Saturday, March 22, 2008
Old School Cool
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Friday, March 21, 2008
Appopros The Day...
That Pesky Issue
David Kopel discusses the Golubchuk case at The Volokh Conspiracy, and makes a cogent argument about how socialized medicine encourages these sorts of ethical conflicts.Socialized medicine to be sure raises these dilemmas, but so does simple third-party payer. Financial considerations are, sadly, a part of these decisions, but even third-party payer pits the financial considerations at odds with the personal/ethical ones in a fashion that cannot be resolved save in court. Think about - now instead a person or family have to weigh all the factors, there are now parties representing the factors that must battle this out, and courts are how we do such things.
My initial reaction is how dehumanizing this is. The patient is reduced to object to be argued over. The process, by being forced to court is objectifying in this most personal of settings.
And these question have an extension. Provided healthcare, in whatever form, is a means of coercion. Take for example the chief bugs of healthcare these days - obesity and smoking. Both are personal choices. But, if we mandate the provision of healthcare, by virtue of the economics involved, we gain the power to regulate these personal choices. The line between the personal and the societal becomes significantly blurred by these mandates.
Variants of fee-for-service are the only things I see that can overcome these very thorny issues. we can mandate that insurance be made available to all and we can mandate how the risk pools are established so that those which exercise high-risk behavior bear the burden, but that is as far as I would go.
On the flip side, I think we as a society have to be willing to deny healthcare to those that cannot or will not pay for it. If people are going to have the freedom they want, they must pay the price for it. I went for more than a decade without health insurance. I needed little healthcare and when I did, I paid for it. I saved money to boot. I would have hated to lose that option.
Yes, I ran risks, but I would have been willing to forgo treatment should the circumstances have arisen (actually I would have signed my life insurance over to the doctors since at the time I was without debts, but you get the picture)
I truly believe this is the issue that may end the freedoms we enjoy, unless we stop demanding and start taking responsibility.
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Thursday, March 20, 2008
The Role Of Repentance
I am not saying, repent that you are moral—but that you are no more than moral. Satan entered into the house that had just been swept and garnished (Luke 11:26). This is the emblem of a moral man, who is swept by civility and garnished with common gifts—but is not washed by true repentance. The unclean spirit enters into such a one. If morality were sufficient to salvation, Christ need not have died. The moral man has a fair lamp—but it lacks the oil of grace.It's funny, but I think we have a corollary problem today. at the heart lies the need for repentance, but the symptoms are quite different. We no longer cloth ourselves in morality and call it salvation. Instead, we cloth ourselves in praise choruses, "Christian gee-gaws," and prayers for salvation without confession. But the bottom line remains unchanged - without repentance all is "mere" - all is naught.
I love the idea that repentance validates Christ's sacrifice. Seems to me that even if you don't believe in the more traditional theories of the atonement, you would be driven to your knees in humble repentance anyway by the sheer magnitude of what Christ did.
Forget the theological theories for a moment and consider the simple act of repentance. It is an act, in fact it is the only act, I know of that can provide a basis for the proper perspective on things, that perspective being God on His throne and we as His humble and insufficient servants. For that sake, if no other, the idea and the practice must be preserved.
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Wednesday, March 19, 2008
We Have Got To Get Smarter About Stuff Like This
The 74 church members filed suit in September to get access to church financial records and to have Sutton and other church leaders removed. They believed Sutton, who has served as the church’s pastor for more than 20 years, had misused church funds to pay for personal trips. They were also angered that the church paid some of the cost of a wedding reception for Sutton’s daughter.So, how did the church respond to this charge?
A group of members at Two Rivers Baptist Church who sued Pastor Jerry Sutton have been told to repent of their sins, apologize in writing, drop present and future lawsuits, and stop meeting together or risk expulsion from the church.Can you say, "spiritual bully"? Can you say "changing the subject"? Based solely on the response I am betting the charges are true. It would be too easy to just open the books and allay all suspicion, for there not to be a problem of some sort in there. Now, it may not be financial malfeasance on the part of the pastor or the board, it may just be too much ego expressing itself as an unwillingness to be called to account, but you can bet your last dollar that the plaintiffs in the litigation are not the only malefactors in this little set-to.
