Plantinga wins Templeton Prize

512px-AlvinPlantingaChristian philosopher Alvin Plantinga has won the Templeton Prize for contributions to religion.

Plantinga has shown, in a sophisticated way that is convincing even to most non-believing philosophers, that it is not irrational to believe in God, that the “problem of evil” does not disprove God’s existence, and that Christianity can make important contributions to philosophical questions.

Plantinga, a Calvinist who has been a professor at Notre Dame, has sparked a renaissance in Christian philosophy and has shown Christian academics how they can contribute to secular academia without compromising their faith.

Photo of Alvin Plantinga by Jonathunder (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons

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The big tax cut proposals

6757856139_a3988deaff_zPresident Trump is releasing details of his tax cut proposals.

He would significantly raise the standard income tax deduction from $6,300 for an individual and $12,600 for married couples.  Exactly how much has not been released, but in his campaign Trump suggested $15,000 for an individual and $30,000 for families.

He would also cut the corporate tax rate from 35% to 15%.  Other breaks are also in the works.

This would be a huge tax cut for both individuals and businesses.  Most of us would love that.  The problem is, what would it do to the federal deficit?

UPDATE:  We now have more details about Trump’s proposed tax plan.  Go here.  Briefly, the standard deduction would double, the seven brackets will go down to three (10%, 25%, 35%), the estate tax and the alternative minimum tax will go away.  But tax deductions will end except for mortgages, retirement savings, and charitable giving. [Read more…]

Trump can’t withhold all money from sanctuary cities

512px-US_Sanctuary_Cities_Map.svgA court ruled that President Trump may not withhold all federal funds from “sanctuary cities” that do not enforce U.S. immigration laws.

The ruling said that the President may withhold some funds, as already specified in the law.  That will amount to hundreds of millions of dollars, a not insignificant punishment.  But only Congress has the power of the purse, so as to have the authority to withhold money from generally applicable and non-related programs such as Medicare, education grants, etc.

Once again, President Trump is checked and balanced.  The courts, Congress, the states keep thwarting his signature issues.  Do you think this is an example of the genius of our Constitutional system or anti-Trump obstructionism?  If this represents a roll-back of the power of the presidency, which has arguably seized too much power over the last decades, do we have a Congress that can fill the void, or does it lack the leadership to fulfill its Constitutional role?  [Read more…]

A Lutheran Catholic and vocation

Emil AntonOur hosts here in Finland arranged a city tour of Helsinki with Emil Anton.  As he works on his doctorate in theology, he works for a tour company, among other things, and has put together the “Holy Helsinki” tour of religious sites.  But Emil is also quite a Christian thinker himself.  He is a noteworthy author, speaker, and blogger (see this, for which the translator in your browser can give you an extremely rough translation, and this in English).

Emil is a Catholic who loves Luther and Lutheranism.  He says he is the kind of Christian Luther wanted:  an evangelical Catholic, a member of the historic church who, thanks to Luther, understands the Gospel.  Emil is interested in the whole breadth of Christianity.  He reads evangelical authors, such as Ravi Zacharias, and is writing his dissertation on Pope Benedict.  Emil–whose father is Iraqi (an Assyrian Catholic) and whose mother is Finnish and who is married to a Polish woman–is a fascinating model of contemporary Christianity.

Anyway, as he was telling us about the sights of Helsinki, we were also carrying on other conversations.  I commented on how I was struck by the way contemporary Catholic writers were discussing vocation.  Whereas the term “vocation” in a Catholic context used to only refer to the calling to religious orders, I have been seeing it used lately more as Luther used it.  Vatican II documents and papal encyclicals now talk about the “vocation” of laypeople, the “vocation” of marriage, the “vocation” of workers.  More than that, these documents also talk about the concept in ways that reflect the specific content of the Lutheran doctrine of vocation:  God works through human vocations.  The purpose of vocation is to love and serve our neighbors.

Emil said, “Right!  Which brings us to something I want to show you.”  Huh?, I thought.  What can he show me on a city tour in Finland that would bear on the new Catholic understanding of vocation? [Read more…]

Profanity and politics

swearing-294391_640Politicians are now using the whole array of four-letter words in their speeches. President Trump does it, but Democrats seem to be doing it as a purposeful, repeated, and calculated rhetorical ploy.

Why is so much of our political discourse adopting profanity?  What does it mean this this is happening?

Click the link after the jump.  (I won’t quote from the article, since it includes the words that it decries, and this violates the high standards of decorum that characterize this blog!  So don’t click that link if would be offended.) [Read more…]

International Trumpism?

512px-Marine_Le_PenWhat with England’s Brexit vote to leave the European Union and the election of Donald Trump, many observers have predicted that a new wave of Trump-like nationalism, rejection of immigration, and economic populism would dominate the global landscape.

Has that happened?  Well, no and yes. . . .


Photo of Marine Le Pen by Emmanuel d’Aubignosc (Emmanuel d’Aubignosc) [GFDL ( or CC BY 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons



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