Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Personal Life Update: Of the Making of Many Books There is No End

My reading of that verse in Ecclesiastes 12:12 is that the process of recording, preserving, and transmitting information is an endless task. It appears to be connected to learning, since the following verse says "much study wearies the body." For me, I read lots of articles online, which by virtue of their content is like a topical chapter-of-the-day consumption of the literature that is often referenced, but I also take what I learn and try to process it so that it's understandable to the point where I can explain it to others. If something doesn't make sense in a big-picture sense, to me, I try to comprehend it until it does. I have an upcoming "Adultification" post about just one such thing.

How does 'making books' apply to me? Well, I'm not writing bound textbooks, but a lot of what I've written on this blog is repurposed high-level technical, philosophical or theological works, with a sizeable amount of my own contribution--expanding upon the wisdom gained, and drawing further conclusions. You could consider it "derived knowledge," in the same way that many mathematical equations are derived from other equations. An increase in knowledge without any additional input, as it's all the result of internal mental processing of the information that is already possessed.

That's why there is no end to the making of many books. Not only because new information is continually gained, but for each individual, you can indefinitely expand upon the knowledge you have, in order to gain new knowledge from the processing of that information.

It's a bit like how experimental studies yield data, multiple data sets give you the ability to arrange them in statistical relations, and the interpretation of these statistics give you insight into what is going on on the experimental level, and opens new doors for asking the right questions to gain greater knowledge about the subject.

Enough rambling. Suffice it to say, there's so much stuff for me to work on, be it personal professional development or private economics, or fulfilling my backlog of ideas for posting subjects on this blog. It's a challenge to not disproportionately spend time blogging rather than "living life," while at the same time making progress on the goals I have in mind for "completing" the blog's purpose.

I'm going to try to take a few days over the coming holiday season to work through some of this backlog and produce good-quality content and make progress. What is it that Ecclesiastes says, after all? "There is nothing better for a man than that he should enjoy the fruit of his labor." Ecclesiastes 2:24

~ Rak Chazak

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

What Was Jesus' Sacrifice? Using Infinity to Contemplate the Gospel

Originally posted in response to a post on an ex-mormon website. The blogger has fallen for the common error of rejecting Christianity after leaving a cultic false religion for very valid reasons. Just because someone lied to you doesn't mean that truth doesn't exist. But on to the subject. The claim is that Jesus didn't really sacrifice anything when He died if He could take it back by coming back to life just a few days later. How do we address this challenge? My answer is below.
*     *     *     *
The mistake here is in thinking that physical death is the focus. That's not what the Bible teaches (Reformed, here, not a Mormon). 

Instead it teaches that death is not the cessation of 'life,' but the unnatural separation of a living being from the source of its life. Man-God, Man's body-Man's soul, God-God.

It was not in dying that Jesus did His miraculous deed. That was just the necessary finishing touch, a bit of a technical requirement.

But what He really sacrificed was His relationship to the Father. For 3 hours, He was spiritually separated from the Father and they were not in communion, as they have/are/will be in all other possible places in time and space from eternity past to eternity future.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Christian Encouragement: How I Compliment Pretty Girls Who Have Good Theology

The following contains 1,700 words of fairly easily-readable monologue that I sent as an expanded version of a compliment to a girl on her theological soundness and zeal. I'll place a page break early on, to avoid cluttering the front page, and encourage you to click on "read more" to look at the whole thing for your consideration, edification, what-have-you.


I came across your facebook profile on a [..............] post where you had commented. So the fact that you seemed to affirm pre-trib eschatology was what first stood out, not to mention the fact that you're following a page representing Reformed doctrine, which is encouraging. The next thing that I saw was that you're cute, which is only natural considering that I'm a typical male in that I'm visually oriented, and that my personality preference (which I find the Myers-Briggs profile to be a fairly effective measure of) is to thoroughly evaluate everything I perceive. It's a little unclear from facebook and your blog, but erring on the safe side, I'll treat you as if you're married and avoid anything that might be flirtatious. However, I have many compliments to give you.

It's rare for most young people to be very theologically astute -- I speak as one myself, who feels sometimes as if the peer landscape is very sparsely populated with Christian brethren -- and considering that roughly half of any age group is female, and only a subset thereof is of notable physical attractiveness, it's only logical to conclude that it's a very rare thing for a beautiful young woman to be so zealous for good doctrine as it is apparent to me that you are.

