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October 06, 2015

Table Titans

Tales: The Abused Monk


I have been a Dungeon Master for close to fifteen years now. I've witnessed many memorable encounters, but one that sticks in my mind was when two players tried to infiltrate a tower in order to rescue a young noble. Since this involved stealth, the heavily armored Fighter decided to sit this one…

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October 06, 2015 07:01 AM

Front Porch Republic

Christopher Lasch and the Lasting Delimma of Localism

lasch2[Cross-posted to In Media Res]

This past weekend, at the annual Front Porch Republic gathering (this year held at SUNY-Geneseo), three scholars reflected upon the writings of the historian and provocateur Christopher Lasch (most of whose career was spent in Rochester, just a short drive from Geneseo), an oft discontented prophet of a more local, more equal, and more humble America whom we FPR bloggers have invoked regularly throughout our whole history. As I listened to these folks lay out their thoughts, and particularly when it came to the Q&A at the end of the panel, it occurred to me: Lasch’s fondness of binaries was at work in all of their presentations and answers, and appropriately so, because such dividedness is perhaps the unavoidable lot of every possible form of modern localism.

That’s might seem to be a tragedy, since the retreat from liberal anomie and alienation is conceived by many as a path towards a kind of political wholeness and social integrity, not a stressful balancing act. And perhaps it is. But perhaps it’s a blessing as well, a reminder that, in our divided feelings and perceptions, we’re rubbing up against limits in both the human self and the communities we create which are meaningful and real.

In the presentation given by Eric Miller–whose recent biography and exploration of the writings of Lasch is must-reading–the unstated binary in question, it seemed to me, was Lasch’s revolt against the overly confident, secular and liberal progressivism of the mid-20th-century America’s “new class” of professionals, writers, and intellectuals…alongside the fact that, well, that was the class which Lasch was a part of, the class which enabled him (a kid from Omaha) to have access to the cosmopolitan “republic of letters” and the life of the mind. In other words, Lasch’s criticism of the flattening corporate, governmental, and therapeutic gigantism America’s postwar liberal institutions–their lack of democracy, their condescending compassion, their absence of respect for working class and religious ways of life–constituted a populist defense of the local, and yet that very revolt was, for Lasch, justified in light of a more transcendent tribunal: the judgment of civilization, the good life, and (though Lasch himself fought against admitting this) a kind of Christian decency. Lasch knew that the best case for higher things had to made through an embrace of the particular–though the particular, in itself, could only provide the tiniest evidence of the larger and better sensibilities which give it credence. This is the intellectual localist dilemma in a nutshell: the best understanding of why one’s own place and practices ought to be loved and defended involves arguments which partake of something which transcends the local entirely.

Robert Westbrook, a colleague of Lasch’s, reflected on a much more stark binary: how the localist, in bringing into her affections for a place and its practices a sense of ends, makes the quotidian everyday-ness of our lives that much more valuable…and yet there could be no greater expression of narcissism than to fail to accept that our own daily-ness will be superseded by that of others, soon enough. The occasion for this was Lasch’s own early death from cancer, and how he furiously railed (though he later apologized) against those doctors that attempted to turn him, in his words, into a “professional patient.” Westbrook made reference to Martin Heidegger, a philosopher whom Lasch very likely never read, and his understanding that it is the ultimate limit upon sense being–that is, our deaths–which makes possible an authentic sense of care. Lasch’s writings and example point localists towards that which has inspired so many poets: the brute fact that our ability to most fully be rooted in and contribute to a community is inextricably tied up with the fact that, it too, is a passing thing.

Finally Elizabeth Lasch-Quinn, Lasch’s daughter and one of his most skilled literary executors, brought the matter of binaries forward explicitly, choosing to focus on her father’s distinction between “nostalgia” and “memory,” and making a moderate defense of the former, which Lasch had criticized. Her argument that the former can trigger and contribute to the latter found a real-world example in the discussion period afterward, when one student shared the story of a tragic death in his hometown, a death which had led to acts of memorialization which, as time went by, had come to be experienced by the deceased’s family members as a painful act of “mere” nostalgia. The discussion, then, turned to matters of risk. Since nostalgia is a feeling we have for something we’ve loved and lost, any recovery of it is bound to involve regret and pain, something that will be, inevitably, unevenly experienced across a community. Yet is the alternative to privatize pain entirely? That robs us of one of the primary reasons why localism presents itself as an answer to individualism in the first place. Localism, by making possible the sort of practices which enable real and meaningful connections to emerge between people, also makes possible a critical engagement with memory, thus hopefully preventing it from either turning into a mostly meaningless mass and routine genuflection, or being forgotten entirely.

The common thread through all of these presentations, I think? The fact that pursuing the option of sustaining local places and traditions, instead of embracing the easy institutions and ideologies of individual growth and change, means constant negotiation. What will have to be negotiated? The balance between particular instances of plebeian defensiveness and transcendent republican principles, between tightly grasping one’s circumstances and letting them go, between moments of memorialization and individual resistance. A lack of resistance against the community and its norms and its ineluctable workings-out would mean we’d become inhuman. But too much resistance robs us of the larger point of what, to quote Michael Sandel, “we can know together.”

Lasch whole life was, perhaps, an example of someone who saw the particular and the general equally well, and threw himself into a struggle with them both. May his ideas aid us in our own struggles as well.

The post Christopher Lasch and the Lasting Delimma of Localism appeared first on Front Porch Republic.

by Russell Arben Fox at October 06, 2015 04:33 AM

Cal Newport » Blog

On Full Horizon Planning and the Under-Appreciated Power of Workflow Systems

The Missing System

Here’s something that baffles me: the fact that most companies don’t invest in helping their employees develop effective workflow systems.

(It’s probably worth taking a moment here for definitions: When I say “workflow system,” I mean a set of habits and tools used to organize what work you do and when you do it. And when I say “effective,” I’m referring to the amount of value you produce.)

Most people don’t dedicate much thought to such systems. The default, instead, is to run your day as a reaction to events and deadlines on your calendar, an inconsistently referenced task list, and, most of all, the flux coursing through your inbox.

As productivity nerds know, however, there are much more effective ways to get important things done.

Full Horizon Planning

Consider my own workflow system (evolved over a decade of close scrutiny). I call it full horizon planning.

The motivating philosophy here is simple: every project I’m obligated to complete has two states, dormant or active; if it’s dormant, it’s tracked somewhere that is regularly reviewed (so I won’t forget), and once I make it active — and this is the important part — I make a plan for how and when the whole thing will be completed.

To pull this off, this plan must exist at multiple levels of refining granularity. That is, on the monthly level, I know what weeks I will work on the project, and only when I get to those weeks do I plan out what days I will work on it, and only when I get to the specific days do I figure out which hours it will consume.

(For specifics; c.f., here and here and here and here and here, among many relevant posts.)

These plans, of course, change as things unfold, but the point is that I don’t deal in abstractions, I like to work directly with the brute physicality of time. This makes sure I get the most out of the cycles I have available, and it prevents me from committing to more than is feasible.

This workflow system requires more upfront investment of mental energy than lurching from deadline to deadline, and it certainly wouldn’t work for all types of jobs, but it’s a major factor in my ability to consistently move ideas from conception to completion, and do so while rarely working past five.

To summarize, a good workflow system can (I suspect) at least double the amount of value the average employee produces. And yet, we rarely see much emphasis placed on optimizing this piece of the professional puzzle.

This smells like a big open opportunity to me.

by Study Hacks at October 06, 2015 01:06 AM

The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

What About the Minority Experience in America Do Whites Often Miss?

One of the beautiful byproducts of the gospel is that it gathers believers from many backgrounds into one body. Still, we don’t share all the same experiences. Those in the American cultural majority simply don’t face everything minority brothers and sisters do, and vice versa.

What are some of these experiences? What burdens do cultural minorities bear that many of us in the majority are prone to overlook and not handle with care? Is there any benefit to gathering in an ethic-centered context?

In a new roundtable video, Trip Lee (hip-hop artist and pastor of Cornerstone Church in Atlanta), Alex Medina (creative director at Reach Records), and Jemar Tisby (co-founder of Reformed African American Network) help us to grasp some issues minorities in our churches face and to consider ways “cultural-majority believers” can be more considerate of the minority experience.

Ryan Troglin is an editorial assistant in the Office of the President at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He and his wife, Stacey, are members at Third Avenue Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky.

by Ryan Troglin at October 06, 2015 12:00 AM

Still in the World: A Pro-Life View of Dying

Note: Yesterday, California became the fifth—and most populous—state to pass an assisted dying bill. The California law, which was modeled on an Oregon law, will permit physicians to provide lethal prescriptions to mentally competent adults who have been diagnosed with a terminal illness and face the expectation that they will die within six months.

The following story relates how my mother’s terminal illness fortified my own views on the subject and led me to a greater appreciation of the pro-life view of death and dying. 

“What if you die overseas and I’m not there,” my mom said when I told her I had joined the Marines. I laughed and said that even if I were a civilian and died in the United States she most likely wouldn’t be there. Still, she worried that she would one day get a call saying that I’d been killed or was dying far from home.

My mother worried for nothing. Instead, over a decade later, I was the one who got the dreaded phone call.

“Mom’s not expected to live much longer,” my younger brother said. “You might want to come home.” I had just arrived in Okinawa and had to fly back to mainland Japan. As I waited another three days for the next plane back to the United States, I began to wonder if I’d make it home in time.

Two years earlier, when my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, my brother built a room onto his house so that she could live with him and his family. The past few months had been especially hard on them. The constant care, the weekly trips for the chemotherapy treatments to a Dallas hospital, two hours each way, the anxiety of watching her get worse, had worn them down.

When they picked me up from the airport they tried to be warm, but our meeting was strained. On the ride home they made clear to me—politely but unmistakably—that the prodigal son would be expected to take his turn shouldering the burden.

I hadn’t seen mom since she was diagnosed. The redheaded, vibrant woman had been replaced with a bald, weak shell of a human being. Our reunion was awkward and bittersweet.

I masked my discomfort by falling into a regular routine. At night I’d sit on her bed, prepare her medicines, including the morphine she needed for the pain, and then swab the shunt in her chest with rubbing alcohol. Concern about an infection seemed to be an absurd worry when the tumors were destroying her from within. But I performed the task with the utmost care and pretended that it made a difference. We would make small talk as she drifted in and out of sleep.

Four or five nights after I had returned home, I began loading the needle with morphine when I felt a strange impulse, similar to the urge to jump that overcomes you when you stand on the edge of a bridge. An extra dose, I thought. That is all it would take. My family would wake in the morning to a sense of guilty relief and the welcome release of dammed up grief.

There would be no autopsy, no questions. No one would know. An extra dose of morphine and the waiting and the pain and the suffering and the dying would all come to an end.

I sat with the syringe in hand, watching her labored breathing. My mother was dying, and dying in pain. And I could make it stop.

Although my mother had experienced suffering and pain many other times in her life, I had never before been tempted to end her life. What had changed that had made me consider, however fleetingly and out of a sickeningly misplaced sense of compassion, usurping the role of God? A wave of revulsion washed over me as I realized I had been tempted because I had forgotten a simple truth: The dying are still the living, and their inherent worth is not diminished simply because their remaining moments on earth are few.

After that night the routine changed. I’d say a prayer and carefully measure out the correct dosage—sometimes slightly less just to be safe. I stayed for three weeks, giving the shots, cleaning the shunt, making small talk, and attempting to make my mom as comfortable as possible. Mostly, though, I would watch her while she rested and wait with her while she endured the pain.

We made it through Thanksgiving and it became obvious that she wasn’t finished living. My leave was running out and I returned to Japan. Mom held on for several more weeks before passing away peacefully in her sleep.

It was only after her death that I could fully appreciate the casual lesson she had taught me. She had once been a hospice nurse and had cared for dozens of people as they began to die, staying with them to the end. I once asked her what the job entailed. “Mostly waiting,” she said. “You just stay with them and make them comfortable. Let them know they are not alone.”

Her words reminded me of Jesus and his followers in the Garden of Gethsemane. In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus tells three of his disciples: “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch.” (14:34). Then, going a little further into the garden, he prayed that the cup be taken away from him.

And he came and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not watch one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy, and they did not know what to answer him. (Mark 14:37-40)

The disciples provide an example—or rather a counterexample—of what is expected of the rest of us when God has sent us to comfort the dying. The duty of friendship required that the disciples provide the solace that can only come from bodily presence.

They were not expected to hasten the end of their master’s suffering or even to suffer with him. Their task was merely to relieve his despair and loneliness simply by being watchful and near. Similarly, our task, as my mother had explained to me, consists mostly of waiting, of watching, letting those passing from this world know they are not alone.

As the philosopher Josef Pieper reminds us, loving a person is a way of saying, “It’s good that you exist; it’s good that you are in the world!” Those who are nearing the end of lives need to know that it is good that they exist, that it’s good that they are still in the world. And they need to know that we are with them, waiting and watching, till the end.

Joe Carter is an editor for The Gospel Coalition 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 October 06, 2015 12:00 AM

Effective Discipling in Muslim Communities: Scripture, History, and Seasoned Practices

Since 9/11 there’s been a steady stream of books advising Christians how to faithfully evangelize Muslims. Yet there’s been little output from Christian publishers on how to faithfully disciple former Muslims once they embrace the gospel of Christ.

Don Little, who serves as Islamic missiologist for Pioneers and teaches the Christian study of Islam and missiology at Houghton College, attempts to address that question in Effective Discipling in Muslim Communities: Scripture, History and Seasoned Practices.

Impressive Edifices, Shaky Foundations 

As the subtitle promises, Little walks through portions of Scripture and church history to derive lessons for discipleship. He then surveys common issues in the lives of believers from Muslim backgrounds (“BMBs,” as he calls them) as well as responses to those challenges from experienced disciplers around the globe.

Little displays a mature understanding of the particular challenges BMBs face, and he raises many issues Western churches serious about support ministry in Muslim-majority regions should understand and prepare for. Still, as impressive and helpful as his diagnosis is, there are some basic confusions that mar its usefulness. Effective Discipling is an experience in watching someone tear down with his left hand what he’s built with his right. Even as Little addresses topics churches and missionaries need to consider, I’m not convinced his assumptions and methodology should be adopted.

Conceding to the Trend               

Little’s historical consideration of discipleship is chiefly a critique of what he sees as a modernistic model centered on individualistic methods and right thinking. Beyond the tired, simplistic critique of Western Christianity that emphasizing the mind somehow precludes behavioral change, his solution is flawed. Scanning history to find a better way is commendable, to be sure, but his method in doing so is frustrating to any Protestant invested in church history.

While rightly arguing for the importance of community in discipleship (72, 109), Little looks to questionable sources to defend it. The three traditions he cites are Eastern Orthodoxy, Benedictine monasticism, and High Anglicanism of the strongly sacramental variety. But there are other streams in church history that argue for the value of community and sound doctrine without compromising or clouding the gospel (the Puritans spring to mind). It’s unfortunate that Little concedes to the trend of thinking in broader evangelicalism that believes those who deny justification by faith alone can be depended on to model Christian maturity and discipleship. 

Vague View of Conversion

But the most fundamental problem with Effective Discipling is, a bit ironically, the lack of a clear definition of conversion. Even though Little documents genuine repentance as foundational to conversion, and baptism to Christian discipleship (31), he’s willing to describe as Christians persons who’ve not yet expressed those things. Functionally, he seems to view anyone who professes belief in Jesus as a Christian—even if that belief is not exclusive. Though early on he acknowledges the possibility of false conversions, this possibility is never a live factor when he gets to practical issues of BMB discipleship.

Perhaps the clearest illustration of his operating definition of conversion is the chapter on spiritual warfare. Here Little argues that even believers can experience demonic possession. He sweeps away objections to this position, claiming that those who object provide no evidence against his view (238). (Incredibly, this comes only 10 pages after he cites Jesus’s parable of the demon cast out of the house that remains empty.)

Little then proceeds to say believers cannot expect deliverance from demonic attack until “they renounce Satan and all his works and deliberately seek freedom in Christ” and “explicitly renounce Islam” (238). But is it possible for someone to be a Christian before renouncing Islam or Satan? This seems directly counter to Paul’s statement that we cannot dine at the table of both demons and the Lord (1 Cor. 10:21). If someone has not renounced Satan and his works, or any competing religion, how can we possible conceive of that person as a believer? Or what about his basic description of Christian faith in Romans 10, that “if you confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart God raised him from the dead, you will be saved”? As a result, Effective Discipling is full of stories of young “Christians” falling away who never really sounded like genuine believers.

This ambiguous understanding of conversion pervades the book and undermines much good work. Even though Little denounces the Insider Movement trend, practically he still allows the possibility of Christians who haven’t renounced a Muslim identity. And though he begins and ends by urging patience in discipling BMBs (36, 303), I felt my confidence in the Lord to complete his good work strained by Little’s vague view of conversion.

Encouraging and Discouraging 

I found Effective Discipling simultaneously encouraging and discouraging. Little is excellent at diagnosing and explaining the challenges of ministry in Muslim countries. He’s particularly adept at clarifying the social pressures and costs that accompany a conversion out of Islam into Christianity. He has much mature wisdom to offer on questions regarding financial support of local believers and the roles foreign missionaries should play in the life of local churches. Yet his impressive work is marred by what amounts to a failure to apply to practical reality a biblical understanding of conversion. 

I hope this book starts many discussions about the challenges involved with discipling BMBs. By integrating historic practices of discipleship and experience, there is a real depth to LIttle's understanding of the long-term issues that are often neglected in the literature on ministry to Muslims. But I also hope those discussions find many of their solutions elsewhere.

Don Little. Effective Discipling in Muslim Communities: Scripture, History, and Seasoned Practices. Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2015. 350 pp. $24.00. 

Caleb Greggsen grew up in Central Asia and Western Europe. He and his wife live and work in Louisville, Kentucky, where they are members of Third Avenue Baptist Church.

by Caleb Greggsen at October 06, 2015 12:00 AM

5 Strategies for Raising Pastor’s Kids to Love the Church

It was a typical Sunday morning in the church foyer. My older son was hiding behind my dress as strangers tried to compliment him. My younger son ran up to a kind older lady and kicked her in the shin. My infant daughter, strapped onto my chest with a stretchy baby wrap, spit up on the inside of the baby wrap. I froze while curdled milk dripped down the front of me.

Ladies and gentlemen, the pastor’s family has arrived!

The truth is pastors’ kids are just regular kids. They give grief. They sin. They must be taught to treasure God and love his Word. They do, however, have unique pressure placed on them that often leads them to begrudge the church. As parents, then, we should put strategies in place to help our children love the church rather than resent it.

Though still a work in progress for our family, here are five strategies we’re employing toward this end:

1. Focus on God and pray.

Our ultimate focus should not be on our church or our children, but on God. While both the church and our children have great eternal value, being awestruck by God will speak volumes to our kids as they try to navigate through life as pastor’s kids. 

We must devote them to God in prayer. He is the only one, after all, who can give our kids a heart to love his church. And we should teach them to discern God’s weightiness and goodness.

May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ (2 Thess. 3:5). 

2. Love and embrace the church.

Our own hearts must love the local church—and we must vocalize that love. Parents, our church-related frustrations spill over to our kids more often than they realize. Sure, there will be difficult times in the trenches, but we should generally save discussion about such issues for after the kids are in bed. Sure, it’s healthy to have some conversations about the imperfections of your church. We must be careful here, though; kids tend to imitate their parents. When our kids hear us consistently and passionately expressing love for the church, they are more likely to follow. 

We can also help our kids embrace the church by encouraging friendships within it. Our children shouldn’t feel special or “above” others. And they shouldn’t feel they don’t fit in because Dad is the pastor.

Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor (Rom. 12:10).

3. Love our kids more. 

As much as we love our church, we must love our kids more. Church and children are not in competition. We are called to love and shepherd our children first. In fact, according to Scripture, a man must be a good father before he’s even qualified to be an elder (1 Tim. 3:4–5).

Our kids must know they are deeply cherished and valued. One way we can show them love is through regular undivided attention. How sweet it is to see a child’s face light up when their pastor-dad looks away from the crowd in the church foyer and calls them over for a hug. 

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward (Ps. 127:3).

4. Give freedom.

One potential contributing factor toward pastor’s kids resenting the church is that they’ve been forced to serve in various roles they don’t enjoy. We should give our kids freedom to decide how they want to be a part of the church body. A forced cookie-cutter pastor’s kid will likely grow to resent the church. On the other hand, a pastor’s kid who joyfully serves where he or she is gifted will better understand how the body works together for God’s glory. 

Another part of giving our children some freedom is encouraging friendships outside the church. This can help grow their identity beyond “pastor’s kid,” and they can benefit from having friends who don’t see their dad on stage every week.

Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them (Rom. 12:6).  

5. Lead graciously.

We must remember that our kids are kids. Among other things, this means showing them tremendous grace and giving them room to make mistakes. When they sin, we get to lead them kindly toward repentance. Slapping the title “pastor’s kid” on a child doesn’t mean they’ll automatically act like a Spirit-led saint who obeys with a happy heart.

 As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him (Ps. 103:13).

Bury Your Pride

At the end of the day, we must bury our pride and accept that our kids are not on display to show that ministry parents make the best parents. They are not here to make us look good. They are God’s image-bearers with infinitely precious souls, and we are given the responsibility to lead them. What a glorious opportunity we have to pass down joyful affection for Christ’s blood-bought bride.

“You may speak but a word to a child,” Charles Spurgeon remarked, “and in that child there may be slumbering a noble heart which shall stir the Christian church in years to come.”

Nikki Daniel is a pastor’s wife from Augusta, Georgia. She has two fun-loving boys, Noah Spurgeon (6) and Isaiah Newton (4), and one daughter, Tatom Abigail (7 months). She enjoys working from home as a freelance writer and graphic designer. Nikki graduated with a BA in advertising from the University of Houston and a MATS degree from Southern Seminary.

by Nikki Daniel at October 06, 2015 12:00 AM

October 05, 2015

Tim Cook remembers Steve Jobs on anniversary of death →

Apple's CEO:

What is his legacy? I see it all around us: An incredible team that embodies his spirit of innovation and creativity. The greatest products on earth, beloved by customers and empowering hundreds of millions of people around the world. Soaring achievements in technology and architecture. Experiences of surprise and delight. A company that only he could have built. A company with an intense determination to change the world for the better.

It's often been said that Steve's most important product was Apple itself. I think that's true.


by Stephen Hackett at October 05, 2015 10:46 PM

Workout: Oct. 6, 2015

Deadlifts 2-2-2 Turkish get-ups 2-2-2 Partner core workout – 3 rounds of: Max loaded leg raises Weighted plank Rest while partner works

by Mike at October 05, 2015 10:25 PM

John C. Wright's Journal » John C. Wright's Journal

Grand Inquisitor, Call Your Office

It is a sad commentary on our times that one can no longer tell the difference between satire and reality.


Protestant Bishop, I should mention, of the Church of Sweden. Married, or rather ‘married’ to one of her own sex.

I wonder what Jeremiah would say about this?

 For both prophet and priest are profane; yea, in my house have I found their wickedness, saith the Lord.

 Wherefore their way shall be unto them as slippery ways in the darkness: they shall be driven on, and fall therein: for I will bring evil upon them, even the year of their visitation, saith the Lord.


by John C Wright at October 05, 2015 09:00 PM

Daniel Lemire's blog

JavaScript and fast data structures: some initial experiments

Two of my favorite data structures are the bitset and the heap. The latter is typically used to implement a priority queue.

Both of these data structures come by default in Java. In JavaScript, there is a multitude of implementations, but few, if any, are focused on offering the best performance. That’s annoying because these data structures are routinely used to implement other fast algorithms. So I did what all programmers do, I started coding!

I first implemented a fast heap in JavaScript called FastPriorityQueue.js. As a programmer, I found that JavaScript was well suited to the task. My implementation feels clean.

How does it compare with Java’s PriorityQueue? To get some idea, I wrote a silly Java benchmark. The result? My JavaScript version can execute my target function over 27,000 times per second on Google’s V8 engine whereas Java can barely do it 13,000 times. So my JavaScript smokes Java in this case. Why? I am not exactly sure, but I believe that Java’s PriorityQueue implementation is at fault. I am sure that a heap implementation in Java optimized for the benchmark would fare much better. But I should point out that my JavaScript implementation uses far fewer lines of code. So bravo for JavaScript!

I also wrote a fast bitset implementation in JavaScript. This was more difficult. JavaScript does not have any support for 64-bit integers as far as I can tell though it supports arrays of 32-bit integers (Uint32Array). I did with what JavaScript had, and I published the FastBitSet.js library. How does it compare against Java? One benchmark of interest is the number of times you can compute the union between two bitsets (generating a new bitset in the process). In Java, I can do it nearly 3 million times a second. The JavaScript library appears limited to 1.1 million times per second. That’s not bad at all… especially if you consider that JavaScript is a very ill-suited language to implement a bitset (i.e., no 64-bit integers). When I tried to optimize the JavaScript version, to see if I could get it closer to the Java version, I hit a wall. At least with Google’s V8 engine, creating new arrays of integers (Uint32Array) is surprisingly expensive and seems to have nothing to do with just allocating memory and doing basic initialization. You might think that there would be some way to quickly copy an Uint32Array, but it seems to be much slower than I expect.

To illustrate my point, if I replace my bitset union code…

answer.words = new Uint32Array(answer.count);
for (var k = 0; k < answer.count; ++k) {
   answer.words[k] = t[k] | o[k];

by just the allocation…

answer.words = new Uint32Array(answer.count);

… the speed goes from 1.1 million times per second to 1.5 million times per second. This means that I have no chance to win against Java. Roughly speaking, JavaScript seems to allocate arrays about an order of magnitude slower than it should. That’s not all bad news. With further tests, I have convinced myself that if we can just reuse arrays, and avoid creating them, then we can reduce the gap between JavaScript and Java: Java is only twice as fast when working in-place (without creating new bitsets). I expected such a factor of two because JavaScript works with 32-bit integers whereas Java works with 64-bit integers.

What my experiments have suggested so far is that JavaScript’s single-threaded performance is quite close to Java’s. If Google’s V8 could gain support for 64-bit integers and faster array creation/copy, it would be smooth sailing.

Links to the JavaScript libraries:

by Daniel Lemire at October 05, 2015 08:26 PM

CrossFit Naptown

Introducing Kim the Intern!

Tuesday’s Workout:

Skill Play:
Forward Roll
Cart Wheel
Jump Rope – Max Unbroken at Your Hardest Scale
10 Extended Sit Ups
*20 minutes of play, about 2:00 at each station for 2-3 rounds. Spend more time working on the things you struggle with

18:00 AMRAP
1 Wall Walk
5 KB Swings
10 KB Lunges
15 Toes-2-Bar


Welcome Kim to the community!


Kim has been around the gym for a few weeks now in the evenings, but we are just now getting her introduced on the blog! She has been doing an amazing job with social media, helping to pick up our slack after Maddie the intern went away to Austria. Kim works on social media and other marketing projects for NapTown and we are excited for all that she can bring to us over the course of her time with us. If you see her around in the evenings working or working out, take a moment to say hi and welcome her into the CFNT community!


Here is a short Q&A with Kim about all things fitness:

How did you get started with fitness?

Well, I have this little thing called Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and it hates me every time I eat a cookie! I have never been much into sports (I’m a classically trained singer and was a theatre and gospel choir geek) and only did Tae-bo in the privacy of my home all through junior high and high school. I eventually sought out personal trainers when my weight hit an all-time high my sophomore year in college. At 21 years old, and 5’1, I weighed 245 pds. For reals. I dropped roughly 30 pds with the help of traditional personal training but $400/month started to be a bit steep for a college student living on her own, if you know what I’m sayin! Enough was enough and I searched online for something that would push me way beyond my usual limits for a fraction of the cost, insert CrossFit. I went, I conquered, I vomited, I was hooked J Although, I am still far from where I REALLY want to be, I am far from where I was and continue to work on my fitness goals every day. 10 years ago this girl would have never done a push jerk or an overhead snatch.


Athletic background and achievements:

Well, I don’t have an athletic background, like, AT ALL. Unless you include show choir? I was one of those girls who hated gym class and avoided it at all costs (swimming class was just awful). I sure did love Tae-bo and did it every day after school in the privacy of my own home. Self-esteem issues much? Achievements? I’ve lost 80pds with the help of CrossFit and Paleo eating and continue to work on achieving the best me.


Favorite Workout:

Grace or anything with back squats


Least Favorite:

Anything with wall balls will always be on my shit list



by Anna at October 05, 2015 08:17 PM

Zondervan Academic Blog

Judgment and Snare of the Devil (1 Tim 3:6-7) – Mondays with Mounce 267

I am preparing a talk on leadership, so I have been spending some good time back in the Pastorals. I came across a great example of two genitives that are either subjective or objective genitives.

Remember the grammar. If the word in the genitive is doing (i.e., the subject) of the implied action in the head noun, it is a “subjective genitive.” If the word in the genitive is receiving (i.e., the object) of the implied action in the head noun, it is an “objective genitive.”

Paul tells Timothy that due to the importance of the office of overseer, it is essential (δεῖ) that the person not be “a recent convert, lest having become conceited, he fall into the judgment of the devil (κρίμα … τοῦ διαβόλου). And it is also necessary for an overseer to have a good reputation with those outside, lest he fall into reproach, which is the snare of the devil (παγίδα τοῦ διαβόλου) (vv 6-7).

We know from elsewhere in the Pastorals that Satan can act (unwittingly) as an agent of God (1 Tim 1:20), so the theology does help us decide which types of genitive we are looking at.

If the two genitives are subjective, then Satan is the judge and is laying the snare. If they are objective, then Satan receives the judgment of conceit and is caught in the snare.

It seems to me that in the case of the latter, the genitive is clearly subjective (see 2 Tim 2:26). Satan is a roaring lion (1 Pet 5:8) seeking to devour everyone in his path, including church leaders; he sets snares to entangle and destroy them, bringing them into public disgrace and so disgracing the cause of Christ. Church leaders should consider this before launching into gossip, backbiting, power-mongering, and pornographic obsessions.

Interpretation of the first genitive is a little more difficult. My decision was that is is objective. The spiritually immature overseer is more liable to fall prey to judgment for that pride, the same judgment that befell Satan. See my commentary for the arguments why.

By the way, if you think your elders are free from pornography, you are dangerously naïve. Please check the statistics and the moral failure rate. Satan knows the value and influence of leadership, and so he targets leaders.

As a pastor, so should you.


William D. [Bill] Mounce posts about the Greek language, exegesis, and related topics on the ZA Blog. He is the author of numerous works including the recent Basics of Biblical Greek Video Lectures and the bestselling Basics of Biblical Greek. He is the general editor of Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of the Old and New Testament Words. He served as the New Testament chair of the English Standard Version Bible translation, and is currently on the Committee for Bible Translation for the NIV.

Learn more about Bill’s Greek resources at and visit his blog on spiritual growth at

by Bill Mounce at October 05, 2015 04:30 PM


Reading with the Principle of Charity in the Republic of Language

charityReading is an activity which, common as it is, requires some reflection to be done well. This is especially the case when dealing with reading arguments in difficult or possibly indeterminate texts. While many technical principles can be developed in connection with various kinds of texts in different genres, some principles can be seen to apply across genres, especially since they concern the morality of reading texts.

Many of us haven’t stopped to consider reading as a moral act, but it is deeply so. Reading is a communicative act involving author(s), text(s), and reader(s). While I can’t delve deeply into it, one helpful image from (surprise, surprise) Vanhoozer is that of being a “citizen” of language. Language is our common realm, the kingdom, the republic within which we live and move and having our social being. As such, there are rights and responsibilities within it for both speakers and hearers, in order that we do justice to one another as fellow citizens. Once the image is in place, it’s fairly intuitive to begin filling it in.

In his recent work Reading Barth with Charity: A Hermeneutical Proposal (pp. xii-xiii), George Hunsinger draws our attention to the recent appeal to one such principle, the “principle of charity”, in reading texts in recent analytic philosophy. Hunsinger says there’s no single, definitive account of it, but he helpfully summarizes the main lines of it for us:

  • The principle of charity seeks to understand a point of view in its strongest form before subjecting it to criticism. A suspension of one’s own beliefs may be required in order to attain a sympathetic understanding.
  • One assumes for the moment that the ideas under consideration, regardless of how difficult they may seem, are both true and internally coherent. The emphasis falls on seeking to understand the texts as they stand rather than on picking out difficulties or contradictions.
  • If apparent contradictions are found, an active attempt is made to resolve them. Donald Davidson has suggested, for example, that the principle of charity means attempting to maximize sense and optimize agreement when it comes to doubts about the inner coherence or factual veracity of the viewpoint under consideration.
  • If it is possible to resolve apparent contradictions (or ambiguities) through a sympathetic interpretation, a presumption exists in favor of that interpretation. A presumption exists by the same token against any interpretation that resorts to the charge of inconsistency without attempting to resolve apparent contradictions.
  • Only if no successful interpretation can be found is one entitled to conclude that a viewpoint is inconsistent or false. Critique is always possible but only after an adequate effort has been made for an interpretation that does not call a viewpoint’s truth or coherence into question precipitously.,
  • The attempt to maximize intelligibility through the resolution of apparent contradictions is related to a corollary, which is called “the principle of humanity.” As Daniel Dennett explains, one should attribute to the person whose views one is considering “the propositional attitudes one supposes one would have oneself in those circumstances.”

That about sums up what I’ve seen of the principle, especially in analytic discussions. This is true both in philosophy and theology. I can recall a number of sections in Alvin Plantinga’s work where he’ll consider an opponent’s position in two or three possible forms, at times even strengthening their arguments, before going on to refute them nonetheless. This principle can also be seen Oliver Crisp’s habit–which has proved confusing to some–of considering and strengthening a number of positions he doesn’t actually hold.

For myself, I think there’s something deeply Christian and honest about the principle of charity. It’s a form of Christian virtue; an exercise in loving your neighbor as yourself within the republic of language. We would want others to extend to us the benefit of the doubt, strenuously work through our arguments, and imaginatively attempt to enter into our concerns and intuitions in order to come to understand why we’ve come to hold what we hold. This is an angle on what Matthew Lee Anderson has called “intellectual empathy.”

What’s more, considering arguments in this manner can help clarify the actual issues at stake in a given conversation. Doing your interlocutor the favor trying your best to make sense of their position means that when you do actually get around to arguing against it, it can only be that much stronger of an argument. Or, it may be that it’s only then you see the person actually has a solid point!

That said, a friend of mine has also argued it’s important that this principle be weighed or balanced against the principle of accuracy. In the picture above, there is a danger that in your attempt to actually be charitable, you end up inadvertently misrepresenting your opponent anyways. Due to your own unavoidable intuitions, it may be you end up saying, “Well, they couldn’t possibly mean that, because that doesn’t make sense,” when, in fact, that’s exactly the position they do hold. Sometimes the benefit of the doubt becomes dubious. And that is a case where, despite your charitable intentions, the truth is not actually served.

All the same, I know for myself, consciously striving to be charitable in my pursuit of accuracy curbs my natural tendency to read with my own blinders on. In other words, striving for charity slows me down enough to achieve accuracy. Of course, I struggle and fail–quite spectacularly, at times. Yet I would propose that principles of moral interpretation such as that of charity have become all the more pressing to adopt and practice as our internet age has pressed even more of our communication to be textually-mediated. We are constantly reading, interpreting, and engaging with the texts of other authors, other citizens of language like ourselves. If we fail to practice charity in interpretation, one of our most socially and morally formative practices, it can’t help but bleed out into other areas of our thought and life.

So then, to wrap up another post that’s gone far longer than I had intended, practice charity in all your reading. Beginning with this post.

Soli Deo Gloria

by Derek Rishmawy at October 05, 2015 04:29 PM

Daniel Lemire's blog

Foolish enough to leave important tasks to a mere human brain?

To the ancient Greeks, the male reproductive organ was mysterious. They had this organ that can expand suddenly, then provide the seed of life itself. Today, much of biology remains uncatalogued and mysterious, but the male reproductive organ is now fairly boring. We know that it can be cut (by angry wives) and sewed back in place, apparently with no loss of function. As for providing the seed of life, artificial insemination is routine both in animals (e.g., cows) and human beings. In fact, by techniques such a cloning, we can create animals, and probably even human beings, with no male ever involved.

If we go back barely more than a century, flight was mysterious. Birds looked slightly magical. Then a couple of bicycle repairmen, who dropped out of high school, built the first airplane. Today, I would not think twice about embarking in a plane, with hundred of other people, and fly over the ocean in a few hours… something no bird could ever do.

This is a recurring phenomenon: we view something as magical, and then it becomes a boring mechanism that students learn in textbooks. I call it the biological-supremacy myth: we tend to overestimate the complexity of anything biology can do… until we find a way to do it ourselves.

Though there is still much we do not know about even the simplest functions of our body, the grand mystery remains our brain. And just like before, people fall prey to the biological-supremacy myth. Our brains are viewed as mythical organs that are orders of magnitude more complex than anything human beings could create in this century or the next.

We spend a great deal of time studying the brain, benchmarking the brain, in almost obsessive ways. Our kids spend two decades being tested, retested, trained, retrained… often for the sole purpose of determining the value of the brain. Can’t learn calculus very well? Your brain must not be very smart. Can’t learn the names of the state capitals? Your brain must be slightly rotten.

In the last few years, troubles have arisen for those who benchmark the brain. I can go to Google and ask, in spoken English, for the names of the state capitals, and it will give them to me, faster than any human being could. If I ask Google “what is the derivative of sin x”, not only does it know the answer, it can also point to complete derivation of the result. To make matters worse, the same tricks work anytime, anywhere, not just when I am at the library or at my desk. It works everywhere I have a smartphone, which is everywhere I might need calculus, for all practical purposes.

What is fascinating is that as we take down the brain from its pedestal, step by step, people remain eager to dismiss everything human-made as massively inferior:

  • “Sure, my phone can translate this Danish writing on the wall for me, but it got the second sentence completely wrong. Where’s your fantastic AI now?”
  • “Sure, I can go to any computer and ask Google, in spoken English, where Moldova is, and it will tell me better than a human being could… But when I ask it when my favorite rock band was playing again, it cannot figure out what my favorite rock band was. Ah! It is a joke!”

A general objection regarding the brain is that there is so much we do not know. As far as I can tell, we do not know how the brain transforms sounds into words, and words into ideas. We know which regions of the brains are activated, but we do not fully understand how even individual neurons work.

People assume that to surpass nature, we need to fully understand it and to further fully reproduce it. The Wright brothers would have been quite incapable of modeling bird flight, let alone reproduce it. And a Boeing looks like no bird I know… and that’s a good thing… I would hate to travel on top of a giant mechanical bird.

Any programmer will tell you that it can be orders of magnitude easier to reprogram something from scratch, rather than start from spaghetti code that was somehow made to work. We sometimes have a hard time matching nature, not because nature was so incredibly brilliant… but rather because, as an engineer, nature is a terrible hack: no documentation whatsoever, and an “if it works, it is good enough” attitude.

This same objection, “there is so much we do not know”, is used everywhere by pessimists. Academics are especially prone to fall back on this objection, because they like to understand… But, of course, all the time, we develop algorithms and medical therapies that work, without understanding everything about the problem. That’s the beautiful thing about the world we live in: we can act upon it in an efficient manner without understanding all of it.

Our puny brains may never understand themselves, but that does make our brain wonderful and mysterious… it is more likely the case that our brains are a hack that works well enough, but that is far from the best way to achieve intelligence.

Another mistake people make is to assume that evolution is an optimization process that optimizes for what we care about as human beings. For centuries, people thought that if we were meant to fly, we would have wings. Evolution did not give us wings, not as a sign that we couldn’t fly… but simply because there was no evolutionary path leading to monkeys with wings.

Similarly, there is no reason to believe that evolution optimized human intelligence. It seems that other human species had larger brains. Our ancestors had larger brains. Several monkeys have photographic memory, much better strength/mass ratios and better reflexes. The human body is nothing special. We are not the strongest, fastest and smartest species to ever roam the Earth. It is likely that we came to dominate the animal kingdom because, as a species, we have a good mix of skills, and as long as we stay in a group, we can take down any other animal because we are expert at social coordination among mammals.

Yes, it is true that evolution benefited from a lot of time… But that’s like asking a programmer to tweak a piece of code randomly until it works. If you give it enough time, the result will work. It might even look good from the outside. But, inside, you have a big pile of spaghetti code. It is patiently tuned code, but still far from optimality from our point of view.

The Wright brothers were initially mocked. This reassured the skeptics that believed that mechanical flight was a heresy. But, soon after, airplanes flew in the first world war.

In 20 years, we will have machines that surpass the human brain in every way that matters to us. It will look nothing like a human brain… probably more like a Google data warehouse at first… And then we will be stuck with the realization that, from our reproductive organs all the way to our brains, we are nothing special.

Many people refuse to believe that we will ever machines that are better than us in every way. And they are right to be scared because once you invent a machine that is smarter than you are, you have no choice: you have to put it in charge.

Human beings know that they are somehow irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. I write this blog post using a brain that consumes maybe 20 to 30 Watts, with the bulk of my neurons actually invested in controlling my body, not thinking abstractly. In a few decades, it will be trivial to outsmart me. And then I will be back to being an old, boring monkey… no longer a representative of the smartest species on Earth.

Of course, just because we do not need the male organ to procreate does not mean that people stop having sex. The birds did not stop flying when we invented the airplane. Television did not mean the end of radio. The Internet does not mean the end of the paper. Hopefully, my species will make use of its brains for many decades, many centuries… but soon enough, it will seem foolish to leave important decisions and tasks to a mere human brain.

Some of this future is already here.

by Daniel Lemire at October 05, 2015 03:47 PM

John C. Wright's Journal » John C. Wright's Journal

Drake Equations and ‘It Ain’t Gunna Happen’ Science Fiction

It seems the time has come again. Here is  a reprint of a post from 2011, explaining the famous Space Princess equation, and also explaining the difference between science and science fiction flavored daydreams.


A reader whom I will, for the sake of anonymity, refer to merely as ‘Curmudgeon’ (albeit his real name is Homer Snodgrass of 12 Manitowish Avenue, Mammoth Falls, Wisconsin, 54545, and his social security number is 1205-119-8577, and the PIN number of his bank card is 4560) holds the opinion that too many modern persons of the youthful persuasion (he refers to them as “kids!” or “punks!”) are devoted to science fictional ideas as a thinly disguised substitute for spiritual longings.

‘Curmudgeon’ reads and promotes what he calls the ‘It Ain’t Gunna Happen’ School of science fiction. This school is remarkably similar to the Mundane Movement of Really Boring Self-Righteous Left-Leaning Science Fiction, being mostly a list of things that ain’t gunna happen.

Here is a summary of his manifesto:

(1) There will be no colonization of space, either O’Neil or otherwise, for the same reason no one lives in a submarine at the bottom of a trench in the Arctic sea;
(2) we are never meeting any intelligent extraterrestrial life;
(3) or if we do, they will be incomprehensible, so much so that even the question of whether they are truly ‘intelligent’ or not will be debatable;
(4) there will be no faster than light travel – It is not just a good idea, it’s the Law;
(5) medicine may shift where the top of the bell curve falls, but human beings are not going to live much past 80 or 90;
(6) psionics is just magic wearing a lab coat;
(7) time travel is less possible and less realistic than fairy unicorn sparkly magic;
(8) The Soviets and the Red Chinese and Cubans all promised and vowed to bring about modern, scientifically-run secular humanist utopias very much along the lines of Gene Roddenberry’s ideas. (So… how is that workin’ out for ya’? What is the murder count now for the Utopians? Upwards of 110,000,000? Let’s give the idea one more try!)

Now, for some reason, my friend Curmudgeon thinks I am of his school of science fiction. I am not.

In fact, I am a founding member of the Space Princess school of science fiction writing, which, to date, includes me and a writer named Edward Willet: Albeit we two have retroactively included every big name Willet and I can think of into our movement against their will and over their strong objections, if they ever had any female royalty from outerspace in any story.

Inductees include Edgar Rice Burroughs, who invented Dejah Thoris, and Robert Heinlein, who invented Her Wisdom CCIV aka Star the Sexy-Space Empress, and Michael Moorcock, whose hero, Kane of Old Mars, traveled back into a previous eon of Martian existence to meet his space princess Shizala. In other media, STAR WARS and BUCK ROGERS and FLASH GORDON and TEEN TITANS all include space princesses of one sort or another, including Princess Leia, Princess Ardala, Princess Aura, and Princess Koriand’r of Vega (Starfire to you non-T-heads).

My school of writing contradicts Curmudgeon’s ‘It Ain’t Gunna Happen’ school at nearly every point.

You see, I have made a more advanced study of the latest finding from astronomers and cosmophiloanthropohotogenic scientists, and so there are certain points of which he may be unaware.

(1) Space colonization not only is possible, but Venus is occupied by bathing beauties who need Earthmen to fend off the vicious space-dinosaurs, and Mars is occupied by Amazonian nudists who lounge about the dead sea bottoms and in the jeweled, deserted, antique cities, yearning for Earthman love. For some reason, these advanced alien societies all prefer to use swords rather than firearms;
(2) Not only is their life on other planets, and Earthlike life, and mammalian life, but the females look exactly as voluptuously mammalian as our most beautiful actresses and models, if not more so. Calling these beautiful women unintelligent is very rude!
(3) Well, I agree that female logic is sometimes hard to follow, but I would not call their intelligence ‘debatable.’ After all, it takes some skill to clean and cook a space-dinosaur into a hearty steak dinner after an Earthman has bested the monster naked armed only with a trusty space-sword!
(4) Faster than light travel is not only possible, it is necessary, since otherwise space princesses from Spica, or the other stars in the constellation Virgo, cannot be visited, much less rescued, in a human lifespan;
(5) Since all space princesses appear to be between ages 16 and 21 (Earth-years), and since the only form of death allowed on Mars is to plunge into the cold waters of the polar river Iss, the longevity or immortality they possess is fairly well established scientifically. And why would they not share this secret with an earthly rescuer who has just saved them from a space-dinosaur?
(6) Without psionics, there is no way to speak and understand the space princess when you first meet her. Learning a new space-language without psionic aid involves many long and boring sessions with philologists and translators and grammarians, which is all hogwash and humbug. Space Princesses can read minds just enough so that you can talk to them. That is settled.
(7) Time travel cannot be impossible, if an Earthman has visited Mars or another world in the far past, when it was still habitable, and met a space princess there (see the example of Shizala of Vashtu, above.)
(8) To assume any space princess rules a city-state or planet less happy and joy-filled and perfect than, say, Oz under the reign of Ozma, is to insult their abilities as rulers and sovereigns. Utopia is therefore not only not unlikely, it must be inevitable, provided only we stick to adorable feminine monarchic forms of government.

But the unrealistic nature of mundane or “It Ain’t Gunna Happen” science fiction is not my point, nor is it Curmudgeon’s main point. We both agree fiction is fiction, and fact is fact. It is where one is mistaken for the other that we both agree the danger (or at least the amusement at the expense of others) rests.

He holds that science fiction is the closest thing the modern world has to pagan myths, and that like pagan myths, they excite the imagination away from the mundane world and toward the spiritual, but (in this case) not in a good way.

For example, there are many people who believe the flying saucers and big-eyed aliens made up, invented, and contrived from the imaginations of people like me, science fiction writers, are actually real. Among the science fiction community, these people who think our play-pretend is real, technically known as “nutbags”, are people we would like to buy our books, but only because our mercenary impulses outweigh our human sympathy.

But all that to one side: Curmudgeon says that like the pagan poets of old, who made stuff up about the frivolous gods of Olympus, we science fiction writers have made up idle tales that have a particular grip on the imaginations of agnostics and atheists who, because they are human and cannot help it, have a longing for the spiritual reality beyond the grim walls of the mundane world they think of as real life: and this makes the agnostic gullible in certain areas.

Believing in UFO people from Alpha Draconis, or motherships hiding in the tail of the Hale-Bopp Comet, is merely an extreme example of gullibility. There are science fiction inspired beliefs which have actually no scintilla of scientific evidence behind them which the spiritually hungry agnostic takes from science fiction and thinks is literal fact: the most obvious of which is a belief in life on other planets.

I have never met an agnostic who did not believe in life on other planets. There is not an iota of evidence to support such a belief.

Curmudgeon holds that the ideas about the existence of extraterrestrial life, especially superior intelligent life, the optimism of futuristic utopias, medical advances leading to expanded lifespans, augmented intelligences, or even immortality are ersatz stand-ins (or “NutraSweet”) for the unity of nature remembered from Eden, where Adam and Eve could talk with fuzzy animals with the acumen of Doctor Dolittle or a Disney Princesses; for the communion with other created intelligences such as angels; for the paradise and glorified bodies of the true immortality promised the faithful in the New Jerusalem.

His main complaint (aside from “get off my yard!”) is that the youths think the ideas are not science fiction but science fact, and in them they place their hope and around them fabricate their abortive secular eschatology.

As I said above, I am not of this school. I personally have received telepathic visions from Carson Napier of Venus, or ‘Amtor’ as its natives call it, not to mention having sensed the astral form of Lord Chong of Phaolon, a city beneath of sun called the Green Star, and also I have listened with awe to the tapes Geoffrey Dean brought back from Africa, containing the narrative of Dray Prescot of Antares. More I dare not say, lest a skeptical world scoff!

It is enough for now to state that I do not, and in good conscience can not hold with the opinions of my friend Curmudgeon.

Despite our clear differences of opinion and approach on this topic, my friend Curmudgeon is always tickled when some additional advance of the scientific field shows that the daydreams of the secular eschatologists to be so much balloon-oil and opium-smoke.

Hence it is with pleasure that he sees article like the following. Allow me to post a link, quote a quote, and tell you what is wrong with the world: I am, after all, blogging.

Scientists engaged in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) work under the assumption that there is, in fact, intelligent life out there to be found. A new analysis may crush their optimism.

To calculate the likelihood that they’ll make radio contact with extraterrestrials, SETI scientists use what’s known as the Drake Equation. Formulated in the 1960s by Frank Drake of the SETI Institute in California, it approximates the number of radio-transmitting civilizations in our galaxy at any one time by multiplying a string of factors: the number of stars, the fraction that have planets, the fraction of those that are habitable, the probability of life arising on such planets, its likelihood of becoming intelligent and so on.

