Thursday, August 26, 2010

Matt 24 watch, 106: Significance of the Ground Zero Mosque

I have been busy elsewhere, but have noticed how there are evidently two initiatives to erect Mosques in lower Manhattan, one of them at a site where landing gear from Mohammed Atta's hijacked aircraft came through the roof on Sept 11, 2001. 

Even more significantly, it is intended to open the giant Mosque on the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. 

(Remember, the attacks themselves came 318 years but one day after the decisive defeat of Ottoman forces at the gates of Vienna through Jan Sobieski's cavalry charge that turned back the tide of global subjugation under the Caliphate. So, not only were the means used highly significant -- America is the creator of both Skyscrapers and aircraft -- but the date was also highly significant. And, yes, it means we now have to read and parse the symbols in symbolism-laced actions. In the thought-world of radical Islam, these things are obvious. They have to become obvious to us too, if we are to survive.)

This mosque is to be named after Cordoba, the capital of Al Andaluz, the Islamic state imposed on Spain by conquest and subjugation under Sharia. As such it is evidently part of a longstanding Islamic pattern of erecting Mosques on captured sites with significance for the conquered people. (The Mosque that -- by happy accident -- seems to be just a little north of the actual correct site of the Jerusalem Temple, is a classic case in point).

But it is similarly no accident that Hagia Sophia, the main church of Constantinople, was turned into a Mosque, or that Hindus in India routinely have conflicts to reclaim their former sites, or that the Taliban regime in Afghanistan destroyed world heritage site statues of the Buddha. In fact, the practice traces all the way back to Mohammed, who is the designated exemplar for Muslims, when he converted the former pagan pilgrimage site in Mecca into the Muslim shrine it is today.

So, while many may have problems with Fox News and with Mr Beck, we need to at least attend to the following exchange with Mr Gaffney:

We may in the end choose to disagree with Mr Beck's views and Mr Gaffney's analysis, but we should at least be aware of them and respond on the merits, not reflexively and emotively. And, plainly, they have a serious point, as the Muslim Brotherhood is real and it has embarked on a 100 year global subjugation project through a Civilisation- settlement- jihad process. Al Qaeda -- especially the Egyptian wing from which Mr Atta came --  is a derivative of the Brotherhood. Hamas, the terrorist de facto government of Gaza, is a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Worse, Iranian Mahdism is indeed a dangerously apocalyptic detabilising force in the Islamic world and far beyond it.  One that is now plainly at the nuclear threshold.

So, while the West plainly is not at all without sin (to say the least), we must recognise that there is a lesson to be learned from the fate of  disaffected Christian peoples in Syria and Egypt in the 630s; who chafed under Byzantine domination. They jumped from the frying pan of Byzantium into the fire of Islamist domination. 

1,400 years later, they are still in the fire, as the Maronite Christians of Lebanon and the Copts of Egypt can testify.
"A word to the wise . . ." END

FOOTNOTE: Michael Totten -- an independent journalist whose beat is the ME, and who has routinely given outstanding coverage -- has an interview on what it was like for an Israeli to visit S Lebanon. Eye-opening. For instance, try this scoop from Jonathan Spyer, the Israeli who visited S Lebanon:
A perfect storm is brewing in the Middle East. We’re experiencing the convergence of two historical phenomena. The first is the rise of Iran, which we’ve already talked about. We have an ambitious ideological elite committed to radical Islam and the expansion of power. Second, in country after country in the Middle East, various forms of radical Islam are becoming the most popular and vivid forms of political expression. We have Hamas among the Palestinians, Hezbollah among the Shia of Lebanon, the Islamic Action Front in Jordan, and the Muslim Brothers in Egypt . . .

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Matt 24 watch, 105: Living in an Orwellian, 1984 world

In recent weeks, I have been testing out a beta version of an online course reader, for the Independent Origins Science Education (IOSE) course, also hosted at Blogger. In doing that, I have been engaging in commentary exchanges at several discussion threads at the Design Theory blog founded by leading Design theorist, Dr William Dembski, Uncommon Descent.

In the most recent of these discussions, the issue that rapidly became focal is the reality of a transcendent "I" (i.e. self) that is conscious, perceives, feels, values, thinks and decides for him- or her- self; however much we may struggle to consistently live up to good intent, and however much we must seek the help of the Transcendent to be transformed from within by the renewing of mind, heart and life  (as Rom 7 - 8 and 12 outline). 

