Lincoln Blogs

John Calvin and the Glory of God
January 16, 2009, 7:42 pm
Filed under: Books, Faith

To celebrate the 500th anniversary of John Calvin’s birth, I am reading his Institutes of the Christian Religion this year.

In Section 1.51-3 of the Institutes, Calvin states that the “clarity of God’s self-disclosure strips us of every excuse…. [H]e not only sowed in men’s minds that seed of religion of which we have spoken but revealed himself and daily discloses himself in the whole workmanship of the universe.” This is so true. From a tiny human cell, to the vast galaxies of outer-space, we see evidence of God. Consider a tiny human cell. Each individual cell contains more information than Encyclopedia Britannica. Christian author Lee Strobel writes that “one ‘simple’ cell is a high-tech factory, complete with artificial languages and decoding systems; central memory banks that store and retrieve impressive amounts of information; precision control systems that regulate the automatic assembly of components; proofreading and quality control mechanisms that safeguard against errors; assembly systems that use principles of refabrication and modular construction; and a complete replication system that allows the organism to duplicate itself at bewildering speeds.” Calculations indicate that if a person could write out all of the information that can be stored in a sample of DNA the size of a pinhead, the result would be a pile of books that is 500 times higher than the distance from the earth to the moon! In one microscopic cell, we see the work of God.

There are countless other examples. This video reveals it better than I could.

Psalm 19:1 proclaims, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” Romans 1:20 says,  “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.”

Calvin, however, goes on to say in Section 1.5.4-5 that “man turns ungratefully against God.”

Here, however, the foul ungratefulness of men is disclosed. They have within themselves a workshop graced with God’s unnumbered works, and, at the same time, a storehouse overflowing with inestimable riches. They ought, then, to break forth into praises of him but are actually puffed up and swollen with all the more pride…. How detestable, I ask you, is this madness: that man finding God in his body and soul a hundred times, on this very pretence of excellence denies that there is a God?… [T]hey set God aside, the while using “nature,” which for them is the artificer of all things, as a cloak. They see such exquisite workmanship in their individual members, from mouth and eyes even to their very toenails. Here also they substitute nature for God.

Calvin is brilliant. This was written centuries ago, but it still applies today. Now, people use evolution, or “nature,” as the explanation for the amazing things in the universe. The “pride” that Calvin mentions does not allow them to believe in a God. They want to be in control, but the idea of a God makes them feel small and powerless. So, they reject God, substituting nature for Him. But we should rejoice in what he has given us, life and salvation through His Son.

Symbolism in ‘Moby-Dick’: Brilliance Between the Lines
October 30, 2008, 2:13 pm
Filed under: Books, School Papers

There are a number of important symbols in the famous Moby-Dick by Herman Melville. The story is told somewhat allegorically, with each character or object in the tale having its own meaning. Among these things are the whaling ship the Pequod, which symbolizes doom, Moby-Dick the whale, which stands for contradiction and the uncontrollable things in life, and a sailor’s coffin, which represent both life and death. All of these symbols are used brilliantly by Melville, and help the reader to understand the meaning of the book.

One of the important symbols is the Pequod, a whaling ship that is captained by Captain Ahab. Ahab’s mission in life is to kill the great white whale, Moby-Dick, who had once taken Ahab’s leg. In the story, the Pequod is in the hunt for Moby-Dick, an effort which is destined to fail. The ship’s very name depicts failure, as it is named for an Indian tribe in Massachusetts that did not survive after the arrival of the white men. Painted a morbid black and adorned with whale bones and teeth, the ship contains images of death everywhere the sailors look. It is decorated like a coffin, and that is what it eventually becomes.

The next example of symbolism in Moby-Dick is Moby-Dick itself. Moby-Dick is a great white whale whom Ahab has been unable to kill for years. We learn that it once took off Ahab’s leg, for which the captain has always hated him. One of things it represents is everything in the world that is random and uncontrollable. In a way, it simply stands for nature. It is massive and destructive, but nonetheless beautiful and awe-inspiring. It cannot be stopped or controlled by the sailors, like a violent storm, yet there is a sense of wonder about him, like a beautiful sunset. Moby-Dick’s color is also symbolic. It is white, which expresses contradictions. White is used to signify purity and goodness, but also emptiness. Each member of the crew has his own view of the whale; some are afraid, others are amazed, and Ahab is hateful.

