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Saturday, November 26, 2005

Supercross Prognostication 2005/2006

Bubba Stewart (259)leads Ricky Carmichael (4) and Chad Reed (22)
When I started this blog, I set out to blog on all that was blogworthy. Now that Garet and Dave have helped tackle sanctification and soteriology, the only logical next topic is Supercross (I have a very thin dictionary). I now offer my stunning predictions for the 2005/2006 season.

Having read Phillip Johnson's controversial entries on cessetionism, I want to make it very clear: I am not a prophet. If your Bible came in a loose leaf binder do not print out this blog entry and add it to the end. That said, it takes no prophet to recognize that Ricky Carmichael is the fastest motocross rider in the world. This does not always translate into Supercross results, though.

Carmichael has won his last few Supercross titles due to consistency. He shows up fitter than any of his competition and beats them (ironically) like red-headed stepchildren for the first few rounds. From then on, he manages the season and doesn't take any more risks than necessary. When he doesn't win, he finishes second. His competition hasn't been able to counteract his strategy yet.

Things might be turning around, though. In 2002, Australian Chad Reed won more rounds than Carmichael but didn't win the championship. 2004/5 saw Reed make a late season charge, but it was ultimately too late. This year, Reed has wised up. This is his year.

The Supercross powers that be have set up a goofy World Championship "series." All it is is two rounds in Canada before the American season begins. During the AMA season, selected rounds count toward the World Championship. At one point, it was a legitimate series that spent time in Europe, but the Europeans stayed away in droves. Chad Reed has committed to run the two Canadian rounds this year. This will see him competing with Carmichael from day one. I believe that Carmichael will win the Canadian rounds, but Reed will be up speed by the time they arrive in America.

The question mark for the season is James "Bubba" Stewart. Bubba is ridiculously, obscenely fast. But he has had a case of Terra Ingestitis lately. He just can't seem to keep off the ground. Add to that the mysterious illness that caused him to withdraw from the US Open of MX, and things are looking a little shaky in Bubbaland. In fairness, motocrossers seem to suffer a mystery stomach ailment fairly frequently. Carmichael battled a weird stomach virus for years. (Is there something in the roost?) Carmichael proved that he can ride through anything. Can Bubba? We all hope that he is not on the same road as Travis Pastrana. No one wants to see his talent squandered by a series of horrific crashes that leave him too hobbled to show his talent. For now, there is hope. Bubba doesn't make excuses. Perhaps he will break through the out-of-control stage that Carmichael had to go through.

So who will win? I predict that Carmichael will get off to a quick start, but Reed will begin winning races by the time they get to San Diego. Bubba will win races, but neither championship will be his. Reed will win enough races to take the AMA Championship, but Carmichael will be World Champion again, due to winning both Canadian rounds. To find out how wrong I am, tune in on December 4th to Speed.
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According to a previous Canadian Prime Minister of Defence, Earth needs to be prepared for an imminent intergalatic war. I may have to post more extensively on this later. Understanding the alien phenomenon in light of scripture is an interesting rabbit trail. Whether it should be taken at face value, perceived as demonic activity, or recognized as the result of the collective imagination of pot smoking yokels, as Christians we must have an answer for those who wonder where this bizarre activity fits into the machinations of Providence. My world view would not be shaken by a verification of the mythology that exists among conspiracy theorists and New Agers, but many others would. Certainly something worth thinking about.
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Sunday, November 20, 2005

J-Lo and the Dispensation of Hugs

Will she lead the liturgical revolution?
We live in the Age of Hugs. The Scofield Bible commentators came up with seven ages: Innocency, Conscience, Human Government, Promise, Law, Grace, and Kingdom. Somehow, these divines missed "Embrace." It goes between "Grace" and "Kingdom." Fortunately, our musicians have rectified our theologians' oversight.

Of the many worship songs in current usage that speak of "embraces," the most egregious is "Draw Me Close." The lyrics run thusly:

Draw me close to you
Never let me go
I lay it all down again
To hear you say that I'm your friend
You are my desire
No one else will do
Cause nothing else can take your place
To feel the warmth of your embrace
Help me find the way
Bring me back to you

You're all I want
You're all I've ever needed
You're all I want
Help me know you are near

Last year I was working at Sears and heard this song (or some such--they're all so alike) over the PA. I would like to compare it to the song that preceeded it: "Jenny from the Block" by Jennifer Lopez. The chorus goes like this:

Don't be fooled by the rocks that I got
I'm still, I'm still Jenny from the block
Used to have a little now I have a lot
No matter where I go I know where I came from
(From the Bronx)

Notice that J-Lo is specific. She names the central character, herself. She has a clear aim in mind: To show those who would disparage her that she is true to her heritage and considerate of those less fortunate than herself. She uses the concrete imagery of jewelry to show that her adornments do not detract for her fundamental essence. Finally, she calls her people by name.

Our God delights in calling and naming. He has given us names for Himself and for ourselves. This universal mushiness needs to stop. Which god does "Draw Me Close" address? The only veiled reference to scripture makes God's acceptance of us conditional to "laying it all down," which I suppose refers to laying down our burdens before God. Otherwise, it's not particularly clear that God is being addressed at all.

Those living in the Age of Hugs take note: There are other things that God does. While the prodigal son was indeed embraced by his father, and we are told that God draws us to His bosom, he does a few other things, including sustaining the entire Universe and forgiving us for our sins. Beside perpetuating the heresy that something has separated us from the love of God, what does "Draw Me Close" say? As Hamlet, that musical punster, said, "The rest is silence."

Bonus Irony: J-Lo mentions God by name in "Jenny from the Block." She sings:

Put God first and can't forget to stay real
To me it's like breathing, yeah

Sounds like a pretty strong stand for lordship salvation, but we'll have to see if she has a--erm--full-orbed statement of her soteriology in her next album.

Category: Theoblogia
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Friday, November 18, 2005

The Award for Most Pretentious Sophistry Goes To

Having already given out this week's "Blight on Christendom" distinction, I was feeling generous, so I thought I would give out a special, non-recurring award for "Most Pretentious Sophistry" on the internet. This award was inspired by the folks at and (same difference), so there was no contest, nor were there any runners-up. Hereafter, I will refer to them simply as the "Fops" (Flowery, Odd Postmoderns) for shorthand.

For those are unaware, this smaller-than-the-Branch-Davidian sect of theological moonbats have emerged in the last few years as the product of Federal Vision movement (a.k.a. Auburn Avenue theology). Now, I am not a fan of FV/AA theology, but I don't consider it heresy and I have no small admiration for some of it's adherents and teachers, most especially Douglas Wilson, from whom I have gained much spiritually. This movement, sadly, has spawned the Fops, the illegitimate love child of the FV/AA theology and postmodernism. Throw in a dash of medievalism, and you get the Kevin Johnson-Tim Enloe-Paul Owen joint project at the aforementioned websites. This peculiar creation is so strange that even its own parents wouldn't love it, or even recognize it. "Jesus I know, and Douglas Wilson I recognize, but who are you?" I say to the Fops.

For a case in point, one will note the constant postmodernism-inspired ridicule of propositions from Tim Enloe. He means to tell us that we are all ridiculous for thinking that propositions can be "beamed" between brains and that this somehow (?) denies incarnation of the Word. Yet we get this from Douglas Wilson's blog recently:

A proposition is simply a statement of fact, and the fact that God allows us to
see things in the world, and transfer what we see into the minds of others by
this means, is simply a grand mystery and miracle, right up there with the
loaves and fishes. Here I am, sitting with my laptop, listening to the blues,
and depositing thoughts into your head. How does that work? This does not
explain things fully, but one of the necessary instruments involved in all this
is the lowly proposition.