In particular, it was argued that the sense of inner freedom to decide, to incline one's self, and to act -- however one may struggle in so acting -- is not only ill-conceived, but is actually incoherent. In particular, both materialistic and theistic determinists now often argue for "compatibilism," by which it is promoted that since one acts according to one's inner inclinations and states of mind [or whatever], one is in reality "free" even though such inner states are in turn subjected to pre-determining forces and factors that trace to powers and processes beyond one's local control.

Wikipedia aptly summarises:
Compatibilism, as championed by the ancient Greek Stoics and the early modern philosopher Hume, is a theory that argues that if free will and determinism exist, they are in fact compatible. Determinists argue that all acts that take place are predetermined by prior causes, including human actions. If a free action is defined as one that is not predetermined by prior causes, then determinism, which claims that human actions are predetermined, rules out the possibility of free actions.

A compatibilist, or soft determinist, in contrast, will define a free act in a way that does not hinge on the presence or absence of prior causes. For example, one could define a free act as one that involves no compulsion by another person. Since the physical universe and the laws of nature are not persons, actions which are caused by the laws of nature would still be free acts- therefore it is wrong to conclude that universal determinism would mean we are never free.

For example, you could choose to continue reading or to stop reading this article; while a compatibilist determinist would not deny that whatever choice you make will have been predetermined since the beginning of time, they will argue that this choice that you make is an example of free will because no one is forcing you to make whatever choice you make . . . . according to Hume, free will should not be understood as an absolute ability to have chosen differently under exactly the same inner and outer circumstances. Rather, it is a hypothetical ability to have chosen differently if one had been differently psychologically disposed by some different beliefs or desires . . . . Hume also maintains that free acts are not uncaused (or self-caused as Kant argued) but rather caused by our choices as determined by our beliefs, desires, by our characters, or just for the hell of it (spontaneous random act). While a decision-making process exists in Hume's determinism, this process is governed by a causal chain of events. For example, one may make the decision to support a charity, but that decision is determined by the conditions that existed prior to the decision being made.
 If you feel that you are being "had" through the clever art of subtly loaded redefinition of key words, you are right; or -- with all due respect to those who sincerely believe the above -- you are as close to right as makes no effective difference. 

For, first, as Wiki goes on to note, critics rightly observe that "the compatibilists are showing something to be compatible with determinism, but they think that something cannot properly be called free will." In short, genuine freedom of mind and heart are at stake. And, on the premise that genuine love -- from the Golden Rule, the foundation of virtue from which (As Jesus said) all the law and the prophets hang -- requires the freedom to choose, morality and accountability over our morally freighted choices are also at stake.

You may doubt that love requires genuinely free choice.

To see why that is so, think about an advanced technology, where we meet a robot pre-programmed to carry out all the words and acts that would be associated with love. 

At first, we do not know that we are dealing with a pre-programmed robot; until, one day, we happen to push a hidden button behind the right ear, and the robot's head opens up, a printer screes away for a few minutes, and the control program is revealed to us. 

Our perception of what has been happening will immediately shift, and what hitherto appeared to be self-sacrificial love suddenly turns out to be predetermined computer code. At best, we now hope that the programmer of the robot did so out of genuine love, but we feel cheated and the robot has fallen steeply in our estimation. For, it is now merely a programmed machine, not a freely choosing and responding, loving person.

Worse, consider what we would now think about the many serious discussions we had with the robot on many topics. 

Now that we know that there was no freedom to think and follow the force of the logic from ground to consequent, or from body of credible facts to the best explanation, just a spewing out of preset strings of symbols on receipt of particular inputs, we have to rethink the credibility of the arguments and conclusions. 

We now no longer respect what we thought was the mind of the robot, but instead we want to assess the soundness of its programming, and ask ourselves whether we have reason to trust the programmer. (One hopeful clue is that there was that hidden button.)

So, we can see just how much is at stake on this subject.

It gets worse. For, as the issue of the trustworthiness of the programmer of the robot reveals, a very direct and horrendously practical inference from the above point of view, can be to lend unwarranted credibility to abusive control by imposing what Garvey aptly called (in a phrase Marley popularised), "the chains of mental slavery." In short, compatibilism smacks far too much of Orwellian double-speak: language now has an outer meaning for the ordinary common-sense thinking person, and an inner, manipulative one for the inner circle of manipulators. 

