Thursday, March 31, 2011

Current Events

Obama’s Libya address (White House)
Virtual girlfriends? (ABC)

Pregnant tourists having American babies (NYT)

Ex-girlfriend testifies against Bonds (NYT)

Cat may leave Illinois (IBD)

Home prices near a double dip (CNN Money)
Pro-life laws decrease abortion (Wash Times)

Anti-abortion billboards feature Obama (Christian Post)

House passes voucher bill (NYT)

Obama statement on SOAR Act

School choice hope (Dick Armey)

School choice in DC (Heritage Foundation)

More on SOAR (Heritage Foundation)

What’s a congregation worth? (CT)

Gasoline up 100% under Obama (Wash Times)

No “Easter” in Ohio egg hunt (NBC)

AARP’s non-profit status in jeopardy (Fox News)

More hook-ups, more virgins (USA Today)

Q+A on Medical Marijuana law (AZR)

SD’s intrusion on women’s rights (NYT)

Take dip out of the ballgame (Bobby Valentine)

Democracy is messy (Nicholas Kristof)

Why I won’t vote to raise the debt limit (Marco Rubio)

Justices hear clean elections arguments (AZR)

Justices review AZ campaign finance law (NYT)

Banning DUI checkpoint apps (Fox News)

Does a breast-feeding doll go too far? (ABC)

Religion makes you fat (ABC)

4PM House passes SOAR Act

Although it’s uncertain what the future holds since this was only the House, yesterday on partisan lines, passed the SOAR act authorized $100 million over 5 years for tuition payments for schoolchildren in DC to go to private schools. The Senate is Democratic, so we’ll see, and Obama says he’s against it but probably won’t veto whatever compromise is worked out. If we can waste money on failing public schools in DC, why can’t we send some or all of that money to functioning private schools in DC instead, especially when the parents of the children so desperately want the access?

3PM Everybody gets welfare

People who like to look down their noses (whether rightly or not) at those who get obvious payments from the government like welfare, Social Security, or unemployment are often themselves beneficiaries of substantial government payments through tax-subsidized employer-provided health plans, home mortgage interest deductions, tax-free savings accounts, and many other fairly common programs (including of course dependency credits for children). So why is it that one form of government payment is an object of scorn but another (enjoyed by middle-class or upper-class taxpayers) isn’t? Great question!

2PM Woman sues TV station for broadcasting the wrong lottery numbers

According to the story, a woman watching the lottery numbers on TV saw her own picks displayed for a $250,000 prize, but the numbers were wrong. So she’s suing the station for $75,000 for inflicting emotional distress. According to her lawyer, the broadcast and rebroadcast of the wrong Mega Millions numbers went "beyond all possible bounds of decency, and were atrocious, and utterly intolerable in a civilized community." Yes, of course you should get 1/3 of an actual winning prize just for being misinformed that you had the actual winning prize. Well, there’s something atrocious and utterly intolerable in a civilized community going on here, but it’s not anything the television station did.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Wacky Wednesday--Home Ownership Is Smart

Note: Before reading the following arguments, please understand that they are not what I believe. On Wednesdays, I deliberately argue for wrong ideas, challenging my listeners to call and defend the obvious right answer, which is usually far harder than one would expect. This is a summary of what Wacky Andrew will be arguing, not a representation of what real Andrew believes.

You can’t go wrong in real estate. They aren’t making any more of it. o This is just false. o Oh, sure, the land itself isn’t expanding. o But the lion’s share of real estate value is precisely in the structure, not the land. o And this they most decidedly ARE making more of all the time. o In fact, the four main factors contributing to the recent real estate bubble were easy availability of money, speculation-driven frenzy in response to the rising price of real estate, fear-driven frenzy in response to the rising price of real estate, and construction frenzy in response to the rising price of real estate. o In other words, people seeing a profit to be made in building houses did so, vastly overhiring and overbuilding in the process, causing an overexpansion of supply which eventually was one major factor leading to the decimation of the market (in part). o If people just hadn’t built so much, the crash would not have been nearly so bad.

The IRS pays you to own a house because you get to deduct the mortgage interest. o So you’re going to pay $10,000 a year to the bank to get $2,000 a year from the government? o The sheer lunacy of this concept alone should worry you about your ability to discern a good from a bad investment. o Real estate is a terribly inflated market precisely because of all the distortions from the government and speculation.

When you rent, you might as well just throw money into the fire. o And just what do you think you’re doing with the non-principal portion of the mortgage payment? o Renting is a far more wise use of money precisely because you know exactly what you’re getting and whether it’s worth purchasing for its own sake. o Advantages of renting § Someone else does repairs. § How quickly can you move these days if you rent?

Real estate always goes up in value. o Do I really need to comment on this one? o Even if it seems to do so, why? § Increasing population § Constant belief in the increasing asset § Easy credit § What happens when boomers start selling their houses? Just like what happens when boomers start withdrawing money from their 401k AND when boomers aren’t paying into payroll taxes and Social Security anymore?

Banks invest in real estate, and they’re in the business of making money. o Banks invest in mortgages, which pay them a percentage, not in real estate. o The fact that it’s a mortgage only means the bank has an asset they can seize if you don’t pay. o Banks don’t invest in real estate. o Banks invest in mortgages backed by real estate. o It should be pretty clear to anyone that banks don’t want to own houses. o They want to own promises to pay interest on loans taken out to purchase houses. o WHO tells you that a home mortgage is a great investment!!!

