The Right Way to Shake off a Viper.8 (Embrace your defamations)


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The previous post from this book may be found here. 

Embrace Your Defamations, as affording you precious opportunities to exemplify a patience that shall glorify God; and imitate the exemplary patience of your admirable Savior.

Usually defamations are little more than provocations. Nothing so unusually easily and provokes Men to intemperate passion as to be reproached. The old pagans and Stoics that could bear everything else found reproach to be insupportable. This would make them roar as load as waves on the Aegean shore.[1]

He was a great and a strong man and a scholar, yea, a master of better philosophy who yet complained, Reproach has broken my heart. For patience to get the upper hand of passion on this occasion, and moderate it, and regulate it, verily this is a more perfect work of Christianity.[2]

Sir, if you may be so happy as to attain unto it, you may, instead of being troubled say, I am happy that I ever had the occasion! Upon the first advice of any abuse offered to you, resolve, I will take heed to my ways that I sin not with my tongue; I will keep my mouth with a bridle, while I have before me what the unbridled mouth of wickedness has uttered of me .[3]

But make your application to the God of all grace,[4] for the grace to keep this resolution. If you resist the first impression, the first resentments, which you may too readily feel upon vile reproaches, you have gained a great point; you have steered clear of abundance of sin; you will be more able afterwards to carry on a strain of lovely patience, and merit the judge’s motto, prudens qui patiens: a prudent man is a patient man.

Let me beseech you, after this, to maintain most exact watch, a most severe guard upon yourself, lest while the waters of strife are broaching, your provoked spirit may at any time speak unadvisedly with your lips. The meekest man in the world[5], you know, did so.[6]

My friend, your calumnious adversaries furnish you with valuable opportunities to adorn the doctrine of God your Savior[7] and do such things as are done by none but those that may lay hold on the comforts of eternal life. The blessed Eliot’s three words, bear, forbear, forgive: Now, now is the time for them to come into exercise.

All tendencies to revenge upon your enemies the wrongs which they have done you must now be abhored, be suppressed; must be looked upon as worse things than the worst of your enemies’ [bad acts]. ’Tis probable they may be such people as may deserve to have much evil spoken of them. However, ’tis now decenet for you to be more sparing in speaking of it than you would have been if you had suffered nothing from them. Leave that just work to others; there is hazard lest you overdo, or least some revengeful glance of your own do work in it, if you go meddle with it.

On the other side, if you know any good of those that have spoken ill of you, be you not adverse to speak that good and not ill-pleased if you hear it spoken by others.

How famous, how precious is the name of Calvin for the answer which he gave when he was told that angry Luther put some hard names upon him. An answer so recited, so esteemed by all the world that there is no need now of my telling any of my neighbors what it is.[8]

But be sure that your heart stand always in awe of that word: Proverbs 20.22, “Say not thou, I will recompense evil.” And Romans 12.17, “Recompense to no man evil for evil.”

Athenagoras, I remember, gives this description of the primitive Christians, “’Tis counted an indifferent thing for a man to revile another, by whom he has been first reviled. But we Christians do speak as well as ever we can of them that speak nothing but evil of us.”[9]

And Justin Martyr bears just witness for them, “We don’t ask that they who haveh most accused us, and abused us, and falsely spoken evil of us may be punished for it; no ’tis punishment enough to be left unto such folly and rashness.”[10]

Oh! Do not look upon this generous patience as impracticable or a lesion only for the Elohim whose dwelling is with flesh![11] Rather, look upon it as an unmanly weakness to be unable to bear the ill words of other men. It is a pretty remark when Abishai could not bear the railing tongue of Shimei.[12] Says David unto him, What have I to do with you, ye sons of Zeruiah? Now, Zeruiah was their mother. Why, the sons of Zeruiah? He seems to intimate you have more of your mother than of your father in you. You talk as if you were of the weaker sex. If you had the souls of men in you, a few ill words would not be such an intolerable grievance to you.

If you will harken to me, you shall take little notice of the affronts that are offered you: For the most part they are not worth your notice.

When the famous Doctor Sands was ignominiously carried on a lame jade through the city of London, a base woman in scorn threw a stone at him and hit him full on the breast. He took no other notice of it, but only made this mild answer, “Woman, I pray God forgive thee.” This was notice enough.

