He Says He Has No Time

I remember one time in college I was taking a class in the Theory of Structures taught by someone who had been born and raised in the Vojvodina part of Serbia.  At some point during the semester I had arranged to meet with him at a certain time at his office, and having walked from work at that time, I found he was not available at his office.  Having other things to do that Friday afternoon before the sunset, I waited fifteen minutes, which I considered to be considerable amounts of patience, and then I went off to do what I needed to do.  When I saw the professor next, he seemed rather irked that I had not waited longer for him, thinking me a “busy American,” as if that was a bad thing.  The incident is fairly typical.  I tend to be fairly overscheduled as a person [1], and I generally lack the time to deal well with all of what has to be done.  I greatly dislike being late myself, and when others are late often it is too late to do very much because there is so little time to spare.

I bring this up because yesterday afternoon I borrowed a dvd from some friends of mine at church.  After having mentioned it and its theme, my roommate expressed an interest in seeing it.  I rushed off in the afternoon with a few things to accomplish and told him that we should see it about 8PM or so.  Naturally, after going to the library and a couple of other places, including spending a great deal of time wrestling with the preparation for an upcoming speech to some World War II veterans on salvage missions, I returned home around 8:30PM to find my roommate watching a video from a Church of God leader.  I then ran about looking to do other errands and by the time that video was done and he was ready, it was about 9PM, too late to watch a video given my demands for at least some rest.  I will have to find another evening when I am somewhat less scheduled, likely at some point in the middle to the end of the week when I finish work relatively early and will hopefully not have too many books I am trying to work through.  Hopefully my ferocious headache will be gone by then too.

After all, it is not as if today was a particularly productive day, at least by my standards.  Everything seemed to be running late, in large part because my sleep was interrupted yet again, on a couple of different occasions, and I felt run down the entire day, just not up to my usual levels of energy.  Perhaps it was for the best that I did not watch the video because I am not really at my best when it comes to watching something that requires sustained attention and then reviewing it as is my usual habit.  Let us hope, at least, that some time can be found later on, especially as I am far enough ahead in my reading that heroic efforts will not be required to keep myself a week ahead in terms of books reviewed.  Let us hope as well that I am able to get good enough rest that I do not have the same splitting headache I have had for the last couple of days, which has made me more than a bit waspish.  At least I know for sure that it is not a caffeine withdrawal headache, but rather it is some other kind of one of the many types of headaches that I am plagued with from time to time.

On their first album, the British band Keane wrote and performed a melancholy song called “She Says She Has No Time,” in which they reflected on someone who was too busy for someone else.  In this life many of us are very busy and it can be a vexing problem to deal with our own self-imposed burdens as well as working out time with others to act in areas of common interest.  The video will wait for another day; it demands enough time that it has to be scheduled for, and there is no convenient place me to plug in my computer and attempt to multi-task as I watch it, which will require a good deal of focus on my part in contrast to my often fairly scattered ways.  But that is a problem for another day.  For now I ponder when I shall get my rest, work on finishing another book to review, and look forward to another busy week ahead.  The days threaten to run together, the engine must be fed with fuel, and the train must pull its burden to another station in the long course of life.

[1] See, for example:





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Book Review: Toxic Leadership

Toxic Leadership:  5 People Churches Should Never Hire, by Tobin Perry

From time to time [1] I like to read books about church leadership and how it is viewed from a somewhat worldly perspective.  There are a wide variety of leadership consultants whose markets are churches and at times it can be immensely intriguing to see what is said by such people about how churches should be led and what kind of people should be put into positions of paid leadership, or, as this book deals with, what sort of people should never, under any circumstances, be hired by a church.  Beyond my own intellectual curiosity in the subject, I find books like this to be of interest as a way of self-examination and reflection.  Am I the sort of person that is toxic to a church culture?  If so, and if it can be recognized by consultants, then clearly I have a great deal of work to do on myself.  It is with that mindset that I approach material like this, both as something interesting to see from the point of view of another and as something that encourages me to work on my own issues with all the help I can get from God above.

