Thursday, August 22, 2019

Four variations on atheist YouTubers

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0p3xAEx69mY

Was There a Persecution under Domitian?

http://theologicalsushi.blogspot.com/2019/07/was-there-persecution-under-domitian.html

Looking ahead to Africa

http://toddcwood.blogspot.com/2019/08/looking-ahead-to-africa.html

Why do we dream?

1. The experience of dreaming exerts a perennial fascination. Why do we dream? I can only speculate. 

Scientists have no agreed-upon explanation. If you're a physicalist, then the question is what if, any, biological function dreams have. If you're Darwinian, then you seek an evolutionary explanation. 

But what about from a Christian dualist perspective? 

2. Perhaps the question of why we dream is related in part to the question of why we play. Dreams are the mind at play. Maybe the mind requires a certain amount of daily unstructured time to retain sanity. 

3. In addition, dreams are a witness to the existence of the immaterial soul. Although the dreamer is embodied, a sleeper in bed, yet within the world of the dream it's a sensory world without physicality. So a theological function of dreams may be to remind us that reality isn't confined to bodies or physical experience. Dreams are an emblem of personal existence that survives the dissolution of the body. We can leave the body behind but still take a lot with us. In that respect, dreams are a bridge between this life and the afterlife. A token of the intermediate state. 

They can help us from becoming too attached to this life and this world. Too fearful to let go. They provide something to step into. Material existence isn't the sum total of reality. There's something ahead as well as behind. 

4. In addition, dreams can link us to dead relatives. I'm not saying that as a rule, the dead actually visit us in dreams. Generally, I'd say the encounter is imaginary, based on memory. But it reminds us of those who've gone before. It keeps them fresh in our memories. And that, too, may be a psychological bridge. We're on one side while they are on the other side, but dreams form a symbolic window. Although we're separated by the river of death, we can see each other standing on the riverbanks, awaiting reunion. 

5. Then there are supernatural dreams. God sometimes uses the medium of dreams to communicate. Or he may give permission for a sainted relative to make contact if the dreamer is undergoing a crisis and needs some timely encouragement. 

Conversely, there can be supernatural nightmares that shake unbelievers out of their spiritual complacency. In addition, I presume that those who dabble in witchcraft may open a terrifying door, where evil spirits haunt them in nightmares. 

Uprooting "the Jewish roots of the papacy"

I'm going to comment on Brant Pitre's presentation on the "Jewish roots of the papacy":


This is the final time I plan to write about Pitre, although I reserve the right to change my mind. As with my other posts on Pitre, I'm going to make some methodological observations about his hermeneutical grid. In this presentation he labors to document the "Jewish roots" of Mt 16:18-19 by ransacking Josephus, the Mishna, Babylonian Talmud, and Targums. Based on his putative background material, he draws "connections". For instance: 

There was a central stone, pillar, or rock around which the temple was built. What the rabbis tell us is that not only was this true of the pagan temple that we have at Philippi, it was also true of the Jerusalem temple as well. In the holy of holiness, upon which rested the ark of the covenant. Rabbis had interesting traditions about this rock upon which the temple was built. It was the same stone on which Abraham offered Isaac. The rabbis had tradition that the whole world stemmed from this one stone. Jerusalem center of the earth, first thing God made.

They kept the keys of the temple in a rock–a slab of marble with a ring and chain which the keys hung from. Notice the connection? Keeper of the keys, the prefect of the priests. Sound familiar? The prefect? Captain of the temple. When the temple of Jerusalem was destroyed, the priests took the keys of the kingdom and threw them up into heaven.

It was the priests who had the temple keys. There were actual keys to the temple and they were kept by Jewish priests, so when Jesus gives Peter the keys, Peter is going to be offering the sacrificial offering of the eucharist. If Peter is the foundation stone in the holy of holies, do you already begin to see the priestly context of who was able to go into the holy of holies and put the blood on the foundation stone. The high priest and the high priest alone. So there's a connection between the foundation stone of the temple and not just any priest but the high priest. Peter is a warrior who plunders Hades. Jesus is building a new temple on Peter–the new temple of new covenant. 

So what are we to make of this?