[1] Aegean: Greek. The reference is to the Iliad, Book 1, line 34 where the priest Chryses sits by the roaring sea.

[2] James 1:2–4 (AV)

2 My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; 3 Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. 4 But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.

[3] Psalm 39:1.

[4] 1 Peter 5:10.

[5] Numbers 12:3 (AV) Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth.

[6] Numbers 20:10–13 (AV)

10 And Moses and Aaron gathered the congregation together before the rock, and he said unto them, Hear now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock? 11 And Moses lifted up his hand, and with his rod he smote the rock twice: and the water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their beasts also. 12 And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron, Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them. 13 This is the water of Meribah; because the children of Israel strove with the LORD, and he was sanctified in them.

[7] Titus 2:10 (AV) Not purloining, but shewing all good fidelity; that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things.

[8]  In a 1544 letter from John Calvin to Heinrich Bullinger, he wrote, “Often have I been wont to declare, that even though [Martin Luther] were to call me a devil, I should still not the less esteem and acknowledge him as an illustrious servant of God.”


Allow me here to lift up my voice boldly in loud and audible out-cry, pleading as I do before philosophic princes. For who of those that reduce syllogisms, and clear up ambiguities, and explain etymologies,or of those who teach homonyms and synonyms, and predicaments and axioms, and what is the subject and what the predicate, and who promise their disciples by these and such like instructions to make them happy: who of them have so purged their souls as, instead of hating their enemies, to love them; and, instead of speaking ill of those who have reviled them (to abstain from which is of itself an evidence of no mean forbearance), to bless them; and to pray for those who plot against their lives? On the contrary, they never cease with evil intent to search out skilfully the secrets of their art,and are ever bent on working some ill, making the art of words and not the exhibition of deeds their business and profession. But among us you will find uneducated persons, and artisans, and old women, who, if they are unable in words to prove the benefit of our doctrine, yet by their deeds exhibit the benefit arising from their persuasion of its truth: they do not rehearse speeches, but exhibit good works; when struck, they do not strike again; when robbed, they do not go to law; they give to those that ask of them, and love their neighbours as themselves.


Athenagoras, “A Plea for the Christians,” in Fathers of the Second Century: Hermas, Tatian, Athenagoras, Theophilus, and Clement of Alexandria (Entire), ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, trans. B. P. Pratten, vol. 2, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 134.


For all are called Christians. Wherefore we demand that the deeds of all those who are accused to you be judged, in order that each one who is convicted may be punished as an evil-doer, and not as a Christian; and if it is clear that any one is blameless, that he may be acquitted, since by the mere fact of his being a Christian he does no wrong. For we will not require that you punish our accusers; they being sufficiently punished by their present wickedness and ignorance of what is right


Justin Martyr, “The First Apology of Justin,” in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 165.

[11] That is, Jesus.

[12] The incident can be found in 2 Samuel 16. David is fleeing with his people from the rebellion of Absalom. While leaving the city, Shimei stops along the road and mocks David.

Persuasion and Education



Karen Murphy and Patricia A. Alexander, “Persuasion as a Dynamic, Multidimensional Process: An Investigation of Intraindividual Differences,” American Educational Research Journal41, no. 2 (Summer 2004): 337-63.

In a study published in 2004, Professors Murphy and Alexander considered the relationship between persuasion and education research. As they note, “persuasion is neither inherently good nor evil, but a catalyst for thinking analytically about the messages encountered by individuals.”

The study consisted of 234 college students, primarily undergraduates who were given three articles from the popular press to read. The topics were likely to provoke emotional responses, assisted suicide, AIDS and school integration.

The students were examined for perceived and actual knowledge of these topics, prior to reading the articles. The students were then examined after reading the articles to determine the persuasive effects upon the students. Specifically, the researchers wanted to see how knowledge, interest and belief prior to reading the articles effected their beliefs after reading the articles.

One of the most unusual features of their research was a finding that the students with a high degree of knowledge about the topic and a high (to moderate) interest in the topic “were associated with low beliefs levels at prereading and post-reading.” That is the more they were interested and knowledgeable, the less they had firm positions (I assume that is the meaning of “belief”) on the topics.

