Thursday, February 28, 2008

Overheard in Java: Part I

As I was walking back to my seat I overheard a curious snippet of conversation, tidily out of context:
...she just had her boobs casted...
Now it was startling at first, but upon reflection I have become simply compelled to seek out all the propositions this interesting snippet could possibly represent. I've hit some dead ends however, and I could really use your help.

I think it's clear that the keyword here is "cast". What could that mean, in the broadly logical sense? Did she make arrangements for her breasts to appear in a movie? Covered or uncovered? How could it be said of her then, that she "had" them cast? Did she not have to audition? Does she know someone on the inside - perhaps the director? Or did the director happen to notice such perfect breasts whilst standing in line for a churro at Silverwood? How would that conversation unfold?
Director: Hey, I see you have a set of perfect breasts, there.
Woman: Oh these old things?
Or perhaps she was a little more straightforward about it:
Oh yeah, I really lucked out in the boob department. I understand there is a shortage of perfect breasts in the world, so I have taken steps to prevent any damage coming to mine. Do you like them?
Or maybe they were thrown, like bait from a fishing pole. Is that possible? Are her breasts detachable somehow? Let's cut this line of thinking short right here.

No... I bet it was that a mold was made of them. Bronze? Did she get her boobs bronzed for posterity? Maybe she knows that perfect breasts are like really good parking spots: temporary. Maybe she wanted to remember them in her old age, or maybe she wanted her husband to have access to a physical representation of her glory days (which are apparently waning as this is being typed). Or maybe the cast was made of her boobs as a means of communicating to the surgeons just how her friend wants hers to look?

Did she break a bone in her chest requiring her torso to be stabilized in fiber glass? Maybe she is in traction. But what a strange way to communicate that?

Maybe - I got it - maybe the speaker meant "cast" like one would cast a vote! But what would that even mean?

Any theories?

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Further Exploration of Universal Healthcare: A Rejoinder to Brandon's Rebuttal

Admitting a temporary and humble agnosticism regarding its feasibility and the details of an efficient implementation of it, I recently put forth an argument in favor universal health care and asked for feedback from any perspective. I got some. I here briefly, respectfully, and charitably respond to the text of Brandon's initial reply.

I am learning a lot about health care as I wade through articles, which is good since I don't know anything. I am continually humbled by the amount of detail involved in some of the issues on which the matter is hung. Let it be known that I have not yet made up my mind with certainty.

At this point I am most interested in arguments against universal health care, since I lean in the broadly stated direction "in favor of universal health care". Brandon's position constitutes one such, and I am therefore compelled to evaluate it as best I can.

I appreciate Brandon's work in replying to my little post, and I appreciate that he cited a lot of material. He also took the initiative to apologize for the fact that he "gets worked up" over the issue. I accept his apology.

Sometimes its easy to let our emotions get in the way of our reason.

He opens:
The chart you linked to tells us absolutely nothing.
While uncertain of exactly how to interpret this claim, I feel the need to point out that the chart lays out various facets of the health care systems employed by several nations. I want to draw attention to the facts that Sweden and other countries (whose health care is basically universal) have higher life expectancy rates, lower infant mortality rates, higher ratios of physicians to people, higher ratios of nurses to people, lower expenditures per capita on heath, lower ratios of cost to GDP, and lower ratios of health costs to government revenue than the United States (whose health care is partially free market). These are quantifiable, falsifiable facts. And they are "absolutely something" as far as a conversation on universal health care is concerned.

The reason is that from what I can tell, the politically libertarian, or generally anti-universal heath care, argument is constituted by two horns: the class of arguments in support of the claim that it is basically morally wrong for the government to implement universal health care, and the class of arguments in support of the claim that it is pragmatically wrong to do so.

Q.E.D., the facts that seem to support the claim that universal health care can accomplish generally higher standards for generally lower costs constitute the essence of a rebuttal to the pragmatic horn of the opposing argument, and thus ought not be simply dismissed out of hand.

At the very least give me some sort of reason why I should agree to classify such a chart as one telling us "absolutely nothing". Surely you don't expect a man with leanings in favor of universal health care such as me to simply accept such a bold and unfounded claim without so much as a polite questioning as to its motivation or rational grounding!