In about 25 pages or so, this book gives an interesting picture of 5 types of people that should never be hired for the ministry by a church.  The five types are as follows:  Blaming Bonnie, who never takes responsibility for her own failures and is quick to cast blame on others, Old-School Ollie who has nothing good to say about new technology or a changed approach in reaching others, Do-Everything Dan who burns himself out on serving too much and leaving no room for others to develop their gifts, Prayerless Patty who has an essentially unspritual approach to leadership, like a John Maxwell, and Ivory Tower Ivan, who is very knowledgeable about the Bible and very intellectual but not very interested in other people.   I could certainly find elements of myself in these various types, and was intrigued by what sort of questions the author recommended to draw out their natures and what sort of help the author suggested in helping such people who were already employed on staff.  It should be noted, of course, that I belong to a religious tradition that hires far fewer people and relies far more on volunteers than is regularly the case within the wider professed Christian world, which even hires musicians for services on many occasions, and so this book is not as relevant to me as it would perhaps be to others.

Be that as it may, a book like this is relevant on at least two levels.  On the one level, this book is a reminder of the sort of qualities that hinder our ability to lead in a Christian context–a refusal to own up to our faults, a hidebound reliance on tradition that fails to recognize where God would want us to change, a lack of ability to encourage and motivate and build up others because of our own insecurities, a lack of an intimate relationship with God through prayer and Bible study, and being trapped inside our own mind and uninterested in those around us.  All of these tendencies are potentially fatal to our own walk with God, regardless of what position if any we hold in a congregational or denominational hierarchy.  And this, in turn, ought to encourage us all to reflect on our own spiritual state, to repent to God where necessary, to reconcile with others where possible, and to work on overcoming where we struggle and fall short.  At 25 pages, this e-book provides plenty of food for thought and reflection, and fulfills its purpose well.

[1] See, for example:









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Book Review: Writing For The Magazines

Writing For The Magazines, by J. Berg Esenwein

Every once in a while [1] I enjoy reading about writing, and particularly those writings that are geared towards writers with a mind toward publication and profit.  Being a writer whose efforts have thus far been of modest to insignificant material reward thus far, I often find it greatly intriguing what sort of writing was viewed as popular in different periods of time.  For example, this particular author states that about half of the people of the United States at that time were interested in writing but that most of them had little or nothing to say–nothing has changed there in our contemporary age of blogging.  On the other hand, the author also shows at his time that plays and poetry were well regarded in publishing, and those are certainly not the same.  Indeed, there appear to be far fewer literary magazines now than there were a century ago when this book was published in 1916.  Be that as it may, this is a good book and still has something to offer writers in focusing on quality and reminding writers that the quality of one’s work will eventually be evident, no matter how obscure one’s current situation.  The demand for good writing is sufficiently great enough that those who can write well and write often will eventually be recognized.

The contents of this “little book” (4) run to a bit under 300 pages and manage to cover a lot of useful material for those who wrote for magazines like I do.  The author gives the justification for his book and gives notes to those who teach journalism and then begins sensibly enough by defining magazines and newspapers and discussing the different types of magazines that existed at the time.  The author then gives a broad discussion of different material for magazines including personal essays (under a different name), short stories, plays, and poetry.  The author discusses the sources of a writer’s material in experience, observation, reading, and conversation, all of which are fruitful for writers.  The author discusses how to write paragraphs and the equipment one needs (principally notebooks and the like to record ideas and keep them organized) and then discusses in some detail the various genres of writing that were popular in the era for magazine writing:  short articles, full-length articles, humorous writing, poetry, light verse, short stories, and plays.  At this point the author shifts gears and discusses editorial work on magazines, the art of preparing and marketing magazine work, and then there are four appendices that provide guidance in prose writing, self-criticism, easily confused words, as well as a reading list for ambitious writers.  Many of the chapters contain examples as well as questions for practice and reflection by the reader.

Clearly, there is a lot in this book that is somewhat outdated and obsolete.  There are new categories of writing that the author likely could have never conceived of, and the world for writing is vastly different than the writer imagined.  All of this is entirely understandable, although it should be noted that as recently as twenty or thirty years ago books on writing were obsessed with the point of encouraging writers to submit self-addressed stamped envelopes with one’s writing, something this author emphasizes repeatedly.   However, there is much that rings true in this book even for today–there is still a great demand for good reading and quite a lot of bad material that is published in the absence of better material, there is still a great deal of work that has to be done by writers who wish to succeed, including being very observant to the sort of material that exists both for an understanding of the proper tone and also to gain a sense of niches that can be filled that are not being explored.  Additionally, the author notes that writers tend to ramble and that being able to pare down one’s work is always to be appreciated.  Some things never change.

