17 April 2014

"The sign of a good society is..."

"The sign of a good society is the level and number of things acknowledged to be beyond market values -- and thus appreciated for their own sake and not for extrinsic, especially financial, rewards."
- Os Guinness, The Call: Finding and Fulfilling the Central Purpose of Your Life. 2003, Thomas Nelson , Inc., p. 131.

08 March 2014

Republican Neo-Dixiecrats?

There is an excellent, balanced article in The New York Times entitled, "For G.O.P., Hard Line on Immigration Comes at a Cost," by John Harwood (March 07, 2014) that I encourage people to read...especially conservative Republicans. What may surprise many people is the fact that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was supported by 80% of Congressional Republicans compared to 60% of Congressional Democrats. It was, in essence, a long standing version of what Republicans traditionally believed and supported. Yet, contemporary Republican leaders rarely talk about this landmark piece of legislation as representing Republican principles. They seem to side with the few Southern Republicans in Congress at that time who voted with the Dixiecrats in the Democratic Party against this bill. This was a harbinger of things to come in the Republican Party.

In this New York Times column, Mr. Harwood describes how the Republican Party has alienated people of color since the passage of this important legislation. He notes that this has not always been the case. For example, Vice President Nixon received about 32% of the African-American vote as late as 1960, and I must note that President Eisenhower received 39% of the African-American vote in 1956.

However, the 1964 election was a turning point when Senator Goldwater ran for president and refused to support the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Beginning with that election, Harwood notes that the non-white Republican vote for president has significantly declined. To understand how the 1964 election was a turning point for the party, one must understand that African-American Republicans from Southern states, a community who had traditionally supported the party, were frozen out of the 1964 Republican Convention and replaced by "states-rights" (i.e. segregationist) Republicans at the convention (see Lea M Wright, "The Conscience of a Black Conservative: The 1964 Election and the Rise of National Negro Republican Assembly."). Republican and baseball great, Jackie Robinson, commented upon attending the 1964 Republican Convention that, "A new breed of Republicans had taken over the GOP.  As I watched this steamroller operation in San Francisco, I had a better understanding of how it must have felt to be a Jew in Hitler’s Germany." Traditionally, the Democratic Party, not the Republican Party, was the party of states-rights, and the Republican Party was the national party of civil rights.

Geofrey Kabaservice has written an excellent book that documents the decline of the moderate wing of the Republican Party and the rise of extremists in his book, Rule and Ruin: The Downfall of Moderation and the Destruction of the Republican Party, From Eisenhower to the Tea Party. He notes that the last election where the conservatives were not the guiding force of the party was the 1960 election, which is also the last time a Republican President received a significant number of African-American votes.

This was not inevitable, though. Although African-American voters have consistently supported Democratic candidates, other people of color have supported Republican candidates. For example, Harwood notes that many contemporary Republicans have received significant support from Hispanic voters (e.g. President George W. Bush). I also want to add that Republicans such as Jack Kemp have showed that Republicans can win elections with significant support from non-white voters when they provide alternative policies to public problems based both on a free-market basis and with effective government.

However, modern day conservatives often show contempt for those with whom they disagree, and this is not only towards Democrats, but also towards traditional Republicans. Such an attitude alienates many people, including people of color. Indeed, these conservatives claim to be "Reagan Republicans," but do not follow President Reagan's support of the so-called "11th commandment": Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican. Reagan was certainly a conservative ideologically, but he was also civil to his political opponents, and did not deride traditional Republicans.

In contrast, the prejoritave label, RINO (Republican In Name Only) is often used by modern conservatives against Republicans who show respect and consideration not only for Democrats, but also for those who are politically weak and vulnerable in society, such as immigrants. Conservative talk radio hosts often talk in an Orwellian way of Republicans as traditional supporters of states-rights (not true), and critical of civil rights measures (also not true), and label traditional Republicans who support both free-market economics and good government as RINOs. I cannot recall an exodus of Republicans from the party when Reagan was president, and yet we have seen such an exodus over the past decade as conservative activists continue to eliminate traditional Republicans from the party. If these Republicans eat their own, why would anyone trust them in power?