The values of almost all these factors are highly speculative.

That last sentence is a masterpiece of understatement. Later, the article says:

In the equation, the probability of life arising on suitably habitable planets (ones with water, rocky surfaces and atmospheres) is almost always taken to be 100 percent.

But in a new paper published on, astrophysicist David Spiegel at Princeton University and physicist Edwin Turner at the University of Tokyo argue that this thinking is dead wrong. Using a statistical method called Bayesian reasoning, they argue that the life here on Earth could be common, or it could be extremely rare — there’s no reason to prefer one conclusion over the other….

My curmudgeonly friend Homer Snodgrass writes:

I feel affirmed in my okayness. Won’t stop the human imagination from populating the star with Barsoomians and Klingons, thank God. But still, my curmudgeonly heart always thrills just a little bit when material secular eschatology receive a knee to the groin from the sciences.

My comment:

Of course, being in contact, due to my communion with beautiful half-clad Space Princesses named Allura, Amora, Pulchritudia and Vesseril the Beautiful, but also with certain semi-nude but entirely gorgeous Empresses and Duchesses and Countesses from the star Alpha Virginis called Spica (which is Latin for ‘The Spicy Star’), who have names like Sensua, Volupta, Nubilia, Erato and Adora, I am aware of certain sad facts my friend Homer is not. To him I wrote in sorrow:

Unfortunately, the Green Lady of Perelendra and the sorns of Malacandra were planning on coming to Earth to visit Jerusalem, since Earth is the most famous planet in the Milky Way, having been only one of three where there was a confirmed incarnation, and notorious for being the only one so depraved that the Creator was killed here. (The aliens are believe it was a quick and painless death, so, um, if they show up, don’t tell anyone and hide your crucifixes.)

In any case, as I say, the various non-secular aliens while approaching this world, eager to contact us and learn the secrets of salvation, have used their Vulcan mild melds to probe the world-spirit, and picked up your negative thought vibrations about how it pleases you that we are all alone in the universe, and so, putting away the fabulous gifts of eatable gold and liquid life-essence and the leaves of the trees that heal nations, they have landed on the dark side of the moon, and entered a thousand year hibernation, to try to make First Contact again sometime around 3011 AD.

This is by no means their first visit. These aliens were first met by Saint Brendon of Ireland in 1011, who thought they were elves and mermaids. Being rational creatures, they were converted to the Roman Catholic faith, and with the priests Brendon duly anointed, they spread the One True Faith to the various nearby stars and star clusters, preaching the gospel to all creatures, spreading the faith beyond the Centaurus Arm and Sagittarius as far as the Lesser and Greater Clouds of Magellan.

Had they landed, their first message (once the scientists are done playing John Williams music at them), would be to mock the atheists and tell them they are primitive and utterly stupid:

“People of Earth, we, the advanced supercivilizations of space, in our state of superior cosmic evolution, long ago left behind such foolish and primitive superstitions as disbelief in the Creator.

“Are you nuts, Earthfools? Can you not see the intelligent order and beauty in the cosmos? Does anyone aside from an intellectual devoted to agnosticism think nature naturally can produce design, efficiency, beauty and elegance?

“Are there not ghosts on your world as there are on all planets? Then where do ghost stories come from? Who would invent such jazz if it were not real?

“Ho ho! Only very backward and silly planets, people who pick their nose and lick the boogers, have such odd and unscientific thought-forms as atheism and agnosticism.

“Like the Boy Scouts, we do not allow any atheists into the Galactic Confederation of Way Cool Futuristic Worlds. Nor do we permit no-fault divorce, gay marriage, or priestesses in orders, child-murder, or the use of contraception, except in the case of your Captain Kirk, who otherwise would spread venereal space-disease.

“Your world my meet with your Planetary Confessor, and do whatever world-wide century-long Penance he assigns before you can enter the Cosmic Communion! We do not accept planets not in a state of grace!”

(What? You think all the space aliens are going to have the same world view as Gene Roddenberry? C’mon.)

“The other requirement for elevation to Cosmic Oneness with the Galactic Union is that you must give up on vegetarianism. Not even naturally herbivorous species put up with such nonsense: and the people from the star Vega, the Vegans, are annoyed at being mistaken for Vegans. So get your act together, Earthlings! Snap out of it! Repent! The Kingdom of Heaven has Landed!”

Yes, I am afraid that is what would have happened had not cosmic killjoys broadcast such negative thought waves telling the crowded universe (chock full of Eldil) to go away and leave us alone.

It would have been great fun, and you ruined it for all of us!

Thanks a lot, Curmudgeon Guy!

You may ask, but what about the bad news for SETI efforts? What do I think of the article?

Honestly, I don’t think much of it.

The writer of the article is being much to deferential and kind to the SETI scientists allegedly using the Drake ‘equation’ for anything but a good laugh. The equation is of course nothing of the kind. It is a laundry list, woefully incomplete, of some of the things Drake idly daydreamed may or may not be necessary for intelligent extraterrestrial civilizations interesting in mutual contract to exist.

HERE are the factors in the Drake (ahem) Equation:

R = the average rate of star formation per year in our galaxy
f-p = the fraction of those stars that have planets
n-e = the average number of planets that can potentially support life per star that has planets
f-ℓ = the fraction of the above that actually go on to develop life at some point
f-i = the fraction of the above that actually go on to develop intelligent life
f-c = the fraction of civilizations that develop a technology that releases detectable signs of their existence into space
L = the length of time for which such civilizations release detectable signals into space.

Anyone can make a laundry list of any kind to suit himself.

In fact, let me add two additional factors:

n-g = the number of congregations of life forms whose society or civilization requires a form of legal organization we would recognize as a government.
f-m = the fraction of the above governments that are hereditary or constitutional monarchies.
f-spncss = the fraction of the above monarchs who, due to a recognizably bisexual biology, can and have brought forth daughters.
f-yowsababe! = the fraction of the above daughters who are above average in intelligence, courage and physical good looks by Eurocentric terrestrial standards of beauty, nubile and of mating age, who are either nudists or scantily clad.

We can call this the Space Princess Equation, which defines how likely we are to find an attractive yet nubile Space Princess.

What makes my equation any less scientific than Drake’s?

Drake reasons for his Drake Equation that since life emerges by chance, and since the same fundamental laws apply to the entire universe, and because those laws engendered the genesis of life on Earth, they must readily spawn life elsewhere, too.

If earth-life arose by chance, then when those same factors wherever they are present by chance again must lead to the same result, right?

Fine! I reason for my Space Princess Equation that since life, including really attractive nubile and fertile young mammalian upright bipeds who look like film starlets and happen to be the daughters of monarchs, emerges by chance, and since the same fundamental laws apply to the entire universe, and because those laws engendered the genesis of life on Earth, they must readily spawn life elsewhere, too.

If earth-princesses arose by chance, then those same factors wherever they are present by chance again must lead to the same result, namely really attractive nubile and fertile young mammalian upright bipeds who look like film starlets and happen to be the daughters of monarchs.

Is there anything wrong with my logic that is also not equally wrong with Drake’s logic?

All I did was take his factor of earthly-type life and add several more specific factors of earthly-type life. The same conditions must lead to the same results, right? We do have attractive female members of royal families here on Earth, such as Grace Kelly of Monaco, or Rania of Jordan, do we not? So if the number of inhabited worlds among the countless galaxies of the cosmos is large enough, the chances of finding a space princess among them are good!

Yes, of course this logic is bogus.

Since we have only one data point to work with, to wit, Earth, and no example of any life of any kind whatever, not even microscopic, existing in any extra-terrestrial environment or ever having had done, we have exactly no evidence, none, nada, zip, zero, goose egg, on which to base a speculative percentage for any of the factors in the laundry list. Any one of them could be anything from impossible to inevitable, unique to ubiquitous.

As a thought experiment, factor Earth out of the equation, and then run the numbers for how many planets brought forth life, and how often life somehow becomes intelligent and how often that life develops radio technology, how often they broadcast intelligent signals. The number will be zero. No known world has life, intelligent life, technological civilization, or radio-technological civilization. Hence the rate cannot be known nor guessed, can it?

I have not read their paper, but I will go out on a limb and venture to say that David Spiegel and Edwin Turner have wasted their time proving by means of complex Bayesian reasoning what common sense could tell you instantly: when you have not run one hundred trials of the test, you cannot establish the percentage (that is, per centum, for each one hundred) of the trial outcome. Your ability to establish a reliable percentage is less if you have only fifty trials, and it hovers right around the zero mark when you have only one. A line of any angle and a curve of any shape can be drawn through a single point placed on a Cartesian graph.

Do you think I am being too harsh? Consider this: the number of civilizations on our own planet, Earth, which took the time and trouble and effort to contact the New World and establish colonies, as best we can tell, is two: Leif Ericson found Greenland, and Columbus found the Carib Islands. As it turns out, both these men believed in Doomsday. The Pagan thought the world would end in Ragnarok, the Christian in Armageddon.

Therefore, if I were to establish an ‘equation’ just like the Drake Equation for describing intercontinental First Contact rather than Interstellar, my equation must list ‘Belief in Doomsday’ as one of the factors, and it must be pegged at nearly one hundred percent. For, lo and behold, the next five explorers to set foot on the New World were all Christian, ergo all satisfied the Doomsday factor! My equation is perfect! That is real science for you!

No, to be a real equation, you have to do more than scribble meaningless numbers on a napkin. You have to establish an invariant relation (an equality (hence the name ‘equation’)) between two factors in a function, and, in order to be science, that function has to describe or model the way some real physical thing in the real world really behaves, like a falling rock or the pattern of grown of leaves on a stem. Something you can count.

Am I being too harsh? As of the time of this writing, we have discovered nine planets in the solar system, including our own (I am counting Pluto. Don’t annoy me, or I will count Eris as well) and 563 exosolar planets, for a grand total of lots. Right now, the factor in the Drake Equation which counts the ratio of inhabited to uninhabited planets stands at over 500 to 1.

Do you want to throw in various moons? As a member of the Space Princess movement, I must point out that one of our unwilling members, Lin Carter, assures us that Darloona of Shondakar exists on Callisto, a moon of Jupiter, which is inhabited. Edgar Rice Burroughs assures us that Nah-ee-lah is from the buried lunar city called Laythe and daughter of it’s Jemadar or sovereign. (Unlike that pettifogger HG Wells, who said the moon was peopled by socialist bugs ruled by a Grand Lunar rather than by attractive young and nubile royalty. Hmph!) Less reputable scientists speculate that liquid water may exist on Io, and other conditions favorable for life.

So, throwing those numbers into the mix, we have add another 160 or so bodies in this solar system, and the factor stands at upwards of 700 to 1.

This is not to mention forms of life that can exist in deep space far from any planetary body, evolved in ways unimagined by rules of biochemistry unexamined, such as the Black Cloud of Hoyle or the Silkie of van Vogt, or the various energy beings, Organians and Mentrones and Q, cluttering up the Star Trek universe.

Well, does that tell us that life is relatively rare? We have over 700 instances and only one winner.

Now, you might object that Drake is only concerned with Sol-like stars and Earthlike planets in Earthlike orbits. But this makes the number factor more absurdly meaningless. We have one example of one Earthlike world circling a Sol-like star, and that is Tellus, here, us, Earth, and the instances of it having brought forth life is one-for-one, or one hundred percent.

Well, does this tell us that life (if we restrict it to Earthlike life) is relatively frequent? We have earthlife on Earth: statistically speaking, we are batting a thousand!

No, Virginia, it tells us exactly nothing.

So far as we presently know, each one of these 700 or so bodies could have some form of life on it, that we merely have not yet detected. Could there truly be no silicon-based viral microbes buried underground in an ice cave on the Moon?

On the other hand, each one of the these moons and planets, and every other moon and planet in the Milky Way and in the Local Group, and in the Virgo Cluster, could be as empty of life as the core of the sun. We not only might be the first world were life developed, might be the only one where it ever will.

On the gripping hand, the core of the sun might not only be filled with life, it might be the only place favorable for the most common form of life in the universe, beings who exist in the very high energy states needed to continue their life processes indefinitely. They have not made contact with us because the idea that life can exist in non-luminous non-plasma matter, in solid form, is inconceivable to them, as it is so remarkably unlikely.

The scenario of being the only planet-bound form of material life in a galaxy crammed with life forms burning at the nuclear hearts of stars seems ridiculous, does it not? Of course it is ridiculous. It violates everything we know about how molecular biology works here on Earth, in the environments, at the temperatures and pressures and conditions we know. But my point is that what we know is one and only one case. I submit that our case is also ridiculous, unlikely, impossible and wondrous, and the only reason we believe it is because we ourselves are alive and we live here.

You don’t know the odds. You don’t even really know the factors that factor into the odds.

And, if it were not for a pseudo-religious article of faith prevalent among secularists, you do not know if life existing on a planet is a matter of odds.

Because it is a matter of odds if and only if life arose here due to a toss of the dice, a random combination of blind factors that created life here, not deliberately, but by happenstance.

You can say that you hold this article of faith if you wish, that life emerges from non-life by a non-supernatural blind and inevitable process. Fine. The Norse thought life emerged from a cosmic cow licking ice from a primordial abyss. What? Are you going to ask where the cow came from? Don’t do that, or I will ask you how life “emerges” from non-life, and on what repeatable and non-speculative evidence your article of faith that it is possible at all is based. The Norse were at least canny enough to posit the cow. You posit that it happened by itself, without even a cow to give your myth likelihood.

Do you object that I call it a myth? It is a myth. It is not science, it is not even scientific to believe in spontaneous creation of life from non life. Science is based on rational deduction from observations and predictions to confirm the deductions. Here, no observer saw or even has seen life emerge from non life. It cannot even be done deliberately, much less blindly by an natural process. If it were a natural process, we would see it going on around us at all times.

Men these day snicker at Aristotle for believing life was spontaneously created in offal and rags. He at least had seen bugs come out from dungheaps. Our entire secular myth is based on an idea with even less scientific proof than Aristotle’s, that living things do not emerge spontaneously, but the origin of all living things does emerge spontaneously. Aristotle was consistent enough to think that if spontaneous generation were possible, it would be happening all the time. The modern secularists tell us it happened once and once only.

So, do you think the creation of life on Earth happening one time by the hand of a supernatural agency, a god or a demiurge, is a miracle and therefore science rules it out a priori as impossible? But real scientists do not make a priori statements about events in the material world: only members of the science-worshiping cult do that. And I suggest that their cult belief is incoherent: I submit that to believe in that the creation of life on Earth happening one time by a natural agency is more of a miracle, because it postulates an unique miracle without someone to perform the miracle. Which is more miraculous, a miracle performed by a miracle worker, or a miracle that arises from no cause for no reason and then vanishes again?

Now you may ask, do I believe in life on other worlds?

Believe! Would that I did not! It is not for no reason that I became a member of the Space Princess school of writing science fiction.

It is because of various events, difficult for the uninitiated to imagine, that I was asked to ally myself to a most exclusive gentleman’s club in Salem Center, Westchester County, New York. The peculiar, nay, bizarre prerequisite for membership in the club having been established by its eccentric founder, Captain John Carter of Virginia, is that the man must have experienced a confirmed encounter with worlds beyond our own: an event less rare than the narrow-souled skeptic might credit!

My own encounter, much as I wish it had been merely a dream, was with Vesseril the Beautiful who dwells in the haunted planet Alph beneath the azure light of giant Spica, my fair one, alas! whom I am fated never again to behold!

How lovely she was when last we danced in Vanvalar, the City of Singing Crystal, beneath the nine mystic moons that shine on the Luminous Sea of Thassa! How strange to see Forest of Rebirth, gorgeous with many-colored orchids seeping opiate perfumes, rising in an hour above it own ashes, but then to be struck, burning, beneath the unsteady, weird, blue giant sun of Alpha Virginis!

Treacherous and inconstant star! Were it not for the advanced science the Spicans inherited from their ancestors, the perturbations of that eerie azure Cepheid Variable would long ago have obliterated the life from the twenty inhabited worlds and eighty-one inhabited moons of that system!

I vow revenge upon the Lord of Ghosts, dread and dreaded Xoran Xor, who robbed Vesseril of her memories and imprisoned her in the Onyx Tower of Oblivion, trapped in the high, walled garden of many drug-bearing fountains and rills and hallucinogenic herbs and alluring poppies, all within the shadow of the mystic Amnesia Gong! Yet lightyears and aeons and many cycles of reincarnation part me from my beloved … Yet that is a tale of adventure and tragedy for another time.

So, yes, well do I know, and to my sorrow, that there is earthlike life elsewhere, as wondrous and fair as any vista of beauty seen here on this globe: but this knowledge is not for mortal men, not at our current stage of cosmic evolution.

On the other hand, Drake and those who use his so-called equation do not know. They are not even really making a guess. If you have a yearning for unearthly and transmundane things, writing down that yearning in the form of an incomplete list of variables not one of whose values you know or can estimate does not make it science.

I do not mock it, but I do not call it science: It is still just a yearning.

by John C Wright at October 05, 2015 03:36 PM

Diagnostics & Usage Data →

Joe Caiati, on iOS' built-in troubleshooting tools:

I would liken the Diagnostics & Usage Data section to the Console on the Mac. There is a lot of noise in there, but sometimes you can find important information about issues related to your device. At its most basic definition, the Diagnostics & Usage Data section is a log of system events that happen on your iOS device. This log isn’t tracking your every move, but it is creating entries whenever events like an app crash happens.

I've never spent much time looking at this data; reading Joe's post has taught me a lot about what iOS can self-report.


by Stephen Hackett at October 05, 2015 02:31 PM

Crossway Blog

Celebrating the Life and Ministry of J. I. Packer

How Well Do You Know J. I. Packer?

J. I. Packer stands as one of the greatest theologians of the twentieth-century. Ever since the publication of Knowing God—an international best-seller—Packer has exerted a steady, albeit generally quiet, influence on contemporary Evangelicalism.

As Leland Ryken writes in the foreword to his new biography of Packer:

Packer’s career has been a case study of entering the open doors that God and people have placed before him. This is obvious in the academic positions that he has held, the books and essays he has published, and the speaking engagements he has discharged. Relatively few of the items that appear in Packer’s vita were part of a planned program or professional path. Instead, Packer has trusted to providence in accepting invitations that were placed before him, governed by the impulse to minister to God’s people.

J. I. Packer: In His Own Words

In honor of Packer’s life and legacy, Crossway is producing a short video documentary entitled, J. I. Packer: In His Own Words. Featuring never-before-seen interviews with Packer, the film explores the childhood events that shaped the rest of his life, important theological influences that continue to nourish his soul, and what he views as his most significant contribution to the church as looks back on decades of faithful service.

J. I. Packer: In His Own Words—an intimate look at the preeminent “latter-day Puritan” of our time—will premier on Tuesday, November 3, 2015, accessible free of charge at There you’ll also find other videos featuring Packer discussing timely topics related to the Christian life, including the nature of saving faith, the importance of the church, the centrality of sound doctrine, and the person of the Holy Spirit.

We're also giving a free e-book by J. I. Packer (Affirming the Apostles' Creed) to everyone who signs up to receive all of the videos via email at

Join us in celebrating a man who was, in his own words,

called by God, as a sinner saved by and owing everything to his grace, to serve his people as a minister-teacher who is as a communicator of life-giving Bible truth concerning the providence, goodness, and knowledge of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and hereby a furtherer of spiritual formation and a helper of troubled souls.

Finally, be sure to check out J. I. Packer: An Evangelical Life by Leland Ryken and Packer on the Christian Life: Knowing God in Christ, Walking by the Spirit by Sam Storms.

by Matt Tully at October 05, 2015 02:00 PM

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by Stephen Hackett at October 05, 2015 02:00 PM

Zippy Catholic

Effeminate reaction

Game, I’ve argued, is just the male equivalent of slutty behavior.  The reason ‘male sluttiness’ is relatively new, at least as a mass phenomenon, is because of the modern feminization of men.  Instead of evaluating themselves in masculine terms modern men submit themselves to evaluation by women.  Thus the Game gurus measure supposed “alpha” maleness based on the approval of women, as expressed concretely in the number of sluts with which a given man fornicates.

The ‘game’ perspective, then, is not actually a rejection of feminism: it is explicit subjection of men to the judgment of, not just women in general, but the worst of the lot.  This is followed, with no small amount of irony, by copious quantities of self-congratulatory chest-thumping about how game is a great rediscovery of masculinity.

A similar thing frequently takes place in reactionary politics.  Rather than evaluating moral and political questions on their own terms, many reactionaries see how liberalism evaluates particular questions and adopt what they think are the opposite positions.

But when you look at your face in the mirror, the thing you see is still your face.

by Zippy at October 05, 2015 01:49 PM

The Art of Non-Conformity

The Best Travel Hacking Advice for People Who Can’t Get Credit Cards


I write about travel hacking a lot on the blog (and much more in the Cartel), and I always try to point people to the best available deals and opportunities. Some of these opportunities are for credit card signup bonuses, something I’ve been experimenting with for years, ever since first applying for 13 cards of my own on the same day way back in 2009.

Of course, not everyone is able or eligible to get these bonuses—so what else is out there? There’s actually a ton of different opportunities. Credit cards are an easy way to earn a big boost of miles and points in many different programs, but they certainly aren’t the only way.


First, Understand Why Card Products Are So Popular

In the past few years, bonuses have increased and card products have diversified. In some cases, the frequent flyer programs are more profitable than the airlines. American Express even started creating its own suite of lounges for its card members. This is big business!

If I’ve ever implied that you’re “taking advantage” of airlines, hotels, or banks by applying for card products (and carefully managing them, of course), I’ve overstated or exaggerated. They are happy to have you as a customer.

Nevertheless, these card products aren’t the only pathway to miles, points, and the whole world of “nearly free” travel in general. If you’re not able or eligible to apply for credit cards, or if you just prefer not to, you won’t be left behind in the terminal. (Well, you may have to wait until Zone 20 boards… just kidding!)


So, what can you do? Here are a few starting points.

Round-the-World tickets have nothing to do with credit cards.

Every year I travel on at least one Round-the-World ticket issued directly by a OneWorld or Star Alliance carrier. It’s still a good deal for a lot of people. You can price out a trip by using the free planning tools available from the alliances:

Earlier this year I began a 16-segment OneWorld ticket that took me through Doha, Paris, London, Los Angeles, Sydney, Hong Kong, and Tokyo—not counting a few other stopping points or transits. By the time I finish traveling on it, this ticket should earn more than 60,000 Elite Qualifying Miles, which gets me 60% of the way toward requalifying for Executive Platinum status (the highest available) on American Airlines.

Earning status—and then getting that status matched—has nothing to do with credit cards.

(Well, technically it has little to do with it.) These days, elite status matters more than ever.

At least several times a year, opportunities will arise to earn receive free status from a particular airline or hotel chain. This is often a good thing to sign up for, because even if you don’t plan to utilize the benefits from that offer, you can leverage it into status with an airline or hotel chain that you do care about.

Here’s some more background:

I mentioned that elite status with airlines and hotels has little to do with getting credit cards. There are a couple of exceptions that are worth noting, for those who are eligible. In some cases, merely getting the card includes the benefit of immediate status. Here are a few of the most common offers:

Buying miles at a discount, and then using those miles to book amazing awards, can be done from anywhere.

Last year I purchased at least 150,000 miles. In previous years I’ve purchased many more. Why do I do that? Well, my goal is to buy low and redeem high. You do the math:

1. Buy miles for $1,500 each
2. Redeem them for plane tickets worth $4,000+ each

Not bad, right? And you can do this from anywhere in the world, no matter your age or credit score.

Note that you don’t usually want to purchase miles, since the price is often cost-prohibitive. Several times a year, though, the airlines will put them on sale, sometimes at 40% or 50% off, and then it gets a lot more interesting. (Keep up with current offers to buy miles at discounted rates in the Cartel.)

Speaking of redemptions, once you have the miles, there’s a whole different skill to learn—and once again, it has nothing to do with credit cards.

Learning how to use miles well is a field of work in itself. Mastering the art of redemptions is worth spending time on, and again, you don’t need a specific credit card to put your miles to good use.

To learn to redeem well, you’ll want to spend some time with airline and hotel award charts. With the exception of Delta, every airline or hotel chain publishes an award chart, where you can learn exactly how many miles or points you need for any particular trip.

Want to know how many miles it will take to get to Timbuktu? That’s easy: you need Flying Blue (Air France / KLM) miles, potentially transferred from American Express Membership Rewards, and 40,000 miles will get you there in Economy Class, or 60,000 miles in Business Class. Voila.

Many promotions are open to anyone, everywhere.

Long-time readers are probably familiar with some of my greatest hits from years past:

… and a lot more.


Honestly, there are many, many more. I don’t write about all of them, mostly because this blog isn’t just about travel—but the point is, most promotions are open to all.

Mistake fares are also open to anyone, everywhere.

Several years ago I flew from Kuala Lumpur to Vancouver, Canada in Business Class for a bit more than $500. This fare would normally cost $3,000 or more, but the airline screwed up—and for a day or so, anyone could purchase at a big discount.

This is called a “mistake” or “glitch” fare, and when it happens, anyone can purchase. Sometimes the airline honors them and sometimes they don’t, but you’ll usually know one way or another within the first few days of purchase, after the fare gets a lot of attention.


Lastly, you should still be earning miles and points with U.S.-based programs even if you’re not in the U.S.

This point is often missed, but it’s important. The U.S. airlines aren’t always the best carriers (hello, Cathay Pacific, Singapore Airlines, and Emirates) but they do tend to have the best mileage programs. You can and should redeem your miles on other carriers, but in many cases you’ll be best served by concentrating your earning on the U.S. companies.

Remember: if you can’t get those big bonuses on U.S.-based credit cards, you aren’t left out. You can still see the world at budget prices. You can still have great experiences. Best of all, you can still travel.


Images: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

by Chris Guillebeau at October 05, 2015 01:30 PM

Karen De Coster

Mass Murder Matters

Chris Harper Mercer is the only mass murderer making the front pages this past weekend. Our feral leader and his henchmen orchestrate this here mass murder at a charity hospital, and here’s the accountability, in full: “The White House released a statement from President Barack Obama offering condolences to the charity from the American people.”

Yet he had time for the scripted, politically-aimed, 12-minute spiel, ”There’s been another mass shooting in America.”

by Karen De Coster at October 05, 2015 10:58 AM

Saved By the Fed. Again.

The lack of self-introspection combined with severe arrogance = Ben Bernanke exclaiming Fed Victory from the shrill zone. This story, How the Fed Saved the Economy: The Central Bank Did Its Job. What About Everyone Else?, is akin to an aarsonist setting your house on fire, rescuing the cat and calling 911, and when the home occupants escape from the fire our villain triumphantly claims he saved their home structure when the fire department departs after having successfully doused the fire before the entire house was burned to the ground.

by Karen De Coster at October 05, 2015 10:40 AM

Table Titans

Tales: Heavy as a Horse


We were playing D&D for the first time, and none of the players had much experience with any kind of RPG.

We were in the middle of buying equipment when the DM announced that he would use the rules of Encumbrance and Carrying Capacity for our equipment and cargo.

Everyone ran to the books,…

Read more

October 05, 2015 07:01 AM

Zondervan Academic Blog

eBook Flash Sale: WHAT’S BEST NEXT by Matt Perman

What's Best Next by Matt PermanCan the Gospel transform the way you get things done? Matt Perman answers with a resounding ‘Yes!’ in What’s Best Next. For a limited time, purchase his ebook for just $3.99 and discover how to anchor your understanding of productivity in God’s purposes and plan.

What’s Best Next | Matt Perman

Original: $21.99 | Sale: $3.99

Buy it Today:
Barnes & Noble

Act now, this flash sale price is valid through Wednesday, October 7th.


Tim Challies: “Perman teaches that true productivity is not getting more done, but getting the right things done—the things that serve others to the glory of God. He does not leave this as an idea for us to execute as we see fit, but provides a thoughtful, logical, do-able way of living so those first things really do remain first. This makes What’s Best Next a worthy investment of your money and, that most precious of resources, your time.”

Justin Taylor, The Gospel Coalition: “To my knowledge, there is no one writing today who has thought more deeply about the relationship between the gospel and productivity. You will find in these pages a unique and remarkable combination of theological insight, biblical instruction, and practical counsel that would change the world if put into practice. I could not recommend it more highly.”

Matt Heerema: “If you read only one book this year, it should be What’s Best Next. Yes I mean that. The aim of the book is ‘to reshape the way you think about productivity and then present a practical approach to help you become more effective in your life with less stress and frustration, whatever you are doing.’ And the book delivers. Stop everything and read it.”


This book is simply extraordinary. … I doubt there is a person on the planet who knows both theological issues and time-management literature to the depth and extent Matt Perman does. – John Piper, former Pastor for Preaching and Vision, Bethlehem Baptist Church; author, Don’t Waste Your Life

In this amazing volume, Matt Perman offers a wealth of practical, real-world productivity solutions, all framed within the context of the gospel. He provides the know-how and the know-who we need to be faithful stewards over the gifts we have been given. – Michael Hyatt, New York Times bestselling author;

What’s Best Next is both practical and inspiring as it addresses both the why and how to aspects of productivity. The result is an engaging, motivating, and exciting vision for your work and the things you do every day, right along with helpful, clear, and practical instruction on how to become more effective with less stress. Want to be more productive for the glory of God? Read What’s Best Next. – Ed Stetzer, President, LifeWay Research; author of Lost and Found

This book has been on Matt’s heart and mind for a long time. It’s the fruit of experience as well as insight drawn from Scripture and common sense—without doing injustice to either. There is a lot of wisdom here, and I look forward to making use of it in daily life. – Michael Horton, Professor of Systematic Theology, Westminster Seminary California; author, The Gospel-Driven Life

Purchase your copy today!
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by ZA Blog at October 05, 2015 04:02 AM

Apple Watch at night

With watchOS 2, there are two good options for what to do with an Apple Watch at night.

The first is to use the Apple Watch a bed-side alarm clock. watchOS 2 includes "Nightstand mode," which turns the watch into a tiny, adorable alarm clock when turned on its side and set on the charging puck.

As you can see from the photo, the Watch displays the time, day and date, as well as charging status. All of this is done in a nice green that's not hard on the eyes in the middle of the night. If an alarm is set, it shows as well.

The clever thing here is what Apple's doing with the display. The display stays on for several seconds after the Watch detects that it can enter Nightstand mode, then goes to sleep.

Thankfully, you don't have to interact with the Watch to see the time. Thanks to the built-in accelerometer, Apple Watch will wake up and display the time for several seconds with just a bump of the table its sitting on.

If you have an alarm set, the Watch uses a tone that's actually nicer than anything built-in on the iPhone. Press the side button to turn it off or the Digital Crown to snooze.

I'm using ElevationLab's Night Stand to keep my watch horizontal at night. It sticks to the surface it sits on, so it's not going anywhere, which is nice, but I've found that I need to strap my sport band together to keep the Watch from wobbling on the stand.

As nice as Nightstand mode is, David Smith has made the Watch a lot more useful at night with a new app called Sleep++ which can track how well you sleep at night.

David even wrote a blog post about how to make your Apple Watch battery work overnight:

The TL/DR is to charge your Apple Watch in the morning while you get ready for your day (take a shower, get dressed, etc) and then again in the evening while you get ready for bed (brush teeth, put on pajamas, etc). Then put your Apple Watch in Airplane Mode while you sleep.

I've been using Sleep++ for several nights now, and I have to say, I really like it.

Launch the app and tell it you're going to sleep. After that, at David's suggestion, I've been putting my Watch in Airplane mode. Here, you can see that I set it to go to bed at 10:09 last night, because I'm an old person.

The Watch's screen will still light up when moved, even at night. I found turning that option off to be more problematic — I'd wake up and worry that my Watch had died — so right before bed, I've been knocking the screen brightness all the way down and selecting this variant of the Modular face I've setup to show just the time in red. Now, if I do turn over, the Watch's display shouldn't be bright enough to be an annoyance.

In the morning — waking up with a silent Watch alarm is nice — tell Sleep++ you're awake, and the app will analyze the night's information and put it on a chart shared between the Watch and iPhone app.

While I don't love the feeling of sleeping with my Apple Watch on, I'm already getting used to, and Sleep++ makes it worth it. How I sleep is an important part of my health, and one that I haven't been tracking since putting my Fitbit in the drawer. This app remedies that, and thanks to Nightstand mode, at least I have another use for the Watch at night if I want to skip a night or have goofed up the charging regime.

by Stephen Hackett at October 05, 2015 12:24 AM

The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

Self-Control and Your Inward City Wall

What does it mean to say we’re made in God’s image? Scripture answers this question from innumerable angles and perspectives. In the gallery of images for God’s image-bearers in Scripture, people are depicted as birds (Matt. 23:37; Ps. 91:4; Deut. 32:11), pack animals (Isa. 30:28; 2 Kings 19:28), raw material (Job 23:10; Zech. 13:9), and plants (1 Chron. 17:9; John 15:5), to name a few. These many strands of biblical metaphors constitute a kind of conceptual web of how God, through the authors of Scripture, depicts and explains the human person.

One verse in Proverbs, since its imagery is not prominent in Scripture, offers a perspective especially worth dwelling on:

A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls. (Prov. 25:28)

A careful look at this biblical metaphor will help us learn things both about ourselves and about our Creator.

You Are a City

To start out, we notice that the primary metaphor in Proverbs 25:28 is that people are cities. While in other places that image is implied (e.g., Exod. 29:45; Ezek. 37:27; Eph. 2:19-22), here it’s stated outright. You may recall from eighth-grade English that expressions with “like/as” are similes. But the “like” in this verse isn’t part of the original Hebrew. In fact, if we stripped off all the grammatical modifiers, the verse would quite simply say: “A man is a city.” What do we make of this statement?

The city is a big concept in Scripture. It’s cast in a somewhat negative light before the flood (Gen. 4:16–17; 11:4), but afterward is pictured as much more promising for human flourishing, culminating in the heavenly city in Revelation 21. The city of Jerusalem was most significant for God’s people because God himself dwelled there (cf. Deut. 12:11; 1 Kings 8). More than that, God personally built and protected Jerusalem (Ps. 46:4; 87:5; 127:1), until his people rejected him and were exiled, and the city was destroyed (2 Kings 25).

It’s likely Jerusalem would have been “the city” on the mind of an Israelite reading or hearing Proverbs 25:28, especially with its reference to destroyed walls. Even long before Jerusalem was built, Israel was warned that for covenant disobedience they’d be cursed “in the city,” and eventually defeated by their enemies (Deut. 28:16, 25). With that background—and the ever-present need for military defense in ancient urban life—talk of a city without defenses would have probably prompted Israelites to think of the most important city they knew. If this is right, then the implication of the metaphor is not just people are cities but more specifically God’s people are God’s city.

To put it differently, you are Jerusalem.

Your Spirit Is the City Wall

Moving to the second metaphor in Proverbs 25:28, the imagery envisions not just any person or city but specifically a man without self-control and a city invaded and left without walls. So we can say the metaphor expands to say self-control is a city wall. “Self-control” is a paraphrase of the Hebrew, which says something like “restraint of spirit” (ruach). Implicit even in this expression, then, is the idea that the spirit has a structure. And apparently that structure can be damaged, which is distinctly a bad thing.

The spirit is a huge theme in Scripture also. There are several important parallels to the concept of a “damaged” spirit. Notably, all are negative and confirm that a broken spirit, like a broken city wall, is dangerous. Beginning in Proverbs, for instance, a “crushed spirit” is starkly contrasted with the “glad and joyful heart” (Prov. 15:13; 17:22). A damaged spirit is also portrayed as unbearable and worse than physical illness in Proverbs 18:14. Elsewhere, Job’s broken spirit makes him ponder death itself (Job 17:1; cf. Ps. 88:3). And in Isaiah we learn that those with a broken spirit have been judged by God (Isa. 65:14; cf. Exod. 6:9).

Lacking much context it’s hard to say what kind of “restraint of spirit”—what self-control—is in view in Proverbs 25:28. But it’s clear that, just as cities cannot do without intact fortification, humans cannot do without an intact spirit. Put conversely, whoever lacks control over his spirit—whose spirit is damaged and left in disrepair—is as good as ruined. The one without an intact spirit is already “broken into” and left as exposed as he was found. So although we lack specificity, we can see how the metaphor of self-control as a city wall draws from the most pressing daily need of an Israelite: spiritual and physical well-being in God’s holy city.

God Is the Builder

Set in the context of the whole book, Proverbs 25:28 calls on the imagery of the first nine chapters in which Lady Wisdom and Lady Folly are personified as two alternatives. Among the admonitions against foolishness we learn folly leads to destruction (Prov. 1:32) and the worthless, wicked person will face certain calamity: “Therefore disaster will overtake him in an instant; he will suddenly be destroyed without remedy” (Prov. 6:15). This is the choice the person without self-control in Proverbs 25:28 has made, to inevitable ruin. Israel learned this lesson the hard way when they lacked self-control by rebelling against God in disobedience, only to end up in exile with their capital city destroyed.

But there is an alternative. We are also invited to follow Lady Wisdom, who lives in a well-constructed house of her own (Prov. 9:1–6). Those who enter this house “will dwell secure and will be at ease, without dread of disaster” (Prov. 1:32). In fact, we learn wisdom is a characteristic of God himself, the “master workman” who in his supreme power established the foundations of the earth (Prov. 3:19; 8:30). He is the architect of all creation, the one who built and sustains it (Prov. 8:22–29).

In turn, people are cities because God has built and sustains us, just as he does with all creation. Our spirit—the metaphorical wall of the self—has been damaged by sin such that we often lack control. Even as those dwelling in God’s city we’re exposed to constant ransacking because of our weak spiritual defenses. Left in that state of disrepair, destruction often seems inevitable.

But God is in the construction business. Those with broken spirits are precisely those who need him. As the psalmist proclaims, “The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit” (Ps. 34:18). In his grace, our God rebuilds his ruined city into a household, with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone (Eph. 2:19–22). 

William Ross is a doctoral candidate in Old Testament at the University of Cambridge, where his research focuses on the book of Judges. He recently co-authored the Interpretive Lexicon of New Testament Greek (Zondervan, 2014), and blogs regularly at You can follow him on Twitter.

by William Ross at October 05, 2015 12:00 AM

How Do You Know Jesus Really Rose from the Dead?

The witch’s knife plunged deep into the lion’s heart, and the majestic creature quivered and died. For a few seconds, complete silence descended on the movie theater. A slight sniffling beside me broke the stillness, and that’s when I heard my 9-year-old daughter whisper a rather profound word of wisdom to her friend.

A few months earlier, my daughter Hannah had heard the book The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe was being adapted into a feature film. I told her she wouldn’t be allowed to see the movie until she first read the fantasy novel by C. S. Lewis. Then I added a challenge: if she read all seven books in the series before the movie’s release, I’d take her and her friend Lacey to see it on opening day. Three weeks later, Hannah had devoured all of the Chronicles of Narnia. So, on the afternoon of its release, I ended up in a packed theater with two girls, watching The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

Since Hannah had already read the book, the storyline of the film was familiar to her—but her friend hadn’t yet read it. For Lacey, the tale of the lion who returns from the dead after giving his life to save a traitor was all new. Still, when the witch’s knife fell and Aslan the lion died, both children were moved to tears. The difference was that Hannah knew what happened next. It was in that moment that I heard Hannah lean over and whisper words of comfort to her friend: Don’t worry; I read the book. He doesn’t stay dead.

That’s what we as Christians believe as we read the New Testament.

For nearly 2,000 years Christians have confessed together that, because the one who died on Good Friday didn’t stay dead, our despair can never have the final word. And unlike the resurrection of Aslan the lion, the resurrection of Jesus is no fantasy. It happened in history, and Jesus himself has promised that everyone who trusts him will share in his new life. So as Christians we declare: Don’t worry; I read the book. He didn’t stay dead.

Reliable Testimony or Telephone Game Gone Bad? 

But how sure can we be that the story of Jesus and his resurrection really happened? What if the New Testament (NT) authors never intended their words to be taken as reliable reports about Jesus’s life in the first place? What if their writings contained far more fantasy than history?

Those are precisely the possibilities some skeptical scholars have popularized over the past few decades. For example, Bart Ehrman writes:

[The NT Gospels were] written 35 to 65 years after Jesus’s death, not by people who were eyewitnesses, but by people living later. . . . After the days of Jesus, people started telling stories about him in order to convert others to the faith. . . . Stories were changed with what would strike us today as reckless abandon. They were modified, amplified, and embellished. And sometimes they were made up. (Peter, Paul, and Mary Magdalene, 259)

Likewise, scholar Reza Aslan claims, “The Gospels are not, nor were they ever meant to be, a historical documentation of Jesus’s life” (Zealot, xxv–xxvi; see also Stephen Patterson, The God of Jesus, 214).

Ehrman compares the spread of the Christ stories to “Telephone”—the children’s game where one person in a circle whispers a sentence to someone else, then that person whispers what they hear to the next person, and so on, all the way around. At the end, the first and the last persons reveal their sentences, and everyone laughs at how much the original changed along the way. Here’s how Ehrman depicts the development of Jesus stories:

Imagine playing “Telephone” . . . over the expanse of the Roman Empire (some 2,500 miles across!) with thousands of participants from different backgrounds, with different concerns, and in different contexts. . . . Stories based on eyewitness accounts are not necessarily reliable, and the same is true a hundredfold for accounts that—even if stemming from reports of eyewitnesses—have been in oral circulation long after the fact. (Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium, 47, 52; see also Ehrman, Jesus, Interrupted, 146–147).

It’s true that several years stand between the life of Jesus and the first surviving texts about him. Paul’s letters to the Galatians and Thessalonians are some of the earliest writings in the NT, after all, and these letters were penned around AD 50. Two decades stand between the time Paul wrote his first letters and the days Jesus walked and talked with his disciples. The NT Gospels were written even later than Paul’s letters, sometime between AD 60 and AD 100.

Nevertheless, when I look at the NT texts in their cultural contexts, I find that skeptical suppositions quickly fall apart. In fact, each time I study NT origins I’m more and more convinced the NT traditions are traceable to reliable testimonies from trustworthy witnesses—not to an ancient game of Telephone gone bad.

Significant Cultural Gap

Suppose you need to remember a list of items today. How will you make certain you don’t forget anything?

If you’re like me, you’ll use a fountain pen to inscribe each item in a Moleskine journal. Or you may grab a ball-point pen and scrawl the list on the palm of your hand. If you’re more technologically inclined you may tap your to-do list into your smartphone. The precise tools may change, but the pattern remains the same: in contemporary Western culture, if we need to remember something, we write it down. Throughout the past 500 years, civilizations with European roots have developed a deep reliance on reading and writing for memory.

Today, this reliance on writing has merged with new technologies such that stories leap almost instantly from eyewitness testimonies to written words. Moments after an event occurs, firsthand reports and secondhand speculations are trending on social media. By the next morning, the story has flooded the front page of every newspaper and news site. Within a few weeks, mass-printed books about the event are crawling up The New York Times bestsellers list.

If you’ve spent your whole life in a culture like this—where information races rapidly from personal experiences to written reports—it’s easy to assume stories can’t circulate reliably for long unless they’re written down. That’s why some Christians become concerned about the reliability of the Gospels when skeptics point out these books were written decades after Jesus’s death.

George Washington at an Airport?

The problem with the skeptics’ claims, however, is they’re forcing an ancient culture to fit into the mold of modern expectations. The earliest Christians didn’t live in a culture of widespread writing and literacy. They lived in an oral culture. And in such cultures, experiences didn’t need to be written immediately to be remembered. In fact, people in such contexts were capable of sharing reliable testimonies over the course of decades without ever writing them down. 

Criticizing testimonies from ancient oral cultures because they weren’t written down quickly enough is like criticizing George Washington because he never flew in an airplane. It’s expecting persons from another time and culture to follow patterns that didn’t emerge until hundreds of years later.

So why did people in the first century rely so heavily on oral testimonies?

It was partly due to widespread illiteracy. Fewer than half the people in the Roman Empire could read; fewer still were able to write. Oral histories—spoken testimonies to truth, memorized and shared in communities during the lifetimes of the eyewitnesses—were far more fruitful forms of information for the illiterate.

Three Truths About Oral Histories

And what kept these oral histories from degenerating into an empire-wide game of Telephone? At least three things:

1. People in oral cultures were capable of recalling and repeating oral histories accurately.

In the oral culture of the first Christians, many were trained from childhood to memorize entire libraries of laws and stories, poetry and songs (see Anthony le Donne’s Historical Jesus). Rhythmic patterns and mnemonic devices were woven into oral histories so that learners could quickly convert spoken testimonies into permanent memories (see Walter Ong’s Orality and Literacy). God worked through this cultural pattern to preserve the truths we read in the NT today. That’s why a gap between spoken reports and written records wasn’t a significant cause for concern among the first Christians.

2. Christian communities worked together to keep oral histories true to their sources.

Oral histories weren’t preserved by isolated individuals; they were preserved in communities. This was especially true when it came to early testimonies about Jesus. To be a Christian in the first century was to live enmeshed in a congregation of fellow believers. The stories of Jesus were memorized and shared in the context of a tight-knit fellowship of faith. If one member’s retelling of a story misconstrued the original testimony, others could quickly correct the error.

3. Eyewitnesses kept testimonies connected to the original events.

Early Christian communities weren’t the only checks that kept testimonies about Jesus tied to historical truth. During the decades separating the earthly ministry of Jesus from the writing of the NT, living eyewitnesses of the risen Jesus were still circulating in the churches (see Richard Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses and Michael Bird’s The Gospel of the Lord). If embellished testimonies had started to multiply among early Christians, eyewitnesses could personally curtail the falsehoods and restate the truth about the events.

Rapid and Reliable

The central claim of the NT is that Jesus was physically resurrected after being crucified. If this claim arose from decades of embellishment instead of historical truth, then Jesus is dead, the apostles were liars, and our faith is worthless (1 Cor. 15:14–17).

But evidences from the first and second centuries reveal that eyewitness testimony about Jesus emerged rapidly and circulated reliably. The NT texts relied on testimonies from apostolic eyewitnesses, and all of these texts were completed while the eyewitnesses were still alive. That’s why we can declare with confidence: Don’t worry; I read the book. He didn’t stay dead.

Editors’ note: This excerpt is adapted from Timothy Paul Jones’s new book, How We Got the Bible.


Timothy Paul Jones (PhD, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is associate professor of leadership and family ministry at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is the author of more than a dozen books and serves in the SojournKids ministry at Sojourn Community Church. He lives in St. Matthews, Kentucky, with his wife, Rayann, and daughters, Hannah and Skylar. For more information about Timothy, visit

by Timothy Paul Jones at October 05, 2015 12:00 AM

Joy: Poet, Seeker, and the Woman Who Captivated C. S. Lewis

Writer Abigail Santamaria’s biography of Joy Davidman, Joy: Poet, Seeker, and the Woman Who Captivated C. S. Lewis, takes us beyond Joy’s relationship to C. S. Lewis. She examines the whole of Joy’s life, which “embraced more milestones and worldviews than most people experience in a lifetime twice as long.” Davidman embraced atheism, communism, scientology, and, finally, Christianity before she ended up in the arms of Lewis.

Joy, born in 1915 to Jewish immigrants in New York City, defined her life goal early onshe wanted to be a writer. She majored in English, pledging: “I devote a single heart to literature.” Santamaria distributes samples of her poetry throughout the book. They reveal a woman of deep thoughts and dreams, one “absorbed in matters of the heart.” They reveal an aesthetic passionate about beauty—about finding it, delighting in it, and deploying it as a tool to heal what had been broken. She had “a sonnet for every wound.”

And wounds were plentiful: exclusion and isolation during her adolescent years; a troubled relationship with her parents; periods of serious illness; and a turbulent marriage to writer William Gresham (from 1942–1954) marked by alcoholism, distrust, incompetence as a mother, and almost constant financial distress. All of this created a great longing for something better and more beautiful. The Great Depression only added to Joy’s longing and zeal to seek out redemption, a search she described in an essay titled “The Longest Way Round.” It sure was a long way round.

Curious Journey to Faith and Marriage 

As a child, Joy told her father she was an atheist. But after “waking moments” of strong beauty, typically when writing or in nature, she came to acknowledge that something existed beyond the material world, a “metaphysical depth.” During college in the 1930s, Joy became a “devoted materialist” and joined the Communist party. Communism didn’t solve her problems, though.

Her husband, William, went missing one night in 1946. Aware of his drinking problems and poor health, Joy became anxious. Alone in her room and at her wits end, she encountered God, later saying it was “like waking from sleep.” William was eventually found, and the two started exploring Christianity, guided by the works of Lewis. The family eventually joined Pleasant Plains Presbyterian Church, where Joy and her two sons, Dough and David, were baptized. Their newfound faith did not, however, prevent them from engaging in (Scientology founder) L. Ron Hubbard’s “dianetics,” a system that seeks to relieve psychosomatic disorder by cleansing the mind of harmful mental images. Both Joy and William performed auditing sessions on each other and others in order to combat health and mental problems, and to raise money.

Joy’s journey into Christianity aligned with a mail correspondence with Lewis, whom she—according to friends and passionate poems—fell deeply in love with, fantasized about, and longed for. With the conviction that her husband had been unfaithful, Joy and Bill drifted apart while her newfound friendship in Lewis—or “Jack,” as he insisted being called—grew. In 1952, she traveled to England to meet him.

At first, Joy’s attraction to Lewis wasn’t reciprocated. But over the course of two trips and several years, during which her marriage deteriorated and ended in divorce, Joy and Lewis grew closer and got married. They remained married, growing happier with one another and intimately so, until Joy died of cancer in 1960.

Complex and Beautiful Portrait 

What mainly drove me to read Joy was a desire to figure out what drove Lewis to Joy. What was that “something” that attracted him to her? I anticipated her searching and wandering culminating in some destination where her refined side would come out, and then I’d know exactly why Lewis loved her. 

That did not happen.

Santamaria could’ve made Joy someone extraordinary. She could’ve painted her as a feminist martyr—a victim of an alcoholic husband, a woman trapped in the home-versus-career grip. She could’ve painted her as a heroine portrait—a virtuous fighter in the name of love, art, and truth. She could’ve painted her as the romantic convert, turning from the land of lostness to godliness and marriage, in the style of Ruth or a Francine Rivers novel. That would’ve been redeeming and simple.

