Saturday, December 27, 2014

Teaser: Excerpts from Upcoming AWPATT, "A to Z"

From where the last AWPATT left off to January 16 will be 26 days, so expect an upload then of a themed series of thoughts that I've been working on off-line. Inspired by the acrostic portion of Proverbs 31, which my study Bible's footnotes cleverly point out could in English be entitled "The Perfect Wife from A to Z," I decided to use alphabetical organization to stimulate creativity on the subject of what sort of qualities I hope for in a future wife.

I can probably try to repeat this exercise once or twice, and even use it in different contexts: what sort of a husband I would hope to be for my wife, or what exciting things we can do together to show our love for each other. Gotta get to 1000 somehow, and there's lots of subject matter to sift through yet!

Here's a teaser, portions of what I've already written and transcribed, that may make the anticipation of the finished product pique the curious interest of the reader.

"Consider further that your beloved deserves love because God says that’s how they ought to be treated, not because they have an innate character quality or deed to their name that empowers them to require such treatment from others. For if there is good in them, where does it come from but God, after all? So you treat them well based not on them but on God, who never changes."

"Refusing to lay aside personal pursuits for marriage’s sake indicates one of two things:
1) you don’t trust your husband’s ability or willingness to provide for your family – the sin of faithlessness. And not, mind you, in your husband, but in God: can God provide for you no matter the circumstance, or can He not?
2) your career, education, and/or income is a higher priority for you than your husband and children – the sin of pride."

"Do we distrust God because He’s omniscient? Do we ignore what He says because He knows more, as if He’s being a ‘know-it-all?’ " 

"Her feelings must be influenced by her view of herself and her situation, they cannot be what controls how she perceives herself, God, her husband or the situation she’s in."

"Many people in this world see relationships as a tit-for-tat, and I’ll never marry into that willingly."

"all of my personal emphases are of crucial importance to me for the simple fact that it’s my marriage, and I need someone who’s perfect for me. Only one woman needs to pass that test,"

"her willingness to be led by me is VERY conditional, and should come at a very high cost" 

"Exercising her intelligence, discernment, and faithful knowledge of Scripture, she evaluates everything her husband asks of her with these questions: 1) is it in accordance with God’s will? 2) does it reflect the loving leadership of my husband, i.e. is it for my good? 3) will following his lead honor and do good for my husband? 4) is there a colossally compelling reason NOT to do it?"

Look for it next month! 

~ Rak Chazak

Thursday, December 25, 2014

The Dekadius Workout

Using the metric system's prefix for 10 and the Latin word for 'day,' that's the name for a new plan I figured out for "total body transformation." Its strengths are that it starts off very slowly and lazily, intentionally, to make it easier to create the routine and not fall off the rails immediately and forget about it, and also that it requires minimal use of equipment. The only stuff I'll be using are my bed, the floor, the ground, a pullup-bar contraption that hangs in a doorframe (also used for pushups) and two ten-pound dumbbells. 

I increment the intensity of every muscle group and movement that I've added, every 10 days, as well as adding a new one. Initially it's just 20 situps, then 10 pushups, and so forth, but by the end of June I'll be doing 3 sets of 100 situps (which I know to be possible only because I've done this before, back when I was 17), and 5 sets of 40 pushups, and so on.

It's going to yield massive results, if I only keep to the one central thing that will make the whole plan work: consistency. Skipping days will make it incredibly difficult to catch back up, but as long as I'm determined, the exercises are incremented so gradually that there's really no risk of soreness or stress injuries from the exercise, even when it gets really intense.

Feel free to follow along (or just compare yourself for fun). After the jump, I've posted my plan. 

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

"Christ-Mass" Thoughts from Spurgeon

Emphasis in the original for the first paragraph. Other emphases added to show my points of greatest agreement.
"We have no superstitious regard for times and seasons. Certainly we do not believe in the present ecclesiastical arrangement called Christmas. First, because we do not believe in the mass at all, but abhor it, whether it be sung in Latin or in English; and secondly, because we find no Scriptural warrant whatever for observing any day as the birthday of the Savior; and consequently, its observance is a superstition, because not of divine authority. Superstition has fixed most positively the day of our Savior's birth, although there is no possibility of discovering when it occurred. ... It was not till the middle of the third century that any part of the church celebrated the nativity of our Lord; and it was not till very long after the Western church had set the example, that the Eastern adopted it. ... Probably the fact is that the "holy" days were arranged to fit in with the heathen festivals. We venture to assert, that if there be any day in the year, of which we may be pretty sure that it was not the day on which the Savior was born, it is the twenty-fifth of December.
Nevertheless since, the current of men's thoughts is led this way just now, and I see no evil in the current itself, I shall launch the bark of our discourse upon that stream, and make use of the fact, which I shall neither justify nor condemn, by endeavoring to lead your thoughts in the same direction. Since it is lawful, and even laudable, to meditate upon the incarnation of the Lord upon any day in the year, it cannot be in the power of other men's superstitions to render such a meditation improper for to-day. Regarding not the day, let us, nevertheless, give God thanks for the gift of His dear Son."
"Joy Born at Bethlehem," December 24, 1871
THIS is the season of the year when, whether we wish it or not, we are compelled to think of the birth of Christ. I hold it to be one of the greatest absurdities under heaven to think that there is any religion in keeping Christmas-day. There are no probabilities whatever that our Savior Jesus Christ was born on that day and the observance of it is purely of Popish origin; doubtless those who are Catholics have a right to hallow it, but I do not see how consistent Protestants can account it in the least sacred. However, I wish there were ten or a dozen Christmas-days in the year; for there is work enough in the world, and a little more rest would not hurt laboring people. Christmas-day is really a boon to us, particularly as it enables us to assemble round the family hearth and meet our friends once more. Still, although we do not fall exactly in the track of other people, I see no harm in thinking of the incarnation and birth of the Lord Jesus. 
"The Incarnation and Birth of Christ," December 1855

So what's the final point? That there's no reason I see to participate in a cultural mandate, except to capitalize on the fact that other people are more (superstitiously, as Spurgeon put it) receptive to hearing messages about Christ on this day and in this season than in others throughout the year,

...and do what? Preach the Gospel, of course. There's no greater way to spend any day no matter what time of year it is, this side of eternity. There is no purpose in marking this one day as an auspicious holiday for my family, since to me EVERY day is a celebration of Christ's redeeming work on the Cross, His human birth being an incidental necessity to that end, and EVERY day is a day worthy of spending meditating on His goodness and how to serve Him better. The purpose of Christmas, then, as with Pearl Harbor Day, 9-11, 4th of July, Halloween, Valentine's Day, and any other day of celebration or tragedy, is in its utility in reaching people through the avenue of a subject that their minds will by custom and tradition be conditioned to thinking about, more then than at any other time.

