Border Patrol

Living in South Texas, my mother is concerned about issues of border security. As she noted this morning,

 “We’ve got more illegal aliens inside the United States than outside of it.”

Doing the Math

Over at Mere Comments, Dr Anthony Esolen has posited a multi-level puzzle concerning the nature of infinity.

Many of the responding comments are as enlightening as the puzzle itself as they discuss the theological/philosophical nature of mathematics.

The rest of you may already be familiar with it, but I laughed out loud at one joke I found in the comments:

One day Rene Descartes entered a cafe and sat at a table. The waitress approached and said, “Would you like some coffee, Monsieur Descartes?”
“yes, I would” he replied.
“And some cream with that, Monsieur Descartes?”
“Yes, I would.”
“And some sugar, Monsieur Descartes?”
“I think not” he said, and disappeared.

Perhaps I’m just easily amused.

The Judgment Seat of James Dobson

James Dobson is starting to get a bit irritating. I hope he doesn’t use his influence to shatter the evangelical Christian vote and divide the Republican Party in the 2008 Presidential election.

Dobson seems to litmus test all the candidates on a variety of issues. But even if they pass muster on the usual social issues, they have to fit Dobson’s test with regard to public expressions of faith.

Dobson has told U.S. News and World Report that he doesn’t think Fred Thompson is a Christian. Dobson never bothered ask Fred or Fred’s people if Fred was a Christian. But since Dobson didn’t have access to sufficient public statements of Thompson’s faith he just concluded, “I don’t think he’s a Christian.”

Thompson’s people immediately responded that Thompson was indeed a Christian and had been baptised in the Church of Christ. Since the Church of Christ practice “believer baptism” this should be good enough for Dobson. Theoretically, Thompson would have had to have made a public profession of faith, even if it wasn’t in front of the Focus on thr Family founder himself. I’m hoping Dobson isn’t getting to the point of having to pray the “sinner’s prayer” with each candidate individually to be convinced of their born again status.

I am curious what Dobson thinks of Sam Brownback, who was an evangelical but converted to the Roman Catholic Church. Will he urge evangelicals to not vote for Brownback because he has forsaken evangelicalism? And I wonder what he would make of an Orthodox candidate who happened to actually espouse Orthodoxy.

It is time for Dobson to focus on the social issues important to most Christians and leave the salvation test to God.

H/T The Original Mud Puppy

Lies and Paper Tigers

Iran is continuing to reneg on promises to release Leading Seaman Faye Turney, even after the second letter written under duress. It is so full of mistakes even about British government that it could not have been anything other than a dictated piece.  The British Government rightly dismissed it. I don’t often use the terms “British Government” and “rightly” in the same sentence.

The Iranians seem to want to play hardballs. Frankly, if they have the balls to do it, they have entirely misplaced testicular fortitude. If it came to an out and out military confrontation, the Iranians would crumple. Muslim armies may have marched across the world in the 8th century. They may have done it again under Temur in the 13th and 14th. But this is not the Middle Ages.

Let’s look at it this way. The Iranians fought their much smaller neighbour Iraq for almost the entirety of the 1980s and they never came close to winning. These are the same Iraqis that were defeated in 100 hours in the first Gulf War and again in a matter of days in the second Gulf War.

There are two aircraft carriers in the Gulf just waiting for something to do. I can think of little better for them than a little dogfighting (if the Iranians can get their planes into the air) and a little target practice. There’s nothing like a few Iranian fish in a barrel. The Iranians will resort to the same thing as the insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan – hit and run (or hit and suicide bomb) terrorism.

 That’s the only play in their book. They know that they can’t actually stand up against the West and that just pisses them off more. That’s why they kidnap women, shamefully force Muslim attire on them, and dictate nonsenisical letters to them. That’s why they unashamedly lie to British officials and make silly demands.

For all their bluster, that’s all they’ve got. The emperor – or in this case the Ayatollah – has no clothes, not even from his navel to his knees.

Skiving

Truancy figures are up. More kids are skipping school. I could have told them that.

According to The Times,

The figures, which also showed that girls were more likely to be absent than boys, were 18 per cent higher than suggested by previous statistics, which were only compiled by schools once a year, rather than each term, had suggested.  .  . Ministers pointed out that while the overall truancy rate was higher than previous figures suggested, there were 20 per cent fewer persistent truants at the 436 secondaries targeted for intervention.  Jim Knight, the Schools Minister, said that this showed that efforts to tackle truancy were bringing results.

