, and fear of both intimacy and loneliness.

1. Fear of the Future

When I was little I thought I had my future figured out. Like most kids, I painted a picture of adulthood with beautiful, happy colors, cheerfully envisioning precise details of my life. At 12, I’d planned out my education path, career plan, car model, and the homeschool curriculum I’d use with my future kids. And then God abruptly tossed my pretty puzzle pieces out the window and directed me to a different path. He invited me into different opportunities, and filled me with different dreams and desires.

While I don’t pine after those displaced dreams, my future no longer looks so sweet and simple. It has lost its rosy, predictable blush and has been iced over with a harder edge. It’s unknown. As teenagers we start to realize the idealistic plans we made as kids aren’t sure things. We don’t have control.  

Last winter, a few months after I turned 18, marked one of the most unstable times in my life. Mentally and spiritually, I was settled, but in every other part of life, I was in-between: in-between school, jobs, plans, and security. Stress lingered. My future was a blank slate, everything was up in the air, and I felt swallowed by the unknown. Fear of the future pressed in.

2. Fear of Failure

If teenagers are honest, it’s not just the unfamiliarity of the future that scares us—it’s the idea of failing in it. Failing in school, work, relationships, driving—basically, failing at life. We’re afraid of disappointing those we love and messing up in some extravagant, irreparable way.

The fear of failure is paralyzing because it inhibits us from taking risks and moving forward—which is, of course, what growing up is all about. Becoming an adult is embracing the process of trial and error, repentance and grace. As teenagers, though, we often long to skip the failure. We want life handed to us in a color-coded game plan. Go to this school, get this job, marry this person, and you’ll win. We want to know it all, and we want to know it right now.

That’s me. I’m a perfectionist, and I dread mistakes. Failure would give me nervous sweats. It was always there, hovering darkly and persistently on the horizon. It has genuinely terrified me.

3. Fear of Intimacy and Loneliness

One of the greatest things I’ve feared failing at is relationships. Many of us teenagers struggle with two below-the-surface (and seemingly paradoxical) relational fears: intimacy and loneliness. Intimacy connects to a fear of being known for who we truly are. As teens, we’ve become more self-aware and have started to carefully examine our own hearts. We usually aren’t too impressed with what we see. This is the season of my life where I’ve never been more aware of how sinful and broken and flawed I am. Yet it’s the season where I’ve never been more aware of trying to cover up my flaws. I’m afraid of people seeing the real me.

But I’m also afraid of being alone. Isolation and loneliness are serious threats to my happiness. I want to be loved. I want close friendships. I want community. I don’t want to be by myself. But I fear the risk of relationships.

Four Ways to Help Teens Overcome Fear

Teenagers wrestle with much crippling, shame-fueling fear. So what can you do about it? You’re the parent of a teenager, or you work with teens, or you are a teen, and you want to know, How can I help a teenager overcome their fear? Here are four suggestions.

1. Teach them to put their trust in the right place.

All fear bleeds from misplaced trust. We trust in ourselves or our circumstances or our dreams, and we idolize our security over our Savior. To fight fear, we must cultivate trust in the one person who’s in control and never changes. Faith is fear’s ultimate weapon.

2. Prepare them for difficulty.

Telling teens that life will be easy if they follow Jesus is a spectacular deception. It gives us false expectations and only feeds our fear. After all, what happens when our dream job falls through or we fail dramatically? It shakes our already faulty foundation. Help us face fear, then, by preparing us for fearful circumstances.

3. Encourage them with your experience.

Fear isn’t an exclusively adolescent sin, not by a long shot. Have you thought about sharing your own struggles and stories of fear with your teenager? Encourage them that they’re not alone. Then show them how the gospel has freed—and continues to free—you from fear.

4. Combat fear with gratitude.

Fear withers where gratitude thrives. Teach your teens to root out fear with intentional thankfulness. If they’re afraid of starting a new school, help them create a list of things about the experience they’re thankful for. Show them what it means to put their focus in the right place.

Don’t Forget to Remember

Jesus told us we have no reason to fear (Matt. 10:28). No reason whatsoever. Whatever happens, God’s in control and he’ll take care of us. Yet we still fear, teenager and senior adult alike.

We fear because we forget. The cure for our fear, then, is to remember.

Remember God is sovereign. Remember God is good. Remember God loves his children. Remember God is faithful. Remember God is present. Remember God is on for us in Christ, on our side no matter what.

Why, then, should we fear? 

Jaquelle Crowe is the editor-in-chief of The Rebelution and a writer from eastern Canada. She’s the author of This Changes Everything: How the Gospel Transforms the Teen Years (Crossway, April 2017). You can follow her on Twitter

by Jaquelle Crowe at September 12, 2016 05:00 AM

Upgrade #106: I’ve Reached Acceptance

I joined Myke and Jason on this week’s Upgrade to talk about iPhones, AirPods and a whole lot more.

by Stephen at September 12, 2016 12:01 AM

September 11, 2016

Workout: September 12, 2016

Percentages are based off of 90%, of your 1rm Back squat 5(65%), 5(75%), 5+(85%)   Gymnasty!! It’s baaaaaaack! Gymnasty + Ascending muscle-up ladder 1-10 Unlimited rest between unbroken sets   Concentric handstand push-ups Cluster 1 : 3-3-3 Rest 30 seconds between sets Cluster 2 : 2-2-2 Rest 30 seconds between sets Cluster 3 : 1-1-1 […]

by Crystal at September 11, 2016 10:31 PM

Mac OS 9 Today

Richard Moss at Ars:

But as hard as it may be to believe in light of yet another macOS update, there are some who still use Apple’s long-abandoned system. OS 9 diehards may hold on due to one important task they just can’t replicate on a newer computer, or perhaps they simply prefer it as a daily driver. It only takes a quick trip to the world of subreddits and Facebook groups to verify these users exist.

Certain that they can’t all be maniacs, I went searching for these people.

by Stephen at September 11, 2016 05:41 PM

The Art of Non-Conformity



After traveling on an all-night flight where I stayed up for hours, only sleeping 90 minutes or so in the final portion before landing, I landed in Bangkok. I hadn’t been to Thailand in years!

It feels good to be back. There’s something strange and bittersweet to be here, but I can hold both feelings simultaneously.

I’m in town for three days, and so far I’ve spent both afternoons working from the coffee shop in Terminal 21, a big shopping mall across the street from my hotel. I’m in a jet lagged haze per usual, but it took me a few minutes to realize what else was wrong. Finally it hit me: Bangkok was a place I’d thought about bringing Ken on the big trip we never took.

See, I had this fantasy, back when I started flying around the world on a regular basis, that one day I’d take my brother to Asia, where we’d lived as kids. I’d show him Singapore Airlines and all my favorite places. We’d drink beers in the airline lounge and he’d see the sites of Thailand: the night market, the temples, the world’s best movie theaters.

Then we could come to the 9-story mall where I’m writing these notes. Each floor is themed after a different world city or region, from Rome to Istanbul to “Caribbean” (precise geography not being this mall’s strong suit). On the highest floor, San Francisco, there’s a video game store, with playable console systems set up in a big semi-circle around the edge.

I especially like the translated signs with instructions:

“Please do not be loud!”

“Seats are for players only. Guests must watch respectfully!”

“Sleeping is not permitted!”

I also get a kick out of how random American restaurant chains can flop back home but go on to a second life in places like Thailand. Kenny Roger’s Roasters is huge here! Swensen’s is going strong. There are also the knockoffs, the Tennessee Fried Chickens and burger joints that look exactly like Burger King but have a different name.

Anyway, there’s no shaking it off: my brother’s birthday is coming up again, and I have a sense of crushing disappointment and shame in not being able to talk about these things with him. We could have had an ice cream sundae at Swensen’s, or we could have just laughed at the fake KFC.

Since I started sharing these occasional notes on my blog, some people have told me that I shouldn’t feel guilty or regretful, but it’s not that simple. One feels what one feels. Besides, if this is some sort of burden that must be carried, I do so willingly. I don’t want to pretend that losing him is okay or ever will be.

At the same time, I’m trying to be mindful of what he, my brother, would want from those he loved. As uncertain as I am about other things, I’m absolutely certain that he wouldn’t want us to be sad all the time. For someone who left this world by way of a tragic choice, he was incredibly joyful and positive most of the time. His enthusiasm was contagious, so we should endeavor to carry it on.

He was also a great encourager, always cheering me on and sending supportive notes to friends and colleagues. Therefore, I occupy both of these mental worlds simultaneously, the bitter and the sweet. I will go and listen to jazz and I’ll have a nice meal. (No Kenny Roger’s for me, even though I do like the name.)

I’ll keep traveling and writing and trying to find my way, especially through kindness and joy, the legacy that will live on even in his absence.

This Sunday, September 11, is Ken’s thirty-third birthday. It feels no easier to accept this fact now than it did one year ago today, the first birthday where he wasn’t present. So that’s why I think of him today and every day. I think sad thoughts about his departure and I let them come. I think happy thoughts about his life, remembering good stories and funny things he said.

There is no conclusion to this process, but the circle eventually comes around to the only task left to me: to live more fully with the values he expressed so well.


Image: Игорь М

by Chris Guillebeau at September 11, 2016 01:33 PM

confused of calcutta

September 10, 2016

Workout: September 11, 2016

In 5 minutes: Max thrusters (95/65lb.) Rest 2 minutes In 5 minutes: Max chest-to-bar pull-ups Rest 2 minutes As many rounds and reps as possible in 5 minutes of: 5 burpees 25 double-unders

by Crystal at September 10, 2016 11:55 PM

Front Porch Republic

Twenty Years Now, Where’d They Go?

The Future of Freedom Foundation has reprinted “The Empire versus Little America,” my speech from what was, in a parallel universe, the epochal 2010 conference that begat the peace group Come Home, America. This gives me an excuse to tell you that my 1995 opuscule America First! Its History, Culture, and Politics, has just been reissued in paperback, with a new preface and epilogue by yours truly. Did I predict, one score ago, pretty much everything that would happen in 2016? Kind of and sort of, to use the two favorite verbal crutches of NPR guests. Just call me Nostradamus. Or, in my wife’s mocking-of-my-mien formulation, Nostrildamus.

The post Twenty Years Now, Where’d They Go? appeared first on Front Porch Republic.

by Bill Kauffman at September 10, 2016 07:45 PM

Greg Mankiw's Blog

The Third Bit

Slides for Two Talks Online

I've posted HTML slides for two upcoming talks, one on lessons learned from Software Carpentry, the other on what's missing in computing and what it can tell us about our field. I'll be giving one or both at York University, the University of Illinois, the University of Michigan, and the University of Wisconsin this fall – hope to see you there.

by Greg Wilson ( at September 10, 2016 12:00 PM

Beeminder Blog

Newbee Corner: What Happens When I ‘Derail’?

wooden toy train derailing

First off, what do we mean by derailing? We mean you pass your deadline — midnight by default — with today’s datapoint in the red. Here’s an example of a goal right at the end of the day. The countdown has run out, and I still haven’t done my flossing:

a graph that is about to derail

(Hover or long-press the graphs for more commentary.) Three things happen when you pass the deadline and you still haven’t done the thing you’re beeminding.

1. The Road Resets

We move the yellow brick road down to meet you where your latest datapoint is (or up in the case of a weight loss or Do Less goal). You also get a week of flat spot.

a graph that has been recommited with a week of flat spot

This is so that you aren’t stuck playing catch-up to a goal you’re already behind on. But more than that, you’ve got a week of break which you can use to take a vacation, make changes to your goal like changing the rate, or even quitting altogether. Or you can start working to keep that new safety buffer.

If you don’t want to be allowed to slack off for a week, you can check the “No Mercy Recommit” checkbox in the goal’s settings. Then your road will still jump to where you are currently, but it will continue upward at your previous rate from that point forward, with no flat week. Like this:

a graph that has been recommited with no flat spot

Again, even at its most merciless Beeminder never expects you to catch back up to the original road. Beeminder enforces daily progress and if you fall short and get stung (i.e., charged money) the slate is wiped clean and you continue from where you are.

2. You Get Charged Money and Your Pledge Increases

We charge your credit card for the amount you have pledged (usually $0 initially), and we increase your pledge to the next level. It gets expensive fast, from $5 to $10 to $30, $90, $270, $810. If $810 sounds insanely expensive to you, don’t worry! It’ll only get that high if you want it to, because once you reach an amount of money that is sufficiently motivating, you can opt out of further increases in your pledge by setting your “pledge cap”. You set your pledge cap as part of creating the goal, but you can change it in your goal settings any time you like.

setting your pledge cap during goal creation

Our advice is to set the pledge cap to something scary enough that you’re motivated to never let it actually get that high. But also not so scary that you’d rather quit Beeminder than have that amount at risk. The point of steeply exponential pledge schedule is so you quickly get to a motivating pledge with minimal wasted money on amounts that aren’t motivating enough.

3. We Send a Legit Check Email

We email you to let you know you derailed and that we are about to charge you. You can’t opt out of these emails. This is us asking if the derailment was legitimate. If you forgot to enter data, or you configured the goal all wrong, or there was something you didn’t understand, or a hurricane knocked out your power, or anything at all that you’d count as a technicality, simply reply to that email! If you say the derailment wasn’t legitimate (and say why), we’ll cancel the charge and undo the derailment. You have 24 hours to respond to the legitimacy check before the charge goes through! (We can refund a charge that’s already gone through, if you had an emergency and couldn’t respond in time, but that’s more of a pain for both you and us, as you can imagine.)

If you want us to hold you to a higher standard you can check the Weaselproof me box in the goal’s settings. Then we might ask for additional proof of your exceptional circumstances, such as a snapshot of you with your doctor, or a tweet or other public announcement of your excuse, for example. In other words, if your goal is weaselproofed then we won’t just blindly believe you that the derailment didn’t count.

by bsoule at September 10, 2016 11:16 AM

The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

9 Things You Should Know About the 9/11 Aftermath—15 Years Later

Article by: Joe Carter

Tomorrow marks the 15th anniversary of the worst terrorist attack ever on American soil. Here are nine things you should know about what happened in the aftermath of the events on September 11, 2001:

1. It took 99 days—until December 19, 2001—for the fires at Ground Zero to be extinguished.

2. Cleanup at Ground Zero wasn't officially completed until May 30, 2002. It took 3.1 million hours of labor to clean up 1.8 million tons of debris at a total cost of cleanup of $750 million.

3. There were 20 people pulled from the rubble in the two days after the attack. On the day following the attacks, 11 people were rescued from the wreckage, including six firefighters and three police officers. Two Port Authority police officers were also rescued after spending nearly 24 hours beneath 30 feet of rubble.

4. The total number of 9/11 victim deaths rose to 2,752 in January 2009, when the New York City medical examiner's office ruled that Leon Heyward, who died the previous year of lymphoma and lung disease, was a homicide victim because he was caught in the toxic dust cloud just after the towers collapsed.

5. In 2010, Congress created the WTC Health Program to provide medical monitoring and treatment for emergency responders, recovery, and cleanup workers, and volunteers who helped after the terrorist attacks. As of 2015, the number of Ground Zero responders and others afflicted with 9/11-linked cancers has hit 3,700. Those suffering cancers certified by the WTC Health Program include 1,100 members of the New York fire department, 2,134 police and first responders, and 467 survivors such as downtown workers and residents. Many have more than one type of cancer.

6. Most of the steel from the World Trade Center wreckage was sent to New Jersey salvage yards where it was broken down and sent all over the world for reuse. Nearly 350,000 tons of the steel was sent to be reused in small and large scale tributes, including 7.5 tons for use in the navy battleship USS New York.

7. For the first time in history, all nonemergency civilian aircraft in the United States were grounded for three days. The lack of condensation trails (contrails) from jet aircraft caused the average temperature across the U.S. to rise by an average of 1.8 degrees celsius.

8. A longitudinal study of 38 women who were pregnant on 9/11 and were either at or near the World Trade Centre at the time of the attack found that those who developed Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) following exposure to the attacks had significantly lower cortisol levels in their saliva than those who were similarly exposed but did not develop PTSD. The children of women who were traumatized as a result of 9/11 subsequently exhibited an increased distress response when shown novel stimuli, suggesting that the effects of the trauma were passed on to the children prior to birth.

9. On September 13 a worker at the site, Frank Silecchia, discovered a 20-foot cross of two steel beams amongst the debris. The beams were dubbed the “Ground Zero Cross” and became a spiritual symbol for families of the victims and workers who cleaned up the debris.

Other articles in this series:

Mother Teresa • The Opioid Epidemic • The Olympic Games • Physician-Assisted Suicide • 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 • 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 September 10, 2016 05:01 AM

Don’t Let Non-Christians Write Your Liturgy

Article by: Daniel Darling

When I was a young pastor, I was eager to find and replicate worthy ministry models. I was attracted to the church growth movement. I admired the soul-winning zeal of practioners who counseled young pastors like me to fashion their Sunday services so the “seeker” wouldn’t trip over man-made obstacles on his way to finding Jesus.

While I absorbed many of its lessons—clear communication, ministry excellence, community outreach—I began to have some questions about an approach that shapes the Sunday gathering exclusively around the unbeliever. I say “exclusively” because every pastor should have, in his mind, the image of a lost soul when he steps up to the pulpit to preach. He shouldn’t assume his audience is entirely made up of believers, and his preaching should be clear enough so the lost know how to repent and believe. Paul counseled Timothy to “do the work of an evangelist,” after all (2 Tim. 2:5).

There are, however, three vital questions to ask ourselves about our worship services.

1. What’s happening on Sunday mornings?

According to standard church growth philosophy, the Sunday gathering is the prime opportunity to invite unbelieving friends and neighbors to hear a gospel presentation. To make worship attractive, churches are encouraged to remove barriers that might offend those not fluent in Christian vocabulary. This isn’t an entirely bad discipline. After all, our churches shouldn’t be contextualized to the 1950s if we’re living in 2016. We should hold preferences loosely in order to reach our communities for Christ (1 Cor. 9:19), and we should dream, plan, craft strategies, and spend resources for reaching the lost.  But should attractiveness to the lost be our primary guiding principle on Sunday mornings? If so, do we lose the distinct purpose for gathering with the saints? Do we forget that no amount of contextualization will make the gospel inoffensive? In his Upper Room discourse, Jesus warned his disciples of the countercultural nature of his message. And Paul knew, even after making himself “all things to all people,” that the gospel he preached would be a stumbling block, ultimately landing him in jail and leading to death. What’s more, in our increasingly pluralistic society, I wonder if these church growth methodologies will become less effective. Studies indicate Americans are less inclined to attend worship services than they were in previous generations.

We should ask ourselves: How do we see the Sunday gathering? Do we see it as an inspirational TED Talk with good music? Or do we see it the way the New Testament does, as God’s called-out people assembling for worship and mobilizing for mission? Music styles and preaching patterns will vary, but some elements should remain fixed. Paul instructed Timothy, as the pastor of the church at Ephesus, to “devote himself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching” (1 Tim. 4:13). He also instructed the same church to sing “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” (Eph. 5:19). And our Lord Jesus entrusted to local churches the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. We should not be embarrassed by the Christian language and rhythms of the Sunday gathering. We should gather with the expressed goal to declare to the world, to ourselves, and to the cosmic powers our worship of Christ as King.

2. Who’s writing the liturgy?

For some evangelicals, the word “liturgy” conjures up stuffy traditionalism at odds with genuine faith in Christ. But every church has a liturgy, a way of ordering their worship service. And every church’s liturgy communicates much about what it values.

This is another reason to be concerned about an approach that prioritizes the Sunday gathering for the unsaved person. In essence, this makes the unregenerate seeker the worship leader, tasked with writing the liturgy. Someone who hasn’t been redeemed by the Spirit of God is determining what practices and spiritual rhythms the body of Christ will embrace when they gather to worship. Last year I attended a college football game in Nashville with some friends. I was invited by a colleague who is a school alum and unapologetic fan. It struck me, as I sat in his team’s section, that they didn’t really care how their particular rituals affected me, an outsider. They were simply proud of their team and wanted everyone, including me, to know it. This wasn’t offensive; it was attractive. What was it about their university that so motivated them to lose themselves in celebration at a football game?

The loyal fan base embraced me, but they didn’t allow me to determine their game-day liturgy. The band didn’t play music more amenable to my preferences. The cheeerleaders didn’t craft a generic routine I might understand. The fans didn’t wear generic clothing so I’d fit in. The experience made me wonder: Why should our church services be any different? The seeker who enters the doors of our church should be welcomed, loved, and served. We should labor to declare the gospel to him in language he understands. But sidelining the rhythms of Christian worship communicates embarrassment about what we claim matters most.

3. What’s the shepherd’s task?

We should also ask: what’s the pastor’s role? Peter seems to define it pretty specifically when he exhorts pastors to “shepherd the flock of God that is among you.” This has two important implications.

First, the pastor’s primary role is to exposit God’s Word and feed God’s people. Can we accomplish this weighty task if our messages are inspirational chats with little scriptural content? Will people grow toward Christlikeness if the seeker is writing our sermons?

Second, Peter assumes the preacher’s primary audience will be Christians. Shepherd and feed the flock of God that is among you. We should always provide opportunities for the seeker to repent and believe, but our first job is to “preach the Word” (2 Tim. 4:2) to the people he has sovereignly placed under our care, those for whom we will give an account (Heb. 13:17).

This tells us about how the Great Commission is primarily accomplished: through the discipling of God’s people and mobilizing them for evangelistic mission in their communities. This isn’t to say churches shouldn’t host special, seeker-friendly events. But this shouldn’t be the primary purpose of our Sunday gathering. Otherwise, we’ll have churches full of people feeding on milk instead of meat, poorly equipped to evangelize, and unable to apply the gospel amid shifting cultural currents.

In other words, we must trust that God’s Word, delivered with God’s power, will do its work in the hearts of God’s people as it reverberates through them and into God’s world. I’m reminded of Paul’s words to the Corinthian believers:

I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. (1 Cor. 2:3–5)

Editors’ note: The Gospel Coalition’s Theological Vision for Ministry states: “Because of the attractiveness of its community and the humility of its people, a gospel-centered church should find people in its midst who are exploring and trying to understand Christianity. It must welcome them in hundreds of ways. It will do little to make them ‘comfortable’ but will do much to make its message understandable. 

Daniel Darling is the vice president of communications for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention and the author of several books, including Real: Owning Your Christian FaithiFaith, Connecting to God in the 21st Century, Activist Faith, and The Original Jesus. He regularly blogs here. You can follow him on Twitter.

by Daniel Darling at September 10, 2016 05:00 AM

September 09, 2016

Market Urbanism

Market Urbanism MUsings September 9, 2016


Low slung Silicon Valley… Immune to the laws of supply and demand?


1. This week at Market Urbanism

Shut Out: How Land-Use Regulations Hurt the Poor by Sandy Ikeda

My colleague Emily Washington and I are reviewing the literature on how land-use regulations disproportionately raise the cost of real estate for the poor. I’d like to share a few of our findings with you.

Are States Really The Solution To Urban Mismanagement? by Matt Robare

Cities would finally have to confront their land use and economic development policies, employee compensation and infrastructure management; while states would have to confront their redistribution of revenue to rural areas. While state emergency managers and receivers have turned financially struggling cities around, it’s not hard to think that they might be needed less if cities were free.

Market Urbanism Podcast Episode 02: Emily Hamilton on Land-Use Regulation and the Cost of Housing by Nolan Gray

The question I am left pondering: how can we convince homeowners—who have a large vested interest in the current system—to support land-use liberalization? Feel free to share your thoughts on this and other topics in today’s episode in the comment section below or with Emily and I on Twitter.

Supply and Demand: A Response to 48hills by Jeff Fong

No matter what example we look at or how we cut up the data, there’s nothing out there to contradict the basic YIMBY story about supply, demand, and price. Unless, of course, you don’t actually understand the story, which may be the problem in Ms. Bronstein’s case.

2. Where’s Scott?

Scott Beyer left Texas this week for Phoenix, stop #8 on his 30-city writing tour. He has settled in the neighboring suburb of Tempe, which is home to Arizona State University and is perhaps the metro’s most intensive urban area. Scott also started a Twitter account this week, and will post his future articles there–@sbcrosscountry

3. At the Market Urbanism Facebook Group:

Neal Meyer posted photographs of Houston, “illustrating some of the subtle differences of what a city that does not have a full blown, city wide zoning ordinance is like.”

Sandy Ikeda has words about the video How to Make an Attractive City, “it’s scary how some on the left think about cities.”

Michael Lewyn has a new article responding to pro-NIMBY arguments

Matt Robare wrote, “The Open Space Trap

Ahmed Shaker is curious, “How likely is it for people to empty the cities and return to the countryside?”

Bjorn Swenson asks, “Suppose the idea of ‘Market Urbanism’ has to be condensed to a witty bumper sticker (or similar sticker for us carless peeps) – what does the bumper sticker read?” One good answer from Michael Hamilton: “legalize cities”

via Anthony Ling: How will driverless cars and other applications of AI affect society?

via Matt Robare and Strongtowns: An Infrastructure Crisis?

via Alan Durning: How Seattle Killed Micro-Housing

via Matt Robare‘We’re not the Gestapo:’ Man’s war with neighborhood may cost him more than his house

via Krishan Madan: A massive 895-home development on Southern California’s coast is shot down

via Robert Stark: James Howard Kunstler: The ghastly tragedy of the suburbs

via Will Muessig, “The NYTimes has an interesting video about a de facto trailer park near LAX.”

4. Elsewhere

The Seattle-based Sightline Institute has launched an extended series called “Legalize Inexpensive Housing

Vox on the regulations that make municipal broadband harder

5. Stephen Smith‘s tweet of the week:

by Adam Hengels at September 09, 2016 11:08 PM

John C. Wright's Journal

Tolkien and Martin



Hattip to Daddy Warpig for finding this comment, which is by The Don Show and left on a parody rap contest on EPB between Martin and Tolkien found here:

I post the comment not to mock nor to praise, but merely to warn readers not to assume a direct correlation between an author’s experiences and his muses.

Meddle not in psychoanalyzing writers by their works, for writers are subtle and slow to be paid.

by John C Wright at September 09, 2016 11:01 PM

Workout: September 10, 2016

Build to a heavy clean and jerk 5 rounds, not for time: 25 ft. handstand walk or 5 wall walks 25 anchored sit-ups 20 second glute bridge

by Crystal at September 09, 2016 10:31 PM

A Quick Thanks

I just got an email that my original St. Jude fundraising goal of $8,000 has been met in just nine days!

My goal was to raise $1,000 for every year of our oldest son’s life, to honor what he has been through and the progress he continues to make. I think it’s awesome that we hit the goal so quickly.

A deep thank you to everyone has donated so far. It’s humbling and encouraging to see so many names on that fundraising page.

It means the world to me, my family, and family like ours. That’s why I want to keep going. Last year, we raised nearly $20,000. I’d love to do it again. I’m raising money as part of a team, and we have a ways before we hit the group goal.

Every dollar is a symbol of hope in the fight against childhood cancer.

by Stephen at September 09, 2016 07:00 PM

Blog – Cal Newport

Join Me and Scott Young for a Live Conversation on Learning and Study Skills on Monday at 8:30 ET

A Learned Chat on Learning

My good friend Scott Young is finally about to launch his long promised Rapid Learner online course, which teaches you how to learn hard things quickly. This is something that Scott knows a lot about (c.f., his astonishing MIT Challenge).

To help Scott spread the word about his course, I agreed to join him for a free live webinar on Monday, September 12, at 8:30 Eastern time (to attend, sign up here).

We’re going to discuss learning and study skills and then take questions on these topics from the live webinar audience. At the end of the seminar, Scott will then explain his course and make a pitch for it.

A couple details…

  • I want to emphasize that this is not my course. It’s Scott’s course. I’m joining this webinar to help him spread the word (because it’s good content, Scott’s a good friend, and I thought it would be fun to talk about study skills with a live audience), but I don’t want anyone to end up enrolling in this course under the misunderstanding that I’m somehow involved in the course itself or its content.
  • As far as I know, there will be not be a recorded version of the webinar available for those who missed it.

by Study Hacks at September 09, 2016 04:10 PM

John C. Wright's Journal

Poetry Corner

I thought this was apt, considering the conditions of the modern day:

Shorten Sail
Lord Melcombe (d. 1762)

LOVE thy country, wish it well,
Not with too intense a care;
‘Tis enough that, when it fell,
Thou its ruin didst not share.

Envy’s censure, Flattery’s praise,
With unmoved indifference view:
Learn to tread Life’s dangerous maze
With unerring Virtue’s clue.

Void of strong desire and fear,
Life’s wide ocean trust no more;
Strive thy little bark to steer
With the tide, but near the shore.

Thus prepared, thy shorten’d sail
Shall, whene’er the winds increase,
Seizing each propitious gale,
Waft thee to the port of Peace.

Keep thy conscience from offence
And tempestuous passions free,
So, when thou art call’d from hence,
Easy shall thy passage be.

—Easy shall thy passage be,
Cheerful thy allotted stay,
Short the account ‘twixt God and thee,
Hope shall meet thee on thy way.

by John C Wright at September 09, 2016 04:07 PM

The 128 GB iPod Video

iPod SD

I have an iPod classic that I keep loaded with music, but there’s something about the 5th generation “video” iPod that really speaks to me. I have both a white and a black one in my collection, so I thought it’d be fun to upgrade one of them.

In addition to a new battery, I replaced the 30 GB hard drive with a 128 GB SD card via a third-party part called the Tarkan iFlash.

The iFlash is a small black card that holds an SD card inside the iPod. It plugs into the cable used by the standard hard drive, and is shaped to snap directly into the iPod’s case.

Opening iPods is unpleasant. Even with previous experience and the tools iFixit shipped with the battery, I ended up cutting across the back of one of my fingers. Patience is a virtue here.

Replacing the battery involved prying the old one out of the case slowly. The adhesive used is made of some type of ancient magic. Once the battery was in, I unplugged the old spinning hard drive and placed the iFlash into the case, SD card pre-installed. It’s shaped to fit into the chassis cleanly, and once the data cable was set, I buttoned everything up by popping the iPod closed again.

I powered up the iPod and plugged it into iTunes. After a quick restore, it showed up as a regular iPod and synced music and photos without any issues.

The finished product is a stock-looking iPod that weighs a noticeable amount less than the other 5th generation I own. With no moving parts and a new battery, it should be in good shape for years to come.

Of course, in a world of 256 GB iPhones and streaming music services, this is all a little silly, but it was a fun way to spend an afternoon, and now I have a cheap, reliable iPod with all of my music on it I can leave wired up in my car.

by Stephen at September 09, 2016 03:27 PM

Crossway Blog

Practical Help for Times of Trouble

This is a guest post by Philip Graham Ryken, author of When Trouble Comes.

5 Ways God Helps Us

The things that have helped me in times of trouble are the ordinary things that God talks about in his Word.

Experiencing his beauty in creation, being outdoors, and being reminded of his goodness and beauty have been helpful.

Prayer is a very significant help. The prayers of other people for me, their love that comes through those prayers, and the way that God answers their faithful prayers. Also my own experience with prayer and crying out to the Lord in times of trouble.

The worship and the sacraments of the church are very significant. The Lord’s Supper is for our spiritual nourishment and that’s particularly important in times of trouble.

The presence of caring Christian friends, the community of God’s people, is important. They may have occasional counsel that is helpful. But certainly their words of encouragement, and even simply their presence, make a difference.

And then especially the Word of God and his promises, which apply to every difficulty that we face, are vital.

These are some of the things that God uses to help people in times of trouble.

Philip Graham Ryken (DPhil, University of Oxford) is the eighth president of Wheaton College. Formerly, he served as senior minister of Philadelphia’s historic Tenth Presbyterian Church. He has written or edited more than forty books, including the popular title Loving the Way Jesus Loves, and has lectured and preached at universities and seminaries worldwide.

by Crossway at September 09, 2016 02:16 PM

Crossway Blog

What Difference Does God Make on Monday Mornings?

This is post is adapted from Why the Reformation Still Matters by Michael Reeves and Tim Chester.

Soli Deo Gloria

Soli Deo gloria, “glory to God alone,” was one of the key summaries of Reformation thought. The Reformation pushed all the achievement of salvation away from humanity and laid it at the feet of God. No one can say, “I’ve received eternal life because of my good life or religious devotion or my clever reasoning.” All the glory is God’s. In this the Reformers were reflecting the thought of Paul in 1 Corinthians 1:28–31:

God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

But soli Deo gloria also became a summary of a Reformation life. Everyday life became the context in which we glorify God. This emphasis on everyday life stemmed from the Reformers’ rediscovery of the Scriptures, for it reflects biblical Christianity. But it also flowed from their rediscovery of justification by faith.

Good Works Redirected

The Mass had come to be regarded as a sacrifice, a reenactment of Calvary that secured the blessing of God. Since this secured God’s blessing, then the more it was done, the more pleased God was. And it was not necessary for the congregation to be present. The Mass could be said by clergy repeatedly in a mechanical way. This practice reinforces the idea that the essence of Christianity takes place away from day-to-day life. It leads to a divided world: the spiritual and the secular.

Where does the activity that counts to God take place? If we are justified by infusions of “grace” administered through the sacraments, as the Catholic Church suggested, then the activities that matter are the sacramental activities in the church. Or if we are to achieve union with Christ through mysticism and contemplation, then the activities that matter take place in a monastery. If you are keen on knowing God, then you become a monk. If you are keen on serving God, then you become a priest or friar.

Luther’s rediscovery of justification by faith swept away the impetus for such activities. God did not require religious duties as a kind of payment toward salvation. If justification is through faith, then the focus and nature of religious activity shifts radically.

So where was the best place to do good works? Not in a monastery or a nunnery. At best, the medieval monasteries had been centers for health care, education, and provision for the needy. But too often they had become a retreat from the world into a private world of self-serving prayer and contemplation. They had become the last place where you could serve your needy neighbor, because your needy neighbor was outside.

What makes something a good deed, a deed that pleases God? Medieval Catholicism could list good deeds: the sacraments and so on. However, according to the Reformers it was not the external form of an act that made it good but the faith in which it was conducted. Faith was what pleased God.

This had radical implications for how one viewed life. In the medieval Catholic world, changing a nappy could never be understood as a good or spiritual act. Meritorious acts took place in churches and monasteries. But if faith was the determining factor, then any deed could please God if done for him as an act of faith. Suddenly the context in which one could serve God had widened from the cloister and the cell to the world. The workshop and hearth were sacred places.

Vocation as Cocreation

The word “calling” or “vocation” was used in the medieval period to describe religious orders and sacred ministry. Luther took the term and reapplied it to the activity of all Christians in whatever context they found themselves. Indeed those who believe you could best serve God in a monastery reject their true “call” to serve others and instead opt for their own private worship. Luther’s key text was 1 Corinthians 7:20: “Each one should remain in the condition in which he was called.”

When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we ask God to give us our daily bread. And he does. But the normal way he provides this is not through manna appearing from heaven, as he did for the Israelites in the wilderness. Normally he does it through farmers, millers, and bakers. If I buy my daily bread from a supermarket, does that mean God has not provided it? Should I be giving thanks to Walmart instead of God? Luther’s answer is that God provides bread through the farmer, miller, and baker.

God’s work of creation is not just his original act of bringing the world into existence—he works as Creator to sustain his world. But he does this sustaining work through the actions of human beings. We are cocreators with God. This, of course, gives great significance to the work of the farmers, millers, and bakers. Their work is an act of cocreation. They are cooperating with God. God is milking the cows through the vocation of the milkmaid, says Luther. Vocation is a “mask of God.” We see the milkmaid. But behind the milkmaid is the work of God.

Vocation is not just about how one earns one’s living. God could have chosen to populate the world as he did in the beginning by bringing people forth from the dust. But instead he chose to create new human life through the procreation of men and women. He chose to nurture children in the context of families. So the idea of vocation encompasses your role as a husband or wife, as a father or mother. Again God chose to protect and order human life through earthly government. So politics can be a vocation. God often heals through doctors. He creates works of beauty through artists.

Station and Calling

One of the strengths of Luther’s doctrine is the value it gives to the activity of unbelievers while adding extra impetus to Christians. Luther uses two different words for our social activities: “station” (Stand) and “calling” or “vocation” (Beruf). Everyone has a station in life, believer and unbeliever. We all have a place God has assigned to us. As we act within those stations, we all contribute to God’s providential care of the world.

But, in response to God’s Word, Christians see their station as a calling from God. We understand our station to be a call from God to glorify him and serve others. What transforms a station into a calling is faith. By faith we see our daily activities as tasks given to us by God to be done for his glory and for the common good.

Many Christians struggle to find a sense of calling. To this Luther says, “How is it possible that you are not called? You have always been in some state or station; you have always been a husband or wife, or boy or girl, or servant.”1 Luther would not have understood the language of “finding your calling.” Your calling is not mysterious or difficult to discern. It is the current circumstances of your life. If you are a mother, then it is being a mother. If you are an office worker, then it is being an office worker. There is a freedom to change, but there is not a mysterious word from God waiting to be discovered to mandate your change. Your responsibility is to serve your neighbor in your current context.

By now it should be clear that vocation for Luther is much more than simply a call to do your job well. Today the term “vocation” is used narrowly to mean your profession or job. So, for example, we use the phrase “vocational training,” which means training for a job as opposed to training for some other purpose. But Luther used the term to describe every social activity or function. And it is a call not just to fulfill our responsibilities well, but also to see God at work throughout human social interactions.

Living Life before God

In medieval Catholicism God is in the monastery and not in the market place. God is in the Mass and not in the home. The more you stress the sacredness of sacred places, the less God is a feature of everyday life. It is not that God is absent. He is still there to see and count your sins. But in medieval Catholicism God was a distant and forbidding reality. He was accessed, if at all, through the mediation of the saints. You were never acceptable to him, so you would not think yourself able to approach him directly, nor would you want to.

Justification by faith means God is not distant, for Christ brings us into a relationship with God. Now God is near and God is welcoming. So this leads to a strong sense that you live life coram Deo, “before God.” This is an important phrase for Luther. In Calvin, too, there is a strong sense of the presence of God. Calvin said that in every dimension of life human beings have “business with God,” negotium cum Deo.[2]

Still today Christians can give the impression that true Christian work is work done for a church or parachurch. Or we think we need to go on a retreat to be truly spiritual. The very term “retreat” is a bit of a giveaway. It suggests that monastic thinking still lingers in our minds. Or we measure commitment to Christ in terms of commitment to the activities of our church. The person who regularly attends the prayer meeting and serves a church committee is assumed to be a strong Christian. People who have less time for these things because they are busy at work or serving in the community are assumed to be failing as disciples. We make the call to follow Christ a call to participate in church programs. And then we wonder why we are so poor at reaching the lost or impacting our culture.

Still, today we tend to look for religion in the extraordinary. We expect to encounter God in the special meetings in special locations, whether that is the grandeur of a cathedral with its elaborate liturgy or the buzz of a high-octane worship service. Luther’s doctrine of vocation placed the work of God firmly in the ordinary. Through our vocation, God is revealed even in mundane activities.

The God of Sunday Mornings . . . and Monday Mornings

God is the God of all creation. He is the God of Monday mornings as well as Sunday mornings. Humanity was made in the image of God to reflect his glory in his world. In the gospel we are restored to our true humanity. We are renewed so that we can again reflect God’s glory in God’s world. The Reformation affirmation of everyday life is an invitation to see the whole earth as the theater of God’s glory and to see our whole lives as opportunities to reflect that glory.

1. Luther, “Sermon on John 21:19–24,” 242, cited in Kolden, “Luther on Vocation,” 386.
2. Calvin, Institutes, 1.17.2, 3.3.16, 3.7.2.

Michael Reeves (PhD, King’s College, London) is president and professor of theology at Union School of Theology in Oxford. He is the author of Delighting in the Trinity, Rejoicing in Christ, and The Unquenchable Flame: Discovering the Heart of the Reformation.

Tim Chester (PhD, University of Wales) is a pastor of Grace Church, Boroughbridge, and curriculum director of the Acts 29-Oak Hill Academy, which provides integrated theological and missional training for church leaders. He is the coauthor of Total Church and is the author of over thirty books, including You Can Change, A Meal with Jesus, and Good News to the Poor.

by Crossway at September 09, 2016 01:13 PM

Workout: September 9, 2016

DVB For time: Run 1 mile with a 20-lb. medicine ball Then, 8 rounds of: 10 wall-ball shots 1 rope ascent Run 800 meters with a 20-lb. medicine ball Then, 4 rounds of: 10 wall-ball shots 1 rope ascent Run 400 meters with a 20-lb. medicine ball Then, 2 rounds of: 10 wall-ball shots 1 […]

by Crystal at September 09, 2016 12:28 PM

Justin Taylor

The Stories of Two Barths: Chaser or Gateway Drug?

The following is a guest post Michael Allen, associate professor of systematic and historical theology at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida. He has written a number of books including Karl Barth’s Church Dogmatics: An Introduction and Reader (London: T & T Clark, 2012).

Allen-Karl-Barths-Church-Dogmatics-An-Introduction-and-ReaderMy theological twin, Scott Swain, recently tweeted:

It’s important for Protestant theologians to get Karl Barth and to get over Karl Barth.

Apparently this was controversial, as it kicked up some rather excited demurral. I’m not on twitter, but Scott’s tweet makes me wish (momentarily) that I was. It’s brilliant in both its distinct points: Get Barth. And, yes, get over Barth. Punchy, but wise. But it’s also not surprising that it drew such ire, and I want to explore why.

Two narratives shape how one thinks of Karl Barth and his theology, at least among those who view him as a relative good of significant note.[1]

If one reads Barth in one story, then getting over him would be futile.

If one reads him as part of another story (which I deem more plausible), then doing so makes all the sense in the world.

Admittedly the stories are somewhat too neat, but I do believe they prove instructive just the same.

The First Story: Barth Is the Chaser that Ends the Party

Narrative number one involves a story of the onward progress of the Word of God. I emphasize that final prepositional phrase (“of the Word of God”) because I do not take these persons to be beholden to belief in modern progress as such. They honestly claim that God—and God alone—will lead his people to ever-greater illumination regarding his Word. Following the fundamental principles of the Protestant Reformation, then, they expect the church to be continually reformed by God’s Word. Note, the church does not reform itself, for progress is not a matter of optimism in one’s intrinsic capacities; rather, God reforms the church through his Word. They believe God to be active, his Word to be powerful, and thus they expect doctrinal progress (alongside other forms of progress, no doubt, ranging from the moral and social to liturgical and ecumenical).

What progress do they affirm? Barth clearly offers so much here: theological realism, a scripture-soaked imagination, a Christ-centered particularism, conversation with a wide-ranging litany of Christian witnesses from the tradition, a vivid sense of the singularity of Jesus and the grace of his work. We could list still more gains. Further, they note that Barth offered this in the modern era, attesting the gospel in a (more advanced) cultural setting. While they may not buy into modern progress as a philosophy, they do believe we cannot turn back the clock on philosophical and cultural developments even though we must see how the gospel sublimates them. Thus, they take it as rather strange that one would seek to “get over Karl Barth” unless one is claiming to want to move forward to something still more contemporary (say, T. F. Torrance or, for the slightly more exotic, Wolf Krötke or Helmut Gollwitzer). In this narrative, Barth signals the latest significant advance of the active Word of God, received thoughtfully by his servants, and he beckons us come to him. This is the first story of Barth.

The Second Story: Barth Is a Gateway Drug to Something More

But there is another story of Barth, which I deem to be more viable and convincing.

Narrative number two affirms those basic principles but contextualizes them within a story of marked decline. The advance of God’s Word by his Spirit’s power nonetheless runs its course through a human and even ecclesial history that manifests twists and turns, struggles and sins. The modern era, particularly in Europe, was a time of remarkable decline and of giving up territory in terms of historic orthodoxy. Barth and others confessed as such when he took up the newly established honorary chair in reformed theology at Göttingen. John Webster has traced the way in which Barth worked feverishly in the 1920s at reading not only biblical texts but also the Reformed theological tradition carefully. By the time he turned his hand to the dogmatic task, he was able to steer back towards the realm of historic orthodoxy. In so many ways he returned a focus to exegesis, to conversation with the history of doctrine, and to resolve in speaking in a Christian and theological manner. All the positives mentioned above would be affirmed here as gains, even if sometimes taken as limited gains or intertwined with some problems or at least with some tension-laden supplements. And I might add that other areas are not only returns to earlier achievements but genuinely extend theological reflection in a profound manner worthy of emulation, an example of which I take to be his penetrating focus upon the agency of the exalted Christ.

Perhaps most notably, however, this story observes that Barth saw himself as a theologian doing “church dogmatics” and thinking after the confession of the people of God and, even more signally, receiving the intrusively life-giving Word of God from the outside. They take it as rather straightforward, then, that Barth’s own trajectory would suggest moving in his work and through his witness to the greater fullness of the catholic and Reformed theological tradition where that Word has been heard in even more alert and nuanced ways. A number of examples could be offered, which might likely include a greater desire for a more nuanced rendering of covenant history than the sometimes reductive exegesis offered in CD II/2, to gleaning from the way that (having listened well to Barth) Kate Sonderegger has nonetheless suggested that we better follow the canonical order of teaching by beginning with the oneness of God as was dominant in the classical Reformed and catholic tradition, to more patient attention to the doctrine of creation in its own right (even to Calvin’s teaching on nature and grace on the matter!), and to a number of matters sacramental and scriptural (where, at the end of his life, John Webster was gesturing toward advances beyond Barth). In this narrative, Barth represents a remarkable move towards receiving historic orthodoxy in an intelligent manner yet again in a place where it had been decimated and occasionally a genuine advance on particular topics, but he is fundamentally a witness gesturing us to go still further. Again, Webster serves as an example of one who remained to the end committed to listening and learning respectfully from Barth but who had been led by him to still greater riches in the catholic and Reformed tradition.

A Suggestion

Our posture toward Barth will relate to the story within which we view him. I can’t help but think that the second narrative the more viable, and I observe that the first narrative tends to be convincing to those involved in the professional world of Barth Studies as their major theological interest while the second narrative plays out across the work of a host of figures who respectfully engage with Barth with a still deeper commitment to tracing beyond him ways in which the Christian confession might be thought more fully. Folks such as the late John Webster, Kevin Vanhoozer, Michael Horton, Kate Sonderegger, Fred Sanders, or my colleague Scott Swain come to mind. One would be hard-pressed to find dismissive or ungrateful reflection on Barth in their work, but their gratitude takes the form of taking him seriously enough to delight in going deeper into the tradition and most especially into biblical exegesis than he might have done. In this approach Barth is a gateway drug, we might say, to more in the world of Reformed catholicity in its patristic, medieval, and modern treasures, rather than treating him as a chaser that ends the party.

Two concluding thoughts come to mind by way of suggestion.

First, I have trouble noting these narratives without seeing the first one as possessing a much more vigorous sense that theology is a constructive or poetic practice involving creation as part of its movement and, thus, progress and contemporaneity holding a high prestige. On the other hand, the second model seems to suggest much more of a receptive model, wherein the first mode of theology’s practice and its defining characteristic at every point is its hearing that which has been said. (Of course, Barth himself offers analysis of these two modes of thought in speaking of the hearing and the teaching church.) Without denying the integrity of created being and activity in its intellectual mode, it seems to me that Christian teaching—especially the character of the gospel itself—demands the second posture be treated as more definitive: theology is a positive and receptive task, not a poetic or creative practice. While the Word always confronts us from outside, the theologian is not to be a savant but fundamentally a student who listens ever deeper, ever wider. It is a shame when Barth, who sought to tune our ears to that wider chorus of saints, is left playing solo.

