Kiln blog: Not a Replacement

Teaser…

We do not support Replacement Theology.

The Covenant of Moses was unique, a singular example of God choosing one nation as His sole representatives on earth. Their mission was to exhibit His revelation, to breathe life into it by living it. The covenant came with promises that were an extension of Noah’s Covenant, but added in a special status that granted them the best and most direct revelation of God and His ways. This covenant was restricted to this one nation….

You can read the rest of this message by clicking this link to Kiln of the Soul blog.

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Closer to Iran than Bellicose America

In logic, we call it a “category error” when someone tries for to force something into the wrong category of logic. It’s one thing to cling tenaciously to Aristotelian denials of other realms of existence; it’s another thing to try forcing belief in God into Aristotelian logic. The fundamental nature of faith is a denial of Aristotle. You cannot reason about God and get anything useful from it. God is not subject to Aristotle’s logical boundaries; everything about revelation denies those boundaries.

So a Western approach to an Eastern society will inevitably fail. Once again, I have to admire a philosophical discussion by a Muslim scholar. The writer notes that you cannot understand a covenant community as a civil society. If you apply the ideals of the Enlightenment to an Islamic nation, you simply will not have a clue. The internal consistency of the covenant community will escape you; you will not have the equipment necessary to discern the pattern.

In a world where the universe is believed to be created (and didn’t “just happen”) and the warps and woofs of whose fabric are utterly moral in their composition, and in a world whose creation is a program upon whose stage mankind is positioned front and center, and in which God is intimately involved by way of his comprehensive providential administration in the affairs of man and in the affairs of the world, the meaning and compass of religion are going to be very different and far more expansive than the conception of religion in a society whose citizens either do not believe in God, or believe that “religion” is a private affair and is best kept out of the public arena.

It’s a long and scholarly article, full of heart-led wisdom. We don’t have to accept the particular conclusions, but we must respect how he got them. In that article, the concept of covenant community is very similar to what we proclaim here. The claims of Islam cannot be evaluated by logic any more than could the claims of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Logic cannot take you there. Either you will be drawn by faith or repelled by the impossible demands. If your belief stands on logic, it will not outlive your flesh.

Our primary difference with that article, by the way, is that we devolve the authority to decide what is and isn’t the will of God to a much lower level. We find that the apparent necessity of governing large numbers of people spread over large areas should be far more cautious about seizing too much detailed control, but should strive to reflect the consensus of many lower levels of authority. We do not believe a covenant can stretch that far in full detail.

So it’s not as if I suggest we idolize Iran’s current government; we should understand the genuine moral differences between an empire that is essentially secular and bellicose versus a religious government that is considerably closer to Biblical Law.

Addenda: In response to an offline question — Islam as a religion and Islam as a lifestyle are two different things. But they are synergistic; if you attack Islamic countries, you breathe life and power into their religion. If you leave them alone to fail in God’s good time, Islam dies with the lifestyle. It may never go away, but there would be no Islamic terror if it weren’t for the CIA and friends creating it, fostering it, and trying to use it for their own ends. It is 100% the child of Western imperialism.

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The Fixer 08

They knew that police protection was out of the question; Tim wasn’t a VIP.

Things had really changed in urban areas like the one flung out around the seat of government. Before the introduction of energy weapons, police departments had placed surveillance cameras and a mixture of wide-angle and directional microphones all over the place. Firing a regular projectile weapon guaranteed you would be traced and arrested sooner or later. Even silenced small caliber handguns created a shockwave the mics picked up. For a time, murdering thugs were restricted to quieter weapons. But then again, simply beating someone was easier because it was hard for the devices to distinguish actual violence from standard boisterous behavior that had become socially common these days.

Pulse weapons were silent, but cumbersome at first, and very tightly controlled. For once, crooks struggled to get their hands on something dangerous as the technology was impossible to get, so bootlegging was out of the question. Once a few of the earliest model weapons became available on the black market, they were obscenely expensive on the order of small passenger aircraft, so common thugs were left out. By that time, the underworld had gotten used to employing a mixture of other methods that were much riskier than using firearms, in the sense that victims might have a chance to fight back. Casual slaughter eased off for a while.