You get to use someone else’s money to leverage your own investment o Leverage at such high rates 20:1 or 10:1 is a terrible reason to see the problems in this investment. o And you don’t get the returns you hope for PRECISELY because it’s so highly leveraged. o The hyper-leverage of it is a problem since there’s so little equity to protect you from a fall.

It must be a good investment if everyone else believes it is. o Der.

The interest rate is so low right now. o Yes, but how high is the interest rate compared with the savings yield, for instance. o And why is that?

Property taxes are so low right now. o And when the market comes back, what will they be?

The housing market is likely to come back significantly in the future. o Even if the market comes roaring back, how do you get ahead on the home you live in? o You’d have to downsize your home in order to capitalize on the investment, right?

A home is most American’s single largest investment o No doubt about that at all. o Does that make it good or really dangerous? o What about diversification? o The value of such a substantial investment is entirely subject to the vagaries of fluctuating markets. o What about don’t put all your eggs into one basement? o So a luxury item is now also an excellent source of revenue? o This would be one of the very few if only it were true.

It’s so easy to profit from real estate value growth. All you have to do is live in the asset. o Can’t fractionalize the asset by selling just some shares of it. o Because it’s an emotional and lifestyle investment, you’re primarily driven by these factors when it comes time to sell rather than the dispassionate analysis of it as a real investment asset. o And by living in the asset, don’t you mean paying all sorts of costs related to that?

CC--Christianese 7: God is Spirit

--We often think of this as meaning a ghost.
--But God is not a ghost.
--A ghost is in fact a monstrosity, a human soul missing its body. God isn’t missing anything, and certainly not a body.
--The Bible clearly tells us that God is Spirit.
--Not “a spirit,” but Spirit itself.
--So what does this mean?
--The word means (in part) breath, which is very closely aligned with the concept of being alive.
--So, God’s aliveness is a vital starting point.
--Although it seems obvious, God isn’t merely real, He is alive.
--This aliveness means He is a not merely some force or idea or mechanism or even a mere thing. He is a living God.
--But, the clear difference with God is that He is not a material lifeform.
--How could He be if He is real prior to all materiality itself?
--So, He is both immaterial and yet the source of all material, hence far more substantial than the mere matter we see around us.
--This means we do not and cannot encounter Him with our five senses.
--But this immediately presents us with a problem of comprehension. How can God be more real than things we touch and yet untouchable? How can we even comprehend what He is if we are told He is alive and yet the only template for comprehending life we have is embodied creatures?
--Well, yes. It’s not simple.
--But it does explain why we are warned against making images of God. Since His basic nature is not material, no material representation of Him can possibly be accurate. Their reductions, therefore, will only be misleading.
--And all this fits with what Jesus says when He compares God to wind, whose effects we see, but whose reality we do not see.
--We see the effects of God with our senses, and they were clearly given to us for this purpose, but we must not be surprised that we can’t see God directly since He is Spirit (wind, breath), not body.

4PM PostSecret 3

I’m sure this person does not mean by other employees, but rather by the customers. And it’s a profoundly accurate insight to realize that so much of the modern world puts people in a position to be treated as objects in so many different ways. How much of our treatment of especially low-paid employees would be truly immoral or bullying if there weren’t a structured expectation that this is normal or acceptable? However, the berating of such people by their superiors is certainly also a very serious concern. So the next time I interact with anyone, I need to be sure I’m continuing to treat them with the dignity of someone made in the image of God, regardless of how lowly society thinks they are because of their job.

3PM PostSecret 2

I actually think this is an incredibly healthy thing. At least potentially. Because it means he recognizes that a good marriage is far more valuable than a good job. But which one does our culture put more priority on? How much do we all say, “a good education is vital” and spend money and time toward that end so that someone can be well-employed (and other reasons, sure)? And how much do we say, “knowing how to be a good spouse and find a good spouse is vital” and devote an equivalent amount of time and effort to training toward that outcome? But the really fascinating thing here is that he seems to think this is a “secret” to be revealed or is something shameworthy, and that itself speaks volumes about the disturbed condition of our culture.

2PM Postsecret 1

Postsecret postcard: I never want to have kids because I never want my husband to love anyone more than me.

This is so completely understandable, and verges on being praiseworthy in its brutal honesty. However, there’s no real glimpse of recognition of how terribly counterproductive this is. And yet, I worry this is precisely the truth for many people. Marriage becomes a thing for its own sake rather than a place for giving life to the new most precious person you’ve ever known. I’m not saying I want this woman to have children. Such a selfish person might well be a horrible mother. But then again, discovering that having a child might give her all sorts of new reasons to fall even more in love with her husband as she watches him loving someone other than her might just transform her out of herself, an effect which becoming a parent often has.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

CC--Christianese: God's Perfection (Part 2)

--God doesn’t have any flaws, and there’s no way a being could be better than God. --Trying to make God more of something winds up making Him less elsewhere and overall. --God is a totality of attributes, not a particular attribute. --All of His major attributes (holiness, goodness, mercy, justice, e.g.) are things which He holds to their utmost possible degree. --But I think there’s a better way to think of God’s perfection than having certain attributes more fully than anyone else. It’s to think of God as being completely unneedy. --In other words, He is completely complete. --There is nothing God does not already possess in His Being that would improve Him or make Him any better than He already is. --There’s nothing missing, so to speak. --Keeping this in mind will prevent you from going off into all sorts of errors. For instance, God does not need humans. Instead, being completely satisfied in Himself for all of eternity, He creates us as a way of sharing His goodness with other beings, even though they are inferior to Him. --This means that God is not more or less glorified when He has people with Him than not. --But people often forget this when they say God created us because He needed our worship or our love. Oh, how small a god that horrible heresy depicts. --Sometimes it goes the other direction where people say God made us so He would have someone He could love. No, in the Trinity, God had a perfect community of other-love for all of eternity long before we ever showed up. --We don’t exist because God was filling some need. We exist because He was giving away gifts out of His perfect self-sufficiency.

