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April 30, 2016

The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

Youth Ministry Feeds the Church and the Family

Article by: Mike McGarry

As youth workers, it’s essential to remember every student has a family he or she returns to when leaving youth group. 

We can talk about how we view ourselves as a support to the family, but too often we are guilty of paying only lip service to this notion. Ministry to parents must be more than a good idea.

In Deuteronomy 6, Moses wanted to ensure that the coming generations would remember their history and remain faithul. In the midst of God’s deliverance of Israel, it defies comprehension that parents would neglect teaching their children who the Lord was and what he had done for them.

And yet, just two generations after leaving Egypt there “arose another generation after [Joshua’s] who did not know the LORD or the work that he had done for Israel” (Judges 2:10).

This command to parents in Deuteronomy 6 was set within the broader context of renewing Israel’s covenant with God, and followed the rehearsal of the Ten Commandments in Deuteronomy 5.

If their children were unfaithful, Moses knew the Lord would destroy them (Deut. 6:15; 7:1–3). It was of utmost importance, then, that parents remain faithful in teaching their kids to fear God and keep his commandments.

The verbs “teach” and “talk” (Deut. 6:7) carry the force of commands—not merely to tell one’s children about the Lord, but to deliberately structure family life around worship such that his laws would be engraved on their hearts.

The Christian message isn’t one of mere lawkeeping; it’s a proclamation of adoption and grace through faith. Accordingly, the church and Christian parents teach children the commands of God in order to present the gospel of grace.

Parents should view themselves as their children’s “first pastors,” while simultaneously inviting other church family members to co-disciple their kids.

Family as a Mirror

In Ephesians 5:22–6:4, Paul isn’t simply outlining family structure but explaining that the family reflects God’s fatherly love. The family reflects the gospel to children.

This is why many (though certainly not all) of us can see parallels in our relationship with God our heavenly Father and our relationship with our earthly father. The family inherently teaches something about who God is, how he loves us, and the power of redeeming grace when we’ve sinned.

We’re born into a family; we’re adopted into the church. The family is an earthly metaphor for the eternal family of God we know as the church. Adoption and membership in the church isn’t genetic but only comes through saving faith in the gospel. Some discussions regarding the “dropout rate” among churched teens sometimes forget a “churched teen” may never have been converted. The dropout rate may accurately track church attendance, then, but not teens’ standing before God.

When parents view their spiritual duty as fulfilled by bringing their kids to church, Christian formation simply will not happen at home. We shouldn’t be surprised when lukewarm parents produce lukewarm kids. Faithful reflection of the gospel will only happen when parents themselves have been transformed by gospel grace.

The formation of a Christian worldview in the home requires both formal and informal instruction, which many well-intentioned parents feel unprepared and inadequate to provide. Needless to say, this need reflects the urgency of the church’s calling to disciple parents in order that they may disciple their families.

Although youth workers may not lead your church’s adult discipleship ministries, they provide key support and encouragement to parents (especially for those who feel inadequate).

Serving as a Bridge

Youth ministry cannot be a bridge unless it’s equipping students to grow deep roots in the local church.

When teens have never experienced worship, prayer, discipleship, or fellowship within the congregation at large, why would we expect them to suddenly be pursue full involvement in the church when they graduate?

It’s so natural to focus a youth ministry on the teenagers. Instead, youth ministry must always remember its context (the church) and build a bridge into the homes where the youth live (the family). When a teenager has a sound faith, firmly rooted in both the church and the home, he or she will be exponentially more likely to continue in the faith long after high school.

Youth ministry is temporary because adolescence is temporary. Once students graduate from high school they are no longer “ours” (as if we owned them to begin with). Teenagers are entrusted to our care for a few short years.

Youth ministry is an important arm of the church where both parents and congregation have the opportunity to co-evangelize and co-disciple, with the desire that God would draw students to himself.

Bridges are important. You can’t get over a river without one, but no one builds his home on a bridge. If a youth ministry isn’t consistently seeking to nourish a student’s faith to grow deep roots in the local church as well as at home, then the student’s faith will naturally develop around the youth ministry.

Looking Beyond the Youth

For this reason, a youth ministry must be deliberate about positioning itself as the church’s ministry to teenagers and their parents rather than simply being focused on the youth alone.

This means a church must not see ministry to teens as something delegated to the “youth leaders.” Instead, the whole church should place a high value on welcoming the coming generations and encouraging them to meaningfully contribute to the life of the church. When this happens, the church’s ministry to youth will extend well beyond the organized youth ministry.

Likewise, when families in the church are consistently instructed to be their children’s spiritual leaders and are equipped to carry out that calling, the church may be filled with youth who desire to serve in both the youth ministry and beyond.

The church’s youth ministry should be the greatest advocate and resource to see both the church and the parents catch a vision for this deep partnership—especially when it ministers to the youth by looking beyond the youth alone.

Editors’ note: This excerpt is adapted from the new book Gospel-Centered Youth Ministry: A Practical Guide, edited by Cameron Cole and Jon Nielson (TGC/Crossway, 2016). 

Mike McGarry has served as the pastor of youth and families at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Norfolk, Massachusetts, for eight years. He is married to Tracy, with whom he has two children. He is a life-long New Englander and has been educated at Gordon College and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (MDiv and currently writing his DMin thesis).

by Mike McGarry at April 30, 2016 05:02 AM

Steph Curry’s Joy in Adversity

Article by: Bethany Jenkins

Last May, when I highlighted Stephen Curry’s rare humility in a culture of self-trust, some people questioned whether his character depended on circumstances. “I’ll believe it if they lose, and he’s still praising Jesus,” one said. Another wrote, “Not to be a downer, but I would question—as I do with all athletes—when the chips are down, you’re having a terrible game or season, are you still giving credit to God?”

I’m sympathetic to their skepticism. After all, I don’t know Curry personally, and I’ve seen other celebrities shift gears before.

Today, though, we can see his response to adversity. The Warriors are doing well, but Curry’s not.

Out with an Injury

In Game 4 of the Rockets-Warriors series last Sunday, Curry slipped on a wet spot on the court during the last play of the first half. He immediately rolled and grabbed his knee in pain. Although he tried to warm up for the second half, team doctors told him that he was done for the game. Teammate Draymond Green said that Curry was in tears on the court and limped back to the locker room. Green told him, “We got you.” The team prayed for him.

An MRI later revealed that Curry has a Grade 1 MCL sprain in his right knee. It’s not a serious injury, but it means he’s out for at least two weeks during playoffs.

In the midst of all this, though, he tweeted:

Thanks 4 all the prayers & messages. Can feel all the positive energy. God is Great! All things considered I’m Gonna be alright! #DubNation

— Stephen Curry (@StephenCurry30) April 25, 2016

On Wednesday, the Warriors and the Rockets played again, but Curry sat the bench. He wore a beige blazer, not a uniform. He walked with a slight limp.

Yet the Warriors soared past the Rockets, winning 114–81. Klay Thompson, often overshadowed during the regular season by Curry, scored 27 points. Green scored 15 points and collected 9 rebounds. “Everybody, they think Steph goes down and the entire series changes,” Green said. “But we thought otherwise.”

How did Curry respond to his teammates’ successes that they achieved without him?

It’s Not About Me

A few years ago, I received an invitation to attend a Christian conference on women and work. I was invited to attend, not speak. I got the email invitation like every other woman invited. I can’t believe this. How could they not ask me to speak? Do they know who I am? What a ridiculous conference. I’m not even going to go.

At that time, I was reading Tim Keller’s The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness. In it, Keller talks about how “the essence of gospel-humility is not thinking more of myself or thinking less of myself, it is thinking of myself less” and, therefore, a truly gospel-humble person is totally interested in other people. Then came the gut punch:

Wouldn’t you like to be the skater who wins the silver, and yet is thrilled about those three triple jumps that the gold medal winner did? To love it the way you love a sunrise? Just to love the fact that it was done? For it not to matter whether it was their success or your success? Not to care if they did it or you did it. You are as happy that they did it as if you had done it yourself—because you are just so happy to see it.

I wept at my own sinfulness. I was so concerned about my own role—or lack thereof—in that conference that I couldn’t praise God for the wonderful fact it was happening. I made it all about me. My self-centered heart was bloated, ugly, and sick.

In his great mercy, though, God opened my eyes to see my sin and his beauty as my only righteousness. Then I signed up to attend the conference and prayed for the speakers who had been chosen.

Blessed Self-Forgetfulness

On Wednesday, as Curry sat the bench, he wasn’t morose or sullen. He didn’t appear jealous of his teammates or hesitant to celebrate their successes. In fact, he seemed like the happiest person in the arena. FoxSports called him “a cheerful cheerleader” during the game. ESPN posted a video montage of him smiling, laughing, and rejoicing throughout the game.

He could have sulked and focused on himself, like I did when the work of my “teammates”—other Christian women—was highlighted and celebrated. But he didn’t. He realized that the game wasn’t about him.

The power to react with such humility doesn’t come from a healthy self-esteem. As Paul writes to the Corinthians, “I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself” (1 Cor. 4:3). Instead, it comes from rooting your identity in the only opinion that matters, the opinion that is formed on the basis of what Christ has done, not what you have done.

Bethany L. Jenkins is the Director of The Gospel Coalition’s Every Square Inch, the Director of Vocational & Career Development at The King’s College, and the Founder of The Park Forum. She previously worked on Wall Street and on Capitol Hill. She received her JD from Columbia Law School and attends Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, where she is a current CFW Fellow and a former Gotham Fellow through the Center for Faith & Work. You can follow her on Twitter.

by Bethany Jenkins at April 30, 2016 05:00 AM

John C. Wright's Journal

We Also Call Them Morlocks

I used to be a newspaperman and newspaper editor, so I know the business, and I understand the pressure newspapermen are under to lie, and lie, and lie again.

Some, as did I, resist the temptation.

Others, many others, very many others indeed, not only give into the temptation to dwell in falsehoods, but bath in falsehood, dive into it, drink it, anoint themselves in it, baptize themselves in it, breathe it in, absorb it through every skin pore, mainline it, insert it as a suppository, and perform unnatural sexual acts with it, and in all other ways regard falsehood as a holy calling, and deception a sacrament.

However, even so, the true shocking nature of the falsehood, the insolence of it, the recklessness, the sheer magnitude of it, cannot truly be felt except to one, like me, who has been on the receiving end.

It is astonishing to hear newspapermen who have never made the slightest effort to contact you, who neither interview you nor quote anything you say, nor offer the slightest scintilla of evidence, reporting your innermost thoughts and motivations hidden in the most secret chamber of your heart, and to discover that your motives are the opposite of everything you have said, thought and did your whole life. Astonishing.

Here is a roundup of some links of various media outlets who decided that their honesty, integrity and sacred honor were worth selling in return for the questionable gratification involved in spreading an untruth so unlikely to be believed.

The first is Slate:

The lie here is that anger is our motive, and that we are trying to game, that is, manipulate the system unfairly, when all we did was pay our fees and vote.

You may remember them from 2015, when they hijacked the nominations for that year’s Hugo Awards, the closest thing the sci-fi and fantasy community has to the Oscars. Convinced that the genre had eschewed swashbuckling space opera in favor of politically correct, scoldy garbage, these “activists” proposed a slate of “corrective” titles and whipped up enough support among a conservative niche of Hugo voters to get them on the ballot (pushing more “literary” and more “progressive” nominees off).

This lie is particularly offensive to me personally. I was represented by a historical record number of nominations for my short fiction: no one in his right mind can look at my archaic diction, concern for the highest philosophical matters, erudite allusion to the classics, and consummate craftsmanship and claim my work is not literary, but that grotesque experimental stories about lesbian were-seals being splashed by dinosaur water from nowhere onto Tibetan gay men when the world flips upside down because a punk loser lost his cheating harlot because priests murder people is literary.

We were not against literary quality: we were for it. We were not even against progressive politics or progressive messages in fiction. We are and are against the message mugging the story in a back ally, beating the story within an inch of its life by a soapbox, leaving the story for dead, and making some dumb and boring point about gender neutral pronouns — all the while pretending that your political soapbox preachifying is science fiction, much less the best science fiction of the year.

And the same lie about our motives is repeated here:

Yet the puppies’ ideologically driven movement, which drew on the tactics and talking points of Gamergaters, struck a lot of people as unprecedented.

The link goes to an article which quotes Vox Day saying the following:

The connection between Sad Puppies and #GamerGate is that both groups are striking back against the left-wing control freaks who have subjected science fiction to ideological control for two decades and are now attempting to do the same thing in the game industry.

And the columnist himself says:

The Sad Puppies have struck a blow for creative and intellectual freedom. But their campaign is just one part of a wider movement against the forces of the authoritarian left, whose allies are decreasing by the day. Whether they are called CHORFs, SJWs or Stepford Students, authoritarians, finger-waggers, bullies and panic-mongers are facing a backlash across dozens of fronts as the defiant spirit of GamerGate floods into other fandoms.

We also call them Morlocks, because they were once human, but progress has progressed them beyond human reason, human honesty, or human kindness.

And, more and more, we call them pederasts, as the unholy and vile secrets at the core of this alleged literary movement come to light.

Did you notice the thimblerigger nimble sweep the pea into his cuff? The link is offered as proof that we used Gamergate style tactics. The column linked says we resemble gamergate in that we are a small group of rebels against Leftwing control freaks imposing ideological control. That is, a similarity of enemy, and of number, not of tactics.

The columnist remarked on a similarity of spirit, not of tactics.

The phrase ‘drew on tactics’ is delightfully ambiguous, and could mean anything from sending death threats (an act of which the gamergaters were wrongfully accused) to voicing objections in public.

In reality, all we did was pay our fee and vote our votes after compiling a suggested reading list.

This is a ‘tactic’ only when wrongfans do it: otherwise it is par for the course for Tor Books and has been for years, as George RR Martin himself eventually confessed.

The mention of gamergate is not a lie meant to convince, or even a sentence meant to have any meaning, it is merely a coathook on which to hang a reference to gamergate, an imply some sort of parallel or connection to readers to whom gamergate is the Antichrist.

When the pups positioned their nominees as a rebuke to the women, people of color, and LBGTQ folks seeking a place in the science-fiction/fantasy world, that coalition struck back.

Simply a lie. Our rebuke was to those giving an award for merit in science fiction to hacks whose mission was to use science fiction for social engineering. We had more women and minorities on our slate than did the puppy-kickers, and more women and minorities among our leadership. In fact, I was the only Anglosaxon straight Christian male among them.

There are several other lies folded into this one. One is the thimblerigging of providing a link as proof of our real and nasty intent, to a statement by our leader of last year which, upon inspection, says nothing of the kind. It is like arguing that the Founding Father believing in inequality, and providing a link to the Declaration of Independence.

I can never tell when a thimblerigger does this stupid trick of linking to a source that contradicts the statement for which the link is offered in support,  if the thimblerigger actually is unable to read English because his eyes are bewitched, but he somehow actually believes his own lying spew? or if he knows it is lying spew, but is confident that the reader will not click through the link and read? Or perhaps, (and this is the most desolate and sad option of the three), the thimblerigger knows the reader will click, will see and understand that the lying spew is lying spew, but both reader and thimblerigger will admire and love the lying spew they both know to be a lie precisely because it is lying spew: and take it as a sign of virtue that they both together defy truth, reality, reason and judgment, in some sort of a mental suicide pact.

The one lie no reader of science fiction older than twelve is likely to believe is that women, colored people, and homosexuals had no place in science fiction before the efforts of John Scalzi and the radical intersectionists: the names Arthur C. Clarke, Ursula K. LeGuin, Samuel R. Delany, C.L. Moore, Andre Norton, Octavia Butler, Leigh Brackett, Mary Shelly silences such a shameless lie.

But one of the tactics of these Morlocks of Political Correctness, who feast off the living souls of any fools Eloi enough to believe them, is merely to repeat lies so frequently and so loudly that normal, working stiffs, men with lives and wives and business to mind, have no time to answer them all. We will have to leave Slate without further answer.

Next, the LA Times

Same lie: the accusation here is that we gamed the system.

The puppies oppose diversity initiatives and support lists that are dominated by white men.

Same lie. It was not skin color that concerned us, but merit.

Next, Mr. John Scalzi holds forth in the pages of the same newspaper:

Same lies again, with the addition that the Sad Puppies had no real effect on the outcome, because the popular stories and movies we supported, would have been supported anyway, because they were meritorious and popular.

He makes the same claim again here:

Of course, since our announced goal was promoting work that was meritorious and popular against the efforts of the junkmasters promoting politically correct agitprop and lauding it with unmerited awards for political reasons, it it hardly an argument against our position to point out one of our unambiguous successes and to say it would have happened anyway.

It is one of that statements that, even if true, makes no difference to the conclusion: GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY or the work of Mr. Gaiman was not the normal, boring, trite, sick-minded politically correct crapola on burnt toast shoved down unwilling throats by a small cabal of well connected Tor authors.

The lie here is merely the pretense that our motives were other than our stated motives, so that by winning whom we wanted to win, it somehow does not count, because we really wanted someone to win other than the candidate whose works we supported.

The argument is so illogical, there is not even a Latin name for the fallacy, because no one in the Middle Ages was this stupid that there was any need to coin it: it is merely disjointed.

Now the Guardian, home of Damian Walter, who is Patient One for the epidemic spread of Morlockery:

the Rabid Puppies has been successful in getting its nominations on the shortlist again this year; out of 80 recommendations posted by Beale on his blog, 62 have received sufficient votes to make the ballot.

An actual true statement appears in this column. I am shocked into speechlessness. This is one of the signs of the End Times, surely. Everyone run to the bomb shelter at once.

…the shortlist shows that the Puppies and their supporters have redoubled their efforts to “game” the awards.

Ah. There we go. Same lie again. The normal conditions of unwarped spacetime have returned. I wipe a drop of nervous sweat from my trembling brow. For a moment, I thought I had fallen into Earth 3, or the Mirror-Mirror universe.

The Hugo awards, once the watchword of quality in the SFF world, appear to have been utterly derailed for the second year running.

The Guardian, however, does live in the antimatter universe. This statement is the exact reverse of the truth. The awards were derailed, with increasing degrees of deviancy, fifteen to twenty years ago, and now a cabal of real fans, we who love the genre rather than loving Political Correctness, are putting it back on track.

The troubles began in 2013, when author Larry Correia launched a campaign against what he perceived as the liberal, lefty bias in science fiction and fantasy publishing. He came up with a plan to “game” the Hugos and get his own novel Monster Hunter Legion on the list.

Same lie again. Apparently, if anyone other than the politically correct cabal asks for votes for his work, that is ‘gaming’ the system, i.e. an unfair and unjust manipulation of some obscure loophole in the rules. Such as by paying our ever-lovin’ fee and voting our ever-lovin’ votes in an open and public fashion, I suppose, and being remorselessly and shamelessly and relentlessly libeled in return by yowling and whining jackanapes.

“The prestige of the Hugos derives from its history. Robert A Heinlein won four times, Ursula K Le Guin won, Harlan Ellison won. That’s a club any aspiring writer wants to be a member of,” George RR Martin says. “When the Hugo ballot came out last year it was not just a right-wing ballot, it was a bad ballot. It was the weakest we’d seen for years.”

Evidence enough that Mr. Martin had not read the works on the ballot. I say no more, lest I be accused of self-aggrandizement, for the works he thus criticizes are mine. He did not have so poor an opinion of my work when he bought it for his SONGS OF THE DYING EARTH anthology, however: a fact he conveniently forgot when he began leveling absurd and absurdly false accusations against me.

“This is an attempt by various elements of the American right to regain the centre ground of SF from some perceived shift to the liberal left,” [said Alastair Reynolds]

Same lie again. Of the six organizers, I am the only one who is even arguably on the Right. The rest are moderate, libertarian, or liberal, except for Vox Day, who invented his own political category for himself: libertarian nationalist. The one glue that binds us is a distaste for those who have prostituted our beloved genre, insulted its founders, sneered at its best works, and savagely attacked us with insensate fury and contemptuous, inhuman, and reckless disregard for truth.

I note in passing that the column quotes Vox Day saying that in Anglo-American Law, a wife cannot be raped. Apparently the writer is ignorant of the law and expects his audience likewise. Speaking as an attorney once licensed to practice in three jurisdiction, you may take me as an expert witness on the state of the law: Except where a specific statute says otherwise, the common law holds that the rite of marriage acts as consent: this is why marrying a seventeen year old, if the marriage is valid, obviates a charge of statutory rape.

But merely mentioning the word ‘rape’ and framing the comment as controversial is sufficient for the propaganda needs of this column.

If you would like to read a reasonably balanced report, yes, there is exactly one that I managed to find:

From Breitbart, of course.

The rest of the reports appearing in major new outlets are lies, and, as you can see just from this short and rapid list, it is the same stupid lies over and over again, lies easily repudiated: all one need do is read the various public statements made on our blogs by various Sad and Rabid Puppies over the last three years.

Or simply use a little bit of logic and ask yourself, if our motives were as claimed, why would we have promoted the works we promoted, and why lie about our motives? The organizers of the Prometheus award have no hesitation to correctly identify their prize as political, given to the most worthy science fiction that supports Libertarianism. If our goals were political, why would we be less open than the organizers of that award?

Our motives were entirely clear, and perfectly obvious to anyone who reads science fiction for love of the genre: if our real motives had been other than what we said, then the voters attracted to us would have been attracted to our stated motives, not our hidden real ones, would not they have? Then the voters would have voted in line with our stated motives, and our real hidden ones would have been thwarted, right?

I wonder why the Morlocks do it. I wonder who they think they are fooling. It seems so pointless. But they must have a reason, for they are relentless in their pursuit of spreading darkness, ignorance, anger, injustice, hate.

Anyone not inoculated with powerful cynicism will always assume there must be a grain of truth somewhere beneath all the hogwash and absurd accusations. A fairminded man cannot imagine someone lying for no clear reason about a matter of no significance, so he assumes the liar must have a reason.

It never occurs to a fairminded man that sometimes lying is done for the sake of lying, because liars thinks lies are beautiful and good, an end in and of themselves, not a means to some further end. Their impurity is pure.

 

by John C Wright at April 30, 2016 03:33 AM

April 29, 2016

Front Porch Republic

Growing Up Stoic

For our home-schooling lessons my daughter and I have been reading Greek and Roman philosophers, and she has taken a shine to the Stoics – not only reading them with me, but trying to incorporate their ideas into her life. Most people these days could use a dose of such wisdom in their lives, especially adolescents, so as my daughter grows up, I’m encouraging this phase as long as it lasts.  

A quick explanation: The Stoics were one of the many philosophical “schools” inspired by Socrates and others in the Golden Age of Athens, each trying to answer basic questions like, “What is the meaning of life?” and “How should people act?” Each school came up with their own answers: Epicurus and his followers taught that people should strive to be happy, and make others happy; Cynics to live with radical honesty and simplicity, and Stoics to follow a moral code of honour and self-control. There is far more to these philosophies than these few words, obviously, but we’re talking about a child’s introduction.

Of course they are not incompatible with each other, nor with religions like Christianity. Following one school, then and now, doesn’t mean opposing the others – it just means one surmounts the others in a pinch, perhaps as Einstein’s physics become necessary when Newton’s are out of their league.

Unfortunately, there aren’t many resources to teach such things to modern kids, and most available versions come in archaic King-James language for some reason, as though to keep everyone else out of the philosophers’ club. Take this excerpt from the version I found of Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations:

Spend not the remnant of thy days in thoughts and fancies concerning other men, when it is not in relation to some common good, when by it thou art hindered from some other better work. That is, spend not thy time in thinking, what such a man doth, and to what end: what he saith, and what he thinks, and what he is about, and such other things or curiosities, which make a man to rove and wander from the care and observation of that part of himself, which is rational, and overruling.

I worked in newspapers. It’s better punchy:

Don’t nose into the private business of your neighbours, unless it’s out of some sincere desire to help them, and then only as much as you need to. Instead of wasting time gossiping about others’ lives, change your own; you can’t truly control what other people are like, but you can set an example for them to follow.  

She gets more out of the latter version, but even then their examples can be quite abstract, and the chariot-and-tunic references a bit dated. People learn more from hands-on examples – one reason Jesus used parables – and in our case, we watch the classic films of the 1930s and 40s. Thus, we’ve been looking for characters who seem to embody the Stoic — not the common adjective of “show no emotion,” but characters who take a brave stand, for selfless reasons, simply because they think it’s the right thing to do. They don’t have to be pure, perfect or even likeable; they just need to take action for a principle.

You might think that’s basically every movie hero, but not really: many protagonists, especially men, start out amoral, only reluctantly doing the right thing at the end, from Clark Gable’s character in 1936’s San Francisco to Chris Pratt’s character in 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy. As adults we understand this as entertainment, but generations of boys have grown up emulating such characters, only belatedly realising, in the hangover of maturity, that Ferris Bueller and Han Solo were actually terrible human beings. Other movie heroes – however brave or sympathetic — seem less driven by principle than by a desire for adventure (Bilbo Baggins, Luke Skywalker), greed (Scarlett O’Hara), desperation (Tom Joad) or infatuation (any romantic lead).

The Girl and I think Frodo Baggins in Lord of the Rings passes the Stoic test – he took the Ring because someone had to – but Bilbo does not, heroic as he later became. The elves qualify but not the humans; both were heroic, but the humans were trying to stay alive, while the elves could have fled at any time, and some chose to stay and sacrifice themselves for strangers.

As much as we liked Harry Potter, he would not pass the test; he fought for survival, revenge, and romance as well as principle. Errol Flynn’s Robin Hood, Basil Rathbone’s Sherlock Holmes, Mr. Spock, Doctor Who and the Lone Ranger would all qualify, although their fantastical adventures don’t always have the most applicable lessons to everyday life.

Perhaps surprisingly, many cynical films noir feature a Stoic hero; Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon and Phillip Marlowe in The Big Sleep could have gotten the girl, their money and the credit for solving their cases, but they gave it all up – or risked doing so – to find the truth, for no reason other than it was the truth.

Hildy’s tough reporter in His Girl Friday would qualify, as would Carole Lombard’s brave resistance spy in To Be or Not to Be – an important point when teaching a daughter, for female protagonists are rare enough, and principled ones rarer still. Most traditional female characters are often too passive to pass our test, and most post-feminist ones too selfish – but Bette Davis’ character in Marked Woman might qualify, as might Katniss Everdeen.  

Recently I showed her 12 Angry Men, and we both agreed that Henry Fonda’s character was a Stoic – even when everyone was against him, he kept his cool and stuck to his arguments, and one by one persuaded everyone in the room. I’ve been pushing us to read To Kill a Mockingbird soon, and introduce her to Atticus Finch. To hit the jackpot for Stoic heroes, though, you have to turn to the now-extinct American Western, and a few nights ago, I showed her Shane.

Shane – perhaps the greatest Western ever – begins with the titular character wandering the West on horseback and chancing upon a pioneer homestead. A gentle, courteous man, he seems to be scarred by a violent past – when he hears a small sound behind him, he instinctively whirls around with his gun drawn. When the homesteaders – the Starretts — offer him food and a place to stay the night, he stays on to help, and settles into a peaceful new life as a farmhand.

Soon, though, we see the local tensions – the local rancher, Ryker, wants the land for his cattle, and tries to bully the Starretts and their neighbours into leaving. Shane tries to stay out of the conflict as long as he can, but eventually he takes up his gun again, risking his life for the farmers but unable to remain with them.

I grew up with Shane, but as an adult I saw new depths. A lesser film might have shown Ryker as a cartoonish villain – yet the film gives him a tearful speech in which he begs the farmers to leave peacefully. For a moment we see the world as he does: he considers the farmers to be usurping his land and destroying his life’s work. He remains villainous – he burns a family’s house and hires an assassin to murder the farmers – but his imagined righteousness gives him a tragic depth.

Similarly, Ryker’s ranch-hand Calloway seems to be a simple thug, picking fights with the farmers that come to town. As the feud turns deadly, however, he secretly meets with Shane to warn the farmers of Ryker’s plans.

“He wasn’t all bad,” The Girl said. “He had a change of heart at the end.”

Well, the film takes the side of the farmers and he’s against them, I responded, so we cheer when Shane beats him up. But from his perspective the farmers are the enemy. It’s easy for us to cheer our side and to jeer at evil, because evil is always somebody else. It’s empathy that gives us trouble.

But most people have a limit too, I said — a line that their conscience won’t let them cross. Fist-fights were one thing, but Calloway hadn’t signed on for treachery and murder.

“I think Shane is a Stoic,” The Girl said. “Do you think he studied philosophy?”

He seems a cultured man, I said – this would have been after the American Civil War, so perhaps he was an officer and gentleman who couldn’t go back to his old life. Still, you look through education guides from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and children often read ancient Greeks or Shakespeare, even in poor rural areas.

Finally, I pointed out to my daughter the subtle way the film implies an attraction between Shane and Starrett’s wife Marian – for example, when she cautions her son not to grow too attached to Shane, and we gather that she is talking partly to herself. What’s refreshing, though – and so alien to pop culture today — is the assumption that their attraction ought to remain unspoken and unfulfilled.    

“What if they were to fall in love?” The Girl asked.

These days, our culture uses the word “love” for attraction, I said – it’s not. And these days, every pop song, every movie, every television programme tells you the same thing about your life – that what matters most are your feelings, and that all feelings must be indulged. But that’s the exact opposite of what the Stoics taught. Being free, they believed, meant not being ruled by your feelings, but being able to rule yourself.

Feelings happen, I said, and they come and go quickly, never to your credit or your fault. Doing what’s right, though, usually means doing things you don’t feel like doing. That’s being a grown-up.

“I never thought of relationships that way,” she said. “I’m not sure I’m ready to be grown up yet.”

I’m not ready for you to be grown up yet either, I said, but don’t worry — it’s a long way away for you.

“Not for you?” she asked.

For me, I said, it’s happening very quickly. I’m trying to be Stoic about it.

(Image source)

The post Growing Up Stoic appeared first on Front Porch Republic.

by Brian Kaller at April 29, 2016 09:36 PM

Englewood Review of Books » ERB

ERB Weekly Digest – Andy Crouch, Annie Dillard, Michael Pollan, Jean Vanier – April 29, 2016

 
 

Michael Pollan’s excellent book, A PLACE OF MY OWN,
is only $1.99 now for Kindle!  [ Get your copy! ]

 

Two excellent print books by Phyllis Tickle
that are on sale for $2 each
!!! 

 


 

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

  • Andy Crouch – Strong and Weak [Feature Review]
    Up and to the Right   A Feature Review of  Strong and Weak: Embracing a Life of Love, Risk and True Flourishing Andy Crouch Hardback: IVP Books, 2016 Buy now:  [  ]  [   ]   Reviewed by Ryan Johnson     In the heart of every woman and man there is an acute understanding […]
     
  • 5 Essential Ebook Deals for Christian Readers – 29 April 2016
    Here are 5 essential ebooks on sale now that are worth checking out: ( Ann Voskamp, Michael Pollan, Eugene Peterson, 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…    Ann Voskamp *** $2.99 *** NEXT […]
     
  • Margot Starbuck / David King – Overplayed [Review]
    Tackling the Sacred Cow of Youth Sports   A Review of   Overplayed: A Parent’s Guide to the Sanity in the World of Youth Sports Margot Starbuck and David King Paperback: Herald Press, 2016 Buy now: [  ]   [   ]   Reviewed by Adam Metz      One of the most impressive and respected […]
     
  • Annie Dillard – Three Poems.
    Tomorrow will be Annie Dillard’s 71st birthday…  Here are three poems by her: *** ALSO don’t miss Annie Dillard – The NPR Recordings   The Man Who Wishes to Feed on Mahogany   NEXT POEM >>>>>>>
     
  • From Brokenness to Community – Book of the Month- Part 4
    Our Book of the Month for April is… From Brokenness to Community Jean Vanier Paperback: Paulist Press, 1992. Buy now: [ Amazon ]  [ Kindle ] *** Kindle edition only $3.49!!! We will be reading through the book this month, and posting discussion questions as we go. We hope you will read along with us, and share your thoughts and […]
     
  • New Book Releases – Week of 25 April 2016
    Here are a few new book releases from this week that are worth checking out: (Where possible, we have also tried to include a review/interview related to the book…)   By Kent Annan Watch a trailer for this book… NEXT BOOK >>>>>
     

Digest powered by RSS Digest

by csmith at April 29, 2016 08:45 PM

The Finance Buff

2016 and 2017 HSA Contribution Limits

Health Care Costs

The contribution limits for various tax advantaged accounts for the following year are usually announced in the fall, except for HSA, which come out in the spring. The IRS announced contribution limits for Health Savings Account (HSA) for 2017. Due to mild inflation and rounding rules, the 2017 HSA contribution limit for family coverage will stay unchanged. The 2017 HSA contribution limit for individual coverage will go up by $50.

HSA Contribution Limits

2016 2017 Change
Individual Coverage $3,350 $3,400 +$50
Family Coverage $6,750 $6,750 none

Age 55 Catch Up Contribution

As in 401k and IRA contributions, you are allowed to contribute extra if you are above a certain age. If you are age 55 or older by the end of year, you can contribute additional $1,000 to your HSA. If you are married, and both of you are age 55, each of you can contribute additional $1,000.

However, because HSA is in an individual’s name — there is no joint HSA even when you have family coverage — only the person age 55 or older can contribute the additional $1,000 in his or her own name. If only the husband is 55 or older and the wife contributes $6,750 to her HSA for their family coverage, the husband has to open a separate account for the additional $1,000. If both husband and wife are age 55 or older, they must have two HSA accounts if they want to contribute the maximum $8,750. There’s no way to hit the maximum with only one account.

The $1,000 additional contribution limit is fixed by law. It’s not adjusted for inflation.

Two Plans Or Mid-Year Changes

The limits are more complicated if you are married and the two of you are on different health plans, or when your health insurance changes mid-year. The insurance change could be due to a job change, marriage or divorce, enrolling in Medicare, birth of a child, and so on.

For those situations, please read HSA Contribution Limit For Two Plans Or Mid-Year Changes.

HDHP Qualification

You can only contribute to an HSA if you have a High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP).

The IRS also defines what qualifies as an HDHP. For 2017, an HDHP with individual coverage must have at least $1,300 in annual deductible and no more than $6,550 in annual out-of-pocket expenses. For family coverage, the numbers are minimum $2,600 in annual deductible and no more than $13,100 in annual out-of-pocket expenses.

2016 2017 Change
Individual Coverage
min. deductible $1,300 $1,300 none
max. out-of-pocket $6,550 $6,550 none
Family Coverage
min. deductible $2,600 $2,600 none
max. out-of-pocket $13,100 $13,100 none

Source: IRS Rev. Proc. 2016-28

See All Your Accounts In One Place

Track your net worth, asset allocation, and portfolio performance with FREE financial tools from Personal Capital.

2016 and 2017 HSA Contribution Limits is copyrighted material from The Finance Buff. All rights reserved. ( b87e8215d24496480249d6aaf20c77ea )

by Harry Sit at April 29, 2016 05:25 PM

Market Urbanism

Market Urbanism MUsings April 29, 2016

(mountains in Boulder, home of the 2016 YIMBY conference / wikipedia)

 

1. This week at Market Urbanism:

Carolyn Zelikow of Aspen Institute wrote her first Market Urbanism article, Richard Florida Should Replace The Term ‘Creative Class’ With ‘Country Club’

So I was shocked that reading Florida’s book not only gave me zero ideas for my own community, but actually made me question whether the “Creative Class” was something that cities should try to foster, period. As far as I can tell, the Creative Class is just a new name for rich people.

Howard Ahmanson also contributed his first post, No, ‘New Urbanism’ And ‘Smart Growth’ Are Not The Same

It is a fact that perhaps 90% of New Urbanists are also Smart Growthers, though many of the leaders of the New Urbanist movement are not; that still does not mean the two philosophies are identical.

Michael Lewyn followed up on his article on “school-based sprawl”: “Public Schools Only” Vouchers and Sprawl

This plan might discourage sprawl by making prestigious suburban schools available to urban parents.  And if both students from affluent families and students from poor families entered these schools, the class differences between urban and suburban schools might be erased in the long run.

2. Where’s Scott?

Scott Beyer spent his second week in San Antonio. He wrote two Forbes articles this week–about a Private Proposal To Solve Chicago’s Freight Rail Bottleneck, and whether San Francisco’s Solar Panel Mandate Will Increase Housing Costs:

The goals driving the solar panel mandate sound wonderful, but how will they influence San Francisco’s already-high housing prices?…As I learned through recent research and interviews, it doesn’t appear that San Francisco’s officials are too curious about the answer.

Scott also published on his blog a radio interview about his visit to Havana, Cuba (starts at the 20:31 mark)

3. At the Market Urbanism Facebook Group:

Bjorn Swenson “dropped a bombshell” on his hometown’s Facebook group

Brent Gaisford re-opens the discussion on the loss in GDP from high urban housing prices and displacement for a post he’s writing

Todd Litman shared an article from WiredWidening Highways Never Fixes Traffic. But Darnit, It Did in Texas

Ahmed Shaker has a question about skyscrapers and affordability, and stirs a good discussion.

Michael Farren shares info on the new nationwide transit database from CNT

4. Elsewhere:

bizjournalsYounger Bay Area residents are more supportive of new housing, signaling generational divide

Scott Sumner shared some photos at Econlog: Market Urbanism in Houston

Citylab mentions Carlos Fausto Miranda, previously profiled in MU’s Progressive Developer series, in a piece on the revival of Miami’s Little Havana

Check out this satirical Richard Florida twitter feed, flatteringly named ‘Dick Florida’

5. Stephen Smith‘s Tweet of the Week:  (shout in the comments if you are thinking of going)

by Adam Hengels at April 29, 2016 04:56 PM

The Johnny Five LEGO set

Andrew Liszewski at Gizmodo has linked to an amazing Lego Ideas project:

Number 5, a.k.a. Johnny Five, is the hero of the Short Circuit movies. Number 5 was one of five prototype robots, but after being struck by lightning gained a sense of awareness and free will. The multitude of his expressive abilities, combined with a youthful demeanor and thirst for knowledge (need more input!), made him an instant favorite with audiences in the 80’s.

This small model attempts to replicate the sense of wonder that the robot often displayed. It stands around 7″ tall and is very flexible. Arms, torso, head, and even ‘eyebrows’ can be posed however desired. Also featured are a retracting shoulder-mount and freely moving treads.

Johnny Five in Lego

TAKE MY MONEY.

by Stephen at April 29, 2016 04:33 PM

Daniel Lemire's blog

Is software a neutral agent?

We face an embarrassing amount of information but when we feel overwhelmed, as Clay Shirky said, “It’s not information overload. It’s filter failure.” Unavoidably, we rely heavily on recommender systems as filters. Email clients increasingly help you differentiate the important email from the routine ones, and they regularly hide from your sight what qualifies as junk. Netflix and YouTube work hard so that you are mostly presented with content you want to watch.

Unsurprisingly, YouTube, Facebook, Netflix, Amazon and most other big Internet players have heavily invested in their recommender systems. Though it is a vast field with many possible techniques, one key ingredient is collaborative filtering, a term first coined in 1992 by David Goldberg (now at eBay but then at Xerox Parc). It has become known through, in part, the work done at Amazon by Greg Linden on the item-to-item collaborative filtering (“people who liked this book also liked these other books”). The general theorem underlying collaborative filtering is that if people who are like you like something, then you are more likely to like such a thing. Thus, we should not be mistaken and think that the recommender systems are sets of rules inputted by experts. They are in fact an instance of machine learning where the software learns to predict us by watching us.

But this also means that these filters, these algorithms, are in part a reflection of what we are, how we act. And these algorithms know us better than we may think. And that’s true even if you share nothing about yourself. For example, Jernigan and Mistree showed in 2009 that based solely on the profiles of the people who declared to be your friends, an algorithm can determine your sexual orientation. Using minute traces that you unavoidably leave online, we can determine your sexual orientation, ethnicity, religious and political views, your age, and your gender. There is an entire data-science industry that is dedicated to tracking what we buy, what we watch… Whether they do it directly or not, intentionally or not, recommender systems in YouTube, Facebook, Netflix, Amazon take into account your personal and private attributes in selecting content for you.

We should not be surprised that we are tracked so easily. The overwhelming majority of the Internet players are effectively marketing agents, paid to provide you with relevant content. It is their core business to track you.

However, though polls are also a reflection of our opinions, it has long been known that they influence the vote, even when pollsters are as impartial as they can be. Recommender systems therefore not neutral, they affect our behavior. For example, some researchers have observed that recommender systems tend to favor blockbusters over the long tail. This can be true even as, at the individual level, the system makes you discover new content… seemingly increasing your reach… while leaving the small content producers in the cold.

Some algorithms might be judged unfair or “biased”. For example, it has been shown that if you self-identify as a woman, you might see online fewer ads for high paying jobs than if you are a man. This could be explained, maybe, by a natural tendency for men to click on jobs for higher paying jobs, compared to women. If the algorithm seeks to maximize content that it believes is interesting to you based on your recorded behavior, then there is no need to imagine a nefarious ad agency or employer.

In any case, we have to accept software as an active agent that helps shape our views and our consumption rather than a mere passive tool. And that has to be true even when the programmers are as impartial as they can be. Once we set aside the view of software as an impartial object, we can no longer remain oblivious to its effect on our behavior. At the same time, it may become increasingly difficult to tweak this software, even for its authors, as it grows in sophistication.

How do you check how the algorithms work? The software code is massive, ever-changing, on remote servers, and very sophisticated. For example, the YouTube recommender system relies on deep learning, the same technique that allowed Google to defeat the world champion at Go. It is a complex collection of weights that mimics our own brain. Even the best engineers might struggle to verify that the algorithm behaves as it should in all cases. And government agencies simply cannot read the code as if it were recipes, assuming that they can even legally access it. But can governments at least measure the results or enable the providers to give verifiable measures? Of course, if governments have complete access to our data, they can, but is that what we want?

The Canadian government has tried to regulate what kind of personal data companies can store and how the can store it (PIPEDA). In a globalized world, such laws are hard to enforce but even if they could be enforced, would they be effective? Recall that from minute traces, software can tell more about you than you might think… and, ultimately, people do want to receive personalized services. We do want Netflix to know which movies we really like.

Evidently, we cannot monitor Netflix the same way we monitor a TV station. We can study the news coverage that newspapers and TV shows provide, but what can we say about how Facebook paints the world for us?

We must realize that even if there is no conspiracy to change our views and behavior, software, even brutally boring statistics-based software, is having this effect. And the effect is going to get ever stronger and harder to comprehend.

Further reading:

  • Datta, A., Tschantz, M. C., & Datta, A. (2015). Automated experiments on Ad privacy settings. Proceedings on Privacy Enhancing Technologies, 2015(1), 92-112.
  • Goldberg, D., Nichols, D., Oki, B. M. , and Terry, D. 1992. Using collaborative filtering to weave an information tapestry. Commun. ACM 35, 12 (December 1992), 61-70.
  • Fleder, D., & Hosanagar, K. (2009). Blockbuster culture’s next rise or fall: The impact of recommender systems on sales diversity. Management science,55(5), 697-712.
  • Jernigan, C., & Mistree, B. F. (2009). Gaydar: Facebook friendships expose sexual orientation. First Monday, 14(10).
  • Kosinski, M., Stillwell, D., & Graepel, T. (2013). Private traits and attributes are predictable from digital records of human behavior. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 110(15), 5802-5805.
  • Linden, G., Smith, B., & York, J. (2003). Amazon. com recommendations: Item-to-item collaborative filtering. Internet Computing, IEEE, 7(1), 76-80.
  • Statt, N., YouTube redesigns its mobile apps with improved recommendations Using ‘deep neural networks’, April 26th, 2016
  • Tutt, A., An FDA for Algorithms (March 15, 2016).

by Daniel Lemire at April 29, 2016 03:29 PM

SpaceX planning Mars missions

Loren Grush:

SpaceX plans to send its Dragon spacecraft to Mars as early as 2018, the company announced today — marking a major first step toward CEO Elon Musk’s goal of sending humans to the Red Planet. The company didn’t say how many spacecraft it will send, but hinted it would conduct a series of these Dragon missions and that it would release more details soon. In a tweet, the company indicated that the capsules would fly on SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket, a bigger version of its Falcon 9; the rocket will launch the capsules to the planet to test out how to land heavy payloads on Mars. If successful, the endeavor would make SpaceX the first private spaceflight company to land a vehicle on another planet.

Holy moly.

by Stephen at April 29, 2016 03:05 PM

The Art of Non-Conformity

Ending Soon: 100,000 Hotel Points Bonus Offer (+ Another 75,000 Points Offer)

1210943868_f5d359f57b_z
Link: Get 100,000 Hilton Points (with annual fee)
Link: Get 75,000 Hilton Points (with no annual fee)

I recently highlighted the largest current signup bonus in the travel world: 100,000 points with the new Hilton HHonors Surpass card. This is a limited time offer, meaning that the travel companies only put it out for a brief window of time before pulling it or lowering the bonus to a much lower amount.

There’s also an offer to earn 75,000 points, another limited-time promotion, without paying an annual fee. Both of these offers are legit and worth considering, even if you don’t usually stay in hotels.

8052047592_7dbda1e872_z

In this case, the new Surpass card will still be around after next week, but the 100,000 point signup bonus won’t be. The other offer will also be dropping to a much lower signup bonus. If you think you can benefit from either of them, don’t wait any longer.

To recap, here’s why these offers can be so valuable…

  • 100,000 points can equal up to 25 (!) free nights. Even if you’d rather stay in higher-end properties, you can get multiple free nights from all those points
  • You get complimentary elite status with these offers (Gold for the 100,000 point offer, Silver for the 75,000 point one). Expect free breakfast, internet access, and complimentary upgrades whenever the hotel isn’t fully booked
  • There are a lot of Hilton properties (4,610 worldwide!), so you won’t have a challenge finding one almost anywhere you travel
  • At 100,000 points for Surpass, there has never been a higher offer. This is it! And if you don’t want to have Gold status or pay an annual fee, the 75,000 point offer is great too
Unsplash3

With so many offers raining in, it’s a great time to be padding your miles and points bonuses. This one’s ending soon, though, so don’t hesitate if you’d like to apply for either of the cards.

Link: Get 100,000 Hilton Points (with annual fee)
Link: Get 75,000 Hilton Points (with no annual fee)

###

Images: Frank

by Chris Guillebeau at April 29, 2016 02:33 PM

The Third Bit

Why Teachers Don't Collaborate on Lesson Development

For the last three years, I've been asking people why teachers don't collaborate at scale on lesson development in the way that programmers collaborate on open source software and pretty much everybody collaborates on Wikipedia. I put this question to a room full of people who know more about education than I do back in January, and got some new answers. I've summarized them below, along with my rejoinders.

  • The most important thing about a lesson isn't having it: it's writing it (which gives you a chance to figure out what you think about the topic). This one rhymes with my personal experience, but the same is true of software, and somehow we get up-and-coming programmers to use and improve libraries rather than building their own stuff from scratch.

  • It's just more trouble than it's worth, i.e., it's always easier in the short term to write something from scratch than to learn your way around someone else's material. See above.

  • It doesn't pay off for most teachers because they only teach any particular lesson once a year (or once a quarter). I think infrequent teaching would push people toward re-use, not away from it.

  • Working at scale results in a more neutral point of view (the average of the contributors' personal views), but in many fields, lessons are valuable precisely because they're one person's opinion. I might believe that for literature, but for basic algebra? And if the difference is one of teaching method rather than content, then yeah, I could see there being half a dozen different shared lessons on polynomials, each approaching the topic in a different way, but I simply don't believe there are as many different ways as there are teachers.

  • There's no onboarding process to teach people the mechanics of distributed ad hoc large-scale collaboration. I believe this is a contributing factor, but (a) teachers get more training in how to develop lessons than most programmers get in how to take part in an open source project and (b) lack of a formal onboarding process hasn't slowed down Wikipedia.

  • Collaboration on lesson development gets squeezed out by more important things (where "important" means "the principal or chair said 'thou shalt'"). Again, I think this would push people toward collaboration (possibly under official radar), since every minute I don't spend writing a lesson is a minute I can use to satisfy the principal or chair.

  • The Firewall of Doom at many schools prevents people from working on shared materials. Probably true for some people, but (a) demonstrably not true for all and (b) most teachers in industrialized countries have access to a computer at home these days.

  • The stakes are too high for collaboration, i.e., it only works for Software Carpentry because our instructors are volunteers who aren't going to be evaluated on their teaching. I agree that this would lead some people to choose not to collaborate, but I don't believe it applies to/would dissuade everyone.

  • No measurable outcome will show improvement, so there's no incentive to do it. The same is true of open source software, but while only a small minority of programmers contribute, that's still enough people for it to thrive.

  • Lessons are the wrong granularity for sharing: collaboration would be more likely to take hold if the thing being collaborated on was smaller. Unfalsifiable.

  • It's a generational thing: as digital natives, tomorrow's teachers will just naturally do it. This kind of "not yet" argument is also unfalsifiable (like claims by members of many millenarian movements, for whom the apocalypse is definitely coming—yup, absolutely, any day now).

  • You can't run regression tests on a lesson, so there's no easy way to tell if my changes have broken something that you wrote. But Wikipedia...

The most interesting observation was that while teachers might not collaborate, they do remix: finding other people's materials online or in textbooks and reworking them is common practice. That suggests that the root problem is a flawed analogy: rather than lesson development being like writing Wikipedia articles or open source software, perhaps it's more like postmodern music.

by Greg Wilson (gvwilson@third-bit.com) at April 29, 2016 12:00 PM

Justin Taylor

When Did Each of the Biblical Patriarchs Live and Die?

When I first started working on the ESV Study Bible, ten years ago, one of the most enjoyable projects was trying my hand at some charts that would summarize the ages and timelines of various figures. If you are reading through the Bible on your own, this information can be difficult to track as it is not presented systematically. For example, we learn in Exodus 7:7 that Moses is 80 years old when he returns to Egypt to confront Pharaoh. (We also learn in that verse that Aaron is three years older than his brother Moses.) And at the end of the Pentateuch we learn that Moses is 120 years old when he dies (Deut. 34:7). But it’s not until Acts 7:23 that we learn that Moses was 40 years old when he fled Egypt for the first time.

So when we put all the data together, a simple chart emerges:

Screen Shot 2016-04-29 at 9.21.09 AM

Lately I’ve tried to do something similar with the Patriarchs and some of their key descendants prior to the time of Moses. It’s interesting to me not only for seeing the age in which someone died (say, Abraham at the age of 175), but how old his sons and grandsons where when he died (Isaac was 75 and Jacob was 15). The Bible does not explicitly say those latter ages, but they can be deduced mathematically (e.g., Abraham was 100 when Isaac was born, so if Abraham died at 175 then Isaac would have been 75). Does any of this matter much when we read through the Old Testament narratives? Probably not. But it helps me, at least, to remember that these are real people (not just stories) and to picture them at various stages of their lives. It also reminds me of the compressed nature of these narratives, as the story can often times skip decades ahead from one verse to the next.

In the chart below, I added something in the far-right column that might only make sense to someone who has a weird brain like mine. I noticed that the time period from Abraham to Joseph was 361 years (2166-1805). That’s a good chunk of time. What if we were to make each year roughly equivalent to a calendar day in a single year. So if Abraham was born in year 1, that would be January 1.

In other words, if the Patriarchal period was compressed to the timeline of a year, then Abraham would be born on January 1, Isaac would be born on April 9, Jacob would be born on June 8, and Joseph would be born on September 18. Abraham would die on June 23, Isaac would die on October 6, Jacob would die on November 19, and Joseph would die on December 26.

If that part makes sense only to me, so be it. You can ignore that column on the chart.

Here it is:

EventAbraham
Isaac
Jacob
JosephGenesisYear (BC)
Illustration
Abram born
2166Jan 1
Isaac born to Abraham and Sarah
100
21:5
2066
April 9
Jacob born (with twin Esau) to Isaac and Rebekah
160
60
25:26
2006June 8
Abraham dies
175
751525:71991June 23
Joseph is born to Jacob and Rachel
1519130:25;
31:38-41
1915September 18
Isaac dies
1801202935:28–29; cf. 25:26 with 35:28
1886
October 6
Jacob dies
1475647:281859November 19
Joseph dies
110 50:22-261805December 26

For the dates, I’ve used the ESV Study Bible and Andrew Steinmann’s indispensable resource for biblical chronology, From Abraham to Paul: A Biblical Chronology (Concordia, 2011).

by Admin at April 29, 2016 09:43 AM

Hacking Distributed

Bitcoin's $137,000 Jackpot

Remember that time when you tried to transfer your life savings from one bank account to another for a small fee, but swapped the fee field with the total transfer amount field, and ended up losing all your life savings? Of course you don't. There are safeguards to catch and prevent these kinds of errors.

Laundry machine (wikimedia)

Not your parents' laundry machine.

But this is a common occurrence in Bitcoin-land. Just two days ago, someone sent a transaction for 0.001 BTC (about 5 cents), with a 291 BTC (approximately $137,000) in fees. A lucky miner quietly collected a jackpot.

That fee is approximately 3 million times higher than it ought to be. So the question is: what happened?

Because the amount involved is so large, there were immediate accusations of nefarious activity and money-laundering.

Let's explore the two different techniques for making cash flows private in Bitcoin, and then use some help and new data from Dr. Christian Decker to rule out one of the possibities.

Sorting Different Kinds of Laundry

Bitcoin's unique structure allows people to hide their coin flows through a very creative mechanism that I have not seen discussed elsewhere. There is no counterpart for this in the regular fiat currency world, since the scheme involves collusion with the Mint. Here's how this scheme, MML, differs from your run of the mill money laundering.

Laundry machine (seemsartless CC noncommercial reuse)

Suppose I have some tainted coins. Suppose they came from someone or some activity I do not want to reveal publicly to the world, say, moonlighting as a PHP programmer. I need to transfer them from my left hand, where they sit tainted, to my right hand, through some mechanism that'll hide the fact that they came from my left hand.

