Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Historiography, Primary Source Material, and Norman Geisler

I love history.

I’ve always loved history. It fascinates me to discover what has happened in the past. In addition to my studies to prepare for Sundays, I’m often reading, for recreation and my own personal satisfaction, some sort of history.

But have you ever stopped and wondered just how we know what has happened in the past? I mean, how do we really know?

It is often said that, “History is written by the winners,” implying that all historical sources contain biased materials. This is true of many sources, but by no means all. Historians have, over the years, developed methodology and criteria for weighing source materials in their efforts to uncover the events of the past. This methodology and criteria is called Historiography.

Webster’s defines historiography as “the writing of history; especially: the writing of history based on the critical examination of sources, the selection of particulars from the authentic materials, and the synthesis of particulars into a narrative that will stand the test of critical methods.” Very basically, historiography encompasses the examination and evaluation of historical source material to determine it’s trustworthiness and usefulness in constructing the historical narrative.

Most people think of history as the study of the past, and, in a general sense, that is correct. But, more specifically, history is the study of the written records of the past. This is why times before written records are called “prehistoric.” The earliest records we have are clay tablets and inscriptions in stones. These are nice because they tend to last for a long time. For later periods, historians have records on papyrus, parchment and paper. For more modern historical periods, the types of records also extend to photographs, motion pictures, audio & video recordings, and electronic records of all types.

Archaeologists can tell you that a house once stood somewhere. They can tell you how big it was and how it was built. They might even be able to tell you what kind of food was cooked on the hearth. But archaeology isn’t able to tell you who lived in the house, what their names were, or why they even lived there in the first place. Written records, if they can be found, can tell you all of these things and more. Archaeology can help color in the picture that history draws, but archaeology isn’t history, and our knowledge of prehistory, while helpful and interesting, is, at best, very sketchy.

(Yes, I know that archaeologists find written records, but learning about what happened in the past from written records in history not archaeology, even if it is done by an archaeologist. A brain surgeon might fix your car, but that doesn’t make auto repair brain surgery. But I digress.)

I find all history fascinating, but my particular interests lie in ancient and mediaeval history. And, the further you go back in time, the less and less sure you can be of all the details. Also, the further back in time you go the more and more the records you have are restricted to “important” things like kings and kingdoms and generals and battles and wars. Prior to the invention of the printing press in the 1400’s, all books and such had to be hand written, and so were rare and expensive. Also, nobody thought it was very important to record what Joe the Blacksmith did on a Tuesday afternoon in a small village in England in 1242. But people did record what the kings and queens and lords and ladies were doing. Especially important events like wars and plagues and the like.

Similar to a detective pouring over evidence and witness statements while trying to solve a crime, it is the job of the historian to pour through written records of historical events and try to construct a picture of what happened. Historiography is the science and methodology that they use to try to decide which records are trustworthy, which are not trustworthy, and just how much any of the records can be trusted, anyway. Basically, the historian asks, “Who says?” and “How does he know?”

“Who says?”

The historian must ask, “Who wrote this? Why was it written? What, if any, axe does the writer have to grind here?” A book written about Adolf Hitler by a Nazi officer may have some good information in it, but it is also going to have a different point of view then a book about Adolf Hitler by a survivor of Auschwitz. (Granted, those are two extremes, but you get the idea.)

“How does he know?”

The other thing the historian must do is determine what type of source he has to work with. Was the person in a position to know what really happened? Historians divided sources up into 3 categories based upon how far the records are from the historical events recorded: Primary Sources, Secondary Sources, and Tertiary Sources.

A primary source is written by someone who was in a position to know personally what happened. A primary source is eye-witness material, written by someone who was there when it happened. One of the things that made Ken Burns’ The Civil War so compelling was all the letters from actual soldiers that are read as part of the narration of the film. Those letters are what a historian would call primary source material. (Also, the photographs taken during the Civil War that were used in the film are also primary sources.)

A secondary source is a written record that has been compiled from primary sources. Historians look at all the primary records of an event or historical period and put them together into a more or less complete picture. A newspaper article or a police report based on witness interviews are examples of secondary sources. If you’ve ever been involved in something that made the newspaper, you probably have some idea of the unreliability of secondary sources.

A tertiary source is a written record that has been compiled from multiple secondary sources. Many popular histories fall into this category, where the author pulls material out of other history books and weaves together his narrative. Such works can be helpful, and are often enjoyable to read, but they are the least consistently reliable as far as historical accuracy is concerned. Generally, tertiary sources are to be avoided for serious research purposes.

One thing that is repeatedly pounded into history students in Introduction to Historiography class is the importance of primary sources to historical accuracy. The closer a source is to the events recorded, the more weight you can put on that sources’ account of those events. History books are written by people who have already done the research and reached their own conclusions. Their books are written to present the conclusions of the authors. History books are helpful, certainly, but the more important knowledge of history is to you, the more you want to rely of primary source documentation.

When you start taking college-level history courses, you don’t get as many of the nice, pre-packaged history books like you got in elementary and high schools. Instead, you often get stacks of narratives and accounts of events from people who were there. You are not reading the words written by some historical researcher, you are the historical researcher, reading the words of the people who lived and breathed the time, place, and happenings that you are studying. If you want to know what really happened, you need to go to the source materials yourself.

