Saturday, December 12, 2009

Khaki Campbells and Marans

Today, Elizabeth and I picked up two ducks and two roosters that we got off of Craigslist.

The ducks are female Khaki Campbells, and the roosters are copper black Marans.  Elizabeth has wanted Khaki Campbells for a while, since they're good layers.  It's a breed that her family has had before.

Our rooster, Mr. Darcy, died last week, so Elizabeth asked the seller if she knew of anyone who had a rooster.  As it happened, she had a pair of roosters and was looking for a good home for them.

Does anyone have any names to suggest?  If I name one of the roosters Mr. Knightly, what should the other one be named?  They're a bit young, and they timidly stayed in the chicken coop, and away from the hens.  Maybe I should call them Sheldon and Koothrappali.

The ducks, on the other hand, made right for our Pekins, and they seemed to be getting along fine.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009


Recently, I've been involved in a rather lengthy, but in my mind worth-while discussion, mostly regarding what the Bible teaches (or doesn't teach, depending on who you ask) about wives submitting to their husbands.

It's long.  Very long.  And lots of people chime in.  Some of whom just want to argue.  Be warned.

If that doesn't dissuade you, here's the post.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

On Fatherhood, Thus Far

A few days ago, a friend of mine (who is a mommy) asked me to post a blog entry on being a father.  Then another mom chimed in to say that would be a good idea, and still another mom, (this one happened to be my wife) said that she, too, would be interested to hear what I have to say about being a father.

I don't think I have anything especially profound to say on this topic, but then, perhaps some of the things I consider mundane will be new to someone coming from a different perspective.

There does seem to be quite a bit of lopsidedness when it comes to mommy vs. daddy blogging.  Perhaps it's not considered manly to talk about having kids, or maybe kids aren't as central in the lives of men who blog.

In my case, blogging in general has suffered ever since our daughter was born, and it has much more to do with the new demands on me in my role as husband than as father.

And those just aren't the things one blogs about, mostly out of consideration for the privacy of one's wife.  The Internet does not need to know it when my wife feels like she can't get anything done around the house, or when she feels awkward about the changes in her body, or frustrated with the loss of liberty. 

When I get home from work, if I head over to the computer and sit there for hours composing an eloquent entry on the latest escapades of a certain three-month-old (or perhaps my life in relation to her), there is someone who all day has been cooped up with a baby, and might possibly appreciate some adult conversation, and perhaps someone to see to her needs after meeting someone else's needs all day.

Not that being a husband (or a mother, for that matter) is unrewarding.  It's just that blogging might not be the best use of my time and attention in certain situations.

So anyway, you get the picture:  blogging is not as high on my list as it used to be, and sometimes what occupies my thought-life is not for me to share.

So... fatherhood...

First of all, we didn't plan for this.  Not this soon, at least. 

When we bought our house there were plans to subdivide and develop the property, and in the meantime, we could easily afford the mortgage on the combined salary of a nurse and a software engineer.  This house was supposed to be a tear-down, and now it's our baby's nursery.  

It's not like we weren't being responsible.  Elizabeth is a nurse, after all:  she knows how this stuff works (or, I should say, usually works), and we were supposed to be okay.  But the Lord had other plans, and here we are, in the middle of them.  My temperament is such that typically I can just roll with the punches.  For Elizabeth, accepting the situation took more effort.

I enjoy kids.  I always have.  I have just as much fun playing peek-a-boo as the child.  My brothers and I used to throw kids up in the air, and back and forth to one another, seeing how far apart we could get.  Mostly at church.  We would chase them, and be chased.  They would steal our keys, watches, and wallets just to get us to chase them.  They would sneak up behind us and jump on our backs, so that we would have to give them a piggy-back ride.  (This still happens, come to think of it.)  I also enjoy talking with children.  Too many adults treat children like children when they speak to them, that is, they don't treat them like people: they treat them like non-people: like sub-beings. When I was a kid, I always liked the adults that didn't talk down to me, and I like to think that I've become one of those adults.

Shoshana isn't quite up to full sentences yet, but it's not about linguistic structure, it's about coming down to her level, but not thinking that I am somehow too good for that level.

Oh, yes.  Fatherhood comes with a bunch of other things besides having a little person in your house.  Things like changing diapers, taking a weighted car seat or a stroller everywhere.  For some reason I had to move all of the computer equipment and several book cases out of our second bedroom.  These are just the background noise of fatherhood, though.

Being a father right now means that my wife needs me to be there for her more than before.  Also, there's a wonderful little person living in my house!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Regarding My Calvinism Comment