[1] See, for example:








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Young Josiah

Earlier this week I got a brief message from our choir director that told us we had no choir practice and encouraged us to enjoy our week off.  As is my fashion, I felt it necessarily to reply somewhat cheekishly to this message by commenting that with two other practices–one before services with the a capella choir with the children’s choir for a performance in June, and the other a practice after services for the piece we are to sing next Sabbath–as well as Sabbath School, I did not have this particular Sabbath off, even though a church-wide fast was scheduled.  It seems that I am temperamentally unable to simply let things rest, whether it be a day or whether it be a brief and lighthearted message.  If it is half as exhausting to deal with me as it is to be me, it must be more than exhausting enough for most people not to want to tangle too closely.

As it happens, the Sabbath School lesson today is one I find of particular importance.  I am not sure how much of the story the children will understand of it, but it is the story of the law being found in the temple and brought to the young King Josiah.  The story is told in 2 Kings 22:  “Josiah was eight years old when he became king, and he reigned thirty-one years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Jedidah the daughter of Adaiah of Bozkath.  And he did what was right in the sight of the Lord, and walked in all the ways of his father David; he did not turn aside to the right hand or to the left.  Now it came to pass, in the eighteenth year of King Josiah, that the king sent Shaphan the scribe, the son of Azaliah, the son of Meshullam, to the house of the Lord, saying:  “Go up to Hilkiah the high priest, that he may count the money which has been brought into the house of the Lord, which the doorkeepers have gathered from the people.  And let them deliver it into the hand of those doing the work, who are the overseers in the house of the Lord; let them give it to those who are in the house of the Lord doing the work, to repair the damages of the house—to carpenters and builders and masons—and to buy timber and hewn stone to repair the house.  However there need be no accounting made with them of the money delivered into their hand, because they deal faithfully.”  Then Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the scribe, “I have found the Book of the Law in the house of the Lord.” And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan, and he read it.  So Shaphan the scribe went to the king, bringing the king word, saying, “Your servants have gathered the money that was found in the house, and have delivered it into the hand of those who do the work, who oversee the house of the Lord.”  Then Shaphan the scribe showed the king, saying, “Hilkiah the priest has given me a book.” And Shaphan read it before the king.  Now it happened, when the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, that he tore his clothes.  Then the king commanded Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam the son of Shaphan, Achbor the son of Michaiah, Shaphan the scribe, and Asaiah a servant of the king, saying, “Go, inquire of the Lord for me, for the people and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that has been found; for great is the wrath of the Lord that is aroused against us, because our fathers have not obeyed the words of this book, to do according to all that is written concerning us.”  So Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam, Achbor, Shaphan, and Asaiah went to Huldah the prophetess, the wife of Shallum the son of Tikvah, the son of Harhas, keeper of the wardrobe. (She dwelt in Jerusalem in the Second Quarter.) And they spoke with her.  Then she said to them, “Thus says the Lord God of Israel, ‘Tell the man who sent you to Me,  “Thus says the Lord: ‘Behold, I will bring calamity on this place and on its inhabitants—all the words of the book which the king of Judah has read— because they have forsaken Me and burned incense to other gods, that they might provoke Me to anger with all the works of their hands. Therefore My wrath shall be aroused against this place and shall not be quenched.’”’  But as for the king of Judah, who sent you to inquire of the Lord, in this manner you shall speak to him, ‘Thus says the Lord God of Israel: “Concerning the words which you have heard— because your heart was tender, and you humbled yourself before the Lord when you heard what I spoke against this place and against its inhabitants, that they would become a desolation and a curse, and you tore your clothes and wept before Me, I also have heard you,” says the Lord.  “Surely, therefore, I will gather you to your fathers, and you shall be gathered to your grave in peace; and your eyes shall not see all the calamity which I will bring on this place.”’” So they brought back word to the king.”

