Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Satan Got In Our Way

This Sunday's lesson addresses 1 Thessalonians 2.17-20.

In this passage of this letter to the believers at Thessalonica, Paul writes from Corinth that he wanted to return to them "again and again – but Satan stopped us." (NIV 1984)

What is this about Satan? And what about God's sovereignty?  Juicy problems.

N. T. Wright is not so sure about a being named Satan. His translation of the problem passage is "but the satan got in our way." Note that Wright does not capitalize "satan."

Here is what he writes in pertinent part in his essay on this passage:

Paul doesn't always mention 'the satan', but when he does he seems to be aware that behind at least some of the ordinary frustrations and thwarted plans that are common to the human race we may discern a darker and more malevolent force at work. This force – and it may be going too far to see it as 'personal' – embodies itself from time to time in human beings and organizations that block God's purpose or hold it up for awhile.

-Wright, N. T., Paul for Everyone – Galatians and Thessalonians (Westminster John Knox Press 2004) at p. 105.

 John Stott takes a little more time with this passage in his short "exposition" of Thessalonians.  (He doesn't want to elevate his book to the status of "commentary"), The Message of 1 & 2 Thessalonians.

His translation is the NIV 1984, "But Satan stopped us."  Stott does not stop to consider the question of whether there is a "personal" Satan, that is a being, a sort of person, named Satan.  Instead, Stott addresses the question of whether this being at this time and place frustrates God's will:

 [W]e observe that the apostle blames the devil for the failure of his attempts to return. Satan 'thwarted us' (REB) or 'prevented us' (JBP, JB), he says, using a verb (enkopto, to cut into) which could be applied either to 'breaking up a road to render it impassable' or to an athlete 'cutting in' during a race. The more important question is why Paul attributed this blockage to Satan, while attributing others to God.  One answer could be that God gave Paul spiritual discernment to distinguish between providential and demonic happenings.  Another is that the attribution could be made only with the benefit of hindsight. 'It was probably evident – in retrospect, if not immediately – that the one check worked out for the advancement of the gospel and the other for its hindrance.'. A third and more theological perspective is to say that 'both statements are true.  Although Satan does his part, God still retains supreme authority . . . '. At all events, Paul's purpose is to affirm that his inability to return to them [the believers in Thessalonica] was not due to any indifference on his part, but rather to the malign influence of the devil.  [footnotes omitted]

On the question of God's providence, N. T. Wright does have this important thing to say:

Underneath the opposition of 'the satan' we may sometimes discern the strange providence of God.  This does not rob the 'satanic' opposition of danger or threat, but reminds us that God remains sovereign even over present dark frustrations. 

-Wright at p. 106.

Neuroplasticity

"Neuroplasticity is one of science's most startling discoveries of the past thirty years.
We used to think brain development was a one-way street: you were born with a thousand trillion neural connections, give or take, and what followed was mostly a lifetime of pruning, according to the rules of use it or lose it.  We now know that the brain can retrofit itself, growing new neural connections(and pumping up existing ones) upon exposure to novel circumstances.  That's what adaptation is all about.
True enough, it works best if you are young."
-from Grierson, Bruce, What Makes Olga Run? The Mystery of the 90-Something Track Star and What She Can Teach Us About Living Longer, Happier Lives. (Henry Holt 2014) at p. 48.

Of course, Olga Kotelko, the subject of Grierson's book is not young, but the point he makes is that neuroplasticity is working even into one's 90s  - at least into Olga's 90s - in a marvelous way.  And I turned only 68 yesterday.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

"Slowly Slowly Catchy Monkey"

It was only after I was well into adulthood that I heard this saying.  It came from a client of the generation ahead of me, and we must have been talking about getting things done.  I have long forgotten the details of the conversation, other than the saying itself and the click of the light bulb turning on in my brain.

Here is blog post that discusses this adage in a helpful way.

The matter of not rushing things has been the subject of previous posts of mine recently (here and here) as I have been reading from the Adages of Erasmus.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Target in a Confused (If Not Deceptive) Manner Addresses Firearms in its Stores

The Target CEO recently made the news by "addressing" the matter of its customers carrying firearms in Target stores.  The pertinent post on Target's blog is here.  The text of that post is as follows:

[The post begins with an editorial introduction.] Every day at Target, in everything we do, we ask ourselves what is right for our guests? We make all of our decisions with that question in mind. Questions have circulated in recent weeks around Target’s policy on the “open carry” of firearms in its stores. Today, interim CEO, John Mulligan, shared the following note with our Target team members. We wanted you to hear this update from us, too.

[Then we have Mulligan's statement.]  The leadership team has been weighing a complex issue, and I want to be sure everyone understands our thoughts and ultimate decision.