What motivates such conservatives? We can see how, beginning with the 1964 presidential convention and election, civility and respect, as well as concern for vulnerable people in society, is often looked down upon by an increasing number of conservative activists. One reason may be because many conservative activists admire the seductive morality of Ayn Rand, who said it was immoral to support the politically weak and vulnerable in society (keep in mind immigration policy), rather than Jesus Christ and His disciples who advocated supporting the poor in society. When a person despises such people, it is not hard to despise and look down upon their political opponents, as well. In many ways, Rand's morality is now the standard of conservative politics.

My Grandfather, a Texan born in 1899, and a common worker with a 10th grade education, told me that he became a Republican through his admiration of President Theodore Roosevelt. Contemporary conservatives often deride President Roosevelt for his progressive policies. President Abraham Lincoln, too, was criticized for expand the power of the presidency, and thus, violating the US Constitution. The way contemporary conservatives criticize Roosevelt implies that Lincoln was also a RINO because of his support for the supremacy of national power over state power regarding civil liberties and civil rights. However, Lincoln is too much of a national icon for conservatives to criticize, so they have tried to redefine Lincoln as a modern states-rights conservative.

Where is the party of modern Lincoln, Roosevelt, Eisenhower, and yes, real Reagan Republicans today? A Republican Party controlled by states-rights conservatives is not my grandfather's Republican Party. In many ways it is more like a neo-Dixiecrat Party.

08 February 2014

The Universe of GRAVITY

This is a short, excellent article about the universe of the movie, GravityGM=tc^3: The Universe of GRAVITY .

My favorite sitcom is The Dick Van Dyke Show. I also like the movie, Mr. Mom. The Dick Van Dyke Show took place in the early to mid-1960s. Mr. Mom took place in the early 1980s. Looking at the technology in both households, I noticed it did not change much in that 20 year period. Most households still did not have computers, and the computers available to most households did not have much capabilities compared to what we have today. However, technology drastically changed over the next 20 years, between the early 1980s and the early 2000s.

What will technology be like in space in the next 20 years, especially concerning outer space? Space taxis (don't laugh)? The above article discusses some of this focusing on the most excellent movie, Gravity. If you have not seen this movie, I highly recommend it.

29 November 2013

Effective Government, not Anti-Government

I often hear people claim that business can do everything better than government can. Without qualifications, this bothers me for a very important reason: if business can do everything better, why not have businesses be governments, that is, make government privately managed?
Under feudal governments, for example, the military belonged to the nobility, not to the nation as a whole. Military obligations existed among the peasantry to their noble overlord, who in turn owed military obligation to his overlord. As such, the military was privately managed, though few had standing armies.

Rather than support a modern form of corporate feudalism, why not support the free market? Capitalism, or the free market, is based on both private ownership and competition. For competition to be maintained, a third part enforcer of the law is needed to be an "umpire" between parties. This third party must have the means to enforce the law, which means it must have powers not possessed by private businesses. In other words, this third party cannot be a business itself or be equal to a business because it must have sole possession of sovereign power such private companies do not possess. What do we call this third party enforcer of the law? Government.

What is the best form of government for a civil society? After reading many great works of political theory, I conclude The Federalist Papers is one of the best sources of wisdom about creating a government, at least in the American context. Ironically, the purpose of The Federalist Papers was not to decrease the power of government (which at that time in the United States was the Articles of Confederation), but to increase the power of government in order for it to be effective, while at the same time not increasing it so much that it becomes oppressive to the natural liberties of the people. The type of government recommended is the US Constitution.

Why is this ironic? Because many of the people I hear praising private businesses and taking anti-government stances sound more like the Anti-Federalists than they do the Federalists. This is ironic because business was difficult to conduct under the Articles due to it lacking a strong central government that issued common currency, provided national security, and enforced common laws regulating commerce, etc.

