That's Judsonia

W. E. Orr published "That's Judsonia" in 1957. Some 600 to 700 copies were printed. My grandmother gave a copy to my dad in 1958. He was around 35 years old; I was around 3. Tucked inside the book are three yellowed newspaper clippings. One identifies the newspaper and date from which it was taken; one has my dad's handwritten annotation that it was from September 1977; one is undated. I believe that all three came from the White County Record.

The first is a picture of a steamboat on the Little Red River [click picture for a larger version].


Jimmy Gill, and his brother W. W. "Doc" Gill lived across the street from my grandmother's house. Jimmy framed pictures, Doc was a dentist. One summer, very long ago, my dad and I were outside the house when Doc — a very old man at the time — came shuffling up the sidewalk. Dad asked, "Why don't you let Doc look at your loose tooth?" Of course I didn't want him too. But dad and Doc convinced me to open my mouth and, before I could react, Doc snaked his gnarly old forefinger into my mouth and the tooth was out. That should have been the beginning of a deep-seated mistrust of doctors, but my dad and Doc knew what they were doing. The tooth was out and the extraction didn't hurt. But how times have changed. Today an ungloved hand wouldn't go near a patients mouth.

second article features Orr's reflections on his book. The third article recounts a Yankee gunboat on the Red River during the war of Northern aggression. The links go to digitized versions of the articles; the page titles link to the scan of the article.


The Inner Mind

Philosophy of mind has the problem of "mental privacy" or "the problem of first-person perspective." It's a problem because philosophers can't account for how the first person view of consciousness might be possible. The answer has been known for the last 100 years or so and has a very simple physical explanation. We know how to build a system that has a private first person experience.

Let us use two distinguishable physical objects:


These shapes of these objects are arbitrary and were chosen so as not to represent something that might have meaning due to familiarity. While they have rotational symmetry, this is for convenience for something that is not related to the problem of mental privacy.

Next, let us build a physical device that takes two of these objects as input and selects one for output. Parenthesis will be used to group the inputs and an arrow will terminate with the selected output. The device will operate according to these four rules:


A network of these devices can be built such that the output of one device can be used as input to another device.

It is physically impossible to tell whether this device is acting as a NAND gate or as a NOR gate. We are taught that a NAND gate maps (T T)
F, (T F)→T, (F T)→T, and (F F)→T; (1 1)→0, (1 0)→1, (0 1)→1, (0 0)→0 and that a NOR gate maps (T T)→F, (T F)→F, (F T)→F, (F F)→T; (1 1)→0, (1 0)→0, (0 1)→0, (0 0)→1. But these traditional mappings obscure the fact that the symbols are arbitrary. The only thing that matters is the behavior of the symbols in a device and the network constructed from the devices. Because you cannot tell via external inspection what the device is doing you cannot tell via external inspection what the network of devices is doing. All an external observer sees is the passage of arbitrary objects through a network.1

But NAND and NOR gates are universal logic gates which can be used to construct a "universal" computing device.

So we can construct a device which can respond to the question "what logic gate was used in your construction?"

Depending on how it was constructed, its response might be:

  1. "I am made of NAND gates."
  2. "I am made of NOR gates."
  3. "I am made of NAND and NOR gates. My designer wasn't consistent throughout."
  4. "I don't know."
  5. "What's a logic gate?"
  6. "For the answer, deposit 500 bitcoin in my wallet."
All an external observer has to go on is what the device communicates to that observer, whether by speech or some other behavior.

[1] Technology has advanced to the point where brain signals can be interpreted by machine, e.g.
here. But this is because these machines are trained by matching a person's speech to the corresponding brain signals. Without this training step, the device wouldn't work. Because our brains are similar, it's likely possible that a speaking person could train such a machine for a non-vocal person.
[2] I put universal in quotes because a universal Turing machine requires infinite memory and this would require an infinite number of gates. Our brains don't have an infinite number of neurons.



The essence of Christianity is not doctrine any more than the essence of physics
is the formulas. Christianity is, first and foremost, hearing the music of heaven and
being so enthralled that you can't help but join in the dance.

-- wrf3

You can go from experience to reason about the experience.
But you cannot go from reason to experience.
No philosophical argument ever made anyone see the beauty
in a sunrise, taste the crispness of an apple, or cause a

So it is with God.

-- wrf3

The first quote was born after my morning walk/run while drying off afterward. I still had my AirPods in when a certain song by Fall Out Boy so captured my imagination that I started dancing in front of the mirror. It wasn't a pretty sight by any stretch of the imagination, but the Spirit blows where it will.

The second follows from the first, especially after reading "
Apologetics Beyond Reason" by James. W. Sire, which greatly - and far more ably - expresses this than I ever could.

A Review of "Vital Grace"

When Dr. Wood told me that he had another book out, I replied that I would be interested in reading it when it was available as an e-book. This conversation continued for several months until, finally, he gave me printed copy. Both Tom and I think that the content of the messages coming from most pulpits in America is a far cry from what the Bible actually says about the authentic Christian life. Vital Grace is his attempt to introduce a course change. He faces an almost impossible task, because the authentic Christian life is ineffable, counter-intuitive, and unexpected. How does one express the ineffable? Even Jesus would only say, "The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8)

Tom gets many things right. I told him on Sunday that I think that our church should make a class available with this book as the text. Having said that, now I'm going to "knife the baby" (not really. It's more of a deep exfoliation). Knowing me as he does, he expects no less because the purpose of a critical review is to make the next edition of the book even better.

A Diplomatic Review of "A Boisterous Polemic"

[Updated 5/8/2023, see footnote 3]

For whom did Christ die? A "5-point" Calvinist will answer, "for the elect only". A "4-point" or "moderate" Calvinist will answer "for everyone, but especially for the elect." "
A Boisterously Reformed Polemic Against Limited Atonement", by Austin C. Brown, looks at the evidence for each answer and comes down on the side of the moderate Calvinist.

For the sake of brevity, I will use "5P" and "4P" to refer to the respective five point and four point positions.

My first observation, which should not be controversial, is that there is a typo in the Kindle version on page 190/191: "This happened to me twice. Once during the examination process
to be become a deacon in the RPCNA and during my examination...". My remaining observations, save the penultimate, will be in areas where I think Brown could present a stronger argument. The next to last observation will be in the way of personal application.