Dan's Meditations

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The Boundary of Logic

It can be shown logically that logic will only go so far. You can not arrive at ultimate truth by logic alone. Logic itself shows this to be true.

I have recently discovered Godel's Incompleteness Theory.

Proposition: This statement is false.

For those who are not mathematicians or philosophical geeks like myself, you will think about this for a few minutes, shrug your shoulders, and then go about your business. But for me, as a mathematician, an engineer, and a quasi-philosopher/theologian, I want to get to the bottom of this. I want to understand. What are the full mathematical implications of Godel's Incompleteness Theory? I know that in any mathematical system, there are some postulates that are true that can not be proven.

Let G say, "The above Proposition is true."

In a computer program, would G return 0 or 1 (or would the program go into an infinite loop and evenutally crash)? In a digital circuit, if G activated an LED when it was true, and turned it off when it is false, would the LED be on or off?

It seems like, at this point, you have to leave the world of mathematics and enter the world of philosophy or theology or something meta-mathematical. The problem for me, when I leave the world of mathematics, and try to reason everything through, I am actually bringing with me everything I have learned about mathematics. Thus, I never leave that world. Thus, I am trying to force the meta-mathematical world into the mathematical world.

Some might use this to say, "See! Postmodernism is true." But that would not be an intelligent and reasonable conclusion. Godel didn't believe that. He was a Platonist. He believed that mathematics is describing some kind of reality, and not empirical reality, but something more concrete than that.


Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Healing America

An Analysis of the Problems Plagueing This Great Country and an Outline for the Roadmap to Healing

I recently wrote this in an email to some friends and relatives (including my beloved liberal father and my beloved conservative uncle - both of which are people for whom I continually pray.

God honors families when families do things God's way.

God honors the church when the church does things God's way.

God honors the state when the state does things God's way.

The Scriptures have specific instructions and commands for families, the church, and the state. It is great for us to think all these things through. But it is even greater that we don't have to rely on our own wisdom, but that we can rely on God's eternal wisdom. Romans 13 speaks about the authority and the purpose of governing authorities, and why we pay taxes. Check it out. When the state starts assuming the responsibilities and the authority of the church, then things fall apart. When the church does not rise up to its high calling and surrenders her authority to the state, things fall apart. When everyone demonstrates a lack of wisdom and faith by coming up with a "plan B" (just in case God's word isn't reliable), then we have problems.

We need Jesus.


p.s. Did you know that the word "vocation" used to bea word that was set a part for the clergy. MartinLuther was so fed up with the idea that the clergymenwere the real servants of God, and that everyone elsewere somehow "inferior" to the clergy. He insistedthat all work by God's people is sacred, and that itought to be done for God's glory. Therefore, heintentionally used the word vocation to show us thatwe are all called to fulfill the Cultural Mandate to"subdue the earth" and to "be fruitful." What do youall think? Is work secular or sacred? ShouldChristians live double parallel lives? Should Christians put their faith up on the shelf when they clock-in?

This was in response to an email my uncle had written about the benefits of equipping the police of our country to do their job. I totally agree with this. He had statistics comparing Jersey City, NJ to Camden, NJ - making the argument that enforcing the law works. I agree, but it was not a comprehensive approach to fixing the problem.

My Dad wrote in response to my email:


To a certain extent, I think John is making some good points. However, he implies that "the federal government and higher income taxes" are somehow mutually exclusive with stopping the decay of inner cities. Yes, stopping crime is a good thing. No argument there. But what does that have to do with"the federal government and higher income taxes?" John is trying to connect these things in some obscure way that I can't figure out. Despite his confusion on that point, I understand his major thrust. Stop crime and everyone benefits. Of course I agree. However, it will take more than arresting pimps, punks, and dope dealers to stop crime in American inner cities. The core problems of poverty, poor education, and dismal/negative family life are the real roots of crime and urban decay in America. Arresting some druggies, while necessary, will not cure the problem. The problems, (and solutions), are more complex than John, (and other like minded neocons), bombastically, ignorantly and incessantly portray. What I can't figure out from your email is whether you agree or disagree with John's point. You almost seem to be saying that the state should not be in the business of stopping crime; that having the state arrest criminals is "Plan B" which you strongly oppose. But I am not really sure what you are trying to state. Do you agree with the basis of John's argument that the state stopping crime is beneficial?

Hope all is going well in Virgina. Can't wait to see you and Nancy this summer!