A second observation is also worth our attention. Barth was used to help right some wrongs. We do well to be grateful. Profoundly grateful. His confession was vital. His ministry inspires and informs. He was also put to such work in a setting that was far less theologically resourced than many others today (this is not my judgment alone for, again, he noted as such early in his teaching career!). And, today, I know there are settings that are so bereft of biblical fidelity and Christ-centeredness that his theology would be a remarkable move in the right direction, but others live (thankfully) in settings that have maintained a vibrant biblical and confessional witness (albeit always with limits and failures) wherein embrace of his thought as a whole would involve some declensions. We are wise not to forget that contextual reality. While I would not want my presbytery to take on his theology in its most notable revisions to the catholic and Reformed confessions, I can still read, show gratitude, and celebrate what good was worked in that setting through him.

What of Barth? While we would be foolish to chide him for somehow leading the church astray from an orthodoxy it did not possess at that time in any lively way, we would be equally unwise to pretend that he wasn’t himself grasping for something more than that which he was able to provide. As we should appreciate that he beckoned people unto the Jesus of the Word, perhaps we should also seek go past where he might point us to the still more faithful testimony of others.



[1] Two other narratives could be added as possibilities, though I don’t think either worth our worry.

First, some would suggest that Karl Barth brought liberalism into the church like a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It is hard to see the value of such an approach, given that Barth’s church did not need liberalism coming in from outside, for there was plenty within already. He was by all accounts seeking to restore some notion of orthodoxy, even if not arriving quite where one might like in that regard. While some in the USA may have sought to broaden its churches and loosen doctrinal standards by making use of him (e.g. elements in both the Northern and Southern Presbyterian churches prior to their merger as the PC[USA]), that is another matter not attributable to Barth himself. To chide Barth for making the Reformed church broader is like looking at Paul’s biography and noting mainly that he circumcised Timothy rather than the more contextually notable fact that he did not circumcise Titus.

Second, others would suggest that Barth did work to move a liberal church back towards orthodoxy and, thus, was an impediment to the onward march of progressivism. Such liberal or revisionist approaches would demand a much more basic response regarding the nature of the Christian faith, of biblical teaching, and of the commendable value of historic orthodoxy (to whatever degree Barth led there).

by Justin Taylor at September 09, 2016 11:11 AM


Input threads in the X server

A great new feature has been merged during this 1.19 X server development cycle: we're now using threads for input [1]. Previously, there were two options for how an input driver would pass on events to the X server: polling or from within the signal handler. Polling simply adds all input devices' file descriptors to a select(2) loop that is processed in the mainloop of the server. The downside here is that if the server is busy rendering something, your input is delayed until that rendering is complete. Historically, polling was primarily used by the keyboard driver because it just doesn't matter much when key strokes are delayed. Both because you need the client to render them anyway (which it can't when it's busy) and possibly also because we're just so bloody used to typing delays.

The signal handler approach circumvented the delays by installing a SIGIO handler for each input device fd and calling that when any input occurs. This effectively interrupts the process until the signal handler completes, regardless of what the server is currently busy with. A great solution to provide immediate visible cursor movement (hence it is used by evdev, synaptics, wacom, and most of the now-retired legacy drivers) but it comes with a few side effects. First of all, because the main process is interrupted, the bit where we read the events must be completely separate to the bit where we process the events. That's easy enough, we've had an input event queue in the server for as long as I've been involved with X.Org development (~2006). The drivers push events into the queue during the signal handler, in the main loop the server reads them and processes them. In a busy server that may be several seconds after the pointer motion was performed on the screen but hey, it still feels responsive.

The bigger issue with the use of a signal handler is: you can't use malloc [2]. Or anything else useful. Look at the man page for signal(7), it literally has a list of allowed functions. This leads to two weird side-effects: one is that you have to pre-allocate everything you may ever need for event processing, the other is that you need to re-implement any function that is not currently async signal safe. The server actually has its own implementation of printf for this reason (for error logging). Let's just say this is ... suboptimal. Coincidentally, libevdev is mostly async signal safe for that reason too. It also means you can't use any libraries, because no-one [3] is insane enough to make libraries async signal-safe.

We were still mostly "happy" with it until libinput came along. libinput is a full input stack and expecting it to work within a signal handler is the somewhere between optimistic, masochistic and sadistic. The xf86-input-libinput driver doesn't use the signal handler and the side effect of this is that a desktop with libinput didn't feel as responsive when the server was busy rendering.

Keith Packard stepped in and switched the server from the signal handler to using input threads. Or more specifically: one input thread on top of the main thread. That thread controls all the input device's file descriptors and continuously reads events off them. It otherwise provides the same functionality the signal handler did before: visible pointer movement and shoving events into the event queue for the main thread to process them later. But of course, once you switch to threads, problems have 2 you now. A signal handler is "threading light", only one code path can be interrupted and you know you continue where you left off. So synchronisation primitives are easier than in threads where both code paths continue independently. Keith replaced the previous xf86BlockSIGIO() calls with corresponding input_lock() and input_unlock() calls and all the main drivers have been switched over. But some interesting race conditions kept happening. But as of today, we think most of these are solved.

The best test we have at this point is libinput's internal test suite. It creates roughly 5000 devices within about 4 minutes and thus triggers most code paths to do with device addition and removal, especially the overlaps between devices sending events before/during/after they get added and/or removed. This is the largest source of possible errors as these are the code paths with the most amount of actual simultaneous access to the input devices by both threads. But what the test suite can't test is normal everyday use. So until we get some more code maturity, expect the occasional crash and please do file bug reports. They'll be hard to reproduce and detect, but don't expect us to run into the same race conditions by accident.

[1] Yes, your calendar is right, it is indeed 2016, not the 90s or so
[2] Historical note: we actually mostly ignored this until about 2010 or so when glibc changed the malloc implementation and the server was just randomly hanging whenever we tried to malloc from within the signal handler. Users claimed this was bad UX, but I think it's right up there with motif.
[3] yeah, yeah, I know, there's always exceptions.

by Peter Hutterer ( at September 09, 2016 07:21 AM

Table Titans

Tales: Anything

About two years back I was playing a Swashbuckling Rogue with, due to some lucky rolls and race modifiers, a disturbing amount of charisma for his level. And whilst in character, I had bragged about how I could, “Get out of anything that came my way.”

Our Fighter found it quite amusing when…

Read more

September 09, 2016 07:00 AM

The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

Reviving Albania through Reading

Article by: Norlan De Groot

The schoolboy considered himself lucky to live in the only true communist country in the world. At least that’s what his teachers told him.

Zefjan Nikolla, pastor of Emanuel Reformed Church in Tirana, Albania, grew up under a communist regime that controlled his country for 40 years. By the time he was a teenager, however, Nikolla realized the government’s ideology did not match reality.

“We were extremely poor and isolated from the rest of the world,” Nikolla recalls. “I can still see the pain on my mother’s face when we asked her for food at meal times.”

Under the dictatorship of Enver Hoxha, communism dominated Albania’s economics and educational system. (Albania is situated on southeastern Europe’s Balkan Peninsula, near Greece to the south and Italy to the west.) Hoxha also systematically and violently purged anything religious from the country, seizing property owned by religious organizations to use as warehouses or cultural centers. He also imprisoned, tortured, and sometimes executed religious leaders. By 1976, Albania’s constitution officially supported atheism.

“Hoxha dictated what to believe, think, say, and eat, how to dress, and very often whom to marry and divorce,” Nikolla explains. In a communist society in which everyone was suspicious of everyone else, Nikolla grew up bitter and filled with despair.

Spiritual Feast

Everything changed in Albania with the fall of communism in 1991. More importantly for Nikolla, he joined the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students (IFES) at Tirana University. He was agnostic but looking for answers. While communism had starved him physically and spiritually, the IFES Bible studies provided the answers he craved.

“God used my passion for reading to instruct me in the faith,” Nikolla said. “Of course, people helped me along the way to understand important things, but I can honestly say God used books to shape my life more than anything else. Richard Wurmbrand’s Tortured for Christ inspired me to persevere in my faith despite difficulties. John Stott’s Basic Christianity and C. S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity helped me to better understand the Christian faith.”

Books still influence Nikolla, and he uses them to encourage others. Besides his pastoral role, he now serves as the national director of IFES in Albania. His position gives him a platform to promote healthy interaction with biblical ideas found in Christian books.

“Giving someone Christian literature is a great way of helping them grow in their faith,” he said. “This is the main reason I share books with my friends and ministry team.”

Book Club with a Purpose

Ten years ago Nikolla founded the Tirana Book Club. About 25 to 50 people gather to discuss one book each month, and more than 4,500 follow the discussions on Facebook. They use Packing Hope books from TGC International Outreach as often as they can.

The pastor mentioned several Packing Hope books as especially helpful in his ministry. “I have been blessed by commentaries such as Galatians for You by Tim Keller and Titus for You by Tim Chester. I also found it refreshing to read through Everyone’s a Theologian by R. C. Sproul.” Nikolla is also quick to give high marks to any book by John Piper.

“The aim is to promote the faith through reading,” Nikolla said. “Moderating the discussion group forces me to study the book carefully. As a result of sharing books and discussing them, everyone in the group grows in our understanding of the Christian faith.”

Hoxha tried to exterminate religion, but truth is not easily squelched. Good books are reviving the spirit of Albanians. TGC International Outreach is grateful to help make biblical resources available to church leaders in Albania and around the world.

Editors’ note:  The Gospel Coalition provides free books to help equip church leaders around the world. In the Albanian language, we currently have copies of D. A. Carson’s The God Who Is There. These resources are stocked in Albania itself and ready to order. Join us in the cause of Theological Famine Relief.

Norlan De Groot is the English communications coordinator for MINTS International Seminary. He and his family live in Sioux Center, Iowa.

by Norlan De Groot at September 09, 2016 05:02 AM

The New Testament Scholar from Down Under

Article by: Thomas Schreiner

Leon Lamb Morris (1914–2006) stood out in his generation as one of the great evangelical scholars. He wrote 50 books and traveled extensively, speaking all around the world. His book The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross, which has sold more than 50,000 copies, was his signature achievement. He wrote often about the cross, and his more popular treatments were also well-received. Morris stubbornly attended to the biblical text and closely sifted what it said, showing that penal substitution and the satisfaction of God’s wrath could not be expunged from our theological vocabulary. His massive NICNT commentary on the Gospel of John should probably be mentioned second in terms of its influence and scholarship. The effect of his writings is staggering. He wrote two commentaries (Tyndale and NICNT) on the Thessalonian epistles, and they sold more than 250,000 copies. His Tyndale commentary on 1 Corinthians, which appeared in two editions, also sold more than 250,000 copies.

Morris’s work in The New Testament and Jewish Lectionaries refuted the notion that the Gospels were patterned after lectionaries. As a young student I read much of his work. The first scholarly commentary I read on Revelation was by Morris, and I also read his helpful little book on apocalyptic literature. His fascinating book on church government is vintage Morris: fair, insightful, balanced. I was also instructed by Morris’s volume on Scripture, I Believe in Revelation.

Morris the Man 

Many of us know about Morris’s writings, but we know less about Morris the man. Neil Bach—an Anglican minister who chairs the Leon and Mildren Morris Foundation—has now written a biography, Leon Morris: One Man’s Fight For Love And Truth, that captures Morris’s life from his humble beginnings in Lithgow (in the state of New South Wales) to his final years in Australia, where he suffered from dementia.

Morris was converted in his first year of study at the University of Sydney, and his intellectual gifts quickly manifested themselves. He married Mildred Dann in 1941, and they were married for 62 years until her death in 2003. They never had children. Morris served for a short period at Tyndale House (1961–64), but he also devoted many years to being principal of Ridley College in Melbourne.

Bach rightly devotes most of the book to Morris’s scholarly career—to his writing, speaking, and interaction with other scholars. Perhaps a few reflections from the biography will be of some interest. Morris was clearly a humble and teachable person. He was self-effacing and not self-promoting, which is a good word in this day when the temptation to promote ourselves is part of the air we breathe. At the same time, he had an impish sense of humor others enjoyed. He had enormous energy and discipline; hence he could serve as a college principal and also write a tremendous amount. He ran meetings with efficiency so that no time was wasted. Bach recounts one incident where Morris stood up and ended a meeting on time while someone was declaiming on this or that. The person cut off was quite astonished!

Intensely Private, Tenaciously Biblical 

Bach hasn’t written a biography that introduces us to the interior life of Morris or his wife. Apparently they were both quite introverted, so there’s probably no access to this dimension of their lives. We don’t learn whether not having children was a struggle for Morris or his wife. There are no windows into Morris’s heart. It seems he kept the door shut on his private life and thoughts. 

What was it like to work with Morris day in and day out? It seems it was pleasant, though when Alfred Stanway came to help him with administration at Ridley in 1971, Stanway discovered Morris couldn’t delegate responsibilities, and they clashed. Clearly, Morris was a godly man—humble, caring, unselfish. On the other hand, we’re all flawed until the day of redemption, and it’s a bit difficult from this biography to discern his areas of weakness.

One of the remarkable features of his life was that Morris continued to write until dementia overtook him. Some might be surprised to learn he was an advocate for women serving in all ministry positions. Morris’s ability to get along with people manifests itself in the welcome he received at both Fuller Theological Seminary and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. At the end of his life he wrote commentaries on Matthew and Romans, as well as a New Testament theology

Morris’s lucid and clear expositions continue to inspire students today. And as Bach shows, Morris was committed to Jesus Christ, to the Scriptures, and to teaching, preaching, and writing. His legacy lives on. I’m thankful to Neil Bach for his biography of a man who played such a vital role in evangelical scholarship in the 20th century.

Neil Bach. Leon Morris: One Man’s Fight for Love and Truth. Bletchley, UK. Authentic Media, 2016. 320 pp. $25.99. 

Thomas Schreiner is the James Buchanan Harrison professor of New Testament interpretation and associate dean for Scripture and interpretation at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. You can follow him on Twitter.

by Thomas Schreiner at September 09, 2016 05:02 AM

John Piper on How Scripture Reveals It’s True—Entirely True

Article by: Staff

“Can a 9-year-old know the Bible is the Word of God—not just because you told him so?” — John Piper

Workshop Leader: John Piper

Date: June 17, 2016

Event: The Gospel Coalition 2016 Women’s Conference, Indianapolis, Indiana

John Piper is a TGC Council member, founder and teacher of, and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. He is the author of more than 50 books, including A Peculiar Glory: How the Christian Scriptures Reveal Their Total Truthfulness (Crossway, 2016).

You can listen to this episode of The Gospel Coalition podcast here or watch the video. 

by Staff at September 09, 2016 05:01 AM

The Christian Response to Gender Dysphoria

Article by: Andrew T. Walker

The latest issue of Time magazine features an essay by Jessi Hempel telling the story of her brother, Evan, giving birth to a son.

That opening sentence might catch you off guard, especially since human biology does not allow for biological men to give birth. Such an idea is common knowledge, but in our own day the claim that only women are able to give birth needs to be reasserted. The photo the story features is designed to elicit attention, as it shows what looks like a man breastfeeding an infant son. But the story’s title—“My Brother’s Pregnancy and the Making of a New American Family”—is designed to document the brave new frontier transgender individuals are promising to bring to America, a frontier that requires accepting the supposed reality that men can give birth.

Hempel tells the heart-wrenching story of her brother who had undergone a female-to-male transition at 19, but who still desired to give birth—and did so at 35. The writer describes the long-ago transition that included Testosterone injections, which produced thick hair over her former sister’s knuckles, a vestige associated with masculine hands. Evan elected not to have her breasts removed. Recounting how much they once looked alike, Hempel laments the loss of her doppelgänger.

The story is not without painful admissions. At one point, Hempel observes that her brother, while pregnant, experienced a “traumatizing disconnect between his masculinity and the female attributes of his body.” Such trauma should be expected when a person tries to live out in their mind what their body contradicts.

Hempel goes on to ask a question that helpfully frames how Christians should begin thinking about the transgender revolution: “What if you are born into a female body, know you are a man, and still want to participate in the traditionally exclusive rite of womanhood? What kind of man are you then?”

Pew Behind You

We might be tempted to respond to this type of question—and this kind of person—with shock and dismissal, reducing someone like Evan’s psychological experiences of gender dysphoria1 to bizarre novelty or even derangement. But that’s most certainly not the Christian response to a person experiencing gender dysphoria. Instead, we must approach these individuals with both grace and truth (John 1:14).

Some respond that dismissing the legitimacy of a person’s experiences is to dismiss them wholesale. To be clear, we shouldn’t dismiss but feel compassion for anyone experiencing mental distress about a perceived misalignment between their gender identity and their body. Not dismissing the reality of their inner feelings, however, is not the same as affirming those feelings. It’s important for Christians to understand that people who experience distress, anguish, and conflict over their perceived gender identity really do exist. They’re not freaks. They’re not simply cross-dressers or people desiring to “gender-bend.” In most cases, their experience cannot be reduced to simply “living a lie” since most don’t feel they’re lying to themselves. In fact, just the opposite is true. People with genuine cases of dysphoria believe it’s their biological body that is lying. A person in this situation truly believes he or she is a member of the opposite sex.

Though statistically rare, people experiencing gender dysphoria are closer than we may think. They are our sons and daughters, our brothers and sisters. They’re people who may have been sitting in the pew behind us for decades, those who have fought against the desire to see themselves as the opposite sex but who struggle nonetheless.

And each one of them is an image bearer of God, imbued with endless dignity and eternal worth.

Psychology Doesn’t Change Ontology

So how do we evaluate this phenomenon?

First, Christians welcome all into the grace of the gospel, because our gospel is applicable and available to all (1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Pet. 3:9). So, first and foremost, we must offer genuine love to our gender dysphoric neighbor (Mark 12:30–31).

But as Christians, we’re also required to confront new challenges with biblical truth. God made men and women different (Gen. 1:27). Contrary to mistaken interpretations, sexual difference does not exist on a continuum where some men are more like women or vice versa. Men and women are different at the deepest levels of their being. Our chromosomes are different. Our brains are different. Our voices are different. Our body shapes are different. Our body strengths are different. Our reproductive systems are different. The design for what our bodies are structured and destined for are different, and these designs bear witness to differences that reflect God’s creative will for humanity. Because men and women are different, it’s philosophically impossible for a man to become a physical woman or a physical woman to become a man. Those who say otherwise are trafficking in fiction about human nature. In fact, there is no scientific proof to verify the claim that one is trapped inside the wrong body.

If God made men and women fundamentally and comprehensively different, then the idea that a man could ever become a woman (or vice versa) is simply impossible. The differences between men and women can’t be overcome simply because one person feels they’re a member of the opposite sex. Your psychology (feelings) cannot change your ontology (being).

Path to Freedom and Joy

Understanding why persons might perceive themselves the way they do, and giving biblical counsel that doesn’t simply repeat what political correctness demands, offers an opportunity for genuine counsel and compassion (Prov. 3:5–6). Biblical counsel would begin by helping a person embrace, however difficult it may seem, that their birth sex is a testimony to their true nature, and that perceptions of a different gender identity, while sincere, do not constitute an actual identity change.

As those who believe that love rejoices in truth (1 Cor. 13:6) and that truth sets people free (John 8:32), we must state what Time and a culture of enablement won’t: If Evan was born with XX chromosomes, Evan is not a man, nor can Evan ever be a man.

Hempel goes to great pains to deny Evan’s innate and inescapable femaleness. Why? Because it takes extroaordinary effort to paper over how our bodies are designed to function. Hempel indicates that Evan (whose former feminine name is not given) was born a healthy female. The act of Evan’s female biology naturally re-emerging after stopping hormone treatments in order to go through the pregnancy reveals this is true. We cannot remake ourselves according to self-will or even our deepest perceptions. No amount of suppression or repression can deny what is true of our bodies.

Suppressing what we know to be true will never produce the joy we desire. Whatever the state of an individual’s self-perceptions or feelings, the deliberate thwarting of healthy embodiment cannot yield lasting happiness. This is one reason transgender individuals who transition still report high rates of anxiety and depression.

Going Deeper

Cloaked in pleas for compassion and sympathy, stories like the one in Time will become the new normal in America. And given the pace of acceleration, the implications will be enormous, touching almost every area of life. This will require Christians to have an understanding of compassion and sympathy—as well as love and hope—that goes deeper than simply affirming another’s experiences as normative and praiseworthy.

Our desires, perceptions, and bodies all testify to the disorder of a sin-ravaged creation. The good news for people like Evan, as for each one of us, is that the broken bodies we live in all need redemption (Rom. 8:18–25). And in Jesus Christ, all things are promised to be made new (Isa. 65:17; Rev. 21:5). While Christianity doesn’t guarantee total relief in this life, it does guarantee future resurrection from our desires, perceptions, and bodies that are subject to decay and death (1 Cor. 15:50–56). Because our biological sex doesn’t lie, and because our minds are susceptible to confusion, repentance and sanctification for the dysphoric individual involves the long work of bringing their perceived gender identity back into conformity with their biological sex. A person may never fully arrive at peace, but putting on the new self, remade in Jesus Christ, means embracing and trusting God’s authority over every facet of our existence (Col. 3:1–11).

Though it may bring new conversations and experiences many of us will not understand, ministry to those with gender dysphoria means walking with each precious soul through what could be years of psychological valleys (Gal. 6:2). We need Christians who will walk alongside these individuals in every season, in victory and in defeat, encouraging each toward greater faith in the Lord Jesus (Rom. 12:12; Jam. 1:12).

Only Christians humble enough to recognize their own brokenness will be capable of walking with people through struggles that seem very different from their own.

1 Mark Yarhouse defines gender dysphoria as “the experiences of distress associated with the incongruence wherein one’s psychological and emotional gender identity does not match one’s biological sex.”

Andrew T. Walker is the director of policy studies at the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. He is also a PhD student in Christian ethics at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. You can follow Andrew on Twitter @andrewtwalk.

by Andrew T. Walker at September 09, 2016 05:00 AM

September 08, 2016

Nicholas Nethercote

How to get localized Firefox Nightly builds

One of the easiest and best ways that someone can help Mozilla and Firefox is to run Firefox Nightly. I’ve been doing it on my Windows, Mac and Linux machines for the past couple of months. It requires daily restarts, but otherwise it has been a smooth experience for me.

Unfortunately the number of Nightly users has been steadily dropping for some time, which hurts our ability to catch crashes and other regressions early. Pascal Chevrel and Marcia Knous are leading efforts underway to reverse this trend.

One problem with Nightly builds has been their visibility. In particular, finding localized (non-English) builds was difficult. That situation has just improved: thanks to Kohei Yoshino there is now a single page containing Nightly builds for all platforms and locales. As far as I know there are no other pages that currently link to that page, but perhaps that will happen as part of the planned work to give Nightly builds a place on

If you have friends and family who would like to help Mozilla and are willing to use pre-release versions of Firefox, please suggest Firefox Nightly to them.

by Nicholas Nethercote at September 08, 2016 11:20 PM

John C. Wright's Journal

Hillary’s Speech on the Alt Right

I had not had previously the opportunity nor the pleasure of hearing Secretary Clinton’s powerful yet utterly convincing presidential speech where she discusses, in depth and with daring honesty and passion, the many complex issues of the day concerning the war and the economy, as well as putting to rest the troubling questions raised by Vince Foster’s death, bribery and corruption allegations, Benghazi, and trafficking classified documents to foreign powers on her email server.

Here is the speech, parsed down to its essentials

Oh, no, sorry, my mistake. This speech was the same old, tired, wearisome and stupid lefty-thoughtpolice accusatory bullcrap dithering pukefest that has deceived the inattentive, halfwitted, and malign Dem kneejerk voting-cows being milked for their votes for decades.

Can we not expunge this venereal disease of Third Generation Marxist godlessness from our shores, now that the Soviet Union has been dead for decades? Will no one identify the disease, and take the harsh steps needed to repel the contagion?

The Reds are gone, but the disease they set in motion metastasizes and spreads.

The disease is the ad hominem disease, the political philosophy of Critical Theory that says instead of having any thoughts about how to organize society, what laws to pass, what customs to maintain, taking positions on all questions of peace and war, this political philosophy eschews all philosophy and all political theory.

It merely accuses, and accuses, and accuses whoever happens to be convenient to accuse, and it promises funds from the public coffers in return for votes from voters who are inattentive, indifferent, corrupt, or malign.

And when the policies of the Dems destroy Detroit more thoroughly than the a-bomb destroyed Hiroshima, instead of revisiting those policies, or even beginning a discussion of them, Critical Theory demands that the anyone looking at the facts be called a racist bigot, and that the inattentive voter be promised some additional goodies from the public coffers, free health care, free student loans, free college education.

Democrat Party political discourse is thoughtless, dishonest, boring, and stupid by design.

The lack of thought and honesty aids the corruption; the boring nature of the accusations aids the spread of indifference; the grindingly unintelligent nature of the accusation stream encourages the malice.

The qualities needed in the voters to win votes for Dem candidates are exactly these: no one who was not corrupt, indifferent, or malicious would pull the lever for a Dem.

The Democrat Party is the Party of Heckling. Like the Devil, their sole policy is to accuse the brethren day and night, without cease.

The Dems are merely the political arm of the darkness.

It was the Reds who invented the idea of Critical Theory, that is, accuse Christendom of each and every imperfection imaginable, especially in areas, such as race relations or the equality of sexes, where the criticism cannot exist outside Christendom. It was done to weaken confidence in Western institutions, especially the Church, the family, the marketplace, the townhall, the entertainment industry, the courts, the academy, and the press.

Over the decades, the press was captured partly and then fully, then the academy (which is now merely a seminary for Leftism), then the courts of law (which began systematically to undermine rule of law), and Hollywood (Sen McCarthy was right, and the Hollywood ten were commies) and then townhall (which was taken over by a donor caste of Leftwing millionaires, with whom Trump broke ranks and turned against).

Wall Street was basically bought and broken to the whip after the sabotage by the government of the housing market, the student loan industry, the motor car industry, and health care practice. The marketplace is firmly under Leftist control, which is ironic, since the millionaires learned that by funding politicians who denounce them, the millionaires can maintain their wealth and power and suppress free market competition.

The family was successfully smashed to bits among the inner city blacks, American Indians living on reservations, and poor whites. No fault divorce is to blame, and the normalization and celebration of sodomy is the victory lap.

The Anglican and Episcopalian denominations have spat in the face of Christ and embraced Caesar, and kneel to give oral sexual favors to the homosex lobby, so these congregations had declared their fealty to antichrist. The Roman Catholic Church, a fair and strong fortress, still holds out, but the press has decided on a policy of pretending Pope Francis is one of them, and many an unwary reader, including Catholics who should know better, are deceived.

The darkness is on the brink of absolute victory. The last few lamps are fluttering and guttering and the oil is scarce.

And there is still no organized opposition to any of this.

For a time, I had some hope in the voters electrified by Trump, but, like the Tea Party, both the mainstream conservatives and the newer movements and the treasonous establishment GOP have decided to fritter away their energy attacking and provoking attacks from each other. Instead of riding to the aid of Gondor, the Riders of Rohan decided this was the best moment to loot Minas Tirith.

by John C Wright at September 08, 2016 08:38 PM

Alphabet and Chipotle Launching Burrito Drone Delivery

This is the peak of what humankind will accomplish. Shut it down, folks.

by Stephen at September 08, 2016 08:28 PM

CrossFit 204 Classic Hoodie

Just in time for fall, the hoodies have arrived and will be delivered to members who ordered them in the next two weeks! The cost will be $115.00 + GST, and will be billed directly from your account. If you missed out on the order, don’t worry, we have a few extra. They won’t last […]

by Crystal at September 08, 2016 07:32 PM

Aaron M. Renn

Cities Need Connectivity in the Global Economy

Image via Shutterstock

Image via Shutterstock

My latest column is now online in the September issue of Governing magazine. It’s about the criticality of connectivity to success in the global economy.

One of the most important ways for cities to get connected is through migration. Jim Russell and his collaborator Richey Piiparinen at Cleveland State University’s Center for Population Dynamics have been documenting how Cleveland has been getting more connected to the global world through this process. This includes foreign immigration but isn’t limited to that. A key part of it is the influx into places like Cleveland of people who have lived in major global cities like New York, then cycled out.

There are many reasons for this kind of migration, but living costs are certainly one of them. America’s major global urban centers have become extraordinarily expensive to live in. Life in a “microapartment” in New York is less attractive when you are in your 30s and married with kids than it is when you are 22, single and fresh out of college.

What Rust Belt cities like Cleveland can offer is an authentic urban experience in a genuinely historic place at a price that can’t be beat. No one will mistake it for life in Brooklyn, but these cities’ price/performance ratio has a growing appeal, as their downtown population growth shows.

Click through to read the whole thing.

by Aaron M. Renn at September 08, 2016 06:20 PM

Connected #107: Bathtub Full of Espresso

This week on Connected, Federico and I walk through Apple’s iPhone 7 event.

My thanks to our sponsors:

  • Squarespace: Enter offer code WORLD at checkout to get 10% off your first purchase.
  • Ring: Create a ring of security that starts at your front door. Get $50 off!
  • Mack Weldon: Smart underwear for smart guys. Get 20% off with the code CONNECTED.

by Stephen at September 08, 2016 04:55 PM

Market Urbanism

Supply and Demand: A Response to 48hills

In a recent piece published by 48hills, former Berkeley planning commissioner Zelda Bronstein takes aim at…well…too many things for me to succinctly recount in detail. So instead of attempting to respond to every single argument littered throughout her 7,000 word article, I’ll focus on the big stuff.

Supply and demand: it’s a thing…we promise

Ms. Bronstein asserts that supply and demand is, in fact, not a thing. Or at least if it is, it doesn’t apply to the Bay Area housing market. She writes that in California generally and the San Francisco Bay Area specifically,

…the textbook theory of supply-and-demand—prices fall as supply increases—doesn’t apply.

I’m unsure why Ms. Bronstein thinks the laws of supply and demand (ceteris paribus) don’t work here, but they’ve certainly been in force in Tokyo. Japan’s capital has seen sustained population growth as well as productivity increases over the last couple decades. And after twenty years of allowing housing to be built when and where people demand it, prices have remained gloriously flat. Just as expected.

And when we look at American cities with the most supply elastic housing markets, we see a strong relationship between the ease with which new market rate construction can be developed and lower price increases overall. Unsurprisingly, San Francisco has one of the least elastic housing markets in the country and has experienced some of the most extreme percentage increases in housing prices as a result.

No matter what example we look at or how we cut up the data, there’s nothing out there to contradict the basic YIMBY story about supply, demand, and price. Unless, of course, you don’t actually understand the story, which may be the problem in Ms. Bronstein’s case. For her benefit, I’ll restate the general position.

More supply equals lower prices (in the aggregate and over time)

The pro-supply position is that if we allow supply to chase demand across the entire Bay Area housing market, we’ll get lower prices in the aggregate and in the long run than would otherwise have been the case. Properly understood, this should not be a controversial statement. But let’s flesh out a few of the details and qualifications below.

Prices across an entire regional housing market might still be subject to short run increases, even in a supply friendly regulatory regime.

  • When demand for housing kicks up (because more people begin looking for housing, or the people that are already here have more money, or both) prices begin to rise
  • As prices begin to rise, developers* begin to create additional supply as well
  • Only after supply comes online (which involves significant lag time in housing markets) is there any impact on price
  • This means price signals are more of a trailing indicator for producers in housing markets than in other contexts
  • Which further means that supply will always lag behind demand in a hot market…
  • But that supply can also dramatically overshoot demand in a sudden downturn, providing consumers with a glut of housing at reduced prices

Prices in every subsection of the Bay Area won’t necessarily decrease in real terms, even over the long run

  • Certain blocks or neighborhoods may only become more expensive over time
  • More housing would mean they’d be less expensive than would have otherwise been the case, but prices can still go up if space in a particular neighborhood comes into high demand
  • The natural state of affairs, though, is for the fortunes of particular neighborhoods to wax and wane over the long run

Lowering aggregate prices by providing additional supply doesn’t preclude displacement, strictly speaking; but it does mean displacement would far less sudden and extreme

  • In a more functional housing market (i.e. one in which it’s easy to kick up new supply) the financial pressures being faced by low SES Bay Area communities would be far more muted and manageable
  • Price increases that have happened over a period of years would have taken decades
  • And individuals facing displacement would be considering relocation to different neighborhoods instead of different counties

The supply & demand story does not mean we can not or should not think about subsidies for the least well off; but it does mean we have to be thoughtful in constructing social safety nets

  • Inclusionary zoning (IZ)–up until the point that we see a reduction in the total number of units produced–is probably the only quasi workable safety net policy on the table 
  • IZ, however, is a generally poor way to provide housing subsidies
    • It increases the cost of market rate construction, bifurcating the housing market
    • It’s also woefully unscalable
    • And if you increase the percentage mandate past a certain point, projects cease to pencil and nothing actually gets built
  • Housing vouchers (if not a straight up basic minimum income) funded via a land value tax, would be a far more effective policy for stabilizing the least well off

No one in the pro-growth camp is claiming that reducing supply constraints will bring Jesus back early or cover the earth in gumdrops and candy canes. We’re identifying the housing crisis as a problem of excessively high aggregate housing prices and offering a solution based on a widely accepted** and empirically substantiatable interpretation of the facts which suggest the more the housing supply expands, the lower prices will be (compared to what would have otherwise been the case).

If Ms. Bronstein wants to agree with that interpretation but cite concerns other than region-wide affordability, we could perhaps have an honest discussion about what our housing problems are and what solutions we ought to pursue. But Ms. Bronstein claims to care about housing prices per se and refuses to accept the basic relationship between supply, demand, and price. As such, I’ll respectfully ask her to defend her position in the comments below or address these criticisms at length should she feel a more thorough response to be appropriate.


*This doesn’t necessarily mean developers in any strict sense. It could include homeowners installing an ADU on their property or anyone else willing and able to produce additional housing for others.

** See Gleaser & Gyourko, Hsieh & Moretti, Krugman and the California Legislative Analyst’s Office

by Jeff Fong at September 08, 2016 03:01 PM

Crossway Blog

Homer, 'Breaking Bad,' and the Eternal: Part 3

This is a guest post by Grant Horner, author of Meaning at the Movies: Becoming a Discerning Viewer. If you have not already, check out Part 1 and Part 2 of this three-part blog series.

The Hard Truth about Human Nature

Theologically, this is incredibly fascinating to observe. Human narrative always deals with the problem of evil—without it there would be no stories at all. Narrative requires a plot, the movement of characters through change (Aristotle again); plot requires conflict; conflict presupposes some forces in opposition. The basic formula is pure good versus pure evil, but the variations are limitless. The core image is always one of change. You even see this basic structure in the first three chapters of Genesis, don’t you? The most important question, however, is . . . where did the bad guy come from?

Was he born bad (Paul, Augustine, Calvin)? Was he corrupted by society (Locke, Rousseau)? Is there even such a thing as evil at all (French Existentialists, supposed moral relativists)?

We are fascinated by these narratives of change, from the Iliad to Star Wars, by way of Madame Bovary and Moby Dick. Achilles goes from hero to whiny jerk; Anakin Skywalker turns into Darth Vader (and back again); simple, wholesome country girl Emma Bovary becomes a cold, calculating adulteress; Ahab becomes obsessed with a white whale and morphs into something like Satan incarnate. These stories show us eerily accurate portraits of the human condition. They can make us laugh, weep, shudder, exult. They are compelling. Some people binge on them, like a drug that functions as a deceptive mirror showing someone else’s reflection. But it is always our image, even as we are the image of God. Our art reflects us, even as we reflect the imago dei.

Long-form television is particularly powerful in this regard. It returns us to a three thousand-year-old practice of extended shared storytelling. There is something primal and ancient about this; though we are no longer sitting by the dozens or hundreds around a campfire listening to ancient Greek rhapsodoi reciting the Iliad or an Anglo-Saxon bard singing Beowulf, we still share a certain kind of cultural-social story-consciousness. We just break the sharing up more neatly into two parts: the private viewing on widescreen TV followed by the discussion of the latest episodes with our neighbors and coworkers. But it is very much the same thing. We have gone from an oral culture to a print culture to what I have called elsewhere a screen-consciousness culture.

Nowadays Christians have to deal with not just content issues, but time issues. It is easy to spend all day watching things that could be detrimental to your spiritual health. The question regarding leisure time for believers needs to be “am I spending, or wasting, or investing the resource of time here?”

Yet whether a show’s producers, writers, and directors are believers or atheists, conservatives or liberals, artists or hacks, they will always find themselves unable to avoid telling the truth about humanity in one way or another. Picasso rightly said, “Art is a lie that tells the truth.”

As I have argued extensively in Meaning at the Movies (Crossway 2010), all human-cultural production is derived from and linked to the suppression of truth that Paul speaks of in Romans 1. And so there can be edification in a certain kind of limited and thoughtful participation in and engagement with culture. Paul demonstrates this as he engages the Athenians in Acts 17 by quoting their own philosophical poetry back to them. Culture may be (and often is) deeply opposed to God and his truth, but it nevertheless demonstrates consistently that man is exactly what Scripture says he is: confused, selfish, lacking self-awareness, and utterly fallen.

By the end of Breaking Bad, we see that Walter White is not just acting bad, he doesn’t just become bad—he is bad. He is evil. He is a protagonist who morphs into an antagonist. And the plot’s suggestion is that this evil came from within Walter, not from without, simply by his following through on a series of decisions that led him to manipulate people, destroy lives, and break God’s laws. He became what he already was. Mr. Chips contained and indeed gave birth to Mr. Scarface, just as John Milton’s Lucifer self-transfigured into Satan through an act of will in Paradise Lost. Walter White is exactly what C. S. Lewis describes in The Screwtape Letters as a man on the “safest road to hell. . . . the gradual one—the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.” His earliest motivations are of the best kind: taking care of his wife and family. But those are not his final motivations—not at all.

At the end, he finally comes to admit about his measured steps into violent criminality that "I did it for me. I liked it. I was good at it. And I was really—I was alive." He wasn’t talked into “breaking bad” (a Southern phrase for starting to cause trouble, as in “raising hell”). He “breaks bad” because his nature as a fallen being necessarily breaks to the surface, and he was helpless to stop this truth from asserting itself even as he observes his own descent with abject horror. Breaking Bad is about the condition of being bad because you’re already broken.

That’s what the fall is; and this long-form television narrative is just another story that echoes the fall of man. My opening epigraph, "Ars longa, vita brevis," is a line from the Roman poet Horace—it means “art is long; life is short.” This is the ancient desire for art to be eternal, which is based on the mistaken belief that we are not. This is yet another example of a quotation from classical pagan culture that is correct only if we reverse the structure of the argument. Long-form television’s length mirrors not just massive epics like the Iliad, Dante’s Inferno, and Paradise Lost, but also our human state as long-fallen, long-lost souls, facing our fear of death during our long lives ("threescore and ten," Psalm 90:10) that seem too short, and—let’s admit this, shall we?—with all of us sometimes wickedly wishing we could have the guts to be just as awesomely bad as Walter White. To be what we really are, in other words: bad.

Along the way Walter commits one increasingly heinous act after another. The narrative suggests he could stop at any moment; he could respond to his clearly visible conscience (that’s the great acting Hopkins speaks of). But he never does. There is an unforgettable scene where he detachedly observes his own conscience telling him exactly what to do—save the life of a young woman dying pitifully in front of him. But he realizes that following his conscience—saving the girl—could cause him difficulties in his drug business. And so he ignores his own moral sense. He watches a young lady—an adult version of his own infant daughter—die slowly, horribly. He could intervene at any time and become her savior. His face is at first full of pity . . . but then it is set in stone, pitiless, merciless, deader in fact than the dead face upon which he finally gazes. His conscience becomes so seared that it eventually retreats into the background, and we turn against Walter . . . even as we still care for him and hope he turns around (or, to use biblical language, repents). But this descent takes a long, long time—many, many episodes. And he does not repent. The narrative draws out like life itself, and so is lifelike in its slow-moving train of horrors.

One of the most popular storytellers of our times, Stephen King, notes that it is Walter’s initial slow-dragging normality, his everyday dullness that makes him such a compelling character: “Walt White could be a guy just down the block, the one who tried to teach the periodic table to your kids.” He’s just like almost all of those who might watch Breaking Bad. But he ends up as a waking nightmare of his own invention.

Christians do not like to think of “a guy down the block” going to hell, unrepentant. Yet that is exactly what Vince Gilligan seems to think is central to the meaning of his show. He says: “I want to believe there's a heaven. But I can't not believe there's a hell.” He knows the truth. God is not mocked; there will be justice in the end. There’s nothing at all Christian about Breaking Bad. It is not “wholesome.” But it is very, very biblical.

Walter is thus a perfect picture of the classic literary “Everyman” figure, in which we will see ourselves if we only look clearly and closely. This is why Jackson Cuidon could say in Christianity Today that “Breaking Bad is perhaps the most important thing on television right now.”

The most simultaneously fearsome and comic moment in the whole show comes late in the story when Walter, his wife Skyler, and his disabled teenage son are rolling on the floor in a violent tangle, struggling over control of a huge butcher knife, with the crying infant daughter right in the mix. They are destroying themselves.

It is a primal scene of snarling wretchedness and death, Cain and Abel and Nimrod and Caligula and Jim Jones and Charles Manson and all the others rolled into one tight narrative bundle. Walter suddenly stands up and screams out, cursing and asking hysterically what is wrong with his wife and son, looking at them in angry disbelief as he asserts his fatherly authority and shouts: “We’re a FAMILY!”

Indeed. Welcome to the human race.

What breaks out in Breaking Bad is the truth about human nature.

Grant Horner (PhD/ABD Claremont Graduate University; MA, University of Alabama) is associate professor of Renaissance and Reformation studies at the Master's University in Santa Clarita, California. He is a frequent speaker on a number of radio and television programs. He and his wife, Joanne, have three children, and they live in Santa Clarita, California.

by Crossway at September 08, 2016 02:02 PM

How to Comfort the Grieving: Click the “Like” Button

This post is adapted from What Grieving People Wish You Knew about What Really Helps (and What Really Hurts) by Nancy Guthrie.

Expressing Sorrow in a New Era

In previous generations there were established conventions for offering condolences to the grieving as well as accepted ways of expressing grief. But we are living in a new era—the era of blogs, email, and social media. Most people these days—especially those of the younger generation—would much rather text than talk. We can barely remember the last time we wrote a letter by hand and had to actually find the person’s address and a stamp and put it in the mail. We live in an era of instant communication and public sharing of every event in our lives.

So it makes sense that we would also share our great sorrows online for all of the world to see. In fact, those who might never talk in person about their grief will sometimes write about it on a blog or Facebook page. They are more comfortable sharing it that way and perhaps more comfortable receiving expressions of caring that way too.

Please Stop and Take Notice!

I’ve tried to figure out what drives me to post something about my children when their birthdays or deathdays roll around, even though we are many years down this road of grief. Why do I feel the need to broadcast it? Perhaps it’s that I often feel a mass of pressure building up inside me, a load of sadness that needs an outlet. I feel the need for the world to know that my missing Hope and Gabe has not come to an end, and opening the front door to scream out in pain doesn’t quite seem appropriate. I long for a connection with other people willing to acknowledge and share in my sorrow in some small way, even if it is simply the click of a “like” button. When people take this small step of entering into—instead of ignoring—these significant days, by simply commenting or “liking” a social media post or picture, it soothes some of the hurt. The truth is, the kindness of it usually brings me to tears as I think about that person at their computer or with their phone in hand remembering Hope or Gabe with me. It provides a release valve for the internal pressure.

When we’ve lost someone we love, we have a hard time understanding how the earth can keep spinning and people can keep doing the daily things of life since it seems that everything about our world has changed. We want the world to stop and take notice. That’s what a blog post written by a grieving person is meant to do. That’s what posting old photographs on the anniversary of someone’s death is meant to do. It’s a grieving person’s invitation to the world to stop, at least for a moment, to remember and to be sad with her. It is grief in search of companionship.

Using Facebook to Enter Another’s Sorrow

Miss Manners says, “To express sympathy, it is essential to demonstrate that you are thinking about the person with whom you sympathize. A computer interface—the purpose of which is to reduce the time spent to an absolute minimum—will not convey this message convincingly.”1 And I agree that certainly our expression of sympathy shouldn’t be limited to a text, an email, or a social media comment. But that is not to say that our electronic interaction with grieving people isn’t meaningful or helpful. In fact, when grieving people are active on social media, this kind of engagement is one of the most significant ways you can enter into their sorrow. Of course, posting a message expressing sorrow on the Facebook page of someone who only rarely interacts on Facebook or other social media is probably not meaningful, and they likely will not see it in a timely way. But to neglect or refuse to comment on a post by a friend who has poured out his or her sadness on Facebook is to see their great sorrow and look the other way.

And, really, if you are someone who feels awkward approaching grieving people to speak about their loss, social media is a gift. You don’t have to deal with initiating a conversation or figuring out how to end it. You don’t have to make a phone call and risk catching the grieving at a time when they’re not prepared to talk. You don’t have to be afraid of saying the wrong thing under the pressure of the moment. You can carefully craft your words. But, really, it doesn’t have to be anything laborious or long. You can leave a note on a Facebook page after the funeral that says, “I’m so grateful I got to be a part of celebrating your dad’s life today.” You can write about a brief memory of the deceased when something about their birthday or deathday is posted, something like, “Your mom always made the best chocolate chip cookies,” or “I miss hearing him laugh.” What moves me to tears and bonds me in unbreakable ways to people—some of whom are not necessarily close friends—is when they simply comment on a post about my children, “I remember.” Or even better, “I will never forget.”

One of the very best gifts you can give someone who is grieving is photos of the deceased. Whenever you discover a picture in your photo files that includes someone who has died, be sure you don’t keep it to yourself. Posting the picture on Facebook not only gives their family and friends the joy of the newly recovered memory; it also creates a shared experience as others enter into the memory through their comments.

People often say to those who are grieving, “Call me if you need anything.” That’s what a social media post is—a call to let you know what they need. And what they desperately need is to speak that person’s name by typing in the letters and seeing it on the page. They need to hear the dings and see the names appear of those who respond, assuring them they are not forgotten. They’re telling you that they need a way to release all the pressure that has built up inside. They’re “calling” you to tell you that the anything they need is for you to miss, along with them, the person who died so they won’t feel so alone. Your online acknowledgment, by pressing the “like” button, is the balm, the anything, they really need.

But What If . . . ?

Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that it is a little creepy to “like” a post about someone’s death. Let’s just agree that the button may be awkwardly named for this particular purpose. Fortunately the folks at Facebook have supplied us with a number of new options besides just the thumbsup sign. Now you can respond with a heart or a tear. However you acknowledge what has been posted by the person in pain, it will be a real encouragement.

Maybe you think what they’ve shared is too private or precious to comment on. Maybe you think you are not close enough to the person posting to intrude. But the reason they posted it is that the pain of keeping it private has become too much to bear, and they want and need others to enter in. The very fact that you are not in their close circle of friends and yet chose to enter in makes your comment all the more meaningful. So enter in.

As I write to encourage you to persist in interacting online, I also think about what all of the blogs and posts about death and grief must be like for you. Perhaps you feel, at times, like so much is being constantly required of you in reading and commenting on every agonized post, admiring and entering into every photo memory, accepting or rejecting every invitation to participate in a memorializing or fundraising event. Surely it can begin to feel like a burden. Perhaps you’ve begun to wonder if someone’s grief is bordering on obsession, and if commenting or “liking” is just feeding the monster of a seemingly bottomless pit of need for attention and sympathy. Certainly it can be hard to know exactly how and how much to respond and interact online with people about their loss.