The Old Boring Way: Tumbling

The traditional way to do this in Bitcoin is to "tumble" [1] the money. This is where I mix the cash with some other people's tainted money to make tracing it difficult. You may have seen collection bags that go around churches, where you put a bill in your closed fist and stick your hand in the bag, so no one knows how much you put in or took out. Imagine that we come up with a (cryptographic) protocol where I donate some amount to the local church's collection bag, so do others (however much they desire), and after the bag has made it through the congregation, I stick my hand in again and take out exactly as much as I put in during the first round from the same collection bag. In essence, we swap our bills so as to throw off anyone who may have recorded the serial numbers and is watching the coins. That's, roughly speaking, what happens in tumblers, though the low-level details between coinjoin, bitlaundry and other similar services differ.

Laundry machine (pixabay Public Domain)

Tumbling makes it very difficult to trace the individual banknotes back to me. It's similar to the way crooks will often move money through multiple shell organizations, divvy it up and restructure it to make financial tracing difficult. You may, perhaps, have heard of Panama Papers, where some of the companies involved exist solely to make it difficult to audit the cash flows.

Tumbling is also not necessarily nefarious: there are good reasons to tumble cash flows, such as financial privacy. If you don't want your employer, your friends or the merchants you visit to discover your spending habits by examining the blockchain, tumbling is a useful operation.

But tumbling is not foolproof. I might end up with some of my own bills and still carry taint, especially if I'm the biggest game in town, trying to tumble really large amounts compared to the small fry at my church. Or I might end up getting tainted with someone else's dirtier money in the process -- it's one thing to carry PHP taint, it's another thing, on a day when the church has a shady visitor seeking absolution, to get tainted with the proceeds from blood diamonds.

So, overall, tumbling doesn't scale and it doesn't provide strong protection.

There's a much better way to launder bitcoins.

Miner-Money-Laundering (MML)

If I really want to erase all connection to past transactions recorded on the blockchain, I can just find a miner that I trust and let him mine my transactions with hefty fees. To the rest of the world, the miner looks like he's doing valuable work, mining my transactions, securing the distributed ledger. In reality, it's a rigged game, where I give my transactions, with fat fees totaling $X, solely to a designated miner for him to mine. In return, he collects the fees and pays out $X back to me, minus his cut. My payment is going to be with newly mined coins, the Bitcoin equivalent of fresh, crisp dollar bills straight from the Mint. There will be no white powder residue on these particular bills.

Laundry machine (bestandworstever.blogspot.com/ noncommercial reuse)

Hot, neatly lined up, and a fire hazard: laundry machines and Bitcoin miners have a lot in common.

This is a brilliant way to launder money, because it leaves no trace on the blockchain. Miners, in effect, terminate and regenerate cash flows, the same way the US mint withdraws old and tattered bills out of circulation and reissues brand new ones. The only fly in the ointment is the need to trust the miner, but hey, people with these kinds of cash flows typically have what we in the distributed systems community would euphemistically call "exogeneous enforcement mechanisms."

One would probably structure the cash flow across many transactions, but of course, if someone gets impatient and wants to short-cut this process, they'd just send a single transaction with a mega-fee.

And there is reason to suspect this might have been what happened, because there are rumors (which we have not ascertained independently) that this transaction was being tumbled using the traditional tumbling technique when it suddenly evaporated into mining fees, raising eyebrows about potential MML.

Likely Not MML

Luckily, Christian Decker has been recording transactions on the Bitcoin blockchain, and we can pin down parts of the backstory using his data.

If anyone will engage in MML with ultra-large fees, and they don't want to take any additional risk, they'll do so by prearranging the deal with a miner they trust. They should send their mega-fee bearing transaction to their designated miner via a private channel, because if another miner gets their hands on a megafee transaction, they'll mine it, collect the huge fee and keep it.

It turns out that this transaction carrying a $137K megafee was seen on the public Bitcoin network a full two minutes before the corresponding block was mined. This suggests that miners had a fair shot at mining this transaction. It most likely was not part of an MML effort. By the same argument, this likely was not a directed gift to this specific miner, as it could have been collected by anyone.

There's still the small possibility that the miner may have pre-mined his block, but if that's the case, they took a risk by not announcing the block for a full two minutes, at least as observed from the vantage points of Dr. Decker's measurement apparatus.

Mistakes Were Made

Overall, the evidence is stacked high on the side of an unintentional error. This particular transaction most likely was not part of an MML scheme to launder the cash through a colluding miner. Instead, it is much more likely that there was an error of some kind, wherein the transaction amount and fee fields got swapped, perhaps in a script that was programmatically moving money around.

Now, that erroneous script may have been written to perform money laundering the traditional way via tumbling. But at least, subject to the provisos in the preceding section, we can clear the miner from complicity.

What Happens Now

Miners keepers.

The particular lucky miner turns out to be a Chinese MLM operation. While there was some initial noise that the miner may voluntarily return the erroneous fee, these early indications came from affiliates in the MLM scheme who were speaking without authority. To date, there is no official word from the people in charge. It's not even quite clear who they are.

Laundry machine (pixabay CC)

And even if the miner wanted to return the fee, it might be difficult for the sender to collect it. If the $137K needed to be tumbled, how does the rightful owner of the coins come out and claim them? The miner, if it's operating above-board, may have to book the incoming coins and deduct the payment as a business expense to balance their books. Depending on their jurisdiction, the recipient may have to provide a name and address, and of course, be subject to scrutiny. The owner could provide proof of address by signing a message with their private key, and the miner could just return the cash to that address out of the kindness of their hearts. Of course, the kind of script that swaps arguments by mistake may be the kind of script that does not write its keys out to a database, so the private keys may be long gone.

Or, you know, the miner could just keep the mega-fee. Wouldn't be the first time someone found a bounty and kept it.

After all, $137K is an expensive lesson on how to write good code, but it's still cheaper than a college education in the US.


[1]Some people call these mixers, but the word "mix" is easy to confuse with Chaumian MIXes, so it's better to call them tumblers.
[2]Cash-Boycotts: How to Use Bitcoins for Social Change explores other creative uses of the traceability of bitcoins.

by Christian Decker and Emin Gün Sirer at April 29, 2016 08:48 AM

From the Study

The Doctrine of Work: Some Recent Titles (And an Old One, Too)

The past fifteen years has provided Christian readers with a blessed increase in literature on the doctrine of work. This growth in resources is a welcome development because it appears that for some time now, the doctrine of work has become a matter of tertiary importance–if not insignificance–among evangelicals.

However it developed, it seems that the default attitude among Christians with whom I have associated over the years (as I’ve held membership in churches in Montana, Southern California, Northern California, and Kentucky) is that work no longer a joyful calling but a mere means to an end. “Spiritual” endeavors like evangelism, pastoral ministry, missions, Bible study, and other church-related activities are the aspects of life that God really cares about. Work? It just pays the bills so that we could pursue the stuff that truly matters. (See my reflections here on a recent parenting book that appears to imbibe this kind of attitude.) This neglect of the doctrine of work is ironic, however, because evangelicals are the theological heirs of Reformation and the reformers’ robust teaching on the inherent goodness of all work.

Nevertheless, the response to this drift from our Reformed (and broadly Protestant) moorings in recent years has been significant. In 2002, Gene Veith published God at Work: Your Christian Vocation in All of Life.  In 2003 Wayne Grudem published his concise yet helpful book, Business for the Glory of God: The Bible’s Teaching on the Moral Goodness of Business. While not nearly as theologically rigorous as the previous two, Joel Bakke’s 2005 publication Joy at Work: A Revolutionary Approach to Fun on the Job provided some useful counsel on how to approach one’s work as a Christian–and actually enjoy it.

Most recently, Timothy Keller published Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work in 2012 and Matt Perman’s 2014 contribution What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done, while specifically a Christian manual on productivity, also, by necessity, offers much on a Christian understanding of work and vocation. Similarly, Sebastian Traeger and Greg Gilbert’s The Gospel at Work: How Working for King Jesus Gives Purpose and Meaning to our Jobs (2013) focuses on the necessity of diligence while warning against idolizing work in order to help those in non-ministerial jobs–most Christians–find joy and gospel fruitfulness in their daily labors. Gospel Centered Work: Becoming the Worker God Wants You To Be (2013) by Tim Chester and Gospel-Centered Life at Work (2014) by Robert Alexander follow a similar approach to Traeger and Gilbert’s.

Meanwhile, the Acton Institute gave us a new edition of Lester Dekoster’s Work: The Meaning of Your Life (1982; 2011), while Christian Library Press published four volumes on work and economics, each from the perspective of distinct Christian traditions. Flourishing Church and Communities by Charlie Self provides the Pentecostal perspective, David Wright’s How God Makes the World a Better Place offers a Wesleyan’s take, Economic Shalom by John Bolt gives us the Reformed View, and Chad Brand’s Flourishing Faith writes from the Baptist tradition.

This renewal of concentrated thinking on the Christian doctrine of work is a very positive development, and I pray for its continued growth. As a pastor, I find that many believers do not have a robust biblical perspective on the inherent goodness of work and the satisfaction they were meant to find in it. Fear of giving oneself too much to “secular” employments at the expense of “spiritual” activities has burdened many Christians with unnecessary guilt and hindered their ability to glorify God while on the job. Others view work as a necessary evil that provides for their necessities and enjoyments, but little else. The Church is still in need of some clear thinking on this important topic.

In my next article, however, I want to look at an old book that we would be wise to not forget among this deluge of new titles. The Religious Tradesman by Puritan minister Richard Steele (1629-1692) is a rich, deeply theological yet intensely practical work that seeks to help people glorify God in their daily work, not by making one’s work a mere secular means to a greater spiritual end, but by showing his readers, from Scripture, how Christianity is meant to pervade every corner of one’s profession. Work is not a necessary evil, but a gift from our Creator that we can pursue for the glory of God, the good of our neighbor, and our own joy.

Photo: Sergie Zolkin

by Derek J. Brown at April 29, 2016 07:00 AM

Table Titans

Tales: Failing Success

Our party was on a quest to save a village from the sister-turned-Vampire of the Rogue in the group. Expecting our arrival, the Vampire sent a small army of Worgs our way.

Our party was trapped in an old and abandoned farm and couldn’t escape the Worgs without a fight, which we were very…

Read more

April 29, 2016 07:00 AM

The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

9 Things You Should Know About Jehovah’s Witnesses

Article by: Joe Carter

When he died last week at the age of 57, pop singer Prince was arguably the most famous Jehovah’s Witness in the world. Here are nine things you should know about the obscure religious group that emerged from the Bible Student movement in the late 1870s:

1. Jehovah’s Witnesses—their name is intended to designate them as “a group of Christians who proclaim the truth about Jehovah”—compose less than 1 percent of U.S. adults, yet are among the most racially and ethnically diverse religious groups in America. According to Pew Research, no more than 4 in 10 members of the group belong to any one racial and ethnic background: 36 percent are white, 32 percent are Hispanic, 27 percent are black, and 6 percent are another race or mixed race. Roughly two-thirds (65 percent) are women, while only 35 percent are men. They also also tend to be less educated, with a solid majority of adult Jehovah’s Witnesses (63 percent) having no more than a high school diploma (compared with, for example, 43 percent of evangelical Protestants).

2. Jehovah’s Witnesses (hereafter JWs) consider themselves to be Christians (but not Protestants), even though they reject the doctrine of the Trinity. JWs claim that Jesus was not divine and that the Holy Spirit is an “active force” and not a person. JWs believe that Jesus is God's only direct creation, “the firstborn of all creation” and therefore rightly entitled to be called the “son of God.” However, they believe that as a created being “he is not part of a Trinity.” They believe Jesus lived in heaven before coming to earth and, after his death and resurrection, he returned to heaven. They also believe Jesus “gave his perfect human life as a ransom sacrifice” and that through his death and resurrection “make it possible for those exercising faith in him to gain everlasting life.”

3. JWs believe that the kingdom of God is a real government in heaven that will soon replace human governments and accomplish God’s purpose for the earth. They believe that Jesus is the King of God’s kingdom in heaven and that he began ruling in 1914. A relatively small number of people—144,000—will be resurrected to live with Jehovah in heaven and rule with Jesus in the kingdom. They believe that God will bring billions back from death by means of a resurrection and that “many now living may yet begin to serve God, and they too will gain salvation.” However, those who “refuse to learn God’s ways after being raised to life” will pass out of existence forever (they will not suffer in a “fiery hell of torment”). 4. JWs practice door-to-door ministry because they believe it is an effective way to fulfill the Great Commission and that first-century Christians continued to spread their message both “publicly and from house to house” (they cite Acts 5:42; 20:20). They do not believe that door-to-door ministry is a means of earning salvation by doing good works. They also believe that “pressuring people to change their religion is wrong” though they do believe in attempting to argue for their particular beliefs. In their door-to-door ministry they generally distribute two magazines, Awake!, a general religious magazine, and The Watchtower, a magazine whose content is focused on “the significance of world events in the light of Bible prophecies.”

5. JWs believe the Bible is “God’s inspired message to humans.” In 1961 a JW corporation, The Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, published its own formal equivalence translation of the Bible: the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures (NWT). As of 2015, the NWT has been translated in whole or in part into 129 languages. Since the release of the NT translation in 1950, this version has been criticized for changing the meaning and words of the text to fit JW doctrine. A prime example is John 1:1. Both the ESV and NIV translate that verse as, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” The NWT version translates the passage as “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god.” The addition of the indefinite article “a” is added to avoid the conclusion that Jesus is God. Referring to this verse, Bruce M. Metzger wrote in 1953, “It must be stated quite frankly that, if the Jehovah’s Witnesses take this translation seriously, they are polytheists.” Despite a preference for the NWT, JWs still use other translations of the Bible in their witnessing work.

6. JWs do not celebrate either Christmas or Easter, because they believe the Bible teaches that it’s Jesus death—not his birth or resurrection—that should be celebrated. They also believe that Christmas and Easter are not approved by God because they are rooted in pagan customs and rites. They also do not celebrate birthdays because they believe “such celebrations displease God.”

7. JWs have a number of beliefs that are peculiar to their sect: While they accept medical treatments and do not practice faith healing, they don’t accept blood transfusions because they believe the “Bible commands that we not ingest blood.” They do not believe in going to war or getting involved in political matters, and they do not consider the cross to be a symbol of Christianity, because they claim “the Bible indicates that Jesus did not die on a cross but rather on a simple stake.”

8. JWs do not refer to their places of worship as churches, but rather as a “Kingdom Hall.” They have no paid clergy, for they believe the “model of first-century Christianity” is one in which “all baptized members are ordained ministers and share in the preaching and teaching work.” Both men and women can be ministers, though within each congregation “spiritually mature men” serve as “older men,” or elders.” About 20 congregations form a circuit, and congregations receive periodic visits from traveling elders known as circuit overseers. JWs are not required to tithe and no collections are taken at their meetings, though donation boxes are available.

9. Doctrinal guidance is provided by a Governing Body made up of longtime JWs who currently work at the international offices in Brooklyn, New York. A number of corporations are in use by JWs, though they are often referred to collectively as “The Society” after the oldest and most prominent of their corporation, “The Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania” (which is now located in Brooklyn). Not much is known about the financing of the JW corporations other than that they own significant real estate holdings in New York City. For instance, the group’s headquarters, which is currently for sale, is expected to be sold for around $1 billion.

Other articles in this series:

Harriet Tubman • Autism • Seventh-day Adventism • Justice Antonin Scalia (1936–2016) • Female Genital Mutilation • Orphans • Pastors • Global Persecution of Christians (2015 Edition) • Global Hunger • National Hispanic Heritage Month • Pope Francis • Refugees in America • Margaret Sanger • Confederate Flag Controversy • Elisabeth Elliot • Animal Fighting • Mental Health • Prayer in the Bible • Same-sex Marriage • Genocide • Church Architecture • Auschwitz and Nazi Extermination Camps • Boko Haram • Adoption • Military Chaplains • Atheism • Intimate Partner Violence • Rabbinic Judaism • Hamas • Male Body Image Issues • Mormonism • Islam • Independence Day and the Declaration of Independence • Anglicanism • Transgenderism • Southern Baptist Convention • Surrogacy • John Calvin • The Rwandan Genocide • The Chronicles of Narnia • The Story of Noah • Fred Phelps and Westboro Baptist Church • Pimps and Sex Traffickers • Marriage in America • Black History Month • The Holocaust • Roe v. Wade • Poverty in America • Christmas • The Hobbit • Council of Trent • C.S. Lewis • Halloween and Reformation Day • Casinos and Gambling • Prison Rape • 6th Street Baptist Church Bombing • 9/11 Attack Aftermath • Chemical Weapons • March on Washington • Duck Dynasty • Child Brides • Human Trafficking • Scopes Monkey Trial • Social Media • Supreme Court's Same-Sex Marriage Cases • The Bible • Human Cloning • Pornography and the Brain • Planned Parenthood • Boston Marathon Bombing • Female Body Image Issues • Islamic State

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

by Joe Carter at April 29, 2016 06:40 AM

God Is Not Like You—And That’s a Good Thing

Article by: Kristin Tabb

The spirit of the age insists the individual isn’t only the measure of all things but also has the right to create herself in the image of whatever feels unique, timely, or radical. So Jen Wilkin’s new book None Like Him: 10 Ways God Is Different From Us provides an oasis of retreat. 

Wilkin’s latest offering, which focuses on God’s “incommunicable” attributes (those not shared with us), stands out from its contemporaries in several ways. Recalling A. W. Tozer’s The Knowledge of the Holy (which she references more than once), she uses a systematic approach, whereas many today might have chosen a more biblical-theological one. And while the introduction (on Proverbs 31:30) and the conclusion (on Psalm 139) are both geared toward a female audience, the ten chapters in between would apply to both genders, broadly speaking.

But the most valuable gift None Like Him offers is Wilkin’s stark contrast between each unique divine attribute and our desire to get that attribute. In other words, she reveals a foil for God in the idolatrous human heart. This combination of theology (the study of God) and hamartiology (the study of sin) makes None Like Him not only a worthy read but also a strategic one for anyone wishing to expand her view of God while examining the condition of her own heart.

God’s Limitlessness

Wilkin—speaker, writer, and teacher of women’s Bible studies—begins by focusing on God’s infiniteness, assuming that an enlarged vision of God will bring clarity to our self-understanding. Because she notes that every attribute of God is limitless in extent, Wilkin sets the stage for introducing other divine properties (eternality, self-existence, omniscience, and so on) as boundless, in contrast to human limitations.

“It was not enough to bear his image within the limits of human existence,” she writes. “No, only becoming like him would do” (23). Instead of trusting and worshiping God for his attributes, in our sin we want to hawk them. So rather than pursuing his moral attributes Scripture enjoins (wisdom, justice, mercy, faithfulness, goodness, truthfulness), we seek his limitless power, knowledge, and authority.

Wilkin’s insights into how humans attempt to assume limitlessness, rather than embrace God’s infinitude with humble trust, are worth the price of the book. The chapter on self-sufficiency is especially poignant:

If God needed anything outside of himself, he would be controlled by that need. . . . But we humans are remarkably needy, a reality we are eager to conquer or conceal.

Wilkin lists several ways Christians live as though we don’t need God (prayerlessness, forgetfulness of what he’s done, anger in trial, lack of conviction for sin) or need Christian community (avoidance of authentic relationships in the church, lack of vulnerability, lack of accountability, lack of humility, exhaustion).

The chapter on God’s omniscience is equally indicting. Wilkin discusses the effect of information overload, which reduces our attention spans while increasing our indecisiveness, creating callousness where there should be empathy and yielding increased anxiety, listlessness, and sleeplessness:

We believe that if we have access to limitless information we will have more peace of mind. But has our information gluttony done anything to relieve our anxieties and increase our certainty? . . . Take away our connectivity and we find that our anxieties lurk right beneath the surface. (110)

Gospel-Grounded, Awe-Inspiring 

Wilkin’s habit of ending each chapter with the reassurance of gospel grace keeps the reader from hopelessness. We should not feel insecure or threatened that only God can have these limitless qualities we long to share. Christians can take comfort that the boundlessness of his power, creativity, changelessness, knowledge, and authority are at work on behalf of all those trusting in Christ for salvation.

In the chapter on God’s sovereignty, some Reformed thinkers may take issue with the terminology (for example, the ambiguous term “free will”) Wilkin uses to describe human moral agency and responsibility and its interaction with God’s sovereignty. These few paragraphs compose a small part of the chapter, and the focus of the chapter remains on God’s complete control over good, evil, and human affairs. “Whether earthly rulers exercise their authority for good or for evil, ultimately God is in control,” she writes. “Control lies at the heart of what we must understand when we speak of the sovereignty of God” (137).

Other readers may feel that the book is heavy on prophetic conviction, and light on comfort and encouragement. Wilkin’s stated intent is the opposite of many Christian female authors and speakers today, as she mentions in her conclusion:

Our primary problem as Christian women is not that we lack self-worth, not that we lack a sense of significance. It’s that we lack awe. . . . Awe helps us worry less about self-worth by turning our eyes first toward God, then toward others. It also helps establish our self-worth in the best possible way: we understand both our insignificance within creation and our significance to our Creator. (148–49)

Even Psalm 139, which we often assume is about the wonder of humanity, is actually a reflection of the limitless attributes of God, as Wilkin examines in detail.

Wilkin’s hallmark of theology applied will enrich readers who are not afraid to face their own limitations and who desire to rest in God’s incommunicable attributes. Women’s Bible study groups, ministry leaders, and small groups could all profit from discussion over this material. It is fresh and will awaken spiritually sensitive readers to a renewed sense of humility and awe at their Creator.

There’s none like him. 

Jen Wilkin. None Like Him: 10 Ways Is Different from Us (and Why That’s a Good Thing). Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2016. 176 pp. $12.99. 

Editors’ note: Don’t miss our upcoming National Women’s Conference, June 16 to 18 in Indianapolis. Jen Wilkin will teach from 1 Peter 1:13-2:3 on “Living Resurrection Life.” Spaces are filling up fast, so register now

Kristin Tabb (MA, Wheaton College), her husband, Brian, and their three children make their home in the Twin Cities of Minnesota, where her husband teaches at Bethlehem College and Seminary.

by Kristin Tabb at April 29, 2016 05:02 AM

Preacher’s Toolkit: How Do I Handle an Unbeliever’s Funeral?

Article by: Phil A. Newton

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

Previously: 

The funeral chapel overflowed. Unlike some funerals I’ve conducted, this faithful Christian and longtime church member had given voice to the message I now delivered amid grief. I’d watched for years how this 85-year-old lady lived daily with hope in Christ. With a twinkle in her eye, she would regularly affirm with Paul, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21). 

But that’s not the case at funerals for those with an unknown—or perhaps too well-known—spiritual condition.

A gospel minister’s angst heightens in wondering how to lead a memorial service for an unbeliever. So how do ministers serve families whose deceased loved one has given no evidence of trust in Christ? Here are seven considerations.

1. Remember your calling to be a faithful minister of Christ.

Faithfulness to Christ doesn’t stop when you enter the funeral home; it intensifies. Grieving people are often desperate to see a purpose for their grief—and that is found only in Christ.

The minister is not present to check the “duty” box, but to represent Jesus and his church to those who grieve without hope.

2. Clearly preach the gospel.

While not creating an evangelistic rally, the minister should turn the conversation to the good news of Jesus. Apply the gospel through narratives (e.g., John 3; John 11), simple gospel texts (e.g., John 14:1–6; 1 Cor. 15:1–2), or familiar Old Testament texts (e.g., Ps. 23; Eccl. 3:1–8). Aim to open future spiritual conversations through gospel clarity, and illustrate and apply with simplicity.

3. Do not wear the burden of deciding the deceased’s eternal destiny.

I can remember a deceased’s family member asking if I thought her loved one was in heaven. The person had shown no evidence to me that he trusted in Christ. So my response was simple: “None of us can make that call, but what we must do is to be sure of our own relationship to Christ.” That turned the conversation away from the deceased to this young lady’s spiritual need. Avoid casually declaring someone’s eternal destiny (Matt. 7:21–23).

4. Point to comfort in the gospel.

While the deceased unbeliever has no hope, those remaining do if they look to Christ. Help the audience to see the massive ramifications of the gospel believed.

5. Focus on the big picture rather than the finer points of theology.

Utilize the grand narrative of Scripture—creation, fall, redemption, and restoration—in your message. Grieving people may hear little of what you say. The big picture will be easier to remember, and will serve well in future conversations with those who were at the funeral.

6. Say with integrity what you can about the deceased.

His or her influence for good, kind actions, and acts of service can be appropriately mentioned. For example, “We’ve learned from ______ that life is brief . . . how relationships matter . . . how every day counts.” It’s good and right to affirm someone created in the image of God.

7. Grieve with loved ones at their loss.

Show it by your concern, your empathy, your prayers, your calls, and your follow-up conversations. As you grieve with those who grieve, gospel opportunities might arise.

Preparing well for unbelievers’ funerals is vital so that those who listen might find hope in Christ. Often, preachers see these funerals as a mere duty every minister must do. However, preaching the funerals of unbelievers may well mean you are the only opportunity those in attendance may have to hear the gospel. So relish these opportunites as God brings them along and hold high the good news of God’s redeeming love in Christ. 

Phil A. Newton (PhD, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary) planted and has served as senior pastor of South Woods Baptist Church in Memphis, Tennessee, since 1987. Phil and his wife, Karen, have five children and six grandchildren. He is the author of Conduct Gospel-Centered Funerals (with Brian Croft), Elders in the Life of the Church (with Matt Schmucker), and Venture All for God: Piety in the Writings of John Bunyan (with Roger Duke and Drew Harris). He is an adjunct professor for Southeastern Seminary’s Equip Center.

by Phil A. Newton at April 29, 2016 05:00 AM

Keller on Preaching to the Heart

Article by: Staff

”Preachers need not only to give the truth, but to give it in a way that changes people.” — Tim Keller

Workshop Leader: Tim Keller

Date: April 14, 2015

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

Tim Keller is the founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan. He is vice president of The Gospel Coalition. He’s the author of many books, including The Reason for God, The Prodigal God, and, with his wife, Kathy, The Meaning of Marriage and The Songs of Jesus.

You can stream the episode here or watch the video. Subscribe to TGC’s podcast in iTunes or for other devices to get this and other interviews, workshops, and lectures. The Gospel Coalition Podcast is now available on Stitcher.

by Staff at April 29, 2016 04:59 AM

Greg Mankiw's Blog

Kocherlakota on Trump

Narayana writes a column titled Trump Starts Making Economic Sense.  Seems to be a minority view among economists.

by Greg Mankiw (noreply@blogger.com) at April 29, 2016 02:05 AM

April 28, 2016

Workout: April 30, 2016

Floor presses 4-4-4-4-4 4 rounds of: 10 dumbbell/kettlebell presses 100 ft. of double waiter walk Rest 90 seconds between rounds 4 rounds of: 10 pendlay rows 10 strict leg raises Rest 90 seconds between rounds

by Mike at April 28, 2016 08:42 PM

John C. Wright's Journal

Political Correctness is Neither from Mars nor Veus

I myself grow rather weary of watching shows or reading books from a foreign culture, where fornication is considered lawful and admirable, sexual perversion laudable, and there are no families to be seen. No one goes to Church, no women are feminine, and no men are masculine.

That culture is political correctness — but it is more foreign to me, and more offensive, than reading traditional Japanese novels or watching Chinese historical dramas where polygamy and suicide are regarded as normal. At least the Chinese dramas show a proper respect for motherhood and family duties. They are peopled with real, if pagan, people, whose emotions and motives make sense to me.

I will be reading merrily along in what I think is some perfectly ordinary adventure story or science fiction yarn, when suddenly a minor character, such a policeman, will announce that he has a husband. No one around him reacts as if he is a sick pervert or a crazypants. Because in crazypantsland male is female and female is male.

Or the characters will time travel to ancient Mesopotamia or the Jurassic, but the narration will give the date in terms of a calendar called ‘B.C.E.’ which is a calendars whose only purpose is to tweak the nose of Christians, and call them evil for daring to make a scientific calendar that coordinates between earthly seasons and astronomical motions.

Whereas in a Chinese costume drama, a mother who is worried that he son is too deeply in love with his first wife, and therefore too distracted to serve the Emperor, will arrange to marry him to a concubine, so as to dilute that love. She selects as the concubine the first wife’s best friend, that way they are more likely to find domestic harmony with their mutual husband. The son throws himself on a sword in front of the Dowager Empress to prove his love for the first wife, but he never disobeys his mother.

These are all non-Western and non-Christian but perfectly understandable expressions of perfectly understandable human emotions.

On the other hand, when in a cop show, the cop’s partner decides to fornicate with the cop’s daughter, the true depth of emotion is displayed when the partner kneels and offers the daughter a box from a jewelry store. Inside is not a ring — fooled ya!–but a key. He is offering to move his gear into her apartment, to make the fornication and the eventual break easily to manage logistically.

The cop, instead of drawing his sidearm and blowing the brains out of the man who is frelling his daughter outside of wedlock, merely looks mildly grumpy and says the situation is ‘weird’ but he is glad is his daughter is seeking happiness in shallow copulation with an unmarried man who has only moderate affection for her.

These are not human emotions. A Martian, perhaps, would look upon the reproductive antics of his daughter, and hopes that she will raise his grandchildren as bastard in a single-mother home with no father, almost certain to be beaten or killed by one of her serial live-in lovers, but no real father from our planet, not one worthy of the than, hopes this.

The creatures in politically correct films and stories have a stiff and unconvincing range of emotions: characters designated good guys are tolerant, and designated bad guys are intolerant, everyone is self-centered but not selfish, and they all refer to friends as family members.

It is like watching dead-eyed manikins being moved in awkward jerky motions through human poses, and hearing slightly flat and oddly-spaced words issuing from frozen, half-smiling lips.

by John C Wright at April 28, 2016 07:30 PM

The Art of Non-Conformity

Fun Project: The 2016-2017 “Get to Work Book” Is Now Out!

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Link: The Get to Work Book

Here’s a fun project that a wish I’d made it myself. But even though I didn’t, some very good friends of mine did. It’s like a journal or a planner, but better—and here’s how the creator describes it:

“The GET TO WORK BOOK® is a daily planner + goal setting workbook designed to help you make progress on your big goals by taking things one day at a time. While (sadly) it can’t do your work for you, every inch of it was thoughtfully designed to help you get to work.”

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The Get to Work Book was created in partnership with Elise Blaha Cripe and the Portland design studio, Jolby & Friends.

Elise Blaha Cripe is a blogger, crafter and goal setter in San Diego, California. She’s been sharing ideas and DIY projects since 2005, and running an online shop of handmade goods since 2008. To stay motivated and push herself creatively, Elise sets lofty year-long craft challenges while documenting her progress and lessons learned.

(I wrote about Elise in The Happiness of Pursuit, and she later spoke at WDS.)

elisecripe

Elise also produces a weekly podcast, Elise Gets Crafty, that focuses on handmade business, blogging, creativity, and inspiration. I was on the show recently and we had a great chat!

jolbymural

Jolby & Friends is a multi-disciplinary creative studio building meaningful and thoughtful experiences through collaboration. Endlessly in pursuit of complex and challenging projects, their goal is to tell a memorable story creatively: “What we build should move someone, make them feel something, leave them in awe, and make them smile.”

Since the Get to Work Book launch in Spring 2015, the product line has expanded to include planner accessories and additional project planning tools. There are currently two versions: JAN-DEC which follows the traditional calendar year and JUL-JUN which follows the academic calendar.

This isn’t an affiliate link or promotional post—I just think it’s an awesome resource. If you’re looking for a unique tool to plan your projects, check it out. You can also see more fun photos on Instagram.

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by Chris Guillebeau at April 28, 2016 02:51 PM

Reformedish

Three Stages of “Being A Protestant” (On Not Feeling Guilty About the Reformation)

martin-lutherWhen I was a kid, you could say I had an ecumenical instinct in some respects. It was common at the time (I’m thinking 6th-12th grade) to ask, “Are you a Christian or a Catholic?” meaning something like, “Evangelical or Catholic?” or “Catholic or something else?” depending on who was asking it. This was true of the Roman Catholic kids too. I—being me—took special delight in pointing out that technically they we were all Christians and really, it was a matter of sub-branches. Beyond that, I didn’t trouble myself too much. I knew we had the Bible and they had the Pope, so there wasn’t much to worry about.

Oh, those were the days.

Of course, things begin to change and get more complicated once you get a bit older and especially when you start studying doctrine and history. I got to thinking about this yesterday after a conversation with a friend, so I figured I’d briefly (and roughly) explore this a bit.

In my experience, there are something like three stages or modes of being a “consciously” Protestant—where you adopt your theological stance with a fair amount of awareness of other positions, traditions, etc. Or, at least, there have been three modes that I’ve sort of inhabited.

Unreconstructed Triumphalism – The first is sort of the unreconstructed or un-conflicted joy of discovering you are the heir to the great Martin Luther with his hammer, who put the Papists in their place, rediscovering the gospel again after it had long been buried under Papal dogma. This is often accompanied by a general sense that there was no church between Augustine (maybe even Paul) and Luther. What’s more, Roman Catholics are obviously likely not saved (or maybe by the skin of their teeth). Luther was a hero, Calvin had no blemishes, and there was no blood on our hands in the whole affair. I’m painting with a broad brush here, but you kind of get the feel—the ethos—so to speak. There’s no guilt about it, but there’s also sort of arrogant myopia involved. Protest on, bro.

Begrudging Embarrassment – Then there’s the second kind or stage, a sort of bashful, apologetic Protestantism that’s fairly conflicted about the whole thing. This conflicted stance can come from any number of sources. Sometimes it comes with studying a bit more of church history and theology and coming to appreciate the riches of the broader tradition. Start reading the Fathers and a little Anselm or Aquinas, or some spiritual masters, and you begin to realize the Holy Spirit might have been doing a few things during that gap between the Fathers and the Reformation. This new appreciation for history might occur while simultaneously looking at the worst excesses of pop-culture Evangelicalism and getting the sense that they’re the natural outworking of Reformation theology.

Some have drunk deeply from the wells of recent narratives of decline that lay all the blame at Protestantism’s feet (ie. Reformation –> Modernity and Bad, Bad Things). Sure, there may have been some excesses in the Medieval period, and Luther and Calvin had a point on justification, but…was it all worth it? I mean, are our beliefs that different? Are beliefs even the point? Was all the blood, the division, the dis-unity really the unalloyed victory for the truth it’s painted to be? Can the solas, especially sola Scriptura, be sustained in our day anyways? This is often accompanied by an unspoken (often unrecognized) premise that unity is supposed to be of a certain, more clearly chain-link, institutional sort and is scandalized by the thought of (30,000!) denominations the Reformation has apparently left in its wake. (BTW, that’s a myth that’s been debunked even by Roman Catholic apologists).

I don’t want to make light of this. There’s a real (I’d say) holy grief at this disunity for the sake of witness. And there’s some wise about the chastening of un-catholic pride.

Second Naïveté Protesting – Coming in third is what I’ll call (in a very snooty manner) Protesting with a “second naïveté.” The idea is, once you’ve kind of gone through this sort of chastening, self-critical phase, you push past it to something more constructive. In other words, you get tired of feeling guilty about being a Protestant, about some of ecclesial realities on the ground, and got on with the business of confessing the faith.

How this happens, I’m not entirely sure. I suppose for me it’s involved a few things.

First, there’s been a greater appreciation for just how muddled history can be. For instance, it comes with recognizing that the Reformation was, in many ways, dependent on the diversity already present within the pre-Reformation medieval scene. In which case, Luther with his hammer, and Calvin (with his…pointy beard?) weren’t coming out of nowhere, bursting in and overturning a serene, unity that needed a tune-up. In many cases they were drawing on medieval theologies, and patristic theologies to do the work of Reformation—because they did see themselves as Reformers of the church they loved.

This is where you appreciate their claim they didn’t leave the church, but they were left by it. In their view, they weren’t the arrogant ones, but it was Rome that had arrogated to itself an un-catholic and divisive authority over the whole of the church in contradiction to the Word of God. To see Luther and Co. as the dividers, the de-unifiers, is sort of already to concede the Catholic point, then–to buy that story and buy their view of the doctrine of the church, sacraments, and salvation in general.

And this is some of the heart of things. Did the Reformers have a point or not? Is Christ’s work alone the basis of the justification we receive by faith, not our meritorious works? Is there a right to assurance for the troubled conscience in the gospel or not? Is Scripture as the Word of God the ultimate authority (the norming norm) in matters of faith and practice for the church, or does the church rule over the Word? On and on down the line we can go, but at the core of things is the question whether the Reformation made a recovery of a key dimension to the faith that threatened to be overshadowed or not.

In other words, is there something to “protest” or not? And I don’t mean protest in the modern sense of revolution—but in the original sense of making a confession of faith. If there is, then let’s get on with it. Because, I think, that if we truly get on with confessing these things, not begrudgingly, or with a shamed face, then many of the anxieties that plague the bashful Protestant will begin to take care of themselves.

Because the heart of the Reformation-gospel is not sectarianism, or pride, or disunity, or the things that make for skepticism and dissolution, but (for the most part) the New Testament call to one faith in one Lord who has promised by his one Spirit to make us one body according to his Word. To confess this gospel, then, ought not leave us complacent with ourselves, nor dismissive of the history of the church, nor other branches of the Church, nor proud and boasting against others with a sectarian spirit, unwilling to learn, grow and submit to the Word of God anew. Why should it?

But neither should it leave us anxious, guilty, and laboring with a bad conscience about being a Protestant. Fundamentally it is a message of humility and joy: humility before God and joy in what Christ has done before me and apart from me, now given to me by grace, and worked within me by the Spirit.

Soli Deo Gloria


by Derek Rishmawy at April 28, 2016 02:32 PM

Greg Mankiw's Blog

Gabaix to Harvard

I just heard the wonderful news that Xavier Gabaix will be joining the faculty of the Harvard economics department. 

Welcome, Xavier!

Addendum: Here is his most recent paper, "A Behavioral New Keynesian Model."

by Greg Mankiw (noreply@blogger.com) at April 28, 2016 02:10 PM

Kitchen Soap

Abstract As A Verb

The New Stack has an interview with me on various topics here.

I think the following part of the interview gets at what I think is an under-investigated bit of language and meaning:

TNS: At the same time, I imagine that you’ve abstracted a lot of the supporting infrastructure away from the engineer. They don’t have to worry about the particular configuration of the supporting stack?

JA: Yes and no. And I think it really is a common expectation — that abstracting away. The difference is, are you abstracting away so that you truly can say “I don’t have to worry about this”? Or are you abstracting away because you’re aware of those guts, but want to focus your attention right now in this area. That is what we’re looking for.

Post-mortem debriefings every day are littered with the artifacts of people insisting, the second before an outage, that “I don’t have to care about that.”

If “abstracting away” is nothing for you but a euphemism for “Not my job,” “I don’t care about that,” or “I’m not interested in that,” I think Etsy might not be the place for you. Because when things break, when things don’t behave the way they’re expected to, you can’t hold up your arms and say “Not my problem.” That’s what I could call “covering your ass” engineering, and it may work at other companies, but it doesn’t work here.

And the ironic part is that we find, in reality, engineers are more than willing to want to know. I’ve never heard an engineer not wanting to know more about networking. I’ve never heard an engineer wanting to say “You know what, I don’t want to care about database schema design.” And so if the reality is that people do care, then it’s kind of a waste of time to pretend that we’re “abstracting away”. Because you’re going to not care up until the absolute second you do, and when you do, that’s all you want to care about.

by allspaw at April 28, 2016 09:42 AM

Table Titans

Tales: An Introduction to Benevolence

As a DM I thought I’d seen it all--the hack and slash playstyle, the loot and run mentality, even the ‘stab your party in the back so you can get ahead’ mindset. So when the next new player was introduced to the table, I readied my usual tutorial module and prepared myself for whatever antics she…

Read more

April 28, 2016 07:00 AM

The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

Youth Ministry Feeds the Church and the Family

Article by: Mike McGarry

As youth workers, it’s essential to remember every student has a family he or she returns to when leaving youth group.

We can talk about how we view ourselves as a support to the family, but too often we are guilty of paying only lip service to this notion. Ministry to parents must be more than a good idea.

In Deuteronomy 6, Moses wanted to ensure that the coming generations would remember their history and remain faithul. In the midst of God’s deliverance of Israel, it defies comprehension that parents would neglect teaching their children who the Lord was and what he had done for them.

And yet, just two generations after leaving Egypt there “arose another generation after [Joshua’s] who did not know the LORD or the work that he had done for Israel” (Judges 2:10).

This command to parents in Deuteronomy 6 was set within the broader context of renewing Israel’s covenant with God, and followed the rehearsal of the Ten Commandments in Deuteronomy 5.

If their children were unfaithful, Moses knew the Lord would destroy them (Deut. 6:15; 7:1–3). It was of utmost importance, then, that parents remain faithful in teaching their kids to fear God and keep his commandments.

The verbs “teach” and “talk” (Deut. 6:7) carry the force of commands—not merely to tell one’s children about the Lord, but to deliberately structure family life around worship such that his laws would be engraved on their hearts.

The Christian message isn’t one of mere lawkeeping; it’s a proclamation of adoption and grace through faith. Accordingly, the church and Christian parents teach children the commands of God in order to present the gospel of grace.

Parents should view themselves as their children’s “first pastors,” while simultaneously inviting other church family members to co-disciple their kids.

Family As a Mirror

In Ephesians 5:22–6:4, Paul isn’t simply outlining family structure but explaining that the family reflects God’s fatherly love. The family reflects the gospel to children.

This is why many (though certainly not all) of us can see parallels in our relationship with God our heavenly Father and our relationship with our earthly father. The family inherently teaches something about who God is, how he loves us, and the power of redeeming grace when we’ve sinned.

We’re born into a family; we’re adopted into the church. The family is an earthly metaphor for the eternal family of God we know as the church. Adoption and membership in the church isn’t genetic, but only comes through saving faith in the gospel. Some discussions regarding the “dropout rate” among churched teens sometimes forget a “churched teen” may never have been converted. The dropout rate may accurately track church attendance, then, but not teens’ standing before God.

When parents view their spiritual duty as fulfilled by bringing their kids to church, Christian formation simply will not happen at home. We shouldn’t be surprised when lukewarm parents produce lukewarm kids. Faithful reflection of the gospel will only happen when parents themselves have been transformed by gospel grace.

The formation of a Christian worldview in the home requires both formal and informal instruction, which many well-intentioned parents feel unprepared and inadequate to provide. Needless to say, this reflects the urgency of the church’s calling to disciple parents in order that they may disciple their families.

Although youth workers may not lead your church’s adult discipleship ministries, they provide key support and encouragement to parents (especially for those who feel inadequate).

Serving As a Bridge

Youth ministry cannot be a bridge unless it’s equipping students to grow deep roots in the local church.

When teens have never experienced worship, prayer, discipleship, or fellowship within the congregation at large, why would we expect them to suddenly be pursue full involvement in the church when they graduate?

It’s so natural to focus a youth ministry on the teenagers. Instead, however, youth ministry must always remember its context (the church) and build a bridge into the homes where the youth live (the family). When a teenager has a sound faith, firmly rooted in both the church and the home, he or she will be exponentially more likely to continue in the faith long after high school.

Youth ministry is temporary because adolescence is temporary. Once students graduate from high school they are no longer “ours” (as if we owned them to begin with). Teenagers are entrusted to our care for a few short years.

Youth ministry is an important arm of the church where both parents and congregation have the opportunity to co-evangelize and co-disciple, with the desire that God would draw students to himself.

Bridges are important. You can’t get over a river without one, but no one builds his home on a bridge. If a youth ministry isn’t consistently seeking to nourish a student’s faith to grow deep roots in the local church as well as at home, then the student’s faith will naturally develop around the youth ministry.

Looking Beyond the Youth

For this reason, a youth ministry must be deliberate about positioning itself as the church’s ministry to teenagers and their parents rather than simply being focused on the youth alone.

This means a church must not see ministry to teens as something delegated to the “youth leaders.” Instead, the whole church should place a high value on welcoming the coming generations and encouraging them to meaningfully contribute to the life of the church. When this happens, the church’s ministry to youth will extend well beyond the organized youth ministry.

Likewise, when families in the church are consistently instructed to be their children’s spiritual leaders and are equipped to carry out that calling, the church may find itself filled with youth who desire to serve in both the youth ministry and beyond.

The church’s youth ministry should be the greatest advocate and resource to see both the church and the parents catch a vision for this deep partnership—especially when it ministers to the youth by looking beyond the youth alone.

Editors’ note: This excerpt is adapted from the new book Gospel-Centered Youth Ministry: A Practical Guide, edited by Cameron Cole and Jon Nielson (TGC/Crossway, 2016). 

Mike McGarry has served as the pastor of youth and families at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Norfolk, Massachusetts, for eight years. He is married to Tracy, with whom he has two children. He is a life-long New Englander and has been educated at Gordon College and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (MDiv and currently writing his DMin thesis).

by Mike McGarry at April 28, 2016 05:02 AM

The Greatest Missionary of All Time

Article by: Andy Naselli, J. D. Crowley

Imagine what an overgrown jungle Paul’s conscience was the day he became a Christian, packed not only with all of God’s good laws but also with cultural scruples and hundreds of unnecessary rules from his life as a Pharisee. But at some point he opened the gate to Jesus and said, “It’s yours, Lord. Tell me what stays, tell me what goes, and tell me what’s missing.” Such careful cultivation of conscience allowed Paul eventually to be able to say, “I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some” (1 Cor. 9:22).

Where do you get missionaries like Paul, who have done the hard work of tending their conscience so they can navigate difficult cultural situations without exporting cultural Christianity? You grow such missionaries in the church, which is God’s laboratory for learning how to reach other cultures.

The Bible gives clear evidence that God intends the little clashes of culture in your church to prepare you for the really difficult clashes of culture in missions and evangelism. The local church is supposed to be that laboratory.

There are so many Christians in America that we have the luxury of dividing up into smaller and smaller subsets so we can be part of a church where members hold very few differences on matters of conscience. We even enshrine some of those scruples in our bylaws to guarantee unity—or, more accurately, uniformity.

Ultimate Cross-Cultural Missionary

Twice in Scripture Paul deliberately connects (1) the messiness of getting along in church with those with different consciences to (2) mission to the unreached. One is the famous “all things to all people” passage in 1 Corinthians 9:19–23, in which he defends his own cultural flexibility in order to win as many as possible among groups with differing scruples.

But this famous missionary text comes right in the middle of Paul’s exhortation to the Corinthians to be sensitive to the weak consciences of others in their church (1 Cor. 8 and 10). Flexibility in church life gets you ready for flexibility in missions.

Even clearer is the link Paul forges in Romans 15, the most important missions passage in what is arguably Christianity’s most important theological document. Romans 15 is the soaring description of the worldwide mission of the church. And who is the cross-cultural missionary par excellence? The Lord Jesus Christ, who became a servant to a people and culture not his own. That’s Romans 15.

Romans 14, on the other hand, teaches how to handle church disagreements about scruples. What could these two topics possibly have in common? Paul forges an unbreakable connection between them, a connection that will help us become more effective churches, evangelists, missionaries, and churches.

The link comes in Romans 15:7, where Paul summarizes everything he’s taught since Romans 14:1 about getting along with those in your church who have different scruples. Notice the key connecting word “For”:

Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. (Rom. 15:7–9)

Do you see the connection? Verse 7 tells you to learn to love, welcome, submit to, and reach out toward those in your church who are different from you. Why? Because (v. 8) that’s what Jesus did when he left heaven to be born as a Jew, to become a servant to Jewish culture so that the whole world could be saved.

The Son of God Was Not a Jew

Ponder this: The eternal Son of God, who wasn’t a Jew (it says he became one), left complete freedom in heaven to became a good little Jewish boy and then a good, law-keeping Jewish man. The whole time he obeyed the laws he himself had given at Mount Sinai—even obeying laws he knew were temporary since he designed them so (e.g., avoid pork, worship only in Jerusalem). The only laws Jesus pushed against were those the Pharisees and others had either added or completely misunderstood.

Jesus practiced what he later preached through Paul in Romans 14. He became a servant to people different from him. He submitted himself to a culture foreign to him. Jesus wasn’t some countercultural hippy railing against everything traditional. He wasn’t a weird outsider or misanthrope. He went to synagogue with his parents, and to the temple when he was 12. He regularly celebrated Passover and other Jewish feasts. He rested on the weekly Sabbath and attended synagogue service. He became a servant to the Jews and their culture.

Your Turn 

What happens when people do things like that? What did the Son of God purpose to accomplish when he voluntarily became what he was not—a servant to a particular culture not originally his own? We’ll number Christ’s purposes within the text.

Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised [1] to show God’s truthfulness, [2] in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and [3] in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. (Rom. 15:7–9)

1. Christ became a servant to the Jews to show the world God is truthful.

Christ’s first purpose was Godward, to vindicate God’s truthfulness. Had the Son of God not become a servant to a culture not his own, this would never have happened. 

2. Christ became a servant to the Jews to fulfill all God’s promises to the patriarchs.

Think of all God’s promises in the Old Testament, hundreds of them. Their fulfillment depended entirely on Christ’s becoming a servant to a culture not his own.

3. Christ became a servant to the Jews in order to bring the Gentiles into God’s family.

None of the four Old Testament promises about Gentiles in the following verses (Rom. 15:9–12) would have come to pass had Jesus not become a servant to a people and a culture not his own.

Jesus led the way in serving a people and culture not his own—laying down his life for those so different from himself. Now he summons you and me to do the same.

Uncomfortable clashes of culture and conscience are unavoidable in our churches. But God wants to use them to prepare us for the more difficult clashes of culture and conscience when we take the gospel to the other side of town—and the other side of the world.

Editors’ note: This is an adapted excerpt from Andy Naselli and J. D. Crowley’s new book Conscience: What It Is, How to Train It, and Loving Those Who Differ (Crossway, 2016). 

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

J. D. Crowley has been doing missionary and linguistic work among the indigenous minorities in Ratanakiri, Cambodia, since 1994 with EMU International.

by Andy Naselli at April 28, 2016 05:02 AM

Being a Reluctant Paralytic

Article by: William Ross

When we read the story of Jesus and the paralytic who gets lowered through the roof (Mark 2:1–12), we usually focus on the loving persistence of the paralytic’s friends. Or on Jesus’ “which is easier” question and the miracle he does. But this passage teaches us something serious about ourselves, too, that’s easily overlooked: 

We’re often less like the friends, and more like the paralytic. Here are four ways that can happen, and how Jesus helps us.

​1. If it’s “too crowded” near Jesus, we sometimes don’t feel like bothering.

Being “too crowded” near Jesus to bother can look a lot of different ways. Maybe you’re too distracted by your to-do list to pick up your Bible and read one morning—or one month, or one year. Maybe you’re too numb to care about someone’s prayer or counsel for you. Maybe you’re too preoccupied with your own shortcomings to lead your family in worship. If there’s a barrier in the way, sometimes we might not bother to go to Jesus.

When this happens, it’s usually because we’ve realized that no one will be impressed with our effort, so we turn to cheap alternatives. We let the joy of Christian service and devotion get steamrolled by distraction or pride. But in Christ we’re both called and equipped to walk by the Spirit, freed from the lazy inclinations of the flesh (Gal. 5:16–18; Rom 7:6).

2. Many of our best moments with Jesus happen because of our friends.

The paralytic’s friends do what the paralytic can’t do himself. Nothing will stop them. They’ll patch the roof themselves if it comes to that. “Just get him to Jesus and we’ll sort it out later,” they say.

The best times of growth in our spiritual lives often happen thanks to stubborn friends. Maybe it’s a tangled sin pattern they offered to help you face. Or maybe it was continually inviting you along to church during a season of absence. Maybe it was picking up the phone to help you process things you were too inconsistent or scared to do alone. If we’ve experienced spiritual growth recently, it’s probably thanks to our friends.

The church is full of brothers and sisters born for adversity (Prov. 17:17). Jesus helps the helpless by giving us to one another to share burdens, even when we just want to ignore or gripe about them (Gal. 6:2). Sometimes we’re the burden our friends are carrying, and they’re taking us to Jesus.

3. Sometimes we begrudge our friends as they’re taking us to Jesus.

I’m guessing the paralytic was embarrassed and frustrated. It was a common belief at the time that disability meant you were guilty of serious sin or cursed by God (John 9:1–3). It’s a flawed idea (see Ps. 146:8; Isa. 56:4–5; Jer. 30:17), but it was popular. So on top of the physical misery of disability in 1st century Palestine, the paralytic almost certainly had to endure financial poverty, social rejection, and religious contempt every day.

Maybe he was eager to get to Jesus. Or maybe he was disillusioned and bitter and wanted to be left alone. Most of the time in the moments when our stubborn friends are hauling us to Jesus we begrudge them because we’re embarrassed. Maybe we roll our eyes at a platitude meant to comfort. Maybe we resent feeling compelled to pray with someone. Maybe we doubt it’s worth their time, much less our own. When our friends take us to Jesus, sometimes we resent it.

In moments like this, our souls are as stone-like as they can be this side of regeneration (Ezek. 36:26). We’re suspended between the grace of God and the abyss of spiritual apathy. Shame or anger for our own weakness is a vicious trap without Jesus Christ. But he meets us in our darkest places to heal our damaged hearts and restore the joy of his salvation (Col. 3:8–10; Ps. 51:8). 

4. Sometimes we still carry our mat around.

After he’s forgiven and healed, Jesus tells the man to pick up his mat and go home (Mark 2:11). Maybe they needed the space for the rest of Jesus’ lesson. Or maybe Jesus knew the mat would be a token of authenticity, proof of God’s power.

We all carry a “mat” in this sense—a testimony of our conversion, physical or emotional scars from abuse we’ve escaped, memories of suffering we’ve endured. These “mats” proclaim our Savior’s love and power in carrying us through the worst. But sometimes we’re not carrying our mat that way. Sometimes we’re carrying our mat because we suspect we might need it again.