And mark, that is primarily what makes you beautiful:
3Your adornment must not be merely external-- braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; 4but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God. 1 Peter 3:3-4

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Christian Satire, Courtesy of a UK Pastor on the Spiritual Front Lines

I came across this via a post on The End Time. The author is one Andrew Wilson, and it was posted a few days ago under the title "The Case for Idolatry: Why Evangelical Christians Can Worship Idols." I recommend it to you. It rehashes a lot of common arguments that professing christians make in justifying their stance in favor of homosexuality. Note that it is not a sarcastic sneer at homosexuals but a satirical representation of these alleged christians. Their frequent reasoning as seen in far too many editorials etc is reduced to absurdity by substituting the notion of idolatry--made more poignant by the fact that idolatry is at the heart of every claim that "the god I believe in would not condemn [name of favorite sin or family member who is slave to sin]"

I've decided to quote just one section:
With all of these preliminary ideas in place, we can finally turn to Paul, who has sadly been used as a judgmental battering ram by monolaters for centuries. When we do, what immediately strikes us is that in the ultimate “clobber passage”, namely Romans 1, the problem isn’t really idol-worship at all! The problem, as Paul puts it, is not that people worship idols, but that they “exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images” (1:23). Paul isn’t talking about people who are idolatrous by nature. He is talking about people who were naturally worshippers of Israel’s God, and exchanged it for the worship of idols. What else could the word “exchange” here possibly mean? ... In other words, when Paul talks about idolatry, he is not talking about the worship of idols as we know it today.
It's genius. It takes the claim that Romans 1 does not condemn homosexuality per se, only that homosexual behavior by heterosexuals is wrong, but homosexual behavior by homosexuals is fine, and shows how ridiculous it is by comparison. But the best and final word on this came from the comments:
   I agree with your reading of Paul, Andrew. It's important to remember that, for Paul, idolatry was inextricably linked to homosexual practices. And Paul's major issue was, of course, with the latter. (See Von Straussenhaus’s important work, ‘Götzendienst, Sexualität, und Ein Haar Ball Großes’.) Idolatry in and of itself wasn't a problem for him.
Did you catch it? It's bitingly insightful. The pro-homosexual claim has been that homosexuality is not what is condemned in the Bible, but idolatry of homosexual behavior. This is supposed to be on parallel with idolatry of food, money, power, etc, things which are not evil in themselves but become so when made an idol. The genius of this commentor was to make the opposite claim for maximum satire: that when Paul condemns idolatry and homosexuality in Romans 1, he's really only condemning homosexual idolatry, not other forms of idolatry. That argument makes as much sense as the reverse.

This by itself is a powerful deconstruction of the faux-Biblical argument to legitimize homosexuality by pretending that Paul is only concerned with idolatry. Decimated, in one fell swoop.

Congratulations, gentlemen.

~ Rak Chazak

Saturday, November 8, 2014

A Little Joel Rosenberg to Start the Day

Joel is one of many stories like these that I have come across--some of the biggest power players in Christianity are not Gentiles, but Jews. Ray Comfort, perhaps the biggest influence on open-air evangelism in the whole world, is an ethnic Jew; as is Jonathan Sarfati, a prodigy by any human measure, who churns out an amazing variety, amount and quality of work for CMI in that ministry's young-earth creation apologetics capacity.

That's the field of preaching and the field of teaching, to name two spiritual gifts the New Testament mentions as being areas wherein Christians work for the Lord (the point is not to label; there's overlap of gifts and it's indicated that not all possible gifts are listed). The point of the gifts mentioned by Paul and Peter seem primarily to me to be in context of talking about the "Body of Christ." Christians as part of the invisible Church all have a role to play, and the purpose of mentioning gifting is, I think, to enlighten us that there are diversities of ways to serve the Lord. Ray Comfort could not do Jonathan Sarfati's job, and I doubt there's anyone quite like Ray Comfort in his singleminded zeal for evangelizing the lost. Their natural talents and inclinations are divinely given to equip them for the purpose God intended them to fulfill.