When Evil Loses by Winning


J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings is most often described with a single word: epic.  And it truly is a sweeping story, full of magnificent world-building, great characters, and an overall story arch of good triumphing over the vast strength of evil.

At least, that’s how most of us think of it.  But take a moment and consider how the main conflict of the story ends at the Cracks of Doom.  Frodo has carried the ring across Middle Earth, through the heart of Mordor itself.  Sam has been his constant companion, sacrificing his strength to carry Frodo when Frodo could no longer make it on his own power.  And our heroes have finally made it to the final ledge.  Good has triumphed.  All Frodo has to do is toss the ring into the lava.

The exact same scenario had happened previously in the lore.  Isildur had cut the ring from Sauron’s finger and had taken it to the very spot Frodo now stood.  All Isildur needed to do was toss the ring into the lava, and he failed to do so.  The ring was too powerful.  It corrupted Isildur.

Tolkien drew the obvious parallel here by having Frodo stand in the same location thousands of years later.  And while most tales of heroes would indeed have the hero conquer the temptation and toss the ring into the lava…

Frodo fails.

Frodo succumbs to the same fate that fell upon Isildur.  Hobbits fail the same way men do.  It should not be overly surprising.  We already saw that with Gollum, who had been known as Sméagol before his corruption.  And we even saw it happen to Bilbo, who for one moment tried to take the ring back from Frodo.  So it really should be no surprise that Frodo could no longer endure the siren song of the ring.

But the story does not end with Frodo’s failure.  Instead, at the very moment he gives in to evil, Gollum pounces.  And here, Frodo fails a second time.  He cannot fend off Gollum and is incapable of maintaining control of the ring.  In a callback to how Isildur severed the ring from Sauron’s finger, Gollum bites off Frodo’s finger and takes the ring himself.  But in the process, as the two combatants struggle for control of the ring they both desire, Gollum falls into the lava and the ring is destroyed.

And thus evil is conquered, not because good prevailed but because evil destroyed itself.

This is what makes The Lord of the Rings unique, or at least very rare, in terms of story structure.  Nearly every heroic tale has good conquering evil.  Sometimes, a main character may have to sacrifice a lot to achieve this aim.  For example, in the movie Saving Private Ryan Tom Hank’s character, Captain Miller, ends up dying to achieve the stated goal of saving Private Ryan.  We see similar structure in other stories, such as Neo’s sacrifice at the end of The Matrix trilogy.  Or how Dan Evans dies at the end of 3:10 to Yuma but manages to get Ben Wade on the train and becomes a hero to his son.  Sure, the secondary aspect of surviving the exchange failed, but audiences appreciate the fact that the greater goal succeeded.  Good prevailed over evil.

In other stories, we have the bad guy win.  This has become very frequent in stories involving the antihero.  Take movies like The Godfather where Michael Corleone ends up becoming the ruthless mob boss at the end of the film, having hits carried out on all his enemies during the very baptism of his son.  Or take the example of Primal Fear where Aaron Stampler successfully convinces the court to render a verdict of innocent by reason of insanity, only to reveal he was faking his mental illness all along.

But The Lord of the Rings takes neither of these paths.  The good guy fails in all his tasks so good does not triumph over evil.  He does not destroy the ring.  He cannot even fight off Gollum.  And yet evil does not win either, for the ring is still destroyed and Sauron defeated.  In fact, it is through the very failure of good that evil loses.  There are very few stories that take this trajectory.

For Tolkien, however, this story arc is the only one that could make sense.  He was, after all, a devout Catholic with a view of evil that was shaped by Christian theology.  Evil is a corrosive force, even while it is so tempting.  Therefore, by its very nature, evil is unstable.  The more successful evil is, the more it is doomed to fail. Even though Roman Catholicism does not have as strong a view of depravity as one would find in the Reformed doctrine I subscribe to, Catholicism does strongly hold to the doctrine of Original Sin.  Everyone is born corrupted and bent toward evil, and you do not need to learn how to do evil.  You will be evil, even without a teacher.  No matter how good of a person you are, you cannot be perfect.  You will fail in the end.
 
