The assault weapon in question

The push for gun control following the San Bernadino shootings is filled with misinformation, according to columnist Rich Lowry.  He takes a look at the “assault weapon” used in the attack that many want outlawed. [Read more…]

3rd century fragment of John’s gospel offered on eBay

A priceless fragment of the Greek New Testament, a text from St. John’s gospel, was discovered on eBay, with an opening bid of $99.  (Similar texts have sold for $500,000.)  A relative of a deceased Bible scholar and collector came into possession of the document, not really knowing what he had.  Another scholar saw the eBay offering, contacted the seller, and persuaded him to pull the auction and make it available for study.  It turns out that the fragment is especially significant because it appears to come from a scroll, whereas all other ancient New Testament texts are from the book-like pages of a codex. [Read more…]

The world’s favorite Bible verses

The Bible app You Version has some 200 million users from all over the world. Christianity Today has a story on which verses are the most “bookmarked, shared, highlighted, and listened to” in the 10 countries where You Version is most popular.  See which ones they are after the jump. [Read more…]

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…]