That’s right. They put their money on 436 schools where truancy is now down, but over the whole country (for which DfES is responsible, last time I looked) truancy is up, and this is a positive result.

Other than prosecuting parents, there is little schools can do. Truants cannot be punished by suspension or expulsion. Once again, the only effective methods appear to be reward systems. They have to be bribed into simply doing the right thing. The bigger the bribes (some schools use trips to theme parks) the better the result. There is absolutely no sense of responsibility or duty. No one does what they are supposed to do simply because they are supposed to do it.

And this leads to injustice. Bad kids get rewards for not being criminals. The ever-decreasing pool of good kids get nothing other than the satisfaction of being good.

It’s Just a Building

The Turkish government has renovated an Armenian church building. This is not any church building. It is the Palatine Cathedral of the Holy Cross on Akdamar Island in Lake Van. For a country that denies the genocide of 1.5 million Armenians and has systematically eradicated all evidence of Armenian culture from eastern Turkey, this may seem like a surprise. But the Turks still manage to be two-faced.

The restored 1,100-year-old building is simply a building. It is not opened for worship. Patriarch Mesrob II has asked that worship be allowed there just once a year. The culture minister said the government would consider the request, but since they have refused requests to even put a cross on the roof, I would not anticipate a response from Ankara for a long time. It will take them a long time to come up with a refusal that they imagine will be palatable to the European Union they so desperately want to join.

You would think that if the Turks were going to spend $1.5 million and 18 months to restore the building, they would want it to be used. But this is the Turks we are talking about.

In 1915, the monks of Akdamar Island were slaughtered. The cathedral was looted. By Turks. Now they have restored it as a museum with no mention whatsoever of what happened there. The Turks never mention the genocide. For anyone in Turkey to even suggest there was a genocide is a crime. In other words, it is a crime to not be a holocaust denier. So as far as the Turks are concerned there were no monks. There was nothing in the building to loot. It’s all in the Armenian imagination.

To suggest otherwise is insulting Turkishness. How do the Turks not understand that they make Turkishness look so bad. When they prosecute someone or ignore Armenian history, they are ones who look like fools.

Until they restore Armenian worship and restore the rightful place of Armenian culture, they have done nothing. All this talk in Britain of apologising for the slave trade looks like foolishness compared to the real, continuing, unapologetic, agressive mistreatment of Armenian culture in the aftermath of the genocide.

Compassion Redefined

As much as I hate to disappoint my loyal readership, my posting may be sporadic during the Easter holidays.

The Iranian kidnapping of British sailors continues to dominate the news. As more and more facts come it, it has become more and more indesputable that the British sailors were in Iraqi waters. The Iranians even as much as admitted it by giving their own coordinates, which proved they were in Iraqi waters. When caught out the Iranians changed their tune and came up with another set.

The Iranians knew exactly what they were doing. Every government run by people of sane mind (that’s pretty much every government apart from Iran) needs to demand the release of the hostages. The Iranians have acted in the most despicable, dishourable way.

This includes the way that they have used Leading Seaman Faye Turney. Even though the Qur’an says there shall be no compulsion on matters of religion, Seaman Turney has been photographed wearing a scarf over her head in stark contrast to her military uniform. As least their view of women means that she is likely to get released first.

According to the first apology she penned at gunpoint, “The people are friendly and hospitable, very compassionate and warm. Please don’t worry about me, I am staying strong. Hopefully it won’t be long until I am home to get ready for Molly’s birthday party with a present from the Iranian people,” Isn’t that lovely. How sweet. The people who kidnapped me warm and friendly. They’re compassionately holding me hostage, but when they let me go, they going to give my daughter a present.

The Iranians weren’t letting her go until she wrote another apology urging the British Government to withdraw the troops from Iraq.  Now maybe after two apologies, the compassionate kidnappers will let her go. We’ll have to see.

Paisley Speaks

Ian Paisley has faced what has to be one of the most serious decisions of his life. He has lived his life in opposition to Sinn Fein. He hates Catholics and Catholicism with a passion hard for anyone outside of his theological mindset and political experience to understand.

He stands to lose something incredibly important to him – leadership of the Free Presbyterian Church. Friends who have fought beside him for years and years are now preaching against him.