The idea that Christ should be celebrated on only ONE day of the year is an abominable absurdity. In a theological sense, I abhor the whole concept of the "present economic arrangement called Christmas." But that doesn't mean I don't find some redeeming value in the fact of its existence. The great expository preaching I've heard on the radio this week is a testament to Spurgeon's insight in the second and third paragraph quoted.

~ Rak Chazak

Monday, December 22, 2014

I'm no artist, but take a look...

I rummaged through my picture folder and threw together some that I'd saved off my facebook news feed over the past year. For something a little different, and to give casual readers both a) something to share if they wish and b) a way to know more about the sort of quotes that stand out to me, and which I affirm and which messages I promote.

~ Rak Chazak

Texting Treatise: Different Responses to Temptation

Texting Treatise: Different Responses to Temptation
The first section contains the types of responses or non-responses to sin, where a person rejects the idea that they should be repentant about it.
Lack of Awareness: unaware of what you are doing

Qualified Unawareness: aware of what you are doing, but think it is good. Unaware that it is sin

Apathy: aware it’s wrong but don’t care to change it

Minimization: aware it’s wrong but deny the severity of it

Defiance: aware of the wrongness and severity and willingly indulge it anyway without contrition
In this next section are different types of responses to sin that contain a measure of contrition (feeling sorry) or repentance (genuinely desiring to flee from or overcome the temptation). For the sake of making it seem more interesting, psychologically, I’ve arranged them in a potential ‘maturity scale’ that the hypothetical average sinner might progress through while dealing with recognized temptations to sin in their life.
                Sub-set: Vain Heroics
Halfhearted Abstinence: an attempt to break from it, but not strong enough in conviction to persist. Likely followed by binging on the particular temptation (shopping, drinking, sexual activity, surfing channels/websites, abandoning healthy eating or exercise, etc) upon crashing

All or Nothing: can lead to longer sustained abstinence, but more often leads to more time in between attempts, because of the fear of failure. Successive failure leads to disillusionment with pure abstinence and leads to a variety of different attempts to deal with the issue:

                Sub-set: Allowances
Hesitation: failing with abstinence doesn’t immediately lead to abandoning that method, but can cause a person to rationalize not trying right now, while they’re waiting for the perfect moment to start. They tolerate giving in to the temptation because they tell themselves that they’re planning to try to abstain from it soon

Banking: sinning more in the short term to satisfy an imagined quota that your flesh desires, so that you can hope to have better success in your abstinence effort. This leads to an expectation of high indulgence, which produces a cycle of periodic abstinence followed by binging, which is worse than the initial ‘halfhearted abstinence’ program.

Putting it Out of Mind: not thinking about it, in the hopes that it was one’s focus on trying to deal with the temptation so strongly that led to the catastrophic failures in the past. When this inevitably fails, it is modified to

Tolerance: not keeping track, and letting yourself get away with indulgence in the hope that by not “banking” it, you’ll end up indulging in it less, and that by not trying to abstain all-or-nothing-wise, you won’t have a “crash.”

                Sub-set: Searching for Loopholes
Rhythm/Scheduling: when tolerance doesn’t end up diminishing your gratification of your sinful desires, and you catch yourself, you may try to “out-think” yourself, by intentionally planning to give in to the temptation at certain points, but insert periods of focused abstinence in between. It’s basically a modified “banking/all-or-nothing” approach with shorter periods of abstinence that make success more likely. When the periods are extended in the effort of “weaning” yourself off of a dependence on the indulgence, you reach the level of

Gradual Improvement: this can be reached with or without the “scheduling” stage; it’s basically an attempt to “play a long game” and start comfortably with a high tolerance for your indulgence, gradually decreasing how much of an allowance you’ll give yourself. This is basically a more intentional version of

Fatalism: aiming for less than perfection because you can’t get it. Whereas the “gradual improvement,” “scheduling” and “banking” approaches tolerate sin for the sake of trying to build some sort of spiritual immunity to it (doesn’t work, by the way), fatalism is the final resting place of many people (note that this scale does not have to be limited to Christians). They decide that they’ll accept a certain amount of giving in to temptation over a certain length of time, indefinitely, because they’ve decided that they’ll never have victory over it. Such thinking can lead a person from being contrite  to becoming incorrigible. However, some people may make a few further desperate steps to dealing with the issue of their temptation

Sunday, December 21, 2014

AWPATT XIII: December 18-21 (Thoughts 201-204)

201 Based in part on past experience and in part on theology, I’m now rigidly conservative with regard to who should pursue whom at the onset of a romantic relationship (if you ask me for my number out of the blue, you’re immediately disqualified). God chose us, we did not choose Him, and based on the Ephesians 5 symbolism comparing husband and wife to Christ and the Church, it is obvious that for a woman to pursue a man, and for the man to accept it, is to demonstrate an ignorance of the mechanism of salvation (esp. as being monergistic), or rebelliousness against God’s loving direction for how to live. It won’t go well for such a couple.

202 But what does pursuit mean? It doesn’t seem to mean showing interest, as indicated in Ruth. It probably doesn’t mean a girl can’t give a guy compliments. But it means she shouldn’t attempt to initiate a relationship {note in the link above that it was Boaz who first showed inordinate kindness to her, and in his speech to her, subtly recognizes the facts that Ruth's mother later points out, that he was in a position to marry her according to the Mosaic Law's institution of Levirate marriage. In other words, you could say that he did in fact initiate this romantic engagement. She responded, and he concluded it}. Unbelievers can desire to be in heaven, and experience awe over what they see in the creation – so you have interest and praise, without the pursuit. Likewise, it is certain that the unbeliever, and unmarried woman, do not, in their attraction, have a desire for the object itself but only their perception of it. They do not have a fully comprehended idea of what they’re getting into when they say they want God, or want a man. If the pursuit is theirs, then unbelievers will try to create God in their image, and young women will try to create a husband in their image. You can’t have a relationship with someone who denies the core essence of your identity. Therefore, God must pursue. And because man is made in the image of God and given the symbolic role of Christ in his relationship with woman, therefore it must be man who pursues the woman.

203 So to the woman who wants to give guys her number, or get theirs, without waiting for them to suggest it; for the woman who tries to corral a man into proposing – if you don’t believe that man should pursue you, how can you believe that Christ pursued us? You have faithlessness to repent of.

204 A lot of the statements I’ve made with respect to veils, jewelry, dating, giving compliments etc throughout the course of this series may seem to be unduly harsh. Not so. This is deadly serious stuff. A person’s approach to relationships can tell you a great deal about their theological understanding, and often merely a cursory evaluation reveals deep and severe problems in it, which only need time to manifest, justifying the concern. Theology affects every aspect of our lives—sanctification does not fail to show evidence everywhere. Consequently, even those who don’t care one iota about Christianity can’t escape the fact that they can be identified on the basis of wrong theology, which shows itself in their life choices and what they may consider innocuous opinions. A woman who chases men is horridly immature, in a spiritual sense at the very least.