In this post, I said,
Calvinists tend to see God’s knowledge from outside of time of events as the thing that makes them come to be, rather than the actual efficient cause within time.
A friend asked me to clarify that statement. This was my original response: That is actually something which I have observed both Calvinists and Arminians to do. Observing that God knows what our responses to his actions will be "before" he acts, they regard God as being the one who authors the events, rather than, well, the people who are actually the ones responsible. In fact, I suspect that if Calvinists and Arminians got over this hump, they would have a lot less to argue about, and be more comfortable acknowledging all of the truths stated in the Bible in stead of pitting one set against another. And then a couple hours later, I added this: After thinking about my comment (and not sleeping, like I should be doing), I would like to clarify it some more. There are Calvinists who maintain that there must be no "real" free will, since everything that happens is God's plan, and therefore "decreed" or "planned" to be so (and actively brought about by God). We are saved simply because God wanted us saved and not others, only for His glory, and our participation in salvation has nothing to do with our will, other than the fact that it was changed on us. People sin and reject him because he decreed it to be so for his glory (somehow). The Arminians who make this same mistake of seeing God's knowledge as a cause tend to be open theists, who, when presented with the above scenario accept the assumption that God's knowledge of events (including sin) would cause them to be, but reject the scenario by concluding that God must therefore not know exactly what's coming, and is not the author of sin because he didn't know for sure that it would happen, (even though his plan accounted for the possibility, perfect as it was). People who make the "God's knowledge causes events" assumption tend to think of it in terms of God "seeing ahead" into the future. I prefer to look at it as God interacting with the timeline all laid out in front of him. He doesn't dive himself in at one end of time, travel in one direction, and emerge at the other end: he touches all points of the timeline in one eternal instant, not arriving at them from the moment before, but directly from his eternal now. That is, incidentally, why he is the Same. You cannot step into the same river twice, but you can step into the same God at any and every moment of your existence. That is also how he sees us as already perfected in Christ: not because he's planning (or hoping!) to make us so, but because he knows us as being so (and God does not play pretend). Old testament sacrifices pointed to the offering of Christ, and they were accepted for sins, not because the real atonement would happen "at some point," but because Christ's offering was there in the presence of God for him to accept. And I would add this: Please notice that I am not speaking of all who call themselves Calvinists or Arminians. There is a tendency in the extremes of both, however, to fall into this same trap.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Counting Down

Last week, I had to bury our two goats. The neighbors, who had been feeding them weeds and grass clippings, did not know that rhododendrons are very poisonous plants, and so when they trimmed their rhododendron bushes, they put the clippings over the fence so the goats could eat the leaves. They did. Then they got very sick, and then they died. Princess died first during the night, and Fluffy died the following evening. It was done in ignorance, and they profusely apologized and offered to replace the goats. I feel partly responsible because I didn't warn them and I knew they were feeding them, but I had no idea that they had rhododendrons. The neighbors even helped us dig one of the graves. We're not holding it against them, obviously. Actually, it was kind of a nice opportunity to bond with our neighbors. Except for the nice part, that is. Since the goats died in the evening, I didn't get to burying them until after work the following day, and it's been quite hot lately. If anyone wants to purchase a certain tarp at a discount price, I have a deal for you. Anyway, the neighbors know someone who rescues goats, and if we tell them which breed we're looking for, they can have them look out for that breed. Elizabeth would like to have milking goats at some point, but right now she's a little busy, so we decided to hold off on replacing the goats until next spring. This, along with the birth of our daughter, and 1 kitten so far that who has found a home, brings the population of our farm down from a high of 31 to 28: 3 humans, 14 chickens, 6 ducks, 2 cats, and 3 kittens.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Theology Discussion Continues

