Sunday, October 18, 2015

Personal Life Update: Short

Just a post to inform that I'm still alive. I've never had such a full schedule before, that I've actually depended on carrying a calendar with me to make sure that I don't miss deadlines for things on any given day. I feel so very 'adult' because of it. It's a different experience, to know exactly just how much time I have--and don't have--to do anything, like studying or blogging, and I think it's helpful to keep me motivated and busy. A side effect is simply that extracurricular activity takes a back seat while I work on keeping abreast with homework assignments, so that I'll still have time to study for exams on top of it.

More to come, just no guarantees on when or where or how much. :)

~Rak Chazak

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Movie Review: Chappie, Jupiter Ascending, Dawn of the Apes, Divergent

What Does It Mean to Be Human?

Each of these big blockbuster movies answers this question in different ways. Perhaps it's a byproduct of our postmodern culture's existentialist angst, but the big-screen movies these days seem to be doing a lot of the following: taking stock of fundamental questions of human nature, civilization, consciousness, matters of right and wrong, etc. If you're watching the action flicks for imagination fodder, you won't be disappointed, but you may miss the overarching plot.

Allow me to invent/define some terms for the sake of this review:

The "plot" is the obvious problem that is directly presented to the audience.
The "sub-plot" is any theme with importance but which may appear to be a distraction at first, since its connection to the plot isn't immediately clear (and if there is no connection, the flow of the movie suffers).
The "meta-plot" is the implicit, overarching theme that the movie makes reference to without ever explicitly addressing. Basically, if you pick out the theme, and ask "what would this cause the characters to be concerned about, or do?" then you have the meta-plot.

Plot: Simba grows up orphaned and has to somehow right the wrongs that his uncle Scar has perpetrated on the African Savannah.
Subplot: Simba's relationships with his father, Nala, Timon/Pumba and other characters.
Meta-plot: the quest to figure out what's important in life / growing up, becoming a man. Whereas the theme is "manhood," the meta-plot could be summed up as "Simba has to discover something in himself (a sense of duty/honor), and/or find his purpose in life, which will drive him to confront Scar, and help him win."

And the import of the meta-plot is communicated more through the subplot than the main plot. If all you're doing is following along CBS-tv-drama-style, you'll know why the characters are going from one place to the next and such, but you won't grasp the significance, and come away with the real message (intentional or unintentional from the director's/producer's standpoint) of the film.

Let's dive in.

****            ****            ****            ****


The last 4 [not-yet-reviewed by yours truly] sci-fi movies I remember watching all had a common theme, explored in very different ways. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes answered the question, "what does it mean to be human?" through exploring the human-like qualities of the fictional ape characters. Chappie asks the question "what is consciousness?" by exploring the journey of learning of a robot, who rapidly traverses formative childhood and copes with the innate badness of human beings as he "grows up." Jupiter Ascending asks, "what is the worth of a society?" or "what makes life worth living?" and answers it through the parallelism of a jaded teenager who feels like she's wasting her life cleaning toilets, compared to jaded interstellar aristocrats who seem to live for nothing but to keep on living. Lastly, Divergent asks whether conformity is necessary for social stability, and asks if suppressing individuality through human government is a) possible or b) promotes peace, or tyranny.

Each film seems to invite the suggestion that how one responds to struggle is what reveals--or defines--one's humanity, and since without struggle, there is no plot, let's investigate the central struggles of these four films.

Last call for spoiler warnings

Friday, August 21, 2015

Joseph Stalin's Relevance to Modern Selective Moral Outrage

"One single death is a tragedy. One million deaths is a statistic."
~ Joseph Stalin, leader of the USSR and responsible for 50-100 million deaths as a result of his tyrannical political regime.
This very line was actually quoted in an article I read in 2009 on the humor site entitled "What is the Monkeysphere?" The presentation makes reference to evolutionary assumptions, but there is a psychological truth underpinning the practical conclusions. That is known as Dunbar's Number, which is variously hypothesized to be between 50 and 300, and it represents the total number of people that any individual can maintain thriving relationships with at any one time. Thriving, so that any impact on one of those people will be emotionally significant to the person who is friends with them. It is only within this theoretical limit that a person has the mental capacity to feel a connection to others, so that they are vicariously affected by positive as well as negative impacts on that second person. Such as promotion, award recognition, the birth of a child....or losing one's job, illness, or death.

Cracked's "Monkeysphere" thesis is that outside of the people we know personally (or know enough about to feel a connection with, as in celebrities or famous people), if something good or bad happens to another person, we simply aren't affected. We don't care, because we don't know. They are too distant for it to matter to us on an intimate level. We can think about it, but we are severely limited in our ability to feel about it.

People do have the capacity to train themselves to be concerned for others that they do not know. We have a great capacity for developing selfless compassion and to practice treating distantly related people with an equity approaching that we give to more intimate friends and family, through the exercise of empathy. We act toward strangers as if it were deeply affecting us or someone close to us, knowing that for that person in question, the pain or joy really is close to home.

But it is not the natural thing for people to do. And even when they do, they often compartmentalize it. The irony is that it's sometimes easier to help strangers than to help people you dislike, simply because you don't know them enough to find something about them disagreeable.

See, it's because the 'Monkeysphere'  finds application both in harmonious relationships, and in acrimonious relationships. Just how you would be more devastated if your spouse, parent or sibling were knifed to death in front of you, but feel a hollow sorrow, or simply hollowness, when you hear of knife attacks on the other side of the globe, you also find it much easier to hate the influential national pundit who is promoting things you think are terrible, than to hate the nameless, faceless foreign terrorist who may or may not be responsible for anything in particular. We find it hard to get worked up about generalities, but when we connect it to something specific, then we become emotionally invested.

Lately, we are being exposed to numerous examples of the tragedy/statistic dichotomy that Joseph Stalin opined about.

Many lions die every year, from natural causes, from hunting, or from poaching, but when a lion with a name, who is described as a "national treasure," dies, the social media sphere whips up outrage.

Upwards of 30 million people are currently using the website Ashley Madison to hook up with other people hoping to cheat on their spouses without being caught, and there is no outrage at all. In fact, the company was planning to go public, meaning that people would buy and sell stocks, betting on the success of a company designed for the explicit purpose of facilitating and encouraging the destruction of marriages. And not only that, but when news broke recently that credit card information from users on this site had  been compromised, there was outrage. Not at the adultery, which is legal, but at the hacking, which is illegal. We now live in a country where violating the trust of your closest confidant is so passe' it's expected, but if someone dares to expose the adulterer, how dare they violate such a sacred thing as another person's privacy?

This is an abomination. Not the adultery itself. The fact that the whole country doesn't bat an eye. The fact that the country not only sees it, not only tolerates it, but defends it and gets offended by those who attack the assumption that your adultery should be kept secret out of respect for you, as if the adulterer's feelings need to be protected! As if THEY are a victim, and not the one they cheated on!
Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. ~ Romans 1:32
30 million adulteries is a statistic.

But one single adultery is a media frenzy.

It turns out that Josh Duggar (and side note: 15,000 US government officials, at last report earlier this morning) was one of those 30 million.

The unknown millions don't cause much offense because of Dunbar's Number -- people watching simply don't know that many people, so it's too overwhelming to make sense to care about. But if someone they know of is involved, then they become more invested.

It's weird.

If what Josh did was considered wrong by the culture, there would be numerous headlines like the following:
"30 Million Shameless Adulterers in the USA."
"Expose of the Shocking Infidelity of 15,000 US Government Officials."
"Hooray! Ashley Madison Hackers Give Cheaters What They Deserve!"

but I have seen none. Have you? What I have seen are headlines indicating shock over the hack, not shock over the adultery. I've seen the morning news indicating that the Pentagon is afraid of employees being turned by blackmail -- but they apparently couldn't care enough to intervene to stop them from putting themselves in positions of indiscretion that could lead to blackmail in the first place. And I've seen the cliche'd criticism of Josh Duggar -- but not for his adultery.

Josh isn't being attacked because he's an adulterer. There's nothing wrong with adultery in the eyes of the nation. So it's not moral outrage. Josh is being attacked because he's promoted, and lobbied for, the advancement of morality that considers adultery to be wrong. He's being attacked because of inconsistency, of living a double life, being two-faced, being a hypocrite. And for once, the social-media complex is right on that fact.