If these words were spoken by anyone else, the Fops would immediately decry such a fellow as being a disembodied-from-the-physical-world gnostic. They will at this point have to admit that their own hero is probably a closet gnostic sectarian baptist. I encourage people to read Wilson's critiques of postmodernism on his blog, as he has dedicated an ongoing series of posts to the topic. Anyone who takes his insights here seriously should run away from the Fops just as quickly as they run away from their equally-disturbing cousins, the Emergents. One thing is for sure, and that is that the Fops have come a long way from their roots.

Calling themselves "Reformed Catholics", they have spoiled a perfectly good phrase, etymologically speaking. I'd also like to call myself a Reformed Catholic, and I would consider it accurate, but without implying that I embrace the hyper-covenantalism, hyper-sacramentalism, and hyper-ecclesiology of the Fops. The upshot of this is that "catholicity" becomes a codeword for "lack of discernment in the name of unity" or "muddled postmodern eclecticism." The Fops are clearly in love with this sophistic eclecticism, yet they are predictably not so tolerant of those who disagree with their undiscerning toleration. In addition, they display a shocking immunity to criticism. Note, for instance, Steve Hays' refutation of Paul Owen's errors, James White's refutations of Owen's errors, Eric Svendsen's refutations of Owen's errors, etc. He's like the Black Knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail who, after getting his limbs hacked off by King Arthur, declares that its "only a flesh wound." I'd similarly begin to document those who have admonished Tim Enloe, but I'm just not up to such a monotonous task (just keyword search his name at triablogue,, or

But that's not all! It takes alot more than that to win a prestigious Mongrel Horde Award! Gaze in awe upon the ad hominem sophistry that would, in sound churches, qualify as a disciplinable offense against brethren in Christ. Be astounded at the degeneration into heterodoxy by the denial of penal substitution. Moan with disgust at the outright denial of justification by faith alone (and the cognitive dissonance involved in trying to confessionally square-up such hyper-sacramentalism).

I attempted dialogue with the Fops a year or two ago, which I soon learned was an excercise in futility on par with trying to tell a Palestinian suicide bomber that the Jews really aren't the root of societal evil. Seeing as how they were willing to extend the right hand of fellowship and regard Roman Catholics as "brothers" in Christ on the basis of their Trinitarian baptism, I questioned the arbitrariness of treating an issue of theology proper (the doctrine of the Trinity) as the minimum bar of orthodoxy while ignoring the soteriological issues (sola fide) of the Gospel. I agreed with their reasoning about Trinitarian baptism being the means of entrance into the visible church, but disagreed (on the basis of the example of the Galatian heresy) that a Trinitarian affirmation is the sole or sufficient determination of a 'credible profession of faith' at baptism. Shouldn't a credible profession of faith include, at least implicitly, an affirmation of what aforementioned Triune God has done for us? Their reasoning about the necessity of a Trinitarian confession is right as far as it goes. The question I asked was why stop there? Not shockingly, I was given no straight answer to this question, but instead a pile of patented Enlovian bluster.

So far, I've just given a thumbnail sketch of the Fops' merits as recipients of our prestigious award, but I don't want to let this post just be composed of ridicule, even as richly deserved as it is. I will therefore address one of the Fops' latest insults to the Reformed community's intelligence. This is just plucking out one of many such editorials, about as significant and difficult as finding hay in the proverbial haystack. My dear readers, you will have to thank me for reading their blog so that you don't have to.

Kevin Johnson tells us that the upcoming debate on Calvinism, which will be a major feature of this year's SBC Pastor's Conference, is a bad thing. Here are some of his reasons:

I suppose I would be more positive about this debate if "Five Point Calvinism"
really represented what it means to be Reformed or if the debate centered on the
truths put forward by the Synod of Dort in a way that emphasized the relation of
these doctrines to the overall covenantal theological and catholic context of
Reformed Protestantism.

I don't know what thinking is leading him to the conclusion that the Canons or Dordt, a major confession of the Reformation, one of the 3 Forms of Unity, doesn't in an important sense "represent what it means to be Reformed." Secondly, we certainly should be concerned with theological and historical contexts or our confessions, but that doesn't mean we should hesitate to defend our confessions. Either the affirmations of the Canons are right or they are wrong. "Jesus is Lord" is also a confession, and it has its own theological and historical context to it. Would Mr. Johnson hesitate to defend this confession on similar grounds?

There are, for example, legitimate criticisms of the practice and the theology
of Five Point Calvinism by real Arminian theology that deserve to be considered
and mulled over in a non-polemic environment.

Funny, but the New Testament doesn't seem to prioritize establishing a "non-polemic environment" against first century errors in the church. So where does such an ethical priority come from?

Dr. Patterson will not be representing a true Arminian position. He certainly
won't be putting forward all of the historic
points of the Remonstrants
and likely doesn't believe all of what they put
originally advocated in 1610.

True, but is the Deity of Christ, by extension, not worth defending today simply because Jehovah's Witnesses don't believe exactly as Arius did? Should we hesitate to debate and defend the Nicene Creed just because it was written in a particular historic context?

Dr. Patterson has already been called Arminian on other
blogs or lists as a result of being the one to take the side against Five Point
Calvinism. Of course, this is inaccurate in the extreme. It's a sort of
shorthand among Five Point Calvinists. By calling Dr. Patterson an Arminian,
what they really mean is that he's not a five point Calvinist and this sort of
sloppy use of vocabulary doesn't help us get to the truth of the matter any time
soon. It doesn't accurately cast Dr. Patterson's position or allow his position
to speak for itself.

Actually, it takes alot more to be an Arminian rather than simply denying the 5 Points. Some form of semi-Pelagianism, semi-semi-Pelagianism, or doctrine of libertarian free will is usually behind the rejection of however many points they may reject. Nor need they embrace all 5 Points of the Arminian Remonstrants in order for this to be true.

On the way things are phrased, the terms "Five Point Calvinism" and "Calvinism"
in general do not represent either Calvin's teaching or anything other than the
dogmatic 'TULIP' summary conclusions of the Synod of Dort.

Kevin doesn't tell us what he means when he denies that 5 Point Calvinism "represents" Calvin's teaching. This is his typical weasel way of not having to be specific about anything that can be criticized. Nothing specific, but only "in general" does it not represent Calvin's teaching. Uh-huh. Aren't the 5 Points either taught explicitly by Calvin, or at least by implication? OK, Calvin didn't pen the Canons or Dordt himself, but that's fairly trivial. And simply pointing out that the 5 Points only constitute a portion of his teaching is similarly trivial. Kevin's idolatry of generalities and love of vague abstractionism lead him to declare that "you have to see the forest, but there are no trees" in his disdain for particulars. Again, substitute any other doctrine into his equation and you see the absurdity of it: the Nicene Creed is not the totality of Trinitarian theology, but it would be false to suggest that it doesn't "represent" Trinitarian theology or somehow is not worth defending in debate.

I believe it's high time for the Reformed community to admit how divisive
so-called Five Point Calvinism has been in Baptist and other circles and
bringing additional light to this subject in the form of a debate will
perpetuate this sort of division in the Southern Baptist Convention.

This exposes just how much "catholicity" has become an idol for Johnson and his fellow Fops. Apparently, he doesn't think semper reformanda is so important anymore when his idol is threatened. Yes, division is bad and should be avoided, but not all reformations need be divisive. God commands us to both unity and doctrinal purity. The Fops will put purity on the back burner in order to fulfill John 17:11 (that the church would be one). Someone should tap them on the shoulder and tell them to obey everything God has commanded, including John 17:17 (that the church would be sanctified in truth). We don't get to disobey one command saying "well, I was just trying to fulfill this other command by doing so."

Southern Baptists need to understand how many
implementations of Five Point Calvinism in the life of churches limits and
hinders legitimate evangelism while promoting all sorts of division and schism.
Any honest look at Reformed churches in general will have to admit that
Calvinist churches on the whole are terrible at evangelism. The standard
'Arminian' critique here is absolutely correct. Five Point Calvinism as it has
been implemented in American churches does stunt evangelism.