For the background on this post, see Jonathan’s initial post here: and my response here: then his reply here: (You might need a Facebook account to see his posts.) Without further ado: Jonathan, Thanks again for having this discussion with me (and others). It’s given me another opportunity to examine what it is that I actually believe and why, and to consider its merits. First of all, I don’t really apologize for pulling in all of Christian theology, other than the consequent verbosity. Every part of Christian theology is linked to the other parts, such that it’s difficult to discuss one concept without at least touching on others around it. My statement about “coherence” was an attempt to capture the point of our disagreement. I was trying to lay out the scope of our discussion: namely that you believe that the Christian worldview is false: that it can not be reconciled to reality, and I believe that the Christian worldview that I hold is both internally consistent (with itself) and externally coherent (with reality). What I got from your post was: given that the following are true of Christianity and of external reality, here are the consequences. The consequences contradict Christianity and reality, therefore Christianity is incoherent with reality, QED. You then asked for clarification in case your perception of Christianity or reality was incorrect, and that after all the two could be reconciled. (Digression: By no means is anyone obliged to accept a worldview as true simply because it does not observably contradict reality. However, rational people have no business holding any other kind of world view. Also, one rational person can have respect for another’s world view which he does not hold. Ockham’s Razor, as well as other criteria apply, etc.) Please do me a favor and don’t call me a Calvinist. There are worse things to be called (e.g., Arminian), but Calvinists tend to see God’s knowledge from outside of time of events as the thing that makes them come to be, rather than the actual efficient cause within time. You seem to be making the same mistake when you say that since God knew what the genetic as well as environmental factors would be before he created a person, he would not be good if he created a being which he knew would make bad choices. I say that God knows (from beyond time) the choices that people make, which are facilitated by genetics and environment, but ultimately determined by the will of the soul, and that he creates them anyway. He is not culpable for the consequences of their bad choices any more than the US government is to blame for Afghanistan’s recent bill of regulations permitting spousal rape. Does the US government like the regulations? No. Could they stop them? Yes. Why don’t they? Because it is the intent of the US government to establish Afghanistan as a sovereign nation, and that would be a violation of the sovereignty that it wishes them to use for good. Stopping them from exercising their “free will”/soverignty every time Afghanistan did something the US didn’t like would nullify it. I’m not trying to make a political statement here about the war. It’s not a perfect analogy (for starters, the US is not omniscient), but I think it brings the point across. [Hell in this analogy would not be nuclear obliteration: it would be similar to the situation of Cuba: (economically at least), they are cut off from the USA: as if they live in a world without us.] Perhaps Loren has abdicated his responsibility as a thinking being, and that was very unmanly of him. He should buck up and address reality. Your definition of “free”, as in “free to act without coercion or fear of consequence” is also very unmanly in that it is a desire to escape from reality. If Loren goes off into his own little world where there are no difficult questions to answer, then you can live next to him in your little world where you get to pick the rules of reality and consequence as you see fit, rather than facing them as they are. Reality is defined by God’s existence, not yours. You may wish to be your own god (that is exactly what you are saying), but that will not make it so. Or rather, it may wind you up as the god of your own personal hell. Be careful what you wish for, you might actually get it. Your Sword of Damocles analogy is incorrect. God isn’t holding it over you, you’re throwing yourself onto it, and God has taken the trouble to make you aware of the consequences of what you are going to do (I know you dislike consequences—deal with it), and has made available to you a way out of your situation that you of your own free will can choose (“free” demonstrated by the fact that you are able even to make choices that insult him and he won’t nullify those decisions). Reality, and therefore, the way of escape, are on God's terms. You take issue with my description of the Christian idea of a triune human being (body, soul, spirit), but then you digress before getting to your point, so I will have to address that topic specifically when you have clarified your point. For now, here's an example of it in scripture:
Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground (body), and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life (spirit); and man became a living being (soul). (Genesis 2:7, NASB)
On to the puppy analogy. Suddenly, you’re OK with consequences again. You don’t want your puppy to behave as if it runs the house: you run the house, and rightfully so, especially since if a house is full of poop, it isn’t pleasant for man or beast. You are indeed more qualified, dare I say worthy, to be in charge of your house, in part because you have this larger perspective. If that puppy should insist on pooping and peeing all over the place, and then growling and barking at and biting you whenever you approached: if all attempts at discipline failed, no doubt you would find a dog house for it to live in where it could wallow in its own filth and be its own master, but there it could not be your best friend: you would have to accept that consequence. And that’s why you wanted a puppy in the first place, isn’t it? To be its friend. But I digress. You’re talking about Adam and Eve and how God didn’t discipline mankind: he simply sent them all to hell without warning after the first sin. Oh, wait. No he didn’t. First of all: God did tell Adam that if he disobeyed, “dying he would die”—or, to paraphrase: he would die and die and die until he was dead. Now, did God use a word that wasn’t in Adam’s vocabulary, “die”? I don’t think so. Adam was basically put in charge of all of the earth: including plants and animals, and he took the time to get to know each kind of animal, and name it. Before Eve was formed, Adam had gone through all the animals, and he noticed that he was different from them in a way that made each one of them fail to be a suitable companion for him. [Tangent: I don’t have a problem with evolutionary biology. If the pre-humans were still around from which God mutated Adam, Adam would have noticed this difference between them and him, and determined that something (the “breath/spirit of life”) was missing in them.] Plants die. Animals die. Human beings didn’t die because God’s life flowed to them through their spirit. Adam had a pretty good idea what death meant. But that brings me to the next point (to which I’ve already alluded above). When mankind sinned, did God immediately send them to hell? No. The sin had consequences, as God had said, but those consequences were mitigated (in this case, symbolically passed along to Christ in