Another symbol used in Melville’s classic is a coffin that belongs to Queequeg, a sailor on the Pequod. It’s meaning changes from death to life as the book progresses. Queequeg first has the coffin built when he is seriously ill and fears death. However, when Queequeg recovers, he uses it as a chest to store his possessions. It is later rigged as a life buoy, representing life for the sailors on the Pequod. When the ship sinks and Ishmael, a sailor on the Pequod and the narrator of the story, uses the coffin to stay afloat, it ends up saving not only his life, but the life of the tale.

Moby-Dick, a priceless, timeless piece of literature by Herman Melville, contains deep symbolism that helps the reader understand the meaning of the book. Melville uses the Pequod to symbolize doom, Moby-Dick to symbolize random and uncontrollable nature, and Queequeg’s coffin to symbolize first death, then life. Without these symbols, Moby-Dick is good read. With them, it is a though provoking masterpiece that has been enjoyed by several generations, and will be enjoyed by many more to come.

Shot at and Missed
May 26, 2008, 10:22 am
Filed under: Books

In May 2006, I interviewed Jack R. Myers, the author of Shot at and MIssed, a book recollecting his time as a World War II bombardier. His story is a good one for Memorial Day.

In 1942, Myers signed up for a cadet testing program in Peoria, Illinois. After that and further testing in Texas, he was trained as a bombardier in San Angelo, where he became a 2nd Lieutenant. He was shipped to the 15th Air Force base in Italy, and became a member of the 20th squadron. As a bombardier he flew 52 missions (including the required 35 over target), which included bomb runs over Vienna, Debreczen, and Blechhammer. On February 24, 1943, he finished his missions and flew home. Once back in the States, he trained in Texas to become a pilot until the end of the war.

Myers remembers a mission he flew over Debreczen, Hungary. He called this mission the scariest he flew, and wrote a chapter about it called “Shot at and Hit.” His assignment was to bomb the marshalling yards in Debreczen. “[My crew and I] assumed this was a milk run,” Myers wrote in his book. “Oh what a mistake that was.” His 20th squadron flew with the 429th, the 96th and the 49th squadrons. They thought it would be a “milk run” (an easy mission) because there were only about 45 anti-aircraft guns in Debreczen, compared to more than 600 he had faced in Vienna. What they didn’t know was that more guns had been shipped in to the marshalling yards. Anti-aircraft guns could shoot exploding flak at altitudes higher than 30,000 feet – approximately ten times a minute. “It was unbelievable,” Myers told me in a recent interview. “They just filled the sky with explosions.” Amazingly, every plane returned to the base. One of the planes in the Debreczen mission was Sweet Pea. It was called the most damaged B-17 to make it back to base during the entire war.

Myers’ book, published by the University of Oklahoma Press, is now in its third printing. Myers decided to write his book when his granddaughter interviewed him for a National History Book Contest. She won the school contest and went on to the state competition, which she also won. He recalled, “[People] said, ‘Jack, why don’t you write your story?’” It took him seven years to write the book, which he constructed by reading his diaries from the war and detailed letters that he had written to his brother back home.

Shot at and Missed gives readers an amazing glimpse of the war from a bombardier’s point of view, and is an excellent read for all.

Of Governments and Cows
November 28, 2007, 7:02 pm
Filed under: Books

This is a funny but helpful way to better understand the different forms of government. I found it in the Creation Seminar Notebook (which isn’t really about government) by Dr. Kent Hovind.

Biblical Capitalism: You have two cows. You take care of them and sell the extra milk if you want to.

Feudalism: Your lord lends you two cows. He takes most of the milk and leaves you some.