Maybe we wonder if God’s work in us will actually last. Or we’re secretly planning to lay on it again out of sad, dark habit. Has God freed us from a symbol of brokenness? We might prefer to carry it along even as we’re healed and on our way home.

Jesus not only heals us, he takes up our burdens when we’re exhausted and scared of change (Matt. 11:28–29). We can trust him to powerfully and safely care for us in our weakness, relieving our anxieties and doubts (Ps. 55:22; Phil. 4:5–6). We are freed to go forth with nothing but the wonderful yoke we bear in service to Christ (Matt. 11:29–30; Rom. 6:22).

Redeemed Paralytics

The paralytic man wasn’t just an object lesson. He definitely was that, but he was more too. He was a seriously broken person who was forgiven and healed by his Maker. Jesus doesn’t merely “use” opportunities to fix us as a pedestal to exalt himself—though we are awarded the shocking privilege of doing that too for God’s eternal glory. Jesus does more.

Jesus joyfully anticipates us as he is trying to focus and teach in a hot, smelly room full of devotees, paparazzi, and skeptics. He patiently waits to revive the deadest parts of us while he shoulders cosmic burdens. He lovingly serves us after dirt and roofing debris fall down on him and we come limp and uninvited through the ceiling.

No matter how spiritually mature or disciplined we might be, we’re all paralytics at times. Grumpy, helpless, reluctant, and embarrassed. But Jesus delights to serve us anyway because he redeemed us, and he is sending us home at last. He patiently and persistently invites us to let our paralysis be made perfect in himself (2 Cor. 12:9). Come to him, and let him fill you with his strength.

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

by William Ross at April 28, 2016 05:02 AM

20 Quotes from Mark Dever’s New Book on the Great Commission

Article by: Matt Smethurst

The following 20 quotes caught my attention as I read Mark Dever’s new book Understanding the Great Commission, part of B&H’s excellent Church Basics series. Thanks to Tony Reinke for inspiring the 20 quotes idea.

“The Great Commission is normally fulfilled through planting and growing local churches. . . . So the Great Commission involves you, the individual Christian. But the Great Commission also involves you through your local church. That is the normal way God means for us to go, make disciples, baptize, and teach.” (2)

“There is one place we should look for the firstfruits of heaven on earth: the local church. It’s where we catch the first glimpses of heaven’s springtime blossoms.” (11)

“You can have wonderfully rich quiet times, but if that doesn’t translate into how you treat other people, then something is wrong. The normal, natural way for Christians to express our love to God is not merely in singing hymns to him, though that is wonderful. It is also in giving ourselves in love to others.” (13) 

“Churches possess the authority to recognize heaven’s truth and to recognize heaven’s people, just as they should demonstrate heaven’s love.” (16)

“The church is not fundamentally a human idea, or a human creation. Fundamentally, it is God’s idea and God’s work. In one sense, God is the great church planter!” (16)

“The story of the gospel’s spread is the story of the spread of churches. . . . [In the book of Acts], wherever the gospel goes, churches show up. . . . Churches are at the center of God’s Great Commission plan.” (18, 19)

“We don’t want an ‘information’ booth version of the Great Commission. . . . [Many Christians] show up on Sunday, receive a download of information, and then spend the rest of the week better informed, yes, but scarcely connected to the other members of the church or the pastors. That’s how an information booth works. You walk up to the desk, ask your question, and walk away better informed. But you leave with no relational ties to the people back at the desk. They’ve performed their duty, and now you can get on with your business.” (23)

“A sheep that’s converted should not hang out by itself. We live in a fallen, wolfy world. . . . A sheep needs to get himself into a flock where there are shepherds who will guard him. It’s a proud and stupid thing for a sheep to remain by himself, as if there were no wolves.” (25)

“The Great Commission is not about less than personal evangelism and missions, but it is about more. It is about planting churches where people commit to Christ and to one another as members through baptism and the Lord’s Supper.” (31)

“Too often, a grotesque competitiveness between churches marks evangelical churches. But a Great Commission church does not compete with other gospel-preaching churches because it knows every gospel-preaching church is playing for the same team. . . . The members and leaders are as happy about a new gospel-preaching church as they are about a new restaurant opening up in a land of starvation.” (34, 35)

“Discipleship is my following Jesus. Discipling is me helping someone else follow Jesus.” (35)

“A Great Commission church should be uncomfortable for a nominal Christian. If you show up as a guest in such a church on Sunday only as part of your casual duty, you may not like it very much. You would be welcomed, but its members would not be what you are about. They are about giving their whole lives to follow Jesus, and they commit to help one another follow Jesus. Such a commitment and such activity is part of the very culture: intentional questions, meaningful conversations, prayer, and continual reminders of the gospel.” (36)

“A Great Commission church works to train its members in evangelism, because it knows they will collectively see more non-Christians throughout the week than will ever be able to fit in the church building. So ‘success’ in evangelism is not simply bringing your non-Christian friends to church so that they hear the gospel. Success is sharing the gospel with your non-Christian neighbors and friends.” (36) 

“[Our church] prefers supporting few missionaries with more money rather than lots of missionaries with only a little money. That enables the missionaries we do support to spend less time raising money and more time doing the work of church planting. Plus, it helps us to have a relationship with them and offer accountability.” (38)

“Churches commonly have a missions budget line. I think it’s worth adding a ‘Fostering Healthy Churches’ budget line as well. Working to strengthen other churches is a practice of a Great Commission church.” (39)

“You should be careful about criticizing other churches. Yes, there are places where your church’s practices or secondary doctrines might differ from those of other churches. . . . But keep in mind that those secondary matters over which your church might disagree with other churches are never as important as the gospel we all share.” (40–41)

“I commonly tell my church that we just want people to be spiritually fed; they don't need to eat at our restaurant. There are a number of good places they can go in our city. We simply want the level of spiritual hunger on our planet to be reduced.” (43)

“I am so thankful for what God has done in my own city of Washington over the last two decades. When I arrived just over 20 years ago, there were not many healthy, gospel-preaching churches on Capitol Hill that I would have recommended to someone. Today there are half a dozen just on the Hill that I could recommend, and even more throughout the District of Columbia. We list these ‘sister churches’ on our website and on printed cards that hang by our church building doors. If someone doesn’t like our church, or the drive is too far, hopefully they will try one of these other congregations.” (44)

“We need to stop being so turfy about our churches. . . . Our hope is that a number of other churches in our area see us as a resource for them, one who asks little to nothing from them, but has plenty of love and care to give.” (44, 46)

“Think of how the flight attendants on an airplane tell you to put the mask over your own face before placing it over the face of the person traveling with you. In the same way, it is okay for you to care for your own spiritual health first. You need to be able to breathe and grow spiritually if you want to help others.” (50)

Previously in the “20 Quotes” series:

Matt Smethurst serves as managing editor of The Gospel Coalition. He and his wife, Maghan, have two children and live in Louisville, Kentucky. They belong to Third Avenue Baptist Church, where Matt serves as an elder. You can follow him on Twitter.

by Matt Smethurst at April 28, 2016 05:02 AM

How Novels Have Marked American Religious History

Article by: Patrick Allitt

More often than not, it’s easier and more enjoyable to read fiction than theology. Little wonder, then, that for the last 150 years Americans have been writing religious novels, sometimes as a way of discussing difficult theological questions and sometimes just as a way of raising the moral tone of adventure tales. Some of these are still worth reading today; others have sunk into well-deserved obscurity. 

Here’s a short guide to some of America’s most illuminating novels—periodic windows into our religious history.

When Fiction Met Faith

Lew Wallace was a Union Army general and Civil War hero. A chance encounter with Robert Ingersoll, his generation’s most famous agnostic, made Wallace realize how little he knew about Christianity, and prompted him to research and write about it. You’ve perhaps seen the movie based on the book he wrote, but you probably haven’t read the book itself: Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ (1880). It’s the story of a rich Jew, Judah Ben-Hur, wrongly accused of attempting to assassinate a Roman official and condemned to life as a galley slave. As he trudges toward the coast in a chain gang, a strange and marvelous man meets Ben-Hur beside a well, gives him water to drink, and imbues a sense that life isn’t hopeless after all. 

After some wild adventures, including a great sea battle, a dramatic pardon, a rich and colorful life in Rome, a chariot race, and dalliances with beautiful women, Ben-Hur decides to return to Palestine and lead his people to freedom. On arrival, however, he discovers his mother and sister have been healed of leprosy by Jesus, the man he’d met by the well. Ben-Hur resolves that, instead of leading a military uprising, he’ll adopt this wonderful teacher’s message of peace, reconciliation, and love. Wallace, who loved the worldly adventure stories of Alexandre Dumas and Victor Hugo, gives us several hundred pages of swashbuckling adventure in their style and yet, unlike them, ends on a note of pure Christian redemption. 

Wallace himself said that his research and writing led him to convert to Christianity. It was still common in the 1870s and 1880s for American Protestants to frown on fiction as a waste of time and temptation to evil. But this wildly popular book, and the dozens of imitators that followed it over the next few decades, reconciled all but the most prudish Americans to the idea of linking faith to fiction.

WWJD and the Social Gospel

Fifteen years later Charles Sheldon, a Congregationalist minister in Topeka, Kansas, strengthened the link with In His Steps (1896). Sheldon believed Jesus, the working carpenter of Nazareth, had been a primitive socialist. The minister supported the social gospel, a turn-of-the-century movement that emphasized practical work in the world, placing charity and social reform above theology and doctrine. To Sheldon we owe the well-known phrase “What would Jesus do?”

In His Steps begins with busy minister Henry Maxwell discovering a homeless man at the church door begging for food and seeking work (the 1890s was a time of economic depression and widespread unemployment). Maxwell shoos him away but is horrified to discover a few days later that the man has died from starvation. What would Jesus have done in this situation? he asks himself. Surely he never would have denied charity to a supplicant. From then on Maxwell resolves, whenever he faces a moral dilemma, to ask “What would Jesus do?” and then act accordingly. He tells his congregation about this decision and they join him in the “WWJD?” pledge.

The rest of the sermons, preached by Sheldon and then published in book form, were a series of examples about common decency and practical Christian behavior. When one of the town’s businessmen admits he’s been cheating customers by selling adulterated food, he asks himself: If Jesus were a grocer, would he sell contaminated flour and meat? Surely not, so I’ll stop doing it too. A journalist asks himself: If Jesus were a newspaperman, would he write lurid accounts of bare-knuckle prizefights? No! Bit by bit the town develops a reputation for honesty, decency, sobriety, and upright behavior—and thrives as never before. The message is clear: honesty is the best policy, along with charity, generosity, good government, and fair dealing. 

The social gospel was always controversial, and rightly so, but In His Steps portrayed its arguments in an attractive and sympathetic light.

Rise of Fundamentalism 

The perennial challenge of writing religious fiction is to make goodness seem interesting. On the whole, we have a perverse desire for stories about wickedness since they’re more exciting. Harold Frederic’s novel The Damnation of Theron Ware (1896) offers plenty of both. In part it’s a story about America in an era of mass immigration, coming of age as a multi-ethnic and multi-religious nation. A simple Methodist minister, Theron Ware tries to come to terms with the fact that he’s now living among Roman Catholics, agnostics, and downright atheists, and that he has much to learn from them. He’s also forced to recognize his education has been hopelessly inadequate and that he knows almost nothing about the sophisticated theological and historical research happening in the nation’s new universities. Ware proves comically inept when trying to write a book about Abraham based on nothing more than his familiarity with the stories in Genesis. He almost ruins himself chasing after a fascinating young woman, but he’s saved by two down-to-earth Methodist fundraisers who set his feet on the narrow path once more. Frederic, the author, was a religious skeptic and scornful of evangelicalism, which he saw as intellectually weak and overly emotional.

Fundamentalism as we know it took shape in the early 20th-century around a series of pamphlets on basic doctrines titled The Fundamentals. The movement never lacked for critics. Probably the most famous literary attack on fundamentalism is Sinclair Lewis’s Elmer Gantry (1927). Elmer, the central character, is exactly the kind minister who, through the centuries, has brought shame to the profession: he’s ambitious, avaricious, a drunkard, and a womanizer. Above all, he’s a hypocrite who preaches in favor of theological fundamentals and of stern moral self-control—all the while living a life of self-indulgence and vice. Lewis wove into the novel a thinly fictionalized account of Aimee Semple McPherson, whom he calls “Sharon Falconer.” McPherson herself was a charismatic Pentecostal preacher in Hollywood and pioneering radio evangelist, whose reputation was damaged by a sex scandal while Lewis was researching and writing the book.

Despite being 1927’s bestselling novel, Elmer Gantry was controversial from the start, denounced and even banned in some cities. Billy Sunday, the era’s most famous traveling evangelist, demanded Lewis be thrown in jail. Just three years later, Lewis became the first American to win the Nobel Prize in literature. 

Christians should read Elmer Gantry rather than shy away from it. After all, every generation since has unfortunately witnessed ministerial scandals of the kind Lewis described so vividly.

Catholic and Jewish Contributions 

The mid-20th century witnessed many superb religious novels by Roman Catholics and Jews to complement the Protestant books I have highlighted. These were the decades in which it ceased being acceptable to express anti-Catholic and anti-Jewish prejudice, a process helped by news of the Holocaust, the election of a Roman Catholic president (John F. Kennedy in 1960), and by the Second Vatican Council (1962–65).

The fiction of Norman Mailer, Philip Roth, and Saul Bellow explores the social and emotional life of American Jews as they assimilated into themainstream of American life. But my favorite religious American Jewish novel, Chaim Potok’s My Name Is Asher Lev (1972), is set in the ultra-Orthodox separatist subculture of Hasidic New York. Asher, the principal character, is a brilliant young artist, but his religious community has no artistic traditions and regards his gift as a mere curiosity. Nevertheless, he feels an overwhelming desire to make art his life’s work and denies it would compromise his faith. The drama arises when Asher is forced to decide whether he’ll remain within a closed community that will stifle his gifts, or move into the wider world and lose his home. The choice is made all the more painful when his teacher tells him that to be a successful artist in the Western tradition he must master two genres: the nude and the crucifixion. When he explains this point, his Orthodox parents and friends recoil in horror. Read the book to find out what happens next! 

This theme of staying inside or breaking out of a closed world is a common theme in Roman Catholic fiction from this era. The Second Vatican Council encouraged Catholics to be more open to other religious currents in the world, not standoffish, and to view Protestants no longer as heretics but as “separated brethren.” Mary Gordon’s The Company of Women (1981) portrays the suffocating embrace of the “Catholic ghetto” and the young woman Felicitas’s attempt to leave it for the wider world. She’s been raised by her mother and four other Catholic women, all of whom are subservient to an austere, celibate, and ultra-conservative priest. Felicitas knows there’s a richer life outside this narrow circle but is so inexperienced that she makes a succession of catastrophic choices about whom to trust and emulate. You would need a heart of stone not to be moved by its exploration of her religious and emotional turmoil.

Modern Developments 

The later 20th century continued to produce fascinating religious fiction, often linked to new developments in society. John Updike’s Roger’s Version (1987) is a case in point. This entertaining novel, written when Americans were just discovering personal computers (I acquired my first, a “Mac 512 K,” that year), features an evangelical graduate student named Dale who’s convinced his computer can prove God’s existence. The other main character, Roger Lambert, is a much-older divinity school professor who doubts it can be done, observing that if God’s existence were proved, it would no longer be possible to know him through faith. Faith, in other words, is the counterpart of doubt, and they need each other. A prolific novelist and superb religious essayist, Updike had a lifelong interest in theology and wrote about new theological developments in a way that brought them to life, free of academic jargon and hairsplitting.

Yet Updike’s popularity probably won’t rival that of Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, whose Left Behind series caused a sensation among Christian readers in the 1990s and early 2000s. LaHaye was one of the founders of the Moral Majority, the evangelical action group that helped Ronald Reagan win the presidency in 1980. He and Jenkins were utterly sincere, but really they were just carrying on in the tradition of Lew Wallace and Ben-Hur: writing adventure stories with a strong Christian undercurrent and giving the reader plenty of thrills, fights, and chases along the way. The good guys aren’t entirely good, at least not to begin with, or they would have been raptured to heaven at the start rather than being left on earth to battle the forces of evil.

Take Up and Read 

As this quick tour suggests, there’s no shortage of fine American fiction on religious themes. Even the books that can’t really be described as literature make you think about what it meant to live a Christian life in other times and places. The meaning has often changed, and the good Christian of 1890 would look different from the good Christian of today. To be serious about your faith is to think about it, read about it, and learn more about its history all the time. 

At its best, religious fiction helps you do that—even when it’s more distressing and challenging than consoling.

Patrick Allitt is the Cahoon family professor of American history at Emory University. He was born and raised in England but has lived in America for most of his adult life and became a U.S. citizen in 2012. He is the author of seven books, including Religion in America Since 1945: A History, and the speaker in eight lecture series from The Great Courses, including one on American Religious History

by Patrick Allitt at April 28, 2016 05:00 AM

John C. Wright's Journal

Comment Overheard on Another Blog

I read this with great interest.

Comment by gxg dated April 27, 2016 2:50 PM

http://voxday.blogspot.com/2016/04/why-theyre-terrified.html#c3061587443693767064

I know I’ve alluded to this before, but as a successful indie romance novelist, I can say from experience that there’s a noticeable difference between indie-published stories and what comes out of trad publishers.

For one thing, in indie-books, the guys are much more likely to be actual guys. They fight. They’re protective. They will actively seek justice (and not through the courts) if someone wrongs them or their loved ones.

It’s not just on price that indie-publishers are killing it. It’s on the fact that there’s a noticeable trend away from left-wing virtue signaling. I once read a trad-published vampire romance where the hot vampire drove a Prius. A Prius…?

My author fan page is a good example of something else: My readers are, for the most part, not SJW types. They’re mostly married, and from what they post, happily so. They praise their husbands and brag about how wonderful they are. They post pix of their kids and talk about how much they enjoy spending time with them. If they post about the Target bathroom controversy, they’re more likely to side with girls exposed to wieners over confused dudes dressed up as chicks.

Before indie publishing, 99% of all books had to go through coastal left-wing gate-keepers who, to this day, don’t even realized how out of touch they are from Mainstream America.

Read the whole thing.

Albeit not a romance fan (we Vulcans only go into heat once every seven years) I am fascinated by the inverse proportion between political correctness and real romance with the kind of real men real women find worthy of daydreaming about.

by John C Wright at April 28, 2016 12:13 AM

Wilfred Hughes::Blog

Effortless Major Mode Development

It’s now easier than ever to write major modes in Emacs. If you haven’t written a major mode in a while, or you’re just starting out, here are my three top tips:

Use regexp-opt

As of Emacs 24, regexp-opt takes a 'symbols option. You should write your font-lock keywords like this:

(defvar js-mode-font-lock-keywords
  `((,(regexp-opt
       '("var" "for" "function" "if" "else")
       'symbols)
     . font-lock-keyword-face)

This has two advantages. By whitelisting keywords, users can quickly spot mistakes when editing:

This also prevents a classic bug where Emacs highlights substrings that happen to be keywords:

(Don’t) use company

Company is excellent, and I highly recommend it. However, not all Emacsers use company. You don’t need to force company on your users.

Instead, you can use completion-at-point-functions. Your completion functionality will work in stock Emacs, and company users will benefit too through company-capf.

Ah, but what about all the extra annotations you can supply to company? We can have our cake and eat it too:

(defun racer-complete-at-point ()
  "Complete the symbol at point."
  (unless (nth 3 (syntax-ppss)) ;; not in string
    (let* ((bounds (bounds-of-thing-at-point 'symbol))
           (beg (or (car bounds) (point)))
           (end (or (cdr bounds) (point))))
      (list beg end
            (completion-table-dynamic #'racer-complete)
            :annotation-function #'racer-complete--annotation
            :company-prefix-length (racer-complete--prefix-p beg end)
            :company-docsig #'racer-complete--docsig
            :company-location #'racer-complete--location))))

Test with assess

Historically, it’s been rather awkward to test major modes. Many authors didn’t bother.

That’s all changed with the release of assess. Assess provides great assertions with readable error messages.

For example, here’s a simple indentation test from cask-mode:

(ert-deftest cask-mode-indent-inside-development ()
  "Ensure we correctly indent inside (development ...) blocks."
  (should (assess-indentation=
           'cask-mode
           ;; before:
           "
(development
(depends-on \"foo\"))"
           ;; after:
           "
(development
 (depends-on \"foo\"))")))

Highlighting is particularly helped by assess:

(ert-deftest cask-mode-highlight-sources ()
  "Ensure we highlight known values for source."
  (should (assess-face-at=
           "(source melpa)"
           'cask-mode
           "melpa"
           'cask-mode-source-face)))

If this test fails, we get a helpful message describing which faces were actually used:

#("Face does not match expected value
   Expected: cask-mode-source-face
   Actual: font-lock-keyword-face
   Location: 9
   Line Context: (source melpa)
   bol Position: 1"

These tips are all new things I’ve learnt writing a new major mode for Cask files. If you’re just getting started with Emacs development, check out adding a new language to Emacs. Finally, if I’ve missed your favourite tip, leave a comment on the /r/emacs discussion!

by Wilfred Hughes (me@wilfred.me.uk) at April 28, 2016 12:00 AM

April 27, 2016

glandium.org

Announcing git-cinnabar 0.3.0

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

Get it on github.

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

Development had been stalled for a few months, with many improvements in the next branch without any new release. I used some time during the new year break and after in order to straighten things up in order to create a new release, delaying many of the originally planned changes to a future 0.4.0 release.

What’s new since 0.2.2?

  • Speed and memory usage were improved when doing git push.
  • Now works on Windows, at least to some extent. See details.
  • Support for pre-0.1.0 git-cinnabar repositories was removed. You must first
    use a git-cinnabar version between 0.1.0 and 0.2.2 to upgrade its metadata.
  • It is now possible to attach/graft git-cinnabar metadata to existing commits
    matching mercurial changesets. This allows to migrate from some other
    hg-to-git tool to git-cinnabar while preserving the existing git commits.
    See an example of how this works with the git clone of the Gecko mercurial
    repository
  • Avoid mercurial printing its progress bar, messing up with git-cinnabar’s
    output.
  • It is now possible to fetch from an incremental mercurial bundle (without
    a root changeset).
  • It is now possible to push to a new mercurial repository without -f.
  • By default, reject pushing a new root to a mercurial repository.
  • Make the connection to a mercurial repository through ssh respect the
    GIT_SSH and GIT_SSH_COMMAND environment variables.
  • git cinnabar now has a proper argument parser for all its subcommands.
  • A new git cinnabar python command allows to run python scripts or open a python shell with the right sys.path to import the cinnabar module.
  • All git-cinnabar metadata is now kept under a single ref (although for
    convenience, other refs are created, but they can be derived if necessary).
  • Consequently, a new git cinnabar rollback command allows to roll back to
    previous metadata states.
  • git-cinnabar metadata now tracks the manifests DAG.
  • A new git cinnabar bundle command allows to create mercurial bundles,
    mostly for debugging purposes, without requiring to hit a mercurial server.
  • Updated git to 2.7.0 for the native helper.

Development process changes

Up to before this release closing in, the master branch was dedicated to
releases, and development was happening on the next branch, until a new
release happens.

From now on, the release branch will take dot-release fixes and new
releases, while the master branch will receive all changes that are
validated through testing (currently semi-automatically tested with
out-of-tree tests based on four real-life mercurial repositories, with
some automated CI based on in-tree tests used in the future).

The next branch will receive changes to be tested in CI when things
will be hooked up, and may have rewritten history as a consequence of
wanting passing tests on every commit on master.

by glandium at April 27, 2016 11:04 PM

Announcing git-cinnabar 0.3.2

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

Get it on github.

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

This is mostly a bug and regression-fixing release.

What’s new since 0.3.1?

  • Fixed a performance regression when cloning big repositories on OSX.
  • git configuration items with line breaks are now supported.
  • Fixed a number of issues with corner cases in mercurial data (such as, but not limited to nodes with no first parent, malformed .hgtags, etc.)
  • Fixed a stack overflow, a buffer overflow and a use-after free in cinnabar-helper.
  • Better work with git worktrees, or when called from subdirectories.
  • Updated git to 2.7.4 for cinnabar-helper.
  • Properly remove all refs meant to be removed when using git version lower than 2.1.

by glandium at April 27, 2016 10:42 PM

Market Urbanism

“Public Schools Only” Vouchers and Sprawl

About a month ago, I wrote about the pros and cons of school vouchers as a solution for “school-based sprawl” (that is, parents moving to suburbs to avoid urban public schools).   I noted that a voucher program that included private schools might be expensive, since some private schools are quite costly.

By contrast, a school choice program limited to public schools would avoid these fiscal problems: the state could simply forbid public school districts from discriminating on the basis of residence.  If a school district wanted to avoid radical increases in enrollment, it would have to use a lottery to decide which students were admitted.  This plan might discourage sprawl by making prestigious suburban schools available to urban parents.  And if both students from affluent families and students from poor families entered these schools, the class differences between urban and suburban schools might be erased in the long run.  So such an open enrollment program might both expand student choice and be more egalitarian than the status quo.

This plan has one major cost: it would require a considerable investment (either public or private) in transportation, since students in search of good schools might wish to go all over a metropolitan area.  Either government will have to buy many more school buses, or parents will have to spend a lot more time transporting their children to faraway schools.  Moreover, suburbanites will be unwilling to pay property taxes for schools that other people’s children will attend; thus, states  might have to take over school financing.

I note that most states have in fact enacted “open enrollment” laws allowing some interdistrict transfers. However, these laws are generally toothless;  suburban school districts can generally refuse to admit students from other districts on the ground that there is insufficient space for them.   Moreover, open enrollment statutes do not grant students the right to be transported across district lines, which means that students will not be able to attend an out-of-district school unless parents transports them.

by Michael Lewyn at April 27, 2016 07:25 PM

No, ‘New Urbanism’ And ‘Smart Growth’ Are Not The Same

There are two political movements in urban development that have a lot of overlap but are not the same.  ‘New Urbanism’ advocates the legalization and building of communities resembling the 19th century American town, with a fair number of single family homes [or maybe ‘single family’ with granny flats], row houses, and clumps of apartments, close enough to commercial places to be walkable, and diverse in terms of income, hopefully without subsidy.  Smart Growth, on the other hand, goes farther and advocates the forbidding of building that is not either New Urbanist or denser, sometimes even high-rise; and also any building at all outside a ‘growth boundary’.  It is a fact that perhaps 90% of New Urbanists are also Smart Growthers, though many of the leaders of the New Urbanist movement are not; that still does not mean the two philosophies are identical.  Smart Growth, in fact, finds itself an ally in many areas of No Growth, which is not the same as Smart Growth either, but is quite popular in the suburbs as people desire to conserve the values that brought themselves to the suburbs in the first place, and not have the value of their investments diluted by ‘printing’ new housing, as the value of our money is diluted by ‘printing’ money.

A disproportionate number of Jewish people are ‘progressives’ and ‘socialists’ for very historical reasons, for example, but that does not mean that Judaism and progressivism are the same.  And there is a lot of overlap between conservatism and evangelical Christianity, but the two are not the same either.  Overlap does not, and must not, mean identity.

I will admit that, though the single family suburban house was favored for many years by government policy, nevertheless it is what many people, including especially families with children, desire; and I have no objection to allowing that kind of housing to fill in the spaces between the ‘New Urbanist’ and ‘Transit Oriented Development’ clumps, as long as we legalize the building of the clumps too.  A Smart Growther would oppose this; one can be a New Urbanist, however, and not oppose it.  Options are also required by justice for those who might aspire to a single family house, but either cannot afford it now and must save, or those that aspire to an ‘extended family house’, as some ethnicities do, and must save even more.  And of course, this involves legalizing ‘extended family houses’ too!

[Originally published on the blog BlueKennel.com]

by Howard Ahmanson at April 27, 2016 05:36 PM

John C. Wright's Journal

Reviewer Praise from the Informed Reviewer

Best.. Review … Ever …

Rarely, very rarely, in the life of a writer, does he come across a book review by a critic who actually “gets” the point of the book he wrote.

 

I reprint the whole thing:

REVIEW: Iron Chamber of Memory by John C. Wright

Monday , 25, April 2016

When the subject of Appendix N comes up, people almost invariably turns toward the question of what more recent fantasy belongs on the list. Certainly, several people have made the case that Clark Ashton Smith should have been included in the first place. Many are irked that C. L. Moore was excluded as well. And no small number of Earthsea fans have argued that Ursula K. Le Guinn deserved a mention. But you don’t tend to see anything quite like that level of consensus emerge for any of the writers that came onto the sceneafter 1977.

One reason for that is that as years got on, it became harder and harder for authors to be a direct inspirational source for a tabletop rpg. By that criteria, it’s Brian Aldiss that we should be talking about for incorporating into later iterations of the list due to his efforts in laying the groundwork in what would become Gamma World and Metamorphosis Alpha. Another example in a similar vein has would be Larry Niven for his work in putting the concept of “mana” into a format in which game designers could readily transfer to role-playing games.

People tend to get far less specific about just what it is that’s so inspirational about the more recent writers. Fantasy and D&D are at this point so intertwined that many claims that this or that book “belongs in Appendix N” really boil down to people meaning that they like the book. At best they might claim that it is useful to someone running a campaign, but even then they don’t mean running a particularly Gygaxian style campaign. They mean whatever it is that D&D has evolved into at this point, of course.

Meanwhile, the actual works on the Appendix N list are by now so obscure that they no longer serve as a frame of reference for these sorts of discussions. People don’t go out and find recent examples of weird tales, planetary romance, or science fantasy and advocate for them to be added. Those genres can hardly be said to even exist any more, of course, but it wouldn’t matter if they were thriving because they are no longer associated with either D&D or fantasy in any kind of substantial way. So while the wide-ranging diversity of Appendix N is the most striking thing about it, the underlying attribute of most peoples’ suggestions for new inductees is that of conventionality.

So what would a book look like that (all gaming aside) really was in line with what you see in Appendix N?

Well for starters, you might see a litany of magical loot that reads like it could have come straight out of Jack Vance’s Dying Earth series:

One of the mirrors had been opened like a door. Behind was a cabinet made of dark wood, and piled high with parchment bound with ribbons, scrolls, librums, folios and quartos, grimoires, manuals, and books with iron padlocks.

You would also see the invocation of elements of Christian Lore side by side with the mythical and the fantastic– just like you would in stories by A. Merritt and C. L. Moore. Just as one example of this, compare the “last remnant of the strange race which sprang from the original Tree of Life” from the opening chapter of Edgar Rice Burroughs’s The Gods of Mars to this:

That wand was a branch from the Tree of Life, whose roots run deeper than the world. While you grasped it, you could not be moved.

From Lord Dunsany to Poul Anderson, the invocation of elves and Elfland is almost uniformly bound up with themes related to time. This disappears when elves become reworked into being just one of many fantasy “races” that can be described fully from within a purely naturalistic standpoint. In a “real” Appendix N book, however, you are much more likely to see something like this:

Lanval said, “Arthur is in Avalon, recovering from the wound that Mordred dealt, and the years and seasons in that land have no power to pass away, save when the three fair queens grant them leave to go. Here in the mortal world, time flies. There, time tarries. Evil prevails but for an hour.”

Looking at the classic AD&D monster manual today, it can seem a little hokey to see entries for traditional creatures such as the basilisk, centaur, dryad, harpy, hippogriff, leprechaun, medusa, merman, minotaur, nymph, pegusus, satyr, sphinx, and unicorn side by side with more usual dungeon denizens and beings drawn from widely differing mythologies. But the “monster mash” approach is something you see in everything from Narnia to The Broken Sword, so if something was going to invoke old school fantasy, I’d expect to see something along the lines of this:

With roars, shouts, howls, and yips of excitement, the throng of people shoved themselves into the chamber, dragging Manfred with them, and then the talking animals, walking mermaids, lamia, man-eaters, ghouls and witches, their apparel glistering, and making a riotous and unruly noise.

In the Appendix N time frame, Atlantis was almost ubiquitous in fantasy literature. (As I’ve pointed out elsewhere, H. P. Lovecraft, Manly Wade Wellman, Philip José Farmer, and Edgar Rice Burroughs all treated it as a first class world building element.) If someone was going to bill something as being “Appendix N” today, I would expect to see Atlantis dusted off and then worked into the overall background setting– more or less like this:

And the fires of the rainbow, Lanval saw, were words written in the three languages of Man, the Latin of Europe, and the Aramaic of Asia, and the Hieroglyphs taught to the Pharaohs from long-drowned Atlantis. Thunder and lightning fell from the black cloud all around Mandragora.

Finally, if someone really wanted to create something that could be billed as “old school fantasy in the tradition of Appendix N”, above all else it should explore the alien-ness of faerie– and explain why it would make sense for why Christendom would be so leery of it. Reading it should make you understand why the question of whether or not elves had souls could have been a serious game design issue back in the seventies. The book should really capture both the allure and the generousness of elves by incorporating things like this:

“Near Wool is the ruined Cistercian monastery of Bindon Abbey. A boy who once served the monks there would dawdle and frolic on his errands, and swim in this river. His name was Lubberlu. Well, once from between the bulrushes appeared a maiden whose eyes sparkled like sunlight on blue water, and whose silver hair was like a flowing waterfall. They dallied and kissed and laughed, and the boy day after day finding any excuse to be sent on errands, always found his way to the waterside as the summer days turned toward autumn, and the feast of all souls drew nigh. Lubberlu approached one of the monks of the abbey, and said he wished to marry the girl. But the monk knew she was no mortal maiden, and forbade it, warning him of the murderous ways of the daughters of the river water, the nix, the mermaids. In tears the boy fled, vowing to bring the girl to a proper Christian wedding, and turn her from her ways. The next day his drowned corpse was found floating face up in the river, tangled among the bulrushes.”

The book that all of these passages are taken from is Iron Chamber of Memory by John C. Wright. And while you’ll see contemporary authors ranging from Saladin Ahmad to Terry Brooks, N. K. Jemisin, George R. R. Martin, and Patrick Rothfuss incorporated into the latest iteration of D&D’s “inspirational reading list”, I’m not sure any of the additions are going to be anything like this. Fantasy role-playing and the genre of fantasy in general have just changed too much, really. Speaking for myself, reading this book… it’s like someone read everything I liked about Appendix N books and everything I disliked about post-1977 science fiction and fantasy… and then made a novel that addressed every single point I’d made about them. It’s astonishing, really… but this is the book that has forced me to retire my “they don’t make ’em like this anymore” spiel.

If you are a devotee of Appendix N literature, you won’t want to miss this one. While it has more than a little of C. S. Lewis’s approach to fantasy and science fiction within its pages– and while the case can be made that he is a great fit for D&D, admittedly he wasexcluded from Appendix N– it is nevertheless firmly within the same tradition of fantasy that Appendix N authors like Lord Dunsany and Poul Anderson worked with.

Recommended.

My comment: The critic here is Hugo-nominated columnist and SF historian Jeffro Johnson penned an award-worthy series of articles for the Castalia House blog wherein a he read the classic novels and authors listed in the Appendix N of Gary Gygax’s first edition AD&D.

Here, for the sake of completeness, is the list:

  • Anderson, Poul: THREE HEARTS AND THREE LIONS; THE HIGH CRUSADE; THE BROKEN SWORD
  • Bellairs, John: THE FACE IN THE FROST
  • Brackett, Leigh
  • Brown, Frederic
  • Burroughs, Edgar Rice: “Pellucidar” series; Mars series; Venus series
  • Carter, Lin: “World’s End” series
  • de Camp, L. Sprague: LEST DARKNESS FALL; THE FALLIBLE FIEND; et al
  • de Camp & Pratt: “Harold Shea” series; THE CARNELIAN CUBE
  • Derleth, August
  • Dunsany, Lord [sic]
  • Farmer, P. J.: “The World of the Tiers” series; et al
  • Fox, Gardner: “Kothar” series; “Kyrik” series; et al
  • Howard, R. E.: “Conan” series
  • Lanier, Sterling: HIERO’S JOURNEY
  • Leiber, Fritz: “Fafhrd & Gray Mouser” series; et al
  • Lovecraft, H. P.
  • Merritt, A.: CREEP, SHADOW, CREEP; MOON POOL; DWELLERS IN THE MIRAGE; et al
  • Moorcock, Michael: STORMBRINGER; STEALER OF SOULS; “Hawkmoon” series (esp. the first three books)
  • Norton, Andre
  • Offutt, Andrew J.: editor of SWORDS AGAINST DARKNESS III
  • Pratt, Fletcher: BLUE STAR; et al
  • Saberhagen, Fred: CHANGELING EARTH; et al
  • St. Clair, Margaret: THE SHADOW PEOPLE; SIGN OF THE LABRYS
  • Tolkien, J. R. R.: THE HOBBIT; “Ring trilogy”
  • Vance, Jack: THE EYES OF THE OVERWORLD; THE DYING EARTH; et al
  • Weinbaum, Stanley
  • Wellman, Manley Wade
  • Williamson, Jack
  • Zelazny, Roger: JACK OF SHADOWS; “Amber” series; et al

To Mr. Johnson, it was a voyage of discovery, because the old books were new: to me, a walk down the lanes of nostalgia. And what he discovered was that Dungeons and Dragons, and, indeed, nearly all of pre-1977 fantasy and science fiction, had several elements missing (and to my mind, and his, regrettably so) from modern science fiction and fantasy.

No better man could be suited to review my latest book, IRON CHAMBER OF MEMORY. It could have been written with Appendix N in mind.

by John C Wright at April 27, 2016 04:47 PM

Rabid Puppies Sweep Hugo Nominations

Here is a press release from my publisher and Supreme Dark Lord of the Evil Legion of Evil Authors, our own Mr. Theodore “VOX  DAYYYYY” Beale, announcing what promises to be the first of many triumphs:

RABID PUPPIES
Make the 2016 Hugos Great

RP_2016_mail2

Much to the surprise of the social justice warriors in the science fiction community, who believed stern disapproval and a record voter turnout would suffice to leash the Rabid Puppies, the nominations for the 2016 Hugo Awards were once more dominated by the corybantic canines. 64 of the Supreme Dark Lord’s 81 recommendations made the 2016 shortlist, an increase of 6 from last year’s 58 finalists.

“I’m not even remotely surprised to learn that the Rabid Puppies did so well,” said Vox Day, as he mopped his brow with the flayed skin of an SJW after an arduous night of celebrating his fourth and fifth nominations. “For over 20 years, the mainstream science-fiction publishers have been trying to pass off romance in space and left-wing diversity lectures as science fiction. Support for the Puppies is a popular reaction to mediocrities and absurdities being presented as the very best that the field has to offer.”

Many of the finalists were delighted by the news. Chuck Tingle, author of “Space Raptor Butt Invasion”, nominated for Best Short Story, tweeted: “understand #HUGOAWARDS nominate Space Raptor Butt Invasion as best book ever. This PROVES that we exhist in the first layer of tingleverse!”

Others were less pleased. Tor Books author David Barnett declared in The Guardian: “The Hugo awards, once the watchword of quality in the SFF world, appear to have been utterly derailed for the second year running.”

Some of the more notable Hugo Award finalists include:

  • Moira Greyland’s account of her childhood abuse at the hands of her mother, the award-winning science fiction writer Marion Zimmer Bradley, nominated in Best Related Work.
  • SF great Jerry Pournelle, whose groundbreaking There Will Be War series returned after a 25-year absence due to the end of the Cold War, nominated in Best Editor, Short Form.
  • “Space Raptor Butt Invasion” by Chuck Tingle, a sensuous space romance that is a tribute to true diversity in science fiction, nominated in Best Short Story.
  • SJWs Always Lie: Taking Down the Thought Police, the political philosophy bestseller by Vox Day, nominated in Best Related Work.
  • My Little Pony, Friendship is Magic, Season 5, Episodes 1-2, “The Cutie Map”, nominated in Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form.

The official list of the finalists in all 16 categories, including the 2016 Campbell Award for Best New Writer, can be found here:  http://www.thehugoawards.org/hugo-history/2016-hugo-awards/

by John C Wright at April 27, 2016 03:58 PM

Daniel Lemire's blog

We know a lot less than we think, especially about the future.

The inventors of the airplane, the Wright brothers, had little formal education (3 and 4 years of high school respectively). They were not engineers. They were not scientists. They ran a bicycle repair shop.

At the time of their invention, there was quite a bit of doubt as to whether airplanes were possible. It is hard to imagine how people could doubt the possibility of an airplane, but many did slightly over a century ago.

Lord Kelvin famously said that “heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible” back in 1895.

But that is not all. The American government had nonetheless funded an illustrious Physics professor, Samuel Langley with millions of dollars in today’s currency so that he would build an airplane. The man had written the textbook on aeronautic at the time.

Langley failed miserably. This lead the illustrious New York Times to publish this prediction:

flying machine which will really fly might be evolved by the combined and continuous efforts of mathematicians and mechanicians in from one million to ten million years

It is likely at this point that many experts would have agreed with the New York Times. Flying was just not possible. We had given large sums to the best and smartest people. They could not make a dent in the problem. We had the greatest scientists in the world stating openly that flying was flat out impossible. Not just improbable, but impossible.

Yet only a few days later, with no government grant, no prestigious degree, no credential whatsoever, the Wright brothers flew an heavier-than-air machine. That was 1903.

In the first Word War of 1914, only ten years later, both camps used war planes.

The story is worse than I make it sound because even after the Wright brothers did fly… it took years for the Americans to notice. That is, people did not immediately recognize the significance of what the Wright brothers demonstrated.

You think we are smarter now and such silliness would not happen.

Here is what Steve Ballmer, Microsoft CEO said about the iPhone when it came out…

it [the iPhone] doesn’t appeal to business customers because it doesn’t have a keyboard, which makes it not a very good email machine. Right now we’re selling millions and millions and millions of phones a year, Apple is selling zero phones a year.

That was 2007. Today Apple sells about 60 million iPhones per month. How many phones does Microsoft sell? How many Microsoft phones have you seen lately?

To be fair, it is true that most new ideas fail. We get a new cure for Alzheimer’s every week. The fact that we get a new one every week is a pretty good indication that it is all hype. But the real lesson is not that we cannot break through hard problems. The true lesson is that we know a lot less than we think, especially about the future.

Pessimism is the easy way out. Asked about any new idea, I can simply say that it is junk. And I will be right 99% of the time. We obsess about not being wrong when, in fact, if you are not regularly wrong, you are simply not trying hard enough. What matters is that you are somehow able to see the important things as they are happening. Pessimists tend to miss everything but the catastrophes.

by Daniel Lemire at April 27, 2016 03:33 PM

The Art of Non-Conformity

The Historian Who Couldn’t Escape from Alcatraz

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In the introduction to one of the chapters of my new book, I wrote about escaping from Alcatraz. If you’re trying to get out of an unfulfilling job, it can sometimes feel just as difficult as getting out of prison.

I used the Alcatraz story as a metaphor, but a reader who wants to remain anonymous wrote in with a personal story that I really liked. Here’s what she said:

“My uncle was a historian at the Maritime Museum in San Francisco. He gave me a tour of their private collection once, items that were too delicate for public display.

In a large metal drawer, he showed me the fake human heads made of soap that the escaped inmates had used to fool the nighttime guards. Can you imagine? Collecting the tiny end slivers of soap after a shower. Getting them back to your cell. Finally saving enough to create a head. They also made a makeshift drill out of hair clippers and a screw. You get really creative when you need to escape!

Unfortunately, my uncle was one of those people who could not orchestrate his own prison break.

When my father and I cleared out his apartment after he moved into hospice care, we found not only thousands of books, but scores of note pads, with lists of plans for the future. While my uncle seemed to have virtually a genius level IQ, his social skills were almost nonexistent and he had no friends. When my father notified the museum of his death, one of the people in his department didn’t even know who he was. His lists all went in the trash. I find that heartbreaking.

When you miss out on your calling, it’s all too easy for years to slide by. Then you get to the end… And that’s it. That’s how your life actually went.

Why settle when there’s another way?”

I don’t have much to add to this story, which is already well-told. I’d just note that the historian isn’t the only one who lives and dies without pursuing a dream. Whenever I hear stories like this, I try to think about it in the context of my life. What are my plans for the future?

As you consider the story, ask yourself: “Is there an Alcatraz I need to escape from? What’s left undone in my life?”

###

Image: Dakota

by Chris Guillebeau at April 27, 2016 01:04 PM

Justin Taylor

What Is the Christian’s Highest Good?

Jonathan Edwards answered that question in a sermon delivered when he was 27 years old:

The redeemed have all their objective good in God.

God himself is the great good which they are brought to the possession and enjoyment of by redemption.

He is the highest good, and the sum of all that good which Christ purchased.

God is the inheritance of the saints; he is the portion of their souls.

God is their wealth and treasure, their food, their life, their dwelling place, their ornament and diadem, and their everlasting honor and glory.

They have none in heaven but God; he is the great good which the redeemed are received to at death, and which they are to rise to at the end of the world.

The Lord God, he is the light of the heavenly Jerusalem; and is the ‘river of the water of life’ that runs, and the tree of life that grows, ‘in the midst of the paradise of God’.

The glorious excellencies and beauty of God will be what will forever entertain the minds of the saints, and the love of God will be their everlasting feast.

The redeemed will indeed enjoy other things; they will enjoy the angels, and will enjoy one another: but that which they shall enjoy in the angels, or each other, or in anything else whatsoever, that will yield them delight and happiness, will be what will be seen of God in them.

—Jonathan Edwards, “God Glorified in the Work of Redemption, by the Greatness of Man’s Dependence upon Him, in the Whole of It (1731)” [sermon on 1 Corinthians 1:29-31 preached in the fall of 1730 at Northampton and then repeated at the Publick Lecture in Boston on July 8, 1731] in The Sermons of Jonathan Edwards: A Reader, ed. Wilson H. Kimnach, Kenneth P. Minkema, and Douglas A. Sweeney (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999), 74-75.

by Justin Taylor at April 27, 2016 11:24 AM

Front Porch Republic

Academy of Philosophy and Letters Conference

The Academy of Philosophy and Letters will be holding its annual conference at the BWI in Baltimore on May 27-29. The Topic this year is “The Benedict Option: The Problems of Culture in Times of Crisis.” This will be the first serious academic conference dedicated to Rod Dreher’s idea of “the Benedict Option.” Rod will be the keynote speaker. Porchers speaking at the conference include Mark Mitchell, James Matthew Wilson, and yours truly (I’ll be on a panel with Rod, Claes Ryn, and David Walsh). Walter McDougall will be the Saturday evening dinner speaker.

Any readers interested in attending ought to contact Justin Garrison (garrison@roanoke.edu) for more information.

Updated Conference Schedule 2

The post Academy of Philosophy and Letters Conference appeared first on Front Porch Republic.

by Jeffrey Polet at April 27, 2016 11:13 AM

From the Multiversity Cave: Students and the State

Saginaw, MI

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

One of the recent movements in American education has been to make schools student-centered, whether from Montessori pre-schools to institutions of higher education: the values of independence, freedom, and self-discovery. The origins of this movement can be traced back to the eighteenth century with the writings of Jean-Jacques Rousseau who emphasizes the distinctive nature of a child’s mind and that it should develop naturally. This belief, the child’s own experiences should be central to his or her learning, also is shared by John Dewey, the most influential theorist on American education. Although Dewey, as a Hegelian, disagrees with certain aspects of Rousseau’s pedagogy, he places the student’s experiences at the forefront of learning as does Rousseau.

Rousseau starts with the premise that human beings are naturally good with society as a corrupting influence upon them. Since children are closest to our innate natural goodness, they should be educated through their own experiences, having the freedom to learn to do for themselves, for true happiness resides in their desires. However, this freedom experienced by the child is really a form of manipulation of its environment by the teacher: the context of the experiences and the lesson to be drawn already has been carefully arranged. Thus, the child is not told what to do or think but is led to draw its own conclusions as a result of its explorations.

The first stage of a child’s education, from birth to the age of twelve, is to avoid conveying the idea that humans relations are one of domination and subordination by allowing the child maximum freedom. From the age of twelve, the child acquires the knowledge of abstract skills and concepts through practical experience and begins to take an interest in how others regard him or her. The great concern during this period is that excessive self-love may result. The teacher therefore must ensure that the student’s relations with others are first mediated through compassion and gratitude so that his or her self-love is established on a non-competitive foundation. The final period of education is the finding of a spouse who can be a source of non-competitive recognition and instruction into the political philosophy of Rousseau’s social contract.

The aim of Rousseau’s education is to make the child into a responsible, democratic citizen whose self-love is derived from moral considerations rather than competitive ones. Although we may dispute Rousseau’s premise of natural goodness and question some of his pedagogical practices, we can agree with his aims of cultivating responsible, democratic citizens whose self-love is morally rather than competitively based. How one accomplishes this, particularly how to cultivate a sense of self-worth not based on grades, resumes, and awards, is a challenge for the multiversity. But by making the student rather than the administrator or professor at the center of its enterprise, the multiversity would rely less on standardized assessments and be open to qualitative evaluations of the student as both a learner and a human being. Grades and other such benchmarks are required to evaluate students as learners but the multiversity also should include other ways to consider the well-being of the student as a person.

Although Dewey differs from Rousseau about schools’ relationships to society, he does share Rousseau’s preoccupation of making the student at the center of the learning process. For Dewey, the student must be able to show how content relates to his or her prior experiences, thereby deepening the connection with this new knowledge. Content is required but it must take into account the interests and experiences of the student. However, content is not necessarily the acquisition of a pre-determined set of skills but rather assisting students to realize their full potential so that they can contribute to a democratic society, for the ultimate purpose of schools is to be instruments of social change and reform.

Dewey consequently is a proponent of experiential education, where the teacher provides direct experience into the learning process, and not experiential education, which Rousseau advocates. These insights are critical for effective teaching in the multiversity: students need to be shown that what they are studying is relevant to their lives in order to become engaged in the subject; and experiential education, when appropriate, should be incorporated into the classroom. The student is the reason, or at least one of the primary reasons, why the multiversity exists and administrators and faculty need be reminded of this.

But there is one lingering concern in both Rousseau’s and Dewey’s educational philosophies: the subordination of education to serve the state. For both Rousseau and Dewey, the citizen should be moulded to suit democratic government. Although we, who live in a democratic society, might not have issue with this aim, we might wonder whether this should be one of the goals of the multiversity: to cultivate democratic citizenship and, when needed, to be instruments of social change and reform? Of course, such an objective immediately raises the questions, “whose change and whose reform?” For instance, are forms of political correctness imposed on the multiversity a form of positive social change or nothing more than acceptable and tolerated political propaganda? And who benefits from such an imposition: administrators, faculty members, interest groups, the state?

An alternative perspective of education is to make a good human being, even if such an education were to run contrary to the requirements of the state. One thinks of Socrates as an exemplar of this view. Aristotle also explores this tension that exists between the requirements of the good citizen and the demands of a good person, but Rousseau and Dewey do not. For them, the state is the ultimate end for any educational endeavor. Thus, the multiversity must ask itself which path should it follows: one that stands apart and in tension with state or one that fully supports it. And if it is the latter, one wonders whether the student, who is at the centerpiece of Rousseau’s and Dewey’s pedagogical theories, merely becomes swallowed up by the state to become a good citizen with the good person spitted out.

Lee Trepanier is a Professor of Political Science at Saginaw Valley State University. More information about him can be found at http://svsu.academia.edu/LeeTrepanier.

The post From the Multiversity Cave: Students and the State appeared first on Front Porch Republic.

by Lee Trepanier at April 27, 2016 11:05 AM

Table Titans

Tales: Oh, Brave Sir Knight

The party had been scouring an island called Madman's Rock in search of the Dread Pirate Jamus' treasure.

They were looking through some caves in an attempt to find clues to its location. Suddenly, a Chuul burst out of a nearby pool in an attempt at a massive meal of foolish adventurers.

Read more

April 27, 2016 07:00 AM

The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

Learning to Love in a Disordered World

Article by: Matthew Arbo

Few words in the contemporary English lexicon are used with greater flippancy and imprecision than “love.” One might express love of chocolate or Terrence Malick films or the Lord Jesus Christ, with no semantic distinction. Perhaps this confusion is attributable in part to the stunted, emotive character of our modern moral vocabularies. Whatever the case, the church could use a fresh, accessible book on the theological shape of embodied love. And James K. A. Smith—professor of philosophy at Calvin College and editor of Comment magazine—has given us one.

You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit [interview] represents Smith’s latest effort to remind us of love’s contribution to the basic logic of discipleship, and why our discipleship “needs to be centered in and fueled by our immersion into the body of Christ.” The book underscores the personal and collective embodiment of love, stressing the vitality of habits and practices—or “liturgies,” as Smith would have it—to order love rightly toward God and neighbor. Love, then, is both expressive and formative.

In keeping with the spirit of this emphasis, let me commend to you several lovely themes of You Are What You Love, after which I’ll conclude by quibbling with Smith’s construal of the thinking-loving relationship. For such a short book it covers an expansive territory, so I regret that I’ll not be able to indicate all the ways readers may appreciate its prudence. You Are What You Love is a superb book. Here are a few reasons why you should read it.

Agency 

At no point does Smith oversimplify human agency. Humans are the same in that we’re each different. Smith ably explains the significance of narrative in the formation of personal character. It isn’t so much that we each have a character as that we are a character—in two senses of the word “are.”

In one respect the disciple embodies a life Christ has redeemed, and in another sense is a character within the historic saga of Christ’s body, the church. We each have our own stories of being made a character in the great story of redemption, and it’s vital we understand our own story as enveloped by the longer ongoing story of Christ’s body and mission.

Liturgy

Smith cites the late David Foster Wallace’s stirring commencement speech asserting that everyone bends the knee to something—“everyone worships.” The question isn’t whether we worship, but what we worship. We’d like to think that, on the whole, we’re mindful of what we worship. Yet the truth is that we’re not especially conscious of the vast majority of our daily judgments. We’re driven about by our loves, and these loves are so powerful and commanding that we can’t think our way through or out of them. We are our loves. And reordering them involves attending to our embodied practices, to the very form of our life. As Smith puts it, “Worship is the heart of discipleship if and only if worship is a repertoire of Spirit-endued practices that grab hold of your gut, recalibrate your kardia, and capture your imagination.”

