Sunday, April 29, 2012

"Why Did Steve Jobs Die?"

In a newsletter article from last fall, Dr. McDougall exposes the calumny that Steve Job's vegan lifestyle and, in particular, his decision to postpone his surgery arising out of that lifestyle, caused his early death. A video of Dr. McDougall's talk on the subject is presently available on his website.

Until I read the article, I did not realize that the operation was a "Whipple" procedure.  We had a will-contest case in our office, where the decedent underwent that radical surgery.  The issue before the court was whether, during our decedent's hospitalization for pancreatic cancer, he was competent to change his Last Will to favor his brother over his mistress.  The surgeon testified (dressed in his scrubs, the hot dog) that the decedent was too sick to have testamentary capacity.  Our neurologist, on the other hand, examined the charts and said that he certainly did have the capacity (oxygen levels remained well within normal limits at the particular times that the decedent discussed the Will with his brother and the decedent's unhappiness with his mistress over the way she had treated his family members.)  My view is that the surgeon - who had not apparently done a lot of these procedures - botched it up.  It was clear that the immediate cause of our decedent's death was the infection that followed the failure of the wound to heal and close, leaving a sort of fistula.  The surgeon believed that the mistress was our decedent's wife. (He had no wife, and she had lied on the admission papers.) The mistress controlled the treatment regime.  The surgeon apparently felt that if he was vulnerable, then it was from her side and not from the brother's.

Job's surgeons would hardly concede that their surgery was a vain thing, even destructive in many ways.  So we blame the lifestyle; we blame the decedent.  Read the article; view the video.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Friday, April 27, 2012

"Make Each Day a Masterpiece"

Now there's an idea.

Here's a link to another Rick Hamlin column, 9 Tips from Jesus on Prayer.

(Thanks to Tony, one of the lawyers who attends our Friday morning breakfasts.)

Miami's Corporate Run: We Were There

Carol and I were among the 22,640 people running and/or walking the 5K through the streets of Downtown Miami yesterday.  We finished in 41 minutes, 4 minutes better than last year.  (The photo is from the Herald's article this morning.)

Reversing Babel

Stott's reading today addresses "The Pentecost Event" (p. 295 of TTBTTY). His comments include this:

Ever since the early church fathers, commentators have seen the blessing of Pentecost as a deliberate and dramatic reversal of the curse of Babel.  At Babel human languages were confused, and the nations were scattered; in Jerusalem the language barrier was supernaturally overcome as a sign that the nations would now be gathered together in Christ.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Resurrection and Jesus' Brothers

Stott's reading this morning (p. 293 in Through the Bible Through the Year) notes that Jesus' brothers are among those who, with the remaining apostles,"the women[,] and Mary the mother of Jesus," had "all joined together constantly in prayer" during the period between the Ascension and the coming of the Holy Spirit.  (Acts 1:14)  I had never understood what happened to turn the brothers around, as the last time we see them before this point is during Jesus' pre-Calvary ministry.  They were then apparently in opposition to him (Luke 8: 19-21) and did not believe in him (John 7:5).

Stott notes that "they had finally come to faith because of the private resurrection appearance that Jesus had granted to James the Lord's brother (1 Cor. 15:7)."  Here is that reference in context:

5:1 Now I want to make clear for you,   brothers and sisters,  the gospel that I preached to you, that you received and on which you stand, 15:2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message I preached to you – unless you believed in vain. 15:3 For I passed on to you as of first importance   what I also received – that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, 15:4 and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day according to the scriptures, 15:5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 15:6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive,  though some have fallen asleep. 15:7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 15:8 Last of all, as though to one born at the wrong time, he appeared to me also.  [NET Bible; my emphasis]

The following note to 1 Cor. 15:7 is in my NIV Study Bible, as to James:

"Since this James is listed in addition to the apostles, he is not James son of Zebedee or James son of Alphaeus (Mt. 10:2-3).  This is James, the half-brother of Jesus (Mt 13:55), who did not believe in Christ before the resurrection (Jn 7:5) but afterward joined the apostolic band (Ac 1:14) and later became prominent in the Jerusalem church (Ac 15:13).  It is not clear in Scripture when and where this appearance to James occurred. "

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Fish is not so much a Health Food

A least that's my take-away from this article in the Herald.  The writer of the article proposes that buying one's fish from a restaurant or supermarket is safer than eating a fish that one catches in Florida waters.  Do we trust the commercial distribution channels to keep us safe from mercury poisoning?