It probably would upset a worldly woman that I could spot her and reject her on the basis of how she talks, or the fact that her midriff is exposed, or that she has a tattoo, or a tongue piercing, or that she smokes, or that she drinks, or that she’s obsessed with her phone, indicating addiction or attachment issues, or that she eats far too little in front of others to explain her body weight, indicating a hidden self-control issue, or that she wears tube tops, indicating a lack of self-awareness or care about how she affects others (refer to Thought 145), or that she makes no eye contact at all, indicating lack of confidence and a sense of security in her own identity, or that she stares, indicating rank arrogance and lust, or that she’s obnoxiously loud, indicating once again a lack of self-awareness, confidence, security, or empathy for or interest in others—what’s that but pride, and where is pride in a Christian woman? Getting rejected for what seems like a small thing may be offensive and they may think Christian men shallow, but the fact is that they are the ones who are so shallow that they don’t even know themselves!—or comprehend how bad the “little things” they casually accept about themselves actually are.  They are symptoms of a reality that is bad enough that it renders the intense sort of relationship that comes from Christian commitment utterly impossible, and hence why you don’t see these sort of women sustaining lasting relationships except for emotionally manipulative ones. Should I feel bad for not wanting this? I reject the notion out of hand!

~ Rak Chazak

PS Next AWPATT: Desirable qualities in a woman, from A to Z (and no, it's not "attractive," "beautiful," "cute," "delightful," "fun," "gorgeous," "lovely," "nice," "pretty," etc)

Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Sufficiency of Minimalism

Would you  be satisfied with a nearly deistic God? That's not saying He is, but considering how you'd react to a very minimally involved deity is an important thought exercise that can help you evaluate and strengthen your faith.

The Sufficiency of Minimalism

                What if God doesn’t intervene in earthly affairs? What if, after the conclusion of Acts, God neither acts through human nor supernatural agents of change, instead letting everything proceed according to physical laws and human decisions alone? What if every change in a person’s mind, from contrition to conversion to sanctification, is not the result of an active alteration of their mental substrate by the Holy Spirit, but merely a deterministic inevitability resulting from contemplating the truths of the Scriptures? What if God’s irresistible grace, as well as His sanctification, was accomplished not by an act of His in the present, but an act of His in the deep past, which continually effects salvation throughout all time, so that He is still the author of it all, despite no supernatural behavior on the individual or subatomic level?

                Would you still attribute every good thing to God? Would you still give Him the credit? Give Him the glory? Or would it cheapen your understanding of His goodness? Is your faith dependent on a belief in God supernaturally intervening to manipulate world events, subliminally, all of the time and everywhere? As if, perhaps, this is the only way that you can conceptualize Him being in control of everything, or deserving credit for the outcome? If your idea that God plays ‘cellular train conductor’ in people’s brains, or ‘atomic pool shark’ in the particles of earth and sky and sea, were challenged or undermined, would your faith fall apart? This is worth seriously considering.

                I’ll confess: my conception of God’s involvement does include the idea that He bumps this atom here, increasesthat action potential there, annihilates this positron here, raises the thermal energy of that molecule, breaks that peptide bond, induces magnetism in some metal somewhere, alters the velocity of some photon, pulls, shifts, breaks, combines, removes, replaces, diverts, and orchestrates an endless undetectable masterpiece of butterfly effects all over the world to minutely influence world events and accomplish personal and national histories without transgressing the boundary of personal autonomy that He intentionally limits Himself not to.

                But suppose this notion is incorrect? What if He doesn’t make a billion tiny interventions every second? What if He makes none? Or one every year, utilizing much more extended butterfly effects? Does my belief in God’s sovereignty and intimate care for human lives and world events rise and fall with this romantic view of Him as a maestro? No, it does not, and should not. It is my own idea, based on what I know about God’s power and wisdom, but my own idea, nonetheless. Him sovereignly ordaining everything that occurs does not need to mean that he flips a switch every time something happens. He could have planned it out a thousand years earlier, and being infinitely intelligent, perfectly predicted everything that would happen over that time period that led up to that moment. Or, He could have intervened the Planck-second immediately preceding. Whichever is the case, it changes nothing about the fact that it is entirely within His power to do either.

                In the interest of developing a satisfied faith in God, I’ve contemplated ideas like this from time to time, and considered that though God is probably very active—and must, on some level, be, because of His promise of the indwelling ministry of the Holy Spirit to believers—I should be able to find contentment with the possibility that He’s minimally involved in human affairs, and much more is due to chance and human agency than even I believe.

                When it comes to the bedrock of my faith, I know from the witness of history that He really did come in our likeness to die for our sins in our stead, so that justice could be served and I can be free from His wrath and reconciled to Him as a forgiven, redeemed and beloved son. That is ALL that is necessary to come to an unshakable faith in Him. Everything else is a splendid, wonderful continuation of His grace toward us, sanctifying us from now until the day of His return. But even without this, I have everything I need in order to be accountable to Him, to believe in Him, and to trustingly persevere to be obedient from this point on until the future consummation, even if, hypothetically, my faith received no further encouragement whatsoever, and life was one big struggle to resist despair from constant flaming arrows and assorted spiritual anguish.

                This is being content with as little as possible. When you are content with the least, you will be ever more grateful, the more you receive. The sufficiency of minimalism is not something that should characterize your faith—as resisting more than the essential doctrines of Christianity—but is something that should support your faith, being something in the back of your mind that tells you that no matter how your faith might be shaken as you go along, no matter how much it may be attacked, and how strong the temptation to despair, you know with full confidence that the core of your belief is stronger still, and no matter how wrong everything else you believe may be, no matter how effective the attempts to destroy your faith, nothing will ever be able to change the root facts of the Incarnation, Crucifixion, Death Burial and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, and on this hinges everything else, so hold on to it no matter what!

                The most minimal truth is the most sufficient. Contentedness with this leads to a lifetime of confidence and overflowing gratefulness at whatever more you receive from God than this knowledge, to strengthen your faith. And when we’re in eternity, and God reveals to us just what the extent of His interaction with physical reality was, we’ll have an endless number of reasons to be awed, thankful and filled with an attitude of worship toward Him for everything He did that we never knew while we walked in the valley.

