Scientific Research and Personal Experience

TLDR:
I did an experiment based on some new data I discovered about tendons. My 8 year knee tendinitis is gone. It had to do with exercising more frequently. I got a lot stronger in just 3 weeks also: the end.

Training Efficiently
In my own life experience, perhaps the safest and least time consuming way to pursue total body fitness is to train with somewhere between 6 and 12 exercises and train with perfect form, taking each exercise to a state of complete positive muscular failure, briefly resting and then moving to the next exercise. Your muscles are getting an intense workout, your hardest reps happen when the muscles are producing the least force (because they are tired) and none of the movements are “explosive” thus accelerating the weight to very high velocities and risking injury. During workouts of this nature your heart feels like it might explode out of your chest, you breath very hard, and your veins pump lava or pieces of broken glass. The problem with training this way, at least for me, is psychological. Every workout must be all out if you wish to make steady progress. Other problems are related to trying to plan for enough rest and when you train this way the metabolic demands are high. Research shows that muscle protein adaptations last for up to 21 days after the most recent bout of training. Energy system adaptations can begin to regress within 4-7 days. I wish I could remember where I found that data, but I remember everything but the name of the study and it’s authors…which means nothing. Nevertheless, training like every workout is a zero-sum game can be psychologically defeating. Also, the training is seldom enough that other types of adaptations apparently cannot happen (more on that later, as it is the point of the article).

Personal Story: Knee and Back Pain

When I was 20 I woke up one morning with very bad knee pain. This came right around the same time I seriously injured my back. I went to a doctor and received an x-ray on both offending pieces of my body. The knee pain was determined to be very serious tendinitis (probably from a knee collision in a jiujitsu match a while before). The back injury, which was missed in the x-ray but was confirmed by another doctor, was a torn ligament between a rib and one of my vertebrae (don’t remember which). Anyhow, I was told to lay off exercise for 6 weeks. If my knee still hurt, it was recommended that I start walking more than just at work and home to facilitate recovery for 6 more weeks. It was especially important that I do no squats or dead lift. If it still hurt, I was told to go back (maybe to get recommended for physical therapy). A weird series of events involving a car accident occurred which lead me to hit the weights again despite the pain about 3 months later. I was weak, fatter than I’d ever been, and my first set of squats did two things: left me gasping for breath and trying my hardest not to puke and when the muscle soreness my knee and back hurt less. TMy knee never stopped hurting, it just hurt less.

Research on Tendon Adaptation
Anyhow, fast forward to now and I started using Ebsco to do research through the public library (out of grad school so I don’t get my own key code anymore). I discovered that there have been several advancements in the knowledge of connective tissue adaptation since my time as an exercise science major. For instance, in 2007 a study was published (though with no control group) observing the effects of leg extension training on subjects doing heavy weight with one leg and light weight with the other. There were several interesting observations, but what was most pleasant to discover was that the patellar tendon actually experienced hypertrophy as well as increased stiffness (a good thing for joint health) in the leg trained with heavier weight:

In summary, the present study is to the best of ourknowledge the first human study to report tendon hypertrophy following heavy resistance training. Further, the data show that tendon hypertrophy to heavy-resistance training in the patellar tendon was related to the proximal and distal region, but not to the mid-region of the tendon.

Kongsgaard, M., S. Reitelseder, T. G. Pedersen, L. Holm, P. Aagaard, M. Kjaer, and S. P. Magnusson. 2007. “Region Specific Patellar Tendon Hypertrophy in Humans Following Resistance Training.” Acta Physiologica 191 (2): 111–21. doi:10.1111/j.1748-1716.2007.01714.x.

In the abstract of a literature review from 2006, I found that

For tendons, metabolic activity (e.g.detected by positron emission tomography scanning), circulatory responses (e.g. as measured by near-infrared spectroscopy and dye dilution) and collagen turnover are markedly increased after exercise. Tendon blood flow is regulated by cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2)-mediated pathways, and glucose uptake is regulated by specific pathways in tendons that differ from those in skeletal muscle. Chronic loading in the form of physical training leads both to increased collagen turnover as well as to some degree of net collagen synthesis. These changes modify the mechanical properties and the viscoelastic characteristics of the tissue, decrease its stress-susceptibility and probably make it more load-resistant.