Pure Socialism: You have two cows. The government takes them and puts them in a barn with everyone else’s cows. You have to take care of all the cows. The government gives you as much milk as you need.

Bureaucratic Socialism: You have two cows. The government takes them and puts them in a barn with everyone else’s cows. They are cared for by ex-chicken farmers. You have to take care of the chickens the government took from the chicken farmers. The government gives you as much milk and eggs as the regulations say you need.

Fascism: You have two cows. The government takes them both, hires you to take care of them, and sells you the milk.

Pure Communism: You have two cows. Your neighbors help you to take care of them, and you share the milk.

Russian Communism: You have two cows. You have to take care of them, but the government takes all the milk.

Cambodian Communism: You have two cows. The government takes them both and shoots you.

Dictatorship: You have two cows. The government takes them both and drafts you.

Pure Democracy: You have two cows. Your neighbors decide who gets the milk.

Representive Democracy: You have two cows. Your neighbors vote for someone to tell you who gets the milk.

American Democracy: The government promises to give you two cows if you vote for it. After the election, the President is impeached for speculating in cow futures. The press dubs the affair “Cowgate.”

British Democracy: You have two cows. You feed the cows sheep brains and they go mad. The government doesn’t do anything.

Bureaucracy: You have two cows. At first the government regulates what you can feed them and when you can milk them. Then it pays you not to milk them. Then it takes both, shoots one, milks the other and pours the milk down the drain. Then it requires you to fill out forms accounting for the missing cows.

Environmentalism: You have two cows. The government bans you from milking or killing them.

Pure Anarchy: You have two cows. Your neighbors riot and kill you for trying to sell the milk.

Libertarian/Anarcho-Capitalism: You have two cows. You sell one and buy a bull.

Clintonomics: You have two cows. The government requires you to take harmonica lessons.

Totalitarianism: You have two cows. The government takes them and denies they ever existed. Milk is banned.

Counter-Culture: Wow, dude, there’s like… these two cows, man. You gotta have some of this milk.

The Justice of Hell in the ‘Inferno’
November 21, 2007, 3:59 pm
Filed under: Books, School Papers

In Dante’s Inferno, there is an inscription on the gate that leads to Hell. “Justice moved my great maker; God eternal / Wrought me: the power and the unsearchably / High wisdom, and the primal love supernal (III.4-6). This inscription on the gate is completely true, and the motivation of God to create Hell is completely justified.

The inscription on the gate means, simply, that God created Hell as an act of justice. Without it, He could not properly punish sinners, who deserve nothing less. Although Hell was created as a severe punishment, the inscription says that God had wisdom and love.

Many people ask why God would create such an awful place as Hell. The gate of hell answers this question. Without hell, we would not see God’s justice. And if there were no Hell, we would not see God’s mercy, grace, and love either, for there would be nothing to save us from.

This creation of Hell is unlike any other creation, in that it is an eternal place of horror that many would call bad, but that is, once considered more carefully, a just place. It is utterly unique in its contradictory, yet co-existing traits.

This wisdom of the justice of hell is demonstrated throughout the book. All who are in hell have committed dreadful sins, but none are repentant. Consider Vanni Fucci, who is in hell and hates and curses God. He is obviously not sorry for his sins, and does not think he deserves his punishment. In reality, it would be absurd for him not have to endure some sort of punishment.

Jonathan Edwards once said, “The sight of hell torments will exalt the happiness of the saints forever…. Can the believing Father in Heaven be happy with his unbelieving children in Hell?… I tell you, yea! Such will be his sense of justice that it will increase rather than diminish his bliss.”

So we see that the creation of hell was not an evil act, but a just act that shows the justice and mercy of God. Without Hell, sinners who deserve punishment would not face justice. God’s mercy would also be hidden, since none would be punished, and therefore none saved.

‘I Am Dutiful Aeneas’
July 19, 2007, 9:27 pm
Filed under: Books, School Papers

The Aeneid, a famous epic poem written by Virgil, has an important theme of duty. Aeneas, the main character introduces himself saying, ” I am dutiful Aeneas.” He does what he knows to be his duty always, even if he doesn’t want to. There are many examples of this.

