Saturday, October 22, 2016

We must have Principles!

It is simultaneously amusing and pathetic to watch so many Christians suddenly acquire principles when it comes to Presidential elections. Neither of the two current candidates that have a chance of winning are acceptable to them because, as a nationally-known local pastor has said, "both fail to clear a basic threshold of personal integrity, sound judgment, and trustworthiness."

This is a hopelessly naive and deluded sentiment. Politicians, as a class, are among the most corrupt and untrustworthy people on the planet, who perennially exercise poor judgment and fail to live up to nearly any of the lofty ideals they express as candidates. This is true of candidates from both of the major parties, or, should we say more truly, from either candidate from the one party with two names, as Fred Reed puts it. To be unaware of this and apparently to believe that this Presidential race is the first time both candidates are morally bankrupt is inexcusable for a discerning mind.

How many of these very same Christians voted for a cult-member in the previous race? One Christian friend told me that he had no problem doing so, because "he was a good man." How many of these very same Christians complained loudly in the past that failing to vote for the lesser of two evils is no different from casting a vote for the enemy? How many of these very same Christians have been criticizing me for decades for not voting?

Suddenly, they now have Principles!

Ironically, their newly discovered devotion to political integrity comes at a time when there actually is a difference between the two candidates that can have an existential influence on our nation. This is the first time in my lifetime that this has been true. But, these Christians are too busy wringing their hands over qualities that no Presidential candidate in my lifetime has possessed. 

Somehow, they have missed this.

On second thought, it is much more pathetic than amusing.

Friday, October 14, 2016


One of the crowning achievements of the public school system is its ability to make the amazing and the fascinating seem dull, pointless, and even downright unpleasant. Its goal is not to educate, not to awaken young minds, nor to open eyes to the expansive vistas of the intellectual landscape.

Rather, public schooling aims to propagandize, to induce malaise, and to blind eyes to truth. Once the wings are clipped and the chains secure, it goes about its task of creating good little voters, workers, taxpayers, and (State) worshipers, to paraphrase Jennifer Granholm, a former Michigan governor.

And so, I was not very old before I was agreeing with Henry Ford that "History is bunk." Whatever Ford meant by it, to me it meant that History was boring and irrelevant. I continued to think that way for over thirty years.

My beliefs about History changed almost overnight several years ago after a friend recommended a podcast by a guy named Dan Carlin, called Hardcore History. Carlin is, in his words a "fan of History," not a historian, but his synthesis of the sources and his presentation are illuminating and exciting in a way I never believed possible. He covers topics ranging in time from the ancient world to approximately the era of World War II.

But, highly entertaining though they are, the chief value of Carlin's work is to chronicle and illustrate the nature of Man and the State, neither of which have changed, ever. Mankind does indeed repeat his foolishness from generation to generation. It is also evident that when men do not remember the past, we will believe just about anything.

I would say that his podcasts have become required listening in our homeschool curriculum, but a requirement hasn't been necessary. The children have been listening to them (and buying them!) on their own. My daughter has enjoyed them so much that she is actually interested in reading History. We have conversations around the dinner table about the Persian Empire, the futility of the world wars, and how the entrance and exit of the Mongols from the world stage follows so closely the biblical pattern of God raising up a nation to accomplish His purposes.

Thanks, Dan, for changing my mind about the importance of studying History.

Monday, October 10, was the anniversary of one of the most important events in the history of Christendom, the Battle of Tours. In 732 AD, Charles Martel halted for good the advance of Islam into Europe. At the Faith and Heritage blog, Clive Sanguis writes that had they not,
There would have been no peaceful Middle Ages, no Reformation, no Western civilization, no colonizing of the New World for Christ, no scientific revolution or artistic treasures. The entire history of the West might have been unrecognizable.
Thirteen centuries later, Christendom only exists in remnants living in quasi-captivity within the pagan legacy of Western Civilization. But, the new Islamic invasion has been underway for well over a decade.

History repeats, but I wonder if it will have a different ending this time.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Book Review: Flatland

Flatland by Edwin Abbott is a book that I have known about since I was in high school, but only got around to actually reading this Summer. It was first published in 1884, ostensibly by A Square, a denizen of a world of only two dimensions. It begins like this,

1. -- Of the Nature of Flatland 
I call our world Flatland, not because we call it so, but to make its nature clearer to you, my happy readers, who are privileged to live in Space.

In this way, A Square begins his amazingly detailed description of the economy, social structure, class divisions, climate, methods of social interaction, differences between males and females, religion, and politics of his world. Flatland is intricate beyond what those of us in Space would think possible prior to hearing of its wonderful sophistication and consistency. 

Our author is a solidly middle-class four-sided man: a square. He has a wife and a number of regular five-sided children. The way that genetics works in Flatland is that the vast majority of men are common irregular (unequal sides) three-sided people. Eventually, after generations of slow improvement and progress, a three-sided family will bear a child with three equal sides and that genetic line will then begin to advance in society. From then on, being a regular polygon, the male offspring will always possess one additional side from his father. Equilateral triangles produce Squares, which produce regular Pentagons, which produce regular Hexagons, and so on. Eventually, a family line may produce a polygon of so many sides that its number is incalculable and it is declared to be a Circle, and admitted to the priestly class.

A Square's quiet existence is interrupted one day when he is visited by a being from Space, a three-dimensional world which can communicate with Flatland. The visitor is a Sphere, and as he dips into Flatland, his manifestation in that world is essentially a cross-section of himself, and so appears to A Square as a Circle which suddenly appears out of nowhere.

