Saturday, February 19, 2011


Comic Art


Simply becasue it is a rule in comics, if the is a Justice League - there must be an Injustice League. Headed by (who else?) Lex Luthor, with his first, in unpredictable, LT - The Joker - this band of baddies comes together from time-to-time just so the Justice League has an excuse to be a league. Although, I have to say the idea makes little sense to me as Luther is capable of standing up to the entire JL on his own - he has from time-to-time. Which raises the question - Shouldn't the IJL be able to kick the JL's butts all over the place? But then, of course, where would be the fun in that?

The nice thing about the Injustice League is that they are not really a standing group. They come, they go as Luthor sees fit and has a plot to utilize them - but then that whole plot thing is always the problem. No one in this collection of egos is never satisfied to play their assigned roles - they all want to grab for the brass ring - they all want to challenge the alpha dog.

But frankly, that is where it gets fun. Watching this bunch chew on each other can get very interesting. They fight over the smallest things, and when they fight things get really ugly, really fast. Which raises another interesting questions. Where's the capital come from? Even Luthor does not have the kind of cash these guys need given the level of destruction that wreck on their lair, let along the general public.

But then, that is what makes comics fun - they are absurd to the max - heroic, idealistic, and absurd.

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Friday, February 18, 2011


The Good And The Bad

Paul Vander Klay @ Think Christian notes that there are many stories of humanitarian efforts gone wrong and what lessons a Christian can take from those efforts:
It is no secret that this new revelation of the humanitarian industry has long plagued the church. Part of the irony is that many see the humanitarian industry as kind of an alternative to the church for bringing peace on earth and like many in the church will simply want to close their ears to these results. Both the church and the humanitarian industry have too often been guilty of loving the mission more than the people the mission is intended to serve. Intention is not insignificant and outcomes are important, yet what we see here is that as is true of almost every human endeavor outcomes are simply not within our control.

For me the only answer is the strange dynamic of our simultaneous loss to the age of decay while the resurrection grows within that Paul speaks about in places like 1 Corinthians 4 and 5. We begin the path to helping the other only to quickly realize that it will cost us more than we intended to expend. Even when we over-extend beyond what those around us consider responsible, we realize that other dark motivations and needs were playing on both givers and receivers and in the end often the best accomplishments were incidental. Nothing short of the renewal of all things will heal human history. This is a power we can bear witness to in our decaying flesh yet not employ in the ways we desperately wish we could.
Vander Klay's conclusions are right on as far as they go here, but somehow I find it chicken*&^% when he begins his discussion a bit earlier, after setting it up with horror stories of benevolence gone wrong, by saying "I am not at a point where I can say the world would be better without all humanitarian organizations"

Theological reflection is nice, but in this case it does almost nothing to solve the problem. His stories are of near genocide to attract aide - not trivial stuff - Nor is it stuff to be contemplated while people die. Real problems demand real solutions.

Have we done it wrong - on hell yeah. we are likely to do it wrong again. Not the point. The point is we need to keep trying. The tension of the "already, not yet" is not a tension of thought - it's a tension of knowing it is OK to fail and try again.

I grow weary of Christians feeling powerless. We have the greatest power unimaginable at our fingertips. And yes, I said "unimaginable." Power byond comprehension - power that can create ex nihlo. Our problem is not a lack of capacity - it is a lack of being able to use our capacity properly.

But we do not stop trying.

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Friday Humor

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Thursday, February 17, 2011


...To Grasp The Eternal

John Mark Reynolds ponders lessons of Dante's Inferno:
It goes even deeper than letting go of things sinful in themselves. I must also let go of things good in themselves, lest I corrupt them by improper use. There was a time for me to be a honeymoon husband, but that time is past. I must let go of the first year of marriage, if I am to enjoy the twenty-fifth. The old goods can be a check to the enjoyment of the new goods.

Many of us may find ourselves in Hell for refusing to let go of the goods of this life. We demand Christmas in summer and long for summer fun in the winter.

God help me let go of all that stands between me and real Beauty, Truth, and the Good. God help me to desire happiness enough to let go of mere pleasure.
He titles his post "On Letting Go" which is why I chose to title this post as if completing that sentence

John is absolutely right - we must let go of everything to truly become God's person, but what we let go of is of no value compared to what we gain - NO VALUE. I do not think that fact can be emphasized enough. We routinely let go of money to get something we want more - routinely. The problem here is we just do not know how much more we want what God has to offer us.

The reason for that is simple - we do not have the proper conception of what it is Christ offers us. And that,d ear friends, is the fault of those of us that call on His name. We do not reflect His glory becasue we have yet to...

Let Go To Grasp The Eternal.

Maybe would should get busy at that?

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Illuminated Scripture

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Wednesday, February 16, 2011


Is Christ Reflected?

Damaris Zehner @ iMonk:
I have a question I’d like all you InternetMonks to tackle. It’s this: Is there any absolute standard of good and bad in the arts?
My answer is the title in this post. - and one Zehner agrees with. Just a couple of comments -

One, It does not take long touring art museums to discover there is a standard - at least not if you bother to look closely and study the picture or sculpture rather than look at it, say "Hmmm, cute" and move on. It is also not just a matter of subject or skill - it is some combination thereof. I am not an art critic, so I am not the best at describing it, but sitting next to each other it is very easy to tell good art from bad - popular art from good - and contrived art as bull*&^%. (There is a lot of this latter category in recent decades.)