But this begs a very poignant question.

Is this how we treat people who act inconsistently with their stated beliefs?

What a merciless society.

No, the truth is that there is a spiritual dimension to this. The enemies of God (meaning demons) are delighted with the opportunity to attempt to discourage others from considering Christianity, by finding themselves a Christian caught in public sin which they can slander and shame and smear to stain the conscience of every unbeliever who hears the news. Christianity must be worthless, after all, if it doesn't even restrain people from being child molesters, porn addicts and adulterers. So goes the attack.

And also in the spiritual dimension, people KNOW that adultery is wrong. You can't find anybody who would heap so much vitriol (here I'm making reference to social media postings by private individuals, which anyone can find to read with little difficulty) on somebody who is caught breaking their own rules. This sort of hatred is not inspired by conniving contestants on "Bachelor in Paradise," or of partisan politicians who promise to fight corruption, and take massive campaign donations from special interests, or even high profile celebrities who are caught in affairs or divorce.

The animosity derives from a crooked conscience that knows no mercy, which nevertheless has the imprint of the Law of God which inspires revulsion at sin. They hate Josh's infidelity because infidelity is wrong, even if they don't consciously admit it or even know it. They "show that the work of the Law is written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness, and their conflicting thoughts accusing or even excusing them." (Romans 2:15)

The outrage against Josh Duggar is not just a sad commentary on our own nation's hypocrisy and double standards when it comes to morality. It is PROOF that even despite our "liberated" consciousnesses, everyone is equipped with a God-given sense of right and wrong, so that they are without excuse (Romans 1:20) when denying the Bible's prescriptions for ethical conduct. There is no foundation for morality outside of the Biblical Worldview, so conversely, when someone senses outrage in their heart over the actions of Josh Duggar, their "conscience is bearing witness" to God's existence and the universality and absoluteness of His law. Which means that they are accountable to Him for what they do, and will be judged by His standard.

We are no better off than Josh, then, by the time we come face to face with this fact:

And the challenge I leave to the Duggar Family critics, who don't have the same outrage for the 30 million other Ashley Madison users,

Joseph Stalin mocks you from the grave.

~ Rak Chazak

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Josh Duggar Revisited

I simply can't say it better than this person did.

As for myself, my only response initially was "There but for the grace of God go I."

I had very little interest in the Duggars, except for a mild curiosity, having heard of them through a friend and Ray Comfort behind-the-scenes videos where he apparently knew them personally. It was the media hype that led me to get more involved. There's been lots of opinions, favorable and unfavorable, but very little --though noteworthy where it has appeared-- Gospel preaching. Todd Friel's Christian Post article was one of the few I saw that addressed the initial scandal well. Now when Providence orchestrated it so that Josh's infidelity was exposed in the Ashley Madison hacking scandal , my hope is that Josh can be a model of Biblical repentance, much like the monstrously-immoral King David who, when he got caught having murdered the husband of the woman he cheated with, responded in such a way that God introduces David in Scripture as "a man after my own heart."

Isn't it sad, that though even the nonChristians know that infidelity is wrong, that adultery is legal in this country, but hacking and violating the privacy of adulterers is criminal?

Maybe those criticizing Josh (as their overwhelming primary emotion, rather than sorrow and compassion for those he's hurt) will be provoked by this realization to consider the Biblical foundation necessary for the validation of value judgments about fidelity. Let's pray that souls are saved through this very public scandal.

Again, the link is here. Please read.

~ Rak Chazak

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Poem: Spiritual Eyes

This is rap/free verse. I figured I'd do something different. Basically it's just a long thought with as much rhyming as I could fit in to a page on paper. :)

Spiritual Eyes
Welcome to the beginning of the end of time, and when you find yourself next in line to receive the deceit that's beneath all the lies and disguises, I hope you take note and devote your attention to study all mentions of truth so you won't be confused by emotionalism and half-baked reason, in or out of season, when falsehoods and all good pursuits are reduced to the fruits of intellectualism, or made into a litmus test to prove your patriotism. No, I pray that your eyes will be keen to perceive and discern between true and almost true, you do know who can be trusted, but how can you tell which is which in the field, where the slippery eels who peddle raw deals hide behind every sign of authenticity, concealing their duplicity by acts of omission, with one face in public and one in secret; I tell you, make it your mission to search out their false teaching with which they're seeking to generate division and cause a collision to derail the Great Commission. Who knows whether you came into the kingdom for such a time as this? Don't miss what you're here for, no one can care more than you about what you're burdened to do -- let your yearning drive you to turn your life to an effective tool in the hands of the Master who grants you the zeal to plead and intercede to ask Him to heal the souls of those whose whole life is a joke without hope and an empty lie. The more truth you know, the more fools you hope figure out that they don't know it and need to be found. it's a shame that the same refrain repeats again and again, where people don't study to learn, they fail to discern, and are destined to burn if they don't wake up and TURN -- it's urgent and why won't they listen? The consequences are too severe to be dismissin'. But you can't convert anyone, even yourself, so who can you help unless you depend on the selfless support of the Lord of Hosts who saves to the uttermost and has promised to fight for you -- every word you express is not aimed to impress but offered in prayer for the Father to bless and grant success for His name's sake and not by any other measure -- it's for His pleasure and you heap up heavenly treasure when you trust Him even when the crowd is in a hostile fuss and not a single convert comes up to thank you. We walk by faith, not by sight, and when the night closes in and it might seem like the whole world is against you, don't forget where you are: behind enemy lines, in the fight of your life, with the objective to strive for of helping as many of your enemies as you can to win it. Keep the faith. It's an exciting time to be alive.

~ Rak Chazak

Friday, August 14, 2015

The Boy Scout Shift Was Inevitable, in Hindsight

I realize that the title makes it sound like I was surprised at the change in policy. Not so. I simply want to draw attention to the fact that one can predict things over longer periods of time if an effort is made to keep track of unfolding events and properly extrapolate.

For instance, consider the placement of the BSA change of policy with respect to gay youth, gay leaders, and the disregard and repeal of DOMA.

February 2011 -- Obama orders the DOJ to stop defending DOMA in court.
January 2013 -- ban on women in combat roles lifted by military leaders
May 2013 -- BSA removes ban on gay youth  (scouts)
June 2013 -- SCOTUS rules DOMA unconstitutional
July 2015 -- BSA removes ban on gay adult leaders (scouters)

What's the significance? Only that the purpose of Scouting, from its inception in the UK as well as the BSA's founding ~10 years later, was to prepare youth with outdoor survival skills so that they would transition better into military service. Scouting has always been a recruitment center, of sorts, for all branches of the US military.

So when the military now recruits homosexuals, what logic is there for the military's primary enlistment-driving organization to have restrictions on who may serve, which the military itself does not have?

It was obvious, that when the Military began to permit openly homosexual soldiers, that the BSA would follow suit. After all, because of the close relationship, many campouts and jamborees are held on or near military bases or on public land, and it's to be expected that the US GOVT would rescind their favorable treatment/sponsorship of the BSA if the organization didn't submit to the new morality.

The BSA capitulated without a fight, though, indicating that the leadership is all too keen to please. In light of the rapidity with which they changed to match popular culture, I am truly curious as to whether or not the BSA will soon become 100% coeducational. Will there be a Title IX claim coming soon? What if the girls who want to join claim to be boys (i.e. transgender)?

Hindsight is always 20/20. I'm ready...surprise me.

~ Rak Chazak

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

A Day That Will Live in Blasphemy

On December 7, 1941, Imperial Japan launched a covert bombing raid on the US Navy's base at Pearl Harbor, in Hawaii. Over 2400 Americans were killed. On the next day, FDR took to the podium and asserted that it would be remembered as "A date that will live in infamy." It was seen as such an atrocity that public opinion swayed away from isolationism enough that America entered WWII, just as the Japanese had hoped to prevent them from doing, with a preemptive strike. But part of the fleet was out at sea, and had evaded the attack.

