July 2006 Archives

My clone second cousin Danny has another post that I feel like I could have written. What I mean by this is that (1) I happen to agree with everything he says, (2) the things he's most interested in emphasizing are what I think is most important, and (3) the qualifications he makes to his major points are all things I would want to be clear about so that the major points wouldn't be misunderstood. It gets into the purpose of public worship, the connection of being filled with the Spirit and singing songs to each other, and the significance of all that for how we should do public worship. It's a thoroughly balanced post. Also, check out the comments to see why I think the view that public worship is about intimacy with God is not only wrong but even contrary to the real purpose of public worship.

The 133rd Christian Carnival will be taking place this week, hosted at Digitus, Finger & Co. From the Anchor Hold. The Christian Carnival is a weekly collection of some of the best posts of the Christian blogosphere. It's open to Christians of Protestant, Orthodox, and Roman Catholic convictions. One of the goals of this carnival is to offer our readers to a broad range of Christian thought. This is a great way to make your writing more well known and perhaps pick up some regular readers. For examples of past carnivals, see Matt Jones's list of previous Christian Carnivals.

To enter is simple. First, your post should be of a Christian nature, but this does not exclude posts that are about home life, politics, or current events from a Christian point of view. Second, please submit only one post dated since the last Christian Carnival (i.e. from last Wednesday through this coming Tuesday).

Then do the following:

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longest book of the bible (word count) original hebrew
Is there even a contest? Who might suppose that anything else is anywhere even close to the Psalms? I have more than once heard people say that Jeremiah is the longest book in the Hebrew Bible, but I think they must be counting the five books within the Psalms as five separate books.

who is more important in church deacon, reverend or most reverend
Why would one position be more important than the other? This is one reason we shoudn't have such titles to begin with.

true knowledge comes with knowing that you know?
I sure hope not. I wouldn't like it if my knowledge depended on an infinite regress.

catholic church disproves stem cell research
I don't think the Catholic church is really in the habit of proving or disproving anything in science. Perhaps this was supposed to be "disapproves", but that would need an "of" right after it, and even then it would be false because it's just the fetal stem cell research that they disapprove of. You don't have to kill anything to get adult stem cells.

HOW TO ENTER A ALTERED STATE OF CONSCIENCE
Well, I suppose you could just repeat to yourself, "Murder is ok. Murder is ok. Murder is ok." If you combine that with repeated attempts to kill people, then you might start thinking it's ok after awhile. Oh, you meant an altered state of consciousness? That's not all that difficult either. Just spend some time reading the Kant generator (just hit reload, and it will generate more text). I guarantee that an hour of reading that stuff will alter your state of consciousness.

The 132nd Christian Carnival is at Faith at Work Blog.

Some people argue that contemporary science can't be right about how old the earth or the universe is, because an omnipotent being wouldn't need to take that long to make a universe. Thus the young earth must be true. Others argue from the opposite end that intelligent design arguments are inconsistent with an omnipotent being, because they involve God inputting information over a long process. (See, for example, SteveF's July 25 comment at 5:47 pm in this comment thread on this post.) I don't think this sort of argument works in either case.

If the designer is God, then God should be able to do something over a longer time or a shorter time. Young earth creationists are right that God could have created everything instantly. But the argument undermines the young earth view as much as any other, unless the young earth view holds God to have created everything instantly. It doesn't hold that but takes the period of creation to be six days. Why would God need six whole days to create everything? God could have created instantly. If it's implausible for God to do something over thousands or millions of years (because God could do it in a shorter time), then it's implausible for God to do it in six days (because God could do it in a shorter time). The mere possibility that God could have done it over a shorter time does not mean that God would have done so. A divine being with omnipotence could choose to work over a very long time or a very short time, and neither should seem more or less likely without an understanding of the purposes such a being might have for working over a longer or shorter time.

The hypothesis that there is a designer, particularly if one of the possibilities is that the designer is omnipotent, does not make it more or less likely that the designer worked over a long or short time. The length of time is not evidence against God. What's interesting is that the reverse is not true. Length of time issues may count as evidence against naturalistic explanations, precisely because they do not involve beings who can do anything (and thus can work instantly or over a longer time).

