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July 27, 2016

Table Titans

Tales: Fear Conquers All

We had a Dragonborn Sorcerer in our campaign who couldn’t hit anything. During the first encounter, he tried to hit a small group of kobolds a few feet in front of him by shooting a Fireball into the air. It missed... and alerted more kobolds who decided to come and party. If not for the…

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July 27, 2016 07:00 AM

The Ontological Geek

Lore And Worldbuilding: The Art Of The Bestiary

Given that your choice of Pokémon starter is akin to a Zodiac reading, it stands to reason bestiaries say a lot about our own inner workings.

by Ashe Samuels at July 27, 2016 05:11 AM

The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

Are You a Universal Church-er or a Local Church-er?

Article by: Jonathan Leeman

If you make your business the reading of books on the church, you’ll find that some Christian voices love to talk about the universal church, while others love to talk about the local church.

People on both sides will resist that characterization: “No, no, I talk about the local/universal, too.” But I’m referring to emphases, something measured in sermon minutes, column inches, and exclamation points.

Based on his new book, The Church: A Theological and Historical Account, Gerald Bray is inclined to the first camp. Broadsides against denominational distinctives and theological “hair-splitting” abound, especially in the book’s later prescriptive pages. For Bray, the greatest threat against the church today is disunity.

I, however, am someone whom Bray would probably characterize as one or two clicks too sectarian. And, well, I guess I’d say that one man’s hair-splitting is another man’s trim.

Yet it’s a good book, so I’m not sure how to respond other than to give you two review articles for the price of one. Bray deserves an overview, but I also want to identify the larger spectrum that distinguishes people like him and me, as well as the potential for danger on each side. Doing so, I think, will help any readers know what kind of book they are picking up with The Church, as well as for being fair to Bray and upfront about my own biases.

Theology + History

So article one—the overview. Does The Church belong in the systematic theology section or the church history section of the seminary bookstore? Yes.

It reads like a history book, moving era by era through 2,000 years of church history. Chapter 1 negotiates questions of Jewish and Old Testament origins. Chapter 2 considers the New Testament church. Chapters 3 to 6 travel through the persecuted, imperial, Reformation, and post-Reformation church.

Yet the book’s purpose is doctrinal and prescriptive. Fundamentally it’s a doctrine-of-the-church book—what the seminary folk call an ecclesiology. Chapters up to the Reformation each conclude with a subsection summarizing lessons for a doctrine of the church. Chapters thereafter explore how the ecclesiology of Christendom then splintered like a river moving though a delta beginning with the Reformation. The final chapter (ch. 7) offers recommendations for formulating our doctrine and church practice moving forward. 

At each step of the way, Bray, an Anglican minister and seminary professor at Beeson Divinity School, uses the four classic marks of the church—one, holy, catholic, and apostolic—for developing his ecclesiology. Before the Reformation, for instance, the mark of unity was viewed in institutional terms, and the mark of apostolicity was thought to depend on a succession of bishops. At the Reformation, unity became spiritual and apostolicity doctrinal.

Before the Reformation, the mark of unity was viewed in institutional terms, and the mark of apostolicity was thought to depend on a succession of bishops. At the Reformation, unity became spiritual and apostolicity doctrinal.

All together this means that the reader will acquire a doctrine of the church less like someone reading a chemistry book—with formal definitions followed by carefully outlined sections and subsections—and more like someone enjoying an evening-long conversation on a new topic. Along the way, you will encounter useful historical facts: Who was Cyprian? What is canon law? Where do the ideas of the Mass, penance, and purgatory come from? Why are Protestants especially confessional? Yet these facts are marshaled to introduce conversations in ecclesiology: Is the church the new Israel and Israel the Old Testament church? How did the Reformers view the relationship between church and state? What is the holiness of the church?

What Was the Reformation About? 

At the Reformation, Protestant theologians became self-conscious about doing a doctrine of the church, Bray says, pressed as they were by the need to define their organized life together in contradistinction to Rome and (fairly quickly) to each other. Bray even suggests that the doctrine of the church was “at the heart” of the Reformation (165), which is a claim that a more “sectarian” Protestant like myself can read in one of two ways. Does he mean that the gospel itself was not at stake in the Reformation because both sides still had it (then I disagree), or does he mean that a doctrine of the church presupposes a particular gospel so that mentioning one is mentioning the other (then I agree)? I’m not sure.

In fact, let me camp out on this point for a moment since I think it’s illustrative of something larger. The book as a whole is strangely—deliberately?—quiet concerning the status of Rome and whether or not Catholics and Protestants are united in gospel fellowship. Indeed, this is one risk of blending historical and doctrinal idioms. It’s not always clear where the historian ends and the theologian begins. Bray the historian treats Roman Catholicism as one more stream in the Christian tradition—which makes sense, historically and descriptively speaking, just as one might refer to Mormon or Jehovah’s Witness “churches” for purely empirical reasons. But what does Bray the theologian think about Rome? That’s not clear. He expresses his disagreements with the office of the papacy, and he remarks that Rome has “departed from apostolicity” in a number of its innovations like the perpetual virginity of Mary (241). But would he also say that Rome has departed from the apostolic gospel?

Our Most Urgent Test

I’ve taken time to drive down this side street because it helps to situate The Church on a larger spectrum between ecumenicalism and sectarianism and illustrates the book’s driving concern.

When Bray looks out on the landscape of everything that calls itself Christian, what concerns him most is denominational disarray. Insisting on our own denominational distinctives is partly to blame: “Where Christian unity is least in evidence is at the level of denominational structures and ministry” (226). Too many of us—and here I think Bray means Baptists like myself and conservative Lutherans—employ confessions of faith that “claim to be based on New Testament but that in fact goes beyond Scripture by insisting on particular positions (regarding baptism, for example)” (241; see also 224). But the Westminster crowd shares the blame, too. Their theologians know that “their confessional positions are too rigid and exclusive,” forcing them to defend “beliefs that they know are of secondary importance (at best).” Yet they continue to do so because of “the fear of many conservatives that once a change is introduced to a historic statement of faith like the Westminster Confession, it’s impossible to know where the alterations will stop” (241–42). 

Across the board, then, “Conservative Protestant theologians . . . have all too often taken refuge in an exaggerated denominationalism that artificially revives 16th- and 17th-century debates or indulged in hair-splitting controversies” (237). Again and again through the book’s final chapters, Bray treats unity as the primary value by which various questions and trends are judged. The topic of women’s ordination has been unfortunate, for example, because it “struck another blow against church unity” (245). 

The solution, for Bray, is to push toward a deeper understanding of the unity and catholicity Christians have in the gospel:

Whether Protestants, and especially evangelicals, can rise above the difficulties and find a new and deeper understanding of the catholicity of the gospel that embraces a complete theological and social vision is uncertain, but . . . it is the most urgent test that they currently face.

He believes our Christian witness in the contemporary world depends on it (237). Insofar as these types of concerns animate Bray and The Church, you can understand why, when it comes to Rome, he’s quiet.

Emphasizing the Universal or Local Church: A Spectrum

Which brings us to a second article. Bray’s quiet over Rome and disdain for distinctives helps us to see a larger spectrum among evangelical voices. For our purposes here, let’s assume everyone on the spectrum is an evangelical Christian who affirms the same gospel. On one side are those who emphasize the universal church; on the other side are those who emphasize the local church. 


Christians on the universal-church side tend to use their column inches and exclamation points on unity in the gospel and the catholicity of the church—those two marks. That is to say, they lean in an ecumenical direction. They’re impatient with the topics that make Christians argue, like church polity, as well as the denominations which represent those disagreements. They stress the importance of Bible preaching, teaching, and discipleship, while their lessons on local church ordinances tends to be broad, open, and non-specific. They may put in a plug for the local church and its discipline, recognizing churches are instrumental for Christian sanctification: “It will help you grow!” But it’s never the main point of the book or the Sunday school lesson and can feel like lip-service. (For instance, Bray devotes a section in his last chapter to recommending church discipline, yet he offers no positive instruction. Instead he uses the entire section to criticize how discipline has always been used, 220–21.) In their healthiest forms, the universal church-ers do a good job of putting first things first and focusing everyone’s attention on what’s essential to salvation. In their least healthy, they devolve toward soteriological universalism and cheap grace.

Christians on the local-church side spend more Sunday school lessons and blog posts on the gospel call to holiness and faithful apostolic doctrine—those two marks. They, too, talk about what’s essential to salvation—the gospel—but they’re more scrupulous (too scrupulous, the first group would say) about defining the gospel. Not only that, they acknowledge that issues dividing Christians like church polity are not essential for salvation, but they assert that these matters remain important for preserving the gospel from one generation to the next and are biblically commanded. The risk, of course, is that they can forget the more fundamental gospel unity they share when they’re arguing in comment sections over secondary matters. They emphasize the importance of the local church in the Christian life not just for instrumental reasons but for imperatival ones: Jesus commands it. They talk about preaching or formative discipline, too. But they’ll be more rigorous in their explanations of the ordinances and their practices of corrective discipline. Left unchecked, this side of the spectrum devolves toward sectarianism, parochialism, stridency, an unhealthy independence, and legalism.

The universal-ers talk about the indicatives of the gospel. The local-ers do too, but also a bit more about the imperatives of the gospel.

The universal-ers tend to define the church as a fellowship or mystical communion (to borrow a category from Avery Cardinal Dulles). So Bray writes, “The church, whatever else it may be, is still at heart the community of those who have been born of the Spirit of God” (216). Local-ers tend to define it as an outpost of Christ’s rule or as an institution (Dulles’s category again). So I’ve repeatedly called the local church an “embassy” (see Political Church [review]), and tend to define it in institutional language, like this: “A church is a group of Christians who jointly identify as followers of Jesus through regularly gathering in his name, preaching the gospel, and celebrating the ordinances” (Understanding the Congregation’s Authority, 38).

The universal-ers are more likely to think of themselves as “evangelical.” The local-ers are more likely to think of themselves as Baptist, Presbyterian, or Lutheran.

That said, different denominational traditions tend to veer one way or the other. Evangelical (low-church) Anglicans tend to emphasize the universal; Southern Baptists and members of the Presbyterian Church in America emphasize the local. To some extent, we could divide Christian publishers and conferences here, too.

The universal-ers are more likely to draw their spiritual nourishment from the so-called evangelical village green (books, blogs, conferences, music-fests). The local-ers draw from their own church or its denominational supports.

It’s tempting but probably not accurate to say that universal-ers employ parachurch ministries where local-ers don’t. Instead, the universal-ers tend to use parachurch ministries that risk replacing what the local church does (e.g., various campus ministries). The local-ers tend to use parachurch ministries that directly support the work of the local church (like denominational structures), but in the process risk depriving themselves of the resources of the larger body of Christ.

Striking a Balance?

Now, this spectrum is merely a heuristic device and doesn’t do complete justice to either side. Nearly everyone knows both sides are neededYet I don’t think it’s a stretch to say the emphases of some writers are further to the left or the right on this spectrum. Bray and I, who I trust share the same gospel, are probably one or two clicks apart, me rightward, he leftward. All of us, of course, think that we strike the right balance. Bray thinks he’s balanced. I think I’m balanced. Mark Dever and Christopher Wright think they’re balanced.  

The fact is, all of us could do better at submitting fully to the Word of God, do better at embracing the gospel indicative and gospel imperative, do better at being the church-as-Spirit-filled-community and church-as-outpost-of-Christ’s-kingdom-rule. I do like the balance Dever strikes when he recommends keeping the fences between different denominations clear and low, and shaking hands over them often. Give me 9Marks with its local church emphases as well as The Gospel Coalition or Together for the Gospel with their universal church affirmations.

But Is the Bible Normative for Polity?

My anecdotally informed sense is that different evangelical tribes tend to come down at different places on the spectrum. Generation also seems like a factor (another hunch). I’d say evangelical Boomers and older Xers swung leftward on the spectrum from their fundamentalist parents (I have no statistics to back that up). But some younger Xers and Millennials have been pushing rightward.

To try thinking theologically, I would say at least one crucial question pushes you leftward or rightward on the spectrum: do you think the Bible provides morally binding norms for church governance or structure? That is, does it tell us whether we should be congregationalists, presbyterians, or episcopalians?

The universal-ers, often, argue that the Bible has few if any binding norms for how we structure our churches. Bray again:

  • “The evidence of the New Testament is not sufficiently detailed to allow us to re-create an authentically ‘biblical’ church to the exclusion of any alternative . . . the New Testament never gives us a detailed outline of the way any particular congregation was structured” (42; also 222).
  • We should therefore “pause when trying to use the New Testament as a model for our common life today” because “it is impossible, on the basis of what we know, to build a complete church structure out of the evidence of what we have” (50).
  • “We can no longer re-create anything resembling the earliest Christian congregations” (239).

Most low-church evangelical Anglicans—best I can tell—acknowledge that the episcopacy is not biblical but an early church innovation that has proven useful over the centuries. So we might as well stick with it. They are, in that sense, historical pragmatists.

Local-ers, on the other hand, believe that church polity is simply a subcategory of ethics generally—call it social ethics. And unless you want to argue that none of the ethical norms of the New Testament transfers to today, then we have to do more careful hermeneutical work to determine which of the Bible’s ethical and polity norms bind us and which do not.

Contrary to Bray, I’ve therefore written, “Certain matters of organization are elastic and context dependent, but the fundamentals of church order are inextricably tied to the gospel faith” and are biblically prescribed (Don’t Fire Your Church Members, 15). Our gospel order (by which I mean a church’s governing structures) grows out of our gospel faith. And the Bible is sufficient for both the gospel and the gospel order that displays and protects that gospel.

Like this (from Understanding the Congregation’s Authority):

This virtuous cycle, in fact, can be placed on top of the spectrum above.

How does one’s stance on this question push you leftward or rightward? If the Bible does give moral norms for what makes a church a church and how it must be governed, then every Christian must submit to these biblical structures. If it doesn’t, our attachment to the local assembly loosens. It will be driven less by the Bible’s imperatives and more by our prudential sense of what’s good for us spiritually. If any church structure will do, then, strictly speaking, no structure will do—so long as the purposes of structure are accomplished. If you can get your church-y spiritual needs (for fellowship, instruction, worship, and elder-like coaching) met outside the local church, why not? The real drama of Christianity, it would seem, belongs to the self-governing Christian. We’re all free agents.

(In all likelihood, Bray does think some matters of church structure are biblically required, like, Do elders have any authority? Should churches discipline? Which means he risks being inconsistent when he argues against a New Testament pattern.)

This isn’t the place to jump into the conversation about whether or not the Bible determines our church order. But this difference between Bray and me is why I conclude with a “yes” to reading his book if you’re looking for a good history of ecclesiology, and “no” to reading it if you’re looking for a doctrinal and ministerial path forward for evangelicals.

Wonderfully, Bray and I both affirm that our membership in the local church isn’t finally a matter of instrumentality or imperatives. Our call to join ultimately roots in the gospel indicative. We join churches, Bray says, because it’s “an essential part of the identity of individual Christians” and our “primary community” (249). That is, we join churches not only because it’s good for us or even that we’re commanded, but because it’s what we are—members of Christ’s body and family. Praise the Lord! 

Gerald Bray. The Church: A Theological and Historical Account. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2016. 288 pp. $24.99. 

Jonathan Leeman is an elder at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., editorial director of 9Marks, and author, most recently, of Don’t Fire Your Church Members: The Case for Congregationalism (B&H Academic, 2016) and Political Church: The Local Assembly as Embassy of Christ’s Rule (IVP Academic, 2016). You can follow him on Twitter.

by Jonathan Leeman at July 27, 2016 05:02 AM

The Brokenness of Self-Glorification in Advertising

Article by: Brad Larson

Brad Neathery is the founder of Right Brain Factory, a creative agency that focuses on helping organizations and people tell their stories in compelling ways through media. Brad lives in Coppell, Texas, with his wife and son.

How do you describe your work?

We’re a creative agency focused on helping people tell their stories. What this looks like on a daily basis varies. I tend to book meetings in the morning since I’m most creative in the morning. Throughout the day, I might be creating a landing page, directing a photo shoot, or meeting a client. Each day offers new opportunities to explore new brands and new people.

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

All of us, including brands, have stories. In fact, the stories of brands are some of our most powerful cultural voices since so much money is put into sharing them. Yet they aren’t the ultimate story.

My mission is to get my clients’ stories to align with the ultimate story—that is, the gospel. I want to help our brands tell stories inside of God’s big story so that, when you experience them, something inside of you says “That’s it!”—even if you’re not a Christian—since you see something honest and beautiful in the message.

How does that work in practice?

I’ll tell you a story. A friend came to me with an idea for a hunting and firearm store. He wanted to highlight the lifestyle and adventure of the modern hunter. I loved the idea, so we created a new media channel—an Instagram platform called Modern Huntsman—and began telling the story. It blew up.

I think it’s successful because it’s honest. It stands in stark contrast to the typical caricature of hunters in the media. Also, it focuses on inspiration, exploration, and creativity—all qualities that we, as God’s image-bearers and culture-makers, possess.

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

Most brands say “Come to me,” “Buy from me,” or, “Look at how great I am.” This is the brokenness of self-glorification. Sadly, this message is quite effective. We fight to survive and desperately want to serve and exalt ourselves.

But we can bring healing to this industry if we change the conversation to how we can serve others and add value. When brands communicate others-focused stories, it can captivate people and glorify God.

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

Each of us has the opportunity to love and serve people no matter what we’re doing. Service isn’t situational; it’s about willingness. I’m blessed to serve people—from real estate agents to construction companies to clothing brands—by helping them get their message out. We’re honored to give them voices.

Editors’ note: The weekly TGCvocations column asks practitioners about their jobs and how they integrate their faith and work. Interviews are edited and condensed.

Brad Larson is an entrepreneur, elder at The Door Church (in Coppell, Texas), and the author of Walking Through Walls: Connecting Faith and Work. He blogs at

by Brad Larson at July 27, 2016 05:01 AM

5 Reasons to Host a Q&A After Your Worship Service

Article by: Tim Keller

For many years I did a question-and-answer session after each worship service. At the end of the service, just before the benediction, I would say, “Anyone who would like to ask a question about something in the sermon, or in the service, or about our church or Christianity in general—you are invited to stay and ask me those questions. Immediately after the postlude, we will conduct a 40-minute Q&A session right here down in front of the podium.”

We had anywhere from 30 to 150 people stay afterward every week.

Three Kinds of Questions 

When I began the session, I would reiterate the subjects we wanted to address (sermon, service, church, Christianity). I said they didn’t have to stay on the topic(s) in that day’s sermon, but that I especially welcomed questions about what I had preached on. Then I took questions for the 40 minutes or so. There were generally three kinds of questions:

  1. Specific questions about the sermon and the subjects it raised.
  2. Skeptical questions posing objections to Christianity or asking for evidence for God or other Christian tenets.
  3. General questions about Christian beliefs and living. 

A majority of the people who stayed were those newer to the church. There were a fair number of skeptics but also plenty of Christians who simply wanted to learn more about the church and its teachings.

As you might guess, there were many questions that kept returning again and again. That’s why, at the very end of the session, I would say this:

Thanks for coming. If you’ve been coming to this Q&A for a number of weeks, and some of the questions posed are ones you’ve heard before, it might be time for you to go to one of two other classes being offered at this same time every week—“The Credibility of Christianity,” for people exploring whether Christianity is true, and “Basic Christianity,” for people who want a survey of the fundamental beliefs of the Christian faith.

‘Calling Hours’

The reason for this little announcement was that the Q&A was to some degree the beginning of a process of assimilation into the church. The non-Christians needed to get into a venue where they could more systematically explore the case for Christianity. The Christians needed to get to a place where they could be more systematically instructed and readied for church membership and other ways of participation in the body.

Afterward I always left time to talk to those who lingered. There were usually one or two who had a question they didn’t want to pose publicly. For many people, my accessibility at those moments, and my interaction with them, was an important way for them to come to trust the institution of the church. Martyn Lloyd-Jones had a similar time of “calling hours” after each service when inquirers and others could see him, usually briefly, to get an answer to a spiritual or pastoral question.

Here are five reasons to do this yourself:

1. It’s a way to get instant feedback on your sermon.

You will quickly discover if you raised more questions than you answered, if you gave false impressions, and so on. The Q&A is good pedagogy. Lecturers leave time for questions because they want to be sure listeners have understood them. Often the Q&A teaches you that you weren’t as clear as you thought you were. It’s a tremendous way to upgrade your preaching.

2. It’s a way to get bystanders—people coming but not committing—to become more involved.

For many it was their first step in doing something more than come to worship. It was a way to get to meet the pastor of the church personally (since the Q&A was a much smaller gathering than the service itself) and often to meet others in the church.

3. It’s a way to do evangelism on Sundays.

Not every Sunday, but usually, non-Christians asked me questions and I was able to point them (and the other non-Christians present) to the gospel. Many non-Christians were actually shocked that a minister would let himself be publicly questioned, and that a church would provide a forum for skeptics to express their doubts. It was also a way to draw non-believers into a longer process of exploring the faith.

4. It’s a way to model how Christians should talk to people about the faith.

There were always a few longtime members who stayed for the Q&A to learn how to field objections to Christianity and questions from their own colleagues and friends. I often had prickly or even hostile people say abrasive things to me in the session. That was a great opportunity to teach how to not be defensive, threatened, angry, or patronizing, but to be gracious to someone with an opposing view. Many non-believers watched carefully how those kinds of angry objections were received. When we responded with grace, it made the gospel look much more plausible.

5. It’s a way to learn to think on your feet, and to develop good, brief answers to the main questions people in your time and place have about Christianity.

It will make you both a better pastor and preacher. In particular, it helps you as a preacher discover what’s on people’s minds, both believers and non-believers. It helped me to understand the culture in which they were living. It also helped me, later in my sermon preparation, to address from the Word of God the issues troubling them. It’s too easy for preachers to answer questions from the Bible their people aren’t really asking.

I am so grateful that a post-service Q&A session was part of our church’s rhythm for many years. The benefits were enormous, and I commend the practice to you.

Tim Keller is senior pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Manhattan, New York, and author of numerous books. He is also co-founder and vice president of The Gospel Coalition. For more resources by Tim Keller visit Gospel in Life. You can follow him on Twitter.

by Tim Keller at July 27, 2016 05:00 AM

Hypocrisy: An Occasion for Repentance

Article by: Staff

“That part of us that thinks it is harmless to flirt with lust or gossip or greed or selfish ambition or anger as long as we don’t get into bed with it—we are fooling ourselves! It’s because of that that Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10, ‘Let the one who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.’” – Scott Sauls

Text: 2 Samuel 11:1–5, 14–17; 12:1–7

Preached: July 3, 2016

Location: Christ Presbyterian Church, Nashville, Tennessee

Scott Sauls serves as senior pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church in Nashville, Tennessee, and is the author of Jesus Outside the Lines: A Way Forward for Those Who Are Tired of Taking Sides and the forthcoming Befriend: Create Belonging in an Age of Judgment, Isolation and Fear. You can follow him on Twitter.

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

by Staff at July 27, 2016 04:59 AM

July 26, 2016

Apple posts Q3 2016 results

Apple has posted its Q3 results:

The Company posted quarterly revenue of $42.4 billion and quarterly net income of $7.8 billion, or $1.42 per diluted share. These results compare to revenue of $49.6 billion and net income of $10.7 billion, or $1.85 per diluted share, in the year-ago quarter. Gross margin was 38 percent compared to 39.7 percent in the year-ago quarter. International sales accounted for 63 percent of the quarter’s revenue.

Looking at these breakdowns, I can’t help but wonder if the iPad has finally found its natural leveling point at around 10 million units a quarter. iPad revenue was actually up a touch, probably thanks to the iPad Pro.

For a lot more detail and coverage of the call itself, check out Jason and Dan’s coverage at Six Colors.

Here are some charts:


Q3 2016 Revenue

iPhone Sales

Q3 2016 iPhone Sales

iPad Sales

Q3 2016 iPad Sales

Mac Sales

Q3 2016 Mac sales

by Stephen at July 26, 2016 08:58 PM

Free Agents

We’re happy to announce a new podcast on Relay FM:

David Sparks and Jason Snell spent their careers working for the establishment. Then one day, they’d had enough. Now they are independent workers, learning what it takes to succeed in the 21st century. They are… free agents.

Come for the sick intro, stay for the awesome show.

by Stephen at July 26, 2016 07:15 PM

Connected #101: Best Represent Pineapple

In a stunning break with tradition, Connected tackles the multi-iPad lifestyle and photo management in this week’s episode.

My thanks to TextExpander for sponsoring this week’s episode.

by Stephen at July 26, 2016 06:41 PM

Market Urbanism

NIMBYs Outdo YIMBYs In Organizing Ability

(a rendering of the Saw Mill River project)

(a rendering of the Saw Mill River project in Ardsley, NY)


A problem that pro-housing YIMBYs face in communities nationwide is that the NIMBYs opposing them are much better organized. The reason boils down to the classic problem of concentrated costs and dispersed benefits: the beneficiaries of new housing are scattered, while those who benefit from a housing shortage–and thus higher prices–are concentrated. These organizational skills enable NIMBYs to dominate the discussion, something evident after the recent rejection of a development project in Ardsley, New York.

The Jefferson Development Group wanted to build the Saw Mill River project, a development that would include 272 apartments in downtown Ardsley on land now owned by the chemical company Akzo Nobel. During a February hearing for the development, 30 people spoke against it while none spoke in favor. A petition against the project got 1,300 signatures, and houses and streets were adorned with signs reading “STOP THE JEFFERSON.” A blog with that title was also made. As a consequence, Akzo Nobel cancelled its contract to sell the property to Jefferson because they lost confidence that the property would be rezoned from industrial to mixed-use commercial and residential.

One complaint was that the project would cause excess traffic. Ardsley, which is an affluent suburb just north of The Bronx, has narrow roads compared to other suburbs in Westchester County. Local developer and placemaker Padriac Steinschneider noted that traffic lights retard the flow of automobiles. The pre-programmed delays impede people, but they do not improve safety because drivers rely on the color of the light more than their own senses. He suggested that replacing traffic lights with stop signs, which force drivers to be alert, would speed traffic in Ardsley. He also discussed how Addyman Square, a towncenter featuring several restaurants and shops, could be made more pedestrian friendly if it was redesigned as a roundabout, a la Poynton square. He believed this would encourage more walking. Redesigning the square, and expanding sidewalks alongside Saw Mill River Road, would be inexpensive and could be paid for using revenue from the project.

Another complaint was that the project would overburden the schools. One problem with this idea is that the apartments in the project all had either one or two bedrooms. Even if the project brought a significant number of children into the school system, a typical classroom can absorb 3 to 4 more kids. It would take an enormous amount of development before concerns about overcrowding and split scheduling were legitimate.

The refusal shown towards the Jefferson Group’s project demonstrates the need for local YIMBY organizations in cities nationwide. In the event that the project may have had supporters, they did a poor job addressing opponents’ arguments. For example, the online petition against the project lists “environmental impacts, traffic congestion, noise pollution, air quality, flooding, train commute, school overcrowding, close proximity to the Rivertown Square and Saw Mill River Parkway” as disadvantages. But no online petition was created explaining how added development and population can generate the money needed to improve those problems. Sadly, this disparity in activism exists nationwide.


by Krishan Madan at July 26, 2016 05:37 PM

Roads from Emmaus

Does Your Life Have a Point?

Fifth Sunday after Pentecost and the Fifth Sunday of Matthew, July 24, 2016 Romans 10:1-10; Matthew 8:28-9:1 Rev. Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, one God. Amen. For Christ is the fulfillment of the Law for righteousness ... READ MORE ›

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by Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick at July 26, 2016 05:19 PM

Front Porch Republic

Going Down to Vanity Fair

Over a long and colorful career, the phrase “Vanity Fair” has called up wildly divergent associations, while often seeming to mean nothing at all. Is it a place? A quality? A feeling? A mood? Like such idioms as “under the weather” and “cut the mustard,” the expression amounts to more than its parts, and it acquires a host of shadings and nuances from one speaker or era to the next. Kirsty Milne, in the posthumously published At Vanity Fair: From Bunyan to Thackeray (Cambridge, 2015), tells the story of a “runaway metaphor” that first shows up in John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress (1678), supplies the title of W.M. Thackeray’s best-known novel Vanity Fair (1848), and lends its name to an oft-reinvented popular magazine–to cite only the most prominent instances. As Milne points out, Bunyan and Thackeray are fast becoming unread, which makes Vanity Fair an even more mysterious, free-floating phenomenon.

Milne ends her densely theoretical account – steeped in discussions of intertextuality and consumer capitalism – with Thackeray, leaving readers to make what they will of the magazine and other kiosks at our contemporary Vanity Fair. But this present-day version is just where things become troubling in an ordinary, non-theoretical way. We’re going down to Vanity Fair, and it doesn’t look like a good place to be.

In Pilgrim’s Progress, Vanity Fair blocks the path of Christian and his friend Faithful on their journey to the Celestial City. Bunyan stresses that the spectacle before them “is an ancient thing, of long standing, and a very great fair.” At Vanity Fair one can buy “delights of all sorts,” from the innocent-sounding “houses, lands, trades … wives, husbands, children,” to the more predictable, “lusts,” “pleasures,” and “harlots.”

Bunyan’s Vanity Fair, while an ancient and perennial attraction, offers purely ephemeral amusements. You go to Vanity Fair for what can thrill you right now, for what’s fashionable, eye-catching, certifiably in vogue. Christian and Faithful are hounded by the fairgoers, and Faithful is martyred, not only because they buy no wares, but because their clothing and speech seem outlandishly different. As pilgrims bound for the Celestial City, they’re indifferent to the latest fads. All their thoughts and conversation – to the impatience of modern readers – involve their eternal home.

Bunyan’s moral, which he hammers home chapter and verse, comes straight from Ecclesiastes. In the world of human striving under the sun, nothing can be counted on but more desire and futility – “vanity.” The Preacher seeks permanence, anything worth working for and leaving to his heirs, and finds only meaningless, repetitive labor. The ends that human beings pursue don’t endure, and thus will it ever be. Accordingly, Bunyan creates in Vanity Fair an ancient pleasure ground perpetually devoted to the vanishing now.

Over a century and a half later, Thackeray’s Vanity Fair sounds like much the same place. “But my kind reader will please to remember,” he writes early in his novel, “that this history has ‘Vanity Fair’ for a title, and that Vanity Fair is a very vain, wicked, foolish place, full of all sorts of humbugs and falsenesses and pretensions.” The story Thackeray tells, of Becky Sharp and her self-serving schemes, abounds in vanity, treachery, and cruelty. By Chapter 51, however, Thackeray’s tone has softened considerably: “It is all vanity to be sure: but who will not own to liking a little of it?” As a realistic novelist, Thackeray portrays the hypocrisy and compromise in our moral conduct. We profess shock and horror at the evils of Vanity Fair, but we do what we need to do to get along and be happy, looking the other way when our friends do the same. For Thackeray, Vanity Fair amounts to human folly, the contemporary scene, the everyday social world.

So he studies Vanity Fair in real places like Vauxhall Gardens, the nightspot where Londoners gathered to stroll, eat, drink, and be seen. Later, in The Virginians (1859), he uses Tunbridge Wells, “that merry little watering-place,” as one of his hubs of riotousness and vice, much as the peripatetic characters in Tobias Smollett’s Humphry Clinker (1771) partake of frivolity and dissipation in Vauxhall Gardens and Bath. By the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Vanity Fair has gone from an appalling spiritual condition to any number of actual physical locales, places that might indeed offer grave temptations but that the citizen of the world regards not with a pious shudder but with knowing, satirical laughter.

What is Vanity Fair today? For most people it’s a brand of paper napkins, or a line of women’s undergarments. When it comes to bras and table settings, “Vanity Fair” apparently means luxurious, fancy, high-class. “Add a timeless touch to any meal,” suggests the napkin website, neatly turning the Ecclesiastes meaning of “vanity” on its head. In the realm of product names and advertising phrases, who remembers that John Bunyan invented Vanity Fair, let alone associates it with spiritual peril?

The bright staff people at Vanity Fair magazine presumably know about their literary descent from Bunyan. Deliberately or not, the publication serves up nothing less than a glib rejoinder to Pilgrim’s Progress, scorning the notions of truth and permanence that Bunyan reveres, and embracing the allurements he abhors. Instead of licentiousness and sham beauty, Vanity Fair now stands for fulfillment and happiness – an extravaganza for the senses where Bunyan’s absolutist world has been buried with the irrelevant past. Even Thackeray’s wry wit seems judgmental and stern, compared with the magazine’s casual hedonism.

A few issues plucked at random convey the idea – beginning, of course, with the full-page ads for high-end clothing, handbags, and cosmetics. The rage for up-to-date merchandise comes straight from Bunyan’s nightmare, but the gaunt models with their blank stares and fantastic garb seem weirdly reminiscent of Thackeray as well, in particular the harlequin-like figures with which he decorates some of his pages. Open the magazine, and you enter a world of mysterious desire that not only challenges you with its edgy fashions, but dares you to refute its hypnotic power: Can you think of anything worthier, more deserving of our attention and love, than these gorgeous expensive surfaces?

Articles in Vanity Fair sample new varieties of pleasure for readers long since freed from archaic taboos. One lavishly illustrated piece examines the latest in hyperrealistic sex-toy mannequins. Another first-person account takes us to a photography studio where the female subjects read highbrow literature while being stimulated by a vibrator. The author reports having a marvelous time. The tone of these articles strikes an artful balance between prurience and nonchalance. A bold project is unfolding here, the writers all but announce: the importation of soft-porn material from the domain of erotica into the sophisticated mainstream. It is a singular triumph for Vanity Fair. And for Vanity Fair, of course, it means nonstop publicity, as in the recent flap over a profile of a female movie star. Readers called the article “lascivious” and “creepy.”    

In an August 2015 piece called “The Long Goodbyes,” James Wolcott begins: “With the waning of traditional religion, an irreversible decline no matter how many Duggars pop out of the pea pod, entertainment culture has become the ritual space for saying farewell to loved ones.” In one sentence, Wolcott lays out the assumptions of Vanity Fair. Religion has lost. John Lennon has won. It’s over, and if you don’t know who the Duggars are we aren’t going to tell you.

“Why so serious?” – the Joker’s malicious taunt in a Batman movie – becomes the credo for those who embrace the unserious, who joyfully find sufficiency in the unsubstantial. Wolcott’s “loved ones,” he hastens to point out, are not “those relatives you put up with at Thanksgiving” (whatever “Thanksgiving” might mean) but celebrities – the people who, you know, matter to everybody right now. Vanity Fair won’t laugh at them, certainly won’t apologize for them; they’re our common possessions in the all-important moment, the obsessions who make us one.  

Where Bunyan invented a powerful allegorical locale, and where Thackeray and Smollett targeted human folly in cities like Bath and London, twenty-first-century Americans have no equivalent centers of temptation and vice. Las Vegas is just another palace of sin. The New York of Tom Wolfe’s The Bonfire of the Vanities seems a long time ago. In the United States today, Vanity Fair exists everywhere and nowhere – city of pixels, city of light, a hive of entertainment in the palm of your hand, never resting, never asleep. In this sense our Vanity Fair is as disembodied and spiritualized as Bunyan’s frightful specter.

It’s a good idea to talk the right way in our Vanity Fair, just as in Bunyan’s, where failure to speak the lingo cost Faithful his life. No one wants to hear your original turns of phrase – unless, of course, they go viral, become a meme, become what everyone’s saying. As a rule, we prefer the latest expressions in Vanity Fair. They reassure us that we belong, and everyone knows (more or less) what they mean. Like celebrities and two-thousand-dollar handbags, they keep us from “thinking about eternity,” as the old Bruce Cockburn song goes. Or as Bob Dylan put it in an older song about Vanity Fair: “Nobody has to think too much about Desolation Row.”

“There are things we do and know perfectly well in Vanity Fair, though we never speak them,” writes Thackeray at his frankest. Yet even while confessing, he assumes a societal restraint, a restraint that seems quaint to us now. In Vanity Fair 2016, we always speak everything we do and know. Day or night, in a half-dozen formats, on as many devices, we speak them: lies, come-ons, calumnies, boasts. Who’s to judge us? Only other talkers as unauthorized as ourselves. What standard checks us? None we can’t quash in the next online fray.

We’re going down to Vanity Fair, where everything’s up to date and we do what we like. No longer an object of horror but of spurious desire, it calms our suspicion that there might be something more. It’s an everlasting fair built on the axiom that nothing lasts, an ancient shrine to the always new. No more fooled by its hollowness than Bunyan was, we celebrate the illusions he condemned. We can’t get enough of Vanity Fair. It’s our anodyne, our playground, the charade we love, bright and shiny as when the old allegorist first gave it a name.

(Image source)

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by David Heddendorf at July 26, 2016 04:46 PM

Greg Mankiw's Blog

Aaron M. Renn

Life Is Beautiful in America When You’re Paul Krugman


The Upper West Side of New York – Image via City Journal

I live on the Upper West Side and love it. But when Paul Krugman wrote a blog post using the UWS an example of what’s right in America – “If you want to feel good about the state of America, you could do a lot worse than what I did this morning: take a run in Riverside Park” –  I had to respond.  Not only is the UWS obviously unrepresentative of America, but many people see its prosperity as purchased at least in part at their expense.

My piece “Paul Krugman’s Bubble” is now online at City Journal:

Most Americans have never heard of gorgeous Riverside Park. In fact, they may have only a vague idea about the Upper West Side of Manhattan, the neighborhood where Riverside Park is located. But they understand that life on the Upper West Side—and places like it—is fabulous for the people who live there. Such places have boomed thanks to changes in the economy, but also from deliberate government policies designed to make them prosper. Wall Street, unlike Main Street, got bailed out during the financial crash. Most Americans may not be able to tell you what TARP stands for, or what quantitative easing is, but they have a good understanding of who profited the most from them—and that such people often take morning jogs in places like Riverside Park.

Click through to read the whole thing.

by Aaron M. Renn at July 26, 2016 02:40 PM

Kbase Article of the Week: Find the OS X version and build number on your Mac

Every OS X update or upgrade has a version number and build number, which helps you to know whether OS X is up to date on your Mac.

This article is fun because it goes all the way back to Mac OS X 10.0.

by Stephen at July 26, 2016 02:19 PM

The Finance Buff

Waste Money Now Or Waste Money Later

Back in May, The Atlantic magazine published a long cover story The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans. Relating to a Federal Reserve survey in which 47% of the respondents purportedly said if they had a $400 emergency they would have to cover it by borrowing or selling something*, the author Neal Gabler confessed that he too was one of the 47%.

That 47% number is shockingly high for a mere $400 emergency. The more shocking part is that the author isn’t a nobody making a below-median income. There’s an entry on him in Wikipedia. According to that Wikipedia entry, Neal Gabler wrote five books, won numerous awards, and he’s currently teaching in a Master’s of Fine Art program at the State University of New York. The implication is that a large part of our population are in a poor shape financially, including someone as accomplished as Neal Gabler. He termed it “financial impotence.”

Financially responsible people pointed out the author only did it to himself by buying an expensive home in an exclusive neighborhood and sending his two daughters to private schools, and private universities (Stanford, Emory, Harvard Medical School). Liberal Helaine Olen accused him as one of the “sad, broke, literary men” conflating privilege with true middle class challenges. Conservative Megan McArdle accused him of keeping up with the Jones on a larger scale.

I like how Neal Gabler defended his life choices, unshaken by others’ disapproval. One person’s passion and preferences can be seen as a waste by another. Neal Gabler wrote in the article:

“I chose to become a writer, which is a financially perilous profession, rather than do something more lucrative. I chose to live in New York rather than in a place with a lower cost of living. I chose to have two children. I chose to write long books that required years of work, even though my advances would be stretched to the breaking point and, it turned out, beyond. We all make those sorts of choices, and they obviously affect, even determine, our bottom line. But, without getting too metaphysical about it, these are the choices that define who we are. We don’t make them with our financial well-being in mind, though maybe we should. We make them with our lives in mind. The alternative is to be another person.”

Those are all conscious choices. Paying for his daughters’ private school and private university education was apparently very important to him. He spent his money on his own priorities. Who says it must be better if he went to law school, made $330k a year, and retired at 33 to travel the world on a $24,000/year budget (“Want To Retire In Your 30s And Travel The World? This Woman Did ItForbes) than becoming a writer, having five books under his name, having been recognized by multiple awards and a Wikipedia entry, raising two daughters with top-tier education, teaching MFA students, but having to borrow $400 sometimes?

By some standards Neal Gabler and his wife actually retired very early. His wife quit her job to be with their children and never worked again. He retired from his TV job and pursued his passion in writing books. He chose his own book subjects and he set his own schedule. Teaching part-time in the MFA program is only giving back to his community. Only Internet Retirement Police would say he hasn’t been retired all along.

You can choose to waste your money now or waste your money later, on educating your children or on traveling the world. One choice isn’t necessarily superior to the other. It just has to be your choice. When others make a different choice, it isn’t wrong when it’s their choice.

I think savers and spenders should learn to appreciate the other way of life a little more. If you read this blog you are likely a saver. Spend a little more than you usually do on some nice experience and see what it’s like when you don’t always go for the most value-conscious option. Don’t be so afraid of the so-called hedonic treadmill or lifestyle creep. You are already a saver. You won’t be so easily corrupted.

Personally I find it quite liberating when cost is removed as a factor from consideration. I get to focus on what I like the most. If it happens to be more expensive, so be it.


As a side note, as usual, what gets reported in the media isn’t exactly what people actually said in the survey, which also isn’t necessarily the true reality when push comes to shove. In the Report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households in 2015 from the Federal Reserve, the actual survey question was:

“Suppose that you have an emergency expense that costs $400. Based on your current financial situation, how would you pay for this expense?”

It only asked what people would do, not what people could do. Many people have money in the bank but still choose to cover an unexpected expense by borrowing or selling something. They can cover it with savings but they want to reserve that money for a larger, true emergency such as a job loss. They don’t want to touch it for a $400 expense, which makes sense to me. In the same survey, 47% of respondents said they had an emergency fund large enough to cover three months of expenses.

Refinance Your Mortgage

Mortgage rates hit new lows. I saw rates as low as 3.25% for 30-year fixed, 2.625% for 15-year fixed, with no points and low closing cost. Let banks compete for your loan. Get up to 5 offers at

Waste Money Now Or Waste Money Later is copyrighted material from The Finance Buff. All rights reserved.

by Harry Sit at July 26, 2016 01:52 PM daily


TECHCORP logo from Mr. Show Season 1, Episode 2 — “What To Think”

Every time I watch Mr. Show again I see something other detail that’s amazing.

[HBO Now]

July 26, 2016 08:00 AM

Table Titans

Tales: There’s Your Meat!

It’s been many years since I last played D&D, but I recently had the chance to sit in on a game with some friends. Rather than roll up a new character, the DM let me play the part of a Goblin the party had captured and intimidated into revealing the secrets of the dungeon. Thus, I got to roleplay…

Read more

July 26, 2016 07:00 AM

The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

What King David Can Teach Us About Overcoming Political Anxiety

Article by: Joe Carter

This is an election season in America, which means you are likely anxious, fearful, and worried. This is by design. And it’s only getting worse.

For as long as there have been democratic elections, there have been politicians seeking to use the fears and anxieties of the people to win votes. But what has increased—and increased exponentially in the past few decades—is the rate at which we are being bombarded by such anxiety-producing political rhetoric.

In the era before the American Revolution, a citizen may have heard such anxious news a couple of times a month. By the time of Lincoln and the telegraph, the rate had increased to several times a week, and with the advent of the television, several times a day. In the age of the internet, though, we may be exposed to fear-mongering messages several times an hour.

Fortunately, we Christians have an antidote, for the Bible has much to say about anxiety, fear, and worry. In fact, there is a political leader in Scripture from whom we can learn much about dealing with anxiety and fear: King David. But before we consider how to cope with these emotions let’s look at what we should know about them.

Understanding Anxiety, Fear, and Worry

They aren’t interchangeable — The primary difference between fear and anxiety is the timeframe. Fear is an emotional response to a real or perceived immediate threat; anxiety is an emotional response to a real or perceived future threat. Fear is a warning system that alerts us to danger right now, while anxiety is a warning system of impending danger. Related to anxiety is worry: a repetitive pattern of thoughts and mental images that causes us to inordinately focus on our anxiety and fear.

We need anxiety and fear — What happens to someone who doesn’t feel physical pain? The answer is he or she suffers immensely. People with leprosy lack the ability to feel pain, and the results are that they often lose body parts due to repeated injuries. Pain sends the body a signal that something is wrong, and when we don’t receive the warning we cause even more damage to ourselves.

Fear and anxiety can serve a similar function, warning us of impending danger. Like pain, fear and anxiety are God-given capacities that are to be used for the right purposes. In we are in physical danger we can be motivated by fear to escape and seek safety. Similarly, we need anxiety because we live in a broken world that poses many future threats, both to ourselves and to our society as a whole.

The problem comes when fear and anxiety cease to be warning signs and become sources of continuous distress, or when we are fearful and anxious over the wrong things, in the wrong way, or to the wrong degree. (While some anxiety is normal, it can become disordered and debilitating. If you have persistent anxious thoughts on most days of the week for six months, if the anxiety interferes with daily functioning, and you have anxiety-related symptoms [e.g., trouble sleeping], seek help from a counselor or physician.)

We don’t need worry — In their limited roles as mechanisms for signaling pain, evil, or danger, fear and anxiety can be signals that God intends for us to take action. Worry, however, should not be part of our life at all, because it causes us to focus on our concerns, rather than on God. Here’s how David can teach us not to worry.

How King David (and King Jesus) Can Help

Out of all the people in the Bible there’s probably no one who was more afflicted by fear and anxiety than King David. Fear and anxiety were, for him, like constant companions. We can’t really understand David, or his Psalms, without understanding his anxiety and fear. But by understanding how David dealt with these emotions, we can also learn how we too can respond appropriately.

Identify the source — To overcome his fear and anxiety, David frequently engaged in godly self-reflection. In Psalm 139:23, he wrote, “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.”

Follow David’s lead by asking God to test you as you fill in the blanks in the following sentences:

What I need most is ______________.

What I want most is ______________.

What I most want to avoid is ________________.

What I feel most powerless about is ______________.

What I’m most concerned will happen is _________________.

The way you answers those questions likely reveals your sources of anxiety.  We feel anxious we won’t get what we need or want—or that we’ll get what we don’t want or can’t avoid. We also become anxious about concerns that make us feel small, helpless, or lacking control.

Take a moment to identify and write down a list of thing you are anxious about, both for yourself and for our country.

Classify your anxieties — On a sheet of paper draw a large circle, and then a smaller circle within the larger one. In the small circle, write down the items from your list that you can do something about, the things you have the ability to take action on. In the larger circle, write down the things that you can’t control or affect.

The items in the small circle should be things you can, with God’s help, do something about today or in the near future. The ones in the larger circle are not for you—they’re for God. Either God has given us the capacity to handle the future threat, or he expects us to put our trust in him to handle it.

If the Lord hasn’t given you the power to act directly then you need to let go of the anxiety, so that you can find, as David writes, “When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy” (Ps. 94:19). Identifying our anxieties can help us to know whether to take godly action or seek God’s consolation.

Put your trust in King Jesus — Trusting God is the attitude of our heart, soul, and mind in which we have complete faith in the goodness, power, and sufficiency of God. It is not a passive submission or surrender to circumstances but rather an active process that we develop through such disciplines as gratitude, remembrance, Scriptural engagement, and walking in obedience.

None of us fully trusts God, of course, for if we did, we’d never be tempted to sin. If we completely trusted him we’d never doubt that his holy will is best for us. Nevertheless, we can learn to grow in trust God. And by putting our trust in him we can be fear from worry, knowing that no matter who wins the next election that King Jesus remains, now and forevermore, the king of glory (Psalm 24:10).

Editors’ note: This article is adapted from material in Joe Carter’s new work, the NIV Lifehacks Bible: Practical Tools for Successful Spiritual Habits (Zondervan, 2016). 

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

by Joe Carter at July 26, 2016 05:10 AM

5 Reasons Christians Neglect Beauty in Theology

Article by: Matt Capps

To be human is to have a sense of beauty. Beauty demands our attention. There is no way, then, to escape the aesthetic task.

If the practice of aesthetics is the responsibility of every person, it’s especially true of Christians. Doing aesthetics isn’t so much a theological option as a theological necessity.

