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.