Mollie Ziegler of GetReligion wonders why Christians are cremating their dead in noticeable numbers all of a sudden, despite 2000 years of commitment to burial because of a doctrinal conviction about future resurrection. I do realize that it's possible to have a metaphysical conception of what persons are such that you think persons will survive the cremation process and be reconstituted in a resurrection. I think most people's views would actually allow that. But I very much doubt the 2000 years of tradition that Christians bury their dead is largely out of worrying that God couldn't resurrect you if you were cremated. It's more simply a symbolic demonstration of the faith that God would raise the dead in the end, indicating by your refusal to destroy the body that you believe this very body will one day be restored.

It's really unfortunate that Christians are rejecting this important symbol of a key Christian belief, one that long predates Christianity, going even back to the patriarchs of Genesis. This is somewhat like deciding we shouldn't waste water and therefore deciding to baptize people by lowering them below ground level in a hole and then pulling them back up. You can maintain the belief, but you lose a key piece of symbolism that's not some later tradition but is actually in the biblical texts.

One commenter in that thread complains that this point would seem to require Japanese people to break the law requiring cremation. I didn't see anyone arguing that Japanese Christians should break the law (though perhaps they should be arguing that it be changed to allow for exceptions for religious reasons). What people are arguing is that something is lost in the Christian witness, something that is symbolized by burial rather than cremation. We ought not to go along with social forces that move in that direction without serious consideration for what we're abandoning, which is a symbol present in the pages of scripture that illustrates a spiritual truth. Symbols in scripture that go back to the patriarchs should receive a strong presumption. That doesn't mean they override the law, since there is no direct command to bury your dead, but it does mean we shouldn't make our decision merely on considerations that are less serious than those involving how we represent the gospel in our lives and deaths.

Mark Roberts gives an argument that hadn't occurred to me. Some people doubt the traditional authorship of the gospels. One thing that's strange about that view is that we have no explanation of why someone would choose the minor characters of John Mark and Luke, even if they did have some connection with Peter and Paul. Wouldn't it make more sense to choose someone who had actually met Jesus to serve as the invented author of gospels that are pretty much accounts of Jesus' life? If you're going to be inventing the authorship of the book we now call Mark, and you're going to say that the author who wrote it was Mark, who got his information from Peter, why not just say that it came from Peter? There was no Gospel of Peter at the time, so it wasn't as if the name was taken? Even if it made sense to choose a companion of someone who knew Jesus, it would be silly to choose a companion of someone who as far as we know didn't. That makes the choice of Luke extremely strange.

What Mark then goes on to argue is that this makes it far more likely than otherwise that the attributions to Matthew and John are accurate. Even if it seems really silly to question the tradition on Mark and Luke, it doesn't automatically follow that the tradition on Matthew and John is inaccurate. But it is the same tradition. These listings appear together generally, all around the same time, and we shouldn't expect it to be right on two of the four gospels but drastically wrong on the other two. That does increase the plausibility factor for Matthew and John a little.

Now I don't think much stands of falls on this issue. The only gospel of the four that makes any claim relevant to its authorship is John, and that's not exactly unambiguous (though I do think the most plausible expanation is that John is its author). But if we found out for sure that all four gospels were written by people we've never heard of, it wouldn't threaten conservative views on scripture's authority. It's just that this is a real difficulty for those who want to suspect that the tradition is unreliable. This is at least one reason for thinking of it as more reliable than many scholars, even some evangelicals, are willing to admit.

300,000th Visitor

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According to Sitemeter's count, my 300,000th visitor was registered today. Unfortunately, it's not an interesting visitor from a web search. Nor is it a regular reader of my blog whom I can congratulate. In fact, I'm pretty sure it was just me.

The Sitemeter information is pretty sparse. It gives no location, but it gives the first three digits of a Road Runner IP address without specifying the fourth and crucial one. This visitor loaded up my NT Wright post from yesterday by clicking on my main page at 11:56:05. The last visit for this visitor is listed as 2:02:23. I left a comment on that post at exactly that time right after reloading my main page. I was operating on another network at the time but had not restarted since my being on my home network, which masks the IP address in a way that Sitemeter can't detect (but I imagine more sophisticated methods might).

Still, I suppose Jan and David can enjoy the fact that my response to their comments achieved a milestone for this blog.