It’s no stretch to argue that the evangelical church has largely neglected theological inquiry into the nature of beauty and aesthetics. Most reflection and writing on these subjects come from professionals in philosophy and in the specialized field of aesthetics. Christians are largely on the sidelines. This should not be.

Here are five factors that have contributed to the lack of distinctly evangelical contributions to the conversation. 

1. Shadow of Ascetic Dualism

This shadow darkens a distinctively Christian approach to beauty and aesthetics. Throughout the history of the church there has been a tendency to erect a dichotomy between the spiritual and physical realms. Often this dualism leads to an asceticism that sets Christians up to be deeply suspicious of the very things in which beauty finds its initial mediation—the body and the senses. As holistic beings, however, sensory experience has a powerful role in the formation of persons from cognitive, affective, and volitional levels.

A distinctly Christian vision of beauty and aesthetics, then, could enable us to better discern and understand the God-intended purpose for sensory pleasures. For unless our affections are grounded and guided by biblical parameters, they’re spurious and ungenuine.

2. Deep Suspicion of Beauty

Such suspicion stems from a fear of idolatry. In other words, beauty and aesthetics have often been avoided because of their alluring power.

But God doesn’t forbid the admiration of beauty or the making of beautiful things; he forbids the worship of them. So idolatry is a problem with the heart, not with beauty. In fact, a God-centered vision of beauty displaces idolatry and positions aesthetics as a signpost for worship. Ultimately, we understand that Jesus is the image of God who perfectly depicts the beauty of the Father (Col. 1:15–20; 2 Cor. 3:12–18; Heb. 1:2–3). 

3. Divorce of the Transcendentals

Following the Enlightenment of the 17th and 18th centuries, the divorce of transcendental realities (truth, goodness, and beauty) separated the beautiful from the very parameters that provide its meaning—the good and the true. When the transcendentals are compartmentalized, beauty becomes mere sentimentality, truth becomes mere historical fact, and goodness becomes empty morality. Sadly, as Patrick Sherry has observed, theologians treat beauty like Cinderella, but truth and goodness like her ugly stepsisters.

Recapturing a balanced view of the transcendentals, then, helps create a rounded vision for the Christian life and for the place of beauty in Christian theology. Indeed, this is one of the most neglected areas of Christian apologetics in modern theology.

4. Rise of Utilitarianism in Modern Life

Beauty and reflective aesthetic experience are often dismissed since they’re not directly useful in mastering the physical life. Dennis Hollinger has noted that in pragmatic, results-oriented cultures we often see aesthetics as superfluous and unrelated to spirituality.

Yet beauty has the power to draw us into a sphere of life and spirituality that a purely rational approach cannot achieve. Therefore, the danger of limiting beauty to its utilitarian value is twofold: it belittles the God of creation, and robs humanity of a vast terrain of human exploration.

5. Allergy to Natural Theology and General Revelation

This allergic reaction has a long and conspicuous history in Christianity. Even so, following the psalmist many writers throughout history speak of creation as the “handiwork of God” (Ps. 19:1), comparing it to a work of art that is both beautiful in itself and expresses the personality of its Creator.

While the natural world isn’t so much a source for theology as it is an inspiration for theology, beauty and aesthetic experience can be utilized as a significant analogy to the Creator of all. Jonathan Edwards knew this well: “When we are delighted with flowery meadows and gentle breezes of wind, we may consider that we only see the emanations of the sweet benevolence of Jesus Christ.”

Behold Your Beautiful God

While these five observations give cause for concern, all hope is not lost for the church’s theological integration of beauty and aesthetics for the Christian life. In many ways, one’s theological foundation concerning beauty and aesthetics sets the trajectory of a distinctly Christian understanding of this beautiful world.

As Christians, we understand that the revelation of beauty is an act of God’s self-revealing love. The foundational theological assertion concerning beauty and aesthetics is that God alone is the source and substance of true beauty. And not only were we crafted in his image as aesthetic creatures, we were endowed with the capacity to enjoy and cultivate beautiful things.

It’s exactly on this point that Christian thinkers are the true aesthetes. We understand that all of our longings for beauty are finally satisfied in Jesus Christ as the Spirit gives us eyes to see. In this sense, Christians above all others should lead the way in discussions on beauty and aesthetics. 

Matt Capps is senior pastor at Fairview Baptist Church in Apex, North Carolina. He holds an MDiv from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and is a DMin candidate at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Matt blogs at

by Matt Capps at July 26, 2016 05:02 AM

But What About Black-on-Black Crime?

Article by: Staff

On this episode of The Gospel Coalition podcast, three pastors discuss some of the most controversial topics in race relations today:

  • What place does black-on-black crime have in discussions about race and policing? 
  • Why are so many black men incarcerated, and how should we view this problem?
  • How should Christian leaders respond pastorally to those who have been hurt by racial injustice?
  • Does feeling like the justice system is stacked against them lead young black men to look for power elsewhere?
John Onwuchekwa is a pastor of Cornerstone Church in Atlanta and a TGC Council Associate, Jason Cook is a pastor of Fellowship Memphis and an editor for TGC, and James Roberson is lead pastor of Bridge Church in Brooklyn. They lend experienced and thoughtful perspective to Christians sorting through issues surrounding recent events and the Black Lives Matter movement.

You can listen to this episode of The Gospel Coalition podcast here.

by Staff at July 26, 2016 05:00 AM

sacha chua :: living an awesome life

Weekly review: Week ending July 22, 2016

This was a big week. A- got her first ocular prosthesis, a scleral shell that fits in front of her small eye and supports the growth of her skull. She hardly even fussed, and has been very much her usual happy self. Her left eye is still smaller than the right one, which is normal. It’s a gradual process. I’m sure there’ll be bumps along the road. People in the Facebook support group have shared a few stories about dealing with infection or lost prostheses. But that’s just part of life, so – onward!

We took A- for an MRI in order to follow up on the results from her abdominal ultrasound and blood tests. The waiting room had a toy scanner, which was probably really useful for helping older kids become less afraid of the procedure. It turned out that it’s a small version of a CAT scanner, and it’s made by Philips. They call it a kitten scanner. It even comes with RFID toys that bring up relevant animations. Neat. =)

Tita Gay and Tita Myra drove up from the US to meet A-. We had fun chatting over lumpia and Vietnamese bun. It was so nice to hear about how Tita Gay had been helping my parents through some difficult times, and how Tita Myra was coping with her own health challenges. We ended up with too many desserts, but that’s okay. It just meant that we got to enjoy custard pastry (galaktoboureko, I think), egg tarts, strawberry shortcake, and banana fritters throughout the rest of the week.

I didn’t do any consulting, but that’s okay. It’s a little mindboggling to think that this was my first week without a couple of hours of consulting since April, when A- was just two months old. Next week promises to be a little lighter medical-wise (aside from the echocardiogram under sedation on Monday), so I might be able to check back in. I’ve got a couple of add-ons on the go, and I’m halfway through prototyping another.

I’ve been spending most of my time focused on A-. Aside from the big health-related milestones this week, it feels like I’m spending a fair bit of time nursing her or helping her sleep. It’s all good, though; past Sacha decided this was the best use of my time, and the reasons still stand. When I don’t want to distract her by talking to her, I read on my phone. I’ve gotten through a few ebooks on the Montessori method, looking for ideas for early childhood education. I like the idea of helping her develop her senses and observation skills, and the practical life skills will be good too. The usual Montessori exercises are for kids who are a little older (maybe 2.5 years?), but there are opportunities to apply the principles even earlier. My brain still feels a little fuzzy from time to time, but I’m looking forward to getting better at helping her learn – and learning tons in the process, too.

I’ll eventually want to have more structured notes for observations and plans related to A-‘s learning. I think Teach Your Baby had some suggestions for keeping a notebook, although it might be interesting to see what I can sort out with computers, tagging, my digital index cards, Emacs, and whatever scripts I write. I’ll probably start with adding more detail to my index cards, and making some kind of table to remind us to cover a variety of activities. I’ll figure out how to cross-reference stuff later.

Observations from this week: In the backyard, she’s been able to pick up small pine cones in either hand, when we bring them close to her in our hands. She can pass a teething ring from one hand to the other. She can easily grasp and mouth cucumber sticks and carrot sticks, and she seems to prefer using fewer fingers instead of using a full-finger grasp. Lots of vocalization, especially in the evening. It’s not crying – it sounds more chatty, although if it changes in tone a little, that seems to be a reliable indicator that she’s getting a bit tired.

In other news, W- has been really hitting it out of the park in terms of cooking: pesto using the basil from our planter boxes (gotta keep trimming them!), tarragon chicken, pad thai, bun… He’s been posting videos of A- in our Facebook group for baby updates, too. So awesome.

Next week: cardio, then reacquiring Philippine citizenship, then taking A- for more vaccines and following up with the pediatrician regarding results. I’m not sure I can go to the Peer Nutrition workshop on Monday, but maybe I can make it up some other time.

2016-07-23b Week ending 2016-07-22 -- index card #journal #weekly output

Blog posts


Focus areas and time review

  • Business (0.1h – 0%)
    • Earn (0.0h – 0% of Business)
      • ☐ Earn: E1: 1-2 days of consulting
    • Build (0.0h – 0% of Business)
    • Connect (0.1h – 100% of Business)
  • Relationships (4.7h – 2%)
  • Discretionary – Productive (9.8h – 5%)
    • Drawing (5.0h)
    • Emacs (0.3h)
      • ☐ [#A] Do another Emacs News review
    • Coding (0.3h)
    • Sewing (0.0h)
    • Writing (0.0h)
  • Discretionary – Play (2.9h – 1%)
  • Personal routines (23.6h – 14%)
  • Unpaid work (69.7h – 41%)
    • Childcare (59.3h – 35% of total)
  • Sleep (57.3h – 34% – average of 8.2 per day)

The post Weekly review: Week ending July 22, 2016 appeared first on sacha chua :: living an awesome life.

by Sacha Chua at July 26, 2016 03:16 AM

July 25, 2016

sacha chua :: living an awesome life

2016-07-25 Emacs News

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

Past Emacs News round-ups

The post 2016-07-25 Emacs News appeared first on sacha chua :: living an awesome life.

by Sacha Chua at July 25, 2016 11:57 PM

One Big Fluke

Don't hold meetings on Mondays

A couple of months ago I stopped letting people book meetings with me on Mondays before noon. I used to get anxiety on Sunday nights because I'd worry about preparing for my meetings the next day. Now I wake up Monday, have multiple hours to better prepare for the week, and my Sundays are as lazy as they should be.

by Brett Slatkin ( at July 25, 2016 10:22 PM

The Art of Non-Conformity

13 Untranslatable Words About Love

“ubuntu” (Ndebele)

I really enjoy the work of Ella Frances Sanders*.

Her bestselling book, Lost in Translation, has been a worldwide hit in many languages. This short video adapts 13 “untranslatable” words about love, sharing their literal meaning.



Here are a few of my favorites:

tiam (Farsi): the twinkle in your eye when you first meet someone

forelsket (Norwegian): the indescribable euphoria as you begin to fall in love

nunchi (Korean): the subtle, often unnoticed art of listening and gauging another’s mood

wabi-sabi (Japanese): finding beauty in imperfections; acceptance of the cycle of life and death

Sometimes a single word in English doesn’t describe what you’re looking for. If you watch the video, what do some of these words mean to you?

“saudade” (Portuguese)


*In fact, I like her work so much that I asked her to design my first (and only) tattoo


by Chris Guillebeau at July 25, 2016 09:27 PM

Market Urbanism

100 Years After Zoning In New York City, Government Dominates Land Use

This month marks the 100th anniversary of two pieces of legislation that revolutionized the way we live. On July 11, 1916, President Woodrow Wilson signed the first Federal Aid Road Bill. And on July 25, 1916–exactly 100 years ago today–New York City passed the country’s first comprehensive zoning ordinance.

Prior to 1916, transportation infrastructure was primarily a local and/or private responsibility. For example, cities leased their rights-of-way to trolley companies, which operated transit lines. Railroad companies provided travel service between cities. The 1916 Federal Road Bill was the first step in nationalizing transportation infrastructure funding, with the state highway departments formed to manage federal appropriations for roads.

These two pieces of legislation produced radical change, as government favoritism of automotive infrastructure crowded out other transportation modes and undermined innovation. In the century prior to 1916, entrepreneurs invented steam ferries, trains, bicycles, trolleys, and automobiles. Such advances ceased after 1916. Yes, today’s cars are more comfortable and powerful, but they have the same steering wheel, four tires, and internal combustion engine as the Model-T Henry Ford was building 100 years ago. As for roads, the main difference is they are bigger.

Unable to compete with government favored automobiles, Charleston’s last private ferry operator closed shop in 1930. Its trolley lines, which carried 20 million passengers/year (compared with CARTA’s 5 million/year) stopped running in 1937.

Zoning is segregation – not only of land uses deemed incompatible, but of people deemed “undesirable.” Progressives behind New York City’s 1916 zoning ordinance regarded immigrants moving into northern cities from Europe and the South as “undesirable.”

In 1921, then U.S. Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover tapped Edward Bassett, the leading advocate of New York City’s 1916 zoning, to create a model zoning ordinance. Engineer Morris Knowles also served on this committee.

In its 1926 landmark decision in Euclid v. Ambler Realty, the Supreme Court validated zoning. Among many divisive pronouncements Justice Sutherland used in writing the 6-3 majority opinion was one that asserted “the apartment house is a mere parasite.”

Morris Knowles (yes, the one on Hoover’s committee) came to Charleston in 1931 at the invitation of the Society for the Preservation of Old Buildings (now the Preservation Society). Dismissing 250 years of custom and tradition, Knowles advised widening narrow streets and segregating races. Just as the automobile was crowding out other forms of transportation, zoning outlawed growth patterns that enabled one to meet daily needs by walking. Following along, zoning was adopted by Mount Pleasant in 1949 and Charleston County in 1955.

Meanwhile, work continued on the auto-dominant vision. Awed by the Nazi’s autobahn program, U.S. highway chief Thomas MacDonald returned from visiting Hitler in 1936 to proclaim “we can begin the building of roads similar to those in Germany.” Except rather than build around cities, as was done in Germany, MacDonald aimed to build highways straight through them! Funding for his vision arrived with the Federal Highway Act of 1956.

The 1956 Act provided South Carolina $1.43 billion (in 2016 dollars), including $650 million to initiate our State’s portion of the Interstate Highways System, and $783 million to widen other federal highways. On July 11, 1956 (the 40th Anniversary of the first Federal Aid Road Bill) the Charleston Evening Post reported that “an eighth-of-a-mile strip of moss-hung oaks on Highway 17 [Savannah Highway] were laid flat this morning by order of the SC Highway Department.”

Just over a year later, an Evening Post headline announced “Super highway to be built into heart of Charleston.” Rather than ending 15 miles north, I-26 was to “make an easy connection with US 17.” Over the next decade, such “easy connections” would eviscerate Charleston neighborhoods with high speed, blight-inducing expressways, just as it would for other cities nationwide.

Our problems are caused by what some would have us believe are cures – segregating land uses and connecting them with wide roads. These “cures” result in maximized congestion and increased debt. Land use and transportation policies provide the pretense of order through artificial constructs that suppress the natural order. Moreover, they mask the incompetence of modern urban designers. Is your city getting uglier and more congested? Well, you obviously need more zoning and road widening!

A 1955 federal government report noted policies were intended “to disperse our factories, our stores, our people; in short, to create a revolution in living habits.” We are the inheritors of this revolution. Continuing to advance it is a betrayal of those who founded and built beautiful cities. Leaders, please contemplate the root of the problem.

Vince Graham builds and renovates traditional walking neighborhoods in the South Carolina Lowcountry. He is Chairman of the SC Transportation Infrastructure Bank. 

by Vince Graham at July 25, 2016 08:25 PM

What makes a Mac a Mac?

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post written by my buddy Thomas Brand.

What makes a Mac a Mac?
Is it a computer made by Apple?
Does it need to run the Mac OS?
For a Mac to be a Mac does its hardware,
does its design sit heads above the rest?

iPad, iPhone, and even the Newton are all computers made by Apple.
But none of them are Macs.

The Macintosh clones from PowerComputing, Motorola, Umax, and every closet Hackintosh all run Mac OS.
But none of them are Macs.

Back in November 1996, when Apple was doomed, and its hardware wasn’t much better than the average PC. Apple introduced a different kind of computer, the Power Macintosh 4400. It wasn’t a Mac, it was a Macintosh clone made by Apple.
And it was a piece of junk.

The Power Macintosh 4400 was easily identifiable, as its floppy disk drive was located on the left side of the case.
It is the only southpaw Power Macintosh in existence.

Power Macintosh 4400

The second of only two early Apple computers to ship in a metal case; everything about the Power Macintosh 4400 felt cheap.
Everything was sharp around the edges.

Stamped out of pressed steel to save money, its case was secured with screws instead of using clever little latches like its peers. The Power Macintosh 4400 looked so much like a PC it is hard to believe it was Designed by Apple in California.

Power Macintosh 4400

Built from inexpensive PC parts, the Power Macintosh 4400 didn’t look much better on the inside. It used a slow IDE hard drive when most of Apple’s computers were using SCSI. It shipped with a cheap PC compatible ATX power supply. Its modified Tanzania motherboard was the reference design used on popular Macintosh clones.
And yes — by way of an optional 166 MHz Cyrix CPU — it could even run Windows.

Not meant to be upgraded, the Power Macintosh 4400’s 160/200 MHz CPU was soldered to the motherboard. Its expandability was limited to three PCI slots, with one taken up by the Ethernet card. RAM maxed out at 160 MBs, and there was only room for a single 2 GB hard drive. In a word it was “slow,” barely matching the performance of Macs half its clock speed.

The Power Macintosh 4400 ran System Software 7.5.3 through Mac OS 9.1. Just don’t install System Software 7.5.5.
It won’t boot.

Power Macintosh 4400

MacWeek called it “a strange bird,” probably because the Power Macintosh 4400 was full of quirks all its own. Like the fact it won’t turn on without a charge from its 4.5 V PRAM battery. Or that RAM slot #1 only supports 32 MBs of single-bank memory, while RAM slot #2 and #3 support up to 64 MBs each. The Power Macintosh 4400 required expensive 3.3 V EDO memory, back when every other Apple computer worked with cheaper 5 V DIMMs.

Here’s Eric Schwarz on the machine’s place in the line up:

The 4400 was Apple’s attempt at making a cheap Mac. With a price tag around $1700, it certainly wasn’t cheap by today’s standards (a fascinating sidenote: for $150 more, you could have gotten a vastly superior Power Macintosh 6400.).

I think that sums it up nicely.

Photo credit: Stephen Edmonds.

by Stephen at July 25, 2016 03:30 PM

Daniel Lemire's blog

Common sense in artificial intelligence… by 2026?

Lots of people want to judge machine intelligence based on human intelligence. It dates back to Turing who proposed his eponymous Turing test: can machines “pass” as human beings? Turing, being clever, was aware of how biased this test was:

If the man were to try and pretend to be the machine he would clearly make a very poor showing. He would be given away at once by slowness and inaccuracy in arithmetic. May not machines carry out some-thing which ought to be described as thinking but which is very different from what a man does?

I expect that we will eventually outgrow our anthropocentrism and view what machines really offer: a new kind of intelligence.

In any case, from an economics perspective, it matters a great deal whether machines can do exactly what human beings can do. Calum Chace has published a new book on this topic: The Economic Singularity, Artificial intelligence and the death of capitalism. Chace’s excellent book in the latest in a stream of books hinting that we may soon all be unemployable simply because machines are better than us at most jobs.

To replace human beings at most jobs, machines need to exhibit what we intuitively call “common sense”. For example, if someone just bought a toaster… you do not try to sell them another toaster (as so many online ad systems do today).

Common sense is basic knowledge about how the world of human beings works. It is not rule-based. It is not entirely logical. It is a set of heuristics almost all human beings quickly acquire. If computers could be granted a generous measure of common sense, many believe that they could make better employees than human beings. Whatever one might think about economics, there is an interesting objective question… can machines achieve “common sense” in the near future?

It seems that Geoff Hinton, a famous computer scientist, predicted that within a decade, we would build computers with common sense. These are not computers that are smarter than all of us at all tasks. These are not computers with a soul. They are merely computers with a working knowledge of the world of human beings… computers that know our conventions, they know that stoves are hot, that people don’t usually own twelve toasters and so forth.

Chace recently placed a bet with a famous economist, Robin Hanson, that Hinton is right at 50-to-1 odds. This means that Hanson is very confident that computers will be unable to achieve common sense in the near future.

Hanson is not exactly a Luddite who believes that technology will stall. In fact, Hanson has also an excellent book, the Age of Ems that describes a world where brains have been replaced with digital computers. Our entire civilization is made of software. I have covered some of the content of Hanson’s book on my blog before… for example, Hanson believes that software grows old and becomes senile.

I think that both Hanson and Chace are very well informed on the issues, but they have different biases.

What is my own take?

The challenge for people like Chace who allude to an economic singularity where machines take over the economy… is that we have little to no evidence that such a thing is coming. For all the talks about massive unemployment coming up… the unemployment rates are really not that high. Geoff Hinton thinks that machines will soon acquire common sense… and it looks like an easy problem? But we have no clue right now how to go about solving this problem. It is hard to even define it.

As for Hanson’s, the problem is that betting against what we can do 10 years in the future is very risky. Ten years ago, we did not have iPhones. Today’s iPhone is more powerful than a PC from ten years ago. People at the beginning of the century thought that it would take a million years to get a working aeroplane, whereas it took a mere ten years…

I must say that despite the challenge, I am with Chace. At 50-to-1 odds, I would bet for the software industry. The incentive to offer common sense is great. After all, you can’t drive a car, clean a house or serve burgers without some common sense. What the deep learning craze has taught us is that it is not necessary for us to understand how the software works for the software to be effective. With enough data, enough computing power and trial and error, there is no telling what we can find!

Let us be more precise… what could we expect from software having common sense? It is hard to define it because it is a collection of small pieces… all of which are easy to program individually. For example, if you are lying on the floor yelling “I’m hurt”, common sense dictates that we call emergency services… but it is possible that Apple’s Siri could already be able to do this.

So I offer the following “test”. Every year, new original video games come out. Most of them come with no instruction whatsoever. You start playing and you figure it out as you… using “common sense”. So I think that if some piece of software is able to pick up a decent game from Apple’s AppStore and figure out how to play competently within minutes… without playing thousands of games… then it will have an interesting form of common sense. It is not necessary for the software to play at “human level”. For example, it would be ok if it only played simple games at the level of a 5-year-old. The key in this test is diversity. There are great many different games, and even when they have the same underlying mechanic, they can look quite a bit different.

Is it fair to test software intelligence using games? I think so. Games are how we learn about the world. And, frankly, office work is not all that different from a (bad) video game.

by Daniel Lemire at July 25, 2016 03:12 PM

Stratechery by Ben Thompson

Note to Readers

Stratechery is on vacation this week. There will be no Daily Updates or Weekly Article. Stratechery will return on August 1. All memberships initiated this week will be changed to an August 1 start-date. Thanks for your support and see you next week

by Ben Thompson at July 25, 2016 01:50 PM

Karen De Coster

The Bankster Candidate

The Big Banksters are behind Hillary. She is the candidate of Wall Street, not Main Street.

It is true that the Republican National Convention delegates approved a platform that calls for reinstating the Glass-Steagall Act and scaling back the Dodd-Frank financial overhaul, calling it the Democrats’ “legislative Godzilla.” This is why you find so many hedge fund guys donating to Hillary as well as the big NY banks. They will not donate to Trump and that clearly shows who protects whom.

The Clintons repealed Glass-Steagall. Obviously, the big banks will be pouring money into Hillary to maintain their positions. It looks like the Democrats are for big business, not the Republicans. Guess this is part of the cross-dressing going on in Washington.

by Karen De Coster at July 25, 2016 10:10 AM

Announcing git-cinnabar 0.4.0 beta 2

Git-cinnabar is a git remote helper to interact with mercurial repositories. It allows to clone, pull and push from/to mercurial remote repositories, using git.

Get it on github.

These release notes are also available on the git-cinnabar wiki.

What’s new since 0.4.0b1?

  • Some more bug fixes.
  • Updated git to 2.9.2 for cinnabar-helper.
  • Now supports `git push –dry-run`.
  • Added a new `git cinnabar fetch` command to fetch a specific revision that is not necessarily a head.
  • Some improvements to the experimental native wire protocol support.

by glandium at July 25, 2016 08:38 AM daily

Video Game Consumption Q2 2016


Expectations couldn’t have been lower. id hasn’t released a good game in years - rage was abysmal, Doom 3 a debacle. Carmack is off making magic VR goggles. Doom as a franchise is more than 20 years old. No review copies were sent out in advance — almost universally a sign that a publisher is expecting bad reviews.

So that Doom is a masterpiece of beautiful and horrific carnage, capturing what made doom bizarrely terrifying and awesome when it rocked the PC gaming world in the 90s, is one of the amazing surprises in gaming this year.

It’s fast, unlike the plodding cover based shooters that followed.

The weird over the top violence is mixed with a rhythm-based mechanic that finds a way to turn the ever-increasing carnage of monstrous demons and overwhelming odds into an intense flow when it works.

It’s level design again harkens back to the original weirdness of strange architectures, combinations of science fiction and demonic and horror.

Spoiler: you’re going to fight demons in hell.

Spoiler: it’s going to be awesome.



I have loved every sci-fi point and click adventure game Wadjet Eye Games has published. I loved this one too.

Great writing, art, atmosphere, and puzzles. It’s excellent.


Wolfenstein: The Old Blood

Pretty good! Came for free with Doom, which makes it seem less good in comparison, despite being free.

Wolfenstein The New Order was somewhat refreshing and fun, this felt more plodding, less fun. More forgettable.


Batman Arkham Knight

The PC version of this game was such a mess at launch they stopped selling it and I never played it. But now, in the future, graphics cards are more powerful and I guess they fixed some bugs and it’s kind of awesome?

I’m Batman! Wait, why is Batman in a tank? Am I Batman? And if so why am I in a tank?

I mean, if you are asking these questions instead of enjoying SCREAMING THROUGH GOTHAM IN THE BATMOBILE then why don’t you just EJECT YOURSELF from the Batmobile at high velocity up into the skies of Gotham and glide around and then land on a building and kick the crap out of some villains?

Now do you feel better?

I read Marvel comics, not DC, and thus do not care about any ideological purity or character guidance or nonsense in DC cartoons, games, or other media. I can just enjoy that every generation gets the Batman they deserve, and right now we need one that requires an insane amount of graphics power, and a fucking tank.


or maybe ★

I honestly don’t know but I played like 50 hours of this and all the DLC, sorry.

July 25, 2016 08:00 AM

Front Porch Republic

From The Multiversity Cave: Conclusion

Saginaw, MI

Lee Trepanier

This is the final post of a series that explored what prominent thinkers can teach us about today’s public multiversity, the modern university with its many colleges, departments, and other administrative units that play multiple functions and roles in our society.

In this series of posts, we have reviewed what some prominent thinkers have taught us about today multiversity: Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, and Aquinas presented us a new paradigm for higher education; the reform movements of Renaissance humanism and the Protestant and Catholic Reformations showed us how institutions can renew themselves; the problems of the adoption of the natural sciences of Bacon and Descartes as a model for the multiversity; the paths that Locke and Mill provided us to reorganize general education programs; and the role that experience played in the education of civic citizens, as advocated by Rousseau and Dewey. Just as we presently wrestle with the questions about the purpose and place of the multiversity, so did these thinkers. What then can we ultimately claim to have learn from them that is applicable today?

First, it is clear that the mission of today’s multiversity is at best overly ambitious and ambiguous and at worst a reflection of management and marketing speak. By being all things to all people, the multiversity does nothing well. The multiversity – its students, faculty, and administrators – need to reflect upon what their specific institutional mission should be and then devote their resources to implementing it. The multiversity’s mission obviously will be dependent upon the peculiar history of the institution, the availability of resources, and the public needs that are demanded within a particular community. But these conditions only set the parameters, not the limitations, of the multiversity’s mission. Students, faculty, and administrators need to think not only what is probable but what can be possible.

Second, the multiversity needs to be open to both internal and external resources to revitalize its purpose and place in society while remaining true to its mission. This unfortunately is done today in the mind-numbing task called assessment: the creation of paperwork to justify one’s position of employment. Part of the problem of assessment is that nobody knows what they are assessing, especially as most of its theories, concepts, and practices come from the fields of business, which has a strictly utilitarian account of education, or education, which is not known in the United States for its effectiveness or efficiency. What we find in the Renaissance and Reformations are models that provide an account of assessment that is concerned with content as well as its execution, presenting us an alternative than the ones we currently find today.

Third, the dominance of the natural sciences as the model for the multiversity in learning, teaching, scholarship, service, and administrative rule is problematic because they require a standardization of expectations and practices that is not fitting for these human activities to be done well. Prudential judgement rather than thoughtless bureaucratic decisions should be the mode of thinking at the multiversity. Judgment should inform students, faculty, and administrators when standardized expectations and practices should be put in place and when they should not.

Fourth, the multiversity needs to organize knowledge so that students can see the relevance and connections among disciplines and faculty are encouraged to learn and collaborate with one another. The current organization of knowledge in the general education program is a disaster for students who have to form the connections among disciplines by themselves, an impossible task asked of them. The same also applies to scholarship, where faculty from different disciplines literally cannot communicate with one another. Finally, administrative units need to be assembled in such a way where they are not separate, isolated elements but part of a community of common consultation. Instead, the multiversity’s administrative units are organized like American medicine with groups of specialists attending to specific illness but no physician making the connections and therefore gaining a comprehensive view of the patient.

Finally, the multiversity needs to articulate its purpose and place to society. The multiversity needs to demonstrate how it contributes to the public good and is not just a place that churns out employees for the marketplace. This is not to deny the importance of the economic dimension and impact that the multiversity has on society, but it must be more than an agent of economic change if it wants to distinguish itself from community colleges, vocational schools, or businesses. Civic engagement, democratic citizenship, and the cultivation of leaders also is required for societies to sustain themselves. The multiversity is uniquely suited for these tasks and consequently should explain to the public how they contribute to them.

Of course, there are more lessons that can be learned from the thinkers that we have reviewed as well as from those whom we have neglected. However, I hope that this series has prompted us to start to think about the purpose and place of the multiversity today in our communities. The series is meant neither to be definitive nor conclusive but rather to initiate and to encourage a conversation about higher education in America: its strengths, its limitations, and its future possibilities.

Lee Trepanier is a Professor of Political Science at Saginaw Valley State University. More information about him can be found at

The post From The Multiversity Cave: Conclusion appeared first on Front Porch Republic.

by Lee Trepanier at July 25, 2016 07:24 AM

Table Titans

Tales: Float Like a Butterfly, Sting Like a Splinter

Improbable strings of dice rolls lead to great stories. This is one such tale.

My fellow players and I were new to D&D. During one of our first forays into an actual dungeon we reached a room devoid of anything but furniture. We began to look for treasure and secret doors, ignorant of the…

Read more

July 25, 2016 07:00 AM

The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

6 Ways to Use Your Job This Week

Article by: Tom Nelson

Most of us spend just one or two hours every week “at church.” But we spend a third of our entire adult lives at work. 

So it should come as no surprise that our workplace is a primary place where we both serve Jesus and grow to be more like him. God is using the unique way you are wired and gifted, along with your work situation, to lead you to maturity.

But often we have our noses so close to the grindstone that we miss what God is doing in us and through us. Or we’re so intent on ticking off our to-do list that we fail to savor the opportunities to serve, even as we complete our daily tasks.

In order to lift our gaze, here are six ways you can intentionally leverage your job to serve God and grow in grace.

1. To love your neighbor.

“God does not need your good works, your neighbor does,” Martin Luther said. Your workplace is God’s ordained space for you to love your neighbor (Matt. 22:39). You’ll have opportunities to bless, encourage, and practically help those you work with.

Wherever you work, interpersonal conflict will be a pervasive frustration—but you have the opportunity to befriend, support, and care for others. Our work itself might be a direct expression of neighbor love. For example, if you work as a janitor, providing a clean environment for others is a concrete way to love and serve them.

2. To teach you to love and do justice.

Workplaces are filled with the brokenness and chaos of Genesis 3. Our work can serve God by doing justice through relief or reform.

Relief is doing justice by caring directly for the poor—say, working in the unemployment office helping people find work or working at a homeless shelter. Reform is justice done by rectifying unjust systems. And this isn’t limited to politics. Reform could include managing your office in a way that prevents sexism, racism, or homophobia; or ensuring your business pays all your employees a living wage.

3. To share the gospel.

For most of us, our workplace is where we most regularly spend time with unbelievers. The way we live before them is what will give plausibility to the message we speak.

Let me give an example of what that might look like. No doubt many of you work with people who are worn out. If you work in a place long enough, the people you work with will get cancer, get sick, see family members die, get demoted, or face any number of tragedies. Under the same stresses and strains, though, you will respond differently. What crushes some will not crush you. Through the power of Jesus, you’ll be able to forgive and show love, where others will not. Your life will “adorn” the gospel, and make it both plausible and attractive for those you work with.

4. To do good work well done.

Dorothy Sayers said the only truly Christian work is “good work well done.” God desires our work to lead to the flourishing and expansion of human societies (Gen. 1:28)—so good work from accountants, software developers, carpenters, or dentists is incredibly valuable. These workers will help individuals and businesses to flourish. Good work well done gets at the heart of Paul’s words: “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you’ll receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ” (Col. 3:23–24).

5. To create beauty.

Art, music, poetry, dance, and literature can all point to a transcendent beauty beyond themselves. In many ways, God was the first artist, fashioning a beautiful world from formless chaos. What he created demonstrates his power and his goodness.

Creating beauty is a way to point beyond this earth to our Creator God, and to speak to humanity’s deepest questions and longings.

6. To enable generosity.

Some kinds of work will enable us to be financially generous because they pay well. But not all vocations do this. The downside of high-paying jobs is that they often demand significant time and energy. Other jobs may give you the freedom to give large amounts of time to others, or equip you with skills to serve in more technical ways. Those who intentionally live below their income could enable one spouse to work in a non-paid contribution—perhaps staying at home with children, volunteering in a school, or serving with a charitable organization. Or those who live below their income can give generously to the church and to the poor, or they can pour resources into companies to help create more jobs. Scripture’s principle is that we “do good to everyone, especially to those in the household of faith” (Gal. 6:10).

Christian, be encouraged. Whether your job feels like a dead-end or a relentless treadmill, God is using it in these ways and so many more to shape you into the likeness of his Son. What could be better than that?

Editors’​ note: This is an adapted excerpt from Tom Nelson’s Gospel Shaped Work, a new curriculum from The Gospel Coalition and The Good Book Company. Eight sessions will encourage the whole church to connect Monday to Sunday by putting the gospel at the heart of everything we do at work. It’s part of the five-track Gospel Shaped Church curriculum, which is based on TGC’s ministry distinctives. 

Tom Nelson is the senior pastor of Christ Community Church (EFCA) in Leawood, Kansas, and a Council member with The Gospel Coalition. He Is the author of Work Matters: Connecting Sunday Worship to Monday Work.

by Tom Nelson at July 25, 2016 05:03 AM

How ‘Free Grace’ Theology Diminishes the Gospel

Article by: Justin Dillehay

It’s safe to assume that if you’re a Christian, you love the gospel. For that reason, it’s safe to assume that if something were diminishing the gospel, you’d want to know what it was.

That’s why Wayne Grudem’s new book, “Free Grace” Theology: Five Ways It Diminishes the Gospel, is relevant for you. It’s relevant even if you’ve never heard of the “Lordship salvation” controversy. And it’s relevant because it deals with an issue at the heart of the gospel: the nature of saving faith.

How does saving faith relate to repentance? Does it always produce good works? Should we ever doubt our faith is genuine? And what does it mean to say we’re justified by faith alone? These are the sorts of vital questions Grudem tackles in this book. 

What’s ‘Free Grace’ Theology? 

In case you were worried, Grudem—author of numerous books including the widely read Systematic Theology—hasn’t suddenly turned against the doctrine of free grace. Look closely at the book’s title. The phrase “Free Grace” Theology (note the quotation marks) refers to a specific set of teachings that originated in the late 20th century among a minority of professors at Dallas Theological Seminary, foremost of whom was the late Zane Hodges. It is currently promoted by organizations like Free Grace Alliance and Grace Evangelical Society (23), and by theologians like Charles Bing, Robert Wilken, Fred Lybrand, and Joseph Dillow.

The distinguishing mark of Free Grace Theology (FGT) is its understanding of what it means to be justified by faith alone. For Grudem, this is also its distinguishing error:

The mistakes of the Free Grace movement today all stem from a misunderstanding of the way the word alone is used in the expression “justification by faith alone.” (139; cf. 36–37)

Grudem’s central argument is that the FGT understanding of “faith alone” is directly at odds with the New Testament’s, and that the difference turns on two questions: (1) Is repentance from sin (in the sense of remorse for sin and an internal resolve to forsake it) necessary for saving faith and (2) Do good works and continuing to believe necessarily follow from saving faith? (22). 

FGT answers no to both questions, whereas Grudem argues (successfully, in my judgment) that both the Bible and classic Protestantism answer yes. Herein lies the substance of the book.

What Are the Five Ways?

Each of the five ways FGT diminishes the gospel gets its own chapter, so the book lays out neatly in five chapters along with an introduction and conclusion.

First, FGT doesn’t accurately reflect the Reformation teaching of justification by faith alone, which was often summarized in the formula “We are justified by faith alone, but the faith that justifies is never alone” (26). Translation: even though faith is the only human act God responds to in justification (it’s alone in that sense), faith never exists alone in the believer since it always brings with it certain other graces. Grudem’s survey of Protestant confessions spanning five centuries amply demonstrates that this formula represents the pan-Protestant understanding of faith alone (26–30). That this formula stands squarely at odds with FGT teaching is confirmed by the fact some openly reject the formula as an illogical cliché (34–35).

Second, FGT teaching weakens the gospel by “avoiding any call to unbelievers to repent of their sins” (39). Grudem helpfully shows how repentance appears in key New Testament summaries of the gospel message, even in places where faith isn’t explicitly mentioned (Luke 24:47; Acts 2:38). Additionally, passages like Acts 20:21 tie repentance and faith closely together (42), justifying the classical Protestant understanding that faith and repentance are like two sides of the same coin, or better—two perspectives on the same conversion event, with repentance being a turning from sin and faith being a turning to Christ. In short, we can’t preach the full gospel without preaching repentance. Even apart from its polemical purpose, this chapter provides a helpful overview of the biblical teaching on repentance. 

We can’t preach the full gospel without preaching repentance.

Third, FGT weakens the gospel by giving many professing Christians a false assurance of salvation. It’s not hard to see why this would happen. If repentance, good works, and continuing in belief don’t necessarily follow saving faith, then the lack of them can’t serve as evidence that our faith is dead, and the answer to James’s question “Can that faith save him?” would seem to be “yes” (James 2:14–17).

Grudem is at his sharpest when examining FGT’s faulty thought processes on assurance. First, he argues their thinking rests on a category mistake:

The question is not: How do I know that Christ has died for people’s sins and that he will save those who believe in him? The question is rather: How do I know that I have truly believed? (83)

Then he argues that FGT employs a kind of fallacious mathematical reasoning when it asks, “How many good works does one have to do in order to be assured of salvation?” (88), as though such things could be quantified. To which Grudem’s somewhat humorous but biblical answer is, “Some” (90).

Fourth, FGT “overemphasizes agreement with facts and underemphasizes heartfelt trust in the person of Christ” (97). Whereas classical Protestantism has seen faith as knowledge (notitia), assent (assensus), and trust (fiducia), FGT majors on the former two. Grudem parses FGT carefully, noting that while some like Hodges and Wilken define saving faith solely as intellectual assent to facts about Christ (98), others like Bing allow that faith includes trust in the person of Christ (99). But in the end, even the healthiest forms of FGT downplay this aspect of saving faith, and for an obvious reason:

The more we emphasize coming into the presence of Christ and trusting him, the more the idea of optional submission to his Lordship becomes unthinkable. (103–04)

Fifth, FGT is forced to rely on “numerous, highly unlikely interpretations of the NT” in order to defend their understanding of faith alone (118). Given the nature of the charge, this chapter unavoidably feels the most stinging. Examining the FGT interpretation of 11 “problem passages,” Grudem concludes that FGT advocates simply “have no idea how strained, how idiosyncratic . . . and how completely unpersuasive and foreign to the New Testament these interpretations sound,” both to laypersons and scholars outside the FGT camp (117–118). He suggests this is why almost all FGT books are published by their own organizations rather than by recognized evangelical academic publishers (135 n. 27). When a theology forces people to suggest that one can “receive” eternal life without “possessing” it, be “in” the kingdom without “inheriting” it, and enter the heavenly city without entering “by the gates” (134), it’s hard not to think something’s amiss.

Why ‘Diminish’ and Not ‘Destroy’?

Finally, a word about what’s at stake.

“Diminishing” the gospel is a serious charge—serious enough to warrant a book. But it’s not the same as “destroying” the gospel. And Grudem makes clear from the outset that he views this as an in-house debate among Christians, and for him a “difference . . . among friends” (16). He cites several FGT proponents whose correspondence helped him better understand their position, and whose presence I suspect also helped give the book its civil and charitable tone.

In closing, I must confess I was surprised this book still needed to be written. In one sense it engages the same battle John MacArthur fought 30 years ago in The Gospel According to Jesus and later in The Gospel According to the Apostles (though without the intramural dispensationalist arguments), and in my sheltered innocence I’d assumed this debate had been laid to rest. I was wrong. Zane Hodges may be gone, but his theology lives in on in the students he influenced. Grudem notes that many pastors all over the world wrote to him saying “I’m glad you’re writing about this” (20). 

For their sake, I’m glad he did, too. But thankfully, that narrow audience won’t be the only beneficiaries. Anyone who loves the gospel and wants to preach it more faithfully can profit from this book.

Wayne Grudem. “Free Grace” Theology: Five Ways It Diminishes the Gospel. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2016. 160 pp. $19.99.

Justin Dillehay is a pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Hartsville, Tennessee, where he resides with his wife, Tilly. They blog at While We Wait. He is a graduate of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

by Justin Dillehay at July 25, 2016 05:02 AM

What Nietzsche Meant When He Said ‘God Is Dead’

Article by: Douglas Blount

Not that long ago, atheists were haunted by regret. Even as they denied God’s existence, they recognized that a world with God would be better than one without. Still, they found various arguments and evidence against God’s existence convincing—such as the problem of evil and the apparent ability of the natural sciences to account for the universe. As God came to be viewed as irrelevant for the cosmos, many found it difficult to reconcile his presence with evil and suffering. But as far as most atheists were concerned, that was unfortunate. By their own reckoning, they came to unbelief reluctantly.

Not so, however, with the so-called “New Atheists”—men like Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens. These brave thinkers see God’s alleged non-existence not as a cause for regret but as an occasion for rejoicing. Even so, their enthusiasm and accompanying vitriolic attacks on religious belief find precedent in the past, particularly in the writings of 19th-century philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche.

Starting Point, Not Destination 

Despite the movement’s widespread appeal, New Atheism’s most interesting characteristics—its evangelistic fervor and militant rhetoric—don’t originate with Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens. In fact, the only thing unprecedented in their writings is the weakness of their case. As careful readers will discern, cogent arguments and impressive evidence are not the stuff of which Dawkins’s God Delusion, Hitchens’s God Is Not Great, or Harris’s Letter to a Christian Nation are made. On the contrary, their arguments are surprisingly anemic. If you’re looking for reasons to take the New Atheists’ views seriously, you’ll find their writings wanting.

Now, this doesn’t mean Nietzsche provides better arguments for his unbelief; he does nothing of the sort. Unlike Dawkins and company, he sees no need to do so. Nietzsche sees atheism not as a conclusion to be demonstrated, but an axiom to be exploited. In other words, he argues not for atheism but rather from it; unbelief is his starting point, not his destination. When he famously proclaims God’s death, for example, he does so not because he has shown—or even attempted to show—that God doesn’t exist. Rather, he takes the point for granted since, in his view, late 19th-century sophisticates like himself can no longer take belief in God seriously. Such belief, he claims, “has become unbelievable.”

Joyful Knowledge

Nietzsche makes this claim in The Gay Science, whose title deserves notice. Here, “gay” carries not the sense it’s acquired over the last 50 years, but rather the traditional sense of “joyful.” Moreover, the term “science” derives from scientia, a Latin term for “knowledge.” So Gay Science refers to “joyful knowledge”—a kind of knowledge that brings joy to the knower. From Nietzsche’s perspective, the joyful knowledge is the knowledge God has died.

In proclaiming God’s death, Nietzsche doesn’t mean to be taken literally. On his view, God never existed in the first place, so talk of his “death” is more about humanity than divinity. We humans, Nietzsche surmises, have found God’s existence both indefensible and undesirable. He therefore asserts rather than establishes the indefensibility of belief in God, even as he explains its undesirability.

And why is belief in God undesirable? Because God’s death frees us to become gods ourselves.

God Doesn’t Die Alone

To put the point plainly, God doesn’t die alone. When he dies, meaning, morality, and reason die with him.

First, if God does not exist, life has no meaning. Where there is no author, the story has no point; indeed, where there is no author, there can be no story. Moreover, if God does not exist, morality turns out to be illusory, and moral judgment becomes mere interpretation, corresponding to nothing more than personal taste.

Second, Nietzsche illustrates the fictive nature of morality by inviting us to consider predatory birds and the sheep on whom they prey. When birds feed on sheep, what they do is neither morally bad nor good. The birds simply act according to their nature; morality is irrelevant.

So while the sheep’s “condemnation” of the birds surprises no one—except, perhaps, the birds—their judgment corresponds not to some moral fact but to their understandable preference to not become birdfeed. Of course, as Nietzsche points out, the birds see the situation differently. But in neither case do moral categories apply—and as it goes for birds and sheep, so it goes for us as well. Moral judgments express our personal preferences; they don’t refer to objective realities.

Finally, God’s death reveals the impotence of reason. When it comes to human origins, unguided evolutionary processes are the only game in the atheist’s town. Since evolution selects for survival, the intellectual faculties arising from such processes would be well adapted to survive. But, as Nietzsche argues, there is no necessary connection between survival and truth; for all we know, he points out, a purely naturalistic universe would be one in which knowledge of the truth would impede rather than aid survival. By his own lights, then, the atheist has no reason to trust his own reason.

Liberated Into Slavery

For Nietzsche, God’s death entails the end of meaning, morality, and reason—which means he sees the implications of his unbelief more clearly than do other atheists of his day such as Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud. Remarkably, though, Nietzsche views these implications as liberating rather than debilitating. Neither God, meaning, morality, nor reason constrains us, he cheers. We are free to live as we please, to make of our lives what it pleases us to make of them.

Only in this radically man-centered way does Nietzsche affirm life—and in so doing, he scratches itching ears. But, of course, Nietzsche’s way leads not to blessing, comfort, and life but to woe, pain, and death. May God give our friends and neighbors eyes to see this truth.

Douglas Blount is a professor of Christian philosophy and ethics and the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.

by Douglas Blount at July 25, 2016 05:00 AM

July 24, 2016

Verizon reported to purchase Yahoo for $4.8 billion

Jonathan Shieber at TechCrunch:

According to reports that are starting to trickle in, Yahoo’s board has accepted the terms of the Verizon offer we reported last week.

The core assets of the company that started life in Jerry Yang and David Filo’s 1994 Stanford dorm room as “Jerry and David’s Guide to the World Wide Web” — and at one point was one of the highest valued properties on the internet — will now join another former high-flyer of the internet’s earliest days, Aol (full disclosure: the owner of TechCrunch), in the Verizon stable.

Like with its Aol purchase, I doubt Verizon’s long term plan here, but I’m far more worried thinking about Yahoo employees who will probably be let go as a result of the transition.

Update: It’s official.

by Stephen at July 24, 2016 11:16 PM

eighty-twenty news

Extensible Double Dispatch for Racket

Both Racket’s object system and its (separate!) generic interface system offer single-dispatch object-oriented programming: the choice of method body to execute depends on the type of just one of the arguments given to the method, usually the first one.

