January 15, 2017
I have a new devotional post up at my personal blog on Jesus' words, "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."
Feel free to comment in either location.
January 9, 2017
[To be sung to the tune of Dean Martin's "That's amore."]
Those who have been paying attention to the shenanigans in the upper ranks of the Catholic Church know that there is a bit of a brawl brewing – or being played out in slow motion perhaps – following on Pope Francis’s release of Amoris Laetitia. What’s it all about? And what’s a Catholic to do about it all? This post is mainly to answer questions at least related to the latter – what’s is a Catholic to do in a situation like this. But I will touch on other questions.
First, the bare bones of events:
The Church held a synod on the family, in two parts. First part was in 2014, and it did not go quite the way the Pope wanted.
The second part was in October 2015, where the people the Pope put in charge of running it eventually elicited the required 2/3 majority approval for documents speaking their mind, more or less. These, too, were in some ways short of what the Pope hoped for.
In April 2016, the Pope issued the Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia (hencefore, just “AL”) to the Church and the world based somewhat loosely on what the Synod said.
In preparation for a project I hope to work on in probability theory, I have prepared a partial taxonomy of undesigned coincidences. In the nature of the case, this is not going to be a rigorous taxonomy such as a set of mutually exclusive and jointly exhaustive categories, for two reasons. First, there are fuzzy edges to what we include in the overall category of "undesigned coincidences." Second, sometimes it is somewhat arbitrary whether one includes a coincidence in one category or another, depending (for example) on whether one regards something as an "event" or a "detail," what counts as "the same event," and so forth.
Nonetheless, I think that a classification is useful. For one thing, it's useful for geeky types who have never heard of an undesigned coincidence and aren't satisfied with concrete examples. Some people work better mentally with general descriptions, or at least find them useful in addition to concrete examples.
A classification like this can help someone who has been introduced to the argument with examples only from one category to appreciate other kinds of undesigned coincidences as well.
Another useful thing about classifying undesigned coincidences is that it can draw our attention to what is usually most confirmed by a particular type of coincidence. For epistemological purposes, we want to be thinking about what is confirmed and how much it is confirmed when we use an argument.
January 2, 2017
California has decided to try the famed "Swedish solution" to prostitution--specifically, child prostitution.
The idea of the "Swedish solution" is that if you decriminalize the selling of sex by individuals while retaining criminal penalties for purchasing sex and for trafficking and pimping, and while offering lots of "support services" for those who don't want to be prostitutes, you will magically make prostitution disappear. Really. Google it and you'll see the paeans of praise to the Swedish solution. Color me skeptical about these reports from Sweden, and color me even more skeptical about the probability that decriminalizing children's selling sex will lower the incidence of child prostitution in California. Color me very, very skeptical.
December 30, 2016
In this post I mentioned that Mennonite missionary Timothy Miller has agreed to a plea bargain deal with the federal prosecutors for his having helped Lisa Miller. My thanks to Nancy Flory, a lawyer and writer for The Stream, who obtained the public documents in the plea deal for me. Some salient points:
--The maximum sentence, given what he has pled guilty to, is 5 years and a $250,000 fine. It seems unlikely that he will receive this sentence, though, since the judge is allegedly sympathetic and since Ken Miller received a lesser sentence though he didn't have a plea deal.
--He had to agree formally as part of the plea deal that Isabella is "the daughter of Lisa Miller and Janet Jenkins" and that when Isabella lived here Janet Jenkins "had the parental right to visit" Isabella. One presumes he construes these "agreements" in a purely legal fiction sense: "Was the parent" in the sense that some court treated her as such and "had the right" in the sense that a court said she did. Still, it's grating to see that they worked that in there as one of the "agreed-upon facts" that he had to sign off on.
--The judge has some leeway at sentencing, but it's difficult to get a strong grip on exactly what the minimum sentence is. One part of the plea document says that the guidelines yield a sentencing range for this defendant of 21 to 27 months and a fine of $5000 to $50,000, though "the defendant understands" that he is "subject" to the maximum penalties. In other words, no guarantees.