However, it appears that the unthinkable has happened. Yes, Ian Paisley has spoken to a Catholic. And not just any Papist. Despite repeated pledges to never do so, he has actually spoken to the leader of Sinn Fein, Gerry Adams. He didn’t shake hands. That would have been asking a bit much.

They did come to an agreement. It was, in part, an agreement to get Westminster to hold off on forcing them into an Executive until May 8. But they have started the ball rolling.

I know there have been a number of breakthroughs in the peace process, but I believe that today’s meeting was as significant as the Good Friday Agreement.

Read more of this post

It’s All Greek

After watching an episode Dr Who, Aidan was under the impression that a female robot was called an android. He was referring to the robotic Anne Robinson character in the Ninth Doctor episode “Bad Wolf”, who has the name Anne Droid. That’s when it finally dawned on me that a female robot should not be called an android.

Android comes from the Greek ανδρας which means a male. A female robot should be called a gynoid from the Greek γυνή. The proper unisex or generic term should be anthropoid.

I’m sure there are science fiction writers out there who have gotten it right, and at first I was going to say that clearly Russell T. Davies isn’t one of them. But being the generous soul that I am, I suppose that Guy Noid wouldn’t have fit the story quite as well.

Deadly Anachronism

You may think Communist guerrillas are a thing of the past. Communism is so yesterday. Even the Chinese are becoming capitalist. North Korea and Cuba and just backwater mini-states that no one really cares about, all of Kim Jong Il’s huffing and puffing aside.

Only someone forgot to tell the NPA. The New People’s Army has been fighting in the Philippines for 50 years, trying to establish a Marxist-Leninist-Maoist government. If nothing else, they’re persisitent.

The Sunday Times has a somewhat sympathetic article about the NPA. It includes all the bad things done by President Arroyo and her persecution of leftists. The NPA are a little out of date and a little misunderstood.

My own view of the NPA is a bit different. My family has long had connections with the Philippines and with Christian ministries, something the NPA, being Marx-Leninist, isn’t real positive about.

When I was in the Philippines in 1981, my father was taken deeping into the Bicol region to preach an evangelistic meeting. There were about 500 conversions that night and a local pastor was sent in to start a church. The NPA told the pastor to stop preaching and leave the area. He refused. He was warned two more times. He refused. Then they beheaded him.

So hopefully you’ll forgive me if I’m not as sympathetic toward the NPA.

Bye Bye Bubby

Our rabbit Bubby has gone to a better place. I don’t mean she’s died. Really, she’s gone to a better place. Mrs H had been on at me for months to get rid of her because she really wasn’t getting any attention.

Because of the recent cold weather and snow, her hutch had been moved to the shed and she was cooped up in there all day every day. After four years, the hutch would not have survived another move out into the garden and a new one would have been too expensive.

Mrs H put her on the local Freecycle email list and a nice family from the southern part of the Shire saw it. They had already bought a hutch and all the accoutrements and were waiting for a rabbit to re-home, rather than get one from a pet shop. Bubby was well suited to their requirements.

I brought Bubby into the house and the kids played with her one last time before Mrs H took them out. I don’t think Abby understands that Bubby won’t be here when she gets back. Bubby’s new family arrived and took to her immediately. After discussing all of the things to which she’s become accustomed in terms of food and bedding, Bubby went into the pet carrier and soon she was out the door.

Her new family has promised to email photos so we can see how she is doing. I’m sure she’ll be fine.

Positive Aspects of Britain’s Role in the Slave Trade

Today is the 200th anniversary of the passage of the Slave Trade Act (47 Geo III Sess. 1 c. 36) and there still seems to be controversy over Tony Blair’s refusal to apologise for the slave trade on behalf of the British Government. I was going to comment on one of my blogrolled blogs, but I decided I had enough to say that I should post it here.

It should be noted that the slave trade was never specifically legalised by the Crown in, or out of, Parliament. It’s not like one Government brought it in and another did away with it, but failed to apologise for what the previous Government did. I suppose the only thing for which the Government could apologise is not acting sooner. But has anyone considered that Britain was the second European country to ban the slave trade, after Denmark, which passed legislation that only took effect four years before? The only country to act earlier was the United States, which made provision for legislation in the Constitution, though that legislation actually came into effect eight months after the British act.

And what’s the big deal about this anyway? Slavery itself wasn’t abolished in the British Empire until the appropriately named Slavery Abolition Act in 1833. So will there be another round of apologies (or demands for them) in 2033? Almost certainly.