Any doctrine can be "implemented" wrongly and lead to terrible results. The solution, therefore, is to implement a biblical truth rightly, not suppress or deny a biblical truth. The solution is to deal with sin, not deny inspired truth.

In short, Southern Baptists don't need the very doctrines that promise only to
kill not only the growth they've enjoyed so far but also their very identity as
the effective and hard-working evangelists for the Church of this modern age.

Southern Baptists should indeed be proud of their heritage, but again I wonder how this negates the importance of continually reforming. And what is this unbelieving fatalism about biblical doctrine "promising" to kill their growth? It is certainly a possibility, but why not do the right thing (preach truth amidst error) and let God decide if He will change the hearts unto unity, or whether He will bring a sword of division?

Category: Mongrel Medals

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Book Review

The Heliand: The Saxon Gospel
Translation and Commentary by G. Ronald Murphy

The Heliand is a work near and dear to my heart. It is a retelling of the Gospel that was written in the early 9th Century for an audience of pagan Saxons. Murphy's translation is the best available in English and preserves the unique "Saxonisms" of the original. Consider this familiar passage:

"Our good Lord," he said, "we need Your gracious help in order to carry out Your will and we also need Your own words, Best of all born, to teach us, Your followers, how to pray-just as John, the good Baptist, teaches his people with words every day how they are to speak to the ruling God. Do this for Your own followers-teach us the secret runes. The powerful One, the Son of the Chieftan, had a good word ready right after that in reply. "When you men want to speak to the ruling God," He said, "to address the most powerful of all kings, then say what I now teach you: Father of us, the sons of men, You are in the high heavenly kingdom, Blessed be Your name in every word. May Your mighty kingdom come. May Your will be done over all this world-just the same on earth as it is up there in the high heavenly kingdom. Give us support each day, good Chieftan, Your holy help, and pardon us, Protector of Heaven, our many crimes, just as we do to other human beings. Do not let evil little creatures lead us off to do their will, as we deserve, But help us against all evil deeds. (54-55)

I am endeavoring to defend the orthodoxy of a particular aspect of The Heliand in my MA thesis. What makes it such an interesting work is how it pushes me to question how far a paraphrase may stray from the original scriptures before it becomes a work of syncretism. Many would be freaked out by the use of "runes" in the above quote. Others think that magical words are not so far off when John ch. 1 is considered. A far more clear example of syncretism is the elimination of the "no room at the inn" scene. Murphy speculates that Saxons would find it hard to believe that God would overlook such a blatant violation of the laws of hospitality. They would be incredulous that God wouldn't get His smite on.

Am I too flippant in saying, "Get His smite on?" Well, that's the question, isn't it? I seem to recall that when the Message was first released, it was marketed as a paraphrase and was not divided up by chapter and verse. I certainly saw such a version. Now it is marketed as another translation. The Contemporary English Version has more than a few eyebrow-raising passages, and we are faced with the spectre of the "gender-accurate" NNIV. We may not be hairy, pagan, Saxon warriors, but these new translations pander to our hairless, pagan, non-Saxonness as much as anything in The Heliand. An effete society is offended at the suggestion of God's maleness. Rather than confront the issue head on, we pander. They don't want to wrestle with any long words, so we let someone else define all the terms and ingest Scripture and commentary in one gulp. At least the Heliand-poet let his readers know that he was telling them the story of the gospel and didn't claim to be telling them the Scriptures in their own language.

These heavy thoughts aside, I don't think it is any sort of sin to enjoy reading The Heliand. If you enjoy Beowulf, you will find it an absolute delight. Suffice it to say, Peter's striking off of the slave's ear is far more central than in the Greek. As a work of syncretism, it is far less insipid than those we produce. This is because we don't really have pagans anymore. As C.S. Lewis observed, pagans were ready to receive the gospel. They were deeply religious, but recognized that their religion was ultimately futile. The Saxon who saw Christ as the fulfillment of all that Balder promised is far different from the latte-sipping sceptics of our day. They want assurances that God is "inclusive." Just as Aslan is not a tame lion, our God is quite dangerous. At least the Saxons understood that much.

Category: Between the Covers
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War and Reconstruction

I wish the Prez would offer a speech writing position to Victor Davis Hanson that he couldn't refuse . Read War and Reconstruction by VDH.

I was also reading about one of our previous Presidents when "during the Civil War, Lincoln exercised powers no previous president had wielded...." Having suspended habeas corpus he "frequently imprisoned accused Southern spies and sympathizers without trial." As the story goes, Lincoln deemed journalists who were undermining the war effort as sympathizers with the enemy, locked them in the holds of ships, and let them float out the war on the Potomac. Wouldn't it be nice if the Prez could get away with sending troops with cattle prods into MSNBC, the NYT, and Manhatten cocktail parties, round up all the sympathizers, lock them into the hold of the USS Ronald Reagan, and let them float out the war in the Gulf of Mexico? In my mind's ear I can hear their muffled cries of "Facism!" from behind a foot of steel hull as they sail out to sea, leaving only the murmuring of grasshoppers and the whirring of unencumbered grown ups...
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Thursday, November 17, 2005

Christianity and Culture: Dirty Words, Part Three of Three

Certain segments of Christendom have the tendency to let the admonition of their Savior whistle in one ear and out the other, operating under the delusion it only pertains to “those people”. It is classic “log eye” syndrome. If devolution of speech is a concern, no one need look further than the “post modern” churches, the liberal denominations, and the fundamentalists, all who have slowly blunted (in some cases perverted) the precision of theological language. The first two have allowed the very specific usage of certain words to be broadened or redefined to fit into modernity and reflect a more pluralistic and humanistic Christianity. The fundies constantly rewrite history and redefine words in order to assure us that the Scriptures (the KJV only, of course) teach Jesus drank grape juice and alcohol is “from the Debo!” And then there is the “doctrine is divisive and irrelevant” crowd, who talk about God in words more appropriate for school yard flirtations.

Theological language is turned inside out by the "openness of God" advocates
who are very uncomfortable with a God who has perfect knowledge and absolute control over His creation. Clark Pinnock's use of the word Sovereign is entirely diminished from the usage of St. Augustine, and suggests willful ignorance towards Paul’s proclamations about the freedom of the Potter to do precisely what He wills.

John Sanders seemingly derives his interpretation of God’s character detailed in his book, The God Who Risks, from the event of his brothers tragic death. Something he conjectures, God could not possibly have known, or else he would have stopped it. Sanders emaciates Providence by asserting that God is not “the ultimate cosmic explanation for each and every thing”, and suggests that God was taken by surprise when Adam and Eve rebelled. I think this kind of talk is juvenile, disempowering rubbish from the pit of hell- but that’s just me.

Greg Boyd randomly arrives at his redefinition of Love, saying “its first condition being that it must be freely chosen.” I’m sorry; I thought “We Love because God first loved us.” It seems to me that the first condition of Love is that God initiate it, and so causes us the ability to love him.

The precision of the historical-grammatical method of scriptural analysis practiced (in essence) by the early church Fathers to Aquinas, and perfected by John Calvin, is abandoned and subverted by modern liberal theologians seeking to affirm their own experience and validate their unjustified beliefs. This is the real crisis, not some four letter word that will come and go with time. Rather than throwing a legalistic hissy fit every time the culture hits its collective thumb with a hammer, we should battle against the redefinition of words like courage, love, marriage, truth, and other crucial “signs of ideas” being lost to cultural relativism and the semantics of liberal theologians.

However, as a Christian educator I must maintain a precise method of dealing with potential cultural acceptance of taboo words. I do believe that I, my students and others, cannot with good conscience use language deemed profane by certain segments of American culture . However, the substructure of logic cannot be that there are "bad" or “dirty” words because that is factually inaccurate and therefore unreasonable. Nor can we say such speech is taking the Lord's name in vain, for that is something else specifically. There is however, several reasons why using such language will remain forbidden for the Christian; at least in the context of general society, school, church and the Christian home.