Monday, April 23, 2012

Economics Trumps Politics

Once again, as more Mexicans are leaving the US for home than leaving home for the US.

We forget that the American Revolution was is about getting government out of the way, not making it "better."

Bill Nelson is Toast

Senator Nelson's idea of winning reelection is to bring down the Vice President and visit the Everglades.

Plainly the poor guy has spent way too much time inside the beltway if he thinks that's going to work.

Oh, and Alcee Hastings was there too.  Good grief!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

"Winter's Bone" a Winner

We watched the indie Winter's Bone last night on Netflix, and recommend it.  Carol likes the movie reviews that Christianity Today publishes, and Winter's Bone was among CT's category of Most Redeeming Films of 2010.  Carol warned me away from the review as we sat down to watch the movie, and I appreciated being able to see it unfold without any idea of where it was going.

Jennifer Lawrence plays the lead, and is terrific.  She is Katniss in Hunger Games. (I'm about to finish the third volume of that trilogy.)  I can see why she was recruited for the role, after seeing Winter's Bone.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

A Depressing Economic Forecast

Texas congressman Louie Gohmert, for whom I have a high regard, was among those representatives who appeared at the Heritage Foundation to express misgivings regarding the [Wisconsin congressman Paul] Ryan plan’s timidity. They’re not wrong on that: The alleged terrorizer of widows and orphans does not propose to balance the budget of the government of the United States until the year 2040. That would be 27 years after Congressman Ryan’s current term of office expires. Who knows what could throw a wrench in those numbers? Suppose Beijing decides to seize Taiwan. The U.S. is obligated to defend it militarily. But U.S. taxpayers would be funding both sides of the war — the home team, via the Pentagon budget, and the Chinese military, through the interest payments on the debt. (We’ll be bankrolling the entire People’s Liberation Army by some point this decade.) A Beijing–Taipei conflict would be, in budget terms, a U.S. civil war relocated to the Straits of Taiwan. Which is why plans for mid-century are of limited value. When the most notorious extreme callous budget-slasher of the age cannot foresee the government living within its means within the next three decades, you begin to appreciate why foreign observers doubt whether there’ll be a 2040, not for anything recognizable as “the United States.” 

Yet it’s widely agreed that Ryan’s plan is about as far as you can push it while retaining minimal political viability.

-Mark Steyn in "The Sun Also Sets" in National Review Online about a month ago.

Doubtful that we would be on both sides of a war with China, as Steyn proposes, tongue in cheek.  War with China itself, however, arising from our becoming crippled with debt, is certainly not out of the question.  Is that the ultimate solution to the debt crisis?  I doubt we would be treated as gently by China as Greece by Europe.  We might certainly be as weak, relatively speaking, at some point.  No one talks any more about our economic strength being a matter of national security.  The discussion seems to be always about funding entitlements.  How completely self-involved we are!  (It reminds me a little of how the unions drove Eastern Air Lines out of business (and their members out of jobs), rather than reduce salary and benefits.)

A Wisconsin Law Prof Looks at Miami Beach

And she has a good eye!  (Thanks for the link, Ann Althouse.)

Zip Multi-Device Charging Station

The Zip Touch and Go.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Resurrection of Our Bodies

Stott’s reading today is entitled “The Resurrection of the Body”  (p. 284). He is exactly where Fr. Brown is in rejecting the idea of resuscitation, citing, as Brown does, 1 Cor. 15:42ff.  Scott also rejects the idea that the hope of resurrection is “merely the survival of the soul,” an idea I heard expressed only yesterday by a long-time churchgoer.  Stott quotes Luke 24:39: “It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.” 

I cannot remember ever an Easter sermon (or any other Sunday morning sermon, for that matter) on the specific subject of Jesus own resurrection body being a hope for each of us.  (Of course, I have heard many Easter sermons on the general idea of the hope of the resurrection.)  I remember sermons about Jesus’ own body that tend in the right direction as to his body.  I don’t remember, however, any firm connection of that idea with the resurrection of our bodies.  (Maybe I just wasn’t listening.)  I do recall funeral services where the right scriptures are read, but with very little comment, if any, on what they really teach about the decedent's body, other than he "is in heaven with Jesus," a happy hope but not very specific.