In some cases, the first thing that a method will do is to decide what to do next based on the type of a second argument. This is called double dispatch, and it has a long history in object-oriented programming languages—at least as far back as the original Smalltalk.

As an example, consider implementing addition for classes representing numbers. A different method body would be needed for each pair of representations of numbers.

I stumbled across the need for something like this when implementing Operational Transformation (OT) for Racket. The macro operation-transformer in that code base is almost the double-dispatch macro from this post; the difference is that for operational transformation, the method concerned yields two results, and if the arguments are switched on the way in, they must be switched on the way out.

Basic Double Dispatch

Here’s a basic double-dispatch macro:

(define-syntax-rule (double-dispatch op (arg1 arg2) [pred? body ...] ...)
    [(pred? arg2) body ...] ...
    [else (error 'op "Unimplemented for ~v and ~v" arg1 arg2)]))

It assumes that it will be used in a method where dispatch has already been done on arg1, and that the next step is to inspect arg2. It applies the pred?s in sequence until one of them answers true, and then evaluates the corresponding body. If none of the pred?s hold, it signals an error.

It’s often convenient to use it inside a class definition or generic interface implementation with the following macros, which simply define op to delegate immediately to double-dispatch. The first is to be used with Racket’s object system, where the first argument is bound implicitly to this and where predicates should use Racket’s is-a? function. The second is to be used with Racket’s generic interface system, where both arguments are explicitly specified and predicates are more general.

(define-syntax-rule (define/public/double-dispatch (op arg2) [class body ...] ...)
  (define/public (op arg2)
    (double-dispatch (lambda (a b) (send a op b)) (this arg2)
      [(lambda (v) (is-a? v class)) body ...] ...)))

(define-syntax-rule (define/double-dispatch (op arg1 arg2) [pred? body ...] ...)
  (define (op arg1 arg2)
    (double-dispatch op (arg1 arg2) [pred? body ...] ...)))

Commutative Double Dispatch

For commutative operations like addition, it’s common to see the same code appear for adding an A to a B as for adding a B to an A.

The next macro automatically flips its arguments and tries again to see if B’s method has support for A, if it can’t find support for B within A’s method. That way, code for combining B with A need only be supplied in one place. It uses a parameter to keep track of whether it’s currently trying out a flipped pair of arguments.

(define trying-flipped? (make-parameter #f))

(define-syntax-rule (commutative-double-dispatch op (arg1 arg2) [pred? body ...] ...)
    [(pred? arg2) (parameterize ((trying-flipped? #f)) body ...)] ...
    [(trying-flipped?) (error 'op "Unimplemented for ~v and ~v" arg2 arg1)]
    [else (parameterize ((trying-flipped? #t)) (op arg2 arg1))]))

Writing a simple wrapper works well for using commutative-double-dispatch in a class definition:

(define-syntax-rule (define/public/commutative-double-dispatch (op arg2) [class body ...] ...)
  (define/public (op arg2)
    (commutative-double-dispatch (lambda (a b) (send a op b)) (this arg2)
      [(lambda (v) (is-a? v class)) body ...] ...)))

but a wrapper for use with the generic interface system needs to take care not to accidentally shadow the outer dispatch mechanism. This macro uses define/generic to make op* an alias of op that always does a full dispatch on its arguments:

(define-syntax-rule (define/commutative-double-dispatch (op arg1 arg2) [pred? body ...] ...)
  (begin (define/generic op* op)
         (define (op arg1 arg2)
           (commutative-double-dispatch op* (arg1 arg2) [pred? body ...] ...))))


Let’s see the system in operation! First, using Racket’s object system, and then using Racket’s generic interfaces.

Example Scenario

We will first define two types of value foo and bar, each responding to a single doubly-dispatched method, operator which produces results according to the following table:

     | foo | bar |
 foo | foo | bar |
 bar | bar | foo |

Then, we’ll extend the system to include a third type, zot, which yields a zot when combined with any of the three types.

Double Dispatch with Classes

(define foo%
  (class object%
    (define/public/commutative-double-dispatch (operator other)
      [foo% (new foo%)]
      [bar% (new bar%)])))

(define bar%
  (class object%
    (define/public/commutative-double-dispatch (operator other)
      [bar% (new foo%)])))

Some tests show that this is doing what we expect. Notice that we get the right result when the first operand is a bar% and the second a foo%, even though bar% only explicitly specified the case for when the second operand is also a bar%. This shows the automatic argument-flipping in operation.

(module+ test
  (require rackunit)
  (check-true (is-a? (send (new foo%) operator (new foo%)) foo%))
  (check-true (is-a? (send (new foo%) operator (new bar%)) bar%))
  (check-true (is-a? (send (new bar%) operator (new foo%)) bar%))
  (check-true (is-a? (send (new bar%) operator (new bar%)) foo%)))

Double Dispatch with Generic Interfaces

(define-generics operand
  (operator operand other))

(struct foo ()
  #:methods gen:operand
  [(define/commutative-double-dispatch (operator this other)
     [foo? (foo)]
     [bar? (bar)])])

(struct bar ()
  #:methods gen:operand
  [(define/commutative-double-dispatch (operator this other)
     [bar? (foo)])])

The tests show the same argument-flipping behavior as for the object system above.

(module+ test
  (require rackunit)
  (check-true (foo? (operator (foo) (foo))))
  (check-true (bar? (operator (foo) (bar))))
  (check-true (bar? (operator (bar) (foo))))
  (check-true (foo? (operator (bar) (bar)))))

Extending The Example

First, we implement and test class zot%

(define zot%
  (class object%
    (define/public/commutative-double-dispatch (operator other)
      [foo% (new zot%)]
      [bar% (new zot%)]
      [zot% (new zot%)])))

(module+ test
  (require rackunit)
  (check-true (is-a? (send (new foo%) operator (new zot%)) zot%))
  (check-true (is-a? (send (new bar%) operator (new zot%)) zot%))
  (check-true (is-a? (send (new zot%) operator (new foo%)) zot%))
  (check-true (is-a? (send (new zot%) operator (new bar%)) zot%))
  (check-true (is-a? (send (new zot%) operator (new zot%)) zot%)))

… and then implement and test struct zot.

(struct zot ()
  #:methods gen:operand
  [(define/commutative-double-dispatch (operator this other)
     [foo? (zot)]
     [bar? (zot)]
     [zot? (zot)])])

(module+ test
  (require rackunit)
  (check-true (zot? (operator (foo) (zot))))
  (check-true (zot? (operator (bar) (zot))))
  (check-true (zot? (operator (zot) (foo))))
  (check-true (zot? (operator (zot) (bar))))
  (check-true (zot? (operator (zot) (zot)))))


Double dispatch is a useful addition to the object-oriented programmer’s toolkit, and can be straightforwardly added to both of Racket’s object systems using its macro facility.

This post was written as executable, literate Racket. You can download the program from here.

by tonyg at July 24, 2016 10:59 PM

Market Urbanism

Does President Obama Have A ‘Regionalism’ Agenda?

[Editor’s note: Scott wrote this article in 2012 after President Obama’s reelection, and provides a modified version here. It reviews a book claiming that the president would use his second term to usher in a “regionalism” agenda bent on controlling local land use. The book was an interesting precursor to Obama’s recent urban policies, which some have found extreme and others mild. Scott will use the president’s final 6 months in office to analyze these policies, both for Market Urbanism and Forbes. This article provides context for what was being said prior to the changes.]

Generally speaking, presidents are judged based on how they address a few key issues. But the small measures they take, often incrementally and with little public notice, better reveal their underlying philosophies. According to National Review writer Stanley Kurtz, President Obama’s governing philosophy is one favoring obsessive federal centralization and control. And he believes this will be evident in Obama’s future attempts to impose regionalism onto America’s localities, an idea he thrashes in his new book Spreading the Wealth: How Obama is Robbing the Suburbs to Pay for the Cities.

In the book, Kurtz defines regionalism as the goal to “abolish the suburbs, ideally by having cities annex surrounding suburban municipalities.” Because this strategy has proven unpopular, it is advanced by officials today in indirect ways. One is by establishing urban growth boundaries, which protect farmland by pushing potential suburbanites back into cities. Another is tax-base sharing, which redirects service money from wealthy suburbs into cities. Both, he writes, are “hostile to our traditions of individual freedom and local self-rule,” since they encourage the consolidation, rather than autonomy, of neighboring suburbs.

Although regionalism, in its various forms, is practiced at local and state levels, it has largely escaped federal interference in the U.S. The closest thing has been Congressional-funded Metropolitan Planning Organizations, which for decades have played political or advisory roles on local transportation projects. But Kurtz says that Obama is changing this with programs like the Sustainable Communities Initiative, which uses the EPA, the DOT, and HUD—along with hefty federal grants—to nudge localities towards regionalist goals. This interference will only escalate during Obama’s second term, he writes, when the president, less accountable to political pressure, tries to dictate even the minutiae of local land policies.

Like in previous writings, Kurtz’s concerns about Obama come from studying his background. Throughout the book he plows through the president’s past writings, and his time as an organizer, to detect his bias for cities over suburbs, and big rather than small government. Not only did Obama mature in a political climate inspired by socialism, says Kurtz, but in a city, Chicago, that has been shaped for the worse by top-down policies. He writes particularly of Obama’s supposed tutelage under the city’s radicals, and later under regionalists like David Rusk and Myron Orfield. He also rightly criticizes Obama for subsidizing light rail.

But Kurtz’s own apparent suburban bias blinds him to how city-oriented policies, if centered on market outcomes, could benefit an increasingly urbanizing America. Such policies represent less a turn towards socialism, than one away from the nation’s existing socialized paradigm favoring suburbs, wherein housing regulations restrict dense infill development, while the public foots the costs of state highways, local roads, and other sprawl infrastructure. Obama, for all of his supposedly urban bias, has not been immune to extending this paradigm; for example, his stimulus package, writes economist Ed Glaeser, disproportionately benefited low-density states with low unemployment.

Kurtz also doesn’t note, to an even slight degree, some positive aspects of regionalism, which distances him even from many conservative business interests.  Regional policies can reduce waste by combining services between dozens of municipalities who would otherwise operate their own schools, libraries, policing, etc. It can help metropolitan areas complete broad measures, mainly for transportation, that would be impossible without expanded revenue pooling, and cross-bureaucratic cooperation. And it can advance regional housing goals by nudging suburban municipalities to allow more units through the loosening of zoning laws. These latter measures for housing are admittedly a top-down approach, but they still favor the free market, since they attack regulations that restrict housing supply and thus push out certain income groups.

Of course, regionalism can be used for all the generic left-wing reasons described by Kurtz–to enforce more tax redistribution, more restrictive land-use regulations, and the creation of new, expensive bureaucracies. One question is what brand of regionalism Obama will encourage in his second term, if he does at all. Another question is how Obama would pursue this agenda–for example, would it be through mandate, or through grants that municipalities can apply for voluntarily? Perhaps neither the mandate nor the grant option is ideal, since both would increase federal influence over land use; but one is a lot worse than the other.

Kurtz doesn’t draw these distinctions, though. Instead, he uses an oversimplified definition of regionalism, via an emotional writing style and much scare language. The truth or falsehood behind his claims about Obama will be revealed by what the president actually does in his second term.

by Scott Beyer at July 24, 2016 08:42 PM

Workout: July 26, 2016

Back squat 12-12-12-12-12-12 Rest 90 seconds between sets 4 supersets: 10 split squats 10 romanian deadlifts Rest 60 seconds between sets 3 sets: 12 up and down planks 20 hollow rocks

by Crystal at July 24, 2016 04:55 PM

Workout: July 22, 2016

3 rounds: Run 600m 3 legless rope climbs 10 cleans (185/135lb.) Rest 5 minutes 2 rounds: 10 handstand push-ups 20 toes-to-bar 30 double-unders Run 400m Rest 5 minutes 1 round: 5  bar muscle-ups 50 wall-balls 5 bar muscle-ups 50 wall-balls

by Crystal at July 24, 2016 04:53 PM

Workout: July 25, 2016

JT 21-15-9 Handstand push-ups Ring dips Push ups

by Crystal at July 24, 2016 04:52 PM

Beeminder Blog

The Cockroach Principle

A cockroach in the kitchen

If you spot one cockroach in your kitchen you can rest assured [1] that there are hordes of them sneaking around not making themselves noticed. Or maybe possibly it was just that one passing through, but if you see another one you’re very probably supporting a colony with the biomass of a blue whale in your kitchen walls. And, three? Forget about it. Burn your house to the ground.

This might be bad form to analogize our users to cockroaches, but we have a mildly interesting point here. If 10% of users will actually complain about something and the rest will walk away then, in expectation, 9 users walked before this one complained.

(And it’s probably less than 10%. Especially bad problems can be even less likely to get reported, like if something’s so broken that people figure the whole site is moribund and there’s no point speaking up. At least anecdotally it seems that people are less likely to report something like “the site won’t let me create goals”.)

In conclusion, mentally 10x or 20x user complaints.


Case study 1: Infinitely buzzing bee

A few weeks ago we found a bug that seemed especially cockroachy. You know how when Beeminder is generating your graph it goes gray and a little bee buzzes around in a figuure eight until it’s ready? Well sometimes it would get stuck and never stop doing that. Especially if it’s happening mostly to new users, they have no sense of that being a bug vs the server just being super slow or something. So it’s highly unlikely to get reported despite causing huge inconvenience for lots of people.

The point is, when a user complains about something, think about how likely it would be that that problem would cause a user to complain. The lower it is the bigger the emergency you might have on your hands.

Case study 2: Spamboxed email, or, ninja cockroaches

So now imagine a user tells you that an email you sent wound up in their spam folder. This is like spotting the kind of cockroach breed that spends decades being trained by a giant anthropomorphic rat. We may be taking the analogy way too far. The point is, how can someone complain about something that didn’t happen? It’s pure luck that they checked their spambox and knew to complain! Pretty much everyone else won’t. So email failure is about the cockroachiest bug ever.

Remember the rule of thumb about supporting a blue whale’s worth of cockroach biomass? Well after sending a mass email last week (our so-called monthly beemail) we in fact got two independent reports from users about needing to fish it out of spam.

True confession: This was probably our fault (we’re still scrambling to find out for sure) because the first 5,000 or so emails went out with broken unsubscribe links. We did fix it quickly (and retroactively) so we don’t think too many people would’ve noticed but it might not take many people marking us as spam (which of course they’ll justifiably do if our dang unsubscribe link doesn’t work!) before email providers start penalizing us.

Fingers crossed that we don’t have to burn our Mailgun account to the ground and start over with a fresh IP address for sending email. And a plaintive plea to our faithful readers: if you could search your spam folder for Beeminder email and mark it Not Spam, that could be a huge help to us.


Selection bias

One more admonition before we get back to debugging our email woes, since it’s related to the cockroach principle. Be careful about straw polls of your users! Selection bias means you’ve filtered out all but the sufficiently tolerant or sufficiently lucky to still be hanging around willing to tell you about your crappy software. (Also, people are way too nice.)

Don’t get us wrong, straw polls are wonderful — we do them all the time — as long as you keep that in mind. Like if even the people willing to take your straw poll say that something’s a problem then you know that among your full userbase it’s a massive problem.

So, brave readers who’ve made it to the end of this blog post, how’s Beeminder been beehaving for you?



[1] Highly ironic use of “rest assured”.

by dreeves at July 24, 2016 09:54 AM

Greg Mankiw's Blog

Why did Lehman fail?

Larry Ball has an important new monograph arguing, contra Bernanke, that during the recent financial crisis, the Fed could have saved Lehman Brothers but, unadvisedly, chose not to.  Here, James Stewart of the NY Times covers the Ball piece, and it includes this tidbit:
an internal Fed team assigned to value Lehman’s collateral reached a preliminary finding that the firm was narrowly solvent and the Fed could have justified a loan. But everyone was too busy to listen, and the report was never delivered to Mr. Geithner, Mr. Bernanke or Mr. Paulson. This is consistent with Professor Ball’s findings.

by Greg Mankiw ( at July 24, 2016 07:32 AM

July 23, 2016

Front Porch Republic

Giving Thanks for Russell Kirk’s Long Shadow

And what there is to conquer
By strength and submission, has already been discovered
Once or twice, or several times, by men whom one cannot hope
To emulate —but there is no competition—
There is only the fight to recover what has been lost
And found and lost again and again: and now, under conditions
That seem unpropitious. But perhaps neither gain nor loss.
For us, there is only the trying. The rest is not our business. (East Coker, V)

Amid all the bomb throwing and doom projecting going on this political season, I appreciate the good folks at Ethika Politika calling for thanksgiving. We sojourn up a luminous path. And we should let our guides know their perseverance in prudence is casting light.

I teach history and political theory at a classical Christian school North of Detroit. School let out early today. After reading my friend Susannah Black’s fond recollections of her professor, Hadley Arkes and my coreligionist Wesley Hill’s celebration of his hedgehog of a teacher, Scott Hafemann, I determined to join their mellifluous chorus and start singing the praises of sage teachers. As I wandered from my apartment to the local coffee house, laptop in satchel, ready to write, I determined, a proud Michigander and Bohemian Tory at heart, I should give thanks for my staff wielding guide up the seven storey mountain: Russell Kirk, sage of Mecosta. Inside the Dessert Oasis, I scanned the blog requirements and felt my heart sink. Ethika Politika wants us to give thanks for people we know in a face to face, voice to voice, tipping back pints after class sort of way. Well, Dr. Kirk and I belong to the same community of souls, the same communion of saints, so despite the rules, I am going to sing his praises.

Gothic cathedrals, Spanish pilgrimages, and John Henry Newman’s account of conversion persuaded Kirk to enter the waters of baptism. I entered by other means.  My family commuted to The Fisherman’s Net every Sunday when I was in grade school. Hippies, bikers, and suburban wanderers founded The Net back when the Jesus Movement was spreading like wildfire across Detroit. I remember dad insisting, as Casey Kasem counted down, “if a church is alive, it’s worth the drive.”

Pastor Alex, chief minister at The Net, had joined a Detroit gang, the Bagley Boys, as a teenager. Initially attracted to the gang on account of the members sharp looking zoot suits and reputation around the neighborhood, Alex questioned his path when the gang members started dealing drugs and stepping up the violence. Soon, after his Christian girlfriend left him and a policeman warned him that he was heading down a ‘dark road’ he committed to follow Christ if he led him out of this situation, wound up at a charismatic prayer meeting, and started, as he puts it, taking orders from a new general. The Holy Ghost also filled Tom Neme, a keyboard player touring with Bob Seger in Europe. After writing most of Noah for Bob Seger and The System, he abruptly left life on the road, moved home, and found Jesus. He began playing keys for The Net. God changed men in the basement of this old commercial building.

When I moved home after college to study literature at a local graduate school, my housemate (a boyhood friend who let me rent out his basement) invited me to come back to The Net. I expected the rock band and road to Damascus stories. But I was surprised to hear Pastor Alex quoting T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets. Scuffling around during fellowship hour, chatting with strangers who knew my parents and knew my story, I was inching toward the exit, drinking coffee, struggling to appear inconspicuous, when Pastor Alex approached. He shook my hand. He asked what brought me home. He insisted even poor college students need to eat. He would take me out to lunch.

Traffic humming behind us, Pastor Alex and I sat outside and ate Mediterranean at a strip mall walking distance from my condo. He asked me about my studies. I mentioned my favorite professor, Dr. Hoeppner, was teaching a course on 20th Century poetry. We had just read Eliot’s The Wasteland. I asked how Eliot happened to make it into Sunday’s sermon. Pastor Alex explained he came to love Eliot after reading Russell Kirk’s The Sword of Imagination. A signed copy of the book, dedicated to Kirk’s allies at The Net, still holds a prominent spot in the church office.

Piety Hill, ancestral home of the Kirk family, shines brightly in the minds of those who share Kirk’s medieval imagination and love of the permanent things. Before his final pilgrimage to Mecosta, Pastor Alex made a trip to Detroit to track down a quality cigar for Dr. Kirk. Walking beyond the house to Dr. Kirk’s library, a renovated toy factory, he was startled by Clinton Wallace, a homeless man adopted into the Kirk family. Wallace, noticing the cigar in Pastor Alex’s hand shook his head, “Mrs. Kirk won’t like that. She doesn’t want Dr. Kirk smoking anymore.”

Pastor Alex lifted the cigar and examined it, “oh, I had no idea,” he explained. Then, undeterred, he knocked on the library door. Dr. Kirk invited him to come inside. Dr. Kirk asked Pastor Alex if he’d like to smoke. Pastor Alex explained he did not himself smoke but had purchased the cigar for Dr. Kirk before the gentleman outside informed him he gave up the practice. Dr. Kirk pocketed the cigar in his suit coat. He continued the conversation as if nothing had transpired. Pastor Alex told me he was relieved to see someone in my generation reading Kirk and taking up the torch. He paid our bill and asked me to speak at church.

Most English teachers in my department turned a blind eye to the divine in literature. Dr. Hoeppner woke up early and composed poetry while pacing around the Rochester suburbs. He did not oppose philosophical and theological engagement with poetry — he encouraged it. His class felt like stepping into an May afternoon after a long winter. He grew up attending daily Mass and singing in the boys choir. Catholic friends found the pre-Vatican II church oppressive. Dr. Hoeppner remembered the Latin services and Catholic schools fondly. Unlike professors who described Eliot as reactionary, bigoted, or second-rate, Dr. Hoeppner introduced him with the conviction he was due for a positive reevaluation. Sitting on a stool in front of the class, he laughed at the decision to mark “I grow old, I grow old, I will wear the bottom of my trousers rolled,” on his dorm room wall as faintly ridiculous. He, like Eliot, had forgotten to act his age.

We chatted about the Church one day after class. I mentioned my frustrations with the popular caricature of the Bride of Christ as one of the chief facilitators of abuse and oppression, an institution of bigotry and patriarchy. Despite her flaws, she does the work of Jesus, serves the sick, orphaned, widowed, and imprisoned. Dr. Hoeppner agreed and pointed to the Roman Church’s opposition to the Iraq war and monopoly capitalism as examples of the Church’s prophetic role in society. As I read Kirk’s Eliot and His Age and The Sword of Imagination, I gained confidence that the Church inspired beauty and charity. Academics, by and large, failed to see what Chesterton realized about our longings: “We do not really want a religion that is right where we are right. We want a religion that is right where we are wrong. We do not want, as the newspapers say, a church that will move with the world. We want a church that will move the world.”

This was my first year teaching economics. When the headmaster led me to my classroom and shuffled through the books on my shelves, I was overjoyed to notice Kirk’s name among the authors. As I taught my students about political economy, everything from Aquinas and the middle ages to Marx and the industrial revolution, Kirk challenged us to consider the purpose of economics. We discussed his reflections on Wilhelm Ropke and what it takes to maintain a humane economy. I share Kirk’s respect for Chesterton and introduced the students to distributism (the conviction that small is beautiful, and there should be a just distribution of political and economic power). One of my seniors approached me in the spring and asked if I would advise  his thesis on the origins of socialism in America. We had developed a good rapport during a couple drives home from school. I lost most of my sight in college and caught rides with the Spanish teacher, the Kindergarten teacher, and, in a pinch, this particular student.

When the day arrived for my advisee to defend his thesis, he called me earlier than I anticipated, saying that he was outside my apartment, ready to drive us back to school for the evening presentations. I hustled up the hill to ensure the questions I had prepared for the presenters did not go unasked. I opened the door and downplayed my heavy breathing and absent mindedness. Kirk and I share the same opinion of cars, “mechanical Jacobins”, friends of revolution, required, sad to say, for getting around suburban Detroit. Kirk’s stubbornness went so far that he refused to drive. For me, driving isn’t exactly an option. As we made our way to school, my student talked about his decision to run track and study journalism or political economy at Hillsdale in the fall. I recalled Kirk’s time teaching at Hillsdale. Reflecting on the year, I was eager to continue trying.  The sun was warm, the windows were open. I gave thanks.

The post Giving Thanks for Russell Kirk’s Long Shadow appeared first on Front Porch Republic.

by Clinton Collister at July 23, 2016 08:00 PM

Zondervan Academic Blog

Pleased to Meet You, Stephen Backhouse – An Interview with the Author of Kierkegaard: A Single Life

In the inaugural edition of Pleased to Meet You, we introduce Stephen Backhouse, lecturer in Social and Political Theology at St. Mellitus College, London, and author of our upcoming book Kierkegaard: A Single Life. Stephen has published a number of critically well-received books and articles on religion, history, and Kierkegaard, from the popular Compact Guide to Christian History for Lion through the academic Kierkegaard’s Critique of Christian Nationalism for Oxford University Press. Recently, we spent some time to get to know Stephen.

IMG_0967Where are you from?

That question is surprisingly complicated to answer. I was born in Western Canada and spent my teenage years there. When I was nineteen I moved to the United Kingdom for an adventure and have basically lived in various parts of England ever since, most recently London. Oh, I’ve also lived in Quebec – the French speaking part of Canada. Now I am poised to live in the States for a year. My life has wreaked havoc on my accent, let me tell you!

This might be a controversial question, but seeing as you are currently a British resident, we must ask. Do you prefer coffee or tea?

Coffee. Zappi’s in Oxford makes the best double macchiatos.

Tell us more about yourself. What’s your story?

As I said, I moved to England when I was nineteen. I worked in various odd jobs and travelled around for a few years, before deciding to go to university. I went to a little place called Regents Park College, which is part of the University of Oxford. Regents was great because they were used to dealing with odd people like me. By this stage I was technically a ‘mature student’ because I was over 21.

Regents was also great because it was there that I met my wife. We got married as undergraduates, which again was odd – we had to get special permission from the principal of the college! I did a Master’s degree at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, and then returned to Oxford to get my doctorate.

For the past seven years I have been the Lecturer in Social and Political Theology at St Mellitus College, an Anglican college in London that mainly serves people seeking to be ordained into the Church of England. But we have lots of other types of students too, from all countries and walks of life, so I feel I fit right in.

What is something unique about yourself that you’d like our readers to know? For instance, can you ride a unicycle?

Maybe I can. I never tried, though!

You may remember that in the mid-nineties the UK had a ‘mad cow disease’ scare. As a way to stay on top of the problem, each cow had to have a unique identifying number and the movement of all the cattle in the country was tracked. I worked in an office that administered these records – so I can revel in the fact that one of my first jobs in England was as a Cow Passport Officer. Even though it was years ago, I always try to find room for that on my CV.

Not only have you registered cows, but you’ve also published extensively on Kierkegaard. When did you first encounter him and what were your first impressions? What about him resonated with you?

Technically, the first time I encountered Kierkegaard was through the work of the evangelical intellectual Francis Schaeffer, who warned his readers away from Kierkegaard as a moral relativist and a subjectivist. Like lots of earnest young Christians growing up in North America, I was helped by the work of Schaeffer, who said lots of good and interesting things about having a faith that was culturally and intellectually credible. Unfortunately, Schaeffer did not really follow his own advice when it came to Kierkegaard. It seems he judged Kierkegaard based more on what other people wrote about him, rather than engaging with Kierkegaard himself.

After I had moved to the UK I worked for a time in a book shop. I decided to use my employee discount to help me work my way through the world’s classics – famous authors I had heard of but never really read before. I picked up Kierkegaard’s book Fear and Trembling and was blown away. Reading it was like having the bottom drop out of my world. I remember actually feeling dizzy. That book takes the story of Abraham and Isaac and re-tells it from multiple angles. It is not ascribed to Kierkegaard but a pseudonym named Johannes deSilentio.

The pseudonymous author of Fear and Trembling does not claim to have faith, but he thinks that by looking at Abraham he will discover what faith looks like. It is a bracing book – dark and complicated, but also funny and moving. It is emotionally compelling, which, believe me, is not something you can often say about philosophical theology. Even though I did not know anything about Kierkegaard’s life at the time, I could tell that this book meant something more to him than a dry intellectual exercise. Later, I found out that he was putting a lot of his break-up with his fiancé into the book, and struggling with what it might mean to sacrifice all you love for the sake of obeying God.

After Fear and Trembling I decided to study Kierkegaard whenever I could. I chose to read philosophy and theology at university so that I could choose Kierkegaard as an option. I wrote my master’s thesis on his clash with Christendom and my doctorate on his critique of Christian nationalism. Along the way I learned that Kierkegaard was certainly not a moral subjectivist (even though he does constantly remind his readers that they are Subjects and not Objects). Still, it’s ironic that I can thank Francis Schaeffer for introducing me to Cpt. Kierk.

We understand that you are also interested in Christian nationalism. Can you tell us more about that?

Saying that religious nationalism is a bad thing is not too controversial. It’s pretty easy to spot when Christianity and patriotism go “wrong” – the German church’s support for the Nazis for example. But what about when it goes “right”? What is going on when Christians automatically assume that God Blesses America or Saves the Queen? I’m interested in the ways that popular assumptions about Christianity have been shaped by all expressions of national identity, not just the obviously malignant ones.

Kierkegaard and others have helped highlight where our Christian imaginations have been colonized by the common cultures that surround us, especially the cultures that already think of themselves as ‘Christian’ in some way. Kierkegaard’s big claim was that Christendom had done away with Christianity. ‘Christendom’ doesn’t just mean having an established state church. What Kierkegaard meant by the term was any civilization which too easily confuses being a good citizen, or member of a certain group, with being a Christian. Proponents of Christendom talk a lot about ‘God’ and ‘values’ and ‘religion’ but one name is curiously unwelcome – Jesus Christ. Kierkegaard points out how potentially offensive Jesus is to Christians who find their core identity in their tribe, church, or country. The Christendom mindset assumes that its culture is God’s gift to the world. But God’s full, final revelation of himself was the Incarnation, not any historically developed nation.

Jesus calls people to rally around him, to obey him, to copy him, to find their peace in him. The result was a new movement that did not hate the old ethnic and national ties, but it did not love them either. Citizens of the Kingdom of God are a blessing to the nations to be sure, but they also prove unsettling to any nation that thinks it can count on their ultimate allegiance.

Historically, the earliest Christians tended to see patriotism as a vice – a temptation to guard against. Now most Christians of all nationalities assume it is a virtue. The story of how this happened is interesting, as is an exploration of how modern followers of Christ might navigate the rocky shores of church and state, politics and faith, love of neighbor and the idea of a Christian nation. Kierkegaard and other Christ-centered authors who think about Christianity within Christendom are good, hopeful conversation partners to have at a time like ours.

What’s next for you? You mentioned that you will be moving to the US soon.

My wife will be studying on a course in Northern California for a year, so I’ve taken time out from teaching to be with her. I’ll be researching and writing my next book, as well as travelling around supporting my biography of Kierkegaard. I’ve never lived in the States before, and I am really looking forward to it. One more influence on my ever-changing accent!

Lastly, and this is what we’ve been anxiously waiting to ask…do you have a favorite Kim Kierkegaardashian (@KimKierkegaard) quote?

She (he?) is just great. No one knows who the real author is. During my research for the biography I interviewed a stand-up comedian named Simon Munnery who does a one-man show about Kierkegaard. I was absolutely sure I had found my man but he denied it. I quote a few of the tweets in my book. I like “We love selfies! The despairing self, by taking notice of itself, tries to make itself more than it already is.” Another good one: “Let’s all welcome Chloe to twitter & remind her that being the object of attention of many people is not the same as being important to God”. Amen, sister.


9780310520887_imagePre-order your copy of Kierkegaard: A Single Life today on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Christian Book.

by ZA Blog at July 23, 2016 12:00 PM

Justin Taylor

(Perhaps) The Most Insightful Interview You’ll Read This Election Year

One of the most depressing parts of this election cycle (among many!) was this video of Ted Cruz trying to interact with a Donald Trump supporter:

There is a fair bit about Cruz’s persona and approach as a politician that I do not care for, but I admire his intelligence and his willingness to dialogue with anyone. Here is an example where it went differently:

For all of my qualms with Cruz, they do not compare with my view of Donald Trump. I have been vocal about my opposition to his candidacy on Twitter, which went from viewing it as an entertaining clown show to a frightening destruction of the Republican party, as evangelicals line up to support him with enthusiasm or with utilitarian lesser-of-two-evils reasoning. (For my part, I think he is fundamentally unqualified to be president, and that he is not better than Hillary Clinton.)

To be clear, I have absolutely no empathy for the shameless shilling of Christians like Jerry Falwell Jr., Mike Huckabee, and Robert Jeffress on behalf of Donald Trump, who are not even making a “lesser of two evils” rationale but building a positive case for why evangelicals should enthusiastically support a pathologically uninformed, conspiracy-spreading, race-baiting, morally unfit strongman for President. Nor, of course, do I have any sympathy for white supremacists like David Duke and the alt-right who are enthusiastic about what they are hearing from the Republican nominee.

But I have been convicted of late that I have not worked very hard to understand the appeal of Donald Trump to his working class white poor constituency.

u34+1F!EVWH7ngw7NLVXIcKIKW2pmYA+Gl!w8rbMsYH!BRIAG5OUet9tcq9F2XjffXkZsjELHH1dotzfe59Az2vNK7LiZyZN+sBWsKtMX1WWsW1OYzkgsRAdZgmVYczuOne helpful thing for me has been reading this interview with J.D. Vance, a graduate of Yale Law School graduate who grew up in dysfunctional Appalachian poverty and is the author of the new book, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and a Culture in Crisis.

The indefatigable Rod Dreher, who conducted the interview, writes:

The book is an American classic, an extraordinary testimony to the brokenness of the white working class, but also its strengths. It’s one of the best books I’ve ever read. With the possible exception of Yuval Levin’s The Fractured Republic, for Americans who care about politics and the future of our country, Hillbilly Elegy is the most important book of 2016. You cannot understand what’s happening now without first reading J.D. Vance. His book does for poor white people what Ta-Nehisi Coates’s book did for poor black people: give them voice and presence in the public square.

Here is a portion of the interview:

RD: A friend who moved to West Virginia a couple of years ago tells me that she’s never seen poverty and hopelessness like what’s common there. And she says you can drive through the poorest parts of the state, and see nothing but TRUMP signs. Reading “Hillbilly Elegy” tells me why. Explain it to people who haven’t yet read your book. 

J.D. VANCE: The simple answer is that these people-my people-are really struggling, and there hasn’t been a single political candidate who speaks to those struggles in a long time.  Donald Trump at least tries.

What many don’t understand is how truly desperate these places are, and we’re not talking about small enclaves or a few towns-we’re talking about multiple states where a significant chunk of the white working class struggles to get by.  Heroin addiction is rampant.  In my medium-sized Ohio county last year, deaths from drug addiction outnumbered deaths from natural causes.  The average kid will live in multiple homes over the course of her life, experience a constant cycle of growing close to a “stepdad” only to see him walk out on the family, know multiple drug users personally, maybe live in a foster home for a bit (or at least in the home of an unofficial foster like an aunt or grandparent), watch friends and family get arrested, and on and on.  And on top of that is the economic struggle, from the factories shuttering their doors to the Main Streets with nothing but cash-for-gold stores and pawn shops.

The two political parties have offered essentially nothing to these people for a few decades.  From the Left, they get some smug condescension, an exasperation that the white working class votes against their economic interests because of social issues, a la Thomas Frank (more on that below).  Maybe they get a few handouts, but many don’t want handouts to begin with.  

From the Right, they’ve gotten the basic Republican policy platform of tax cuts, free trade, deregulation, and paeans to the noble businessman and economic growth.  Whatever the merits of better tax policy and growth (and I believe there are many), the simple fact is that these policies have done little to address a very real social crisis.  More importantly, these policies are culturally tone deaf: nobody from southern Ohio wants to hear about the nobility of the factory owner who just fired their brother.

Trump’s candidacy is music to their ears.  He criticizes the factories shipping jobs overseas.  His apocalyptic tone matches their lived experiences on the ground.  He seems to love to annoy the elites, which is something a lot of people wish they could do but can’t because they lack a platform.  

The last point I’ll make about Trump is this: these people, his voters, are proud.  A big chunk of the white working class has deep roots in Appalachia, and the Scots-Irish honor culture is alive and well.  We were taught to raise our fists to anyone who insulted our mother.  I probably got in a half dozen fights when I was six years old.  Unsurprisingly, southern, rural whites enlist in the military at a disproportionate rate.  Can you imagine the humiliation these people feel at the successive failures of Bush/Obama foreign policy?  My military service is the thing I’m most proud of, but when I think of everything happening in the Middle East, I can’t help but tell myself: I wish we would have achieved some sort of lasting victory.  No one touched that subject before Trump, especially not in the Republican Party. 

I’m not a hillbilly, nor do I descend from hillbilly stock, strictly speaking. But I do come from poor rural white people in the South. I have spent most of my life and career living among professional class urbanite, most of them on the East Coast, and the barely-banked contempt they — the professional-class whites, I mean — have for poor white people is visceral, and obvious to me. Yet it is invisible to them. Why is that? And what does it have to do with our politics today? 

I know exactly what you mean.  My grandma (Mamaw) recognized this instinctively.  She said that most people were probably prejudiced, but they had to be secretive about it.  ”We”-meaning hillbillies-“are the only group of people you don’t have to be ashamed to look down upon.”  During my final year at Yale Law, I took a small class with a professor I really admired (and still do).  I was the only veteran in the class, and when this came up somehow in conversation, a young woman looked at me and said, “I can’t believe you were in the Marines.  You just seem so nice.  I thought that people in the military had to act a certain way.”  It was incredibly insulting, and it was my first real introduction to the idea that this institution that was so important among my neighbors was looked down upon in such a personal way. To this lady, to be in the military meant that you had to be some sort of barbarian.  I bit my tongue, but it’s one of those comments I’ll never forget.  

The “why” is really difficult, but I have a few thoughts.  The first is that humans appear to have some need to look down on someone; there’s just a basic tribalistic impulse in all of us.  And if you’re an elite white professional, working class whites are an easy target: you don’t have to feel guilty for being a racist or a xenophobe.  By looking down on the hillbilly, you can get that high of self-righteousness and superiority without violating any of the moral norms of your own tribe.  So your own prejudice is never revealed for what it is.

A lot of it is pure disconnect-many elites just don’t know a member of the white working class. . . .

You can continue reading the interview here.

(This should probably not be surprising, but please note that there is quite a bit of foul language in Vance’s book.)

by Justin Taylor at July 23, 2016 09:54 AM

The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

Stop Trying to Make the Bible Relevant to Teenagers

Article by: Eric McKiddie

It’s easy to feel pressure to make the Bible seem cool and relevant to teenagers. What Christian doesn’t want young people to see the importance of God’s Word?

In my years in youth ministry, though, I’ve seen unhelpful and even harmful methods of trying to make Scripture relevant. Book publishers make Bibles look like magazines, youth workers preach a hipster Jesus, and parents confuse their child’s involvement in a fun youth group for a growing relationship with God.

Yet in our efforts to make Scripture more entertaining, we actually confirm suspicions that it is in fact boring and irrelevant. And when youth workers aren’t as cool as they think they are, their efforts end up looking cheesy, which is the last thing that will help a teenager see the Bible’s importance. 

So how do you break through to a young person so they see Scripture’s significance? How do you impress the Bible’s relevance on a teenager who gauges importance by whatever’s atop her social media stream?

It’s Already Relevant

If you want teens—whether in your home or youth group—to appreciate the Bible, the first thing you must do is trust its relevance in your own heart. That trust should come across in how you talk about what the Bible says and why it matters. Scripture testifies to its own importance for God’s people, sometimes even pointing to young people in particular (Prov. 2:1–15; Eph. 6:1–3; 2 Tim. 3:16).

Peter’s words are especially helpful: “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence” (2 Pet. 1:3). Notice that Peter writes, “all things that pertain to life and godliness.” That means stress over grades, sexual temptation, loneliness, awkwardness—and how to honor God in each of these areas. But also notice how the power for everything that pertains to life and godliness comes to us—through the knowledge of God. And how do we attain this vital knowledge? Through the Scriptures.

But if the Bible is as relevant as Peter says it is, then why are teenagers so often disinterested in learning from parents and youth pastors?

Why Teens Don’t Listen

The sad reality is that many young people don’t take to God’s Word because they’re spiritually dead. This is why they don’t “long for the pure spiritual milk” (1 Pet. 2:1). Yet even this is no excuse to water down the Bible or ignore it, since God does his work to make us “born again . . . through the living and abiding word of God” (1 Pet. 1:23).

Still, we often minister to young people who are genuinely converted but largely disinterested. They might confess with their mouth that Scripture is important, but they’ve had few encounters when it made a significant difference to them.

Parents, youth pastors, and youth volunteers need to learn how to put the Bible’s relevance on display for students like this. Again, this isn’t to be confused with the lame efforts to make the Bible relevant. It’s the difference between adding relevance versus drawing out relevance, like the difference between adding cream and sugar to diner coffee versus bringing out the intense flavors of a French Press.

Three Key Steps

So how do you bring those flavors out of God’s Word so that teens taste their intensity? Here are three steps:

  1. Impress our need for what the Bible teaches us, showing that we cannot ultimately meet that need on our own.
  2. Show where the Bible talks about the same thing teenagers experience, and point to the solution it gives (which will usually be different than our natural response).
  3. Show how that answer ultimately comes to us through what Jesus has done for us.

When young people go through difficult times, for example, they often wonder if God cares. Where is God? they ask. During those times, Scripture’s relevance crashes into their experience. Israel claims, “My way is hidden from the LORD, and my right is disregarded by my God” (Isa. 40:27). Yet the prophet goes on to say that God gives power to the faint as they wait for him to intervene. The answer might not come right away, but God empowers us as we trust him to act. This is what Jesus experienced on the cross, after all. The Father turned away from the Son, then raised him on the third day. And because we’re united to Jesus through faith we know God will act for us, too.

Moreover, the story of David and Bathsheba reveals the Bible’s relevance for teenagers. Some might apply it by saying, “See how bad the consequences are for sexual sin? You better stay pure!” But this point offers no hope to those who awake to the consequences of sin each morning. The passage only seems relevant to those who haven’t “messed up” yet. There’s no relevance for the teenage boy or girl addicted to porn, or the girl who’s pregnant in high school. What does this passage say to the person who thinks she has thrown her life away, who is drowning in hopelessness and regret?

It shows that even the godliest people can fall in the area of sexual purity, but when they do they repent when confronted (2 Sam. 12:13). This passage also shows how God redeems us. The son of David who died in his place for a single sexual sin (2 Sam. 12:14) points to the ultimate Son of David who died in our place for all the sexual sins of the world. The story also reveals how our sexual sin doesn’t ruin God’s plan for us. Bathsheba’s son Solomon went on to fulfill God’s immediate plan for the building of the temple, and his more distant plan of sending the Messiah who would fulfill God’s covenant with David (2 Sam. 7). David’s sin didn’t force God to shift to Plan B. God redeemed David’s sin so that it led to the plan he had been orchestrating all along. God does that for us when we seek the forgiveness he offers in Jesus even if, like David, our sin has lifelong consequences.

Swing Your Own Sword 

Our job as parents and youth workers is to continue learning more of Scripture so that we can see its relevance for our own lives and the lives of the young people God entrusts to us. The Bible is a sword that pierces hearts (Heb. 4:12). It’s a sword attended by the power of the Spirit (Eph. 6:17).

So let us learn to wield this sword in such a way that our young people see it glimmer, hear it ring, and feel the healing that comes when it cuts. Then they will want to start swinging it, too.

Editors’ note: For more on ministry to teenagers, be sure to check out Gospel-Centered Youth Ministry (Crossway, 2016) [review | excerpt | excerpt]. 

Eric McKiddie serves as pastor for gospel community at the Chapel Hill Bible Church in North Carolina. He is a contributor to Gospel-Centered Youth Ministry: A Practical Guide. He blogs at, and you can follow him on Twitter at @ericmckiddie.

by Eric McKiddie at July 23, 2016 05:02 AM

How to Answer Big Questions from Little People

Article by: Nikki Daniel

We’ve all been there. A mom is humming the Curious George theme song while doing dishes when she’s hit with this:

Mommy, where did God come from? Who made him? Was it dark before he created darkness? How will baby brother know when it’s time to come out of your belly? And can I have some blueberries for a snack?

Kids ask compelling questions. Often they have a lot of them. As parents, we are blessed with the responsibility to train up our children in the Lord. Part of this training involves taking the time to answer tough questions in ways their little minds can understand. And many of the questions are wonderful opportunities for sharing the gospel.

Four Examples

Here are four examples of ways we have tried to answer such questions.

1. Where did God come from? Who made him? 

God existed before time even existed. Nobody made him. He has always lived. Psalm 90:2 says, “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.” God has been God since further back than we can even imagine. 2. Why do people have to die? 

Originally, God made people so they would never die. But when people started to sin, the whole world became sick and confused. People started to die physically, just like they do today. Our souls never die, though. Souls are the parts of us that make us who we are inside, including the things we can’t see (our thoughts, personalities, feelings, and so on). The Bible says that when Christians no longer have a physical body, their soul is at home with God (2 Cor. 5:8). One day, when Christians are raised like Jesus, they will receive new (and better!) bodies (1 Cor. 15:42–44).

3. How does God make a baby grow inside a mommy’s belly? 

God has made our bodies in such an amazing way. A mommy’s body feeds and nourishes the baby while he or she grows, but God is the one who is growing the baby (kind of like the plants outside). There is so much mystery to God. He is so powerful that he can create galaxies in outer space and he can also create tiny little people. Psalm 139:16 says, “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.” Did you know that babies start out so small that we wouldn’t be able to see them with our eyes? Usually, over the course of about 280 days, God builds a full baby, inside and out. We can’t understand how it all works, but it’s evidence God is both delicate and powerful at the same time.

4. Why can’t astronauts see heaven when they go into the sky? 

Nobody will be able to fully see heaven or hell during this life. Many people believe heaven and hell are in a different dimension. In the Bible, God gave four men visions of heaven: Isaiah, Ezekiel, Paul, and John. He gave two men glimpses of heaven: Micaia and Stephen. We can read about some of those experiences in the Bible. Astronauts will have to wait to see heaven or hell, just like the rest of us.

Four Tips

Additionally, here are four things we’ve tried to keep in mind while seeking to answer big questions from our little people: 1. It’s okay to say “I don’t know.”  

Since God is full of mystery, our minds are not nearly equipped to answer every single question about God and spiritual things. It’s okay to tell our kids, “I’m not sure, but let me find out.” Sometimes, though, our answer must be, “Honey, God is so big that we can’t understand all of him.”

2. Take the time to answer. Charles Spurgeon reminds us what’s at stake in this critical task: “You may speak but a word to a child, and in that child there may be slumbering a noble heart which shall stir the Christian church in years to come.”

It can be easy to brush off a child’s questions due to busyness, exhaustion, or even frustration. Throughout Scripture we see the importance of passing wisdom about God and his works from generation to generation (e.g., Deut. 6:7; Ps. 71:18; Eph. 6:4; 2 Tim. 1:5). God has chosen parents to bear the primary responsibility of teaching their children—and our little ones afford us many opportunities to fulfill it.

3. Be patient.

We all know 50 questions in a row can wear anyone down. A simple and lighthearted, “Buddy, I’m so glad you are so curious; let’s take one question at a time” is all it takes to slow the conversation down a bit. Don’t let frustration get in the way of an excellent opportunity. 4. Remember the child’s age.

Take your kid’s age into account when deciphering how to answer their question. If you have a 4-year-old asking about why bad things happen, your answer should be significantly shorter than for a 10-year-old asking the same thing. Don’t expect a small child to have the same attention span as older children. On the other hand, don’t shortchange an older child who genuinely wants to understand. Read about the topic together and discuss it as deeply as they’re willing.

May we be aware that the Lord is always working even through the daily interactions with our children. Those deep questions, though seemingly random, are divinely planned invitations teach the next generation about the character of God and his marvelous deeds.

Resources for Curious Kids

Nikki Daniel is a pastor’s wife from Augusta, Georgia. Nikki and her husband, Bert, have two sons and a daughter. She enjoys homeschooling, writing, and playing intense games of Settlers of Catan. Nikki graduated with a BA in advertising from the University of Houston and a MATS degree from Southern Seminary.

by Nikki Daniel at July 23, 2016 05:02 AM

Going Beyond sRGB

I’ve been meaning to learn about how working with color is changing now that the iMac with 5k Retina display and 9.7-inch iPad Pro ship with DCI-P3 panels. Thankfully, this week’s episode of Presentable is about just that topic. I learned a lot, but never felt overwhelmed.

by Stephen at July 23, 2016 12:06 AM

July 22, 2016

Market Urbanism

Market Urbanism MUsings July 22, 2016

1. This week at Market Urbanism

Quantifying the effects of California zoning rules by Emily Hamilton

Kip Jackson finds that California zoning rules and other land-use restrictions not only reduce the growth rate of new housing stock, but a new regulation can actually be expected to reduce the existing stock of housing by 0.2% per year. This correlation is greatest when looking only at multifamily buildings, where each new restriction results in 6% fewer apartments built annually.