1. Certain words reflect low intelligence and lack of education. The F- word and others fill the holes in the speech of simpletons. Only foolish and ignorant people use profanity because (a) they lack a vocabulary expansive enough to express themselves and (b) they are unable to control their emotions, nor describe them in a meaningful way.

2. Certain words are used primarily for incendiary purposes and insult. Scripture teaches that the speech proceeding from the mouth of man defiles the man, not because some speech is inherently evil, but because it reveals the depraved nature of such a man's heart. Jesus says that if a man insults his brother it is tantamount to murder because it reflects the hatred in the insulter's heart.

3. Certain words are used in ways that are coarse, obscene, degrading and offensive in their cultural context. Our Lord and the Apostles Paul and James all refer to the destructiveness of this kind of speech. In all accounts it is presented as a stumbling block, an affront to the name of Christ whose emissaries we are and divisive among brethren. Paul says he goes to great lengths not to offend people for the sake of the Gospel, and that should be our attitude as well. Of course, certain things (the Gospel namely) will always offend people and should not be compromised for the sake of making people comfortable. (That means you seeker sensitive churches!)

With that said, my basic attitude is this, God likely takes much more offense in being spoken of with blunted words denoting ideas diminishing to His glory than the utterance of over used slang that rhymes with duck. El fin.

Category: Gnat-Strainers
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Wednesday, November 16, 2005

You Don't Know Jack!

Garet, Dave, and I have all brought our own interests to this blog. I hadn't read all of the blogs that Garet and Dave linked to, so I felt it necessary to take a look. I was surprised to read a scathing indictment of C.S. Lewis at A Slice of Laodicea. I was even more disturbed to see Ingrid's commentors eagerly reply with links to fundamentalist sources that mingle slander with irrelevance.

I cannot say that I am impartial in this; Lewis is my favorite author. I endeavored to read all of his works and only have a little mop-up reading to do. I don't consider myself uniquely qualified to critique Lewis's theology, but I am confident that I know him in a way his critics do not. Lewis himself commented that reviewing a work that one detested was incredibly difficult; rage is not conducive to clear thinking. This can be the only excuse for the detestable way that Lewis has been cited on Slice of Laodicea. While the reader sees this:

There are people in other religions who are being led by God's secret influence to concentrate on those parts of their religion which are in agreement with Christianity, and who thus belong to Christ without knowing it ... For example a Buddhist of good will may be led to concentrate more and more on the Buddhist teaching about mercy and to leave in the background (though he might still say he believed) the Buddhist teaching on certain points. Many of the good Pagans long before Christ's birth may have been in this position (Mere Christianity, pp. 176-177).

The reader does not realize that the context that this has been ripped from is a chapter on sanctification. Lewis is answering the objection that some unbelievers behave more morally than some believers. He is actually making a common grace argument. He also makes it clear that these people are often in the process of becoming Christians. In the sentence immediately before the passage cited, Lewis says, "There are people who do not accept the full Christian doctrine about Christ but who are so deeply attracted by Him that they are His in a much deeper sense than they understand." Does this not sound like regeneration? Lewis's argument is that some moral non-Christians are moral because they are not as non-Christian as we think, but rather are elect.

A more damning quote could be taken from Lewis's final book in the Narnia cycle, The Last Battle. The entire book condemns syncretism, as the blasphemous "Tashlan" is repudiated as being neither the demon Tash or the Christ-figure Aslan. Aslan accounts service to Tash as service to himself in the case of one pagan. The argument is that he was serving Aslan the entire time. Before deconstructing this argument, I must note that Lewis explicitly states that things do not work the same way in Narnia as in our world. Your mileage may vary. But let's say that Lewis said plainly (and he didn't), "Explicit belief in Christ is not necessary for salvation." This would be heresy, but a heresy of a different stripe. This would be a strain of Calvinism-gone-awry, not mealy-mouthed universalism. You may ask yourself, "Can God save a man against his will?" Calvinists, (esp. Presbyterians) will respond with a rousing "Aye!" Realize then, that this belief without any qualifications is the same as the worst-case interpretation of Lewis.

Lewis was not without his faults; he confessed many of them openly. The worst, most grievous errors are in Reflections on the Psalms (read it for yourself). What readers must realize is that he saw the high tide of modernism, and did all that he could to turn it back. He spoke against the social gospel, the lack of doctrinal instruction in the Church, the Pharisaical tendencies of evangelicals, and the cancerous intrusion of liberal thought in theology. And he had a day job teaching Medieval Literature at Oxford and then Cambridge!

The articles that Slice of Laodicea's readership links to is even more disturbing in their wild accusations. The worst, of course, is that Lewis was a Catholic. Though it can be difficult to tell them apart from Anglicans at times(try it yourself with the picture above), this is a rather obvious mistake (or outright slander). Second to that is the scandalous revelation that Lewis smoked and drank. Let's see, call the guy a Catholic, point out the mortal sins of smoke and drink--what creed are we reading from? The Pharisee Fundamentalist "Distinctives." I predict that this whisper campaign will only intensify as the movie version of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe draws near. The usual "do not taste, do not touch" arguments are all there. Like Douglas Wilson, I commend the Fundies on their ability to fight, but save a little ammo for the enemy, wouldja? I would take the time to refute the ridiculous charges of paganism, but I trust you're the sort of folks who can see The Iliad as more than an incitement to sodomy and the worship of Zeus.

I challenge each of you to read God in the Dock, not with your X-ray heresy glasses on, but with an eye toward Lewis's style. He is writing for the average man in the pew, but he does not leave him with empty platitudes and forgettable anagrams. Even at his worst, he gives him something to disagree with. So much that is written today is either Orthodox and turgid or heterodox and insipid. Rather than step on Douglas Wilson's toes, read his much better peaen to Lewis's style in this back issue of Credenda. I hope that you will be blessed by finally knowing Jack.

Category: Gnat-Strainers
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Christianity and Culture: Dirty Words, Part Two of Three

One way a discerning Christian should react is by considering language in light of its historical context and development. Too often Christians react with knee jerk paranoia at the changing whims of culture and society. When cultural standards become systematized as necessary components of “the Divine Life”, the Spirit of the Law is buried under the pilings on of Pharisees.

The modern form of the "F" word
first appeared in Middle English poetry a little over five hundred years ago. It was rendered in falsified Latin form in a poem entitled “Fleas, Flies, and Friars”. While the denotation referred specifically to the act of intercourse, the connotation was not particularly profane; although, it seems to be used exclusively in the context of fornication. It was reacted to with shock because the context of the poem satirizes Carmelite friars and the inappropriate relationships with their cross-town mistresses. There are many possibilities as to which language the English rendering of the word derived its origin, although according to the OED, it seems most likely related to the German word “ficken”, which means “to rub, to scratch or to strike.”

Akin to any vocabulary of similar usage, the F-word was likely considered "vulgar" because it was taken from the speech of the common man. Vulgar Latin was the language used by commoners of the Roman Empire prior to the Middle Ages, much like the Koine Greek of the New Testament during the time of Christ and the establishment of the Church. In subsequent centuries, the term "vulgar" broadened to include any language's basest form as used by the common people. The educated British of the Middle Ages (specifically the clergy) spoke and wrote in the Classical Latin of Virgil and in French, Italian or their own language of Middle English (which is Germanic and also had a vulgar form). Therefore any slang that came from the speech of commoners was considered to be suitable only for the tongues of peasants, artisans, and merchants. When a poet used such slang he was being "vulgar", which had more to do with the exploitation of lower-class frivolity and ignorance, rather than morality (although, it was assumed that the lower classes were by nature less moral than the upper classes). Since then, historically, the F-word's "vulgarity" has been in a state of flux. It seems that in some generations it is extremely taboo but later is downgraded to neutral, only to be resurrected and considered profane again. America is the only English speaking country (although I am unsure of Canada) that has recently considered it the most taboo of all words. Sometime prior the 1960’s a myth was spread that detectives had originated the word, using it as an abbreviation for the technical term for rape (Forced Unlawful Carnal Knowledge and other variants). But, the strength of it’s obscenity was probably increased as those on the lunatic leftwing fringe of society such as James Joyce, Norman Mailer, Kurt Vonnegut and the adherents to the licentious hippie movement all employed liberal usage of the word. English culture currently regards several words as MUCH worse than the F-word, many of which American’s use daily, either in mockery or even in an attempt to be more pure of speech.