Kjær, Michael, Peter Magnusson, Michael Krogsgaard, Jens Boysen Møller, Jens Olesen, Katja Heinemeier, Mette Hansen, et al. 2006. “Extracellular Matrix Adaptation of Tendon and Skeletal Muscle to Exercise.” Journal of Anatomy 208 (4): 445–50. doi:10.1111/j.1469-7580.2006.00549.x.

Several other studies report the same sort of results. The most interesting things to me are A) The increase in protein synthesis B) The increase in blood flow (which can provide nutrients for recovery) C) That actual hypertrophy can be stimulated in tendons D) that even body weight squats increase tendon stiffness in elderly and untrained populations. But what was most interesting to me on a personal level was that “collagen synthesis in human tendon rises by around 100% with just one bout (60 min) of acute exercise, and the elevated collagen synthesis is still present 3 days after exercise (Fig. 3; Miller et al. 2005). In skeletal muscle, the rate of collagen synthesis also increases with exercise, in a time-dependent manner that follows the increase in myofibrillar protein synthesis with exercise (Miller et al. 2005).” What this means for people who have had chronic tendinopathy, is hard to say. But what inferred that it could mean is that training with more frequency than I’m used to could increase the protein turnover rate in my knee and promote recovery. Given my own hypothesis that overuse injuries often come from explosive exercise and sudden acceleration of a limb which puts tremendous force on connective tissue despite low resistance, I decided that squatting more frequently with heavy enough weight to induce protein synthesis could help my knee.

Method:
I thus decreased my weight on squats, began using a high-bar Olympic depth, squat and hit the gym 3 days in a row during week one. Then week two I did the same thing and the weights that were very heavy using that style of squat went up very easily. I ended up squatting a personal best (345 pounds with no belt, no spotter, and no struggle) even compared to my wider power-lifting stance. This week I squatted five days in a row.

Results:
Starting Thursday morning I woke up with no knee pain. Today I still have no knee pain. Now, any number of things could have contributed to my apparent recovery after eight years of tendinitis. I could have just finally eaten enough protein, I could have finally slept enough, maybe I ate a magic vegetable like in a video game, it could be placebo though I imagine that would have fixed it years ago, or perhaps a wizard did it. But, the only variable I changed in my one subject sample group was exercise frequency. Now, my shoulders feel a bit beat up from squatting heavy for 5 days in a row. My lower back is pretty sore too. I certainly read less this week because the trips to the gym eat up evening time after work, but my knee feels better. I did chores around the house all morning and hardly noticed. Normally my knee remains in the fore on my consciousness when I’m picking things up, fixing things, or bumping it into stuff. It was unnoticeable today. I’ll tell you what happens in the future.

 

Greg Boyd, Roger Olson, and a Serious Mistake

The argument between Arminians (this is how it is spelled btw) and Calvinists will perhaps continue until the return of Christ. Nevertheless, despite the debate never being resolved, I do think that some clarifications can be made. For instance, Reknew ministry (an open theist ministry, one of whose core beliefs is that the future does not exist and is only potentially known by God), recently contributed to the argument by posting quotes from Roger Olsen, Greg Boyd (the pastor who helms the ministry), and Benjamin Corely. The quote by Olsen is below:

Every devout, evangelical Christian believer I have ever met or heard of approaches Bible reading and study (including exegesis) with the assumption that the Bible is true (even if not strictly inerrant)—that it does not misidentify God and God’s will for us. But built into that assumption is that God, the Bible’s author (by inspiration of the human authors) is good (which is why he is trustworthy and cannot deceive). But belief that God “designs, foreordains, and governs” hell for the reprobate who are chosen by God for hell for his glory without regard to any truly free choices they make undermines belief in God’s goodness. So does belief that God “passes over” some he could easily save (because election to salvation is unconditional and saving grace is irresistible), damning them to hell, for his glory.

There is no conceivable analogous human behavior that we would call “good.” The very concept of “good” rules out such behavior. (To say nothing of Jesus’ own goodness and the New Testament’s commands for us to love our enemies and do good to them.)