Here’s what you need to know: grieving people notice when you frequently comment or acknowledge any and every kind of other status but go silent when they post about their loved one and loss. Your silence sounds like disapproval—perhaps even disgust—and creates distance that is difficult to overcome. It feels to the hurting that you wish they would move on and stop talking about it.

Maybe your aversion to acknowledging their painful post is that you think they’ve posted enough about it. They seem obsessed with it or overly needy. Perhaps you are tempted to delete these status updates from your newsfeed because it seems their grief is all they ever post about these days, and, frankly, you’re tired of it and don’t want to encourage the trend with your clicks. Perhaps you think they’re simply fishing for sympathy or attention and are demanding more from you than you and the rest of the online world wants to give. That may be true. And maybe if you are a friend who has walked with them through the loss closely enough to earn a place to talk to them about it, you should have a conversation. But probably the best thing is to recognize the continual posting as an expression of intense pain and loneliness and to offer the comfort that only costs you a click, along with a prayer for healing.

A Final Encouragement

But here’s one more thing you have to know, even as I encourage electronic and online compassion and support: there is nothing like getting handwritten notes and cards in the mail. Nothing.


Nancy Guthrie teaches the Bible at her church, Cornerstone Presbyterian Church in Franklin, Tennessee, and at conferences worldwide. She and her husband, David, are the cohosts of the GriefShare video series used in more than ten thousand churches nationwide and also host Respite Retreats for couples who have experienced the death of a child. Guthrie is also the host of Help Me Teach the Bible, a podcast of the Gospel Coalition.

by Crossway at September 08, 2016 01:58 PM

Greg Mankiw's Blog

Wehner on Orwell on Fierce Modesty

I enjoyed this essay by Peter Wehner.  It is not about economics, but the lesson should be heeded by anyone who engages in the national debate over economic policy.

by Greg Mankiw ( at September 08, 2016 01:22 PM

The Art of Non-Conformity

If Your Vision Isn’t Being Understood, Never Hesitate to Change Your Tactics

From Mike Birbiglia’s “6 Tips for Making it Small in Hollywood”:

“I once heard an interview where Ron Howard said that he tests the rough cuts of his movies with a ton of audiences. He doesn’t do it to be told what the movie’s vision should be, but to understand whether his vision is coming across. If not, he makes changes. Your vision is not being conveyed a majority of the time.”

This relates to some other things I’ve been thinking recently:

Note that none of these perspectives are about “selling out.” They’re simply about putting other people’s needs and desires first. You can be as creative as you want, but don’t you also want people to hear what you have to say?

Link: 6 Tips for Making it Small


Image by: Eric

by Chris Guillebeau at September 08, 2016 12:35 PM

Stratechery by Ben Thompson

Beyond the iPhone

I enjoy the writing of Farhad Manjoo, tech columnist at The New York Times, but I was prepared for the hottest of hot takes when I saw his latest column, penned just hours after Apple’s latest product unveiling, was titled What’s Really Missing From the New iPhone: Dazzle.1 Once I read it, though, I found a lot to agree with:

Apple has squandered its once-commanding lead in hardware and software design. Though the new iPhones include several new features, including water resistance and upgraded cameras, they look pretty much the same as the old ones. The new Apple Watch does too. And as competitors have borrowed and even begun to surpass Apple’s best designs, what was iconic about the company’s phones, computers, tablets and other products has come to seem generic…

It’s not just that a few new Apple products have been plagued with design flaws. The bigger problem is an absence of delight.

Indeed, it sure seemed to me while watching yesterday’s keynote that the level of excitement and, well, delight peaked early and gradually ebbed away as Apple CEO Tim Cook and his team of presenters got deeper into the details of Apple’s new hardware. Of course a lot of that had to do with the shocking appearance of the legendary Shigeru Miyamoto of Nintendo, on hand to announce Super Mario Run exclusively for iOS.2

The Nintendo news was certainly a surprise,3 but it actually fit in quite well thematically with the opening of the keynote: first was a video of Tim Cook and Carpool Karaoke creator James Corden in a funny skit and a not too subtle reminder that Apple recently bought the upcoming Carpool Karaoke series as an exclusive for Apple Music. That was followed by touting the success of Apple Music and the fact it has “content no one else has” — i.e. more exclusives. Following that up with Mario sure seemed to suggest that Apple was increasingly going to leverage its war chest to differentiate its “good-enough” phones.

The Threat of “Good Enough”

It has been clear for many years that the threat to iPhone growth was not modular Android but the iPhones people already have. The hope with last year’s iPhone 6S launch was that new features like 3D Touch and Live Photos would be compelling enough to drive upgrades, but it turned out that many would-be upgraders had already bought the iPhone 6 and the rest didn’t care; the result was the first iPhone that sold less than a previous model.

At first glance, as Manjoo noted, the iPhone 7 doesn’t seem like it will do much to reverse that trend: it’s mostly the same as the two-year-old iPhone 6 people bought instead of the iPhone 6S, and folks still using older iPhones may very well upgrade — if they upgrade at all — to the cheaper iPhone SE or the newly discounted 6S. After all, as multiple commentators have noted, the most talked-about feature of the iPhone 7 is what it doesn’t have — the headphone jack. Surely no headphone jack + no dazzle = no growth, right?

Well, probably. I have been and remain relatively pessimistic about this iPhone cycle (perhaps because I was overly optimistic last year). However, I was actually very impressed by what Apple introduced yesterday: many of the products and features introduced didn’t make for flashy headlines, but they laid the foundation for both future iPhone features and, more importantly, a future beyond the iPhone.

The iPhone 7 Plus Camera

The annual camera upgrade is always one of the best reasons to upgrade an iPhone, especially if you have little kids creating irreplaceable memories that you want to capture in as high a fidelity as possible. And, as usual, Apple and its suppliers have delivered a better lens, a better sensor, and a better image processor, along with image stabilization on both the iPhone 7 and the iPhone 7 Plus (the iPhone 6S did not have image stabilization, while the iPhone 6S Plus did).

The iPhone 7 Plus, though, retains a photographic advantage over its smaller sibling thanks to the fact it actually has two cameras:


One camera uses the familiar 28mm-equivalent lens found on the iPhone 7, while the second has a 56mm-equivalent lens for superior zooming capabilities (2x optical, which also means digital zooming is viable at longer distances). Apple also demonstrated an upcoming software feature that recreates the shallow depth-of-field that is normally the province of large-sensored cameras with very fast lenses:

Screen Shot 2016-09-08 at 7.30.45 PM

This effect is possible because of those two lenses; because they are millimeters apart, each lens “sees” a scene from a slightly different perspective. By comparing the two perspectives, the iPhone 7 Plus’ image processor can build a depth map that identifies which parts of the scene are in the foreground and which are in the background, and then artificially apply the bokeh that makes a shallow depth-of-field so aesthetically pleasing.

Bokeh, though, is only the tip of the iceberg: what Apple didn’t say was that they may be releasing the first mass-market4 virtual reality camera. The same principles that make artificial bokeh possible also go into making imagery for virtual reality headsets. Of course you probably won’t be able to use the iPhone 7 Plus camera in this way — Apple hasn’t released a headset, for one — but when and if they do, the ecosystem will already have been primed, and you can bet FaceTime VR would be an iPhone seller.

Apple’s willingness and patience to lay the groundwork for new features over multiple generations remains one of its most impressive qualities. Apple Pay, for example, didn’t come until the iPhone 6, but the groundwork had already been laid by the introduction of Touch ID and the secure element in the iPhone 5S. Similarly, while Apple introduced Bluetooth beacons in 2013 and the Apple Watch in 2014, the company had actually been shipping the necessary hardware since 2011’s iPhone 4S.5 I wouldn’t be surprised if we look back at the iPhone 7 Plus’ dual cameras with similar appreciation.

The Headphone Jack

In one of the more tone-deaf moments in Apple keynote history, Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing Phil Schiller justified the aforementioned removal of the headphone jack this way:

The reason to move on — I’m going to give you three of them — but it really comes down to one word: courage. The courage to move on, do something new, that betters all of us, and our team has tremendous courage.

Schiller should have stuck to the three reasons: the superiority of Lightning (meh), the space gained by eliminating the headphone jack, and Apple’s vision for audio on mobile devices.

Start with the space: getting rid of the headphone jack fits with the multi-year feature creation I detailed above; current rumors are that next year’s 10th-anniversary iPhone will be nothing but a screen. Making such a phone, though, means two fundamental changes to the iPhone: first, the home button needs, well, a new home; last year’s introduction of 3D Touch and the iPhone 7’s force touch home button lay the groundwork for that. That headphone jack, though, is just as much of an impediment: try to find one phone or music player of modern thinness that has the headphone jack under the screen (the best example of the space issues I’m referring to: the 6th generation iPod nano).

Still, that’s speculation; Apple insists iPhone 7 users will see the benefits right away. Apple executives told BuzzFeed that removing the headphone jack made it possible to bring that image stabilization to the smaller iPhone 7, gave room for a bigger battery, and eliminated a trouble-spot when it came to making the iPhone 7 water-resistant. It’s a solid argument, albeit one not quite worth Schiller’s hubris.

That said, the third reason — Apple’s vision of the future — is such a big deal for Apple in particular that I just might be willing to give Schiller a pass.

AirPods and the Future

Jony Ive, in his usual pre-recorded video, introduced the AirPods like this:

We believe in a wireless future. A future where all of your devices intuitively connect. This belief drove the design of our new wireless AirPods. They have been made possible with the development of the new Apple-designed W1 chip. It is the first of its kind to produce intelligent, high efficiency playback while delivering a consistent and reliable connection…

The W1 chip enables intelligent connection to all of your Apple devices and allows you to instantly switch between whichever one you are using. And of course the new wireless AirPods deliver incredible sound. We’re just at the beginning of a truly wireless future we’ve been working towards for many years, where technology enables the seamless and automatic connection between you and your devices.

Putting aside the possibility of losing the AirPods — and the problem that not everyone’s ears can accommodate one shape6 — and it really looks like Apple is on to something compelling. By ladling a bit of “special sauce” on top of the Bluetooth protocol, Apple has made the painful process of pairing as simple as pushing a button. Even more impressive is that said pairing information immediately propagates to all of your Apple devices, from MacBooks to Watch. As someone who has long since moved to Bluetooth headphones almost exclusively7 I can absolutely vouch for Apple’s insistence that there is a better way than wires,8 and the innovations introduced by the AirPod (which are also coming to Beats) help the headphone jack medicine go down just a bit more easily.

What is most intriguing, though, is that “truly wireless future” Ive talked about. What happens if we presume that the same sort of advancement that led from Touch ID to Apple Pay will apply to the AirPods? Remember, one of the devices that pairs with AirPods is the Apple Watch, which received its own update, including GPS. The GPS addition was part of a heavy focus on health-and-fitness, but it is also another step down the road towards a Watch that has its own cellular connection, and when that future arrives the iPhone will quite suddenly shift from indispensable to optional. Simply strap on your Watch, put in your AirPods, and, thanks to Siri, you have everything you need.

Ah, but there is the catch: I have long held up this vision, of pure voice computing, as Apple’s Waterloo. I wrote about it when the the Watch came out:

I also think that when the Watch inevitably gains cellular functionality I will carry my iPhone far less than I do today. Indeed, just as the iPhone makes far more sense as a digital hub than the Mac, the Watch will one day be the best hub yet. Until, of course, physical devices disappear completely:


That is the ultimate Apple bear case.

The truly wireless future that Ive hinted at doesn’t just entail cutting the cord between your phone and your headphones, but eventually a future where phones may not even be necessary. Given that Apple’s user experience advantages are still the greatest when it comes to physically interacting with your device, and the weakest when it comes to service dependent interactions like Siri, that is a frightening prospect.

And that is why I ultimately forgive Schiller for his “courage” hubris. To Apple’s credit they are, with the creation of AirPods, laying the foundation for a world beyond the iPhone. It is a world where, thanks to their being a product — not services — company, Apple is at a disadvantage; however, it is also a world that Apple, thanks to said product expertise, especially when it comes to chips, is uniquely equipped to create. That the company is running towards it is both wise — the sooner they get there, the longer they have to iterate and improve and hold off competitors — and also, yes, courageous. The easy thing would be to fight to keep us in a world where phones are all that matters, even if, in the long run, that would only defer the end of Apple’s dominance.

  1. The story has since been updated to have the headline “What’s Really Missing From the New iPhone: Cutting-Edge Design”
  2. Although an Android version will come at some point in the future
  3. I will cover this news from Nintendo’s perspective in a future Daily Update
  4. Sorry Lucid
  5. That the Apple Watch required the iPhone 5 or later was likely a strategic decision to drive upgrades, although I don’t know for certain
  6. 😢
  7. Beats PowerBeats around town, and the new Bose QC35 noise-cancelling headphones for trips
  8. That said, the Beats in particular are terrible for music, but I mostly listen to podcasts

by Ben Thompson at September 08, 2016 11:42 AM

Table Titans

Tales: The Chest of DOOM (Or Not)

As a DM, one of my favorite "chest" traps is to have the chest itself just be a STATUE of a chest—there aren't any traps, it's just a block of stone that looks exactly like a chest. Moving it may do something (like open a secret door to the real treasure), but the chest itself does nothing.


Read more

September 08, 2016 07:00 AM

The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

How Should We Talk About Justice and the Gospel?

Article by: Greg Forster

Recently, stern and sometimes angry commenters here at TGC called me a left-wing stooge of socialism for an article I wrote about economic justice and the gospel. Which is funny, since the last time I wrote an article for TGC on economic justice and the gospel, stern and sometimes angry commenters called me a right-wing stooge of capitalism! (Alas, that earlier thread is now lost in the mists of internet history.)

As C. S. Lewis once said, if the Lilliputians think me a giant and the Brobdingnagians think me a dwarf, perhaps my stature is not actually very remarkable.

This amusing episode points to a much more serious problem. We don’t seem able to talk about the gospel and justice without getting into fights with each other. As a result, the church isn’t presenting a unified witness to the world about God’s demand for justice or his offer of grace to the unjust.

What Is Justice, Exactly?

The first issue on which we need clarity is one of the oldest in history: What is justice? The controversy about my latest TGC article revolved around this question, as have many debates in the history of both the church and the culture.

I used the term “economic justice” simply to indicate justice in the realm of economic activity. The common thread in the reactions to my article was an objection to the way I used the term “justice”—an objection that would have been equally relevant if I’d been talking about justice in the family, the church, or any other context rather than the economy.

With varying degrees of civility, my interlocutors contended I erred in using “justice” as a broad category including a wide variety of moral duties toward others—duties of generosity and respect as well as those of promise-keeping and debt-paying. To equate justice with this broad set of duties, they argued, implies that civil law must enforce it. In the context of economics, this would mean socialist schemes for massive forced redistribution of wealth.

It’s noteworthy that while my interlocutors insisted it was important to define justice narrowly and specifically, their accounts of what we should call “justice” didn’t overlap much with each other. It’s even more noteworthy there was little interaction with Scripture in their replies.

It’s true—as I’ve devoted my career to arguing—that we must distinguish carefully between the broad set of moral duties we owe to our neighbors and the narrower set enforced by civil law. I’m as much against socialism or large-scale redistribution of wealth as anyone, and have devoted a fair amount of effort to opposing it. One of the greatest threats to justice in our generation is the paternalistic degradation of the poor, whom our welfare systems (both civil and ecclesiastical) often keep in a state of economic dependence to the technocratic elite.

But there are simply no grounds, whether scriptural or philosophical, for limiting justice to that subset of politically enforceable duties. It’s not true, either in Scripture or in the history of political philosophy, that the word “justice” applies particularly to moral duties enforceable by civil law, while other moral duties must go by some other term.

Justice Is Bigger than You Think

Although murder and theft are often focal points (and understandably so!) when Scripture describes justice, it also associates justice with a broader set of duties, including generosity: “He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing” (Deut. 10:18); “Blessed are they who observe justice, who do righteousness at all times!” (Ps. 106:3); “It is well with the man who deals generously and lends; who conducts his affairs with justice” (Ps. 112:5).

In his song of praise, Moses declares of God: “The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice” (Deut. 32:4). Does “all his ways” include only promise-keeping and debt-paying?

Some passages do seem to suggest “justice” may not encompass literally all our duties to our neighbors. For example, Jesus’s reference to “the weightier matters of the law” as “justice and mercy and faithfulness” bears reflection (Matt. 23:23; compare Luke 11:42). But this example doesn’t negate the relatively broad set of referents justice seems to have in many other passages. Scripture may or may not warrant the use of “justice” to refer to literally all our duties to others, but it clearly warrants the use of that term for a broad set of them.

One particularly interesting verse is Jeremiah 10:24: “Correct me, O LORD, but in justice; not in your anger, lest you bring me to nothing.” Here “justice” refers not to duties required by God’s law, much less some arbitrarily chosen subset of those duties, but to a relationship of care and nurture that stands behind the law’s enforcement, rendering it restorative rather than merely punitive.

Even the pagan sages are wise enough to know justice can’t simply mean the duties enforced by civil law. The definition of justice as mere promise-keeping and debt-paying is the first notion considered and rejected by Socrates in Plato’s Republic. Anyone interested in understanding the reasoning for why “justice” must include a wide breadth of duties to our neighbors could benefit by reading that passage.

Justice and the Gospel

How, then, do we relate justice to the gospel? Not, as some of my interlocutors suggested, by keeping them safely isolated in separate compartments. The gospel is a gospel of justice as well as a gospel of mercy.

Isaiah actually identifies justice with redemption: “Zion shall be redeemed by justice, and those in her who repent, by righteousness” (Isa. 1:27). Our redemption by justice is located in the coming Messiah:  “Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations” (Isa. 42:1). Matthew’s account echoes Isaiah: “Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased. I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles” (Matt. 12:18).

The gospel isn’t only a message of forgiveness but also of restoration to righteousness. God forgives our injustice in order to restore us to justice. He saves us not only because he loves us, but also because he hates sin and will not allow his beautiful world to forever remain under the influence of evil.

Many are fond of quoting Ephesians 2:8–9: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Praise God for this astounding work! But we ought not sever grace from its purpose. Read on to verse 10: “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

This is why our restoration to right standing before God is called “justification.” There’s a reason this term isn’t translated “righteousness-ification” or “goodness-ification.” The scriptural term invokes justice; God declares us just in Christ. Since Scripture doesn’t use “justice” in a narrow way, it can describe our being accounted righteous in God’s sight as being declared just.

And if God declares us just in Christ, we are just indeed. We will become people who do justice. We will keep promises and pay debts—and give generously, and treat all with respect, and do all we can to bring into the present a foretaste of the reign of justice to come.

The church must hold up for the world a powerful vision of justice, deeply rooted in a theology of grace and inspiring us to sacrifice all for righteousness’ sake. The gospel call to repent from sin and follow Jesus with our whole lives is meaningless without such a vision. What is sin? What is repentance? We cannot answer if we cannot say what justice is.

The gospel itself requires the church to have a vision of justice that challenges the world’s greed and oppression. And by freeing people from their spiritual slavery to guilt and fear, the gospel exposes the wickedness of worldly powers who exploit spiritual slavery for selfish gain. That’s why the church on earth is “the church militant.” The church is not the church if it’s not at war with the world’s injustice.

Greg Forster (PhD, Yale University) is the director of the Oikonomia Network, a visiting assistant professor of faith and culture at Trinity International University, and the author of numerous books and articles.

by Greg Forster at September 08, 2016 05:02 AM

Help Me Teach the Bible: Dobbs and Stainback on Selecting and Training Good Teachers

Article by: Nancy Guthrie

In this episode of Help Me Teach the Bible, I sat down with two good friends who have spent many years identifying, recruiting, training, and overseeing teachers in the church. I asked them what they look for in a teacher, red flags that may indicate one shouldn’t be tapped to teach, and how they recommend people improve at teaching the Bible.

Donna Dobbs is director of Christian education at First Presbyterian Church in Jackson, Mississippi. Kari Stainback is director of women’s ministries at Park Cities Presbyterian Church in Dallas, Texas. 

Resources recommended in this episode:

Nancy Guthrie teaches the Bible at her home church, Cornerstone Presbyterian Church in Franklin, Tennessee, as well as at conferences around the country and internationally, and through books and DVDs in the Seeing Jesus in the Old Testament series. She offers companionship and biblical insight to the grieving through Respite Retreats that she and her husband, David, host for couples who have faced the death of child, through the GriefShare video series, and through books such as Holding on to Hope and Hearing Jesus Speak into Your Sorrow.

by Nancy Guthrie at September 08, 2016 05:01 AM

3 Reasons Your Small Group Is Not the Church

Article by: Sam Allberry

Small group ministry is vital for many churches. Groups of around ten believers can be among the best contexts for discussing Scripture, sharing needs, and finding support and praying for one another. In a larger church, there may not be the same opportunity to interact at this level during the main Sunday gathering. We are in a swirl of people, conversations are snatched and bitty, and we are conscious of the need to welcome visitors.

It can be hard to get down to more personal and meaningful contact. Much vital “one another” ministry, then, takes place in small groups. Being with the same gang week in and week out means relationships are established and deepened more quickly. We have the space and context for insights to be shared, and for life’s problems and difficulties to be addressed in an unhurried manner.

It can be easy for a small group to become the main focus of its members’ spiritual lives. In effect, the group can become the church.

This is perhaps understandable, but not desirable. Small group meetings shouldn’t function as a replacement for the Sunday gathering. If your small group becomes your church, you are missing out on much.

Of course, in contexts where there are few believers, churches are small groups and function much as small groups might. Scripture doesn’t prescribe an ideal church size. Healthy churches can be—and are in many places—small in size.

But small groups should not function as a substitute for the church, for three reasons.

1. Small groups can’t give a full picture of the people God has reconciled.

Our small groups usually don’t reflect the wide range of ages and backgrounds found within the wider church family. Even if a group begins with members of various ages and backgrounds, over time they easily become homogenous. Like tends to attract like. People often prefer to join groups with others of similar age and life stage. But even when groups are diverse, it’s unlikely they’ll represent the diversity of our Sunday gatherings.

As Paul writes, it’s through the church that “the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places” (Eph. 3:10). And what is this wisdom? That through the gospel “Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body” as ethnic Jews (Eph. 3:6). Jesus has smashed the seemingly unbreachable wall between Jew and Gentile.

The world divides people into categories, but the gospel folds them into the same spiritual family. Diversity in our churches testifies to both human and spiritual onlookers that God has done what humans could not. The gospel is bigger than our economic, cultural, ethnic, and age differences. We flex this muscle in our Sunday gathering far more than in midweek groups.

2. Small groups are hindered because they’re small.

A local church isn’t just a diversity of people; it’s a body made up of many parts (1 Cor. 12:27). And each part plays a distinct role in body life. We need each other. We need all of each other.

A small group won’t possess the full range of gifts and ministries of the wider church family. The small group will do a subsection of church life well (hopefully), but it cannot be and do for its members everything the whole church is meant to be and do. If we replace Sunday church with small group, we cut ourselves off from a significant means God has given for growth. We will grow, Lord willing, but our growth won’t be as rounded as it should be. 

3. Small groups aren’t led the same way as a church.

Small groups should be accountable to local church leadership. Those whom the wider church family has approved and equipped should lead small groups. But even a small group with excellent leadership cannot formally evaluate issues of doctrine or behavior for which recognized church leadership is responsible. It cannot share the Lord’s Supper in a way that speaks of the whole church’s unity.

Small groups often serve as a terrific supplement to the church’s gathered life. But they should never be a replacement for it. We want to be in a church with small groups, not a church of small groups. The main center of church life is the whole gathering, not the small groupings.


Editors’ note: This is an adapted excerpt from Sam Allberry’s latest book, Why Bother with Church? And Other Questions About Why You Need It and Why It Needs You (The Good Book Company, 2016). 

Sam Allberry is an editor for The Gospel Coalition, a global speaker for Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, and a pastor based in Maidenhead, UK. He is the author of a number of books, including Is God Anti-Gay? (Good Book, 2013), James For You, and most recently Why Bother with Church. He is a founding editor of Living Out, a ministry for those struggling with same-sex attraction. You can follow Sam on Twitter.

by Sam Allberry at September 08, 2016 05:00 AM

ASCII by Jason Scott

Who’s Going to be the Hip Hop Hero

People often ask me if there’s a way they can help. I think I have something.

So, the Internet Archive has had a wild hit on its hand with the Hip Hop Mixtapes collection, which I’ve been culling from multiple sources and then shoving into the Archive’s drives through a series of increasingly complicated scripts. When I run my set of scripts, they do a good job of yanking the latest and greatest from a selection of sources, doing all the cleanup work, verifying the new mixtapes aren’t already in the collection, and then uploading them. From there, the Archive’s processes do the work, and then we have ourselves the latest tapes available to the world.

Since I see some of these tapes get thousands of listens within hours of being added, I know this is something people want. So, it’s a success all around.


With success, of course, comes the two flipside factors: My own interest in seeing the collection improved and expanded, and the complaints from people who know about this subject finding shortcomings in every little thing.

There is a grand complaint that this collection currently focuses on mixtapes from 2000 onwards (and really, 2005 onwards). Guilty. That’s what’s easiest to find. Let’s set that one aside for a moment, as I’ve got several endeavors to improve that.

What I need help with is that there are a mass of mixtapes that quickly fell off the radar in terms of being easily downloadable and I need someone to spend time grabbing them for the collection.

While impressive, the 8,000 tapes up on the archive are actually the ones that were able to be grabbed by scripts, without any hangups, like the tapes falling out of favor or the sites they were offering going down. If you use the global list I have, the total amount of tapes could be as high as 20,000.

Again, it’s a shame that a lot of pre-2000 mixtapes haven’t yet fallen into my lap, but it’s really a shame that mixtapes that existed, were uploaded to the internet, and were readily available just a couple years ago, have faded down into obscurity. I’d like someone (or a coordinated group of someones) help grab those disparate and at-risk mixtapes to get into the collection.

I have information on all these missing tapes – the song titles, the artist information, and even information on mp3 size and what was in the original package. I’ve gone out there and tried to do this work, and I can do it, but it’s not a good use of my time – I have a lot of things I have to do and dedicating my efforts in this particular direction means a lot of other items will suffer.

So I’m reaching out to you. Hit me up at and help me build a set of people who are grabbing this body of work before it falls into darkness.


by Jason Scott at September 08, 2016 04:54 AM

Inside the Headphone Jack Decision

John Paczkowski at Buzzfeed:

A tentpole feature of the new iPhones are improved camera systems that are larger than the cameras in the devices that preceded them. The iPhone 7 now has the optical image stabilization feature previously reserved for its larger Plus siblings. And the iPhone 7 Plus has two complete camera systems side by side — one with a fixed wide-angle lens, the other with a 2x zoom telephoto lens. At the top of both devices is something called the “driver ledge” — a small printed circuit board that drives the iPhone’s display and its backlight. Historically, Apple placed it there to accommodate improvements in battery capacity, where it was out of the way. But according to Riccio, the driver ledge interfered with the iPhone 7 line’s new larger camera systems, so Apple moved the ledge lower in both devices. But there, it interfered with other components, particularly the audio jack.

So the company’s engineers tried removing the jack.

by Stephen at September 08, 2016 12:44 AM

Workout: September 8, 2016

Build to a heavy hang snatch single Build to a heavy hang clean single   5 rounds: 1 minute banded plank 1 minute hollow hold

by Crystal at September 08, 2016 12:27 AM

September 07, 2016

iPhone 7

For the first time, Apple has used the same design on its flagship phone three years running. The first feature Phil Schiller mentioned is the new Darth Vader-inspired Jet Black finish, which is an unusual opening line. My guess is Apple just wanted to blast right over this fact then move on.

While I don’t think the iPhone 6 design is the best looking — or easiest to hold — I don’t think it’s the end of the world that Apple didn’t revisit the design in a radical way this year.

At first, I thought I was going to be on the hook for a Jet Black iPhone 7, but after seeing a bunch of hands-on photos from reporters on Twitter, I think the matte “Black” finish is the one for me.

The iPhone 7 brings Force Touch to the home button for the first time. This new home button doesn’t physically click, but rather a Taptic Engine gives haptic feedback when pressure is applied to the button.

This Taptic Engine sits across the bottom of the phone, behind the home button. My guess is that this move was a strike against the headphone jack staying in place, along with the waterproofing Apple has applied to the device.

The 3.5mm headphone jack is gone. Apple is putting Lightning EarPods in the box, along with a Lightning to headphone jack adaptor.1 Phil Schiller called this move an act of “courage,” which really strikes me as the wrong word. Bold, maybe, but not courageous.

The move away from the “ancient” jack will allow Apple to move forward to better audio, as well as more innovative features inside the phone now that the jack is gone. While in time, I think the pain of this transition will fade, right now, I think a lot of people aren’t onboard with what seems like a change with half-hearted reasons behind it.

To round the audio system, Apple is now using the earpiece as a second speaker, giving stereo sound when the device is held in landscape. This system is supposed to be twice as loud as the 6S, which will welcomed by all of us who listen to podcasts around the house on our phone speakers.

Around back, both the 7 and 7 Plus have picked up better cameras. The 12 MP shooters now feature an aperture of f/1.8, which is pretty awesome when coupled with the optical image stabilization that is now present on both phones. The LED flash is better, and the FaceTime camera is now 7 MP, and should result in much better selfies.

Video capture is unchanged from last year, but Live Photos should be smoother and clearer.

The Plus, of course, now packs two cameras side by side. One is the same wide-angle lens as on the 7; the second is a f/2.8 telephoto lens. Zooming in will cause the iPhone to switch over to the telephoto lens for clearer, cleaner images.

The 5.5-inch iPhone has a second trick up its sleeve when it comes to using both cameras:

When you take a shot with iPhone 7 Plus, the dual-camera system uses both cameras and advanced machine learning to make your subject sharp while creating the same out-of-focus blur in the background — known as the bokeh effect — previously reserved for DSLR cameras. So no matter what’s behind your subject, it’s easy to create a great portrait.

The sample images Apple shared today are impressive for coming out of a smartphone, but I won’t be leaving my Canon 70D at home when I want nicer photos.

Interestingly, this feature won’t be present in iOS 10.0, but will be coming “later this fall,” according to Apple.

Inside, the iPhone 7 is faster than previous models thanks to some new silicon. This new chip is called the A10 Fusion chip, and the awkward name shares what’s going on under the hood. The A10 Fusion chip has four cores. Two are “high-performance” while the other two are “high-efficiency.” The iPhone switches between them as needed. These improvements mean this iPhone is getting 2-3 hours better battery life than the 6S and 6S Plus.

All in all, while the iPhone 7 may not bring a new design, it’s a bigger jump in terms of specs and features than a normal S phone. While I’m not thrilled about the removal of the headphone jack, I think it will prove to be a worthy upgrade for anyone with a phone older than a year. 6S users on contract, enjoy your listening to wired headphones and charging your device for another year.

  1. Additional adaptors can be picked up for $9. 

by Stephen at September 07, 2016 10:10 PM

John C. Wright's Journal

From the Pen of Brad Torgersen

Puppy-in-Chief Brad Torgersen asks the musical question:

Apparently the Dragon Awards are “bad” or at least invalid, because voters are not charged a fee for participation. Simply anyone can cast a vote.

Perhaps (gasp) more than once?

Mind you, this charge is leveled by the same camp that screams bloody murder over voter ID laws; for state and national elections. Because voter fraud NEVER happens, and making people have ID is both racist, and exclusionary.

No, I can’t figure out how the two concepts dwell in the same head. Cognitive dissonance is a hell of a drug?

My comment: okay, so this was not a musical question,not technically. However, I do have a musical number performed by one of my younger fans who decided to dance the dance of happy-feet when she heard I had won the Dragon Award for best science fiction novel.

by John C Wright at September 07, 2016 09:09 PM

Superluminary, Episode 17, Graveyard World

Superluminary, Episode 17, GRAVEYARD WORLD, is posted on Patreon:

Episode 17 Graveyard World

In this exciting episode, Aeneas, the vampire planet on which all biological life has been wiped out must be conquered by three Tellurians, and wage a war without being detected by the world-slaying weapon seeking them throughout the undead solar system.

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?

Episode 06 Deathstorm

In which Aeneas, paralyzed and on fire, plunge down and down toward the death-energy powered warp singularity at the base of the dark tower of unseen Lord Pluto, while all the undead vampires unleash a ghastly barrage of negative life energy no ordinary organic life can withstand!

Episode 07 Moon of Murder

In which Aeneas is blasted by an interplanetary strength particle beam weapon issuing from the Sea of Tranquility on the Moon to his position hiding behind a rapidly melting satellite in rapidly degenerating orbit.

Episode 08 Mistress of Dreams and Delirium

In which Aeneas spars with his cousin Lady Luna, his savior or captor, trying to discover her motive and role in recent events, while she discovers his. He declines to speak the truth, and is betrayed.

Episode 09 The Battle in the Garden of Worlds

In which Aeneas and the Lords of Creation do battle.

Episode 10 The Madness of Tellus

In which Aeneas Tell is on trial for his life by his cruel and crooked relatives.

Episode 11 The Abomination of Desolation

In which the discovery is made that the Sun is primed to ignite into a nova-explosion.

Episode 12 Defusing the Supernova

In which Aeneas, whose very own mother imposed on him the neuropsionic process that robs a brain of its ability to disobey orders, is commanded to destroy himself.

Episode 13 Ripping the Fabric of Reality

In which Aeneas flings experimental warpcore lab in which he is imprisoned across timespace, far beyond the range of any earthly rescue, with frees himself from the control of his three evil uncles.

Episode 14 Strange Fires of Strange Suns

In which Aeneas finds a hideous and ultra-powerful undead civilization occupying megascale structures orbiting Alpha Centauri. It is an empire of vampires. And he is not alone.

Episode 15 Blind Jump

In which,Aeneas Tell and his two stowaways, in order to flee the undead monstrosities at Alpha Centauri, are forced to engage the warpcore without any navigation or destination, and fling themselves at random through timespace. The planet where they find themselves seems a garden spot at first.

Episode 16 The Great Eye of Zeta Herculis

In which Aeneas Tell accidentally wakes one of the of neutron star weapons that long ago obliterated all biological life in the galaxy.

by John C Wright at September 07, 2016 09:06 PM

On Jet Black

There’s a little disclaimer at the bottom of the iPhone 7 tech specs page that makes me sad:

The high-gloss finish of the jet black iPhone 7 is achieved through a precision nine-step anodization and polishing process. Its surface is equally as hard as other anodized Apple products; however, its high shine may show fine micro-abrasions with use. If you are concerned about this, we suggest you use one of the many cases available to protect your iPhone.

I really like the look of the jet black in photos, but between this note and photos of the matte black option, I’m going matte.

by Stephen at September 07, 2016 07:56 PM

macOS Sierra coming September 20

No announcement, no press release. Just a new tag at the top of this web page.

by Stephen at September 07, 2016 07:43 PM

The new Apple Watch Models

There’s a lot to unpack from today’s keynote, but this page jumped out at me. It compares the various models of Apple Watches now for sale. The lineup is more confusing than last year.

“Series 1” Watches are last year’s model, but with a new dual‑core processor. This doesn’t seem to be the same chipset that’s in the new watch, but should still be an improvement. Gone is the single-core model that’s on my wrist today.

The “Series 2” models have a new dual-core “S2” processor, but also pack GPS, a brighter screen and waterproofing.

(I’m a big fan of both changes. The Watch needs to be faster, and I think people are going to really like having GPS.)

There is a new Nike+ model that comes with exclusive bands and watch faces, but the same core tech as found in its siblings, not unlike the Hermès models.

Apple Watch Edition is still around, but instead of gold, the case is a white ceramic that I think looks amazing. As I’m not going to spend $1,299 on a watch, it’ll be something I’ll buy for my Apple collection in 10 years or so.

by Stephen at September 07, 2016 07:35 PM

Greg Mankiw's Blog

Economics Teaching Conference

Economics educators may be interested in this upcoming conference. Frank Conway, founder of the Economic Rockstar, will interview me at the conference.

by Greg Mankiw ( at September 07, 2016 07:19 PM

Market Urbanism

Episode 02: Emily Hamilton on Land-Use Regulation and the Cost of Housing


When I was scheduling out the first few episodes of the Market Urbanism Podcast, it seemed natural to start with one of Market Urbanism’s favorite topics: the relationship between land-use regulation and rising housing costs in American cities. This week I sit down with Emily Hamilton, a regular Market Urbanism contributor and policy manager at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, to discuss a recent paper she coauthored with Sanford Ikeda, “How Land-Use Regulation Undermines Affordable Housing.”

The question I am left pondering: how can we convince homeowners—who have a large vested interest in the current system—to support land-use liberalization? Feel free to share your thoughts on this and other topics in today’s episode in the comment section below or with Emily and I on Twitter.

Click here to listen to last week’s episode.

Our theme music is “Origami” by Graham Bole, hosted on the Free Music Archive.

As always, thanks for listening! We have a few exciting interviews lined up for the next two months. Stay tuned for the next episode on September 21st.

by Nolan Gray at September 07, 2016 06:30 PM

Are States Really The Solution To Urban Mismanagement?


(Kevyn Orr was the emergency manager called in by the Michigan government to reform Detroit / flickr)


Recently Stephen Eide, writing in City Journal, argued that states could run cities better than cities can run themselves, by offering an antidote to the mismanagement gripping many localities  (“Caesarism for Cities:, March 2016). In the process, he overlooked the nefarious nature of many state governments, and the way in which they already inhibit cities.

Eide begins his article with a litany of urban issues: excessive debt, unfunded pensions and political dysfunction.

“Local political apathy has enabled some cities to become dominated by one party or even one interest group, skewing the political process and often encouraging extensive corruption and mismanagement of finances…Fans of local autonomy are hard-pressed to explain these and other failures.”

This was a flimsy premise, since everything he wrote could be applied to states themselves. In fact, the very magazine he was writing for routinely publishes articles decrying and detailing the excessive spending, debt, political dysfunction and unfunded pension crises of states like California, Illinois, Rhode Island and New York. Yet it is unlikely that we will see a piece advocating for the federal government to rein in state spending.

“It makes more sense for state, not city, officials to do what’s right when faced with local fiscal distress instead of what’s politically convenient,” Eide wrote, offering no support for this faith in state officials. In fact, states have shown little willingness to engage in fiscal restraint.

The Texas Department of Transportation recently spent over a billion dollars to relieve congestion on the Katy Expressway near Houston by widening it, thus subsidizing sprawl and inducing further demand. California’s unfunded gold-plated pensions equal around $600 billion, according to Eide’s very own City Journal. Similar tales of irresponsible spending can be found in virtually every state.

It’s worth considering how urban fiscal problems are exacerbated by state interference. Many states grant only few taxing powers to cities. In the Northeast and on the Pacific Coast, it’s generally a property tax and maybe a rooms, meals and entertainments tax, and in the South it’s often a sales tax. Furthermore, in states like Massachusetts and California, the ability of cities and towns to increase the property tax rate is severely restricted. Property tax caps have arguably helped contribute to NIMBYism in both states, as there is now no risk of higher taxes from blocking new developments and thus cities are prevented from raising revenue through taxes or growth. At the same time, states have dumped costs onto cities with no way to help them pay.

Aligning with the federal government, states have spent billions eviscerating cities for highways and subsidizing driving with commuter tax deductions, subsidizing suburban home building with the mortgage interest deduction, and other ways. The result is that in every major city the daytime population swells with people from the outside who take advantage of urban agglomeration effects and city services, yet don’t pay for them. Not only do these non-residents cause congestion on city streets, but encourage parking construction, which can blight downtown areas.

Even in states where property taxes aren’t capped, cities must tread carefully. States not only tax cities equally or more severely than cities tax themselves, but redistribute that money to suburban and rural towns or spend it on more sprawl-enabling infrastructure. In other cases, many state administrations–namely Republican ones that dislike the Democratic establishments within urban areas–will withhold funding for inner-city schools, transit and other services. Not only do many states have taxes that duplicate local ones, but add other tax burdens, such as income and corporate taxes. In New York City, residents can pay up to three income taxes.

Autonomy, rather than state micromanagement, would be the best thing for U.S. cities. Elections in states like Illinois and California often reflect stark urban-rural divides, as well as Democratic and Republican ones.  Not only do Central Valley farmers have different beliefs from Silicon Valley entrepreneurs; they have different needs. For example, California recently passed a statewide minimum wage law. According to FiveThirtyEight, even liberal economists think it could disproportionately hurt the state’s less affluent areas.

Perhaps the greatest advantage of urban autonomy is that it would encourage responsibility and creativity for both cities and states. Cities would finally have to confront their land use and economic development policies, employee compensation and infrastructure management; while states would have to confront their redistribution of revenue to rural areas. While state emergency managers and receivers have turned financially struggling cities around, it’s not hard to think that they might be needed less if cities were free.

by Matthew Robare at September 07, 2016 05:19 PM

Aaron M. Renn

The Economist on Jobs Returning to Downtown

Image via the Economist

Image via the Economist

The Economist’s Schumpeter column this week was a great feature on the return of jobs to downtown from suburban office parks.  I was delighted to be featured in it for my concept of the “executive headquarters” and the notion that these relocated HQs are often both different and smaller than in the past. (And what’s more, the relocation itself often involves downsizing).

I don’t want to claim too much credit, but I did help pioneer this concept of executive HQs in downtown, starting with a 2008 piece on the move of HQs into downtown Chicago. The revival of global cities was driven by financial and producer services. Saskia Sassen had pointed out that headquarters, conventionally viewed as the most important, were not the driver.  I saw this starting to change as the corporate headquarters reinvented itself, focused on just those functions and executives that needed to move interface with the services of the global city. I continued to develop this idea over time, and I’m very glad it has proven useful and others are writing about the same.

Here’s an excerpt from the Economist:

Yet the new downtown headquarters are very different from the old ones, and not just because they are open-plan and trendy. They are far smaller. Often, firms are moving their senior managers to the city along with a few hundred digital workers. Moving back to Chicago’s centre has usually involved downsizing: Motorola Solutions’ HQ shrank from 2,900 to 1,100, and that of Archer Daniels Midland from 4,400 to 70. Many companies are deconstructing their headquarters and scattering different units and functions across the landscape, leaving most middle managers in the old buildings, or else moving them to cheaper places in the southern states. Aaron Renn of the Manhattan Institute, a think-tank, reckons that head offices are splitting into two types: old-fashioned “mass” headquarters in the sunbelt cities, and new-style “executive headquarters” of senior managers and wired workers in elite cities such as San Francisco, Chicago and Boston.

That suggests there will be no return to the broad-based urban prosperity of America’s golden age. San Francisco could be the template of the future. Its centre is divided between affluent young people who frequent vegan cafés and homeless people who smoke crack and urinate in the streets. Long-standing San Franciscans resent the way that the urban professionals have driven up property prices. And those young workers may fall out of love with the city centre when they have children and start worrying about the quality of schools and the safety of streets.

Click through to read the whole thing.

I developed this idea independently, but won’t claim I’m the only or even first person to come up with it. But it’s nice to see my framing of the issue in use in this Economist piece (and others like this Crain’s Chicago piece). It goes to show that (originally) independent writers can have an influence, even if many years later.

by Aaron M. Renn at September 07, 2016 03:33 PM

Live Coverage of Apple’s Event

A bunch of us from Relay FM have crashed the Six Colors live coverage of today’s Apple event. We’re already answering questions and talking about the one time I cracked open a raw egg that I thought had been hard boiled.

by Stephen at September 07, 2016 01:54 PM

The Art of Non-Conformity

The Reviews Are In! Attendee Blog Posts and Memories from WDS 2016 (Round 1)

Every year for six years, I’ve been part of a team that produces an annual gathering in Portland, Oregon. It’s a lot of work and a lot of fun. Rather than share my own recap, I usually prefer to let our attendees share their perspective. All of these posts are unfiltered and uncensored—take a look and learn more of what WDS is all about!

Attendee Reviews & Commentary

Here are a few of the many blog posts from our attendees!

Behind the Scenes with Speaker Michelle Poler

Michelle Poler, creator of the weekly video blog, “WTF Are We So Afraid Of?,” was one of our many amazing speakers this year, and true to form she documented all of her experiences at her first WDS.

To learn more about Michelle and her conquest of fear, visit her page, and watch the video below to see WDS 2016 from her unique perspective!

More Memories from #WDS2016

Thanks to our wonderful attendees, we have thousands of amazing memories captured from WDS 2016 that have been posted to Instagram, Facebook, and other networks. Here are just a few from our time together:

Photo by long-time WDSer Oliver Asis of the Perseid meteor shower, taken during an attendee meetup

Attendee Sowmya shares with the WDS 2016 FB Group – “Be kind to yourself first.”

Speaker notes from ambassador KC

Oh, and if you’d like to join us next year, tickets will go on sale October 12. Join this list to be the first to know about it.

Join the WDS 2017 Waitlist Here!


by Chris Guillebeau at September 07, 2016 01:37 PM

Crossway Blog

The Cure to Our Frustration in Caring for the Hurting

This is a guest post by Dave Furman, author of Being There: How to Love Those Who are Hurting.

Last month, Crossway took a survey of almost 15,000 people on the topic of my new book, Being There: How to Love Those Who are Hurting. In a previous article, I responded to the survey results as I wrote about how we can love those “who help the hurting.” In this article, I want to focus on the emotions we often feel when caring for the hurting.

The Most Common Response

Respondents were asked, “What are the most common emotions that you have experienced while caring for a hurting person?" Several different words were chosen to describe those feelings. Anger, sadness, worry, helplessness, love, and weariness were all chosen somewhat regularly. The emotion that was chosen most often (by far) was frustration. In fact, even for those surveyed who are not currently caring for the hurting, but have in the past—their most common response to that question was also frustration (50%).

Why is this? A helpful hint might be in two other emotions that were not far behind in the survey. Respondents also reported that weariness and helplessness were a part of their regular emotions when caring for the hurting. These feelings of being tired and helpless can lead to frustration. We feel like there is nothing we can do to heal the person or even make them feel better. We want to fix things, but none of our remedies or encouragements seem to make a dent in their pain. We just want it to go away, but it never does. Where do we go from here?

Our Only Hope

It’s easy to get exhausted and emotionally drained helping the hurting. The trial doesn’t just effect the one hurting but all those around them. Day in and day out, it’s the same thing. Help them with this or that, run this errand, take care of this need. The need for help never seems to end. Pretty soon we find ourselves with nothing left to give.

What do we do? One respondent to the survey wrote “Maintaining my daily devotional life is critical; it is out of the overflow of my relationship with Christ that I am empowered to effectively enter into the pain and brokenness of others.” This person has the right perspective. He’s really just saying what Jesus says to us in John 15:4:

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.

When that which is abiding draws from that which supports it, its life is sustained. Similarly, unless we are abiding in Christ, we cannot be effective at loving others. Your strength to care for the hurting comes directly from Christ. You have no hope to truly help the hurting if you are disconnected from Christ, the vine. If you’re not abiding in Christ then your ministry to the hurting is empty. You are like a dry sponge without an ounce of hope to squeeze out to another. You have to walk with God in order to help those who are hurting walk closer with God.