The letter from Sutton and Cobos cites the scripture Matthew 18:12-17 as a model for resolving church disputes.
“If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you,” the passage reads in the New International Version. “If he listens to you, you have won the brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or tax collector.”
One of the key steps was this: “Stop causing disharmony among our Church Membership by being a party to malicious gossip, rumor spreading, defaming conversations, and the spreading of unfounded accusations against our Pastor, our Church Leadership, and our Church.”
This is purely an abuse of spiritual authority. Just tell the people what they want to know and get on with life.
It's not the sin it's the cover-up.
Sadly, I must urge the plaintiffs to continue to pursue their litigation, even if it means their expulsion from the congregation. Christian authority can not be permitted to be this high-handed. It sends precisely the wrong lesson for spiritual formation. It is sad that litigation is necessary to bring humility to bear, but alas, it is clear that the plaintiffs had no choice.
When the church forces its members to the civil courts through stone-walling and high-handed appeals to spiritual authority, they are speaking with a forked tongue to accuse the litigants of disingenuousness.
Shame on this church's leaders - Shame.
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Tuesday, March 18, 2008
The Second Law Of Thermodynamics
The money quote here is the one from Odebrecht - "everything in existence tends to deteriorate." That's a pretty good illustration of all the classic Christian doctrines related to sin. The classic Christian doctrine of sin points to internal corruption as the primary cause of personal, corporate and social decline. This is a good reminder because Christians have a habit of looking to "surging competitors" and "disruptive strategies" from the outside as the cause of our problems, when we really need to be looking at our own internal deterioration.Being the chemist that I am, I look at that and see the good 'ol Second Law of Thermodynamics. Simply put, nature tends to disorder.
David , and Peters, then look to innovation as the way to overcome this force. To this I respond - "maybe." In the field of thermodynamics we understand that the only way to overcome the forces of entropy (disorder) is by an infusion of energy. That's it. The only way to prevent the inevitable decay is by hard work.
Innovation is one form of hard work. And, from a psychological perspective it may be the easiest to get people to buy into. That is to say, there is a psychological attraction to the apparently new so the corporate energy is easiest to harness with innovation. But it is terribly important to remember that it is not innovation that is the driver here, it is the energy that innovation harnesses.
However, I think there is a key question in whether innovation harnessed energy is the kind of energy the church is supposed to harness. Innovation purely for the sake of preserving ecclesiastical institutions accomplishes only that preservation.
Innovative energies have limits, once the newness is gone we must innovate again or lose the energy. But as Christians, we have a source of limitless energy. Christ promised us springs of living water, where we will never grow thirsty. That is the energy we need to figure out how to tap and harness. That is also eternal energy, changeless energy - it will not be found in innovation, but in bedrock.
The Holy Spirit is the only source of energy that can work here like it should. I for one want to tap that.
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Monday, March 17, 2008
Greetings For The Day
God and Nanotech?
There may not be a lot of agreement among the world’s religions on exactly what constitutes humans “playing God,” but you never hear a preacher or rabbi suggesting such behavior is wise or laudable. So you would think they might have a lot to say about nanotechnology. After all, nanotech involves rearranging not just DNA and the other building blocks of life — already a source of controversy in biotechnology — but the very atoms and molecules that make up all matter. If that is not messing around in God’s closet, what is?And apparently where they are speaking up, the author thinks they are looking in the wrong place.
Mr. Toumey says that such a longterm view is “an unnecessarily troublesome” way to look at nanotechnology. He says it is likely to trap religious voices in stances where they are “systematically hostile to a very broad technology.” He frets that focusing on transhumanism might lead organized religious to oppose the near term use of nanotechnology in positive ways, like creating better ways to deliver drugs into diseased cells.There are several factors at play here.
For one it is assumed that religious types will never understand the complexities of nanotech and will therefore, based on one area, take a dim view of the whole thing. There are undoubtedly those in the religious community that will take such a stance, but are they the majority?