Here is an example of something interesting which may not tell us much at all.


A person considers life precious in all circumstances. Such a person may have a very strong position on assisted suicide and think it always wrong. Having determined that assisted suicide is wrong, the person then decides not to read many arguments on the subject and has relatively little interest in subject.

Another example, I am firmly convinced that racism is wrong and thus I don’t really intend to spend any time reading arguments in favor of racism. I have little “knowledge”  (in the sense of an extended body of research) and strong belief.

Or consider another person who has thoroughly studied a subject for years: Say a professional medical ethicist. The ethicist has a very high degree of knowledge and a high degree of interest – and likely has rather firm conclusions about the topic.

The subjects of this experiment were undergraduates. They are being introduced to all sorts of new ideas in college. Their high degree of knowledge and interest is likely not all that “high”. They may know more than they did in high school, but it is unlikely they have any profound understanding.

Consider this: the articles they were reading were from the newspapers and popular magazines — not academic journals. That does not make the articles bad, but the articles are certainly not exhaustive explorations of the topics. By nature of the medium, the information is will be limited to a few hundred words.

What the researchers discovered is that making education more interesting made education more effective.

They also discovered that what works for one person may not work for another. As they note, the existing studies on the topic show that “persuasion is a multidimensional process that is influenced by individual and intraindividual differences in learners and how they interact with varied texts.”

Edward Taylor, Would God I in that Golden City Were.3


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At this point, the poet continues on with the absurdity which lies at the heart of Christianity: How and why could or would God be joined to us?

I have heard atheist mock Christian belief with the ridiculous thought that God – if there were a God – would concern his Godship with a particular set of beasts roaming around on a small planet around an insignificant star in the midst of an enormous universe.

However, that absurdity is the nature of the Christian claim. One can reject it; but it is silly to think that one has come upon some novel insight. Even before we realized the size of the universe, we were well aware of the ridiculous claim.

Here Taylor presses home the point: it would be more reasonable to believe a king married a flea than to believe God should have dealings with us:

My Maker, he my husband? Oh! Strange joy!
If kings wed worms and monarchs mites we should
Glory spouse shame, a prince a snake or fly
An angel court an ant, all wonder would.
Let such wed worms, snakes, serpents, devils, flies.
Less wonder than the wedding in our eyes.

At this point, it would be useful to take time to consider what is meant by “marriage in this context. It plainly cannot mean an actual human marriage. Rather, marriage is one of the many images which God has given in the world to help us understand what it means for God to love us.

First, it is not the only image: other incompatible images are used such as Father and son or Lord and servant or Creator and creature. There are, for instance, 95 different images used to describe the Church in the New Testament.

To understand this marriage imagery, John Piper helps in his bookSex and the Supremacy of Chirst:

In answering this question let’s remember that knowing someone in the fullest biblical sense is defined by sexual imagery. Genesis 4:1, “Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain.” Knowing here refers to sexual intercourse. Or again in Matthew 1:24- 25 we read, “When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.” He “knew her not” means he did not have sexual relations with her.

Now I don’t mean that every time the word know is used in the Bible there are sexual connotations. That’s not true. But what I do mean is that sexual language in the Bible for our covenant relationship to God does lead us to think of knowing God on the analogy of sexual intimacy and ecstasy. I don’t mean that we somehow have sexual relations with God or he with man. That’s a pagan thought. It’s not Christian. But I do mean that the intimacy and ecstasy of sexual relations points to what knowing God is meant to be.

The language of marriage and sex helps as a metaphor to understand God’s love. Since we could not understand God directly, God created metaphors in the world so that could understand God analogically. The metaphor helps to understand the original.

Taylor continues on with this theme of the absurdity of God’s love. The analogy of a King wedding a mite is insufficient. Christ’s love for me makes less sense than a king marrying an ant:

I am to Christ more base, than to a King
A mite, fly, worm, serpent, devil is,
Or can be, being tumbled all in sin,
And shall I be his spouse? How good is this?
It is too good to be declared to be thee.
But not too good to be believed by me.

Human sin makes a human being more unfitting of relation to God than does mud make a worm less fitting to an emperor. And yet this Good News (which is the meaning of Gospel) is not too good to be rejected

The heart of the Gospel is not going to heaven, it is being with God. We are not seeking a place but a friend and more than a friend.