Tolkien intended the ring to be an impossible burden, because evil is an impossible burden to bear.  And yet rather than rendering everything hopeless, Tolkien demonstrated that evil will never win in the end.  It is tempting to correlate this to the very heart of the Gospel itself.  After all, the greatest evil ever committed was the murder of an innocent man, and it was that murder that killed death itself.  There is a sort of poetic justice in knowing that death was destroyed by its own actions.

Yet Christ's death is not an instance of good failing and it would be an error to think Tolkien had that in mind here.  Instead, Tolkien examines good and evil from the perspective of imperfect men.  As he writes in Letter 246:
Frodo indeed ‘failed’ as a hero, as conceived by simple minds: he did not endure to the end; he gave in, ratted. I do not say ‘simple minds’ with contempt: they often see with clarity the simple truth and the absolute ideal to which effort must be directed, even if it is unattainable. Their weakness, however, is twofold. They do not perceive the complexity of any given situation in Time, in which an absolute ideal in enmeshed. They tend to forget that strange element in the World that we call Pity or Mercy, which is also an absolute requirement in moral judgement (since it is present in the Divine Nature). In its highest exercise it belongs to God.
The story therefore most reflects the path of sanctification.  We live our lives in an evil world and fail to attain the heights we know we should be at, and it is easy to lose heart.  Yet all is not lost even in such a scenario because of the role of mercy.

Though much more could be said on this, and indeed entire books could be written over it, one simple truth remains.  As powerful as evil seems, evil cannot triumph over good for evil must, of necessity, consume itself.  Evil is the harbinger of its own demise.  Even if it destroys all around it, it simultaneously must destroy itself. And this, itself, is due to the mercy of God in ensuring that evil will be self-destructive rather than permanent.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Pell loses on appeal

I don't have much to add to what I already said about his original conviction. As an outside observer, it looks to me like Pell was railroaded. I think he was convicted because the allegation plays into such a well-established narrative, where the allegation is usually true, and because the authorities were looking for a scapegoat. 

Despite my unyielding opposition to Roman Catholicism, we must never let that blind us to uniform standards of justice and evidence. We should judge allegations on a case-by-case basis. It's wrong to convict an innocent man to set an example. Admittedly, he's complicit in the indirect sense that he works for a corrupt organization, but that's a different charge.

Smack talk

I don't know Donald Trump personally, so I don't know for a fact what makes him tick, but I'm struck by how many people take his tweets so seriously. It's my impression that Trump is trolling and talking smack. It's a psychological tactic. And his critics invariably take the bait.

Gated gardens

Someone reading my contributions to this blog might have a misimpression of my priorities. That's because a lot of what I post on is out of proportion to my personal priorities. Put another way, a lot of what I post on is not intrinsically important, but it's a practical necessity. 

Take a walled garden. What's the relationship of the wall to the garden? The garden is where we live and what we live for (figuratively speaking). 

But we live behind a wall because the wall is necessary to protect the garden from the encroachments of the wilderness–so that the wilderness doesn't reclaim the garden and return it to a wilderness. The wall is necessary to protect it from dangerous animals or animals that tear up the flowerbeds or trample down the flowers. The wall is necessary to protect the garden from human intruders or invaders. 

But this means a certain amount of time and effort must be put into maintaining the wall. The wall is not an end in itself, but just a means to an end. Yet without the wall, there is no garden.

The stuff I post on apologetics, as well as the culture war stuff, is mostly the wall, not the garden. But the garden can't  flourish without it. For me, the garden is family, friends, natural beauty, feminine beauty, music (mostly classical, mostly Christian), painting, church architecture, poetry (mostly Christian), literature, good movies, my fiction, my existential writings, and my Bible studies on the biblical symbolism of light.  

Now that oversimplifies things a tad. Apologetics requires a deep and accurate grasp of Christian theology. And everything I care about ties into Christianity. That's the lynchpin. Remove that and nothing else matters. But that's a kind of spinoff value of apologetics. 

Christianity has always had to maintain a wartime footing. Not only is that necessary for the survival of the Christian faith in a hostile world, but Christian values extend a protective dome over many unbelievers. Take the current secular assault on the young and the old, masculinity and femininity. Only Christianity stands in the way of the secular progressive onslaught. It's not just for our own benefit.