Two, I will never, as long as I live, forget that time in lit class when I flat out asked "How do I tell the good from the bad" and was told, "There are no standards." Even in junior high school, I was aghast. I absolutely could not figure out how the world worked that way - It was too arbitrary - hence my attraction to science as a field of study. It has only been in recent years, since I have found some experts than can teach the standards and point me in the right direction to see them, that I have really come to appreciate this stuff.

Which brings me to my final point - I think this is what C.S. Lewis called "joy" in his autobiography. It's a hell of an apologetic and I don't know why we do not appeal to it any more. Have most people become so self-absorbed that they cannot see how chaotic things really are around them?

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Tuesday, February 15, 2011


More Than You MIght Think

There was a recent WaPo Op-Ed by a mathematician wondering:
How much math do we really need?
Quite a bit actually.

G.V. Ramanathan makes a reasonably compelling case against how math is "marketed" in order to get funding and education priority:
Unfortunately, the marketing of math has become similar to the marketing of creams to whiten teeth, gels to grow hair and regimens to build a beautiful body.


We need to ask two questions. First, how effective are these educational creams and gels? With generous government grants over the past 25 years, countless courses and conferences have been invented and books written on how to teach teachers to teach. But where is the evidence that these efforts have helped students? A 2008 review by the Education Department found that the nation is at "greater risk now" than it was in 1983, and the National Assessment of Educational Progress math scores for 17-year-olds have remained stagnant since the 1980s.
Agreed - it's not working. But then:
The second question is more fundamental: How much math do you really need in everyday life? Ask yourself that -- and also the next 10 people you meet, say, your plumber, your lawyer, your grocer, your mechanic, your physician or even a math teacher.

Unlike literature, history, politics and music, math has little relevance to everyday life. That courses such as "Quantitative Reasoning" improve critical thinking is an unsubstantiated myth.
It may be "unsubstantiated," but I will tell you this - even in my now 30 year old formal education mathematics either as math or as science was the only place I was taught to reason. The philosoph6y department no longer taught a symbolic logic course and the lit department was all about how what I read "made me feel." Sweet reason existed only in math and the sciences.

This guy is right - math is exceedingly poorly taught, mostly becasue math teachers are mathematicians - some of the most boring people on the planet. I learned all of my math above calculus, diff eq, linear algebra and the like, in the course of DOING science, becasue the associated math classes were dull beyond my level of tolerance. The guy is also right that one does not need to know calculus to drive a car down the road.

But calculus does help tremendously when making investments - not that one needs to be able to calculate anything but simply knowing how to think about things differentially. And since other disciplines do not teach how to think anymore - we cannot abandon math.

To reach the conclusions Ramanathan does one is not abandoning math, one is abandoning reason -and that dear friends is the end of western civilization.

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Monday, February 14, 2011


Valentines Love


God's Judgment Is Just That - His

Bob Blog on God's judgment:
However, one comment my friend made was something like: "We really don't know why we believe what we believe- our beliefs are really due to influences and factors way beyond our control. Things work on us and take us places and we don't even know that they are doing it... So the idea that anyone would hold us responsible for what we BELIEVE is silly."

I suspect that at the heart of this comment was a desire to move away from the idea that there's anything I have to believe in order to be made right with God- that God would judge us by what we believe.


And there's really the rub of the whole thing for me- actions are nothing more than beliefs acted on. You don't lynch someone without first being a racist in thought and heart or sexually harass someone without harboring sexist and chauvinistic thoughts. So, if I'm not culpable for my racist or sexist thoughts and beliefs, does that mean I'm not culpable for my racist or sexist actions that are simply those beliefs acted out?


Far from God NOT holding us culpable for our beliefs, the biblical picture is that our beliefs are EXACTLY what God will hold us culpable for- do we root our existence and choices in the belief that I am the most important thing in the universe, that I am my own God? Do I make something else (money, sex, my race, my philosophy) my god? Or do I turn my heart and mind towards God Himself, the only thing I can give myself to that will ultimately bring me and this world life? Because at heart- all our actions are just extensions of THAT question. If I'm IT, my heart will find great warrant for all kinds of selfishness, sexism, racism, hatred, theft... But when God and His character become the ground for my beliefs and actions, when His love fills me with a love for all those made in His image, then my actions become very different.
Reasonable as far as it goes, but such a simple analysis. What about people that do good things from bad beliefs. Atheists, for example, are usually the first to line up behind civil rights. How will God hold them accountable? That is just one of uncountable unanswered ethical questions left by this post.

Second beef - what about theology? Catholics and Protestants believe quite differently - is one to be condemned and the other not? Where is the line?

Want me to go one?

I have two bottoms lines on all this. One the only reasonable response to these questions is humility - I cannot answer all of the questions - I cannot possibly understand God's judgment. That does not mean I am not obligated to try, but it does mean I must do so with an understanding and tone that says, overtly, there is no certainty.

Secondly, I must conclude God's accountability structures include belief, but move beyond it. Where I don't know, but there is more to it than that.

Here's the best way I can put it. When judging us God is forced to choose between wrong things. We are ALL wrong - everyone of us. Some are better in some areas, some in others. He has to weigh that in His judgment. There are so many components parts to defining our humanity that the multi-variate model is way too complex for me to fathom. Like balancing the fuel-air ratio for a carburetor - there is, from our perspective, some guess work involved (God does not guess, but we have to).

SO, I do my best to draw lines, but I will never set them in stone.

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