In this stanza, Taylor hits upon the grace of God which first works upon us before we believe and love Him. The Spirit first speaks these words to us before we believe. As it reads in 1 John, we love Christ because he first loved us:

Yet to this wonder, this found in mee,
I am not only base but backward clay,
When Christ doth woo, and till his Spirit be
His spokesman to compel me I deny.
I am so base and forward to him, he
Appear as wonders wonder wedding me.

The poem ends with a prayer that Spirit work upon his heart to make him into the man who can be conformed and fitting to this call:

Seeing, Dear Lord, it’s thus, thy Spirit take
And send thy spokesman to my soul, I pray.
Thy saving grace my wedding garments make:
Thy spouses frame into my soul convey.
I then shall be thy bride espoused by thee
And thou my bridegroom dear espoused shalt be.

Marriage is the beginning and end of the Bible. In the Garden of Eden God performs the first marriage. The eschatological hope of the Church is the marriage party of the Lamb.

Rieff, The Triumph of the Therapeutic 2.2 (Therapy as Re-Education)


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The previous post on Rieff may be found here. 

Therapy as Re-Education

Rieff has a useful understanding of therapy in contrast religion (which in the case of Freud would be Christianity of Judaism) which Rieff refers to as “older moral pedagogies.” (45) The prior moral system required one “concentrating on the life of trying to order the warring parts of the personality into a hierarchy.” (45).

This ordering of one’s competing demands and impulses is done in accord with the requires of a “positive community” which promised “a kind of salvation” for such accord. (43).

Freud and therapy provide a completely different manner of understanding one’s self. Rather looking at the various “impulses” as a matter of good or bad, higher or lower, one should consider demands as “a jostling democracy of contending predispositions”. (46-47)

Freud realized that this new means of understanding the various “impulses” would result in a subversions of the expectations of life. In particular, the position of the “father” would be particularly subverted, because the position of father takes the position of maintaining of “repressive command”. (47).

Now it may be thought that Freud encourages immorality. But the understanding of the impulses as there does not necessarily result in the encouragement of acting on such impulses.  What Freud did do was seek to exhaust a sense of guilt built upon these moralities.

At this point, Reiff makes a rather self-contradicting argument. Freud’s analysis:

Help[s] us distinguish between guilt on one hand and a sense of guilt on the other, between responsibility for an offense committed and fantasies about offenses intended or merely imagined, seems a moral as a well as a therapeutic aim.

This argument seems to be that the older moral orders merely imposed a “fantasy” of moral order in exchange for a promise of salvation as contrasted one making a conscious decision based upon “responsibility.”  Upon what moral basis could one determine concern for “responsibility”?

There is not any rational basis for responsibility. You could say I would like to avoid whatever I might see as a negative consequence (like avoiding imprisonment) was rational – but seeing a connection between the consequence and the result does not determine whether I should not engage in the conduct. The decision to avoid the behavior to avoid the consequence is a moral decision. Granted it is a very limited morality (I want to avoid negative consequence), but it is still a moral decision.

If the negative consequence is less than imprisonment or death, than what do we mean by “responsibility”? Does he that I could care about what my behavior would do to another? That would be a moral decision.

The only sort of amoral decision would be one where I see the consequence and have not concern for the consequence.

Perhaps the concept is that I can decide whether I wish to abide by the moral code I see raised by my “impulse”. But one still must made a decision to be moral; that decision may have a very habitual basis, but it is not a reflex in the sense of blinking an eye.

Indeed the decision to forgo an “older moral paradigm” is itself a moral decision.

Freud may make one explicitly conscious of the moral decision. Freud also grants a certain sort of sanction to forgo moral decisions (this is an evil desire, it is just a desire – evil is what I have been taught to call this desire; but the desire is not in itself evil). All Freud has done lay the basis for a new morality where personal desire is necessarily good.

Thus, therapy is a matter of “re-education” into a new basis for morality.

Edward Taylor, Would God I in that Golden City Were.2


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May my rough voice and blunt tongue but spell

My tale (for tune they can’t) perhaps there may

Some angel catch an end of’t up and tell

In Heaven when he doth return that way

He’ll make thy palace, Lord, all over ring

With it in songs, thy saint and angels sing.

