Thursday, December 23, 2004

Loy's Noel

The crunch of snow under foot,
The cold creak of the wooden steps:
Iron handrails cleaned of ice,
And steps of snow: dad with traverse slow.
Blue glow of streetlight on new white snow --
Softly falling snow in streetlight glow…
Snowballs of joy: ‘Stop that, Loy!’

The scent of spruce and pine
Green tree trimmed and topped with star:
White candle in the window,
And wreath on porch: mom with planned art --
Destined decoration, Christmas call to heart --
A holy tradition for family set apart…
A call to help: ‘Come on, Loy!’

A book of Tolkien by the tree,
And Lewis, Grey, L’Amour:
Smell of cookies in the kitchen,
Tangerines and eggnog: sister’s confection,
Stereo tuned for Bethlehem reflection --
Undisputed Eve of holy affection…
Magical radiance: “Merry Christmas, Loy!”

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Kierkegaard: whatever comes of God


Father in heaven!
Let us consider that whatever happens to us,
this comes from Thee,
and that of whatever comes from Thee,
nothing is able to harm us;
no, no, it can only be to our benefit.


We would receive all at Thy hand.
If it should be honor and glory,
we would receive them at Thy hand;
if it should be ridicule and insults,
we would receive them at Thy hand.
Oh, let us be able to receive either the one or the other
of these things
with equal joy and gratitude;
there is little difference between them,
and for us there would be no difference
if we only thought of the one decisive thing:
that it comes from Thee.


From: The Prayers of Kierkegaard: Edited with a New Interpretation of His Life and Thought, by Perry D. LeFevre (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1956), 67.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Why I say Merry Christmas!

I used to say, "Happy Holidays" to store clerks and other harried store personnel. My thinking was that I didn't want to offend if they said, "Happy Holidays" or some other generic description, that is what I would return to them.

But now... with more learning and more life, I smile sweetly and take the initiative: "Merry Christmas!" And, more often than not, the immediate response is shock... or awe... and then often a kind of relief, and a return smile: "Merry Christmas to you too," and today, "God bless you!"

My 'Merry Christmas' greetings have become, for me, a blessing of my postmodern world. My world, my culture, my land is forgetting the power in the Name, forgetting that the Name was spoken into the night long ago for healing. And as we have forgotten this Name, we have lost that healing...

So now I bless people with 'Merry Christmas!'

Some are shocked, but I usually see the echo of the Name in their eyes before I leave their presence.

James Lileks writes of this 'shock' phenomenon [hat tip, Instapundit]:

Maybe it's just me. Perhaps I'm overly sensitive. But when I wish a store clerk "Merry Christmas!" they often appear stunned and flummoxed for a moment, as if I've just blabbed the plans for the underground's sabotage of the train tracks in front of the secret police. I've said something highly inappropriate for the public square, and I almost expect a security guard to take me aside on the way out. . . .

I don't get it. There's this peculiar fear of Christmas that seems to get stronger every year, as if it's the season that dare not speak its name. Check out the U.S. Postal Service Web site: two different stamps for Kwanzaa. One for Eid, two for Hanukkah. Two for non-sectarian "Holiday," with pictures of Santa, reindeer, ornaments, that sort of thing. One for the Chinese New Year. One for those religiously inclined -- it features a Madonna and Child. But the Web site calls it "Holiday Traditional." The word "Christmas" doesn't appear on the site's description of the stamps. Eid, yes. Hanukkah, yes. Kwanzaa, yes. Christmas? No. It's Holiday Traditional.

Indeed. As I've seen more of that, my resolve has steeled: I say the Name.

It's Christmas. I am a Christian. I believe in Jesus Christ. I am celebrating Him.

Those who do not know Him, or hate to hear His name -- even in a title for a Day -- are the ones who most need to hear that Name. In a culture long since post-Christian, it is the quiet and subtle, lived protests that will make a difference.

So I will say, "Merry Christmas" with a smile from my soul, praying for the purity of Christ. And I will live Merry Christmas, so that these words will not be a contradiction...but a pure invitation to a parallel culture, a Kingdom community that lives every day in the Hope of Advent.

So, Merry Christmas, dear reader!

May you know this Christ, and come to celebrate His healing Name...


UPDATE: Thanks to Christopher at Against the Grain for the link. And a very Merry Christmas to you, too, Christopher!

UPDATE: A Jew says, "Merry Christmas" and "Keep it real." Jeff Jacoby money quote:

I enjoy Christmas decorations -- and Christmas music, and the upbeat Christmastime mood -- and I say that as a practicing Jew for whom Dec. 25 has no theological significance at all. I have never celebrated Christmas, but I like seeing my Christian neighbors celebrate it. I like living in a society that makes a big deal out of religious holidays. Far from feeling threatened when the sights and sounds of Christmas surround me each December, I find them reassuring. They reaffirm the importance of the Judeo-Christian culture that has made America so exceptional -- and such a safe and tolerant haven for a religious minority like mine.

Indeed. Eminently logical. Thanks for the support, Jeff!

God bless you...and...Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Passion of Christ miracles documented

Mel Gibson's film "The Passion of the Christ" has increased the faith of millions of viewers...but perhaps that is not all! If this new documentary is correct, many physical miracles have also resulted from its viewing.