Britain has nothing for which to apologise. If anything, exactly the opposite. Read more of this post

This Explains a Lot

The downgrading of cannabis from a Class B to Class C drug in 2004 was seen as the Government’s acknowledgement that it’s not really all that bad for you. After all, it’s the drug many MPs have to go to great pains to lie about having never used it in the past.

Now the cause of the Government’s irratic and irrational behaviour may have been discovered. Research now indicates that regular users of the weed are up to six times more likely to develop schizophrenia.

A spokesman for the mental health charity Rethink noted, “We now know that cannabis can be a trigger for mental health problems and smoking it under the age of 18 can double people’s chances of developing psychosis.”

Because the research has been collected over a long period of time, the trend for the future may actually be much worse than indicated. Modern variants of the cannabis plant are at least two to three times stronger than strains which dominated the market 30 years ago.

That means that future Governments and the parliaments from which they are drawn are only going to get more crazy as time goes on.

Unscented

It was once sage advice to stay upwind of an Englishman. These days this is no longer true and there is a healthy market in anti-perspirants. Too healthy, in fact. It seems every time I need one, I have great trouble finding a stick of deodorant.

I don’t like anti-perspirant. It tends to make me break out under my arms. It makes me feel clumpy in the pits. It is invariably made with aluminium (a/k/a aluminum). With the frequency of Alzheimer’s and related conditions in my family, I have an aversion coating myself in atomic number 13.

So I found myself at the 24-hour Tesco in the wee hours scanning the selection of products. Anti-perspirant products. Doesn’t anyone else ever want just plain deodorant? It was only with the help of a shelf-stacker that I found a product suspiciously surrounded by anti-perspirants that appeared to be marketed toward women. It contains some sort of Japanese formula and is clearly labelled “No Aluminium”.

The scent of this product is not the same as Mennen or Old Spice. I was worried a bit this morning when I put it on that I might exude a bit of femininity. And I remember an old commercial that advertised “Sure” as “strong enough for a man, but pH balanced for a woman”, so would this deodorant that was shelved with the feminine range work for me? What is the pH difference between men and women?

Despite my self-consciousness, the Japanese herbs and spices seem to have worked in a subtle fashion.

The Big Roundup

The Government lost over 1,000 foreign ex-prisoners who should have been deported once no longer held at Her Majesty’s pleasure. It was the final bungle that brought down Charles Clarke as Home Secretary. The new man in the job, Dr John Reid, set about to fix the problem and see that it never happens again.

Reid’s solution has been to round up everyone and hope to get the real foreigners in the net. So you deport a few citizens. It’s got to be worth it, right? To where do you deport them? No one seemed to think about that. After all, by law you can’t deport a British citizen.

And if you can’t find all the missing murderers and rapists, find some minor offenders. Don’t worry their sentences wouldn’t ordinarily make them eligible for deportation. Don’t worry that they have lived in the UK since childhood and have connections to no other place on the planet.

Anne Owers, the Chief Inspector of Prisons started looking into this. The picture wasn’t pretty. Ms Owers said: Foreign nationals, suddenly and unexpectedly threatened with deportation, found it impossible to find out what was happening to them and were held in prisons and immigration removal centres far past their sentence expiry dates — even those who were desperate to return home. One stark indicator of their predicament was the increased prevalence of self-harm. Foreign nationals reported feeling suicidal, due to the uncertainty of their position.

The Government must be seen to be doing something, regardless of whether it’s legal and who it hurts.

Dawkins Disintegrated

Richard Dawkins is a clear example of why people should stick to their areas of expertise.

He uses his credentials as a biologist to give the perception that he somehow has credibility as a philosopher. Those who don’t know better – and that sadly includes a huge segment of the British book-buying public – are suckered by his specious arguments against the existence of God.

Dr Alvin Plantinga specialises in Epistemology, Metaphysics, Philosophy of Religion at the University of Notre Dame. In other words, he’s a real philosopher. In the latest edition of Books and Culture, he takes Dawkins apart.

H/T: The Violent Munkee

Withholding Judgment

The BBC programme Question Time held a special edition to mark the fourth anniversary of the Iraq invasion. Even though the audience was weighted toward those who oppose the present military situation, some of whom may have even opposed the war at the time, the other side really made the more cogent arguments.

Some of the more sane comments came from former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. She repeatedly encouraged people to stop arguing about whether Iraq should have been invaded. History is history. She focused on the future and how historians will eventually view those events that are current to us. She perceptively noted, “If the Iraqis are able to institutionalise democracy it will be called a success. It is still too early to call.”