Tim and Ned agreed that it was just a matter of time before pulse technology escaped into the world at large. For now, they took advantage of the situation and planned their security arrangements accordingly. They plundered the recent criminal databases accessible to them legitimately; the city was less prickly about it than the state. Ned had AI offer a list of the most probable threat scenarios, along with any known successful defenses. This became the basis for drills that took up a major portion of their workouts. At this point, Ned’s informal bodyguard role became more pronounced.

All the while, he kept his new “cellphone” with him, either on his person or with the camera watching their workouts. One of the most interesting new features was the one they had included for Franklin’s device. The field sensor would scan the user’s whole body and establish a baseline condition. While a full medical scan was still way beyond AI’s capacity, they were able to program the sensor to detect injuries — type, location and severity. Ned tested this detecting ordinary bruises and strains during training. While he couldn’t pin it down just yet, something told him this would make a world of difference somewhere down the road.

And then his hacker friends passed along a purloined toxicology database. Ned didn’t ask questions; he just started AI working on it immediately. He got the impression it was a substantial task, but hoped it would yield scanning for common poisons, either nearby or — God forbid — having been slipped into his body. He extended the protection for Tim when he was within range. Tim had to avoid carrying gadgets like that, since he spent too much time coming and going in the senate offices. Their security was downright excessive and not mere theater.

Ned’s decision was highly fortuitous. They stopped for lunch at one of their favorite cafes and Tim asked for coffee and a menu. Ned had never learned to tolerate coffee and sipped at the usual glass of water. Holding the menu, Tim reached absently for his cup. Ned glanced over the top of his glass and spoke quietly.

“Tim, I recommend you don’t actually drink the coffee. Maybe pretend you got a call or something and then leave this place.”

Tim let his hand rest on the edge of the table. Still perusing the menu, he replied in the same quiet tone, “Are you serious?”

“Drop some money and the table and walk out. Your coffee is poisoned.”

Tim jerked his hand back and reached into his pocket, dropping the menu in front of him. He gazed at his government-issued cell phone, then rose still looking at it. He put it away, fished a few bills out of his pocket and motioned Ned to follow him.

Outside on the street, they walked a few meters before Tim turned his head to address Ned who was on his left and one step behind. “Was it really that bad?”

Ned pulled out his super cell phone and showed Tim the display. It said something about an obscure toxin that would have been tasteless in bitter liquids like coffee. He looked up and Ned pulled it back. As they continued walking Tim spoke without turning.

“Ned, can you cook?”

It was Tim’s deadpan humor. Since they were still hungry, Tim strode up a couple more blocks to a random sidewalk food cart and they grabbed something without a peep from Ned’s device. They moved off to the side in a small open spot where other folks were chatting or poking at their various cell phones. Facing away from most the crowd, Tim said quietly between mouthfuls, “So it begins. Your earplug came in handy.”

“Yeah,” Ned replied. “And I can still hear ambient sounds through it. Neat design.”

Tim winked. “Here’s hoping they don’t know we know. Crap like that can make you paranoid.”

“And we weren’t already? Looks like it was justified.” Ned was pretending to watch someone busking with a guitar a few meters down the sidewalk.

Tim followed his gaze. “I doubt there’s any way you could check on that cafe and find out how that happened. Let’s try to keep up our normal routine, as well as the guarded watch for the next trick. Provided we manage to keep evading, sooner or later they’re gonna try something that will leave evidence one of us can trace back to a culprit.”

Ned glanced around. “Agreed. Even if we never really unmask the big bad guys behind this, it’s almost fun to frustrate them. It’s like taunting them by refusing to hide out or make other significant changes to our routine. You still got work to do. And necessity is the mother of all kinds of brilliant new ideas, so I can’t wait to see what comes from our game of cat-n-mouse. Our technical advantage is worth a fortune on the market.”

Tim grinned. “Shhhh. That’s how my lab stays afloat, so don’t go behind them selling ideas like that. It’s bad enough your hacker buds know so much.”