The book’s final three chapters offer overlapping examples of how our ordinary practices—our liturgies—can reshape love: liturgies for the home, for education, and for vocation. The point of such liturgies isn’t repetition, per se, nor is it to avoid thoughtlessness. The point, rather, is to so order our loves so that we really do worship. Liturgies gradually hone our sensibilities; each of us is becoming a certain kind of person.

Imagination

Smith reflects with great insight on the powers colluding to impoverish our imagination and proposes constructive, hopeful guidance for recovering and fostering it. This is a much harder feat to accomplish than one might initially think, primarily because the prospect of enlivening imagination itself requires imagination.

Smith’s illustrations throughout the book are exemplary, as he not only tells but shows the truths of imagination. His chapter on teaching reminded me of the imperative to help my students picture themselves and their world, and even gave me a few ideas I can modify for classroom instruction. Wisdom abounds in this chapter. It certainly got me thinking more deeply about how, as a moral theologian, I portray for students the ways in which theology suffuses our moral universe with meaning.

Discern and Differentiate 

I recognize this short survey of lovely themes cannot adequately capture the excellence of You Are What You Love. But I must share one concern. Occasionally, Smith draws a sharp contrast between thinking and loving, particularly where his critiques of Cartesian “thinking-thingism” are most pronounced, which by the end had me wondering: how long can a stress on loving and corresponding neglect of thinking be fruitfully maintained?

My guess is Smith would reply by pointing out the obvious logical truth that stressing the vital importance of love to individual formation does not at the same time deny thinking’s relevance to discipleship. True enough. But the effect of Smith’s approach—of emphatically underscoring the formative power of love upon human agency and minimizing the role of thinking—does raise natural questions as to how judgements upon the character and objects of love are ever reached. How am I to recognize, in other words, what deserves loving and what does not? Or to discern whether I have taken a wise course of action rather than circling in foolish indecision? How likewise am I to differentiate an experience of real culture from deceits of some cultural mythology? 

Loving rightly must, at pivotal points, involve thinking rightly. Obedience itself implies as much. Those who have read Smith’s previous work will, like me, assume he tracks fully with this line of thought. He understands Augustinian recollection (cogito) and so grasps the holistic character of human intellectual and affective faculties. I suppose my concern is with sometimes diminishing the role thinking itself plays in the reordering of love. Augustine, for example, explains Christian love in terms of its relation to faith and hope, such that loving, believing, and hoping all co-imply each other. So, Smith may be right that we can’t think our way out of our loves, but neither, I’d suggest, can we finally love our way out of thinking.

Veiled Hope

In fairness to Smith, a book can accomplish only so much, and thus my minor reservation about not-being-quite-Augustinian-enough-in-one-very-narrow-respect is really more of a veiled hope that a volume to complement this one is forthcoming.

Regardless of whether that installment ever arrives, though, please let me commend You Are What You Love. You’re likely to love it.

James K. A. Smith. You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit. Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2016. 210 pp. $19.99.

Matthew Arbo (PhD, University of Edinburgh) is assistant professor of theological studies and director of the center for faith and ublic life at Oklahoma Baptist University. He’s the author of Political Vanity: Adam Ferguson on the Moral Tensions of Early Capitalism (Fortress, 2014). You can follow him on Twitter.

by Matthew Arbo at April 27, 2016 05:02 AM

I’m Not Just an Image-Bearer

Article by: Bethany Jenkins

Cynthia Pizarro is president of CSpring, a consulting firm that offers IT and business solutions focused on customer success. In addition to leading business operations, Cynthia is involved in managing key accounts, developing marketing initiatives, and hiring staff. She is also a founding member of Indiana TechWorx, a technology and business leadership group based in Indianapolis. She and her husband, Peter, live in Carmel, Indiana, along with their two children and belong to College Park Church.

What do you do every day?

I wake up around 5:30 a.m. and, after making coffee and emptying the dishwasher, my husband and I sit down to read the Bible and pray. At 6:30 a.m. we wake up the kids, pack their lunches, and attempt to get everyone out the door by 7:20 a.m.

After I drop off the kids at school, I go to the office, where I wear several different hats—marketer, designer, forecaster, and more. On the side I’m also involved with launching a new organization to connect businesses across Indianapolis, TechWorx.

How does your work give you an opportunity to love your neighbors (Mark 12:31)?

A few years ago, I was convicted by the Holy Spirit to pray at our first Christmas party. I was nervous since my business partner at the time wasn’t a Christian and our employees have different faiths. But I did it. Surprisingly, people approached me afterward saying that they loved it and felt cared for by me.

Since then I’ve increasingly become aware that I’m not just God’s image-bearer I’m his gospel representative, too. I can love them best by being an intentional witness to his truth and grace. When I’m sensitive to the prodding of the Holy Spirit, I have lots of opportunities to share my faith.

Where does your personal brokenness cut up against your work, and how do you fight it?

I have high standards and care a lot about what others think. I don’t care about having the fanciest car or the biggest house, but I want everything I touch to be exceptional.

As the Spirit does his sanctifying work in my heart, though, I care more about the approval of God than the approval of others. The beauty of the gospel is that God approves me on the basis of what Christ has done, not what I’ve done. This frees me to be positive and optimistic since I can trust his plans are good and sure.

How does your other work function as a way to love your neighbors too?

Four years ago, my neighbor and I decided to host a Bible study at my home for our neighbors. I was nervous and felt inadequate because I’d never led a Bible study before. Plus, our neighborhood isn’t filled with many spiritually polished women; most don’t go to church.

But when we invited them, they came. We’re now in our third year and have a name, Women Next Door. Since our church’s mission statement is “to ignite a passion to follow Jesus,” the mission of Women Next Door is “to be the spark that ignites the passion to follow Jesus in our neighborhoods.” I’m so expectant about what God will do in this ministry.

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

Bethany L. Jenkins is the Director of The Gospel Coalition’s Every Square Inch, the Director of Vocational & Career Development at The King’s College, and the Founder of The Park Forum. She previously worked on Wall Street and on Capitol Hill. She received her JD from Columbia Law School and attends Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, where she is a current CFW Fellow and a former Gotham Fellow through the Center for Faith & Work. You can follow her on Twitter.

by Bethany Jenkins at April 27, 2016 05:01 AM

How I Discovered True Masculinity

Article by: Matt Moore

My adolescence was a social nightmare. I grew up in the rural South but didn’t fit the mold of Southern masculinity in the slightest. Sports piqued no interest in me; roughhousing made me nervous; slaying innocent animals seemed cruel and gross. Of course I never expressed such blasphemies—I wasn’t stupid! But I was everything opposite of what my Duck Dynasty-like culture insisted I should be. I was sensitive. I liked to read. I liked to draw. I liked to journal. I wasn’t your mud ridin’, hog huntin’ kind of boy.

The nightmare cranked up to a Freddy Krueger level of horror when I realized I was attracted to the same sex. While my male peers were crushing on girls, I was crushing on them. I didn’t utter the word “gay” to describe myself until I was 19 years old, and no one prior to that time knew about my so-called sexual orientation. But I knew. I was painfully aware of how abnormal, unmanly, distorted, and screwed up I was, which made relating to other guys . . . well, I just didn’t relate to them.

You could see how this might make life a little scary for me.

Feeling Other

I really thought whatever god was responsible for creating me must have been a little drunk when he pieced me together. I never felt like a woman, nor did I want to be one, but I also didn’t feel like a man. I felt other, which made me feel inferior to other males and uncomfortable around them. I mean, sure, I had guy friends. But those friendships were a forgery. Those guys didn’t know the person I really was inside; they only knew the fake Matt—the Matt who played football, partied, and dated girls just to be perceived as normal. The real Matt Moore, the one I concealed from their sight, was constantly filled with fear and anxiety in their company since I didn’t believe I measured up to their standard of manliness. I felt less than what I was supposed to be. Incomplete. Distorted. Other.

Fast-forward six years through a lot of junk and drama, and I found myself a Christian in a new community: the church. Though my soul’s deepest need (reconciliation with God) was satisfied through being united to Jesus, the relational sphere of my life remained strangled by insecurity and feelings of inferiority. I still felt inadequate as a man and painfully uncomfortable in the presence of other guys. 

So even in the church, the place where I should’ve felt most at home, I felt somewhat alienish. I saw Christian brotherhood beautifully displayed in the various churches I visited during the first two years of my new life in Jesus, but I didn’t believe I was “man enough” to fit into it. And I didn’t think I could handle the rejection I believed would come if I tried. So I lingered in the shadows of church life, attending services and then quickly escaping before any of the men could pin me down and invite me to “hang out.”

But one Sunday morning, I got pinned.

Getting Pinned

After the service concluded, I began to sneak out of the building when some guy literally began to yell my name. I turned around and slowly began making my way toward this unashamed shouter who successfully interrupted my escape. I recognized him immediately: Kyle. A couple of weeks prior, Kyle, a staff member at the church, had introduced himself via Facebook message after running across one of my blog posts, seeing my picture, and recognizing me as a regular visitor.

He reached out his hand to shake mine, introducing himself again, and after a few minutes of chitchat, he released me from what I’m sure he could tell was a terribly awkward situation for me. But little did I know that terribly awkward situation would be the beginning of an incredible friendship—a friendship that would transform my life in a million different ways.

At his prodding, Kyle and I started meeting once a week for breakfast. Most guys I knew only got together to do things: throw the football, build something, shoot something, or other things I lacked the ability to do. This was the first time I regularly met with another man just to talk. I thought our conversations would be forced and awkward, but they weren’t—at all. They were fluid, honest, and comfortable. He didn’t shy away from my messy homosexual past or my ongoing struggle with those tendencies. He spoke comfortably about this struggle of mine, not painting it any weirder or worse than his own struggles. Kyle engaged me in a way that didn’t make me feel my personality and sin struggles invalidated me as a man. He treated me like an equal—an equal in Christ and an equal in manhood.

Pushing Down Walls

When I discovered Kyle was moving to New Orleans to plant a church, I prayed and decided to join him and his team. Months later, eight of us made our way down to the Big Easy and formed our own itty bitty church community. Though I experienced an unprecedented level of comfort and ease in my relationship with Kyle, I still retreated from the other two men in our super small church. However, just like Kyle, neither accepted my retreat. They both relentlessly pursued my friendship and made constant efforts to make me feel I belonged.

And by “make me feel like I belonged,” I don’t mean they tried to shape me into their image. They didn’t give me a guy-makeover, forcing me to go to football games or participate in other culturally masculine activities I didn’t enjoy. They sat down and talked to me. They invited me over for dinner or out for coffee and initiated conversations about things in which they knew I had interest. They asked about my life. They asked about my family. They told me about their life. They told me about their family. They shared their struggles in a way that showed me they didn’t view my same-sex attraction as worse or weirder than their own moral brokenness. These guys embraced the patient work of pushing through my walls and getting to know me.

After ample time with these men, I began to see we weren’t all that different. Sure, they loved football, and I didn’t. But aside from our different interests and hobbies (which I’d finally begun to believe have no bearing on how “manly” one is), we were similar people who loved Jesus and valued meaningful friendship. As I observed their lives they led, the image I had in my mind of what it meant to be a man started to crumble. A man could be gentle and compassionate. A man could be thoughtful and sensitive. A man could be a better conversationalist than he is a sportsman. A man could talk about women with respect and integrity. A man could struggle with various weaknesses. If these men, even with their deep flaws, accurately represented what it means to be a man, then I also met the standard.

Real Manhood

Seeds of healthy confidence in my God-given manhood began to settle into my heart. I started to see God had wired into me truly masculine traits—such as compassion for the marginalized, a desire to protect and care for the weak, and a resilience to follow and obey Christ. And yeah, my sexuality is jacked up. But I finally started to see that my brokenness doesn’t invalidate me as a man. Every day I’m submitting it to the will and power of God. I could be straight as an arrow but still fall terribly short of manhood if I didn’t submit my heterosexuality to the revealed will of God. It’s more masculine to be mainly attracted to men yet obedient to God than it is to be mainly attracted to women and disobedient to God. A celibate same-sex attracted guy is far more of a man than a womanizing guy who bows to the will of his sex drive. Real men obey God.

Growing to see myself as nothing more and nothing less than a redeemed man who struggles with the flesh might be the most freeing transformation I’ve experienced as a Christian. It’s freed me from anxiety, from feelings of inferiority, and from living in the shadows of isolation. And it’s freed me to meaningful friendship and fellowship with a local church—and with a community of men—who love Jesus. If the guys I’ve spent the latter half of this article describing hadn’t rallied around me in authentic friendship, I would’ve experienced none of this. 

I’m so grateful God brought men into my life who didn’t try to give me a “guy makeover.” Instead, they sought me as I was, loved me when I didn’t want them to, and allowed me to learn what manhood is really about. They will never know to what depths they’ve enriched my life.

Matt Moore is a Christian writer living in New Orleans, Louisiana, where he moved in 2012 to help plant NOLA Baptist Church. Matt spends his days drinking way too much coffee and writing about a wide variety of topics at www.moorematt.org. You can find him on Facebook or follow him on Twitter.

by Matt Moore at April 27, 2016 05:00 AM

The Bread of Life

Article by: Staff

“The significance of the feeding of the 5,000 is not that he provides food; he is the food!” — Don Carson

Text:  John 6:1–15

Preached: May 9, 1993

Location: St. Andrew the Great Church, Cambridge, England

Don Carson is research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and president of The Gospel Coalition. He is the author of numerous books, including The Intolerance of Tolerance, Exegetical Fallacies, and Christ and Culture Revisited.

You can stream the episode here. Subscribe to TGC Word of the Week in iTunes or through other devices to receive midweek sermons to encourage your faith. TGC Word of the Week is also available on Stitcher.

by Staff at April 27, 2016 04:59 AM

eagereyes

Introducing Shift Register, My New Electronics Blog

Shift register

I have started a new blog, which I call shift register. It’s about electronics projects I’m doing, mostly building circuits on breadboards and playing with Arduinos.

Electronics have been an interest of mine since I was a child. I played with electronics kits from a very early age, and as a teenager spent countless hours soldering and desoldering stuff (mostly the latter even, there was a great little store that sold random circuit boards for cheap that I had a lot of fun taking apart and trying to figure out what the different components were).

I’ve recently started doing more of this stuff again, and figured a new blog was a good place to document my projects. These are going to mostly be small things, but hopefully interesting to some people. The first posting talks about a digital-to-analog converter (DAC) I built using just resistors (and, well, a shift register). I’m planning lots of other things like this, some analog, some digital circuits. Many will also include some sort of microcontroller component, mostly Arduinos.

Of course, since I’m also still very much interested in data visualization, the collection and analysis of data about the circuits will play a role too: the first posting includes some data collected about that DAC I built. I’ve also built a standing-desk tracker, which I will write up soon. There will also be reviews of books and equipment. Another thing I’m getting interested in is software-defined radio (SDR), so you might read about that at some point as well.

I’m planning on writing one or two postings there per month (and hope to get back to at least weekly postings here). There is an RSS feed, and the site will send a tweet to my main Twitter account when there’s a new posting (I don’t want to start a new account for the feed unless somebody asks for it).

by Robert Kosara at April 27, 2016 01:15 AM

April 26, 2016

Justin Taylor

A Prayer to Sing: “He Will Hold Me Fast”

The Norton Hall Band:

When I fear my faith will fail,
Christ will hold me fast;
When the tempter would prevail,
He will hold me fast.
I could never keep my hold
Through life’s fearful path;
For my love is often cold;
He must hold me fast.

He will hold me fast,
He will hold me fast;
For my Savior loves me so,
He will hold me fast.

Those He saves are His delight,
Christ will hold me fast;
Precious in his holy sight,
He will hold me fast.
He’ll not let my soul be lost;
His promises shall last;
Bought by Him at such a cost,
He will hold me fast.

For my life He bled and died,
Christ will hold me fast;
Justice has been satisfied;
He will hold me fast.
Raised with Him to endless life,
He will hold me fast
‘Till our faith is turned to sight,
When He comes at last!

by Justin Taylor at April 26, 2016 10:31 PM

Workout: April 28, 2016

In 10 minutes, build to a single behind-the-neck split jerk Rest 5 minutes Every minute on the minute for 5 minutes: 5 touch-and-go snatches Rest 5 minutes Every minute on the minute for 5 minutes: 3 touch-and-go cleans

by Mike at April 26, 2016 08:12 PM

Workout: April 29, 2016

Monster Something Else Run 1 mile 30 back squats (185/135 lb.) 400-m jug run 15 bar muscle-ups 400-m jug run 30 back squats (185/135 lb.) Run 1 mile

by Mike at April 26, 2016 08:07 PM

John C. Wright's Journal

Asking the Japanese about Whitewashing Anime

Social Justice Warriors with too much time on their hands have decided to raise a stink about Hollywood hiring persons of the wrong and inferior race to portray member of the Master Race.

I found this highly enlightening interview. This is what people from a nation who are not crazy sound like when you talk to them about race.

I seem to recall a similar stink being raised about sports teams named Redskins, Braves, Chiefs, and so on, where not a single real American Indian minded the name.

In my personal experience, the only so-called Indian who objected was a Spanish guy who legally got himself declared an Indian tribesmen for the sole purpose of raising a stink. This guy was also racist as all get out, and seemed to think Spaniards were not Europeans. Whatever.

However, Leonidas of Lacedemonia and Aeneas of Ilium both object to the names Spartans and Trojans.

by John C Wright at April 26, 2016 06:08 PM

The Finance Buff

Mega Backdoor Roth: Convert Within Plan or Out to Roth IRA?

Mega backdoor Roth is catching on! Several readers emailed me saying their employer added non-Roth after-tax contributions and allowed converting to Roth within the plan (officially known as an In-plan Roth Rollover).

I didn’t ask but I don’t suppose they all work for the same employer. Some plan providers or consultants must be going to employers and persuading them to add these valuable features to their plans. At least one employer was specifically pointing out to the employees the advantage of making non-Roth after-tax contributions followed by converting to Roth within the plan.

Even though they may not advertise it, some employers also allow rolling over the non-Roth after-tax contributions and earnings to a Roth IRA. Be sure to ask your plan administrator about it. When you have both options available — converting the after-tax account to Roth within the plan or sending it to a Roth IRA — which one should you choose?

Only From After-Tax Sub-Account

Before you consider either option, you should make sure you are able to choose to rollover or convert within the plan only from the after-tax sub-account (your non-Roth after-tax contributions and the earnings on those contributions). If the plan mandates that you must pro-rate between your after-tax sub-account and money from your other pre-tax sub-accounts in the plan, then you shouldn’t do it.

The rest of this article assumes that you can choose to do it only from the after-tax sub-account. You must make that choice loud and clear to the plan administrator whether you are converting within the plan or rolling over to a Roth IRA.

Either option is a good one. Between the two, in general I would favor taking it out to your own Roth IRA, for some minor reasons which may or may not make much difference to you.

Investment Options

You have more investment options in your own Roth IRA. The investment options in your plan may be more expensive. However, some plans have great investment options. Some investment options in the plan such as a great stable value fund or institutional funds are better than the ones you can get on your own outside the plan.

Early Withdrawal

If you take the money out of the plan to your Roth IRA, you can withdraw before you are 59-1/2. You may have to pay some tax on the withdrawal but at least you have that option. See Mega Backdoor Roth and Access To Your Money Before 59-1/2.

If you convert within the plan, the money is locked up until you reach 59-1/2, terminate employment, die, or become disabled. Of course if you leave your employer and you rollover the Roth 401k to a Roth IRA, you are able to withdraw before 59-1/2 again.

If you don’t care about withdrawing while you are employed and before you are 59-1/2, then this doesn’t really matter.

Split Rollover

When you take the non-Roth after-tax money out of the plan, the IRS allows you to take the after-tax contributions to a Roth IRA and take the earnings to a traditional IRA. Some plans take advantage of this IRS rule and let you to do the split. This way you are not taxed on the earnings at the time of the rollover.

When you convert to Roth within the plan, there is no such option. You will always be taxed on the earnings when you convert.

While I prefer keeping it simple and just rolling over both after-tax contributions and earnings to a Roth IRA, and as a result paying tax on the earnings, you have the option to do a split when you take the money out of the plan.

If you rollover once a year, the earnings won’t be much. Sending the earnings to a traditional IRA will interfere with your regular backdoor Roth. If you care about the regular backdoor Roth, you will have to roll the earnings in the traditional IRA back into the plan. I think it’s too much trouble for too little gain. However, if you run into a great year when your after-tax contributions generate a lot of earnings before you do the rollover, it may be worth it to jump through the hoops with a split. It’s your choice whether you invoke the split option or not.

If you don’t mind paying taxes on the earnings when you convert, again this doesn’t really matter.

Recharacterize

If you have a lot of earnings when you roll over the after-tax account to a Roth IRA and the value subsequently drops a lot, you have the option to recharacterize and pull the money out into a traditional IRA. After a mandatory waiting period, if the value doesn’t recover, you then re-convert the traditional IRA to a Roth IRA. This way you will lower the taxes you have to pay on your original rollover.

That’s a lot of if’s but it’s an option. If you convert the after-tax account to Roth within the plan, you don’t have this do-over option.

If you don’t have a lot of earnings to begin with, or if you choose the split rollover when you do have a lot of earnings, then this doesn’t matter.

***

As you see, other than the investment options, the reasons that favor taking the money out to a Roth IRA as opposed to converting to Roth within the plan are mostly just-in-case. Either way works. If converting within the plan is more convenient or if it’s the only option available in your plan, by all means do it. Just make sure you convert only from the after-tax sub-account, not from your pre-tax sub-accounts.

If you rollover to your Roth IRA, be sure to keep a journal of the transactions. See Maintain A Roth IRA Contributions and Withdrawals Spreadsheet.

See All Your Accounts In One Place

Track your net worth, asset allocation, and portfolio performance with FREE financial tools from Personal Capital.

Mega Backdoor Roth: Convert Within Plan or Out to Roth IRA? is copyrighted material from The Finance Buff. All rights reserved. ( b87e8215d24496480249d6aaf20c77ea )

by Harry Sit at April 26, 2016 01:50 PM

Beeminder Blog

16 Obscure Beeminder Features

Person covered in bees

It’s our first ever listicle! We tried these out in a daily and weekly beemail and even among those most hardcore users, many didn’t know about many of these features. For the average feature in this list, 30% of daily subscribers and 40% of weekly subscribers weren’t aware of it. [1] So here they are, listed from least obscure to most obscure:

1. Cap your pledge at any level you like

Actually everyone we asked knew about this. And you likely do too since we’ve blogged about it but it wasn’t obvious to newbees until recently when we made it a very prominent part of goal creation.

2. Edit past datapoints

Another one that all the hardcore people know about. You can edit past datapoints by clicking All Data. A lot of newbees miss that. We’re working on a lot of UI changes to address problems like this!

3. Insta-delete goals in the first week

This is important for experimenting but it’s one feature that perhaps should be sort of obscure, to avoid the temptation of loophole abuse. In fact, we recently made it easier to close that loophole for yourself. If you check the “weaselproof me” box for a goal then it won’t let you delete it even in the first week.

4. Customize where the x-axis starts

You can change x-min in goal settings as a cumbersome way to zoom your graph.

5. Timer built in to the Beeminder Android app

It’s super useful! Swipe on the data entry part of the interface to switch to the timer (or tally mode — recommended for counting pushups with your nose).

6. Snooze deadlines if still more than 6 hours out

(I didn’t think to include this one in the original poll of hardcore users so I’m just guessing where it would’ve fallen in this list.) You can always change your deadline if it’s not an emergency day. If it is, you still can, until you’re within 6 hours of derailing, then you can’t.

7. Push graphs to the bottom or top of your gallery

We call this backburnering. You can click the corner of graph thumbnails to move them above/below the fold in your goal gallery. We intend to replace this with richer tagging/sorting features, or at least a simpler pinning feature.

8. Rescaling utility to convert goal to different units

Halfway through the list and it’s getting obscure indeed. This feature is at the bottom of Terrifyingly Advanced settings. You can, e.g., multiply all your data and road rates by 1/60 to convert an existing goal from minutes to hours.

9. Goals default to public, datapoints private

Actually this has gotten much less obscure with our new goal creation wizard which highlights these settings. Goals are default public with datapoints (in particular the comments) default private. We really want to encourage public graphs for greater accountability and showing off progress, but it was bad for these settings to be obscure so they’re now less so.

10. Get reminded and enter data via Slack

We’re so excited about this one that we got the domain slackminder.com which you should click on if you use both Beeminder and Slack.

11. Thicker yellow guiding line indicating week of safety buffer

You know the thin yellow lines showing the good side of the yellow brick road? Well one of them is thicker than the rest and that represents a week of safety buffer.

12. Hide the numbers on the y-axis

In case you want to show off your graph without revealing the actual numbers. This is another Terrifyingly Advanced setting. Probably all of those settings belong in this list. Especially the ones for custom goals, which you need a premium plan for.

13. Gmailzero can track arbitrary Gmail queries

This is another one we blogged about but clearly need to make less obscure in the UI.

14. Enter time as HH:MM:SS

We call it the colon shortcut. The other shortcuts for entering data are on the obscure side as well.

15. If you have over a week of buffer you’re immune to the akrasia horizon

Akrasia horizon immunity! This was inadvertently a trick question when we polled people but all I meant was that if you have over a week of safety buffer then if something comes up you can immediately flatten your road and — though it takes a week for the flattening to take effect — by the time you run out of safety buffer you’ll have reached the flat spot.

16. Use “take a break” to schedule a harder period

This was technically the most obscure in our poll but I think it mostly just never occurred to half of folks that this would work, because why would anyone ever do that? But it’s true that when you schedule a “break” you can actually schedule any rate you want.


And there you have it. Feel free to react incredulously in the comments to things you’re just now learning about.

P.S. Special shout-out to the previously obscure and confusing freebees feature which is now so obscure that it doesn’t exist. As you can tell, Beeminder is a bit of a beehemoth, so we were proud recently to have untangled a gnarly knot of complexity. We’re working hard to do more of that.


 

Footnotes

[1] As a control I included in the original poll a feature that didn’t actually exist. 80% of respondents correctly said they weren’t aware of it.

by dreeves at April 26, 2016 12:56 PM

The Art of Non-Conformity

Dream Jobs Don’t Always Have Glamorous Beginnings

This is a traveler story. (Read others or nominate yourself.)

Rosemary Behan has crafted a career in journalism that allows her to travel the world. In this profile, she shares how she got started—and how you can still break into the changing world of travel writing.

Here’s her story:

I’m a travel writer and editor based in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates. I work as the travel editor of The National, an English language newspaper, and Ultratravel Middle East, a global luxury travel magazine.

People often ask me how I became a travel journalist, and the honest answer is, by accident. I started at the Daily Telegraph, reading and replying to reader letters (most of them complaints about travel companies and holidays gone wrong), and my first assignment was to write about London’s worst hotels. Not a glamorous beginning, but it eventually led to a job as travel news editor for the paper.

Rosemary1

When one of my Telegraph colleagues announced he was launching a newspaper in Abu Dhabi, I jumped at the chance to join him—and I’ve been based in the Middle East for eight years.

I think there’s a way for aspiring travel writers to make their dream job a reality without hoping for a happy accident, though. Here’s what I’ve tried, and seen, work:

Hone your journalistic ability.

Today, anyone can set themselves up as a travel writer or blogger, but most aren’t offering anything beyond their own experience, which is often limited and poorly expressed. Approach as many different publications as you can for work experience, both to improve your writing and to understand the media from an editor’s perspective.

Consider why an editor would want a story about a particular place—maybe an anniversary, a new airline route to a destination, a major new museum or hotel opening, a background political situation which makes an update timely—and you’ll have a better chance of pitching your story.

Rosemary2

Show why you should be the one to write the story.

I’ve commissioned thousands of stories over my career, and I’m still amazed to receive pitches from people who haven’t traveled very much. Why would I take a story from a person about Vietnam if the’ve never been to Asia? There’s no shortcut to being the right person for the job: pack your bag and travel.

Write in the style of your dream publications.

Travel writing isn’t easy. There is already so much that has been written about the world, it’s hard to be original. Study the publications you dream of writing for or plan to pitch in order to tailor your writing to their typical style.

Rosemary3

Take on unglamorous assignments to show you are serious.

After I landed my first travel editor job, I was writing stories about food poisoning on cruise ships and hotels, deep vein thrombosis, and post 9-11 security. In fact, when I started out, it was only on weekends and holidays that I got to write about my trips. But that work experience gave me portfolio pieces I could use to get more interesting jobs. Having published work and broad interests showed that I was serious.

Living and working in the UAE is surprisingly easy. The country’s fabric is quite Americanized, with wide roads, signage in both English and Arabic, and modern buildings—and tax-free salaries make it even more attractive.

Rosemary4

What are some good first steps for someone interested in becoming a travel writer? 

1. Decide if you want to be a staff writer for a media organization, or freelance writer.

You’ll get less opportunities to travel as a staff writer, but you’ll gain priceless experience and contacts, honing your craft while being paid. Freelancing is very competitive, but with online publishing booming, there is a constant demand for quality content. With the right approach there’s still space for new voices to be heard.

2. If you choose the freelance route, keep in mind that pay will not be “good” at first.

You’ll probably take a week or more to produce a 1,000 word story, and only be paid a few hundred dollars. Editors will not have time to help you, so make sure you read the publication you are pitching too and only send ideas which are relevant (think: what kind of destinations and activities would readers of this publication be interested in) and which they have not covered, and which are not covered in guidebooks.

3. Be honest with yourself.

Do you have the level of interest about the world that is necessary to make this a career? It isn’t enough to simply enjoy taking vacations. You’ll need a huge amount of energy and a voracious appetite for details.

4. Approach as many outlets as you can.

If you aren’t getting any positive responses, I recommend hiring a writing coach (one of my favorites is Dianne Jacob) who can tell you how to get an editor to say “Yes!” to your pitch.

Stay up to date with Rosemary on Twitter @behanthere.

###

by Chris Guillebeau at April 26, 2016 12:48 PM

The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

Themelios 41.1

Article by: Brian Tabb

The Gospel Coalition just released the April 2016 issue of Themelios, which has 208 pages of editorials, articles, and book reviews. It is freely available in three formats: (1) PDF, (2) web version, and (3) Logos Bible Software. A print edition will be available for purchase in several weeks from Wipf and Stock.

Links to editorials, articles, and book reviews in Themelios 41.1 are included below.

  1. D. A. CarsonEditorial: When Did the Church Begin?
  2. M. J. OveyOff the Record: The Art of Imperious Ignorance
  3. Gavin Ortlund | Conversion in C. S. Lewis’s That Hideous Strength
  4. Joel D. EstesCalling on the Name of the Lord: The Meaning and Significance of ἐπικαλέω in Romans 10:13
  5. Ched SpellmanThe Scribe Who Has Become a Disciple: Identifying and Becoming the Ideal Reader of the Biblical Canon
  6. Thomas R. Schreiner | Paul and the Gift: A Review Article
  7. Kyle FairclothDaniel Strange on the Theological Question of the Unevangelized: A Doctrinal Assessment
  8. Daniel StrangeThis Rock Unmoved: A Rejoinder to Kyle Faircloth
  9. Wayne GrudemPastoral Pensées: The Eighth Commandment as the Moral Foundation for Property Rights, Human Flourishing, and Careers in Business
  10. Book Reviews
    1. Old Testament | 10 reviews
    2. New Testament | 11 reviews
    3. History and Historical Theology | 11 reviews
    4. Systematic Theology and Bioethics | 11 reviews
    5. Ethics and Pastoralia | 11 reviews
    6. Mission and Culture | 5 reviews

​Brian Tabb (PhD, London School of Theology) is managing editor of Themelios. He is also associate dean for academic affairs and assistant professor of biblical studies at Bethlehem College & Seminary and an elder of Bethlehem Baptist Church. You can follow him on Twitter.

by Brian Tabb at April 26, 2016 11:50 AM

Challenges of Teaching the Bible to Other Women

Article by: Ryan Troglin

Teaching the Bible as a woman to a group of other women comes with a unique set of challenges and anxieties. According to Melissa Kruger, Nancy Guthrie, and Jen Wilkin, concerns ranging from “What will others think of me?” to “Will I say what is accurate?” and “How much should I write out?” can inhibit preparation and increase nerves. Even experienced Bible teachers like these women face these worries and must fight for confidence in the Holy Spirit as they prepare to open God’s Word to other women. 

Watch (or listen to the podcast below) to this nine-minute roundtable as these three teachers share their experiences. They address some of the particular struggles women Bible teachers confront, outline strategies for improving communication of Scripture, reflect on the privilege of teaching God’s Word to others, and more. 

For more on this topic, be sure to pick up a copy of Word-Filled Women’s Ministry (Crossway, 2015) [review]. See also Wilkin’s new book None Like Him: 10 Ways God Is Different from Us (and Why That’s a Good Thing) (Crossway, 2016). Then be sure to check out our upcoming National Women’s Conference, June 16 to 18 in Indianapolis. Space is dwindling, so register soon.

Ryan Troglin (MDiv, Southern Seminary) serves as an assistant editor for The Gospel Coalition and as an editorial assistant in the office of the president at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He also teaches English at Providence Classical Christian School in Northwest Arkansas. He and his wife, Stacey, are members at University Baptist Church in Fayetteville, Arkansas. 

by Ryan Troglin at April 26, 2016 11:02 AM

Justin Taylor

A Replica of Noah’s Ark Set to Sail

The Ark of Noah Foundation has announced they plan to sail the full-size replica.

This little video shows the ship’s dimensions:

by Justin Taylor at April 26, 2016 10:21 AM

5 Writing Rules to Energize Your Prose

51qno3zWAhL._SX365_BO1,204,203,200_Helen Sword, professor and director of the Centre for Learning and Research in Higher Education at the University of Auckland, authored the book The Writer’s Diet: A Guide to Fit Prose (University of Chicago Press, 2016).

She offers five rules to improve your prose:

1. Verbal verve: use active verbs whenever possible.

  • Favor strong, specific, robust action verbs (scrutinize, dissect, recount, capture) over weak, vague, lazy ones (have, do, show).
  • Limit your use of be-verbs (is, am, are, was, were, be, being, been).

2. Noun density: favor concrete language over vague abstractions.

  • Anchor abstract ideas in concrete language and images.
  • Illustrate abstract concepts using real-life examples (“Show, don’t tell”).
  • Limit your use of abstract nouns, especially nominationalizations (nouns that have been formed from verbs, adjectives, or other nouns).

3. Prepositional podge: avoid long strings of prepositional phrases.

  • Avoid using more than three prepositional phrases in a row (e.g., in a letter to the author of a book about birds”) unless you do so to achieve a specific rhetorical effect.
  • Vary your prepositions.
  • As a general rule, do not allow a noun and its accompanying verb to become separated by more than about twelve words.

4. Ad-dictions: employ adjectives and adverbs only when they contribute something new to the meaning of a sentence.

  • Let concrete nouns and active verbs do most of your descriptive work.
  • Employ adjectives and adverbs only when they contribute new information to a sentence.
  • Avoid overuse of “academic ad-words,” especially those with the following suffixes: able, ac, al, ant, ary, ent, ful, ible, ic, ive, less, ous.

5. Waste words: reduce your dependence on four pernicious “waste words”: it, this, that, and there.

  • Use it and this only when you can state explicitly which noun each word refers to.
  • As a general rule, avoid using that more than once in a single sentence or three times in a paragraph, expect to achieve a specific stylistic effect.
  • Beware of sweeping generalizations that begin with “There.”

Watch Helen Sword’s TED-Ed lecture on one of the points in #2, on avoiding nominalizations:

You can test your own prose for free using her WritersDiet Test, an automated feedback tool that “identifies some of the sentence-level grammatical features that most frequently weigh down academic prose.”

by Justin Taylor at April 26, 2016 09:03 AM

From the Study

Why Arminianism Can’t Make You a More Compassionate Christian

A few days ago I posted a some thoughts on how Christians can love those who hold to different worldviews. One of the reasons why the Christian worldview enables believers to love unbelievers is because it teaches that salvation is all of grace. I noted that when Christians are walking faithfully within a Christian worldview they will sense deep love and compassion for those who hold to opposing worldviews. In this article I want to focus particularly on the topic of compassion.

By affirming in the previous article that salvation is all of grace, I was assuming a specific view of grace; namely, a Calvinist view. And, as I’ve continued to reflect on this topic, it has become clear that only this understanding of grace provides the necessary theological grounds for a Christian’s compassion toward unbelievers. Arminian theology cannot, in the final analysis, provide an adequate basis for a believer to exercise compassion on those who reject Christ and the gospel.

By making this claim I am not suggesting that those who hold to an Arminian understanding of salvation are not compassionate to unbelievers. Indeed, I know Arminians who are exemplary in their love for others who would probably put some strong Calvinists to shame. My point, rather, is that Arminians are compassionate to unbelievers despite their theology, not because of it. Let me explain.

Calvinism, Arminianism, and the Freedom of the Will: The Basics
With regard to the important issue of God’s sovereignty in salvation, two major theological camps emerged out of the Protestant Reformation. Both camps have held that man is, because of sin, unable to repent and believe in Christ apart from God’s grace. The difference, however, comes in how each camp defines free will.

Historically, Calvinists have held that the freedom of man’s will can be defined in terms of inclination. That is, God has given man the freedom to do what he most desires. We are free in the sense that God has allowed us to act on what we most want to do. While articulated and defended during the Reformation, this position was crystallized with rigorous theological and philosophical detail in the 18th century by Jonathan Edwards’s work, The Freedom of the Will.

Arminian theology conceives of man’s will differently. In the Arminian scheme, the will is not free unless it is able to choose apart from any internal or external influences, including one’s own desires. I am free if I could have chosen one thing or the contrary of that thing I chose. If we are truly free, then there can be no immediate influence upon our wills, including the immediate influence from God’s Spirit.  This understanding of the will is typically called libertarian free will.

Because these two camps view man’s freedom differently, how each understands the nature of God’s grace and how grace effects salvation in the sinner is very different. As I already noted, both theological schemes believe man is unable to come to Christ on his own for salvation: God must provide grace in order for the sinner to embrace Christ by faith. Calvinists believe the grace that God provides is an effectual grace that changes the heart of the sinner so that a person desires to come to Christ. The will is free–it does what it most wants to do–and it freely chooses Christ because God has changed the affections. Previously, the heart’s desires were only for sin and self. Now, by God’s grace, they are for Christ and holiness.

Arminians, however, holding to a libertarian understanding of free will, argue for something called prevenient grace. Because all men are dead in sin on their own and unable to come to Christ for salvation, they need grace. God therefore gives all men prevenient grace which removes the debilitating effects of the fall so that a person is now able to believe in Jesus, if he or she decides to exercise their free will. This grace is given to all people everywhere and is not an immediate, effectual grace. It merely provides man with the ability now to accept Christ, and it can be resisted. The difference comes in whether or not individuals choose to exercise their free will. Some choose Christ. And some don’t.

Compassion for Unbelievers and the Freedom of our Wills
Between these two camps, I believe Calvinism is the most coherent and does the greatest justice to Scripture. I can’t provide a full-scale defense of Calvinism here. I only want to point out that one of the deficiencies of Arminianism is that it cannot finally ground Christian compassion to unbelievers. If the brief sketch I provided above is at all clear, you may have already noticed why this is the case.

If man’s will is free in a libertarian sense and God provides grace to all men everywhere so that the distinguishing mark between believer and unbeliever is man’s choice to believe in Christ, then how can a believer feel genuine compassion for those remain in unbelief? The difference between the believer and the unbeliever is purely a result of the believer’s own actions–namely, the exercise of his free will. Both the believer and the unbeliever are equals, not only in the fact that they are made in the image of God, but because they have equal opportunity and equal ability to choose Christ.

But if you haven’t come to Christ and I have, then you are not rightly the object of my compassion, but of my scorn and rebuke. You are foolish if you do not exercise your free will like I have. We might feign compassion, but it will be self-righteous disdain in the guise of true sympathy: “God I thank you that I am not like this other man, too stupid to exercise his free will. What a poor, poor creature.”

Not Self-Righteous Scorn, but Broken-Hearted Pity
Granted, most genuine Christians won’t talk like that, regardless of their theological commitments. But Arminianism taken to its logical end can only produce self-righteous scorn, not broken-hearted compassion. Calvinism, however, is able to produce compassion in the hearts of believers because it teaches that a man in Christ is so only because of sovereign, effectual grace. Yes, the believer exercised faith, but he did so because God, by an immediate work of the Holy Spirit working through the gospel, changed the affections and enabled him to embrace Christ.

When the Christian encounters an unbeliever, therefore, he has compassion on him because this unbeliever is a spiritual hole out of which he cannot pull himself. Worse than that: he is dead and lying at the bottom of a pit and unable to recognize his desperate condition. But if we were in the exact same state prior to our salvation and it was only the unmerited grace of God that raised us to life, then we have no grounds on which we can boast about our ability to choose Christ. The Christian can now look upon the unbeliever with deep and genuine compassion while hoping that God might do the same work in this one who is still without Christ. Self-righteousness is devastated by effectual grace and scorn is replaced with humble pity. Only Calvinism can do that.

Photo: Ashley Rowe

by Derek J. Brown at April 26, 2016 07:00 AM

Table Titans

Tales: Message by Raven

Our party has two Rogues. My Halfling Assassin, and a Human Thief.

The Thief is a compulsive gambler, and this has been both to our benefit and our detriment for almost the entire game. Sure, he’s made some very important allies that have helped drive the adventure, but he's also made a few…

Read more

April 26, 2016 07:00 AM

The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

What You Should Know About Suicide in America

Article by: Joe Carter, Ryan Reeves

After a long period of steady decline, suicide rates in the United States have increased almost steadily to reach a 30-year high, according to data from the National Vital Statistics System. Suicide rates declined from 1986 through 1999, but from 1999 to 2014 have steadily increased—with the pace of increase greater after 2006. During the 15-year period covering most of the new millenium the age-adjusted suicide rate in the United States increased 24 percent, from 10.5 to 13.0 per 100,000 population.

Suicide rates for both males and females were also higher in 2014 than in 1999 for all age groups younger than 75. For those older than 75, the suicide rates decreased by 11 percent for women and decreased by 8 percent for men. However, despite the decrease in the rate, men older than 75 still had the highest rate of any age group.

The video below presents five more things you should know about suicide in the United States:

If you know someone who is considering suicide, do not leave him or her alone. Try to get your loved one to seek immediate help from his or her doctor or the nearest hospital emergency room. Remove any access they may have to firearms or other potential tools for suicide, including medications. Call 911 or the toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

See also:  Can a Christian Commit Suicide? by Miguel Núñez Hearing God in the Midst of Suicidal Thoughts by Matthew Wireman  Four Brief Theses on Suicide by Kevin DeYoung

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

Ryan Reeves is Associate Professor of Historical Theology at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also serves as Dean of the Jacksonville campus. He and his wife Charlotte have three children. You can follow him on Twitter.

by Joe Carter at April 26, 2016 05:48 AM

Challenges of Teaching the Bible to Other Women

Article by: Ryan Troglin

Teaching the Bible as a woman to a group of other women comes with a unique set of challenges and anxieties. Concerns ranging from “what do I wear?” and “what will others think of me?” to “will I say what is accurate?” and “how much should I write out?” can encumber preparation and increase nerves. Even experienced Bible teachers like Jen Wilkin, Nancy Guthrie, and Melissa Kruger face these worries and must fight for confidence in the Holy Spirit as they prepare to open God’s Word to other women. 

Watch (or listen to the podcast below) to this nine-minute roundtable as these three sisters share their experiences. They address some of the particular struggles women Bible teachers confront, outline strategies for improving one’s communication of Scripture, reflect on the privilege of teaching God’s Word to others, and more. 

For more on this topic, be sure to pick up a copy of Word-Filled Women’s Ministry (Crossway, 2015) [review]. 

Ryan Troglin (MDiv, Southern Seminary) serves as an assistant editor for The Gospel Coalition and as an editorial assistant in the office of the president at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He also teaches English at Providence Classical Christian School in Northwest Arkansas. He and his wife, Stacey, are members at University Baptist Church in Fayetteville, Arkansas. 

by Ryan Troglin at April 26, 2016 05:02 AM

DeYoung, Nichols, and Lohmann on Scriptural Authority 500 Years Ago—and Today

Article by: Ryan Hoselton

Last year I reported on a conference hosted by Evangelium 21, a ministry seeking to promote church renewal in German-speaking Europe. This year they invited Kevin DeYoung (Presbyterian pastor in Michigan), William Taylor (Anglican pastor in London), and Stephen Nichols (church historian and president of Reformation Bible College) to join them in addressing the topic of Scripture’s authority, clarity, and sufficiency. The conference was largely based around DeYoung’s recent book Taking God at His Word [20 quotes | interview | review], translated into German under the title Gott Beim Wort Nehmen. Occurring on the eve of the Reformation’s 500th anniversary, the event drew 700 brothers and sisters from around the world to join hearts and minds in thinking and praying about a topic that concerns our common evangelical identity and mission.  

I talked with DeYoung, Nichols, and Matthias Lohmann (founder and chairman of Evangelium 21) on challenges to the authority of Scripture past and present, and how believers today can learn from our Protestant forebears.   

Matthias, why did you decide to address the authority of Scripture for this year’s conference? Why not put this energy into something less divisive like social justice or community renewal? 

Lohmann: The Christian faith is all about Christ, and the only way we can know him is through the Bible. How can we talk in a meaningful way about any Christian topic without knowing the source of it? And since the Bible so under attack, in Germany more so than in the United States, I think it’s crucial to address the topic. Today, just as 500 years ago when Luther called the church back to sola scriptura, we have an urgent need to listen to God’s Word and to learn anew to trust it, both in its content and in its power.

Kevin, what would you say are the biggest challenges to the authority of Scripture that churches face today?

DeYoung: I think it depends on the type of church. Certainly the authority and the inerrancy of Scripture tend to be the liberal challenges. And then maybe the postmodern problem is the clarity of Scripture: Has God really spoken to us in a way that’s clear, or are we left just with a thousand different interpretations? But I think particularly for evangelicals otherwise squared away on the doctrine of Scripture, it’s the sufficiency of Scripture they really question: Do I need something more than the Bible? Do I need a special voice? Is the Bible really enough? Can I really trust it for my ministry? In every generation these issues return. The Reformers dealt with them, but they often take on a new guise and new garb and need to be addressed constantly.

You brought up the Reformers, and of course we’re here in the land of Luther. He confronted many challenges to biblical authority, but it’s a different world today: post-Christian, relativistic, pluralistic, disenchanted—adjectives that didn’t exist then. As we commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, should we still look to the Reformers as examples to promote the authority of Scripture in our age?  

Lohmann: Luther wasn’t just interested in addressing topics of his time but, more importantly, topics that were timeless. He wouldn’t be happy if our celebration focused on what he did in 1517. But he’d be delighted if we celebrate what God has done throughout history, and in particular through Jesus when he came to live among and redeem us, as passed down through the Spirit-inspired words of the apostles. That’s what Luther was all about. He said just listen to the Word of God. And that’s what he did primarily, and then he passed along what he’d received. There’s this famous quote about how he taught and preached the Word of God. Then in the meantime he slept and drank Wittenberg beer, and ultimately the Word did it all! Luther was about preaching timeless truth from God’s Word, and that’s what we must be about as well. 

DeYoung: I agree. And I think very practically, there are two things they did so well in the Reformation that we need to do: preaching and publishing. Why are we even still talking about the Reformation? It was a great work of God, but the reason we can talk about it is because they left behind sermons, writings, and tracts that changed churches, hearts, and lives. There are more things written by Luther and Calvin than most of us read in a lifetime. I think it’s the same in our day. How do we address challenges to biblical authority? There’s no single, final conference that settles “the Bible issue” once and for all. We must produce a steady stream of teaching and put in writing what’s true. And even more so, it’s about faithful preaching. To paraphrase the Spurgeon line: you can defend the lion, or you can let the lion out of the cage. Only then will people be convinced the lion is really a lion.

Nichols: There was a darkness in Luther’s age. God used the Reformers as human instruments to bring light into the darkness of their day. And here we are, 500 years later. We are Luther’s heirs. We have a darkness in our age. It has a different garb and a different name, and there are different challenges. But we have the same gospel light and the same Word of God, and we must lift them high as they did. The other thing I love about the Reformers is they also wrote hymns. Good biblical theology causes us to sing, and we are seeing rich church music in our day. And then missions: Calvin sent missionaries to Brazil in the 1550s, and Luther sent missionaries all over Europe. The Reformation was a time in the church’s life when all the pistons were firing. So our prayer is “God, you did it 500 years ago. Do it again.” 

Stephen, you came to Germany to talk about J. Gresham Machen. What does he have to do with Germany, and what can we learn from him today?

Nichols: Machen came to Germany for doctoral studies. Like Rudolph Bultmann and Karl Barth, he was a student under Wilhelm Herrmann in Marburg. So Machen was well aware of theological liberalism, experiencing it firsthand both in Germany and America. Bultmann and Barth also were responding to liberalism, but Machen took a different route and devoted himself to defending Scripture’s verbal plenary inspiration as well as its inerrancy. He stood firm on the Word of God. But he also understood the challenges and where they were coming from. And he didn’t duck; he responded. Liberalism challenged the virgin birth. So Machen wrote a scholarly book defending it. Liberalism said Jesus was about ethics, while Paul was about doctrine and “institutionalizing” Christainity. So Machen wrote a book on that, too. One of his biographers dubbed him “valiant for truth,” and even though there’s a new darkness with new challenges today, we need to likewise be valiant for truth and stand on God’s Word.

Editors’ note: Join us for our 2017 National Conference, “No Other Gospel: Reformation 500 and Beyond,” April 3 to 5 in Indianapolis. Browse the list of 65 speakers and 50 talks, and register soon.

Ryan Hoselton is pursuing doctoral studies at Heidelberg University in Germany. He and his wife, Jaclyn, have one daughter, Madrid. You can follow him on Twitter @ryanhoselton.

by Ryan Hoselton at April 26, 2016 05:01 AM

How I Discovered True Masculinity

Article by: Matt Moore

My adolescence was a social nightmare. I grew up in the rural South but didn’t fit the mold of Southern masculinity in the slightest. Sports piqued no interest in me; roughhousing made me nervous; slaying innocent animals seemed cruel and gross. Of course I never expressed such blasphemies—I wasn’t stupid! But I was everything opposite of what my Duck Dynasty-like culture insisted I should be. I was sensitive. I liked to read. I liked to draw. I liked to journal. I wasn’t your mud ridin’, hog huntin’ kind of boy.

The nightmare cranked up to a Freddy Krueger level of horror when I realized I was attracted to the same sex. While my male peers were crushing on girls, I was crushing on them. I didn’t utter the word “gay” to describe myself until I was 19 years old, and no one prior to that time knew about my so-called sexual orientation. But I knew. I was painfully aware of how abnormal, unmanly, distorted, and screwed up I was, which made relating to other guys . . . well, I just didn’t relate to them.

You could see how this might make life a little scary for me, right?

Feeling Other

I really thought whatever god was responsible for creating me must have been a little drunk when he pieced me together. I never felt like a woman, nor did I want to be one, but I also didn’t feel like a man. I felt other, which made me feel inferior to other males and uncomfortable around them. I mean, sure, I had guy friends. But those friendships were a forgery. Those guys didn’t know the person I really was inside; they only knew the fake Matt—the Matt who played football, partied, and dated girls just to be perceived as normal. The real Matt Moore, the one I concealed from their sight, was constantly filled with fear and anxiety in their company since I didn’t believe I measured up to their standard of manliness. I felt less than what I was supposed to be. Incomplete. Distorted. Other.

Fast-forward six years through a lot of junk and drama, and I found myself a Christian in a new community: the church. Though my soul’s deepest need (reconciliation with God) was satisfied through being united to Jesus, the relational sphere of my life remained strangled by insecurity and feelings of inferiority. I still felt inadequate as a man and painfully uncomfortable in the presence of other guys. 

So even in the church, the place where I should’ve felt most at home, I felt somewhat alienish. I saw Christian brotherhood beautifully displayed in the various churches I visited during the first two years of my new life in Jesus, but I didn’t believe I was “man enough” to fit into it. And I didn’t think I could handle the rejection I believed would come if I tried. So I lingered in the shadows of church life, attending services and then quickly escaping before any of the men could pin me down and invite me to “hang out.”

But one Sunday morning, I got pinned.

Getting Pinned

After the service concluded, I began to sneak out of the building when some guy literally began to yell my name. I turned around and slowly began making my way toward this unashamed shouter who successfully interrupted my escape. I recognized him immediately: Kyle. A couple of weeks prior, Kyle, a staff member at the church, had introduced himself via Facebook message after running across one of my blog posts, seeing my picture, and recognizing me as a regular visitor.

He reached out his hand to shake mine, introducing himself again, and after a few minutes of chitchat, he released me from what I’m sure he could tell was a terribly awkward situation for me. But little did I know that terribly awkward situation would be the beginning of an incredible friendship—a friendship that would transform my life in a million different ways.

At his prodding, Kyle and I started meeting once a week for breakfast. Most guys I knew only got together to do things: throw the football, build something, shoot something, or other things I lacked the ability to do. This was the first time I regularly met with another man just to talk. I thought our conversations would be forced and awkward, but they weren’t—like, at all. They were fluid, honest, and comfortable. He didn’t shy away from my messy homosexual past or my ongoing struggle with those tendencies. He spoke comfortably about this struggle of mine, not painting it any weirder or worse than his own struggles. Kyle engaged me in a way that didn’t make me feel my personality and sin struggles invalidated me as a man. He treated me like an equal—an equal in Christ and an equal in manhood.