That was a day that would live in infamy, and which is now almost forgotten. I heard that Japan recently granted, or was trying to grant, itself the right to have a standing military, whereas the occupying US forces had written into Japan's constitution decades ago that Japan would “forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes.”

More memorable to Americans, June 23rd, 2015 will not be regarded by most as a cause for despair but a cause for celebration. However, the few Christians in this country regard it as something else entirely. It was on that day that 2 men and 3 women (Justices Breyer, Kennedy, Sotomayor, Kagan, and Ginsberg) usurped the throne of God and professed to create law, let alone ethical truths, out of thin air as if empowered to decree what is good and evil without, and contrary to, the perfect will of God. The opinion, in full, with the dissents, is in a single file here: Obergefell v. Hodges (c. 500 KB)

It was on that day that the judgment America has been heading to was underwritten by its representatives in the abdicated cause of justice. A handful of people have consented to the doom of this country by setting themselves up as enemies of His, and daring Him to do something about it. This is the legacy of the Flower Children and their parents. What will ours be? Will there be anything left to leave?

Romans 1
28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting...32  knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.

"Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing."
~ Rak Chazak

Treatise: What's the Deal With the "Friend Zone?"

Talks about boy-girl stuff.
The first time I remember hearing this phrase, it was in a Ryan Reynolds comedy I saw in high school, where the main character was romantically interested in a woman who didn't reciprocate, but considered him a friend. Apparently the vernacular idiom originates from the tv series "Friends," but at any rate, I didn't see the end to the movie. I don't think I missed out very much.

The "accepted wisdom" of the day among adolescent males is that you want to avoid the dreaded "friend zone" because once a girl considers you her friend, you've lost the chance to become her boyfriend. This is based on the unquestioned assumption that men and women cannot be friends prior to becoming romantically involved. It implies that a girl/woman would rather date a stranger than someone she knows. Further, it cheapens friendships by casually disregarding them as anything worth having. The doctrine of "the friend zone" declares that boys should be primarily interested in "getting laid," or at least getting a girlfriend, which these days are essentially the same thing. If a girl is pretty, there is no redeeming value in having her as a friend. And if she won't be your girlfriend, 1) you've failed as a man, and 2) don't waste your time on her.

The fear of being frozen into "friendship" so horrifies modern chauvinists that they'll go to great pains to avoid being the kind of guy that a girl can be friends with, so as to leave her only 2 options: have nothing to do with him, or fall in love with him (not manipulative at all, of course!). The consequence is part of the reason why certain attractive women have difficulty relating to men. Nobody interacts with her normally, so she has no concept of normality. Everyone has ulterior motives, so she's either a cynic, inclined to dislike men, or vulnerable, easily taken advantage of and hurt by disingenuous sleazeballs.

Misogynists have perpetrated a culture of dysfunction. Idiot boys with no respect for women as equals use the words "friend zone" to shame others who are being too courteous to ladies without 'making a move,' and discourage them from being content without intimacy. And many boys/men who find themselves in a friendly but non-intimate relationship with a single woman tend to be restless, frustrated or resentful of the fact that they haven't been rewarded for the time they've put in.

What a shame that many relationships suffer, because young men don't want to be friends with women. What a shame that their insecurity and single-minded pursuit of sexual conquest robs women of healthy relationships with respectful gentlemen who are more concerned with her honor than with their gratification.

Isn't there another way? Oh sure there is. We can stop exposing young women to the dichotomy of "every guy who talks to you wants to sleep with you" and "you're completely alone and no one likes you." But what will that take? Logically, the young men need to figure out that girls are not there for you, let alone for 'the one thing.' That there's redeeming value in having non-sexual relationships. That they can like someone, and not have to act on that by trying to force a "boyfriend-girlfriend" relationship.

But for them to move in that direction, they have to have motive and incentive. Positive incentive, through seeing abstinence as desirable. Disincentivization, through not letting them be rewarded for promoting misogyny, chauvinism, sexism, etc. Girls must stop expecting sex to be a normal part of a casual relationship. Logically, if there's a concern that a guy's just after sex, what's the best way to rule that out as a possibility? Obviously, don't give it to him -- don't let him have sex with you! If he doesn't get what he wants, and he's a shallow fool, he'll leave right quick (in most cases). If sex is not the only thing he's living for, then he'll have integrity and stick around.

This can be expanded beyond sex to include physical affection, kissing, or announcing yourselves as a couple. Some desperate boys can/will hang on as long as they're getting something. The best way to get rid of the ones with selfish intentions is to refrain from any kind of physical romantic intimacy prior to the all-in commitment of the marriage ceremony.

Isn't it ironic how everything always comes around to the Biblical side of things, after a time?


The "friend zone" is a nonsense derogatory term used in reference to a man being friends with a woman without pursuing sexual intimacy, which is intended to shame 'deviants' and justify the chauvinist's view of women as sex objects for his pleasure. It makes men into noncommittal idiots, and women into victims, who either distrust men - to the detriment of their relationships - or trust men far too much, and go in vain from one to the next, searching for the one who won't break her heart.

There is a two-pronged approach to killing this insanity: women must stop rewarding sexists, and men must decide that women are worthy of respect, not to be treated as objectives in a game. Men must get their priorities straight, and realize that integrity of character and permanence of love are more desirable than racking up shallow sexual encounters.

Simply telling them they're wrong won't do the whole job. Evangelizing with Scripture presents a united front, where the claims of "you must treat women ____" are not the disorganized arbitrary cries of feminists, but levied against them with the full weight of the authority of Almighty God.

It is the renewal of the mind by the washing of the Word that supernaturally empowers a man to treat a woman with the dignity and honor she deserves in God's eyes.

If you leave God out of it, have fun doing the same things and expecting different results (something Einstein called insanity).

~ Rak Chazak

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

I've Been Here Before: The Manuscript Argument

This theme/series is something I first started in September of last year, with this introductory article. My idea is simply to transparently show what articles I distinctly remember having a powerful influence on me in my process of investigating truth claims beginning in 2010. Each of these articles will be presented in chronological fashion.

So far, I pointed out the "articles we should not use" link from AiG (at the above blog post) as the first epiphany I encountered, which immediately demonstrated the intellectual honesty of Answers in Genesis. Subsequent to that, I looked at their Statement of Faith. Keep in mind that I wasn't doctrinally reformed at this point. But I could tell they weren't complete crazies, so I decided to tentatively trust their claims, but be ready to question the more extreme assertions. And so I did.

For the next week or two, I spent dozens of hours poring over 'the creationist view' of nearly every secular scientific dogma I'd been exposed to since I was old enough to read. What impressed me most was that I wasn't, largely, told "new information." Instead, the articles used what I already knew, and appealed to my common sense to explain it better. The more I kept reading, the more persuasive it all became. But something began to nag me, and that was that though the point of view was internally consistent, one thing was totally taken for granted in every article: the inerrancy and authority of the Bible. Each article made copious reference to Scripture, but within-article, the interpretation and reliance on those Scriptures was never defended. The implicit argument seemed to be, "IF you believe the Bible is true, and the Word of God, THEN you will logically come to believe what we present in our articles." It was a challenge. I was prepared to believe the Bible is God's Word and inerrant, but now I had to go make sure, and find out for myself.

First, was there enough evidence that the Bible was written when it is said that it was written, and that the original texts say what the modern copies/translations say?

The answer to this comes by way of the Manuscript Argument

That link is dated later than I would have read it, but I recognize the content as something similar/identical to what I actually read in Marc/April 2010.
 Simply put, if we take seriously that other historical documents about other historical figures are truthful in that the events they describe really took place when they say they took place (Herodotus, Caesar, Pliny, Josephus, Aristotle and Plato, etc), then by the same standard of assessment, there is no logical reason to question whether the Bible was actually written at the time period which the Bible's writers indicate that their respective books were written.

And as to whether we can be sure that what the Bible we have now says what the Bible of 70 AD said, if we can believe that what is attributed to Aristotle was written by Aristotle, then we can believe that what is attributed to Paul was written by Paul -- since there are 100 times as many New Testament copies as there are copies of Aristotle's works.

The principle of applying an equal standard of historical scrutiny leads to the confident conclusion that what the Bible says is what the Bible has always said, and that the attributed writers really are the ones who wrote the book, meaning that they were indeed eyewitnesses to their claims.