Tech for Housing: An Experiment in YIMBY Activism by Jeff Fong

We want to make participation in land use reform a conspicuously consumable good within Bay Area tech. We want everyone within tech to identify as YIMBY by default and for that reflexive self-identification to tip the scales of everyone’s internal cost benefit analysis in favor of having an articulable opinion and taking minimal actions like sending a letter, signing a petition, or casting a vote.

2. At the Market Urbanism Facebook Group:

Shanu Athiparambath wrote, Elevators are a Mass Transit System

Adam Millsap wrote, Recessions Don’t Have The Same Impact On Every City

Shanu Athiparambath wrote, Zoning Is Unjust, Anti-Poor & A Cause of Inequality

via Tobias Cassandra Holbrook: Cash-Strapped Towns Are Un-Paving Roads They Can’t Afford to Fix

via Vinay Natu, “Man behind charter cities – Paul Romer, named for Chief Economist, World Bank

via Melanie Meharchand, “The Coastal Commission wrote a letter chiding the City of Laguna Beach for its overly-restrictive regulations on short-term rentals.”

via Nolan Gray, “Hard to tell who’s more irritating here, the weirdo utopian schemers or the petty narrow-minded NIMBYs:” A Mormon Tycoon Wants to Build Joseph Smith’s Mega-Utopia in Vermont

via Roger Valdez: Renting in Seattle? City could put a cap on your move-in fees

via Matt Robare:  The Tyranny of Free Parking

via Jake Thomas: Housing can’t be a good investment and affordable

3. Elsewhere

Seattle Times lists Market Urbanism as a possible response to the affordability crisis.  Their analogies to Houston are a bit of a strawman, but they get the general idea right.

Planetizen summarizes Emily Hamilton’s latest

Airbnb must now hire former mayors as lobbyists just to win regulatory approval in some cities

Elon Musk primed to take on Uber and Lyft in ridesharing battle

4. Stephen Smith‘s tweet of the week:

by Adam Hengels at July 22, 2016 11:35 PM

Workout: July 24, 2016

8 sets: Row 300m 8 alternating dumbbell snatches (50/25lb.) 5 burpees Rest same as work

by Crystal at July 22, 2016 10:39 PM

Workout: July 23, 2016

Thruster 1-1-1-1-1-1 Front squat 10-10-10-10-10 Rest 60 seconds between sets Pendlay rows 8-8-8-8 Rest 60 seconds between sets

by Crystal at July 22, 2016 10:34 PM

Englewood Review of Books » ERB

ERB Weekly Digest – Awful Christian Book Covers, Shane Claiborne, Ta-Nehisi Coates – July 22, 2016


ERB Editor Chris Smith 
on Donald Trump’s Aversion to Reading


The important 2015 National Book Award Winner
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
is on a great sale now for Kindle… Only $5.99!
[ Get your copy now



Reviews, etc. posted this week on The ERB website:

  • Shane Claiborne – Executing Grace [Feature Review]
    Imagining a Better Form of Justice   A Review of Executing Grace: How the Death Penalty Killed Jesus and Why It’s Killing Us Shane Claiborne Paperback: HarperOne, 2016 Buy now: [ ]  [  ] Reviewed by Douglas Graves   Over the years, Shane Claiborne’s work and voice for social justice issues have challenged many in the […]
  • 5 Essential Ebook Deals for Christian Readers – 22 July 2016
    Here are 5 essential ebooks on sale now that are worth checking out: ( Ta-Nehisi Coates, Robert Putnam, Azar Nafisi, 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…    Ta-Nehisi Coates *** $5.99 *** This […]
  • Awful Christian Book Covers! Summer 2016 Edition
    It’s time for a new batch of really bad Christian book covers…   Here are 10 lousy Christian covers from 2016 (Some of these appeared first on or Kindle Cover Disasters…) Enjoy, and share these with your friends!       From the book description: “As she opened her eyes to a brand new day, Virginia was […]
  • Mark Tietjen – Kierkegaard: A Missionary to Christians [Review]
    A Prophet in His Hometown   A Review of Kierkegaard: A Christian Missionary to Christians Mark Tietjen Paperback: IVP Academic, 2016 Buy now:  [  ]  [  ]   Reviewed by Michial Farmer   If it’s true that we become like what we worship, readers of Søren Kierkegaard must always keep in mind that his God […]
  • Christopher Smith – Reading for the Common Good – Reviewed
    I have been on the road for the last couple of weeks with my  co-author John Pattison, talking with churches throughout the southeastern U.S. about that book and my new book, Reading for the Common Good.  It’s been good to get the new book into people’s hands and to begin conversations about it. Reading for the […]
  • William Guerrant – Organic Wesley [Review]
    “Do all the good you can.” A Review of  Organic Wesley: A Christian Perspective on Food, Farming, and Faith William Guerrant, Jr. Paperback: Seedbed, 2015 Buy now: [  ]  [  ]   Reviewed by Michelle Wilbert   Over the last thirty years, from roughly 1990-2016, the world has seen a veritable explosion of new—or renewed—social, […]
  • New Book Releases – Week of 18 July 2016
    Here are a few new book releases from this week that are worth checking out: (Where possible, we have also tried to include a review/interview related to the book…) Katelyn Beaty Listen to an interview with the author about the book… NEXT BOOK >>>>>

Digest powered by RSS Digest

by csmith at July 22, 2016 08:14 PM

Aaron M. Renn

A Window Into the World of Working Class Collapse

Medora-film-posterSome time back my brother recommended I watch the documentary film Medora, about a high school basketball team from rural Southern Indiana. I finally got around to doing it.

Someone described this film as an “inverse Hoosiers“, which is an apt description. Hoosiers is a fictional retelling of the Milan Miracle, the legendary story of how tiny Milan High School (enrollment 161) won the state’s then single-class basketball championship in 1954.

There’s no such happy ending in prospect in Medora (available on Netflix). The town’s basketball team had gone 0-22 the season before the film. The question is not whether they will win a championship or even the sectional, but if they can win just a single game.

The basketball team is a proxy for the community as a whole, a once proud town fallen on hard times.  The town of Medora (pop ~700) and its surrounds, locals believe, used to be prosperous, socially cohesive, and have a great basketball team too.

This history is part mythological. I don’t doubt that these towns once had all the doctors and lawyers and such that people say they did. I’ve heard the same stories about where I grew up (two counties south). But that was a different era and I doubt there was ever real prosperity. Rural and small town life has always been tough in America.

But the social history certainly has much truth.  Even in my own childhood I remember that people not only didn’t lock their houses, they left their keys in their cars.  City water service, cable TV, garbage pickup, and even private telephone lines may not have been available, but it had its upsides too.

Today those Mayberry like characteristics are long gone.

In Medora we see not only poverty, but nearly complete social breakdown. I don’t recall a single player on the team raised in an intact family. Many of them lived in trailer parks. One kid had never even met his father. Others had mothers who themselves were alcoholics or barely functional individuals. They sometimes bounced around from home to home (grandmother, etc.) or dropped out of school to take care of a problematic mother.

These kids are also remarkably unsophisticated about the world. Once we see someone drive to Louisville – to pick his mother up from a rehab center – and another time one kid visits a seminary, but otherwise there’s no indication that these kids have spent much time or in some cases ever left Medora. One flirts with enlisting in the military. Another with what appears to be a for-profit technical college. But all of these are clearly unable to apply an independent knowledge or critical thought to what the sales reps for these entities are telling them.

Much of what structure exists in the town and the kids lives appears to be imported. Both the coach and one assistant coach appear to be from Bedford – 30 miles away. Neither really seems equipped to deal with these troubled kids.

Nothing indicates that these kids have much prospect of success in life.

Yet we see that there’s also little motivation on the part of the people in the town to actually change that.  They are steeped in nostalgia and cling to a idealized vision of a past community that they surely know can never be reclaimed, yet insist on grasping until it is physically pried from their grip.

Medora is one of the last unconsolidated small town high schools left in Indiana. (I attended a small school, but one that was already consolidated, with the uninspiring name of South Central High School).  It’s clearly not really viable as an independent school – it’s facing a major budget shortfall during the film – yet they steadfastly refuse to consider consolidation.

The town residents believe that the loss of the school would be the death knell of their community. They aren’t wrong about that. Merging the school would destroy the locus of identity. But the cold reality is that the modern world doesn’t need towns like Medora anymore. Always changing is the future as they say, but it’s hard to imagine anything that would sustainably restore the town.  America is full of towns like Medoras. Some of them may experience a miracle. Most won’t, and will slowly bleed away to a dysfunctional rump community. (Interesting, Medora’s population grew by 23% during the 2000s, something worthy of further investigation).

The residents of Medora refuse to surrender their town and resolutely refuse to leave. In that they are not unlike the handful of people hanging on in depopulated Detroit neighborhoods who will accept planned shrinkage only over their dead bodies. It’s irrational to those of us who have no such attachment to a place, but it is clearly a sentiment that animates many such people all over the world.

The National Review’s Kevin Williamson blames the residents of these towns for their own demise. This is manifestly false. The people in these communities did not change the structure of the economy to render their homes obsolete. They did not invent the technology that destroyed the need for agricultural labor. They did not create the divorce revolution. They did not invent Oxycontin.  These towns have always been belated, sometimes unwilling consumers of what is created elsewhere.

Yet the fact that outside forces acted on them does not absolve them from taking action now. Williamson is right about that. Much of the rural Midwest was settled by homesteaders who ventured off into the risky unknown, or German immigrants like the Renn family. These places were created by people who embodied different values than those who live there now, people who had no choice but to do something desperate in response to desperate conditions.

I chose to leave my hometown. Many other chose to stay. I know that many people there think it is God’s country and can’t imagine anyone ever leaving. I don’t want to claim that their attachment to place is less valid than my lack of it. Even in the city, to the extent that no one is attached to the place, to their neighborhood, for anything other than immediate self-interest, that’s not a good sign for the long term. I see today the consequences of viewing places purely as a mechanism for extracting personal or corporate profit in the now.

Yet the reality is that to the extent that people do choose to stay in the Medoras of this world, their future prospects aren’t good. Nor are those of their children. But if they leave their towns will die, along with a way of life. This isn’t a pleasant choice. They didn’t ask to be faced with it. But it’s the choice they face nevertheless.

by Aaron M. Renn at July 22, 2016 06:07 PM

Justin Taylor

Voting in the Age of Clinton and Trump

Matthew Franck—Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Radford University in Virginia, and Director of the William E. and Carol G. Simon Center on Religion and the Constitution at the Witherspoon Institute—argues that “it is wrong to think of a vote not cast for Leading Contender A as a de facto vote cast for Leading Contender B.”

For my part, my conscience is more important to me than the outcome of this presidential election. I cannot in good conscience vote for either Clinton or Trump. What matters for me is that I cannot bring myself to intend, to will the victory of either of these ludicrously unacceptable presidential candidates. And that is what a vote for one of them would be—an act of willing that Clinton or Trump be president, carry out her or his stated policy aims, and bring his or her fundamentally bad character to the highest office in the land.

. . .  ”Not making the perfect the enemy of the good” is not the right adage for calculating what to do in our present predicament. Nor is “choose the lesser of two evils” the right way to think. That way of thinking really only works when at least one of the choices is in fact not really evil.

. . . . This is a nominee who, in my estimation, cannot earn my vote even as a “lesser evil” or an “at least he’s not Hillary” candidate. I waver between believing that his defeat would be the worst thing to happen to our country and believing that his victory would be.

You can read the whole thing here, which includes links to pieces that would disagree with his reasoning.

It’s not my place to tell you how to vote. But I do agree with the counsel of Ted Cruz, who told the Republican National Convention (to a chorus of boos) to “vote your conscience, vote for candidates up and down the ticket who[m] you trust to defend our freedom, and to be faithful to the constitution.”

Update: Here is a thoughtful response from Rick Garnett, law professor at the University of Notre Dame. An excerpt:

One could reasonably think (and, to be clear, I’m not saying that this is what I think) something like this:  ”Look, candidate X has said all kinds of stupid and offensive things and also proposed stupid, dangerous, and immoral policies.  But, it is not the case that, if candidate X were elected, those policies would become operative because Congress, the courts, the press, the bureaucrats, candidate X’s laziness and ignorance, etc., would prevent or obstruct them, or at least most of them.  Candidate Y, on the other hand, is smart and ideologically motivated, and would enjoy the support of the press and other opinion makers, and so would very likely be able to make operative a number of candidate Y’s stupid, dangerous, and immoral policies.  So, I prefer candidate X, not because I intend that candidate X ‘carry out his or her stated policy aims’ but because I intend to do what I can to prevent candidate Y from carrying out his or her policy aims.”

This is different, I think, from the usual “lesser of two evils” argument, because it is focusing more on the “state of affairs that is likely to come to pass as a result of the election of candidate X or Y” than on the merits of X and Y’s character or proposals.

by Justin Taylor at July 22, 2016 08:32 AM daily

Are There Viable Open Source Slack Alternatives?

Some are close, but I believe there will need to be serious investment in native mobile applications for the existing open source solutions to get there.

What Is Slack

Slack is incredibly popular, high growth, proprietary chat software.

You should probably try it if you haven’t already, it’s nice.

What IS Slack

It’s a little more than that. Key elements that make Slack Slack

  1. real time chat
  2. asset hosting and sharing (images, links, etc)
  3. search of text and assets
  4. understandable authentication and permissions
  5. client software for web
  6. platform for automated users (bots)
  7. native mobile clients for iOS and Android with push notifications
  8. a bunch of social norms and behaviors around talking to coworkers (with emoji and gifs)

1-5 are nearly a commodity at this point in various forms, though generally not packaged very well together as a system.

The value of 6 can mostly be replicated by competing platforms as de facto standards emerge, but hasn’t.

7 is actually a competitive differentiator for Slack right now, and is the focus of the conclusion of this piece.

It may seem like I’m mocking 8 but I’m not. Setting the cultural context and norms for communication software matters a lot more than people think, and how software makes you feel is part of why people will or will not use it. (This is something that open source software, and software generally, ignores.)

All communication and social software is about people, and how they feel. When you breathe culture and personality into software, it has an impact on that. 1

Why Use Slack

Slack is a great way to get the above with very little hassle in a hosted, integrated offering with momentum.

I like the software! It’s nice. There’s an attention to detail, polish, and craftsmanship in what they’ve made that is very admirable.

I have friends that work there, and they’re all nice too.

Why Not Slack

Cost may be an issue, though for most business usage I doubt that will be the deciding factor.

For personal usage, it seems cost prohibitive if you want to keep access to your archives and get the “full” experience.

Bigger issues that may be important to you:

  • data security and ownership
  • federation
  • long term viability of Slack Technologies Inc.
  • cost structure in long term
  • long term viability of proprietary protocols, closed source code vs. open protocols
  • lack of control over your own communications archives and destiny
  • uptime and stability
  • government surveilance, end to end encryption, privacy

You can argue that exports and backups and documentation can mitigate a lot of the above but in 2016 it feels like real time chat communications platform should be something anybody can spin up and use without hassle, and without having to deal with a giant VC funded US corporation, no matter how benevolant you think those entities may or may not be.

Much of the above I think are just fundamentally not going to be addresseable with centralized, hosted solutions (privacy, surveillance, encryption, ownership). All the convenience of magical self-hosted centralized software comes at a cost, some people may deem the tradeoffs not worth it.

For me, while I work on proprietary software and have for many years, I choose to spend some of my free time pretending to be an open source curmudgeon, sometimes, and want to understand what the alternatives are.

The older I get, the more it seems like RMS was right more often than I ever thought.


Even if you don’t care about any of that, there’s probably viable businesses in getting open source slack alternatives up to parity and selling services or other complements around it.

Slack has hundreds of thousands of paying users and is growing — there’s hundreds of millions of dollars in annual revenue over the next few years in this space, it will be surprising to me if the open source community doesn’t capture some of it.

Three Contenders

Looking at the current landscape of Slack alternatives, I found three that I think can get you most of the elements listed above: IRC, Mattermost, and Rocket Chat.

After limited usage my take is IRC is a glorious mess, Mattermost and Rocket Chat are both incredibly impressive efforts at this stage, though my personal take is Mattermost feels a bit disappointing, and Rocket Chat shows more promise and momentum.


I’ve been playing around with IRC lately and it’s, well, IRC. It’s a beautiful mess.


  • tons of servers
  • tons of clients
  • tons of bot and automation tools
  • tons of logging tools
  • lots and lots and lots of options for everything!

Challenges with IRC to get it to be a reasonable Slack alternative:

  • things may or may not work together
  • everything feels incomprehensible
  • very hard to integrate context / archiving / logs / search into client experiences
  • authentication is difficult
  • UX has a steep learning curve by default
  • native mobile clients — protocol works poorly on mobile, slow connection/starts
  • native push — extremely difficult to set up, non-standard
  • non-text assets — hard to handle by default, need to go beyond protocol
  • search — requires logging and external tools

If I were the CIO of a decent sized tech company that could recruit engineers, I might rather match the tens of thousands I’d spend on Slack with an internal open source effort to build out the capabilities of IRC to future proof and have full ownership of my data and processes.

(Etsy may be that company, which is awesome.)

Most of the above challenges are addressable, but it’s not trivial, and requires a lot of different kinds of work to come together (server, client, authentication integration, user experience) and by the time you’re done you end up making something that doesn’t work with most IRC software anymore.

For small teams, personal projects, and other things it feels like IRC is a lost cause at this point. Unless your audience is UNIX loving open source nerds, you’re in trouble.

Membership has been declining so it’s unlikely people are already using it - you’re probably trying to get people to use it from scratch.

(I tried and failed, but I didn’t try very hard, and I have no friends.)


As of this writing this piece, its github has 341 watchers, 8462 stars, 987 forks. It’s an active, impressive project.

Mattermost feels like the open source project most directly positioned to challenge Slack credibly, but my short time trying it was kind of disappointing.

For example, here’s me trying to upload an image and look at it and figure out why it doesn’t work:

I failed.

I had a lot of trouble running it (mostly because I had a bunch of legacy 32-bit system libraries, but that’s a tale for another day.)


  • written in Go — I love GoLang!
  • core feature: real time communication, archiving, search basics seem to work
  • nice platform for integrations
  • single-sign-on authentication with GitLab
  • projects a more enterprise, professional face and sells services


  • limited deployment options documented
  • felt buggy to me, almost immediately
  • overall UX feels very janky, even on web
  • authentication with GitLab but not others easily
  • doesn’t feel like a fun, vibrant community project from their online presence
  • weak native apps — wrappers around webviews lead to high latency and low usability

It’s an impressive piece of tech, but more fuzzily, Mattermost doesn’t feel like it has momentum and delight yet as a product, it feels more like enterprise software that is in development.

Rocket Chat

As of writing this piece, its github has 499 watchers 8099 stars, 1686 forks, so a similar level of activity as Mattermost.

But Rocket Chat feels like the most viable Slack open source alternative right now to me. It gets the fundamentals right of real time communication, asset sharing, and search. The community has made efforts to make it very easy to deploy in a whole lot of ways, and discussions around it seem like it has emerged organically and has a lot of passionate developers working on it.


  • mostly seems to work with little tweaking
  • lots of deployment options and one click deploys that work
  • authentication, including social authentication on Twitter
  • lots and lots of features popping in
  • feels like a lively, active community


  • some of those features seems half-finished, buggy or not well integrated
  • buggy — a key push notifications feature didn’t work
  • some docs are non-existent or hard to follow
  • platform / integration tools are in flux, not easy to drop in arbitrary bots besides Hubot
  • weak native apps — wrappers around webviews lead to high latency and low usability

Native Mobile As Leverage Point

The success and ascendance of chat applications has mirrored smartphones.

Chat is, in many ways, the ideal mobile use case and interface, and certainly one of its killer apps.

Webviews wrapped in a mobile app to handle push notifications are just not as responsive, fluid, or usable as native applications. They’re subpar experiences.

It’s going to be very hard to compete against Slack without high quality, fast, real mobile experiences.

A viable Slack open source competitor needs high quality native mobile applications that don’t exist today.

Free Advice

If I were advising one of these or other Slack alternatives, I’d encourage them to make native mobile top priority and invest in it. I think it’s the highest leverage point of any of them right now. 2

The rest (while not trivial) seems to be coming along OK. (Though there’s probably something in security and encryption that could be interesting too.)

The open source community is weaker in mobile, compared to its strength in server and web experiences (and desktop.) Given that both major mobile platforms are managed computing environments owned by giant corporations and come with lots of restrictions and strings attached, this is not surprising. But it is going to hamper adoption of new communications tools like this and let others take the market.

The next priority would be to emulate Slack’s APIs for third party integrations where possible — the webhooks and bot integrations Slack offers are very powerful and being able to re-use that ecosystem is very powerful.

· · ·

My guess is Slack understands how important their mobile clients are to their current usage and growth. If I were advising them, I’d suggest finding ways to keep the mobile experiences extremely performant (my experience is it feels like it takes a long time to get back to a chat when relaunching the app) and figure out how to stay dramatically ahead of whatever open source alternatives eventually come up. (As usual, advice is easier to give than to execute on.)


[ 1 ] A more interesting and perhaps more controversial piece would delve into this topic, in the context of soul-less enterprise software, but I’m trying to be positive here and if I hear one more person complain about brand x proprietary enterprise soulless software vs. brand y I may cry.

[ 2 ] I estimate a first version is doable with a 3-5 person team in 3-6 months, if that team has the right mobile expertise and scopes the project appropriately. Given Rocket Chat is built on Meteor, it may be (slightly) easier to get there by using existing software that bridges Meteor changes to CoreData. You still have to build the real UI, which isn’t trivial.)

July 22, 2016 08:00 AM

Table Titans

Tales: On the Invention of Nicknames

Our party is both relatively new to the game (only one of us has been playing for more than a year) and new to the rules (we just got 5th edition! Yay!) and, as a result, we're still working a few things out. Such as, our characters' names.

Now they all have lovely names; Darvin Dundragon the…

Read more

July 22, 2016 07:00 AM

The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

What You Should Know About the Republican Party Platform

Article by: Joe Carter

During the recent Republican National Convention the GOP delegates voted to adopt their party’s platform, a document that outlines the statement of principles and policies that the party has decided it will support.

Why should Christians care about a document that few non-politicians will ever read? Because of the influence the two major party platforms have on public policy. While the platform is not binding on the presidential nominee or any other politicians, political scientists have found that over the past 30 years lawmakers in Congress tend to vote in line with their party’s platform: 89 percent of the time for Republicans and 79 percent of the time for Democrats. For this reason we should be aware of what is proposed in these documents and how they may affect the welfare of our nation (Jeremiah 29:7).

This article will provide, without commentary, an outline of the Republican platform as it relates to several social issues. Every statement is either a direct quote or a summary of the platform’s position. Next week, after the Democratic National Convention, we'll examine that party’s platform and stance on these and related issues.

Bioethics Issues

Asserts the sanctity of human life and affirms that the “unborn child has a fundamental right to life which cannot be infringed.”

Supports a human life amendment to the Constitution and legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to children before birth.

Opposes taxpayer funding of abortion. Calls for a permanent ban on federal funding and subsidies for abortion and healthcare plans that include abortion coverage. Opposes the use of public funds to perform or promote abortion or to fund organizations, like Planned Parenthood, so long as they “provide or refer for elective abortions or sell fetal body parts rather than provide healthcare.”

Calls for codification of the Hyde Amendment and its application across the government, including Obamacare.

Urges a ban on human cloning for research or reproduction, and a ban on the creation of, or experimentation on, human embryos for research. Supports Congress’ ban on the FDA approval of research involving three-parent embryos.

Opposes the FDA’s approval of Mifeprex, the abortifacient formerly known as RU-486. This drug “threatens women’s health, as does the agency’s endorsement of over-the-counter sales of powerful contraceptives without a physician’s recommendation.”

Supports cutting federal and state funding for entities that endanger women’s health by performing abortions in a manner inconsistent with federal or state law.

Opposes the non-consensual withholding of care or treatment from people with disabilities, including newborns, the elderly, and infirm.

Opposes euthanasia and assisted suicide. Urges the Drug Enforcement Administration to restore its ban on the use of controlled substances for physician-assisted suicide.

Supports the right of parents to consent to medical treatment for their minor children and urge enactment of legislation that would require parental consent for their daughter to be transported across state lines for an abortion.

Opposes healthcare providers being permitted to “

unilaterally withhold services because a patient’s life is deemed not worth living.” Urges all states and Congress to make it a crime to acquire, transfer, or sell fetal tissues from elective abortions for research.

Calls on Congress to enact a ban on any sale of fetal body parts and calls on Congress to ban the practice of misleading women on so-called fetal harvesting consent forms.

Affirms our “moral obligation to assist, rather than penalize, women who face an unplanned pregnancy.”

Supports legislation that requires financial responsibility for the child be “equally borne by both the mother and father upon conception until the child reaches adulthood.” Supports funding for ultrasounds and adoption assistance.

Endorses states that protect women and girls through laws requiring informed consent, parental consent, waiting periods, and clinic regulation. Condemns the Supreme Court’s “activist decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt striking down commonsense Texas laws providing for basic health and safety standards in abortion clinics.”

Applauds the U.S. House of Representatives for leading the effort to add enforcement to the Born-Alive Infant Protection Act by passing the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act. “Strongly” opposes infanticide. Calls on Congress to pass a federal Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Acts prohibiting abortion after 20 weeks, the “point at which current medical research shows that unborn babies can feel excruciating pain during abortions.”

Supports state and federal efforts “against the cruelest forms of abortion, especially dismemberment abortion procedures, in which unborn babies are literally torn apart limb from limb.”

Supports a federal ban on sex-selection abortions and abortions based on disabilities. Opposes embryonic stem-cell research and federal funding of such research. Supports adult stem cell research and urge the restoration of the national placental stem cell bank.

Conscience Rights

Supports the ability of all organizations to “provide, purchase, or enroll in healthcare coverage consistent with their religious, moral, or ethical convictions without discrimination or penalty.”

Supports the right of parents to determine the proper medical treatment and therapy for their minor children.

Criminal Justice Reform

Urges caution in the creation of new “crimes” and a bipartisan presidential commission to purge the code and the body of regulations of old “crimes.”

Calls for mens rea elements in the definition of any new crimes to protect Americans who, in violating a law, act unknowingly or without criminal intent. Urges Congress to codify the Common Law’s Rule of Lenity, which requires courts to interpret unclear statutes in favor of a defendant.

Calls for mandatory prison time for all assaults involving serious injury to law enforcement officers.

Supports protecting the rights of victims and their families by allowing them to be told all relevant information about their case, allowed to be present for its trial, assured a voice in sentencing and parole hearings, given access to social and legal services, and benefit from the Crime Victims Fund.

Supports protecting prisoners against cruel or degrading treatment by other inmates.

Encourage states to offer opportunities for literacy and vocational education to prepare prisoners for release to the community.

Discrimination and Racial Issues

Denounces “bigotry, racism, anti-Semitism, ethnic prejudice, and religious intolerance. Therefore, we oppose discrimination based on race, sex, religion, creed, disability, or national origin and support statutes to end such discrimination. As the Party of Abraham Lincoln, we must continue to foster solutions to America’s difficult challenges when it comes to race relations today.”

Drug Abuse

Calls upon the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to ensure that no physician will be penalized for limiting opioid prescriptions.

Supports the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, which addresses the opioid epidemic from both the demand and supply sides of the problem.


Supports a constitutional amendment to protect parental rights “from interference by states, the federal government, or international bodies such as the United Nations.”  Supports school choice for all students. Proposes that the bulk of federal money through Title I for low-income children and “through IDEA for children with special needs should follow the child to whatever school the family thinks will work best for them.” Opposes the imposition of national standards and assessments.

Encourages state legislatures to offer the Bible in a literature curriculum as an elective in America’s high schools.

Supports background checks for all personnel who interact with school children.

Supports options for learning, including home-schooling, career and technical education, private or parochial schools, magnet schools, charter schools, online learning, and early-college high schools.

Supports replacing “family planning” programs for teens with sexual risk avoidance education that sets abstinence until marriage as the responsible and respected standard of behavior.

Opposes school-based clinics that provide referral or counseling for abortion and contraception and believes that “federal funds should not be used in mandatory or universal mental health, psychiatric, or socio-emotional screening programs.”

Supports states that oppose including gender identity and sexual orientation under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. Supports the prompt investigation by civil authorities and prosecution in a courtroom of sexual assault claims, rather than having them adjudicated in the “faculty lounge” of colleges. Those convicted of sexual assault should be punished to the full extent of the law.

Human Trafficking

Supports using the full force of the law against those who engage in commercial sexual exploitation and forced or bonded labor of men, women, or children; involuntary domestic servitude; trafficking in persons for the purpose of organ removal; and the illegal recruitment and use of child soldiers.

Calls for increased diplomatic efforts and accountability for foreign governments to prosecute traffickers, including “penalties for any public officials who may be complicit in this devastating crime.” Calls for the need to stop slave labor by “taking steps to prevent overseas labor contractors who exploit foreign workers from supporting military bases abroad or exporting goods to the United States.” Calls for working at home and abroad to “ensure that trafficking victims are identified among migrants, refugees, and our own citizens so they receive the rehabilitative care needed to heal and thrive.”

Calls for the goal of our domestic antitrafficking programs to be the “rescue and safe return of victims to their homes, not creating a long-term dependency upon public support.”

Marriage and Family Issues

Supports traditional marriage and family, based on one man and one woman. “Every child deserves a married mom and dad, and our laws and government regulations should actively promote married family life as the basis of a stable and prosperous society.” Urges marriage penalties to be removed from the tax code and public assistance programs.

Supports restructuring the tax code to increase adoptions and support families who adopt. Urges states and community groups to help young adults who are aging out of the foster care system to become independent.


Encourage states to continue to fight against pornography and pledge our commitment to children’s safety and well-being. Urges “energetic prosecution” of child pornography, which is “closely linked to human trafficking.”


Supports evaluation of poverty programs based on whether they actually reduce poverty and increases the personal independence of its participants. Supports work requirements for poverty programs. Urge greater state and local responsibility for, and control over, public assistance programs.

Religious Liberty

Opposes government discrimination against businesses or entities that decline to sell items or services to individuals for activities that go against their religious views about such activities.

Opposes any efforts to tax religious organizations.

Supports the right of “America’s religious leaders to preach, and Americans to speak freely, according to their faith.” Says that the federal government, specifically the IRS, is constitutionally prohibited from policing or censoring speech based on religious convictions or beliefs, and “therefore we urge the repeal of the Johnson Amendment.”

Pledges to “defend the religious beliefs and rights of conscience of all Americans and to safeguard religious institutions against government control.”

Endorses the First Amendment Defense Act, legislation in the House and Senate that will bar government discrimination against individuals and businesses for acting on the belief that marriage is the union of one man and one woman: “This Act would protect the non-profit tax status of faith-based adoption agencies, the accreditation of religious educational institutions, the grants and contracts of faith-based charities and small businesses, and the licensing of religious professions—all of which are under assault by elements of the Democratic Party.” Encourages every state to pass similar legislation. Endorses the efforts of Republican state legislators and governors who have “defied intimidation from corporations and the media in defending religious liberty.” Supports laws to confirm the “longstanding American tradition that religious individuals and institutions can educate young people, receive government benefits, and participate in public debates without having to check their religious beliefs at the door.”

Supports the freedom of Americans to act in accordance with their religious beliefs, not only in their houses of worship, but also in their everyday lives.

Supports the right of the people to conduct their businesses in accordance with their religious beliefs and condemn public officials who have proposed boycotts against businesses that support traditional marriage. Pledges to protect those business owners who have been “subjected to hate campaigns, threats of violence, and other attempts to deny their civil rights.”

Supports the public display of the Ten Commandments as a reflection of our history and our country’s “Judeo-Christian heritage.”

Affirms the rights of religious students to engage in voluntary prayer at public school events and to have equal access to school facilities. Supports the First Amendment right of freedom of association for religious, private, service, and youth organizations to set their own membership standards.

Supports the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. Calls for the United States to “stand with leaders” who has protect the rights of Coptic Christians in Egypt, and calls on other leaders across the region to ensure that all religious minorities, “whether Yazidi, Bahai, Orthodox, Catholic, or Protestant Christians” are free to practice their religion without fear of persecution. Supports restoring “advocacy of religious liberty” to its “central place” in diplomacy. Supports the designation of the systematic killing of religious and ethnic minorities as genocide, and “will work with the leaders of other nations to condemn and combat genocidal acts.”

Supports “standing up for repressed religious groups, prisoners of conscience, women trafficked into sexual slavery, and those suffering from disease or starvation.” Supports the adoption of a “whole of government” approach to protect fundamental freedoms globally, “one where pressing human rights and rule of law issues are integrated at every appropriate level of our bilateral relationships and strategic decision making.”

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

by Joe Carter at July 22, 2016 05:10 AM

What’s a Woman’s Place in the World?

Article by: Melissa Kruger

As we were pulling out of town for our family vacation, I noticed a package sitting on our front stoop. Upon opening it, I was glad to see Katelyn Beaty’s new book, A Woman’s Place: A Christian Vision for Your Calling in the Office, the Home, and the World. There’s nothing like a vacation to spend some time thinking about vocation.

The topic of work and womanhood has been on my mind for years, but particularly in the past year or two. Not only am I wrestling with the issues of calling and career myself, but also my oldest daughter will be a sophomore in high school this year. We’re already discussing universities and the opportunities they afford for various vocations, which inevitably leads to the question, “What do you want to do with your life?” For these reasons and more, I welcomed the opportunity to reflect on these topics while reading A Woman’s Place.

Beaty serves as the print managing editor at Christianity Today and cofounded Her.meneutics. Overall, I found her book a helpful contribution to discussions on work and womanhood. While she and I may differ in our biblical understanding of the role of women in marriage and the church, A Woman’s Place is well-researched, thought-provoking, and insightful to the struggles women face as they consider vocational options in various seasons of life.

Necessity and Nature of Work 

In her introduction, Beaty explains, “While all of us risk turning work into an idol, I believe most Christian women today run another risk: missing out on the goodness of work, on the ways that God intends to bless them and others through it.” She links the necessity of our work as part of bearing the image of our “worker God” and the nature of our work to cultivate creation by increasing in number, filling the earth, subduing it, and ruling over all the other creatures. Both male and female are called to this task, and work has inherent goodness. Nevertheless, in and of itself work is not the ultimate good.

Work of any type (from building a business to bringing up children) can become idolatrous, so Beaty rightly directs us toward work as God-oriented instead of self-oriented, kingdom-centered rather than self-centered.

Importance of All Work

On multiple occasions, Beaty mentions that our work isn’t simply what we do to earn a paycheck or what we consider our profession. She writes, “So when women—and men, for that matter—labor to tend their garden or clean poopy diapers, they are no less living into the Genesis 1:28 cultural mandate then when they are, say, overseeing a legal case or writing a documentary script” (71). She also notes, “And some of the most crucial work we do in our lives happens behind closed doors, without pay or praise” (73).

While Beaty challenges teaching that limits a woman to the sphere of the home, her book never contends that women who spend their lives working in unpaid pursuits are doing lesser work (or not really working). In fact, she fondly shares the home-building efforts of her grandmother, who only worked in paid employment for the years prior to having children. It’s evident Beaty spent hours researching vocation and motherhood with women from a variety of differing perspectives.

Welcoming All Work in Our Churches

A Woman’s Place also considers that many women in our churches are unmarried and may never marry. I readily agree with Beaty that single women have important avenues for kingdom work. In fact, according to Paul, the unmarried often have more opportunity for undivided focus on the things of God (1 Cor. 7:8, 32–35). It is detrimental if a woman feels sidelined to the fringes of church life because of her marital status.

It’s important that we find ways to support the variety of ways women work, and not inadvertently limit the importance of women to the roles of wife and mother. In her final chapter, “Where Do We Go from Here?” Beaty offers insightful questions and ideas for churches, parents, and educators to consider as they support women in various callings. One simple idea for churches is to offer Sunday school classes on the topic of vocation and encourage both men and women to attend.

My primary critique of the book is the egalitarian undercurrent regarding a woman’s role in the church and marriage. It’s clear from some of Beaty’s examples that she believes women can work in ordained roles within the church, such as pastor or elder (though this isn’t the main topic of the book). And while there are no easy answers to how much a mother can work outside the home (and she does a good job capturing the complexity of this issue), A Woman’s Place seems to suggest that men’s and women’s roles in the home are interchangeable. 

On this point, I think more attention could’ve been given to the early chapters of Genesis (especially Gen. 3:16–19) and its implications for how God designed men and women. She critiques John Piper and Wayne Grudem’s teaching on this passage (97), but she never offers another perspective why God cursed men and women in distinct spheres (Adam was cursed with regard to his work; Eve was cursed in childbearing and marriage). I would’ve been interested to hear Beaty’s perspective on how those distinctions affect our work in different ways.

I also find the principle of a mother’s role in managing the home valued in Scripture (Titus 2:3–5; 1 Tim. 5:10, 14) in a way that differs from men. I agree with Beaty that many mothers must work for a variety of reasons and that working at home full-time is a privilege some can’t afford. In fact, I’ve worked part-time for more years as a mother than I was home full-time. But A Woman’s Place seems to imply that if the work of motherhood isn’t your natural gifting, then you should pursue what fulfills you the most (146, 163). Missing from the discussion about the satisfaction of our work is a corollary conversation about the self-sacrifice and struggle almost all types of work require.

Starting a Conversation 

I found more to agree with than disagree with in Beaty’s book. While she and I may come to different conclusions on certain issues, she’d be someone I’d enjoy sitting down to lunch with and discussing these topics further (yes, that’s an open invitation). Beaty’s tone is welcoming and inviting for people of various viewpoints. She wants to start a conversation, and her book is a helpful starting place for both women and men. In fact, my husband and I tossed around the various ideas in her book, agreeing with parts, disagreeing with others.

I think that’s exactly what Beaty hopes to achieve. Her book invites us to a needed discussion about women and work. As she writes, “Start talking to your friends, your spouse, your parents, your boss, your pastor—anyone who has an interest in seeing women blossom at work—about your response to A Woman’s Place. Say what inspired you, frustrated you, piqued your curiosity, or simply made you want to keep thinking and praying about your own career.” 

I found it interesting that Beaty ended her book with Psalm 90:17. I ended my book on motherhood with the same verse. While each woman’s work may follow a different path, we can all begin our days with this hope:

Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us;  yes, establish the work of our hands!

Katelyn Beaty. A Woman’s Place: A Christian Vision for Your Calling in the Office, the Home, and the World. Brentwood, TN: Howard Books, 2016. 272 pp. $22.99. 

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 Whits End, hosted by The Gospel Coalition. You can follow her on Twitter.

by Melissa Kruger at July 22, 2016 05:02 AM

Preacher’s Toolkit: How Long Should My Sermons Be?

Article by: Hershael York

Editors’ note: “Preacher’s Toolkit” is a monthly series that seeks to answer questions related to preaching. If you have a preaching-related question or issue you’d like for us to answer, please write us at We recently launched an Expository Preaching Project, for which TGC Council pastors will prepare free instructional resources on expository preaching in both video and print formats in six strategic languages. We’re prayerfully seeking to raise $150,000 to fund the project. To make a donation, please click here and select “Expository Preaching” from the designation list.


How long, O Lord?

That lament echoes through the Psalms, appears in Habakkuk, recurs in Revelation—and pervades the meandering minds of parishioners obliged to suffer the pastor’s preaching past the point of effectiveness. Expressions of pain and bewilderment is hardly the response a pastor hopes for when delivering his sermon after a week’s worth of preparation.

How Long Is Too Long?

How long should a sermon be? As a preaching professor and a pastor, I’ve asked and been asked that question a hundred times. Today, after 35 years in ministry, I have a definitive answer: You can preach as long as you hold their attention.

Obviously (though perhaps not so to everyone), this rule of thumb means some preachers are able to preach longer than others, not because of mere natural gifting but because of faithfulness to biblical and practical techniques, which are not at all contradictory. In fact, they go hand in hand. Many preachers have on the one hand consoled themselves that their churches are filled with those who have itching ears, and on the other prided themselves that they don’t compromise the truth when really all they’ve done is preached God’s Word badly.

While such situations certainly exist—and my heart goes out to any faithful preacher who lovingly and skillfully preaches the Word to those with cold, indifferent hearts—we shouldn’t be so quick to assume the problem lies exclusively in the pew with no responsibility in the pulpit.

Lest I be misunderstood, I am not arguing for shorter sermons. If anything, I believe many churches need to devote more time to preaching, not less. The preaching of the Word is the central act of worship for the gathered church. The widespread biblical illiteracy among professed Christians will neither diminish because pastors shorten their exposition, nor change because they preach longer dull sermons.

Keys to Listener Engagement

How can one preach better and still afford to preach longer? Faithful preachers who desire to also be interesting must learn four key moves to delivering the kind of sermons that help listeners remain engaged.

1. Fill your sermon with biblical substance.

Perhaps it’s counterintuitive, but the way to keep the attention of disengaged church members is not to feed them a steady diet of spiritual cotton candy. It may be sweet to the taste, but it has no nutrition. Too much of it will make them sick. 

The Word of God should ultimately keep them interested. Don’t dumb it down; serve it up! Christ promised that if he is lifted up he will draw them to himself. So point to Christ in text and type, in redemption and relationship. 

2. Arrest their attention.

Once you know the content of your text, think on the perceptual level in developing the sermon. Find a way to gain their interest at the beginning. Peter did it at Pentecost. Paul did it at the Areopagus. Ezekiel did it by building a model city and laying siege to it. Jesus did it in Galilee with eight promises of blessedness. Jonathan Edwards did it. Charles Spurgeon did it. 

Listen to the preachers you admire and notice how they adorn the gospel with thought-provoking and engaging delivery.

3. Weave personal application into biblical explanation.

Peter’s sermon in Acts 2 drove his audience to ask, What shall we do? Explanation without application leads to frustration. Content without conviction breeds boredom. The inherent power of the Word and the Spirit demand response, repentance, and renewal. Without that, your sermon may be a mere Bible trivia game.

4. Develop audience awareness, always discerning how well they are listening.

Respond to your congregation’s restlessness with energy, focus, and excitement about the text. Is your voice lulling them to sleep? Change your pitch, pace, and volume. Let the Word that has saturated you in your study overflow to them in the pew.

You may preach as one who knows the Word, but do you preach as one who loves it? They’ll listen better—and sit longer.

Wearisome or Wanting More?  

Spurgeon’s words on this topic are wise, and represent an excellent summary to the matter:

That sermon is too long which the people feel to be wearisome; and that sermon, even if it be a very long one, is none too long if the people still desire it to be continued.

Amen. May God give us the wisdom and humility to go and do likewise.

​Hershael York is the Victor and Louise Lester professor of Christian preaching at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and pastor of the Buck Run Baptist Church in Frankfort, Kentucky.

by Hershael York at July 22, 2016 05:00 AM

How to Raise an Alien Child

Article by: Staff

So much of parental decision-making can focus on helping our kids “fit in.” But 1 Peter 2:11-12 calls believers to live as aliens and strangers, in such a way that our unmistakably strange lives bring glory to God. As Christian parents, our greatest hope for our children is that they would grow to know, love, and serve God with everything they have. But those who grow to know, love, and serve God with everything they have don’t blend in. This podcast examines six key areas in which we can help our children trade the comfort of “fitting in” for the calling of standing out.

Workshop Leader: Jen Wilkin

Date: June 17, 2016

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

Jen Wilkin is a writer, speaker, and Bible teacher. She lives in Flower Mound, Texas, and her family calls The Village Church home. Wilkin is the author of Women of the Word: How to Study the Bible with Both Our Hearts and Our Minds (Crossway, 2014) and None Like Him: 10 Ways God Is Different from Us (and Why That's a Good Thing) (Crossway, 2016), as well as a Bible study curriculum from LifeWay and The Gospel Coalition titled First Peter: A Living Hope in Christ.

You can stream this episode of The Gospel Coalition podcast here.

by Staff at July 22, 2016 04:59 AM

Nicholas Nethercote

Firefox 64-bit for Windows can take advantage of more memory

By default, on Windows, Firefox is a 32-bit application. This means that it is limited to using at most 4 GiB of memory, even on machines that have more than 4 GiB of physical memory (RAM). In fact, depending on the OS configuration, the limit may be as low as 2 GiB.

Now, 2–4 GiB might sound like a lot of memory, but it’s not that unusual for power users to use that much. This includes:

  • users with many (dozens or even hundreds) of tabs open;
  • users with many (dozens) of extensions;
  • users of memory-hungry web sites and web apps; and
  • users who do all of the above!

Furthermore, in practice it’s not possible to totally fill up this available space because fragmentation inevitably occurs. For example, Firefox might need to make a 10 MiB allocation and there might be more than 10 MiB of unused memory, but if that available memory is divided into many pieces all of which are smaller than 10 MiB, then the allocation will fail.

When an allocation does fail, Firefox can sometimes handle it gracefully. But often this isn’t possible, in which case Firefox will abort. Although this is a controlled abort, the effect for the user is basically identical to an uncontrolled crash, and they’ll have to restart Firefox. A significant fraction of Firefox crashes/aborts are due to this problem, known as address space exhaustion.

Fortunately, there is a solution to this problem available to anyone using a 64-bit version of Windows: use a 64-bit version of Firefox. Now, 64-bit applications typically use more memory than 32-bit applications. This is because pointers, a common data type, are twice as big; a rough estimate for 64-bit Firefox is that it might use 25% more memory. However, 64-bit applications also have a much larger address space, which means they can access vast amounts of physical memory, and address space exhaustion is all but impossible. (In this way, switching from a 32-bit version of an application to a 64-bit version is the closest you can get to downloading more RAM!)

Therefore, if you have a machine with 4 GiB or less of RAM, switching to 64-bit Firefox probably won’t help. But if you have 8 GiB or more, switching to 64-bit Firefox probably will help the memory usage situation.

Official 64-bit versions of Firefox have been available since December 2015. If the above discussion has interested you, please try them out. But note the following caveats.

  • Flash and Silverlight are the only supported 64-bit plugins.
  • There are some Flash content regressions due to our NPAPI sandbox (for content that uses advanced features like GPU acceleration or microphone APIs).

On the flip side, as well as avoiding address space exhaustion problems, a security feature known as ASLR works much better in 64-bit applications than in 32-bit applications, so 64-bit Firefox will be slightly more secure.

Work is being ongoing to fix or minimize the mentioned caveats, and it is expected that 64-bit Firefox will be rolled out in increasing numbers in the not-too-distant future.

UPDATE: Chris Peterson gave me the following measurements about daily active users on Windows.

  • 66.0% are running 32-bit Firefox on 64-bit Windows. These users could switch to a 64-bit Firefox.
  • 32.3% are running 32-bit Firefox on 32-bit Windows. These users cannot switch to a 64-bit Firefox.
  • 1.7% are running 64-bit Firefox already.

UPDATE 2: Also from Chris Peterson, here are links to 64-bit builds for all the channels:

by Nicholas Nethercote at July 22, 2016 03:11 AM

July 21, 2016

The Ontological Geek

In the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Fusion: Mysterious Unity in Steven Universe

The mysteries of fusion in Steven Universe may help us to better understand the Christian doctrine of the Trinity!

by Taylor Ramage at July 21, 2016 11:08 PM

One Year of Earth

This is an amazing video:

NOAA’s DSCOVR satellite’s EPIC camera captured its first imagery of Earth on July 6, 2015. Since then, it has delivered thousands of images of our world, including the moon’s shadow being cast on Earth during a solar eclipse.

by Stephen at July 21, 2016 10:22 PM

About Character

Ezra Klein, Editor-in-Chief at Vox:

Donald Trump is not a man who should be president. This is not an ideological judgment. This is not something I would say about Mitt Romney or Marco Rubio. This is not a disagreement over Donald Trump’s tax plan or his climate policies. This is about Trump’s character, his temperament, his impulsiveness, his basic decency.

by Stephen at July 21, 2016 07:57 PM

A Few Thoughts on Cryptographic Engineering

Statement on DMCA lawsuit

My name is Matthew Green. I am a professor of computer science and a researcher at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. I focus on computer security and applied cryptography.