That is why I compiled The Caner File, so that interested parties could see and hear the claims that Ergun Caner had made and examine the primary source documents that refuted those claims. I studied history at the University of Montana back in the early 1990’s, and I learned that research that relied mainly on primary sources was the most reliable. History was my major, and, while I did not graduate, (for several reasons, chiefly financial,) I’d like to think that I did learn something useful.

Historiography, Primary Source Material, & Norman Geisler

Why am I bringing all this up? Because I read several things yesterday that I find very troubling.

About 10 or 11 o’clock yesterday morning, I was directed to the following statement posted on Norman Geisler’s Facebook page. Dr. Geisler is a well known Christian author, speaker, and teacher. He is the president of Veritas Theological Seminary. He wrote on his Facebook wall:

An extensive independent investigation has exonerated Dr. Ergun Caner of all the false charges made against him by extreme Muslims and others and has been retained as a Professor at Liberty University. In spite of a few misstatements (which we all make and he has corrected), nothing has diminished his testimony and orthodoxy as one of the great Christian voices of our time. I totally support him.

Dr. Geisler’s statement is troubling to me. Here he is, one of the leading Evidentialist apologists in the world, and he does not deal with any of the evidence. He does not say that he has examined the evidence himself, nor does he give his criteria for why he has rejected it. This is really a problem for an evidentialist, isn’t it?

Then, last evening, I read a twitter exchange between a presuppositional apologist & blogger, Joshua Whipps, known as “RazorsKiss,” and Dr. Leo Percer, a professor at Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary & Director of their PhD program in Theology and Apologetics. They were discussing Dr. Caner’s removal as President and Dean of LBTS, and Liberty’s statement about it. I’m not going to reconstruct the whole conversation, but, at one point, RazorsKiss tweeted to Dr Percer, “@leopercer You do understand that there is evidence to look to, and has been for months, correct? You have examined it?” To which, Dr. Percer replied, “@RazorsKiss I haven't seen it, I said I don't know.”

Again, we see an intelligent and educated man, a professor of apologetics, who has not even examined the evidence for himself. Dr. Percer has been a vocal defender of Dr. Caner’s ever since the allegations of lying became public and Liberty University announced their investigation. It seems, by his own admission, that he has never bothering to check the sources for himself.

Also troubling is this statement, released a couple of weeks ago, by popular apologist John Ankerberg on his website:

To Whom It May Concern:

I have known Ergun Caner for nearly a decade. I am disheartened by the recent attacks upon his integrity and character. I have interviewed Ergun for more than a dozen television shows and believe his personal testimony to be completely true. Otherwise, I would not have allowed him to broadcast his story to the millions of viewers that tune in to my program across the globe. Ergun and his brother, Emir, are men of God who have taken a valiant stand for the Lord, even costing them and their families their safety. For someone to attack Ergun’s selfless sacrifice, especially since they malign his character without any substantiation, is both unchristian and unbiblical. Count me among the many who will stand with Ergun Caner, knowing he stands for the Lord Jesus Christ.

Dr. John F. Ankerberg

Again we have an evidentialist who refuses to address the evidence. All of Dr. Caner's "factual statements that are self-contradictory" are simply dismissed out of hand. Dr. Ankerberg makes no effort to show why the evidence is wrong or misleading.

Now some would say that Doctors Geisler, Percer, and Ankerberg are primary sources themselves, as they all know Dr. Caner personally. However, none of them knew him during the time that is in dispute. We do not know exactly when Doctors Geisler and Percer met Dr. Caner, but neither of them claim to have known Dr. Caner prior to his conversion. In fact, Dr. Percer says explicitly that he was not a witness to any of the events in dispute. Dr. Ankerberg says quite clearly that he has known Dr. Caner less than 10 years, so his personal knowledge of Caner came after September 11, 2001; after “Michael ‘Butch’ Caner” had become “Ergun Mehmet Caner.”

In fact, Doctors Geisler, Percer, and Ankerberg all have vested interests in keeping Dr. Caner "in the clear" that go beyond friendship.

In his statement, Dr. Ankerberg says, "I have interviewed Ergun for more than a dozen television shows and believe his personal testimony to be completely true. Otherwise, I would not have allowed him to broadcast his story to the millions of viewers that tune in to my program across the globe." This clearly links his credibility with Dr. Caner's. If Dr. Caner's credibility is in doubt, that reflects on Dr. Ankerberg and his ministry as well.

In the case of Dr. Geisler, it should be noted that Dr. Caner teaches at Dr. Geisler's seminary. Once again, we see that their credibility is linked. And Dr. Percer teaches at the school where Dr. Caner is, at least until midnight tonight, the president and dean.

I find it utterly amazing that none of these men see the damage that they are doing to their own credibility by blindly supporting Ergun Caner without any regard for the evidence that abounds in this case.

In all the discussions I’ve had over the last few months regarding Ergun Caner, I’ve not spoken to, corresponded with, or read anything written by anyone who was defending Ergun Caner where they actually dealt with any of the evidence. My Daddy used to always tell me, “Son, if one person tells you that you’ve grown a tail, you can laugh; but if everyone is telling you that you’ve grown a tail, you’d better turn around and see if you have.”

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Monday, June 28, 2010

Lynchburg, We Have A Problem...

The train wreck that is Ergun Caner continues.

(Other posts on this subject: Like Watching a Train Wreck & The Caner File)

On Friday, May 21, 2010, I received an e-mail from Basyle Tchividjian, Assistant Professor of Law at the Liberty University School of Law regarding the investigation into Ergun Caner's multiple and contradictory biographical assertions. Professor Tchividjian worked as a prosecutor for 7 years in Florida. He then worked in a private law practice, also in Florida, before joining the faculty at Liberty University School of Law.

