Recently the National Association of Evangelicals fired Richard Cizik who served as Vice President. The NAE did this because they no longer trusted Cizik to speak for them because of his advocacy of Global Warming and he seems to support government distribution of contraception as well as personally supporting Civil Unions and probably even gay marriage (what else does saying I do not “officially” support gay marriage mean?).
John Armstrong has a nice series of articles about this firing, but I think he stops short of where he should. Armstrong places the blame on the make up of the NAE a “mostly white, male and aging” group. That may be true but I do not think that is the real problem. He dislikes the older way of doing “kingdom business” and prays that it will “die off” sooner rather than later. Armstrong fails to give a new way of doing kingdom business. Clearly Armstrong dislikes the influence of James Dobson and some other in the NAE, and would rather see Cizik lead the group. Potentially because Cizik could reach those younger evangelicals that care about Greenland becoming too green and not icy enough. But is that really the problem?
I think the more basic problem is that the NAE is worthless and always has been. It has over 50 denominations as member denominations, but why? Why on earth is the PCA a part of NAE? What exactly does the PCA have in common with the Pentecostal Free Will Baptist Church or the Wesleyan Church? I understand that churches should engage the culture and be active, but is becoming a glorified lobbying group the answer? That worked well for a few years when all the denominations agreed on those hot button issues, but new issues have come up such as global warming and gay marriage and certain denominations have declined in moral values and no consensus can be reached. Thus this group, the NAE, runs around Washington representing “evangelicals” and throws its political weight around like any good lobbiest does. It also manages to have internal scandals such as the Cizik affair or more prominently the Ted Haggart disaster. Haggart was caught with a male prostitute buying drugs, and then outright lied about it on TV. This man was the President of the NAE. The face of “evangelicalism”. Is it any wonder why young people hate the name “evangelical”? It is a K-Street lobbying group that has outright hypocrites leading it.
When Armstrong says he is ready for the old way of doing business to go away, I can’t agree more. However, he means detaching from the Republicans and starting to engage young people by talking about the issues they care about. I mean something else completely. I mean getting rid of the political tools and getting back to basics. Preach the gospel. Teach the gospel. Live the gospel. It is that simply.
Monday, December 29, 2008
Recently the National Association of Evangelicals fired Richard Cizik who served as Vice President. The NAE did this because they no longer trusted Cizik to speak for them because of his advocacy of Global Warming and he seems to support government distribution of contraception as well as personally supporting Civil Unions and probably even gay marriage (what else does saying I do not “officially” support gay marriage mean?).
Thursday, December 25, 2008
Merry Christmas. I just wanted wish everyone a blessed day. It is good to have a day to stop and remember the miracle of Christmas: that God took flesh in order to save his lost sheep. Clearly a day of celebration. You all have my permission to feast without remorse.
Monday, December 15, 2008
Just in case you think that there is not a growing hatred of Christians in this country, you may want to check out this small story. They just burned down Governor Palin’s church in Alaska. She received a lot of attention during the campaign most for her being dispensational and charismatic, which I have little sympathy for, but at least it was not a church spouting hate for white people and conspiracy theories about everything from 9-11 to AIDS. However, criticizing that church is racist, so I should stop.
It is just a sad commentary on today’s political climate.
Saturday, December 06, 2008
First the BCS. Everyone is complaining about the BCS. They all want an 8-team playoff so that Texas and Oklahoma can both get in. Even the President Elect weighed in for no real reason. The problem is that it solves nothing. An 8-team playoff still leaves out undefeated (one of only two teams) Boise St. Don’t forget that Boise St. defeated PAC-10 runner up Oregon St during the year. Utah, who will make the BCS, but not be allowed in a championship game despite being the only undefeated team in the BCS, also will get messed over. All the system did this year was prove that minor conference teams, even when they beat big conference teams, will not get a shot at the title. The problem is not that it is not a playoff. The problem is that it is completely based on subjectivity. The only fair way to do it is let all the conference champs play. And I mean all of them. Remember that ECU defeated Virginia Tech and West Virginia this year on their way to winning the Conference USA title. They fell out of the top 25 when they lost a couple of games. But, they are healthy now and probably could win at a lot of games in a playoff format. They did lose 13 starters this year and have started 44 different people. Of course Boise deserves a chance. Utah too. Until the BCS goes away it will only serve to oppress the smaller market schools even though they have better teams.