By the natural process of linguistic evolution, the F-word's meaning has expanded beyond its original denotation to include the verb usage "to betray or to commit a foolish action", or as an imperative as a signal of angry dismissal. Not to mention the extensive states of being it can portray (drunk, deadly situation, caught by the authorities, etc.) . It is used as a verb, noun, adjective, or adverb. These alternative usages are what the FCC is saying they will not rule on. The intention of the FCC is to protect the general public from obscene language, and by that they mean overtly sexual language. They are saying that if the word does not refer to sex, it is not in violation of FCC law. Similiar judgment is employed to the many other words which have dual connotations. For example, it is perfectly sensible for the AKC Dog Show of Animal Planet to use the term "bitch" repeatedly, but we would understand something else if that is how Matt Lauer always referred to Katy Couric and all other women on “The Today Show.”

Language itself is largely a relative and subjective device. It only has the value that a culture assigns it. Definitions only last as long as they are agreed upon, and are all too often muted, perverted, or expanded. This is why properly handling the Scriptures, with interpretation and exposition being guided by cultural context and historical usage (Calvin’s historical-grammatical method), is so crucial. The denotation and connotation of an American English word today may vary wildly from an earlier context and time. Just consider the word “gay” and one can understand what I am getting at.

As a political conservative, who promotes conservative principles, I think that the "God is dead" leftist crowd is actually disarming themselves of ways to offend people. Think about it; if every taboo word is pillaged of its meaning and force, what weapons will these poor degenerates have to shock people with. Their onward march to institutionalized moral relativism is assuring their own impotency. Likewise, their insistence to defile themselves only demonstrates the veracity of God's word. For it is the assignment of profanity that is sinful; the taking of that which is amoral at worst and righteous at best, and commandeering it for wickedly perverse ends.

Obviously my Christian world view renders final judgment. I realize that those dead in sin will continue to "glory in their shame". I am to expect nothing more from them, the Bible is quite clear on this, and we are to realize that "to the pure all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure." Becoming outraged when the increasingly secularist government continues to relax its moral expectations on language is a worthless exercise. And when liberal churches permit secular inanities into their Sunday morning liturgy, why should the discerning Christian be surprised and indignant. If anything as Reformed Christians we should be indifferent to it, understanding the basic nature of the dilemma. Our focus should be on people's souls, not on maintaining a cultural morality that is extra-Biblical. The preaching of cultural asceticism should not be substituted for the Gospel. Nor should the preservation of cultural asceticism be lumped in with the preservation of the Doctrines of Grace. In the words of G.K. Chesterton (oh my, a Catholic!), “Idolatry is committed, not merely by setting up false gods, but also by setting up false devils.’ Christendom should be in the business of language restoration, not its demonization.

Go to Part Three

Category: Gnat-Strainers
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Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Christianity and Culture: Dirty Words, Part One of Three

In October of 2003 a wave of stone throwing zealotry passed through culturally ascetic Christian circles when Irish rocker Bono dropped the F-bomb during the American Music Awards, and the FCC did little about it. They ruled that since his reference was not sexual, it wasn’t indecent or “vulgar”. (Read the past article here.) Of course, for all the Chicken Little's out there, this was the final signal flare alerting us of the demise of a Christian nation, the sky began to fall and the Rapture Index went up several points.

In more recent F-bomb news, it appears that at one of these so-called “emergent churches” (Scum o’ the Earth Church in Denver), some lady spouted off a poem laden with F-bombs, and “when she finished her emotional and stirring presentation there was absolute silence." Acccording to the lead Pastor who condoned the event, "It was the single most powerful moment I have ever had in a worship service. People were weeping, it was incredible." (Read about it in detail
here.) As expected, good Christian folk who have staked out their ground in Christendom as doctrinal watchdogs (I typically include myself in this category), began their anticipated barking. Some of the responses I have encountered on Slice of Laodicea, and here, are as follows: “The glory of the Lord can not be part of profanity.” And “Discernment is at a shockingly low point.” NOW, it seems, by the recitation of the F-word, these poor emergent fools are sufficiently condemned.

I agree that this is incredible, but is it as horrible as others make it out be?
If anything, I would call it damned silly nonsense to be grouped with the barking, rolling about on the floor, and expectation of wearing a suit that many churches promote. But seriously, with all the other egregious errors fouling up the “postmodern” pulpit (such as the promulgation of the “openness of God”) is liberal use of the F-word rock bottom? Societaly speaking, the FCC doesn’t seem to think so. And neither does a vast group of Americans, and neither do most other people, Christian or not, in the rest of the world- epecially Christians hidden away in places like India who couldn’t tell you the difference between the F-word and “mitre saw”.

And neither do I. I have a different take on this than the average person. Perhaps my brief studies in linguistics and etymology as a literature student jaded me, but I don't think this as a cultural shift unexpected, nor will it result in manifold corruption of the youth, or cause God to rain down sulfurous hail on Denver . Nor do I think this is where Reformed Evangelicals such as this horde of mongrels need focus our lasers. Whether speaking in the broader sense of culture, our in the specificity of variant houses of worship, the wide acceptance of present vulgarities is a symptom, not the disease. Words are not “evil” in and of themselves. To suggest so would be to assert some vapid form of Gnosticism.

How then should a discerning Christian react?

Go to Part Two

Category: Gnat-Strainers
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Monday, November 14, 2005

For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and...ummm, er, wha?

If there's one things chicks can't resist, its a Reformed aerospace engineer. Why I'm still single, I don't know. I mean, just look at how dashing I look in that Hugh Hefneresque robe!

Being 26 years old and single poses certain spiritual and emotional challenges for us guys. I began thinking about the matter at the prompting of Douglas Wilson's article in Agenda/Credenda on the topic of rearing sons to leave the household. He comments:

A normal pattern is for a son to leave home in order to marry. A man will leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. There it is—leave and cleave.

So what do us poor schlubs do who have left our parents' homes yet haven't been blessed with a woman to cleave to? Wilson continues:

[A man may leave the home] even if he is not getting married—he may have joined
the Navy or be off at college.

As much as I'd like to believe that my work as an engineer, designing aircraft for the military, is as noble and sacrificial as going off to battle, it simply is not. Unlike those in uniform, I have no impediment to establishing a household and family whilst I do my part in the War on Terror, in the safety and comfort of my air conditioned cubicle.

Unfortunately, Wilson's article simply does not address folks like me, even by implication. Have you left? Yep. Are you cleaving? No. Are you in college or the military? No, no. Nor am I a missionary, nor a prophet (two additional candidates, biblically speaking, for bachelorhood). I've fallen through the cracks, rhetorically speaking, in Wilson's exposition. Poor Dave.

So I'm left to think this through on my own. After extensively consulting exegetical commentaries, tomes of systematic theology, and even Bible Code cryptography, I have concluded that my situation stinks. Genesis says straightforthly that it is not good for man to be alone. Knowing this, how should we, as godly men, deal with this uncharted state of limbo? God has witheld, for His purposes, the blessing of pastoring and serving a godly family, along with the attendant encouragement and comforts of spousal companionship and intimacy or even so much as the care and guidance of our parents. Why? For us to do what?

