Thursday, July 31, 2014

Eternal Hell with Finite Suffering

In Dante's Purgatorio there is a sense of the flow of time.  This is as it should be, since Purgatory is always thought of as having a finite duration as it will take some time--but not forever--to either pay the debt for certain post-baptism sins or (depending on one's view of Purgatory) to be made completely holy.  In Dante's Inferno, however, the sense of the passage of time is absent.  One gets the sense of eternal monotony.

Maybe he was on to something.  Or maybe not.  But the following view should appeal to certain annihilationists while still (trying!) to remain true to tradition: eternal punishment with a finite experience of that punishment.

Suppose that for the first objective year in hell it "goes by fast," so to speak (think watching a soccer match--it's hell watching sissies fake injuries for two hours but somehow it goes by fast).  The first year of objective punishment one only subjectively experiences the one year as 1/2 a year.  And for year two one only experiences 1/4 of a year....etc.; so one's eternal punishment feels like a year (think Zeno's Achilles and the Tortoise where Achilles completes an infinite series of 1/2 distances in going a finite distance).

Now if justice demands more "time" (for Stalin, Hitler, Nick Saban, SEC fans, et al.) then perhaps the first year feels like 100 years, the second like 50, etc.  The point is just that it seems possible that there could be an eternal punishment that's subjectively experienced as finite.

Here then is a principle (along the lines of Anselm) which might be worth thinking about: any unatoned sin against God merits an eternal punishment, but no sin by a finite person merits that person experiencing a punishment infinitely.  Is there a good argument for that principle?  Not sure.  But it's worth thinking about.

Monday, July 28, 2014

End of the World Button

I'm pretty sure I committed at least a venial sin in this conversation, and for that I now publically confess.  I find it hard to know where to draw the "teasing" line especially when it's impossible to explain things to a five-year-old least when it comes to car keys.

Samuel: Daddy, what do these buttons do?

Me: One unlocks the car and the other blows up the whole world.  So DO NOT press that button.

S: Really?  One blows up the whole world?

M: Don't press it.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Tuscora Park

About to take the kids to one of our favorite spots (and where I got my lifeguard certification).  It's hard to beat no admission fee and 60 cent rides. O-H...

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Fight Hunger With McDoubles

I've been hearing a lot about fighting hunger in the U.S. recently--not starvation, mind you, as in the Sally Struthers's commercials from the 80's, but hunger.  Now we shouldn't be deceived, here, like many are when they hear lefties talk about the "health" of a woman and think "life" of a woman when discussing whether a woman's health is at risk if she doesn't have an abortion.  "Health" means health (even if the left uses the term as a weasel word) and "hunger" means hunger.  (If "hunger" means starvation or malnutrition, why would people say "hunger"?)

According to Feeding America, millions of Americans are at risk of being hungry and 1 in 6 risk hunger.  To my mind, these numbers seem too low.  I've been at risk of being hungry numerous times lately and know plenty of others who have as well.  In fact, I've actually succeeded in being hungry multiple times (occasionally on purpose!)

So what should be done to fight this terrible thing--hunger?  What can we do?  The knightly Obama is courageously fighting this disease by opening schools up across the country this summer to feed hungry students (with free government food, of course, which grows on nutritious government trees).  But we can do better.  The solution:

The Most Bountiful Food in Human History

The Greatest Food in Human History

Little Evidence of Health Benefits From Organic

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A Short Argument Against Annihilationism from the Death of Infants

1. Infants who die aren't annihilated. (premise)
2. Thus, probably no one who dies is annihilated. (induction)

Of course there may be other reasons that raise the probability for annihilation of some over infants (who have no faith); but if annihilation can be good for someone and an act of justice, love, and mercy, and infants have done nothing to merit an eternal reward and they lack faith, one wonders why there is so much confidence that 1 is true.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

What is Christian Doctrine?

Recently I've been thinking about the doctrine of the Trinity and whether Christian doctrine can develop (as some say) like a seed to a tree, or whether Christian doctrine cannot (or at least has not).