Note the sentences in bold especially. Olson makes a claim, that on its surface, seems very pious. I would not, myself, want to ascribe something humanly immoral to God without sufficient reason. Olson also does not. Thus, he says, in effect, that since predestining people to hell would not be good for a human, it is thus impossible for God to do. Similarly, one could say, that since it is impossible for a human being to simultaneously be good and to make a giant perpetual nuclear bomb that would annihilate all nearby organic life and could potentially explode and destroy all life on its surrounding planets, thus it would be immoral for God to do the same. But, alas, stars exist and we call them good. 

Here’s the deal: God is not human. Goodness, as a quality, is not predicated to God the same way it is to humans. Thomas Aquinas argued, successfully, in my view that God is called good because God is being itself and God gives rise to all other beings. Thus, all being that are called good, are called good in relationship to their genus or their kind of being. A knife is good if it is sharp, a dog is good if it is alive and obedient to its master, and a human is good if in possession certain moral habits. Another way of saying this is that a knife is good if it does not lack qualities for which it exists. The same for the dog and the human. God exists as a matter of necessity because God is being as such. Thus, God lacks nothing necessary for his existence, therefore God is good. In fact, Aquinas and others before and after, argued that God is his goodness. What this means is that God is not a person who has to do x, y, and z to be good. God does not develop habits that make God good and if God were to do otherwise, God would become bad. In this respect, God has no moral obligations to us at all purely because he is good. The analogy to a human, that lets us call God good, is that of a human who does not lack that for which humans exist (to contemplate the good, to take dominion over the earth, etc)…God lacks nothing, thus is good and is goodness regardless of what God does in space-time. That is simply true.
 
The answer to Boyd/Olson/Corely’s consternation with Calvinism has to come from a consideration of what Scripture teaches, not from a misunderstanding of God’s nature. To conceive of God as a human who has to meet any standard of behavior that is explicitly and specifically human, is to (hopefully by accident), treat God as a giant super human. God is like me the conclusionn runs, just on a super scale…therefore if I have to eat to be in a healthy state, God must eat a super amount; if I have to sleep, God has to super sleep; if I have to be married to have children, then God has to be super-married.
 
If some iteration of Arminianism, Open-Theism, or Calvinism is true we will have to see what the text of Scripture teaches about God’s predestination of persons and his relationship to the future. Making claims about God’s morality as if God were a giant space-man, subject to the rules of human existence is not only silly, but potentially idolatrous.
 
Incidentally, it seems possible that the question of whether or not Biblical passages noting God’s surprise or Biblical passages noting God’s predetermination of events should be taken as ultimate might not need to be resolved anyway (not that it can’t be, but that the nature of language as it applies to God might not allow us to do so):
If God is being as such, except in personal revelation as we have in Jesus Christ, God is incomprehensible. This means that language about God is necessarily analogical unless it is about specific miracles that happen in history or about the man Jesus Christ. Thus, when the Bible speaks of God’s predestining of events (like an ancient king who would plan events and decree wars) and language of God’s being surprised at human rebellion (like an ancient king being shocked at not being treated with due honor) these can be taken analogies that speak to the fact that God has intentions and expectations of his creatures in history. Neither speak, necessarily, to the nature of God’s immediate causation or personal ignorance of all events in history. God does not need, in the way that a human does, to plan all events to be perfect (this does not mean God does not). Similarly, God does not need to be ignorant of future human decisions to have expectations for future human decisions (this does not mean that he is not). God’s consciousness is analogous to ours in that our consciousness helps us understand that God has knowledge and intentions. It does not tell us what God’s thoughts are like or what they have to be. Thus, when Scripture uses the language of human planning (predestination) and of human surprise/regret (God repenting of things), this helps us understand something about God’s thoughts (he intended certain things and not other things), but it does not allow us to then infer that all events either surprise or are planned by God like a human being does things. The logic does not follow.
 
