The 1st use of the Law and the new commenting system

We theology nerds talk quite a bit about the Second Use of the Law (the theological use, the “mirror,” which convicts us of sin and drives us to the Gospel), and we argue about the Third Use of the Law (the didactic use, the “guide,” which shows Christians how to live).  We don’t usually say much about the First Use of the Law (the civil use, the “curb,” which enables sinners to live in societies).

The First Use of the Law concerns only external righteousness.  There is no merit to it, no question of earning salvation by external compliance.  Jesus teaches us that we violate the commandment against murder when we hate our brother, and we violate the commandment against adultery when we lust after someone in our hearts.  That inner state is where our status as sinners is evidenet, and it is this inner condition that the Gospel addresses.  But it is also important not to murder anyone externally or to actually commit adultery.  This external righteousness is absolutely necessary if human beings are to live together in families, nations, and societies.  Even someone boiling over with sinfulness on the inside can, on the outside, be a good citizen.

Our sinful nature has to be “curbed.”  The Law achieves this by means of things like parental discipline, the state’s legal system, and social sanctions.  The Law’s first use can make us feel guilt and shame.  We would be ashamed to actually do some of the things we fantasize about.  Many harmful enterprises are held back when the question arises, What if someone finds out?  Being held back by such considerations does not make us a moral person–we shouldn’t have had those fantasies in the first place–but they make civil society possible. [Read more...]

Amazon sues writers of fake reviews

Who among us does not read consumer reviews before buying an online product?  Or eating out at a new restaurant?  Or choosing a service provider?

These seem to me to be a valuable dimension of the online marketplace, and they have become very important to the businesses getting reviewed.  I appreciate it when companies post an answer to a negative review, pledging to address the problems that were noted.  For the marketplace to be responsive to consumers, it needs information, and now that information–from feedback to businesses to warnings and testimonials to fellow consumers–is now instantly available.

And yet it invites fraud.  I read one estimate that 10% of  reviews are faked.  Businesses can review themselves, or cajole or even pay other people to give them a 5-star review.  Review sites such as Yelp and Trip Advisor try to police that as best they can.

Now Amazon, which posts reviews not only for books but for practically everything it sells,  is suing up to 1,000 writers who are part of a scheme to post positive reviews for $5 apiece. [Read more...]

Vengeance, competition, and Christianity

Some time ago, I stumbled upon a discussion of Christian anthropologist Rene Girard and Pay Pal founder Peter Thiel.  It had to do with vengeance, competition, new technology start ups, and why both Girard and Thiel came to embrace Christianity. [Read more...]

Electromagnetic Propulsion Drive?

A device has been invented that generates much more propulsion than a rocket.  The electromagnetic propulsion drive (EM Drive) works by bouncing microwaves around, and it could conceivably get us to Mars in only 70 days, as opposed to 260 days with current technology.  But it violates the known laws of physics, and scientists cannot figure out why it works.  Nevertheless, experimental tests keep confirming that it does.   However, skeptics remain.

Does any of you know anything about this?  Is this a delusion, like cold fusion?  Or might it be an invention that will open up interplanetary travel?

[Read more...]

Volkswagen’s scam

Since 2009, Volkswagen diesels have had software that detects when the car is on one of those treadmills states use for your annual emissions test.  Whereupon the software causes the car to emit very few pollutants.  But when the car goes back to normal driving, the software shuts down and the pollutants pour forth.

That acclaimed German engineering used for such a flagrant deception!  Now dealers are stuck with lotsful of inventory they aren’t allowed to sell, owners can’t pass their emissions tests, their resale value has plummeted, the head of the company has resigned, and a respected brand is utterly discredited.

Do any of you have a Volkswagen diesel affected by this scandal?  What is the company telling you?

[Read more...]


The internet purports to offer the cover of anonymity for embarrassing vices, but that is not always the case, as the number of people whose reputation has been ruined by the Ashley Madison hacks have learned.  Now there is a new class of online/cellphone virus called ransomware.

This often preys on the user’s fear of being exposed.  For example, in a recent case, a porn app takes your picture, take over your device, and blocks your phone, supposedly on the grounds of your using child pornography.  It demands $500 to unfreeze your phone and make it all go away.  Thus blackmail and extortion enter the information age. [Read more...]