"Changed Lives: Miracles of The Passion" is a 1-hour program that captures, in their own words, people's inspiring and documented accounts of relationships restored, diseases healed, the dead resurrected, atheists coming to faith and even a confession to murder.

"It is truly unprecedented the way God has used 'The Passion' to bring healing, reconciliation and peace to people across the nation and around the globe," says Executive Producer Jody Eldred.

An Emmy-winning cameraman, director and writer, Eldred has directed and shot hundreds of documentaries and news reports for ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN and BBC, as well as segments for "20/20," "Primetime Live," "Good Morning America," "Dateline NBC," "48 Hours" and others, and works closely with Diane Sawyer and Peter Jennings.

Eldred took a personal leap of faith when he decided to produce a documentary about "The Passion of the Christ's" true impact on the hearts of viewers. Since it was completed, "Changed Lives: Miracles of the Passion" has received high acclaim wherever it has been shown.

"Here's powerful and poignant evidence of how God has used Mel Gibson's movie to change lives in remarkable ways," said Lee Strobel, author of "The Case for Christ" and "The Case for a Creator."

Read the article here.

Note: Definitely a must see! I talked to one lady who had a hearing/ear problem cured during her viewing of the Passion -- someone I've known for several years. Worth a viewing...

UPDATE: I bought this DVD and watched it over Christmas, and in my opinion it doesn't live up to its hype. It's not worth the money, imo. Not well researched, or well shot...second-rate storyline and interviews...there were a lot more people they could have interviewed, with more compelling stories. Frankly, I think this DVD was made for the money, to make a buck off of the Passion success...

UPDATE II: After reading the comments of the executive producer and writer of this DVD, I feel badly about saying this was made "to make a buck off of the Passion success." That was impugning motives of which I had no objective knowledge, drawing wrong inferences from advertising and production. Please read the producer's comments below, and take those into account!

Dutch exodus from anarchy

The Islamo-fascist murder of Van Gogh highlights the fatal problem which Dutch society cannot get around: their Muslim immigration-fueled, 'multi-cultural experiment' has created killing fields in the streets. Powerline excerpted this sobering piece by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard in the Telegraph:

Escaping the stress of clogged roads, street violence and loss of faith in Holland's once celebrated way of life, the Dutch middle classes are leaving the country in droves for the first time in living memory.

The new wave of educated migrants are quietly voting with their feet against a multicultural experiment long touted as a model for the world, but increasingly a warning of how good intentions can go wrong.

More people left the Netherlands in 2003 than arrived, ending a half-century cycle of surging immigration that has turned a tight-knit Nordic tribe into a multi-ethnic mosaic with three million people of foreign roots out of 16 million.

Ellen Bles, 43, a lawyer and banker who votes for the free-market Liberals, said the code of behaviour regulating daily life in the Netherlands was breaking down.

People no longer know what to expect from each other. There are so many rules, but nobody sticks to them. They just do as they want. They just execute people on the streets, it's shocking when you see this for the first time," she said. "We've become so tolerant that everybody thinks they can fight their own wars here. Van Gogh is killed, and then people throw bombs at mosques and churches. It's escalating because the police and the state aren't doing anything about it.

There's a feeling of injustice that if you do things right, if you work hard and pay your taxes, you're punished, and those who don't are rewarded. People can come and live here illegally and get payments. How is that possible?

Indeed. This highlights the growing problem of a multicultural experiment, where a minority of those in the experiment are willing to kill to conform the majority to their religious views.

In other words, this is the deadly underbelly of the Muslim problem: Create an immigration niche for Muslims, and upwards of 10-20 percent of that growth segment will be willing to embrace terror until their *ways* are met. Look around the world at current conflicts and genocides and terrorist movements: what percentage of them are Islamic in nature? Wow.

Van Gogh dared to critize this Muslim mindset, and was snuffed out [specifically, he was killed for defending women from Islamic dehumanization]. He is just one. And now many Dutch see the handwriting on the wall...all religions are not created equal.

Perhaps Europe will learn from this. Perhaps not.

I pray that America will.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

What if it's not Israel they loathe?

Hat tip to Andrew Sullivan on this piece by Amir Taheri: What if it's not Israel they loathe?
Right now there are 22 active conflicts across the globe in which Muslims are involved. Most Muslims have not even heard of most of them because those conflicts do not provide excuses for fomenting hatred against the United States. Next time you hear someone say the US was in trouble in the Muslim world because of Israel, remember that things may not be that simple.

There are a lot of hard questions that the American media refuses to ask. We dare not be so blind.

Must read.

Monday, December 06, 2004

One act of courage and obedience

A friend forwarded this, and it was too good to pass up! Enjoy!

His name was Fleming, and he was a poor Scottish farmer.

One day, while trying to make a living for his family, he heard a cry for help coming from a nearby bog. He dropped his tools and ran to the bog. There, mired to his waist in black muck, was a terrified boy, screaming and struggling to free himself. Farmer Fleming saved the lad from what could have been a slow and terrifying death.

