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Friday, March 31, 2006

From the road: What it is and what it isn't


I'm posting from a Starbuck's in the rural, central coast town of Templeton, CA. In between sips of my Venti Expresso Roast, I came across this wonderful little nugget by Dr. J.I. Packer. He sums up the totality of easy-believism, Christianity and water, seeker friendly, emergent, and every other man centered and worthless fad diminishing the Gospel, in contrast to what the Gospel is and has been since the beginning. Semper Reformanda!

It (the Gospel) was always and essentially a proclamation of divine sovereignty in mercy and judgment, a summons to bow down and worship the mighty Lord on whom man depends for all good, both in nature and in grace. Its center of reference was unambiguously God. But in the new gospel the center of reference is man. This is just to say that the old gospel was religious in a way that the new gospel is not. Whereas the chief aim of the old was to teach people to worship God, the concern of the new seems limited to making them feel better. The subject of the old gospel was God and his ways with men; the subject of the new is man and the help God gives him. There is a world of difference. The whole perspective and emphasis of gospel preaching has changed.

From this change of interest has sprung a change of content, for the new gospel has in effect reformulated the biblical message in the supposed interests of 'helpfulness'. Accordingly, the themes of man's natural inability to believe, of God's free election being the ultimate cause of salvation, and of Christ dying specifically for his sheep are not preached. These doctrines, it would be said, are not 'helpful'; they would drive sinners to despair, by suggesting to them that it is not in their own power to be saved through Christ. (The possibility that such despair might be salutary is not considered: it is taken for granted that it cannot be, because it is so shattering to our self-esteem.) However this may be (and we shall say more about it later), the result of these omissions is that part of the biblical gospel is now preached as if it were the whole of that gospel; and a half-truth masquerading as the whole truth becomes a complete untruth. (from the introduction to a 1958 reprint of John Owen's The Death of Death in the Death of Christ)



Category: Theoblogia
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Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Chuck Norris Facts (a superfluous, self-indulgent post)


Recently it was brought to my attention that the cult following of the action star Chuck Norris, has, in its exuberance, attributed powers and abilities far exceeding those of a mere mortal to their idol. They have devised their own creed of sorts, an incredible list of Chuck Norris Facts, that elevate Chuck Norris, his manly beard, and his martial arts bravado beyond the bounds of human reason. The Chuck Norris Facts credo has even gained enough notariety to be included at Wickipedia. Chuck Norris, an outspoken evangelical himself, has denied any attributes of the Divine and strongly affirmed there is but One Lord over heaven and earth.

Chuck Norris' Favorites
1. When the Boogeyman goes to sleep every night, he checks his closet for Chuck Norris.
2. Chuck Norris doesn't read books. He stares them down until he gets the information he wants.
3. There is no theory of evolution. Just a list of creatures Chuck Norris has allowed to live.
4. Outer space exists because it's afraid to be on the same planet with Chuck Norris.
5. Chuck Norris does not sleep. He waits.
6. Chuck Norris is currently suing NBC, claiming Law and Order are trademarked names for his left and right legs.
7. Chuck Norris is the reason why Waldo is hiding.
8. Chuck Norris counted to infinity - twice.
9. There is no chin behind Chuck Norris’ beard. There is only another fist.
10. When Chuck Norris does a pushup, he isn’t lifting himself up, he’s pushing the Earth down.
11. Chuck Norris is so fast, he can run around the world and punch himself in the back of the head.
12. Chuck Norris’ hand is the only hand that can beat a Royal Flush.
13. There is no such thing as global warming. Chuck Norris was cold, so he turned the sun up.
14. Chuck Norris can lead a horse to water AND make it drink.
15. Chuck Norris doesn’t wear a watch, HE decides what time it is.
16. Chuck Norris gave Mona Lisa that smile.
17. Chuck Norris can slam a revolving door.
18. Chuck Norris does not get frostbite. Chuck Norris bites frost
19. Remember the Soviet Union? They decided to quit after watching a DeltaForce marathon on Satellite TV.
20. Contrary to popular belief, America is not a democracy, it is a Chucktatorship.