As to memorable Easter sermons, the one that sticks out in my mind was by the Methodist minister many years ago at the church Carol’s mother attended.   He spoke of his struggle with the idea of Jesus’ “literal” resurrection (or maybe he was thinking resuscitation) and how, only that weekend, had he come to the full realization that it really happened.  As we left that service, I felt that everyone there in that crowded sanctuary had joined together in happy agreement to suspend incredulity, at least for the day.  Now that was memorable.

Stott ends the reading with the following:

To sum up, what we are looking forward to is neither a resuscitation (in which we are raised but not changed) nor a survival (in which we are changed into a ghost but not raised bodily) but a resurrection (in which we are both raised and changed, transfigured and glorified simultaneously).

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Quest for the Historical Jesus

My friend Rob sent me his copy of the Spring 2012 issue of The University of Virginia Magazine.  (Rob, a Dartmouth graduate and a Peace Corps alumnus, received his MBA from UVA.  He is a member of the Sunday School Class.)  Rob wanted me to read the article entitled "Jefferson's Secret Bible".  I did, I enjoyed it.  I recommend the article.

The article describes Jefferson’s “Search for the Historical Jesus.”    That search has been an ongoing project in Western Intellectual History. I first became acquainted with the project during the Spring semester of my freshman year at Duke, when I had the privilege of attending Dr. Barney Jones' New Testament class. 

During the course, Dr. Jones introduced us to Albert Schweitzer’s The Quest of the Historical Jesus. The idea of the quest is to strip away the purported fantasy and myth and get to what Jesus really said and did. That is a valid intellectual pursuit, but it begs the question of whether the sort of God exists who would intervene in history through the person of Jesus. If God did so, then absolutely anything is possible! Even the transformation of human beings. (That’s the miracle I seek for my loved ones and me: such a transformation. I believe that is happening. I see some evidence of it.)

God did not gift Jefferson with the gift of faith, at least not in the form that Jefferson apparently would accept in whole cloth. God obviously gifted him with greatness otherwise, however. It may be heretical to say that we will see Jefferson when the Kingdom is fully established, but I expect that we will. 

(Despite what I wrote about Rev. John Shuck, I expect to see him there too.  There have been more views of that post on Kith and Kin than any other.  I'm not sure why.  Rev. Shuck appears to be squarely within the tradition of Jefferson and Schweitzer, which is pretty good company.)

The Heavens are Telling . . .

the glory of God.

Hubble photo "reveals Tarantula nebula's star-filled web."

Tebow Booed at Yankee Stadium

He's got his work cut out for him.

I Love this Billboard!

Monday, April 16, 2012

"If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to pitied more than all men."

Paul writes this in 1 Corinthians 15:19, part of the larger passage that is the subject of today's reading from Stott on the significance of the resurrection.  This particular sentence struck me, because of my sense that the Christian conversation that I hear these days seems less about the future than the present, less about life after death than life before death.  The central question seems to be "how are we doing," an answer to which the success gospel is ready to supply.

In Paul's day, the Epicurean would pity Christians.  Life should consist of avoiding pain, those philosophers would hold, not being heedless of it, even to the point of seeming to seek it, as Christians were doing.  What a pity that John Stott did not seek the military career his well-connected father held out for him.  What a pity that Mother Theresa got off-track as a teenager or Paul off-track on the way to Damascus.  It makes no sense.

At least no sense without the resurrection.  Why do we seem to talk about the resurrection, then, just at Easter and mainly as it concerns Jesus and not also those for whom he died?

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Leaving PC(USA), Joining ECO

Carol sent the following email to our children, her sister Mary Ann, and Aunt Marlene today after the Congregational Meeting:

Dear loved ones who have been praying for our church,

We had 43 members present and voting at our congregational meeting today after church and after lunch. The question was whether we wanted to be dismissed from the PCUSA to join the Evangelical Covenant Order of Presbyterians. The outcome was 42 to leave, 1 to stay, so we will leave.  We had prayed as a church through this process that we would be unified in our decision, and we were, so we are thankful for that. We also are pleased with the outcome, but saddened that we have come to this place. We have been blessed beyond measure in our own lives and in our family as members of FPCMS. Many of those blessings have come through our local church body, which we will still be a part of. Other blessings have come in large part from Presbyterians for Renewal and the Christian Life Conference, which are associated with the PCUSA. In addition, the 3 representatives from Presbytery who have walked with us through this process and have been present at all our Congregational meetings on the subject have been lovely and gracious at all times. So we're sad to break from that history.