--A different paragraph seems to be saying that, if Timothy "fully cooperates" (presumably between now and his March 23 sentencing hearing) the government may recommend to the judge a sentence between 12 and 18 months. I don't know whether time served would be included in that. One would like to think so. It is ominously fascinating to wonder what sort of cooperation they might be looking for between now and March, since both Ken Miller and Philip Zodhiates have already been convicted, but it's possible that this type of paragraph is routinely included in such plea agreements.
I've decided not to try to post the entire documents on-line, in order to get this post up more conveniently, but they are public documents, so if a reader wants them, feel free to e-mail me at my gmail address and ask for them.
December 28, 2016
I put up a post yesterday on marriage and contemporary young people at my personal blog. Feel free to comment in either venue.
December 24, 2016
It is a cliché to talk about hope at Christmas, but a couple of weeks ago during Advent, I heard an excellent sermon on the subject and so I thought I’d write our Christmas post about hope, however hackneyed or overdone it gets at this time. For the Christian, it is important to remember that hope is considered one of the supernatural or theological virtues (along with faith and love) contrasted with the natural virtues known by reason and available to all through hard work and habituation (justice, prudence, temperance, fortitude, etc.) Only through God’s grace can we experience true hope. When we begin to order our lives toward heaven and the things of heaven as our ultimate good (as Father, now Bishop Barron, who I was listening to put it, “we begin to gaze our soul toward the transcendent realm”) we start to experience the idea of Christian hope.
December 21, 2016
I'm very excited to announce that Hidden in Plain View: Undesigned Coincidences in the Gospels and Acts is available for pre-order from DeWard Publishing.
This is pre-order only. Actual release date is set for (good Lord willin' and the crik don't rise) March 1, 2017.
There is a free shipping option enabled on all pre-orders of this book, though it is not the default. Be sure to change the shipping at checkout from "priority" to "free shipping."
There were a couple of days during which the book was up for pre-order but free shipping was not yet enabled as an option. If you saw the book advertised on Facebook in the last two days and paid shipping on a pre-order, feel free to request a refund of that shipping payment using the "contact" form on the web site.
It's great to see the book coming closer to being released. I ask my Christian readers to pray that God will use it for his glory.
Via this blog (about which I know very little besides what you see) a partial update on Timo Miller's situation came through on November 30. For some reason I missed it, despite a comment in my own thread (apologies), and just saw it recently. Since then I've been trying to find out a little more still, but since that doesn't seem to be happening, here's what I have:
Someone named Carl (apparently in the Mennonite community) has been attending Timo's various hearings and has posted updates that he knows are going to be made public.
Timo has obtained a plea bargain. He pled guilty to one federal charge for helping Lisa and Isabella, and the other has been dropped. His sentencing hearing is on March 23, and the judge appears sympathetic and has a fair bit of discretion. I've been unable to discover just how much discretion the judge has, partly because I don't know what charge he pled guilty to, so it would be difficult to look up the sentencing guidelines. Could he be sentenced to time served? (If time in the Nicaraguan dungeon is counted, this will be about eight months already by March 23.) I'm guessing his family doesn't expect that, since both the fundraising page and this comment suggest that his wife and children are planning to return to the U.S. and try to find a place to live near the prison where he is sentenced to serve his term. Considering that Kenneth Miller got a sentence of 27 months for helping Lisa and Isabella when he did not have a plea deal, it seems not unreasonable to hope that Timothy Miller's sentence will be less than that.
By the way, a couple of bits of perfidy of the U.S. government in dealing with Timo Miller: First, they went back on their agreement not to prosecute him in consideration of his cooperation back in 2011. Their excuse was that he went back to Nicaragua and didn't return to testify in person in Ken Miller's trial. This was apparently because his wife was having a baby in Nicaragua. He had already provided a videotaped deposition that was used at Ken Miller's trial. Second, they engaged in some kind of shenanigans to get the Nicaraguans to arrest Timo this past summer, even though there is no extradition agreement. Timothy's wife was told by "sources" in Nicaragua that this was done by "someone's" putting out a false claim that he was wanted on child pornography charges!