Life on Mars

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David Heddle has a brief post that nonetheless deals with a variety of issues related to the possibility of life on Mars and how a Christian should think about that. I really like David's general approach to this sort of thing.

The 132nd Christian Carnival will be taking place this week, hosted at Faith at Work Blog. The Christian Carnival is a weekly collection of some of the best posts of the Christian blogosphere. It's open to Christians of Protestant, Orthodox, and Roman Catholic convictions. One of the goals of this carnival is to offer our readers to a broad range of Christian thought. This is a great way to make your writing more well known and perhaps pick up some regular readers. For examples of past carnivals, see Matt Jones's list of previous Christian Carnivals.

To enter is simple. First, your post should be of a Christian nature, but this does not exclude posts that are about home life, politics, or current events from a Christian point of view. Second, please submit only one post dated since the last Christian Carnival (i.e. from last Wednesday through this coming Tuesday).

Then do the following:

David Wayne (Jollyblogger) has an excellent post on N.T. Wright, specifically on Wright's views of Jesus's divinity and of Jesus' self-understanding of his divinity. Wright holds to an orthodox view of Jesus' divinity but then suggests that Jesus was not aware of his divinity in any propositional way. He knew he had a calling, and he fulfilled his calling, without realizing the implications of what his calling meant for his own divine nature. I guess it's something like that anyway. The post is worth reading if you think these are issues worth thinking about. I believe I agree with everything David says.

GOP Straw Poll

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The last time GOP Bloggers had a straw poll, I couldn't get it to work here, but let's try again with the new one. In the event that this fails again, you can go to the original post at GOP Bloggers. The results should be displayed immediately for everyone voting from this site. Then you'll have an option to see the blogosphere-wide results.

A common urban legend in evangelical circles (and probably elsewhere too) is that 'ekklesia' in the New Testament (the word usually translated as "church") means "called out ones". This is simply false. It means "assembly" or "congregation". Its etymology derives from the sense that you can call together or call forth a group of people to gather for a purpose, but its meaning in the time of the Hellenistic period, when the NT was written, is simply a group of people gathered together. The literal translation should be "gathering" rather than "called out ones". See Jollyblogger's recent post on this for more information, with some careful nuance about various ways this etymological fallacy can occur. Note carefully his point that this has some relevance to George Barna's "assembly that never assembles" movement. He also makes several other nice little points in the process.

The 131st Christian Carnival is at the Evangelical Ecologist.

Reverse Interracial

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I recently got a hit from someone searching for "reverse interracial". I've gotten this one before. I'm curious how many people think this is sexist, how many think it is racist, how many think it is both, and how many think it is neither. Please support your answer. I know what I think, and I know why I think it, but I'm wondering what others would think and why.

OK, it's sad that enough people are passing this around as if it's real that it would make it to snopes.com, but this is really funny. The 50% figure shows that they're just talking about the half of American society that is below average, but what the genius of it is the totally over-the-top statements the various politicians say about people who are merely below average ("do not possess the competence and drive necessary to carve out a meaningful role for themselves in society"). Whoever altered the original Onion piece to make the President Clinton quotes of the original be from Senators Barbara Boxer and Ted Kennedy is probably responsible for turning an obvious satire into an urban legend. I can't hear President Clinton talking this way. Except for one bit, the quote attributed to Senator Boxer in the later version sounds just like her, and Senator Kennedy has acquired a reputation for a willingness to say anything without giving any indication of meaning it. Besides, there are some words in there that sound designed for his accent.

Josh Claybourn and co. at In the Agora have brought in a new blogger, Seth Zirkle. Along with Jollyblogger, who gets the tip of the hat on this one, I very much appreciate Seth's call to recognize the importance of the local church in a time when there's a serious fad to abandon it on grounds that are downright contradictory, i.e. a pretense that someone can be a Christian without being part of the church, which defies the very definition of the church. The church is manifested locally, and each local body is the church. Thus rejecting what is sometimes called the organized church is rejecting God's people as a whole. [For more on this, including more careful support of the fundamental premise, see my Organized Religion and the Church from two years ago.]