We're hopeful, though, that God hasn't given up on our struggling little body of believers, and that He still has good plans for us. Please pray for us as we move toward the official beak with the PCUSA in mid-June and beyond that to the beginnings of a new denomination. We would pray that this change will offer us new opportunities and a new vision to follow Christ in his plans and mission for our church.

John 6.1-15: Notes on "Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand"

My notes for our Sunday School Class this morning are here.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Resurrected Body of Christ and the Truth of It

The resurrected and transformed body of Jesus was the first bit of the material universe to be redeemed, and it is a pledge that the whole will one day be transformed.

*   *   *

The death and resurrection of Christ (central, historical, physical, biblical, and theological truths) constitute the gospel.  If this foundation is lost, the whole superstructure will collapse.

-John Stott: from today's reading in Through the Bible Through the Year, page 278

Head Injury Suits Against the NFL

Alex Karras, a former pro football player-turned-actor who now has dementia, has joined other ex-players in suing the NFL over concussion-related injuries.  The former Detroit Lions defensive lineman, who was named to four Pro Bowls during a 12-year NFL career that ended in 1970, joined 69 other ex-players in a suit filed in U.S. District Court Thursday, CNN reported. It's the 12th such suit brought against the league involving about 700 players, the network said.

-from a UPI article published yesterday.

Here's a website marketing legal services to NFL players with head injuries who wish to join or initiate such lawsuits.

A number of books have been published about the medical risks in sports.  Ones that include a discussion of  risks to children include, for example
Play Hard, Die Young: Football Dementia, Depression and Death

Friday, April 13, 2012

John Stott on the Idea of a "Two-Track" Gospel

The gospel is to be made known "to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem" (vs. 47 [of Luke 24:44-49]).  That is, in opening the door of faith to the Gentiles, God did not close it on the Jews.  We must firmly reject the extraordinary teaching of a "two-track" gospel, which maintains that there is no need for Jews to believe in Jesus because they already have their own covenant with Abraham.  But everybody needs to come to Christ!

-John Stott in Through the Bible Through the Year, today's reading a page 277.

Think of the result if both Palestinians and Israelis were to come to Christ.

Carter Leaves the Southern Baptists

Two questions and some comments:

1.  This is a bad thing for the SBs?

2.  If the SB's views on women in formal leadership are so important, what in the world took him so long?

Having been raised as a Southern Baptist and considering that upbringing to be one of God's major blessings in my life, I recall no lack of leadership influence among the strong women in our church community.  The question is formal leadership versus informal leadership, and what that does to a voluntary organization when the rules of the organization require that men only occupy the formal offices.  Given what I know about how men can act in voluntary organizations when they compete with strong and intelligent women, the idea of reserving official leadership to men is not a bad strategy.

On the other hand, I don't want to stand in the way of God calling anyone into ministry, whether male or female.  I concede that there is scripture that supports the idea that there are roles into which  God calls that would discriminate between men and women.   (Only women have babies, if you want a metaphor.)  There is, however, also scripture that shows God calling special women into plainly male roles, especially when the male leadership fails in its calling - Deborah is my favorite example.  So, then, I can support the openness to women of PCUSA (and ECO) to official leadership positions.  I just think that women usually have better things to do than serve on Session or Diaconate.  (As a matter of fact, I often think I have better things to do - but I think that's the male in me speaking.)

Alan Dershowitz: "She's Overcharged"

And why.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Spain's Impending Financial Collapse Confirmed on Miami Sidewalks

My friends in local real estate tell me that the Spanish have come and are coming, buoying up our real estate market, transforming Miami-Dade culture once again.  Glenn links to this article in Forbes about the collapse on its way in beautiful EspaƱa.  The people who can are getting out.  What a pity.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Faithless Form Criticism

In a column, entitled “Unbelief Unveiled,” in the March/April 2012 issue of The Layman, a publication of the Presbyterian Lay Committee,  Parker T. Williamson, Editor Emeritus, quotes from sermons by John A. Shuck, a PCUSA minister, the pastor of FPC Elizabethton, TN, and member of the Holston Presbytery:

I preach on the Bible about as much as any other preacher. I don’t preach on it as if it were a book to believe. I don’t find most of it particularly believable, at least in the way that we were supposed to believe it … When I suggest that Jesus in the Gospel of John is a more of a fictional character than an historical figure, and that John is using his creative imagination in creating this story [John’s account of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead], it isn’t that I am saying throw out the gospel.

