Wednesday, August 30, 2006


The most recent issue of World Magazine has what I must consider to be a breathtaking bait & switch. In the main body of articles, the stories of fifteen highly effective (as judged by the Acton Institute) ministries to the poor are given. By and large, they do not accept large amounts of government money, and as such, they are free to act on the strength of the Gospel--and they do.

Then, in Marvin Olasky's page, the editor-in-chief uses the examples of these more or less independent charities as a justification to increase government funding for them. As if government funding for the Red Cross, Salvation Army, and others has failed to degrade the very factors that made them effective--specifically, the liberal application of the Gospel.

Perhaps we might persuade Dr. Olasky to read a very interesting book about what happens when we allow government into the business of charity. It's called The Tragedy of American Compassion, by Marvin Olasky.

Again, sigh. Bible-believing Christians have few greater needs in charity than to forget about government help and dance with the girl that brought them; the Gospel. God is not glorified when we downplay the Gospel in order to pillage the pocketbooks of nonbelievers for "our" charities in the name of "compassionate conservatism."

Monday, August 28, 2006

When you're at the witness stand,

you may be "asked" by the questioning lawyer "Now, Mr. So and So, you DO remember that you're under oath, right?" It's a typical way of impugning a witness to suggest that they're not reliable.

My carry permit teacher suggested a good response: "Yes, Counsel, let the jury know that I am under oath and you are not."

Sad to say, as bad as the credibility of some witnesses might be, the credibility of many lawyers is worse. Justice might someday depend on someone pointing this out to a jury.


On a brighter note, my pastor preached on the Beatitudes on Sunday, and in discussing the "pure" in heart, noted that one part of being pure (and encouraging that in others) was to be modest. He did well, but for the sake of those who are younger, I almost wish he'd given even more hints. Somehow it seems that my generation and those younger have more or less forgotten what modesty is all about.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Another reason...

to love living in Minnesota is that OUR Dairy Queen, Princess Kay of the Milky Way, has her likeness carved in about 90 pounds of pure butter. If any single gentlemen out there are smitten, please keep in mind that this year's Princess Kay is from New Ulm and is protected by Herman the German. Don't mess with her unless you want to get seriously roughed up. Also keep in mind that the Jolly Green Giant (in Jordan) and Paul Bunyan (in Brainerd) are pledged to protect Princess Kay.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006


Recent news reports note that the politically and theologically liberal aren't having babies at the rate of their conservative rivals. Wow--when you tell people that the biggest hazard to the world is population growth and encourage them to have sex (using condoms of course) outside of marriage, you find that the people who believe you don't end up having very many babies. When you tell people that career matters more than family, they don't have families.

I could go on, but let me just admit that I'm shocked, SHOCKED to learn this. I'd suggest that a primer on logic might help them out, but if they learned that ideas and actions have consequences, there'd be fewer liberals anyways.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

An interesting rule of logic

I was discussing some topic or other with a friend a few years back, and he shared with me an interesting lawyer's aphorism.

If the facts are on your side, pound the facts. If the law is on your side, pound the law. If neither, pound the table.

In other words, one can infer the strength or weakness of a man's argument by the methods he uses. If he's bringing forth data, he believes that the evidence he presents makes his case. If he cites principles of conduct, he believes that moral law makes his case. If he cites opinion polls, refers to politics, or simply tries to shout you down, he has without knowing conceded your point.

Not that everyone catches on to how the argument has been lost, of course. Maybe we can help by pointing out who's playing "Nikita Kruschev" in the arena of ideas.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

An interesting hermeneutic

I recently had the opportunity to discuss what the Bible says about homosexuality with a gentleman who appeared to be persuaded by arguments such as those of the "Metropolitan Community Church," a pro-homosexual (and decidedly heterodox) denomination. He emailed me and challenged me to provide a "single" verse that demonstrated that "same sex romantic love", in his words, was wrong.

Well, I gave him the "traditional" answers (references to Sodom and Gemorrah, Leviticus 18 and 20, Paul's warnings) as well as an argument from creation (the helpmeet is opposite sex) and God's use of marital sexuality as a picture for His love for His people. I reminded him of the basic fact that 2000 years of theology and Bible translation clearly demonstrate that Jews, Catholics, Orthodox Christians, and Protestants all agreed that homosexuality was a sin.

The response? More or less to flat out ignore Paul and make a false claim about the Hebrew word for "abomination." The hermeneutic of many, it seems, is to ignore two millenia of learning and insert one's own meaning into the Scriptures--thoroughly postmodern, I dare say. Pray for Brian and others like him, that their hearts might be made alive.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

How did we ever...