For similar reasons, I have an extremely strong presumption against leaving a local body except for reasons of serious heresy or immorality among the leadership, and even then only when the church as a whole refuses to confront that issue or the relevant people. Of course if you are leaving the area and wouldn't be present to attend your local congregation's meetings, it's a pretty good idea to commit to a different congregation. For reasons other than those sorts of things, leaving a local body is tantamount leaving the church, even if where you end up is also the church. What you left was the church, fully the church, and not just a part of the church. The New Testament knows nothing of local bodies that are just part of the church, and what you do to any local body you therefore do to the church. For these reasons, I greatly appreciated the main point of Seth's post.

Yet there's this one line that sort of spoils it for me. One of his points is that no local congregation is perfect. It's hard to find a local congregation that teaches the Bible rather than just giving topical sermons. In the same breath, Seth also says that it's hard to find a local congregation that avoids "secular instruments, such as pianos, guitars, and drums". If I hadn't been warned by Jollyblogger, I would have been stopped in my tracks.

The 131st Christian Carnival will be taking place this week, hosted at The Evangelical Ecologist. The Christian Carnival is a weekly collection of some of the best posts of the Christian blogosphere. It's open to Christians of Protestant, Orthodox, and Roman Catholic convictions. One of the goals of this carnival is to offer our readers to a broad range of Christian thought. This is a great way to make your writing more well known and perhaps pick up some regular readers. For examples of past carnivals, see Matt Jones's list of previous Christian Carnivals.

To enter is simple. First, your post should be of a Christian nature, but this does not exclude posts that are about home life, politics, or current events from a Christian point of view. Second, please submit only one post dated since the last Christian Carnival (i.e. from last Wednesday through this coming Tuesday).

Then do the following:

Dissertation Progress

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I've been making significant progress this summer on my dissertation. For my degree I need to have two papers deemed publishable by a committee of three faculty members. Normally this is done from papers written for classes, with significant effort put in during the summers in the first few years of the program. Because they changed the requirements during my fourth year, I hadn't been expecting even to think about those papers until after I was done with coursework in my first semester of my fourth year, so I was behind as soon as they changed them. Then I began teaching on my own for the first time, preparing a class outright that for the first few semesters needed significant revision as I realized some of what I was doing needed serious improvement to fit with my teaching style and what I thought a course like that needed to be like. Then the three professors who would have been my advisors left in one fell swoop, and the papers I had been working on didn't seem as worthwhile given what the new faculty who had replaced them were saying about my ideas. It didn't help my motivation. All that, combined with teaching new classes regularly, and having to spend a lot of time and energy with the developmental issues with Ethan and Isaiah, not to mention just ordinary family responsibilities and lots of grading, has contributed toward my being basically at a standstill with respect to my work for the last few years.

I did have one good idea for a paper two years ago, and I began working on it with a junior faculty member. That lasted only a couple weeks into a new semester with a new course to teach. I found it hard to reserve the time to write when I was finding it hard to reserve time even to get my class prep and grading done. Several times I tried to get classes I'd done before so I wouldn't have to spend as much time with teaching responsibilities, and then it wouldn't ever be enough to overcome my motivation barrier, and the time I could have spent working on the one paper idea I had would never end up being used for that. Last summer I'd even reserved half the summer to write, and then at the last minute my department offered me a course to teach during that time. We really did need the money, so I took it. Last semester I even ended up with three separate courses to teach, and I barely managed to keep up with teaching responsibilities even with having taught two of them before (in slightly different forms; a huge schedule difference made one very different, and the other had some new material to try to overlap some with the third course, which I'd never done before).

The Message Review

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Rick Mansfield's latest Bible translation review is up, this time for The Message.

For earlier posts in the series, see the NASB, TNIV, HSCB, and NLT reviews. Next up is the Revised English Bible.

Christian Carnival CXXX

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The 130th Christian Carnival is at Brain Cramps for God.

I can't resist linking to "Follower of Jesus" or "Christian"? by Danny Pierce. I happen to share a last name and a couple great-grandparents with Danny (i.e. he's my second cousin), but I'm not sure if we've ever met in person. I think we have, and he thinks we haven't, but even if we did it would have been more than a decade ago. But read his post. Can't you imagine me having written that post? When I read it, I kept thinking his style of argument and way of framing his conclusions sounded so much like my own style of argument and way of framing conclusions. Suffice it to say that I think it's a great post and well worth reading.

Update: See Danny's response to this post. Even his humor is along the same lines as mine. I am indeed his mother's mother-in-law's brother-in-law's grandson, as he is mine.