So, we must beware the Jabberwock, my friends.

As I commented earlier this morning (with slight adjustments):


>> Often, we are tempted to see wranglings over meanings of words as pointless and useless. 

But, if we will remember George Orwell’s 1984, we will be reminded that the manipulation of language and of concepts are often the first steps to the manipulation and captivation of minds. As Wiki — that hostile witness — acknowledges in the just linked [and the onward links are worth exploring]:
As literary political fiction, 1984 is a classic novel of the social science fiction subgenre, thus, since its publication in 1949, the terms and concepts of Big Brother, doublethink, thoughtcrime, Newspeak, Memory hole, et cetera, became contemporary vernacular, including the adjective Orwellian, denoting George Orwell’s writings and totalitarianism as exposited in Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm (1945) . . .
Thence, we see how manipulation of our thought life is a tool towards the loss of liberty, as Plato also subtly warned of in his Parable of the Cave.

In recent years, for instance, it was saddening to see how the term “Democracy” was cynically used to promote tyrannies of one stripe or another. Similarly, in even more recent years, I have lived to see “marriage” suddenly being deemed — with a straight face — a far more flexible and ambiguous term than any previous generation would have tolerated. 

And more, much more . . . .

Now, as we may see, even the term “Science” itself is a subject of manipulation by those who would reinterpret it away from what it is at its best:
science: a branch of knowledge conducted on objective principles ["objective: external to the mind; actually existing; real"] involving the systematized observation of and experiment with phenomena, esp. concerned with the material and functions of the physical universe. [Concise Oxford Dictionary, (Oxford: Clarendon Press) 1990 -- and yes, they used the "z." (Definition of objectivity from the same source added.)]
scientific method: principles and procedures for the systematic pursuit of knowledge [[= "the body of truth, information and principles acquired by mankind"] involving the recognition and formulation of a problem, the collection of data through observation and experiment, and the formulation and testing of hypotheses. [Webster's 7th Collegiate Dictionary,( Springfield, Mass: G & C Merriam), 1965. (Definition of "Knowledge" in the same dictionary inserted.)]
All of these are soberingly important cases in point. But, they pale into relative insignificance when we reflect on the significance of the key word whose meaning is at stake in this thread:
Anyone with even a passing acquaintance with the history of the past 500 or so years, will know just how important freedom has been, and how central has been the concept that the individual human being, the transcendent I that unifies our conscious experiences and memories, is inherently free within, and ought not to be subjected to chains from without.

However — and though it will be painful to some participants, it is necessary to put this plainly, as what is at stake is so important — as Bob Marley reminds us from Marcus Garvey’s classic remarks, in an era of the wily and ruthless manipulator (I almost wrote: in an era of the ad man and the PR consultant — propagandists for hire), we must ever be vigilant for “the chains of mental slavery.”

So, pardon a cite from the ever-helpful Collins Dictionary, 2003:
freedom  n
1. personal liberty, as from slavery, bondage, serfdom, etc.
2. liberation or deliverance, as from confinement or bondage
3. (Government, Politics & Diplomacy) the quality or state of being free, esp to enjoy political and civil liberties . . .

6. (Government, Politics & Diplomacy) autonomy, self-government, or independence
7. the power or liberty to order one’s own actions
8. (Philosophy) Philosophy the quality, esp of the will or the individual, of not being totally constrained; able to choose between alternative actions in identical circumstances . . .
So, let us understand what is at stake.

And, let us understand why some of us have been willing to go to the wall to stand up for the premise that the intuition of inner liberty of mind and will to think, analyse and incline one’s heart to love, and that to incline one’s intention to the way of the truth and the right in love — however stumblingly — are vital to any coherent understanding of the intelligent and purposeful self.

Having said all of this, it must be noted that in the end, design theory does not depend on first positing these premises. As has been repeatedly highlighted, the fundamental design inference is about observing that there are empirically reliable signs of the frequently observed or experienced causal pattern of directed contingency, or design. On the strength of this — especially in mathematical forms linked to information theory and onward to statistical thermodynamics [cf my online note for an introduction] — we have every epistemic right to inductively infer from the reliable sign to the signified causal process, design, even in cases where we did not directly observe the design process. 