...have any kids make it to adulthood before Gary Ezzo wrote "Babywise"? Reading it, one would think that either earlier generations of parents instinctively knew to schedule their children's feedings, or that life was nasty, brutish, and short (thanks Hobbes) because mothers didn't have Ezzo's "sage" advice.

Let's be serious, though. Imagine you are a mother in cloudy northern Europe, 500 years before mechanical clocks were widely available(1700s/1800s). How exactly are you going to schedule feedings?

Further, let's imagine that it's winter, and that effective house heating is still several hundred years away (the Franklin stove). Do you put your child in a crib to freeze to death?

The answer, of course, is that for most of history, mothers have fed their children on demand and kept them in their own beds while they were nursing--if not longer--because weather, technology, and economics did not allow any other arrangement. Despite Ezzo's quasi-historical analysis, his work is simply an attempt to treat a child as if he were a component or subassembly in a factory.

Is this what we really want? If a "part" doesn't work, do we ship him back to the manufacturer or discard him? Do we use the harmonious operation of the "factory" as an excuse to compel parents to do what they would not otherwise do?

This really gets to the core of what's wrong with Ezzo's work. The key issue isn't that he's not an expert in the area, or that he's split churches (and his work has split many more), or that the pediatricians and lactation consultants recommend demand feeding. The key issue, rather, is that families aren't factories, and children aren't "parts." If treating people like "parts" in factories leads to unions, what should we expect when we treat people like parts in our families and churches?

We'd expect exactly the same results that have been observed with implementing GFI. Children who don't "fit the mold" fail to thrive, and families and churches turn on each other.

See and for other information about Ezzo if you like.

Monday, August 14, 2006

And, or or?

One of the most persistent errors in logic, IMO, is that of the false dilemma; where two alternatives are presented as incompatible, whereas in reality they are not. They have some nasty side effects in our lives.

For example, parents often discuss whether they're being too strict/disciplinarian, or too loving. Lost in the rhetoric is Scripture, which notes that every father who loves his son is careful to discipline him. It's not "or," it's "and." Or we might discuss whether unity or theology are more important--not realizing that unity in anything besides the Gospel is meaningless as far as the church is concerned.

The cost can be huge. We know quickly when we've met a child whose parents "loved" him too much to spank him, or when we enter a church where the Gospel is subordinated to an imagined "unity." Let's never forget to ask ourselves "and, or or" when presented with dilemmas like this.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Calvinism vs. Arminianism, Part 2

The head of my church's seminary sends out a weekly letter, and this week's edition is a simple plea to those who will go into churches and Bible studies and divert the topic at hand to an argument of Calvin vs. Arminius:


Now this is a good plea, and my friend does well to note that we ought not be stirring up dissention in our own and other churches over this issue. Debate it, yes, but stir up problems, no.

We ought to go even further, though, in my (not humble enough?) opinion; we ought to challenge those who "know everything" on this subject with a simple question:

"Have you ever read anything by Calvin or Arminius?"

My hunch is that most haven't--not even in translation. As such, I've got a hunch that a potentially divisive argument can be transformed into a golden opportunity for growth with a simple reply:

"No? Then perhaps instead of debating these issues with me, you ought to pick up a copy of the Calvin's Institutes and read it."

To be sure, there will be those who simply enjoy strife, and they'll ignore you. But maybe, just maybe, 1% of those we confront in this manner will take us up on this challenge, and the Church will be the stronger (and perhaps more bulbous) for it.

Funeral luncheons

I once heard a joke that the main reason an Irishman dreads dying is that it's going to be the best party he ever pays for, and he doesn't get to enjoy it.

Apart from probable drunkenness, this picture of a funeral luncheon may have a lot going for it. One of the attractions of Heaven, after all, is the banquet laid out by our Lord for His Church, and making a funeral luncheon "palatable" certainly is at least a dim reflection of this truth.

So what do we think might be good for our own funeral luncheons? I bet Mark might say "Lefty's Pizza." (would Craig deliver to the Springs?) Here in the Great White North, one possibility would be Famous Dave's BBQ, and if I moved southwards, I just might have to investigate whether Big Bob's would do the same.

Your thoughts?

Thursday, August 10, 2006

"Studies Prove"

Another grand slam from Thomas Sowell. And yet another.

If we doubt the need to learn our logic and rhetoric and use these skills to evaluate supposedly authoritative sources, Sowell might just set us straight.

Another thought on this has to do with the current war between Israel and Hezbollah. Many would take us to sites where pictures of supposed atrocities have occurred and tell us we ought to plead for a cease-fire. Many have tried to point out that many of these pictures are fabrications, and I commend their work.

