Sunday, 29 November 2009

Getting the foundations of our character right

I came across Charisma earlier this year. Though the name Lee Grady seemed familiar, I had not read any of his material. He is editor of Charisma magazine and writes a blog Fire In My Bones. In his post Are You Ready for a Holy Ghost Building Inspection? he addresses Paul's admonishment to build with materials that will not be destroyed when tested by God. As part of that Grady emphasises character. While I think Paul is probably implying that what one does and teaches should be in line with God, the call to godliness is an important one. Specifically Grady points to 4 areas of character that he perceives are important in the current climate. They are sexual purity, financial integrity, Christlike humility, and theological soundness. I will quote from his post quite extensively (although out of order).
Sexual purity. It should go without saying that church leaders must live in moral and marital faithfulness. Yet when we look around today we find that ministries are tolerant of flippant divorce, hidden adultery and even unspeakable perversion. Some ministers admit to serious moral failures yet they never step out of ministry even for a week to get counseling. God has issued His clear warning. Ministries that tolerate sexual sin are already crumbling. It does not matter how big your auditorium is, how massive your television outreach, how many people shout during Sunday sermons or how enduring your spiritual legacy may seem. You can preach about God's grace all you want, but you are trampling on that grace if you continue to practice immorality.
Paul argued that such people should be rejected from the church till such time that they repent. Further, restoration is to fellowship, not necessarily ministry.
Financial integrity. Jesus drove the greedy moneychangers out of His temple with a whip. He requires faithfulness of His stewards. Ministries that have committed spiritual extortion will have a day of reckoning—not necessarily with the IRS but certainly with the heavenly Auditor. Those who sell prophecies or charge $1,000 to gullible people to make them "spiritual sons" will soon lose their platforms. Those who misuse God's money to buy Bentleys, vacation homes and expensive clothes and shoes will soon experience the Great Repo.
Peddling the gospel is a great evil. I have no intrinsic problems with people being wealthy. I don't even have problems with ministers who happen to be wealthy. I have no problems with people who do God's work being supported by others. But receiving the honour of others is very different from asking for money, selling the gospel, or manipulating people with promises of blessing. If you happen to think God blesses (financially) those who give of their financial resources (a questionable claim), then best you encourage people to give to ministries other than your own.
Theological soundness. We can walk in humility, integrity and purity and still fail if we mix error with truth. We must preach Christ and Him crucified. We must contend for the faith that was delivered to the saints. We must guard the flock from deception and avoid the subtle lies and compromises that creep in from our culture and from occult influences. In segments of our movement today, charismatic theology has been diluted with New Age spirituality, universalism, pop psychology, Gnosticism, false prophecy and just plain weirdness. We need to reactivate the neglected gift of discernment and get rid of the theological hay and stubble that has caused our movement to lose its credibility.
It is encouraging to hear the call from charismatics for sound theology. While their emphasis on the work of the Holy Spirit is helpful and needed, this does not need to come at the expense of sloppy, or worse, incorrect, theology.
Christlike humility. We cannot build God's house with pride and carnality. In the early days of our movement God winked at our immaturity—but we have no excuse today. Mature leaders should act like servants, not rock stars or mafia bosses. We must trade in our entourages and high-minded demands and return to the way of the Master—which includes the manger (humble beginnings), the donkey (a humble ministry style) and the towel (serving those we are called to lead). God resists the proud, and any church that embraces the bless-me gospel of egotistical charlatans will not enjoy His manifest presence.
Self awareness is not necessarily pride. But we need to think of others more than ourselves. Paul called himself the least of the apostles.

It seems that when it comes to ministry, the call of God is what many people focus on, possibly more so in Pentecostal circles (though I wonder about this tendency in liberalism). While this should not be minimised, we are not to dismiss what God is doing. And the belief of ministers that God is using them should not remove them from self scrutiny. In fact, they should probably be even more self-examining than others.

I think we are called to show respect to those over us, but this does not allow them to be immune from criticism. And criticism against a minister is not refuted by referring to God's anointing on his life. It may be that the complaint is unwarranted, and such person is answerable to God for speaking thus, but the response is to leave the issue to God or to refute the specifics. Claiming anointing status that makes one untouchable is the defence of scoundrels.