Christian friend, if you don’t have the strength to love the hurting (you won’t on your own), trying harder is not the trick. If you are constantly getting frustrated in your service to those who need your help, girding up your loins and saying, “I don’t want to feel this way,” won’t be enough to root out these feelings.

A New Affection

In his famous sermon, “The Expulsive Power of a New Affection,” Scottish minister Thomas Chalmers writes:

The heart is so constituted that the only way to dispossess it of an old affection is by the expulsive power of a new one. What you need to drive out an old passion is a new passion—a greater passion. What you need is an over-mastering positive passion.

Friend, if you are frustrated in your service, the first thing you need is Jesus. Jesus is better than anything our hearts could possibly attach themselves to.

We must remember to love those who are hurting, not because they’ve done anything for us, but because of what Jesus has already done for us. You will get the strength to help the hurting only when you understand what God has done for you in the gospel.

Because of God’s unconditional love for us through his death on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins, we can go forward and offer unconditional love to others. Even in the difficult times, as believers we are armed with the Spirit of God, reminded of the promises of God, and encouraged by the love of God. Our cure for frustration in our service is to lean on Jesus, who is our security and strength.

Dave Furman (ThM, Dallas Theological Seminary) serves as the senior pastor of Redeemer Church of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, which he planted in 2010. Dave and his wife, Gloria, have four children.

by Crossway at September 07, 2016 01:20 PM

Homer, 'Breaking Bad,' and the Eternal: Part 2

This is a guest post by Grant Horner, author of Meaning at the Movies: Becoming a Discerning Viewer. If you have not already, check out Part 1 of this three-part blog series.

The problem with narrative—with story—is that it costs. What it costs is time, that most valuable of commodities of which, to paraphrase Will Rogers, “They ain’t making any more of it.” Every sentence, every word you read attentively, prevents you from doing anything else well at the same time (note the generally ignored legal prohibition against texting while driving). The only thing that might improve over reading narrative is watching it. Hence Aristotle’s famous preference in his Poetics of tragedy (which is watched in a theater) over epic (which is read in your chair, solo).

But watching a long-form show is not exactly the same as watching Sophocles’s Oedipus Rex with twenty thousand Greeks in the theater at Ephesus two thousand years ago. That took about ninety minutes. The common term for watching long-form television shows in single, extended stretches is “bingeing”—and it tends to run a lot longer than ninety minutes. Some fans watch more than a dozen episodes at a time. It is a costly practice, as the term suggests. “Yahh, so we missed church because we stayed up too late watching about a gazillion episodes of Downton Abbey . . . sooooo good!” It is like eating two pints of Haagen-Dasz in one go. No, three. While watching Gilmore Girls all the way through. A very popular comedy show recently did a skit on a couple that loses everything—jobs, friends, family, home, everything—because they can’t say no to “just one more episode” of their favorite show. They just keep watching and watching. . . and watching. The price of bingeing is time. And they ain’t making any more of it.

Now, Scripture speaks pretty clearly about managing all of our resources, including time. How many sermons have you heard about managing money? And how many about managing your time, which is even scarcer than money? You can make more money, if you have some time and a work ethic. But can you make more time just because you have money? Most Christians never develop anything like a theology of recreation, of how to rightly manage nonwork, nonsleep time. The Bible also emphasizes the important virtue of self-control; I’d say this speaks not just to what you watch in your free time, but also how much you watch. All choices, including recreational and entertainment choices, are things for which believers are accountable. Bingeing on Mad Men is first cousin to binging on booze. . . something, ironically, the characters on that show do regularly, to disastrous effect.

There is nothing new under the sun, of course: long, extended narrative has always occupied a major place in human cultural production. The longest ancient writing of any kind is Homer’s eighth-century epic Iliad, which runs to nearly sixteen thousand lines of poetry in translation. Sixteen thousand. The Odyssey is not far behind at twelve thousand. And these poems were not originally read—they were recited and sung as performance. Could you sit through a fifteen-hour recitation of the Iliad? It would be akin to watching an entire season of Breaking Bad in one binge session. (Except the Iliad is considerably more violent—which is quite an achievement!)

So, we might ask ourselves, why are we humans apparently hardwired to respond so strongly to lingering, protracted narrative forms?

One reason is that art functions, broadly speaking, as a form of imitation, what Aristotle called mimesis. Epic poems, novels, short stories, TV series, and movies all imitate life, to a greater or lesser extent. They present for our consideration a world populated by characters who experience things that change them. That’s what stories are; that’s why we call them “shows.” They imitate us, and they show us ourselves: we are beings moving through a fully formed world experiencing change, for better or for worse.

It would be fair to say that major literary works remain in the mind far longer, leaving a much greater impression on us, than might a typical thirty-minute sitcom. Why would “longer” lead to “more effective”? Is it mere size? Or length of time? I’d say rather that it is what the extended time buys for you: it makes it possible to create a more fully-formed world, a more believable universe into which your mind can sink. You can linger over time with a set of characters and situations and experience a kind of alternative reality, another life, with all its hopes, dreams, and disasters. Oxford professor J. R. R. Tolkien, who specialized in Anglo-Saxon epic literature such as Beowulf, knew he could not create Middle Earth with a short story. A fourteen-line sonnet would not do, either. Not even a novel would suffice. He would need three. Plus that massive, slightly crazy appendix known as the Silmarillion. And let’s throw in The Hobbit, that tender opening tale about a hole in the ground. World-builders need a lot of clay, in other words, being, as they are, unable to create out of nothing. But let us recall that what Tolkien created—an entire world—was long.

There is a certain power in longevity of all kinds which engenders attentive reverence. God’s eternality is central to his ability to awe. Everyone loves meeting a person who has lived for over 100 years. It is magical. One hundred years! Long-term employment, forty-year pastorates, and half-century marriages garner respect. The wittiest joke in Hamlet—Shakespeare’s longest play—is that Polonius, who famously says “Brevity is the soul of wit,” is intolerably longwinded. But he is entertaining! Part of what makes classic rock songs like “Freebird” and “Stairway to Heaven” so culturally powerful is that they are two- to three-times longer than most other songs. No radio commercials to interrupt the art.

Humans (if you’ll pardon the pun) long for length. Perhaps this is because we face the inexorability of death, even as we have a deep sense of our own natures as immortal beings. Short is really long. Come to think of it, that concept—life in the face of death—is found almost universally in every great story. William Wallace says stoically in Braveheart, “Every man dies. Not every man really lives.” His counterpart Maximus declaims in Gladiator, “Death smiles at us all. All a man can do is smile back.” This trope of facing death while overflowing with life is found in all the great stories—especially the long ones.

Walter White is just a nerd who is kind of a loser by worldly standards. A brilliant student at Caltech, he ended up cheaply selling out his interest in a company later worth billions, and is now a high school chemistry teacher, struggling to pay his bills. He has to work part-time at a carwash to stay solvent; his wife sells collectible junk on eBay. When he finds out he has terminal cancer, he decides to capitalize on his training and make an illicit fortune for his family by synthesizing methamphetamine in a rolling RV drug lab. That is just the first episode, and from here the show slowly traces out a long line of increasingly unwise, then foolish, then selfish, and ultimately evil decisions he makes. There is really never any doubt where the story will end up going; it begins and ends in a stark desert—the perfect metaphor for the life of beings ejected from a garden of delights.

The genre of Breaking Bad is tragedy, in other words.

Walter White goes from life to death in five seasons—but his fate seems sealed twenty minutes into season one. Creator Vince Gilligan famously said that he wanted to “turn Mr. Chips into Scarface”—to transform one of film history’s sweetest and most loveable characters into one of its worst. Good man becomes bad man. The bad man at the end is not the scary part, though; the process of his dissolution is. It is almost like watching a slow chemical reaction between an acid and a base. Not coincidentally, Walter’s opening lines for the entire series is an animated lecture to his bored class about how chemistry is really the study of change. This sets the tone for everything that follows. Because change equals plot.

So what does this kind of “change” have to do with a theology of art and culture? I would say: everything. To find out why, click here for the final episode.

Grant Horner (PhD/ABD Claremont Graduate University; MA, University of Alabama) is associate professor of Renaissance and Reformation studies at the Master's University in Santa Clarita, California. He is a frequent speaker on a number of radio and television programs. He and his wife, Joanne, have three children, and they live in Santa Clarita, California.

by Crossway at September 07, 2016 01:18 PM

What Grieving People Wish You Knew

When You Don't Know What to Say or Do

Nancy Guthrie has spent a lot of time interacting with people who are grieving. Through numerous conversations about things people do and say that are helpful (and hurtful), she has realized that people often wonder what to do for or say to a loved one experiencing the pain of loss.

In this video, Nancy Guthrie, author of What Grieving People Wish You Knew about What Really Helps (and What Really Hurts), shares the top four things grieving people wish we knew about grief, helping us to confidently interact and helpfully take action. Drawing upon the input of hundreds of grieving people, as well as her own experience of grief, Guthrie offers specifics on what to say and what not to say, and what to do and what to avoid.

by Crossway at September 07, 2016 01:06 PM

Table Titans

Tales: Shenanigans

One of our usual DMs had an idea to play a campaign where the bad guys had already won. Our characters were part of a resistance movement against the Lich King and his undead army. He warned us going into it that it would be dangerous, dark, and quite unlike any other campaign we had run to date.…Read more

September 07, 2016 07:00 AM

sacha chua :: living an awesome life

Weekly review: Week ending September 2, 2016

It’s been a week of seeing people. A- was somewhat fussy during dinner with W-‘s family. She might have been tired, overstimulated by the noisy Chinese restaurant, and a little intimidated by relatives wanting to pick her up. She preferred to stay with W- or me. Totally normal. Anyway, since this might be the usual stranger anxiety starting to develop (yay! W- is not a stranger!), I’ve been making an effort to take her to more activities at the Ontario Early Years Centre and the neighbourhood family resource centre. We finished the Peer Nutrition program, and we’ll check out the drop-ins that follow up on that program.

A- has been working on expanding her vocabulary. Recent addition: “Ba”. She’s also getting pretty good at sitting on her own, although I still stay close enough to catch her during those random topples.

The pediatrician is no longer that concerned about A-‘s weight gain, since she’s been growing faster. Enough to inch back over the 5th percentile curve, yay! In addition to nursing, she also self-feeds a wide variety of solids. She’s particularly fond of egg (breakfast), yogurt (evening snack), and raspberries (any time, especially with yogurt).

I finally got around to printing a photo of A- so that the family home visitor can include it in the laminated foot print memento.

A- has a passport now, whee! Got travel insurance that will probably cover things related to her heart, too. Next trip-related steps: sort out pet vaccines and boarding.

In preparation for possibly leaving my laptop behind on our trip, I’ve been experimenting with drawing my daily journal and thoughts on index cards instead of on my laptop. Drawing is relatively unfussy except for dealing with wet spots, and I feel more comfortable drawing on paper around A- than having my laptop out. Deskewing and tweaking the image is a bit fussy, although I can do some of that on my phone. I might need to use different-coloured pens instead of adding colour in post-processing. Still need to tweak my workflow. It would be neat to figure out something that I can pull off with mobile devices and SSH, but it’s also okay if I decide to stick with my digital index card workflow instead. Good to experiment, though.

Also moved my library video tracking script online, so I can check the availability of new releases from my phone while we’re out on a walk.

I’d like to see if I can help my consulting client with something new. Might need to shuffle around my discretionary time activities in order to make space for it, or adjust expectations if this is what we have to work with.

A- has been settling into a pretty regular routine. She wakes up around 9ish. Aside from nursing, we usually have breakfast, lunch, merienda, dinner, and an evening snack. We go out for a walk almost every day, and there’s usually some kind of activity too. She settles in bed at around 10pm, although she tends to nurse on and off until about 4 AM before settling into a longer sleep. She usually has 2-3 naps during the day, although sometimes it’s just low-power nursing mode.

I’ve been prioritizing daytime activities that are stimulating for A-, so we’ve been going to neighbourhood resource centres. I feel less comfortable working on my laptop while she’s awake, since it’s important to interact with her and help her learn. I’m somewhat more okay with setting her down on the floor while I tidy or do other chores, since I can narrate those without verbal interference and it contributes to the household. If W-‘s around, I’d rather spend time with both of them than go off to do my own thing. Drawing on paper might let me move daily journals to our after-dinner or before-bed play/reading session, because I can review the day out loud with A-. So my main computer time for writing, coding, or consulting tends to be between 1 AM to 3 AM. If I nap when she nurses/nap, that helps a little with energy and focus. I’ve been averaging 2 hours a week of consulting, which was enough to fill up the pipeline of stuff they wanted from me. The new thing I want to help with might be a bigger chunk of focus and energy, though, since it’s something I’m less familiar with. Anyway, we’ll see how it goes.

Next week: cardiology, carpet-stretching, and lots of Toronto Public Health stuff: Make the Connection, the family home visitor, and a follow-up with the dietitian.

2016-09-07a Week ending 2016-09-02 -- index card #journal #weekly


Blog posts


Focus areas and time review

  • Business (1.3h – 0%)
    • ☐ Earn: E1: 1-2 days of consulting
    • Earn (1.2h – 94% of Business)
    • Build (0.1h – 5% of Business)
    • Connect (0.0h – 0% of Business)
  • Relationships (5.3h – 3%)
    • ☑ Decide on travel insurance
    • ☑ Get eye report from eye doctor
    • ☑ Pick up A-‘s Canadian passport
    • ☑ Check if hydro debit went through
    • ☐ Check on RESP to see if it’s been set up; transfer if so
    • ☐ Print family photos
    • ☐ Check out follow-up session
  • Discretionary – Productive (8.2h – 4%)
    • Drawing (5.7h)
    • Emacs (0.8h)
    • Coding (0.4h)
      • ☑ Add movie script to web
      • ☑ Fix website
    • Sewing (0.0h)
    • Writing (0.3h)
  • Discretionary – Play (2.5h – 1%)
  • Personal routines (17.5h – 10%)
  • Unpaid work (75.5h – 44%)
    • Childcare (69.1h – 41% of total)
  • Sleep (57.6h – 34% – average of 8.2 per day)

The post Weekly review: Week ending September 2, 2016 appeared first on sacha chua :: living an awesome life.

by Sacha Chua at September 07, 2016 05:50 AM

The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

Grieve Your Loss in Another’s Pain

Article by: Dave Furman

Many people spend a lot of time and energy taking care of others in pain. There’s a real temptation to brush off any feelings of discouragement, because, after all, they aren’t the ones suffering. Or are they?

Even though my pain isn’t the most apparent (I wear no casts or braces), it’s relatively easy to spot. Due to a nerve disease I can’t use my arms normally, so I have a loss of physical capabilities. I have to ask for plasticware at restaurants when their forks are too heavy for me to use. I’m reminded every day that I’m not strong enough to pick up my children. I ask my 7-year-old daughter, Norah, to untie my shoes after I come back from jogging.

Though my loss is easy to see, what about the loss my family has experienced? It’s often overlooked, but they've lost much through this trial as well. Though they’ve gained joy in serving others (a joy not to be minimized), they’ve also lost a husband and father able to physically serve them. I can’t drive the family car, take out the trash, throw a baseball, hold a baby, open the door, or pick up a wet towel from the bathroom floor. Not only does my family not have physical help from me, but they also spend additional time helping me. 

Not Just Physical 

My wife, Gloria, also experiences the emotional discouragement that accompanies this type of loss. For example, after leaving the Opryland Hotel in Nashville once after a quick stay, Gloria opened my car door, helped buckle my seatbelt, and managed to move the big cart with all of our suitcases to the back of the vehicle. She loaded each bag into the trunk and then closed it. Three women sitting on a nearby bench had been watching this scene play out. One woman called out to Gloria and told her it’s not right that her “good-for-nothing husband” just sat there and made her do all the work. My gentle and patient wife calmly replied that her husband was disabled, and then she got in the car before any tears arrived. Stuff like this happens all the time. We don’t often walk through airport security together because we’re tired of getting barked at by officials because I’m not helping put the shoes, bags, laptops, car seats, and stroller onto the X-ray belt for screening.

You probably have your own scenes you’ve lived through—scenes where you think that if only people knew what was really going on in your life, they might cut you some slack and help you. Anticipating and dealing with this kind of social anxiety can be quite distressing for a caretaker. As you care for and love the sufferer, there’s a different kind of suffering you experience that’s often left unaddressed. If you’re caring for someone who’s hurting, then the first step you need to take is to honestly grieve the loss that you suffer. 

Youve Lost Something

If you’re helping someone who’s hurting, you’ve given up something to care for them. You’ve lost something yourself in the process. I lost the health of my arms, but my wife lost a husband with healthy arms. Caregivers face the temptation to believe the lie that their spouse or friend has nothing to contribute. They battle the exhaustion of constantly defending the ones they care for or worrying about people thinking ill of them. My children also deal with the loss of not having a dad who can do things like pick them up, stop them from tumbling while on their roller skates, or open a box of crackers. They have to learn patience with me, and they can become frustrated when I’m unable to do something that their mom could do for them. 

My church staff, who frequently have to stop what they’re doing to help me or to give of their personal time to help our family, also experiences loss. The one who loses a family member to cancer experiences deep pain and sorrow from the loss. So does the middle-aged teacher who takes repeated trips across the country to care for his aging father struggling with Alzheimer’s and can hardly remember his own son anymore. A young mother spends most of her day trying to fight for joy as she cares for her disabled daughter and her house. A friend doesn’t know what to say anymore after igniting the anger of her depressed best friend for the 100th time. 

Grieving Your Own Loss

My point is that while we’re all, by God’s grace, privy to extraordinary gifts from his hands through these trials (like learning patience), we must acknowledge the pain of loss with our eyes wide open. Maybe you’ve thought that as a Christian you have to smile and pretend to be okay when someone asks you how you’re doing. Perhaps you think that if you’re grieving, then you’re dishonoring God. This isn’t so. 

In some ways, our grief as Christians is amplified because our hearts of stone have been made hearts of flesh, and now we hurt for other people differently. You hurt for your family and friends who are suffering. It’s imperative that you’re honest about the pain that you’re going through. Rather than just trying harder and keeping it to yourself, it’s important that you grieve your loss and come to terms with reality. 

We need to weep honestly at the loss we’ve experienced, but it’s a weeping fundamentally grounded in hope. Psalm 51:17 says, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” God will not despise a broken heart. If Jesus went to the cross for you, he’ll certainly be with you in your real pain.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matt. 5:4).

Editors’ note: This is an adapted excerpt from Dave Furman’s book, Being There: How to Love Those Who Are Hurting (Crossway, 2016). In this video, Dave and his wife, Gloria, share about the challenges they’ve faced and how God’s grace has been abundantly shown in their lives. 

Dave Furman serves as the senior pastor of Redeemer Church of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, which he planted in 2010. Ten years ago, Dave developed a nerve disease and struggles with disability in both arms. He and his wife, Gloria, have four children. 

by Dave Furman at September 07, 2016 05:02 AM

What Happens to Those Who Never Hear the Gospel?

Article by: Matt Smethurst

The man on the island. Perhaps you’ve encountered him in a friend’s argument against Christianity. Maybe you’ve even voiced the objection yourself.

How could a good and loving God condemn to hell someone who’s never heard of him?

When it comes to this emotionally vexing issue, there are two dominant positions among professing Christians: inclusivism and exclusivism. While both views maintain that Jesus is the only way to God, only one insists on the necessity of conscious faith in him.

Allure of Inclusivism

Inclusivism is the belief that salvation is only through Jesus Christ, but that there may be persons who are saved without knowing it. They are redeemed by the person and work of a Christ they do not consciously embrace. Simply put, Jesus may save some who never hear of him.

Inclusivists often cite Romans 2:1–16, a passage taken to imply that salvation is possible apart from God’s special revelation. The content of general revelation—both the created order without (Rom. 1:19–20) and the moral law within (Rom. 2:14–15)—provides sufficient knowledge for salvation. As Millard Erickson explains, “The rise of more inclusive views of salvation, even among evangelicals, is based on a belief in the efficacy of general revelation for a salvific relationship to God” (Christian Theology, 123). 

Additionally, many inclusivists appeal to the precedent of Old Testament saints who were saved without knowing the name of Jesus. Erickson writes:

What if someone were to throw himself . . . upon the mercy of God, not knowing on what basis that mercy was provided? Would not such a person in a sense be in the same situation as the Old Testament believers? The doctrine of Christ and his atoning work had not been fully revealed to these people. Yet they knew there was provision for the forgiveness of their sins, and that they could not be accepted on the merits of any works of their own. They had the form of the gospel without its full content. And they were saved. (138)

But doesn’t this parallel trivialize Christ’s saving work? Not at all, Erickson insists, for Jesus is still the source of every saving benefit:

The basis of acceptance would be the work of Jesus Christ, even though the person involved is not conscious that this is how provision has been made for his salvation. . . . Salvation has always been appropriated by faith. . . . Nothing has been changed in that respect. (138)

What matters to God, the inclusivist says, is human faith responding to the “light” he has provided at a given time or place. It’s unwarranted, then, for anyone to claim to know the fate of the unevangelized. One pastor put it this way: “I believe the most Christian stance is to remain agnostic on this question. The fact is that God, alongside the most solemn warnings about our responsibility to respond to the gospel, has not revealed how he will deal with those who have never heard it.”1 

Many inclusivists appeal to God’s character in defense of their view. Because “God is love,” the argument goes, he’d never condemn someone who didn’t even have a chance to be saved (1 John 4:8, 16). “I agree that inclusivism is not a central topic of discussion in the Bible and the evidence for it is less than one would like,” Clark Pinnock admits. “But the vision of God’s love there is so strong that the existing evidence seems sufficient to me.”

Evidence of Exclusivism

In contrast to inclusivism, exclusivism is the view that redemption is possible through only faith in the gospel.2 This has been the predominant Christian position throughout church history and remains so among Bible-believing evangelicals today.3 Several texts are commonly cited in its defense. Here are five. 

1. Romans 1

First, though inclusivists sometimes employ Romans 1:18–23 to highlight the importance of general revelation, on closer reading the text actually supports the exclusivist view. Paul’s argument is that God’s revelation in nature is sufficient only to condemn, not to save. Though the man on the island “knows God” (v. 21), he “suppresses the truth” (v. 18) perceptible in nature and is therefore “without excuse” (v. 20). Humans aren’t guilty because they haven’t heard the gospel; they’re guilty because they haven’t honored their Creator. In other words, not because of the absence of something (faith), but because of the presence of something (rebellion).

So will God condemn the innocent tribesman who has never heard the name of Christ? No, because there are no innocent tribesmen.

Scripture simply does not picture fallen humans as having some vague but noble desire for mercy and forgiveness. Moreover, we seem to have an inescapable pull toward enacting our faith in ritual, liturgy, and sacrifice. So what does the man on the island do? In the imagination of the inclusivist, he just cries out for vague mercy and forgiveness, claiming no merits of his own. In the real world, however, he probably participates in a form of idolatrous folk religion that contradicts and undermines the gospel of grace. (Daniel Strange’s work is helpful here, particularly his insight into how non-Christian religions are “subversively fulfilled” in the gospel of Christ.)

2. Romans 10

Second, the necessity of gospel faith for salvation is on display in Romans 10:

For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? . . . So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. (Rom. 10:13–15, 17)

The chain of logic in Paul’s mind is straightforward:

  1. The only way to be saved is to call on Christ’s name.
  2. The only way to call on Christ’s name is to believe the gospel.
  3. The only way to believe the gospel is to hear the gospel.
  4. The only way to hear the gospel is to be told the gospel.

The reality of another means of salvation besides faith in “the word of Christ” is difficult to square with this passage. 

3. John 14

Third, we must do justice to Jesus’s declaration, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6; cf. 10:7, 9). Though inclusivists sometimes object that this statement says nothing explicit about faith, the idea is surely implied. The whole aim of John’s Gospel, after all, is to convince readers to believe and be saved (John 20:30–31), as the preceding context makes plain (John 3:36; 5:23–24; 6:35; 7:38; 8:19, 24, 42; 11:25; 12:46). The apostle addresses belief no less than 97 times throughout the book. In light of the entire context, then, “through me” means “through faith in me.”

4. Acts 4

Fourth, the apostle Peter declares: “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Note he doesn’t merely say that there’s no other savior under heaven—something with which inclusivists would agree—but specifically that there’s no other name. Apparently, knowing this savior’s name—his precise identity—is necessary. 

5. Acts 10

Finally, there’s a particularly revealing story in Acts 10. God hears the prayers of a devout Gentile named Cornelius and instructs him to send for “a man who is called Peter” (v. 5). Arriving the next day at Peter’s house, Cornelius’s men announce: “Cornelius, a centurion, an upright and God-fearing man, who is well spoken of by the whole Jewish nation, was directed by a holy angel to send for you to come to his house and to hear what you have to say” (v. 22). 

Peter then journeys with the men to Cornelius’s house, where the centurion addresses his apostolic guest: “Now we are all here in the presence of God to hear all that you have been commanded by the Lord” (v. 33). What’s interesting is that Cornelius wasn’t expecting any random message but specifically—as an angel had told him—a “message by which you will be saved, you and all your household” (Acts 11:14). In other words, it was a message without which Cornelius would have remained, despite all of his religious sincerity, eternally lost.

Why do I point to this story? Two reasons. First, because if a genuine unreached “seeker” were to exist, why wouldn’t we expect God to reveal the gospel message to him or her—whether through a missionary or a dream—just as he did to Cornelius? Second, and more importantly, because if ever there was a candidate for salvation through general revelation, surely it would’ve been Cornelius! He was as devout and God-fearing as possible given the “light” he’d received. But as the chapter unfolds, it becomes clear that even extraordinary religious sincerity isn’t enough. It was necessary for Peter to leave his home and travel more than 30 miles to deliver a message without which, Scripture suggests, even the most spiritually responsive person in the world cannot be saved. 

Why This Matters

So what happens to those who never hear the gospel? The question isn’t some vague theological abstraction; it’s practically relevant and eternally serious. Your view of missions, for example—in terms of both its nature and its urgency—will be directly shaped by your view of the man on the island’s fate. (It’s also worth asking, if divine condemnation results from rejecting Christ, why love wouldn’t compel us to withhold him from the unevangelized.)

Still, one may wonder, isn’t exclusivism unfair? Though it may feel that way at times, in the final analysis we must trust the wisdom of an unfathomably good and merciful God. Perhaps this answer sounds like a cop-out, but it’s not. It’s the posture of humility. After all, it is not our place to subject the Creator to our finite and fallen notions of fairness. Our task is to take him at his word and trust his heart. His ways are higher and different than ours (Isa. 55:8–9). He needs no counselor, for he is good and does good (Ps. 119:68; Rom. 11:34). The Judge of all the earth will do right (Gen. 18:25). And above all, we must stare at Calvary, the summit of wisdom and the intersection of justice and love. There, on a Roman tree, the Judge of all the earth hung in the place of rebels who wanted nothing to do with him. 

“Visit many good books, but live in the Bible,” Charles Spurgeon once advised. The most important thing we can do when faced with an emotionally charged topic like this is to open the Word of God, pray for humility and understanding, and then embrace what it says.

1 It’s worth distinguishing between more explicit inclusivists (who insist God will save some who’ve never heard) and more agnostic types (who claim they don’t know for sure). Even Herman Bavinck is not dogmatic in his exclusivism in light of God’s unilateral sovereignty.

2 Infants and those with mental disabilities that preclude processing didactic information are believed by many (if not most) exclusivists to be in a separate category. Naturally incapable of exercising conscious faith, they cannot be included in the Romans 1 picture—that of a rebellious humanity “without excuse” on the basis of the fact that they “know” God and yet actively “suppress the truth.” An infant cannot be judged according to works (Rom. 2:6; 1 Pet. 1:17). Many exclusivists believe God deals graciously with such non-sentient image-bearers, on the basis of Christ’s work, apart from personal faith.

3 For accessible book-length treatments, see Christopher Morgan and Robert Peterson’s (eds.) Faith Comes by Hearing: A Response to Inclusivism (IVP Academic, 2008) and John Piper’s Jesus, the Only Way to God: Must You Hear the Gospel to Be Saved? (Baker, 2010). For a more academic consideration, see Daniel Strange’s The Possibility of Salvation Among the Unevangelized: An Analysis of Inclusivism in Recent Evangelical Theology (Wipf and Stock, 2007).

Matt Smethurst serves as managing editor of The Gospel Coalition. He and his wife, Maghan, have three 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 September 07, 2016 05:00 AM

The World’s Most Expensive Wedding

Article by: Staff

“If the bride is going to come to her wedding day, she must first be rescued—rescued from a fallen world, and from herself.” — Michael Lawrence

Text: Isaiah 61:10–63:6

Preached: March 16, 2016

Location: Hinson Baptist Church, Portland, Oregon

Michael Lawrence is senior pastor of Hinson Baptist Church. Previously he served as an associate pastor at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., for eight years. Lawrence is the author of Biblical Theology in the Life of the Church and co-author (with Mark Dever) of It Is Well: Expositions on Substitutionary Atonement.

You can listen to his episode of TGC Word of the Week here

by Staff at September 07, 2016 04:59 AM

John C. Wright's Journal

The Technique of Pastiche

I opened a letter with this question:

If you don’t mind my asking, I wondered what your process was for  pastiching Van Vogt in Null-A Continuum and Hodgson in Awake in the Night Land. (And if I’m not mistaken, didn’t you also write a story in Vance’s style for Songs of the Dying Earth?)

I’ve been researching the methods authors use when writing pastiches, and as the creator of several of the most successful examples, I had hoped you might have some advice on the techniques you used.

My comment: I am just egotistical enough to be a writer, and ignore the slings and arrows of outrageously poor sales of poor reviews, but I fear I am not egotistical enough to believe anyone (but my one die hard fan for whom I do everything I do) has any interest in hearing an obscure midlist author drone on about his ‘technique.’

I don’t believe in techniques. My “technique” is to sit at my desk and write until the thing I want to write is written. Likewise, a cobbler’s technique is to sit at his workbench with leather and tack-hammer and shape the materials into a shoe. It is a job. You do it by not giving up, learning your trade, and doing your word in a timely and professional fashion, giving the customers what you promised, and being grateful for the work, like any job.

However, the man asked me in a polite fashion, so I wrote him the reply below. I reprint it here in case my one die hard fan is bored. 

*  * * *

I don’t mind your asking, but I also am not sure if my answer will be any help to you at all. I did not have a method in mind. I did it by doing it.

Certain authors have distinctive voice and mannerism of speech as they tell stories, use certain favored terms of phrase, and a particular vocabulary. They have a distinctive sense of pacing.

These things are called ‘tics’ or mannerisms. You have to read an author deeply enough and long enough to recognize his tics, and by copying those tics, the reader, perhaps without noticing it, will hear the voice of the author you are impersonating, not yours.

I have a good ear for mimickry, and can copy their word-choice. Jack Vance and A.E. van Vogt also have a distinctive worldview they put across in their stories (I do not know if the authors themselves believe what their stories promote or not, nor do I care. But the stories have a clear theme that can be imitated.)

In terms of a plot, in the case of both Jack Vance and A.E. van Vogt, I was writing a sequel to an existing story, and needed only to extrapolate a reasonable variation on a theme taking place in a slightly larger stage.

William Hope Hodgson is a different case: there I simply borrowed his background and theme, and avoided his word-choice, which is, frankly, unappealing. His book I had used as a backdrop in a role playing game I ran in college, and so I had a thick notebook of notes where I had puzzled out certain details of how his world might work or look like.

In terms of theme and plot, he wrote a tale about romantic love, which the Greek calls eros. I wrote additional tales about the other four types of love: camaraderie (philos), family love (storge), filial love (pietas) and divine love (agape).

In each case, I used the nightmarish and uninhabitable landscape of post-solar Earth as a metaphor for the desolation of lovelessness, which is (or so I would argue) Hodgson’s own use. In other words, in this case I did not copy his voice, but I copied his footsteps and extrapolated what he had established to find a story he had not.

I also used Antigone and Aeneas as mythic models to establish the frame of the stories, since I interpreted Hodgson to have written a science fiction version of the Orpheus story.

Certainly it helps that I have read nearly every word Vance and Van Vogt have ever put on paper, and that I have been fans of these writers since age nine. Their distinctive voice and tone is easy for someone raised with these authors to mimic.

By way of contrast, I do not think it is easy to copy the distinctive tone of an author like Robert Heinlein or Isaac Asimov, because they both use a transparent and journalistic style, without distinctive verbal tics or mannerisms.

The other secret is humility. I deliberately wrote the A.E.van Vogt pastiche to make the kind of points and put across the kind of message he would have put across. My books can put across my points.




by John C Wright at September 07, 2016 04:12 AM

September 06, 2016

Blog – Cal Newport

A Productivity Lesson from a Classic Arcade Game


The Distracted Gamer

A reader recently shared with me an interesting observation from his own life.

To provide some context, this reader is a fan of the classic arcade game snake (shown above). This game is hard: as your snake grows, it requires an increasing amount of concentration to avoid twisting back on yourself and ending the round.

What this reader noticed was that whenever he paused the game for a quick interruption (e.g., answering a text or talking to someone who walked into the room), he became significantly more likely to fail soon after returning to play.

These arcade struggles might not sound that surprising, but they turn out to be a great example of a psychological effect that every knowledge worker should know about: attention residue.

The Most Important Theory You’re Ignoring

The research literature on attention residue, which was pioneered by business professor Sophie Leroy, reveals that there’s a cost to switching your attention — even if the switch is brief.

When you turn your attention from one target to another, the original target leaves a “residue” that reduces cognitive performance for a non-trivial amount of time to follow.

This was likely the effect that was tanking my reader’s arcade performance: when he switched his attention to the new target presented by an interruption, and then back to his game, the resulting attention residue reduced his cognitive performance and therefore his game play suffered.

As I argued in Deep Work, this effect can have a profoundly negative impact on knowledge worker productivity.

In more detail, most knowledge workers who claim to single task are actually primarily working on one thing at a time, but punctuating this work with a frequent series of just checks (quick glances at text messages, email inboxes, slack channels, social media feeds, etc…just in case something important has arrived).

This type of pseudo-focus might seem better than old school multitasking (in which you try to work on multiple primary tasks simultaneously), but attention residue theory teaches us that it might be just as bad.

Each one of those just checks shifts your attention. Even if this shift is brief (think: twenty seconds in an inbox), it’s enough to leave behind a residue that reduces your cognitive capacity for a non-trivial amount of time to follow.

Similar to our reader from above losing his ability to play snake at a high level, your ability to write/code/strategize at a high level is significantly diminished every time you let your attention drift.

If, like most, you rarely go more than 10 – 15 minutes without a just check, you have effectively put yourself in a persistent state of self-imposed cognitive handicap. The flip side, of course, is to imagine the relative cognitive enhancement that would follow by minimizing this effect.

To put this another way: if you commit to long blocks without any interruption (not even the quickest of glances), you’ll be shocked by how much sharper and productive you feel.

by Study Hacks at September 06, 2016 09:10 PM

Less Than or Equal #97: Stephen Hackett

I joined Aleen Simms on the latest episode of her podcast to talk about Relay FM, diversity, the importance of community, and my life as the parent of a child with cancer.

by Stephen at September 06, 2016 08:06 PM


On Theological Novelty and Cultivating Catholicity (Or, A Bit On Leithart)

Delivered from the elements coverPeter Leithart has just posted an interesting response to a critical review of his book Delivered From the Elements of the World by Brad Littlejohn. It’s worthwhile interaction, especially since it occurs between a renowned mentor and worthy student.

The nub of it revolves around the issue of theological novelty. Littlejohn has accused Leithart of indulging in too much of a passion for newness for newness’ sake (even in those moments where he tends to be appealing to a more primitive past), whereas Leithart says redeploying the past for the sake of the present is at the heart of good theology.

I don’t want to do too much summarizing because you can (and should) read the posts for yourself. I do think there’s been something lost in transmission here.

As I see it, the question is not about using the past for the present or theological retrieval. On this, I think it’s obvious that Littlejohn and Leithart agree (Leithart making a great case for it in his response).

Nor is the question is not whether we should be open to new exegetical possibilities in light of new research, textual sources, and so forth. Obviously we can, we have, and we should.

Nor is the question of whether doctrinal development (or at least correction within the tradition) is possible. We’re Protestants who hold up the Word as our final authority over the dogmatic tradition. It is certainly possible in principle.

The question (and, I take it as Littlejohn’s main critique) regards the way we present and pursue newness and continuity within the theological tradition (in this case, especially our own Protestant tradition).

When presenting a theological proposal of the sort that Leithart has in his work on atonement, there are a couple of ways of understanding his “new” interpretive or doctrinal moves. One is to simply take it as a real novum. That can and does happen. But another way of looking at it is to see him as actually saying something quite old in a new way. This is what I think Littlejohn sees happening much of the time in Leithart’s work.

Of course, there’s nothing inherently wrong with saying old things in new ways. The problem comes when this “new” proposal sets itself up by claiming the older tradition was saying something different than it actually was. Or again, when the “newness” is played up by using different terminology than the tradition has for what amounts to the same move. In either case, the difference with what comes before is emphasized over the continuity at the expense of the past formulations of the older, theological tradition.

(In Leithart’s work, usually the culprit is some deviation within the Orthodox Protestant tradition, which unfortunately capitulated somewhere to some foreign metaphysic or ontological blind alley.)

I think this relationship, this privileging of the new at the expense of the old, of novelty over continuity, is the actual issue at stake. We might call it “The N.T. Wright Problem.”

And here, with some trepidation, I think I have to register my sympathy with Littlejohn. I have said again and again that I have great appreciation for Leithart’s work, especially as a biblical scholar and creative, theological polymath. His ability to synthetically bring together diverse disciplines into sophisticated formulations, especially when illuminating readings of Biblical texts, is rather unique. So please don’t take this as a personal critique, especially since this is a move that is by no means unique to Leithart.

That said, I see the tendency to drape those gifts in this rhetoric of newness presents us with three dangers.

First, I see it possibly encouraging the vice of curiousity (per John Webster) in younger theological students who lack the discipline and judgment of a senior scholar like Leithart. While studiousness ought to mark the theological student, there is an unhealthy corruption of the appetite to learn which”in acute form…becomes a species of intellectual promiscuity, driven by addiction to novelty and a compulsion to repeat the experience of discovery” (Webster). The luster of newness, the thrill of the novel itself is what commends something to us.

Second, I would argue that the tendency to robe our theological arguments in the rhetoric of the new, contributes to strife within the church. When we don’t try to connect the dots between us and our forebears, this can cause confusion and unnecessarily raises the hackles of the conservative defenders of the older tradition. Some may tend to take the “newness” rhetoric at face value and gear up to defend orthodoxy against a foe instead of opening up their ears to learn from a brother. (This, incidentally, is the “Wright” point. Lord knows I love his work, but I do think some of the jabs at the tradition don’t do him favors with his conservative critics.)

Third, for those unfamiliar with the tradition (especially the younger theology students), the dichotomizing between this “novel”, revolutionary, etc. option and the “older” theology ends up creating an unnecessarily skeptical ethos towards the tradition that birthed it. It cultivates the attitude that the older writers are there more to be corrected, than learned from. That is, in fact, a failure to encourage a proper theological, dare I say it, “Reformed catholicity” of the sort Herman Bavinck cultivated (not one afraid to correct or buck the tradition when necessary).  And I see this especially as a danger for the younger sort of Protestant scholars who are perpetually tempted towards guilty self-flagellation over the blunders of their blinkered forebears.

Obviously, I’m not accusing Leithart of trying to actively cultivate these dangers. Indeed, given Leithart’s laudable concern for theological catholicity, it’s likely quite the opposite of his intent. That said, these are the sorts of things that, as a younger, theological student, legitimately worry me when I read Littlejohn’s critique.

Soli Deo Gloria

P.S. As it happens, Littlejohn has posted his own rejoinder to Leithart here.

by Derek Rishmawy at September 06, 2016 07:08 PM

Workout: Sept. 7, 2016

10 sets of: Run 200 m 100-ft. sled push (90/50 lb.) Rest 2 minutes

by Mike at September 06, 2016 06:19 PM

Justin Taylor

Why Protestants Need to Use Tradition When They Read Their Bibles


A few of my favorite quotes on the topic:

“It seems odd, that certain men who talk so much of what the Holy Spirit reveals to themselves, should think so little of what he has revealed to others.”

—Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Commenting and Commentaries (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1876), 1.

“Tradition is the fruit of the Spirit’s teaching activity from the ages as God’s people have sought understanding of Scripture. It is not infallible, but neither is it negligible, and we impoverish ourselves if we disregard it.”

—J.I. Packer, “Upholding the Unity of Scripture Today,” JETS 25 (1982): 414

“The best way to guard a true interpretation of Scripture, the Reformers insisted, was neither to naively embrace the infallibility of tradition, or the infallibility of the individual, but to recognize the communal interpretation of Scripture. The best way to ensure faithfulness to the text is to read it together, not only with the churches of our own time and place, but with the wider ‘communion of saints’ down through the age.”

—Michael Horton, “What Still Keeps Us Apart?

“There is rugged terrain ahead for those who are constitutionally incapable of referring to the paths marked out by wise and spirit-filled cartographers over the centuries.”

—Larry Woiwode, Acts (New York: HarperCollins, 1993).


Theologians Peter Leithart and Brad Littlejohn have recently been having a back-and-forth online on the quest and dangers of novelty in theological exploration and formulation. In citing the following, I am not suggesting that Leithart is ignorant of the dogmatic tradition. But Littlejohn’s extended metaphor is instructive and illuminating, so I wanted to share it in full:

The Word of God is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path, and we should examine every step we take in its light lest we plunge into a pit or tread on a viper. And yet sometimes (most times!) it is useful to be able to see a bit of the broader landscape. This is what the the dogmatic tradition of the church supplies. Think of a systematic theology as being like a map (or, in the case of some of those 17th-century guys, a full-blown atlas), which offers us an overview of the vast and treacherous terrain of trying to speak about our God and who he has called us to be in this world, as it has been revealed by intrepid explorers over two millennia. With the aid of this map, one can quickly gain a sense of the well-traveled paths that are tried-and-true ways of getting to one’s destination, as well as the craggy and unexplored heights which the more adventurous might want to explore one day. It warns one of dead-ends that will end on the edge of a sudden precipice, and of boggy morasses where the unwary pilgrim might lose his way for days or weeks. It shows where one can expect to find friendly shelter and protection among trustworthy comrades, and where one is liable to be waylaid by thieves or lured away by deceivers.

Now imagine someone comes along and declares that ours is a new era, that the landscape has changed so much since the maps were made that it is time to start from scratch and explore anew. Now, he might be right from time to time (for the landscape does slowly change), but one can also imagine him triumphantly declaring that he has discovered a new pass through the mountains when a look at the map (or indeed, the recently-used campsites scattered around him) would tell him that it is one that has been in use for centuries. This would be a foolish error, but a harmless enough one, if he did not also pause to make a speech, deploring the oversights of his predecessors, who had been too blind to discover this wonderful mountain pass—more proof, if any was needed, that their maps should not be trusted. (This, of course, is one of my greatest complaints about Leithart’s Delivered from the Elements—he offers us soteriological insights that are often quite reminiscent of what the Reformers mined from the Scriptures, while telling us over and over how confused and unreliable those Reformers were.) So our intrepid explorer, in his zeal to do something new, would find himself more often than not, doing nothing of the sort.

Not only would such an explorer tend to tread well-worn paths while claiming to be a trailblazer, but when he did succeed in charting new paths, they might not be very good ones, or at any rate very useful at present. They would turn out to be rocky and circuitous, plunging through heavy vegetation so that any trying to follow after would be liable to get lost in the thickets and wander over a nearby precipice. Until our intrepid explorer had succeeded in clearing, smoothing, and signposting this new trail, the majority of pilgrims would be wise to avoid it, whatever its theoretical advantages. So it is with Leithart’s Delivered from the Elements—when it comes to the features of the book that seem most genuinely new (such as Leithart’s theories about “nature” and “natures,” and what it might mean for the church to be a “poststoicheic society”), they are also the most confusing and opaque. The nice thing about the well-worn paths is that they are, well, well-worn. The footprints of thousands of adventurers have crushed the brambles and smoothed out the treacherous bumps. Doctrines that have been refined over centuries, whatever their weaknesses, at least usually have the strength of having gained remarkable clarity (at least, for those patient enough to examine them) and having weathered the barrage of centuries worth of objections, becoming ever more refined through the process. Brand-new doctrines, like brand-new trails, don’t have this advantage. Indeed, they are often hard to make out at all, so that anyone trying to follow in the footsteps of the trailblazer is likely to miss the new path entirely and wander off a cliff. This is not to discourage the important work of trailblazing (whether in mountaineering or in theology); simply to note that any trailblazer needs to recognize that he has a lot of work to do (more than he can probably do single-handed) before he is ready to advertise his trail to the public and say, “Come and follow me!”

by Justin Taylor at September 06, 2016 05:01 PM

Workout: September 6, 2016

Please note that school is back in session, the 30 km/h speed limit is in effect and radar cars are all around the gym. Please obey all posted speed limits to avoid tickets. Setting off photo radar while running fast is OK. Bulgarian Split squat 6-6-6-6-6 Rest 2 minutes Strict press 5-5-5-5-5 Rest 2 minutes […]

by Mike at September 06, 2016 04:40 PM

Daniel Lemire's blog

Function signature: how do you order parameters?

Most programming languages force you to order your function parameters. Getting them wrong might break your code.

What is the most natural way to order the parameters?

A language should aim to be generally consistent to minimize surprises. For example, in most languages, to copy the value of the variable source into variable destination, you’d write:

destination = source;

So it makes sense that, in C, we have the following copy function:

memcpy(void *destination, const void *source, size_t n);

Go, the new language designed by some of the early C programmers, follows the same tradition:

func copy(destination, source []T) int

Meanwhile, Java is arguably backward with the arraycopy function:

void arraycopy(Object source,
             int sourcePos,
             Object destination,
             int destinationPos,
             int length);

The justification for Java’s order is that, in English, you say that you copy from the source to the destination. Nobody says “I copied to x the value y“. But then why don’t we write a value copy from y to x as follows?


Sadly, Java is not even consistent in being backward. For example, to copy data from the ByteBuffer destination to the ByteBuffer source, you have to write:


This is, in my opinion, the correct order, but if you are used to having the source being first, you might be confused by that particular ordering.

Ok. So what about working with a data structure, like a hash table? A hash table is not very different from an array conceptually, and we set array values in this manner:

array[index] = value

So I would argue that the proper function signature for the insertion of a key-value in a hash table should be something of the sort:

insert(hashtable_type hashtable, 
        const key_type key, 
        const value_type value);

In Go, this is how you add an element to a Heap:

func Push(h Interface, x interface{})

More generally, when acting on a data structure, I would argue that the data structure being modified (if any) should be the first parameter.

What if you want to implement an in-place operation, for example, maybe you want to compute the bitwise AND of x and y, and put the result in x:

x &= y

And this how you’d implement it in C++, putting the x before the y:

type operator&(type & x, const type& y) {
   return x &= y;

I wonder whether it would be possible to produce a tool that detects confusing or inconsistent parameter ordering?

by Daniel Lemire at September 06, 2016 04:39 PM

Crossway Blog

Homer, 'Breaking Bad,' and the Eternal: Part 1

This is a guest post by Grant Horner, author of Meaning at the Movies: Becoming a Discerning Viewer.

Art Is Long, Life Is Short

"Ars longa, vita brevis."