When the vandals are besieging the wall, it takes an inordinate amount of time away from what ultimately matters to maintain the structural integrity of the defensive perimeter. To keep the vandals from breaching the wall. But that's just a buffer zone. Unimportant in its own right. 

In the world to come we won't need fences and walls (figuratively speaking). In the world to come, we can just enjoy the garden. The whole world will be a garden. And although that's a metaphor, it's literally true that the world to come will have unspoiled natural beauty in abundance as well as landscape gardens. 

Pruss on divine simplicity

Alexander Pruss is the smartest Catholic philosopher of his generation, so if anyone can successfully defend divine simplicity, he can: 


The Fourth Lateran Council teaches that God is a “substantia seu natura simplex omnino”—an “altogether simple substance or nature”—and the First Vatican Council reiterated the teaching.  The doctrine of divine simplicity is at the center of Thomas’s  natural theology, since it is essentially involved in his attempt to show that the First Cause that he has proved to exist in the Five Ways has the appropriate divine attributes.

From a Catholic standpoint, the doctrine is partly grounded in ecclesiastical authority and partly grounded in natural reason. 

The doctrine claims that there is no ontological composition in God of any sort, whether of matter and form, or of essence and accident, or of this attribute and that attribute considered as ontologically distinct.  The doctrine is a traditional part of Christianity and Judaism, though I understand that Islam may have ultimately rejected it.

So that's what he's defending.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

"The Jewish roots of Catholicism"

I've been watching some Brant Pitre videos to see if he does a better job of making an exegetical case for Catholicism than other Catholic apologists. Here's a sampler. 

The second thing to notice is that Jesus is emphasizing the realism of his presence under the form of food and drink... 

That the food and drink he's going to give, which they don't yet understand [because] he hasn't instituted the Last Supper…

It's going to be necessary for us to receive it in order to have eternal life. 

If you eat his flesh and drink his blood he will abide in you and you will abide in him. 

The OT manna was miraculous bread from heaven. Now if the NT manna was just a symbol, that would make the old manna greater than the new manna. 

The 50 cent army

"Twitter shuts down 200,000 Chinese accounts for spreading disinformation about Hong Kong protests"

  1. I wonder how many people are aware of China's 50 cent army: "The 50 Cent Party, or 50 Cent Army (Chinese: 五毛党), is the colloquial term for internet commentators (Chinese: 网络评论员) which are hired by Chinese authorities in an attempt to manipulate public opinion to the benefit of the Chinese Communist Party [CCP]."

  2. The fact that the CCP is able to create 200,000 fake accounts on Twitter (that we know about) to try to influence Western public opinion should be disconcerting to say the least.

  3. It's also interesting because Twitter is supposed to be banned in China! Welp, I guess Twitter is banned for the Chinese people, not for the CCP.

  4. Not to suggest I trust Twitter (e.g. Twitter has censured political conservatives), but in this case I think Twitter made the right call against communist China and for pro-democracy Hong Kong.

  5. On a related note, there's the added problem of celebrities who shill for communist China. For example, Jackie Chan is beloved in the West, but he has long been disliked by his own fellow Hong Kongers precisely because Jackie Chan has supported communist China over and against his own people and his own native city of Hong Kong for years.

    Likewise Liu Yifei stars as Mulan in the upcoming live action Mulan film from Disney. However she recently made a comment supporting police brutality against pro-democracy Hong Kong protesters when she said "I support the Hong Kong Police. You can beat me up now....what a shame for Hong Kong" on Chinese social media (Weibo). The Hong Kong police work for the Hong Kong government, but the Hong Kong government is full of toadies for communist China. Hence many people around the world are calling to ban Mulan. That includes other Asians living in democratic nations like South Korea and Taiwan.

  6. If the 21st century is supposed to be the Asian century, then I'd prefer it to be a century of pro-democracy Asian nations like Hong Kong, Taiwan, and South Korea, not pro-communist or other tyrannical Asian nations like mainland China.

Ministering spirits

From approximately 31 to 40 minutes, Corrie ten Boom tells four stories about angels. The second story is reminiscent of 2 Kgs 6:17. Admittedly I'm more skeptical about her third story. Her fourth story is intriguing.