The next day, a fancy carriage pulled up to the Scotsman's sparse surroundings. An elegantly dressed nobleman stepped out and introduced himself as the father of the boy Farmer Fleming had saved.

"I want to repay you," said the nobleman. "You saved my son's life."

"No, I can't accept payment for what I did," the Scottish farmer replied, waving off the offer.

At that moment, the farmer's own son came to the door of the home.

"Is that your son?" the nobleman asked.
"Yes," the farmer replied proudly.

"I'll make you a deal. Let me provide him with the level of education my own son will enjoy. If the lad is anything like his father, he'll no doubt grow to be a man we both will be proud of."

And that he did. Farmer Fleming's son attended the very best schools and in time, graduated from St. Mary's Hospital Medical School in London, and went on to become known throughout the world as the noted Sir Alexander Fleming, the discoverer of Penicillin.

Years afterward, the same nobleman's son who was saved from the bog was stricken with pneumonia.

What saved his life this time? Penicillin.

The name of the nobleman? Lord Randolph Churchill. His son's name?

Sir Winston Churchill.

You never know! You just never know what one act of courageous obedience can bring!

This Advent, do the small acts of courage, obedience and prayer...


Monday, November 29, 2004

Novels worth reading again

Hugh Hewitt is piqued by Jacob Weisenberg's statement that 'You may never put down a Tom Wolfe novel. But you never reread one, either.' On that basis, Hewitt asks which modern novels are worth reading twice.

If by modern he means 19th and 20th century writers, I have several masterpieces that beg to be read and re-read:

Top of the list: C. S. Lewis and Chronicles of Narnia.
This seven-book series was ostensibly written for children, but its depth of Christian philosophy makes it even more rewarding for a 'grown-up.' I read these books again at least once every year.

Close second: C. S. Lewis and That Hideous Strength.
So wrote Sir David Lyndsay in Ane Dialogue, describing the Tower of Babel.
That Hideous Strength is Lewis' artful exposure of the Tower of Babel, its tentacled and deep reach into modern society. It is his third and ultimate work in the Space Trilogy.
I have gleaned much wisdom from multiple readings of That Hideous Strength.

Big Favorite:
J. R. R. Tolkien and Lord of the Rings.
This one is so popular that it needs no introduction.
But another little work of Tolkien's that needs a word: Farmer Giles of Ham and other Stories.

Another re-read:
Fyodor Dostoevsky and Brothers Karamazov.
Patricide, atheism, agnosticism, and religious fraud contrasted with authentic faith and existential Christianity -- what more could a person ask?
The depth of Dostoevsky's work could be summed up in a post-Karamazov statement by the author: When mocked by the intelligentsia of his day for writing a novel that broached the worst of all possible arguments against God, yet turned out to be a novel about vital faith, Dostoevsky replied: 'Fools! You cannot understand the depth of my doubt, how then can you understand my faith?'
Brother's Karamazov is the best existential argument for faith in God that I have ever read. Read it. If you dare. It will change you...

Another to consider:
Henryk Sienkiewicz, With Fire and Sword.
This novel will make you laugh, and then bring tears to your eyes...contrasting the daily humor of human condition with its great calling. With Fire and Sword shows what it means to be a real leader in the most desperate of times, a faithful warrior who holds up light and sword even when the outcome seems lost!

These are some of my favorites, worth reading for gripping storyline and consistent philosophy.

Enjoy, fellow so-journer of truth!


UPDATE: The Paragraph Farmer reminded me of A Canticle for Leibowitz, by Walter M. Miller, Jr.
Definitely one of the best books written in the 20th Century...

Also, one that I enjoyed several times as a teen: Rifles for Watie, by Harold Keith. It explores the forgotten role of the Oklahoma territories in the Civil War. Evocative writing.

Great reading!

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Kierkegaard: You have loved us first!

A Thanksgiving prayer that goes to the heart of it all -- from Soren Kierkegaard:


Great Companion, You have loved us first.
May we never forget that You are love,
So that this sure conviction might triumph in our hearts
Over the whirling of the world,
Over the inquietude of the soul,
Over the anxiety for the future,
Over the fright of the past,
Over the distress of the moment.
May this conviction discipline our soul
So that our hearts might remain faithful and sincere
In the love which we bear to all those we love as ourselves.


Teach us to remember this, O Lord. In our world, with our anxieties, frights and distresses. Teach us to embrace the discipline of soul, the humility and courage that comes from confessing your first all those we love!

Thank you, O God for all we are and have: To You we owe it all. You have loved us first...


Monday, November 22, 2004

Postmodern theology: an oxymoron?