~ Rak Chazak 

Further reading (very interesting): The Expansion of Space--A Dark Science. Keeping in mind the link above to electron-positron (anti-electron) annihilation, these two excerpts stood out: 
Vacuum energy comes from the spontaneous emission of virtual particle/anti-particle pairs that appear momentarily from small quanta of energy from the vacuum, sort of a quantum foamy stuff, and then these particle pairs self-annihilate releasing the same quanta of energy back into the vacuum. Its energy density is non-zero, in fact, if you estimate it from electron/anti-electron pairs filling a volume on the scale of their Compton wavelength you get an energy density about 48 magnitudes higher than the estimated average mass density of the universe. From this it follows that the matter content of the universe is only a tiny fraction of the total energy, when compared to the vacuum energy. The particular choice of the wavelength one uses for the cut-off energy in the calculation of its energy density has led to a figure as high as 10,120 times the average mass density of the universe.
The quantum vacuum impedes the progress of photons through space to the speed, c, and hence it introduces the first “clock” and the forward arrow of time. Empty space would have meant unimpeded photons with infinite speed.
This last sentence is intriguing because of its relevance to Dr. Jason Lisle's Anisotropic Synchrony Convention, a model he lays out where the one-way speed of light is postulated to be infinite, in order to explain why we can observe distant starlight in a young universe. This might be worth devoting a whole article to, itself, some time. 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Pulp Fiction III

Pulp Fiction III

 This is the intellectual property of the author. Permission to reproduce in any format is granted, on the condition that you attribute it to the author and that you do not publish it for personal monetary gain.

‘Swedish people suck! Swedish people suck! Swedish people suck!’ The other boys at the table mobbed the Swedish boy with a chant joined by three or four pairs of fists banging on the table in rhythm. Thinking back to that day, the Polemicist realized that it had never occurred to him that the other 7th graders were expressing racist sentiment. It seemed more accurate that he was being singled out as an individual, and merely insulted in the same way that people insult one’s mother—attempting to hurt someone’s feelings by verbally abusing people they care about.

            No, rather than the limited concept of racism, which is institutionalized hatred based on ethnic pride on the part of the abusers, this was xenophobia. Fear of that which is strange or unusual, foreign to the experience. Xenophobia isn’t a thing that you can put your finger on, thought the Polemicist. It’s spontaneous and rather than a predetermined organized resistance against a perceived enemy, it’s more of a knee-jerk response. It is the ostracism of someone who does not conform to your expectations. Xenophobia underlies all racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, and all other prejudicial ‘isms.’ But it is technically the instinct within the individual that is what is seen manifesting in the second-and-third-order tiers of human activity as more obvious hatreds: bullying, then brawling, then rioting, then war. Racism is limited to distinctly different cultures and people groups, and sexism is limited to gender, but xenophobia covers white, American, middle-class males bullying other white, American, middle-class males. The fact of the Polemicist being Swedish was not something you could see, and it wasn’t, after all, what was seen that was rejected by the other boys. It was his personal uniqueness, his nonconformity.

            He didn’t chase tail, he didn’t care about ingesting substances, he didn’t care about sports, he didn’t dress the same, he didn’t talk the same, and he was ambivalent about gaining peer approval. For that, he was distrusted, because people naturally feel unable or unwilling to trust someone whose behavior they don’t understand. A lot of interpersonal prejudice in modern culture stems more from this instinctual, low-level xenophobic tendency than from an organized, intellectually comprehended, intentional and institutionalized bigotry against whole classes of people by other whole classes. Defining what is really xenophobia as racism does not resolve racism; instead, it conditions people with xenophobia to much more frequently make the leap from petty dislike of some individual to the justifying of vandalism or murder in the service of an imagined class war. And imagined wars, if too many people participate in the imagining of them, become real wars.

            The Polemicist had been the victim of xenophobia in his life, but he was not omniscient, so he could not know if racist or sexist prejudice against him had ever caused him harm. But he was content not knowing. He did not have to know if people treated him despitefully because of his white skin or his genital anatomy. He did not have to hate those people back, so he was content to let it go and think the best of people until it was proved that he should do otherwise. And he slept restfully at night, knowing that God had said, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay.’ Keeping no list of wrongs gave him nothing to remind himself to be angry with, and he was consequently much happier than most people he ever spoke to. How he wished that they knew what he knew!

~ Rak Chazak

AWPATT XII: September 17-December 17 (Thoughts 109-200)

Will mention sexual subjects in connection to marriage.

109 Okay, recap: I’ve criticized veils, expensive dresses, wedding cakes, floral arrangements and hiring a band. Now, is it fine to play music? Certainly. I like music. Note, I didn’t say I like noise. Not all sound constitutes music, and then not all music constitutes pleasant music, or music that would be fitting for a wedding celebration. I would definitely stock a playlist of songs that would preach the Gospel and talk about marriage from a Christian theological perspective. Dave Barnes’ God Gave Me You, Andrew Peterson’s Dancing in the Minefields and World Traveler, Sanctus Real’s Lead Me, and other songs like Love is Not a Fight, Children of God, You Belong to Me, Beloved, and many more, and those are just a sampling of songs remarking on marriage. The wedding is first and foremost an opportunity to preach the Gospel to people who may never willingly sit still and pay attention or visit a church of their own accord. What more powerful way to display the truth of God’s love and grace in salvation than via the single most powerful representation of His nature that there is in this world?

110 One way that the wedding will be a witness to unbelieving family members or friends is by the absence of worldly or otherwise religious traditionally included aspects of the celebration. I’ve already mentioned veils. But the music played and the ritual parts, like traditional words spoken by the officiant and spouses, when not included, will tend to jar those who expect a catholic wedding, or a jewish wedding, or a secular wedding. And that will get their attention. Then the alternative will be presented, and everyone left with a choice.

111 Secular folks (here including those who consider themselves members of churches, and who are probably nominal believers) will probably expect a dance. No dancing at a wedding would be a shock to this culture, which has come to take sensuality for granted to such an extreme that people go to weddings trying to hook up with someone of the opposite sex, or to have fun – really? The wedding of someone else is for the purpose of you having fun?? Not allowing people the chance to exercise this narcissism will be a witness enough to some.

112 Many people are so blind these days that they think priests officiate every wedding. The only major American religion that has “priests” is the Roman Catholic Church, which, since before the 1500s, has been an apostate, anti-Christ religion. The term “priest” is a term that means someone who speaks to God directly. Prior to Jesus’ incarnation, the Israelites had a high priest who would sacrifice for the sins of the people once a year, but when Jesus came, He, functioning as our High Priest, sacrificed once and for all for the sins of those who would believe. Now, the book of Hebrews says, we His followers are a royal priesthoodevery one of us. There is no priestly class within Christendom, and the idea that someone else has greater access to God than my bride and I is an offensive and anti-Biblical notion!