These guys don't play by the Marquess of Queensberry rules. It makes me feel like the Mennonites should be the ones who have an excuse for refusing to stand for the National Anthem.
But I bet anything they stand anyway.
P.S. Carl's report says the following,
The early part of the day was spent in private discussion among the attorneys and Timo. During that time, Timo had a special opportunity for some very positive personal interaction with the lead prosecutor and expressed his love and goodwill for him and his desire for the well being of his soul.
These men truly live out the injunction of Philippians 2:15, to be "blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world."
December 18, 2016
Just recently I have been re-reading Elizabeth Goudge's The Heart of the Family. This book has been so helpful to me spiritually that I wanted to blog about it, without thereby endorsing it as a literary work for my more literarily stringent readers.
All quotations in what follows are from the hardcover edition by Coward-McCann (1953). The book is available in a reprint edition from Amazon here.
If you dislike any hint of preachiness in literature, you will dislike Goudge generally and this novel in particular. It is one of her most wordy, and occasionally the wordiness mars the dialogue in ways that even I (lenient though I am) cannot fully excuse.
On the other hand, if you are looking for a profound and painful Christian devotional book in the form of a story, this is the book for you. If you read it with attention and sensitivity, it will change you.
December 13, 2016
France already prohibits speech and apparently signs outside of abortion clinics that might exert "moral and psychological pressures" on women seeking abortions. Never mind "keep the government off my body." In France, the government is quite ready to shut the mouths of those who want to exercise moral suasion outside of an abortion clinic. (I didn't know that before reading this article, by the way.)
But now, France wants to expand that anti-persuasion totalitarianism to the interwebs.
December 9, 2016
This interview between Esteemed Husband and Dale Tuggy on the Trinities podcast contains a lot of good stuff. (Yes, I know that Tuggy is not a trinitarian. Yes, I acknowledge the irony and weirdness of having a podcast named "Trinities" hosted by a non-trinitarian. No, that isn't relevant to this post nor to the content of this particular podcast.)
I have to admit up front that I have not yet listened to the entire podcast myself but only to the first twenty minutes of it. It takes me a while to listen all the way through podcasts, for some reason.
But a really interesting issue comes up in those first twenty minutes (indeed, in the first seven minutes) that is worth highlighting in itself.
December 6, 2016
Jehoram, King of Judah (mid-800s B.C.), was the first king in the divided kingdom to follow wholeheartedly after false gods. What do I mean by the divided kingdom? For those of you who aren't Bible geeks, a brief history: after Solomon died, his son Rehoboam refused to lower taxes (!), and this was the immediate cause of a rebellion that had probably been brewing for a long time. A general named Jeroboam took ten of the tribes of Israel under his rule. That came to be known as the Northern Kingdom. Only Judah and Benjamin remained loyal to the descendant of David, and they became known as the Southern Kingdom or the Kingdom of Judah.
After that, until the rule of Jehoram, there was (according to the Bible) a pretty striking distinction between the kingdom of Judah and the kingdom of Israel, in that the former was ruled over by descendants of David and at least attempted to maintain the religion of the true God, while the latter went after false gods of one sort or another right from the outset of the divided kingdom period, beginning with the worship of the calves in the time of Jeroboam. But that distinction ended when Jehoshaphat, King of Judah, made a fatal error. He arranged a marriage for his son and heir, Jehoram, to Athaliah, the daughter of the wicked Jezebel, wife of Ahab, queen of Israel. (Jezebel was a pagan princess.) Led astray by his wife, Jehoram began to follow after the worship of Baal.
Here are a few verses on the matter from the book of 2 Kings, chapter 8, beginning at verse 16. (In case you're wondering about the reference here to Jehoshaphat, it looks like Jehoram began his own reign as co-regent with his father, a pretty common Ancient Near Eastern practice.)