Hudson river fish evolving in front of us?

The toxicity of the Hudson River has created a massively fast example of evolution, or so the headlines are saying. But as the stories explain, the mutation which allows some Tomcod to survive and reproduce was already present in a small percentage of the population prior to the sudden toxicity of the river. According to one article I saw, as much as 10% of the fish normally carry this gene variant. Before pollution, you have both kinds of fish. After pollution, you have only one kind (almost only). So, what you have in the end is a loss of complexity and variety, not a gain. Where’s the new thing that’s supposed to drive evolution forward? This is a classic blunder that evolutionists make in claiming it’s possible to see the creative power of evolution right in front of us.

Bumper Sticker: George W. Bush: The Perfect Candidate for Late-Term Abortion

I was flabbergasted and yet not surprised at all. What I found amazing was that this person was actively advocating the ex post facto preventative murder of a President. Now, coming from a liberal pro-abortion person (this person is advocating it, so it’s not pro-choice by definition), the idea actually seems fitting. This person is so indifferent to human life that the idea of advocating the murder of a President is no problem since advocating the important “right” of killing a late term child is acceptable. In a nutshell, I thought this was an impressively elegant admission of the anti-life hostility built into the position itself. The self-slander is so effective that I almost wonder if the person is pro-life in reality. Probably not.

Clothing company offers push-up bras for 7-year-olds

Abercrombie and Fitch recently chose to offer push-up bras for girls as young as 7. the response on CNN from a professor: “It gets young girls to think about themselves in sexual ways before that’s developmentally appropriate. It sends out really bad signals to adult men about young girls being appropriate sexual objects, objects of sexual desire for young men.” Really? When DOES that become appropriate? At what age does it become developmentally appropriate to sexually objectify yourself for men? These people are upset about doing so with young girls, but why aren’t they upset about doing it with any girls? The question isn’t whether push-up bras are appropriate for girls at that age. The question is whether they’re appropriate for any women at all.

Theological Tuesday

--Could Jesus go to a strip club?

--Should Arabic Bibles abandon the phrase “Son of God” for Jesus?

Monday, March 28, 2011

Ethics: Should Art/Movies Have Nudity?

Most of us are familiar with the discussions Evangelicals have about whether Christians should watch particular kinds of movies with sexual content or nudity. Another, slightly less common discussion topic would be whether Christians should look at artwork that includes nudity. But almost never asked would be whether the artist might be doing something very good in including that nudity in the art or movie to begin with. This is pretty universally assumed to be wrong. But is it? Is there any legitimate, God-glorifying purpose to nudity in art or movies? Moreover, perhaps the most challenging question to consider, can a Christian man or woman appear naked in a movie or pose for art without engaging in sin? I’m of course taking for granted in this discussion that pornography is a huge no-no. But what exactly distinguishes legitimate nudity in art (if there is any) from pornography?

CC--Christianese: God's Perfection (Part 1)

--When we say God is perfect, what do we mean.

--Well, obviously, this means there’s no defect with Him. But this is an incredibly inadequate way to describe things.

--By perfect, we mean that God is that Being than whom none more perfect can be imagined (to borrow from Anselm.

--We do sometimes think we could imagine a God who would be more perfect in some way than this one, but the problem is that such imaginings always lead to necessary defects in other areas of this imagined God’s nature.

--The resulting being would in fact be very imperfect. And it’s an excellent caution against having such thoughts to simply see how wrong we are on a consistent basis about things far less significant than the total nature of God.

--We look at things in the world and think, “Well, I would have done that differently, therefore God must be capable of doing it better like I would.” But it’s vital to realize that nothing that is done could have been done any better, or God would have done it.

--This view is satirized by Voltaire in Candide with the idea of Dr. Pangloss claiming that this is the best of all possible worlds, which Voltaire presumes a laughable absurdity. But this is indeed what Christians beleive. Any other world would be inferior in some way we can’t necessarily comprehend, which is exactly why we have this one.

Nissan testing exports for radioactivity.

Nissan has gotten “ahead of the urban myth” and begun testing its exports for measurable radioactivity, even though they don’t have facilities anywhere near the nuclear emergency. As expected, they’re not showing any sign of contamination. I don’t know what’s more troubling: that Nissan thinks Americans might be this dumb, or that they might actually be right about how dumb we are. The only question now is whether the scare-mongers will interpret this as evidence they know something and are trying to cover it up. If they didn’t test at all, that too would be evidence of either incompetence or a cover-up, right?

Stealing from a murderer?

Illinois Supreme Court recently heard arguments over whether the state can take $11,000 saved over nearly 30 years in prison by a convicted murderer earning $2 a day (!) working behind bars. Because he saved the money rather than spending it in the commissary, it an enticing target for a state with (like everyone) huge deficits, especially when they’ve spent $455,000 to incarcerate him. Under Illinois law, prisoners are liable for the costs of their incarceration, but the state usually only goes after them when they have sufficient assets, above the $10,000 threshold. Also, the state already extracts 3% (like the state income tax) from prisoners to cover costs. Although I’m sympathetic to the budgetary problems and the costs of jail, this is an ex post facto punishment, essentially punishing him again for having saved rather than spending his earnings. He’s due to be released in 2028, and this seems to really disincentivize work and thrift.