This is the same basic uniformitarian principle of inference on origins science matters formerly used by Lyell and Darwin et al, only, we are applying it to a causal pattern that hey did not emphasise in their work. But the causal pattern is a well established one, and we have every right to use it.

When we apply it to the digitally coded, Functionally Specific Complex Information in cell based life on earth, it points to the design of such life. In simple terms, we empirically know how codes, algorithms, specific data in data structures and organised implementing machines reliably come about: directed contingency, aka design. 

We also know that directed contingency comes from intelligence, and so we have every right to infer to design as the cause of cell based life on earth. (Observe, this thread shows abundantly how no serious empirically credible counter-example exists to this inference.)

From Thaxton et al in the mid 1980′s, in the very first modern technical design work, it has been freely acknowledged that this empirically based — as opposed to metaphysically based — inference is insufficient in itself to infer to designers that are either known to be within or beyond the cosmos. (The intensity of debates over this case is linked to the history over the past 150 years, where advocates of materialism in one form or another used the concept of the chance and necessity driven spontaneous origin of life and of biodiversity [i.e. Evolution], to imply and infer that God was out of a job.)

When we lift our eyes to the origin of the observed cosmos, and see that it shows fine-tuned complex organisation that enables the existence of Carbon-chemistry cell based intelligent life, we can make an inference to design that does point to an extra-cosmic, powerful, knowledgeable and highly intelligent designer. An inference that as John Leslie showed, comes through even in the context of a suggested multiverse, as the point is that our cosmos is locally fine-tuned, and hitting a locally isolated target is just as significant as would be hitting an absolutely isolated one. But . . .  many who so stridently object to the credibility of the design inference on design of life [where issues of an extracosmic designer are not actually directly at stake] fall oddly silent in the face of the evident fine-tuning of the cosmos and where it invites us to infer.

And that is maybe the most telling point of all.>>

So, let us beware the Jabberwock of subtle manipulation, friends! 

And, let us dare take up the Vorpal Sword of truth (used in tough love) to strike and strike hard, before it is too late. END

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Matt 24 watch, 104: Dan Brown strikes [out . . . ] again -- The Lost Symbol

Last week, I happened to visit a relative's shop, and saw in the Manager's Office, a copy of Dan Brown's latest novel, The Lost Symbol (Bantam/Random House, 2009), 509 pp. 

A quick check with Wikipedia soon told me that the book ran up to the top of Amazon's charts when it come out in September (it's first-day sales made it "the fastest selling adult novel in history"), and it is apparently the first big bestseller where e-book sales have exceeded print sales. A movie deal is, as expected, in the works. 

A portent of things to come.

A glance at the opening pages suggests Mr Brown, sadly, has not really learned his lesson from the scathing corrective reviews of the notorious "FACT" page in his earlier The Da Vinci code. He has yet another "Fact" page at the front of the new novel, in which he claims that among other things "All rituals, science, artwork and monuments in this novel are real."

Ben Witherington, who wrote an early critical review, aptly noted on Brown's fact-challenged novels, that:
. . . We live in a Jesus haunted culture that is both Biblically iliiterate and at the same time is an entertainment culture. In this sort of environment which is increasingly less Christian,  anything can pass for truth or knowledge about Jesus or the Bible. 

When I did my book tour for the Gospel Code, one of the often recurring themes during the Q+A sessions was the question---- Do you mean to tell me Dan Brown is not giving us the facts about the Gospel, Gnostics, etc.?  I thought of writing up a chronicle of some of the naive reactions and questions I got and calling it 'Gullible's Travels'.   The reason and the need for a thorough critique of a novel like The Lost Symbol  is because it is offering up a Koolaide that, while quite [palatable] today, is by no means genuine communion wine from the Gospels . . .
(I strongly recommend reading the review [not a mere heads up like this blog post], The Lost Symbol and the Browning of American Religion.)

In this new book, Brown's rhetorical theme moves on from debunking the Catholic church, to transforming the popular understanding of key influences on the American Founding; plainly in order to promote the same gnosticising mystical view that characterised his earlier works.

So, Brown highlights the well-known fact of masonic involvement of key founding Fathers of the USA -- little did the Founders know the fire they were playing with [cf much more here], and promotes a notion of how thought has properties analogous to mass so if many minds come together on a given focal issue, it will exert a powerful mind force comparable to how grains of sand and rock add up to yield the gravitational force of a planet. Accordingly, in his whodunit- chase- the- mystery plotline, he highlights claimed occultic and pagan influences on the architecture of Washington DC and along the way tosses various zingers and snide dismissals at the Christian faith and its even more profound, widespread and powerful influence on the American founding and the rise of modern, constitutional, democratic self-government.