After demonstrating the historical authenticity of the texts, the next logical question is: does what the texts say, logically contradict, or is it coherent? I dove in headfirst. I went looking for alleged contradictions, making sure to leave no stone unturned. There had to at least be a plausible explanation to resolve each one, in order for inerrancy to be a valid conclusion. And the careful scrutiny of these claims is what I will summarize in the next IBHB article. An address of the many alleged Biblical contradictions.

Stay tuned.

~ Rak Chazak

A Model Answer

I don't know details about Dr. Kent Brantly's faith, but per 1 Corinthians 13, "love believes all things," so I'm accepting it at face value as genuine, absent any knowledge of falsity. What I have seen has been encouraging, and I'm joyful over the public testimony he's given -- not of his medical expertise or experience surviving Ebola, but of how a professed Christian faith works in and through every aspect of life, providing the conviction to step out boldly in whatever happens to be one's earthly passion ("whatever your hands find to do, do it with all your might." "whatever you do, work as for the Lord and not for men.")

This is the video of his interview on the PBS Newshour that aired yesterday:

Dr. Brantly was there on account of his recent book, Called for Life, and here is the part of the interview that stood out to me:

HARI SREENIVASAN: What role do you think your faith played in all this?
DR. KENT BRANTLY: That’s a hard question for me to answer, because I try not to compartmentalize my life into, this is my faith life, this is my work life, this is my family life.
My faith is an integral part of who I am. It’s part of the lens through which I view everything in life. So, I can’t separate this experience from my faith.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Some people are going to say, look, the difference might not be his faith. It’s that he’s an American and he got literally the best care on the planet for this, vs. all the people who don’t get that, not just in Liberia, but anywhere else.
DR. KENT BRANTLY: I wouldn’t — I wouldn’t disagree with that statement.
I don’t think there is anything special about my faith that saved my life. If anything, my faith is what put me in a position where I got Ebola. And I’m really thankful to the United States government, to the government of Liberia, to Emory University Hospital, to Phoenix Air, to the State Department, all of the people that played a role in providing me with the treatment I received.
I don’t say that, oh, it was my faith that saved me, not those people. I believe God used those people to save my life, not because of my great faith. It just is. And so I give God the credit for it. But I thank all of those people, and I — I love them.

In isolation, those two answers were excellent. It was encouraging to see that thinking faith get national attention.

~ Rak Chazak

Transcript copied from: 

No Good Prayer...

More from my college friends' texts :)

"When you sigh, "if only my prayer were a true prayer," you must be cautioned, because this thought can contain the notion that the quality of your prayer gives it merit. Humble petitioners know that their prayers have no merit. If you believed that your prayers were "good" prayers, then they would be prayers of self-merit. You would then be trusting on your prayer offerings instead of God's gracious reception--trusting in your works instead of God's mercy. If you are waiting to approach God until you can offer "good" or "true" prayers, you are waiting in vain. Humility evaporates when it recognizes itself. The humble person recognizes his pride. A humble person does not see his own prayer as humble. Praying humbly is asking, "God be merciful." ... Pray for humbling grace, so that you might pray as a needy, unworthy supplicant to the great and holy God of the universe. Every cry of broken heart to God is a true prayer. These are the prayers that God delights to hear."

~ Joel Beeke, Developing A Healthy Prayer Life

Further reading: Donatism

~ Rak Chazak

Who Orbits Whom?

This is an excerpt from Female Piety, which a friend texted me.

"This then is woman's true position, and if anything more need be said to prove it from the records of Christianity, we may refer to apostolic language in other places, where wives are enjoined to be subject to their husbands in all things, even as the church is subject to Christ. Nor is the apostle Paul alone in this, for Peter writes in the same strain. Let woman then bow to this authority, nor feel herself degraded by such submission. It has been said, that in domestic life, man shines as the sun, but woman as the moon, with a splendor borrowed from the man. May it not be said with greater truth and propriety, and less invidiously, that man shines as the primary planet, reflecting the glory of God, who is the centre of the moral universe; and woman while she equally derives her splendor from the central luminary and is governed by his attraction, yet is the satellite of man, revolves around him, follows him in his course, and ministers to him."

~ Rak Chazak

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Text Treatise: Epicurus and the Problem of Error

The Problem of Evil is often easily explained by reference to the ancient Greek philosopher (mentioned by way of identification in the Bible, in Acts, where there were Epicureans and Stoics who wanted to debate with Paul) Epicurus, whose pithy presentation is presented below:

The problem with the Problem as stated is that it does not take into account time. Perhaps God does want to destroy evil, and will, but for the time being has a sound rationale for allowing it to persist. This is, in fact, justified by the Bible:
"The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance." 2 Peter 3:9

There is also the question of evil being a necessary side effect of the free moral agency of mankind -- Love is given freely by an act of will, so making perfectly functioning automatons which lack any aspect of generosity, grace, compassion, or desire is inferior to a creation that includes beings which have the capacity to love others -- and with it the requisite capacity to choose not to.

But moving on from that, here is "The Problem of Error." It is something worth considering for anyone who claims to be Christian but does not regard the Bible as the inerrant, word for word Word of God.

Did God author the Bible, or men?

If God is not the author, then there is no guarantee of its truth.

Moreover, can God lie?

If there are untruths in the Bible, either God lied, or God is not the author. In the first case, such a being is not to be worshiped or obeyed. In the second case, who knows whether the Bible accurately depicts God or His moral Law truthfully? There is no way of knowing, so there is no reason to give it any greater weight than any other human document.

In conclusion, either God is the author of all Scripture, or it has no authority over the activities of men. And if it has no authority, why heed it?

Either the Bible is inerrant, or you have ZERO justification for the authenticity and veracity of the Christian faith. Which is akin to saying that a Christian has no reason to believe Christianity if they don't also believe the Bible. They are like all the false religious adherents in that their "feet are firmly planted in mid-air." They may be saved, but they're still being foolish.

And in many cases, they're not saved. If you believe God exists, how hard is it to believe that God can make sure that His will is known with 100% accuracy and reliability? It really isn't. So non-belief in Biblical inerrancy, while it doesn't force the conclusion that a person is a false convert (i.e. they claim to be a Christian but they aren't saved), but it is certainly strong and worrisome evidence in favor of that conclusion.

'Which is why it's so important for people to think through this issue and get with the program.

~ Rak Chazak

Text Treatise: How Do We Deserve to Be Treated by Other People?

This was a response to a friend's text. I had expressed frustration with the behavior of coworkers and she'd replied with the ever-relevant "anything better than hell is better than you deserve."

Well, there are two levels of "desserts." The one you mentioned is before me always and is a relished bulwark against pride and resentment. Then there is "what we deserve" in the sense of how other humans should treat us if they were acting in obedience to the Law of God and with the Love of Christ. So there is a sense in which it is wrong how you and I and any Christian is treated -- but it's not wrong because we deserve better on our merits, but because God says that there is a better standard by which they should be treating others. So not a dessert in an ultimate sense, but a dessert in the sense of idealized personal relationships.

Basically the ultimate sense is important to avoid sinning by thinking that we deserve any thing, which is pride: thinking we deserve more than we do, which in an ultimate sense is nothing good, and everything bad. The second sense is helpful in addressing grief and other emotions in response to ill treatment: that feeling such a way is valid and appropriate. You have been wronged, and you are not inherently wrong to feel anguished or even angry about it. "But in all your anger do not sin." It's helpful as a perspective on why it's wrong: it's not wrong, what they did to you, because you're hurt. That makes you the standard, and now we're back to pride. It's wrong because it's a sin against God. David after indirectly murdering Uriah: "against you, and you only, oh Lord, have I sinned." If you should be angry at mistreatment, it should be because they're dishonoring God, not because they insulted you. I try to harness my feelings of insult and turn it into zeal instead. To validate the emotions in an appropriate way, with truth.