However, there's an easier way of addressing the situation; to remind people who attacked whom, and who is hiding behind women and children. Our demand ought not be for a cease-fire, but rather that Hezbollah fight like men or surrender.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The need for out of shape workers

Yes, you are reading this correctly. I am offering the hypothesis that companies today actually want people who are out of shape. Here is my logic:

When I work out seriously--say riding my bike 30 miles in a day, or going swimming for a while, or running any significant distance (> 2 miles or so), I find that I sleep much more deeply and much longer. The Bible even notes how well the worker sleeps (in Proverbs), whether he eats little or much. Even hunger is not a big barrier to sleep for a man who has wearied his body.

On the other hand, when I look at the corporate world, I see the "movers and shakers" sleeping four or five hours a night and taking conference calls in the wee hours of the morning. Even the "plebians" are well known to take six hours or less of sleep.

So it seems to me that the behaviors that lead to personal fitness are actually opposed to those which lead a man to success in the corporate world. And of course, it doesn't hurt, either, that a lot of people work in the corporate world because they need the medical benefits. Hmmm....

Monday, August 07, 2006

Hymns at your funeral

Having recently buried my grandfather, I've thought a little bit about what hymns I might like sung/played at my own funeral. While I'm not thinking it'll be anytime soon, I'm hoping that those who bury me will make sure that "Wonderful Grace of Jesus" is part of the service--optimally sung by the mourners in four part harmony with feeling.

Any other suggestions?

Friday, August 04, 2006

An interesting penalty

My family is going through the book of Judges in evening devotions, and there is a very interesting penalty for disobedience described in Judges 2:1-5; the angel effectively says "You failed to drive out the Canaanites, so you will live next to them."

No fire from Heaven, no war by the Levites, no invasion from Assyria or Babylon. More or less, it's "you made your bed, now you'll sleep in it."

The result? Israel repented for decades--until the elders who had served Joshua died. Let this be a lesson to those who would shield us from the natural results of our sin!

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Cheap subsidies today?

Now don't get me wrong; I can't stand it when government decides to pick our pockets to give it to someone. However, it actually turns out that subsidies today have a small cost in comparison to those of the 19th Century, where Whigs and Republicans (and sometimes the then-conservative meaning classical liberal Democrats) used tax revenues (specifically tariffs) to fund canals, railroads, and westward expansion while simultaneously using those tariffs to protect heavy industry in New England.

The costs? Well, secession and the "War Between the States" was in part a reaction to those tariffs, and the "Indian Wars" were brought on in great part by the settlement of the Plains. That settlement, in turn, was encouraged by federally funded railroads, federal farm giveaways, and a flood of people who lost their life's savings in the post-Civil War bank crashes. Two famous examples are the Wilder and Ingalls families of the "Little House on the Prairie" series.

So if you think that hundreds of billions of dollars annually is a high cost to pay, think about hundreds of thousands of people instead.

Oh, and those agricultural subsidies I mentioned a few days back? Yup, one of the reasons we "need" them today is that the 19th century subsidies made the Great Plains into a vast granary.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

An interesting sandwich

that I had for lunch today was the "Ave Caesar" sandwich. Fortunately, the shop that made it didn't complete the quote--"morituri te salutamis." Translated in full: "Hail Caesar, we who are about to die salute you!"

That's what I want to be thinking about when eating a sandwich, for sure. Not dead yet, and the sandwich left a little to be desired in the taste department.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Executive bonuses, and the "cost" of homeschooling

I've often noted that a traditional practice of money-losing companies is to pay large retention bonuses to managers to prevent the loss of "key executive talent." Somewhat odd if you ask me; doesn't the fact that the company is losing money mean that this "key executive talent" isn't pulling its weight in the first place? That maybe the company ought to be considering getting some new talent instead of paying the old talent more to stay?

Or would that violate a secret fraternity pledge? I'm always amazed at how there appears to be little accountability for those who get corner offices, to put it mildly.

Also, a fun thought on the "costs" of homeschooling, apropos at this time due to "back to school sales." The cost, according to the HSLDA, runs about $600 annually per homeschooled child for books and such. Then again, public school fees for books are...well...about that much in many places. Note also that homeschoolers do not buy the school lunch, and have no need to purchase the latest fashions to avoid the mockery of classmates.

Which is to note that homeschooling may actually be cheaper than government education even before the costs of substandard instruction and moral degradation are accounted for. And those costs can be big--ask any single parent, college student paying for remedial courses, prisoner, or compulsive spender. Yes, compulsive spender; our government schools were designed to create demand for industrial products and workers to make them. (see John Taylor Gatto's website for details)