Witherington is telling on Brown's theological agenda and profound confusion regarding the Bible:
. . . consider the following supposed exegesis of Gen. 17.20 (p. 194) where we are told that the Genesis creation story tells us humankind is created in God's image and therefore this implies "that mankind was not created inferior to God". The speaker goes on to point to Luke 17.20 where we are told 'the Kingdom of God is within you."  In regard to the former, neither the Hebrew nor the Greek version of the phrase 'image of God' convey at all the notion of human equality with God.  Is the image of a ruler on a coin equal to the ruler himself? Of course not.  Is the image of the king on a seal, equal to the king himself? Of course not. For that matter is your image in the mirror of equal substance, power, reality to you?  Absolutely not.  

It is not the theological message of the Bible that "ye shall be as gods" despite Dan Brown's wishing it to be so.  That would be the message of the serpent, not the message of the Savior.  And this brings us to the core reason that Dan Brown wants to play fast and loose with the Biblical text--- he is a promoter of the idea of human self-apotheosis, of human beings having not merely divine potential but indeed a bit of divinity within them.  
Or, as Wikipedia's plot summary  -- and I suggest, generally speaking, it is a better investment to read this than to read the book -- culminates:
. . . As they descend the staircase [of the Washington Monument], Solomon tells Langdon that the word underground is a copy of the Bible, but explains that the "secrets hidden in plain sight" in the Bible all point to the belief that man is a part of God, and that out of many minds comes one, an at-one-ment. That this Word, this hidden-in-plain-view belief, is contained in all the major books of religion; while the masses look to one set of data in each of the holy books, enlightened men and women can see the encoded-in-plain-sight information in them all.
This is of course an utterly misleading perversion of the gospel and the scriptures.

By way of correction, let us look at John 1, John 3, Acts 17, 1 Cor 15, Col 1 and Heb 1, to strongly contrast the real core message of the Bible:
Jn 1:1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was with God in the beginning.

3Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4In him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it . . . .

10He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God.

14The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
Jn 3:13 [Jesus said] . . . No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. 14Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. 
16"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him . . .  19This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God."
Ac 17: 22Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: "Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.

24"The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. 25And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. 26From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. 27God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. 28'For in him we live and move and have our being.' As some of your own poets have said, 'We are his offspring.'

29"Therefore since we are God's offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by man's design and skill. 30In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. 31For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead."
1 Cor 15: 1Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.

3For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. 6After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.

9For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. 11Whether, then, it was I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed.

Col 1: 15He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. 17He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. 21Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of[f] your evil behavior. 22But now he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— 23if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been [openly] proclaimed to every creature under heaven . . .

Heb 1: 1In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. 3The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. 4So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs . . . 
 Quite a refreshing contrast!

Brown here -- sadly, again -- proves the principle that if you willfully disbelieve something that you should be able to know is true and well-warranted, it is because you have already committed yourself to believe something else that you should not. For, selective hyper-skepticism directed at the gospel is ALWAYS linked to selective hyper-credulity about something else.

In short, unless you are sufficiently informed and grounded in the Scriptures, Brown's writings are liable to confuse and mislead you. So, we should warn people to avoid it -- and we certainly should not help to spread it or finance it by buying it or watching the upcoming movie.

Instead, let us expose it and correct its errors, using it as an opportunity to help people learn about the sound foundation of the Gospel, the Scriptures and the Christian Faith "once for all delivered unto the saints" that was founded on these pivotal truths.

If you want some e-Book reading, I strongly recommend getting free downloads of e-Sword or The Word, and loading up on some of the many free resources for these packages.

If you want some solid reading by a truly eloquent and original writer, why not look at G K Chesterton's works in these formats? (And even his Father Brown mysteries are quite entertaining.)
And if you have a few cents to spend, instead of buying the misleading novel or tickets to see the upcoming movie version, why not support the men who have sacrificed to make these packages freely available to all for just a download? END

PS: Please observe that, strictly, this is a heads up, not a book review.