Pushing Down Walls

When I discovered Kyle was moving to New Orleans to plant a church, I prayed and decided to join him and his team. Months later, eight of us made our way down to the Big Easy and formed our own itty bitty church community. Though I experienced an unprecedented level of comfort and ease in my relationship with Kyle, I still found myself retreating from the other two men in our super small church. However, just like Kyle, neither accepted my retreat. They both relentlessly pursued my friendship and made constant efforts to make me feel I belonged.

And by “make me feel like I belonged,” I don’t mean they tried to shape me into their image. They didn’t give me a guy-makeover, forcing me to go to football games or participate in other culturally masculine activities I didn’t enjoy. They sat down and talked to me. They invited me over for dinner or out for coffee and initiated conversations about things in which they knew I had interest. They asked about my life. They asked about my family. They told me about their life. They told me about their family. They shared their struggles in a way that showed me they didn’t view my same-sex attraction as worse or weirder than their own moral brokenness. These guys embraced the patient work of pushing through my walls and getting to know me.

After ample time spent with these men, I began to see we weren’t all that different. Sure, they loved football, and I didn’t. But aside from our different interests and hobbies (which I’d finally begun to believe have no bearing on how “manly” one is), we were similar people who loved Jesus and valued meaningful friendship. As I observed the lives they led, the image I had in my mind of what it meant to be a man started to crumble. A man could be gentle and compassionate. A man could be thoughtful and sensitive. A man could be a better conversationalist than he is a sportsman. A man could talk about women with respect and integrity. A man could struggle with various weaknesses. If these men, even with their deep flaws, accurately represented what it means to be a man, then I also met the standard.

Real Manhood

Seeds of healthy confidence in my God-given manhood began to settle into my heart. I started to see God had wired into me truly masculine traits—such as compassion for the marginalized, a desire to protect and care for the weak, and a resilience to follow and obey Christ. And yeah, my sexuality is jacked up. But I finally started to see that my brokenness doesn’t invalidate me as a man. Every day I’m submitting it to the will and power of God. I could be straight as an arrow but still fall terribly short of manhood if I didn’t submit my heterosexuality to the revealed will of God. It’s more masculine to be mainly attracted to men yet obedient to God than it is to be mainly attracted to women and disobedient to God. A celibate same-sex attracted guy is far more of a man than a womanizing guy who bows to the will of his sex drive. Real men obey God.

Growing to see myself as nothing more and nothing less than a redeemed man who struggles with the flesh might be the most freeing transformation I’ve experienced as a Christian. It’s freed me from anxiety, from feelings of inferiority, and from living in the shadows of isolation. And it’s freed me to meaningful friendship and fellowship with a local church—and with a community of men—who love Jesus. If the guys I’ve spent the latter half of this article describing hadn’t rallied around me in authentic friendship, I would’ve experienced none of this. 

I’m so grateful God brought men into my life who didn’t try to give me a “guy makeover.” Instead, they sought me as I was, loved me when I didn’t want them to, and allowed me to learn what manhood is really about. They will never know to what depths they’ve enriched my life.

Matt Moore is a Christian writer living in New Orleans, Louisiana, where he moved in 2012 to help plant NOLA Baptist Church. Matt spends his days drinking way too much coffee and writing about a wide variety of topics at www.moorematt.org. You can find him on Facebook or follow him on Twitter.

by Matt Moore at April 26, 2016 05:00 AM

April 25, 2016

Workout: April 27, 2016

Unbroken 5 rounds of: Max unbroken chest-to-bar pull-ups Rest 1 minute Max unbroken toes-to-bars Rest 1 minute Max unbroken handstand push-ups Rest 1 minute Max unbroken double-unders Rest 1 minute

by Mike at April 25, 2016 10:33 PM

JB's Circuit

Trends in Hyper-Spectral Imaging, Cyber-Security and Auto Safety

Highlights from SPIE Photonics, Accellera’s DVCon and Automotive panels focus on semiconductor’s changing role in emerging markets.

By John Blyler, Editorial Director

Publisher John Blyler talks with Chipestimate.TV executive director Sean O’Kane during the monthly travelogue of the semiconductor and embedded systems industries. In this episode, Blyler shares his coverage to two major conferences: SPIE Photonics and Accellera’s Design-Verification Conference (DVCon). He concludes with the risk emphasis in automotive electronics from a recent market panel. Please note that what follows is not a verbatim transcription of the interview. Instead, it has been edited and expanded for readability. Cheers — JB

O’Kane: Earlier this year, you were at the SPIE Photonic show in San Francisco. Did you see any cool tech?

Blyler: As always, there was a lot to see at the show covering photonic and optical semiconductor-related technologies. One thing that caught my attention was the continuing development of hyperspectral cameras.  For example, start-up SCiO prototypes a pocket-sized molecular scanner based on spectral imaging that tells you everything about your food.

Figure 1: SCiO Molecular scanner based on spectral imaging technology.

O’Kane: That sounds like the Star Trek Tricorder. Mr. Spock would be proud.

Blyler: It’s very much so. I talked with Imec’s Andy Lambrechts at the Photonics show.  They have developed a process that allows them to deposit spectral filter banks in both the visible and near infra-red range on the same CMOS sensor. That’s the key innovation for shrinking the size and – in some cases – the power consumption. It’s very useful for quickly determining the health of agricultural crops. And all thanks to semiconductor technology.

 

Figure 2: Imec Hyperspectral imaging technology for agricultural crop markets.

O’Kane: Recently, you attended the Design and Verification Conference (DVCon). This year, it was Mentor Graphic’s turn to give the keynote. What did the CEO Wally Rhines talk about?

Blyler: His presentations are always rich in data and trends slides. What caught my eye were his comments about cyber security.

Figure 3: Wally Rhines, CEO of Mentor Graphics, giving the DVCon2016 keynote.

O’Kane: Did he mention Beckstrom’s law?

Blyler: You’re right! Soon, the Internet of Things (IoT) will expand the security need to almost everything we do, which is why Beckstrom’s law is important:

Beckstrom’s Laws of Cyber Security:

  1. Everything that is connected to the Internet can be hacked.
  2. Everything is being connected to the Internet
  3. Everything else follows from the first two laws.

Naturally, the semiconductor supply chain want some assurance the chips are resistant to hacking. That’s why chip designers need to pay attention to three levels of security breaches: Side-Channel Attacks (On-Chip Countermeasures); Counterfeit Chips (Supply-chain security); and Malicious Logic Inside Chip (Trojan detection)

EDA tools will become the core of the security framework, but not without changes. For example, verification will move from its traditional role to an emerging one:

  • Traditional role: Verifying that a chip does what it is supposed to do
  • Emerging role: Verifying that a chip does nothing it is not supposed to do

This is a nice lead into safety-critical design and verification systems. Safety critical design requires that both the product development process and related software tools introduce no potentially harmful effects into the system, product or the operators and users. One example of this is the emerging certification standards in the automotive electronics space, namely, ISO 26262.

O’Kane: How does this safety standard impact engineers developing electronics in this space?

Blyler: Recently, I put that question to a panel of experts from the automotive, semiconductor and systems companies (see Figure 4). During our discussion, I noted that the focus on functional safety seems like yet another “Design-for-X” methodology, where “X” is the activity that you did poorly during the last product iteration, like requirements, testing, etc. But ISO 26262 is a compliant, risk-based safety standard for future automobile systems – not a passing fad.

 

Figure 4: Panel on design of automotive electronics hosted by Jama Software – including experts from Daimler, Mentor Graphics, Jama and Synopsys.

Mike Bucala from Daimler put it this way: “The ISO standard is different than other risk standards because it focuses on hazards to persons that result from the malfunctioning behavior of EE systems – as opposed to the risk of failure of a product. For purposes of liability and due care, reducing that risk implies a certain rigor in documentation that has never been there before.”

O’Kane: Connected cars are getting closer to becoming a reality.  Safety will be critical issues for regulatory approval.

Blyler: Indeed. Achieving that approval will encompass everything all aspects of connectivity, for example, from connected system within the automobile to other drivers, roadway infrastructures and the cloud. I think many consumers tend to focus on only the self-driving and parking aspects of the evolving autonomous vehicles.

Figure 5: CES2016 BMW self-parking connected car.

It’s interesting to note that connected car technology is nothing new. It’s been used in the racing industry for years at places like the Sonoma Raceway near San Francisco, CA. The high performance race cars are constantly collecting, conditioning and sending data throughout different parts of the car, to the driver and finally to the telemetry-based control centers where the pit crews reside. This is quite a bit different from the self-driving and parking aspects of consumer autonomous vehicles.

Figure 6: Indy car race at Sonoma Raceway.

 

 

 

by jblyler at April 25, 2016 10:12 PM

Table Titans

Tales: Here, boy!

One of my players runs a Ranger, and upon becoming 3rd level, he chose to follow the Beastmaster path.

Thus, I needed to introduce his animal companion. Rather than just have him wake up and find a wolf (his chosen 'pet') gift-wrapped and lolling on a bearskin rug in front of the fire, I…

Read more

April 25, 2016 06:56 PM

Market Urbanism

Richard Florida Should Replace The Term ‘Creative Class’ With ‘Country Club’

richard florida

Here’s a fun fact about me: I embody the Creative Class.

I live in a big, old witchhatted townhouse between Dupont Circle and Adams Morgan in Washington, DC. I love locally raised produce and my exposed brick yoga studio has a juice bar. I fall in love with every silver bullet remedy for civic malaise I come across: teach kids to code! bike lanes! murals! And guess what? I work at a think tank, where we think… for a living!

And so when I picked up the 2014 reissue of Richard Florida’s The Rise of the Creative Class before I got on my flight back from SXSW (yup) a few weeks ago, I bought it for the same reason that mean old men listen to talk radio – to get further evidence of what I already believed, which was that urbanism is wonderful and that it heals and builds communities. I also bought the book because I’m obsessed with my hometown, a small city in Virginia, and wanted ideas for how to make it even more sublimely locavore, artistic, and entrepreneurial.

So I was shocked that reading Florida’s book not only gave me zero ideas for my own community, but actually made me question whether the “Creative Class” was something that cities should try to foster, period. As far as I can tell, the Creative Class is just a new name for rich people. For those who have not marched through all 483 pages, here is a typical passage, in which Florida summarizes the migration pattern of his creative bird:

When they first move to New York, young people live in relatively funky places like the East Village, South Slope, Williamsburg, or Hoboken… When they earn a little more, they move to the Upper West Side or maybe Tribeca or SoHo; earn a little more and they can go to the West Village or the Upper East Side. Once marriage and children come along, some stay in the city while others relocate to bedroom communities…Later, when the kids are gone, some of these people buy a co-op overlooking the park or a duplex on the Upper East Side. Members of the Creative Class come in all shapes, sizes, colors, ages, and lifestyles.

They might come in every color of the rainbow, but the most obvious shared trait of this Creative Class is that they are loaded. Florida’s typical character sails through life in the most extravagantly expensive neighborhoods on the planet. The author’s insularity and obliviousness is staggering.

Florida is an apologist for the new ruling class, masquerading as a guru of economic growth.

To test my hypothesis, try substituting a term associated with the old ruling class, “country club”, for Florida’s fetish, the “eclectic downtown.” First we need an appealing, trendy name for people who live in country clubs. Let’s call them “knowledge gardeners.” If you did, a typical Florida passage might read something like this:

Knowledge Gardeners work in high powered corporations, hospitals, and government agencies, sowing and harvesting the products of an increasingly information-driven economy. They choose to live in bucolic, self-contained communities – “walled gardens” or “country clubs” – that offer sociable privacy and outdoor recreation. Knowledge Gardeners are far more educated, more productive, and healthier than the national average. Cities can attract more of these super-residents – and boost growth – by emulating country clubs in their layout and amenities.

This would clearly be bonkers. Country clubs are fine, but people would object if a developer tried to bulldoze a historic, middle class black community to make room for one. And clearly you cannot plop down a country club in the middle of a city. But gentrification feels more ambiguous, even though some “eclectic downtowns” are becoming just as pricey and exclusionary as the gated communities of yesteryear, and even though some cities are not really built to have downtown hubs.

Florida has his causality seriously backwards. What is happening in the Tech Triangle, in Austin, in Seattle, is that affluent people are creating the lifestyles that appeal to them. In our generation, there is a trend towards upscale street life, superficial diversity, and feel-good consumerism. It’s a great quality of life for those who participate in it. And cities should encourage this activity, because affluent people pay taxes. But if a city makes it their entire growth strategy, they will end up neglecting core services, and subsidizing activities that cause displacement. I think we’re going to look back on the creative class urbanist movement and see elements of the urban renewal debacle.

Florida doesn’t worry too much about the fact that the poor and uneducated, especially blacks and Hispanics, are struggling in this creative class economy. On the contrary, he actually points out again and again how toxic service-industry and blue-collar workers are for the economic health of a city – suggesting that these lines of work should just be “phased out.” Indeed, he even admits that members of the Creative Class embrace diversity, except when it comes to blacks, whom they prefer not to live around. Florida’s tacit preference for bike lanes over food stamps, and urban density over more affordable suburban sprawl is especially insidious, because it appeals to precisely the type of people who plan cities, themselves members of the class that Florida so flatteringly describes. Florida provides policymakers with a valid rationale for focusing on quality of life services for the affluent, rather than lifeline services for the poor.

There are economic growth strategies that work for low- and middle-skill workers. And there are many American cities that are doing just fine without a preponderance of Creative Class representation: Houston, Atlanta, Oklahoma City all come to mind. Florida never even addresses these places. James Fallows writes about a trio of counties in Mississippi that banded together to successfully train their workforce to attract high-end manufacturing plants. Joel Kotkin writes about growth corridors in the Midwest and South. This is the kind of unsexy economic development that our brightest minds really need to be focusing on – not solely creating better amenities for the young whites who populate coworking spaces and bike shares, much though I love them. These are luxury goods, and the affluent can access them without public assistance.

Carolyn Zelikow is a Program Associate at the Aspen Institute Future of Work Initiative. She graduated from the University of Virginia in 2012 with a B.A. in English Language and Literature and lives in Washington, D.C.

by Carolyn Zelikow at April 25, 2016 06:42 PM

Zippy Catholic

Pro choice, not pro abortion

It has been pointed out to me that in characterizing the public position of the mainstream pro-life movement as pro abortion, I am being unfair.  Some go so far as to suggest, while bravely facing the applause, that this is outright calumny and rash judgment. The dispute is not over the moral status of abortion: it is over the legal status of abortion. The mainstream pro-life movement abhors abortion morally and wants to see the number of abortions dramatically reduced.

Pro-lifers are even willing to do whatever it takes legally to mete out punishment for all of the abortions caused by men who manipulate poor helpless women.

So lets define “pro choice” as the position that a woman ought to be able to choose abortion without any legal consequences to herself.

The mainstream pro-life movement’s position, then, is not pro abortion.  It is pro choice.

 


by Zippy at April 25, 2016 05:47 PM

John C. Wright's Journal

Daniel Lemire's blog

How will you die? Cancer, Alzheimer’s, Stroke?

Before the 1950s, many of us suffered from poliomyelitis and too many ended up crippled. Then we developed a vaccine and eradicated the disease. Before the second world war, many people, even the richest, could die of a simple foot infection. Then we mass-produced antibiotics and got rid of the problem.

I have stated that it is basically a matter of time before we get the diseases of old age (cancer, stroke, dementia…) under control. It is impossible to tell when it will happen. Could be a couple of decades, could be 45 years, could be a century or a bit more. As a precaution, you should never trust anyone who says he can predict the future more than a couple of years in advance. However, progress that is not impossible in principle tends to reliably happen, on its own schedule.

Whenever we will get the diseases of aging under control, we will end up with drastically extended healthspan. Simply put, most of us end up sick or dead because of the diseases of old age. Without these diseases, we would end up healthy for much longer.

It comes down to the difference between having airplanes and not having them. Having electricity or not having it. Having the Internet or not having it. These are drastic differences.

Stating that the diseases of aging will come under control at some point in our future should not be controversial. And you would hope that people would see this as a positive outcome.

Not so.

The prospect that we may finally defeat aging is either rejected as being too improbable, or, more commonly, is rejected as being undesirable. Nick Bostrom even wrote a fable to illustrate how people commonly react.

The “improbable” part can always be argued. Anything that has never been done can always be much harder to achieve than we think. However, some progress is evident. Jimmy Carter, a 91-year-old man, was “cured” from a brain tumor recently. Not long ago, such feats were unthinkable. So it becomes increasingly difficult to argue that a few decades of research cannot result in substantial medical progress.

So we must accept, at least in principle, that the diseases of aging may “soon” become under control where by soon, I mean “this century”. This would unavoidably extend human life.

Recently, one of my readers had this very typical reaction:

As for extending human life, I’m not for it.

If you tend to agree with my reader, please think it through.

Aging does not, by itself, kills us. What kills us are the diseases that it brings, such a stroke, dementia, cancer. So if you are opposed to people living healthier, longer lives, then you are favorable to some of these diseases. I, for one, would rather that we get rid of stroke, cancers and dementia. I do not want to see these diseases in my family.

Medical research is a tiny fraction of our total spending. Medical spending is overwhelming directed toward palliative care. To put it bluntly, we spend billions, trillions, caring for people who are soon going to die of Alzheimer’s or cancer. This is quite aside from the terrible loss of productivity and experience caused by these diseases.

If we could get rid of these diseases, we would be enormously richer… we would spend much less on medical care and have people who are a lot more productive. The cost of aging are truly enormous and rising right now. Keeping people healthy is a lot cheaper than keeping sick people from dying.

Moreover, increased lifespans in modern human beings are inexorably linked with lower fertility and smaller populations. Lifespans are short in Africa and long in Europe… yet it is Africa that is going to suffer from overpopulation.

As people are more confident to have long lives, they have fewer children and they have them later. Long-lived individuals tend to contribute more and use less support relatively speaking.

If you are in favor of short human lifespans through aging, then you must be opposed to medical research on the diseases of aging such as dementia, stroke, and cancer. You should, in fact, oppose anything but palliative care since curing dementia or cancer is akin to extending lifespan. You should also welcome news that members of your family suffer from cancer, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. They will soon leave their place and stop selfishly using our resources. Their diseases should be cause for celebration.

Of course, few people celebrate when they learn that they suffer from Alzheimer’s. Yet this disease is all too natural. Death is natural. So are infectious diseases. We could reject antibiotics because dying of an infection is “natural”. Of course, we do not.

Others object that defeating the diseases of aging (cancer, Alzheimer’s, stroke…) means that we become immortal and that’s clearly troubling and maybe unsustainable. But it is unfounded. Short of rebuilding our bodies with nanotechnology, the best we could probably do is make it so that people of all chronological age have the mortality rate they had when they were thirty. That’s a very ambitious goal that I doubt we have any chance of reaching in this century. And yet, people in their thirties die all the time. They simply do not tend to die of aging.

Yet others fall prey to the Tithonus error and believe that if we somehow get the diseases of aging under control, we will remain alive while growing increasingly frail and vulnerable. But, of course, being vulnerable is the gateway to the diseases of old age. You cannot control the diseases of aging without making sure that people remain relatively strong.

Others fear that only the few will be able to afford medicine to keep the diseases of old age at bay… It is sensible to ask whether some people could have earlier access to technology, but from an ethical point of view, one should start with the observation that the poorest among us are the hardest hit by the diseases of aging. Bill Gates won’t be left alone to suffer in a dirty room with minimal care. Healthy poor people are immensely richer than sick “poor” people. Like vaccines, therapies to control the diseases of old age are likely to be viewed as public goods. Once more: controlling the diseases of old age will make us massively richer.

I am sure that, initially, some people expressed concerns regarding the use of antibiotics. When the Internet came of age, many people wrote long essays against it. Who would want to read newspapers on a screen? Who needs this expensive network? Now that we are starting to think about getting the diseases of aging, people object. But let me assure you that when it comes down to it, if there are cures against the diseases of aging, and you are old and sick, you will almost certainly accept the cure no matter what you are saying now. And the world will be better for it.

Please, let us just say no to dementia, stroke and cancer. They are monsters.

Further reading: Nick Bostrom, The Fable of the Dragon-Tyrant, Journal of Medical Ethics, 2005.

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

Aaron M. Renn

The 100th Anniversary of Cincinnati’s Doomed Subway System

Photo by Jonathan Warren - CC BY-SA 3.0

Photo by Jonathan Warren – CC BY-SA 3.0

A hundred years ago this month Cincinnati voted to approve bonds to build a subway system. The city started building it, but it was never completed. Today this is the largest abandoned subway tunnel in the United States.

Jake Mecklenborg wrote the book on the history of the Cincinnati subway. He recently did a podcast to talk about this subway on the Streetsblog Talking Headways podcast. If the audio player doesn’t display for you, click over to listen on Streetsblog.

by Aaron M. Renn at April 25, 2016 03:11 PM

sacha chua :: living an awesome life

2016-04-25 Emacs News

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

Past Emacs News round-ups

The post 2016-04-25 Emacs News appeared first on sacha chua :: living an awesome life.

by Sacha Chua at April 25, 2016 02:28 PM

Bible Reading Project

How to Access Other Languages on YouVersion

I frequently do Bible studies with friends who do not speak English as their first language. It is often difficult for them to discuss and understand abstract texts in English. They feel much more at home with their mother tongue. I can do Bible studies with them in English, but it is limiting. Access to Bibles in their languages can sometimes be difficult or expensive. It can also be threatening for them to read in public places. One of the best solutions I've found for sharing the Bible across language barriers is the YouVersion Bible app, which can be downloaded from the Apple App Store for free and contains a massive number of translations of the Bible, not only in English, but in many different languages.

Here's how to access them:

Open your YouVersion App
























When it loads you find yourself on the homepage. Hit "Read."























The app should open the last translation you used at the last passage you read. I was reading Genesis with a friend and my app opens to Genesis Chapter one. In the top right near the center you should have a button showing the translation. Mine shows the NKJV translation. Hit that.























That will open a list of translations you have recently used and languages you have chosen. As you can see, mine is a bit mixed up because I use English, Bangla, and Arabic. Find your selected Language which should be at the center or middle of the page. Yours should say English. Mine says Bangla (in Bangla characters). Hit change.























This will open a very large list of languages. From here you are a little bit on your own. You need to be able to recognize what language you need, and you may need to recognize it in its own characters. In other words, you can't just hit "Arabic" you have to be able to identify Arabic script and hit it to open the translations available in Arabic. Start scrolling down the list. We have to get past the letter "Z" in order to find languages in their own script.























Keep scrolling.























Keep scrolling.























We found different scripts. Now we have to find the one we need. I'm going to pick Bangla.
























I found Bangla. It says Bengali on the right, but I know enough of the Bangla alphabet to sound it out the first time I found it. You may need to be able to do so to find the language you need. Or get your friend to find it on the list. Just ask, "I want to show you something. Which one is your language?"
























My YouVersion has three different translations in Bangla. One uses neutral terms. One uses Hindu terms, and One uses Muslim terms. I know one of the translators who created the translation that uses the Muslim terms. He and several others assured me that while it uses some Muslim terms, it retains familial language and is theologically faithful to the text. You may need to do the same kind of research to choose the right translation for your friend.
























The app now goes back the text that was pulled up and it is in Bangla! I can have my friend read it from here.
























To go back to English I just hit the translation button again and NKJV is in my recently used translation lists as is the Bangla version. I can navigate to a passage in English and with two buttons change the text to Bangla and show my friend. Questions or comments? Share them below.

by Jonathan Ammon (noreply@blogger.com) at April 25, 2016 01:23 PM

The Art of Non-Conformity

The Answer in Your Inbox

7003178857_e620a54a10_z

*My brand-new book, Born for This, is all about helping you find the work you were meant to do. This series explores some of these lessons.

Lesson: When you’re trying to win the career lottery, sometimes the winning ticket is right in front of you.

The answer to your most pressing questions—and the path to the work you were born to do—may come from those around you.

When you’re not sure what your “thing” is—when you don’t know quite where to look to find that job or career that brings you joy, flow, and a good income—the people you talk to every day can help you find it.

The answer may come from your inbox, whether that inbox consists of the actual emails you receive with the same questions over and over, your social media feeds, or just the conversations you have with your friends.

In other words, the people in your network may actually have a better sense of what your most marketable skills are than you do.

The key is looking to the questions they repeatedly ask you, the favors they repeatedly request of you, and maybe even the books or articles they send you simply because they think you’d be interested.

When someone says, “Hey, can I ask you for a favor?” and you already know what that person is going to ask, you have your answer.

  • If you have trouble updating your phone, whom do you ask for help?
  • If you’ve been going to the gym but not seeing results, whom do you ask for workout advice?
  • When you’re planning a trip abroad and need to find a hotel, whom do you ask for recommendations?
AnswerInbox

Now think about it from the other perspective. Does everyone ask you for help updating a phone, or improving a workout, or recommending a place to stay while traveling? If you look closely, you’ll probably find that there are certain types of advice that people ask you for over and over.

Whether it’s recommendations for books and movies, investing tips, or your thoughts on the latest gadget to hit the market, the advice people solicit from you is a huge clue as to which of your skills and expertise is in the most demand—and therefore probably the most marketable.

***

Born for This is available from Amazon.com or your favorite local bookseller. You can also take the free quiz or join me on tour in your choice of more than 30 cities.

###

Image: Gary Knight

by Chris Guillebeau at April 25, 2016 12:46 PM

Light Blue Touchpaper

And the winners are…

inter-ace-logo4

The Inter-ACE Cyberchallenge on Saturday was fantastic. The event saw nearly twice as many competitors as attended the C2C competition in Boston recently, engaged in solving the most artful challenges. It was great to see so many students interested in cyber security making the effort to travel from the four corners of the UK, a few from as far away as Belfast!

IMG_5373The competition was played out on a “Risk-style” world map, and competing teams had to fight each other for control of several countries, each protected by a fiendish puzzle. A number of universities had also submitted guest challenges, and it was great that so many teams got involved in this creative process too. To give one example; The Cambridge team had designed a challenge based around a historically accurate enigma machine, with this challenge protecting the country of Panama. Competitors had to brute-force the settings of the enigma machine to decode a secret message. Other challenges were based around the core CTF subject areas of web application security, binary reverse engineering and exploitation, forensics, and crypto. Some novice teams may have struggled to compete, but they would have learned a lot, and hopefully developed an appetite for more competition. There were also plenty of teams present with advanced tool sets and a solid plan, with these preparations clearly paying off in the final scores.

IMG_5426

Between the 10 teams, their coaches, the organisers and the reporters, the lab was bustling with excitement and that intense feeling of hackers “in the zone” for the whole afternoon.

IMG_5406

I have nothing but praise for our partners Facebook, who worked hard on setting the challenges and making the CTF game run smoothly, as well as feeding the participants with pizza and endowing the prizes with hacking books and goodie bags.

IMG_5298

The biggest thanks go to the ACE-CSRs who enthusiastically supported this initiative despite the short notice. 40 students came to Cambridge to compete in the live event in teams of 4, and another 40+ competed remotely in the individuals.

 

In retrospect we should have organised a “best T-shirt” competition. I especially liked Facebook t-shirts “Fix more, whine less” and “s/sleep/hack/g” but the one I would have voted overall winner (despite not technically being a T-shirt) was Southampton’s Shakespearian boolean logic.

IMG_5310

It is with a mixture of pride and embarrassment that I announce the winners, as Cambridge won the gold in both the team and individual events.

IMG_5686

Team event:

  • 1st place (Gold): University of Cambridge
    Stella Lau, Will Shackleton, Cheng Sun, Gábor Szarka
  • 2nd place (Silver): Imperial College London
    Matthieu Buffet, Jiarou Fan, Luke Granger-Brown, Antoine Vianey-Liaud
  • 3rd place (Bronze): University of Southampton
    Murray Colpman, Kier Davis, Yordan Ganchev, Mohit Gupta

 

Individual event:

  • 1st place (Gold): Dimitrije Erdeljan, University of Cambridge
  • 2nd place (Silver): Emma Espinosa, University of Oxford
  • 3rd place (Bronze): David Young, University of Southampton

IMG_5346

I shall ignore allegations of having rigged the game except to say that yes, we did train our students rather extensively in preparation for the previously-mentioned Cambridge 2 Cambridge event with MIT. All of our winners are Cambridge undergraduates in computer science who had done well in the qualifiers for C2C. Two of them had actually been to Boston, where Gábor had been on the winning team overall and earned one gold and two silver medals, while Will (also former UK Cyber Security Challenge winner) had earned one gold, one silver and two bronze medals. Well deserved thanks also to my modest but irreplaceable collaborator Graham Rymer who designed and delivered an effective and up-to-date ethical hacking course to our volunteers. The Cambridge success in this weekend’s competition gives promising insights into the effectiveness of this training which we are gearing up to offering to all our undergraduates and potentially to other interested audiences in the future.

IMG_5359

We are once again grateful to everyone who took part. We are also grateful to the Cabinet Office, to EPSRC and to GCHQ for support that will allow us to keep the event running and we hereby invite all the ACEs to sharpen their hacking tools for next year and come back to attempt to reconquer the trophy from us.

by Frank Stajano at April 25, 2016 10:36 AM

Hacking Distributed

The ShapeShift Hack: Simply Incredible

There was a complicated series of thefts at ShapeShift, a cryptocurrency exchange that calls itself the "safest asset exchange on Earth" and is used to convert between different virtual currencies. Thieves broke in three separate times over a time span of two weeks and cleaned out the hot wallets each time, totaling around $200K USD.

ShapeShifter (wikimedia)

ShapeShifters are dangerous.

Erik Voorhees, founder and CEO of ShapeShift, recently offered a play-by-play of how the attacks supposedly unfolded. It's a long read, so if you haven't read it already, let me summarize it.

According to Voorhees, a sysadmin with the pseudonym Bob first installed a backdoor on another developer's machine, then used his own credentials to empty out the Bitcoin hot wallet, then initially hid and subsequently destroyed his keys to cover his tracks. ShapeShift wiped Bob's access and moved its service to a cloud provider, hoping that this would stop Bob's attack. Bob bailed out of Switzerland, where ShapeShift is based, and left his dog behind, but started throwing accusations of racially motivated persecution at Shapeshift. Then a second attacker (with the handle Rovion) bought backdoor access from Bob, who had previously compromised his co-worker's laptop and kept it hidden. Rovion then cleaned out the hot wallets in multiple currencies when the ShapeShift service was not even open to the public. ShapeShift moved its service to a different hosting platform, assuming that the third time is the charm, that a change of scenery would magically fix whatever might have been the vulnerability, and that they would examine what went wrong later. Rovion broke in again and emptied out both the Bitcoin and the Ethereum hot wallets. In the meantime, it turned out that Bob was white all along, rendering his claims of racially-motivated persecution ludicrous in Voorhees's eyes. ShapeShift then paid a bounty to Rovion. In return, Rovion told a story involving Bob, which ShapeShift wholeheartedly believed.

Incredible, As In, Not Credible

ShapeShifter

ShapeShift's story is about as credible as rumors that our financial system is run by shapeshifting lizard-men.

Frankly, I found this story incredible. While I commend Voorhees for his transparency, this account suffers from naïveté and displays huge gaps of reason.

Now, we should not arm-chair-quarterback ShapeShift's various security failures. They failed to establish a perimeter, had too large a trusted computing base coupled with an inadequate response to the hacks, and paid dearly for it. Now that they brought in a computer security expert, what led up to the heists isn't nearly as important as how they deal with the aftermath.

But in the aftermath, it's critical to understand what took place. As the story itself demonstrates all too clearly, it's difficult to take effective measures without pinning down what exactly happened. Sadly, there are more red flags surrounding Voorhees's current explanation than at a Swiss slalom course, more holes in the story than Swiss cheese.

Flag Day

ShapeShifter

I kissed an exchange and I liked it, but it did not ShapeShift into something trustworthy.

Red Flag #1. Bob is somehow able to connect with a hacker who has been hiding in their systems for some time.

It seems extremely unlikely that Bob would be able to figure out how to communicate with a covert hacker who has partially penetrated a system and is laying in wait to complete his hack. By definition, Rovion was in deep undercover mode. How would Bob have gotten a hold of Rovion? Did he know of Rovion's partial penetration? If so, how? If not, then how did they meet up? In any case, how did the two hackers exchange messages? Is there a public slack channel where people who have partially or fully penetrated ShapeShift all hang out? Which universe am I in where this is normal and does not require some explanation?

Red Flag #2. Rovion identifies Bob by his real life name "Bob," without a moment of hesitation.

Why on earth would Bob run a criminal business under his real name? Did he want to reuse his existing business cards? Was he worried that the Reservoir Dogs took all the good colors, and he'd be sued by the MPAA if he reused Mr. White? Even assuming that Bob is keeping a diary of his criminal enterprise (this has already happened in the Bitcoin space) and operating under his real name (which would be a first), why would Rovion believe him? Wouldn't Rovion's counterparty just as likely turn out to be someone who had compromised Bob's account? Or ShapeShift trying to trap Rovion? What are the odds that Bob and Rovion, who found each other online hacking into the same exchange, in the same way a rising comedian might find himself starring in a rom-com wooing the same woman as Adam Sandler, would turn out to be the types of people who'd use their real names and mutually trust each other? Are we talking about a bunch of criminals who are so inhuman as to abandon their dogs, or a bunch of nice people at a Quaker gathering?

Red Flag #3. Bob chooses to sell his backdoor access to Rovion instead of using it himself.

Why wouldn't Bob take advantage of the backdoor himself? It's not like he had much to lose. He'd already been ousted from ShapeShift and was already the target of an investigation.

Red Flag #4. Bob demands only 50 BTC for a backdoor.

The fair market price for information that leads to a pile of cash worth $X ought to be $X, minus a little bit. In this case, the pile of cash is the ShapeShift hot wallet, which held around $200K. Why would Bob sell the backdoor for 50 BTC ($20K)? Why not split the proceeds in half, for starters? What kind of a person starts out his criminal career as a thief, and then turns into a saboteur, out to wreak havoc at any price?

Red Flag #5. Rovion pays 50 BTC for a backdoor.

At the point where the sale took place, Bob's account and identity were effectively purged out of ShapeShift's network. Per the points above, Bob wanted to sell the backdoor because he did not want to exercise it himself. How would Bob, then, demonstrate to Rovion that he wasn't just a scammer, or a honeypot operator, but indeed had a legitimate backdoor to sell? The only way he could get in was through the backdoor he had planted, the very same backdoor he wanted to sell because he did not want to exercise it. Given that Bitcoin payments are irreversible, on what basis would Rovion pay Bob? If there is a slack channel where thieves like Rovion hang out, wouldn't it be more profitable for ShapeShift to stop running their exchange in all but name, and start running sting operations on Rovion-like thieves for 50 BTC a pop?

Red Flag #6. Rovion is a moralistic individual who not only is a thief himself, but wants to see Bob, another thief from whom Rovion supposedly obtained credentials, severely punished, for being a thief. All it took for him to adopt this righteous and godly path was a 2 BTC bounty payment and some bro-talk from Voorhees.

That makes no sense. This is not how people work.

Yes, there are value systems and codes of conduct among prisoners that are harsher than regular laws. And yes, competing hackers may have rivalries. None of that is at play here between Rovion and Bob, two free individuals who presumably had never met before but came together and carried out an amicable exchange. Rovion has no motivation to want to see Bob punished. If anything, Rovion should rate Bob, in EBay parlance, "A+++++, fast and responsive seller, would trade bitcoin for passwords and SSH keys again."

Rovion could just as likely, or even more likely, be a second insider who is actively pointing the finger at Bob to mislead the investigation.

Rovion and Bob, together, have one mark: ShapeShift. And that mark seems all too willing to believe any offered explanation, no matter the source.

Red Flag #7. Bob carries out the initial theft using his keys, even though he could have trivially used the backdoor he installed, which he later sold for 50 BTC, to carry out the same theft of 315 BTC using the credentials of his co-worker.

Is Bob a thief with malice aforethought or a complete idiot? The story needs to decide this once and tell us one way or the other, because the switches throughout the narrative are very confusing.

It could well be that Bob was negligent. For instance, he may have kept his keys on the same computers where he downloaded hacked games from the Internet. So he may have felt like he messed up, without being the actual perpetrator. In fact, the perpetrator could be a co-worker who is actively working to frame him. When he sensed that the witch hunt at the office was turning on him without any firm reason, he bailed and left his dog and his possessions behind -- someone who planned a theft would not have done that. The racism accusation could be Bob's way of pointing out that Voorhees is fixating on Bob without firm evidence.

Orange Flag #8. Bob's racial background is a point of contention. Voorhees et al. spend their time in between hacks tracking down whether Bob is white.

Call me crazy, but I'd first figure out where all the backdoors were planted at ShapeShift before scouring through Bob's family tree. Or more likely, I would do absolutely nothing about Bob's racial background, because (1) the law doesn't care, (2) not that it matters as far as the law is concerned, but Bob might be racially white and ethnically a minority, and (3) I'd be firm in my knowledge that there was nothing racially or ethnically motivated in any process I have ever followed.

Orange Flag #9. Voorhees talks derisively about Bob's competence during the period of time when Bob was employed prior to the hack.

Without knowing the intricacies of Swiss employment law, we can go on a limb and assume that Bob was not his own boss at ShapeShift, that the ShapeShift org chart is indeed acyclic like every other org chart, and that the Swiss nanny state did not force ShapeShift to extend an employment contract to Bob. Snide remarks about Bob's competence reflect on ShapeShift management, who actively decided to hire and retain Bob until the point of alleged robbery.

Orange Flag #10. Bob, who had access to the entire ShapeShift infrastructure as their sysadmin, turns out to have a criminal record in Florida.

It's surprising that ShapeShift hired an IT administrator and entrusted him with all the keys to the kingdom without uncovering his prior rap sheet in Florida. Every libertarian into Bitcoin derides the government for being slow and incompetent, but even the government learned its lesson from Snowden. What's holding back this modern Swiss exchange? Do they expect a handwritten note from the invisible hand of the market?

Orange Flag #11. Voorhees is offering "pro-tips" to the public on how to converse with hackers. While it doesn't matter that he is condescending towards the people who turned his exchange into their own personal piggy bank, it's a security vulnerability that he believes himself to be in command of a situation that has clearly outrun him.

If you're in charge of an exchange that got hacked three times in the space of two weeks, if you're writing odes to hackers to appease their egos and paying bounties to figure out how they broke into your system and stole from you, if you're getting your "facts" from the very people who scammed you multiple times, perhaps it's time to be humble and contemplative instead of offering pro-tips to the public. For there is indeed a learning opportunity afoot, but it's not for the public.

The orange flags do not poke holes in the story, but they indicate cause for concern in the aftermath of the hack.

Takeaway

ShapeShifter (CC licence, deviantart)

Unrelated but important: How many kids have kissed a frog to turn it into a prince/princess, but have had a hallucinogenic trip instead?

Overall, it is clear that ShapeShift got cleaned out three times and that Bob may have been somehow involved in some capacity, perhaps through negligence or perhaps as an active participant. Overall, the entire account is what's known as a "just-so story." It fits the facts, by the skin of its teeth, but there are tons of holes at almost every level. A reasonable person would have no reason to believe any of it.

The thought that the whole dramatic story could have been made up for publicity did cross my mind. Who here remembers the story of a bank called X.com? It was a tiny, little-known online bank, until it was hacked and covered in the mainstream press during the first dot-com boom. Its popularity absolutely soared after the hack. I actually had an account on X.com, but if you didn't and never heard of it, you may perhaps have heard of X.com's founder, a fellow who goes by the name of Elon Musk. While X.com's rise in popularity was an unexpected accident in an era when the term guerilla marketing had not yet been invented, things are different now -- the ShapeShift story may have been created by an Internet marketing firm. A virtual currency exchange that is hacked but survives to tell the tale would perhaps be seen as battle-hardened and attract customers. There are a few elements that are sprinkled around the story to raise this suspicion: the mixed metaphor in the title that associates an animal known for its cunning with ShapeShift (first of all, foxes cannot be looted, the word does not apply, and second, no fox would be this gullible), the gratuitous reference to how fat Voorhees's bank account balance is (what is it with Bitcoin personalities that makes them want to flash their bling at every opportunity?), the fantastic way in which Voorhees gains Rovion's trust and turns him to the one true path of law-abiding behavior by essentially bribing him, and the fact that there is little that is remarkable about ShapeShift's technology even though it is pumped up by the post at every opportunity (it uses a cold wallet, like every other merchant, but the hot wallet is at risk, and case in point, was cleaned out. It's not like ShapeShift used actual new tech like vaults). Yet, despite all these signs, I don't think what happened was just a cynical marketing ploy.

So, I'm convinced that Erik Voorhees is genuine and believes every word he wrote. Which makes everything worse. The three hacks should have taught everyone involved to not jump to the first offered explanation, but to methodically uncover, painstakingly secure, and carefully ascertain every device, every person and every part of every story. That didn't happen, twice, and there are signs that it still is not happening.

Let's also be clear that I'm not claiming the story to be false. As incredible as the story sounds, the events may even have unfolded as told. Truth can be more convoluted and complicated than fiction.

The point is that we, and ShapeShift, have absolutely no reason to believe this story, or any story, where the sources are the thieves themselves, but especially this particular story because there are many gaps in it. ShapeShift management already made some bad calls by jumping to conclusions, and is once again too eager to believe any offered explanation.

While there's much we do not know about what happened at ShapeShift, one thing is certain: if things proceed along their current vector, there is much more drama to come.

P.S. I hope Bob's dog is OK.

by Emin Gün Sirer at April 25, 2016 08:48 AM

Table Titans

The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

5 Reasons You Need the Westminster Shorter Catechism

Article by: Andrew Conway

My first encounter with the Westminster Shorter Catechism was in a church membership class. I was 18 years old and had recently become a Christian. While I told the pastor I found reading it helpful, I didn’t imagine using it much afterward.

How wrong I was! Thirteen years later, I continually find the Shorter Catechism helpful in my Christian walk and ministry.

Here are five reasons I consider this catechism worth engaging today.

1. The catechism gives a helpful summary of core beliefs. 

In Romans 12 Paul urges Christians to “present their bodies as a living sacrifice” (v. 1). When done in view of God’s mercy, this is an act of “spiritual worship” (v. 2). Among other things, this teaching seems to imply that grasping God’s mercy in both our mind and heart is essential to authentic Christian living. Before we live a gospel-shaped, Christ-exalting life, we must have a firm grip on gospel truth.

Of course there are plenty of other documents that can help with this study. It’s likewise true the Shorter Catechism goes a bit beyond the core on some matters. Nevertheless, the first 38 questions and answers offer a succinct, clear, and heartwarming summary of central Christian beliefs.

Do you want a firmer grip on central Christian truths? Are you looking for a resource that can help you teach these doctrines to others? If so, engaging with the Shorter Catechism is worth it.

2. The catechism rightly views salvation as past, present, and future.

The story goes that an eager evangelist got on a train and asked the man sitting opposite him: “Are you saved?” The other replied, “I am, I am being, and I will be.” Somewhat puzzled at this response, the evangelist tried again: “You don’t understand. Are you saved?” The other man simply reiterated his first answer: “I am, I am being, and I will be.” The other man was Charles Spurgeon.

I’m not sure whether this story is authentic or not, but it illustrates a vital point. It’s easy to misconstrue salvation as merely something that happened when I became a Christian, thus overlooking its present and future dimensions.

Here, too, the catechism can help us when it talks about ongoing salvation, stressing how believers are renewed in God’s image and increasingly enabled to slay sin and live in holiness (Answer 35). The catechism teaches about future salvation, too, pointing us to the day when believers will be “perfectly blessed, in the full enjoying of God to all eternity” (Answer 38).

3. The catechism calls for whole-life discipleship.

This point follows naturally from the previous one. Once the catechism teaches believers about their salvation and their daily fight with sin, it’s no surprise it then offers how we ought to live. This teaching largely comes in the form of a powerful and practical exposition of the Ten Commandments. The catechism doesn’t call Christians to live by the commandments in a legalistic or chore-like fashion. Instead, we take them as an expression of God’s moral will for the lives of his believing people. For example, the explanation of the eighth commandment (Questions 73 to 75) has obvious practical implications for our daily work.

In a nutshell, the catechism is thoughtfully arranged to show us how the commandments lead us to the redeeming love of God and help us live in an ongoing experience of that love. 

4. The catechism opens the door to the wisdom of the Puritans.

When we think about the past, we can easily fall prey to one of two mistakes. The first is to view it through rose-tinted glasses, imagining everything was wonderful “back then.” The other is to ignore it entirely, thus missing out on valuable historical lessons.

We shouldn’t idolize the Puritans, but much can be gained from paying attention to them. If, for example, you read Thomas Watson, you’ll find statements like this: “We are more sure to arise out of our graves than out of our beds.” Or Richard Sibbes: “There is more mercy in Christ than sin in us.”

Would you like to tap into this mine of spiritual gold? The Shorter Catechism is a great place to get acquainted with Puritan wisdom.

5. Our ‘chief end’ really is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.

There’s no doubt that the opening answer is the most famous portion of the Shorter Catechism.

To realize our chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever is to appreciate the whole thrust of Scripture, to see into God’s heart, and to discover our own purpose. A real grasp of this truth can enable us to see that knowing Jesus is eternal life, and that losing our lives for him means finding true life.

The catechism’s first answer is worth our engagement. Yet the Westminster divines didn’t just leave us one answer, they offered another 106. And they are worth our attention too.

Andrew Conway (MDiv, Union Theological College, Belfast) is the minister of Hilltown and Clonduff Presbyterian Churches in County Down, Northern Ireland. He and his wife, Sarah, have a delightful young daughter, Annie. Andrew is the author of The Shorter Catechism Made Simple.

by Andrew Conway at April 25, 2016 05:03 AM

5 Reasons You Need the Westminster Shorter Catechism

Article by: Andrew Conway

My first encounter with the Westminster Shorter Catechism was in a church membership class. I was 18 years old, and had recently become a Christian. While I told the pastor I found reading it helpful, I didn’t imagine using it much after that.

How wrong I was! Thirteen years later, I continually find the Shorter Catechism helpful in my Christian walk and ministry.

Here are five reasons I consider this catechism worth engaging today.

1. The catechism gives a helpful summary of core beliefs. 

In Romans 12 Paul urges Christians to “present their bodies as a living sacrifice” (v. 1). When done in view of God’s mercy, this is an act of “spiritual worship” (v. 2). Among other things, this seems to imply that grasping God’s mercy in both our mind and heart is essential to authentic Christian living. Before we live a gospel-shaped, Christ-exalting life, we must have a firm grip on gospel truth.

Of course there are plenty of other documents that can help with this. It’s likewise true the Shorter Catechism goes a bit beyond the core on some matters. Nevertheless, the first 38 questions and answers offer a succinct, clear, and heartwarming summary of central Christian beliefs.

Do you want a firmer grip on central Christian truths? Are you looking for a resource that can help you teach these doctrines to others? If so, engaging with the Shorter Catechism is worth it.

2. The catechism rightly views salvation as past, present, and future.

The story goes that an eager evangelist got on a train and asked the man sitting opposite him: “Are you saved?” The other replied, “I am, I am being, and I will be.” Somewhat puzzled at this response, the evangelist tried again: “You don’t understand. Are you saved?” The other man simply reiterated his first answer: “I am, I am being, and I will be.” The other man was named Charles Spurgeon.

I’m not sure whether this story is authentic or not, but it illustrates a vital point. It’s easy to misconstrue salvation as merely something that happened when I became a Christian, thus overlooking its present and future dimensions.

Here, too, the catechism can help us when it talks about ongoing salvation, stressing how believers are renewed in God’s image and increasingly enabled to slay sin and live in holiness (Answer 35). The catechism teaches about future salvation, too, pointing us to the day when believers will be “perfectly blessed, in the full enjoying of God to all eternity” (Answer 38).

3. The catechism calls for whole-life discipleship.

This follows naturally from the previous point. Once the catechism teaches believers about their salvation and their daily fight with sin, it’s no surprise it then offers how we ought to live. This teaching largely comes in the form of a powerful and practical exposition of the Ten Commandments. The catechism doesn’t call Christians to live by the commandments in a legalistic or chore-like fashion. Instead, we’re to take them as an expression of God’s moral will for the lives of his believing people. For example, the explanation of the eighth commandment (Questions 73 to 75) has obvious practical implications for our daily work.

In a nutshell, the catechism is thoughtfully arranged to show us how the commandments are designed to lead us to the redeeming love of God, and to help us live in an ongoing experience of that love. 

4. The catechism opens the door to the wisdom of the Puritans.

When we think about the past, we can easily fall prey to one of two mistakes. The first is to view it through rose-tinted glasses, imagining everything was wonderful “back then.” The other is to ignore it entirely, thus missing out on valuable historical lessons.

We shouldn’t idolize the Puritans, nor should we regard them as perfect. But much can be gained from paying attention to them. If, for example, you read someone like Thomas Watson, you’ll find statements like this: “We are more sure to arise out of our graves than out of our beds.” Or Richard Sibbes: “There is more mercy in Christ than sin in us.”

Would you like to tap into this mine of spiritual gold? The Shorter Catechism is a great place to get acquainted with Puritan wisdom.

5. Our ‘chief end’ really is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.

There’s no doubt that the opening answer is the most famous portion of the Shorter Catechism.

To realize our chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever is to appreciate the whole thrust of Scripture, to see into God’s heart, and to discover our own purpose. A real grasp of this truth can enable us to see that knowing Jesus is eternal life, and that losing our lives for him means finding true life.

The catechism’s first answer is worth our engagement. Yet the Westminster divines didn’t just leave us one answer, they offered another 106. And they are worth our attention too.

Andrew Conway (MDiv, Union Theological College, Belfast) is the minister of Hilltown and Clonduff Presbyterian Churches in County Down, Northern Ireland. He and his wife Sarah have a delightful young daughter named Annie. Andrew is the author of The Shorter Catechism Made Simple.

by Andrew Conway at April 25, 2016 05:02 AM

Is Certainty Sinful?

Article by: Matthew Lee Anderson

“I’m not saying never doubt or question,” John Ames writes to his son in Marilynne Robinson’s enchanting novel Gilead. “I’m saying you must be sure that the doubts and questions are your own, not, so to speak, the mustache and walking stick that happen to be the fashion of any particular moment.”

Like most pieces of sensible advice, Ames’s exhortation has been often ignored in the evangelical world. Never mind that the “walking stick” of questioning certainty and doubt themselves is by now well-worn; Peter Enns, evangelicalism’s agent provocateur, has taken it out for one more go about town in The Sin of Certainty: Why God Desires Our Trust More Than Our “Correct” Beliefs

One would hope that both time and Enns’s well-known history of conflict about his doubts and questions would improve the quality of the effort, and that he would offer deep and substantive words of the kind Ames gives us. Instead, even when Enns offers helpful counsel, it lacks novelty and insight, which left me wondering: Why write this book?

From What to Whom

The answer, according to Enns, is that Christians (still) have a problem with certainty, despite the numerous treatments that have said as much. Specifically, he thinks we’ve identified our faith in God with our thoughts about God, and so have become preoccupied with correct thinking. Certainty becomes a sin when we “turn away from God’s invitation to trust in order to cling to an idol.” Against this, Enns wants us to trust in God—to have a faith “not so much defined by what we believe but in whom we trust.” Enns recognizes there’s overlap between those points, that the latter cannot really be identified without the former. But getting the priority right matters, and helping us do so is his aim. “Not content of thinking, but trust in a person”—that’s the main point Enns makes.

But Enns’s point about the need for faith to generate action—for faith to move us to be “all in”—is standard fare for evangelical youth leaders everywhere. Enns’s images for faith rarely go deeper than the “Jesus trust fall” or leaning back on the sofa and not attending to the cushions. Enns even repackages the standard claim that “God does not like being boxed in. By definition, God can’t be.” Enns may accuse conservative Protestants of a wide variety of intellectual sins and vices, but he seems perfectly happy perpetuating our most banal clichés.

Problematic Prescriptions 

Stylistically, Enns’s prose mostly buries the occasional memorable line among banalities. At one point, he assures us that “the dominoes were unwinding down the slippery slope” is a “clever mixed metaphor—think about it.” Having followed his advice, I fail to see the cleverness: dominoes don’t “wind.” (My opinion may be a minority one: Enns’s endorsers found the book “beautiful,” “delightful,” and “puckish.”) The effect is that of an academic working hard to capture the decentered, self-aware, pseudo-stream-of-consciousness style so popular today—a style The Sin of Certainty proves is harder to emulate than it looks.

Still, Enns’s diagnosis of sins of “certainty” is more accurate than many of his conservative critics might want to grant. The simplest explanation for the emergence of “doubt” as the latest “mustache and walking stick” is that young people are reacting against something. The story Enns tells about the historical sources of the trouble is a parade of the usual villains; but he follows it with an exploration of many of the psalms of lament. The effect is better than a palate cleanser; lament should be an indispensable, regular part of the worship of our churches (and our own private devotions), and Enns handles the psalms deftly.

But it’s difficult to get excited about Enns’s prescriptions. If nothing else, the book is a pervasively individualized treatment of trust. “Faith,” Enns tells us, “is a community word.” If only he’d taken the message to heart. When he lays out how he has “reimagined thinking about God and faith in God,” neither the church nor its practices is anywhere to be found. “Modernity” makes an appearance; God’s transcendence is listed, as is Christianity’s central ineffability. Enns even exhorts the reader to “Trust your experiences, your God moments.” Even if that were true without qualification, it’s a rather lame proposal to a person who might be teetering on the edges of disbelief. Moreover, Enns devotes an entire chapter to “Cultivating a Habit of Trust,” but he spends most of the time relaying a moving narrative of his own life. He lauds his own church community, but he resists commending a similar path to others. That the faith of the church might carry an individual through a crisis is never mentioned, nor even considered.

Forgetful Form 

The Sin of Certainty takes up subjects and questions conservative Protestants still desperately need to address. The ongoing market for such books suggests the problem is not in our “what” but elsewhere, a lesson that if we all took to heart might dry up the well of books trying to solve it.