Now in the fifth year of Joram the son of Ahab king of Israel, Jehoshaphat being then the king of Judah, Jehoram the son of Jehoshaphat king of Judah became king. He was thirty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned eight years in Jerusalem. He walked in the way of the kings of Israel, just as the house of Ahab had done, for the daughter of Ahab became his wife; and he did evil in the sight of the Lord. However, the Lord was not willing to destroy Judah, for the sake of David His servant, since He had promised him to give a lamp to him through his sons always....In his days Edom revolted from under the hand of Judah, and made a king over themselves.... So Edom revolted against Judah to this day. Then Libnah revolted at the same time.
December 4, 2016
It sometimes is difficult to keep up with all of the wedding business people who are in trouble and whose cases are wending their ways through the courts. But here is one that is noteworthy, because the Phoenix ordinance in question evidently contains a provision for jail time as a primary punishment for the "offense" of discriminating by refusing to cater to a homosexual "wedding." The fine, unlike others we've seen, is relatively light for each offense (or each day that one continues to "discriminate," however that is calculated): $2500. But six months in prison is another story.
If the Kleins of Sweet Cakes By Melissa had refused to pay their 6-figure fine, they presumably could have gone to prison. Or maybe their bank account would just have been ransacked directly. I honestly don't know how the courts would have worked that. But so far nobody has actually gone to prison as a direct punishment for "discriminating" against sodomite "marriage."
The offenders (or potential offenders--see below) in this case are calligraphists Joanna Duka and Breanna Koski. They are represented by (who else?) the Alliance Defending Freedom. (I keep saying: If you really want to do something effective to fight the culture wars and defend the innocent, how about this? Instead of becoming a despicable troll and hating conservatives like David French, support the ADF. For which French has worked. End of digression.)
Now, there's one oddity about this case, and I hope to make this clearer eventually. Some versions of the story say that Joanna and Breanna actually have refused to create invitations for a homosexual "wedding" and are now "facing" the penalties of the ordinance. But a search of the ADF web site gives the impression, rather, that they are going out and taking the fight to the City of Phoenix, filing a state pre-enforcement challenge to the ordinance on First Amendment grounds. If so, that's quite brave, because most wedding vendors just hope quietly to fly under the radar. Instead, these two ladies are willing to make theirs a test case and thus make themselves sitting ducks for the malice of the shrieking harpies of tolerance.
It's interesting to reflect on the question: How many state and local anti-discrimination ordinances have jail time as a possibility? And will we ever see that aspect enforced against Christians just for refusing to enslave themselves to the homosexual agenda? If you didn't think that Kenneth Miller counts as a prisoner of conscience in the U.S. (though he is), perhaps the next chapter is just around the corner.
November 29, 2016
As Christmas is around the corner, several of my FB friends began sharing a link to this post (from last year) by William Lane Craig, in which he says many sensible things. Viz.,
On the one hand, the replacement of Jesus Christ at Christmas by Santa Claus is a sacrilege. Santa Claus is obviously a sort of God-surrogate: an all-seeing person endowed with miraculous powers, who’s making a list and checking it twice in order to find out if you’ve been naughty or nice. “He knows when you are sleeping; he knows when you’re awake. He knows if you’ve been bad or good, so be good, for goodness’ sake!” But never fear: Santa Claus is a kindly old man with a long white beard who never judges that someone has been bad. No matter what you’ve done, he thinks you’re good and delivers the presents. Such a caricature of God is so perverse that one wonders how Christian parents could possibly allow their children to believe in such a being. Christmas, as the word suggests, is supposed to be about Christ, not about this imposter.
On the other hand, who wants to be an old Scrooge, spoiling all the fun and dampening the festiveness of Christmas? Poems like “The Night before Christmas” are so much fun to read to your children. Isn’t there some way to reach an accommodation?
I think there is. Saint Nicholas was a historical figure, an early church bishop. We can teach our children about who he was and explain how people like to make-believe that he comes and brings children presents today at Christmas time. Children love to make-believe, and so you can invite them to join in this game of make-believe with you. When you see a Santa at the shopping mall, say, “Look, there’s a man dressed up like Saint Nicholas! People pretend that he is Saint Nicholas. Would you like to tell him what you want for Christmas?”