Instead, she includes Joy’s ego and narcissism, her lying to Lewis about Bill in order to cast him in a bad light, her overspending habits, and her negligence of her children. Even after Joy appears to have found Christ and have “peace with God” in her final hours, her faith is never carved firmly enough in stone for me to be sure what she actually believed. All facets are included, which is confusing and somewhat frustrating. But this just points to the beauty of Joy’s complexity, which is often the best way to describe anything good and true. 

The complexity with which Santamaria conveys Joy’s life, love, and faith, as well as her refusal to put Joy in a box, leaves her story unresolved. I’m still wondering who Joy really was and what made Lewis love her. But it’s also what makes me appreciate this biography as a believable portrait. Humans are complex, and Santamaria has the guts to sacrifice simplicity and resolution to expose that truth.

Joy is a story about longing and searching, hope and heartache. Every now and then, it’s about seeing. More than anything else, then, Santamaria’s portrait of Joy showed me the complexity of faith. It’s a tough complexity, but a beautiful one nonetheless. 

Abigail Santamaria. Joy: Poet, Seeker, and the Woman Who Captivated C. S. Lewis. Orlando, FL: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015. 432 pp. $28.00. 

Katrine Vigilius is a journalism student at The University of Southern Denmark. She does freelance writing for Danish newspapers and magazines and serves on the board of the Danish branch of IFES (International Fellowship of Evangelical Students).

by Katrine Vigilius at October 05, 2015 12:00 AM

3 Things Not to Do After You Preach

The conclusion of a sermon is a dangerous moment for the preacher. He has just spent 30 to 45 minutes in an expository deluge, dumping his study and zeal upon his congregation. The 10 to 20 hours of sermon preparation are now ancient history, and he’s climbed in his car for the drive home. Most likely he is exhausted—emotionally, spiritually, and physically. If you’re called to preach, you leave it all in the pulpit. 

I’ve been there. And over the last 30 years, I’ve learned some valuable lessons about what I should and shouldn’t do following a sermon. Here are are three key lessons:

1. Don’t let down your guard.

Preaching picks a fight with the enemy each week. “It pleased God through the folly of what we preach,” Paul observed, “to save those who believe” (1 Cor. 1:21). This means sinners are snatched from “the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience” (Eph. 2:2). God uses preaching as a means to change people—to spring them from the enemy’s dominion.

Satan has an opinion about gospel preaching: it must be stopped. Don’t be naïve in assuming the delivery of the message means your removal from his crosshairs. Message preparation—with its study, meditation, and prayer—has protective benefits. After the sermon, though, you’re typically spent and empty. Which is another way to say you’re vulnerable to an air strike.

Your flesh is hard at work also. Preaching stirs temptation. On one hand is pride over how God is using you, the other hand condemnation over how he isn’t. Then there’s actual message, in which you’ve expended many words knowing that “when words are many, transgression is not lacking” (Prov. 10:19).

Where men preach, flaws abound. If you’ve preached for any amount of time, you know every message has some deficiencies. Those weaknesses get real friendly on Sunday afternoon by knocking on your door for a visit. Don’t open it. They will invade your house, disturb your peace, and color the sermon in your eyes. You’ll feel stupid. Condemned. Like the whole message was ruined.

There is a time and place for everything under the sun. But evaluating your sermon immediately after your sermon will make you hate your sermon. 

After preaching, you must prepare yourself for attacks from both the flesh and the devil. Just as soldiers prepare for enemy onslaught, so you must prepare to be attacked.

Before, during, and after attacks, run to the good news of the gospel. Realize preaching is about the power of God’s Word, not your words. There’s no sermon delivery in the history of the world that was so bad it drained God’s Word of its power. The Lord is big enough to allow people to recall his eternal words and forget your stupid ones. Do you really think God’s purpose rests on the quality of your preaching? That’s certainly not what you preach. Sunday afternoon, then, is your time to apply.

After preaching, prepare yourself for attack by remembering that God is bigger than your mistakes. 

2. Don’t listen to yourself. 

When you are under attack, your soul will be loud. Accusing thoughts will bang on the door of your mind, demanding your attention. Or maybe self-inflating ideas, ones where your self-regard catches flight and you think of yourself “more highly than you ought” (Rom. 12:3). In those moments, you must quiet your soul. 

Quiet your soul by trusting the Lord with the results of your sermon. Quiet your soul by fixing your thoughts on God, not your performance. If you feel proud, remember your message is meaningless unless he chooses to make it potent. If you feel condemned, remember his Word does not return void (Isa. 55:11). Your sermon will accomplish exactly what God desires. Fortunately, you can’t thwart his good plans.

Brother, you must ignore the attack you’re experiencing and fix your mind on superior things (Phil. 4:8). The best counsel for a preacher driving away from a church service is: “Be still, and know that [he is] God” (Ps. 46:10). Doing this keeps both critiques and compliments in their rightful place.

Once you’ve entrusted your sermon to God, give your mind a rest. Distract yourself. I need at least two to three hours to regroup after preaching. I spend that time reading, watching TV, or even sleeping. When our kids were younger, I’d often do something with them that diverted attention and replenished energy. 

Someone once said preaching a sermon is the equivalent of eight hours of manual labor. I’m not sure it’s true, but I know it feels that way. The point is to tend to your body and soul so that you rebound and get ready for the next message. 

3. Don’t fish. 

Because preaching stirs both accusation and admiration, you’ll be tempted to go fishing for compliments. You’ll ask leading questions designed to elicit positive feedback—a kind of identity booster. I’ve done it way too many times. Few things are more hollow than a solicited compliment. Except maybe when you’re fishing for a compliment and instead catch a pole-bending critique—a helpful reminder that when you fish you don’t always know what you might snag.

The deeper problem behind fishing expeditions, though, is that we’re too delivery-centered. We want to know how we came across. How it “felt,” as if that were some barometer of what God was actually doing, or will do. We feel the need to prop ourselves up with the approval and praise of others, rather than entrusting ourselves to him. 

It’s good to remember that most preachers get more encouragement in a month than other professions get in a decade. Don’t fish. And when a compliment does come, transfer the glory to God. 

And for goodness sake, don’t listen to your own podcast. Here’s why: you are hopelessly subjective when it comes to evaluating your sermon. You poured 15 to 20 hours into the preparation, which means objectivity left the room days ago. If you really want help, choose some experienced preachers and trusted congregants who don’t crave your approval, and recruit them to provide constructive feedback. Then thank them for giving it, regardless of what they say.  

Spurgeon’s Dissatisfaction 

Charles Spurgeon, arguably the greatest preacher of the past 300 years, once said: “It is a long time since I preached a sermon that I was satisfied with. I scarcely recollect ever having done so.” 

And this guy was called “The Prince of Preachers.”

If Spurgeon was unsatisfied with his sermons, it’s safe to say mere mortals like you and I will find ourselves in the same position. 

Let’s be ready for those moments.

Editors’ note: This article originally appeared at Dave Harvey’s “Am I Called?” blog.

Dave Harvey is the founder and director of Am I Called?, has authored several books including When Sinners Say I Do: Rediscovering the Power of the Gospel for Marriage, chairs the boards of CCEF and Sojourn Network, and serves as pastor of preaching at Four Oaks Church in Tallahassee, Florida. Dave is married to Kimm and they have four children. You can follow him on Twitter.

by Dave Harvey at October 05, 2015 12:00 AM

October 04, 2015

Zippy Catholic

Marriage on death row

Both a death sentence and a declaration of nullity are fallible juridical decisions, made by fallible people exercising fallible judgment after looking at some evidence.  We are told that it is more merciful to err on the side of not executing a convict, because sometimes we will inevitably get it wrong.

The same kind of reasoning applies to declarations of nullity, it seems to me.  A wrong declaration of nullity  turns the parties into material adulterers.

One difference is that often enough (though certainly not always) parties in the proceeding unanimously want to believe that a valid marriage never occurred.  This gives rise to the idea that, whether factually accurate or not, declarations of nullity are a kind of mercy.  And in that sense a “lenient” annulment process is more akin to euthanasia than it is to  accidentally executing the innocent. Permission to die and permission to commit adultery are considered “mercy”; because sometimes doing the right thing can be very difficult, and that is not something that people like to hear.

by Zippy at October 04, 2015 11:55 PM

CrossFit Naptown

Day 1 No Attendance Week

Monday’s Workout:

Back Squat
Every 2:00
*warming up to heavy single

1000 M Row
Push Press (95/65)
Burpees over bar


Member Appreciation!


We are so excited to be bringing this week to you for the first time ever. It is all about you this week, check out as many classes as you like, in all programs, locations, and times that you can manage!

Read that again. We said manage. That means you can manage and handle what you are putting your body through. IF you have never done CrossFit before, do not do it full bore every day this week. If you have never done barbell club, do not lift heavy 5 days this week plus CrossFit. You can take yoga as much as you want though. Definitely do that.

Remember to use #naptownappreciation as often as you can remember it to be in the running for the free month of membership that awaits the person with the most check ins at the end of the week! There will be prizes thrown out throughout the week for whatever we feel like, so come to classes for your chance to go home with some swag!



by Anna at October 04, 2015 11:31 PM

Zippy Catholic

Different ontologies of property in action

When you buy something from Amazon, they treat you like the thing you bought now belongs to you.

When you buy something from Apple, they treat you like the thing you bought still belongs to them.

Google and Facebook own you.

by Zippy at October 04, 2015 11:23 PM

The Urbanophile

17 Ideas to Help Your City

next-urban-renassianceLast year the Manhattan Institute commissioned several leading academics including Harvard’s Ed Glaeser and NYU’s Ingrid Gould Ellen to make the case for policy ideas to move cities forward in the 21st century. The result is 17 ideas tangible ways to make a difference, across a range of domains from Pre-K to Entrepreneurship Zones.  These have now been published in our free book The Next Urban Renaissance, which is available to download for free.

Among the ideas:

  1. Reduce or eliminate parking requirements for new development. This is one many of us are already on board with, but too few places have engaged with seriously. As Ingrid Gould Ellen writes, “Significantly, these [requirement minimum parking] costs are passed on to all city residents, not just car owners. Even apartment dwellers without cars are effectively forced to pay for the cost of a parking space because the cost of parking provi- sion makes development more expensive. There is no way for residents to reduce what they pay for parking by driving less or owning fewer cars. Their only option is to move to another jurisdiction that does not have binding requirements.”
  2. Implement a split-rate property tax with a higher tax on land than improvements. The land value tax was originally popularized by Henry George in the 1800s. Yet despite the fact that, as Ellen notes, “Economists ever since have celebrated the land tax as the most efficient, least distortionary way that governments can raise money,” the land tax remains more admired than tried.
  3. Repeal the “Buy America” Act. UCLA’s Matthew Kahn points out how Buy America punishes transit agencies with inflated costs for buses because of the relatively small size of the US market. “If urban transit agencies could access federal government subsidies without strings attached, they would have a far larger menu of global buses from which to choose. At present, U.S. bus makers are small in scale: the top two, New Flyer and Gillig, sell 1,000–1,500 buses each year in the U.S., where annual sales total 4,000–5,000. Major international bus makers are significantly larger. Germany’s Daimler sells 30,000–40,000 buses and chassis annually, while Swedish-based Volvo sells 10,000. Japan’s top two bus makers, Hino and Fuso, each sell more than 2,000 buses domestically per year (out of the more than 9,000 total sold in Japan). In 2012, China’s largest bus maker, King Long, sold 29,000.”
  4. Create Entrepreneurship Zones in cities with legally mandated one-top permitting within 30 days. Ed Glaeser offers a variety of suggestions for implementing entrepreneurship boosting policy ideas in a smaller scale geographic area then the municipality.
  5. Experiment with short term housing assistance. Back to housing, Ellen suggests cities experiment with focusing more on short term rent assistance towards permanent housing of at-risk families vs. putting them up in homeless shelters after they have no where else to go. She notes, “There has not yet been a rigorous evaluation of the long-term impacts of rapid rehousing programs, and many questions still remain: Will landlords be willing to accept them? How will families manage the transition when the subsidy ends? Will such time-limited subsidies make any meaningful difference in an individual’s long-term well-being? Still, the promise of initial evidence supports further exploration of this approach.”

There are twelve more where those came from, including some contributions from Yours Truly, so download the book to read more.

by Aaron M. Renn at October 04, 2015 07:32 PM

CrossFit Naptown


Sunday’s Workout:

Open Gym 11:00am-12:00pm and 12:00pm-1:00pm


Member Appreciation Week Begins Tomorrow


Who: All of you members! We are doing this to give you the opportunity to try everything out because we are grateful to have you in our lives. Anyone who is a member at CFNT (not those with punch cards) can come as many times as you like to any class at any location! This means a member who is currently 2 times per week can come to 7 classes or more – CrossFit classes, yoga classes, Barbell Club classes, and SWIFT classes!


What: A totally free week to come to as many classes as you want in any program, especially ones that you have not tried before!


Where: At CrossFit NapTown Delaware for CrossFit or Barbell Club, Practice Indie for yoga class, Capitol SWIFT for SWIFT class, CrossFit NapTown Monon Trail for CrossFit and/or SWIFT classes.


When: The week of October 5th through 11th for any and all classes during that time.


Why: It is our 4th anniversary of being here at CrossFit NapTown and our 1 year anniversary for Capitol SWIFT and Practice Indie. We would not have made it to this point without all of your support and presence in our lives and this is one way for us to say thank you! NapTown offers so many different ways for you to improve your fitness. If you are a member with us, then you have obviously figured that out to an extent or you would have quit by now. What this week gives you is the chance to try out everything else that you may not have gotten around to yet. Maybe you have been attending CrossFit classes 3 days a week religiously for a year but are still struggling with the overhead squat. Take the time to check out a yoga class or two during that week to see how you may be able to get a little more mobile. Maybe you are a devout SWIFT and CrossFit athlete but are just missing out on some strength gains that you are craving. Insert Barbell Club here! It is a great way to add more consistent strength and technique work in to your fitness routine. If you have questions about other ideas or how you may be able to best take advantage of this opportunity, please reach out! You can email me at and I would be happy to give you a few suggestions based on what your goals are and where you feel your fitness may be stagnating.


How: Any time you come to a class at any location, check in on FaceBook, Instagram, and/or Twitter (one, two or all three options) and use this hashtag:


We are doing this to see how many people are taking advantage and trying to build a community feel around this event. If you are nervous about heading to a class, ask a couple friends to join you and then post about your experience to let us know what you thought!


by Anna at October 04, 2015 01:23 AM

October 03, 2015


The Adamantine, Invincible, Invulnerable Love of God

sondereggerLove is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)

At the current moment, the dominant attribute in our common talk of God is typically love. Love is also at the center of a number of recent academic treatments of the doctrine of God and especially a number of the revisions of that doctrine in the 20th Century. What’s more, that God is centrally and fundamentally love is taken by many to mean that God is relational.

And for Trinitarians, that shouldn’t be too much of a problem. God is relational all the way down. But one of the great burdens of Kevin Vanhoozer’s work Remythologizing Theology is to show that the current model of a relational God meant to replace “classical theism” does what all onto-theologies do–take a metaphysical concept from without Scripture and read Scripture’s witness to God in that light. In this case, we take modern definitions of relationality as necessarily including mutuality, vulnerability, and so forth, and in that light, deliver us into the hands of a suffering and empathetic God. Here is much of the thrust behind various process, panentheist, and Open theist models on offer. 

The question we’re to ask, though, is whether or not this is the understanding of relationality and love we are given to understand as we read the broad sweep of the Scriptures as well as its individual pages. Here, of course, is not the place to understand such an examination. Still, I was reminded of this issue when I ran across this stunning exposition by Katherine Sonderegger of Paul’s “Love” hymn in 1 Corinthians 13. I’ll quote it at length:

This is Love. Now it seems to me that this passage lies so close to hand, remains so familiar from every wedding and so many burials, that we overlook one of its most striking features. The love praised here, the more excellent way, does not envision an object at all–how odd that we read it at weddings!–nor does it speak of mutuality, indeed of passibility, in any fashion. St. Paul’s love is supremely invulnerable, impervious to another we might dare say. Perfect love is invincibly objectless, immutual, perdurant. It never ends–it alone is eternal against all the gifts of the Spirit, prophecy, and tongues and knowledge. It is adamantine.

Paul picks out with two quick strokes the positive traits of love, patience and kindness. Surely a quiet evocation of hesed. God’s loving-kindness! Then the apostle turns to what we might think of as love’s negative predicates: it is not envious or proud or coarse; not ill-tempered, variable, stubborn; not immoral, sadistic, cruel, and petty; not weak. Love is recognized in its ready delight for the truth, the good; they are twins. In all its ways, love remains unflinching, undeterred. It is supremely confident, twinned with hope and trust. Love has been prised loose from all self-seeking, from the burdens, sometimes frightful, so often small and miserable, that infect our loving, from the anger and resentment that course through our most ardent loves, from the submission to what we call facts in this proudly “realistic” life of ours–ingratitude, unsuitability, meanness. Love, Paul tells us, simply withstands, endures, triumphs. It abides as the greatest, the uncontested, the supreme. Love is self-same, thoroughly itself, constant, unswerving, true.

Who cannot see, in all these things, that love, this perfect Love of the apostle Paul, is simply another Name for God? God alone is this Love, this more excellent way–we could hardly expect anything else. God’s passionate Love, Paul tells us, is invulnerable in just this particular way to us and to our loveless ways; supremely independent of us and our indifference; utterly triumphant over our blindness, instability, and infidelity; zealous for the right; eternal. This is Divine Nature, personal Passion, victorious Love. Wrath for the good. It is the One Love triumphant over every defilement, injustice, and cunning: it defends the orphan and the little one with fiery Mercy, raging Justice. This Divine Love waits on no one, needs nothing, bends to no condition or limit. Love that is God scorches through the infinite spheres, boundless, eternal Holiness. Love crowns the Divine Perfections; it abounds.

Systematic Theology, Volume 1, The Doctrine of Godpp. 495-497

Before commenting, for those interested, yes, this sort of tremendous, cavernous, doxological prose is lavishly scattered throughout the whole of her work. It’s a beautifully executed work, in that sense. Rigorous though it is, nothing could be further from the stereotype of a “dry” academic work than Sonderegger’s elegant volume.

Now, the context of this passage is Sonderegger’s challenge to the common claim that love requires an object. In the hands of most theologians looking to avoid a needy, co-dependent God, or the idea that God only becomes loving upon creating something other than himself, this leads us to the conclusion that in order to properly expound the love of God we must turn to the doctrine of the Trinity. Only the God who is perfectly, Father, Son, and Spirit can be Love in the fullest sense, with a life that is perfect, complete in itself and for itself before all of creation.

Sonderegger wants to claim that we can think of love monotheistically according to God’s oneness (though not contrary to His threeness). To this–as Sonderegger herself might put it–we must gently but firmly say, “No.” Ultimately, I do think the Love that God is, can only be properly thought through on trinitarian grounds. While Sonderegger speaks of the lack “mutuality” in the passage, that may be, but there is a certainly a directional “communicativity” that seems to imply an object. 

What’s more, Sonderegger also wants to affirm emotions or affections as something we can speak of God. Still, that shouldn’t be taken in the modern, passibilist sense. I think she’d want to sign off on something along these lines, in order to affirm much of what the tradition has held, while not running roughshod over the language of Scripture.  

All the same, Sonderegger has put her finger on something in this passage. Paul gives us this striking picture of love that is good news precisely because of its imperviousness. Love, here, is not trumpeted as the exposed, hyper-sensitive, vulnerability that our culture puts a premium on. It is fullness; an overflowing invulnerability that is unflappable in its will to communicate the good to those who have spurned it. In this passage we are presented with an analogue to the Love found in God’s sovereign determination to give his life, life, and very Self to his creatures, despite any obstacles to contrary. It is precisely this kind of adamantine love that can sustain the movement of the God in the flesh, in order to assume all that is changeable, passible, and vulnerable, in order to redeem it on our behalf. 

Soli Deo Gloria

by Derek Rishmawy at October 03, 2015 06:02 PM

sacha chua :: living an awesome life

Weekly review: Week ending October 2, 2015

My tiny corporation’s fiscal year ended this week. I did a dry run of corporate tax preparation so that there won’t be any surprises when I file. Reconciled bank statements, corrected transactions, compensated for the exchange rate, followed up on stuff… Looks like it’s all ready to go once the final statements come in.

In terms of sewing, this week I focused on learning more about patterns. I used tmtp to write Python scripts that drafted basic shirt patterns, but I still need to sew muslins to test whether the patterns make sense. (Some of the pieces look a little weird…) It’s been a slow week because things still feel pretty theoretical, but maybe I’ll spend next week knocking out a few small sewing projects so I have more of that feeling of accomplishment.

Also, I got to chat with cool people about Emacs and life. =) Thanks to Bill Z. for reaching out!

2015-10-03a Week ending 2015-10-02 -- index card #journal #weekly


Blog posts


Focus areas and time review

  • Business (16.2h – 9%)
    • Earn (11.7h – 71% of Business)
      • File September invoice
      • Earn: E1: 1-2 days of consulting
      • Earn: E1: 1-2 days of consulting
    • Build (4.6h – 28% of Business)
      • Drawing (0.1h)
      • Paperwork (4.4h)
        • Enter transactions into Quickbooks
        • Doublecheck tax installments
        • Do Paypal USD conversion
        • Credit back personal amount for telephone expenses
        • Sort out GST/HST Payable account
        • Fix depreciation
    • Connect (0.0h – 0% of Business)
  • Relationships (5.7h – 3%)
    • Meet Bill Z
  • Discretionary – Productive (21.6h – 12%)
    • Emacs (0.0h – 0% of all)
    • Renew
    • Sewing (17.1h)
    • Writing (4.6h)
      • Try creating a Python pattern
      • Pattern-making: Generating SVGs for sewing with Python and tmtp
  • Discretionary – Play (15.3h – 9%)
  • Personal routines (30.5h – 18%)
  • Unpaid work (15.2h – 9%)
  • Sleep (63.4h – 37% – average of 9.1 per day)

The post Weekly review: Week ending October 2, 2015 appeared first on sacha chua :: living an awesome life.

by Sacha Chua at October 03, 2015 03:20 PM

System 7 in a browser →

System 7 is what comes to mind when I think about the classic MacOS, as it does for many. Turns out, you can relive the glory days in the browser today.

Thanks for the link, Brian!


by Stephen Hackett at October 03, 2015 02:26 AM

The Project Apollo Archive →

Every photo ever taken by Apollo astronauts can now be seen over on Flickr. There are 8,435 Hasseblad images to skim here. Like Mother Jones, I have some favorites:

AS17-148-22694 AS12-50-7372 AS16-106-17391 AS12-51-7577 AS17-148-22679


by Stephen Hackett at October 03, 2015 01:39 AM

One Big Fluke

Deleting code (exclusively) is my favorite thing to do on Fridays.

by Brett Slatkin ( at October 03, 2015 12:00 AM

The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

Books in Brief (October 2015)

It’s impossible to read every book, let alone review each one. But in addition to our steady line of reviews, we want to highlight other books that have recently released.

Jason Helopoulos, The New Pastor's Handbook: Help and Encouragement for the First Years of Ministry (Baker). 

Most seminary graduates will begin their ministries with plenty of important head knowledge to share—but with a deficit of some of the most practical aspects of doing ministry, such as (1) which ministry role most suits them, (2) how to start out strong at a new church, (3) persevering during difficult seasons of ministry, (4) leading meetings and delegating tasks, (5) safeguarding their family, (6) fighting discouragement, (7) pastor envy, (8) and a lack of contentment, (9) navigating special ministry needs, such as hospitals, weddings, and funerals. Through his hard-won wisdom, Jason Helopoulos comes alongside new pastors as a trusted friend and mentor, ready to guide them through their first years of ministry with intelligence and compassion.

Aaron Menikoff, Politics and Piety: Baptist Social Reform in America, 1770–1860 (Wipf and Stock). 

Historians have painted a picture of nineteenth-century Baptists huddled in clapboard meetinghouses preaching sermons and singing hymns, seemingly unaware of the wider world. According to this view, Baptists were “so heavenly-minded, they were of no earthly good.” Overlooked are the illustrative stories of Baptists fighting poverty, promoting abolition, petitioning Congress, and debating tax policy. Politics and Piety is a careful look at antebellum Baptist life. It is seen in figures such as John Broadus, whose first sermon promoted temperance, David Barrow, who formed an anti-slavery association in Kentucky, and in a Savannah church that started a ministry to the homeless. Not only did Baptists promote piety for the good of their churches, but they did so for the betterment of society at large. Though they aimed to change America one soul at a time, that is only part of the story. They also engaged the political arena, forcefully and directly. Simply put, Baptists were social reformers.

Mark Jones, Knowing Christ (Banner of Truth).

The Puritans loved the Bible, and dug into it in depth. Also, they loved the Lord Jesus, who is of course the Bible’s focal figure; they circled round him, centred on him, studied minutely all that Scripture had to say about him, and constantly, conscientiously, exalted him in their preaching, praises, and prayers. Mark Jones, an established expert on many aspects of Puritan thought, also loves the Bible and its Christ, and the Puritans as expositors of both; and out of this triune love he has written a memorable unpacking of the truth about the Saviour according to the classic Reformed tradition, and the Puritans supremely. Knowing Christ is a book calculated to enrich our twenty-first-century souls, and one that it is an honour to introduce. (from J. I. Packer’s Foreword)

Robert Plummer and Matthew Haste, Held in Honor: Wisdom for Your Marriage from Voices of the Past (Christian Focus). 

Are you ever disappointed in your spouse? Do you fight? Do you disagree about money, sex, or in-laws? What if the very struggles you are facing were addressed by thoughtful Christians hundreds of years ago?In Held in Honor, you will find 50 devotional reflections on marriage carefully selected from 2,000 years of church history. Alongside each inspiring historical quote is a brief introduction to the person quoted and an accompanying biblical reflection.You are not alone in your marriage. The Lord has provided encouragement, correction, and hope in his Word. Held in Honor aims to strengthen you by pointing you to the promises of God's Word and by showing you how past generations have applied this life-giving message to their own marriages.

Eric Mason, Unleashed: Being Conformed to the Image of Christ (B&H).

You're a Christian, now what? God not only saved you from something, but for something. Pastor Eric Mason is passionate about helping Christians unleash the transformative power of God in their lives as they learn to be faithful disciples of Jesus. Being conformed to the image of Christ is a lifelong journey for every Christian. Mason understands that spiritual transformation doesn't occur overnight. Unleashed outlines the process of spiritual growth from the first moments of faith to the last. Readers discover their potential in Christ in an age that is so often marked by suffering, grief, and defeat. Join countless others who are learning what it means to unleash God's power in their lives.

John Murray, Redemption Accomplished and Applied (Eerdmans). 

What Murray did, and what I had never really seen before, was demonstrate how my salvation connected to the work of God in both eternity, as he planned salvation, and time, as he executed it in the person and work of his Son and applied it to individuals through the work of his Holy Spirit. Thus, Murray’s little book did three things of major importance: it showed how eternity and time relate to each other in salvation, how that salvation is a Trinitarian matter, rooted in the very identity of God as Trinity, and how this makes sense of the whole Bible. . . . The book you have in your hand is a miniature masterpiece of theology, dealing reverently on every page with matters of great theological significance. Whether you end the book by agreeing or disagreeing with its author, you will have found your own thinking on these issues sharpened and clarified. (From Carl Trueman’s Foreword)

Crawford Loritts, Unshaken: Real Faith in Our Faithful God (Crossway). 

In the Bible, faith is essential to salvation, and no less essential to our lifelong pilgrimage. Here, Crawford Loritts does not so much define faith as provide sketches of the way biblical faith operates. In highly practical terms, he describes how faith engenders obedience, endurance, and an ability to live in the light of the new heaven and the new earth. Faith fires mission; it develops trust and courage. And all such faith is grounded in confidence in what God has already done in Christ Jesus. If faith is for you ephemeral and practically useless, you need this book. (D. A. Carson)

Mark Meynell, What Makes Us Human? (Good Book Co.). 

What exactly are we? The modern world has many answers to that question, each of which has consequences for the choices we make about our own life and the lives of others. In this short, simple book, Mark Meynell wants to help confused Christians understand what God has said about these questions in the scriptures, and offers a positive and liberating way forward as we discover what true humanity really is.

Sherry Turkle, Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age (Penguin). 

We live in a technological universe in which we are always communicating. And yet we have sacrificed conversation for mere connection. Preeminent author and researcher Sherry Turkle has been studying digital culture for over thirty years. Long an enthusiast for its possibilities, here she investigates a troubling consequence: at work, at home, in politics, and in love, we find ways around conversation, tempted by the possibilities of a text or an email in which we don’t have to look, listen, or reveal ourselves. . . . Based on five years of research and interviews in homes, schools, and the workplace, Turkle argues that we have come to a better understanding of where our technology can and cannot take us and that the time is right to reclaim conversation. The most human—and humanizing—thing that we do. The virtues of person-to-person conversation are timeless, and our most basic technology, talk, responds to our modern challenges. We have everything we need to start, we have each other. (For those interested, make sure to read Turkle’s NYTimes Op-Ed, “Stop Googling. Let’s Talk.”)

Walter Wangerin, Jr. Everlasting Is the Past (Rabbit Room Press). 

In this new memoir, National Book Award-winner Walter Wangerin, Jr., takes readers on a journey into the past to experience his loss of faith as a young seminarian, his struggle to find a place for his chosen vocation amid a storm of doubts, and his eventual renewal in the arms of an inner-city church called Grace. With his inimitable style and keen eye for detail, Wangerin remembers his own story and gives it to us as an everlasting testament to the faithfulness of God.

Ivan Mesa serves as an editor for The Gospel Coalition where he oversees book reviews. He and his wife, Sarah, live in Louisville, Kentucky, and are members of Clifton Baptist Church. You can follow him on Twitter

by Ivan Mesa at October 03, 2015 12:00 AM

October 02, 2015

Greg Mankiw's Blog

Olivier Blanchard

A profile (though I doubt the headline applies to readers of this blog).

by Greg Mankiw ( at October 02, 2015 05:55 PM

Market Urbanism

Systemic bias against small scale development


In recent years, some of the country’s largest mixed-use real estate developments involved disposition of government-owned land directly to developers. For example, Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn and DC’s City Center and Marriott Marquis came about when municipal governments issued requests-for-proposals for underutilized land that they owned.

Last week, Mid­Atlantic Realty Partners and Ellis Development Group closed on a deal to purchase 965 Florida Avenue NW from the District of Columbia. In 2012 the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (DMPED) issued an RFP for this 1.45 acre at the intersection of the Shaw, U Street, and Columbia Heights neighborhoods. The RFP specified that any development on the site include affordable housing. Ultimately two developers submitted proposals. The winning developer purchased the land for just $400,000, at least $5 million less than appraisers estimated the land’s value to be, even after factoring in the affordable housing provision and needed environmental cleanup.

By choosing to allocate very large parcels of land through this process rather than auctioning off small parcels of city-owned land, municipal officials favor large developers not only because smaller developers can’t afford such large parcels, but also because the RFP process favors established developers with political connections. In DC, large development firms provide some of the largest contributions to local campaigns. Not only does the sale of large parcels of public land exclude small developers who have less financial capital, it also reduces the pool of potential buyers to include only those with the political capital needed to navigate the RFP process.

In the case of a private owner selling off a large tract of land, we would expect him to list the property for sale, accepting the best price he could get. If he thought smaller parcels would sell for more, the owner would likely try to subdivide before selling, expanding the pool of potential buyers in the process.

In the case of a government organization selling land, however, the individuals involved face completely different incentives. Public choice theory emphasizes that incentives drive individuals’ behavior, and it provides a lens for understanding the behavior of the parties involved in land disposition deals. In this case, DMPED officials faced competing incentives including advancing policy goals such as affordable housing, gaining favor with important developers, and achieving a fair price for the taxpayer asset.

According to a public choice framework that Richard Wagner and Meg Patrick advance, both government organizations and private firms exist in a complex web; just as public policy affects private sector behavior, businesses affect public officials behavior. Patrick and Wagner explain:

At base, entangled political economy is centered on networks and evolutionary processes of development, where that development is kept in motion by individual efforts to seek gain by putting together deals that often are triadic, meaning that they often feature a winning subset of people gaining at the expense of others in a society.

In a market exchange — what Patrick and Wagner call a dyadic exchange — two parties come to an agreement and make a transaction that both parties anticipate will make them better off. However, in government land disposition, parties who are not directly involved in the deal are still affected by its outcome.

In the case of 965 Florida, the winners are public officials, a small number of residents who get to live in affordable housing, and a favored team of developers. Their gains come at the expense of taxpayers and other developers who may have been able to put together more favorable deals in a market based system but who are unable to compete effectively in the entangled political system. We can’t observe the motivations of the players involved in land disposition deals, but we can observe that public sellers tend to act differently than private sellers.

The current land disposition process is ripe for criticism for privileging favored firms and creating opportunities for officials to use their power for personal benefit. Land disposition also affects the form that cities take. Jane Jacobs spoke out against the “curse of border vacuums” that occur when a large area is dominated by a single land use. While recent land disposition deals often result in mixed-use development, the fact that a single firm develops an entire block or multiple blocks results in a banal pedestrian environment and reduces the visual and economic diversity that Jacobs explained was necessary to engage pedestrians.

Beloved neighborhoods such as U Street give pedestrians an interesting environment because they together include high-end and low-end retail and a variety of architectural styles. This makes the walk from one end of the district to the other feel shorter than it is because of plenty of visual interest along the way. Land disposition deals result in large scale developments designed by a single firm. They will tend to provide space suitable to only economically similar retail and office tenants, reducing the visual and economic diversity that Jacobs identified as key to lively pedestrian environments.

by Emily Washington at October 02, 2015 05:37 PM

Englewood Christian Church: We Blog! » ERB

ERB Weekly Digest – Rachel Held Evans, Graham Greene, Umberto Eco, Walter Rauschenbusch – October 2, 2015


LOTS of excellent ebooks on sale in Amazon’s October sale! 
Our sister site, picks the best ones for Christian Readers:


The Indiana Faith & Writing Conference is coming up at the end of October
Anderson U.  Oct. 30-31   More Info:
The conference is also sponsoring a writing contest (Deadline Oct. 9th) 



Reviews, etc. posted this week on The Englewood Review of Books website:

  • Paul Asay – Burning Bush 2.0 [Feature Review]

    Looking for God’s Fingerprint   A Feature Review of Burning Bush 2.0: How Pop Culture Replaced the Prophet Paul Asay Paperback: Abingdon Press, 2015 Buy now: [ ]  [ ]   Reviewed by Danny Wright   In Burning Bush 2.0: How Pop Culture Replaced the Prophet, Paul Asay, from the often-visited website, takes the […]

  • 5 Essential Ebook Deals for Christian Readers – 2 October 2015

    Here are 5 essential ebooks on sale now that are worth checking out: (Rachel Held Evans, Umberto Eco, Diana Butler Bass, Calvin Miller, MORE) Via our sister website Thrifty Christian Reader… To keep up with all the latest ebook deals, be sure to connect with TCR via email or on Facebook…     Rachel Held […]


  • Marilyn Chandler McEntyre – A Faithful Farewell [Review]

    Come Listen. Come Learn.   A Review of  A Faithful Farewell: Living Your Last Chapter With Love Marilyn Chandler McEntyre Paperback: Eerdmans, 2015 Buy now:  [ ]   [ ]   Reviewed by Brandon Waite   My first night as an on-call chaplain, I came to know how little I know. I’m a seminary grad, […]


  • Walter Rauschenbusch -7 Free Classics to Download!

    Sunday (Oct. 4) is the birthday of renowned Theologian Walter Rauschenbusch… Rauschenbusch’s view of Christianity was that its purpose was to spread a Kingdom of God, not through a fire and brimstone style of preaching but by leading a Christlike life. Rauschenbusch did not view Jesus’ death as an act of substitutionary atonement but in […]


  • Graham Greene – Introductory Documentary [Video]

    Today is the birthday of novelist Graham Greene, born 1904. “Graham Greene is perhaps the most perplexing of all the literary converts whose works animated the Catholic literary revival in the 20th century. His visions of angst and guilt, informed and sometimes deformed by a deeply felt religious sensibility, make his novels, and the characters […]


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  • New Book Releases – Week of 28 September 2015

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by csmith at October 02, 2015 04:47 PM

Light Blue Touchpaper

Badness in the RIPE Database

The Cambridge Cloud Cybercrime Centre formally started work this week … but rather than writing about that I thought I’d document some publicly visible artefacts of improper behaviour (much of which, my experience tells me, is very likely to do with the sending of email spam).

RIPE is one of the five Regional Internet Registries (RIRs) and they have the responsibility of making allocations of IP address space to entities in Europe and the Middle East (ARIN deals with North America, APNIC with Asia and Australasia, LACNIC with Latin America and the Caribbean and AfriNIC with Africa).

Their public “WHOIS” databases documents these allocations and there are web interfaces to access them (for RIPE use

The RIPE Database also holds a number of other sets of data including a set of “routes”. Unfortunately some of those routes are prima facie evidence of people behaving badly.

The route objects in the RIPE Database are placed there by RIPE Database users and they say that a particular Autonomous System (AS) may well make a BGP (Border Gateway Protocol) announcement of a particular prefix. Translating the jargon: that an ISP or hosting company has been allocated some IP address space and they have an expectation that their Internet router will be using BGP to spread the word that data packets for machines on these IP addresses should be sent to them.

You don’t need to put route objects into the RIPE Database. However, in the absence of any real security for routing announcements, many companies use the RIPE information to automatically construct filters so that valid (i.e. in the database) route announcements are permitted and other announcements are blocked. So if you want your routing announcement to be effective and for you to be able to contact any other part of the Internet from your IP addresses, a route object is generally a good idea.

There are lots of techniques for spamming “at scale”. One of them is to acquire a brand-new block of IP address space and then send email in bulk from each IP address in turn. Since the IP addresses have no previous “reputation” many recipients of the email will give these new senders the benefit of the doubt and accept email from them for some time. When the truth becomes apparent they will blacklist one of the IPs, but they will still accept email from the other IPs until they finally realise the whole block is “bad”.

Since the world has pretty much run out of IPv4 addresses, it isn’t as easy as it used to be to acquire pristine new blocks of address space. As a result, some organisations have taken to misbehaving and using blocks of address space without permission. They identify an unallocated block and just use it! No-one stops them (at least not especially quickly) because there’s no gatekeepers in the routing system — anyone with a router can announce anything they like.

However, if you use a block of unallocated address space you need your announcements to be propagated onward — and that’s where the route objects come in…

I recently came across AS204224 (CJSC Mashzavod-Marketing-Servis, Saint Petersburg, Russia) who had placed six route objects (four /19s and two /21s … that’s 36,000 individual IP addresses) into the RIPE database for unallocated IP address space. I reported this (of course) to RIPE who told me that they would mount an investigation and then at the start of the week they told me the routes had been removed. They were removed briefly yesterday (1 October) and they were promptly put back again by AS204224 !

Anyway — I’ve run a scan of ALL of the routes in the RIPE Database which are for unallocated address space and found 227 examples. Some of them are clearly a failure to clean things up in the dim and distant past, for example is a block which was returned to ARIN and in 2012 ARIN returned it to IANA. I assume that the previous user of this address space “Heller Ehrman” is the international law firm Heller Ehrman LLP which was dissolved in 2008. There’s a number of similar examples.

However, many of the route objects appear to come from companies who have added the route objects in the past few months, for example AS201432 (RapidVDS of Vitry on Seine, France) has a dozen route objects, mainly /24s but also a route object for (an unallocated block of 65536 IPs) which they added in May 2015. Also AS204225 (OJSC Kommunenergo, Kirov, Russia) has 33 route objects of which 29 /22 routes (just under 30,000 IPs) are for unallocated space. These all date from September 2015.

I have published the full list of the anomalies at since I am sure that RIPE will wish to delete any and all of these bogus entries. It’s clear to me (from the rapidity of AS204224 replacing their deleted entries) that some proper hygiene here, in this rather abstruse area of documenting usage of IP address space, is likely to make some difference. It may even (slightly) reduce the amount of spam that we all receive.

by Richard Clayton at October 02, 2015 02:49 PM

Crossway Blog

Women in Crisis and the Gift of God’s Word

Winning Hearts and Minds with God's Word

As publisher of the ESV Bible, Crossway partners with frontline ministries around the globe engaged in the work of the gospel on a daily basis. From time-to-time, we receive reports from ministries about how God is using his Word to turn hearts and minds to him. Recently, we received one such story.

As we have been reminded in recent months, women who are facing the crisis of an unplanned pregnancy must make a life or death decision. Crisis pregnancy centers around the nation are serving these women and families through the ministry of God’s Word and the hope of the gospel.

Serving Women in Crisis

One such ministry is the East End Pregnancy Center based in Richmond, Virginia. Recently, the addition of two Spanish-speaking volunteer counselors expanded the capacity of the center, enabling it to minister to the physical, spiritual, and emotional needs of Spanish-speaking families. Sadly, they lacked Spanish and English Bibles to give to these families. Crossway was privileged to partner with the East End Pregnancy Center to provide clients with free Bibles and tracts, and we’re thrilled to report that the impact of God’s Word has been tremendous.

One client, while considering an abortion, read stories of all of the unplanned pregnancies in the Bible with the help of a counselor. Today, this mother is making future plans for her baby.

Another couple had been told that their baby would likely have special needs, and were advised by their doctor and the public health department to have an abortion. Rather than going to a government-funded abortion clinic, they chose to visit the East End Pregnancy Center. Here, they were reminded of God’s sovereign plan and foreknowledge of their baby, and that the baby had been “fearfully and wonderfully made.” They left the center not only with the hope of God’s Word, but also with items for their nursery.

Please Pray with Us

Please join us in prayer for the many partners of Crossway who are serving on the frontlines of ministry. Pray that God would continue to provide open doors and bless the reading and study of his Word. Pray for women facing unplanned pregnancies everywhere, that God would bring many to their side to provide the love, care, and support needed in their time of crisis. Finally, please pray for the children of such women—born and unborn—that God, in his mercy, would preserve, protect, and sustain their lives.

by Matt Tully at October 02, 2015 02:00 PM

The Urbanophile

Bruce Katz Rapping on the Metropolitan Revolution

Bruce Katz of the Brookings Institution gave his pitch for what they call the “Metropolitan Revolution” at TEDxHamburg back in July. Agree with him or not, this presentation is full of juicy quotes and provocations, including:

I no longer look to Washington to power my country forward. I look to cities.

The national government in the United States is essentially a health care company with an army.

The world is evolving as a network of cities….to bend state, national, and global policies to their will.

The revolution has only one logical conclusion, which is the inversion of the hierarchy of power.

National polices tend to be one size fits all.

The national government, like Elvis, has left the building.
When I want to feel good about America, literally I go to Detroit.

If I were leaving law school today, I would go to Detroit.

On the whole it’s a good summation of the current Brookings view on cities and worth a watch.

If the video doesn’t display for you, click over to watch on You Tube.

by Aaron M. Renn at October 02, 2015 01:23 PM

Workout: Oct. 5, 2015

Front squat 5-5-5-5 As many reps as possible in 10 minutes of: 5 thrusters (95/65 lb.) 5 chest-to-bar pull-ups 10 thrusters (95/65 lb.) 10 chest-to-bar pull-ups 15 thrusters (95/65 lb.) 15 chest-to-bar pull-ups

by Mike at October 02, 2015 01:19 PM

Workout: Oct. 4, 2015

Partner workout: Row 2,000 m 100 dumbell/kettlebell thrusters 100 burpees 10 lengths of bear crawl (1 length is 75 ft.) Skills Session 10 minutes on triple-unders For time: 8 legless rope climbs from seated Amass 4 minutes in a plank with only 3 points of contact at any time GHD sit-ups 10-10-10 Parallel-bars L-sit – […]

by Mike at October 02, 2015 01:15 PM

Workout: Oct. 3, 2015

Snatch high pull + hang snatch 1-1-1-1-1 Snatch Balances 2-2-2

by Mike at October 02, 2015 01:09 PM

Zondervan Academic Blog

Free Grace? – An Excerpt from Faith Alone

Faith Alone

Many have a hard time reconciling the words of Paul with the words of James on faith and works. Does “faith without deeds is useless” discount “faith alone”? In this excerpt from Faith Alone, Thomas Schreiner explores both, bringing the two into tension. Consider this excerpt from the first book in the “5 Solas Series.”


When some hear the Reformation cry of sola fide — “Faith alone!” — they assume that it means that good works are an optional part of the Christian life or that they play no role at all in our final justification or salvation. Such a perspective radically misunderstands the NT witness, while also distorting the historical and biblical meaning of sola fide. The NT clearly teaches that bare faith cannot save, and that works are necessary for final justification or final salvation. As we will see, this latter notion does not compromise or deny sola fide when it is properly understood.

Mental Assent Isn’t Saving Faith

What do we mean when we speak of “bare” faith? By bare faith I refer to what is often called intellectual assent to a set of statements, doctrines, or beliefs. In other words, merely saying that one believes isn’t the same thing as saving faith. As James says in Jas 2:14, “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them?” Obviously not! Faith without works, a faith without deeds, does not profit us. To put it another way, it doesn’t deliver us from God’s eschatological wrath. A “claiming” faith, a “saying” faith, an “assenting” faith without any accompanying works is not a saving faith.

Devils have bare faith. James gives what is probably the most powerful and telling example of such in the Scriptures. “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that — and shudder” (Jas 2:19 NIV). Ascribing to and endorsing orthodox doctrines should never be confused with genuine faith. Demons can confess monotheism, and yet their hearts are far from the one true God. Indeed, they hate him and all of his ways. Consider the reactions of the demons when they encountered Jesus during his earthly ministry. They acknowledged that he was “the Holy One of God” (Mark 1:24; cf. Luke 4:34), and in that sense, they “believed” in him and knew more about him at that stage in his ministry than most anyone, even Jesus’ own disciples. But they certainly didn’t love Jesus, and they didn’t believe in him to the extent that they entrusted their lives to him. This leads me to conclude that there is a kind of faith, an intellectual understanding, that is “bare” and “empty.” It subscribes to mental propositions but doesn’t embrace and love Jesus, and in the final analysis it proves to be no faith at all.

Some in the movement known as the Free Grace movement claim that bare mental assent actually saves people. They have come up with a novel interpretation of James 2, for they claim that the words “justify” (dikaioo) and “save” (soz̄ o) do not refer to eschatological salvation. James, they claim, isn’t actually talking about end-time salvation, for that would contradict salvation by faith alone. Instead, James refers to a fruitful life on earth, to being saved from a life shorn of God’s blessing and power.

The motive behind this interpretation is commendable, for those who espouse it long to celebrate the grace of God. They want to eliminate any notion that human works qualify us to stand before God. They want to preserve in all its power and beauty the notion that salvation is sola fide. Still, the gambit fails, for this is an example of desperate exegesis. It doesn’t work to provide new definitions for the words “justify” and “save,” definitions that aren’t found in the rest of the NT.

We have every reason to think that the words “justify” and “save” refer to our final salvation. After all, James uses the same words Paul uses when discussing soteriology (“faith,” “works,” “justify,” and “save”). Indeed, one of the most prominent verses that Paul appeals to in discussing justification (Gen 15:6; Rom 4:3; Gal 3:6) is cited in James (Jas 2:23). And James and Paul both discuss the same person — Abraham. Surely, the burden of proof is on the one who thinks the issue is salvation in Paul but an entirely different matter in James.

Instead, the natural way to read these texts is to say that both James and Paul are addressing the same issue. The Free Grace interpretation looks like an expedient to defend and support one’s theology. While Scripture interprets Scripture, at the same time we must ensure that we don’t do violence to what texts say, for otherwise we are in danger of twisting the Scripture to fit our own preconceptions.

It is clear, then, that James is teaching that bare faith alone — simply agreeing that certain statements are true — does not save us. “Faith by itself” when “it is not accompanied by action, is dead” (Jas 2:17). Or, “faith without deeds is useless” (2:20 NIV). By this, James isn’t denying sola fide; rather, he inveighs against an empty faith, a barren faith, an inactive faith — a dead faith. Genuine faith is a living and active thing, and it will inevitably produce results. We see this plainly in 2:22, “You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did” (NIV). Faith and works belong together.

If I really trust my auto mechanic, I will trust him when he fixes my car instead of accusing him of cheating. If I trust my doctor’s expertise and wisdom, I will take the medicine he or she prescribes. Faith is shown as genuine when it is brought to completion by our actions. As Prov 20:6 says, “Many claim to have unfailing love, but a faithful person who can find?” (NIV). People can claim to believe, but the reality of their faith is demonstrated in their actions. Their actions reveal whether they have a bare faith when they nod in mental agreement but nothing more. (Pgs 191-193)


To continue reading, order your copy of Faith Alone today.

by ZA Blog at October 02, 2015 12:00 PM

Meet the Scholars Behind the NIV Zondervan Study Bible

One of the strengths of the new NIV Zondervan Study Bible is that it’s been forged and fashioned through the contributions of sixty scholars, drawn from around the world and across the denominational and theological spectrum. Contributors include:

  • Kevin DeYoung
  • Tim Keller
  • Karen Jobes
  • Bruce Waltke
  • Henri Blocher
  • Craig Blomberg
  • Simon Gathercole

Stewarding the notes and in-depth essays was a committee of five OT and NT scholars, including: D. A. Carson, Doug Moo, Richard Hess, T. D. Alexander, and Andy Naselli.

“While all good study Bibles shed light on the biblical text,” Alexander explains, “the NIV Zondervan Study Bible offers something fresh. It does so by drawing on the experience of gifted scholars who have a common desire to teach the word of God faithfully.”

Watch D. A. Carson introduce some of the NIV Zondervan Study Bible’s contributing scholars, while explaining the strength of the translation that sits at its heart.

(Can’t see the video? Watch it here)


NIV Zondervan Study Bible

D. A. Carson, General Editor

Order it Today:
Barnes & Noble
Buy Direct from Zondervan

by Jeremy Bouma at October 02, 2015 11:00 AM

Karen De Coster

Gun Control at Its Finest

Herr Obama says this: “We know that states with the most gun laws tend to have the fewest gun deaths. So the notion that gun laws don’t work … is not borne out by the evidence.”