Mr. Clyatt:

A colleague and I have been asked by the LU administration to investigate the various claims against Ergun Caner. I have reviewed your site and found it extremely helpful as you link the primary source to each allegation. The purpose of this note is to inquire whether you or anyone else for that matter has;
  1. Made any contact with Jerry Tackett, the individual who allegedly led Ergun Caner to Christ. Do we know if he has verified Ergun’s conversion account?

  2. Made any contact with Ergun’s brother, Erdem, and verified anything about their upbringing?

  3. Confirmed Ergun’s claims regarding his post high school education?

  4. Talked with anyone who knew Ergun during high school, college, or post-secondary school prior to 9-11?

Mr. Clyatt, we would appreciate if you could keep this email and the enclosed inquiries confidential. It is our objective to seek and obtain the truth during this investigation. Our God is too holy to allow us to do anything short of that objective. Much thanks.


Basyle 'Boz' Tchividjian
Assistant Professor of Law
Liberty University School of Law

I sent the following reply to Professor Tchividjian on Saturday, May 22, 2010:

Mr. Tchividjian,

Thank you for your kind words regarding my blog; I tried to be accurate and thorough.

However, all I did was compile the research done by others. I’ve not attempted to contact Jerry Tackett or Mark Caner. Nor have I looked into Ergun Caner’s academic records. As you are no doubt aware, the bulk of the research was done by Jason Smathers and TurretinFan.

I will respect your wishes to keep this e-mail private until the investigation is complete. Know that I am praying for God to guard the integrity of all who are involved in this investigation, and for the truth to be honored.

God Bless,

Gene Clyatt Jr.
A Squirrel in Babylon

Well, it seems that Liberty University has concluded their investigation into the Ergun Caner situation. With that conclusion, my agreement to keep Professor Tchividjian's e-mail confidential is also concluded. I am grateful that Professor Tchividjian found my compilation of information helpful. I agree with him that "Our God is too holy to allow us to do anything short of... seek[ing] and obtain[ing] the truth." I have no doubt that Professor Tchividjian and his colleague did just that.

I also have no doubt that Dr. Ron Godwin and the committee that he formed know exactly what the truth is in this matter. What they have done with this knowledge still kind of boggles my mind a bit.

Ergun Caner has been removed from the office of President and Dean of Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary. He will, however, remain as a full professor, at least for the 2010/2011 school year.

Here's the full text of Liberty University's statement announcing their actions:
After a thorough and exhaustive review of Dr. Ergun Caner’s public statements, a committee consisting of four members of Liberty University’s Board of Trustees has concluded that Dr. Caner has made factual statements that are self-contradictory.

However, the committee found no evidence to suggest that Dr. Caner was not a Muslim who converted to Christianity as a teenager, but, instead, found discrepancies related to matters such as dates, names and places of residence.

Dr. Caner has cooperated with the board committee and has apologized for the discrepancies and misstatements that led to this review.

Dr. Caner’s current contractual term as Dean of Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary expires on June, 30, 2010.

Dr. Caner will no longer serve as Dean of Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary.

The university has offered, and Dr. Caner has accepted, an employment contract for the 2010-2011 academic year. Dr. Caner will remain on the faculty of Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary as a professor.

Right away, we see that Liberty University is trying to minimize Dr. Caner's position at the school. The statement says, "Dr. Caner will no longer serve as Dean of Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary." Yet the biography at LBTS's website listed Dr. Caner as "President and Dean of the Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary and Graduate School."

Then there is the phrase, "Dr. Caner has cooperated with the board committee and has apologized for the discrepancies and misstatements that led to this review." It sounds an awful lot like Caner's statement of February 25, 2010, in which he said, "through two decades of ministry and hundreds of sermons there exist discrepancies in my testimony. In all honesty, I probably could have saved them a lot of time and trouble. The truth is, I would be surprised if no discrepancies were discovered, given the hundreds of messages I have given during all that time!"

This is nothing less than classically Clintonesque. “Misstatements” are things like saying “San Diego” when you meant to say “San Bernardino,” and “discrepancies” are saying something happened at 10 o’clock in the morning to one group and saying that the same event happened at 3 o’clock in the afternoon to another group. In other words, normal mistakes that any public speaker could make, and all public speakers do make, sooner or later. Dr. Caner's actions are something on a different order all together.

In February, Dr. Caner said, "I have never intentionally misled anyone." No, what Dr. Caner, did is called lying. He has deliberately, repeatedly, & knowingly told audiences things about himself & his upbringing that he knew were untrue. Whether he lied for financial gain or in an effort to obtain some sort of ego gratification is immaterial. Why he lied really does not matter. He lied, and the powers at Liberty University know that he lied. To say, "I have never intentionally misled anyone," is just another lie.

Instead of addressing Caner's lies head on, Liberty University has chosen to, once again, try to sweep the whole mess under the rug. Knowing that the evidence is too overwhelming to ignore completely, Liberty University has made a token gesture in an attempt to appease their critics. There doesn't seem to be any consideration at all among Liberty's leadership about trying to please a Holy God.

