Monday, July 28, 2014

The Most Christian President in History -- and what his politics looked like

The last self-consciously Christian President was Presbyterian Grover Cleveland, who favored a gold standard, low taxes, free trade, and who vetoed more bills in two terms than any other President in history. (He had been known as the "veto mayor" of Buffalo, New York.) He served two terms, 1885-89 and 1893-97. From that point on, Christian politics slid down the road toward modern statism.
Gary North, Honest Money (p.133)

Those are his principles. Wikipedia has this nice summary:
Cleveland was the leader of the pro-business Bourbon Democrats who opposed high tariffs, Free Silver, inflation, imperialism, and subsidies to business, farmers, or veterans. His crusade for political reform and fiscal conservatism made him an icon for American conservatives of the era.[1] Cleveland won praise for his honesty, self-reliance, integrity, and commitment to the principles of classical liberalism.[2] He relentlessly fought political corruption, patronage and bossism. Indeed, as a reformer his prestige was so strong that the like-minded wing of the Republican Party, called "Mugwumps", largely bolted the GOP presidential ticket and swung to his support in the 1884 election.[3]
Libertarians tend to acknowledge Cleveland as one of the better U.S. president in American history when asked who is the best president. Mr. Libertarian himself, Murray Rothbard, the founder of modern Libertarian, thought that Martin Van Buren was the "best" (least bad) U.S. He briefly mentions Grover Cleveland and his major screw-up: the interstate commerce commission.

For more reading, check out the links below:

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Douglas Wilson on False Teachers

False teachers do not knock on your door with a brief case full of literature, and say, “Hello, I am here from the devil, and I have come to lead you into eternal torments.” That kind of stuff never makes it into the brochures.
The Mind of A Free Man | Douglas Wilson 

Gun Control Advocates' Ignorance of Russia, Mexico, and Brazil's Higher Murder Rates

Gun control zealots' choice of Britain for comparison with the United States has been wholly tendentious, not only because it ignored the history of the two countries, but also because it ignored other countries with stronger gun control laws than the United States, such as Russia, Brazil and Mexico. All of these countries have higher murder rates than the United States.
Thomas Sowell, Invincible Ignorance 

The government-approved King James Bible

King James disapproved of the Geneva Bible because of its Calvinistic leanings. He also frowned on what he considered to be seditious marginal notes on key political texts. A marginal note for Exodus 1:9 indicated that the Hebrew midwives were correct in disobeying the Egyptian king's orders, and a note for 2 Chronicles 15:16 said that King Asa should have had his mother executed and not merely deposed for the crime of worshipping an idol. The King James Version of the Bible grew out of the king's distaste for these brief but potent doctrinal commentaries. He considered the marginal notes to be a political threat to his kingdom.
The Geneva Bible: The Forgotten Translation, Gary DeMar

Douglas Wilson on "Apologetics and the Heart"

Good reasons, good defenses come from good hearts. If I am only prepared intellectually, I am not prepared intellectually. ~Douglas Wilson
If a man won't obey God in how he treats his wife, then why would he obey God in how he thinks? Rebellion tolerated anywhere will spread everywhere. ~Douglas Wilson
Douglas Wilson's essay "Apologetics and the Heart" is the kind of essay that you should already know the conclusion to but you read it anyway for the edification -- and to see how the author reasons (or exegetes) to the conclusion.

Read it here.

Comment if you have problems with the link.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

"Lucy" perpetuates the "10 percent of your brain" myth

Scarlett Johansson's new movie "Lucy" is unfortunately is based upon the myth that humans only use 10 percent of their brain.

A quick Wikipedia search turns up evidence against the idea. My personal favorite is this one:
Studies of brain damage: If 90% of the brain is normally unused, then damage to these areas should not impair performance. Instead, there is almost no area of the brain that can be damaged without loss of abilities. Even slight damage to small areas of the brain can have profound effects. [Editor's note: It seems like a no-brainer, doesn't it?]
For more refutations of this myth, go here, here, and here.
Screenshot of Scarlet Johansson in the "Lucy" trailer
This is a myth so important to me that many years back I set my intellectual goals based upon this myth, goals that I still have today (see the last picture and you can infer what my goals are).

And yet, I didn't find out until this year that this wasn't true.

I am not, however, embarrassed by my ignorance. It's easy to believe that was the case because of what I was reading because of this myth, or at least with this myth in mind (Buzan's book below being the most influential).

Coupled with my readings of Jesus' teaching of the greatest commandment to "Love The Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and" -- especially this next one -- "with all thy mind," a teaching which itself was a reiteration of Deuteronomy 6:5, this myth propelled me into the pursuit of Christian intellectualism.

 Or at least, it gave it some new steam.

But at this point the details of my college years when all this began becomes murky.

My Religion Shelf
That is I do not remember what came first, my discovery of this myth, or my discovery of this Bible verse being interpreted in that way, but I think can make some pretty good deductions (Without a doubt I read that bible verse many times before).

As for the myth itself, I think someone told it to me in college.

I was spending a lot of time on the ChristianLogic website in 2008 and 2009, which emphasized Christians use of logic. 