Today I filed a lawsuit against the U.S. government, to strike down Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. This law violates my First Amendment right to gather information and speak about an urgent matter of public concern: computer security. I am asking a federal judge to strike down key parts of this law so they cannot be enforced against me or anyone else.

A large portion of my work involves building and analyzing the digital security systems that make our modern technological world possible. These include security systems like the ones that protect your phone calls, instant messages, and financial transactions – as well as more important security mechanisms that safeguard property and even human life.

I focus a significant portion of my time on understanding the security systems that have been deployed by industry. In 2005, my team found serious flaws in the automotive anti-theft systems used in millions of Ford, Toyota and Nissan vehicles. More recently, my co-authors and I uncovered flaws in the encryption that powers nearly one third of the world’s websites, including Facebook and the National Security Agency. Along with my students, I've identified flaws in Apple’s iMessage text messaging system that could have allowed an eavesdropper to intercept your communications. And these are just a sampling of the public research projects I’ve been involved with.

I don’t do this work because I want to be difficult. Like most security researchers, the research I do is undertaken in good faith. When I find a flaw in a security system, my first step is to call the organization responsible. Then I help to get the flaw fixed. Such independent security research is an increasingly precious commodity. For every security researcher who investigates systems in order to fix them, there are several who do the opposite – and seek to profit from the insecurity of the computer systems our society depends on.

There’s a saying that no good deed goes unpunished. The person who said this should have been a security researcher. Instead of welcoming vulnerability reports, companies routinelythreaten good-faith security researchers with civil action, or even criminal prosecution. Companies use the courts to silence researchers who have embarrassing things to say about their products, or who uncover too many of those products' internal details. These attempts are all too often successful, in part because very few security researchers can afford a prolonged legal battle with well-funded corporate legal team.

This might just be a sad story about security researchers, except for the fact that these vulnerabilities affect everyone. When security researchers are intimidated, it’s the public that pays the price. This is because real criminals don’t care about lawsuits and intimidation – and they certainly won’t bother to notify the manufacturer. If good-faith researchers aren’t allowed to find and close these holes, then someone else will find them, walk through them, and abuse them.

In the United States, one of the most significant laws that blocks security researchers is Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). This 1998 copyright law instituted a raft of restrictions aimed at preventing the “circumvention of copyright protection systems.” Section 1201 provides both criminal and civil penalties for people who bypass technological measures protecting a copyrighted work. While that description might bring to mind the copy protection systems that protect a DVD or an iTunes song, the law has also been applied to prevent users from reverse-engineering software to figure out how it works. Such reverse-engineering is a necessary party of effective security research.

Section 1201 poses a major challenge for me as a security researcher. Nearly every attempt to analyze a software-based system presents a danger of running afoul of the law. As a result, the first step in any research project that involves a commercial system is never science – it’s to call a lawyer; to ask my graduate students to sign a legal retainer; and to inform them that even with the best legal advice, they still face the possibility of being sued and losing everything they have. This fear chills critical security research.

Section 1201 also affects the way that my research is conducted. In a recent project – conducted in Fall 2015 – we were forced to avoid reverse-engineering a piece of software when it would have been the fastest and most accurate way to answer a research question. Instead, we decided to treat the system as a black box, recovering its operation only by observing inputs and outputs. This approach often leads to a less perfect understanding of the system, which can greatly diminish the quality of security research. It also substantially increases the time and effort required to finish a project, which reduces the quantity of security research.

Finally, I have been luckier than most security researchers in that I have access to legal assistance from organizations such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Not every security researcher can benefit from this.

The risk imposed by Section 1201 and the heavy cost of steering clear of it discourage me – and other researchers -- from pursuing any project that does not appear to have an overwhelming probability of success. This means many projects that would yield important research and protect the public simply do not happen.

In 2015, I filed a request with the Library of Congress for a special exemption that would have exempted good faith security researchers from the limitations of Section 1201. Representatives of the major automobile manufacturers and the Business Software Alliance (a software industry trade group) vigorously opposed the request. This indicates to me that even reasonable good faith security testing is still a risky proposition.

This risk is particularly acute given that the exemption we eventually won was much more limited than what we asked for, and leaves out many of the technologies with the greatest impact on public health, privacy, and the security of financial transactions.

Section 1201 has prevented crucial security research for far too long. That’s why I’m seeking a court order that would strike Section 1201 from the books as a violation of the First Amendment. 

by Matthew Green ( at July 21, 2016 06:34 PM

Table Titans

Tales: Hero of the People

In the famously epic dungeon crawler, The World's Largest Dungeon, there is little need to roleplay. This did not deter our Dungeon Master from introducing his own flair to the campaign, nor our intrepid party from creating an assortment of quirky characters to bicker and squabble throughout the…

Read more

July 21, 2016 04:34 PM

Daniel Lemire's blog

Accelerating PHP hashing by “unoptimizing” it

Hashing is a software trick that can map strings to fixed-length integers, such as 32-bit integers. It is ubiquitous in modern software.

Languages like Java and PHP have the ability to store strings with their corresponding hash values. Still, the hash value must be computed at least once.

How much of a burden can this be? Suppose that we use 10 cycles per byte to hash a string. For a long 100-kilobyte string, that would be about a million CPU cycles. If your CPU runs at 2 GHz, you have 2 billion cycles per second. Hence, hashing your string should take no more than half a millisecond. Put another way, you can hash 2000 such strings per second.

Simon Hardy-Francis pointed out to me that this can still represent a performance bottleneck if your PHP application needs to repeatedly load large new strings.

So what does PHP use as a hash function? It uses fundamentally the Java hash function, a simple polynomial hash with an odd multiplier… (coprime with 2)

for (int i = 0; i < len; i++) {
  hash = 33 * hash + str[i];

(Java multiplies by 31 instead of 33 but it is the same idea.)

A polynomial hash function with an odd multiplier is found everywhere and has a long history. It is the hash function used by the Karp-Rabin string search algorithm.

As I have pointed out in another post, for better performance, you want to unroll this function like so…

for (; i + 3 < len; i += 4) {
   h = 33 * 33 * 33 * 33 * h 
       + 33 * 33 * 33 * str[i] 
       + 33 * 33 * str[i + 1] 
       + 33 * str[i + 2] 
       + str[i + 3];
for (; i < len; i++) {
   h = 33 * h + str[i];

The reason this might help might be that it breaks the data dependency: instead of having to wait for the previous multiplication to finish before another one can be issued, you can issue one new multiplication per cycle for up to four cycles in a row. Unrolling more might accelerating the code further.

The PHP developers implement the hash function with an extra optimization, however. Crediting Bernstein for the idea, they point out that…

the multiply operation can be replaced by a faster operation based on just one shift plus either a single addition or subtraction operation

It is true that a shift followed by an addition might be slightly cheaper than a multiplication, but modern compilers are quite good at working this out on their own. They can transform your multiplications by a constant as they see fit.

In any case, so the PHP implementation is an optimized version of the following…

for (int i = 0; i < len; i++) {
  hash = ((hash << 5) + hash) + str[i];

The code is actually quite a bit more complicated because it is heavily unrolled, but it is algorithmically equivalent. Their code strongly discourages the compiler from ever using a multiplication.

So are the PHP developers correct? Should we work hard to avoid multiplications in C using Bernstein’s trick? Let us put this theory to the test on a recent x64 processor. As usual, my code is available.

Polynomial hashing (cycles per byte) on Intel Skylake
PHP (no multiplier) PHP (with multiplier)
2.35 1.75

The multiplication-free PHP approach is 33% slower! Gregory Pakosz pointed out that you can do even better by unrolling the version with multiplier further, reaching 1.5 cycles per byte.

Embedded processors with slow multiplications might give different outcomes. But then, where do you expect PHP processes to run? Overwhelmingly, they run on Intel processors produced in the last ten years… and these processors have fast multipliers.

So I think that the PHP developers are leaving performance on the table. They could easily optimize the computation of the hash function without changing the result of the function. What is more, the code would be more readable if they left the multiplications! If you need to multiply by 33, just do it the simplest possible manner! If it is cheaper to do a shift, the compiler can probably figure it out before you do. If you do not trust your compiler, then, at least, run benchmarks!

Let us look at the larger issue. How fast are 1.5 or 1.75 cycles per byte? Not very fast. Google’s CityHash uses about 0.25 cycles per byte whereas the state-of-the-art CLHash uses about 0.1 cycles per byte on recent Intel processors. So with a more modern algorithm, PHP developers could multiply the speed of their hash functions… but that’s for another day.

by Daniel Lemire at July 21, 2016 04:29 PM

The Art of Non-Conformity

When to Compromise and When to Hold Your Ground


At some point, most of us end up settling in a major part of our life. We compromise and make tradeoffs.

We can’t always get everything we want, of course. We can’t always be in total control. But we can certainly get a lot of what we want, and if we prioritize what’s most important to us, we can probably get the top things on the list. Just because we can’t always be in control doesn’t mean that we’re never in control.

This truth presents a natural question: when should we compromise, and when should we hold our ground and keep fighting for what we really want?

When you encounter a situation in which you need to choose between compromise and holding firm, it might help to think about a different question:

“Do you need it, or do you just want it?”

Being able to separate needs and wants is essential. Never let go of something you truly need, but be more flexible on the things that you want.

If you’re choosing your battles, don’t miss the forest for the trees. Don’t give up a third of your life by working a dead-end job that you hate. Don’t abandon your dreams, especially if they’ve stayed with you a long time and you can’t stop thinking about them. If you need something, fight for it.

For everything else, let go a little. Make tradeoffs, compromise, let go. Settle on the unessential to get what you really want.


Image: Darran

by Chris Guillebeau at July 21, 2016 04:24 PM

Ungeniused #4: Inventors Killed by Their Own Inventions

The newest episode of Ungeniused is admittedly a little dark:

History is full of people tragically killed by their own inventions. This episode is full of their stories.

There’s something painfully ironic about all of these accounts, which span many decades and several professions.

Don’t miss the B-Side, in which Myke and I really struggle with some of the names in the episode.

by Stephen at July 21, 2016 02:30 PM

Market Urbanism

Tech for Housing: An Experiment in YIMBY Activism

Tech for Housing was founded to organize Bay Area tech workers around supply friendly land use reform. Tony Albert, Joey Hiller and myself, all saw an unmet need for tech-centric political outreach and decided to try our luck. And as tech workers ourselves, we had certain ideas around the best ways to self-organize and why that organization hadn’t really happened to date.

Tech for Housing

One problem with mobilizing Bay Area tech, we realized, is that many of us spend 50-60 hours a week at work. For those of us that weren’t already passionate about land use issues (yes, I’m aware I just used the terms ‘passionate’ and ‘land use’ in the same sentence), spending significant time and energy to understand, let alone act on, reform is asking a lot.

We also noted that tech workers are, to varying degrees, transplants. Consequently, the existing political infrastructure that’s not too great at mobilizing tech workers generally is even less effective at activating recent arrivals who might not even be registered to vote in their new jurisdiction.

After thinking through these and other reasons that we in tech remain politically apathetic, we realized the challenge was to dramatically increase the perceived benefit and decrease the perceived cost of political participation.

To that end, we’ve started with tech focused content on housing policy, explaining at a high level 1) what’s broken, 2) why it’s broken and 3) what can be done about it. A lot of what’s happening at this stage is attracting the other workers in our industry who are already wonky enough to have read How Burrowing Owls Lead to Vomiting Anarchists two or three times. And after developing that core audience, providing them ways to activate our less engaged colleagues via various forms of social signaling. There’ll only ever be a certain number of people who’ll be actively convinced through explicit education and argumentation; the rest need to be mobilized by creating momentum for participation within their peer groups.

Ultimately, we want to make participation in land use reform a conspicuously consumable good within Bay Area tech. We want everyone within tech to identify as YIMBY by default and for that reflexive self-identification to tip the scales of everyone’s internal cost benefit analysis in favor of having an articulable opinion and taking minimal actions like sending a letter, signing a petition, or casting a vote.

In writing this post I have two hopes. One is that sympathetic readers will come across it and want to help us toward our goals. The other is that the ideas we have and the challenges we face in outreach and organization will help others attempting similar projects elsewhere. At the federal, state, and local levels, land use policy suffers from a lot of institutional baggage. The decisions of past decades have set us off in a particular direction and it’ll take significant effort to change what’s considered the policy default. The more we can learn from each other, and the faster we can learn it, the better our results will be in changing the status quo. Hopefully what we’re attempting here will contribute toward those efforts.

by Jeff Fong at July 21, 2016 02:30 PM

Zondervan Academic Blog

[Common Places] Reading Notes: The Soul

Open book on wooden deck

While Christianity is by no means the only faith—nor theology the only discipline—concerned to know the soul, it is because the Christian church confesses the goodness of creation, the incarnation, and the resurrection of the dead that her enquiry is vitally concerned to know the soul as the soul of the embodied saint seeking eternal communion with God as part of the body of Christ. Much of the church’s discussion takes the form of critiques of Greek and Hellenistic conceptions of the soul, though these critiques often remain appreciative in their dissents, recognizing their debts to the Greek and Hellenistic conceptions at a number of points. Here are some key sources for entering into the scope of this discussion.


Augustine, The City of God, I.16–19; XIII; XIV; XXII.25–30

Throughout his corpus Augustine offers an understanding of the soul redolent with platonic and neoplatonic themes: the soul attains its good through the ordering of its faculties that it might rule and be liberated from the corruptible body and find its happiness in God (the true light and goodness itself). This ordered soul is the peace of the city of God.

Yet, in the books listed here, Augustine distinguishes his view of the soul’s relation to the body from his predecessors. For Augustine, the person is soul and body, the union of the soul and body being a good that is lost in the death of the body and regained in the resurrection. Moreover, vivified by the spirit, the saint’s final happiness is in some sense complete in the reunion of her soul to her body, as it is in the spiritual body that the saint will “see,” “love,” and “praise” God for eternity.

Also of interest in these books are Augustine’s understanding of the life of the flesh, not as the evil of embodied life, but as the life of the sinful soul that corrupts the body (making it burdensome); his understanding of the soul’s death as the soul’s separation from God; and his view that the saint need not fear others’ defilement of her body because virtue has its seat not in the body but in the soul.


Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiæ, Ia, qq. 75–76, 84, 89; IaIIæ, q. 4, a. 5–6; Suppl. IIIæ, q. 92; q. 93, a. 1

While dense, these questions from Thomas’ Summa familiarize readers with the breadth of his hylomorphic account of the soul as the form of the material body (hylomorphism is the view that each physical object is a matter–form compound). Rejecting what he identifies as Plato’s understanding of the soul as the body’s “motor,” Thomas offers an account of the unity of the soul and the body wherein the soul is the body’s act and, in this, the source of the human act of understanding.

Thomas is heavily indebted to Aristotle’s hylomorphism in these questions, yet utilizes it to service a theological concern to know how, as rational soul and material body (an “organ of sense”), the saint pursues her end of understanding in a beatific vision of God. Readers will be rewarded in tracing how Thomas develops his account, not least his theological rationale for rejecting the soul’s dependence upon the body in its conscious intermediate state and its vision of the divine essence, while insisting that it is the soul’s nature to be united to the body because the resurrection of the body is integral to the saint’s happiness in her eternal beatific vision.


Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics, III/2, §46

Barth’s discussion of the soul in §46 takes as a starting point the being of the true human as “being with God” in order that the human creature’s relationship to her creator might determine what is said of the human as soul and body rather than the other way around.

Part of Barth’s overarching attempt to know true humanity in Jesus Christ, this section examines scripture’s speaking of the wholeness of Jesus Christ as soul and body and, from this, determines that the human is human because she is graciously “grounded, constituted and maintained” by the Spirit of God. The remainder of the section unfolds what must then be the “interconnexion,” “particularity,” and “order” of the soul and body in true humanity. In nuce, for Barth, the soul is that which, by the Spirit, animates the body in the human’s covenantal encounter with her God.

Of course, such a sentence fails to show the dogmatic originality that undergirds and clarifies Barth’s dialectical conclusions, obscuring among other things the distinction he asserts between his view and “Greek traditional Christian dualism” (as well as monistic varieties of materialism and spiritualism, dualism’s disillusioned correlates). Readers will find §46 offers much in celebration of God’s graciousness in the soul and body of true humanity.


Marc Cortez, Embodied Souls, Ensouled Bodies

This final selection offers an education in theologically orienting oneself to contemporary discussion of the soul in philosophy of the mind. In response to developments in science, concern about Greek influence, and conceptual problems, many have shifted away from the dualism that characterizes much of Christian theology, rejecting understandings of the human as an immaterial soul and material body and adopting understandings of the human as entirely material; others in turn have argued in dualism’s defense.

Recognizing that the ensuing debates raise anew questions of what theology is and is not able to say about human ontology, Cortez utilizes Barth’s christological anthropology to resource a theological engagement with the accounts of the mind/soul–body relationship offered by “nonreductive physicalism” and “holistic dualism.”

Cortez suggests that Barth’s development of his anthropology from his Christology opens up the possibility of dialogue between his anthropology and non-theological anthropologies, and maintains that such a christological anthropology is suited to evaluate the theological “legitimacy” of non-theological accounts of the mind–body relationship but not to develop a “fully worked out theory of human ontology.” Theology can present what Christology entails “must be affirmed about human ontology,” but it cannot develop a full-bodied theory of human ontology from Christology because this “would seem to violate the principle that one cannot move directly from Christology to anthropology.”

Readers new to contemporary mind–body debates will further appreciate that, in the course of his own evaluation of the theological viability and potential “christological deficiencies” of nonreductive physicalism and holistic dualism, Cortez provides an expansive survey of arguments for and against each.


Christina N. Larsen (PhD, University of St. Andrews) will be joining the College of Theology faculty at Grand Canyon University this fall. Her dissertation was on Jonathan Edwards’ Christology, and her forthcoming publications are on Edwards, Barth, and divine glory.


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 column introduction here.

Michael Allen and Scott Swain, editors of Common Places

by Christina Larsen at July 21, 2016 11:45 AM

Table Titans

The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

How Self-Help Can Become Self-Hurt

Article by: Brad Larson

I recently got an email from a self-help guru offering to help me be the architect of my life. Its message was much like you’d see in the self-help section these days: if you’ll just do this or that, your life will be rich and full, and you’ll get your act together. Plan it out, budget your time, and optimize your life.

On the surface, it sounds pretty satisfying to design a grand life of purpose. I know I’m enticed by it. If we can put measurable steps in place to accomplish our big dreams, we can have everything we want. At least that’s the promise.

Yet there’s a slithering lie attached.

Dangers of Self-Help

Since we have deceptive, dark hearts (Jer. 17:9), there is danger lurking in the self-improvement space. Since we worship what we believe will satisfy us, improving ourselves can become idolatry faster than we can say “positive mental attitude.” Self-help can become a self-glorification mission that, in the end, robs us of the joy of beholding Jesus as our treasure, our Savior, and our helper.

Here are five ways self-help can become self-hurt:

1. It is often prayerless.

At least in my experience, when I buy into the newest self-help craze, I’m inclined not to stop and ask God for help. My hands are too busy pulling at my bootstraps to fold in prayer.

2. It doesn’t account for reality. 

Much of self-help includes making a plan for your life, but we don’t control our life. Plan as we may, we are not the architect of our destiny. As Greg Carey observes in his book Self-Help and the Gospel, “Self-help preaching rarely accounts for the real world we actually inhabit.”

3. It focuses on the self.

Self-help shines a bright light on the self and encourages introspection. While some introspection can be healthy, too much navel gazing is not. C. S. Lewis said it this way: “True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.”

4. It wrongly assumes I have the ability to change myself.

We can change our habits and make healthy choices, but our souls only change when we encounter God. We do not need to focus on cleaning the outside of the cup, but rather the inside (Matt. 15:17–20; 23:25–26).

5. It puts the onus on us to shepherd ourselves.

The premise of self-help in Christian circles is that God helps those who help themselves. The gospel of Jesus Christ, though, is that God helps those who cannot help themselves.

Didn’t Work for Me

When I was writing my first book, I bought into self-help in a big way. In fact, that’s how I got on the self-help guru’s email list. As I was sitting in my bedroom, reading a well-thought-out action plan for building my audience, I was inspired and hopeful. I could use this prescribed social media strategy and then build an email list using these five steps. So I jumped in. I pictured the book signings and the lines of people who wanted to buy the book. I just needed to follow the plan.

But it didn’t work. I followed the plan but found it slow going. Apparently, launching a book as an obscure author is not a recipe for success, and overcoming obscurity is a long, slow, humbling process. You can refresh your social media pages all you want, but you can’t make people connect.

I soon found myself spiritually empty and a bit insecure. Instead of measuring my identity by the cross, I chose cheap metrics of likes, followers, and comments. And there were never enough to satisfy my heart. Even worse, I lost focus on the reason for writing the book in the first place, which was to help people connect their faith in Jesus and their work.

Things changed when God, by his great mercy, turned my attention back to him. Right around the book launch, I realized I was not in control. It was a slow realization, but the Spirit began to redirect my affections from self-promotion to Christ-glorification. Eventually the book launched, and I began a new journey of trusting in God’s sovereignty. I simply decided to be faithful to my calling and let him handle the rest. And I breathed a soul-filling sigh of relief.

His Hands, Your Grip

So should we trash all self-improvement efforts? Surely not. We should absolutely learn as much as we can in an effort to better ourselves. Much practical advice is helpful. We should learn effective time management, goal-setting, and leadership tactics. These are good things. But we must not place our hope in them. Instead, we must anchor our hearts on the rock of Christ. We must not let self-help become a false gospel or a counterfeit god.

The gospel aims the restless heart on that which actually satisfies. As a byproduct of beholding Jesus, we change. The real power to change rests in the nail-pierced hands of Jesus, so if we’ll loosen our grip on improving our station in life and cling to him instead, we will find our hearts rejoicing as we become more like him.

Brad Larson is an entrepreneur, elder at The Door Church (in Coppell, Texas), and the author of Walking Through Walls: Connecting Faith and Work. He blogs at

by Brad Larson at July 21, 2016 05:03 AM

7 Ways to Deal with Doubt

Article by: Michael Patton

Do you ever struggle with doubt? You do if you’re honest. 

Doubt affects the lives of many believers. The reality is that no one’s faith is ever perfect in this life. That includes you. And if your faith is not perfect, then it can grow and become stronger today than it was yesterday.

I like to think of doubt as the gap between our current faith and perfect faith. If this is the case, we all doubt.

Not only this, but there is nothing Christians cannot doubt. Sometimes we doubt our salvation; other times we doubt God’s love. Many times we will even doubt the reliability of Scripture, the existence of God, or the identity of Christ. Even John the Baptist, whom Christ called the greatest man ever born (Matt. 11:11), once expressed doubt about the very identity of Christ (Matt. 11:3).

Here are seven principles to consider when dealing with doubt.

1. Have mercy on those who doubt.

Jude 22 tells us to “have mercy on those who doubt.” It is easy to judge, condemn, and look down on doubters as if they are second-rate Christians. But to have mercy on those who doubt is to be there for them, comforting and building them up.

Many times, this isn’t just an overnight bout with doubt that ends after a good night’s sleep. Some are doubters for a lifetime. It’s just in their nature. You need to learn to have mercy on them (and on yourself). You may have to answer the same questions over and over again. That’s all right. And it’s an opportunity for you to learn patience.

2. Realize doubt is often the birth pangs of deepened faith. 

Many of us became believers at an early age, with a faith mediated through our parents whom we trusted implicitly. As we become older, our faith is tested though trials, temptations, and suffering (Job; Luke 8:5–15; Rom. 5:3–4; James 1:3).

This is why our most significant doubt often comes during our 20s and 30s. But this is not a bad thing. We all need to consider that the truths we espouse might be wrong, in order to embrace our faith more deeply. Such doubt often results in stronger faith.

3. Be ready to live with mystery.

Sometimes we want all the answers. We want complete understanding before we commit to God.

While God has revealed so much to us, and there is much we can understand, there are the “secret” things that belong to him alone (Deut. 29:29). We will never be able to comprehend the Trinity, or how God created everything out of nothing. But what we can comprehend is enough for us to rest in God when mystery arises.

4. Make the main things the main things.

Paul told the Corinthians he delivered to them things “of first importance” (1 Cor. 15:3). He goes on to talk about the atoning death and vindicating resurrection of Christ as being most central to the faith.

So many of us doubt secondary issues such as how and when God created the world or the details of Christ’s return. There are many issues in the Christian faith about which there has been legitimate disagreement for centuries. All of orthodox Christianity, however, has always been in unity about who Christ is and what he did. 

So when you begin doubting what you were taught about secondary issues, don’t get too bent out of shape. A lot of us are still working through these matters.

5. Live according to the faith you still have.

Doubt is not unbelief. Again, doubt is the bridge that connects current faith to perfect faith. And that bridge will stand until our death or Christ’s return. When we go through a faith crisis, though, we don’t naturally see things this way. Once doubt enters and infects our lives on a conscious level, we may interpret it as outright unbelief. We simply don’t know how else to process it. We think we’re on an inevitable road to complete unbelief.

Unfortunately, since we think this way, and since others may treat us as if we have the plague, we begin to live as unbelievers. If sin were not the instigating problem before, it becomes the chronic problem now. It’s important for those struggling with doubt to not let their doubt influence their lives such that they start living like unbelievers. Encourage doubters to continue to live as Christians, repenting and believing the gospel, even if they don’t always feel like Christians.

6. Doubt your doubts.

Why give your doubt a courtesy you don’t give your faith? Is your doubt so compelling that it can’t be questioned?

When we go through times of doubt, we need to make sure we are critical of our doubts as well. Doubt usually doesn’t offer a better solution; it just nags at the one we already have. For Christians, we can be sure that the central truths of our faith will never be outweighed by our doubt. Pestered, yes. But never, when we learn to doubt our doubts, should our faith be overthrown.

7. Work through the sin in your life.

I intentionally saved this one for last. Often this is the first place Christians go with a loved one in the crisis of doubt, in large part because it helps us put doubt into a discernible box. It also helps us to find a quick solution. “Oh, you’re doubting your faith? Okay, quit sinning! Next?” Obviously, doubt is often more complicated.

But we must recognize that personal sin is a faith-drainer. Disobedience to God will take a significant toll on your faith.

We’re all sinners, but some sins take a unique toll on our mind and worldview—especially if we attempt to justify them. For example, struggling with same-sex attraction is one thing; actively embracing homosexuality and trying to justify it biblically is another thing altogether. The toll here is not only moral, social, and physical; it also corrupts the mind. The effort to reinterpret the Bible in a way more friendly to homosexuality won’t remain isolated to this one category; sooner or later, the mental paradigm you constructed to make your sin acceptable will corrupt everything else.

In short, if there is something you know you’re supposed to be doing, and you’re not doing it, doubt will soon spread, and your crisis of faith will be hard to overcome. We need to gently ask these types of questions when the time is right. But simply accusing people of some deep-rooted personal sin right from the gun can be judgmental and embarrassing. Ask if there’s any sin that might be causing the person’s doubt. If the answer is no and you cannot readily identify anything as the cause, don’t push the issue.

Land and Country

I’ve found that there are primarily two types of doubters. The first are walking away from God and believe they’re finding freedom. The second feel they’re walking away from their faith and are deeply disturbed about it. The difference with the second is that they are always facing God, crying out with arms outstretched for him to help. Thankfully, in most cases, these doubters eventually return to the faith.

You may always, to some degree, live in the land of doubt. But it’s possible your particular land of doubt is still within the country of faith. Doubting your faith does not mean you don’t have faith. Jude 22 says we should have mercy on those who doubt, whether that doubt is in ourselves or in others. Let us do so. 

Editors’ note: This is an adapted excerpt from the ESV Men’s Devotional Bible (Crossway, 2015). 

Michael Patton is the president of Credo House Ministries. Michael received a master of theology degree in New Testament studies from Dallas Theological Seminary in 2001. He blogs at Parchment and Pen and is also a speaker on the podcast Theology Unplugged. He lives in Edmond with his wife and four kids.

by Michael Patton at July 21, 2016 05:02 AM

Do God’s Will, Not His Work

Article by: Bethany Jenkins

In my role at The King’s College, I measure my success largely in numbers—student internships, small group coaching sessions, marketplace visits, and job placements. As an editor with The Gospel Coalition, I check views, likes, and shares.

My friends measure their success in numbers, too. Rob, a pastor, says he feels pressure to look to conversions, tithes, budget increases, program participation rates, and attendance. Jeff, a Wall Street trader, weighs his profits against his losses. Stephanie, a stay-at-home mom, counts how many shirts she washes, bills she pays, and hours she spends playing with her kids. Bill, a golfer, looks at his scores, stats, and wins.

Goodness of Metrics

Measuring our work and setting goals is helpful. Metrics can tell us what we’re doing and if our efforts are working. Goals can keep us disciplined, focused, and motivated (Prov. 6:6–11; 21:5).

Jesus, for example, tells a parable about an investor who gives three managers different amounts of money. While he’s away, two of them invest their portions and get double returns. The third, however, is afraid and hoards his.

When the investor returns, he praises the two risk-taking managers but chastises the fearful one: “You ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest” (Matt. 25:27). He then takes the “worthless” manager’s money and gives it to another.

Jesus offers this lesson: “To everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away” (Matt. 25:29). The message is clear: we ought to be ambitious stewards of our gifts and talents.

Danger of Measuring

Measuring our work by numbers, though, can so easily go awry. First, we’re often tempted to find our worth and identity in these markers. If we get less than we hope, we think less of ourselves than we ought. If it’s more, we think more highly of ourselves than we ought.

Second, these metrics often encourage us to keep score. It’s not enough for us to have something; we want more of it than someone else has. Tom, a pastor, says: “I recently went to a church planting conference and, I kid you not, every conversation had, How many people are you running on Sunday? Every single one. Everybody is measuring themselves against everyone else.”

Third, these markers often imply the idea of bargain and demand with God. Instead of saying, “We have only done our duty” (Luke 17:10), they often suggest, “We have left everything to follow you, so what do we get?” (Matt. 19:27). We can think God owes us and, if he doesn’t pay up as we expect, we can doubt his goodness, justice, and righteousness.

Fourth, numbers focus on what’s immediate and apparent to our eyes. “A vision that sees only what can be accomplished immediately,” Mark Dever says, “artificially constricts our view of the action of God and can lead to discouraged Christians, churches, and pastors.” In other words, not all outcomes can be measured. God has a way of working slowly, quietly, organically, and non-obviously.

Finally, numbers focus on quantity, not quality. Not all products with lots of sales, articles with lots of views, or churches with lots of members are good. As Dever says to pastors, “The state of your members is more important than their numbers.” And that’s true for all of our work. Quality matters.

Freedom from Bookkeeping

The problem with measuring our work isn’t in the markers themselves, but in our heart attachments to them. As soon as we forget the principle of grace—that everything we receive is of grace (1 Chron. 29:14; 1 Cor. 4:7)—we’re tempted to overvalue the outcomes of our work.

Embracing God’s grace, though, releases us from keeping score. As D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones implores, “Do not keep on recording your work and labor. Keep your eye on him and his glory, on his love and his honor and the extension of his kingdom. . . . In effect, leave the bookkeeping to him and to his grace. Let him keep the accounts.”

After all, Lloyd-Jones continues, God is the greatest bookkeeper of all. His accountancy is “romantic” because “you never know what is going to happen”—“the last shall be first, the first last, everything upside down.” God’s bookkeeping is far more generous, and far more accurate, than our own.

Freedom for Receiving

Viewing our outcomes as gifts also releases us to enjoy them for what they are—the fruits of our labor that he chooses to make effective. As Martin Luther writes:

Make the bars and gates, and let him fasten them. Labor, and let him give the fruits. Govern, and let him give his blessing. Fight, and let him give the victory. Preach, and let him win hearts. Take a husband or a wife, and let him produce the children. Eat and drink, and let him nourish and strengthen you. And so on. In all our doings, he is to work through us, and he alone shall have the glory from it.

In other words, we can work—make sandwiches, balance budgets, preach sermons—but it is the Lord who makes our work effective. He’s the one who provides nourishment, brings profitability, and saves souls. The results are in his hands. We are called to do his will, not his work.

This perspective also releases us to receive less-than-favorable outcomes because we know that all results—not just seemingly good ones—are gifts. John Newton puts it like this: “To those who seek him, his sovereignty is exercised in a way of grace. All shall work together for good. Everything which he sends is needful; nothing can be needful which he withholds.”

Let us, therefore, work, count, invest, measure, and report. But may we find no trust or identity in it. For the principle of grace compels us to receive the results of our work as gifts. And such a perspective can empower us to endure in our work. For “the secret of the happy Christian life,” Lloyd-Jones says, “is to realize that it is all of grace and to rejoice in that fact.”

Bethany L. Jenkins is the Director of The Gospel Coalition’s Every Square Inch, the Director of Vocational & Career Development at The King’s College, and the Founder of The Park Forum. She previously worked on Wall Street and on Capitol Hill. She received her JD from Columbia Law School and attends Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, where she is a current CFW Fellow and a former Gotham Fellow through the Center for Faith & Work. You can follow her on Twitter.

by Bethany Jenkins at July 21, 2016 05:00 AM

John C. Wright's Journal

Rabid Puppies Strike Back!

I don’t have any works of my own up for a Hugo this year, but I urge all fans of non-Morlock science fiction to bestir themselves and vote.

The Evil Legion of Evil Authors has declared war on the Morlocks. Our Dark Lord, Vox Day of the Infinite Evil, helpfully posts his voting preferences.

Question: Must I vote exactly as the Dark Lord indicates?

Answer: Participation is voluntary, unless you have sold your soul and lost all capacity for free will by the painful implantation of a cybernetic brain-consumption cortex-worm (which, of course, as Grand Inquisitor, I wholly recommend).

Pre-formatted forms for soul-selling are available on sublevel 3 of the volcano island base of Darkstormhold, the office of Metaphysical Absorption and Abnegation next to the Haunted Chapel.

Merely approach the portal and speak into the Discontinuity in a loud, clear voice.

Avoid colloquial expressions, ambiguity, rhetorical questions, cant. Such things enrage the Otherlings. Use the sterilized meat cleaver if your terms require somatic payment.

Do not touch any physical objects seen to emerge from the Discontinuity! These are aportations, and qualified personnel will deal with them.

The macroscopic life forms will reply through the vocal cords of the Saracen’s Head mounted above the window.  Speak the words of the binding written in ebon on the plaque, and insert your head in the unit.

The process is painless for us, and the side effects are permanent and highly disquieting.

Or, for your convenience, you could simply vote in the Hugo Awards with the Rabid Puppies. The long term effects on this area of spacetime are the same.

For myself, I will be voting in perfect lockstep with the Dark Lord, as this is the rational response to the ghastly condition to which the Puppy Kickers brought the once-respected Hugos last year.

So, yes, I will also be voting for Chuck Tingle and My Little Ponies. His is a name worthy of what this award has become.

My second reason for so voting is that if I attempt counter-regulationary thought, the cortex-worm clamps energetically on my Lobe of Volitional Excruciation, inducing vehement spasms.

Except the semiprozine vote: there I am voting for Sci Phi Magazine. I am puzzled that Vox Day did not recommend it, and he has not publicly said why. Hmph.

Less than two weeks to vote remain, so if you’re already registered, do not fail, please, to send in your ballot.

Hugo 2016 Rabid Puppies ballot (MidAmericaCon2 )

Uprooted by Naomi Novik (Del Rey)
Seveneves: A Novel by Neal Stephenson (William Morrow)
The Cinder Spires: The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher (Roc)
No Award

Penric’s Demon by Lois McMaster Bujold (Spectrum)
Perfect State by Brandon Sanderson (Dragonsteel Entertainment)
Slow Bullets by Alastair Reynolds (Tachyon)
Binti by Nnedi Okorafor (
The Builders by Daniel Polansky (

“Obits” by Stephen King (The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, Scribner)
“What Price Humanity?” by David VanDyke (There Will Be War Volume X, Castalia House)
“Flashpoint: Titan” by Cheah Kai Wai (There Will Be War Volume X, Castalia House)
“Folding Beijing” by Hao Jingfang, trans. Ken Liu (Uncanny Magazine, Jan-Feb 2015)
No Award

“Space Raptor Butt Invasion” by Chuck Tingle (Amazon Digital Services)
“Seven Kill Tiger” by Charles Shao (There Will Be War Volume X, Castalia House)
“If You Were an Award, My Love” by Juan Tabo and S. Harris (, Jun 2015)
“Asymmetrical Warfare” by S. R. Algernon (Nature, Mar 2015)
“Cat Pictures Please” by Naomi Kritzer (Clarkesworld, January 2015)

BEST RELATED WORK (2080 ballots)
Between Light and Shadow: An Exploration of the Fiction of Gene Wolfe, 1951 to 1986 by Marc Aramini (Castalia House)
“The Story of Moira Greyland” by Moira Greyland (
“Safe Space as Rape Room” by Daniel Eness (
“The First Draft of My Appendix N Book” by Jeffro Johnson (
SJWs Always Lie: Taking Down the Thought Police by Vox Day (Castalia House)

The Sandman: Overture written by Neil Gaiman, art by J.H. Williams III (Vertigo)
No Award

The Martian screenplay by Drew Goddard, directed by Ridley Scott (Scott Free Productions; Kinberg Genre; TSG Entertainment; 20th Century Fox)
Avengers: Age of Ultron written and directed by Joss Whedon (Marvel Studios; Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)
Ex Machina written and directed by Alex Garland (Film4; DNA Films; Universal Pictures)
Mad Max: Fury Road written by George Miller, Brendan McCarthy, and Nico Lathouris, directed by George Miller (Village Roadshow Pictures; Kennedy Miller Mitchell; RatPac-Dune Entertainment; Warner Bros. Pictures)
Star Wars: The Force Awakens written by Lawrence Kasdan, J. J. Abrams, and Michael Arndt, directed by J.J. Abrams (Lucasfilm Ltd.; Bad Robot Productions; Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: “The Cutie Map” Parts 1 and 2 written by Scott Sonneborn, M.A. Larson, and Meghan McCarthy, directed by Jayson Thiessen and Jim Miller (DHX Media/Vancouver; Hasbro Studios)
Supernatural: “Just My Imagination” written by Jenny Klein, directed by Richard Speight Jr. (Kripke Enterprises; Wonderland Sound and Vision; Warner Bros. Television)
Grimm: “Headache” written by Jim Kouf and David Greenwalt, directed by Jim Kouf(Universal Television; GK Productions; Hazy Mills Productions; Open 4 Business Productions; NBCUniversal Television Distribution)
Jessica Jones: “AKA Smile” written by Scott Reynolds, Melissa Rosenberg, and Jamie King, directed by Michael Rymer (Marvel Television; ABC Studios; Tall Girls Productions;Netflix)
Doctor Who: “Heaven Sent” written by Steven Moffat, directed by Rachel Talalay (BBC Television)

Jerry Pournelle
No Award

Vox Day
Toni Weisskopf
Jim Minz
No Award

Larry Elmore
Lars Braad Andersen
Michal Karcz
Larry Rostant
Abigail Larson

(Vox Day has this as No Award. I am voting Sci Phi Magazine.)

File 770 edited by Mike Glyer
Castalia House Blog edited by Jeffro Johnson
Tangent Online edited by Dave Truesdale
Superversive SF edited by Jason Rennie

The Rageaholic, RazörFist
8-4 Play, Mark MacDonald, John Ricciardi, Hiroko Minamoto, and Justin Epperson
Cane and Rinse, Cane and Rinse
HelloGreedo, HelloGreedo
Tales to Terrify, Stephen Kilpatrick

Jeffro Johnson
Morgan Holmes
Mike Glyer
Shamus Young
Douglas Ernst

Christian Quinot
Matthew Callahan
Steve Stiles

Andy Weir *
Pierce Brown *
Sebastien de Castell *
Alyssa Wong *
Brian Niemeier


by John C Wright at July 21, 2016 12:44 AM

July 20, 2016

The iSight Camera

As announced at WWDC 2003, OS X Panther included iChat AV, an updated version of Apple’s AIM client that brought video and audio conferencing capabilities to the Mac. It was all done automatically; users didn’t even need to know if their Buddies had a microphone or camera hooked up to their computer. All that was required was a FireWire camera or USB microphone and DSL or better for video.

Steve Jobs then announced that the company had a companion product for iChat AV: the iSight Camera.

iSight Camera

Dubbed the “eyes and ears” of iChat AV, here are the specs of the iSight camera:

  • Video up to 30 fps
  • 640 x 480 resolution with 24-bit color
  • Auto-focus with F/2.8 aperture
  • Auto-exposure
  • Built-in dual-element microphone for noise suppression

The camera used a single FireWire cable for power and data.

Unlike the other FireWire cameras on the market, the iSight was designed to sit up high, off of the desk. This was to help avoid those awkward low-angle shots that make everyone look bad.

Today, of course, the iSight camera is built-in to every display Apple sales, from the MacBook to the Thunderbolt Display 27-inch iMac. That wasn’t the case in 2003, but Apple wanted the camera to be mounted as close to eye-level as possible.

To do this, the iSight came with several attachments:

  • A clear plastic clip with thumb screw to mount to the lid of notebook displays
  • A mount with an adhesive pad that would stick to the back of an iMac G4 or other flat-panel desktop display
  • An angled mount that would stick to the top of an eMac.

(A later revision would add a magnetic mount to attach to the top of the aluminum Cinema Displays.)

The camera hardware itself is just stunning. Made of aluminum, I still think it looks good today. It included an integrated lens shutter that you could twist shut with just a touch, and — just like today — had a green LED that would come on when the device was in use.

The iSight sold for $149,1 and was on the market until December 2006, by which time most new Macs all had built-in cameras.

While watching Jobs demo this for the first time, I couldn’t help but think about the first iPhone phone call or FaceTime demo. I think Jobs (and Apple) are really passionate about how people communicate. Hearing someone’s voice or seeing their face is much more intimate than passing text back and forth.

iSight Camera and 17-inch PowerBook G4

  1. Unless you were in the room for the announcement, in which case yours was free. 

by Stephen at July 20, 2016 10:50 PM

Workout: July 21, 2016

5 sets: Max unbroken set of ring muscle-ups 10 thrusters (95/65lb.) Run 400m Rest same as work.   3 rounds: 50 v-ups 2 minute plank

by Crystal at July 20, 2016 10:35 PM

Karen De Coster

JAMA Publishes Obama Health Care Propaganda as “Science”

The JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) is a second tier journal that has voluntarily launched itself into unqualified irrelevance with its latest “scholarly” medical article: United States Health Care Reform: Progress to Date and Next Steps, by Barack Obama. The LA Times calls it a “scientific study” that poses a threat to “the integrity of scientific publishing.” It is not a scientific study, at all – it is authorized political propaganda for the purpose of painting the president as competent and innovative because he presided over one of the largest government programs in the modern era. However, the writer goes on to say:

It would be difficult, if not impossible, to find another paper in any scientific journal in which a politician was allowed to subjectively analyze his own policy and declare it a success. This is a textbook definition of conflict of interest.

…One-sided commentary is perfectly fine for the campaign trail, but it has no place in a scientific journal, or in the scientific record alongside the discoveries of DNA and black holes. On the contrary, a good scientific paper devotes space to seriously considering the objections of other scientists. Failure to do so would often be grounds for rejection. Rather than ignoring or belittling opposing ideas, it is the author’s job to convince his readers that his data and ideas are superior.

I do find it odd that the writer does not take to task the fact that Obama did not write the article, cull the data for evidence, bring forth the findings, and draw a conclusion. The writer(s) of said article who wrote it with the byline “Barack Obama, JD” merely backed into all of the content based on Herr Obama’s conclusions and self-evaluation of his tenure in office presiding over a totalitarian health care system that he is trying to rescue from embarrassment and extinction.

Clearly, we have entered dark times when even second-tier science journals such as JAMA allow the executive branch to propagandize its ideology and policy in what is supposed to be a “prestigious” peer-reviewed medical journal.


by Karen De Coster at July 20, 2016 09:55 PM

John C. Wright's Journal

Superluminary Episode 10 The Madness of Tellus

Superluminary, Episode 10, THE MADNESS OF TELLUS, is posted on Patreon:

Episode 10 The Madness of Tellus

In this exciting episode, Aeneas Tell is on trial for his life! His cruel and Machiavellian uncles, aunts and mother coldly debate what punishment to levy. His crime: knowing the secrets of Lord Tellus, the missing Emperor his children overthrew!

The strange history of the family is discussed: startling revelations result! But the verdict is death!

Our Story so Far:

Episode 01 Assassin in Everest

In which Aeneas Tell, the youngest member of the Imperial family of mad scientists who rule the solar system with an iron fist, is decapitated by a high-tech vampire.

Episode 02 The World of Death

In which Aeneas Tell is flung in his pajamas onto the surface of planet Pluto.

Episode 03 The Dark Tower

In which Aeneas breaks into the forbidding and forbidden tower looming above the ices of Pluto, and finds it void of living things, but not uninhabited nor unguarded.

Episode 04 The Technology of Tyranny

In which Aeneas, paralyzed, falls facefirst into the plutonian secret it is death to glimpse: a raging singularity at the engine core of the very antique superspaceship his grandfather once used to conquer to Earth!

Episode 05 The Many Murders of the Mad Emperor

In which the helpless Aeneas delays his death sentence to sate his lonely  captor’s curiosity, and his own. Lord Pluto reveals the startling truth of their family’s bloody past. Was the Emperor a savior? Or a maniac?

Episode 06 Deathstorm

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

Episode 07 Moon of Murder

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

Episode 08 Mistress of Dreams and Delirium

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

Episode 09 The Battle in the Garden of Worlds

In which Aeneas and the Lords of Creation do battle.

by John C Wright at July 20, 2016 09:43 PM

Zondervan Academic Blog

Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus by Nabeel Qureshi Surpasses 250,000 Copies Sold

Follow-Up Book “No God but One” Releases Next Month.

We’re pleased to announce that Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity by Nabeel Qureshi has sold more than 250,000 copies since its release in February 2014. With the publication of No God but One: Allah or Jesus?, in August 2016, Qureshi continues his story and work as a leading authority on the relationship between Christianity and Islam.

seeking-allahIn Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, Qureshi describes his dramatic journey from Islam to Christianity. The book has been a consistent bestseller since its release. An expanded edition was released in April 2016 with an updated epilogue and new bonus content. A video study and a study guide are also available as of this summer. In addition to being a New York Times bestseller, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus was awarded the Christian Book Award for the categories of both “Best New Author” and “Best Non-Fiction” of 2015 by the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA).

Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus provides an intimate window into a loving Muslim home, as Qureshi shares how he developed a passion for Islam before discovering, through a good Christian friend, evidence that Jesus rose from the dead and claimed to be God. Unable to deny the arguments but not wanting to deny his family, Qureshi struggled with an inner turmoil that will challenge Christians, Muslims, and all those who are interested in the world’s greatest religions. Engaging and thought-provoking, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus tells a powerful story of the clash between Islam and Christianity in one man’s heart—and of the peace he eventually found in Jesus.

“We are delighted that Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus has sold and continues to sell so well,” comments Stan Gundry, SVP, publisher, and editor-in-chief for Zondervan. “Nabeel’s story is engaging, informative, and thought-provoking. I know of no other author whose books so effectively inform our understanding of Islam and the relationship between Islam and Christianity. He is a scholar who communicates well with ordinary readers, and he knows both religions from the inside.”

ngb1Qureshi’s newest book, No God but One: Allah or Jesus?: A Former Muslim Investigates the Evidence for Islam and Christianity, releases August 30, 2016. In the decade following his conversion from Islam, Qureshi realized that the world’s two largest religions are far more different than they appear. In this follow-up book, Qureshi carefully examines Islam and Christianity in detail, exploring areas of crucial conflict and unpacking the relevant evidence. Throughout Qureshi shares stories from his life and ministry, casts new light on current events, and explores pivotal incidents in the histories of both religions. If Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus represents the heart of Qureshi’s story, the highly-anticipated No God but One details the mind of his faith journey.