The poet cannot now come to heaven; for as Paul writes, flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God. And thus, he prays that perhaps his song spoken on earth might be heard by an angel and delivered to Heaven – and there it might be sung.

The idea that an angel might hear his song and deliver it to Heaven is a remarkable conceit, but that precise idea does not appear in the Bible. There are numerous instances of an angel speaking to a human being, but I can think of no instance in which an angel delivered an earthly message to heaven. It should be understood that the word “angel” means messenger.

The idea of speaking with a rough voice and a blunt tongue seems to be most related to two passages. First, when God calls Moses to speak to Pharaoh, Moses protests that he cannot deliver the message because he is a defective speaker:

Exodus 4:10 (AV)

 10 And Moses said unto the LORD, O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue.

The related passage which also may have informed Taylor’s poem comes from the book of Romans where Paul explains that the Holy Spirit corrects our prayers:

Romans 8:26–27 (AV)

 26 Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. 27 And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.

In the next stanza, Taylor continues with the theme of his inability. He then addresses the rank absurdity which lies at the heart of Christianity – if God is so great, so perfect, so holy, how could God also love us:


I know not how to speak’t, it is so good;

Shall Mortal and Immortal marry? Nay,

Man marry God? God be a match for mud?

This King of Glory wed a worm? Mere clay?

This is the case. The wonder too in bliss.

Thy maker is thy husband, hear’st thou this?

That marriage was given not merely for human comfort but ultimately as the basis for understanding the relationship between God and human beings is intrinsic to the Christian understanding of redemption. A parable by Kierkegaard can help open this idea:

Once upon a time, there was a prince who was single and very eager to marry a lovely maiden for his future queen. Near his palace was a large city, and often he rode his carriage down to the city to take care of various chores for his father. One day, to reach a particular merchant, he had to go through a rather poor section. He happened to glance out of the window and right into the eyes of a beautiful maiden.

He had occasion on the next few days to return to the section of the city–drawn as he was by the eyes of the maiden. And more than that, he had the good fortune once or twice actually to meet this young girl. Soon he began to feel that he was in love with her. But now he had a problem. How should he proceed to procure her hand?

Of course, he could order her to the palace and there propose marriage. But even a prince would like to feel that the girl he marries wants to marry him. Or perhaps, somewhat more graciously, he could arrive at her door in his most resplendent uniform and, with a bow, ask her hand. But even a prince wants to marry for love.

Again, he could masquerade as a peasant and try to gain her interest. After he proposed, he could pull off his ‘mask.’ Still, the masquerade would be ‘phony.’ He really could not manage it.

Finally a real solution presented itself to his mind. He would give up his kingly role and move into her neighborhood. There he would take up work as, say, a carpenter. During his work in the day and during his time off in the evening, he would get acquainted with the people, begin to share their interests and concerns, begin to talk their language. And in due time, should fortune be with him, he would make her acquaintance in a natural way. And should she come to love him, as he had already come to love her, then he would ask for her hand.

Or a passage from Thomas Watson:

Christ is full of love, as he is of merit. What was it but love, that he should save us, and not the angels? Among the rarities of the loadstone, this is not the least, that leaving the gold and pearl, it should draw iron to it, which is a baser kind of metal; so, that Christ should leave the angels, those more noble spirits, the gold and pearl, and draw mankind to him, how doth this proclaim his love? Love was the wing on which he did fly into the virgin’s womb. 1. How transcendent is Christ’s love to the saints! The apostle calls it a love ‘that passeth knowledge,’ Eph. 3:19. It is such a love as God the Father bears to Christ; the same for quality, though not equality, John 15:9. ‘As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you:’ A believer’s heart is the garden where Christ hath planted this sweet flower of his love. It is the channel thro’ which the golden stream of his affection runs. 2. How distinguishing is Christ’s love, 1 Cor. 1:26. ‘Not many wise, not many noble are called.’ In the old law God passed by the lion and the eagle, and took the dove for sacrifice; that God should pass by so many of birth and parts, and that the lot of free grace should fall upon thee; O the depth of divine grace! How invincible is the love of Christ! ‘It is strong as death,’ Cant. 8:6. Death might take away his life, not this love; and as death, so neither sin could wholly quench that divine flame of love; the church had her infirmities, her sleepy fits, Cant. 5:2 but though blacked and sullied, yet still a dove; Christ could see the faith, and wink at the failing.