Where to armor surviving WWII bombers

Since this post is so well-crafted, I don’t want to be redundant by adding to it.

Friday, March 25, 2011

CC--Christianese--Sovereignty of God

--Sovereignty is a relatively antiquated term, but it really means someone who is supremely in control, a king in terms of authority over everything.
--So when we say God is Sovereign, we mean that He is the King of the Universe. Not merely that He is in charge of it but that He is fully entitled to this authority by virtue of the fact that He is solely responsible both for bringing this universe into being and continuing to make it exist by His Will. Hence, His Sovereignty is a direct result of the fact that He is the Creator and the Sustainer.
--Even so, there are three very different notions of the Sovereignty of God.
--The first is that god is not completely sovereign, but only mostly sovereign. There are things that exist alongside him and over which he does not have total control. This is a heretical view which Christians condemn, hence my non-capitalization of the terms.
--The second is that God is totally and completely sovereign over everything originally, but that He has granted away at least some of that sovereignty to men (and perhaps other beings) who are capable of thwarting His Will. He thus self-limits His Sovereignty for a possible variety of reasons. Many Christians hold this view, although few of them would feel comfortable saying it out loud quite this way because it sounds like a heresy in the sense that God has thus done the impossible in becoming not-God, even by His own choice. I agree with this criticism, but it is a view many people hold.
--The third concept of God’s Sovereignty is that not only is He by natural right as Creator and Sustainer the complete and utter King over all, He never abdicates any aspect of this authority and so everything that happens in the universe is a result of His Will, either actively by causing it to happen or passively by permitting it to happen. To what degree there is a difference between what He causes and what He permits is a matter of great dispute within Christianity.
--This third view is the standard Christian view of God’s Sovereignty.

Egypt dismantles state security torture

One of the neat new developments out of Egypt is the abolition of the old State Security Service, much like the KGB in the former Soviet Union. Involved in kidnapping and torture and the suppression of dissidents and opposition forces under Mubarak, the interim government has abolished it and the headquarters have been ransacked and the equipment of torture dismantled. Great news for human rights in Egypt!

A man with 82 Julia Roberts tattoos?

There’s a man in Chile (another source said Mexico) who has been covering his entire body in Julia Roberts tattoos. He began in 2000 after seeing Erin Brockovich, and since then, he’s added 81 more tattoos. He hopes to continue until he either runs out of money or body parts. This seems gruesome and bizarre, but I don’t think so. Or, to put it more clearly, his form of devotion is not all that unique. He’s just much more willing to be honest about his idolatry and devotion than we are about the idols and objects of devotion we cover our bodies or lives with. Things, which, by the way, deform us far less obviously but far more significantly than what he’s doing.

Bumper sticker seen on a...wait for it...pickup truck. =)

Indeed, and, “Thank you!” It’s very important to recognize that the organized labor movement indeed has given us myriad benefits like the work week. But that was 70 years ago. And don’t get me wrong, 70 years of benefit is fantastic. If your greatest accomplishment was something you did 70 years ago, what have you done for us lately. And the question of whether unions made sense back then is a very different question from whether they make sense today. Give credit where credit is due, but you don’t get to sit on your laurels for 70 years.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Current Events

CO proposes $10,000 fine for prostitution (Denver Post)

CC--Christianese: Creator and Sustainer

--Omnipotence means God can do anything. And the most obvious thing God ever did was to bring this universe and everything in it into existence from nothing, including even the laws of nature.
--When we say God is the Creator, that’s what we mean.
--But there’s a very important second word Christians use for God in addition to Creator: Sustainer.
--See, there are two ideas about God as a Creator.
--The first is that God made this world, and it now runs on its own power and design, so to speak apart from God’s continual activity. This is sometimes called Deism.
--The second is that God made this world, but that it continually requires Him to be guiding and overseeing it on a moment-by-moment basis.
--This is the Christian concept of God as Sustainer.
--And the reason it’s important is because it means that the world has no ability to exist apart from God or independent of His constant Willing that it continue.
--On the first view, God would have to come in and destroy the world for it to stop. On the second view, God could merely stop doing what He has always done and it would go away on its own.
--The alternate view would be some form of Deism, in which God made the world and now it goes along basically without Him, unless He actively intervenes.
--Although this is a terrible analogy, one might say that this world is like a program on television. If the broadcast or the electricity stops happening, there’s nothing left. Similarly, God is always essentially necessary for there to be a world and life and everything we see around us including the natural laws that shape most of our experience of the world.
--This is one reason that for God to perform a miracle requires no more particular effort than for Him to keep things going as they were. Either way, He’s doing it all.
--It’s not as though God has to somehow “fight against” or “overcome” the laws of nature which themselves emanate directly from Him at any moment.

SD passes 72-hour abortion waiting period.