Because of his past, however, Enns himself is the least likely person to win a hearing with conservative Protestants on the matter—which is perhaps the greatest loss, as he’d be able to speak with an authority on the subject few others can. But The Sin of Certainty isn’t the sort of effort that inspires confidence Enns is interested in this persuasion anymore.

Doubt and suffering are enormously difficult seasons to endure, and Enns’s exploration of them is moved by a strong current of his own pain and sorrow, which make him appropriately averse to reducing them to the latest “walking stick.” But The Sin of Certainty ends up commending an approach to faith that generates the trendiness Enns wants to avoid, and he packages it in a form that will be forgotten in a decade. Perhaps Enns will revisit the subject then; perhaps then he’ll find the audience he covets and, on this subject, perhaps deserves. 

Peter Enns. The Sin of Certainty: Why God Desires Our Trust More Than Our ‘Correct’ Beliefs. New York, NY: HarperOne, 2016. 240 pp. $25.99. 

Matthew Lee Anderson is the lead writer at MereOrthodoxy.com and the author of Earthen Vessels (2011). He is pursuing graduate studies at Oxford University.

by Matthew Lee Anderson at April 25, 2016 05:02 AM

The Jewish Intellectual Who Predicted America’s Social Collapse

Article by: Bruce Ashford

The great American sociologist Philip Rieff (1922–2006) stands as one of the 20th century’s keenest intellectuals and cultural commentators. His work was stunning in its intellectual breadth and depth. Rieff did sociology on a grand scale—sociology as prophecy—diagnosing the ills of Western society and offering a prognosis and prescription for the future. Although he wasn’t a Christian, his work remains one of the greatest gifts—even if a complicated and challenging one—to Christians living today. (Tim Keller often lists Rieff’s The Triumph of the Therapeutic as one of his essential “big books” on culture.)

Rieff began his academic career in the 1950s and 60s by focusing on the work of Sigmund Freud. According to Rieff, Freud’s exploration of neurosis was really an exploration of authority, as Western man was realizing the idea of divine authority is an illusion. God doesn’t exist; therefore, he isn’t a legitimate authority. Freud recognized that as belief in God faded, psychological neuroses multiplied. Instead of correcting this by pointing persons back to God, however, Freud sought to heal by teaching his patients to accept this loss of authority as a positive development.

Thus the therapeutic culture was born. In place of theology, Freud and his progeny left us with sociology. Rieff warned that the tradeoff would not be a fruitful one.

Religion in Our Blood

Though Rieff rose to prominence as a public intellectual in the 1970s, he suddenly withdrew from the public eye for more than three decades. In fact, it wasn’t until the year of his death—2006—that he re-entered the public square with the publication of his magnum opus, My Life Among the Deathworks.

Deathworks is a devastating critique of modern culture, focusing on our vain Western attempts to reorganize society without a sacred center. According to Rieff, a patently irreligious view of society—which the Western world desires—isn’t only foolish and destructive, but impossible. We can no more live without a religious framework than we can communicate without a linguistic framework or breathe without a pulmonary framework. Religion is in our blood, and the more we deny it, the sicker our society becomes. As Rieff surveyed the 21st-century Western world, he perceived the sickness had become nearly fatal.

Cultural Works of Death

To expose the problems of modern society, Rieff outlines Western history according to three cultural “worlds,” each representing a time period (not a separate sphere of existence). The first was the pagan world, enchanted by its many gods. Following this was the second cultural world, one dominated by monotheism. This era has only recently given way to the third cultural world, our present age, in which many wish to do away with the gods altogether.

As Rieff saw it, human civilizations have always understood social order to be underlain by sacred order. The latter always and necessarily funds the former by providing a world of meaning and a code of permissions and prohibitions. Sacred order translates its truths into the tangible realities of the social order. Thus culture makers and cultural products served as middlemen between sacred order and social order, between God and society.

But the spirit of our third cultural world seeks to undo all of this.

Within this three-world conception of history, Rieff placed Christianity in the second cultural world. Christian monotheism provided the sacred foundation on which Western society was built, and gave individuals a place to stand. Virtue wasn’t just taught explicitly but reinforced implicitly through cultural institutions—in such a way that it shaped the instinctual desires of each successive generation. Most importantly perhaps, the underlying sacred order provided a powerful means of opposing social and cultural decadence.

The third cultural world, however, defines itself by its desire to sever this sacred/social connection. Whereas each of the first two worlds sought to construct identity vertically from above, our third world rejects the vertical in favor of constructing identity horizontally from below. Rieff knew the result of this rejection would be nihilism: “Where there is nothing sacred, there is nothing” (Deathworks, 12). 

Rieff pulls no punches in describing the cultural fruits of this project, describing them as deathworks. Instead of causing society to flourish (via works of life), modern cultural products function as subversive agents of destruction (works of death), undermining the very culture from which they arose. Rieff indicts an array of cultural elites—but especially Freud, Joyce, Picasso, and Mapplethorpe—for their role in poisoning society. “The guiding elites of our third world,” he observes, “are virtuosi of de-creation, of fictions where once commanding truths were” (4). Wishing to forget religion and rebuild society (irreligiously) from the ground up, these elites carefully construct a contemporary tower of Babel.

Enslaved to Desire

Of course, the attempt to construct a religionless society is as absurd as the attempt to reach God with a physical tower. As Reiff notes, “Culture and sacred order are inseparable. . . . No culture has ever preserved itself where there is not a registration of sacred order” (13). Yet our third world continues its production of deathworks as a “final assault [on] the sacred orders, of which their arts are some expression.” Deathworks, then, are “battles in the war against second culture” (7). In Rieff’s eyes, the third world is now busy with self-congratulatory festivities in honor its apparent rout.

One of the front lines of the contemporary battle is the notion of truth. The third-world perspective abolishes truth, leaving only desire. Yet desire proves to be as fierce an authority as any god—and jealous to boot. Nature, after all, abhors a vacuum. So the throne on which God once sat doesn’t remain empty; it’s simply filled with the more erratic god of desire.

The chief desire in our American third-world culture is sexual, and this desire demands freedom of exercise. You may now believe or disbelieve in the existence of God (yawn), but you must never question the dogma of absolute sexual freedom, nor restrict its public exercise.

Onward to a Fourth World

Christians who resonate with Rieff’s grim assessment may be tempted to go back, attempting to retrieve the lost Christendom of a previous age. But Rieff pushes us forward to envision a fourth world. We cannot ignore the deathworks our third cultural world has created, but we can work towards a world in which sacred order once again underlies social order. And if Rieff is right, the time for such change may be sooner than we think. The third cultural world seems powerful now, but its foundations are weak and already starting to crumble. A world founded on material desire, after all, may promise much, but our society requires much more (see Rieff’s The Crisis of the Officer Class, 6). 

Even amid a crumbling third-cultural world, we must recognize that the fourth world will not enact itself; it awaits a people who will speak and act responsibly. Responsibility in a time such as this will involve a return to seemingly defunct notions of truth and virtue. And this will become increasingly possible as our culture undergoes a “radical disenchantment” with the permissiveness of third-world culture (Crisis, 169). It seemed so liberating to fire God from his post and live without limits! But a world without boundaries is a frightening—not a freeing—place. We must recover the beauty of the “thou shalt” and “thou shalt not.”

When we read the events of our own time with Rieff-like eyes, we’re able to recognize many cultural products of our time as deathworks, and their authors as subversive agents undermining social order. But while Rieff generally takes aim at the creative class, we can expand our vision to include not only elite artists but also more ubiquitous culture-makers—popular entertainers, media outlets, corporate giants, and Supreme Court justices. As one example, we might point to the Supreme Court majorities who created “rights” to abortion and same-sex marriage out of thin air; those decisions are social deathworks in the deepest sense.

And yet, as helpful as Rieff is in identifying the cultural deathworks of contemporary society, his prescription for overcoming them is deficient. He often glances backward, pointing society to the moral code of a previous era. He also points forward, speaking of a future that ought to follow our corrupt age, a future defined by a virtuous cultural elite. But Rieff could never fully articulate a vision for either. He understood well the poison, but could never fully formulate the antidote.

Where Hope Prevails 

As he looked backward, what Rieff saw dimly was the biblical doctrine of creation. Had he reached for the wealth in that Christian doctrine, he might have grasped the enigma of humanity—of our created goodness and fallen badness—along with the Bible’s rich teaching about human flourishing. Moreover, what Rieff yearned to see in the future can only be found in a fully Christian eschatology, in its powerful and beautiful vision of Christ’s consummation of the kingdom. Only a Christian eschatology, rooted in the atonement of Christ and awaiting his triumphant return, can provide both a vision for the future and the power to work toward it. We don’t merely need a heavenly vision; we need divine power to bring heaven down to earth.

This is what Christianity, and Christianity alone, offers. The resurrection of Jesus declares that where death seems to have the final word, the ending is not ultimate. God will restore the earth, and his kingdom will prevail. What he created, what he mourned over as it reveled in deathworks ranged against him, what he pursued and redeemed—this he will restore, from top to bottom. And what finally grounds our hope—a hope that, sadly, seems to have eluded Rieff—is that we’re privy to this finale before the finale. Though we live in the muddy middle of the script, we’ve caught a glimpse of the last scene.

As those who know the end of history’s story, then, Christians can engage in cultural activity with a humble confidence. As dark as it may seem, the realm of culture will one day be raised to life, made to bow in submission to the King. Since Jesus will gain victory and restore the earth, we remain confident. And since it will be his victory, we remain humble.

The 20th-century missionary theologian Lesslie Newbigin aptly captured this idea of Christian hope and action, even amid a culture of death:

[A transformed society] is not our goal, great as that is. . . . Our goal is the holy city, the New Jerusalem, a perfect fellowship in which God reigns in every heart, and his children rejoice together in his love and joy. . . . And though we know that we must grow old and die—that our labors, even if they succeed for a time, will in the end be buried in the dust of time—yet we are not dismayed. . . . We know that these things must be. But we know that as surely as Christ was raised from the dead, so surely shall there be a new heaven and a new earth wherein dwells righteousness. And having this knowledge, we ought as Christians to be the strength of every good movement of political and social effort, because we have no need either of blind optimism or of despair. (Signs Amid the Rubble: The Purposes of God in Human History, 55)

Bruce Ashford is the provost and professor of theology and culture at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He co-authored One Nation Under God: A Christian Hope for American Politics (with Chris Pappalardo) and is the author of Every Square Inch: An Introduction to Cultural Engagement for Christians. You can follow him at www.BruceAshford.net and on Twitter

by Bruce Ashford at April 25, 2016 05:00 AM

John C. Wright's Journal

Comment Overheard on Another Blog: Civilization

http://voxday.blogspot.com/2016/04/fighting-fire-with-fire.html?showComment=1461555667194#c2058459623491693344

 krymneth                                  

April 24, 2016 8:01 PM

People mistake the result of civilization for the contract of civilization.

The contract of civilization is that you will defend it. Said defense involves being obligated to attack those who break the contract of civilization, with whatever it takes to preserve it.

The result of consistently applying this principle is that eventually you don’t have to anymore, and you get peace. (At least locally.) But this is not because you pre-commit to peace at all costs; it is because you pre-commit to defending the peace, and by doing so, often don’t have to.

The SJWs are barbarians. They lack the civilized virtues, they lack respect for their civilization, they have opted out of the contract of civilization, they hate civilization.

Those who refuse to honor their contract to defend are perhaps not barbarians… but neither are they civilized. They are some third category that our language lacks a word for since we haven’t had this kind of wealth in the past before to get this far along the post-civilization track. (“Cuckservative” is a flavor of this, perhaps, but not the totality of the concept.)

It is not a higher morality to insist on not using effective defense against the barbarians. It is a lower morality. I could make a case for it being a lower morality than even the barbarians have, though that is debateable. But that is the moral debate that it raises, not “which is a higher morality, those who effectively defend civilization or those who consider only their own moral character?” but “which is preferable, the barbarian or the one who does nothing to stop the barbarian?”

Braying about one’s refusal to honor their civilizational obligations is not a point of pride; it is a badge of shame.

My comment: brilliant. Bravo.

by John C Wright at April 25, 2016 03:46 AM

eagereyes

Spreadsheet Thinking vs. Database Thinking

Spreadsheet

The shape of a dataset is hugely important to how well it can be handled by different software. The shape defines how it is laid out: wide as in a spreadsheet, or long as in a database table. Each has its use, but it’s important to understand their differences and when each is the right choice.

Wide and Two-Dimensional: The Spreadsheet

Spreadsheets are laid out in two dimensions. That’s probably their most fundamental and most important feature. They make sense to us because we can easily think in terms of a grid that organizes things in a logical manner.

SpreadsheetThe grid layout is efficient because it means you don’t have to repeat what is being shown. In this example of unemployment data, each row is a year and each column a month. If you’re looking for, say, April 2010, you know where to look. And you can read time across or down, depending on whether you’re looking to compare between months or year over year.

Calculations also present themselves: sum the rows across (not in this particular example), sum the columns down, get the average, create a new column with the difference of each row from the overall mean, etc.

There are limitations, of course. If you want to break the data down in more than two ways, you need to create multiple tables. The same is true when adding more numbers in each of the cells. You might want to compare unemployment to labor force or education, but they’re in different tables, making this complicated.

For data analysis tools, spreadsheets also pose the challenge that their formats can vary widely and are often inconsistent in subtle but problematic ways. One issue is that there is usually stuff around the actual data to explain things, making it hard for a program to even just reliably figure out what the actual data is.

Another problem is that column headings don’t tell you what they mean. In the example above, Year means that each of the numbers in that column is a year. But Jan, Feb, etc. don’t, they are actually part of the date, and thus part of the data. How is a program supposed to tell them apart?

There are many other conventions in spreadsheets that make sense to people – of course the column in this table is the same as in the one above, of course that single label applies to all rows, etc. –, but are impossible for a machine to figure out.

Long and Skinny: The Database

The opposite of the spreadsheet is the database table. Instead of laying out the data in two dimensions, it’s a long list. It has columns, but not nearly as many (for the same dataset).

Database

Instead, each column has a role. In our unemployment rate example, there is one column for the year, one for the month, and then a final column for the actual value. This is not a good format for a human, but machines love it.

This format causes repetition. The first row represents January 2006, so it has to contain the year 2006 and then the month January. The next entry, February 2006, has to repeat the year. And a year later, the month repeats again. It seems like a lot of effort to represent data this way, but this way it’s all specified. And most databases today can compress this kind of repetitive data so it takes up very little space.

The uniform structure of this format makes it easy to perform all sorts of operations, like filtering out certain values, calculating differences, averages, etc., and all the other things databases are good at.

This format is also much more flexible when it comes to adding more ways of breaking down the data, or adding more measurements. Do you want to have an unemployment rate per state? In the spreadsheet model, you have to make many tables, one for each state. Or you can make larger tables for each state by month, and different tables for each year. This might seem odd, but it would allow comparison between states over each year.

In the long-and-skinny format, you just add a state column and let the machine worry about it. Draw a chart with a line per state over time? Calculate year-over-year change for each? Etc.

Columns that break up the data like that are called dimensions. Database tables often contain dozens of them. The numbers associated with each combination of dimension values are called measures. And those are also easy to add. Want the labor force in addition to the unemployment rate? Just add a column. Same for population, cost of living, etc.

Having all that data in the same place makes for many possible comparisons that are up to the person asking questions, and don’t need to be prepared as tables beforehand. That’s why it’s much better for data to be machine-friendly than human-readable: a machine can turn the machine-friendly data into all sorts of human-readable formats, but the opposite is much more difficult and error-prone.

Turn One Into The Other: (Un-)Pivot

The two shapes look different and they’re useful in different contexts. But they represent exactly the same data. Each can also be transformed into the other. Though whether that is easy or not depends on the tools at hand and some specifics of the data.

The term for turning the long-skinny database format into the wide spreadsheet format is usually to pivot the data. This operation is pretty easy because the machine knows where to find the data, and just needs to be told which dimensions to use to make columns and which measures to include.

The other operation, the unpivot, is much more difficult and error-prone. When the data is already in proper table format (with all the stuff around the pure data removed), it works well though. Tools like Trifacta Wrangler and Tableau can perform unpivots (though Tableau calls it pivot, just to be different).

No Right Shape

Neither of these two data shapes is right or wrong. They each work well for their respective uses. The difficulty is that when data prepared with one use in mind is to be utilized for the other.

More fundamentally, it’s crucial to know that these differences in data shape exist. That’s the first step in trying to figure out why a particular dataset is so damn hard to work with in the tool of your choice. You won’t be very happy with a wide dataset in Tableau, and neither with a long-and-skinny one in Excel.

by Robert Kosara at April 25, 2016 03:25 AM

Zippy Catholic

I think they have been working on the wrong human trait

I’ve expressed before why I am not concerned that some artificial intelligence is going to take over the world and turn humans into slaves any time soon. Computer scientists have been yammering on about how AI was just around the corner since before I was typing rudimentary game programs into Hewlett-Packard calculators in the 1970’s.  The pinnacle of what all of this massive human effort has produced is smart phone autocorrect.

Computers don’t have intelligence and they will never have intelligence.  They do just exactly what they are told to do, nothing more, nothing less.  Because they can do so very, very quickly, and because human beings are telling them what to do, they can be used to do some astonishing things.  But they are just mindless tools, and that is all they will ever be.

However, computer-infected objects have managed to become quite narcissistic, at the instruction of their programmers. It is astonishing how many inanimate objects are constantly nagging me for attention, not because of something they can do for me but because they need me to attend to their own special needs.

Of course if humans continue on our current trends Alan Turing may turn out to have been prescient after all.  As human society approaches the Narcissism Singularity it may ultimately become impossible for a third party observer to distinguish between the nagging narcissism of circuits and the nagging narcissism of meat.


by Zippy at April 25, 2016 02:08 AM

Caelum Et Terra

The Frailest Thing

Funny How Life Comes Full Circle

A few days ago I had a passing encounter with a gentleman I had never met and will likely never meet again, yet the memory of this brief encounter has lingered and I’ve been reflecting on it ever since. The telling of it will take only a moment, but perhaps the reading of it will linger for you as the experience has for me.

It was an unusually pleasant late afternoon, by central Florida standards. Pleasant enough to plop my daughter in her stroller and set out for a walk around our neighborhood. Making our way down an uneven and narrow sidewalk, I noticed a man in a wheelchair wheeling his way toward us. As he approached, it became apparent that the sidewalk was not big enough for both his wheelchair and my daughter’s stroller. It also became apparent that he was an amputee.

At my first opportunity, I pushed the stroller into a driveway and waited for the man to pass. As he did, I smiled and nodded. Slowing his pace just a touch, he nodded back and, with a smile of his own and a tone utterly bereft of bitterness or self-pity, he said to me, “I wish I had my dad to push me now.” With that he gestured over his shoulder as if to point at where his dad would be. “Funny how life comes full circle,” he added. And with that he was gone.

Immediately, I was deeply moved by what was certainly one of the most poignant encounters I’ve ever experienced with a stranger. It was the sort of encounter that jars one’s point of view, causing all of life to appear, for a moment, in a different, clearer light. Turning it over again and again in my mind, I think it was the untroubled wistfulness that was most striking, that and the wisdom so winsomely delivered.

So there I was, still in the full flush of early fatherhood, imagining myself, and my daughter, many years hence, wondering, among other things, how life and love will weave us together.

 


by Michael Sacasas at April 25, 2016 01:09 AM

April 24, 2016

Jon Udell

Annotation is not (only) web comments

Annotation looks like a new way to comment on web pages. “It’s like Medium,” I sometimes explain, “you highlight the passage you’re talking about, you write a comment about it, the comment anchors to the passage and displays to its right.” I need to stop saying that, though, because it’s wrong in two ways.

First, annotation isn’t new. In 1968 Doug Engelbart showed a hypertext system that could link to regions within documents. In 1993, NCSA Mosaic implemented the first in a long lineage of modern annotation tools. We pretend that tech innovation races along at breakneck speed. But sometimes it sputters until conditions are right.

Second, annotation isn’t only a form of online discussion. Yes, we can converse more effectively when we refer to selected passages. Yes, such conversation is easier to discover and join when we can link directly to a context that includes the passage and its anchored conversation. But I want to draw attention to a very different use of annotation.

A web document is a kind of database. Some of its fields may be directly available: the title, the section headings. Other fields are available only indirectly. The author’s name, for example, might link to the author’s home page, or to a Wikipedia page, where facts about the author are recorded. The web we weave using such links is the map that Google reads and then rewrites for us to create the most powerful information system the world has yet seen. But we want something even more powerful: a web where the implicit connections among documents become explicit. Annotation can help us weave that web of linked data.

The semantic web is, of course, another idea that’s been kicking around forever. In that imagined version of the web, documents encode data structures governed by shared schemas. And those islands of data are linked to form archipelagos that can be traversed not only by people but also by machines. That mostly hasn’t happened because we don’t yet know what those schemas need to be, nor how to create writing tools that enable people to easily express schematized information.

Suppose we agree on a set of standard schemas, and we produce schema-aware writing tools that everyone can use to add new documents to a nascent semantic web. How will we retrofit the web we already have? Annotation can help us make the transition. A project called SciBot has given me a glimpse of how that can happen.

Hypothesis’ director of biosciences Maryann Martone and her colleagues at the Neuroscience Information Framework (NIF) project are building an inventory of antibodies, model organisms, and software tools use by neuroscientists. NIF has defined and promoted a way to identify such resources when mentioned in scientific papers. It entails a registry of Research Resource Identifiers (RRIDs) and a protocol for including RRIDs in scientific papers.

Here’s an example of some RRIDs cited in Dopaminergic lesioning impairs adult hippocampal neurogenesis by distinct modification of a-synuclein:

Free-floating sections were stained with the following primary antibodies: rat monoclonal anti-BrdU (1:500; RRID:AB_10015293; AbD Serotec, Oxford, United Kingdom), rabbit polyclonal anti-Ki67 (1:5,000; RRID:AB_442102; Leica Microsystems, Newcastle, United Kingdom), mouse monoclonal antineuronal nuclei (NeuN; 1:500; RRID:AB_10048713; Millipore, Billerica, MA), rabbit polyclonal antityrosine hydroxylase (TH; RRID:AB_1587573; Millipore), goat polyclonal anti-DCX (1:250; RRID:AB_2088494; Santa Cruz Biotechnology, Santa Cruz, CA), and mouse monoclonal anti-a-syn (1:100; syn1; clone 42; RRID:AB_398107; BD Bioscience, Franklin Lakes, NJ).

The term “goat polyclonal anti-DCX” is not necessarily unique. So the author has added the identifer RRID:AB_2088494, which corresponds to a record in NIF’s registry. RRIDs are embedded directly in papers, rather than attached as metadata, because as Dr. Martone says, “papers are the only scientific artifacts that are guaranteed to be preserved.”

But there’s no guarantee an RRID means what it should. It might be misspelled. Or it might point to a flawed record in the registry. Could annotation enable a process of computer-assisted validation? Thus was born the idea of SciBot. It’s a human/machine partnership that works as follows.

A human validator sends the text of an article to a web service. The service scans the article for RRIDs. For each that it finds, it looks up the corresponding record in the registry, then calls the Hypothesis API to post an annotation that anchors to the text of the RRID and includes the lookup result in the body of the annotation. That’s the machine’s work. Now comes the human partner.

If the RRID is well-formed, and if the lookup found the right record, a human validator tags it a valid RRID — one that can now be associated mechanically with occurrences of the same resource in other contexts. If the RRID is not well-formed, or if the lookup fails to find the right record, a human validator tags the annotation as an exception and can discuss with others how to handle it. If an RRID is just missing, the validator notes that with another kind of exception tag.

If you’re not a neuroscientist, as I am not, that all sounds rather esoteric. But this idea of a humans and machines working together to enhance web documents is, I think, powerful and general. When I read Katherine Zoepf’s article about emerging legal awareness among Saudi women, for example, I was struck by odd juxtapositions along the timeline of events. In 2004, reforms opened the way for women to enter law schools. In 2009, “the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice created a specially trained unit to conduct witchcraft investigations.” I annotated a set of these date-stamped statements and arranged them on a timeline. The result is a tiny data set extracted from a single article. But as with SciBot, the method could be applied by a team of researchers to a large corpus of documents.

Web documents are databases full of facts and assertions that we are ill-equipped to find and use productively. Those documents have already been published, and they are not going to change. Using annotations layered on top of them, we can begin to make better use of the documents that exist today, while helping us more clearly envision tomorrow’s web of linked data.

This hybrid approach is, I think, the viable middle path between two unworkable extremes. People won’t be willing or able to weave the semantic web. Nor will machines, though perfectly willing, be able to do that on their own. The machines will need training wheels and the guidance of human minds and hands. Annotation’s role as a provider of training and guidance for machine learning can powerfully complement its role as the next incarnation of web comments.


by Jon Udell at April 24, 2016 10:27 PM

Roads from Emmaus

Who is God? (Part 8 of 8): God is Our King

Palm Sunday, April 24, 2016 Philippians 4:4-9; John 12:1-8 Rev. Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, one God. Amen. Today, on the final Sunday of the Triodion, Palm Sunday, we wrap up our series in which we ... READ MORE ›

The post Who is God? (Part 8 of 8): God is Our King appeared first on Roads from Emmaus.

by Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick at April 24, 2016 04:47 PM

Zippy Catholic

The Mickey Mouse world of intellectual property

I don’t have strong views about intellectual property. Modern understandings of property and commerce are perverse, immoral, and unreal. It seems likely that at least some of what IP law sanctions, asserts, and prohibits goes against the natural law. But I haven’t personally done the due diligence required to credibly advance particular arguments about particular laws or practices.

Generally speaking intellectual property has similarities to cash — once we have an adequate grasp of what cash actually is and is not.

The sovereign is, qua sovereign, the ‘owner’ of certain marketplaces: that is, he sets the terms upon which transactions are permitted and carried out in the marketplaces over which he is sovereign.

Cash – or more specifically, sovereign-issued currency[1] – entitles the bearer to engage in certain kinds of taxable transactions in the sovereign’s marketplaces. (People often use it for non-taxable transactions too, and in other marketplaces owned by different sovereigns: insulin is valuable for barter in trade by non-diabetics).

Fiat currency does not authorize all conceivable transactions, of course: various transactions such as selling yourself outright into slavery are not “allowed” (that is, enforced); and usurious contracts are allowed/enforced but should not be.

Intellectual property, then, is like a lease or easement in the sovereign’s markets. Leases and easements are a kind of financial security, that is, claims against property.  A patent permits the patent holder to sell the patented invention in the sovereign’s marketplaces, while forbidding other parties to sell the patented invention.  A patent, then, is a financial security; the property against which it entitles a specific claim is the sovereign’s marketplaces.

It is similar to Disney allowing only Starbucks to sell coffee in Disneyland.  When you are in Disneyland, you must commercially transact within the rules of Disneyland.


[1] Modern economists use the label “money” to refer to many essentially different kinds of security: actual paper currency, individual currency-denominated claims against the balance sheets of banks, bank claims agains the balance sheet of the Federal Reserve, etc etc.  All mainstream modern economic theories — Austrian, Keynesian, Chicago, MMT, Labor Theory of Value, etc — are metaphysically anti-realist, that is, are disconnected from reality and therefore insane and incoherent. In fact I am not personally aware of any metaphysically realist economic theory (an economic theory which competently distinguishes between imaginary reality and actual reality) at all, mainstream or fringe.


by Zippy at April 24, 2016 02:31 PM

sacha chua :: living an awesome life

Weekly review: Week ending April 22, 2016

Lots of medical-related conversations this week. I called the eye clinic to follow up on A-‘s timeline. She’s scheduled for an impression under general anesthesia in June. I also called the cardiologist’s office to ask about her slow wealthweight gain, and they recommended seeing the pediatrician earlier than our scheduled appointment. We saw the pediatrician, and she isn’t worried about A- yet (she’s in the 25th percentile for length and weight). A- was definitely not happy about the physical exam, though, and the vaccine injections didn’t help. She was a bit fussier for two days, and now she seems back to normal. We’ll see the pediatrician again in two weeks for another vaccine and another weighing. Sometimes I wonder if I should also be building up a record for A- at home, but since it doesn’t seem easy to get a copy of medical notes, I guess I’ll have to leave that up to her primary care provider.

The downside of all this phoning around was that I’ve been stuck playing an embarrassing game of phone tag. I’m currently looking around for more options in terms of pediatricians or family doctors in case I can find someone with excellent rapport. I forgot that I had meeting assist turned on and plenty of optional activities on my calendar, so I missed a few calls. I’ve set up call forwarding and I’m experimenting with a free service that provides voicemail (fongo.com), so we’ll see if that helps.

It was a good week for cooking variety. I prepared lots of ingredients last weekend for Cobb salad and an assortment of burger toppings, and we turned leftovers into pizza. I like this new habit we’re building. Cutting up ingredients in advance makes complex meals easier to throw together.

We took advantage of the warm and sunny spring weather to rake the yard and start the garden. The strawberries and sorrel have already started coming back. I planted some peas, bitter melon, and coriander. Maybe in a week or two, when frost becomes much less likely, I’ll buy a few cherry tomato starters. I wonder if I can get lettuce and spinach growing this year, or if there are other things I can grow for salads and herbs.

I joined the babywearing walk in High Park, but bailed halfway through because A- was getting a bit fussy. Good timing, actually, as she had one of those big poops when I got home. It’s starting to become hat weather, too. I tried making her a hat, but the dome was too shallow and the brim wasn’t stiff enough. Fortunately, I have lots of spare fabric, so I can just try again. I’ll probably start by trying a stiffer brim.

Quite a few other social things, too. W-‘s mom brought some soup over, and I visited Jen, Ewan, and E-. Lola and Lolo also virtually dropped in via Facebook video calling, and A- cooed at them for a while. =)

I took some time to systematically think about kaizen: continuous, small improvements. One of the little improvements I’ve been planning was making Emacs survive X freezes a little more gracefully. I got emacs --daemon working on my system and I managed to write a blog post about it. Hooray for being able to tinker! I also tweaked my tracker a little bit more. Now that I save the state on the server, I can use other apps without worrying about losing the start of my nursing timer, which means I can read stuff in Google Play Books or Overdrive while nursing. Yay!

Also, while updating some paperwork, I noticed that I’d used a 25% gross up rate instead of 18% for the past two years. It turns out that there’s a straightforward web interface for updating both T5s and personal tax returns. Yay Canada Revenue Agency!

I’ll probably pull back a little on social things next week as I sort out communications and return various calls, although I’d like to make it out to the Hacklab members’ meeting on Wednesday.

Slowly making things better!

2016-04-24a Week ending 2016-04-22 -- index card #journal #weekly

output

Blog posts

Sketches

Focus areas and time review

  • Business (1.3h – 0%)
    • ☐ Pay myself a dividend
    • Earn (0.0h – 0% of Business)
    • Build (0.6h – 43% of Business)
      • Drawing (0.0h)
      • Paperwork (0.5h)
    • Connect (0.7h – 56% of Business)
  • Relationships (2.0h – 1%)
    • ☑ Take pictures of baby clothes from Jen
    • ☑ Have W-‘s mom over
    • ☑ Maybe check out babywearing social
    • A-
      • ☑ Ask breastfeeding clinic for other places that take patients
      • ☑ Call cardio nurse and ask about slow weight gain and possibly fortifying
      • ☑ Follow up with Eye Clinic
      • ☑ 2-month appointment with pediatrician
      • ☑ Call Four Villages
      • ☑ Call midwives and ask for other referrals
      • ☐ Call TD and ask about RESP
  • Discretionary – Productive (15.3h – 9%)
    • Coding
      • ☑ Plot baby weight
      • ☑ Add bath note
      • ☑ Add duration column
      • ☑ Label axis nicely
      • ☑ Set up search engine
      • ☑ Add ending now / after start buttons
      • ☑ Move nursing timer to database
    • Emacs (0.6h – 0% of all)
      • ☑ [#A] Do another Emacs News review
      • ☑ Keep Emacs alive through X crashes by running it in the background with –daemon
      • ☐ [#A] Do another Emacs News review
    • Gardening
      • ☑ Clean up yard
      • ☑ Plant peas
    • Kaizen
      • ☑ Set up home screen shortcuts to things I’m reading, or organize them in apps
      • ☑ Line up better reading on my phone
      • ☑ Normalize recorded audio
      • ☑ Think about phone
      • ☑ Disable touchpad in init script
    • Sewing (2.3h)
      • ☑ Look for a baby sun hat pattern
      • ☑ Go to Fabricland
    • Writing (2.3h)
  • Discretionary – Play (0.8h – 0%)
  • Personal routines (31.1h – 18%)
  • Unpaid work (58.5h – 34%)
    • Childcare (50.7h – 30% of total)
  • Sleep (59.7h – 35% – average of 8.5 per day)

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

by Sacha Chua at April 24, 2016 02:05 PM

John C. Wright's Journal

Demanding Discourtesy in Courtesy’s Name

A reader with the euphonious name of Ecreegan hold forth an opinion on the courtesy owed to transvestites, transgendered, and transrationals.

Sometimes there’s no polite option. Tell me, what pronoun do I use for a pre-operative male-to-female transexual? “She” is a lie. “He” is considered highly offensive, and “it” is considered beyond the pale. (I try to use names. The new name is not a lie, even if it doesn’t make any sense.)

I very strongly disagree, so much so that I cannot tell if you are making a joke.

When you say the words “considered highly offensive” I cannot imagine anyone having any right to be offended at such a thing, nor any honest man taking such offense seriously.

Highly? Really?

To the contrary, it is highly offensive even to assert that an honest man should lie like a dog, a lie no one believes and no one can believe, merely to please the arbitrary whims of some petty tyrant trying to demean your soul and rob you of dignity.

The rule in English is that males and male objects are “he”, and persons whose sex is unknown or undetermined is also “he.” One says “he or she” only in a legal document where that degree of precision overwhelms the need for good grammar. Otherwise is it an error. “They” used in a singular merits horsehwipping.

A man who cuts off his penis and has false breasts implanted is not changing his sex, that is, his biological reality, but is attempting to change his social role: he is a man who wants to be treated with the honors and titles of a wife and mother. He also suffers from profound mental illness, so much so that he cuts off parts of his body.

But since the pronoun deals with the sex and not with social roles, he has no right to be offended if he is a “he”.

It is like being offended that A is A or being offended that twice two is four. If twice two were four, then there would be four lights. There are five lights!

More to the point, it is like being offended if a prole says Oceania was allied with Eastasia last year. Oceania is at war with Eastasia. Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia!

Saying a he is a “he” is not what offends.

The political correction officer is playing a social dominance game with you.

He is making himself to be offended with you so that you will obey him.

He uses your desire to avoid offending him as a tool to establish social roles. You are supposed to assume the role as the inferior, the lower order, the ignorant, the follower, the benighted. He assumes the role as the superior, the higher order, the wiseman, the leader, the enlightened.

Of course he is offended and most deeply so!

He is offended at your insubordination. You are an uppity niggra. If the lower orders shoot off their mouths and starting thinking for themselves, why, there will be rebellion among the proles and slaves. So shut up.

He is not offended at your lack of courtesy. That is risible.

No politically correct person has ever displayed the courtesy of a swine since the beginning of the world: they neither doff their caps to ladies, nor ask if you need any comfort, nor listen to your point of view, nor salute you will courteous greetings, nor say “sir” and “ma’am” and “miss” and “missus” like anyone not raised in a barn would do.

Indeed, they go out of their way to cheat these forms of address, and will call God by the pronoun “She” and call the year “CE” just to see how often they can offend and insult Christians without being slapped in the mouth.

I have never known one not to use four letter crudities or to encouraging others to do so. Even their most grave politicians in public swear in a fashion former generations, who had a right view of the dignity of man, would never have had allowed.

No doubt the politically correct lunatics you’ve met really act vexed and hostile if you call Bruce Jenner “he” as logic, love of truth, common sense, common decency and good grammar demand, but you are utterly insane if you consider their insanity to be legitimate.

If I have a bit of paper I claim is the title deed to the Moon and I say by right you owe me money for getting light from my moon without paying me, my title deed has no legal force or effect, because, despite my claim, I have no legal right to moonlight. In reality, by international treaty, no man owns the moon and, by logic, no one can own the moonlight, since it is a free good.

Likewise here: if a man grows vexed and irate, and wets his pants and shrieks like a loon and rolls on the ground in a pool of his own spleenish vomit because you will not call a crazy person who cuts off his dick and dresses in girly clothing a “she”, his vexation is a sign of his witlessness, not a sign of his due righteous indignation. It is as phony as the alleged title deed to the moon. Even if I believe I own the moon with my whole heart, as strong as I can make myself believe what I want to believe, I am outside my rights, and my claim on you for money is invalid.

So here. A man has no right to demand you pretend him a woman, no matter how badly he wants it.

He has no right to be vexed if you do not give what he has no right to ask.

A man can act offended at anything he wishes, but if he has no right to be offended, he act is just an act. He should be chided, silenced, and, if he will not conform to the demands of polite society, be removed from it. If he grows violent, he should be confined, or killed. That is what you owe him.

He is the one being very offensive, not you.

by John C Wright at April 24, 2016 01:07 AM

April 23, 2016

Reformedish

Does “Historical Criticism” Even Exist?

theological theologyTheological Interpretation of Scripture (TIS) is a relatively young, diverse movement in the academy right now. I’ve tried to introduce some broad themes and some helpful guidelines for how to go about doing it, but in a nutshell, it involves explicitly reading the Bible as if it were a theological text (Holy Scripture), in many ways unique because of its divine authorship, with our theological cards on the table. Predictably, not everybody is as sanguine about the proposal (and to be fair, some are better and worse), but this especially is the case of a certain kind of advocate of more mainstream, “historical critical” biblical scholarship. To a certain kind of biblical critic, TIS advocates are interlopers, threatening to pervert the text with their dogmatic presuppositions, colonizing it with their unscientific means of interpretation.

Francis Watson, eminent interpreter of Paul in the New Testament (Paul and the Hermeneutics of Faith, Paul, Judaism, and the Gentiles), tackles this adversarial relationship in a provocative fashion in his essay “Does Historical Criticism Exist? A Contribution to the Debate on the Theological Interpretation of Scripture” in the recent festschrift Theological Theology (307-318). This early paragraph gives you a taste of the argument:

It is widely assumed that the biblical scholarship characteristic of the modern era may properly be labelled ‘historical criticism.’ One may welcome the dominance of historical-critical scholarship or one may deplore it, but few seem to doubt it. In spite of this consensus, my aim here is to detach the label ‘historical criticism’ from the ongoing reality of interpretive practice. I shall argue that this label is not only misleading and limiting but also that it systematically distorts the reality it claims to represent (emphasis added). ‘Historical criticism’ is to be understood not as a neutral characterization of modern interpretive practice but as a rhetorical figure mobilized for transparent ideological ends. (307-308)

His aim in forwarding such a controversial claim is to show the way “historical criticism” is in many ways just as ideological, presuppositional, and so forth, as TIS. In which case, its advocates’ complaints and criticisms of TIS are no more than a form of misleading, special pleading, and disciplinary gamesmanship.

While I can’t give you the whole argument, certainly not the details, I thought I’d outline it since (a) it’s interesting for me, and (b), it’s becoming a live issue.

Historical Criticism As Novum

Watson begins his case by briefly reviewing the history of biblical scholarship, noting that in the 3rd Century CE, Origen was already compiling various Greek translations with the Hebrew test to make textual comparisons (Hexapla). Eusebius did comparative gospel parallels. Augustine develops an elaborate hermeneutical treatise, advocating original-language study, text-critical scrutiny, and interdisciplinary work, as well as devoting himself to comparative Gospel work. Of course, all of this was done with an eye towards preaching in the Church and the love of God (308-310). The question Watson raises here is to call attention to the “pre-modern genealogy of many interpretive issues”, despite the difference in idiom and agenda from the modern period.

“Yet, we are often told, our biblical scholarship is not just different from the scholarship known to Augustine, as it obviously is, but fundamentally different.” According to Watson, the proposed difference that we moderns are “critical” and they were “pre-critical.” They are confessional and we fit right at home in secular universities. “Historical-critical” scholarship is obviously very different because it’s not the sort of thing they practiced and we do.

And here’s where Watson goes on the offense to looking at the way the term is used beyond its neutral signifier by advocates and foes as indicating what modern scholars do differently that pre-critical scholars. He points out that the term functions as a polemical device, as a “declaration of war” against “church” interpretations; it is “anti-dogmatic” in tenor and “therefore anti-ecclesial insofar as the church remains the natural habitat of inherited dogma.” In this role, it is a weapon for modernizers against traditionalists, “an assertion of modernity, with secularity, of participation in a world come of age which has outgrown confessional certainties.”

In case this seems like bluster, he footnotes pertinent quotes by James Barr, who openly worried that new literary approaches (as opposed to source-critical, compositional methods), might undo the gains made by historical criticism if they fall into the hands of conservatives. Or Heikki Raisanen who wondered aloud at the end of his work Beyond New Testament Theology: “Will [biblical scholars] remain guardians of cherished confessional traditions, anxious to provide modern man with whatever normative guidance they can still manage to squeeze out of sacred texts..” (p. 141). The answer is, “maybe”, but that’s not what academic scholars should be concerned with.

Watson goes on to note the way that a simple appeal to “historical criticism” is used ideologically to shut down any suggestion that the doctrine of the Trinity could have any exegetical basis in the text, despite the sophisticated exegesis one finds in patristic writers. But they’re “pre-critical”, so off-limits. (For an alternative, theologically-attuned approach, see Wesley Hill, Paul and the Trinity). Or again, it often functions to limit the horizon of interest for the text, since historical criticism is worried only with the “original historical contexts”, which is a subtler way of ideologically cutting off the questions of current theological interest, with the assumption that we inhabit totally different worlds from that of the text.

The point is, “historical critics” are just as ideologically-motivated in their aims and methods as “confessional” readers, if not as willing to acknowledge the fact.

History and Exegesis

This brings him to issues of “history” and “criticism” in “historical criticism”, beyond its function as an ideological signifier. Watson is convinced there are a number of confusions at this point.

Take history. First, Watson notes that historical critics are not pure historians. They also need to be exegetes looking at things like internal structure, literary shape, etc. which are trans-historical in accessibility. In which case, they might give historically-informed readings, but they are still readings.

Second, historical critics often appeal to the great historical distance between our time and the historical circumstances of the texts in order to distance us from it. But the past is not wholly different from the present and contextualizing as a practice serves more to bridge the gap, bringing us closer to understanding the world we share with the humans on the “other side” of the gap, so to speak.

Third, Watson suggests that there are a number of historical contexts beyond the “original” that interpretation might profitably engage. Yes, they ought to be informed by the original contexts, but there’s no reason to not expand the context wider in various directions beyond simply what precedes the text.

The Radical As Norm

The other key term is “critical.” The term, as most know, originates with the practices of textual criticism, but then gets identified with the 19th century “higher” criticism of identifying textual prehistories like Priestly, Yahwistic, Elohistic, and the rest of the alphabet soup the Germans gave us. Beyond that, though, Watson says that “critical”, as a term, goes beyond textual restoration. It is not “scholarship that is critical of received opinion about the biblical texts and their significance” (315). Like Descartes, doubt is the order of the day.

From there, Watson gives an interesting genealogy of the critical Gospel scholarship noting the ideological way that Schweitzer told the story to make Reimarus’ the hero: a German who, like himself, saw Jesus as a son-of-David-Messiah type, and didn’t mind critiquing and putting aside Christian dogma  from his rationalist, deistic view in the process. Watson notes that, in fact, the sort of “life of Jesus” project both Reimarus and Schweitzer were embarked on, began much earlier in the pre-critical era with the works of the histories and harmonies of Jean Leclerc (1699) or Bernard Lamy (1699). Reimarus did little to get anything going and was handily dealt with by noted, biblical scholar Johann Salomo Semler.

Watson’s point is “to indicate how the aura of radical chic” to which life-of-Jesus research “lays claim—from Reimarus to the ‘Jesus Seminar’—has been manufactured.” No, beyond the story many tell themselves, “Iconoclastic assault on cherished beliefs is not a constitutive element in modern biblical interpretation.” When that sort of thing happens, it’s usually the biblical scholars doing damage control who make the real gains in scholarship.

Wrapping Up

He closes things out by noting that it is possible to find scholarship that pretty much conforms to the “picture” given by the term “historical criticism.” By and large, though, it’s misleading with respect to the majority of what’s going on. Stick to “biblical interpretation”, “modern”, or even “critical” (when methodologically appropriate), but leave the rhetorical sledgehammer of “historical criticism” to the side as fairly unhelpful.

Finally, he suggests that with this sort of “loosening” the ties between historical criticism, so-called, and standard interpretive practice, gives breathing room for TIS to not worry and “locate itself on the margins” of biblical scholarship. TIS practitioners should not let themselves be pushed around by people attempting to maintain ideological, disciplinary hegemony, but lay claim to the mainstream and engage, drawing on the variety of disciplines and resources found there.

And this is a wise way to end. TIS, done properly, I think should not be cordoned off from the riches of historical studies, of which there are many. But they don’t need to be scared of the critical project, especially since so many of its presuppositions have been exposed. For those interested, I’d commend Kevin Vanhoozer’s essay in the same volume, or Daniel Treier’s  Introducing Theological Interpretation of Scriptureor something like Peter Leithart’s commentary on 1 & 2 Kings in the Brazos series.

Soli Deo Gloria


by Derek Rishmawy at April 23, 2016 04:41 PM

Hacking Distributed

What Secures the Central Bank of Bangladesh

Precious little, it turns out.

I often give a hard time to Bitcoin exchanges, for they seem to have a half-life of 1 year, and there is a new and colorful story emerging from some exchange in the ecosystem almost every two weeks or so.

But it turns out that the state of security for regular, accredited financial institutions is no better. To wit, we're getting more details about the successful hack of the Central Bank of Bangladesh, from which hackers managed to extract $80M USD, and would have stolen another $850M were it not for a typo that brought in manual scrutiny. The new details are not at all flattering:

the investigators would not say how the hackers managed to bypass the security solutions on its network.

But in reality, there was no security solution installed to help protect against increasingly sophisticated attacks.

The network computers that were linked through the second-hand routers were connected to the SWIFT global payment network, allowing hackers to gain access to the credentials required to make high-value transfers straight into their own accounts.

"It could be difficult to hack if there was a firewall," forensic investigator Mohammad Shah Alam told Reuters.

I don't think we should place too much faith in initial press reports, but I can see how a contractor could have placed wireless nodes in the trusted zone, behind a firewall -- a common configuration for many enterprises, something many of us employ at our homes, and obviously not suitable for a bank. Frankly, it's not clear at all that a firewall would have prevented an attack where user credentials are stolen. But, at the end of the day, this is a central bank that holds the keys to foreign lines of credit for an entire government, and a country deserves much better.

The bottom line is that the state of computer security is nowhere near where it needs to be to keep high value credentials online.

Breaking into computer systems, once the domain of hobbyists out to have some harmless fun, has now become a big business. Online credentials provide an immediate bounty for hackers who can convert their newfound access into untraceable cash, and get rich from the comfort of their dens by simply probing for vulnerabilities. And given the scale of computer networks, a successful attack that works against the Central Bank of Bangladesh will probably work against at least a few of the other 193 central banks worldwide, not to mention regular banks.

And insider attacks compound the problem. Network engineers who make as little as $100K play a critical role in securing credentials worth billions of dollars. A genuine mistake is indistinguishable from an error inserted on purpose for a conspirator to take advantage of later. If it were not for banks actively suppressing the disclosure of all breaches that don't involve the loss of customer information, we'd hear much more about insider attacks against financial institutions.

There are a few ways out of this mess: (1) figure out how to build systems that can resist such attacks, (2) build layers of safeguards and detection mechanisms that can catch such attacks without manual intervention, and (3) bolster the traceability of money such that attacks, detected post facto, can be undone. We seem to be pursuing all three, but at a glacial pace and without coordination. Let's see which central bank gets hit next.

by Emin Gün Sirer at April 23, 2016 10:58 AM

The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

A Ray of Gospel Hope in Northern Iraq

Article by: Norlan DeGroot

Editors’ note: Learn how you can partner with TGC to provide gospel resources to the Middle East and North Africa. All donations toward this project through mid-June will be matched up to $30,000.

They fled Sinjar with only the clothes on their backs before ISIS overran the town. Staying behind meant either converting to Islam or dying.

The Yezidi people of northern Iraq have long endured persecution since they set themselves apart from the rest of the world, claiming to be created from Adam alone while everyone else descended from Adam and Eve. They’ve endured mistreatment and worse—rape and murder—by Muslims who reject them, including ISIS.

ISIS excludes the Yezidi from their “People of the Book” classification, which includes Christians, Jews, and other religious groups who acknowledge the one God of Abraham. So the Yezidi aren’t eligible to pay the jizya tax ISIS charges non-Muslims who wish to live among them.

On June 29, 2014, ISIS declared itself a caliphate—an Islamic state ruled by a political and religious leader known as a caliph. They took control of vast areas of Syria and Iraq until, less than two months later, their forces overwhelmed Sinjar, a town west of Mosul close to the Syrian border. ISIS killed an estimated 5,000 Yazidi men and abducted up to 7,000 women and children.

Finding Safety

Nearly 200,000 mostly Yezidi people fled to Mount Sinjar. Later, they settled in any place in northern Iraq they thought was safe. One place was a field across the street from a Christian pastor’s home. The pastor, Francis, wasted no time in reaching out to the Yazidi refugees to share the gospel along with whatever physical resources he had. In time, he connected with Christian ministries outside Iraq that could provide more assistance.

Valley Bible Church in northern California heard of Francis’s ministry and responded. In July 2015, the congregation sent a team to provide 36 tents to Yazidi families camped near his church. One Valley Bible Church member, Tim, formed the Yezidi Relief Initiative, which partners with local Iraqi churches to supply living necessities to displaced Yezidi families. The organization also raises funds to cover one year of operating expenses for a ministry center that offers Yezidis the hope of the gospel.

Inroad to the Gospel 

In January 2016, Tim traveled to Iraq with an elder from his church and a team of healthcare workers from a Chinese church in southern California. The team set up a medical clinic in a Yezidi encampment.

They also distributed gospel resources to visitors at the clinic and ministry center. Besides pocket-sized Arabic New Testaments, they handed out 60 copies of an Arabic translation of John Piper’s Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die, a book published as a TGC International Outreach “Packing Hope” project.

Tim said he gave one copy of the book and a New Testament to Dakheel, a young Yezidi man interested in learning more about Christianity. Fifty Reasons can give him an excellent introduction to the gospel.

In the face of ISIS atrocities, Dakheel can know through Piper’s book that Jesus doesn’t take his church out of the world but “will deliver us from the power of evil in it.” In view of the Yezidi tradition that their race is set apart from all others, Dakheel can see that “Jesus died to create a whole new way for races to be reconciled.” In the hopelessness of a refugee camp, Dakheel can discover that Christ came “to ransom people from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Rev. 5:9).

Before Tim left northern Iraq, he made sure Dakheel wasn’t left on his own. “Dakheel is now in contact with the local church and will have access to gospel-centered fellowship and teaching in the event that the gospel takes hold in his heart,” he said.

Tim plans to follow up by leading multiple short-term trips to northern Iraq in the years ahead. He also hopes to deliver more Packing Hope and other resources to the church in this region. 

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

by Norlan DeGroot at April 23, 2016 05:02 AM

Love Does Not Begin with You

Article by: Bill Mounce

Agapaõ (ἀγαπάω) is one of four Greek verbs meaning “to love.” In secular Greek, especially before the time of Christ, it was a colorless word without any great depth of meaning, used frequently as a synonym of erõs (sexual love) and phileõ (the general term for love). If it had any nuance, it was the idea of love for the sake of its object. Perhaps because of its neutrality of meaning and perhaps because of this slight nuance of meaning, the biblical writers picked agapaõ to describe many forms of human love (e.g., husband and wife; Eph. 5:25, 28, 33) and, most importantly, God’s undeserved love for the unlovely. In other words, its meaning comes not from the Greek but from the biblical understanding of God’s love. 

A biblical definition of love begins with God, never with us (1  John 4:9–10). God is love itself; it’s his character that defines love. And because he is love (1 John 4:8, using the related noun agapê), he acts with love toward an undeserving world (John 3:16; 1  John 3:1, 16) to save them from their sins and reconcile them to himself (Rom. 5:8). The pure and perfect love of God is typified in the love relationship between God the Father and God the Son, which Jesus shows to his disciples (John 17:26). 

In response, we are to love God. “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love” (1 John 4:7–8). We are to love God above everything else, which is the greatest commandment (Mark 12:30, 33), and then to love one another (Matt. 19:19; 22:39; Mark 12:31; Rom. 13:8; 1 John 3:11, 23), especially our spiritual family (Gal. 6:10; 1 John 2:10). 

If you love God, you will also love others (Gal. 5:6; 1 Thess. 3:6; 1 John 4:20). Love for others is an outflow of God’s love for you (John 13:34; cf. 15:12; 1 John 4:11). It sums up the entire law (Rom. 13:7; Gal. 5:14) and is the “royal law” (James 2:8). Moreover, our love toward Christ is demonstrated by our obedience to his teaching (John 14:21, 15, 21, 23; 15:10; 1 John 2:5; 5:3; 2 John 6). In return, this obedience invokes the blessing of God’s love for us (John 14:21). No wonder love heads the list of the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22), and is the greatest of all that will last forever (1 Cor. 13:13).

But disciples aren’t only to love God and fellow believers; they’re to love all people (1 Cor. 16:14; 1 Thess. 3:12; 2 Pet. 1:7), including enemies. “But I tell you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matt. 5:44; cf. Luke 6:35). 

The very foundation of salvation is grounded in the realization that God’s unmerited love toward us is greater than any other power—including death itself (Rom. 8:37–39; 1 Cor. 15:55–57). 