Let me address Liberty's leadership directly for a moment. Why all the obfuscation, Liberty University? Vague hints at “factual statements that are self-contradictory,” and unspecific references to clandestine apologies "for the discrepancies and misstatements that led to this review" in the face of the overwhelming mountain of documentation of Ergun Caner's interminable pattern of dishonesty before multiple church audiences over a period of almost 9 years seems inadequate. If you're trying to save face, it is backfiring. As James White said, "While I am thankful that Liberty has at least confessed that there is, in fact, an elephant in the room, when are they going to get around to explaining how he got there?"

And why extend Dr. Caner a professorship for a year? You can't have liars lead the school, but you think that it is okay for them to teach there? Is there a different standard of integrity for administrators then for faculty members? Or for students? Back in 2001, Notre Dame fired George O'Leary as football coach for falsifying his resume, and, just recently, Texas A&M senior vice president for administration Alexander Kemos resigned when his claims to have been a US Navy SEAL were shown to be false. Are your moral, ethical, and academic standards less then theirs? As I tweeted last Friday, “Retaining @ErgunCaner in a professorship damages LU's academic integrity (what they've got left...) What's he gonna teach? Lying 101?”

God’s standard is to do what is right, without favoritism or partiality. Deuteronomy 1:16-17 says, "Then I charged your judges at that time, saying, 'Hear the cases between your fellow countrymen, and judge righteously between a man and his fellow countryman, or the alien who is with him. You shall not show partiality in judgment; you shall hear the small and the great alike. You shall not fear man, for the judgment is God's. The case that is too hard for you, you shall bring to me, and I will hear it.'” Has Liberty’s judgment is this matter been righteous or impartial?

A lot of people have asked me, "What do you want to see happen?" That’s a good question, and it deserves an honest answer. The short answer is that I want to see “fruit in keeping with repentance.” (Matthew 3:8)

Here’s the long answer:
    I would like to see:
  1. A public statement from Dr. Caner in which he admits, without any prevarication, that he intentionally and repeatedly lied in order to inflate his testimony and embellish his conversion story (& an apology for the same.)

  2. His immediate resignation from the faculty of Liberty University as a sign of contrition for having intentionally and repeatedly lied in order to inflate his testimony and embellish his conversion story.

  3. A tour of all the churches to which he intentionally and repeatedly lied in order to inflate his testimony and embellish his conversion story to make public restitution by telling them the unvarnished truth this time.

  4. An honest and forthright version of his testimony and the story of his upbringing in Ohio in a broken home. (The truth is actually a very compelling story, from what I’ve been able to put together from the bits and pieces I can find.)

  5. I would like to see a statement from Ergun Caner's brother Emir Caner, president of Truett-McConnell College, explaining his role in aiding and abetting Ergun Caner's lies. (Over the years, they spoke at many of the same events. There is no way that Emir was ignorant of Ergun's penchant for lying.)

At this point, I think that it is highly unlikely that we will ever see any of that. There are two possibilities that I do see happening.

  1. Dr. Caner, Liberty University, & everyone else involved completely refuse to say anything more on the subject. Liberty University’s academic integrity continues to erode, and Liberty University fades into insignificance as pastors stop recommending it and parents stop sending their children there to be educated.

  2. Or

  3. The public discussion of Dr. Caner’s lack of integrity and Liberty University’s lack of male anatomy in dealing with Dr. Caner’s lack of integrity continues, and the continued pressure that results causes Dr. Caner to resign for undisclosed "personal reasons” and Liberty University tries to ignore the whole thing.

I would like nothing better than to stop talking about Ergun Caner and Liberty University. I've listened to more Ergun Caner sermons than I ever wanted to, believe me! And I'm more than tired of the accusations of ulterior motives being ascribed to myself and others as to the "real reasons" we're "going after" Ergun Caner. Yes, I'd love to be done with it all, but, unfortunately, I don't think this train wreck is over just yet.

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[There are a many others who have commented on this situation, some that I think are worthy of your attention are; James White, Carla Rolfe, Rosemarie, & Daniel Spratlin.]

Friday, June 25, 2010

Breaking News: Caner Removed As Dean of Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary

Ergun Caner has been removed from his office at Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary. He will, however, remain as a professor, at least for the 2010/2011 school year. I'll have some thoughts on all this for you on Monday.

Meanwhile, here are some comments from readers left at the Liberty Student News article on Caner's "dismissal":

Revelation 21:8 out of the Liberty University Standard Verson (LUSV): "But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all persons who make factual statements that are self-contradictory, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death."
* * *
If we confess our discrepancies and misstatements, God is faithful and just to forgive us our self-contradictory facts and let us keep our jobs.
* * *
On the day that Ergun Caner's career as Dean of Liberty's seminary comes to an end, he's busy "tweeting" things like "Donuts R holy." I think I see the problem.
* * *
He did not lie. He did not intentionally mislead any one.

He only misspoke.

He only made factual statements that are self-contradictory.

I am relieved to know that he didn't sin and can remain a professor of students.
* * *
It is obvious to me that no one in leadership ever sins. They have reached a state of sinless perfection. From this point on, they only misspeak, make mistakes, or make factual statements that are self-contradictory. They most certainly do not lie! That would be a sin. And sin they do not do!

These comments are from the student news website. I assume these are Liberty's students. It's enough to make you think, isn't it?

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The Squirrel Did Not Cook This Week... Again...

With the unexpected trip to Idaho Falls earlier in the week, time really got away from me. I did not have time to prepare a meal for the blog. I assure you, loyal reader, that I do have a nice file of recipes for upcoming The Squirrel Can Cook features.

Meanwhile, here's a nice squirrelly video for you to enjoy. (h.t. Jonathan Hunter)

Also, here's a recipe I tried a while back. It's very good. Give it a try, and let me know what you think.