Second, the Hall of Fame of Baseball is being discussed a lot. Greg Maddox retired and is a first ballot Hall of Famer. I agree with that. However, people said the same thing about Mike Mussina. Let us examine that claim.
Player #1 Wins 270 Losses 153. Complete Games 57. Shut Outs 23. ERA 3.68. Post Season 7-7. Strike Outs 2813.
Player #2 Wins 287. Losses 250. Complete Games 242. Shut Outs 60.
ERA 3.31. Post Season 4-1. Strike Outs 3701.
Which one do you think is a first ballot Hall of Famer? I will give you a hint. The other one is not in the Hall of Fame after 13 years of balloting. Player #1 is Mike Mussina. Player #2 is Bert Blyleven. Blyleven has a better ERA, more strike outs, a better post season winning percentage including being undefeated in World Series play. He has more wins and more complete games. Now Bert did play three more years, but that is not too much. Mike would probably have more wins than Bert if they played the same number of years, but nothing else. Mike does not have a world series ring, Bert has two. Mike has more post season games because of the extra round of games. Bert also pitched a lot of time in the National League where it is harder to get complete games, and he has to bat. How can anyone argue for Mussina and not Blyleven? I am not sure. It just goes to show you. Modern Sports writers and ESPN losers no very little about baseball.
Sunday, November 30, 2008
I do not watch the view, but apparently Joy Behar made a few off hand comments about how demented home schoolers are and other silly things like that. Her comments can be found about the 7 minute mark and only lasts about 45 seconds. I am not going to bother refuting anything Joy Behar said because it is Joy Behar. If she ever says anything back with argumentation and fact maybe she can be taken seriously. Until then I will avoid her. What was interesting was a blog on the Huffington Post by a liberal homeschooler. This liberal was mad at the comments. What I found interesting was this statement or appeal:
Left-leaning people support the right for men and women to choose marriage, whether they are gay or straight. I support that too. They often support the idea that women's bodies are theirs only and that the government must not make laws dictating their choice to have or not have children. I support that too. So, what's wrong with having the freedom to choose your child's best educational environment?
It struck me that this liberal blogger does not understand why the liberals are against home schooling. Could she not see the underlying issue that made abortion, gay marriage, and anti-home schooling consitent with each other? Could this person not see the fact that “choice” is just one of those buzz words, and not the real issue. Liberals are not for choice. Never have been. They are not promoting an ideology of choice. What is it they promote that unifies these positions (because we can all admit that the "liberal" agenda is public school and not home schooling)?
The answer is these things are all direct attacks on the family. Abortion is an attack on the family. It kills children. Gay marriage is an attack on the family. In order for Gay Marriage to be anything other than an oxymoron, the very definition of Marriage has to be destroyed. Adam and Eve are no longer the example of marriage. Be fruitful and multiply is not even a possibility. One can hardly imagine a more direct attack on families than its re-defining. Is there any value in being a mom or a dad? Not if Gay Marriage is real marriage. Two dads are just as good. Mom brings nothing to table. The same sort of basic level attack on the family is involved in anti-homeschoolers like Joy Behar. Having mom and dad teach their own kids is the worst possible thing because that promotes families. Taking everyone’s children and then having the state dictate what is taught to them is the best thing. Families need not apply. A families values are not to be taught, only the state’s values can be taught. Religion is not allowed in public schools. Spanking is not allowed in public schools. The point of public schools is to indoctrinate children with the beliefs of the state, not the family. Do not forget that public education is one of the Ten Planks of the Communist Manifesto. Marx by the way also was against marriage. Too much like private property I guess.
The point being the Liberal Left is perfectly consistent in being pro-abortion, pro-gay marriage, and anti home-school. It is all about attacking the foundations of the family and replacing the family with the state.
Saturday, November 22, 2008
I have grown very tired of hearing everyone refer to Obama’s Team of Rivals. Ignoring for a moment what a complete whitewash of Lincoln, Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book really is, let us not forget one very important fact. A fact that President-Elect Obama seems to have forgotten as well. And sadly it is mostly overlooked in Goodwin’s book as well. Lincoln’s Team of Rivals did not work.