But what exactly is Christian doctrine such that it might be able to develop in the first place?  I am not wondering about the extent of Christian doctrine (e.g. whether subordinationism is a Christian doctrine or a heresy) but what the nature of doctrine is.  What is it to be a doctrine?

What follows are a few undeveloped (very sketchy) thoughts on the matter:

Sunday, July 20, 2014

A Few Sunday Tunes

Here are some good "My life is (probably) half over" songs. Indulge me.  We'll sing with you too if you're lucky.

Gettin' older
OK, this is just for fun:
Finally, the song I listened to before I married my beautiful wife just sixteen years ago, which now has new meaning:

A Meditation on Death on My 40th Birthday

A short time is all there is you have here.  What is in store for you afterwards?  Here today, gone tomorrow.  When out of sight, you are soon out of mind.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

I Believe in Wizards

Sam (five-year-old): Dad, are there really wizards?

Me: Yeah.

Sam: Really, Dad?

Me: There used to be.  

Sam: REALLY????

Me: Well, maybe. What do you mean by "wizard"?

Sam: Somebody that used to do magic.

Me: Oh, yeah, definitely. There were wizards.

Sam:  Really??

Me: Yeah.

Sam: How do you do magic?

Me: Well, you don't exactly DO magic.  But if you love Jesus, the Father, and the Holy Spirit, they can do the magic through you.  In the Bible there are a lot of people that did magic like that.  


Me:  Sort of.  But not exactly.  To do magic, you can't worry about doing magic or learning spells.  You just worry about doing good and God will do all the magic.  But why are you asking about magic?

Sam: Because of that guy on the computer [below]. He's a wizard.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Leibniz and the Problem of Evil

Here  is a great discussion of Leibniz's Theodicy--great not only because it features Jan Cover, one of the more remarkable people I've known and the face of my current Twitter picture.

I can't figure out how to upload the video straight onto the blog so here is a picture of Jan:

Monday, July 14, 2014

Do We Want Mexifornia?

Native Californian, Victor Davis Hanson, has some interesting thoughts on the matter here.  A few quotes:

To contrast the Selma I live in today with the Selma I grew up in will doubtless seem hopelessly nostalgic. But the point of the contrast is not that 40 years ago our community was only 40 or 50 percent Mexican, but rather that the immigrants then were mostly here legally. Crime was far rarer: the hit-and-run accidents, auto theft, drug manufacturing and sale, murders, rapes, and armed robberies that are now customary were then nearly nonexistent. Fights that now end in semi-automatic-weapon fire were settled with knives then.

I used to worry over the theft of a tractor battery. Yet in the last decade, I have run off at gunpoint three gang members trying to force their way into our house at 3 am. Last year, four patrol cars—accompanied by a helicopter whirling overhead—chased drug dealers in hot pursuit through our driveway. One suspect escaped and turned up two hours later hiding behind a hedge on our lawn, vainly seeking sanctuary from a sure prison term. When a carload of thieves tried to steal oranges from our yard, I soon found myself outmanned and outgunned—and decided that 100 pounds of pilfered fruit is not worth your life.
Most of the kids I saw each day then—just as most of the adults I see daily now around the same farm—were from Mexico. Skin color and national origin were quite out in the open. We five Anglos in our class of 40 at our rural elementary school were labeled “white boys” and “gringos”; in turn, we knew the majority as “Mexicans,” their parents more respectfully as “Mexican-Americans.” Most fights, however, were not racial. We in the white minority fought beside and against Mexican-Americans; the great dividing line of most rumbles was whether you were born in Selma or Fresno. We had our fringe racists, of course: Mr. Martinez, the fourth-grade teacher, told me in 1963 that “whitey was through in California,” even as Mrs. Wilson, a Texas native, complimented those in the art class who were “lighter than most from Mexico.” There was nothing of the contemporary multicultural model—no bilingual aides, written and spoken communication with parents in Spanish, textbooks highlighting the Aztecs and the theft of northern Mexico, or federally funded counselors to remind students that “the borders crossed us, not we the borders.” Excused absences for catechism classes at the Catholic church emptied our classrooms, giving us five Anglo Protestants a much-welcomed three-hour recess. We all suffered fish sticks on Friday, the public school’s concession to the vast Catholic majority.
I often think that if I did not particularly like my Mexican-American students (who make up the majority of my classics classes), and if I wanted them to fail, I would not continue to teach them Latin (much less Greek), English composition, or Western history and culture. Nor would I insist on essays free of grammatical error or demand oral reports that employ classical rhetorical tropes.

