Monday, April 23, 2018

Great Thoughts: Heaven and Earth

Our duty as Christians ... is always to keep heaven in our eye and the earth under our feet.

Matthew Henry, commenting on Genesis 1. 

Friday, March 09, 2018

Hypocrisy as a Tribute

An interesting observation:

“Wherever there is genuine coin, it will be likely to be counterfeited; and the fact of a counterfeit is always a tribute to the intrinsic worth of the coin - for who would be at the pains to counterfeit that which is worthless? The fact that there are hypocrites in the church, is an involuntary tribute to the excellency of religion.”

FB Meyer in his book, John the Baptist

Thursday, February 01, 2018

Great Thoughts: Religion and Politics in Early America

From Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville, speaking of the Puritans. I'm not sure this is still the same today.

One would think that men who had sacrificed their friends, their family, and their native land to a religious conviction would be wholly absorbed in the pursuit of the treasure which they had purchased at so high a price. And yet we find them seeking with nearly equal zeal for material wealth and moral good, -- for well-being and freedom on earth, and salvation in heaven. They moulded and altered at pleasure all political principles, and all human laws and institutions; they broke down the barriers of the society in which they were born; they disregarded the old principles which had governed the world for ages; a career without bounds, a field without horizon, was opened to them: they precipitate themselves into it, and traverse it in every direction. But having reached the limits of the political world, they stop of their own accord, and lay aside with awe the use of their most formidable faculties; they no longer doubt or innovate; they abstain from raising even the veil of the sanctuary, and bow with submissive respect before truths which they admit without discussion.

Thus, in the moral world, everything is classified, systematized, foreseen, and decided beforehand; in the political world, everything is agitated, disputed and uncertain. In the one is a passive though a voluntary obedience; in the other, an independence scornful of experience, and jealous of all authority. These two tendencies, apparently so discrepant, are far from conflicting; they advance together, and mutually support each other. Religion perceives that civil liberty affords a noble exercise to the faculties of man, and that the political world is a field prepared by the Creator for the efforts of mind. Free and powerful in its own sphere, satisfied with the place reserved for it, religion never more surely establishes its empire than when it reigns in the hearts of men unsupported by aught beside its native strength.

Liberty regards religion as its companion in all its battles and its triumphs, -- as the cradle of its infancy, and the divine source of its claims. It considers religion as the safeguard of morality, and morality as the best security of law, and the surest pledge of the duration of freedom ...

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Great Thoughts: What People Believe

I read the following in an old commentary by Albert Barnes on the Book of Job (Job 22) and thought how helpful Barnes' comments could be to today's political discourse. Here it is, slightly edited:

How common it is to charge a man with holding an opinion that we infer - from something which he has advanced - he must hold, and then to proceed to argue as if he actually held that opinion.

The philosophy of this is plain. He advances a certain opinion. We infer at once that he can hold that only on certain grounds, or that if he holds that he must hold something else also. We can see that if we held that opinion, we should also, for the sake of consistency, be compelled to hold something which seems to follow from it, and we cannot see how this can be avoided, and we at once charge him with holding it. But the truth may be, that he has not seen that such consequences follow, or that he has some other way of accounting for the fact than we have; or that he may hold to the fact and yet deny wholly the consequences which legitimately follow from it. Now we have a right to show him by argument that his opinions, if he would follow them out, would lead to dangerous consequences, but we only have a right to charge him with holding an opinion that he professes to hold. He is not answerable for our inferences; and we have no right to charge them on him as being his real opinions.

Every man has a right to avow what he actually believes, and to be regarded as holding that, and that only.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Thoughts on Luke 11:29-36

In this passage (Luke 11:29-36) I had always thought Jesus was making three points.

First, that his generation is wicked compared to the Ninevites because they responded to Jonah and repented, and compared to the Queen of Sheba because she sought Solomon’s wisdom, but they - his generation - had Jesus, far greater than Jonah or Solomon, yet did not repent.

Second, that no one lights a lamp and hides it, but puts it out where everyone can see it.

And third, that the eye is the lamp of the body and if our eye is good our whole body will be filled with light, and if our eye is bad we will be filled with darkness.

I used to think these were three separate parables, but now I believe it is all one thought, which is this:

First, that just as God made Jonah and Solomon lamps for their generations, so he made Jesus the far greater lamp for his generation. 

Second, that just as no one lights a lamp and hides it, so God publicly made Jesus a light for the world.

And third, if our “eye” is good (receptive to Jesus) then our entire inner being is illuminated. If our eye is bad (not open to Jesus) then our inner being will be dark. 

So, just as God made Jonah and Solomon lights for their generations, so He has made Jesus the far greater light for us, and He has done so publicly where everyone can see, and therefore if our eye is good (looking to Jesus) then our entire inner being will be illuminated. However, if our eye is bad (not looking to Jesus) then our inner being will be dark. 

Sunday, January 07, 2018

Gems and Other Interesting Blockchain Projects

I'm deviating a bit from my normal topics, but this is such an interesting topic - and perhaps even a world-changing topic - that I'm going to comment on it. Note: I haven't invested in any of these, but I'm considering it.

There has been a lot of interest in Bitcoin lately because of its astonishing price rise, but I think the most interesting thing is not Bitcoin itself, but the whole cryptocurrency environment it has spawned, which is exploding with a world-changing creativity that extends far beyond simple currency. See, which lists more than a thousand crypto coins.

The blockchain (at the heart of this environment) basically enables systems that can operate fairly regardless of how honest or dishonest the people hosting the systems are. So, for example, if you have an entire copy of the Bitcoin blockchain, containing all the Bitcoin ever created, and you try to cheat by modifying the chain, it won't do you a bit of good because the rest of the system, distributed around the world, simply won't approve your changes.

Some of these new crypto projects are no doubt frauds, or silly, or badly designed, but there is always that sort of thing in a period of rapid change and creativity. But there are also systems that are being designed that will enable all kinds of transactions for perhaps thousands of online systems, and that at far, far lower cost.

Some of the systems that interest me are the ones that make new online systems possible. These have particilarly caught my eye recently:

- Gems (, which seeks to immitate the Amazon Mechanical Turk system (online workers performing small tasks) but with extremely low overhead, thereby providing workers with larger paychecks and employers with lower labor costs.

- Verify (, which seeks to replicate the sort of reputation record you see on, for example,, but all handled using a distributed system. I think this sort of system is necessary for people to become comfortable buying and selling on a non-centralized, nobody-owns-it blockchain system.

- Chainlink ( Some blockchain systems need to connect with outside sources of information. So, for instance, a financial tool might want to regularly check stock prices. This system would let that happen.

- Copytrack (, a global decentralized copyright register for digital content. The blockchain is ideal for recording in a way that cannot be changed who owns what.

- BlockMason Credit Protocol ( A system for recording debts and credit. A basic but critical task for building complex financial systems based on the blockchain.

- Basic Attention Token ( is developing a system to improve the efficiency of digital advertising by creating a new token that can be exchanged between publishers, advertisers, and users.

There are probably dozens of other equally interesting projects (sorry if I missed a favorite), but I just haven't stumbled upon them yet.

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Great Thoughts: The Outer Limits

“There is an outer limit to our investigations on all subjects, and we soon reach it. In life we are to act chiefly on facts; not on the reason why those facts exist. When we have ascertained or established a fact, our feet stand on a solid rock; and there we shall stand securely.”

- Albert Barnes on Colossians 2