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Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Squirrel's Nut Cache - 6/24/2010

The Nut Cache - a collection of recent things I found interesting, or amusing, or nutworthy.

The vuvuzela. Magic horn of the World Cup. Bane of television sound techs. Now it seems that the Archbishop of Westminster, the chief Roman Catholic official in England and Wales, wants good English Romanists to please not subject the Pope to vuvzelas when he visits the UK in September. "I have had enough of them already," says the Archbishop. "I hope they stay in South Africa. Personally, I think the football would be more enjoyable without this constant cacophony." On this, the Archbishop and I agree.

Alcohol doesn't mix with a lot of things. It's a safety issue. People should not drive automobiles, fly aircraft, nor operate heavy equipment while under the influence of alcohol. Nor should they really engage in scientific experimentation. Specifically, drunk people should not conceive of, nor participate in, experiments involving the use of projectile weaponry for the purpose of determining just how much getting shot hurts. It hurts, just leave it at that.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest, otherwise known as "The Food Police," consist of 5 or 6 people with a fax machine who constantly send out news bulletins telling us how unhealthy movie theater popcorn is for us. They are behind the push to ban certain foods, like the trans-fat ban in New York City. They, of course, do all of this "for our own good." (Of course, nobody ever tries to get laws passed in order to stop themselves from doing something? They always want to stop other people from doing something that they don't like.) Well, The Center for Science in the Public Interest now wants to sue McDonald's for including toys in their "Happy Meals." See, parents are not able to decide what their kids are allowed to eat, nor what toys they can play with, it seems. Bunch of busybodies...

When I was a young boy, an army survival instructor told me, "Anything that walks, crawls, or flies is edible." That has been reinforced by my study of the Bible, where we read, "Every moving thing that is alive shall be food for you; I give all to you..." (Genesis 9:3) Rush Limbaugh has long said that, if you want to save some endangered species, put it on the menu, since nobody ever worries about shortages of cows or chickens. Some, it seems, are not so enlightened. A restaurant in Arizona has "received a bomb threat and more than 250 angry e-mails from animal rights groups," for putting a lion burger on the menu. I don't know if The Center for Science in the Public Interest has issued any opinions as to the healthiness of lion meat...

And the Nuttiness goes on and on...

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Friday, June 18, 2010

The Squirrel Can Cook – Oven-browned ‘Taters & Onions

I remember back in home economics class, how they taught us to plan out our menus, make up a shopping list based on that menu, and shop just for what we needed. "Organization is the key to a happy kitchen."

And they are right, it is good to work from a plan. You know what you are going to do and you know what you need when you go to the store. If you do that every week, you get a gold star. The rest of us live in the real world.

Sometimes the pantry is bare, and you still need something to eat. You look around; you’ve got a few potatoes, an onion or two, and some leftover ham. What are you going to do? Order out for Chinese? No, you improvise! Why not whip up a batch of the Squirrel’s Oven-browned ‘Taters & Onions?

Today’s ingredients are:
6 small (tennis ball sized) red potatoes, cut into ½ inch cubes
1 large yellow onion, diced
3 tablespoons of Olive oil
1 tablespoon of garlic powder
½ cup of diced ham (optional)

Preheat you oven to 350 degrees.

Put the olive oil and the garlic powder into a large mixing bowl. Add the potatoes and onions and toss until well-coated with oil and garlic.

Spread the potatoes and onions out evenly on a large baking sheet. (A jelly-roll type pan works best. Sides are your friends.) Place on middle rack of the oven for 20 minutes.

After about 20 minutes, remove from the oven and turn everything over. (No, don’t dump it on the floor! Turn it over in the pan.)

If you are adding ham, now is the time. Place the ham evenly on top of the potatoes and onions after turning. Return to the oven for another 15 to 25 minutes, or until nicely browned.

You can serve this as a simple meal, or it is great as a side dish. Enjoy!

The Squirrel shall not live by bread NUTS alone!

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Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Squirrel's Nut Cache - 5/17/2010

The Nut Cache - a collection of recent things I found interesting, or amusing, or nutworthy.

911 is who you should call in an emergency, and 911 is often involved with manhunts, and I've heard of people calling 911 looking for their husbands, but I've never heard of anyone calling 911 for help finding a husband. Seems that Audrey Scott, of Alliance, Ohio had 911 confused with eHarmony...

I've got to wonder what first made the police suspicious? Was it the truck loads of Cheez Whiz, Doritos corn chips, and Hostess Cupcakes being delivered each week? Was it the fact that Sister Mary Agnes was giggling every time she would answer the phone? Was one of the sisters overheard referring to the Pope as "that Benny dude"? Well, for whatever reason, the police searched the convent garden, and found that the sisters where growing more then sweet peas...

You go through a lot of fast food drive-ups, and there will be a certain percentage of messed up orders. It's hard to hear the orders over the noise of traffic & car radios coming through the headset on the one hand, and the kitchen noise on the other. Stuff is going to get messed up. Also, most of your fast-food workers are young people, working their first jobs. Well, mistakes at a Wendy's drive-through led to a reenactment of the food fight scene from Animal House. "Police said employees blamed the fight on a 'communication breakdown.'"