Further, having a true anointing of God does not make one immune to fault. God chooses who he wishes. He is able to use a donkey. Look at the examples of King Saul, Eli, and Balaam. Balaam is quite instructive as despite God using him to bless Israel, his love of money meant that he encouraged Moab in enticing Israel to sin in a way that would lead to their judgment. Thus Balaam's end was destruction.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Dvorak keyboard

I have been wanting to try a Dvorak keyboard. I did not see them available at computer stores. I had an old keyboard at home so I flicked off all the keys and repositioned them. In Windows Control Panel under Regional and Language Options one can add the Dvorak layout: click Options in the Languages tab. I don't usually have the language bar open but it is now displayed to allow switching back to Qwerty. I have my other keyboard on the desk but need to plug it in as both keyboards have PS/2 connectors, not USB. Though I suspect one could have 2 keyboards attached concurrently. Initially Windows would switch back to Qwerty intermittently, for no clear reason to me, so I switched the default to Dvorak. Why do this? Well it is apparently more ergonomic. Qwerty is designed to minimise stuck typebars. Which was relevant with typewriters in the 19th century but irrelevant now. Dvorak places commonly used letters in the middle letter row. Letter frequency depends slightly on writing style but is generally
e t a o i n s r h l d c u m f p g w y b v k x j q z
So the 10 letters in the Dvorak main row come from the 13 most commonly typed letters. There is dispute whether Dvorak is actually faster. The typing speed record was set on a Dvorak keyboard, but even if speed is similar for both layouts for most people, it is possible that typing strain injuries are less on a better designed keyboard. How have I found it? Slower, especially initially. I was back to looking at the keyboard while I typed. Looking at the keyboard is not much of an issue as I type from thought, not written text. I am still using the old layout at work which may hinder uptake, though I am not certain it is, and either way it doesn't concern me. I see no reason why someone cannot be competent with both and comfortably switch between layouts. However I think it has changed what I type because I have to slow my thoughts to the speed I type. While one can think faster than he types, I could type at a reasonable speed with Qwerty, a speed that matched well enough finding the words I needed to express my ideas. I cannot do this yet with Dvorak. Is my writing better or worse for the slower typing? I don't know. Though improvement in my writing style is more likely to come with practice and better proofreading rather than typing speed. Mistakes on this keyboard are probably more frequent, though I used backspace too frequently on Qwerty. Spelling errors, incorrect doubled letters, missed word spaces. Dropped letters (and I am unaware of it at the time) are more frequent now whereas they were nearly non-existent previously. And of course occasionally confusing key placement for Qwerty location. The letters "A" and "M" are the only letters that are in the same position in both layouts. Punctuation is different and seems a little more difficult and less logical. I will probably persist for a while. Others have suggest Dvorak is too different from Qwerty for the masses to adopt and have recommended an improved but Qwerty-like layout, the Colemak. Though I think the "B" position (Qwerty) is the most difficult to consistently use the correct fingering, and should have been traded for "X" or "Z."

Friday, 27 November 2009

NIWA defends it adjustment of data

NIWA have released a statement that the data that shows a warming trend in New Zealand over 100 years was adjusted.
NIWA’s analysis of measured temperatures uses internationally accepted techniques, including making adjustments for changes such as movement of measurement sites.
Though the paper (and my post yesterday) suggest adjustment was the likely explanation. However the graph and the surrounding paragraph fail to mention the data is adjusted. I read significant numbers of scientific papers and they are always referencing the raw and the adjusted data labelling both. There are statistical issues with some of these papers but this is not one of them.

NIWA go on to say,
Such site differences are significant and must be accounted for when analysing long-term changes in temperature. The Climate Science Coalition has not done this.

NIWA climate scientists have previously explained to members of the Coalition why such corrections must be made. NIWA’s Chief Climate Scientist, Dr David Wratt, says he’s very disappointed that the Coalition continue to ignore such advice and therefore to present misleading analyses.
Unfortunately this comment fails to identify and thus address the issue which is: "why" is not the question the Coaliltion is asking; it is "what" and "how". What is the adjustment? and how have you done it? Treadgold (an author of the paper) writes,
We cannot account for adjustments, because we don’t know what they are. We ask only to know the adjustments that have been made, in detail, for all seven stations, and why.
Transparency demands that the specific reasons for data adjustment be given.
  • What stations have been adjusted?
  • When were they adjusted?
  • Is the adjustment stepwise or a trend?
  • Is there overlap of data when stations are shifted?
  • Does the overlapped data show good correlation?
  • Have adjustments been modified in subsequent years? Why?
  • What is the computer code that applies the adjustment?
This sort of information allows others to review the legitimacy of such decisions. And various groups can argue for and against these reasons and the weighing various reasons should be given.