Split Infinitives

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I recommend Eugene Volokh on split infinitives. In short: there's nothing grammatically wrong with them, they've been a part of standard English since long before the language police decided they were evil, and the decision to call them ungrammatical stems from a desire to pretend English is Latin. If you decide to, following my advice, click on the link, you'll also discover that some split infinitives are just so ridiculously awkward as to not be worth using, and some are impossible to avoid without losing some key component of what you want to say.

The first split infinitive in the last sentence is a good example of the former. The second isn't really a good example of the latter, since the splitting could easily have been avoided, but I needed to say what I wanted to say rather than what would have made a good example, and it's too late to spend more time thinking about if I could do it right and say what I wanted. For good examples of obligatorily infinitives from two different linguists, see the Language Log posts here, here, and here.

For the record, I try to avoid split infinitives whenever possible in my own writing, just because I know some people will perceive them as a sign of unintelligence. But there's nothing ungrammatical about them, and it's probably inaccurate even to call them infinitives given that they don't have a form that operates similarly to standard infinitival forms in other languages but do have this splitting function.

The 130th Christian Carnival will be taking place this week, hosted at Brain Cramps for God. The Christian Carnival is a weekly collection of some of the best posts of the Christian blogosphere. It's open to Christians of Protestant, Orthodox, and Roman Catholic convictions. One of the goals of this carnival is to offer our readers to a broad range of Christian thought. This is a great way to make your writing more well known and perhaps pick up some regular readers. For examples of past carnivals, see Matt Jones's list of previous Christian Carnivals.

To enter is simple. First, your post should be of a Christian nature, but this does not exclude posts that are about home life, politics, or current events from a Christian point of view. Second, please submit only one post dated since the last Christian Carnival (i.e. from last Wednesday through this coming Tuesday).

Then do the following:

This is part of a larger project reviewing commentaries on each book of the Bible. Follow the links from that post for more information on the series, including explanations of what I mean by some of the terms and abbreviations in this post. You can see my annotated Amazon Listmania! list of Leviticus commentaries if you want a quick overview of what I think are the most important commentaries (or at least what I thought when I made the list) before looking more deeply at this more detailed review.

Gordon Wenham (NICOT, 1979) has my favorite commentary on this difficult book. Wenham is especially strong on understanding the theological significance of cleanness/uncleanness, holiness, and other ritual matters. It's not as detailed as some of the following commentaries, but I think it's the best starting place for a pastor or Bible teacher. He's got a good sense of the symbolism behind most of the laws that sound very strange to the modern ear and what they would have meant to Israel. He ends each section with some reflections on connecting the material he's just discussed with the New Testament. Especially helpful are his explanations of how the New Testament authors would consider the various festivals and sacrifices as fulfilled in Christ in different ways. I thoroughly enjoyed working through this commentary. Wenham spends little time speculating on source critical issues, due to the circularity of most such arguments and the wide divergence of source reconstructions among those who spend their time making what flimsy consensus there is even less of a consensus.

The 129th Christian Carnival is at Crossroads: Where Faith and Inquiry Meet.

Look at the two girls in the picture. Would you say that one is black and the other white? Would you change your answer if you learned that they are twins?

If you want to read up on the story behind this, see the snopes.com entry on them. This newspaper story has some information on the science involved, but it actually gets several things wrong, particularly in calaculating the probabilities. This Mixed Media Watch post and the ensuing discussion had some good analysis. There are more pictures in all three places, including a picture with both parents.

I'm seriously interested in what people think of these girls, not because of some morbid fascination with classifying people but because people's instinctive reactions to this are directly related to my dissertation. Are people instinctively inclined to treat one girl as black and the other as white (rather than both as black, both as white, neither as black or white, or whatever other combinations might be possible)? Is your answer one thing if you don't know they're related and another if you find out that they're twins?