Secondly is the presumption of debate, or fight, between science and religion.
See, I think there is a whole different way to approach this thing. Science and religion are not constituencies seeking political power. They should be areas of thought that compliment each other and increase understanding. The simple fact is that nanotech, like so many other technological advances are not problematic of themselves, but rather that some applications thereof are considered unethical by some religious thought.
The operation of a society demands a common ethic. Chaos will result without it. Traditionally, the common ethic of our nation has its roots in religion, and despite efforts to change that it remains true to this day. Therefore, the real question here is to wonder how to bring the common societal ethic to bear on nanotech investigation.
I would suggest the best way is to create ethical nanotechnologists. Some of those ethical nanotechnologists will have their ethics rooted in religion, and some undobtedly will not. But they will work together to create the appropriate ethics for the circumstance, just as we as a greater society have.
The key here, however, is to somehow create a space where nanotechnologists can come to faith and the ethics that result therefrom.
And this means we have to do away with the perception of hostility between science and religion. I think the best place to start is for the religious to stop condemning and start understanding. Learn and encourage rather than simply denounce.
It is too easy to play on the fears of a group to capture that group and have a congregations of sorts. Why don;t we challenge our congregants and ourselves. There is plenty to be concerned about, but lets approach it rationally and with understanding.
Not unlike the missionaries that tried to teach the "natives" the "right" way to have sex, we need to start with where people are and work from there. We'll get a lot farther.
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Sunday, March 16, 2008
Sermons and Lessons
Alfred Plummer, Ex-Principal of Durham University (retired, 1902); born Heworth, near Gateshead, England, Feb. 17, 1841; educated at Lancing College, Exeter College, Oxford; Fellow Trinity College, Oxford, 1865-75; tutor and dean 1867-74; Master of University College, Durham, 1874-1902; sub-warden University of Durham, 1896-1902; author of translations of several of Dr. Dollinger’s works; commentaries on 2 Peter, and Jude, John’s Gospel and Epistles, The Pastoral Epistles, Epistles of James and Jude, Luke’s Gospel, 2 Corinthians, “Introduction to Joshua and Nehemiah,” “Handbook on the Church of the Early Fathers,” “Lectures on English Church History.”
“Other sheep I have which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and they shall become one flock, one shepherd.” - John 10: 16.
“A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; even as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” - John 13: 34-35.
The second of these passages tells us the necessary result of the fulfillment of the prediction and promise made in the first. When all the sheep have been gathered in and they have become one flock under one Shepherd, then the component members of the flock will find that their relation to the Shepherd involves a similar relation to one an¬other. Love, especially on the Shepherd’s part, is the bond which connects each one of them with the Shepherd - a love so strong, that He is ready to die for them: love, therefore, is the bond which must unite each member of the flock with his fellows, and in this each ought to aim at imitating the love of the Shepherd.
But perhaps, with almost equal truth, we might reverse this, and make the mutual love not the result of the oneness of the flock, but the means of producing the oneness. Christ predicts that a time will come when the sheep who are not in the fold will be united with those who are in the fold, and that they will become one body, with Him at its head. And we may say that, when He gives to His followers the new commandment to love one another, even as He has loved them, He is telling them how to become one flock under Himself.
Perhaps it does not matter much which we regard as cause, and which as effect. The important point is, that the two facts are indissolubly connected by some law of divine causation. If there is love such as His there will be unity, and if there is unity under Him there will be love. Consequently, the presence of either fact may, in proportion to the fullness of its presence, be taken as evidence of the presence of the other; and, what is an equally important influence for our guidance, the absence of either fact may, in proportion to the completeness of its absence, be regarded as evidence of the absence of the other. If there is no love there will be no vital unity, and unless there is vital unity there will be no real love.
Unity, not uniformity. The two things are widely different, and either may exist without the other. Indeed, it may be doubted whether uniformity is not more of a hindrance than a help to unity. Uniformity is certainly a serious limitation of liberty; and liberty is the soil in which living unity is likely to flourish. Liberty is a sign of the presence of God’s Spirit; “ Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty; “ and where the spirit of the Lord is not, neither the unity which Christ promised, nor the love which He commanded, is likely to spring up.