Lincoln is praised for putting his major rivals into one team after he won the Presidency. This included William Seward, Samuel Chase, Simon Cameron, and Edward Bates. There were others on the cabinet, but these were the ones who had contested the election of 1860 and made it a team of rivals. Although it should be noted that Bates was too old to be a political threat, too moderate to cause damage in the Republican ranks, and was an average Attorney General at best. Chase and Cameron were complete disasters. Cameron had to resign after only a year because he was incompetent. He was made the Secretary of War (Defense) and he was awful. So bad that his political career was effectively over. His own party despised him after this. Incompetent is not strong enough of a word. It was not until Edwin Stanton took over the post that the War Department was brought into shape. Stanton was not a rival, and would be considered a normal cabinet pick. Samuel Chase was the Treasury Secretary. Now, it is true that he did his job well. The Treasury Department was not corrupt and he was not incompetent. However, he never ceased being a rival to Lincoln. He tried to use his position to gather forces for a run at the Presidency in 1864. He occasionally undercut Lincoln and often second guessed him. He was made Chief Justice of the United States by Lincoln to rid the party of him and remove him from the cabinet. That is how big a trouble maker Chase had become. Seward as Secretary of State is the only one who turned out. Seward was loyal and had great success after Johnson became President. Seward was attacked the same night Lincoln was shot and much of face was ripped off by the assassin. So, in that manner Seward was great. However, it can hardly be taken as the rule. Seward never made up with Horace Greeley who continued to hound the President and even ran against the Republican Party when Grant was President. Greeley was bitter at how Seward never gave his paper work as Secretary or as Governor of New York. So, while Seward never did anything to undercut Lincoln he did help make trouble for the administration overall.
No matter how this idea came to be planted in Obama’s head, it is a bad one. Maybe people should read the book that Goodwin wrote before following the example of Lincoln.
Friday, November 21, 2008
I know it has been a while since I commented on the book Young Restless and Reformed, but there is at least one more thing worth discussing. This book is filled with new and interesting ways to be “Reformed”. Whether it be Reformed Baptist, Reformed Independent, Reformed Charismatic, or Reformed Emergent, there is a place for you in this book. There was not a clear tie that binds in my opinion. If so the author did not make it clear enough. However, there was a deep appreciation and love for the Puritans in most of them. Jonathon Edwards is mentioned in every chapter including the Epilogue. Puritanism in general is mentioned in every chapter not counting the Epilogue, and it is mentioned twice as much as Protestantism in general. Obviously Collin Hansen defines Puritanism differently than I do. But, the question remains why the love of the Puritans? I am not saying the Puritans are bad. But, the Heidelberg Catechism is mentioned only twice. The Westminster Confession of faith only six times. Oliver Cromwell is mentioned more than Ulrich Zwingli. The only link between all of these reformed movements is the Puritans.
I have a theory as to why this might be. It is not because of how practical the Puritans might have been or anything good they might have done. It is because the Puritans were not a denomination, and only loosely a movement. Doctrinal distinctive did not exist. You could be a Baptist and a Puritan. You could be a Congregationalist and a Puritan. You could even support charismatic outbreaks and be a Puritan much like Jonathan Edwards did.
Let me expand my point. Edwards, Cromwell, and John Owen were all Congregationalists. John Bunyan was a Baptist. All of these guys are mentioned in the book. One could also add several Presbyterians and Anglicans to this list although they are not mentioned in this book. The point is to be a Puritan is not to be a member of anything other than a broad undefined movement. Church government is unimportant and the sacraments are unimportant. In fact the only thing that seems to be important is a Calvinistic view of salvation and a focus on Christian living. This is exactly what I would say seems to be the glue that connects the Young Restless and Reformed churches and pastors.
This brings me full circle. Is this really Reformed? Is it so important to meet the world where it is that we leave behind so many things, or as the Bible puts it ‘the meat’ of God’s Word? I am not saying that all of the churches in this book are doing that. By no means. I am simply saying that trying to make a connection between these many varied churches and theologies is a mistake. And if we want to put such an emphasis on the Puritans, we need to remember their shortcomings. After all the Puritans failed both in England and in America. An important fact to remember.
Monday, November 17, 2008
Al Franken will be the next Senator from Minnesota. However, he lost the election. Let us just fact facts, Republicans like to supress minority votes, and Democrats love recounts because they cheat. So it is with Minnesota.
Read this article about what is going on out here in the forgotten country. Remember as you do that the Star Tribune might actually be the most politically liberal paper in America. It is easily top five. If even they can figure out that 100 ballots in the trunk of a election official's car all for Franken is probably not legitimate, then we ought to all be worried that they are being counted.
Sunday, November 16, 2008
It will soon be official, chivalry will be dead. Chivalry of course is that old medieval idea that knights had a responsibility to behave in a certain manner, to comport themselves according to virtue and honor, most especially as it regarded women.