113 I struggle with the symbolism of the ringbearer. I don’t see where it’s useful, but it also isn’t clear what it’s supposed to represent in its present use, so it’s unlikely that I’ll be in favor of utilizing such a fixture at my wedding. The rings themselves represent continuity and wholeness and union, more on that below. But if this comes from somewhere, then it is fitting that the union of marriage be symbolized as coming down as a gift from God, so it would make more sense for the pastor to give it to the spouses, or for the rings to be sitting prominently at the front of the church for the whole time until they are put on the bride and groom’s fingers.

114 What would the father giving his daughter to her husband to symbolize? If it is ownership of another person a la slavery, then that's not Biblical, and it must be dispensed with. But actually having an understanding of female submission in the Bible, it's clear as day to me: until marriage, a woman is under the spiritual authority of her father. And when she marries, she comes under the spiritual authority of her husband. She submits to the one, and at a certain point, ceases, and begins to submit to the other as her first and foremost "prophet, priest and king" in the earthly realm, with each of them submitting in turn to God, our true Prophet Priest and King. This could be included in a wedding without having anything to do with ownership, but spiritual authority, and it shows that the bride is a godly woman willing to submit to her father before marriage and her husband in marriage, out of obedience to God.
115 Did you know that wedding rings worn on the finger are a custom popularized by Rome? Rings have been used for a long time to represent engagement, and as far back as Jacob’s marriages to Leah and Rachel, you can see that he gave his wife a nose ring. So rings are Biblical symbolism, and having it on the finger isn’t likely something strange, since nothing is implied to be evil about signet rings of kings, for example. So I have no beef with a ring being the symbol to represent that I am married to my wife.

116 But need it be gold? I think that’s fine, because it represents purity, but for me, personally, I prefer Tungsten. For maximum irony, it’s named after the Swedish words for “heavy rock” by its Swedish discoverer. But it’s one of the densest and strongest non-poisonous metals in the periodic table, and any metal can be pure so long as it’s not alloyed with another element, so the purity element still stands there. But what matters more to me is the symbolism of strength. Our union won’t be tainted by adultery, so it’ll be pure in that respect, but both my wife and I are sinners coming together, and so there is an inherent impurity in our souls, one that Christ has forgiven and is continually healing us from, while promising to remove it completely in the end—it is by His strength that we, two sinners, can come together as one and not be separated. So I like the idea of Tungsten because it will represent that it is God who keeps our marriage together, that He’s at the center of it.

117 Because I really don’t care, I’m not even sure which hand the wedding ring is “supposed to” sit, but I think it’s the right. There is equally valid symbolism for the right and left hand, the right being used in the Bible (‘the wise man’sheart is at his right hand’) to represent control, because most people are right handed, although the left hand is closer to the heart, and I know from Boy Scouts that it was used by Lenape Indians in handshakes to symbolize friendship for this reason. For me, I have spontaneous, occasional, yet persistent flare-ups of skin irritation (apparently a form of Eczema), which my right ring finger tends to bear the brunt of, so I might put it on my left hand for this proximate cause, and justify it with the reasons given.

118 On the other hand (hur hur), there’s a surprise benefit to having the wedding ring on the left hand, if it’s usually on the right—people might be more likely to respect your relationship if it has the appearance to them of being “new,” so that they wouldn’t doubt your passion for each other. Discouraging home-wreckers would be a practical benefit of having the ring on the left hand, without being openly deceitful about it.

119 White wedding dresses were popularized in Victorian England, but white is not the only color that can represent purity. Blue represents water, which hearkens both to water baptism and the Noachian Deluge as further symbols of the washing clean that God accomplishes for us through salvation. More to the point would be the color red, which represents the shed blood of Christ, which itself represents His death, that satisfied the price to be paid for our sins, and made us ‘white as snow’ in the sight of God the Father. I could see my wife perhaps wearing a white dress with a red sash and blue …shawl? Whatever something just covering her shoulders would be called. Or any of the colors by itself; explaining which symbolism is intended would be part of the ceremony and I’ll be curious what her personal choice would be.

120 Of course, there wouldn’t be any alcohol served at the wedding. No open bar, nothing of that sort. That would probably be a shock to some people. Mark this, I’m not among the fundamentalist-baptist sort who make it an article of faith that alcohol is evil. Hardly so, but it’s certainly not necessary nor is it always good for everyone. Besides, I have a preexisting concern for having full control over your mental faculties. Anything that interferes with my ability to think would be bad in my view, sin or not, because nothing good can come from handicapping my ability to make the best decisions with all the information available to me. Alcohol present at my wedding would provide some with an excuse to avoid hearing the Gospel by drinking enough to make them black out or otherwise lose awareness of whatever is being told to them. In this way, the presence of alcohol certainly would be a temptation to sin for some, and that’s why I would not include it.

121 I have no intention to ‘date,’ if dating is seen as a casual relationship with someone without the intention of marriage. If you have this sort of relationship, you’ve already decided that you’re not going to be with them forever (here meaning for the duration of your earthly life), and so you’ve already decided that you’re going to break up with them when you begin dating. What would be the point of such a relationship? “Practice?” Make sure you tell that to him or her when you go out the first time, that you “just want to practice what it’s like to have a real relationship, using this one for make-pretend.” I bet they’ll be thrilled. And if they go along with it, there’re two reasons: 1) they don’t believe you. In other words, they are accusing you of lying, so you already have a lack of trust, which is going to result in disaster 2) they do believe you, but are emotionally damaged and would rather be with someone who will hurt them in the long run rather than take rejection up-front. NEITHER of these situations are positive, and so no matter how you slice it, “dating” without any plan for commitment is futile, self-destructive, insensitive, sadistic, immature, emotionally calamitous and a stupid waste of time. So don’t date.

122 A relationship can culminate in 4 basic ways: stagnation, where it neither grows nor dissolves; break-up; death; or marriage. Seeing as none of the former three are appealing, what would be the point of entering a relationship you were expecting to be doomed from the get-go? Only marriage has any sustaining value to it.

123 So my approach to women is, initially, no different from my approach to men. Talk, see if they enjoy talking back. Get to know them. If you connect well, you can become friends because you build up history and trust (one way to define friendship). This can take place long-distance

124 After that point, the question becomes: do I know enough about this person that I can see them as 1) a desirable marriage partner in general and 2) as compatible with me, in particular? If those are true, courtship can be initiated, which is simply the expressed intent to get to know a person better with the motivation of pursuing marriage. Clear goals. And so it isn't outwardly much different to the world than a friendship. But where it leads is so different from where anything the world offers leads to.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Pulp Fiction II

Pulp Fiction II
 This is the intellectual property of the author. Permission to reproduce in any format is granted, on the condition that you attribute it to the author and that you do not publish it for personal monetary gain.
            ‘Uber-God is more powerful than God,’ said the Confused Boy. ‘If I can imagine a being that is greater than God in all His attributes, then that being is greater than God and God is not omnipotent, omniscient, et cetera.’

