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July 03, 2015

Table Titans

Tales: No More Stone Floors


After years of playing together, my old group and I had gotten somewhat lackadaisical in our fighting encounters. Our GM was working hard to make sure that the epic level characters we were playing got a workout, and she was getting more and more inventive and throwing harder and harder creatures…

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July 03, 2015 07:30 AM

The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

Piper on 3 Things that Have Become More Central in His Preaching

Jonathan Edwards has not only remained one of my primary inspirations, but he has also brought increasing clarity and focus to some things that were less clear to me in the early days—things that are essential for good preaching.

In December 1744, Jonathan Edwards preached a sermon foreshadowing his book The End for Which God Created the World, which he completed eleven years later, three years before he died. The sermon’s title is “Approaching the End of God’s Grand Design.” It is the kind of sermon that draws me back again and again to Edwards, to rescue me from the spiritual stranglehold of small things. It’s this kind of seeing that creates a seedbed of Big-God Theology and Big-God Preaching.

Reflecting on this sermon, here are three emphases that have become clearer and more central to my preaching over the years.

1. A Clearer Sight of the Centrality of Christ

The first emphasis is the supremacy of Christ, the centrality of Christ, in the final end of God’s purpose in creation and history. The longer I have preached, the more prominent the Christological dimension of God’s purposes has become. Is it not remarkable that Edwards defines the “great design that God has in view in all his works and dispensations” as “to present to his Son a spouse” and “so to communicate himself through Jesus Christ, God-man”?

Or as he says later, “The one grand medium by which God glorifies himself in all is Jesus Christ, God-man.” It is not easy for a preacher to discern week in and week out whether his emphases are properly theocentric or Christocentric. Part of the problem here is with our spatial metaphors: -centric. There are times when God the Father, or God per se, is “central” to a text and to our perception of reality. And there are times when God the Son is “central” to a text and to our perception of reality.

Changing the metaphor from “center” to “end” or “ultimate goal,” what Edwards clarifies is that this emphasis on the centrality of Christ in God’s “grand design” is preserved not by making Christ the ultimate “end” but rather the ever-present, essential, indispensable, divine agent through whom God communicates himself and glorifies himself as the ultimate end.

This is clearly biblical.

God exalted Jesus Christ with a name above every name, so that “every tongue [will] confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:11). The glory of the Father is the ultimate end through the exaltation of Jesus. “We also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation” (Rom. 5:11).

Whoever serves, [let him serve] as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. (1 Pet. 4:11)

But what became clearer to me as my ministry matured is the utter indispensability of highlighting Jesus Christ, the God-man, as essential to the way God makes himself the grand design of creation.

These days I hear Paul’s words with greater weight than ever: “We preach Christ” (1 Cor. 1:23). “Him we proclaim” (Col. 1:28). “What we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord” (2 Cor. 4:5). “To me . . . this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Eph. 3:8).

I don’t hear this summons to preach Christ only in relation to one work of Christ, but in relation to the great end of all creation and history and redemption and consummation. It all really is “centered” on Jesus as the Great Actor of God’s design. All things—absolutely all things—“were created through him and for him” (Col. 1:16). This role in creation and all of history and eternity must be lifted up again and again in preaching. As plain as it is in the Bible, Edwards helped clarify that for me.

2. A Clearer Sense of God’s Self-Communication

The second clarification is that God’s great end—grand design—in creation is not only to glorify himself but to communicate himself. This has always been implicit in my understanding of how God is glorified by our being satisfied in him, but it has become clearer to me that God’s self-glorification is properly emphasized when we keep it connected to his self-communication. Edwards writes:

God’s end in the creation of the world consists in these two things, viz. to communicate himself and to glorify himself. God created the world to communicate himself, not to receive anything.

These two things ought [not] to be separated when we speak of God’s end in the creation of the world. . . . Indeed, God’s communicating himself and glorifying [himself] ought not to be looked upon as though they were two distinct ends, but as what together makes one last end, as glorifying God and enjoying [God] make one chief end of man. For God glorifies himself in communicating himself, and he communicates himself in glorifying himself.

The reason this clarification matters is that it protects God’s self-glorification from being disconnected with his self-giving. Almost no one finds fault with saying, “God gives himself to us.” Few people find fault with saying, “God gives himself to us for our enjoyment.” But many people find fault with saying, “God glorifies himself.” Nevertheless, it is clear from the whole scope of Scripture that he does.

Therefore, to help people embrace the whole truth, it is wise to keep these two truths together, especially since, as Edwards says, they are “one last end.” In all his self-glorifying acts in the world, God is revealing and giving himself to all who will receive him as their portion and their treasure. His self-glorifying is not only a “show,” but a gift of himself.

3. A Clearer Comprehension of the Prominence of Union with Christ

The third clarification is the importance of the doctrine of union between Christ and his bride, his church. Edwards is striking in the way he relates the church to the ultimate end of God in creation.

The principal means by which God glorifies his Son in the world . . . is by providing him a spouse, to be presented [to] him in perfect union, in perfect purity, beauty and glory.

[Since God’s aim was to display the goodness of Christ, he chose a bride for him who was] fit not to give but receive good, one . . . that was remarkably empty and poor in herself . . . fallen, miserable, helpless: a state wherein [her] emptiness and need of goodness did more remarkably appear.

And because the design was that Christ should communicate goodness, therefore such an one was chosen that needed that Christ should suffer, and it was the will of Christ to suffer because suffering is the greatest expression of goodness and manifestation of kindness.

The great design was that Christ in this way should procure or obtain this his spouse, bring her to come to him, present her to himself and make her perfectly beautiful, perfectly and unspeakably happy. . . . And this is the way that God the Father intended to glorify his Son.

This “perfect union” between Christ and his church, “in perfect purity, beauty and glory,” is an astonishing way of seeing the ultimate end of all creation. The self-giving of God reaches its exquisite apex in the self-giving of the Son to his bride in bringing her to share his holiness and know a fellowship and union beyond all human comprehension (Eph. 3:19, “the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge”).

I have come to see more clearly, as time has gone by, that imbedded in my understanding of God’s great self-glorifying, self-communicating goal in history, our union with Christ is essential. As it is pervasive in the New Testament, so it should be an ever-present backdrop or foundation for all that we preach.

Edwards has helped me see this, and I am thankful.

Editors’ note: Excerpted from John Piper’s The Supremacy of God in Preaching, revised and expanded edition. Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group, 2015. Used by permission.

by John Piper at July 03, 2015 05:02 AM

One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America

Is America a Christian nation? Scholars often turn to the writings of the founders to try to answer that question. In One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America, Princeton history professor Kevin Kruse approaches it from a different angle: “There once was a time during which virtually all American agreed that their country was a Christian nation.” 

But that brief moment occurred well after the founding during the Dwight D. Eisenhower administration, an era in which “one nation under God” was added to the Pledge of Allegiance and “In God We Trust” became the nation’s first official motto. Those rites and rituals, Kruse argues, helped convince ordinary Americans the United States was indeed—and had always been—a Christian (or at least “Judeo-Christian”) nation.

Catalysts For a Partisan Christian America 

Historians have typically viewed the nationalistic religious revival of the 1950s as a byproduct of the Cold War. With the Soviet Union serving as the greatest global competitor to the United States, Americans defined themselves against the godless communists by attending church, lauding the Judeo-Christian values supposedly inherent in the American character, and inscribing deistic phrases in prominent public places. When I was a high school history teacher, I remember explaining the 1950s religious revival very much in this vein. 

For Kruse, however, the 1950s wave of religious nationalism had its roots in the activity of corporate titans during the Great Depression. Beginning his narrative in the late 1930s, Kruse documents how the National Association of Manufacturers, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and a slew of corporate leaders actively recruited clergy (and vice versa) in order to wage a public relations battle against the New Deal. Congregationalist James Fifield Jr., Methodist Abraham Vereide, and Southern Baptist Billy Graham (among other ministers) worked with conservative business and political leaders to combat the collectivism of the New Deal and promote their vision of Christian libertarianism. Claiming the New Deal state challenged the foundation of faith-based freedom on which the American nation had been built, they urged Americans to return to “freedom under God.”

Christian libertarians thought they had their man when Eisenhower was elected president in 1952. But Eisenhower did not adhere to the Christian libertarian agenda.

Uncoupling their religious rhetoric from its roots in the fight against the New Deal, [Eisenhower] considerably broadened its appeal, expanding its reach well beyond the initial circle of conservative Protestants to welcome Americans across the political and religious spectrum. (293)

The New Deal state remained, now baptized in the very phrases and rhetoric that had been deployed against it. The religious revival under Eisenhower seemed to touch every nook and cranny of American life, and Kruse documents its reach in intricate detail: record-high church attendance, “back to God” television specials, the institution of the National Prayer Breakfast. Madison Avenue and Hollywood got in on the action, too. Cecil B. DeMille, in order to promote the release of The Ten Commandments (1956), helped to establish 4,000 Ten Commandments monuments across America.

But the consensus built during the Eisenhower administration quickly collapsed at the local level where the vagaries of a general “faith in faith” had to be translated into particulars. Which prayers should be said, which Bible (if any) should be used? The Engel v. Vitale (1962) and Abington School District v. Schempp (1963) decisions placed prohibitions on government-sponsored school prayer and Bible reading, leading disappointed Americans to fire off letters to the Supreme Court justices, support the push for the Becker Amendment, and laud Nixon’s presidency—especially his embrace of Christian nation rhetoric.

Yet, as Kruse documents, Nixon’s calculated use of religion—from speaking at a Billy Graham revival to holding church services in the East Room with invitations carefully doled out as a means of political reward and/or pressure—smacked of partisan politics in a way Eisenhower’s efforts had not. And so One Nation Under God ends as it began: with a partisan Christian America, promoted by a cadre of political and business conservatives, sanctified by willing Christian leaders.

Thorough Research, Overstated Conclusions

Kruse’s first book, White Flight: Atlanta and the Making of Modern Conservativism (Princeton University Press, 2007), won numerous awards. One Nation Under God is a continuation of that work both in terms of its quality and its emphasis on 20th-century conservative politics. Kruse’s thorough research and lucid prose are readily apparent; his knack for the perfect anecdote or quote only happens as a result of exhaustive research. I should mention, too, that although Kruse does not specifically focus on evangelicals, his book does have potentially sobering implications for understanding postwar evangelicalism. In particular, Kruse’s analysis suggests evangelicals should consider the role that a more enthusiastic embrace of religious nationalism—rather than simply adhering to orthodoxy—has played in their relative numerical strength compared to liberal mainline Protestants.

But while I was thoroughly engrossed in Kruse’s narrative, I could not completely follow him in all his conclusions. For one, although Kruse links opposition to the New Deal with the promotion of religious nationalism, Christian America ideas and rhetoric existed in numerous streams throughout (and before) the 1930s. For example, Matthew Sutton documents in Aimee Semple McPherson and the Resurrection of Christian America (Harvard University Press, 2007) how McPherson maintained support for the New Deal throughout the 1930s even as she traveled the country with her “America, Awake!” tour, urging Americans to return to the faith of the founders and guard against communism. As for the numerous pre-1930s promotions of Christian America rhetoric and ritual, Kruse tends to de-emphasize their importance. So, too, he overlooks the long tradition of Christian America rhetoric as a form of protest and celebration in African American thought—a tradition alive and well in the years Kruse analyzes.   

Kruse also seems to veer too far in downplaying the Cold War’s effect on the United States’ postwar religious resurgence. He puts the point at which the Soviet Union, rather than the New Deal, became the target of “godly politics” in 1953. Yet Jonathan Herzog’s The Spiritual-Industrial Complex: America's Religious Battle against Communism in the Early Cold War (Oxford University Press, 2011) provides ample evidence that the Soviet Union loomed large in pushes for nationalistic spiritual renewal and Christian nation rhetoric within the Truman administration.

Richly Textured Chronicle 

Those caveats aside, Kruse is right to suggest that something new occurred in the 1940s and 1950s. Not a Christian America created ex nihilo—as the subtitle of the book seems to suggest—but a Christian America reforged from elements of older Christian nation myths and repurposed at an unprecedented scope thanks to advancements in mass media and the enthusiasm of President Eisenhower. Readers of One Nation Under God will find a richly textured chronicle of a transformative moment in which business, political, and religious leaders worked to ceremonially unite God and government as never before.

As for how well Kruse’s chronicle goes over, much will depend on one’s view of Christian America in the first place. Evangelicals on Team Russell Moore will find plenty of useful material for illustrating the pitfalls of going too far in blending the Christian gospel with American nationalism. Those who find it more difficult to separate love of country with their faith will undoubtedly find it more difficult to appreciate One Nation Under God.

Kevin M. Kruse. One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America. New York, NY: Basic Books, 2015. 384 pp. $29.99. 

by Paul Putz at July 03, 2015 05:02 AM

The Final Break Between God and Country

As dismaying as the Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage was, there was something especially painful about seeing the White House lit up that evening with the rainbow colors of the gay pride flag. It almost seemed sacrilegious. But “sacrilegious” is not quite right, because Washington, D.C., has nothing to do with our eternal Jerusalem.

Perhaps the best thing that can come out of the gay marriage decision is for the church to make a final break between our faith and our nation. 

Christian Consensus?

For American Christians, the connection between God and country has been deep and understandable, even if it put us at risk of a corrupt civil religion. Christians have been linking their faith to America since the time of the founding. Protestant ideals were inextricable from the establishment of the North American colonies. Christian principles such as equality by creation, and the flawed nature of all people, undergirded the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

But even in 1776, there was no Christian consensus on the great questions of the founding. Was the Revolution justifiable in light of Romans 13 warning against resisting the established powers? Could Christians support independence, when so much of America’s wealth depended on slave labor? Could Protestant dissenters like the Baptists support Patriot authorities who often persecuted them for their faith? What should African American and Native American believers do, when they had suffered enslavement and discrimination at the hands of many Patriot leaders?

Our nationalistic mixing of faith and state can make it difficult for us to see when the nation has gone wrong. It can also make it hard for us to know what to do when the nation has patently wandered from the truth.

There was never any unified Christian answer to these questions. An uneasy relationship with America is nothing new for Christians. Christian support for the American nation was always contingent, and always secondary to the kingdom of God. Or it was supposed to be.

War breeds intense patriotism. Its sacrifices require transcendent justifications. Even starting in the Revolution, certain pastors and chaplains began to speak of America and its history as if it were close to the center of our faith. On the two-year anniversary of the Revolution’s Battle of Saratoga, Baptist chaplain Hezekiah Smith told troops that the victory was “the grandest conquest ever gained since the creation of the world.” It should remind them of “another conquest, which so far exceeds the one now mentioned as scarcely to admit of comparison,” Christ’s victory over sin and death in his resurrection from the dead. Saratoga afforded “the happy prospect of earthly felicity,” and the resurrection delivered “the most pleasing hope of celestial happiness.” Smith’s striking conflation was an early example of some evangelicals’ tendency to blend American history with the Christian history of redemption.

It’s easy to see in retrospect how inappropriate Smith’s juxtaposition was—he was right, the resurrection and Saratoga should not have admitted any comparison. Yet American Christians have often put the things of America and the things of the kingdom in uncomfortable proximity. (Christians in other nations have done so too.) As proud as we may be of the American tradition, our nationalistic mixing of faith and state can make it difficult for us to see when the nation has gone wrong. It can also make it hard for us to know what to do when the nation has patently wandered from the truth.

Now What?

So here we are, a week after the gay marriage mandate, and the Fourth of July is upon us. What should we do? One appropriate option—one we have always had—would be to politely ignore the Fourth of July in our families, and our Sunday services. Again, what does 1776 have to do with our worship? Around the world, our Christian brothers and sisters from Nigeria to Nepal will not say anything about the Fourth of July. Why should we?

Pastors, if you do say something about the Fourth of July, steer between two extremes. One extreme would be to follow President Obama’s one-time pastor Jeremiah Wright, who famously called on God to damn America for its sins (in Wright’s case, he meant sins of racial injustice). The anger over the gay marriage decision is fresh, and the temptation to denounce is strong. But we remain citizens of our nation, we are still allowed to worship in freedom, and we have duties as Christians to respect our leaders and pray for the country.

The other extreme would return to the old patriotic mode, mixing in nationalistic anthems with our songs of worship to the Lord Jesus. We see more clearly than ever how wrong it is to do that. We Christians have a mission to America, but we will never “take America back” and return to some mythical Christian era. Perhaps there was a time when a higher percentage of Americans were believers, or when Christianity had a deeper cultural influence. But there was never a time when America acted as a fully Christian nation, for nations of this earth cannot do so.

If you choose to acknowledge the Fourth of July, the best thing you can do is simply to pray for our country, which is one nation among all the nations of the earth, and which (like other nations) needs the Lord. Let us pray for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the cities in which we live. Let us pray that our political leaders would be given godly wisdom, perhaps in spite of themselves. Let us pray that our pilgrim church will have an undefiled witness of faith to the millions of Americans who so desperately need the Lord.

by Thomas S. Kidd at July 03, 2015 05:00 AM

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

Larry Correia and his Twit Service!

The world reeled in flabberghastizement to read this generous announcement from the International Lord of Good Sense, Larry Correia:

So the author of 50 Shades of Grey did a Twitter Q&A, and in a series of events that came as a shock to exactly nobody on the internet except for the author and her publicist, trolls showed up to mock the hell out of her. The author was unprepared and it was a public relations disaster.

Meanwhile, I am an author who loves to fight with morons on Twitter.

That is why I am excited to offer an exciting new free lance service to publicists. The next time you want to do a Q&A wi…th your author on Twitter, simply retain my services and give me temporary access to your author’s Twitter account. The author can answer all the legitimate fan questions, and I’ll respond to the trolls as if I’m the author. Trust
me. Fans love it when an author takes on a whole internet and wins.

For a low fee of $1 per character I will handle all of those pesky idiots for you. Is your author too kind to tell them to shut their stupid hipster faces? I’m not! Order now, and I will throw in the F word absolutely free! That’s right, every time I use the F word in a tweet it costs you nothing. This means huge savings for you.

But wait, there’s more! Retain my services now, and I’ll give you half price on special terms like Douchebag, Goony Beard Man, Rainbow Haired She Twink, Assclown, and more!

For more information and a collection of my greatest hits, contact my spokesmanatee, Wendell, at CorreiaTech headquarters, Yard Moose Mountain, Utah.

by John C Wright at July 03, 2015 04:54 AM

July 02, 2015

Infrequently Noted

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Future…

There’s a post on the fetch() API by Ludovico Fischer doing the rounds. As a co-instigator for adding the API to the platform, it’s always a curious thing to read commentary about an API you designed, but this one more than most. It brings together the epic slog that was the Promises design (which we also waded into in order to get Service Workers done and which will improve with await/async) with the in-process improvements that will come from Streams and it mixes it with a dollop of FUD, misunderstanding, and derision.

This sort of article is emblematic of a common misunderstanding. It expresses (at the end) a latent belief that there is some better alternative available for making progress on the web platform than to work feature-by-feature, compromise-by-compromise towards a better world. That because the first version of fetch() didn’t have everything we want, it won’t ever. That there was either some other way to get fetch() shipped or that there was a way to get cancellation through TC39 in ’13. Or that subclassing is somehow illegitimate and “non-standard” (even though the subclass would clearly be part of the Fetch Standard).

This sorts of undirected, context-free critiques rely on snapshots of the current situation (particularly deficiencies thereof) to argue implicitly that someone must be to blame for the current situation not yet being as good as the future we imagine. To get there, one must apply skepticism about all future progress; “who knows when that’ll be done!” or “yeah, fine, you shipped it but it isn’t available in Browser X!!!”.

They’re hard to refute because they’re both true and wrong. It’s the prepper/end-of-the-world mentality applied to technological progress. Sure, the world could come to a grinding halt, society could disintegrate, and the things we’re currently working on could never materialize. But, realistically, is that likely? The worst-case-scenario peddlers don’t need to bother with that question. It’s cheap and easy to “teach the controversy”. The appearance of drama is its own reward.

Perhaps most infuriatingly, these sorts of cheap snapshots laced with FUD do real harm to the process of progress. They make it harder for the better things to actually appear because “controversy” can frequently become a self fulfilling prophesy; browser makers get cold feet for stupid reasons which can create negative feedback loops of indecision and foot-gazing. It won’t prevent progress forever, but it sure can slow it down.

I’m disappointed in SitePoint for publishing this sort of thing, but the good news is that it (probably) won’t slow Cancellation or Streams down. They are composable additions to fetch() and Promises. We didn’t block the initial versions on them because they are straightforward to add later and getting the first versions done required cuts. Both APIs were designed with extensions in mind, and the controversies are small. Being tactical is how we make progress happen, even if it isn’t all at once. Those of us engaged in this struggle for progress are going to keep at it, one feature (and compromise) at a time.

by alex at July 02, 2015 10:27 PM


It Takes a Hard Forehead and a Heavy Heart to Preach (For the Church)

takeshardforeheadThinking about preaching while reading the prophets is a sobering thing. Whether it’s Isaiah’s commission to preach to a deaf and blind people, or Jeremiah’s call to go preach without fear to those who threaten his life and reject his message, the prophets don’t exactly make good promo material for aspiring seminarians.  (“Preaching God’s Word–Learn how to do it without getting killed.”) Nevertheless they are essential reading for anyone trying to engage in ministry within the church, especially the ministry of the Word. I was reminded of this again this week as I came to Ezekiel in my devotional.

Ezekiel’s Assignment and Ours

In Ezekiel 2-3, Ezekiel receives his commission to preach to the wicked, rebellious house of Israel in a vision. The basic call was to persevere in preaching the word of the Lord no matter what because through him God will make them know that “a prophet has been among them.” (2:5) This seems tough, but encouraging right? I mean, he is told that it will be evident that Ezekiel is God’s anointed prophet. God will be with him powerfully. That’s gotta be good?

Eh, not so much. There’s more.

See, while promising to be with him, God also makes it clear he’s not going to be greeted with a lot of success. He is going to be rejected. His message will fall on rebellious ears and stubborn hearts. He says that he’s sending him to a people who are so stubborn that, even though the message is not hard to understand, and the language is not a barrier, even so, they will reject it because they continually reject God. (3:6) Yet still, God calls him to be a “watchman” over the house of Israel (3:17), preaching a warning to God’s people so that they might turn, repent, and not come under judgment. Knowing that the people will rebel, knowing that they will reject him, knowing the difficulty he is still to preach the word of the Lord.

How are we to preach under conditions like this? What drives faithfulness in situations like this? How do we bear up under the pressure? Most of us don’t think about this going in. I mean, we might “know” it’s going to be hard. We might “know” that if we faithfully preach the word, not all that we say is going to be received well. Nevertheless, coming face to face with recalcitrant members of the body, people who won’t repent, members you’re intimidated to speak honestly to for fear of causing them to leave, can catch some of us off guard and make us lose our nerve. Even with the Spirit of God indwelling the hearts of believers, nobody likes being told to repent. The house of Israel can still be a rebellious people this side of the Cross.

You can read the rest of the post over at For the Church.

Soli Deo Gloria

by Derek Rishmawy at July 02, 2015 09:45 PM

Greg Mankiw's Blog

A Common Error in Pedagogy

I happened to be flipping through another introductory economics textbook. (Yes, some people have the temerity to try to compete with my favorite textbook.) I noticed an error that is, unfortunately, all too common in how introductory economics is taught.  I won't mention which book it is, because I am quite fond of the authors, and because my goal here is not to pick on one particular book but rather to draw attention to a more pervasive problem.

The issue is how one applies welfare economics to understand price controls, such as rent control and minimum-wage laws.

The sin that this book makes is to look at consumer surplus, producer surplus, and deadweight loss as if we were studying the welfare cost of a tax. The cost of a price control, the reader is taught, is the small Harberger triangle between the supply and demand curves.

This reasoning is problematic because it assumes perfect rationing. But rationing under price controls is never perfect. Under rent control, for example, apartments do not automatically go to those who value the apartments the most. The misallocation due to imperfect rationing makes the actual welfare cost of price controls much higher than the standard deadweight loss triangle.

In many cases, economists are deeply skeptical of price controls. If the costs of price controls were similar to those of taxes, I suspect that this skepticism would be substantially less. By applying off-the-shelf welfare analysis to price controls without thinking through the inefficiency of most rationing systems, teachers of introductory economics mislead their students about the effects of these policies.

by Greg Mankiw ( at July 02, 2015 07:51 PM

Connected 46: It’s Not a Feature; It’s a Feeling →

Today on Connected, we were reunited to talk about my trip to space, Federico’s iOS 9 review, and Apple Music.

Thanks to these sponsors:

  • Squarespace: Build it Beautiful. Use code WORLD for 10% off
  • Tap Forms Organizer: An easy to use, yet very powerful database application for Mac, iOS and Apple Watch.


by Stephen Hackett at July 02, 2015 07:12 PM

CrossFit Naptown

4th of July Regular Hours

Friday’s Workout:

Row 2,000 Meters
50 Wall Balls (20/14)
Row 1,000 Meters
35 Wall Balls
Row 500 Meters
20 Wall Balls

Happy Birthday America


We will be having class as usual 4th of July weekend! Come on in for a fun and challenging hero workout to say Happy Birthday to our country before celebrating with family and friends. The weather has been and looks to continue to be hot, Hot, HOT so be sure to hydrate all week and especially in the days leading up to the weekend and during 4th festivities. Stay safe out there people!!!


by Anna at July 02, 2015 07:07 PM

Market Urbanism

Free parking isn’t free

Donald Shoup estimates that about one-third of cars in central business districts are cruising for parking.

Donald Shoup estimates that about one-third of cars in central business districts are cruising for parking.

Last week I wrote a piece for City Journal on how smart parking could allow New York City to implement variable pricing. Street parking sensors allow prices to change to maintain an empty spot on each block, as parking expert Donald Shoup recommends. By eliminating the incentive to drive around looking for parking, this policy could drastically reduce traffic congestion and save drivers significant amounts of time.

All of the comments on my post argue that charging for parking according to demand would increase the cost of living in already expensive cities and hurt low-income people. While this argument is very common among supporters of underpriced street parking, it’s false. In actuality, today’s standard policies of underpriced street parking and off-street parking requirements increase costs of living, and low-income people bear a disproportionate share of the costs of these policies.

Properly implemented variable pricing systems may not even increase the total price that drivers pay to park their cars. San Francisco has gone farther than any other city to implement variable parking. Its SFPark system updates the prices on the city’s meters periodically with the goal of keeping the occupancy on each block below 80%. While this objective has led to significant price increases for the most in-demand blocks, it has actually reduced the city’s total parking meter revenues because prices were allowed to fall on many blocks to reach the 80% target.

Whether they cause total parking meter revenue to increase or decrease, variable parking prices are key to reducing off-street parking requirements, which is a huge cost of development. The political pressure for off-street parking often stems from homeowners who live near commercial destinations. Because people who drive to businesses prefer free parking to paid parking, they may park in a zero-price curb spot in a residential neighborhood near their destination rather than at a paid spot on the commercial street. This increases traffic in the neighborhood and reduces parking availability for residents. Residents then demand that businesses provide their patrons with enough free on-site parking to eliminate the demand for free nearby curb spots.

While off-street parking requirements reduce demand for street parking, they also create a significant cost for businesses. Shoup estimates that “the total subsidy for parking (the total cost of parking not paid for by drivers in their role as parkers) … was between $127 billion and $374 billion, or between 1.2 percent and 3.6 percent of the gross domestic product” in 2002. Some businesses would undoubtedly provide free parking for their customers without parking requirements, but these regulations cause developers to build more parking than they otherwise would. The cost of these mandatory spaces is ultimately passed on to consumers, resulting in higher prices for everything that we buy. This parking tax is like a sales tax on all consumer goods, and because it eats up a larger portion of low-income budgets than high-income budgets, it’s regressive.

Ultimately, parking requirements that are repeated on every lot across a city lead to an environment in which destinations are very spread out from one another. This sprawl makes living without a car more difficult. Foregoing a car can save households of any income level thousands of dollars per year, an option that can provide low-income households in particular with the choice to free up a large percentage of their budget for other priorities, but its an unattractive choice in many American cities that have been shaped by parking requirements.

Variable street parking prices will increase the cost of car ownership for drivers who prioritize parking in highly-demanded spots. However, city residents can avoid these charges by parking in places out of the way, varying the times of their trips to avoid peak-pricing, not driving to destinations that will require expensive parking, or even choosing not to own a car entirely. Pricing parking high enough to eliminate queuing for spots will require drivers to pay for their spots with their money rather than their time, but people at any income level face choices that allow them to reduce their parking costs. Current parking policy is an unavoidable regressive tax, and pricing street parking to manage its demand is the first step toward reform.

by Emily Washington at July 02, 2015 06:55 PM

Workout: July 3, 2015

For time: 1,600-m run 50 sit-ups 25 deadlifts (275/185) Rest 5 minutes 4 rounds: 10 hang power snatches (75/55 lb.) 10 overhead squats Rest 5 minutes 21-15-9 Pull-ups Burpee box jumps (24/20 inches)   Evening Skills Session 2-position snatch (high hang, hang) 1-1-1-1 3 rounds, not for time, of: 1 minute handstand 16 rolling deck […]

by Mike at July 02, 2015 05:37 PM

The Frailest Thing

A Technological History of Modernity

I’m writing chiefly to commend to you what Alan Jacobs has recently called his “big fat intellectual project.”

The topic that has driven his work over the last few years Jacobs describes as follows: “The ways that technocratic modernity has changed the possibilities for religious belief, and the understanding of those changes that we get from studying the literature that has been attentive to them.” He adds,

“But literature has not been merely an observer of these vast seismic tremors; it has been a participant, insofar as literature has been, for many, the chief means by which a disenchanted world can be re-enchanted — but not fully — and by which buffered selves can become porous again — but not wholly. There are powerful literary responses to technocratic modernity that serve simultaneously as case studies (what it’s like to be modern) and diagnostic (what’s to be done about being modern).”

To my mind, such a project enjoys a distinguished pedigree, at least in some important aspects. I think, for example, of Leo Marx’s classic, The Machine in the Garden: Technology and the Pastoral Ideal in America, or the manner in which Katherine Hayles weaves close readings of contemporary fiction into her explorations of digital technology. Not that he needs me to say this, but I’m certain Jacobs’ work along these lines, particularly with its emphasis on religious belief, will be valuable and timely. You should click through to find links to a handful of essays Jacobs has already written in this vein.

On his blog, Text Patterns, Jacobs has, over the last few weeks, been describing one important thread of this wider project, a technological history of modernity, which, naturally, I find especially intriguing and necessary.

The first post in which Jacobs articulates the need for a technological history of modernity began as a comment on Matthew Crawford’s The World Beyond Your Head. In it, Jacobs repeats his critique of the “ideas have consequences” model of history, one in which the ideas of philosophers drive cultural change.

Jacobs took issue with the “ideas have consequences” model of cultural change in his critique of Neo-Thomist accounts of modernity, i.e., those that pin modernity’s ills on the nominalist challenge to the so-called medieval/Thomist synthesis of faith and reason. He finds that Crawford commits a similar error in attributing the present attention economy, in large measure, to conclusions about the will and the individual arrived at by Enlightenment thinkers.

Beyond the criticisms specific to the debate about the historical consequences of nominalism and the origins of our attention economy, Jacobs articulated concerns that apply more broadly to any account of cultural change that relies too heavily on the work of philosophers and theologians while paying too little attention to the significance of the material conditions of lived experience.

Moving toward the need for a technological history of modernity, Jacobs writes, “What I call the Oppenheimer Principle — ‘When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success’ — has worked far more powerfully to shape our world than any of our master thinkers. Indeed, those thinkers are, in ways we scarcely understand, themselves the product of the Oppenheimer Principle.”

Or, as Ken Myers, a cultural critic that Jacobs and I both hold in high esteem, often puts it: ideas may have consequences, but ideas also have antecedents. These antecedents may be described as unarticulated assumptions derived from the bodily, emotional, and, yes, cognitive consequences of society’s political, economic, and technological infrastructure. I’m not sure if Jacobs would endorse this move, but I find it helpful to talk about these assumptions by borrowing the concept of “plausibility structures” first articulated by the sociologist Peter Berger.

For Berger, plausibility structures are those chiefly social realities that render certain ideas plausible, compelling, or meaningful apart from whatever truth value they might be independently or objectively assigned. Or, as Berger has frequently quipped, the factors that make it easier to be a Baptist in Texas than it would be in India.

Again, Berger has in mind interpersonal relationships and institutional practices, but I think we may usefully frame our technological milieu similarly. In other words, to say that our technological milieu, our material culture constitutes a set of plausibility structures is to say that we derive tacit assumptions about what is possible, what is good, what is valuable from merely carrying on about our daily business with and through our tools. These implicit valuations and horizons of the possible are the unspoken context within which we judge and evaluate explicit ideas and propositions.

Consequently, Jacobs is quite right to insist that we understand the emergence of modernity as more than the triumph of a set of ideas about individuals, democracy, reason, progress, etc. And, as he puts it,

“Those of us who — out of theological conviction or out of some other conviction — have some serious doubts about the turn that modernity has taken have been far too neglectful of this material, economic, and technological history. We need to remedy that deficiency. And someone needs to write a really comprehensive and ambitious technological history of modernity. I don’t think I’m up to that challenge, but if no one steps up to the plate….”

All of this to say that I’m enthusiastic about the project Jacobs has presented and eager to see how it unfolds. I have a few more thoughts about it that I hope to post in the coming days–why, for example, Jacobs project is more appealing than Evgeny Morozov’s vision for tech criticism–but that may or may not materialize. Whatever the case, I think you’ll do well to tune in to Jacobs’ work on this as it progresses.

by Michael Sacasas at July 02, 2015 04:24 PM

Table Titans

Tales: Breaking the DM


Back in college, my friends and I had a small weekly gaming group that gathered in the dorm basement. The DM didn't have much experience and half of us were newbies, but we were having a blast.

We were reaching the end of a long crawl and had come upon a large moat with a castle on the opposite…

Read more

July 02, 2015 04:21 PM

Justin Taylor

A Theology of Singleness

One of the things I think the gay-marriage debate has revealed is that many evangelicals do not have a robust theology of singleness.

The following talks are not directed to those who struggle with same-sex desire, but I think they are both helpful in helping the church recover a biblical understanding of a full and fulfilled life lived chastely before the Lord:

For the manuscript and audio of Piper’s talk, go here.

by Justin Taylor at July 02, 2015 03:35 PM

Front Porch Republic

Tonight in Grand Rapids

I’ll be speaking tonight at St. Isidore’s in Grand Rapids as part of their “Fortnight for Freedom” series. My topic is “Two Cities: Can Catholics and Liberals Co-exist?” You’ll have to attend to find out the answer.

The post Tonight in Grand Rapids appeared first on Front Porch Republic.

by Jeffrey Polet at July 02, 2015 02:52 PM

The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

50 Resources for Equipping the Church on Homosexuality and Same-Sex Marriage

The Gospel Coalition exists to serve the church. To help fulfill this mession, TGC has joined with the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention on Equip, a project to provide a broad range of resources on homosexuality and same-sex marriage issues to prepare your church for a changing culture.

If you're looking for something to share with people in your church in order to better equip them to discuss homosexuality, same-sex attraction, same-sex marriage, or the biblical view of sexuality, consider one of the following 50 resources:


Understanding the Supreme Court’s Same-Sex Marriage Decision

Explainer: What You Should Know About The Supreme Court's Same-Sex Marriage Ruling
Joe Carter, TGC

The Supreme Court issued its ruling on the case of Obergefell v. Hodges. Here is what you should know about this historic legal decision on marriage.

50 Key Quotes from the Supreme Court’s Same-Sex Marriage Ruling
Joe Carter, ERLC

In the ruling and four dissents—which total 103 pages—there are dozens of interesting and important quotes. Here are 50 key passages you should know about.

How the Supreme Court Found a Constitutional Right to Same-Sex Marriage
Joseph Williams, Canon & Culture

What exactly does the 14th Amendment protect and how did five Supreme Court justices determine that it includes same-sex marriage?

9 Things You Should Know About The Supreme Court's Same-Sex Marriage Cases
Joe Carter, TGC

What you should know about the Supreme Court's historic ruling on two same-sex marriage cases.


How Christians Can Respond Right Now

Why the Church Should Neither Cave Nor Panic About the Decision on Gay Marriage
Russell Moore, The Washington Post

The Court now has disregarded thousands of years of definition of the most foundational unit of society, and the cultural changes here will be broad and deep. So how should the church respond?

Can Evangelicals See Themselves in the LGBT Movement?
Alastair Roberts, TGC

As we come to realize the faults in the LGBT community, we may find we're seeing a mirror image of the faults in ourselves.

Something Greater Than Marriage
Rosaria Butterfield and Christopher Yuan, TGC

If singleness is unfair, then it’s no wonder marriage has become a right.

Christopher Yuan on How to Engage Today's Gay Marriage Debate
Ryan Troglin, TGC

Christopher Yuan encourages the church to see those in the LGBT community not as opponents to be defeated, but as broken sinners who need the life-giving message of Jesus.


Preparing for What Comes Next

How Christians Can Show Countercultural Resolve On Marriage
Jennifer A. Marshall, TGC

What happened between Friday and Monday is a window into the future for the issues of marriage and religious liberty. Here’s what Christians need to do next.

Same-Sex Marriage and the Future
Russell Moore, TGC

In some form or another, your church will have to address the marriage revolution. Here’s how to be prepared.

Lessons for the Marriage Debate from the Pro-Life Movement 
Russell Moore, TGC

Four years ago, our current President said he personally opposed same-sex marriage. Today, the Supreme Court has found a Constitutional right to same-sex marriage, contra all recorded sociopolitical, religious, and human history.

Same-Sex Marriage and Christian Higher Education
Albert Mohler, ERLC

We are living in the midst of an unprecedented sexual revolution, one that presents particular challenges to Christians and those committed to religious liberty.

How To Win The Public On Homosexuality
Collin Hansen, TGC

Regaining the ground Christians have lost on homosexuality will require widespread repentance, painful self-examination, and new resolve to pursue self-denying holiness.


Talking to Family and Friends

40 Questions For Christians Now Waving Rainbow Flags
Kevin DeYoung, TGC

If you consider yourself a Bible-believing Christian, a follower of Jesus whose chief aim is to glorify God and enjoy him forever, here are important questions I hope you will consider before picking up your flag and cheering on the sexual revolution.  

Four Appeals to Christians Embracing Gay Marriage
Gavin Ortlund, Solioquium

To my friends in the church embracing gay marriage, I offer these four “appeals.” I don’t expect those who have studied this issue thoroughly and landed squarely in that camp will necessarily find these appeals new or convincing. But I’m also seeing a lot of Christians, particularly younger millennials, whose openness to gay marriage seems to me more impulsive, emotional, uncareful.

Talking to Your Children About Sex, Marriage, and Same-Sex Marriage
Various, ERLC

A roundtable discussion with Jani Ortlund, Stephanie Goeke, Krissie Inserra, Trillia Newbell, and Jena Starke.

Sam Allberry on Ministering to Same-Sex Attracted Friends
Joe Carter, TGC

In a series of short videos, Sam Allberry explains how you can minister to your friends and church members who are same-sex attracted.

Dear Christian Friends: Remember You Are Not Home
Erik Raymond, TGC

In talking with a number of Christians last week I was struck by how the Supreme Court decision to legalize same-sex marriage brought such an unsettling clarity to their perspective.


Responding to Questions About Homosexuality and Same-Sex Marriage

Why Not Gay Marriage?
Kevin DeYoung, TGC

The challenge before the church is to convince ourselves as much as anyone that believing the Bible does not make us bigots, just as reflecting the times does not make us relevant.

Why Can’t the Church Just Agree to Disagree on Homosexuality?
Kevin DeYoung, TGC

When the Bible uniformly and unequivocally says the same thing about a serious sin, it seems unwise to find a third way which allows for some people (in a church, organization, or denomination) to be for the sin and other people to be against the sin.

Isn’t the Christian View of Sexuality Dangerous and Harmful?
Sam Allberry, TGC

The gospel shows us there is forgiveness for all who have sinned sexually, and it liberates us from the mindset that sex is intrinsic to human fulfillment.

On The Wrong Side of History?
Matt Smethurst, TGC

In this video, Tim Keller, John Piper, and Don Carson consider an increasingly aggressive line of questions.

Is Sexual Orientation Analogous To Race?
Joe Carter, TGC

An examination of the question of whether whether race and sexual orientation are similar and equally deserving of legal protections.

Answering Four Street-Level Arguments for Sexual Immorality
Matt Chandler, TGC

As fallen human beings, we tend to explain away or excuse our sin. It's part of our desires to justify ourselves apart from the blood of Christ.

How Can Homosexuality Be Wrong If It Doesn't Harm Anyone?
Matt Smethurst, TGC

In this video, Russell Moore, J. D. Greear, and Voddie Baucham tackle this complex and critical topic.

How Can the Gospel Be Good News to Gays?
Sam Allberry, TGC

What we give up for Jesus does not compare to what he gives back. If the costs are great, the rewards are even greater, even in this life.

Why Do They Always Ask If Homosexuality Is a Sin?
Erik Raymond, TGC

Recently my teenage son came home telling me of a conversation with an unbelieving friend about the gospel. He was encouraged to have been able to talk through specifics of what the truth of the gospel is and how someone becomes a Christian.


Legal and Religious Liberty Implications

What Your Church Needs to Know—and Do—About the Court’s Marriage Ruling
Erik Stanley, TGC

The threat from these non-discrimination laws will materialize in numerous ways as same-sex couples marry. But there are proactive steps your church can take to protect itself.

The Supreme Court and Religious Liberty: Reason for oncern
Andrew Walker, ERLC

In the aftermath of today’s Supreme Court ruling, attention is turning to how the Court’s ruling will affect the religious liberty of those who disagree with its redefinition of marriage.

How Same-Sex Marriage Threatens Christian Schools
Joe Carter, TGC

With seven words—“It is going to be an issue”—the U.S. government signaled to orthodox Christian colleges and universities that if they don’t drop their opposition to same-sex marriage they will lose their tax exempt status.


Providing a Pastoral Response

The Bible and Same-Sex Relationships: A Review Article
Tim Keller, TGC

Tim Keller engages five common arguments in gay-affirming literature.

Audio FAQ with D. A. Carson on the Supreme Court Same-Sex Marriage Decision
Justin Taylor, TGC

On the Desiring God Ask Pastor John podcast, Tony Reinke asks New Testament scholar and TGC president Don Carson about same-sex marriage.

A Note to Pastors in Light of the Scotus Decision on Same-Sex Marriage 
Russell Moore, Moore to the Point

How to preach in light of the SCOTUS decision.

Ministering in the New Normal
Dean Inserra, ERLC

This has gotten complicated, and the Supreme Court ruling just made things worse. Being a pastor in 2015—a world in which whatever you feel, you are—makes communicating a biblical sexual ethic difficult.

Five Commitments to Those Struggling with Same-Sex Attraction in Our Midst
Kevin DeYoung, TGC

Those of us who believe in biblical marriage must also be careful to speak in a way that acknowledges the growing number of men and women in evangelical churches who have desires for persons of the same sex and know that God does not want them to act on those desires.

“Will I Be Fully Accepted at Your Church as a Gay Man?”
David Prince, ERLC

Below is my response to an e-mail I received that asked the following question: “I believe church should be for all of God’s children. No exceptions. I am a gay man. My question is, would I be fully accepted with no judgment and fully welcome and able to serve at Ashland Avenue Baptist Church?”

The Gospel for a Gay Friend
Garrett Kell, TGC

In the end, we aren’t trying to make people straight, we want people to be saved.

Letter to a Struggling Gay Christian
Augustus Nicodemus Lopes, TGC

Conversion doesn't mean perfection, and it doesn’t mean the absence of temptation—including homosexual desire.

But What Does the Bible Say?
Kevin DeYoung, TGC

The Bible says the Lord alone is God and we should have no other gods before him. Not the state, not the Supreme Court, not our families, not our friends, not our favorite authors, not our cultural cache. No gods but God.

Practical Advice for Loving Your Homosexual Neighbors

Should I Attend a Same-Sex Wedding?
Matthew Hosier, TGC

Probably sooner than later, every Christian must decide whether or not you will attend a same-sex wedding.

Should a Christian Photographer Work at a Same-Sex Wedding Ceremony?
Russell Moore, TGC

I would argue that the situation is very different from photographing some other event, regardless of whether you agree or disagree with the clients' sexual or marital context. The fact that this is a wedding means there’s a different moral question for you.

“We Are All Messy”: Rosaria Butterfield on Loving Our Gay and Lesbian Friends
Matt Smethurst, TGC

Watch Rosaria Butterfield discuss how to understand and love our gay and lesbian friends.


Background on Homosexuality and Same-Sex Marriage

9 Things You Should Know About Same-Sex Marriage
Joe Carter, TGC

Here are nine things you should know about this controversial topic.

The New Purpose of Marriage
Collin Hansen, TGC

Marriage based on needs and affection will struggle to endure when the needs change and the affection fades.

What You Should Know About “Monogamish” Relationships
Joe Carter, TGC

What you should know about the redefinition of monogamy and same-sex relationships.

The Roots of Marriage’s Redefinition: How We Got Where We Are Today
Andrew Walker, ERLC

How did we reach a point where an institution older than recorded history could be redefined and altered by an idea unknown before the year 2000?

Gay Is Not the New Black
Voddie Baucham, TGC

There is no legal, logical, moral, biblical, or historical reason to support same-sex 'marriage.'

How I Wish the Homosexuality Debate Would Go
Trevin Wax, TGC

Just once, I’d like to see a TV interview go more like this.

How Denominations Come To Tolerate, Accept, and Then Endorse Homosexuality
Kevin DeYoung, TGC

Tom Oden, writing in his book Requiem way back in 1995, explains how it happens.

Sexual Freedom Always Curtails Other Freedoms
Trevin Wax, TGC

Interact with people in our society about issues related to sex, and you’ll quickly discover how everyone seems to be a libertarian. 

by Joe Carter at July 02, 2015 02:00 PM

Mr. Money Mustache

If You Wouldn’t Buy it, You Should Probably Sell it



Dear Mr. Money Mustache,

I just came across your blog a few weeks ago after seeing a story about it on ABC.

While the idea of cutting back my lifestyle sounded horrible at first, once I dug in I saw what you were really talking about and it has been like a giant boxing glove hit me in the face. Until recently I thought we were doing pretty well. But suddenly I could see money leaking out everywhere in our lifestyle: the cable package, remaining student loans, restaurants, excessive driving, excessive air conditioning – everywhere.

My question is what to do about the  decisions that are already “locked-in”. We have some expensive and not-that efficient cars (A 2010 Mazda CX-9 and 2013 Acura TL), but at least they are paid off so we might as well drive them forever, right?

Also, we live about 15 miles from work in a house that is way too big for the four of us, but on the bright side we bought it in on foreclosure in 2009 and the value is up about $100,000 since then.

Finally, and I have an old (2000) speed boat and a camp trailer we use occasionally in the summers – these are paid off as well, but they do cost something to store and maintain (about $2400/year).

We’ve started biking more and doing more local activities and the kids like it. I just wish we hadn’t locked in these earlier poor decisions.


First of all, let me admit that the above person is somewhat fabricated. I find letters like this waiting for me every morning when I wake up, and so many of them follow the same general pattern that I figured we could create a great lesson by combining some of the best details into one composite letter. And that lesson is the one right there in the title:

Don’t let the boat anchor of your past mistakes drag on you forever into your future.

Clinging to past behaviors is one of the built-in weaknesses (also known as Cognitive Biases) that we humans are born with. In this case, we’re talking about Loss Aversion and maybe a bit of the Sunk Cost Effect: we tend to value things we already have, and things we have poured a lot of money into, even if they are in fact pieces of crap when measured on an objective quality-of-life scale.

“I’d hate to take the depreciation hit on this 2012 Dodge Ram 1500 BigHorn after making three years of payments on it!” 

These prepackaged flaws are so powerful that we need to pull ourselves deliberately in the other direction in order to end up at a reasonable middle ground. Even when you think you’re living life in a reasonable fashion, this bias will still sneak up and bite you.

And it still bites me too – let’s look at another example from my own life right now. Do you remember that rental house I was so happy to have sold in the last article?

On paper, it looks pretty good: I was stuck with a supposed-to-be-$650,000 house back in 2010 that I was having trouble selling even with the listing price dropped down to $480k. Probably because the market value was more like 450. At the time, I felt stubborn and defiant:

“There’s no way I’m selling this prized bit of my work for $200,000 less than it is worth! I’ll just rent it out, collect some income, and ride the prices right back up. Then, justice will be served and my past mistakes won’t look so bad.”

However, and this is the key to this whole article, if the situation were reversed I would have given a completely different answer. Suppose it was the year 2010 in a different universe, and I was not saddled with that house. I was retired, had that same $450,000 sitting happily in index funds, and looking out at the carnage in the housing market. If someone had suggested I invest in this house, it would be a different conversation:

Random Person:  “Hey man, do you want to buy a $450,000 house in a high-end neighborhood with a strict Homeowner’s Association? It’ll give you $2400 in rent, plus whatever appreciation the housing market provides. Property taxes will run you around $3200/year and the HOA fees are another $960. And don’t forget maintenance!”

Me:  “Are you Effing Crazy!? I’m retired! I don’t need some fussy high-end rental. I’ll sit back and enjoy my index funds, or at least get something like a 4-plex that nets $4000/month for that kind of money!”

But cognitive bias struck, and I decided to rent out the place anyway.

And sure, things turned out roughly as a reasonable forecast would predict: I put it up for rent, and collected over $144,000 in rental income over the next five years. On top of that, the housing market recovered so the house appreciated by an additional $115,000. A total income of $259,000, which sounds pretty good on a $450,000 investment, right?

But wait. Let’s subtract the taxes and HOA fees at $20,800 over those five years.
Then subtract my maintenance costs, which added to about $10,000 (most of it spent just this past May as I restored the house to its original sparkling condition for sale).
Plus an estimate of the value of my labor for managing and maintaining it: 200 hours at $40, or $8,000.

This yields a net profit of about $220,000, meaning my $450,000 grew to $670,000.

It still sounds like an amazing windfall, but that’s just because $450 grand is a lot of money, and five years is a fair amount of time. On an annualized basis, this is like earning just 8%. Yet another example of how your money can work harder than you can.

What if I had put this money into the plain old conservative Vanguard S&P500 index fund (VFIAX) instead, and allowed all dividend payments to automatically reinvest?

Plugging the dates into our amazing IndexView tool, I can see that a stock investment would have roughly doubled in that time period if you include dividend reinvestment. In other words, if I had ditched that house at $450,000 and just kicked back for the next five years, that chunk of money would be over $900,000 today.

Hindsight is 20/20, as they say.  The stock market could easily end up going sideways over a five-year period. But what matters is making the choice that is most likely to be the right thing for you. And that means thinking about today’s  big decisions as if there were no past baggage attached to them.

In the introductory story, the brand-new Mustachian is currently burdened with a money-burning 2010 Mazda CX-9 SUV, which would fetch about $12,000 on the used market. If she were starting from scratch with $12,000 in the wallet and no car, would she buy the same vehicle? Or perhaps the far superior 2010 Honda Fit which handles better, will cut the running costs in half, and costs over $3,000 less?