Sir Anthony Hopkins—widely considered one of the finest actors of all time—wrote a letter of praise to Bryan Cranston, the star of Breaking Bad, and told him that his "performance as Walter White was the best acting I have seen—ever." In case you didn’t know, Hopkins is an internationally acclaimed stage and film star with a career spanning nearly sixty years. He has played reserved English Butlers and psychopathic killers with equal finesse.

And Breaking Bad is just a TV show. A really long one.

People are always telling me, “Oh, you write on film and theology, you just have to watch Breaking Bad or Mad Men,” or some other TV show. I have always responded that I preferred serious literature or good movies. I dislike television. But it wasn’t always that way.

I grew up at the tail end of the ‘Golden Age’ of television. MASH, All in the Family, Taxi, and the Carol Burnett Show were family events; my weekday afternoons were spent supposedly gearing up to do my homework, usually by watching yet another rerun of Gilligan’s Island, Hogan’s Heroes, or Get Smart. Our family would sometimes go out to see a movie—and the longer the better! I never wanted those movies to end. In 1977, Star Wars was like a revelation to this thirteen-year-old. But TV shows—thirty commercial-punctuated minutes, an hour at best—were too short. The TV dramas I liked, like SWAT, Quincy, or The Rockford Files, were formulaic; they ran the same basic plot structure over and over, week by week. They were fun, but quickly bored me. Characters were static; storylines were boilerplate. Even as a young teen I could see that. My favorite things on TV were always the miniseries: Roots, Jesus of Nazareth, Shogun, Holocaust—stories that created an entire world to sink into. Even if that world was mystifying, or horrifying.

I loved stories, though I had no idea why. I read voraciously (except homework, which I was studious to avoid). When a favorite book ended, I turned back to the first page and started again. I dreamed of an imaginary, utopian future age when you could do that—on-demand reruns!—not just with books but with movies or TV shows, escaping their otherwise ephemeral and fleeting nature.

I remember seeing 2001: A Space Odyssey with my overly-cerebral dad as a young kid (an event which some might consider child abuse). Half of that film’s power was that you saw it once in the theater…and then replayed it over and over in your mind, along with all those Strauss waltzes. For years afterward, I fell asleep each night to images of slowly floating spacemen weightlessly pirouetting to the “Blue Danube.” I did not know then that the title of Kubrick’s film was derived from Homer’s great Greek Epic poem, which I had not yet read. But that shared title says everything, doesn’t it? An odyssey, a journey—a long one that takes time, effort, and costs a great deal. That’s what 2001 was. Balletic, poetic, mysterious.


And since movies were a one-off deal, I knew I’d never see it again, though it would live in my imagination.

Then, one day in my early teen years, thunder struck. I can still clearly recall seeing this advertisement in the TV Guide several years after seeing 2001 on the big screen: It was coming to TV! In my house! An NBC Big Event! (I did not know then what marketing was; I just saw the word “big” and believed it, implicitly). I looked at this 4" x 6" ad over and over during the week before the appointed day, thinking that the television in our faux-wood-paneled rec room would somehow capture the magic of the film as I had seen it on the big screen a few years earlier. Alas, it did not play well on our massive 16-inch TV. It was boring, plodding, dull. It was. . . too big for TV. I knew that intuitively, even as a young teenager. The really big stories are at the movies. TV is for sitcoms. Like novels versus short stories, in other words; limericks versus Homeric epic.

Fast forward from my youth in the 1960s and 1970s into the almost inconceivable technology boom of the twenty-first century. No 2001-style journeys into deep space, of course, but something much better! iPads1, wireless MP3 players, large-screen HDTV, and endless streaming video. Netflix—movies and TV on-demand, in high definition—an entire world of art and entertainment purchasable in monthly units for the price of a cheap meal. Almost unimaginable. During the same time frame, the latest incarnation of cable TV began to shift from nothing more than the miserable 24/7 news cycle and trash TV to a whole new genre: the extended series, soon-to-be-called "long-form" television. Better than a miniseries—a maxiseries!

My artist wife and I—married now almost thirty-three years—do not like TV. We have never watched broadcast, and we only had cable intermittently when there was some first-month-free deal, after which we quickly turned it off. News was depressing, and other offerings were too often either boring or simply crude. We just rented movies from Blockbuster if we wanted to watch something. But eventually that block got busted, and hard-copy video rentals went the way of the Model T and the Princess phone, and we were presented with Netflix. We were a bit surprised to find that Netflix sullied their collection of movies with television shows, too. Ugh. Joanne and I tend to love good film and to look down on TV. Movies can be art; TV is just lowbrow. It is like shuffleboard compared to the NFL, a local hike up a scrappy four-hundred-foot hill compared to Everest in winter.

Not so anymore. Much of the best film talent from Hollywood (Martin Scorsese, David Fincher, Steven Soderberg, and Dustin Hoffman, to name a few) has migrated from the highly limiting 110-minute film format to TV Land’s new, open-ended, "long-form" structure. The natural outgrowth of the long-running TV series and miniseries of the 70s, 80s, and 90s, "long-form" is the now hottest thing in the narrative entertainment world. Instead of a two-hour movie, or short-lived TV series, this "new genre," the progeny of cable and streaming services, features massively extended narrative structure (Breaking Bad is about forty-eight hours long, about the length of twenty-five movies). That kind of protracted narrative—rather like life itself—simmers along slowly and deeply develops characters and incidents through several years of episodes, drawing out viewer attention over a period longer than it takes to read a Russian novel. In Russian.

You have probably heard of—and maybe seen—some of these "long-form" shows, or massive movies, or whatever they are: Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Gilmore Girls, Downton Abbey. Many cultural critics trace this metagenre to The Sopranos (1999-2007). I like to shock people here in Los Angeles by stating that I have never seen a single episode of either The Sopranos or Seinfeld—two of the biggest TV shows of all time. Where I live—minutes from Hollywood—this is like admitting you don’t have an iPhone. Remember. . . I just don’t like TV.

So, you may be thinking, what does this have to do with theology and the Christian life? A lot, I would say. To find out why, click here for the next episode.

1. If you think Kubrick’s 1967 sci-fi movie is antiquated in the age of the iPad, you should watch this prophetic clip from the film:

Grant Horner (PhD/ABD Claremont Graduate University; MA, University of Alabama) is associate professor of Renaissance and Reformation studies at the Master's University in Santa Clarita, California. He is a frequent speaker on a number of radio and television programs. He and his wife, Joanne, have three children, and they live in Santa Clarita, California.

by Crossway at September 06, 2016 03:19 PM

Kbase Article of the Week: Prepare for Changes to Xsan Before You Update to macOS Sierra

In case you are one of the three people on the planet that this would affect:

The first time you activate an earlier Xsan volume on macOS Sierra, the Xsan file system manager (fsm) upgrades your volume’s metadata to a newer format. Once this conversion begins, you won’t be able to use this volume with Xsan MDCs running OS X 10.11 or earlier.

Older MDCs won’t be able to control Xsan volumes that are created in Xsan 5. If you attempt to start a volume that has been upgraded to or created in Xsan 5 on an older MDC, the volume won’t open. When this happens, the system will deliver an ICB alert.

Here’s what Xsan is.

by Stephen at September 06, 2016 03:00 PM

Crossway Blog

What to Do When It Feels Like God Is against You

This is a guest post by Philip Graham Ryken, author of When Trouble Comes.

When you’re facing times of trouble and it feels like God is against you, there are two important things to do:

1. Share Your Feelings with God

The first thing is to simply be honest with God about the way you’re feeling. We see this in Scripture, particularly in the life of David and some of the other psalmists. When they were in trouble and were frustrated with God, they simply talked about it in their Psalms. That really shows us that God can handle anything we throw against him, that he really wants to hear what is on our hearts. And it’s in that dialogue that he will bring us around to his perspective and help us understand his grace for us. Being honest with God is an important thing to do in times of trouble.

2. Meditate on God's Promises

The second thing is to really meditate on the promises of God. The Scripture says, "He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?" Think also of the promise in Romans 8, where God says, "If God is for us who can be against us?"

Even if we feel as if God is against us, that is absolutely not the case. We need to be reminded of God’s promises for us in Scripture and how he is for us in the person and in the saving work of his own Son.

Philip Graham Ryken (DPhil, University of Oxford) is the eighth president of Wheaton College. Formerly, he served as senior minister of Philadelphia’s historic Tenth Presbyterian Church. He has written or edited more than forty books, including the popular title Loving the Way Jesus Loves, and has lectured and preached at universities and seminaries worldwide.

by Crossway at September 06, 2016 02:56 PM


Mere Fidelity: Alan Jacobs and “Christian Intellectuals”

Mere FiA couple of weeks ago, Alan Jacobs wrote a widely-discussed piece on the disappearance of the “Christian Intellectual” from the public scene. We thought it was a great piece, but we wanted to take a deeper stab at the issue. So here are Matt, Andrew, Alastair, and I analyzing and arguing with Jacobs, each other, and possibly persons unknown.

We hope you enjoy it as much as we did. What’s more, we hope our small conversation contributes in some small way to the very important one Dr. Jacobs has begun.

Soli Deo Gloria

by Derek Rishmawy at September 06, 2016 02:55 PM

Market Urbanism

Shut Out: How Land-Use Regulations Hurt the Poor

People sometimes support regulations, often with the best of intentions, but these wind up creating outcomes they don’t like. Land-use regulations are a prime example.

My colleague Emily Washington and I are reviewing the literature on how land-use regulations disproportionately raise the cost of real estate for the poor. I’d like to share a few of our findings with you.


One kind of regulation that was actually intended to harm the poor, and especially poor minorities, was zoning. The ostensible reason for zoning was to address unhealthy conditions in cities by functionally separating land uses, which is called “exclusionary zoning.” But prior to passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, some municipalities had race-based exclusionary land-use regulations. Early in the 20th century, several California cities masked their racist intent by specifically excluding laundry businesses, predominantly Chinese owned, from certain areas of the cities.

Today, of course, explicitly race-based, exclusionary zoning policies are illegal. But some zoning regulations nevertheless price certain demographics out of particular neighborhoods by forbidding multifamily dwellings, which are more affordable to low- or middle-income individuals. When the government artificially separates land uses and forbids building certain kinds of residences in entire districts, it restricts the supply of housing and increases the cost of the land, and the price of housing reflects those restrictions.

Moreover, when cities implement zoning rules that make it difficult to secure permits to build new housing, land that is already developed becomes more valuable because you no longer need a permit. The demand for such developed land is therefore artificially higher, and that again raises its price.

Minimum lot sizes

Other things equal, the larger the lot, the more you’ll pay for it. Regulations that specify minimum lot sizes — that say you can’t build on land smaller than that minimum — increase prices. Regulations that forbid building more units on a given-size lot have the same effect: they restrict supply and make housing more expensive.

People who already live there may only want to preserve their lifestyle. But whether they intend to or not (and many certainly do so intend) the effect of these regulations is to exclude lower-income families. Where do they go? Where they aren’t excluded — usually poorer neighborhoods. But that increases the demand for housing in poorer neighborhoods, where prices will tend to be higher than they would have been.

And it’s not just middle-class families that do this. Very wealthy residents of exclusive neighborhoods and districts also have an incentive to support limits on construction in order to maintain their preferred lifestyle and to keep out the upper-middle-class hoi polloi. Again, the latter then go elsewhere, very often to lower-income neighborhoods — Williamsburg in Brooklyn is a recent example — where they buy more-affordable housing and drive up prices. Those who complain about well-off people moving into poor neighborhoods — a phenomenon known as “gentrification” — may very well have minimum-lot-size and maximum-density regulations to thank.

When government has the authority to restrict building and development, established residents of all income levels will use that power to protect their wealth.

Parking requirements

Another land-use regulation that makes space more expensive is municipal requirements that establish a minimum number of parking spaces per housing unit.

According Donald Shoup’s analysis, parking requirements add significantly to the cost of housing, particularly in areas with high land values. For example, in Los Angeles, parking requirements can add $104,000 to the cost of each apartment. Parking requirements limit consumers’ choices and increase the cost of housing even for those who prefer not to pay for parking.

Developers typically build only the minimum amount of parking required by law, which indicates that those requirements are binding. That is, in a less-regulated environment, developers would devote less land to parking and more land to living space. A greater supply of living space will, other things equal, lower the cost of housing.

Smart-growth regulations

In the 1970s, municipalities enacted new rules that were designed to protect farmland and to preserve green space surrounding rapidly growing cities by forbidding private development in those areas. By the late 1990s, this practice evolved into a land-use strategy called “smart growth.” (Here’s a video I did about smart growth.)  While some of these initiatives may have preserved green space that can be seen, what is harder to see is the resulting supply restriction and higher cost of housing.

Again, the lower the supply of housing, other things equal, the higher real-estate prices will be. Those who now can’t afford to buy will often rent smaller apartments in less-desirable areas, which typically have less influence on the political process. Locally elected officials tend to be more responsive to the interests of current residents who own property, vote, and pay taxes, and less responsive to renters, who are more likely to be transients and nonvoters. That, in turn, makes it easier to implement policies that use regulation to discriminate against people living on low incomes.


Zoning, minimum lot sizes, minimum parking requirements, and smart-growth regulations demonstrably and significantly increase the cost of housing for everyone by raising construction costs and restricting the supply of housing.

The average household in the United States today, rich or poor, spends about a third of its income on housing. But higher home prices hit lower-income households disproportionately hard because a dollar increase in housing expenditure represents a larger percentage of a poorer household’s budget. Indeed, the bottom 20 percent of households spends around 40 percent of income on housing.

In other words, these land-use regulations are unfairly regressive. Relaxing or even removing them would be a step toward achieving greater equity.

Find a Portuguese translation of this article here.

Sandy Ikeda

Sandy Ikeda

Sandy Ikeda is a professor of economics at Purchase College, SUNY, and the author of The Dynamics of the Mixed Economy: Toward a Theory of Interventionism. He is a member of the FEE Faculty Network.

This article was originally published on Read the original article.

by Sandy Ikeda at September 06, 2016 02:00 PM

The Finance Buff

Encouraged By Others To Take Risks

A co-worker quit. Her husband got a job in Asia. She’s moving with him, together with their three school-age kids. She won’t be working in that country. Everyone in the office gave her encouragement.

“It’s a great adventure!”

“It’s good for the kids to see a different part of the world.”

“It’s great for your husband’s career!”

All true. Is there a downside to the move? There has to be, but no one said anything. Friends and co-workers only want to see pictures and hear stories. To the bystanders, the move can only be positive. If she and her husband end up chasing a rainbow, friends and co-workers don’t bear any negative consequences. So they only offered cheers.

Can I retire?” is a question I see people ask often on the Internet. The answer is always yes. If you ask the question it means you want to. If you ask the question it means it’s at least within the realms of possibility. Then why not? Retiring means fun and freedom. It’s bad form to knock down people’s hopes.

Chances are it will work out. You only have to adjust your budget to make it work — live within your means. Nobody actually runs out of money in retirement. Before people even get close to running out of money, they would adjust the budget down or start working again for more income. Whether making such adjustments later in life is ideal or not is a different question. Regardless, people on the Internet are not going to be held responsible years down the road.

Therefore only you can decide what the best course of action is. Moving to a job overseas may or may not be a good career move. The boom over there could turn out to be a bubble. By the time you come back, you may not be able to get back onto the same train you jumped off. Or you may hit the jackpot and never have to work again. But if you ask others, they will only encourage you to take the risk because they’d like to see the risk pays off, and they have nothing to lose if it doesn’t.

When well-intentioned friends and co-workers bias toward encouraging you to take risks, the answer will be even more encouraging if you ask people with something to sell. Take a big grain of salt when you are encouraged to take risks. Only your ____ is on the line, not theirs.

Refinance Your Mortgage

Mortgage rates hit new lows. I saw rates as low as 3.25% for 30-year fixed, 2.625% for 15-year fixed, with no points and low closing cost. Let banks compete for your loan. Get up to 5 offers at

Encouraged By Others To Take Risks is copyrighted material from The Finance Buff. All rights reserved.

by Harry Sit at September 06, 2016 01:44 PM

The Art of Non-Conformity

How 2 People Traveled for a Year on $20,000

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

At first glance Evo Terra and Sheila Dee’s story might seem a lot like many other empty nesters who sold everything to travel around the world. But most weren’t kicked out of their home state by a doctor—and most eventually return. These two are still going!

Here’s their story:

We’re Evo & Sheila, now collectively known as ShEvo or The Opportunistic Travelers.

After 17 years of living in Arizona, Sheila’s doctor told us to leave—the quicker, the better. The dry, dusty atmosphere was quite literally killing her. So two months later, we found ourselves on a plane bound for Europe, chasing high-humidity environments and seeing what living as travelers and expats is like around the world.

Prior to this trip, we hadn’t done all that much traveling, except for the standard up-to-Canada and down-to-Mexico trips most people from the U.S. make every year or so. Because there’s something extra motivating when a doctor orders you to get out, we decided to really go for it and try out a few other continents!

Costa Brava, Spain

Getting practical: how we finance this lifestyle.

Last year’s travel was almost 100% financed by the sale of a car. I did a small amount of consulting work on the road and picked up a paid speaking gig or two, adding a few more bucks to the kitty for a total of about $20,000 USD. That’s not a huge annual travel budget for two people who aren’t backpackers and like eating things other than instant noodles.

So last year we let housesitting assignments determine most of our itinerary. After 12 months, 13 countries, and 3 continents we spent less than 30 days in paid lodging. Plus, we got to see some areas of the world where not all that many people have traveled.

Phuket, Thailand

How did we pull that off? Here’s our step-by-step process (that we actually followed) for becoming successful house sitters.

Step 1: Fish Where The Fish Are

House sitting assignments just don’t fall out of the sky. You have to be in the marketplaces where homeowners are looking for sitters. Luckily, almost all of this happens online these days. Your first step is making a profile on various housesitting services. We strongly recommend creating profiles on many of them. Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket, as different sites attract a different sort of clientele.

Step 2: Make Yourself Look Good

By “yourself” I mean your profile. Fill it out completely. More is better. Even if you (like us until recently) have never done this before, state your current experience. Have you owned homes before? Say that! Are you a handy person? Volunteered at your local animal shelter? Look for the things that set you apart and make you an invaluable person to the homeowners.

While we’re on the topic of looking good: use a video! All of the sites will let you upload a video. Figure out what you want to say and do it. If you have pets you can include in the video—all the better! Be authentic. Be friendly. Look like the people who you’d want staying in your house while you were away.

Step 3: Be Flexible

Not everyone travels as open-ended as we did. But even if you have a set, two-week vacation that you can’t deviate from, you might still find success landing a housesitting assignment. Start by planning far in advance. Six months isn’t too far to look. And be open to different places than the standard “vacation” spots. We would have never thought about spending three weeks at the start of winter in France, but it turned out to be an amazing experience!

Step 4: Check Listings Every Day!

Many homeowners will wait until less than a month for assignments. Others list the same needs year after year. Regardless, it’s a race against the clock once it’s posted. Without a doubt, we had the best luck getting on a homeowner’s short-list of candidates when we were one of the first applications. Look, it’s you and a bunch of other qualified people on these services. Assume the homeowner will have lots of options. It’s not enough to just be one of them. You want to be one of the first!

Step 5: Be Proactive

As soon as you get a bite—a homeowner saying they’ve looked at your profile or is keeping you in mind—try to get a call or Skype session scheduled. It gives you a chance to make a strong first impression… before anyone else! Of the times we could get a homeowner on Skype, we always got the assignment. Always. It’s truly the secret sauce.

Step 6: Don’t Give Up!

I’ll be honest: the first few weeks were pretty rotten. We had already sold all of our stuff, but no one was picking us. Then an assignment with some livestock came up. I grew up on a farm, so looking after some chickens wasn’t a big deal. And they picked us! Not long after that, our second assignment came. Then our third. Our fourth… and suddenly we found ourselves with more flexibility to choose where and when we wanted to go.

Sheffield, England

Beyond house sitting.

We were both passionate storytellers even before we started traveling. So documenting our journey sharing our life on the road was natural for us. About six months in, we started working with a couple travel brands, producing articles for them on a for-hire basis. One has since become a major sponsor of our podcast, which is currently in its third season. I occasionally write for a handful of other paying publications on an ad hoc basis.

Our most unusual revenue stream comes from postcards, oddly enough. Every month, we send out hand-written postcards to a variety of people from around the world who support us with small contributions. There’s a decent margin in Thailand, where the cost of the card + stamp combo is around $1 USD each. It’s not so great for places like Australia or China, where the cost is closer to $5 per unit. But it’s a great way to meet people as we sit around a table in a cafe or bar with a pile of postcards spread out.

We have loads of diversity built into our revenue stream. Neither of us are keen on blogging long enough to make selling ads or affiliate marketing a reality. Nor are we interested in running a fulfillment by Amazon business. So we both take on consulting projects (narration and digital strategy for me, curriculum development for Sheila), and Sheila’s putting her Master’s of Education degree to good use at an international school.

Mallorca, Spain

Do we miss life back in the States?

With very few, minor exceptions, life isn’t that much different on the road. Neither of us speak any other language than English. Yet we stick to local transportation methods. We dine in local restaurants. We shop in street markets and local grocery stores.

We both thought the world would be a lot more “foreign” than it turned out to be.

Learn more about Evo and Sheila on their website, and watch their antics on Snapchat.


by Chris Guillebeau at September 06, 2016 12:17 PM daily

Pre-Apple Event Sept 2017


Rumor: iPhone that looks like an iPhone 6 sans headphone jack.

What I want: iPhone that looks like anything other than an iPhone 6.


Rumor: Watch will now include GPS.

What I want: Watch with always on display.


The standalone 5k display and updated Retina MacBook Pro that has modern processors / GPUs that I would instantly buy are rumored to still be months away.

I’m increasingly afraid I will just give up and buy an iPhone SE.

· · ·

I don’t want to spend my time on a giant two-handed phone — I prefer real, powerful computers with giant displays and large iPads for the rest of the time.

The 6 has probably been the only iPhone I own that I felt strong dislike towards.

Apple’s product line feels increasingly hostile to my preferences.

September 06, 2016 08:00 AM

John C. Wright's Journal

Tabling the Conversation

I am ready to call a cease fire in the ongoing non-debate with 1RW on the mysteries of matter worship. A cease fire and not a surrender: I will reopen the debate once he agrees to follow, and shows himself able to follow, the rules and usages of this fashion of war.

My boasted patience wears thinner these days, now that I am more preoccupied, than in my far vanished youth. I am sorry for that. After explaining, for the umpteenth time, the difference between a logical fallacy and a rational response, I am afraid the weariness has overcome my spirit.

Forgive my tone of asperity, but if you play chess with me, I don’t want to have to halt the game each move to explain that how pawns do not move backward. It is not a valid move in chess.

I am honored that you thought me worthy to explore these deep matters, my dear materialist, but you have not even yet made an opening statement showing even a simple argument to support your position.

For example: in order for mind to move matter, as when my thought allows me to snap my fingers, the cause and effect must be of the same nature and substance. Since the finger is matter, ergo the thought must be matter. Likewise, alcohol is matter and can influence the capacity and coherence of thought, which it could not do unless thought were made of the same substance as the wine.

That is an argument. I would have to think carefully before responding. It would give my brain exercise.

The pot cannot call the kettle black;  therefore a circular argument (petitio principii) is a valid form of argument if and when I find a case where YOU used that form. 

This is not an argument. It has nothing to do with an argument. It is a psychological defense mechanism used to avoid argument. It is an attempt to change the subject from the topic under discussion to a discussion of who has the right to correct errors in logic seen in others.

Likewise, if you want to have a serious debate with me about a serious topic, I would like to move past the stage where you repeat sophomoric errors in logic (ad hominem, ad verecundiam, strawman, irrelevance)  and I keep asking you not to so that we can begin the discussion.

I am so very, very, infinitely weary of reminding you that I did not say the false and phony things you keep pretending I said that this is grounds by itself to end the game. Each time you reach across the board and pull my king into a weaker position, and I say that I move that chessman, not you, my patience for the game wanes. I am willing to explain, and at any length needed, anything you do not understand.

My last two posts, in fact, were from a reader who wrote me privately, and he actually posed questions that were in topic and cast sober doubt on my position, and I was required to exercise my brain to come up with the best counter argument I could. You would do well to read what he wrote me, and see how it differs from your approach.

So many of your comments are offtopic or astonishingly illogical, that I no longer have faith that you understand what we are discussing.

Here is the topic:

I submit to your candid judgment that radical materialism, aka panphysicaliasm, is wrong, on the grounds that  if panphysicalism were true, and all things were merely matter in motion and nothing more, then description of material quantities, if sufficiently precise, would also describe every aspect of any possible topic, including things like the relationship between symbols and referents, including things like final causes, including things like formal definitions, including things like mathematics and geometry, including things like metaphysical conclusions, including things like free will. But, for the reasons given, such a reduction to material quantities cannot be done, nor even imagined. The thing is impossible.

All that is needed to refute my argument is to produce a single, solitary example of any of these things successfully reduced, in all its aspects, to a description of material quantities.

Show me the mass and duration of ‘checkmate’, or the temperature of the number ‘4’, or the candlepower of the ‘law of noncontradiction’, or anything of the like.

Explain in detail the experiment or observation whereby you come by that knowledge so that I can reproduce said experiment or observation myself. The mute testimony of nature does not lie.

I am from Missouri. Show me. And you win the argument. Easy as that.

As a corollary, if all reality in its every aspect could be reduced to a description of matter, since such description cannot contain these and other things (symbols and referent relations, mathematics, abstractions, universal, free will, moral operations, final causes) therefore, none would exist.

Men would be robotic automatons, without purpose, without moral character, without the ability to form or understand symbols, hence without the ability to lie as well as without the ability to tell the truth, hence without the ability to act purposefully, hence without the ability to reason.

Since this conversation itself presupposes a truthful ability to reason and a moral character of a philosopher, willing to seek the truth even against his own self interest, therefore the fact that this conversation exists proves that panphysicalism is wrong.

Using honest reasoning to investigate whether panphysicalism is true is an impossible task unless panphysicalism is not true.

A second corollary is that if panphysicalism were true, nothing exists but matter, therefore any true statement is empirical and no non-empirical statement is true. Empirical statements are conditional and relative (that is, statements that are true only when the conditions of the observation apply). The statement that nothing exists but matter, however, is an unconditional and universal statement hence non-empirical, hence not true.

A coherent statement of the basic principle of panphysicalism refutes it.

That is the topic. I gave an argument and two corollaries.

That is the argument you must rebut in order to make a convincing counter argument.

Now, in order to voice that rebuttal, my opponent would have to understand what is meant by words like symbol, referent, formal, metaphysical, empirical, conditional, universal, nonempyrical, free will, and so on.

These are fairly common terms, but I took the trouble to explain them at some length in case they are unfamiliar to you.

I am not asking you to accept my definition nor to make the error of assuming that merely because I have defined something a real example of the defined thing exists. I merely want reassurance that you are comprehending what is being said before you take issue with it.

No such reassurance was given.

Like Dr. Andreassen, like every other materialist with whom I have debated, the part of the conversation before it begins where we define our terms was ignored. Hence, as with him, no legitimate conversation started. It was merely me thinking you were listening and thinking you were willing to offer intelligent rebuttals, overestimating your capacity or willingness.

Saying that robots get angry does not add to nor subtract from the argument: it is irrelevant.

Saying some other argument made by someone else is circular does not add to not subtract from the argument: it is irrelevant.

Saying that Turing machines exist but do not exist in physical existence does not add to nor subtract from the argument: it is irrelevant, as well as being a self-refuting conclusion.

Saying I don’t understand Turing machines does not add to nor subtract from the argument: it is irrelevant.

Saying advertising sometimes influences men in subtle ways does not add to nor subtract from the argument: it is irrelevant.

And on and on and on.

Even now, even now, I find myself having to explain what any High School Freshman should know about the rules of logic and the rules of debate. Did no one ever tell you these things? You tell me you are a professional man who works with computers. It is the most logical imaginable of professions. But if you put garbage in to your argument, you will get a garbage out response from anyone examining the argument. How can that principle be unknown to you?

You are not willing to do me the same courtesy you would do a Turing machine, and give me a logical argument rather than ill constructed and incoherent lines of code.

I can only say ‘pawns don’t move backward’ so many times.

I fear that perhaps the conversation is beyond your grasp. At this point, I am willing to table it. Perhaps in a few years you will have the training and equipment needed to play the game.

Return as soon as you have mastered either the skill of basic reasoning, or the humility and patience needed to approach an unfamiliar worldview with an open mind.

If you cannot take honest correction without bristling, philosophy is not for you.

by John C Wright at September 06, 2016 07:33 AM

Table Titans

Tales: Good Plans Executed Badly

Last night I was DMing my group of all first-time players. We were a few sessions into the 5e starter set and the party (Dwarf Barbarian, Elf Druid, Half-Elf Paladin, and Human Sorcerer) were preparing to assault a castle full of Goblins. (It is important to know that their usual plan consisted…

Read more

September 06, 2016 07:00 AM


Fedora: Cinnamon, MATE and the broken GNOME touchpad panel

On Fedora, if you have mate-desktop or cinnamon-desktop installed, your GNOME touchpad configuration panel won't work (see Bug 1338585). Both packages install a symlink to assign the synaptics driver to the touchpad. But GNOME's control-center does not support synaptics anymore, so no touchpad is detected. Note that the issue occurs regardless of whether you use MATE/Cinnamon, merely installing it is enough.

Unfortunately, there is no good solution to this issue. Long-term both MATE and Cinnamon should support libinput but someone needs to step up and implement it. We don't support run-time driver selection in the X server, so an xorg.conf.d snippet is the only way to assign a touchpad driver. And this means that you have to decide whether GNOME's or MATE/Cinnamon's panel is broken at X start-up time.

If you need the packages installed but you're not actually using Mate/Cinnamon itself, remove the following symlinks (whichever is present on your system):

# rm /etc/X11/xorg.conf.d/99-synaptics-mate.conf
# rm /etc/X11/xorg.conf.d/99-synaptics-cinnamon.conf
# rm /usr/share/X11/xorg.conf.d/99-synaptics-mate.conf
# rm /usr/share/X11/xorg.conf.d/99-synaptics-cinnamon.conf
The /usr/share paths are the old ones and have been replaced with the /etc/ symlinks in cinnamon-desktop-3.0.2-2.fc25 and mate-desktop-1.15.1-4.fc25 and their F24 equivalents.

by Peter Hutterer ( at September 06, 2016 06:44 AM

The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

Must We Forgive Those Who Sin Against Us If They Don’t Repent?

Article by: Ryan Troglin

All Christians at some point will face the difficult task of forgiving someone who’s sinned against them. The apostle Paul calls us to do so in a manner that imitates the Father: “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another just as in Christ God forgave you” (Eph. 4:32). But how do we practice this forgiveness if the offender doesn’t repent? Are we obligated to forgive, even if the person doesn’t recognize how he or she wronged us?

That’s the question considered in this new six-minute roundtable, featuring TGC Council members Mike Bullmore (senior pastor of CrossWay Community Church in Kenosha, Wisconsin), Vermon Pierre (lead pastor for preaching and mission at Roosevelt Community Church in Phoenix, Arizona), and Ryan Kelly (pastor for preaching at Desert Springs Church in Albuquerque, New Mexico). Kelly encourages us to examine ourselves before we demand repentance from others, to be “self-suspicious” as he calls it. Pierre suggests we frame the issue in terms of forgiveness and reconciliation. Bullmore speaks to the way Romans 12:18 helps him pursue a posture of peace with others.

Offense will happen in the church. Sometimes God’s Word requires us to call a brother or sister to repent (Matt. 18:15); sometimes it simply calls us to “put up” with one another (Col. 3:13). Watch this video (or listen below) to help you do both faithfully, patiently bearing with others until the day God rights every wrong and reconciles all things by his blood. 

Ryan Troglin (MDiv, Southern Seminary) serves as an assistant editor for The Gospel Coalition and as an editorial assistant in the office of the president at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He also teaches English at Providence Classical Christian School in Northwest Arkansas. He and his wife, Stacey, are members at University Baptist Church in Fayetteville, Arkansas. 

by Ryan Troglin at September 06, 2016 05:03 AM

Why I Don’t Think You Must Vote for the Lesser of Two Evils

Article by: Dan Doriani

More than ever, the 2016 presidential election has troubled and divided evangelicals. Many have long supported the Republican Party but find it impossible to vote for a candidate who seems to glory in his moral flaws. According to others, his stated social views and promise to nominate conservatives to the Supreme Court make it imperative to support him.

I recently saw the discussion play out at a dinner with evangelical leaders. After the main course, the hostess said, “Okay, everybody, who are you voting for and why?”

The first to weigh in said something along these lines: “I cannot vote for Donald Trump. The argument that he’s ‘flawed-but-acceptable’ implies he’s a normal candidate, but he isn’t. He’s morally reprehensible. He boasts of his sexual conquests, and regularly makes sexist and racially charged remarks. He (partially) owns gambling casinos with in-house strip clubs, so he profits from addiction and vice. He’s inexperienced and willfully ignorant of foreign policy. He voluntarily repudiates treaties as fundamental as NATO, and admires dictators like Putin. His domestic positions are sound, but he took the opposite view on almost everything a few years ago, so no one knows what he really believes. Beyond all that, he’s erratic, belligerent, and too unhinged to control nuclear codes.”

Someone else disagreed: “Even if everything you say is true, a point I don’t concede, Hillary Clinton is worse. She’s the most pro-choice candidate in America’s history, a congenital liar, financially corrupt, and guilty of the self-righteousness that makes healthy self-doubt impossible. She’s committed to the ongoing destruction of the family as God defines it, and is so wedded to Wall Street that she cannot govern for the people. Under her, taxes will rise, government will grow, and the Supreme Court will become more liberal. Except for her feminism, she’s a raw pragmatist. She will continue Obama’s assault on the American system of government by ruling through presidential regulations that supplant the role of Congress.”

A third person said, “I agree with the analysis of both candidates, which is why I won’t vote for either. I’ll either abstain or vote for a third-party candidate.”

This caused the anti-Trump spokesperson to protest, “To not vote for Clinton is to vote for Trump.” To which the anti-Hillary advocate countered, “No, to not vote for Trump is to vote for Clinton.” Finally, the abstainer replied, “So I vote twice by doing nothing? I didn’t realize inaction was so powerful!”

Limits of Consequentialism 

The nomination of two historically unpopular candidates prompts the anguish that yielded this Clinton “endorsement” from columnist P. J. O’Rourke: “I am endorsing Hillary, and all her lies and all her empty promises. . . . She’s wrong about absolutely everything, but she’s wrong within normal parameters.” By endorsing Clinton as “the second-worst thing” that could happen to America, O’Rourke assumed, with most Americans, that voting is a forced choice, guided by pragmatic principles. The goal is to do what’s best for the country (or my portion of it) by choosing a good president—or at least thwarting a bad one.

Is this the right perspective?

In ethics, the label for O’Rourke’s approach is Consequentialism (or Utilitarianism). The simplest version of Consequentialism says an act is good if it brings the greatest good (or least harm) to the greatest number of people. Most Americans are Consequentialists. A reading of Proverbs shows the Bible has concern for consequences. For example, Proverbs 3:1–12 insists that those who trust and fear the Lord will see that he makes their paths straight. That is, obedience normally leads to good consequences—and bad decisions lead to trouble (Prov. 26:4, 6). But in biblical ethics, taking Scripture as a whole, obedience to God’s moral law, and the pursuit of godly character are far more prominent than calculation of consequences.

When it comes to voting, there are two major problems with Consequentialism. First, no human can predict or fully assess the consequence of any action. Full assessment requires omniscience, which is an attribute of God, not man. Second, consequentialism tends to decay into lawlessness when people do whatever it takes to achieve their desired result. Biblical ethics places far more stress on law and character, which are both grounded in God’s character. Christians have long probed candidates for signs they value biblical morals that reflect the character and wisdom of God. I do not mean candidates must be examined for genuine faith and obedience. But Christians want leaders who at least unwittingly approximate godly morality. We prefer that candidates not be murderers, liars, or thieves.

We also believe that character matters. Candidates need qualities like wisdom, justice, love, mercy, even humility. No one knows what crises or agonizing decisions presidents will face. But we do know that character is the chief architect of our actions. As David Jones has observed, people with character “think issues of right and wrong really matter. [They] love the right and hate the wrong and can be counted on under stress to do the right thing.” 

An honest president will tell the truth when truth matters most. A courageous president will set the right course when it’s hardest to do so, when the price may be highest. Christians have always insisted that character matters, and rightly so.

Our Duty, His Dominion 

If Consequentialism is the proper approach to the vote, then it’s proper to vote against Trump because he will exacerbate racial tensions or to vote against Clinton because she will destroy families. If Consequentialism is correct, the vote is a forced choice: pick the candidate who will likely cause less damage.

But is a disciple of Jesus forced to vote for the less offensive candidate? I don’t think so. If we set aside the Consequentialist approach, we no longer have an obligation to vote for the candidate we believe will do more good or cause less harm. We may instead see our vote as an endorsement of a candidate whose policies and character we generally approve. And if we believe no one merits such endorsement, then we are free to abstain or vote for a minor party candidate and leave the consequences to the Lord. To say it another way, the question, “Who will do the most good for the country?” is valid, but it’s not the only question. One believer may believe it is right to vote for the lesser of two evils. Another may conclude, “I cannot vote for a candidate I consider evil.”

Thoughtful Christians will come to different conclusions on this, but it is clear in Scripture that God’s people often do what is right and leave the results to the Lord of history. We know good consequences normally tend to follow right action, yet it isn’t our duty to control history. Besides, if we consider the consequences of actions, we should consider this: How much damage is being done to the credibility of Christian leaders who have long insisted character matters, yet have recently reversed themselves with no more rationale than the commonplace assertion “all candidates are flawed”?

Because the arguments for all three choices—Trump, Clinton, none of the above—all have a certain plausibility, it’s essential for believers to practice the patience Paul advocates in Romans 14. But if we lay aside Consequentialist assumptions, we aren’t forced to vote for the lesser of two evils. Christians may vote for Trump or Clinton or neither. We serve the sovereign Lord of history. We may do what we judge right, and leave the consequences to him.

See also:

Editors’ note: The views and opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily represent The Gospel Coalition or any other Council members, staff, or supporters. They are the views of the author alone. 

Dan Doriani serves as vice president of strategic academic projects and professor of theology and ethics at Covenant Theological Seminary. He previously served as senior pastor of Central Presbyterian Church in Clayton, Missouri. Dan is also the chair of the first TGC St. Louis Regional Chapter Conference, September 30 to October 1.

by Dan Doriani at September 06, 2016 05:02 AM

5 Ways to Live the God-Centered Life

Article by: Josh Moody

I was sitting in a bar on an evangelistic Q&A panel. It was Cambridge University in the mid-1990s. Suddenly, an audience member stormed to the front, grabbed the microphone in front of me, turned it around and shouted, “You believe in one God, right?” I was pleased something we’d said had connected, so I simply shouted back above the din of general merriment: “Right!” The audience member then replied with equal volume, “So that means you think all the other gods are wrong, right?” There were a number of things about that question I would have liked to respond to with significant theological subtlety. But given the circumstances, it seemed nuance wasn’t likely to be attained. So I simply said (with a big smile), “Right!” With a look of horror on her face, my interlocutor shot back: “How can you be so arrogant?”

Compelled by the love of God, we on the panel had been making known the glory of Christ’s grace. But for that person—and for many others today—a claim to exclusive devotion to the biblical God came across as arrogant, if not downright dangerous.

How can we live the God-centered life in this contemporary age? You could answer this question in a way that’s understandable to a child, as well as in a way that would strike a Harvard professor as intellectually credible.

Here I offer five ways to live the God-centered life, not because they’re the only ways, nor because they’re the best, but because, after working in university towns from Cambridge to Yale to Wheaton, they strike me as the most critical for today’s 18- to 30-year-olds.

1. Immerse yourself in the all-sufficient wonder of the God who is.

Immerse yourself—not in the fictionalized God of the blogosphere or the caricatured God of whichever God-hater is spouting his self-referential critique with God-given intelligence—but in the God who reveals himself in Scripture, in conscience, in creation, and ultimately in Christ. Let that beautiful, brilliant, all-powerful, transcendent, immanent, wondrous God—who cleared out the religious compromise of the temple and the hypocrisy of the Pharisee, who spoke the Beatitudes of the Sermon on the Mount, and who died for the sins of the world—drive out the pagan idols of our culture’s fascination with making gods of our own imagination. And let him leave you in awe.

2. Commit to a local Bible-teaching church.

Few habits are safer predictors of long-term spiritual health than your willing, enthusiastic, wholehearted involvement with the local church of God.

Why commit to church at all? Because the church is the bride of Christ, and if you love him you will love her. I know she is far from perfect, but despite her imperfections, the church is God’s means of changing the world. Your local church is an outpost of heaven—an embassy of the kingdom—in a world adrift from love, grace, compassion, and truth.

3. Forgive, fear, fight.

I easily lose insights when I gain them, so I summarize what I’ve learned in memorable form. 

Forgive others, fear God, fight the good fight of the faith. 

It’s too easy to bear grudges against those who have betrayed, hurt, abandoned, or misused you. But such grudge-bearing does you no good. It only leaves you burdened with anger or depression or sadness, fruitlessly using energy in the internal life of your mind, over and over again, sometimes for years. The route to forgiveness is to reflect on what you’ve been forgiven of. Once you realize you deserved hell apart from Christ, then any action against you is potentially forgivable. This forgiveness then orients you to serve rather than pull back from others through fear of being hurt again. And if you live in the fear of God, you’ll find the wisdom from above that’s not people-pleasing but God-pleasing. Only this perspective will give you the ballast to fight the good fight of the faith.

4. Pursue the unfashionable virtues.

In every age, some biblical virtues are easier to swallow than others. You’re unlikely to be ostracized for preaching love and tolerance today. But if you talk of submission and humility, your approval ratings may tank. Now, this fact doesn’t mean you should shove these virtues down the throats of others without doing the work of translating their meaning into the vernacular of our day. It means you’re to pursue those virtues yourself and then discover—from the inside out—what they really mean.

The scandal of submission is that we find it a dirty word when really it’s a freeing word. Have you ever discovered the glorious freedom of letting someone godly have proper authority over you? Have you ever discovered the glorious joy of admitting you don’t know the answer, and being humble enough to be wrong?

5. Use your mind.

We’re a culture that thinks with its feelings and hears with its eyes, as I think Ravi Zacharias once said. When someone wants to really know what is going on with you, they won’t ask, “Tell me what you think about that.” They’ll say, “Tell me how you really feel.”

We believe the true, authentic self is encapsulated in how we feel, not how we think. Logic, reasoned conclusion, carefully articulated argument, chains of deduction, these are all considered somehow more fake than letting rip with unvarnished emotion. Important as our feelings are, however, they aren’t the be-all and end-all of who we are. And if you feel bad about something, it doesn’t necessarily mean the thing is bad for you.

Christians today are critiqued for believing things that aren’t rational or scientifically verifiable. But no irony could be deeper, for these critiques are coming and rising as our culture buries itself increasingly in a deep doctrine of emotionalism. 

Living the God-centered life is your calling and stewardship as a Christian. So seek first his kingdom and pursue his glory. As you do, you will find life and life to the full.

Josh Moody (PhD, University of Cambridge) is senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, Illinois, in the Chicago area, and the author of several books, including Journey to Joy. In addition, he also serves as the president and founder of the newly relaunched God Centered Life Ministries, which can be found at

by Josh Moody at September 06, 2016 05:00 AM

sacha chua :: living an awesome life

2016-09-05 Emacs News

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

Past Emacs News round-ups

The post 2016-09-05 Emacs News appeared first on sacha chua :: living an awesome life.

by Sacha Chua at September 06, 2016 02:12 AM


libinput and the Lenovo T450 and T460 series touchpads

I'm using T450 and T460 as reference but this affects all laptops from the Lenovo *50 and *60 series. The Lenovo T450 and T460 have the same touchpad hardware, but unfortunately it suffers from what is probably a firmware issue. On really slow movements, the pointer has a halting motion. That effect disappears when the finger moves faster.

The observable effect is that of a pointer stalling, then jumping by 20 or so pixels. We have had a quirk for this in libinput since March 2016 (see commit a608d9) and detect this at runtime for selected models. In particular, what we do is look for a sequence of events that only update the pressure values but not the x/y position of the finger. This is a good indication that the bug triggers. While it's possible to trigger pressure changes alone, triggering several in a row without a change in the x/y coordinates is extremely unlikely. Remember that these touchpads have a resolution of ~40 units per mm - you cannot hold your finger that still while changing pressure [1]. Once we see those pressure changes only we reset the motion history we keep for each touch. The next event with an x/y coordinate will thus not calculate the delta to the previous position and not trigger a move. The event after that is handled normally again. This avoids the extreme jumps but there isn't anything we can do about the stalling - we never get the event from the kernel. [2]

Anyway. This bug popped up again elsewhere so this time I figured I'll analyse the data more closely. Specifically, I wrote a script that collected all x/y coordinates of a touchpad recording [3] and produced a black and white image of all device coordinates sent. This produces a graphic that's interesting but not overly useful:

Roughly 37000 touchpad events. You'll have to zoom in to see the actual pixels.
I modified the script to assume a white background and colour any x/y coordinate that was never hit black. So an x coordinate of 50 would now produce a vertical 1 pixel line at 50, a y coordinate of 70 a horizontal line at 70, etc. Any pixel that remains white is a coordinate that is hit at some point, anything black was unreachable. This produced more interesting results. Below is the graphic of a short, slow movement right to left.

A single short slow finger movement
You can clearly see the missing x coordinates. More specifically, there are some events, then a large gap, then events again. That gap is the stalling cursor where we didn't get any x coordinates. My first assumption was that it may be a sensor issue and that some areas on the touchpad just don't trigger. So what I did was move my finger around the whole touchpad to try to capture as many x and y coordinates as possible.

Let's have look at the recording from a T440 first because it doesn't suffer from this issue:

Sporadic black lines indicating unused coordinates but the center is purely white, indicating every device unit was hit at some point
Ok, looks roughly ok. The black areas are irregular, on the edges and likely caused by me just not covering those areas correctly. In the center it's white almost everywhere, that's where the most events were generated. And now let's compare this to a T450:

A visible grid of unreachable device units
The difference is quite noticeable, especially if you consider that the T440 recording had under 15000 events, the T450 recording had almost 37000. The T450 has a patterned grid of unreachable positions. But why? We currently use the PS/2 protocol to talk to the device but we should be using RMI4 over SMBus instead (which is what Windows has done for a while and luckily the RMI4 patches are on track for kernel 4.9). Once we talk to the device in its native protocol we see a resolution of ~20 units/mm and it looks like the T440 output:

With RMI4, the grid disappears
Ok, so the problem is not missing coordinates in the sensor and besides, at the resolution the touchpad has a single 'pixel' not triggering shouldn't be much of a problem anyway.