            The Polemicist sat stone-faced. Was this really the best that deductive philosophy had to offer?

            ‘See here.’ The Confused Boy constructed an elaborate line-by-line proof on a notebook paper, using logical operators that the Polemicist did not recognize, because he had not taken Deductive Systems. ‘I define Uber-God as having greater knowledge than God, greater power than God, and of course he is more benevolent than God…now try to defend your God within the context of this proof.’

            ‘Uber-God doesn’t exist.’

            ‘No no no, you’re not doing it right, you illogical fundamentalist. You have to use the proof I gave you to try to argue against your God’s nonexistence.’

            The Polemicist wondered what website Confused Boy had come across late at night and been so impressed with that he was trying to replicate the effect on him by copying the argument verbatim. But had he not considered that what was persuasive to an atheist was hardly persuasive to an intellectually satisfied Christian?

            ‘Simply saying that there’s a greater being than God doesn’t make that being exist,’ replied the Polemicist. ‘It’s like saying you’ll add one to infinity. Being able to put the words “greater than God” together in a sentence doesn’t mean that such a concept is realistically possible.’

            ‘You’re not addressing the argument. And I know you can’t. According to this proof, your God is not all-powerful and thus not worthy of worship.’ The Confused Boy folded his hands in smug confidence.

            The Polemicist was perplexed as to what assumption the Confused Boy was making that led him to think he had his opponent cornered. He tried to explain that imagining an alternate universe with a more powerful all-powerful being was an exercise in futility, because there was no basis for believing that such a universe existed. It was appealing to a hypothetical deity in order to argue against another one. If God was supposedly nonexistent and belief in Him irrational, how much less rational would it be to believe in Uber-God, who was nonexistent to an even greater degree of nonexistence? If you believed God to be a hypothetical concept, and the invocation thereof irrelevant to reality, how could invoking another hypothetical concept to combat this possibly be of any use?

            ‘What would you say to someone who responded that, by definition, Uber-God would be God?’

            ‘Simple. Uber-God’s first article of faith is that the Bible is false. (Eat that, you Bible-thumping bigot).’

            ‘Well, obviously Uber-God is an inferior deity, then, if he denies obvious truths.’ The Polemicist’s smirk pricked at the Confused Boy’s confidence and drove him to take a more aggressive approach. If his opponent did not want to play fair, he would have to spell it out for him.

            ‘God is that than which nothing greater can be conceived, correct?’ The Polemicist would not have put it that way, but assented for the sake of argument, to see where the Confused Boy’s logic would lead. ‘And since I can conceive of something greater than God, then God can’t be the greatest thing that can be conceived. And if He isn’t the greatest thing that can be conceived, then He is not “that than which nothing greater can be conceived,” ergo, He is not God. Ergo, since God is not God, God does not exist.’

            The Polemicist was dumbfounded. For a silver bullet, this was among the least impressive proofs against God he’d heard so far, short of the ‘why do males have nipples’ one, perhaps. It hinged on the notion that conceiving something infinite was even possible—and mark, not just conceiving the notion of an infinite, but actually comprehending the infinite as it actually is, which is a big difference! But more than that, the argument seemed to hinge on the expectant belief that the Polemicist was guaranteed to defend the definition of God as ‘that than which nothing greater can be conceived.’ The Confused Boy seemed unwilling to accept that The Polemicist wasn’t forced to agree with someone else just because the Confused Boy’s philosophy professor had told him that this argument was the best that Christian philosophy could muster.

            ‘Suppose it’s possible to conceive of something greater than God,’ the Polemicist suggested, ‘for example by scaling up the quantifiable effect of one of God’s attributes.’ It isn’t the case that simply by conceiving it, that something greater can exist. God can be the greatest thing in existence, even if He weren’t the greatest thing you could imagine. Isn’t this true?’

            ‘No, you can’t do that. If God isn’t the greatest thing conceivable, then He isn’t God.’

            ‘Why not? What attribute has He lost?’

            ‘You have to believe this. You have to defend this. You don’t understand the power of this proof because of your backward ignorance.’

            ‘The proof fails because it assumes that something has to exist because you can imagine it. It doesn’t.’

            ‘But that is what you believe! That whatever the greatest thing in existence is, that has to be God!’

            ‘That’s not why I believe God is the greatest being in exis---‘

            ‘---and simply believing He exists doesn’t mean He does!’

            ‘And I fully agree. I believe He exists because He does, not the other way around.’

            ‘You believe “that than which nothing greater can exist” must be God, and now I’ve proven your God not to exist. Uber-God killed your God. You can’t deny this.’ The Confused Boy held firmly to his preexisting conviction that Anselm of Canterbury was the tool of his victory, and that the Polemicist had to agree with Anselm, because he was a Christian, and Christians had to blindly accept what their leaders told them. Every one of them was responsible for agreeing with whatever another one had said. Thinking for oneself was the greatest sin in Christendom, and any believer who did was surely a deceitful hypocrite, or not truly faithful!

            ‘If you say so.’

            The Confused Boy stalked away, sure of himself, and, too busy rehearsing how he would boast of his trouncing the arrogant, hateful gay-basher with the power of education and logic, did not take notice of the ironic satire contained in the Polemicist’s final remark.
~ Rak Chazak