Let us look at the various aspects of this story which are striking, and there are a lot of them.  Whether or not I am able to convey all of them to the young people is uncertain, but if they get even a part of it, it will still be a worthwhile story for them.  For one, let us note that Josiah was a righteous king who had decided after generations of unbelief that the Temple to God in Jerusalem needed repairs.  The freewill offerings of the brethren came in for the repairs, and priests and the workmen of the temple were considered so trustworthy that it was not necessary to account for what they were given.  While they were engaged upon this task, the book of the law had been found in the Temple, apparently ignored and unread for many years.  When the law was found and read, Josiah’s response was to tear his clothes in mourning over the failure of Judah to obey the law in the face of what was promised punishment, even to the point of destruction.  They then went to Huldah, a prophetess, who pronounced that although the doom on Jerusalem was certain that Josiah would escape the national calamity because of his own tender heart.  It is more than a little bit striking that they would go to a prophetess, not least because there are so few prophetesses named in the Bible and because there were plenty of God’s prophets active including literary prophets like Jeremiah and Habakkuk.  At any rate, what we see here is a praise of Josiah’s faithfulness as a ruler combined with a gloomy prophecy about impending national ruin.  It is hard not to read this passage without thinking of our own age [1].

In order to help the children better understand what was found, I printed out four passages from the law in Deuteronomy for the students to find in our class and then to read out at least portions of it to understand what it was that the people of Israel and Judah had disobeyed so flagrantly.  I also hope they are able to understand at least a little bit about the context of the repentance of Josiah–I might have them look at Josiah as he is mentioned in 1 Kings 13 in a prophecy as well as how he was raised up as king among the possible heirs through the people of the land, as those are interesting aspects of the historical and political and religious context as well.  Anyway, as tired as I am, as plagued by headaches and poor sleep, I hope I can convey just how distressed Josiah was to know about the doom of the nation he ruled, a doom that I reflect upon often when I think about the state of my own nation.

[1] See, for example:





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Restaurant Review: The Peppermill (Aloha, OR)

I don’t make it my general habit to review restaurants [1], but as it happens, this one is a request.  As I was sitting on my bed hungry and headachy towards the end of a fast this evening, I pondered how it would be best to finish the fast.  Given the sort of mood I am in, I had a place in mind but was not sure that it had wifi, so after calling the place and finding out that it did, I made my way to a place that I have eaten at a few times but none particularly recently, The Peppermill of Aloha, which is not too far away from Aloha’s library, another place I do not go to even though it might seem to be a fairly natural place for me to end up given my tastes in reading.  When I arrived at the place, I found to my surprise that one of my coworkers was there smoking outside the restaurant with a lady, and surprised to see me going out to eat alone.  He requested that I try the pot roast (which I declined, on account of it not being a gout friendly food), and that I write a restaurant review of the place, so here goes.

How friendly is this restaurant for a quirky writer like myself?  Well, after quietly watching me awkwardly look under the tables and booths for a while looking in vain for an plug while a laptop bag was on my shoulder, one of the waitresses directed me to a place I had never sat in, the far back wall of the resttaurant, next to a television that was turned off.  In general, this place is a comfortable and homey sort of restaurant, where one has witty conversation with the waitresses–and they are invariably waitresses–and enjoys well-cooked and hearty food, which we’ll get to shortly.  Despite the fact that it was a Saturday night, the place was nearly empty.  Perhaps the paucity of televisions devoted to the Blazers game and the fact that the restaurant appeals to a senior crowd that goes to bed earlier had something to do with the general emptiness of the place, because I have been here before earlier in the evening on work nights on the way home when I lived in the Murray Shoals area and the place was much busier.

So, what did I get to eat when I was there?  Well, for one, I got some fried motzarella for an appetizer, and though the dish is a bit spendy (averaging about $1 per fried cheese stick), the dish is a tasty one and the supply of marinara sauce with shredded cheese on top is pretty generous.  I ordered a dinner salad with the house Italian dressing to go along with my entreè, the chicken fettuccine alfredo, and forgot to tell the wait staff to take off the beets.  The waitress helpfully commented as I was taking off the beets from my salad that beets are a somewhat polarizing option for salads and I agreed with her, and later on as she delivered the chicken fettuccine alfredo, she asked somewhat rhetorically about their cheese sticks being the best.  Their iced tea was pretty strong, which is good, and after seeing the way I guzzled the first couple of glasses the waitress wisely brought an entire pitcher for me to drink the rest of the evening.  The chicken fettuccine alfredo was tasty–one only wishes there had been a bit more of it because by the time I had it, I was about ready to eat the plate.  Will I regret eating an alfredo dish in a few hours?  Quite possibly, but it was tasty.  As I was still hungry after I was done, I picked up an inexpensive slice of carrot cake to close out the meal and add a bit of balance to it.