South Dakota just signed a new law into effect that will require all abortions performed to be by the doctor who did the initial consultation and only after a 72-hour waiting period. About half the states have a 24-hour waiting period, and this is the first extension of it to 3 full days. The reason for this is pretty obvious. Many significant decisions deserve the space a waiting period might offer for calm, patient consideration of the implications. If after a day, a woman still wants to go ahead, hopefully free from the coercion or fear of the moment, we permit it. But one day isn’t really a lot. Three days isn’t really a lot, but it’s a reasonable middle ground.
The opponents who are decrying this as unconstitutional need to explain why 24 hours is okay but 72 hours is a bridge too far. In any event, the basic idea is simple. Some women may choose to keep the child at hour 40. Don’t we want to give her the chance to best express her true long-term choice this way rather than allowing her to act more impulsively but then regret it because we didn’t let her take enough of a breather to digest the information she has received? I would think that people who want to honor a woman’s choice and the fact that she’ll have to live with it would understand this. Clearly, she might still regret it at 90 hours, and there’s no way to be sure she won’t.
Now, the typical pro-choice argument is that women in rural areas will have to travel some distance, possibly taking off work, in order to get first the consultation and then the abortion itself. Although both current law and the new law will often require two trips, at least it’s only one night in a hotel, for instance, the old way. But the real goal isn’t to inconvenience women into being unable to get an abortion. And so the real question isn’t whether some women will be occasionally inconvenienced seriously, but whether more women who would otherwise make a very regrettable (by them) decision will now not do so.
In a sense, we’re not only making sure the choice doesn’t change, but we’re giving the woman herself the knowledge that she actually did make this choice with a 72-hour delay and didn’t change it. This is a way of giving her more certainty that she didn’t get pressured into it so that she doesn’t come back and second-guess herself as much. The goal is to make sure her choice is as committed and certain as it should be. And given the significance and the very real risks of coercion from family members or boyfriends, three days seems perfectly reasonable.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

CC--Christianese: Omnipotence (Part 3)

--Can God do anything? No.
--He can only do that which is possible.
--But wait, there’s more.
--Is there anything that’s possible to be done, but God can’t do them.
--There are in fact some possible things but yet still impossible, and therefore God can’t do them.
--All the things that are possible to be done but impossible FOR GOD are impossible For Him because of His character.
--He can’t act contrary to His own character
--As a result, there are loads of things God can’t do, and they’re really significant. In fact, you might say that it’s precisely because of the things God CAN’T do that we worship Him as opposed to the things He can do.
--So, for instance, can God be unloving?
--Can God lie?
--Can God be unholy?
--Can God be unjust?
--Can God make mistakes?
--You see that there are in fact myriad things God can’t do by virtue (!) of the very fact of Who He Is. --So can God do anything you can dream up? No.
--But God can do anything that is consistent with His character and possible? Yes.
--And the interesting things about those is that they are asking whether God can be anything other than God. And if God can be not God, He wouldn’t be worth worshipping, right?
--To put it another way, can God sin? And again the answer is no.
--In this sense, there are actually things that Satan and we humans can do that God cannot. But they’re all worse things than everything God really does.
--God can only do the possible, which still limits Him to what is consistent with His Perfect Nature, and that’s not a defect. It’s why we worship Him!
--God is more because of all the things He can’t do, not less.

Wacky Wednesday--Rob Bell Is Right--Everyone Goes To Heaven Eventually.

Note: Before reading the following arguments, please understand that they are not what I believe. On Wednesdays, I deliberately argue for wrong ideas, challenging my listeners to call and defend the obvious right answer, which is usually far harder than one would expect. This is a summary of what Wacky Andrew will be arguing, not a representation of what real Andrew believes.

--God desires all people to be saved, and God is omnipotent.

--Did Jesus finish the work He was sent to do?

--What an incomplete and inadequate thing it would be for only some humans to be saved by Jesus.

--If all people are eventually saved, then we have a God who not only loves all but is powerful enough to save all He loves.

--If God accomplishes our salvation, why wouldn’t it be accomplished for all men?

--If this were true, wouldn’t it be the most beautiful thing you could possibly imagine compared with the idea that some men will inevitably not be saved?

--He, who created all things, will "reconcile to himself ALL things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross" (Colossians 1:20).

--God has appointed His Son to be the "heir of ALL things" (Hebrews 1:2)

--In God's Son "shall ALL the nations be blessed" (Galatians 3:8).

--God has given His Son "authority over ALL flesh, to give eternal life to ALL whom He has given Him" (John 17:2).

--"The Father has given ALL things into the Son's hands" (John 3:35)

--"ALL flesh shall see the salvation of God" (Luke 3:6).

--God loves even his enemies and "He is kind to the ungrateful and evil" (Luke 6:35).

--"He desires ALL people to be saved" (1 Timothy 2:4).

--He "gave himself as a ransom for ALL" (1 Timothy 2:6).

--He "is not wishing that ANY should perish, but that ALL should reach repentance" (2 Peter 3:9).

--He "has consigned ALL to disobedience, that he may have mercy on ALL" (Romans 11:32)

--So God's plan is "to unite ALL things in Christ, things in heaven and things on earth" (Ephesians 1:10).

--The Father has "put ALL things under Christ's feet" (Ephesians 1:22)

--The Father has “given ALL things into his hands" (John 13:3).

--Jesus has promised to "draw ALL men" to Himself (John 12:32) because "the Father loves the Son and has given ALL things into his hand" (John 3:35).

--Jesus says that like a good shepherd, He will search for each of His lost sheep "until he finds it" (Luke 15:4).

"--God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him" (John 3:17).

--"The grace of God has appeared bringing salvation for ALL people" (Titus 2:11).

--Jesus is the "Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29).

--Jesus gave His flesh as bread "for the life of the world" (John 6:51).

--"He gives life to the world" (John 6:33).

--He is "the light of the world" (John 8:12).

--"He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world" (1 John 2:2).

--"He is the Savior of ALL people" (1 Timothy 4:10)

--He is "the Savior of the world" (John 4:42; 1 John 4:14).

--"He appeared to destroy the works of the devil" (1 John 3:8).

--Jesus "abolished death" (2 Timothy 1:10).

--"He has put away sin by the sacrifice of himself" (Hebrews 9:26).

--"In Christ shall all be made alive" (I Corinthians 15:22).

--"He restores all things" (Acts 3:21).