Throw me a frickin' bone here.
The article that you linked to from the conservative/libertarian obviously does not understand what libertarianism is.
Personally I can't speak to the completeness or accuracy of this man's understanding of political libertarianism, since I neither am him nor have a personal intellectual relationship with him. However I am interested in why you think this to be the case.
You seem to be under the impression that America's current health care system is a free market.
Nope. Well, I freely grant that the current health care situation in America is not laissez-fare, anyway.
...I am not skeptical about how bad things are here, I accept that they are bad...
Common ground! Excellent.
...that is because it is not a free market.
To be fair now, the problem with (and ipso facto the solution to) the health care system in America is precisely what we are arguing about. Confidently reiterating your position does very little persuasive work.
A centralized military is not run best by the federal government and coinage is ABSOLUTELY NOT run best by a federal government.
If you want to protect the most individual rights possible, then obey the constitution.
Does the term "rights" in this phrase reference transcendent human rights, or "constitutional rights"? If the latter, your phrase is tautological and uninteresting.

However I suspect the former, which brings to mind some questions I've been wanting to ask an intelligent libertarian (if that isn't an oxymoron - oh snap! JUST KIDDING DON'T FREAK OUT!)

In earnest, I wonder whether you genuinely maintain that the United States constitution prescribes the defense of a well-defined, complete, accurate, and concise list of transcendent human rights. Will you please speak to that?

My other question is in regards to your advice to "obey the constitution", and it's this: can you be any more vague, please?
If you don't care about rights, follow Europe's example.
Genuinely attempting honesty with yourself, any readers of your reply, and me, please answer this: do you seriously think that "follow Europe's example" is well-defined enough to compel, merit, warrant, or even provide for the reasonable rhetorical possibility of, a response to your comment? In light of your answer to the former question, do you therefore think that I ought to reply to it, under any construal of the term "ought"?

Your answers will determine whether I interact with this paragraph.
If you really want American Businesses to be more competitive, get the government out of the market place.
While it is tempting to give this a full treatment under this post, I am going to refrain. The reality is that this comment completely sidesteps my argument. You have not addressed whether the forces I cited may operate upon American business, to what degree, at what expense, or whether such operation is relevant. Your failure to interact with the agenda I initially set is tantamount to a failure to compel, merit, warrant, or even provide for the reasonable rhetorical possibility of, a rejoinder.
...Are you suggesting that the cure to the common cold is government provided healthcare?
No, I didn't intend to imply that. I simply meant to state that a larger number of citizens would be covered under universal health care, which would have general benefits for America's workforce and consumer base.
...We don't need to raise Stalin from the dead in order to make a "democratic" decision for the people to avoid getting sick.
Making a Democratic Decision for the People to Avoid Getting Sick

[Hint: Hover over picture.]
...Will people drive less if gas is free?
Note how I didn't claim that health care would be "used less" if it were universalized. I claimed that universalization would be a force toward balancing the use of health care. And I cited two possible ways that this might obtain: 1. rather than avoiding visits to the doctor in order to avoid expensive co-payments, one might feel free to visit the doctor, and 2. rather than visiting a doctor at the drop of a pin just to take advantage of a really nice employer-provided plan that might not have much longevity, one might feel confident in making it a practice to wait before going in, knowing full well that health care will continue to be accessible.

Health care is not a commodity in the same way things like gas are. One difference is that it is easier to consume more and more gas as prices drop (e.g. "I'll just take another trip out to Seattle this weekend to capture some additional shots with my new Canon Rebel, since I don't have any obligations and gas is only $.02 per gallon." versus "I'll just go get another brain surgery this weekend, since I don't have any obligations and health care is basically paid for by my government.").
"Ver are yer papers!"
EXACTLY, this is what we're trying to avoid! Instead of being asked for your papers, your medical professionals will already have access to them!
I don't want a government file on my entire life.
[Note how I cited a centralized database of medical records as one reason to consider universalizing health care.]
...If people don't like the amount of paperwork they have to go through to change a doctor, then the market will provide a solution.
I don't recall making a bar-none claim about the inability of the free market to reduce paperwork. I intended to make a claim about the ability of a universal heath care system to do so.

Even if you raise other complaints against the notion of a centralized medical database, or ideas for how such a database could be coughed up by the free market, you have to admit there exists benefits to such a database including, but not limited to, types of efficiency not enjoyed by a situation involving various different types of databases.