Marian typology

1. I've been watching some Brant Pitre videos. He's a Catholic apologist with an emphasis on the (alleged) biblical evidence for Catholicism. He's popular and prolific, with a number of books and video series. As I said in another post, he's probably the best Bible scholar among Catholic apologists. 

I imagine his explanations would be a "revelation" to untutored evangelicals. "Why hasn't anyone told me this before?" 

In this post I'm going to make some methodological observations about his typology. Admittedly, my exposure to his material is pretty limited. However, from what I've seen thus far, there's a stereotypical quality to his arguments, so this seems to be a representative sample of his methodology or hermeneutical grid. Because NT Mariology is so thin, Catholic apologists who wish to demonstrate Catholic Mariology from Scripture must resort to layers of typological padding. In this post I'll focus on his Marian typology, in the following videos:




An ostensive definition of inerrancy

Definitions of inerrancy typically take the form of abstract definitions. While there's a necessary place for abstract definitions of inerrancy, their generality makes them fact-free vacuities. But traditional inerrantists have specific examples in mind, so it's useful to supplement or complement abstract definitions with ostensive definitions to avoid vacuity. For instance:

1. The historical narratives of Scripture (e.g. the Pentateuch; Gospels) are factually accurate. They record real events. Moreover, they describe real events in ways that would be recognizable if you could step into a time machine and go back to the scenes they narrate. 

2. The moral and theological teaching of Scripture is true. Scripture doesn't command evil. Scripture doesn't misrepresent the true nature of God.

3. The prophecies of Scripture are genuinely and accurately predictive. They were delivered prior to the fulfillment, rather than "prophecies" after the fact. In addition, the predictions have been or will be realized.    

The Voice And Personality Of The Enfield Poltergeist

If a poltergeist talks, there's potential to get more information from it. But the value of the information you get is going to depend, in part, on the poltergeist's personality.

One of the most controversial aspects of the Enfield case, an aspect that often gets more attention than is warranted, is the voice that allegedly was manifested by the poltergeist. Despite the large amount of attention the phenomena receive, interpretations of the voice, both in support of its paranormality and against it, are usually remarkably simplistic. That's partly because the large majority of people commenting on the subject have only heard a small percentage of what the voice said. But even what they say about that small percentage is often unreasonable.

I'm revisiting the issues surrounding the voice because I finished listening to Maurice Grosse and Guy Playfair's Enfield tapes earlier this year. The voice is present or discussed on dozens of those tapes, covering many hours, so that the tapes provide a lot of additional information on the issues involved.

When I cite the tapes below, I'll use "MG" to designate a tape from Grosse's collection and "GP" to designate one from Playfair's. For example, MG102B is tape 102B in Grosse's collection, and GP59A is tape 59A in Playfair's.

I'll be including the voice's vulgar language when I quote it. I don't use that sort of language, and I disapprove of it, but it has relevance to some of the points I'll be making. And given how often the voice is vulgar, leaving out the vulgarity would be too disruptive.

I want to start by summarizing the evidence for the authenticity (paranormality) of the voice. That will provide some motivation upfront for working through these issues. I'll then move on to address some objections to the authenticity of the voice. After that, I'll discuss some other subjects. Since this article is so long, some readers may want to use Ctrl F to find what they're most interested in.

The extent to which the evidence for and against the voice is significant, or even relevant, will vary from one view of the voice to another. If somebody thinks that one or more of the Hodgson children had dissociative identity disorder or some other such condition, for example, then that view has different implications than one in which the children faked everything without any of those other psychological issues involved. I'm offering some general considerations with more than one view in mind.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Exploring Islam: half price sale

https://www.proginosko.com/2019/08/50-off-ligonier-video-teaching-series/

Is Purgatory in the Bible?

42 The Lord answered, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom the master puts in charge of his servants to give them their food allowance at the proper time? 43 It will be good for that servant whom the master finds doing so when he returns. 44 Truly I tell you, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. 45 But suppose the servant says to himself, ‘My master is taking a long time in coming,’ and he then begins to beat the other servants, both men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk. 46 The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers.

47 “The servant who knows the master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what the master wants will be beaten with many blows. 48 But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked (Lk 12:42-48).