To learn more about Qureshi and his books, visit

About Nabeel Qureshi: Qureshi is the author of The New York Times bestselling and award-winning memoir Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus (2015) and Answering Jihad: A Better Way Forward (March 2016). Qureshi has lectured at more than 100 universities, including Oxford, Rice, Columbia, Dartmouth, Cornell, Johns Hopkins, and the University of Hong Kong. In addition to his two master’s degrees, Qureshi earned a medical doctorate (MD) from Eastern Virginia Medical School and is completing a PhD at Oxford University. Qureshi, his wife, Michelle, and their baby daughter divide their time between the U.S. and the U.K.

Follow Nabeel Qureshi:

by ZA Blog at July 20, 2016 09:19 PM

Front Porch Republic

Ralph Nader to Host Hometown Book Festival

The tireless consumer advocate and presidential candidate will be hosting the “Booming Winsted” book festival on July 30-31 in his hometown of Winsted, Connecticut. From the press release:

“This is the 50th anniversary year for my book, Unsafe at Any Speed, that led to improvements in the auto industry, and I thought a Festival in my home town would be a good way to celebrate the continual importance of books,” said Nader. He will be speaking and signing books at 10:00AM Saturday, July 30, including his recent book Unstoppable: The Emerging Left-Right Alliance to Dismantle the Corporate State.

At the podium at 12:30 Saturday will be Patricia Klindienst, the dynamic author of The Earth Knows My Name: Food, Culture, and Sustainability in the Gardens of Ethnic Americans – the American Book Award story of what ethnic gardens have meant to newcomers to our land.

Nader will be joined at 2:00PM by the Pulitzer Prize winning American historian Eric Foner, DeWitt Clinton Professor of History at Columbia University, who will sign his new book – Gateway to Freedom: Hidden History of the Underground Railroad – after discussing its gripping contents.

At 4:00PM, David Bollier – a world-leading scholar and advocate for the Commons – will highlight the immense property we own in common – old commons (as with the public lands and the public airwaves), and new commons (as with the product of modern technology, taxpayer-funded research and development, e.g., the Internet, intellectual property and a new awareness of how what is owned, but not controlled, by the people should benefit the people). He will present his book, Thinking Like a Commoner.

All books by Saturday’s presenting authors will be sold at the Festival at regular prices by the Hickory Stick Bookshop, based in Washington Depot, Connecticut.

At noon on Sunday, July 31, is Historian and Western Connecticut State University and Housatonic Valley Regional High School teacher Peter Vermilyea, the engaging author of the popular Hidden History of Litchfield County, who will be just out with a new historical book intriguingly titled Wicked Litchfield County.  He will talk about and autograph books.

More info here.

The post Ralph Nader to Host Hometown Book Festival appeared first on Front Porch Republic.

by J. Arthur Bloom at July 20, 2016 04:44 PM

Blog – Cal Newport

No Email, No Problem: A Workflow Engineering Case Study


An Insightful Tale 

I recently ate lunch with an executive who manages several teams at a large biomedical organization. He told me an interesting story.

Not long ago, he hired someone new to help tackle an important project. A logistical problem, however, delayed some paperwork processing for the new employee.

The result was that he spent his first week with no company email address.

In isolation, this is just a story of minor HR bungling. But what caught my attention was what happened as a result of this accidental experiment in email freedom: nothing bad.

The Workflow Engineer

The fact that the new employee had no email address had no discernible impact on his productivity. In his first week, he jumped right in and became a valuable contributor — even though he couldn’t be reached by digital means.

The secret to this surprising outcome is the mindset of the executive who made the hire. It turns out that this executive is a supporter of workflow engineering (though he wouldn’t use that term).

He rejects the conventional wisdom that the best way to manage knowledge workers is to give everyone an email address or slack id and then just rock and roll — figuring things out as they arise in an unstructured, incessant flow of messages.

He instead asks, “what’s the best way for you to get your job done?”, and is willing to experiment relentlessly to validate his intuitions.

Scrum over Email

This brings us back to the new hire without an email address. The executive managed him using a variation of the scrum project management methodology (for more on scrum, read this book or this book or this book — all three of which I devoured after hearing this story over lunch).

In more detail, the executive had the new hire externalize his obligations onto a physical board split into columns for tasks in waiting, tasks underway, and tasks completed.

Each morning, the executive holds a quick in-person meeting with the hire. They look at the board and discuss what the hire will be working on that day and what he needs to succeed. A plan is agreed upon and the hire then turns his attention to execution.

Many knowledge workers implicitly implement similar workflows using email. The tasks on their plate exist only as pointers in obtuse messages lurking in an overflowed inbox, and coordination and planning takes place throughout the day in a lazy exchange of dashed off notes and questions. This approach works well enough, but it’s exhausting, and it fragments attention, and, in general, is riddled with inefficiency.

The executive and the new hire made those implicit workflows explicit. And once they did, it was clear that in this instance email was not an optimal implementation of what needed to get done.

The Power of Workflow Engineering

My goal in this post is not to promote this particular scrum-style approach to knowledge work. It might be a good fit for some jobs but not for others. What I do want to promote is the workflow engineering mindset that generated it.

The executive in this story wasn’t content to simply accept the sugar-coated convenience of email-based management. He instead made the effort necessary to investigate the best way to complete a given knowledge work objective, and the result was a worker who, by all accounts, is exceptionally productive, and probably much less stressed than his inbox-slaved counterparts.

(Photo by barcoo)

by Study Hacks at July 20, 2016 03:13 PM

Aaron M. Renn

More Financial Flim-Flam in Chicago

"Chicago sunrise 1" by Daniel Schwen - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

“Chicago sunrise 1” by Daniel Schwen – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

We’re getting yet another small sample of the Chicago Way of Finance that has dug such a deep hole for the city.

First, Rahm Emanuel wants to take a $20 million one time gain from a transfer tax paid when the consortium that had leased the Chicago Skyway sold their interest to a new group of investors and use it to fund a property tax rebate.

Similarly, better cash management allowed the city to take in an extra $45 million in interest last year. Great job by new city treasurer Kurt Summers. Alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa wants to use the money to expand Emanuel’s proposed property tax rebate.

Chicago is a city with truly epic levels of debt and unfunded pensions, yet the first instinct of its politicians is to use cash to issue property tax rebates.

Chicago politicians have been so fearful of leveling with the taxpayer about the true cost of government there that they’ve used a non-stop series of gimmicks and one time tactics to delay and delay the bill coming due to the point that there’s a gigantic mountain of liabilities that have accrued.

Even today, the one time gimmicks just keep coming.

Bad governance and citizens who keep voting over and over for business as usual. That’s Chicago’s financial problem in a nutshell.


by Aaron M. Renn at July 20, 2016 02:50 PM

Stratechery by Ben Thompson

Dollar Shave Club and The Disruption of Everything

Probably the most important fact when it comes to analyzing Unilever’s purchase of Dollar Shave Club is the $1 billion price: in the world of consumer packaged goods (CPG) it is shockingly low. After all, only eleven years ago Procter & Gamble (P&G) bought Gillette, the market leader in shaving,1 for a staggering $57 billion.

To be sure Gillette is still dominant — the brand controls 70 percent of the global blades and razors market — but there is little question that Dollar Shave Club is a much better deal, in every sense of the word. Understanding why Dollar Shave Club was cheap means understanding why its blades are cheap, and understanding that means understanding just how precarious the position of P&G specifically and incumbents generally are in the emerging Internet economy.

The P&G Formula

No great company — and P&G is one of the greatest of all time — is built on only one competitive advantage. Rather, the seemingly unassailable profits and ceaseless growth enjoyed by P&G throughout its history — amazingly, the company basically doubled its revenue every decade from 1950 to 2010 — was driven through multiple interlocking advantages that created a whole even greater than the sum of its impressive parts.

  • Research and Development: P&G has long lived by the maxim articulated by former CEO Bob McDonald: “Promotions may win quarters, innovation wins decades.” To that end P&G has always outspent the competition when it comes to R&D: $2 billion in 2014, double Unilever, their next closest competitor, and the company employs over 1,000 Ph.D.’s and a host of ethnographic researchers. This has allowed P&G to consistently come up with new products and brand extensions and charge a premium for them.
  • Branding and Advertising: As inspiring as that McDonald quote may be, P&G also dominates advertising: in 2014 the company spent $10.1 billion in global advertising, 37% more than second-place Unilever. This is hardly a new trend: the company invented soap operas in 1933 to help hawk the cleaning products it was built on, and invented the idea of a brand manager who had a holistic view of products from research to creation to advertising to distribution.
  • Distribution and Retail: P&G’s huge collection of brands and products not only gave the company massive scale efficiencies in manufacturing, but more importantly led to a dominant position in retail. P&G built strong relationships with retailers that let them dominate finite shelf space, the scarcest resource for an industry producing relatively bulky inexpensive products.

P&G leveraged these resources in a simple formula that led to repeated success:

  • Spend significant resources on developing new products (more blades!) that can command a price premium
  • Spend even more resources on advertising the new product (mostly on TV) to create consumer awareness and demand
  • Spend yet more resources to ensure the new product is front-and-center in retail locations everywhere

In a world of scarcity this approach paid off time and again: P&G grew not only because its markets grew, but also because it continually justified price increases due to its innovations.

The Gillette Distillation

Small wonder the company was willing to pay a fortune for Gillette; “More blades for more money” was perhaps the purest distillation of P&G’s growth strategy, and Gillette opened the door to the men’s market that P&G had to that point largely ignored.

To be sure, that distillation was easy-to-mock; in 2004 The Onion famously wrote an article entitled Fuck Everything, We’re Doing Five Blades:

The market? Listen, we make the market. All we have to do is put her out there with a little jingle. It’s as easy as, “Hey, shaving with anything less than five blades is like scraping your beard off with a dull hatchet.” Or “You’ll be so smooth, I could snort lines off of your chin.” Try “Your neck is going to be so friggin’ soft, someone’s gonna walk up and tie a goddamn Cub Scout kerchief under it.”

I know what you’re thinking now: What’ll people say? Mew mew mew. Oh, no, what will people say?! Grow the fuck up. When you’re on top, people talk. That’s the price you pay for being on top. Which Gillette is, always has been, and forever shall be, Amen, five blades, sweet Jesus in heaven.

That’s exactly what had happened with the Mach 3, Gillette’s previous top-of-the-line model: Gillette increased blade and razor revenue by nearly 50% with basically no change in underlying demand, easily making back the $750 million it cost to research and develop the razor, simply through its ability to charge a premium for new technology, create awareness and demand through advertising, and capture consumers through retail shelf dominance.

Surprisingly, though, when the Onion’s satire became reality — Gillette launched the five blade Fusion with a 40% price premium in 2006, after being acquired — sales were slower than expected: many customers decided that three blades were good enough. Still, things weren’t that bad for Gillette and P&G: customers just kept buying the Mach 3. No business model worth $57 billion falls apart just because one component hits a soft spot!

The Dollar Shave Club Disruption

There was another product launch in 2006 that I’m sure no one at P&G even noticed: Amazon Web Services. Even if they did notice, I doubt the executives focused on the Fusion launch appreciated that P&G’s seemingly unassailable advantages were on the verge of declining precipitously.

AWS made it easy and cheap to start an online company; YouTube, launched a year earlier, made it cheap and easy to share video; Facebook, launched in 2004, made it possible to spread said video to millions of people. All three came together with the 2011 founding of Dollar Shave Club and its 2012 launch with one of the best introductory videos of all time:

Do watch if you haven’t — it’s really that good — but also look carefully at exactly what founder Michael Dubin is saying:

I’m Mike, founder of What is Well, for a dollar a month we send high quality razors right to your door. Yeah! A dollar! Are the blades any good? No, our blades are fucking great.

Gillette’s model and P&G’s formula generally cost a lot of money: R&D cost money, TV advertising cost money, and wholesalers and retailers had to earn a margin as well, and that’s before P&G realized the return on their investment. The result was that cartridges that cost less than a quarter to manufacture and package were sold for $4 or more. That worked as long as P&G’s other advantages in technical superiority, advertising, and distribution held, but were they ever to falter, it was eminently viable to sell cartridges for less and still make a healthy margin.

Each razor has stainless steel blades and [an] aloe vera lubricating strip and a pivot head so gentle a toddler could use it. And do you like spending $20/month on brand name razors? $19 go to Roger Federer! I’m good at tennis. And do you think your razor needs a vibrating handle, a flashlight, a back-scratcher, and ten blades? Your handsome-ass grandfather had one blade AND polio. Looking good Pop-pop!

This is a direct attack on Gillette having over-served the shaving market: P&G’s first advantage, their willingness to spend money on research and development, was neutralized because razors were already good enough.

Stop paying for shave tech you don’t need. And stop forgetting to buy your blades every month. Alejandra and I are going to ship them right to you…

AWS and Amazon itself, having both normalized e-commerce amongst consumers and incentivized the creation of fulfillment networks, made the creation of standalone e-commerce companies more viable than ever before. This meant that Dollar Shave Club, hosted on AWS servers, could neutralize P&G’s distribution advantage: on the Internet, shelf space is unlimited. More than that, an e-commerce model meant that Dollar Shave Club could not only be cheaper but also better: having your blades shipped to you automatically was a big advantage over going to the store.

That left advertising, and this is why this video is so seminal: for basically no money Dollar Shave Club reached 20 million people. Some number of those people became customers, and through responsive customer service and an ongoing focus on social media marketing, Dollar Shave Club created an army of brand ambassadors who did for free what P&G had to pay billions for on TV: tell people that their razors were worth buying for a whole lot less money than Gillette was charging.

The net result is that thanks to the Internet every P&G advantage, save inertia, was neutralized, leading to Dollar Shave Club capturing 15% of U.S. cartridge share last year.

Value Destruction

Note that metric: cartridge share. According to the traditional way of measuring marketshare Dollar Shave Club only has 5% of the U.S.; the discrepancy is due to the massive price difference between Dollar Shave Club and Gillette. And yet, the price difference is the entire point: in a world with good enough products (Dollar Shave Club imports their blades from Korean manufacture Dorco) that can be bought on zero marginal cost websites and shipped to your home directly there is no reason to charge more.

The implications of this go far beyond P&G: fewer Gillette razors also mean less TV advertising and no margin to be made for retailers, who themselves are big advertisers; this is why I argued last month that the entire TV edifice is not only threatened by services like Netflix, but also the disruption of its advertisers, of which P&G is chief.

More broadly, while razors with their huge gross margins and high replacement rate were a particularly good match for the Dollar Shave Club subscription model,2 I suspect this sort of disruption will not be a one-off: the Internet (and e-commerce) has so profoundly changed the economics of business that it is only a matter of time before other product categories are impacted, with all the second order effects that entails.

Perhaps the biggest of these second order effects is on value, and that’s where I come back to this purchase price: the tech community is celebrating the massive return for Dollar Shave Club’s investors, but $1 billion for a 16% unit share of a market dominated by a brand that cost $57 billion is startlingly small. Indeed, that’s why buying Dollar Shave Club was never an option for P&G: even if their model is superior P&G’s shareholders would never permit the abandonment of what made the company so successful for so long; a company so intently focused on growing revenue is incapable of slicing one of their most profitable lines by half or more.

For their part, Unilever is fortunate they don’t have a shaving business to protect, because being an incumbent is going to increasingly be the worst place to be. Dollar Shave Club’s motto may be “Shave Money Shave Time,” but just how many shareholders and policy makers are prepared for the shaving of value that this acquisition suggests is coming sooner rather than later?

  1. Schick is the other major CPG brand; I won’t mention them again although they face the same issues as Gillette
  2. I’ll write more about why Dollar Shaving Club wasn’t eaten by Amazon like so many other e-commerce companies in tomorrow’s Daily Update

by Ben Thompson at July 20, 2016 09:22 AM

Table Titans

The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

How Not to Ruin Your Family as a Christian Leader

Article by: Derek Brown

About 13 years ago I entered full-time vocational ministry as a youth pastor in the San Francisco Bay Area. After a seven-year seminary hiatus in Louisville, Kentucky, I returned to the Bay Area as an associate pastor two years ago. Between my tenure as a youth pastor and my current post as pastor of young adults, I met and married my wife and added two boys to my quiver. That’s why books like Ajith Fernando’s The Family Life of the Christian Leader have become important to me.

Fernando new book is simple, straightforward, and well balanced between warm encouragement and firm exhortation. He walks us through a multitude of biblical texts and principles while taking time to apply these principles with concrete example and personal illustration. Christian leaders will find a trove of seasoned wisdom on many topics including marital intimacy, a balanced home life, disciplining children, and the value of fun and traditions. 

I corresponded with Fernando to ask about the danger of self-promotion, striving for balance in life, the connection between adultery and insecurity, and more.

You begin the book by exhorting Christian leaders to put God first and to crucify self. Recently, however, some well-known Christian leaders have been removed from their ministries in part due to their bent toward self-promotion. Why is self-promotion so dangerous and tempting for the Christian leader in our age? What must he do to resist it?

Self-promotion simply doesn’t harmonize with the approach to personal progress described in the Bible. Our thinking can be so flawed when it comes to our personal ambitions that I think it’s better to be safe than sorry here. That is, it’s better to miss out on opportunities that suggest a sacrificing of principles than to pursue them because of the good they seem to promise.

We live in a media-controlled world where success is measured in terms of prominence and position. It’s so easy for us to fall into the trap of measuring our success using wrong indicators. Perhaps the two most vital things that keep us from falling into this trap are: (1) a passion to be faithful to principles no matter what the cost may be, and (2) accountability to a local church who knows our weaknesses and has the freedom to confront us when they think we’re making a mistake.

Your section on “The Balanced Life” reminded me again of the importance of pursuing obedience to Christ in every area. How can a Christian leader demonstrate to his kids a strong work ethic and commitment to the ministry while also giving them adequate time and spiritual instruction?

The key is to humbly accept that we’re learners until we die. None of us is perfectly balanced. Our children should know we’re fellow strugglers with them along the path to balance, and they should see us apologizing with genuine sorrow for not being at things they want us to be at because of our ministry. If we say things like “Don’t you realize I have God’s work to do?” we feed resentment against the ministry and against God himself in the minds of our kids. Instead, heartfelt sorrow helps heal the wounds of their disappointments with our not being with them when they wanted. This is a tiring balance to maintain—indeed, the balanced life is our cross. Being committed to family and ministry is tough, but the joy of having a happy home more than compensates for the tiredness and strain.

One of the keys to balance in my life is my wife. We discuss our children’s needs and make sure they are cared for, and when I get imbalanced she’s faithful to tell me, at which point I must take immediate remedial steps. Blessed is the servant of Christ who listens to his or her spouse!

None of us is perfectly balanced. Our children should know that we’re fellow strugglers with them along the path to balance, and they should see us apologizing with genuine sorrow for not being at things they want us to be at because of our ministry.

How do you tell the difference between a Christian leader who’s busy or even overwhelmed because of hard work and a heavy load and one who feels busy or overwhelmed because of a lack of personal discipline and solid work habits?

Let me try to answer in a slightly different way. In terms of my personality, I’m quite undisciplined. I don’t naturally take to the spiritual disciplines like prayer, Bible study, and meditating on grace. But I know that if I don’t do this I’m going to be a disastrous failure in ministry. So as one who isn’t naturally disciplined, I have to attend to these areas with utmost devotion. Even if I don’t feel like reading my Bible or praying or playing with my children, I know I must do it if I want to survive. So I decide to in obedience to God. My theology attacks my natural inclination to indiscipline.

As this is an important area, I also try to make sure I pay careful attention to what my friends and wife have to say about my lifestyle. When we’re sensitive to God, he speaks to us about our workload and acts to balance us so we don’t collapse under the strain. The key is lingering daily in the presence of God. That is what slows us down and helps us align ourselves to God’s agenda. Getting help from God as we give time to listen to him and as we listen to our friends helps us to cope with the burdens and make adjustments along the way. Indeed, those who haven’t disciplined themselves to listen to God and friends can end up letting their indiscipline destroy them.

You mention that adultery among Christian leaders is sometimes the fruit of insecurity as it relates to their vocation. How can Christian leaders guard themselves when they meet disappointment or fail to achieve their goals?

One of the most helpful things I’ve ever heard was from a friend in seminary who saw me working hard and suggested I may be driven by insecurity. That didn’t stop me from working hard, but it did make me proactively seek my security from God.

I think of Psalm 34:5: “Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed.” Ultimately God is the one who heals our insecurity or shame. And when we look to him, we’re radiant. More than anything else in our life, we must guard the privilege of receiving God’s smile on us as his beloved children.

When I tell my wife about yet another leader who has fallen sexually, she usually responds that invariably the person hasn’t been having a proper devotional time with God. While that response may seem simplistic, I think there’s a lot of truth there. We must develop an approach to life where our greatest joy is basking in the presence of God and receiving his love. Then we can cope with failures in ministry, since it doesn’t destroy the most important thing in our life—our love relationship with him.

Let me also say that our security in Christ is often mediated through friends. The affirmation of our friends often becomes the means of receiving the affirmation God wishes to give us. It’s alarming that many Christian leaders today don’t have close friends. We need to proactively pursue friendships despite the disappointments we’ve faced. This friendship helps us avoid paths controlled by our insecurity.

We must develop an approach to life where our greatest joy is basking in the presence of God and receiving his love. Then we can cope with failures in ministry because it doesn’t destroy the most important thing in our life—our love relationship with him.

If we’re open and accountable to these friends, they’ll be able to see when we’re moving along dangerous paths, like becoming vulnerable to an affair. Often in youth work, and actually in all kinds of ministry, women look to us as heroes. This admiration can be flattering and a boost to our flagging egos. We must be aware of this temptation without being naïve about our strength to handle such situations. And we must be careful that we do not cross the boundaries. I often get my wife to help women whom I long to help because of concern for them. I do so as I fear that I may cross the boundary—that my concern would gradually become impure attraction.

Your chapter on “Fun, Tradition, and the Security of Children” encouraged me to take the lead more often in cultivating joy and fun in our home. What’s one thing a Christian leader could do right now to make home more fun for the family?

Listen to your children! Their understanding of fun may be different from yours. And we need to adjust our lives and refine our tastes so that we can enjoy with them what they enjoy—so long as it’s healthy. We may need to be like cross-cultural missionaries when it comes to having fun with our children.

Derek J. Brown (PhD, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is associate pastor of college and young adults at Grace Bible Fellowship of Silicon Valley. You can visit his blog at

by Derek Brown at July 20, 2016 05:02 AM

Is Your Worship Leader Pastoring or Performing?

Article by: Timoteo Sazo

Isaac Wardell is the director for worship arts at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Charlottesville, Virginia. He has worked with a number of worship artists, helping produce worship materials for local congregations. He is the director for Bifrost Arts and currently working on developing new worship resources related to faith and vocation. Isaac and his wife, Megan, have three daughters and a son.

What do you do every day?

I write, plan, and lead music for services at a large Presbyterian church. I also produce and develop worship resources, like lessons and records, to help other congregations.

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

My work involves a lot of creating and arranging—not only to create an aesthetic effect, but also to build up God’s people. I want my music to combine the eternal truths of Scripture with the ordinary experiences of Christians in a way that’s meaningful and beautiful. Since God’s work of redemption includes the whole person, and since his Word speaks to the whole range of human experience and emotion, I hope to create liturgies and songs that are holistic, shepherding God’s people through both the joys and trials of life.

What are some common temptations for people who work in your field?

Worship leaders and church musicians can sometimes feel responsible for delivering a particular emotional experience every week. When we get in this mindset, we start measuring our work only by the 75-minute increments of our worship services (or however long our services are), and we can miss the bigger picture of how we’re forming our people over a lifetime.

We’re also tempted to see ourselves as performers more than pastors. When our work becomes performance, we start to focus on the number of people filling the pews or the amount of compliments we receive. Instead, if we see our work as pastoral, then we start asking questions like, Are these people growing in the fruit of the Spirit? and How can our worship better help that growth?

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

Music provides an opportunity to extend hospitality and build bridges with our neighbors. We aim to love and serve our neighbors by creating music that is beautiful, truth-filled, and inspiring—not just imitations of the popular music of our time with more Christian-friendly lyrics.

Worship music should not be the work of the professionals up on the stage performing for an audience. Worship is something we do together in response to the gospel—we love and serve each other by building up our faith. In worship, everyone has a gift to share. Most fundamentally, it is the Lord Jesus himself who shares himself with his people through his people. 

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

As director of Bifrost Arts, one of Isaac’s current projects is the “Faith and Vocation Songwriting” contest. Songwriters can participate by submitting a song on the topic of faith and vocation by September 1, 2016. The contest is free of cost and open to all. The winner and runner-up will receive monetary awards, and the winning song will be featured on the 2017 Bifrost Arts Worship record. Click here for more information.

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

by Timoteo Sazo at July 20, 2016 05:01 AM

Is God the Father Like My Father?

Article by: Jonathan C. Edwards

I was 25 years old before I could say the word “father” while praying. The word was foreign to me. It didn’t roll off my tongue the way it did for many of my Christian friends. It felt like a word from a foreign language. In one regard, it meant nothing. It was jibberish. But in another, it meant a world of things. Amid the cultural barriers, it still struck a nerve, because while it meant nothing, it meant everything.

It meant broken things.

Scary things.

Hurtful things.

How was I supposed to use a word that, for me, brought to mind everything a parent shouldn’t be when I was in conversation with a God whom I’d been told was everything my dad wasn’t? How was I supposed to call God by a name I hadn’t used for most of my life; a name that didn’t mean to me what I knew Scripture insisted God is?

For me to call God a father was like calling an apple an orange. They didn’t mix.

Sure, I knew God was a Father, but how was I sure he wasn’t like my father?

Fearing the Shadow

In the Bible, the family unit gives us a picture of how God relates to us, his children. We understand that God, like the father in the parable of the prodigal son, welcomes us home to be with him through the sacrifice of Christ. He desires a relationship with his children. He cares for us. We know we’re able to understand the nature and character of love because God loved us first. In Christ’s prayer in John 17, we learn that God desires us to be with him, together as a family. In this regard, our earthly fathers give us a picture, a shadow, of what God the Father is truly like.

Dads want to be with their children. They want to spend time with them, to care for them, to love them. They want their children to know how much they would risk to protect them. Dads want children to know what they’d do if they lost them. This is what dads do.

So for a child of God, it should be pretty great that God is like a dad, right?

For the fatherless, this isn’t good news. We’re fearful of the shadow God has set in place. The result? We’re frightened by God the Father, because we’re terrified of our earthly fathers. How can we come to God without fear when we’re scared to go home when Dad is there? How can we understand God’s love and faithfulness when Dad left town because he loved someone or something more than us? How can God be a mighty fortress of protection when Dad hit instead of hugged? How can God be a firm foundation of trust and assurance when Dad built in us a mountain of disappointment and insecurity?

It’s devastating that the very thing God has given to reflect his love and mercy and faithfulness is the very thing keeping many from crawling into their heavenly Father’s lap.

It’s devastating that the very thing God has given to reflect his love and mercy and faithfulness is the very thing keeping many from crawling into their heavenly Father’s lap. I’m almost 31, and this is still a daily fight. It’s a fight to trust God thinks of me differently than my dad did. It’s a fight to not assume God enjoys disciplining me more than blessing me. It’s a fight not to think God is mad at me more often than he delights in me.

Some days it feels hopelessly exhausting.

Hopeful Way Forward

What changed it all for me was a recalibration. It took a reorientation for me to move forward in trusting the Lord and calling him Father. What do I mean? Instead of looking at my dad and then back at God, I learned to look at God first. I realized if God wasn’t my first source of fatherhood, I was always going to be off-balance. If I didn’t start with God, then he would always be the replica rather than the original.

Instead of looking at my dad and then back at God, I learned to look at God first. . . . If I didn’t start with God, then he would always be the replica rather than the original.

This recalibration took turning to Scripture to fill my mind with the true nature of God instead of turning to the empty shadow first. Through his gracious Word, he showed me he delights to lavish mercy. He doesn’t stay angry. He takes my wrongs and faults and covers them in his Son. Since his grace and mercy are new each day, I don’t have to wake up tiptoeing around in his presence. I can run to him, freely and confidently. Moreover, he doesn’t hang my shortcomings over my head; he treats me with constant grace. Through Christ, he has made a way for me to know and enjoy him. He can be found. He isn’t hiding. He didn’t leave. In fact, he came looking for me to rescue me from brokenness. He hasn’t given up on me.

In the Son, I see the Father isn’t hiding. On a cross, he proved he came for me. On a cross, he proved that—unlike any shadow we’ve seen—he alone always keeps his promises and always makes good on his commitments.

Harbor Awaits You

So push into Scripture. Don’t run away. I’ve found my heavenly Father is truly unlike any dad I’ve ever known. He isn’t mad. He isn’t coming home waiting to punish me. He’s waiting to shower me with mercy and grace.

This doesn’t mean it’s easy. It’s been a scary journey. But God’s glorious fatherhood should be, and can be, the great lighthouse that draws us in from dark storms and raging seas. It brings us in from rushing waters. 

So step to the helm. Make the move. Turn the ship and go full-throttle toward the shore. Let the fatherhood of God be the beacon that draws you safely into the harbor, not the waves that keep you lost at sea.

Go home. Trust me. It’s safe. 

Editors’ note: If you’ve experienced the pain of parental divorce, are going through it now, or know someone who is/has, Jonathan’s new book, Left: The Struggle to Make Sense of Life When a Parent Leaves (Rainer Publishing, 2016), is for you. 

Jonathan C. Edwards (MDiv, ThM) is the director of curriculum for Docent Research Group, where he also serves as a lead writer. He’s the author of Left: The Struggle to Make Sense of Life When a Parent Leaves (Rainer Publishing, 2016). He and his wife, Katherine, live in Durham, North Carolina, where he is pursuing his PhD at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. You can follow him on Twitter. For more of his writing, visit

by Jonathan C. Edwards at July 20, 2016 05:00 AM

God Doesn’t Nap

Article by: Staff

“Do you think he does not care, that he has somehow forgotten you or abandoned you? That he has left you? Brothers and sisters, God does not forget us. We may sleep on God, but God never sleeps on us.” – Philip Duncanson

Text: Isaiah 40:25–31

Preached: May 15, 2016

Location: East Point Church, Atlanta, Georgia

Philip Duncanson is executive pastor of East Point Church in Atlanta, Georgia, and a regular contributor to The Front Porch. You can follow him on Twitter.

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

by Staff at July 20, 2016 04:59 AM


libinput is done

Don't panic. Of course it isn't. Stop typing that angry letter to the editor and read on. I just picked that title because it's clickbait and these days that's all that matters, right?

With the release of libinput 1.4 and the newest feature to add tablet pad mode switching, we've now finished the TODO list we had when libinput was first conceived. Let's see what we have in libinput right now:

  • keyboard support (actually quite boring)
  • touchscreen support (actually quite boring too)
  • support for mice, including middle button emulation where needed
  • support for trackballs including the ability to use them rotated and to use button-based scrolling
  • touchpad support, most notably:
    • proper multitouch support on touchpads [1]
    • two-finger scrolling and edge scrolling
    • tapping, tap-to-drag and drag-lock (all configurable)
    • pinch and swipe gestures
    • built-in palm and thumb detection
    • smart disable-while-typing without the need for an external process like syndaemon
    • more predictable touchpad behaviours because everything is based on physical units [2]
    • a proper API to allow for kinetic scrolling on a per-widget basis
  • tracksticks work with middle button scrolling and communicate with the touchpad where needed
  • tablet support, most notably:
    • each tool is a separate entity with its own capabilities
    • the pad itself is a separate entity with its own capabilities and events
    • mode switching is exported by the libinput API and should work consistently across callers
  • a way to identify if multiple kernel devices belong to the same physical device (libinput device groups)
  • a reliable test suite
  • Documentation!
The side-effect of libinput is that we are also trying to fix the rest of the stack where appropriate. Mostly this meant pushing stuff into systemd/udev so far, with the odd kernel fix as well. Specifically the udev bits means we
  • know the DPI density of a mouse
  • know whether a touchpad is internal or external
  • fix up incorrect axis ranges on absolute devices (mostly touchpads)
  • try to set the trackstick sensitivity to something sensible
  • know when the wheel click is less/more than the default 15 degrees
And of course, the whole point of libinput is that it can be used from any Wayland compositor and take away most of the effort of implementing an input stack. GNOME, KDE and enlightenment already uses libinput, and so does Canonical's Mir. And some distribution use libinput as the default driver in X through xf86-input-libinput (Fedora 22 was the first to do this). So overall libinput is already quite a success.

The hard work doesn't stop of course, there are still plenty of areas where we need to be better. And of course, new features come as HW manufacturers bring out new hardware. I already have touch arbitration on my todo list. But it's nice to wave at this big milestone as we pass it into the way to the glorious future of perfect, bug-free input. At this point, I'd like to extend my thanks to all our contributors: Andreas Pokorny, Benjamin Tissoires, Caibin Chen, Carlos Garnacho, Carlos Olmedo Escobar, David Herrmann, Derek Foreman, Eric Engestrom, Friedrich Schöller, Gilles Dartiguelongue, Hans de Goede, Jackie Huang, Jan Alexander Steffens (heftig), Jan Engelhardt, Jason Gerecke, Jasper St. Pierre, Jon A. Cruz, Jonas Ådahl, JoonCheol Park, Kristian Høgsberg, Krzysztof A. Sobiecki, Marek Chalupa, Olivier Blin, Olivier Fourdan, Peter Frühberger, Peter Hutterer, Peter Korsgaard, Stephen Chandler Paul, Thomas Hindoe Paaboel Andersen, Tomi Leppänen, U. Artie Eoff, Velimir Lisec.

Finally: libinput was started by Jonas Ådahl in late 2013, so it's already over 2.5 years old. And the git log shows we're approaching 2000 commits and a simple LOCC says over 60000 lines of code. I would also like to point out that the vast majority of commits were done by Red Hat employees, I've been working on it pretty much full-time since 2014 [3]. libinput is another example of Red Hat putting money, time and effort into the less press-worthy plumbing layers that keep our systems running. [4]

[1] Ironically, that's also the biggest cause of bugs because touchpads are terrible. synaptics still only does single-finger with a bit of icing and on bad touchpads that often papers over hardware issues. We now do that in libinput for affected hardware too.
[2] The synaptics driver uses absolute numbers, mostly based on the axis ranges for Synaptics touchpads making them unpredictable or at least different on other touchpads.
[3] Coincidentally, if you see someone suggesting that input is easy and you can "just do $foo", their assumptions may not match reality
[4] No, Red Hat did not require me to add this. I can pretty much write what I want in this blog and these opinions are my own anyway and don't necessary reflect Red Hat yadi yadi ya. The fact that I felt I had to add this footnote to counteract whatever wild conspiracy comes up next is depressing enough.

by Peter Hutterer ( at July 20, 2016 12:45 AM

July 19, 2016

Greg Mankiw's Blog

Workout: July 20, 2016

4 sets: 10 biceps curls Rest 60 seconds 4 sets: 10 reverse curls Rest 60 seconds 6 sets: Run 800m Rest same as work. Each effort should be 85-90%.

by Crystal at July 19, 2016 08:21 PM

Liftoff #25: Mission Roundup

A new episode of Liftoff is here:

This fortnight, we catch up with New Horizons, Dawn and Mars 2020.

There’s lots of fun stuff going on with spacecraft across our Solar System. Come get caught up.

My thanks to our sponsor, Luminos.

by Stephen at July 19, 2016 08:09 PM

Hacking Distributed

How the Ethereum Hard Fork Can Fail

Jumping rope

The Ethereum fork will take place in a matter of days. I recently skimmed through it, so here are the kinds of issues that I worry about with regard to the hard fork to come, as well as half-baked ideas related to the decentralized administration of the hard fork. This is a brain dump of sorts, so treat it as such. Not every potential problem turns into a real problem. I will scientifically lay everything I worry about on the table. If we can methodically prove to ourselves that they are not worth worrying about, then we are done. However, if you have a large open ETH position and cannot handle dispassionate discussion about possible problems, it's best to look elsewhere.

Ok, so let's delve into possible problems:

  • At the very highest level, the hard fork comprises the hard fork policy (which determines how people get remunerated), the client code (which implements the ethereum protocol in multiple different languages for different clients), and the refund contract (which takes over the ether balance of the old DAO, but leaves the old DAO intact).
  • The community itself determined the hard fork policy via a discussion process. I will take this as a given.
  • The intent of the hard fork policy sounds quite reasonable to me. I will regard all discussion of mechanisms in a policy document as suggestions -- the masses care about the outcome, not the means.
  • The hard fork policy leaves unaddressed the issue of what happens to the coins that are lost, abandoned or left unallocated in the trustee multisig contract. Laying out the charter of the trustees, so the expectations from them are specified down to every wei, is necessary.
  • The client code changes (geth and parity) seem very straightforward. This is one of the big advantages of a clean hard fork. The core implementation is easy to check, and the geth code I skimmed seems to have the right general shape.
  • That brings us to the new refund contract. It has three components that I want to treat separately: the refund engine, the token mechanism, and the enumeration and classification of affected child DAOs.
  • I have not looked into the code for enumerating and classifying the child DAOs at all. This work involves a modest amount of blockchain forensics, and some manual verification of tools for parsing the ethereum blockchain. I assume, based on second-hand reports of people who have checked its output, that this code works as intended.
  • The refund engine, in isolation from the token mechanism used to keep track of account balances, looks generally OK to me, but it is not written in a manner that I would consider best practice or defense in depth.

Here's the current code:

// Deployed on mainnet at 0xbf4ed7b27f1d666546e30d74d50d173d20bca754

contract DAO {
    function balanceOf(address addr) returns (uint);
    function transferFrom(address from, address to, uint balance) returns (bool);
    uint public totalSupply;

contract WithdrawDAO {
    DAO constant public mainDAO = DAO(0xbb9bc244d798123fde783fcc1c72d3bb8c189413);
    address public trustee = 0xda4a4626d3e16e094de3225a751aab7128e96526;

    function withdraw(){
        uint balance = mainDAO.balanceOf(msg.sender);

        if (!mainDAO.transferFrom(msg.sender, this, balance) || !msg.sender.send(balance))

    function trusteeWithdraw() {
        trustee.send((this.balance + mainDAO.balanceOf(this)) - mainDAO.totalSupply());

In particular, from least to worst:

  • I don't understand why the trustee address is not marked "constant". I realize that there is no code that can change the trustee address. But then why is the DAO address marked constant? Inconsistencies like this erode trust and telegraph that we have learned nothing from the DAO disaster. Document all intent and assumptions in the code, that's the right place to do it.
  • The trusteeWithdraw() function seems to be intended solely for the trustee multisig's use. So, it should have a function modifier that rejects calls unless they come from the trustee address. The lack of such modifiers is a cavalier coding practice that reminded me of the time when I sold my motorbike and bought a used car in grad school. I noticed that the air intake for the cabin was right behind the engine block, in a spot where any oil leak would turn into noxious fumes. I thought "wow, these German engineers are so good, so amazingly confident, that they purposefully put the intake in that spot, to show the world how convinced they are that the gaskets will never leak." So it was kind of funny (not) when my engine leaked oil and I ended up breathing noxious fumes until I had to give the car to a charity for the blind. Long story short, there is no room for this kind of cavalier behavior in a post-DAO world. Put the modifier there already.
  • The critical weakness of the refund engine is its dependence on the inviolability of the DAO's token management, discussed next.
  • The current implementation relies on the integrity of the old DAO's token management. I find this quite dangerous. Philosophically, if we were unrolling the hard fork solely because "a hacker took advantage of a small reentrancy bug," then it would make sense to rely on the old token accounting -- after all, the old DAO would be perfectly fine, save for one minor glitch, and we'd be fixing just that one minor glitch. But that's not true and that's not why I advocated a hard fork. In fact, this kind of case-by-case, narrow thinking is precisely what got us into trouble. I believe the hard fork is called for because the old DAO is bug-ridden at multiple levels. Consequently, my starting assumption, that we treat the entirety of the old DAO as untrustworthy, motivates a different strategy.
  • As a result, if I were devising the hard fork, I would freeze the DAO token balances at a certain block, and then build a list of refundable addresses based on the frozen balances. DAO tokens traded after the freeze point would have 0 redeemable value from the refund contract.
  • I made this suggestion to the folks working on the hard fork, but they favored the current approach instead. To be fair, the current approach is simple, requires no trust in a party who will perform the enumeration (it requires trust in the DAO token code instead, and a trustee for enumerating childDAOs, a simpler task), and permits trading of tokens until the final refund. But it is open to attacks that can manufacture DAO tokens. My suggestion does not rely on the old DAO at all, but its simplest implementation would probably rely on a trustee who will perform the enumeration.
  • I did not fight hard to get the hard fork folks adopt my approach, for three reasons: first, I do not know of an exploit that can create tokens in the main DAO and exploit this refund contract. Second, the practical form of my suggestion ends up relying on a trusted party to compute the balances -- and it is difficult to find such a party that will take on the responsibility for no compensation. Finally, if a high-profile Ethereum Dapp using basic patterns is unable to handle simple token creation and transfer, then a wakeup call is necessary anyway -- a failed hard fork would be quite dire, but survivable, maybe. Bonus reason: I do this stuff just because it's fun, in between real research. I said it once to the right people -- repeating it would stop being fun.
  • If we are going to instead push ahead with the current fork strategy that relies on The DAO's accounting of its tokens, it would be prudent to construct a proof that the token management of the current DAO is correct, and cannot be abused to issue spurious tokens.
  • There is, approximately, $115M at stake. This immediately creates a lucrative bug bounty, albeit for illegal gains: everyone has an interest in looking carefully at this code to find its flaws. Yet no one has any incentive to reveal what they find. There is no one who can offer $115M or even $11.5M to a hacker in monetary compensation. This should be quite worrying -- a bright hacker who identifies a flaw might choose to exercise the flaw and collect the cash, instead of letting people know. (Incidentally, this is true for Bitcoin as well. A coin without a substantial bug bounty is a vulnerable coin).
  • Regardless, it is possible to compete with even $115M in monetary compensation: people are generally nice and they value intangible assets much more than money. In particular, if the community commits to granting "uber-hero" status to anyone who identifies a bug in the hard fork, it might entice an idealistic person to avoid the hassle of laundering illegal gains. For instance, part of the uber-hero treatment would be an invite to Devcon2 to give a keynote. The nice thing about this is that it's almost free, and it also helps differentiate the ether community from others whose first reaction to any bug report is to deny and attack the researchers. And it's the only way of competing with a large pot of coins.
  • If the trustees do their jobs correctly, any bugs that affect the token accounting in the child DAOs ought to be inconsequential.
  • How likely is it that there are attacks against the token accounting mechanism in the main DAO? Not likely. But it's not impossible unless there is an impossibility proof.
  • Since DAO tokens are being traded right now, the attack could already have surfaced. But if I were the attacker, I'd wait to unleash the attack when the tokens are redeemable for ether, so I can extract much more cash, instead of tanking the thin DAO token market.
  • There may be bytecode/EVM-level attacks that might enable one to raid the refund contract. It seems unlikely that there exist such bugs, but there could well be some. Low level bugs would affect much more than the refund contract. But because of the implicit bug bounty in the refund contract, we might see such a bug surface now, through this hard fork episode.
  • I have written about replay attacks. Following a fork, one can interact with a smart contract on one chain, and replay it on the other chain. For instance, I can play tic-tac-toe with you to a draw on one chain, replay your moves on the other chain, change my countermoves, and win. But these attacks extract only as much money as there exists on the minority chain, and help make it die out faster. In general, there may be vulnerable contracts out there that manage pre-fork money. Talk to an expert if you're writing or you have written a contract that handles large amounts of cash on how to make it secure against replay attacks.
  • The incentive structures are lined up for people to coalesce onto the new chain, with the economic majority, fairly quickly. If all players were maximizing ether value, we'd see the minority chain wither and die quickly. However, there are a large number of people who see Ethereum as a threat to other cryptocurrencies (for entirely flawed reasons) and want it to fail. Further, some people specifically want Ethereum's hard fork to fail. These folks might well subsidize mining on the minority fork for some time. If this were to happen, sit tight and do not panic because the predictions, made for rational parties, do not hold in the presence of economically irrational players subsidized exogeneously. Use the majority chain and ignore the minority chain's hashpower until the subsidizing party gives up or runs out of cash. Some people, especially in Bitcoin-land, play up the importance of mining power, mostly because they are thoroughly confused, as seen here and also here. The moment when there are no exchanges on the minority chain, it becomes a harmless testnet. Remember that miners are worthless without economic power, which comes from exchanges.

This is a comprehensive list of my concerns about the hard fork at the moment. Remember that not every concern points out a genuine problem: distributed systems researchers are, by nature, a paranoid bunch. As long as every concern is systematically evaluated, we will be able to ferret out all bugs and ensure an orderly fork. I expect most, if not all, of my concerns to be misplaced, and I would indeed be delighted if they were.

I hope this glimpse into how a distributed systems researcher thinks about issues is received in the spirit it's intended. Note that I did something in this post I don't often do: I literally shared my fears, uncertainties and doubts. But uncertainty is precisely what drives good engineering, good system design and bug finding. And if the readers of this blog know one thing, it's this: distributed systems work only to the extent that they have a principled reason, a proof, for why they should do the things they should do. What they do on a sunny day, with the wind on their back and with nary an attacker in sight, is immaterial. I do not currently have a strong reason, a proof, to believe that this hard fork code would withstand an attacker as is, but I hope we can arrive at one before the fork.

At a higher level, I am convinced that the hard fork is the simplest path forward, that the risks are manageable, and, above all, I have full faith in the Ethereum community's ability to engage in civil, technical discussions to address potential problems. Ultimately, it is the communities that provide value to ink on paper or numbers on a ledger.

Follow Up

I circulated the draft of this post among some friends and received some feedback, for which I'm grateful. Specifically, Phil Daian and Ittay Eyal provided invaluable feedback.

Christoph Jentsch provided insightful commentary on a draft of this post, and pointed out the list of functions touched by the refund contract. Note, however, that even though the refund contract invokes only a subset of The DAO, it is implicitly reliant, through data-dependencies, on the correctness of the rest of the functions in The DAO that manipulate the data fields used in those functions. So the trusted computing base of the refund contract is substantially larger than the subset that Christoph has identified.

To my delight, Vitalik responded with a well-thought-out proof sketch for why the DAO token creation cannot be abused to generate fake DAO tokens. I'll let him chime in below with his proof sketch, if he so chooses. That responds to my call for a proof above. I still prefer my enumerated address technique, but I feel much better about the impending hard fork.

Coincidentally, a hard fork bug bounty was introduced today. And Christoph has pointed out that there is already a more general bug bounty in place. These are great developments.

by Emin Gün Sirer at July 19, 2016 06:15 PM

Connected #100: Tepid Takes

On the centennial episode of Connected, the crew covers #TicciMentee program applications, checks out Scrivener for iOS and considers iOS 10’s widgets and privacy features.

I’m super pumped to be linking to episode 100 of our podcast.

Myke, Federico and I put our first show out way back in June 2013. It had a different name then — and was on 5by5 — but ever since that first episode, making this podcast each week with two of my good friends has been a highlight in my work.

A large part of that is the amazing feedback we get from our listeners.1 Your emails, tweets, post cards and fan art are always appreciated. Thanks for tuning in each week, and here’s to many, many more episodes.

  1. If you don’t listen, go fix that. 

by Stephen at July 19, 2016 06:07 PM

Bible Reading Project

Serving Jesus (July 2016 Newsletter)

“And which of you, having a servant plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and sit down to eat’? But will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare something for my supper, and gird yourself and serve me till I have eaten and drunk, and afterward you will eat and drink’? Does he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I think not. So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.’”
Luke 17:8-10

The last month and a half have been whirlwinds of evangelism. We finished sharing the gospel on a number of new streets, started four new Discovery Bible studies, and have partnered with several other ministries to display the image and glory of God in Hamtramck. Two months ago I was knocking on doors almost every day by myself. Today I have so many Bible studies I will soon run out of time to manage them all. Two months ago I had few evangelism partners. Today, I have several young men who are eager to go out and share the gospel with me.

Ramadan came and went with a flurry of activity. In spite of the time of fasting and prayer among our Muslim friends, many were open to hearing the gospel and considering learning more about Jesus. We had kind and inviting responses from many.