Personal Life Update: Sankta Lucia

Journal Entry, Monday December 15, 2014

         Sankta Lucia party _______ with the Swedish families

[Blondie] didn’t come this time; she’s still in CA and according to [German] her brother, doing very well for herself. She’d be coming up later for Tradition Day (my epithet for “christmas” nowadays). Their mom [EyeShadow] was there, too, but we didn’t talk all too much. I jotted notes down before bed last night (tonight?) to avoid forgetting details like names. [Snowball] was the shorter, oldest woman there, who it sounded like she said had been the one who started the Lucia get-together 15 (or 25?) years ago. She’s 80something, with a narcissistic (her word—to [Swede], who told us in the car going home) 50y.o. son for whom she has been paying rent in order to get him to move out of her house and stay out. I didn’t talk to [German] super much but I pointed out a key-fiddle on the wall in one of the rooms and noted that it features in Nordman music, and he was interested in song suggestions. At the dinner, [Bruno] and I talked with about 4-5 other older women, and the only one who was not Swedish, I think, was [Smiley], a [someone's mom from high school] lookalike who was very cute for what I’m assuming must be an early or mid-40s woman, since she referenced having a 15-year-old son (see below). Her husband’s name is [Smilie], and she made reference to him starting up a company 1½  years ago to comment that just having a degree, though I don’t have much more on paper to impress with, was noteworthy because it showed you’re smart and dedicated enough to persist until you learn something. She’s a [career] of some sort, and listened to [Bruno] explain his career track hopes: [redacted] She laughed at how he relayed that the [women coworkers] treat him, some joking that they could be his mother, and others straight up being mischevious (he had another time used the word “lecherous” to describe them to me, but I forget what word he used yesterday). After that point, she complimented both him and I that we were confident in speaking with older women, and that that was somewhat unique and a good thing. I can’t remember exactly how she put it, but she did use the word confident to describe us, as I parsed that phrase above. That was encouraging. In a text to [college friend] after coming home, I contemplated that her personal experience with young men perhaps not being comfortable speaking with older women could be in part due to her being sexually intimidating, more than just merely older. On the other hand, maybe [Bruno] and I are unique, as she suggested herself, because of [redacted] . I speculated further in the text I mentioned, that maybe young adult males in this culture have difficulty interacting with both pretty and ugly, both young and old women, for different but connected reasons, because of pornography consumption—that they are mentally conditioned so that it’s hard for them to relate to women in any way other than sexually. This was naturally not included in the table talk, but her delightfulness again brought to mind the same feeling I recognized in Fall 2012 and have written about a few other times, such as in my Plato’s Forms blog post—that something I see in her is appealing, and I know better than to think that I’m romantically attracted to her personally; instead, her engaging personality represents that which is my ideal that I desire: an attractive, elegant, intelligent, wise, motherly, mature, feminine woman who’s easy to communicate with and who I can relish in the joy of being united with at all stages of our lives together, both when young and when middle aged and when old. Rounding out the text, I speculated that if more people could recognize the difference between these feelings being inspired by someone, and having feelings for that person, that there would be a lot less adultery in the world. Right about when we left, and said goodbye to [Smiley], another lady  asked if we were her sons, to which she laughed and, patting [Bruno] on the shoulder, said ‘thanks for the compliment.’ And followed it by saying, “I do have a 15 year old son,” compounding the flattery by implying we, or at least he, looked youthful as a teenager. But the last people we talked to were [Green] and her daughter [Attila] , who it turned out [Bruno] had met and posed for a photograph with a few years ago (I only went to the event last year for the first time, because I’d been at college otherwise). She and he made grimacing furrowed-eye gestures at each other, and it amused me to note that the little girl’s forehead (she was 8) was nearly expressionless, having no forehead wrinkles to speak of. Having a number of fine lines there myself when I gesticulate with my eyebrows, it had not occurred to me that they’re a subtle sign of my age. She’d been dancing ballet since she was 2, and like most kids between 4 and 9, connected really well with [Bruno], whether she remembered having met him before or not. She impressed us by spontaneously offering to pronounce deoxyribonucleic acid perfectly, and I told her mom, who was holding her at that point, “encourage that.” [Green] said that it was nice that there was someone here [Attila] could connect with, indicating [Bruno] , and I affirmed that by philosophically stating that I think we can bridge the gap between youth and adulthood, and encourage young children to mature by, for lack of a better word, being a model of what growing up looks like. I told her the story of my Boy Scout experience, where the incorporation of a satirical fantasy written by another boy my age to deal with his difficulty taking directions from me became a sort of local mythology that allowed the younger boys (11-13) to be entertained without making a joke out of everything, and actually seemed to help them discipline themselves and be more receptive to what I would tell them as the SPL (Senior Patrol Leader). [Green] was impressed, and I said that in our position, [Bruno] and I are able to figuratively give a hand-up to those younger than us, to spur them on toward maturity/adulthood, but we’re getting on in age, so we’re doing the best we can, but soon we’ll be “pure adults”—though that wouldn’t stop us from trying to influence kids positively! In the car on the way home, [Swede] explained that [Green] had just gotten full custody over [Attila] , after having put her in school in Sweden for less than a year, but that having been interpreted as running away with the child, and leading to a prolonged custody dispute with an unreliable ex husband. [Swede] had gone in to be a (character?) witness for her in court, while that was happening. Apparently, the ex had amassed $65,000 in back taxes over many years, but did not own his house or cars, instead rented them, so that they could not be repossessed, indicating that this was a preplanned scheme, and before the divorce, [Green] had been advised to file ‘married filing separately,’ to avoid getting dragged into the financial ridiculousness that her apparently grotesquely narcissistic ex was creating. When the same judge who had judged the divorce finally judged the custody dispute, because of the ex’s known unreliability, he or she had awarded [Green] full custody.

It's weird to go hang out with mid-and-upper middle-class folks, being from the lower middle class myself. But hey, experiencing diversity and culture and stuff, that's good, right? Plus a little bit of immersion in a part of my heritage is bound to be beneficial somehow.

~ Rak Chazak

Random further reading:

Pulp Fiction I

Pulp Fiction I

This is the intellectual property of the author. Permission to reproduce in any format is granted, on the condition that you attribute it to the author and that you do not publish it for personal monetary gain.
            It was late Fall 2010 when the campus exploded.

            This was not a terrorist attack. In fact, the explosion couldn’t be seen. But by its effects it made itself known. Rippling out from the epicenter of an abstract reality, shockwaves of discontent manifested in rumors and outrage. What had happened was deeply injurious to the sense of pride many had in the academic establishment to which they belonged. If their prejudices were correct, then the lone voice in the electronic wilderness was a painful evidence of the failure of higher education to reform minds and achieve a unanimity of scientific doctrine among its pupils.

            This cheapened their view of their own success and insulted those who took comfort in their perceived academic prowess. The dissonance produced an argumentative backlash on the insulated discussion forum of a prestigious university. Men and women whetted their appetites for controversy, brought to bear their weapons of worldly wisdom, and took aim at the man who dared defy the presumed conclusions of the education he was receiving. Thousands became acquainted with a single name—for some, a byword; for others, a folk legend; and for still fewer others, an ideological ally and friend.

            Love and hate were expressed, by no means in equal measure. Some were impressed by his command of logic, others by his depths of ignorance. He converted apparent friends and apparent enemies, each to the opposite camp. For a man who wished to imitate Christ, he certainly had one thing in common with Him: he drove a wedge between everybody. Everyone had an opinion, and no one was let alone to sit on a fence. And of course, he was ‘despised and rejected’ by most, but very few people truly knew him.

            In the end run, the most important things he learned at college were gained from this forum. And after his baptism-by-fire, he was no less zealous than when he started. His destiny may turn out to be insignificant, but he would see it through to its utmost fulfillment.

~ Rak Chazak

Thursday, December 4, 2014

The Purity Principle: A Biologist's Perspective on the Timing of God's Wrath and Salvation

This'll be a long post with lots of pictures, yay! Make sure to click "Read More" so you don't miss out! 