Ned knew he was just kidding. The hackers were the source of most of the lab’s custom hardware designs. In return for churning out the prototypes for the hackers to test new ideas, the patents were licensed back to the lab free of charge. AI buzzed in his ear to remind him of Tim’s next appointment. “Back to work, Boss.”

They turned and headed toward the cluster of government buildings near the center of the city.

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Kiln blog: DIY Everything

Teaser…

The do-it-yourself ethic is one of our doctrines here at Kiln of the Soul.

You could consider me a whistleblower against the established religious institutions of America. I’ve worked on the inside and I’m telling you that I believe there’s a whole lot of fraud going on inside those organizations. Not mere criminal fraud, but I see it as fraud against faith itself. So taking my professional training as a clergyman, I’m giving you the inside scoop. It’s not like the government is going to do anything about it, but I’m taking this to the court of individual faith believers. This is my specialty and I’m showing you that much of my expertise is not needed to do religion. It’s primary usefulness is shooting holes in the existing mainstream system. I don’t attack faith by any means; I promote it. And I don’t attack religion, but I attack the notion that you can’t do it for yourself.

For years I’ve been teaching folks how to do individual religion, and I’ve also taught folks how to do house-church. Granted, your household has to cooperate on some level, but there’s no reason you can’t find your own path individually if you find yourself alone. Further, I’ve tried to create a virtual parish atmosphere for those who find themselves isolated. A virtual fellowship is no substitute, but it will reduce the impact and help carry you through until God brings us to a place where our way of faith and religion attracts more people….

You can read the rest of this message here at Kiln of the Soul blog, our parish pulpit.

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The Fixer 07

In the last exchange between Ned and Franklin before sending the souped up cell phone, there was a warning. It fit right into the game dialog.

“You know that this makes you a party to espionage, Franklin. Somehow you poked a hornet’s nest without knowing it. They came after you because you were the most effective one. They will try again, though it may be awhile. On our end, we’ve knocked that nest down and they’ll be after us first. We are already hard targets, so we just want to share our defenses with you.”

Franklin thought for a moment, then typed a response into the game. “Bring it on. I feel like I’m in a first-person shooter. I’m supposed to be dead, but I redeemed my last extra life. Now I’m playing on borrowed time, so let’s see what the game throws at us next. If my character gets killed in this game, it’s only the start of Real Life.”

Upon reading that, Ned muttered to himself, “Amen, Brother. Amen.”

He and Tim had talked about it often enough, that sooner or later they were going to face genuine threats on their lives. It had been pretty tame until now. But someone who blew off several thousand on a single hit wasn’t working alone, and four insignificant patsies in jail because of Tim’s work meant nothing more than an inconvenience. AI insisted that the real culprit remained in the shadows for now.

And Ned had learned to trust the AI.

Back when Ned joined the Shepherd’s Household, something inside of him realized that hacking for entertainment and profit wasn’t the right direction. He began spending more time thinking about what made it all worthwhile. The one thing that mattered most for him was that sense of tribal trust and loyalty. So in order to protect his buddies from themselves, he gradually became somewhat the conscience of the group. At the same time, he began taking more physical risks to reduce their need for taking moral risks by hacking into the same stuff that young hackers everywhere were doing.

Along that path, they didn’t just learn exploits, but analyzed how exploits were found. They learned what made software difficult to crack. And instead of coding their own debuggers like everyone else, they started on a more ambitious project of writing code reviewer software. Before long they were using software to rewrite and improve other software. Ned convinced them that all the standard work in AI was a dead end. Instead of teaching computers to “learn” and wasting vast resources that had, after such a long time gotten nowhere, a more likely goal was simply teaching a computer to fix its own code.

But it was not according to some hacker’s elegance ethic, but to make code that served the user better. What good was elegant code that no one used? Conventional AI carried the risk of rising up against its creators. Over the years as the membership and projects of the hacking group morphed, Ned had eventually gotten an operating system that continually developed into a more and more helpful servant. Not just debug, not just design, but extrapolate from previous usage and learn to anticipate the user’s needs. Ned had long ago stopped trying to write code and became simply a director for a self-perpetuating system. The core had rewritten itself several times, and the code environment more often than that. At this point no human could have read any of it, since the AI churned out pure binary machine language.