John’s gospel is about Jesus. But the Jesus depicted here is not the historical person. John’s Jesus is an imaginative construction.  The events and the dialogue we just read from chapter 10 are probably not events and dialogue that took place, that someone (i.e. The author we call John) wrote down, but rather, a scene created by some author we call John.

The Bible is not always what it seems. It was created by numerous human authors. Every one of them had an agenda. They created these stories and these images for a variety of reasons.  Reasons that we may never know.

My views on the authorship of the Gospel of John have been challenged and shaped recently by the two-volume work by Raymond E. Brown, S.S., on that gospel in the Anchor Yale Bible Series.   The late Fr. Brown is considered a leading authority on the Gospel of John and 1, 2, and 3 John.   He holds that archaeological discoveries after WW II require a positive reassessment of those writings that, until then, had been significantly discounted by form criticism.  It does not appear to me that Rev. Shuck got the message. 

In the introduction to the work on the gospel, Fr. Brown sets out the theory of a “redactor” whose composition of John’s Gospel progressed through five stages.   I think the following excerpt from his conclusion gives one a sense of the dignified and respectful way that Fr. Brown approaches the subject, and that alone is a sharp contrast to the tone of Rev. Shuck’s remarks.  Furthermore, Fr. Brown describes his view as a theory advanced by a scholar, not as an opinion to be featured from a pulpit by a preacher (pp. xxxviii-xxxix).

To sum up, although we have spelled out this theory of the five stages of the composition of the Gospel at some length, we would stress that in its basic outlines the theory is not really complicated and fits in rather plausibly with what is thought about the composition of the other Gospels.  A distinctive figure in the primitive Church preached and taught about Jesus, using the raw material of a tradition of Jesus’ works and words, but shaping this material to a particular theological cast and expression.  Eventually he gathered the substance of his preaching and teaching into a Gospel, following the traditional pattern of baptism, the ministry, and the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus.  Since he continued to preach and teach after the edition of the Gospel, he subsequently made a second edition of his Gospel, adding more material and adapting the Gospel to answer new problems.  After his death a disciple made a final redaction of the Gospel, incorporating other material that the evangelist had preached and taught, and even some of the material of the evangelist’s co-workers.  A theory of two editions and a final redaction by a disciple would not be extraordinary among the theories of the composition of biblical books – a very similar theory is proposed for the Book of Jeremiah.

*   *   *

We make no pretense to facile answers to such questions.

There is nothing here in Fr. Brown’s commentary about a “fictional” Jesus, about “creative imagination” or an “imaginative construction.”  Why would John Shuck put the matter in the way that he does, except that he simply does not believe the truth of the Gospel.  And if he does not believe the truth of it, why would he mount a Presbyterian pulpit and “preach” on the subject?

Last Sunday morning before church, I read Fr. Brown’s discussion of the Resurrection.  In certain “general remarks” on that subject, he writes in part (p. 967):

The fact that there is a development within the formulae and also from formulae to narratives [concerning the Resurrection] raises an obvious question about the historicity of the narratives.  In discussing the narratives in general and later in discussing the Johannine narratives in particular, we shall be concerned with isolating the earliest material in these narratives; but we do not think it our task in a commentary to go further and to speculate about whether or not bodily resurrection is possible.  Objections to the possibility of resurrection take their origins in philosophy and science and not in exegesis, which is our task.  (We note, however, that such objections have their force against a crassly physical understanding of the resurrection whereby it is looked on as resuscitation; they are less forceful against the type of sophisticated understanding enunciated by Paul in I Cor xv 42 ff: “It is sown a physical body; it is raised a spiritual body.”)  There can be no question that the evangelists themselves thought that Jesus’ body did not remain in the grave but was raised to glory.  Yet, even if by comparative exegesis we trace this idea back to the earliest days, we cannot prove that this Christian understanding corresponded to what really happened.  That is a matter of faith [bold mine].

 That is the problem with Rev. Shuck’s approach, the source of his hubris and skepticism, and what appears to be his complete lack of embarrassment.  There is no faith there.