The national debate should be about the role of government in civil society, not a business v. government debate. This debate should concern what governments must do in a civil society, what governments can do, and what governments should not do. Anti-government or pro-business-only attitudes do little to further the debate but instead antagonize those in opposing camps. This leads to the lack of progress we currently are seeing in public debate. Let's focus on what really matters. It is time all sides acknowledge the need for a strong, effective government in American civil society, as did the authors of The Federalist Papers.

26 October 2013

A very wise quote...

“I wish it need not have happened in my time," said Frodo.
"So do I," said Gandalf, "and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

02 June 2013


I am changing the subject matter for Dr Rob's Podium. In the past, I discussed several subjects here. Now, I have started a new blog, Berean Comments, for my remarks about theological, religious, and faith topics. Dr. Rob's Podium will now focus on other subjects, such as politics, science, culture, current events, etc.

Certainly, some issues cross over into both territories. So, if these subjects touch on Berean Comments type matters, I may still post such here. However, I wish to devote Berean Comments to matters about directly about God and the common faith Christians share.

- Rob

30 April 2013

Does Personal Faith Create Truth?

In light of people talking about the personal faith of NBA player Jason Collins, it occurred to me that there is a false presumption underlying such discussions. I often hear people refer to one's faith as being personal, but they do so in a way that suggests that their personal faith creates truth. This implies that what is true for me is not necessarily true for you. Furthermore, it implies that we must not challenge each other's faith because it is personal. So, toleration becomes a denial of truth.

Well, I agree that we must respect each others beliefs. There is no place for disrespect or bullying when trying to persuade someone about the truth of a matter. I absolutely believe toleration is a characteristic of civil society. Yet, to suppress the truth is not healthy or right.

Yes, we all can and will differ on questions about the answer to the question, "What is truth?" For example, Jesus said, "For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world--to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice." Pontius Pilate replied, "What is truth?" (John 18:37b-38). This was Pilate's personal standard in judging Jesus.

I argue that faith, while being personal, does not create truth. Why? Because God exists, and is active in human affairs no matter what our individual faith about Him is, or what we think He requires from us. We in the United States often prefer "salad bar" faith where we pick and choose what we want to believe from our respective religions. Yes, that is personal faith, but it is not truth.

Christ suffered and died for our sins. That is truth whether I acknowledge it or not. My faith does not create a Christ who suffered for me (John 1:1-5). His Lordship over my life is not created by my faith in Him. He is the sovereign God even when I do not understand why He allows somethings to occur and does not prevent other things from occurring. He is sovereign when I do not agree with Him. Just ask Job (Job 42:1-6).

So, the Lordship of God has no place for salad bar Christianity, which is a personal faith where we each make my our own decisions about how to live our individual lives.

I am so glad this is the truth, because if the meaning of my life depended upon what I create through my faith, then I am in real trouble. Too often I make bad judgements, my motives are self-centered, and I know I do not understand God's entire purpose. My rationality is bounded by my human limitations, my human nature, but God is unbounded. So, I also know I need my Savior, Jesus Christ, so I can be in an eternal relationship with God. Indeed, God can be fully trusted even when I do not trust Him, and is faithful even when I am not faithful to Him.

So, if my faith does not create truth, what is faith? The writer of Hebrews in the Christian Bible said, "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." (Hebrews 11:1, New American Standard Bible (NASB) (Kindle Locations 38146-38147). The Lockman Foundation. Kindle Edition.) These "things" which are not seen actually exist. So, these things are not dependent upon my faith, nor are they created by my faith.

Truth exists because only God can say, "I AM" (Exodus 3:14 & John 8:58). Truth originates in Him because He is the only Creator (Genesis 1:1 and John 1:3-5).

So, Jason Collins certainly has the right to his personal faith. The question still remains in this discussion, "What is truth?"

20 April 2013

Is God Indifferent about our Happiness?