Christopher, at Against the Grain, keys in on this story of atheistic philosopher Jurgen Habermas supporting Christianity against the attack of secular ideologies:
Habermas defines himself as, and is, "a methodical atheist." But to read his most recent essay translated in Italy, "A Time of Transition," published by Feltrinelli and available in bookstores since mid-November, Christianity, and nothing else, is the ultimate foundation of liberty, conscience, human rights, and democracy, the benchmarks of Western civilization:
"To this day, we have no other options. We continue to nourish ourselves from this source. Everything else is postmodern chatter."
Habermas says he is "enchanted by the seriousness and consistency" of the theology of St. Thomas Aquinas, the opposite of the feeble thinking that pervades current theology:
"Thomas represents a spiritual figure who was able to prove his authenticity with his own resources. That contemporary religious leadership lacks an equally solid terrain seems to me an incontrovertible truth. In the general leveling of society by the media everything seems to lose seriousness, even institutionalized Christianity. But theology would lose its identity if it sought to uncouple itself from the dogmatic nucleus of religion, and thus from the religious language in which the community's practices of prayer, confession, and faith are made concrete."
On relations with other civilizations, Habermas maintains that "recognizing our Judaeo-Christian roots more clearly not only does not impair intercultural understanding, it is what makes it possible."
That is just an amazing statement, by an incredibly incisive thinker. Some atheists have far more truth in them than some 'Christians.' Habermas is onto something. Read Thomas Aquinas or Chesterton or C. S. Lewis, and then read Bishop Spong [or any of the postmodern, leftist 'Christians' trying to rewrite Christianity -- its language, traditions and norms] ; then, read the current secularist arguments against Christian expression. It will be self-evident as to whom is approaching reality in faithfulness to the intellect God has granted. It will be self-evident as to whom is approaching reality in relation to Truth.

Pretty neat that God is raising up people [even among atheists!] to show the hollow nature of the *new age* house...a house of cards that seeks to replace Christianity by sleight of hand and mind.

But those who attack Christ will not prevail. Much sound and fury, but not victory.

It seems that somewhere the Lord of Glory said, "Upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it!"


Saturday, November 20, 2004

Kierkegaard on becoming self

Is the sin of human condition primarily egoism -- false self-assertion? Or is it rather more the refusal to become a real person, a true ‘self’ [as Kierkegaard puts it]?

In The Sickness Unto Death, Kierkegaard believes that most people never become selves. Here Kierkegaard highlights sin primarily in terms of self-abdication -- the refusal, denial of the task of becoming a real human, a self in the eyes of God.

In ‘Theology and Women,’ Carol Lakey Hess comments:

For Kierkegaard, human sin was not so much a result of inflated and self-possessing egocentrism, but rather the consequence of a person’s refusal to become a self, i.e., self-abdication. He viewed despair over becoming a self as the common human condition, and he emphasized the importance of the self choosing and becoming a self, contending that the ‘self has the task of becoming itself in freedom,’ and choosing itself before God.

This is a fascinating concept: does false grasping and false ‘will to power’ stem from a first refusal to become real self before God?

Is egoism first a denial of the task of becoming fully human? Is fallen human grasping a cover for not being real?

Hess notes that Kierkegaard recognizes the deep sin of pride, but roots it in self-despair.

For Kierkegaard there were three manifestations of human despair over becoming a self: 1. “spiritlessness,” the failure to realize one’s possibility; 2. “weakness,” the move to escape from one’s self; and 3. “defiance,” the attempt to affirm and master oneself by denying dependence upon God.

A riveting analysis of human condition! Is the sin of pride [self-aggrandizement and egoism and all its children] rooted in despair over becoming a real self before God...?

What would it mean to become the true self I was destined to be before the world began?

Prayer: O God, help me to become real before You, and to embrace all that this means for my world! Amen.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Sharansky on dissent

Natan Sharansky, 'former refusenik and Soviet prisoner, current Israeli cabinet minister, is one of the great men of our time.'

When Sharansky was released from the Gulag in a prisoner exchange engineered by the Reagan administration in 1986, he shared with Reagan the story of 'the beautiful moment' when the news of Reagan's Evil Empire speech echoed in the Soviet gulag. He told Reagan of the 'brilliant day' when the Pravda or Izvestia article found its way into their prison. The instant they heard of that Evil Empire speech, the 'whole block burst out into a kind of loud celebration' in the knowledge that 'the world was about to change.' Not forever could they be chained in darkness, unjustly!

Sharansky said that when he shared this story with Reagan, Reagan jumped out of his chair 'like a shot,' and 'lit up like a schoolboy.' Reagan started calling for his aides to come and hear what Sharansky had to say. Sharansky comments:
It was really only then that I started to appreciate that it wasn't just in the Soviet Union that President Reagan must have suffered terrible abuse for this great speech, but that he must have been hurt at home too. It seemed as though our moment of joy was the moment of his own vindication. That the great punishment he had endured for this speech was worth it.

Joel Rosenberg puts that Sharansky moment in context, with Sharansky's meeting last week in the Oval Office with President Bush. Echoing the Reagan language, here is Sharansky's account of what he told President Bush:
I told the president, 'There is a great difference between politicians and dissidents. Politicians are focused on polls and the press. They are constantly making compromises. But dissidents focus on ideas. They have a message burning inside of them. They would stand up for their convictions no matter what the consequences.'

I told the president, 'In spite of all the polls warning you that talking about spreading democracy in the Middle East might be a losing issue — despite all the critics and the resistance you faced — you kept talking about the importance of free societies and free elections. You kept explaining that democracy is for everybody. You kept saying that only democracy will truly pave the way to peace and security. You, Mr. President, are a dissident among the leaders of the free world.'

Food for thought: what does it mean to be a dissident?

