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Off the Bookshelf

By Tim Butler | Posted at 22:12

I've been cataloging many beloved books as I've been packing them at home and then unpacking them in my new office at Lindenwood. In some cases, I've filled my bookshelves to the point that I have two rows of books — one in front of another — on a shelf. To my fellow bibliophiles, that's probably nothing remarkable, but I mention that because it leads to some interesting discoveries when one starts removing some of the books from those shelves. In one such cases I stumbled across one of my very favorite books from my philosophy classes in college: Boethius's Consolation of Philosophy.

Consolation is a famous text from medieval philosophy and yet I have found it is not nearly as well known as it deserves to be. It is perhaps one of the most beautiful attempts to wrestle with the problem of evil ever penned. Significant evil was not merely theoretical for Boethius. He stared it down very directly as he found himself confined to a prison cell as an enemy of the state. As he put it at the beginning of Book IV:

But here is what is perhaps the greatest cause of my sorrow: the fact that evil things can exist at all, or that they can pass unpunished, when the helmsman of all things is good.

The existence of evil in a world under the control of a good, loving God is a problem that Christians have always had to wrestle with and one that many skeptics continue to raise today. While philosophical arguments can only complement — not replace — the revelation of God in Christ and the witness of Scripture, still their complementary role is one worth more study within the church today.

If you are looking for something to read this winter, maybe my old friend Consolation would be worth visiting with.

Why Aaron's Law is Needed

By Tim Butler | Posted at 22:16

The tragic case of Aaron Schwartz keeps getting more tragic and infuriating:

Middlesex County's district attorney had planned no jail time, “with Swartz duly admonished and then returned to civil society to continue his pioneering electronic work in a less legally questionable manner,” the report said. “Tragedy intervened when Ortiz's office took over the case to send 'a message.'”

Ortiz's clearly self-promoting motives come into clearer focus as the article goes on to describe another one of her current cases:

Ortiz, 57, also came under fire this week for her attempt to seize a family-owned motel in Tewksbury, Mass., for allegedly facilitating drug crimes, despite ample evidence that the owners worked closely with local police. In a stinging rebuke, U.S. Magistrate Judge Judith Dein tossed out the case yesterday, siding with the motel owners — represented by the public-interest law firm Institute for Justice — and noting that prosecutors had alleged a mere “15 specific drug-related incidents” over a 14-year period during which “the Motel Caswell rented out approximately 196,000 rooms.”

We need to reform our technology laws and ensure that they protect innovation, but with an eye to protecting people first. It might not be the sort of thing that gets people motivated to go to the polls, but we desperately need copyright and patent reform to end situations like the one that apparently convinced Schwartz he had no better alternative than to kill himself.

On the Twelfth Day of Christmas

By Tim Butler | Posted at 0:33

As I reviewed my notes on Dr. Michael William's book, Far as the Curse is Found, for the office training class I'm co-teaching, I was struck by a helpfully stark statement Williams makes: “The future collides with the present in Christ.” As Christ ushers in the Kingdom of God, Christ himself represents the point of collision between the old and the new promised in “the Day of the Lord.” Likewise, Advent serves to point us to the wait for that in-breaking of God's kingdom and the Twelve Days of Christmas serve as a sort of “second wait” very much parallel to the world today: Christ has come, yet we await Christ's coming again.

Happy Twelfth Night! Tomorrow, the Magi find the Savior on Epiphany.

On the Ninth Day of Christmas

By Tim Butler | Posted at 20:00

A very thoughtful post by Lindsey Crittenden on the Twelve Days of Christmas:

Not yet. Advent is all about waiting, about living into the not yet, and Christmas is about Emmanuel. God is with us. We are always waiting—for Christ to return, for peace, for good will, for those things we yearn for yet can’t quite, on our own, bring about.

Christmas lasts twelve days as an invitation to sit in this place with the God-made-man a bit longer. We’ll get it again—painfully so, of course, in Lent and Holy Week—but for now, let us rejoice for all twelve days.

On the Eighth Day of Christmas

By Tim Butler | Posted at 1:40

I hope everyone had a happy New Year! I think a good resolution for the new year might be to get back to more of a regular posting frequency here on asisaid. There is something good about the discipline of regularly posting to a blog. Sometimes, the opportunity to quickly share things on Facebook has a tendency to lead me away from posting as regularly here, but really I ought to aim to post more here instead, since my blog posts appear on Facebook, anyway.

I sometimes wonder what will happen in five or ten years to all of the data so many of us have put on Facebook. Unlike data on sites we control, will it eventually just fade away? Given that increasingly important information is sent through the service, that could actually be quite unfortunate down the road.

On the Seventh Day of Christmas

By Tim Butler | Posted at 23:21

Well this is it. The last post of 2012, the tenth year of asisaid. It is amazing how many things have changed in the last 120 months, some of which have been chronicled thoroughly on this blog and which faithful readers have journeyed along with me on. I'm looking forward to 2013 and the new challenges and discoveries that lie ahead. I wonder what all will occur in this first year after the end of the Mayan long count calendar?

This past year has presented many challenges, but also a bounty of joys. A year ago just 17 days from now was when the Missouri Presbytery approved my ordination and call to serve at Grace Presbyterian Church. Nine months ago, I was ordained into that call — which seems both like a split second ago and an eternity. Over the year, I had the privilege to officiate three weddings, and officiate the sacrament of baptism three times and the Lord's Supper eight times. A year ago last May, I completed my first year teaching at Lindenwood and first year of Ph.D. studies. It has been a fascinating year.

I'm very thankful for all of the ways God continues to bless me, with my wonderful family, wonderful friends, wonderful opportunities to serve in the church and a wonderful place to teach. I am looking forward to 2013.

On the Fifth Day of Christmas

By Tim Butler | Posted at 0:37

A bit of Christmas poesy from Christina Rossetti that I was thinking about yesterday while updating my office hours sign at Lindenwood:

In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, long ago.

Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him, nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away when He comes to reign.
In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him, whom cherubim, worship night and day,
Breastful of milk, and a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, whom angels fall before,
The ox and ass and camel which adore.

Angels and archangels may have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air;
But His mother only, in her maiden bliss,
Worshipped the beloved with a kiss.

What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart.

On the Fourth Day of Christmas

By Tim Butler | Posted at 2:15

It finally snowed tonight. It may have snowed so little that it will be hard to even spot evidence of it by tomorrow morning, but it was a delight just to see a hint of the white stuff after so little of it last year. Hopefully we will get a good, significant snow sometime soon.

On the Third Day of Christmas

By Tim Butler | Posted at 2:38

I was too busy to think of anything good to post here, but didn't want to break multi-year tradition of posting each of the twelve days, so I posted this. What sorts of silly traditions lead you to do similarly odd things?

On the Second Day of Christmas...

By Tim Butler | Posted at 2:06

I hope everyone had a joyous holiday. Mine was a peaceful, wonderful time with family. And now I am looking forward to the second day of Christmas, which, if the weather front scoots over just a tad will make the Second Day of Christmas a White Christmas. It might be a bit late, but it would still be delightful!

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