~ Rak Chazak

Personal Life Update: Rare Consistency

I joined Cross Country when I was in high school, and was pretty mediocre, at first, but the summer between 9th and 10th grade, I ran laps around my driveway (we lived on what was an old farm, so the driveway consisted of two parallel farm lanes that may have been 1/8 mile in circuit) for 20-30 minutes every/other day. It made enough of a difference that by the spring, I was in such good shape that I decided to take things up a notch. Instead of just running for time, I would time my runs and go for distance. And between the summer after 10th grade, and the end of the Fall season in 12th grade, I managed to run nearly every single day (missing a grand total of 20 or 30 days, perhaps), getting to the point where an average run could easily be a 4-mile or 6-mile jog with the mile-splits between 7:00 and 6:20 minutes. I loved the energy I had as a result, and I want to get back to that. It's only been about 8 years since I fell off my hardcore "run every day" routine, but it looks like I'm finally getting back to it.

Following is a record of my runs (longer than 1 mile at a time -- seriously, if your heart rate isn't at target for more than 5 minutes, it's not worth keeping track of), where splits are separated by commas, and stretches with a walk in between are separated by a colon.
Wednesday, July 29: Run 0520 @ 7:20,7:55,9:35  ; 8:35 Friday, July 31: Run 0525 @ 7:50,8:10,9:30  ; 8:10

Tuesday, August 4: 1mi @ 8:10
Wednesday, August 5: Run 0555 @ 7:52,8:12,9:16  ; 8:15 .
Thursday, Aug 6: Run @ 7:45,8:07,9:21 ; 7:52 Friday, Aug 7: Run @ 8:05,8:30,9:45 ; 7:45 Saturday, Aug 8: Run 0535 @ 7:50,7:45,8:50  ; 7:15

Did you see that? ^ I've managed to control my schedule enough that I've run each of the last 4 days in a row  -- did I mention that all of these runs are pre-dawn runs, so that I can escape horse-flies and energy-draining sunlight? I'm so excited :D

My heart rate within the first 30 seconds after any of these runs has tended to be 160 beats per minute. I don't know if that's good or bad, but it's statistically normal for a strenuous workout according to the little chart at the Y.

Some things that are neat for me to note: my first miles are not stellar--but can be, as the July 29 run shows--part of this is that I've been dealing with figuring out how to avoid chafing my heel. Every day a different part of the body feels whiny, but it loosens up after 2 miles, which I find extremely gratifying -- running makes your body feel less achey? Sign me up!

Also, the standard deviations of the individual runs appear to be diminishing, meaning that my performance is getting more consistent per every individual mile, as opposed to getting really good first miles but worse later miles. Compare the 29th with today, for example. There's a 2:10 minute range for my splits on the 29th, and only 1 minute for today's 3-miler. This shows in my enthusiasm for the 4th mile on each day -- it was worse than my first mile on the day I "bit off more than I could chew," but today I had enough oomph in me to run harder on the return mile. Arguably, though, every time I push myself, it improves my ability to do the same work next time. It's just a matter of pounding the pavement, and soon enough I'll be back to breaking the 7-minute barrier without totally gassing myself.
official Phys. Exam bp: 112/70. Good, but can be better! :D. A young woman in my summer class had a blood pressure of 90/45, I kid you not. The professor explained that as long as you're not dizzy, faint, or weak, the lower the better. Such a low blood pressure (she'd been running 4 miles every day and was training for a (half?) marathon) is indicative of an extremely efficient cardiovascular system. The heart doesn't have to work as hard, and the vessels are in such good condition that there's next to zero risk of hypertension or the associated atherosclerosis/blood clots/strokes that come with high blood pressure. I don't know if I can drop down to her level, but it's something to shoot for.

That's where I am in my journey to become hard-core, once again. :)

~ Rak Chazak

Poem: Community

When in the beginning, all of the stuff of the cosmos had been organized
And not one creation deviated from the Creator's perfect design
All was not well, for man by himself, was lacking in something besides

He lacked not in purity, intellect, strength, creativity, life or desire
If labor was favored, Adam was capable. No goal could not be acquired
But there was a whole other realm of experience to which he could not aspire

Man by himself does poor company keep, and his actions are wholly self-serving
But give him relations, and for a plot twist, make them all, of his love, undeserving
And fix within each the capacity for selfless love and its requisite yearning

NOW! Man in community is more of a model of a relational Father above
When, denying himself, he freely surrenders -- expressing the Trinity's love --
And loves his own wife with no thought of reward: this is how marriage is done

"It is not good for man to be alone" -- and this is what that Scripture means:
That, though we are physical beings, we know, all is not what it seems:
When a man connects spiritually with his friend, his joy will surpass his best dreams.

~ Rak Chazak

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Round Two of "Mild Amusement"

Change one word in a movie (easiest material) to invent an amusing alternative, and put a plausible caption to it.

Chariots of Wire -- before the wheel, there was...steel wool.

Gone with the Rind -- a story about history's biggest fruit heist, ever

Jurassic Lark -- if Alfred Hitchcock and Stephen Spielberg co-wrote a horror movie about extinct birds

The Nopebook -- a romance that was not to be.

Stir Trek -- what happens when the first world famous chef to travel to alien planets secures a reality tv show

No Country for Old Met -- the untold story of why country music's home town is Nashville.

Bats -- this Andrew Lloyd Weber sequel briefly features Bruce Wayne

Fission Impossible -- an action-suspense movie about how the Manhattan Project raced to produce the first nuclear bomb.

The 40 Year Old Virgil -- a prequel to Dante's Inferno, and how come Virgil got to have the role of Hadean Sherpa

How to Lose a Gun in 10 Days -- a documentary on the anti-2nd-amendment efforts of Barbara Boxer, Dianne Feinstein and Chuck Schumer

Night of the Living Lead -- in a world where wealthy corporate and government interests assassinate whistleblowers, one investigative reporter faces the struggle of her life, working with a DA to keep a witness safe until he can make his testimony in court the next day.

Rise of the Planet of the Ales -- when most of humanity and the botanical flora of earth are wiped out by a virus, what remains of the human race survives on grains and the beer they can ferment from it.

Apocalypse Sow -- the US army in Vietnam faces herds of bomb-strapped pigs as the Viet Cong make a desperate final offensive.

Laws -- a New Jersey businessman at the height of tourist season suffocates under the overbearing weight of trying to comply with state, local and federal regulations.
"We're gonna need a bigger insurance policy."
The Bungle Book -- a biography of the American Presidencies of the '90s, '00s, and '10s.

The Lion Wing -- Top Gun meets Griffins.

Beauty and the Blast -- a sadistic Frenchwoman leaves partially wilted roses at her crime scenes.

Snow Whine and the 7 Dwarves -- an attractive woman with poor self-confidence frustrates her suitors who try desperately to cheer her up

Air Farce One -- a US President secretly hires terrorists to hijack his plane and execute top Congressmen to change the balance of power and let him ram through the legislation he wants.

To Kill a Mockingbard -- musicians are arrested, jailed and taken to court by the corrupt governments they criticize in their songs

Mulah -- a muslim woman saves the life of a radical cleric and starts a feminist revolution in the middle east

Black Swag -- a movie about a ballerina from a low-income housing project who popularizes hip hop

One Blew the Cuckoo's Nest -- a terrorist who gets institutionalized for "mental illness" after murdering 30 Americans hatches a plot to destroy the asylum and flee to continue his mission.

The political ones are just so easy. Hope you enjoyed 'em.

edit to add: Lord of the Stings -- a detective duo travel cross-country, assisting police departments in setting up sting operations, until their talents are discovered by the FBI and they become consultants.

~ Rak Chazak

Friday, July 31, 2015

Mild Amusement: Replace One Word

The first time I encountered something like this, it was in a book called Uncle John's Bathroom Reader Plunges Into History Again, and it was full of neat tidbits, not all necessarily toilet-related, but short enough to read in a sitting (or read several in a row if you're just really fascinated by learning stuff about history).

A later encounter was online, where movie titles were posted on a social media thread where one word was replaced by a certain body part that appeals to people with a certain type of humor (although to me, situational comedy and pun appreciation makes it appealing).

The Bathroom Reader had one chapter that consisted of replacing a single letter in a historical event, to change the meaning and suggest what it could've been instead. The only example I remember is "The Lone March," (supposed to be "The Long March"), where Mao Zedong couldn't find anyone to join his revolution so he embarked all by himself.