Appendix:Thomas Aquinas on God’s Perfection
For every excellence of any being whatsoever is ascribed to a thing in respect of its being, since no excellence would accrue to man from his wisdom, unless thereby he were wise, and so on. Wherefore, according as a thing has being, so is its mode of excellence: since a thing, according as its being is contracted to some special mode of excellence more or less great, is said to be more or less excellent. Hence if there be a thing to which the whole possibility of being belongs, no excellence that belongs to any thing can be lacking thereto. Now to a thing which is its own being, being belongs according to the whole possibility of being: thus if there were a separate whiteness, nothing of the whole possibility of whiteness could be wanting to it: because something of the possibility of whiteness is lacking to a particular white thing through a defect in the recipient of whiteness, which receives it according to its mode and, maybe, not according to the whole possibility of whiteness. Therefore God, Who is His own being, as shown above, has being according to the whole possibility of being itself: and consequently He cannot lack any excellence that belongs to any thing.
And just as every excellence and perfection is in a thing according as that thing is, so every defect is in a thing according as that thing in some sense is not. Now just as God has being wholly, so is not-being wholly absent from Him, since according as a thing has being it fails in not-being. Therefore all defect is removed from God, and consequently He is universally perfect.
Saint Thomas Aquinas, Fathers of the English Dominican Province, Summa Contra Gentiles, vol. 1 (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2010), 68–69.
Appendix 2: Aquinas on WHAT TERMS CAN BE PREDICATED OF GOD

AGAIN in sequel to the above we may consider what can and what cannot be said of God; also what is said of Him alone, and what is said of Him together with other beings.
For since every perfection of creatures is to be found in God, albeit in another and more eminent way, whatever terms denote perfection absolutely and without any defect whatever, are predicated of God and of other things; for instance, goodness, wisdom, and so forth. But any term that denotes suchlike perfections together with a mode proper to creatures, cannot be said of God except by similitude and metaphor, whereby that which belongs to one thing is applied to another, as when a man is said to be a stone on account of the denseness of his intelligence. Such are all those terms employed to denote the species of a created thing, as man and stone: for its proper mode of perfection and being is due to each species: likewise whatever terms signify those properties of things that are caused by the proper principles of the species, therefore they cannot be said of God otherwise than metaphorically. But those which express these perfections together with the mode of supereminence in which they belong to God, are said of God alone, for instance the sovereign good, the first being, and the like.
Now, I say that some of the aforesaid terms denote perfection without defect, as regards that which the term is employed to signify: for as regards the mode of signification every term is defective. For we express things by a term as we conceive them by the intellect: and our intellect, since its knowledge originates from the senses, does not surpass the mode which we find in sensible objects, wherein the form is distinct from the subject of the form, on account of the composition of form and matter. Now in those things the form is found to be simple indeed, but imperfect, as being non-subsistent: whereas the subject of the form is found to be subsistent, but not simple, nay more, with concretion. Wherefore whatever our intellect signifies as subsistent, it signifies it with concretion, and whatever it signifies as simple, it signifies it not as subsisting but as qualifying. Accordingly in every term employed by us, there is imperfection as regards the mode of signification, and imperfection is unbecoming to God, although the thing signified is becoming to God in some eminent way: as instanced in the term goodness or the good: for goodness signifies by way of non-subsistence, and the good signifies by way of concretion. In this respect no term is becomingly applied to God, but only in respect of that which the term is employed to signify. Wherefore, as Dionysius teaches, such terms can be either affirmed or denied of God: affirmed, on account of the signification of the term; denied, on account of the mode of signification. Now the mode of supereminence in which the aforesaid perfections are found in God, cannot be expressed in terms employed by us, except either by negation, as when we say God is eternal or infinite, or by referring Him to other things, as when we say that He is the first cause or the sovereign good. For we are able to grasp, not what God is, but what He is not, and the relations of other things to Him, as explained above
Saint Thomas Aquinas, Fathers of the English Dominican Province, Summa Contra Gentiles, vol. 1 (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2010), 72–74.