As you’ve likely seen in the media, there has been a debate about whether guests in communities that permit “open carry” should be allowed to bring firearms into Target stores. Our approach has always been to follow local laws, and of course, we will continue to do so. But starting today we will also respectfully request that guests not bring firearms to Target – even in communities where it is permitted by law.

We’ve listened carefully to the nuances of this debate and respect the protected rights of everyone involved. In return, we are asking for help in fulfilling our goal to create an atmosphere that is safe and inviting for our guests and team members.

This is a complicated issue, but it boils down to a simple belief: Bringing firearms to Target creates an environment that is at odds with the family-friendly shopping and work experience we strive to create.

Is Mulligan addressing "open-carry" alone or do his remarks include licensed concealed carry?  I am uncomfortable with open-carry practices, but I affirm the right to concealed carry.  I think the pressure for open carry is coming from fringe elements in the right-to-bear-arms population, although obviously a powerful fringe-element.  In my view, open carry is provocative and unnecessary.

Mulligan's statement, however, does not clearly distinguish open-carry and concealed-carry practices.  Is he using the general discomfort with open-carry as a means to taint the practice of concealed-carry?  I think he probably is.  As you read many of the news reports on Mulligan's statement, the distinction between open-carry and concealed-carry is difficult, if not impossible, to see.  I attribute that to a bad-faith attack on all carry forms.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

ich ben ein ugandan

Ugandans love bananas. In fact, many receive 30 percent of their daily caloric intake from them, eating three to 11 bananas daily, or roughly 500 to 800 pounds annually. The consumption numbers apply roughly to Ugandan's neighbors, as well, though to a lesser extent.

-from " 'Super-bananas' Enter U.S.Market Trials," posted July 1 on the Scientific American website.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Unintended Consequences of Well-Meaning Public Policy

Why has the labor market contracted so much and why does it remain depressed? Major subsidies and regulations intended to help the poor and unemployed were changed in more than a dozen ways—and although these policies were advertised as employment-expanding, the fact is that they reduced incentives for people to work and for businesses to hire.

-from "A Recovery Stymied by Redistribution" by Casey B. Mulligan, of the University of Chicago, in the WSJ.

To the right is the cover of  his latest book on the topic.

On June 25, Casey Mulligan gave the 2014 Hayek Lecture at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research from which the WSJ article is adapted.  That lecture is available for viewing.

Monday, June 30, 2014

No Crime and No Kids, A "Community" of No Future, But the Fastest Growing Metro Area in the US

Thus, the Villages in Central Florida.  Like something out of a Dystopian Future.  From the article by Toluse Olorunnipa:

“It’s like an adult Disney World,” Conkle, 77, said of The Villages, Florida, whose expansion has come with virtually no crime, traffic, pollution — or children.

The mix has attracted flocks of senior citizens, making The Villages the world’s largest retirement community. Its population of 110,000 has more than quadrupled since 2000, U.S. Census Bureau data show. It rose 5.2 per cent last year, on par with megacities like Lagos, Nigeria, and Dhaka, Bangladesh.

*   *   *

Following an age-restricted model used by developer Del Webb’s Sun City in Arizona, The Villages emerged as growth among the elderly began outpacing all other age groups.

The over-65 population in the U.S. increased 74 per cent between 1970 and 2000, more than twice the rate of those 64 and younger, census figures show.

The comparison between the Villages and "megacities like Lagos, Nigerian, and Dhaka, Bangladesh," drips with irony.


Monday, June 23, 2014

Losing Fouad Ajami

Sad for his family and friends and sad for America and the Middle-East.

The link is to a WSJ article, and I understand that one may not be able to access the article.

Here is an article about Mr. Ajami's passing from Aljazeerah. Worth reading (and accessible) and comparing to the WSJ article.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Sat Cito, Si Sat Bene: It Is Done Soon Enough If It Is Done Well Enough

In Erasmus' essay on Festina Lente, he writes that one of the uses of the adage "Festina Lente," which means "Make Haste Slowly,"

is to point out that precipitate action should be avoided in everything, that hastiness is a fault to which some natures are especially prone, and to them any delay at all seems protracted.  This kind of hurry has companions: error and repentance, according to that line celebrated among the Greeks,

"Hasty action is the cause of many ills"

Such people should have the noble maxim of Cato [sat cito, si sat bene] dinned into their ears, "It is done soon enough if it is done well enough .  .  .  "

Monday, June 16, 2014

On to Thessalonians, 1 and 2

Our Sunday School class, after working through the NT book of Galatians with the help of N.T. Wright, John Stott, and Martin Luther, has commenced 1 Thessalonians.  What a refreshing change!  The Galatians were being pushed off the Gospel by "insiders," the Judaizers, much to Paul's dismay.  The believers at Thessalonica, on the other hand, are standing up against persecution from outsiders, pagans, and experiencing the joy of the Holy Spirit in the bargain, a joy that Paul obviously shares.