The $3000 cash difference plus a savings of $2500 per year in fuel, depreciation and maintenance will compound to a wealth difference of over $30,000 per decade, just from this one decision. Not many people realize the staggering effects of a poor vehicle choice, which is the reason SUVs exist in the first place. But now that the new knowledge has been acquired, it is time to act on it. Since she wouldn’t buy the SUV right now, she should sell the SUV right now.

Similarly, moving a double-commuting couple 15 miles closer to work will save you close to $100,000 every decade in direct car costs alone, but much more than that if you factor in the value of your own time and health. Most people don’t realize the shockingly high cost of car-commuting. If they did, distant suburbs and the the entire phenomenon of “rush hour” would not even exist. But once you do get the secret memo, it is time to act on it and move.

Lifestyle trinkets like motorboats and rarely-used cabins, ATVs and country club memberhips seem like an harmless treat you indulge in when you get your first promotion at work. But they tend to add up and become a massive tax on your life – draining attention and cashflow to the tune of hundreds of thousands more per decade. Once you realize that these little weekend amusements are equivalent to chaining yourself to an office for an extra 40 years, you might weigh the decision differently. And so you can change your decision. Right now.

But What about Transaction Costs?

The Economists of the audience are probably a bit annoyed right now: “Mustache’s examples don’t account for the time and money you need to spend to change cars, or change houses! Often if you take these into account it would wipe out the first several months of savings or more!

They are right to a certain extent. But I encourage people to push through the pain and get the deals done anyway, because making transactions is good for you.

Transactions, deals, friendships, and other arrangements with other humans are the highest-paying and often most rewarding thing you can do with your time. Even the ones that don’t go perfectly build your perspective and your Badassity. Most of us make far too few transactions, and this lack of experience keeps us in fear, so we avoid them even more with each passing year. Your skill and comfort with life transactions is reflected directly in your wealth and the quality of your life.

So even if it does take a few hours to photograph the gas guzzlers and get them onto Craigslist, and even more hours to search out a new ride, make the investment and get the job done. The momentum you gain will start a chain reaction that helps you clean up all your other past mistakes.

What would you do differently if you could go back to age 19 and design your wealthy dream lifestyle from scratch?

How many of these things can you change and improve right now if you really put your mind to it?

I’m looking forward to getting fewer excuses for the past, and more announcements of massive change in the present, in my future emails.


by Mr. Money Mustache at July 02, 2015 01:34 PM

Images of updated iPods found in iTunes 12.2 →

Juli Clover at MacRumors:

A bit more digging around in iTunes 12.2 has unearthed additional iPod images, giving us a look at each of the new color options we might see should Apple be planning to release new models.

The images depict six different color options for the iPod nano, shuffle, and touch, showing each model in silver, space gray, red, bright pink, deep blue, and light gold. The latter three colors, pink, blue, and gold, are new shades that are not currently available. The space gray model may be slightly darker than the existing color, but it's difficult to determine from images alone.

It's been a long time since we've seen substantial iPod rumors. The iPod nano was last updated in September 2012, while the iPod shuffle was last updated in September 2010. The iPod touch was slightly refreshed in May of 2013, but it's really the same device Apple launched in September 2012 with an A5 processor.

While this rumor seems solid, I'm a little surprised to see all three remaining iPod models being prepared for refresh. I can see a world where the iPod nano goes away without much fuss.


by Stephen Hackett at July 02, 2015 01:16 PM

Crossway Blog

Video: Todd Wilson on the Book of Daniel

Knowing the Bible Series: Daniel from Crossway on Vimeo.

In this video, Todd Wilson, author of Daniel: A 12-Week Study, explains how the book of Daniel ultimately points to the sovereign Lord of history, who rules over all earthly kingdoms and whose plans cannot be thwarted.

Learn more and download a free excerpt.

by Matt Tully at July 02, 2015 01:05 PM

Zondervan Academic Blog

[Common Places] New Studies in Dogmatics: Sanctification

Writing invariably involves paths both foreseen and surprising. Preparing this volume on sanctification has involved both experiences.

Previous work on soteriology more broadly (The Christ’s Faith: A Dogmatic Account) and justification specifically (Justification and the Gospel: Understanding the Contexts and Controversies) led me to believe that writing a volume on sanctification would be a logical next step for me personally. Furthermore, controversies and debates regarding sanctification have grown increasingly feisty in recent years: they involve not only Christian conversation with non-Christian ideologies regarding morality and ethics (most blatantly evident in disagreements over sexuality and gender), but they also regard internecine discussions amongst evangelicals and even, specifically, between persons in my own Reformed tradition (regarding, e.g., the third use of the law in gospel ministry). For personal and public reasons, then, this writing project appeared needful and timely.

As I researched and prepared to begin writing, I knew that one of the most significant tasks would be contextual, that is, locating sanctification in the proper matrix for thinking well about “the holy.” In dealing with non-Christian challenges to holiness, the most significant matters of protocol have been beginning with more fundamental articles and increasingly narrowing attention to what it means to be holy and to be made holy by God, thus addressing God, creation, covenant, sin, Christology, and, only then, turning to what has traditionally been deemed the doctrine of sanctification as such. Only in taking such a course can holiness be a theological category rather than merely a sociological construct. And in addressing some of the debates amongst Protestants today (especially the Radical Lutheranism of those influenced by Gerhard Forde), I expected that the key to thinking well of the holy would be making sure at every point to keep Christology and pneumatology fully operative and, in so doing, to keep an eye on the full sweep of gospel teaching regarding the works of Son and Spirit. Only in being vigilant to think sanctification as an action intrinsic to the gospel—as a gift of the triune God who not only acted in the first-century events of the passion and Pentecost and will act on judgment day as advocate, but who also acts today—could an account of evangelical holiness be offered that does not depict morality in a way that deflects from a Christ-centered spirituality and ethics. I expected, therefore, that writing this book would involve attending carefully to matters of theological architecture, of redemptive history, and of the evangelical context of sanctification in union with Christ.

Other things surprised me, however, as I have prepared the volume. I did know that matters of creation and of eschatology would be crucial for defining the nature and purpose of creaturely holiness; biblical theology and redemptive history have been a major facet of Reformed dogmatics since its beginning, evident most obviously in the fostering of covenant theology in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and then in the emphasis upon Pauline eschatology in recent decades. Eschatology and ethics are wed together, and I foresaw that nexus of issues. But I had not appreciated the degree to which a theocentric eschatology marked by attention to the beatific vision would need to shape my account along the way, not just at the conclusion of the book but in a distributed manner throughout. Holiness is for seeing the Lord, after all, and the pure in heart are blessed with that gift above all (so Heb. 12:14; Mt. 5:8).

I had also not grasped, not by a long shot, the way in which I would have to immerse myself in the ascetical tradition and consider a host of concepts related to classical Christian reflection on holiness, namely, self-denial, renunciation of the world, heavenly-mindedness, martyrdom, contentment, Sabbath, and the like. The Reformed theological tradition has not invested much theological capital in such topics this side of neo-Calvinism’s massive influence, but I have been drawn back to patristic and medieval accounts (ranging from Basil and Gregory Nyssa to Augustine and Bonaventure) and especially to the earlier Reformed ethics of the Puritans and earlier reformers like Calvin (who sought to recalibrate asceticism according to the scripture principle and the logic of the gospel, but who also valued its biblical legitimacy and spiritual vitality). Again, I’m finding that such matters appear in a distributed manner across my account of sanctification rather than simply constituting a discrete portion therein (though a related project on eschatology and ethics has also been spawned by the process of writing this book and will hopefully focus more discretely upon these interconnected eschatological and ethical matters).

Thinking on the communication of holiness from Christ to the Christian has prompted me, more than I ever imagined, to root the good lessons of Kuyper’s earthy vision of the new creation and the resurrected body in the classical Christian emphasis upon being heavenly-minded and hoping for the visio Dei above all else. That living hope shapes the character of holiness and the nature of Christian ethics, and thus I have found that it must shape my thinking on sanctification.

Jesus tells us that “every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a master of the house, who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old” (Mt. 13:52). I have found these words to be definitive for the theological journey and demanding for the prayerful task of thinking the holy. This combination of the settled and the surprising has made for a joyful process of discovery, thinking, and writing, and my prayer would be that they contribute to a better book at the end of the day, a study marked by treasures old and new.

(Image: Thanks-Giving Square chapel interior in Dallas, Texas by RadicalBender; via Wikimedia Commons)


Michael Allen (PhD, Wheaton College) is Associate Professor of Systematic and Historical Theology at Reformed Theological Seminary. Michael is a Presbyterian teaching elder and is the author of several books, including Reformed Catholicity: The Promise of Retrieval for Theology and Biblical Interpretation (with Scott Swain) and Justification and the Gospel: Understanding the Contexts and Controversies, as well as many articles on Christian doctrine and historical theology.


Common Places is a regular column on the Zondervan Academic blog with a focus on systematic theology. The loci communes or “common places” of Christian theology, drawn out of the Scriptures and organized in a manner suitable to their exposition in the church and the academy, have functioned historically as common points of reference for theological discussion and debate. This column will focus upon the classical loci of systematic theology, not as occasions for revision, but as opportunities for entering into the ongoing conversation that is Christian systematic theology. We invite you to join and dialog with us on the first and third Thursdays of every month. For more about Common Places, read the column introduction.

Zondervan Academic’s New Studies in Dogmatics series seeks to retrieve the riches of Holy Scripture and the church’s tradition for contemporary theological renewal. We have asked each contributor to give us an interim report on the questions, figures, texts, trends, or even surprises they are finding or looking forward to engaging in their respective volumes.

Michael Allen and Scott Swain, editors

by Michael Allen at July 02, 2015 12:00 PM

The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

What We Can Learn from the Civil Rights Movement

I think the civil rights movement teaches us a great deal, both positively and negatively, about how to exercise influence [in a hostile culture].

On the positive side,

  • It teaches us that we don’t have to give up on our Christianity in order to influence culture.
  • It also teaches us that there is power in the gospel for transformation—not just the transformation of the individual sinner but also the transformation of culture itself.
  • It also teaches that we cannot separate the gospel from the political realm, nor should you separate the gospel from the political realm. 

I think all of these things are positive lessons we can learn from the civil rights movement.

On the negative side, I think the civil rights movement

  • stands as a warning about the danger of politicizing the gospel,
  • of changing the way people view Christianity
  • and turning Christianity into a purely political tool as opposed to a prophetic tool,
  • of becoming a constituency
  • and of using political power as opposed to the power of prophetic persuasion.

Because then what happens is the church and the gospel sort of lose sway within the culture. So that today when people think about the title “Reverend” for black people they think about political activism and not the proclamation of the gospel. That is a horrible outcome of the civil rights movement.

by Voddie Baucham at July 02, 2015 05:02 AM

Slavery and Homosexuality: Hasn’t the Church Changed Its Mind Before?

A common argument against accepting homosexual practice is that the church through the centuries has unanimously declared it sinful. But why should that matter? Aren’t we committed to sola Scriptura—the authority of the Bible alone? Hasn’t the church gotten things wrong before, like supporting slavery? What authority does church tradition have for us anyway? 

It’s true, human tradition can be a hindrance to divine truth. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for breaking God’s commands for the sake of their own traditions (Matt. 15:3). And the 16th-century Reformers rejected the magisterial authority of tradition espoused by the Roman Catholic Church. Shouldn’t we seek to emulate Restorationist leader Alexander Campbell, who counseled his followers to “open the New Testament as if mortal man had never seen it before,” no longer bound by the prejudices of the past? Why should tradition be important in seeking to understand the teaching of the Bible? Let me offer two lines of argument—one philosophical, the other theological.

Socially and Culturally Situated 

First, respect for tradition in interpreting the Bible helps to overcome an important problem so clearly identified by postmodernism: we are all socially and culturally situated. There are no neutral interpreters. We are influenced by all sorts of non-rational and often sub-conscious factors, leading us to believe what we want to believe. We all view the world from our own point of view, with pre-understandings based on our own experience with the world and our own place in it. Postmodernism rightly calls us to recognize our limitations and our finitude.

An aspect of this is what C. S. Lewis called “presentism”—the seductive assumption that ideas about what’s reasonable and mainstream today necessarily apply to all ages. Such “chronological snobbery” can only be overcome by an intimate acquaintance with the past. “Not that the past has any magic about it,” Lewis explains, but study of the past is important “because we cannot study the future, and yet need something to set against the present.” He likens the value of such study to the benefits of travel: “[A] man who has lived in many places is not likely to be deceived by the local errors of his native village.” So the scholar who has become acquainted with the views of the past “has lived in many times and is therefore in some degree immune from the great cataract of nonsense that pours from the press and the microphone of his own age” (“Learning in War-Time” in The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses).

Attending to the views of Christians of the past, from many and varied cultures, helps us in our biblical interpretation to overcome the hermeneutical blinders arising from our own cultural setting.

Theologically Situated 

A second argument for appreciating the value of tradition in interpretation is theological. It arises from the conviction that the same Holy Spirit who inspired the Bible has been at work in believers through the ages, illumining their minds to understand it. Since the Spirit's work is to guide God's people into truth, to ignore the understanding of Christians of the past is to dishonor that work. As J. I. Packer declares,

Dismissing tradition as representing only the worldliness of the church reflects unbelief in the Spirit’s work since Pentecost as the church’s teacher; embracing the dogma of faultless tradition reflects a lapse into ecclesiastical perfectionism. In seeking to profit from tradition I oppose the deifying of it no less than the devaluing of it. (Engaging the Written Word of God, 210)

Those same Reformers who affirmed the final authority of Scripture also affirmed the secondary authority of church tradition. Just as “faith alone” included the notion that true faith wouldn’t be alone but would be accompanied by works, so “Scripture alone” was never understood to mean the authority of Scripture by itself (nuda Scriptura), but Scripture understood in the company of God’s people through time. They believed the early creeds, for example, could be abandoned only at great peril. “In this sense,” Timothy George observes, “tradition served as a kind of guardrail on a dangerous mountain highway, keeping the traveler focused on the goal of the journey by preventing precipitous calamities to the right and the left” (Reading Scriptures with the Reformers, 123).Tradition, then, could not trump the Bible, but it could be an aid in understanding the Bible. It had a ministerial rather than a magisterial authority, but a real authority nonetheless.

In the early fourth century, Vincent of Lérins proposed a threefold test of the truth taught by the church: “What has been believed everywhere, always, and by all.” This “Vincentian standard” in its fullness has only rarely been achieved, but up until the later half of the 20th century it has described the church’s position on the sinfulness of homosexual practice. (And even in our day, dissent from this view is almost entirely confined to the West.) So what difference should that make in the present debate?

Hermeneutical Virtue of Humility

At the very least it ought to invoke the hermeneutical virtue of humility. Are interpreters today only now coming to a truth no one else has discovered? Are they the first to see the light? Some might argue that only now have Christians affirmed the evil of slavery. But as Rodney Stark has so clearly demonstrated (see For the Glory of God: How Monotheism Led to Reformations, Science, Witch-Hunts and the End of Slavery), there have been Christian voices denouncing slavery since the early days of the church. Contrary to the discredited argument of John Boswell (see Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality: Gay People in Western Europe from the Beginning of the Christian Era to the 14th Century), none has endorsed homosexual practice.1

Surely this must raise the bar on any exegetical conclusion that is contrary to such a vast company of witnesses. This united testimony of the past requires that arguments in our day about Scripture endorsing homosexual practice must face a higher burden of proof, moving from mere “reasonable suspicion” to “beyond reasonable doubt.” I believe that is a standard they can never achieve.

1 Note the view of David F. Wright (author of the article on homosexuality in the Encyclopedia of Early Christianity): “The conclusion must be that for all its interest and stimulus Boswell’s book provides in the end of the day not one firm piece of evidence that the teaching mind of the early church countenanced homosexual activity.”

by Bill Kynes at July 02, 2015 05:02 AM

When Jesus Hurried

Jesus was not one to be rushed. Though he is eternal, he came to us wrapped in flesh, and therefore bound by earthly limitations. He got hungry and thirsty (Mark 11:12; John 4:7; 19:28), he got sleepy (Matt. 8:24), and even had to have someone help him carry really heavy things (Mark 15:21).

Jesus knew his limits. He didn’t try to be in three places at once or cram 30 hours’ worth of activity into 12 hours of daylight. Consider that Jesus didn’t start his ministry till he was 30, and he didn’t kick it into high gear even when a little girl and a good friend would have avoided death had he picked up the pace a bit (Luke 8:40–56; John 11). Even when he used a form of transportation other than his feet, Jesus chose a colt not a thoroughbred (Mark 11:7). He accepted his limitations and lived life at a godly pace.

But one time Jesus hurried.

Jesus the Pacesetter

The scene is found in Mark 10 and, ironically, the reference to Jesus’s atypical burst of speed is easy to fly right by. Jesus has just taught on divorce, spent some time hanging out with children, and spoken with a wealthy young man who was trying to figure out his life. Then, it happens. Jesus, known for his easy pace, becomes the pacesetter:

And they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them. And they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. And taking the twelve again, he began to tell them what was to happen to him, saying, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.” (Mark 10:32–34, emphasis mine)

I grant that Mark doesn’t describe Jesus sprinting ahead of the disciples, nor does he indicate Jesus is frenetic in any way. If anything, the image is one of hard and fast resolve, like the Servant of the Lord from Isaiah 50 who “set [his] face like a flint” in the face of mockery and even danger.

Still, I cannot help but take note of the details included, striking in themselves given that Mark is the least annotative of the Gospel writers. It was important to him to note that Jesus is out ahead of the disciples, and that the disciples are amazed at Jesus’s resoluteness and, I believe, his pace—which frightened them. It amazed and frightened the disciples that Jesus was determined to give himself to those who would condemn, mock, beat, and kill him. Whereas a stormy sea had scared them once before (Mark 4:35–41), now they feared the storm of sin-twisted religious politics that awaited their Master in Jerusalem.

But this time Jesus was not asleep in the boat. This time he was fully awake, eyes wide open, moving quickly toward his cross.

Repenting of Hurrying and Failing to Hurry

As I reflect on this passage, I am struck by how different Jesus’s hurrying is from my hurrying. I often live as if my limits don’t exist, trying to do too much, trying to be too much. The signs appear not only in my worn and wearied body, but in my anxious and weighed-down heart (Prov. 12:25). I repent often of hurrying and worrying, something Jesus never had to do.

What’s more, this snapshot from Mark’s Gospel reminds me it’s not enough to repent only of my foolish rushing around; I must repent even of failing to hurry.

  • When faced with an opportunity to own up to shortcomings, I often hurry toward self-justification rather than repentance.
  • When faced with potential criticism from others, I’m tempted to hurry away from words that might sting rather than move confidently and even quickly toward them with hope that the result might actually shape me more into the image of Christ.
  • When faced with situations and conversations where my Spirit-empowered absorption of pain and discomfort might serve the redemptive purposes of the gospel, I often move at a snail’s pace in order to avoid anything that looks like suffering.

Imitating Jesus’s Hurrying and Slowing Down

When faced with the cross, Jesus “set his face to go to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51). The good news is that because he faced sin (not his, but mine), because he faced criticism and suffering, I am now free to slow down and live within my limits. Jesus finished the work so I don’t have to. At the same time, I am free to speed up my cooperation with the Holy Spirit, hurrying toward repentance, criticism, and even suffering because these things are good for me (Rom. 8:28).

After all, Christ crucified and resurrected is my justification, so I don’t have to justify myself before God. In addition, the cross tells me that God has given me the ultimate criticism—I am a worse sinner than even I know—so I don’t have to run away from those who may offer a fraction of the judgment I deserve. And I don’t have to avoid pain, failure, or humiliation, because those things are mere shadows cast by the suffering of Christ as he bore my curse on the cross.

No doubt I often need to slow down and relax in view of God’s sovereignty. But when it comes to the way of the cross, I want to learn, like Jesus, to hurry forward. 

by Joel Lindsey at July 02, 2015 05:00 AM

Workout: July 2, 2015

20 minutes to establish a heavy clean and jerk Coach-assigned drills to follow based on the results.

by Mike at July 02, 2015 12:29 AM

July 01, 2015

CrossFit Naptown

NapTown Barbell Club is Legit

Thursday’s Workout:

Skill WOD:
Alternating On the Minute 12:00
10 C-Swings
10 Hollow Rocks

Bar Muscle Up Skills:
Advanced –> practice and warm up
Intermediate –> practice bar mups or strict pull ups
Beginner –> pull up portion of pull up program

Deadlifts (315/205)
Bar Muscle Ups



USAW Certified



The NapTown Barbell Club is now an officially recognized United States of America Weightlifting club! Stay tuned in the coming weeks as the USAW site gets up to date with the awesomeness that is our club affiliation. Once that process is complete, any NapTown Barbell Club members who are part of USAW can join our team and represent NTBC at sanctioned events.


NapTown Barbell Club Schedule:










Singlets Coming Soon!

Singlets Coming Soon!



If you have any questions, comments, or concerns regarding the NapTown Barbell Club, please contact or We welcome any and all feedback and hope to make this program as helpful and fun for you as possible.

Remember: What are your goals with weightlifting?



by Anna at July 01, 2015 11:03 PM

Front Porch Republic

Summer Reading is for Everyone


“Then shall we carelessly allow the children to hear any old stories…?”
Plato, Republic

Summer is a time for stories. There is a great tradition of taking stories seriously, even, and sometimes especially, ‘non-serious’ or leisure reading. Stories are food for the soul, for young and old alike. They should nourish.

Age-appropriate reading can be part of the summer plan for every member of the family. Yet there is something magical and irreplaceable about reading together as a whole family. How many of us have indelible memories of stories read-aloud as a family? It can, however, be challenging to find a story that will hold everyone’s attention. A piece published yesterday by my friend William Fahey reminds us of one such classic for the whole family, as well as a couple of good reads for mature readers.

As we, and especially our children, can find ourselves drawn in by the ease and glitz of video entertainment, we will need to exercise discipline and make an intentional effort here. I hereby resolve to read-aloud (again) this summer the book Fahey recommends, to anyone in the house who will listen.

Treasure Island

Images: George Dunlop Leslie’s Alice in Wonderland; and N.C. Wyeth’s illustration of Treasure Island.

Orginally posted at Bacon from Acorns

The post Summer Reading is for Everyone appeared first on Front Porch Republic.

by John Cuddeback at July 01, 2015 06:34 PM


While my week at NASA didn't end as the agency may have planned, there's no way around it: it was an incredible week.

Bonus: Check out my collection of photos from the trip over on Flickr.

If the first day was about why we do things in space, then the rest of the week was all about the how.

For example, we saw how thermal protection tiles — the tiles that allow vehicles to reenter the atmosphere without burning up — are made:

We also toured the Vehicle Assembly Building, where NASA assembles rockets. This image is from the center of the building, looking up almost 500 feet:

What impressed me more than the facilities, however, were the people getting things done: engineers, designers, project managers, bus drivers, press people and more, all pointed in the same direction.

Very quickly, I noticed something about these people, regardless of if they worked for NASA or a third-party company. They all use the word we when it comes to the work of space.

"Up on ISS, we have about 40 hours worth of experiments to run."
"This is the pad we went to the moon on."
"The SLS is what we will use to go to Mars."

This sense of community and working toward a common goal was noticeable, no matter where I went last week. It's something that I believe sets NASA apart in its work, and one of the factors in its on-going success.

by Stephen Hackett at July 01, 2015 06:09 PM

Table Titans

Tales: Summon Death


After a long absence from the game, I was starting a new campaign with a group of people that I had mostly just met.  I wasn't sure what to expect. It was an entertaining, if odd, group.

I was playing a Deva Paladin who worshipped the Raven Queen, just for fun. One of my new friends was playing…

Read more

July 01, 2015 05:02 PM

Back to the Future is the most perfect blockbuster ever made →

My all-time favorite movie turns 30 years old this weekend, and Vox's Todd VanDerWerff's takes a look at what makes it so special:

Back to the Future works because, in the end, its stakes are so very small. Beneath all the jokes and the moments where a mother unknowingly flirts with her son and the time travel and the action-packed countdown sequences, all that remains is a theme so universal that we keep returning to it in story after story after story: can you ever understand your parents? And perhaps even harder: can they ever understand you?


by Stephen Hackett at July 01, 2015 04:29 PM

Zondervan Academic Blog

Flash Sale: “A Doubter’s Guide to the Bible” and “Raised?” eBooks Just $1.99

Until July 3, 2015, these two eBooks are just $1.99 apiece:

1. A Doubter’s Guide to the Bible by John Dickson: SALE Price $1.99 | Regular Price $11.99 (83% off!)

Doubter's GuideAmazon

Barnes & Noble


“A wonderful tour guide through the high points [of the Bible], dealing directly with the questions people have while explaining the gist of what is going on in Scripture. It is a tour well worth taking because it is led by such a competent guide.” –Darrell Bock, Senior Research Professor of New Testament, Dallas Theological Seminary


2. Raised? Finding Jesus by Doubting the Resurrection by Jonathan Dodson and Brad Watson: SALE Price $1.99 | Regular Price $5.99 (66% off)


Barnes & Noble


“Raised takes doubt seriously, situates the resurrection in a grander biblical narrative, and clarifies meanings of words that are so often misunderstood. The subject matter of Raised? makes this book important, but the approach taken by Dodson and Watson is what makes it all matter. Read it expectantly!” –Jonathan Merritt, author of Jesus is Better Than You Imagined

(Why a flash sale on these books, now? According to some traditions, July 3 is the feast day of Thomas the Apostle. “Doubting” Thomas is pictured above in Caravaggio’s The Incredulity of Saint Thomas. Image via Wikimedia Commons.)

by ZA Blog at July 01, 2015 04:00 PM

Kbase Article of the Week: About the iPod shuffle Reset Utility →

Remember the original iPod shuffle? Turns out, it could get stuck in weird modes, but Apple had a tool to help users in this situation:

The iPod shuffle Reset Utility restores the original iPod shuffle. The restore process completely erases all music and data on iPod shuffle and reinstalls software version 1.1.5. This utility is made available for customers using Mac OS 10.2.8.


by Stephen Hackett at July 01, 2015 03:11 PM

The Urbanophile

Big Aspirations Aren’t Just for Big Cities Anymore

My latest column is available in this month’s issue of Governing magazine. It’s called “Big Aspirations Aren’t Just for Big Cities Anymore.” In it I talk about how smaller cities – which in my view are metro regions between roughly one and three million given my focus on major American cities – have dramatically upgraded their game in the last decade. That’s not to say that they are on the same level as places in San Francisco or New York. Or that they have even closed the gap with those places. Rather that objectively speaking they have raised their game and as a result now have a much greater “addressable market” in terms of upscale residents and business – at the same time those larger places are becoming progressively unaffordable.

Here’s an excerpt:

Back in 1992, as a fresh graduate of Indiana University looking for a job, I met with recruiters for a position in Chicago. They pitched me on the city by telling me that it had this hip, new, uber-cool coffee shop. They were talking about Starbucks. If you were around in the ’90s, you may remember that those magazine “coolest-cities” lists often used the number of Starbucks as a metric. A city that finally got Starbucks thought it had hit the big time.

Today, of course, you can get Starbucks between the gas station and Motel 6 on the interstate. But back then it was a different story. The difference between Chicago and a city like Indianapolis, where I also interviewed, was night and day. Compared to Chicago, moving to Indianapolis would have been like getting sent to Siberia. It was all but impossible to get good coffee or a decent meal in Indy back then. While the city had already made many improvements, it was still pretty bleak.

Click through to read the whole thing.

I can’t find it online, but a few years back Chicago Magazine did a retrospective on their top ten restaurants list from circa 1995. It was pretty hilarious. I don’t remember them all, but Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba was one of them. How things change.

I think it’s pretty clear that for a whole slew of items, places like Nashville or Columbus now are at a higher level than even Chicago was a couple decades ago. That’s not true of everything, but it’s true for a lot of things.

I believe this change in the competitive landscape is one of the reasons Atlanta took a big hit in the 2000s. Atlanta used to be the only game in town for major corporations in the South. Now places like Nashville, Charlotte, and Raleigh are viable alternatives.

by Aaron M. Renn at July 01, 2015 03:11 PM

Practically Efficient


Brett and I rambled nostalgic about Notational Velocity forks, ran barefoot across the socio-political-economic mine field of U.S. health insurance, and discussed the power usage of mind maps in almost perverse way. I'm of course referring to episode 143 of Systematic, which I had fun being a part of.

by Eddie Smith at July 01, 2015 02:52 PM

Justin Taylor

An Interview with John Frame on Apologetics to the Glory of God

9781596389380P&R Books has just released John Frame’s book, Apologetics: A Justification of Christian Belief, a redeveloped and expanded version of Frame’s previous work, Apologetics to the Glory of God. This was one of the most influential books I’ve read on defending the Christian faith, and helped me bring together theology, Bible, and apologetics in a clear and compelling way.

James Anderson offers a similar testimony:

If I were asked to list the top three books that have had the greatest impact on me as a Christian thinker, John Frame’s Apologetics to the Glory of God would undoubtedly be one of them. It brought about a paradigm shift—one might even say a “Copernican revolution”—in my understanding not only of apologetics but of all other intellectual endeavors as a Christian. Ever since then, it has been the first book I recommend to those looking for an introduction to Christian apologetics, and it is required reading in my apologetics classes.

You can read for free online Vern Poythress’s foreword and Frame’s first chapter.

Dr. Frame, the J. D. Trimble Chair of Systematic Theology and Philosophy at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, answered a few questions for me about this new edition:

How would you summarize your approach to apologetics?

I am called a “presuppositionalist,” following the work of Cornelius Van Til. That is probably not the best label for what I do, but I don’t quibble much over words. My emphasis is

  1. to base all my argument on the truth of God’s revelation,
  2. to apply that revelation to each apologetic encounter differently as the situation calls for it,
  3. to move as quickly as possible to the Gospel,
  4. always expressing “gentleness and respect” (1 Pet. 3:15).

What makes your approach different from evidential or inference-to-the-best-explanations apologetics?

I can use the same evidence as they, and some of the same arguments. But I argue that no evidence and arguments make sense unless the God of the Bible exists. So in discussing causality, the point is not just that causality implies God, but that all discussion of causality presupposes God. You really cannot even talk coherently about causality if the universe is nothing but matter, motion, time, and chance.

What is different about this new edition? Have you changed your mind or nuanced any of your particular arguments?

The substantive argument is the same as the 1994 edition. Joe Torres, editor of the new edition, has added some clarifying footnotes and essays. He has also added an additional chapter dealing with the discussion of “transcendental argument” that occurred after the 1994 edition was published.

What criticisms of covenantal-presuppositional apologetics to you find most frustrating?

The argument that presuppositional apologetics is “circular” (that is, that it presupposes what it intends to prove). We’ve answered that argument scores of times, it seems, but it keeps coming back again. My reply:

  1. Presuppositional apologetics does not endorse all circular arguments, but only a small class of them, namely those designed to prove an ultimate authority for human reason.
  2. All arguments of this type are circular in a way. If a rationalist, for example, tries to prove that human reason is the ultimate rational authority, he can do nothing else than appeal to a rational argument, using reason to prove reason. He cannot appeal to anything higher than reason, because he believes reason is the highest authority.
  3. The same is true with any other attempt to prove an ultimate authority: the Islamic appeal to the Qur’an, the empiricist appeal to sense experience, the existentialist appeal to feeling, etc., etc.
  4. The circular argument is not the end of discussion. In addition to that circular appeal, the presuppositionalist is able to show that alternative presuppositions (i.e. alternative circles) deconstruct: they cannot account for their own meaningfulness without themselves appealing to the biblical God.
  5. This view is biblical, for the God of Scripture presents himself as the origin of all things: all meaning, all rationality, all goodness, and his Word claims absolute authority.

How has the state-of-the-discussion and the popularity of these arguments changed since you wrote the first edition of this book?

As I said earlier, there has been a renewed interest in “transcendental” argument. To me, “transcendental” is a synonym of the “presuppositional” argument I have outlined above. But the substantive apologetic arguments haven’t changed much. In 2000, we published Five Views of Apologetics (ed. Steve Cowan, Zondervan Publishers), and the five views debated there are pretty much the same as those debated today.

I think the development of “postmodern” thought since the 1980s has made people more responsive to the idea that presuppositions underlie all human thought. We dealt with postmodernism somewhat in the Five Views book. But we don’t seem to have impressed sufficiently on the Christian public the astonishing fact that the Biblical God is the source of all meaning, rationality, truth, beauty, and goodness.

by Justin Taylor at July 01, 2015 02:30 PM

Stratechery by Ben Thompson

Airbnb and the Internet Revolution

Despite the fact Airbnb1 is, along with Uber, the poster-child for the new sharing economy, the former seems to attract a lot less attention than the latter, particularly among the chattering class. I suspect a big part of this is the way people view drivers vis-à-vis sublessors: despite the fact drivers work for Uber by choice — and, as Uber is eager to point out, come and go as they please — while on the clock Uber controls their rates and revenue share. Not only does this raise the question as to whether or not drivers are employees,2 it also provides grist for countless anecdotal stories about how a company valued at tens of billions of dollars3 is taking advantage of drivers earning tens of dollars per hour at best.4

Airbnb, on the other hand, is generally thought to be much more of a win-win: sublessors make some more money, and sublessees get a more inexpensive place to stay than a hotel, or a more home-like environment in a different sort of neighborhood than they might otherwise; often it’s both. More importantly, both parties are clearly happy with the arrangement.

Of course the nature of the relationship between sublessors and sublessees differs depending on whom you ask: hotels, facing real disruption from Airbnb, accuse the startup of being a shadow hotelier focused on stealing their business. Airbnb, for its part, focuses on the idea of “home”. Last summer, while announcing their new branding and mission statement, Airbnb founder and CEO Brian Chesky wrote:

In 2007, Joe and I opened our home up to the first Airbnb guests. They booked a place to stay, but they ended up with something more than just an airbed at a slightly messy apartment. They learned our favorite places to grab coffee, ate the best tacos in the city, and had friends to hang out with whenever they wanted. They were thousands of miles from where they lived, and yet they felt right at home. What started as a way for a few friends to pay the rent has now transformed into something bigger and more meaningful than we ever imagined. And what we realized is that the Airbnb community has outgrown the original Airbnb brand. So Joe, Nate, and I did some soul-searching over the last year. We asked ourselves, “What is our mission? What is the big idea that truly defines Airbnb?” It turns out the answer was right in front of us. For so long, people thought Airbnb was about renting houses. But really, we’re about home. You see, a house is just a space, but a home is where you belong. And what makes this global community so special is that for the very first time, you can belong anywhere. That is the idea at the core of our company: belonging.

A not insignificant number of cities are equally concerned about “home,” but in their view Airbnb is destroying them by incentivizing landlords to remove residences from the rental market and instead offer them full-time on Airbnb. Paris, for example, which is Airbnb’s biggest market, has in recent weeks conducted raids on unauthorized Airbnb listings. As the Wall Street Journal reports:

Paris officials say there are some 30,000 tourist apartments available for rent in the city — about 2% of the total number of units — with as many as two-thirds operating illegally. Airbnb says that it is a fringe issue on its platform; just 17% of hosts in Paris say they rent out apartments other than their primary residences. It isn’t clear how many of those might be doing so without city authorizations.

Some hotel owners and other activists argue that full-time tourism apartments likely account for more than that in revenue terms, however. “You can’t call this a sharing economy anymore,” said Laurent Duc, president of the French Hotel Federation. “This is an underground shadow economy.”

It’s this last sentence that really gets at why the entire debate around the “sharing” economy is so stilted: at the risk of relying too heavily on my own anecdotal experience, it seems clear that at least a sizable portion of Airbnb’s business is made up of apartments and houses dedicated to Airbnb. In other words, no one staying in these professionally cleaned listings, complete with fresh sheets, towels, and complimentary toiletries, is joining their hosts for coffee or tacos or to simply hang out, no matter how delightful Airbnb’s founding myth may be. It is, as the president of the French Hotel Federation said, “an underground shadow economy.” Why, though, should it be underground?

The Industrial Revolution

I thought it fascinating that Chesky invoked the Industrial Revolution in his post:

We used to take belonging for granted. Cities used to be villages. Everyone knew each other, and everyone knew they had a place to call home. But after the mechanization and Industrial Revolution of the last century, those feelings of trust and belonging were displaced by mass-produced and impersonal travel experiences. We also stopped trusting each other. And in doing so, we lost something essential about what it means to be a community.

Chesky’s focus is on travel, but in reality no one actually did so.5 Nearly everyone lived on subsistence farming, more often than not working land owned by someone else; said landowners, along with the church, exercised nearly completely control, with the occasional merchant facilitating a bare minimum of trade primarily to the benefit of the ruling class. The Industrial Revolution — and the accompanying agricultural one — completely flipped this arrangement on its head. Thanks to the efficiencies afforded by technologies like the loom and mechanical power people were able to specialize and trade the outcomes of their labor for a much fuller and richer life experience than what they had previously.

I get that I’m putting an awfully neat bow on what was 150 years of wrenching change. After all, I just basically described soul-destroying — and often body-debilitating — work in 18th century sweatshops as “specialization”; it’s a bit like Uber’s insistence on calling its drivers “entrepreneurs.” And yet, when you consider how structurally the old taxi medallion system resembled the landowner-peasant relationship of old, why is everyone so eager to declare that the new boss is worse than the old boss?

Of course the rise of factories — and the truly awful conditions within them — eventually helped lead to the rise of the modern regulatory state. Child labor was banned, and eventually hours were capped and minimum workplace safety rules were instituted. More broadly, regulation was applied to the massive amounts of new trade being conducted both locally and across borders, and as cities rose up around those factories and trading centers, regulations covering day-to-day life rose up as well.

This was as necessary as it was inevitable: when Chesky writes that before the Industrial Revolution “everyone knew each other” the unspoken truth is that we simply didn’t know many people, and those we did know were governed by the same shared mores that govern any community. Regulation wasn’t necessary because we regulated ourselves and each other. However, the rise of factories and cities concentrated both power and people even as it magnified the number of interactions conducted by those people and influenced by that power; there were no shared mores because nothing was shared beyond the temporary need for a shared transaction governed by self-interest, making self-regulation a utopian fantasy. We needed regulation because we were incapable of regulating ourselves and each other.

Airbnb and Trust

In the interest of full disclosure, I’m actually writing this post while sitting in an apartment rented through Airbnb. The pictures were ok, but the plethora of reviews were effusive in their praise of this surprisingly large one-bedroom apartment with easy access to the train, so I took the plunge. Indeed, the reviews were spot-on: the apartment is beautiful, and I couldn’t be happier with my choice. One more thing — my family and I are working really hard to keep the place as pristine as it was when we moved in. After all, while I trusted the ratings over the pictures, future Airbnb sublessors will surely care greatly about my rating as well.

There isn’t the sort of community that Chesky promised; I haven’t met our sublessor in person, and likely never will. I don’t know his favorite coffee shops or taco places (or ramen joints for that matter), and I very much feel not at home.6 But despite that fact, some of the most important trappings of community do exist: the shared mores, and common accountability. My sublessor is incentivized to provide a great place, and I’m incentivized to keep it that way, and that more than anything is what makes Airbnb work. And, by extension, one of the big advantages of hotels — the trust instilled first by the concept and reinforced by the brand — begins to erode.

The commoditization of trust is far more injurious to hotels than you might think: it’s not simply that Airbnb is more competitive on one particular vector; rather, the “trust” vector was by far the biggest priority for both travelers and hosts. Hotels could be infinitely more inconvenient, expensive, or sterile relative to your typical homestay and it wouldn’t matter. In the pre-Airbnb days travelers — and sublessors — justifiably prioritized trust above all else. In other words, the implication of Airbnb building a platform of trust is not that a homestay is now more trustworthy than a hotel; rather, it’s that the trust advantage of a hotel has been neutralized, allowing homestays to compete on new vectors, including convenience, cost, and environmental factors. It turns out homestays are quite competitive indeed: to return to my personal anecdote, I am living in a beautiful, remodeled one bedroom apartment in one of the best neighborhoods in this city, and paying a fraction of the cost of a mid-tier hotel for the privilege.

Here’s the kicker though: without Airbnb I wouldn’t even be making this trip. Staying in a hotel would not only be too expensive, it would also deny me the opportunity to at least get a taste of what it’s like to live day-to-day in a different country and culture — something you don’t get at your typical branded hotel. And that’s why the calculation for cities is more complicated than the president of the French Hotel Federation would have you believe: yes, the apartment I’m living in is off the market, but to what extent is one less rental unit made up for by the amount I will spend over the several weeks I am here?

All of these considerations apply to Uber, and many of the other sharing economy startups: what makes them work is not simply mobile access to the Internet, location data, and all the rest; equally important is the systematization, and by extension commodification, of trust. To be sure the latter isn’t a new concept: Ebay deserves special credit for pioneering the fundamental mechanic as applied to Internet businesses. The addition of mobile, though, made this mechanic exponentially more powerful: we went from a vision of apps that let you book last minute hotels to apps that made every house in every city in the world a potential place to stay.

The Internet Revolution

It has been a consistent thesis of mine that the Internet Revolution, which I believe has only just begun, will prove to be in the long run just as transformative as the Industrial Revolution. In other words, it’s not only that we would become more productive; it’s that society as we know it would be fundamentally changed. How, though, hasn’t been entirely clear: if the industrial revolution moved us from subsistence farming in the countryside to factories in cities, where might we go next?

I increasingly believe that it is the sharing economy that is beginning to reveal the answer: a world of commodified trust has significantly less need for much of the infrastructure of modern society, including inefficient sectors like hotels whose primary differentiator is trust, along with the regulatory state dedicated to enforcing that trust. On the other hand, this brave new world has brand new holes through which people can fall: those who have lost trust, or do not have the means to build it. I’m no crazy libertarian; quite the opposite in fact: we need a significantly stronger safety net and a judicial system predicated on arbitration.

The nature of assets changes as well, and not just hotels: as more houses — and rooms — are offered as a service, the definition of ownership begins to shift. This will clearly first play out in automobiles: the long-run promise of Uber is a world where few own cars and few cars sit idle. This will impact not just auto-makers but insurers, dealers, repair shops, and more. More profoundly, it will affect people. We will be less tied down, more willing to move, especially if our work becomes just as transactional as our possessions. And that, ultimately, will change the way we relate to each other, just as the shift from the small knit community in the countryside to the chaos of the city upended everything we thought we knew about how individuals, communities, and governments interacted.

Just because the future is coming into focus, though, doesn’t mean the road there will be smooth. Once again it is Paris giving us a glimpse of the convulsions along the way: taxi drivers upending cars, setting them on fire, terrifying passengers, all in the pursuit of a world as it was. And for now it seems they have won the battle: the French government is taking action to curtail UberPop. The war, though, is only just beginning, and one desperately hopes said reference to war — in contrast to the climax of the Industrial Revolution — remains figurative.

  1. The company just raised $1.5 billion at a $25.5 billion valuation; by the way, that article is worth a click for the chart comparing hospitality companies: it captures very neatly how valuation is based on revenue and growth (along with profit margins and addressable markets, of course)
  2. The California Labor Commission ruled that one driver was; other courts have held that drivers are not
  3. $40 billion now, $50 billion soon
  4. Few of these stories consider what these drivers ought to do otherwise, or why Uber should feel compelled to pay more beyond the insinuation that they can, an assessment that belies the fact that that valuation is predicated on Uber returning the billions invested in the company at a multiple.
  5. And the Industrial Revolution didn’t happen “last century”
  6. That, of course, is the point in coming

The post Airbnb and the Internet Revolution appeared first on Stratechery by Ben Thompson.

by Ben Thompson at July 01, 2015 02:24 PM

Crossway Blog

6 Soul-Searching Questions from the Book of Hebrews

This post is adapted from Hebrews: An Anchor for the Soul by R. Kent Hughes, which is part of Crossway's Preaching the Word commentary series.

True Christians Persevere

New converts to Christianity typically have few doubts. But years of living and learning often soften their confidence.

I have heard Christians say, “I wish I didn’t know so much, it would be easier to believe” as they indulge in an elite, self-congratulating agnosticism. To be sure, all Christians go through times of doubt as their faith grows. A faith that never doubts is perhaps not real, because real faith involves the fallible mind.

But for Biblically literate “Christians,” with some years of living under their belts, to mouth such consciously self-exculpating phrases for their unbelief is so much bunk! We had no doubts when we met Christ, and we should not have any now. Moreover, we must consciously strive to “hold our original confidence firm to the end.”

I am a convinced Calvinist. I believe true Christians persevere—the perseverance of the “saints.” And I believe what the Scriptures say in Hebrews 3:14: “For we have come to share in Christ [perfect tense: our belief began in the past and continues], if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.”

If we do not persevere, we are lost, just as the Apostle John has so clearly explained: “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us” (1 John 2:19).

Even a slight lessening of confidence is a warning. We must hold our original confidence firm to the end. Perseverance is not a foregone conclusion. So the author of Hebrews warns us, repeating the words of Psalm 95:7, 8, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion” (v. 15).

Brothers and sisters, if we hear his voice, we must do something now!

Six Questions to Ask Yourself

The author of the book of Hebrews closes Hebrews 3:7-19 with six questions given in three pairs. The first question of each pair asks the question; the second question answers it.

The questions are definitely phrased to raise soul-searching tensions among his hearers in the struggling church.

Verse 16

Question: “Who were those who heard and yet rebelled?”

Answering question: “Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses?”

Point: Everyone who died in the desert had begun in the glorious exodus and its great expectations.

Verse 17

Question: “And with whom was he provoked for forty years?”

Answering question: “Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness?”

Point: The men who angered God for forty years were those who did not believe he could provide for them, though they had left Egypt with great hope. This is a warning that high hopes will not suffice—there must be belief.

Verse 18

Question: “And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest . . . ?”

Answering question: Was it not “to those who were disobedient?”

Point: Here unbelief leads to action, as it always does.

The three sets of questions present the descent of hardness of heart: from hope to disbelief to disobedience. Thus, the writer concludes: “So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief” (v. 19).

Firm to the End

Have we experienced a spiritual exodus in Christ? Do we claim Christ as our true passover—our lamb without blemish and without spot who gave his life for us? Do we claim a baptism in Christ, the antitype of Israel’s passage through the Red Sea (1 Corinthians 10:1ff.)? Do we claim to spiritually feed on him by faith, as Israel was fed by manna from Heaven and water from the rock (1 Corinthians 10:3ff.)? Do we claim to look for a heavenly rest, the ultimate spiritual counterpart of the Promised Land?

If so, we will persevere in faith and obedience, “holdi[ng] our original confidence firm to the end.”

For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. (1 Corinthians 10:1–6)

R. Kent Hughes (DMin, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) is senior pastor emeritus of College Church in Wheaton, Illinois and a visiting professor of practical theology at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Hughes is also a founder of the Charles Simeon Trust, which conducts expository preaching conferences throughout North America and worldwide. He and his wife, Barbara, have four children and an ever-increasing number of grandchildren.

by Matt Tully at July 01, 2015 01:16 PM

Light Blue Touchpaper

Passwords 2015 call for papers

The  9th International Conference on Passwords will be held at Cambridge, UK on 7-9 December 2015.

Launched in 2010 by Per Thorsheim,  Passwordscon is a lively and entertaining conference series dedicated solely to passwords. Passwordscon’s unique mix of refereed papers and hacker talks encourages a kind of cross-fertilization that I’m sure you’ll find both entertaining and fruitful.

Paper submissions are due by 7 September 2015. Selected papers will be included in the event proceedings, published by Springer in the Lecture Notes in Computer Science (LNCS) series.

We hope to see lots of you there!

Graeme Jenkinson, Local arrangements chair

by Graeme Jenkinson at July 01, 2015 09:59 AM

The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

Smoke on the Martyrs

This is hard to write. I don’t enjoy disagreeing with those trying to raise awareness for the persecuted church.  

We are in the midst of a global upsurge in attacks on Christians. Over the last year we’ve seen major atrocities in Kenya, Nigeria, Libya, Syria, Iraq, Ethiopia, and many other places. Make no mistake: Radical Islam is responsible for much of this. And even though the majority of Muslims are not violent, astonishingly high percentages are sympathetic to extremist violence.

In the midst of this, we see almost no concern from the leadership of the United States. While Christians are beheaded in dramatically produced videos designed to recruit more extremists and to incite fear, the White House has responded to the targeting of Christians in underwhelming fashion. Their condemnation has been disappointing.  

And at a time when we need clear, consistent, and accurate voices, Christians in the West blow a cloud of smoke onto the issue by hanging their hats on a discredited and debunked statistic: There are simply not 100,000 Christian martyrs every year.

Misguided Number 

Edited by William Taylor, Antonio van der Meer, and Reg Reimer, the volume Sorrow & Blood: Christian Mission in Contexts of Suffering, Persecution, and Martyrdom (William Carey Library, 2012) deals with this dubious, misguided, and often quoted number. In it, German Christian researcher Thomas Schirrmacher writes, “I find it difficult to criticize this number on account of its widespread use, particularly due to the fact that it comes from reputable researchers and good friends.” This is an interesting quote since his chapter follows the otherwise credible researcher Todd Johnson, who is the primary source of the number. (Johnson himself, incidentally, has more recently been critical of the statistic.) Schirrmacher continues, “However, as an academic I have too often had to answer for such numbers before secular colleagues, politicians around the world, our German parliament, and journalists to just allow our institute [the International Institute for Religious Freedom] simply to assume them.” 

Indeed, journalists have been understandably wary of the 100,000 figure for some time. Both this article from the BBC and this one from the WorldWatch Monitor illustrate this reality, critiquing how the number is produced. The primary source is Johnson, associate professor of global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He has created the number 100,000 by first estimating the number of Christian martyrs from 2000 to 2010. The estimate for Christian martyrs for this previous decade was one million. Divide that number by 10 and you get a neat 100,000 per year. Then you simply assume this number as an ongoing average for each following year. Several angles of this approach should be critiqued, but the main problem is who Johnson specifically has counted as a martyr: 900,000 of the one million come from the civil war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo—a war in which Christians killed other Christians. 

Schirrmacher explains, “The mammoth share of the amount of 10 x 100,000 comes under the civil war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Admittedly there were many Christians who died there, but that they died because they were Christians is not something that is defended by anyone.”

More Accurate Numbers  

This begs another question: how do you define martyr? Johnson defines it as follows: “Believers in Christ who have lost their lives prematurely, in situations of witness, as a result of human hostility.” In another statement, he adds the phrase: “[This is] defining and enumerating martyrs in the widest possible sense.”

It’s difficult to see how Christians involved in a civil war against each other counts as a “situation of witness.” As Schirrmacher adds, “I see a general contradiction between the definition given by the Status of Global Mission (led by Johnson), that martyrs are ‘believers in Christ . . . in situation of Christian witness,’ and the statement of ‘defining and enumerating martyrs in the widest possible sense.’”

Though it may seem Christians are now getting killed in mass amounts daily, that’s not actually the case. Schirrmacher asks us to investigate these killings even if the media doesn’t make them a high priority. “No one would say that this happens every day,” Schirrmacher writes. “However, even if we assume that there is an event with 50 murdered Christians every day, that would amount to an annual number of only 18,250. Twenty murdered Christians per day would be 7,300—a number which I consider to be more realistic.” Open Doors, which raises awareness of persecuted Christians, estimates the verified number of Christian martyrs for 2012 at 1,200.