Why the secrecy? The refusal to be open with data and theories is looked upon with suspicion, and rightly so.

Gareth Renowden writes a post explaining why adjustments are made to the data. The excessive rhetoric notwithstanding, the argument is plausible. But it still leaves questions unanswered. While the Wellington station may just be used an example, what of the other 6 stations? Wellington may show a rise after adjustment, but this will be diluted when averaged across all the station unless they all showed a rise. It they did what is the explanation for them.

Though I am not fully convinced with NIWA's explanation. The Airport and Kelburn temperatures seem well correlated, with Kelburn cooler being at a higher altitude. And Thorndon and Airport are both at the same elevation (sea level). But there is no correlation established between Thorndon and the other 2 locations.

Elevation is not the sole determiner of temperature. There may be other considerations that make Thorndon and the Airport different temperatures. If so, then the adjustment down of the Thorndon data may be excessive. It should be easy to set up further measurements at Thorndon currently and see how they correlate to Kelburn and the Airport. If they all correlate well then we can establish a more accurate correction factor for the pre-1930 Thorndon data.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

New Zealand not warming?

It seems to residents that the country has not being getting warmer over the last decade. Such that advocates of global warming prefer the term climate change so that any weather anomaly can be attributed to anthropomorphic global warming. And people are willing to parrot claims that some parts of the world will get colder (this may be a prediction of the theory but should encourage one to cautiously consider these claims).

The New Zealand National Institute of Atmosphere and Water Research (NIWA) do not show significant change since 2000 but they do show an increase over the last century as seen in this graph.

Graph. Mean annual temperature over New Zealand, from 1853 to 2008 inclusive, based on between 2 (from 1853) and 7 (from 1908) long-term station records. The blue and red bars show annual differences from the 1971 - 2000 average, the solid black line is a smoothed time series, and the dotted line is the linear trend over 1909 to 2008 (0.92°C/100 years).

Yesterday the New Zealand Climate Science Coalition released an article challenging this rise using NIWA's own data. They plotted the temperatures from the NIWA source data and got this graph.

Whereas the first shows a rise of ~1°C per century, the second shows no discernable rise. The difference between the 2 graphs? The second uses raw data, the first (probably) has adjusted the data.
About half the adjustments actually created a warming trend where none existed; the other half greatly exaggerated existing warming.
There are legitimate reasons why data can and should be adjusted. Cities grow and hence warm so later temperatures may be warmer, especially overnight. Different thermometers may be used that show a consistent measurable difference. But there are 2 comments to make about adjusting data. Firstly adjusted data should be labelled as such with the unadjusted data displayed alongside it and the factors the data was adjusted for.

Secondly, it makes a difference whether adjusting data removes or produces an association. Frequently differences in data are seen because they attributes of the data sets are different. If we compare test scores between highschools to create a league table it may be reasonable to correct for number of children in different grades as some schools may have more students at higher levels, or one school may only let its brightest children sit the test. But we should be more cautious about accepting an association that only appears after adjustment. It is not that there can be no difference, rather it is that enough statistical manipulation can show a difference and the reasons for the adjusted variables are then argued after the fact.

If you do find a difference after adjustment you need to check your adjustment factors are not associated with the variable that is under consideration, in this case you cannot adjust for time as time changes are what is being looked for; and you must validate your adjustment with an independent data set.

On top of the release of emails and computer code from the now infamous Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, UK; perhaps there might be some room for debate around the issues of climate change. Is it happening? Are humans responsible? Would it be detrimental? Should we pay attention to scientists who refuse to reveal their data and formulae?

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Corporate versus individual election

Brennon Hartshorn has posted his take on Romans 9 from an Arminian perspective. Marcus McElhaney, of a more Calvinist persuasion, has addressed Brennon's post pointwise. Both are an interesting read and there is some common agreement; they may be worth perusing prior to reading this post. I do not seek to reproduce or comment on the whole exchange. Rather one paragraph of Marcus' made me think that aspects of freewill needed clarification.

