My thoughts on the Benedict Option, Part 1

As I continue to read the writings on the Benedict Option, and the debate it is raising, I have two concerns, although I am generally in support of it.
First, and more a matter of semantics, is that it should be more the Celtic option, or maybe the Columba / Patrick / another Celtic Saint’s name option.  Based on the writings of Thomas Cahill in How the Irish Saved Civilization, George G. Hunter III’s work The Celtic Way of Evangelism, and Ian Bradley’s Colonies of Heaven: Celtic Models for Today’s Church, I think that the Celtic model may be an even better match than the Benedictine model.  Certainly it involved community, evangelism, and, as Bradley’s book is titled, “Colonies of Heaven” here on earth.
But this leads me to my second concern, which is that all of this presupposes that Christians will be able to go on practicing in the open.  As hostile as the culture is becoming, could it be that Christians will be driven underground   Many will say this is alarmist, or ridiculous.  They will compare it to the suffering of underground churches in China, or in Muslim countries.  Others will ask for a single instance of a Christian in the United States being forced to recant.  And finally, there are those that will say it is all to the good, that such hate thought should be banned.
Well, there is historical precedence.  Certainly Russians in 1916 were not expecting what came in 1918.  Jews is 1933 were in no way prepared for the events of Kristallnacht.  If we Christians in America looked forward five years, who is to say what will happen, much less in 25 years.  So I think that while we discuss the Benedict, or Dominican, or whatever option, we should also consider what will happen if we are driven underground.  perhaps we should be looking at what our Chinese and Arab brothers and sisters are doing, in cultures that are currently more hostile than even ours is becoming.
Assuming we are not driven underground, though, I have some thoughts on what the Benedict Option would look like.  I am drawing on the books above and others like them, as well as avowed atheist Dave pollard’s writings on intentional community.  But this is getting long enough now, so I’ll save that for Part 2!

Quotes of the Day

In my reading lately, I came across these two quotes. I find them profound. Perhaps you will too.

John Wesley, Sermon No. 50:

“Gain all you can, save all you can, and give all you can.”

“…our wisdom is not of this world: Heathen custom is nothing to us. We follow no men any farther than they are followers of Christ. Hear ye him. Yea, to-day, while it is called to-day, hear and obey his voice! At this hour, and from this hour, do his will: Fulfil his word, in this and in all things! I entreat you, in the name of the Lord Jesus, act up to the dignity of your calling! No more sloth! Whatsoever your hand findeth to do, do it with your might! No more waste! Cut off every expense which fashion, caprice, or flesh and blood demand! No more covetousness! But employ whatever God has entrusted you with, in doing good, all possible good, in every possible kind and degree to the household of faith, to all men! This is no small part of “the wisdom of the just.” Give all ye have, as well as all ye are, a spiritual sacrifice to Him who withheld not from you his Son, his only Son: So “laying up in store for yourselves a good foundation against the time to come, that ye may attain eternal life!” ”

Eric Greitens, Resilience:

“I begin with humility, I act with humility, I end with humility. Humility leads to clarity. Humility leads to an open mind and a forgiving heart. With an open mind and a forgiving heart, I see every person as superior to me in some way; with every person as my teacher, I grow in wisdom. As I grow in wisdom, humility becomes ever more my guide. I begin with humility, I act with humility, I end with humility.”

Who Cares About Theology, or Why I Study It

Recently my pastor said that I knew quite a bit about theology, and commented on how, unlike a lot of people, I read theology for fun and not because I have to.

Well, not quite.  And I certainly don’t consider myself knowledgeable.

Most of the reading I have done over the years was popular books, the so-called “Christian Life” genre.  I’ve “dabbled” in real theology over the years – eight months in a seminary that I disagreed vehemently with, but was totally unprepared to debate with, and some Augustine or Lewis here and there, maybe a little of others.  I’ve dipped my toes in the Arminian vs. Calvinist debate.  I suppose that MIGHT make me more knowledgeable than the average churchgoer.  But put me against most seminary graduates or a determined atheist, and I’ve a feeling I’d come out the worse for wear.