the animal sacrifice), and, as I tried to lay out in my last post, they were told of a way that the broken relationship could be restored and death overcome. Regarding 1 Corinthians 13. That passage is not a definition of love: it is a description of the behavior that love produces. That doesn’t absolve me of answering the question, however. So, how is God’s behavior toward sinners loving according to 1 Corinthians 13? Here we go: Love suffers long, and is kind – God doesn’t send us to hell when we first sin. Because he loves us, he kindly reaches out to us to restore the relationship for as long as we live. Love does not envy - To envy is to seek to take that to which you have no right. God is certainly jealous: jealousy is when you seek to maintain (or regain) that which is rightfully yours. Love does not brag and is not arrogant – God respects us as people, and does not tread on our personal sovereignty. Rather than wishing to assert his infinite superiority, he condescends to our level, and seeks to bring us into a relationship with him and share his glory. Does not behave rudely – God approached Adam and Eve and asked them to explain what had happened. He didn’t throw a fit: he took steps to mitigate the problem, and spoke of the resolution to the divide that now existed between them. Does not seek its own – The resolution to the divide would involve God becoming a human being, and then dying, having taken on himself the guilt of the ones who had just insulted him and showed by their actions that they did not want him. Is not easily provoked – Again, God’s reaction was not anger. It was patience and a promise of reconciliation. Instances in the Bible where God responds in anger are cases in which it has been demonstrated over a period of time that the objects of his wrath have no intention of accepting God’s olive branch, and would in fact prefer to whack him over the head with it if they could. Does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth – God did not indulge Adam and Eve’s fantasy that they could be their own self-determining gods. The consequences of their actions were structured so that the solution to their problems was to acknowledge their inadequacy and turn to the real, true God. Bears all things – God set aside the personal insult of their rejection, and acted to benefit them. Believes all things – God did not simply judge them once they had committed the act: rather he talked to them about it, and asked them to explain their actions. If there had been a legitimate excuse for their actions, he was giving them an opportunity to make that clear. Hopes all things – God did not give up on humanity. He pointed to the way that the relationship could be repaired. A reconciliation that counted on human beings being willing to accept the offer and restore the relationship. Endures all things – The heel that crushed the serpent’s head was crushed with equal force. That was the price, and Jesus was willing to pay that price: to endure pain, rejection, hate, and our sin. Love never fails – God never stopped loving Adam and Eve. He never stops loving anyone, even those who cannot be with him because of the way they have oriented their soul. Love is all about submission. In order to love, it is necessary to sacrifice something of yourself for the benefit of another: to put yourself lower than them and treat them as more important and deserving (regardless of whether or not they are deserving). In a Christian marriage, it is the husband’s responsibility to see to the needs of his wife (physical, emotional, spiritual), even at the cost of his own needs. In doing so, he is subordinating (i.e., submitting) his needs to her needs. That is what Jesus Christ did for us in becoming human and dying for our sins (which we could not do ourselves). The appropriate response to this kind of self-giving love, which I’m afraid you might hate even more, is for the Christian to subordinate his will to Christ, and choose to do things his way. That is what is meant by "loving submission": both the giving of self and the rendering of will. Often, especially in our culture, the rendering of will has been improperly emphasized and the giving of self entirely absent, which has distorted the popular perception of God. The next issue you address is doing good things apart from God, and how I seem to say that we can do good, but somehow good isn’t good enough. I will try to clarify what I mean and show further evidence that this is what the Bible teaches. First, the Bible:
For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. (Romans 8:5-9, NASB)
What I mean by “I’m not disparaging” good deeds, but “they don’t score any points with God”, is that doing good things is good: that is, it’s what we should be doing, and there’s nothing wrong with doing good things, in fact, you ought to be doing them, and if you’re not, that’s a problem.
And which of you, having a servant plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and sit down to eat’? But will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare something for my supper, and gird yourself and serve me till I have eaten and drunk, and afterward you will eat and drink’? Does he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I think not. So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.’ (Luke 17:7-10 NKJV)
For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, or straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. (1 Corinthians 3:11-15, NASB)
I hate to bust your “Biblical method” for talking about doing good without God. It’s simply not there. This is a passage that is talking about doing good works of lasting value. Notice that the “foundation” upon which these works are built is Jesus Christ. Without Jesus, there is no building because there is no foundation. Beyond that, those works that even Christians do which are good things, but do not flow from the Spirit of God in us are described as “wood, hay, and straw” to be burned. To the extent that we do things through the Spirit, they are composed of “gold, silver, and precious stones” which show their enduring value in that they are able to withstand the test of fire. Later on in this passage, the author (Paul) has been accused of doing good works for personal gratification. Here is what he says:
But to me it is a very small thing that I may be examined by you, or by any human court; in fact, I do not even examine myself. For I am conscious of nothing against myself, yet I am not by this acquitted; but the one who examines me is the Lord. Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God. (1 Corinthians 4:3-5, NASB)
The value of a good deed to God is measured by where the desires come from. It may not be possible to sift out all of your own motivations for doing an action to make sure that it comes from the Spirit and not the flesh, or how much of each. Paul doesn’t worry himself over this. He has a clear conscience regarding his conduct, and will leave the sifting of mixed motives to the Lord. My point in quoting this passage is to try to give you more material in understanding what the Bible says about the value of good works. It’s not what is done, it’s where the motives come from. God’s goal is not merely to have people doing good things: he could have made robots with no will for that. He wants the good things to be a conduit of his own good by free beings voluntarily carrying out his desires. [I find myself irresistibly drawn to the word “squelcheth”, and will have to take every opportunity to use it in the future.] Seriously, though, if, “in the day you will eat of it, dying you will die,” doesn’t mean that they will lose something vital to their existence instantly upon eating it, what else could it mean? Death is a separation: in this case from God. In the ‘mundane’ case, from your body.