And it is very unfortunate that, in one of the two texts which we are considering, our Bibles have made us familiar with a mistranslation, which seems to imply that Christ promised, and therefore enjoined, uniformity, when He does nothing of the kind. The Authorized Version makes Him say that, when the sheep which are not of this fold are brought. “there shall be one fold, one shepherd.” What He does say is, that, when the others are brought, they shall become one flock, one shepherd.” Few corrections made in the Revised Version are more important than this. The mistake originated in Jerome‘s translation, where we have the same Latin word to represent two different Greek words. Wycliff followed him; and, although Tyndale and Coverdale corrected the error, the Authorized Version un¬fortunately followed Wycliff. Christ says nothing about there being one fold, which would imply uniformity: what He promises, and encourages us to work for and to pray for, is one flock,” in which there may be large measures of diversity along with the essential unity of belonging to one and the same Shepherd.
It is impossible to estimate the mischief that has been done by this unhappy substitution of “fold“ for “ flock“ in this important text. Throughout the Middle Ages, few people in Western Europe knew Greek, and Jerome’s Vulgate led them to believe that Christ had used the word “fold“ in both places, and that He had inculcated a doctrine, which the change of word was perhaps intended to exclude. The doctrine, that the sheep not in the fold must be brought in, until there is one fold, with all the sheep penned within it, gave immense support to the claims of the Roman Catholic Church to be the one church, outside which there is no salvation. What Christ says is that those outside the then existing fold, equally with those who were in the fold, shall become one flock, of which He is the Shepherd. Christ had come to break down “the wall of partition“ between the Jewish Church and the Gentiles. In the gospel, the distinction between Jew and Gentile was to cease, and the salvation, which had been offered first to the Jew, became the common inheritance of all.
In what sense was the command which Christ gave to His followers, to love one another, “a new commandment?”
It may be said to be as old as the human race, a fundamental instinct, known even to the heathen. Wherever human beings lived together, the obligation to mutual affection existed, and was attested by inward promptings, of which each was conscious, and by inward reproaches, whenever the law of mutual affection was grossly violated, as by grievous injury or murder. Even to the Gentile, whose life was often one long transgression of it, the commandment to love his fellows was not, in the strictest sense, new.
Still less was it new to the Israelite. Every well-instructed Jew knew that it stood written in the book of Leviticus: “Thou shalt not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” If the obligation to love one‘s fellow-man was as old as the human race, the obligation to love him as oneself was as old as Judaism. It lies at the basis of many of the minute ordinances of the Jewish code.
What then does our Lord mean by calling it new?
First, it had been promulgated afresh, and in much clearer language. The original instinct of mutual affection, born in heaven and renewed in Paradise, had long since been almost forgotten. Even by those who dimly remembered it, and at times feebly recognized it, it was constantly ignored. In most men, other instincts far more congenial to man‘s fallen will, had stifled it or driven it out of court. Its faint whisperings were scarcely heard among the strident voices of selfishness and passion. A Plato or a Seneca might here and there suggest precepts of self-restraint and benevolence. But “what were they among so many?“ And what chance had they against the self-indulgence which generations of practice had stereotyped into a habit, and which philosophers had formulated into a system?
Nor did the Jew need a new proclamation of the law of love much less than the heathen did. The Jew had so narrowed the scope of the command to love his neighbor, and had so overlaid it with qualifications and exceptions, that the word of God was made of none effect. He was quick to raise the previous question: “And who is my neighbor?” And when it was evident that, at any rate, a man‘s own parents must be considered as among his neighbors, there was the monstrous device of Corban to free him from obligation. And, as regards all mankind outside Judaism, the divine command had been not merely evaded, but reversed, by the unholy addition, “hate thine enemy.”