Lunar Atheism

Though she has been the subject or object of various urban legends, the late Madalyn Murray O’Hair did manage to influence affairs beyond the confines of this blue planet. I learned tonight that her litigious nature even reached at far as the Moon.

When Apollo 15 astronauts Dave Scott and Jim Irwin were landing the Falcon on the lunar surface they followed a series of craters that marked the way to the landing site. They had been named Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Index. They couldn’t call the last one John because they were afraid of O’Hair.

After the crew of Apollo 8 had read from Genesis during their Christmas Eve 1968 broadcast in lunar orbit, O’Hair sued NASA. She lost the suit, but she won the day because NASA chiefs were thereafter put off religious names for fear of repeated litigation. I suppose they figured if they only included the Synoptic Gospels, they would be safe. Apparently the plan worked.

Stonewalling

The East Allen County School District digs the hole a bit deeper. I don’t envy being their attorney. The Indianapolis Star reports further developments on the story I mentioned yesterday.

School Board President Stephen Terry told those attending Tuesday night’s meeting they would not be allowed to discuss Sorrell’s suspension, saying the board might in the future hear an appeal if she was fired.“It’s to preserve the rights of the teacher,” Terry said.

He said his decision was based on state law, but when a teachers union representative asked for the specific law, Terry ruled the question out of order.

That’s always a bad sign. I’m betting someone forgot to pay the lawyer to sit in on the meeting.

The Impact of a Good Teacher

I was browsing my hometown newspaper online, which currently features an article about my childhood piano teacher. She is now 88 years old and still teaching. I never knew she had such an eventful life.

Some people don’t know that the piano was my first instrument. I suppose these days some people don’t even know the guitar was my second. I wrote my first songs on the piano and it was my background playing the piano allowed me to teach myself the guitar.

I was never a good pianist. I didn’t practice enough. I didn’t want it enough. I gave it up after three years. Mrs Willman could have made me much better had I been willing.

My parents even bought a huge set of classical music books in the expectation I would be willing. As a major bibliographic investment, these didn’t prove as valuable as the sets of World Books I had received a few years before. I only ever played a handful of pieces other than some in the final couple of volumes, which contained modern music, including my mother’s favourite, “Moon River”.

But I still carried what I did learn with me. So I suppose that in every music incarnation I’ve experienced, as worship leaders, solo artist, band frontman, and in every song that I’ve written, there’s a bit of Mrs Willman.

The Value of Government Promises

HM Government doesn’t just screw over the good people of the British Isles. The Empire may be a thing of the past, but there are still little territories scattered around the globe. I first learned in detail about Ascension Island by reading The Teatime Islands by Ben Fogle.

Ascension is located in the South Atlantic and has a population of 1,100. The residents have no right of abode or right to own property. They were promised these a few years ago. A land register was prepared. People invested in businesses in preparation for tourism. They inaugurated an elected council and developed their own laws, based on those of the UK and St Helena, the island that is in charge of Ascension. Ascension is dependency of St Helena, itself a British oversea territory. The Governor of St Helena sends an Administrator as his representative.

Now the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has changed its mind about the reforms. Yes, the Government has just unilaterally pulled the plug and left everyone in the lurch. But what do they care? They have absolutely nothing to lose. The Ascension Islanders are not UK voters. Even as St Helenians they aren’t UK voters. At least as of 2002 they have British citizenship – the Government did throw them that bone. But it gives them no right to or on Ascension.

So why has the Government done this? As usual, there is the official story and the truth. Lord Triesman, the foreign office minister, told Parliament the reforms were dropped because of the financial liabilities that British taxpayers would face if they had to bail out the islanders. Triesman must not have told Parliament the population of Ascension and the single-digit number of businesses on the Island. I’m sorry, but the excuse is indistinguishable from the guano left by the increasing sea bird population on Ascension.

The real reason? Did I mention that there is a US Air Force base there? Did I mention that it is a stratetic location for long range bombers and was used as such by the RAF in the Falklands War? Does this sound like another Diego Garcia? There’s nothing that can change British colonial policy like a little pressure from Washington.

Just an Opinion

A demonstration of the stark contrast between the US and UK was made evident by a story out of northern Indiana. Amy Sorrell, the teacher responsible of overseeing the student newpaper at Woodland Junior-Senior High School in Woodburn was suspended because of a student-written op/ed piece. A sophomore author suggested other students should be tolerant of students who are gay. She said she was inspired by the struggles of a one of her gay friends at the school.