–> Conveniently leaves out Chicago, those Killing Fields where his own stooges still run the regime.

The despots in D.C. think you are all stupid. Problem is, the majority of the masses cannot string simple truths together to form a logical thought. So indeed, they believe exactly what their slave masters tell them, no matter how shoddy the evidence.



by Karen De Coster at October 02, 2015 10:20 AM

Table Titans

Tales: Pants Not Optional


Half-Orc Barbarians are known for many things, intelligence not being one of them.

In the case of one particular Half-Orc, however, dumb luck should have been his middle name.

During his first dungeon crawl, our Half-Orc friend decided that the best way through a locked door was to destroy…

Read more

October 02, 2015 07:01 AM

CrossFit Naptown

Train Heroic Step-by-Step

Friday’s Workout:

Kettlebell Windmills

Row 40 Calories
20 Power Cleans (135/85)
10 Get Up Get Downs
Row 30 Calories
15 Power Cleans (165/115)
10 Get Up Get Downs



Train Heroic App Step-by-Step


We have had quite a few people as for more details on getting set up on Train Heroic so here is your answer! This app is certainly not perfect at this point, but it is adding new features often to make the product better. This tool is great for tracking workouts and progress in a way that the blog or a paper journal cannot do. It does this by storing your data and giving you history when you perform a workout or lift more than once…but more on that later! Let’s get started.


First off click here. Do this in your web browser on a phone or using your laptops or whatever computer device thing you have. You can deal with the app later and it will make your life easier if you set up the account first then login to said account on the app. When you click on the link you will arrive at the Train Heroic Marketplace, and our particular program on there, that looks like this:


join TH


sign up TH

Fill out your information here OR click on the green button (“sign up with FrontDesk HQ”) to link your Train Heroic account to your FrontDesk account.

If you fill out the information, you should get a screen that looks like this. From there, you can select get started and it will prompt you to confirm your gender and whether you use pounds or kilos for your numbers.

welcome TH

If you choose to link your TH account to FrontDesk, then you will get a screen that looks something like this:

FD access TH

You may have to login to your Front Desk account there if you are not automatically logged in on your device. Eventually you will click allow access and you will be sent through to Train Heroic!

Once you arrive there, you will be able to download the Train Heroic App or use Train Heroic from your web browser. The initial page should look something like this:

TH thursday

TH thusday 2

This is where you will be able to post your scores. The little blue flame at the bottom of the “Skill Challenge” workout means that your result for that workout will be added to the day’s leaderboard (more on that in a sec). You enter your time there on the right and can slide the blue bar over if your score was not completed as prescribed. Isn’t this the coolest?!

But wait, there’s more!

This is the leaderboard:


The blue male/female sign on the right is where you can click back and forth to see the male and female scores for the day. Most days will only have one test but there will also be times like Tuesday where more than one portion of the workout or day is scored so the leaderboard ranks both portions and places people based on best overall performance across both. Freaking sweet.

Let’s go back to Thursday’s Workout:

Thursday specific

On the upper right, there is a TIPS and HISTORY toggle for you to select. Under TIPS, you will find videos of movements being performed (not all movements will have videos but many will) so that you can refresh your memory if you are ever confused. Under HISTORY, you will be shown your previous results for that movement so you know what you ought to shoot for that day and can see immediately when you are improving in a movement or workout.

That is a whole bunch of information and there is still more that we could talk about but this is a good start. Follow the steps to follow our programming on Train Heroic and start accumulating data for yourself in one convenient location. If you have any questions please email me at and I can help you myself or reach out to the Train Heroic team to get your question answered!

by Anna at October 02, 2015 01:09 AM

The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

Seeking Revival in Ontario

When we hear about secularization in North America, it’s often an assumed reference to the United States. But our neighbor to the north, Canada, is actually farther down the “post-Christian” path.

This is a primary reason why leaders of TGC’s Ontario Regional Chapter see a tremendous opportunity for gospel ministry in Canada. On October 16 and 17, TGC Ontario will host their 2015 conference. unpacking the theme “Lord, Revive Us: The Gospel in Isaiah.”

The two-day event will include six plenary sessions featuring TGC president Don Carson as well as John Neufield, Mark Clark, and Robbie Symons, as well as a number of workshops and concerted times of prayer for revival and renewal. Find more information and register here.   

The latest installment in the Gospel Shaped Church curriculum, published by TGC and The Good Book Company, will debut at the conference. Vermon Pierre, pastor of Roosevelt Community Church in Phoenix, is author of this third small group study. (See official trailer below).

To learn more about TGC Ontario, this conference, and how you can pray for the advance of Christ’s kingdom in Canada, I corresponded with two chapter leaders—TGC Council member John Mahaffey and TGC Ontario chairman Paul Martin.  

Tell us about the Ontario regional group. How long has it been together? What types of ministry does it offer to pastors there?

John: The TGC Ontario chapter has technically existed since 2010 when we held our first conference in Hamilton, Ontario. A second conference was held at Heritage College and Seminary in 2012. Both of these events were well attended by more than 250 pastors, but it’s only been in the past year-and-a-half that a broader leadership team has been in place.

While the first two conferences were successful in attracting a crowd of pastors, they didn’t produce the kind of community of pastors we envisioned would be needed to make a larger impact for gospel-centered ministry throughout our region. So since late 2013 a larger leadership team, of which Paul and I are a part, has been meeting regularly to plan for this year’s conference and to lay the foundations for an enduring fellowship of pastors who are passionate for the gospel and hold to TGC’s theological convictions.

Talk a bit about the conference. How did you arrive at the theme, and how do you hope attendees will be edified and helped in their ministries?

John: From the first time our leadership team met almost two years ago, we all expressed our burden for revival in Canada. Our country is in a desperate way. Our largest Protestant denomination, with roots in the great Methodist revivals of the 1800s, is hostile to the gospel. This permeates the religious landscape across Canada. Evangelicals have grown only marginally—if at all—over the last 20 years. Though there are some great things happening, doctrinally sound churches that are growing and expanding their outreach are a few healthy islands in a sea of dysfunction. We believe getting back to the gospel is the first step toward renewal.

As we considered our goal to encourage pastors, to form a broader fellowship throughout our province and country, and to labor cooperatively toward a growing gospel movement, there was unanimous agreement that revival should be the theme of this year’s conference. We are attempting to adjust our sails, and our hope is God will put wind in these sails as we meet together in Toronto. Our hope for those who attend is that in addition to connecting with other pastors and Christian workers in the region, they will be deeply encouraged toward faithfulness in sound doctrine and gospel ministry. In spite of the massive challenges we face, the fields are white for harvest in Canada. We are praying for the Spirit’s work of renewal in all who attend.

How often does the regional chapter have events (not just conferences, but get-togethers for pastors, and so on)? How much of Canada does the Ontario group serve?

Paul: This will be our third chapter conference, but we’ve also sponsored several other events. In May we co-hosted “Men, Women, and the Bible” with Andreas Kösteberger in Central Ontario; in November we will co-sponsor the Scripture Alone conference in Woodstock, Ontario. We’ve also hosted several general invitation lunches for pastors in Southern Ontario. 

The province of Ontario is massive—more than 1 million square kilometres. You can drive for more than 20 hours and still not cross from one side of the province to the other. Much of Ontario consists of small villages and hamlets, but almost half the population is centered in the Greater Toronto area, the fourth-largest city in North America. Most of our attention as a local chapter focuses on this densely populated area and its environs.

That said, we’ve built a unique element into this upcoming conference. Generous donors have allowed us to sponsor representatives from most of the country’s regions. We have pastors flying in from Newfoundland, Quebec, Northern Ontario, Alberta, and British Columbia. These men will meet the day before the conference to discuss the potential of collaborating to create TGC Canada. Please pray for this meeting. We are eager for a united voice in our country for the gospel of Christ.

What are the major issues facing evangelical churches in Canada, and how is TGC Ontario seeking to encourage pastors to address them?

Paul: The major issues facing pastors in Canada are the same as anywhere else. Churches need to be centered on the gospel, the surrounding world needs to hear that gospel, and the leaders of those churches need to walk in the good of that gospel. In some ways, Canada is farther down the road of moral relativism than the States. Social issues America is now just coming to terms with are things we’ve been dealing with for more than a decade. 

Thankfully, we have a Bible robust enough to answer these trends. If our conferences and meetings accomplish anything, we hope it’s greater confidence in the Lord and his Word. Churches fed on the Word of God by men who live the Word of God will be a powerful reflection of God in the world. 

Even more, we’re praying these little gatherings are the signal of genuine revival. Too many in our country are living and dying without Jesus. Toronto is the most culturally diverse city in the world, so we have a remarkable opportunity to reach the globe without ever getting on a plane. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see Jesus draw in thousands from every tongue, tribe, and nation from this strategic location?

How can we pray for the conference and the Ontario regional chapter in general?

John: The evening before the conference there will be a special meeting composed of the Ontario leadership team and several key leaders from Atlantic Canada, Quebec, the Prairies, and British Columbia. Don Carson and John Neufield will be part of this meeting. You prayers are greatly appreciated because our evening together is dedicated to exploring how we can work together more closely and perhaps develop a transnational fellowship. We sense the need for a united Canadian voice that shares TGC’s confessional convictions and theological vision for ministry and that can speak with gospel perspective into our unique cultural and national context.

This will be our biggest conference to date, as we anticipate upwards of 500 in attendance. In addition to praying for all the logistics that make a conference run smoothly, pray also that the Lord will visit us powerfully in the plenary sessions, the workshops, and the times of prayer.

Jeff Robinson (PhD, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is a senior editor for The Gospel Coalition. He serves as senior research and teaching associate for the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies and adjunct professor of church history at Southern Seminary. Prior to entering ministry, he spent nearly 20 years as a newspaper journalist in Georgia, North Carolina, and Kentucky, covering various beats from politics to Major League Baseball and SEC football. He is co-author with Michael Haykin of the book To the Ends of the Earth: Calvin’s Mission Vision and Legacy. Jeff and his wife, Lisa, have four children. They live in Louisville and belong to Clifton Baptist Church. You can follow him on Twitter.

by Jeff Robinson at October 02, 2015 12:00 AM

Preaching the Eschaton

Workshop Leader: Robert Smith Jr.

Date: April 14, 2015

Event: The Gospel Coalition 2015 National Conference, Orlando, Florida

Robert Smith, Jr. is the Charles T. Carter Baptist Professor of Divinity at Beeson Divinity School. Previously he served as the Carl E. Bates Associate Professor of Christian Preaching at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. His most recent book is Doctrine that Dances: Bringing Doctrinal Preaching and Teaching to Life.

Subscribe to TGC’s podcast in iTunes or for other devices to get this and other interviews, workshops, and lectures. The Gospel Coalition Podcast is now available on Stitcher.

by Staff at October 02, 2015 12:00 AM

How I Work: An Interview with Trevin Wax

A key component of TGC’s view of gospel-centered ministry is the integration of faith and work. We seek to help Christians work with distinctiveness, excellence, and accountability in their trades and professions. To aid in this effort we’re launching a new series, “How I Work,” in which we ask people to share their shortcuts, tools, and routines that help them do their jobs or fulfill their vocational roles. (The concept and format are borrowed from the excellent Lifehacker series on work.) For the first interview in this series I talked to TGC blogger Trevin Wax.

What are your current vocational roles?

I am managing editor of The Gospel Project, a gospel-centered curriculum for all ages. I am also involved with various projects, authors, and teams at LifeWay.

What one word best describes how you work?


What types of social media do you frequently use?

I'm on Twitter and Facebook, so most of my energy goes there. I save links by bookmarking articles on Feedly (RSS blog feeds) and then later, going back to read them and see what I might share. When I come across other interesting articles, I save them to the Pocket app, for reading later and possibly sharing. Overall, I use Twitter and Facebook to connect with people, and Feedly and Pocket to store interesting links for possible sharing. 

What kind of workspace do you have?

At my Nashville office, I use a standing desk next that has an oversized monitor I can hook my laptop to. My home office is where all my books are, so I do most of editing and writing there. I alternate between sitting the desk and propping my laptop up on my bookshelf so I can stand.

What is your best time-saving shortcut?

When you have a project to do that is mentally taxing and takes your full attention, you will get it done faster if you eliminate all distractions. Put on noise-canceling headphones, put away your phone, use the Focus feature on your Word document, and so on.

Do you have an exercise routine?

I usually walk / jog at least five miles a day. 

What are your work hours or daily routine?

I get up at 5 am. and spend time reading Scripture and praying. If I am going into the office, I leave before 6, and usually get home between 4:30 and 5 pm. On days I am working from home, I try to get the bulk of my writing/editing done in the early morning hours, and save the latter part of the day (after lunch) for emails and other tasks that are not as mentally taxing.

How do you manage what you have to do?

I have a to-do list on a notepad, and I scratch things off as I finish them. I also rely on my email inbox as an “electronic” to-do list. 

Besides your phone and computer, what electronic tool can’t you live without and why?

I really love my battery-operated, noise-canceling headphones. They are terrific for long flights, and they eliminate distractions when I need to focus my work. 

What book has helped you improve your productivity or work habits?

The Accidental Creative by Todd Henry. Great insights into the kind of work I do.

What do you do to recharge?

During the week, I like to watch something on Netflix (usually a television show of some sort) with my wife, Corina, in the evenings after the kids go to bed. On weekends, I try to go biking on the greenway down by the river. Reading is a release as well.

Are you a morning person or a night owl?

Morning, for sure. 

What’s your sleep routine like?

To bed between 9:30 and 10 pm. Up at 5 a.m. 

Do you listen to music when you work?

Not during the intense times of focus. Often, I listen to classical piano or quiet music from favorite soundtracks. When I'm answering emails or doing things that don't require too much attention (like this interview), I listen to other kinds of music. Right now, for example, it's The Very Best of The Eagles.

Joe Carter is an editor for The Gospel Coalition 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 October 02, 2015 12:00 AM

FactChecker: The Umpqua Community College Shooting

A gunman in Oregon killed 9 people and wounded many others in shooting at Umpqua Community College. In the wake of such tragedies we often turn to social media for nearly instantaneous updates on what is know about the event. Unfortunately, that often leads to misinformation and confusion as truth gets mixed with error and rumor.

In an attempt to help dispel and clarify some of the claims being made I’ve put together what we know so far. There is still much we do not know about this mass killing, and even most of what we know is tentative so I’ll update this article as necessary.

Did the killer target Christians?

According to the father of Anastasia Boylan, an 18-year-old freshman who was shot and had to undergo surgery to remove a bullet from her spine, the killer asked his victims to stand up and declare their religion. Anastasia’s father said in an interview with CNN, “’Are you a Christian?’ [the killer would ask them].  ‘If you’re a Christian stand up.’  And they would stand up and he said, ‘Good, because you’re a Christian, you’re going to see God in just about one second.’ And then he shot and killed them.”

Kortney Moore, 18, also says the killer was asking people to stand up and state their religion before shooting them.  

Did President Obama say that prayers were not enough and that we should “politicize” this tragedy?

Yes. During a press conference, President Obama did say that prayers were not enough, said that we should politicize the issue, and called for stricter gun control laws:

Our thoughts and prayers are not enough. It's not enough. It does not capture the heartache and grief and anger that we should feel, and it does nothing to prevent this carnage from being inflicted someplace else in America — next week, or a couple months from now. We don’t yet know why this individual did what he did. And it’s fair to say that anybody who does this has a sickness in their minds regardless of what they think their motivations may be. But we are not the only country on earth that has people with mental illnesses or want to do harm to other people. We are the only advanced country on earth that sees these kinds of mass shootings every few months. . . . “it cannot be this easy for somebody who wants to inflict harm to get his or her hands on a gun.” And what’s become routine, of course, is the response of those who oppose any kind of common-sense gun legislation.  Right now, I can imagine the press releases being cranked out:  We need more guns, they’ll argue.  Fewer gun safety laws. 

Does anybody really believe that?  There are scores of responsible gun owners in this country—they know that's not true.  We know because of the polling that says the majority of Americans understand we should be changing these laws—including the majority of responsible, law-abiding gun owners. 

There is a gun for roughly every man, woman, and child in America.  So how can you, with a straight face, make the argument that more guns will make us safer?  We know that states with the most gun laws tend to have the fewest gun deaths.  So the notion that gun laws don't work, or just will make it harder for law-abiding citizens and criminals will still get their guns is not borne out by the evidence.

We know that other countries, in response to one mass shooting, have been able to craft laws that almost eliminate mass shootings.  Friends of ours, allies of ours—Great Britain, Australia, countries like ours.  So we know there are ways to prevent it. 

And, of course, what’s also routine is that somebody, somewhere will comment and say, Obama politicized this issue.  Well, this is something we should politicize  

Did the police kill the shooter?

(UPDATED October, 5) A medical examiner made the determination that the shooter killed himself when police arrived at the scene. 


Was the killer an atheist, a conservative, a terrorist sympathizer, a skinhead, mentally ill?

Speculation about the killer is based solely on social media documentation that appears to be linked to the killer.

On a dating site called “Spiritual Passions” under the username “IRONCROSS45” he listed his religion as “Not Religious, Not Religious but Spiritual.” He also listed under “political views” that he was “conservative, republican.” He was also a member of several groups on the dating website, including: “Doesn’t Like Organized Religion,” “Left-hand Path,” “Magick and Occult.” The Left-hand Path, an umbrella term for a variety of occult practices, is often associated with Satanism. A Myspace page linked to the killer show him holding what appeared to be a rifle. Another other postings were sympathetic to the Irish Republican Army and featured masked gunmen and logos.

As NBC News notes, “The IRA is a predominantly Catholic paramilitary group which waged a bloody three-decade campaign to make Northern Ireland an independent republic separate from Great Britain. It was responsible for terrorist attacks in Northern Ireland and England, including an attempt to assassinate British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher by bombing a hotel in 1984. More than 3,600 people were killed in the armed conflict.” On the dating site, the killer listed that he listened to punk music. His username may be connected to the punk bank named Iron Cross, which adopted the skinhead look. (The killer was also described by neighbors as wearing skinhead-style attire.) But so far there is no confirmation that the killer, who identified as “mixed-race” was a skinhead.

There is currently no information that suggests he was diagnosed as being mentally ill. (UPDATE: 5:00 pm, October 2) His mother reportedly wrote on a medical forum that she had an “Asperger's kid” and told neighbors her son had “mental issues.” It is also claimed that she told neighbors that her son had attended a special school for pupils with special needs. An Oregon newspaper also claimed that the killer attended the Switzer Center, which specializes in students with behavioral issues (the killer’s name was on a list of graduates). Asperger’s isn’t a mental illness, but a developmental disorder.   

Note: If there are other questions about this incident that should be clarified, please leave them in the comments.

Joe Carter is an editor for The Gospel Coalition 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 October 02, 2015 12:00 AM

Damned Nation: Hell in America from the Revolution to Reconstruction

In Damned Nation: Hell in America from the Revolution to Reconstruction, Kathryn Gin Lum argues the doctrine of hell made Christianity a useful but dangerous religion in 19th-century America. Lum, assistant professor in the religious studies department at Stanford University, counters the prevailing academic thesis that as cultures modernize they come to view hell as an obsolete relic.

Lum’s desire isn’t to defend the doctrine, but to convince readers we can’t comprehend America without understanding orthodox teaching on hell.

Reliable, Curious Guide 

It serves Christians well to think critically about history, and Lum is as a reliable guide, exploring the writings of early Americans who thought deeply about hell. She gives us no reason to think she’s a Christian, but she’s curious, and her impetus for the research may be the question, “Why do so many Americans in the 21st century still believe in a holy God who eternally punishes unrepentant sinners?”

What has made the doctrine of hell useful historically? Lum gives three answers. Believers in hell (1) promoted virtue, (2) organized political action, and (3) comforted the oppressed (232).

The United States began with a robust commitment to personal virtue and evangelism. Americans connected the two. Our forefathers, Lum insists, promoted piety by preaching the necessity of faith in a holy God who demanded obedience and punished disobedience. Though this desire for virtue was widely shared, hell had staunch opponents. Universalists, for example, rejected the idea (136). Mormons softened the doctrine’s hard edges by teaching degrees of hell (145). Liberals like Horace Bushnell and Catharine Beecher reinterpreted hell (155). But for Lum these exceptions simply prove the rule: true virtue required faith in hell.

Hell and the Civil War

The most interesting part of Damned Nation is Lum’s argument that belief in hell fueled the Civil War. She sees it in the motives of slaveholders who preached the doctrine of hell to simultaneously control and convert slaves: “Social control and evangelization were inseparable in the minds of Christian slaveowners” (174). In other words, countless southern slaveholders saw the institution of slavery as a divine appointment for the salvation of African-Americans. Thus, they used hell to justify their cruelty.

Ironically, many northern abolitionists who rejected the doctrine of hell faithfully preached it anyway. Hell was a useful tool in their hands. They said hell is what their southern enemies deserved, and their anti-slavery, pro-hell sermons rallied countless Americans to the abolitionist cause. “Even for those abolitionists who rejected belief in personal damnation,” writes Lum, “[hell’s] usefulness as a concept with which to condemn the nation made it a powerful rhetorical weapon in the fight against slavery” (200).

When the North and South went to war over slavery, then, they shared one thing in common: belief in hell. Each region picked up arms with the Lord on their side, convinced their enemies had abandoned the God of the Bible and deserved the hell of the Bible.

Then something happened: bodies started to pile up and popular attitude toward hell shifted. Chaplains still sat at the bedside of bloody soldiers preaching the gospel of repentance and faith but, Lum maintains, the path to hell narrowed while the road to heaven widened. Her argument goes like this: Thousands of soldiers faithfully died for their country. Their friends and family had a hard time believing God would actually damn so many to hell for their lukewarm (or absent) response to the gospel of Jesus. Therefore, Lum suggests:

By the end of the war, the sheer scale of death accelerated the trend toward assuming heaven for loved ones and muted the rhetoric of fire and brimstone in the mainstream evangelical denominations. (202)

Heaven became a place for the “good,” rather than for the repentant. Even the hymnody of this generation seems to largely ignore the justice of God. The lyrics, Lum points out, “by and large emphasized the promise of heaven” (211). And by the time of Reconstruction, Americans had changed how they spoke of hell:

Evangelists did not jettison hell but suggested that it was a threat only to those who were clearly outside the pale: Darwinists, infidels, and theological liberals who rejected a literal reading of the Bible. (225)

Important and Practical Observations

Though Damned Nation is an academic book, thoughtful Christians who read it will walk away with several important and practical observations. Here are just a few:

(1) The doctrine of hell is not a laughing matter.

Too many preachers make light of hell in their sermons. They do this with crude statements (“turn or burn”) or more often by simply neglecting to say what should be obvious: eternal punishment is a sobering reality to be handled with sensitivity and care. Lum unearthed a fascinating response to missionary preaching from an 18th-century American Indian. He couldn’t reconcile God’s goodness with the fact that, if what the missionaries preached was true, his ancestors died without hope. How could God, he asked, “Damn them eternally, without ever opening to them the door of salvation” (128)? Such questions haven’t gone away, and Christians eager to contend for the faith need an appropriate response.

(2) Many evangelicals today are troubled by hell.

Just about all of us have been to a funeral where someone who gave no evidence of genuine saving faith in this life was all but canonized as a saint by the preacher. It’s as if we’ve cut Matthew 7:21–23 out of our Bibles. Though Jesus said it isn’t enough to simply call him “Lord,” 21st-century believers find it hard to not tell a grieving family their loved one is in heaven. How did we get here? Why are we so troubled by hell? Though there are philosophical reasons (postmodernity) and theological reasons (higher criticism), there are historical reasons, too, and Lum offers a compelling explanation.

(3) Belief in hell may not be on the decline.

Lum cites a 2008 Pew Forum study which reported that 59 percent of Americans believe in hell—a number she argues is probably a low estimate (235). As I read through Damned Nation, I wondered if Lum herself was surprised by hell’s staying power. Either way, she’s part of a new wave of secular historians taking issue with the argument that belief in hell is incompatible with an “enlightened” and modern culture. The doctrine of hell has stood the test of time.

(4) Hell is a doctrine that comforts the oppressed.

Sadly, Lum gives little attention to one of her own explanations for the persistence of faith in hell—it’s ability to comfort the oppressed. For all of the thorny problems that come up whenever it’s considered, there remains the possibility that people believe in hell because it’s a legitimate answer to evil. A place of eternal torment in the next world addresses the wickedness in this one. Lum ends her work with the reminder that by the time of the Reconstruction the doctrine of hell had been softened by many, and this is true. But for numerous others it remained and remains the promise that a holy God will not let wickedness go unpunished. She cites the esteemed African-American bishop Henry McNeal Turner, who was acutely aware of hell’s comforting power: “The brutal treatment of helpless women which I have witnessed . . . is enough to move heaven to tears and raise a loud acclaim in hell over the conquest of wrong” (236).

(5) Belief in hell persists because hell is real.

There is one place a secular historian like Lum simply cannot go. She cannot argue that belief in hell persisted through the Enlightenment and Romanticism, through the Civil War and the social gospel, and still today because the teaching is, in fact, true. Christians live with the confidence that when Scripture speaks, God speaks. And the God of the Bible doesn’t merely describe himself as good, but as just. On the cross he punished the sin of all who would repent and believe in Christ; in hell he will punish the sin of everyone else. In other words, God addresses evil head-on. He defines evil as rebellion against him—high treason. And such treason deserves the punishment of a just God. As Mr. Beaver told young Lucy in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, “‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

The God of the Bible isn’t “safe.” He’s not to be trifled with. He’s the God of heaven (because he’s merciful) and he’s the God of hell (because he’s just). This is what he himself has spoken, and it’s the ultimate reason belief in hell persists. 

Kathryn Gin Lum. Damned Nation: Hell in America from the Revolution to Reconstruction. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2014. 328 pp. $31.95. 

Aaron Menikoff (PhD, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is senior pastor of Mt. Vernon Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia, and author of Politics and Piety (Pickwick. 2014). Before pastoral ministry, he served as an aide to United States Senator Mark O. Hatfield.

by Aaron Menikoff at October 02, 2015 12:00 AM

3 Ways You Might Be Teaching Your Kids the Prosperity Gospel

The prosperity gospel has rightly been called a theological perversion, a false gospel, America’s most poisonous export to the world. It is glamorous, glitzy, seductive, and anathema to every faithful follower of Christ.

The message is simple: God’s desire for every Christian is that they be healthy, wealthy, and happy. We simply name what we want and God’s hand will move to give it to us. Sadly, this message is deceiving millions, and it might have infiltrated your parenting. 

Over the years I have watched loving parents unwittingly teach their kids principles of this false gospel. All were caring parents and wanted the best for their children, and all attended faithful gospel-preaching churches. None realized they were communicating a different message at home.

How can we detect the presence of this teaching in the way we lead our children? 

3 Diagnostic Questions 

Ask yourself if any of these ideas and practices have subtly invaded your home: 

1. Do you unwittingly center your life around your children? 

The prosperity gospel teaches we are the center of the universe and God is here for our happiness. The biblical truth, however, is while God’s love overflows for his people, we are made for him. He, not us, is the center.

In our desire to love our children, we can send a similar false message. While caring for them, it’s easy to communicate: You are the center of my universe. I am here to serve you.

The truth is that while parental affection and care should abound, we must also love our children in the truth. And a core truth is that kids are cherished members of our family but not the center. We train them to love and honor others, including their parents. Gospel-centered parenting leads us to call our children out of their natural self-orientation to a sacrificial love for God and others.

Ask yourself, “Is my love indulgent or godly? Am I orienting my life around their desires? Or am I calling them to love and honor others?”

You parent your children best by teaching them they are loved but not the center of your world.

2. Do you unconsciously prioritize their material prosperity?

The prosperity gospel teaches us the greatest gifts God can give his children are material blessings. But the biblical truth is that God himself, and the spiritual blessings surrounding him, are his greatest gift to us (Eph. 1:3).

As parents we all want the best for our children. But with almost limitless choices before us, we must prioritize. And the choices we make will reveal what we truly believe is best.

Stop and take a look at your family activities. Listen to what you are excited about. There’s certainly nothing wrong with relishing the game-winning home run or the latest electronic device. Just make certain you’re even more excited about the gospel at work in and around you. Choose priorities to give your child the best advantage possible—a godly church and a unified home. Pray that your parental love will be coupled with the wisdom to discern what’s best for them (Phil. 1:9–10).

You parent your children best by pointing them to true prosperity—abundant life in Christ (John 10:10).

3. Do you unwisely protect your children from life’s trials?

The prosperity gospel teaches God doesn’t want us to suffer. The blessed life is one with little or no pain. But the biblical truth is that none of God’s children escapes suffering. Painful trials are part of his good plan to mature us (James 1:2–4). Even Jesus learned obedience from what he suffered (Heb. 5:8).

As a parent you intuitively understand the need to protect your kids. But we can corrupt this love by refusing to allow them to experience trials. Often, our shallow understanding of biblical suffering is revealed in our parenting.

When we never allow our children to experience the natural consequences of their behavior, we are subtly preaching a different gospel. And when we refuse to give proper, corrective discipline, we are acting differently than our heavenly Father: “The Lord disciplines the ones he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives” (Heb. 12:6).

For our family, some of the sweetest times of spiritual fellowship and growth have come after walking through a painful experience together. Rather than causing harm, these trials or discipline became a severe kindness from God.

Think for a moment about your parenting. Does your love seek to bubble-wrap your children and pain-proof their world? Or is it a wisdom-filled approach, allowing momentary trials designed for eternal maturity?

You parent your children best by understanding the sanctifying role of trials in their lives.

God’s Best Gift 

You love your children and you love the true gospel. Don’t undermine it by teaching them something false during the week.

Remind them that even as we enjoy God’s world, his best gift is himself. And because you’re called to reflect the heavenly Father, you will correct and discipline them in love.

Their souls might depend on it.

Chap Bettis is the executive director of The Apollos Project, a ministry dedicated to helping families pass the gospel to their children. Previously he was lead pastor of a New England church plant. He and his wife, Sharon, have four children and reside in Rhode Island. Chap is the author of Evangelism for the Tongue-Tied and numerous booklets on family life. You can find him on Twitter or blogging at

by Chap Bettis at October 02, 2015 12:00 AM

October 01, 2015

Workout: Oct. 2, 2015

Monster Mash 21-15-9 Games Complex (strict time cap of 10:00) 8 deadlifts (155/115 lb.) 7 cleans (155/115 lb.) 6 snatches (155/115 lb.) 8 pull-ups 7 chest-to-bar pull-ups 6 bar muscle-ups 6 deadlifts (155/115 lb.) 5 cleans (155/115 lb.) 4 snatches (155/115 lb.) 6 pull-ups 5 chest-to-bar pull-ups 4 bar muscle-ups 4 deadlifts (155/115 lb.) 3 […]

by Mike at October 01, 2015 10:15 PM

Front Porch Republic

Wichita and the Dilemma of Mid-Sized Cities

crowson 9-27-15[Cross-posted to In Medias Res]

There’s been some depressing news here in Wichita, Kansas, of late. Not the sort of depressing news that one might typically fear to hear when one speaks about city life: gang violence, police corruption, political graft, etc. (though accusations of all of the above can be found in Wichita, as they can in just about any city). No, the depressing news has all been about projection and perception. Wichita, we’ve been told lately, isn’t where we thought it was, and when one looks at the economic and demographic facts, it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere either. No city likes to hear such news (though, honestly, not much of this should be surprising to anyone who has paid attention to the best estimates of our city planners, who have assumed for a while that Wichita’s population is likely over the next 20 years to grow at less than 1% a year, and increasing age at the same time).

In particular, the presentations which James Chung, a Wichita native and Harvard-trained economic analysis, laid out in the above articles were pretty unsparing. The city isn’t supporting (or is actively driving away) younger people, with the result that the area’s oft-proclaimed–though perhaps never really all that actual–culture of entrepreneurialism is disappearing. High-earners are tending to move our of the area and lower-earners tending to move in (many of them, if you dig into the data, older people from small towns throughout south-central Kansas who are coming to Wichita on fixed incomes so as to have greater access to needed health care), with the result that our effective tax base is disappearing too. So much, so sobering. But the most striking comment he made, I think, came when he threw out a line of hope. In speaking of the common denominators shared by those cities (especially mid-sized cities that had to confront the collapse of manufacturing industries) that pulled through challenging times, Chung identified a degree of acceptance: “They put their differences aside. Leaders came together and decided, you know, we are stuck with each other, so let’s (make) this a better city.”

The phrase “we are stuck with each other” is the one which communicates the reality of Wichita, and mid-sized cities in general, most strongly, I think. For my part, it reminds me of a billboard. I’ve written about this before, but just to reiterate:

Close to ten years ago, one of our (apparently increasingly rare) local entrepreneurs decided to launch a new publishing venture. It never got very far off the ground, and the advertising campaign for what would have been Wichita City Paper is probably the clearest memory most people have of it. A range of diverse Wichita faces, staring out from a black background, with stark white lettering underneath: “Face it. You’re in Wichita.”

That billboard advertisement was wiser than it knew, because it captures an essential truth for cities like Wichita, cities far larger than the hundreds of “micropolitan” urban clusters across the county with a populations of 50,000 or less, but also cities that are not part of an extended metropolitan agglomeration. I mean cities that form their own relatively isolated geographic centers, perhaps topping out at a half-million residents or so. The truth that such cities must face, basically, is that a great many of their residents are regularly tempted to believe that their home isn’t what it is, but rather is, or should remain, or is almost ready to become, one of the other two options mentioned above. The truth, of course, is that Wichita and cities like it are not oversized rural towns, supposedly similar in culture and practice to so many of their surrounding and supporting communities. Neither are they, though, on the cusp of a great metropolitan explosion, primed to start networking and contributing to–in terms of jobs, the arts, and more–those flows of information and investment which characterize the great global cities of the world. Wichita, like so many other cities of middling size, is not likely to become a major node in the globalized flow of information, culture, and wealth anytime in the foreseeable future, and it is cannot pretend that its political culture is that of a quaint homogeneous farming village at heart. It is, put simply, a big city–but not all that big; a space of concentrated resources, both human and commercial–but not an ever-expanding supply of such. That’s what it is stuck with.

To make a case for sticking with mid-sized cities–for investing in it and improving them–means, first and foremost, facing up to what they are. The odds of being able to quickly create in the context of Wichita’s undeniable yet also limited urban character some kind of progressive fantasy of diversity and development are small to nonexistent. With much of the social and economic innovation and opportunity in our country and world invariably gravitating to megapolises wherein the promise of anonymity is entwined with the chance of being able to elide obstacles and break through and do something productive in one new niche or another, leaving older and anxious workers behind, it isn’t surprising that Wichita’s political culture and economic landscape increasingly reflects, as Chung mentioned regarding Wichita, a “closed” environment. That environment will not suddenly change, and expressing frustration at the lack of diversity or socially oriented initiatives in such cities simply drains energy from what will have to be–as the effort to push Wichita in the direction of reasonable reform in the matter of marijuana possession shows–a long and slow effort.

At the same time, it is even more frustrating to see so many voters and elected officials implicitly endorsing the reverse fantasy, a kind of pastoral-libertarian illusion in which mid-sized cities–which emerged and achieved the fullest success as regional manufacturing hubs–do not need to pay attention to fighting for their place in a globalized arena, but instead should simply chart their own small-government course: in essence claiming the ability to take their ball and go back to the farm. It may be a stretch to look at the current majority on the Sedgwick County Commission and detect an anti-urban bias–but it’s not a huge stretch. To make cuts in funding policies which had been developed over the years to serve quality of life purposes in a metro area of over a half-million people in the name of shifting to “cash-only accounting” isn’t solely to move in the direction of some kind of “common sense conservatism”; it is also to move against the routine economic practices by which, for better or worse, complex urban bodies have been able to maintain themselves pretty much ever since the Industrial Revolution. It is, in short, to mulishly insist that this particular city needn’t be like every other city: it can be smaller, simpler, and not like those other (more liberal) places. To which, again, I can only say: when you’ve living (as is the case here in Wichita) in the largest single city in the whole state, you have to face the reality that the quaint anarchy of the village town meeting has long since left the barn.

There is something to be said for mid-sized cities, cities that reflect, perhaps exactly because they occupy a kind of middle place in the production and movement of goods and people and ideas, some perspective on how to face up to the challenges of building culturally and economically attractive and rewarding civic spaces today. Wichita could offer that perspective–but only if citizens and leaders alike face up to what we have, and stick with it, rather than wishing it was actually something else. They need to face up to all the civic activity which is happening here, as it is happening so many small and mid-sized cities. Look around our city, as in so many smaller and middling cities, and you can see a great many informal and quasi-formal networks forming: small-scale businesses and volunteer operations and church groups, hosting festivals and art shows and local markets and devotionals, crossing the conceptual boundaries between urban and rural (so much easier to do in a smaller urban space than in a sprawling urban agglomeration!). Of course, few of them present themselves in terms of a “growth plan” to attract venture capital and rent floor space downtown, and neither do they generally start out rejecting all city council seed money on ideological principle. Which means, they get ignored by the fantasists on both sides of the divide.

Wichita–like so many distinct, mid-sized urban outposts across the productive rural heart of the country–needs to be able to grasp the, admittedly, perhaps discomforting “mittelpolitan” nettle: their lot must incorporate certain urban realities (including, most particularly, a stronger and probably more partisan city government, one without the pastoral illusion of neutrality and capable of forcefully expressing an urban agenda, so as to balance out the agenda of the county if necessary) into its vision of itself. This is, I think, unavoidable if terminal decline is to be avoided, and must be faced, accepted, stuck with, even if it is the case that the urbanism such cities are able to generate will probably always–both given their geographic isolation, and given a media environment in which the pace and range of urban expectations primarily reflects the postmodern perspective of the global cities of the world–fail to measure up. That’s our dilemma, that’s our fate. I hope we face it soon enough.

[An earlier and shorter version of this post appeared in the Wichita Eagle last Sunday.]

The post Wichita and the Dilemma of Mid-Sized Cities appeared first on Front Porch Republic.

by Russell Arben Fox at October 01, 2015 09:23 PM

Roads from Emmaus

Come Out and Be Separate: Redeeming the World by Standing Apart

Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost / First Sunday of Luke, September 27, 2015 II Corinthians 6:16-7:1; Luke 5:1-11 Rev. Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, one God. Amen. I had a friend who was a Ph.D. student at ... READ MORE ›

The post Come Out and Be Separate: Redeeming the World by Standing Apart appeared first on Roads from Emmaus.

by Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick at October 01, 2015 09:04 PM

CrossFit Naptown

Benchmark Saturday – FGB and Survey

Saturday’s Workout:

“Fight Gone Bad”
1:00 Wall Balls (20/14)
1:00 Sumo Deadlift High Pull (75/55)
1:00 Box Jumps (20″)
1:00 Push Press (75/55)
1:00 Row for Calories
1:00 Rest
3 Rounds
*score = total reps
**pair up and count for a partner


Throwback August 2014

Throwback February 2012




Benchmarks are awesome. I have said it before and I will say it again, there is nothing better than a good old benchmark to track your fitness progress. They come in many forms, from the classic named ladies to barbell lifts to weird gym favorites that we all seem to know and love here at CFNT. This day is another example of a benchmark that we have done a few times over the years (almost 4 years now…) that you can look back on and see how your score has improved.

If you are someone who does not track your workouts, that is totally okay. There is never a better time to start than now (except maybe yesterday). With our switch over to FrontDesk HQ, we have been using Train Heroic as a system for you to track your scores. In case you missed yesterday’s blog post, here is the link to it where you will find all that you need to know to get signed up in the system and start tracking your workouts and lifts.

Track your scores and see your successes!


Survey Still Open


The survey is still open for a little while longer (just a few days…). Think of this as our own benchmark workout. We put it out every year (usually two a year with slightly different versions) and ask for you to let us know how we are doing. We make changes of some kind after every round of responses based on your feedback. In order for us to make the best and most valued changes, we need to hear from as many people as possible!


Click Here to Give us our Benchmark Score!

by Anna at October 01, 2015 07:51 PM

Bloomberg: Amazon to drop Apple TV and Chromecast from online store →

When Apple showed off the new Apple TV last month, my first thought was "I want Amazon Prime Video on this thing," but that dream may be dying.

Spencer Soper points out that the gulf between Apple and Amazon is growing:

The Seattle-based Web retailer sent an e-mail to its marketplace sellers that it will stop selling Apple TV and Google’s Chromecast. No new listings for the products will be allowed and posting of existing inventory will be removed Oct. 29, Amazon said. Amazon’s streaming video service, called Prime Video, doesn’t run easily on rival’s devices.

"Over the last three years, Prime Video has become an important part of Prime," Amazon said in the e-mail. "It’s important that the streaming media players we sell interact well with Prime Video in order to avoid customer confusion."

I don't know what the beef is between the companies, but this sort of thing is disappointing to see.


by Stephen Hackett at October 01, 2015 06:27 PM

Zippy Catholic

Bringing an exogenous gun to an endogenous gunfight

The nuttier side of what is commonly (though perhaps somewhat deceptively) called the right wing of politics has a tendency to believe in conspiracy theories.  (This isn’t the only group with such a tendency, of course, but I can’t talk about everything and everyone all at once). The explanation of why this is the case is fairly simple: nobody wants to believe that there is something broken in their own thinking and the thinking of fellow travelers.  So problems simply must be exogenous rather than endogenous.  Things must be all screwed up because of some outside oppressor: the notion that things are all screwed up because we allow them to be screwed up, and we allow them be screwed up because our own thoughts are broken, simply cannot crack through the walls of denial.

Some skepticism has been expressed about drawing a connection between the Sons of Liberty torturing loyalists for failure to vocally support rebellion, and the Sons of Sodomy forcing Brendan Eich to resign from his job for his failure to express approval of sodomy comprehensively and forcefully enough since the day he was born.  “Social justice warriors”, it is proposed, are mainly products of the Frankfurt School and cannot be tied in any significant way to liberalism.

While I’ll grant that being forced to resign is not as severe as being tortured, I do think that attempts to deny the connection are unfounded.

Before laying the blame for all the world’s ills at the feet of albino monks or perfidious Jews, it is important to observe that powerful groups in society are only powerful because that society grants them power. Sons of Liberty terrorizing and murdering people loyal to England, the Frankfurt School itself, the homosexual activists who tried to get me fired from a job in the early nineties for things I said on the Internet before the World Wide Web even existed, and the Sons of Sodomy forcing Eich to resign, are only tolerated because the larger society tolerates and even encourages them. It is in this sense (and only this sense) that government by consent of the governed is true: not that legitimate authority derives from consent, but that the things which happen in a society are just those things which that society tolerates or encourages.

If you took a poll of average people on the street I expect that less than one in a hundred – maybe one in a thousand – would have ever even heard of the Frankfurt School.  But nearly every one of them would agree that the government should protect everyone’s freedoms and make sure that everyone’s equal rights are respected.

And that is all that is required to clear the grounds for both the Sons of Liberty and the Sons of Sodomy to prosper.

If we don’t want to keep cultivating Sons of Liberty and Sons of Sodomy, we have to stop planting them and tending the fields where they grow. That means unequivocal repentance from the lie that is liberalism, not finding a group of albino monks to blame for all of our woes.

by Zippy at October 01, 2015 04:54 PM

The Urbanophile

Pope Francis Blesses the Neighborhood With a Car Free Day


When Pope Francis was in New York last week, he took a drive up through Central Park. Part of the security for this involved closing off basically all the Upper West Side streets between Columbus and Central Park West, including requiring everyone to remove their cars.  The result was a blessing, as the neighborhood was even nicer than normal because it was car free.

The picture above shows a street sans parked cars. I don’t think traffic should permanently be banned, but look at the amount of space given over to parked cars. Both curb lanes – 2/3 of the street right of way – is normally taken up by parked cars. Some of these are metered, and I’ve got no problem with that. Street parking should be for deliveries, patronizing a business, visiting someone, etc.

But as near as I can tell, most of these spots are normally occupied by neighbors who own cars and simply park them on the street for free. Are you kidding me? Owning a car makes sense in a lot of places, but the Upper West Side isn’t one of them. And if you do want to own one, it should be stored in a private parking space.

If even one of these lanes was taken away from parked cars, there are a lot of better things it could be used for: more landscaping, wider sidewalks, etc. Devoting this much precious Manhattan real estate to free parking spots just doesn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense. Thanks to the Pope, we got a glimpse of the possibility of what could be if we weren’t so wedded to the idea of free on street parking in Manhattan.

by Aaron M. Renn at October 01, 2015 02:41 PM

Justin Taylor

Discipling People with Intellectual Disabilities

Jill Miller (wife of Paul) is a gift to the church. Here’s a short video of her discipling her daughter in the Lord:

For more on the Bethesda curriculum—Bible studies for those affected with intellectual disabilities—go here.

I interview Paul about this curriculum last year:

by Justin Taylor at October 01, 2015 02:05 PM

Crossway Blog

5 Things Pastors Should Ask Themselves Before Sunday

Pastor, Are You Prepared for Sunday Worship?

In this video, pastor R. Kent Hughes—author of The Pastor's Book: A Comprehensive and Practical Guide to Pastoral Ministry—shares five questions he asks himself before Sunday morning:

  1. Do I love Christ?
  2. Has this text plowed my soul?
  3. Do I believe what I’m preaching?
  4. Where does my confidence lie?
  5. Is my mic working?

Learn more about Pastor Hughes's new book and download a free excerpt today!

by Matt Tully at October 01, 2015 01:32 PM

Justin Taylor

An Interview with J. I. Packer on Cultivating Awe, Christian Meditation, and Knowing Christ

In the foreword for Mark Jones’ new book, Knowing Christ, J. I. Packer writes:

The Puritans loved the Bible, and dug into it in depth. Also, they loved the Lord Jesus, who is of course the Bible’s focal figure; they circled round him, centred on him, studied minutely all that Scripture had to say about him, and constantly, conscientiously, exalted him in their preaching, praises, and prayers.

Mark Jones, an established expert on many aspects of Puritan thought, also loves the Bible and its Christ, and the Puritans as expositors of both; and out of this triune love he has written a memorable unpacking of the truth about the Saviour according to the classic Reformed tradition, and the Puritans supremely. It is a book calculated to enrich our twenty-first-century souls, and one that it is an honour to introduce.

Just here, however, there lies—or maybe I should say we have, or perhaps even we are—a problem. To put it pictorially, souls are small in the modern Western world, and we have less of an appetite for this kind of nourishment than our spiritual health actually requires. We would do well to ask ourselves some questions.

Have we ever, up to now, worked our way through any book that fully displays our Saviour as the brightest lights in the historic Reformed firmament have viewed him? Here is such a book: are we interested?

Have we ever formed the holy habit of contemplating Jesus in solitude, allowing Scripture passage after Scripture passage to show us his many-sided glory and to draw us out in the many-angled adoration that is our proper response? This book will help us form that habit.

Do we cultivate awe in the presence of the one who calls us who believe his brothers and sisters, and who once took the place of each of us under the unimaginably horrific reality of divine retribution for our sins? And do we often make a point of telling ourselves, and telling him, how lost we would be without him? Or are our minds as Christians always on other things? The present book will lead us in the right path.

Do we constantly acknowledge the presence of Christ, who through the Holy Spirit keeps his promise to be with us always, whether we cherish his gracious and triumphant companionship or not? This book will help us to possess our possession at this point.

Thank you, Mark Jones; you serve us well. May we all benefit from the wealth of enlivening gospel truth and wisdom that you have put together for us in the pages that follow.

The book is available from WTS Books, Amazon, and others.

Below is a conversation between Dr. Jones and Dr. Packer:

And a couple of blurbs about the book:

“This is a work that will serve the church permanently in helping readers ‘to know,’ whether much better or for the first time, ‘the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge.’ I commend it most highly.”
—Richard B. Gaffin, Jr.

Knowing Christ is a majestic gem that will be passed down from generation to generation as a beloved devotional. Its author takes the reader by a loving pastoral hand into depths and riches, exhorting us to know Christ better and to love him more.”
—Rosaria Butterfield

by Justin Taylor at October 01, 2015 01:19 PM

The Art of Non-Conformity

Only Floss the Teeth You Want to Keep


That’s what dentists tell you. You don’t need to floss all your teeth—just the ones you need to keep.

When it comes to your business, your life, or your relationships, a similar principle applies. You don’t have to pay attention to everything and everyone. But you do have to pay attention to what matters most.

It may help to identify some priorities. In my business I track only two metrics on a consistent basis:

1. Email subscribers

2. Product sales

My thinking is that if these things are going along okay, everything else will fall into place. I don’t check other statistics or track anything else. Checking my bank accounts will not make more money.

This year I added a “relationship metric”:

Every day I will write or call at least one friend.

It’s simple, but effective (at least for me). So far this year, I haven’t missed a day.

Have you identified priorities in your life and work?


Image: Joolie

by Chris Guillebeau at October 01, 2015 01:15 PM

Beeminder Blog

Revamped Reminders

Elephant dressed as a bee

If your name is “Beeminder” then reminders really need to be part of your core competency. [1] Alerts and nudges about your goal are fundamental to our contract with you, the user, to do our very best to help you meet the goals you’ve set, and only take your money as a last resort. So much so that if we screw up the alerts and you don’t meet your goal, we cancel the derailment and give you your money back.

But the state of Beeminder alerts until now was suboptimal in a lot of ways. Common complaints included:

  • too many emails
  • I only want to get alerted when the goal’s about to derail
  • why are there so many settings?
  • wait, how do I just get alerted when the goal’s about to derail?
  • can I get a summary email?
  • it’s so annoying that I have to remember to change the settings for every new goal
  • and myriad other things…

We’re happy to announce that we’ve fixed most of them!

Simplified Settings

A picture being worth a thousand words, let us show what just happened with reminder settings. We went from this:

Screenshot of the old reminder settings for a goal

(with the goal’s deadline off on another screen)

To this:

Screenshot of the new reminder settings for a goal

So much has been accomplished here! The horribly convoluted box-checking required to get only emergency day (eep day) reminders is gone. In fact, getting only eep reminders is now the default. So that’s drastically less mail that newbees who don’t venture into settings will get. (And it was even worse before: there was no way to get just emergency reminders without also getting wrong lane reminders.)