In Romans 9 Paul writes
And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls—she was told, "The older will serve the younger." As it is written, "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated."

What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, "For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth." So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.
Brennon's comment on verses 14 and 15 (italics above),
What about this? Was God unrighteous when He chose Jacob over Esau? The Jews at this time would have thought so. Esau was the eldest and that meant that the birthright of Isaac was naturally his. But God chose Jacob to be the one to carry on the line of Israel. Paul asserts that of course God is not unrighteous in this decision.

In verse 15 Paul is citing Exodus 33:19. Let’s remember that Paul is a Jewish Rabbi. Jews memorized large portions of the Old Testament. He had an amazing command of knowledge of these ancient texts. Would he rip the text out of context in order to prove a point about individual unconditional election? No! The context here is not about who goes to heaven and who does not. In context, Moses has asked God to show him His glory. God says it is because of His mercy that He has decided to show Himself to Moses, not due to anything Moses did. So Paul’s point is God does not owe us mercy based on what we do (will or run). The basis of God’s choice to save people is not on the people’s conduct, but on His compassion. The “IT” in verse 16 is not individual salvation; the “IT” refers to God’s choice of what to predicate His salvation on: Corporate election. Individual unconditional election has not appeared in this section. (Emphasis original.)
Marcus responds thus,
I'm not sure why we would assume that if God could do this with nations that he does not do it with individuals? In order for God to do it on a corporate scale means turning and directing the will of many teaching that God does not do anything against human free will goes out the window. I agree that the verses are definitely saying that election is based on God's will and desire and nothing to do with the properties of those being elected. I mean you can't elect yourself to something and still call it "election". "Fair" is whatever God says it is as far as I am concerned. I think that Paul is really pointing out that this is how God is and deals with his creation. It's His reality. We just live in it...on His terms.
While I disagree with aspects of this paragraph, I also think Marcus misunderstands aspects of freewill.

The context of Romans 9 seems to be corporate. Paul starts by mentioning fellow (ethnic) Israelites. He then goes on to discuss individuals such as Isaac, Jacob, Esau and Pharaoh. The need of the exegete is therefore to explain why the change to individual salvation or, as Brennon attempts to do, how the individuals mentioned represent the corporate or represent God's dealings with the corporate.

The importance of assessing individual versus corporate is that dealing with the corporate is fundamentally distinct from dealing with the individual. The issue with God dealing with the individual is that if God does so in an exhaustively deterministic way then man is essentially an automaton. He is therefore unable to to truly love, nor is he responsible for his actions—good or bad.

This does not mean that proponents of freewill deny that God is able to act deterministically, he is; it is that he does not do so exhaustively because he wants creatures to love him. God could set up a clockwork world and appreciate its beauty and precision. But God created this world with men who would love and enjoy him forever.

Freewill does not constrain God, he constrains himself. God could still prevent men from thinking or conceiving some things, and he may in fact do this at times. God is able to prevent the actions of evil men and does so. Freedom is not a power that God struggles to overcome, it is a gift, an attribute of God that he bestows on man.

Now this does not apply to corporate groups because a group does not have freewill, other than the freedom of the individuals within it. And God can act in ways that affect corporate outcome without overriding the freedom of individuals that comprise it. God can raise up a nation by providing optimal environmental conditions, and he can destroy a nation by sending disaster.

In doing so we note that God's plans for groups can be brought about according to God's purpose and for his glory. God tells Israel they are not a nation of note but that he will make them great. Individuals within various groups still retain the choice to side with or against God. If God punishes a nation, individuals of such nations can still appeal to God's mercy. We see this in Rahab and the Egyptians who left in the Exodus. If God blesses a nation, individuals can still reject God's purposes; consider Korah, Dathan and Abiram.

While a Calvinist may see God working on the corporate scale as an outworking of exhaustive determinism of individuals, this perspective is a result of the Calvinist system. God is actually able to act on the corporate scale without exhaustive determinism. The non-Calvinist perspective is that God works at the corporate level to assess the actions of individuals. God does not control the motives of our hearts, he tests them.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

The means that God shall give

George Muller, famous for orphanages in England, set up an institution for the spread of the gospel which he named, "The Scriptural Knowledge Institution For Home And Abroad." This institution had several principles and objects. What I find inspiring is the refusal to ask men for money. People were aware of this institution, and then subsequent orphanages, which they were welcome to give to. But Muller was at pains to take his requests only to God and not to man.