Most people don't think of books as valuable. Then again, most folks don't read. Rare books can fetch a high price, and the libraries of old schools are filled with rare books. These can attract your more discriminating thieves. Now discriminating thieves don't use knives or guns or strong-arm tactics. No, discriminating thieves use art and skill and misdirection to make off with the goods. Like this bloke in Rome, who disguised himself as a priest to try to steal 25,000-euros worth of books from a seminary library. He was so good at playing the role of a priest that he gave the cops who arrested him a blessing. Maybe he missed his calling...

I've been to Canada, and I've got some Canadian friends (as well as American friends trapped in Canada against their wills), and Canadians are a bit... strange by American standards. Maybe it's all the møøse meat they eat. Anyway, it seems that "two Canadian men attended a church festival and wound up in the woods drunk, naked and covered in mud." What kind of church festival? Not like any church festival I've ever been around, I'll tell you that! You just can't make this stuff up...

You let one in, and, pretty soon, the whole neighborhood is overrun with them. And that leads to all sorts of problems. “They're just running all over the neighborhood,” one resident said. Soon, you just don't feel safe in your own yard or driveway. It could soon come to violence. One man said, “I don't swerve to hit them, but if they're in my way look out." Yeah, the whole mess is for the birds...

First, they banned smoking from public conveyances. Then they banned smoking from restaurants, then from bars and casinos. Now they're banning smoking from museums. What's that? You say they did that a while ago? Oh, I'm not talking about the museum's patrons. I'm talking about the historical figures on display! It seems that Winston Churchill's cigars are not welcome. In photographs. They've been airbrushed out. Really.

I saved the best for last this week! Do you have irrational phobias of any sort? Something which scares you to the point where you can't function? A teacher in Germany has such a fear, and her students found out about it. One student, now being charged with harassment, drew a picture of the object of her teacher's fear on the blackboard at the school. "Marion V., who teaches German and Geography, refuses to say if she is actually afraid of rabbits. But when she walked into the classroom and spotted the drawing on the board she burst into tears and fled." Maybe she was traumatized by a viewing of Monty Python & the Holy Grail at a young age?

And the Nuts just keep piling up...

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Friday, June 11, 2010

The Squirrel Can Cook – Italian Sausage and Peppers

Regular readers will notice right off that the pictures accompanying today’s recipe were not taken in my squirrelly little kitchen. That is because I cooked this in my Mom’s kitchen. The reason I cooked this is my Mom’s kitchen is because Mrs. Squirrel is allergic to peppers. I don’t cook things with peppers for her. But I like peppers, and my Mom likes peppers, and I spend a couple days each week at my Mom’s, taking care of her lawn and helping her do stuff that needs doin’.

I also cook sometimes.

Today, we’re having Italian Sausage and Peppers. Our ingredients are:
1 pound Italian sausage links
2 large bell peppers
1 white onion
4 Roma tomatoes
4 cloves of garlic
4 servings of Linguini

Cut the peppers and onion thin slices. Also, cook the Linguini according to the package directions.

Boil the sausages for 8 minutes and allow to cool. Remove the casing and slice into ¼ inch thick rounds. In a cast iron skillet, cook the rounds over medium-high heat for 1 to 2 minutes on each side until nicely browned.

Next, let’s get our sauce going. Remove the skin from the tomatoes (I find that a sharp potato peeler works best, but a good paring knife will do) and mash them up really well in a bowl (I used my hands.) Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a small saucepan. Crush the garlic cloves and sauté in the olive oil for a few minutes, and then add the tomatoes. Bring to a soft boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 6 to 8 minutes.

In your cast iron skillet, over medium-high heat, sauté the pepper and onion until it is nice and tender.

Then add the sausage and continue cooking until the sausage is heated through. Now add the sauce that you’ve had simmering quietly off to the side, there. Toss everything together until the sauce coats everything.

Serve over the Linguini. Serves 4. Enjoy!

The Squirrel shall not live by bread NUTS alone!

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Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Squirrel's Nut Cache - 6/10/2010

The Nut Cache - a collection of recent things I found interesting, or amusing, or nutworthy.

When the U.S. Marshals Service took Ruben Hernandez into custody, they didn't know what they were dealing with, until a search of his home found a voodoo shrine, with three voodoo dolls that had the names of the two police detectives and the LA County deputy district attorney who was the prosecutor in Hernandez's upcoming fraud trial. The dolls were also inscribed with his case number. The voodoo didn't work. Hernandez got 12 years...

I've never bought into the whole medical marijuana excuse: "Well, brah, it's all about the medical care and helping ease the suffering of your fellow dudes, y'know?" Let's face it, it's a back door excuse to legalize an intoxicant. Ever since medical marijuana got voter approval in Montana, I've seen shops opening up all over town. This is not the way I wanted my state presented by the national news media!

We've all faced the almost nonstop barrage of "Green" messages; recycle those recyclables, buy high-mileage hybrid vehicles and drive only when necessary, switch to compact florescent light bulbs, use water-saving shower heads and faucet aerators and 1.6 gpf toilets (that need to be flushed 2 or 3 times). Encouragement to "save the planet" are unavoidable. Well, take those messages to heart at your own risk. Back in March, I saw this story from LA, and this week I came upon this from Minneapolis. It just doesn't pay to be green, it seems...

Canadians are weird. Some would even say that they're out of this world. At least the town of Vulcan, Alberta sure is. The mayor wears a Starfleet uniform and proprietor of the local bakery wears pointed ears. Recently, Spock himself held his retirement party there. I understand, I really do. I've been to Vulcan, Alberta, and there's really not all that much to get excited about, so why not Star Trek?