Then there's the gift of prophecy, which brings me to another Jewish Christian. No one is quite so heavily involved in current events and politics as he, while still not failing to keep himself and his ministry centered on the Gospel. It's incredibly easy to fall into a trap where Christianity is subsumed into your political activism, and well-intended people and organizations abound where this can be seen. But in every place that I've read Joel's words or heard him speak, he has not lost sight of his ultimate goal--which is not awareness of a political issue, or some larger agenda to influence mid-east relations (though that's in view, but not the endgame)--he knows that his aim is to spread the Gospel first, and that his position of influence in political spheres is an aid to that, not the other way around.

Joel Rosenberg recently addressed criticism of the new Left Behind movie. Mark, he didn't defend the movie--what happened is that it brought out a lot of professing christians who denounced it because allegedly the Rapture is an "unbiblical" doctrine. Here's his article:

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Flashback: Reflection on Social Stratus

It's indeed "stratus," not "status." Level based on financial assets, not esteem based on political success in the realm of public personality. This was a text:

I recall a classmate back in high school once described his family as "middle class," because they only owned one yacht and had a 5-bathroom house on waterfront property. That was my first recollectable introduction to the idea that there are big differences between tiers in the middle class. 

I'd have to honestly say that I'm middle class (one-family home, college educated, never missed payments on utilities growing up, one car per person [now!]), but definitely LOWER middle class (no cell phone until age of 19; no cable tv; no disposable income; underemployed; highly infrequent rate of 'going out' to movies, let alone restaurants anymore, etc; 8 new major articles of clothing in the last 3 years; drained or insufficient safety net/rainy day fund; no savings worthy of the name; no bi-monthly dinner parties like our neighbors; no dental visit in 1.5 years; etc)

Also, no second homes, second cars, RVs, ATVs, boats, etc. 1 or 2 acre property. No owned stocks or other investments. 

We have enough to not feel impoverished, but we don't have enough to have a sense of optimism with respect to finances. My parents have no retirement outlook apart from the sale of the house at some future date. I have enough money saved to pay for TWO college courses, or car insurance and food to keep me alive for c. 1 year, if I lose everything else. We have just enough to feel the pressure from what we lack.

And from a standpoint of pride and grace, I appreciate the place I've grown up in so much; there's neither a strong impulse of bitterness nor arrogance. I have things, which let me be grateful for the gift of possessing them, to God; and I lack a great many things as well, which give me a mindset of dependence on God and an appreciation of whatever I get in the future, that it's a blessing and privilege and not a sign of my own greatness or monument to hard work.

The sayings of Agur
Two things I request of You
(Deprive me not before I die):
Remove falsehood and lies far from me;
Give me neither poverty nor riches—
Feed me with the food allotted to me;
Lest I be full and deny You,
And say, “Who is the Lord?”
Or lest I be poor and steal,
And profane the name of my God.
Proverbs 30:7-9

That came to mind.

~ Rak Chazak

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Movie Review: Hercules ft. Dwayne Johnson, and Edge of Tomorrow

I used my day off to take scrap garbage to the landfill, and watch two movies from Redbox back-to-back. The $2.50 for two movies is sweet, sweet free market delight. I might never go to the movie theater again, save once a year for auspicious occasions. Let the lowest-priced DVD-quality video provider win.


What I liked: With the exception of one flash-back of his wife, there really wasn't any sexual innuendo aside from wordplay that younger children would miss.

What I really liked: The movie avoided cliche'd supernatural cinematic overtures, and left the question of Hercules' mythology largely ambiguous. The movie even ends with a narration asking whether Hercules was more myth than man and whether it mattered; The Rock doesn't do anything that's necessarily impossible, just in two scenes he performs deeds that seem highly, highly improbable, which I suppose are included to offer the viewer something to grumble about--whether it indicates superhuman strength or not. In the legend of Hercules, Zeus' jealous wife Hera possesses Hercules to murder his family, driving him mad. But in the movie, it's part of a very human, larger plot twist that plays an integral role in the theme of who the man is, where he stops and the myth begins.

What might make you think: I appreciated that the film offered a "mythologically accurate" retelling while at the same time eschewing the cliche's and offering you a suggestion of how it might have happened if there were no gods or demons involved at all, just larger-than-life men who inspired embellished storytelling for one reason or another. I also appreciated that for once, this was directed at an actual myth, and not like so many modern movies, an attempt to undermine the Bible's account of history by recasting it as an after-the-fact hagiographical depiction of a much different reality.