Fundamentally there are now just three parameters affecting how Beeminder bugs you about a goal:

  1. Time of day to remind you (or start relentlessly reminding you, if it’s an emergency day)
  2. How many days before the beemergency to start reminding you (default 0, max 30)
  3. The deadline — when the goal will derail if you don’t do what you committed to do

We’re pretty paranoid about retrogressing, even in small ways, so let’s talk about what we’ve given up. It’s not much!

What if I don’t want the bot to bug me on weekends?

Yes, you used to be able to specify days of the week. But, confusingly, they would be ignored if you were in the wrong lane or in the red anyway. Now everything centers around the derailment. If you don’t want to be bugged on the weekend then make sure you have enough safety buffer.

How do I turn off Zeno Polling?

Make your reminder time be 1 minute before your deadline, or set your number of days lead time for getting reminders to -1. We think the right way to stop Zeno polling is to dispatch your dang-diggity beemergency (i.e., get back on the yellow brick road) and if you disagree we want you to prove you’ve thought about it!

But mostly our answer is: don’t. Zeno polling is brilliant. And if we’re about to take your money we really should tell you about it. [2]

I have to pay for the SMS bot now?

After convincing ourselves that Zeno polling is the bees’ knees we decided that the SMS bot really needed to get with the program and do it too. And since sending text messages costs us money, we decided it should be a premium feature. Those of you who were already using the SMS bot before we announced this got grandfathered.

We should also mention that our Android app already implements Zeno polling and we think you’ll like that better than the SMS bot. Our iPhone app will get Zeno polling as soon as possible.

What if I want to use the SMS bot for some goals and the email bot for others?

We looked at how people were already using the SMS bot, and we doubt that anyone cares strongly about this. But if you do, please complain to us in the comments, describe your use case, and you might get your wish.

What if I want reminders every day even if I’m more than 30 days from derailing?

Dial up your road! A Beeminder graph where you’re entering data daily yet has greater than 30 days of safety buffer is not really beeminding. Having months of safety buffer may make sense for some goals but it should mean you have months before you need to think about it. Daily reminders would be overkill in that case.

Goal Defaults

The other big thing that’s new, aside from drastically simplified alert settings, is goal defaults.

If you’ve created more than one or two Beeminder goals, it’s likely you’ve noticed that you have some preferred goal settings, and maybe it’s annoying to go in and change them with every new goal you create. Maybe you’ve subscribed to Plan Bee so that you can just always keep your pledges at $0, or maybe you’re really intense and want every goal to do the No-Mercy Recommit, or you’re a night owl and want all of your goals to have their deadlines set for 4am.

Now you can find the defaults in your account settings (link in the upper right of the yellow Beeminder banner). In addition to defaults for the alert settings, you can control a few of the settings around the goal’s derail behavior: the deadline, the pledge cap, and whether or not to get a break for a week after falling off the wagon. There might be other settings that make sense to include as defaults. If there’s something we’ve left out that seems important to you, let us know in the comments!

But I have 38 different goals and don’t want them to have the same settings!

Don’t worry, we haven’t taken away individual goal settings. You can toggle whether or not a particular goal inherits the defaults. So set the defaults to whatever makes sense for you, and adjust as necessary on an individual basis. If you update the default settings they get applied to all the default goals. So you can also use this to make mass updates to a bunch of your goals at once, rather than clicking through to each individual goal page, then to settings, etc.


That covers the technical changes! (The last 16 UVIs have the real nitty-gritty.) In upcoming posts we’ll talk about taking advantage of the reminders revamp for making Beeminder waterfalls (staggering your Beeminder deadlines and reminders throughout the day) and about using Beeminder to actually get all this awesomeness out the door.



[1] We’ve been making the “Beeminder = reminders” point for years, like when we introduced Zeno Polling. In fact, it’s because reminders have been there from the very beginning — the days-of-the-week feature literally predated the concept of derailments — that we backed ourselves into a corner design- and UI-wise, requiring this elaborate blog post to describe how we finally extricated ourselves and made reminders sane again.

[2] What if you want to throw in the towel and just accept your derailment? Maybe you’re on board with my “Bee Nice To Yourself” dictum and have decided to treat yourself to a derailment and concomitant flat spot on your yellow brick road. The Zeno polling might get pretty irksome in that case. Well let us know if you think so because we’re just about convinced to add an Uncle Button that will make the derailment happen immediately, putting you back in the green. And respite from the relentless reminders.


Image credit: Jen Springall

Huge thanks to everyone in the Beeminder forum who helped us think all this through.

by bsoule at October 01, 2015 12:57 PM

John C. Wright's Journal » John C. Wright's Journal

Jagi, here…

Hey folks, Mrs. John C. Wright, here.

So in the last few months, a handful of extraordinarily generous folks among you readers have tried to give us a regular monthly donation through Paypal.

For some reason, not a single one of these has worked. We just get “payment skipped” notices.

I am trying to contact Paypal about this, but if anyone reading this happens to be one of the kind folks involved, if you could write Paypal, too, that might help.

Currently, this website is receiving too much traffic for its current server. We have several options, but the best option would cost money on a monthly basis (which is what brought me to trying to straighten out whatever is up with Paypal…as if that were actually working, it would basically cover the possible website upgrade–making that option possible.)

Otherwise, all is well. John is hard at work on Green Knight’s Squire, which is terrific (at least in the mind of myself and two or our sons.) His new job is going well, too.

Hope you are all happy and healthy!

by John C Wright at October 01, 2015 12:11 PM

Zondervan Academic Blog

[Common Places] New Studies in Dogmatics: The Holy Spirit

Zondervan Academic’s New Studies in Dogmatics series launches this fall with its first volume, Christopher Holmes’s The Holy Spirit, appearing in print this month. We will introduce readers to this work and engage with some of the doctrinal issues addressed therein over a series of four posts here at Common Places. In this first post, the author speaks to some of the germinal principles that shape his approach to the topic.


One of the reasons I wrote the book was to think through the matter of origins. Origins is one of the main concerns of Fourth Gospel. Jesus is repeatedly asked, “Where do you come from?” The question of origins is the question of antecedence, specifically the antecedent life of God. I wanted to think through why that life is important to describe in relation to everything it accomplishes among us in the missions of Son and Spirit.

For much of my earlier thinking, I thought one needed simply to stick with the divine missions. Or, expressed in a more Rahnerian mode, I thought it was enough to say that the immanent is the economic, the economic the immanent. Rahner’s dismissal of Thomas’s order of teaching, and its alleged indifference to soteriological themes, was a criticism I largely bought.

After having re-read Thomas’s Trinitarian treatise in the Summa Theologica 1, I realized that there was much more to Thomas’s distinction between the one God and the triune God, as well as the processions and the missions, than one would be led to assume, if one took their cues from Rahner, among others. Part of what is so compelling about the way in which Thomas unfolds the Trinity is the ease with which it maps onto the biblical testimony. John’s Gospel, as is well known, tells us about God’s life “full of grace and truth.” John, in other words, thinks that protology matters for the unfolding of good news. The gospel has protological origins, and they matter for everything that follows. Expressed in the idiom of the Fourth Gospel, the Father sends, the Son is sent, and the Spirit proceeds from the Father in the name of the Son.

The book argues, in part, that matters of antecedence are material in nature. It is God’s nature that is the spring from which his great acts arise. For example, the mission of the Spirit among us is to express the love that the Spirit is, “the love with which you have loved me” (John 17:26). John’s Gospel is patient with a theme that theology has to be patient with as well, namely the theme of the origins of the three, expressed as they are in the mission of Son and Spirit among us.

One of the reasons I focus on Augustine and especially Thomas is because I wanted to read Karl Barth with fresh eyes. Barth’s profound insight that God remains God in all that he does for us and for our salvation expresses God’s great prevenience. Barth teaches us, following the witness of the Bible, that God is not only independent of what he has made and upholds, but also is utterly sufficient in relationship to it. God does not need anything outside of God in order to be God. Thomas is especially attractive because his treatise on the Trinity deepens and extends one of Barth’s most edifying insights in a way complementary to the biblical testimony. Accordingly, it is not a matter of abandoning Barth in favour of Thomas, but of seeing that Thomas’s metaphysics enable us to extend some of Barth’s best insights, and all that in a way that is transparent to Johannine themes and idioms.

To put all of this differently, the book makes the point that metaphysics is a good thing. Why? Because the Bible itself is metaphysically motivated, the Fourth Gospel concerned with the metaphysics of our Lord’s person. In order to see why this is so important, I think you must learn to love the subject matter of which Scripture speaks so as to see why protological questions are not “abstract” but actually germaine to Scripture itself.

holy spirit cover

In John 21, Jesus asks Peter three times, “Do you love me?” Peter responds, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus then tells Peter to “Feed my sheep.” Love for Christ, which expresses itself in the feeding of his sheep, involves love of where he comes from, that is the Father, and of the Spirit, with whom he loves the Father. Technical language, like that of a person as a subsisting relation, meaning a relation internal to the divine essence itself, safeguards the mystery that we receive in the Gospel. Jesus is one with the Father and with the Spirit. Extra-biblical language, like that of processions, is serviceable, I think, to the mystery. It does not violate the mystery, but helps us to hear and describe it in a fresh way.

It is my hope that the polemic against Greek metaphysics that animates key stretches of theology in Protestant modernity will exhaust itself. Why? Because the Bible encourages us to think that God is truly sufficient in relationship to God’s acts towards the outside, in his will to seek and to save lost humanity through the fulfillment of the promises made to the Patriarchs. A metaphysical apparatus, such as Thomas gives us in Summa Theologica 1, does not detract from the mystery but heightens our attention to it, reminding us that to receive it in all its fullness is to love it, something we do all too provisionally on this side of glory.

The Holy Spirit is a doxological read. Its aim is to draw the reader upwards so as to be made like the one of whom it speaks, and to waken expectation for the day when “we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2).


Christopher R. J. Holmes (ThD, Wycliffe College, University of Toronto) is Senior Lecturer in Systematic Theology in the Department of Theology and Religion, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand. Christopher is an Anglican priest and is the author of Revisiting the Doctrine of the Divine Attributes: In Dialogue with Karl Barth, Eberhard Jüngel, and Wolf Krötke (2007), Ethics in the Presence of Christ (2012), as well as many articles on the theology of Karl Barth and Dietrich Bonhoeffer and on Christian doctrine.


Common Places is a regular column on the Zondervan Academic blog with a focus on systematic theology. The loci communes or “common places” of Christian theology, drawn out of the Scriptures and organized in a manner suitable to their exposition in the church and the academy, have functioned historically as common points of reference for theological discussion and debate. This column will focus upon the classical loci of systematic theology, not as occasions for revision, but as opportunities for entering into the ongoing conversation that is Christian systematic theology. We invite you to join and dialog with us on the first and third Thursdays of every month. For more about Common Places, read the column introduction.

Michael Allen and Scott Swain, editors

by Christopher Holmes at October 01, 2015 12:00 PM


A new Device Adaptation spec

Back in April I lamented numerous problems and vaguenesses in the current W3C Device Adaptation spec. One of the spec’s editors, Florian Rivoal, contacted me, agreed that the spec had some problems, and explained some of its less clear features to me. In return, I explained some features I think should be added to the spec.

Within about ten mails we had agreed on the features that a future version of the spec should contain. This article summarises our conclusions, and adds a few questions a future version of the spec should answer.

Also, this article serves as a quick overview of where the viewports stand today. Everything described below works in almost all browsers right now, with the exception of the @viewport syntax. So this is useful reading for every web developer.

Finally, there’s one question that must be answered: If you use (x-based) responsive images on a desktop site, and the user zooms in, should you load the higher-DPR images? The answer is important for defining desktop DPR and screen.width/ height.


As I explained earlier mobile browsers have a layout viewport, which sets the initial containing block and thus dictates how much space the CSS layout has, and a visual viewport that shows how much of that layout viewport the user is currently seeing. (Desktop browsers have them as well, but they’re the same thing: the browser window.)

This article treats the following topics:

  1. The visual viewport
  2. Why the layout viewport should be divided into an initial, default, ideal, and actual one. What these four layout viewports are and do.
  3. The actual layout viewport as a content window
  4. height
  5. JavaScript properties that expose viewport dimensions
  6. Zooming (as background information)
  7. Device pixel ratio

Visual viewport

The visual viewport is the number of CSS pixels the user is currently viewing. The user can change the visual viewport size by zooming in or out. window.innerWidth/ Height exposes the current visual viewport size in JavaScript. That’s easy — but it isn’t in the spec. It should be.

Visual viewport diagram

Layout viewport

The layout viewport defines the size of CSS’s initial containing block. If the body has width: 100%, how wide is it? As wide as the layout viewport.

Visual viewport diagram

That’s easy as well, but there are several wrinkles here. Most importantly, both browsers and authors can set the size of the layout viewport. With that in mind, Florian and I split the layout viewport into four:

  1. The initial layout viewport. Not important to web developers.
  2. The default layout viewport, for sites that aren’t mobile-optimised.
  3. The ideal layout viewport, the ideal size of the layout viewport on this particular device.
  4. The actual layout viewport, the actual size of the layout viewport after browser and author have had their say. It’s usually equal to the ideal or default layout viewport, but does not need to be.

Responsive design is based on setting the actual layout viewport to the ideal layout viewport dimensions.

Initial layout viewport

The initial layout viewport is not important to web developers, who can skip this section if they want to.

W3C is making a big push toward initial values: before even the browser style sheet is applied, let alone the author style sheet, all CSS declarations on all elements have their initial value as defined in the spec. (Web developers can set any CSS declaration to the special value initial, which is equal to whatever the spec defines as its initial value.)

For instance, every element has a display: inline because that’s the initial value the spec defines. Later on, the browser style sheet sets block-level elements to display: block. Style sheets written by web developers may change this again.

In theory, the layout viewport size is set by the CSS @viewport {width: something} directive. (In practice it isn’t because @viewport is hardly supported, but the spec is supposed to incorporate theory as well as practice.) This declaration has an initial value of auto, and that causes the initial layout viewport to be equal to the ideal one.

Personally I’m not a huge fan of the initial values, since I fail to see their point, and they’re sometimes rather arbitrary. Why display: inline? Why would web developers want to set any declaration to its initial value?

Still, though the initial layout viewport may be confusing and/or pointless, it doesn’t actually do any harm. So let’s leave it in if it makes W3C and the browser makers happy. Just remember it’s not important to web developers.

Default layout viewport

The browser style sheet contains a default width for the layout viewport. In mobile browsers, its width is between 800 and 1024 CSS pixels, with modern ones tending toward the higher end of that range.

The purpose of the default layout viewport is to accomodate websites that are not optimised for mobile at all. Mobile browsers must display these sites decently, and that means preserving the layout the author intended, even though it’s way too large for the device screen. In order to do that, mobile browsers stretch up their layout viewports to desktop-like values. I explained this problem in detail years ago.

So if a website is not mobile-optimised because the author did not include a meta viewport tag, it will use the default layout viewport.

Ideal layout viewport

Still, mobile browsers prefer to show sites sized to the ideal dimensions for the devices they run on. These dimensions are the ideal layout viewport, and web developers can set the layout viewport to these ideal sizes by doing:

<meta name="viewport" content="width=device-width">

In theory they can also do the following, but it’s only supported in MS Edge and IE, and prefixed at that:

@viewport {
	width: auto;

In JavaScript, screen.width/ height MAY expose the ideal viewport dimensions. Or it may not. Or the browser kludgily redefines the ideal layout viewport before exposing it. I’ll get back to that.

Actual layout viewport

Finally, the actual layout viewport is just that: the actual dimensions of the layout viewport after all browser and author style sheets have been taken into account. In 100% of non-mobile-optimised sites it’s equal to the default layout viewport, while in 99.99% of the mobile-optimised sites it’s equal to the ideal viewport (and the remaining 0.01% mostly consists of my weird test pages).

The actual layout viewport could have unique, author-defined dimensions instead of the default or the ideal layout viewports. The following code results in an actual layout viewport of 400px wide:

<meta name="viewport" content="width=400">

I’ve been studying viewports for close to six years now, and I’ve never yet found a reason to use this sort of values. It should be possible, though — you never know what we’ll need in the future.

The actual layout viewport is exposed to JavaScript in document. documentElement. clientWidth/ Height. This works in all browsers. It should also be in the spec.

The actual layout viewport as a window

One other thing that the spec should make clear is that the actual layout viewport is a sort of window that the HTML document scrolls through. It may be difficult to get your head around this idea. For a visualisation, see slides 17 and 18 of Jacob Rossi’s Mobilism presentation.

It’s easiest to understand by picturing a desktop website: you scroll your page through the browser window, while the window itself, which is the actual layout viewport, stays where it is.

It should be the same on mobile. The actual layout viewport should not move when the user scrolls; if it did, it would be indistinguishable from the top of the HTML document. (For years I unconsciously assumed these two were the same, until Jacob broke the news they’re not.) On the other hand, the user should be able to zoom in on parts of the actual layout viewport.

The difference may sound like hair-splitting, but actually has important consequences for position: fixed. Up until about a year ago, mobile browsers positioned fixed layers relative to either the visual viewport or to the HTML document. In the latter case, fixed is indistinguishable from absolute, while in the former case many desktop-designed fixed layers would become unreadable since they’re far too wide.

Since this may be hard to wrap your head around, here’s a video of a layer that’s fixed to the visual viewport (Chrome 38-ish on Android):

MS Edge and Chrome have redefined position: fixed as being relative to the actual layout viewport-as-a-window, wich means that it does not react to scrolling, but does react to pinch-zooming.

Here’s a video of the redefined position: fixed in Chrome 40. Note the differences with the previous video:

(This is still not ideal for mobile, because desktop-designed fixed layers are just too full of stuff. We need a mobile-specific fifth value: device-fixed, which sets the layer relative to the visual viewport. MS Edge/IE implemented it as a test, though the performance is currently not good.)


In theory, you can set the height instead of the width of the layout viewport:

<meta name="viewport" content="height=400">

In practice you cannot. No browser supports the code above; not even Safari/iOS. (Then why is it in Apple’s documentation? Or on MDN? I have no effing clue.)

Maybe the best idea would be to quietly get rid of meta viewport height. It hasn’t worked for six years and nobody but me ever noticed, so it’s likely there are no use cases.

If we must keep it around we have to figure out how to deal with conflicts between width and height. Take this declaration:

@viewport {
	width: auto;
	height: 400px;

In my opinion, the preservation of the width/height aspect ratio should take precedence over all other concerns. Thus, assuming that the ideal layout viewport height is not 400 (a value I never saw in the wild), the browser should obey just one of the two declarations. But which one?

A solution may be found in the handling of a similar case. Take this meta viewport:

<meta name="viewport" content="width=400,initial-scale=1">

These two directives contradict each other. The first tells the browser to set the actual layout viewport width to 400 pixels, the second tells it to set it to the ideal layout viewport width (which never made sense to me, but it is how all browsers interpret the directive in practice).

All browsers solve this contradiction by taking the largest value of the two. Thus, on a classic iPhone (ideal 360x480) in portrait mode, the actual layout viewport width becomes 400px (largest of 400 and 360), while in landscape mode it will become 480px (largest of 400 and 480).

I propose to solve width/height contradictions in the same way. In the @viewport example the browser would calculate the desired width from height: 400px and the screen’s aspect ratio, compare it to the ideal layout viewport width, and use the largest of the two values.

Even if you don’t think this would be the best solution, the specification should define what happens in case of contradictions, based on the overriding concern that the screen’s aspect ratio must be preserved.

Update: It turns out that height works in Safari/iOS9. However, as soon as you combine it with a width strange things start to happen, and the width/height ratio is not preserved.

JavaScript properties

The new Device Adaptation specification should also define the JavaScript properties that were mentioned:

  1. window.innerWidth/ Height gives the current dimensions of the visual viewport. This already works in all browsers (except for the proxy browsers).
  2. document. documentElement. clientWidth/ Height gives the actual layout viewport dimensions. This already works in all browsers.
  3. A property pair for the ideal layout viewport dimensions — most likely screen.width/ height.
  4. Possibly a new property pair for the number of physical pixels on the screen.

And here we run smack-bang into the second most serious viewport problem: screen.width/ height.

Modern mobile browsers use it to expose the ideal layout viewport dimensions, and I think this is what should be specified. Nonetheless, old mobile browsers give the screen size in device pixels, which is useless to web developers.

As to desktop browsers, Chrome and Safari give the physical screen size, while Edge/IE and Firefox go off on a weird tangent where screen.width/ height depends on the zoom level. See below.

The new specification should clearly define screen.width/ height once and for all as either the ideal viewport dimensions or the number of physical pixels and add a new property pair for the other values. Then this should be enforced on all browsers.


@viewport has a zoom property. It serves to set the visual viewport to a certain initial value. (Only on page load! It should not be possible to change the zoom programmatically, or three days later all ads will include a script that zooms in on them at random intervals.)

Zoom needs some love and care — for instance, the spec doesn’t define what zoom: 100% actually means. 100% of what? Florian and I came to the following definitions:

  1. zoom: 1 / 100% sets the visual viewport size to the ideal layout viewport size. zoom: 2 means half the ideal layout viewport size, while zoom: 0.5 means double the ideal layout viewport size.
    This is consistent with the current behaviour of initial-scale in meta viewports.
  2. zoom: auto sets the visual viewport size to the actual layout viewport size. This is consistent with what mobile browsers do by default to web pages without a zoom directive.

When you set width: auto the actual and ideal layout viewports are the same, so zoom: 1 and zoom: auto mean the same.


The prevention of zooming, or even setting a minimum or maximum, is Evil and should be removed from the specification. Consider the following, real-life story.

A friend of mine is a doctor. One day she was at the top floor of the hospital when her pager bleeped and she was urgently called downstairs for a resuscitation. While waiting for the lift to take her ten stories down she decided to briefly go through the resuscitation protocol on an app she’d recently purchased. The crucial scheme that showed all the steps was a bit too small, however, and she tried to zoom in.

She couldn’t. It turned out some idiot app designer had turned off zooming; apparently, it was “not necessary.” Thus a doctor was unable to view the steps that could save her patient’s life because some silly designer’s so-called creativity couldn’t handle the threat of zooming.

That’s why I say preventing zooming is Evil, and that user-scale and user-zooming should be removed from the specification.

Page zoom and pinch zoom

There are two types of zooming: page zoom and pinch zoom. They are defined ... somewhere, but the Device Adaptation spec should link to these definitions because they’re important for DPR.

Basically they are for desktop browsers and for mobile browsers, respectively, and the main difference is that when you page-zoom the actual layout viewport changes, something that does not happen with pinch zoom.

If you zoom in on this page in a desktop browser, everything becomes larger except for the browser window. The CSS pixels become larger (an element with width: 100px will now span more of the screen), and therefore the actual layout viewport becomes smaller.

Pinch zoom does not affect the layout viewport, it just allows the user to zoom in to a particular part of the page.


Now that we understand (and link to!) page zoom and pinch zoom we can move to the definition of DPR, which stands for clusterfuck device pixel ratio.

There are two media queries (device-pixel-ratio for WebKit; resolution for the other browsers) and one JavaScript property, window.devicePixelRatio, that need some specification love.

I know how they work on mobile — or rather, in a pinch-zoom environment. Here the DPR is the ratio between the physical screen size in device pixels and the ideal layout viewport size. I have experimentally verified this, and it works on all touchscreen devices (except for the iPhone 6+ that maintains its DPR is 3 while it should in fact be 1080/414 = 2.60869565217391).

I did not understand the weird desktop system, though. Although Florian was eventually able to find the relevant, though arcane, desktop definitions for me, I think it took him five steps to get there from the Device Adaptation spec. And then it still didn’t explain some crucial steps.

The new spec MUST (in the sense of RFC 2119) define DPR comprehensively. Right now it’s a nightmare.

In a page-zoom environment things are a lot more complicated than with pinch zoom. The sort-of-kind-of ideal layout viewport here seems to be defined as the size, in CSS pixels, of the browser window if it would take up the entire screen. Edge/IE and Firefox actually use that definition for screen.width/ height: its values change when you zoom in or out. Chrome and Safari keep to the old definition of the physical pixel count of the monitor, though funny things happen when you throw retina displays into the mix.

But anyway. The desktop browsers, including Chrome but not Safari, seem to define DPR as the ratio of the physical pixel count and this weird ideal layout viewport as well. However, since the ideal layout viewport is variable depending on zoom level, DPR is also a variable. I’m not at all happy with that definition, because I think making DPR a variable is wrong, but I’ve currently run out of arguments against it. So instead, let me ask you a question:

If you use (x-based) responsive images on a desktop site, and the user (page) zooms in, should you load the higher-DPR images? That’s the crucial use case.

If the answer is No, desktop browsers are doing it wrong right now. If the answer is Yes I suppose we will have to grudgingly accept the complicated definition of the ideal layout viewport on desktop.

If you’re confused by this section, so am I. I have no crumbs of wisdom to impart right now. I do know that the Device Adaptation spec should make all this MUCH clearer than it is now.

by ppk ( at October 01, 2015 11:13 AM

Table Titans

Tales: Heartclutch


Due to a new life circumstance, I hadn’t been available to make our regular gaming session in quite some time. I was playing an evil Cleric and was the party’s main source of heals. In my absence, my character was always present in battle for auto-heals, but inconsequential to the story or larger…

Read more

October 01, 2015 07:01 AM

The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

There Is No Crown Without a Cross for Your Kids

The birth of every child is special, but my younger son’s birth was extraordinary. My wife nudged me in the middle of the night to inform me her water had broken. A race to the hospital ensued. Fifty-two minutes from the water breaking and 17 minutes after entering the hospital, our third child, Hutch, came into the world.

But the precipitous labor was not the special part.

An Uncommon Providence

Hutch was an unexpected pregnancy. We discovered his life four months after his older brother died. Hutch was born on November 13, the one-year anniversary of his older brother’s funeral. Everything about his conception and arrival came saliently from the hand of God. 

Given the unique circumstances of Hutch’s birth, I have a cautious hopefulness about his life. I wonder if God has special plans. Perhaps Hutch will reach thousands of people for Christ. Maybe his life will demonstrate massive kingdom impact. Hopefully he will embody godly character and a loving spirit. Whatever it looks like, I have a sense Hutch will be special.

Make Him Safe?

Alongside these hopes I hold for my son resides another view into his future. Having experienced the incredible pain of losing a child, I possess a desire to shield him from suffering. I tremble at the idea he may be bullied, or friendless, or experience depression, or struggle with addiction, or encounter failure, or be a victim of violence, or have his heart broken, or—God forbid—lose a child.

So, in my mind, I begin to scheme. How can I insulate him? How do I best protect him? I start mentally engineering his life to avoid suffering. We can hover over him at the playground. We can put him in a “safe” school. We can buy him the right sneakers so he never feels like a loser. We can prohibit contact sports. We can delay dating and driving until as late as possible. We can forbid all social media until college.

As I listen to myself drift into this fantasyland of futile control, I realize I’m walking up to Jesus and kneeling beside the mother of James and John, as depicted in Matthew 20. I foolishly ask for my son to have a seat at his right hand, without weighing the costs. I assume he can rise to a place of impact in God’s kingdom without as much as a scrape on his knee.

To the mother of the sons of Zebedee and to all parents who foolishly think we can shield our children from all suffering, while believing our children can gain Christian character without it, Jesus first says this: “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?” (Matt. 20:22)

No Crown Without a Cross

On Jesus’s way to redeeming the world he encountered betrayal, injustice, torture, violence, condemnation, imprisonment, and alienation. He opened the door to glory through a cross. How deluded I am when I think an alternate path exists for my child’s “hoped for” service to God’s kingdom. He will not wear the crown of glory unless he bears a cross.

And how forgetful I am about my own formation as a Christian. Any Christian character I’ve gained in life has come at a price. There were humiliating failures in Little League and crushing (in my mind at the time) breakups in dating relationships. There was a sprained ankle days before a championship swim meet and a tantrum that landed me on the bench in junior varsity baseball. There were moral failures, lonely seasons, a bout with depression, and a job demotion. God’s Word and Spirit worked in me during these glorious humiliations and disappointments to instill empathy, perseverance, and compassion—all of which I still need more and more.

All of us parents know this is true: no person gains any character, humility, empathy, or integrity in the context of comfort. These attributes grow by God’s grace in the fertile ground of pain, struggle, and humiliation.

True Greatness  

Hear the second statement Jesus made to the mother of James and John, and to us: “Whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28).

The hope of the Christian parent is to raise a child who lays down his or her life in service to God and neighbor. But faithful servants have very little ability to give their life to God and others when they’ve never found themselves lying in a gutter or two along the way. With each painful circumstance my son encounters, God will help him accumulate empathy for others. And this compassion acquired through suffering will provide a foundation for his ability to minister to others.

I want my baby to be a special servant of the Lord, and so I entrust his circumstances to the good and sovereign Lord. Knowing life inherently holds more than enough pain, I will protect him as much as common sense tolerates. But in handing over his life to God, I must brace myself for the reality that a painful road awaits him.

I take comfort knowing the Lord has already suffered for sinners like him. I find assurance knowing Christ has carried me through my own hardships, and I pray he’ll do the same for Hutch. I have hope anticipating that he may taste the joy of being redeemed, comforted, sanctified, and known by Jesus. 

Editors’ note: Register for Rooted 2015, an excellent youth ministry conference in Chicago, October 22 to 24.

Cameron Cole is the director of youth ministries at Cathedral Church of the Advent in Birmingham, Alabama, and the chairman of Rooted: Advancing Grace-Driven Youth Ministry.

by Cameron Cole at October 01, 2015 12:00 AM

Know Your Rights as a Christian in a Public College

As the school year gets underway, many parents, students, teachers, and coaches have questions about what they legally can and cannot do as it relates to their Christian faith. Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a non-profit organization that defends the religious liberty of Christians, has compiled a helpful collection of guidance on our constitutionally protected rights. Below is information related to public colleges and universities taken directly from various resources produced by ADF.

Previously: Know Your Rights as a Christian in a Public School (K–12)

Freedom of Speech 

The U.S. Constitution protects your right to express personal religious and political beliefs in writing, speech, and visual or performing arts while at a public university. In class, a professor may ask you to take positions you disagree with so long as he doesn’t require you to agree with those positions outside the classroom.

Many public universities use unconstitutional speech codes to censor students on campus. By using terms like “offensive,” “demeaning,” and “uncomfortable,” these speech codes give administrators broad discretion to silence students, which is unconstitutional.

Freedom of Association 

Christian student groups have the same right to associate on public university campuses as any other group.

In most circumstances, universities cannot expel religious groups from campus merely because the groups want their members or leaders to agree with the group’s religious beliefs. Overly broad “nondiscrimination” policies may violate student groups’ rights of association. But the Supreme Court has said a college may restrict students’ free association if it has an “all comers” policy, meaning that all students must be allowed to join and lead all groups.

One of the most critical things for a new group is to write a constitution and bylaws. These documents define, among other things, who can participate in the group, who can be a member, and who can be a leader. The purpose of placing limits on who is eligible to lead or vote is to preserve the character of the group. For example, some Christian groups ask their officers to lead Bible studies. Those groups require their officers to agree with a statement of faith or to demonstrate a commitment to the faith. Doing so helps ensure the officers will be good representatives of Christ and will be able to teach others in accordance with the beliefs of the group.

Free Exercise of Religious Beliefs 

Public universities cannot compel you to publicly advocate views and adopt values that are contrary to your beliefs.

While professors can legitimately ask students to advocate a variety of ideas in class, including on assigned papers and other class projects, they cannot ask students to advocate particular ideas to the general public or to individuals outside the classroom context. In short, professors cannot enlist a student as their own private lobbyist or community activist.

The school also cannot force you to take a particular public position on an issue. For example, university administrators and faculty directed a student to participate in lobbying the Missouri State Legislature in support of homosexual adoption as part of her course requirements for a degree in social work. When she refused because of her beliefs, the university threatened to withhold her degree. ADF filed a lawsuit on her behalf, which was quickly settled by the institution. No government entity has the right to tell students what to think, say, or feel.

Similarly, public universities that force students to attend mandatory diversity training or “sensitivity training” sessions are likely violating the Constitution. The First Amendment bars a public university from forcing students to change their religious beliefs or from insisting that all students adopt a specific campus orthodoxy, such as “multiculturalism” or “diversity.”

The freedom to act on one’s religious beliefs, however, is not unlimited. The Free Exercise Clause, one of the two Religion Clauses, permits public universities—and other government bodies—to enact rules and regulations that incidentally interfere with religious practice, as long as such measures are both “neutral” towards religion and “generally applicable” to members of the university community. So, the university cannot directly restrict religion or target it by enacting measures that specifically mention religious practices, that are motivated by antireligious bias, or that affect religious practice alone.

But even “neutral” and “generally applicable” university rules will almost always be unconstitutional if they affect religious liberty and other First Amendment rights, such as the freedoms of speech and association.

Equal Access 

All recognized student groups have the same right to access resources a university has made available. This includes funding, meeting rooms, mail systems, or other campus resources.

Many administrators mistakenly believe that permitting expressions of faith means that the college or university is violating the so-called “separation of church and state.” But the Supreme Court has held for many years that the Constitution requires neutrality toward religion; it does not require hostility. Your group cannot be singled out for disparate treatment because it is religious or conservative.

Equal Opportunity 

As a student, you have the right to be free from censorship, reprisal, or punishment for your beliefs. Students with religious or conservative beliefs should have the same chance at academic success, employment, and promotion.

The extent of protection provided to persons depends in large part on whether that person is a private citizen or a public employee. Private citizens—students on public university campuses—have the greatest breadth of protection because the government has virtually no legitimate interest in repressing their expression. In the university setting, students may study, inquire, research, form organizations, and publicly express opinions on virtually any topic of human interest without fear of retaliation from the academic institution. From a legal perspective, a student at a public university enjoys the full breadth of liberty provided by the Constitution.

Rights of Professors

There are nuances in the law, but generally speaking a public university may not punish a professor for the views he expresses in a publication, nor may it punish his views in the classroom on topics germane to the curriculum.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this document is general in nature and is not intended to provide, or be a substitute for, legal analysis, legal advice, or consultation with appropriate legal counsel. You should not act or rely on information contained in this document without seeking appropriate professional advice. Contact Alliance Defending Freedom with any questions by visiting or by calling 1-800-835-5233.

Joe Carter is an editor for The Gospel Coalition 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 October 01, 2015 12:00 AM

Help Me Teach the Bible: Mike Bullmore on 2 Chronicles

In this episode of Help Me Teach the Bible, I talk with Mike Bullmore about what may be one of the least-studied books in the Bible. The book of 2 Chronicles is rich in story and encouragement to trust God to be faithful to his promises. Bullmore is senior pastor of CrossWay Community Church in Bristol, Wisconsin, and author of The Gospel and Scripture: How to Read the Bible (Crossway, 2011).

Topics include:

  • Why study 2 Chronicles?
  • How do we prepare people to understand the two histories of 2 Chronicles?
  • What is the purpose of 2 Chronicles?
  • What is the difference between 1–2 Kings and 1–2 Chronicles?
  • What is the divine promise 1–2 Chronicles is arguing God will be faithful to?
  • What is the angst of the situation in Judah?
  • How does the chronicler’s record of Solomon reveal his purpose in writing?
  • How does the theme of temple run throughout this book, and, in fact, through the whole Bible?
  • How is Christ anticipated in 2 Chronicles?
  • How should teachers bring content from the prophets into teaching 2 Chronicles?
  • What kind of moral instruction is in 2 Chronicles?
  • How do we teach 2 Chronicles 7:14 rightly?

Here are some additional audio resources you may find helpful in preparing to teach 2 Chronicles:

For further study, here are some books you may find helpful, including titles from Crossway, the sponsor of Help Me Teach the Bible:

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 October 01, 2015 12:00 AM

3 Ways to Incorporate Group Prayer into Your Bible Study

When I talk to Bible study leaders, one concern arises time and again: How do we balance in-depth Bible study with prayer time? What are some practical ways we can encourage serious Bible study while simultaneously building community through prayer with each other? Acts 2:42 describes the early church’s commitment to Scripture, prayer, and fellowship. How can our groups model this approach without spending all our time on one or the other? 

Over the years I’ve participated in a variety of groups, some small and some large. Obviously, the size of the group affects the leader’s ability to foster intimacy among its members (most of the advice that follows works fairly well for small groups between 5 and 30 members).

Here are three practices I’ve found to be quite helpful.

1. Keep Prayer Lists

One easy way to keep up with each other is to pass around a prayer list at the beginning of each Bible study. Writing out prayer requests affords women the opportunity to share without pressuring them to share. It also limits the length of time spent on prayer requests since people tend to be more concise in writing (e.g., they leave out the story behind the story).

At the end of the lesson, we ask one person to type up the requests and e-mail them to the other group members. We encourage each woman on the list to pray for the woman just before and after her name, taking time to check in mid-week on any specific updates. This simple system cultivates prayerful fellowship and care among all members of the group, not just dependency on one leader to do all the “checking in.” It also focuses the majority of our weekly time together on studying the Scriptures in-depth.

2. Incorporate Prayer Sessions

We also dedicate certain Bible study sessions entirely to prayer. Every five or six weeks, we suspend our normal study and devote the whole time to fellowshiping in prayer. As our group has grown we’ve divided into smaller groups of five or six to enable adequate time for sharing requests and praying together.

And we always open our prayer time with an encouragement to “Three B’s” of sharing: Be brief, be biblical, and be beneficial.

Be Brief

Proverbs 10:19 wisely tells us: “When words are many, sin is not absent.” But sometimes it’s not the just the content of our words, but the time we take to share, that can be a problem. Since we want each woman to have equal opportunity to share, we encourage brevity.  

Be Biblical

The psalmist prayed, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer” (Ps. 19:14). We ask the women to share freely but to avoid gossip or negative talk about others. You can share your needs without delving into others’ sins. We also ask the women to consider and to share during our prayer time how our study of Scripture has challenged them in new ways. It is such a joy to lean on the language of the passages we’re studying week after week in order to offer Word-filled prayer. Praying the Scriptures is one way God kneads its beauty and truthfulness into our hearts.

Be Beneficial

Before each prayer study we ask the women to consider one question: Is what I’m about to share profitable for others to hear? Does it resonate with the truth of Ephesians 4:29?

Our hope in providing the Three B’s isn’t to stifle or micromanage our prayer time but to keep it from becoming a runaway train that could go a thousand different directions. The guidelines enable our time to be a blessing for us all. We enjoy sweet fellowship. We laugh, we cry, and we pray. 

3. Deploy Prayer Leaders

When a Bible study grows, it’s difficult for one teacher to attend to the diverse needs of everyone in the group. Each woman in your midst is struggling in various ways. Some are vocal, while others wait to be asked. The responsibility of teaching alongside spiritual care is difficult for most leaders to balance as groups increase in size.

To help shoulder the burden of care, then, we’ve sought spiritually mature women to serve as prayer leaders. We divided the Bible study into groups of five women for each prayer leader. This leader checks in regularly with the women in her smaller group, follows up on prayer requests, and gets in touch with anyone we haven’t seen for a while. On those days every few weeks when we have a prayer meeting instead of a Bible study, we divide into these set groups to foster intimacy in the midst of the larger group.

Modeling Acts 2:42

Using a simple means of gathering requests, incorporating group prayer, and deploying leaders to shepherd women has helped foster Bible studies that integrate prayerful fellowship with substantive teaching of the Word.

By God’s grace, we hope to model the fellowship displayed in Acts 2:42: “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”

Editors’ note: Here’s a related article from Melissa Kruger on additional ways of praying together in our Bible studies.

This article continues a series addressing your specific questions related to ministry among women through the local church. We have a team of women eager to respond to a select number of questions. Please send all questions on the subject of women’s ministry to our coordinator for women’s initiatives, Mallie Taylor (mallie.taylor [@]

Then make sure to pick up a copy of Word-Filled Women’s Ministry: Loving and Serving the Church (Crossway) [review]. This new book casts a vision for ministry among women that’s grounded in God’s Word, grows in the context of God’s people, and aims for the glory of God’s Son. You can also now register for our 2016 National Women’s Conference, June 16 to 18, in Indianapolis.

Previously in this series:

Melissa Kruger serves as women’s ministry coordinator at Uptown Church (PCA) in Charlotte, North Carolina, and is the author of The Envy of Eve: Finding Contentment in a Covetous World (Christian Focus, 2012) and Walking with God in the Season of Motherhood (Waterbrook/Multnomah, 2015). Her husband, Mike, is the president of Reformed Theological Seminary, and they have three children. She writes at You can follow her on Twitter.

by Melissa Kruger at October 01, 2015 12:00 AM

September 30, 2015

Apple drops hammer on iFixit after Apple TV teardown →

Several days ago, iFixit posted a teardown of the next-gen Apple TV. This product goes for sale later this year; the only access to the hardware was via the Apple TV Developer Kit program, via which Apple shipped Apple TVs to developers who entered a lottery.

Turns out, Apple isn't the hugest fan of this move, as Kyle Wiens is the co-founder and CEO of iFixit explains:

Not too long ago, we tore down the Apple TV and Siri Remote. The developer unit we disassembled was sent to us by Apple. Evidently, they didn’t intend for us to take it apart. But we’re a teardown and repair company; teardowns are in our DNA—and nothing makes us happier than figuring out what makes these gadgets tick. We weighed the risks, blithely tossed those risks over our shoulder, and tore down the Apple TV anyway.

A few days later, we got an email from Apple informing us that we violated their terms and conditions—and the offending developer account had been banned. Unfortunately, iFixit’s app was tied to that same account, so Apple pulled the app as well. Their justification was that we had taken “actions that may hinder the performance or intended use of the App Store, B2B Program, or the Program.”

As MacRumors points out, many developers shared photos and information about the device (including a source we had for a recent episode of Connected).

I think Apple's move here is probably a touch harsh, but what did iFixit think was going to happen? While I'm sure Apple is unhappy about any leaks, taking a device apart weeks before it goes on sale is more than just some Instagrams of the crazy new remote.


by Stephen Hackett at September 30, 2015 09:23 PM

CrossFit Naptown

Competitive Call Out

Thursday’s Workout:

Dynamic Bench Press

10 Rounds
3 Pull Ups
2 Toes-2-Bar
1 Bar Muscle Up

10 Rounds
3 Pull Ups
3 Toes-2-Bar

10 Rounds
3 Pull Ups
10 Hollow Rocks


 Survey is still LIVE!! Click Here to tell us what you think!


2016 CF Games Season Call Out Meeting


When: Tuesday October 6th at 7:40pm

What: 1 hour meeting to learn more about the dedication it takes to be an elite level CF competitor

Who: Open invite to all in the gym

Why: To make CF NapTown a house hold name on the Regional/ Games Scene and to give athletes in our gym the opportunity to reach their potential if they have a desire to make CrossFit their sport of choice

Not sure what competitive CrossFit means? Then please read on!

2014 was a landmark year for CrossFit NapTown at the competitive level. After 2 years of coming close, the CrossFit NapTown team qualified for the CrossFit Games in Carson, California. 2015 was a great experience with a new group of athletes taking the floor for the CFNT team and an individual on the floor representing CFNT for the first time. The competitive side of CrossFit is not a part of our mission statement here at CFNT, but for many it is an important opportunity. Heading into the 2016 season, it is our goal to see how far our athletes can go. To give those who think they have what it takes a shot to be on the Regional Floor and hopefully the Games floor too. If you are interested, want to learn more, or think you may have what it takes to be a Regional Athlete this is your chance.

It is important to be realistic with yourself when considering ability. There is a reason that CrossFit claims to produce the fittest athletes in the world. They are very good at a lot of physical feats. To be one of the fittest teams in the world, we will need to have very fit athletes. Running, rowing, pull ups, muscle ups, handstand push ups and walks, squats, deadlifts, presses, clean and jerks, snatches, yoke carries, sled pushes, L-sits, etc. To be truly fit, it is important to have no weakness when it comes to your training. Even the best athletes in the world have weaknesses but to be a stud in the CrossFit world your weaknesses have to be minimal. To steal from a golf saying my dad told me a hundred thousand times, “it’s not how good your good shots are, it’s how good your bad shots are that counts.” If you know you do not have the potential to be a well-rounded athlete, then this meeting is not for you.

To help you decide whether you have the ability needed, we have compiled a list of standards considered appropriate for aspiring athletes. If you fall short on the majority of these, then this may not be for you.

For those who believe they have the mental fortitude and time to commit to this style of CrossFitting we suggest that you use this as a guide to determine if you have a shot to make it on the competitive side of CrossFit. We also realize that huge gains can be made by those who put in the time and effort, but keep this in mind: those competitive athletes from last year have already begun training for next year so there is a lot of ground to make up. It is not impossible, only difficult.

This does not mean that you have to have each and every standard fulfilled already. However, you should have at least a couple from each category and be very close in a most if not all others. As far as max lifts are concerned we suggest that your total be within 100 pounds of the total weight of the lifts. These standards are not meant to scare people nor are they meant to make you feel bad about yourself. CrossFit is a high intensity workout routine, but every member of this gym has a different level of intensity that they are capable of achieving. If you find that a lot of the movements and standards on this list are achievable, then we welcome you to come to the call out meeting. If you are far off but would like to get competitive in the future, use it as a goal sheet for what you hope to be capable of one day.

Those interested, committed, and well equipped to achieve the standards are invited to come to the call out meeting Tuesday October 5th at 7:40pm to discuss our plans going forward. If you have any questions regarding your belonging at this meeting or anything else related to this post please contact

Following the call out meeting we will have a schedule in place for individual and team training sessions to make this Goal a Reality

by Anna at September 30, 2015 07:16 PM

Panic opens a Pippin

Remember the Pippin, Apple's ill-fated gaming console from the mid 1990s? It looks like the crew over at Panic Software have gotten their hands on one:

Don't miss the "Usage Guidelines for the Pippin Logo and CD-ROM Packaging" document Cabel Sasser posted, either.

by Stephen Hackett at September 30, 2015 05:37 PM

Inquisitive #54: Favourite Album: Stephen Hackett and 'Plans' →

I joined Myke on this week's Inquisitive to discuss my favorite album, Plans by Death Cab for Cutie.


by Stephen Hackett at September 30, 2015 03:28 PM

Connected #59: Built for Experimentation →

This week on Relay FM's most global of podcasts, we spoke about OS X El Capitan, the iPhone 6S Plus and how some of us are kinda meh on watchOS 2 so far.


by Stephen Hackett at September 30, 2015 03:24 PM

Zippy Catholic

Tattoo removal

Now that white people are no longer high status, but have become the new Low Man, some modern Jews are starting to realize that they don’t want to be white anymore.  (HT Free Northerner).

I expect the number of white people who claim to be not white, and anyway if they are white they are really sorry about it and will make up for it with constant apologies and offerings to the diversity gods, to continue to grow for the foreseeable future.

by Zippy at September 30, 2015 03:15 PM

Stratechery by Ben Thompson

The Facebook Epoch

I’m fond of saying that few companies are as underrated as Facebook is, especially in Silicon Valley. Admittedly, it seems strange to say such a thing about a $245 billion company with a trailing 12-month P/E ratio of 88, but that is Wall Street sentiment; in the tech bubble many seem to simply assume the company is ever on the brink of teetering “just like MySpace”, never mind the fact that the social network pioneer barely broke 100 million registered users, less than 10% of the number of active users Facebook attracted in a single day late last month. Or, as more sober minds may argue, sure, Facebook looks unstoppable today, but then again, Google looked unstoppable ten years ago when social seemingly came out of nowhere: surely the Facebook killer is imminent!

Actually, I don’t think so: I believe the Age of Facebook has only just begun, and to truly understand why, you have to start with Microsoft back in the 80s.

The PC and Internet Epochs

I wrote last year in The State of Consumer Technology at the End of 2014 that there have been three epochs in consumer technology: the PC, the Internet, and Mobile. It’s important to note, though, that the PC and Internet epochs are interrelated. Specifically, the latter was built on top of the former.

In the case of the PC, Microsoft’s dominance was captured by their iconic mission statement: A computer on every desk and in every home, running Microsoft software. And they succeeded! Moreover, those computers didn’t just run Microsoft software, they also supported an entire ecosystem of 3rd party software developers, systems integrators, OEMs, and more. Windows was a true platform: the company made billions, but, as their executives bragged repeatedly, that number was only a fraction (usually about a quarter) of the money generated by the ecosystem as a whole.

The consumer Internet was a part of this ecosystem: through the 90s and into the 00s all of those desks and houses added first dial-up and then, more importantly, broadband connections to the Internet, setting the stage for Google, the winner of the second epoch. The Internet was infinitely vast, but Google search, by virtue of relying on links — the very structure of the web itself — not only scaled with the web but actually became stronger and more effective the larger the web became.

Still, Google’s dominance was gated by the platform it operated on top of. This limitation had two forms: the first was the total number of PCs, the active number of which is measured in the hundreds of millions, and the second was the way in which users interacted with their PCs: with intent. People use PCs because they have a reason to use them, and Google’s traditional focus on search advertising is a particularly good fit in that regard: search ads are so valuable to advertisers precisely because the user’s intent is known.

It may seem odd to view either of these as limitations, particularly a decade ago when, per my observation above, many assumed the company would rule the Internet forever. But, over the last several years, two things have happened to make Google’s natural habitat of the web seem like relatively small potatoes.

Android and the Mobile Epoch

The third epoch, as I noted, is mobile. But rather than being measured in the hundreds of millions, mobile users are measured in the billions. And, to Google’s credit, they saw mobile’s importance far earlier than their Internet peers: the company bought Android in 2005, and even more impressively, pivoted the entire project away from the Blackberry imitator it was originally designed to be into an iPhone alternative. And, in what was a masterstroke at the time, the company made it free, helping to assure its adoption by OEMs desperate to compete with Apple and, over time, jump starting an ecosystem that in user numbers dwarfs even Microsoft’s.