Thomas Watson, “A Christian on the Mount, or a Treatise Concerning Meditation,” in Discourses on Important and Interesting Subjects, Being the Select Works of the Rev. Thomas Watson, vol. 1 (Edinburgh; Glasgow: Blackie, Fullarton, & Co.; A. Fullarton & Co., 1829), 212–213.

The picture of the love between God and humanity being symbolized as marriage is the backdrop for the book of Hosea. In Isaiah, the particular image of maker and husband is given:

Isaiah 54:4–5 (AV)

4 Fear not; for thou shalt not be ashamed: neither be thou confounded; for thou shalt not be put to shame: for thou shalt forget the shame of thy youth, and shalt not remember the reproach of thy widowhood any more. 5 For thy Maker is thine husband; the LORD of hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; The God of the whole earth shall he be called.

And in the letter to Ephesians, Paul makes plain this point:

Ephesians 5:30–33 (AV)

30 For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. 31 For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. 32 This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. 33 Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.




Edward Taylor, Would God I in that Golden City were.1 (Imposter syndrome)


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A meditation on Canticles 4:8

This poem begins with an unmistakable picture of the heavenly Jerusalem come down to earth. In the first stanza, the poet tells us that his soul would become “inflamed” if he were only to see that city filled with saints and angels.

To understand the function and bite of the poem, you must first know what Taylor alludes as he writes:

Revelation 21:9–27 (AV)

9 And there came unto me one of the seven angels which had the seven vials full of the seven last plagues, and talked with me, saying, Come hither, I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb’s wife. 10 And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, 11 Having the glory of God: and her light was like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal; 12 And had a wall great and high, and had twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and names written thereon, which arethe names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel: 13 On the east three gates; on the north three gates; on the south three gates; and on the west three gates. 14 And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. 15 And he that talked with me had a golden reed to measure the city, and the gates thereof, and the wall thereof. 16 And the city lieth foursquare, and the length is as large as the breadth: and he measured the city with the reed, twelve thousand furlongs. The length and the breadth and the height of it are equal. 17 And he measured the wall thereof, an hundred and forty and four cubits, according to the measure of a man, that is, of the angel. 18 And the building of the wall of it was of jasper: and the city was pure gold, like unto clear glass. 19 And the foundations of the wall of the city were garnished with all manner of precious stones. The first foundation was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, a chalcedony; the fourth, an emerald; 20 The fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolite; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, a topaz; the tenth, a chrysoprasus; the eleventh, a jacinth; the twelfth, an amethyst. 21 And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; every several gate was of one pearl: and the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass. 22 And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it. 23 And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof. 24 And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it. 25 And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there. 26 And they shall bring the glory and honour of the nations into it. 27 And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

It is a city of remarkable beauty. And unlike the Garden of Eden, the serpent (something which would “defile”) the whole cannot enter:


Would God I in that Golden City were

With jaspers walld, all garnish, and made swash,

With precious stones, whose gates are pearls most clear,

And street pure gold, like to transparent glass.

That my dull soul might inflamed to see

How saints and angels ravish are in glee.


If I could only see that joy, how it would overcome my soul. He then begins to imagine what he could do if he were present in the City. “His story” would be his testimony of Christ’s redemption. The poet is unworthy of entrance – and yet his entrance his story would be the greatness not of himself, but of Christ who would love someone like him (as we shall see as the poem progresses):

Were I but there, and could but tell my story

‘Twould rub those walls of precious stones more bright;

And glaze those gates of pearl with brighter glory,

And pave the golden street with greater light.

‘Twould in fresh raptures saints and angels fling.

But I poor snake crawl here, scare mudwalld in.

The bite is in that last line. The poet is the defiled thing which has no right to entrance.

As an aside to the poem, there is the concept of being an imposter. When placed in a position where one is thought well of, where one is given position or power, the person who stops to self-reflect knows himself to be a fraud.

This poem points at a theological basis for that sensation: It is the heart of the Christian religion that human beings are meant to be with God. To be in the image of God is the highest possible conception of a human being. And simultaneously, we understand ourselves to be ruined creatures.