Among Catholic apologists, Brand Pitre is probably the best Bible scholar, so it's useful to evaluate his exegetical case for Purgatory:


Let's summarize his argument: 

Operation Antifa

This is brain dead for many reasons:

  1. At least get the historical facts correct! This is a photo from the Normandy landings. Operation Overlord. However D-Day didn't take place in 1945, but 1944. June 6, 1944 to be precise.
  2. Most conservatives in the US aren't white supremacists like the Nazis were. Most conservatives disown groups like fascists, white supremacists, the alt-right. And some conservatives have even been attacked by white supremacists or the alt-right (e.g. Ben Shapiro, David French).
  3. As far as I can see, the only way to conclude most conservatives in the US are white supremacists is by committing a guilt by association fallacy, viz. most conservatives voted for Trump who foments white supremacy or racism hence they must be white supremacists or racists too.
  4. And/or this is an equivocation, viz. Trump wants to build a wall because he's racist against Latinos. However the fact is most conservatives argue for border security (including the wall) because they don't want illegal immigration and they don't want open borders. That threatens our nation in multiple ways. In any case, being against illegal immigration and/or open borders is hardly equivalent to racism.
  5. Most conservatives knew things would end very badly for conservatives if Hillary was voted in. However, Trump was a wild card. They didn't know what Trump would do. Maybe he'd be just as bad as Hillary, maybe even worse, but then again maybe he wouldn't be. Hence many conservatives gambled and took the wild card (Trump) over and against the known quantity (Hillary) whom they knew would be very bad for conservatives. That’s hardly voting for Trump due to racism.
  6. Indeed, in the view of many conservatives, Hillary would have enacted racist policies because she has a history of preferencing other races/ethnicities over and against white people. She likely would have continued much of Obama's policies, many of which were based on identity politics, race wars, class warfare.
  7. What's more, Antifa is just as bad as the alt-right. Both are violent. Both are bigoted. Antifa is bigoted against non-liberal whites. Not to mention Antifa is favorable toward groups which arguably threaten US safety and security like Muslims. Why haven't liberals and progressives disowned Antifa like conservatives have disowned the alt-right?
  8. The Democratic party has been hijacked by its radical progressive factions. Look at how the Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi can't even keep a junior representative like AOC down. Look at how radical all the positions of the current crop of Democratic presidential hopefuls are. Almost all of them (if not all of them) advocate socialism. At least a soft socialism. Yet even a soft socialism, like the social democracy one sees in many European nations, let alone communism, is quite arguably as bad as fascism and Nazism.
  9. Liberals and progressives would likely have smeared any GOP candidate as racist. Not only Trump. After all, that's what happened with both McCain and Romney whom many conservatives believe are RINOs rather than true conservatives and who in any case certainly weren't racist. Yet liberals attacked McCain and Romney for being racist, which signaled to conservatives that liberals and progressives will stoop very low indeed. If that's what liberals are going to do anyway, then why should conservatives care what liberals think about their candidate?

Diet Eman

Like Corrie ten Boom, Diet Eman is a Dutch Christian who helped Jews and resisted the Nazis during World War II. She's also honored as a "righteous gentile" by Israel. Her testimony about her time in the war is edifying to listen to and it likewise holds lessons for us today. In the end, in life or death, the only certainty is God with us if we are his.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

What is the Essence of Roman Catholicism?

http://vaticanfiles.org/en/2019/08/vf165/

Death be not proud

Bill Mounce reflects on the death of his father.


I am going to interrupt my normal Greek blogs to share some thoughts about my dad, funerals, and death.

Dad passed away due to complications from two surgeries, broken hip, shoulder, and elbow, all from falling. He was 97. His obituary is on his blog site, Shout4Joy.net.

It is expected to be reflective in the face of death, and I am no exception.

1. Death is final

No dah, but it is. I am now the oldest Mounce in my family, the patriarch. No one to call for senior advice. No one to remind you of the details of your life. No one to help put history in perspective.

I wasn't going to look at my father's body in the casket, but when they opened it my wife thought I should. I would never have recognized him, but it was extremely clear that he wasn't going to sit up and talk again. He was dead. There was nothing left for him to do.