I have said and continue to think that making Android free was one of the smartest strategic moves any tech company has ever made. As Bill Gurley noted in a prescient 2011 post:1

AdWords is an highly respectable castle, and Google would clearly want to put a “unbreachable moat” around it. Warren himself is on record suggesting that Google’s moat is pretty good already. But where could you extend the moat? What are the potential threats to Google’s castle? Basically, any product that stands between the user and Google and has the potential to distract the choice of search destination is a threat…

Android, as well as Chrome and Chrome OS for that matter, are not “products” in the classic business sense. They have no plan to become their own “economic castles.” Rather they are very expensive and very aggressive “moats,” funded by the height and magnitude of Google’s castle. Google’s aim is defensive not offensive. They are not trying to make a profit on Android or Chrome. They want to take any layer that lives between themselves and the consumer and make it free (or even less than free). Because these layers are basically software products with no variable costs, this is a very viable defensive strategy. In essence, they are not just building a moat; Google is also scorching the earth for 250 miles around the outside of the castle to ensure no one can approach it. And best I can tell, they are doing a damn good job of it.

It’s only now that the downside of this approach is coming into focus for Google: its scorched earth Android strategy prevented anyone from making Microsoft-type money from Android the platform — and “anyone” includes Google. Even that would be ok, though, were Google to replicate its PC-era positioning as the front-door to the Internet, but that is how we get to Facebook.

The Mobile Market

Before he moved his blogging to Twitter, Marc Andreessen wrote a post on Product/Market Fit. Of those three words, though, the one that matters more than anything is market. Andreessen wrote:

If you ask entrepreneurs or VCs which of team, product, or market is most important, many will say team…On the other hand, if you ask engineers, many will say product. This is a product business, startups invent products, customers buy and use the products…Personally, I’ll take the third position — I’ll assert that market is the most important factor in a startup’s success or failure.


In a great market — a market with lots of real potential customers — the market pulls product out of the startup. The market needs to be fulfilled and the market will be fulfilled, by the first viable product that comes along. The product doesn’t need to be great; it just has to basically work. And, the market doesn’t care how good the team is, as long as the team can produce that viable product. In short, customers are knocking down your door to get the product; the main goal is to actually answer the phone and respond to all the emails from people who want to buy. And when you have a great market, the team is remarkably easy to upgrade on the fly.

Mobile is a great market. It is the greatest market the tech industry, or any industry for that matter, has ever seen, and the reason why is best seen by contrasting mobile with the PC: first, while PCs were on every desk and in every home, mobile is in every pocket of a huge percentage of the world’s population. The sheer numbers triple or quadruple the size, and the separation is increasing. Secondly, though, while using a PC required intent, the use of mobile devices occupies all of the available time around intent. It is only when we’re doing something specific that we aren’t using our phones, and the empty spaces of our lives are far greater than anyone imagined.

Into this void — this massive market, both in terms of numbers and available time — came the perfect product: a means of following, communicating, and interacting with our friends and family. And, while we use a PC with intent, what we humans most want to do with our free time is connect with other humans: as Aristotle long ago observed, “Man is by nature a social animal.” It turned out Facebook was most people’s natural habitat, and by most people I mean those billions using mobile.

Facebook’s Aligned Advertising

Keep in mind the second part of Google’s dominance: it wasn’t simply that they were the front-door to the Internet, but also that their business model, search ads specifically, was perfectly aligned with how PCs were used — with intent. That allowed Google to gradually come to dominate direct response advertising, which is all about generating immediate sales or leads. Direct response advertising, though, is only between 10 to 15 percent of all advertising; as I noted in Peak Google, far more money is spent on brand advertising:

The idea behind brand advertising is to build “affinity” among potential customers. For example, a company like Unilever will spend a lot of money to promote Axe or Dove, but the intent is not to make you order deodorant via e-commerce. Rather, when you’re rushing through the supermarket and just need to grab something, the idea is that you’ll gravitate to the brand you have developed an affinity for. And once a customer has picked a brand, they’re loyal for years. That adds up to a lot of lifetime value, which is why consumer-packaged goods companies, telecom companies, car companies, etc. are among the biggest brand advertisers.

Brand advertising is a bit of a mysterious thing — the biggest sign that it works is that when companies don’t invest in it sales suffer — but at its core it is about engaging potential customers in the empty spaces when they aren’t too focused on any one thing, and thus more receptive to formation of subconscious affinities. There have traditionally been few better places to do brand advertising than TV: it offers a captive audience at scale that is in a laid back state of mind, not an active one. Advertising on TV, though, is in serious trouble: first came DVRs, and then subscription services, and, perhaps more importantly, that device in your pocket ever tempting you to do what is most natural: connect to others.

To be clear, all of the brand advertising money on TV will go somewhere; the U.S. has had about the same amount of advertising — between 1.1% and 1.4% of GDP — for as long as we’ve been measuring. And, what better place for that advertising to go than to an app that, more than any other, fills the empty spaces in people’s days?

To be sure, people don’t only use Facebook: Instagram is hugely popular, as is messaging. And, unsurprisingly Facebook has acquired the former and the biggest player in the latter (WhatsApp); I say “unsurprisingly” because here Facebook is following Google’s playbook as well: the former nailed search, but “borrowed” the concept for AdWords from Overture, acquired Applied Semantics to create AdSense, acquired YouTube, and, as noted above, Android. The company has a brilliant acquisition record (Motorola notwithstanding), and, in my estimation, created a model that ought to be followed: get your core right and acquire what you need to augment it. Facebook is doing the exact same thing.

Why Facebook is Underrated

This, then, is why I think Facebook is underrated: a company’s potential is first and foremost measured by its market, and Facebook’s potential market is, when you consider both sheer numbers and time spent, an order of magnitude greater than the PC-based Internet market ever was. Then, on top of that, you increasingly have brand advertising dollars — also an order of magnitude more than direct response dollars — looking for somewhere to go other than TV, and it just so happens that Facebook is the perfect brand advertising platform.2 The company has the right set of products in the right market at the right time.

Notice that I have barely touched on the product or team at all, because, as Andreessen noted, market matters most. But Facebook is in very good shape on those two points as well; while I get that many in tech don’t use Facebook much — how many of us spent our younger years trying to get away from friends and family? — it is dominant for the vast majority of the population, and not just in the U.S.: here in Asia the app is used for not only friends and family but also professional connections, business pages, and even e-commerce (I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Asia also happens to be mobile first to a far greater degree than the U.S. as well). More impressively, no matter Facebook’s alleged struggles with youth, the reality is the company is part of the fabric of the Internet: you may not like email, but you have an email address, and you could say a similar thing about Facebook. If anything the fact some don’t like the product yet use it anyway is a testament to just how strong it is. And for everyone else there is Instagram and Messenger (or, in the developing world, WhatsApp).

To be sure, Facebook won’t completely own the market: I’m bullish on Snapchat, for one, and Google is probably best placed to harvest whatever advertising money is left to be made on the web. But at least to this point Facebook has given no indication that they won’t own a big chunk of this massive market opportunity: their team’s disciplined execution, led by Mark Zuckerberg, is among the most impressive I’ve ever seen.

Facebook and the Platform Siren Call

There is one more curious acquisition Facebook has made, and that is Oculus Rift. Zuckerberg said at the time:

Our mission is to make the world more open and connected. For the past few years, this has mostly meant building mobile apps that help you share with the people you care about. We have a lot more to do on mobile, but at this point we feel we’re in a position where we can start focusing on what platforms will come next to enable even more useful, entertaining and personal experiences.

I’ve long argued that the shift to mobile gave Facebook no choice but to abandon its platform pretensions, and that it was the best possible thing that could have happened to the company. To be an ad company is inherently incompatible with being a platform company: the latter requires letting others share the spotlight — the same spotlight you want to sell to advertisers. Indeed, Google on the Internet has never been a platform either.

Platforms, though, are tech’s most potent siren call. All companies — and perhaps more accurately, all founders — wish to build a dominant one, but their construction is the most difficult endeavor in the industry. Windows remains the ideal: Microsoft made billions, and crucially, so did everyone else. Apple is making even more than Microsoft ever did — see the bit about the size of the mobile market above — but perhaps not doing as good a job as they could sharing the proceeds with their ecosystem. Google, meanwhile, has their platform, but barely anything to show for it from a profit perspective, at least directly. And now, perhaps, Facebook has the seeds of their own platform: the company has learned so much from Google, to their immense benefit; it will be fascinating to see what lessons they end up applying to Oculus.

Not that it matters for now, anyways: the truth is my list of epochs was incomplete: first came the PC, and on top of the PC was the Internet. Now we are on the mobile era, and on top of mobile is, well, Facebook. They are their own epoch, a reality that cannot be underrated.

  1. I made similar points in The Android Detour
  2. It should be noted that to date Facebook has made most of its money from direct response advertising, especially app install ads; however, I expect the percentage of revenue from these ads to continue its steady decline as a percentage of Facebook’s revenue

The post The Facebook Epoch appeared first on Stratechery by Ben Thompson.

by Ben Thompson at September 30, 2015 02:36 PM

Workout: Oct. 1, 2015

4 rounds, 1 minute at each station: 1. Strict ring rows/pull-ups/muscle-ups 2. Strict presses 3. Dumbbell or kettlebell step-ups 4. Handstand push-ups/push-ups Rest 1 minute Core work – 3 rounds of: 20 weighted sit-ups 20 Russian twists

by Mike at September 30, 2015 02:23 PM

Crossway Blog

Why I Wrote a New Book about Pastoral Ministry

This post is adapted from the preface to The Pastor's Book: A Comprehensive and Practical Guide to Pastoral Ministry by R. Kent Hughes, with Douglas Sean O’Donnell serving as a contributing editor.

Why I Wrote The Pastor’s Book

When Dr. Lane Dennis, president of Crossway Books, asked me to consider authoring what is now The Pastor's Book: A Comprehensive and Practical Guide to Pastoral Ministry, I was intrigued, but unsure of what course to follow. So in the following weeks, I began to reflect over my forty-plus years of pastoral ministry and upon those responsibilities that filled my week, as well as my duties on the Lord’s Day. When Doug O’Donnell agreed to serve as contributing editor, my thinking was enlarged.

Having been busy pastors during our tenures, we hope to encourage and enhance the gospel ministries of our fellow busy pastors with the rich theology and resources that have sustained our own ministries. Thus, we have worked together to create a go-to resource that stands on the shoulders of those who have gone before, is theologically informed, and is crammed full of examples and ideas from which a pastor can selectively cull with an eye to elevating not only the weekly ministry of the Word in both contemporary and traditional settings, but the day-to-day pastoral ministry of the gospel.

We have limited the material we cover for various reasons. We wanted to center on pastoral tasks we have thought a lot about and that we feel are often neglected or overlooked, especially by the younger generation of pastors. We also thought that addressing many important topics, such as calling to ministry, personal character, family life, preaching, leading a pastoral staff, working with elders, church discipline, and church planting, would make this large go-to book too bulky to go to. Moreover, we know that excellent books and articles already have been written on each of these topics. We offer recommendations for some of these books in the section titled “Books for Further Reading.”

An Example

A brief look at the chapter on Communion will give an idea of how the book’s chapters work, as it includes a history of the Lord’s Table, a biblical theology of the Table, resources for the Table (numerous invitations, prayers, and confessions for Communion; prayers for the bread and the cup; and benedictions), the outlines of four key Reformation liturgies, the complete texts of three Communion liturgies for today, select hymns and songs for Communion, a liturgy for Christmas Communion, and advice on questions about the frequency of and participation in the Lord’s Table.

The information is arranged so that a pastor may select elements that will elevate the observance of the Lord’s Supper in the unique context of the church he serves. Hopefully, this and the other chapters will often serve as an inspiring one-stop resource for many busy pastors.

A Resource for the Whole Week

The Pastor’s Book is grounded on the conviction that all Christian ministry must be gospel-centered. We believe, therefore, that the pulpit must be devoted to the regular proclamation of the full canonical gospel—“that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:3–4). We believe that such preaching is at the heart of authentic ministry.

But to imagine that Christian ministry is accomplished solely by the faithful exposition of the Word is to diminish the expansive scope of the gospel and the pastoral calling, because the day-in-and-day-out ministry of the pastor is meant to be wholly gospel-infused. Take, for example, the responsibility for weddings—a duty that is often regarded by pastors as a waste of time, an ecclesial diversion from “the main thing.” Time-consuming, yes! But a wedding is not a waste if the gospel is made so integral to premarital counseling that the bride and groom go on to portray, over the decades, the union of Christ and the church to a lost world. Likewise, time has not been siphoned from “the main thing” when the gospel is winsomely preached from a Christ-saturated wedding text to a “captive” gathering of souls that may include more non-Christians than will darken the door of the church in a month of Sundays.

Indeed, properly understood, the day-to-day responsibilities of the pastor covered in the chapters on weddings, funerals, pastoral counseling, and hospital visitation all have to do with gospel events. All these chapters feature numerous templates and options.

This book argues and assumes that Sunday services will be gospel-centered through regular preaching that lifts up Christ through the exposition of the Word, and thus provides diverse orders of service that serve to exalt Christ. The book includes extended chapters on Sunday prayers; historic creeds; hymns and songs; baptism; and Communion, plus an “Enrichment” section on classic Christian poems—all crafted to enhance the exaltation of Christ in the Lord’s Day services.

Again, each of these chapters contains multiple examples and options. The chapter on annual services necessarily follows the outline of the gospel—Christmas, Messiah’s birth; Good Friday, Messiah’s death; Easter, Messiah’s resurrection—providing orders of service and appropriate Scripture quotations, songs, and poems for each season of the gospel.

It is our hope that The Pastor’s Book will encourage a thoroughly gospel-centered ministry; refresh the church from the wells of historic orthodoxy; provide many of the best practical examples; and become a go-to resource for busy pastors.

R. Kent Hughes (DMin, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) is senior pastor emeritus of College Church in Wheaton, Illinois and a visiting professor of practical theology at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Hughes is also a founder of the Charles Simeon Trust, which conducts expository preaching conferences throughout North America and worldwide. He is the author of numerous books, including Disciplines of a Godly Man and The Pastor’s Book. He and his wife, Barbara, have four children and an ever-increasing number of grandchildren.

by Crossway at September 30, 2015 02:23 PM

The Art of Non-Conformity

Q&A on the British Airways 100,000 Point Bonus Offer

Link: 100,000 Point British Airways Bonus Offer

Since I first published the news about the updated signup offer for the British Airways Signature Card, I’ve received a bunch of questions from readers.

The first thing to note is that this is a really good offer for a lot of people, but it will definitely help if you know a bit about how to best use British Airways points, also known as Avios.


A couple years ago this offer came around and lots of people took advantage of it. Many of them were able to use the points for some amazing trips, but others were frustrated with the fuel surcharges that British Airways charges for all its flights, even award tickets.

If you know what to do, fuel surcharges aren’t really a problem. You can either avoid them entirely or just make your peace with them as a small price to pay for an otherwise incredible value.

Here are a few questions and attempted answers about the offer.


What airlines can I use Avios points for?

You can use your Avios points for flights on any carrier in OneWorld. This includes British Airways, of course, but it also includes Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines, Qatar Airways, Qantas, and many others.

Notably, it also includes American Airlines (AA) and Iberia. Why does that matter? Keep reading…

How can I avoid fuel surcharges?

If you want to use your Avios to travel transatlantic, you can book flights on AA (instead of BA) and pay no fuel surcharges, or you can book on Iberia and pay a small fuel surcharge (typically less than $100). This is in comparison to BA flights, where fuel surcharges can be quite expensive ($300-400).


Is this the single best credit card to get to earn miles?

Nope. As good as this offer is, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is still a better overall card. This card earns points in Chase’s Ultimate Rewards program, which transfers on a 1:1 basis to Avios and also many other travel partners. Maybe you don’t want to deal with Avios at all. With Ultimate Rewards points, you don’t have to. You can book free hotel nights through Hyatt or Marriott. Or you can just keep your points in the Ultimate Rewards program, free from worry about any devaluation since there are so many partners.

You’ll also earn double points on all travel and dining spend, in addition to other benefits. In other words, if you can only get one card, start with Chase Sapphire Preferred. If you already have that one, this is great for the additional bonus.

Is it ever okay to pay fuel surcharges?

Sure. When flying transatlantic and looking for space in premium cabins (First or Business Class), you’ll often find much better award availability on British Airways flights than on AA. Is it worth it to pay $300-400, in addition to your points, to fly up front? For lots of people, it is.

Keep in mind that tickets in premium cabins usually start at around $3,000 each, and can go up to $10,000 or more. Of course, that’s crazy—most of us would never pay that. But traveling with points gives you access to experiences that would otherwise be way too expensive. So if you can travel for nearly free with points, it may very well be worth it to accept the fuel surcharge in exchange for the great experience.


What if I can’t meet the minimum spend for the 100,000 bonus?

Last time this offer came around, earning the 100,000 points was pretty easy. This time, they’ve tightened up: you’ll earn the first 50,000 points after completing a $2,000 minimum spend, but you’ll only get the additional points (25,000 + 25,000, for a total of 100,000 points) after spending $10,000 and then $20,000 within a year.

There are some creative things you can do to meet higher spend requirements, and we cover them in more detail in the Travel Hacking Cartel. However, if you’re not able to meet those hefty spends or just don’t want to mess with it, I still think it’s a worthwhile offer. 50,000 points is a lot and can be used for multiple free flights.


I hope this is helpful to everyone who’s considering the offer. Oh, one more thing: the 100,000 points offer is only available for a limited time, and they haven’t said how long it will be. If it seems like a good fit for you, don’t wait to apply.

Link: 100,000 Point British Airways Bonus Offer


Images: 1, 2, 3

by Chris Guillebeau at September 30, 2015 01:33 PM


Is God Bound By the Chains of His Own Justice? (Crisp on Retribution)

retrieving doctrineOliver Crisp has an illuminating article in his work Retrieving Doctrine examining the innovative, Scottish theologian John McLeod Campbell’s atonement theology, quite accurately titled “John McLeod Campbell and Non-penal Substitution” (92-115). It’s illuminating, not only as it shines light on Campbell’s own theology–as helpful as that is–but as Crisp examines a number of broader issues related to retributive justice, freedom, and atonement theology.

In it, he takes up thinking about the relation of forgiveness and retributive justice. Crisp–as he is prone to do–is trying to see whether there is a way of advocating for a non-penal understanding of atonement all the while retaining a traditional, Reformed doctrine of God that understands God’s justice as containing a significant retributive elemement. (Note well: Crisp is not arguing for the position normatively. He doesn’t hold it. As I see it, he’s just trying to explore the concept to see if there’s a way of making it work.)

In any case, assuming retribution for the sake of the argument, in the sub-section I’m concerned with, Crisp makes two arguments I think worth highlighting.

A Better World?

First, he notes that we might think of two versions of retributive justice: a weak and a strong version. The strong version “does not permit forgiveness (without satisfaction)”, while the weak version “does not require forgiveness (without satisfaction)”(97). On one view, God’s justice demands reparation or satisfaction, either by the sinner or a substitute, while the other does not. (Also, “strong” and “weak” are not normative judgments, but indications of the strength of the form).

At this point, he stops to ask why most theologians who hold to retribution have defended the stronger view. Many would ask the same. Why not admit that God’s justice has a retributive element, but think that doesn’t necessarily entail reparations? Here Crisp comes to the first argument I was concerned with and points out that this position has some problematic consequences.

Crisp’s concerns are roughly this: if the weak view holds, then it seems like God could forgive any sin and any sinner without any reparations, by the sheer grace of a fiat. Well, if that’s the case, then why not just do that for all sins and sinners? On this view, God could be just as just to forgive, redeem, and save all, with none suffering judgment, or pain for sinners, or the pain of the cross for Christ. Now, if that’s the case, then it seems plausible to think that such a world in which that were true, would be an objectively better world, with less evil, pain, and suffering than the current world. But that is an “intolerable” conclusion (98), so he returns to the strong view of divine justice.

On this view of justice, “crime must be punished and the punishment must fit the crime.”  What’s more, God cannot act unjustly. It is not within him to be inconsistent on this point. God will repay all according to their deeds, as sin (and righteousness) deserve a proper, divine response. And here we come to the second argument.

Is God Bound in the Chains of His Own Justice?

Oftentimes, in these discussions of atonement theology, it is charged that to think God “cannot” forgive without reparation or satisfaction is a threat to God’s freedom. God, it is said, should not be thought of as bound in chains by his own law. If God has to punish sin in order to forgive, then this legalistic theology gives us a God who is not truly free to forgive and so his sovereignty is compromised.

Here Crisp replies that this sort of charge makes two mistakes (99). First, with respect to the nature of divine justice. The “freedom” charge assumes the weak view of divine justice at the outset. But if you already have reasons for setting it aside, then the charge misses the point.

Here I’ll quote him at length:

…it is no restriction on God that he has to act according to his nature (if he has a nature), anymore than it is a restriction upon a monkey that he has to act according to his nature as a monkey, and not according to the nature of some othe kind of creature. It would hardly make sense to say te monkey was not free if he has to act in a simian fashion, rather than in a human fashion. And in a similar way, it is hardly an objection agaisnt the strong version of divine retribution to say that if God has to act according to his nature, that is, in a way that is justice…then he is somehow un-free in so acting. One could object that divine justice is not essentially retributive. But the the objection would not be about divine freedom, but about the nature of divine justice, which is quite another matter. (99)

I think Crisp has it just right here. The “freedom” charge is not ultimately an objection that holds up when you’ve got a solid grasp of what it means to act in accordance with your nature and your character.

Think of Scripture. It is not a deficiency or lack of freedom that Paul is charging God with when he says “God cannot deny himself” (2 Timothy 3:13). God’s inability to lie is the free expression of his essential nature as truthful in all of his ways. God is absolutely free to act in accordance with his fundamental nature as faithful and true. If the strong version of retributive justice is true, then God’s demand of reparation or satisfaction is not a lack of freedom, but an expression of his freedom to be fully himself, just in all his ways.

Of course, if you don’t think God’s justice includes (along with a number of other elements) retribution, which returns me to the earlier argument.

Reinforcing Retribution

While I’m on board with both of Crisp’s arguments outlined above, I do wonder about the first a bit more. In response to Crisp’s argument that the world in which God simply forgives all according to weak justice is a morally better world than that in which he doesn’t, it seems you could try to argue that there are other, outweighing goods present in the one which he doesn’t. To do that, you might try to outline which ones those were (though, I’d have a hard time seeing them), or you might more modestly appeal to epistemological limits and claim that there might be outweighing goods which are beyond our limits to know. Sort of like a skeptical theist argument.

In any case, it seems we might want to push harder here, or add further reinforcing arguments on this point. (And, knowing Dr. Crisp, I wouldn’t be surprised if he has already done that elsewhere.)

In addition to theological arguments, this is why I believe we are safer to add Scripture to the argument above as a firmer warrant and foundation for the claims of the strong view of divine retributive justice. Of course, this requires more argumentation than can be mounted here, since a number of serious critiques have been leveled against the idea that divine justice contains the element of retribution according to Scripture, or, at least, according to Jesus’ revelation of God’s justice in the New Testament.

For now, I’ll simply quote Bavinck on the matter as this selection gives us something of the prima facie warrant for suspecting retribution, and even the strong version, is the biblical view:

…retribution is the principle and standard of punishment throughout Scripture. There is no legislation in antiquity that so rigorously and repeatedly maintains the demand of justice as that of Israel. This comes out especially in the following three things: (1) the guilty person may by no means be considered innocent (Deut. 25:1; Prov. 17:15; 24:24; Isa. 5:23); (2) the righteous may not be condemned (Exod. 23:7; Deut. 25:1; Pss. 31:18; 34:21; 37:12; 94:21; Prov. 17:15; Isa. 5:23); and (3) the rights of the poor, the oppressed, the day laborer, the widow, and the orphan especially may not be perverted but, on the contrary, must be upheld for their protection and support (Exod. 22:21f.; Deut. 23:6; 24:14, 17; Prov. 22:22; Jer. 5:28; 22:3, 16; Ezek. 22:29; Zech. 7:10). In general, justice must be pursued both in and outside the courts (Deut. 16:20). All this is grounded in the fact that God is the God of justice and righteousness, who by no means clears the guilty, yet is merciful, gracious, and slow to anger, and upholds the rights of the poor and the afflicted, the widow and the orphan (Exod. 20:5–6; 34:6–7; Num. 14:18; Ps. 68:5; etc.). He, accordingly, threatens punishment for sin (Gen. 2:17; Deut. 27:15f.; Pss. 5:5; 11:5; 50:21; 94:10; Isa. 10:13–23; Rom. 1:18; 2:3; 6:21, 23; etc.) and determines the measure of the punishment by the nature of the offense. He repays everyone according to his or her deeds (Exod. 20:5–7; Deut. 7:9–10; 32:35; Ps. 62:12; Prov. 24:12; Isa. 35:4; Jer. 51:56; Matt. 16:27; Rom. 2:1–13; Heb. 10:30; Rev. 22:12).

Reformed Dogmatics Volume 3: Sin and Salvation, pp. 162-163

Each of those references could be fruitfully tracked down, but for those with a hermeneutic oriented towards the New Testament, I would note those last few texts, especially the Gospel reference. As Henri Blocher comments: “Retribution belongs to the teaching of Jesus (Matt 16:27) and remains the principle of judgment (Heb 2:2; 10:30; Rev 18:6; 22:12)” (“The Justification of the Ungodly”, Justification and Variegated Nomism Vol. 2, p. 474-475).

Well, as always, there’s far more to say. Still, Crisp has given us some helpful distinctions and arguments for thinking more clearly about the notion of divine, retributive justice and the view of God’s freedom to forgive that it entails.

Soli Deo Gloria

by Derek Rishmawy at September 30, 2015 12:43 PM

Front Porch Republic

Leisure Starts at Home

If leisure is the basis of culture, it must first be the basis of home life. So I argue over at Ethika Politika:
Leisure as the Basis of Home Life

The post Leisure Starts at Home appeared first on Front Porch Republic.

by John Cuddeback at September 30, 2015 12:04 PM

Table Titans

Tales: A Wild Plot Twist Appears


"There are many things I have seen... the god I follow has given me sight..."

"Is it 'sight beyond sight?'"

I sighed. My players laughed over the internet connection. We were in a pretty big roleplaying moment with a major NPC in the campaign, a prophet. Then I remembered that I was also the…

Read more

September 30, 2015 07:01 AM


Visualization Research, Part I: Engineering

Conventions in visualization can seem arbitrary, and quite a few are. But there is also a vast body of research, and it is growing every day. Just how does visualization research work? How do we learn new things about visualization and how it can and should be used?

There are really just two ways: make a new thing and test a thing. Visualization is not a natural science where we can observe planets or classify bugs. Instead, we make things. The engineering side of visualization is exciting, but it can also be confusing.

When we’ve made a thing, we need to test it. Does new my new way of showing data work better than an existing one? Under what circumstances?

There’s a bit more to it than that, but those are the main ideas. I describe the engineering side of visualization research below, and will write a separate piece about studies.


Visualization techniques don’t grow on trees or hide under layers of sediment. Even seemingly obvious ones like bar and line charts had to be thought up and popularized (in this case, by William Playfair in the very late 18th and early 19th centuries).

The original idea is sometimes enough, but more often it requires some tweaking and refinement, or a new perspective, to really work well.

A great example of this is the treemap. While it may seem like it has been around forever, it is less than 25 years old. The original paper by Brian Johnson and Ben Shneiderman was published in 1991. It immediately received attention in the academic visualization world, and there were numerous modifications and ideas that people added.

TreeViz treemap

But it took a rethinking of sorts to break into the mainstream. The treemap was developed to display data that was structured as a hierarchy (or tree, as it is usually called in computer science), like the directories and subdirectories on a hard disk. There are many questions this can let you answer, like which are the largest files on my disk? or is this movie larger or smaller than all my emails?

The classic treemap is created by repeatedly cutting a rectangle into ever smaller pieces, like a stick of butter. The result are many small rectangles that can have very different shapes and aspect ratios: from perfect squares to very thin slices, and anything in between. Comparing the areas of these different rectangles is difficult and imprecise.

The squarified treemap aims to create rectangles that are as square as possible. This is a key development, because square-ish rectangles are easier to compare than others, and they provide a clear goal shape to aim for. This was first described by Martin Wattenberg in 1999, but without a specific algorithm. A group of researchers around Jarke van Wijk published a simple yet efficient way to compute squarified layouts. Anybody could now easily incorporate them into visualization software.

The second crucial idea came when Martin Wattenberg and Ben Shneiderman applied the technique to stock market data: while they imposed a hierarchy on the data, that structure by itself was secondary. What it did, though, was translate a large number of time series into groups that could be displayed in a completely new way. The grouping of related items made it possible to see how segments of the market behaved as a whole and to spot outliers more easily.

The image below is from a relatively new website called finviz, since the original SmartMoney stock market treemap doesn’t seem to exist anymore. It uses the same layout and structure, though. Try finding similarities and spot outliers among hundreds of line charts – the grouping of the treemap makes that so much easier (though it only shows a single point in time).

finviz map of the market

What everybody uses today is not the original treemap, but a squarified one. Most people don’t use it for inherently hierarchical data, but any kind of data. To do this, the data is broken down using categories of interest so that you can compare sales by customer segment and market, or access to education by ethnicity and income level, etc.

The key to this is making things. The fundamental technique had to be invented and turned into a piece of software. Only then was it possible to try it out, find shortcomings, and invent new ways to address them. In the process, new things were thought up. Visualization is a field that not only studies, but also creates.

What has been created needs to be evaluated though, and we need to understand the underlying perception and thinking processes that we use when working with visualization. This will be the subject of Part II.

by Robert Kosara at September 30, 2015 02:02 AM

sacha chua :: living an awesome life

Pattern-making: Generating SVGs for sewing with Python and tmtp

I like sewing simple clothes, and I’d like to be able to continue doing that even as measurements change without having to rely on commercial patterns that would need to be manually adjusted anyway. I also want to experiment with computer-assisted cutting, like the way the laser cutter at made it super-easy to precisely cut the same top in different fabrics.

In sewing, there’s the idea of drafting a pattern based on a set of measurements and a few calculations. You could do this with a large roll of paper, a ruler, and some way to draw a smooth curve (French curves, hip curves, or even tracing around the edge of a plate). There are software programs to do this as well, but the commercial ones tend to cost a lot if you want one that automatically drafts the rest of the pattern based on your measurements. Still, you can translate the manual instructions to digital form by drawing the appropriate lines and curves in a vector drawing program such as Inkscape or Adobe Illustrator.

While researching open source options for pattern-making, I came across Tau Meta Tau Physica (tmtp). At its core, it’s a Python script that produces an SVG based on a programmed pattern and a set of measurements. With a little fiddling (downgraded pySVG, fixed some case sensitivity issues), I got it working on my system.

Both documentation and actual code samples were pretty sparse, but I figured out the basics by reading the library code and the test patterns. I spent the day working on translating some of the basic patterns from Cal Patch’s book Design-It-Yourself Clothes: Pattern Making Simplified. So far, I’ve put together plausible-looking replicas of the A-line skirt and the basic shirt.

One of the nifty things about writing programs to draft patterns is that I can use the library functions to calculate the lengths of the cubic Bezier curves I’m using for necklines and armholes. This is handy when calculating collar length or adjusting sleeve caps. In particular, it’s neat to be able to use a loop to adjust the sleeve cap by offsetting the bicep point, although I’ll probably tweak the algorithm because it might be good to balance that with other ways to adjust that sleeve cap length.

I still haven’t tested the patterns, though, and I’m not even sure I’m collecting all these measurements correctly. At some point, I’ll print them out and sew a muslin yet. It would be good to test the sleeve cap. But the patterns look reasonable, so that’s a start.

Here are some screenshots based on my current measurements, and some links to the patterns on Github:

A-line skirt: My default measurements have this skirt sitting at my natural waist, although I’ll probably drop the waistline a bit lower before sewing it.

2015-09-29 20_57_39-foo.svg

Basic shirt: Totally untested. Would be interesting to see if this sleeve actually works, or what needs tweaking.

2015-09-29 20_59_55-_foo.svg - Inkscape

I’ll work on encoding the Burda bodice block, and then I can use that to sanity-check the shirt. Then there’s figuring out poster printing, taping up the pattern, and trying it out. Looks promising, though! I’m still boggled that the math I did for squaring lines seems to actually work. Now if only I can figure out proper seam allowance calculations instead of leaving that as a post-processing step in Inkscape or on paper…

My Github fork of tmtp

The post Pattern-making: Generating SVGs for sewing with Python and tmtp appeared first on sacha chua :: living an awesome life.

by Sacha Chua at September 30, 2015 01:04 AM


QuirksMode outage

The DNS entry did not work for about 55 hours, from Sunday 27th around 15:00 to midnight on Wednesday 30th. This is by far the longest time my site has ever been offline since it started (under a different name) in 1998. I’m not happy about it, but the matter was beyond my control.

What seems to have happened (Dutch) is that my ISP’s mother company, former monopolist KPN, did not pay its bills to Network Solutions for the .com, .org, and .net domain registrations, among which (Reading between the lines of the linked article I’d say the administrative error is KPN’s, and not XS4ALL’s, which is my actual provider.)

The bill was paid on Monday, and Network Solutions threw the switch again and restored DNS records for the affected domains — except that something went wrong. Only a minority of DNS records were restored, the rest remained stubbornly pointing to a holding page. was in that last batch. Network Solutions needed another day or so to fix this technical mistake of theirs, and the correct DNS records are finally being distributed as I write this.

For the record, XS4ALL, my ISP, is — so far — easily the best in the Netherlands, and I always refer anyone looking for a good ISP to them. (They’re not the cheapest, by the way. But it’s worth the little extra.) So far, this outage has not destroyed my faith in them, though I’ll be extra attentive for the next few months. They have an actual help desk, that, you know, actually helps you when you have a problem — even if that problem involves DHCP settings on a Sunday night. That’s seriously cool. And this outage was far worse than all other problems I’ve ever had with them combined. And I’ve been with them since 1996.

I trust this unpleasant episode is now done and dusted.

by ppk ( at September 30, 2015 12:38 AM

The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

Why Knowing Your Flock Is Critical to Meaningful Preaching

The preacher paced the stage, staring earnestly out into the congregation. It was time for his weekly invitation. He asked for respondents to raise their hands. Not a single hand was raised. But he had no way of knowing this because he was on a video screen.

I was at the nearest campus of this multisite church on assignment from the pastor himself, a man who’d recently hired me to do some freelance research work for him. Visiting one of his many remote services was supposed to help me get a “feel” for his ministry. It certainly did. But I couldn’t help but be struck with the feeling that this way of doing ministry couldn’t really help the preacher get a “feel” for his congregation.

I don’t know what you think about video venues or the multisite model of church growth in general, but this experience and others has only affirmed some of my concerns about the disconnect between preacher and flock, a growing dilemma in all kinds of churches, big and small.

Indeed, this dilemma isn’t merely limited to multisite, “video venue” churches. Pastors of growing churches of all sizes will continually struggle with staying familiar with their congregations. And the temptation to become more and more isolated becomes greater as more complexity is added to an increasing church. 

Of course, it’s impossible for a preacher of even a small church to be best friends with everybody in his church, and it’s impossible for preachers of larger churches to know everybody well. But the preacher whose ministry is becoming more and more about preaching and less and less about shepherding, and the preacher who’s becoming less and less involved with his congregation, is actually undermining the task to which he’s trying to devote more of his time! Good preaching requires up-close shepherding.

The ministry of preaching cannot be divorced from the ministry of soul care; in fact, preaching is an extension of soul care. There are a host of reasons why it’s important for pastors who want to preach meaningfully to know their flocks as well as they can, but here are three of the most important:

1. Meaningful preaching has people’s idols in mind.

As I travel to preach in church services and conferences, one of the first questions I often ask the pastor who invited me is, “What are your people’s idols?” I don’t want to just drop in and “do my thing”—I want to serve this pastor and his congregation by speaking to any hopes and dreams not devotionally attached to Christ as their greatest satisfaction. Sadly, some pastors don’t know how to answer the question.       

When Paul walked into Athens, he saw the city was full of idols (Acts 17:16). He didn’t regard this as a mere philosophical problem but as a spiritual problem that grieved him personally. And when he addressed it, he did so specifically, referencing their devotion to “the unknown god” (17:23). And whenever Paul addressed specific churches in his letters, the kinds of sins and falsehoods he addressed were specific. He didn’t speak in generalizations. He knew what was going on in these churches.

This doesn’t mean, of course, you begin embarrassing or exposing people from the pulpit. But it does mean you’re in the thick of congregational life enough to speak in familiar terms.

Until a pastor has spent quality time with people in his congregation, the idols his preaching must combat with the gospel will be merely theoretical. All human beings have a few universal idols in common. But communities where churches are located, churches as subcultures themselves, and even specific cliques and demographics within congregations all tend to traffic in more specific idols and patterns of sin.

Knowing firsthand your flock’s misguided financial, career, and familial hopes will help you know how to preach. It’ll help you pick the right texts and the right emphases in explicating those texts. This is what makes preaching a ministry and not simply an exercise.

2. Meaningful preaching has people’s suffering in heart.

My preaching changed after I’d begun holding people’s hands as they died and hearing people’s hearts as they cried. Until you’ve heard enough people share their sins and fears and worries and wounds, your preaching can be excellent and passionate, but it won’t be all it can be—resonant.

Many preachers carry the burden of God’s Word into the pulpit, and this is a good thing. Receiving the heavy mantle of preaching hot with Christ’s glory—being burdened to proclaim the Lord’s favor in the gospel—is a noble, worthy, wonderful task. But the preacher must also feel the weight of his people in that pulpit. He must ascend to preach having been in the valley with them. His manuscript should be smudged with the tears of his people.

Knowing what sufferings afflict his people on a regular basis will keep a preacher from becoming tone-deaf to his congregation. He won’t be lighthearted in the wrong places. It’ll affect the illustrations he uses, the stories he tells, and—most importantly—the dispositions with which he handles the Word. I’ve seen preachers make jokes about things people in his congregation were actually struggling with. And I’ve been that preacher. We come to lift burdens, but we often end up adding to them with our careless words.

Preacher, do you have a genuine heart for your people? I don’t mean, “Are you a people person?” I mean, do you know what’s going on in the lives of your congregation, and does it move you, grieve you? Have you wept with those who weep? If not, your preaching over time will show it.

Think of Moses’s grief over his people sins (Exod. 32:32). Or of Paul’s abundant tears (Acts 20:3; 2 Cor. 2:4; Phil. 3:18; 2 Tim. 1:4). Think also of Christ’s compassion, seeing into the hearts of the people (Matt. 9:36). You may believe you can work these feelings up without really knowing your congregation, but it isn’t the same, especially not for them. It isn’t the same for them in the same way that hearing a stirring word from a role model isn’t the same as hearing a stirring word from your dad. Don’t take to your text without carrying the real burdens of your people in your heart.

3. Meaningful preaching has people’s names in prayer.

Every faithful preacher prays over his sermon. He prays God’s Word wouldn’t return void (Isa. 55:11). He prays people will be receptive. He prays souls will be saved and lives will be changed. These are good prayers. Better still is the sermon prepped and composed with prayers of John Smith and Julie Thompson and the Cunningham family on the lips of the preacher. Better still is the sermon prayed over in pleadings for Tom Johnson’s salvation and Bill Lewis’s repentance and Mary Alice’s healing.

Paul repeatedly tells the people under his care he’s remembering them in his prayers (e.g., Eph. 1:6; 2 Tim. 1:3, Philem. 1:4). And since he’s frequently naming names, we know he doesn’t just mean generally. And while he didn’t have one congregation to shepherd up close but rather served largely as a missionary church planter, Paul still worked hard to know the people he ministered to from a distance and sought to visit them as often as he could. How much more should the local church pastor develop relationships with his people! He should know their names and he should carry their names to heaven in prayer.

It’s important to know whom you’re preaching to. It’s important to know Sister So-and-So doesn’t like your preaching. It’s important to know Brother Puff-You-Up likes it too much. It’s important to know the man in the back with his arms folded and brow furrowed isn’t actually mad at you—that’s just how he listens. It’s important to know the smiling, nodding lady near the front has a tendency not to remember anything you’ve said. When you know these things, you can pray for your people in deeper, more personal, more pastoral ways. And your preaching will get better. It’ll be more real. It’ll come not just from your mind and mouth, but from your heart, your soul, your guts.

This all assumes, of course, that you’re interested in this kind of preaching. If you see preaching as simply providing a “spiritual resource” for interested minds or pep talk for the religiously inclined and not as bearing prophetic witness from the revealed Word of God to the hearts of people, you can safely ignore all the points above.

Editors’ note: This article originally appeared at 9Marks. For more read Jared Wilson’s new book, The Prodigal Church: A Gentle Manifesto Against the Status Quo (Crossway).

Jared C. Wilson is the Director of Content Strategy for Midwestern Seminary, managing editor of For The Church, and author of more than ten books, including Gospel Wakefulness, The Pastor’s Justification, and The Prodigal Church. You can follow him on Twitter.

by Jared C. Wilson at September 30, 2015 12:00 AM

To Tell the Truth About the World

J. Mark Bertrand is novelist, essayist, and lecturer. His Roland March novels––Back on Murder, Pattern of Wounds, and Nothing to Hide––led The Weekly Standard to dub him “a major crime fiction talent.” He has an MFA in creative writing from the University of Houston. He also writes about typography and publishing at Mark lives with his wife, Laurie, in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where he is an elder at Grace Presbyterian Church.

How would you describe your work?

I am a novelist first and foremost, although I’ve also written nonfiction (Rethinking Worldview).

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

What we do when we write fiction parallels what happens in communion. Christ offers himself to us in the sacrament. Something like that happens on a deep level in the novel. The author creates a work where he or she is present and invites the reader into that experience. It’s one of the things that draws us to fiction––we become attached to the presence of the author behind the text. My work is an offering up of presence. We serve in this work by giving up some aspect of ourselves and by communing with the people through the written word.

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

Because I write crime novels, one of the themes in my books is brokenness. Sometimes we feel the pressure not to tell the whole truth about the brokenness, or to soften the blow in some way. Evil, however, affects all of life. That radical corruption is theologically right. You can’t be honest if the truth you’re telling doesn’t tell that truth, even if it makes us uncomfortable. By the same token, you can’t tell the story of darkness as if there were no light. That would be giving into the pressure in the opposite direction. A lot of the journey for me has been in how to tell the truth about the world as it truly is.

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

I serve the reader by seeing, and then telling, a truth. Being as honest as you can about the world and yourself is how you serve your neighbor. Writers open themselves up to criticism and ridicule when they publish. Being vulnerable can create a lot of anxiety, but honesty is an essential part of the service. I don’t write hoping to become famous. I write because I believe there is a reader out there who will connect with what I have to say. You have a connection through paper and ink, and now through the screen. That potential for communion with readers is what inspires us to offer up our presence.

Carey Anne Bustard is the intern for The Gospel Coalition’s Every Square Inch. She is currently a senior at The King’s College, studying media, culture, and the arts––with a minor in theology. She is originally from Lancaster, Pennsylvania. She is passionate about people’s stories, the Upper West Side of Manhattan, and drinking coffee. You can follow her on Twitter.

by Carey Bustard at September 30, 2015 12:00 AM

The Danger of Defiance

Text: 1 Kings 13

Preached: January 21, 2007

Location: St. Andrew the Great, Cambridge, England

Brian Elfick has been the Rector of St Philemon's Church in Liverpool in since 2012. Prior to his work at St. Philemon’s he worked with students at Stowe School in Buckinghamshire, with young adults in New York, and with students in Cambridge.

Subscribe to TGC Word of the Week in iTunes or through other devices to receive midweek sermons to encourage your faith. TGC Word of the Week is also available on Stitcher.

by Staff at September 30, 2015 12:00 AM

On My Shelf: Life and Books with James K. A. Smith

On My Shelf is a series that helps you get to know various writers through a behind-the-scences glimpse into their lives as readers.

I corresponded with James K. A. Smith—professor of philosophy at Calvin College, editor of Comment magazine, and author of several books including Desiring the Kingdom (Baker Academic, 2009); Imagining the Kingdom (Baker Academic, 2013) [review]; and How (Not) to Be Secular (Eeerdmans, 2014) [reviewinterview]—about what’s on his nightstand, books he re-reads, his favorite biographies, and more. (And yes, that’s an actual photo of Smith’s nightstand below.)

What’s on your nightstand right now? 

Well, my nightstand stack is huge. But on top right now is Jonathan Franzen’s new novel, Purity. Franzen is one of those authors people seem to love to hate, but I just think he’s one of the “obligatory” novelists of our generation—what John Updike was for an earlier generation. I just finished Adam Gopnik’s book The Table Comes First: Family, France, and the Meaning of Food. It’s really a philosophical meditation dressed up as a book on food and eating. Really fantastic. And Gopnik is an exemplary writer. I have the same response reading him as I do reading David Foster Wallace: he makes me aspire (“I want to write like that!”) and despair (“I could never write like that!”). Next up is David Halpern’s new book, Inside the Nudge Unit: How Small Changes Can Make a Big Difference, which I picked up when I was in Edinburg last week. At some point I want to write a small book on how Cass Sunstein and Richard Thaler’s notion of “nudging” has implications for public theology and cultural renewal. Finally, near the top of my nightstand pile you’ll also find the latest issue of National Affairs, which I think is the smartest policy journal out there.  

What are some books you regularly re-read and why? 

The books I most regularly re-read are ones I teach, especially at the introductory level—which is what makes my job a dream. I “have” to regularly re-read Plato’s dialogues like the Apology and Phaedo, Augustine’s Confessions, Descartes’s Meditations On First Philosophy, and so on. I also enjoy re-reading short stories. For example, I recently dipped back into some of Updike’s Early Stories, which was worth every second of re-reading. I do the same with the gems by Emile Zola and Guy de Maupassant in the Oxford Book of French Short Stories. And this summer I also re-read Wallace Stegner’s marvelous novel Crossing to Safety. It’s a beautiful story of friendship and faithfulness and I wanted to re-read it during the season of our 25th wedding anniversary, which we could only celebrate because of the importance of faithful friends in our life.  

What biographies or autobiographies have most influenced you and why? 

I’m a bit of a biography junkie. I don’t know if I could say which have “influenced” me the most, but if I think of biographies that keep creeping into my consciousness, a few come to mind: Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs is still something I regularly press on other people—the story of a broken, brilliant, maddening, yet highly effective leader. And Isaacson does a great job of not getting in the way of the story. More recently, I was quite taken with the new biography of Richard Nixon, Being Nixon, by Isaacson’s sometime co-author Evan Thomas. Anyone with any sort of Augustinian sensibility couldn’t resist Thomas’s portrayal of the inner life of Nixon. And as I’ve said elsewhere, I think Jim Bratt’s biography of Abraham Kuyper is masterful. Kuyper is, in many ways, a bit of a model for me—which can also be disconcerting when you see his faults and the price he paid for his work.  

What are your favorite fiction books?

That would be like picking a favorite child. Sorry, I can’t do it.  


Also in the On My Shelf series: Randy AlcornTom Schreiner, Trillia NewbellJen WilkinJoe CarterTimothy GeorgeTim KellerBryan ChapellLauren ChandlerMike CosperRussell MooreJared WilsonKathy KellerJ. D. GreearKevin DeYoungKathleen NielsonThabiti AnyabwileElyse FitzpatrickCollin HansenFred SandersRosaria Butterfield, Tullian TchividjianNancy Guthrie, and Matt Chandler.

Matt Smethurst serves as managing editor for The Gospel Coalition. He and his wife, Maghan, have two children and live in Louisville, Kentucky, where they belong to Third Avenue Baptist Church. You can follow him on Twitter.

by Matt Smethurst at September 30, 2015 12:00 AM

Against the Flow: The Inspiration of Daniel in an Age of Relativism

How’s this for academic credentials: John C. Lennox holds MA, MMath, and PhD degrees from Cambridge University. Want more? He also has a DSc (Doctor of Science) degree from the Mathematics Institute at the University of Wales. Still more? How about additional MA and DPhil degrees from Oxford University, along with an MA in bioethics from the University of Surrey? More? Lennox was a Humboldt Fellow at the Universities of Würzburg and Freiburg in Germany and has lectured all over North America, Europe, and Australia. He currently holds a professorship in Mathematics at the University of Oxford and is an associate fellow of Oxford’s famous Said Business School. A prolific author, Lennox has published more than 70 scholarly papers and co-authored two research-level texts in mathematics. 

And oh yes, don’t forget his new commentary on the book of Daniel.

Ardent Defender of the Faith 

A commentary on Daniel? We might be excused for thinking this a misprint, but it’s not. Against the Flow: The Inspiration of Daniel in an Age of Relativism may not be a typical Bible commentary, but it’s a typical book by Lennox: thoughtful, wide-ranging, readable, and full of relevance to the world in which contemporary Christians live. 

In addition to his outsized academic credentials, Lennox is an ardent Christian who unapologetically maintains a high view of the authority and trustworthiness of Scripture. Unintimidated by the academic culture he inhabits, he’s also an outspoken critic of today’s well-known atheists and the scientific materialism they espouse. In fact, Lennox has publicly debated some of these atheists around the globe and has taken them on in a series of books: God’s Undertaker: Has Science Buried God? (2009); God and Stephen Hawking (2011); Gunning for God (2011); and Seven Days that Divide the World (2011), a treatment of the early chapters of Genesis. In Against the Flow, Lennox makes no pretense of being a technical Bible scholar, and his treatment shows it. On the other hand, maybe a world-class mathematician is just what you need when it comes to counting down the 70 weeks of Daniel 9! 

Faithful Living in Our Own Babylon 

Lennox covers the book of Daniel, if not verse-by-verse at least chapter-by-chapter, from the introduction of the four young Hebrews in chapter 1 to the final vision of chapter 12. But this isn’t a discussion calculated to impress professional academics. He opts for an early dating of Daniel but appears to lack the original languages and addresses only superficially the critical issues that an early dating raises. His knowledge of the technical literature on Daniel appears scanty and what sources he does cite are mostly dated. In other words, Lennox isn’t playing by the club’s rules. Members of the professional guild of Old Testament scholars are unlikely to be drawn to this volume. 

But then, that guild isn’t Lennox’s target audience. Against the Flow is written for practicing Christians. It’s designed to draw insights from the book of Daniel for how we may live faithfully in our own Babylonian times. For such an audience, the technical and critical issues scarcely register. These readers are convinced of the authority and reliability of the Bible; they’re after a fuller understanding of its wisdom and insight when it comes to living in an increasingly hostile environment. And this is what Lennox delivers. Despite its somewhat misleading subtitle, Against the Flow isn’t an apologetic work in the sense of defending the book of Daniel (and hence the Bible) against its critics; but it is apologetic in the sense of drawing on Daniel’s teaching to help believers understand and live wisely in their secular, materialistic world.