It's a war movie, so there's blood and depictions of dead bodies, implied just-barely-off-screen breaking of bones, and intense emotional grief/anger, on people's faces as well as in the audio, so it's not a fairy tale movie but because of its lack of sex and obscene gore, as well as comparatively minimal profanity, it should be fine to watch with your preteen.

Edge of Tomorrow:                  (Groundhog Day, or Source Code, with guns and aliens)

Second Real Election, First Real Ballot Win

For me, not for some candidate or party in particular.

In 2012, on every single issue that came up on referendum in the state I live in, not to mention the presidential election, I picked the losing side. This year, with the exception of two offices, I picked every winner, both local and state level as well as state and local initiatives.

It feels nice not to be losing all the time.

But my relief is tempered by the knowledge that it's only a temporary victory. Our final destiny on this side of eternity--especially if we are close to the end--is to be defeated, not to conquer. It is by being overcome that the saints overcome, following in the imitation of Christ who dying, defeated death. Our victory will not be political in nature, so let's not be tempted by the same trap as the Jews, who both in Jesus' time as well as right this very moment are expecting a conquering Savior to come and destroy the ungodly nations and set up His everlasting kingdom from Zion. Mark, that day will come, but "in this life you will have tribulation." Don't lose sight of that detail. Don't get distracted by the alluring prize of political victories.

Bear in mind that the more important goal than winning elections is winning souls. If the Gospel suffers while we secure greater freedom or prosperity, what have we gained? We already know that our lives are not graded by how well we lived for ourselves, for our own sake. What matters in eternity is how well we died to self, and lived for God, promoting His cause--the good news of salvation--above all earthly causes.

I'm keenly political and a diehard conservative pundit at heart, by virtue of the nature of my transformation between 2010-12. But thanks to the faithful God-centered guidance by ministries like Answers in Genesis, Grace to You, The Way of the Master and Wretched Radio, I'm totally convinced that any gains, while they help us, are a mirage, if they are not accompanied, or better, underpinned, by solid and faithful Gospel preaching. You can't change the world without changing the world's hearts. This shouldn't be the primary motivation of preaching, but it should be the first priority in politics. What are you working for, if you're trying to get out the Christian vote when the Christians are dying and not being replaced? Political activism in the cause of conservatism is PERFECTLY FUTILE if it is sought after for its own sake, and not simply accepted as a gratifying side effect of truly converted souls reached by God's Word.

And if politics has no point to it if the Gospel isn't in it, then it is perfectly clear that the only thing worth pushing the agenda for is the spread of said Gospel. Political victories are nice, but they aren't the ends, and they aren't even the means by which we secure lasting victories in the name of God. The only cause worth fighting is God's cause, and that means that no matter whether we win or lose politically, we will always bring the discussion back to the Biblical truth, and always turn attention away from us toward God. In humility sacrificing our own desires for success in government for the greater good of touching as many lives as possible with the truth we've been entrusted, and giving the final results to God.

That's the only way to be content, whether the temporary fight is a win or a rout.

And in a strictly theological sense, consider, with the good feeling you feel when you win an election, imagine how much grander the relief will be when the greatest of all victories is finally realized: when Jesus is King of Earth for a thousand years, and vanquishes once and for all the gridlock, the partisanship, the corruption, the special interests and the man-centered rule of law that perverts the name of justice in all the earth today?

Take the short term success in stride and keep your eyes fixed on the prize: Jesus, and evangelism. Jesus and evangelism. Jesus and evangelism.
"But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven...; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." ~ Matthew 6:20-21
~ Rak Chazak

Sunday, November 2, 2014

All About that Alto, No Soprano..."Empowering" Sexism in Mainstream Music

This is a lambast of the Main-Stream-Music song "All About That Bass." I recently read a TIME snippet where the song, along with a few others, was held up as an example of an uplifting message for girls about body image.

Talks about butts.


Here are the lyrics from the chorus:
My mama she told me, 'don't worry about your size'
She said 'boys like a little more booty to hold at night'

Okay, let me get this straight: "(1)Don't care about your personal health, (2) because you're a sex object." Niiiice. Oh, and even better: "your personal worth lies in your rump's ease of being groped, and (sexism alert!) boys don't care about anything but sex, objectifying women, and being a pervert." And last but not least, it purports to lift up fat girls by dealing with their insecurity by telling them they're superior because of their body type. This is literally putting down skinny girls for the same reason, that they "don't have all that bass." Yay empowerment!