--"At the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Philippians 2:10-11).

--"Every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, `To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever! "' (Revelation 5:13).

--"Then comes the end, when he [Jesus] delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For `God has put all things in subjection under his feet.' But when it says `all things are put in subjection,' it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all" (1 Corinthians 15:24-28).

First off, I don't think Rob Bell is making the best case for universalism that can be made because he does actually seem to undermine the atonement as well as the need for evangelism. Furthermore, as Martin Bashir's interview revealed (and another one I listened to with Bashir) there are some downright misleading aspects of the book. That means that assessing the best case for universalism may not the same as assessing Rob Bell's case for it (which he denies he is doing, but most any neutral, if possible, observers think he is).
The 2 of 3 premises argument
o God wills to redeem all men (God wants to save everyone)
o God can do whatever He wills (God does the saving)
o Some sinners will never be reconciled to God. (Some people will end up in hell)
o Calvinists deny 1
o Arminians deny 2
o Universalists deny 3
First, let’s deal with the logic problem. I can’t solve it. This is why Calvinists, Arminians, and Universalists all seem to have ground to stand on and errors as well.
But rather than start with what we think something of God’s character means and then inferring from it how to understand a construct like hell, we should start with the clear declarations of hell and see how they might help us understand the character of God.
o God is just, therefore hell in the Bible is wrong.
o Hell is in the Bible, therefore it must be just.
Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit Mark 3, Luke 12
Accept me or reject me Luke 12
Sheep and goat nations Matt 25
Lazarus and the rich man Luke 16
I never knew you Matt 7
Narrow and Wide ways Matthew 7
Great was the fall of the house that did not build on me Matthew 7
Parable of the wedding feast Matthew 22
Thief on the cross Luke 23
Believe and be baptized, or be condemned. Mark 16
Reject Jesus = judged by God John 3
Believe and you will be saved Acts 16
Unless you believe that I am, you will die in your sins." John 8 This is an essential doctrine because it has a penalty of damnation for denying it.
If you accept me, you accept the father. All who reject me reject the Father.
No man who looks back is fit.
If you confess and be baptized you will be saved.
Revelation, cast into hell.
2 Thessalonians 1:8-9 dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power.
Rev 20:10
And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.
He said there is a Heaven and a Hell (Luke 10:20; Matthew 10:28
He talked about the saved and the lost (John 10:9; Luke 19:10
The New Testament message is clearly against universalism. Jesus says in Matthew 7, "Not everyone who saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven."
In Matthew 10, Jesus exhorts us to "fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell."
In the parable of the wheat and tares (Matthew 13), Jesus says that the tares will be committed into the furnace of fire where there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.
He said that Hell is a place where "the fire is not quenched and the worm dieth not" (Mark 9:48).
"Narrow is the way which leadeth unto Life, and few there be that find it" (Matthew 7:14)?
Likewise 1 Cor. 15:14 says that "if Christ be not raised, your faith is in vain."
Prov 16:4 "The Lord has made everything for its own purpose, even the wicked for the day of evil,"
"Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide, and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter by it. 14"For the gate is small, and the way is narrow that leads to life, and few are those who find it," (Matt. 7:13-14).
"For many are called, but few are chosen," (Matt. 22:14).
"And He was passing through from one city and village to another, teaching, and proceeding on His way to Jerusalem. 23And someone said to Him, "Lord, are there just a few who are being saved?" And He said to them, 24"Strive to enter by the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. 25"Once the head of the house gets up and shuts the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock on the door, saying, ‘Lord, open up to us!’ then He will answer and say to you, ‘I do not know where you are from.’ 26"Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets’; 27and He will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you are from; depart from Me, all you evildoers,'" (Luke 13:22-27).
"And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel, "Though the number of the sons of Israel be as the sand of the sea, it is the remnant that will be saved; 28for the Lord will execute His word upon the earth, thoroughly and quickly," (Rom. 9:27).
Jesus said, "I said therefore to you, that you shall die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you shall die in your sins," (John 8:24, NASB). The word "He" is not in the Greek. It literally says, "for unless you believe that I am, you shall die in your sins." Later in this same chapter in verse 58, Jesus said, "before Abraham was, I AM." He was alluding to Exodus 3:14, where God told Moses that His name was "I am that I am."
Likewise, in 1 John 4:2-3 it says, "This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world." Very few people deny that Jesus lived; that is, that Jesus came in flesh. When John wrote this, he was not saying that you must believe that Jesus lived, but that Jesus was God in flesh.

Bible References on hell and/or universalism: Deut 25:3, Psalm 139:7-8, Isaiah 6:1-6, Daniel 3, Mal 3:1-4, Matt 5:23-26, Matt 7:13-27, Matt 8:10-13, Matt 10:28, Matt 12:39-40, Matt 13:36-43, Matt 13:47-52, Matt 18:23-35, Matt 18:1-11, Matt 22:13, Matt 25:24-30, Matt 25:31-46, Matt 27:45-46, mark 3:28-29, Mark 9:43-48, Mark 16:15-16, Luke 3:16, Luke 12:8-10, Luke 12:43-48 , Luke 12:58-59, Luke 13:22-30, Luke 16:19-31, Luke 23:39-43, John 3:14-21, John 3:36, John 8:21-24, Acts 2:29-31, Acts 16:31, Rom 1:24-26, Rom 10:6-7, 1 Cor 3:11-15, Eph 4:7-9, Phil 2:9-11, 2 Thess 1:6-10, Heb 12:14, 23, 29, 2 Peter 2:1-22, Jude 6-13, Rev 14:9-12, Rev 16:10-12, Rev 21:8