I have learned the importance, recently, of apologetics and was surprised to learn that it was a subcategory of theology.  I have been reading about Aquinas and Francis and Wesley.  But I’ve yet to delve deeply into, say, Barth or Knox, to name two examples of noted theologians.

So what?  Why is it important?  Maybe you think God isn’t real, or maybe you’re a Christian that believes we should spend more time serving the Church or just doing what the Bible says.

Well, I guess for me, it’s important for several reasons.

First, the Bible tells me so in 1 Peter 3:15 (NIV):

15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…

So I need to be able to defend my faith, to atheists, and to those that believe differently in the Christian tradition.

Second, for my own betterment.  I realized at the end of 2013 that my theology was inconsistent, and incomplete, and needed more.  I am not good at loving others.  I believe in justice, but not in being a social justice warrior.  I oppose communism, but am wary of capitalism.  The whole human sexuality debate that is causing a schism in my denomination.  And yet there are Christians that will argue both sides of those issues and insist that their’s is the right view.

Third is the Calvinist vs. Arminian debate.  Can we lose our salvation?  Have I already blown it?  Are the Calvinists right about predestination?  What about free will?

Fourth, and most important to me, is the fact that my view of God tends more towards Jonathan EdwardsSinners in the Hands of an Angry God than the loving God who sent His Son to die for our sins and give us eternal life.  This affects my every day life in unbelievable ways.  I want to know if this other God is valid theologically, if I can trust Him and get to know Him, and know His joy and the “peace which passeth all understanding.”

These are the reasons I study theology.  I believe in the basic beliefs of Christianity, but I am hungry to learn more.  And to grow and deepen in my faith.  After all, as Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 3:

Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready.You are still worldly.

I don’t want to be a mere infant.  I want to grow up.

What I read in 2014

My pace was a little down this past year due to being in school and textbooks being on the reading list.  This year thus included a bunch of computer science and programming books.  As always, there are a good number of fiction books as well, and also International Relations and Security Studies books.

The best books I read were Code, in January; A Throne of Bones and Not For Sale, in March; Jayber Crow, in May; and Head First Data Analysis, in September;

Here’s the list!

January
2.) Stories About Sets – N. Ya. Vilenkin
February
6.) War of the Rats – David L. Robbins
March
11.) The Wardog’s Coin – Vox Day
12.) The Last Witchking – Vox Day
(Re-read The Lost Fleet: Dauntless – Jack Campbell)
April
17.) The Lost Fleet: Fearless – Jack Campbell
18.) Aquinas for Armchair Theologians – Timothy M. Renick
19.) When Christians Get It Wrong – Adam Hamilton
21.) The Little Flowers of St. Francis of Assisi – Ugolino de Monte Santa Maria, translated by W. Heywood
May
23.) The Road to Assisi: The Essential Biography of St. Francis – Paul Sabatier, John M. Sweeney
25.) Snowbots – Aaron Reynolds, illustrated by David Barneda (with Jacob)
26.) Horsing Around – E. and R.S. Radlauer
27.) Horseback Riding Basics – Dianne Reimer with Carol Lee
28.) Be a Winner in Horsemanship – Charles Coombs
30.) Jayber Crow – Wendell Berry
June
31.) Becoming Native To This Place – Wes Jackson
32.) Strategy in the Contemporary World: An Introduction to Strategic Studies, 3/e – John Baylis, James J. Wirtz, Colin S. Gray
33.) The Abomination – Jonathan Holt
35.) The Lost Fleet: Courageous – Jack Campbell
36.) The Lost Fleet: Valiant – Jack Campbell
38.) Last Snow – Eric Van Lustbader
July
40.) Halo: The Flood – William C. Dietz
42.) Essentials of Systems Analysis and Design (5th Edn) – Joseph Valacich, Joey George, Jeff A. Hoffer
(Re-read Athabasca by Alistair MacLean)
August
47.) The Moon Maze Game (Dream Park #4) – Larry Niven and Steven Barnes
September
49.) Why Study Theology – Donald G. Luck
53.) Prey – Michael Crichton
54.) Sea Demon (Shadow Squadron #1) – Carl Bowen
55.) Balkan Ghosts: A Journey Through History – Robert D. Kaplan
56.) Head First Statistics – Dawn Griffiths
October
57.) The Loch – Steve Alten
59.) The Windup Girl – Paolo Bacigalupi
November
62.) Essentials of International Relations, 6th Edition –  Karen A. Mingst and Ivan M. Arreguin-Toft
63.) Epidemiology: A Very Short Introduction – Rodolfo Saracci
December
66.) Halo: Contact Harvest (Halo #5) – Joseph Staten
70.) The Manga Guide to Linear Algebra – Shin Takahashi
72.) The Science of Interstellar – Kip Thorne
74.) From Geometry to Topology – Graham Flegg
78.) The Manga Guide to Databases – Mana Takahashi, Shoko Azuma, Trend-Pro Co., Ltd
What good books did you read this past year?