So, today, to relieve my need for some creative amusement, I sat down and made up a few on my own. Without further ado, here's my contribution (note: I'll use historical events, sitcom and movie titles):

The Trail of Bears -- President Jackson was unable to relocate the Cherokee nation because of rabid anti-immigrant opposition by central American natives.

Gransformers -- Optimus Prime and Bumblebee swear allegiance to an elderly woman.

The HoloFaust -- Hitler makes a deal with the devil to sell him all the golden dental implants and earrings of 6 million Jews in return for conquering Europe. (In true Satan fashion, his horribleness found a loophole where the Third Reich only lasted a matter of months). (What is Faust?)

The Big Dang Theory -- The Big Bang Theory had so many holes in it, it kept requiring modifications to it to fit with all the conflicting evidence (this is actually true).

The Mommy -- Newly engaged Rachel has an awkward first meeting with the in-laws when her fiancee's long-distant ancestor Rameses' mother returns from the grave.

Everybody Loves Gaymond -- Gaymond whines about his life with his family who just doesn't understand him (and his overly pushy and critical mother), and tries to keep his marriage together.

Born to be Gild -- A lion's dreams of having a golden statue made of him come to fruition.

Man of Steer -- the strongest man on earth is not a man at all: he was born and raised by bulls.

Jurassic Would -- If people didn't make stupid decisions, there wouldn't be a plot for the movie.

The War of the Hoses -- Britain's 2 strongest families got together for a rousing squirtgun battle.

Schindler's Fists -- A man hiding Jews becomes an unsuspecting recipient of superhuman strength, and takes on the Nazi SS mano a mano.

Lonesome Doge -- Much movie. Very cowboy. Wow.

Star Cars -- Mad Max in space. 'nuff said.

Scar Trek -- Captain Kirk voyages across an unexplored galaxy, getting beat up along the way.

Paraformal Activity -- In this horror movie, a group of teenagers become haunted by the ghosts of questionable prom attire.

Hang 'em Nigh -- bring that noose a little closer.

No Country for Old Hen -- the Little Red Hen finds her work ethic and business savvy unwelcome in the New America.

Lancelit -- A knight rises to fame because his lance glows in the dark. OR What if the Knights of the Round Table had lightsabers?

Pilates of the Caribbean -- Buccaneers have to be in tip-top shape to be ready for boarding ships.

The Balk -- A CBS daytime talk show talks about the hosts' sexual preferences and other explicit material (also true)

That's it for now, hope it tickled someone's funny bone.

~ Rak Chazak

PS I think I'll try to do a blitz sometime early in August to get all the ideas I have lying around out quickly so they won't languish or be a distraction.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

I haven't died! (PLU)

Not yet, anyway. After my summer course ended, I've been reviewing various subjects from old textbooks I kept (I never resold a single book at college, figuring there could be some value in the information one day). Then, as my Fall textbooks have been arriving, I went to Staples and grabbed some non-spiral notebooks (so they'll lie flat and not have an irritating ridge in the middle), and I've been going through the early chapters, compiling and condensing the stuff I think I won't remember off the top of my head, and making neat, neat notes out of it.

My Organic Chemistry notebook was done the same way, and I was so thorough and explanatory with it that I've been using it to reteach me, to great success. Organic Chemistry 2, which I have not taken, is a required course for a Chemistry Minor, which I'm going to squeeze in to my course of study. See, because I already have a degree, I don't need to pursue the general education requirements which the program left slots open for, so I can pick other courses to take instead. And as it turns out, all that's required for a chemistry minor is to have a minimum number of courses taken at the university, and a certain number having to be upper-level (300-level and above) courses. And that number exactly matches the slots I have available in between my other classes. (The only question is whether Orgo transfers. I graduated with the class but not the lab (wasn't required), but this university has the lab and class together. It could thwart the minor objective; in that case I suppose I could just retake Orgo once again and get an unquestioned A....then I could pursue a biochemistry major part-time when I become duly employed. I kind of want to do it just to show myself that I can, and that my rocky road the first time around was because of non-academic reasons.

On the subject of not having died, I'm still a little bit skeptical of the accuracy of the blood pressure cuffs at the YMCA, but the values they're giving me are pretty consistent. The across-the-board medical consensus on what's healthy is a blood pressure of 120/80. Either number being less is a sign of above-average cardiovascular health, but higher pressure in either number indicates danger signs for heart issues. The lower number, the diastolic pressure, is the one to watch out for. It indicates the elasticity of your arteries--higher pressure, more trans and saturated fats in your cell membranes, ergo, stiffer arterial walls, meaning that the blood pressure can roughen them, exposing underlying collagen, to which platelets react, then dislodging and causing embolisms. Or not dislodging, and causing atherosclerosis.
[Here's an image] -- comparing the two pressures
The higher pressure indicates the strength of the heart--it is when the stethoscope first hears the pulse, which means that that is how much pressure your heart can generate with each contraction. It's essentially an estimate of the strength of your ventricles, which means that an abnormally high systolic pressure can indicate an enlarged heart muscle, for whatever reason. Conversely, the lower this pressure is, provided you're in visibly good health, the less effort your heart has to put in to do its job.

Yesterday morning, I woke up early enough to start a run at 5:20 a.m. I ran three miles at 7:20, 7:55, 9:35 pace, walked one, and then ran another at 8:35. Heart rate was 161 beats per minute after each segment (the 3-mile and 1-mile). That's a good baseline that I'll use to keep track of how well I'm progressing. The more you run, the better your body optimizes and the lower your resting heart rate, aerobic heart rate, systolic and diastolic arterial pressures will be.

So I was thrilled that the electronic cuff measured my pre-workout blood pressure at 110/57. When I get my physical exam later in the month, I'll find out how accurate those cuffs are.

And in the meantime, I'll keep running. Which requires me to go to bed really early. Days I sleep in are my rest days. My body and I have a two-way dialogue when it comes to exercise. :D

~ Rak Chazak

Sunday, July 19, 2015

"We Can't Be Sure if He Was Tied to A Terrorist Group"

A young man recently killed 4 marines at a recruitment center.

The news media has been telling me, every time I've heard of this since that event took place, that they just can't figure out what his motivation was. Most explicitly, they've said that they can't be sure if he has "ties to a terrorist organization," or "ties to ISIS."

Excuse me, but isn't this missing the point? I doubt it matters whether a drive-by shooting has ties to the Crip gang, Hell's Angels or the Italian Mob for it to count as gang violence. It either is, or isn't. Likewise, it's either terrorism or not terrorism -- whether he has "ties to an existing terrorist organization," while useful for preventing future attacks, is a massive red herring. It's as if the talking heads think we can't call it terrorism unless the guy went to Syria to be trained by ISIS.

Well, what would help you to decide whether he engaged in terrorism?

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

A Tale of Two Pain-Killer Advertisements.

I've always found myself offended by commercials that don't actually explain why their product is better than another -- let alone prove it -- because I realize that they operate on the concept of impressions. That is, they hope that the commercial itself will be memorable, so that when you remember the commercial -- because it was amusing, exciting, original, etc -- your mind associates the memory with the product. For a simple example, someone trying to cheer up someone else by saying "put a smile on" could result in that person saying, "hmmm, you know I am actually in the mood for some McDonald's."

The business incentive is that what people remember better are images and feelings (what something on TV looked like, or how it made you feel) than they do specifics of nitty-gritty facts, like whether Flonase blocks neutrophils, leukotrienes, histamines, etc (these all show up on the screen for their commercial but the persuasion is far less heady than that. It's a simple "we have 6, the competition has 1. We're better, yay! Buy our product").

The idea that someone's trying to get around my conscious decision-making apparatus and try to get me to buy something not because it's a good choice, but because it's the only product in that category that I can remember by recalling commercials, is insulting to me, because I've always preferentially gravitated toward what I can determine to be true and right and good, rather than what merely makes me feel good or what seems popular.