So why is the number 100,000 so embraced by Christian organizations and leaders? Perhaps Schirrmacher is correct: “In the present media landscape in which we find ourselves, it is natural that someone with even a roughly estimated number has an advantage of an individual who says that the number can’t be reliably estimated at the present time.” We might add that someone with a higher estimate has more of an advantage in the present media landscape than someone with a lower one.  

What the Persecuted Church Needs 

The persecuted church needs our prayers and our advocacy. Whether the number is 1,200, 7,300, or slightly larger, the number is still too big. In the Middle East and other Muslim lands, Christians live as persecuted minorities who require high security when they go to church. Converts to Christianity from Muslim backgrounds do not simply face the threat of death. They are rejected and despised by society, have difficulty maintaining jobs, and may even lose their children to a Muslim spouse. Many pockets of China still experience persecution and discrimination. The new presidency in India has ushered in a new era of Hindu nationalism that has become aggressive in its efforts to “de-convert” Indian Christians. Global persecution of Christians is very real on numerous levels.

Keep in mind the sources I’ve quoted were written prior to 2014. Since then we’ve seen an incredible upsurge in Christian persecution as ISIS has aggressively aimed to eradicate Christianity from the land of its birth and beyond. Open Doors estimates that the number of Christians killed for a faith-related reason in 2014 was 4,344. For those who’ve been exposed to the 100,000 estimate, this is confusing and hard to interpret. It could even give the impression things are dramatically improving! 

Our brothers and sisters need us to advocate for them. But advocacy without integrity only discredits our collective voice. What if—maybe even in the near future—the number of Christian martyrs actually totaled 100,000? Would anyone listen to us?  

by David Parks at July 01, 2015 05:02 AM

The Bible’s Yes to Same-Sex Marriage

The title of Mark Achtemeier’s The Bible’s Yes to Same-Sex Marriage: An Evangelical’s Change of Heart leaves no doubt as to his conclusion. Achtemeier, a Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) pastor and theologian, wants to lead his readers toward the same “change of heart” that caused him to embrace same-sex marriage. He writes graciously and gently. But his book will be persuasive only to those who already agree with him.

Though he aims to make a biblical and logical case for same-sex marriage, the book fails on both counts. 

Hollow Definition of Marriage

Like many revisionist treatments of this subject, Achtemeier is anxious to get to the proof texts. He wants to show that the seven classic Bible passages used to condemn homosexuality have been misunderstood and misapplied. In his haste to do so, however, he completely misses the most important step of the argument: a coherent definition of marriage. If we’re going to argue about who should be married, we should first establish what marriage is.

Achtemeier seeks to establish this in chapter four, “God’s Plan for Love, Marriage, and Sexuality.” His biblical-theological conclusion is that “God gives human beings the gifts of love, marriage, and sexuality in order to help us grow into the image of Christ’s self-giving love” (52).

Yes, And?

Thoughtful students of the Bible and of Christian history will wait in vain for a more thorough development of this conclusion. Achtemeier restates it repeatedly throughout the book, blithely assuming his readers agree with its potency and logical force. He seems unaware, however, of how thin and reductionistic his definition is. He does not engage the massive theological and philosophical body of work on the subject; in fact, he does not even seem aware of its existence.

At least three weaknesses are immediately apparent in Achtemeier’s definition of marriage:

(1) It fails to take into account procreation.

A definition of marriage that doesn’t talk about procreation is like a definition of banking that doesn’t talk about money. Achtemeier’s dull treatment of the connection between procreation and marriage reveals a failure of research at the very least. After spending one-and-a-half pages discussing (dismissing?) the subject, Achtemeier concludes:

Nowhere is there even a hint suggesting that procreation is an essential requirement for a marriage to be considered legitimate in the eyes of God. (60)

One can almost hear the collective gasp of Roman Catholic and Aristotelian scholars worldwide. Achtemeier’s point seems to be that since infertile or childless couples are still “legitimately married” in God’s eyes, procreation is not essential to marriage. Which is like saying that since batters sometimes strike out, hitting the ball is not essential to batting.

Achtemeier’s failure to engage the whole natural law tradition on this point (Girgis, Anderson, and George’s What Is Marriage? [review] would have been a good starting point) is a glaring weakness in his work.

(2) It is not God-centered.

A properly Christian definition of marriage must revolve around—or at the very least include—the glory of God. Achtemeier’s definition does not. If indeed “God’s highest purpose” is “to help people grow in their ability to give themselves completely to another person” (58), then God exists for us, not we for him. We are left with a “genie in a bottle” God whose supreme job is to make us happy. And how could he deny the happiness of marriage to same-sex couples?

(3) It leads to the fallacy of begging the question.

Achtemeier assumes his definition of marriage in order to sidestep some of the strongest natural law arguments against homosexual practice. For instance, consider this passage from chapter 5:

Male and female bodies clearly do complement each other. And as a consequence, the union of male and female is clearly established as the majority pattern for love and marriage across the whole span of human history. . . . [But] does God’s creation of male and female bodies in biological correspondence to each other mean that God’s condemnation automatically falls on alternative patterns of life like same-sex unions? This conclusion seems especially doubtful in light of our finding that same-sex unions are equally as capable as their heterosexual counterparts in fulfilling the highest revealed purposes God has in mind for love and marriage. (63–64)

Achtemeier never answers, either logically or biblically, the question that biology raises. He merely refers back to his definition and concludes, on the basis of the definition, that the question is moot.

Unconvincing Revisionist Argument

Perhaps some readers will uncritically accept Achtemeier’s definition of marriage—and that’s really the only way they could possibly be persuaded by the rest of his argument. For indeed, if marriage is just about “helping people grow in their ability to give themselves completely to another person,” why should marriage not be open to same-sex couples?

Advocating for same-sex marriage is not unique. But asserting the Bible does is. In order to effectively counter 2,000 years of interpretive history, such an assertion demands cogent logical and theological reasoning.

If this is the best argument revisionists can marshall for “the Bible’s yes to same-sex marriage,” then the traditional view of marriage has nothing to be concerned about. Or, to say it another way: if same-sex marriage wins the day, it won’t be due to arguments like this.

Mark Achtemeier. The Bible’s Yes to Same-Sex Marriage: An Evangelical's Change of Heart. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2014. 

by Bob Thune at July 01, 2015 05:02 AM

From Farm to Fork to Keyboard

Abigail Murrish is an agricultural writer passionate about encouraging people to know their food, eat well, and show hospitality. Since her time at Purdue University, Abigail has appreciated talking with farmers (versus about them) to understand difficult agricultural issues and grow in her knowledge of the Christian call to steward creation. Abigail lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, with her husband, and blogs at

How do you describe your work?

Food is one of the great themes that unifies all people and is interwoven with our care of creation. My work as an agricultural writer is ultimately to help people enjoy the gift of food and see themselves as stewards of the earth. 

I write on both ends of the farm-to-fork continuum. Currently, I write for a soybean and corn farmers magazine and blog for a local farmers’ market in addition to writing on my own blog.

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

My work as a writer is revelatory and creative. For my readers engaged in agriculture, I want to show them how they can make their operations more economically, ethically, and environmentally sustainable.

For my readers removed from agriculture, I want to introduce them to the men and women who play a role in producing our food (whether a 5th generation grain farmer or an urban gardener) and help them understand how our food system works and what that means for their buying and eating habits. 

In all my writing, I want to spur kindness and encourage empathy for “the other,” whether that’s a local food advocate or an ag industry executive. Moreover, the Christian worldview is rarely discussed in traditional agriculture. To write in a way that illuminates agriculture with the Christian worldview in a kind and empathetic style is one of the most creative endeavors I’ve pursued.

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

At the heart of today’s agriculture is a desire to make right the broken aspects of creation like hunger, malnutrition, pest invasion, drought, and so on. Through my work, I have learned the depths of these problems and the lack of simple solutions.

Agriculture is also a divided industry with traditional agriculture on one side and organic and/or local farming on the other. The “us-versus-them” narrative is prevalent on each “side” and unhelpful for everyone. 

On a personal level, my business is just more than a year old and I’m still on the learning curve. Managing finances and building my client base are tasks that continue to challenge me.

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

We know from passages like Genesis 2 and Psalm 8 that humanity is called to steward the earth. With approximately 98 percent of Americans removed from agriculture, it is difficult to know what it looks like to respond to that call through our daily food and lifestyle choices. My writing serves others by helping them be active (versus passive) stewards of the earth.

I also want to help my readers view their food with thankfulness and others-mindedness. It is easy to view food as a personal right for our own ends. But Scripture tells us otherwise. Jesus taught his disciples to pray for their daily bread and he lived on this earth eating and drinking with tax collectors and sinners.

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

by Bethany Jenkins at July 01, 2015 05:01 AM

Can Evangelicals See Themselves in the LGBT Movement?

Rod Dreher recently posted a letter from one of his readers. The letter recounts the experience of a Millennial for whom a change of heart on the issue of same-sex marriage led to his departure from evangelicalism. Responding to Dreher’s contention that the arguments of same-sex marriage advocates are founded upon emotion, the letter writer counters that many Christian opponents of same-sex marriage “have traded in nothing but emotion for the last 30 years.” He suggests that, having grounded their opposition to same-sex marriage solely in an unexamined disgust, the moment young evangelicals have humanizing engagements with gay persons they are left without any argument against same-sex marriage, and their Christian convictions are thrown into confusion.

Reflecting on the letter, Dreher focuses on the dangers of “dumbed-down emotivism,” bemoaning the intellectual vacancy of many quarters of the Christian church. My purpose is to peel away some of the layers of Dreher’s analysis to reveal and reflect on a deeper but overlooked dimension of evangelicalism’s identity that has a significant effect on its responses to same-sex marriage. While Dreher highlights evangelicalism’s emotivism, I believe there is a more fundamental issue. I will caricature evangelicalism somewhat in the remarks that follow. Nevertheless, as for any good caricature, I trust the features, even if slightly exaggerated, will be immediately recognizable. 

Caricatures can be instructive as movements tend to give undue importance and centrality to their distinctives, often becoming caricatures of themselves in the process. Provided you recognize my caricature doesn't represent evangelicalism as it really, always, or necessarily is, but what evangelicalism tends to become when its center of gravity is shifted toward its distinctives—something that frequently occurs—my points should be understood.

Misplaced Center of Gravity

The governing story at the heart of evangelicalism is the conversion narrative. This may be a controversial claim to make about a movement that purports to be driven by the story of the gospel, but careful observation of evangelicalism’s dynamics provides much evidence for its truth. For evangelicalism, the “gospel” is typically framed not as Scripture frames it—as the historical story of God’s salvation accomplished in his Son through the public events of Christ’s incarnation, ministry, death, resurrection, ascension, Pentecost, and return in glory—but as the “story” of how the sinful individual can be saved in the present. It’s a story of how Christ can become an active part of my personal biography rather than a historical account that stands apart from my biography, which I must enter as I die to myself and my old biography and become a part of Christ’s life. The difference may appear subtle, but it is immensely significant. 

Evangelicalism’s foregrounding of the conversion narrative leads to a particular understanding of the formation of the Christian’s subjectivity. In a tradition that placed its primary accent on the objective, historical narrative of God’s work in Christ, Christians’ subjectivity would principally be formed as they entered into a larger story outside of themselves and as this story shaped and identified them. By contrast, within evangelicalism, Christian subjectivity is effected chiefly from within, through the immediacy of the “conversion experience.”

‘External’ Suspicions

Image-frozenchipmunk via Flickr (CCBY2.0)

With this understanding of genuine Christian subjectivity as arising from within comes a suspicion of the place of the objective, external, and institutional dimensions of Christian faith—of creeds, confessions, theologies, liturgies, sacraments, rites, and churches. Rather than being valued as means of spiritual formation and incorporation into the life of Christ and his people, they are viewed as a sort of dead shell that surrounds the internal, living reality of Christian faith, residing purely in the believer’s heart. Their sole value arises as they serve as means by which we express the spiritual life within us. The sacraments and institutions of Christianity cease to be regarded as acting to form us into a living body and start to be seen as mere public expressions of our private faith. I am baptized, not so that I might participate in and be formed by the life and death of Christ and his body more fully, but in order publicly to declare my personal and private belief.

Evangelicalism places on all within it a responsibility to fashion a spiritual identity from out of their own divinely visited subjectivity. To be evangelical is to account for one’s identity from out of one’s own “born again” spiritual experience and not in terms of membership or participation in some external institution or ritual. The typical evangelical narrative of conversion begins by establishing an antithesis between genuine Christian identity and “external” identities—“I was raised in a Christian home and grew up attending a gospel-believing church, but. . . .” Rather than emphasizing an outward-looking affirmation of one’s belief in the truth and saving power of historical gospel events, and the reliability of God’s Word and promise in the “external” means of grace, the evangelical “personal testimony” is principally concerned with presenting a detailed account of one’s arrival at a believing subjectivity. Evangelical identity is manifested and established through demonstrative piety, which is where the lure of emotionalism comes in.

Surprising Affinity

By this point we may seem to have strayed far beyond relevance to the original question. However, the significance of these reflections becomes more apparent when we recognize that this evangelical account of Christian identity finds noteworthy analogies in LGBT communities.

For LGBT persons, one cannot truly be defined by the objective reality of one’s body and its natural relation to the other sex, but one’s identity arises as a subjective achievement. The autonomous authority over against all other interpreters claimed by the sexual subject in his self-identification finds a parallel in the presumed independence of many evangelical readers of Scripture from all external authorities represented by creeds, confessions, traditions, church teaching, and congregational reading.

While most persons receive their identity from without as society imposes its sexual and gendered identities, the LGBT person recognizes that true identity arises from within. The realization of an authentic subjectivity over against the formalism of imposed norms of gender and sexuality is recounted in the “personal testimonies” of coming-out stories and tales of transition. Given the understanding of the nature of true identity within LGBT communities, it shouldn’t surprise us that same-sex marriage has been pursued chiefly as an “expressive”—rather than a “formative” and “institutional”—reality. Marriage is presented as the way couples publicly express their love for one another, rather than a public institution that places demands and identities on us and our communities, irrespective of our internal states.

Because both elevate the subjectivity and personal “story” of the individual as the defining factor in identity and share a resistance to the “external” determination of identity, evangelicals and the LGBT community have an ironic affinity. The content may radically differ, but the form of identity has great similarities. This affinity has considerable implications for understanding the character of evangelicalism’s response to LGBT persons and to same-sex marriage.

Here are three areas where the effect of this affinity can be felt.

Three Consequences

First, evangelicalism lacks a robust account of institutions. It is ill-equipped to mount a strong defense of marriage when its own fundamental understanding of institutions has much in common with that of the LGBT community. If institutions are chiefly means by which we express our personal narratives and subjectivities rather than larger “narratives” that we enter, to which we subject ourselves, and by which we are formed, the case against same-sex marriage is a much weaker one. Evangelicalism has long had a fraught relationship with institutions and their claimed authority over the individual and their spiritual consciousness. Placed in the position of having to defend an institution such as marriage, it lacks the requisite conceptual tools and categories.

Second, when a movement finds its center of gravity in individual subjectivity, it will face either the risk of a brittle bigotry, asserting the superiority of its own mode of subjectivity over all others, or a soft relativism, within which all subjectivities are treated as independent guardians of their own individual “truth.” Evangelicals have typically been tempted to the former. However, such a posture is difficult to sustain when one encounters well-intentioned people of radically different perspectives. The moment genuine empathy occurs, it becomes hard to sustain such a position. Young evangelicals are exposed to the subjectivities of LGBT persons in a way their parents were not. As their initial bigotry crumbles (as it should) there is often nothing else to fall back on.

Third, the LGBT community and the same-sex marriage cause are advanced in large measure through emotional personal testimony and stories of subjective self-realization. This is the language evangelicals were raised on, and it can resonate with us. Evangelicals, having placed so much store on the truth and immediacy of the personal narrative and the value of unfeigned emotion, will face particular difficulties in considering how to respond to these.

Opportunity to Learn

In responding to movements deemed to be un-Christian within our culture, our habitual posture is one of direct and forceful rejection. We perceive our duty within such engagement solely to be that of defending the truth against error. In adopting such an approach, though, I believe we miss one of the chief purposes of such challenges in God’s providence. In sparring with opposing positions, we can uphold the truth. However, we can also develop new strengths and, more importantly, discover our own compromising weaknesses.

As evangelicals respond to the LGBT movement, I hope we will do so self-reflectively. This is an opportunity to learn uncomfortable lessons about ourselves, to discover how our “truth” can rely on little more than brittle bigotry, to discover how we have marginalized God’s story for the sake of our own, and how we have lost sight of the blessing and authority of institutional means of Christian and social formation. As we come to a realization of the faults in others, we may find we are seeing a mirror image of the faults in ourselves.

Editors’ Note: This article originally appeared at Christ & Pop Culture

by Alastair Roberts at July 01, 2015 05:00 AM

Front Porch Republic

Comes the Chicken Coop: A Dispatch


Laying hens, I warrant, are a vote for the long view.

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The post Comes the Chicken Coop: A Dispatch appeared first on Front Porch Republic.

by Jason Peters at July 01, 2015 04:23 AM

Mitch McConnell’s Hypocrisy

I have a little scoop over at TheDC, a picture of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, at a Sons of Confederate Veterans meeting in the early 1990s. Back then he wasn’t as keen on taking the Jefferson Davis statue out of the state capitol.

The post Mitch McConnell’s Hypocrisy appeared first on Front Porch Republic.

by J. Arthur Bloom at July 01, 2015 03:45 AM

30 More Years of Rootless Professors

Screen Shot 2015-06-30 at 11.41.27 PM

In the thirty years since writer-professor Eric Zencey first published his essay “The Rootless Professors” in the Chronicle of Higher Education, much has changed, and much hasn’t, regarding academe’s reputedly rootless ways. “As citizens of the cosmo-polis, the mythical ‘world…

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The post 30 More Years of Rootless Professors appeared first on Front Porch Republic.

by Zachary Michael Jack at July 01, 2015 03:33 AM

Nicholas Nethercote

Firefox 41 will use less memory when running AdBlock Plus

Last year I wrote about AdBlock Plus’s effect on Firefox’s memory usage. The most important part was the following.

First, there’s a constant overhead just from enabling ABP of something like 60–70 MiB. […] This appears to be mostly due to additional JavaScript memory usage, though there’s also some due to extra layout memory.

Second, there’s an overhead of about 4 MiB per iframe, which is mostly due to ABP injecting a giant stylesheet into every iframe. Many pages have multiple iframes, so this can add up quickly. For example, if I load TechCrunch and roll over the social buttons on every story […], without ABP, Firefox uses about 194 MiB of physical memory. With ABP, that number more than doubles, to 417 MiB.

An even more extreme example is this page, which contains over 400 iframes. Without ABP, Firefox uses about 370 MiB. With ABP, that number jumps to 1960 MiB.

(This description was imprecise; the overhead is actually per document, which includes both top-level documents in a tab and documents in iframes.)

Last week Mozilla developer Cameron McCormack landed patches to fix bug 77999, which was filed more than 14 years ago. These patches enable sharing of CSS-related data — more specifically, they add data structures that share the results of cascading user agent style sheets — and in doing so they entirely fix the second issue, which is the more important of the two.

For example, on the above-mentioned “extreme example” (a.k.a. the Vim Color Scheme Test) memory usage dropped by 3.62 MiB per document. There are 429 documents on that page, which is a total reduction of about 1,550 MiB, reducing memory usage for that page down to about 450 MiB, which is not that much more than when AdBlock Plus is absent. (All these measurements are on a 64-bit build.)

I also did measurements on various other sites and confirmed the consistent saving of ~3.6 MiB per document when AdBlock Plus is enabled. The number of documents varies widely from page to page, so the exact effect depends greatly on workload. (I wanted to test TechCrunch again, but its front page has been significantly changed so it no longer triggers such high memory usage.) For example, for one of my measurements I tried opening the front page and four articles from each of, and, for a total of 15 tabs. With Cameron’s patches applied Firefox with AdBlock Plus used about 90 MiB less physical memory, which is a reduction of over 10%.

Even when AdBlock Plus is not enabled this change has a moderate benefit. For example, in the Vim Color Scheme Test the memory usage for each document dropped by 0.09 MiB, reducing memory usage by about 40 MiB.

If you want to test this change out yourself, you’ll need a Nightly build of Firefox and a development build of AdBlock Plus. (Older versions of AdBlock Plus don’t work with Nightly due to a recent regression related to JavaScript parsing). In Firefox’s about:memory page you’ll see the reduction in the “style-sets” measurements. You’ll also see a new entry under “layout/rule-processor-cache”, which is the measurement of the newly shared data; it’s usually just a few MiB.

This improvement is on track to make it into Firefox 41, which is scheduled for release on September 22, 2015. For users on other release channels, Firefox 41 Beta is scheduled for release on August 11, and Firefox 41 Developer Edition is scheduled to be released in the next day or two.

by Nicholas Nethercote at July 01, 2015 12:59 AM

CrossFit Naptown

Bracket Buster Registration Today

Wednesday’s Workout:

Hang Power Snatch Position 2
Advanced: 5×2 Every 2:00
Intermediate: Somewhere in Between
Beginner: Technique with Coach

15:00 AMRAP
10 Hand-2-Hand Swings (24/16)
10 Goblet Lunges
10 Side to Side Ab Twists



Bracket Buster Registration Opens at 6:00pm

Click here at 6:00pm to get your team of 4 signed up for the fourth annual Bracket Buster at CrossFit NapTown! The event will be taking place the weekend of September 19th and 20th. You will need to select a TEAM CAPTAIN from your team of 2 men and 2 women in order to register as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Here is what the Team Captian will need to have prepared:
- Team Name
- Email Address for each team member
- Age of each team member
- T-Shirt Size for each team member (there will be Women’s & Men’s Shirts to choose from)
- Consent to sign a Waiver on behalf of the entire team
- FULL PAYMENT ($299) for the entire team

Who: anyone interested in competing on a team in a cool competition. Only thing we ask is that there are no regional athletes (team or individual) from 2014 or 2015

What: a 2-day competition, the first day of work seeds you for the second day. The second day is the unique tournament style bracket only seen at the Bracket Buster.

When: September 19th and 20th

Where: at CrossFit NapTown

Why: because it is super fun to compete with friends!


Not interested in competing in the event but still want to be involved?? Use the same registration site above to register as a volunteer for the 2014 Bracket Buster.

Don’t have a team yet?? Check out the 2015 BB FaceBook page for other people who may need teammates still and put yourself out there in the NapTown community to get yourself a team to compete with!

This post just about covers all of the information for the event, but more details can be found on the FaceBook page or at the event website.



by Anna at July 01, 2015 12:06 AM

June 30, 2015

Holiday WOD: July 1, 2015

Please note there will be a group workout at 11 a.m. on July 1. This is a great chance to sweat with a big, happy group of friends and meet people you haven’t trained with before. Come on out! All other classes will be cancelled for the holiday. The workout is scheduled for 2 hours, […]

by Mike at June 30, 2015 11:57 PM

sacha chua :: living an awesome life

Emacs Hangout June 2015

Times may be off by a little bit, sorry!

Boo, I accidentally browsed in the Hangouts window before copying the text chat, so no copy of the text chat this time… =|

The post Emacs Hangout June 2015 appeared first on sacha chua :: living an awesome life.

by Sacha Chua at June 30, 2015 07:50 PM

Table Titans

Tales: Lucky Bones


Not too long ago in a distant land, some friends and I were playing a 4th edition one-time scenario set in an Chinese inspired big city. The whole plot was intended to test some new characters the group had rolled up for another campaign in different combat and roleplaying encounters, to better…

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June 30, 2015 03:52 PM

Hack / Make

Why We Encrypt →

Knowledgeable and respectable expert in digital security, Bruce Schneier:

Encryption should be enabled for everything by default, not a feature you turn on only if you’re doing something you consider worth protecting.

This is important. If we only use encryption when we’re working with important data, then encryption signals that data’s importance.

HTTPS encrypts the internet traffic between your browser and the server hosting the website.

Hack/Make now runs in HTTPS solely. Encryption has often been used to secure pages where passwords or credit card information is transmitted. Beyond changing the signal-to-noise ratio if everyone uses HTTPS, as Schneier suggests, there is a simple benefit to running encryption on a humble blog: trust.

When a website is HTTPS, the page that you are reading in the browser is truly the content that is being transmitted by the server. Other people can see that you are requesting a page from but you can trust that no one is intercepting the page and modifying or censoring the contents of the page.

If you run a website, it can be a simple and inexpensive change that I encourage you to do.

∞ Permalink

by Nick Wynja at June 30, 2015 03:52 PM

Outsourced Bits

Workshop on Encryption for Secure Search & Other Algorithms


I just got back from the Workshop on Encryption for Secure Search and other Algorithms (ESSA) which was held in Bertinoro, Italy, and was organized by Sasha Boldyreva and Bogdan Warinschi. It was a great event and I’d like to thank the organizers for putting this together and doing such a great job. It was really nice to see all the excitement and enthusiasm behind this topic; both from the research community and from industry.

Since a few people have already asked me for details about the event I figured I would just write brief summaries of the talks. I think the slides will be posted soon so if you are interested you should be able to get more details on the workshop page (

The first talk was by Christopher Bosch who gave a survey of encrypted search. The talk was based on a paper Christopher published last year. This a really extensive and thorough survey and a great contribution to the field. The authors go over a large number of papers and try to organize and categorize them; drawing conclusions and research directions from the broad perspective they gained from writing the survey. It is a great reference for anyone interested in this field.

Kaoru Kurosawa gave a talk on two of his papers. In the first paper, the authors describe a universally composable (UC) variant of adaptive semantic security (i.e., CKA2-security) for SSE. The main difference with the standard definition is that the UC variant requires correctness and the simulation is strengthened by requiring it to be black-box (i.e., there exists a simulator for all adversaries). Kaoru then described a construction that achieves this strong notion of security. In the second part of the talk Kaoru discussed a more recent paper of his that describes an SSE scheme that handles very expressive queries but without revealing the expression (not just the keywords in the query but the form/structure of the query). This is accomplished using a new variant of garbled circuits which is very interesting in its own right.

Emily Shen talked about her work on substring matching on encrypted data. This is done using an encrypted suffix tree, i.e., using a (interactive) structured encryption scheme for suffix trees. In this work, however, she was concerned with a stronger model of security where the server can be malicious. This last constraint required her to strengthen the standard definition of security for structured encryption. The construction was very nice but a bit too involved to describe here so I recommend reading the paper for more details.

Nathan Chenette gave a nice overview of the state of the art of fuzzy searching on encrypted data in the property-preserving model. After describing the different approaches he gave stronger definitions for this primitive. Unfortunately, to achieve this notion there is what seems to be an inherent ciphertext expansion so he described a weaker notion that allows for more space-efficient constructions.

Kevin Lewi talked about his work on order revealing encryption (ORE). ORE is similar to order-preserving encryption (OPE) in that it allows for comparisons over ciphertexts. But there is one important distinction: unlike OPE, ORE does not require the comparison operation over ciphertexts to be “less than”. In other words, to compare two OPE ciphertexts one can simply execute a “greater/lesser than” operation whereas with ORE one might have to execute some other arbitrary operation. This is an important relaxation and allows the authors to overcome impossibility results for OPE which say that OPE schemes have to leak more than just the order. The construction Kevin presented is based on obfuscation techniques but does not require the full power of obfuscation. In particular it avoids the use of Barrington’s theorem (though it makes use of multi-linear maps) which as Kevin said makes the scheme at least “implementable” but not practical.

Murat Kantarcioglu described a few of his works including a paper that initiated research on concrete inference attacks; that is, attacks on encrypted search solutions that use statistical and optimization techniques to exploit leakage. He described the attack he and his co-authors use to try to recover the queries a user makes by exploiting the access pattern leakage of SSE. This attack is known as the IKK attack and is currently the best inference attack we have against access pattern leakage. The second part of the talk covered ways to mitigate these kinds of attacks and Murat described a clever way  of using differential privacy for this.

David Cash also discussed inference attacks. In addition to standard inference attacks, however, he also described attacks where the adversary exploits more than leakage and, in particular, knows or chooses some of documents.  The findings were very interesting. One thing that came out of this study was that the IKK attack—while very interesting in theory—is not really practical. There are several technical reasons for this but I’ll leave you to read David’s paper when it appears if you are interested. This study also looked at a new class of schemes (not SSE/structured schemes) that have appeared in the literature recently and showed that they were vulnerable to adversaries who know and/or can choose documents (though to be fair they were not designed with that adversarial model in mind).

Unfortunately, Hugo Krawczyk couldn’t make it to the workshop at the last second so Stas Jarecki gave his talk. This was a nice overview of the work on SSE done by the IBM/Rutgers/UC Irvine team (from now on referred to as IRI) for the IARPA SPAR project. It covered a series of papers including their paper from CRYPTO ’13 that shows how to achieve conjunctive queries in sub-linear time. The talk then continued with more recent papers that focused on schemes with good I/O complexity and even more expressive queries. The talk had a nice blend of theory and systems, in particular illustrating how systems constraints like I/O complexity can sometime force you to find new and interesting solutions.

Vlad Kolesnikov talked about the system that Columbia and Bell Labs designed for the IARPA competition. This system—called Blind Seer—even had a cool logo which we learned was designed by Vlad himself! At a high level, this system makes use of garbled circuits and bloom filters and is designed to work in a 3/4-party model that includes a data owner, a policy server and an index server. Vlad described several bottlenecks they encountered and all the clever optimizations they had to design to make the system perform. There was some discussion about how Blind Seer compared to the IRI system. In the end, it seemed that the two were incomparable and achieved different tradeoffs between leakage and efficiency.

Adam O’Neill presented his recent work on modular OPE (MOPE). MOPE is a variant of OPE where a random shift and modular operation is applied to the plaintext before an OPE encryption is done. Turns out this can improve the security of OPE but not when OPE is used to do range queries. Adam described a few techniques to address this that didn’t seem to affect the efficiency of the schemes. He also showed experimental results to back this up.

Radu Sion talked about the new cloud security startup he’s doing. He couldn’t say much about the technical aspects of what they are doing but he went over some of the services they are providing and showed demoes, some of which included searching on encrypted data. Since this was a “sensitive” talk and Radu himself had to be careful not to reveal too much I’ll stop here at the risk of revealing things he may not want made public on a larger scale.

Paul Grubbs gave a talk that went over what he’s been working on at SkyHigh networks. He talked about ongoing projects SkyHigh was doing with OPE, deterministic encryption and format-preserving encryption.  In addition he discussed future projects the company was planning on doing with SSE. This talk was nice in that it provided a different perspective on crypto than what you typically get in academic settings. In particular, Paul described how the solutions they considered and worked on had to fit various business and legal/regulatory constraints. This is something I’ve been exposed to at MSR and I definitely think that seeing how technology gets (or doesn’t get) deployed in the real world is very useful in developing and sharpening your intuition about what research areas are more or less promising in terms of impact.

Mayank Varia gave a great talk on the testing framework Lincoln Labs built to evaluate the encrypted search systems for the IARPA competition. I have to say this was one of my favorite talks. The scale of what they built was truly impressive. The system is composed of various frameworks. One part of the system is just for generating realistic data and queries and they do this using machine  learning techniques on real data. The query generation is very flexible however, and you can use it to generate data and queries with specific characteristics for your tests. The second component is a measurement framework. The third component was an automated system for generating graphs and visualizations of the experimental results in LaTex! Overall what they built sounded very impressive and I think that we should try to adopt it as a standard way of testing/evaluating encrypted search solutions. I think the encrypted search community is lucky to have such a framework so we should take advantage of it. Mayank said that they are working on getting the code up on GitHub so I’ll update this post as soon as it’s up.

David Wu talked about a new protocol for privacy-preserving location services. Suppose you want to find out how to get from point A to point B but don’t want to disclose your location to the server that stores the maps and the server doesn’t want to reveal its own data. Without privacy, one can solve this problem by representing the map as a graph and computing the shortest path so the problem David was interested in was can you design a practical two-party protocol for shortest paths.  David showed how to do this by first proposing a very nice way to compress the representation of the graph in a way that doesn’t affect the shortest paths and then computing the shortest paths on the new representation via oblivious transfer. David then presented benchmarks of their protocol for the city of Los Angeles.

Florian Bourse presented new constructions of functional encryption schemes for inner products. Unlike previous general-purpose FE schemes the goal of this work was to provide simple and efficient constructions. Florian discussed two constructions, one based on DDH and another based on LWE. Note that the functionality considered by Florian is slightly different than “inner product encryption” of Katz, Sahai, Waters and Shen, Shi and Waters. In the latter works, the decryption returns one bit of information: whether the inner product is equal to 0 or not. Here, the decryption returns the actual inner product.

Tarik Moataz talked about ORAM with constant bandwidth. What is meant in the literature by constant-bandwidth ORAM is a bit technical but, roughly speaking, one can think of it as the requirement that the metadata exchanged with the server is smaller than the data blocks. Previous work on constant-bandwidth ORAM had two limitations. The first is that they achieved only amortized constant-bandwidth. The second is that they only work with very large blocks and as such only make sense for limited kinds of applications (using standard parameters, they would have 4MB blocks). Tarik showed to get around these two limitations, giving a worst-case constant-bandwidth ORAM with much smaller block size. In addition, the scheme also improves the computational cost at the server.

Stas Jarecki talked about RAM-based MPC (i.e., MPC protocols that work in the RAM model as opposed to over circuits). The standard way to do this is to use two-party computation (2PC) to securely compute the client algorithm of an ORAM scheme. Roughly speaking, this requires the ORAM client algorithm to be MPC-friendly so that the resulting solution is efficient. While most schemes consider only the two-party setting, Stas argued that it is interesting to look at three parties as well since better efficiency could be achieved in that setting. In fact, Stas described a protocol for this setting which was a lot more efficient than protocols for the two-party setting.

Leo Reyzin gave a survey of entropy notions in cryptography. Leo went over Shannon entropy, min-entropy and average conditional min-entropy in each case giving a very nice and intuitive explanation of why and when these notions should be applied. He also discussed computational variants of entropy including HILL entropy  and what is known and not known about it. Entropy notions in crypto are a bit subtle and can be hard to work with and unfortunately there isn’t much material to learn from so Leo’s survey was extremely useful.

by senykam at June 30, 2015 02:31 PM


Don’t Underestimate the Scholastics (Or, Gleanings from Richard Muller’s PRRD)

MullerThis last year I embarked on a journey of reading through Francis Turretin’s Institutes of Elenctic Theology, much as I did with Herman Bavinck’s Reformed Dogmatics last year. Some of you may have noticed that I’ve slowed down posting Turretin of late, though. There’s a few of reasons for that. First, I simply hit a wall. Turretin’s good, but dense. Sometimes you have to put a book down to pick it up again. Second, I’ve been prepping for Ph.D. work and other reading and studying has gotten in the way. Finally, though, I also sort of got distracted from Turretin when I acquired the four volumes of Richard Muller’s magisterial series Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics: The Rise and Development of Reformed Orthodoxy, ca. 1520 to ca. 1725. 

The title describes the project clearly enough. While Muller is not canvassing all of the theology of that period, he does aim to set the record straight about the Reformed school theologians following the age of the Reformers on issues like theological method, Scripture, and the doctrine of God (Attributes, Trinity). He does so by an extensive review of primary sources, as well as setting them against their context of the prior medieval tradition, the Reformation, and the intellectual currents of their own day.

If I could sum up my gleanings from Muller’s volumes in one sentence, it would be: “Don’t underestimate the scholastics.” Which is something people have apparently done all too often. According to many theologians in the late 19th and 20th Century, especially under the later influence of Barth and the Neo-Orthodox, this was allegedly a period of relative darkness, where theology fell into “causal”, “rationalist” metaphysics and philosophical obscurity, after a brief period of pure gospel light shining from the pens of Calvin and Luther. According to Muller, that’s a rather neat “just-so” story that crumbles upon inspection of the actual sources. The Reformed Orthodox scholastics actually had a bit more going for them than that.

While I haven’t finished the four volumes (I’ve got about a third of volume 3 left and volume 4 to go), and it would be ridiculous to try to summarize even one, I figured I could list a few Mullerian points to keep in mind when encountering the scholastics themselves, or critical historiography on them. I’ll proceed in no particular order.

“Scholasticism.” The first point that Muller beats into your head is that “scholasticism” is a method of study and organization, not a theology on its own. Quite often you’ll see general references to the teaching of “scholastic” theology of the Reformed, Lutherans, or whoever as if simply in virtue of being scholastics they’re all saying the same thing. That’s not the case. To put it crudely, scholastic theology was “school” theology or theology done according to the methods of organization and argumentation and logic that was prevalent in the academies of the time.

That said, scholastic methodology was practiced by the Reformed, the Lutherans, the Roman Catholics, and even some of the Radical theologians of the time. But while they may have all used the same form of syllogistic argument, the quaestio form, or so forth, they often came to radically different conclusions on theological judgments about Scripture, justification, the will and knowledge of God, and any number of other issues. So, again, when someone talks about “scholasticism”, it makes sense to ask, “Whose scholasticism?”

Method/Genre Matters. There are a lot of different issues that could be shoved under the question of method and genre, but one is the way it shapes how we think of the piety and spirituality of the period. The theology of the Orthodox period has been accused of being “dry”, “arid”, and devoid of the vitality of earlier Reformation preaching. This is allegedly a result of its rationalism and divorce from the earlier spiritual concerns of its forebears. Muller points out that much of this is, in fact, an issue of style.

First off, much of the actual material is not dry and is quite concerned with the life of piety. Even in the most technical works, you’ll usually get a section on the pastoral “use” of even the most abstruse doctrines. All the same, in their systems, the Orthodox were often writing for the academy, in an institutional setting for the training of students, and so their systems are not always reflective of their popular works or preaching. Even today textbooks are very often more technical and boring than sermons.

Reading Turretin and Thomas Watson this year has been instructive for me in this regard. Watson’s work a Body of Practical Divinity is a work of “homiletical” theology, sermons commenting on the catechism. Turretin’s is an apologetic, technical work. While I’d be hard-pressed to find major theological differences between them–indeed, Watson’s distinctions can be quite scholastic–their styles can seem far apart. Watson sings and Turretin, with a few exceptions, lectures. One lively and pietistic, the other dry and academic, but the difference here is one of method and genre, not theology.

Exegetically-Focused. One of the major criticisms of the Scholastics is that much of their theology is just Aristotle or some other metaphysician baptized. It’s the “Greek” charge in a lot of ways, simply applied a thousand years later. Instead of the “biblical” theology of Calvin and Luther, the scholastics abandoned their principled, textual basis and returned to abstract speculation to construct their doctrines of God and the decree. The problem with that is the actual texts of the scholastics. While it’s true that many did return to retrieve certain categories from the medievals in order to sharpen up some doctrines that the Reformers didn’t do as much work with, it’s hardly the case that we’ve got just a bunch of metaphysical logic-chopping.

As Muller points out, before they wrote their systems, most of the Reformed scholastics taught Scripture, wrote commentaries, preached, and trained heavily in the humanistic study of languages and rhetoric. Read one of Turretin’s questions and you’ll see references to texts in their historic contexts, typology, Rabbinic exegesis, and knotty linguistic issues. Or on the issue of God’s attributes, it is true that there are a number that can be treated by some theologians in a more philosophical mode, but many are packed to the gills with careful discussions of Scripture references. Beyond that, most systems began with a discussion of the biblical “names” of God as the source of reflection on God’s nature before they even touched the more abstract “attributes.”

Philosophically-Eclectic. Muller has pointed out that while there was a generalized sort of “Aristotelianism” in the intellectual air at the time, that hardly means that the Reformed scholastics were a monolith in this area. In fact, it seems that the Reformed were “eclectic” in philosophical matters. This is true on a number of levels. Some, for instance, were far more skeptical than others of the place that philosophy could play in the formulation of Christian doctrine in subordination to Scripture.

On another level, different types of Reformed theologians drew on different theo-philosophical streams for their reflections. Some drew on Thomas, while others reflected certain emphases found in Duns Scotus or Ockham, and even later, some flirted with Cartesian philosophy. And it was hardly ever a matter of simply taking over distinctions uncritically, but adopting them and adapting them in line with their own reading of Scripture in order to expound the truth of the Scriptures.

Continuity and Discontinuity. Finally, there’s the big issue Muller is concerned to discuss, which is whether or not the Reformed Orthodox systems represented a radical break with the early Reformers or stand in essential continuity, and why that did or didn’t happen.  There are a number of factors that go into answering this question but the answer, in a nutshell, is yes and no.

First, we need to grapple with getting the past right. You have to get it clear in your head that Calvin isn’t the sole benchmark for pure, Reformation theology. He had plenty of colleagues like Musculus, Vermigli, Hyperius, Bucer, Viret, and others, who were also respected, Reformed theologians who played a role in laying the foundation for the Reformed tradition. So continuity can’t just be measured by “What did Calvin say? And did they say the same, exact thing in the same, exact style?” You need to take into account the broader, Reformed context.

Also, it helps to know where and how the Reformers themselves actually differed or didn’t differ from their Medieval forebears. On many questions, there’s a lot of overlap between the two, so they simply don’t address the issue at length. Then the Reformed Scholastics come along and say something that sounds kind of like the Medievals and they get accused of diverging from the Reformers, when it’s more simply a matter of saying louder when the Reformers had basically assumed.

Second, we need to take into account that history happens and new situations call for new responses that aren’t necessarily in opposition to what came before, but may represent a legitimate development. So, when Calvin and Luther were writing, you had the challenges of a new movement fighting for its life with all the vitality, fire, and eclecticism that goes with that. With the Post-Reformation period came the phase of institutionalization needed to preserve and protect the gains made in the Reformation. Hence the rise of the schools and the appropriateness of scholastic development of Reformation theology.

Not only that, many of the arguments shifted over time. In the Post-Reformation period you get a lot more distinctions in certain areas of theology that weren’t treated by the Reformers, mostly because they weren’t up for grabs. So when the Socinian heretics come along and start arguing for a finite God, limited knowledge, rationalist metaphysics and epistemology, and so forth, the Reformed scholastics find themselves with new challenges to be treated. The same thing is true with the growing sophistication of Roman Catholic counter-arguments, as well as certain areas of dispute with the Lutherans such as the sacraments. Things got more complicated, so the theology expanded to match it.

There’s more to get into here, but time and again Muller shows that in the early and high periods of Post-Reformation Orthodoxy the scholastics developed the theology of the Reformers in a new context in ways that are both continuous and discontinuous with what came before. Along the way, he shows that there are riches to be mined in the mountains of those dusty, old tomes. Over and over again, I keep thinking to myself that certain contemporary “advances” are only beginning to catch up to the clarity and sophistication of the old masters.

Soli Deo Gloria

by Derek Rishmawy at June 30, 2015 02:22 PM

The Finance Buff

Conversion Options In Term Life Insurance

Ohio National term life brochure

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’m buying term life insurance from Ohio National. Ohio National sells two types of tem life policies: a regular or basic term policy and a Term Plus policy. What’s the difference between the basic policy and the Plus policy? The conversion right.

What’s Conversion?

Conversion means converting the term life policy to a permanent life insurance policy offered by the same company, at the same health rating without another health exam.

Converting doesn’t mean that your term policy will just turn into a permanent policy at the same low premium for the term policy. You still have to pay the higher premium for the permanent policy. It’s just you can lock in your health rating.

Why Convert?

You must have heard that a term policy is usually better than a permanent policy. That’s why I’m buying a term policy to begin with. Why would I ever want to convert it to a permanent policy?

Suppose I develop some illness, such as cancer, that shortens my life expectancy but doesn’t kill me before the level-premium term ends. By converting the term policy to a permanent policy, I would then get a good deal from the insurance company. I would pay the rate for a healthy person when I have a shortened life expectancy.

Price of the Conversion Right

If the insurance company is giving you the right to convert, which has value, you bet they are not giving it to you for free. If your term life insurance policy comes with conversion right, the price is built into the premium.

Ohio National’s basic term policy says:

During the first ___ policy years, but not after the policy anniversary nearest the insured’s 70th birthday, the company will make a permanent plan of insurance to which you may convert all or part of this policy without proof of insurability or medical evidence.

Note it says “a permanent plan of insurance.” It’s possible that this permanent policy is a special policy just for conversion, with a much higher premium than other permanent policies because the company knows that people who choose to convert tend to have poor health. If that’s the case then this conversion option isn’t worth much because you are paying the price set for the less healthy when you are less healthy, unless you know you are even less healthy than the average less healthy.

The Plus policy says:

During the first ___ policy years, but not after the policy anniversary nearest the insured’s 70th birthday, you may convert all or part of this policy to any Universal Life, Variable Universal Life or Whole Life insurance then offered by the company without proof of insurability or medical evidence.

Now you are on equal footing with other new customers buying permanent life insurance from the company. If you have poor health and you are paying the price set for a healthy person, you are getting a better deal.

What’s the price for the enhanced conversion option? About 5% extra in annual premium for the coverage amount I want. Will I develop something that shortens my life expectancy but doesn’t kill me within the term period, serious enough to make buying permanent life insurance worthwhile? I don’t know. Is the chance of such outcome and the economic benefit I derive from it worth the 5% extra premium? I have no idea either.

Not knowing any better, I would assume the insurance company knows and they price it accordingly, if they don’t over-price it. There’s no way I can beat them.

I asked my agent. She didn’t push it. She only said I should consider it if I ever want a permanent policy, otherwise I can just go with the basic policy. Other than betting/insuring that I will have a shortened life expectancy but I won’t die within X years, I can’t think of any reason that I will suddenly want permanent life insurance.

I decided to get just the basic policy. If I’m picking the term correctly, that’s the period of time I need protection for. If I die soon afterward, it would be unfortunate but my family should be out of the woods by then.

Did you care about the conversion options on your term life insurance?

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Conversion Options In Term Life Insurance is copyrighted material from The Finance Buff. All rights reserved. ( b87e8215d24496480249d6aaf20c77ea )

by Harry Sit at June 30, 2015 01:51 PM

Practically Efficient

How Humans Save

I've always felt like the most interesting aspect of investing and finance is the wealth of data it generates on human behavior. Securities markets and investor sentiment shed a lot of light on behavioral patterns long before the internet, social media, and Big Data.

One of the most interesting facets of personal finance is the savings decision—the cognitive exercise of time-shifting wealth and income. As human longevity increases, this has only become more fascinating and rife with logical error.

Vanguard released a lengthy report, "How Americans Save," describing recent trends in the behavior of defined contribution plan participants (e.g. people with 401(k)s). The data in the report highlight one of the most important findings (in my opinion) in the field of behavioral economics: the tendency to rely on default choices.

From page 22 of the Vanguard's report:

Faced with a complex choice and unsure what to do, many individuals often take the default or “no decision” choice. In the case of a voluntary savings plan, which requires that a participant take action in order to sign up, the “no decision” choice is a decision not to contribute to the plan.

The way most plans mitigate this error in human judgment is to make the decision for participants:

With an autopilot design, individuals are automatically enrolled into the plan, their deferral rates are automatically increased each year, and their contributions are automatically invested in a balanced investment strategy. Under an autopilot plan, the decision to save is framed negatively: “Quit the plan if you like.” In such a design, “doing nothing” leads to participation in the plan and investment of assets in a long-term retirement portfolio.

These are powerful implications if you think about it. Just scale it up for millions of Americans and billions of dollars in retirement accounts. And consider the fact that when companies opt employees into savings accounts, they're also setting a default savings rate:

High-level metrics of participant savings behavior remained steady in 2014. The plan participation rate was 77% in 2014. The average deferral rate was 6.9% and the median was unchanged at 6.0%. However, average deferral rates have declined slightly from their peak of 7.3% in 2007. The decline in average contribution rates is attributable to increased adoption of automatic enrollment. While automatic enrollment increases participation rates, it also leads to lower contribution rates when default deferral rates are set at low levels, such as 3% or lower. (p. 4)

Key takeaway: if you have a 401(k), the current balance is more likely a function of explicit or implicit decisions someone else made for you rather than decisions you made yourself. It's worth spending a little time pondering the degree to which you're allowing someone else to plan your future. Don't be too human if you can help it.

via Reddit

by Eddie Smith at June 30, 2015 01:22 PM

Crossway Blog

When J. I. Packer Walked Out

This post was adapted from Packer on the Christian Life: Knowing God in Christ, Walking by the Spirit by Sam Storms, which is part of the Theologians on the Christian Life series.

“Why I Walked”

In 2002, the synod of the Anglican Diocese of New Westminster

authorized its bishop to produce a service for blessing same-sex unions, to be used in any parish of the diocese that requests it. A number of synod members walked out to protest the decision. They declared themselves out of communion with the bishop and the synod, and they appealed to the Archbishop of Canterbury and other Anglican primates and bishops for help. (1)

J. I. Packer was one of those who walked out.

When asked why he walked out, he answered, “Because this decision, taken in its context, falsifies the gospel of Christ, abandons the authority of Scripture, jeopardizes the salvation of fellow human beings, and betrays the church in its God-appointed role as the bastion and bulwark of divine truth.” In other words, it was Packer’s confidence in the functional, life-directing authority of Scripture that led to this decision.

“My primary authority,” wrote Packer, “is a Bible writer named Paul. For many decades now, I have asked myself at every turn of my theological road: Would Paul be with me in this? What would he say if he were in my shoes? I have never dared to offer a view on anything that I did not have good reason to think he would endorse.”

Here we see that, for Packer, affirming biblical authority is meant not merely to provoke a debate but to give ethical direction to life. Regardless of what personal preferences one might have, irrespective of the cultural trends in play at the time, the Bible is the ethical standard by which Christians such as Packer judge their responsibility.

What's Really at Stake

Packer then proceeds to exegete Paul’s thought in 1 Corinthians 6:9–11 as justification for his decision to lodge this protest. There are only two ways in which we might miss Paul’s point and his directives. One is to embrace an artificial interpretation of the text in which Paul is conceived as speaking of something other than same-sex union.

The second approach, notes Packer, “is to let experience judge the Bible.” Experience suggests that homosexual behavior is fulfilling to some; therefore, the Bible’s prohibition of it is wrong. But the appropriate response is that “the Bible is meant to judge our experience rather than the other way around,” and “feelings of sexual arousal and attraction, generating a sense of huge significance and need for release in action as they do, cannot be trusted as either a path to wise living or a guide to biblical interpretation.”

What is at stake in such a debate is the nature of the Bible itself. There are, notes Packer, fundamentally two positions that challenge each other:

One is the historic Christian belief that through the prophets, the incarnate Son, the apostles, and the writers of canonical Scripture as a body, God has used human language to tell us definitively and transculturally about his ways, his works, his will, and his worship. Furthermore, this revealed truth is grasped by letting the Bible interpret itself to us from within, in the knowledge that the way into God’s mind is through that of the writers. Through them, the Holy Spirit who inspired them teaches the church. Finally, one mark of sound biblical insights is that they do not run counter to anything else in the canon. . . .

The second view applies to Christianity the Enlightenment’s trust in human reason, along with the fashionable evolutionary assumption that the present is wiser than the past. It concludes that the world has the wisdom, and the church must play intellectual catch-up in each generation in order to survive. From this standpoint, everything in the Bible becomes relative to the church’s evolving insights, which themselves are relative to society’s continuing development (nothing stands still), and the Holy Spirit’s teaching ministry is to help the faithful see where Bible doctrine shows the cultural limitations of the ancient world and needs adjustment in light of latter-day experience (encounters, interactions, perplexities, states of mind and emotion, and so on). Same-sex unions are one example. This view is scarcely 50 years old, though its antecedents go back much further.