A lot of people suffer from aerophobia, the fear of flying. For many sufferers the fear is manageable, but for some the level of anxiety is so great that it prevents them from travelling by air at all. Since it is common knowledge that flying is much safer then travel by automobile, the fear is an irrational fear. Well, it probably doesn't help to diminish an irrational fear when you see a statue of Anubis, the Egyptian god of the dead, outside the airport. No, not an airport in Egypt, an airport in Colorado. Face it, nothing says "Denver" like an idol to an Egyptian god...

About a month ago, in the May 6th Nut Cache, we had the story of a lovely former public loo that had been converted into a small home overlooking the English Channel. Now it seems that someone at the Boston Parks and Recreation Commission wants to convert some public restrooms into restaurants. I'm wondering if the folks at the Boston Parks and Recreation Commission read the Nut Cache!

When my buddy wonky73 (yeah, the guy with the cat) first gave me the link to this story, I just knew it had to be a hoax. It had to be! But, after a bit of research, it nøw løøks like the støry might just be true. I think it's cøøl that he was able tø draw the møøse øff and prøtect her, but, I must ask, did the møøse bite his sister? (Mynd you, møøse bites Kan be pretty nasti...)

And the Nuttiness gøes øn and øn...

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Correction: The møøse story was given to me, not by wonky73, but by my buddy Lockheed. I don't know if Lockheed has a cat... or a møøse...)

Monday, June 7, 2010

What a Squirrel Believes – Theology Proper

What a Squirrel Believes

I believe in one, and only one, true and living God. He is the Triune God; eternally existing in one essence and being, yet three co-equal persons share this same essence and being; the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God is, by His nature and works, worthy of all glory, honor, obedience, and praise, and God alone is worthy of worship. He is the Creator of all that exists in Heaven and Earth, and His sovereign decrees determine all that comes to pass, and the end of all things glorifies Him. In all of His attributes, God is absolute perfection. He has absolute knowledge, wisdom, and power and is perfect in holiness, righteousness, justice, love, grace, and mercy.

While all of Theology is the study of the things of God, Theology Proper is the study of God Himself; His nature and attributes as revealed in the Scriptures.

The Bible does not try to prove the existence of God.

In fact, the Bible clearly states that everybody possesses the knowledge of God’s existence (Romans 1:18-20). In other words, the Bible says that there are no atheists. Those who deny the existence of God must do so by willfully suppressing what they know to be true (Romans 1:21). While there are many philosophical arguments that set out to prove that God exists, I think that, for the most part, they’re just a waste of time, since it is hard to convince someone of the truth that they already know but are firmly in denial about.

We must also be aware of our own limitations. While we all have the knowledge of God’s existence, we must also accept that we are unable to totally comprehend God. We who are bound by time and space have no frame of reference for understanding that which is eternal and transcendent. In the ultimate sense, God is incomprehensible (Deuteronomy 29:29). We must accept what the Bible reveals to us, knowing that we will not understand everything; indeed, we will not understand anything in full. (1 Corinthians 13:12)

The Trinity:

The Bible reveals that God is Triune, a threefold unity. God is one, yet He exists as three co-equal and co-eternal persons; the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Christians are not tri-theists, we do not believe in 3 gods.

The Doctrine of the Trinity is a derived doctrine, meaning that it is not explicitly stated in the Bible, but is a conclusion derived from the clear teachings of Scripture. The Bible clearly states that there is only one God (Deuteronomy 6:4; Isaiah 44:6), yet the Father (Matthew 6:8-9; Matthew 7:21; Galatians 1:1), the Son (John 1:1-18; Romans 9:5; Colossians 2:9; Titus 2:13; Hebrews 1:8-10), and the Holy Spirit (Mark 3:29; John 15:26; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20; 2 Corinthians 3:17-18) are each identified as God.

The most concise statement in the Bible regarding the Trinity is, I think, Matthew 28:19, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” In this verse, the word for “name” (ὄνομα [onoma]) is singular, so, in effect, it reads “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the one name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

That the God revealed in the Bible is Triune in nature is a difficult concept to grasp, and it is totally impossible to fully understand. It should be believed, not because it is easy to believe, but because it is what the Bible reveals.

[I will address the deity of Christ and the deity of the Holy Spirit more fully in the posts on Christology and Pneumatology at a later date. For a more in-depth treatment of the Doctrine of the Trinity see James R. White’s The Forgotten Trinity]

The Sovereignty of God:

A sovereign is one who reigns, or rules. God’s sovereignty over His Creation is absolute, total, and independent (1 Chronicles 29:11-12; Psalm 115:3, Daniel 4:34-35). God is the ultimate authority, and all lesser authority is granted by God for His purposes (John 19:11; Romans 13:1). As Arthur W. Pink put it, God is “subject to none, influenced by none, absolutely independent; God does as He pleases, only as He pleases, always as He pleases. None can thwart Him, none can hinder Him.” (Isaiah 46:10; Psalm 135:6)

God, in His sovereignty, has decreed, in eternity past, everything which comes to pass, without exception. While God is not the author of sin, He does ordain the existence of evil, because if He had not ordained evil, evil would not exist (Isaiah 45:7). We have no right to question God’s decree (Job 40:2; Isaiah 45:9).

[For a more in-depth treatment of God’s sovereignty, see John MacArthur’s Answering Big Questions About the Sovereignty of God & Why Does Evil Dominate the World?]