H____ invited us in and gave us refreshment. He's Muslim but believes Jesus died as the sacrifice for sin. He is not sure about the resurrection or Jesus's Lordship. He was excited to study the Bible with us, and has been faithfully listening and hosting us in his home since. H____ told us his story of growing up in a war torn country, showing off the shrapnel wounds he has across his body. After hearing my testimony, he also shared his own struggle with mental illness and his pursuit of God’s mercy. H____ introduced to his neighbors and told them to read the Bible with us and he has plans to introduce us to more neighbors.

My friend Andrew S. had a dream a month ago about a specific house in Hamtramck. He felt that God wanted him to share with the people who lived in that house. I told him, “If you need a buddy, I would love to go with you!”
We went and knocked on the door and the man who greeted us immediately said, "I know you!" Two years ago I had prayed for his damaged rotator cuff and he was instantly healed (that story was in the April 2014 Newsletter…/0B4Gp5HabTdUlY0xhZWxEcE9iR…/view…). He had asked, "How can I become a Christian?" But I never saw him again after that. Two years later God reconnected us through a dream Andrew S. had. We have been back to M_____’s house multiple times since then, but haven’t yet found the best time to meet with his night shift schedule. We feel encouraged that God has given us the green light to be persistent to share His love with M_____.

In the midst of all of this I thank God that I get to be a son and a servant in his house. I am privileged to be in midst of what God is most interested in. I know that I am an unprofitable servant who has only done his duty. I know that Jesus deserves so much more. Please pray as we pursue the vision of #noplaceleft and seek to see Jesus receive all that He paid for.

 Read the rest of the July 2016 Newsletter.
 Read previous Newsletters.

by Jonathan Ammon ( at July 19, 2016 05:28 PM


Steven Sandhoff linked to this video in relation to software rot:

It’s a deep, sobering reflection on the life cycle of technology and products from Steve Jobs in 1994.

by Stephen at July 19, 2016 04:31 PM

Market Urbanism

Quantifying the effects of California zoning rules


Yet another study in a long line of others provides evidence that land-use regulations restrict housing supply. A new paper identifies a correlation between land-use regulations in California cities and the growth rate for housing units. Kip Jackson finds that California zoning rules and other land-use restrictions not only reduce the growth rate of new housing stock, but a new regulation can actually be expected to reduce the existing stock of housing by 0.2% per year. This correlation is greatest when looking only at multifamily buildings, where each new restriction results in 6% fewer apartments built annually.

Kip uses panel data on California land-use regulations from 1970-1995. Researchers sent surveys to municipal planning departments to create a dataset including both the regulations in effect in each city and the year they were enacted. The panel dataset allows Kip to use two-way fixed effects. That means that his results control both for factors that affect housing growth in all cities at a given time and for factors that affect growth in a specific city over time.

This survey data makes it possible to study both the effects of the total quantity of rules along with the effects of specific rules. Kip finds that rules that are likely to make it more difficult to build in the future lead to an increase in building permits at the time they are implemented. For example, urban growth boundaries and rules that require a supermajority council vote to approve increased residential density spur current year housing permits. This increase is likely due to developers’ belief that building permits will become more difficult to obtain the longer the new regulation is in effect. He points out that some studies that fail to find a relationship between zoning and housing supply may find this null result because of rules that change the timing of development while reducing it over the long-term. Aggregate indexes of regulation across cities, such as the Wharton Residential Land Use Regulatory Index, can’t measure the changing effect that a rule has over time.

Kip’s approach of using panel data to study the effects of land-use regulations is similar to Ed Glaeser and Bryce Ward’s study of the Boston area. They similarly find that more regulations are associated with reduced residential construction. Unsurprisingly, Glaser and Ward find that this reduced housing supply contributes to higher prices.

This new evidence adds to the extensive body of work demonstrating that land-use regulations reduce the stock of housing relative to what we would see in a free market. It’s particularly important in California, home to some of the country’s most regulated cities and the cities where land-use liberalization could have huge potential benefits in terms of allowing more people to live in high-productivity places.

by Emily Hamilton at July 19, 2016 04:28 PM

John C. Wright's Journal

Clown-Car Press

Long ago, that same fastidious instinct which makes a man unwilling to spend his idle hours in a morgue, or a sewer, or an unsanitary meat packing plant run by slave labor in China, prompted me to steer clear of all outlets of the mainstream media.

This instinct failed me this morning when, provoked by curiosity regarding the Republican National Convention, I looked up the latest news on Google.

Typing in the word ‘Trump’ and clicking the News (sic) tab had the following results:

M Trump

I scrolled and clicked, seeking out some substantial report on some matter of substance.

All the stories, in outlet after outlet, including nominally rightwing ones, concerned whether or not Mrs Trump’s speech was plagiarized from an earlier speech by Mrs. Obama. When I stepped into my car and turned on the radio even the news on the conservative stations was preoccupied by the same story.

Now, my own name has been in international newspapers only once, when the Powers That Be decided it was time to promote a uniform and uniformly false narrative, that is, a bald-faced lie, about goings on in the science fiction community. The various papers acted in perfect accord with each other, with none deviating from the message. Even the editors of Pravda never acted with such perfect message-discipline. They all uttered the same propaganda in the same way with the same tone and the same emphasis. So here.

Now, what are the issues facing the nation, during this election, which may well determine whether the Union recovers or fails? Are any of those issues addressed by the absurd clown-car of reprehensibly reptilian brain-dead and morally inert Americaphobic leftwing agitprop sockpuppets focusing the attention of the public on this egregiously insignificant nonissue?

The question answers itself. The idea that two politician’s wives would or would not say similar things in political speeches was about as fascinating to me as the discovery that beauty queens are in favor of world peace, or that valedictorians have their eyes set on the future. It is not equal in world-historical magnitude to the discovery of the Galilean satellites.

This is an issue in which no one can generate the faintest interest, on par with the estimations of Sarah Palin’s tailoring bill that so agitated the media for so much time and headline space in a news cycle of yesteryear. Even if true, who can possibly care? Even if someone cares, what vote will it sway, or what matter of public interest will it influence? None and none.

The news was slanted and corrupt when I was involved in the business: our competitors were part of the Democrat political machine, but they at least had some scruples. Compared to now, that time, a mere twenty five short years ago, was a golden age of honesty and integrity.

At the circus, one running gag is to see how many clowns can be stuffed into one tiny car, and the child clap and laugh to see one absurd, grotesque painted and smiling mime pratfall, one after another after another, out of the same small car door. So here, with the abomination  known as the American press: the grotesque smiling clowns, one after another after another, repeat precisely the same story in precisely the same way, usually, as here, a matter of no possible public interest to anyone.

Meanwhile real stories go unreported. No effort need be made to character-assassinate those who speak the truth. The wall of noise about some trivial non-story drowns out the one or two minor outlets who fail to cooperate with the uniform clowncar antics.

As a public service, and as an act of defiance against the media clowncar, I would like to draw your attention to one of the speakers the Leftwing Bologna Mill of the press would prefer you never to hear:

Are you going to let me talk?

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I offer exhibit B of the clowncarishness of our clowncar press:

And here is the way the press treats anyone who deviates from the narrative, and thinks and talks the way a normal American thinks and talks. Observe the smarmy newsman and hear the way he dares to talk to someone uncivil enough not to cooperate with the message of peace.

by John C Wright at July 19, 2016 03:41 PM

Kbase Article of the Week: PowerPC-Based Mac notebooks: Identifying the right power adapter and power cord

Learn which power adapter, power cord and plug are appropriate for each Mac notebook.

Keep in mind that size, shape, and color of replacement adapters and cords may vary. If you are trying to locate an power adapter part number for an Intel-based Mac notebook, please see this article.

by Stephen at July 19, 2016 03:00 PM


Mere Fidelity: Understanding Meritocracy

Mere FidelityOn this week’s episode of Mere Fidelity, Alastair, Andrew, and I discuss a recent article by Helen Andrews on the subject of meritocracy and the way it has replaced (and in some ways replicated) the older Aristocratic order. You should take the time to read it. It’s a fascinating piece. In any case, we take it up and discuss it more broadly and then in relation to the church. Because that’s what we do.

Hope you enjoy.

Soli Deo Gloria

by Derek Rishmawy at July 19, 2016 02:58 PM

The Finance Buff

Why Buy When You Know The Price Is Not The Lowest

A reader emailed me in the weekend after Brexit and asked me what I did and what she should do. I told her I bought more shares in an international stock index fund even though I knew the price wasn’t going to be the lowest. On the other hand, I told her she should probably just stay put.

I was right about the price not being the lowest. The market dropped some more on the following Monday. If I had waited until Monday, the same number of shares would’ve cost about $1,000 less. My buying one day too soon caused me to overpay by $1,000, just like that, when normally people would go an extra mile to save $50.

How did I know the price wasn’t going to be the lowest? Because when markets fluctuate, it’s very difficult to hit the lowest. Except by sheer luck, it’s next to impossible the price that I buy at happens to be the lowest.

Why buy then when you know the price isn’t going to be the lowest? Wouldn’t it be better to buy at a lower price? It would be if you actually buy at a lower price. It’s just that you also don’t know how much lower it’s going to go. If you waited for a lower price, and after actually seeing the lower price, you waited some more, hoping it would go lower yet, the price may turn back up and pass the original point. Your waiting would then make you come back empty handed or give up and pay a higher price than you originally would.

It’s better to make it mechanical. When it’s time to buy, just buy, even if you know the price isn’t going to be the lowest.

Stock prices made a quick turn this time. The selloff only lasted two days. Three weeks later the same number shares in that international stock index fund are worth $3,000 more.

Why then did I tell the reader to just stay put, as opposed to buying, as I did myself? Because I didn’t know what would happen. The prices could’ve gone down, and down, and down. While I would be OK with that outcome I didn’t know what the reader would feel. Most people get upset when they see their new money loses value. They actually get more upset from a small loss on new money than they are from a much larger loss on their old money (see previous post Old Money Versus New Money). I didn’t want this reader to get upset.

The market will always fluctuate. When you see a price good enough, just buy. If the market goes lower, buy again. Don’t hold off trying to swoop in at the bottom. When the bottom comes, you can’t tell, and you won’t be able to swoop in.

Refinance Your Mortgage

Mortgage rates hit new lows. I saw rates as low as 3.25% for 30-year fixed, 2.625% for 15-year fixed, with no points and low closing cost. Let banks compete for your loan. Get up to 5 offers at

Why Buy When You Know The Price Is Not The Lowest is copyrighted material from The Finance Buff. All rights reserved.

by Harry Sit at July 19, 2016 01:54 PM

Light Blue Touchpaper

PETS 2016

I am at the Privacy Enhancing Technologies Symposium (PETS 2016) in Darmstadt until Friday, and will try to liveblog some of the sessions in followups to this post. (I can’t do them all as there are some parallel sessions.)

by Ross Anderson at July 19, 2016 01:23 PM

The Art of Non-Conformity

“It Felt Impossible, Until I Did It”: One Year in South Korea

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

Lauren Meeks believes that there is immense value in learning other people’s stories. It all started with an unlikely year of teaching English in South Korea.

Here’s her story:

I’m a writer currently living in Atlanta, although I’m reluctant to call any place “home.” I spent several years abroad as a child, and over the past 7 years I’ve traveled to every continent except Antarctica (it’s on the list!) and over two dozen countries. I travel to experience new cultures and to hear new stories. I firmly believe that everyone has a story worth sharing, and I want to hear as many of them as possible.

I stumbled across my love of traveling almost by accident. I traveled some in college, but I still hadn’t been bitten by the wanderlust bug yet. I was perfectly happy to stick to the tourist trails and then go home to my safe bubble after the trip was over. But at the beginning of my senior year in college, my advisor encouraged me to apply for a Fulbright grant teaching English. Being the good little student that I was, I acquiesced. Since Fulbright only allows you to apply to the program in a single country, I had a decision to make.


“Where should I go? I’ve never been to Asia. Asia sounds fun. But Chinese is too hard to learn, so I don’t want to go there. Hey, how about South Korea!” That was about the extent of my thought process when I decided to submit my application for South Korea.

After I got my acceptance letter, I immediately regretted applying. I’d never been to Korea, didn’t speak a word of the language, had never taught English before… what had I been thinking? I cried myself to sleep every night for almost a solid month before I left for orientation. But nevertheless, I still got on that plane, and my life’s never been the same since.


Impossible, until I did it.

Figuring out how to teach 400 high school girls stretched me enormously. Learning how to live with a host family that didn’t speak my language was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Navigating southeast Asia on my solo traveling jaunts felt impossible—until I did it.

In fact, that’s how almost everything about that entire year felt: impossible until I did it. South Korea banished my fears of failure. I realized that if I could survive that year, I could survive anything.

By trying new things I heard more stories.

By being willing to open up and try new things, I learned that I actually really enjoy kimchi. I learned that chopsticks really are very effective for eating certain types of food. My willingness to learn Korean (and look foolish in the process!) led my students to give me a Korean name, an honor in one of the most culturally homogenous societies in the world. I was even able to participate in Chuseok, a traditional Korean holiday.

All of those things would never have happened if I had insisted on doing things my way, on only experiencing things that I was familiar with. But I can’t imagine my life without them now. It really is true that everyone has a story, and I am so eager to hear as many stories as I can!


Becoming part of the story.

My last day of teaching in South Korea was a very emotional one. I had bonded with all of my students, but there was one student in particular who simply couldn’t bear to let me go. She stayed with me most of the day, and as the final bell loomed closer and closer she became more and more protective. Eventually, by the end of the day, she was holding my hand for all she was worth—I simply could not get her to let go.

We were so different in almost every way. By all logic, we shouldn’t have become friends. But we did. That day has stayed with me for many years now.

For me that memory is a reminder to let people in, to not judge them by their appearance, to take the time to get to know them—to hear their story in their words. It can yield truly precious results.

Learn more about Lauren on her website, and follow her on Twitter.


by Chris Guillebeau at July 19, 2016 12:57 PM

Zondervan Academic Blog

What Does it Mean to “Believe”? Here are 5 Aspects of Christian Faith

9780310520924_image“I believe…”

That’s how one of the most important creeds of Christ’s Church begins. And it’s no surprise that it does. Because as Michael Bird explains in his new book What Christians Ought to Believe, not only is “the Christian life a story of faith: of coming to faith, of keeping the faith, and of finishing the faith.” (43) Life itself is a life of faith:

Faith, believe, trust and hope—whatever you like—these emerge from a deeply human experience full of dualities; experiences of life and loss, fidelity and failures, joy and grief, as well as trust and betrayal…The reality is that faith is an inalienable feature of human existence. (44)

What this opening salvo of our cornerstone creed is inviting those who recite it to do is “to recognize their need to know, to trust, and to belong to something beyond themselves,” because “our most basic need, one hardwired into our humanity, is to know God.” (44)

So before launching into the specific affirmations of the Apostles’ Creed, Bird explores the meaning of faith by outlining five aspects of Christian faith.

Faith as Fact

The Apostles’ Creed’s invitation to “believe” isn’t a shotgun affair. This creed calls us to faith in something specific: “the faith,” which is a vessel for facts.

“This faith consists of the assertions in the Creed about God, Jesus, and salvation. This ‘faith’ is a noun, it is the sum of ‘faith facts’ that tell us something about God’s person and work.” (45) Of course, this work of God consists of what he has specifically done in Jesus, the gospel.

Bird says, “the second-century church father Irenaeus got it right when he described the gospel ‘handed down to us in the Scriptures, to be the ground and pillar of our faith.’” (45)

Faith as Trust

Faith isn’t only a noun, a set of facts; it’s also a verb. “The biblical picture of faith is no stale affirmation of stationary facts. Rather, belief is something that is living, active, dynamic, personal, and even risky.” (46)

Hebrews 11:1 encapsulates this picture: “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” As Bird explains, “Faith is a firm conviction that what we hope for will one day happen.” (46)

He goes on, “Ultimately faith is our trusting response to God’s faithfulness.” (46) And we’re beckoned to persevere in such trust through active obedience.

Faith and Obedience

Bird believes understanding the relationship between faith and obedience is vital:

If we collapse faith into obedience, the result would not be faith but fealty and fear, a belief that we must obey certain rules and live a certain way in order to earn God’s love…Alternatively, if we cordon off faith and obedience too far, then faith becomes dislocated from faithfulness, and we run the risk that faith is nothing more than an abstract compilation of religious ideas that do not shape how we actually live. (49)

If one aspect of faith is trusting, another is staying faithful to what we’ve trusted.

Faith and Doubt

It makes sense that faith would be connected to fact, trust, and obedience. But what about to doubt? Bird says yes, insisting that doubt can be faith’s aide. “Doubt can be a sign of spiritual struggle, a means of growing into maturity, and a pathway into a stronger more resilient faith.” (53)

Yes, Jesus told Thomas to “Stop doubting and believe” (John 20:27). Bird reminds us that Jude also tells us “to be merciful to those who doubt.” (Jude 22) That’s probably because God himself is.

“It is comforting to remember that God’s faithfulness to us is greater and far more powerful than our doubts. God is there to help us in our doubt and to journey with us…” (54)

Faith and Mystery

Finally, faith means delighting in the unknown. Bird explains that, while “Christians believe that God’s mysterious purposes have been made known to them in the unveiling of Jesus Christ,” and “we know how the story is going to end: a new heaven and a new earth,” it’s also true that “there are so many uncertainties and unknowns.” (54) He lists several such uncertainties:

  • What does tomorrow hold for me?
  • What is my part in God’s design?
  • What trials will we face?
  • How will God bring us through it all?

In the face of such uncertainties, “Faith means following Jesus into the mystery of God.” (54)


“The Apostles’ Creed calls us to a rich and vibrant faith in the God who it describes…This faith, as expressed in the Apostles’ Creed, is no list of stale facts. It tells a story about God, about Jesus, about us, and about the world to come.” (55)

Journey with Bird through this story to ensure this faith is what “shapes us and molds us into the God-lovers, the Christ-followers, and the Spirit-possessors that God chose us to be.” (55)

9780310520924_imageOrder your copy of What Christians Ought to Believe today at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Christian Book.

by Jeremy Bouma at July 19, 2016 12:00 PM

Table Titans

Tales: The Mule with No Name

We were playing Ravenloft. I could tell you our classes and who we were but none of that mattered and for the sake of brevity let’s skip it. This isn’t our story. This is the story of my mule.

There we were; four adventurers, the DM, and the mule. I don’t remember what I named the mule and it…

Read more

July 19, 2016 07:00 AM

The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

Do Churches Contribute to Solving Social Problems?

Article by: Joe Carter

The Story: An increasing number of Americans say that churches and other houses of worship do not contribute to solving important social problems.

The Background: According to a recent Pew Research survey, the number of Americans who say churches contribute “some” or a “great deal” to solving important social problems has declined substantially over the past eight years. While three-quarters of Americans (75 percent) responded “some/great deal” in 2008, fewer than one in five (19 percent) now say churches contribute a “great deal,” and fewer than four in ten (38 percent) say they contribute “some.”

Almost four in ten (39 percent) say religious institutions make little to no contribution in this area, a 16-point increase since 2008.

People with no religious affiliation (atheists, agnostics, and those who say their religion is “nothing in particular”) are less likely than others to see churches as key problem-solvers in society, Pew notes. While white evangelicals remain among the most convinced that churches help solve social problems, even they have become less inclined to express this view today than in the recent past (70 percent today as opposed to 86 percent in 2008).

Why It Matters: There are two disturbing trend lines in this survey. The first is that many religious believers—including regular churchgoers—do not believe churches are having a positive influence on social problems. This is probably not all that surprising, though, in an election year when many Christians are supporting candidates that are likely to exacerbate, rather than alleviate, the current problems in our society. A period of negativity was likely inevitable given our current political and social upheaval.

But the second trend is more concerning—and could pose a threat to religious liberty. There has been no sign that churches are less charitable or engaged in their communities than they were in 2008. What has changed is the attitude and expectations many Americans have about the role of churches. No matter how many “good works” churches engage in—from feeding the homeless to ministering to sex trafficking victims—it won’t be sufficient to offset our opposition to the increasing sexual permissiveness of society. Our refusal to abandon the Biblical ethic on sexuality makes us, in the eyes of many Americans, a social problem to be solved rather than a partner in solving social problems.

Unfortunately, when it comes to religious liberty the church has relied too heavily on society recognizing the benefits we provide. For instance, churches and other religious institutions in American are almost always exempt from federal, state, and local taxes. The justification for this policy is usually that such institutions provide vital charitable benefits to society. But what happens when this argument is no longer perceived to be true?

Losing popularity is no great loss. Losing tax-exempt status, however, is a considerable loss, since it poses a direct threat to the religious liberty of churches and Christian institutions. As Chief Justice John Marshall wrote in the Supreme Court ruling in McCulloch v. Maryland (1819), “That the power to tax involves the power to destroy; that the power to destroy may defeat and render useless the power to create . . . are propositions not to be denied.” (Unfortunately, even many Christians deny this proposition and are woefully naïve about how taxation would affect—if not outright destroy—many charities and ministries.) Since we may not be able to turn the tide of public opinion, we need to make better arguments for our religious liberty. Fortunately for us, the “benefits to society” argument is not the strongest reason to support tax exemption for churches. A better reason is that we need to maintain a distinction between the state and the church.

As Richard W. Garnett and Paul J. Schierl explain, the separation of church and state is not a reason to invalidate or abandon these tax exemptions but is instead a powerful justification for retaining them:

The point of church-state “separation” is not to create a religion-free public sphere. It is, instead, to safeguard the fundamental right to religious freedom by imposing limits on the regulatory—and, yes, the taxing—powers of governments. After all, as Daniel Webster famously argued in the Supreme Court (and the great Chief Justice John Marshall agreed) the power to tax involves the power to destroy, and so we have very good reasons for exercising that power with care—especially when it comes to religious institutions.

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

by Joe Carter at July 19, 2016 05:10 AM

Why We Don’t Punish Our Kids

Article by: Sara Wallace

In 2013, 16-year-old Cooper Van Huizen was sentenced to two years in prison for stealing his father’s gun. The gun was used in a violent burglary, and the boy was held responsible for providing it. His family sobbed as he was led away to a maximum-security prison. Cold, hard justice had been served.

Switch scenes. The setting is my living room. The 4-year-old just wrecked his brother’s Lego pirate ship (with a mischievous grin, of course).

Court is in session. A brief defense is given by both parties. A decision is made, and a consequence is given.

But this is where a Christian home takes a dramatic shift from a courtroom. The boy in the court case faced punishment. My son faces something very different: discipline.

Discipline vs. Punishment 

The word “punishment” comes from the root “pun,” from which we get words like “punitive” and “penalty.” Punitive, penalty, and punishment all relate to the law and what happens when the law is broken. Punishment is retributive. It means exacting what’s deserved for the committed offense.

As incredible as it sounds, this will never happen to God’s people. Punishment is no longer part of our relationship with God. Christ absorbed every drop of punishment on the cross for us. God isn’t our Judge anymore; he’s our Father. We will never be punished for our sins.

Instead, as part of our new punishment-free relationship with God, we will be lovingly disciplined.

Though discipline and punishment may look and feel similar in many ways, they are radically different. Punishment seeks retribution; discipline seeks restoration. Punishment looks to the law; discipline looks to grace.

Now, that doesn’t mean discipline gives us a free pass from consequences. But God will only allow consequences that work for our good and his glory. Grace might still involve pain for God’s people, but it’s a purposeful pain. And the purpose of discipline is to conform us to the image of Christ. What could be better for us?

Why Discipline? 

So how does this relate to parenting? We want to be parents who discipline rather than punish. While we don’t necessarily know if our children are Christians, this is one of the most tangible ways we can point them to the hope of a Savior.

Here are two ways discipline looks different from punishment in parenting:

1. Discipline seeks a changed heart.

When the judge sentenced the 16-year-old boy, he checked him off the list and moved on to the next case. There was no follow-up between the judge and the boy. Why would there be? Justice had been served, and that’s all punishment requires.

It’s easy to punish our kids in order to check off a parental duty, but we need to make sure we’re taking time to address the heart. 

When my 4-year-old wrecked the pirate ship, punitive justice would have exacted a logical consequence: Rebuild it, and you can’t play with anything else until you do. While loving discipline might give the same consequence, it takes time to create a teachable moment. “Was what you did kind?” I asked my son. “We want to be kind to each other because Jesus is so kind to us. How can you show kindness to your brother?” When my husband and I talk to our kids, we’re careful to use words like “consequence” and “discipline” rather than “punishment.”

To be honest, this is the most exhausting part of parenting for me. There are so many times it would be easier to just be a cold, objective judge. I could dole out the consequences and go back to making dinner. But I have to remind myself that I represent God to my kids. Do they see him as a shepherd, or only as a judge?

When we take time to discipline our kids’ hearts, we pave the way for gospel hope.

2. Discipline seeks a changed relationship.

Think how strange it would have been if the judge in the courtroom had jumped up from his seat and thrown his arms around the convicted boy. Punishment doesn’t require any kind of relationship between the judge and the guilty party.

But we want relationship with our children. And true relationship with them is impossible without discipline. Discipline actually proves sonship.

The Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastens every son whom he receives. . . . For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. (Heb. 12:6–8)

As I heard one pastor express it, “There is only one thing worse for a kid than being spanked, grounded, or having the phone and computer taken away: being neglected.”

We often function as though we have two options when our kids disobey: to punish or to ignore. Discipline does neither. It peels back the layers of sinful actions in order to deal with causes and attitudes underneath. Punishment looks to the past. Discipline looks to the hope of the future, and says, “I don’t care about what you did as much as why you did it and what it means for your future if we don’t deal with it now.”

Staff, Not Gavel

Punishment is easier than discipline. We’re wired for justice, and our short tempers fuel our inner “judge.” Discipline requires patience, wisdom, and love.

The next time an offense is committed in your home, remember how your Father treats you when you sin. Address it head on, but don’t neglect the heart. Pursue relationship. Remember that you’ve been entrusted with the care-giving staff of a shepherd, not the gavel of a judge. 

Sara Wallace graduated from The Master's College, where she met her husband, Dave. They live in Idaho with their four sons. Sara stays busy homeschooling and writing about the daily effect of grace on motherhood. She is the author of The Gospel-Centered Mom Bible study and writes at

by Sara Wallace at July 19, 2016 05:03 AM

Shame the Strong or Influence the Influencers?

Article by: Ryan Troglin

How do pastors go about influencing those who influence culture, the “cultural elites” as Tim Keller calls them? Is it wrong to strategize ministry in order to reach this class of society? Doesn’t the apostle Paul, in 1 Corinthians 1:27–28, have something to say about how God uses the “weak and foolish” to shame the “strong and wise” of the world?  

Keller (TGC vice president, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, and author of Center Church) and Russell Moore (president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and author of Onward) have unique vantage points on this issue. From media moguls to presidents, they often interact with individuals who help set the course for Western culture. To help us think more carefully about this topic, Kevin DeYoung (pastor of University Reformed Church in East Lansing, Michigan) asks Keller and Moore how they prioritize the gospel in their own ministry to today’s thought- and culture-shapers. Moore helpfully unfolds a Christian vision of power, while Keller considers the need for engaging the city with gospel confidence—the very place where culture is formed. They also offer caution and encouragement for church planters strategizing to reach cultural elites.

Finally, DeYoung asks if some critiques of TGC and similar ministries might be valid: Do we focus too much on reaching the cultural elites that we ignore “the least of these”? Don’t miss how Keller and Moore respond

Ryan Troglin (MDiv, Southern Seminary) serves as an assistant editor for The Gospel Coalition and as an editorial assistant in the office of the president at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He also teaches English at Providence Classical Christian School in Northwest Arkansas. He and his wife, Stacey, are members at University Baptist Church in Fayetteville, Arkansas. 

by Ryan Troglin at July 19, 2016 05:00 AM

Workout: July 19, 2016

Bulgarian split squats 10-10-10-10-10 Rest 2 minutes between sets Floor press 10-10-10-10-10 Rest 2 minutes between sets 5 sets: Max ring support Max handstand hold Rest 60 seconds

by Crystal at July 19, 2016 12:27 AM

July 18, 2016

Aaron M. Renn

Moving Beyond Resilience

antifragile-coverAntifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder
by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

I had never read any books by Nassim Taleb of “black swan” fame until some hilarious retweets from his Twitter account caused me to start following him.

Taleb is a witty and opinionated fellow. He’s lately been hating on what he labels the “Intellectual Yet Idiot” class. Here’s a recent Facebook post of his on the topic that went viral.

What’s a IYI?

Intellectual Yet Idiot: semi-erudite bureaucrat who thinks he is an erudite; pathologizes others for doing things he doesn’t understand not realizing it is his understanding that may be limited; imparts normative ideas to others: thinks people should act according to their best interests *and* he knows their interests, particularly if they are uneducated “red necks” or English non-crisp-vowel class.

More socially: subscribes to the New Yorker; never curses on twitter; speaks of “equality of races” and “economic equality” but never went out drinking with a minority cab driver; has considered voting for Tony Blair; has attended more than 1 TEDx talks and watched more than 2 TED talks; will vote for Hillary Monsanto-Malmaison because she seems electable; has The Black Swan on his shelves but mistakes absence of evidence for evidence of absence; is member of a club to get traveling privileges; if social scientist uses statistics without knowing how they are derived; when in the UK goes to literary festivals; drinks red wine with steak (never white); used to believe that fat was harmful and has now completely reversed; takes statins because his doctor told him so; fails to understand ergodicity and when explained forgets about it soon later; doesn’t use Yiddish words; studies grammar before speaking a language; has a cousin who worked with someone who knows the Queen; has never read Frederic Dard, Michael Oakeshot, John Gray, or Joseph De Maistre; has never gotten drunk with Russians and went breaking glasses; doesn’t know the difference between Hecate and Hecuba; doesn’t know that there is no difference between “pseudointellectual” and “intellectual”; has mentioned quantum mechanics at least twice in the past 5 years; knows at any point in time what his words or actions are doing to his reputation.

But a much easier marker: doesn’t deadlift.

I think it’s fair to say Taleb would put most think tankers in the IYI class, particularly given that we lack his all important criteria of “skin in the game.”  This would include Yours Truly, who can’t remember the last time I had white wine with steak.

On the other hand, I do deadlift, so I decided to give Taleb’s corpus a try, starting with Antifragile.

Things that are fragile easily break if they are disturbed. Things that are robust or resilient are retain their integrity when disrupted. But Taleb says that there’s a third category: items that actually become stronger when disrupted or suffering volatility. As there’s no word for this in English, he coined the term “antifragile”).

Things that are antifragile have limited downside and unlimited upside, at least across some range of values. Taleb comes from the finance world and so uses the example of options. An option gives you the right, but not the obligation, to buy a stock at a particular price. So your downside is capped at what you paid for the option, but your upside is theoretically unlimited. In that environment, as price becomes more volatile and movements more extreme, that’s good for the value of your option.

Another example would be something like strength training. When you apply stress to your body in the form of lifting a weight, your body responds by getting stronger. On the other side of the distribution, you will actually get weaker and less healthy if you don’t lift.  So this is an antifragile distribution for reasonable ranges of stress, hence Taleb’s endorsement of deadlifting.

This book seems to extend his black swan idea. I haven’t read that book, but in his recapitulation in this one the concept seems to be that there are many things with “fat tail” distributions in which events that are extremely remote probabilistically can, if they occur, radically change the long run outcome. These are “black swan” events, and can’t be predicted, thus this is a risk that, unlike the odds in a casino, you can’t really calculate. All you can calculate and control is your exposure. So if you’re exposed to black swan events, not only can you get taken out, over time you almost certainly will get taken out. (This seems to have been the underlying logic of his prediction that FannieMae would go bankrupt).

Antifragile items have protection against negative black swan events while being exposed to positive ones.

This produces a number of heuristics. For example, things that are old are much more likely to be antifragile (or at least robust) than new things.  So reliance on the tried and true is the best strategy. The tried and true has already demonstrated that it is not vulnerable to black swans, at least over a significant period of time.

Obviously this is a conservative, or even reactionary stance.

Taleb seems to live it out. As he writes, “I have only written, in every line I have composed in my professional life, about things I have done, and the risks I have recommended that others take or avoid were risks I have been taking or avoiding myself. ” He uses a sort of “just eat real food”/paleo diet strategy in which he only eats things that were around a long time ago in the Levant (where is from and seems to live at least part of the time). He only drinks beverages that have been around for at least a thousand years. He came from a Greek Orthodox family, and though he gives off no sign of actual faith, he diligently follows the rituals of the Orthodox calendar, including over 200 days of fasting per year. His view is that these have stood the test of time and that alone commands respect.

The fasting schedule is directly antifragile. His view is that the body is designed to function best with variability/volatility in its nutrient intake, not consistent, even intake of food. He practices intermittent fasting (as do I), in which he eats only lunch and dinner, with 17 hours between meals. Plus all the Orthodox fasts. Wouldn’t you know it, studies show that intermittent fasting promotes autophagy (“self-eating”, or the body’s recycling of old cell components) and increases glucose sensitivity.

Taleb has other heuristics, including a preference for the small over the large; for trial and error vs. traditional notions of academia, planning, etc.; and an opposition to debt. In his view, large entities like corporations (or nation states) are able to achieve small immediate gains (via mechanisms such as economies of scale), but at the price of being exposed to black swan events.

In addition to default fragility of larger entities, they are even worse because they are able to create antifragility for themselves at the expense of others. For example, the finance industry, from its own perspective, is antifragile because it limited its downside exposure via government bailouts (e.g., you and me). Taleb quips, “If every plane crash makes the next one less likely, every bank crash makes the next one more likely.”

The CEOs of large companies also are able to pocket huge upside from their action in the form of bonus checks and stock, while limiting their downside to getting fired (with none of the earnings they pulled in through their highly risky actions clawed back).  The same seems to apply to politicians. This is the “agency problem” is and is what he means by a lack of skin in the game.

These heuristics are clearly applicable to urban planning and cities.

As it happens, while I was reading Antifragile the web site Strong Towns commissioned a series of writers to pen responses to the book.  I haven’t yet read all of these, but you can check out the entire series for their take.

To me Taleb’s heuristics would suggest a preference for things like:

  • City-states and Swiss-style confederations (vs. nation-states) – “the centralized nation-state is on the far left of the Triad, squarely in the fragile category, and a decentralized system of city-states on the far right, in the antifragile one.”
  • Longstanding pedestrian oriented urban design
  • Bottoms-up small scale urban initiatives vs. top-down planning and large-scale redevelopment schemes
  • Limited to no debt (or other liabilities) – “The world as a whole has never been richer, and it has never been more heavily in debt, living off borrowed money. The record shows that, for society, the richer we become, the harder it gets to live within our means. Abundance is harder for us to handle than scarcity.”
  • No genetically engineered crops (Taleb is in fact militantly opposed to GMOs)

Taleb loves entrepreneurs who are all in at risk in the venture:

In order to progress, modern society should be treating ruined entrepreneurs in the same way we honor dead soldiers, perhaps not with as much honor, but using exactly the same logic (the entrepreneur is still alive, though perhaps morally broken and socially stigmatized, particularly if he lives in Japan). For there is no such thing as a failed soldier, dead or alive (unless he acted in a cowardly manner)—likewise, there is no such thing as a failed entrepreneur or failed scientific researcher, any more than there is a successful babbler, philosophaster, commentator, consultant, lobbyist, or business school professor who does not take personal risks. (Sorry.)

He’s also especially enamored of the paradigm of the flâneur:

The rational flâneur is someone who, unlike a tourist, makes a decision at every step to revise his schedule, so he can imbibe things based on new information, what Nero [a Taleb character, not the Roman emperor] was trying to practice in his travels, often guided by his sense of smell. The flâneur is not a prisoner of a plan. Tourism, actual or figurative, is imbued with the teleological illusion; it assumes completeness of vision and gets one locked into a hard-to-revise program, while the flâneur continuously—and, what is crucial, rationally—modifies his targets as he acquires information.

In terms of the personal, I always like to think about how I might apply concepts like this to my own life.  I already roughly mirror Taleb’s diet and exercise plan, which is the most straightforward to implement.

Taleb suggests applying a “barbell” strategy to things like career. On the one end, you want to derisk your main gig as much as possible. On the other, you want to take many small, risky bets. He says one should especially avoid exposure to reputational risks:

Some jobs and professions are fragile to reputational harm, something that in the age of the Internet cannot possibly be controlled—these jobs aren’t worth having. You do not want to “control” your reputation; you won’t be able to do it by controlling information flow. Instead, focus on altering your exposure, say, by putting yourself in a position impervious to reputational damage. Or even put yourself in a situation to benefit from the antifragility of information. In that sense, a writer is antifragile, but we will see later most modernistic professions are usually not.

A midlevel bank employee with a mortgage would be fragile to the extreme. In fact he would be completely a prisoner of the value system that invites him to be corrupt to the core—because of his dependence on the annual vacation in Barbados. The same with a civil servant in Washington. Take this easy-to-use heuristic (which is, to repeat the definition, a simple compressed rule of thumb) to detect the independence and robustness of someone’s reputation. With few exceptions, those who dress outrageously are robust or even antifragile in reputation; those clean-shaven types who dress in suits and ties are fragile to information about them.

His paradigm is the writer who has limited his downside. Taleb has this by virtue of the millions he made in finance. Because his downside is capped at merely having to enjoy his cash pile, he’s free to run his mouth all day long and profit from the “no such thing as bad publicity” effect. He also suggests doing things like getting a government sinecure (unfireable) to limit the downside for writers. Other professions that benefit from antifragile effects are things like taxi/Uber driver and prostitute. But what if you aren’t rich and don’t want to be a bureaucrat or a hooker?

Even if you don’t have an immediate to-do for yourself coming out of this, Antifragile is a provocative and ofttimes witty (if overly long) book. It’s definitely a good one if you’re looking for something to challenge your assumptions and make you think.  I didn’t even give half of a precis of the material it contains.

by Aaron M. Renn at July 18, 2016 07:11 PM

John C. Wright's Journal

CLFA Book Bomb Today and Tomorrow

Conservative Libertarian Fiction Alliance
Book Bomb

 “The Conservative Libertarian Fiction Alliance is happy to announce that we will now be featuring book bombs, where we focus attention on lesser-known fiction authors who deserve to be better known.
“For the next two days (Monday, July 18 and Tuesday, July 19), please consider purchasing one or more of the books on this list.
“If your friend asks for a good book recommendation, send him a link to this page.
“If you think pop culture should better represent the voices of conservatives and libertarians, please help spread the word.”
Yes, I’m on the list.

The folks over at CLFA (Conservative Libertarian Fiction Alliance) have their first ever book bomb going today for 20 books.

This list includes books by myself, my talented and beautiful wife, and SuperversiveSF’s own Ben Zwycky!

Books marked with an * were finalists in the CLFA Book of the Year contest (which was won by Larry Correia’s Son of the Black Sword.)

You can find the list here.

Here are some choices:

1. Iron Chamber of Memory, by John C. Wright
“On an island time has forgotten, a man remembers a lost love, a lost soul, and an eternal evil.”

2.The Unexpected Enlightenment of Rachel Griffin, by L. Jagi Lamplighter Wright
“Fringe meets Narnia at Hogwarts”

3. The Notice by Daniella Bova

4. Honor at Stake by Declan Finn
“One’s a bloodthirsty monster, the other is a vampire. Welcome to New York City, where Vampires Burn.”

5. Chasing Freedom, by Marina Fontaine
“Geeks and outcasts fight an oppressive regime in near-future America.”

6. Her Brother’s Keeper by Michael Kupari

7. By the Hands of Men, Book One: The Old World by Roy Madison Griffis

8. The Gods Defense (Laws of Magic Book 1) by Amie Gibbons
“In a world where the gods and magic have returned, enforcing justice just got a lot more hazardous!”

9. Portals of Infinity: Kaiju by John Van Stry

10. Beyond the Mist (The Chara Series Book 1) by Ben Zwycky

11. Echo of the High Kings by Jacob Spriggs
“In a world of vengeful spirits and dark gods, a handful stand against the darkness.”

12. On Different Strings: A Musical Romance, by Nitay Arbel
“Penniless Texan guitar goddess teaches British engineering professor. Hearts start beating in harmony. The world has other ideas.”

13. Fight for Liberty, by Theresa Linden

14. Van Ripplewink: You Can’t Go Home Again, by Paul Clayton

15. Amy Lynn: Lady of Castle Dunn, by Jack July

16. The Worst President in History: The Legacy of Barack Obama, Matt Margolis

17. The Devil’s Dictum by Frederick Heimbach

18. The Good Fight, by Justin Justin T Robinson

19. The Violet Crow by Michael Sheldon

by John C Wright at July 18, 2016 06:31 PM

Apple Music Customers Getting iTunes Match with Audio Fingerprinting

Jim Dalrymple with good news for Apple Music users:

Apple has been quietly rolling out iTunes Match audio fingerprint to all Apple Music subscribers. Previously Apple was using a less accurate metadata version of iTunes Match on Apple Music, which wouldn’t always match the correct version of a particular song. We’ve all seen the stories of a live version of a song being replaced by a studio version, etc.

Using iTunes Match with audio fingerprint, those problems should be a thing of the past.

In addition to this, iTunes Match is now part of Apple Music. Pay for the latter and you get the former for free.

I’d love to hear why Apple didn’t do this when Apple Music first rolled out. Hopefully the days of people having their metadata nuked from on high are behind us.

by Stephen at July 18, 2016 06:26 PM

OS X El Capitan 10.11.6 Released

In what will probably be the last build of El Capitan:

This update:

  • Resolves an issue that may prevent settings from being saved in accounts with parental controls enabled.
  • Resolves an issue that prevented some network devices, such as speakers and multifunction printers, from accessing SMB share points.

by Stephen at July 18, 2016 05:31 PM

The New Glif

My friends Tom and Dan have made something awesome yet again:

The landscape for smartphone photography has changed dramatically since we launched the original Glif in 2010. With each successive smartphone, the camera is getting more and more incredible. The smartphone has become a legitimate tool, for photographers, filmmakers, and mobile journalists. So our goal is simple: to create the best tripod mount for smartphones, period. To do that, we are focusing on three areas.


by Stephen at July 18, 2016 03:48 PM

sacha chua :: living an awesome life

2016-07-18 Emacs News

by Sacha Chua at July 18, 2016 03:43 PM


Learning to Walk Down the Aisle With Christ

wedding rehearsal.pngThis last week, I had a piece published in The Local Church (a recent sub-branch of Christianity Today). It’s about the Lord’s Supper. I have to say that I loved writing this piece. Kind of a different one for me. This is one of my favorite chunks:

Learning to Walk Down the Aisle

The night before my wedding, I learned that my natural gait isn’t “wedding processional speed.” Over the years, I have developed my own ways of walking. Typically I set a brisk pace and dodge and weave in and out of crowds.

This, apparently, is not the way you walk up the aisle with your bride.

The same holds true about the way you walk forward to receive the bread and the wine. There is a rhythm to feasting with the body. You have to remember, week by week, that you can only walk as quickly as the server is handing out the elements—or as slow your sister in front of you, whether young or old, can make it.

Receiving the bread and wine reminds you that if you’re always used to walking at your own pace, insisting on getting there in your own time and in your own way, you’ll ruin the rhythms of grace.

The Lord’s Supper trains us to step in such a way as to be receptive to the life he desires to give us. It’s one of the ways that God teaches us to “not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (Rom. 8:4). God’s gifts come to us as he deems it fit to give them—at his own pace, in his own time. We learn this by participating in the Lord’s Supper.

You can read the rest of the article as well as a number of other excellent pieces on the theme of “Feast” by clicking here.

Soli Deo Gloria


by Derek Rishmawy at July 18, 2016 02:57 PM

Zondervan Academic Blog

Mounce Archive 28 — Biblical Greek and Holy Week

For today’s Mondays with Mounce post, we decided to select a few classic posts from the archives of Bill Mounce’s weekly column on biblical greek. They touch on three subject areas that impact how we view and understand the events that transpired during Holy Week:

  • Translating “δια” in relation to Christ’s death;
  • Whether Jesus hung on a “tree” or a “pole;”
  • Paul’s use of “καί” for Christ’s resurrection and suffering.

Enjoy the excerpts below and continue reading the original posts to be enlightened and encouraged this Holy Week by engaging the original biblical greek.

Rom 4:25—Christ’s Death and Our Justification

Speaking of Jesus, Paul says he “was delivered up for (δια) our trespasses and raised for (δια) our justification.” What does δια mean? Does it have to mean the same thing in both places? Should it necessarily be translated the same way in both places?

The second question is a little easier to answer: it depends on your translation philosophy. There obviously is a strong play on words going on; the two halves of the verse are strongly parallel. The rhetorical value of translating δια the same way is strong, even if it doesn’t have the same exact meaning in both phrases. Even the TNIV, with its strong emphasis on translating meaning, keeps the same translation for both halves: “for our sins … for our justification.”

But the first question is harder. Some scholars argue that this is a pre-Pauline hymn being quoted — but I have never been impressed with this type of argument. It seems that whenever Paul states something in a parallel structure, the argument is made that he must be quoting something, as if Paul were not able to write with rhetorical force.

(Continue reading…)

Did Jesus Hang on a Pole? (Gal 3:13)

Gal 3:13 in the NIV reads, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.’” The use of “pole” is, shall we say, unexpected since we know the shape of the cross. Since there are always reasons for a translation, you have to ask yourself why the NIV did this. How could Jesus have been hung on a pole when the wounds in his hands require a cross?

The other translations use “tree” (NASB [footnotes it could also be “cross”], ESV, HCSB, NRSV, NET, NLT, KJV)…

Paul is referring to Deut 21:23: “you must not leave the body hanging on the pole overnight. Be sure to bury it that same day, because anyone who is hung on a pole is under God’s curse.” The Hebrew עֵץ is defined by HALOT as “tree,” and all translations use “tree” except for the NIV. But executed criminals were generally impaled on a pole, which explains the NIV translation. By saying “hung on a tree” it creates an image that most assuredly is incorrect.

(Continue reading…)

Epexegetical καί and the Power of God in Pain (Phil 3:10)

If the καί is epexegetical, then Fee’s arrangement of v 10 is accurate, which he sees in a A B B’ A’ construction:

so that I may know him

A     both the power of his resurrection

B         and participation in his sufferings

B’        being conformed to his death

A’    if somehow I might attain the resurrection from the dead

Here’s the point. Paul wasn’t a masochist; he did’t enjoy pain. However, he was completely and totally convinced that the very power that raised Christ from the dead (A) was the present guarantee of his own future resurrection (A’). Therefore, because he was so convinced of the powerful working of the Holy Spirit, it enabled him to view suffering, both his and the Philippians’, as the means of intimately knowing Christ. It is within the midst of pain and suffering for Christ that Paul truly experiences God — intimately, personally, as family.

(Continue reading…)


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 July 18, 2016 02:21 PM

Daniel Lemire's blog

Augmented reality becomes mainstream

My go-to reference lately about the near future has been the 2006 novel Rainbows End by Vernor Vinge. The novel is set in 2025 and the author depicts a world where augmented reality is ubiquitous. Kids still go to school, but instead of presenting the working of a turbine using a PowerPoint deck, you can make a working turbine appear out of thin air in the classroom.

Augmented reality is the addition of a layer to the world using computing. One powerful and ubiquitous tool provided by modern computing is GPS: many of your devices can tell where they are on the planet within a few meters (and sometimes better). It has been used for gaming for many years. For example, I have played geocaching, Munzee, Ingress… and yesterday I played Pokémon Go.

Pokémon Go differs from the previous GPS-based games because of its massive popularity. Though the game has been released for barely a week, journalists estimate that it has 10 million users worldwide.

Some will object that Pokémon Go is not “really” an augmented reality game. Indeed, though it projects a small animal onto the image of your smartphone camera to give you the illusion that the animal is right there… the underlying software is not based on computational vision. It would simply not be possible in 2016… but all that matters to the player is that it “works”, it is convincing.

In comparison, I have put on Microsoft’s Hololens headset… It is considered to be “true” augmented reality in the sense that it realistically projects objects on top of your normal view… you can tilt your head and the object stays put. But playing Pokémon Go with Microsoft’s Hololens would be a miserable experience. For one thing, nobody would want to walk around in the street with a bulky headset. And it is debatable whether the Hololens projections feel more real than a Pokémon in Pokémon Go.

I don’t know how long Pokémon Go will thrive. Will it still be around in a year? Who knows? What really matters is that millions of people have now experienced the taste of augmented reality. There is no turning back.

The race is on to produce more convincing augmented reality hardware and software.

And this puts us right on track for the future described by Rainbows End.