PPS: Text of Finney's testimony on why he left free masonry:

 Since Mr Brown has seen fit to give prominence to Free Masonry and to his views on its role in the American founding era, it is in order to give wide circulation to a different take on that institution by a leading Evangelist of the C19, who was himself a former mason. Namely, the well known revivalist, Charles G Finney.

Why I Left Freemasonry
By Charles G. Finney, D.D.

When I was converted to Christ I had belonged to the Masonic Lodge in Adams, New York, about four years. During the struggle of conviction of sin through which I passed, I do not recollect that the question of Freemasonry ever occurred to my mind.

New Views of Lodgism

But soon after my conversion, the evening came for attendance upon the Lodge, and I went. They, of course, were aware that I had become a Christian and the Master called upon me to open the Lodge with prayer. I did so, and poured out my heart to the Lord for blessings upon the Lodge. I observed that it created considerable excitement. The evening passed away, and at the close of the Lodge I was asked to pray again. I did so, and retired much depressed in spirit. I soon found that I was completely converted from Freemasonry to Christ, and that I could have no fellowship with any of the proceedings of the Lodge. Its oaths appeared to me to be monstrously profane and barbarous.

At that time I did not know how much I had been imposed upon by many of the pretensions of Masonry. But, upon reflection and examination, a severe struggle and earnest prayer, I found I could not consistently remain with them. My new life instinctively and irresistibly recoiled from any fellowship with what I now regarded as "the unfruitful works of darkness."

Quietly Withdrawing Membership

Without consulting anyone, I finally went to the Lodge and requested my discharge. My mind was made up. Withdraw from them I must -- with their consent if I might; without this consent if I must. Of this I said nothing; but somehow it came to be known that I had withdrawn.

They therefore planned a Masonic festival and sent a committee to me, requesting me to deliver an oration on that occasion. I quietly declined to do so, informing the committee that I could not conscientiously, in any wise, do what would show my approval of the institution, or sympathy with it. However, for the time, and for years afterward I remained silent, and said nothing against Masonry; though I had then so well considered the matter as to regard my Masonic oaths as utterly null and void. But from that time I never allowed myself to be recognized as a Freemason anywhere.

Beginning a Public Testimony

This was a few years before the revelations of Freemasonry by Captain William Morgan were published. When that book was published, I was asked if it was a true revelation of Freemasonry. I replied that it was so far as I knew anything about it, and that as nearly as I could recollect, it was a verbatim revelation of the first three degrees as I had myself taken them. I frankly acknowledged that that which had been published was a true account of the institution, and a true expose' of their oaths, principles and proceedings. After I had considered it more thoroughly, I was more perfectly convinced that I had no right to adhere to the institution, or appear to do so; and that I was bound, whenever the occasion came, to speak my mind freely in regard to it, and to renounce the horrid oaths that I had taken.

Masonic Oaths Procured by Fraud

I found that in taking these oaths I had been grossly deceived and imposed upon. I had been led to suppose that there were some very important secrets to be communicated to me; but in this I found myself entirely disappointed. Indeed I came to the deliberate conclusion that my oaths had been procured by fraud and misrepresentations; that the institution was in no respect what I had been informed it was; and as I have had the means of examining it more thoroughly, it has become more and more irresistibly plain to me that Masonry is highly dangerous to the State, and in every way injurious to the Church of Christ.

Features of an Anti-Christ

Judging from unquestionable evidences, how can we fail to pronounce Freemasonry an unchristian institution? We can see that its morality is unchristian. Its oath-bound secrecy is unchristian. The administration and taking of its oaths are unchristian and a violation of the positive command of Christ. And Masonic oaths pledge its members to some of the most unlawful and unchristian things:
1. To conceal each other's crimes.

2. To deliver each other from difficulty, whether right or wrong.

3. To unduly favor Masonry in political action and in business matters.

4. Its members are sworn to retaliate and persecute unto death the violators of Masonic obligations.

5. Freemasonry knows no mercy, and swears its candidates to avenge violations of Masonic obligations unto death.

6. Its oaths are profane, taking the Name of God in vain.

7. The penalties of these oaths are barbarous, even savage.

8. Its teachings are false and profane.

9. Its designs are partial and selfish.

10. Its ceremonies are a mixture of puerility and profanity.

11. Its religion is false.

12. It professes to save men on other conditions than those revealed in the Gospel of Christ.

13. It is wholly an enormous falsehood.

14. It is a swindle, obtaining money from its members under false pretenses.

15. It refuses all examinations, and veils itself under a mantle of oath-bound secrecy.

16. It is virtual conspiracy against both Church and State.
Some Fair Conclusions

No one, therefore, has ever undertaken to defend Freemasonry as judged by the above. Freemasons themselves do not pretend that their institution as revealed in reliable books, and by some of their own testimony, is compatible with Christianity. So it must follow that,