Is this place worth coming back to?  In a perfect world, if my dinner choices were not highly conditioned by cost, this would be a place I go out to a lot more often.  I enjoy the friendliness and occasional stabs at wit from the waitresses, and the place is one where I can be left alone to read or write without being frequently bothered, all of which I particularly enjoy.  While the food, especially the appetizers, are a bit spendy, the food is tasty and the place is certainly worthwhile.  As it stands now, I can’t imagine myself eating here all that often, but it is a place I could see myself eating at from time to time.  It is certainly a local establishment that I find sufficiently quirky to give my seal of approval, even if I can be more than usually awkward when it comes to my own experiences here.

[1] But see, for example:




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Book Review: The Philosophy Of Jesus

The Philosophy Of Jesus, by Peter Kreeft

This is a good book, even a great book, but not a perfect book.  This author [1] gets as close to one can of a great many truths about God as one can as an unconverted Catholic, but the fact that he is a Catholic means there are at least a few matters here that are irritating to many readers.  For one, he considers John Paul II to be among the most insightful believers in recent memory for some platitutdes about the importance of Christ and the culture of life.  For another, more seriously from the point of view of a philosopher, the author makes some serious errors of non sequitor when it comes to the nature of God.  The author argues from the premises that God is loving, lover, and beloved and also a family that therefore God is a closed Trinity, which simply does not follow in any way shape or form.  Likewise, the author’s Catholicism is a problem when he talks about supposed saints like Augustine, Francis, and Ignatius of Loyola, none of whom would have met the biblical standard of sainthood.  Given my warm and favorable feelings for the book as a whole, I figured it was necessary to state my concerns and objections about the book forthrightly at the start, in order not to lead anyone astray by too warm of a recommendation.

The contents of the book are organized very logically.  After introducing four elements of philosophy and commenting on the reality of Jesus Christ as a philosopher through an appropriation of the arguments of C.S. Lewis in one of his letters, the rest of the book is organized into four chapters where the author looks at his view of Christ’s metaphysics, epistemology, anthropology, and ethics.  The author is at pains to remind the reader that Jesus Christ was a Jew and that had implications, although the author himself appears to be ignorant of the implications of the Jewishness of Jesus Christ and that following Jesus authentically would involve a great deal more obedience to God’s laws in the Torah than he appears conscious of.  As kyrios of the Sabbath [2], Jesus Christ is not honored by worship on the Lord’s Day as is so common among Hellenistic Christians like the author.  Nevertheless, in under 200 pages and told with verve and enthusiasm, this book ought to be something of interest for a wide variety of philosophically inclined Christians, especially if they do mind the way that the author brings in his characteristic concerns about the culture of life as opposed to our society’s culture of death, especially as it relates to sexual morality.

Ultimately, this is an attempt to view Jesus Christ from a philosophical Catholic perspective.  I find elements of this view appealing, and other elements less so, but I am aware that there are many who would find this particular book quite appalling in contrast, whether that is liberal Catholics or those who view everything that is written by a proud and enthusiastic and loyal Catholic as being beyond redemption.  If this book is missing something of the Holy Spirit in its inspiration, it is certainly an able and brave cerebral account of Jesus Christ according to the standards and language conventions of philosophy.  The author does a great job at writing in philosophical language and showing how Jesus Christ’s thought and practice met the standards of the academy, despite the fact that it is not culturally fashionable to say so.  There is something refreshing in the author’s willingness to engage in an apologia of the intellectual value of Christianity and a refutation of the way that Christianity is often perverted and corrupted through its adoption to ungodly ends and human ambitions.  If this book is not perfect because of the author’s perspective, it has a valuable and worthwhile purpose to those of us who are both Christians and intellectuals.