The Purity Principle

Thesis abstract: my observation and speculation that the reason the Fall happened before Adam and Eve had children, and that the Flood destroyed all of mankind except Noah’s family, is that God chose those times to avoid the far more complicated consequences of what would happen if only a part of mankind fell at once, or how to keep the Messianic Line undiluted from Adam to Christ. They appear to be decisions made mainly on the basis of demographics, with respect to their relation to sinfulness and its effects on the righteous who are living, keeping in mind God’s respect for the deterministic autonomy of man.
How can I say that with simple words? = Specific points in history have seen God’s intervention, I speculate, because of an implied, but (to my knowledge) inexplicit, goal of maintaining the spiritual purity of believers: first the patriarchs, then Israel, and then the Church.

Here’s my big idea: have you noticed, for instance, that every single person in Jesus’ lineage as given in Matthew and Luke (as far as can be told from Biblical background information on them) were saved? What are the chances of that? Now, there must certainly be unbelievers in His ancestry somewhere, BUT nevertheless the fact that there is at least one lineage containing an unbroken chain of belief in God, from father to son, from Adam to Christ, is a very conspicuous observation. And it begs analysis of why this might be the case.

I should clarify how I am using the word purity. You may have gotten the idea from the last paragraph, but let me dispel any possible misunderstanding. My notion of purity in this article concerns itself with spiritual genealogy. The physical lineage doesn’t matter; this isn’t promoting nationalism or ethnic divisions between people. In the context of Israel and the Church, Biblically, purity means you have believers inside and unbelievers outside. Let unrepentant ones in, and the passage “a little leaven leavens the whole lump” comes true. The idea is that unbelief is, from a demographic viewpoint, infectious. Leave it alone without a purge of some sort (does not need to be violent), and over time it has the tendency to totally corrupt everything. We see this in the example of Noah, whose culture had become so far removed from God (from the impurity of the God-believing Sethites intermarrying with pagan Cainites, which tainted the succeeding generations with the Cainite godlessness) that he was the ONLY man alive on earth who walked with God!—out of the millions or possibly billions of people alive at that point. As a student trained in biology, this makes me think of serial dilutions. 

Right-click on any of the following images to see them in a full size view.

Faithlessness, if tolerated by the faithful, and absent God’s intervention, has the effect of diluting faithfulness over time so that there is less and less faith on earth, by proportion of the total population, by every succeeding generation.

This is obviously a bad thing, and if God does not desire (as I believe the Bible gives us strong support to believe) for faithfulness to ever disappear completely from the earth, at any one time, then He would have to do something to protect the diminishing remaining faithful from the corrupting godlessness around them.

And this is, I believe, a supporting reason for God’s decisions in history to a) send the Flood, b) call Abraham out of Ur, c) the Israelite Exodus, d) the Zionistic theocratic laws for Israel that forbade intermarriage with foreigners, and ultimately why Jesus came at just the time that He did.

Naturally, the main reasons from a theological point of view, and a historical point of view, are different, more obvious, and more important. But every good thing done has more than one good reason for doing it, and I’m going to use the space after the jump to describe how God’s desire for the spiritual purity of the various people God has dealt with has, I believe, been a supporting reason for His decision making and His perfect timing.

Adultification II: Loan Repayment (IBR) and Capitalization of Interest

I had a lot of assumptions about how money, interest, payments, etc were handled, and they were all slightly incorrect in one way or another. Here's my voyage of error and education.

First, my loans entered repayment 6 months after graduation, which was roughly December 2013. I believe I was previously aware of the possibility of gaining what's called "forbearance" on loans, (probably from a phone call to the loan servicer before the repayment period began) which allows you to pay less, or wait to pay, while you are in a difficult financial situation.

The standard repayment option for my student loans owed to the Department of Education was $350/mo. The interest alone is $170, roughly. But under the Income-Based Repayment (IBR) option, I'm allowed to pay nothing, so long as my yearly income is less than my total debt. On minimum wage, that's a given.

In the mean time, I had asked for the loans to be placed on "administrative forbearance," where I wouldn't get penalized for not making payments, but I had to still make an official IBR plan request. I got around to this by July of this year. Nevertheless, I was tantalized by the idea of getting an income tax refund for the interest I paid to the loans, so I set about to mail checks to pay the interest during that time period anyway.

And last month, when I set about to calculate how much I was paying of interest and principal, I found some upsetting numbers.

On not a single month was the full amount of the accrued interest paid! And tallying up the total interest paid, I calculated that a full half of the money I'd sent had gone to principal, rather than the interest on every loan group, which I'd specifically requested in the special payment instructions. (I had sent a little more each month, to go to the principal on the loan group with the highest interest rate, but not nearly half of each check) What was going on?!

This was my mistake. I had made three false assumptions.

  1. That interest was capitalized monthly. (Capitalization is when interest gets added to principal, which is what is used to calculate how much interest you'll 'earn' on subsequent statements) Perhaps it's different for different loans, but if I understood my call-center lady correctly, the IBR plan never capitalizes interest, but keeps it separate from principal, for as long as you remain on the plan and as long as you don't "reallocate" the interest/principal.
  2. That interest accrued monthly. I knew that the interest rate was a yearly rate, but I had not considered that the loan holder calculated additions to the interest on a daily basis. That's why, when I mailed my checks ahead of the due date, the full amount of interest shown on the statements had not accrued yet, so I was sending them more money than there was interest, and the remainder was being put to principal.
  3. That the payments I mailed would be deposited on the due date. See above. Payments received were applied on the same day, and if I had wanted it differently, I should have made payments over the phone or via the internet.

And further, something I was unaware of, that really threw me off: After my IBR request went through, the Department of Education got rid of--not paid, but simply erased--any interest that had accrued up to that point on every loan, as of the August statement. Considering that I had been paying interest all along, this didn't accomplish much, except to make my entire next deposit go completely to principal. That really threw me for a loop.

Despite all of these explanations, there was still unpaid interest for nearly every month except one, according to my loan adviser girl. Neither of us had a clue why that was so. Payments for one month could not be moved to another month, but she told me that she could put in a "reallocation request," to move principal for each month to pay the remaining unpaid interest for said month. August would seem to be the odd man out.

As the principal gets reallocated, that would raise the loan balance, thus raising the amount of interest that accrues each month, and so on and so forth. This has the consequence of making the loans more expensive in the long term, especially in the event that I don't make interest payments. But the whole incentive for me to make these large payments was because it is only interest that can be tax-deducted in 2015, not the principal. That money would be money I gave away, not to get back. I was paying down interest with the expectation that it was money I was going to get back, so in other words I was essentially not spending any money, all I would have to do is wait until April 2015 to have those funds available again.

And now that that's resolved, I should soon be able to log in to see what the final count of my paid principal and interest is, online, and I'll definitely keep myself to electronic payments in the future to avoid possible fiascos. The daily accruing interest will be higher as a result of this reallocation, but I'll be able to get the maximum amount of money back from the Feds that I intended.

~ Rak Chazak