Our days are numbered. Our life is but a vapor. Don't waste it (with apologies to John Piper and his excellent book on this topic). Do what really matters. You don't get a second chance.

2. The ground is level at the casket (and the cross)

There is some irony in where dad is buried. It is a family plot, with his parents to the right, grandmother further to the right, uncles and cousins to the left. It is basically farm land where the only facilities are a questionable outhouse.

No one reading the memorial stones would recognize the name of a University of Chicago professor born in Gravelswitch Kentucky, educated by traveling teachers in exchange for chickens, and whose first time in a school was as the teacher. My Grandfather.

No one would recognize the name of a published poet whose most famous writing was on the day that Lincoln died. My great-grandmother.

No one would recognize the two women who traveled the Oregon trail and taught as single women in Kellog, Idaho at a time when single women never did that sort of thing. My grandmother and her sister.

In time, no one will recognize the name of Robert Hayden Mounce. He was one of the first graduates of Fuller Seminary who, along with David Hubbard, pursued their Ph.D.'s in Britain and gave Fuller educational legitimacy. Or who wrote the question and answer column for Eternity magazine for 22 years. Or who wrote one of the best commentaries on Revelation. Or who ended his career as the president of Whitworth University.

And in time, no one will remember the name of Bill Mounce, and that's just fine. Despite the human desire for self-aggrandizement in death, everyone is six feet under. They're all dead. And they will stand equally before an impartial judge who will determine their eternal destiny. He is not impressed with what impresses people. Neither should we.

3. Death and legacy

A lot of people talk about legacy. I have never been impressed with the desire for legacy. Books fade. Friends who know you die. As important as BiblicalTraining.org is to me, the only thing that really matters are my wife and children, and the friends whose lives I have touched and who have touched me. If you want to consider that as legacy, then fine.

As my grandma used to quote, "Only one life will soon be past, and only what's done for Jesus will last." If my legacy is a family and group of friends who love Jesus more because I was in their life, then that is enough. There are no heros in the graveyard, only dead bodies waiting to be reunited with their resurrection bodies if in fact they followed Jesus.

As for me, my "legacy" is the embrace of my savior and those long-awaited words, "'Well done, good and faithful servant! Come and share your master's happiness!'"

Nobel laureates vs. evolution

This looks like a useful compilation, though it's from Vincent Torley:

"Seven Nobel Laureates in science who either supported Intelligent Design or attacked Darwinian evolution"

Blood on my hands

In theodicy, freewill theists lean on the notion that God merely permits evil to happen. The intuition is that if an agent directly causes or determines an event, then that makes him morally complicit in a way that just allowing, or not preventing, an event caused by another agent does not. A cliché comparison is the distinction between killing a patient and letting him die, in medical ethics. 

And sometimes that's a morally salient distinction. But sometimes not. Suppose I'm a guard at a Nazi concentration camp. Suppose I secretly despise Hitler and the Third Reich. I'm not there because I signed up. I was conscripted. I'm there against my will. I privately hope the Allies will win. 

Suppose the commandant has a plan. If it becomes unmistakable that German lost the war, and the Allies are marching into Germany, the prisoners, including Jews, as well as Allied war captives, will be executed so that the Allies can't liberate the camp. After executing all the prisoners, the Nazi personnel will evacuate the camp. Even though the Nazis lost, they will kill as many Jews and Allied war captives as they can on the way out. A final act of spiteful revenge. 

Suppose I have a choice: I can stand by and let the prisoners be mowed down, or I can turn my machine gun on my nominal comrades and save the prisoners. Under that scenario, is inaction morally preferable to action? If I do nothing to prevent the massacre, does that let me off the hook? Conversely, if I take direct action by shooting the commandant and his henchmen to prevent them from murdering the prisoners, am I culpable? 

Résumé stuffer

Democrat presidential hopeful Mayor Pete Buttboy touts his military record. I'd just point out that there's a difference between serving in the military and using the military to use yourself. It's clear from how he brags about his military record on the campaign trail that his military service was just a résumé stuffer, like ambitious college students who do lots of extra stuff they don't care about to put on their application form to impress the admissions office at the Ivy Leagues.