Attributes of God:

An attribute is a characteristic, property, or quality of someone or something. Attributes are what we use to describe things; “The box was 10 inches long and 5 inches wide,” and, “He is 5 feet, 9 inches tall and weighed 168 pounds,” are descriptions of physical attributes. If we say that someone is “nice” or “honest,” we are describing attributes of character and personality. So, when we speak of the attributes of God, we are attempting to describe what He is like.

God’s attributes are generally divided into His incommunicable attributes and His communicable attributes. His incommunicable attributes are transcendent characteristics which belong to God alone. His communicable attributes are characteristics which God’s creatures may share with their Creator in some limited degree. Where the creature shares an attribute with the Creator, the creature’s attribute is a poor and incomplete reflection of the perfection that is God.

The attributes of God are not parts of God, but are aspects of the whole being of God. All of His attributes are always consistent with each and every other attribute. Because one of God’s attribute is His infinite nature, any list of the attributes of God will be incomplete.

Some of God’s attributes are:
God’s existence is not dependent on anything outside of God Himself. (Exodus 3:14)

Infinitude & Eternality
God is completely unbound by space or time (Psalm 90:2; 1 Timothy 1:17; Revelation 4:8)

God’s being, nature, and character is unchanging. (Malachi 3:6; James 1:17; Heb. 6:17) God’s unchanging nature does preclude Him from performing different actions. (Jeremiah 31:31)

God does not need anything. He does not need food or water to sustain Him. He needs no air to breath. He needs no one to advise Him. (Psalm 50:12-13)

God is perfect in His wisdom. Everything He does is wise, and He is never foolish. (Isaiah 55:8-9; Romans 11:33; Ephesians 1:11-12)

There is nothing that God does not know. He has perfect and complete knowledge of the past, the present and the future. (Psalm 147:5; Romans 11:34; Hebrews 4:13; 1 John 3:20) God’s perfect knowledge also extends to what might have been; He perfectly knows all possibilities. (Matthew 11:23) (God’s perfect knowledge of possibilities is not to be confused with error of Molinism, as even that which is possible is subject to God’s sovereign decree.)

God, not being in anyway limited by space and time, is always present everywhere. (Jeremiah 23:24; Psalms 139:7-10; 1 Kings 8:27)

God is all-powerful and is able to do whatever He wills. (Genesis 18:14; Jeremiah 32:17; Psalm 115:3; Matthew 19:26)

Love, whether used of God or man, is the desire for and actions taken to insure the well-being of the one loved. (Deuteronomy 7:9; Romans 5:8; 1 John 4:8)

To be holy is to be set apart. God is set apart by his absolute perfection in all things. (Isaiah 6:3; 1 John 1:5; Revelation 15:4)

God’s righteousness refers to His morality and justice. All matters of right and wrong are a reflection of God’s righteousness. (Genesis 18:25; Daniel 9:7; Revelation 16:7)

God is a promise-making and promise-keeping God. (Genesis 6:18; 9:9; 17:7; Deuteronomy 4:31; 7:9; 1 Peter 4:19)

Mercy is seen most clearly in such qualities as compassion and patience. God’s mercy is expressed by His long-suffering with, and forgiveness of, sinners.(Exodus 34:6-7; Psalm 52:8; Micah 7:18; 2 Corinthians 1:3; Ephesians 2:4; James 5:11))

God’s grace is distinct from but inseparable from His mercy. Where mercy is seen in pardon for wrongs done and mitigation of deserved punishment, grace is seen in the bestowal of undeserved blessings. (Matthew 5:44-48; Ephesians 2:8-9)

[For a more detailed look at the attributes of God, I recommend A. W. Pink’s Attributes of God.]

God, by His absolute perfection in all things, is worthy of worship, honor, glory and praise (Deuteronomy 6:13; Psalm 2:11; Psalm 96:9; John 4:23; Romans 12:1-2; Revelation 14:7; Revelation 22:9).

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Friday, June 4, 2010

The Squirrel Can Cook – Chicken Taco Bake

Casseroles are a staple of American cooking. They’re convenient for busy families, and they’re highly portable, making them standard fare at potluck dinners, family reunions, birthday parties and other informal gatherings. I’ve got several cookbooks that were published by churches and all of them are dominated by casseroles.

This recipe is not from one of those cookbooks.

This is my version of a casserole that my mother got from a friend in Georgia. With multiple layers of ingredients, it looks fancy and complex, but it's actually pretty easy.

We will need:

1 pound chicken, cooked and shredded
1 package of taco seasoning (or enough to season 1 pound of meat, if you buy it in bulk)
1 16-ounce can refried beans
1 16-ounce can black olives, sliced
1 16-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 4-ounce can chopped green chilies (or, for a spicier version, 1 can chopped jalapenos)
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup sour cream
4 10-inch flour tortillas

Combine the diced tomatoes, the chopped green chilies, the taco seasoning, and the shredded chicken in a skillet. (Do not drain the tomatoes or the chilies.) Mix well, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.

Coat the inside of a 9x13 inch with butter and line the bottom with two of the flour tortillas. Spread the can of refried beans evenly over the tortillas.

Now spread the cup of sour cream on top of the refried beans, evenly distribute the black olives and ½ cup of the cheddar cheese on top of that.

Now it’s another layer of tortillas…

Topped with the chicken, tomato, & chilies mixture and the remaining 1 ½ cups of cheese.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Let rest for five minutes before cutting.

Serves 8. Enjoy!

The Squirrel shall not live by bread NUTS alone!

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