Modern Pensées

Reconsidering theology, philosophy, culture, economics, and politics

Archive for June 2010

Best Links of the Week

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Adding a third dimension to the debate over video venue churches is hologram technology.  The technology now exists and is being marketed to the 3000+ video venue churches so that the Pastor can preach at other venues in 3D.  Your thoughts?

John Wooden TED Talk.

New Military underwear to monitor heart rate/vitals and administer drugs/pain meds.

A 52  year old California construction worker was arrested in Northern Pakistan on one man mission to kill Osama bin Laden.  He had a 40″ sword, night vision goggles, and a pistol.  He was confident of the success of his mission because, “God is with him.”

Rent a White Guy in China.

The Church of Football.

Some interesting scenarios of the coming mega-conferences in NCAA sports.

Here are some wordles for common church names in the U.S.

The U.S. finds $1,000,000,000,000 worth of metals in Afghanistan.  This substantially complicates the future of Afghanistan.

The Euro to reach parity with the Dollar in 2011.

Some interesting thoughts on the impact of technology on missions.

Some thoughts on God and Soccer.

Nice interview with Stephen Prothero on Religion and Pluralism.

WSJ analysis of economic pitfalls in 2011.

Saudi Arabia gives green light to Israel to use airspace in strike against Iranian nuclear facilities.

Publishing company places disclaimer on the U.S. Constitution saying, “might wish to discuss with their children how views on race, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, and interpersonal relations have changed since this book was written before allowing them to read this classic work.”

Is the internet making us impatient and compulsive?

Lego re-creations of famous photographs.

114,000 Apple iPads compromised by AT&T.  (HT: Greg)

USA Today:  “Protestant Pastor in the Job Hunt?  Good Luck in this Market

Some amazing photos of baby animals inside the womb.

Please don’t ever do this at your church:

HT:  A Little Leaven

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Best Links of the Week

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Kevin DeYoung has a brief writeup of Keswick Theology (from Andy Naselli).  This is the “let go and let God” theology and the divorcing of salvation from Lordship (ie.  I got saved when I was ______ old and I accepted God as Lord/re-dedicated when I was ________ old).  This kind of language was par for the course in my Dispensational upbringing and its view of sanctification is quite problematic.  The writeup has a nice brief history and summary of Keswick theology.

Avoiding Missional Idolatries.  Some lucid and thoughtful analysis of some pitfalls of missional church thinking.

The problem of groundwood paper vs. archival quality paper in modern book publishing.

Technology is re-wiring our brains.  I have felt the pinch of technology on myself.  Compulsive e-mail checking and always being on the grid actually stinks.  In the same vein is this article:  “Does the Internet Make us Dumber?

Some thoughtful analysis of Two Kingdom Theology and Neo-Calvinism.

The culture of narcissism among millennials.

Our National Debt is about to overtake our GDP.

Rahm Emmanuel and Joe Biden supersoaker fight on the White House lawn (you can’t make this stuff up).

If you don’t know what UVB-76 is, you may find this wikipedia article interesting.  It ceased broadcasting this week.

Apparently the financier of the much-maligned Gaza bound Flotilla is also the same financier of the proposed Ground Zero Mosque.

D-Day Pictures.

Obama’s trifecta of policy failure.

What in the world does “Spiritual But Not Religious” mean?

Video of the expansion of Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam over time.  Its a bit reductionistic, but worth a watch.

Finance Bubble Predictor.

Adidas World Cup Commercial = Star Wars Cantina Scene + David Beckham + Snoop Dogg + Lightsabre = Awesome

Two videos this week:  Neat time lapse video, shot .1fps on motion track, and set to some Jonsi:

A Tribute to the Retiring Alvin Plantinga

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Alvin Plantinga has been a professor of philosophy for over 50 years, spending his last 28 years at Notre Dame.   To be quite frank he is one of the best philosophers in the past few centuries.   I think the greatest complement I have ever heard of Plantinga came a Jewish atheist professor at UF, who said something to the effect, ‘Alvin Plantinga has single handidly made Christianity respectable again in philosophy… his arguments are so damn good, that I have reconsidered my atheism.’

In analytic philosophy circles, Christianity was seen as an epistemological joke.  Plantinga painstakingly carved out a space for Christianity back at the discussion table in even the most hostile departments.  It is perhaps somewhat ironic that Plantinga was at Notre Dame considering his theological and philosophical heritage was from the Reformed tradition.  However, from what I understand the President of Notre Dame at the time wanted the best Christian thinking and at that time it happened to be Reformed epistemology.   So, Notre Dame grabbed guys like Plantinga, Alasdair MacIntyre, and Peter van Inwagen.

Here is a poor attempt at a brief and uncomprehensive summary his contribution to Christian thought:

Warranted Christian Belief and God as properly basic (Reformed Epistemology)

In Warranted Christian Belief, Plantinga makes a case that several things are properly basic.  Something that is properly basis does not require proof and functions as the bedrock that we layer our daily lives on top of.  One such example is Descartes’ famous “cogito ergo sum” or “I think therefore I exist.”  The most important thing that Plantinga voraciously argues for is that the existence of God is properly basic [and the atheists gasp, throwing the yellow flag calling for a 5 yard illegal motion penalty].  Plantinga makes a very good case (along with the presuppositionalists) that belief in God requires no proof or justification.  Consider the following – can you prove that other minds exist.  It sounds like a stupid question, but can you?  I could be a brain in a vat, or Neo in the Matrix, or the muse of some evil genius and all of what I think is reality could be completely constructed, and I am on the only thinking being.  None of us thinks or believes that we are the only mind in existence.  In simple terms, the belief in other minds is properly basic in a similar way that belief in God is properly basic.  Plantinga spends the rest of the book defending that the Christian worldview is justifiable.