This remarkable inconsistency in our self-understanding creates a tremendous conflict in our self-understanding. As Lewis writes in Prince Caspian:

“You come of the Lord Adam and the Lady Eve,” said Aslan. “And that is both honour enough to erect the head of the poorest beggar, and shame enough to bow the shoulders of the greatest emperor on earth. Be content.”

If only I were to come to heaven, what praise I could bring. But if I were to come to heaven, I would be the serpent in Paradise.

Different Strategies Work for Different Customers (Persuasion)



A study published in 2006 sought to examine the effectiveness of the Elaboration Likelihood Model (ELM) of persuasion to examine various artificial intelligence responses to online consumers.

The putative consumers were categorized into four groups. First, they were arranged by their “need for cognition.” Some people were determined to have a “high need for cognition”; some had a “low need.” Second, they were arranged in terms of their prior knowledge concerning the product.

The underlying premise was the two routes to decision making: central route, which is primarily cognition; and peripheral route, in which a purchaser puts more concern on emotional responses to the product or the salesperson.

These four groups of people were presented with two distinct sales interactions: One variant was the Product-Attribute-Relevant (PAR) sales pitch. This variant provided data about the product. In the experiment, they were selling cars. This would be quality, features, et cetera. A second variant  Product-Attribute-Irrelevant (PAI) strategy: this would be all of the “tricks” of the sales personnel. For example, “foot-in-the-door”:  This happens when you are presented with a small request by the seller. For example, when you call into a company and they ask you for your name and an alternative telephone number. If you have learned the persuasion categories made famous by Cialdini, then you know these non-cognitive techniques.

You have created this minor relationship status which creates some future willingness to concede further.

The results of the experiment were what one would expect.

For people with a “low need for cognition,” the increase in data did not effectively persuade them. Interpreted in light of the ELM model, that means that such people “do not have enough motivation or ability to process messages about product features.” Stated otherwise, they simply did not care. Not surprisingly, they sales-technique strategy was effective with these peripheral route processors.

Conversely, those who wanted cognition, wanted data.

But something interesting was observed: the sale-technique strategy (PAI) had about the same effectiveness on high-and-low-need-for-cognition purchasers. In line with the ELM theory, the non-cognitive techniques are easiest to process and thus everyone processed such information.

Another interesting result concerned the degree of change among various purchasers. The PAR strategy had a greater effect upon the high-need-for cognition or prior knowledge purchasers, than did the PAI strategy on the low-need-for-cognition or no-prior knowledge purchasers.

But what does one do with these results? How does a sales-agent determine the need-for-cognition of a customer quickly and without arousing suspicion that this a sales-technique?

A second experiment concerned bargaining procedure. This experiment used two bargaining techniques a tough attitude (start high, give small concession) or a moderate strategy. The purchasers had either a low or degree of prior knowledge as to what the ending price should be.

For purchasers who had little prior knowledge, the tough strategy was most effective and it did not produce a negative attitude in the purchaser. However, for the purchaser with a high degree of knowledge, the tough strategy did produce a negative attitude in the purchaser and was not more successful than the moderate strategy.


Huang Shiu-li, Lin Fu-ren, and Yuan Yufei, “Understanding Agent-Based On-Line Persuasion and Bargaining Strategies: An Empirical Study,” International Journal of Electronic Commerce 11, no. 1 (Fall 2006

Risk and Politics



Just a thought about risks and costs and politics. It was known that a plague was always going to happen. Such things are unavoidable. Globalization made a rapid dissemination of a disease easy and cheap. But the costs of preparation are great and they have to be paid before the risks exists. Second, there is a tendency for things to never become as bad as they could. And no one wants to looked panicked and over-react. Preppers are roundly mocked for being, well, prepared.

But after the bad thing happens, the people who are injured can all complain about the lack of preparation.

If you’re politician, it makes sense to not prepare. (I’m not saying that it is wise, good, or morally acceptable; only that it makes sense if you’re a politician.)

If you prepare now for a future problem, you are spending current money on a currently non-existent problem. The problem may or may not come to pass in X years. The politician will probably be retired in X-1 years. Therefore, not preparing won’t hurt me.