That this is more than an intellectual battle is seen in the spiritual dangers to which the latter view ultimately leads. Packer believes that to bless homosexual behavior is an explicit deviation from the biblical gospel and the historic Christian creed. The doctrines of creation, sin, regeneration, and sanctification are necessarily distorted in the effort to justify same-sex intimacy.

Worse still, if, as Paul says, those who practice such sexual immorality will not “inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6:10), it puts the eternal welfare of the individual at stake. Finally, says Packer, “it involves the delusion of looking to God—actually asking him—to sanctify sin by blessing what he condemns. This is irresponsible, irreverent, indeed blasphemous, and utterly unacceptable as church policy. How could I do it?”

Captive to the Word of God

The manner in which Scripture functions as authoritative in Packer’s belief and behavior is best seen in his appeal to Martin Luther at the Diet of Worms in 1521. Said the Reformer:

Unless you prove to me by Scripture and plain reason that I am wrong, I cannot and will not recant. My conscience is captive to the Word of God. To go against conscience is neither right nor safe [it endangers the soul]. Here I stand. There is nothing else I can do. God help me. Amen.

“Conscience,” Packer explains, “is that power of the mind over which we have no power, which binds us to believe what we see to be true and do what we see to be right. Captivity of conscience to the Word of God, that is, to the absolutes of God’s authoritative teaching in the Bible, is integral to authentic Christianity.”

He quotes a statement often attributed to Luther (here slightly paraphrased):

If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point that the world and the devil are at the moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle rages is where the loyalty of the soldier is proved, and to be steady on all the battlefield besides is merely flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point. (2)

The issue beneath the issue—namely, the nature and functional influence of biblical authority—is the watershed issue not merely for Anglicanism, but for Christianity as a whole.

The belief that what God has revealed in the written Word is binding on the consciences of all Christians and gives shape to their behavior on every issue, not merely same-sex marriage, is the foundation for Packer’s approach to living the Christian life.


(1) This and subsequent excerpts are taken from Packer’s article in Christianity Today, “Why I Walked: Some- times Loving a Denomination Requires You to Fight” (January 1, 2003): 46–50 (emphasis in the original).
(2) The oft-quoted statement reflects Luther’s ideas as expressed by a fictional character named Fritz in a historical novel by Elizabeth Rundle Charles, Chronicles of the Schönberg-Cotta Family (New York: Thomas Nelson, 1864), 276. It also captures the spirit of what Packer believes. See also

Sam Storms (PhD, University of Texas at Dallas) has spent more than four decades in ministry as a pastor and professor. He was visiting associate professor of theology at Wheaton College from 2000 to 2004, and is currently senior pastor at Bridgeway Church in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. He is the founder of Enjoying God Ministries and the author of numerous books, including Chosen for Life, Tough Topics, Kept for Jesus, and Packer on the Christian Life.

by Matt Tully at June 30, 2015 01:10 PM

Zondervan Academic Blog

Do You Reflect These 4 Characteristics of an Emotionally Unhealthy Leader?

When you think of an unhealthy leader, who do you picture? What kinds of adjectives would you use to describe them?

Angry, controlling, aggressive?

Avoidant, inauthentic, passive?

Unaware, self-absorbed, over-worked?

Here’s how Peter Scazzero describes such a leader in his new guide on the matter, The Emotionally Healthy Leader:

The emotionally unhealthy leader is someone who operates in a continuous state of emotional and spiritual deficit, lacking emotional maturity and a “being with God” sufficient to sustain their “doing for God.” (25)

Leaders who ignore their own emotional and spiritual health will suffer and will hurt others around them. As Scazzero explains, “The deficits of emotionally unhealthy leaders impact virtually every area of their lives and leadership.” (25) Which is why it’s crucial for ministry leaders to honestly self-evaluate their leadership.

He lists four characteristics that are especially evident in emotionally unhealthy leaders: low self-awareness, prioritizing ministry over marriage/singleness, doing too much for God, and failing to practice a Sabbath rhythm.

Do you exhibit any of these characteristics? Continue reading to find out.

1) Low Self-Awareness

Scazzero believes that emotional deficits are manifested primarily by a lack of self-awareness:

Emotionally unhealthy leaders tend to be unaware of what is going on inside them. And even when they recognize a strong emotion such as anger, they fail to process or express it honestly and appropriately. (27)

These leaders ignore emotion-related messages from their body; don’t consider how God is teaching them through such emotions; struggle to express the “why” behind their emotional triggers; are unaware how their family background impacts their present; and are unable to read and resonate with their emotional world.

This kind of leader has “no clue how his lack of self-awareness is negatively impacting him, his staff, and the church.” (29)

2) Prioritize Ministry over Marriage or Singleness

Early in pastoral ministry I believed the lie that all pastors have two wives: their bride (wife) and the Bride (the Church). Scazzero reveals this toxic view characterizes emotionally unhealthy leaders:

Whether married or single, most emotionally unhealthy leaders…view their marriage or singleness as an essential and stable foundation for something more important—building an effective ministry, which is their first priority. (29)

Such leaders invest most of their time and energy in becoming a better leader; take very little time to cultivate their marriage or single life; compartmentalize their marriage or single life relationships; make decisions without regard for how it impacts their marriage or single life; and fail to invest their best energy, thought, and creative efforts in developing a rich family life.

The result is that “God’s work” is made primary at the expense of foundational relationships.

3) Activity for God More than Relationship Can Sustain

I’d wager most ministry leaders feel overextended. Emotionally unhealthy ones, however, are chronically overextended: “they persist in saying a knee-jerk yes to new opportunities before prayerfully and carefully discerning God’s will…” The idea that “doing for Jesus flows out of their being with Jesus is a foreign concept.” (30, 31)

For such leaders:

  • Solitude and silence is viewed as a luxury;
  • Spiritual disciplines aren’t part of their core spiritual practices or essential for effective leadership;
  • Leading an organization, team, or ministry is a primary means of impacting the world for Christ;
  • Cultivating a deep, transformative relationship with Jesus isn’t a top priority.

If you often wonder how things can be going so well on the outside when you feel like you’re dying on the inside, consider whether you are doing more activity for God than your relationship with God can sustain.

4) Lack a Work/Sabbath Rhythm

The Emotionally Healthy Leader by Peter ScazzeroIf you struggle to practice Sabbath—a weekly, twenty-four-hour period in which you drop all work and rest, delight in God’s gifts, and enjoy life with him—consider your emotional health.

Such leaders often view Sabbath as “irrelevant, optional, or even a burdensome legalism;” don’t distinguish between this biblical practice and a day off; use “Sabbath” time for paying bills, grocery shopping, and running errands; and believe they must finish their work or work hard enough to “earn” Sabbath rest.

Scazzero reminds us leaders that the occasional day off isn’t enough to develop the rhythm of work and rest we need to be a healthy and effective leader for our ministries.


“Did you recognize yourself in any of the descriptions?” Scazzero asks. Because “over time these leaders and the ministries they serve will pay a heavy price if such unhealthy behaviors continue unchecked.” (33)

Honestly assessing our emotional health is crucial for the long-term health and effectiveness of our ministries, because unhealthy leadership is a threat to the Church.

Scazzero’s field guide to emotionally healthy leadership will help you navigate why we persist in unhealthy patterns. So read it, sit with it, engage it, discuss it with a fellow ministry leader—all for the sake of Christ’s mission and the people he’s entrusted to your care.

BTW check out for a free study guide for everyone and free bonus content for everyone who purchases the book.

by Jeremy Bouma at June 30, 2015 12:06 PM

The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

5 More Recent Supreme Court Decisions You Should Know About

Although many people are still processing the recent same-sex marriage ruling, the Supreme Court continues this week to issue order and rulings. Here are five other recent rulings and decisions handed down by the Court in the past two weeks that you should know about:


The case: Zubik v. Burwell

What it’s about:  Whether a group of religious organizations in Pennsylvania that oppose the use of contraceptives and/or abortifacients must comply with the Obamacare mandate to pay for them for their employees.

The Court’s decision: The Court issued an order that if the groups provide some type of notice to Health and Human Services that they want and are entitled to a religious exemption from the mandate, the government may not enforce the mandate directly against them, while the Court is pondering whether to review the case itself. Just as several other religious objectors (including Hobby Lobby and Wheaton College) have been allowed an exemption, these groups will likely be offered a permanent exemption from the mandate.


The case: Walker v. Texas Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans, Inc.

What it’s about: The Texas Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) offers state residents a choice between general-issue and specialty license plates. Those who want the state to issue a particular specialty plate may propose a plate design, comprising a slogan, a graphic, or both. If the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles Board approves the design, the state will make it available for display on vehicles registered in Texas.

The Texas Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans and its officers filed suit against the DMV arguing that the rejection of their proposal for a specialty plate design featuring a Confederate battle flag violated the Free Speech Clause.

The Court’s decision: In a 5-4 decision, the Court ruled that Texas’s specialty license plate designs constitute government speech, and thus Texas was entitled to refuse to issue plates featuring a Confederate battle flag. As the ruling notes, “When government speaks, it is not barred by the Free Speech Clause from determining the content of what it says.”


The case: Berger v. American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina

What it’s about:  In 2011, the North Carolina General Assembly authorized an optional “Choose Life” specialty license plate. The state offers other specialty plates that also fund causes benefitting the state and that are consistent with its public policies. The ACLU challenged the law, arguing that the “Choose Life” plate must be censored because the state did not also issue a license plate that encourages abortion, even though encouraging abortions is contrary to the state’s interests and public policy.

The Court’s decision: Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed a lower court decision that had allowed the ACLU to censor the “Choose Life” message. The Supreme Court vacated the decision and ordered the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit to reconsider the case in light of the high court’s June 18 decision in another license plate case, Walker v. Texas Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans (see above).


The case: Reed v. Town of Gilbert, Arizona

What it’s about: The town of Gilbert, Arizona has a municipal code that prohibits the display of outdoor signs without a permit, but has differing restrictions on political, ideological and directional signs. Good News Community Church and its pastor, Clyde Reed, whose Sunday church services are held at various temporary locations in and near the Gilbert, posted signs early each Saturday bearing the church name and the time and location of the next service. The church usually left the signs up until around midday on Sundays.

The church signs were considered “temporary directional signs” and were cited for exceeding the time limits and for failing to include an event date on the signs. Unable to reach an accommodation with the city of Gilbert, Reed and his church filed suit, claiming that the city code abridged their freedom of speech.

The Court’s decision: The Court ruled unanimously in favor of the church. All nine justices agreed that the distinctions drawn by the ordinance were impermissible, though three disagreed with the majority’s rationale. Writing for the majority, Justice Clarence Thomas said, “Content-based laws — those that target speech based on its communicative content — are presumptively unconstitutional and may be justified only if the government proves that they are narrowly tailored to serve compelling state interests.”


The case: Whole Woman's Health, et al. v. Cole, Comm'r, TX DHS, et al.

What it’s about: The Texas legislature had passed tough new restrictions on abortion providers that would have forced many clinics to close and made abortions harder to obtain. The law was scheduled to take effect this Wednesday. Several abortion clinics challenged the law, which was upheld by a circuit court.

The Court’s decision: The Court granted an order allowing the clinics to stay open pending appeal of their challenge to the Texas law. (Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito said they would have denied the stay application from abortion advocates.) If the Supreme Court refuses to hear the case in the fall, the order blocking enforcement will expire and the clinics will close.

by Joe Carter at June 30, 2015 05:15 AM

Making Disciples Out of the Stuff of Everyday Life

Discipleship is an indispensible ingredient in the Christian life. We need it to mature in our faith, grow in Christlikeness, and make new disciples. Doing discipleship well requires intentionality, opening up your life, and publicly showing other believers—and unbelievers—what it looks like to follow Jesus in “the stuff of everyday life.” Yet far too many of us miss the opportunities God gives us in the stuff of everyday life to help friends, family, and fellow church members reach maturity in Christ. Instead, we’ve treated discipleship as a curriculum to be taught, not a life to be lived for the purposes of seeing Jesus glorified everywhere. 

Is that really discipleship, though? If it isn’t a curriculum, then what is it? What is life-on-life on discipleship, and how do we do it well? What role does the local church play in this kind of discipleship? In an effort to answer these questions and to challenge our concept of discipleship, TGC’s Mark Mellinger spoke with Jeff Vanderstelt, visionary leader for the Soma Family of Churches, lead teaching pastor at Doxa Church in Bellevue, Washington, and the author of Saturate (Crossway, 2015).

In this seven-minute video, Vanderstelt talks about what it takes to do discipleship well, how to lead ourselves and others into a life that requires the power and presence of Christ, and more. If we want abundant life in Jesus, we’ll need to open up our lives and invite deliberate discipleship in. This conversation encourages us to do that very thing. 

by Ryan Troglin at June 30, 2015 05:02 AM

Why Are You Worried?

Editors’ note: The following is an adapted excerpt from Timothy Lane’s Living Without Worry: How to Replace Anxiety with Peace (The Good Book Company, 2015).

Diagnosis matters. When something is wrong with your body and you feel unwell, you need to know what you are dealing with. And that works for spiritual issues, too. For treatment to work, good diagnosis matters.

So what exactly is worry or anxiety? It’s a condition common to virtually every human, in every society. Not many people are truly care-free.

Defining Worry

While various factors and components are important, the Bible cuts deeper, because it says that worry is a deeply spiritual issue. This is not to say that the Bible ignores or disputes the mental, physiological, historical, social, or environmental aspects of worry, but that it sees them all as part of a spiritual issue—that worry, ultimately, is a response to life lived in God’s world. Worry, therefore, is a response to God himself. 

When, in Matthew 6:25–34, Jesus commands us three times, “Do not worry,” the Greek word used is merimnao. It literally means “a distracted mind” or a “double mind.” In the broader context of the passage, this division, or divided loyalty, is between God’s kingdom and my own. It is to be distracted from the first kingdom by the other. Biblical scholar Dick France has a really helpful insight into what worry therefore is: to be over-concerned about something other than the kingdom of God.

So here’s what worry is: over-concern. This is quite simple, and hugely helpful. It’s also useful in telling us what worry is not.

1. Worry is not the same as concern. If worry is “over-concern,” then it is different from concern. It is appropriate to be concerned about things. The two are not the same, and you can recognize the difference because concern takes wise action and prays dependently. But worry, or over-concern, thinks and acts as though everything is up to you, or completely out of control, and prays desperately if at all.

2. The solution to worry is not becoming laid-back The answer to over-concern is not under-concern. The antidote to over-concern is not just being a lazy or “laid-back” person. Often being disengaged and indifferent can masquerade as godliness when in fact it is not. We all know laid-back people. Maybe you are one yourself. It can seem a wonderful way to live! But it is worth digging below the laid-back surface.

3. Work is not necessarily an expression of worry. Another common error is to think that the way to avoid worry is to become passive, and simply look to God to provide for all of your needs. Jesus’s illustrations about birds and plants might seem to suggest that passivity is next to godliness. Nothing could be further from the truth. God may provide food for the birds, but they have to actively go and get it. Of course, working extremely hard could be a sign we are deeply, chronically over-concerned; but it is not automatically so.

This World or God’s Kingdom?

With these caveats in place, let’s return to what worry is. The broader context of Matthew 6:25–34 brings clarity to the essence of worry. Jesus’s teaching on worry comes in his famous Sermon on the Mount, where the challenge he’s repeatedly posing is: Are you living as if this life is all there is, or are you living your life for the kingdom of God? Which God? The essence of worry is in attempting to find your ultimate hope, comfort, and meaning in something that’s temporal and fleeting. It happens when you treat something in creation as a “god”—so you rely on it, and seek blessing in it. But this world lacks the stability you need to be worry free. If you put your hope in unstable things, you will be unstable. Your loyalty is divided between something in creation (money is just one example) and God. Something in creation (even a good thing) is usurping the rightful place that only God deserves in your life. Whenever you place your ultimate hope in anything in this world, you will struggle with worry.

While we may say God is most important in our lives, and that he is in control, we struggle to live this way practically in light of the circumstances we face on a regular basis. Worry is over-concern that results from over-loving something—loving it more than God.

Worry Is an Opportunity

How can worry be an opportunity? When you worry, you have an opportunity to see what kinds of things tend to get your attention more than God. Your over-concerns reveal your over-loves. And this can be an opportunity to grow. Jesus has a way of cutting to the core of the problem and providing a deeper, more substantial solution: “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matt. 6:33).

Jesus is bringing us back to the right priorities. “What are you living for?” he asks. He’s calling us to re-orient our lives around the living God and his priorities. We need to keep first things first and second things second. And as we do that, we will begin to be liberated from our worries.

by Timothy Lane at June 30, 2015 05:01 AM

How Christians Can Show Countercultural Resolve on Marriage

Conventional wisdom had the Supreme Court issuing its decision in the Obergefell v. Hodges marriage case on the last day of the term (Monday, June 29). But conventional wisdom did not hold sway in the session’s last days, and the Court ruled Friday to mandate same-sex marriage across the nation.

What happened between Friday and Monday is a window into the future for the issues of marriage and religious liberty.

First Reactions

Over the weekend, those applauding the Court’s decision bathed the White House in rainbow lights and published adulatory front pages in newspapers across the country. LGBT activists proclaimed that marriage redefinition is only the beginning of their agenda. They called for more action on sexual orientation policy and increased focus on transgender issues. A New York Times columnist writing in Time magazine called for an end to religious organizations’ tax-exempt status; a Pennsylvania paper announced it would soon ban op-eds opposing same-sex marriage (a position later walked back after a storm of protest), and commentators began casting aspersions on religious liberty in matters of marriage and sexuality.

By Sunday night, what would have been a swelling crowd of same-sex marriage proponents outside the Supreme Court, bristling in anticipation of a Monday morning decision, was instead a candlelight prayer vigil by supporters of marriage as the union of a man and a woman. Some 200 gathered to pray, sing, and hear from clergy, marriage movement leaders, and yound adults upholding the truth about marriage and religious liberty. For these and many others, the Supreme Court’s monumental decision has catalyzed a countercultural resolve to restore a true understanding of marriage in culture and law after decades of erosion.

Policy Response

For those who seek to live according to biblical teaching, the most urgent public policy priority is to protect in federal and state law the freedom to speak and to act consistent with the truth about marriage. Christian schools and colleges are and should remain free to teach a biblical view of sexuality and marriage, and to hold their students and faculty to conduct standards consistent with that teaching. Faith-based ministries helping individuals overcome addiction and poverty are and should remain able to form a staff that shares and lives according to the tenets of their Christian mission.

A bill introduced in Congress, the First Amendment Defense Act, seeks to guarantee these freedoms. The legislation would prevent the federal government from discriminating against individuals or groups who believe that marriage is the union of one man and one woman. Federal bureaucrats would be prohibited from revoking a Christian school's tax exemption, for example, or otherwise discriminating against such groups or individuals in grants, contracts, and accreditation. Governors can take similar action to prohibit their state agencies from retaliating against those who hold to the historic understanding of marriage—the view President Obama held until a few years ago.

Such protection would ensure the freedom to articulate the truth about marriage and to go about our daily lives accordingly, without fear of government coercion. In response to Friday’s disappointing decision, some have suggested retreat from a hostile public square into communities of the faithful. That is not a viable strategy. Such enclaves would need the kind of protection in law that can be achieved only by the active engagement of the faithful in public life. On the other hand, those who seek bolder engagement to restore laws about marriage as the union of one man and one woman will first need protection of the right to express dissent from government’s new orthodoxy on marriage.

No doubt opponents will lash out with vitriol against such basic protections, as we saw this spring in Indiana. This should not take us by surprise, nor should we let others be taken in by such distortions of the truth. We will need to be prepared to debunk misinformation with clarity and charity.

But preserving the freedom to speak and to act in accord with the understanding of marriage as a man and a woman will be worth little if we do not use it. That means, first, speaking up and, second, diligently forming the next generation’s understanding of marriage and sexuality to withstand the strong, new cultural tides.

Speak Up

Sunday night’s vigil in front of the Court illustrates the kind of forums Christian believers and other citizens will need to create in order to preserve the freedom to speak publicly the truth about marriage. For those who consider themselves non-political or who have never taken a public stand on their convictions—whether at a school board session, town hall meeting, march, rally, or just standing up for a belief in a neighborhood discussion—now would be a good time to get over that inhibition. Some may be reticent because they are put off by the tone or tactics of the folks they hear—or that the media exaggeratedly portray—in the public square. The answer in such cases is not to stay home and criticize from afar, but to get into the arena to do better, with more creativity.

We must also be clear why we speak up for marriage as the union of a man and a woman. For Christians, it is not only troubling that the Court’s decision enshrines in law a view of marriage opposed to Scripture’s teaching. It is also troubling that the Court rejected the reasoned argument that marriage law set apart the union that brings together the two halves of humanity as the source of the future of humanity. Such laws prioritized the need of children for a mother and a father, in contrast to redefinition, which puts the desires of adults first.

Moreover, Christians’ interest in justice and the good of our neighbors leads to a concern about the right use of power. On this count, the Supreme Court overstepped its authority by ending democratic deliberation about marriage policy even though nothing in the Constitution required the judicial redefinition of marriage or gave the Court the right to interject itself in the question. On the basis of the Constitution, the matter should have been left to the American people. The disregard for the rule of law should trouble us.

As Chief Justice John Roberts observed in his dissent, “The majority’s decision is an act of will, not legal judgment. The right [to same-sex marriage] it announces has no basis in the Constitution or this Court’s precedent.” Christians and all citizens should condemn such arbitrary government, in the interest of justice and the common good.

Counter-Cultural Formation

The Court’s decision on Friday was like a tidal wave hitting land after building up for some time. Some express hope that we will experience calm after the storm. That hope will prove illusory.

As the dissenting justices note, a judicially imposed answer to such a fundamental question in the midst of democratic debate will prove unsatisfactory. The Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade, imposing nationwide the right to abortion on demand, failed to settle the abortion debate, and this decision will not settle the marriage question. Moreover, the aftershocks will continue as activists push social changes that further erode even the basic understanding that we are created in the image of God, male and female. In other words, we do not have the luxury of setting aside the questions involved in the Court’s marriage redefinition. They will continue to loom in many different issues for the foreseeable future.

As a result, it is critically important to build a firm foundation and to be connected to the truth in the context of community. Children today will be surrounded by a much different plausibility structure than their parents when it comes to issues about sexual identity and behavior. As sociologist Peter Berger explained in a 2010 interview with Albert Mohler, “Beliefs become plausible if they are supported by the people around us. . . . [W]e were created as social beings and much of what we think about the world depends on support by important people with whom we live.” It will take intentional worldview formation and witnessing it in practice among a community of believers to help the next generation navigate this brave new world. 

Do the Next Thing

Elisabeth Elliot's passing a few days before Court’s decision brought to mind her advice: when the things around us are turned upside down, do the next thing. Now that the tidal wave of judicially imposed same-sex marriage has hit our shores, the task of restoration is very clear. We should get busy doing it.

As the yound adults said at Sunday’s Supreme Court vigil, we are called to be faithful and to not be afraid. The waves will keep crashing, but the truth cannot stay submerged for long. 

by Jennifer A. Marshall at June 30, 2015 05:01 AM

Something Greater Than Marriage

The Supreme Court of the United States of America has made gay marriage legal in all 50 states, and much of our country celebrates. The world with its rainbow flags waving proudly and plentifully was our world. We locked arms with our LGBT loved ones and friends and believed they were truly and honestly our family of choice.

This is the world that we, Christopher and Rosaria, helped build—a world pursuing dignity and equality. The people you see celebrating the recent SCOTUS decision to redefine marriage (and with marriage, personhood) would have been us, not very long ago.

In 1999, when Jesus Christ revealed his saving grace and love to each of us, we learned that our unbelief, and the idolatrous sexual lusts that flowed from it, were no longer matters of personal choice. We accepted that following Jesus meant giving up everything. We understood that repentance meant fleeing from anything that embodied the temptations we knew best and loved most. But even prior to our conversion to Christ, God provided the love and care of Christians, people who became for us a new family, new brothers and sisters and mothers and fathers in Christ—who knew and loved us before we were safe to love. Christians loved, accepted, included, and surrounded us with biblical truth while we were still sinners, thus modeling the Lord himself. Therefore, when the Holy Spirit changed our hearts, we came to know this: the gospel is costly and worth it.

The days after the Supreme Court's ruling are like the days before it: God is seated on his throne in power and majesty—and one day, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess him.

We affirm that God has ordained marriage to be the union of a husband and a wife, which Jesus himself restated in Mark 10:6–8 and Matthew 19:4–5. But even though some in our culture believe, as Justice Kennedy wrote, that marriage “embodies the highest ideals of love,” we disagree. Earthly marriage does not have a monopoly on love. God is love (1 John 4:7–19). The pinnacle of love is his love for us in Christ. Nothing is greater.

Mystery and Reflection

In actuality, marriage is a mystery and a reflection of a greater reality. The highest ideal of love is Christ’s love for his bride, the church. In Ephesians 5 and Revelation 21, marriage is revealed to be analogous to Christ's redemption: the marriage consummation between the bride (redeemed sinners) and the groom (Christ) shows all redeemed people are married to Christ. Only in Christ can anyone experience the full definition of love and acceptance. As important as earthly marriage and family are, they are both fleetingly temporary, while Christ and the family of God (the church) are wondrously eternal.

We have failed to show the LGBT community another option to marriage—which is singleness—lived out in the fruitful and full context of God's community, the family of God. This does not mean, as Justice Kennedy wrote, that singles are “condemned to live in loneliness,” but that singles can have intimate and fulfilling relationships full of love. This is not a consolation prize. It can be just as rewarding and fulfilling as marriage.

Defining marriage as being between a husband and a wife appears unfair to the LGBT community, in part because a life of singleness is seen to be crushingly lonely. Have we in the church inadvertently played into that lie with our idolatry of marriage while being pejorative and silent toward singleness? If singleness is unfair, then it’s no wonder marriage has become a right. Just as the LGBT community appealed to the rest of the world for dignity and respect, it’s time for the church to fight for the dignity and respect of single women and single men.

Defining Moment

Some are now comparing the Supreme Court’s decision on gay marriage with the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision on abortion. Indeed, there is an important lesson for us to learn from the pro-life movement. Today, there are more pro-life young adults than others from previous generations who champion pro-life. When pro-life people, made up of more than just evangelical Christians, began fighting less and caring more for unborn babies and for women with unplanned pregnancies just as they were, a shift in focus brought about an important change. So the question now stands: will we begin caring for the LGBT community just as they are?

This is a defining moment in history. We have a faithful opportunity to shine for the gospel. Will we point people to marriage as the “highest ideal of love”? Or will we point people—whether married or single—to a life of costly discipleship pursuing the embodiment of love, Jesus Christ himself?

The decision is ours to make.

Lovingly endorsed by our families: Kent Butterfield, and Leon and Angela Yuan.

Editor's note: This article was originally posted on Facebook.

by Rosaria Butterfield and Christopher Yuan at June 30, 2015 05:00 AM

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

The Feast of Sts Peter and Paul

A reader writes and asks:

John, convince me not to turn to Islam after what just happened earlier today with the Supreme Court ruling, because right now, I’m trying to think of ways to commit something that I know is heinous while minimizing my digital fingerprint.

Sir, I cannot convince you, but I can tell you what convinced me. Here is the tale:

I was in Chattanooga, visiting a science fiction convention, when, on the Christian Sabbath, I went to a basilica which was all of four blocks away.

The nave was decorated with solemn beauty, and was sublime. Thanks to the miracle of the Information Age, I can find and show you a picture. Imagine you have just stepped off of a hot street in a warehouse district whose wealth and beauty sagged and departed around the turn of the century, and you see this:

ss peter paul

I sat in the front pew, as is my wont, and saw the stained glass window to my left showing the martyrdom of Saint Peter, crucified upside down on the Saint Peter’s Cross which foolish satanists imagine to be an image belonging to them, not to us. The window to my right showed a haloed head rolling from the supine corpse of Saint Paul, and in the window above, the three fountains tradition says erupted as living waters from the ground where the falling head bounced three times.

The priest, a Reverend Carter, spoke his homily from the raised pulpit. He mentioned the Supreme Court ruling in his opening paragraph, as well as the beheading of Christians in the Middle East, and the gunman who shot down Christians at a prayer meeting in cold blood.

Would that I could capture the light in his eyes, the timber and tone of his voice, his simple and direct way of speech that somehow was more majestic than the pomp of kings! I will not say this priest was a born orator, but I will say the spirit was moving in him, and it touched my heart.

He said we lived in a world of darkness.

This world is ruled by the Prince of Darkness, and the world does not love us. But neither can it expunge Christian joy, because our joy is what the world calls suffering. Our joy is sacrifice.

Reverend Carter then mentioned that this was the 125th anniversary day that the Basilica was erected. It was not raised by the rich and powerful families in Chattanooga (who would not have been Catholic in that day and place) but by the meager contributions, but heartfelt and many, from poor Irish immigrants and other Catholics, men of humble means.

He said that the very day was the Feast Day of Saints Peter and Paul.

Full title: Christ appearing to Saint Peter on the Appian Way Artist: Annibale Carracci Date made: 1601-2 Source: Contact: Copyright © The National Gallery, London

Christ appearing to Saint Peter on the Appian Way
Annibale Carracci

Saint Peter was walking away from Rome when the warning reached him that authorities were seeking his life. He met the risen Christ on the road, walking the other way. Quo vadis, Domine? “Where are you going, Lord?” the saint and fisherman asked. Christ answered, Eo Romam iterum crucifigi. “I am going to Rome to be crucified again.” And Peter turned and walked with his eyes open into the embrace of a lingering and grisly death, following where the master trod.

Reverend Carter then said that this basilica had raised its pillars and towers and walls in silent praise to Christ over a century ago. The parish had seen civil war and great war, world war and cold war, desert war and culture war. It had seen races riots and civil unrest. And in one hundred twenty five more years from now, the walls and towers of the church would witness more darkness, more suffering, and more woe.

The Church cannot be defeated because she stands for sacrifice. Christ died to save all men, even Supreme Court Justices who make evil and unlawful rulings from the bench, even Islamic terrorists who cut off the heads, or gunmen who gun down, the innocent at prayer. Even the worst enemies of all that is holy and good and right and just Christ loves with an unimaginable, supreme, perfect love, and He still carries the scars.

Those who suffer from same sex attraction are called by the Church to embrace that same spirit of sacrifice as we are, and to merge the suffering their condition brings them to the cross of the savior. She calls on us to do the same with our sufferings, yes, even the humiliations brought on by the mocking triumph of the darkness in this world.

We are not to pray for the destruction of evil men who wound us, but for their conversion.

We are to pray for the salvation of our enemies.

My cold and angry heart was touched, and, as if by a miracle, there was no coldness left in it, and no anger. Christ was willing to die a grisly and humiliating death for these men. Was I unwilling to pray for them?

* * *

So the Reverend Carter spoke. And I ate and drank what to the world looked like a wafer of bread and a sip of wine, and Christ was within, unseen by the world.

ss peter paul 02

When he was shaking hands after the mass with parishioners, Reverend Carter called the people ahead of me in line by name, talking about one parishioner’s upcoming deployment and new haircut, or what another parishioner had written on Facebook. That was one good priest!

* * *

As to your question:

In one hundred years, when this ruling is only an historical curio, like the Dred Scott Decision, studied by law students, or in five hundred years, when the Padishah-Emperor of the Americas finally converts to Christianity and makes the worship of the God of Abraham legal once again, or in fifty million years, when human beings are half forgotten legends in books written by the Coleopterous Race that rules earth after mankind has passed away, the One, True, Apostolic and Catholic Church will still be in business, still preaching and teaching the same truths that she has always taught.

And the Church will still speaking the language of sacrifice and self-denying love to a race of fallen beings (whatever they are like) who are so selfish and self-centered that this language is folly and a stumblingblock to them.

Selfishness cannot understand selflessness. The darkness cannot comprehend the light, cannot surround and cannot besiege it, cannot defeat it, even in their hour of victory.

Because when we pray for the souls of our deadly enemy, our prayers are answered.

How can they fight that? By changing manmade law? With stake and sword? Torture? Fear? Fire? Good luck with that.

The modern enemy are limp and wavering amateurs compared to the Romans, who elevated sadism to a fine art and a popular entertainment. They can persecute us, if they have the stomach for it. To us, persecution is blessing.

So before anyone thinks to fly to the enemy and use his worldly tools to achieve otherworldly aims, stop, pause, pray, and consider. For no man builds a tower without contemplating the price.

What price is exacted from you,  O my beloved brother, if you convert to a military religion, and commit an act of angry horror? What damage do you do to the beautiful and glorious temple called your soul, so much more bright and fair than any silly building made by the hand of man?

Do you think the Prince of Darkness will be shocked by your magnificent evil, and leave off deceiving the world? Do you think the deceived will be cured of their blindness?

Does history remember the name of the soldier who cut off the head of Saint Paul? Neither do I.

But I know the name of the man who cured his blindness, despite that Saul of Tarsus was a deadly enemy to him: Ananias of Damascus.

I pray this same peace which came to me on this dark day finds you.

by John C Wright at June 30, 2015 04:16 AM

Reviewer Praise for THE GOLDEN AGE

A rather favorable review:

Here is one remark about the ideal reader which I thought worthy of note:

The ideal reader: In order to be engaged by this trilogy, I think the reader has to enjoy complicated, ornate, nonstandard settings; technological extrapolation; and exposition. I think plot readers are going to like it better than character readers.

I think that readers who particularly enjoy Kim Stanley Robinson should give The Golden Age trilogy a try. Robinson is the better writer – in particularly, a lot of his description and exposition reads like poetry – but then, Robinson is an outstanding writer who’s been at it a lot longer.

This trilogy also makes me think of stories like Ringworld by Larry Niven and the Gaian trilogy by John Varley. I would also actually be very curious to know what readers who love Ancillary Justice would make of The Golden Age trilogy, because despite the differences between the two works, in some ways I think they are doing similar things.

If you’ve read The Golden Age, what else would you consider similar?

Now I need to read The Player of Games to compare that utopia with this one …

My comment:

Ironically, the first review I ever received as a professional writer was from someone who vehemently and viscerally disliked the very same passage this reviewer mentions as the one that engaged her sympathy and attention, namely, the gentle bickering of man and (almost) wife.

I have not had the pleasure of reading ANCILLARY JUSTICE, but I have read PLAYER OF GAMES, and did see some of the parallels and polar opposites with that most imaginative of works.  The approach toward what constitutes a utopia is very different indeed.

by John C Wright at June 30, 2015 02:25 AM

sacha chua :: living an awesome life

Weekly review: Week ending June 26, 2015

Lots of sleep this week, and few blog posts in the pipeline. On the plus side, I did manage to get a little coding in – learning how to use BlueMix on one hand, and making an edit-in-place grocery receipt interface on the other. Oh, and SketchUp!

2015-07-02b Week ending 2015-06-26 -- index card #journal #weekly


2015-07-02b Week ending 2015-06-26 – index card #journal #weekly

Blog posts


Focus areas and time review

  • Business (21.7h – 12%)
    • Earn (11.3h – 51% of Business)
      • Earn: E1: 1-2 days of consulting
      • BlueMix training
    • Build (10.4h – 48% of Business)
      • Drawing (4.6h)
      • Paperwork (0.0h)
    • Connect (0.0h – 0% of Business)
  • Relationships (11.1h – 6%)
    • Check on P
  • Discretionary – Productive (4.0h – 2%)
    • Emacs (0.3h – 0% of all)
      • Edit Emacs Hangout video to blur avy-jump demo
    • Organize photos
    • Make better interface for cleaning grocery data
    • Return friendly name in JSON
    • Get data input working again
    • CAD a ramp for the shed
    • Figure out how to run Jasmine tests
    • Get data types management working
    • Writing (1.0h)
  • Discretionary – Play (27.0h – 16%)
  • Personal routines (18.7h – 11%)
  • Unpaid work (11.7h – 6%)
  • Sleep (73.8h – 43% – average of 10.5 per day)

The post Weekly review: Week ending June 26, 2015 appeared first on sacha chua :: living an awesome life.

by Sacha Chua at June 30, 2015 01:30 AM

June 29, 2015

Greg Mankiw's Blog

confused of calcutta

Of Theseus, Trigger and Test cricket

Have you watched Trigger’s Broom? If you haven’t, you’re a lucky person. Just wander over to your old-TV-episodes-watching vehicle of choice and indulge yourself. An unforgettable episode from an unforgettable series. RIP Roger Lloyd Pack. Trigger’s broom. 20 years. 17 new heads. 14 new handles. When does it stop being Trigger’s broom? That’s what John Sullivan … Continue reading Of Theseus, Trigger and Test cricket

by JP at June 29, 2015 10:57 PM

Workout: June 29, 2015

Please note the Holiday WOD on July 1 at 11 a.m. All other classes cancelled for Canada Day. See you there! 5 rounds of: 12 shoulders-to-overheads (135/95 lb.) 12 toes-to-bars 12 lunges (135/95 lb., 6 per leg)

by Mike at June 29, 2015 05:16 PM

Workout: June 30, 2015

Please note the Holiday WOD on July 1 at 11 a.m. All other classes cancelled for Canada Day. See you there! Snatch 1-1-1-1-1 3 rounds of: 12 power snatches (75/45 lb.) 12 burpees 12 kettlebell swings (70/55 lb.)

by Mike at June 29, 2015 05:16 PM

Canada Day: Holiday Workout, 11 a.m.

Please note there will be a group workout at 11 a.m. on July 1. This is a great chance to sweat with a big, happy group of friends and meet people you haven’t trained with before. Come on out! All other classes will be cancelled for the holiday. The workout is scheduled for 2 hours, […]

by Mike at June 29, 2015 05:13 PM

Table Titans

Tales: Hug it Out


Our group was exploring the rough-hewn halls of a former Dwarven outpost when they found a smaller side passage from which a slight breeze wafted. Upon exploring, they found that the passage opened into a large cavern with a natural ventilation shaft in the ceiling and a small underground pond.…

Read more

June 29, 2015 03:53 PM

Crossway Blog

Weekly E-Book Specials - 6/28/15

Every week, Crossway offers several great e-books at steep discounts. This week, we're discounting two books by J. I. Packer and also offering Sam Storms' brand new book, Packer on the Christian Life, for just $5.99.

These deals are also available from other participating retailers, including Amazon, Westminster Bookstore, Vyrso,, and others. The discounted prices are available through July 5, 2015.

Packer on the Christian Life: Knowing God in Christ, Walking by the Spirit

Sam Storms

In this soul-stirring book, well-known pastor Sam Storms explores Packer’s legacy and profound insights into prayer, Bible study, the sovereignty of God, the Christian’s fight against sin, and more, offering readers the chance to learn from a true evangelical titan.

“This is one of the best books on J. I. Packer I have read.”
—Timothy George, Founding Dean, Beeson Divinity School; General Editor, Reformation Commentary on Scripture

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Keeping the Ten Commandments

J. I. Packer

As beloved author and Bible scholar J. I. Packer probes the purpose and true meaning of the Ten Commandments, you'll discover that these precepts can aptly be called God's blueprint for the best life possible. They contain the wisdom and priorities everyone needs for relational, spiritual, and societal blessing—and it's all coming from a loving heavenly Father who wants the best for his children.

“Packer does an exceptionally fine job of providing simple analyses of profound material. His insights invite further reflection, development, and discussion.”
—Wilbert M. Van Dyk, Calvin Theological Journal

$2.99 / Learn More / Free Excerpt

Affirming the Apostles' Creed

J. I. Packer

In Affirming the Apostles' Creed, noted Bible scholar and author J. I. Packer explains the meaning and implications of each phrase of this great creed. Each concise chapter serves as an invitation to dive further into the creed-and as a result, into the essentials of the Christian faith—by concluding with discussion questions and Bible passages for further study.

$2.99 / Learn More / Free Excerpt

by Nick Rynerson at June 29, 2015 03:34 PM

The Urbanophile

Viva Havana!

Photo by Scott Beyer

With pending changes in US-Cuban relations, there’s been a flurry of attention turned towards Cuba and Havana. I want to highlight a few articles on the topic. Firstly, Scott Beyer posted a two-part series over at Market Urbanism. It’s part policy analysis, part travelogue, and his large numbers of photos are a must-see.

His first piece is “City of Scarcity.” Here’s an excerpt:

I found myself unable to buy basic things. For example, during my first night in Havana, I didn’t realize–until it was too late–that the B&B landlord had not provided toilet paper. In America, this would be a glaring oversight, but in Havana, I would discover, is normal. This forced me to navigate my neighborhood at 3am, offering pesos to the many teenage boys still standing outside, to bring out “papel higienico” from their houses. Every time I tried this, they would each explain, in rather comical fashion, that none was available. Finally I found a teenager who spoke passable English, and asked him how this could be. After sending his little brother in to find something, he explained that “in Havana, toilet paper is a delicacy–like chocolate,” and that most residents don’t just have any sitting around. So how did people cope?

“Here in Havana, we have a saying,” he quipped. “We say, ‘Cubans have a good ass. Our asses work for all kinds of paper. Toilet paper, newspaper, book paper–any kind of paper’.”

Photo by Scott Beyer

His second piece is called “Stagnation Doesn’t Preserve Cities, Nor Does Wealth Destroy Them.” He uses the example of Havana as a counter-point to the anti-gentrification narrative in which investment in a city destroys is character.

Instead, she claims that these groups are “destroying” the city. She is thus spouting the same myth that is advanced about historic preservation by urban progressives, who seem to think that wealth and gentrification works against preservation. But a fair-minded look at U.S. cities demonstrates the opposite. If one looks at America’s most notable historic neighborhoods–the Back Bay in Boston; Capitol Hill in DC; the French Quarter in New Orleans; much of northern San Francisco; much of Manhattan and northern Brooklyn; downtown Savannah; and downtown Charleston–a unifying feature is that they have great residential wealth. Meanwhile, there are numerous cities—Baltimore, Philadelphia, Detroit, St. Louis, Cleveland—that have a similar number of historic structures. But many of them sit hollowed-out because of decline.

Image via the Guardian

Meanwhile, the Guardian also ran a take on the city, calling Havana “one of the world’s great cities on the brink of a fraught transition.” It’s very different to say the least.

Nowhere have these changes been more apparent than in Cuba’s capital, and Havana today can be a jarring collision of the antique and the nouveau. While I was there, the Havana Biennial was bringing in cutting-edge artists and art dealers from all over the world – yet turn the television to one of the state-sponsored channels and one is immediately transported back to the time of Soviet-era propaganda, of shrill declarations and low production values. In contrast, Venezuela’s TeleSUR (now accessible to Cubans), which generally maintains a line favourable to Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro and his allies (of whom the Castros are two), is positively electric and full of flashy visuals and news from the outside world.

Photo by Scott Beyer

Last Spring, City Journal ran a piece on the city by Michael Totten called “The Last Communist City.”

Even employees inside the quasi-capitalist bubble don’t get paid more. The government contracts with Spanish companies such as Meliá International to manage Havana’s hotels. Before accepting its contract, Meliá said that it wanted to pay workers a decent wage. The Cuban government said fine, so the company pays $8–$10 an hour. But Meliá doesn’t pay its employees directly. Instead, the firm gives the compensation to the government, which then pays the workers—but only after pocketing most of the money. I asked several Cubans in my hotel if that arrangement is really true. All confirmed that it is. The workers don’t get $8–$10 an hour; they get 67 cents a day—a child’s allowance.

The maximum wage is just the beginning. Not only are most Cubans not allowed to have money; they’re hardly allowed to have things. The police expend extraordinary manpower ensuring that everyone required to live miserably at the bottom actually does live miserably at the bottom. Dissident blogger and author Yoani Sánchez describes the harassment sarcastically in her book Havana Real: “Buses are stopped in the middle of the street and bags inspected to see if we are carrying some cheese, a lobster, or some dangerous shrimp hidden among our personal belongings.” Perhaps the saddest symptom of Cuba’s state-enforced poverty is the prostitution epidemic—a problem the government officially denies and even forbids foreign journalists based in Havana to mention. Some Cuban prostitutes are professionals, but many are average women—wives, girlfriends, sisters, mothers—who solicit johns once or twice a year for a little extra money to make ends meet.

by Aaron M. Renn at June 29, 2015 02:26 PM

CrossFit Naptown

The Joys of CrossFit

Tuesday’s Workout:

Front Squat
EMOTM 12:00
Reps 1-5 <80%
Reps 6-7 at 85%
Reps 8-12 > 90%

Beginners –> 5×5

On the Minute 10:00
1 HandStand Kickup
3 Chicken Pecks
5 Handstand Pushups
Remaining Time in Minute = Double Unders
*Score = total Double Unders



Traveling CrossFitters


One of the greatest joys of our sport (yes you are all athletes) is the community at large that we get to be a part of. We have quite a special family here at CFNT but that community does not stop outside of our doors. It exists throughout our city, state, country, and the globe. There are CrossFit gyms now in nearly every nook and cranny you can think of, and we get to be a part of that! We have the opportunity to explore this community every time that we travel. To meet new people in communities and cultures different from our own but who share with us a common love for fitness, health, community, and Fran times.


I will hear people every once in a while express fears about dropping in to places when they travel. Don’t be afraid!! Nearly every single gym experiences drop ins and welcome them with open arms! As a coach, I love meeting people when they visit CFNT and hearing about their gyms back home and learning what brings them to our city. I offer ideas on things to do and see, trying to make their experience as fabulous as possible. I receive the same courtesy when I travel myself and it always makes the trip special. When you drop in to a new gym, you get to see a new community, learn their silly rules, hear a new coaching style and perspective, and sweat with a group of like-minded individuals.

In the summer months, we tend to travel a lot so here are a few tips for dropping in during your adventures:


1) do your research: before heading out, ask around about the place that you will be visiting, perhaps a coach or another member has already been to that area and has some recommendations. Do a quick search on the google machine to see what gyms are in the area. There will likely to be more than one nearby so take a little bit of time to explore each website to see which one may be a good fit for you.

2) reach out: once you have decided on a box (or maybe more than one if you are like me and want to see them all), send an email or phone call to that gym. Let them know when you will be dropping in, including a time if that is at all possible. I usually also make mention of my experience with CrossFit to give as much information as possible. Some gyms have a drop in policy listed somewhere on there website, if that is the case, then follow those directions. If not, send an email and ask if it seems unclear.

3) show up early with a smile: plan to arrive a few minutes early to class. That gives you leeway if you have issues finding the gym (remember these are often in crazy places like old airplane hangers, garages, warehouse buildings, etc.) and gives you time to fill out a waiver. Some gyms will do payment and such before and others will do so after. Have a smile on your face and a good, positive attitude. Maybe take a look at the workout of the day beforehand so you are prepared (this can be comforting if you are a little nervous about dropping in). If you come in with a smile, then the coaching staff will have a great first impression of you and be excited for the next hour to work with you.

4) communicate: just because you are a stranger does not mean that you need to keep your mouth shut. Communicate with the staff just like you would (or at least should) here at CrossFit NapTown. If you have an injury, question, concern, or anything, then the coach will want to know. Be ready to work with them with an open mind, not every gym will deal with things in the same way with no method being right or wrong necessarily. If a coach asks you to do something that you are uncomfortable with, then let him or her know that. We never want to put you in a bad place!

5) HAVE FUN: above all, have fun. We do CrossFit for funsies and to lead healthier lives. Do not stress about showing off in front of new people (check your ego applies to all doors you walk into) or fear making a fool out of yourself, it just ain’t gonna happen. Meet new people, ask questions, learn about a new community and a new place. At the end of the day, you will get a good workout, maybe a cool new t-shirt, and definitely a memory.


Coach Anna, Coach Shannon, and Caitlin visiting CrossFit Naples

Coach Anna, Coach Shannon, and Caitlin visiting CrossFit Naples


a slew of CFNT members and friends dropping in at CrossFit Rebellion in Birmingham for the Brasovan-Denney wedding

a slew of CFNT members and friends dropping in at CrossFit Rebellion in Birmingham for the Brasovan-Denney wedding

by Anna at June 29, 2015 01:16 PM

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by Stephen Hackett at June 29, 2015 12:16 PM

Zondervan Academic Blog

Mounce Archive 13 — How Should Bible Translations Deal with Metaphors?

Everyone needs a break once in a while, and Bill Mounce is taking one from his weekly column on biblical Greek until September. Meanwhile, we’ve hand-picked some classic, popular posts from the “Mondays with Mounce” archive for your summer reading and Greek-studying pleasure.

Today’s “classic” asks a question Mounce asked over five years ago regarding Bible translations and metaphors: Where should Bible translations draw the line when it comes to the texts use of metaphors?

Mounce provides three solid examples to illustrate why his question is important, concluding:

The Bible was not written at a “Dick and Jane” (another metaphor) level. It is deeply textured, and there is a beauty and depth to how the biblical writers were inspired to communicate God’s truth. It is a challenge to find that center ground between presenting God’s truth to a new culture and language in ways that are understandable, and writing with the depth and complexity that epitomizes the original intent.

Which of course raises a more basic question: Does verbal inspiration extend to metaphors?

Consider the excerpt below and read the original in the link to better understand how you as an exegete can faithfully convey the Bible’s deeply textured metaphors “with the depth and complexity that epitomizes the original intent.”

This is one of the fundamental questions all translations struggle with. How are they going to deal with metaphors. Related to this question is the issue of technical terms such as “saint” or “propitiation.”

For some metaphors, the answer is simple. If it conveys no meaning to the target language, or if it is going to be misunderstood by the majority of readers, then most translations will simply interpret the metaphor. One way that Hebrew says a person is patient is to say that they are “long of nose.” Does this phrase “literally” mean that their proboscis is of unusual size? Of course not. The metaphor/idiom literally means they are patient. I doubt any translation is comfortable saying “long of nose,” although the KJV’s “longsuffering,” while no longer part of colloquial English, is a tad more transparent to the imagery than “patient.”

On the other side of the spectrum is a statement like the “hand of the Lord.” Does this “literally” mean God has a physical hand? Of course not, and translations generally are comfortable allowing this type of metaphor (i.e. anthropomorphism) to stand (cf. Luke 1:66). It is not going to be misinterpreted.

But where does a translation draw the line?

(Continue reading the entire post, here)


William D. [Bill] Mounce posts about the Greek language, exegesis, and related topics at Koinonia. 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 June 29, 2015 11:14 AM

Beeminder Blog

The Seinfeld Hack; or, Don’t Break The Chain

Calendar with days crossed off

Connoisseurs of productivity porn, which we’re afraid to say this blog may count as, probably know about the Seinfeld Hack, also known as Don’t Break The Chain. The idea’s so simple (in a good way) that you don’t even need to follow the link to LifeHacker where the idea originated. It’s merely the psychological trick of getting yourself to do something every day by looking at the chain of X’s for the days in a row you’ve done it so far. If you build up a nice streak then it would feel like a shame to break it. So you don’t.