Revolution is a word that comes too easily to our lips. It must be matched with a life, a vision unhindered by the clamor of the crowd.

Thank you, Natan Sharansky, for showing us that distinction, again.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Girl power!

This one will make you smile.

It seems that an Idaho car thief stole a woman's Eagle Talon, and she hunted him down and stole the car back, while her girlfriend proceeded to beat up the thief! Unbelievable! lol! But truth is stranger than fiction...I had a similar story once, where my car was stolen in Tulsa, and a friend and I chased down the thieves in his sports car. Only -- if we had been as powerful as these women, we'd have caught all four thieves and smacked the tar out of them!!

Check out the story:

She yelled, "Our car's being stolen!" but the thief drove off just as her husband ran outside. He got into his own car to give pursuit, while Cheryl called police, then had her friend Cami Gelles pick her up.

Husband, wife and friends — men in one car, women in another — combed the small city of 50,000 for the Talon.

After a couple of fruitless hours, Otero told Gelles she'd fill her tank for her trouble, and they pulled into a gas station.

Suddenly they saw a familiar pair of headlights. The women watched as the Talon pulled up to a bank of pay phones across the street. A strange man got out to make a call.

Gelles quietly drove up to the Talon. Otero hopped into the driver's seat, stuck her key in the ignition and sped off. Rap music instantly blared out of the CD player. Otero noticed that her collection of Christian-music CDs and other personal items were gone. "As I'm driving off in my car," she related to the State Journal, "I'm wondering if I hadn't gotten in the wrong car because the interior was so different."

Gelles was supposed to take off after Otero. But instead, she got out of her own car and marched over to the suspect.

"You stole my friend's car!" she shouted. "You're going to jail!"

He denied it, but she grabbed him and tried to hold him until cops showed up. The man started hitting Gelles, according to Otero, saying "I have warrants! I'm not going back to jail!"

"She started hitting him back," Otero added. "She gave as good as she got. I didn't know that side of her."

Finally, the suspect managed to wriggle out of the sweatshirt Gelles was holding him by just as an onlooker came up to help her. The suspect ran off.

"You should have seen my husband's face when we drove up in that car," Otero told the newspaper. "His mouth was dropped to the ground, and we were like, 'Girls rule!'"

lol! Read it here.


P.S. Moral of the story: Don't mess with determined women!


Friday, November 12, 2004

Tolkien and dangerous modernity

Brad Birzer highlights the warnings in Tolkien's Faerie: How we humans are prone to ignore Grace that abounds and surrounds us, forever enticed by the 'things.'
To enter Faerie, Tolkien wrote, was always perilous. One never knew what one would find, and the sheer beauty of even the smallest thing would overwhelm any mere human visitor, no matter how saved and sanctified. For Tolkien, Faerie is a sacramental understanding of life: Grace abounds, but we usually ignore it, more enticed by the things of this world. And, such enticements grow ever greater as we begin the 21st century: not just the Xboxes and Nintendos to numb our children, but the outrageously sexualized sitcoms and advertisements, appealing to the basest level of our physical selves. Indeed, it's hard to turn any direction without some thing, some noise, or some eye candy attempting to tempt us. Modernity, Tolkien believed, distracted us from that which is the only thing real and necessary: Jesus Christ.

Indeed. A powerful lesson that should ever be before our eyes.

Consider this danger, and live!

[Note: Thanks to Ratzinger Fan Club Blog for the link! Great site, that RatzingerFanClub Blog, btw!]

[Note: Also posted on Parkview Blog]

Monday, November 08, 2004

Transcendence and morality

Previously, I discussed the epistemology of Bill Maher. Today, Jonah Goldberg keys in on the same aspect of Maher and other leftists, who fail to realize that all morality is based on either transcendence or some lesser, human construct of utility. This is a powerful point, worth quite a bit of thought.

Here is the great divide between those who are left of center, and those center and right. It's not so much about favorite 'moral values' [as is being batted about now], but rather more about the foundation of morality: is it based in transcendence [i.e. God and revelation] or in human constructs [i.e. self and society]? Is it objective in origin, or subjective?

It is an age old argument that Socrates [via Plato] argued against the sophists. The sophists claimed that 'man was the measure' of all morality [i.e. subjective, temporal], but Socrates argued that something beyond mere self was the basis of moral action. Nietzsche railed against Christians [and Jews] for following Plato and denying the sophists. Nietzsche bitterly asserted that through Christianity, the Jews [and Socrates] had won. Jews and Christians, against the whole world, claimed that morality was based in relation to the Absolute, the One God.

The argument will continue until the end of time. But it is important to understand the distinctions in it.