Chuck Norris Tribute Music Video

Category: Extraneous & Miscellaneous
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Chesterton vs. the PETA of His Day


I am here only following the outlines of their argument, which consists in maintaining that man has been progressively more lenient, first to citizens, then to slaves, then to animals, and then (presumably) to plants. I think it wrong to sit on a man. Soon, I shall think it wrong to sit on a horse. Eventually (I suppose) I shall think it wrong to sit on a chair. That is the drive of the argument. And for this argument it can be said that it is possible to talk of it in terms of evolution or inevitable progress. A perpetual tendency to touch fewer and fewer things might--one feels, be a mere brute unconscious tendency, like that of a species to produce fewer and fewer children. This drift may be really evolutionary, because it is stupid. (Orthodoxy, 118)

Category: Extraneous & Miscellaneous
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Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Biola Educators Symposium--Part 2



I thoroughly enjoyed both sessions by Dr. John Mark Reynolds. Dr. Reynolds is my kind of academic. He spoke clearly and didn’t pull any punches. Frustratingly, thanks to the cursed 91 freeway, we missed most of his first session. I was fortunate enough to have heard Dr. Reynolds deliver a similar session at the ACSI convention, so I can at least guess at most of what he had to say at Biola.

Reynolds' theme was the need for an integrated Christian world view. Since all of creation was the product of one mind, all of our disciplines should cohere together. His way of examining this was through the lens of truth, beauty and goodness.

Dr. Reynolds rightly pointed out that we are almost all relativists when it comes to beauty. We’ve bought into the idea that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. This is not an option for Christians. Although we can identify fads and fashions, there are some things that are timelessly beautiful and timelessly ugly. To believe otherwise is to deny the reality of the way in which God has created the world.

So why is this important? Reynolds argues that we are neglecting our students who are gifted in the arts. He points out that we often have the most discipline problems with artistic students. When students discover that we do not value beauty, they make themselves as ugly as possible. As funny as I find the pretentiousness of the goth kids, it is a tragedy that they mar themselves in every way imaginable.

Convincing students that most of the things they like are ugly is not easy. They are especially leery of claims that Bach is better than Beyonce. But this is our task.

Reynolds' larger point is that we have given into the world's idea that science holds the position of the only objective arbiter of truth. If we believe that everything else is relative, we are not going to produce virtuous students who will choose the good, beautiful, and true.

Category: Theoblogia
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Monday, March 27, 2006

M is for Marxist


As a big fan of The Matrix trilogy, when the Wachowski brother's new venture, V is for Vendetta, hit theatres, I was eager to attend. One solitary Sunday night, I secretly slipped into the theatre in my comfy sweats. As the film progressed I was dazzled by its cinematic wonder and stylized dialogue, yet increasingly incredulous at the pure political propaganda accumulating in steamy piles before me. I walked out of the theatre in state of disbelief as the slurring voices of a group of teen aged punk rockers and emo-types proclaimed how it was "the most amazing movie ever!" Seriously, they "got it" and really thought it was cool.

At its core this movie is clearly intended to be a pseudo-prophetic message extrapolated from a decidely Marxist world-view applied to the geo-political paradigm of Michael Moore. The vapidity didn't cease there as the neo-Marxist agendas of homosexuality and pluralism are graphically overt. Who is the culprit that instigated this oppressive, totalitarian government wielded by the villainous bourgeoisie? Homophobic, anti-Islam, generally intolerant, right-wing conservative Christians who have ties to drug corporations, that's who! Of course, the giant elephant in the room (or theatre in this case) is that totalitarianism has ALWAYS arisen within the regimes of idealistic Marxist/socialist revolutionaries.

The content of this film was astoundingly audacious in its portrayel of certain geo-political current events. For a more complete play by play, read the review by Megan Basham at TownHall. She quotes the creator of the comic book "V" the movie is based on, Alan Moore, who had this to say after insisting Warner Bros. remove his name from the movie, "[My comic] has been turned into a Bush-era parable by people too timid to set a political satire in their own country… [The film] is a thwarted and frustrated and largely impotent American liberal fantasy of someone with American liberal values standing up against a state run by neo-conservatives — which is not what "V for Vendetta" [the comic] was about."

I'm not going to say "don't waste your money", because as a faerie tale, it was quite good.