Click here to read an excellent short passage by Tim Keller about God desiring our happiness.

I have heard several ministers preach that God does not care about our happiness. In saying this, they seem to confuse "pleasure" with "happiness." Yes, it is true that we will not always feel pleasure when following God, but this does not make Him indifferent to our happiness. Indeed, confusing pleasure with happiness is a characteristic of our present culture, and these ministers seem to be reacting to a cultural trend instead of preaching the eternal truth about our relationship with God.

Even worse, by claiming that God is indifferent to our happiness, these ministers unintentionally make God less than our parents, friends, and others who desire us to have a happy life. So, because I understand that they desire my well-being, why would I desire to follow an indifferent God?

Pleasure is momentary, and by pursuing wrong pleasures or even good pleasures in the wrong time, we can find ourselves unhappy with the consequences. Even if we do not feel remorse due to a pleasure's overwhelming sensation, or because we do not experience bad consequences, we still offend God when we are indifferent to Him (Revelation 3: 15-16). To find happiness, we must understand its source.

Keller understands that God desires us to be happy, but he also notes that happiness is a byproduct of glorifying God. The Westminster Short Confession (also here) begins by asking, "What is the chief end of man?" The answer is, "Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever." Yes, we are to enjoy God.

As Keller notes, happiness does not come from using God as a means to our happiness. I should add that this also means we must not seek pleasure as a means to happiness because it places pleasure as an idol in place of God (John 1:1-5; see also Keller's book, Counterfeit Gods).

I once heard a radio talk show host, Dennis Prager, note that happiness is what we feel when we do what we are supposed to do. An example is that of a parent getting up in the middle of the night to take care of their child. It is not pleasurable, but afterwards (maybe much later after a good night's sleep) he or she is happy as a parent. I think Prager got this one right. I might add that doing the right thing must not be defined by human standards. Likewise, happiness is not found by following abstractions such as minimal ethical standards. Rather, happiness must be defined by its source: God, the Creator.

In Matthew 6:33, Jesus tells us, "But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you" (Crossway Bibles (2011-02-09). The Holy Bible English Standard Version (ESV) (Kindle Locations 37819-37820). Crossway. Kindle Edition).

Yes, God desires us to be happy. He is a most loving God. Here is the beginning point to finding true happiness.

30 March 2013


Easter is my favorite holiday of the year. It is about the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. He died to remove our offenses to God, and He lives forever. His regeneration is about God regenerating us; as He breathed life into Adam, so He breathes new life into us so we can believe in Jesus and be reconciled to God.

As Paul said, "17Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation." 2nd Corinthians 5:17-19 ESV. Crossway Bibles (2011-02-09). The Holy Bible English Standard Version (ESV) (Kindle Locations 45871-45876). Crossway. Kindle Edition.  

John also testified, "Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” 5And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” 6And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. 7The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. 8But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” Revelation 21: 1-8. Crossway Bibles (2011-02-09). The Holy Bible English Standard Version (ESV) (Kindle Locations 49162-49176). Crossway. Kindle Edition.

Happy Easter!

21 March 2013

Republican Reform: Lincoln's Advice

If the Republican Party truly wishes to reform itself, it might begin with advice from the first Republican President, Abraham Lincoln:

"If you would win a man to your cause, first convince him that you are his sincere friend."

Before one can convince another that he is a sincere friend, he must sincerely be a friend in words and actions. The Ayn Rand faction that seems to controls so much of the Republican party (or at least influences much of its rhetoric) argues that helping weak people is immoral. Yet, to be a sincere friend of everyone, and not just the powerful in society, means the party will have to change it view of the weak, that is, the disadvantaged in society. Once it changes its view of such people, its rhetoric will follow.

The political issue Republicans should debate with the Democratic Party should be HOW to help those with little power, not whether to help them.

Should my Conservative friends argue that they sincerely want to help the disadvantaged, my reply is that their words and actions do not match. For example, tax cuts help those of us who pay taxes. I am all for them. However, such a policy alone does not directly and immediately help the disadvantaged, but may only help indirectly over the long run. So, what are poor people to do in the short run except suffer?