And you have to admit that universal heath care, regardless of what other complaints you raise against it, is a good context for developing such a database. These two facts ought to have some weight, however small, in one's consideration of the matter.
I don't understand how an entreprenuer like yourself doesn't see this.
I readily and passionately hail the virtues of free market forces, but fail to concede that they, left alone, are always the best, most moral and efficient, forces to see every task through in every situation.

On the topic of entrepreneurship however, I would like to mention the difficulty and expense of obtaining single or small-business heath care in today's America. This is a repelling force. Eliminating it would cause a net attraction to entrepreneurship.

Next is the question of fraud. Now, my mother used to work in medical record reviews. Insurance companies contracted with an individual who outsourced to my mom. Her job was to review and summarize a host of various sorts of medical records obtained from various providers. Her reports were used to help determine whether an insurance claim was legitimate. She got to see how much paperwork and circumstance was involved in mitigating fraud. Keeping medical records all in one place, electronically summarized, would be a force toward mitigating fraud.

The situation I illustrated in my post was a bit different. I brought up illegal aliens (I opt for this term instead of "individuals present in our country by means forbidden by our laws" so that conservatives reading this can understand me. But let the record state that I harbor a distaste for the phrase). Should the demos determine that America doesn't want to cover their health care, the centralization of information and resources would certainly help us to mitigate against their abuse of the system.

However instead of interacting with this, Brandon says
Government is the biggest fraud out there.
So now you are suggesting... that the government should hand select people to be excluded?
Uh, no; I specifically clarified my suggestion by referencing people "we agree ought not be part of the system". I even offered the example of illegal aliens as one such class of people that we (the demos) might decide ought not be part of the system. But honestly, come on, do you really think I would be in favor of governmental hand-selection of this sort for this matter? How could you possibly justify such an interpretation of my rhetoric? I demand an explanation.
...private practices will no longer exist...
Wait - did I make this claim, or are you saying that this is an inevitable result of universal health care? I don't think I ever advocated the abolition of private practices, so it must be that you are claiming that this is a regrettable and inevitable result of universal health care. You don't expect me to stand by and watch you slip such a claim into the midst of your rhetorical flourish without pointing out that the burden of proof lies on you to establish such a claim, do you? Consider such burden officially pointed out.
Sounds a little totalitarian to me.
Since this is a a straw-man characterization I feel no need to verbally undermine or rebut it.
You said you're not a commie, but I don't buy it.
Sticks and stones, Love.

Look, even if my ideal State were congruent with that of any true communist, I have explicitly cited democracy over and over again as my preferred means of driving governmental change. This alone fundamentally separates me from Marxist prescriptions (which include the violent overthrowing of the State by the proletariat if necessary) as well as any and all derivatives thereof.

Thus it is simply unfair and inaccurate to classify my politics as Communist.

As to whether I personally am a Communist: Idaho doesn't require or allow voters to register with political parties, so it's simply not possible.

And in addition to these two points, allow me to clear up a common misconception for you. "Socialism", broadly defined, occurs when the State is in control of the means of production and/or the product (for example, the United States military is socialized under this definition because the Executive branch controls its rearing and the President [with the approval of Congress, theoretically] decides when, where, and how it's used), while "Communism", broadly defined, involves the abolition of the State and of private property (for example, the view of each dusk sky is communized in America - the government doesn't control the production or substance of any given sunset, and no individual has any private ownership of it either). Granted, these two terms are conflated all the time, due to their etymologies and colloquial uses.

So your very attempt at an ad-hominem was wrong-headed to being with.

Shame on you.

Instead of "Communist", try collapsing the spectrum of nuanced political theories broadly categorized as "Liberal" into "Socialist", since they trend toward State control, and I will agree to collapse the spectrum of nuanced political theories broadly categorized as "Conservative" into "Communist", since they trend away from State control.

If anything, you are the communist.

I guess that's not fair, since you seem pretty individualistic. I'll try again.

You dirty anarchist.

If you wanted to be charitable and accurate in order to butter me up so that I stop calling you names, you could call me "an advocate of democratically driven socialization of health care in America today".