Walter especially enjoyed Thessalonica ("Thessaloniki") on the Davidson College "Classics Trip", as I recall.  He must have taken the Via Egnatia to reach that city from Istanbul (then, Byzantium).  There is a great article on Thessaloniki on Wikipedia.

Festina Lente: Make Haste Slowly






“The circle, according to the accepted meaning, signifies eternity, because it has no end.  The anchor, because it delays, slows down and stops the ship, means slowness; the dolphin represents speed, because there is no creature swifter or more agile in its onrush.  So by putting these meanings together you have the phrase Always hasten slowly.

From the 1508 Edition of Erasmus’ Adages, quoted in Phillips, Margaret Mann, Erasmus on His Times – a Shortened Version of “the Adages of Erasmus” (Cambridge University press 1967) at page 6.  Erasmus wrote that festina lente, make haste slowly, was "the favorite maxim of Octavius Caesar, the chosen symbol of Titus Vespasianus in old days, and of Aldus today."

Aldus Manutius, whose name appears on the second image, was a famous Italian printer of the Renaissance, and the image was his logo.  The care with which he printed books made him a favorite of Erasmus.  Erasmus includes several paragraphs of praise for Aldus in his essay on festina lente.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

What are the Humanities? Any Course not a STEM course?

This provocative interview of President Obama raises the issue, in my opinion.  His definition of the Humanities appears to be this:  Anything offered by the Academy other than science, technology, engineering and math, regardless of its rigor or the lack of it.  He implies, further, that we don't need "Humanities" all that much anymore and certainly not now.

We have, after all, the media elites.  They can do the thinking for us.

The word "Humanities," however, derives from the 16th Century Humanists, those artists, scholars, theologians, philosophers, princes, musicians, even merchants, builders, soldiers and sailors, and other people who were readers and mainly lived in or had their economic base in cities.  These are the people who ushered in the Renaissance and the Reformation, all on the back of a revolution in technology, with such things as the printing press, advances in architecture, vessels that could sail around the world, and the precursors of modern weaponry.  Some of these people were competent in Latin, Greek,  Hebrew, and even Aramaic ("Chadlean"), the wisdom of the Ancients.  They had the ability to translate and communicate such wisdom into the vernacular and to apply it all to rapidly changing circumstances.  They were keen observers; they mastered critical thinking and the craft of their respective callings.  Oh, for more of those people now!

To separate true "Humanities" and "STEM" is simply folly.

Friday, June 06, 2014

Yonanas for Father's Day?


Taking frozen bananas to the next level!
Go here.

Dr. Campbell endorses this, so it must work as advertized.

UPDATE:  Received this item from Carol for Father's Day and it works.

I also got a great card:

Front: "Happy Father's Day, etc.!"
 Inside:  "A nap has been taken in your honor."

And so it went on Sunday afternoon after church.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Sowing and Reaping

Sow a thought, and you reap an act;
Sow an act, and you reap a habit;
Sow a habit, and you reap a character;
Sow a character, and you reap a destiny.


This is variously attributed.

John Stott quotes it without attribution in his The Message of Galatians, specifically in the chapter on Galatians 6: 6-10.  In that scripture passage, Paul writes, "Whatever a man sows, that he will also reap," also without attribution.  But the truth of sowing and reaping is often expressed in the Old Testament  (e.g. Gen 8:22), and Paul, being an OT scholar, would of course have been familiar with the saying.  He reminds the Galatians reader of a truth that was so embedded in the culture of Paul's time that even then it was an ancient epigram.  The scripture passage has both specific and general applications of that truth to the churches at Galacia to whom Paul was writing and to the Christian church at large for all time.

The proverb applies to all aspects of life and culture, however.  It seems to me that much of the frustration and disappointment we encounter is because we disregard this principal.  We will attempt to game the system, seeking the harvest of the love of a woman, of money, or of power without earning it, without preparing for it, without being ready, should we appear to harvest it, to keep and husband it.  In the same passage, Paul asks, "Will a man mock God?"  Paul asks whether a man will "fool" God or trick him in respect to the principal of sowing and reaping.  The question, of course, is a rhetorical one and has an easy answer.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Iron Deficiency, Athletes, and Vegans

This topic has become interesting to me recently.  Here are some links.

What Every Vegetarian Needs to  Know about Iron, at the No Meat Athlete website.

Iron in the Vegan Diet, at the Vegetarian Resource Group website.  "Both calcium and tannins (found in tea and coffee) reduce iron absorption. Tea, coffee, and calcium supplements should be used several hours before a meal that is high in iron."

Iron Status and Exercise, at the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition website.

What Every Vegetarian Needs to Know About Iron
What Every Vegetarian Needs to Know About Iron
What Every Vegetarian Needs to Know About Iron
What Every Vegetarian Needs to Know About Iron

Mouser Carries Arduino Related Products

This is serious stuff.