Thus, the group of friends he supported directly, and that Tim funded, had eventually gotten more and more hardware oriented. It was too easy to let AI write the software to make this hardware do the most fascinating things.

Ned decided that it was time to retire his two-year-old tablet. He challenged is friends to cram all the tablet’s feature and more into a cell phone for him. He also had them design an earplug that he could wear almost full-time, to keep his hands free for an uncertain and risk-laden future. In essence, he wanted AI to read his subvocalized input, respond with a nice female voice through the earplug, and display visual data when needed. Like Franklin, he had too little time for a human girlfriend, and right now someone like that would be a vulnerability he didn’t need. Safer for the women of the world if he left them alone.

Time to work on his combat skills.

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Admin: YouTube Channel Is Up

Okay, so we now have a parish YouTube channel. Today I stopped a few places and tried to record a couple of short worship songs. Instead of pulling in a direct link, I’ll let you visit the pages themselves. Those first two songs require a little explanation. Production will improve as I get used to doing this stuff.

The channel link
Worship Anywhere 01
Worship Anywhere 02

The trick was to find places sheltered from the stiff breezes blowing, where ambient noise wasn’t too loud, and where I could more or less face into the sun. As the video’s note: DIY in all its glory.

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The Fixer 06

A few days later, and thousands of miles away, the chief of the crawler team was thoroughly surprised when a military vehicle belonging to a small European nation pulled up in front the small cluster of buildings the team had occupied. It was barely daylight.

In his oddly inflected English, the driver leaned out the window. “You got a Franklin here?”

The chief approached the van nodding. The driver handed him a small package. A quick look at the address and he glanced back at driver. “You found him; he’s here.” The chief pointed as Franklin emerged from one of the buildings.

“Thanks,” the driver said as he smiled and pulled away.

Franklin had been expecting it. Rather, he had been expecting something, but with all the description he was given by his new friend, Ned, he wasn’t sure he even understood it all. But Ned had assured him the thing was smart enough to be useful, almost like a human assistant. Franklin hadn’t bothered to bring his own cell phone out on this job, but relished the idea of having someone else to talk to, even if it was the phone itself.

It was still early and the techs were already busy working on the crawlers. The last one was just returning from patrol. Franklin decided to delay his climb up to the nest for just a few moments. He unwrapped the package, looking it over. He noted the solar power patch on the back and sat the device in the included cradle, facing him. For a moment he simply stared at it. “So, you come with advanced AI. What should I call you?”

The screen came to life, displaying clear sharp text. It was just the right amount of glow to be visible inside the tent. You can call me Bess.

Franklin’s eyes widened in surprise. It was already active.

I will awaken to your voice or your touch on my face. Just give me some sunlight every day and I’ll be fine.

“Just like having a girlfriend,” he muttered. “But apparently low maintenance.”

And I’m yours alone.

Franklin laughed and stuffed the thing in his pocket. Up in his nest, he pulled it out again. In his mind he reviewed what Ned had written to him. The thing had multiple sensors and could talk to any electronic device based on mere physical proximity. “Can you talk to my rifle and sensor?”

Linked. I’ve recalibrated both pulse dischargers. One of the satellites is reporting inconsistent data; I’ve notified tech support. There are three surveillance drones in range. There are no apparent human threats at this time, neither from rebels nor allies. However, the autumn storms should begin within 48 hours.

Franklin dropped his chin against his chest, eyes closed, and chuckled through his nose. Then he looked up at his tactical sensor. “Whaddaya think of our new friend?”

This time the device spoke in a tiny audible feminine voice. “Do wish me to take over aiming for the tactical sensor? There is no means to upgrade the firmware.”

So when his eyes were averted, the sensor could still get his attention through Bess. That was handy. “Sure, do that. It might make this job boring as hell, but your company makes up for it.”

Gazing across the terrain again, he realized that for once, he felt like he could afford to think about how he actually enjoyed being out here in the rugged landscape. It was quite lovely when you weren’t distracted by the heavy burden of looking out for trouble. He knew the tactical sharpness was still there, but it wasn’t necessary to push everything out of his mind for it. Would this device lull him into a false sense of security?

Only time would tell.

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