[Note: I am choosing to skip the rest of Brandon's comments under section 5, because I feel I have already addressed them. I am willing to rehash or clarify my position on these issues upon request, however.]
So private businesses are too stupid to figure out how to reduce costs?
Again, I did not claim that private businesses are incapable of reducing costs, but that universalizing health care in America today would reduce costs (cf. also the useless chart I cited toward the beginning of my original post).
Are you suggesting there is something wrong with the profit motive?
Not inherently, no. However I fail to concede that it, left alone, always drives the best, most moral and efficient, circumstances through in every situation.
If people don't like the way their insurer handles things, they can shop elsewhere.
I am speechless that you just made this claim.
Again, the problem is government's intervention in the system.
Again, the problem is precisely what we are arguing about; reiterating your position does very little persuasive work.
Medicare and Medicaid tie doctor's hands more than anything else.
Oh no you di'n't just bring up Medicare.
I suppose we should have Federal Grocers, Federal Car Lots... Federal Abercrombies, Federal Apple... Federal Web Designers, Federal Movies...
Cf. "Slippery Slope Fallacy"
If doctors are prescribing drugs that do not help their patients, their patients will cease being their patients.
Instead of contest this claim on the basis of any of several things wrong with it, I will say that I can and do still recognize that the idea behind it is a type of free market force that, simply put, does exist and operate. Nevertheless, I remain unconvinced that such free market forces, left entirely alone, are always the best, most moral and efficient, forces to see every task through in every situation (cf. Howard A. Green, MD, FACP, FAAD, FACMS of Palm Beach County Medical Society. What Government Does Better: Health Care. Available online, at The Physicians for a National Health Program Website).
The reason drugs are expensive is because of the FDA, get them out of it.
Oh, good point, it's all very clear to me now. Let me just go push "power" on the FDA to turn it off.
All hail social progress! I'm pretty sure Hitler used that one.
Hailing Social Progress Like My Mentor Hitler

Cf. "Reductio ad Hitlerum Fallacy"

[Note: It was Bismarck who established a type of universal health care in Germany, prior to HItler. Bismarck hated the Socialists.]

Honestly though, way to bring up the two most extreme historical caricatures you possibly can. Why not mention any of our various contemporary, wealthy industrialized nations, since they have all instituted some type of universal health care?

It is becoming apparent to me that you tend to think in extreme, and often false, dichotomies. For you it's all or nothing. It's either on or off. You lump the entire gamut of political theories into the poles of (laissez-fare) free market/ capitalist/ libertarian/ anrarchy and nazi/ bolshevik/ fascist/ communist/ socialist/ totalitarianism. Either the free market is the best, most moral and efficient, means of seeing every task through in every situation, or a dictator is. Either we give every single thing over to unchecked federal control, or we shrink the government into nothing and let the free market handle everything in time.

I think that if you make an honest attempt at thinking more holistically you will discover some nuanced middle ground and perhaps a couple shades of grey.
Are you seriously try to say that the politicans are the victims here?

[Note: The following comment was made after a reference of mine to "insurance companies".] could vote for Ron Paul and have him abolish all their agencies.
Ron Paul would abolish private health insurance agencies? Great! How are we going to get health insurance then!
Socializing anything does not increase individual freedom [at all], it decreases it (emphasis and brackets mine).
This is a good summary of your position, but I fail to be convinced that it is true. I've even offered a counterexample wherein the people of America freely vote to establish universal health care and thereby free individuals from the force of the repulsion that the difficulties and costs current individual and small-business health care generate.
Socialism means giving government more control over an individual's life.
Now you get it! Except that I am not advocating Socialism across the board - I am advocating socialized health care in America. But, you've got the basic idea.
Freedom means the absence of coercive force...
Stop right there. That strikes me as a great working definition of "freedom". But there are many types of freedom. One can be free from the coercive force of government (the type of freedom you seem to reference every time you use the term), or one can be free from the coercive force of another human brandishing a firearm and making demands, or freedom can be from the intense force of gravity felt by humans on earth, or from the force of a bad habit, or from the coercive force of the metaphysically sufficient determination of the Divine Will, etc.

And it strikes me that giving up freedom is not always morally or pragmatically bad. By marrying my wife I gave up my freedom from the legal and relational contracts of marriage. And I couldn't be more pleased. By committing my life to Jesus Christ I gave up my freedom from that commitment. There are circumstances when freedom is good, and circumstances when it is bad.