American Crocodiles in Miami-Dade

As to the problem, the government's response appears to be along the following lines, according to the Herald.

The recovery of crocs prompted the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to remove their “endangered’’ status in 2007 but they remain a “threatened” and federally protected species that scientists say still needs to expand back into historic range to assure long-term survival. So unlike when an alligator invades suburbia, state trappers typically won’t move a crocodile until a third nuisance call.

“That’s not a hard-and-fast rule,’’ said [Lindsey] Hord[, a bilogist in charge of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's nuisance reptile program], "Realistically,  public safety is our absolute first priority but we have to recognize the need of the species.’’

While each case is different, he said, the message is to learn to safely live with them.

I'm so relieved.

"Last Man Standing"

Parade Magazine published this piece by A. J. Jacobs and his introduction to standing up while he works. I've been using a stand up desk for quite awhile now, and don't have a sit-down desk in my office. 

I do, however, have a small, round conference table with four chairs, so when people come in, I may offer them a place to sit (or not!).

I also have a small sofa, the main purpose of which is to give me a place to grab a short nap in the afternoon.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Petman, DARPA, Lego

Doing a push-up, he looks a little like me at the CrossFit box.  (I love the fan on the right side of the video.)

Where this technology may be going is described at the KurzweilAI website.  The Kurzweil description refers to "DARPA."  What is DARPA? Sean knows, but I really didn't, although I might have heard of it at some point.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) was established in 1958 to prevent strategic surprise from negatively impacting U.S. national security and create strategic surprise for U.S. adversaries by maintaining the technological superiority of the U.S. military.

To fulfill its mission, the Agency relies on diverse performers to apply multi-disciplinary approaches to both advance knowledge through basic research and create innovative technologies that address current practical problems through applied research.  DARPA’s scientific investigations span the gamut from laboratory efforts to the creation of full-scale technology demonstrations in the fields of biology, medicine, computer science, chemistry, physics, engineering, mathematics, material sciences, social sciences, neurosciences and more.  

As the DoD’s primary innovation engine, DARPA undertakes projects that are finite in duration but that create lasting revolutionary change.

-from the DARPA website.

Does DARPA know about the NXT 2.0?  That's really what I want to  know.

The Water Table is Too High in Miami Springs for This Approach. But I'm not ruling it out until Macon's next visit.

How It Works: Underground Robot Library | Popular Science

Thanks, Sean, for the link from your facebook post.

"How Imagination Works"

Dave Davies of Fresh Air interviews Jonah Lehrer, following the recent publication of Lehrer's new book, How Imagination Works.  Lehrer reports on studies of the brain that have surprising results.

One study involved a group of people who were purposefully saddened by viewing a film about cancer and death.  They were then put to work on tasks related to creativity, and did a much better job than the control group who did not see the film.

Coming out of Holy Week, it calls to mind the theme of suffering-redemption-resurrection.

UPDATE: Santorum Not Staying In

He announced today that he is stopping his campaign.  The WSJ credits him and his campaign with making Romney a better candidate, suggesting that if Romney wins in November, Santorum deserves some of the credit.

Monday, April 09, 2012

Housing as an "Investment"

In recent years there have been long periods of price trends in [the housing] market, and researchers have repeatedly demonstrated inefficiencies.  This suggests a market driven by positive feedback ["momentum"], resulting in price trending, high volatility, and inherent instability.  And, contrary to what many have argued, it is not likely the best choice as a central driving force behind our economic welfare.  We would do well to reduce our reliance on housing as an economic engine.  For the same reasons, it probably does not make sense to view housing as an investment that dominates most household portfolios.

-from Liang, Shelly X. PhD, Research Fellow, in "Momentum Amplifies Swings in Housing," AIER Economic Bulletin, Vol. LII, April 2012.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

"I have seen the Lord!'

It is a marvelous providence of God that the first person to whom the risen Lord revealed himself was a woman and that a woman was also the first person he commissioned to proclaim the gospel of the resurrection to others.

-John Stott, commenting on John 20:10-18, in this morning's reading from TTBTTY, page 272.

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Tebow at Celebration Church for Easter

In Georgetown, TX, close in to Austin.

Portents of War?

For the last week or so, I've seen Air Force interceptors flying across our Miami Springs sky.  Some of the flights appear to be toward the airport runways to the south, as if they are making practice approaches.  These flights are very unusual.