But you deal with the “immediately” thing later, to your credit (though I still don’t really get it). Meanwhile, you talk about God’s style. I have to say you lost me for a bit. You seem to describe a sort of cantankerous inventor type. Who hides away working on his latest project, and just when you think he’s royally screwed the pooch, he comes out with his most amazing invention yet! The only problem I see here is that you really don’t seem to be describing something/someone who is both omniscient and omnipotent.
I don’t get why an omniscient omnipotent being can’t conceal his work from general view while he’s doing it, especially if he wishes us to come to trust him. That’s not just his style in making the physical world, it’s also his way of transforming people. If we could constantly look over God’s shoulder while he worked, we would never learn to simply trust that he knows what he’s doing and get with his program. He’s working on us, too.
I know the saved by grace story, but this puts it in an interesting way. Still, you’re basically saying “God created sin, God created man, sin separates God from Man, and God sacrificed himself so Man could reconnect with God.” For me, this equates to someone smearing dog poop on me and then expecting me to be grateful when he also offers me ointment to keep the flies away.
Correction: man committed sin, God didn’t create it. Man smeared on his own poop. I suppose now you’re going to fault God for giving him a anus?
While they might have had the “template” to repair their spirit, the explicit method of accepting Jesus and God as their savior hadn’t been invented as far as they were concerned. Again, creating a method for salvation, but then letting two millennia-worth of people sit on their thumbs because they don’t know how to exercise it is kind of a prick move.
But they did have access to the method of salvation! God basically said: “There’s this guy coming and he’ll fix things, but he’ll need to get hurt doing it—look, just trust me.” That’s the point, though: “trust me”.
And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is (i.e., that he exists and is who he says he is—that’s the “me” part) and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him (that’s the “trust” part). (Hebrews 11:6, NASB)
As for the thousands of years, I’m going to have to pull God’s ‘style’ card out again: he was doing it his way, and in his timing. Thinking about it, if God hadn’t done all of that old testament stuff, there would have been no vocabulary through which to reveal the full extent and nature of the salvation. He’s not done. He never will be done:
But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. (Eph 2:4-10 (NASB)
This. This right here is why the thought of Christianity being wrong, makes me very, very, happy. I should qualify that. I know this will be one of the things we see differently. The above is a belief system derived from interpretation. I interpret it differently from you, and react to it differently. I know what I’m saying is just opinion, and I want to make sure that’s understood, but while you look at the paragraph above and see bliss, I look at it and see annihilation in the purest form of the word. That moment of abject “agree to disagree” aside, this basically reads to me like God created us with “free” will and then demands we let it go. Then ultimately the only parts of ourselves we get to keep, are the parts we give up….I don’t get it.
But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life. And who is adequate for these things? (2 Corinthians 2:14-16, NASB)
It smells like death to you because it is death. The death of your will, your self-determinism.
And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel's will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? Mark 8:34-36: (NASB)
For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? (Luke 14:28, NASB)
Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin. (Romans 6:3-7, NASB)
Go back and read that again, I’ll wait. Done? Notice the irony?
See there? The attitude is so prevalent that when I try to explain how Christians shouldn’t reject people just because they’re sinners (God didn’t reject us, and we’re sinners too), you hear me saying the exact opposite of what I said, and think I’m doing it! You point out that homosexuality occurs in nature. Animals don’t have marriage as a picture from God of who God is. Humans do. I recognize that non-Christians typically don’t hold that view of marriage and—guess what—I don’t expect non-Christians to behave as if they do. Sin is still wrong: we can’t make our own reality by denying the one that is, but I cannot expect anyone to act upon something they do not believe.
I’m not sure whether your talk of “harmony with God” is a step further, or a step away from, the whole John 3:16 thing. I have to say, I find the idea of “burned and consumed by God’s holiness” to be a bit messed up as well. Put that up there with “loving submission”. You use the word Hell in the next paragraph but you still leave out the whole “burning for all time” thing?
Not exactly sure what you're getting at, but here's a larger view of John 3:16:
"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. (John 3:16-19, NASB)
Here’s an analogy: Think of people as planets, and God as the sun. Those planets that have life, and are therefore able to take in the sun’s rays and channel the energy into life are not overcome by the sun’s heat: they are energized by it. Those planets that have no life and cannot take into themselves the sun’s energy will be stripped of their atmospheres, and parched by the sun’s rays. Not a perfect analogy, but you can see how two planets can accept the same input, one being burned and one being energized, the sun giving off the same good light, heat, and energy to both. The planet that cannot benefit from the sun’s rays, but would be destroyed by them is instead sent to a place far away where the sun’s rays do not reach. There, it is cold, dark, and void.
Overall, pretty standard Christian dogma, one point though: “took upon himself the antithesis of himself: our sin” I know how this plays into the story. I’ve just always wondered how something could create the “antithesis” of itself. If God created everything, including sin, and sin is the antithesis and separates you from God….meh, his ways are higher than mine, right?
Again with the “God created sin” thing. NO HE DIDN’T. We create sin whenever we act in rebellion toward God. Sin isn’t a “thing” that “is”. You’re treating it like a concrete Platonic ideal or template that God created so that we could implement it. “Sin” is ‘that which is against God’s nature’, or ‘that which falls short of it’. I suppose you might try to say that God, by having a particular nature and therefore not being the antithesis of that nature defined a “region” that was the negation of him, and things that fall in that region are “sin”. But even so, nothing is there until *we* imagine and implement it. And as I have said, God wanted us to be free beings, so he does not prevent us from doing or being things that he does not want us to do or be.
Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am being tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death. (James 1:13-15)
Regards, -Tim