*Update* For a thoughtful analysis with a different take from The Pearcy Report, click here.
Category: Civitas Terrena
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Saturday, March 25, 2006

Biola Educators Symposium--Part 1



I attended the most excellent Educator's Symposium at Biola this last weekend. I want to devote space to the challenges laid down at the conference, but I thought I would first report on one of the more informative lectures of the weekend. Dr. J.P. Moreland delivered a lecture on postmodernism that, while delivering a correct diagnosis of the problem with postmodernism, gave a strange prescription for its cure.

Dr. Moreland gave a very clear synopsis of postmodernism and deconstruction. I think even the most committed pomos would be satisfied with his definitions. I was very pleased that he did not take the easy route and attack the straw man of personal relativism (they say that anything goes!). Unfortunately, we would soon plunge into very deep water.

Dr. Moreland defined three types of knowledge: acquaintance, propositional, and skill. He made it very clear that we do not need to know with certainty to possess knowledge of the truth. I was beginning to fall into a fugue state of perpetual "Hmmm" at this point.

Moreland next defined truth as a relation between an idea (he never used "proposition" here, but hey, we're all teachers) and reality. If the two correspond, the thing is true. I don't know what to make of this. By saying "reality," don't we have to presuppose that what we call "reality" truly exists? How can we prove the truth about the thing by which all truth is proven?

At some point, Dr. Moreland mentioned that John 14:6 does not mean that Jesus is "the truth" in some sort of mystical way; he is merely making a statement about truly being the Messiah. I suppose God incarnate cannot be an eternal relation between such things as "green" and "brussel sprouts." I wonder, though, if Moreland's definition only covers how we humans experience truth. When God has an idea, He does not need to compare it to reality to know if it is true or not. He is the very definition of reality, and in Him we all have our reality. I cannot see how He is not truth itself, just as He is love.

Now that I have returned home to the blessings of broadband, I have been able to discover that Dr. Moreland is a Molinist. The disturbance in the Reformed force that I felt was indeed real. Molinists believe that they have got at the nature of the Almighty's thoughts through their own philosophy. I don't recall any of us being there when the Almighty measured off the heavens, so I'm not quite sure how Molinists know so much about it. They are fighting hard to pull Leviathan out with a hook.

None of this is to say that Dr. Moreland was in any way arrogant or dogmatic. He seems to be the model of a Christian gentleman. Had his material on postmodernism been less useful, I would not have been so frustrated with his digression into epistemology (Molinists like this type of sentence). His purpose was to distinguish his idea of worldview from the constructivist and presuppositionalist views. He sees worldviews as sets of habits that may be set aside to truly see things as they are. This too is problematic. When we talk about the ultimate question of salvation, people are dead in their sins until God intervenes. They're not "mostly dead." They're not suffering from a set of bad habits. Moreland's view fails when it matters most.

I commend Dr. Moreland for lecturing on epistemology to a group of teachers. Most of us need this kind of intellectual challenge. However, I think his time would have been better spent addressing the epistemological problems with postmodernism rather than trying to convince us of his curious view.


Category: Theoblogia
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Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Cake or Death?


If you've never seen Eddie Izzard's take on what a theoretical Anglican Inquisition would be like, it is a good laugh:

"Cake or death?"

"Eh, cake please."

"Very well! Give him cake!"

"Oh, thanks very much. It's very nice."

"You! Cake or death?"

“Uh, cake for me, too, please."

"Very well! Give him cake, too! We're gonna run out of cake at this rate. You! Cake or death?"

"Uh, death, please. No, cake! Cake! Cake, sorry. Sorry..."

"You said death first, uh-uh, death first!"

"Well, I meant cake!"

"Oh, all right. You're lucky I'm Church of England!" Cake or death?"

"Uh, cake please."

"Well, we're out of cake! We only had three bits and we didn't expect such a rush. So what do you want?"

"Well, so my choice is 'or death’? I’ll have the chicken then, please.


The Church of the Pointy Hats, also known as the Anglican Church (or Episcopalian Church here in the U.S.), has quite the reputation for being soft on...well, everything. Ann Coulter describes the "Church of the Proper Fork" thusly:

The Episcopalians don't demand much in the way of actual religious belief. They have girl priests, gay priests, gay bishops, gay marriages - it's much like the New York Times editorial board. They acknowledge the Ten Commandments or "Moses' talking points" but hasten to add that they're not exactly "carved in stone." After Bush said that the most important philosopher to him was Jesus Christ, the Episcopal bishop in Des Moines, Iowa, C. Christopher Epting, pronounced the answer "a turnoff." So there isn't a lot of hair-shirt-wearing and sacrifice for the Episcopalians.