At any rate, the type of freedom I brought up was the freedom of individuals from the force that the difficulties and costs of individual and small business health care in America exert on their decision-making. This is a good kind of freedom, since it encourages entrepreneurism. There are obviously other types of freedoms that are forfeited in the process of universalizing health care, but so far I remain willing to forfeit such freedoms in exchange for the benefits I will receive, which is why I will choose to freely vote for representatives whose policies most closely match my political ideals. You are free to do the same. In the mean time we are free to argue about which ideals are ideal.
We could also make people more "free" by providing everyone with their food and housing, that way they wouldn't have to work at all and they could really pursue their passion, whether it be frisbee, or golf, or kayaking.
Please revisit "Slippery Slope Fallacy".
There is nothing prohibiting people from working together in the free market.
Perhaps this is at least mostly true, but my contention is that it could be accomplished with much more efficiency by the federal government.
...public education destroyed private schools. I want them out of that too.
Whether this is true has no bearing on the matter of health care. I have already proposed that different tasks may best be handled by different levels of governmental jurisdiction or in different ways altogether. Perhaps the private sector is the best place to handle automotive production and products, or perhaps you are right about education - I am not taking a stand on those issues now. I am coming forth with my hunch about health care as a matter best handled by the government (in the context of America today). I brought up education merely to point out that it is possible for the government to be involved in something without banning private practices as well. You are free to contest this, and you might even win me over, but you haven't done so yet - you simply missed the point.

[Brandon then cites my phrase "...depending on who gets elected and what follows..."]
That's what they said about Lenin, and then about Stalin.
Oh, right... because Lenin and Stalin were both elected democratically upon careful consideration of the details of their health care plans.

[Note: My original statement was meant to imply that there may very well be a proponent of universal health care who gets elected and attempts to implement it, but does a poor job. I was attempting to clarify that my view isn't in favor of any and every universal health care plan, but that I currently buy into the idea generally.]

[With reference to democratic forces:]
Yeah, cause that's worked so far.
I'm beginning to wonder if you've lost all faith in Democracy. Wait - didn't you suggest we "follow the constitution"? Do you consider that a Democratic document? I guess I just don't fully understand your position. Perhaps you could clear things up for me a bit.

[After my reference to the intention of the American government to be of, by, and for the people:]
If you're going to use the language of the founding fathers, use all of it.

"Free government is founded on jealousy, not in confidence; it is jealousy and not confidence which prescribes limited constitutions, to bind those we are obliged to trust with power. In questions of power, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution."
Ok so you do like the United States' constitution. It seems you like it for the fetters it places on the men in government. Great. Why not exercise your freedom to vote, and use those reins to direct your representatives toward the universalization of health care?

Don't mistake my position for fascism.

And lastly, thank-you for the citations at the end of your post.

Friday, February 15, 2008

And Glory Filled My Soul

It is clear to me that Jesus is coming back. To earth. A planet. With soil. With streets.

Although it started in the Garden, we were designed to choose life, to grow, to mature, to advance, to build. We were designed for community - for a City! And we were meant to commune and to advance and elevate within the girdle of natural, organic, beauty. We were charged as the earth's caretakers. We were charged with communion with God.

But we Fell.

Yet despite our blunder, our future remains here on earth. There is Hope of Restoration. And there remains One who can build that City.

It will come down out of the sky. Humanity -and nature- will be redeemed, and our Creator will come down to live with us.

Not up, but down.

We aren't going up and out off to a heaven in the clouds. God is coming down.

Valuing earthly experiences and yearning to travel the world is morally acceptable, and even slightly profitable. But all this will be here later. Life will be much like it is now after we die and return back here with Jesus.

But it will be perfected.

Do you enjoy sunsets and surfing and mountain climbing now? Wait until nature is restored and glorified! Do you wish you could drop by your friend's house and hang out for 10,000 years on your way out of town for a fishing trip, just because you got caught in a good conversation? Wait 'til you see what Life will be like when the kingdom of heaven is established! Do you want to see the Aurora Borealis, the Carlsbad Caverns, the Amazon, the South Pacific, Antarctica? That's all good and well, but how much more spectacular with these things be when the earth is perfected!