What Republicans need to do is develop both immediate and short term solutions to problems of poverty and education rather than defer them to a Darwinian form of the market where only the strong survive. Then Republicans need to communicate these solutions effectively before elections.

One of the best ways to communicate an idea is to put it into practice. What many of the disadvantaged in society see in Republicans are a lot of words without corresponding practice.

So, here is one other reform: Republicans need to run and win elections for local and state political offices, and gain experience in such offices before running for national office. I want to emphasize local governments, because it is at the local level that most government goods and services are provided (e.g. education, police, fire, etc.). Learning what government does best at the local level will help Republicans understand how government at all levels can be a positive force in society.

Currently, it seems the Republican model for a potential candidate is to make a lot of money in the private sector (or get to know a lot of rich people), then run for national office and promote anti-government policies. Republicans once ran for and served in local offices as a matter of practice in the past. Running for and serving in local governments helps such candidates better understand what governments at all levels actually do in practice, and also how governments are a positive force for social and business growth in many ways (no, I am not referring to Government Motors, uh, General Motors).

Sincerely finding immediate and long term solutions to poverty and education, along with gaining experience in local government will help rebuild the Republican electoral base. Doing this will not only change Republican attitudes towards government, it will help Republicans be credible with people by matching Republican words to Republican actions.

21 September 2012

Friendship, Erotic Love, and Sex

I love the quote, below, by C. S. Lewis:

“Those who cannot conceive Friendship as a substantive love but only as a disguise or elaboration of Eros betray the fact that they have never had a Friend. The rest of us know that though we can have erotic love and friendship for the same person yet in some ways nothing is less like a Friendship than a love-affair. Lovers are always talking to one another about their love; Friends hardly ever about their Friendship. Lovers are normally face to face, absorbed in each other; Friends, side by side, absorbed in some common interest. Above all, Eros (while it lasts) is necessarily between two only. But two, far from being the necessary number for Friendship, is not even the best. And the reason for this is important.

"... In each of my friends there is something that only some other friend can fully bring out. By myself I am not large enough to call the whole man into activity; I want other lights than my own to show all his facets... Hence true Friendship is the least jealous of loves. Two friends delight to be joined by a third, and three by a fourth, if only the newcomer is qualified to become a real friend. They can then say, as the blessed souls say in Dante, "Here comes one who will augment our loves." For in this love "to divide is not to take away.”

― C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves, see http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/349838-those-who-cannot-conceive-friendship-as-a-substantive-love-but

I've commented that some people talk today in a manner that suggests if a person loves someone, he or she must have sex with that person. My comment may seem to be an exaggeration, but I hear this perspective in a lot of statements made by some individuals in my classes at the university, and by others in the media. Indeed, it has entered into the political mainstream.

Lewis' quote is insightful to me because he shows that such people are really lonely. They are using erotic love, or more often just sex, as an anesthesia to cover up their pain. A person who has a real friend would realize how silly it is to assume that the object of love is a sexual act.

Here, I am suggesting that those who imply that love means sex do not even understand erotic love. Loneliness can lead people to such debasement, that even erotic love escapes their understanding. When this occurs, the idea of Jesus loving His disciples takes on a sexual overtone to the listener.

Then, statements by Jesus such as, "Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13 English Standard Version), become meaningless to the listener. This may be the real target of such attitudes: to make us numb to God's love.

16 September 2012

Teachers as Priests

Many people assume teaching is primarily imparting information to students. However, good and bad teachers both impart information. Three of the many characteristics that distinguish a good teacher from a bad teacher are: 1) the ability to see gaps in a student's understanding of a complex idea; 2) the ability to help him or her make the necessary connections, that is, build bridges over the gaps between facts, concepts, and ideas; and, 3) the willingness to be this bridge builder.