[1] See, for example:





[2] See, for example:



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Book Review: A Little Book For New Philosophers

A Little Book For New Philosophers, by Paul Copan

When one reads a book, even a book as little as this one (about 120 pages and small enough to fit in a pocket), one has to ask what motive the author has for writing it.  What agenda is the author trying to promote?  What audience is he (or she) aiming at?  In this particular book, we find that a suitably introductory work to encourage philosophy as a profession–the author even asks the obvious question of what kind of living a professional philosopher can make–ends up also being an appeal for Neoplatonism.  As someone who has mixed feelings about the relationship between Christianity and philosophy [1], this book gave me profoundly mixed feelings, as I could not completely buy the author’s argument but at the same time agreed that there were ways that Christians can and should practice philosophy.  There is good philosophy, but this particular book does not quite qualify as it.  To be sure, this is a book that encourages and legitimizes good Christian philosophy, but it does not quite live up to the high standard it aims at.  At least it aims well, though.

The contents of this short volume are two parts with four chapters each.  The first half of the book discusses why a Christian should study philosophy.  The author compares philosophy to baking bread and comments on the concerns that many people have about practicality.  Then the author talks about what philosophy means as loving wisdom–not necessarily being wise, about the relationship between faith, philosophy, and scripture, and then the way that we should think about God.  Unfortunately not all of the author’s advice on this last score is very accurate or wise, to say nothing about biblical.  Those who believe in illogical contradictions when it comes to the nature of God should refraim from considering themselves fitting models of biblical philosophy.  The second half of the book consists of the author talking about how to study philosophy–as an encouragement to the virtuous life, as part of a godly Christian community, with wise doubts and humility, and as a pursuit.  After that comes a couple of indices.  Overall it can be said that this book does not overstay its welcome, and it provides a lot of worthwhile quotes and thought-provoking material, so there is a lot to enjoy here, but I have to admit that I was a little bit disappointed by it myself.

After all, this author is a Hellenistic Christian and not a biblical one.  Those who are intellectually-minded professed Christians will likely greatly appreciate this book.  They will find nothing wrong with believing in a faith that does not take the Bible completely seriously and that seeks to curry favor with other intellectual people like deists through having a deeply cerebral religious worldview.  To be sure, that is the ideal audience of the book, the people who are already involved in the sort of synthesis the author represents that was typical of medieval Catholicism or certain strains of Reformed thought.  I am not the ideal audience for this work, because although I am a cerebral person with a great interest in philosophy, I face a much more difficult task than that dealt with by the author and those he is writing for.  Unlike them, I don’t come from a tradition that views Athens with even the grudging respect given by others, and this book quite frankly is not a help to me as an intellectual Christian.  It would be nice if it was, but perhaps I simply expected too much.

[1] See, for example:









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The Night Is Just A Shadow Falling On You

Today I saw a story showing on my social media that discussed the arrest of a husband and wife for female genital mutilation, a social custom quite popular in certain backwards areas of the world and with their refugee populations in the United States, apparently.  In other news, my social media wall exploded with a great deal of ferocious political commentary concerning our current president’s crackdown on sanctuary cities who deliberately attempt to disregard federal laws against illegal immigration [1].  I am not talking harsh new laws either, but the rather ineffective laws we already have on our books.  The discourse on that latter issue fell under three different lines.  Some people, of course, whined about xenophobia of our president and his administration.  Others supported the crackdown as a necessary and proper enforcement of law and order, and still others decried any sort of use of government coercion to deal with problems of anarchy in the not unreasonable fear that left-wing administrations in the future would do the same to right-wing opposition to abortion and other forms of moral evil because they disagreed with such coercion on principle.

Both of these stories demonstrate a problem that has to be dealt with in any society.  Do governments have the right of self-preservation?  Does government have legitimacy as authority, even apart from the specific conduct of those authorities?  I would argue, along with the apostle Paul, that authority did have legitimacy.  Paul, we should remember, applied this principle most awkwardly to himself [2].  The legitimacy of authority in the general case and the behavior of corrupt and fallen human authorities cannot be conflated together, but must be examined apart.  I am not sure why it is that so many of the libertarians I know neglect this fact.  These are people, by and large, who want to be viewed as authorities, at least in the sense of being people worthy of being listened to and accepted as authorities in terms of political discourse, but they rail against authority in general.  Their behavior undercuts their own desires, as they show themselves inconsistent to their own principles and ambitions.