To the beings of Flatland, everything about the reality of two-dimensional existence is not only taken for granted as the-way-things-are, but it is exclusively and necessarily so. Because of this, much reasoning and proof is required of the Sphere before he is able to get A Square to comprehend and actually believe in a realm of three dimensions. The simple concept of there being a direction that is "up above" and "down below", being different from the Northward and Southward that were so familiar and conceptually obvious to him, is nearly impossible for his geometric mind to fathom.

Eventually, the Sphere succeeds in his endeavor, but only as the result of an experience in which A Square is somehow granted a vision of a one-dimensional world, which he called Lineland. Through A Square's difficulty in expressing to the King of Lineland the nature of Flatland, A Square has an intellectual epiphany, by analogical extension, of the nature of Space.

Sadly, our happy protagonist's life is made very unpleasant by his new understanding of the nature of the universe. His fellow Flatlanders have a difficult time understanding the wonderful new truths that he attempts to share with them, even though he lacks a vocabulary to do so, and he experiences no little degree of persecution.

I will leave it to you to discover how it all turns out for him.

What I find fascinating and insightful about the story is the analogy of existence as one progresses from the single dimension of Lineland, to two dimensions in Flatland, and, finally, three dimensions in Space, our familiar reality. I say "finally", but that is really just an assumption on our part, like two-dimensional reality being an assumption made by A Square and his fellows. The analogy can be extended out yet another level to a four-dimensional reality with which we have no regular discourse and no way to directly comprehend.

The ability to conceptualize a new direction that is "away from" any of our three dimensions is as impossible for us as it was for A Square. We can only comprehend the possibility of such a thing by analogy.

Another intriguing thought is that when the beings of Flatland look at one another they only see a particular side at any given time. Their methods of distinguishing between the shapes are effective, but are obviously clumsy and incomplete to those of us who can simply look down from "above" and see, all at once, the full shape of the individual. No Flatlander truly knows what any other Flatlander, including himself, looks like, for they can only see each other in parts.

Likewise, we can only see each other in Space incompletely. It would take a Being of at least four dimensions to fully know the form of a three-dimensional person.

What do I look like to God, who undoubtedly can see me in full?

How far off and in error am I from understanding, even a little, God's true nature when I conceive of Him as a being that inhabits space, just like me? I know that He created the three-dimensional universe, and I know in theory that He transcends it, but in my everyday thinking do I drag Him into it, and diminish Him?

I can no more comprehend the majestic totality of God's nature than the King of Lineland can comprehend a Sphere.

Flatland is a mind-bending tale that will keep you turning the pages compulsively for its utter originality and the fascination brought about by the descriptions of worlds that might just be right under our noses.

It has also taught me to be very careful about what I say and think about the nature of God that falls outside of what He has explicitly revealed to us.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

One of the great things about keeping bees... that they clean up after themselves.

Sunday afternoon, my family and I extracted honey from our two bee hives. It's a sticky mess that leaves the extraction equipment covered in honey. If I had to clean it all up I think I would quit keeping bees.

However, one of the many incredible attributes of bees is that they will remove every trace of honey from any object that you put out for them to find. So, all of the boxes of frames that have had their honey extracted (by a hand-cranked centrifuge), the centrifuge itself, the pots and buckets used to catch the "cappings" and honey - all covered in honey residue - can just be placed outside in front of the hives and the little fanatics will descend.

Tens of thousands of bees, and bee-mouths, go to work recovering the left-overs and restoring it to honey cells inside of the hive to be used for winter food. Almost no honey goes to waste. It is either in a jar in our house, or it ends up back inside the hive.

The equipment is cleaner than if I had spent hours scrubbing it with soap and water.

The cappings are the tops of the honey comb which are sliced off with a hot electric knife and allowed to fall into a pot. They are saturated with honey. Once the cappings are removed from the frames which hold the comb, the frames are placed in a centrifuge and the honey is extracted from the open cells. The cappings are allowed to drip through a strainer until they have no more flowing honey and then they too are put outside to let the bees clean the honey off of the wax. When the girls - all the workers are girls - are through with it we have raw wax that is ready to be processed.

Bees are wonderful creatures and I am convinced that God, from The Beginning, intended that Man would cooperate with them. Their self-cleaning nature is only one of many amazing characteristics with which they have been endowed.

Here they are, cleaning up the cappings
 and two of the hive boxes and frames...listen.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Who is training your children?

Tom Wood has published a free e-book titled Education Without the State. You can get it here. Tom's short book makes the libertarian case that the state is not necessary to educate children, nor is it even really educating them.

Perhaps the single greatest tragedy in the Church today is that a majority of Christians still willingly and even enthusiastically send their children away from home every day to be educated and trained by unbelievers.

This is not just a problem for individuals, it is a collective sin of the People of God. It is also a sin of pastors and teachers who make public schooling an acceptable practice.

Imagine if the children of Israel voluntarily rounded up their kids every morning and sent them off to Amalekite, Edomite, or Philistine schools.

There are a great many options for Christian parents. Expensive private schools are far from the only way out of public schooling. Homeschooling is accessible to nearly everyone. For the fringe cases, where there are true barriers to it, there are co-ops, and support groups that can help. Parents that are struggling with finding a solution will have help just a URL away, and can always talk with other families in their church who are already doing it.

Most homeschooling families are passionate about it and will be willing to help find a way to make it possible.

And, don't think that the alternative path for education stops at primary and secondary school. Many young people and families are realizing that universities are also not the only option, or even the best option, for obtaining the education, skills, and training needed to become productive, self-supporting individuals.

Praxis is just one such option for motivated people who are not sold on the "benefits" of spending four, five, or more financially unproductive years gaining a credential that they may or may not use, and might even go into significant debt to obtain.

I'll post more about alternatives to college in the future.

In the meantime, here are some additional articles to help you if you are still part of the public schools but are starting to wonder if that's the right place to be.

Your are responsible for training your children.