 
Appendix 3: Aquinas on Analogical Language Predicated of God
This happens in two ways. First, according as many things have a relation to some one thing: thus in relation to the one health, an animal is said to be healthy as its subject, medicine as effective thereof, food as preserving it, and urine as its sign. Secondly, according as order or relation of two things may be observed, not to some other thing, but to one of them: thus being is said of substance and accident, in so far as accident bears a relation to substance, and not as though substance and accident were referred to a third thing.
Accordingly such names are not said of God and other things analogically in the first way, for it would be necessary to suppose something previous to God; but in the second way.
Saint Thomas Aquinas, Fathers of the English Dominican Province, Summa Contra Gentiles, vol. 1 (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2010), 79.
 
See also:
The Reality of God and the Problem of Evil by Brian Davies
Thomas Aquinas on God and Evil by Brian Davies
 

Logic, Error, Judgmentalism, and Love

Being able to think is a disadvantage with which most people are not burdened. Being able to think merely makes you aware of the outrages around you. – Arthur Jones

You should not be over much righteous nor should you seek overmuch to be clever. Why destroy yourself? Ecclesiastes 7:16 (author’s translation)

When I was in high school my senior English teacher taught us basic logic and recommended to us that we read Aristotle. He was pretty sure that Aristotle was the smartest man who had ever lived. I did that. I also read several books on logic and how to use it. In this process I was still trying to learn to be a disciple of Jesus. The skills acquired from studying basic logic helped me tremendously in my efforts to understand Scripture and theological debates throughout church history. I remember during my seminary certain students would get frustrated that I could read the books so quickly, like I had some sort of unfair super power. It really wasn’t that. It was nothing other than an application of logic that allowed me to move beyond difficult paragraph arrangements and enthymemes (arguments that skip steps) quickly.

In the mean time, I tried to stay out of any debates involving politics with other people simply because I saw how divisive and ugly they could get. I was certain that there was some moral flaw in the very nature of modern political discourse that required people to be so harsh and illogical. I simply tried to stay out of it. Fast forward to a few years later and (I’ll leave my stances of political issues out of this) I started getting into political thinking because I realized how many poor decisions seemed to be made by politicians with a non-understanding of statistics. I started reading pundit pieces from various sides of numerous debates, reading actual books about economics from various perspectives (even the books on probability and human nature by certain famous economists), I started looking at (insofar as it is possible) the progress of various civilizations and the narratives that purportedly led to their demise, and then something interesting started to happen.

I found myself looking at people, individuals, in terms of their participation in ideologies (which is certainly a part of their lives) and not in terms of their need for grace. I’d look at people and think, “dude, that kind of behavior and thinking has obvious deleterious effects upon yourself and the culture upon which you parasite (if I can use that as a verb).” Now, it certainly is important to think of our actions in terms of personal/subjective as well as civilizational impact, but that does not change the fact that people are still intrinsically valuable (especially if Christianity is true).

Examples:

  1. I love making fun of the city in which I live and its denizens. It is, in terms of markers of social health (road quality, obesity rate, literacy rate, teen pregnancy, civil participation, etc), one of the silliest places on the planet. But that does not make the people less created in God’s image.
  2. I love making fun of people at the gym. I affectionately call them gymbeciles. But once again, these people are in the gym because they don’t want to contribute to my city’s health crisis!
  3. I love making fun of people who make basic factual errors.
  4. I love making fun of scientists who try to be historians and fail to get simple timelines correct. My favorite is the claim that the medieval church persecuted Galileo (who was a contemporary of Descartes).
  5. I sometimes use the phrase “maliciously stupid” to talk about the things people do.

Now, making fun of stupid things is an important inoculation against them. But, making fun of people as though they are objects of contempt can really dehumanize them outside of the rhetorical context of debate (in debate, if you’re correct you might have the moral obligation to not only prove your opponent wrong but if the opposition’s idea is dangerous, to make the idea look positively stupid). This habit can very easily lead you (at least it leads me) to treat them with contempt. It is so very easy to go from the ability to point out simple reasoning errors, then to finding those errors funny, and finally to finding human misery caused by bad ideas funny.

The quip from Qoheleth and the note from the inventor of Nautilus equipment are both important to take in to account. Not because thinking is intrinsically wrong, but because logic divorced from ethics tends to produce judgmental attitudes toward people rather than compassion. Thus, Paul notes that “knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.”

Anyhow, Jesus said, “Whatever you want others to do to you, you should do to them (Matthew 7:12).”