Jonah Goldberg tells it well:

What Maher [and leftists] fail to grasp is that all morality is based upon transcendence — or it is merely based on utilitarianism of one kind or another, and therefore it is not morality so much as, at best, an enlightened expediency or will-to-power. It is no more rational to vote based on a desire to do "good" than it is to vote based on a desire to do God's will.
Love, in fact, is just as silly and superstitious a concept as God (and for those who believe God is Love, this too is a distinction without a difference). Chesterton's observation that the purely rational man will not marry is just as correct today, because science has done far more damage to the ideal of love than it has done to the notion of an awesome God beyond our ken. Genes, hormones, instincts, evolution: These are the cause for the effect of love in the purely rational man's textbook. But Maher would get few applause lines from his audience of sophisticated yokels if he mocked love as a silly superstition. This is, in part, because the crowd he plays to likes the idea of love while it dislikes the idea of God; and in part because these people feel love, so they think it exists. But such is the extent of their solipsism and narcissism that they not only reject the existence of God but go so far as to mock those who do not, simply because they don't feel Him themselves. And, alas, in elite America, feelings are the only recognized foundation of metaphysics.

This line of thinking is worth considering, and understanding.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

How to believe in God

An atheist once visited a well known rabbi and demanded that the rabbi prove to him the existence of God. In silence, the rabbi refused…and the atheist got up to leave, in anger. But as he left the rabbi called out, ‘But can you be sure there is no God?’ The atheist wrote, years later, ‘I am still an atheist, but that question has haunted me every day of my life.’

Such is the soul hunger of the intellectuals who would believe in God, if only someone could overwhelmingly convince them; if only someone could demonstrate the undeniable truth of God...

The great thinker Gotthold Ephraim Lessing saw a large gap between miracles and the claim of Jesus as the Son of God. In his mind, even if he granted the existence of miracles, he still could not grant the higher class [claim] of Jesus as God and Savior. The past drew a curtain over the historical reality of Jesus, beyond which he could not go. He wrote:
That, then, is the ugly, broad ditch which I cannot get across, however often and however earnestly I have tried to make the leap. If anyone can help me over it, let him do it, I beg him, I adjure him. He will deserve a divine reward from me.

What pain in his voice! What honesty of heart!

Basically Lessing is asking the same thing that the atheist asked the rabbi: ‘Can you prove God to me?’ ‘Can you prove to me the Son of God?’

It is a heartrending question. Can any answer be found?

I believe there is a simple answer. Not an easy answer, mind you, but one at once clear and profound: so simple a child could follow it, yet so hard that few adults will take the path.

Two great thinkers, and two great believers, Pascal and Dosteovsky, both wrestled with this question. And, though separated by vast years and contexts, both came up with the same answer. There is much logic behind this answer [in the case of Pascal] and much life behind it [in the case of Dosteovsky], but the answer can be given in one sentence. Here is the answer:

If you would like to know if God exists, then begin living your life exactly as you would live it if you knew God existed.

That is what I would have told the atheist, had I been the rabbi.

That is what I would have told Lessing, had I been alive to hear him.

There is only one way across the ‘ugly ditch’ that Lessing saw. And that is the undeniable relational encounter with the God of the universe. In other words, the answer to the atheist, and the answer to Lessing, is not first an intellectual answer, but a relational one.

Do you want to believe in God?

Then begin living toward God. At some point, the lived prayer will bring such overpowering light that the universe will be seen for what it is, morally, spiritually, and yes, intellectually!

There is great logic behind this simple answer. There is compelling reason.

If you are one of the searchers, or know someone searching, who would like to explore the reasoning behind this solution, then email me, and I will gladly dialogue.

But this is the answer, without any of the math behind it.

I sensed that I should write it tonight. May God bless it to someone’s life.

In Grace,


Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Extra-dimensionality and answers to prayer

Often we find it hard to pray simply because we find it hard to believe.

Prayer usually involves something impossible in human terms. And if it is impossible in human terms, it takes an utter act of faith to believe it is possible for God. This is a huge step that many of us can live without -- rather than try to count on.

Perhaps it will help our faith grow if we can see God in His proper place, instead of viewing Him from limited, human dimensions.

We live our lives 'trapped' in four dimensions: length, width, height, and time. And, really, it is only 3.5 dimensions, since we only move one way in the time dimension. We are creatures of 3.5 dimensions, and all this means for time and possibility.But what about God?

Hugh Ross says this:

Recent advances in science now point to the existence of the extra dimensions that are demonstrated in the Bible. To solve the equations related to [the origin of the universe], using the current "best" models, requires the existence of 10 dimensions. There are also indications of extra dimensions in the theory of relativity, cosmic string theory, and other areas of theoretical physics.

Given that God exists in at least seven more dimensions than we do [the 10 of current theoretical physics plus at least one more since He must be outside of those] He can interact with the four dimensions of our universe in ways that we cannot visualize.

Think of it this way: God birthed all creative dimensions, and as such a Creator, owns and inheres the whole -- at will. God is not trapped in time any more than we are trapped in a piece of paper [from a two dimensional, paper-point-of-view]. What would be utterly impossible for two-dimensional paper-people is completely possible for us, without a single law of physics being broken. And that is just adding one dimension!

Now, add the seven additional creative dimensions to God...and you are still barely scratching the surface of God's possibility. Because God owns the whole universe, and created all dimensions, known and unknown, theorized and un-theorized.

There is a line in Scripture that refers to creation as 'but the outer fringe of God's works.' Imagine that! This grand cosmos, which commands our awe and wonder, is just the 'outer fringe' of the works of God -- a God unlimited and unhindered by our few dimensions.

It is no wonder that another Scripture says, 'Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor has it entered into human thoughts, the wonders God has prepared for those who love Him!'