We agree that Don’t Break The Chain can be remarkably powerful — but only once you have a long chain to not break. Until then there’s a catch-22: you can sometimes keep failing again and again indefinitely, never building up the motivating chain. And that problem repeats every time the chain breaks. So you’re always in a precarious situation where one bad day can precipitate many more bad days, where you go down a slippery slope of “one more day won’t hurt; I’ll get a new chain started tomorrow”.

The Seinfeld hack’s greatest strength is also its fatal flaw. Once you do break the chain, all the motivation it provided bursts like a bubble.

Jerry and George

There’s also the problem of inflexibility. What if you need to do something consistently but not literally daily? At least one Don’t Break The Chain app we know of mitigates this problem by letting you specify days of the week that don’t count and showing you your chain as unbroken as long as you do the thing on all the days that do count.

Beeminder simultaneously turns the flexibility to 11 and magnifies the subtle psychological pull of the Seinfeld hack into raw unassailable motivation.

With Beeminder you can commit to maintaining a certain average, like 3.5 workouts per week (or 3 blog posts per month — see the sidebar of this blog). It doesn’t matter what days of the week, and, critically, you can build up a safety buffer and then take some time off, without the danger that that will lead you down a slippery slope of sloth. With Beeminder’s yellow brick road you’ve precommitted to not let your overall average dip too far. (If you do, we literally charge your credit card. [1])

If the rate you want to maintain is exactly 7 per week — 6.9 is unacceptable — and if you can sustain that long term, then Don’t Break The Chain may be perfect. Everything else you should beemind!



[1] Did you just mouth “what??” and rush to this footnote to see if we’re serious? Then welcome, Newbee, to the Beeminder blog. We’re totally serious! Although you don’t have to put in a credit card until the first time you fail to keep all your datapoints on the yellow brick road to your goal. For some people, avoiding giving Beeminder their credit card is itself powerful motivation. That’s fine with us. If Beeminder is as life-changing for you as it is for some of our users we figure you’ll find a way to pay us eventually. Probably by beeminding more and more things more and more ambitiously, to the point where occasional derailments are no big deal and are worth it.


by dreeves at June 29, 2015 09:11 AM

The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

The Prodigal Church

Like many people, I enjoy documentaries. Producers spend significant amounts of time investigating a topic, analyzing it, interpreting it, and then providing a way forward. The best documentaries are those that help you better understand—even feel—the tension in and burden for the subject. In his latest book The Prodigal Church: A Gentle Manifesto Against the Status Quo, Jared C. Wilson gives us something of a documentary on the contemporary evangelical church, particularly those who carry the enduring scent of the church-growth movement by means of attractional ministry. 

Gracious Diagnostic for Churches 

Wilson, director of content strategy for Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and managing editor of For the Church, is not an outsider to this topic. Serving as a pastor for a number of years in churches thoroughly committed to the newest and seemingly best ways to do church, he has what you may call “pew-cred” when discussing the attractional church. In The Prodigal Church he simply asks Christians, particularly pastors and church leaders, to reexamine what we do and why we do it. In this way, the manifesto is something of a diagnostic for churches that provides a simple, clear, and actionable plan for biblical reform.

In the introduction, Wilson works hard to ensure he’s not unduly offending anyone. With a title that has the word “manifesto” and this much apology in the opening, I was prepared for a scrappy book with a lot of ecclesiastical “elbows” being thrown. This is not the case. The Prodigal Church is well researched, gracious, pastoral, and pleasantly serene. The only people this book would irritate are those who would say, “Don’t confuse me with the facts; I know what I believe.” Even those who might disagree with Wilson should find the tone courteous, the critique fair, and the action plan biblical.

Pragmatism and Consumerism 

In this manifesto, Wilson makes an observation about what has become mainstream within evangelicalism. It was formerly referred to as the church growth movement and now is broadly grouped in the category of the attractional church. This ministry sees itself with the priority of reaching people. This of course is not bad. In fact, it’s to be applauded. However, the observation is that too many churches have the wrong reference point when doing ministry. Instead of starting with what would appear to be the obvious question, “What does God’s Word say?” many innovative, attractional churches start by asking, “What works?”

Wilson concedes that the Bible is somewhat vague about exactly how to “do church.” But he also observes that just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should. He notes:

I think the evangelical church in the West is particularly susceptible to two primary ideologies that drive many of its ways of doing church today, and I think the attractional model is fundamentally built on these functional ideologies. These ideologies are pragmatism and consumerism. (47)

Pragmatism, says Wilson, isn’t the same thing as being practical. It’s about doing what works: “Pragmatism has a utilitarian ethos to it. It is by nature unspiritual. It has no room for discernment in it . . . (and) it has essentially become the water that evangelical ministry swims in” (48). 

Ministry is oriented around what seems to work. How do we know what works? Walking through some of the philosophies of leading church growth experts, Wilson demonstrates that much of this ministry is built on the business practices of corporate America. If the customer is the guy not yet in the pew and the customer is always right, then it’s not hard to see that in the attractional church the proverbial tail is wagging the dog.

Asking the Important Questions 

In a bustling, busy evangelical church committed to “reaching people,” it’s tough to see through the dust of activity and ask the important questions. If you do ask them, people might think you’re strangely opposed to the church’s mission. Wilson, having himself breathed in the dust storm of attractional activity, perceptively poses a couple: “What if the customer isn’t actually right?” and “What if it’s not actually working?”

Wilson culls from numerous studies on trends in evangelicalism to demonstrate that what many think is so successful is actually mythical:

It turns out that while megachurches are flourishing, America has suffered an actual net loss of churchgoers since the rise of the seeker/attractional movement. 

This means that the seeker/attractional movement has not succeeded. It meant to get lost persons in the doors and make them “fully devoted followers of Christ,” and in the fifteen years or so of their model’s predominance, American churches are actually less full across the board.

So who’s filling all these churches? Every week, some of the attractional leaders post growing numbers of baptisms and “decisions.” What can we conclude? As the research shows, by and large the people filling these church buildings week in and week out turn out to be other Christians. Often they are de-churched Christians or disaffected Christians or disillusioned Christians, but the idea that the attractional church is having its doors beaten down by lost people is a myth. (35)

Instead of conversion growth we see transfer growth. Perhaps, to use Wilson’s paradigm, it’s consumer growth.

Prescribing the Path Ahead 

At this point we may mistakenly take The Prodigal Church as something of a jeremiad against the church. But after pointing out the cracks in the attractional church’s foundation, Wilson prescribes a path ahead. This path is neither novel nor innovative; it is the simple yet powerfully proven path of Scripture and church history. In this explanation, he makes an important observation many need to hear: “You can’t program discipleship because Christianity is supernatural.”

Here he cautions churches away from the “church-in-a-box,” “just add water” approach to ministry, showing that it’s far more complex, messy, and “New Testamenty” than that. Recalling firsthand stories of seeing the gospel bloom in unsuspecting soil, Wilson reminds us that God causes the growth. He points us back to the powerful gospel, the sufficient Word, the beauty of the church gathered, and the testimony of true gospel community. It’s so simple that it’s refreshing and liberating. I was reminded that this is exactly what the gospel does—it liberates and refreshes.

Power of God’s Grace 

In the final chapter Wilson hops into the documentary and shares a very personal story. He talks about how he was enslaved to sin and almost destroyed his marriage and family. Through a number of very painful years he came to a place of utter desperation. It was then and there that the truth and beauty of the gospel became clear. Truly knowing he was accepted before God changed everything. He was actually loved. In the depths of the slough of despond Wilson realized his greatest need was the good news:

When my own life fell apart, I had a notebook full of sermon outlines overflowing with helpful tips and practical steps for becoming more victorious, happy, and successful. Not a single one worked. Only the grace of God was powerful enough to save me. I urge you not to deny your people their only help. They are inwardly (and some outwardly) crying out for help, for rescue, for redemption, for salvation. Don’t throw them the anchor of the law. Only the gospel works. (217)

If our goal is to truly glorify God by “helping” people, then we need to hear Wilson’s gentle manifesto. The Prodigal Church calls us back to the whiteboard to ask, “What does the Bible say we are supposed to be doing again?”

This is the work of a friend who cares.

Jared C. Wilson. The Prodigal Church: A Gentle Manifesto Against the Status Quo. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2015. 240 pp. $15.99. 

by Erik Raymond at June 29, 2015 05:02 AM

Lessons for the Marriage Debate from the Pro-Life Movement

Four years ago, our current President said he personally opposed same-sex marriage. Now, the Supreme Court has found a Constitutional right to same-sex marriage, contra all recorded sociopolitical, religious, and human history.

Few are surprised at the Court’s ruling. This has been the prediction of most politicos and social commentators for a while. But simply because we are not surprised does not mean we are also not appalled. On the contrary, the Court’s ruling is indeed a moral and historical disaster. The Court has interpreted the U.S. Constitution as guaranteeing American adults the kind of autonomy that denies children the stability and flourishing that comes from having a mother and a father. We ought not be coy about the generation’s worth of confusion that this decision will facilitate.

As Christians, we believe in marriage. We believe that it is from above, not below. We believe that it matters supremely to agree with God about the definition and purpose of marriage and family. So we grieve for our country and solemnly pray that soon God would grant the leaders of our nation new hearts to see the beauty of biblically defined marriage law.

How Now Shall We Live?

And yet, because we are Christians, we don’t just believe that great harm has been done. We also believe that Jesus Christ is the one and only sovereign over history. We believe that the Supreme Court, powerful and important as it is, cannot put the resurrected King of kings back in his graveyard plot. Because we are Christians, we believe that not even the gates of hell can overcome the Bride for whom Christ died. Ours is a quiet confidence, rooted not in Gallup but in the gospel.

So, “how now shall we live?” How shall we teach and preach and counsel and love in such a way to point people towards the truth about marriage, even as we do so in contradiction to the legal systems of our nation? Thankfully, we have a paradigm to follow: the pro-life movement.

For more than 40 years, the pro-life movement in this country has overwhelmingly modeled what compassionate, counter-cultural, and quietly confident public engagement should look like. Even in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s devastating decision in Roe v. Wade, courageous public voices came forward to challenge popular opinion and advocate for human dignity. Many churches became mobilizing and stalwart forces for the pro-life cause, not just by legal advocation but by actually ministering to the needs of women, men, and babies in crisis.

Indeed, these churches that held to a holistic vision of human dignity and the value of all life have been most effective in the fight against abortion culture. Whether through establishing crisis pregnancy centers, offering free health clinics, demonstrating gospel love through adoption and adoption advocacy, or welcoming the wounded, abused, and frightened into the friendship of the local congregation, pro-life churches that don’t just preach pro-life as a political talking point but as a spiritual reality are the ones that we should thank for the remarkable victories we’ve seen.

Encouragement and Warning

That means that we in 2015, under the shadow of the Supreme Court’s ruling on marriage, have both an encouragement and a warning from the pro-life movement. The warning is that political victory does not equal cultural persuasion. It is possible to win the White House but lose the neighborhood. Churches that put their energy in electing the right candidate or repealing the wrong law, to the exclusion of actually living out mercy and justice in their communities, should not expect meaningful victories for traditional marriage.

We also have an encouragement. Despite the Supreme Court’s decision in 1973, by God’s grace, we are seeing small but crucial turns in our national and political culture towards valuing unborn life. We are a long way from where we need to be, but we are certainly not where many predicted we would be. There is strong pro-life sentiment in this country that was unimaginable 30 years ago. This should be a sober reminder to us today about the power of prayer and the sovereign grace and goodness of Jesus Christ.

The pro-life movement’s victories were only possible because its champions understood that legal consensus is never the final word. Imagine how much different the cause for life and dignity would look today if that first generation of pro-life advocates decided that being on the wrong side of the Supreme Court and the wrong side of history was just too high a price to pay. Thank God that was not them, and God forbid it should be us. Let’s follow their lead onward.

Editors’ note: For more resources on same-sex marriage and homosexuality, visit Equip, a joint initiative of The Gospel Coalition and the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention to provide a broad range of resources on homosexuality and same-sex marriage issues to prepare your church for this changing culture.

by Russell Moore at June 29, 2015 05:02 AM

On Twenty Years of Marriage

Twenty years ago when I married my wife, I did not know her. And she did not know me. We were two.

We were kids just out of college. I was 22 and she was 21. Neither of us knew much about life outside of the nest. But we knew we wanted to figure it out together—the two of us.

I didn’t know it then, but when it came to our marriage I wasn’t just learning how to be a husband, nor she just a wife. I was learning how to be her husband, and she was learning how to be my wife. Though this would certainly lead us to ways of relating common to any marriage, it would also forge a relationship as unique to this world as a fingerprint.

Our marriage created an empty library, and we were two containers of books out at the curb, waiting to be brought in, cataloged, and shelved. In would come the stories we had been told, the books we had read, and the faith we had been given. In would come her history and in would come mine, along with her comedy and my drama and all of the mysteries that lie between a man and a woman. 

When we had brought in all we had, only a fraction of the shelves were filled. Those empty shelves were waiting for what was yet to be written. Slowly but surely, volumes of lamentation, praise, art, humor, geography, vocation, finance, education, home improvement, medicine, Biblical studies, theology, grief, parenting, gardening, and inspiration would find their place among the stacks.

Characters would be introduced and characters would also leave. This, of course, is nothing new. Most of the roads good friends walk in life eventually diverge. There is nothing for it. We can have the closest of friendships for a season, but when a semester ends, or someone moves away, or circumstances change, we find that sense of intimacy tapers off.

There is only one human relationship we come know in this life that is meant by God to be intimate in affection, proximity, and purpose until death itself separates us—the marriage relationship. In marriage God gives a gift of incalculable worth—a sworn partner for life.

We are like two tectonic plates who, by God’s grace, grind away at each other’s rough edges until we fuse together into a brand new nation. My nearsightedness and pride collide with her courage and wisdom. Her woundedness and fear run aground on the shores of my boyish optimism and confidence. And these collisions shape us both.

But when we stood hand in hand at the altar, promising to stay in this covenant for better or worse, in sickness and in health, until one of us died, we knew little of each other’s worlds.

Now, twenty years in however, we know much more. With God as my witness we do.

I know how to make her laugh and I know how to make her cry. I know how to feed her fear and I know how to awaken her hope. I know what keeps her up and what gives her rest. I have the power to hurt her more deeply than anyone else on this planet, as she has with me. We have learned to speak in each other’s native tongue and to see through one another’s atmospheres down to the terra firma.

Yes, we see through a glass darkly and we have much to learn. But we see so much more now than we could have ever imagined was there when we took our vows.

I have fears that are known only to her and my Maker—not because I hide them from the rest of the world, but because they are so nuanced and deep it would take someone who has been at my side for half of my life to know their triggers and to read them.

There are qualities of beauty and fragility deep inside of her that no one else will ever know in the ways I do, though some I am seeing sprout up in the four children our God has given us.

When I see my children carry my wife’s beauty in them, I understand eternity in ways that never before occurred to me. Parts of us will continue on after we’re gone. Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.

But the truth is that there are also parts of us and our stories we will take to our graves—riches, wonders, inside jokes, sorrows, and prayers no one but she and I will ever know. I imagine every life-long marriage is this way.

This thought—that my wife and I will enjoy a sort of life known only to one another—adds to the sanctity and beauty of our union. Not even our own children will fully grasp who this woman and I have become and are becoming to one another and to everyone else we know because of our relationship.

Lord willing, each of my children will also take on this sort of union one day. And when they do, there will be many facets of their lives I will simply not have access to, nor should I.

But this woman—my wife—is a marvel. And it is a holy honor to have to say that, in many ways, you’ll just have to take my word for it because you will never know what I know.

Though much of what she and I are will continue on in the lives of our children and friends, some of it will burn to the ground when one of us dies. This tells me that the place where I stand with her is holy ground.

I stand in that place where two have become one, and that by the grace of God.

Editors’ Note: This article originally appeared on Russ Ramsey’s blog

by Russ Ramsey at June 29, 2015 05:00 AM

Front Porch Republic

Localist Linkfest

Some megachurches are scanning their congregants’ faces to check their attendance.

Possible oldest footprints in North America found

FAIR: “NPR Celebrates Fast-Track Victory With an All-Corporate Lobbyist Segment”

Ellen Carmichael on Jeb Bush’s Catholic faith

Charles Murray on the “United States of Diversity

Tim Hunt is innocent

Is Moscow behind Texas secessionism?

The loss of Irish pride

Chas Freeman says we can’t do diplomacy anymore

Raising some questions about Arthur Melzer’s book on Leo Strauss

Dalrymple on Tina Nash (warning: not for the squeamish)

Christopher Zehnder on the gay marriage decision and Laudato Si‘:

When I first learned of the Supreme Court’s decision striking down statutes forbidding same-sex marriage, I felt neither surprise nor dismay. No surprise, for it was just what I had expected. No dismay, for I did not expect anything other from our society, or its government. …

Those … who insist on the integrity of the natural world but rejoice at Friday’s Supreme Court decision are self-confused. Those who deplore the decision, call for respect for the nature of marriage and the basic meaning of sexual acts but ignore the integrity of the natural world, are self-confused. Those who think you must respect unborn human life but can subject human labor to irrational market forces are as confused as those who think you may kill unborn children but not oppress the worker. Sooner or later, these groups will need to decide on their core principle – relativism or respect for nature — for mankind will not remain in a state of interior division forever.

Another great reflection on Laudato Si’, drawing in Ornette Coleman, by Scott Beauchamp in the Baffler

Benedict options and liberalism

Ethika Politika warns Benedict Optioneers away from culture-war conservatism:

MacIntyre’s wider work envisions thick moral communities that are as revolutionary as they are retreatist, and that encompass both inward-facing and outward-facing virtues and practices. In Dependent Rational AnimalsMacIntyre develops from Aquinas the virtue of just generosity, a form of solidarity that extends to those with needs outside one’s immediate community. This openness to and concern for the outsider reflects the practices of Benedictine monasteries themselves.

So is this retreatist? Or could this vision entail bonds of solidarity that actually surpass the “contract of mutual indifference” found in liberalism? Turning away from “imperium maintenance” to the local politics of “grassroot organizations, trade unions, cooperatives, small businesses that serve neighborhood needs, schools, clinics, and transport systems” is hardly political quietism or indifference. Such activities work within the niches and cracks of existing structures to build alternative practices and social relations that resist dominant cultural norms—what Erik Olin Wright labels “interstitial” strategies of transformation.

More at EP:

The question facing Dreher and other proponents of the Benedict Option is how it is possible to recover not only the Benedictine vision of prayer but also the Benedictine vision of work as prayer, under the conditions of advanced modernity. Work shapes one’s character; it will either be a school of virtue or, all too often, of vice. Modernity largely understands work as instrumental. To become anti-modern in a constructive manner, we must challenge the way that modernity diminishes the importance of work as a means of character development.

St. Benedict’s solution was revolutionary for its time because it recognized that neither the life of work nor the life of prayer can be pursued independently of the other.

Confederate flag round-up: Warner Bros stopped licensing Dukes of Hazard merchandise (the New York Post encouraged them to go further and can “Gone with the Wind”), Apple briefly banned Civil War themed strategy games from its app store and the National Park Service ceased to sell all stand alone depictions of the infamous saltire. We are reassured that, “Confederate flags depicted in books, DVDs and other educational items will remain as long as the image cannot be physically detached.” The strongest conservative calls to take ‘em down come from arch-neocon Max Boot, who says “it’s also time for Southern states to change place names in honor of traitors such as Jefferson Davis,” and Jason Lee Steorts, who is ready to drive the bulldozer down from National Review’s Manhattan office, saying “there simply should not exist memorials to specifically Confederate soldiers.” He later clarified, “What I think about Confederate monuments is not so much that they should cease to exist — I should have been clearer about this — as that they never should have existed. Since they do, let the American flag fly over them, silently repudiating them to the ages.” No reports so far on whether he plans to change his middle name. Reason’s Jesse Walker on the flag as an anti-racist symbol. Randy Barnett argued we should can Woodrow Wilson too, and who could disagree? Mitch McConnell wants to take down the Jefferson Davis statue in the Kentucky capitol building, Richmond Mayor, Dwight Jones, however, did Virginia proud. Leithart on Confederate civil religion, Jacobin on Dylann Roof, Noah Millman on slavery’s legacy, and Tom Fleming against taking down the flag. Lastly, Ross Douthat is worth reading:

The Confederacy, and the cruel way of life for which it fought and fell, is not the lost Southern alternative to modern American civilization. It’s the reason the American South couldn’t offer, and didn’t deserve to offer, such an alternative. Which is an excellent argument, one among many, for why the southland’s conservative friends and admirers should be eager to see its flag furled and put away.

The post Localist Linkfest appeared first on Front Porch Republic.

by J. Arthur Bloom at June 29, 2015 01:20 AM

June 28, 2015

CrossFit Naptown

Class as Usual 4th of July

Monday’s Workout:

Hang Power Snatch Position 1
Advanced: 5×2 Every 2:00
Intermediate: Somewhere in Between
Beginner: Technique with Coach



30 Muscle Ups For time

20 Strict Pull Ups
5-10 Muscle Ups (scale to ability)
20 Strict Pullups

20 Ring Rows
THEN: 5 Rounds
20 Second Plank
20 Second Dead Hang Hold
20 Ring Rows



Happy Birthday America


We will be having class as usual 4th of July weekend! Come on in for a fun and challenging hero workout to say Happy Birthday to our country before celebrating with family and friends. The weather has been and looks to continue to be hot, Hot, HOT so be sure to hydrate all week and especially in the days leading up to the weekend and during 4th festivities. Stay safe out there people!!!



by Anna at June 28, 2015 11:03 PM

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

Detecting and Automatically Fixing JavaScript Code Style

At the most recent jQuerySF conference, Mike Sherov and I did a joint talk on the topic of JavaScript Syntax Tree: Demystified. The highlight of the talk was the demo from Mike as he showed how to fix coding style violations automatically.

The trick is to use JSCS and its latest features. If you want to follow a long, here is a step-by-step recipe.

First, you need to have JSCS installed. This is as easy as:

npm install -g jscs

Let’s pick an example project, for this illustration I use my kinetic scrolling demo:

git clone
cd kinetic

Now you want to let JSCS analyze all the JavaScript files in the project and deduce the most suitable code style:

jscs --auto-configure .

Give it a few seconds and after a while, JSCS will present the list of code style presets along with its associated number of errors, computed from your JavaScript code. If you already have a preset in my mind, you can choose one. An alternative would be to pick one that has the least amount of violations, as it indicates that your code already gravitates towards that preset.

Once you choose a preset, JSCS will ask you a couple of self-explained questions. At the end of this step, the configuration file .jscsrc will be created for you. With the configuration, the real magic happens. You just to invoke JSCS this way:

jscs -x .

then it will automatically reformat your JavaScript. Double check by looking at the changes and you will see that your code style now follows the specified preset.

With JSCS, you can comfortably ensure code style consistency throughout your project!

by Ariya Hidayat at June 28, 2015 07:53 PM

SpaceX CRS-7 breaks up post-launch

This morning, I joined the press and other NASASocial members to view the launch of SpaceX’s CRS–7 mission. The launch itself was stunning. We were about 4 miles away, right across the water from the pad.

My video (Forgive the shaky cam; I shot this with one hand with my iPhone as I was taking still photos from a tripod.) doesn’t do the experience of the thing justice.

A couple of minutes away from launch, a silent anticipation fell across the crowd. The voice marched on, marking off the seconds, and then it started.

Because sound travels slower than light, we felt and heard it a moment after we saw the steam and flame. It all felt much slower than I had guessed it would. Once the sound came, it was stunning. The power of thing was impressive, even miles away.

The rocket continued to climb, and was just about out of sight when it broke up. When the “anomaly” was announced, the excitement that had built up was instantly snuffed out. Many of us instantly thought of the programs lost, but were also relieved the flight was unmanned.

That said, today is a reminder that space — even commercial travel — is hard. Up until today, SpaceX’s track record has been perfect, but even the best-engineered systems in the world aren’t immune to failure.

In the coming weeks, I’m sure SpaceX will have more to announce about what happened this morning, and NASA will have news on how to re-supply the astronauts aboard the International Space Station. Until then, it’s a rough today for space nerds.

by Stephen Hackett at June 28, 2015 03:28 PM

The Ontological Geek

Walking The Planes 4: Philosophers With Clubs

The Planescape setting shifted the focus of philosophical organisation in fantasy settings from polytheistic religions to factions: philosphers with clubs.

by Oscar Strik at June 28, 2015 09:55 AM

Zondervan Academic Blog

Unshaken Courage [Awakening Faith]

Therefore, “they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. ‘Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat down on them,’ nor any scorching heat.” (Revelation 7:15 – 16)

“The sufferings of this present time are not to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed in us” (Rom. 8:18). Who would not wholeheartedly strive after such glory, to become a friend of God and immediately rejoice with Christ, to receive heavenly rewards after earth’s torment and suffering? Soldiers of this world take pride in triumphantly returning to their home country after they have defeated the enemy. How much greater is the glory in returning triumphantly to heaven after conquering the devil? The presumptuous accuser is ousted and the trophies of victory are returned to heaven, the place from which Adam was cast out for his sin.

We offer the Lord a most acceptable gift: our uncorrupted faith, the unshaken courage of our spirit, and the glorious pride of our dedication. We accompany him when he comes to take vengeance on his enemies; we sit at the side of his judgment seat, share in his inheritance, have an equal footing with the angels, and enjoy the possession of a heavenly kingdom together with the patriarchs, apostles, and prophets. What persecution can defeat such thoughts? What torture can overwhelm them?

 Cyprian of Carthage


Awakening Faith Devotional

Awakening Faith: Daily Devotionals from the Early Church

by James Stuart Bell and Patrick J. Kelly

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by ZA Blog at June 28, 2015 08:44 AM

Market Urbanism

The Key Word In Conservative Urban Reform: “Openness”

1. I published two articles this week. The first was a Governing Magazine piece about how Miami’s pro-development policies have delayed downtown gentrification. The second was an update, published by Forbes, on Philadelphia’s mass eminent domain scheme for a blighted neighborhood. That issue first became public for this audience when reader Adam Lang posted in the Market Urbanism Facebook group that he was one of many residents whose property would be seized. Emily followed with a description of the plan on this site, and my Forbes piece provides an update following the June 18th approval by city council. Far as I can tell, my article was the first mainstream national press coverage of the issue, and we can only hope from here that the floodgates open…

2. For America’s urban conservatives, it has been frustrating to see the indifference shown towards cities by the Republican Party. Even as the nation continues urbanizing, and election results are increasingly tied to the city vote, the GOP continues to identify with suburban and rural constituencies. This causes them to take positions which offend city voters, like opposing immigration reform and gay rights, while flat ignoring other principally urban issues like public transit and homelessness. And while there have been some conservative urban reforms, like charter schools and data-driven policing, there has not been a unified agenda. So it was exciting to see a recent article—reposted, naturally, on the MU Facebook group—advocating for this.

National Affairs, a quarterly journal that is associated with “reform conservatism,” published “An Urban Agenda for the Right.” The article was written by Michael Hendrix of the Chamber of Commerce, in collaboration with NA editor Andrew Evans. While it did not list every possible reform, it mentioned many of the macro-level ones long discussed on this site. What I liked even more, though, was that it suggested a change in messaging, wherein the Democrat establishments that have long controlled cities are described as “closed,” while conservative reformers are portrayed as “open.” This, wrote the authors, would create a more accurate perception of modern U.S. cities.

As a result of decades of Democratic governance and misplaced priorities…American cities do not offer the opportunities for success and growth that they should, especially for those looking to climb the socio-economic ladder. In many cases, city governments are utterly dysfunctional. And the reason for this dysfunction is that our cities are too often closed—closed to businesses and closed to outsiders. For the middle class and those striving to make it up the ladder, the taxes, housing, and other costs leave cities simply too expensive to afford—especially with a family. Excessive regulation makes it difficult, if not downright impossible, to get the permits necessary to start a business. Cronyism and a lack of transparency make it difficult to know whether anyone is trying to fix the situation.

In response to this restrictiveness within cities, “conservatives should seek to make them open.”

What I found interesting about their wording was that it inverted how most Americans view the political parties. At the national level, Democrats are portrayed as the open and tolerant ones, and Republicans as the reactionary ones trying to uphold the status quo. These distinctions have been established largely because of the parties’ differing approach to social issues.

But this is hardly applicable to cities, where issues are rooted more in economics and quality-of-life. A large number of urbanites—whether they want to call themselves liberals, progressives, or Democrats—are in fact quite reactionary themselves, a point emphasized by the authors. Housing regulations have been used by the urban left to restrict new construction, as if city neighborhoods are gated country clubs that should never allow change or new people. The liberal business elite have fortified the business permitting process so much that, in many cities, it is nearly-impossible for competing entrepreneurs to enter basic professions like hair-styling. And to carve out a voting bloc, the left has defended unionized public monopolies that deliver services at far higher cost, and less efficiency, than is necessary.

To the authors, making cities more “open” would mean embracing economic and administrative liberalization. They call for housing deregulation, so that cities can accommodate growing populations; one-stop shops for business permitting; and civil service reform, so that bureaucracies are either held to better standards, or replaced through privatization. They also call for better online data, so that residents can easily view info on their cities’ spending and debt, and gain access to officials.

All these measures would, in fact, open up cities in the technical sense–by allowing in more people, and granting them more options once there. If such openness regarding cities was promoted more by Republicans, it might change the perception about which party best embodies this core urban value.

by Scott Beyer at June 28, 2015 08:27 AM

J.D. Bentley: Bourbon and Tradition | Journal

The Cathedral and the Monastery

To thinking conservatives and traditionalists, this week’s Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage in all 50 of the United States is not viewed through an apocalyptic lens.

It is not shocking or surprising. It is not a final catastrophe or the last nail in our collective coffin. It is merely a turning point.

It is the milestone at which we begin to seriously consider our own community, what it stands for, and how it is catechized. We begin to fortify inwardly that we can inspire outwardly; to conserve, preserve, and ultimately do all we can to restore and exalt that which is good and true.

I understand those who feel angry and defeated, those compelled to rage against what they see as mindless injustice against truth and tradition, but you’re wasting your time and hurting your cause. In your misery, hatred, and regret, you chisel away at that which you hope to save. One can only feel defeated if they’ve bought into the lie of capital-P Progress, that history is linear and culminates in the glorious present. A conservative knows better. It ebbs and flows, climbs and falls, lives and dies. This is merely a decline.

I have scarcely read Mencius Moldbug, but find myself in agreement with his idea of The Cathedral. The Cathedral is "the self-organizing consensus of Progressives and Progressive ideology represented by the universities, the media, and the civil service." It is the modern version of an established church, which pushes various "progressive" causes, usually with the intent to deconstruct or destroy some traditional view.

One might see The Cathedral as what G.K. Chesterton predicted in a June 19, 1926 issue of G.K.’s Weekly:

"The next great heresy is going to be simply an attack on morality; and especially on sexual morality. And it is coming, not from a few Socialists surviving from the Fabian Society, but from the living exultant energy of the rich resolved to enjoy themselves at last, with neither Popery nor Puritanism nor Socialism to hold them back."

The Cathedral is in fact a decentralized movement of the rich, a top-down transformation of the popular worldview into something indefinite, nihilistic, agnostic, relativistic, and empty by those who have the means to control the cultural narrative via television, books, movies, newspapers, etc. By frequently presenting particular ideas in particular ways they can, over time, normalize and popularize those ideas. All it takes are bumper sticker slogans, sound bites, and plenty of repetition.

If you find that narrative distasteful, dishonest, and untrue, you might be inclined to feel offended, provoked, or victimized. As I said, if your aim is truth, tradition, and what is good, that inclination ultimately hurts your cause.

The Cathedral is at its best when it incites people to victimhood. Victimhood breeds resentment, resentment breeds anger, and anger breeds an army of gullible and manipulatable fools.

You are not a victim of The Cathedral or the popular culture it’s cultivated. Epictetus wrote in The Enchiridion:

"…If you suppose that only to be your own which is your own, and what belongs to others such as it really is, then no one will ever compel you or restrain you. Further, you will find fault with no one or accuse no one. You will do nothing against your will. No one will hurt you, you will have no enemies, and you will not be harmed….For another will not hurt you unless you please. You will then be hurt when you think you are hurt."

Anger is insecurity, a lack of faith in the truth and wisdom of tradition, that it is actually true, that it can actually withstand the rise of modern heresy. Anger is ultimately a weakness and a liability. It can be as damaging to what is good and true as the popular culture. If we are to uphold what is good and true, we must first ensure that it is upheld within ourselves. This is the first and last blow against The Cathedral.

The Benedict Option

If what is implemented by The Cathedral represents a cultural decline, then the solution for the conservative and traditionalist is to look at how our ancestors dealt with preserving the truth during cultural decline. It’s there we find the Benedict Option, as put forth by Rod Dreher.

St. Benedict of Nursia lived during the fall of the Western Roman Empire, which philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre, in the book After Virtue, believes is akin to our current decline. Benedict was born a noble and, as such, was entitled to a comfortable life. However, around 500AD at the age of 19 or 20, he abandoned his studies and left the chaos of Rome, acutely aware of the dissolute and hedonistic lifestyles of those around him. Benedict went into the wilderness some 40 miles from the city and lived in a cave for three years. Though it wasn’t his intention, Benedict ended up founding the Benedictine order of monks, a community of men dedicated to prayer, and writing The Rule of St. Benedict, a seminal document of Western civilization.

While the Christianity of the falling empire was burdened with corruption and heresy and Europe succumbed to a barbarian darkness, Benedict worked to know himself, to know his place as a son of God. He then grew to know the nature of man as a whole and used his wisdom to found several monasteries, ultimately preserving the faith and laying the groundwork for a rebirth of Christianity.

At this time, conservatives of all sorts—and Christians in particular—should look to Benedict’s example. We have lost the culture because we have succumbed to it. In our effort to play nice, to be sensitive, to be politically correct, to be tolerant, to be "open-minded" (whatever that means), we have neglected to cultivate and fortify our own community. We have raised generations that know only superficially what we believe, but not why we believe it or, more importantly, why we should believe it. Like Benedict, we must, individually, start to know ourselves and our relation to the Divine, to the order, to our fellow man; as a community, start to remember or to learn for the first time exactly what we believe and why we believe it at both philosophical and practical levels, to articulate this to our children and to those who wish to enter our community, and to develop a counterculture thats "radiance dazzles the pagan eye."

First and foremost, this means opting out of the empty culture created by The Cathedral. By doing so, we not only weaken its influence, but better ourselves. We have become too comfortable and too idle. We waste far too much time on hedonistic pursuits: mindlessly browsing the internet, watching The Real Housewives of Wherethehellever, playing video games. We spend our days tossing lust, gluttony, and entertainment into the hole where our purpose ought to be.

So, the aim is no idleness and no mindlessness. Stop watching their television shows and movies, start reading more books (especially old ones, proven ones). Start thinking. Stop clicking through Reddit, start doing the work. Lifting weights is good, functional manual labor is better. Growth means discomfort. Survival means suffering. Hurt thyself to heal thyself. The world needs less indecisive, low-testosterone, feminine men, the kind who cover their own coffins with the soil of excess and perpetual adolescence. The world needs less conservatives and traditionalists capitulating to "progressive" interests in the name of peace. The world needs less Christians clueless about theology and divorced from Church history, less moral therapeutic deists and their vending machine god.

We need more people who do the work and live the life, and who have the balls to do so despite the madness that envelops them.

This isn’t a bad, desperate, or hopeless time. It is merely another day and, as such, an opportunity. Every man hopes to, at some point, be tested and to be found strong, competent, and worthy. This is that test. This is a chance not just to venerate virtue and tradition with your lips, but to live them with your entire being.

June 28, 2015 04:00 AM

June 27, 2015

CrossFit Naptown

Sunday Open Gym

Sunday’s Workout:

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



Coach Anna, Shannon, and Caitlin dropping in at CrossFit Naples

by Anna at June 27, 2015 09:21 PM

Practically Efficient

Strangers in a strange time

I think project planning, money management, diet, and exercise are all a lot alike. Strategies for doing any of them well are mostly common sense.

Everyone knows that eating fewer calories and exercising more is better than not. Everyone knows they should save more for the future. Everyone knows they should just do the things on their task list instead of doing something they'd rather be doing in the moment.

Everyone—everyone—knows all of these things. But everyone—everyone–is only good at doing these things well for short sprints of time before their irrational sub-minds mutiny (again). And again.

Why are we so fucking stupid?

We're not really. We've just been grading ourselves using the wrong standardized test metrics. "Common sense" approaches falsely assume that people are closer to clockwork than orange. We aren't machines. We're mostly emotional artifacts of a past when the future was so improbable that it didn't make a hell of a lot of sense to waste time planning for it.

Though we are the supposedly self-aware species on the planet, we still have a long way to go before we really figure ourselves out. Fortunately the field of behavioral economics is putting us on a better course.

One of the most interesting results I've seen in the last few years came out of a study lead by Hal Hershfield. He found that people make better—and more committed—decisions about retirement planning if they are shown hypothetically aged images of themselves. He found that when we think about our "future selves," our brain activity is essentially the same as when we think about other people. So this "aged self" hack was a way of making the mental image of our future self more personal to us.

Of all the write-ups on Hershfield's findings, I like Alisa Opar's the best:

It turns out that we see our future selves as strangers. Though we will inevitably share their fates, the people we will become in a decade, quarter century, or more, are unknown to us. This impedes our ability to make good choices on their—which of course is our own—behalf. That bright, shiny New Year’s resolution? If you feel perfectly justified in breaking it, it may be because it feels like it was a promise someone else made.

Even though Hershfield's study was done specifically in the context of financial planning, I don't think it's that much of a stretch to hypothesize that this same sort of logical fallacy plagues project planning. To me, it's a very rational explanation for the irrational self-abuse we impose by giving our future selves insanely numerous and complex instructions via task management systems.

If it's human nature to feel better about dumping crap on someone else, there's little guessing left as to why so many things we plan for ourselves never happen.

By the way, if you're interested in more conversation about the future self problem, listen to David McRaney interview Elizabeth Dunn on the You Are Not So Smart podcast.

by Eddie Smith at June 27, 2015 07:02 PM

Zondervan Academic Blog

Extracurricular Activities 6.27.15 — Racial Heresy, Hengel’s ‘Crucifixion,’ and Book of Mormon History

Al Mohler on the The Heresy of Racial Superiority

Among Christians, the word heresy must be used with care and precision. Not every doctrinal error is a heresy, though all doctrinal error is to be avoided. A heresy is the denial or corruption of a Christian doctrine that is central to the faith and essential to the gospel. The late theologian Harold O. J. Brown defined heresy as a doctrinal error “so important that those who believe it, who the church calls heretics, must be considered to have abandoned the faith.”

Today, we just recognize and condemn another heresy that has reared its ugly head in recent days, and murderously so. The killing of nine worshippers gathered at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina is a hideous demonstration of the deadly power of this heresy. The young white man charged with the killings has not, as yet, claimed a theological rationale for his acts. Nevertheless, he has been exposed as a young man whose worldview was savagely warped by the ideology of racial superiority — white superiority — and the grotesque and wretched ideology that drove him is now inseparable from the murders he is charged with committing.

Peter Enns on Martin Hengel’s “Crucifixion”

If you’re living in the Mediterranean world of the 1st century and you want to promote your religion, a “crucified god” is not your headline.

Yet that is exactly what we find in the New Testament.

I’m reading a little book my Martin Hengel, Crucifixion, written about 40 years ago. Hengel (d. 2009) was a scholar of the New Testament and freakishly smart.

I just thought you might like some excerpts from the book that made me think.

Roger Olson Asks, “Who Decides Who’s A Christian?”

This is not a continuation of the Mormonism discussion just closed–at least not directly. It’s a “spin off” from that discussion which raised the question “Who decides who’s a Christian?” I have discussed that here before, but not recently enough (apparently).

Let me set forth a few basic theses for consideration and discussion:

Philip Jenkins on History and the Book of Mormon

As a historical source on the ancient Americas, the Book of Mormon is worthless. That observation, though, has not the slightest impact on the existence or growth of the LDS church, nor should it. Just why that is the case tells us much about the relationship between the claims of any faith and the reasons why people stay loyal to it. And however paradoxical this may sound, it might even point to the real merits and value of the Book of Mormon.

Trevin Wax on Tim Cook’s Workplace Values

Cook begins his speech by sharing his personal journey of discovery, how he came to adopt the values that guide him in life. He mentions people who changed the world in various ways, as they engaged in pursuits drawn from deep conviction: Martin Luther King, Jr., Robert F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan.

Next, Cook describes the dissonance of seeing heroes like King and Kennedy juxtaposed with George Wallace, the segregationist who hailed from Cook’s home state of Alabama. Wallace’s popularity in his home state led Cook to something of an intellectual crisis. When Cook saw how the textbooks in school downplayed the role of slavery in the Civil War, he decided he must look elsewhere to educate himself. This launched him on a pursuit of truth.


Extracurricular Activities is a weekly roundup of stories on biblical interpretation, theology, and issues where faith and culture meet. We found each story interesting, thought-provoking, challenging, or useful in some way – but we don’t necessarily agree with or endorse every point in every story.

If you have any comments on these stories, we welcome you to share them here. We hope you enjoy!

by Jeremy Bouma at June 27, 2015 12:26 PM

The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

What Your Church Needs to Know—and Do—About the Court’s Marriage Ruling

By now, you have heard the Supreme Court issued its long-anticipated decision that imposed a 50-state same-sex marriage mandate. Pastors and churches have exhibited a great degree of uncertainty preceding this moment, wondering what the effect will be on their ministry. Now that the decision has been released, though, we can respond with greater clarity. 

Here are the immediate things you need to know.

The Court’s Decision

The Supreme Court, in a 5–4 decision authored by Justice Kennedy, held that the Equal Protection Clause requires a state to license a marriage between two persons of the same sex and to recognize a same-sex marriage entered into lawfully in another state. In so holding, the Supreme Court struck down the state constitutional amendments of Michigan, Kentucky, Ohio, and Tennessee that defined marriage as between one man and one woman. The decision redefines marriage for the entire country to include same-sex couples.

The majority opinion stated the following with respect to religious opposition to same-sex marriage:

Finally, it must be emphasized that religions, and those who adhere to religious doctrines, may continue to advocate with utmost, sincere conviction that, by divine precepts, same-sex marriage should not be condoned. The First Amendment ensures that religious organizations and persons are given proper protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths, and to their own deep aspirations to continue the family structure they have long revered.

This statement is welcome to be sure. But the greatest threat for churches lies in the application of the Court’s decision to believers who live in jurisdictions covered by so-called “non-discrimination” laws and ordinances. Everywhere that marriage has been redefined in the last several years has seen an awakening of non-discrimination laws that prohibit discrimination in employment, housing, or places of public accommodation on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. These laws are peppered throughout the states and local governments and are a linchpin of the sexual revolution’s broader legal and political strategy: to establish non-discrimination laws at all levels throughout the country and to “ensure that religion is not used as an excuse to discriminate.”

In coming days, the threat from these non-discrimination laws will materialize in numerous ways as same-sex couples marry. But there are proactive steps your church can take to protect itself.

What Should Your Church Do?

1. Churches should update their statement of faith on the issues of marriage, human sexuality, and gender.

Now is the time for churches to maintain a clear witness to biblical truth about marriage, human sexuality, and gender. Churches should update their statement of faith to include the congregation’s belief on these issues. Doing it in the wake of the Supreme Court decision will not be viewed negatively by a court if a legal issue ever arises. Instead, putting clarifying language in the statement of faith merely serves to codify a church’s long-standing religious beliefs. Alliance Defending Freedom has sample language in our Protecting Your Ministry manual that provides a starting point. Clarifying the statement of faith can help a church in numerous ways. If your church has not done so already, now is the time.

2. Pastors will not be legally compelled to officiate same-sex wedding ceremonies—for now.

In the near term, no pastor will be forced to officiate any wedding ceremony with which he disagrees. Pastors remain free to make a theological determination about whom they will marry and whom they will not. For example, pastors will often not marry a believer to an unbeliever, and many will not perform ceremonies for someone they know didn’t have biblical grounds for a previous divorce. Nothing in the Supreme Court’s opinion changes the freedom of pastors to continue to make those theologically based decisions about whom they will marry.

Consequently, pastors should refrain from retreating from marriage ceremonies. Some have suggested pastors disengage from “civil marriage” and only perform religious ceremonies. This type of reaction is not only legally unnecessary, but it sends the message pastors have “abdicated the field” on the battleground of marriage. Instead, pastors should engage more fervently in advocating and expounding the truth about marriage by maintaining a faithful witness to whom they will marry and whom they will not.

3. Churches should ensure their facilities usage policies are revised to allow only uses consistent with the church’s religious beliefs.

In the wake of the Supreme Court ruling, some churches may be approached by same-sex couples seeking to be married in the church facility. Churches should not feel as if they have to close their doors to the community just to prevent wedding ceremonies with which they disagree. Churches must continue to be a welcoming presence in the community and can do so through updating or revising their facility usage policy. The key point is to tie usage of the church’s facility to the statement of faith and religious beliefs of the church. And then to make clear that uses inconsistent with those religious beliefs will not be allowed. Alliance Defending Freedom has a sample facilities usage policy available in our Protecting Your Ministry manual.

There are other suggestions for churches contained in the Protecting Your Ministry manual. Now is an opportune time to download the manual and follow the suggested guidelines to ensure your ministry is protected.

Despite the ruling of the Supreme Court, marriage has not changed. Society may suppress the truth in unrighteousness, but it cannot any more change the truth than it can the color of the sky. The church has always proclaimed the gospel to cultures and societies who have rejected truth. Now, more than ever, the church must fulfill its mission. We may not know in every detail how the marriage decision will affect America’s churches, but groups such as Alliance Defending Freedom will continue to work aggressively to keep the legal door open for the spread of the gospel. You and your church are not alone.

Editors’ note: For more resources on same-sex marriage and homosexuality, visit Equip, a joint initiative of The Gospel Coalition and the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention to provide a broad range of resources on homosexuality and same-sex marriage issues to prepare your church for this changing culture.

by Erik Stanley at June 27, 2015 05:01 AM

Sam Allberry on Ministering to Same-Sex Attracted Friends

The Gospel Coalition has recently joined with the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Commission on Equip, a project to provide a broad range of resources on homosexuality and same-sex marriage issues to prepare your church for a changing culture.

As part of the initiative, Equip has created a series of 20 short videos in which Sam Allberry answers questions on same-sex marriage and homosexuality. Allberry is associate pastor at St Mary’s Church in Maidenhead, UK, and previously worked on the ministry team at St Ebbe’s in Oxford. He is the author of Is God Anti-Gay? And Other Questions about Homosexuality, the Bible, and Same-Sex Attraction (Good Book, 2013) and a coordinator of Living Out, a ministry for those struggling with same-sex attraction. 

We’ve included a sampling of his Q&A videos below. The rest can be found on the homepage for Equip

How Do You Show the Love of Christ to Same-Sex Attracted Lost Friends? 


How Can Christians Minister to a Same-Sex Attracted Member Who Is Experiencing Loneliness?


How Can a Pastor Minister to a Gay Member Who Continues to Struggle with Sexual Sin?

by Joe Carter at June 27, 2015 05:00 AM

Roads from Emmaus

How I See Things After the SCOTUS Ruling on Marriage

It’s late, and this may be a bit incoherent. Sorry in advance. Sometimes I stay up late writing something so that it’s not on my mind when I go to sleep. I have to be honest here: I find the public debates over sexuality (every kind) really, really tiresome. There ... READ MORE ›

The post How I See Things After the SCOTUS Ruling on Marriage appeared first on Roads from Emmaus.

by Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick at June 27, 2015 03:24 AM

Justin Taylor

Audio FAQ with D. A. Carson on the Supreme Court Same-Sex Marriage Decision

On the Desiring God Ask Pastor John podcast, Tony Reinke asks New Testament scholar and Gospel Coalition president D. A. Carson the following questions:

[1] Generally speaking, what would you say to someone who came up and asked you for your initial thoughts about the SCOTUS ruling?

[2] Does this landmark ruling today mark a new era for the church in America?

[3] What would you say to Christians who feel angry and betrayed by the courts for this ruling?

[4] This ruling hit on Friday. Sunday’s coming. If you were preaching on Sunday. What text would you choose?

[5] Back to religious freedoms. What do you predict will be the fallout from this SCOTUS decision for religious freedom in America?

[6] Finally, you travel extensively. As the international community watches so-called same sex marriage become the law of the land in America, how is the international community viewing the United States right now? And especially from the global church?

You can listen below to the 18-minute audio:

by Justin Taylor at June 27, 2015 02:38 AM

June 26, 2015

Workout: June 28, 2015

8 minutes Even minute: max burpees Odd minute: max jump squats Rest 4 minutes 8 minutes Even minute: max double-unders Odd minute: max pull-ups/ring rows Skills Session Snatch balance 1-1-1 2 Romanian deadlifts + 1 hang power snatch + 1 hang snatch 1-1-1-1 Back squat 20 reps with a 1-second pause in the deep, dark […]

by Mike at June 26, 2015 09:40 PM

Englewood Christian Church: We Blog! » ERB

ERB Weekly Digest – Mr. Rogers, Ebook Bargains, John Wesley – June 26, 2015


*** TODAY (JUNE 26) ONLY ***
Huge ebook sale on titles from WJK Books…


Get Super Kindle ebook bargains in Amazon’s June Big Deal sale...
(Rachel Held Evans, Keith Green, Ann Voskamp, MORE)



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

  • Craig Blomberg – Can We Still Believe the Bible? [Feature Review]

    Biblicism After Blomberg A Feature Review of   Can We Still Believe the Bible? An Evangelical Engagement with Contemporary Questions Craig L. Blomberg. Paperback: Brazos Press, 2014 Buy now: [  ]  [ ] Reviewed by Michael Kallenberg   The questions Blomberg addresses in Can We Still Believe the Bible? arise from six areas of study […]


  • 5 Essential Ebook Deals (via Thrifty Christian Reader) 26 June 2015

    Here are 5 essential ebooks on sale now that are worth checking out: (Annie Dillard, Ron Hanson, Fred Craddock, Miroslav Volf, 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…   *** $3.99 ***   NEXT […]


  • Classic Poetry Read by Celebrities!

    For those of you who already enjoy poetry, we hope you’ll appreciate this selection of classic pieces being read aloud. For those of you who don’t love poetry, we’ve compiled a list of 10 singers and actors reading in hopes that they’ll help convince you to.   Compiled by Sarah Lyons   Meryl Streep Actress, […]

  • John Wesley – The Cure of Evil Speaking

      This Sunday, June 28, marks the birthday of John Wesley. In honor of the occasion, we share this sermon, which has been very helpful for us at Englewood Christian Church. We challenge you to consider the meaning of this sermon in the age of social media?  How do we avoid evil speaking in our […]

  • Thomas Alan Orr – Tongue to the Anvil [Review]

    In Love of Place A Review of Tongue to the Anvil: Poems Thomas Alan Orr Paperback: Restoration Press, 2014. Reviewed by Sarah Lyons   If left on my own, I find that I tend to be very demanding when reading poems. I’ll read them in handfuls on a whim, but not carefully—it’s the casual, uncommitted […]

  • Sarojini Naidu – “The Coromandel Fishers” [Poem]

    Sarojini Naidu (born as Sarojini Chattopadhyay), also known as The Nightingale of India, was an Indian independence activist and poet. Naidu served as the first governor of the United Provinces of Agra and Oudh from 1947 to 1949; the first woman to become the governor of an Indian state. She was the second woman to […]

  • New Book Releases – Week of 22 June 2015

    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…) By Scott Sherman Watch the book trailer for this book… NEXT BOOK >>>>>

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by csmith at June 26, 2015 06:33 PM

Daniel Lemire's blog

The case for techno-optimism

I define techno-optimism as the belief that technology makes us healthier, richer and smarter at an accelerated rate.