No, if I did not like them or did not wish to live among thousands of illegal and legal immigrants and wish them married into my family, I would keep them distant by teaching them therapy, letting them speak poor English—or no English at all—and insisting on the superiority of the Mexican culture that they or their parents had fled. If I did not like my students and wished them to remain in the fields—or when they were employed in the office to be snickered at behind closed doors by their white benefactors—I would move from the west side of Selma to an exclusive white suburb in north Fresno, and then as penance teach them during the day about the glory of the Aztecs, the need for government entitlement, and the idea that grammar is but a “construct.” I would insist that white racism and capitalist brutality alone explain Mexican-American crime rates, and I would explain why they need someone like me to champion their cause to the wealthy and educated. If I really wished to be distant from my students, I would insist that they attend our university’s separate Hispanic graduation assemblies to remind them that they are intrinsically different from, rather than inherently equal to me. I would be more like the sensitive teachers who teach today than the insensitive ones who once taught me.

So I have made my choice on the great question that California must decide: whether we will remain multiracial or become America’s first truly multicultural state. For our future, will we all return to an imperfect, insensitive, but honest assimilationist past that nevertheless worked, or stay with the utopian and deceitful multiculturalist present that is clearly failing? Unchecked illegal immigration and multiculturalism are a lethal mix. California—if it is to stay as California—might have coped with one or even the other, but surely not both at once.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

An Anti-Trinitarian Reading of Philippians 2

I recently remarked to a couple friends that I am skeptical that (a) if one denies that Christian doctrine can develop beyond what the apostles universally and explicitly held that (b) one can also reasonably hold to trinitarianism over rival views such as subordinationism or other unitarian views.  One friend remarked that Philippians 2 seems about as good as any passage in favor of trinitarianism with its (alleged) claim by Paul that Jesus is fully God--having the nature of God (rather, than, say, just fully "divine" which is consistent with trinitarianism but also consistent with subordinationism, tritheism, and modalism).

Below is an anti-trinitarian reading of that passage.  A Timothy Keller sermon is the foil and the critique of the trinitarian reading begins at 12:46 right after Keller is done speaking.  Christian tradition and philosophical arguments for the Trinity aside, is Dale Tuggy's critique any less reasonable than a trinitarian interpretation?

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Did Hitler Love Dogs?

I found this interesting (which I reproduce below).  If you don't, well, then you probably are like Hitler and don't like dogs (!!):

Relp! R'im reing rused ror ropaganda rurposes!
Like many of you, I used to think that Hitler loved and was nice to his dog. I had heard, of course, that his personal secretary had testified to this. She, after all, was there, from 1942 until his death by suicide in 1945. But then, I did a little research. I have concluded that we do not and probably will never know how Hitler treated his dog, this one lady’s latter-day stories notwithstanding.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

I Had to Shoot My Dog Last Night

“Bailey died July 9th, Wednesday, 1:45 a.m., 2014.  He was 12 years old.”  So my daughter, Malea, wrote on a notepad last night which I just discovered in the kitchen this morning.  Bailey Hercules Borland was a 12 year old boxer, one year older than my oldest daughter.  We had raised him from a puppy.  We saw him through surgery on a broken leg because of a bad Frisbee toss and his ability to leap very high.  He was loyal and smart.  He once busted through an electric fence to chase two horses across a field because he mistakenly (but reasonably) thought that one of the horses bit our youngest daughter.  When he was younger he would run with Amy and me.  He protected the family when I was gone, and the family felt more at ease at night knowing he was there and always alert.  And last night he died and was buried.

Bailey had been getting worse and worse this last month.  He stopped eating dog food about a month ago and started getting skinnier.  He lived off the scraps our one-year-old threw on the floor and from meat (lots of hot dogs) I fed him when I realized he would eat such things.  Then a couple days ago he stopped eating.  I forced pain pills down his throat for the past week.  And for the past week I’ve had to pick him up to walk because he couldn’t stand on his own. 