If the US is contemplating some sort of military action against Iran or acting in direct support of an Israeli attack, then part of our contingency planning would be to protect our flank toward the Cuba-Venezuela Axis.  Or it seems to me it would.  These flights may have something to do with that planning.

Friday, April 06, 2012

"It is finished!"

The Greek verb (tetelestai) is in the perfect tense, indicating an achievement with lasting results.  It might be rendered, "It has been and remains forever accomplished." For Christ has made what the Letter to the Hebrews calls "one single sacrifice for sins" (Heb. 10:12 NJB) and what Cranmer in the Book of Common Prayer called "a full, perfect and sufficient sacrifice, oblation and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world."  In consequence, because Christ has finished the work of sin bearing, there is nothing left for us to do, or even to contribute.

-John Stott in Through the Bible Through the Year, p. 261

"The Cross of Christ . . . is God's only self-justification in such a world as ours."

P. T. Forsyth, as quoted in Stott, Through the Bible Through the Year, p. 269.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Obesity More Costly then Smoking

Objective: To provide the simultaneous 7-year estimates of incremental costs of smoking and obesity among employees and dependents in a large health care system.
Methods: We used a retrospective cohort aged 18 years or older with continuous enrollment during the study period. Longitudinal multivariate cost analyses were performed using generalized estimating equations with demographic adjustments.

Results: The annual incremental mean costs of smoking by age group ranged from $1274 to $1401. The incremental costs of morbid obesity II by age group ranged from $5467 to $5530. These incremental costs drop substantially when comorbidities are included.

Conclusions: Obesity and smoking have large long-term impacts on health care costs of working-age adults. Controlling comorbidities impacted incremental costs of obesity but may lead to underestimation of the true incremental costs because obesity is a risk factor for developing chronic conditions.

-the Abstract from the article in the recent Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine entitled The Effects of Incremental Costs of Smoking and Obesity on Health Care Costs Among Adults: A 7-Year Longitudinal Study

Note that the conclusion includes a warning that the incremental costs of obesity may be underestimated "because obesity is a risk factor for developing chronic conditions."  We know that among those conditions is Type 2 Diabetes.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Sufferable Suffering

What makes suffering insufferable is not so much the pain involved as the feeling that God doesn't care.  We picture him lounging in a celestial armchair, indifferent to the sufferings of the world.  It is this slanderous caricature of God that the cross smashes to smithereens.  We are to see him not on a comfortable chair but on a cross.  For the God who allows us to suffer once suffered himself in Jesus Christ, and he continues to suffer with us today.  There is still a question mark against human suffering, but over that mark we boldly stamp another mark- the cross.

-Stott, in today's reading at page 267, Through the Bible Through the Years.  The primary scripture reference is Romans 5:8:  "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."

Macon's Personal Library Series

I really like Macon's "bookshelfporn" series over on Unrelated (as I do the rest of the blog).

This post shows a personal library straight out of my dreams.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Reform in Slavery

Reform in Slavery:  Charles C. Jones, Midway Church and the Association for the Religious Instruction of the Negroes in Liberty County Georgia, 1831 - 1847.

My Senior Honors Thesis, Duke University, May 16, 1968.  The original is here.

Suffering in the American Christian Middle Class

To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.  (1 Peter 2:21)

In this passage (yesterday’s text in Through the Bible Through the Years, page 265), Peter writes of submission to governmental authorities and to one’s master (as in master-servant), even where, especially where, those in authority are acting unjustly.  This is easy for me to picture for those in the early church, where Nero reigned in Rome and many Christians were slaves.  What about us in suburbia?

There certainly are visible circumstances of suffering, such as illness and unemployment that we contend with.  We certainly don’t look at those things as a “calling,” however.   A calling is something one embraces.  To one in the American middle class, suffering does not seem very often like something to take up, but something to avoid, to deal with quickly and to fix, if at possible.  We often have the means to defeat suffering – after all, this is America.

Yet Jesus had the means to defeat suffering as well.  Here we are called to follow in his steps.  Stott points that out the “Greek word for example here is unique in the New Testament.  It denotes a teacher’s copybook on which children trace their letters when learning to write.”  This doesn’t sound like “health and wealth” to me.  Could a call to suffering be part of the Christian bargain?  If so, is that call to all of Jesus’ followers?  Or is it exceptional, as the one made to Mother Theresa?