Anyone working in information technology cannot help but to be a bit techno-optimist. My wife’s latest Samsung phone is a technological marvel that can replace dozens of expensive devices from ten years ago (phone, camera, pda, …). Google’s voice recognition software has finally become good enough. Here is what I did just now:

- Ok Google

- Where is Denmark?

And it showed me a map of Denmark. Keep in mind that I have a thick French accent.

My 9-year-old son comes by (his English is even more approximate) and he says “Ok Google. Who is Mario?”. And sure enough, it worked.

A common objection to techno-optimism is that it only works in information technology. For example, there seems to be a widespread belief that medicine or education is standing still.

It is true that if you go in your doctor’s office, it might feel like traveling back in time to the 1970s. But let us keep in mind that, in the future, most things will still look the same. Except for my wicked flat TV, my living room would not surprise someone from the 1950s. A wall is a wall: we just made it much cheaper and faster to build walls. A desk is a desk: they have just become much cheaper. Paper is still very useful: we have just learned how to cost-efficiently replenish our forests.

Moreover, it will always be true that the future won’t be uniformly distributed. Even today, one out of eight people never use the Internet. This cannot be helped. There will always be backward places and people.

But really, medical progress is fast and furious:

  • A paraplegic woman, Jan Scheuermann, can feed herself using a robotic arm controlled by her brain. This has been commonly done in monkeys for many years.
  • There is now a medical speciality called resurrection. In forward-thinking hospitals, “dead” patients have their blood artificially oxygenated. In this manner, patients can remain dead for hours before being brought back.
  • We can restore partial sight to the blinds using retinal implants. Researchers expect to start human trials in the next few years using a stem cell therapy to repair retinal damage.
  • AIDS is a devastating but “manageable disease”. Infected people must take expensive and harsh drugs. But it looks like we might finally defeat AIDS using gene therapy. We found out that some people were naturally immune to the AIDS virus. We identified the gene responsible, and we simply edit the corresponding gene in the cells of infected people. This actually works in real people. Moreover, at least one patient has been cured from AIDS (back in 2008) thanks to stem cells transplants.

In education, progress is equally amazing. Let us not forget that the web itself is probably the greatest learning tool ever invented. It is orders of magnitude superior to previous alternatives. For example, many of colleagues have substantially improved their English through online services. They are both more effective and much cheaper than human tutors. To help my kids with their spelling, I have created a set of small web pages. The scripts in the web pages speak out the words (in French!) and my sons have to write the words correctly. This alone would have sounded like science fiction ten years ago: a little script in a web page can speak out words in any language! Yes, what actually happens in the classroom might be stuck in time… but progress is everywhere. You just have to know how to look.

And that is what it comes down to. Progress happens at first mostly in pockets. It then propagates at an uneven pace. But eventually, it touches nearly everyone… in ways that we often do not notice until later if at all.

That is why techno-optimism is not a common stance despite the overwhelming evidence… good technology is nearly invisible. So people greatly underestimate what can be done given a few decades.

by Daniel Lemire at June 26, 2015 05:04 PM

Justin Taylor

The First Amendment Defense Act: A New Bill Before Congress

Now that the Supreme Court has ruled in a 5-4 decision that gay marriage is legal and required in all 50 states—the decision in explained here—the question now becomes what to do with those individuals, associations, or businesses who disagree.

It seems to me that we should support this new proposed bill designed to protect religious liberty and prohibit federal intrusion on the rights of conscience—specifically, to prevent discriminatory treatment of any person on the basis of views held with respect to marriage.

Here is the press release about it:

WASHINGTON – Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) and Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-ID), today [June 17, 2015] reintroduced legislation to clarify and strengthen religious liberty protections in federal law, by safeguarding those individuals and institutions who promote traditional marriage from government retaliation.

The First Amendment Defense Act  (S. 1598, H.R. 2802) would prevent any federal agency from denying a tax exemption, grant, contract, license, or certification to an individual, association, or business based on their belief that marriage is a union between a man and a woman. For example, the bill would prohibit the IRS from stripping a church of its tax exemption for refusing to officiate same-sex weddings.

“There’s a reason the right to religious liberty appears first in our nation’s Bill of Rights,” said Senator Lee. “The freedom to live and to act in accordance with the dictates of one’s conscience and religious convictions is integral to human flourishing, serving as the foundation upon which America has produced the most diverse, tolerant, and stable society the world has ever known. The vast majority of Americans today still hold a robust view of religious liberty, yet across the country the right of conscience is threatened by state and local governments that coerce, intimidate, and penalize individuals, associations, and businesses who believe that marriage is a union between a man and a woman. The First Amendment Defense Act is necessary to ensure that this kind of government excess never occurs at the federal level.”

“Religious freedom is at the heart of what it means to be an American,” Labrador said. “America set the standard for upholding freedom of belief and worship in a diverse society. No American should ever doubt these protections enshrined in the First Amendment. Our bill ensures that the federal government does not penalize Americans for following their religious beliefs or moral convictions on traditional marriage. Our bill shields against federal intrusion without taking anything away from anyone. In a shifting landscape, it’s time that Congress proactively defend this sacred right.”

There are currently 18 co-sponsors on the Senate bill and 57 co-sponsors on the House companion bill. Senate co-sponsors include Sen. David Vitter (R-LA), Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID), Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS), Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY), Sen. David Perdue (R-GA), Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT), Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), Sen. Jim Risch (R-ID), Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD), Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS), and Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE).

Similar bills were introduced in the 113th Congress as H.R. 3133 and S. 1808.

And here is the actual bill:

First Amendment Defense Act by Senator Mike Lee

by Justin Taylor at June 26, 2015 04:01 PM

The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

Explainer: What You Should Know About the Supreme Court’s Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

What was the same-sex marriage case that was decided by the Supreme Court?

The Supreme Court issued its ruling on the case of of Obergefell v. Hodges, which is consolidated with three other cases—Tanco v. Haslam (Tennessee); DeBoer v. Snyder (Michigan); Bourke v. Beshear (Kentucky). These cases challenged two issues concerning whether the Fourteenth Amendment must guarantee the right for same-sex couples to marry.

What issues was the court asked to decide?

The two issues that were answered in this case are:

1. Does the Fourteenth Amendment require a state to license a marriage between two people of the same sex?

2. Does the Fourteenth Amendment require a state to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out-of-state?

These are known as the “marriage” and “recognition” questions, respectively. The Court answered both in the affirmative.

What did the Court rule?

The Court ruled the Fourteenth Amendment requires a State to license a marriage between two people of the same sex and to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out-of-State. As Justice Kennedy wrote, “The right to marry is a fundamental right inherent in the liberty of the person, and under the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment couples of the same-sex may not be deprived of that right and that liberty. Same-sex couples may exercise the fundamental right to marry.”

Why did the argument rely on the Fourteenth Amendment?

The Supreme Court rarely recognizes new “fundamental rights” in the Constitution that have previously existed, which is what many opponents of same-sex marriage say was being demanded. Because of this obstacle LGBT marriage advocates claimed that the right to marry is already well established and they simply want access to it in order to marry a person of their choosing.

What is the argument that the Court is creating a new “fundamental right” by allowing same-sex couples to marry?

As the ruling notes, marriage is currently considered a “fundamental right” by the Supreme Court and clearly applies to opposite-sex couples. When considering whether an asserted right is “fundamental,” says Chris Gacek, we are to rely on the test that the court set out in Washington v. Glucksberg (1997).

First, the court requires the presentation of a “‘careful description’ of the asserted fundamental right or liberty interest.” The claimed right must be described precisely. Second, such rights must be “deeply rooted in this Nation's history and tradition.”

Furthermore, the right must be “so rooted in the traditions and conscience of our people as to be ranked as fundamental.” The sought-after right must be “implicit in the concept of ordered liberty” so that “neither liberty nor justice would exist if (it was) sacrificed.”

In the current cases, a broad definition like “being able to marry the person of one's choice” does not describe what the plaintiffs seek. They are permitted to marry at present, but they must marry a person of the opposite sex.

That is how the right to marry has always been understood, but that is not the type of marriage the challengers want. Rather, they seek the legitimation of a new right—a right to a governmentally recognized conjugal arrangement for persons of the same sex.

Why didn’t the Supreme Court let the American people decide the issue?

Justice Kennedy explained the Court’s reasoning by saying, “While the Constitution contemplates that democracy is the appropriate process for change, individuals who are harmed need not await legislative action before asserting a fundamental right.”

Who wrote the opinion for the Court?

Justice Kennedy delivered the opinion of the Court, which was joined by Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan. Justice Roberts filed a dissenting opinion, in which Scalia and Thomas joined. Scalia also wrote an opinion that was joined by Thomas. Thomas also filed a dissenting opinion that was joined by Scalia. And Alito filed a dissent that was joined by Scalia and Thomas.

Prior to this ruling, in how many states was same-sex marriage already legal?

37. Of those 37, 6 were decided by court decision, 8 by the state legislatures, and 3 by popular vote. The breakdown is as follows:

By Court Decision

Alabama (Feb. 9, 2015), Alaska (Oct. 17, 2014), Arizona (Oct. 17, 2014), California (June 28, 2013), Colorado (Oct. 7, 2014), Connecticut (Nov. 12, 2008), Florida (Jan. 6, 2015), Idaho (Oct. 13, 2014), Indiana (Oct. 6, 2014), Iowa (Apr. 24, 2009), Kansas (Nov. 12, 2014), Massachusetts (May 17, 2004), Montana (Nov. 19, 2014), Nevada (Oct. 9, 2014), New Jersey (Oct. 21, 2013), New Mexico (Dec. 19, 2013), North Carolina (Oct. 10, 2014), Oklahoma (Oct. 6, 2014), Oregon (May 19, 2014), Pennsylvania (May 20, 2014), South Carolina (Nov. 20, 2014), Utah (Oct. 6, 2014), Virginia (Oct. 6, 2014), West Virginia (Oct. 9, 2014), Wisconsin (Oct. 6, 2014), and Wyoming (Oct. 21, 2014).          

By State Legislature

Delaware (July 1, 2013), Hawaii (Dec. 2, 2013), Illinois (June 1, 2014), Minnesota (Aug. 1, 2013), New Hampshire (Jan. 1, 2010), New York (July 24, 2011), Rhode Island (Aug. 1, 2013), and Vermont (Sep. 1, 2009).

By Popular Vote

Maine (Dec. 29, 2012), Maryland (Jan. 1, 2013), and Washington (Dec. 9, 2012).

How many states had banned same-sex marriage?

13. Of those 12 were by constitutional amendment and state law and 1 by constitutional amendment only; 8 of them have had their bans overturned by the courts, but the appeals were still in progress at the time of this ruling. The breakdown is as follows:

By Constitutional Amendment and State Law

Arkansas (2004, 1997), Georgia (2004, 1996), Kentucky (2004, 1998), Louisiana (2004, 1999), Michigan (2004, 1996), Mississippi (2004, 1997), Missouri (2004, 1996), North Dakota (2004, 1997), Ohio (2004, 2004), South Dakota (2006, 1996), Tennessee (2006, 1996), and Texas (2005, 1997).

How many same-sex couples currently have marriage licenses?

A new research paper suggests that the number of married same-sex couples in the United States in 2013 was around 170,000.

What the bottom line on the ruling?

This ruling states that same-sex marriages—in all 50 states—is now the law of the land.

This article is also available in Spanish.

by Joe Carter at June 26, 2015 02:40 PM

Zondervan Academic Blog

Professors, Reimagine the Pastorate; Pastors, Don’t Bury Your Gift — An Excerpt from “The Pastor Theologian”

The Pastor-Theologian by Gerald Hiestand and Todd Wilson“The renewal of the church depends on a renewal of theology,” which “depends on the resurrection of the ancient vision of the pastor as ecclesial theologian.”

That’s the premise of a new book I wish I had when I was still in pastoral ministry.

The book is The Pastor Theologian, written by pastor theologians Gerald Hiestand and Todd Wilson.

In championing this oft neglected pastoral role, the two have specific words for two constituencies in the excerpt below: professors and pastors.

For professors: “as an academic theologian, you play a vital role in reimagining the pastoral vocation…Because of this, the cues you send to the next generation carry tremendous weight.” (124)

And for pastors: “If you are a pastor with strong intellectual and theological gifting, then we charge you…that you not bury this talent in the ground.” (126)

Read their insights and consider how you can nurture or be a pastor theologian yourself.

A Word to Professors: Play the Part of John the Baptist

Although many have sought to bridge the gap between the world of theology and the world of the church, they have found limited success. We believe this is because such efforts continue to assume, and then work within, the present division of labor between the academy and the church. Both academic theologians and pastors work with the assumption that those with exceptional intellectual gifting ought to pursue a career in the academy, while those with pastoral gifting ought to pursue a calling in the church. This assumption must be dragged into the street and bludgeoned to death. And we are asking that you, as a professor, help wield the blunt instrument.

We have no grievance with bright Christians pursuing careers in the academy; in fact, may your tribe increase! But the parting of the ways between the academy and the church has so reshaped the pastoral vocation that the latter has lost its rightful theological identity. And as we’ve come to see, theologically passive pastors only perpetuate the perception that theological acumen is largely an “academic” concern. But this only further exacerbates the problem. Now the intellectually gifted gravitate toward the academy as the only option for theological leadership, further draining the theological integrity of the church. And on the cycle goes, to the detriment
of both the church and theology.

If we’re to see a resurgence of theological integrity in our churches, we will need to promote pastoral ministry as a viable context for theological leadership. We will need to envision a future in which those with both intellectual gifting and a pastoral heart can use those gifts to the fullest extent possible in the church. This is not to say that every pastor must be a published theologian. But it is to say that the pastoral community must reimagine its vocation to include taking primary responsibility for the theological leadership of the church.

Now, as an academic theologian, you play a vital role in reimagining the pastoral vocation. You are in a position of significant influence, whether you realize it or not. The fact is, you are perceived by the emerging generation of pastors and theologians as a theological leader of the church. Because of this, the cues you send to the next generation carry tremendous weight. At least some of your students are torn between the life of the mind and the life of the church. They enjoy studying, love writing, and get juiced on scholarship. They resonate deeply with your sense of vocation and have the desire and gifting to serve as thought-leaders to the broader evangelical community. But they also have a heart for the church and for pastoral ministry. They enjoy people, love preaching, and are energized by leadership. And if their experience is like ours, they find themselves at a vocational fork in the road, which can trigger an identity crisis. Will they subdue their intellectual aspirations for a career in the church or lay aside their pastoral desires for a career in the academy?

…hold out the vision of the ecclesial theologian as a viable alternative, some of your students may find their way into a future that utilizes the full range of their gifts and desires.

A Word to Pastors: Embrace the Gap

Pastors often lament the gap between the academy and the church, or the doing of theology and the practice of ministry. Yet these laments belie the fact that we have made peace with the present division of labor. We delegate to the academy the task of providing theological leadership to the church, then complain about what we in turn get from the academy. But could the problem be less with the academy and more with the church, which has outsourced its responsibility to the academy?

There was a day when there was no gap between the academy and the church precisely because there was no academy. And when the academy emerged in the twelfth century, it functioned as a formal extension of the church’s mission. But with the dawn of the Enlightenment, the university context shifted toward an overtly secular posture and at the same time gradually came to replace the church as the established and recognized institution of intellectual learning.

The academy represents its own legitimate realm of discourse, and we should be grateful it exists. It has led to advances in all kinds of learning, and it is vital that we have Christian intellectuals and theologians and Bible scholars interacting directly with the other fields of discourse represented in the academy. The questions of the academy aren’t going away, and we need Christian intellectuals present there to provide cogent Christian responses. But the pastoral community errs insofar as we think that theology done in the academy is going to have the same agenda and ecclesial dialect that it once did when it was being done by pastors in the churches. That’s an unfair burden to place upon academic theologians. …

The pastoral community needs to free up our academic brethren to be academic. It’s what they are best suited to do, and it’s the best way they can make a unique and vital contribution to the church. But they cannot — from the social location of the academy — service all the theological needs of the church. Asking that academic theologians solve both academic problems and pastoral problems with equal acumen only creates inevitable frustration and misplaced expectations.

If you are a pastor with strong intellectual and theological gifting, then we charge you — in the sight of God and the elect angels! — that you not bury this talent in the ground….We need pastors who are able to assess the underlying assumptions of our culture and who are able to offer, on behalf of the larger church, cogent responses to that culture. We need pastors conversant in the biblical languages who are able to mine the Word of God for the health of God’s people…

Do not neglect the gift that has been given you or fall prey to the mistaken assumption that academic theologians are sufficient for meeting all the theological needs of the church. We appeal to you to help create a future in which the pastoral community no longer adopts a largely passive role with respect to theological leadership. (pgs. 123–127)

The Pastor-Theologian by Gerald Hiestand and Todd Wilson

The Pastor Theologian

By Gerald Hiestand and Todd Wilson

Order it Today:
Barnes & Noble
Buy Direct from Zondervan

by Jeremy Bouma at June 26, 2015 11:15 AM

Kitchen Soap

Reflections on the 6th Resilience Engineering Symposium

I just spent the last week in Lisbon, Portugal at the Resilience Engineering Symposium. Zoran Perkov and I were invited to speak on the topic of software operations and resilience in the financial trading and Internet services worlds, to an audience of practitioners and researchers from all around the globe, in a myriad of industries.

My hope was to start a dialogue about the connections we’ve seen (and to hopefully explore more) between practices and industries, and to catch theories about resilience up to what’s actually happening in these “pressurized and consequential”1 worlds.

I thought I’d put down some of my notes, highlights and takeaways here.

  • In order to look at how resilience gets “engineered” (if that is actually a thing) we have to look at adaptations that people make in the work that they do, to fill in the gaps that show up as a result of the incompleteness of designs, tools, and prescribed practices. We have to do this with a “low commitment to concepts”2 because otherwise we run the risk of starting with a model (OODA? four cornerstones of resilience? swiss cheese? situation awareness? etc.) and then finding data to fill in those buckets. Which can happen unfortunately quite easily, and also: is not actually science.


  • While I had understood this before the symposium, I’m now even clearer on it: resilience is not the same as fault-tolerance or “graceful degradation.” Instead, it’s something more, akin to what Woods calls graceful extensibility.”


  • The other researchers and practitioners in ‘safety-critical’ industries were very interested in approaches such as continuous deployment/delivery might look like in their fields. They saw it as a set of evolutions from waterfall that Internet software has made that allows it to be flexible and adaptive in the face of uncertainty of how the high-level system of users, providers, customers, operations, performance, etc. will behave in production. This was their reflection, not my words in their mouths, and I really couldn’t agree more. Validating!


  • While financial trading systems and Internet software have some striking similarities, the differences are stark. Zoran and I are both jealous of each other’s worlds in different ways. Also: Zoran can quickly scare the shit out of an audience filled with pension and retirement plans. :)


  • The lines between words (phases?) such as: design-implementation-operations are blurred in worlds where adaptive cycles take place, largely because feedback loops are the focus (or source?) of the cycles.


  • We still have a lot to do in “software operations”3 in that we may be quite good at focusing and discussing software development and practices, alongside the computer science concepts that influence those things, but we’re not yet good at exploring what we can find about our field through the lenses of social science and cognitive psychology. I would like to change that, because I think we haven’t gone far enough in being introspective on those fronts. I think we might only currently flirting with those areas. By dropping a Conway’s Law here and a cognitive bias there, it’s a good start. But we need to consider that we might not actually know what the hell we’re talking about (yet!). However, I’m optimistic on this front, because our community has both curiosity and a seemingly boundless ability to debate esoteric topics with each other. Now if we can only stop doing it in 140 characters at a time… :)


  • The term “devops” definitely has analogues in other industries. At the very least, the term brought vigorous nodding as I explained it. Woods used the phrase “throw it over the wall” and it resonated quite strongly with many folks from diverse fields. People from aviation, maritime, patient safety…they all could easily give a story that was analogous to “worked fine in dev, ops problem now” in their worlds. Again, validating.


  • There is no Resilience Engineering (or Cognitive Systems Engineering or Systems Safety for that matter) without real dialogue about real practice in the world. In other words, there is no such thing as purely academic here. Every “academic” here viewed their “laboratories” as cockpits, operating rooms and ERs, control rooms in mission control and nuclear plants, on the bridges of massive ships. I’m left thinking that for the most part, this community abhors the fluorescent-lighted environments of universities. They run toward potential explosions, not away from them. Frankly, I think our field of software has a much larger population of the stereotype of the “out-of-touch” computer scientist whose ideas in papers never see the light of production traffic. (hat tip to Kyle for doing the work to do real-world research on what were previously known as academic theories!)



1 Richard Cook’s words.

2 David Woods’ words. I now know how important this is when connecting theory to practice. More on this topic in a different post!

3 This is what I’m now calling what used to be known as “WebOps” or what some refer to as ‘devops’ to reflect that there is more to software services that are delivered via the Internet than just the web, and I’d like to update my language a bit.

by allspaw at June 26, 2015 10:05 AM

Table Titans

Tales: We AwOAKe the Right Tree


So there we were, in the first real puzzle room of our campaign. We had an Oak Tree that awoke in the form of a Druid, a Human Wizard who is incredibly antisocial and can only stutter, a Human Alchemist/Ranger that speaks pikey (think Brad Pitt in Snatch), a full-blooded Orc Ranger, and my…

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June 26, 2015 07:01 AM

The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

Prosperity Preaching: Deceitful and Deadly

Editors’ note: This series examines the prosperity gospel every Thursday and Friday during the month of June. We explore the theology, sociology, and international influence of this popular but aberrant teaching. The Gospel Coalition International Outreach (IO) is partnering with African authors and publishers to create a resource that biblically examines the prosperity gospel and that will be distributed free across Africa and beyond.In Prosperity? Finding the True Gospel, African pastors Michael Otieno Maura, Ken Mbugua, and Conrad Mbewe are joined by John Piper and Wayne Grudem in pointing pastors and other Christians beyond the deceptions of prosperity theology to the true gospel of Jesus Christ. TGC-IO aims to raise $50,000 by July 1, at which time they will receive an all-or-nothing matching grant to complete the project. For more details or to give to this worthy project, see the relief project page.


When I read about prosperity-preaching churches, my response is: “If I were not on the inside of Christianity, I wouldn’t want in.” In other words, if this is the message of Jesus, no thank you.

Luring people to Christ to get rich is both deceitful and deadly. It’s deceitful because when Jesus himself called us, he said things like: “Any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33). And it’s deadly because the desire to be rich plunges “people into ruin and destruction” (1 Tim. 6:9). So here is my plea to preachers of the gospel.

1. Don’t develop a philosophy of ministry that makes it harder for people to get into heaven.

Jesus said, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” His disciples were astonished, as many in the “prosperity” movement should be. So Jesus went on to raise their astonishment even higher by saying, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” They respond in disbelief: “Then who can be saved?” Jesus says, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God” (Mark 10:23–27).

My question for prosperity preachers is: Why would you want to develop a ministry focus that makes it harder for people to enter heaven?

2. Do not develop a philosophy of ministry that kindles suicidal desires in people.

Paul said, “There is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.” But then he warned against the desire to be rich. And by implication, he warned against preachers who stir up the desire to be rich instead of helping people get rid of it. He warned, “Those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs” (1 Tim. 6:6–10).

So my question for prosperity preachers is: Why would you want to develop a ministry that encourages people to pierce themselves with many pangs and plunge themselves into ruin and destruction?

3. Do not develop a philosophy of ministry that encourages vulnerability to moth and rust.

Jesus warns against the effort to lay up treasures on earth. That is, he tells us to be givers, not keepers. “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matt. 6:19).

Yes, we all keep something. But given the built-in tendency toward greed in all of us, why would we take the focus off Jesus and turn it upside down?

4. Don’t develop a philosophy of ministry that makes hard work a means of amassing wealth.

Paul said we should not steal. The alternative was hard work with our own hands. But the main purpose was not merely to hoard or even to have. The purpose was “to have to give.” “Let him labor, working with his hands, that he may have to give to him who is in need” (Eph. 4:28). This is not a justification for being rich in order to give more. It is a call to make more and keep less so you can give more. There is no reason why a person who makes $200,000 should live any differently from the way a person who makes $80,000 lives. Find a wartime lifestyle; cap your expenditures; then give the rest away.

Why would you want to encourage people to think that they should possess wealth in order to be a lavish giver? Why not encourage them to keep their lives more simple and be an even more lavish giver? Would that not add to their generosity a strong testimony that Christ, and not possessions, is their treasure?

5. Don’t develop a philosophy of ministry that promotes less faith in the promises of God to be for us what money can’t be.

The reason the writer to the Hebrews tells us to be content with what we have is that the opposite implies less faith in the promises of God. He says, “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?’” (Heb. 13:5–6).

If the Bible tells us that being content with what we have honors the promise of God never to forsake us, why would we want to teach people to want to be rich?

6. Don’t develop a philosophy of ministry that contributes to your people being choked to death.

Jesus warns that the word of God, which is meant to give us life, can be choked off from any effectiveness by riches. He says it is like a seed that grows up among thorns that choke it to death: “They are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the . . . riches . . . of life, and their fruit does not mature” (Luke 8:14).

Why would we want to encourage people to pursue the very thing that Jesus warns will choke us to death?

7. Don’t develop a philosophy of ministry that takes the seasoning out of the salt and puts the light under a basket.

What is it about Christians that makes them the salt of the earth and the light of the world? It is not wealth. The desire for wealth and the pursuit of wealth tastes and looks just like the world. It does not offer the world anything different from what it already believes in. The great tragedy of prosperity preaching is that a person does not have to be spiritually awakened in order to embrace it; one needs only to be greedy. Getting rich in the name of Jesus is not the salt of the earth or the light of the world. In this, the world simply sees a reflection of itself. And if it works, they will buy it.

The context of Jesus’s saying shows us what the salt and light are. They are the joyful willingness to suffering for Christ. Here is what Jesus said, “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. You are the salt of the earth. . . . You are the light of the world” (Matt. 5:11–14).

What will make the world taste (the salt) and see (the light) of Christ in us is not that we love wealth the same way they do. Rather, it will be the willingness and the ability of Christians to love others through suffering, all the while rejoicing because their reward is in heaven with Jesus. This is inexplicable on human terms. This is supernatural. But to attract people with promises of prosperity is simply natural. It is not the message of Jesus. It is not what he died to achieve.

Used by permission from For more from John Piper on the prosperity gospel, see the preface to the third edition of Let the Nations Be Glad, available as an excerpt in PDF.

by John Piper at June 26, 2015 05:02 AM

Madness, the Gospel, and Giving

When Paul preached the gospel to the imperial elites, he called his message “truthful and rational,” yet to many listeners he seemed out of his mind. Today again, what Christians think is true and reasonable now appears to be sheer madness to increasing numbers of the population.

In these trying times, TGC exists to carry out the Great Commission by equipping church leaders to live and proclaim the gospel in a way that is not only comprehensible, but convincing; and to antagonize society's idols while still honoring all of God's image bearers—even when they think us foolish.

Grounded in our foundation documents, we do this work in three strategic ways: we gather church leaders through regional, women's, national, and international conferences (50+ events since 2005); we equip church leaders through intelligent and encouraging gospel-centered content and resources online (12.5 million unique visitors in 2014 alone) as well as books and curriculum; and we resource global church leaders with free gospel-centered resources in their own languages (500,000+ books distributed since 2006). We also assist church leaders around the world who are starting self-governing coalitions.

To do all of this, we need your help. During the next five days, we are asking the Lord for more than $100,000 in new and pledged giving in order to receive a $50,000 all-or-nothing match from generous partners. Already 65 new Friends of TGC have recently joined us—would you prayerfully consider giving today?

Our ​prayer is that 150 more of you would become a ​Friend of TGC by July 1—joining us as a Sustainer ($300 - $600; or $25 - $50/mo), an Associate ($1,200; or $100/mo), or a Steward ($3,000 or $6,000; or $250 - $500/month). In addition to new recurring giving of $25 or more, one-time donations of $300 (or more) will be matched.* Increased support from existing Friends of TGC will be matched as well.  

We are still asking the Lord for five more Partner gifts ($12,000) and three Steward gifts ($25,000) for 2015. A few gifts of this size in these next six days would greatly aid in raising this remaining $100,000 by July 1. Do contact Dan Olson, director of advancement, with questions (info below).

To thank you for your giving, we will ​send you a ​resource of your choice—​either​ The Gospel as Center or Collin Hansen's new​ book, Blind Spots.

Would you partner with us as a Friend of TGC in the next six days?

TGC is an efficient operation—our Council pastors, and literally thousands of authors, pastors, translators, and others volunteer their precious time. While events and sponsorships cover 74 percent of our operational expenses, we depend on generous gi​ving by friends and readers for 26 percent of our costs—or $600,000 this year.

We see TGC's role in strengthening the church as increasingly important. The ancient world thought Paul was mad, yet God transformed the early church into a God-glorifying, culture-transforming people. Today, as we place our hope in Christ, may God humble his people and, once again, turn the world upside down.

We who are in Christ will be heirs of the world (Rom. 4:13-15). As you consider giving to TGC these next five days—may your kingdom generosity reflect this future hope.

Before July 1, join us as we do our part in carrying out the Great Commission.

Ways to Give & Questions

Online: Give using your credit card through our secure form.
Phone: If you have questions or want to give over the phone, contact Dan Olson, director of advancement, at or 612.460-5402.
Mail: The Gospel Coalition, P.O. Box 583542, Minneapolis, MN 55458-3542

*Note: As per the terms determined with the matching partners, 1/12 of one-time gifts of $300 or more will be matched.

by Don Carson and Tim Keller at June 26, 2015 05:02 AM

The World Beyond Your Head

When TGC asked me to review Matthew Crawford’s The World Beyond Your Head: On Becoming an Individual in an Age of Distraction, I was immediately interested. I had just seen the cover story on a current issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education’s Chronicle Review with the provocative title, “Can Matthew Crawford Deliver Us from Distraction?” 

Crawford is a PhD in philosophy and a senior fellow at the University of Virginia’s Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture and the author of a previous bestselling book, Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work.

Never-Ending Intrusions  

The World Beyond Your Head addresses a major problem in our culture: the never-ending intrusions and interruptions of electronic devices and social media. These things constantly distract us from what is truly important. A satirical piece cited by Crawford from The Onion vividly captures this problem:

GAITHERSBURG, MD—While cracking open his second beer as he chatted with friends over a relaxed outdoor meal, local man Marshall Platt, 34, was reportedly seconds away from letting go and enjoying himself when he was suddenly crushed by the full weight of work e-mails that still needed to be dealt with . . . an upcoming wedding he had yet to buy airfare for because of an unresolved issue with his Southwest Rapid Rewards account, and calls that needed to be returned.

“It’s great to see you guys,” said the man who had been teetering on the brink of actually having fun and was now mentally preparing for a presentation he had to give on Friday and compiling a list of bills that needed to be paid before the 7th. “This is awesome.”

“Anyone want another beer?” continued Platt as he reminded himself to pick up his Zetonna prescription. “Think I’m gonna grab one.”

Platt, who reportedly sunk into a distracted haze after coming to the razor’s edge of experiencing genuine joy, fully intended to go through the motions of talking with friends and appearing to have a good time, all the while he mentally shopped for a birthday present for his mother, wracked his brain to remember if he had turned in the itemized reimbursement form from his New York trip to HR on time, and made a silent note to call his bank about a mysterious recurring $19 monthly fee that he had recently discovered on his credit card statement.

Almost all of us can relate to Marshall’s fragmented state of mind. Multiple secondary and tertiary obligations buzz around in our heads, preventing us from being truly present to the people and concerns that matter most.

Incisive Analysis 

What is new in Crawford’s book isn’t his calling attention to the states of distraction accentuated by our screens and devices. This has already been done by other cultural analysts such as Nicholas Carr (The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains) and Sherry Turkle (Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other). Rather, Crawford’s incisive analysis shows us how digital technologies are embedded in the wider context of consumer capitalism and a specific view of the human person: the Enlightenment’s concept of the autonomous self. According to Crawford, the problem isn’t just technology—it’s a mistaken view of the self and the consumerist and narcissistic cultural context in which we use technology. Christians can use this analysis to yield valuable insights for church and ministry.

Crawford argues that our modern and postmodern cultures are rooted in the Enlightenment notion of an autonomous (literally “self-law”) self, or as I suggest, an “Enlightenment-Romantic autonomous self,” characterized by unconstrained freedom of choice in the satisfaction of personal desires. This Enlightenment “project of liberation,” crafted by thinkers such as René Descartes, John Locke, Immanuel Kant, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, was originally forged in a historical context liberating individuals from the “arbitrary” political and religious authority of kings and priests, and from tradition and traditional Christian morality.

The “free” individual defined “truth” according to the ideas grounded in his own head and defined personal identity (and now gender) according to the “feelings’” discerned from the depths of his own affective experience. This new man or woman needed to be freed from the traditional constraints of family, church, neighborhood, and tradition. Today, in the context of a consumerist and entertainment-driven media culture, the individual is not only “free” but all too often submerged in a sea of images. He is constantly bombarded with commercial messages competing for his fragmented attention and struggles with feelings of loneliness, isolation, depression, stress, anxiety, and addiction.

Crawford’s Proposal  

So how does Matthew Crawford propose to “deliver us from distraction”? His proposal appears to be a somewhat new version of the Arts and Crafts Movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries associated with John Ruskin and William Morris. They saw the practices of craftsmanship as pathways to true human individuality in the context of a mechanized and standardized (now digitized and “mediated”) mass culture produced by the Industrial Revolution. He points us to skilled glass blowers, makers of Baroque pipe organs, short order cooks, motorcycle riders, and repairmen as examples of individuals in touch with real physical objects and in real communities of skilled practices that value history and tradition. They recognize the authority embodied in the mentors and skilled practitioners of such crafts and trades.      

So far, so good. But what about those of us not employed in the skilled trades? What about “knowledge workers” and those in business professions, human services, and Christian ministry?

Need to Learn Anew

Crawford’s emphasis on communities of skilled practices can be applied and transposed into the Christian contexts of church and ministry. Corporate worship is itself a “skilled practice”—one in which Christians will need to learn anew to “pay attention” more intentionally to the God who is really present on Sunday morning. We can strengthen our ability to focus our attention on the living and risen Christ by cultivating the practice of biblical meditation.

I agree with Crawford that we need an alternative to the Enlightenment’s autonomous self. Yet I go a step further than him in recognizing a biblical and Christian interdependent self—the new creation individual whose identity is grounded in union with Christ and the body of Christ. The biblical metanarrative of creation, fall, redemption, and new creation provides a more comprehensive worldview and philosophical basis than what Crawford proposes. But it’s here his incisive critique of our distracted modern culture can help us. 

Matthew B. Crawford. The World Beyond Your Head: On Becoming an Individual in an Age of Distraction. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2015. 320 pp. $26.00

by John Jefferson Davis at June 26, 2015 05:01 AM

Same-Sex Marriage and the Future

The Bible tells us that the king of Israel once wanted to hear from the prophets, as to whether he would be victorious over his enemies. All the court prophets told him exactly what he wanted to hear. Yet the king of Judah, wisely, asked whether there might be another voice to hear from, and Israel’s king said that, yes, there was, but that he hated this prophet “because he never prophesies good concerning me” (1 Kings 22:8).

Once found, this prophet refused to speak the consensus word the king wanted to hear. “As the LORD lives, what the LORD says to me, that I will speak” (1 Kings 22:14). And, as it turned out, it was a hard word.

When it comes to what people want to hear, the church faces a similar situation as we look to the future of marriage in this country. Many want the sort of prophetic witness that will spin the situation to look favorable, regardless of whether that favor is from the Lord or in touch with reality.

Some people want a court of prophets who will take a surgeon’s scalpel to the Word of God. They want those who will say, in light of what the Bible clearly calls immorality, “Has God really said?” Following the trajectory of every old liberalism of the past, they want to do with a Christian sexual ethic what the old liberals did with the virgin birth—claim that contemporary people just won’t have this, and if we want to rescue Christianity, this will have to go overboard. All the while they’ll tell us they’re doing it for the children (or for the Millennials).

Preaching a Gospel That Doesn’t Save

This is infidelity to the gospel we’ve received. First, no one refusing to repent of sin—be it homosexuality or fornication or anything else—will inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:9–10). This strategy leaves people in condemnation before the judgment seat of Christ, without reconciliation and without hope.

Second, it doesn’t even work. Look at the empty cathedrals of the Episcopal Church, the vacated pews of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), and right down the line. Let me be clear. Even if embracing same-sex marriage—or any other endorsement of what the Bible calls sexual immorality—“worked” in church building, we still wouldn’t do it. If we have to choose between Jesus and Millennials, we choose Jesus. But history shows us that those who want a different Jesus—the one who says, “Do whatever you want with your body, it’s okay by me”—don’t want Christianity at all.

But there will be those who want prophets who will say that the gospel doesn’t call for repentance, or at least not repentance from this sin. These prophets will apply a selective universalism that denies that judgment is coming, or that the blood of Christ is needed. But these prophets don’t speak for God. And we have no one to blame but ourselves since, for too long, too many of us have tolerated among us those who have substituted a cheap and easy false gospel for the gospel of Jesus Christ. Too many have been called gospel preachers who preach decision without faith, regeneration without repentance, justification without lordship, deliverance by walking an aisle but without carrying a cross. That gospel is different from the one Jesus and his apostles delivered to us. That gospel doesn’t save.

So when these prophets emerge to tell people they can stay in their sins and still be saved, we must thunder back with the old gospel that calls all of us to repentance and to cross-bearing, the gospel that calls sin what it is in order to call grace what it is. J. Gresham Machen warned us that our Lord Jesus himself never attempted to preach the gospel to the righteous but only to sinners. Those who follow him must start by acknowledging themselves to be in need of mercy, to be in need of grace that can pardon and cleanse within.

Marriage Revolution Is Real

There’s another form of court prophet of these times, too. This one has no problem identifying homosexuality as sin. He may do so with all sorts of bluster and outrage, but he still does what court prophets always do—he speaks a word that people want to hear. Some people want to hear that sexual immorality is moral after all, and other people want to hear that same-sex marriage is simply a matter of some elites on the coasts of the country. This prophet implies that if we just sign checks to the right radio talk-show hosts, and have a good election cycle or two, we’ll be right back where we were, back when carpets were shag and marriages were strong. I don’t know anyone in any advocacy organization in Washington, D.C.—and there are many fighting the good fight on this one—who is saying that. As a matter of fact, the organizations closest to the ground know just how dark the hour is.

In some form or another, your church will have to address the marriage revolution. This includes thinking through steps that churches should take to protect themselves and their confessions of faith from legal action. But it also includes being honest about our congregations. It’s simply not the case that homosexuality, same-sex attraction, transgenderism, and so on are issues in “big” churches or “city” churches. In backwood rural churches of Appalachia or the mythological Bible Belt of the American South, congregations have to know how to faithfully and compassionately minister to the sexual revolution’s refugees. Churches that aren’t addressing these issues in their Sunday gatherings are ignoring the Great Commission.

That’s why this isn’t merely an issue of an election cycle or two. There is an urgent need for conscience protections for those who dissent from the High Church of the Sexual Revolution. Look at the way the CEO of Mozilla was hounded out of office simply for supporting a ballot measure defining marriage as between one man and one woman. Look at the way Baronnelle Stutzman was accosted by her own government, not for refusing services to gay customers (she served many gay clients for years) but for refusing to agree with two customers, and the state, about a same-sex wedding. 

If the church doesn’t read the signs of the times, we will be right where we evangelicals were after Roe v. Wade—caught flat-footed and unprepared. Thankfully, many Christian leaders, and many outside the evangelical tradition, became bold leaders in the cause of protecting unborn life. We owe much today to their courage.

Lessons from the Pro-Life Movement

So what should we do? Precisely what we should have done before and after Roe. We should recognize where the courts and the culture are, and we should work for justice. That means not simply assuming most people agree with us on marriage. We must articulate, both in and out of the church, why marriage matters, and why its definition isn’t infinitely elastic.

We must—like the pro-life movement has done—seek not only to engage our base, those who already agree with us, but to persuade those who don’t. That doesn’t mean less talk about marriage and sexuality but more—and not just in soundbytes and slogans but in a robust theology of why sexual complementarity and the one-flesh union are rooted in the mystery of the gospel (Eph. 5:22–33). We must—also like the pro-life movement—understand the danger of a Supreme Court that won’t will into existence constitutional planks.

Above all, we must prepare people for what the future holds, when Christian beliefs about marriage and sexuality aren’t part of the cultural consensus but are seen to be strange and freakish and even subversive. If our people assume that everything goes back to normal with the right President and a quick constitutional amendment, they are not being equipped for a world that views evangelical Protestants and traditional Roman Catholics and Orthodox Jews and others as bigots and freaks.

Jesus told us we would have hard times. He never promised us a prosperity gospel. He said we would face opposition, but he said he would be with us. If we are going to be faithful to his gospel, we must preach repentance—even when that repentance is culturally unwelcome. And we must preach that any sinner can be forgiven through the blood of Jesus Christ. That means courage, and that means kindness. Sexual revolutionaries will hate the repentance. Buffoonish heretics, who want only to vent paranoia and rally their troops, will hate the kindness. So be it.

Be Ready

Our churches must be ready to call out the revisionists who wish to do away with a Christian sexual ethic. And we must be ready to call out those who tell us acknowledging the signs of the times is forbidden, and we should just keep doing what we’ve been doing. An issue this culturally powerful cannot be addressed by a halfway-gospel or by talk-radio sloganeering.

The marriage revolution around us means we must do a better job articulating a theology of marriage to our people, as well as a theology of suffering and marginalization. It means we must do a better job articulating to those on the outside why children need both a Mom and a Dad, not just “parents,” and why marriage isn’t simply a matter of court decree. It means we must start teaching our children about marriage “from the beginning” as male and female when they’re in Sunday school. It means we may have to decide if and when the day will come in which we will refuse to sign the state’s marriage licenses.

The long-term prospects for marriage are good. Marriage is resilient, and the sexual revolution always disappoints. It’s true these are dark days for the culture of marriage. But dark days are exactly what our gospel is for. No day was darker than the day the Son of God died in Palestine on a criminal’s cross. We are here because that dark day was not the end of the story. And because it wasn’t the end then, it will never be the end now. 

Editors’ note: For more resources on same-sex marriage and homosexuality, visit Equip, a joint initiative of The Gospel Coalition and the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention to provide a broad range of resources on homosexuality and same-sex marriage issues to prepare your church for this changing culture.

This article is available in Spanish

by Russell Moore at June 26, 2015 05:00 AM

Front Porch Republic

The Incredible Industrial Egg

Screen Shot 2015-06-25 at 11.29.13 PM

The local library’s inventory reduction sale had progressed over several weeks from a buck a book and a dollar a DVD, to two dollars a flat, and finally to a free for all. There in the dregs was an egg.…

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by John Murdock at June 26, 2015 03:24 AM

Cal Newport » Blog

Barack Obama on Craftsmanship


Obama’s Craft

Last winter, I posted a quote from Barack Obama where he discusses his commitment to honing his craft. Earlier this week, we received more evidence of this presidential craftsmanship.

With three minutes and twenty seconds left in his interview with Marc Maron, (released Monday), Obama said the following:

The more you do something, and the more you practice it, at a certain point it becomes second nature. What I’ve always been impressed with about when I listen to comics talk about comedy is how much of it is a craft. Right? They’re thinking it through, and they had a sense of when it works and when it doesn’t. The longer you do it the better your instincts are.

A strong endorsement for the simple pleasure of putting in the hours to do something well.

(Image from Humans of New York.)

by Study Hacks at June 26, 2015 12:25 AM

June 25, 2015

The sky calls to us

Outside of the building where the space shuttle Atlantis is on display at Kennedy Space Center, this quote greets visitors:

I’m spending the rest of the week in Florida as part of the NASA Social program, covering Sunday’s SpaceX CRS–7 launch.

I applied a few weeks ago, while in San Francisco at WWDC, and was excited to learn I had been accepted. I drove down yesterday, and spent the day at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Center, where I saw Atlantis and lots of other bits of NASA history. The actual program kicks off in the morning.

I’ve always felt a connection to the space program. While I was born on a tragic day in space history,[1] I am in no way unique in my interest in all things NASA.

As I was walking around the various exhibits I visited today, I couldn’t help but notice how excited many people were about what we were seeing. There were kids standing on their tiptoes, trying to stretch to be tall enough to see into the visor of the vintage space suits. There were old men who clearly remembered the news coverage being played back for education purposes. People were taking photos, asking questions and genuinely learning.

I wasn’t alone in my nerdiness, and that was a nice feeling.

The glories of the universe are breathtaking on their own, but when coupled with the grit and grind required to climb on top of a live rocket to go explore them, the whole business becomes truly inspiring and heroic.

That’s the crux of it. The space program takes the best qualities found in humankind and couples them with the best technology we can build. That’s exciting, and with a return to the Moon and a manned journey to Mars on the horizon, I no longer have to be jealous of the generation that watched those early astronauts answer the call Carl Sagan identified.

  1. Some of you are feeling really old right now, while others of you can’t believe how old I am. Time is weird.  ↩

by Stephen Hackett at June 25, 2015 10:15 PM

The Thingology Blog

For ALA 2015: Three Free OPAC Enhancements


For a limited time, LibraryThing for Libraries (LTFL) is offering three of its signature enhancements for free!

There are no strings attached. We want people to see how LibraryThing for Libraries can improve your catalog.

  1. Check Library.

    The Check Library button is a “bookmarklet” that allows patrons to check if your library has a book while on Amazon and most other book websites. Unlike other options, LibraryThing knows all of the editions out there, so it finds the edition your library has. Learn more about Check Library

  2. Other Editions

    Let your users know everything you have. Don’t let users leave empty-handed when the record that came up is checked out. Other editions links all your holdings together in a FRBR model—paper, audiobook, ebook, even translations.

  3. Lexile Measures

    Put MetaMetrics’ The Lexile Framework® for Reading in your catalog, to help librarians and patrons find material based on reading level. In addition to showing the Lexile numbers, we also include an interactive browser.

Easy to Add

LTFL Enhancements are easy to install and can be added to every major ILS/OPAC system and most of the minor ones. Enrichments can be customized and styled to fit your catalog, and detailed usage reporting lets you know how they’re doing.

See us at ALA. Stop by booth 3634 at ALA Annual this weekend in San Francisco to talk to Tim and Abby and see how these enhancements work.

If you need a free pass to the exhibit hall, details are in this blog post.

Sign up

We’re offering these three enhancements free, for at least two years. We’ll probably send you links showing you how awesome other enhancements would look in your catalog, but that’s it.

Find out more or email Abby Blachly at

by Abby at June 25, 2015 05:31 PM

Workout: June 27, 2015

Deadlift 5-5-5 Bulgarian split squats 10-10-10

by Mike at June 25, 2015 05:19 PM

Workout: June 26, 2015

“I’d Rather Be Running” 15 overhead squats (165/115 lb.) 20 toes-to-bars 25 burpee box jump-overs 30 front squats (165/115 lb.) Run 800 m 30 front squats (165/115 lb.) 25 burpee box jump-overs 20 toes-to-bars 15 overhead squats (165/115 lb.) Evening Skills Session Handstand walk 100 feet (or spend 10 minutes on this skill) Strict presses […]

by Mike at June 25, 2015 05:17 PM

CrossFit Naptown

Weekend Schedule

Friday’s Workout:

100 Straight Legged Situps
100 Step Ups & Over (Do not have to open hips)
100 Push Ups
100 Goblet Squats (24/16kg)
100 Burpees
*40:00 Time Cap*


Community Outing!


It is here! The 2015 edition of the CFNT Indianapolis Indians game outing!!

Who: anyone and everyone at CFNT plus any family, friends, siggy others that you want to bring along!

What: a community outing to a baseball game at Victory Field for the Indianapolis Indians. there will also be a cookout before the game that all attending or not attending the game can join in on, some food and beverages will be provided for this along with some potluck style! *there will be a community day also this day to bring in friends or family in the morning for CrossFit classes, bring along anyone you know who may be hesitant to try out CFNT*

Where: Pre Game is at CFNT followed by the game at Victory Field on the corner of West Street and Maryland Street in downtown Indy (right by the big ole’ JW Marriot)

When: August 15th, pre game 5:00pm followed by the game at 7:00pm

Why: because we want to bring people in the community together outside of classes. Be prepared to meet people that you don’t know in the community and see your friends in real people clothes when they are not gross and sweaty.

How: email to reserve a ticket (or reserve a bunch of tickets for the WHO people above) and say how you would like to pay (charge your account or bring in cash or a check) tickets are $16 each




Schedule change this weekend:

CrossFit and Barbell Club CANCELLED June 27

Classes are cancelled at CFNT with the mobility seminar in town. Head over to the Capitol location for class at 10:15am to get your sweat on! Thank you for your patience!

by Anna at June 25, 2015 04:48 PM


How Nicaea and Chalcedon Can Help you Read Your New Testament. (Or, Wesley Hill on Paul and the Trinity)

Paul and the TrinityDoing systematic theology through exegesis and exegesis using systematic categories can be a tricky business. A little knowledge of history can show us the way that sometimes our easy recourse to our inherited theological grids may have short-changed our exegesis. For instance, are NT references to the Son of God so obviously and cleanly statements of deity as many have traditionally believed or are they references to his Davidic lineage? And when Jesus calls himself the “Son of Man” is he really referring to his human nature or, as most recent scholars have suggested, is it a reference to the heavenly, divine figure of Daniel 7, “One like the Son of Man”? In both cases, we see that some pressure from our inherited theological systems has forced our exegesis to miss some things. Critical evaluation has undermined some old conclusions, but happily enough, in this case, it ended up reinforcing the basic theological structure on more secure historical grounds.

In recent times, though, there’s been a movement in biblical studies towards recovering classic theological categories and doctrines for the sake of aiding historical interpretation. In his recent work Paul and the Trinity: Persons, Relations, and the Pauline Letters, Wesley Hill argues that by consciously avoiding trinitarian categories in an effort to be “historical” in their interpretation of Paul in his Jewish context, scholars have been working with one hand tied behind their backs. This is especially the case in their approach to texts regarding Christology and the doctrine of God.

Redoubling Around “High” and “Low” Christologies.

While moving away from a focus on titles like “Lord” and “Christ” in the last few years, much of the discussion has been caught up in understanding how Paul’s Christology modifies (or doesn’t) his monotheism. In other words, it assumes a view of God and the world, then tries to figure out where Paul places Jesus on the spectrum of things. Is his view of Jesus “high” or “low”? Does it “threaten” his monotheism, or is Jesus unified or differentiated or subordinated enough to protect against polytheism, modalism, or whichever danger seems more pressing to you as a scholar? Hill’s argument, insofar as I’m not destroying it, is that a retrieval of trinitarian categories like “relationality” and reading strategies like “redoublement” are helpful in moving us past some of the difficulties created by the low/high paradigm.