I mention this because it is a tangible thing that can be seen in today’s culture. Chivalry has been dying for some time, probably because Christianity has been waning in this country for sometime. After all it is hard to carry oneself with virtue and honor when the One who defines what such things are is removed from the equation. Chivalry was always connected with Christianity. Just read some King Arthur and the Knights of the Table Round stories (note on the page the code of the Knights with regards to ladies). Even those legends have a search for the Holy Grail, which is found by Sir. Galahad because of his piety. That is what made him the Greatest Knight ever, according to the books of course. Chivalry is to be linked with Christianity. Remove the Christianity and the code falls to pieces. Even in Canterbury Tales, the greatest book ever,Chaucer gives us a story or more about Chivalry (the Knight’s Tale and the Wife of Bath at least), which also show us this Christian duty toward women.
That Chivalry is ailing is not hard to tell. When was the last time you stood up for a lady every time she entered the room, left a table, or tipped your hat to one on the street. Me neither. But, it was not dead. Chivalry still had a pulse. But, President-elect Obama has plans to pull its life support. He will put women on the front lines and register them for the draft. All in the name of equality. Now I believe that men and women are ontologically equal, but they are not economically the same. In other words, we are all humans and have the same rights that cannot be denied, but we have different jobs and that cannot be denied either. One can pretend that men do not have natural instincts to protect females, one can pretend that males will react the same to a woman being tortured, and one can even pretend that our enemies will treat female prisoners the same as they treat male ones, but we must never forget that all of that is just pretend.
The reason women should not be in combat or even the military is that they are valued so highly, not because they are thought incompetent or unable. I Peter speaks of women as the "weaker vessel". Now I do not believe that this means women are physically weaker, although some do. I believe that this phrase is referring to a vessel that is delicate and honored and to be protected. A Ming Vase might be a good example. It is something that you do not let the kids play with. It is something that you put in a place of honor and safety. So it is with women. They are to be honored highly, protected with all that we have. Putting them on the front lines and drafting them against the will to war is about as opposite from that idea as one can get. Sort of like using that Ming Vase for a spittoon.
So if this happens, and I assume it will, we can bury Chivalry. Let us pray that the Lord will resurrect it, and that it will be the last Christian virtue we let die in the country.
Thursday, November 06, 2008
I have to say that I underestimated the polls (at least Rasmussen), and I over estimated the American public’s ability to recognize socialism as an attack on personal wealth, but most importantly an attack on Christianity. That is a post for another day. Rasmussen has a nice feature where you can see state-by-state how their polls did. It seems the Republican out performed by a small amount most of the time, but a few key places like Nevada he under performed and that cost him. Just to justify my distrust of polls Rasmussen did not fare as well in their Senate polls. They out right missed Oregon and Alaska. Having followed the site I can tell you as well that they are being a little deceptive about Minnesota. Their FINAL poll may have looked that way, but they had Franken on top for most of the year. They also had the special election in Mississippi as a seat in jeopardy until their final poll too. I doubt opinion turned that much.
I have to say that I am not half as depressed as most of the Republicans I know or even the conservatives I know. I did not vote for McCain, and he probably still thinks I am an agent of intolerance. The question has been raised earlier about the fate of Conservatism in this country. Some think it dead. I do not. After all Obama promised tax cuts, which he will not deliver, but he still ran as cutting the budget, cutting spending, and cutting taxes. He also ran on less foreign intervention, which is fundamentally conservative. The question is really whether or not the Republican Party stays conservative. I stated earlier during the primaries that it was a battle for the soul of the Republican Party. I defined the Reagan coalition as Paleo-Conservatism, Libertarianism, Theo-Conservatives and Neo-Conservatives. With President Bush the Neo-Cons were in the driver seat, the Theo-Cons sat in the passenger seat and the Paleo-Cons were in the back seat and the Libertarians had been kicked to the curb. McCain represented more of the same with less influence for the Theo-Cons. Other candidates represented other arrangements and the Neo-Cons won the day in the primaries. Well, when McCain feared the Paleo-Cons would get out of the car themselves and leave McCain short on votes he picked Sarah Palin who appealed to Paleo-Cons and Theo-Cons. However, it made many Neo-Cons abandon the car leaving McCain without a driver. There was a late mass exodus of especially those Neo-Cons who wanted to remain in power and with popularity in the press. Frum, Powell, and McClellan come to mind as well as some columnists who are women (reinforcing my belief that the biggest obstacle to a woman in the White House is women). This leads to the struggle now of which group will take over the party.