It might seem unfair that authorities are given a presumption of legitimacy.  We know, after all, how authority can easily be abused, and how painful and destructive that abuse can be.  Yet if we know ourselves, we will also realize that there is an automatic tendency for us to denigrate those authorities we disagree with.  Any authority that acts against our own desires, regardless of how illegitimate those desires, is going to be seen by us as abusive or coercive.  If one is standing apart from a situation, as a generally uninvolved third party, one can tell the difference between proper discipline and abuse.  When one is involved in the situation, one is not generally so able to see things with a perspective that approaches impartiality.  Since we cannot be just judges in our own causes, any authority that disagrees with us in any point is going to be considered by us as illegitimate, regardless of the facts of the matter.  Yet at the same time many of us wish to be seen as authorities over others, unaware or uncaring of the fact that we do unto others what we detest being done to us.  We think of ourselves as being fit for power and honor and influence and think of others as being unworthy of such things, and we often do not have enough regard for offices as such to separate the legitimacy of the office from the conduct of the officeholder.

After all, regimes and institutions only have legitimacy insofar as their offices are worthy of honor apart from whomever happens to hold them.  We may have had fathers and mothers whom we thought particularly ill-suited for the authority given to them, but if our regard for the offices they held is high enough, we may aspire to be better fathers and mothers ourselves if we have the opportunity, and give proper honor to others for doing a difficult task, regardless of how poorly it was done in our own estimation.  We may think a particular president ill-qualified for the office, but hope that a better one will be chosen next so that the dignity of the office will suffer no permanent harm.  Because the authority of an office is apart from any sort of personal dignity held by those who are in such an office, we can see the private sins and failings of a person as not having any sort of permanent harm to the robes of office that they happen to temporarily wear.  No one is irreplaceable in a position of honor and authority, not even ourselves, and separating offices from officeholders, and seeing offices as being worthy of respect and honor for the well-being of institutions and society even if we have a poor opinion of the people who often hold such authority is the only way that we can honor God and have a realistic understanding of the world in which we live.

After all, it is not as if our leaders are worse evildoers than the rest of us.  We are all fallen beings.  Any leaders we have will be fallen leaders.  Some will be more corrupt than we are, some will be less corrupt, and many will be on the whole as corrupt but in different ways where both we and them could feel ourselves smugly to be superior based on our own biased perspectives.  Are cities that disregard the enforcement of just laws worthy of sanctions?  Absolutely.  Are people who mutilate small children in order to obey barbarous customs rather than our own laws worthy of punishment?  Without question.  Are there any perfect authorities present under heaven in order to exercise such authority and to enforce justice?  Not in the least.  Does the absence of perfect authorities negate the legitimacy of those imperfect authorities we have to do the best job possible?  Not at all.  Even angels are a part of the government of God with their own hierarchies and their own system of authority under God.  And if angels are a part of an ordered and structured realm, how can we humans resist the same, seeing as we require greater restraint against the evil tendencies within us?

[1] See, for example:





[2] See, for example:





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Book Review: Angry Birds Star Wars Character Encyclopedia

Angry Birds Star Wars Character Encyclopedia, by Steve Bynghall and Glenn Dakin

Do you like Angry Birds?  Do you like Star Wars [1]?  Do you find the idea of these two being mashed together like the Lego Batman Movie to be at least somewhat appealing?  If so, you will probably like this book.  I must admit that I am not as knowledgeable about angry birds as others, but even despite this handicap I found the book to be entertaining and a little silly in the best possible way.  As someone with a high tolerance for silliness, I found this book enjoyable and likely would find the game that this book seems to be connected with as enjoyable as well.  This is not a demanding book, and even by the standards of books meant for children this one appears particularly undemanding and silly, but it has a specific purpose and a modest target that it is aiming at, and manages to do what the authors set out to do.  One wonders, of course, if this book is part of the new Star Wars universe set up by Disney, and if there will be future Angry Birds characters to add to this one, but I do not know if that will be the case.

In terms of its structure and content, this book is rudimentary but actually a bit more involved than one might expect.  This book manages to exceed what any reader would have as very modest expectations.  The first half of the book manages to discuss a lengthy roster of Angry Birds heroes on the good side of the Jedi and the second half of the book, roughly, manages to discuss the Pork Side, various evil pigs.  The worldbuilding is remarkably impressive, giving a translation of the mythos of Star Wars that fits in with the ethos of Angry Birds, a mashup that works better than it has any right to do, with concerns over controlling anger and gluttony, both of them quite serious concerns in the Angry Birds game as well as for many of us in real life.  I will freely on to the reality that controlling anger and appetite is a struggle, but a struggle well worth engaging and persisting in.  As one might imagine, it is quite shocking to me at least that Angry Birds as a game would have anything worthwhile and serious to say about the world and how we should live, and so I found myself pleasantly surprised by the material I found here.