With the fathers like Athanasius, medievals such as Aquinas, and even recent relational theologies, Hill argues we need to understand that the identities of Father, Son, and Spirit are mutually-defining in the texts in such a way that both unity and differentiation is accounted for. God is the one who raised Jesus Christ by his Spirit (Romans 8:11), and so forth. The Father’s person is defined by his relation to the one who would become Jesus and his Spirit. Jesus is the one who has always been the Son of that Father. The Spirit is the Lord, the Spirit of God as well as the Spirit of the Son. That is who he is and always has been.

Or with the idea “redoublement”, we see that there are two non-ultimate but equally appropriate ways to consider and read texts about Jesus’ relationship to God. First, in many places we find language about what is “common” to them both,  for instance, the “form” or nature and equality that the Son shares with God (Phil. 2:6). But also, and just as important, is the differentiated relation between the two as we see that the Son whose elevation and gift of the “name that is above all names”, still ends up glorifying “God the Father” who is distinct from the Son (Phil. 2:11).

The same movement is useful in other key texts such as 1 Corinthians 8:6, where we have a clear inclusion of Jesus within the key monotheistic Shema which asserts YHWH as Lord and God against all false, non-existent lords and gods of the nations. Two options usually present themselves to the interpreter. Either keep the distinction between Jesus and God and downplay the significance of the inclusion or recognize it, but play down the very clear distinction between Jesus and God. The concept of redoublement helps us accept both the asymmetrical differentiation according to person–Jesus isn’t simply absorbed into a flat “God” identity–but also Jesus’ place on the Creator side of the Creator/creature distinction at the heart of the text.

Watson’s Chalcedonian Clarification

Hill develops all of this at length, through careful, historically-sensitive exegesis of the Greek text, dealing with historical proposals by scholars such as Hurtado, Bauckham, McGrath, and others. Parallel to Hill’s work, though, I’ve been reading through Thomas Watson’s sermons on the Westminster Catechism, A Body of Practical Divinity and was reminded of the way recovering Chalcedonian categories for New Testament interpretation helps clarify exegetical difficulties as well.

For instance, there are a number of texts in the New Testament that suggest Christ has been exalted, or that upon his resurrection and Ascension he received a new, kingly status that he didn’t possess in the past:

…concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, (Romans 1:3-4)

…Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, (Philippians 2:9)

But if the Son is eternally God, then how can he be exalted at a certain point in time after the resurrection? How can he receive a name that has always been his from all of eternity? In these texts, interpreters as far back as the first couple of centuries have found reason to see some sort of adoptionism whereby Jesus was not always God, but becomes the Son of God at a particular point in time.

Commenting on the Catechism’s section on the exaltation of Christ, Watson addresses the difficulty posed by these texts:

In what sense has God exalted Christ?

Not in respect of his Godhead, for that cannot be exalted higher than it is: as in his humiliation, the Godhead was not lower; so in his exaltation, the Godhead is not higher: but Christ is exalted as Mediator, his human nature is exalted.

In a move that parallels, complements, and possibly clarifies our retrieval of redoublement, Watson draws on the affirmation that Christ has two natures, both a human and divine one. The Son has eternally always been the Son of the Father, equal in power, glory, beauty, and divine authority. And yet, at a particular point in time he assumed–added to himself–a human nature that has not always sat on the throne of heaven, but has walked in humility and weakness as a peasant in the 1st Century. This union, the person of the Godman, the Mediator, according to Watson, is the subject of these texts speaking of the exaltation of Christ. It’s not simply the Son according to his divine nature, nor a simply human Jesus abstracted from the Son–that Jesus can’t exist. No, it is the Son in his humanity who is exalted and newly acclaimed as king upon the throne of the universe.

Of course, Hill deals with sort of thing in his work as well. Still, reading Hill alongside Watson has further reinforced the value of reading both modern and historical authors, as well as biblical and systematic theologians, as legitimate sources and models for the practice of reading Scripture. It doesn’t have to be the sort of either/or affair it sometimes becomes in certain academic contexts. a number of helpful, further insights on the reading historical texts in a

Indeed, in this work, Hill himself is a model for reading historical texts in a theologically-responsible way and reading texts theologically in a historically-responsible way. I’d highly commend his work to anyone looking to see it done right. May his tribe increase.

Soli Deo Gloria

by Derek Rishmawy at June 25, 2015 03:30 PM

Justin Taylor

Hudson Taylor and the Gospel to China: 150 Years Ago Today from the Sands of Brighton Beach

OMF International:

And here is John Piper’s 2014 talk on “The Ministry of Hudson Taylor as Life in Christ”:

by Justin Taylor at June 25, 2015 02:56 PM

Practically Efficient

Smart Title Case in Sublime Text

Dr. Drang's recent post on how to title-case text in Drafts reminded me of one of my most-used Sublime Text packages. Matt Stevens's sublime-titlecase adds a Smart Title Case menu command that converts text of any case to title case. It's powered by a python script derived from John Gruber's original Title Case Perl script.

I probably use this command at least a hundred times a week because it works so flawlessly to convert text into a consistent title case format.

One common use: I often sketch out a list of headings in a LaTeX document before filling them in. No matter how I get the headings in—by voice, copy/paste, or just speed typing—I don't have to worry about the case until they're all in. Using a keyboard shortcut I mapped to Smart Title Case, I can convert every line to title case with a single key command (all at once) using Sublime Text's multiple cursors and the Smart Title Case command.

by Eddie Smith at June 25, 2015 01:50 PM

Crossway Blog

Illustrating the Overarching Story of Scripture

We recently spoke with Gail Schoonmaker, illustrator of the Big Picture Story Bible and the ESV Big Picture Bible (July 2015), and got a behind-the-scenes look at her work illustrating both of these projects.

In this post, Gail explains how she worked to tie her illustrations together so as to communicate the overarching story of Scripture throughout both the Big Picture Story Bible and the ESV Big Picture Bible.

Illustrating the Overarching Story of the Bible

The Big Picture Story Bible attempts to tell the overarching story of God’s redeeming work, which moves toward the goal of the Kingdom of God, articulated by theologian Graeme Goldsworthy as “God’s people, in God’s place, under God’s rule.”

As the book's illustrator, I tried to visually reinforce the tracing of this understanding of God’s Kingdom through Eden, the Promised Land, the Davidic monarchy, and the Old Testament prophets, ultimately culminating in Jesus Christ.

Here are some examples:

On the left are pictures of Adam and Eve in Eden, and on the right are intentionally similar scenes from the Promised Land.

In these illustrations, Abraham’s growing family is drawn within circles of increasing size. When the family of believers begins to grow following Pentecost, I place them in similarly growing circles.

In these illustrations related to Genesis 3, Isaiah 9, and Romans 5, Adam and Jesus look very similar, highlighting Jesus's identity as the “second Adam.”

After the flood, Noah and his family gather around a stone altar to worship God with a blood sacrifice. I used the same composition to draw the remnant of Israel, pausing while rebuilding the temple to gather around a sacrifice. The crucifixion scene is also drawn in the same way, this time with Jesus himself in the place of the sacrifice.

Here, the blood of the Passover lamb on a section of door frame is drawn in such a way so as to foreshadow the blood of the Lamb on the cross. This idea appears again when the resurrected Jesus explains his “once for all” sacrifice.

Many illustrations are drawn from God’s point of view, demonstrating the nature of his relationship with his people at that point in the narrative. The crucifixion scene is drawn from Jesus’s point of view on the cross in such a way so as to evoke these previous illustrations from God's perspective, thus equating Jesus with God.

The illustration of Jesus’ eleven faithful disciples embracing him following his resurrection calls to mind the way Joseph’s eleven brothers embraced him when they received him “back from the dead” in Egypt.

When Elijah prays that God would reveal his power with fire on the altar, he foreshadows the work of Jesus, who prays a similar prayer before raising Lazarus from the dead.

I illustrated Ezekiel’s words about God’s people receiving new hearts the same way I drew Jesus’s words to Nicodemus about being born again and Peter’s words to the crowds about repentance and belief.

After Jesus clears the temple and stands worshipping his Father, the temple items behind him are all Old Testament pictures that point to him: the bread of life, the Word of God, the light of the world, the lamb that was slain, the Way to the Most Holy Place, and the foundation of the church. After his resurrection, Jesus explains many of these concepts to his followers, and the illustrations draw from more Old Testament imagery.

The New Testament writers often reference the Old Testament, explaining, proving, and expanding on it as they go. The Big Picture Bible's New Testament illustrations are full of Old Testament characters—all of which remind us that this is one, single story.

The cover of ESV Big Picture Story Bible shows the world, created, sustained, and ruled by God. The cover of ESV Big Picture Bible brings the previous cover to mind with its arcing skyline and bright colors, but this time with Jesus as the focus. People gather to him for instruction, healing, and hopefully salvation.

Gail Schoonmaker has a BA in art from Wheaton College and makes her home in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood with her husband, Keith, and their four children.

by Lizzy Jeffers at June 25, 2015 01:28 PM

Zondervan Academic Blog

Leader, Face Your Shadow for the Sake of Your Ministry — An Excerpt from “The Emotionally Healthy Leader”

The Emotionally Healthy Leader by Peter ScazzeroEvery leader has one, yet few leaders want to explore it, deal with it, confront it.

While leaders read countless books and attend conferences on improving their external leadership and management styles, executive skills, and productivity, few seem interested in confronting the “inner labyrinth” of who they are.

Pastor Peter Scazzero, author of the new book The Emotionally Healthy Leader calls this our shadow:

Your shadow is the accumulation of untamed emotions, less-than pure motives and thoughts that, while largely unconscious, strongly influence and shape your behaviors. It is the damaged but mostly hidden version of who you are.

In the excerpt below, Scazzero explores this often unaddressed aspect of leadership, especially ministry leadership. He helpfully explains how our shadow-self manifests at all levels of ministry.

No matter what level of leadership you’re serving at, read this except and engage Scazzero’s book to become an emotionally healthy leader.

Most leaders search out books on leadership to discover new tools, ideas, or skills. We are charged with the task of knowing what to do next, knowing why it is important, and then bringing the necessary resources to bear to make it happen. Yet the first and most difficult task we face as leaders is to lead ourselves. Why? Because it requires confronting parts of who we are that we prefer to neglect, forget, or deny. Here is how author and educator Parker Palmer describes this experience:

Everything in us cries out against it. That is why we externalize everything — it is far easier to deal with the exterior world. It is easier to spend your life manipulating an institution than dealing with your own soul. We make institutions sound complicated and hard and rigorous, but they are simplicity itself compared with our inner labyrinths.

What Is the Shadow?

Everyone has a shadow. So what is it?

Your shadow is the accumulation of untamed emotions, less-than pure motives and thoughts that, while largely unconscious, strongly influence and shape your behaviors. It is the damaged but mostly hidden version of who you are.

The shadow may erupt in various forms. Sometimes it reveals itself in sinful behaviors, such as judgmental perfectionism, outbursts of anger, jealousy, resentment, lust, greed, or bitterness. Or it may reveal itself more subtly through a need to rescue others and be liked by people, a need to be noticed, an inability to stop working, a tendency toward isolation, or rigidity. Aspects of the shadow may be sinful, but they may also simply be weaknesses or wounds. They tend to appear in the ways we try to protect ourselves from feeling vulnerable or exposed. This means that the shadow is not simply another word for sin. If that makes you think the shadow is hard to pin down, you’re right.

So how does the shadow reveal itself in leadership? Here are a few examples:

  • Many of us have gifts in speaking and in mobilizing people. That is good. The shadow side of these gifts may be an insatiable need for affirmation. Even public sharing of repentance and failure may be motivated by an unconscious hunger for approval. It is also not uncommon for those of us with gifts of public speaking to use them to distance ourselves from close relationships.
  • We value excellence. That is good. The shadow side emerges when the pursuit of excellence crosses into perfectionism that makes no allowances for mistakes. Our perfectionism becomes one way we silence our own inner voices of shame.
  • We are zealous for God’s truth and right doctrine. That is good. The shadow emerges when our zeal prevents us from loving those who disagree with us. It is driven by our own insecurities and fears about feeling competent and “right.”
  • We want to see the church maximize its potential for Christ. That is good. However, the shadow takes over when we become so preoccupied with achieving objectives that we are unwilling or unable to listen to others and create an unsustainable pace for those serving with us. The shadow motivation might be a desperate need to receive praise from others for our work.
  • We love to serve. That is good. The shadow reveals itself when we hide ourselves in the kitchen at social events to avoid talking to people. It is our way of protecting ourselves from getting close to others.
  • We accept a new assignment in a different city. That is good. The shadow emerges when, before we leave, we pick a fight with another leader at our current assignment over issues that never bothered us before. Why? Because it’s easier than acknowledging the sadness we feel and saying, “I will miss you.”

These are all general examples, so allow me to share a recent personal example of my own shadow in action. Fair warning, it’s not a pretty picture.

Geri and I were sitting down for one of our occasional two-person staff meetings. I had an agenda of four to five items, the first of which was to get input from Geri on a revised mission statement for our organization, Emotionally Healthy Spirituality. I had been pondering the statement and soliciting input from different people for over three months. I thought I would pass it by Geri briefly to get her opinion. We were sitting on separate couches facing each other as I handed her the revised mission statement.

She stared down at the paper. “Let me think about this . . . I’m not sure,” she said.

A jolt of tension ran through my body, but I tried to hide my annoyance.

“This is a three-minute item,” I said tersely. “Actually, I am looking for you to say that this is fantastic, not to suggest a total revision.”

Geri, noting my impatience and annoyed tone, remained silent.

After pausing for a moment, she said, “I think I would change this to . . .” Then she stopped.

The tension between us was palpable.

“Pete, what’s going on inside you right now?” Geri asked. “What are you feeling?”

I knew this was not going to be good.

“And where is this coming from?” she continued. “I’ve seen you do this with other people in meetings. And it’s not good. I mean, you are writing a book, you know, called The Emotionally Healthy Leader.”

Geri was calm. I was not. Part of me wanted to attack her, defend myself, or scream. A heavy silence filled the air. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. A part of my shadow was exposed, and I could see it — again. I had not crossed the line into sin — yet. But I was seriously considering it. I took a breath and thought about her question. I sent an SOS to the Holy Spirit asking for power and self-control.

“Geri, right now I am anxious, impatient, frustrated,” I finally said. “I just wanted to spend a few minutes on this and hear you say, ‘This is awesome,’ or, ‘Perhaps change one word.’ I didn’t want any more. So my question really wasn’t honest or clear.”

“Where does that come from?” Geri asked.

I allowed the heavy silence to fill the room… (pgs. 51–58)

The Emotionally Healthy Leader by Peter Scazzero

The Emotionally Healthy Leader

By Peter Scazzero

Order it Today:
Barnes & Noble
Buy Direct from Zondervan

by Jeremy Bouma at June 25, 2015 12:26 PM

CrossFit Naptown

6/27 Classes Cancelled with Mobility Seminar

Thursday’s Workout:

Complete the following complex:
1 Front Squat
1 Push press
1 Back Rack Push Press 
2 Overhead Squats
Every 2:00 for 5 Rounds
Heavy As Technique Allows

Run 2 Miles
Rest 2:00
Run 1 Mile

*CrossFit Endurance class day 2 of programming for this week. Don’t forget that we have Endurance Class every Monday night at 6:00pm, click the link to like NapTown Running Club on Facebook



Mobility Seminar Saturday June 27

Saturday, June 27th CrossFit NapTown will be hosting a one-day seminar for those interested in learning more about mobility. We are very excited to be bringing this certification to Indianapolis as we truly believe proper mobility is paramount to your success in quality movement.

“This one-day seminar is a hands-on, movement-theory-based workshop in which coaches and athletes are exposed to the principles of Kelly Starrett’s movement and mobility method of resolving pain, preventing injury, and optimizing athletic performance.

Performance can be brought to an abrupt halt by dysfunctional movement patters and underlying restrictions in mobility. Oftentimes, the factors that impede performance are invisible to not only the untrained eye, but also to the majority of athletes and coaches. This course exposes attendees to a systematic approach to making these factors visible. This course illuminates common movement errors that can cause injury and reduce an athlete’s speed, power, endurance and strength. This course teaches anyone – be it a weekend warrior, professional athlete, or someone wanting to be free from current restrictions – how to best maintain natural function and harness genetic potential.” Description of the CrossFit Mobility Course 

Screen Shot 2015-02-17 at 7.03.48 AM

Schedule Changes:

CrossFit and Barbell Club CANCELLED June 27

Head over to the Capitol location for class at 10:15am to get your sweat on!

by Anna at June 25, 2015 09:43 AM daily

Eat, Tweet, Delete

I turned on a bot that deletes any tweet I make that doesn’t get favorited within 5 minutes.

What does it mean? Why would I do that?

Who knows anymore — the 2015 media landscape is baffling now that I’m no longer in the target demo.

Despite being on the web for nearly 20 years I am not qualified to run my own social media. Maybe? But who else is qualified?


Freer expression followed by audience silence leading to de facto obscurity being equated to self censorship.

Automated curation by community engagement plus robot helpers for a better, more focus group tested, engaging content stream for audience enjoyment!

Withholding labor if I don’t get paid in hearts and stars.

· · ·

I’m into bots right now. Try to create a bot positive culture in all that you do on the internet now.

I guess I thought it was kind of funny, as a concept, mostly.

June 25, 2015 08:00 AM

Table Titans

Tales: Hawkeye Pie


I played D&D with a group of friends from work and as a result there tended to be some less-than-serious characters made: a rapping Dwarf Knight, a flame-obsessed ‘no guys, I'm totally good’ Wizard, and the ever-effective Elf Ranger named Hawkeye played by a min-maxing munchkin with unbelievable…

Read more

June 25, 2015 07:02 AM

The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

What I Learned from Elisabeth Elliot in Her Last Years

Suffering is not for nothing. – Elisabeth Elliot 

This quote has frequently come to my mind over the past several years. Having read Elisabeth’s books, listened to hours of her teaching, and been thoroughly rocked by her faithfulness and steadfast obedience, I knew it was the opportunity of a lifetime when I was invited to spend a few days with her and her husband several years ago.

The mutual friend who arranged the time cautioned me that Elisabeth was suffering from dementia and was almost completely unable to communicate. Even so, I was excited to be in the presence of such a spiritual giant.

Not for Nothing

There is much I could share about those days I spent with Elisabeth, but one experience is particularly on my mind as I write while flying home from her funeral service. The moment came in a simple circumstance with Elisabeth, arguably the most influential Christian woman of the 20th century. We were far off the beaten path in a place where there was no fanfare for this spiritual giant who had given so much to Christ and his kingdom. I sat holding her hand, but the microphone was gone. The lines waiting for an autograph were gone. The pen would be pointless. She sat struggling to stay awake even as we journeyed on. And I was full of a righteous anger I’d not previously experienced.

How could it be that this woman who had given so much to the cause of Christ could be in such humble circumstances? How could she sit unable to communicate her wants, needs, or feelings? I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that at that moment there were millions around the world who were walking in some area of faithfulness as a result of her ministry. It seemed so wrong that she would be experiencing any degree of suffering in light of that fact. 

Yet, right on the heels of the anger that welled up in my heart was a sense of conviction. Why was this suffering wrong for her? Was her faithfulness any less beautiful or pleasing to the Lord when it was done without the ability to express it? Does God not look on the heart, which was surely unchanged? Why was I so quick to protect her from suffering? Had she not taught (as well as anyone ever has, I dare say) that suffering is the means by which we know the love of God?

Here I was bemoaning the very thing that was central to her entire life and ministry. In that moment, I realized the years of suffering she bore in the end didn’t in any way contradict what she taught throughout her life. If what she taught was true, as I believe it to be, then the suffering she experienced in her final years was just like the suffering she experienced at other times in her life. It was a means by which the joy that was to come was being perfected and by which God’s love was known. It was not for nothing.

Lessons Yet to Be Learned 

This journey found its fullest reality at 6:15 a.m. EST on June 15, 2015, when Elisabeth breathed her last on this earth. In that moment, she went through gates of splendor and found her suffering complete in the joy of her Savior. As I sat in her funeral service and heard her husband, Lars, share the story of her last hours on earth, my mind was reeling with what is yet to be learned from Elisabeth. She will not write a new word or speak a new message, but her life can continue to instruct those who have ears to hear. So I want to share a few key thoughts especially for the Gen X and Millennial crowd that may read this article.

1. Be leery of any ministry position that is comfortable. To the best of my knowledge, Elisabeth’s ministry rarely could have been described as “comfortable.” The resulting depth of ministry, perspective, and wisdom would not have come from a position that allowed serving through autopilot or when insulated from reality.

2. Obey—even when it’s hard. There is nothing in Elisabeth’s life that suggests she did anything except obey when God called her to something—no matter what it was. She fought for purity, tackled Bible translation, parented as a single mom in the jungle . . . and that just gets us into the 1960s. Her life was marked by persistent, steadfast obedience. The bride of Christ would certainly be strengthened if we paused now and committed to truly obey God.

3. Have real relationships. This is something that stood out to me in the funeral service. Elisabeth’s brothers shared stories about her that made it clear she was plugged into her extended family throughout her life. But it didn’t stop with her family. I had the opportunity to speak with many lifelong friends of hers who spoke of her humanity, her sense of humor, and her quirks with even more love and admiration than a distant fan (such as myself) could possibly experience. We all need people who truly know us, even if the only platform separating you from the masses is the common mask of social media.

Incomparable Woman

Elisabeth Elliot was an incomparable woman who served faithfully around the world and in the face of incredible suffering at multiple points in her life. May her example of obedience compel us to render lifelong, wholehearted obedience to Christ and his Word.

Follow Elisabeth’s example, read her books, and listen to her messages. Allow God to affect you through this simple servant, and her suffering will bear even more fruit.

For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory. So we do not focus on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Cor. 4:17–18, HCSB)

by Jennifer Lyell at June 25, 2015 05:02 AM

Prosperity Teaching Has Replaced True Gospel in Africa

Editors’ note: This series examines the prosperity gospel every Thursday and Friday during the month of June. We explore the theology, sociology, and international influence of this popular but aberrant teaching. The Gospel Coalition International Outreach (IO) is partnering with African authors and publishers to create a resource that biblically examines the prosperity gospel and that will be distributed free across Africa and beyond. In Prosperity? Seeking the True Gospel, African pastors Michael Otieno Maura, Ken Mbugua, and Conrad Mbewe are joined by John Piper and Wayne Grudem in pointing pastors and other Christians beyond the deceptions of prosperity theology to the true gospel of Jesus Christ. TGC-IO aims to raise $50,000 by July 1, at which time they will receive an all-or-nothing matching grant to complete the project. For more details or to give to this worthy project, see the relief project page.


Conrad Mbewe has pastored in Lusaka, Zambia, since 1987 and has seen prosperity teaching become an unwelcome guest that has taken up permanent residence in Africa. A Reformed Baptist, he hopes to see a revival of the true gospel in his country. He is one of the contributing writers to the volume Prosperity? Seeking the True Gospel, which subjects health-and-wealth theology to a biblical examination. He answered several questions on countering the false gospel that has captured the hearts of millions of Africans. 

Why is prosperity theology such an important issue to address for Africa?

We need to address prosperity theology here in Africa because it has replaced the true gospel of salvation with a kind of “gospel” that is no gospel at all. This is happening in what once were mainstream evangelical circles. Everywhere, especially on radio and television, almost all you hear is this message about how God in Christ wants us to be physically healthy and materially prosperous. You hardly ever hear sermons about sin and repentance. So salvation has now become deliverance from sickness and poverty. It is temporal rather than eternal. Prosperity theology is like the Arabian camel that gave the impression it simply wanted a little space in the tent, but now the whole of it is inside and the true gospel is outside. This erroneous teaching is filling churches across the continent with people who have no desire for true biblical salvation or godliness. Sadly, it’s spreading like an uncontrollable bushfire.

In what ways does this teaching negatively affect individual Christians?

It’s like giving children sweets before a meal; you spoil their appetite for that which is truly nutritious. The Bible is primarily about salvation from sin and being sanctified into the image of Christ. We ought to be admiring those among us whose godliness shines like the sun in its noonday strength, but we are fast losing that view. Christians are instead admiring the few individuals with big houses, and flashy cars and clothes, even when such individuals are living in sin. Invariably this emphasis is resulting in churches being rocked with scandals once rare in evangelical circles. Also, prosperity theology makes people think health and wealth are products of a man of God’s prayers (which he performs for you when you plant a financial “seed”), despite the fact that health and wealth are products of good hygiene, nutritious meals, regular exercise, medical treatment, integrity, innovativeness, and hard work. This teaching has become a religious pyramid scam, with the so-called “men of God” reaping a fortune while their blind followers are getting poorer. Every day we have to deal with disillusioned individuals who have woken up when it’s too late. This teaching is wreaking havoc in the lives of many Christians.

How does the biblical gospel bring the truth to bear on this false teaching?

In order to address this scam, we must begin with teaching the biblical gospel. People need to hear about sin as God speaks about it in the Bible. That background is vital for them to appreciate that God isn’t some genie waiting for us to rub the magic lamp so he can come out and prosper us, but that he is a holy being who is offended by our sin. Then there is a need for people to hear about the love of God that causes him to give his Son to pay the price for hell-deserving sinners by dying on the cross. There is a great need for preachers to deal with such subjects as redemption, atonement, regeneration, conversion, sanctification, and glorification. As men and women look into the light of the gospel sun, they will despise the miserable candles being held out to them by prosperity teachers. As they are satisfied with real food, they will discern the worthlessness of the candyfloss that prosperity teachers are giving them. These false teachers promise them much but they deliver nothing that can truly satisfy the soul.

As a contributor to this book, what are your hopes for the impact that it could make?

Many people are being carried away with prosperity theology not because they have rejected the true gospel but simply because they have no idea what it is. If they are truly God’s children, I have no doubt that once they see the true gospel the Holy Spirit in them will open their eyes to the fact that what they’ve had in their hands all along is a lie. Who knows what God can do with such a realization? This is why I am excited by Prosperity? Seeking The True Gospel. It begins with a display of the true gospel and then exposes that which is false. It is my hope that this book will get into the hands of many preachers and teachers of God’s Word in Africa so that it can help to stem the flood that is threatening to sweep away the true gospel that was unearthed by the Reformers and brought to Africa by a great army of evangelical missionaries at great cost to their lives. May God help us to that end, for the health of the church and for the glory of his name!


by Conrad Mbewe at June 25, 2015 05:02 AM

David Brooks Charts the Road to Character

The 15-point Humility Code at the end of David Brooks’s new book, The Road to Character, echoes like a warning siren in our “age of authenticity,” calling out to the Western world, “You’re doing it wrong.” The New York Times columnist and New York Times bestselling author of such books as The Social Animal and Bobos in Paradise offers a message more countercultural that what you’ll hear from many evangelical pulpits today. Here’s a sampling:

  • “We don’t live for happiness, we live for holiness.”
  • “In the struggle against your own weakness, humility is the greatest virtue.”
  • “Pride is the central vice.”
  • “We are all ultimately saved by grace.”
  • “The person who successfully struggles against weakness and sin may or may not become rich and famous, but that person will become mature.”

The critical work writers such as sociologist Robert Bellah and philosopher Charles Taylor underlie the narrative, which explores the character development of influential 20th-century figures including Dwight Eisenhower, George Marshall, and Dorothy Day but also extending back to the great North African theologian of the late Roman period, Augustine of Hippo.

Brooks joined me for a half-hour interview to discuss why sincerity shouldn’t impress, how suffering forms us, when responsibility shields us from honesty, and what truly matters in life—including whether he saved his soul in writing the book. 

Subscribe to TGC's podcast in iTunes or for other devices to get this and other interviews from with such authors as Malcolm Gladwell, Tim Keller, Ross Douthat, and Rod Dreher. You can also download the interview here or stream it above. 

by Collin Hansen at June 25, 2015 05:01 AM

Workout: June 25, 2015

Power clean + push jerk 1-1-1-1-1 4 x 400 m row

by Mike at June 25, 2015 03:49 AM

sacha chua :: living an awesome life


It definitely feels like summer here. Not quite the dog days yet – there’s still a touch of coolness in the air – but sunshine and warmth, hello!

2015-06-24a Summer -- index card #summer #seasons

2015-06-24a Summer – index card #summer #seasons

On my walks, I often play with superimposing my memories of other seasons on the present. I look at the leafy trees and remember their stark branches, or the buds, or the colours. I feel the breeze slip through my sandals and think of the clomping of winter boots, the security of wellingtons. And then I think of the colour and the warmth and the sun of the present, and I bring all those things together. It’s an interesting thought exercise that makes things even more vibrant. The practice helps me make winters a little bit better too, when I carry the memories of heat and vibrant colours with me.

2015-06-24b What do I want to tweak this summer -- index card #summer #seasons

2015-06-24b What do I want to tweak this summer – index card #summer #seasons

I’ll have only so many summers, after all, so maybe I can learn how to fully enjoy them. I wonder what I’ll tweak this time around. Maybe I’ll focus on eating more fruits and vegetables. I’ve been treating myself to yummy fruits on sale, and sometimes even when they’re regular-price: strawberries, nectarines, peaches… Soon it’ll be time for corn on the cob, then melons.

More sitting in the sunshine or shade, too, with friends or solo. Last year I said yes to more time hanging out in parks, and that was quite enjoyable. =) I wonder if any of the cats will put up with being in a harness if that means they’ll get to sun themselves on the deck…

The post Summer appeared first on sacha chua :: living an awesome life.

by Sacha Chua at June 25, 2015 02:11 AM


libinput touchpad gestures

One of the bits we are currently finalising in libinput are touchpad gestures. Gestures on a normal touchscreens are left to the compositor and, in extension, to the client applications. Touchpad gestures are notably different though, they are bound to the location of the pointer or the keyboard focus (depending on the context) and they are less context-sensitive. Two fingers moving together on a touchscreen may be two windows being moved at the same time. On a touchpad however this is always a pinch.

Touchpad gestures are a lot more hardware-sensitive than touchscreens where we can just forward the touch points directly. On a touchpad we may have to consider software buttons or just HW-limitations of the touchpad. This prevents the implementation of touchpad gestures in a higher level - only libinput is aware of the location, size, etc. of software buttons.

Hence - touchpad gestures in libinput. The tree is currently sitting here and is being rebased as we go along, but we're expecting to merge this into master soon.

The interface itself is fairly simple: any device that may send gestures will have the LIBINPUT_DEVICE_CAP_GESTURE capability set. This is currently only implemented for touchpads but there is the potential to support this on other devices too. Two gestures are supported: swipe and pinch (+rotate). Both come with a finger count and both follow a Start/Update/End cycle. Gestures have a finger count that remains the same for the gestures, so if you switch from a two-finger pinch to a three-finger pinch you will see one gesture end and the next one start. Note that how to deal with this is up to the caller - it may very well consider this the same gesture semantically.

Swipe gestures have delta coordinates (horizontally and vertically) of the logical center of the gesture, compared to the previous event. A pinch gesture has the delta coordinates too and a delta angle (clockwise, in degrees). A pinch gesture also has the notion of an absolute scale, the Begin event always has a scale of 1.0 and that changes as the fingers move towards each other further apart. A scale of 2.0 means they're now twice as far apart as originally.

Nothing overly exciting really, it's a simple API that provides a couple of basic elements of data. Once integrated into the desktop properly, it should provide for some improved navigation. OS X has had this for a log time now and it's only time we caught up.

by Peter Hutterer ( at June 25, 2015 12:50 AM

June 24, 2015

Karen De Coster

Practicing Economics Without a License

I just came back from Cleveland where I spent a couple of days loitering around Little Italy and making some new friends over some good wine. I love to engage in conversations with the small entrepreneurs, wherever I travel, because they are always teeming with stories of how they beat the regulatory state, time after time, in order to fulfill a dream and open a peaceful establishment that serves customers with desired goods and services.

This young Sicilian gentleman I talked to on a couple of occasions grew up participating in the family tradition of making wine. As with the Italians and Sicilians here in southeastern Michigan, it is a big family affair to ship grapes in from out of state, crush them by hand, and have the entire family involved in the winemaking process. He said he had always dreamed of owning his own restaurant because all he knew was food, wine, and making people happy.

Upon trying to open his restaurant he discovered he’d have to cough up about $50k to buy the liquor license, or, in the alternative, if he made wine, he could be a “manufacturer” and he could therefore purchase a permit for a few thousand bucks. And so he did, and he crushes the grapes in the basement of the restaurant and makes the most fantastic ‘homegrown’ wine I have ever had the pleasure of drinking. So I bought a few bottles. That young man is making money, keeping his debt low, and expanding his restaurant to a more “upscale” place in downtown Cleveland this August.

A different turn of events took place just a couple of weeks ago, in Pittsfield Township near Ann Arbor, Michigan. A band of authoritarians admittedly practiced bad economics without ever having to apply for, or receive, a license to practice economics. Zingerman’s Creamery, which is a hugely popular gourmet food company, was trying to expand with a new building across from its current location.

Zingerman’s Creamery, which makes the brand’s dairy products, is hatching plans for a new 3,200-square-foot building with a 3,000-square-foot mezzanine across the street from its current location, according to township records.

As part of its expansion plan, Zingerman’s Creamery wants to add a tasting area with about 20 seats where customers could sample beer, wine and mixed drinks.

The business was denied its liquor license because Pittsfield Township only has five liquor licenses left to grant through 2021, and Pittsfield Township Supervisor Mandy Grewal said that “the township must guard its liquor licenses prudently, viewing them as an economic development tool.” Now the states regulate and micromanage political favors and rent-seeking opportunities liquor licenses, and then, when that hurdle is cleared, the local bureaucrats take over the “economic development” aspect of regulation. The article ends with that same Township bureaucrat noting that she and her fellow unlicensed economist colleagues are grateful for Zingerman’s presence in the community and the Township “will continue to work with them to make sure they continue to stay grow and thrive in our community.” I bet most readers of this Detroit Free Press article did not note the irony in this story.

by Karen De Coster at June 24, 2015 11:51 PM

Six Degrees of the Confederacy

Here’s where the nonsense becomes impossible to ignore. I guess I didn’t know that Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis was named after *the* John Calhoun, even though I’ve skirted this lake a zillion times on my bicycle. And now, it shall potentially be renamed upon decree by the masses of knee-jerk asses who hold those superpower political positions at the, ahem, “Park Board.” It is rather amusing that the lake, if renamed, could possibly go back to its Dakota name, “Lake of the Loons.” How fitting. I propose that it be renamed ‘Redskin Lake’ so we can continue the debate and keep the media mobs in full employment.

by Karen De Coster at June 24, 2015 10:31 PM

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

Tor and the Volunteer Thought Police Department

As noted before, a conflict of interest requires I recuse myself from expressing either support or opposition to the boycott of Tor, my publisher, urged on by my readers. Obviously I would prefer to retain the goodwill of both.

Also obviously, I would prefer the matter be solved in a civil and professional fashion.

To some readers this might seem logically to imply that the solution requires that the uncivil and unprofessional persons whose extracurricular activities led to this debacle depart from Tor, and let the rest of us, the professionals, simply get on with the business of writing and selling books.

I allow myself to express no opinion on that point, but I do note that Tor cannot prosper without the goodwill of readers whereas the readers certainly can prosper without the illwill of Tor.

Whatever the solution, I am confident my loyal readers who do not want my sale numbers to fall, so that the accountants continue to regard my work as a legitimate source of revenue, so that I can continue to write books for you. Hence I am sure you would like to see a speedy resolution to this matter.

In that spirit, and without expressing my private opinion about the right and wrong in this matter, I urge my readers to write to Tor and Macmillan to express your gratitude for their many fine publications you have purchased over the years, and your disappointment in the events that seem to be hindering that comfortable relationship, and eroding buyer loyalty.

I thought my readers might be interested in the news of the ongoing boycott and its next step of progress, as reported by my other publisher, Vox Day.

Since Macmillan has yet to respond to any of the many emails it has received from hundreds of people, it’s now time to take things to Stage 2 of the Tor Books boycott. Mail a handwritten postcard or index card to each of the following three individuals informing them that as long as Irene Gallo is employed by Tor Books or, you will not be purchasing any books published by Tor Books.

Rhonda Brown
Executive Director of Legal Affairs for Employment
175 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10010
United States of America

Andrew Weber
Chief Operating Officer
175 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10010
United States of America

Tom Doherty
Tom Doherty Associates
175 Fifth Avenue,
New York, NY 10010
United States of America

After you have mailed each of the three individuals, send me an email with STAGE 2 in the subject. We know that Serious Matters are being discussed at Tor; even though nothing appears to be happening from the outside there is quite a bit going on behind the scenes. These things take time, and especially with the CEO gone until next month, Macmillan is much less likely to act in anything but a deliberate manner. Someone has already reined in Moshe Feder on more than one occasion, and an anti-GamerGate rant on was quickly taken down, so its clear that Macmillan is taking the matter seriously, but until they send Gallo on her way it will be clear that they are not taking it seriously enough.

Of course, if the executives have any sense at all, they will terminate Patrick Nielsen Hayden’s employment as well, given that he is the individual primarily responsible for the insane SJW crusade that Gallo and Feder have confused for their professional responsibilities.

My comment:

For my part, apparently what I did wrong was have readers who liked my work product so well that they dared to nominate me for a record number of Hugo Awards, and, alas, being a conservative Christian, a white male, and an honest man.

What the management of Tor did wrong was libel me and my readers with a horrific and unforgivable stream of insane and monstrous lies, for which one of them very nearly issued what almost could be taken for an apology.

The spirit of compromise would suggest that if I become half-honest, Tor’s upper management could tell half as many lies with half as much vitriol and bigotry.

It is in that spirit of half-honesty that I am pretending to be neutral in this matter. In truth, I am not willing to compromise on the question of having readers who like my work. Indeed, I would like more readers who like my work even more.

Which means I would like to get back to my job.

To get back to my job requires Tor’s editors, Mr Feder, Miss Gallo, and Mr Nielsen Hayden, to get back to the their job of editing books, and cease moonlighting as the racial conformity officers, Christ-hating crusaders for Sodom, defenders of fainting feminist damsels in distress, public scolds, soapbox preachers, cheerleaders for the Two Minute Hate, riotmongers, and volunteer thought police department for the science fiction genre.

Or so I might say were I to express an opinion, which I will not. You, however, my beloved readers, patrons, and employers, whom I live to serve with fearless pen, I invite to express your opinion to the addresses given above.

I would like the boycott to be over before the next Gene Wolfe book comes out, myself.

by John C Wright at June 24, 2015 08:38 PM

Practically Efficient

How do I love Sublime Text's multiple cursors?

Let me count the ways. Actually, there are way too many reasons to count. I love using multiple cursors in Sublime Text, especially for writing LaTeX. Just one example: quickly counting columns in a table (or quickly counting anything I've selected).

So without using any brain power at all, I know I have 9 total columns, 8 of which are right-aligned. Make tables all day, and see if this isn't helpful.

by Eddie Smith at June 24, 2015 07:45 PM

Justin Taylor

What Does It Feel Like to Fear a God Who Is For You?

greenland storm

The Bible tells us again and again that “the fear of the LORD” is the beginning of wisdom (Ps. 111:10; Prov. 9:10) and knowledge (Prov. 1:7).

The Bible also commands us to “hope in God” (e.g., Ps. 42:5; 42:11; 43:5).

And a passage like Psalm 147:10-11 brings both fearing God and hoping in God together:

His delight is not in the strength of the horse,
nor his pleasure in the legs of a man,
but the LORD takes pleasure in those who fear him,
in those who hope in his steadfast love.

John Piper, writing in The Pleasures of God, asks about the relationship between hope and fear:

Does it strike you as strange that we should be encouraged to fear and hope at the same time and in the same person? . . . Do you hope in the one you fear and fear the one you hope in? It’s usually the other way around: if we fear a person, we hope that someone else will come and help us. But here we are supposed to fear the one we hope in and hope in the one we fear. What does this mean?

Piper offers his own answer:

I think it means that we should let the experience of hope penetrate and transform the experience of fear. In other words, the kind of fear that we should have toward God is whatever is left of fear when we have a sure hope in the midst of it.

He then provides this helpful picture to explain what he means:

Suppose you were exploring an unknown glacier in the north of Greenland in the dead of winter. Just as you reach a sheer cliff with a spectacular view of miles and miles of jagged ice and mountains of snow, a terrible storm breaks in. The wind is so strong that the fear rises in your heart that it might blow you over the cliff. But in the midst of the stormyou discover a cleft in the ice where you can hide. Here you feel secure. But, even though secure, the awesome might of the storm rages on, and you watch it with a kind of trembling pleasure as it surges out across the distant glaciers.

At first there was the fear that this terrible storm and awesome terrain might claim your life. But then you found a refuge and gained the hope that you would be safe. But not everything in the feeling called fear vanished from your heart. Only the life-threatening part. There remained the trembling, the awe, the wonder, the feeling that you would never want to tangle with such a storm or be the adversary of such a power.

And so it is with God. In the same Psalm we read, “He gives snow like wool; he scatters hoarfrost like ashes. He casts forth his ice like morsels; who can stand before his cold?” (vv. 16-17). The cold of God is a fearful thing—who can stand against it! And verses 4-5 point to the same power of God in nature: “He determines the number of the stars, he gives to all of them their names. Great is our LORD, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure.”

In other words, God’s greatness is greater than the universe of stars, and his power is behind the unendurable cold of arctic storms. Yet he cups his hand around us and says, “Take refuge in my love and let the terrors of my power become the awesome fireworks of your happy night-sky.” The fear of God is what is left of the storm when you have a safe place to watch right in the middle of it. And in that place of refuge we say, “This is amazing, this is terrible, this is incredible power; Oh, the thrill of being here in the center of the awful power of God, yet protected by God himself! Oh, what a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God without hope, without a Savior! Better to have a millstone tied around my neck and be thrown into the depths of the sea than to offend against this God! What a wonderful privilege to know the favor of this God in the midst of his power!”

And so we get an idea of how we feel both hope and fear at the same time. Hope turns fear into a trembling and peaceful wonder; and fear takes everything trivial out of hope and makes it earnest and profound. The terrors of God make the pleasures of his people intense. The fireside fellowship is all the sweeter when the storm is howling outside the cottage.

Discussion of the fear of the Lord is a subject sorely lacking in evangelical circles. For a good introduction to this biblical theme, see Jerry Bridges, The Joy of Fearing God.

by Justin Taylor at June 24, 2015 07:40 PM

Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy

The Rejection of Universalism in the Triodion

One of the big problems with an Orthodox Christian embracing universalism is that he has to reject a large portion of the liturgical tradition of the Church in order to do so. The eternality of the punishment of the wicked is ubiquitous in the services of the Church. This may be less apparent if one does not have access to frequent church services, but it really becomes apparent the more time you spend in church listening to what is being sung. The Church doesn’t spend all its time talking about the eternality of Hell, but mainly focuses on encouraging sinners to repentance and to embrace the resurrection of Christ. But even though we are definitely running toward something, we are also very ... Keep Reading ›

by Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick at June 24, 2015 07:32 PM


Slavery Was Essential to Southern Political Theory

As a follow-up to my previous post on Southern heritage, I had thought to provide a sort of annotated bibliography of Civil War sources dealing with slavery, but Ta-Nehesi Coates recently published an essay that surpasses what I would have been able to do. So to complement that, I’d like to highlight a few key personalities and documents, explain some of their main features of the political and economic arguments, and give some reflections on what all of this would have meant historically and politically.

The Early American Republic Was Always Unstable 

Let’s start with John Calhoun. Calhoun represents a bridge between the American founding and the Civil War. He was born after the Revolutionary War and died before the Civil War, and he was actively involved in American politics from 1812-1850. Calhoun was a complicated character. He was a Southern Agrarian, and yet he was also a Unitarian. He was a Jeffersonian “Democratic-Republican” who went on to serve as Andrew Jackson’s Vice-President, feud with him over some central points of political theory, especially states rights, and end his career with some fairly rigid and provocative ideas, namely a very strict notion of states rights, the legitimacy of both nullification and secession, the concept of concurrent-majority and a full-throated defense of slavery. Some of Calhoun’s thought is quite genius, though in that sense also creative rather than traditional, and some of it is morally repugnant. But what he shows us is that the interval between the American Founding and the Civil War was a combustible one. There were no halcyon days which were later assaulted. No, neither the North nor the South represented some invasion of rogue ideology which ruined the American project. The American project was always one with multiple and competing interests which never made explicit some of its most basic transcendental commitments. And so, in that way, it was always unstable.

Slavery was the big issue during Calhoun’s day because it touched all of the other big issues. Slavery accounted for about half of the country’s entire way of existence. It made up an enormous part of the economy, and it was a major player in the world economy. You could compare it to the role that oil plays in today’s world, and you wouldn’t be far off. But it was domestic and so impossible to hide from sight. Slavery was also relevant to westward expansion, since the addition of new states would always raise the question as to whether they would be free states or slave states. And that question was relevant, not only to the new states, but also to the old states, since it would determine the future political influence and power those old states would have. If more slave states were added, then the free states would lose out in Washington, and if more free states were added, then the slave states would lose out in Washington. Thus slavery was not “the only issue,” but it was the issue that touched all other issues and was therefore the main point of contention.

The South’s Contribution to the Slavery Issue: A Positive Good and Political-Economic Necessity  

Now, slavery was not original to the South. It predated the United States as a nation, and so the Southerners would always call out the Northerners as hypocrites on this point. We should also add that a large portion of the North was more or less economically bound up in slavery, even if no slaves were actually present on their own land. Banks, lending, markets, and the rest were not limited to any one “section,” and the clash between Jackson and Calhoun shows how even two Southerners, men largely sharing the same region and culture, could disagree over other political issues. But what does make slavery a distinctively Southern problem is that the founding fathers largely admitted that slavery was an evil which,while not being able to be removed in their own day, would need to be done away with in the future. The leading Southern political thinkers would come to reject this point of view, arguing instead that slavery was a positive good and even a part of the natural law and divine hierarchy of human society.

Calhoun and Slavery

Calhoun, again, is an important representative of this shift. He said this in 1837:

Abolition and the Union cannot coexist. As the friend of the Union I openly proclaim it–and the sooner it is known the better. The former may now be controlled, but in a short time it will be beyond the power of man to arrest the course of events. We of the South will not, cannot, surrender our institutions. To maintain the existing relations between the two races, inhabiting that section of the Union, is indispensable to the peace and happiness of both. It cannot be subverted without drenching the country in blood, and extirpating one or the other of the races. Be it good or bad, [slavery] has grown up with our society and institutions, and is so interwoven with them that to destroy it would be to destroy us as a people. But let me not be understood as admitting, even by implication, that the existing relations between the two races in the slaveholding States is an evil:–far otherwise; I hold it to be a good, as it has thus far proved itself to be to both, and will continue to prove so if not disturbed by the fell spirit of abolition. I appeal to facts. Never before has the black race of Central Africa, from the dawn of history to the present day, attained a condition so civilized and so improved, not only physically, but morally and intellectually.

In the meantime, the white or European race, has not degenerated. It has kept pace with its brethren in other sections of the Union where slavery does not exist. It is odious to make comparison; but I appeal to all sides whether the South is not equal in virtue, intelligence, patriotism, courage, disinterestedness, and all the high qualities which adorn our nature.

But I take higher ground. I hold that in the present state of civilization, where two races of different origin, and distinguished by color, and other physical differences, as well as intellectual, are brought together, the relation now existing in the slaveholding States between the two, is, instead of an evil, a good–a positive good.

Now, what’s really interesting in this speech is something that no one has yet brought up in the popular conversation. Calhoun makes slavery the solution to the problem of capitalism:

I hold then, that there never has yet existed a wealthy and civilized society in which one portion of the community did not, in point of fact, live on the labor of the other. Broad and general as is this assertion, it is fully borne out by history. This is not the proper occasion, but, if it were, it would not be difficult to trace the various devices by which the wealth of all civilized communities has been so unequally divided, and to show by what means so small a share has been allotted to those by whose labor it was produced, and so large a share given to the non-producing classes. The devices are almost innumerable, from the brute force and gross superstition of ancient times, to the subtle and artful fiscal contrivances of modern. I might well challenge a comparison between them and the more direct, simple, and patriarchal mode by which the labor of the African race is, among us, commanded by the European. I may say with truth, that in few countries so much is left to the share of the laborer, and so little exacted from him, or where there is more kind attention paid to him in sickness or infirmities of age. Compare his condition with the tenants of the poor houses in the more civilized portions of Europe–look at the sick, and the old and infirm slave, on one hand, in the midst of his family and friends, under the kind superintending care of his master and mistress, and compare it with the forlorn and wretched condition of the pauper in the poorhouse… There is and always has been in an advanced stage of wealth and civilization, a conflict between labor and capital. The condition of society in the South exempts us from the disorders and dangers resulting from this conflict; and which explains why it is that the political condition of the slaveholding States has been so much more stable and quiet than that of the North.

This shows us that the issue was much more than “hate” or “prejudice.” Slavery was a key part in political and economic theory. It was the perceived solution to the problem of the unemployed and those who could not otherwise support themselves. It also helped to support workers’ rights in that it removed the most burdensome labor from free workers and placed it on slaves. The slaves were a sort of property, to be sure, but they also received a sort of full patronage (harsh and brutal as it was) from their masters. Calhoun believed this was an inescapable feature of economics and that slavery was preferable to laissez-faire capitalism.

Jefferson Davis, the Future President

Jefferson Davis, writing 21 years later and on the eve of the Civil War, made this same point about slavery’s relationship to capitalism:

The same dangerously powerful man describes the institution of slavery as degrading to labor, as intolerant and inhuman, and says the white laborer among us is not enslaved only because he cannot yet be reduced to bondage. Where he learned his lesson, I am at a loss to imagine; certainly not by observation, for you all know that by interest, if not by higher motive, slave labor bears to capital as kind a relation as can exist between them anywhere; that it removes from us all that controversy between the laborer and the capitalist, which has filled Europe with starving millions and made their poorhouses an onerous charge. You too know, that among us, white men have an equality resulting form a presence of a lower caste, which cannot exist where white men fill the position here occupied by the servile race. The mechanic who comes among us, employing the less intellectual labor of the African, takes the position which only a master-workman occupies where all the mechanics are white, and therefore it is that our mechanics hold their position of absolute equality among us.

Davis argues that slavery actually creates equality, and it does so by a sort of caste system. Now even the poor whites are ennobled, since they are preserved from servitude.

This shows us that there is a combination of ideas at work in modern American slavery. It was racial, but it was also exploiting race in order to address other systemic problems. Slavery could solve workers” rights, and it could bring unity and equality to all white people. Indeed, an argument could be made that the modern concept of a unified “White” identity was an invention of this period of history. Instead of a hierarchy of whites, there can be an equality of “whiteness” over and against “the servile race.” It’s hard to imagine a late-antique Greek or Roman identifying as “one race” with a Gaul or a Goth, and European history is full of a sort of racism internal to “white” people. America was supposed to overcome such divisions, and the Southern solution was to reduce the matter to black and white.

There was also a sort of old-world aristocratic view of manual labor. Certain occupations were deemed either inappropriate or impossible for gentlemen to engage in, and so slavery would help to supplement this remainder. But this was only partly “old-world.” It was also directly related to the modern issue of labor cost and wages. Large-scale agriculture came with major expenses, as it still does today. Slavery was not, contrary to some popular assumptions, on an inevitable decline in the 19th century. It was being offered up as a great solution to persistent economic dilemmas and competing market forces. This fact will resurface in several of the secession documents.