Living the good life in this era is much more about obedience to God's word and His Holy Spirit than it is about collecting intense experiences and tantalizing our five senses - especially if the drive to do so progressively undermines our drive to work hard in preparation for the kingdom.

Matthew 6:25-26:
"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?

"And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Revelation 21:2-5; 15-27:
I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."

He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!" Then he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true."

The angel who talked with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city, its gates and its walls. The city was laid out like a square, as long as it was wide. He measured the city with the rod and found it to be 12,000 stadia in length, and as wide and high as it is long. He measured its wall and it was 144 cubits thick, by man's measurement, which the angel was using. The wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass. The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald, the fifth sardonyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst. The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of pure gold, like transparent glass.

I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

It's Not All About Canada

Showing one example of a poorly done universal, social, or single-payer health care system is not sufficient for demonstrating the failures of the idea itself (cf. "Composition Fallacy"). There are plenty of poorly done churches, but that doesn't mean that the idea of church is fundamentally flawed. There are plenty of poorly done marriages, but that doesn't mean that nobody should get married. You get the idea.

In this case, the government has outlawed private health care services altogether. Aside from an apparently poorly done program overall (vis-à-vis Medicare), this was one of the main causes of the problem this poor citizen faced. Another problem was that the government refused to refund the health service that he had arranged for himself. Neither of these practices is essential to universal, social, or single-payer health care, and do not have to be mirrored.

There may yet be reasons to dissuade me from leaning toward support of some type of liberal health care system, but I am underwhelmed by this video and find myself yet unconvinced of the severe errors of the mere notion of universal, social, or single-payer health care.

I am still working through the issue, and I have a lot of material to go through (thanks Brandon).

But have I missed anything concerning the arguments put forth in this video?

Friday, February 8, 2008

YouTube Discussion on Christian Orthodoxy

I posted the following:

And I got the following comment:
Before I ask anything I would like to state I am young, and inexperienced in theology, so I very likely will use the wrong terms. (gives you an apologetic glance)

My two questions are as follows:

Would you be working from the definition of Orthodox Church as: "the right thinking/opinion church?"
And you have aroused a certain sense of curiosity on this part: How does Eastern Orthodoxy fit into your discussion?

YouTube won't let me post my full reply, so I linked to this page in order to display it:

Hi Modest,

Thanks for the questions.

Of course arguing over the meanings of words can be tricky on a number of fronts. In this discussion, I feel that that it would be helpful to temporarily use the following paradigm: there are two categories of word meanings. There is first an underlying sense of literal or mere meaning to a term. We all basically agree in this case that "orthodoxy" means something like "straight", "correct", "true", etc. What we are discussing pertains to the second category of word meaning. In this case, we are discussing what can be labeled as "Christian orthodoxy".

Of course some people will use the phrase to refer to the "Eastern Orthodox" church, and I can't stop them. Nor do I want to - I like communication more than argumentation. When I sense someone using the phrase that way, I will communicate with them on their terms.

Of course other people will use the phrase to refer to the entire set of their own theological beliefs.

In this video I am choosing to use the phrase to refer to all that was decided in the creeds of the original ecumenical councils. And thus, since "heresy" was a term developed and used by these ecumenical councils to denote beliefs determined outside the councils - the word actually means "to decide for oneself", I am choosing to use the term "heresy" to refer to just that: doctrines determined outside those councils.

Is it always incorrect and/or dangerous to be heretical? Are there any doctrines that are true, which were not laid out in the councils?

My answers: no; yes.

It just so happens that I do NOT believe that the councils were divinely inspired as the canon of scripture was, and their creeds are therefore not immune to error. I also happen to think that there are at least a few errors in the original creeds.

An example of one would be the statement contained in the opening and concluding lines of the Athanasian creed, which basically say one must affirm everything in the Athanasian creed in order to be saved. I disagree with this claim on the basis of Biblical precedents like Abraham, Melchizedek, Rahab, Nebuchadnezzar, the thief on the cross, and others whose salvation is expressed or implied, or who are given as examples of faith in God, yet most likely did not have an Athanasian understanding of the trinity.