Now at this point in the discussion, I'm usually handed the trite "well, your sufficiency should be in the Lord" or something to that effect. The truth of that statement is not trite, but that sort of response to the issue certainly is. This line, of course, is usually handed to me by a married person or a single person who still lives with the comfort of their parents and family, and it is usually just another way of saying "don't worry about it." Often the subtext of this, which I resent, is the thought that one who is concerned just plain old doesn't trust God. But is this how we treat any other area of our lives? If, say, I had failing health and no home, it would certainly be imperative for me to declare that God's grace is indeed sufficient for me. However, contentedness is the opposite of anxiety and unbelief, not inaction or unconcernedness.

In truth, I should say that the "leaving but not cleaving" limbo isn't totally uncharted in Scripture, both by way of example in biblical figures and in general principles of godly living. Jacob, for instance, traveled to the east and toiled for 14 years for his two brides. Not that everything in this narrative is to be considered normative, but we must admit that at least the principle of proaction and initiation to find a spouse is affirmed here. None of that "let go, let God" business here.

The most common response to this sort of resolution, however, is the borderline-superstitious advice that one should stop looking for a wife, and most likely the perfect match will just happen when not looking. Sorta like a Chinese fingertrap - stop trying to get your fingers out of the fingertrap and you'll be able to get out of the fingertrap. Usually this advice is accompanied with a "that's how it happened with me" testimonial. The problem with such anecdotal evidence is that, well, its anecdotal. Examples abound of Jacob and Rachel-like relationships, too.

The more general biblical principles also apply during these years. Namely, be busy building God's kingdom! If you don't have your own household to serve, then concentrate on serving God's church. Disciple others. Although it can only be a stopgap, "cleave" to the body of Christ at your local church for encouragement for now. (I think my readers won't misunderstand me here, as implying that one doesn't need to remain vitally involved with the church once married). Let Christ be known to unbelievers in your friendships and acquaintances. Fulfill the cultural mandate in your job and in your hobbies, by taking back all corners of God's creation and putting it under Christ's dominion. And, yes, prepare your home for a wife and family in humble anticipation of the Lord's blessing. Pray for a wife, but examine your motives (James 4:2-3).

All of this usually translates into mundane stuff, and it will not always satisfy the affections or drive out the feelings of loneliness, but it is more importantly purposeful and glorifying to God. And if the Lord wills, I will live and do this or do that, or leave and cleave.

Category: Theoblogia
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The "Blight on Christendom" of the Week is Dave Hunt

Dave Hunt has worked hard to earn the honor of being this week's "Blight on Christendom", by spending the last couple years embarrassing himself in his illiterate and inept attacks on Calvinism. "But anyone can do that" you say? Not like he does. Dave has recently set himself apart by his devolution into hyper-Arminianism, believing that those who came to Christ through Calvinistic teaching to be damned:

Those who only know the false gospel of Calvinism are not saved, while those who are saved and ought to know better but teach these heresies will be judged for doing so.
September 2005 Berean Call Newsletter

The gist is that Dave thinks you're saved only if you converted to Calvinism after you were already a Christian. Tough luck for those who came to Christ through the "false gospel" of Calvinism. On a personal note, this does put me in the clear, so I can wipe the sweat off my brow in relief, having been converted to Calvinism after being a Christian for years.

Most people are already aware of his horrid What Love is This? tome against Calvinism, which I have the misfortune of owning, and the subsequent refutation of his errors by many, although most prominently Dr. James White both in the blogosphere and in their co-authored debate book Debating Calvinism. To say that Hunt is unteachable is an understatement. His polemics against Calvinism have gone beyond voicing honest disagreement with his brethren to spouting slanderous lies, indefensibly and irresponsibly mishandling the Word of God, and demonizing brothers in Christ. I don't doubt that Hunt is sincere, but that's the part that scares me. It takes alot of self-deception to prop up this kind of radical willful ignorance. Hunt needs to be called to repentance with brotherly love and firmness, and we must be vigilant to protect people from being led astray by his teachings by never tiring in our refutation of his obnoxious, persistent, and highly-influential errors.

This is an especially personal issue for me, having witnessed one of my good friends from church, my old backpacking buddy, a man who was instrumental in introducing me to the Doctrines of Grace, abandon the Reformed faith after the initial publication of What Love is This? It was truly sad to watch this (from a distance) and I lament the fact that I didn't make it more of a point to keep in contact with him when he moved away. I shudder to think how many more like him have been taken in by Hunt's nonsense. Do not doubt that Hunt will continue to broadcast his radio show, publish his newsletter, and book speaking engagements at almost every Calvary Chapel in the nation preaching against the Reformed faith for as many years as he has left in his life.

Hat tip to the Calvinist Gadfly for pointing me to the Hunt article.

Category: Mongrel Medals
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Lost in Translation

I knew the new Pope was a straight shooter, but this may just be an interesting translation:

BENEDICT XVI CELEBRATES JOHN PAUL II AND LATE CARDINALS(AGI) - Vatican City, Nov 11 - The legacy of Pope John Pail II "includes, among various examples, a shining attitude towards prayer. We now pick up his spiritual heritage under the guidance of his heavenly intercession," said today Pope Benedict XVI during a sermon to celebrate late cardinals and bishops. "Over the last 12 months," said the current Pope, "we have had five revered cardinals who kicked the bucket: Juan Carlos Aramburu, Jan Pieter Schotte, Corrado Bafile, Jaime Sin and, less than a month ago, Giuseppe Caprio.

Hat tip: K-Lo at National Review Online.

Category: Extraneous & Miscellaneous
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Saturday, November 12, 2005

Thots on Romans 7:14-25

In Romans 7:14-25, Paul’s description of present-tense personal struggle with sin also serves as an illustration of how law and gospel are harmonized in Christ and adds an important nuance to his position on the Law . In the previous two chapters, the law took a severe beating by Paul, but here Paul is attempting to illustrate that now, as a Christian, the good news of the Gospel includes obedience to the law. Paul cautions his Jewish brethren not to infer from his previous distinctions that the Mosaic law is an agent of sin. He introduces this discourse stating that the law is Spiritual, and demonstrates how now, in Christ, he willingly obeys the law in the spiritual sense. The fact that there is a conflict between his flesh and his mind is further illustration of a Spiritual renewal. For, even though there is still an indwelling of sin in the members of flesh doomed to perish, the mind has been quickened and is now purposed to serve and obey the law. The flesh (or physical body) remains unchanged, it is in pure substance a vessel of sin (not to be confused with being inherently sinful i.e. the Gnostics), which is why it will die. The mind set on the flesh, also will perish (Ch.8), but a mind set on the Spirit will receive life.

The mediating center of one’s being
is the agent by which the whole man is governed. In Hellenistic (Greek) thought, this mediating center is called the will (also, the chest or the heart). It mediates between the appetite (also, the flesh or the stomach, the center of animal desire and emotion) and the intellect (also, the mind or head, which is spiritual). Based on a multitude of Paul’s writings, one can see this model employed using Christian theological terms. We can see that for the unregenerate, the mediator (will) is given over to the flesh; this results in a complete enslavement of both mind and flesh to the law of sin. In other words, for the unregenerate, “their god is their stomach”; it is whom they are enslaved too- the emotions and desires of the flesh. But for the regenerated elect believer, though the flesh still inclines to the law of sin, the will (or heart) is replaced with one that inclines towards God and the mind (or soul) is renewed, both by the operation of the Spirit. This is illustrated in Ezekiel 36:26-27 where God promises that he will “remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my Spirit within you and cause you to walk in my statutes, and you will be careful to observe my ordinances.” A mind set on the flesh is doomed by the law, but a mind set on the Spirit shows the law to be right and good.