There are actually two contrasts here. First of all, journalism is not taught to high school students in this country and there are no school-sponsored student-edited newspapers.

However, if there were, it is unimaginable that the staff member would be disciplined for allowing the publication of the article that Principal Ed Yoder considered potentially controversial. This is one case where I would have to agree with the UK model. It is unfortunate that tolerance of a person (as opposed to a behaviour) is controversial.

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The Friendly Face of Islam

I led a trip of Year 11s to two mosques yesterday.

It reaffirmed my contention that whilst there may be a small, though significant, nasty element in Islam, Christians often have more in common with Muslims than with secularist society.

Some of the kids weren’t particularly happy that the imam in one mosque was rather forthright about his views concerning attacks on the family as the backbone of society which he attributed to certain special interest groups promoting alternative models of sexuality.

One of the mosques times visits so that students (and teachers) can observe the Salah prayers. I found this quite interesting and helpful. It is one thing to read about them in a book and to even watch snippets on a video, but for me it is much easier to teach having actually seen it up close and personal.

I also reminded me that it is a shame that so many Christians no longer observe the hours of prayer. After all, Muslims got this idea second-hand – unless you believe that Muhammad rode on the woman-donkey-peacock overnight to Jerusalem and ascended to heaven where he was told about the 5-times-a-day prayer. For non-Muslims, it appears likely that he got the idea either from Jews (of whom there were a significant number in Medina) or Christians (including his first wife’s cousin).

As the guide at the second mosque discussed, the prayers are not bunched up together at one or two times in the day (as later became common amongst Christians in the West – my comment, not his) because it is important for Muslims to pause throughout the day and remember God. As a result, I think that they live in a better awareness that “in Him we live and move and have our being”. They are just missing some key information about Who He is.

Expensive Nostalgia

Checking my Wikipedia watchlist, I found out that Barry McGuire has apparently gotten the rights to To The Bride, his 1975 live album with 2nd Chapter of Acts and a band called David, because he has it available as a CD. Unfortunately, he has priced it at $30.00 (plus $5.00 postage), which is a bit higher than I value nostalgia. I would probably pay half that much.

I have owned the LPs for some time, but I haven’t been able to get them copied onto either cassette or CD. I thought the school had that facility, but I later discovered that it doesn’t. I’ve not come up with any other options. I had originally wanted to use the song “I Walked a Mile” in my Year 9 unit on suffering. The lack of attentiveness to almost anything I have played for them means it really isn’t worth the effort to get it copied.

On a related note, the home page of Barry’s website features a YouTube video that uses “Eve of Destruction” as the background music for a presentation of the “these really must be the last days” view, complete with shots of a Bible open to the Revelation. He also links to another YouTube video which uses “Callin’ Me Home” over landscape shots. It uses the studio version from “Lighten Up” rather than the live version I prefer, but it is still a beautiful song.

Religious Minority

Heaven and Earth, the Sunday morning non-religious show kind of about religion, did a survey of Christians. They found that 22% say they suffer from bias in the community, 25% feel discriminated against in the workplace and 33% complained that media reporting was biased against Christianity.

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Dividing the Word

By tag surfing and otherwise being a part of the WordPress blogging community, I have been places where I would not normally tread in the Orthoblogosphere and my other blogrolled regular reads. It has been an interesting time dabbling in liberal Christian and agnostic and even atheist blogs.

I have seen everything from “the Bible means whatever it means to me” to the more Dawkins-esque, “If I can find an error in the Bible, then the whole house of cards falls apart and God is a figment of the imagination”.

As I was reading James Arlandson’s “Review of Bart D. Ehrman’s Misquoting Jesus” in American Thinker, I thought about one of the advantages of being an Orthodox Christian. As a Protestant, I was well-versed in the ins and outs of Biblical inerrancy. When someone told me C.S. Lewis was an errantist, I picked myself up off the floor, tucked that tidbit away – way away – and moved on.

Lower textual criticism used to be very important to me. (I have never had any time for higher criticism.) Though for the Orthodox the Bible is just as much the Word of God as for other conservative Christians, it doesn’t matter so much whether you are looking at a New Testament translation from the Majority Text or the Alexandrian texts or an Old Testament translation from the Septuagint or the Masoretic text. It certainly isn’t necessary to have the “autographs.”