Bill Mounce is the president of BiblicalTraining.org and the author of many Greek reference books, including Basics of Biblical Greek (Zondervan, 2009) and Mounce's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words (Zondervan, 2006), from which the excerpt above is taken.

by Bill Mounce at April 23, 2016 05:00 AM

Workout: April 26, 2016

Taylor 4 rounds for time of: Run 400 m 5 burpee muscle-ups

by Mike at April 23, 2016 12:49 AM

Workout: April 25, 2016

Deadlift 3 reps Back squats 10-10-10-10 5 sets of: 10 strict leg raises 20 alternating single-leg hip thrusts

by Mike at April 23, 2016 12:47 AM

Workout: April 24, 2016

2 rounds of: As many rounds and reps as possible in 6 minutes of: 8 alternating single-arm clusters (55/35 lb.) 5 burpees Rest 2 minutes As many rounds and reps as possible in 5 minutes of: 8 kettlebell swings (55/35 lb.) 10 jumping split squats (5 per leg) Rest 1 minute

by Mike at April 23, 2016 12:45 AM

Workout: April 23, 2016

Snatch balance 1-1-1 Power snatch 1-1-1 10 sets of: Row max meters in 1 minute Rest 1 minute

by Mike at April 23, 2016 12:42 AM

April 22, 2016

Market Urbanism

Market Urbanism MUsings April 22, 2016

(the San Antonio riverwalk / wikipedia)

(the San Antonio riverwalk / wikipedia)

1. This week at Market Urbanism:

Nolan Gray Reclaiming “Redneck” Urbanism: What Urban Planners Can Learn From Trailer Parks

Trailer parks remain one of the last forms of housing in US cities provided by the market explicitly for low-income residents. Better still, they offer a working example of traditional urban design elements and private governance.

Scott Beyer San Francisco Seeks Public, Not Private, Solutions To Housing Crisis

However the biggest problem with San Francisco’s housing policy is that officials and citizens alike are hostile to new buildings, especially tall ones, even when they are built in appropriate locations.

Emily Washington and Michael Hamilton Market Urbanism Is Underrated

Zoning is not a Georgist tax in which landowners are taxed in proportion to their land’s value; rather, zoning hugely decreases the value of the country’s most valuable land, while it props up the value of land that would be less desirable absent zoning.

2. Where’s Scott?

Scott flew early this week from his hometown of Charlottesville, VA to San Antonio. He has been hired by the Center for Opportunity Urbanism to do a profile on the city, including its history, growth, and future prospects.

3. At the Market Urbanism Facebook Group:

Todd Litman, of the Victoria Transport Policy Institute, talks about The Disconnect Between Liberal Aspirations and Liberal Housing Policy

John Morris says, “Ironic: Portland’s best shot at an equitable, environmentally sound, affordable city is to return to development before “progressive” planning.”

Jeff Fong found interesting simulations predicting the promising effect of driverless cars on cities

Lot’s of discussion about Tyler Cowen‘s skepticism that the deregulation Market Urbanism advocates won’t actually lower rents.  (via Anthony Ling)

Alex Tabarrok shared his latest post at Marginal RevolutionRegulatory Arbitrage, Rent-Seeking and the Deal of the Year where 4,000sf of valuable New York real estate had to be destroyed to comply with zoning

“An eclectic coalition of residents, business owners, feminists, Maoists” are willing to threaten violence to keep their Los Angeles neighborhood from changing (via Krishan Madan)

At Forbes, Adam Millsap says “Cash-strapped cities can privatize bus transit to save money and lower fares for low-income consumers (and everyone else).”

4. Elsewhere:

Michael Lewyn at PlanetizenThe Neighborhood Veto and the ‘Missing Middle’

Vancouver‘s density debate pits Sullivanism versus the ideas of Jane Jacobs

Toronto Star: In praise of ugly old buildings

Driverless cars could make “many downtown parking structures obsolete”

Vox: San Francisco is requiring solar panels on all new buildings. But here’s a much greener idea.

5. Stephen Smith‘s Tweet of the Week:

by Adam Hengels at April 22, 2016 09:00 PM

Aaron M. Renn

What Happened to the Minneapolis Music Scene?

Photo by Flickr/jimieye - CC-BY-2.0

Photo by Flickr/jimieye – CC-BY-2.0

The global outpouring of front page tributes to Prince after his untimely death at age 57 shows not just how important and influential he personally was, but also his hometown of Minneapolis.

Prince sold over 100 million records. He played all of the instruments in many of his songs, including When Doves Cry, his first #1 single. He wrote several songs made famous by other recording artists, including Manic Monday (The Bangles) and Nothing Compares 2U (Sinead O’Connor). He was legendary for his live performances.

But while Prince may be the most famous pop artist to come out of the Twin Cities, there were many other popular and influential Minneapolis-St. Paul musicians active during his heyday.

The Jayhawks were a seminal country-rock band known for their amazing harmonies who were one of the progenitors of the alt-country genre. They were themselves influenced by a Minnesota (though not Minneapolis) native of a previous generation, Bob Dylan. I personally consider many of their albums timeless classics that still rank among my favorite today.

A musical world away, Lipps, Inc. was a Minneapolis funk band famous for “Funkytown,” which was reputedly about the band’s desire to move to New York. From funk we can go to punk and find Hüsker Dü, band whose work influenced key bands like Nirvana, the Pixies, and Green Day. All female punk band Babes in Toyland was a precursor of the riot grrrl scene. But wait, there’s more. The Replacements were one pillars of the early alternative rock movement. Soul Asylum’s alternative style later came to be referred to as “proto-grunge.”

All of these were active in the 1980s when Prince became a superstar. It’s a pretty impressive performance for Minneapolis, especially when you consider the variety of genres involved and the influence on important musical movements.

Today it would appear that there are still a lot of local bands in Minneapolis. In 2012, a web site called Livability.com ranked it the second best music scene in the country (outside of NYC, LA, and Nashville). While the original post is now gone, references to it suggest this was mostly because of the number of live venues, and highlighted a lot of people from out of town who had performed there.

There does not appear to be anything like the 1980s era level of musical influence and mass popular success, however. It’s always tough to judge in the moment, as influence is only visible in retrospect. Also, I’m probably showing a bit of my age, and am no longer as plugged into pop music as I used to be.

Nevertheless, it seems to me that Minneapolis was once a city that had enormous cultural influence at the national level that now no longer does.

This is especially notable when juxtaposed with its general trajectory as a city, which has been upward. Minneapolis is highly regarded today. Since the 1980s it has become more educated, more diverse, more dense, built a light rail line, is a cycling capital, etc.  In short, it did everything a city is supposed to do.

Yet culturally Minneapolis is far less influential and important than it was back then.

I merely note this as a curious observation. As a follow-up to yesterday’s post on the dearth of writers in cities, investigating this to see what it might reveal would be interesting. Perhaps there’s nothing there. It’s the nature of “scenes” generally to rise and fall. But some places – Detroit, for example – have managed to continuously reinvent themselves culturally across scenes over time.

I think it would be an interesting case for a writer to dig into, one where again the right balance of affection and detachment (i.e. with a love for the city but not undertaken with booster-glasses on) might reveal some richness about the region that we never knew before. I did a little bit of Googling on the topic, but all I came up with was this and this. If there’s more already written, please post in the comments.

 

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

Englewood Review of Books » ERB

ERB Weekly Digest – Wendell Berry, Peter Enns, Earth Day, Jean Vanier – April 22, 2016

 
 

*** For a Limited Time…
The FEASTING ON THE GOSPELS and FEASTING ON THE WORD (Year C)
Commentaries are on a HUGE sale right now for Kindle…  
[ Get your copies now

 

TODAY is Earth Day…
 Ten Superb Recent Books on Creation Care!

 


 

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

  • Peter Enns – The Sin of Certainty [Feature Review]
    Learning to Let Go. A Feature Review of The Sin of Certainty: Why God Desires Our Trust More than Our “Correct” Beliefs Peter Enns Hardback: Harper One, 2016. Buy now:  [  ]  [  ]   Reviewed by Bob Cornwall.   The book of Hebrews declares that “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the […]
     
  • 5 Essential Ebook Deals for Christian Readers – 22 April 2016
    Here are 5 essential ebooks on sale now that are worth checking out: ( Erin Lane, Rachel Carson, Feasting on the Gospels, 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…    Erin Lane *** $2.99 […]
     
  • Ten Superb Recent Books on Creation Care!
    For Earth Day today, we offer a list of ten superb recent books on various facets of creation care that Christians should be reading…   Books of a variety of genres by authors like Wendell Berry, Norman Wirzba, Naomi Klein, Walter Brueggemann and MORE! #1 Norman Wirzba One of the best theological resources on understanding […]
     
  • From Brokenness to Community – Book of the Month- Part 3
    Our Book of the Month for April is… From Brokenness to Community Jean Vanier Paperback: Paulist Press, 1992. Buy now: [ Amazon ]  [ Kindle ] *** Kindle edition only $3.49!!! We will be reading through the book this month, and posting discussion questions as we go. We hope you will read along with us, and share your thoughts and […]
     
  • Wendell Berry – Three Poems for Earth Day!
    For Earth Day today, three nature poems by Wendell Berry!   Watch for Berry’s latest collection of Sabbath poems,  , coming next month! Also, if you like these poems, I recommend the most complete collection of Berry’s Sabbath poems: .   The Peace of Wild Things Wendell Berry Download a FREE MP3 of Berry Reading this […]
     
  • New Book Releases – Week of 18 April 2016
    Here are a few new book releases from this week that are worth checking out: (Where possible, we have also tried to include a review/interview related to the book…)   By Pamela Haag Read a review of this book from The New Republic… NEXT BOOK >>>>>
     

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by csmith at April 22, 2016 05:32 PM

John C. Wright's Journal

Everything is Amazing and Nobody is Happy

A comedian utters the same truth as St. Augustine. What gives the human heart rest? Not gizmos, not gadgets, not things.

by John C Wright at April 22, 2016 05:16 PM

Market Urbanism

Market Urbanism Is Underrated

Workers are seen at a condo development in the Liberty Villiage area in Toronto, Ont. Wednesday, April 11/2012.(Photo by Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail)

Workers are seen at a condo development in the Liberty Villiage area in Toronto. (Photo by Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail)

 

Michael Hamilton and I coauthored this post.

Tyler Cowen has two new, self-recommending posts questioning whether or not market urbanist arguments are internally consistent. He argues that if land-use regulations are analogous to a tax on land, then either the benefits of deregulation would go to landowners or the costs of regulation are greatly overstated. The problem with this argument is that zoning is not a Georgist tax in which landowners are taxed in proportion to their land’s value; rather, zoning hugely decreases the value of the country’s most valuable land, while it props up the value of land that would be less desirable absent zoning.

This is because zoning only acts as a tax on land to the extent that regulations are actually binding. A 250-foot height limit would create zero costs for the vast majority of the country, but would be devastating in Manhattan. Likewise, the large variation in land-use regulations across localities means that the costs of land-use regulation are imposed unevenly, even though there may be some correlation between land value and the tax imposed by zoning. Their repeal would have complicated and mixed effects.

Tyler’s post focuses on desirable neighborhoods within the nation’s most highly-demanded cities because it assumes large increases in Ricardian rents from liberalization, i.e. those places where zoning is often the most binding. A broader view would also consider what would happen outside hip neighborhoods, especially exurban commuter suburbs that mostly exist because workers are excluded from areas closer to city centers. These suburbs could see land values plummet under broad liberalization. Whether these price changes are good or bad is a value judgement, but Tyler’s theoretical distributional concerns should also take potential decreases in land value into account.

Empirically, cities with more liberal land-use regimes are more affordable, so the premise of zoning being analogous to a land value tax may not be accurate. Toronto, Houston, Chicago, and Washington, DC all demonstrate that permitting construction makes housing more affordable relative to more restrictive cities. DC, the least liberal of these cities, has experienced so much upzoning through planned unit developments that rental rates have grown at about half the rate of inflation over the past year, even with two percent population growth. Many of the benefits of DC’s new construction have gone to landowners and to high-productivity workers who have moved into the city. But as the city’s flat rental rates demonstrate, the construction has allowed the city to accommodate population growth without seeing a spike in housing prices. Absent this new construction in DC, relatively affordable Maryland suburbs would have seen greater housing price increases. Cities don’t need to be market-urbanist utopias for the benefits of development to be shared widely.

Allowing more people to live in cities has important benefits for workers, even if landowners get rich along the way. With an innovative panel dataset on land-use regulation and cross-state income convergence, Peter Ganong and Daniel Shoag test whether or not this anecdotal evidence is supported with demographic trends. They find that a surge in land-use restrictions since 1980 has slowed the rate of hourly wage convergence across states. Given that regulation has reduced income mobility, there’s good reason to believe that deregulation would increase income mobility by making high-productivity places more accessible.

Zoning itself has additional negative distributional aspects because rich people have resources to devote to NIMBYism. Stephen and Adam have pointed out that it’s easiest for developers to build new construction within the low-income neighborhoods of expensive cities. When people are illegally living in abandoned industrial properties or aged housing, rezoning those properties as high-rise residential will make the city more expensive, not less. It’s a tragedy of urban politics that high-income neighborhoods often have enough political clout to block all new construction, leading to an increase in housing prices when new building is pushed into neighborhoods with low-cost housing. Incumbent landowners often block new housing, not to increase the value of their landholdings, but to exclude undesirable social groups, to keep low-income children out of public schools, and to engage in status-seeking. This is why many market urbanists have devoted so much time to advocating for reforms that move land-use decisions to higher levels of government where parochial interests carry less weight.

It is theoretically possible for development to make low-income people worse off at a hyper-local level if the new construction attracts high-income people to the city faster than new stock is built. How much deregulation is needed to benefit low-income people is an empirical question, but Tyler (barely) concedes:

Maybe — maybe, maybe, maybe — if you remove so many building restrictions, land won’t be the scarce factor any more and the gains from the tax reduction will be distributed in many directions.

Perhaps the political realities of the Bay Area are such that feasible reforms will only increase rents by attracting more high-productivity workers. But at the regional level, the data demonstrates a clear correlation between the level of regulation and housing affordability. Tyler is right that eliminating land-use regulations in very desirable locations will benefit land owners financially, but his distributional concerns should be eased by the fact that these same landlords will be earning rents by engaging in consensual, positive-sum transactions rather than social exclusion.

by Emily Washington at April 22, 2016 05:00 PM

Light Blue Touchpaper

Inter-ACE cyberchallenge at Cambridge

The best student hackers from the UK’s 13 Academic Centres of Excellence in Cyber Security Research are coming to Cambridge for the first Inter-ACE Cyberchallenge tomorrow, Saturday 23 April 2016.

inter-ace-logo4
The event is organized by the University of Cambridge in partnership with Facebook. It is loosely patterned on other inter-university sport competitions, in that each university enters a team of four students and the winning team takes home a trophy that gets engraved with the name of their university and is then passed on to the next winning team the following year.
trophies
Participation in the Inter-ACE cyberchallenge is open only to Universities accredited as ACEs under the EPSRC/GCHQ scheme. 10 of the 13 ACEs have entered this inaugural edition: alphabetically, Imperial College, Queens University Belfast, Royal Holloway University of London, University College London, University of Birmingham, University of Cambridge (hosting), University of Kent, University of Oxford, University of Southampton, University of Surrey. The challenges are set and administered by Facebook, but five of the ten competing insitutions have also sent Facebook an optional “guest challenge” for others to solve.
The players compete in a CTF involving both “Jeopardy-style” and “attack-defense-style” aspects. Game progress is visualized on a world map somewhat reminiscent of Risk, where teams attempt to conquer and re-conquer world countries by solving associated challenges.
We designed the Inter-ACE cyberchallenge riding on the success of the Cambridge2Cambridge cybersecurity challenge we ran in collaboration with MIT last March. In that event, originally planned following a January 2015 joint announcement by US President Barack Obama and UK Prime Minister David Cameron, six teams of students took part in a 24-hour Capture-The-Flag involving several rounds and spin-out individual events such as “rapid fire” (where challengers had to break into four different vulnerable binaries under time pressure) and “lock picking”, also against the clock and against each other. The challenges were expertly set and administered by ForAllSecure, a cybersecurity spin-off from Carnegie Mellon University.
C2C Updated Header- 3.7.16-1
With generous support from the UK consulate in Boston we were able to fly 10 Cambridge students to MIT. By design, we mixed people from both universities in each team, to promote C2C as an international cooperation and a bridge-building exercise. Thanks to the generosity of the many sponsors of the event, particularly Microsoft who funded the cash prizes, the winning team “Johnny Cached”, consisting of two MIT and two Cambridge students, walked away with 15,000 USD. Many other medals were awarded for various achievements throughout the event. Everyone came back with a sense of accomplishement and with connections with new like-minded and highly skilled friends across the pond.
9-2-with-medals
In both the C2C and the Inter-ACE I strived to design the rules in a way that would encourage participation not just from the already-experienced but also from interested inexperienced students who wanted to learn more. So, in C2C I designed a scheme where (following a pre-selection to rank the candidates) each team would necessarily include both experienced players and novices; whereas in Inter-ACE, where each University clearly had the incentive of picking their best players to send to Cambridge to represent them, I asked our technical partners Facebook to provide a parallel online competition that could be entered into remotely by individual students who were not on their ACE’s team. This way nobody who wanted to play is left out.
Industry and government (ours, but probably also those of whatever other country you’re reading this blog post from) concur that we need more cybersecurity experts. They can’t hire the good ones fast enough. A recent Washington post article lamented that “Universities aren’t doing enough to train the cyberdefenders America desperately needs”. Well, some of us are, and are taking the long term view.
As an educator, I believe the role of a university is to teach the solid foundations, the timeless principles, and especially “learning how to learn”, rather than the trick of the day; so I would not think highly of a hacking-oriented university course that primarily taught techniques destined to become obsolete in a couple of years. On the other hand, a total disconnect between theory and practice is also inappropriate. I’ve always introduced my students to lockpicking at the end of my undergraduate security course, both as a metaphor for the attack-defense interplay that is at the core of security (a person unskilled at picking locks has no hope of building a new lock that can withstand determined attacks; you can only beat the bad guys if you’re better than them) and to underline that the practical aspects of security are also relevant, and even fun. It has always been enthusiastically received, and has contributed to make more students interested in security.
I originally accepted to get involved in organizing Cambridge 2 Cambridge, with my esteemed MIT colleague Dr Howie Shrobe, precisely because I believe in the educational value of exposing our students to practical hands-on security. The C2C competition was run as a purely vocational event for our students, something they did during evenings and weekends if they were interested, and on condition it would not interfere with their coursework. However, taking on the role of co-organizing C2C allowed me, with thanks to the UK Cabinet Office, to recruit a precious full time collaborator, experienced ethical hacker Graham Rymer, who has since been developing a wealth of up-to-date training material for C2C. My long term plan, already blessed by the department, is to migrate some of this material into practical exercises for our official undergraduate curriculum, starting from next year. I think it will be extremely beneficial for students to get out of University with a greater understanding of the kind of adversaries they’re up against when they become security professionals and are tasked to defend the infrastructure of the organization that employs them.
Another side benefit of these competitions, as already remarked, is the community building, the forging of links between students. We don’t want merely to train individuals: we want to create a new generation of security professionals, a strong community of “good guys”. And if they met each other at the Inter-ACE when they were little, they’re going to have a much stronger chance of actively collaborating ten years later when they’re grown-ups and have become security consultants, CISOs or heads of homeland security back wherever they came from. Sometimes I have to fight with narrow-minded regulations that would only, say, offer scholarships in security to students who could pass security clearance. Well, playing by such rules makes the pool too small. For as long as I have been at Cambridge, the majority of the graduates and faculty in our security research group have been “foreigners” (myself included, of course). A university that only worked with students (and staff, for that matter) from its own country would be at a severe disadvantage compared to those, like Cambridge, that accept and train the best in the whole world. I believe we can only nurture and bring out the best student hackers in the UK in a stimulating environment where their peers are the best student hackers from anywhere else in the world. We need to take the long term view and understand that we cannot reach critical mass without this openness. We must show how exciting cybersecurity is to those clever students who don’t know it yet, whatever their gender, prior education, social class, background, even (heaven forbid) those scary foreigners, hoo hoo, because it’s only by building a sufficiently large ecosystem of skilled, competent and ethically trained good guys that employers will have enough good applicants “of their preferred profile” in the pool they want to fish in for recruitment purposes.
My warmest thanks to my academic colleagues leading the other ACE-CSRs who have responded so enthusiastically to this call at very short notice, and to the students who have been so keen to come to Cambridge for this Inter-ACE despite it being so close to their exam season. Let’s celebrate this diversity of backgrounds tomorrow and forge links between the best of the good guys, wherever they’re from. Going forward, let’s attract more and more brilliant young students to cybersecurity, to join us in the fight to make the digital society safe for all, within and across borders.

by Frank Stajano at April 22, 2016 04:27 PM

QuirksBlog

Impostor syndrome — a story

Just now Zeldman tweeted a question to which I replied. That reminded me of a story I want to share with you. Zeldman asked:

Have you ever felt that you have no talent whatever? How often do you feel that way?

What he describes is classic impostor syndrome. I’ve got it, you’ve got it, just about everybody’s got it. It’s the “just about” that I want to discuss today.

A few months back a conversation with friends turned to the subject of impostor syndrome. They didn’t know the term, but they recognized it and agreed they had it to a larger or smaller degree. Then a friend of mine who’s a doctor told us a story.

She told us that one time the conversation among her and her colleagues also turned to impostor syndrome. One doctor confessed he did not have it. He understood what the others were talking about, but he just didn’t feel that way. He was always sure of himself.

A few months after that conversation this doctor made a very serious medical mistake. Can’t remember if it was fatal or not, but it was major, and had consequences for the patient and the doctor himself.

Once she had told this story, my friends and I concluded that impostor syndrome actually serves an important function. It forces you to check and re-check your work, making sure you haven’t made any mistakes, consider different approaches, and generally be critical of yourself in a positive sense.

So cherish your impostor syndrome. Don’t trust people who don’t have it.

by ppk (ppk@xs4all.nl) at April 22, 2016 04:07 PM

The Art of Non-Conformity

Resign Your Job Every Year

NewJob

*My brand-new book, Born for This, is all about helping you find the work you were meant to do. This series explores some of these lessons.

Lesson: Make a commitment to resign your job every year, unless your current job is the best one.

When you’re stuck in a rut or simply not sure if your current job is the best choice, here’s an idea: once a year, on the date of your choosing, commit to yourself that you will quit your job unless staying put is the best possible choice for you at this time.

If remaining in your job is the best possible choice, that’s great—you can proceed with confidence, knowing that you’re on the right track. If not, immediately begin looking for something different.

You can also do this if you’re going to school. Every year, decide to drop out unless continuing the program is the best option. As much as possible, ignore sunk costs.

If you’ve been doing a six-year Ph.D. program and have two years invested before you realize it’s making you miserable, does it matter? Not really. Consider the next four years of your life, not the previous investment that brought you this far.

Whether quitting your job, your school program, or something else, here’s a draft statement you can use to make your commitment:

“Every year on [date], I will resign from my job. I’ll then evaluate if it’s the best possible option for me to continue with another year. If it is, I can proceed with confidence and give it my all. If not, I’ll immediately start looking for something better.”

If you end up sticking with your current job because you love it, great! If not, it’s time to get out of Alcatraz. Either way, now you’ve made a conscious decision and can proceed with confidence.

Born for This is available from Amazon.com or your favorite local bookseller. You can also take the free quiz or join me on tour in your choice of more than 30 cities.

###

Image: Flazingo Photos

by Chris Guillebeau at April 22, 2016 02:42 PM

Greg Mankiw's Blog

Justin Taylor

From Ethiopia to Austin: An Adoption Story

It’s hard for me to watch videos like this without shedding a few tears:

Thank you, Moving Works films.

You can download the film and a study guide for it here.

by Justin Taylor at April 22, 2016 09:14 AM

From the Study

How Do Christians Love People With Different Worldviews?

I recently engaged in a light Twitter exchange with a few atheists after I posted the following tweet:

A few self-described atheists didn’t think this statement sounded too loving. One suggested that I needed to “open my heart.” Another said that “Christian love” is a joke over which no one is laughing anymore.

My point in the tweet was to highlight the truth that the Christian worldview, when truly embraced, enables a person to love those with whom they disagree. For example, as a Christian I believe the biblical doctrines about God, humanity, Christ, heaven, hell, and salvation to be true. Because of this, I do not accept worldviews like atheism, agnosticism, Buddhism, Hindusim, Islam, to name a few, because these belief systems are contrary to biblical Christianity and therefore not true. Yet the Christian worldview, while simultaneously requiring me to reject contrary worldviews as false, enables me to love atheists and those who adhere to other religions for two basic reasons.

All Men and Women are Made in the Image of God
First, the one with whom I disagree is made in the image of God. Even though adherents of other religions reject the God of the Bible, they are, nevertheless, God’s image bearers (Gen 1:26). For this reason they are worthy of love and dignity. I can treat them respectfully while listening to their position and making sure that I can articulate their beliefs in a way they would find satisfying.

And despite our vast differences in worldview, Christ calls me to love my neighbor, to feed my enemy, to do good to those who hate me, and gently correct those who oppose the truth of the gospel (Matt 22:39; Rom 12:20; Luke 6:27; Tim 2:24-26). Now, if you’re not a Christian, you may not like that last statement. To say that your opposition to Christianity needs correcting is to imply that your worldview is wrong, an implication you may take as tantamount to rejecting you as a person. But the two actions (rejecting your worldview and rejecting you as a person) are not the same. But more on this point in a moment.

Salvation is All of Grace
The second reason the Christian worldview enables believers to love others is because it teaches us that our ability to embrace Christ is not the fruit of any moral or intellectual superiority. In fact, the Bible teaches that Christians are Christians entirely because of God’s grace. For no reason other than sovereign love and kindness, God has opened the eyes of believers to behold the glorious reality of Jesus Christ. When Christians are living consistently within a biblical worldview, they will sense a deep compassion and love for those with whom they disagree because they know that it is only grace makes them differ (1 Cor 4:6-7).

I suspect, however, that one reason we have come to equate the rejection of our worldview with personal rejection is because our contemporary intellectual climate has disabled us from withstanding and responding to rigorous debate and disagreement. Frankly, our feelings are easily hurt, and when people disagree with us, point out our inconsistencies, or tell us–gasp–that we’re wrong about something, we take their opposition to our ideas as a personal attack.

But Scripture gives us insight into the real root of the problem.

Hiding from God
Ever since Adam and Eve’s first sin, mankind has been hiding from God. Due to their real and perceived guilt, their failed attempt at self-atonement to cleanse the conscience, and the fear of impending judgment, God’s first humans sought refuge among the trees. They hid from God because he knew he was worthy of death. And Adam and Eve’s progeny are still hiding.

The natural and predominant motion of the human heart to hide itself from God. When confronted with the reality of God’s majesty and holiness and the reality of our condemnation, we hide, and for good reason: we, like Adam, deserve death. But unlike Adam, we no longer hide among the trees. Rather, we find refuge in sophisticated philosophical arguments, religious duties, outright denial of our sin, good works or a combination of all of these. We will do anything we can to cover our shame and keep God from discovering our sin.

But God has provided a refuge infinitely better than trees and philosophical arguments or good works. On the cross Jesus Christ bore the punishment and death that we deserve and now calls out to all men to hide in him. And Jesus is ready and willing to accept the worst of sinners if they will turn from their sin and trust in him.

Why Christians Hold the Line
Like my tweet implied, in order for a Christian to truly love others, we cannot accept worldviews that are contrary to Scripture. Why? Because we believe that a person’s eternal destiny is dependent upon whether or not they embrace the truth about Jesus Christ and what he has done on behalf of sinners. To yield to worldviews that oppose biblical truth is not loving or open-hearted or kind, but hateful. Christians hold the line on biblical truth, not because they love opposition, but because they love people and want them to understand the gospel. Allowing the lines to blur between Christianity and other worldviews only promotes confusion and obstructs people from beholding the good news.

To reject your worldview, therefore, is not the same as rejecting you as a person. How can this be? Because rejecting your worldview may be the means by which I am able to introduce superior knowledge to your heart and mind. Indeed, rejecting your worldview may be one of the most profound ways I can express my love to you, for I am willing to oppose what is eternally harmful to your soul and tell you the best news in the universe. If that’s not love, I don’t know what is.


by Derek J. Brown at April 22, 2016 09:00 AM

Table Titans

Tales: He’s a Natural (20)

Hear now the tale of Will, the man blessed by the dice gods.

In our 3.5 campaign, he was a Half-Elf Rogue who never rolled below 17. No matter how often he rolled, or what dice he rolled, his rolls were always high. And he did not hoard the luck. When he was at the table, nobody else rolled…

Read more

April 22, 2016 07:00 AM

The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

Ya No Vivo Yo | Reseña

Article by: Clare Murphy

Me encanta escuchar testimonios. En el pasado no tenía la apreciación de cómo la historia de otra persona podría tener un impacto espiritual en mi propia vida. Pero Jesús mostró la importancia de los testimonios en Marcos 5:19 cuando dijo al hombre que fue sanado, “Vete a tu casa, a los tuyos, y cuéntales cuán grandes cosas el Señor ha hecho por ti, y cómo tuvo misericordia de ti”. Ahora estoy maravillada de ver cómo Dios salva pecadores de cualquier tipo del pecado, y que Él usa sus historias para hacerme crecer también. ‘Ya No Vivo Yo’ es una de estas historias maravillosas de redención, con un importante impacto espiritual para sus lectores. 

Esta es el relato de grandes pecadores en necesidad de un gran Salvador, que fueron redimidos por la gracia de Dios. El libro alterna la historia de Ángela —una madre que sufre de depresión, un matrimonio dañado y el repudio de sus dos hijos— y la historia de Chris, el hijo menor que ha rechazado a su familia para vivir en homosexualidad y el abuso de drogas.

Ángela estaba a punto de suicidarse después del rechazo de Chris, cuando creyó en el evangelio. Finalmente, encuentra paz y esperanza cuando pone en manos de Dios todas las cosas que ella estaba tratando controlar en su vida. Mientras tanto, Chris continúa corriendo más y más lejos del Señor. Él encarna un verdadero “hijo pródigo”; persigue pecado tras pecado, desde numerosas relaciones homosexuales, abuso de drogas, una vida sumergida en clubes con muchas drogas y sexo, hasta el crimen de vender drogas. Finalmente, seis años después de la conversión de Ángela, la vida pródiga de Chris termina en la cárcel, el punto más profundo del hoyo, con una sentencia de nueve años por sus crímenes y al mismo tiempo padeciendo VIH como resultado de sus pecados sexuales. Sin embargo, en ese tiempo en la cárcel, por la misericordia de Dios, los ojos de Chris son abiertos a la verdad del evangelio y milagrosamente Dios lo salva cuando él cree y pone su fe en Cristo. 

Su historia es nuestra historia

El pasado doloroso de Ángela y Chris, redimidos por la gracia sublime, me recordó mi propia depravación natural antes de Cristo… de lo que Él me ha salvado. Este libro cultivó una mayor gratitud por mi propia salvación, y mayor temor y alabanza en mi corazón por la gracia tan grande de Dios para pecadores como yo. Es fácil a ver los pecados de Ángela y Chris y decir “Que maravilloso que Dios los salvó de esto,” pero te invito a que te veas a ti mismo en sus historias, porque las historias de ellos son la historia de cada cristiano. Regocíjate si estás en Cristo como ellos y si no, entonces mira la gracia que ellos recibieron y que Dios te ofrece libremente a ti también, no importa qué tan grave sea tu pecado. 

Ya No Vivo Yo’ es una historia de fidelidad, amor incondicional y esperanza. El ejemplo de Ángela y de su esposo León me motivó a perseverar en oración. Es común que dejemos de orar cuando no vemos la respuesta inmediata de Dios, después de algunos días o semanas, pero necesitamos confiar en el tiempo de Dios y mantenernos en oración. Además, encontré ánimo para amar los demás sin condiciones, como Dios nos ama, a pesar del rechazo doloroso. Somos llamados para perseguir en amor, aun no recebemos amor como respuesta en esta vida. Finalmente, me dio esperanza en que Dios es todo poderoso para salvar a mis amigos y miembros de mi familia que no creen en Cristo, no importa cuán lejos parezca que están de Él.  

Este libro sirve como un llamado para mayor santidad. Cuando Chris fue salvado, su mente cambió de creer lo que él quería creer acerca de Dios, a creer en el verdadero Dios de la Biblia y sobre lo que esta dice de su pecado, específicamente el pecado de homosexualidad. 

“Me di cuenta de que Dios no llamaba a los gay y a las lesbiana abominables. Llamaba abominación al acto sexual. Dios no condenaba a la persona, Dios condenaba el acto.” (p.184) 

Además Chris aprende que su identidad no está en su sexualidad, sino que está solo en Cristo y que como seguidor de Cristo, él es llamado a perseguir la santidad. Su vida no se trata de la sexualidad, sino de la santidad.  Nosotros necesitamos buscar la santidad en lugar de ceder a nuestra lujuria. Cuando Chris salió de la cárcel, ingresó al seminario y ahora trabaja en el ministerio, pero eso no quiere decir que ya no lucha con tentaciones homosexuales. Este libro nos recuerda que debemos morir continuamente a nosotros mismos y nuestros deseos pecaminosos, porque “ya no vivo yo sino que Cristo vive en mí” (Gal. 2:20 NBLH). 

Christopher y Ángela Yuan. Ya No Vivo Yo: La travesía de un hijo homosexual a Dios. La búsqueda de esperanza de una madre quebrantada. 2015. Casa Creación, 243 pp.

Clare Murphy está trabajando para Misión Internacional de Justicia (IJM) en Guatemala y es miembro de 'Iglesia Reforma' en la Ciudad de Guatemala. Se graduó de Georgetown University en Washington, D.C. como Licenciada en Relaciones Internacionales. Puedes encontrarla en Twitter: @cemurphy93. 

by Clare Murphy at April 22, 2016 05:04 AM

Do Liberals Always Win?

Article by: Russell Moore

For about a decade I’ve periodically warned the church to prepare for an America in which same-sex marriage is a legal and cultural reality. For most of that time, people on my side consistently rebuked me. When I’d make the case, a proponent of the biblical definition of marriage would usually tell me not to say such things in public. When I’d point out the cultural and legal trends and where they were leading, my conversation partner would usually agree. The problem wasn’t the truth of what I was saying; it was that I shouldn’t say such things in public. The truth could lead to a sense of “inevitability” that was not good for “our side.”

I’d usually shrug my shoulders and reply that I was interested in preparing the church, to see to it that we didn’t end up with another Roe v. Wade in which the church is caught flatfooted. If that led to an “aura of inevitability,” so be it. The flood in Genesis was inevitable too, and one rarely loses betting against societal repentance in a fallen world.

If we are interested in conserving gospel witness amid cultural changes, we must consider—and prepare people for—the possibility that we might lose.

One key aspect to taking a long view is to ask why it seems the “progressive” side of the culture wars usually wins these debates in the end. That’s the question taken up by Boston University religion scholar Stephen Prothero in his new book, Why Liberals Win the Culture Wars (Even When They Lose Elections): The Battles That Define America from Jefferson’s Heresies to Gay Marriage.

Worthy Read

Prothero’s work makes the case for four theses:

  1. What we call “culture wars” have a long history in America, going back to colonial divides between the parties of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. 
  2. In every case in American history, culture wars have been precipitated by conservatives out of a desire to preserve what they feel is a diminishing piece of the past and a desire to punish, politically and culturally, those diminishing it.
  3. Throughout history, conservatives have ultimately lost every single culture war they’ve waged, from Mormonism to Roman Catholicism to Prohibition to the Moral Majority.
  4. The reason for these losses is simple: American culture and history tend toward more inclusion.

For evangelical Christians, Why Liberals Win the Culture Wars is well worth reading for several reasons. Prothero is a thorough scholar who knows his way around American history and knows how to write provocatively. His book American Jesus demonstrated this skill several years ago, pointing out ways Christ has been viewed (and used) throughout our national history. Prothero’s historical arguments are often insightful, revealing how culture wars are rarely as sudden-appearing as they seem (even to some of the combatants), but are often rooted in the last generation’s quarrels.

Winners and Losers?  

However, Why Liberals Win the Culture Wars falters by defining “winning” solely in liberal terms. Conservatism is, by definition, anti-utopian and thus never to be defined in terms of “final victories.” The conservative task is to preserve what’s best from the past, with a healthy skepticism toward progress-for-the-sake-of-progress. (See Edmund Burke’s reflections on the revolution in France or National Review’s inaugural promise to “stand athwart history, yelling ‘Stop!’”) The “gains” of cultural conservatism, then, are never going to be on the same ledger as those of progressivism, since so many of these gains are going to be about impeding the speed with which bad things happen.

The pro-life movement, for instance, isn’t “winning” if “winning” is defined in terms of current Supreme Court case law. It’s a victory, though, that there even is a pro-life movement 40 years after the abortion rights side declared the issue “settled.” Did feminism triumph? In some ways, of course—in ways both good and bad. But does 21st-century American culture look like the world third-wave feminism envisioned? No. Is this because of a cultural conservative defeat of the Equal Rights Amendment, or just because the natural binary of male and female isn’t as socially constructed as the “progressives” imagined? That’s up for debate.

Many issues simply don’t fit the steady march of upward (or downward, depending on one’s point of view) progress described by either Prothero or many social conservatives. The “liberal” view on the death penalty seemed to have “won” in the 1970s, and then support for capital punishment roared back into acceptance on both sides of the Red/Blue divide. Michael Dukakis said he wouldn’t seek the death penalty for his wife’s hypothetical rapist and murderer. Four years later, though, Bill Clinton left the campaign trail to execute a mentally disabled man. Today capital punishment seems to be on shakier popular ground, but a crime wave or terrorist attack could turn that all around again.

Test Cases 

Despite Prothero’s historical long view, he falls into the trap of viewing American history anachronistically, often dividing controversies into “conservatives” and “liberals” in ways far from uncontested.

Is anti-Catholicism in American history culturally “conservative”? Many of the most virulent anti-Catholics were indeed on the Right—from the nativists of the Know Nothing Party to the Ku Klux Klan and beyond. But many of the anti-Catholic arguments were what any honest broker would call “progressive”—from supporters of the public school system (and the idea of its near-monopoly on education) to strict separationists on church/state matters.

The same is true with Mormonism. Were the 19th-century arguments over polygamy a matter of conservatism or liberalism? Even with Prothero’s views of liberalism as defined by inclusion of more and more people and an eagerness to embrace new forms of culture, the question is far from certain. It depends on whether you view polygamy as a matter of sexual freedom or of oppression of women, whether you see plural marriage as part of free exercise of religious freedom more important than conforming to generically Protestant views of the civil order. Was Mormonism often attacked politically from the Right? Certainly. But the mainstreaming of the Latter-Day Saints can hardly be considered a “progressive” victory given the cultural conservatism of the religion as well as the way it’s virulently lampooned in “progressive” popular culture. Watch a showing of The Book of Mormon on Broadway for a sample of this treatment.

Prohibition, for another example, is treated as a “conservative” culture war, defeated by “liberals.” Prohibition was argued, though, on “progressive” grounds—as a means of protecting women and children from a predatory alcohol industry that resulted in social injustice and poverty. The undoing of Prohibition wasn’t the result of openness to “new forms” and inclusion but because alcohol had a long-established history in America that couldn’t be socially engineered out of existence. The repeal of Prohibition was as much about the limits of government-driven progress as anything, and thus arguably as much of a “conservative” win as a “progressive” one.

If “liberalism” equals historical development of any kind, and if the “winning side” is therefore always “liberal,” then, yes, of course, liberals always win. 

Stephen Prothero. Why Liberals Win the Culture Wars (Even When They Lose Elections): The Battles That Define America from Jefferson’s Heresies to Gay MarriageNew York City, NY: HarperOne, 2016. 336 pp. $26.99. 

Russell Moore is president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, a TGC Council member, and author of the book Onward: Engaging the Culture without Losing the Gospel (B&H, 2015). He blogs at Moore to the Point and you can follow him on Twitter.

by Russell Moore at April 22, 2016 05:03 AM

TGC Welcomes Three New Editors

Article by: Collin Hansen

As editorial director for The Gospel Coaliton I’m tasked with developing and distributing our content, whether published on our website and in books or featured at our national conferences. It’s my privilege to work with a team committed to promoting gospel-centered ministry for the next generation. Over the course of six years our staff has grown as we’ve ventured into new subjects and media. All along we’ve looked for editors with different perspectives and experiences, yet united in the gospel of Jesus Christ and in TGC’s confessional statement and theological vision. The same is true of our colleagues working in Spanish and French and in Australia and soon Canada.

Our three newest editors, starting this month and next, each brings new skills and gifts to our staff and ultimately to our readers through his knowledge and relationships with writers around the world. With experience as leaders in their local churches, we trust these editors will uphold our priorities by writing and acquiring resources that: 

  • Offer gospel-centered argument and application
  • Include faithful and foundational use of Scripture, both Old Testament and New Testament
  • Foster spiritual discernment of contemporary trials and trends
  • Encourage efforts to unite and renew the church 

We invite you to join us in welcoming Sam, Jason, and Timo.

Sam Allberry focuses on pastoral ministry and Bible/theology for The Gospel Coalition. He is a speaker for Ravi Zacharias Ministries and a pastor of 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 several books, including Why Bother with Church? And Other Questions About Why You Need It and Why It Needs You (Good Book, 2016), Is God Anti-Gay? And Other Questions about Homosexuality, the Bible, and Same-Sex Attraction (Good Book, 2013), Connected: Living in the Light of the Trinity (P&R, 2013), and Lifted: Experiencing the Resurrection Life (P&R, 2012). He is one of the coordinators of Living Out, a ministry for those struggling with same-sex attraction. You can follow Sam on Twitter.

Jason Cook focuses on pastoral ministry and integrating faith and work for The Gospel Coalition. He is associate pastor of preaching at Fellowship Memphis. He earned his MDiv from Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, Alabama, where he helped to build Iron City Church, a multi-ethnic ministry in one of America’s most segregated cities. He earned an undergraduate degree from the University of Mississippi on a football scholarship. He is married to Courtney, and they have two children, Charlie and Cager. You can follow Jason on Twitter.

Timoteo Sazo focuses on Christian living and integrating faith and work for The Gospel Coalition. He holds a BA in English literature and linguistics from The Catholic University of Chile. He and his wife, Kaitlin, live in the Washington, D.C., area and are members of Sterling Park Baptist Church. Timoteo attends Reformed Theological Seminary. You can follow Timo on Twitter.

They join this team for our English-language website based in the United States:

  • Collin Hansen, Editorial Director since 2010
  • Matt Smethurst, Managing Editor since 2011
  • Jeff Robinson, Senior Editor: Bible/Theology and Ministry since 2014
  • Ivan Mesa, Editor: Reviews and Social Media since 2014
  • Joe Carter, Editor: Current Events since 2012
  • Bethany Jenkins, Director: Every Square Inch since 2013
  • Betsy Howard, Editor: Podcasts and New City Catechism since 2015
  • Alex Duke, Assistant Editor: Arts and Culture and International Outreach since 2013
  • Ryan Troglin, Assistant Editor since 2015
  • Gloria Furman, Book Editor: Women’s Initiatives since 2013 

Read their bios to learn more about these editors and others for Spanish, French, and our academic journal for students, Themelios.

Collin Hansen serves as editorial director for The Gospel Coalition. He is the author of Blind Spots: Becoming a Courageous, Compassionate, and Commissioned Church, Young, Restless, Reformed: A Journalist’s Journey With the New Calvinists, and co-author with John Woodbridge of A God-Sized Vision: Revival Stories That Stretch and Stir. He earned an MDiv at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and an undergraduate degree in journalism and history from Northwestern University. He previously worked as an associate editor for Christianity Today magazine, co-edited Four Views on the Spectrum of Evangelicalism, and co-edits the Cultural Renewal series with Tim Keller. He and his wife belong to Redeemer Community Church in Birmingham, Alabama, and he serves on the advisory board of Beeson Divinity School. You can follow him on Twitter.

by Collin Hansen at April 22, 2016 05:02 AM

The Rest of the Jackie Robinson Story

Article by: David E. Prince

Ken Burns is one of the most influential filmmakers in American history and arguably the most influential documentarian of our time. His use of archival footage, photography, and simple musical leitmotifs or melodies enhances his reputation as a masterful artistic narrative storyteller.

His 10-part iconic Baseball series (1994) covered about 200 years of our national pastime and its undeniable influence on American culture. Last week, Burns unveiled his latest documentary Jackie Robinson. As usual the film is evocative, compelling, and masterful.

Burns’s brief treatment of Robinson in Baseball was marked by date and location errors. He also perpetuated legends and anecdotes that didn’t occur, including the story of Kentucky-born Pee Wee Reese placing his arm around Robinson as a show of support amid vicious taunts. (The 2013 movie 42 included this sentimental scene.) In Jackie Robinson, however, these errors are avoided.

Discarding Caricatures

Some aspects of Jackie Robinson thrilled me. For example, Burns recognizes how integral and heroic Robinson’s wife was in the saga of the integration of baseball. Rachel’s strength, support, guidance, and righteous indignation toward racial injustice have often been ignored.

Burns also correctly asserts that a mythic and overly sentimentalized version of Robinson in popular culture has overwhelmed the real man. The real Robinson was as noble and fierce off the field as he was on it.

And in uncovering a more accurate picture of Major League Baseball’s first black player, Burns reveals a complex man who struggled while yet maintaining immense conviction, refusing to be coopted by any special interest group, white or black. All in all, Burns provides a far more compelling portrait of Robinson than the simplistic saintly cardboard image.

Bound Together by Jesus

While I’m thankful Burns’s new film provides a more robust account of Robinson, in one vital sense it still fails to account for perhaps the most significant factor in Robinson’s strength and courage. He was a Christian, as was the man who signed him to play for the Brooklyn Dodgers, Branch Rickey.

Burns mentions Robinson’s faith in passing, but he treats it as incidental to the story. In their first encounter, Rickey pressed Robinson to see if he had the unimaginable courage and conviction necessary to break baseball’s color barrier. Knowing Robinson was a Christian, Rickey opened up a book he had sitting nearby, Giovanni Papini’s Life of Christ, and read the words of Jesus to Robinson: “But whoever shall smite thee on the cheek, turn to him the other also” (Matt. 5:39).

Robinson and Rickey were separated by age, race, region, and background. Robinson was born on January 31, 1919, in south Georgia. Rickey was born on December 20, 1881, in Stockdale, Ohio. Robinson’s grandfather had been born into slavery, and his parents worked on a plantation in the postbellum South for $12 per month.

Robinson’s father abandoned them when Jackie was 16 months old. The plantation owner ordered the family to leave, and his mother moved the family to Pasadena, California. Rickey, by contrast, grew up in an intact home. His father worked the family owned vegetable farm and served as county commissioner. Rickey’s grandfather was one of the largest landowners in America.

Nevertheless, the two men shared vital bonds that wed their hearts and lives. Both had Christian mothers who taught them Scripture from birth. One Robinson biographer writes about his mother, Mallie Robinson:

Family was vital to Mallie, but God was supreme. . . . [She had] a never-ending sensitivity to God’s power, an urge to carry out the divine will as set out in the Bible.

In I Never Had It Made, Robinson himself recalled, “My mother had made it a point to see that we got to church and Sunday school.” Meanwhile, Rickey’s mother is said to have taught him countless Scripture stories even before he could read. Rickey promised his mother he’d never play baseball on Sunday, a promise he kept even in the Major Leagues.

Both men also shared a passion for the national pastime. Rickey was a baseball man to the core. Robinson was one of the greatest multi-sport athletes in American history, but baseball was his first love.

It Took Two Christians

The most important link between the men was their shared faith in Christ, and the belief God had a purpose for their life that would be realized through baseball. Robinson, a Sunday school teacher, wasn’t as publicly vocal about his faith as Rickey, who was nicknamed “the Deacon.”

Nevertheless, each possessed mutual respect for the Christian conviction and personal integrity of the other. In fact, as Chris Lamb asserts in Blackout: The Untold Story of Jackie Robinson’s First Spring Training, “It took two Christians to pull this off.”

Both men’s sense of injustice regarding racism was rooted in biblical faith, which makes the integration of baseball a fundamentally Christian story.

A white lawyer by training and an exceptional black athlete—without government incentive or intervention—forever changed baseball and America. Rickey and Robinson were both complicated sinners, but they were also brothers in Christ.

Rickey would not accept awards for his role in integrating baseball, since he viewed his labor as an act of decency. He would not describe his relationship with Robinson as fatherly, since he thought it sounded patronizing and paternalistic.

Yet Robinson persistently said Rickey became the father he had lost. And the executive gave the player full credit of success in the “the noble experiment” to integrate baseball: “God was with me when I picked Jackie. I don’t think any other man could have done what he did those first two or three years.”

Reflecting on his role in integrating baseball, Robinson likewise gave Rickey all the credit. Robinson was called an “Uncle Tom” and racial sellout for his unwavering respect for Rickey. And critics heaped slanderous names on Rickey for his unhesitating support of Robinson.

Telling the Rest of the Story

Both men were committed to outdoing one another in showing honor (Rom. 12:10) and to counting the other more significant (Phil. 2:3). Both embodied Robinson’s motto: “A life is not important except the impact it has on other lives.”

Robinson and Rickey stood up to the bigots of the day and declared that racial segregation in baseball would become a thing of the past. For Robinson, baseball was the starting point in a life committed to fighting for civil rights and first-class citizenship for all Americans.

I am thankful Ken Burns has used his immense skill to produce a stirring Jackie Robinson documentary. The Robinson story cannot be told enough, and Christians must be relentless in telling the rest of the story.

David E. Prince (PhD, Southern Seminary) is assistant professor of Christian preaching at Southern Seminary and pastor of Ashland Avenue Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky. David and wife, Judi, have eight children. He blogs at Prince on Preaching. He is author with his church staff of Church with Jesus as the Hero

by David E. Prince at April 22, 2016 05:00 AM

Dangerous Calling

Article by: Staff

’My wife knew I was angry. My children knew I was angry. But I didn't know I was an angry man. I was a pastor.” — Paul Tripp

Workshop Leader: Paul Tripp

Date: April 9, 2013

Event: The Gospel Coalition 2013 National Conference, Orlando, Florida

Paul Tripp is a pastor, author, and international conference speaker. He is also the president of Paul Tripp Ministries, professor of pastoral life and care at Redeemer Seminary, and executive director of the Center for Pastoral Life and Care, under the auspices of the Association of Biblical Counselors. He has written a number of popular books on Christian living, including Dangerous Calling and New Morning Mercies. He will lead a workshop, “Parenting Is Gospel Ministry,” at TGC’s 2017 National Conference.

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

by Staff at April 22, 2016 04:59 AM

Workout: April 22, 2016

Monster Mash Part 1 50 wall-ball shots (20/14 lb., 10/9 ft.) 25 box jumps (24/20 in.) 3 rounds of Cindy 30 wall-ball shots (20/14 lb., 10/9 ft.) 15 box jumps  (24/20 in.) 2 rounds of Cindy 20 wall-ball shots (20/14 lb.,10/9 ft.) 10 box jumps (24/20 in.) 1 round of Cindy Time cap: 20 minutes […]

by Mike at April 22, 2016 03:11 AM

Blog – Cal Newport

Talk to Your Boss About Deep Work

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A Deep Case Study

Tom works in marketing for a venture-backed tech start-up in Silicon Valley. After reading Deep Work, he realized that prioritizing uninterrupted concentration would help him excel in his job, which centers on cognitively demanding research and writing.

But he despaired that regular deep work was impossible given his company’s culture.

As he explained:

Our company uses email and Slack as our primary means of communication. I get so many emails and chat messages every day, and there’s this unspoken expectation in my department that if someone emails/messages you, you should respond almost immediately, even if you were in the middle of something. If you didn’t respond quick enough people would assume that you were slacking off (this expectation was especially strong with instant messages).

Communication environments of this type are increasingly common in knowledge work (and near ubiquitous in tech). And they can be quite distressing.

As Tom admitted, he really didn’t get much “actual work done,” as his days were filled with “putting out fires” and “reacting to other people’s needs.”

Fortunately, however, all hope was not lost…

The Deep Discussion Strategy

I suggest in my book that employees interested in depth should discuss the topic with their boss. In more detail, during this respectful conversation you should try to accomplish the following:

  1. Explain the concepts of deep and shallow work, noting, of course, that both are important.
  2. Ask what ratio of deep to shallow work hours you should be aiming for in your job.
  3. Then promise to measure and report back regularly. (Most bosses will be interested to gain these extra data points.)

With some trepidation, Tom decided to give this strategy a try. Here’s his report:

I explained to [my boss] the concept of deep and shallow work.  I asked her about her expectations: how much time does she expect me to spend each day researching/writing, and how much time does she expect me to spend communicating through email and chat?

Her reaction?

As soon as I brought it up, it was immediately obvious that if she said she wanted me to spend large portions of my time communicating rather than doing my work, it would have been ridiculous. The only reason this had become a problem in the first place is that we’d never been deliberate about setting expectations.

Tom and his boss quickly settled on a plan in which Tom would have a 1.5 to 2 hour chunk of uninterrupted deep work time in the morning and in the afternoon.

Outside of those chunks he would be answer emails and instant messages promptly.

After talking with his manager, Tom then explained the plan to the team members with whom he communicated most frequently. It took them about a week to adjust to his deep work schedule, and now it doesn’t come up.

As Tom concludes:

It’s been three months now and nothing broke. Checking email and slack less didn’t result in any catastrophic issues. In fact, it’s helped me improve the quality of my work and my ability to focus, and my brain doesn’t feel fried at the end of the day from multi-tasking/switching contexts all day long.

This deep work discussion strategy is simple but it really does work. Many draining work cultures are more flexible than employees expect (see also: Leslie Perlow’s research on the Boston Consulting Group).

Put another way, just because your office seem hostile to deep work today doesn’t mean that it wouldn’t support it tomorrow…if you bring it up.

Just ask Tom. But not between 9 to 11 or 2 to 4, because he’ll be too busy creating valuable things to answer.