First, the Christian Church should have no fellowship with Freemasonry; and those who adhere intelligently and determinately to such an institution have no right to be in the Christian Church. We pronounce this judgment sorrowfully, but solemnly.

Second, should the question be asked, "What shall be done with the great number of professed Christians who are Freemasons?" I answer, let them have nothing more to do with it. Let it be distinctly pressed upon their consciences that all Masons, above the first two Degrees, have solemnly sworn to conceal each other's crimes, murder and treason alone excepted; and that all above the sixth Degree have sworn to espouse each other's cause, and to deliver them from any difficulty, whether right or wrong.

Third, if they have taken those Degrees where they have sworn to persecute unto death those who violate their Masonic obligations, let them be asked whether they really intend to do any such thing. Let them be distinctly asked whether they intend to aid and abet the administration and taking of these oaths. Or if they still intend to countenance the false and hypocritical teachings of Masonry. Or if they mean to countenance the profanity of their ceremonies, and the partiality of their sworn practice. If so, surely they should not be allowed their place in the Christian Church.

Fourth, can a man who has taken, and still adheres to the Master's oath to conceal any secret crime of a brother of that Degree, murder and treason excepted, be a safe man with whom to entrust any public office? Can he be trusted as a witness, as a juror, or with any office connected with the administration of justice?

Fifth, can a man who has taken, and still adheres to, the oath of the Royal Arch Mason be trusted to public office? He swears to espouse the cause of a companion of this Degree when involved in any difficulty, so far as to extricate him, whether he be right or wrong. He swears to conceal his crimes, MURDER AND TREASON NOT EXCEPTED. Is such a man bound by such an oath to be trusted with office? Ought he to be accepted as a witness or juror when another Freemason is a party in the case? Ought he to be trusted with the office of Judge, or Justice of the Peace, or as a Sheriff, Constable, Marshal or any other office?

What Is Your Answer?

I appeal to your conscience in the sight of God, for an honest answer to these three questions:
1. Is any man who is under a most solemn oath to kill all who violate any part of Masonic oaths, a fit person to be at large among men?

2. Ought Freemasons of this stamp to be fellowshipped in the Christian Church?

3. Do you believe that the sins of Masonic oaths are forgiven only to those who repent? And that we do not repent of those sins to which we still adhere? And that adherence makes us also partaker of other men's sins?
"The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from ALL sin." "And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as He is pure" (I John 1:17; 3:3).

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

1 Chron 12:32 report, 63: The Indian $35 (subsidised) tablet for College students


Pardon the recent inactivity here. 

Over the past several weeks, I have been busy elsewhere, as I have developed a test online course, IOSE: an independent origins science education course. It was implemented as a simple beta test, nominally at general (and high school) survey level, in blog and wiki formats. [The reference and College level information will be attached, DV, as a PDF, once I am satisfied with the beta testing results.] As a part of that testing I have introduced the materials in several discussion threads at the Intelligent Design blog, Uncommon Descent, and have tweaked especially the blog form of the Introduction and Summary page as a result. 

In any case, we now have a proof of concept on online presentation of content, with text, visual and multimedia elements integrated using both blog and wiki technologies. The key lesson has been that the technologies are workable, but setting up such materials is not as easy as is sometimes advertised [a very familiar experience, that], so actually doing it and learning the tricks and workarounds is important. 

At one stage, I pretty much felt like walking away from TikiWiki, but in the end it works and between integration of Kaltura collaborative video editing software and BigBlueButton educational teleconferenceing software, I am contemplating the step of moving on to TikiWiki 5.0 and figuring out the headaches for that version. (Techies out there, HELP!)

But, as the headline above points out, there has been a highly significant recent development in India . . .


Recent headlines have announced that based on developments at Indian Institute of Technology, the Indian Government intends to produce a first run of one million touchscreen tablet PCs at the subsidised price of US$35, which is comparable to the market price of cheap cell phones in India.