Plot Twist
Similarly insulting is the "identity politics" of various political movements in vogue at the moment. This is not limited to liberal/leftist/democrat agendas, but they are by far more invested in splitting their constituent demographics into groups and targeting single-issue messages to each one of them. When a political figure says "I think you're too dumb to think about more than one issue at a time," it insults me. But it must work, because candidates for both parties generate massive applause by doing what's called "doling out red meat." The primary season for the Republican 2016 field is getting ramped up, and examples of this include people shouting "God bless America" at the end of the speech, as if that's supposed to make every Christian want to vote for them, regardless of what else they said. But democrats are even more insidious, because they don't just utilize identity politics, they are far more effective than republicans at capitalizing on resentment, envy, hatred of 'the other,' often playing their constituent groups against each other. 

One way they insult you is by pretending that seeing more people "like you" represented somewhere, be it among Olympic sports teams (how many Americans are Olympians?), on television (how many of us are TV stars?), on news broadcasts (how many of us are journalists?), etc, that this will somehow improve your life. This is the insulting lie they tell women, blacks, hispanics and homosexuals, among other groups: that without doing anything significant to improve real life for the vast majority of Americans belonging to those groups, they agitate for rich CEOs to increase the amount of women news anchors, or black film leads, or homosexual sitcom actors, and they do this by telling the constituency to be angry that there aren't "more of them" represented in those positions.

The rich people shuffle the deck, the democrats claim victory, and the constituency feels satisfied with the result of something that does diddly squat to improve their life or liberty. And one simply must ask, "do they really think people are that dumb?"

Apparently they do. Whether people are that dumb depends on how representative the many people who happily follow along with this identity politicking are of the sum of the constituent groups in question.

My Point
And that's why a marketing department can propose this advertisement for an over-the-counter painkiller.

A lot of the promotion of homosexuality in television has been seen as "brave" or "bold," ostensibly because so many people are against it that it must be difficult or risky to endeavor. I suppose that means that the makers of this advertisement likewise think that there must be wide swaths of America that are Adoption-Racists, who don't think people should adopt kids who aren't of the same "race," judging by the still shot alone. It's hard to figure out the reasoning of people who don't expect you to be intelligent. What are they really expecting the response to be?

Well, the clear intent of this Tylenol commercial is to say "gay men raising children are just as good of a family dynamic as a man and woman, therefore, buy our product."

What does a painkiller have to do with homosexual households? Shouldn't I get a painkiller based on whether it reduces my pain? But nope, not according to Tylenol. They're banking on the fact that you don't buy painkillers for any scientific reason, but because you want to support the message and corporate policy of the company that creates the painkiller. They are hoping that you will think, "this company advocates for a single issue that I happen to agree with, so I will buy their product to increase their quarterly profits, to send the message that the American people supports their political views."

In contrast, another common painkiller, Aleve, uses this argument:

Aleve works better than Tylenol or Advil. All day long, all day strong.

It might be true, it might not be, but at least they're making the case that you should buy their product because it works.

Perhaps Aleve's corporate bigwigs are just as pro-ssm as Tylenol's are. That's not the point I'm making here. The point I'm making is, the way in which large companies advertise their products is based on how they are rewarded.

If an ad spot generates more revenue by making a scientific argument: "our product works and is better than the competition's," then they will keep doing that.

If an ad spot generates more revenue by making a political statement: "gay marriage, yay!" then they will keep doing that.

The increase in recent days of similar ads, which portray happy homosexual couples (together with blended families and "interracial" couples, as if those things were morally controversial) being 'just like everyone else,' bottle-feeding babies and living the American Dream, seem to demonstrate that when it comes to the Public's response to advertisements, the People are thoroughly committed to rewarding rich people who treat them according to "identity politics," rather than rewarding people who encourage them to think and make decisions based on what works.

The consequences are readily apparent to that proportion of us which prefers to think.

~ Rak Chazak

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Gonzalez case ironically provides an example in favor of a strong central government

Quick recap of the history of "States' Rights"

In 1777, the Articles of Confederation were adopted, and ratified by 1781 by the original 13 States. Because of the revolutionaries' distrust of an autocratic dictator (seeing as they just fought a war to free themselves from King George's rule), they intentionally made the central government far weaker than the States.

This presented obvious problems to the cohesiveness of the union, as a collection of papers by James Madison outlines. (this was from another link off of the first).

For example, there was no Executive to enforce the acts passed by Congress. Each State began printing its own money, raising its own military, and engaging in international agreements independently of one another.

The States sent representatives to rectify this in the Constitutional Convention. Convening first in 1787, the Constitution of the United States was ratified in 1789. They gave the central government of the federal system more power. As a pushback to this, there was clamor for a Bill of Rights to be added to the Constitution, to guarantee protections for the People against a now much stronger central government, and this occurred later.

The point of a federal system where the central government is stronger than the states in certain regards, is to prevent chaos from arising out of the states passing contradictory laws, attempting to control other states, seceding from the union or going to war with each other.

That last part is significant. The test of the federal system came with the Civil War, when pro-slavery states attempted to use "states' rights" to justify seceding from the union. Many legal pundits today still think that this is a constitutional right. However, whereas a state seceding from a state (West Virginia seceded from Virginia to join the Union during the Civil War) is not unconstitutional, a state seceding from the union is. And via might-makes-right, Abraham Lincoln cemented the role of the federal government through his executive actions leading up to and during the Civil War. Whereas the most obvious effect of the Civil War in our society was to end slavery, that was not the initial reason for it. Here is an excerpt from Abraham Lincoln's letter to Horace Greeley:
My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that.
The whole thing is worth reading. It's short but makes it clear that Abraham Lincoln did hope to end slavery, but that that was not his primary goal in his executive capacity, early on. The primary goal was to do what was his Constitutional obligation as the Executive -- to preserve the Union.

Why am I spending so much time talking about the Federal government? Well, it's because --

if the Central government is stronger than the states in matters of foreign policy and commerce and trade and international agreements and military etc etc etc,

then some states won't, for example, take it into their own hands to deport illegal immigrants (such as Arizona), while others take it into their own hands to refuse to cooperate with Federal immigration enforcement in turning over known criminals (such as the 'sanctuary cities' in California, one of which is San Francisco).

San Francisco has a law that requires officials to ignore Federal requests for cooperation on the subject of illegal immigrants. Rather than turning them over for processing and possible deportation, they are released into the general public.

That is how a man who has been deported 5 times has now ended up in a Sanctuary City, where officials arrested him, ignored a Federal ICE detainment request, and released him back onto the street, where he then murdered a young woman.

It's both the city's fault and the federal government's fault. For one, the city has an unconstitutional law on the books. For two, the Obama administration has had an inconsistent, at best, approach to immigration. They deport some immigrants, but release others from prison onto the streets. They refuse to send personnel to the Arizona-Mexico border, or to in any way secure it, and then sue Arizona for attempting to do what the Constitution requires Washington to do but which Washington won't do. They allow sanctuary cities to operate without any such lawsuits.

If laws regarding immigration were applied evenly across the board, and actually enforced evenly as well, then none of this would be an issue in the first place.

We have a dysfunctional system where the central government won't do its job, and the States are acting more and more like they did in the 1780s and 1850s-60s, as a confederacy where everyone gets to have their own opinion about what laws are important and which ones aren't.

And it gets the people that the government is sworn to protect, killed.

That is injustice. Deportation is not injustice, it is law. When someone who has been deported 5 times and shouldn't be in the country in the first place murders an innocent pedestrian, THAT is injustice.

I'm just glad I don't live near the border. All I can do is watch and opine. I abhor the feeling of helplessness. But feeling helpless when your family and friends are becoming victims of government corruption that encourages lawlessness in your city and state, that is a deplorable feeling.

~ Rak Chazak

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

"Pre-Evident Grace" -- a.k.a. The Real Meaning of Foreknowledge

This was a post I made in the comments on one of Elizabeth Prata's recent posts about Calvinism. I had remarked that the Bible itself was the strongest argument for the doctrines of grace, because after you hear all the preachers make their case, you are left with the undeniable fact that the Bible says God elects people for salvation not based on what they do. In fact, the Bible says faith is a gift, so how can faith be something you give to God to make Him save you? It can't.

I ended my first post by saying that those who don't accept Calvinism, ultimately, then, are not treating the Bible as if it is inerrant or authoritative. Someone replied that non-calvinists can believe the Bible's inerrant. I agree, it's possible, but here is what I had to say:

If you believe the Bible is inerrant in theory, then show that you believe it in practice.