To which I replied with two emails - one of which was lost. This was the second of the two:


The left seems to champion social programs. At least, they champion throwing money at social programs. But here is the problem with the left: The left says, "If its not working, throw more money at it." Or if it is working, "It is working! Throw more money at it." Either way, the left wants our money, and will always vote to take our money.

If social programs are not working, the answer is not to throw more money at it; the answer is to change.

As the public education system is in a crisis now, politicians will promise us "programs" (funded by ourselves) to "fix" the problem. Of course, some of us thought that public education was the program to solve the education problems. Government funded social programs are very effective in some areas: Training kids to embrace homosexuality, training kids to devalue the unborn, training kids to basically vote Democrat. But in other ways they are very ineffective. Their solution to any difficult child who has a lot of energy is to label them with ADHD or a learning disability and then start spending tax dollars to get kids hooked on drugs. Nevermind the facts that Ritalin is known to have similar effects to cocaine. The usage of Ritalin has shot up dramatically in the past 10-15 years. This can't be a good thing.

The major problems with society is that people have an "entitlement mentality." People tend to be narcisists, and every time a teacher affirms the "goodness" of a sinful child, they are helping that child become even more narcisist. Jesus said, "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted." People need to mourn over their sins. Then, they shall receive comfort, and they shall see the reality that they are not the center of the universe.

Bill Gates recently gave a speech at a high school graduation. He gave the graduates 11 life rules in the hope that some of the hearers would put the rules into practice and do something positive with their lives. Here they are:

1. Life is not fair; get used to it.

2. The world doesn't care about your self-esteem. The world expects you to accomplish
something before you feel good about yourself.

3. You will not make $60k a year right out of high school.

4. If you think your teacher is tough, wait until you get a boss.

5. Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Gradparents had a word for flipping burgers;
they called it "opportunity."

6. If you mess up, it is not your parents' fault, so don't whine about your mistakes; learn from them.

7. Before you were born, your parents weren't as boring as they are now. They got that way from paying your bills, cleaning your clothes, and listening to you talk about how cool you think
you are.

8. Your school may have done away with winners and losers, but life HAS NOT. In some schools, they have abolished failing grades and they'll give you as MANY TIMES as you want to get the right answer. This doesn't bear the slightest resemblance to ANYTHING in reality.

9. Life is not divided into semesters. You don't get summers off and very few employers are interested in helping you FIND YOURSELF. Do that on your own time.

10. TV is NOT real life. In real life, people have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs.

11. Be nice to nerds. Chances are you'll end up working for one.

Maybe, these lessons should be taught in schools. Of course, that might screw up the Democrats voting base. The left elite depends on people depending on them. Once people realize that they don't have to depend on the handouts of the left, then we will prosper as a nation. But, of course, that takes hard work and faith.

This may seem cold and heartless. But my point is that it is unhealthy and unfair to put extra burdens on the government to "understand" people with all their problems. That is the job of the church and the family. The government's job is to reward good behavior and punish bad behavior. That is why we pay taxes. That's what Romans 13 says. The left too often gets this all backwards in the name of compassion. But they are not compassionate. The far left is vicious against the Religious Right and anything and anyone that bears the slightest resemblance of the conservative type or the Christian type.

So, Dad... what solutions do you offer? All I hear, I think, is that we ought to cut money from the war effort, and throw it at social programs. And/or you are in favor of paying higher taxes to fund these programs. A basic economics class shows us that there is no such thing as a free lunch. If we pay higher taxes, then we are all losing in an effort to help those who are losing to start winning. Are you going to reward what doesn't work, or are you going to give people the opportunity to take control of their lives by the grace of God and do something productive?

I heard on talk radio that most millionaires in this country drive Ford trucks. The point that the talk show host was making is that these millionaires are grunts. They go after the brass ring. They take risks and work hard and are careful with their money. They are courageous and they are fueling the economy. But the left gives us the impression that if you are millionaire, you must be "evil." So, the poor (many of whom spend countless hours watching daytime television) are seduced by the elite left to vote for handouts.

I am saying this as a poor person - who is overworked and underpaid. But I'm not crying.

For the church side, the twenty-somethings group that I am involved with at church is regularly going down to the Boys & Girls club in downtown Newport News to hang out with some inner city kids and share the gospel with them. We have only just started doing this, but it is amazing how hungry these kids are for attention and love. Whenever we have gone down (just a few hours on a Saturday - every month), they love it. They ask us when we plan on coming back. We are hoping to do a camping weekend with them sometime in the summer - to take them out of Newport News - off the Peninsula - and out into the wilderness for a weekend.