But Christ‘s law of love was new for other reasons than because it had been published anew with greater clearness and emphasis. It was not merely the old instinct of our unfallen nature, dragged from oblivion, and quickened into new life. It was not merely the old Jewish precept, freed from glosses and perversions, and set forth once more in its original simplicity and comprehensiveness. It was all this; but it was a great deal more. It was the old instinct, the old precept, so transfigured, enlarged, and glorified, as to be indeed “ a new commandment “; new in its extent; new in its sanction. It was no longer the old standard of loving one‘s neighbor as oneself. It was no longer the old sanction of loving him, because God would punish us if we did not. “Even as I have loved you, that ye also love one another “: that is the new standard; that is the new sanction. Not the measure of our love for ourselves is to be our standard, but the measure of Christ‘s love for us. Not fear of God’s judgments, not even obedience to His commands, is to be the mainspring of our love, but love itself. His love is to kindle our love; and the newborn fire is to know no limit but that of the fire that kindled it. “Even as I have loved you.” In determining our duty to others, it is not enough to ask, “What, if our positions were reversed, should I wish them to do to me? That is a very practical and useful question: it will help to clear the ground. But it is not the final question; and it may lead to serious mistakes; for we sometimes wish others to do to us what would be anything but beneficial. The final and the safe question is this: “What would Jesus Christ have me to do?” And, when we have answered it, and find our selfish wills shrinking back from the answer, let us confront them with another question: What has Jesus Christ done for me? What is He still doing for me?“ “Even as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.”
Let us ask ourselves what we are doing towards the fulfillment of the divine promise, one flock, one shepherd,” and the fulfillment of the divine command,” that ye love one an¬other, even as I have loved you.” It is a test question. Nay, by the declaration of Christ Himself, it is the test question. “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” This is the true note of the Church; not miracles; miracles are no absolute test of truth; “ there shall arise false Christs and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect; “ not formularies nor discipline, for both of these may change, and a past discipline may be a present heresy; not numbers, numbers are no test of truth; truth may be on the side of an Athanasius or a Galileo against the large majority of Christians. The ultimate absolute test is love. Where is the man who loves his neighbors, loves his opponents, and loves them because Christ has loved him, and as Christ has loved him? There, in the noblest form, is the true Christian.
What have we done, what are we doing day by day, to produce this character in ourselves? What are we doing to produce that peace and unity among Christians, which depends, not upon uniformity of worship, or identity of dogma, but upon fervency of love? What are we doing to make mankind, and especially those with whom we come most closely in contact, healthier, happier, and holier? Those of us who keep any kind of watch over our thoughts, and words, and actions will hardly be able to reply to questions such as these in a way that would pro¬duce solid self-satisfaction.
Those unworthy suspicions of the motives of others; those pitiful jealousies of our neighbor’s advancement; that diabolical gloat¬ing over what brings shame or loss to others - are thoughts of this kind quite unknown to us? And then, those impatient rejoinders, which seem to imply that the whole world is bound to satisfy us; those outbursts of anger, when our wills have been crossed; those harsh criticisms of the conduct of other people; that readiness to repeat what is discreditable to our neighbor, without any certainty that it is true, or that any good can come of repeating it - can we honestly plead “not guilty” to such things as these? And if we made even a rough calculation of the amount of time and energy we day by day expend upon unselfish attention to the wants of others, and the amount which we devote to the promotion of our own personal interests and pleasures, what kind of a balance sheet could we present to our consciences and to God? How many of our prayers are directed towards alleviating the sufferings and strengthening the characters of others rather than towards getting our own personal wants supplied? We often read newspapers as a mere amusement; and among the things that we find interesting are the records of the calamities, and it may be the disgrace, of other people. How callously we read it all, with scarcely a moment‘s sympathy, and altogether without even a momentary prayer for those whose sufferings have been a pastime to us!
In short, the love of Christ does not constrain us, does not fence us in, so as to keep us from squandering upon self those affections and energies which ought to be devoted to the service of others; and thus the divine law of love is only fitfully and feebly fulfilled by us, if at all. We look perhaps with indignation upon the animosities which separate class from class, and with contempt upon the controversial bitterness which divides Christian from Christian. But we forget how largely our own lack of the spirit of love and unity has contributed towards perpetuating the obstacles, which still hinder the realization of the divine ideal of “one flock, one Shepherd.”
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