You don't improve someone's self image by telling them they're better than somebody else. That's the essence of what bullying is, putting someone else down to make you feel better about yourself. And that's even without the twisted fact that the thing that makes you better than the other person is your ability to be objectified and treated like a piece of ass, that you don't have value in yourself, only in being desired by immature sexually-obsessed boys!

Is this empowerment? No, this is an example of how messed up our culture is, when in the name of doing good for someone, the exact opposite is perpetrated.

Feminism is dung.

That is all.

~Rak Chazak

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Some missed observations on the transformers article.

For the sake of completeness, there were a couple of religiously poignant statements that I didn't include in the previous post about religious themes in Transformers: Age of Extinction, because they didn't appear to be large, intentional themes, but isolated statements that are more up to interpretation because of which character said them. Of course, depending on your political persuasion, you might disagree.

1. In one scene, Optimus is fighting a human-made decepticon possessed by Megatron's mind (Megatron's head having been severed in the previous movie), and Optimus shouts "you have no soul", while shoving a sword through Megatron's chest. The Megatron puppet grabs the sword, drives it deeper, somehow melting it, and smilingly says, "that is why I have no fear."

2. Kelsey Grammer's character is a top CIA official who is secretly directing military personnel to attack Autobots (the 'good' transformers) in his part of an illicit deal to melt their metal to be used in the construction of the human-made decepticon models. Later on, there are two scenes in particular that stand out.
a. When Stanley Tucci's character has second thoughts about the plan they had concocted, Grammer bullies him physically and says that they had both had dreams of changing the world, but "somewhere along the line you made billions of dollars, and I'm still waiting on my dream to come true. Where's my dream? Where's my piece of the pie?" (paraphrased)
b. In the endgame, Grammer confronts Cade Yeager and waxes eloquent about how everything he did was "for god and country," while holding Cade at gunpoint. It's an open question whether it was said in spite or if you are supposed to interpret him as a fanatical 'good-ol-boy.' Optimus kills him immediately afterward.
Final random points:

The science lady tells Stanley Tucci that she "carbon dated" metal (impossible by definition) and found it to be 65 million years old (also impossible by definition).
First off, carbon isn't metal, so anything completely metallic (as the dinosaur skeletons were implied to be, by virtue of the transmutative bio-weapon that is shown twice in the movie and explained to be the source of the material for the transformers) would never have radioactive carbon-14 in it so as to measure it. Secondly, because of the short half-life of radioactive carbon, even if every atom on planet earth was radioactive carbon, in 1 million years it would all have decayed away. So ages higher than that are impossible to be determined, not least because sensor equipment can only detect the C-14 at concentrations corresponding to 80,000 years of age at current uptake levels.
In other dialogue, Grammer's character echoes the racist sentiments I quoted Lockdown as promoting in the first article, about an "us vs them" mentality, humans vs aliens.

Another quote by the advanced bounty hunter alien:
"Every galaxy I have traveled, all you species are the same. You all think you're the center of the universe. You have no idea."
Which fits into the larger narrative of humanity not being special, and if humanity isn't special, that's supposed to be a challenge to the idea that we're the only sentient life in the universe, and thus taken as proof that the Bible's account of history, our special creation directly by God, and all that follows from that (Christ as the last Adam, and ultimately the message of salvation) is to be doubted.

So there. Interpretation left largely open.

~ Rak Chazak

Not 1 Corinthians 13

A poetic text treatise.
Love: an earnest, sustained desire to pursue another person's best interest, at the expense of one's personal wants, convenience, comfort and enjoyment. An attitude demonstrated by action, not an emotion or expression of affection. Affection is a by-product of love, it is not love, though it is commonly called love. Love sacrifices the self for the sake of another's benefit. It esteems what others need as more important to attain than what you yourself want. Anything that defies this is not love, but selfishness disguised. Wanting what makes someone happy is not love, because what makes you or someone else happy is not always what is best for them. Love perseveres when there is no reward of happiness, no fulfillment of personal desires, and no recognition or thankfulness for the effort expended. Love is not exhausting, because it is its own reward, and putting it into action is its own sustenance.
~ Rak Chazak