So what's the occasion for today's Anglican ridicule post? Well, one could dismiss such quirks and effeminate mannerisms as cute but harmless byproducts of English foppery.

The problem is that Gospel proclamation should not be "soft", nor should the doctrine and practice of the church be corrupted by polite mushy-mindedness that disdains the Law of God. Tim Bayly unloads both of his shotgun barrels at the Bishop of Durham, N.T. Wright on his blog:

In this gelded age, the revelation and authority of God are soft-pedalled by emasculated clergymen who like to think of themselves not as preachers and shepherds, but intellectuals and "academics."

Yes, I know full well the whole world is going after that super-apostle, Bishop Wright. But I say to those I love, leave him alone. Even if his content is sometimes helpful when dealing with our decadent world, his affect, his rhetoric, his way of speaking is absolutely poisonous to those training to be faithful shepherds of God's flock. The last thing we need today are men who are emasculated and "think," "wonder," "intuit," and "digress" instead of fighting the good fight with all their might.

At some point academic nuance and disinterested, impartial, even-handed analysis become decadent prattle and sophistry that cannot proclaim God's Word with evangelistic and pastoral authority, clarity, and certainty.

I have drinking buddies with more conviction than these alleged ministers/bishops/fops.

UPDATE: Phil Johnson gives a hearty 'amen' here.

Category: Theoblogia
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Finding Pleasure In Biting Satire

I have a distaste for the banal ruffling of emotions over superficial, substanceless experiences and ideas. Which is why my heart lept in joyous agreement when I read this excerpt from The Devil's Dictionary, written by the sardonic journalist, Ambrose Bierce.

"Enthusiasm, n. A distemper of youth, curable by small doses of repentance in connection with outward applications of experience."

Nice.

If you appreciate this, make sure to check out some of his other definitions. I am doubtful Mr. Bierce was a follower of Christ, nonetheless his observations of Pharisitical Christianity are also painfully accurate (thus hilarious).
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Saturday, March 18, 2006

Death of Adam: A Story In Parts (1)

Dead

Gasping for breath with trembling lungs, Adam broke through from the watery darkness into wistfully reflected daylight and inhaled painful daggers of icy air. Through the ringing in his ears pressed echoing cries of distress that reverberated over the frigidly stormy sea.

Adam had been wearing fashionable blue jeans, a sweat shirt and a pair of boots. He had torn the boots off in panic as he drifted downward into the abyss, and now labored against the water-laden clothes that tried to pull him into certain death. Every sinew of his body convulsed as it was gripped more deeply by the cold. With gnarled hands and feet he rent the clothes that bound him like a straightjacket. Free from the chains that had insulated his state; in his nakedness the cold compressed his lungs, limiting him to shallow, hopeless breaths. Stiff limbed and losing consciousness, Adam feebly fought for some stable substance to seize hold of. Among the flotsam and jetsam he clawed at a crooked limb of driftwood, and then a thick bramble of branches, neither did a thing for his situation as they sunk under his mass.

The cries of distress slowly diminished as Adam drifted into the inky blackness. Dying, unable to save him self, Adam resisted his fate, fighting with every ounce of strength against the buffeting waves, denying the inevitability of the situation. His mind fell into fuzzy reminiscing of banal experience, and taking a final breath faded into a numb death sleep. Small, sapless and purpled pale, his lifeless form flowed with the moon entranced movement of the deep. And as the pulse of the internal machinations of his person came to rest, Adam knew only the dull sound of lapping liquidity.

Category: Extraneous & Miscellaneous
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Thursday, March 16, 2006

Theology In The Classroom

I teach 9th Grade English at a private Christian high school. This has afforded me the opportunity to teach exactly what I like and what I know- a luxury uncommon in government schools. Today I walked my students through the 13th chapter of G.K. Chesterton's The Man Who Was Thursday. Chesterton's main goal in the novel is to reconcile the paradox of an irrational and brutal universe confounded with suffering and the good and loving Creator believed to be its author. Chesterton illustrates the necessity of special revelation through the dialogue of Sunday, the absent minded and powerful President of the Central Anarchist Council of Europe, who functions as Chesterton's allegorical representation of the Creator manifested in the general revelation of nature.