Given that I deny at least a couple claims found within the creeds, my orthodoxy is suspect, mingled with a little heterodoxy, or at least qualified (or, if you prefer, "my orthodoxy" is different than the "orthodoxy" found in the original creeds, although they overlap significantly; but it is easiest to stick with one definition of "orthodoxy", which I submit as "that which was affirmed by the ecumenical councils").

Since I believe that I am "saved" (as some call it), I am forced to believe that it is possible to deny particular tenants of orthodox Christianity (as defined here) and yet be saved.

To be clear: there are no doubt beliefs that are heretical, which are also false. No doubt some of these are also very dangerous to affirm. But the three qualities: "heretical", "false", and "dangerous" operate independently of each other.

In summary: I use "orthodoxy" to mean "that agreed upon by the ecumenical councils", and "heresy" to mean "that which was not". There are heretical claims that are true, and some that are false. There are false claims that are dangerous. Salvation is by God's grace through man's faith in Jesus for the purpose of good works for the glory of God. The Bible contains no false claims.

Either way, it is much more important that Jesus is God, died for our sins, and God raised Him from the dead. Praise God that all we need to do is trust in Jesus, and He will give us abundant life, starting today.

Thanks for the comment.

Love your brother in Christ,

YouTube Discussion on a Line About the Atonement in Rob Bell's "Velvet Elvis"

I posted the following:

And I got the following comment:
I think what Rob Bell meant was that all the people in hell were forgiven and God loves them and Jesus died for them... HOWEVER they chose not to believe in him. That makes his statement true because God loves everyone and Jesus died for everyone's sins. I don't see this as limiting the power of atonement either because the power of atonement is TREMENDOUS but it cannot save someone who is not willing to accept that they need to be saved and that Jesus is the one who died to save them.

YouTube won't let me post my full reply, so I linked to this page in order to display it:

Hi Katiedid,

Let me provide the preface that I like Bell's work, and "Velvet Elvis" is one of my favorite books. I liken it to "Mere Christianity".

Now, of course I agree that the power of the atonement is "TREMENDOUS", so let's start with our common ground. I believe the atonement accomplishes several things, including (but not limited to) payment in full to God for the debt incurred by the sins of His sheep. In fact, the atonement is SO tremendous that it fully redeems those to whom it applies!

In light of this tremendous view of the atonement, I find myself unable to agree with Bell's claim, that those in hell are forgiven by God. You see, if the atonement pays the debt of those in hell to God in full, then on what grounds were they sentenced to an eternity in repayment? If the atonement is so tremendous that it redeems those to whom it applies, then how do they remain in rebellion? If the atonement is so tremendous that it reconciles man with God ("at ONE ment"), then how are those in hell under God's wrath?

It is precisely because I believe in the power of the atonement that I find myself believing that only God's sheep receive it. Both views seem to place limits on the atonement: Bell's view (sometimes called "Unlimited Atonement") appears to limit its power; my view (often called "Limited Atonement" or "Particular Redemption" by Reformed thinkers) limits its extent.

You may still disagree with me, but since I did a poor job of communicating in my video, I wanted to clarify my position. To be honest I was just messing around with YouTube - I didn't think anyone was going to come across my little video!

So this leaves me able to agree with most of what you write. Jesus died "for" every single human, in the sense that it is true to say that the atonement "is available for" everyone in some sense. However His death only bore the sins of His sheep (and not the sins of those suffering for their sins in hell). If Jesus paid for a man's sins, and then God sentenced that man to hell for his sins, hasn’t God then required double payment? But God is just!

Therefore He came with the specific purpose of laying down His life for His sheep.

I totally agree that those not willing to accept that they need to be saved and that Jesus is the One who died to save them, are on the wrong track.

In summary: I can basically agree with everything you write, I just happen to maintain the narrow point that Jesus did not die "for" everyone in the sense that He did not pay for everyone's sins. As it concerns paying for sins, He died only for His sheep.

If someone wants to know whether he or she is one of Jesus' sheep, such a person can make the decision to follow Christ in a single heartbeat, and thereby become one.

Either way, it is much more important that Jesus is God, died for our sins, and God raised Him from the dead. Praise God that all we need to do is trust in Jesus, and He will give us abundant life, starting today.

Thanks for the comment.

Love your brother in Christ,

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Perspective #2

There is a fine line between solitude and loneliness.