A purpose of God for regeneration then, is to glorify the righteousness of the law, and thus His character, from which the law proceeds. Paul concurrently exonerates the law, showing that when God quickened him, his embracing of the law (in spite of the flesh) demonstrated that Christ’s words were true when he said he did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it. When Paul says “the willingness is present in me, but the doing of good is not”(v. 18) he is proof of a will that has been changed. This admission is in contrast with v. 8 of the same chapter where Paul confesses that in the past the law “Do Not Covet” produced in him covetousness of every kind, the result of a will that was in bondage to sin. Rather than leading him to desire not to covet, this part of the law was taken advantage of by the sin that enslaved the whole man, and produced deep covetousness in Paul. The fact that Paul still sins, is not due to his will, or his mind, but rather to the bondage of his flesh to sin (v. 17). This is not to say that Paul is in bondage to sin. Though the flesh may be in bondage, the flesh is subservient to the will, and if the will is free, than in turn Paul the inner man is free from forced obedience to his flesh, and can in fact continue “putting to death the deeds of the body” by the Spirit. And that is the process of sanctification, an ongoing strengthening of the will to bring the flesh into submission to the mind quickened by the Spirit. This is how Paul is able to defend his explanation of justification. Paul shows his Jewish brethren how justification is a positional truth rooted in the merits of Christ, which is measured in a spiritual manner, namely inward approval of the law, not through outward obedience. It is the circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not the outward circumcision of the flesh that gains praise from God (2:29). Of course, as Paul argues in Ch. 6, this does not mean that we should sin more, but rather, as he highlights in Ch.8, there is no fear of condemnation because if God has justified he will also glorify (v. 30). Those who have been justified by Christ’s atonement will receive their inheritance as adopted sons; a part of that inheritance is sanctification. In other words, he will enable the believer to bring the flesh into submission, but it is a struggle that will not come easy, as the believer suffers, eagerly awaiting the redemption of the body (8:23-25), where the process becomes complete.

The thrust of the passage isn’t to highlight Paul’s pre-Christian rebellion, but to highlight the capabilities of a regenerated believer’s mind to love the law. For Paul it wasn’t the law that was the problem, it was an enslaved mind. Now that his mind has been made anew, even though his flesh is gripped by indwelling sin, his mind is free to joyfully delight in what is good, when before it was unable to do so. In fact it joyfully delighted in what was evil. For the believer, the law is part of the good news of the gospel. This buttresses Paul’s claims in 2 Corinthians that the moral imperatives of scripture are an aroma of death to those who are perishing, but an aroma of life for those who receive salvation. The law does not cause sin, rather it exploits the depravity of natural man, giving impetus and focus to his rebellion. For the regenerated believer, the law is an aroma of life, because in it is the promise of the future resurrection, where man will be free from sin forever.

Paul’s cry in verse 24 is not for the eternal salvation of his soul, but for the eventual resurrected body which will function in perfect unity with his already renewed mind. He concludes that because of Christ’s defeat of death, this body will soon be his. In this short cry and response Paul affirms the holiness of the law, condemns sin, and promotes the doctrine of Grace. Paul then affirms the salvation he possesses in Chapter 8, by disarming the fears of his brothers in Christ, showing that there is now no condemnation for them. The law no longer condemns them, but it is now an aroma of life, one of hope and consolation. Even though their flesh is still a traitorous subject, they need not fear God’s wrath, for they are already justified by faith and this faith is active in the mind that “serves the law of God”(v.25). The very fact that he, Paul, can delight in God in the inner man, is of great consolation, for it is the very evidence of his regeneration and justification. He goes on to express his hope of leaving the conflict behind proclaiming in 8:3 that by God offering His own Son for sin, “He condemned sin in the flesh.” Sin in the flesh is condemned; its date for execution has been set- for the recipients of Christ’s atonement sin will die with the body. For those whose mind is set on the flesh, they will accompany their body in eternal condemnation. But “Praise be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord” who has set us “free from the body of death”!

Category: Theoblogia
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Thursday, November 10, 2005

Confessions Of A Dangerous Mutt

Aloha. Jeremy invited me to be a part of this fun little endeavor, and due to the many responsibilities to which I must devote my time- I willingly signed on. Since Dave is in the backseat, I guess I’ll be claiming shotgun. This is appropriate because not only do I own a really nice shotgun, but I’m 6’5” and have dibs for life on all front passenger seats (the whole leg room thing). Not to mention I am one of the founding members and bass player of the progressive garage rock cover band from which this blog’s title is derived. I assure you these are my only qualifications, as my intellectual capabilities fall far short of the other mutts in this forum. Although, I am much louder than the both of them, and probably more argumentative, so I’ve got that going for me… which is nice.

My own interests are about as wide and varied as anyone here. They include Christianity, philosophy, surfing, literature, beer, and figuring out a way to not have to work for a living. I am Reformed in my theology, a Reagan conservative, and wish I was a classicist in the mold of CS Lewis. I like to think of myself as a version of Laird Hamilton carrying a copy of Augustine’s City of God in his board shorts.

The three of us enjoyed our college years together and spent many late nights on our balcony enjoying fine tobacco, pondering aloud, our voices crashing through the wispy haze with critiques of culture, thoughts on the Divine, and whatever else coursed through our elevated minds. Basically, I think that what one finds here will be much the same. And while sometimes our ruminations may take us off the beaten path, one will discover that the love of Truth and the magnification of God’s Sovereignty over the cosmos and the heart of man, are the unifying themes of even our most random picking of nits.

Category: Blogging Ourselves
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Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Weird Motorsport

I enjoy riding observed trials. It's a fun sport that can be mild to wild. I never would have thought of bringing a friend along. The joy of sharing.

Category: Extraneous & Miscellaneous
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Political Strategory

As Reformed Christians, or even as political conservatives, I don't know how much we should care about the fortunes of the Republican Party, per se, except insofar as it is the lone force to keep the awful secularism and horrendous socialism of the Democratic Party at bay. As a mild theonomist, I'd probably stick out like a Leninist at an Adam Smith Institute convention if I ever attended a GOP cocktail party, as much as I am indebted to my Buckleyan and VonMises brethren. However, God may use this counteractive force as no small means of common grace for the U.S., so I don't think yesterday's electoral defeats should be taken lightly.

I don't want to take an off-year, low-turnout (42% in California) election as a harbinger of doom for the 2006 elections, but California missed out on some desperately-needed policies. The state is fiscally hemorrhaging, but the voters shot down the propositions (74-76) that would have helped clot the fiscal wounds. That should serve as a wake-up call for conservatives. Beware: labor unions are alive and well, despite rumors of their demise. The prop that would have undone the hilariously awful "I can do whatever I want and never get unelected as a state rep" district lines was nixed. On the spiritually egregious side of yesterday's election, parental notification for abortions given to minors was also shot down by a very narrow margin.

Townhall's Tim Chapman thinks that the defeat was due to GOP voters who have been disaffected by the unconservatism of our Republican Congress and President (soft on immigration, big on spending) staying home and simply not caring instead of hitting the polls. Pushing, for instance, a temporary worker program for illegal aliens is no way to instill warm fuzzies in Buckley conservatives. Way to energize the base, fellas! Chalk that up as Reason #1.

The facile explanation is that California is simply a blue state. Well, California is really more purple than anything else, as you can see in the graphic. Remember, this is the same state that passed Prop 187 (cutting off some government services to illegal aliens) and 209 (anti-affirmative action). Californians, for various reasons, elect leftist legislatures yet vote for conservative propositions, historically. Up until last night, ballot propositions were good friends to us conservatives on matters of policy. However, the weakness of ballot propositions was also demonstrated - namely, that voters are subject to propaganda and manipulation. Just a few weeks ago, the Stanford/Hoover/Knowledge poll put most of the "Arnold" props ahead. But the voters were distracted by shiny objects put in front of them by labor union commercials at the last minute and bought into blatant lies, outright demagoguery, and other leftist silliness. There is a good reason to oppose propositions in principle: we are a representative republic. Both the tyranny and the ignorance of the masses, demos, comes to fruition through direct democratic mechanisms such as the propositions.