The last couple days he started moaning more, and yesterday his feet were very swollen. We had thought about taking him to the vet to put him down but couldn’t go through with it.  We did not want to bring our dog to the vet’s office to have him killed, pay the people at the desk for killing our dog, and then bring his body home in a bag.  He was a part of the household and a part of the family (2 Samuel 12:1-3).  I briefly entertained having the vet bury him but we wanted to bury him at our home, so we were hoping he would die peacefully in the night.  But that didn’t happen.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

A Few Smoking Quotations and the Maverick on Nicotine

“I believe that many who find that "nothing happens" when they sit down, or kneel down, to a book of devotion, would find that the heart sings unbidden while they are working their way through a tough bit of theology with a pipe in their teeth and a pencil in their hand.”  --C.S. Lewis, On the Incarnation

“No one has even begun to understand comradeship who does not accept with it a certain hearty eagerness in eating, drinking, or smoking, an uproarious materialism which to many women appears only hoggish. You may call the thing an orgy or a sacrament; it is certainly an essential. It is at root a resistance to the superciliousness of the individual. Nay, its very swaggering and howling are humble. In the heart of its rowdiness there is a sort of mad modesty; a desire to melt the separate soul into the mass of unpretentious masculinity. It is a clamorous confession of the weakness of all flesh. No man must be superior to the things that are common to men. This sort of equality must be bodily and gross and comic. Not only are we all in the same boat, but we are all seasick.” 
― G.K. ChestertonWhat's Wrong with the World

"I drink a great deal.  I sleep a little, and I smoke cigar after cigar.  That is why I am in two-hundred-percent form."  --Winston Churchill

"Adolf Hitler's life style is simple.  He never drinks alcohol and does not smoke."  --Heinrich Hoffman

"The church of liberalism must have its demons, and his name is 'tobacco.'  --The Maverick Philosopher

The Case for Nicotine

Nicotine is the main psychoactive ingredient in tobacco, and a most delightful and useful ingredient it is, especially for us Luftmenschen.  I am thinking of the chess players who make Luft, not war, and of the philosophers whose thoughts are characteristically lofty and luftig even if at times nebelig.  Nicotine is good for cognitive functioning, increasing both memory and attention.  Studies on humans and lab animals show this to be the case.  But we connoisseurs of the noble weed know this to be so without the help of studies. Experientia docet

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Education in the U.S.: The Modest College and Imperial University

I found this essay on American higher education a very compelling read.  I may assign it in one of my classes.  It's unfortunate that most college graduates wouldn't be able to grasp the first half of it.  (It's doubly unfortunate that it would be news to most college professors as well.)

A few quotes:

"To understand the ethos of a people, examine their system of education. Educating the young is
the essential human act, and in the institutions of a society we can see most clearly the people’s
aspirations, their conception of our ultimate end, and their fundamental beliefs about human
nature and our place in the cosmos."
"Higher education began in colonial America as almost a perfect embodiment of the ancient
synthesis: a network of regional and confessional colleges, each prescribing a similar curriculum
of ancient texts, blending together the three strands of philosophy, rhetoric and theology, with
the aim of equipping a ruling class with the elevated taste, breadth of learning, and piety for
tradition that support a character of virtue."
"Empires rarely collapse as a result of external pressures. Military defeat is normally a symptom
of internal decay. Four factors contribute to this decay: imperial overreach, fiscal profligacy,
bureaucratic hypertrophy, and personal vice and corruption. There are signs that America is
moving inexorably toward a textbook-perfect case of imperial collapse."
"Over four years, the average college student has improved in writing, critical thinking and problem solving by only seven percentiles (0.18 standard deviations), a gain about one-quarter as great as was typical a generation earlier. Nearly 45 percent of students show no measurable gain whatsoever. This lack of progress follows predictably from grade inflation and the collapse of standards. Students reported spending on average less than twelve hours a week outside of class studying, with 37 percent spending less than five hours a week. Fifty percent had not taken a single course in the prior semester that required more than twenty pages of writing."