Maybe the issue had to do with horizontal movements or something? The next approach was for me to move my finger slowly from one side to the left. That's actually hard to do consistently when you're not a robot, so the results are bound to be slightly different. On the T440:

The x coordinates are sporadic with many missing ones, but the y coordinates are all covered
You can clearly see where the finger moved left to right. The big black gaps on the x coordinates mostly reflect me moving too fast but you can see how the distance narrows, indicating slower movements. Most importantly: vertically, the strip is uniformly white, meaning that within that range I hit every y coordinate at least once. And the recording from the T450:

Only one gap in the y range, sporadic gaps in the x range
Well, still looks mostly the same, so what is happening here? Ok, last test: This time an extremely slow motion left to right. It took me 87 seconds to cover the touchpad. In theory this should render the whole strip white if all x coordinates are hit. But look at this:

An extremely slow finger movement
Ok, now we see the problem. This motion was slow enough that almost every x coordinate should have been hit at least once. But there are large gaps and most notably: larger gaps than in the recording above that was a faster finger movement. So what we have here is not an actual hardware sensor issue but that the firmware is working against us here, filtering things out. Unfortunately, that's also the worst result because while hardware issues can usually be worked around, firmware issues are a lot more subtle and less predictable. We've also verified that newer firmware versions don't fix this and trying out some tweaks in the firmware didn't change anything either.

Windows is affected by this too and so is the synaptics driver. But it's not really noticeable on either and all reports so far were against libinput, with some even claiming that it doesn't manifest with synaptics. But each time we investigated in more detail it turns out that the issue is still there (synaptics uses the same kernel data after all) but because of different acceleration methods users just don't trigger it. So my current plan is to change the pointer acceleration to match something closer to what synaptics does on these devices. That's hard because synaptics is mostly black magic (e.g. synaptics' pointer acceleration depends on screen resolution) and hard to reproduce. Either way, until that is sorted at least this post serves as a link to point people to.

Many thanks to Andrew Duggan from Synaptics and Benjamin Tissoires for helping out with the analysis and testing of all this.

[1] Because pressing down on a touchpad flattens your finger and thus changes the shape slightly. While you can hold a finger still, you cannot control that shape
[2] Yes, predictive movement would be possible but it's very hard to get this right
[3] These are events as provided by the kernel and unaffected by anything in the userspace stack

by Peter Hutterer ( at September 06, 2016 02:00 AM


Link: Jérôme Cukier’s Series on Visualization with React


While D3 is the standard way of doing visualization on the web right now, there's a lot of interesting stuff happening in the world of JavaScript framework React. And it turns out, you can do some really interesting visualization stuff with React, once you understand the basics. In a series of very thorough postings, Jérôme Cukier takes you through the fundamentals of React and how to use it by itself or together with D3.

Reading all the postings is not a small undertaking, so be prepared to spend some time on them. You'll also have to work on a project to actually put those things into practice, or they won't stick. Jérôme happened to post his series just as I started work on a new prototype, and I had been curious about React for a while – so this turned out to be a great match for what I was starting to build. Jérôme is now a visualization person at Uber (according to his Twitter bio), but he worked at Facebook before and is quite familiar with React from his time there.

React is great when you're dealing not just with a visualization, but a number of elements around it that interact with it. I had played with React for a bit a while ago, and never quite got it. My current project is a really good fit though, and Jérôme's postings got me going in the right direction, and the rest has been fun and fascinating to figure out.

I was going to write brief summaries of the postings, but it turns out Jerome has already done that for me! So here I'm just quoting from his series announcement posting:

  1. React vs D3, where we’ll explore similarities and differences between these two frameworks.
  2. An ES6 primer. I have written all the examples in good, sensible, modern ES6 javascript, because as of 2016 this is probably the most common syntax. Without going too deep into the details, I’ll explain what parts of the language I used for the examples, and how they differ from ES5.
  3. Gentle introduction to coding with React, where we’ll explore the high-level concepts of the framework and see how we can create visual elements from data. We’ll end on a presentation of JSX, a flavor of Javascript used to write React applications, which I’ll also use for most of the examples for the same reasons as ES6 – because it’s the most widespread way of writing React code today.
  4. React components, the most important concept in React and the building blocks of React applications.
  5. Beyond rendering. We’ll look at the React concept of lifecycle methods, and also how we can use d3 within React components.
  6. Creating a React visualization web app – using what we’ve seen, and two libraries – Facebook’s create-react-app and Uber’s React-vis, we’ll create a small standalone React visualization that can be deployed on its own website.
  7. The big leagues – in that last part, we’ll write together a more complex visualization with live data and several components interacting with one another.

by Robert Kosara at September 06, 2016 01:10 AM

The Art of Non-Conformity

Black Sheep Basics

Be proud of being the black sheep. If everyone agrees with you, maybe you’re not being bold enough.

For a while, even as someone who never worked a real job, I was afraid to put forward an opinion that I knew was likely to be challenged. I had heard all the proverbs and stories about how those who change the world for good are often criticized, but it was hard to walk the walk. I was afraid of being put down!

I was also afraid of causing offense. The irony is that I thought I was being polite in going with the flow—not conforming to it myself, necessarily, but not really challenging it in others.

But I was wrong. When you stifle your true self, you do a disservice to the world, especially the part of it that’s within your influence. Just look at someone who lets their true self shine. Their part of the world is better off because of their courage.

There’s a difference between causing offense for the sake of it and standing your ground for something you believe in. To paraphrase Ricky Gervais: “Just because someone is offended doesn’t mean they’re right.”

Be polite, be respectful, but stand your ground. Be proud of your beliefs.


Image by: perlaroques

by Chris Guillebeau at September 06, 2016 12:11 AM

September 05, 2016

Random ASCII

ETW Flame Graphs Made Easy

A bit over three years ago I wrote about how to use flame graphs to visualize CPU Usage (Sampled) data from ETW, and a year ago I added flame graph support to UIforETW. However these techniques are clumsy and slow and what I really wanted – what I asked for – was flame graph support in Windows Performance Analyzer (WPA), Microsoft’s ETW trace viewer.

And with the 10.0.14393 (Windows 10 Anniversary Edition) version of Windows Performance Toolkit (WPT) I finally got my wish! WPA can now natively display data as flame graphs, and it is good.

Disclaimer: WPT 10.0.14393 requires Windows 8 or above. If you install it on Windows 7 or below it will crash. UIforETW v1.42 will install the latest WPT on Windows8 or above, but will install the previous version on Windows 7. If you want flame graphs on ‘ancient’ operating systems you’ll need to stick to the old-fashioned methods.

The easiest way to get started with flame graphs is to use the built-in CPU Usage (Sampled) preset for Flame by Process, Stack


Make sure the graph is visible and you’ll see the classic flame-graph towers, one for each process, with the widths of the towers representing how much CPU time was recorded. The selected process will be in blue and the rest are in forest-fire reds.

As usual WPA likes to show data for all processes on the system, which is particularly distracting with flame graphs, so you may want to select the process(es) of interest, right-click, and then select Filter to Selection.

Then, because the flame graphs are always scaled to fit in the graph window you will usually want to stretch the graph window vertically in order to be able to read the function names, and you’ll get something like this (truncated) view:


The towers of red represent call stacks, with the root way down off the bottom of the screenshot. The width of each row indicates how many samples were recorded for that particular call stack.

The graph above is taken from PowerPoint Poor Performance Problem and the flame graph makes it immediately obvious, based on row widths, that GpBitmap::PipeLockBits (which ultimately calls GpWicDecoder::Decode) and DpDriver::DrawImage (which ultimately calls DpOutputSpanStretch<1>::StretchScanline) are where the time is going, with KiPageFault consuming a lot of the Decode time. In cases like these the flame graph makes it far easier to get the big picture of what is going on, because the insignificant details become sub-pixel columns that you can’t even see, and when I say that “PowerPoint was slow in this case because it decodes and scales the background image on every refresh” it’s not hard to see that yeah, that’s the problem.

So that’s it – you can now use flame graphs to visualize where CPU time is going. But WPA is infinitely configurable and can be used to graph many types of data in arbitrarily many ways. Graphing CPU Usage (Sampled) data with the default flame graph is just scratching the surface.

Challenge accepted

Let’s say that instead of graphing CPU Usage (Sampled) we wanted to graph context switches. And let’s say that instead of viewing call stacks we wanted to view the process name and thread ID of the thread being switched in, and the process name and thread ID of the thread that readied that thread. And, finally, let’s say that we wanted the width of our towers to represent the number of context switches (other candidates might include the amount of CPU time consumed, the amount of time the thread was idle, or any other numeric data column).

The startup profile which UIforETW prefers to use (go to Settings, Copy startup profiles to get a fresh copy of it, recommended) has a CPU Usage (Precise) graph open so we can start with that. Click the Select Chart Type button and select Flame, as shown here:


The default grouping columns in the Randomascii Wait Analysis preset are these:

  • New Process
  • New Thread
  • New Thread Stack
  • Readying Process
  • Readying Thread Id
  • Ready Thread Stack

and the graphing column (far right) defaults to % CPU Usage. When WPA makes a flame graph it takes all of the data in all of the grouping columns (left of the gold bar) and stacks them together. That means that each context switch makes a flame graph column with two call stacks and four other rows of data. This is a daunting amount of data and isn’t what we want so the first thing to do is to hide the New Thread Stack and Ready Thread Stack columns. That can be done with the View Editor (Ctrl+E) or by showing the table and then right-clicking on the column headers.

At this point we have a flame graph, but the width of the rows is proportional to CPU Usage, not context switch counts. To fix that we need to drag the Count column to the right of the blue bar, and move the % CPU Usage column to the left of the blue bar. At this point WPA will say:

Flame graph requires one graphing column with Sum aggregation

Okay, sounds reasonable. To fix this we need to open up the View Editor, scroll to the bottom of the right section, and change the Aggregation type for Count to Sum. With that configured we have the flame graph that we wanted!

It turns out that this flame graph is quite helpful in understanding some annoying Windows 10 behavior that I’ve been hitting. RuntimeBroker.exe likes to spring to life spontaneously on my laptop and it wasn’t clear what was triggering it. I had a trace of this activity handy and our context switch flame graph makes it clear that there are two processes that “Ready” RuntimeBroker.exe – itself and Music.UI.exe:


Processes often ready their own threads (one thread readying another) so the really important news is that Music.UI.exe is talking to RuntimeBroker.exe and, because RuntimeBroker always does work on behalf of other processes, we can conclude that Music.UI.exe is ultimately the reason why my CPU gets very busy at random times. Unfortunately I can’t find a way to turn off this behavior (the available settings in Music.UI.exe are minimalist to the extreme) so this knowledge is quite useless so far.

It’s an easy change to have the flame graph widths proportional to % CPU Usage or to display New Thread Stack as one of the grouping columns – it all depends on what sort of problem you are trying to investigate. Unfortunately some numeric data columns (Time Since Last, for instance) cannot be graphed, for unknown reasons.

Annotation column

The Annotation column can be used as another level of the flame graph hierarchy. In the example below I selected all context switches that were readied by RuntimeBroker.exe (by temporarily rearranging the columns), right-clicked, and used Annotate Selection to tag them as “Self-readied” (and the others as “Readied by other process”). I then moved Annotation to the second column so that the context switches were grouped by this new attribute, making it easier to see all the IPC related context switches.


The Annotation column is a powerful way of doing arbitrarily filtering and grouping while analyzing a trace, typically to separate out the areas that are understood from those that still need investigation.

Operators are standing by

A new startup profile that contains a Randomascii flame by Process, thread, count has been committed to UIforETW and the next release will contain this startup profile, to make flame graphs even easier to use. If you find other flame graph arrangements useful, let me know and I might add them.

The official WPA flame graph documentation is here.

For more ETW/WPA documentation, tutorials, and case studies see ETW Central.

by brucedawson at September 05, 2016 11:00 PM

John C. Wright's Journal

Arhyelon: The Prude and the Trollop

From the pen of my lovely and talented wife.

Occasionally, I come upon a review (there has been more than one) of The
Unexpected Enlightenment of Rachel Griffin
where the reader threw the book across the room and stopped reading at the scene in chapter Four where crazy orphan boy Siegfried Smith encounters a young woman deliberately wearing too-tight clothing to flaunt her curves and uses the word (brace yourselves, my dear readers) trollop.

These reviewers universally agree: clearly the author (not the character, mind you) must be a disapproving prude out to slut-shame all well-endowed girls.

Read the whole thing. We live in a society where the sterile old maiden aunts react with fainting spells and clutch their pearls, but not at the first hint of anyone behaving improperly or lewdly, but at the first hint of anyone behaving properly or chastely. They expect you be be ashamed for not being shameless.

The world is moonbat lunatic crazypants insane.

by John C Wright at September 05, 2016 10:11 PM

On App Store Business Models

Underscore David Smith:

On November 8th it will have been eight years since my first app went live in the App Store. Back when I started I would have been gobsmacked to hear that eight years later I’d still be making my living solely from apps.

The App Store ecosystem today is wildly different from what it was back then. I launched my first app into a store of around 90k apps, today we have well over 2 million. Back then we didn’t have advertising networks, in-app purchases or subscriptions. You were free or paid, and if you wanted to make a living you pretty much had to be paid.

Today things are quite different.

As usual, David’s insight into these things is well thought out and well graphed.

by Stephen at September 05, 2016 09:32 PM

Daniel Lemire's blog

Are there too many people?

Without immigration, most developed countries would face massive depopulation. In fact, half the population of the Earth lives in countries with sub-replacement fertility.

The threshold for a sustained population is a fertility rate of 2.1. Taiwan South Korean and Singapore are at 1.2, Japan and Germany are at 1.5, the whole European Union and Canada are at 1.6, Australia, the United Kingdom and the USA are at 1.8.

Yet Earth’s population is still growing. Where is the population growth? Niger, Sudan, Somalia, Mozambique, Uganda, Congo, Afghanistan… Or, to put it another way, in the poor countries.

If the current trends are maintained, by 2050, Japan will count about 100 million inhabitants or over 25 million fewer than the current count. By then, there will be many more Japanese in their seventies than in any other 10-year age group.

In Europe, Germany is currently the largest countries with 80 million inhabitants. If the current trend continues, by 2050, it should count no more than 75 million people. Germany is going to need millions of people over the next two decades just to sustain its population.

What about China? They stand at 1.4 billion people. By 2050, they should have fallen to 1.3 billion people… It is no wonder that China recently dropped its one-child policy.

Of course, countries like the USA, Canada and France are still growing… but that’s largely because of immigration, often from countries where people reproduce more readily.

Won’t better health and longevity lead to renewed population growth in the rich countries? No. Excluding immigration, population growth is almost entirely determined by fertility. That is, what matters is how soon and how many children women have. Even if Japan’s bet on regenerative medicine delivers exceptional benefits, it won’t make much of a dent on the population curve. If you could, somehow, multiply your lifespan without having any more children, you’d only add “1” to the population count. And improved health and medicine decrease your effective fertility. Healthier women who receive great medical care for themselves and their children tend to have children later, if at all, and tend to have fewer of them.

You’d think that being few in a rich country is not a major problem. But depopulation means closing down rural towns. It means fewer scientists, fewer nurses… And because we have not yet a handle on age-related diseases, it means more retirees needing help with fewer working individual per capita. Worried about imminent depopulation, Italy recently launched an ad campaign reminding ladies to hurry up and have babies. In Denmark, they teach pupils about the need to have more children.

It is true that a child is a mouth to feed. But a child might grow up to build new technology, to care for the sick, and so forth.

At least as far as the richest third of humanity is concerned, there are not too many people, and there might be too few.

by Daniel Lemire at September 05, 2016 08:15 PM

Justin Taylor

What Is the Longest Book in the Bible? (Hint: It’s Not the Psalms)


Most resources claim that the book of Psalms is the longest book in the Old Testament, and therefore the Bible.

The claim is probably wrong.

If the calculation is based on the number of verses or the number of “chapters” or the number of pages, it is correct. But since those aren’t part of the original, and because some books may have words per verse or more words per chapter than another book, neither of these would be the right criteria to use.

And if we really want to calculate the lengths of the originals, English word-count shouldn’t be sufficient, either, since they are translations of the Hebrew and Greek. (Sometimes it takes several English words to translate one Hebrew or Greek word.)

Here is a more refined set of data, courtesy of David J. Reimer (senior lecturer, Hebrew and Old Testament, University of Edinburgh, who penned the notes on Ezekiel for the ESV Study Bible).

Some notes:

  • “Graphic units” counts the number of Hebrew words in a particular books using BibleWorks (e.g., there are seven “graphic units” in Genesis 1:1).
  • “Morphological units” was found according to the Groves-Wheeler Westminster Morphological database (which separates prefixed elements, but not pronominal suffixes; e.g., there are eleven “morphological units” in Genesis 1:1).
  • The “Bytes” figure calculates the length of the Hebrew book in ASCII format (i.e., so there is no interference from extraneous word-processor code).

Here are the results of the top 10, which account for about 55% of the 39 books of the OT:



# Verses in Book

Graph-unit Hits

Morph-unit Hits


 1. Jeremiah





 2. Genesis





 3. Psalms





 4. Ezekiel





 5. Isaiah





 6. Exodus





 7. Numbers





 8. Deuteronomy





 9. 2 Chronicles





10. 1 Samuel





by Justin Taylor at September 05, 2016 07:47 PM

Crossway Blog

10 Things You Should Know about Definite Atonement

This is a guest post by Jonathan Gibson, coeditor of From Heaven He Came and Sought Her: Definite Atonement in Historical, Biblical, Theological, and Pastoral Perspective. This post is part of our 10 Things You Should Know blog series.

1. Definite atonement is a way of speaking about the intent and nature of Christ’s death.

The doctrine of definite atonement states that, in the death of Jesus Christ, the triune God intended to achieve the redemption of every person given to the Son by the Father in eternity past, and to apply the accomplishments of his sacrifice to each of them by the Spirit. In a nutshell: the death of Christ was intended to win the salvation of God’s people alone; and not only was it intended to do that but it effectively achieved it as well. Jesus will be true to his name: he will save his people from their sins. In this regard, the adjective ‘definite’ does double duty: Christ’s death was definite in its intent—he died to save a particular people; and it was definite in its nature—his death really does atone for sin.

2. Definite atonement has courted controversy in the Christian church.

For some, definite atonement is a ‘grim doctrine’ (Karl Barth), containing ‘horrible blasphemies’ (John Wesley); for others, it is a ‘textless doctrine’ (Broughton Knox), arrived at by logic rather than by a straightforward reading of the Scriptures (RT Kendall). Pastorally, definite atonement is viewed as the Achilles’ heel of the Reformed faith, quenching a zeal for evangelism and inviting despair rather than assurance for the believer. With such a checkered history, one may well ask why we should even discuss the doctrine, never mind believe it. But just because a doctrine is controversial does not mean it should not be discussed, defended or embraced. Were that the case, we would not be Trinitarian Christians who hold to justification by faith alone!

3. The Bible itself asks the question of the intent and nature of Christ’s death.

As you read the Bible, you see that it speaks of Christ’s death being for many, for all, for the world; and yet it also speaks of Christ’s death being for me, for us (believers), for a people, for his church. So whether we like it or not, the Bible forces us to think about the intent and nature of Christ’s death, by presenting us with an apparent tension. It is our task to work out how to handle that tension as we interpret these different texts.

4. No one Bible verse answers the question of the intent and nature of Christ’s death.

Christian doctrine is not arrived at by providing a few proof texts here or there. If we treated doctrine like that, then we would have to affirm justification by works and not justification faith alone, as there is a text clearly stating the former (James 2:24) but no such text stating the latter. The same may be said about other important doctrines like the Trinity or the two natures of Christ in one person. These doctrines are arrived at by holding together a range of biblical texts, while at the same time synthesizing internally related doctrines that relate to the doctrine in view. In the case of definite atonement, this includes doctrines such as union with Christ and the Trinity. For example, when we consider the atonement in light of our union with Christ, then locating the particularity of the atonement at the moment when Christ died begins to make sense; or when we consider that the work of each person of the Trinity is always performed in harmony with the other persons of the Trinity, we realize that when Christ died there could not be ‘cross’ purposes (pun intended) in the Godhead.

5. Definite atonement provides us with personal assurance.

Martin Luther said that the sweetness of the gospel is found in the personal pronouns: “the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). Definite atonement helps to personalize Christ’s death and deepens our appreciation of his love for us. Precisely because he died as Someone for some people, when he died on the cross, we were on his mind (cf. John 17). But more than that, because Christ’s death propitiated God’s wrath for all of our sins, it means that we cannot experience God’s wrath on the future day of judgment. The price has been paid, the penalty borne, the law satisfied, and condemnation removed.

‘Payment God cannot twice demand—
First at my bleeding Surety’s hand
And then again at mine.’
(Augustus Toplady)

6. Definite atonement motivates us for evangelism and mission.

The gospel we proclaim is one in which Christ has propitiated God’s wrath against sinners—not potentially or hypothetically—but actually. And since he has definitely done this for all kinds of people, we should preach the gospel indiscriminately to all, knowing that Christ will save those for whom he died. Revelation 5:9 is our motivation: “by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation . . . .”

7. Definite atonement does not exhaust the meaning of the cross.

Definite atonement says something essential about Christ’s death, but it does not say everything there is to say. There are many aspects of the atone­ment which need to be affirmed alongside its definite intent and nature: the sufficiency of Christ’s death for all; the free and indiscriminate proclamation of the gospel to all; God’s love for the non-elect and his salvific stance to­ward a fallen world; the atonement’s implications for the entire cosmos and not simply the church.

8. The doctrine of definite (or indefinite) atonement will not save us.

Christians who belong to the Reformed tradition love their doctrines, not least the ‘doctrines of grace’, of which definite atonement is one. But there is always the danger that we slip into thinking that doctrine—especially, pure doctrine—is what saves us. But we can be a card-carrying biblical inerrantist, and still end up in hell. Just look at the Pharisees. We can be a member of Christ’s church, covenantally signed and sealed, and still end up in hell. Just look at Judas. And the same goes for ‘5-point Calvinists’. The danger is that we end up loving the Scripture, or the sign, or the doctrine more than the Saviour. When our faith is in something other than Christ, then there is no salvation. Definite atonement does not save us, just as faith does not save us. Jesus Christ, who provided a definite atonement, saves us through faith. “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Tim. 1:15)—not a definite (or indefinite) atonement.

9. Definite atonement is wonderfully displayed in the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

In the word that accompanies the two sacraments of the Christian church, two words highlight the truth of definite atonement.

French Reformed Baptismal Liturgy—

For you, little child,
Jesus Christ has come, he has fought, he has suffered.
For you he entered the shadow of Gethsemane and the horror of Calvary.
For you he uttered the cry, “It is finished!”
For you he rose from the dead
and ascended into heaven
and there he intercedes—
for you, little child, even though you do not know it.
But in this way the word of the Gospel becomes true.
“We love him, because he first loved us.”

The Lord’s Supper Liturgy—

“This is my body, which is given for you. This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood” (Luke 22:19–20).

10. Definite atonement is a beautiful doctrine because it spotlights the unity of Christ’s person and work.

Definite atonement displays the person of Christ performing his work in union with his people for the glory of his Father by the help of his Spirit. Definite atonement tells the story of the Warrior-Son who comes to earth to slay his enemy and rescue his Father’s people. Christ is the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep, a loving Bridegroom who gives himself for his bride, and a victorious King who lavishes the spoils of his conquest on the citizens of his realm. He is the Head who sacrifices himself for the body, the Master who dies for his friends, the Firstborn who gives himself for his brothers and sisters, the Last Adam who falls into a deep sleep and from his riven side, as with the first Adam, comes his bride.

Why would you not want to believe the doctrine of definite atonement?

Jonathan Gibson (PhD, Cambridge University) is associate minister at Cambridge Presbyterian Church and assistant professor of Old Testament at Westminster Theological Seminary. He is the author of historical and biblical articles in Themelios and Journal of Biblical Literature and regularly speaks at conferences in Australia and South Africa. Jonathan and his wife, Jackie, have two children.

by Crossway at September 05, 2016 03:47 PM

Dave Furman's Story: Finding Help in Suffering

A Challenge We All Face

Everyone has friends or family who suffer from sickness, disability, depression, or the death of a loved one. Oftentimes, the people who love the hurting also struggle in their own unique ways. They tend to suffer in silence and without much support from others.

Dave and Gloria Furman understand, from personal daily experience, the challenging dynamics that attend serving others who are hurting. In this video, Dave Furman, author of Being There: How to Love Those Who Are Hurting, shares his story of debilitating need, resilient care, and finding the help that only God can supply.

by Crossway at September 05, 2016 03:22 PM

September: Another 12 Months

Instead of running RSS sponsorships this month, I’m raising money in support of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital as part of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Click here to learn more and donate.

I can’t believe it’s only been a year since the last time September rolled around, but that’s what time does when you’re a parent. It speeds up, leaving you behind if you aren’t careful.

It’s worse when you have a child with a catastrophic disease. When I scroll back through photos of our oldest son, so many of them are tinted by his experience.

He wasn’t diagnosed until he was six months old, but I search his newborn photos for signs of the earliest indications that something was wrong. Most of the photos of him under the age of three are taken in a hospital or show his old feeding tube. His scars were visible until his hair grew in.

J in August 2009

I love this photo of my wife Merri, Josiah and our friend Levi. I wish it was taken in our living room or in a park, but that’s not the hand we were dealt.

Here’s the thing. I can look at my photo library and feel angry and sad, but a lot of parents we have known don’t get to have almost eight years of photos of their children.

As good as St. Jude is, cancer still claims young lives every day. It’s is a stain on our humanity, but it’s one we can rid ourselves of.

No child should die in the dawn of life. Every family should have decades of intact family photos. Donate now.

by Stephen at September 05, 2016 03:00 PM

Bible Rebinding Specialists

I personally own three Bibles that I have had rebound, two by Diego Caloca in California and one by Leonard’s in Indiana. I’m increasingly asked about this subject and thought it would be good to provide a list of Bible rebinding specialists. By providing this list, I am not personally endorsing all their work. As mentioned I have only used Deigo Caloca and Leonard’s, and were pleased with their work. That said, I know of other pastors and Christians who have used some of these other companies and have been pleased with their work as well.

The two companies I have used:
Caloca Bible Rebinds – and
Leonard’s Books – and
McSpadden Book Binding-

by Brett at September 05, 2016 02:47 PM

John C. Wright's Journal

The Book of Gold

Indulge me a moment, and let me explain my notion of how art works.

I have written on the topic before, but it bears repeating.

Art is a miracle. It comes from heaven. It cannot have been evolved, because it serves no possible evolutionary function. Selfish genes do not care about symphonies.

Art is an oasis in the dry, sucking wasteland of our miserable lives of hard work, thankless toil, endless failure and disappointment; or a solid rock in the quaking quicksand, drench, and muck of the bog of degrading and sensuous pleasures.

Art is a cool drink of clear wine that frees the mind and grants wings to the imagination and reminds us of our true home, which is beyond the fields we know, beyond the walls of this world.

Art unclogs the ears to let us hear the silver horns of elfland blowing, so that we know this life is not all there is. Science fiction reminds is that the future beckons; fantasy reminds us of the one, true magic of life beyond the curse called death.

I do not write for everyone, or even for most people. I write for the few, or the two, or the one, who needs the particular vintage born of my vineyard and mine alone.

Other readers do not concern me, and I could not make them my concern even if I would. My wine would choke them like gall and wormwood.

Heaven arranges that the one reader who needs me will find me. For him I write, not for you, or for any others.

If readers aside from that one grant me the gracious gift of reading and enjoying my work, that is an extra blessing, and unexpected. They do not need me, any more than a king needs a clown, but if my pratfalls and japes ease the burden of the crown, the royal hand can toss me a small coin. But I do not really write for them either. To them, my book is not the Book of Gold. It just helps their Majesties to pass an idle hour. No shame in that, but there is also nothing more than that in this case.

There is many a man whose tastes I cannot sate and whose writer I will never be.

To him I say, go your way in peace with my blessings: Somewhere is your writer. I am not he.

Your writer has penned somewhere your book which is the one you need that one sad and dreary day when you have forgotten the color of your own soul, and need refreshment, a festive glass, a moment out of time to hold a toast aloft and see the bubbles sparkle.

Go find your favorite book. Heaven has set it aside for you, somewhere, waiting, a book of dreams as bright as diamonds, a trove of treasure.

It will be the best thing you ever read and it will live in your heart forever.

But I cannot write for your tastes even if I had the desire. I am not meant for it. Go your way to yours; leave me to mine.

So I would say to a reader I cannot please. I bear him no illwill, nor should he bear me, even if he overhears the plaudits, no doubt undeserved, he hears me awarded.

If I did not believe in Heaven, I could not believe in true love between men and women, nor in the Book of Gold each reader is specially meant to find. I would be forced to think that this sad and cruel world is the sole world and the whole story: a story told by an idiot and a sadist. I would be forced to conclude that every other man’s happiness diminished mine, and that each victory of his was like the greed of a starving sailor on a lifeboat quarreling over who should eat the last morsel of the cabin boy. In that world, resentment would be the proper response to another man’s good fortune, and envy the proper reaction to his triumph.

To be sure, there are some atheists who do not believe in Heaven, and somehow avoid the sour bog of resentment or the hot hell of envy. Such stature is heroic, because they overcome their animal nature without believing any higher nature exists.

Such magnanimous largeness of soul and largess of heart grows rare and rarer these days. The noble atheists are gone, and the dignified pagans who practice the stoic resignation of their warrior-ancestors. The lamps are dying one by one.

Ah! The thought brings gloom. I think I will go read a book for an hour, and dwell there, and peer out through the crack in the dungeon wall to a brighter world beyond.

by John C Wright at September 05, 2016 08:38 AM daily

Maybe It Just Makes Me Crankier

Well that was a weird summer. (On multiple levels.)

· · ·

Whether social media isolation can actually ameliorate the negative impact of social media is still an open question for me, despite a few months of evidence. It’s hard to evaluate when your test subject is yourself and there are large uncontrolled variables.

September 05, 2016 08:00 AM

John C. Wright's Journal

Zaklog’s Invite to a Discussion

A regular reader asked me to pass along this announcement and invitation:

I am seriously considering starting an online book discussion group specifically to talk about Aristotle’s Rhetoric. I chose the subject because Vox Day seems to consider it of great importance, and because I tried reading it on my own and was not very successful. I figured having a number of people to talk it out with would make the book more tractable.

My current plan is to host this subject as a series of Disqus forums, getting through a certain number of pages per week (roughly, varying with chapter divisions). First off, I have never managed a project like this before, so if anyone has suggestions, I am all ears. (This includes suggestions for other venues. I am not firmly committed to Disqus; it’s just the first idea I had.) Second, I invite any regular commenters here to join in. If our host does not mind, I will post links to the discussions as they open up.

If you are interested, I must warn you, I first broached this idea on Vox Day’s blog and I plan on inviting his readers as well. They are . . . not quite as polite over there as is the custom here. While I do intend to do the necessary duties of moderating, I’m not especially interested in making everyone play nice. It is likely to be rough and tumble and you (and I) will almost certainly be offended from time to time.

That said, the invitation is open and I am open for advice.

by John C Wright at September 05, 2016 07:38 AM

The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

How We Participate in God’s Own Work

Article by: Joe Carter

“This is what I have observed to be good,” the Preacher says, “that it is appropriate for a person to eat, to drink and to find satisfaction in their toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given them—for this is their lot” (Ecclesiastes 5:18 [NIV]).

“Toilsome labor” is work that is incessant, extremely hard, or exhausting. That doesn’t sound all that appealing, does it? So why does the Preacher say such labor is good? Because, he adds, “to accept their lot and be happy in their toil—this is a gift of God. They seldom reflect on the days of their life, because God keeps them occupied with gladness of heart” (v. 20).

One of the reasons we can be “happy in our toil” and do so with “gladness of heart” is by recognizing that through our labors we are participating in God’s own work. As Amy L. Sherman writes in Kingdom Calling: Vocational Stewardship for the Common Good,

Work is not evil, nor is it a side effect of sin. This truth can be hard for congregants to trust when they are frustrated in their jobs or unfulfilled in their careers. It’s certainly true that the curse of Genesis 3 brought toil and futility into work. Ever since, our experience of work involves pain as well as pleasure. But work itself is good. It has intrinsic value.

Our labor has intrinsic value both because, as Sherman adds, we are “made in the image of God, and God is a worker.” 

Working Like God, Working With God

Because we are made in his image, God uses our labors to serve the needs of our neighbors. In fact, for most of us, the labor we are engage in during for our jobs is the primary way in which we serve our neighbors. God should therefore be, as Robert Banks says, our “vocational model.”  In his book Faith Goes to Work: Reflections from the Marketplace, Banks describes the various sorts of work God does and how through our own vocations we can imitate God’s work:

Redemptive work (God’s saving and reconciling actions) — This is work we often associate with ministry (pastors, evangelists, counselors, and so on), though it can also include occupations such as artists, writers, songwriters, or others who incorporate redemptive elements in their creative productions.

Creative work (God’s fashioning of the physical and human world) — “While only God can create something out of nothing,” Art Lindsey says, “we can create something from something—and are called to this creative task.” “Sub-creators” was the favorite term of J. R. R. Tolkien and Francis Schaeffer to describe this type of work. But other scholars, Lindsey notes, use the term “co-creators,” indicating that we participate with God in creative acts. Such workers include artists of various types (musicians, poets, sculptors, etc.), craftspeople (carpenters, weavers, metalworkers, etc.) and those who design (architects, fashion designers, urban planners, etc.).

Providential work (God’s provision for and sustaining of humans and the creation) — “The work of divine providence includes all that God does to maintain the universe and human life in an orderly and beneficial fashion,” Banks says. “This includes conserving, sustaining, and replenishing, in addition to creating and redeeming the world.” Almost any job that creates or maintains order can fall into this category. Creating and maintaining order is a role under many spheres, such as government (politicians, public utility workers, city clerks), public safety (firefighters and police officers), environmental (janitors, cleaners, garbage collectors), economic (statisticians, economists, supermarket clerks), and many more.

Justice work (God’s maintenance of justice) — Judges, lawyers, paralegals, government regulators, legal secretaries, city managers, prison wardens and guards, diplomats, and law enforcement personnel participate in God’s work of maintaining justice.

Compassionate work (God’s involvement in comforting, healing, guiding, and shepherding) — Roles that reflect this aspect of God’s labor include doctors, nurses, paramedics, psychologists, therapists, social workers, pharmacists, community workers, nonprofit directors, emergency medical technicians, counselors, etc.

Revelatory work (God’s work to enlighten with truth) — Teachers, scientists, journalists, scholars, and most writers are all involved in this type of labor.

A key step in being “happy in our toil” is to recognize which vocation model our work most reflects—and recognizing that such work has value. Which category does your own job fall into? How does knowing where you fit in help you to appreciate your role in serving the kingdom? On this Labor Day take some time to reflect on how God uses your work to imitate his own.

Editors’ note: This article is adapted from Joe Carter’s new work, the NIV Lifehacks Bible: Practical Tools for Successful Spiritual Habits (Zondervan, 2016). 

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 September 05, 2016 06:06 AM

L.M. Sacasas

The Consolations of a Technologically Re-enchanted World

Navneet Alang writes about digital culture with a rare combination of insight and eloquence. In a characteristically humane meditation on the perennial longings expressed by our use of social media and digital devices, Alang recounts a brief exchange he found himself having with Alexa, the AI assistant that accompanies Amazon Echo.

Alang had asked Alexa about the weather while he was traveling in an unfamiliar city. Alexa alerted him of the forecasted rain, and, without knowing why exactly, Alang thanked the device. “No problem,” Alexa replied.

It was Alang’s subsequent reflection on that exchange that I found especially interesting:

In retrospect, I had what was a very strange reaction: a little jolt of pleasure. Perhaps it was because I had mostly spent those two weeks alone, but Alexa’s response was close enough to the outline of human communication to elicit a feeling of relief in me. For a moment, I felt a little less lonely.

From there, Alang considers apps which allow users to anonymously publish their secrets to the world or to the void–who can tell–and little-used social media sites on which users compose surprisingly revealing messages seemingly directed at no one in particular. A reminder that, as Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig has noted, “Confession, once rooted in religious practice, has assumed a secular importance that can be difficult to describe.”

Part of what makes the effort to understand technology so fascinating and challenging is that we are not, finally, trying to understand discreet artifacts or even expansive systems; what we are really trying to understand is the human condition, alternatively and sometimes simultaneously expressed, constituted, and frustrated by our use of all that we call technology.

As Alang notes near the end of his essay, “what digital technologies do best, to our benefit and detriment, is to act as a canvas for our desires.” And, in his discussion, social media and confessional apps express “a wish to be seen, to be heard, to be apprehended as nothing less than who we imagine ourselves to be.” In the most striking paragraph of the piece, Alang expands on this point:

“Perhaps, then, that Instagram shot or confessional tweet isn’t always meant to evoke some mythical, pretend version of ourselves, but instead seeks to invoke the imagined perfect audience—the non-existent people who will see us exactly as we want to be seen. We are not curating an ideal self, but rather, an ideal Other, a fantasy in which our struggle to become ourselves is met with the utmost empathy.”

This strikes me as being rather near the mark. We might also consider the possibility that we seek this ideal Other precisely so that we might receive back from it a more coherent version of ourselves. The empathetic Other who comes to know me may then tell me what I need to know about myself. A trajectory begins to come into focus taking up both the confessional booth and the therapist’s office. Perhaps this presses the point too far, I don’t know. It is, in any case, a promise implicit in the rhetoric of Big Data, that it is the Other that knows us better than we know ourselves. If, to borrow St. Augustine’s formulation, we have become a question to ourselves, then the purveyors of Big Data proffer to us the answer.

It also strikes me that the yearning Alang describes, in another era, would have been understood chiefly as a deeply religious longing. We may see it as fantasy, or, as C.S. Lewis once put it, we may see it as “the truest index of our real situation.”

Interestingly, the paragraph from which that line is taken may bring us back to where we started: with Alang deriving a “little jolt of pleasure” from his exchange with Alexa. `Here is the rest of it:

“Apparently, then, our lifelong nostalgia, our longing to be reunited with something in the universe from which we now feel cut off, to be on the inside of some door which we have always seen from the outside, is no mere neurotic fancy, but the truest index of our real situation.”

For some time now, I’ve entertained the idea that the combination of technologies that promises to animate our mute and unresponsive material environment–think Internet of Things, autonomous machines, augmented reality, AI–entice us with a re-enchanted world: the human-built world, technologically enchanted. Which is to say a material world that flatters us by appearing to be responsive to our wishes and desires, even speaking to us when spoken to–in short, noting us and thereby marginally assuaging the loneliness for which our social media posts are just another sort of therapy.

by Michael Sacasas at September 05, 2016 02:33 AM

John C. Wright's Journal

The Voice of the Dragon

I was very pleasantly surprised today when I got a phone call out of the blue congratulating me. I did not at first guess for what I was being congratulated, because I am an absent minded genius.

You see, just last night I put the finishing touches on DAUGHTER OF DANGER, the fourth volume in my MOTH AND COBWEB series. Volumes two and three are already on the editor’s desk, and should be published this year.

It is always nice to finish another novel. I started writing this one in June, and it took me ninety whole days to finish, including the week off I took for family vacation. Now I am eager to return to work on NOWHITHER.

But that was not what she was congratulating me on….

The Dragon Awards were given out today. Guess who won for best science fiction novel? Yup, it surprised me, too.

Somewhither cover RC8


This makes me the Frank Herbert of the Dragon. If you recall, he won the first ever Nebula award for best SF novel.


Congrats to Brian Niemeier! SOULDANCER was edited by my own lovely and talented wife, so I was personally rooting for this book.


Congrats to Nick Cole! The Social Justice Police beat him senseless and left him for dead, and I found him by the roadside, and poured oil and wine into his wounds and carried him on my back to the innkeeper.

Actually, all I did was give him a kind word of encouragement which cost me nothing, but he seems to think it helped.

Special congratulations go out to Larry Correia: SON OF THE BLACK SWORD really deserved to win. I am glad the voters made the mistake of putting SOMEWHITHER into the science fiction category, because I would have been creamed in the fantasy category.


If and when they make Sad Puppies into a movie, the first scene will be Larry Correia being spurned and scorned by the Dursleys from HARRY POTTER and the Morlocks from the TIME MACHINE and all the villains from Ayn Rand and Charles Dickens put together. They will insult him due to his politics, lie and say it is not due to his politics, lie and call Brad Togersen a racist (even though he is married to a black woman) lie and have their lies repeated in the press, and lie, and lie and lie.

And this, this will be the last scene. Sarah Hoyt, dressed as Princess Leia, will give Larry a medal, and Tom Kratman, dressed as a wookie, will roar, the space soldiers will all salute, and the John William’s music will soar into a triumphant crescendo of horns and drums.

Now, I realize that Mr. Damian Walter of the Guardian magazine of the failed state once known as England, soon to be called Dhimmistan, whose vast hands-on experience at writing includes him taking the Crown’s pence in return for a promise to write a manuscript, a promise that he defaulted and a patron that he defrauded, will regard this win as illegitimate, on the grounds that a small cabal of politically-connected insiders are not controlling this award, as they now control the Hugo. Unfortunately for him, the insiders have terrible tastes in books.

The fans have spoken, and they have spoken with the voice of a dragon.

Did I mention that I wrote a novel in three months, whereas Mr Walter has been working on his unfinished masterwork for year after year. I urge him not to give up hope: even Sarah eventually bore Isaac! But if I were Sarah, and barren, I would not laugh at Priam and his fifty sons, at least not until after I have given birth to one child once. You can have your handmaiden do it for you, if you cannot do it alone. That cannot turn out badly!

Below are the winners. I salute them, and give them warmest congratulations. I will even extend my congratulations to Neil Gaiman, even though he spat on me and mine during the Hugo Awards in an remarkably graceless, rude and stupid comment, after I and many of my side voted for him. He prefers to avoid the patronage of those the Brahmans decree untouchable, so be it. I can love the work’s virtue and hate the man’s flaws.

I salute Chuck Gannon, who I actually thought would win in his category. I am honored to have been measured against so skilled a writer, and not to have been found wanting.

I also now know what else to put into my large to-be-read pile.

The 2016 Dragon Award winners:

Best Science Fiction Novel
Somewhither: A Tale of the Unwithering Realm, John C. Wright (Castalia House)

Best Fantasy Novel
Son of the Black Sword, Larry Correia (Baen)

Best Young Adult / Middle Grade Novel
The Shepherd’s Crown, Terry Pratchett (Harper)

Best Military Science Fiction or Fantasy Novel
Hell’s Foundations Quiver, David Weber (Tor)

Best Alternate History Novel
League of Dragons, Naomi Novik (Del Rey)

Best Apocalyptic Novel
Ctrl Alt Revolt!, Nick Cole (Castalia House)

Best Horror Novel
Souldancer, Brian Niemeier (Self-published)

Best Comic Book
Ms. Marvel

Best Graphic Novel
The Sandman: Overture, Neil Gaiman & J.H. Williams III (Vertigo)

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy TV Series
Game of Thrones

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Movie
The Martian

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy PC / Console Game
Fallout 4 by Bethesda Softworks

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Mobile Game
Fallout Shelter by Bethesda Softworks

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Board Game
Pandemic: Legacy by ZMan Games

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Miniatures / Collectible Card / Role-Playing Game
Call of Cthulhu Roleplaying Game (7th Edition) by Chaosium Inc.

by John C Wright at September 05, 2016 01:04 AM

September 04, 2016

Holiday hours for September 5, 2016

All regular classes will be cancelled for the September 5 holiday. There will be a team workout at 11 a.m. Please sign up here as you normally would. The workout is set for two hours, but you will not be working out for two hours. Come on out and make some new friends!

by Mike at September 04, 2016 06:09 PM

Doc Searls Weblog

Apple is a clothing company

applebutton1The headline above came to me this morning after reading Walt Mossberg’s latest, titled The post-Jobs Apple has soared financially, but lacks a breakthrough product.

Because the main things Apple makes are extensions of ourselves. That’s what our phones and laptops have become. They are things we almost wear, like our clothing.

Is it just coincidental that Apple Stores inhabit shopping districts also populated by upscale clothing retailers? Or that Angela Ahrendts, who runs those stores, came to the company from Burberry? Or that its Watch, sold as what the fashion business calls an accessory, clearly matters far more to the company than what we used to call “peripherals” (screens, printers, drives, etc.) and that Apple hardly seems to care at all about the latter?

And is it coincidental that Apple has lately clarified how it differs from nearly every other tech company by caring almost absolutely about personal privacy?

Apple’s Jobsian obsession with design (and, one might say, fashion), while interesting, also misdirects attention away from the company’s deeper focus on enlarging its customers’ capacities in the world.

Dig this: Apple cares so much about the bodies using its products that Tim Cook recently said this to Rick Tetzeli of FastCompany: “When you look at most of the solutions, whether it’s devices, or things coming up out of Big Pharma, first and foremost, they are done to get the reimbursement [from an insurance provider]. Not thinking about what helps the patient. So if you don’t care about reimbursement, which we have the privilege of doing, that may even make the smartphone market look small.”

With all that in mind, it’s easy to understand why Apple’s product lineup looks stale. Shirts, skirts and hats are stale too. They’ve also been around for thousands of years, and we’ll never stop wearing them.

It took me a long time to come to this realization. Here’s what I wrote in Apple Rot, a post here in January 2013, and repeated in Proof that Steve Jobs is dead, posted May 2014:

…look at what Apple’s got:

  • The iPhone 5 is a stretched iPhone 4s, which is an iPhone 4 with sprinkles. The 4 came out almost 3 years ago. No Androids are as slick as the iPhone, but dozens of them have appealing features the iPhone lacks. And they come from lots of different companies, rather than just one.

  • The only things new about the iPad are the retina screen (amazing, but no longer unique) and the Mini, which should have come out years earlier and lacks a retina screen.

  • Apple’s computer line is a study in incrementalism. There is little new to the laptops or desktops other than looks — and subtracted features. (And models, such as the 17″ Macbook Pro.) That goes for the OS as well.

  • There is nothing exciting on the horizon other than the hazy mirage of a new Apple TV. And even if that arrives, nothing says “old” more than those two letters: TV.

Since then Apple has come out with the Watch (points for originality with that one), introduced the hardly-seen (but cool-looking) Mac Pro (now also very stale), killed its Thunderbolt display, held its Time Capsule to a paltry (and damn near useless) 3Tb, done little to improve its AirPort Wi-Fi base stations — and has iterated its desktops and laptops so minimally that you can get along for years without a new one. Kinda like a good pair of jeans.

So maybe all that matters for Apple is that it accessorizes its customers better than everybody else.

You can hear a hint toward that from Tim Cook in this recent FastCompany report: “Our strategy is to help you in every part of your life that we can…whether you’re sitting in the living room, on your desktop, on your phone, or in your car.”

Here’s betting Apple’s announcement on Wednesday will be all about stuff meant to be a part of you. And not much that sounds like the rest of the personal computer business. (Which, we might remember, Steve Jobs pretty much invented.)










by Doc Searls at September 04, 2016 05:22 PM

Workout: September 4, 2016

Run 600m 12 back rack lunges (135/95lb.) 12 back rack step-ups (135/95lb.) 24 push-ups Run 400m 12  front rack lunges (95/65lb.) 12 front rack step-ups (95/65lb.) 24 push-ups Run 200m 48 burpee box jump-overs (24/20 in.)

by Crystal at September 04, 2016 12:36 AM

September 03, 2016

Greg Mankiw's Blog

Where I have been eating

For readers in the Boston area, here is a restaurant recommendation: Tiger Mama.  Fun, Southeast Asian-inspired food from Chef Tiffani Faison. In the Fenway area of the city.

by Greg Mankiw ( at September 03, 2016 08:18 PM

John C. Wright's Journal

Policy Question for the Readers

Gentle readers, hitherto, my policy was never to ban anyone who did not break one of my rules, printed clearly for all to see in the side column of this page.