Will you find this book to be worthwhile?  Possibly, if, as stated above, you appreciate either/both Star Wars and Angry Birds.  The amount of work done to make the Star Wars story, at least the first six episodes of the film saga, fit within the Angry Birds universe is impressive.  Even if you do not find a great deal of interest in either of the worlds that are combined here in this particular book, and in the game that it is a companion to, there is still something to appreciate in this book concerning the relationship between different companies and the possibility that different corporate interests have for alliances and crossovers for mutual profit.  Even if you have little interest in games and contemporary fantasy film and literature, there is still something useful in seeing the success of corporate tactical alliances.  The possibility of this ought to raise in our minds at least the thought of what sort of connection and cooperation can exist for those with common interests.  If companies can join together and work together for their own mutual benefit, can others with mutual interests and compatible goals be any less ready to unite?

[1] See, for example:








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Book Review: The Ultimate Official Guide To Club Penguin

The Ultimate Official Guide To Club Penguin, by Katherine Noll

Have you ever heard of Club Penguin, an online community for flightless bird-loving young people?  Me neither, despite my general familiarity with age inappropriate entertainment [1].  I have to admit, though, from reading this book I am not sure if the Club Penguin still exists, but it existed for at least a few years in the mid-to-late 2000s (this book was published in 2008) and it seems like a pretty cool place.  If I was a web-savvy kid, it looks like the place I would have enjoyed going and would have provided some suitably worthwhile ways to waste time and enjoy online socializing.  The place looks like something appealing, and therefore this book, as odd as it is, ends up being appealing as well.  I am no stranger to online games or to online communities, and this one strikes an interesting note, in that it encourages good, clean, innocent fun and activities that could at least theoretically prepare someone for responsible adulthood–including taking care of imaginary pets–and also one that captures the flavor of contemporary anxieties by encouraging children to snitch on those who harass or cause problems.  The book reflects a genuine and apparently successful attempt at building an ersatz online community through games and a focus on imaginary trinkets and baubles to amuse the young.

In terms of its contents, this book is pretty straightforward.  One would think of it as little else given its target reading demographic somewhere in the tween range.  After an introductory section appropriately called “getting started,” the book’s contents are largely focused on the NPCs and games and activities and items that can be purchased that relate to various places within the gameworld, and the places are listed as:  town center; the underground; the plaza; the forest and the cove; forts, rink, and dock; the beach and the Migrator; the ski village; hidden places; and the igloo, which is the player-owned territory that can serve as a social location as well.  In addition to these chapters there are chapters about joining the community and how one can do various actions through combining special items and the dance move.  The last part of the book looks at the individualization of the player’s penguin.  All told, the book takes less than 200 pages to give an introductory discussion of an imaginary world that is somewhat nonspecific but also somewhat quirky and interesting at the same time, along with enough secrets to make this book appealing to those who are already familiar with the basics but might want a bit more.  I read this sort of book very commonly as a child who played role playing games and wanted to know all the tips and secrets so I could get all of the loot in the most efficient way possible.  This book was made for people who are like I was as a child, for what it’s worth.

So, is this book worthwhile outside of its age range?  Yes.  Obviously, if you like Club Penguin, and especially if you play it, this book is worth reading.  The book is sufficiently interesting on its own right, though, to make this reader wonder what book two has in its contents, or if its listing as book one was merely a tease in expectation of future success and growth the same way that the Backstreet Boys called their first hits compilation “Volume One” optimistically.  Aside from its target audience, though, the book is worthwhile as an exploration of imaginary communities in the digital age.  What is it that can lead somewhat atomistic people to join together in ersatz online communities in an age of widespread anxiety over predatory adults?  How can children learn responsibility in a safe fashion in the absence of intact social institutions like families?  This book provides at least an attempted answer at how such goals can be achieved in the right imaginary world, where children form part of the help and part of the security apparatus and interact with avatars of other children while being raised to report on those whose behavior is outside of the norm.  Whether one views this as a good thing or a bad thing depends, of course, on one’s own perspective and worldview, but it is certainly worth paying attention to all the same.

[1] See, for example:








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