Theological and Philosophical Focus

The book of Daniel is—if we may use the term—a profoundly worldviewish book. From its early narrative chapters through the various visions, it’s about the contrast between a sovereign God’s (and therefore Daniel’s) view of things, and the human race’s mutinous quest for autonomy. The lessons to be drawn from these chapters are thus as timeless—and just as timely—as Romans 1. These are the lessons Lennox seeks to explore with his readers. 

As one who understands our cultural moment—the features of which stand on stilts in his academic environment—Lennox works to show his readers the deep-seated parallels between both a strutting Nebuchadnezzar surveying his empire (“Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?”) and the Nietzschean techno-arrogance of our own times over against the humble, faithful, God-centered focus of Daniel. Ranging through history, philosophy (especially epistemology), art, and science, Lennox follows repeated rabbit trails into areas of contemporary relevance. These tangents will often prove valuable for preachers looking for illustrative material. 

As to the book’s prophetic sections, Lennox treads lightly. He treats the text of Daniel as fully reliable and does not shy away from its predictive elements. Yet he also begs off on some of the more sensational aspects of the prophetic passages dealing with the end times, leaving these to others better equipped to deal with the complexities involved. For Lennox, it’s the underlying theological and philosophical issues that interest him. 

Bible Commentator Worth Reading

I’m not sure what I expected from this volume, but I must testify that it repeatedly surprised me. I’m not a fan of avoiding the technical and critical aspects of biblical study—serious interpreters must engage these issues, even if they don’t burden readers with the details—but I still profited from Against the Flow. It’s the work of a committed Christian with a first-rate mind, wide experience, and a deep commitment to the inscripturated Word of God.

Against the Flow may not be your standard biblical commentary, but its author is definitely a Bible commentator worth reading.

John C. Lennox. Against the Flow: the Inspiration of Daniel in an Age of Relativism. Oxford, UK: Monarch Books, 2015. 440 pp. $19.99. 

Duane Litfin (PhD, Purdue University; DPhil, Oxford University) is the former seventh president of Wheaton College, serving seventeen years, from 1993 to 2010. He came to Wheaton from Memphis, Tennessee, where he served the First Evangelical Church as senior pastor. Prior to that, he was an associate professor at the Dallas Theological Seminary. He is author of Conceiving the Christian College (Eerdmans, 2004) and Paul's Theology of Preaching: The Apostle's Challenge to the Art of Persuasion in Ancient Corinth (IVP Academic, 2015).

by Duane Litfin at September 30, 2015 12:00 AM

September 29, 2015

Workout: Sept. 27, 2015

Floor Press 5-5-5-5 In teams, 3 2-minute rounds of: 100-foot sled push, max wall balls in remaining time Rest 2 minutes 3 2-minute rounds: 100-foot sled push, max burpees in remaining time Skills Session 4 rounds, not for time, of: 3 legless rope climbs 8 GHD sit-ups 10 handstand push-ups

by Mike at September 29, 2015 10:10 PM

Workout: Sept. 30, 2015

As many reps as possible in 15 minutes of: 5 squat cleans (155/105 lb.) 5 lateral bar burpees Skills Session Gymnasty Gymnasty+ is 3 rounds, not for time, of: 3 legless rope climbs from seated 50-ft. handstand walk 20 pistols (alternating legs)

by Mike at September 29, 2015 10:03 PM

Karen De Coster

Best Thing About Boehner

He defied the smoking Nazis.

His memorable interview with Bob Schieffer on Face the Nation, where Schieffer, a cancer surviving flag-bearer, childishly chastised Boehner for enjoying smoking and not desiring to give up his personal habit. Even Harry Reid is going to miss Boehner’s cigarette smoke. Note that Boehner voted “hell no” on the government’s 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act.


by Karen De Coster at September 29, 2015 10:03 PM

The Salatin Family’s Polyface Farm on Film

Here is a wonderful trailer for a new film that is expected to be released in 2015: Polyfaces: A World of Many Choices. This is a film about the Salatin family’s Polyface Farm in Swoope, Virginia, a place in the Shenandoah Valley that receives worldwide attention because of Joel Salatin’s unflinching adherence to free-market farming and conservation. The trailer is so beautifully presented, I can’t wait to see the film.

The man who Time magazine has called “the world’s most innovative farmer,” Joel Salatin, is actually much more than a farmer. He is truly an amazing mesh of innovator, entrepreneur, conservationist, orator, and most importantly, he is a principled and dedicated free-market advocate who continually challenges the mediocrity and politicization of the Industrial Food Complex. Salatin’s orations consistently stress autonomy and decentralization as a natural part of the human condition. And never, even in the case of GMO labeling, does he call for government to protect or enforce.

Salatin describes how his family turned a farm that was once “the armpit of the community” into what some observers call “the best farm in the world.” And as one man says in this trailer, “people around the world are copying what is going on here, and it is breeding a whole new kind of entrepreneur.”

I think it’s important to understand what makes Salatin so special among his peers. Humans are not spiritually drawn to centralized, lethargized, catatonic-gigantic institutions that flaunt power and openly engage politicians to advance their rent-seeking abilities at the expense of decentralized markets. Except for some very feverish dogmatoids, very few folks get the warm-and-fuzzies over Monsanto or PepsiCo. Consequently, large political organisms must use propaganda and force to maintain their foothold and deflect criticism. This is why free markets are overtaken by what we call “complexes,” or rent-seeking, oligarchic machinations that use government – including patents, legislation, special-interest tactics – to enforce strategies that are advantageous for industry profitability.

Joel Salatin is one man with a farm who has heaped necessary attention upon the social and political forces driving America’s dependence on its convenience-oriented, health-destroying, industrial food machine.

by Karen De Coster at September 29, 2015 09:29 PM

CrossFit Naptown

Vote on Winter Apparel!

Wednesday’s Workout:

WOD: Annie “ish”
Double Unders
Hollow Rock and Rolls

Tempo Back Squat:
3-3-3-3-3 Reps
3 Seconds Down, 3 Second Pause, 3 Seconds Up


Heavier Version 


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Screen Shot 2015-09-29 at 4.28.13 PM



Lighter Version 


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by Anna at September 29, 2015 08:39 PM

Justin Taylor

Not All Doctrines Are at the Same Level: How to Make Some Distinctions and Determine a Doctrine’s Importance

Here are three models I have found helpful over the years.

Erik Thoennes: 4 Categories Based on 7 Considerations

Erik Thoennes, professor of theology at Biola University, writes the following in Life’s Biggest Questions: What the Bible Says about the Things That Matter Most (Crossway, 2011):

The ability to discern the relative importance of theological beliefs is vital for effective Christian life and ministry. Both the purity and unity of the church are at stake in this matter. The relative importance of theological issues can fall within four categories:

  1. absolutes define the core beliefs of the Christian faith;
  2. convictions, while not core beliefs, may have significant impact on the health and effectiveness of the church;
  3. opinions are less-clear issues that generally are not worth dividing over; and
  4. questions are currently unsettled issues.

These categories can be best visualized as concentric circles, similar to those on a dart board, with the absolutes as the “bull’s-eye”:

Where an issue falls within these categories should be determined by weighing the cumulative force of at least seven considerations:

  1. biblical clarity;
  2. relevance to the character of God;
  3. relevance to the essence of the gospel;
  4. biblical frequency and significance (how often in Scripture it is taught, and what weight Scripture places upon it);
  5. effect on other doctrines;
  6. consensus among Christians (past and present); and
  7. effect on personal and church life.

These criteria for determining the importance of particular beliefs must be considered in light of their cumulative weight regarding the doctrine being considered. For instance, just the fact that a doctrine may go against the general consensus among believers (see item 6) does not necessarily mean it is wrong, although that might add some weight to the argument against it. All the categories should be considered collectively in determining how important an issue is to the Christian faith. The ability to rightly discern the difference between core doctrines and legitimately disputable matters will keep the church from either compromising important truth or needlessly dividing over peripheral issues.

(Diagram copyright 2009 Crossway Bibles. Posted with permission.)

Albert Mohler’s 3 Orders of Doctrine

In this article, Al Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and professor of theology, distinguishes between three levels of doctrine:

  1. first-order doctrines: a denial of which represents the eventual denial of Christianity itself
  2. second-order doctrines: upon which Bible-believing Christians may disagree, but they create significant boundaries between believers, whether as distinct congregations or denominations
  3. third-order doctrines: upon which Christians may disagree, but yet remain in close fellowship, even within local congregations

Michael Wittmer’s 3 Categories of Belief

Michael Wittmer, professor of theology and historical theology at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary, wrote a helpful book entitled, Don’t Stop Believing: Why Living Like Jesus Is Not Enough. He classifies Christian beliefs into  three categories:

  1. what you must believe
  2. what you must not reject
  3. what you should believe

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In a 2008 interview with Dr. Wittmer, I asked him to explain these categories:

These categories are my attempt to describe the relative importance of Christian beliefs, distinguishing between those beliefs essential for salvation and those essential for a healthy Christian worldview.

[What You Must Believe]

In the book of Acts, the bare minimum that a person must know and believe to be saved was that he was a sinner and that Jesus saved him from his sin. As Paul told the Philippian jailer, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved” (Acts 16:29-31; cf. 10:43). This is enough to counter the postmodern innovator argument that we can be saved without knowing and believing in Jesus.

[What You Must Not Reject]

But any thinking convert will inquire further about this Jesus. While he may not know much more at the point of conversion than Jesus is the Lord who has saved him, he will quickly learn about Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, deity and humanity, and relation to the other two members of the Trinity. Anyone who rejects these core doctrines should fear for their soul.

According to the Athanasian Creed, whoever does not believe in the Trinity and the two natures of Jesus is damned. However, since it seems possible for a child to come to faith without knowing much about the Trinity or the hypostatic union (this is likely not the place where most parents begin), I take the Creed’s warning in a more benign way—that we do not need to know and believe in the Trinity and two natures of Christ to be saved, but that anyone who knowingly rejects them cannot be saved.

[What You Should Believe]

The final category is important doctrines which genuine Christians may unfortunately misconstrue. I think that every Christian should believe that Scripture is God’s Word, know its story of creation, fall, redemption, and consummation, and know something about the nature of God, what it means to be human, and what Jesus is doing through his church. However, many people have been genuine Christians without knowing or believing these things (though their ignorance or disbelief in these facts significantly diminished their Christian faith).

Thus, I believe that every doctrine in this diagram is crucially important for sound Christian faith. And some are so important that we cannot even be saved without them.

Diagram posted with permission of Zondervan.

by Justin Taylor at September 29, 2015 07:51 PM

Mr. Money Mustache

If You’re Not Getting Rich in your 20s, You’re Doing it Wrong


Make sure your 40s are even better than your 20s.

Whenever something unusually interesting in the field of personal finance shows up in the news, Mr. Money Mustache hears about it. Our diligent network of Mustachian Volunteer Spies combs and filters the world’s information, both for pearls of wisdom and pellets of comically misinformed dung. Although I take steps to remain on a low-information diet, I still enjoy hearing about financial trends in our society, since this blog is all about changing the trends.

So people send me updates on things like tiny houses, urban planning breakthroughs, people who manage to blow even a double Silicon Valley salary and appear clueless about where it’s all going, and major league players like NFL Mathlete John Urschel who has been known to sleep in his Nissan Versa*. The world seems refreshed to see examples of high-wealth people living lifestyles of below-average consumption.

But one of the most interesting articles in recent memory has been making the rounds on social media this month, and it has fired up many Mustachians because it combines just enough spirited and uplifting “Fuck Yeah” insight on the good life, with a well-intentioned but horribly wrong conclusion. It’s well written and very persuasive.  With 2.3 million “likes” on Facebook (up from 1.2m last time I checked), it has probably fooled thousands of financially suicidal people into thinking they are not sabotaging their own lives after all. In fact, I suspect that article has gone viral because it tells people exactly what they want to hear: “Go ahead, be irresponsible and party on. This is the path to a better future.”

The article is called “If You Have Savings in Your 20s, You’re Doing Something Wrong.” To be fair, it appeared in Elite Daily, which is somewhat of a notorious clickbait forward-this-to-your-facebook-friends content mill** to begin with. But there are some brains behind the article and I agreed with about half of it, so it is worth properly ridiculing the conclusion right here, in order to Fix the Internet.

dinnertimeSo the author, Lauren Martin, seems to be a young, fun-loving person living in New York City. Having recently spent a few days there doing the old “Ha ha haah, aren’t our lives so prosperous!” clinking of cocktail glasses in expensive restaurants with attractive entrepreneurial people and delicious food flying around everywhere, I have a fresh memory of the vibe of that lifestyle. It makes you feel powerful, and feeling powerful is a useful precursor to actually being powerful – gaining the power to live a happy and excellent life.

So she goes into this narrative about how she came to the city with an overly frugal mindset, worried about money and denying herself the pleasures of restaurants, clubbing and taxi rides. A wiser friend encouraged her to loosen up: “Don’t save money. Make more money.”

This leads to a series of enthusiastic verses like these:

“When you live your life around your retirement fund, you may as well retire now. You can’t make a mark on the world if you’re too cheap to live in it.

Refusing to give yourself the luxury of enjoying your money negates the whole point of making it.

Your 20s are not the time to save; they’re the time to gamble. $200 a month isn’t going to make the dent that a $60,000 pay raise will after spending all those nights out networking.”

Sounds reasonable, right? How could I take exception with any of that?

I take exception because I’ve been in exactly that place. I arrived in my 20s with just the same sparky excitement for the big city, fun nights out, rapid career advancement and living to its fullest. Most motivated young people show up with the same dreams.

The difference is how you come out of those 20s.  At best, the advice above will get you some good memories, a strong career, a slightly larger waistline and weaker liver, and a negligible net worth. Better than the average fate, but a huge waste of an opportunity if you ask me.

With just a slight tweak on the money strategy, I came out with the same exhilarating decade of memories, good friends around the continent, and a beautiful and accomplished soon-to-be-wife. With the added benefits of a leathery shell of Life Battle Armor from the explosion of good-old-fashioned hard work and sacrifice, and the better part of a million dollars, which has continued to support the good life and grow to this day just before my 41st birthday.

Because here’s the thing about your 20s. They are the time to work. The very, very best time in your life to work your ass off and create an exponential snowball of money, skills, and friendships. Your brain will never be more sponge-like and inexhaustible. You will never feel more motivated and less cynical than you do now. And you will never have another decade of pre-childraising freedom in your life. For the roughly 90% of people who plan to have children at some point make note of the following two bricks of wisdom:

• No matter how much you like working right now, Shit can get Old … fast.
• Kids are way more work than you expect, accelerating the aging of the aforementioned Shit.

These days, kids tend to happen in your 30s. If you attempt that feat with nothing but a well-networked career and a hangover, your life will suck. You need to be well back from the financial cliff, not worried about how you’ll cover the next round of bill payments if you lose your job. It works even better if you’re completely financially independent by that point.

Gaining your Pleasure through Creation, not Consumption

The Elite Daily article builds its case around advancement, networking, and socialization. All good things, to be sure, but also a bit of an illusion. We all like to fantasize about a $60,000 raise brought about by drinking the right mixed drinks in the company of the right influential people. And sure, maybe occasionally things like that do happen. But to think of this as an actual strategy for getting ahead is roughly as smart as bringing your lucky numbers to the lottery vendor faithfully every week and crossing your fingers for the big win. In real life (even New York City real life), you get paid for getting really difficult shit done, better than anybody else can do it. 

This means fiddling with meticulous, gigantic spreadsheets at 11:56 PM so you can get the impressively casual email to the department polished and sent by 2:30am. Or wiring your brain to source code and compiler windows spread out across three 34″ monitors on your stand-up desk while you design software in zen-like silence at 6am before everyone else shows up at work. Or revising and re-researching your latest article for Elite Daily for the 55th time so it’s better and more viral than any article ever written before. It means training your body and mind in your off hours so that you can perform better than anyone else in the on hours. Inhaling books on investment, psychology, nutrition. Barbells and pullup racks in your apartment where your peers keep the Louis Vuitton purses and Apple products. Mixed greens in your apartment fridge where your peers keep redbulls and $50 bottles of vodka.

Sure, there’s more to life than work. There’s plenty of room at the edges for laughs over fine tequila and winks over surreptitious servings of weed. You can dance and feast and have ill-advised romances and circulate in the penthouse parties of billionaires. But this stuff is just the icing. It doesn’t make a good foundation. Work is the foundation, and all other activities need to be metered carefully to fit around that core of work.

Once you become an Actual Rich Person, with a business drowning in opportunities but short on talent and you deal regularly in financial figures that contain more than one comma, you start to see how this works. It’s easy to have a successful business if you can find really smart people who are willing to do really hard work for you, in exchange for a high salary. But all these younger people seem to just want to sit around and network and have cocktails. All the hard workers already run their own company. When you find that rare eligible workhorse, you grab her and shower her with money and opportunity, hoping she will accept. You need to be that lone workhorse, getting stuff done while everyone else is out late and living off of credit cards and parental subsidies. This is where money comes from.

Luckily, this is a happy situation and something to celebrate rather than dread. Doing your ultimate work is the core of human satisfaction. Filling the rest of your life with fun around this core makes things even better.

If work is your core rather than buying yourself treats, money automatically takes care of itself. This means you don’t need to painfully crimp your lifestyle to dribble a few percent of your income into savings. Instead you painstakingly design your lifestyle so you end up keeping and investing more than half of what you earn. Not hundreds per year. Tens or hundreds of thousands per year.

Sure, you’ll blow a few hundred here and there, but you won’t do something completely apeshit like buying a multi-thousand-dollar wardrobe or financing a new car. These would just be distractions from your real life goals, so why would you allow them to steal your focus?

Working with this level of focus brings you an unusually high income. Balancing it with less personal pampering allows you to spend less than everyone else while feeling like you are living like a rock star. The end result is being relatively wealthy while you’re still fairly young, and then realizing it was a damn good thing you did that, because by age 30 you’re ready to start doing your own thing without having the need to pay the bills get in the way of it. This leads us to our final brick of wisdom for 20 somethings:

•There is a lot more to life than your 20s, and if you do it right, life keeps getting more fun.

Those suburban people who you see who are depressed and in debt and horribly out of shape are the ones who didn’t get a handle on things at your age. Those who are free and fit and healthy are the ones who completely ignored the advice found in the Elite Daily article.

Which path do you choose for yourself, for that 70 year period that follows your 20s?

* The Major League players who are living frugal lifestyles include John Urschel, Ryan Broyles, Alfred Morris and Daniel Norris.

** And no offense Elite D – you’re just a modern incarnation of entertainment/opinion magazine and I can imagine it’s probably a fun place to work. I’m sure you are used to criticism just like I am. But since you happened to tread on my territory I thought it would be great to use you as a lesson in class ;-)

by Mr. Money Mustache at September 29, 2015 06:35 PM

The Urbanophile

An Awesome Look at Detroit Design City

Hot off the presses, here’s a new timelapsey variant of Detroit, this one focused on the design community. I think it’s a really well done video. As with all things Detroit, one can’t escape the racial implications, and there are a preponderance of white faces. I wonder how this video will be perceived among longtimers. But as a marketing piece for Detroit, it is very effective. If the video doesn’t display for you, click over to watch on Vimeo. h/t @moore_dorian.

by Aaron M. Renn at September 29, 2015 05:21 PM

OS X El Capitan Review

OS X El Capitan is here, and to be honest, even as a hardcore Mac user, it’s kind of a sleepy release. That’s not to say there isn’t good stuff in the new version of OS X; there are a lot of nice features here, but its a quiet year.

Between you and me, I’m a little glad about that.

A year ago, OS X Yosemite brought a wide-reaching redesign to the operating system, building on top of the foundations laid by OS X Mavericks just 12 months before that. This year, El Capitan brings a new level of polish to the OS, tweaking some things here and there that needed attention.

Since it was announced, I’ve been unhappy with OS X’s annual release cycle, but Apple’s sticking with it.

This puts extra work on developers to ensure their apps are up to date. As OS X follows major iOS release versions by sometimes just a couple of weeks, this means many Mac apps lag behind while developers who work on both platforms struggle to catch up. A slower release cycle — and one not based in the fall, even — would help ease this uneven workload.

Even though the Mac App Store makes downloading and installing new versions of OS X easier than the old days,[1] it is more complicated and more time-consuming than tapping “Update” on an iPad or iPhone for average users.

This release cycle is also aggressive for education and enterprise customers. I have a lot of friends in those worlds and they often just skip a release or two at a time. I’m not sure that’s a good thing.

As such, new versions of OS X don’t enjoy the same widespread early adoption that iOS does, meaning developers and users alike may not see the benefits of Apple’s work for months or even years.

Of course, the simple truth is that OS X is on an annual release cycle so Apple can share and blend features and technology with iOS in an easier way. As the two systems share more and more with each other, a hand-in-hand release is increasingly important.

However, very little in El Capitan truly needs to be in a “.0” release. The updates to apps like Notes and Mail could have been included in an update to 10.10 and it would have been fine. (Just look at Photos, which didn’t come to the Mac until 10.10.3 as a good example of this sort of update.)

All that aside, the new version of Mac OS X here, and it’s time to take a look at it.

System Requirements

One upside of the annual release cycle is that Apple can offer OS updates to more customers. As such, El Capitan will run on any Mac that can run OS Mountain Lion or higher.[2]

  • iMac (Mid 2007 or newer)
  • MacBook Air (Late 2008 or newer)
  • MacBook (Late 2008 Aluminum, or Early 2009 or newer)
  • Mac mini (Early 2009 or newer)
  • MacBook Pro (Mid/Late 2007 or newer)
  • Mac Pro (Early 2008 or newer)
  • Xserve (Early 2009)

I’ve run El Capitan on two systems: the 12-inch MacBook with Retina display and a Mid–2015 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display. As far as modern Apple notebooks, you can’t pick two machines that are more different from a power perspective, and both ran the OS just fine.

An Aside on the Name

“Mac OS X El Capitan v10.11” is the full name of this release, but as has been the case for many years, in public, Apple refers to this as “OS X El Capitan.”

El Capitan, of course, is a mountain within Yosemite. Apple’s playing a “Leopard/Snow Leopard” or “Lion/Mountain Lion” trick here. El Capitan is the exhale to Yosemite’s inhale. The ying to its yang; the peanut butter to its jelly.

There is, however, a problem.

There’s no doubt that “10.11” is weirder than “10.10,” and — simply put — names are easier to remember than numbers. What happens next year when iOS 9 is replaced with something new? Looking across Apple’s growing ecosystem, OS X’s naming scheme looks even weirder and more problematic:

  • iOS
  • watchOS
  • tvOS

I think it’s time for a change to macOS, as Jason Snell suggested back in May:

Mac OS is a name with a proud history that bridged the gap from the latter days of the original Mac operating system through the first decade of OS X. It does what it says on the tin–it’s an operating system that runs the Mac. The phrase “Macs run Mac OS” makes sense. OS X is never going to run anything that’s not a Mac. Let’s embrace it. It’s the Mac OS.

And by jettisoning the X, Apple can finally increment the digits that have been slowly increasing since the start of the century, and call Mac OS Kings Canyon or Mac OS Shasta version 11.0.

I have a feeling El Capitan will be the last version of “OS X” we see, but time will tell.

Public Beta & Install

Like Yosemite, El Capitan was offered as a Public Beta. Anyone with an AppleID could sign up to run the OS over the summer. Like last year, these releases were slightly slower than the developer releases.

Installing is all done via the Mac App Store. Click Install, enter your password and — after a 6-ish GB download — El Capitan is off to the races.

The install process is the same as it has been for years. There’s very little setup and the system takes over, rebooting after the first part of the install is complete. On the new Retina MacBook, install took just shy of 30 minutes, but on my MacBook Pro, it was much faster. Your mileage will vary.

After installation is complete, the setup process begins.[3]

Meet El Capitan

While the new version of OS X does bring many API changes, I’m going to focus on the major features found in this year’s release. It’s a shorter list than in years past as El Capitan is more about refinement than anything else.

A good example of this is the cursor. In El Capitan, if you rapidly move the cursor in an attempt to locate it on the screen, it grows in size temporarily to help you find it.

El Capitan brings the second new system font to macOS OS X in as many years: gone is Helvetica; hello San Francisco.

I’m not going into the typographical details of the new system font, but if that’s your jam, be sure to watch this video from WWDC or check out this Medium post by Akinori Machino.

All in all, I think San Francisco is a nice improvement to OS X. While it isn’t as big of a jump from Lucida Grande to Helvetica, it is noticeable. It’s crisp and clean, and doesn’t break down at smaller sizes like Helvetica can. Designed for the modern age, it’s especially nice on Retina displays. It gets a thumbs-up from this Mac user.

In addition to a new font, our old friend the "Spinning Beachball of Death" has been redesigned as well. The new version is slightly more muted, and much more flat.

The last under-the-covers change I want to mention is extended Force Touch Trackpad support. Applications running on El Capitan can provide haptic feedback to the user like Apple’s own QuickTime and iMovie do today.

System Integrity Protection

System Integrity Protection (or SIP; also dubbed rootless) is new in El Capitan, and is designed to keep OS X and processes running on top of it more secure. Here's how Apple describes it:

A new security policy that applies to every running process, including privileged code and code that runs out of the sandbox. The policy extends additional protections to components on disk and at run-time, only allowing system binaries to be modified by the system installer and software updates. Code injection and runtime attachments to system binaries are no longer permitted.

In short, SIP prevents parts of OS X itself (namely /System, /bin, /usr — not /usr/local — and /sbin). from being tampered with outside of official Apple software updates. Not even Administrator users on the system can edit these directories. This will harden OS X from malicious code injection and other ickiness.

I'm all for that, but this does mean some of the weirder apps that power users use may break, and maybe for good. (If you do want to disable SIP, it can be done from the recovery partition, but I'm leaving it on on my machines.)


First brought to iOS with iOS 8, Metal is Apple’s low-level framework for “GPU-accelerated advanced 3D graphics rendering and data-parallel computation workloads.”

In English, that means Metal makes things like games or graphic editors faster by harnessing the power of the Mac’s graphics hardware in a way that doesn’t tax the CPU.

Of course, the gaming scene on the Mac has always been anemic compared to other platforms. I don’t know if Metal is enough to change that, but it should open the door to more developers.

Metal isn’t just about games, though. Since Metal basically harnesses the GPU, it can be used with applications that require large amounts of computational power to perform their tasks. Apple showed Adobe using it in apps like Photoshop and Illustrator to drastically increase the speed of intense tasks. If developers adopt this, lots of different types of apps could see big gains, all without hitting the CPU any harder.

Metal isn’t present on all Macs that will run El Capitan; the machine must be from 2012 or newer.

Window Management

Every few years, Apple screws with the window management in OS X. This year, those changes come in two forms: a revised Mission Control and a new feature named Split View.

Mission Control

In 10.3 Panther, Apple added Exposé, a quick way to see all open windows at once. In 10.5 Leopard, we got virtual desktops called Spaces.

In 10.7 Lion, Exposé and Spaces were smashed together to create Mission Control. Virtual desktops (and full-screen) apps could be seen at the top, with all open windows sat below:

With El Capitan, Apple has revised Mission Control once again to make better use of smaller notebook screens. The basic layout is the same, but gone are the tall previews of the various spaces and full-screen apps that may be open:

To see a preview of other Desktops, or to add a new one, hovering over the top bar will expand it to match the functionality previously in place. While I appreciate this on a MacBook, even on my 15-inch MacBook Pro it feels like a silly change, not to mention on my 27-inch external display. I’d like to see this become a setting in System Preferences, as it requires a hover to see the complete picture.

Split View

Split View is a huge deal on iOS. It marks the first time two apps can be running in the foreground on an iPad.

Of course, that’s nothing to break a sweat about on the Mac, which has been multi-windowed and capable of multitasking for years and years and years.

However, window management has always been a bit messy on the Mac. OS X has never had a Windows Areo-like snapping feature before. Apps like Moom added some of these features to OS X, but only as a third-party option.

El Capitan brings Split View to the Mac to make it easy to run two apps side by side, taking up the entire screen.

The problem is that Split View isn’t immediately obvious. There are two ways to enable it:

The first method requires the user to click and hold on the green fullscreen “stoplight” window control on any window. If the app is Split View-compatible, you can drag it to the left or right side of the display and an overlay will appear showing that the app can be pinned to either side. Release the mouse or trackpad, and any other Split View-compatible windows will appear on the other side. Select the one you want, and the two will become their own Split View virtual desktop. That’s a bit complicated to explain, so I’ve included a short video:

The second method can be done entirely within Mission Control, and I think is far less fiddly. Simply drag an application into a new Desktop, then drag a second one:

As you can see from that video, you can resize apps in Split View. Like iOS, OS X will blur an app’s window if it can’t resize on the fly.

To remove apps from a Split View, simply click the green window control again, or pull the Desktop down from the top of Mission Control back to the main section of the view and the Split Screen will break up, putting both apps back into their regular windows.

While the implementation is a bit weird, I like Split View a lot. It’s a great way to settle down into a specific type of work easily. It feels so much more tidy than just spawning additional Desktops when I need to concentrate and leave things like Tweetbot and Slack open, but not easily visible.


When introduced with OS X 10.4 Tiger, Spotlight was pitched as the best way to search the documents on your local Mac.

In today’s world, that’s not enough. Spotlight has been getting better over the years at searching not only your local disk, but the Internet as well, through sources like Wikipeida and Bing.

El Capitan adds several new data types:

  • Weather
  • Sports
  • Stocks
  • Web video
  • Transit

Spotlight also supports natural language searching. Here’s how Apple describes it:

Searching for files has never been easier now that Spotlight understands natural language. For example, type “email from Harrison in April” and Spotlight shows you email messages that match. You can also use more complex searches, like “presentation I worked on yesterday that contains budget,” and you’ll get just what you’re looking for. You can search with your own words in Mail and Finder, too.

Spotlight is getting better, but I still prefer Alfred. However, for most users, the built-in tool just keeps getting better.

Updated Apps

A new version of OS X not only means a new operating system, but updates to the various bundled applications. This year, four apps got some attention.


The Mac’s built-in browser isn’t the most popular on the planet, but it’s still used by lots and lots of people, so Apple usually adds features each year. 2015 is no different, with the addition of Content Blockers, a Responsive Design Mode that makes debugging responsive websites easier than before, a redesigned Web Inspector that doesn’t suck anymore and a bunch of additional CSS support.

Two of the best new features revolve around tabs.[4] Both are cribbed from other places, but are welcome additions nonetheless.

First, tabs can be pinned. Pinned tabs can display a custom icon, or the first letter from the site name. Pinned tabs persist after Safari is relaunched, and only appear on the first Safari window opened.

Creating a custom pin image involves pointing to an .svg with a touch of code:

link rel="mask-icon" mask href="coolfilehere.svg" color="black"

The color will be used to tint the SVG, but I think they look best in black. You can see my site’s pinned tab image on the left here:

The other callout in that screenshot is the other new tab-related feature in Safari: tabs making sound will pick up a little sound badge on the tab itself. Additionally, the current tab will show a hollow version of the same icon, indicating it’s not home to the audio.


Notes on El Capitan is a real contender to things like Simplenote or Evernote. notes[5] can take all sorts of content. Text can now be styled as a Title, Header or Body text. All sorts of things can be added as attachments:

  • Photos
  • Videos
  • Audio
  • Sketches
  • Maps
  • Websites
  • Audio
  • Documents

At this point, Sketches can only be created on an iOS device, which is a bummer.

Notes is backed by CloudKit, so it just works. Sync between the Mac and iOS 9 devices is fast and — in my testing — flawless. I like that the app supports folders, but I really hate that the only way to sort notes is by modification date. I’d hug anyone at Apple I needed to have an alphabetical sorting option.


OS X’s email client has picked up Spotlight’s new natural language search, in addition to a much-improved fullscreen mode. And, users can now swipe on a message in the Inbox to mark it as read or delete it.

The biggest change I’ve noticed in is improved Data Detectors. Now, Mail can add Suggested Events to my calendar, allowing me to confirm them with just a click. Likewise, creating a new contact — or updating an existing one — can be done with a single click.


Upgrading to OS X El Capitan’s version of is a one-way trip; you can't go back to the previous version later. That’s not a big problem, but something to be aware of.

The new Photos app can now be used to add location data to images, something missing from the OS X Yosemite version. Additionally, developers can now write plug-ins for Photos, so hopefully we'll see more powerful editing controls in the near future.

As for me, I’m still keeping all my photos in Dropbox, but Photos is more tempting now than ever.


I've been told by people who live in real cities that Maps now has Transit directions, but Memphis is all like ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ when it comes to this sort of stuff, so I don't get to test it.


All in all, El Capitan is a nice update to OS X, but not a big or even particularly noteworthy one. That’s not a bad thing; OS X is a mature platform, and the time for wild changes has passed. The Mac platform is stable, vibrant and powerful. El Capitan only helps push those ideas further.

Make a backup of your Mac, and go get it.

  1. I don’t miss installing OS X from a series of CDs.  ↩

  2. One of these days, I won’t be able to copy this list from old reviews, but today is not that day.  ↩

  3. Fun fact: the application that runs the setup process is called MacBuddy. I’ve always liked that.  ↩

  4. Don’t worry, this isn’t coming back.  ↩

  5. I appreciate Apple naming apps for exactly what they do, but it makes it confusing when reading and writing about things. RIP, “iCal.”  ↩

by Stephen Hackett at September 29, 2015 05:00 PM

Zippy Catholic

A slogan for our times

Great things can be accomplished by otherwise insignificant people, as long as they are willing to compromise their principles and cooperate with evil.

by Zippy at September 29, 2015 03:14 PM

Greg Mankiw's Blog

What I am doing today

Today, I am wearing my political theory hat.  If you happen to be a student at Brown, you can find me here.

by Greg Mankiw ( at September 29, 2015 03:11 PM

Zippy Catholic

Where “Social Justice Warriors” come from

Some people are beginning to rediscover that present day Social Justice Warriors are simply the original American patriots in modern form. Internet shaming and career destruction are an iteration of tar and feathers. Expressing anything less than enthusiastic approval of sodomy is now just as bad as failing to be up in arms and outraged over a 2% import duty on tea.

The role of American conservativism is, as it has ever been, to jealously and militantly preserve the conditions which produce SJW’s and the ‘progress’ of previous generations of SJW’s.  In America we call the concentration of secular power in the hands of the SJW’s, who exercise that power to tar and feather loyalists, “freedom“.  And we always have, since the founding of the Republic.

by Zippy at September 29, 2015 01:55 PM

The Finance Buff

What To Do After Tax Loss Harvesting

When you harvest a tax loss, you sell fund A at a loss and buy fund B. You can’t buy back fund A for 30 days, or else you create a wash sale which negates the loss you took. After you clear the 30 days, then what?

Fund B Is Down

If fund B is down, it’s easy. You sell fund B at a loss again and buy fund A. You add to your harvested tax loss.

Fund B Is Up

What if fund B is up? If it’s up a lot, more than the loss you took from fund A, you stay in fund B. Going back to fund A now will defeat your tax loss harvesting move. What if fund B is up some, but not enough to completely wipe out the loss you harvested?

You can stay in fund B and wait for it to turn a loss. It may never happen. If fund B keeps going up you are stuck with it.

Or you can complete your round trip and call it a day. You realize a small short-term capital gain on fund B, which offsets some of your harvested loss from selling fund A.

Dividend From Fund B

Dividends also get in the way. If while holding fund B you receive a dividend from it, selling fund B within 60 days from buying it will turn an otherwise qualified dividend into a non-qualified (“ordinary”) dividend. Ordinary dividends are taxed at a higher rate than qualified dividends.

I’m in this situation now. I sold fund A at a loss and bought fund B. The 30-day window cleared. Fund B was up some, but not a lot. I also received a dividend from it during that window.

Should I sell fund B and get back to fund A now?

Selling fund B now will make me lose some of the harvested loss from selling fund A. It will also increase the tax rate on the dividend received from fund B. Selling after another month to keep the dividend qualified may make me lose more of the harvested loss. Would that be penny-wise pound-foolish? Or should I forget about going back to fund A and just stay in fund B?

I decided to wait until the dividend gets qualified. I don’t want to lose the bird in hand (loss aversion bias). Let’s see what happens in another month.

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What To Do After Tax Loss Harvesting is copyrighted material from The Finance Buff. All rights reserved. ( b87e8215d24496480249d6aaf20c77ea )

by Harry Sit at September 29, 2015 01:53 PM

Crossway Blog

3 Things I've Learned from Carl F. H. Henry

This is a guest post by Matthew J. Hall, coeditor (with Owen Strachan) of Essential Evangelicalism: The Enduring Influence of Carl F. H. Henry.

One of My Best Teachers

Some of the best teachers I’ve ever had were ones I never met. In fact, some of them have been dead a long time. I mean a really long time (e.g., Augustine).

But one of the best teachers I’ve had in my life died at the beginning of this century, just as I was finishing my first year as a seminary student.

Carl Henry died in December of 2003 and I never got to meet him. But his life and work have exerted a formative influence on me. The following three examples are among some of the most quintessentially Henrician lessons I’ve learned.

1. The gospel really is good news and evangelism matters. A lot.

Henry was a brilliant theologian, to be sure. But he had the heart of an evangelist. In fact, he devoted much of his life to organizing evangelicals to greater effectiveness in the task of global mission. Theology and mission went hand in hand for Henry, with everything grounded in an ethic of love. He writes,

It would be a supreme act of lovelessness on the part of the Christian community to withhold from the body of humanity, lost in sin, the evangel that Christ died for sinners and that the new birth—without which no man can see the kingdom of God—is available on the condition of personal repentance and faith. [1]

If Henry were still with us, the advance of Christianity during the past decade, particularly in the Global South, would undoubtedly delight him. But he would also continue to summon those of us living in North America and Europe not to shrink back from personal evangelism.

2. The Christian faith cannot be indifferent to social injustice.

American evangelicalism has long wrestled with its seemingly schizophrenic tension between the command to proclaim the gospel and to pursue justice, reconciliation, and righteousness. Do we send missionaries to evangelize unreached people groups? Or do we advocate for the vulnerable and oppressed?

Henry understood that asking the question in this way presumed a false dichotomy, one that woefully underestimates the totality of what it means to proclaim the good news of Christ’s kingdom. But his summon for evangelical opposition to injustice was grounded in God’s own character and revelation.

Evangelicals know that injustice is reprehensible not simply because it is anti-human but because it is anti-God. . . . Evangelicals must make God’s Word and ways known because it is the divine will and demand that is flouted by social injustice. [2]

Evangelicals represent the legacy of Henry when they plant new churches and serve the poor, when they invest in biblical translation and organize to oppose human trafficking, when they evangelize their neighbors and lobby for legislation that protects the unborn.

3. As bad as things may appear, the Christian disposition is one of hope.

In the vortex of cultural and social change, American evangelicals have often proven to be among the most worrisome and fearful. Follow social media, blogs, and a lot of Christian publishing and you might wonder just how secure this whole Kingdom of Christ really is.

Of course, when Jesus promised to build his church and that the gates of hell would not prevail against it, he meant it. Better than most, Carl Henry understood that even in the darkest of times, the evangel tells us that hope is our “original factory setting.” We labor for truth, advocate for justice, and suffer persecution for righteousness, but we do it all with a hopefulness that only makes sense because of the promises secured by a resurrected Christ who is ruling over the cosmos right now.

Evangelicalism can view the future with a sober optimism, grounded not only in the assurance of the ultimate triumph of righteousness, but also in the conviction that divine redemption can be a potent factor in any age. [3]

I love this about Henry. He was able to look right into the darkness—right into the most hostile challenges and threats to the kingdom of Christ—and never despair.

The only way that’s possible is to go to bed at night with a confidence anchored in truth that the God who speaks is also the God who saves.

[1] Carl F. H. Henry, Evangelicals at the Brink of Crisis: Significance of the World Congress on Evangelism (Waco, TX: Word Books, 1967), 36.
[2] Carl F. H. Henry, A Plea for Evangelical Demonstration (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1971), 14.
[3] Carl F. H. Henry, The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1947), 67.

Matthew J. Hall is vice president of academic services at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he also teaches courses in church history. He is coeditor (with Owen Strachan) of Essential Evangelicalism: The Enduring Legacy of Carl F.H. Henry.

by Crossway at September 29, 2015 01:24 PM


Mere Fidelity: Truth Overruled (w/ Ryan T. Anderson)

Mere FidelityWith the Obergefell decision on same-sex marriage come a tide of social, legal, and political shifts in the American landscape. Ryan T. Anderson, alongside Robert George, is America’s chief, cheerful, public philosophical advocate for traditional marriage as well as religious freedom issues has written a book about what comes next, Truth Overruled: The Future of Marriage and Religious FreedomMatthew Lee Anderson, Alastair Roberts, and I had the privilege of having him on the show to talk through his book, Obergefell, Kim Davis, conscience, and other such lovely topics.

We hope you’ll enjoy the show and find it instructive, encouraging, and challenging.

Soli Deo Gloria

by Derek Rishmawy at September 29, 2015 01:00 PM

The Art of Non-Conformity

“If We Never Booked the Tickets, We’d Never Go”: On the Road with Serena Star Leonard

This is a traveler case study. (Read others or nominate yourself.)

Well into her third year of continuous travel, Serena Star Leonard and her husband John spend their days exploring the world and documenting stories of people who make a difference.

Introduce yourself!

I’m Serena, a half-Kiwi, half-Malaysian born in Hong Kong. My husband is John, an Irishman. We were both living in Australia when we met, fell in love, and got married in the space of 16 weeks.

I’d worked both in corporate environments and for myself for a number of years, but I wanted to change things up. My goal was to work for money one day a week and spend the rest of my time doing work I was passionate about but wouldn’t necessarily make a cent.

My project became a book, How to Retire in 12 Months. In the same year, my beloved little brother passed away. By the end of the year, my life was forever changed.

After a year of mourning, John and I decided to go to Latin America. We now travel the world to capture stories of people who make a difference with our project, Five Point Five. We make short, five-minute documentaries about people and projects, and try to inspire others so that they can make a difference too.


Do you have a memory that sticks out in your mind from your recent travels?

The first project we visited was a charity called Fundación Mariposas Amarillas (Yellow Butterflies Foundation) in Colombia. This grassroots charity was started by a former street kid, Oscar, and we showed up to volunteer as assistant teachers and make our first documentary.

It was an eye-opening experience. The programs take place in a slum—a place two taxi drivers refused to take us because it was “too dangerous.” But it’s also a place where kids who have no access to education are able to go to school.

We heard stories and saw images that struck home how tough it was for these kids. Like the bright, fun, keen-to-learn kid whose mom didn’t pay attention to him and whose older siblings were addicted to drugs. And the drunk men sitting on the street who beckoned to a small child, gave him a taste of moonshine, and laughed as the kid gulped it down then spat in disgust.

Most people lose hope as they get older and abuse themselves and others around them. I was pretty devastated for the probable future of these kids. The poverty is immense and opportunities are slim when you don’t have an education – at least Fundación Mariposas Amarillas was helping with that.


How do you react when you witness those sorts of situations?

We often battle with what we should do in each given moment. Our minds race with questions:

Do we buy lunch for this person or that person? When is giving money good, and when is it bad? Do we try to help every child/person/family/animal that needs it? When do we do more harm than good? Who do we choose to help when we can’t help them all?

We didn’t act in that moment with the boy and the moonshine. It was a single moment, and the boy ran off with his friends. I am someone who does want to step in and I am learning to pick my battles, sometimes the hard way.

The hardest part of the journey is to immerse ourselves in all of these people that are changing the world and then to leave and try to focus on the next one. I feel like I now carry a responsibility to help each one because I have seen how important their work is.


What inspired you to start Five Point Five?

We had always wanted to travel to Latin America, but there was always a reason why we shouldn’t go. Too broke, too busy, too many responsibilities. One day while walking past a travel agency, we realized if we never booked tickets then we would never go. So we booked them and decided that we would just make it work.

The idea for filming for-good projects came afterwards. We wanted our travel to have meaning. By the time we came up with the project, we only had a few weeks left to sell all our stuff, pack up our lives, and learn how to film documentaries. It was insane and stressful and we nearly changed the dates of our tickets a few times because we were so worried that we were too unprepared, underfunded, and inexperienced to spend a year traveling and film-making.


Why Five Point Five?

We saw a video we saw about this amazing man named Narayanan Krishnan. He quit his job to feed the hungry and destitute in his community in India. In the film he says, “Everyone has 5.5 liters of blood, we are all the same.”

We figured that if we all have 5.5 liters of blood and we are all the same, we all have the ability to make a difference—so we called the project Five Point Five.


How do you pay for your travels?

Each year costs us between $30,000-$40,000. We fund it between the both of us, through various income channels including business coaching, selling books and courses, book royalties, website development, video production, affiliate marketing, poker winnings, and sponsorship.

We offset many of our travel costs by doing hotel, tour, and cruise reviews along the way.


What has surprised you as you’ve traveled?

My capacity to communicate without language has been very surprising. I am not someone who is confident meeting new people. In fact, I struggle with small talk in English, let alone with people whose language I don’t speak.

But John is great at pulling silly faces, hacking through language, and just making people feel comfortable. After two years of travel in Latin America I felt much more confident communicating without language. A warm smile and some silly hand signals can go a long way.

So much of language is body language anyway, and confidence is the difference between being understood or not – or at least removing the awkwardness.


Tell us about a few more people you’ve met.

In Nicaragua we filmed a project run by some incredible women, who all found themselves uneducated and needing to provide for their families. They’d turned to sex work, which is especially dangerous in Nicaragua. But this small group of women banded together to help educate and protect over 400 women in the industry with the help of funding from an international organization.

We spent a day with the women, capturing their stories and even filmed inside a brothel. It was pretty far off the tourist trail and seeing inside the rooms and dirty, dark concrete boxes these women live and work in made me very much appreciate being given the chance of having an education as a child.

Another encounter was with a wonderful woman who managed a free kindergarten in Bolivia for the locals. We jumped in a taxi with this woman and she proceeded to tell us about her past, which included over a decade in slavery. She worked seven days a week from morning until night and only earned enough to buy a bag of rice each month.


You said you met and married John in 16 weeks. What’s the story?

I was a radio host on Bondi FM. One evening an Irish artist sat in for an interview before their show. They arrived late, and thus we were all going to be late to the show, so they let me hitch a ride with them. On the way, we stopped to pick up guitars from someone’s house, and I met John for a brief, flirty minute.

Later that evening we met again backstage, got talking and just hit it off. He pretty much moved in that day! We got married on my radio show so our overseas friends and family could listen to the live stream. It was the start of a pretty magical six years (so far!).


What did we miss?

Three years ago, we didn’t know how to use a camera. Since then we have filmed 22 short documentaries of some of the most inspiring people in the world. We’ve also filmed 18 hotels, 18 cruises, tours and destinations, and 4 music festivals in 21 countries.

We’ve also learned we can live and travel and work together as a couple (without murdering each other!).


Where to next?

We are currently in Thailand, and will continue through Southeast Asia until October when we will return to Ireland for a book launch. Then it’s off to Africa, and finding our next project. It may have something to do with tiny houses, eco villages and kids… but at this stage, who knows!

Stay up to date with Serena and John at Five Point Five or via Twitter @fivepointfivetv.


by Chris Guillebeau at September 29, 2015 12:30 PM

Zondervan Academic Blog

Does the Bible Teach ‘Faith Alone’?

Faith AloneSola fide has been the rallying cry for generations of Christians. Yet in his new book Tom Schreiner wonders, “Does sola fide still matter today?”

Faith Alone is one of five new resources exploring the five sola rallying cries of the Reformation (including sola scriptura, solus Christus, sola gratis, and soli Deo gloria). In this volume Schreiner offers a historical, biblical and theological tour of the doctrine of justification.

Last week we examined one reason why ‘faith alone’ matters: the early church taught it. Schreiner makes the point, though, that “as Protestants we believe in sola scriptura. We must, in the end, turn to what the Scriptures say and cannot simply rely on tradition or interpretations from the past.” (97)

In other words, does the Bible teach faith alone?

Schreiner leads an investigation of the role of faith in the Synoptics, John’s gospel, Acts, and Paul’s writings to find out.

Faith Alone and the Synoptics

Several examples from the Synoptics illustrate “there are indications that faith plays a central role in one’s relationship with God.” (112)

  • Jesus commends the faith of the centurion. “Jesus healed the centurion’s slave because of the man’s faith, not because of his noble efforts on behalf of the Jews or his worthiness.” (113)
  • Jesus affirms the faith of the woman at Simon the Pharisee’s house. “This story accords with the notion that justification is by faith alone, for the forgiveness Jesus offers here is not secured by obedience—the woman was a notorious sinner.” (114)
  • The parable of the Pharisee and tax collector uses dikaioō soteriologically. “Though the word ‘faith’ isn’t found here, the parable certainly fits with the notion of justification by faith alone, for the tax collector wasn’t justified by his works but solely through God’s mercy.” (115)

Schreiner concludes, “The importance of faith is underscored in the Synoptic Gospels, for entrance into the kingdom is for those who believe.” (115-116)

Faith Alone and the Gospel of John

Faith is also underscored in John’s gospel: “The centrality of believing in the Gospel of John is evident, for John uses the verb ‘believe’ (pisteuō) ninety-eight times.” (116)

Schreiner argues the content and profile of belief in John is important, “John wants the readers to believe that Jesus is the Messiah and God’s Son…The belief John calls for here is centered on Jesus: one must believe in Jesus (16:9) and that God sent him into the world (16:27, 30; 17:8, 21).” (116)

He also notes John contrasts believing with doing. For example, John 6 shows an exchange between Jesus and the crowd: “They want to do and perform and work, but what they must do is believe and trust. Believing is a receptive activity; it is compared to coming and to eating and drinking.” (117)

Faith Alone and Acts

The designation of early Christians as “believers” indicates the primacy of sola fide in Acts. So does the record of people “believing.” Trust or belief characterized and were fundamental to the Christian experience, which several passages illustrate:

  • “But many of those who heard the message believed” (4:4)
  • “Many believed in the Lord” (9:42)
  • “All the prophets testify about Him that through His name everyone who believes in Him will receive forgiveness of sins” (10:43)
  • “We believed on the Lord Jesus Christ” (11:17)
  • “Everyone who believes in Him is justified” (13:39)
  • “Many of them believed, including a number of the prominent Greek women as well as men” (17:12)

Schreiner concludes, “The references above make it abundantly clear that faith, belief, and trust are characteristic of Christians.” (120)

Faith Alone and Paul

“Statistics alone demonstrate the centrality of faith and trust in Paul: the word ‘faith’ (pistis) occurs 142 times, and the verb (pisteuō) 54 times.” Schreiner notes several aspects of Paul’s theology on faith and belief:

  1. Being a Christian means believing. “Paul describes his readers as those who believed or those who have faith.” (121)
  2. Believing in the gospel isn’t optional. “Those who don’t put their trust in Jesus will face eschatological…righteousness is granted to those who believe.” (121)
  3. Paul contrasts working with believing. “Justification is not granted to those who work for God but to those who trust in God.” (121-122)
  4. Saving faith isn’t just any faith. “Saving faith is directed to the creator God, the God who made the world and intervenes in it, the God who gives life where there is death.” (122) Paul equates Jesus with that God.