This tells me three things:

  1. I do not want to be written off because of my intellectual errors, therefore I should not do the same.
  2. I do not want my individuals actions to be judged solely on the basis of my ideological commitments (even if there is a connection between them), therefore I should not do the same.
  3. I do not want my actions done on the basis of mistaken logic to be treated as though they reveal my intent, therefore I should not do the same.

Things I used to Believe

This article has some personal information. Not just in the sense of observations I’ve made, but in the sense of information about myself. For instance, when I wrote about quitting Calvinism, it was about me, but it was mostly about evidence that made a particular view untenable for me. Anyhow:

  1.  I used to believe that people can change or be influenced positively.
    I almost gave up on this idea. A particular piece of counter evidence came to me in thought experiment in a book by Nassim Taleb’s book, The Black Swan: The Impact of Highly Improbably Fragility. On pages 105-106 he gives an interesting scenario. I’ll summarize it. Imagine a group of rats which I expose to increasingly higher dosages of dangerous radiation. Over time rats die. By the end, I have the strongest rats left. I then advertise that I found a method for producing the strongest rats. It hit me that as an educator, any school system that carries students to graduation, also had a series of fail safes (radiation dosages) that kept struggling students from making it along. Anything, it seems, that we should advertise as our own doing can be explained away as the result of poor students failing out, making grades too low to get into college, etc. Do students succeed because of good teacher or do good teachers look good because certain students who would have succeeded went through their class rooms? IQ scores are not static, but unless a student can be motivated to take ownership of active learning, IQ often does stay the same throughout traditional education. Thus, as math classes get harder and reasoning gets more abstract, larger class sizes do less and less for those of average or below intelligence. This led me to think of churches. Do some churches seem to “help people change” because they only attract people who have their act together already?  If a church is legalistic enough or full of enough people who are ‘with it’ then only people who like legalism or who are already ‘with it’ will stick with the program and thus it appears that discipleship has happened. This is sad because people may just be there for similarity of affinity. So on the level of thought experiment (which is what Galileo did, by the way), there is good reason to be skeptical of the efficacy of institutions meant to help people change. Plus, there are good reasons (on the surface of things) to be determinists based upon Scripture itself (Romans 9:6-33)
    But:
    • Arthur Whimbey demonstrated that in certain cases young people under appropriate guidance could improve their abstract reasoning and thus their IQ.
    • Roy Baumeister has demonstrated that people who believe in free will are more likely to overcome addictions, less likely to give up in challenging circumstances, and more likely to try harder at work.
    • Eric Jensen has shown how neuroplasticity is directly relevant to teaching in all subjects.
    • Rodney Stark has demonstrated that Christianity lead to numerous ethical, economic, and scientific reforms in Western Civilization upon which we still rely today. The development, in particular, of the scientific method relies upon the rigorous application of Aristotelian logic that was developed during the Scholastic era, whereas Plato thought that math and geometry were so wonderful precisely because they took logic beyond matter to the pure realm of though, Christians applied Aristotle’s logic to, what they presupposed, was an orderly world.
    • Jeremiah teaches this:
      “Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.” So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do. Then the word of the LORD came to me: “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the LORD. Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel. If at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, and if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I intended to do to it. And if at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will build and plant it, and if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will relent of the good that I had intended to do to it. Now, therefore, say to the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem: ‘Thus says the LORD, Behold, I am shaping disaster against you and devising a plan against you. Return, every one from his evil way, and amend your ways and your deeds.’ “But they say, ‘That is in vain! We will follow our own plans, and will every one act according to the stubbornness of his evil heart.’
      (Jer 18:2-12)
      Even for God (if you take Scripture to have anything useful to say about God), whatever this means for theories of divine predestination, takes it as given that his judgments upon sinners (apparently even whole nations) can change should those people change their behaviour. The very idea that Jeremiah is trying to combat is in verse 12: the idea that evil people cannot repent and seek God’s mercy. The Lord wants Jeremiah to tell them that they can indeed repent. Thus, nobody is, of necessity, beyond hope. This is the same Jeremiah who elsewhere is asked to stop praying for people because they no longer will be heard, yet the Lord wants Jeremiah to give them opportunity to repent anyway.