Often a teacher must identify where a student has not connected a fact to another important fact necessary to understand a complex idea. Other times a teacher must see where a student has not connected one or more complex ideas to each other to help build a larger mental picture of an important concept or view. These connections are mental or even spiritual bridges.

The latin word for priest is "pontifex," which in its root means "bridge maker" or "bridge builder." In this context, all teachers are priests.

02 September 2012

Fahrenheit 451

My son, Jackson, is completing a school assignment. He was required to read a book over this past summer that I have read, and then discuss it with me. We discussed several books, but decided on Ray Bradbury's book, Fahrenheit 451. I reread the book and rediscovered why I love it so much. Ray Bradbury is one of my favorite authors.

Part of the assignment requires me to answer ten questions about this work: five of the questions are from the assignment, and five of the questions Jackson developed for me to answer (Jackson also had five questions to answer from the assignment, along with five questions I developed). Below are the ten questions about Fahrenheit 451 I answered for Jackson (citations refer to the 1995 paperback edition by Simon & Schuster):


1. Why did you recommend for me to read this book?
Ray Bradbury is one of my favorite authors, and Fahrenheit 451 is one of his most profound works. A close read of this book shows that he predicted how technology misused can keep us from contemplating important questions about life. In doing this, it can be used to take away our freedoms, such as freedom of the press. Also, although he presents a dystopian view of the future, a "Dark Age" (p.146), he also shows that there is hope without rejecting advances in technology.

He also warned how the media could lead to people voting based on political sound bites rather than by making intelligent decisions (p. 52); how children could be required to attend school at an earlier and earlier age not to learn, but to be occupied so they would not learn to think (p. 57); and he even described a form of ATMs (p. 88).

2. What made this book memorable to you?
Ray Bradbury shows us in this story that we must not fear ideas, even ideas with which we have strong disagreements. Thinking and discussing the merits and drawbacks, the strengths and weaknesses, the good and evil in ideas is the way to reveal truth and expose falsehood. It takes courage to be willing to consider an opposing idea. He notes that, "It's not books you need, it's some of the things that once were in books" (p. 78).

3. What is your favorite part?
Granger, because he has the courage and patience to rebuild society.
"It doesn't matter what you do, he said, so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that's like you after you take your hands away. The difference between the man who just cuts lawns and a real gardener is in the touching, he said. The lawn-cutter might just as well not have been there at all; the gardener will be there a lifetime" (p.157). This passage reminds me of how God created Adam to be a gardener in the Garden of Eden in the Book of Beginnings (i.e. Genesis). This is metaphorically what God created us to do (being a gardener is the metaphor; people actually have different kinds of jobs, but are meant to be gardeners at heart in each of these jobs).
I love the description of the last society of exiled scholars, and how human society is part Ecclesiastes/rising and declining, and part Revelation/hope (p. 153 & 158). My favorite book in the Bible is the Book of Revelation because it is about certain hope because of God. Yes, there is hope because God has a plan that will not be thwarted.

4. To you, what is this book really about?
It is about really living, not just merely living. Really living means we must be free from tyranny and free to be what God made us to be; and freedom must be earned and respected. Freedom will fade when people cease to exercise their minds in order to pursue constant entertainment and pleasure. The result then is an unhappy life, and eventually death. Notice how people in this story commit suicide because they have nothing to live for, even though they are constantly occupied with work, entertainment, and immediate pleasure. Happiness and pleasure are not the same thing.

What is the author saying to you?
Bradbury reveals to me that people brought about this society in this story, and that it was not imposed on them originally by the government. Therefore, we should not blame the government for what we create (p. 55 & 83). We must take the responsibility to read, learn, and think for ourselves, or else we will surrender our freedom in order to pursue immediate entertainment and pleasure.

5. What did you think I might learn from this book?
I hope you learn about the dangers of suppressing freedom of speech, the press, assembly, and religion. Political correctness is a modern attempt to suppress these freedoms, and it is becoming more prominent in our society. I also hope you learn how important it is to take time to contemplate important things in life so that you do not let other people put you into a state of mental slavery.

