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The Questioning

By Tim Butler | Posted at 12:18 AM

As part of the question meme going around, Christopher has given me an excellent set of interview questions. In return, I believe that I am suppose to offer to question five more fine blog readers, a task I am happy to do. If you would like to be the next to try out the question meme (or to try it again), let me know in the comments.

1. You can only choose one to own for the rest of your life: a Linux box or a Mac. What do you choose? Why? Money is no object.
That is a tough question. I've noted several times that I am using a Mac these days, but I'd have to say GNU/Linux. While the Mac suits me best for my present endeavors, I know that GNU/Linux can be customized to whatever I might need in the future. Especially if money was not an object, I could even hire a developer to enhance it for me as it became outdated, whereas if something happened to Apple, I'd be stuck the rest of my life with an increasingly obsolete system. I anticipate that GNU/Linux will continue to get better on the desktop, and it is already an enterprise class solution for servers.

2. You are writing a book. What is it about?
Well, I'm not quite ready to reveal all of the details, but, briefly put, it is a novel. Expect it to be somewhat dark and dramatic, to contain the pursuit of a criminal and so on, but with a twist that makes it hopefully a bit unique. If I get some time to plow ahead with it a bit, perhaps I'll post the first chapter on here in the future, but I'd like to get a little further along first.

3. What is one thing that you want to change about yourself?
Just one? I'd like to be less self-centered and more humble. I worry far too much about myself and my own opinions; I need to wrest more control from my ego at times. It's not that I have any reason to be proud and self-absorbed, I just am, and I've been feeling especially convicted lately of the need to remedy this. Just thinking about all the things I would like to and should change about myself ought to be enough to deal with the latter problem (although it is not). The former problem takes more work, but I'm trying to improve with God's help.

4. Describe the process of salvation.
Wow, we aren't dealing with little questions are we? Well, as you noted, I've dealt with this a bit in my last post, and since I've been quoting C.S. Lewis, I shall again point to him, for like him, I do not claim to truly understand the specifics. But, I will give an answer as good as I presently can muster.

As I see it, Jesus' death and resurrection serve to provide complete atonement for the world's sins, with one “catch:” people must make a conscious choice to be receive the grace provided by Jesus. There is plenty of Grace on the table, people just have to ask for some. As totally depraved beings, we have no desire to place ourselves in a position of dependence on God, but God dispenses grace — reaches his hand out, as it were — to us as we flail around drowning in sin.

As I noted in my last post, I've contemplated a lot how God decides whom to provide this grace to. I find it troubling to accept arbitrary election for the sole reason that it necessitates that God created some for the sole purpose of being damned for eternity (arbitrary condemnation), which does not fit with my understanding as God as loving and just. My understanding could be flawed, of course, but I will have to write another post on the problems with arbitrary condemnation.

While I, and everyone else, deserve nothing more than to be cast down into Hell, I do not believe God intends some people for that purposes; rather He is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3.9). Does that mean I'm trying to argue a universalist position? No, but I will argue I think that God would like everyone to be saved, but prefers the greater good for free will that leads to true love and obedience rather than the mechanical obedience that would come from sovereignly ordaining us to love Him.

Therefore, my theory is that God foreknows those who would choose Him, if not for their depravity, and extends His hand to help those onto the shore of salvation. If we imagine a ship wreck in which people are flailing around helplessly, a person on shore could tell which ones wanted to his help and which ones were unwilling to receive help despite their hopeless situation. Likewise I believe it is with God that He gives us the grace needed to seek salvation when He knows we are ready to surrender our will and therefore choose to be with God rather than being forced to follow Him. But we cannot do anything, even surrender, until His hand allows us to quit sinking.

At the point of accepting Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, His sacrifice is vicariously put in place of our demise. That is, we are hopelessly in debt and the debt is paid in full, therefore allowing a just and righteous God to accept us with the love He intended for His creation, despite our anger provoking sin.