Based on Paul’s writings Schreiner concludes, “The notion that salvation is by faith alone is supported by the truth that righteousness isn’t by works.” (111)


Schreiner’s investigation leads us to this important conclusion:

What it means to be a Christian is to be a believer, one who trusts in God and in his Son, Jesus Christ. Since righteousness is by faith, works are ruled out as the basis for salvation. (123)

Read Faith Alone yourself and discuss it with colleagues to better understand what the Reformers taught and why sola fide still matters.

by Jeremy Bouma at September 29, 2015 12:00 PM

Table Titans

Tales: Summon Nature’s Ally


I've been playing desktop RPGs for about thirty years. My kids have been exposed to sci-fi and fantasy in the books, movies, and comics around the house, so I knew it was only a matter of time before their interest in gaming blossomed. My daughter is now eleven, and she decided she would really…

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September 29, 2015 07:01 AM

Proclamations: Pre Order Table Titans Vol 1: First Encounters TODAY!


It’s finally here! Table Titans Volume 1: First Encounters is on its way here from the printers and will be shipping in December. Hallelujah!

First we want to once again say thank you to everyone who backed our Kickstarter and made this book happen. Because of your support, we were able to have…

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September 29, 2015 07:00 AM

Doc Searls Weblog » Doc Searls Weblog »

Beyond ad blocking — the biggest boycott in human history

According to Business Insider, ad blocking is now “approaching 200 million.”

Calling it a boycott is my wife’s idea. I say she’s right. Look at the definitions:

Merriam-Webster: “to engage in a concerted refusal to have dealings with (as a person, store, or organization) usually to express disapproval or to force acceptance of certain conditions.”

Wikipedia: “an act of voluntarily abstaining from using, buying, or dealing with a person, organization, or country as an expression of protest, usually for social or political reasons. Sometimes, it can be a form of consumer activism.”

Free Dictionary: “To abstain from or act together in abstaining from using, buying, dealing with, or participating in as an expression of protest or disfavor or as a means ofcoercion.”

Close enough.

Ad blocking didn’t happen in a vacuum. It had causes. We start to see those when we look at how interest hockey-sticked in 2012. That was when ad-supported commercial websites, en masse, declined to respect Do Not Track messages from users:


As we see, interest in Do Not Track fell, while interest in ad blocking rose. (As did ad blocking itself.)

Leading up to this, from 2007 to 2011, advertisers and publishers cranked up tracking-fed advertising, aka adtech. One of the most annoying adtech practices is retargeting, which tracks you from site to site, serving you the same ads, over and over again. As retargeting started to rise, so did searches for “how to block ads”:

block-retargetubg(Original source: Don Marti)

Now check out nine other pieces of adtech arcana, none of which were in use before 2007:


other4trendsNow here’s adblock war, by itself:


Google says data for September, at the right edge of that last chart, is partial. Given the media coverage going to adblock + war (and Apple’s support for “Content Blocking” in IOS 9), betcha it’ll go a lot higher when the month is complete.

If we look at this war through the lens of GandhiCon

  1. First they ignore you.
  2. Then they laugh at you.
  3. Then they fight you.
  4. Then you win.

…we’re at GandhiCon 3.

It is typical of business, even on the Internet (where everybody has power, and not just the big institutions), to think that ad blocking is a problem that affects only them, and that it’s up to them to fix it. (A new example: Secret Media.)

Actually, it’s up to us. Because we’ll win. Then we’ll find ourselves saying again what Cluetrain first said for us sixteen years ago:

we are not seats or eyeballs or end users or consumers. we are human beings and our reach exceeds your grasp. deal with it.

Deal is the operative verb here. Publishers and companies that advertise have power too, and we need to engage it, not just fight it. (In his speech at the UN today, President Obama had a good one-liner that applies here: “We all have a stake in each other’s success.”)

I describe one path toward engagement in A Way to Peace in the Adblock War, over on the ProjectVRM blog:

The only way engagement will work is through tools that are ours, and we control: tools that give us scale — like a handshake gives us scale. What engages us with the Washington Post should also engage us with Verge and Huffpo. What engages us with Mercedes should also engage us with a Ford dealer or a shoe store.

That path leads to a pair of related outcomes.

One is that ad blockers will evolve to valving systems for accepting advertising’s wheat while rejecting its chaff. (I explain the difference in the first post in this series. Also, sez AdExchanger, 71% of Ad-Block Users Would Consider Whitelisting Sites That Don’t Suck.)

The other is that we’ll help marketers think past abuse and coercion as ways to get what they want out of customers. After that happens, they’ll realize that —

  1. Free customers are more valuable than captive ones
  2. Genuine relationships are worth more than coerced ones
  3. Volunteered (and truly relevant) personal data is worth more than the kind that is involuntarily fracked
  4. Expressions of real intent by customers are worth more than guesswork fed by fracked data

And we’ll prove it to them. Because we’ll have the power to do that, whether they like it or not.

I’ll lay out paths to both outcomes in my next post.






by Doc Searls at September 29, 2015 01:24 AM

sacha chua :: living an awesome life

Weekly review: Week ending September 25, 2015

This was an excellent week for making things and for getting things done.

We spent Saturday reorganizing the pantry and freezer, throwing out things that had long since expired. We dedicated an eye-level area for snacks and things that weren’t too far past their expiration date, and we’ve been making excellent progress going through these. The new system seems to be working well.

Two sewing milestones! I modified a pattern to add a zipper and a gathered section, and that worked out nicely. I also sewed my first buttoned shirt. It looks recognizably shirt-like, hooray! I want to make a few comfy flannel shirts, but a wide-ranging search of fabric stores didn’t turn up the kind of flannel I was looking for. Oh well, I’ll just keep looking. In the meantime, I’ve added quite a few yards to my stash. I look forward to sewing my way through them. I’m also curious about generating SVG patterns based on measurements, especially if I can use them (with a little modification) for laser cutting.

A couple of new things for cooking, too. We’ve settled into a bubble tea / ginataan routine at home, both nice afternoon treats. I learned how to make tapioca pearls from scratch, too. I made corned beef steamed buns using a bun mix from the Asian supermarket. The dough needs a little work, but the filling was perfect. Yum.

Motivated by a podcast session on Friday with Daniel Gopar (we talked about the Emacs community), I finally got around to splitting up the Emacs Conf 2015 videos into individual talks and assembling them into a playlist.

Whee! Next week: Paperwork, sewing, and hanging out with people…

2015-09-28a Week ending 2015-09-25 -- index card #journal #weekly


Blog posts


Focus areas and time review

  • Business (11.3h – 6%)
    • Earn (5.6h – 49% of Business)
    • Build (5.4h – 47% of Business)
      • Drawing (3.0h)
      • Paperwork (0.0h)
    • Connect (0.4h – 3% of Business)
  • Relationships (0.0h – 0%)
  • Discretionary – Productive (24.3h – 14%)
    • Emacs (6.2h – 3% of all)
      • Process Emacsconf videos
      • Announce Emacs Hangout
    • Check out open source tools for patternmaking
    • Sewing (14.6h)
      • Make buttoned shirt
    • Writing (1.6h)
  • Discretionary – Play (13.9h – 8%)
  • Personal routines (31.0h – 18%)
  • Unpaid work (22.2h – 13%)
  • Sleep (65.1h – 39% – average of 9.3 per day)

The post Weekly review: Week ending September 25, 2015 appeared first on sacha chua :: living an awesome life.

by Sacha Chua at September 29, 2015 01:01 AM

Cal Newport » Blog

Deep Habits: Three Recent Daily Plans


A Blocking Believer

Longtime Study Hacks readers know I’m a proponent of planning in advance how you’re going to spend your time. To this end, each morning I block out the hours of my work day in one of my trusted Black n’ Red notebooks (see above), and assign specific efforts to these blocks.

My goal, of course, is not to make a rigid plan I must follow no matter what. Like most people, my schedule often shifts as the day unfolds. The key, instead, is to make sure that I am intentional about what I do with my time, and don’t allow myself to drift along in a haze of reactive, inbox-driven busyness tempered with mindless surfing.

Though the basic idea behind daily planning is simple — block out the hours of the day and assign work to these blocks — many readers ask me good questions about the details of its implementation. In response to these queries, I thought it might be useful to show you a few of my actual daily plans from recent days during this past month…

The Triple Rewrite


Notice, this plan doesn’t start until 10:30. This doesn’t mean that I started work at 10:30. On many days, I like to dive right into a deep task for an hour or so before taking the time to make a plan for the rest of the day.

The columns growing to the right side are rewrites that I made throughout the day as my plan changed. Someone stopped by my office during the 12:30 block to discuss a research problem, which shifted the length of my 1:30 task block. But even that shift was not enough as that block ended up lasting until 3 — requiring yet another rewrite of the plan.

Also, notice how I use the right hand side to elaborate the details of some of my blocks.

A Well-Oiled Teaching Day


Here’s an example of a teaching day unfolding efficiently. After an early morning block of work (not captured on the plan), I batched some key tasks before commuting to work. I then immediately carved out two hours of deep work before turning my attention to updating the problem set I needed to post that day. From 3 to 3:30 I reviewed my course notes and did a final shutdown pass before heading to teach my 3:30 class.

Notice, an implication of this schedule is that between 10:30 and 3:00 I never saw my e-mail inbox.

Salvaging A Fractured Day


I actually wrote this Thursday plan the night before, so you can see the whole day laid out. Like most mornings, I start work at 8:30. In this case, I dived straight into a difficult course related task before turning my attention to deep work (which, for me, is almost always code for “working on research problems”).

The grayed out blocks that follow involve me taking my youngest son to a doctor’s appointment — a disruptive task from a scheduling perspective. But notice how my use of daily planning allows me to salvage every ounce of productivity from the day. Not only did I get a lot done before I left, but on arriving at campus, I was ready to inline core tasks into the down periods that arose during my regularly scheduled office hours.

I then had a grader’s meeting and some final preparation for my lecture before heading off to teach.

On the right hand side you’ll see an elaboration of what tasks I planned to complete during my task block as well as a suggestion that I might consider swapping the deep work block with the task block (in the end, I didn’t).

A Few Closing Notes

My goal in showing the above examples is to demonstrate the mundane reality of daily planning. It’s not a super secret system, and it can be messy (especially if your handwriting is as bad as mine), but it’s still absurdly effective at insuring that at the end of each week you look back and are proud of what you accomplished.

by Study Hacks at September 29, 2015 12:43 AM

The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

You Are Not What You Eat

Body image and BMI, health and nutrition, exercise and eating habits—these topics bombard us each time we turn on the TV, flip through a magazine, or surf the web. Advertisers clamor to convince us that we’ll only get the good life once we get mastery over our bodies and appetites. We’ll be inferior, it’s suggested, if we don’t have this or look like that. Given our proclivity to find fulfillment in things other than Jesus, we consume their products without even realizing what’s happening. Obsessing over how we look and what we eat, we end up caring about meeting the beauty standards airbrushed onto magazine covers more than honoring our Savior with our bodies. 

In this new video, Amie Patrick talks with Mark Mellinger about what it looks like for Christians to have a healthy body image as well as the heart issues that often cause us to look for comfort outside of the gospel. Patrick, co-author (with her husband, Darrin) of the forthcoming book The Dude’s Guide to Marriage: Ten Skills Every Husband Must Develop to Love His Wife Well (Thomas Nelson, November 2015), considers the place of exercise in the Christian life, common misconceptions among believers, and much more. 


Ryan Troglin is an editorial assistant in the Office of the President at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He and his wife, Stacey, are members at Third Avenue Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky.

by Ryan Troglin at September 29, 2015 12:00 AM

Sustaining the Covenant of Marital Love

What sustains the marital bond and affections over the long haul? Three men with a combined 116 years of marriage reflect on what they've learned from God's Word and others along with their experience.

In today’s podcast, Tim Keller, Don Carson, and John Piper offer insight on falling in love again and again and the ground of covenant in which the flower of love grows. In marriage, man and woman change, but their promise does not, sustained by the God who enacted his covenant between Christ and the church.

As Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote to a young married couple, “It is not your love that sustains the marriage, but from now on, the marriage that sustains your love.”

Subscribe to TGC’s podcast in iTunes or for other devices to get this and other interviews, workshops, and lectures. The Gospel Coalition Podcast is now available on Stitcher.

by Staff at September 29, 2015 12:00 AM

Chipotle Church and the Problem of Choice

We live in a Chipotle world. Especially in America, the air we breathe is consumerism; the guiding principle is the consumer knows best. We celebrate our right to design a burrito exactly as we prefer it, thank you very much. Our media environment is iEverything—emphasis on the “i.” The pleasure of personalization is a higher value than the inevitable indigestion caused by our ill-conceived culinary combinations.     

This approach has strongly influenced the way we conceive of church. Just as we pick and choose from our preferred proteins, beans, and vegetables in the Chipotle line, we think about church as a thing we can design according to our various tastes and hankerings. If a church stops catering to our particular appetites or begins causing us stomach aches (pastor says something disagreeable, worship music becomes nauseatingly emotionalist, someone speaks in tongues), we simply move on. There are dozens of other places to get a burrito in town; surely one of them will meet all (or most) of our checkboxes of likes, dislikes, and allergies.

And our lists are long. My generation especially has a knack for endless opining about what we want the church to be, or more likely want we don’t want it to be. It’s too trendy or not trend-savvy enough. Too cerebral or not intellectual enough. Too masculine or too feminine. Too homogenous or trying too hard to be diverse. We bristle at the music, the preaching, the politics, the pastor. We lament the church’s apathy about the arts or anemic theology of singleness. We complain about the Costco coffee, the way communion isn’t done communally, the awkward “college and career” class, and so on. There’s always something.

What We Want Is Not What We Need

This isn’t to say these things are all unimportant. But if we always approach church through the lens of wishing this or that were different, or longing for a church that “gets me” or “meets me where I’m at,” we’ll never commit anywhere (or, Protestants that we are, we’ll just start our own church). But church shouldn’t be about being perfectly understood and met in our comfort zone; it should be about understanding and knowing God more, and meeting him where he’s at. This is an uncomfortable but beautiful thing. As 19th-century Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon once said:

If I had never joined a church till I had found one that was perfect, I should never have joined one at all; and the moment I did join it, if I had found one, I should have spoiled it, for it would not have been a perfect church after I had become a member of it. Still, imperfect as it is, it is the dearest place on earth to us.

What we think we want from a church is almost never what we need. Peter and others had ideas of their “dream church” (taking up the sword against Rome, excluding Gentiles, and so on), but Jesus had other plans. However challenging it may be to embrace, God’s idea of church is far more glorious than any dream church we could conjure. Eventually Peter came to see this too. It’s not about finding a church that fits perfectly around me and my theological, architectural, or political preferences. It’s about becoming like “living stones” that are “being built up as a spiritual house,” focused on and held together by Jesus, the stone the builders rejected who became the cornerstone (1 Pet. 2:4–7). 

Giving Up the Dream

Contrary to the wisdom of consumerism, we’re better off giving up the “dream church” ideal and the “perfect fit” fallacy. I’ve seen this firsthand in my current church experience. Whether because of its music (louder and more contemporary than my tastes), its emphasis on spontaneous prayer in “groups of two or three around you” (I’m an introvert), or its openness to the wildness of the Holy Spirit (I grew up Southern Baptist), much about the church makes me uncomfortable. It’s far from the “dream church” that meets all my preferred checkboxes. Yet it’s a church where my wife and I have grown immensely and been used by God. It’s a church that has shown me clearly that “how it fits me” is exactly the opposite of a healthy approach to church.

Rather, church should be about collectively spurring one another to “be fit” to the likeness of Christ (Eph. 4–5). And this can happen in almost any sort of church as long as it’s fixed on Jesus, anchored in the gospel, and committed to the authority of Scripture—even in churches different from what we would “design” in our proverbial Chipotle assembly line.

Better Way 

You may have noticed Chipotle’s “customizable” approach to fast food has recently caught on in the genre of pizza. Within walking distance of our home in Orange, California, for example, there is a Blaze Pizza and a Pizza Press, both vying to be the “Chipotle of pizza.” As appealing as they are, though, I’m often disappointed with my “build-your-own” creations. The abundance of options and combinations at my creative disposal rarely results in exceptional pizza. On the other hand, one of the best slices of pizza I’ve had recently was from a place in Berkeley known for offering only one option each day, dreamed up by the chef based on the day’s available produce and seasonal ingredients. The pizza offering on the day I visited included toppings I never would’ve willingly chosen (pea tendrils and cauliflower), but to my surprise the result was delicious.

I wonder if this might be a better way to approach church. Instead of a la carte Christianity driven by fickle tastes and “dream church” appetites, what if we learned to love churches even when (or perhaps because) they challenge us and stretch us out of our comfort zones? Instead of driving 20 miles away to attend a church that “fits my needs,” what if we committed to the nearest non-heretical, Bible-believing church where we could grow and serve—and where Jesus is the hero—however uncomfortable it may be?

Developing New Tastes Together

Commitment even amid discomfort, faithful relationship even amid conflicting preferences and disparate tastes: this is what being the people of God has always been about. Imagine if Yahweh had bailed on Israel the minute they said or did something offensive, opting instead to “shop around” for a new people (Canaanites? Philistines? Egyptians?). Imagine if God were as fickle and restless as we are. But he isn’t. God’s covenant faithfulness to his people, even when the relationship is messy and embarrassing, should be instructive to us. A healthy relationship with the local church is like a healthy marriage: it only works when grounded in selfless commitment and non-consumerist covenant.

Is this approach uncomfortable, awkward, and stretching? Absolutely. But that is the point. We don’t grow spiritually from Chipotle-style “build your own” comfort faith, consuming church as it suits our hunger and hankerings. We grow by committing to a community that pursues Jesus, developing together a taste for the bread of life.  

Brett McCracken is a film critic for Christianity Today and the author of Gray Matters: Navigating the Space Between Legalism and Liberty and Hipster Christianity: When Church and Cool Collide. You can follow him on Twitter.

by Brett McCracken at September 29, 2015 12:00 AM


Tony Reinke said it perfectly—Randy Alcorn’s new book, Happiness, is a “200,000-word encyclopedia on joy.” Its 450-plus pages present the most comprehensive Christian treatment of happiness I know, resulting in one of the most enjoyable, exciting, and exuberant books of theology I’ve read in a long time. It’s one of those rare, potentially life-changing books that has the ability to positively transform our view of God, the Bible, the world, and the Christian life.

Unlike some books that seem to have been thrown together in a weekend, Happiness took three years to write. And it shows. There’s a remarkable breadth and depth in Alcorn’s teaching on what the Bible says about happiness, his presentation of what theologians throughout church history have said about it, and his analysis of why the church and culture have been moving in opposite directions on the subject—the church often viewing happiness with suspicion while the culture worships at its feet.

Alcorn, prolific author and president of Eternal Perspective Ministries, is on a mission is to reclaim happiness for the Christian and the church by demonstrating that it’s ultimately rooted in the character of God; that it’s a desirable and possible Christian experience; and that, although different to what unbelievers are pursuing, it’s a valuable bridge to the unbeliever’s world.

After a brief introduction that begins to clear away false ideas of happiness and define it in biblical and God-centered language, Happiness divides into four main parts:

  • Part 1: Our Compelling Quest for Happiness
  • Part 2: The Happiness of God
  • Part 3: The Bible’s Actual Words for Happiness
  • Part 4: Understanding and Experiencing Happiness in God

What Happiness Is and Is Not  

Numerous themes are threaded throughout the book. Here are the eight most signficant ones:

1. Happiness is the most universal human desire. Alcorn demonstrates that believers and unbelievers have identified happiness as a basic human need throughout history. It’s not just a modern self-obsession, in other words, but a thirst that’s deeply embedded in God’s original creation. Although misdirected since the fall, this longing for happiness is present in every age and culture, and is also frequently recognized in the Bible.

2. Happiness is rooted in the character of God. Alcorn’s treatment of God’s happiness is the most powerful section in the book. Only when we grasp that God is happy can we believe that God wants us to be happy. The reason more Christians don’t experience happiness and joy, Alcorn contends, is that they don’t believe God is himself happy and therefore they don’t seek their happiness from him. Although pointing us to God as the primary (and only direct) source of happiness, Alcorn also highlights many secondary and indirect sources of happiness God has graciously provided.

3. Happiness is found throughout the Bible. If happiness is rooted in God’s character, we shouldn’t be surprised that it’s found throughout his Word. What is surprising, though, is just how much it’s in the Bible. Although he overcounts some words in his survey, Alcorn proves that many of the words our English versions translate “joy,” “delight,” “gladness,” and so on are synonyms for Greek and Hebrew words that all mean happiness. So central is happiness to the gospel that if our gospel doesn’t produce happiness, it’s not the true gospel.

4. Happiness has been promoted and enjoyed by godly Christians throughout history. Perhaps the strongest point of Alcorn’s book is the remarkable multiplicity of quotes about Christian happiness from the early church fathers, the Reformers, the Puritans, Spurgeon, and many other more recent theologians. This shows that throughout Christian history even the most orthodox and conservative believers have embraced and enjoyed happiness rather than viewing it with caution and suspicion.  

5. Happiness is a commendable, desirable, and possible Christian emotion and experience. Alcorn deals death blows to two false dichotomies, demonstrating how the Bible makes no distinction either between joy and happiness or between holiness and happiness. Rather, happiness and joy are synonyms, and you cannot have happiness without holiness (and vice versa). The distinction we should be pressing is between false happiness and authentic happiness.

6. The world has perverted happiness and made a god of it. Driven by what the world views as happiness, Alcorn is at pains to say what happiness is not—it’s not superficial, selfish, or dependent on circumstances. Neither is it positive thinking that ignores life’s negatives. He openly discusses his own struggles with depression, acknowledging that “our happiness will be punctuated by times of great sorrow, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be predominantly happy in Christ.”

7. We must reclaim happiness without shame or embarrassment, redefine it in biblical terms, call Christians to it, and help Christians to grow in it. The church has overreacted to the world’s perversion of happiness by diminishing, downplaying, and even despising happiness. However, as John Broadus said:

The minister may lawfully appeal to the desire for happiness and its negative counterpart, the dread of unhappiness. Those philosophers who insist that we ought always to do right simply because it is right are not philosophers at all, for they are either grossly ignorant of human nature, or else indulging in mere fanciful speculations.

Through biblical research and biblically-sifted secular research, Alcorn outlines many practical ways for the Christian to pursue and enjoy happiness.

8. Happiness is one of the best witnesses and bridges to the unbeliever. On the basis of the preceding, Alcorn concludes that unless the church recognizes happiness as a massive God-given point of contact with the world—and uses it to connect with unbelievers—it’s cutting off one of its biggest and best bridges. He quotes J. C. Ryle:

It is a positive misfortune to Christianity when a Christian cannot smile. A merry heart and a readiness to take part in all innocent mirth are gifts of inestimable value. They go far to soften prejudices, to take up stumbling blocks out of the way, to make way for Christ and the gospel.

Lingering Questions

Alcorn’s argument is clear and compelling. The evidence he presents from both Scripture and church history is overwhelming. His promise of God-centered happiness is appealing and motivating. His helps toward happiness are practical and doable. Happiness is a book I expect to be recommending regularly. But I do have two reservations about it, which, due to the limitations of space, I’ll present in the form of questions for further consideration.

1. When does sanctified imagination become unwarranted speculation? As I read Happiness I remembered the thoughts I had when reading Alcorn’s book Heaven. It too is a wonderful and much-needed book that beautifully and helpfully emphasizes the physicality of heaven as opposed to a hyper-spiritual view of heaven. However, many who needed to hear that message were given reason to refuse it by Alcorn sometimes going too far beyond Scripture in his speculation about what heaven would be like.

Similarly, with Happiness, I fear its vital message may be rejected by some who need it most simply because Alcorn goes too far in speculations about what kind of happiness is in God (for example, laughter within the Trinity, God roaring with laughter as he created the giraffe and other animals, and so on), about Jesus’s humor (for example, he had incredible wit and will have the most contagious laugh in heaven), and about what kind of happiness will be in heaven.

On that last point, Alcorn’s stress is almost exclusively on heaven’s continuity with this world, and takes insufficient notice of known discontinuities (such as marriage) and their implications. Add on quoting a few questionable theologians (including open theist Terence Fretheim), a smorgasbord of Bible versions, and a positive view of pictures and movies about Jesus, and I’m afraid Alcorn may give too many excuses to too many people to too easily dismiss his message.

2. Does the book give a sufficient account of anthropopathism (the Bible’s ascription of human feelings and passions to God) when explaining God’s happiness? While Alcorn does attempt in a couple places to distinguish God’s experience of happiness from normal human experience, I think he sees too much analogy and too little distinction. It’s a notoriously difficult area to achieve theological balance, of course, but there’s more work to be done in order to do justice to both the vocabulary and theology of Scripture.

Book of the Year

One last thought: I desperately want the message of Happiness to get into people’s hands and hearts—and especially into pastors’ studies and sermons. But weighing in at 450 pages (plus 30 pages of endnotes), its size is a formidable barrier to most readers today. I certainly see the need for the bigger version—to present the extensive evidence and research to pastors and scholars—but I’d love to see a 150–200-page summary version, which could be easily achieved by cutting most of the innumerable “happy” quotations from throughout church history.

All that said, for its positive effect on my own soul, for its capacity to radically transform Christians’ lives, and for its potential to improve the church’s evangelistic message, Happiness is my 2015 book of the year, and I pray God will make it the most-read and happiest “encyclopedia” ever published.

Randy Alcorn. Happiness. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House, 2015, 480 pp. $24.99. 

David P. Murray is professor of Old Testament and practical theology at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Murray blogs regularly at Head, Heart, Hand: Leadership for Servants.

by David Murray at September 29, 2015 12:00 AM

9 Things You Should Know About National Hispanic Heritage Month

National Hispanic Heritage Month, observed from September 15 to October 15, is the time set aside in the U.S. to celebrate the contributions Hispanic Americans have made to society and culture.

Here are nine things you should know about this yearly observance and about Hispanics in America.

1. The observation started in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week under President Lyndon Johnson. It was later expanded to Hispanic Heritage Month by President Ronald Reagan in 1988 to cover a 30-day period. It was enacted into law on August 17, 1988, on the approval of Public Law 100-402.

2. The day of September 15 is significant in Hispanic culture because it’s the anniversary of independence for Latin American countries Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Mexico and Chile also celebrate their independence days on September 16 and September 18, respectively. Columbus Day, or Día de la Raza, falls on October 12.

3. Hispanic is a term applied to the ethnic group that consists of people from Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central American, or other Spanish cultures. Hispanic is not a race and the term can be applied to a person from any racial group (White/Caucasian, Black/African American, Asian, etc.) or a mix of racial groups. (Nearly half of Hispanics identify their racial category as White.)

4. In 1997, the United States Government officially expanded the enthnic categorization from Hispanic to “Hispanic or Latino.” The reasoning was that Hispanic is commonly used in the eastern portion of the United States, whereas Latino is commonly used in the western portion. But while Hispanic and Latino have a considerable degree of overlap, the terms are not interchangeable. Hispanic come from Hispania, the Latin word for “Spain” while Latino is believed to be an English derivation of the Spanish word latinoamericano. Hispanic is therefore used to refer to people from Spanish-speaking countries (e.g., Spain, Central America) while Latino refers to those of Latin-American descent even if they do not speak Spanish (e.g., some Brazilians).

5. In 2014, the U.S. Hispanic population was over over 54.1 million, making them the nation’s second-largest of any racial or ethnic group in America. Today Hispanics make up 17 percent of the U.S. population, up from 5 percent in 1970. Only Mexico (120 million) had a larger Hispanic population than the United States.

6. Of those of Hispanic origin in the U.S., 64 percent were of Mexican background in 2013. Another 9.5 percent were of Puerto Rican background, 3.7 percent Cuban, 3.7 percent Salvadoran, 3.3 percent Dominican, and 2.4 percent Guatemalan. The remainder was of some other Central American, South American, or other Hispanic or Latino origin.

7. In 2014, a survey found that a majority of Latino adults (55 percent) say they are Catholic, while 16 percent are evangelical Protestants and 5 percent are mainline Protestants. Mexicans and Dominicans are more likely than other Hispanic origin groups to say they are Catholic, while Salvadorans are more likely to say they are evangelical Protestants than do Mexicans, Cubans, and Dominicans.

8. About eight-in-ten Hispanic churchgoers in the U.S. (82 percent) say their church offers Spanish-language services, 75 percent say there is Hispanic clergy at their church, and 61 percent say that most or all of the other people they worship with also are Hispanic. More than half (51 percent) say the place of worship they attend most often has all three of these characteristics.

9. Nearly six-in-ten Hispanic churchgoers (57 percent) say their church maintains close ties with countries in Latin America by sending money or missionaries to these countries or receiving clergy from countries in the region. About one-in-five Hispanics say that their place of worship does not maintain close ties to Latin American countries (21 percent) and the same share say they do not know if this is the case (21 percent).  

Other articles in this series:

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 • Orphans • Halloween and Reformation Day • World Hunger • 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

Joe Carter is an editor for The Gospel Coalition 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 29, 2015 12:00 AM

September 28, 2015

Tribune publisher: the kids will come around to newspapers →

Lynne Marek, writing about an interview with Chicago Tribune Publishing CEO Jack Griffin:

Holding the paper up, he said: “I could be wrong, but I don't think that this entirely goes away. I think there's enough about it—the experience that's sufficiently different with both the advertising and the editorial. I mean, how do you do that online?” He answers his own question later: “That's really hard to do online or on a phone."


He said he expects young people, like his 20-something sons, will continue to gravitate to newspapers, even print editions. As they move into adulthood and begin to care more about settling into a community, they'll turn to a newspaper, as generations of Americans before them have, he predicts.

As Re/code points out, The Chicago Tribune's stock has lost half of its value in the last six months, and is about to enter a round of layoffs.

But yeah, print media is totally fine. Nothing to worry about here.


by Stephen Hackett at September 28, 2015 09:00 PM

CrossFit Naptown

We Appreciate YOU!

Tuesday’s Workout:

10:00 to establish Max Snatch
1 Mile Run
10:00 to establish Max Clean and Jerk

*2 scores = time and total weight



Member Appreciation Week: October 5th-11th


Who: All of you members! We are doing this to give you the opportunity to try everything out because we are grateful to have you in our lives. Anyone who is a member at CFNT (not those with punch cards) can come as many times as you like to any class at any location! This means a member who is currently 2 times per week can come to 7 classes or more – CrossFit classes, yoga classes, Barbell Club classes, and SWIFT classes!


What: A totally free week to come to as many classes as you want in any program, especially ones that you have not tried before!


Where: At CrossFit NapTown Delaware for CrossFit or Barbell Club, Practice Indie for yoga class, Capitol SWIFT for SWIFT class, CrossFit NapTown Monon Trail for CrossFit and/or SWIFT classes.


When: The week of October 5th through 11th for any and all classes during that time.


Why: It is our 4th anniversary of being here at CrossFit NapTown and our 1 year anniversary for Capitol SWIFT and Practice Indie. We would not have made it to this point without all of your support and presence in our lives and this is one way for us to say thank you! NapTown offers so many different ways for you to improve your fitness. If you are a member with us, then you have obviously figured that out to an extent or you would have quit by now. What this week gives you is the chance to try out everything else that you may not have gotten around to yet. Maybe you have been attending CrossFit classes 3 days a week religiously for a year but are still struggling with the overhead squat. Take the time to check out a yoga class or two during that week to see how you may be able to get a little more mobile. Maybe you are a devout SWIFT and CrossFit athlete but are just missing out on some strength gains that you are craving. Insert Barbell Club here! It is a great way to add more consistent strength and technique work in to your fitness routine. If you have questions about other ideas or how you may be able to best take advantage of this opportunity, please reach out! You can email me at and I would be happy to give you a few suggestions based on what your goals are and where you feel your fitness may be stagnating.


How: Any time you come to a class at any location, check in on FaceBook, Instagram, and/or Twitter (one, two or all three options) and use this hashtag:


We are doing this to see how many people are taking advantage and trying to build a community feel around this event. If you are nervous about heading to a class, ask a couple friends to join you and then post about your experience to let us know what you thought!



by Anna at September 28, 2015 07:50 PM

Bible Reading Project

Review: Effective Discipling in Muslim Communities by Don Little

Muslims who come to Christ face momentous spiritual, psychological and social obstacles that drive many to abandon their faith. Often conversion and discipleship are framed by individualistic Western models that do not acknowledge the communal cultural forces that constrain and shape new believers. Effective discipleship requires a more relational, holistic process of Christian identity development and spiritual formation in community.
In this comprehensive resource, missiologist Don Little engages the toughest theoretical and practical challenges involved in discipling believers from Muslim backgrounds. He draws on New Testament principles, historical practices and interviews with seasoned disciplers ministering in a dozen countries across the Muslim world. Addressed here are key challenges that believers from Muslim backgrounds face, from suffering and persecution to spiritual warfare and oppression. Also included are implications for the role of disciplers in church planting among Muslims. - Intervarsity Press

Don Little offers a needed examination of discipleship among those from a Muslim background in Effective Discipling in Muslim Communities. The book is divided into two parts "Biblical, Historical, and Missiological Foundations for Discipling Believers from Muslim Backgrounds" and "Seasoned Practices in Discipling Believers from Muslim Backgrounds." The first three chapters address conversion and discipleship as presented in Scripture. Little examines Paul's writings and then Luke and Acts in a fascinating look at biblical doctrine and practice.

The chapter on conversion was a delight as Little challenges common perceptions of "being saved" and decisions with the biblical example of transformation, obedience, and discipleship. The following two chapters are an examination of discipleship in Scripture, but reveal that Little clearly has certain focuses, emphases, and points which he desires to make. A thorough and balanced examination of Scripture requires a different book, but Little's introduction of discipleship through an overview of Scripture provides a needed foundation.

The weight of Little's perspective continues to determine the analysis in his chapters on Contemporary Western Evangelical Approaches and Historical Understandings of Spiritual Formation in the Church. Little addresses popular literature on discipleship in a way similar to his examination of Scripture. He addresses perceived strengths and weaknesses in both approaches before turning to the specific topic of discipleship in Muslim contexts.

I was immensely pleased to see Little devote an entire chapter to "Contextualization and Discipleship Within Muslim Communities," and further that he provides a strong critique of Insider Movements and their methodology. While there isn't space to detail the controversies immersing the evangelism of the Muslim world or Insider Movements, it is an issue that every book on evangelism or discipleship in a Muslim context needs to address. At this time it seems that the overwhelming majority of literature on reaching Muslims for Christ endorses Insider Movement methodology or is silent on the controversy. I was actually surprised that Little not only addresses the issue, but does so clearly, stating, "I believe that unhelpful syncretism is more likely to develop, because it is already there in the theoretical foundations, when one adopts an insider approach" p. 116. He goes on to address specific issues stating, "In my experience it is quite rare to find people who have chosen to believe in and obey Christ who want to continue to call themselves Muslims or continue to attend a mosque" p. 118. These statements are to be applauded; however, Little goes on to quote and endorse several missionaries who are indeed involved in promoting Insider Movement methodologies. One of the difficulties in these controversies is that each individual draws lines at different practices and assigns labels and definitions differently. For some, Little's chapter will be shocking, for those like myself it will be a welcome but somewhat unsatisfying entry in the Insider Movement debate.

Little goes on to propose his own model of discipleship, a somewhat complex scheme he calls the Living Pyramid Model. This model, while not offering a practical program or method presents what Little believes to be a balanced, scriptural approach to discipleship in general.

The majority of the book then begins as Little presents and analyzes content provided by 75 disciple-makers involved in discipling BMB's (believers from a Muslim background). Little interviewed each subject (he presents detailed statistics regarding who was interviewed) with the following questions: 
  1. What would you give as a quick definition of discipling? What is it?
  2. How does a believer grow? What is the process that makes growth happen?
  3. How do you disciple individuals in a collective culture? Explore individual versus community.
  4. What is the BMB's  ideal identity in family and community?
  5. What have you seen to be the biggest obstacles to seeing people grow to maturity?
  6. How do you disciple BMB's through persecution and opposition?
  7. Have you had experience with demonic manifestations? If so, what advice do you have?
  8. What are the challenges and opportunities that come through the nature of BMB families?
  9. Let's explore some of the challenges of handling foreign money and foreign support.
  10. What's your integration goal for BMB's? Forming BMB groups? Having them join churches of believers from Christian backgrounds? Other?
  11. What is the ideal role(s) for an expatriate worker(s)?
  12. How do you deal with oral learners? What is the role of literacy in you discipleship?
  13. Anything else? Is there some key thing I have overlooked? Any other comment you want to make?
These responses were then analysed and cross-referenced in a number of different ways leading to a fascinating series of charts documenting the frequency of certain answers and comparing and contrasting the wisdom and emphases these disciple-makers had to offer. The interviews provide a wealth of information and chapter after chapter of fascinating discussion. The information retrieved from these interviews are invaluable and make the book and the discussion within worth the study of every Christian worker among Muslims.

I will be referencing these sections again and again, and found myself informed and appropriately challenged by the varying perspectives presented within the study. While I often wished that Scripture was a greater part of the discussion and analysis, these studies provide the reader with their own opportunity to apply scriptural authority to the discussion. Little's strong perspective does not persevere here, and he reports and analyzes the findings in a clear and objective way; so much so that it is almost jarring when the conclusion of the book abandons the interviews and the objective tone.

Little's concluding chapter is somewhat puzzling as he moves away from the content of the interviews and provides a chapter extolling the virtues of Eugene Peterson's work and perspective and challenging the principles and practices of Church Planting Movements ( of which a number of those interviewed were involved). As a practitioner of Church Planting Movement methodologies I appreciated the challenge, but felt that Little mis-characterized the emphases of what he was critiquing. Again, the length of this review does not permit me to delve into a critique; suffice to say I appreciate Little's emphasis on faithfulness and perseverance with those God has given us to Shepherd while disagreeing with his perception that many focus on speed.

Effective Discipling in Muslim Communities presents a somewhat uneven study of discipleship in general and discipleship in Muslim contexts. It excels while discussing specific issues present in discipling Muslims, and the material present in the appendices, charts, and interviews is well worth the study and purchase of the book. I would not hesitate to recommend it to all of my brothers and sisters working within Muslim contexts and am immensely grateful for Don Little's research. Little's own views on discipleship may have been better suited for a different book, or may have been more gently integrated into the whole. The book remains a valuable resource and discussion as Christians across the world find themselves discipling their brothers and sisters from a Muslim background.

by Jonathan Ammon ( at September 28, 2015 06:45 PM

Daniel Lemire's blog

Could big data and wearables help the fight against diseases?

Biologists and medical researchers are used to drinking data with a straw. Doctors measure heart rate, weight and blood pressure, one at a time, at a high cost. When patients suffer from serious diseases, like cancer, measures are even more expensive. To make matters worse, measures are usually not shared and reused. In fact, even the patients themselves can have a hard time accessing their own data.

How do we get medical data for research? Mostly through clinical trials or one-off studies. These are excessively expensive, narrowly focused, with often very few subjects. Out of all patients suffering from serious diseases, only a small percentage will ever contribute any research data points.

Today, nearly every aspect of cancer care is based on information gleaned from the roughly 3% of patients who participate in clinical trials. But new health technologies in development offer the ability to learn from every patient. These big data tools make it possible to aggregate, analyze, and learn from a wide range of medical data—electronic health records, genetic test results, and more—while protecting the security and confidentiality of a patient’s individual data. (Masters et al., 2015)

If my car breaks down and I bring it to the garage, they can talk to the onboard computer and have much of the relevant data necessary for a diagnostic. If I were to break down in the middle of writing this blog post, the hospital would have almost no data on me.

People are more complicated than cars. Nevertheless, it seems that we are at an inflexion point where much will soon become possible.

  • We have entered the era of wearable computing. Everyone is wearing a computer these days, from Syrian refugees to elderly Alzheimer’s patients. These devices range from smartphones, smartwatches, all the way to activity trackers (e.g., FitBit). We can design smart fabrics, smart glasses… All these devices are constantly connected to the Internet and have more than enough power to process the data is situ if needed.
  • The range of non-invasive medical measures that one can take continuously is expending with every year that passes. Not long ago, just measuring your heart beat in real time required annoying straps… Yet, today, anyone with an Apple watch gets real-time heart rate monitoring. In case of cardiac problems, we can even setup people with constant 24-hour ECG monitoring if needed, and the result is reliable and practical. Google has designed glucose-tracking lenses, and they are working on cancer-tracking devices. There are apps available right now that can monitor your skin for cancer. Qualcomm has setup the Tricorder X Prize which aims to build a Star-Trek tricorder for mobile medical diagnostic. South Korean researchers have designed a brassiere that can detect breast cancer.
  • We have a fantastic cloud infrastructure that is secure and scalable. For all practical purposes, one can consider that we have access to infinite storage and computational power. If we had collected all possible data on you, and you were diagnosed with some problem, it would be a trivial matter to quickly identify similar people who had the same problem in the past, and to review the therapies that worked for them.
  • We know how to process the data in clever ways. Scientists can detect a stroke event from simple activity tracking.

So it seems that we should be entering in a new era.

Conclusion: We spent the last decade with our smartest kids working in marketing for companies like Facebook. I hope that, in the next decade, they will apply their computer skills to curing the sick.

by Daniel Lemire at September 28, 2015 06:37 PM

Workout: Sept. 29, 2015

Block run 4 rounds of: 12 front-rack step-ups (95/65 lb.) 15 kettlebell swings (55/35 lb.) 18 sit-ups 400-m run

by Mike at September 28, 2015 06:27 PM

Justin Taylor

Patrick Johnstone on the Origin of “Operation World” and How You Can “Pray for the World”

Jason Mandryk talks with missionary-turned-missions-researcher Patrick Johnstone (b. 1938) about Operation World (in my view, one of the most remarkable Christian publications of the 20th century):


51IgAlTS8AL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_I’m very happy that InterVarsity Press has published a new book that carries on the legacy of Operation World, entitled Pray for the World. Here’s a description of it:

For decades, Operation World has been the world’s leading resource for people who want to impact the nations for Christ through prayer. Its twofold purpose has been to inform for prayer and to mobilize for mission. Now the research team of Operation World offers this abridged version of the 7th edition called Pray for the World as an accessible resource to facilitate prayer for the nations. The Operation World researchers asked Christian leaders in every country, “How should the body of Christ throughout the world be praying for your country?” Their responses provide the prayer points in this book, with specific ways your prayers can aid the global church. When you hear a country mentioned in the news, you can use Pray for the World to pray for it in light of what God is doing there. Each entry includes:

  • Timely challenges for prayer and specific on-the-ground reports of answers to prayer
  • Population and people group statistics
  • Charts and maps of demographic trends
  • Updates on church growth, with a focus on evangelicals
  • Explanations of major currents in economics, politics and society

Join millions of praying people around the world. Hear God’s call to global mission. And watch the world change.

by Justin Taylor at September 28, 2015 06:26 PM

NASA: Liquid water flows on Mars →


New findings from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) provide the strongest evidence yet that liquid water flows intermittently on present-day Mars.

Using an imaging spectrometer on MRO, researchers detected signatures of hydrated minerals on slopes where mysterious streaks are seen on the Red Planet. These darkish streaks appear to ebb and flow over time. They darken and appear to flow down steep slopes during warm seasons, and then fade in cooler seasons. They appear in several locations on Mars when temperatures are above minus 10 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 23 Celsius), and disappear at colder times.

This water is thought to be briny, which keeps the water from freezing at these low temperatures.

"Water on Mars" has been a story for some time now; while this is a new discovery, we've known of ice on the Red Planet for years. It's unclear where this water is from, and it doesn't make Mars more hospitable to human life, but it sure is fun to learn more about our neighbor Mars.


by Stephen Hackett at September 28, 2015 05:24 PM

An interview with Rachel Binx →

This week on my podcast about spaaaaaaaaace with Jason Snell, we gush over more Pluto photos and wish some Mars hardware a happy birthday before interviewing Rachel Binx from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

This was a really fun interview, and I think it turned out great. Go check it out.


by Stephen Hackett at September 28, 2015 05:13 PM

Zondervan Academic Blog

The Vanilla δέ (Matt 28:16) – Mondays with Mounce 266

The final sequence of events in Matthew 28 raises an interesting question about the δέ in v 16.

The angel told Mary and Mary to tell the disciples that they should go to Galilee to see the risen Jesus 9 (v 7), a command repeated by Jesus in v 10.

“While they were on their way” (Πορευομένων), Matthew tells us about the priests’ bribing the soldiers.

V 16 concludes, “So (δέ) the eleven disciples went to Galilee to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go.” The question is, how do you translate the δέ?

1. If Matthew is making the point that the disciples obeyed the angel and Jesus, δέ can be translated as “so” (NET).

2. If δέ is a continuation of the temporal participle πορευομένων, it can be translated “then” (NIV, NLT, KJV).

3. If the disciples’ behavior is in contrast to that of the priests, then δέ is translated as “but” (NASB). This possibly is why the NJB uses “meanwhile.”

4. HCSB just sees it as a paragraph marker and omits any specific translation (also TEV).

5. “Now” sidesteps the question (ESV, NRSV).

Pretty fascinating. δέ is so vanilla in meaning that context must determine its precise meaning.


William D. [Bill] Mounce posts about the Greek language, exegesis, and related topics on the ZA Blog. He is the author of numerous works including the recent Basics of Biblical Greek Video Lectures and the bestselling Basics of Biblical Greek. He is the general editor of Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of the Old and New Testament Words. He served as the New Testament chair of the English Standard Version Bible translation, and is currently on the Committee for Bible Translation for the NIV.

Learn more about Bill’s Greek resources at and visit his blog on spiritual growth at

by Bill Mounce at September 28, 2015 05:00 PM

John C. Wright's Journal » John C. Wright's Journal

Liquid Water on Mars


From a Rueter’s Article:

For the first time, NASA has confirmed the existence of liquid water on the surface of Mars, according to new research announced Monday. The finding stems from data and analysis by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) has verified that dark, seasonal streaks that have appeared on Mars’ surface come from briny water flows.

MRO found evidence of narrow channels containing water cut into cliff walls through Mars’ equatorial band, though the source and chemistry of the water is yet unknown. The streaks, or recurring slope lineae, appear during warmer, summer months on the Red Planet. They disappear when the temperature drops.

Scientists had previously run into difficulties analyzing the streaks, which measure less than 16 feet, or 5 meters, wide. The orbiting MRO’s instruments were able to process trace measurements, and scientists successfully observed the findings thanks to a computer program that can focus in on individual pixels. MRO’s data was then compared with high-resolution images of the slopes. Scientists found a match between their locations and the presence of hydrated salts.

Some scientists express reservations, since the findings may have another interpretation, but it is still fascinating.

We tend to forget how much we don’t know. Liquid water on another planet means life as we know it may be possible there.

So far, the evidence of life beyond Earth has been exactly zero, zip, nothing, nada, a situation we science fiction fans find intolerable.

by John C Wright at September 28, 2015 04:08 PM

Zippy Catholic

The Overton window cannot be “broken”

Unprincipled exceptions to liberalism usually have to be expressed in sciency-sounding language in order for modern people not to immediately reject them by default. That’s why the term “human biodiversity” is used these days to refer to racial differences, rather than using the term “racial differences” to refer to racial differences.  The sciency-soundingness of the former carries the right materialist metaphysical baggage necessary to get past the reflexive rejection by the modern mind of anything which appears to contradict liberalism. Sciency-sounding stuff is cool and hipster, so it might actually get read on the iPad at Starbucks.

The “Overton window” is a sciency-sounding way of referring to the obvious fact that, contrary to liberalism’s false conceits about itself, every society (whether healthy or unhealthy) is authoritarian and has its taboos and heresies.  There are certain things which are open for respectable and respectful discussion under the conventions of a given society, and there are many things which are not.  This is always the case.

Socially acceptable ideas about what is legitimately in contention are “inside” the Overton window; taboos and heresies are “outside” of the Overton window.  For example in our society, mass-murdering unborn children and cannibalizing their body parts for profit in the name of science is inside the Overton window. The suggestion that possibly the female franchise is something other than an unmitigated good is outside of the Overton window.

In a thread at The Social Pathologist commenter Asher suggests:

The bottom line is that if you want to break the Overton Window you’re going to have to deal with the reality that everything will be on the table.

This idea of “breaking” the Overton window is malformed.  It isn’t even wrong, as the saying goes, because it rests on an impossible premise: that the Overton window is the sort of thing which it is possible to “break.”  But it isn’t possible for everything to be on the table, even in principle, let alone in practice.  If everything must be on the table then one of the things that must be off the table is the view that not everything should be on the table.

So trying to “break” the Overton window is fundamentally irrational.  The Overton window isn’t the sort of thing which can be “broken”.  It can only be shifted to be more or less aligned with the good, the true, and the beautiful.  And just because some particular person or group opposes the current configuration of the Overton window, it does not follow that that person or group is advocating better aligning it with the good, the true, and the beautiful.

With apologies to The Who, “meet the new sociopaths; same as the old sociopaths.”

by Zippy at September 28, 2015 03:25 PM