6. How do you think the story, as well as the message of the story, would've changed if books weren't illegal? Like maybe they died or were heavily looked down on.
Because more people could read, more people would read. That is why freedom is so important. Many people will not take the time to consider what is really important in life, and even fewer allow themselves to be challenged by opposing ideas. Yet, if we have our freedoms secured (1st Amendment to the US Constitution), the opportunity is there, and some of us will do this.

7. Do you think something like this could happen in the future? Please explain why/why not.
Absolutely. Today, the misuse of the internet, video games, television, can all lead to this type of society. Also, our jobs demand so much of our time with busy-work (i.e. work that adds little value to the product or service being produced), that we can easily become the society Bradbury depicts in this book.

8. How did Montag being a Fireman help make the story more interesting?
Today, Firemen preserve buildings and save lives. They are heroes who risk their lives to save other people (e.g. the firemen who died in the World Trade Center twin towers on 9/11/2001). In the society depicted by Ray Bradbury, Firemen destroy freedom by burning books, and they kill people who keep books. That is ironic, which made the story more interesting to me. “’Those who don’t build must burn’” (p. 85).

9. Who was your favorite supporting character and why?
Granger. He had the courage Faber lacked at first to try to preserve knowledge at the expense of his own comfort. Faber finally got this courage, but Granger understood that the Dark Age would end, and men and women like him would rebuild society. I liked how Faber found his courage, though.

10. What are the benefits of reading and how could books make a comeback over technology, or how could they co-exist?
When we read, we are exposed to ideas that can hit us. As Bradbury says, “If you hide your ignorance, no one will hit you and you’ll never learn” (p. 100).  He also notes that with books, “You can shut them, say, ‘Hold on a moment.’ Yes, they can co-exist with technology as long as we master technology and not let it master us and make us slaves. In fact, modern technology helps us preserve books. It is harder to “burn” books that are saved electronically.

- Dad


If you want to read a profound book, I highly recommend Fahrenheit 451. It holds up over time!

22 July 2012

Eric Metaxas: “So who do we say is not fully human today?”

I just finished reading Eric Metaxas’ ebook, Jesus Hates Dead Religion: Bonhoeffer, Wilberforce, and the Power of Living Faith (2012-05-28: Thomas Nelson, Kindle Edition. Available through iTunes or Amazon.com). I highly recommend purchasing and reading this ebook. It is well written, humorous, and insightful. In this book, Metaxas records his experiences leading up to and giving the keynote speech at the Sixtieth Annual National Prayer Breakfast attended by President Obama and other important dignitaries. I enjoyed his sense of humor, which is found throughout the book, and I especially appreciated the insights he offered in his keynote address.

Some of these insights concern the characteristics of a dead religion. One such insight is:
“When he [Jesus] was tempted in the desert, who was the one throwing Bible verses at him? Satan. That is a perfect picture of dead religion. Using the words of God to do the opposite of what God does. It is grotesque, when you think about it. It is demonic” (Kindle Locations 547-549).

Excellent insight! The Bible is God’s Word of life (John 10:10), because on our own without Christ, we are already condemned (John 3:16-18).

Likewise, Metaxas noted,
“Now, of course, dead religion demonizes others… And apart from God’s intervention, that is what we do. So don’t think you won’t do that. You will do that. We are broken, fallen, human beings. Apart from God, that is what we do”  (Kindle Locations 647-649).
This is so true. Therefore, he continued,
“We need to know that apart from God, we would be on the other side of that divide, fighting for what we believe is right. We cannot demonize our enemies. Today if you believe abortion is wrong, you
must treat those on the other side with the love of Jesus.
“Today, if you have a biblical view of sexuality, you will be demonized by those on the other side, who will call you a bigot. Jesus commands us to love those who call us bigots. To show them the love of Jesus. If you want people to treat you with dignity, treat them with dignity.
“So finally, Jesus tells us that we must love our enemies. That, my friends, is the real difference between dead religion and a living faith in the God of the Scriptures, whether we can love our enemies” (Kindle Locations 657-663).