For the Orthodox, it is what the Bible says and not the exact conjugation or declension employed that is important. This is because the Bible is an expression of the Holy Tradition handed down by the Apostles, not something apart from it. While knowing the grammar is essential to an exegetical understanding of the text, valid exegesis does not exist outside the Tradition of the Church. (Or to put it in theological terms, there is no valid exegesis without eisegesis. I will now pause for a moment for all my Protestant friends to pick themselves up off the floor.)

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Doing My Bit for the Cause

Friday was Comic Relief day, with casual clothes at school and everyone encouraged to wear red. One of my form students put this wig on me and nearly everyone in my form got their camera phones out to snap a photo.

This looks a bit like I did at 16, except for the beard, which I didn’t grow until I was 18.

rednoseday1.jpg

Patrick and the Power of Positive Confession

Today is the feast of the best known Welsh saint, Patrick. St Patrick was captured and taken into slavery by some Irish raiders. As a result, there is now a campaign by Welsh-Irishpersons to get reparations from the Oireachtas. They are awaiting an apology from the Taoiseach. No, wait, I got the story mixed up with something else. . .

Actually, after St Patrick escaped and returned to Wales, he received Holy Orders and returned as a missionary to Ireland. He did the usual missionary bishop stuff, like preaching the Gospel, converting kings, baptising lots o’ people, performing a few miracles – you know the routine. He also did some writing.

Only two authentic written works by St Patrick survive. His Confessio is what evangelicals might call his testimony. He recounts who he is and what God has done in his life.

His Epistola is also called the Address to the Soldiers of Coroticus. These were Roman soldiers who had at one time declared their faith in Christ, but who had turned to raiding and enslaving other Christians. In some ways it has the flavour of a Pauline or early Patristic epistle, in that it has both a specific and general audience. At various points, St Patrick addresses the soldiers, Christians in general, the captives, and God.

The most popular work attributed to St Patrick and consistent with his theology, but most likely 7th or 8th century in origin, is the Lorica. It reminds me of the spiritual warfare prayer we used in the early 1980s. I spent my formative years in a tradition that generally eschews written prayers, but for a while there was a spiritual warfare prayer printed in tract form that was all the rage. Looking back, I’m not sure why it was okay to read that prayer and really mean it from the heart and not others.

Anyhow, as best I recall, the spiritual warfare prayer gave some attention to the armour of God, as described in Ephesians 6. I mention this because “lorica” is Latin for “breastplate”. The Lorica is not actually a prayer, per se, but more of an affirmation, or a declaration, or to use the terminology of my youth, a positive confession. As I read it again, I realised that it is a verbalisation of the sign of the Cross that as Orthodox Christians we make at various times of the day for various reasons including any invocation of the Trinity.

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Keeping Pace

General Pace has been catching lots of grief from the gay rights lobby (and all the PC crowd who are held in their thrall) and now Senator Brownback is feeling the heat for being open about his Catholic faith and its congruity with General Pace’s view that homosexual acts are immoral.

One blogger reprinted the oft-circulated Dr. Laura letter which attempts to invalidate the provisions of Leviticus 18:22 by pretending to seek advice about enforcing other provisions of the Mosaic law, posing the questions instead to General Pace and Senator Brownback. I decided to answer the letter on their behalf.

43

I guess I’ve pretty much reached my mid-40s. I suppose that if you divide the decade into two parts you could say that I’m in my early 40s, but if there’s a mid-40s then I’m in it, if not before, then as of today.

I don’t feel like I’m in my mid-40s. I don’t think of myself as middle-aged – nor does anyone older than me, because the older we get, the older middle age starts.

43 is really a rather non-descript birthday. From 30, the only ones that are really noticed are the decade markers until 60, after which every five years seems to be the point to stop and contemplate. I don’t know when 65 became the pension age. 70 is the completion of the three score and ten ennumerated in Psalm 90 (or 89, in the LXX). Everything after that is gravy, so 75 is the next milestone. Then come 80 and 85, though after you hit 90, each birthday is quite an accomplishment.

So this one is a quiet one. Not that I generally have wild raucous birthdays. When I turned 40 we had a quiet meal in a pub. It will pass on without much fanfare and with my 43rd year complete my 44th will pick right up and keep going. The sand in my hourglass will continue to run out a little faster and the completion of 44 will get here just bit quicker than did 43.