Friday, July 03, 2009

Kittens For Sale!

**Composed by my wife, Elizabeth** On May 17th, our cat Zoe gave birth to four kittens. Sadly, they are weaned and ready to be sold. There are three females and one male. In the descriptions below, I use the names that we have given the kittens, but please feel free to give them a different name should you buy them. The kittens are box trained (though not yet 100%), vaccinated, and are free of both fleas and ear mites. They have been handled a lot, so they are well accustomed to being around humans. Subsequently, they will all make good lap cats besides their quirky, individual personalities. They are also great with kids. Ideally, I would love to sell the kittens in pairs as well-handled cats want more companionship than your typical house cat. As an experienced cat breeder matching your household with a personality-appropriate cat is my primary goal so that both you and the cat can have the best opportunity for a great experience. Therefore, I will interview you about your household and living situation before even considering selling you a cat. Should one of my cats not be a good fit for you I have no qualms about refusing to sell you a cat. Also, if you have your heart set on a cat with certain markings but I determine that your household would not be a good fit for his or her personality, that is also grounds for refusal. That is how passionate I feel about ensuring that both you and the cat are a match.
This is Tiger. He is a short-haired gray tabby. He has a wonderful combination of being a sweet lap cat and aggressive in play. Given additional handling and training he will be an excellent hunter (which he may gift to you sometimes) and he will, and does, regularly curl up on you to sleep.
This is Bandit. She is a short-hair standard black and white. Besides her nose and chest, she has a white belly and four white paws. Don't let the surprised look on her face fool you. She is surprisingly sweet and compliant. She is also my personal favorite so I won't sell her to just anyone. ;) Bandit was the runt of the litter, and the first to crawl, walk, run, jump, and respond to her name. She is the smartest of the litter, and she is the most curious and adventurous. She will require companionship to have a full and fulfilled life.
This is Sherpa. She is a long-hair with markings reminiscent of a Himalayan Siamese. She is incredibly sweet and loves to romp with her siblings. She has a special affinity to battle over who has control over the very top of the carpeted scratching post barely visible on the left of the picture.
This is Teddy Bear. Teddy is a long-hair gray tabby with a name to match her personality. She is the most laid-back of the four and would be content with a quiet, indoor life.
The kittens are $40 each. If you're interested, you can call Tim or Elizabeth (if you have our numbers), or you can e-mail one of us, contact us through Facebook, or post a comment.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Re: Theology Experment 1