"I? What am I?" roared the President, and he rose slowly to an incredible height, like some enormous wave about to arch above them and break. "You want to know what I am, do you? Bull you are a man of science. Grub in the roots of those trees and find out the truth about them. Syme you are a poet. Stare at those morning clouds. But I tell you this, that you will have found out the truth of the last tree and the topmost cloud before the truth about me. You will understand the sea, and I shall still be a riddle; you shall know what the stars are, and not know what I am. Since the beginning of the world all men have hunted me like a wolf- kings and sages, and poets and law-givers, all the churches, and all the philosophers. But I have never been caught yet, and the skies will fall in the time I turn to bay. I have given them a good run for their money and I will now."


Category: Between The Covers
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Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Where I'm at Right Now

I'm pretty stoked at this point--little did I know.
Continuing on the recent spate of narcissistic posts, I had a great adventure ride on Saturday. My father and I rode through the hills of Aguanga, CA on a quest to reach Warner Springs. We know the route pretty well, but we never made it. We were turned back due to...SNOW! For those of you in colder climes, snow in our part of Southern California is about as rare as, say, a sunny day in Britain.

Riding in the snow was surprisingly hard. It is a little like riding in sand. A good deal of throttle gets the bike on top and prevents knifing around. Unlike sand, there are ruts and rocks hidden underneath it. Going fast enough to prevent general instability pretty much ensures crashing when the inevitable rut grabs the front wheel. I'm sure there's a great metaphor in it somewhere, but I enjoyed it too much to kill it with analysis. We thought better of our planned 70 mile ride and just focused on survival. We bailed out at the ranch and then headed home, defeated but happy.


The trusty steeds.
Category: Blogging Ourselves
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Saturday, March 11, 2006

A Solipsistic Post

Ain't She Perrrty?
Since the Muses have not visited Jeremy, Garet, nor I in the past week and blessed us with blog-worthy nuggets of wisdom, I thought I should take some time to talk about...us.

First item: That's me in the photo above with my best non-sentient friend, Predator A. She has a 45' wingspan, and I am currently doing design work on her big sister, Predator B (65' wingspan). It is indeed a cool gig for an aerospace engineer to have, especially knowing that these airplanes have recently been busy reducing Al Qaeda operatives to a fine, ashen powder with their Hellfire missiles. I finally got a snapshot of me next to a fully-assembled aircraft after working for the company for a year and a half now, and thought that our readers might be curious about what this particular God-blogger does for his day job. So there is a little peak behind the curtain for y'all. Which brings me to...

Second item: Blogging anonymity. I've never understood why someone who is in Christ would need or want to avoiding taking responsibility and ownership for the things they say in the name of Christ. Do they not want to be held accountable to their elders for any potential false teachings, vitriol, slander, or blasphemous binary code they spread to a worldwide audience? There are good reasons for us to be men and take responsibility for our words, in whatever forum:

Many Christians appear to believe blogs and discussion forums are morality-free zones. Suddenly, because we're not speaking face to face, we're freed from Biblical standards of conduct. Thus internet anonymity is no longer a trap only for Christian men dealing with lust. Lack of accountability also has led participants on Christian blogs and discussion boards to sin in tragic ways.

Also see the Top Ten Weblog Design Mistakes on anonymity. BTW, we are chronic violators of Rule #7. D'oh!

This is why I don't hesitate to post (duly unclassified!) photos of me at work. There happens to be a dashing picture of me under my profile, along with my (real) full name and e-mail address. If I have neglected Christian charity in my online dealings, and, for instance, said that your mother wears army boots, you can contact my elders at the United Reformed Church of Ontario, CA. Have I been disseminating suspect theology, displaying a trace sympathy for infralapsarianism, or worse - Amyraldianism? Then Pastor Kaloostian would be interested to know, and would promptly open a can of pastoral rebuke on me. Am I in sin for looking at that photo of Keira Knightley more than once, and causing brethren to stumble by posting it on my blog? Fine. But I'll appeal that matter all the way to synod if I must!