Consider this, friend, when you seek your next answer to prayer! Consider this, in your next place of need and silence: This God, our God, is not limited like we are. What is a miracle to us is just God being himself.

As Job saw in the midst of great personal darkness:
And these are but the outer fringe of His works; how faint the whisper we hear of Him! Who then can understand the thunder of His power?

Note: Original article published on my Parkview page, here.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Fighting poverty yet hurting the poor

A must read by Sebastian Mallaby.

He examines real-time stories of how NGO's can be manipulative.

This story is a tragedy for Uganda. Clinics and factories are being deprived of electricity by Californians whose idea of an electricity crisis is a handful of summer blackouts. But it is also a tragedy for the fight against poverty worldwide, because projects in dozens of countries are similarly held up for fear of activist resistance. Time after time, feisty Internet-enabled groups make scary claims about the iniquities of development projects. Time after time, Western publics raised on stories of World Bank white elephants believe them. Lawmakers in European parliaments and the U.S. Congress accept NGO arguments at face value, and the government officials who sit on the World Bank’s board respond by blocking funding for deserving projects.

The consequences can be preposterously ironic. NGOs claim to campaign on behalf of poor people, yet many of their campaigns harm the poor. They claim to protect the environment, but by forcing the World Bank to pull out of sensitive projects, they cause these schemes to go ahead without the environmental safeguards that the bank would have imposed on them. Likewise, NGOs purport to hold the World Bank accountable, yet the bank is answerable to the governments who are its shareholders; it is the NGOs’ accountability that is murky. Furthermore, the offensives mounted by activist groups sometimes have no basis in fact whatsoever.

Read it here.

Hat tip to Glen at Instapundit.

Must read!

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Postmodern football

This football rumination from a postmodern point of view was just too rich to pass up. Greg Easterbrook goes gonzo , stirred by Derrida's recent death.

[Ed. note: By all accounts, fair Derrida is now deconstructing. ;-) :-) lol! Sad, I know, but give me a charity laugh, lol.]

Football from a postmodern view [hat tip to Andrew Sullivan], or another title, 'Aren't you glad Derrida didn't play football?'

Coach: How could you throw that crazy pass? Didn't you see the safety?

Quarterback: I did see the safety, but then I thought, how do I know the safety really exists? My eyes perceive a safety and he seems to be covering the receiver, but this might only be from my frame of reference. Someone in the stands might perceive the safety to be covering another receiver, or no one at all. Who am I to say that my perception is correct and theirs is wrong? Then I thought, maybe the safety does exist! But the taboo against throwing into double coverage is just an oppressive ideology used by the dominant hegemony to maintain the imperialist power structure. So you see, I had to make the throw in order to liberate myself.


Good stuff!


Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Doing right for our neighbors

Do yourself and favor and buy Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski's book, 'Growing Each Day."

In an excerpt in today's Jewish World Review column, he comments on Exodus 23:4 --

To purchase the book this column is excerpted from, please click HERE.

“If you encounter your enemy's ox or donkey wandering astray, you must return it to him.”

In this mitzvah, the Torah (Bible) makes two demands: (1) to go out of our way to return a lost animal to its rightful owner, and (2) to overcome our hostile feelings towards our enemy if the lost animal is his.

If this is what is demanded toward a mere belonging of an enemy, how much more are we responsible when we see friends going astray and acting improperly? Yet, how often do we avoid telling them that we feel what they are doing is wrong? We rationalize by saying: "We do not wish to interfere in their private affairs. How they run their life is their own business," or "We don't want to offend them."

A popular billboard declares: "A true friend does not allow a friend to drive drunk." If you truly care for others, you will take the necessary steps to protect them from themselves, even if they may be angry at you for doing so. Honesty is more potent than sympathy. A person who has suffered from grievous mistakes often says: "If only someone had stopped me!" Drunk driving is not the only destructive behavior which a true friend would try to stop.

Whenever we see that a friend is doing something which we sincerely believe to be wrong, we have a responsibility to convey our opinion to him or her. Failure to do so comes from either of two rationalizations: (1) I am not really his or her friend, or (2) I really do not believe the behavior is wrong. In either case, we are guilty of insincerity.

Commitment: Today I shall examine my own convictions and the sincerity of my friendship and let this determine if I will share my opinions with my friends.

The Proverbs say that there are certain kinds of fools we should NOT try to convince. Jesus referenced this concept when He said, 'Do not cast your pearls before swine.'

But, when our friends are doing something we sincerely believe to be wrong, at that exact point we are obligated to a.) pray for them sincerely, and b.) speak a word of truth and counsel.

Good words by Rabbi Twerski. Visit his column here, and buy the 'Growing' book here.

These words are appropriate in election season. Politics is something we don't 'talk about' normally. And sometimes people cannot hear whenever we talk about such things. But, underlying issues perhaps can be addressed. Baseline principles can be highlighted.

Perhaps some good can be done.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Fears of Beslan revenge

Fears of Revenge at End of 40 Days

By Yana Voitova and Nabi Abdullaev
Special to The Moscow Times

Ivan Sekretarev / AP

Alona Pliyeva, 16, right, and her classmates weeping as they look at a child's shoes on the windowsill of School No. 1 in Beslan on Tuesday, the last of 40 days of mourning.