Alexander Stephens and the Cornerstone of the Confederacy

The last piece of evidence I want to highlight in order to show that slavery in the 19th century was not merely a relic of a common past but a dynamic component of contemporary political theory is Alexander Stephen’s infamous Cornerstone Speech. Stephens was the Vice President of the Confederacy, and this speech was his attempt to explain the causes for Southern secession and also the key features of their new constitution and political theory. He mentions states rights and the role of the tariff, but he is clear that the “cornerstone” of the confederate political philosophy is negro slavery and white supremacy. In addition to this, he also admits that this is an advancement from a past instability, showing that the Confederacy understood itself to be a step forward in historical progress and not simply a preservation of an earlier unified tradition.

Stephens says this:

All the essentials of the old constitution, which have endeared it to the hearts of the American people, have been preserved and perpetuated. Some changes have been made. Some of these I should have preferred not to have seen made; but other important changes do meet my cordial approbation. They form great improvements upon the old constitution. So, taking the whole new constitution, I have no hesitancy in giving it as my judgment that it is decidedly better than the old.

He then goes on to explain what is “new” about the confederate constitution. He begins with the equality of industry, noting how the tariff was used in the past to favor some occupations and economic interests over others. This has been abolished by the new constitution. Stephens next notes that “internal improvements” (the building of roads, the development of land, railways, etc.) would no longer be under the jurisdiction of a central or federal government but rather the individual states. He then moves to the added role of cabinet members in congress and the longer presidential term. But finally he gets to the most important principle and indeed the very cornerstone of the new government: slavery and negro subordination.

Stephens, sounding very much like a believer in manifest-destiny and even the unstoppable march of progress says that the American founders were largely mistaken on slavery and that subsequent historical developments have led to the Southern position:

The new constitution has put at rest, forever, all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institution African slavery as it exists amongst us the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution. Jefferson in his forecast, had anticipated this, as the “rock upon which the old Union would split.” He was right. What was conjecture with him, is now a realized fact. But whether he fully comprehended the great truth upon which that rock stood and stands, may be doubted. The prevailing ideas entertained by him and most of the leading statesmen at the time of the formation of the old constitution, were that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally, and politically. It was an evil they knew not well how to deal with, but the general opinion of the men of that day was that, somehow or other in the order of Providence, the institution would be evanescent and pass away. This idea, though not incorporated in the constitution, was the prevailing idea at that time. The constitution, it is true, secured every essential guarantee to the institution while it should last, and hence no argument can be justly urged against the constitutional guarantees thus secured, because of the common sentiment of the day. Those ideas, however, were fundamentally wrong. They rested upon the assumption of the equality of races. This was an error. It was a sandy foundation, and the government built upon it fell when the “storm came and the wind blew.”

Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner- stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.

Now that really is an incredible argument, and it is not very “traditional.” Stephens says that founders were wrong to say that slavery was a necessary evil, and he says that their confusion came from the fact that they believed in the equality of the races. This was “fundamentally” wrong in Stephens’s understanding, and therefore the new Southern political theory would be entirely built upon the the notions of racial inequality and that slavery was “natural and normal.”

Stephens unpacks this argument in some detail. He says that the anti-slavery “fanatics” actually form right conclusions from their premises but that their premises are “fancied or erroneous.” The “principle” which comes to the front of this debate is that of racial inequality:

They assume that the negro is equal, and hence conclude that he is entitled to equal privileges and rights with the white man. If their premises were correct, their conclusions would be logical and just but their premise being wrong, their whole argument fails. I recollect once of having heard a gentleman from one of the northern States, of great power and ability, announce in the House of Representatives, with imposing effect, that we of the South would be compelled, ultimately, to yield upon this subject of slavery, that it was as impossible to war successfully against a principle in politics, as it was in physics or mechanics. That the principle would ultimately prevail. That we, in maintaining slavery as it exists with us, were warring against a principle, a principle founded in nature, the principle of the equality of men. The reply I made to him was, that upon his own grounds, we should, ultimately, succeed, and that he and his associates, in this crusade against our institutions, would ultimately fail. The truth announced, that it was as impossible to war successfully against a principle in politics as it was in physics and mechanics, I admitted; but told him that it was he, and those acting with him, who were warring against a principle. They were attempting to make things equal which the Creator had made unequal.

Stephens is here saying that racial hierarchy is a natural law instituted by God Himself. The Confederacy, then, becomes “the first government ever instituted upon the principles in strict conformity to nature, and the ordination of Providence, in furnishing the materials of human society.” Its newness is in its perception that the problem with previous class-systems was that they admitted inequality within the same race. What the Confederacy had discovered was that the equality which classical liberalism was looking for was indeed attainable, but only within a system of racial hierarchy. Stephens explains:

Many governments have been founded upon the principle of the subordination and serfdom of certain classes of the same race; such were and are in violation of the laws of nature. Our system commits no such violation of nature’s laws. With us, all of the white race, however high or low, rich or poor, are equal in the eye of the law. Not so with the negro. Subordination is his place. He, by nature, or by the curse against Canaan, is fitted for that condition which he occupies in our system. The architect, in the construction of buildings, lays the foundation with the proper material-the granite; then comes the brick or the marble. The substratum of our society is made of the material fitted by nature for it, and by experience we know that it is best, not only for the superior, but for the inferior race, that it should be so. It is, indeed, in conformity with the ordinance of the Creator. It is not for us to inquire into the wisdom of His ordinances, or to question them. For His own purposes, He has made one race to differ from another, as He has made “one star to differ from another star in glory.” The great objects of humanity are best attained when there is conformity to His laws and decrees, in the formation of governments as well as in all things else. Our confederacy is founded upon principles in strict conformity with these laws. This stone which was rejected by the first builders “is become the chief of the corner” the real “corner-stone” in our new edifice. I have been asked, what of the future? It has been apprehended by some that we would have arrayed against us the civilized world. I care not who or how many they may be against us, when we stand upon the eternal principles of truth, if we are true to ourselves and the principles for which we contend, we are obliged to, and must triumph.

This is civic religion of the grossest variety, and Stephens is clearly making racial hierarchy and negro slavery a matter of divine law. He goes on to show that this was not something which should be limited to the American South, but, being a fact of nature and a divine precept, would eventually spread throughout all the world:

Thousands of people who begin to understand these truths are not yet completely out of the shell; they do not see them in their length and breadth. We hear much of the civilization and Christianization of the barbarous tribes of Africa. In my judgment, those ends will never be attained, but by first teaching them the lesson taught to Adam, that “in the sweat of his brow he should eat his bread,” and teaching them to work, and feed, and clothe themselves.

Understood in the context of its own thinkers and statesmen, the Confederacy then was progressive rather than traditional. It was based on economic and racial views which constituted a unique political philosophy. This was a correction to and perfection of the original American founding, and it was thought to be a bold step forward along the historical march of progress. The central principle of it all was racial inequality, and negro slavery was its cornerstone.

Secession Documents and Justifications

In addition to the matter of political theory and grand philosophical ideals, the Southern states also made practical arguments. These are what they would appeal to in order to justify secession. Constitutional and procedural grievances do appear in these statements, but the central topic is consistently slavery.

South Carolina was the first state to secede, and its declaration of secession is long and complex. It certainly does push “states rights” to the forefront, arguing, after the legacy of Calhoun, that the other states of the Union had violated the Constitution and thus broken the political pact, thus leaving the Southern states justified to secede. The specifics of this constitutional breach, however, all had to do with slavery. The declaration begins by arguing that the United States Constitution “established the two great principles asserted by the Colonies, namely: the right of a State to govern itself; and the right of a people to abolish a Government when it becomes destructive of the ends for which it was instituted.” This then leads to the contemporary matter, that the US government has itself become “destructive of the ends for which it was instituted” and thus dissolved the binding nature of the compact:

We hold that the Government thus established is subject to the two great principles asserted in the Declaration of Independence; and we hold further, that the mode of its formation subjects it to a third fundamental principle, namely: the law of compact. We maintain that in every compact between two or more parties, the obligation is mutual; that the failure of one of the contracting parties to perform a material part of the agreement, entirely releases the obligation of the other; and that where no arbiter is provided, each party is remitted to his own judgment to determine the fact of failure, with all its consequences.

In the present case, that fact is established with certainty. We assert that fourteen of the States have deliberately refused, for years past, to fulfill their constitutional obligations, and we refer to their own Statutes for the proof.

What have these fourteen states done? They have violated the 4th article of the Constitution by aiding and abetting runaway slaves. They have attacked the property of the Southern states by allowing the slaves to be taken away from their owners (thus a form of theft), and they have overthrown the political logic of the three-fifths compromise, thus violating article 2.1.3 of the Constitution. The final stated offense is that some states have even granted citizenship to slaves, “persons who, by the supreme law of the land, are incapable of becoming citizens.” This last issue has thus overturned the balance of political power and created an existential crisis for the South.

Mississippi’s was the second state to secede, and its declaration of secession places slavery and its economic significance at the very beginning:

Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery – the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product, which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. That blow has been long aimed at the institution, and was at the point of reaching its consummation. There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union, whose principles had been subverted to work out our ruin.

Here we see a combination of global market interests and a supposed natural law which made blacks the only appropriate agricultural workers. Southern slavery is said to be essential for world “commerce and civilization.”

Georgia’s declaration of secession also centers around slavery, and it makes a direct connection to westward expansion:

We had acquired a large territory by successful war with Mexico; Congress had to govern it; how, in relation to slavery, was the question then demanding solution. This state of facts gave form and shape to the anti-slavery sentiment throughout the North and the conflict began. Northern anti-slavery men of all parties asserted the right to exclude slavery from the territory by Congressional legislation and demanded the prompt and efficient exercise of this power to that end. This insulting and unconstitutional demand was met with great moderation and firmness by the South. We had shed our blood and paid our money for its acquisition; we demanded a division of it on the line of the Missouri restriction or an equal participation in the whole of it. These propositions were refused, the agitation became general, and the public danger was great. The case of the South was impregnable. The price of the acquisition was the blood and treasure of both sections – of all, and, therefore, it belonged to all upon the principles of equity and justice.

Notice that the Georgians are not opposed to conquest and the annexation of new territory. To the contrary, they claimed responsibility and joint ownership over this new territory. Thus there was no anti-imperial South. The Georgia declaration concludes with the observation that the South is essentially being robbed of three billion dollars worth of property.

The Texas declaration of secession repeats many of the themes already stated, and it highlights racial inequality as a natural law:

In all the non-slave-holding States, in violation of that good faith and comity which should exist between entirely distinct nations, the people have formed themselves into a great sectional party, now strong enough in numbers to control the affairs of each of those States, based upon an unnatural feeling of hostility to these Southern States and their beneficent and patriarchal system of African slavery, proclaiming the debasing doctrine of equality of all men, irrespective of race or color – a doctrine at war with nature, in opposition to the experience of mankind, and in violation of the plainest revelations of Divine Law. They demand the abolition of negro slavery throughout the confederacy, the recognition of political equality between the white and negro races, and avow their determination to press on their crusade against us, so long as a negro slave remains in these States.

The declaration concludes by stating its belief in white supremacy and that the current status of negro slavery was a part of the “revealed will of the Almighty Creator”:

We hold as undeniable truths that the governments of the various States, and of the confederacy itself, were established exclusively by the white race, for themselves and their posterity; that the African race had no agency in their establishment; that they were rightfully held and regarded as an inferior and dependent race, and in that condition only could their existence in this country be rendered beneficial or tolerable.

That in this free government all white men are and of right ought to be entitled to equal civil and political rights; that the servitude of the African race, as existing in these States, is mutually beneficial to both bond and free, and is abundantly authorized and justified by the experience of mankind, and the revealed will of the Almighty Creator, as recognized by all Christian nations; while the destruction of the existing relations between the two races, as advocated by our sectional enemies, would bring inevitable calamities upon both and desolation upon the fifteen slave-holding states.

The Commissioner from the state of Louisiana wrote to the Texas secession convention at around this same time, and he revealed Louisiana’s commitment to negro slavery as an essential feature of their economy and political existence:

Louisiana looks to the formation of a Southern confederacy to preserve the blessings of African slavery, and of the free institutions of the founders of the Federal Union, be­queathed to their posterity. As her neighbor and sister State, she desires the hearty co-operation of Texas in the formation of a Southern Confederacy. She congratulates herself on the recent disposi­tion evinced by your honorable body to meet this wish, by the elec­tion of delegates to the Montgomery convention. Louisiana and Texas have the same language, laws and institutions. They grow the same great staples—sugar and cotton. Between the citizens of each exists the most cordial social and commercial intercourse. The Red river and the Sabine form common highways for the transpor­tation of their produce to the markets of the world. Texas affords to the commerce of Louisiana a large portion of her products, and in exchange the banks of New Orleans furnish Texas with her only paper circulating medium. Louisiana supplies to Texas a market for her surplus wheat, grain and stock; both States have large areas of fer­tile, uncultivated lands, peculiarly adapted to slave labor; and they are both so deeply interested in African slavery that it may be said to be absolutely necessary to their existence, and is the keystone to the arch of their prosperity.

The Commissioner virtually identifies slavery and the Confederacy, speaking about slavery as the primary goal of the new political entity. It also argues the seceding states must not remain independent, but rather band together for one another’s continued existence:

The people of Louisiana would consider it a most fatal blow to African slavery, if Texas either did not secede or having seceded should not join her destinies to theirs in a Southern Confederacy…The people of the slave holding States are bound together by the same necessity and deter­mination to preserve African slavery. The isolation of any one of them from the others would make her the theatre for abolition emisa­ries from the North and from Europe. Her existence would be one of constant peril to herself and of imminent danger to other neighboring slave-holding communities…She is unwill­ing that her action should depend on the border States. Her inter­ests are identical with Texas and the seceding States. With them she will at present co-operate, hoping and believing in his own good time God will awaken the people of the border States to the vanity of ask­ing for; or depending upon, guarantees or compromises wrung from a people whose consciences are too sublimated to be bound by that sacred compact, the constitution the of the late United States. That constitution the Southern States have never violated, and taking it as the basis of our new government we hope to form a slave-holding confederacy that will secure to us and our remotest posterity the great blessings its authors designed in the Federal Union. With the social balance wheel of slavery to regulate its machinery, we may fondly indulge the hope that our Southern government will be perpetual.

Slavery is clearly the primary interest, and so the slave-holding states should not make themselves dependent on states which do not share that interest. Slavery is said to be a “social balance wheel,” and thus the hope was for a new “perpetual” government.

Concluding Thoughts 

Civil War history is thick, and there is much more we could say about all of this. I have not presented anything which professional historians have not rehearsed many times before and in better detail. But what I do hope is clear is that the Confederacy really was distinguished by its commitment to slavery. The concept of states rights was certainly relevant to the conversation, but this was never merely an abstract interest in anti-federalism but rather a commitment to preserve the right for states to possess slaves. Therefore when terms like “Southern rights,” “minority rights,” “liberty,” and “tyranny” are used, they are always in direct connection to the debate over slavery. And when leaders of the Confederacy had the opportunity to explain what was new and special about their government, they went right to the question of slavery.

Southern slavery was not a continuation of ancient slavery. Western Europe had done away with that system, and the new system of slavery only came about with the new exploration of the Americas. The institution of slavery in the South was “peculiar,” as they called it, and it was totally bound up in early modern political developments, the emerging agrarian markets, and a new sort of racial theory which the Southerners saw as a new chapter in  history. All of this, taken as a whole, is what makes up the identity of the Confederacy. There was certainly a commitment to chivalrous protocol, Christian orthodoxy, and early American heritage among the peoples and communities of the South. However, none of those things managed to feature in the leading identity markers of the Confederate States of America. They were not unique to the mid-19th century South and were therefore not distinguishing characteristics. The distinguishing marks were racial inequality and an agrarian economy built on slavery.

Having laid all of this out then, the question that usually arises is whether we must then reject the South and Southern heritage as a whole and declaim it as villainous. The answer to this questions depends upon two other questions. “Do you believe that the distinguishing marks of white supremacy and slavery are immoral and worthy of rejection?” and “Are you willing to make efforts to clearly distinguish between the inheritance of Southern culture and the legacy of the Confederacy?”

My own answer to both of those questions is yes.

by Steven Wedgeworth at June 24, 2015 04:54 PM

The Urbanophile

Hooray For the High Bridge


My latest article is online in City Journal and is a look at the restoration and reopening of the High Bridge in New York City. Part of the original Croton Aqueduct system that first brought plentiful clean water to New York, portions of the High Bridge are the oldest standing bridge in the city. Here’s an excerpt:

It’s worth asking whether, with its $61 million price tag, the High Bridge project was really needed. Strictly speaking, the answer is: No. The structure was in no danger of falling down. And, just a half mile to the north, the Washington Bridge provides a functional, if unpleasant, pedestrian crossing over the Harlem River. Yet, the High Bridge is an important part of New York history and deserves its loving restoration. Spending serious money on outlying neighborhoods that are mostly minority and heavily poor to give their residents a humane environment instead of a minimalistic one shows that New York does care about all its citizens. Great cities don’t just do great things in a sanitized downtown Green Zone for visitors. They create greatness in their workaday neighborhoods, too, with projects that speak not merely to the pragmatic, but to the human spirit. The High Bridge restoration again shows what great commercial success allows a city to do for its citizens.

Click through to read the whole thing.

Here are some additional pictures I took. First, the High Bridge peeking through the trees from the Manhattan heights. You can see both the original stone arch spans and the longer steel arch span.

Looking south:

Embedded seal in the bridge pavement with historical info. There are quite a few of these discussing various aspects of the project.

The neighbors are fans:

by Aaron M. Renn at June 24, 2015 04:01 PM

Zondervan Academic Blog

Zondervan Mourns the Death of Verlyn D. Verbrugge, Editor, Writer, Pastor, and New Testament Scholar

Verlyn D. Verbrugge, longtime Zondervan editor, teaching pastor, author, and New Testament scholar, died on June 21, 2015 following a six-month battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 72 years old.

His death serves as a deep loss to family, friends, and publishing colleagues; the academic community, especially those working in the areas of New Testament studies and Biblical Greek; and the Christian church at large, including the numerous pastors and leaders around the world whose lives and Bible knowledge he shaped.

Since June 1986, Verlyn (or V2 as colleagues fondly called him) has served as one of Zondervan’s principal production editors for Bibles and academic resources in biblical and theological studies. His versatility, however, extended far beyond the academic publishing arena. Verlyn effortlessly traversed between scholarly and popular landscapes, serving as a trusted editor for both church/ministry resources and popular trade books. During his tenure, he edited over 700 books and resources, working with a diverse group of authors that included popular books by Henry Cloud, Bill Hybels, Charles Swindoll, Carolyn Custis James, as well as academic works by scholars such as F. F. Bruce, Thomas Schreiner, Karen Jobes, Moisés Silva, and Kevin Vanhoozer, among others. Many of the books under his care went on to become bestsellers and award winners.

Basics of Biblical Greek GrammarVerlyn is perhaps best known for his work in the area of biblical languages, playing a central role in establishing the most widely used line of resources throughout the world for learning Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. As an editor for Zondervan, he acquired many biblical language resources for publication; beyond textbooks, his acquisitions included innovative learning tools, reference books, and video/audio resources. His hand shaped perennial bestsellers such as Basics of Biblical Greek by William D. Mounce and Basics of Biblical Hebrew by Gary D. Pratico and Miles V. Van Pelt. Through his editorial work, strategic vision, and teaching, hundreds of thousands of pastors and teachers learned to read the Scriptures in the original languages.

Devotions on the Greek New TestamentTrained as a New Testament scholar, Verlyn published a number of scholarly articles, frequently served as a general editor for collections of essays, and himself wrote several noteworthy books. His popular New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology: Abridged Edition (2000) is the standard reference work for pastors and students. His book Devotions on the Greek New Testament (2012), which he coedited with J. Scott Duvall, exemplifies his passion to bridge the gap between the academy and the spiritual needs of thinking Christians.

He completed revisions on his most recent book, Paul & Money: A Biblical and Theological Analysis of the Apostle’s Teachings and Practices, co-authored with his former PhD student Keith Krell, two days before receiving Paul and Moneythe diagnosis of his illness. In an email to his editor, he wrote: “I am excited about what might be called a legacy book—the fruit of 30 years of reflection on Paul’s ministry.” Released yesterday, just two days after his death, Paul & Money stands to become the definitive resource for understanding how the apostle interacted with the Jewish and Greco-Roman world of finance. One of Verlyn’s last visits to the Zondervan offices was to pick up his advance copies and sign them for excited colleagues and friends. In a recent video, Verlyn and coauthor Keith Krell share some benefits of learning Paul’s perspective on money. “A person who really wants to understand the inner dynamics of the apostle Paul,” says Verlyn, “has to know how money intersected in his life.”

Paul and Money Video

Verlyn earned his PhD from the University of Notre Dame, writing his dissertation on Paul’s leadership in Corinth under the supervision of Adela Yarbro Collins. For many years, he has served on the steering committee of Pauline Studies Section of the Evangelical Theological Society, where he regularly presented his own research for critical engagement by his peers. Even as a busy editor, Verlyn continued to teach New Testament at several colleges and seminaries, both in the United States and in Trinidad, and generously gave his time to teach lunch-hour Greek and Hebrew courses to both Zondervan employees and others in the community who would attend. In addition to his integral work in the publishing industry for nearly 30 years, he served as a senior pastor for over 40 years at three different churches.

But Verlyn’s co-workers remember him as much for who he was as for what he did. They describe him as compassionate and caring, gentle, brilliant, humble, always the pastor, faithful in every way, versatile, tireless, unflappable—in short, a wise sage. Stan Gundry, Zondervan Senior Vice President, speaking for all of his colleagues, comments, “Verlyn, thank you for who you were and all that you shared with us. We miss you.”

by ZA Blog at June 24, 2015 03:59 PM

Bible Interpreters Need to Remember Scripture Isn’t Fragmented

(Can’t see the video? Watch it here)

9780310494805What book, person, or ideas has influenced you the most?

Jay E. Smith, coeditor of Studies in the Pauline Epistles, shares an interesting concept, one I haven’t considered before but makes sense as a teacher and exegete.

As Smith explains, “There’s this notion sometimes among people in the church that [the biblical documents] are random fragments spun out by these great religious teachers…they’re more proverbial. And my job is to read through them and find the verse for the day.”

Yet he realized each author is making an argument we need to carefully follow from beginning to end.

Perhaps this seems basic, but this notion led Smith to realize early on that Scripture isn’t fragmented, but interconnection—which made an important impact on his life as a teacher.

Watch Smith explore this concept further, and how the continuity of Scripture has great bearing on your job as a biblical interpreter.

by Jeremy Bouma at June 24, 2015 03:40 PM

Stratechery by Ben Thompson

Curation and Algorithms

Jimmy Iovine spared no words when it came to his opinion of algorithms during the unveiling of Apple Music:

The only song that matters as much as the song you’re listening to right now is the one that follows this. Picture this: you’re in a special moment…and the next song comes on…BZZZZZ Buzzkill! It probably happened because it was programmed by an algorithm alone. Algorithms alone can’t do that emotional task. You need a human touch. And that’s why at Apple Music we’re going to give you the right song [and] the right playlist at the right moment all on demand.

About Beats 1, the new Apple Music radio station, Iovine added:

[It] plays music not based on research, not based on genre, not based on drum beats, only music that is great and feels great. A station that only has one master: music itself.

According to the Apple Music website “Zane Lowe and his handpicked team of renowned DJs create an eclectic mix of the latest and best in music”; then again, if you keep scrolling the page, you’re reminded there is more to Beats 1 than curated music:

Building your own station couldn’t be easier. Just select any song, album, or artist and it will practically build itself. Adjust the mix to hear more songs you know or discover unfamiliar gems. Love a track? We’ll play more like it. The more you fine-tune the station, the more personalized it becomes.

That sounds a bit like an algorithm. So which is more important, and why?

The Rise of Curation

Curation has been all over the news for the past few weeks. At that same keynote Apple introduced Apple News, and while the presentation made it sound a bit like those user-generated radio stations — Craig Federighi introduced it as “Beautiful content from the world’s greatest sources personalized for you” — it turns out that Apple is hiring editors to, in the words of the Apple job posting, “Ensur[e] that important breaking news stories are surfaced quickly, and enterprise journalism is rewarded with high visibility.”

Apple News is hardly the only effort in the space: a month previously the New York Times released version 2 of its NYT Now app; the big headline was that the app was now free, but just as interesting was the decision to decrease the number of articles from the New York Times itself and intersperse them with a nearly equal number of articles from other publications with the intent of providing a one-stop curated news experience.1 BuzzFeed just released their own take on the concept with the BuzzFeed News app which adds tweets to a mix of BuzzFeed content and content from around the web, all helpfully summarized in easily digestible bullet points.

Twitter itself announced plans to get in on the game with its forthcoming Project Lightning, a tool that, according to BuzzFeed, “will bring event-based curated content to the Twitter platform.” The articles notes:

Launch one of these events and you’ll see a visually driven, curated collection of tweets. A team of editors, working under Katie Jacobs Stanton, who runs Twitter’s global media operations, will select what it thinks are the best and most relevant tweets and package them into a collection…They’ll use data tools to comb through events and understand emerging trends, and pluck the best content from the ocean of updates flowing across Twitter’s servers. But human beings will decide which tweets to include.

Lightning hasn’t launched, but Snapchat’s Live Stories have been drawing in huge viewer numbers for some time now; they too are driven by curation: Recode reports that “the company has grown its team of Live Story curators from fewer than 10 people to more than 40 people” since January, and is now producing multiple events per day. Even Instagram is adding curation to its new Explore page.

When Curating Makes Sense

There are two important advantages to curation:

  • First, where context is critical to immediately determining how important something is — as is the case with news — human curators are, at least for now, superior to algorithms. Humans are also able to quickly identify that these forty stories are about the same event, and have the taste to decide which is the best option to present
  • Taste figures much more prominently when it comes to Apple Music and other similar endeavors. The DJ-focused Beats 1 “radio” station, for example, is clearly intended to make certain songs popular, not simply identify popularity after it is already attained. This in particular is a natural fit for Apple, and is the part of Apple Music I am most intrigued by: the company is most comfortable setting trends, not following them (as is the case with the core streaming service)

It’s possible that algorithms will one day be superior to humans at both of these functions, but I’m skeptical: the critical recognition of context and creativity are the two arenas where computers consistently underperform humans.

The Algorithmic Giants

That said, despite curation’s advantages the two biggest content players of all — Google and Facebook — are pure algorithmic plays. Google News has always been algorithmically driven, but the more important tool for content is Google search itself, which uses the most valuable algorithm in the world to not only find content but to rank it as well. Facebook, meanwhile, is in some respects the exact opposite of Google: rather than responding to an input Facebook proactively selects what you see when you open the app; that selection, though, is also 100% algorithmically driven.

Both search results and the news feed are algorithmically drivenBoth search results and the news feed are algorithmically driven

When considering the question of what is better, algorithms or curation, I think this observation that the core Facebook and Google algorithms are actually solving two very different problems is a useful one. Google is seeking the single best answer to a direct query from an effectively infinite number of data points (i.e. the Internet); while the answer it gives is to a degree influenced by the profile Google has built about you, or the various contextual clues surrounding your search, for most queries there is one right answer that Google will return to anyone who searches for the term in question. In short, the data set is infinite (which means no human is capable of doing the job), but the target is finite.

Facebook, on the other hand, creates a unique news feed for all of its 1.44 billion users: while Facebook has a huge amount of data,2 the amount of information any one user will ever be interested in is finite; what is infinite are the number of targets (which means Facebook could never employ enough humans to do the job). In other words, neither Google nor Facebook are able to rely on curation even if they wanted to, but the reasons that Google and Facebook rely on algorithms differs:

Google searches an (effectively) infinite amount of data, while Facebook needs an (effectively) infinite amount of personalization, which is why both are algorithmically drivenGoogle searches an (effectively) infinite amount of data, while Facebook needs an (effectively) infinite amount of personalization, which is why both are algorithmically driven

However, as I just noted, these two reasons run in the opposite direction: Google does personalize a bit, but it mostly concerned with one right answer, while any single Facebook user doesn’t care and will never care about the vast majority of Facebook’s data. Presuming this relationship holds, you can actually put the above two graphs together:

Curation makes sense in the middle of Google and Facebook: some personalization, and a finite set of data to curateCuration makes sense in the middle of Google and Facebook: some personalization, and a finite set of data to curate

This curve is a useful way to think about the aforementioned curation initiatives: curation works best when there is a good amount of data, but not too much, and the goal is a fair bit of personalization, but not on an individual basis.

Curating News

The Curation-Algorithm curve makes it clear why news is an obvious curation candidate: while a lot of news happens everywhere all the time, it’s still a lot less than the sum total of information on the Internet. Moreover, the sort of news most people care about tends to be relatively widely applicable, which means personalization is useful but only to a degree. In other words, news mostly sits at the bottom of this curve.

Newspapers figured this out a long time ago: editors were curators, deciding what went on the front page, what was on page 13, and what was buried completely. It mostly worked, although many editors perhaps became too enamored with “prestige” stories like world news as opposed to truly understanding what readers wanted. Moreover, once the Internet destroyed geographic monopolies, it quickly became apparent that most newspapers didn’t have the best content on the particular stories they covered; readers fled to superior alternatives wherever they happened to find them and curation gave way to social services like Twitter and Facebook.

This is what makes the NYT Now and BuzzFeed News apps so interesting: both accept the idea that their respective publications don’t have a monopoly on the best content, even as both are predicated on the idea that curation remains valuable. Apple News takes this concept further by being completely publication agnostic.

The Twitter Question

The current Twitter product, based on a self-curated time-line, doesn’t really fit well on the Curation-Algorithm curve. Power users, through the long and arduous process of following and unfollowing a huge number of people, can ultimately arrive at a highly personalized feed that is relevant to their interests. Beginners, though, are presented with a feed that is nominally about their interests as decided by a torturous first-run experience but which in reality is a stream of mumbo-jumbo.

Twitter struggles because it doesn’t have any products on the Curation-Algorithm curveTwitter struggles in part because it doesn’t have any products on the Curation-Algorithm curve

Project Lightning is clearly focused on hitting the algorithmic sweet spot with event-based “channels”: it’s an obvious move that should have been done years ago. What is perhaps more interesting, though, is whether Twitter ought to pursue an algorithmic feed: I think the answer is “Yes”. While Twitter’s value is its interest graph, its organizing principle to date has been people; an algorithmic feed would help Twitter more effectively bridge that disconnect.3

Curating Ethics

There is one more big reason why tech companies have previously given curation short shrift, and it’s the flipside of Apple’s efforts with Music: it is a lot easier to abscond with responsibility for what you display if you can blame it on an algorithm. Human curation, on the other hand, makes it explicitly clear who is responsible for what is seen by the curating company’s users.

The potential quandaries are easy to imagine: will Apple’s News app highlight a story about worker conditions in China?4 Will Snapchat’s planned coverage of the 2016 election favor one candidate over the other? Would Twitter have created an “event” around the exit of its CEO?

On the other hand, hiding behind algorithms is increasingly untenable as well. For one, algorithms are made by humans; choosing which story appears in your Facebook feed is the responsibility of Facebook whether they choose it explicitly or implicitly via an algorithm. Google, for its part, has successfully argued that its algorithm is protected free speech, an admission of ultimate responsibility even more profound than the company’s regular algorithmic updates explicitly designed to adjust rankings.

Google in particular has a special responsibility. I wrote in Economic Power in the Age of Abundance:

The Internet is a world of abundance, and there is a new power that matters: the ability to make sense of that abundance, to index it, to find needles in the proverbial haystack. And that power is held by Google. Thus, while the audiences advertisers crave are now hopelessly fractured amongst an effectively infinite number of publishers, the readers they seek to reach by necessity start at the same place – Google – and thus, that is where the advertising money has gone.

Google’s position as the Internet chokepoint has been exceptionally profitable, but with great power comes great responsibility: in a welcome development Google is slowly accepting said responsibility and delisting revenge porn upon request. It’s the right move for both moral and practical reasons — moral because Google is uniquely positioned to prevent people’s lives from being ruined, and practical because if Google didn’t take action eventually the government would compel them. Indeed, that has already happened in Europe with the “right to be forgotten”, and while there is certainly a debate to be had as to whether or not that is good policy, the idea that Google is a hapless bystander is no longer viable.

Ultimately, I see the embrace of curation as a mark of maturation of the technology industry. Today’s technology companies have massive amounts of influence over what people the world over see and consume, and while there is a long ways to go when it comes to transparency about what is seen and why, at least everyone is now being honest about possessing that power in the first place.

Moreover, I’m excited about the real user benefit that can come from balancing algorithms and curation: while Facebook and Google rightly focus on algorithms only, most content is best delivered by a mixture; getting that mixture right will likely prove to be both massively popular and massively valuable.

Discuss this Article on the Stratechery Forum (members-only)

  1. The previous NYT Now app included articles from other publications as well, but in a different tab
  2. The vast majority of which is inaccessible to Google, to the latter’s consternation
  3. One more thing: don’t sleep on Twitter search. It remains the single best way to quickly catch up on anything that happened in the last few hours
  4. For the record, I do believe Apple’s record is better than most

The post Curation and Algorithms appeared first on Stratechery by Ben Thompson.

by Ben Thompson at June 24, 2015 02:06 PM

Kbase Article of the Week: AppleWorks 6.2.9 for Mac →

Version 6.2.9 would end up being the final build of AppleWorks, the company's long-running suite of office applications. Here's what was included in the update:

This update to AppleWorks 6.0 and later supports mice with scroll wheels and improves the performance and reliability of AppleWorks’ presentation and spreadsheet environments. AppleWorks 6.2.9 also offers improved printing and resolves issues using web based templates and clip-art on networks using proxy servers.

Like countless long-time Mac users, I have fond memories of writing in AppleWorks, and to this day, wish I could still run it from time to time.


by Stephen Hackett at June 24, 2015 02:00 PM

Crossway Blog

Why All Christians Should Care about Biblical Theology

This is a guest post by Miles Van Pelt, coeditor (with Dane Ortlund) of the Short Studies in Biblical Theology series.

Crucial for the Health of the Church

Biblical theology is crucial for the health of the church because the church is “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets” (Eph. 2:20). Additionally, this Word upon which the church is built is both living and life-giving (Ps. 119:25, 50; 2 Tim. 3:16; Heb. 4:12).

It is the record, the deposit, the testimony of God’s good news in Jesus Christ. It is a legal, objective, public document that describes and explains the covenantal relationship by which God has condescended and united himself to his people through Jesus Christ, our eternal high priest.

What Does Biblical Theology Do?

Simply put, the discipline of biblical theology works to make sense of God’s Word for God’s people. It does this by asking two basic questions:

  1. What is the Bible about?
  2. How does the Bible work?

To answer these questions, we study the biblical text and, by way of submission to that text, allow it to establish its own theological categories and promote its own theological message.

Biblical theology also bridges the gap between exegesis (our study of texts) and systematic theology (our formulation of doctrine from the text). It provides context for exegesis, teeth for systematic theology, and depth for practical theology and Christian living.

While the answers to the two questions above are debated, Luke offers some help in Acts 28. At the end of this chapter, Luke summarizes Paul’s two-year curriculum in the following manner:

From morning till evening he expounded to them, testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus both from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets. (Acts 28:23; see also 28:30-31)

If we pay attention, we will come to understand that Luke, through Paul, has provided us with the answers to these two fundamental questions.

What Is the Bible About?

First, what is the Bible about? It is about Jesus and the kingdom of God. Jesus functions as the theological center of biblical theology. He is the sum and substance of the biblical message. He is the goal, the point, and the significance of every text. He is God’s gospel and, as the theological center, provides unity and meaning for all of the diversity found in the biblical record, from levitical underwear in Exodus 39 to the new heavens and earth in Revelation 21-22.

The kingdom of God functions as the thematic framework for biblical theology. This is the theme within which all others themes exist and are united. It is the realm of the prophet, priest, and king; the place of wisdom and the scribe; the world of the apostles, and now elders and deacons in the church. Every biblical theme is a kingdom of God theme. If Jesus is the theological bull’s eye on the biblical target, then the kingdom of God travels on the path of redemptive history to arrive at that target. If Jesus as the theological center gives meaning to the biblical message, then the kingdom of God as the thematic framework provides the context for that message.

How Does the Bible Work?

Now that we understand that the Bible is about Jesus and his kingdom, how then does the Bible work? It works in the categories of the Law and the Prophets or, in its full form, the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms (or Writings; see Luke 24:44).

Here, Luke is referring to the arrangement of the Old Testament in its original, three-fold division. These divisions are covenantal in nature, and they ultimately apply to both the Old and New Testaments as the covenantal structure of the Christian Bible.

In the Law, we have the covenant itself, filled with the life and teachings of the covenant mediators—Moses in the Old Testament and Jesus in the New Testament. In the Prophets, we have the history of the covenant and the prophetic interpretation of that history (covenant history). Finally, in the writings, we have those practical books that teach us how to think and live in light of the covenant (covenant life).

Much more work needs to be done trying to understand how the Bible works. This important question is often neglected in church life, and it has yet to receive adequate attention from biblical theologians. This chart helps to capture the unity and design of the Christian Bible from a covenantal, biblical theological perspective.

Thinking and Living Biblically

With the discipline of biblical theology, we come to understand that the Bible has a theological center, a thematic framework, and a covenantal structure.

When asked about the Bible’s content, we can answer with confidence: Jesus and the kingdom of God.

When asked about the nature of the Bible, or how it works, our answer is simple: covenant.

This three-fold perspective for biblical theology provides unity and comprehends diversity. It sets us on the road to good, robust biblical thinking and living.

That’s why biblical theology is crucial for the health of the church.

Miles Van Pelt (PhD, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is the Alan Belcher Professor of Old Testament and Biblical Languages and serves as academic dean at Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, Mississippi. He also serves on the pastoral staff of Grace Reformed Church in Madison, Mississippi. He and his wife, Laurie, have four children. He is the coeditor (with Dane Ortlund) of the Short Studies in Biblical Theology series.

by Matt Tully at June 24, 2015 01:09 PM

The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

What Charleston Should Remind Us About Forgiveness and Justice

This weekend I was in Charleston for the first service at Emanuel AME Church after the brutal white supremacist terrorist attack of this past week. Walking around downtown, I was struck by the unity of the city. People stood before the church, singing. The town’s churches displayed signs of solidarity and rang their bells together in unison. And the one thing I heard talked about more than anything else was forgiveness, specifically the way the families of the victims said they forgave the terrorist even after the murder of their loved ones. Some saw this as commendable; others were taken aback.

On the one hand, this sort of forgiveness is the reaction most people would hope they would have to evil. At the same time, most of the people who talked about this with me said they couldn’t imagine that they could forgive such a thing. Some even wondered if the note of forgiveness was morally right. After all, they reasoned, this is a murderer who should be brought to justice.

This sort of tension shouldn’t surprise us because it gets right to the root of why the gospel is good news. Too often, we assume that forgiveness means something far different from what forgiveness means in the Bible.

Forgiveness is not the clearing up of a misunderstanding. No forgiveness is needed if all we have is a failure to communicate. Forgiveness isn’t saying that what was done is all right. Forgiveness doesn’t mean that there are no consequences for the wrongdoing. Forgiveness, in the Christian sense, is not at odds with justice.

This is because we learn what it is to forgive from the forgiveness we have received. This forgiveness is not cosmic amnesty. The mercy of God and the justice of God are found in the cross of Christ. When God forgives us it is not his saying that justice is left undone. God is instead counting us as in Christ, who took upon himself the due penalty for sin in our place (Rom. 3:21–26). It is not that we are given a free pass on hell. It’s that, in Christ, we have already been to hell—and, in Christ, we are raised from the dead and seated at the right hand of God.

At our Lord’s arrest (Matt. 26:47–54), Jesus told Simon Peter to put his sword back in his sheath, but not because Jesus didn’t believe in punishing evildoers (think of the closing chapters of Revelation). Jesus told Peter that he could have an armada of angelic warriors at his side (and one day he will). Jesus’s point was that such justice was not Peter’s to mete out. And that’s the point.

The victims’ families are not saying that the terrorist should escape without penalty. For the state to allow him to do so would itself be an immoral act (Prov. 17:15). The state dispenses justice, not gospel mercy, because the state was not crucified for sinners. The state’s responsibility is to maintain justice by punishing evildoers (Rom. 13:4).

When we forgive, whether in the wake of an enormity such as this one or in the more mundane ways we have been hurt, we are not saying vengeance is not due. We are saying that vengeance is God’s, not ours (Rom. 12:19). We don’t need to exact justice from one who has sinned against us, because we know that God will judge every sin either at the Judgment Seat or, more hopefully, at the cross as the offender unites himself to the One who is “the propitiation for our sins and not for our sins only but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2).

That sort of forgiveness frees us to work together for justice, including justice against murderers and terrorists, because these matters remain matters of public justice, not of personal payback. More importantly, though, such forgiveness frees us from being enslaved by the one who has hurt us. We don’t have to store up bitterness, keep a record of wrongs, or try to dream up means of retaliation.

When we forgive we do not overlook or excuse sin. We are not saying that now everything is “okay.” Instead we are confessing that judgment is coming, and we can trust the One who judged justly more than we can trust ourselves.

Editor's Note: This article originally appeared on Moore’s blog

by Russell Moore at June 24, 2015 12:00 PM

Zondervan Academic Blog

The Latest Must-Have Guide to the Current State of Pauline Studies

9780310494805(Can’t see the video? Watch it here)

What are the latest thoughts on Paul’s use of scripture and the Jesus tradition? What new considerations are being given to exegeting Paul? What’s the latest “perspective” on Paul—is the “new” old and “old” new again?

These questions that sit at the heart of the latest must-have resource in Pauline studies, Studies in the Pauline Epistles.

In honor of the illustrious career of Doug Moo, this Festshrift assembles the most relevant voices in Pauline scholarship to guide readers into the current state of Pauline studies, including: G. K. Beale, D. A. Carson, James D. G. Dunn, Stephen Westerholm, and N. T. Wright.

As co-editor Jay Smith explains, “Studies in the Pauline Epistles offers readers a very current window into the state of Pauline studies. A number of essays in this volume relate to the current landscape as it is.”

Watch Smith explain how this book will give you insights into the current landscape of Pauline studies.

by Jeremy Bouma at June 24, 2015 11:36 AM


A personal note

Two weeks ago I heard that a person close to me is seriously ill. I spent too much time in the hospital lately, but fortunately the situation has improved all the way to serious but not hopeless. Let’s hope it improves again from there — not impossible at all, but not a certainty, either.

As a consequence my schedule is all shot to hell and I’m very tired, to the point that I left our own CSS Day during the lunch break because I was making too many mistakes, didn’t hear what people told me, and even fell asleep during one of the talks. If you were at CSS Day and hoped to talk to me, now you know why you couldn’t. I hope this is the last time I have to leave early.

I planned to continue working on my argument that the Web is suffering from featuritis. I want to write one more article and then close off with a summary, but this is the first day in two weeks I can work on it, and I don’t think I will. So it’ll have to wait.

Also I find that my concentration is just gone. One of my sponsors asked me to do some research on using the vw unit for font sizes, but I find this is not the right time to examine Safari’s curious bugs or the way Android WebKit messes up other units such as em. The test pages are just a confused jumble to me. (I am fairly certain that using vw for font sizes has no place in responsive design, though.)

This is a roundabout way of saying that I may be entirely absent from time to time, and that my productivity will take a while to recover. If I don’t reply to your mail or tweet, you now know the reason why.

By the way, right now I'm doing pretty fine. I even feel good enough to write this blog post, and I may do a little more work later today. I'm just not sure if I'm going to finish that work; that's all.

A note that may be of interest to mobile context researchers: I find that I cannot talk about my situation via mail or SMS; I want to talk to people on the phone. Fortunately a lot of friends reach out to me, and I’m glad I can talk to them, but I want to do it with actual voice technology, and not with any form of written text. This may be entirely personal, but I still think it’s noteworthy, since it may help to explain why voice will always retain a place in the palette of mobile contexts we’re carrying in our pockets.

by ppk ( at June 24, 2015 11:35 AM

Front Porch Republic

Virgil and the Pope on Empty Fields

Field with Oilwell

“For right and wrong change places; everywhere
So many wars, so many shapes of crime
Confront us; no honor attends the plow,
The fields, bereft of tillers, are all unkempt…” Virgil, The Georgics

So many wars; so many different shapes of evil. Right and wrong themselves have changed places. What was once seen as unacceptable, even perverse, has become acceptable, even praised, while what was sacred has been trampled, and what should be most protected has been defiled.

Virgil yokes great social and moral evils with how we care for the land. Fields that are empty—or in any case empty of ’tillers’—are a sign of devastation. The honor we give the plow—the noble even if sometimes misused instrument of one who cares for and cultivates the earth—is taken as a gauge of our moral compass.

These are challenging, even confusing, connections. We are not used to thinking in these terms. Yet last week a letter from a religious leader in Rome made connections notably akin to Virgil’s. Are we able, are we willing to consider anew a line of thinking that is as ancient as it is urgent?

Virgil (70-19 B.C.) is the great Roman poet, author of The Aeneid and The Georgics. In the Divine Comedy Virgil appears as Dante’s guide through hell and purgatory.

Originally posted at Bacon from Acorns

The post Virgil and the Pope on Empty Fields appeared first on Front Porch Republic.

by John Cuddeback at June 24, 2015 11:17 AM daily

The Centralized Dystopia of the Now

Certainly nobody predicted that a company such as Apple would be able to take 30 percent of the recording industry’s revenue because the record companies were incapable of setting up their own servers.

Philip Greenspun, Apple Music: Good reminder not to listen to computer scientists

See also: There is no Disintermediation

June 24, 2015 08:00 AM

Table Titans

Tales: Horsing Around


It was my very first time playing D&D, and I was rolling a Halfling Warlock named Jaeza Darkstar. I was in a group with eight other players, my boyfriend being the DM. We were all very excited, very talkative, and very confused about how this worked.

The adventure started out fairly simple. Our…

Read more

June 24, 2015 07:08 AM

The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

After Acts

Was Peter crucified upside down? Did Thomas make it to India? Were all of the disciples except John martyred? If such questions have ever crossed your mind, After Acts: Exploring the Lives and Legends of the Apostles will interest you. Even if they haven’t, it’s still worth exploring the traditions surrounding the closest witnesses to the life and ministry of Jesus.

Dozens of books have been written on the lives and legends of the apostles. Perhaps the most popular is The Search for the Twelve Apostles (Tyndale, rev. ed., 2008). One Amazon reviewer claims, “All other books on the apostles will be judged against this one.” That may be true, but I see three distinctions that set After Acts apart from the rest.

Three Distinctions 

First, After Acts examines traditions on the 12 apostles but also includes Luke, Mark, Mary, and Paul. Books on the apostles often ignore Mark and Luke, but Litfin carefully considers what we need to know about them since they wrote two of the Gospels. While little evidence backs the popular claims that Mark was dragged to death by a horse in Egypt and that Luke’s bones remain in Italy today, sufficient testimony confirms their authorship of their respective accounts.

Second, Litfin includes helpful life lessons throughout his book. For instance, he begins the section on the “other apostles” by noting that some people never receive credit in this life for their work, but this doesn’t mean they’re unimportant. Litfin writes:

Even some of the apostles were like this—such as Andrew, who isn’t highly celebrated today, but who led his brother Peter to Christ and changed the world as a result. Just because you aren’t famous doesn’t mean you don’t count. (125) 


Third, and most importantly, After Acts is based on careful and critical history. Litfin, professor of theology at Moody Bible Institute, approaches the question of the apostles’s fates as a trained historian. Rather than blindly following later legends, he skillfully examines the evidence. He focuses primarily on evidence from the second and third centuries and only cautiously uses later sources. As a good historian, Litfin talks in terms of probabilities rather than certainties. He rightly concludes that we know a good deal about Peter, Paul, and James the brother of Jesus, but little about Thaddeus, Simon the Zealot, and James the son of Alphaeus.

A Cautious and Careful Historian 

Having written my own academic book on the fate of the apostles, I was pleasantly surprised to read Litfin’s cautious assessment of the historical record. He examines each apostle carefully and leaves us with a fair and sober-minded conclusion. For instance, writers often think Simon the Zealot was a member of the revolutionary party that helped spur the Jewish uprising against Rome in AD 66. Many commentators base their entire perception of Simon on this claim! Yet as Litfin rightly notes, the term “zealot” during the time of Jesus’s ministry likely referred to someone who had intense devotion to God and his law (Acts 21:20; Gal. 1:14), not a member of the official “zealot” party that attempted to overthrow the government.

Consider another example. One popular tradition claims Bartholomew was flayed to death. Liftin points out that the flaying story first appeared in seventh-century Armenian church traditions. Does this mean the story is false? Not necessarily. Flaying can be traced back long before the time of Christ. It was practiced in Turkey, China, and many other eastern countries. At best, the claim that Bartholomew was flayed to death is possible. It may have happened, but the evidence is late. Litfin rightly concludes, “His death as a martyr by flaying is not well attested; and even the story of his martyrdom by more conventional methods has the ring of legend to it” (136).

One last example may be helpful. As Litfin notes, there is both convincing biblical and extra-biblical evidence supporting the martyrdom of Peter (e.g. John 13:36–38; 21:18–19; First Clement 5; Ascension of Isaiah 4:2–3; Against Heresies 3.1.1; Prescription Against Heresies 36, and more). But what about the claim he was crucified downwards? Did Peter consider himself unworthy of crucifixion like his Lord and request to be crucified upside down? As Litfin notes, this explanation does not show up until pseudo-Hegesippus in AD 370! Can we trust such an account?

The first record claiming Peter was crucified upside down appears in a late second-century document called the Acts of Peter, a legend-filled apocryphal text. The Acts of Peter makes no mention of Peter’s humble request to be crucified upside down. Rather, it says Peter’s upside-down state symbolized fallen humanity’s restoration through the cross. Is such a story believable? After noting the Romans were known to crucify upside down, Litfin writes:

However, the victims of Roman crucifixion were not given the chance to make requests about the method of their impalement. The intent was to shame them in a grotesque way, not accommodate their wishes. Therefore, the upside down crucifixion of Peter is historically plausible, though not for any spiritual reasons. (150)

These are just a few of the helpful corrections Litfin offers regarding traditions on the apostles. We can learn a lot about the apostles from his careful work in After Acts. You may be pleased at the evidence concerning the lives and fates of some of the apostles, but others may leave you disappointed. Nevertheless, it’s important we neither overstate nor understate the historical record.

Passing On the Torch 

So what really happened to the apostles after Acts? Litfin concludes:

The answer is simple. They died and went on to their reward—but they also left behind their successors, the men and women who received the torch of the Christian faith and passed it on to the next generation. (184) 

The apostles risked their lives to ensure following generations would receive the truth. They answered God’s call so the truth could be passed onto us. What will we do?

Bryan Litfin. After Acts: Exploring the Lives and Legends of the Apostles. Chicago, IL: Moody, 2015. 200 pp. $14.99. 

by Sean McDowell at June 24, 2015 05:02 AM