Look, I'm not afraid of getting physically attacked by a mob of Calvinists who recognize my face at the next Reformed conference: "hey, that's the guy who rejects the traditional interpretation of Genesis 38! Let's get him, fellas!" If someone does want to take me to task for my beliefs or something I said, I'll be happy to answer it in person.

Third item: 5 months into the lifespan of our blog, we've graduated to the double-digit daily readership category. Tim Bayly of Baylyblog has graciously added us to his blogroll, as has Steve Hays at Triablogue. Unfortunately, the illustrious Centuri0n has neglected to add us to his blogroll. Of course, his blogroll is fairly selective, which would obviously disqualify us, so I don't think this is a case of mere oversight. Clearly, we need to rack up more meritum de congruo (congruent merit) to earn a right standing before him. UPDATE: correction, we are on his blogroll (thanks, Frank!). But you have to scroll way, way, way down to find us (d'oh!).

According to Site Meter, I am clearly our biggest fan, having visited our blog more often than anyone else. At a close second, some peculiar fellow from Reston, Virginia has been spending a scary, inordinate amount of time visiting our blog. Our little treasury of wisdom here on the net simply does not warrant this. I suspect ulterior motives.

In the meanwhile, the Pedantic Protestant came to a functional standstill, while NTRmin.org essentially closed it's doors, and Pyromaniac became Team Pyro. Our blogroll was updated accordingly. Also during this time, James White has had 87 formal debates. And the Emergent Church movement continues to be simultaneously awful and hilarious. So many memories...

Fourth item: Where do we go from here? How can we get from our modest readership numbers to web traffic of Pyromaniac proportions? Judging by the Boar's Head Tavern traffic, clearly sound theology isn't the way to get there, but we'll go ahead and keep that in our resume anyhow. Should I pick a theological fight with someone in the blogosphere with more traffic than us (the blog parasite method)? Nah, blog wars can only last so long.

Actually, I've got some posts on presuppositional apologetics in the oven at the moment, as well as some stuff on the Federal Vision. I'll intersperse some lighter observations in between the meatier stuff, but hopefully we can strike a good balance of quality and quantity around here.

As a graduate student, Jeremy has powers far beyond my own. Once he gets his little "thesis" distraction out of the way, he can get back to the real work of edifying the God-blogosphere here at the Horde. However, I will no longer tolerate his "filler" posts responding to 3rd-party posts in the blogosphere. Since we have higher standards around here, only original scholarship will do, as my hard-hitting posts on beer ice cream and Keira Knightley exemplify.

Garet has undergone an experience of Pauline proportions, and is currently residing in Arabia, whereupon, after three years, he will emerge to blog again with wisdom and insight worthy to be added to the canon of Scripture.

Category: Blogging Ourselves



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Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Like a Gold Ring in a Pig's Snout

Would It Be Wrong To 'Missionary Date' Keira?
Were you dazzled by all of the glitz, glamour and excitement of this week's Academy Awards? Me neither. Rather, I was reminded again of why I don't watch TV. So why did I post a picture of Keira Knightley at the Awards on our blog? A desperate attempt to improve our blog's aesthetics? A shameless ploy to increase our readership? Neither. I swear.

Rather, it is an occassion to remind ourselves of what we are looking at and what we value. No doubt, Hollywood offers us scores of such beautiful women to gaze upon. Genuinely beautiful- not just "beautiful" in that plastic, fake tan, fake-everything California way. However, it is good to remember just who these people really are:

Like a gold ring in a pig's snout
is a beautiful woman without discretion.

-Proverbs 11:22

Not only do most of these women not know God, they don't even feign an attempt at availing themselves of wisdom and virtue from common grace or the light of natural revelation. I've had goldfish that last longer than most of their marriages. That is, of course, if they even bother to marry one from the string of guys they've slept with. They hire PR people to cover up, defend, or explain away their bulimia/alcohol/drug abuse problems that get exposed. They see nothing wrong with being paid to take off their clothes in front of a movie camera ("the director said there was artistic merit to the scene!"). And most of them are leftist wackos who thought John Kerry was their messiah to save us all from Bush.

What Solomon is trying to teach us in this Proverb is that while physical beauty is truly to be desired in a woman, it avails nothing in a foolish woman. It is a waste of beauty. Indeed, the beauty becomes ugliness without godly propriety, just as the ring does in a pig's snout.

Category: Extraneous & Miscellaneous
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