Rob Bell’s bridge too far (CT)

We have seen all this before (Albert Mohler)

Will “Love Wins” win? (Brian McLaren)

A Theological Conversation Worth Having (Albert Mohler)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Come Hear Andrew Speak Thursday at Noon

Andrew will be hosting an open forum on the Constitutionality of Obamacare at the Heritage Tradition in Sun City West from 12:00-1:30 PM, Thursday March 24. No registration necessary. Just come out, meet Andrew, and take part in an in-person "radio show" style discussion. For information, contact:

Adam Lawrence, Director of Community Relations

The Heritage Tradition
19303 New Tradition Rd.
Sun City West, AZ. 85375
(623) 298-6713

CC--Christianese: Omnipotence (Part 2)

--Once again, the short version is that omnipotence means capable of doing anything possible or having all power, even being the very definition of power.
--In considering omnipotence, people (philosophers, like me) often raise questions such as whether God can create a rock so heavy that even He can’t lift it.
--Most of these are really quite silly (like this one) since gravity is relative to two masses close to each other, and so the rock wouldn’t even be the biggest thing on whatever planet it’s sitting. God would have to have a body (to lift with), make a super big rock and then make an even bigger planet…you get the point.
--But the (much more interesting) underlying idea is whether God can do something impossible.
--And the answer to that is a simple, “No.” God can’t do the impossible. But that’s the point.
--When we say God is all-powerful what we mean is that anything that can be done, He can do. Another way to say this is that the very defining standard for power is His Power (whatever He can do). The notion that there’s some greater power out there who is God but could also do the impossible is just nonsense speech.
--Put it a different way. If it can be done, God can do it. If it can’t be done, well of course God can’t do it. By definition, that’s what it means to be impossible. It can’t be done. And sometimes philosophers pretend that theists have been really silly in asserting that God can even do things that can’t be done at all. But they haven’t, at least not the thoughtful ones.

03/22/11 4PM The hidden costs of data hoarding

Fascinating article in the NY Times about the costs of data overload. We save things we don’t really need to save and we backup and archive things we shouldn’t have saved at all in the first place, and why? Because it’s invisible. It’s just all on that little box on our desk or somewhere “in the cloud” right? But there’s a cost. Duplicate copies of everything takes lots of resources to keep the server farms cool enough to function. And when you need to find something, you’ve kept so much that finding it becomes prohibitively expensive in time (or money for lawsuit discovery for companies). So the recommendation is to delete unless you’re sure you need something rather than saving what you’re not sure you won’t need. Sure. The discarders of the universe are always out to get us hoarders!

03/22/11 3PM Defunding NPR

NPR has been involved in some real controversies recently, which is part of the reason the House voted last week to take away their funding. Although the chances of this happening look slim, the New York Times opined that the silliness of this purely symbolic gesture is shown in the fact that NPR only gets around 2% of its money from the government. I agree, which is exactly why it shouldn’t be a big deal to take it away. I know this isn’t going to solve the deficit, but given our emphatic commitment to government neutrality of ideas, I’d love to see all radio stations compete fairly with each other. I actually enjoy NPR for some things. I just don’t want to have to pay for it through taxes.

03/22/11 2PM .XXX domain is established.

After years of trying, the Internet Corporation finally on Friday approved the creation of a pornography zone on the Internet with the .xxx domain suffix. This is a step in the right direction for creating the kind of empowered decision-making that makes freedom meaningful by balancing the interests of content vendors with content consumers “You’re free to publish, but I’m now more capable of easily avoiding your blank-fronted e-porn shop.” However, since there is no legal obligation to put all adult content on such a domain, we’ll have to see whether this actually brings some control and safety to the Internet or whether it only means what we have right now PLUS a whole new area devoted to sexual evil. Some porn producers are in favor of it, but others have voiced concerns that this will lead to censorship and the easier ability to control smut on the Internet. Well, one can always hope….

Theological Tuesday

--Do the people in hell want to get out?

--Should Arabic Bibles abandon the phrase “Son of God” for Jesus?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Ethics: Should We Be Involved In Libya?

We’re there, but people from both sides of the aisle are asking whether we should be and what, exactly, the end objective we’re hoping for is. When should the US use force abroad? How much does it matter that we’re acting under the authorization of the United Nations? Is this a humanitarian project? Political? Strategic?

Post-show thoughts: I have serious concerns about the action, but I think I understand the rationale behind it. The main criteria of a just war are satisfied by my reckoning, and the real concerns are practical and political rather than ethical in particular. I'm willing to trust the President for now, but I want to know more and I want to know it before this stretches into weeks or months.

Jus ad Bellum (Justice of the War)
Just cause for going to war
Right intentions in going to war
Public declaration of war by a constituted authority
Good achieved outweigh evil incurred
All means of resolution been exhausted prior to war

Jus in Bello (Justice of the Warfare)
Discrimination between combatants and non-combatants
Means proportional to ends
Means relevant to ends
Minimum force principle
Always be aimed at achieving peace

History of the Libyan protests and revolt (NYT)
Libya updates (Telegraph)
Liberal Democrats in uproar over Libya (Politico)
Republicans want clarity on mission (Politico)
Obama enters war with no debate or objective (Wash Examiner)
Obama persuaded by Clinton (NYT)
Photos from the conflict (NYT)
Arab League critical of strikes (Wash Post)
Libya: Benghazi about to fall (Telegraph)
After bombing Libya, what now? (Huff Post)
Lawmakers question Obama on goals in Libya (Business Week)