    So, I guess I do still think that people can change, but I guess I think it in a different way. In God’s kingdom nothing comes without a cross and self-denial. In taking loving dominion over the earth, nothing comes without effort. Similarly, in personal change there must be self-denial. In helping other people change, there must be effort. There must, one could say, be open revolt against evil and against a false determinism that says, “It has to be this way, I shall just resign myself to my fate and others to their own.” Whatever else Scripture says about God’s ordination of certain events in the cosmos, it also says that Satan is the ‘god of this present age (2 Corinthians 4:4),’ if some evil seems determined or woven into creation it might be because of the previously mentioned reality, not because it is ‘supposed to be this way…therefore there is no use trying to change it.’ So, people can change, things can get better, but only in the context of open revolt against evil. Besides, people make things worse all the time and lots of things are better than they used to be (though admittedly many things are more brutal and terrible than we once thought possible).

  2. I used to believe I was smart enough to get past a system of credentialism.
    I really thought that I could find a way to get certain things to work out in my academic and career goals without going through proper channels. If only it were the 1700s (when I was in junior high we learned about the ‘phlogiston’ theory of combustion and I refuted it based on my knowledge of the combustibility of metals which gain mass through oxidation…I’d have been a pro-chemist). Due to despair about certain mishaps that made getting into my original undergraduate program very difficult, I decided to get my undergraduate degree in humanities. I do not resent the things I learned, nor the fine people who taught me in that department. But I was convinced that I’d find a way through hard work or IQ points to get into a doctoral program in the future. It does work sometimes. For instance, I was told I needed remedial math classes when I tried to take a Calculus class recently. I told her my GRE scores and promised her I’d find a way to learn the material quickly and make an ‘A.’ That kind of trick does not work often though.Turns out that cleverness is only like 5% of things (I did work hard for my Master’s degree, but ultimately the courses on my transcript just weren’t the kind that certain folks expected me to have). If I were 25, I’d just move wherever I needed to move, live at a subsistence level, and take some classes to fix the problem. As it stands, the sobering realities that would face me in the future with any form of student debt and a PhD in the humanities are something I couldn’t justify rationally. Anyhow, to solve this problem I have come up with several solutions:
    1. Get an engineering degree.
      My GRE score, despite not having taken a math class for nearly 10 years was above the average for top 10 graduate programs in engineering. My verbal was even higher, though not by much. My scores weren’t perfect, but I took the test on an extended break from work to avoid needing to use a whole personal day. If I can do SAT math at the level of an engineering graduate applicant (the Calculus class I took last summer just to see if I could handle it: A+), then I should be able to get a B.S. in it no problem.
    2. Get A+ certified.
      Seems easy enough. I can use that to pay for said engineering degree. No problemo (except for all of the studying).
    3. Try as hard as I can to get published in mathematics/geophysics/engineering while I am working on my degree.
      A friend has offered to help with this already. If it can’t work out, I’ll just come up with my own idea.
    4. But what about Greek/Hebrew?
      I’ve kept up with Greek on a very high level while being a full time math teacher. And my Hebrew is not so good. Who knows how I can deal with this problem in the future?
  3. I used to believe that Thomas Aquinas was not worth reading
    I’ve been reading the Summa Contra Gentiles and the Summa Theologica. A Roman Catholic I will not become, but a hater on scholastic theology I will never be again. Aquinas was wrong about a lot, but he was rigorous, Aristotelian, attempted to be Biblical and often nailed it, and he was clear. It is a silly prejudice and disservice that writers like St. Thomas, Richard Baxter, and Maximus the Confessor are not read more often. I’d take any of those three plus some Calvin, Descartes, and Brunner over most of the recent systematic theologians I’ve read (I’m not saying that those who deal with such contemporary issues as do Alan Padgett, Dave Black, Rebecca Groothius, David Bentley Hart, Martha Dawn, C.S. Lewis, Greg Boyd, Tom Wright, Paul Helm, or Michael Horton are never worth reading). Anyhow, read yourself some Aquinas, or at least some Edward Feser’s Aquinas.