BESLAN, North Ossetia -- As 40 days of mourning end Wednesday, relatives of the hundreds of people killed in the Beslan school massacre are debating whether to seek revenge -- and reopen a festering dispute between the Ossetians and the Ingush.

"There is a lot of aggression and anger in people now. War has come to us, and we need to defend ourselves," Taimuraz Gassiyev, a Beslan resident who carried wounded and maimed children away from the school, said Monday.

After a pause, he added, "But we need to get around this without war."

Read the article here.

It's hard to blame the sentiment of the parents and families of the murdered children. But it is a situation that needs prayer and forgiveness and healing. And resolve.

Note the inherent contradiction of this grieving, angry resident: "War has come to us, and we need to defend ourselves..." And, in the next breath: "But we need to get around this without war."

Therein is the essential contradiction of the 'war on terror.' War has been brought to us, and we try to solve it 'without war.'

It is impossible to win the war against jihadism with that contradiction. It brings to mind the victim of gangland crime: 'But I didn't do anything against you!' And that is just the point: When it is our existence alone that stands in the way of the goals of Islamic jihadists [terrorists], either we will exist by force, cease to exist, or choose to live under Shari'a [Islamic law].

Beslan is a place where jihadist terror has reared its ugly face. Please lift up a prayer for Beslan and the families and the region...

And...a prayer for us all. 'War has been brought to us.' How can we 'get around it' without war?

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

A call to psalms

Michael Freund has a simple, yet powerful call to prayer in his article, Call to Psalms. Excerpt here:

It seems as though we have nowhere left to turn, as there is no one in whom we can place our trust.

No one, that is, except for G-d.

It might sound silly, or even naïve. But all of our high-tech know-how and military prowess, our scientific advances and wireless technologies, have not succeeded in extricating Israel from its current mess. Our modern solutions have failed us, so why not turn to the wisdom of yesteryear?
Indeed, throughout history, the Jewish people have always looked to their Father in Heaven as a source of strength and support. During the darkest days of the Exile, the power of prayer was our most potent of weapons. It is time we deploy it once more.

Friends and supporters of Israel should launch an international campaign, a Call to Psalms, which would unite Jews, Christians and others to pray on the country's behalf. Synagogues, churches and other houses of worship should recite selections from King David's Book of Psalms, whose power and beauty remain unequaled despite the passage of thousands of years.

Rabbis and cantors, pastors and priests, should call upon their flock each week to pray for Israel. Collectively, we must storm the Heavens, and raise our voices, in this, the Jewish people's hour of need.

As more congregations join in, the Call to Psalms would culminate with an International Day of Prayer in Jerusalem, one devoted solely to pleading for mercy from Above.

Just imagine the impact it would have if millions of people around the world were to unite simultaneously in prayer. The reverberations could not possibly be ignored. They would be felt from Washington to Tokyo, and beyond.

So many people wonder how they can play a role in changing things. Each of us wants to make a difference, to influence the course of events, yet often we feel powerless to do so.

But that is precisely why prayer is so important, especially in this case, because it empowers every individual, rich or poor, saint or sinner...

Read the rest of it here.

Psalm 46:1-3
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah.

The primacy of spirit in humans

Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski is one of my favorite thinkers.
He challenges his readers to the moral dimension of learning and understanding.

Rabbi Twerski references Numbers 27:16, where Moses appeals to God, as to whom should be the next leader of the People, and God responded by choosing Joshua:
"Take Joshua...the son of Nun, a man in whom there is spirit..."

"Take Joshua as leader, a man in whom there is spirit..."

It is an intriguing statement: God looked for qualities of spirit in choosing the proper leader.
The human being is comprised of a body and a spirit. The body produces all the cravings that stimulate pursuit of self-gratification. The spirit is the force that directs the person away from self-gratification, to be devoted to a higher goal in life. These two components are engaged in a struggle for mastery over the person. To the degree that bodily drives prevail, to that degree the person is self-centered. To the degree that the spirit prevails, to that degree a person can look away from his own needs and be dedicated to his mission.
Madregas HaAdam, 1.58: "Joshua had succeeded in achieving self-mastery, of vanquishing the bodily drives for gratification and making the spirit dominant."

Twerski comments:
Every person is engaged in the life-long struggle between the two opposing forces. Perhaps the extreme elimination of all self-gratification required of the leader is not achievable by everyone. However, let us remember that the physical component of the human being is essentially no different than that of lower forms of life.

''The superiority of man over animal is naught, except for the pure soul'' (Morning service, Nusach Sefard). Our dignity as human beings is directly proportional to the degree that we achieve self-mastery and dominance of the spirit.
This is truly remarkable insight, which affects every aspect of life.

If we are comprised of body and spirit, in the Image of God [Imago Dei], then what does this mean for our personal action? For our definition of humans? For our next day's plans? What is primary, what should take control?

Dr. MLK, Jr. answered this succintly and clearly: 'All reality has spiritual control.'

Scripture puts it this way: "As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the children of God."

Something to think about!

God, help me!