In the present crisis, very few people are complaining about prior governors or presidents or mayors who failed to prepare. The complaints are directed to the current politicians, who are like the last child standing in musical chairs.

To illustrate this point further, consider this:  The earth’s magnetic field is weakening. The magnetic poles may shift. When this shift takes place, it will cause enormous damage to our economy. People will die. It will cause problems quite beyond the current virus.

There are things which can be done to protect against this event. However, those actions will be extraordinarily expensive.

Since no one knows when the poles will shift, no one knows if the end of the world is close or a 1,000-years away. Thus, this real and unimaginably bad event is not being planned for right now. No country is undertaking the expense to protect against it, because it would be politically impossible to undertake the expense.

Or consider the San Andreas fault in California. There will be a massive earthquake some day — any day. In fact, in California we are constantly living under the threat that at any minute my house might collapse and the infrastructure be torn to pieces. Yet, how many people undertake the minimal steps to prepare?

People get ready every now and then – and then we forget where we put the extra water and our stored can goods go bad. It’s hard to keep up the intensity for some unspecified future event.

It is almost as if we live as if we would live forever.

Kuyper on Common Grace 1.13 All life is grace.



In chapter 13, Kuyper begins to specifically develop the doctrine of common grace. He notes that while the operation of common grace changed in the post-flood world, the fact of such grace – grace to preserve life rather than redeem from sin – was not new with Noah. He places the advent of such grace with the startling fact from Genesis 3 that Adam did not immediately die upon committing the transgression.

Kuyper then draws this conclusion, “If common grace is the means whereby Adam’s presence on this earth was unexpectedly extended, then it follows that your own life, your birth, your existence as a human being arises not merely from creation, but is an act that is rooted in grace.” (113). Kuyper puts this observation most plainly in the context of Adam’s continued existence, but the proposition holds true for all persons. Our existence, today, is the result of common grace, for all are under the sentence of death.

This seems perhaps more plainly true when the idea of death is so patently on the minds of all. A politician was giving himself and his efforts great credit for what was claimed to be a reduction in death. This unnamed politician (and perhaps not one you suspected), claimed this was not God, it was our work.

Yes, there are secondary causes. And yes humans have real agency. But, our continued existence while we live under a curse is purely a matter of grace.

Distinctions and Similarities Among Positive Emotions


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Distinctions and Similarities Among Positive Emotions

A study published in 2013 (Belinda Campos et al., “What Is Shared, What Is Different? Core Relational Themes and Expressive Displays of Eight Positive Emotions,” Cognition and Emotion 27, no. 1 (2013): 37-52) sought to determine which aspects of eight positive emotions (amusement, awe, contentment, gratitude, interest, joy, love, and pride).

There were actually two separate studies. The first study asked the undergraduates (for course credit) to describe one of the eight positive emotions

in a short narrative. The students were also given a series of prompt questions. The information was then encoded for content. The goal was to determine what aspects of these various positive emotions remained common among all the eight, and which aspects differed.

They found things such as love and gratitude tended to go together. That positive emotions came more readily when one experienced safety or reward. Contentment was the least distinct.

Those who described awe also correlated this with the feeling of smallness, which was a trait not shared with other positive emotions. Although not part of the study, I imagine that “smallness” is likely associated also with certain negative emotions, because a feeling of vulnerability could lead on to feel unsafe.

A second study sought to correlate facial expressions with positive emotions.  It was already understood that negative emotions presented significant distinct elements. The question for the researchers was whether positive emotions would display unique elements.

I especially appreciated the quite formal description of a smile:

The Duchenne smile, which involves the simultaneous lifting of the lip corners and contractions of the orbicularis oculi muscles around the eyes, is regarded as the key marker of ‘happiness,’ the global term for displayed positive emotions.

While I appreciate the need for exactitude when discussing a subject, I did have to smile in response to this description of smiling while happy.

What was discovered was that most positive emotions were coupled with common facial displays, except for gratitude.

In the end, positive emotions are not an undifferentiated blog, but rather there are distinct elements of the emotions. Some emotions have a relationship to other positive emotions; some do not. Emotions – at least among the undergraduates studied – tend to show distinct physical expression.

The study leaves one the extent to which these findings apply to anyone beyond undergraduates at American universities.