Note: this is a response to a note on Facebook. Jonathan, A mutual friend pointed me to your post. First of all, thank you for your invitation to discussion. Your attitude and your desire for genuine understanding of the Christian worldview and how it might actually be coherent with reality if properly understood is evident and commendable, and I respect you for it. Too many people in your situation would express bitterness, simply wanting to prove themselves right. Right off the bat, the first thing that I, as a Christian, disagree with is one of your premises: "Genetics determines (at the least) how we approach experiences and decisions in our lives, and perhaps even how we make those decisions." I'm not saying that genetics doesn't set us up in life: each of us are certainly dealt a hand, and certainly from the perspective of a person coming into existence, genetics can be taken straight from God. What you seem to be taking from this assumption is that people are deterministic. The Christian model of a person is that he or she consists of a body, a soul, and a spirit. More specifically, that they are the soul, and that they have a body and spirit. In any case, every human soul has free will: that is, they can make free choices among the options presented to them. The human spirit was meant to be that part of our being which is our interface toward God: part of our purpose is to be connected to God in a relationship of trust and love. Human free will is the ability to choose from the options available to us. You cannot choose to become a bird and fly, but you can choose to fulfill your body's inclination to eat a sandwich, or scratch your nose, or read a book, or sit around and do nothing. You can even choose to become a pilot and fly. Our body, through our brain, isn't the only source of inclinations that we were designed to have. Our spirit was also designed to give us desires and insight: to present our will with a set of options and desires to fulfill or to ignore. Whenever we do something or nothing, we are fulfilling certain desires/impulses and not others. Our mind can also train our desires: if we choose to always indulge a certain desire, that desire will become reinforced at the expense of the alternatives (at the very least, the pathways in our brain associated with it will develop more efficiently, and so the desire will present itself more powerfully and be fulfilled with more ease and less mental effort). This in itself is neither morally good nor bad. The mind is a powerful rudder for what the body does, and we are continually shaping the landscape of how our desires will present themselves to us. What the Bible says about our desires is that our spirit has become dead to God. Admittedly, this is through no personal fault of our own: we can attribute this fact to our ancestors: Adam and Eve. Our spirit being dead to God means that without his intervention to restore that link and reestablish the relationship, we have no way to fulfill godly desires, since they do not even present themselves to us. This is what is known in Christian philosphly as total depravity: we cannot, of ourselves, please God because we cannot respond to him in loving submission: our spirit is broken. Even when we choose to do things that are the same kinds of things that our spirit would be prompting us to do if it were connected to God, we are doing them merely in response to our bodies' and minds' desires, not in response to him. I want to be very clear: when I say, "merely in response to our bodies' and minds' desires", I am not disparaging the good deeds that are done: what I am saying is that such good deeds do not "score any points", as it were, with God (not that we're on a point system with God!). The book of Proverbs says that "the plowing of the wicked is sin." This does not mean that it is wrong to plow. What is meant is that the wicked (those who do not respond to God) are incapable of true good no matter what their actions are. This is because what he designed us for is response to him in relationship, not simply certain actions and not others. To be sure, a relationship with him *will* produce actions that look a certain way, but acting in this certain way does not produce the relationship, nor will it transform the person, and the relationship with God and resultant transformation of the person is what counts. When Adam and Eve sinned, they were choosing to squelch that interface between God and themselves through their spirits, and thus their spirits became dead with respect to God. He could no longer stimulate them in that way, and they therefore defaulted to merely indulging in their other impulses. It may seem unfortunate that this spirit-death is commutable: that is, we inherit it from our parents, but because of the inheritability of the disease, the cure is also commutable from one Human to another. You see, God knew that man would sin, and he planned to turn that into something greater than it would have been if we had never been sinful. God didn't simply look at our situation of being born in depravity and say, "Well, it certainly sucks to be you." He's loves us and longs for us to be everything that he made us to be. Therefore immediately when sin entered the human race, he provided a way to re-connect ourselves with him. This reconnection, rather than being just like the original connection, is unbreakable, and, in its final state, an even closer and more glorious connection than the original. Sure, it's messy in the meantime, but God's not done with us. That's kind of God's style of creation: an "evening" and then a "morning"; a time of darkness and obscurity where things look confusing and out of place, followed by the emergence of what he has been making in the darkness into the light in its intended form. What that looked like at the time of Adam and Eve was a promise that a redeemer would come into the human race and destroy the devil's work at great cost to himself. God told Adam and Eve that "the seed of the woman" would come and crush the serpent in the head, though he would be crushed in the heel. God also provided an example of a substitute sacrifice when he covered their nakedness (a symbol of their now being exposed in shame) with the skin of an animal, which had to die for this to happen. Since that time, the "Messiah", or "Christ", has been God's way in which to reestablish that connection between God and man. Throughout history, God has been in the process of revealing how exactly this would be accomplished. Basically, that it was impossible to reconnect God and man from the man side, so God entered into humanity and did it from his side. Jesus was a human being whose spirit was not merely connected to God, it was God. Jesus Christ, in living a life in which everything he did flowed from God through his spirit, created a template that can be applied to other human beings: a cure for our condition that we can inherit directly from him. Since God is not *in* time (the past, the present, and a billion years from now are all equally accessible to him), this template was available to those who lived before Christ, as well as those of us who live after Christ. More succinctly put, because Jesus sinlessly and in righteousness toward God died a sinners' death, our old spirit's twisted God-ward connection can be done away with, and because Jesus sinlessly and in righteousness toward God lived a perfect life, his righteousness can be applied to us, such that we can now receive God's desires, and freely choose to do them. That isn't automatic, however. It's an elective surgery, and God is the ultimate gentleman: he didn't create us as people just to trample on the autonomy of our personhood. He will only perform the transplant at our invitation. That is what it means to be a Christian: not going to church, not believing certain things, but giving God permission to take away your broken, twisted, dead antenna, and replace it with the Holy Spirit of Christ, such that you will be able to "tune in" to God's desires, and make them yours. That is the choice that Adam and Eve got wrong in the first place to get us into this mess: they rejected God's desires, and we must personally reverse the decision in this way to participate in God's solution. Yes, by doing this, you are agreeing that you will surrender your competing desires and choose his instead: that ultimately, the only parts of you that survive will be those you have surrendered to him. But God made us who we are, and he values who we are even more than we do, and so he will work with you to help you surrender who you think you want to be and become who he knows you really are and ought to be. And no, none of us does it perfectly in this life. Doing it perfectly is not the point: re-establishing the relationship is the point. Perfection will come later, in the 'morning'. This life is the 'evening'. I've been a bit long-winded. I hope that you take the time to read and understand what I've said. Coming from this perspective, I will now respond to some of the specifics of the scenarios which you have put forth, hoping that it will shed more light on what Christianity really is. First, as I already have said, the universe is not physically deterministic. Any physicist worth his salt will tell you that at the particle level, there is no way to predict anything that will happen. For me, it is not too far a leap to say that our minds inhabit our brains and influence them and are influenced in return (whether or not that influence relates to quantum chaos): like a car and a driver, you cannot tell the car to fly, but you can steer, open the windows, lock the doors, and operate the pedals. Some people have a good interface to their brains, and some peoples brains are defective, or hard to handle: God knows this. He is just and loving. He works with what we have. You seem to have been blessed with a good brain and a good mind-brain interface. Second, just because Joe Sixpack has a genetic predisposition to addiction to alcohol does not mean that he has no choice but to revel in drunkenness. He is responsible for who or what he makes his god (i.e., the source of the desires to which he yields), and he will become that which he makes of himself, and bear the consequences. I would apply the same logic to homosexuality. There are a lot of people who make a big stink about how homosexuality is worse than other forms of God-rejection (i.e., sin). It is true that when we distort the beautiful gift of sexuality into what God did not intend, we can screw ourselves and others up a lot quicker and a lot more severely than in other ways, but homosexuality is not qualitatively different from other sins. It's sad to see Christians hypocritically condemn someone for succumbing to their personal weakness, while they themselves are giving in to pride. I don't see any specific evidence in your description of the two children to suggest that either child goes to heaven. Heaven and hell are what happens when the physical world is stripped away from a soul, and they are naked before their Creator God. Those souls that are in harmony with God: those who have responded to him and have a relationship with him will experience a quantum leap in the intimacy of that relationship, and the wonders that it does in them and through them. Those who have rejected God, who have no interface to him other than rejection will be burned and consumed by God's holiness. Since God respects our personhood and so will not unmake us, he has prepared a place for such souls: a place where, unlike all of the rest of reality, he is not there. The problem is that human beings were created to be with God and to know him and enjoy him. This place without God, known as hell, is characterized by the lack of the one thing that makes a human being complete: God. The irony is that this is what we tell him that we want whenever we reject him. This is the fate that He wants to save us from so much that he became part of humanity, lived perfectly, took upon himself the antithesis of himself: our sin, and died with it on our behalf. Again, rejection or acceptance of Jesus Christ does not mean going to church or believing that the Bible is true. It means accepting Christ's death as our own death to our ungodly desires, and accepting Christ's life as what we will now live because we want to desire God's desires (which we can't do without that fixed interface). The other stuff follows. Thinking we can be be righteous without God is putting the cart before the horse, and is the ultimate statement of "I don't want or need you" to God. I hope that his sheds some light on what real Christianity is and isn't. If you don't think that I'm presenting an accurate picture of what the Bible says on any point, or wish to know more specifically what the Bible says, let me know, and I can provide some backing. I didn't want to litter my paragraphs with references, and they would have taken a long time to compile, but I am certainly willing to do so upon request. If you find that my logic has holes or I'm misrepresenting something, or if you wish to discuss anything further, please let me know and we can discuss. Sincerely, Tim