5. Who was your favorite teacher and why?
That's a tough one. Given that I made my way through the majority of grade school, middle school and high school with my mother as my teacher (that is, I was a homeschooler), I'd be tempted to name her. I could not have had a better teacher. I'm a little biased there, you know? Seriously, she worked amazingly hard to find new and interesting ways to learn material that seems to be repeated almost every year in schools, and had me spend time studying stuff that normally would not have been included in the curriculum, such as absolutely fascinating (yes, fascinating) books on biology and economics. These weren't text books, but why must we spend time boring students with dry text books when there is a wealth of better books out there?

If we exclude my mother from the running, for the sake of exploring another “nominee,” I would name quite possibly the world's best (ok, I'm biased) professor of religion, Dr. Alan Meyers. He was the one, a number of years ago, who introduced me to the academic/critical study of religion. He demonstrated the usefulness of applying the academic study of religion, which is often viewed as an enemy by Christians, as a useful tool that encourages faith. This is a topic I've been meaning to talk about separately, so I won't go into the nuances, but he is an amazing man. He has a stunning wealth of information in his head, but if he is confronted with a question he doesn't know the answer to, he will inevitably search out an answer and return with it. He will also gladly admit when you've presented him with a new peace of information too.

He is extremely kind and always looking for ways to share his enthusiasm for the study of religion with anyone who is willing to learn. He calls his students “friends” when addressing them as a group, and his attitude shows that this is sincere and not just a nice way of addressing a group.

As a Presbyterian minister, he also shares my love of Paul's epistles, and when talking on them, will often switch to “preacher mode” for a few moments. I would assert that he is a perfect example of someone following the spirit of being “in the academy” in the classical sense.

Coffee: How Do I Love Thee?

By Tim Butler | Posted at 2:12 PM

My good friend Eduardo is presently on vacation, and invited several people, including myself, to guest blog on his site over the time period of January 14-February 1. So far, two of my other friends and fellow bloggers, Josiah and Ed, have posted some interesting posts that are most definitely worth checking out.

Today, I finally posted a piece over there, which I thought I would link to from here. It is a piece honoring everyone's favorite brown liquid — coffee. Take a look and join me in celebrating the world's most perfect form of caffeine.

Odds and Ends

By Tim Butler | Posted at 7:30 PM

World English Bible

By Tim Butler | Posted at 11:20 AM

A Thanksgiving Medley

By Tim Butler | Posted at 7:41 PM

Rain

By Tim Butler | Posted at 8:03 PM

What a Good Day

By Tim Butler | Posted at 1:23 PM

Puzzle

By Tim Butler | Posted at 6:20 PM
“There are thirty books of the Bible in this paragraph. Can you find them? This is a most remarkable puzzle. It was found by a gentleman in an airplane seat pocket, on a flight from Los Angeles to Honolulu, keeping him occupied for hours. He enjoyed it so much, he passed it on to some friends. One friend from Illinois worked on this while fishing from his john boat. Another friend studied it while playing his banjo. Elaine Taylor, a columnist friend, was so intrigued by it she mentioned it in her weekly newspaper column. Another friend judges the job of solving this puzzle so involving, she brews a cup of tea to help her nerves. There will be some names that are really easy to spot. That's a fact. Some people, however, will soon find themselves in a jam, especially since the book names are not necessarily capitalized. Truthfully, from answers we get, we are forced to admit it usually takes a minister or scholar to see some of them at the worst. Research has shown that something in our genes is responsible for the difficulty we have in seeing the books in this paragraph. During a recent fund raising event, which featured this puzzle, the Alpha Delta Phi lemonade booth set a new sales record. The local paper, The Chronicle, surveyed over 200 patrons who reported that this puzzle was one of the most difficult they had ever seen. As Daniel Humana humbly puts it, “the books are all right here in plain view hidden from sight.” Those able to find all of them will hear great lamentations from those who have to be shown. One revelation that may help is that books like Timothy and Samuel may occur without their numbers. Also, keep in mind, that punctuation and spaces in the middle are normal. A chipper attitude will help you compete really well against those who claim to know the answers. Remember, there is no need for a mad exodus, there really are 30 books of the Bible lurking somewhere in this paragraph waiting to be found.” —Received via e-mail, author unknown.

Okay, so how many did you find?

Eye See, Can You?

By Tim Butler | Posted at 7:33 PM

Did you konw tihs?

By Tim Butler | Posted at 3:45 PM

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