(Photo by Kai Hendry)

by Study Hacks at April 22, 2016 12:54 AM

April 21, 2016

Market Urbanism

San Francisco Seeks Public, Not Private, Solutions To Housing Crisis

[Editor’s note: Scott posted this on his blog BigCitySparkplug.com in the Fall of 2012, following a San Francisco ballot measure. In the 3.5 years since, the city’s housing prices have further increased, while the underlying causes described in the article remain unaddressed.]  

San Francisco, CA–Among the propositions passed in San Francisco on Tuesday, ranging from the practical (consolidating elections), to the symbolic (condemning the U.S. Supreme Court’s stance on corporate personhood), was one backed by both the city’s moderates and its progressives: Proposition C. This measure, which passed on a nearly two-thirds vote, will create an affordable housing trust fund. The trust will both give down payment assistance to homeowners, and fund construction of nearly 35,000 affordable units. Many units will be built by private developers, who will have their city-imposed affordability mandates reduced as a way to encourage construction.

But the trust fund will come at a price. It will get an upfront payment of $20 million, and receive an annual sum that grows from this figure by a few million each year, meaning the annual sum should reach $50 million by 2024. Such payments will extend for three decades, until the trust’s overall value reaches $1.5 billion. The money will come from the city’s general fund, mainly via property and hotel taxes. Meanwhile, the regulations that make San Francisco’s housing so unaffordable—and that make expensive, taxpayer-subsidized trusts like this necessary—will escape reform.

One of these barriers is the city’s rent control laws, which freeze prices for units built before 1979. This has burdened landlords who have to compete against those charging market rates, and caused the proliferation of under-maintained housing. It has also prevented new construction, since tenants living in these units cannot be removed, thereby delaying the wrecking ball on many buildings.

Another barrier is excessive tenants’ rights laws. If landlords wish to evict a tenant on “just cause”—a.k.a. bad behavior—they must issue multiple notices and endure lengthy litigation. If they wish to evict them on “no-fault causes,” they must pay thousands in relocation fees, and can do this only if planning to move into the apartment themselves. Such policies have spiked landlords’ business costs, which ultimately get passed down to tenants. And again, the lack of tenant turnover prevents property owners from demolishing older buildings and replacing them with new, higher-density uses.

A third barrier is the aforementioned affordability mandates on developers. If Proposition C got one thing right, it was recognizing that by decreasing such mandates, the city would actually increase the number of affordable units, since the relaxed standards would encourage builders to build. But this line of thinking hasn’t been pursued to its logical conclusion; instead, city development policy remains dominated by inclusionary zoning set-asides. For example, if developers build something with 10 or more units, they must ensure that 12% of them are affordable. These regulations have been found to discourage construction, and make market-rate housing more expensive.

However the biggest problem with San Francisco’s housing policy is that officials and citizens alike are hostile to new buildings, especially tall ones, even when they are built in appropriate locations. The most recent example is 8 Washington, a residential project proposed in the financial district. The lot where the building would go is now dominated by tennis courts, which are well below scale in comparison to the surrounding high-rises. The lot’s zoning allows for buildings, also below scale, of 84 feet. The developers wanted to increase this to 136 feet, and after much wrangling, got approval from city hall. But in response, a neighborhood group organized a petition, and now the rezoning will go up for vote next November. [8 Washington’s developers lost that vote, and by 2016, have yet to get the project approved.]

One criticism of the project is that its units are not affordable. But it will still add to the city’s overall number, curbing the demands that wealthy residents would otherwise put on housing in surrounding neighborhoods. The project has nonetheless been resisted by advocates of the poor, who believe that by preventing new expensive housing, they will magically keep prices down for the older stock.

What all this implies about San Francisco is that the city, because of its political leanings, mistrusts the private sector. If housing there is unaffordable, residents blame it on “the market,” and respond by endorsing anti-market policies like price controls, supply caps, strict tenant-landlord regulations and subsidies. Then when San Francisco’s housing becomes even more expensive–it now has America’s highest rents–they just double down on these same policies. The latest such policy will cost taxpayers a whopping $1.5 billion over the next few decades.

by Scott Beyer at April 21, 2016 10:15 PM

A little time off

brb

My family and I are getting some much-needed time away starting tomorrow. For about a week, we’ll be in a different part of the country, and I’ll be offline and not working for the first time in three years. It feels weird and vaguely irresponsible to take time off as a self-employed person, but it’ll be good for all of us.

See you on the other side, Internet.

by Stephen at April 21, 2016 09:05 PM

Colin Walters

Peer review, FOSS, and packaging/containers etc

Lately whenever I give a presentation, I often at least briefly mention one of my primary motivations for doing what I do:  I really like working in global community of people on Free Software.

A concrete artifact of that work is the code landing in git repositories.  But I believe it’s not just about landing code – peer review is a fundamental ingredient.

Many projects of course start out as just one person scratching an itch or having fun.  And it’s completely fine for many to stay that way.  But once a project reaches a certain level of maturity and widespread usage, I think it’s generally best for the original author to “step down” and become a peer.  That’s what I’ve now done for the OSTree project.

In other words, landing code in git master for a mature project should require at least one other person to look at it.  This may sound obvious, but you’d be surprised…there are some very critical projects that don’t have much the way of peer review.

To call out probably the most egregious example, the bash shell.  I’m deliberately linking to their “git log” because it violates all modern standards for git commit messages.  Now,  I don’t want to overly fault Chet for the years and years he’s put into maintaining the Bash project on his own time.  His contribution to Free Software is great and deserves recognition and applause.  But I believe that getting code into bash should involve more than just him replying to a mail message and running git push.  Bash isn’t the only example of this in what I would call the “Linux distribution core”.

Another major area where there are gaps are the “language ecosystems like Node.js, Rust’s cargo, Python’s pip etc.  Many projects on there are “one person scratching an itch” that other people mostly just consume.

There’s no magical solution to this – but in e.g. the language ecosystem case, if you happen to maintain a library which depends on another one, maybe consider spending a bit of your time looking at open pull requests and jumping in with review?

A vast topic related to this is “who is qualified to review” and “how intensively do I review”, but I think some qualified people are too timid about this – basically it’s much better to have a lightweight but shallow process than none at all.

Now finally, I included “packaging” in the title of this blog, so how does that relate?  It’s pretty simple, I also claim that most people doing what is today known as “packaging” should sign up to participate in upstream peer review.  Things like build fixes should go upstream rather than being kept downstream.  And if upstream doesn’t have peer review, reconsider packaging it – or help ensure peer review happens upstream!

 

 


by Colin Walters at April 21, 2016 08:33 PM

Aaron M. Renn

There Are No Writers Here

Straus Park. Image via City Journal.

Straus Park. Image via City Journal.

I’ve long noted that the civic identity or culture of many places seems to be a cipher. What is our identity as a city? is a question frequently asked. And one that needs to be. Cities will succeed best when they undertake policies that are true to the place. To most successfully build or rebuild a place, it’s important to articulate that civic identity and work with it, not against it.

Of course some of that happens by the very fact that the people who live in a place are steeped in its culture. But a lack of self-awareness can be a big liability. As the Greek oracle noted, the first call is to “Know Thyself.”

But this is hard to do, both for people and places. It’s hard to give a succinct description of the culture of say Cleveland, Columbus, or Cincinnati, but visitors to those cities will be instantly struck by how starkly different they are.

To unearth and understand the culture and identity of a place requires going on an anthropological or archeological mission deep into the soil of a city, with a proper balance of affection and detachment.  This takes time to do, and a lot of my own writing on various places would certainly be much better if I had time to embed in them and understand them more deeply.

One big advantage larger cities have is that they have a much larger supply of journalists and writers than smaller ones, and these are the very people who are most likely to investigate, unearth, and articulate that culture.

New York in an embarrassment of riches in this regard. Practically every day someone is writing something interesting about the city. Just today, for example, City Journal published a piece about the layers of New York history represented in Straus Park. And Urban Omnibus had one about finding New York in West Side Story.

Back when the mega-bookstore chains were still going strong, I always liked to visit one when I came to a city, and go to the “local interest” section. In too many places, the titles on offer were pathetic. A number of large cities don’t even seem to have one high quality history on offer.

The biggest cities, by contrast, had sections that were disproportionately large even relative to their larger population. There have been a massive number of great books written about Chicago, for example, and the Chicago section in the old downtown Borders was correspondingly huge.

You can learn a lot about a city just by taking a look at the local interest section in a bookstore.

Unfortunately, just when this kind of writing is greatly needed, the number of people who might be writing it have been shrinking.  Nieman Lab just published an article talking about the increasing concentration of media in New York, DC, and Los Angeles, noting, “[T]he increase in concentration is unmistakable. Journalism jobs are leaving the middle of the country and heading for the coasts.”

What reporting remains is often done by inexperienced reporters with little tie to a community. Chains like Gannett seem to deliberately practice rotating reporters and even columnists from city to city, preventing them from really getting a place. Few of them have any real knowledge of even fairly recent history.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, when you do go looking for books about smaller (but often still sizable) places, you can sometimes find books that are collections of pieces from long gone columnists.

There has been a ton of money and effort poured in supporting artists and other “creative class” type endeavors in cities, but remarkably little financing of high quality writing about cities, their past, and their culture.

By its very nature this work is often very time consuming and with limited, highly localized market appeal. It can require a ton of research. Unsurprisingly, a lot of the best of it is produced by writers who take it on as a side project while doing their “day job.”  Writers are often almost compelled to write, after all. For example, my colleague Stephen Eide typically writes studies about municipal finance, but also wrote an essay about the Lorelei fountain commemorating Heinrich Heine in the Bronx.

Cities without a large resident base of writers are at a disdvantage here. And it appears to be growing by the day, yet another example of the bifurcation of society.

This particularly local concern that is highly unlikely to be produced by the market is one local philanthropists will need to take on if they wish to fill this gap.  It is perhaps hyperbole so that that there are no more writers in these cities, but there certainly aren’t enough of them.

by Aaron M. Renn at April 21, 2016 05:49 PM

Justin Taylor

A Look Inside One of the World’s Premier Bible Binderies, Where Many ESV Bibles Are Made

Crossway recently traveled to Royal Jongbloed in the Netherlands, one of the world’s premier Bible binderies, where they filmed how some of the classic leather ESV Bibles are printed and bound. As the Crossway blog explains, “Founded in 1862, the company employs over 100 people with an office covering 10,000 square meters, and is the exclusive manufacturer of a number of ESV Bibles, including the ESV Heirloom Thinline Bible, ESV Heirloom Wide Margin Reference Bible, ESV Heirloom Single Column Legacy Bible, and ESV Omega Thinline Reference Bible.”

You can watch the video below, and learn more here.

by Justin Taylor at April 21, 2016 04:23 PM

Market Urbanism

Reclaiming “Redneck” Urbanism: What Urban Planners Can Learn From Trailer Parks

"Life in a Trailer Park in Florida" (Boston Public Library/Flickr)

“Life in a Trailer Park in Florida” (Boston Public Library/Flickr)

 

Given that “redneck” and “hillbilly” remain the last acceptable stereotypes among polite society, it isn’t surprising that the stereotypical urban home of poor, recently rural whites remains an object of scorn. The mere mention of a trailer park conjures images of criminals in wifebeaters, moldy mattresses thrown awry, and Confederate flags. As with most social phenomena, there is a much more interesting reality behind this crass cliché. Trailer parks remain one of the last forms of housing in US cities provided by the market explicitly for low-income residents. Better still, they offer a working example of traditional urban design elements and private governance.

Any discussion of trailer parks should start with the fact that most forms of low-income housing have been criminalized in nearly every major US city. Beginning in the 1920s, urban policymakers and planners started banning what they deemed as low-quality housing, including boarding houses, residential hotels, and low-quality apartments. Meanwhile, on the outer edges of many cities, urban policymakers undertook a policy of “mass eviction and demolition” of low-quality housing. Policymakers established bans on suburban shantytowns and self-built housing. In knocking out the bottom rung of urbanization, this ended the natural “filtering up” of cities as they expanded outward, replaced as we now know by static subdivisions of middle-class, single-family houses. The Housing Act of 1937 formalized this war on “slums” at the federal level and by the 1960s much of the emergent low-income urbanism in and around many U.S. cities was eliminated.

In light of the United States’ century-long war on low-income housing, it’s something of a miracle that trailer parks survive. With an aftermarket trailer, trailer payments and park rent combined average around the remarkably low rents of $300 to $500. Even the typical new manufactured home, with combined trailer payments and park rent, costs around $700 to $1,000 a month. Both options offer a decent standard of living at far less than rents for apartments of comparable size in many cities. The savings with manufactured housing are a big part of the story: where the average manufactured house costs $64,000, the average site-built single-family house now costs $324,000.  The savings don’t come out of shoddy construction either: manufactured homes are increasingly energy efficient, and their manufacturing process produces less waste than traditional site-built construction. With prosperous cities increasingly turning into playgrounds of the rich due to onerous housing supply restrictions, we shouldn’t take these startlingly affordable rents lightly.

Remarkably high densities for most American suburbs (Billy V/Flickr)

Remarkably high densities compared to most American suburbs (Billy V/Flickr)

 

Trailer parks are not only cheap due to manufacturing; they’re also cheap thanks to their surprising exemption from most conventional land-use controls. Most cities zone very little space for trailer parks—presumably a reflection of the general bias against low-income housing. But where they exist, they are often subject to uniquely liberal land-use regulation, with minimal setbacks, fewer parking requirements, and tiny minimum lot sizes. The result is that many trailer parks have relatively high population densities. The New World Economics blog explains:

“If you had 70% home plots/15% roads/15% shared amenities like parks and squares, 1000sf plots, and 2.5 people per household, that works out to population density of 46,000 people per square mile — with one or two story construction! At this level of density, compared to about 9,000/mile for the denser Los Angeles suburb, you could easily have a lot of neat commercial stuff (bars, restaurants, shops, schools, etc.) within walking distance.”

By combining these liberal land-use regulations with narrow streets shared by all users, we ironically find in many trailer parks a kind of traditional urban design more common in European and Japanese cities. With functional urban densities and traditional urban design, the only thing missing in most trailer parks is a natural mixture of commercial and industrial uses. Many urban trailer parks likely bypass this zoning-imposed challenge by locating within walking distance of commercial and industrial uses.

One of the few permitted trailer parks in Lexington, Kentucky. An industrial area with many manufacturing jobs lies immediately to the northwest, with discount supermarkets and groceries within walking distance to the north. (Google Maps)

One of the few permitted trailer parks in Lexington, Kentucky. An industrial area with many manufacturing jobs lies immediately to the northwest, with discount supermarkets and groceries within walking distance to the north. (Google Maps)

 

Besides revealing a natural acceptance of traditional urban design, trailer parks also illustrate the capacity for low-income communities to engage in private governance. Compared to many low-income neighborhoods, trailer parks are often fairly clean and relatively safe. How could this be? The answer lies in the exchange at the heart of a trailer park: a trailer owner pays rent not only for a slice of land in an apparently desirable location but also for a kind of club good known as “private governance.” Edward Stringham describes the concept as “the various forms of private enforcement, self-governance, or self-regulation among private groups or individuals that fill a void that government enforcement cannot.” The park management provides order within the park, upholding certain basic standards on cleanliness and maintenance while also dealing with unwanted visitors and settling disputes among neighbors. Although costly to move, the mobile nature of the homes allows residents to shop around for governance amenities, punishing incompetent park managers by leaving and rewarding competent park managers by moving in. Residents can shop around for other lifestyle preferences, including parks restricted to retirees or parks managed to be family friendly. While many see the purported incompetence of low-income families as a justification for paternalistic policies—including the above mentioned bans on low-quality housing­—the success of private governance in trailer parks speaks to the potential of emergent social orders to address shared ills.

The lesson here is not, of course, that we should all go live in trailer parks. As a Kentuckian, I have spent enough time in and around trailers to think better of that idea. But here are three key lessons: First, urban policymakers and planners must take a more permissive approach to low-quality, affordable housing options like trailer parks. Many cities tightly restrict the location and size of trailer parks, effectively limiting the choices of low-income families and undermining access to affordable housing. Second, we should extend the liberal land-use regulations common in trailer parks to site-built homes and apartments. Besides needlessly restricting the housing supply, conventional land-use restrictions undermine the traditional urban development. Finally, we should respect the complex orders that organize urban life, orders often visible only to members of the community. Where policymakers deem top-down regulation necessary, it should be designed to support rather than replace emergent orders that low-income communities have developed over time. When we stop treating low-income communities as objects of scorn, to be subjected to top-down, paternalistic planning, we might find that we have a lot to learn from them.

 

Follow me on Twitter at @mnolangray.

by Nolan Gray at April 21, 2016 03:45 PM

Daniel Lemire's blog

The powerful hacker culture

In my post the hacker culture is winning, I observed that the subculture developed in the software industry is infecting the wider world. One such visible culture shift is the concept of “version update”. In the industrial era, companies would design a phone, produce it and ship it. There might be a new type of phone the following year, but whatever you bought is what you got. In some sense, both politically and economically, the industrial era was inspired by the military model. “You have your orders!”

Yet, recently, a car company, Tesla, released an update so that all its existing cars acquired new functions (self-driving on highways). You simply could not even have imagined such an update in the industrial era.

It is an example of what I called innovation without permission, a feature of the hacker culture. It is an expression of the core defining hacker characteristic: playfulness and irreverence. Hackers will install Linux on the latest PlayStation even if Sony forbid it and made it impossible. Why would any team invest months of work on such a futile project?

What is unique to hackers is that displays of expertise have surpassed mere functionality to take a life of their own. Though my colleagues in the “Arts” often roll their eyes when I point it out, the hackers are the true subversive artists of the post-industrial era.

The hacker culture has proven its strength. We got Chelsea Manning’s and Julian Assange’s WikiLeaks, the somewhat scary underground work by Anonymous, Edward Snowden’s leak, the Panama papers and so forth. Aaron Swartz scared the establishment so much that they sought to put him behind bars for life merely because he downloaded academic articles.

You might object that many of these high-profile cases ended with the hackers being exiled or taken down… but I think it is fair to say that people like Aaron Swartz won the culture war. As a whole, more people, not fewer, are siding with the hackers. Regarding the Panama Papers, there were some feeble attempts to depict the leak as a privacy violation, but it no longer carries weight as an argument. TV shows increasingly depict hackers as powerful (and often rightful) people (e.g., House of Cards, The Good Wife, and Homeland).

Who is winning ground do you think?

What makes the hacker culture strong?

  • Hackers control the tools. Google, Microsoft and Apple have powerful CEOs, but they need top-notch hackers to keep the smartphones running. Our entire culture is shaped by how these hackers think through our tools.

    The government might be building up fantastic cyberweapons, but what the Snowden incident proved is that this may only give more power to the hackers. You know who has access to all your emails? Software hackers.

    Our tools have come to reflect the hacker culture. They are more and more playful and irreverent. We now have CEOs posting on Twitter using 140 characters. No “sincerely yours”, no corporate logo.

  • Hackers are rich with time and resources. Most companies need hackers, but they can’t really tell what the best ones are up to. How do you think we ended up with Linux running most of our Internet infrastructure? It is not the result of central planning or a set of business decisions. It happened with hackers were toying with Linux while the boss was looking. When you have employees stacking crates, it is easy for an industrial-age boss to direct them. How do you direct extremely smart people who are typing on keyboards?

    Apparently, Linus Torvalds work in his bathrobe at home. He spends a lot of time swearing at other people on posting boards. He can afford all of that because it is impossible to tell Linus what to do.

I don’t think it is mere coincidence if the powerful people are embracing the hacker culture. I could kid and point out that the true hackers may not represent many people, they may not formally hold much wealth, but they metaphorically control the voting machines and hold all the incriminating pictures. But rather, I think that smart people realize that the hacker culture might also be exactly what we need to prosper in the post-industrial era. The military approach is too crude. We don’t need more factories. We don’t need more tanks. But we sure can use smarter software. And that’s ultimately where the hackers take their power: they put results into your hands.

by Daniel Lemire at April 21, 2016 02:29 PM

Zippy Catholic

How liars come to believe their own lies

At Cane Caldo’s blog commenter Bruce writes:

There’s another dynamic here. Pro-lifers strongly identify with their role of saving individual babies. I think they believe they can save more babies by going easy [on women] and changing their hearts.

Agreed. It isn’t just a one-off situation of hostage taking: it is an ongoing process of hostage-taking with no end in sight, and if the hostage takers are not appeased then more hostages are going to die.

This leads some ‘hostage negotiators’ (pro lifers) initially into lying to the hostage takers about their real views and their long-term intentions. In reality the hostage-taking murderesses ought to get the gallows or at least the asylum; but if we actually say that then we will lose more hostages right now and in the next round of hostage taking.

So the pro life movement feels like it has to lie, and feels justified in doing so.

After a while though the hostage negotiators start to believe their own BS, out of habit and because they do not want to think of themselves as liars.

And that is how everyone ends up in favor of legal abortion, including the mainstream pro-life movement.

UPDATE/NOTE: It should perhaps be emphasized that this dynamic applies to some pro-lifers.  Other pro-lifers are just feminists, with all that that implies.  The dead babies are ultimately just a price paid for female emancipation, and while we’d like to stop the baby-killing we aren’t willing to call feminism into question in order to do so.


by Zippy at April 21, 2016 02:18 PM

The Art of Non-Conformity

There’s Always a New Trick to Learn

Colin Furze – Inside The Mind Of An Inventor from Beazknees

“The great thing about a world record is that it gives meaning to a mundane task.

I don’t worry too much about people emulating me because people who have the get-up-and-go to do something like this usually have the common sense to know when something’s going wrong.

It’s a good time to be an inventor. If people want to learn to do something, they can easily get the information where before it was quite hard.

There’s always a new trick to learn. There’s always something you can do bigger and better.”

###

by Chris Guillebeau at April 21, 2016 01:49 PM

Justin Taylor

Why N.D. Wilson Wants to Scare Your Children

Outlaws-of-TimeBestselling children’s author N.D. Wilson has a new book out: Outlaws of Time: The Legend of Sam Miracle, the first in a new series. Written for ages 8-12 (grades 3-7), the 336-page hardcover is on sale from Amazon for under $10.

In a new piece for The Atlantic, Wilson writes:

I write violent stories. I write dark stories. I write them for my own children, and I write them for yours. And when the topic comes up with a radio host or a mom or a teacher in a hallway, the explanation is simple. Every kid in every classroom, every kid in a bunk bed frantically reading by flashlight, every latchkey kid and every helicoptered kid, every single mortal child is growing into a life story in a world full of dangers and beauties. Every one will have struggles and ultimately, every one will face death and loss.

There is absolutely a time and a place for The Pokey Little Puppy and Barnyard Dance, just like there’s a time and a place for footie pajamas. But as children grow, fear and danger and terror grow with them, courtesy of the world in which we live and the very real existence of shadows. The stories on which their imaginations feed should empower a courage and bravery stronger than whatever they are facing. And if what they are facing is truly and horribly awful (as is the case for too many kids), then fearless sacrificial friends walking their own fantastical (or realistic) dark roads to victory can be a very real inspiration and help.

With five children of my own (currently aged between 6 and 14), I live within a perfect focus group. Like many parents and teachers and librarians, I often look into a pair of eyes and hear the question, “What should I read next?” At any given moment, a dozen books are being consumed in our home: My kids are off wandering in Narnia or Middle Earth, making friends with Anne of Green Gables and The Penderwicks, exploring “The Wingfeather Saga” or the vivid pages and volumes of Amulet. Stories are being shared, told, and revisited all the time in our house, and when I venture out on tour or into schools, I meet thousands of kids who are off on the same fictional journeys as my own.

Overwhelmingly, in my own family and far beyond, the stories that land with the greatest impact are those where darkness, loss, and danger (emotional or physical) is a reality. But the goal isn’t to steer kids into stories of darkness and violence because those are the stories that grip readers. The goal is to put the darkness in its place.

Later in the piece:

I’m not interested in stories that sear terrifying images or monsters or villains into young minds—enough of those exist in the real world, and plenty of others will grow in children’s imaginations without any help. I am interested in telling stories that help prepare living characters for tearing those monsters down.

I don’t write horror. But I do write stories about terrified sheltered kids and fatherless kids and kids with the ghosts of abuse in their pasts. Those kids encounter horrors—witches and swamp monsters, black magical doors and undying villains, mad scientists and giant cheese-loving snapping turtles. Those kids feel real pain, described in real ways. They feel real loss. They learn that the truest victory comes from standing in the right place and doing the right thing against all odds, even if doing the right thing means losing everything. Even if doing the right thing means death. My characters live in worlds that are fundamentally beautiful and magical, just like ours, in worlds that are broken and brutal, just like ours. And, when characters live courageously and sacrificially, good will ultimately triumph over evil.

As children grow, fear and danger and terror grow with them, courtesy of the world in which we live and the very real existence of shadows.

I’m not trying to con kids into optimism or false confidence. I really believe this stuff. My view of violence and victory in children’s stories hinges entirely on my faith. Samson lost his eyes and died . . . but he has new eyes in the resurrection. Israel was enslaved in Egypt, but God sent a wizard far more powerful than Gandalf to save His people. Christ took the world’s darkness on his shoulders and died in agony. But then . . . Easter.

In the end, good wins. Always.

You can read the whole thing here.

For some more quotes along this line, see the following:

It is through hearing stories about wicked stepmothers, lost children, good but misguided kings, wolves that suckle twin boys, youngest sons who receive no inheritance but must make their own way in the world and eldest sons who waste their inheritance on riotous living and go into exile to live with the swine that children learn or mislearn both what a child and what a parent is, what the cast of characters may be in the drama into which they have been born and what the ways of the world are. Deprive children of stories and you leave them unscripted, anxious stutterers in their actions as in their words.

—Alasdair MacIntyre, After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory, 3d ed. (University of Notre Dame Press, 2007), 216.

Fairy tales, then, are not responsible for producing in children fear, or any of the shapes of fear; fairy tales do not give the child the idea of the evil or the ugly; that is in the child already, because it is in the world already. Fairy tales do not give the child his first idea of bogey. What fairy tales give the child is his first clear idea of the possible defeat of bogey. The baby has known the dragon intimately ever since he had an imagination. What the fairy tale provides for him is a St. George to kill the dragon.
—G. K. Chesteron, “The Red Angel” (1909)

The fantasies did not deceive me: the school stories did. All stories in which children have adventures and successes which are possible, in the sense that they do not break the laws of nature, but almost infinitely improbable, are in more danger than the fairy tales of raising false expectations.

. . . Do fairy tales teach children to retreat into a world of wish-fulfillment—‘fantasy’ in the technical psychological sense of the word—instead of facing the problems of the real world? Now it is here that the problem becomes subtle. Let us again lay the fairy tale side by side with the school story or any other story which is labeled a ‘Boy’s Book’ or a ‘Girl’s Book’, as distinct from a ‘Children’s Book’. There is no doubt that both arouse, and imaginatively satisfy, wishes. We long to go through the looking glass, to reach fairy land. We also long to be the immensely popular and successful schoolboy or schoolgirl, or the lucky boy or girl who discovers the spy’s plot or rides the horse that none of the cowboys can manage.

But the two longings are very different.

The second, especially when directed on something so close as school life, is ravenous and deadly serious. Its fulfillment on the level of imagination is in very truth compensatory: we run to it from the disappointments and humiliations of the real world: it sends us back to the real world undividedly discontented. For it is all flattery to the ego. The pleasure consists in picturing oneself the object of admiration.

The other longing, that for fairy land, is very different. In a sense a child does not long for fairy land as a boy longs to be the hero of the first eleven. Does anyone suppose that he really and prosaically longs for all the dangers and discomforts of a fairy tale?—really wants dragons in contemporary England? It is not so. It would be much truer to say that fairy land arouses a longing for he knows not what. It stirs and troubles him (to his life-long enrichment) with the dim sense of something beyond his reach and, far from dulling or emptying the actual world, gives it a new ‘dimension of depth. He does not despise real woods because he has read of enchanted woods: the reading makes all real woods a little enchanted. This is a special kind of longing. The boy reading the school story of the type I have in mind desires success and is unhappy (once the book is over) because he can’t get it: the boy reading the fairy tale desires and is happy in the very fact of desiring. For his mind has not been concentrated on himself, as it often is in the more realistic story.

—C. S. Lewis, “On Three Ways of Writing for Children,” in Of Other Worlds: Essays and Stories (1946)

So this is a story about light and goodness and Truth with a capital T. It’s about beauty, and resurrection, and redemption. But for those things to ring true in a child’s heart, the storyteller has to be honest. He has to acknowledge that sometimes when the hall light goes out and the bedroom goes dark, the world is a scary place. He has to nod his head to the presence of all the sadness in the world; children know it’s there from a very young age, and I wonder sometimes if that’s why babies cry. He has to admit that sometimes characters make bad choices, because every child has seen their parent angry or irritable or deceitful-even the best people in our lives are capable of evil.

But of course the storyteller can’t stop there. He has to show in the end there is a Great Good in the world (and beyond it). Sometimes it is necessary to paint the sky black in order to show how beautiful is the prick of light. Gather all the wickedness in the universe into its loudest shriek and God hears it as a squeak at best. And that is a comforting thought. When a child reads the last sentence of my stories, I hope he or she drifts to sleep with a glow in their hearts and a warmth in their bones, believing that all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.

—Andrew Peterson, Note to Parents about the Wingfeather Saga series

Kids know—they instinctively know—that they’re living in a universe in which something’s gone awry. It’s not our job—as parents, or as Sunday school teachers—to disengage that. It’s our job to come in an to provide an answer to that. Yeah, you’re living in an enchanted world. Yeah, you’re living in a haunted world. You’re living in a world haunted by demonic powers. That’s exactly right—what you deeply fear is indeed the case. . . . Your worrying about the monster under the bed isn’t unreasonable; there’s a monster under the fabric of the cosmos. Instead, we give them a story that provides the only comfort that really is lasting comfort; it’s a comfort that the enemies have been defeated.

—Russell Moore

On children’s literature and moral imagination in general, see:

by Justin Taylor at April 21, 2016 10:11 AM

Table Titans

Tales: Socratic Oath

I have two hard rules as a DM. I do not typically share them with players, but I believe other DMs might find them interesting.

My first rule: Never kill a first level character.

This stems from the very first time I played D&D (AD&D 2nd Ed) and was quickly indoctrinated to what bad DMing…

Read more

April 21, 2016 07:00 AM

The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

9 Things You Should Know About Harriet Tubman

Article by: Joe Carter

On Wednesday, U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew announced that Harriet Tubman would be replacing President Andrew Jackson on the front of the $20 bill. Here are nine things you should know about the legendary civil rights leader.

1. Harriet Tubman didn’t become “Harriet Tubman” until her mid-20s. She was originally born a slave named Araminta Ross on a plantation in Maryland’s Eastern Shore. The surname Tubman comes from her first husband, John Tubman, a free black man, and after marrying, she adopted the name “Harriet” after her mother: Harriet Ross.

2. A few years after she married, Tubman and two of her brothers initially escaped from slavery. However, when her brothers returned (one of them had recently become a father) she returned with them to the plantation. She would later escape again with the help of the Underground Railroad, a network of secret routes and safe houses used by abolitionists. Tubman later recalled how she felt upon arriving a free woman in Pennsylvania:

When I found I had crossed that line, I looked at my hands to see if I was the same person. There was such a glory over everything; the sun came like gold through the trees, and over the fields, and I felt like I was in Heaven.

3. Since none of Tubman’s family was with her in Pennsylvania (her husband, John, stayed behind and would later remarry another woman), she returned on several trips to help lead her relatives to freedom. Over the next 15 years she would, with the help of others in the Underground Railroad, lead approximately 70 slaves out of their captivity. Her efforts in the dangerous undertaking earned her the nickname “Moses” by abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, who compared her to the Hebrew leader who lead his people out of slavery in Egypt.

4. By the late 1850s, Tubman had gained renown in the abolitionist community. J. W. Loguen, a bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion church, said of her, “Among slaves she is better known than the Bible, for she circulates more freely.” Loguen introduced Tubman to the controversially violent abolitionist John Brown, who connected her to other influential leaders in the movement. Brown once introduced Tubman by saying, “I bring you one of the best and bravest persons on the continent—General Tubman, we call her.” Tubman would go on to become a powerful speaker for the antislavery movement.

5. During the Civil War, Tubman served the Union Army as a spy, helping map out areas of South Carolina. She became the only woman to lead men into battle during the Civil War when she guided a nighttime raid at Combahee Ferry in June 1863. While under fire, Tubman’s group freed more than 700 slaves from neighboring plantations. Both before and after her work as a spy she also served as a nurse and cook for the Army. Despite her service, Tubman never received a regular salary and was denied an official military pension. Tubman later became the beneficiary of military benefits, but only as the wife of an “official” veteran, her second husband, Nelson Davis.

6. After the Civil War Tubman became involved in other social reform movements, including temperance, women’s rights, and universal suffrage. Tubman once gave a speech alongside suffragette leader Susan B. Anthony and was introduced at the event as the “great Black liberator.” When a friend asked Tubman if women should have the right to vote she responded, “I’ve suffered enough to believe it.”

7. At a young age, Tubman suffered a traumatic head injury that caused her to have crippling headaches and disabling epileptic seizures. But it also gave her powerful visions, which, as a lifelong devout Christian, she attributed to God. The abolitionist Thomas Garrett once said about Tubman,

I never met with any person, of any color, who had more confidence in the voice of God, as spoken direct to her soul. She frequently told me that she talked with God, and he talked to her every day of her life . . . she said she never ventured only where God sent her, and her faith in the Supreme Power was truly great.

8. Throughout her life Tubman remained either in poverty or on the verge of destitution. She managed to scrape by on her labor, her husband’s pension, and donations from admirers. According to one biographer, she “never drew for herself more than 20 days’ rations” during the four years she labored during the war. Instead, she supported herself by selling pies, gingerbread, and root beer to soldiers. After the war, she used her reputation to help raise $2,000 on a scheme that turned out to be a con. Tubman had hoped to use the proceeds to open a home for black people but was instead attacked, bound, and gagged by the con men. Wisconsin Congressman Gerry W. Hazelton introduced legislation in 1874 that Tubman be paid “the sum of $2,000 for services rendered by her to the Union Army as scout, nurse, and spy,” but the bill was defeated.

9. From the proceeds of a biography written by a supporter, Tubman was able to buy a property with two buildings on 26 acres near her home in Auburn, New York. She later deeded the land to the African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Zion Church, to be used as a home for the elderly (which she wanted to be named John Brown Hall). At the time she attended the mostly white Central Presbyterian Church, but she later became active in the A.M.E. church, where her husband was a trustee. In 1908, the A.M.E. Zion regional conference voted to take an annual collection for the maintenance of what was now called the Harriet Tubman Home for the Aged. Tubman herself was the only female member on a board of trustees dominated by pastors. By 1911, she was so ill and impoverished that she was admitted to the home named after her. She died in 1913, with her last words being, “I go to prepare a place for you.”

Other articles in this series:

Autism • Seventh-day Adventism • Justice Antonin Scalia (1936–2016) • Female Genital Mutilation • Orphans • Pastors • Global Persecution of Christians (2015 Edition) • Global Hunger • National Hispanic Heritage Month • Pope Francis • Refugees in America • Margaret Sanger • Confederate Flag Controversy • Elisabeth Elliot • Animal Fighting • Mental Health • Prayer in the Bible • Same-sex Marriage • Genocide • Church Architecture • Auschwitz and Nazi Extermination Camps • Boko Haram • Adoption • Military Chaplains • Atheism • Intimate Partner Violence • Rabbinic Judaism • Hamas • Male Body Image Issues • Mormonism • Islam • Independence Day and the Declaration of Independence • Anglicanism • Transgenderism • Southern Baptist Convention • Surrogacy • John Calvin • The Rwandan Genocide • The Chronicles of Narnia • The Story of Noah • Fred Phelps and Westboro Baptist Church • Pimps and Sex Traffickers • Marriage in America • Black History Month • The Holocaust • Roe v. Wade • Poverty in America • Christmas • The Hobbit • Council of Trent • C.S. Lewis • Halloween and Reformation Day • Casinos and Gambling • Prison Rape • 6th Street Baptist Church Bombing • 9/11 Attack Aftermath • Chemical Weapons • March on Washington • Duck Dynasty • Child Brides • Human Trafficking • Scopes Monkey Trial • Social Media • Supreme Court's Same-Sex Marriage Cases • The Bible • Human Cloning • Pornography and the Brain • Planned Parenthood • Boston Marathon Bombing • Female Body Image Issues • Islamic State

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

by Joe Carter at April 21, 2016 05:10 AM

5 Reasons Why the New Calvinism Is Worth Supporting

Article by: Jeffrey K. Jue

Westminster Theological Seminary (WTS) hosted a faculty panel at T4G last week, as we did at TGC15 last year. I had the privilege to participate in both panels. It was my first time at these conferences and a great opportunity to see up close the New Calvinist movement. It was both exciting and encouraging to see how these conferences are providing rich biblical teaching about the truths of the gospel.

With the events of this past week fresh in my mind, I want to share five reasons why the New Calvinism is worth supporting.

1. It focuses on encouraging pastors.

Despite attendance being capped in January, 10,000 people attended this year’s T4G, with the majority being pastors. As the organizers celebrated its 10th anniversary, they reminded everyone that this conference began with the desire to encourage and strengthen pastors. (TGC conferences have a bit of a broader scope but seek to model expositional preaching for pastors in its plenary addresses.) 

The work of pastoral ministry is vital for the church, so the continual training of pastors is too. At WTS we have the opportunity to begin pastors’ training, but their training shouldn’t stop after graduation. Pastors must continue to learn and grow as they press on in their duty to feed and shepherd God’s flock.  

2. It emphasizes the need for sound, scriptural theology.

Listening to the plenary speakers last week, I was impressed by their desire to ground everything they said in Scripture. Virtually every point made was supported by careful exegesis. This is crucial, since both the authority and power of preaching comes not from the one who preaches, but from Scripture alone.

Likewise, the speakers didn’t shy away from unfolding substantive doctrines that arise from Scripture. They often quoted voices from the past to help explain and illuminate these doctrines. Great theological minds from church history continue to be a treasure for the church today. I believe last week marked the first time I’d heard a pastor quote Francis Turretin in a sermon!

3. It recognizes the diversity of the North American evangelical church.

By God’s grace, the evangelical church in North America is becoming more racially diverse. While at times this diversity has caused tension, there is also the opportunity for the gospel to move us forward. Breakout sessions at T4G discussed the challenges and opportunities for the Hispanic, African American, and Asian American churches. I participated in the session exploring the future of the Asian American church. It was a time of rich reflection and discussion as we look to the future work of the gospel in North America. I’m likewise encouraged to see that TGC’s women’s conference this summer had made a concerted effort to seek substantial ethnic diversity among its speakers.

4. It promotes solid Christian writing.

B. B. Warfield (1851–1921) described pastoral ministry as a “learned profession.” He observed, “The man without learning, no matter what other gifts he may be endowed, is unfit for its duties.”

Warfield was referring to the education every pastor must have—one that doesn’t end after you receive your seminary degree. A pastor must continue to learn. And Christian writings, in books and other forms, are some of his most important tools. It was wonderful to see all the solid books available for sale and the 160,000 given away for free. The value of such books for pastoral ministry cannot be overestimated. Imprints from ministries like TGC and 9Marks have sought to bolster church leaders from various angles.

5. It is committed to the Reformed tradition.

The theme of this year’s T4G was “We Are Protestant: The Reformation at 500,” and the theme of TGC’s 2017 National Conference will be “No Other Gospel: Reformation 500 and Beyond” (April 3 to 5 in Indianapolis; browse list of speakers and talks, and register here). Reformed theology is at the heart of WTS, and it’s what we’ve been teaching since J. Gresham Machen founded the seminary in 1929. So it’s a great encouragement to partner with others who share our commitment to the Reformed tradition.

In 2014 John Piper gave a series of lectures at WTS on the New Calvinism. At one point he stated, “There would be no New Calvinism without Westminster Seminary.” He was referring to the numerous influential books written by WTS faculty members. Perhaps it was an overstatement, but Piper’s comment reminded me of the historical connection between WTS and the New Calvinism.

To Serve the Local Church

Just as WTS is an independant organization with a confessional identity wanting to serve the church, the same is true of sister ministries like T4G and TGC.

And while we have some differences among us, the New Calvinist movement—as represented this week by T4G—is an opportunity to share the rich truths of the Reformation with yet another generation of pastors and churches.

Jeffrey K. Jue (Ph.D, University of Aberdeen) is provost and Stephen Tong Associate Professor of Reformed Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary. He is the author of Heaven Upon Earth: Joseph Mede (1586-1638) and the Legacy of Millenarianism. You can follow him on Twitter.

by Jeffrey K. Jue at April 21, 2016 05:03 AM

Help Me Teach the Bible: Lee Gatiss on Malachi

Article by: Staff

In this episode of Help Me Teach the Bible, I talk with Lee Gatiss about the final book in the Old Testament, the book of Malachi. Gatiss teaches 15th- to 17th-century church history to undergraduates at Cambridge University, is an adjunct lecturer in church history at Union School of Theology in Wales, and is director of Church Society. Gatiss is senior editor of The NIV Proclamation Bible and is the author of numerous books including his recent bookThe Forgotten Cross.

Resources for teaching the book of Malachi:

You can stream the episode here. Subscribe to this podcast in iTunes or on other devices to get this and subsequent interviews in the Help Me Teach the Bible series with Nancy Guthrie. Help Me Teach the Bible is now available on Stitcher.

Editors’ note: You can hear Nancy Guthrie at our 2016 National Women’s Conference, June 16 to 18 in Indianapolis. In addition to teaching a workshop on suffering, Guthrie will interview John Piper about how to teach the book of 1 Peter. Register today!

by Staff at April 21, 2016 05:01 AM

Jane Eyre and Our Age of Authenticity

Article by: Karen Swallow Prior

Today marks the 200th birthday of Charlotte Bronte, born April 21, 1816. The author of four novels, poetry, and a number of unfinished works, Bronte is best known for her novel Jane Eyre.

Beloved by countless women readers and Hollywood filmmakers, Jane Eyre is sometimes dismissed as mere pulp fiction for the literary set. But beneath the surface-level romance, Jane Eyre offers a profoundly philosophical portrait of the modern self. In fact, the novel embodies to a remarkable degree the modern quest for self-creation described by Charles Taylor in The Ethics of Authenticity.

Quest for the Authentic

Authenticity as a moral value emerged in the late 18th century, rooted in Enlightenment subjectivity. Authenticity was connected to “self-determining freedom,” another moral value of the age, which Taylor describes as the impulse to “decide for myself what concerns me, rather than being shaped by external influences.”

Not coincidentally, it was also around this time that the novel developed as a literary genre—a form expressive of modernity, particularly individual autonomy and subjectivity. Bronte’s 1847 publication of Jane Eyre marks a point at which the rise of the novel and the rise of the modern notion of the self converge.

Centered on the heroine’s quest for her authentic self, Jane Eyre depicts what Taylor calls “the massive subjective turn of modern culture, a new form of inwardness, in which we come to think of ourselves as beings with inner depths.” Before the modern age, being “in touch with some source—God, say, or the Idea of the Good—was considered essential to full being.” The modern shift, however, replaced this external source of authority with the notion that “the source we have to connect with is deep in us.”

Finding Herself through Finding Her Voice

Jane Eyre reflects this inward turn through masterful use of first-person narration—Bronte’s primary contribution to the novel form. In fact, most critics and readers agree Jane’s voice—not the overly romantic plot—makes an otherwise unrealistic story so compelling and believable. Her powerful voice illustrates Taylor’s observation about the “dialogical character” of the human condition in the modern age:

We become full human agents, capable of understanding ourselves, and hence of defining an identity, through our acquisition of rich human languages of expression. . . . No one acquires the languages needed for self-definition on their own. We are introduced to them through exchanges with others who matter to us.

Jane comes to find her own voice—and therefore her authentic self—through just such a dialogical process: first through verbal (as well as physical) conflict with her cruel aunt and cousins; then through the first true Christian she befriends, her schoolmate Helen Burns; followed by spirited repartee with her employer, superior, and eventually beloved, Mr. Rochester; but most significantly, with her inner self as she struggles to discover and define who she really is.

Jane’s journey—from being an orphan abused by a cruel aunt, to being a student at a deplorable charity school, to being a lowly governess in love with a wealthy employer—is one in which she seeks love from others, but not at the cost of sacrificing her individual identity or self-respect. Hence Jane embodies modernity’s “new importance to being true to myself” as a “certain way of being human that is my way . . . not in imitation of anyone else’s.”

Authenticity Turned Outward

This search for originality—particularly by a female character, and a strong, singular one at that—alarmed some of Bronte’s contemporaries. One review declared that the depiction of a “natural heart” is the “great and crying mischief of the book.” A few years after its publication, another critic fretted, “The most alarming revolution of modern times has followed the invasion of Jane Eyre.” This critic seems to have rightly perceived that a quest for self-creation like the one Jane undertakes courts radical autonomy. And, as Taylor explains, a quest for the authentic self detached from “horizons of significance” outside the self leads to relativism and, ultimately, insignificance:

The agent seeking significance in life, trying to define him- or herself meaningfully, has to exist in a horizon of important questions. That is what is self-defeating in modes of contemporary culture that concentrate on self-fulfillment in opposition to the demands of society, or nature, which shut out history and the bonds of solidarity. . . . To shut out demands emanating beyond the self is precisely to suppress the conditions of significance, and hence to court trivialization.

But while authenticity and autonomy seem inextricable, they aren’t, as Jane’s character powerfully shows. Jane embodies Taylor’s notion of the genuine authenticity possible for the modern subject, one achieved only by looking outside the self. True self-fulfillment, Taylor explains, is derived “against the background of things that matter” with attention to “the demands of our ties with others”:

Only if I exist in a world in which history, or the demands of nature, or the needs of my fellow human beings, or the duties of citizenship, or the call of God, or something else of this order matters crucially, can I define an identity for myself that is not trivial. Authenticity is not the enemy of demands that emanate from beyond the self; it supposes such demands.

This is precisely the genuine authenticity Jane portrays.

Tempted and Tried

Throughout the novel, Jane is tempted to betray her true self by imitating the ways of others.  She’s tempted to imitate her beloved Christian friend Helen Burns by embracing Burns’s otherworldly stoicism. She’s tempted to imitate her cruel aunt by returning an unforgiving spirit. She’s tempted to imitate her cousin in marrying not for love but for service on the mission field. She’s tempted to imitate her beloved by compromising her Christian faith in order to remain with him. But, despite pain and struggle, Jane resists each of these temptations to be something other than her true self.

For unlike many subjects lionized in great modern literature, Jane’s true self is rooted in something outside herself. And that something is God. (Bronte was, after all, the daughter of a clergyman.) When Jane realizes that to be her authentic self she must choose between passion and principle, she determines:

I will keep the law given by God; sanctioned by man. I will hold to the principles received by me when I was sane, and not mad—as I am now. Laws and principles are not for the times when there is no temptation: they are for such moments as this, when body and soul rise in mutiny against their rigor; stringent are they; inviolate they shall be. If at my individual convenience I might break them, what would be their worth?

Jane’s self-determination does make her a modern, self-created subject. But because she turns outward rather than inward, she achieves the genuine authenticity Taylor describes. In using her sense of self and her moral agency to become the person God calls her to be, Jane achieves genuine authenticity and true freedom. And in portraying a character whose self-creation is rooted in something outside the self, Bronte offered a great gift to the modern world.

Two hundred years after her birth, Bronte’s gift is perhaps more timely than ever.

Editors’ note: Don’t miss our 2017 National Conference, April 3 to 5 in Indianapolis. Karen Swallow Prior will be leading a workshop on “The Virtues of Reading: How Great Books Cultivate Virtue and Promote the Good Life.” Register today!

Karen Swallow Prior is professor of English at Liberty University, research fellow with the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and a member of the Faith Advisory Council of the Humane Society of the United States. She is the author of Booked: Literature in the Soul of Me and Fierce Convictions—The Extraordinary Life of Hannah More: Poet, Reformer, Abolitionist.

by Karen Swallow Prior at April 21, 2016 05:00 AM

Workout: April 21, 2016

Strict presses 2-2-2-2-2 Helen 3 rounds of: Run 400 m 21 kettlebell swings (55/35 lb.) 12 pull-ups

by Mike at April 21, 2016 03:44 AM

Natural Running Center

Official Footwear of the Boston Marathon 2016 – The Human Foot

Monday I ran my 22nd Boston Marathon and as a 49yo veteran of this 120 year old event the goal now is fun, sharing the experience with colleagues and friends, and advance the science of how we have evolved to run. Every year there are new special “Boston Edition” shoes from every manufacturer. So this […]

by MarkC at April 21, 2016 02:43 AM

April 20, 2016

Karen De Coster

Book Borrowers’ Prison

Okay, so these folks are not good at organizing their lives enough to return library books, but they were hauled off to court for charges of “Failure to Return Rental Property.”

The couple thinks it’s unfair that they never would have been charged, if they had each just paid a $105 “diversion fee” to the Lenawee County Economic Crimes Unit in addition to the monies owed to the Tecumseh Public Library.

by Karen De Coster at April 20, 2016 08:54 PM

sacha chua :: living an awesome life

Keep Emacs alive through X crashes by running it in the background with –daemon

I periodically have to kill and restart my X server when it freezes. I probably have the wrong configuration, since it starts off in low-graphics mode until I manually restart the graphical login manager (I’m using sddm). Anyway, since it’s been hard to debug and fix that issue, I figured I’d address the part that really bugs me when I restart X: dealing with ungraceful Emacs exits. M-x recover-session does a decent job of restoring my modified files and I usually remember to call it from the scratch screen, but sometimes I forget, and then I end up losing changes.

I started taking advantage of the fact that I used (server-start) to enable other Emacs clients to connect to the same process. Whenever I needed to restart X, I’d first switch to a console, use emacsclient -c to connect to Emacs, and use M-x save-buffers-kill-emacs to close my Emacs neatly. Still, starting my Emacs from X meant that I had to restart Emacs each time I restarted X.

It turns out that you can run Emacs as a background process with emacs --daemon and then connect to it with emacsclient -c. When I did that, though, the emacsclient frame didn’t have my color theme applied. This after-make-frame-functions addition fixes that:

(defun my/setup-color-theme ()
  (interactive)
  (color-theme-solarized-dark)
  (set-face-foreground 'secondary-selection "darkblue")
  (set-face-background 'secondary-selection "lightblue")
  (set-face-background 'font-lock-doc-face "black")
  (set-face-foreground 'font-lock-doc-face "wheat")
  (set-face-background 'font-lock-string-face "black")
  (set-face-foreground 'org-todo "green")
  (set-face-background 'org-todo "black"))
(add-hook 'after-make-frame-functions
          (lambda (frame)
            (select-frame frame)
            (my/setup-color-theme)))

Once I got emacs --daemon and emacsclient -c working to my satisfaction, I decided to go one step further and get it to run automatically when I start my computer. I tried the init script at https://www.emacswiki.org/emacs/EmacsAsDaemon . My Linux install uses systemd, so enabling the init script resulted in a message about a missing service file. I removed the init script and created this ~/.config/systemd/user/emacs.service instead:

[Unit]
Description=Emacs: the extensible, self-documenting text editor

[Service]
Type=forking
ExecStart=/usr/local/bin/emacs --daemon
ExecStop=/usr/local/bin/emacsclient --eval "(progn (setq kill-emacs-hook 'nil) (kill-emacs))"
Restart=always
TimeoutStartSec=0

[Install]
WantedBy=default.target

and then I ran these commands as my regular user account:

systemctl --user enable emacs
systemctl --user start emacs

Then I changed the emacs in my ~/.xsession to emacsclient -c, so that a new X session would connect to the existing session instead of starting a new one. That way, Emacs automatically started as my user whenever I restarted the computer, and I connected to that process when I started X.

Still, restarting X caused the Emacs daemon to crash. This is a GTK-related bug which emacs --daemon warns you about. I recompiled Emacs using ./configure --with-x-toolkit=lucid; make; make install. It seems to work fine now; I can ungracefully restart X, and my Emacs stays the same. Bonus: because Emacs gets initialized when I start my computer and all I need to do is connect to that process, when I log in, it feels like Emacs starts up really quickly.

Final touches: I noticed that TRAMP couldn’t find my SSH keyring, so it got stuck waiting for my passphrase when I tried running remote scripts in Org Babel like so:

#+begin_src sh :dir /sacha@direct.sachachua.com:~
perl library-new.pl Business
#+end_src

Because my SSH socket looks like /tmp/ssh-BLAHBLAHBLAH/agent.PROCESSID, the SSH_AUTH_SOCK setting (Environment=SSH_AUTH_SOCK=%t/keyring/ssh) described on EmacsWiki didn’t work for me. This snippet from https://github.com/nhoffman/.emacs.d/blob/master/init.org worked, though.

(defun my/ssh-refresh ()
  "Reset the environment variable SSH_AUTH_SOCK"
  (interactive)
  (let (ssh-auth-sock-old (getenv "SSH_AUTH_SOCK"))
    (setenv "SSH_AUTH_SOCK"
            (car (split-string
                  (shell-command-to-string
                   "ls -t $(find /tmp/ssh-* -user $USER -name 'agent.*' 2> /dev/null)"))))
    (message
     (format "SSH_AUTH_SOCK %s --> %s"
             ssh-auth-sock-old (getenv "SSH_AUTH_SOCK")))))
(my/ssh-refresh)

Also, emacs --daemon didn’t pick up the default browser I’d configured in KDE. Opening URL links from Org Mode started a separate Chromium process instead of using Google Chrome. I fixed that by switching from browse-url-default-browser to browse-url-generic, like so:

(setq browse-url-generic-program "google-chrome")
(setq browse-url-browser-function 'browse-url-generic)

Let’s see how this works!

The post Keep Emacs alive through X crashes by running it in the background with –daemon appeared first on sacha chua :: living an awesome life.

by Sacha Chua at April 20, 2016 08:32 PM