It is good to remember at this point why we are a federal, constitutional, and representative republic. Put simply, it mirrors the presbyterian form of church government. We don't let congregations vote on doctrinal issues at synod/general assembly. No, our elders do that, whose appointments are approved by the congregations. There is good cause for this: for instance, why would we let those illiterate in the biblical languages tinker with our centuries-old, tried-and-true confessions? Similarly, what does average-Joe Californian know about the economics of public employee pension plans? You get the idea.

We'll call this direct democracy/proposition issue Reason #2 that is responsible for yesterday's folly, even though this is not directly the GOP's fault.

I agree with NRO's Arnold Steinberg that Schwarzenegger made the most of a "bad hand." He was reasonably eloquent on these issues, and anyone who took the time to do a minimum of responsible research on the issues could see through the TV/radio commercial abominations.

The larger, more chronic problem is the nature of political debate today. The GOP is horrible about getting messages across and articulating their positions, often letting the demagogic left frame the debate. So this brings us to Reason #3. It is not that conservatives don't have superb thinkers and communicators. The pundits have been potent, from Ann Coulter down to (KFI radio moderates) John and Ken. The think-tanks and even bloggers have all done some great yeoman work, from Michelle Malkin, to the National Review and Townhall crowd, to the American Enterprise and Hoover folks. The problem is the GOP politicians themselves. If, for instance, President Bush sounded more like Victor Davis Hanson or David Frum in the way he defends the Iraq War, the war opposition would not be nearly as strong. The problem is that conservatives are too often ashamed of sounding conservative. But how else are you going to defend conservative policies, except to self-consciously articulate those principles? Because conservative politicians refuse to do this, they fall prey to "you're hurting the children/teachers/firefighters!" type of rhetoric, when the left smells even a whiff of budget cuts, and are forced to go on defensive. Instead they should be saying "no, this silliness is watered-down socialism, and you're not helping any children/teachers/firefighters." If we are bold and argue for the legitimacy of our political philosophies, and stop skirting around the issues of principle, then we will win for the simple fact that secularism and socialism cannot win the battle of ideas. They are, and always were, intellectually bankrupt and conservative politicians should expose their poverty to public scrutiny, consistently.

Not that the GOP's leaders are tactical geniuses except for this one area. The GOP usually has to rely on the U.S. population's inherent conservatism, the left's intellectual and policy bankruptcy, the left's tactical blunders, the left's weak candidates (e.g. John Kerry), and public backlash from the left's moonbats and "no blood for oil" crazies (Dean,, Sheehan, Soros, assorted celebrities) in order to win elections. Basically, they win on accident.

Lastly, Reason #4, the Republican Party lost out yesterday because Jesus is not their Lord. While many of the Party leaders have genuine personal commitments to Jesus, the Party is functionally a secularly conservative party. The Christian worldview supplies the intellectual pre-conditions of much conservative and libertarian thought, from capitalist economics to Just War Theory to the state's recognition of marriage. Take away this foundation and conservatism cannot be defended, nor does it have moors to objective truth to keep it from drifting into inconsistency and compromise. Sadly, most Evangelicals today don't even have a developed theology of the state enough to do anything about it. You are not going to get such a dose of the Kuyperian/VanTil worldview from Greg Laurie or Rick Warren's pulpit. As Reformed Christians, we should urge our brethren to throw out the milk bottle, already. Give them some spiritual meat, perhaps a copy of Greg Bahnsen's Festschrift, and tell them to enjoy their first steak dinner ever.


Full disclosure: I forgot to re-register to vote in San Bernardino County, so I couldn't vote yesterday. Shame on me. I will proceed to put a bag with eyeholes cut out over my head.

Category: Civitas Terrena
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Book Review

The Bad Popes
E.R. Chamberlin

Writing a review on a book from 1969 may seem a bit odd, but the book itself is a bit of an oddity. I saw it at my local Barnes & Noble on sale for a paltry $6.98. I had never before purchased a book based solely on its title. But like any red-blooded Protestant, I was smitten by the promise of papal misconduct.

Barnes & Noble saw fit to reprint Chamberlin's tome under their own imprint in 1993. There must have been some health scare with JPII around that time, since my clearance copy was clearly the last of the "Hey, what can we sell with 'Pope' in the name" books from the JPII deathwatch and subsequent conclave. But my impulse buy proved to be a good one.

Chamberlin does scholarly justice to his subject and does not merely repeat old slanders. He debunks old tales like the female Pope ("Pope Joan") and is sure to reveal the ulterior motives of those who vehemently hated pontiffs simply because they lost out in conclave or on the battlefield. What is left is more than enough to turn the stomach.

As I read, I came to the conclusion that there were far too many father & son Popes. What also became apparent is that the selling of indulgences was a very late development in the Church's love of money. The selling of cardinal's hats and the papacy itself predates this final outrage by hundreds of years. The catalogue of abuses is lengthy and sordid, but Chamberlin chalks it all up to a love for temporal power on the part of the clergy. I got the impression that Chamberlin is a Catholic, as he dismissed Luther as "schizophrenic." He also gave some space to speculating about how the Reformation could have been averted with a little house-cleaning by the Church. With his lack of sympathy for the Reformation apparent, his history is all the more damning.

Serendipitously, I also had the opportunity (or obligation) this week to listen to one of John MacArthur's sermons on the Roman church. He attacked infant baptism and vestments in his sweeping indictment of Rome. Such category confusions give offence to his brothers from liturgical Reformed Churches and are not likely to persuade his Catholic friends. Nor is his lengthy rehashing of the paedophilia scandal. Evangelical sex scandals are plentiful enough. Rather than using any stick to beat Rome with, we should be using the right one: the faith delivered to all the saints. The solution to error is reproof. A heretic in a coat and a tie is still a heretic. We must remember that salvation is God's alone to bestow, not the Church's, much less any mortal man, robed or not.

Category: Between the Covers
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[Blogging Ourselves] Profundities from a Back Seat Driver

Howdy all. Jeremy asked me to contribute to the Horde, so I'm signing on as his sidekick. Well, maybe I'll be more of a back seat driver than a sidekick, since I don't plan on being at all helpful to Jeremy's efforts and projects. I've got my own plans. While my degree in aerospace engineering doesn't technically qualify me to expound on matters of theology, I'm not going to let that stop me.

I do, however, have the feeling that Jeremy will edit my posts and correct my grammar frequently. Oh well, that's why he's got the keys to the car and sits in the driver's seat. His many years of putting up with the leftist inanities of the university's English Lit. Department has earned him the right to his Grammar Police badge.

I hope that my thoughts on Reformed Christianity, theology, apologetics, politics, and beer can be a blessing to the saints who happen to stumble upon our dingy little hangout spot underneath the overpass of Christendom.

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Tuesday, November 08, 2005

[Blogging Ourselves] Welcome!

Welcome to Mongrel Horde! Blogs are inherently egostistical, both in the assumption that the author has something unique to say, and too often, in the assumption that the author is personally interesting. Well, no worries about the latter!

My particular interests, hopefully worthy of eyestrain on your part, are Christianity, education, literature, and motorcycles. I realize that doesn't narrow things down much. I could be a Jesuit who preaches liberation theology and teaches The Motorcycle Diaries in his English class. Or I could be the exact opposite of that. In fact I am the exact opposite of that. I am a Protestant (Reformed) who doesn't preach anything (because I'm a layman). If Solzhenitsyn rode a motorcycle through Khazakstan, I would teach it, but I've settled on One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich.

Category: Blogging Ourselves
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Sunday, November 06, 2005

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