Free-Will Defense Against the Logical Problem of Evil

There are several Problem(s) of Evil in philosophy.  The most common had been the logical problem of evil:

1. If a perfectly good god exists, then evil does not.    2. There is evil in the world.    3. Therefore, a perfectly good god does not exist.

Most philosophers have conceded that Plantinga has solved the logical problem of evil in his Free-Will Defense, and have given up on the logical problem of evil.  First off, it is important to say that his argument is a defense and not a theodicy.  A theodicy is a justification for why evil exists in a world created by God.  A defense exists merely to show a logically possible set of premises that refutes the trilemma above.  Plantinga’s argument goes like such:

A world containing creatures who are significantly free (and freely perform more good than evil actions) is more valuable, all else being equal, than a world containing no free creatures at all. Now God can create free creatures, but He can’t cause or determine them to do only what is right. For if He does so, then they aren’t significantly free after all; they do not do what is right freely. To create creatures capable of moral good, therefore, He must create creatures capable of moral evil; and He can’t give these creatures the freedom to perform evil and at the same time prevent them from doing so. As it turned out, sadly enough, some of the free creatures God created went wrong in the exercise of their freedom; this is the source of moral evil. The fact that free creatures sometimes go wrong, however, counts neither against God’s omnipotence nor against His goodness; for He could have forestalled the occurrence of moral evil only by removing the possibility of moral good.  God, Freedom, and Evil, pp. 166-167.

In undergrad, I wrote a paper reworking Plantinga’s argument removing a free-will view of Divine Sovereignty and human responsibility and inserting a compatibilist view in its place.  I believe that my paper did no harm to Plantinga’s argument and that his argument is still compatible with compatibilism.

Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism

The evolutionary argument against naturalism is sheer brilliance.  He argues that if evolution and naturalism are true then it seriously undermines both evolution and naturalism.  Naturalism is the idea that we hold ideas “true” today because they have “survival value.”  If evolution and naturalism are true, then human thinking evolved to produce ideas that have survival value and not necessarily truth.  The set of beliefs that maximizes my ability to eat, reproduce, and fight is not always what is true.  Evolution and naturalism, therefore, are tuned to survival rather than truth.  Therefore, this casts significant doubt on trusting our thinking itself, and included in that thinking are both the ideas of evolution or naturalism themselves.  Genius.

Modal Logic Version of Ontological Argument

It took me 3 years, 4 philosophy professors, and 4 versions of the argument to finally understand its genius.  It is not sophistry; it is not a parlor trick; it is not a aberration of grammar.  Do not go chasing the ontological argument unless you have copious amounts of time, a willingness to make your brain hurt, and the patience to deconstruct why Gaunilo and Kant’s objections are incorrect.  If you are up to the task, start here.

In the wake of evangelicalism’s massive receding from all public spheres (particularly the University), Plantinga has nearly single-handidly re-carved out a space for the Christian to have a voice in philosophy and respectability in the University.  You would be wise to have a basic understanding of his thinking.

Thank you Alvin.  I am deeply indebted.

Best Links of the Week

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Apparently Nancy Pelosi makes all of her public policy decisions based on “The Word.”  One of my pet peeves is politicians isogeting Scripture, it is almost sure to be a disaster.  I am wondering what part of the “The Word” encourages abortion.  Do yourself a favor and watch the incoherent trainwreck that was her speech.

Interesting article on the massive contraction of the U.S. Money Supply.

David Byrne, of Talking Heads fame, is suing Florida Gov. Charlie Crist for unauthorized use of his music.

Apparently Michelangelo sketched a human brain into the head of God in the Sistene Chapel.

On Monks and Capitalism.

Some interesting analysis of the sociology of Facebook.

For all you GUT folks:  Neutrinos have mass.

Hillary Clinton thinks ‘the rich aren’t paying their fair share’ of taxes.  I guess $.40 on the dollar isn’t enough for the sticky fingers of Uncle Sam.

Some in-depth analysis of the “New Calvinism.”  Don’t agree with all the conclusions from the article, but a worthwhile read.  On a sidenote, people need to more properly delineate the terms “Neo-Calvinism” and “new calvinism.”  Neo-Calvinism is Dutch Reformed thinking from mainly Abraham Kuyper and also Herman Bavinck.  New Calvinism is a term associated with the surging sub-group of Reformed Evangelicals who have some small distinctives from the traditional arc of Calvinists.

Burk Parsons also offers some thoughts on the New Calvinism.

I am so glad I don’t have to do this for salvation and blessing.

All you caffeine addicts… recent science shows your morning coffee doesn’t give you any real perk, rather it merely gets you to your baseline productivity.  On a sidenote, why do so many evangelical ministers seem to be okay (and some even proud) of their coffee/caffeine addiction?  Am I the only one that thinks this is odd?

Here is a pretty incredible action (and quite violent) sequence from a 1992 John Woo movie entitled Hard Boiled. Woo is an auteur of the fight scene:

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