Searches

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DA Carson's commentary on Romans
John Stott commentary Isaiah
That would be nice, wouldn't it? I think Carson's got his hands full revising Matthew and writing Galatians, Hebrews, I-III John, and Revelation. At least Carson is a NT scholar. Stott hasn't written on anything in the OT that I know of, though he's a pastor who has preached from it. What's even worse is that I get searches all the time looking for NT scholars' commentaries on OT books and vice versa. Occasionally this does happen (F.F. Bruce on Habakkuk, Leon Morris on Ruth), but it's extremely uncommon, and I think people just assume that someone who writes a good commentary on one book must have written a good commentary on the other 65.

abortion causes autism
No, abortion causes a condition much more serious than autism. They call it death.

do christians and other religions belive the same thing about parables
Is there something that Christians believe about parables? I'm not sure you can believe the same thing as someone else if there's nothing in particular that you believe about it to begin with. I see no theology of the nature of parables anywhere in the Bible.

What does the 4th of July mean to Christians
Why would it have some special meaning for Christians?

i am looking infomation on how i can recognize my pastor
Next time, please include a picture of your pastor in your search, and maybe then I could offer you some tips. Short of that, all I can tell you is that it would be good to know what your pastor looks like and then to try to see if the person you think is your pastor has the same visual appearance. If your pastor has an identical twin, it might be good to find out some things your pastor knows or can do that the twin can't do. Beyond that, I'm going to need some more specific information about your pastor.

This idea for this post occurred to me when reading this post, at Pseudo-Polymath, which reviews a Christian science fiction novel. I wanted to expand a little on a comment I left on that post. The novel in question involves people from Earth colonizing other planets, with no clear indication of why they are doing so. What I'm wondering is if this is in conflict with the creation mandate of the early chapters of Genesis. God gives the Earth over to humans to take care of as stewards. It's God's Earth, but humans now have the responsibility to care for it as representatives of God, which is what being an image of God primarily means. There's no indication that anything else in the universe is given to humanity to steward, which suggests to me that going beyond the boundaries of this planet is going beyond our jurisdiction. I've never been opposed to the space program, but I don't have any sense of how it's supposed to fit with the creation mandate. It seems counter to the very intent.

C.S. Lewis avoids with this in his Space Trilogy by not having the people out there be humans descended from Adam and Eve. I don’t mind scifi that has humans colonizing other planets or even with only faint memories of Earth. Firefly was exactly that, and it was excellent. But it’s a little strange to write it as a Christian novel and not even deal with the issue of God telling Adam that he was being given the Earth to steward and care for, without any indication that it would be ok to go other places and care for things not given to us. If the reason for going out is because of a failure to steward the Earth properly, that's even worse. Don't take care of what God lets you manage for him, and then go hang out somewhere else instead once his planet is no longer inhabitable. But even without that, there seems to be a serious question that Christian science fiction of this sort ought to address. Maybe there's a good way to do this without avoiding it the way Lewis did, but I'd be curious to hear what that would be.

The 129th Christian Carnival will be taking place this week, hosted at Crossroads: Where Faith and Inquiry Meet. The Christian Carnival is a weekly collection of some of the best posts of the Christian blogosphere. It's open to Christians of Protestant, Orthodox, and Roman Catholic convictions. One of the goals of this carnival is to offer our readers to a broad range of Christian thought. This is a great way to make your writing more well known and perhaps pick up some regular readers. For examples of past carnivals, see Matt Jones's list of previous Christian Carnivals.

To enter is simple. First, your post should be of a Christian nature, but this does not exclude posts that are about home life, politics, or current events from a Christian point of view. Second, please submit only one post dated since the last Christian Carnival (i.e. from last Wednesday through this coming Tuesday).

Then do the following:

The seventh Biblical Studies Carnival is at Daily Hebrew. I hadn't sent anything to this particular carnival for several months, but I finally managed to have something that I thought was worth submitting, my post on Zadok and Eleazar.

Disturbing Searches

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Stephen and Abigail Thernstrom are racists towards blacks
Once again, we have ridiculous accusation via Google search.

who could rape wonder woman?
Who could come up with the idea to search Google for that?

What would Immanuel Kant think of President Bush lying?
Well, for one thing he'd probably take lying seriously enough that he wouldn't assume that someone has lied when the evidence supports no such thing.

do calvinists like damnation
How many people have you met who like damnation?

black men are sell outs
Yes, all of them. Who would say this sort of thing, anyway? Who would be searching for someone saying it, for that matter?

rainbow sun nationality
He's Canadian. He's from Toronto. What's with this continuing need to assume that someone is from some remote or strange location just because they're of mixed race? Just the fact that he's on Stargate is strong evidence of his being Canadian.

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