CC--Christianese: Omnipotence

--Literally, this means all-powerful.
--There is nothing too great for Him.
--To get a perspective on this, we observe that God created everything that exists from nothing (you sometimes hear this described as ex nihilo, which is just Latin for “from nothing,” so I try to say “from nothing” rather than use an unnecessary Latinism).
--And He did this by speaking. So, the Milky Way, and elephants, and bacteria came into being because God spoke them.
--To attempt to grasp what this means about God’s power, consider an analogy. Is there anything you can’t imagine in your mind? Perhaps there are some limits, but they’re pretty high, right? So you, with your mind, can imagine virtually anything. But in the real world, you have only the tiniest fraction of power to make your ideas come true. Now, one way to think of God’s omnipotence is to talk of His creative power as being so vast that He relates to the physical universe and can manipulate it with the sort of ease we manipulate mere ideas.
--The exertion you might experience in moving your finger to dial a phone is the sort of thing God might use to create a nebula or a herd of antelope with.
--All these metaphors fail, of course. But they start to give a hint of God’s abilities.
--Naturally, therefore, His ability to suspend the laws of nature as we know them and create what we call a miracle (walking on water, raising a dead person) starts to seem almost trivial when we consider the sort of power (or “potency”) God contains.
--That’s why the miracles of the Bible are simultaneously so impressive and yet so trivial. Impressively beyond anything we could do, but trivial compared to the sort of things God can really do.

03/21/11 4PM Phoenix drops to 6th largest city, behind Philly

Phoenix has slipped from being the 5th largest city to being the 6th, now behind Philadelphia. And I must confess, I don’t get how anyone would care about this. First of all, our position as a metropolitan area hasn’t changed (we’re 12th). And that’s sort of the point. Why does the city really matter so much given that people who live here live in the Valley. When people ask me where I’m from, I say Phoenix, even though in 6 years here I’ve never yet had a Phoenix address. But even if you go on metro area, do you draw your identity or stature as a person on something like this? What control do you have over it? What does that mean for the 8th place people? Are they supposed to be less happy? What a bizarre thing to draw identity from. But if you didn’t receive this news well and you’re mourning because you’re from Phoenix proper, here’s my suggestion: do your part and have more babies!

03/21/11 3PM List of happiest and unhappiest states.

A few weeks ago Fox reported on a Gallup study that ranked all the states in order from happiest to unhappiest. Hawaii was at the top and West Virginia was at the bottom. So what did I do the moment I looked at the story? I searched to see where Arizona was listed!?! Why? What a moronic thing to do! What possible legitimate motive could I have for that? Is it so I can know how happy I should be or how unhappy I should be? Or how good I should feel about whether I feel good in the first place? “Oh, look at how much happier I am than the people around me.” Or worse, “Oh drat. I’m surrounded by people much happier than I!” I never did find out where Arizona ranked because the story only listed the top and bottom 10, and I stopped looking after I realized how silly I was being.

03/21/11 2PM Luke Days and AZ Cityfest

Luke Days and Arizona City Fest were awesome! What more can I say? If you missed them both…well, that’s sad. I tried to tell you. 120,000 estimated at Palau over both days.

Friday, March 18, 2011

CC--Christianese: Eternal and Eternity

--When we say God is eternal, we mean a handful of things, some of which are obvious and some of which are not.
--The first is that before this universe was here, God existed.
--The second is that after this universe stop being here (if it does), God will still exist.
--So it’s useful to think of this series of events we think of as the history of the universe as being a big character in the middle act of a three act play. God is the only character in the first act, and we aren’t entirely sure what the third act will be (or if there might be fourth and fifth ones to come). But God will be the central character in all of them, regardless of what happens otherwise. There will never be a time without God.
--But there’s another aspect of God’s eternality that we often overlook. Though it’s very difficult to comprehend, the very experience of events leading from one to another that we call time is something that God created. Just as you might step forward and then step farther forward again, time in many ways is a kind of experience of movement in a direction, the difference for us being that we only go one way. But God not only made all three dimensions of height, length, and width, He also made time. So, although there’s no way for our language to express it, God existed before there was even time, and will exist even after there is time no longer.
--So not only is God first and last (why the Bible calls Him the Alpha and the Omega), God is somehow prior to and also totally beyond even the limit of being in such a series of events like time.
--That’s what we mean when we say God is eternal.
--And when we say that we will be with God for eternity (or in hell for eternity), we mean that our experience of either will go on without an end in time, possibly even beyond time in some way we can’t currently comprehend.

03/18/11 4PM Quote

“Harmony seldom makes a headline.”
--Silas Bent

What do you hear about the Middle East? Conflict and fighting all over the place, right? And what if there were merely peace in the Middle East? You know what you’d hear about it? Nothing. Do you know how I know? Because you never hear a news report, “Once again today, no fighting in Ireland.” But for years, what did everybody hear all the time about the fighting over there? Seriously, “Harmony seldom makes a headline.”

03/18/11 3PM Does genetics undermine morality?

Great article in Christianity Today, called “Sin in the Double Helix,” about the implications of genetic research and the connection between traits or abilities and genes. If it turned out that immorality or the disposition toward immorality were somehow connected with our genes, that wouldn’t disprove anything Christians have ever said. It would, in fact, just be a biologically based way of saying precisely what we’ve always said. People are twisted, right down to their very core nature. We just never called it genetics. We call it original sin.

03/18/11 2PM Lord of the Dance 3-D winner

Cathy Todd West wrote on KPXQ's facebook page: I like being confident that what I choose to listen to assists me in making additional positive choices!! Good input = good output

Congratulations, Cathy!