From various observations, it seems that the materials costs are actually about $47, making the low margin or not for profit price point OLPC has targetted for its tablet, US$ 75, seem a fairly credible target.

According to the July 23rd CSM report linked above, by Anuj Chopra , the Linux operating system tablet: "includes an Internet browser, a multimedia player, a PDF reader, and video conferencing ability." Elaborating on its goals, the Indian Human Resources Ministry announced that “[t]he aim is to reach such devices to the students of colleges and universities, and to provide these institutions a host of choices of low-cost access devices around $35 or less in near future.”

Anand Nandkumar, a professor at the Indian School of business suggests that not only is this a significant prospect for College education, but it also signals India's ambition "to tap into a new market."

The significance of this is that we are not just looking at a showroom concept by OLPC or a pre-product by Marvell that OLPC is hoping to capitalise on as an interim solution, but that we are seeing an emerging market for touchscreen tablet PCs that integrate the functions of an e-Book reader similar to the Amazon Kindle, with general computer and wireless network features of a tablet or slate PC similar to the Apple iPad.

So, it is credible that over the next several years, there will be a cluster of tablet PC choices for students at or about US$ 100, or maybe as low as US$75. (NB: Sizeable textbooks for College or even High School now routinely match or exceed that price range.)

Such PCs, in e-Book reader mode, and loaded with electronic books or course readers in any one of several possible formats, e.g. EPUB or PDF, could become a key delivery platform for textbooks. The touchscreen would be useful for light typing and general interaction on the go, but a USB port or wireless keyboard and a mouse or touch pad would make sense for major typing, e.g. to produce a term paper. Wireless network capability enables instant access to local network resources, and through broadband access [e.g. DSL, or Cable TV Modem], to wider Internet facilities.

So, we can see a second key technology brick falling into place for the envisioned regional web- and micro-campus- based education initiative. Therefore, we can now lay out an outline textbook/course reader and related resources technology strategy:
1 --> Web based delivery of key course resources and reference materials using blog, Wiki and Content Management Systems, e.g. Moodle Educational Content Management System.

2 --> The use of locally based, Internet wired microcampus centres staffed by facilitators and integrated with regional tertiary level and second chance High School completion systems. (The emerging Caribbean Christian University is especially in view.)

3 --> The use of low cost Tablet PCs similar to the above and the previously announced as a platform of choice for access to education and network resources, combining e-book reader and wireless-access PC capabilities.

4 --> Use of collaborative, preferably open source multimedia and video production resources to produce rich media content.

5 --> Use of open source teleconferencing systems to regionally access seminars, workshops and presentations or panels by leading thinkers, academics, educators and opinion leaders in an interactive way. (This would be similar to several recent trends with UWI's Open Campus initiative.)

6 --> Development of an integrated framework for education based on first addressing the needs of the 80% of regional secondary intake who struggle to achieve a good High School completion profile, through second chance secondary completion and bridging studies preparatory to full tertiary studies.

7 --> This should be joined to a flagship Associate Degree programme -- the Associate in Arts, with concentration in Caribbean Christian Service -- designed to either complement other studies or to provide a Discipleship, theology, leadership and community service core with technical areas targetting key and marketable skills in areas such as multimedia technologies, business and commerce, C21 agriculture, and the like.

8 --> Through the envisioned networking with regional tertiary systems, access to full first degree studies and higher studies.

9 -->  Across time, as the system develops, incorporation of targetted degree completion based in microcampus centres and possibly graduate/ professional studies in areas such as Business Management or ["Applied"] Theology.

10 --> Also accessing studies in key fields such as multimedia technology, agriculture, education, energy studies etc through networking with existing schools and new initiatives.

11 --> The hosting of more or less standalone practical and technical or "professional" courses and workshops in specific areas would also be helpful, especially where some of these could be suitably accredited and incorporated into the general qualification framework.
Thus, slowly, we can see a transformational vision for regional reformation through education, discipleship development and capacity building for leadership -- all driven by the general Biblical worldview and the positive impact of the gospel -- looming out of the mists.

The challenge is to now move from vision to on the ground, networked reality, which will require significant commitment of time, talent, funds, material resources, agreement with institutions and more. And so, comments, thoughts, suggestions and practical inputs are welcome.

For, we must now ask, again: why not now? Why not here? Why not us? END