I ordered the "God Delusion Debate DVD" featuring John Lennox and Richard Dawkins from a creationist online store in 2008 and no later than 2009 (I think it was 2008 because my campus ministry had a discussion based on this DVD and I think that was in the fall semester). It was either in that DVD or in the "Science and the God Question" DVD that Lennox emphasized that Jesus told us to love God with our whole mind (or maybe it was an internet video with him). And I checked out the above book "Habits of the Mind: Intellectual Life as a Christian Calling" by James W. Sire on an interlibrary loan in 2009 (some other college in Pennsylvania had it), although I don't think I completed it until the summer of 2010 (different copy).

A few years back in South Carolina, definitely before 2011, I purchased Tony Buzan's Memory Boot Camp from the Barnes and Noble near Northwoods Mall in North Charleston, South Carolina. I remember it like it was yesterday. The book was in the very front of the store before you walked in. After purchasing it, I started reading the book but then put it down (I usually preview all my books this way).

Buzan's Memory Improvement Book and one of the earliest Evelyn Wood Speed Reading Books
It was Buzan's book that I think did the most to reinforce this myth unintentionally (I don't recall -- no pun intended -- Buzan reciting this myth in the book). For example he writes, "Each of your brain cells is more powerful than a standard personal computer" (p.15). In a true or false quiz, he says that it is false that "the world's best computers are now better than the human brain in their basic potential."

He does write "we use our brains all the time" (p.8) which is line with "we use 100% of our brains." I haven't finished the book but so far he doesn't seem to go as far to say that we use "all of our brain." And the memory expert also says that it is false that "the great geniuses in history such as Leonardo da Vinci, Isaac Newton, Marie Curie, and Albert Einstein probably reached their maximum potential (p. 9). In the answer key, he writes: "False -- the potential of the human brain is limitless."

See, the human brain is limitless (ha! That movie "Limitless" which plays on the same idea of not using all of your brain, was the first thing I was reminded of when the "Lucy"preview came out). Lucy has been vindicated, right? No. Because potential is not the same as function. As a matter of function we use all of our brain. It is active all the time.

But it does serve as a personal case study of when pseudoscience mixes with religion, and in this case the Christian religion. It is no knock on Christianity to have believed in this. As as finite creatures with God's gift of eternal life yet-not-redeemed (not resurrected) there is always potential to know God more intimately than the day before, and to glorify your creator in the exercising of your mind.

It is a knock on popular culture, the media outlets that repeated this claim, and perhaps the scientific establishment for letting the claim proliferate (granted, brain science probably had to catch up).

Am I better off because of this myth? Yes, because it motivated me to stuff my brain with all sorts of interesting things and exercise my brain in new kinds of ways.

Do we need a little myth in our life to all be better off as a society? No. 

I mean, it's not like people still debate in 2014 whether we should lie to improve society or promote ideas right?

Friday, July 4, 2014

Harvey Bluedorn's Excellent Insights on Christian Apologetics

From his pamphlet titled "Logical Defense of the Faith":
"To be properly prepared to defend the faith is really to be properly prepared to believe the faith. This is not just an appendix attached to the Christian religion. This is part of the essential Christian life. We should know — or at least be learning — how to defend our faith against all opposition, such that when we are done, our opposition has nothing to say — they are reduced to the assertions of their own imaginations. They will either admit we are speaking the truth, or they will try to shout us down and drown us out, or worse, they will try to put us away. That is the kind of faith in action which drives away the darkness and turns the world around." ~Harvey Bluedorn
"God has so ordained that one of the main components of our argument must be us." ~Harvey Bluedorn
"We can try to diagnose the problem, we can assign the blame, and we can ring our hands all we want about the moral and intellectual decline of American culture, but the fact remains that American Culture is in decline precisely because American Christians have been in retreat." ~Harvey Bluedorn
Everybody has a belief system. They ultimately believe in something. Those beliefs also have consequences.  For he says, "It is an inescapable concept. If we do not believe that we believe anything — then that is what we believe. We have to use our belief in order to deny our belief, and that is what I mean by an inescapable concept."

Lecrae put it this way: "Somebody told me there was no such thing as truth / I said if that's the case then why should I believe you?"
More quotes:
"Only one system of belief, or worldview, can be consistent with reality." ~Harvey Bluedorn

"The unbeliever always borrows from the truth in order to build his system. It is like the man who denied the existence of air — all the way up to his last dying breath!" ~Harvey Bluedorn
Simple questions usually provide enough heat to shine light into the darkness. Questions such as "but isn't that your philosophy" when a man says "we should not live by philosophy" exposes the fact that the man is in fact sharing his philosophy, albeit an embarrassing one.

Other quotes:

"The inductive scientific method can never arrive at truth." ~Harvey Bluedorn

"We do not have to know all of the truth in order to stand on what truth we do know," ~Harvey Bluedorn

WCF Chapter One "Of Holy Scripture" Sunday School (Sept.-Oct. 2021)

Our text for Sunday School (also "The Confession of Faith and Catechisms") Biblical Theology Bites What is "Biblical Theology...