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Greek Class

The Biblical Greek class I've been taking since last fall is over. I'm not planning on taking the second year this fall, unless I find myself with a glut of time or God hits me over the head with a two-by-four and says "Hey, you, learn more Greek!" He might, or Elizabeth might "encourage" me to take it. Hopefully neither of those will happen in isolation. And probably not this year. Our daughter is due on July 2nd (which means she could be born at any time now), and I anticipate that having a child will keep me busy enough. It's amazing to me how much of the New Testament I can readily understand (particularly John's writings, but not exclusively). We didn't spend much time in class and the assignments with actual passages from the Bible until the last few weeks, but because of our preparation, we were able to jump in with both feet. I have a workbook with passages to translate and exercises designed to keep students honed over the summer, and I have a Greek New Testament that I can take out and thump around, looking all spiritual-like. The one I have has a lexicon in the back, so I'm considering getting one with the words used 25 times or fewer footnoted on the page. Zondervan has an attractive-looking leather bound version, but it's the NIV Greek text, and apparently they pieced together their own special compilation of the GNT that matches what the NIV says. Some of the reviews basically say, "It's great for students who don't know any better and just want to read Greek. It doesn't matter that the text disagrees with the accepted standard 285 times.", which sounds pretty pathetic if you ask me. So that leaves the UBS Reader's Edition, which is nice, has a good format, and uses the standard text (and comes highly recommended by my professor), I just wish they put it out in leather, not just hardcover and paperback. Also, I wish it didn't cost almost twice as much as the competition. Apparently, they know they can charge more. Yay for capitalism. Anyway, it will be nice not to have to flex my work hours so much to go to class twice a week.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Welcome to Our Farm, Population 26 ...and Counting

Today we bought two goats, both does, from a couple in Everett.
The one on the left is named Princess, and the one on the right is named Fluffy.
Princess is a Boer goat
Fluffy is a Kiko goat We have two cats:
...and Bow.
We are currently raising six ducklings and six chicks. There's a live webcam of the chicklings, so that you can check up on their astounding rate of growth. There are some video clips saved so you can see how small they used to be.
The yellow ducks are Pekin ducks, and the brown ones are Rouen ducks.
Today we let the ducklings go for their first swim. (Videos here, here, and here -- The third video has kids watching and chiming in.)
We also have a rooster and seven hens:
The rooster's name is Mr. Darcy.
Anyway, one rooster, plus seven hens, plus six chicks and six ducklings, two goats, two cats, and two people adds up to twenty-six. There are, of course, kittens and a baby on the way.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Chick and Duckling Webcam!

Here it is: If you want more details about my setup, they can be found here. Enjoy.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

DKC Desktop Wallpaper - Fresh From 1997

Way back in 1997, we had a Windows 95 computer that we got when the triplets graduated from high school. I don't remember if we had AOL yet, or if we were still using Juno, but suffice to say that there wasn't much to do on a computer, so, after familiarizing myself with all the system settings, I started fiddling around with MS Paint. My favorite video game franchise at the time was the Donkey Kong Country trilogy for the SNES (it's still pretty darn good--I recently played it through on the Wii), and I decided I would make a desktop wallpaper for myself. I started with the idea of drawing the characters, but it eventually morphed into this 640x480 bitmap drawing (here provided in losslessly compressed PNG format, click the graphic for the full version): I had previously drawn 32x32 renderings of each family member, and created icon files, so that when you used the Send To menu, you got a pictorial menu of the different user desktops to send a file. I'm pretty sure I'm the only one who ever used that feature, but later on my sister Sarah and I collaborated on a cross-stitch of the whole family: I drew the pixel drawings, and she adapted them slightly and made cross stitchings out of them. I'm pretty sure she had the harder task, but we both had fun being creative. I still have all of the original element files. The leafy background is the same leaf, stretched and flipped in various ways. The one tool I used besides MS Paint was WordPerfect's image blur feature on the completed leaf background. Each of the drawings was done by hand, pixel by pixel.
  • The top right quadrant depicts Donkey Kong Country, with DK and Diddy in one of the snow levels.
  • The bottom right is Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest, with Diddy and Dixie in one of the swamp levels.
  • The bottom left is Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong's Double Trouble!, with Dixie and Kiddie Kong shown in one of the canyon levels.
  • The top left quadrant depicts each of the animal helpers (I had to stretch the definition of 'helper' in order to include Nibbla, but since he defeats other fish for you, I say it counts).
    • Rambi the rhino
    • Expresso the ostrich
    • Enguarde the swordfish
    • Winky the frog
    • Clapper the seal
    • Squawks the parrot
    • Glimmer the glowfish
    • Rattly the rattlesnake
    • Ellie the elephant
    • Parry the sparrow
    • Nibbla the piranha
    • Squtter the spider
Anyway, I hope you enjoy this piece of my childhood. If you like it, please leave a comment.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Farewell to the Otts

The Ott family, Elizabeth's sister Kim and her husband Paul, and sons Andrew, Josh, and Matthew left for China this week. We spent some time with them before they left. Here are some pictures from those times. More pictures: