Saturday, December 31, 2005

Reformation 21 » Ferret Breeding

My Petra Appreciation post is unavoidably delayed.

In the meantime, have a loock at this interesting article from Reformation 21. (HT: Emeth Alethia)

Here's the thing. Surely there must be a way to weed out "the beardless Calvinists" without requiring initials behind our names before we've earned the right to speak. Whatever happened to "God used the foolish things to shame the wise," "knowledge puffs up," etc?

Friday, December 30, 2005

Generic Christmas Card of the Year

A brief foray into the world of Corporate Christmas Cards

When you work for someone else, very rarely do you get to pick your own Christmas cards. Cards sent from work are generally selected for two reasons: business & budgetary.

By business reasons, I'm talking about furthering the company's interests. So, those who receive the cards may not be the ones you have the best relationships with, just the ones that make you the most money. You'd think one would follow the other, but it's not always the case. The other business implication is that, to avoid offending anyone who makes you a lot of money, you tend to drift toward the lowest common denominator. Your choice usually ends up with something that's not particularly inspiring but is hopefully unoffensive.

At this point, you might be asking yourself why you don't just personalize the cards, which would avoid this problem altogether. Two reasons. First, you don't always know those you deal with well enough to know what will & won't offend them. Second (as many of you know), cards are expensive, and are better bought in bulk. Hence the "budgetary" reason.

The net result of this is a card that sends a greeting that's less than personal, but apparently better than omitting a holiday greeting for that all-important big-money client altogether.

And so, without further ado, I present to you my nomination for Generic Christmas Card of the Year (and I use the term "Christmas Card" loosely):

The joy of the holidays
For all the things that
matter to you this season,
we wish you the very best.

Note: I'm not declaring this the winner yet. If you think you can top this, make sure you leave a comment.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Have it your way at the ESV website

I had forgotten that the ESV site lets you customize how you view verses, allowing you to include or leave out what you will. Section headings, subheadings, verse numbers, chapter numbers, footnotes, and even words of Christ in red--all optional.

For instance, I pulled up Hebrews 1-16 and included only footnotes. (You have to adjust the options first before doing the search). It reads just like a real letter--or in this case, what sounds to me like a sermon transcript.

HT to Puritas, who is studying Romans without any additions, for reminding me. (I don't know anything about this site except it was caught in Warnock's Bible Translation Blogsearches to Watch. It's all Reluctant Puritan's fault really, for putting Adrian & me in a song.)

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Merry Christmas from the Gumms

The blog version of our 2005 Christmas letter

Dearest Family and Friends,

We hope this Christmas season finds you all well and enjoying the blessings of our Savior. We continue to praise God for His love and faithfulness to our family.

In addition to providing for our family through work, Matt is leading our homegroup for our church family, and also a book study for men on Wednesday mornings. His growing maturity in the Word of God constantly amazes me. To top all of that off he just finished his first Biblical studies class offered through the Bible Church of Little Rock.

I am still at home full-time, and in addition to my duties as Mom, I stay busy and enjoy several ladies Bible studies. Averee and I are homeschooling--she is in the first grade.

Trevor enjoys his preschool time and will be entering kindergarten next year. Caleb is a joy at three and he stays busy with speech and developmental therapy. Please pray for wisdom for us as we continue to make decisions about his progress and development. Jayden is growing up so fast at nineteen months and the others enjoy getting him to repeat anything they say. He just loves his Sissy and Bubbies.

God has been gracious to bless us with one more boy due May third. We will have a house full but we feel so blessed. No name for this one yet but we will let you know.

We think of you and pray for you all often. Please have a wonderful Christmas holiday.

Blessings to you,

Hollie for the Gumms

Friday, December 23, 2005

New Blog--Running Well

I found this blog during a search for articles on N.T. Wright. Like mine, it stood out like a sore thumb, being one of the few not gushing praise on Wright for his latest book.

D.R. Booker's blog is a tribute to Reformers & Puritans, from whom he quotes liberally.

Like me, he has some concerns about new doctrines coming forth from folks like Brian McLaren & N.T. Wright.

And like me, he is unhappy about McDonalds promotion of witchcraft in their Happy Meals.

I've been enjoying it this morning, and thought I would share.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Introduction to N.T. Wright & the New Perspective

There are several ways to be introduced to N.T. Wright, as well as the "New Perspective on Paul." For Wright, you could start by reading some of what he's written. For a broader sweep of the whole of the New Perspective, The Paul Page provides both sides of it. But I don't recommend this.

My own recommendation is Phil Johnson's critique of Wright's popular level book, What Saint Paul Really Said. His critique of Wright is compelling, since he utilizes Wright's own words and bases his critique on Scripture. He also makes some useful distinctions between Wright and other members of the NPP, while at the same time showing what they have in common. Unlike some others, I found his review even-handed and thoroughly Evangelical.

Understand one thing: this isn't just about a bunch of Reformed guys sitting around and trying to defend Luther from modern criticism; it's about redefining the gospel in a way that says that the Bible doesn't talk about how someone gets into heaven, but only about "who belongs at the table." The personal dimension of Justification is erased.

Luther isn't being defended because he is Luther. He is being defended (as it were) because he was the visible proponent of Justification by Faith, the exact tenet that is under attack by the NPP.

More to come...

Congratulations to the Pixley family

A hearty congratulations goes out to the Pixley family on the birth of their daughter, Elizabeth Dale (thanks for the help, Chris), born 12/19/05 at 9:20 am (ET). Everyone is doing well, I believe. More details to follow.

The big question in my mind is if Chris was able to pull off preaching on Sunday morning before the trip to the hospital.
Update: see Chris's answer in comments

Congratulations, you guys!

Monday, December 19, 2005

This is the Narnia review I wanted to write

Every so often I run across a post and think "I wish I had said that." I'm going to start posting these. This is the first--the Narnia review I wanted to write.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Tying up some loose ends

I promised a Narnia review, and some comments on Doxo's Calvinism not posts. Here they are.

"You will get whatever you seek out of Narnia." That's my assessment. By that I mean that if you go looking for Christ, you'll find him there. The obvious allusion is there. If you go looking merely for a good story, you will find it there. The story of the Pevensy children going through a wardrobe into a magical world is compelling, regardless of your views on symbolism. If you go wanting to see a good movie, you'll find it. The movie world hasn't been kind to families lately, and Disney has had some real clunkers. This is a an encouraging sign.

In fact, the only thing it was lacking was the narrator's voice that creeps out every so often. But had they chosen to include that (ala Lemony Snicket), it would have been a very different movie altogether, and not quite as good. Overall, the movie is faithful to the book, as far as one medium translates to another. I think Lewis would be proud.

On Men Doing Good
On men doing good, it may be helpful to make a distinction between good and righteous. From a human perspective, we may look at a particular action and see it as good. However, it's a whole other thing to proclaim an action righteous, because that involves a different type of judgment.

Also, I think this illustration may be helpful, as far as it goes. My uncle is a dairy farmer. He also loves to BBQ. One day, he goes out and works all day, and then comes home in the evening to cook the biggest, juiciest steaks around. The only problem is that he doesn't bother to wash his hands. The meat is good, but it is tainted, because the one who did them has hands that are tainted. Only with men, it is their hearts that are tainted.

Frank Turk offers an interesting discussion of this back in his very first post. The post is actually an open letter to Derek Webb, but has a bearing on what we're discussing here.

...let me offer a passage of Scripture and then ask my question. The passage is this (ESV):

James 1:22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.
26If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person's religion is worthless. 27Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

This passage says that faith is not a feeling but an action. But for example, just because Sandra Bullock gives $1 million to the Red Cross (and has done so several times in the last 5 years), that does not make her a hero of the faith; Bill Gates has dedicated $1 billion to educating children, and that does not make him a hero of the faith. Walt Disney is not a hero of the faith for making family-friendly movies. Sinead O’Connor is not a hero of the faith for protesting the Pope.

My question to you is this: “Are all good works inherently Christ-centered good works?” Your essay is about 8 weeks old, and I suspect you have had others asking this question, and frankly you don’t owe man an answer. But I ask you this as someone who knows you have heard the Gospel and understand its Christ-centeredness.

Or, put a different way, are all the good works of man righteous works? I hope the obvious answer to this question is "no."

Let me finish by relating this point to N.T. Wright and the New Perspective. Rom 4:4-5 says this:

Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but trusts him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness.

This is as clear a declaration of justification by faith, apart from works, as there is in the Scriptures. The NPP reframes this and other "works" passages to mean specifically circumcision--those things that would identify Christians with the OT Covenant, thereby changing the idea from one of justification by faith apart from good works to one of trusting God's faithfulness and eschewing covenant symbols. Bad enough that what the NPP says about Paul changes the definition justification. But in addition, by subverting these passages and redefining what "works" means, it opens the door once again for works-based righteousness. I'm not saying that any in the NPP are advocating this; I'm merely pointing out that by stripping out passages that say works aren't sufficient for salvation, what has been a foregone conclusion since Luther's time may now be put back up for discussion.

I've got family in town this weekend all the way from the UK, so I doubt I'll be posting much until midweek next week. In the meantime, let me recommend Doxo's discussion of sin (intro & part 1 of Origin of Sin currently written). This will set the stage for what I hope to post next week--"Sin is the Reason for the Season," and Part 2 of "Theology Really Is Important."

For a laugh, check out this post from Glenn. Even if you haven't been following the Baptism discussion at Centuri0n's blog, you'll still get a good laugh. And remember, Glenn pays for comments.

Finally, don't forget to spend some time with the people of God this weekend.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Purgatorio Does It Again

How did I miss this the first time around. My favorite was the list of Johns.

purgatorio: Help! I'm Going Hyper!

The Bishop is Coming, the Bishop is Coming

We may be in the early stages of the most significant internal change in Christianity since the 16th century--an exciting prospect. --John Wilson, from last week's WSJ article.

This is frightening to me. Here's a guy who is editor of a bimonthly book review magazine (affiliated with Christianity Today, BTW), saying that this man, the Bishop of Durham, is a true reformer, in the process trying to undo 500 years of Reformation History.

Here are some quotes from the article:

This scholar contends that the leaders of the Protestant Reformation--Martin Luther especially--misread St. Paul on the subject of justification by faith. A self-described Reformed theologian, he proposes nothing less than a reformation of the Reformation, 500 years on--and he does so by appealing to the Reformers' own motto, sola scriptura, "going back to scripture over against all human tradition."

"The Reformed emphasis on justification appeared to diminish the meaning of a life lived in obedience to Christ. Didn't James write--in a letter Luther wanted to drop from the New Testament--that faith without works is dead? And sure enough, one perennial problem of evangelical culture has been an overwhelming attention to "getting saved," while another has been a rigid legalism (don't dance, don't drink, don't play cards), smuggling works-righteousness in via the back door."

"Dr. Wright's work is part of a larger corrective enterprise"

Centuri0n asked a good question awhile back on Triablogue. If we do not deny that the Reformation "meant something," what did it mean?

Wright's answer is, apparently, not much. And to hear John Wilson tell it, it's Wright who is loosing the Bible from centuries of anti-Scriptural doctrines (the very thing that actually happened during the Reformation, when Luther & Tyndale translated Scripture into the vernacular).

Was Luther right? Is justification "the doctrine by which the church stands or falls?" Or have we misunderstood for half a millenium and caused needless strife between ourselves and others (such as Catholics)?

I'm worried, and you should be too. This type of thing, repeated often enough in various corridors, threatens to erode the essence of what we hold dear--the Gospel.

I'm sure there are some readers (I know of at least one) who have never heard of N.T. Wright. I'll try to link up some articles so that you can get a feel for the coming thing--the next big heresy to hit.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

This Is Where I Was Last Friday

Part 1. Certified 100% Pure Turkish.
My morning started with meeting the lovely Mrs. Turk. We chatted for awhile, and I was able to see some of the details I've gleaned from the website rounded out. I was also able to meet his precious daughter.

The meal was Chinese. I had rice, he had noodles. I ate with chopsticks, he stuck to the fork. We found common ground with Dr. Pepper, as they only served Pepsi, no Coke.*

Once, when we were talking about some bloggers, the eyebrow did go up, just like in the picture. And I was struck by an odd thought--if you took Neelix and Tuvok & merged their pictures together, you'd get something that would look an awful lot like Frank.

We ended by speaking briefly about the book business, and I almost got him into an hour long discussion on the dangers of bad theology, but at the last minute he decided it was time to head back to work. He did have time to express disappointment that I didn't wear my "50K T-shirt" for the visit, but it's not my fault it didn't get here until today Monday. I am wearing it while writing this post, however.

Part 2: A Day at the Farm
We stayed with my aunt and uncle. It was a wonderful visit. My uncle is a dairy farmer, and one of the greatest businessmen you'll ever meet. I study business, but he lives it.

My aunt is an amazing woman, who has more accomplishments than any two other people I know. She's retiring from a career as a college professor, and I can only ask myself what she'll be doing next.

The kids love the dairy farm. Despite the fact that it smells like cows, they always love to see the calf barn, and we are usually able to climb on hay bales.
If we ever retire, we think it will be in Northwest Arkansas. That's how much we love it there.

Part 3: Candlelight Service
Each year John Brown University holds a Christmas worship service. You enter a darkened chapel, sit on the wooden benches, and after the brass prelude, you hear the choir singing from the foyer. Then they file down in silence with lit candles, stopping just to the side of the pews, and sing across the room to each other. After this, they file up on stage for various songs from both smaller groups and the combined choir. From impossibly young faces, an amazingly mature sound breaks forth and engulfs you. Then there is the finale, where from a single candle, everyone in the room receives a flame, and then with candles raised, Silent Night is sung.

I had the privelege of singing in the service all four years I was there, but this was my first time in the audience. It was quite an experience.

Part 4: The Next Generation
One of our high schoolers from our youth group in Texas is at JBU, and we had the opportunity to spend some time with him and his friends. What a privilege it was to sit and speak to these young men and women. They listened eagerly as my wife and I talked about our time at JBU, dating, marriage, child-rearing, with a kind of attention you see only from the most eager of students.

We had such a great time, but were shocked that these college co-eds would choose to spend a couple hours with us thirty-something parents.

In any case, we wish them all the best, and will be praying for them in the coming semesters. Mark, Ryan, Kristen, Lara, and Karen--thanks for letting us spend the evening with you!

(Note: I originally inserted this as something just for fun. However, in the interest of preserving accuracy, and limiting artistic license, I removed it. Except that I thought it was funny, so I put it here.)
*His fortune cookie read,"You are not your persona." Mine said,"It’s a tavern, not a Swiss watch doctrinal precision factory." Now that was weird.

Reader Poll: Which Pic Should I Pick?

I had hoped that adding a new picture might add a bit of gravitas to my entries. After all, a crayon stick drawing next to an entry critizing a well-known New Testament scholar's Bible picks just didn't seem to carry the required weight.

Nevertheless, I've gotten mixed results on the new picture so far, so I've decided to put it to a vote. I will leave it open for about a week; vote in the comments.

Old Pic:

New Pic:

The Quotable Steve Hays

I read this in a recent entry from Steve Hays. I liked it, not because it's Steve Hays, but because it's what I aspire to, despite my theological labels:

As I’ve said before, the first question a Christian must ask myself about what he believes is not: “Is this traditional?” but, “Is this Biblical”? The word of God, and not the word of man, must be our rule of faith.

When I’m on my deathbed, staring into eternity, it will be quite irrelevant to me and to my Maker whether I have my passport is stamped with all the right names of all the approved luminaries.

Thanks, Steve. A great reminder for all of us, regardless of theological persuasion.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

When is a Christmas Card Really a Christmas Card?

Shields up. Go to Red Alert!

I'll probably get decimated by the likes of Steve Hays for saying this, but I'm getting just a little tired of the "war on Christmas." Yeah, I know, we as Christians are supposed to be vigilant, and uphold the social order, etc. But seriously, when is a Christmas card really a Christmas card?

What is more in the spirit of Christmas, Santa saying "Merry Christmas" or a card that says something generic like "Have a Blessed Holiday Season" and then quotes Isaiah 9:6?

I think perhaps it makes a difference who is saying it. If one of my Jewish co-workers wished me Merry Christmas, should I automatically assume that they know & celebrate the true meaning of Christmas? I doubt it. Same goes for the Protestant (or Catholic) who makes his yearly trip to church this time of year.

I first started thinking about these issues when Andrea Seu wrote her excellent piece about using "God bless you."

She says: THERE IS SOMETHING I HAVE TO TELL YOU ABOUT myself: I don't say "God bless you" when people sneeze. This is a habit (or nonhabit) that came bundled with my conversion experience when the guy who led me to the Lord said it was superstitious—and that's been good enough for me ever since.

You should not imagine that I am proud of this idiosyncratic stance or mistake it for courage. And indeed I have been known to bend once or twice in the last 25 years for particular sneezers (Paul's advice: "all things to all men"). Nor do I have a problem with folks who call down divine favor on me when the pollen count elicits violent spasmodic expirations. It's just a petit scruple of mine, let us say, for which I usually circumvent the social awkwardness by interjecting "Got a cold?" at the appropriate juncture.

Even at home I never made an issue of this; I just didn't say the thing. But now my older son, who has in later years jettisoned all other forms of righteousness, is trying hard to drill the alien three-word formula into his speech, having discovered its wider cultural mandate, and repudiated what seems to him the barbaric indoctrination of his youth. So here we have a fine kettle of fish: a self-styled heathen who calls on the divinity when people pass sinus air, and a Christian woman who goes mum about God when everyone else invokes Him.

The Christmas thing just brings it to the forefront. And as far as I'm concerned, it's not what you say, it's what you mean. (With apologies to Christ) These people say "Merry Christmas" with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. And if it is not in their hearts, does it really matter if they say "Merry Christmas" or not?

This article quotes Jerry Falwell on the White House Christmas card as saying "There's a verse from Scripture in it. I don't mind that at all, as long as we don't try to pretend we're not a nation under God."

My reply: I don't mind people fighting to retain Christmas as long as we don't pretend saying "Merry Christmas" makes us a nation under God.

12/14/05 update: Turns out Cal Thomas agrees with me. Also, Daniel beat us both to press with his Christmas lament.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Just To Tide You Over...

I'm still working on my "Here's where I was on Friday" post (in response to this), some snippets from the latest skirmish over at Triablogue, as well as a quick review of the first Chronicles of Narnia movie (the short answer is go see it--the review will tell you why). Oh, and I want to comment on a couple of Doxo's Calvinistic claims.

In the meantime, I would direct you over to Centuri0n's blog for an interesting discussion of baptism, and how it relates to church membership, the nature of salvation and the sacraments, and the boundaries of the new covenant. There are actually a couple of previous posts on Cent's blog, but this is the active thread, & comments.
Update: a critical piece to this is Greg Welty's paper. It is a useful summary of the objections to infant baptism from a covenant/non-dispensationalist approach. Had I merely read his paper, I wouldn't have bothered to post any of my comments, as he makes the same points with more forcefulness and biblical acumen. Yes, it's that good.
BTW--Williams, you've been beggin' for weeks for a discussion on baptism, and now that it's full blown this is your best offering? C'mon, man--get in the game!

In other news, the two Canadians, Kim & Daniel, have generated about 60% of my traffic today (I misstated by saying 80% earlier on Kim's blog--I forgot about Pyro's "Spine" post--I may never live that one down). Apparently their readership also falls into that most coveted demographic--the one that reads on weekends. Meanwhile, I've gotten maybe two from the bossman (although in his defense, I did get some last week from Haloscan comments.)

Lastly, if you're "Truly Reformed," "Truly Baptist," or just truly interested, check out this color-coded comparison of the Westminster Confession of Faith & the London Baptist Confession of 1689. (HT: James Anderson.)

Thursday, December 08, 2005

While I'm Gone--Read about What Calvinism is Not

Unexpected change of plans, so I'm posting this a little earlier than I planned.

Jeremy Weaver has written a series of posts about what Calvinism is not.

Can Man Do Good?
What is Fatalism?
The Atonement Is For Everyone!
Everyone Limits The Atonement (Followup to the previous post)
One More Atonement Post... (Second atonement followup post)
Has Anyone Believed Against Their Will?
Eternal Security is a Half Truth, Part one & Part two

Two Favorite Quotes--John Newton & Charles Spurgeon

I'm sure there are many to choose from, but here are two quotes from two of my favorite men from church history, and both in the same context. They are taken from Charles Spurgeon's message "A Defense of Calvinism," where he quotes John Newton telling a story to illustrate his point about election.

Newton quotes a woman in his congregation:
Ah! sir, the Lord must have loved me before I was born, or else He would not have seen anything in me to love afterwards.

In that sermon (which I would commend to you if you haven't read it), Spurgeon continues the discussion of the doctrine of election like this:
"I am sure it is true in my case; I believe the doctrine of election, because I am quite certain that, if God had not chosen me, I should never have chosen Him; and I am sure He chose me before I was born, or else He never would have chosen me afterwards; and He must have elected me for reasons unknown to me, for I never could find any reason in myself why He should have looked upon me with special love. So I am forced to accept that great Biblical doctrine."

And to that I can only say, "Amen."

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Blogroll Additions

More blogroll additions.

Jeremy Weaver (aka Doxoblogologist): Jeremy has a great sense of humor, and is part of that much sought after demographic--the one that reads and comments on weekends. He's even linked to my blog (I'm one of the "Avengers," though as I look at his cloud of witnesses, I wonder what in the world I've done to be included in such a group.) Plus, his blog lives up to its subtitle--"a Godward blog." Now if only I could figure out how to pronounce "Doxoblogy."

Marc Heinrich is his partner on this site. I have also added a link to linked Marc's other blog, Purgatorio. The first time I went to visit Marc's blog, I'll admit to thinking "What's so great about this? It's just a bunch of pictures." But it turns out I just wasn't cultured enough--the guy is a comic genius. His piece on how to tell if you're Emergent won me over. Well that, & reading some of his recent comments on a certain NW AR bookseller's blog. And his 7 Sevens is simply smashing! (P.S.--if your a Star Trek fan, here's a bonus link).

The third link I added was Kim in Ontario. Kim is a friend of Carla's, which is how I found her. Her writing exudes a love for the Lord and her family. She is very humble, and is no respecter of persons. For awhile, her link to Phil Johnson read simply "that Blogspotting guy."

The fourth addition is the Main Family. Bryan is in my Ironmen men's group on Wednesday mornings, and we are in the same homegroup. Plus, our three sons are nearly identical in ages, and we graduated from JBU. This could mean we have lots to talk about, but honestly I can't imagine why he wants any more of me than he already sees. Anyway, I'm glad to see him join the 'sphere, and I look forward to upcoming posts.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Here's one way to get hits...

Turns out Phil's blog is the gift that keeps on giving, even when it's not directly.

Looking through referrals to my blog, someone out there did a nice Google search on "Phil Johnson's blog," and I came out on top. Higher than Challies, Spurgeon Archive, Sharper Iron, The Black Calvinist, James White, and James Spurgeon. (A certain individual with 50,000 hits and an angry eyebrow was nowhere to be found on this search.)

Given his post last Friday, I'm thinking that it's pretty much safe to mention him with impugnity with no fear of being Blogspotted. I'm guessing that will be the first to go (it's fun, but oh so time consuming). I might try for an entire week's worth of posts that mention him, just to test the theory.

Monday, December 05, 2005

In Case You've Ever Wondered...Who Does Those WSJ Portraits?

I just found out there is an artist who does all the fabulous portraits that appear in the Wall Street Journal, a paper I read daily. Noli Novak is her name.
And here is how it is done.

(HT: Grant Thomas.)

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Celebrating Sentimentality

Gene Edward Veith is out this week in World Magazine with an article on holiday programming. He goes through the various programs, and at the end proclaims that Charlie Brown Christmas is still the best.

The article is definitely worth the read, as you'll probably find (as I did) some of your favorites on the list and see how he ranks them.

Here are three key statements I'd like to highlight:
"...for many viewers, watching these classics each and every year has become a staple of their Christmas observance."
"...few of the TV Christmas classics have any references to the birth of Jesus Christ. What they provide are good clues to what secularists celebrate instead."
"For many people, the true meaning of Christmas is nostalgia."

I think he's dead on. One of our favorite movies, White Christmas, fits this category perfectly (although he's a bit kinder to it, not relgating it to the nostalgia level). The whole thing was inspired by the song of the same name. The king of the classic holiday specials, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, originated as a department store promotion.

Consider commercials. Until a couple of years ago, every time the Budweiser Clydesdales came on, I'd get a little choked up, and I don't even drink beer. For years, Coca-Cola has had retro Santa on their cans, and now they've got Christmas polar bears.

Then there is music. Although I'm not a big fan of the sacred/secular distinction, it seems appropriate here. Christmas music seems to run down parallel tracks, and the secular path has a nostalgia all its own. I mentioned White Christmas already, but there are enough truly secular songs to fill many albums.

But we must be careful--even if we limit ourselves to sacred songs, we still have those that are traditional, despite the fact that they contain theological errors. One example is Angels We Have Heard on High. What were the angels doing? Were they singing? No, they were proclaiming. But we sing this, despite the error, because we've always sung it.

I hope none of this will take away from our enjoyment of family, friends, and holiday traditions during this blessed season. But it serves as a sobering warning. With the possible exception of Thanksgiving, America's "holy days" are all secular holidays; and particularly at Christmas, if we're not careful, we Christians can easily end up side-by-side with the secularists, celebrating sentimentality.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Time to head back to Toastmasters...

I was in Toastmasters a few years back. It was interesting. I didn't make it very far, but it was still good practice. They had this person designated as an "Um Counter." Their job was to count "ums," and I kept them pretty busy when it was my turn.

Anyway, the other night we are in family worship, and we're trying to teach the kids how to be respectful in prayer by closing their eyes and bowing their heads. My 18month old is on my lap, and as I'm praying, we keep hearing these noises from him. When I finally say "amen," my wife says "guess he doesn't know when to say amen." And I replied, "No honey, he was saying 'um.'"

Yes, that's right. My son was mimicking my prayer, and his prayer went like this: "Um, um, um, amen."

Guess it's time to head back to Toastmasters...and maybe I should take my son with me.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Expanding my vocabulary

I'm no Bill Buckley, but it isn't often that I come across a word I'm completely unfamiliar with, and I guess I'm not actively seeking to expand my vocabulary like I once was (at least not my English vocabulary--Spanish & Greek are another matter).

So I was pleasantly surprised when Phil Johnson used a word I'd never heard before in one of the discussions last week. Thanks Phil.


P.S. Spell check on Blogger tried to replace rodomontade with rudimentary. Oh, those wacky machines!

Closing thoughts on the Thanksgiving Blogwar

A semi-confessional essay

I've decided that Dec 1 was an appropriate time to start afresh, so I'm going to finish this off with some closing thoughts. I've seen at least a couple posts that have decided to go with the "here's what's important for the blogosphere to understand about this situation." If you want to read those, you can do a Google blog search on "imonk," "blogwar," or "brouhaha."

Instead, here are some random things; things I've learned, been reminded of, or am thankful for. These are not directed at anyone except me alone; if you find them instructive, then to God be the glory.

First, who knew that cataloging a brouhaha would be so good for stats?

Yes, that's right. My stats went up 10-fold, about 45 a day to 450 a day. It's silly, I know, but it's amazing what a few links from well-placed sources will do for you.

Second, I want to thank all those who stopped in, and especially those who took time to comment. I'm hopeful that I've gained a few more readers as a result of this (perhaps Glenn is the first).

Third, I've learned that if I ever insult someone and invite them to say whatever they want to about me on their blog, I had better be prepared for them to take me up on my offer.

Finally, I was reminded learned that the anger of man does not produce the righteousness that God requires (Jas 1:20, ESV). At least once, and probably three or more times I was angry to the point of sinning. I am thankful that a couple posts were deleted before I showed the truth of this James passage in how it applies to me.

Yes, I still have a lot to learn. Yes, there will be more discussion, more debate. If you really want to know how I feel about this, check out Phil Johnson's comment. He does a more than adequate job of summarizing where this whole thing went, and probably represents my own position better than I could myself at this point.

A part of me will miss the Brouhaha. But it's time to sink back down into obscurity, and let others fight the Blogwars. At least for awhile.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Pimp My Devotional Time

I loved this title from Chris Freeland's post, so I decided to keep it. Chris makes a suggestion similar to the one I made (see #3), about reading the same book of the Bible for a month at a time. Only his suggestion includes the Old Testament.

Read his post. But more than that, accept his challenge. Do something to make your time with God this month come alive.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Simply Gruesome

Fifty babies a year are alive after abortion - Sunday Times - Times Online: "A GOVERNMENT agency is launching an inquiry into doctors’ reports that up to 50 babies a year are born alive after botched National Health Service abortions.

The investigation, by the Confidential Enquiry into Maternal and Child Health (CEMACH), comes amid growing unease among clinicians over a legal ambiguity that could see them being charged with infanticide.

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, which regulates methods of abortion, has also mounted its own investigation.

Its guidelines say that babies aborted after more than 21 weeks and six days of gestation should have their hearts stopped by an injection of potassium chloride before being delivered. In practice, few doctors are willing or able to perform the delicate procedure.

For the abortion of younger foetuses, labour is induced by drugs in the expectation that the infant will not survive the birth process. Guidelines say that doctors should ensure that the drugs they use prevent such babies being alive at birth."

Click on the link to read the rest of the article. HT: World Magazine

Seven Sevens

Frank tagged me, so I'm playing.

Seven things to do before I die:

1. Visit the UK
2. Attend a Shepherd's Conference
3. Learn to read Greek
4. Lead my children to Christ
5. Read & speak español with moderate elocuencia (fluency)
6. Publish a book
7. Preach a sermon
Un mas: Learn to play guitar.

Seven things I cannot do:

1. Dance
2. Listen to country music for any length of time
3. Listen to rap music for any length of time
4. Stand the cold weather
5. Quit blogging
6. Stop playing Sudoku
7. Stop drinking Coke.

Seven things that attract me to my spouse:

1. Her love for Christ
2. Her beauty (not just her outward attractiveness, but inward beauty)
3. Her compassion
4. Her intelligence
5. Her understanding
6. Her love for me
7. Her love for our family

Seven things I say most often:

1. I'm doing alright
2. Well...; Actually...; Well, actually...;
3. NICE!
4. Hey [dude] (pronounced same as Frank's "dude")
5. [Honey,] Have you seen my...?
6. The bottom line is...
7. Um (particularly when praying, apparently--more to come on this in a future post).
[P.S. If you're ever having trouble focusing during a sermon, try doing this for your pastor. Talk about fun...]

Seven books (or series) I love:

1. Sherlock Holmes
3. C.S. Lewis-Narnia series + Screwtape Letters
4. On Writing--Stephen King
5. William Tyndale's New Testament
6. Winnie-the-Pooh
7. Money Angles-Andrew Tobias Sorry Andrew. Now that I'm home, in front of my bookcase, I decided to go with something better. Shepherding a Child's Heart, by Tedd Tripp.

Seven movies I would watch over and over again:

1. Original Star Wars Trilogy--the original versions (before Lucas started messing with them)
2. Batman
3. Blade Runner
4. Any Sherlock Holmes w/Basil Rathbone
5. Finding Forester
6. Any of the Star Trek movies that have Shatner, esp III & VI.
7. Indiana Jones-Raiders & Last Crusade

[In this category, I must also add Pride & Prejudice--A&E miniseries (w/my wife), and every Veggie Tales Movie (except maybe Esther). BTW--Until I moved to Arkansas, Twister would have been on this list. Not anymore--too true-to-life!]

Bonus/Alternate (for any who don't watch movies over & over)
Seven music albums/artists/box sets I listen to over and over again:

1. Petra-the Volz years (especially Not of This World)
2. Jars of Clay debut album
3. Sonic Flood-Cry Holy
4. Poulenc's sacred stuff
5. U2-Anything before Rattle & Hum
6. 80's greatest hits & pop album compiliations
7. Yanni (yes, Yanni)
[You may also reference my upcoming Christmas Music post for more in this category]

Seven people I want to join in, too:

1. Hemsch
2. Julie
3. Kerry Gilliard
4. Doudy
5. Damon
6. Pixley
7. William

Funny How History Repeats Itself

While doing some research for my brouhaha post (& also searching for the official definition of "Truly Reformed"), I came across a post that was eerily reminiscent of the current situation. By "eerily reminiscent," I mean that it was in many ways similar, as opposed to exactly the same, lest someone might misinterpret.

The topic of the post was this comic book cover. I will let the quotes speak for themselves (but the emphasis is mine).
What makes the parody funny is that it captures so succinctly the histrionics the BHT crowd indulges in whenever anyone questions either their reasoning,the appropriateness of their comments, or their motives.

It is amazing to watch when the BHT crowd has a disagreement with someone. All too often, those with whom they disagree are perceived as--believe it or not--out to destroy them on a personal level.

Eventually, I just quit reading their blog because of--to use Phil's phrase--their repeated "hissy fits." I mean, why bother? But I nearly snorted coffee into my sinuses when I saw Phil's parody; it captured, with a few pithy phrases and artwork, the whole atmosphere of the BHT. It was perfect, absolutely dead-on, and should have drawn their attention to their frequently insular and paranoid behavior, but instead, perhaps predictably, they have held true to form.

As I've said, the parody is funny because of its accuracy, and I don't disparage the usefulness of satire. My only real reservation in the whole business has to do with why Phil reads the thing (the BHT) in the first place. After all, time is precious, and I don't understand why he would bother with them at all. It's not like they're going to listen to him, and he's certainly not interested in much they have to say.
Excerpted from here.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Theology Really Is Important

There seems to be a push among many in modern evangelicalism to shun theology for more practical issues. The idea behind this, at least in some cases, is that theology tends to be divisive. For at least some of the participants in the current raging debate, this seems to be the underlying assumption. Doctrine isn't really all that important, and wrong doctrine is no big deal.

One comment I saw recently that I think epitomizes this type of thinking was this: And if I remember correctly the fruit of the Spirit didn't include "doctrine", but actually Paul exhorts us to "not become boastful, CHALLENGING one another...".

But this statement is somewhat naive, and based on a false assumption. The assumption is that spending time thinking about and discussing doctrine is a distraction from the real part of the Christian life. The problem with this is that theology really does drive methodology. Belief always informs practice, whether you are conscious of it or not.

Some examples may be helpful.

A Sunday School teacher believed in man's completely autonomous free will. He was asked the question about why we pray for the lost, if God can't really change their mind about anything. After thinking about it, he said, "Your right," and from then on he would not take any prayer requests for lost people. (I got this example from Phil Johnson's message on the History of Calvinism. If you haven't listened to it, I highly recommend it.)

What For example, you might think that the main problem today is the schools, and if people were just more educated, then that would solve many of the world's problems. Did you know that this testifies about your view of man, and about his sinfulness?

Or take apologetics & evangelism. What if you think that man's sinfulness doesn't extend to his ability to reason? If you believe that, a part of your methodology might be to reason with him, to educate him, and help him see the error of his ways. But if you believe that the Bible teaches that man's sinfulness is pervasive, to the point that it affects his ability to reason, you might eschew reason and proofs and choose a different method. This, by the way, is the heart of the different approaches to apologetics, presuppositional vs. evidential apologetics.

Here's how I see this applying to the present discussion. When someone, whether it be Michael Spencer or Doug Wilson, says that he considers Catholics his brothers in the faith, that affects his relations with them. If he is right, there is no need to evangelize them; at most, perhaps some work to reform their institutions. But if he is incorrect, then he (and anyone else who believes this) are neglecting sinners who need to hear the Gospel and be saved. They are incorrect, and it's for that reason that people need to stand up for true doctrine & good theology.

Does our theology need to be perfect to be saved? No, and thank God, because if it did, no one would be saved. In fact, all of us will be saved apart from perfect doctrine and theology. But that is no reason to ignore theology altogether, or to say it is unimportant.

So here it is. Poor theology leads to poor practice, while good doctrine should lead to good practice. This is why thinking about doctrine and theology are important--you should know what you believe because it affects what you do.

Remember that for the next time that someone says "theology & doctrine don't really matter, we just need to be Christians and love"--they also have beliefs that are driving what they do, whether they are conscious of those beliefs or not.

Friday, November 25, 2005

"If JIBBS is Hadji, Gumm must be Bandit"

I've been named "sidekick in training" by Centuri0n. Apparently JIBBS' last remark snark was too much, and he's been put on injured reserve.

I'm due to report to the Northwest Arkansas HQ of the TR on December 9-10 for Sidekick Basic Training. I haven't been told exactly what it entails, but I imagine it will involve Photoshop, Advanced HTML, T-shirt sales, and comics.

For the next two weeks, I'll be spending the majority of my time studying the super-secret TR manual.

Once I graduate, I'll be initiated into the Order of the Sixth Sola.

I am a bit nervous, though, since after the Batman's first sidekick Robin became Nightwing, his replacement Jason Todd was killed by the Joker. (I think I have that graphic novel up in my attic.) Guess I better watch out for jokers.

How do you become a sidekick? Well, without giving away too many secrets, do you remember the movie Wall Street, how Bud Fox got his meeting with Gordon Gekko? It was pretty much like that.

Between now and then, I just have one burning question: if Cent thinks I'm Bandit, does that mean I'm primed for a link with the other puppies @ Fide-O?

P.S. Forget Gumm--it's "Chicle" now.

iMonk's proposal

Internet Monk made this proposal. He has taken it down, but for the sake of the discussion, here is an archived copy (based on what was left right before he deleted it).

1. Internet Monk/BHT will not mention any post or blogger related to the following blogs:
Frank Turk
Steve Hayes

2. Comment Threads related to IM/BHT will be closed on these blogs.

3. The above blogs will not mention any post or blogger related to:
Internet Monk

4. Comment threads on IM posts related to these blogs will be closed.

5. I will furnish Phil Johnson access to the BHT and post editing privileges to comment on any post he believes is a violation of this agreement.

This agreement could possibly apply to any smaller number of blogs that agreed to participate, even if others did not.

If anyone wants to discuss this proposal, write me. If there is no interest in 24 hours, then we can forget it.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Cataloging the Big Brouhaha

(This will be my final updated. December is a new month, and it seems best to leave this behind.

A belated welcome to readers of Phil Johnson, BHT, iMonk, Thinklings, Adrian Warnock, Brad Huston (aka Broken Messenger), and any others who have linked to me. Please feel free to have a look around my blog when you're done reading here.

Now that the dust is settling, I'm writing a post to present links to the recent verbal exchange between Centuri0n (Frank Turk) & iMonk (Michael Spencer). Although I have some opinions, I present these links without any of them; you may read for yourself and draw your own conclusions. Make sure you read the comments--they are part of the conversation.

I will continue to update this as I'm able. If you find a link you think should be added (or find an error), don't hesitate to post a comment.

Central to the discussion is a post by iMonk called "With Regrets, All My Love." This post has now been removed, but is available from him "on request." He published an explanation of why here.
(Note: it appears that the explanation is now password protected; however, the folks at Google cached it. If you care to look, you can find the original essay as well.)

The Original Fide-O Post on Emergent Hippies
Frank's response
Internet Monk mentions Frank's response on BHT
Internet Monk response #1
Matthew Johnson from Boar's Head Tavern responds
Frank's response to "prayer" comments
iMonk's A Day in a Turkish Prison
Frank Turk's Who Is "We"?
Steve Hays' "personal opinion" of Frank (in regard to prayer comment
Broken Messenger--A Theological Blog War
c.t.'s Comment
Phil Johnson weighs in on his site. (He he also posts in the comment thread on Frank's post).
Internet Monk response #3
Jason Robertson of Fide-O posts on iCritics
ScottyB's Post on Polemical Theology
Pedantic Protestant posts on Thanksgiving Turk
Steve Hays--further response after reading reading iMonk
Phil Johnson posts a comic book cover. (BTW--Phil added a comment about this entry to his comic book post, and now my hit counter looks like the water meter the time I had a leaky pipe.)
c.t. makes an analogy to Pilgrim's Progress (including an illustration).
Internet Monk makes a proposal. He also mentions his proposal on BHT. (Update: the proposal has been taken down, but I've posted a partially archived copy.)
Frank responds.
Steve Hays explains how Nicholson's Ironclad Laws of Blogging relate to the current situation.
FIDE-O's response to IM's proposal.
Travis Prinzi posts this @ BHT, and also at his own blog, in response to some comments made.
Deathroe Bodine gives his two cents.
Steve Hays responds to IM's proposal.
Phil Johnson responds to IM's proposal.
Frank responds to a comment made by Marla on this post.
Darryl Dash weighs in on People and Issues.
Adrian Warnock calls for a ceasefire.
iMonk posts on "the continuing effort to create 'Rob Schlapfer II: The IMonk Incident' ".
Brad Huston writes about the Locker Room of the Truly Reformed.
DE at the Thinklings asks Why?
Michael Bates writes about iMonk's Confessional writing, and compares his writing to Mike Yaconelli of The Wittenburg Door.
James White posts on the Tavernistas.
Brad Huston responds to James White's post.
Frank Turk responds to DE.
Brad Huston posts "A Voice of Reason Regarding iMonkgate."
Steve Hays posts "The face at the bottom of the well."
Dan Paden says Give It A Rest.
Frank responds to issues around mental instability.
FIDE-O responds to squealers (a pun, BTW, if you look at the pictures).
An open letter from the Fat Triplets.
Frank answers another open letter.
Steve Hays on Parting thoughts and parting shots.
My own post--Funny How History Repeats Itself.
Phil Johnson posts Ugliness Everywhere. This is a must read for anyone who has been following this thus far, as there are pointers for all involved.
My final post on the subject. I include tips for those who would like to continue reading (if there are any of you left out there).

Michael Spencer stopped by and asked me to include Who? Me? How I Became A Pariah in The Reformed Blogosphere. Reason #11 deals with this issue.

He has also requested (twice) that I include his claim of Centuri0n's "intention to go after" him. I don't see it as the start of this chain, but I am happy to include it here. This claim is made under the comments of A Theological Blog War post, and again (with Frank's response) in comments on Phil's comic book post.

Last Update 1:30am (or so) on 12/01/05

Happy Birthday to Me

So here's my question. Now that I'm old enough to run for President of the United States, does that make me too old to be a Blogging sidekick?

Update 1: Carla Rolfe's comment reminded me--Happy Birthday as well to Kevin, her husband. She still hasn't taken me up on the free CDRom offer of Phil Johnson's messages, but it's only a matter of time, I'm sure.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Biblical Love

Tom Ascol has a great post on why love trumps even the truth. A good reminder as those who care for the truth try to stand for it.

HT: Tim Irvins.

11/24/05 updated. Typo corrected. Thanks, William.

Another Blog Recommendation--διάλογος

I'm sitting here, asking myself "How much talent does one family have?" In the case of this family, the answer seems a lot.

Phil Johnson mentioned his nephew Chris Freeland last week in one of his "here's where I am now" posts, and I had to check it out. I wasn't disappointed. As nephew to the vaunted Pyromaniac, and his Behind-The-Music type insights on Phil are priceless. (I must admit--I find myself trying to picture these sentences in my mind: "The entire trip was great, but the highlight of the weekend was listening to the technologically-savvy Pyromaniac attempt to explain the intricacies of a wireless network to my 80-year-old grandparents. I'll probably get blogrolled as "annoying" for saying it, but he might have had a better chance had he tried to explain supralapsarianism.")

But to read him solely for his relative ability would be to miss the essence of his writing.

Instead, this post is a prime example of what I think is the heart of his blog. He begins by talking about one of his classes at DTS and the "class genius" who has to spout off to look good in front of the professor. Then it takes a turn:

This is where the story goes from making me mad to making me profoundly sad.

Looking directly at the know-it-all student, the professor asked him, "Where will you go when you die?"

"Heaven, I hope. Day by day I hope," replied Mr. Know-it-all, who suddenly didn't know at all.

"You hope?" asked the professor. "This is something you should know."

And he proceeded to share the Gospel with this guy, who has been in seminary nearly 4 1/2 years.

For 4 1/2 years this guy has been attending a conservative evangelical seminary dedicated to teaching believers to "Preach the Word." And somehow this guy missed the most simple and profound truth of all. "Jesus loves me, this I know."

I've been learning about the exact same thing lately--about people who are full of theology & learning but don't know the gospel, and what is really effective in reaching them.

Here's how he concludes:
I'm not blogging about this guy in order to give him a hard time. I'm blogging about this story because late into the night last night I was bothered by two lessons this story taught me.

1. It is entirely possible to worship the idol of black and white (and red) words on a page, and altogether miss the God they represent. The study of God's word is vastly important, but can't supercede a relationship with the God of which they speak which comes through faith in Christ.

2. We can't take peoples' individual stories for granted. I was fuming at this know-it-all guy trying to stump the professor with the student's infinite knowledge. Now, my response is compassion and sorrow for a guy who probably isn't even a believer. He can't help it. "The natural man can't receive the things of the Spirit because they're foolishness to him. He can't understand them because they're Spiritually appraised" (1 Corinthians 2:14).

That's it! He hits the nail on the head, both in diagnosing the problem, and in his own response to it. He's my kinda guy.

There are gobs of bloggy goodness on his site, so check it out.

P.S. Somehow, I've ended up on Phil's blogroll, and in the same category as Chris his nephew, no less (not "Appalling," either)! My initial shock gave way to giddiness, followed by a period of unworthiness (briefly contemplating a post called Top 10 Blogs That Deserve My Spot on Phil's Blogroll). But I thought better of it, and I'm just gonna say "thank you" and keep doing what I'm doing. But his link is already paying dividends--I was visited this morning by fellow "Entertaining" blogger Sojourner (Brad Williams), and TTLB thinks I'm a Crawly Amphibian.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Did God Really Say "Sell all you have..."?

“come on and follow Me, but sell your house, sell your SUV,
sell your stocks, sell your security
and give it to the poor”
-Derek Webb from “Rich Young Ruler”

(HT: Dave Faulkner)

Don't think I've gone Jesus Seminar here. I'm not asking if Jesus said it. I'm asking if God said it, or if God says it--in other words, if that's what He asks of us.

Two caveats: 1) I'm still working through my theology here, so there's room for sharpening, and 2) this will be a survey, rather than a comprehensive and exhaustive look at this issue.

At issue: How does God feel about the poor, and how should we as a result feel about them?

#1 God cares about them. It doesn't take long to figure this out. You can see His love for them throughout the Law (with provisions for them), in Wisdom liturature (Job, Psalms, Proverbs), where He is said to uphold the poor, and men are admonished to do the same, and in the prophets, where His judgment in pronounced on those who oppress them and don't care for them. The word "poor" appears 141 times in the ESV OT (not 100% of these times are poor in that sense, but most are).
#2 Jesus cares for them. This probably goes without saying, but Jesus has a great love and mercy for the poor. As he is our example, it seems clear we should do likewise.
#3 The early church cared for the poor. In Acts 4 we read about those who sell their possessions so that there would be no "needy person among them;" and in Acts 6 we read that to balance the priorities of preaching & prayer, along with ministry, a group of godly men were assigned the task of caring for the widows. Paul says in Galatians 2:10 that they were "eager" to remember the poor. This statement was the resolution of a dispute between them & the Jerusalem church, whose leader was James. James 2 has much to say in relation to the poor, and those who would ignore them.

Even from these brief highlights, it should be clear that God cares for the poor, and it is our job as Christians to do it, too.

So back to our original question: Does God command that all of us sell everything and give it to the poor? No.

We might think so at first, but Christ's instructions to the "rich young ruler" seem to be for him alone, to illustrate that he has not kept and cannot fully keep the law. He may ask this of someone individually, as He did of the young man, and if He does and we don't obey, we are no better off than he was. But there is no corresponding command (that I'm aware of) for all of us to do the same. Even in the examples mentioned in Acts, it doesn't appear that everything a person owned was sold.

The bottom line is this: the Bible never commands us to sell all we have and give it to the poor. But it does make it clear that we are to care for the poor, and as Christians we have far too long relegated that responsibility to others (primarily the government). We should do this because God loves those who are poor (and so we should love them), and we should do it in the hopes of winning a hearing for the Gospel (just as Paul's motivation was to "become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some...for the sake of the gospel..." 1 Cor 9 :22-23, ESV).

P.S. Consider this at best a sidebar to Centuri0n's excellent post, soon to be a series. I hope when he does he'll flesh out in greater detail this idea that theology drives methodology, something I'm planning to write about here in the near future.

Monday, November 21, 2005

PETA's New Comic Book

Now this is the kind of comic art you won't find on Pyro or Centuri0n (as they have some minimum standards). Also, sorry to say, this is not a spoof--this is the real thing.

It was sad watching the young, attractive PETA spokeswoman recalling with great sadness how her dad had taken her fishing when she was young, and wishing that she had known about the vegan option.

It was really sad to watch her try to explain why it's ok for the bear on the Geico commercial to eat fish (bears are omnivores), but why human beings should only eat vegetables

It is tragic that people can recognize that fish feel pain, but will repress or reject that claim about small babies in their mother's wombs. Regardless of what PETA says, we really do treat our animals better than our unborn children.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Bloggin' The Code

I had no interest (and in fact no intention) of reading Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code. But as I continue to read more about it, and in light of the movie coming out next May, I've reconsidered. I'm going to cover it one Saturday morning for the men at our church in anticipation of the movie, so I'll be reading and researching between now and then.

I'm doubtful whether I'll be able to shed anything new on the subject, but I will try to post some occasional thoughts as I make my way through it.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Why Do We Believe in God?

In an article entitled "Our Brains Strive To See Only the Good, Leading Some to God," Sharon Begly, who authors the weekly Science Journal column in the Wall Street Journal, says that it is as a result of our own brains. To be fair, she isn't really taking a side on it, she's just presenting the findings from Daniel Gilbert, a professor of psychology at Harvard University, and Professor Pascal Boyer of Washington University. The article makes for interesting reading. But I was left wondering, is belief in God really "a predictable by-product of the ordinary cognitive function," as Professor Boyer claims?

At the outset, let me stipulate two things: 1) I have not read the journal articles or papers published by these learned men of science (nor would I probably understand them if I did); and 2) the examples given definitely lend weight to their thesis, which is that our brains tend to "interpret unexpected and even unwanted outcomes as being for the best." For instance, they cite the example of the high school senior who, after being rejected by a certain college, decides that he doesn't want to go there anyway. They also discuss an experiment where volunteers are told that they are getting a likeable, trustworthy partner (a lie), and given the biography of a very unpleasant person instead. Because they are predisposed to a positive outcome, "doesn't like people" becomes "exceptionally discerning."

And since the brain, according to Professor Gilbert, "tends to search for and hold onto the most most rewarding view of events...", Ms. Begly concludes that, whether talking about a hurricane or recovery from an illness, it is "much more rewarding to attribute death to God's will, and to see in disasters hints of the hand of God."

As I said, it makes for interesting reading, but ultimately the conclusions are selective at best and misleading at worst. Here's why.

First, it doesn't match up with experience. Human nature isn't always like that. People don't always find the good in unexpected outcomes. For example, when you talk to someone who has been laid off, they may say "it's for the best," but inside, there aren't that many who really believe it. Even among Christians (I speak from experience here). And in general, I find there are more Eyores than Winnie-the-Poohs in my life--more naysayers who can find a black cloud behind every silver lining.

Second, it doesn't match up with Scripture. Scientists say that people look to God because it it more rewarding, but Scripture says that we have all gone astray. Men "suppress the truth in unrighteousness." Gilbert says that "Belief in God is compelled by the way our brains work." But Romans 1 says that although men know God, they don't honor him as God. So if am bolstering their argument by saying that men know God, they are proving my point because they themselves look around and fail to even perceive God's existence; they have futile minds and darkened hearts (Rom 1:21).

So what is the answer? Why do we believe in God? My answer, at least, is that I believe in God because He has revealed Himself to me. While I refused to believe in God, Jesus came and did something about my condition that on my own I was helpless to do. So now I strive to fight the good fight; I strive to run the race, and win the prize; and I strive to work out my salvation with fear and trembling, knowing that it is He who works in me.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Blogroll Additions

Here are the two latest additions to my blogroll.

Carla Rolfe mentioned the other day that she didn't have links from any of the big guys (read part 1, part 2, & part 3). As I ruminated on her comment "not that any of them have me on their blogroll (except Tim), or anything, I'm not that interesting," I decided it was time to add her. I've probably read more of her stuff than half the people on my blogroll, because she is usually #2 or #3 comment on Phil's blog, so I've read lots of her thoughts.

Here blog is a combination of beatiful pictures & posts that are "long enough to cover topics," even if that means long posts; and her writing is a mixture of transparency and truth that is rarity among blogs. I can't decide what's more impressive--that she homeschools her seven kids, or that she can do all of this great blogging on dialup.

UNFORTUNATELY for her, my link will generate less traffic in a month than any of those guys do in a day...

My other new link is a friend of mine from college, RevGoT, stopped by last week. We were in the "Not Quite Dead Yet Poets Society" together at John Brown University.

Finally, just a quick note on how I do my blogroll. It's pretty simple, really.
If I read you regularly, you're on the list; if you link to me, you're on the list (unless you worship El Diablo or something like that); and if I know you personally, you're on the list (although just to be clear, I won't force you to be on the list--it's an opt-in thing). I usually have a waiting period (which varies in length), to make sure I don't include an unknown quantity (sort of the blogging equivalent of not laying hands on an elder too quickly).

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Crossing the Red Sea

Even when it isn't worth a thousand words, there are just times when a picture says it best. This is one of those times.

From my daughter's history homework...

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Now THAT'S a Podcast

This is an RSS link to the podcast of GraceLife from Phil Johnson's website. GraceLife is a Sunday School class taught by Phil & Don Green, and is probably larger than my church. Anyway, the feed has 202 sermons listed. Yes, that's two hundred. Roughly about 5 gigabytes worth of sermons.(If you don't know how to use RSS, have no fear; click here to go to the regular audio download page.)

Here are some of my favorites (click to listen or download):
God's Wrath
Life & Times of Phil Johnson (A retelling of this tale, and gives context to this travel post)
What's Wrong with Wright
Dead Right--the Failure of Fundamentalism (some good history in this one)
Defending Your Faith Without Losing Your Mind (This one is by Don Green. Fabulous!)

And last but not least, the Survey of Heresies series:
Part 1--The Judaizers Includes the answer to the all-important question "Why are we studying the Thelogical errors of a bunch of dead guys?"
Part 2--The Gnostics
Part 3--The Arians (A & B)
Part 4--The Pelagians
Part 5--The Socinians

Last word. Lest you think I'm merely posting a bunch of links to another site to make my post for the day, well, you'd be wrong. I have been known to do that from time to time, but this isn't one of those posts. This is an attempt to help you "redeem the time." Turn off your radios and tune in to some good preaching.

Monday, November 14, 2005

God's Sovereignty over Conception

A few years back, I wrote this to encourage a friend who was having trouble getting pregnant, and later for a relative who had gotten pregnant right after getting married. It's funny how often good, biblical advice can come around full circle.
I was thinking about your situation, and I wanted to share a couple of the things I’ve observed from the Bible.

First, I am convinced from looking at Scripture that God is intimately involved in the birth process, right from the beginning. In these verses, it talks about God’s active involvement, and His plan for us.

Isaiah 49:5
And now the Lord says-he who formed me in the womb to be his servant to bring Jacob back to him and gather Israel to himself, for I am honored in the eyes of the Lord and my God has been my strength-

Psalm 139:13-17
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

Jeremiah 1:5
"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations."

His plan even includes the time and place for us to be born. He knows and decides exactly when and where each of us should come to be.

Acts 17:24-26
"The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.

Second, there are several passages that clearly demonstrate that the Lord controls the process of childbearing. I’ve included one sample passage, but there are many times in the OT where something like this happens.

Genesis 20:17-18
Then Abraham prayed to God, and God healed Abimelech, his wife and his slave girls so they could have children again, for the Lord had closed up every womb in Abimelech's household because of Abraham's wife Sarah.

Finally, I love this passage from Psalms, which speaks to the way we should view our children.

Psalm 127:3-5
Sons are a heritage from the Lord , children a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one's youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their enemies in the gate.

The bottom line is this: God controls the process of conception, and is involved in it all the way through. He chooses to bless us with more children through His great goodness and mercy. God made the decision to send you this blessing, and although it may not feel like the right time, it always is. Congratulations, and we will continue to pray for both of you during this pregnancy…and beyond.

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Oh, wait, it's all gonna be OK...

Someone named "Mustafer Ali" just e-mailed me from Nigeria, and in return for my help repatriating $10 million US Dollars belonging to an American family (who, unfortunately, were killed in a car accident back in 2000), he will split it 65-25, with 10% for taxes.

Yeah, I know what you're thinking. This sounds a little fishy. I thought so, too, at first. But it must be legit. He said so.

Don't believe me? Read his final paragraph for yourself.
"All I require is your honest Cooperation to enable us see this deal through. I guarantee that this will be executed under a legitimate arrangement that will protect you from any breach of the law."

So there you go. I'm off to collect my 2.5 million.

Note: I couldn't get the <sarcasm> tags to work. Hope that didn't detract from this blog entry.

Jumpin' Jehoshaphat--I'm a Slithering Reptile!

Not sure what brought this about. I was just minding my own business, and all of a sudden, I'm moving up the TTLB food chain once again.

A couple of burning questions in my mind. First, how did this happen? I wonder if it was Phil Johnson's John 11:35 Blogspot?

Second, and more importantly, as a Christian, is it theologically correct to say that I'm moving up when I turn into a serpent? Great Scott, what have I done?!

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

There's Good News and There's Bad News...

Here's an article I've been wanting to write, but haven't found the time. Pastor Samson presents the Gospel according to the original Gospel tract, the book of Romans (and does a much better job than I would have, anyway).

Monday, November 07, 2005

While We Were Yet Sinners...

My Saturday morning class has been focusing on "Doing God's Business God's Way." A part of that is recognizing our status apart from God's intervention on our behalf.

One passage that has been great in that regard is from Romans 5. In it, Paul makes clear what our standing was BC (before Christ).

"For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation." (Rom 5:6-11, ESV)

While we were weak (and powerless)
While we were sinners
While we were enemies
While we were all of these things, Christ came and gave his life for us.

This is a great and important truth--one that we must keep constantly in the forefront of our minds. If we forget our own sinfulness, we rob God of His great triumph over our sin; we cheapen the value of Christ's sacrifice; and we even run the risk of becoming like Israel of old, thinking we were chosen for some reason other than God's good pleasure.

When you read Paul's testimony about himself, he is crystal clear on what his own condition is, and I wonder at times if that is why he knows so great a salvation. Reading verses like this is a great reminder of our true state apart from Christ, lest we delude ourselves into thinking we are somehow "better sinners" than others.

Near the end of his life, John Newton is quoted as saying "My memory is nearly gone, but I remember two things, that I am a great sinner, and that Christ is a great Saviour." May we all be able to recognize and willing to say the same thing about ourselves.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Who Needs Toys?

We often joke about why we bother to buy our kids toys, considering how much more fun they have with the boxes the come in. It's interesting, because unlike many toys, boxes require imagination--and the kids are always up to the challenge. A box can be just about anything. What it is changes daily, and often even more frequently. Even when it breaks down from use, that still doesn't stop them from playing with it. It is a truly amazing phenomenon.

Anyway, what prompted this post is that my kids, who are a few feet away from me, are taking turns throwing a piece of scrap plastic wrapper of some type up in the air while the other one catches it. Meanwhile, the real toys lie dormant in their various baskets and tubs, or strewn about various places around the house. I sometimes wonder if it's the act of taking them out of their containers that the kids find the most fun anyway.

Of course, with Christmas "just around the corner" (at least if you live in Retailing World), the toy marketing machine is kicking into full gear, with TV ads, catalogues, and every other kind of advertisement imaginable.

And I go on asking myself, "When will we stop buying toys for the kids?"

11/20/05 update: The cardboard box was just inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame. CNN Announcement and the MSNBC Interview with the Museum Curator.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Greek Geeks--this is Cool!

Zack Hubert, who's site has already been named by me as the coolest website of the year, continues his path to greatness. He has built a Flash-based interface that works similar to his webpage, only faster. (HT: ESV Blog.) One unfortunate consequence of the link directly from the blog is that Zach is over his allotment for verse queries. So wait a day or three before you try to access the ESV text in parallel. NASB seems unaffected.

Despite this little glitch, he has something really great here. Why? I'll let Zack tell you (bold emphasis mine):

A few comments...

So this is a new direction which is in development, which means its not going to be as full featured as the rest of the website for a little bit. So why do it?

Well, the reason is because this new approach is much more like an *application* and less like a website and though that is a little uncomfortable at first, I strongly believe it will be awesome in the end as you'll have a highly interactive website that can do things other websites cannot presently.


Distributed! You could embed the same source that I have here on any webpage that you wanted to and have a *local* on your website.

Font Freedom - this approach doesn't require any fonts on your system

Rich Media - drag/drop, click, double click, hover, etc

And much more...

So forget links--you can have the power of this application on your webpage or blog. Wow! BTW--I should mention that the Daily Bible Reading from the Greek NT (in the upper right-hand corner of the blog) is courtesy of Mr. Hubert as well.