In the first part of the book, Aeneas tells Dido, the queen of Carthage who he is deeply in love with, his story of the Trojan War. He tells of how the Greeks came out of the Trojan horse–the giant wooden horse in which Greek soldiers hid–and destroyed the city. He wanted to stay and fight, but knew that by doing so, he would die and thus condemn the rest of the survivors to death, for they were mostly weak, and he was their leader. So, he left the ruins alive, carrying his father on his back. Many followers came with him. They were shipwrecked on their voyage out of Troy, but found their way to Carthage, where Aeneas meets Dido, the beautiful queen of the city, and falls in love. Dido is amazed at this story, and wants Aeneas to stay in Carthage. But while in Carthage, the king of the gods tells him that his duty and destiny is not to stay and rule in Carthage, but to found a new city where his ancestors lived. He assumes this means Troy, so, he sets off to rebuild the city, leaving Dido. It pains him almost to death that he has to leave, as it does Dido. She commits suicide out of grief. This devastates Aeneas, but he stays the course, for he knows it is his duty.

He and his crew set sail, eventually making their way to Italy. Aeneas is led to the underworld, which he must visit if the suffering is ever to end, according to the prophetess Sibyl. So, he is led by Sibyl and brought down where he sees the ghost of Dido, who refuses to speak with him. His father Anchises also awaits him. Anchises shows Aeneas where following his duty will lead him, and tells him that who he believes to be the only god has created everything in the universe. Then, Anchises reveals to his son what god has destined for him: a long line of descendents in Rome, including Romulus, the founder of the great city, and Augustus, who will bring peace to the land. Aeneas now realizes that his duty and destiny is not to rebuild Troy, but to found Rome. This knowledge rejuvenates him, and gives him the courage to wage war, which is needed if he is to fulfil his duty.

He goes into a seemingly unnecessary war against those whose evil would thwart the destiny of Rome. One of these evildoers is Turnus who was the chief antagonist of Aenas. Prior to Aeneas’ arrival in Italy, Turnus was the primary potential suitor of Lavinia, daughter of Latinus, King of the Latin people. Lavinia, however, is promised to Aeneas. Juno, determined to prolong the suffering of the Trojans and not wanting Rome to be founded, prompts Turnus to demand a war with the new arrivals.

At the end of the war, Aeneas overcomes the source of rebellion and evil, Turnus. Turnus begs for mercy and his life, and Aeneas does not really want to kill him, but he knows it is his duty. So, he delivers the fatal blow, conquering the enemy, and blazing the trail for the likes of Romulus and Augustus.

Aeneas’ sense of duty in the Aeneid drives him to go sometimes against his will for what he knows is the greater good. He does what needs to be done, no matter what the consequences. He says that there is “work which duty binds me to fulfil.” He does fulfil it, and ends up founding the greatest empire the world has ever seen. Aeneas introduces himself at the beginning of the poem as, “I am dutiful Aeneas” and continues to show himself dutiful.

‘The Enemy At Home’
May 18, 2007, 3:33 am
Filed under: Books, Life

Today I went to a lunch at the Oklahoma History Center at which Dinesh D’Souza gave an excellent speech about his new book The Enemy at Home: The Cultural Left and its Responsibility for 9/11. In his book and in his speech he makes the case that most of what Muslim terrorists hate about America is on the left. They hate blue America, not red America. D’Souza writes in his introduction, “I am saying that the cultural left and its allies in Congress, the media, Hollywood, the non-profit sector, and the universities are the primary cause of the volcano of anger toward America that is erupting from the Islamic world.”

In his speech, he said that if you ask a Muslim what they hate about America, they answer with things that are liberal ideas and culture.

I definitely encourage you to read the book.

An awesome bonus was that I got to meet and chat with OU defensive coordinator Brent Venables, who was super nice. We discussed the 2000 OU Nebraska game (in which the top-ranked team in the nation was shut out by our defense for the final three quarters) and our favorite plays from that game.