Why does it matter? In the long run, augmented reality represents another pathway to extend human abilities.

by Daniel Lemire at July 18, 2016 02:12 PM


Q2 Android WebView statistics

Once more Scientia Mobile sent me their Android WebView stats over the first quarter. I edited them slightly and put them online.

All in all Google’s promise that they’d make sure the WebViews are up-to-date is being kept; well over 60% of the phones run the latest Chromium WebView (which went from 49 in April to 51 in June).

11% of users are still on Android WebKit; the rest is on vendor-created WebViews ranging from Chromium 18 to well into the forties. (To be honest, I’m not quite sure if the users of 40-48 are on an old Google-approved WebView or a new vendor-created one. It doesn’t matter a lot; they’re below 10% combined.)

Samsung’s market share is fluctuating around 55-57%; the rest of the Top Five is LG, Sony, Motorola, and HTC. This is partly due to Scientia Mobile’s focus on the western developed world; no doubt the stats for China or India look quite different.

Xiaomi and Kyocera devices are least likely to have a Google WebView; both have 38% Chromium 51 in June, with the rest spread out over older versions. Xiaomi even has 17% 42 and 14% 46.

Still, no surprises in this batch of data. Let’s continue to monitor the market.

by ppk ( at July 18, 2016 10:54 AM

Table Titans

Tales: WIZARD!

It was our first adventure together, our party consisting of a Half-Orc Barbarian whose strength was oddly proportional to her charisma; a plucky Rogue who was only in it for the loot; a stereotypical Ranger who worshipped Pelor and all things happy and sunny; and myself, a Cleric of Pelor who…

Read more

July 18, 2016 07:00 AM

The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

The Recent Turkish Coup: What It Means and How to Pray

Article by: Greg Turner

You’re likely aware of the attempted coup carried out by a faction of the Turkish military against its government. #TurkeyCoupAttempt trended on social media as the world witnessed the event in real time; images and videos flooded the internet, broadcasting the deadly explosions, bloody skirmishes, mass arrests, and military personnel in tanks as they drove through the streets of Ankara and Istanbul. Scores of people died, and more than 1,000 were injured. But by the following morning, the government had largely reestablished control.

For people outside of Turkey, the most pressing questions are simple: How did this even happen, and what does it mean? Answering them requires a basic understanding of Turkish political and religious history, so let’s take a quick look back.

Brief Turkish History

The modern Turkish Republic was established at the end of World War I from the Turkish core of the old Ottoman Empire. Despite its overwhelmingly Muslim population, Turkey was founded as a Western-oriented secular republic by its first lead leader, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. This particular brand of secularism, however, didn’t require the separation of mosque and state, but rather state ownership and control of the mosque. To this day (and shockingly to most Americans), mosque leadership is employed by the same branch of the government that controls the country’s religious education.

The government controls religion, but religion is not meant to influence the government at all. The Turkish Army maintains that balance, having historically intervened when military leaders determined the government was moving too far in an Islamic direction. However, the current government, headed by the AK Party since 2002, is perceived as pro-Islamic.

Current Political Climate

Long-time AKP Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan (pronounced Re-jep Tay-yip Er-do-wan) was elected president in 2014, and many Turks believe the AK Party and President Erdogan have become worryingly authoritarian and are leading the country toward becoming decidedly Islamic.

How did it happen? The coup this weekend is simply the latest episode in the long-standing contest between the old secular establishment and the new political force of the AK Party. It is a clash between secularism—embodied and enforced by the military—and the Islamic and Ottoman heritage of Turkey—embodied by the AKP.

What Does It All Mean?

The question about what it all means is a bit more complicated. The coup, though unsuccessful, could be profoundly influential for Turkish politics. Since the republic was founded, military interventions have always succeeded in maintaining the secular nature of the country.

The failure of this one, however, rewrites the Turkish political equation and thus leaves President Erdogan and his party—who have been trying to change the constitution to increase their power—more powerful than ever before. Erdogan’s success in putting down this coup will only enhance his political clout, and it removes the greatest threat to his agenda. Turkish democracy will simply not look the same after this weekend.

How It Relates to the Gospel’s Advance

As for its effect on the advance of the gospel in Turkey, honestly, no one knows for sure. Freedom of religion is guaranteed in Turkey; overt missionary work, however, isn’t allowed, and the country remains 99 percent Muslim. Even though many urban Turks are fairly secular in outlook, Islam is foundational to Turkish identity. In the same way that being American has historically equated with being Christian, for most Turks, being Turkish means being Muslim. Leaving Islam is, in their view, tantamount to committing cultural treason. They believe it’s better to be a nominal, non-practicing Muslim than to identify with any other religion.

What’s more, their history demands this posture. For centuries, the Turks were the vanguard of the Islamic advance into a Christian world they regarded as religiously corrupt. In fact, for many Turks, Christianity is still considered an old and discredited enemy.

In the late Ottoman period, Christian missionaries were allowed into Turkey to work with ancient Christian churches that remained in the Middle East. Over time, the missionaries began reporting news related to the treatment of the Christian minorities there. These reports were then used as a pretext for European intervention in Ottoman affairs. Suddenly, missionaries came to be seen as spies in the service of Western imperialism. Unfortunately, that impression remains to this day.

Because the factors inhibiting the spread of the gospel in Turkey are as much cultural and historical as they are political, this coup attempt is unlikely to make much of a difference in that regard. However, given that Turkey doesn’t grant missionary visas, gospel access to the Turkish people is tied to Turkey’s openness to the outside world, which would almost certainly change with a move away from secularism and toward Islamic rule. Only time will tell if that shift will occur in the days ahead.

How to Pray

With this foundational understanding in view, how then should Christians in the rest of the world pray for Turkey? Here are several suggestions:

  • Pray that peace would be restored quickly, all sides would exercise restraint in their responses, and that no one else would be killed or injured.
  • Pray that President Erdogan would govern justly and wisely, especially as he leads his country through this time of crisis.
  • Pray for the injured and for the families of those who have died. Pray that the gospel would reach them in their time of distress, and that God would break down the barriers that stand against his good news.
  • Pray for the small but faithful Turkish Protestant church, that its witness would be vibrant and effective in these days of uncertainty.
  • Pray that God would give world leaders wisdom as they interact with the Turkish government in the days ahead.
  • Pray most of all that God would use this event to show the Turkish people their need for a Savior, and that he would open their hearts to embrace the gospel. 

Greg Turner is a worker in Central Asia with extensive experience in the region.

by Greg Turner at July 18, 2016 05:03 AM

How American Corporations Shaped Conservative Christianity

Article by: David A. Bosch

Christians have been involved in the marketplace for as long as Christians and markets have existed. The Blessings of Business: How Corporations Shaped Conservative Christianity by Darren Grem catalogues how Christian men not only have been involved in business, but also shaped 20th-century conservative Christianity in the United States.

The inside front cover of the book features Jesus’s admonition that one cannot serve both God and money (Matt. 6:24; Luke 16:13). Yet Grem—who serves as assistant professor of history and Southern studies at the University of Mississippi—contends that American Protestants have been trying to prove otherwise. 

Built on Money and Power 

Part one (chs. 1–3) catalogues the influence of businessmen in providing financial backing and business acumen to the publication and distribution of The Fundamentals, as well as much of the early funding for Moody Bible Institute and Westminster Theological Seminary. Much of the rest of these chapters deal with how other Protestant businessmen helped fund multiple organizations during this period—Christian Business Men’s Club International, Biola University, Campus Crusade for Christ, Young Life, InterVarsity, Youth for Christ, Fuller Seminary, Billy Graham Crusades and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, Christianity Today, The Navigators, Wycliffe Bible Translators, and more.

It’s encouraging to read of the effect these Christian businessmen had and continue to have through the creation of longstanding, influential, and recognizable evangelical institutions. This is one of the positive aspects of the book.

Part two (chs. 4–6) describes how Chick-fil-A, Tropicana, Holiday Inn, Days Inn, ServiceMaster, and a myriad of small businesses were involved in a “new” phenomenon of Christians owning and managing small businesses. Thus, according to Grem, Christianity became linked to consumerism and corporatism, where being “born again” meant being born again by consuming evangelical goods.

The remainder of this section details quite well the rise of TV evangelism, the kitschy culture of Heritage USA’s theme park, the rise of the Christian book and music publishing industries, as well as Zig Ziglar’s “free market revivals” of positivism and self-esteem. Grem concludes with examples of how evangelicals forayed into the political sphere with Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority, the election of Ronald Reagan, the Christian Coalition, and James Dobson’s Family Research Council. Grem concludes by contending that evangelicalism’s future depends on what got it to its current place in society: money and power.

Words of Warning

The Blessings of Business helpfully brings to the fore influential Christian businessmen whom evangelicals have either forgotten or never known. But readers must make note of three things prior to engaging Grem’s arguments.

First, one of Grem’s criticisms throughout the book is that many of the men were fundamentalists, often used in a pejorative sense. One aspect of fundamentalism is a dualistic worldview, a separation of the sacred from the secular, where the sacred should retreat with a fortress mentality from the secular forces that swirl around. Ironically, Grem often writes from this same dualistic perspective. He isn’t just providing a history of these leaders’ influence; he’s criticizing them for their money, power, and stature, and for using it outside the sphere of the church in order to effect change in society and culture.

Related, Grem criticizes fundamentalist Christians who long for the “mythical” era of the 1950s with its white enclaves, Main Street-like scenes from Andy Griffith; a time when traditional family values of heteronormative sexuality, Christianity, and patriotism were woven into an idyllic Norman Rockwell painting. Yet Grem again falls prey to his own criticism. It’s apparent he longs for an alternatively mythical time when Christians weren’t engaged in enterprise, or engaged in the culture and society around them.

Second, Grem often makes claims without citing any source. For example, in multiple chapters one reads about what he calls the “divine contract” (35). He explains: “If one could take heart in the rock-solid convictions of fundamentalism . . . then one could expect blessings now, because the contract was already signed.” Reneging on the contract by the individual resulted in eternal damnation. Yet there’s a lack of support in the paragraphs covering the Divine Contract concept. Later, Grem states that Chick-fil-A founder Truett Cathy “affirmed the long-standing evangelical theology of the divine contract; he expected immediate and guaranteed rewards for faithful service” (121). 

Again, there’s no citation for where Cathy said this, or where this was part of “long-standing evangelical theology.” Grem does likewise throughout the book. He also claims businessmen’s usage of the word “liberty” was code for anti-liberalism in theology and politics (72). Similarly, “discretion” is understood as “discrimination” (90). Grem doesn’t successfully provide resources to substantiate these claims, however. He additionally argues Wycliffe Bible Translators was not only religious, but also wanted the “Bible-less” to “affirm an American way of life grounded in faith and capitalism” (101). Without establishing the source for this claim and others, we’re left with the raw material of speculation, which, at worst, makes Grem’s arguments appear as nothing more than ideological assertions. 

Finally, Grem says the general American consumer has unknowingly funded tax-exempt and/or tax deductible evangelical causes through everyday purchases of chicken sandwiches or car batteries. But Grem fails to recognize this is normal and not conspiratorial. Many evangelicals unknowingly fund tax-exempt and tax-deductible liberal causes, as multiple corporations give to Planned Parenthood, the Sierra Club, and The Clinton Global Initiative. It’s also unclear if Grem would prefer the forces of supply and demand, or government policy, be changed to eliminate these corporate dollars flowing to evangelical causes. His silence and one-sided presentation of money’s origin and destination comes across as disingenuous.

A helpful follow-up research project for Grem and others would be to explore how corporations, their foundations, and big-time college sports (often through corporations) influence higher education—the industry of which he’s a part—as well as many other secular causes. This is especially pertinent in light of the more than 100 companies fighting a culture war by asking the North Carolina legislature to repeal the so-called “anti-LGBT” law HB2. In other words, if Grem is displeased with the current structure, what alternative would he propose? Moreover, is this problem limited to corporations and Christianity, or are all dimensions of social, political, and economic culture eligible for a similar kind of scrutiny? 

Ultimately, Grem provides benefits by detailing the influence Christians in business can have on the world. Yet he falls short in his dualistic approach, ideological assertions, and one-sided presentation of how money (from business) flows to causes.

Darren Grem. The Blessings of Business: How Corporations Shaped Conservative Christianity. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2016. 304 pp. $34.95. 

David A. Bosch is an associate professor and business administration program coordinator at Boyce College in Louisville, Kentucky.

by David A. Bosch at July 18, 2016 05:02 AM

Behind the Tears in Baton Rouge

Article by: Oren Conner

My beloved city is in turmoil. Grief, fear, anger, and frustration are settling on our community like a dark cloud. We hurt. We grieve and mourn. Deep down, we feel something we’ve never really felt before; to be honest, it’s hard to put into words.

Baton Rouge has been in the headlines for all the wrong reasons. There were not many #BatonRouge tweets until 12 days ago, when the news of Alton Sterling’s killing surfaced.

And yesterday, it struck a still darker tone. After a tense week and a half of protests—some peaceful and others violent—an act of hate has left our city stunned and frightened. Three police officers have been killed in the line of duty; four others have been severely wounded by a gunman who turned his hatred into puddles of blood in our streets. We can feel the tensions ratcheting up all over our city. Tonight, Baton Rouge groans for peace and redemption (Rom. 8:20–22).

As I write, many of our city streets are closed; people are being told to stay in their homes. I have never in my life felt such community-wide heartache and fear. The halls of our church were a little quieter yesterday as Bible study lessons were interrupted by the incoming news. Phones were updating the breaking story throughout the worship service. Though we didn’t feel unsafe as we worshiped, there was an unmistakable awareness that another terrible evil had come to our already wounded city. 

Yet even then, I was comforted to be worshiping with my church family. It was good for us to “groan” together, and the Spirit was present as we praised our King. Our text was Psalm 66, in which the singer declares: “Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell what he has done for my soul” (v. 16).

Oh, how we needed to hear those words.

Poisonous Root, Perfect Love

Yesterday was marked more than ever by a sense of fear. As believers, we must beware the root of fear. When fear is allowed to take up residence in our hearts, it poisons our souls. Fear causes us to blame others rather than seek to understand them. Fear shouts “My needs first!” instead of asking “How can I serve you?” Fear seeks revenge instead of healing. Rather than give in to fear, we must remember that only God can overcome this evil and bring peace—and he does this in our in our communities through the lives of his people.

Driving home after worship yesterday, I thought of the apostle John’s beautiful words:

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us. (1 John 4:18–19)

Instead of operating out of fear, we must respond as the embodiment of God’s love for our friends and neighbors who are afraid. If the fear brings darkness, then what a glorious light might the gospel be to those living in that darkness?

Perfect love leads us to weep with those who weep and grieve with those who grieve. Perfect love is not too afraid to call up a fellow pastor of a different ethnicity and say, “Can I buy you a cup of coffee? Can we pray together? How can I help you cast out fear in your community?”

Friends, what will you do to cast out fear today? How will you love those who are afraid today? Go ahead and make that call right now! Send that text or email and make the appointment with a friend or fellow minister. Begin the process of destroying fear in your own city, just as we are seeking to do in ours.

What to Pray For

The God who saved us is the God who holds us together. There is much to do in Baton Rouge, and the churches in our city will be leaning on one another in the days to come. It feels like we’ve been punched in the gut again, and we need some time to catch our breath.

But for today, the people of Baton Rouge need your prayers as we groan for peace and plead with God to stir in our hearts a desire to be peacemakers in our broken city.

Here are five specific prayer requests for Baton Rouge:

  1. Pray for the family of Alton Sterling—especially his wife, Quinyetta, and 15-year-old son, Cameron—who are still grieving his death at the hands of a police officer.
  2. Pray for the families of the three slain police officers (Montrell Jackson, Brad Garafola, and Matthew Gerald). Today there are wives and children mourning this terrible tragedy. Our hearts ache for them. Pray for God’s hand of grace to comfort those facing the deepest kind of pain. Pray also for the four wounded officers, that God would preserve their lives, restore their health, and guard their families in the days ahead.
  3. Plead for God to raise up men and women out of the churches in our city to be peacemakers for the sake of Baton Rouge. This is the work of the church. God saved us for days like today. There has never been a better time to be a follower of Jesus. 
  4. Pray for our city leaders, policemen, and first responders. These past two weeks have been exhausting for each one of them. Pray for God’s hand of protection on them all.
  5. Pray that the praise of Jesus will be on the lips of the redeemed and the words of peace will flow not just from our lips, but from our lives. Pray that our gospel song will resound in the streets and neighborhoods of Baton Rouge as we hold out Christ as the only hope for true peace.

Oren Conner serves as pastor of First Baptist Church in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He and his wife, Ginger, have three children. You can follow him on Twitter.

by Oren Conner at July 18, 2016 05:00 AM

Random ASCII

Zeroing Memory is Hard (VC++ 2015 arrays)

Quick, what’s the difference between these two C/C++ definitions of initialized local variables?

char buffer[32] = { 0 };
char buffer[32] = {};

One difference is that the first is legal in C and C++, whereas the second is only legal in C++.

Okay, so let’s focus our attention on C++. What do these two definitions mean?

The first one says that the compiler should set the first element of the array to zero, and then (roughly speaking) zero initialize the rest of the array. The second one says that the compiler should zero initialize the entire array.

The descriptions are slightly different, but the net result is the same thing – the entire array should be zero initialized. Therefore, given the “as-if” rule in C++, they are the same. So, any sufficiently advanced optimizer should generate identical code for the two constructs. Right?

But sometimes those descriptions matter. If, hypothetically, a compiler took those descriptions extremely literally then they might generate code like this for the first case:

algorithm one: buffer[0] = 0; memset(buffer + 1, 0, 31);

while generating code like this for the second case:

algorithm two: memset(buffer, 0, 32);

imageAnd, if the optimizer didn’t notice that the two statements could be folded together then the compiler might end up generating less efficient code for the first definition than for the second one.

If a compiler literally implemented algorithm one then they might end up writing a zero to the first byte then (assuming a 64-bit CPU) do three eight-byte writes. Then to fill in the remaining seven bytes they might do a four-byte write, a two-byte write, and then a one-byte write.

You know, hypothetically.

And this is exactly what VC++ does. For 64-bit builds its typical code-gen for “= {0}” is:

xor eax, eax
mov BYTE PTR buffer$[rsp+0], 0
mov QWORD PTR buffer$[rsp+1], rax
mov QWORD PTR buffer$[rsp+9], rax
mov QWORD PTR buffer$[rsp+17], rax
mov DWORD PTR buffer$[rsp+25], eax
mov WORD PTR buffer$[rsp+29], ax
mov BYTE PTR buffer$[rsp+31], al

Graphically it looks like this, with practically every write unaligned:


But if you omit the zero then VC++ does this:

xor eax, eax
mov QWORD PTR buffer$[rsp], rax
mov QWORD PTR buffer$[rsp+8], rax
mov QWORD PTR buffer$[rsp+16], rax
mov QWORD PTR buffer$[rsp+24], rax

Which looks something like this:


The second code sequence is smaller, and it executes faster. The speed difference is often immeasurable, but anytime you can get smaller code that is never slower you should prefer it. Code size affects performance on all levels (network, disk, cache) so extra code bytes are sloppy.

It’s not a big deal – it probably doesn’t noticeably affect the size of any real programs. But I just think the code generated for “= { 0 };” is kinda hilarious. It’s the code-gen equivalent of saying ‘um’ too much when giving a speech.

I first noticed and reported this behavior six years ago, and I recently noticed that it’s still an issue in VC++ 2015 Update 3. So I got curious and wrote a little python script to try compiling the code below with different buffer sizes and different optimization options for x86 and x64 targets:

void ZeroArray1()
    char buffer[BUF_SIZE] = { 0 };
    printf(“Don’t optimize away my empty buffer.%s\n”, buffer);

void ZeroArray2()
    char buffer[BUF_SIZE] = {};
    printf(“Don’t optimize away my empty buffer.%s\n”, buffer);

The graph below shows the size of the two functions in one particular build configuration – optimize for size for a 64-bit compile – across values of BUF_SIZE ranging from one to thirty two (when BUF_SIZE is greater than 32 then the code sizes are identical):


The savings when BUF_SIZE is equal to four, eight, and thirty two are particularly impressive – size reductions of 23.8%, 17.6%, and 20.5% respectively. The average saving is 5.4%, which is pretty significant considering that the functions all have their epilogue, prologue, and the call to printf in common.

What I want to do at this point is to recommend that all C++ programmers prefer “= {};” over = “= { 0 };” when initializing structures and arrays. I find it aesthetically superior, and it looks like it almost always generates smaller code.

But the catch is in the word almost. The results above show that there are a few sizes where “= {0};” generates better code.  For the one and two byte cases “= { 0 };” writes an immediate zero (embedded in the instruction) to the array while “= {};” zeroes a register and then writes that. For the sixteen byte case “= { 0 };” uses an SSE register to zero all bytes at once – I don’t know why the compiler doesn’t use that technique more often.

So, before giving a recommendation I felt duty bound to try multiple optimization settings, on 32-bit and 64-bit. The summary of the results is:

32-bit with /O1 /Oy-: Average saving from 1 to 32 is 3.125 bytes, 5.42%
32-bit with /O2 /Oy-: Average saving from 1 to 40 is -2.075 bytes, -3.29%
32-bit with /O2: Average saving from 1 to 40 is 1.150 bytes, 1.79%
64-bit with /O1: Average saving from 1 to 32 is 3.844 bytes, 5.45%
64-bit with /O2: Average saving from 1 to 32 is 3.688 bytes, 5.21%

The problem is with the 32-bit /O2 /Oy- results, where “= {};” is, on average, 2.075 bytes larger than “= { 0 };”. This comes from sizes 32 to 40 where the “= {};” code is usually 22 bytes larger! This is because the “= {};” code uses movaps instead of movups to zero the array, which means it has to waste a ton of instructions on making sure the stack is 16-byte aligned. Oops.



I still recommend that C++ programmers prefer “= {};”, but it’s a weak preference, given the slightly conflicting results.

It would be nice if the VC++ optimizer would generate identical code for the two constructs, and it would sure be super if that code was always the ideal code. Please?

I would like to know why the VC++ optimizer is so inconsistent about when it decides to use 16-byte SSE registers to zero memory. On 64-bit builds it only does this for 16-byte buffers initialized with “= { 0 };” despite the fact that using SSE often seems to generate smaller code.

I think this code-gen issue is symptomatic of a larger issue where adjacent initializers in aggregates are not merged. However I’ve spent too much time on this already so I’m going to leave this as a theory.

A connect bug was filed here, and the Python script can be found here.

Note that this code, which should also be equivalent, generates even worse code than ZeroArray1 and ZeroArray2, in all cases.

char buffer[32] = “”;

Although I have not run the tests myself, I hear that gcc and clang are not fooled by “= { 0 };”

On early versions of VC++ 2010 the problem was more severe. In some cases a call to memset would be used, and = { 0 }; ensured that the address would always be misaligned. In early versions of the VC++ 2010 CRT the last 128 bytes would be written four times slower (stosb instead of stosd) when misaligned. That got fixed quickly.

Tweets start here, hacker news discussion is here, and reddit discussion is here.

If you like this you might like:

by brucedawson at July 18, 2016 02:39 AM

Mac Power Users #331: Stephen Hackett: Collector of Macs

I crashed Mac Power Users this week:

Mac user, collector, and … yes … YouTuber Stephen Hackett joins in to explain essential cloud-based services used to run the Relay Network, his growing collection of Macs, and his photo and video workflows.

I’m not sure I’m a YouTuber, but it was a blast catching up with David and Katie. I hope you enjoy it.

by Stephen at July 18, 2016 01:17 AM

July 17, 2016

The Ontological Geek

Sunday Frames: Everyday Runes

“The Awdrey-Gore Legacy” is a strange collection of drawings and microtexts, seemingly loosely inspired by a game of Clue and the detective genre

by Oscar Strik at July 17, 2016 05:15 PM

Hacking Distributed

Cross-Chain Replay Attacks

Jumping rope

Following an Ethereum hard fork, there will be two chains. In cross-chain replay attacks, one can attack a smart contract by moving transactions from one chain to the other.

The topic has been initially brought up and discussed quite a bit on social media. Peter Vessenes has a blog post that discusses the attack, what can go wrong at exchanges that straddle both chains, and how to manage nonces to avoid problems while preserving the right to swap chains.

Somehow, the obvious problem seems to be unenunciated. Let me mention it, and let me describe why I'm not too concerned.

Chain-hopping Contract Inputs

The biggest problem with cross-chain attacks involve smart contracts.

Imagine a non-trivial multiplayer card game, being played on chain A. Because every action on chain A is also a legal action on chain B, the same sequence can be trivially instantiated and replayed on chain B. True, the actions from each player can only be played in sequence. One cannot mix and match and reorder transactions issued by a single player; nor can one make up actions for players that did not take place. But in turn-based games where each player submits inputs, one can replay those inputs in order, changing one's own reaction to them, on chain B.

Since the outcome of a game will depend on the sequence of actions taken by players, a player with the benefit of hindsight from chain A might be able to devise an interleaving of transactions from chain A that allow that player to decidedly win on chain B.

Is this possible for every game? No. But it may be trivial to win at a game such as tic-tac-toe. And a game such as multiplayer poker may be vulnerable if it is written in a way that admits omission of a player's inputs.

Effects of the Attack

From least bad to worse:

Chain-hopping will certainly make it difficult, if not impossible, for participants to later switch from chain A to chain B. The coins you earned on chain A may not be there on chain B. This is, actually, to be expected; there is no reason why the transaction history from chain A should be replayable in its entirety on chain B -- transactions may well be dependent on block number. So, this problem is not as dire as it may seem, because it does not modify the implicit contract.

Undeserving parties might be able to drain value from one of the chains. Cross-chain replay attacker can selectively replay events to win coins and cash out of chain B, creating a pump that discovers transactions on chain A and extracts value out of chain B. This would work until the replayable transactions, directing pre-fork ether, are exhausted. Coalitions might be able to drain services that hold large pre-fork coins.

The Real Effects

Cross-chain replay attacks will force people to either defend themselves against such attacks (as outlined in the next paragraph), or to select one of the chains and stick with that selection. If you don't employ any defenses, you should interact with smart contracts only on the chain where you think the economic majority will be. The fact that the minority chain can be abused via chain hopping provides an incentive to quickly converge to a single unified chain. This is not a bad thing -- it's known as a Schelling point and we should all converge to it.

And the easiest defense against replay attacks is to perform a block hash dependent fork that will send your coins to different wallets on the two chains. Tjaden Hess, who has guest-blogged here before on the dangers of the soft fork, has some code that will split the coins into different wallet addresses on the two chains, stemming subsequent replays (note that the scheme is probabilistic, so please call with sufficiently many arguments and ensure that the outcomes are different on the two chains).

What if I Change My Mind?

Long answer: It's completely fine to change your mind about which side of the fork you want to adopt, as long as you do not engage in activities on one fork that are vulnerable to cross-chain attacks. If you employ the defense strategy above, you'll reserve the option to switch to the other chain later on, though, when you switch, you may have to forego some or all of the transactions that took place on the chain you are abandoning.

Short answer: Don't. Not everything is undoable in life, and undoing The DAO hack is hard enough without having to also provide infinitely many options for all time to all users. And there's great value in making the fork choice sticky. Let's converge quickly to the outcome where we are all on one major winning chain.

by Emin Gün Sirer at July 17, 2016 12:07 PM

The Third Bit


I just finished a pair of books that were each very good in their own right, but were even better back to back:

Think Like a Commoner

Think Like a Commoner is a brief introduction to the notion of a commons: something managed jointly by a community according to rules they themselves have evolved and adopted. As Bollier repeatedly emphasizes, all three parts of that equation are essential: a commons isn't just a thing, like a shared pasture, but is necessarily also comprised of a community who share it and the rules they use to do so.

Building Powerful Community Organizations

Building Powerful Community Organizations is longer and much more practical. (I'm pretty sure I read it when it first came out, but didn't know enough then to understand just how insightful and useful it is.) Its author has spent thirty years helping people figure out what they want and how to get it. He clearly has a better world than ours in mind, but in this book at least, his goal is to help people get what's rightfully theirs inside the existing system, rather than replacing the whole system with something better.

And that, I think, is why they ought to be read together. Most resources, throughout most of human history, have been commons: it is only in the last few hundred years that impersonal markets have pushed them to the margins. In order to do so, free-market advocates have had to convince us we're something we're not (dispassionate calculators of individual advantage) and erase or devalue local knowledge and custom. Both have had tragic consequences for us individually and communally, and now for our whole planet. BPCO is, I think, a toolbox for re-creating the commons in specific places for specific purposes.

I was asked on Wednesday what I would do if I had enough money to support me for a year. Because of the context, I spoke mostly about technical projects, but after a bit more thought, I think it's time I set my sights higher. I think it's time we all did, and these two books are guides to what we could be building and how we might get there.

by Greg Wilson ( at July 17, 2016 11:00 AM

sacha chua :: living an awesome life

Weekly review: Week ending July 15, 2016

This was a good week for walks. Most days we made it out for two, even three walks, and we’ve started going to High Park too. It’s a multipurpose activity. Either A- gets exposed to sunlight to help her eyes develop or she ends up taking a nap, and we get exercise (and sometimes groceries or books).

We listed the walk and a few dozen other activity ideas on a sheet of paper that we’ve stuck to the fridge door. This should help us cycle through different ways to engage A- instead of spacing out or settling into a rut. It’s important for us to learn how to support A-‘s learning and provide a stimulating environment. We got the sedation instructions for A-‘s upcoming cardiology exam. In preparation for informed consent for that and the MRI that the pediatrician has also requested, I looked up the research on the risks of multiple exposure to anaesthesia for young children. There are mixed findings, but the statistics tend to be on the grimmer side when it comes to potential learning disabilities and developmental delays. Ah well. Top priority is health, so let’s get that sorted out first. We’ll deal.

I’ve been thinking about tech areas to explore now that I’m getting more used to the little projects I do for my consulting clients. On the data side, I’m curious about data analysis and visualization. I’m also interested in natural language processing, both in terms of conversational user interfaces as well as text analysis. It’s a little harder to learn things in fits and starts. Even with W- focusing on A-, I did only three hours of work last Thursday. Still, that was enough time to get a couple more add-ons on the go, so that’s something.

Anyway, back to tech learning. I spent a little time defining a few intents and entities with, and I tested it with text and with WAVs. Speech recognition is likely to be the weak link in the chain for me, but maybe I can start playing around with a more individually-tailored agent. It would be handy to have more customized cognitive support systems for reminders, routine checklists, scaffolding, and mental stack management… The hybrid button-/text-based trackers I’ve been building for my mobile device have been quite useful. I tweaked them to save more data to my database so that I don’t have to pull in as much from the external site that I’m wrapping this custom interface around, although I ended up introducing a few regressions in the process because my unit tests didn’t cover the functions that actually update the third-party site. Hmm, maybe I should just mock those out and test. Also, at some point, it might be nice to make the trackers better at handling fuzzier input, which is where those conversational user interfaces might come in.

So yeah, a little bit of coding. Drawing is higher on my discretionary time priority list, actually. I’ve been staying up late to draw more detailed diary entries. I did my monthly review, too. It’s fascinating how dense the weeks and months are when I look back.

Next week is packed with health and medical stuff. The peer nutrition workshop on Monday might be a good way to meet other Filipinos and pick up some dietitian-recommended tips for helping A- gain weight. Starting Tuesday, A- will be fitted for her first ocular prosthesis, a scleral shell that will go over her small left eye in order to help her skull grow symmetrically. Thanks to a last-minute cancellation, we’ve managed to snag an MRI slot on Thursday. Taking it easy otherwise. So glad W- is here!

2016-07-19a Week ending 2016-07-15 -- index card #journal #weekly


Blog posts


Focus areas and time review

  • Business (3.1h – 1%)
    • Earn (3.0h – 97% of Business)
    • Build (0.0h – 1% of Business)
    • Connect (0.0h – 0% of Business)
  • Relationships (4.7h – 2%)
    • ☑ Make a list of baby activities
  • Discretionary – Productive (7.8h – 4%)
    • Drawing (3.5h)
    • Emacs (0.4h)
      • ☑ [#A] Do another Emacs News review
    • Coding (1.7h)
      • ☑ Log unknown commands for later processing
      • ☑ Fix sleep tracking for baby
      • ☑ Fix sketches link
      • ☑ Fix save and load
      • ☑ Try
      • ☑ Try submitting WAV to
    • Sewing (0.0h)
    • Writing (0.3h)
    • ☑ Renew library card
  • Discretionary – Play (0.0h – 0%)
  • Personal routines (31.5h – 18%)
  • Unpaid work (60.2h – 35%)
    • Childcare (52.6h – 31% of total)
  • Sleep (60.7h – 36% – average of 8.7 per day)

The post Weekly review: Week ending July 15, 2016 appeared first on sacha chua :: living an awesome life.

by Sacha Chua at July 17, 2016 04:39 AM

July 16, 2016

Market Urbanism

Market Urbanism MUsings July 15, 2016

1. This week at Market Urbanism

Nick Zaiac contributed his first Market Urbanism piece: The Cato Institute Goes After Arbitrary Historic Preservation Laws

between municipalities they can vary, depending on the precedents set by different circuit courts. Now the Cato Institute, a libertarian Washington think tank, is filing a brief that aims to bring consistency to these laws nationwide.

Your Town Is A Financial Timebomb by Johnny Sanphilippo:

Do your best Ross Perot imitation and say the words, “sucking sound.” The primary difference between the older development pattern and the stuff that’s being built today has to do with the ratio of public investment vs. private value. Downtown and the adjacent residential areas are mostly small-scale, compact, multi-story buildings with a minimum amount of roads, pipes, and wires connecting them. The new stuff is overwhelmingly huge roads, attenuated water and sewer lines, endless cables and a tremendous amount of surface parking and grass.

2. Where’s Scott?

Scott Beyer spent his first week in Austin, and this weekend will visit the city’s northern suburbs, including Cedar Park, Round Rock and Georgetown. His Forbes article this week was about how Miami’s Parking Deregulation Will Reduce Housing Costs

While Frey was unsure yet about what kind of rents the building would command, he estimated that building structured parking–in this case 12 spaces, under the previous regulations–would have cost $300,000, or $25,000 per space. This, he said, would have added roughly $330 per month to average rents

3. At the Market Urbanism Facebook Group:

Sandy Ikeda spoke about Jane Jacob’s legacy at the Museum of Eldridge Street alongside Mindy Fullilove and Ron Schiffman.  Sandy asked the MU group for some clarification on statements made at the event by Ron Schiffman, an urban affairs scholar at the Pratt Institute.  After some interesting dialogue, Sandy concludes Schiffman likely misused terms.

David Welton is curious if developers would break from their mold if zoning didn’t get in their way

via Anthony Ling: “Patrik Schumacher unleashing entrepreneurial spirits at a widely read architecture magazine!

Roger Valdez wrote: When Will Affordable Housing Advocates Push For More Supply, Fewer Rules?

Dan Bartolet wrote, Why Quashing Short-Term Rentals is a Zero-Sum Game for Housing Affordability; Seattle’s data-blind rush to regulate Airbnb is a recipe for unintended consequences.

via Matt Robare: “CT Supreme Court to decide if zoning enforcement warrants a warrant

via Marcos Paulo Schlickmann: “Some Neo-Luddism” about driverless cars

via Jim Pagels and Caleb Brown: Cato podcast, Free Parking’s High Costs to Transit

via Anthony Ling: Blockchain-powered real estate platform Ubitquity records first property ownership transfer on the Bitcoin public ledger

via Nolan Gray: Park & Rides Lose Money and Waste Land — But Agencies Keep Building Them

via Matt Robare, “Seattle could abolish neighborhood councils

via Nick Zaiac, “a wonderful case study in NIMBYism, to say the least.”

via Matt Robare, “From the Department of the bleeding obvious”: Walkability Is Key for Transit Use, Says New Study

4. Elsewhere

Vox explains the over-regulation–much of it at the urban level–that is “rigging” the economy

Reason Magazine: Cops, Blacks & Crime

City Journal: court fine policies turn citizens into ATMs

5. Stephen Smith‘s tweet of the week:

by Adam Hengels at July 16, 2016 05:20 PM

The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

Marital Sex Is Creation Care

Article by: Stephen Witmer

According to a 2010 Pew Research Center study, Millennials are more accepting of living together without the benefit of marriage than their older contemporaries are. Only one in five Millennials is married today (half the percentage of their parents’ generation at the same stage), and there is a marked increase in the number of unwed parents. By contrast, the same study notes, “Protecting the planet is a multi-generational cause these days. Most Millennials recycle and try to buy green products, but the same can be said of adults of all ages.”

It’s popular to believe in creation care. It’s unpopular to believe sex belongs in marriage. But I’d like to suggest that marital sex deeply connects with creation care. Rather than seeing these as totally separate issues, we should think of marital sex as creation care.

It’s popular to believe in creation care. It’s unpopular to believe sex belongs in marriage. But I’d like to suggest that marital sex deeply connects with creation care.

The first step is acknowledging that, as human beings, we are part of the material creation. None of us relates to the world as mere mind or spirit. Rather, we all participate in a material world through material bodies. This point is taught from the first pages of Scripture, which recounts the creation of human bodies from “the dust of the ground” alongside the creation of the rest of the material world, from waterfalls to wombats (Gen. 1–2). The Psalms celebrate the high privileges granted to humans in creation (Ps. 8), while simultaneously affirming that humans are part of that creation (Pss. 90:3; 103:14; 104:29).

Too often, the Christian tradition has failed to give due attention to this fact. Wendell Berry is one contemporary writer who has thought long and hard about it, and has expressed his sentiments through 50 years worth of essays, poems, and novels. Berry’s novels are packed with affectionate, nuanced, sometimes comical descriptions of human bodies. One character, Big Ellis, is “a man of large girth and small behind, who customarily did whatever he was doing with one hand while holding up his pants with the other.” Jayber Crow is “all a morose, downward-hanging length.”

In his novel Remembering, Berry ponders the effects of radical body alteration. Andy Catlett loses his right hand in a farming accident. His hand had joined him to his wife, to creation (as he performed farming tasks to earn his livelihood), and to his community (in work exchanges with neighbors). As Berry simply puts it, “When he lost his hand he lost his hold.” Remembering tells the story of Andy’s painful, protracted reconnection to his world.

We have sexual drives since our bodies are part of nature, which is fertile and seeks to reproduce. Stewarding our sexual desires, then, means taking care of a small but vital part of creation. So the question becomes: how may we best steward our sexual bodies?

There are many wrong approaches to human sexuality in our day. Some Christian traditions are afraid of sex, viewing it as a necessary evil and keeping as far from it as possible. But this approach fails to recognize that, since we inevitably connect to one another and to the world through our bodies, sexual union—as one of the most basic and intimate of all bodily connections—can link us deeply to one another and to creation. It won’t do to minimize or ignore sex. An opposite view, held by many in our culture, advocates for total freedom of sexual expression. Nearly all sexual desires may be gratified. But this approach fails to acknowledge, among other things, that untamed sexual drives often wound our neighbors and destroy our relationships.

Middle Way

The covenant of marriage is a middle way of wise stewardship between these extremes. In his essay “The Body and the Earth,” Berry compares the farm and the sexual body. The well-used landscape of a well-tended farm requires elements of wildness if it is to be healthy:

That is what agricultural fertility is: the survival of natural process in the human order. . . . Similarly, the instinctive sexuality within which marriage exists must somehow be made to thrive within marriage.

This point is worth pondering. A healthy farm benefits from both wildness and fertility. A healthy marriage benefits from sexual desire. A healthy farm stewards wildness and fertility. A healthy marriage stewards sexual desire. Reserving sex for marriage neither allows the wildness of sexual desire to go untamed, nor fears that wildness. Instead, it wisely stewards sexual desire within life-giving bounds, knowing that good marriages are healthy in part because sexual desires are satisfied within them.

Reserving sex for marriage wisely stewards sexual desire within life-giving bounds, knowing that good marriages are healthy in part because sexual desires are satisfied within them.

What’s more, healthy marriages are glue for larger communities. In pledging faithfulness (sexual and otherwise) to one another, married couples simultaneously pledge a kind of fidelity to all members of their larger community (those they’ve chosen not to marry). Marriage benefits the entire community, not just the couple. This vision of sex within marriage is a beautiful picture of embodied humans stewarding their communities and the creation.

Every day we see the results of not practicing responsible creation care for our own sexual bodies, and the bodies of others. We see it in the use of sex to sell products. We see it in the prevalence of pornography. The harsh irony of pornography is that, while riveting attention on human bodies, it is an ultimately disembodied thing—sex abstracted from relationship and responsibility.

In Remembering, Andy Catlett walks through an airport terminal noticing attractive women. But the result is the disembodiment of Andy himself: “He lets [the female bodies] disembody him, his mind on the loose and rambling, envisioning unexpectable results, impossible culminations.” This is Berry’s depiction of the tragic quandary of our culture, which simultaneously heightens sexual desire while severing the bonds of marriage and community that preserve and sustain it. Andy wonders, “Shall we disappear with our longing, dismembered, in the annihilating flame?”

It’s a question that remains to be answered. But here’s one immediate implication: It’s senseless to be excited about stewarding our planet while failing to properly care for the one part of the planet most immediately present to us: our own sexual bodies.

Keeping sex within marriage is creation care. Save the planet—sleep only with your spouse.

Stephen Witmer (PhD, University of Cambridge) is pastor of Pepperell Christian Fellowship in Pepperell, Massachusetts, and teaches New Testament at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He is author of Eternity Changes Everything: How to Live Now in the Light of Your Future (Good Book Company, 2014) and the volume on Revelation in Crossway's Knowing the Bible series. Follow him on Twitter: @stephenwitmer1. This article was written with the support of the Center for Pastor Theologians ( and the John Templeton Foundation. 

by Stephen Witmer at July 16, 2016 05:02 AM

What I’m Learning from Pastoring a Multi-Ethnic Church

Article by: Adam Mabry

God is colorblind.

I used to say that from the pulpit. I, like many other white people, am not a racist. So, whenever a moment of national attention to the plight of black people would come across my newsfeed, I’d quickly detach myself from it. I didn’t do it, after all. Just another crime like any other, right? Why should I trouble myself?

This strategy worked fine until a man from my church took me out to lunch. Lovingly and slowly, he explained that my detachment from racial issues was understandable but unloving to those members of my church who don’t look like me—which is most of them. “If we’ve all been born again,” he asked, “doesn’t that mean that we’ve been born into a new family—the same family? Don’t families care about each other?” 

Conviction. Deep conviction.

He was right, and I now better understand what he meant. As a white American I was free to detach myself from issues of racial injustice. But as a Christian I no longer was. Why? Not because of white guilt. Not because of political correctness. Not because of social pressure. I was compelled to care because now the victims of injustice weren’t faceless humanity, out there somewhere. They are my brothers and sisters. My friends. My family.

God isn’t colorblind. He sees colors quite clearly.

Kingdom of Color 

The picture in Revelation 7 isn’t of a grey, amorphous humanity. It’s one of persons from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation before the throne of the Lamb. God sees their color, culture, songs, and stories. He chose them from before the beginning, that his kingdom would be a multi-ethnic one. And if the coming kingdom is a multi-ethnic, then my ministry ought to approximate it as much as possible.

Some will bristle at this point. Does that mean embracing the Black Lives Matter movement wholesale? Or agreeing with a politically liberal social agenda? Does this mean abdicating heritage? Of course not. It simply means allowing the gospel to humble us enough to change us.

As a pastor serving a multi-ethnic people, here are four things I’m learning to do.

1. Ask hard questions.

That man who took me out to lunch loved me enough to ask a hard question and offer a difficult truth. It was risky. But gospel love takes relational risks.

As a pastor of a diverse people, I must draw near to them in their pain and anger, not push away. I should actively seek their input on my sermons and my leadership. In recent days I’ve simply asked How are you doing? to my black friends. Sometimes the answers made me uncomfortable. But Jesus hasn’t called me to what’s comfortable.

2. Repent publicly.

My white friends often say what I would often say: Racism isn’t my problem. I’m glad Jesus didn’t share this attitude. Ours is a gospel in which God took upon himself a problem that wasn’t his. No wonder his people are called to go and do likewise.

When white pastors like me disconnect from the racial problems in our nation, we’re guilty of two errors: We affirm the negligence of those who look like us while affirming the fear of those who don’t—namely, the fear we don’t really care about them. Both are wrong. White pastor, own what people who look like you have done to people who don’t. Apologize publicly and ask forgiveness. I know it’s scary, but it’s right.

3. Call for forgiveness.

This one is harder, but just as important as the first. The gospel isn’t only the story of the powerful one becoming powerless. It’s also the story of the innocent one facing injustice, and forgiving. So just as I must call my white congregants to humble repentance, I must call my non-white congregants to hard forgiveness.

The call to forgiveness is, perhaps, the most difficult message I will ever preach to my black friends. Hearing it from a white man only makes it more difficult. But if we shrink back from that message, then the cycle of offense and reaction will never stop. The only hope for peace is in Jesus Christ. To get there, we have to preach the whole message about him—the message of repentance and forgiveness.

4. Preach gospel possibility.

The Christian story unites us all in at least three ways: the imago Dei, total depravity, and gospel possibility. We’re all made in the image of God—black and white, young and old, rich and poor. We’re also all shattered and strangled by sin. But we can’t stop there. The gospel also means that peace is possible—peace with God and peace with each other.

Pastor, inflame the sanctified imagination of your congregation to hope for a world they don’t yet occupy, a world free of racial hatred and shaped by holy affection. Give them the imaginative tools to desire the kingdom of God. Don’t let them settle for the latest version of man-centered utopia pawned by politicians and prognosticators. If we can get this right in the church, then the church will showcase an inexplicably good story to the world. 

Real Perils, Real Promise

I’m grateful for that man in my church who loved me enough to come to me with a hard truth. The perils of multi-ethnic ministry are real, yes, but so is the promise. I left that meeting feeling loved and challenged. I needed to go be with God alone.

I needed to repent and rethink. And maybe I’m not alone.

Adam Mabry is the lead pastor of Aletheia Church in Boston, Massachusettes, where he lives with his wife and their four kids. Passionate about church planting, campus ministry, and world missions, Adam writes, speaks, and coaches planters around the world, mostly through the Every Nation family of churches and ministries. You can follow him on Twitter or drop by his website.

by Adam Mabry at July 16, 2016 05:00 AM

July 15, 2016

Natural Running Center

“Slow Jogging” to Better Health with No Pain

I had the privilege to write the forward to a just released book “Slow Jogging– Lose Weight, Stay Healthy, and Have fun with Science Based, Natural Running” by Dr. Hiroaki Tanaka. My friend Dr. Tanaka is one of the most inspiring scientists and self-experimenting athletes I’ve met. Dr. Tanaka has changed my life and his […]

by MarkC at July 15, 2016 11:37 PM

Workout: July 18, 2016

Every minute on the minute for 6 minutes: 3 power snatches Rest 2 minutes Every minute on the minute for 6 minutes: 3 full snatches At Minute 15, as many rounds as possible in 10 minutes of: 5 burpees 5 clean and jerks at snatch load (if possible)

by Mike at July 15, 2016 08:45 PM

Workout: July 16, 2016

Every minute on the minute for 10 minutes: 3 push jerks Rest 5 minutes Every minute on the minute for 10 minutes: 1 split jerk

by Mike at July 15, 2016 08:42 PM

Workout: July 17, 2016

In partners, 5 rounds of: 5 burpees 100-ft. sled push Run 400 m Rest while partner works

by Mike at July 15, 2016 08:41 PM

Table Titans

Tales: Flame On!

It was my first adventure with a new group as a player. As a DM, I really get into the Role-play part of adventuring. Enter Bjerk Gnatthistle, Gnome Bard. The rest of the party consisted of a Human Cleric of Pelor, a Half-Dragon Fighter, and a Halfling min/max "Rogue" with a wand of Magic…

Read more

July 15, 2016 05:07 PM

Workout: July 15, 2016

“We’re Done Here” In no particular order, complete the following work: 1-mile run 100 feet of overhead walking plate lunges (45/25 lb.) 100 kettlebell snatches (50 per arm, 55/35 lb.) 100 wall-ball shots (20/14 lb., 10/9 ft.) 100 chest-to-bar pull-ups Athletes can break up the reps and employ their own strategy to complete the work.

by Mike at July 15, 2016 04:15 PM