However, I notice that there are now four men making frequent comments here whose comments I have no desire to read and no desire to answer. My eyes glaze over.

The frequency and size of these remarks seems large enough that there is now some danger of regular readers growing bored, or made to feel unwelcome, by the comments of these worthless and unreadable remarks.The internet version of Gresham’s Law threatens to be at work here: bad comments driving out the good.

All of them are men I have openly but politely not to make any further comments here, and whom I told were not welcome. I consider them pests.

They are Chris Gerrib, Camestros Felapton, Steve Schwartz, and the dishonest yet indefatigable meatpuppet Dr. Andreassen.

I do not put 1RW into this category. He seems to be sincerely trying to have a conversation on a topic of mutual interest, even though his bad habits of sneering and changing the subject make that more annoying that it need be. He is not a pest.

I would like to poll the readership and hear your reactions. Should I grant myself the authority to ban a commenter, after due warning, because and merely because I find him a pest? Such a rule would be subjective.

If the regular readers find their comments entertaining or interesting rather than foolish, hostile, and annoying, I will not grant myself this authority.

I am debating the matter in my mind, because I do not wish my sense of honor and propriety to be abused by men with no such scruples. And I do not wish my regular guests to be annoyed or discomforted by trolls and yammerheads and pests.

What do you say?

UPDATE and RESULTS: While many readers responded to the question by waxing philosophical about the First Amendment or the private property rights of blog owners, or expressed opinions about such matters as my reputation for fairmindedness and how to maintain it, only two readers actually answered the question I asked, which was whether these four men bored you or pestered you to the point of making you feel unwelcome here.

One voted aye, and one voted nay.

All the other comments, while I appreciate that readers took the time to voice opinions, I interpret to be abstentions.

Since, to my surprise, two of the pests voluntarily absented themselves, and since I know full well that talk about materialism invites reply from Dr Andreassen ergo in his case the legal doctrine of ‘coming to the nuisance’ applies, that leaves only one pest who is remarkably infrequent in his unsightly verbal litter being left on my metaphorical lawn.

I interpret the oracle of the replies to mean that readers are not bored or offended or bothered in numbers enough to make any change in policy needed at this time.

by John C Wright at September 03, 2016 06:46 PM

Aaron M. Renn

What the Blues Brothers and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off Tell Us About Gentrification

Aretha Franklin singing in a diner in The Blues Brothers. Image via City Journal

Aretha Franklin singing in a diner in The Blues Brothers. Image via City Journal

The Blues Brothers and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off are two of the seminal films set in Chicago. Indeed, Chicago itself is a character in both films.

The films are radically different even though released only six years apart. There are many ways to slice this. Some have said that one is the South Side movie (The Blues Brothers) and the other the North Side movie (Ferris Bueller). Some see one as more urban, one more suburban.

One other way to look at it is to see how the films portray an urban transition in progress. The Blues Brothers is a look backward at a fading industrial, working class metropolis.  Ferris Bueller looks forward to an upscale, gentrified city.

I explore the parallels and contrasts in my new article in the Summer issue of City Journal, “Gentrification on the Big Screen“:

Florida might regard some of Ferris Bueller’s traditional settings for diversion—the Art Institute and Chez Quis, a fictional fancy French restaurant—as stodgy relics from the city’s older, pre–knowledge economy era. But the scene in which Ferris bluffs his way into Chez Quis for lunch, claiming to be Abe Froman, “Sausage King of Chicago,” is perhaps the most revealing one in the film—and it marks another contrast with The Blues Brothers, in which a French restaurant also figures prominently. In the earlier movie, when Jake and Elwood show up at the legendary Chez Paul, they behave boorishly on purpose, to compel a former bandmate now working a legit job as the maître d’ to quit and rejoin them. By contrast, when Ferris and friends crash Chez Quis, they foreshadow a changing of the social guard. The hip young friends are destined to become Chicago’s new proprietors. They will soon be remolding the city, and its restaurants, in their own image. Chez Paul closed in 1995. Today, the city’s highest-end restaurants—like Alinea, a sleek, uber-hip purveyor of innovative cuisine—represent the culmination of this transition. A 48-year-old Ferris might well be eating at Alinea today.

Watching these films today, viewers under the age of, say, 45 would be struck by how alien Jake and Elwood’s Chicago seems and how familiar Ferris’s Chicago has become. The vibrant working-class culture, tough old nuns, SROs, and Maxwell Street Market of The Blues Brothers have all either disappeared or survive only as shadows of what they once were. With a bit of cultural updating to cars, hairstyles, fashion, music, and phones, however,Ferris Bueller’s Day Off could be remade today, virtually shot for shot. Modern proto-hipsters might well still skip school to visit Wrigley Field, the lakefront, the Sears Tower Skydeck, or the Art Institute. Three decades after Ferris Bueller played hooky from the suburbs, the triumph of the gentrified city is complete.

Click through to read the whole thing.

by Aaron M. Renn at September 03, 2016 05:41 PM

John C. Wright's Journal

From the Pen of Moshe Feder

Moshe Feder was my editor, and my wife’s editor, who decided to libel and campaign against me during the Sad Puppies Hugo kerfuffle. Here he comes to a startling realization, and, even more startling, he is willing to admit it. I am deeply impressed and pleasantly surprised. This sounds like something a professional would say, not a partisan.

He writes this:

I heard nothing about this at the con and I’m upset to hear about it now.

Lise has been preaching to me for some time about the growing threat to free thought and free speech from the left — our own side! — as she saw it tragically happening at Wiscon, once one of the best cons in the country and a shining example of fannish progressivism. Not only was she right, but now it appears the blight has spread to Worldcon.

Extracted from the comment thread of Darrell’s post, the following sums up my position on this matter:

“This is VERY disturbing. Speech suppression from the left is just as wrong as any other kind and utterly in conflict with the ideals and traditions of fandom.

“Worldcon should never be in the position of enforcing political correctness. The Ministry of Truth belongs in Orwell’s great SF novel, not in SF’s fandom. Thought-crime has no place in a democratic society, let alone in fandom’s benevolent anarchy. SF/Fantasy are about the limitless universe of imagination, not the setting of arbitrary limits.

“I don’t know Truesdale [though we are FB friends] and have no idea of his interests or agenda. I don’t even know what that panel was about. It doesn’t matter. His rights need to be supported and Mac 2’s action condemned. Anything else is an admission that the Puppies were right about us.”

Unless the true reason for the ejection was something else and better justified, I will be very disappointed if the con doesn’t offer Truesdale, and fandom as a whole, a very public and abject apology for such an ill-advised, egregious, and shameful action.

Sadly, the majority of the reactions here to this post and in similar discussions elsewhere appears to demonstrate that the Puppies were right about us in this respect. I find that horrifying.

My Comment: Mr. Feder, if you recall, was one of the ringleaders of the puppy-kickers.

Mr. Feder was one of the less honest and more vituperative of the puppy-kickers. He was willing to pull out and play the anti-Semite card against me, even though I am an ardent philosemite and married to a Jewess (and my boss is a Jewish carpenter) on the grounds that I said Leftwing editors promote books preaching sodomy, licentiousness, anticlericalism, divorce, aborticide, and endless libels against the Church.

I called such Leftists Christ-Haters, and Mr. Feder claimed this was the Medieval Blood Libel, which is the libel that Jews killed Christian children and used their blood in diabolical rituals. He claimed that the phrase ‘Christ-hater’ was a dog whistle which somehow his ears could hear but mine could not, that I was signalling a hatred of Jews.

Why it was that saying science fiction story awards should be given on the basis of the merit of the science fiction stories, rather than given on the basis of political correctness or political connections is somehow anti-Semitic is an elliptical derangement of the mental process so baroque that only a Leftist could either imagine it, or imagine agreeing with it.

One of the editors at Tor was behind buying memberships for and organizing non-science-fiction people to block-vote the No Award slate in order to stop me from getting the recognition the Hugo once represented. I believe it was he, but am not sure.

To see a Leftist admit wrong is more unusual than meeting a hippogriff. I do not believe I have ever seen it before in any context, anywhere, under any circumstances. The pressures set against a Leftist to avoid admitting wrong are immense: all their habits and beliefs, their customs and psychology, all militate against it.

For a Leftist to do this is a more heroic act than anything I can name. It is like seeing a legless man leap over the moon. It is like seeing a wave in mid-ocean blaze up in burning fire. I am more than impressed: I am awed.

Let us pray he does not back down and walk back the comment in days to come.

For the record, here are the remarks by Darrell Schweitzer to which Mr. Feder was referring, dated August 23 at 12:21am ·

I have now listened to the entire Truesdale-moderated panel from the Worldcon. I revise my opinion considerably. I heard NO cause for Dave Truesdale to be expelled or reprimanded in any way. I urge you all to listen to the whole thing. It begins a little roughly. He’s got an agenda. There is one angry exchange with someone in the audience, but Neil Clarke calls for that person to calm down. After that it settles down to a much more cordial discussion, even where the other panelists think Dave is wrong. He allows them to disagree with him. He asks them their opinions and encourages each panelist to speak. (I thought Sheila Williams and Jonathan Strahan were particularly articulate and interesting.) He actually does seem to follow the rule that the moderator should speak a little less (or at least not more) than any other panelist. If you only heard the first few minutes, you would think this was a trainwreck, but if you listen to the whole thing, you will discover that it settles down into a good panel. It ends with applause and people are chatting amiably. Dave jokes, “Since Gordon was late, he’s buying.” Laughter. The end. I have certainly been on panels that were far more contentious (or badly moderated) than this one.

So, where is the big disaster? Did everybody else hear a different panel? What redeems this is that while Dave starts with a tirade, he allows the other panelists to steer him back onto the subject and then the panel proceeds normally.

It is distressing that you can actually get thrown out of a worldcon for expressing an unpopular opinion. Are we only to allow bland agreement?


by John C Wright at September 03, 2016 04:48 PM

Market Urbanism

Market Urbanism MUsings September 2, 2016

Image posted to the facebook group by Christopher Young

Image posted to the Market Urbanism facebook group by Christopher Young


1. This week at Market Urbanism

Palo Alto: The Land of Too Many Jobs by Jeff Fong

The status quo isn’t defensible if you’re concerned with environmental degradation, inequality, poverty, slow growth, or even the decline of property rights. But, for tax protected homeowners, the status quo is exactly what they want and that’s reason enough for them to defend it. If Mayor Burt had simply called it like it is—that those in control of Palo Alto land use like the status quo, aren’t concerned with how it affects others, and will continue blocking incremental change—then we could have at least applauded his honesty.

When It Comes to Walkability, Mexico City Is Miles Ahead by Nolan Gray

Where in many U.S. cities open space is regulated into every single lot through floor area ratio regulations, Mexico City’s developments are dense and public space is efficiently relegated to the city’s ample parks and public spaces. This density and mixture of uses keeps sidewalks busy and safe at nearly all hours of the day.

The Answer to Expensive Housing: Build More by Sanford Ikeda

If you restrict the supply of housing, other things equal, what will happen to the price? That’s not a trick question. Any competent Econ 101 student would answer correctly that the price will rise.

Can Housing Quotas Affect Demand For Housing? by Chris Bradford

It’s a provocative argument. It turns the Econ 101 arguments upside down. Not surprisingly, it generated a fair amount of annoyed twitter chatter from market urbanists (including me) and sage head-nodding from those who believe new construction begets high home prices.

2. Where’s Scott?

Scott Beyer is halfway through the longest single drive of his trip, the 1,000 miles between Austin and Phoenix. He will be stopping in San Antonio, Del Rio, El Paso, Las Cruces, and many smaller towns, along with the Mexican border towns of Acuña and Juárez.

His three articles this week include one for Governing called San Antonio’s Key to Economic Success: Immigrants; and two for ForbesZoning: America’s Local Version Of Crony Capitalism and Why Is Austin’s Housing More Expensive Than Other Texas Cities?

One may intuit that Austin is so expensive because all these groups are fighting–along with the techies, the immigrants, the retirees, the state government workers, and so forth–to live in the same city. Perhaps there just isn’t enough housing to go around. But Dallas and Houston, just down the road, serve as the ultimate rebuttal to this sentiment.

3. At the Market Urbanism Facebook Group:

Nolan Gray was a guest on the Economics Detective Podcast to discuss Trailer Parks, Zoning, and Market Urbanism

Chris Bradford wrote Housing supply and land values

Anthony Ling is moving to the Bay Area and wants to connect with Market Urbanists

Roger Valdez wrote Cities Are Facing A Housing Terminology, Not Affordability, Crisis

Patrick Hall starts a conversation on the impacts of autonomous vehicles on urbanism

Anthony Ling is interested in SPUR events in the Bay Area. What do people recommend?

Chris Bradford wrote Where do Upzonings Happen?

Matt Robare wrote The Open Space Trap

Scott Beyer reports on his discussion with William Fischel on Scott’s recent article about strip malls

Christopher Young shared photos of “A taste of the NIMBY madness in Seattle.

Sanford Ikeda announces news of a Jane Jacobs documentary, “Citizen Jane,” to be premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival next Friday. (Sandy was interviewed for it and may have made the final cut)

via Robert Stark: Suburbs and the Free Market (a 2006 critique of Joel Kotkin)

via Adam Lang: Philly Landlord with the most Blighted Houses? It’s the Philadelphia Housing Authority

via Sanford IkedaConstruction Unions Stymie Low-Income Housing Plans in California, New York

via Asher Meyers, “Is charging for parking better than congestion fees?”: Why other cities should copy Nottingham‘s revolutionary parking levy

via Krishan MadanChurch sues city of St. Cloud over tiny house

via Joe McKinneyGateway City: The Challenges Startup Societies will Face in America

via Sanford IkedaWatch as the world’s cities appear one-by-one over 6,000 years

via Asher Meyers: SF‘s scooter sharing service’s pricing is competitive

via Krishan MadanCity Attorney Sues Bayview Landlord Over Overcrowding Of Ex-Homeless Veterans

4. Elsewhere

 SF Examiner:  SF Sierra Club puts politics over the planet by Conor Johnston

Reason Magazine has a great write-up on how America’s two most Muslim cities–Dearborn and Hamtramck–are thriving amid Detroit’s decline. It’s only available in their most recent print issue.

WSJ: How Detroit can liberate its entrepreneurs

5. Stephen Smith‘s tweet of the week:

by Adam Hengels at September 03, 2016 03:57 PM


Why The Church Actually Needs Dogmatics

man-praying-in-churchSay whatever else you may about Karl Barth, the man was a fierce advocate for the indispensability of theology and dogmatics for the Church. For Barth, at the center of the Church’s work and being, it’s chief responsibility as the Church, is the call to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Dogmatics is the derivative discipline of critiquing (analyzing, correcting, maintaining) the proper proclamation of the Church against deviation, weakness, and heresy. In which case, yes, Dogmatics is secondary and derivative of the regular proclamation of the Church, but it is vital nonetheless.

Barth has a smashing bit in one of his small-print paragraphs (CD 1.1, 76-77) where he takes to task the idea that the work of theology and dogmatics can be put to one side as the Church goes about its business doing all the other “important” work it must accomplish:

How disastrously the Church must misunderstand itself if, on whatever pretexts, it can dream of being able to undertake and achieve anything serious in what are undoubtedly the important fields of liturgical reform or social work or Christian education or the ordering of its relation to state and society or ecumenical understanding, without at the same time doing what is necessary and possible with reference to the obvious centre of its life, as though it were self-evident, as though we could confidently count on it, that evangelium pure docetur et recte administrantur sacramenta! as though we could confidently leave this to God and in the meantime busy ourselves with the periphery of the Church circle, which has perhaps been rotating for long enough around a false centre! as though we could put ourselves in God’s hands without a care in the world for what happens at this decisive point!

It’s funny to read this paragraph written in 1932 now about eighty-five years later in 2016. Barth may as well have been writing about so much of the contemporary, North American church scene.

Oh yes, there are a great number of bright theological points on the horizon. I’ve had the privilege of spending my time around many of them (both as a member and on staff). All too often, though, we find churches, even whole denominations, who set about doing the “real” work that needs to be done—social programs, youth ministries, evangelistic crusades, political activism, and so forth (all good things!)—all the while simply assuming there is a theology in place to fund it (if even that).

He continues on:

Again, how disastrously the Church must misunderstand itself if it can imagine that theology is the business of a few theoreticians who are specially appointed for the purpose, to whom the rest, as hearty practical men, may sometimes listen with half an ear, though for their own part they boast of living “quite un-theologically” for the demands of the day (“love”). As though these practical men were not continually preaching and speaking and writing, and were not genuinely questioned as to the rightness of their activity in this regard! As though there were anything more practical than giving this question its head, which means doing the work of theology and dogmatics!

There’s a sort of pragmatic mindset that thinks of theology and dogmatics as the work of an educated few, so they don’t want to get caught up in all the fine logic-chopping and pouring over dusty tomes.

No, all too many of us are good Americans who simply want to roll up our sleeves to “get things done”—even if that means not stopping to consider whether the thing possibly should or shouldn’t be done. Or whether it’s being done under a false premise. Whether our attempts to “further the kingdom” rest on a faulty notion of the kingdom (or, Lord forbid, of the King himself). Or whether our attempts to unify the Church rest on an un-biblical notion of unity. Or whether the “tone” we have taken in our proclamation to reach our neighbors has actually falsified the actual content of the Gospel in our rush to be relevant.

Barth says that those who take this attitude are dangerously fooling themselves on this score.

Again, how disastrously the Church must misunderstand itself if it can imagine that theological reflection is a matter for quiet situations and periods that suit and invite contemplation, a kind of peace-time luxury for which we are not only permitted but even commanded to find not time should things become really serious and exciting! As though there could be any more urgent task for a Church under assault from without than that of consolidating itself within, which means doing theological work! As though the venture of proclamation did not mean that the Church permanently finds itself in an emergency! As though theology could be done properly without reference to this constant emergency!

What’s interesting here is the way Barth takes the regular rhetoric of urgency and turns it on its head. Regularly you might hear someone contend that we don’t have time to putter around arguing over the finer points of doctrine when the war is on. When there’s a global crisis of terror and refugees and economic disaster. Or when our kids are walking away in droves, disaffected and disillusioned. When there’s racial strife. When our churches and denominations are shrinking year by year.

Who has time for theology when we have to do something?!

But that’s precisely the point: it is precisely in the heart of crisis that the Church needs dogmatics. If proclamation is truly at the heart of the Church’s responsibility, if it’s the gospel of Jesus Christ that funds, fuels, and forms all of our work in all of the great movements that threaten to overwhelm and assail the Church, then it is precisely in the midst of the storm of battle that we need dogmatics most.

How can we do without a proper theology of atonement and reconciliation if we’re to set about the great work of proclaiming and practicing the gospel of peace in nation torn by racial strife? What else do we need but a proper theology of the church if we’re going to set about reordering our worship and Christian education to address the exodus of our youth? Why do we think we can ignore the question of eschatology when we go about our work “for the kingdom” in the broader social order?

Barth closes this paragraph with a sober judgment:

Let there be no mistake. Because of these distorted ideas about theology, and dogmatics in particular, there arises and persists in the life of the Church a lasting and growing deficit for which we cannot expect those particularly active in this function to supply the needed balance. The whole church must seriously want a serious theology if it is to have a serious theology.

If there is to be a corrective in the Church in this area, yes, it will be a matter of the preachers and teachers being more broadly awakened to the need to pay attention (and even participate) in serious (though not necessarily academic) theological spadework. But it will also need to be a matter of churches as a whole—elders, deacons, members—seriously desiring and calling for it.

This will only happen, of course, by the grace of God. And for this we must pray.

Soli Deo Gloria

by Derek Rishmawy at September 03, 2016 03:55 PM

Zippy Catholic

Antigravity jack boots

Normal, well adjusted people are trapped by the way liberalism structures our political reality.

Normal people

If we attempt to take the demand that the exercise of political authority is justified by pursuit of liberty[1] too seriously we end up raving anarchists in a padded cell.  At the same time, when reality’s failure to conform to liberal expectations becomes acute there is an inexorable tendency to read whole populations of people out of the human race: to try to re-create the green swath of livable community but make it just for white people, just for 99-percenter workers, just for horny consenting adults, or what have you.  Everyone else becomes less than human.

The options of becoming a raving anarchist, stalinist, or nazi are understandably unappealing to well adjusted people.  Despite their loyalty to political liberalism — and the hidden mass violence concomitant to that loyalty — normal people aren’t usually enthusiastic about mass internment camps, mass deportations of political undesirables, gulags, concentration camps, industrial scale murder of the inconvenient, and the like. If the only escape from the gravity well is to put on antigravity jack boots and start firing up the ovens and cutting off the food supply of undesirables, it is going to take some seriously violent confrontations with reality to get ordinary well adjusted people to sign up.  This certainly can happen; but when the only way folks can perceive to prevent it is to double down on liberal principles there will be significant numbers of people who prefer that approach.  Normal people don’t want to become sociopaths, and will resist anything that seems to box them into becoming sociopaths.

I’ll leave it to folks to make up their own minds how this is playing out in contemporary politics. But if things get really ugly in the coming decades, don’t say I didn’t warn you.  By the nature of things, as the gravitational force of liberalism compresses our reality ever tighter we get closer to both the sodomy singularity and the Final Solution at the same time. It isn’t that we move in one direction or the other as much as that the black hole continues to compress all of the human matter inside the event horizon into an ever more confined space.

A bleak picture, I know.  But I have also already mentioned the critical difference between political liberalism and gravity.  Political liberalism derives any force that it has from human commitment to it: from our belief in the justness of liberal principles or our willingness to invoke liberty, equal rights, and the like as justification for political acts. Any power liberalism has is power which we have willingly given over to it.

Unlike gravity, we aren’t stuck with the option of resisting liberalism in order to attempt escape from its pseudo-permissive honeypot trap.  We just have to stop empowering it.

Folks who claim that repentance is not a practical solution are themselves living an illusion; a very ironic illusion, a fantasy in which they role play as hard nosed realists.

In reality, repentance is the only solution; practical or otherwise.

[1] Or equality, or government by consent of the governed, or democratic values, or any of the various expressions of the same underlying incoherent principle.

by Zippy at September 03, 2016 03:49 PM

sacha chua :: living an awesome life

Weekly review: Week ending August 26, 2016

A- turned six months old, hooray! She weighed in at 6.026 kg, so she’s slowly catching up although she’s still quite small for her age. Maybe she’s just naturally small. =) We’ve been applying Ellyn Satter’s approach to feeding dynamics and a little of baby-led weaning. A- has been self-feeding with gusto. She loves raspberries, grapes, and Greek yogurt, and gets along well with rice, fish, chicken, pasta, and other things we eat.

We went on a couple of good walk this week: to the High Park zoo to see the llamas up close, to Best Buy to check out the Jot stylus (no palm rejection means I’m not yet comfy drawing on the Android tablet, so maybe I’ll use paper instead), and the usual trips to the supermarket and library.

The Healthy Babies Healthy Children nurse introduced us to the family home visitor who’ll be seeing us weekly. She’ll bring different activities for A- to explore, which is a great way for me to pick up ideas for the rest of the week. =)

We also had a home visit from a case worker at the Canadian National Institute for the Blind. She took our details and told us about a few things we can check out. There’ll be an assessment at some point, and maybe a family support worker can help us navigate other resources too. A- is probably pretty low priority for them because she appears to have good vision in her right eye. Still, I hope they can help us learn more about ways we can support her. I found some tips on helping children with monocular vision, and it’s been good to read about other experiences. Anyway, the CNIB person said that when A- becomes more mobile, we should watch out for veering, cutting corners, bumping into things, and so on.

It would be great to be able to ask questions about things I need to coordinate. I got slightly stressed sorting out the proper signatures for the assistive device program funding (needed Dr. Mireskandari, not our pediatrician), and also searching for a travel insurance provider that’s okay with A-‘s congenital conditions.

I’ve been falling behind in terms of journaling. Some nights I work on my consulting project, and some nights I catch up on sleep. I catch up with my daily journal every few days or so, although this weekly review is a week late. I wonder how I can tweak this…

My consulting clients are happy with the add-ons I made for them, and there are enough add-ons in the pipeline to keep them busy for a little while. Not bad for roughly two hours a week.

Also, I cut my hair to slightly below shoulder-length. Turns out to be a non-scary process. One less service I need to pay for!

W- and I have been discussing the possibility of travelling without our laptops. I don’t think I’ve ever been away from my laptop for that long. It’s an interesting challenge. I might be able to do most text-based things by typing up notes or SSHing to my server. I’ll need to fiddle with my journal workflow, and maybe catch up on scanned stuff when I get back. Emacs News will probably be on hiatus for a couple of weeks, or I might set up the code I need on my server. Hmm…

2016-08-27a Week ending 2016-08-26 -- index card #journal #weekly


Blog posts


Focus areas and time review

  • Business (2.9h – 1%)
    • Earn (2.9h – 99% of Business)
    • Build (0.0h – 0% of Business)
    • Connect (0.0h – 0% of Business)
  • Relationships (2.1h – 1%)
    • ☐ Check on RESP to see if it’s been set up; transfer if so
    • ☐ Decide on travel insurance
    • ☐ Pick up A-‘s Canadian passport
    • ☐ Get eye report from eye doctor
    • ☐ Check if hydro debit went through
  • Discretionary – Productive (6.5h – 3%)
    • Drawing (3.7h)
    • Emacs (0.6h)
    • Coding (0.1h)
    • Sewing (0.0h)
    • Writing (1.7h)
  • Discretionary – Play (0.7h – 0%)
  • Personal routines (23.9h – 14%)
  • Unpaid work (71.7h – 42%)
    • Childcare (65.8h – 39% of total)
  • Sleep (60.2h – 35% – average of 8.6 per day)

The post Weekly review: Week ending August 26, 2016 appeared first on sacha chua :: living an awesome life.

by Sacha Chua at September 03, 2016 05:11 AM

The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

9 Things You Should Know About Mother Teresa

Article by: Joe Carter

On Sunday, at a Roman Catholic canonization service in Vatican City, Pope Francis will declare Mother Teresa a saint.* Here are nine things you should know about the Nobel-prize-winning nun who became renowned for serving the poor and dying:

1. Mother Teresa was born Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu in 1910 in what is now part of modern Macedonia. At the age of 18 she left home to join the Sisters of Loreto, a group of nuns in Ireland. It was there she took the name Sister Mary Teresa after Saint Thérèse of Lisieux. A year later, in 1929, Mother Teresa moved to India and taught at a Catholic school for girls.

2. In 1946 Mother Teresa received what she would later describe as a “call within a call.” She said Jesus spoke to her and told her to abandon teaching to work in the slums of Calcutta aiding the city's poorest and sickest people. In 1950 she received Vatican approval for Missionaries of Charity, a group of religious sisters who took vows of chastity, poverty, obedience, and to give “wholehearted free service to the poorest of the poor.” By the late 1970s, the Missionaries of the Charity had offshoots in Asia, Africa, Europe, and the United States.

3. Mother Teresa and her religious order gained international attention in 1967 when the famed journalist Malcolm Muggeridge interviewed her for a BBC TV program. Because of the popularity of the interview, Muggeridge traveled to Calcutta a year later to make a documentary, Something Beautiful for God, about Theresa's “House of the Dying” (Muggeridge would also write a book by the same name in 1971).

4. During her life Mother Teresa received more 120 prestigious awards and honors. In 1971, Paul VI conferred the first Pope John XXIII Peace Prize on Mother Teresa, and in 1979 she won the Nobel Peace Prize. The Norwegian Nobel Committee writes in their motivation: “In making the award the Norwegian Nobel Committee has expressed its recognition of Mother Teresa's work in bringing help to suffering humanity. This year the world has turned its attention to the plight of children and refugees, and these are precisely the categories for whom Mother Teresa has for many years worked so selflessly.” She also received the highest U.S. civilian award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, in 1985.

5. During her 1979 Nobel Prize Lecture, Mother Teresa called abortion the “greatest destroyer of peace”:

We are talking of peace. These are things that break peace, but I feel the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a direct war, a direct killing—direct murder by the mother herself. And we read in the Scripture, for God says very clearly: Even if a mother could forget her child—I will not forget you—I have carved you in the palm of my hand. We are carved in the palm of his hand, so close to him that unborn child has been carved in the hand of God. And that is what strikes me most, the beginning of that sentence, that even if a mother could forget something impossible—but even if she could forget—I will not forget you. And today the greatest means—the greatest destroyer of peace is abortion. And we who are standing here—our parents wanted us. We would not be here if our parents would do that to us. Our children, we want them, we love them, but what of the millions. Many people are very, very concerned with the children in India, with the children in Africa where quite a number die, maybe of malnutrition, of hunger and so on, but millions are dying deliberately by the will of the mother. And this is what is the greatest destroyer of peace today. Because if a mother can kill her own child—what is left for me to kill you and you kill me—there is nothing between.

6.  Mother Teresa was frequently denounced by secularists because of her opposition to contraception and abortion. But she was also widely criticized for allowing her charity to provide inadequate care for the poor and for potential mismanagement of charitable funds. Although she leveraged her fame to raise tens of millions of dollars for her charity, the orphanages and care centers run by her religious order were often substandard. After visiting Mother Teresa’s Home for the Dying in 1994, Robin Fox wrote about the experience in the British medical journal, The Lancet. Fox reported that doctors only occasionally visited the patients (the care was mostly provided by untrained volunteers) and that pain relief provided for the dying was inadequate, leading them to suffer unnecessarily. In 2008, another observer reported, “I was shocked to see the negligence. Needles were washed in cold water and reused and expired medicines were given to the inmates. There were people who had chance to live if given proper care.”

7. Mother Teresa has also been criticized by Christians for downplaying evangelism and espousing universalist views of salvation. For example in her book, Life in the Spirit: Reflections, Meditations and Prayers, she says:

Our purpose is to take God and his love to the poorest of the poor, irrespective of their ethnic origin or the faith they profess. Our discernment of aid is not the belief but the necessity. We never try to convert those whom we receive to Christianity but in our work we bear witness to the love of God’s presence and if Catholics, Protestants, Buddhists, or agnostics become for this better men—simply better—we will be satisfied. It matters to the individual what church he belongs to. If that individual thinks and believes that this is the only way to God for her or him, this is the way God comes into their life—his life. If he does not know any other way and if he has no doubt so that he does not need to search then this is his way to salvation.

When a Catholic priest asked if she attempted to convert people, she reportedly answered, “Yes, I convert. I convert you to be a better Hindu, or a better Muslim, or a better Protestant, or a better Catholic, or a better Parsee, or a better Sikh, or a better Buddhist. And after you have found God, it is for you to do what God wants you to do.’ ”

8. After her death, Mother Teresa’s letters revealed that she spent almost 50 years in a crisis of faith, sometimes doubting the existence of God and frequently feeling his absence in her life. The absence began to be felt around 1948, soon after she began serving the poor in Calcutta, and would last until her death in 1997. As David Van Biema wrote in Time magazine:

In more than 40 communications, many of which have never before been published, she bemoans the “dryness,” “darkness,” “loneliness,” and “torture” she is undergoing. She compares the experience to hell and at one point says it has driven her to doubt the existence of heaven and even of God. She is acutely aware of the discrepancy between her inner state and her public demeanor. “The smile,” she writes, is “a mask” or “a cloak that covers everything.” Similarly, she wonders whether she is engaged in verbal deception. “I spoke as if my very heart was in love with God–tender, personal love,” she remarks to an adviser. “If you were [there], you would have said, ‘What hypocrisy.'”

9. For Mother Teresa to be recognized as a saint within the Catholic Church, she had to undergo the lengthy process of beatification and canonization. The process usually cannot be started until five years after the person has died, but Mother Teresa received a waiver from Pope John Paul II. Before beatification (which recognizes the person’s ability to intercede to God on behalf of individuals who pray in his or her name) a person must have a verified miracle attributed to them after their death. After beatification the church looks for a second miracle before proceeding to canonization. If one is found and they meet the other criteria, the pope can conduct a special Mass at which the person is recognized a saint. The first miracle attributed to Mother Teresa involved the healing of an Indian woman, Monica Besra, whose abdominal tumor was so severe that her doctors abandoned hope of saving her. After a Miraculous Medal that had been touched to the body of Mother Teresa was placed on Besra’s stomach, the tumor reportedly disappeared. The second miracle involved a Brazilian man who reportedly was healed of a bacterial infection in the brain after he and his family prayed to Mother Teresa for her help.

*Why is an evangelical site like TGC writing about a person who held religious views that we find irreconcilable with the gospel? There are two main reasons why I think evangelicals should know something about Mother Teresa: First, she remains a popular historical figure. During her life, she was named 18 times in the yearly Gallup's most admired man and woman poll as one of the 10 women around the world who Americans admired most, finishing first several times in the 1980s and 1990s. Also, in 1999, a poll of Americans ranked her first in Gallup's List of Most Widely Admired People of the 20th Century. Second, for many people Mother Teresa’s name has become synonymous with Christian charity. For these reasons we should know something about this nun from Calcutta. While we ought to recognize Mother Teresa as a laudable champion against abortion who had a fervent concern for the poor, we should also be aware of her many foibles and failings so that we can correct the perception of her as an uncriticizable Christian leader.

Other articles in this series:

The Opioid Epidemic • The Olympic Games • Physician-Assisted Suicide • 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 September 03, 2016 05:10 AM

5 Bad Starting Points for the Faith and Work Conversation

Article by: Jeff Haanen

One of my continual shortcomings as executive director of the Denver Institute for Faith and Work is that I rarely frame our mission so that we’re clearly understood—especially by pastors.

More than once, my initial enthusiasm for all things “faith and work” is seen by good, godly pastoral leaders as a niche ministry that will soon, like chaff, be blown away by the winds of evangelical enthusiasm.

When I first meet with a pastor over coffee and start a conversation about Christianity and work, I can usually sense two questions behind an ever-gentle, shepherding smile. First, what is this guy saying? Second, of all the ministries that need my attention, why should I focus here?

After years of conversational dead ends, fits and starts, and fumbling introductions, I’ve discovered that we need to refocus conversations about Christianity and work on a new starting point, one that immediately resonates with the core mission of Jesus’s church and the pastors who are her shepherds, overseers, and leaders.

So, when meeting with pastors, here are five places I don’t start:

1. The sacred/secular divide. 

Yes, fact and value, public life and private life, and science and religion have been separated into different spheres ever since the Enlightenment. Folks like Francis Schaeffer, Nancy Pearcey, and Chuck Colson have made this point abundantly clear. And yes, many business leaders feel their work is less valuable than “ministry” work—and wonder what role supply chains, value creation, and marketing plans play in God’s kingdom. But I’ve found that when I lead with the sacred/secular divide, the conversation tends to denigrate either pastors or business people.

An older generation tended to see the holiest kind of work as a pastor or a missionary—to the deprecation of the “mere” business person. But today we’ve overcorrected. In stressing that “all work can be a ministry,” those in the faith and work movement have tended to crown the work of the entrepreneur as the holiest of labors—alleviating global poverty, fueling a lagging economy, or creating a new business that will affect thousands.

The result is that we’ve downplayed becoming a pastor.

Don’t get me wrong. I love both pastors and entrepreneurs. Both are beautiful callings, and both have their particular pitfalls and challenges. But when I sit down with pastors, the last thing I want to do is downplay their call to shepherd of God’s people, which is clearly biblical and good (1 Tim. 3:1; 1 Pet. 5:2).

Since the pendulum has swung too far to one side of this debate, this isn’t usually the best way to start the conversation with pastors.

2. Calling or vocation.

This is a much better starting point. Protestants, after all, have a category for calling. To most, it sounds like bringing a deeper sense of meaning to one’s work. To others, though, I’ve found it sounds like I’m either trying to help people find their ideal jobs (this has happened so many times I’ve thought about starting a professional recruitment firm on the side!) or trying to provide gift inventories that help them find good places to volunteer at their church or . . . find their ideal jobs.


For years, I’ve tried to rescue the language of calling and vocation from the “vocation = my ideal job = my ideal me” equation, and follow sages, like Steve Garber, who winsomely argue for calling being an entire life lived in response to the voice of God. But alas, starting here has gotten me into murky waters—waters best left to explore after we’ve set out on a common journey together.

3. Theology of work.

Whether I’m speaking with pastors, business leaders, nurses, teachers, or cashiers, the phrase “theology of work” almost immediately sounds narrow or niche—like I joined the wrong Google+ group of academics. If my aunt can’t understand what my job is, I have a serious branding issue.

The problem here is not the phrase. After all, I lead an organization with the term “faith and work” in the title. This phrase can be rescued through ample conversation about the theme of work in the Bible and the obvious reality of our lives—which are consumed almost entirely by sleep, family, and work.

But I’m convinced we need a much larger story that leads to a theology for work, calling, and culture, but doesn’t necessarily start here.

4. ‘Transforming the culture.’

For many of us, James Davison Hunter has permanently buried this phrase. Yet in many Christian institutions doing this kind of work—whether higher ed, parachurch, or church—talk of “transforming the culture” or “changing the world” is commonplace.

The problem? It’s triumphalistic. As I survey the broad sweep of Western culture today, I’m not sure that broad cultural transformation should be a goal. I’ve become skeptical even of terms like “cultural renewal.” Yes, we can certainly renew aspects of culture—the values of tech development team, a mutual fund with an overtly theological mission, hiring formerly incarcerated men to become electricians—but transforming “the culture”? Like, the whole thing? Apart from Jesus returning, I have no idea what that means.

5. Political stances or platforms. 

As we’re seeing with this presidential election, it’s so easy for those of us who care so deeply about what Christianity means for work, the economy, and our respective subcultures to get co-opted by the political ideologies of day.

This is not to say we shouldn’t be political. Humans are inherently political creatures; we can’t help but organize ourselves into a polis and ask questions about a good society.

But far more often than not, the church and her attendant institutions can get absorbed into the caustic right/left, conservative/liberal debates of our day.

Today’s wisest leaders preach the wide, good, and beautiful gospel, and allow men and women in their stations of life to make logical political conclusions from Christian doctrine. But they don’t get pulled too deep into the dogfight, lest their Christian witness and kingdom distinctiveness become compromised.

Better Starting Point

So what, then, is a better starting point for the conversation about Christian faith and our work in the world? Some may disagree with me, but for what it’s worth, here’s where I stand: Jesus’s death and resurrection begins the redemption of all of creation (Col. 1:20)   At the dawn of the first day, the risen Christ was beginning creation afresh. Through the power of the resurrection, the Spirit-filled church is called to live in the reality of the new creation (2 Cor. 5:7, Gal. 6:15) in all areas of life—our hearts, our relationships, our neighborhoods, our professions, our cities, and forming of the physical world itself through our daily work.    The death and resurrection of Jesus, and the far-reaching effects of salvation “as far as the curse is found,” is the best place to start the conversation about faith and work. 

Editors’ note: A version of this article appeared at The Green Room. To dive more deeply into faith and work (or the redemption of all creation), check out a new resource that TGC, The Good Book Company, and TGC Council member Tom Nelson partnered to create: Gospel Shaped Work.

TGC’s Theological Vision of Ministry says one of the things that marks a church’s gospel-centered ministry is its integration of faith and work:

The good news of the Bible is not only individual forgiveness but the renewal of the whole creation. God put humanity in the garden to cultivate the material world for his own glory and for the flourishing of nature and the human community. The Spirit of God not only converts individuals (e.g., John 16:8) but also renews and cultivates the face of the earth (e.g., Gen 1:2; Ps. 104:30). Therefore Christians glorify God not only through the ministry of the Word, but also through their vocations of agriculture, art, business, government, scholarship—all for God’s glory and the furtherance of the public good. Too many Christians have learned to seal off their faith–beliefs from the way they work in their vocation. The gospel is seen as a means of finding individual peace and not as the foundation of a worldview—a comprehensive interpretation of reality affecting all that we do. But we have a vision for a church that equips its people to think out the implications of the gospel on how we do carpentry, plumbing, data–entry, nursing, art, business, government, journalism, entertainment, and scholarship. Such a church will not only support Christians’ engagement with culture, but will also help them work with distinctiveness, excellence, and accountability in their trades and professions. Developing humane yet creative and excellent business environments out of our understanding of the gospel is part of the work of bringing a measure of healing to God’s creation in the power of the Spirit. Bringing Christian joy, hope, and truth to embodiment in the arts is also part of this work. We do all of this because the gospel of God leads us to it, even while we recognize that the ultimate restoration of all things awaits the personal and bodily return of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Jeff Haanen is the executive director of the Denver Institute for Faith and Work and blogs at

by Jeff Haanen at September 03, 2016 05:00 AM

Workout: September 3, 2016

Build to a 1rm strict press Build to a 1rm push press   1 round: Row 500m Run 500m

by Crystal at September 03, 2016 12:56 AM

September 02, 2016

Juno Beams Home Images From First Perijove

Emily Lakdawalla at The Planetary Society:

On August 27, Juno soared across Jupiter’s cloud tops from pole to pole, with all instruments operating. NASA posted some terrific first results from several of the instruments today. And the JunoCam team released all 28 raw images taken during the close encounter. I’ve collected all the data onto a single page for easy browsing and downloading; I’ll have more to say about that below.

Her post is full of breathtaking imagery of Jupiter. There’s going to be a lot more where this came from:

by Stephen at September 02, 2016 09:33 PM

John C. Wright's Journal

Parable of the Codebook

Regarding the discussion of materialism, and specifically the analogy with a chest of drawers containing game moves on cards, a reader writes in this comment and question. He is using his own analogy to frame the question, which he puts as follows:

Let me see if I understand your position:

A visitor at a car factory asks a worker what the manager hopes to achieve by beginning production on a more expensive model of car than what was previously being produced, despite this model being much more difficult to produce (aka what the aim of manufacturing the new model is).

The worker could give him the most detailed description of how the new car would be produced in a presentation that would take days or weeks and several skilled mechanics to fully explain all of the details and procedures that are done when making the car and there would also even before physicists to explain the precise interactions of atoms taking place while the car is begin assembled.

But you are essentially arguing that no matter how descriptive this explanation is it will not ultimately answer the simple question of why the new model is being produced?

Yes. More to the point, I am saying that since the simple question of why cannot be answered by the mechanics and the physicist, it is not an answer that can be reduced to a description of atoms in motion.

Meanwhile, materialism claims that all things are matter, that everything, such as the mind, which seems not to be matter is an epiphenomenon or side effect of matter and could be reduced to matter in theory.

Hence, the materialist must conclude that all things can be reduced to a description of matter in motion. If there is even one thing that cannot be reduced to a description of matter in motion, materialism is false.

I say the one thing that cannot be reduced to descriptions or matter in motion is symbols, on the grounds that the act of representation is not a material or mechanical act.

He writes:

I admittedly can think of one possible answer (although I believe there is a fatal flaw in it.)

The answer would be as follows:

The atoms composing the manager’s brain produce the correct chemical combination that brings him to make the decision to produce the more expensive car as he has associated wealth with the satisfaction of all his evolutionary and instinctive drives and has determined that producing the more expensive car will indeed create more wealth. 

Another good question, and you are correct there is a fatal flaw. Let me see if I can explain.

Let us suppose for the sake of argument that you have a brain-atom scanner that  can, without killing the factory owner, examine the atoms in his brain and tell  you their location, charge, and other physical properties.

If the properties are physical and not mental properties, they will be  properties like angular vector, acceleration, temperature, current, and so on.

I take the scientific community at its word when it says that all physical  properties can be reduced to expressions of standard international units. Such  as a derived value as acceleration can be expressed in terms of fundamental values length (measured in meters) and  time (measured in seconds).

I deduce that anything which cannot be expressed in these terms, a number followed by a unit measure, is not a physical property.

So let us assume the brain-atom reader is calibrated to give the brain atom  position in terms of x,y,z coordinates, measured in micrometers, with a w  coordinate expressing charge measured in microvolts.

Thus, turning the reader on  a random passer by the machine ping and you get your readings:

  • 5mm, 23mm, 11mm, -40 mV
  • 4mm, 24mm, 89mm, -90 mV

and so on, for some 10^26 number of atoms.

I think it is obvious that “5mm, 23mm, 11mm, -40 mV” does not mean anything to  anyone. So where is the intention of the factory owner? Where is the ‘why’?

Referring to the owner’s manual of the brain atom scanner, you read that there  is a codebook, laboriously compiled, expressing what the person subjectively  said his brain atoms were thinking at the time when scanned, and cross  referenced to each and every individual in the human race.

Hence the codebook says: 5mm, 23mm, 11mm, -40 mV represents the thought “Ouch! I have a brain probe  sticking in my head!”

4mm, 24mm, 89mm, -90 mV represents the thought “I will lie to the man writing  the codebook, and claim I am thinking about a cheese sandwich.”

And so on for every possible thought a human being can think. They are all in  the codebook.

The electron volt values of the brain atom measurement is in the  righthand column and the corresponding thought it represents is in on the same  rank the lefthand column.

Flipping through the codebook, you find the entry for someone with the genetics,  memory, and brain structure type of the factory manager, and look up his  reading, which, let us say, is 13mm, 31mm, 39mm, -70 mV.

This code represents  “We are hoping to open up a new market with a luxury car, which, even if more  expensive, will sell in sufficient volume, particularly overseas, to make a  profit. I also want to impress my girlfriend by being responsible for a new car  line.”

Now, here is my question: what is the meaning of that word “represents”?

The two  lines, one representing the brain atom numbers, and the other, representing the  thought the numbers represent, are written on the same row. This shows that  whatever is written in the lefthand column is a symbol or a sign of whatever is  written in the right.

But the act of assigning a symbolic value to a numerical expression is a  symbolic act, not a material one.

And there is a paradox.

For even if you were reading the brain atoms of the man  writing the codebook during the moment when he was writing it, so that you saw  which brain atoms were active when he wrote the word ‘represents’, you would  still need a codebook yourself to read it.

And your codebook would contain words  in English, which you need to give meaning to otherwise meaningless rows and  rows of numbers.

And if someone were reading your brain in turn, he would also  need a codebook to give meaning to the meaningless numbers.

And so on, in an infinite regression.

I suppose the man who wrote the first codebook could have his brother writing a codebook at the same time, and each codebook could be expressed in terms of brain atom values in the other codebook. Reading the codebook would be like a snake eating its tail: you would need to read the first before you read the second, but you would need to read the second before you read the first. No matter how you read which codebook in which order, at some point you have to translate the meaningless material marks into their qualities as symbols, and say what they mean.

Hence there must be a first codebook. Hence the first codebook itself cannot be reduced to a number value.

The thing that tells you what the meaningless numbers mean cannot itself be a meaningless number.

But if everything  mental could be reduced to its material expression, it could be.

The codebook acts as the way to climb from the meaningless material world into  the world of the mind, where the meaning is kept. If the two worlds are in  perfect lockstep, that is, if they share the same form (as they do in limited cases like mathematics, or mathematical games like chess) then the representations in the codebook will keep perfect  track one with the other.

In those cases, the material and the mental can be confused with each other by the unwary, because the material symbols representing the mental reality will always be in a one-to-one correspondence with each other. The adding machine, if the gears and wheels and keys are labeled correctly, will always come up with a correct sum, just as a mind would do, if it went through the sums one by one, and made no mental mistakes.

But whether the worlds are in lockstep or not makes no difference to the fact  that they are two different worlds. One world is meaningless, has no intentions,  and can be expressed solely in terms of numbers and unit measures. The other  world is meaningful and intentional, and cannot be expressed solely in terms of  numbers and unit measures.