When the Bible says this: "For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified. " (Romans 8:29-30),

then acknowledge that God decides where someone will spend eternity BEFORE the call (contemporaneous with regeneration and initiation of conversion), and before they become a believer who has faith in God (which is justification). The eternal destiny is set before belief begins. How then can anyone say that God decides to save people based on what they will believe? You can say that God knows the future, that is undoubtedly true -- BUT it misses the point that the logical sequence of God's actions from God's perspective are laid out in these verses, and it shows that God follows a sequence.

Foreknowledge is, (and this is yet another exciting proof of the doctrine of Illumination, because I had reasoned to this before) as John MacArthur recently said in a radio broadcast, not a mere knowledge of the future. In fact, the verse specifically does NOT say that it is the *future* that God knows (He does know it, but it's not the context), it is **those He justifies** that He knows.

This is an article from Grace To You confirming my statement about JMac's view.
What then is foreknowledge? God has an intimate relationship with certain people, others He does not. And as a merciful God, He would never enter into close communion with someone and then cast them off afterward. The point of foreknowledge is to show that God doesn't choose people based on their belief in Him -- He chooses people based on what sort of relationship He is going to have with them. Those whom He will be to as a Father, those He will secure eternally for salvation, and ensure that before earthly death, that He will justify them by faith and give them the right to be called children of God.

When I understood this passage, I understood why I naturally comprehended the qualities of God like omniscience, omnipotence, goodness, Biblical infallibility etc, long before my crisis of faith that led to my conversion whereafter I *consciously* apprehended the Gospel and can claim salvation by grace through faith. I was a nominal believer before, but I can see God's hand in my life keeping me from the kinds of behavior patterns (sexuality and drugs being obvious examples) that beset so many others I've heard stories from. I was morally upright, in a limited human sense, and it was by the grace of God, because I was not spiritually regenerate, just well behaved and with a good brain. I believe that God, knowing that I *would* be brought into a right relationship with Him as His child, extended "pre-evident grace" (if you will humor me making up a new word) to me even during the time of my life that I lived without the full knowledge of salvation.

That is foreknowledge. It is not "knowing that I would choose Him." It is knowing that He would choose ME, and ensuring that as a consequence, He would lead me by His Spirit to come to an eventual understanding of the Gospel that I might be saved through the hearing of the word preached.

If someone insists that Romans 8 implies that God saves men based on knowing that they will believe on their own, then they are not honoring the Word and even if they insist that it is infallible, they are not submitting to what it plainly says and are not in practice treating the Word as if it is true, or authoritative.

That is my lengthier treatment of this matter. I hope I neither seemed too harsh or too soft. It's a serious issue but it doesn't make someone a heretic -- it does require your repentance, though.

Thanks for reading.

~ Rak Chazak

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Josh Duggar

I can't bring much in the way of breaking news, but I will attempt to give a summary of the public statements and share a few worthy insights (not all mine--actually, none are originally mine, because it all comes from a Biblical worldview)

First off, for consideration: how Josh -- and every one of us -- should respond, inwardly, to being publicly attacked for any reason.

For the record: this man was chronically depressed because of extreme
mockery in the newspapers and even other pulpits. So he knows what it
feels like.

The political punditsphere was quick to respond, and the arguments are useful in provoking thought:

Matt Walsh wrote for the Blaze, making two main points:
* empathy: as a parent, is your first response to throw your child in jail? "I guess I'm just a horrible person then."
* hypocrisy: are the same people going after Josh Duggar also going after Lena Dunham, who publicly admitted to even more deviant behavior, and is thoroughly unrepentant about it? No? Well, why not? Is it perhaps because of the messages they promote on television?
"1) The Duggars are Christian. The Duggars are conservative. The Duggars don’t believe in gay marriage. Someone in the Duggar family did something terrible.
These are all facts. None of these facts conflict. None of these facts disprove any of the other facts. From the way liberals always react in these situations, you’d think that a Christian committing a sin somehow delegitimizes the faith itself, but that’s not quite accurate."
All reasonable statements, which appeal to logic.

In a similar vein to Lena Dunham, Rob Lowe tweeted about past indiscretions he'd committed, and this was after the Duggar story had broken. He was promoted as a beacon of hope in every media outlet I saw.
"In 1988, before Lowe got sober... he was filmed in a sex tape with two females and one of them was 16, according to CBS."
Is there a difference between 12 years and 25 years? Further, is there a difference between fondling (Duggar) and penetration (Lowe)? Or is the former simply more scandalous because it's new news, not old news?

I also saw an article on Stephen Crowder's website, by a contributor Krystal Heath, which made a similar statement initially, but emphasized more Christian-sounding language toward the end. Used the 'sin' word a bit more as well as forgiveness. This is good, but still not quite as incisive as what I read from Todd Friel.

If everyone who hears of the story reads just one article, this is the article everyone should read
"There are two groups of people who should not be shocked to discover that a member of the Duggar family is a sinner: Christians and non-Christians. Surprisingly, both camps seemed to be surprised by this revelation."
"There are two groups of people who should not be shocked to discover that a member of the Duggar family is a sinner: Christians and non-Christians. Surprisingly, both camps seemed to be surprised by this revelation." 

Without copying the entire article, here's the final paragraph:
"Josh tendered his resignation to the Family Research Council and they accepted it. While none of us know all of the details, if Josh were in my employ, I would not have accepted his resignation. 
I would have shouted from the rooftops, “If you think Josh is wicked, you should meet the rest of us! That is why we are Christians! We need forgiveness for being wretched, vile, wicked rebels. If you are a rebel too, Jesus died for you! Run to Jesus! Join the wretched club.” 
Let’s not squander this opportunity to share the great good news that Jesus died for perverts, liars, thieves, drunkards, abortionists, Wall Street fat cats, skid row bums, suburban housewives, blue collar workers and every sinner who will come to Him in repentance and faith. 
Josh Duggar’s story is more than a Gospel tragedy; it is a Gospel opportunity. Don’t waste it."
The Duggars' initial response to the accusations were reported here, and the full copy is on the "Duggar Family Official" Facebook page.

They did point out that they hope people can see that being a Christian doesn't mean being perfect,
"We have challenges and struggles everyday. It is one of the reasons we treasure our faith so much because God’s kindness and goodness and forgiveness are extended to us — even though we are so undeserving. We hope somehow the story of our journey — the good times and the difficult times — cause you to see the kindness of God and learn that He can bring you through anything. "

Perhaps the best possible short response, to anyone who would accuse Josh or the family in person (and even any of us 'other' Christians, if we are confronted by an accuser), would be this go-to:
"Just think, if God can forgive me for what I've done, then He can forgive you too. No one is ever too far from grace for God to save."

For the fairest and most complete telling of the story, actually letting the Duggars speak instead of just their social media critics, I found this Fox News link to where Megyn Kelly interviewed them.

For the complete article with several short video segments of the interview of Jim-Bob and Michelle (the parents), go here.

For the interview with the girls Jessa and Jill, which was just done last night and posted, go here.

One note: the girls feel victimized by the people attacking their family, not their brother. They have asked people to stop. Everyone who claims to be interested in their welfare should listen to them. Failure to do so will betray the truth, that you are interested in destroying the family in any way you can.
The behavior of social media antagonists who have attacked the Duggars persistently is aptly explained by God's Word. Romans describes the tell-tale behavior of people in a society who have denied God.
Romans 1
"28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, 30 backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; 32 who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them."
Romans 2 follows up by saying "and such were some of you." God can extend grace even to people like Josh. And God can extend grace even to people who slander Josh's family. None of us are deserving of praise, for all of us have sinned: some publicly, some privately, some knowingly, and others unknowingly. I daresay most of the critics do not realize that their speculation about Jim-Bob's alleged inappropriate handling of the issue constitutes GOSSIP, something the Bible condemns as a sin that we who commit it deserve hell for.

What an encouraging thing it is that God saves sinners. That means we all qualify.
~ Rak Chazak

PS I had more thoughts initially, but this works best as a summary post. More may follow later.