Unfortunately, I just don't have time to do a whole lot more than that. That's why parents have to step up. People are busy with their lives. Parents can not pass the buck on to the government. The government can not give proper attention to all the millions of underpriveleged kids in the world. It is not the government's responsibility.

This is real. The Teacher exhorts us in Ecclesiastes: "Cast your bread upon the waters, for after many days you will find it again. Give portions to seven, yes to eight, for you do not know what disaster may come upon the land. If clouds are full of water, they pour rain upon the earth. Whether a tree falls to the south or to the north, in the place where it falls, there will it lie. Whoever watches the wind will not plant; whoever looks at the clouds will not reap. As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother's womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things. Sow your seed in the morning, and at evening let not your hands be idle, for you do not know which will succeed, whether this or that, or whether both will do equally well."

In other words, we ought to be active and investing wisely and generously in things that matter. We ought to take risks and not wait for perfect conditions to do something good. We do not and can not know all things, but we should be active. We should sow in the morning. We should sow in the evening. As we sow, so we shall reap.

When people sit around and point fingers and blame the government for everything that is wrong, nothing gets accomplished. So, on that note, I will end these thoughts. I have productive things to do this evening, and a beautiful wife with whom to share the time.



I received one compliment from a relative who never involves himself in these debates. Beyond that, no one has had anything more to say.

I will go ahead and add that we need to pray. The problems confronting our society are too deep for us to handle. We can't expect the government to fix these problems, and without Christ, we are totally incapable and unwilling to fix these problems, because these problems are coming from the deepest recesses of our hearts - which are wicked and deceitful. We will not and can not do anything good in our own strength. We are utterly dependent on God to change us and to turn our hearts and to restore us.

Let us pray with faith according to God's will as revealed by His Scriptures and His Holy Spirit.

God is Sovereign over all. He can do it. Worship Him. Fear Him alone.

America! America! God shed thy grace on thee! And crown thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea! Amen. So be it.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Mission Katrina Relief

He is risen! I am forgiven, loved, set free.

But I don't feel it.

I'm on a mission trip (left on Good Friday) in Louisianna - taking in part in an effort to help muck houses. The work is absolutely exhausting. Today was the first day, and I am bone weary.

I am also feeling a little lonely and, I suppose, homesick. I also am struggling in another area. With certain people in my life, I joke around quite a bit with them, and they joke around with me and give me a hard time. There is a lot of sarcasm and playful put downs.

I don't like it. I seem to have a knack at getting people to take these pot shots at me. Usually, it is not so bad, but on this trip, on the road, there are a couple of my students in the same car as me (if you know who they are, do not talk about this with anyone please), who have kind of playfully been putting me down. These are some great Christian kids, and I'd like to have a serious conversation about the greatness of Christ with them, and I have done so. But too often, I feel like, due to the way that I carry myself, they keep giving me a hard time.

It is not as if they are the only people who do this. Like I said, I seem to have a knack at bringing out sarcasm in people. I tend to be very sarcastic. It is fun most of the time. But there is a limit.

And for whatever reason, on this trip, the line has been crossed, but I don't know how to deal with it. I could pull the whole Jack Nicholson line from "As Good As It Gets" - "Maybe we can go without all the wisecracks," but I think that might just invite another wisecrack.

This is a real working trip. It is a mission trip, but I don't get the same sense of team on this trip, largely due to the fact, I think, that the leadership has designed this trip not to entertain or to build real team unity, but to just muck as many houses as possible. I feel like I connected fine with my "subteam" that I went out with today. But overall, I feel disconnected - and almost insignificant - on this trip. There are about 60 of us - about 40 students and twenty adults (many of them parents). Then, there is my wife and me. We are in our twenties - so obviously we don't fit in with the kids (not that I did when I was a kid either). We are having neat conversations with kids and with the adults. I'm not having a pity party, and its not all bad. But I am feeling down.

I guess I just want to go home and sleep in my bed. I'm not in my comfort zone now. But Jesus left his comfort zone when he left the right hand of His Father to be born in crap-filled barn. He lived a sinless life in a sin-sick world. He suffered. He was tempted. His soul experienced sorrow and grief. He went through the garden of Gethsamane. He was arrested, given an unfair trial, and condemned to die a criminal's death. He had the crown of thorns imbedded into his skull. He endured 40 lashings minus 1. And He was crucified. Worse than all that, he actually took on the sin of the world, and so His Father turned His back on Him, and He received for me and for all of us, the fullness of God's wrath - the just for the unjust - that He migth reconcile us to God.

Surely, by God's grace, I can endure a few days of hard work without sleeping in my comfortable bed.

God be praised.