 As a Christian, I pray against the suffering of my friends and loved-ones.  “Take that cup away from them."  I make that prayer usually without any thought that the suffering may be related somehow to God’s calling.  Should I be more careful about how I pray about the suffering of others and of myself?  I will occasionally concede to God that his will should be done in the lives of those whom I know are suffering, but is that just pious window dressing?  It’s really not what I want in that case, God's will.  I want my will to be done.

Dear Lord, if this suffering of our loved one is related to your calling, then give my loved one the strength to embrace it, even if it is leading to a sort of Calvary.  Especially in myself, Lord, help me to understand that what I don’t like, what I simply can’t stand, what is standing in my way, what is hurting me, may be, after all, part of your purpose and calling in my life.  Thank you for your Holy Spirit, and may he come.  Amen.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Jesus and Moses: John 5: 39 - 47

My Sunday school notes from our lesson yesterday are here.


Wright, N.T., John for Everyone Part One

Brown, Raymond E., The Gospel According to John I - XII

The Message of the Cross

1:18 For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 1:19 For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and I will thwart the cleverness of the intelligent.”  1:20 Where is the wise man? Where is the expert in the Mosaic law? 22  Where is the debater of this age? Has God not made the wisdom of the world foolish? 1:21 For since in the wisdom of God the world by its wisdom did not know God, God was pleased to save those who believe by the foolishness of preaching. 1:22 For Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks ask for wisdom, 1:23 but we preach about a crucified Christ,  a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles. 1:24 But to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. 1:25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom,  and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

-1 Corintheans 1:17-25 (NET Bible) 

[It is most striking] that Jesus made deliberate provision for how he wished to be remembered.  He instructed his disciples to take, break, and eat bread in memory of his body to be broken for them, and to take, pour out, and drink wine in memory of his blood to be shed for them.  Death spoke from both elements.  No symbolism could be more self-evident.  How did he want to be remembered? Not for his example or his teaching, not for his words or works, not even for his living body or flowing blood, but for his body given and blood shed in death.

-Stott in Through the Bible Through the Years, page 264.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Here's My Theory on the Rise of Allergies. It won't surprise you.

"Allergic diseases have reached pandemic levels," begins David Artis's new paper in Nature Medicine. Artis goes on to say that, while everyone knows allergies are caused by a combination of factors involving both nature and nurture, that knowledge doesn't help us identify what is culpable—it is not at all clear exactly what is involved, or how the relevant players promote allergic responses.

There is some evidence that one of the causes lies within our guts. Epidemiological studies have linked changes in the species present in commensal bacteria—the trillions of microorganisms that reside in our colon—to the development of allergic diseases. (Typically, somewhere between 1,000 and 15,000 different bacterial species inhabit our guts.) And immunologists know that signaling molecules produced by some immune cells mediate allergic inflammation. 

Animal studies have provided the link between these two, showing that commensal bacteria promote allergic inflammation. But these researchers wanted to know more about how.

-from a post at ArsTechnica, to which Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit links.

My theory is that the high proportion of animal-based foods that we eat is a very significant contributor.  Compare the link at my "Pink Slime" post, which states that the meat "leavings" are handled by gut bacteria largely and not by digestion in the stomach.  Just connecting some dots here, and it may not mean anything.

Stage 2 Diabetes and Bariatric Surgery

Two small headline-generating studies published in the New England Journal of Medicine on March 26, 2012 found that, “In obese patients with uncontrolled type 2 diabetes, 12 months of medical therapy plus bariatric (weight loss) surgery achieved glycemic (blood sugar) control in significantly more patients than medical therapy alone.” And “In severely obese patients with type 2 diabetes, bariatric surgery resulted in better glucose control than did medical therapy.”

Comments: These two studies confirmed the obvious: Major surgery, designed to damage the functional capacity of a person’s stomach and intestines, results in sufficient malnourishment to cause the patient to lose large amounts of weight. With weight loss, type 2 diabetes is almost always cured. These findings will be viewed by patients and doctors alike as legitimate medical therapies, and will be paid for by your insurance companies, your employers, and your tax dollars. The suffering and side effects of these surgeries are often incapacitating and permanent.

What kind of society do we live in where we are purposefully harming a patients’ body in order to cure them of their gluttony, without first offering them an opportunity to learn the cause of their obesity and to then make simple dietary corrections?

-from Dr. McDougall's most recent newsletter.