And while Muller commenced activities he thought the Lord would have him do before all the provision had arrived, he refused to enter into debt for the same.

Further he sort to not use people to raise the profile of the institution if they were not Christian, and he refused the help and the employment of non-Christians in the work.

Here are the principles of the institution (appendix D).
  1. We consider every believer bound, in one way or another, to help the cause of Christ, and we have scriptural warrant for expecting the Lord's blessing upon our word of faith and labour of love: and although, according to Matt. xiii.24-43, 2 Tim. iii. 1-13, and many other passages, the world will not be converted before the coming of our Lord Jesus, still, while He tarries, all scriptural means ought to be employed for the ingathering of the elect of God.
  2. The Lord helping us, we do not mean to seek the patronage of the world; i.e., we never intend to ask unconverted persons of rank or wealth to countenance the Institution, because this, we consider, would be dishonourable to the Lord. In the name of our God we set up our banners, Ps. xx.5; He alone shall be our Patron, and if He helps us we shall prosper, and if He is not on our side, we shall not succeed.
  3. We do not mean to ask unbelievers for money (2 Cor. vi.14-18); though we do not feel ourselves warranted to refuse their contributions, if they, of their own accord should offer them. (Acts xxviii. 2-10.)
  4. We reject altogether the help of unbelievers in managing or carrying on the affairs of the Institution. (2 Cor. vi.14-18.)
  5. We intend never to enlarge the field of labour by contracting debts (Rom. xiii.8), and afterwards appealing to the church of God for help, because this we consider to be opposed both to the letter and the spirit of the New Testament; but in secret prayer, God helping us, we shall carry the wants of the Institution to the Lord, and act according to the means that God shall give.
  6. We do not mean to reckon the success of the Institution by the amount of money given, or the number of Bibles distributed, etc., but by the Lord's blessing upon the work (Zech. iv.6); and we expect this, in the proportion in which He shall help us to wait upon Him in prayer.
  7. While we would avoid aiming after needless singularity, we desire to go on simply according to Scripture, without compromising the truth; at the same time thankfully receiving any instruction which experienced believers, after prayer, upon scriptural ground, may have to give us concerning the Institution.
While I am not completely against the requesting of funds for a need, Paul asked the Corinthian church to help the Jerusalem church, the idea of only asking God for one's needs has some appeal. In the natural it seems daunting, though our God has the resources of the universe at his disposal—how faltering our faith, but it has the advantage that only programs that God is involved in can prosper. Sure, God is involved in many organisations that appeal for money, but men can sustain efforts even when they abandon God's plans. But when God provides the funds, only his tasks get funded.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Dumb inventions

Life magazine ran an article on some of the dumbest inventions in the 20th century.

I found the caption to this one amusing.

Honegar, 1959

Inventor of a honey and vinegar mixture, called Honegar, Dr. DeForest C. Jarvis. Honegar was said to be a folk remedy for aches and pains, though it mainly sounds like a cure for lack of nausea.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Right to internet access?

Finland is looking to make fast internet access a legal requirement and is couching the law in terms of "rights". From Laura Vilkkonen, the legislative counselor for the Ministry of Transport and Communications,
We think it's something you cannot live without in modern society. Like banking services or water or electricity, you need Internet connection,... Universal service is every citizen's subjective right.
There are so many things wrong here.

What does she mean by a "subjective right"? Since when are banking and electricity rights? And how something that has barely existed in the course of history can philosophically be considered a right is preposterous.

Making high speed internet access a right mocks the concept of rights.

And it significantly impinges on the freedom or internet service providers in doing business.

Who is going to pay? If it is the consumer surely he should be free to choose a slower speed/ cheaper option, especially if the higher speed/ dearer option precludes any internet connection (though now a "right" the state will come to the party).

Coming soon to a government near you,
It is a view shared by the United Nations, which is making a big push to deem Internet access a human right.

In June, France's highest court declared such access a human right. But Finland goes a step further by legally mandating speed.
That France legislates such measures is suggestive that such rights do not exist. The fact that the United Nations supports it is confirmation they do not.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Random quote

My parents told me there aren't any ghosts. They told me there aren't any goblins. They only told me those things once, though. They tell me there isn't a God every week. There must be a God.

Irina Ratushinskaya, age 9.


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