God help me to love those who demonize me. It is not natural to love this way (Romans 5: 7-8). I fail at this all the time. This is why I am encouraged by Metaxas’ words.

He went on to ask a critical question for our day,
“So who do we say is not fully human today? Who is expendable to us?” (Kindle Locations 615-616).

The answer one gives to this question often depends upon one’s political views and personal experiences. However, Metaxas did not retreat into a subjective understanding of truth. Indeed, he talked about William Wilberforce and his allies who fought the culture of their day, characterized by dead Christian religion, to end the slave trade and slavery throughout the British Empire. He said,
“Now how did they see what they saw? There is just one word that will answer that. It is Jesus. He opens our eyes to his ideas, which are different from our own, which are radical. Now personally I would say the same thing about the unborn, that apart from God, we cannot see that they are persons as well.” (Kindle Locations 653-656).

Are the unborn only a mass of cells? Empirically, human life is defined biologically, and the unborn do not initially qualify in a pregnancy. Are humans more than their physical bodies? How we answer this question depends on our views of existence.

Naturalism is one such view that limits all of life and existence to the physical realm. Such view sees the story of a Creator-Redeemer as magic and myth. Yet, for those of us who believe in the Prodigal God (see Timothy Keller’s book, The Prodigal God), there is so much more to existence than the physical realm, and yet, the physical realm is not rejected.

Indeed, human life cannot be understood fully without understanding Jesus as He is: God, the Creator-Redeemer (John 1:1-4). Without Jesus, we find ourselves defining human life through the eyes of our own limited understanding. This is why the radical Christians of Wilberforce’s days could not stand idly by while Africans were physically tortured and treated as sub-human. Metaxas notes that adherents to dead religion opposed them. He notes,
“Wilberforce took these ideas—these foreign ideas from the Bible—and brought them into culture... Because he believed what the Bible said and because he obeyed what God told him to do, Wilberforce changed the world” (Kindle Locations 606-609).

I find it ironic that ideas from the Bible can be foreign to those who called themselves “Christian.”

Jesus Hates Dead Religion is a book that speaks to me so much because I am not a religious person naturally. I cannot stand religion for its own sake, such as religion for an emotional feeling or about obligation, all of which is dead religion. God speaks to this in Isaiah 44:13-17:

“The carpenter stretches a line; he marks it out with a pencil. He shapes it with planes and marks it with a compass. He shapes it into the figure of a man, with the beauty of a man, to dwell in a house. He cuts down cedars, or he chooses a cypress tree or an oak and lets it grow strong among the trees of the forest. He plants a cedar and the rain nourishes it. Then it becomes fuel for a man. He takes a part of it and warms himself; he kindles a fire and bakes bread. Also he makes a god and worships it; he makes it an idol and falls down before it. Half of it he burns in the fire. Over the half he eats meat; he roasts it and is satisfied. Also he warms himself and says, ‘Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire!’ And the rest of it he makes into a god, his idol, and falls down to it and worships it. He prays to it and says, ‘Deliver me, for you are my god!’“
The Holy Bible English Standard Version (ESV) (Kindle Locations 28809-28816). Crossway Bibles (2011-02-09). Kindle Edition.

We take the physical world and mold it to our use, often abusing it, and then claim it is the origin of our existence. This view is too limited, too subjective, and too indulgent. Such a god is too small! Only the eternal God can explain what it means to really live. All other ideas are idols of our own making to which we say, “Deliver me, for you are my god!”

Through the eyes of Jesus we can see the forms slavery takes on in the 21st century. It doesn’t look like African slavery of Wilberforce’s day, or like Nazi slavery that Dietrich Bonhoeffer faced. Yet, modern slavery has respectability like it did in those days.

So, I highly recommend reading this excellent ebook by Eric Metaxas!