Update – Graduation looms…

So my semester is just about done.  I am finished with my SQL class, and am awaiting the final grades in my International Relations class. I finished my Future Cities class on EDX as well.  Whew!  Now I can graduate!

In related news, I finished a Global Health class and an Epidemiology class online.  These were not officially graded, being work-at-your-own pace classes, but I scored an A in each of them.

So, school done, what next?  Well, I am working on continuing to burnish my computer skills – Python and R, both very big languages in Data Science.  For the spring, I am signed up for a class for R and also a class on how to use programming to do linear algebra – this will be in Python.

At this point, I think my future direction may lie in Computational Epidemiology.

In addition, I am reading.  As always, I will post a list of the books I read this year in January.  Right now, I am reading a book on the history of the number Zero, and a book on Topology.  For fun, I have been reading HALO books.  I’ve never really played the game but it’s a cool setting.

Anyway, more later!

SQL Transactions – Example

So, as I wrote yesterday, I needed to create a Transaction for my SQL database.  If you’ll remember, my database was a hypothetical library in Africa.  A new book needs cataloged, and since the book table is interlinked with several other tables, you don’t want one of the inserts to succeed and another to fail, because then your tables won’t match, and that’s all bad.  So you group all the inserts into one batch called a transaction and thus ensure data integrity.  So here we insert a book into the book table, an author into the author table, and a category into the category table all at once.  Creative Commons license blah blah blah.

DECLARE @BookID int

DECLARE @AuthorID int

DECLARE @Category_ID int

BEGIN TRY

BEGIN TRAN;

INSERT Authors VALUES (‘Coppen’, ‘Ben’);

SET @AuthorID = @@IDENTITY;

INSERT Categories VALUES (‘Computers’);

SET @Category_ID = 3;

INSERT Books

Values(0763732303, ‘Artificial Intelligence Illuminated’, @AuthorID, 2004, 1,@Category_ID, NULL);

COMMIT TRAN;

END TRY

BEGIN CATCH

ROLLBACK TRAN;

END CATCH;

Playing catch-up, and Global Health, Part 0

I missed two days, but I am not going to stop my NaBloPoMo because of that.  What have I been doing?

Well, Sunday was church.  I have had a certain issue on my mind that I’ve been praying about, and while I don’t have a clear answer yet, things have been moving, so we’ll see.

I finished my International Affairs textbook, and wrote another essay for the class.  Two left before the end of the year – and one I’m not sure what I’m going to write about.  In SQL, I read about transactions, and I started coding one.  I think I know how to finish it, and when I do, I’ll post it here.  One more optional program after this!  I should mention, that when I’m done with these two classes, I will graduate with a Certificate in Software Development.

We finally got Minecraft installed for my son – the web page Minecraft.net does not allow you to register.  We ended up being able to register at Mojang’s homepage.

So, exploring the field of Epidemiology, as I mentioned previously, is one thing I’ve been doing.  I am taking an online class on it.  I am also working through another go-at-your-own-pace class from Harvard / EDX on Global Health.  That one has been very interesting as it has tied into a lot of things I’ve studied in International Security and International Affairs.  It even has brought back some of the reading I did on feminism; namely, philosophers like Foucault.  I would like to write more about this, so hopefully tomorrow!