“How does the cue ball strike the eight ball?” is a question that can be  answered with mechanics. You can give the angle and velocity and mass of the  balls, and predict their final positions. “Why should I knock the eight ball  into the side pocket?” cannot be expressed in those terms.

If something cannot be expressed in material terms, it is senseless to say it is  material.

by John C Wright at September 02, 2016 04:36 PM

Crossway Blog

When Trouble Comes: Phil Ryken’s Personal Testimony

This is a guest post by Philip Graham Ryken, author of When Trouble Comes.

A Season of Terrible Discouragement

A year or two ago, I went through a season of deep spiritual discouragement; some would probably call it depression. I wanted to share about that experience and tell you some of the things that were helpful, and the ways God ministered to me in that season. I hope they are an encouragement to you. It’s an encouragement to me simply to give a testimony of God’s grace in my life.

There were a lot of reasons for the discouragement. One was a grief that a family member was enduring that brought me a lot of sadness. I also had some very significant additional challenges. I’m the President of Wheaton College; it is quite a challenging job with a lot of pressures and difficulties, which contributed to the discouragement. There were also some ministry conflicts, broken relationships, and people that were attacking me. Altogether, there were a lot of things that were deeply discouraging.

This discouragement was coming out in several different ways. There were times when it was very difficult to get to sleep at night, or when it was very difficult to get up and get going in the morning. There were mornings when I was overwhelmed with sadness the whole time I was preparing for the day. I lost quite a bit of weight. Overall, I had great difficulty in many areas.

I even had thoughts and doubts about God’s love for me. If he did, I wondered, Why are some of these troubles continuing? When are my prayers going to be answered? I experienced a great weight of personal trouble for an extended period of months.

Finding Encouragement

Looking back, I’m so grateful to the Lord for the ways he ministered to me. This is certainly not an experience I want to relive. At the same time, it was a season of significant spiritual growth in my life.

I was encouraged during this time through the ministry of close friends. I didn’t want to give people a false impression, so if they asked me how I was doing, I told them I wasn’t doing well. That really mobilized people for prayer. To have friends from college say that they were praying for me every day, to have my parents lay their hands on me and pray for God’s blessing and healing and protection, that was an important part of God’s ministry to my soul.

Further, realizing that God would be faithful to his promise helped me through. Even when I could only groan about my circumstances and couldn’t even express them in an articulate prayer, the Holy Spirit was taking those groanings and expressing them as prayer before God’s throne of grace.

Public worship was significant for me as well. There were times when I didn’t particularly feel like going to church or being in public worship. And yet that experience was ministering to me, helping me. Particularly, receiving the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper was spiritually nourishing, even in ways I didn’t fully understand.

And perhaps above all things was the ministry of God’s Word in my life. How precious it was to be laying in bed at night deeply troubled, yet having my wife Lisa read Psalms over me that would calm my spirit and help me fall asleep. What a great way to fall asleep—hearing God’s Word and his promises.

Cured by the Promises of God’s Word

I love the words of Charles Spurgeon, the great London preacher, who struggled throughout his life and ministry with very serious depression. He said that really any form of spiritual discouragement is cured when we believe the promises of God’s Word.

I believe that that’s true. It has been true in my life. I know it will be true the next time I go through a season of discouragement. And I know it will be true for you. God will be present in your life. He will minister to you through prayer, the presence of God’s people, and the ministry of his Word.

Philip Graham Ryken (DPhil, University of Oxford) is the eighth president of Wheaton College. Formerly, he served as senior minister of Philadelphia’s historic Tenth Presbyterian Church. He has written or edited more than forty books, including the popular title Loving the Way Jesus Loves, and has lectured and preached at universities and seminaries worldwide.

by Crossway at September 02, 2016 02:54 PM

10 Ways Not to Help a Hurting Friend

This is a guest post by Dave Furman, author of Being There: How to Love Those Who Are Hurting.

You may think you have the right approach and goal in caring for your friend going through depression, your sick elderly mother, a couple struggling through a miscarriage, or a friend grieving the loss of a career, but it doesn’t matter how sincere you are if you're way off target. I have had conversations with many individuals who had good intentions, but at the end of the day they only exacerbated my hurt. And sometimes I thought I was doing good for someone else when I was actually causing more pain. In our sincerity we can still be wrong! We need God’s help to care for our friends who are distressed.

Here is a brief discussion about ten approaches to caring for the hurting that look helpful on the surface, but in the end may only add to the pain. Through this list, I hope you’ll see that God’s love triumphs in your weaknesses. We don’t know the answers, and we can’t fix things, but he is faithful to care for our friends in the midst of their pain.

1. Don’t Be the Fix-It Person

“I’ve been thinking about you. I’ve picked up this brand-new organic, all-natural ointment that will surely heal your disability. My grandmother used it for her foot pain, and it went away in a week. It should heal you too!”

The truth is, nobody wants another treatment, ointment, acupuncture reference, or diet that is 100 percent guaranteed to get their hopes up higher than they’ve ever been before. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been handed another bag full of exotic creams in some language I couldn’t understand. I can’t count the number of times people have given me something that they claim has healed someone with the same ailment that I have. When you make these claims and guarantee healing, it may highlight to the one who is hurting that you have no idea what kind of issues they are actually dealing with. It’s in our nature to want to offer a solution for a problem—and that’s great! We yearn to help and often have great intentions by wanting to fix things. The heart behind this is wonderful, but sometimes the best help is a listening ear to the problems that a person is really facing. Proverbs 10:19 says, “When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.” A better approach would be to ask more questions and grow in your understanding of another’s pain rather than offering solutions for something you know very little about. Sometimes the best thing you can do is say, “I’m sorry, can you help me better understand what you are going through?” And then listen.

2. Don’t Play the Comparison Game

“Oh, wow, you have arm pain. I had tennis elbow one time, and it was really rough. I couldn’t play any sports for a couple of weeks. I know exactly what you’re going through.”

Unless you’re Jesus, it almost never helps to tell someone that you know exactly what he or she is going through. We think we’re encouraging others by proclaiming we’ve gone through something similar, when in reality what they’re going through may be much different from our past experience. It is certainly not exactly the same. Another way you might play the comparison game is to point out other people who have it worse than your friend. We might think we’re helping when we tell someone who has a hurt leg, “Well, at least you still have a leg. There are thousands of people around the world who don’t have any legs, and they can’t walk at all. Praise God for the leg you have!” But how is that supposed to make the person feel? Not better, that’s for sure. When you do this, you minimize another person’s suffering. You are making your suffering friend feel like his pain is “no big deal.” To people in pain—whatever their issue is—it is a big deal. A person’s suffering is no small suffering to that person in that moment. If you minimize a person’s pain, it will compound his hurt even more. And when a person’s experience of his real pain is invalidated, then he is not pointed to Christ for hope and help. Why bother Jesus with something that’s really no big deal? A better way forward is to say, “I love you,” and “I am so sorry,” and to pour out your heart in compassion for the one hurting because what he’s going through is difficult and unique to him. Rather than working hard to remember your distant relative who went through something similar and sharing those stories, show sympathy and love for the hurting person who is right in front of you. Instead of comparing your friend to someone you know, you might say, “I don’t pretend to understand what you’re going through, but I want to try. Help me understand how you are feeling.”

3. Don’t Make It Their Identity

“Hi, nice to see you. How’s your back? Is it feeling any better? Have you gotten any rest? Are you in a lot of pain right now? How is it compared to how you were last week? You really don’t look very good right now, maybe you should sit down.”

Another of the ten commandments of what not to do for your hurting friends is to bring up their pain so much that it becomes their identity. If you talk about it all the time, you are at risk of defining them by their struggle and pain as if that’s all they’re about. We need to be careful to not constantly bring up their suffering. At the same time, we want to show we care, so this is a tough balance to keep. As you care for your friend, it is important to remember that if your friend has a disability, he is not fundamentally a disabled person. If he is a Christian, then he is a Christian who has a disability. If your friend has lost his job, he is not fundamentally an unemployed person. If he is a Christian, then he is a Christian who is unemployed. As a Christian, his primary identity is as a son of the living God. He is a human being who has an immortal soul, redeemed out of the kingdom of darkness.

The apostle Paul understands this truth but goes even further and says that the fundamental identity of Christians is that they are in Christ. That despite our sin and wickedness, God did the following: "But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus" (Eph. 2:4–7). A believer now lives in light of a completely new reality. Our sinful condition is reversed. We have gone from being enemies of God to being “in Christ” (v. 7). This is the reality for the Christian. Now that we are saved by grace, God views believers as he views his Son. This is remarkable. When God the Father looks at us, he sees Jesus. When he looks at a Christian who has a disability, he doesn’t primarily see disability; above all, he sees his Son. When he looks at a Christian who is weak or sick, he doesn’t see sickness—he sees our Savior. As we interact with believers who are hurting, realize that their identity is that of being in Christ Jesus. When you speak to them, help them draw their gaze to Christ so they can see things from an eternal perspective, and consistently remind them that their identity is not in their circumstances, but in their Savior.

4. Don’t Promise Deliverance Now

“Oh, I just know you are going to get healed. You love Jesus and are faithful to him, so he will definitely heal you. Just be patient and think positive and keep the faith and you’ll be healed in no time at all.”

When we 100 percent guarantee that God will deliver our friends from their suffering in this earthly life, we make God out to be some type of cosmic vending machine. Your prayer requests become command central for getting God to do the exact thing you want, when you want it. When you give the promise of healing to the hurting, you inevitably overpromise and underdeliver. Eventually this message lets you down. If you see God as a vending machine, then you will become disillusioned when your candy bar doesn’t drop after payment has been submitted. When you promise healing for your friend, he will be crushed if it doesn’t happen. Instead of promising deliverance, promise the presence of God.

A Christian worships God for God, because God is more precious than anything this world has to offer. God is the beginning and the end. He’s the goal—more of him, not more of the stuff you think you can get from him. Over the past decade or so, various well-meaning people have kindly told me that God was going to heal me. They have tried to encourage me that since I am a man of faith and I love God, I’ll be healed. Some have said that because I am a pastor and am doing the Lord’s work, I will be healed. Many have said that God would bless my faithfulness by giving me good health. Others have said, “It’s all going to be okay.” Now, they’re right and they’re wrong. God will one day heal me, but it might not come here on earth. I may never get to pick up my baby in this life. However, in the next, I will not shed another tear as I ponder whether I will ever be able to play ball with my sons. In this life I may not be able to button my shirt and put on my shoes by myself, but in the next life I will be perfectly dressed in Christ’s righteousness. Instead of promising deliverance in this life, point them to God’s presence and a future hope that will never let them down.

5. Don’t Encourage Them to Just “Move On”

“Don’t be sad; you should be happy because they’re better off in heaven with Jesus anyway. That’s a much better place to be, so it would be best for you to move on with your life.”

We never want to give the impression that a person’s pain or sorrow doesn’t matter, or that people should just gird up their loins and get on with life. When we disregard their earthly pain and only point them to their heavenly reward, we fail to comfort them in their pain. It’s also unhelpful to tell people (or show it by your nonverbal actions) that it is high time they got over the grief of life in a fallen world, because you are tired of being reminded of their suffering. The pressure to “get over it” typically increases the pain of the one grieving. Instead, tell them it is okay to grieve and weep. Encourage your friend to be honest about his emotions and get them all out on the table.

Jesus has experienced your friend’s grief and identifies with him in his pain (Isa. 53:3, Hebrews 4:4–16). Jesus loves him and is able to supply all that he needs to persevere to the end. Suffering people need to be able to weep and pour out their hearts and not immediately be shut down by being told to move on. Instead, listen to his struggles and pain, and let him know that Jesus is with him in his pain, for he suffered persecution, loneliness, desertion, beatings, emotional and physical abuse, crucifixion, and the wrath of God the Father. Jesus won’t beat up a bruised reed, but will hold him in his arms. Let your friend grieve, and tell him it’s okay to weep and have no answers.

6. Don’t Bring on the Inquisition

“I’m sorry your husband is in the hospital because of that accident. Was he even wearing his seat belt? Do you think he was texting someone on the phone while driving?”

When friends are in a crisis or grieving, it is often helpful to ask questions and practice the art of listening. However, certain questions will do more harm than good. This is not the time to inquire whether it was “their” fault (like Job’s friends did) that they are in a terrible situation or have lost a loved one. It’s not the time to ask them questions like, “Were you two even that close anyway?” When you’re at a loss for words, it may be best to say, “Friend, I honestly don’t know what to say right now, but I want you to know that I love you.” Instead of bringing on the inquisition, another way forward is to join them and God in saying things like, “I am so sorry; death and pain and loss are absolutely terrible. Things weren’t supposed to be this way. This isn’t good.” Instead of trying to get answers to questions, you can take the biblical advice and “rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep” (Rom. 12:15). As you weep with someone, rather than asking questions about various details that could be hurtful a good question to ask is, “How are you doing today?” Notice I didn’t just ask, “How are you doing?” If someone lost a loved one a month ago, how do you think he is doing? Pretty lousy, probably. When you add that simple word today, you are acknowledging that it’s an everyday battle, and he must struggle through each day. Ask questions that are going to open up someone’s heart to you, not enlarge his anger or pain.

7. Don’t Be Hyperspiritual

“Praise the Lord your baby has passed away. Her pain is now gone, and she is with Jesus!”

I read a real story of a real pastor who went up to a real mother who had just lost her real baby and said those words above. “Praise the Lord!” the pastor uttered. The mother was a bit stunned and said, “Excuse me?” The pastor responded, “Praise the Lord she’s not in pain anymore!” The mom was shocked. She couldn’t believe the insensitivity of his comment. Another hurtful comment I’ve often heard people say to those suffering is, “Just wait, you will see later on how God is going to use all of this for something really good.” Clichés like “oh, just pray more and everything will be great” or “turn to God and it will be all right” don’t offer real encouragement in those moments. It’s also wise to refrain from “playing God” in your interactions with those who are suffering. Don’t try to explain what God is doing behind the scenes: “That baby was just not meant to be born.” “Your sickness really is a blessing; God is preparing you for good works.” “You are being spared from even worse things.” The truth is you don’t know the specifics of what God is doing. In his legendary words to Job, God makes it clear that we don’t know the mind of God (Job 38:4–7).

Instead of trying to figure out what God is doing and get inside his mind, it’s better to say things like, “I have no idea what God is doing in this situation, but I know he is holy and good.” Be as bewildered by your friend’s suffering as he is, and instead of providing answers from the mind of God, point him to the love of Christ who will never fail him.

8. Don’t Play the Avoidance Game

After all these cautions, you may be tempted to do nothing when your friend is hurting. I sure hope that’s not the case! I haven’t written an example quote of this commandment, because there is nothing to say. That’s exactly what you do when you play the avoidance game. You ignore the person’s pain completely. While it may not be as dramatic as saying the wrong thing at the wrong time, it can be just as hurtful. It’s painful when we don’t acknowledge the person’s loss and show sympathy. You might be nervous about saying something hurtful, but playing the avoidance game won’t help either. Be prayerful in what you say, but don’t underestimate the power of the right words at the right time. Proverbs 25:11–12 makes this point: “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver. Like a gold ring or an ornament of gold is a wise reprover to a listening ear.” After someone loses a loved one, some friends will immediately send a card or a note of sympathy but never again say anything. One way to go the extra mile is to mark down the date of the death and send a card to your friend or family member the following year, telling her that you are remembering her loss. When it’s not our pain, we forget quickly, but for the one bereaved, that day will never be forgotten.

9. Don’t Pledge General Help

“Oh friend, you can count on me to help you. If there is anything I can do, please let me know and I’d love to do whatever you need. Don’t hesitate to call me day or night.”

Let’s be honest: for many of us, asking for help goes against every fiber of our being. When I’m lost, I’d rather drive around in circles than stop and ask a total stranger for directions. Even after all these years of dealing with the nerve disease in my arms, I still have a hard time asking for help. I like to be independent. I like to be seen as strong. I prefer to do things on my own, and it’s important to me to feel like I am in control. Knowing how hard it is for people to ask for help, we need to offer assistance in a way that is easy to accept. When you pledge general help to someone in need, it’s not likely that he or she will take you up on the offer. Sometimes a general offer of help just makes us feel good about ourselves. When we pledge general help, we put the burden on the hurting; we expect them to come up with a way for us to help. That’s a tough assignment to put on someone grieving or in pain. They may not even be thinking clearly, and now they have to come up with ways that they can be helped. We should make it easy on others to receive help by just doing something. We should not be mere hearers of the Word, but doers of the Word (James 1:22). If you really want to help a hurting friend, then offer to help in a specific way. I have friends that have worked hard to understand my disability and have offered help that I’ve really needed. Figure out what you can do and, like the Nike slogan exhorts, “Just do it.” And remember that at first people will flock to the hurting to help, but then as time goes by that help will begin to diminish. Make sure you help specifically and keep it up as time goes on. They will still need you.

10. Don’t Condemn Them

“Did you know that God is punishing you right now? What might you have done that brought on this kind of suffering? Can think of a secret sin that you’ve committed that God might be paying you back for with this illness?”

I have put this as the tenth commandment because condemning your suffering friend is one of the worst things you can do. Please do not tell someone that if only she had more faith then her son would not have autism, her husband would find a job, or her cancer would be healed. The truth is, you have no idea what God is doing behind the scenes of your friend’s suffering. If she is a believer, then Scripture says that all things work together for her good and God’s glory (Rom. 8:28), but you don’t know the intricate details of God’s plans. In Genesis 3 we see that suffering occurs as a result of living in a fallen world. Elsewhere in the Bible we see that suffering can sometimes be the result of one’s own sin (see Galatians 6). God allows suffering to show his great glory. To say that you know God is punishing your friend is just plain mean. It’s yet another way that we try to “play God.”

Instead of taking the place of God and condemning someone without knowing what’s really happening, spend more time seeking to understand how that person is doing spiritually. Tell him, “I’m sorry, I have no idea why these things are happening to you.” And then listen to see what is going on in his or her heart. You might help the person explore his spiritual health and not start with the assumption that his sin has brought about certain consequences. Brokenness in this world is not always (or even often) a direct result of that one individual’s sin. We live in fallen world, and there will be death and suffering regardless of how we live.

Dave Furman (ThM, Dallas Theological Seminary) serves as the senior pastor of Redeemer Church of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, which he planted in 2010. Dave and his wife, Gloria, have four children.

by Crossway at September 02, 2016 02:38 PM

How to Face the Death of Someone You Love

This post is adapted from the short-form tract "Facing the Death of Someone You Love" by Elisabeth Elliot.

The Reality and Finality of Death

We’ve all experienced the desolation of being left in one way or another. And sooner or later, many of us experience the greatest desolation of all: he or she is gone. The one who made life what it was for us—who was, in fact, our life.

And we were not ready. Not really prepared at all. We felt, when the fact stared us in the face, “No. Not yet.” For however bravely we may have looked at the possibilities (if we had any warning at all), however calmly we may have talked about them with the one who was about to die, we are caught short. If we had another week, perhaps, to brace ourselves . . . a few more days to say what we wanted to say, to do or undo some things, wouldn’t it have been better, easier?

But silent, swift, and implacable the Scythe has swept by, and he is gone, and we are left. Yet, most strangely, that stunning snatching away has changed nothing very much. The mail comes, the phone rings, Wednesday gives way to Thursday and this week to next week, and you have to keep getting up in the morning (“Life must go on, I forget just why,” wrote Edna St. Vincent Millay) and combing your hair (for whom, now?), eating breakfast (remember to get out only one egg now, not three), and making the bed (who cares?). You have to meet people who most fervently wish they could pass by on the other side so as not to have to think of something to say. You resist the temptation, when they say he’s “passed away,” to say “No, he’s dead, you know.”

After a few months you’ve learned those initial lessons. You begin to say “I” instead of “we” and people have sent their cards and flowers and said the things they ought to say and their lives are going on and so, astonishingly, is yours and you’ve “adjusted” to some of the differences—as if that little mechanical word, a mere tinkering with your routines and emotions, covers the ascent from the pit.

From Death to Life, Every Time

I speak of the “ascent.” I am convinced that every death, of whatever kind, through which we are called to go must lead to a resurrection. This is the core of Christian faith. Death is the end of every life and leads to resurrection, the beginning of every new one. It is a progression, a proper progression, the way things were meant to be, the necessary means of ongoing life. But the death of the beloved means, in a different but perhaps equally fearsome way, a going through the valley of the shadow.

I can think of six simple things that have helped me through this valley and that help me now.

1. Be Still and Know

First, I try to be still and know that he is God. That advice comes from Psalm 46, which begins by describing the sort of trouble from which God is our refuge—the earth’s changing, or “giving way” as the Jerusalem Bible puts it, the mountains shaking, the waters roaring and foaming, nations raging, kingdoms tottering, the earth melting. None of these cataclysms seem an exaggeration of what happens when somebody dies. The things that seemed most dependable have given way altogether. The whole world has a different look and you find it hard to get your bearings. But in both psalms we are reminded of one rock-solid fact that nothing can change: Thou art with me. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. We feel that we are alone, yet we are not alone. Not for one moment has He left us alone. He makes wars cease, breaks bows, shatters spears, burns chariots (breaks hearts, shatters lives?), but in the midst of all this hullabaloo we are commanded, “Be still.” Be still and know.

2. Give Thanks

The second thing I try to do is to give thanks. I can thank him that he is still in charge, in the face of life’s worst terrors, and that “this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen” (2 Cor. 4:17–18). The things unseen are standing solidly (yes, solidly, incredible as it seems) against things seen (the fact of death, my own loneliness, this empty room). And I am lifted up by the promise of that “weight” of glory, so far greater than the weight of sorrow that at times seems to grind me like a millstone. This promise enables me to give thanks.

3. Refuse Self-Pity

Then I try to refuse self-pity. I know of nothing more paralyzing, more deadly, than self-pity. It is a death that has no resurrection, a sinkhole from which no rescuing hand can drag you because you have chosen to sink. But it must be refused. In order to refuse it, of course, one must recognize it for what it is. It is one thing to call a spade a spade, to acknowledge that this thing is indeed suffering. It’s no use telling yourself it’s nothing. But it’s another thing to regard one’s own suffering as uncommon, or disproportionate, or undeserved. We are all under the God’s mercy, and Christ knows the precise weight and proportion of our sufferings—he bore them. He carried our sorrows. "He suffered," wrote George Macdonald, "not that we might not suffer, but that our sufferings might be like his."

4. Accept Loneliness

The next thing to do is to accept my loneliness. When God takes a loved person from my life it is in order to call me, in a new way, to himself. It is therefore a vocation. It is in this sphere, for now anyway, that I am to learn of him. Every stage on the pilgrimage is a chance to know him, to be brought to him. Loneliness is a stage (and, thank God, only a stage) when we are terribly aware of our own helplessness. It “opens the gates of my soul,” wrote Katherine Mansfield, “and lets the wild beasts stream howling through.” We may accept this, thankful that it brings us to the very present help.

5. Offer It to God

The acceptance of loneliness can be followed immediately by the offering of it up to God. Something mysterious and miraculous transpires as soon as something is held up in our hands as a gift. He takes it from us, as Jesus took the little lunch when five thousand people were hungry. He gives thanks for it and then, breaking it, transforms it for the good of others. Loneliness looks pretty paltry as a gift to offer to God—but then, when you come to think of it, so does anything else we might offer. It needs transforming. Others looking at it would say exactly what the disciples said, “What’s the good of that with such a crowd?” But it was none of their business what use the Son of God would make of it. And it is none of ours—it’s ours only to give it.

6. Be a Help to Others

The last of the helps I have found is to do something for somebody else. There is nothing like definite, overt action to overcome the inertia of grief. That is what we need in a time of crisis. Most of us have someone who needs us. If we haven’t, we can find someone. Instead of praying only for the strength we ourselves need to survive, this day or this hour, how about praying for some to give away? How about trusting God to fulfill his own promise, “My power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9)? Where else is his power more perfectly manifested than in a human being who, well knowing his own weakness, lays hold by faith on the strong Son of God, Immortal Love?

It is here that a great spiritual principle goes into operation. Isaiah 58:10–12 says, “If you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail, and . . . you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to dwell in.”

The condition on which all these wonderful gifts (light, guidance, satisfaction, strength, refreshment to others) rests is an unexpected one—unexpected, that is, if we are accustomed to think in material instead of in spiritual terms. The condition is not that one solve his own problems first. He need not “get it together.” The condition is simply “if you pour yourself out.”

Perhaps it is peace, of all God’s earthly gifts, that in our extremity we long for most. A priest told me of a terminally ill woman who asked him each time he came to visit only to pray, “The peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:7).

The Hope of Everlasting Life

There they are—six things that, if done in faith, can be the way to resurrection: be still and know, give thanks, refuse self-pity, accept the loneliness, offer it to God, turn your energies toward the satisfaction, not of your own needs, but of others'. And there will be no calculating the extent to which:

From the ground there blossoms red
Life that shall endless be.

Elisabeth Elliot (1926-2015) was a popular speaker and the author of many books, including Through Gates of Splendor, Let Me Be a Woman, Passion and Purity, and Shadow of the Almighty. Her first husband, Jim Elliot, was killed in 1956 while serving as a missionary in Ecuador.

by Crossway at September 02, 2016 01:20 PM

Table Titans

News & Events: Table Titans at PAX WEST 2016

Toonhound Studios is going to be at PAX West this weekend with not ONE but TWO booths.

The Table Titans booth will be located in the 4th floor Atrium Lobby (near the PA Merch Booth) and our Acquisitions Incorporated/D&D booth will be located on the 2nd floor Annex Lobby. Both booths will be…

Read more

September 02, 2016 07:00 AM

News & Events: Table Titans at PAX WEST 2016

Toonhound Studios is going to be at PAX West this weekend with not ONE but TWO booths.

The Table Titans booth will be located in the 4th floor Atrium Lobby (near the PA Merch Booth) and our Acquisitions Incorporated/D&D booth will be located on the 2nd floor Annex Lobby. Both booths will be…

Read more

September 02, 2016 07:00 AM

Tales: Recipe for Disaster

By far my favorite D&D character is also my most recent—a 5th ed Gnome Warlock named Zook the Irredeemably Evil. He's the result of my asking a relatively simple question: "Can a Nice Guy still be Pure Evil?"

Zook is, like all Gnomes, irrationally cheerful. At one point he served the Queen of…

Read more

September 02, 2016 07:00 AM

The Art of Non-Conformity

Should You Perform for the Audience or Just Entertain Yourself?

Link: Sir Paul on Fans, the Beatles, and Himself

When Paul McCartney goes on tour, he plays a lot of songs. A recent set list included 27 songs and stretched for more than three hours. People get their money’s worth, which is why they keep coming back.

You can think of yourself as an artist that seeks to challenge yourself by trying new things, and there’s nothing wrong that perspective. But there’s also nothing wrong with asking, “What do the people want?” and then thinking about how to give it to them.

From a recent Q&A in the New York Times:

Bob Dylan is also on tour now, playing almost exclusively new songs. Can you imagine doing that?

“I’ve thought about that a lot. Theoretically, the philosophy is good, because, well, you’re not playing songs you’ve played a lot. But my concern is for the audience. I remember when I went to concerts, particularly when I was a kid, it was a lot of money you had to save up. So I imagine myself going to my show: Would I like to hear him play all new songs? No. I wouldn’t want to do that. I would do a smaller gig and advertise the fact up front — I’d probably call the tour “Deep Cuts” or something, so you knew it was going to be just really deep cuts that only the aficionados would know. I think if I did that, it could be quite fun.”

It’s interesting how much you think about the audience being entertained or disappointed.

“Having been one, and having spent what for me was a lot of money. And that was very much the Beatles’ philosophy. If you think about our singles, there was an A and a B side. Normally people put a bit of rubbish on the B side, but the Beatles B sides are really always good. We used to call it ‘value for money.’ Because we had all recently been those teenagers that we were now appealing to.”

It’s kind of like making blockbuster movies versus independent films. Sure, being an artist is good, but what’s wrong with a summer blockbuster?

Making people happy can be an art form of its own.


Images: 1 & 2

by Chris Guillebeau at September 02, 2016 06:06 AM

The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

Small Towns Need Jesus Too

Article by: Scott Slayton

This year gave birth to a renewed interest in the difficulties facing rural American towns. The rhetoric of political populism has tapped into their economic and cultural frustrations while the way of life that has sustained them for decades continually erodes from view. Books like J. D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy profile these residents’ struggles, illumining their fears, frustrations, and hardships. The reality facing rural towns is far from the Bible Belt stereotype or the scenes from Mayberry. Many in rural communities numb their frustrations with addictions to heroin or methamphetamines while going through multiple marriages. 

Donnie Griggs grew up in a small town on North Carolina’s Outer Banks. He knows the issues plaguing small towns, especially the large number of residents rejecting the gospel and unconnected to a church. In his new book, Small Town Jesus: Taking the Gospel Mission Seriously in Seemingly Unimportant Places, Griggs writes about his return to his hometown to plant a church and the need for others to do the same.

Why Small Towns Need Jesus Too 

Griggs devotes the first half of Small Town Jesus to showing why small towns still matter. He notes the increased emphasis on church planting and ministry in cities over the last decade. While necessary, in doing so we have minimized strategically sending people to small towns. We’ve adopted a “trickle-down” theory of ministry, believing that changing cities through the gospel will inevitably flow downstream into small towns (28). But this trickle-down doesn’t happen, Griggs argues, and we must think strategically about small towns instead of seeing ministry in them merely as a byproduct of what happens in larger cities.

Griggs builds his case by pointing to the ministry of Jesus (31–55). In the Gospels, people frequently refer to him as “Jesus of Nazareth,” identifying him with the town of less than a thousand in which he grew up. In addition, he shows that while Jesus did ministry in the cities in Israel, he also went and proclaimed the gospel of the kingdom in small villages as well. Finally, when Jesus deployed his disciples two by two, he sent many of them to small towns to carry out their ministries (Mark 6:7). Griggs highlights this example not to argue that small town ministry should have priority over ministry in cities, but that small town ministry should be prioritized too (54–55). 

Small towns in the United States are a major mission field. Thirty-three million people live in small towns in rural areas and another 23 million live in small towns considered “urban fringe.” As Griggs persuasively argues, these people need strong churches in their towns so that they can receive gospel witness and discipleship. We understand big cities need more churches, but doesn’t every town need at least one gospel-centered church intent on affecting the community with the good news? Anticipating objections regarding the many churches already in small towns, Griggs reminds us of Don Carson’s wise words: “One generation believes the gospel, the next generation assumes the gospel, but the next generation denies the gospel.”

Unfortunately, many American churches abandoned cities half a century ago in favor of comfortable small towns and suburbs. Our cities thus revealed the effects of losing a vibrant gospel witness, so we needed to recover the importance of reaching the countless image-bearers who call our cities home. Through a combination of this emphasis along with the desire of many pastors to build a platform, we started ignoring the small towns dotting the American landscape.

The brokenness and lostness in small American towns is a reality we must begin to understand and address. Generations of families in small towns have lived untouched by the ministry and witness of local churches. Even more families see their teenagers abandon the church in their later high school, years never to return. This process leads to more generations of families living entirely untouched by the church.

How to Reach Small Towns 

After making his case for small town ministry, Griggs offers advice for how to do ministry in small towns. Entering a small town and imposing a ministry model copied from a church in a city or large suburban area can be fatal (107–09). Instead, pastors must labor to know the specific towns in which they minister. This kind of contextualization can’t be accomplished through books and demographic statistics, but by putting boots on the ground and conversations with people.

Pastors in small towns must be good locals and get to know people. Since relationships still fuel the life of small towns, being visible in businesses and local activities is a vital undertaking. Griggs also advocates for pastors frequenting local businesses and restaurants. Instead of quickly moving in and out or sticking headphones in his ears so as to appear unavailable, a pastor should spend lots of time in small talk with residents. This is how he learns his people and their stories, and comes to better understand the town’s brokenness. 

Pastors seeking to build gospel-centered ministries in small towns will benefit especially from this book’s practical section. People in small towns tend to reject having big city models of ministry imposed on them. This backlash becomes even more evident when the pastor disengages from the people around him and seeks to do ministry in a purely attractional manner. Small towns are still driven by relationships, and the pastor who understands this fact has the potential for building a ministry that will touch many with the gospel and grow them into mature disciples. It should go without saying, but when a small town pastor demonstrates care for his neighbors, they’re far more likely to listen to his message. 

The major thrust of Small Town Jesus is for more men to plant more churches in small towns. This is a good emphasis, but church revitalization needs to be emphasized as well. If we can focus on ministry in cities and small towns at the same time, surely we can focus on church planting and revitalization at the same time. Many churches have already established ministries in a town, but need to see new life brought to their congregations. How can those churches who’ve seen their future leave after high school graduation, never to return, engage their communities with a small and mostly older congregation? How can Christians engage families in their community who’ve been untouched by the church for several generations? Answering these kinds of questions could have rounded out this work and made it useful to an even greater number of pastors. 


Donnie Griggs. Small Town Jesus: Taking the Gospel Mission Seriously in Seemingly Unimportant Places. Everyday Truth, 2016. 172 pp. $12.99. 

Scott Slayton serves as lead pastor of Chelsea Village Baptist Church in Chelsea, Alabama. He graduated from the University of Mobile and the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He has been married to Beth since 2003, and they have four children. He blogs at One Degree to Another. You can follow him on Twitter

by Scott Slayton at September 02, 2016 05:02 AM

Loving the Church When It Hurts

Article by: Staff

Workshop Leader: Jackie Hill Perry

Date: June 17, 2016

Event: The Gospel Coalition 2016 Women’s Conference, Indianapolis, Indiana

Jackie Hill Perry is a writer and artist. Since being saved from a lifestyle of homosexual sin, Jackie has been compelled to share the light of gospel truth through poems, and she released her debut album, The Art of Joy, in 2014. Jackie serves at Grip Outreach for Youth, which is a nonprofit organization loving Chicago's fatherless teens.

You can listen to this episode of The Gospel Coalition podcast here.

by Staff at September 02, 2016 05:01 AM

5 Steps to Meditating on Your Bible

Article by: Kristen Wetherell

Not long ago, I asked my pastor about the difference between meditation and prayer, as the two can be hard to distinguish. He replied, “In Scripture, God speaks to us. In prayer, we speak to him. What he says to us prompts what we say to him.” 

To meditate, then, is to think deeply about what God has said to us in Scripture and to prepare our minds and hearts for prayer. Scripture fuels meditation, and meditation fuels prayer.

But what exactly does meditation look like? The Psalms give at least five steps for meditating on God’s Word. We meditate to focus, understand, remember, worship, and apply.

1. To focus

I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. (Ps. 119:15)

Whether we read our Bibles in the morning, over lunch, or before bed at night, our schedules and responsibilities tend to assail us with distractions. In fact, distractions are a tool Satan uses to pull our eyes off Christ and prevent us from hearing God in his Word.

Psalm 119 exhorts us to fix our eyes on God’s ways. As wayward humans with many pursuits and persons vying for our attention, meditation frees us to fix our eyes on Jesus and tune out distractions, even if only for five minutes. Focusing on what we’re reading in Scripture provides clarity when we pray.

Meditate to focus on how God is speaking to you through his Word.

2. To understand

Make me understand the way of your precepts, and I will meditate on your wondrous works. (Ps. 119:27)

In meditation we seek to understand how the God of the universe is speaking about himself, our world, and our hearts. We begin by praying with the psalmist, “Make me understand your way!” This is a prayer God delights to answer.

Questions to ask during meditation include: Why is this passage important? What do I need to know? What does it say about God? What does it say about me? How does this reading point to Jesus?

Meditate to understand what God is communicating to you through his Word.

3. To remember

I remember the days of old; I meditate on all that you have done; I ponder the work of your hands. (Ps. 143:5)

The whole Bible is one grand story that points to Jesus Christ from beginning to end. When we meditate on Scripture, we do so to remember all God has done in his great redemption story, how he sent Christ to save a people from their sin. In meditation we ponder the work of God’s hands.

Remembering may also bring us to ponder all God has done in our own lives: how he saved us, the opportunities he’s giving us to share the good news, and what we’ve learned about who God is.

Meditate to remember all that God has accomplished through the gospel of grace.

4. To worship

But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. (Ps. 1:2)

Once we’ve meditated to focus, understand, and remember, we will normally find our hearts inclined to worship. So we pause to lift our gaze to the excellencies of Christ, to bend our eyes off the world, to express thanksgiving and adoration when we pray. Meditation leads to delight when the Holy Spirit inclines our hearts to see and savor how glorious God is.

Because of sin and its effects, our hearts often don’t delight in God’s Word. We are tempted to stop reading, to lose focus, to move on to other things. Meditation “arrests” our hearts to delight in God’s Word, which is vital for our spiritual strength and joy.  

Meditate to worship the God who deserves all thanks and praise for who he is and what he has done in Christ.

5. To apply

Finally, we’re better able to understand how to apply the Bible when we slow down to meditate. In applying what we read, we ask, “Now what must I do?” 

Here’s a brief example. Let’s say you’re reading Titus 3:3-4:

For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray. . . . But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy.

From this passage, you might confess specific ways you’ve disobeyed and gone astray. You might praise God for sending his undeserved lovingkindness in Christ. You might ask for his help in loving someone who’s hurt you with the mercy you’ve received.

Our desire in meditation is to be careful to “do according to all that is written” in the Bible (Josh. 1:8). Then, we bring these points of application to God in prayer, asking for spiritual strength to obey, forsake sin, humble ourselves, and walk worthy of our calling in Christ.

Meditate to apply the Bible to your daily life, and to ask for help in prayer.

Help in Weakness

It’s no accident the Bible often speaks about the value of meditation and its purposeful placement before prayer. Our time in the Word is like running a race: meditation is the warmup; prayer our run to the finish. We cannot be effective in the discipline of prayer apart from engaging in the warmup of meditation.

So what do we do when meditation seems impossible, when our focus is affected by outside circumstances and our hearts feel cold to God’s Word? We cling to his gracious help, poured out through his Spirit. And if we realize we’ve never truly meditated, we trust it’s never too late to begin.

For the Spirit helps us in our weakness, fixing our eyes on Christ, giving us understanding, bringing to mind God’s wonderful works, filling us with joy, and leading us to walk in the truth. 

Editors’ note: This article originally appeared at Unlocking the Bible

Kristen Wetherell is a writer, Bible teacher, and the content manager of Unlocking the Bible. She is the author, along with Sarah Walton, of Hope When It Hurts: Biblical Reflections to Help You Grasp God’s Purpose in Your Suffering (The Good Book Company, April 2017). She blogs at her website, and you can follow her on Twitter. She and her husband, Brad, are members of The Orchard in Arlington Heights, Illinois.

by Kristen Wetherell at September 02, 2016 05:00 AM

Workout: September 2, 2016

Monster Mash! As many rounds and reps as possible in 8 minutes of: 3 deficit handstand push-ups (10/6in.) 1 legless rope climb from seated 6 deficit handstand push-ups (10/6in.) 2 legless rope climbs from seated 9 deficit handstand push-ups (10/6in.) 2 legless rope climbs from seated Etc., Rest 2 minutes 800m run 25 overhead squats […]

by Crystal at September 02, 2016 03:57 AM

September 01, 2016

John C. Wright's Journal

Parable of the Naughts and Crosses

A reader asks:

I have carefully read most of your argument with Dr Andreassen and I find that the point where you and him disagree is that you affirm final causes and he does not. Would you be willing to give a defense of final cause? Or in other words why you affirm that there is such a thing as final cause and why it can not be a form of a how in disguise and is indeed a why.

Good question.

Final cause is defined as the cause that answers the purpose for which an action is done, the aim.

Defining a term does not mean the object so defined actually exists, so the next question is whether anything fits this definition?

To argue that there are no final causes is aimless. The man making the argument against the existence of final causes would have to admit that his statements serve no purpose, are not aimed at anything. That would be a self-refuting admission.

This proves final cause can be defined, and that at least some existing things fit the definition. The next question you asked is whether final causes can be reduced to efficient causes, that is, can one deduce, without error, the purpose of an action from the mechanics of the action?

I use the example of chess because it is a simple enough game that even machines can play it, or go through the motions of playing it. Since many modern people suffer from an inability to distinguish computers from people, I will use an even simpler example, using tic-tac-toe and played with cards.

Suppose you had a deck, not of 52 cards, but of each move of the 255,168 possible unique tic-tac-toe games. The cards are kept in a chest of drawers. Each drawer is also marked with a diagram of a possible board. Within each drawer is every legal move that can be made in response.

Two instructions are carved into the top of the chest of drawers. The first says to compare the diagram on the drawer with the board, open the drawer, and play a card within. The second says that, as you play each game, whenever you lose, you throw away the card representing the losing move from the drawer representing the previous move. That way, next time you play the game, the move that lost is not the one among the available options to play from that drawer.

Now, suppose your grandfather avidly played tictactoe and carefully threw out every card that represents a losing move. The Naughts and Crosses chest would now only contain cards leading to victory or stalemate.

Again, suppose you inherit the chest and do not know the rules of the game, and no one ever told you the victory conditions. Nonetheless, merely by following the instructions carved in the lid of how to open the drawer and play a card taken blindly from inside that drawer, you can win or stalemate every game.

Now suppose a philosopher strolls up while you are on the last move of a winning game. There are two crosses in in the upper left and right squares, and your opponent has not placed a naught in the upper middle square to block.

You inspect the board, find the drawer that represents it, and open it. Inside is a single card showing the winning move. You follow the card’s instructions and place a third cross in the upper middle square.

The philosopher asks, “Why did you make that move? What was your aim?”

You explain the mechanisms of the chest carefully to him. You show him that your grandfather threw out all the other cards which would have you place a cross elsewhere on the board. There was only one card in this drawer.

The philosopher says, “No, you have told me the mechanics of how you select which move to play. You have not told me what the purpose, point, or aim of the move itself is.”

You look carefully over the chest of drawers. Nowhere are the rules of ticatactoe written down, nor the victory conditions.

The other player says, “The victory condition is to place three a row, either horizontally, diagonally, or vertically.”

Now, studying the chest of drawers a second time, you do notice that all the possible moves of the cards your grandfather did not throw away do, in fact, fit the pattern of being intentional moves meant to bring about the three in a row for crosses while preventing three in a row for naughts.

The word ‘pattern’ here refers to no material property of the chest or the cards, but to the model you carry in your head that you use to deduce the purpose or aim of the grandfather’s chest. The word ‘pattern’ refers to the form.

The pattern is not in the chest, but in the head of you, the gameplayer.

One can say, metaphorically, that the chest of drawers thinks about tictactoe; that the act of throwing away cards is like punishing a dog for pooping on the carpet in order, that is, tossing cards is teaching the chest to play; one can say that the chest ponders moves and calculates decision trees; and that the chest selects the winning move because it aims to win; but this is clearly a metaphor, and a grossly misleading metaphor at that.

The chest of drawers has no brain and it is not alive. Its drawers open and shut when and only when you open or shut them. The discarded cards are thrown away not because the chest wants you to win a game, or wants anything, or knows what a game is, or knows anything. If the cards were replaced with autumn leaves, the chest would not act any differently. It does not act at all.

The chest is, in fact, a tool. As a tool, it has the final cause, or aim, the toolmaker made it to serve. This aim is only served if the game player follows the grandfather’s instructions. The chest does not decide to play, grow ambitious for victory, or lie awake at nights thinking furiously about strategy. It is not a creature capable of thought because it is not a creature.

If the why of the game (three in a row) were something that could be reduced to a how (opening the drawer that corresponds the current board and play a card from within) then purpose of the game would be a mechanical property of the chest, a physical property.

Examining the mechanics of the game chest would explain everything about it, except the meaning of the game.

If the purpose of the game were a physical property of the chest, the game player in this hypothetical who knows no rules of naughts and crosses could answer the question of why he made the winning move merely by looking at the chest of drawers and the cards, without knowing the instructions, or knowing how to read the cards, because the answer would be a physical property of the chest or the cards, not a mental property of the gameplayer using the chest.

If the why were a physical property rather than a mental property, then the cards could be replaced by blank cards or autumn leaves, and the chest would still serve the same purpose.

If the why were a physical property rather than a mental property, the chest would still have the craving and the burning desire to play naughts and crosses even after the game player died, and the instructions on how to use the chest were lost.

In reality, you need to know the victory condition being sought in order to know the aim of the moves being made. Th emoves have no meaning in and of themselves: they only have meaning to a human observer with a mind.

Since this is true for a simple tool like a chest of drawers, it is also true if the cards are punchcards, or there is a clockwork mechanism to react to the board to match the cards to the corresponding board and unlock the proper drawer;  or if the representation is entirely abstract, such as a circuit board leading to neon lights shaped like naughts or crosses, lit or unlit to show the move; or if the machine is more abstract again, and streams of electrons passing through logic gates represent one and zeros of a software representing naughts and crosses.

No matter how abstract the machine, and no matter whether it is given a mainspring or electric motor to impart motion to it, the machine is still a machine with the nature of a machine.

Adding more mechanics does not make somehow suddenly into a self-aware, alert, self-moving and living organism which is engaging in the act of contemplating, selecting from options, forming a preference, and deciding on a tactic to satisfy an aim.


Now, having gone over this argument countless times, I will point out that no materialist deigning to present an argument has ever once given even a single example of describing a why as a how, or describing a final cause in terms of mechanical cause, reducing a quality to a quantity, or defining a quality to a quantity.

None of them has been able to define the term ‘checkmate’ in terms of standard international units. Why not? Acceleration can be defined in terms of such units. If checkmate is a property of matter as acceleration is a property of matter, the definition should be the same.

Many have made the windy claim that intelligence is an emergent property of matter in motion, but not one has given a single example, simple or complicated, real or imaginary, of such emergence.

No one has even tried.

No one has responded, except to change the subject.

(I make one exception: one materialists said rolling a ball down a Y-shaped chute with two exist was an example of thinking, pondering and decision-making. The response was like a zen koan.)

No one (including the zen materialist with his Y-shaped chute) has even seemed to understand what the question is asking.

All that happens is that the materialist assumes that if an observer attributes a symbolic meaning to a bit of matter in motion (my zen materialists seemed to be assuming a rolled ball exiting one chute represents “no” and the other “yes”) that the symbol exists not in the mind of the observer, but as a physical property of the object.

The problem is that everyone carries something like a codebook in his imagination which translates symbols from any physical incarnation to their symbolic meaning in their mind. The meaning is in the mind, not in the instantiation in matter. If the meaning were in the matter, it would be impossible to use a circle to represent zero in on instance and an omicron in another.

If the meaning were in the matter, any one would be able to read a language with which he were unfamiliar, merely by examining the material properties of the symbols, their weight, duration, and temperature and so on.

If the meaning were in the matter, no one could play blindfold chess.

If the meaning were in the matter, any one, even a man who just escaped from the dreaded Chinese room of Robert Searle, could play naughts and crosses with his grandfather’s chest of drawers, even if he were not told the instructions.

If the meaning were in the instantiation, any one, even a man who just escaped from the dreaded Chinese room of Robert Searle,

Simply repeating the absurdity that atoms think and clocks talk does not answer the question when someone asks you how atoms and clocks come to have the power to think and talk.

The reason why no one tries to answer the question is that the thing cannot be done; it cannot even be imagined.

No matter how many hows you add to an explanation of how, it cannot by magic emerge into a description of why. No matter how many moving wheels you add to a complex clock, the clock cannot spring to life, look at its own face, and worry about the time.

If I were wrong on this point, a single, solitary, sole example of it being done would refute me.



by John C Wright at September 01, 2016 09:56 PM