My bet is the Neo-Cons will take the party by blaming Palin for the loss. But, this will not kill true Conservatism (Paleo) in America. Conservatives always get used and kicked to the curb because their nature is one that thinks political power is bad. Less government = good. The side effect of this is that political parties whose goal is control of government end up getting rid of the conservatives. Do not forget that the Conservatives were on the outs with President Jefferson depsite electing him. They were on the outs with President Jackson despite electing him. They were on the outs with the Whig Congress when President Tyler was in office. They were on the outs with the Democratic Party in 1860 (you could define them either as the state’s rights group or the Constitutional Unionists of Bell). They were on the outs in the Democratic Party during their high years of the great depression despite being the reason the Dems always had a majority, and eventually they left the party. Their exodus gave the Republicans the White House with the Nixon Southern Stragtegy and the Reagan years, and finally the majority by 1994, but they were forsaken in 2000 and they have since been removed and made fun of by the party leaders. The point is that Conservatives never go away. Not only do they never go away they also always seem to play a fundamental part in the governing of America. Whether it be the Revolution of 1800 or the Jacksonian Revolution or the Reagan Revolution it is always led by conservatives.
As for President-elect Obama, I will pray for him. My duties to the government don’t really change just because the top man does. Obama is going to be a liberal, but then is our current President, so there is not that big a change. There is a big debate about how Obama will govern, which highlights the pathetic nature of the media that they ask that fundamentally important question AFTER the election. Will he be the socialist that he truly is or will he play pragmatism so that he can get re-elected? I think he will end up in on the left. You do not win by the margins he won by to sit on your hands. But, I think he will take it slowly at first. I think he will back out of his promise to sign the Freedom of Choice Act that would override state laws about abortion. I do think he will try to push the things he thinks will not cause serious division. Expect Cap and Trade to be put into effect and other climate change initiatives. The one thing we can count on because Obama has always done it, are moves to silence dissent and consolidate power. Thus, I think two things he will tackle early are the Card Check Law, which will increase Democratic fund raising power, and the Fairness Doctrine, which will hurt all of America by making us slaves to the worthless media and might actually kill radio. Expect both of those to come through quickly. The Fairness Doctrine makes me angry because it is simply repugnant to the idea of democracy, liberty, and America as a whole. However, I expect it to pass without much trouble.
There is no doubt that there is much work to be done, but I think it can be done. However, I think the work needs to be done primarily in the churches. Things have to be taken seriously and taught again. A whole generation of people has grown up and they do not understand the fundamental importance of some issues. They see abortion and homosexuality as political issues rather than moral issues. A generation has grown up thinking that socialism is a good idea, and thinks it can actually fit into a Christian worldview if they even care about trying. A generation has grown up and does not see the problem with feeling entitled to things and truly believes personal responsibility is a bad thing. For all the talk and debate about how so many people do not believe the plain teaching of creation in Genesis 1 or the teachings about the role of women in places like Ephesians 5 or the doctrine of Predestination, which is so clearly laid out in Romans 9, the verses that may be the most ignored in the whole bible today by “evangelicals” are the ones found in Proverbs about how to live. We as the church need to fix this problem and the rest will work itself out. Although in writing this list it makes me think that maybe we need to take back education as well and start to take it seriously again.
If this happens, then the politics will work itself out.
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
Kevin Johnson defends the idea of an altar call on his new blog: Prophezei, which has replaced Reformed Catholicism. He gives several reasons for including the idea of an altar call.
His first is that worship has always been innovative. He gives a few examples such as the Book of Common Prayer, which I find completely unconvincing. I would like for him to trot out a few more examples if he has them. It is my opinion that Reformed worship looks a lot like worship of days gone by, and dare I say it, the worship of NT church. That claim will probably draw some criticism, but it is a claim I am still willing to make until proven otherwise. I do not see the role innovation has played in history.
The one example he does break out that deserves mention is the Great Awakening. There was an innovation in the worship service during that time that serves as the basis for the modern “altar call”. They preached what they called the “terrors of the law” in those days, and that grew into the New Methods which actually used the “anxious bench” and later the “altar call” perfected by Moody and others. I am an Old Sider at heart. I am against the Great Awakening. I do not view it like most do within Presbyterian circles. I think the theology of Edwards has led to as many problems as it has anything else, and that George Whitfield began a horrible trend of Evangelists without a home church, undermined local ministers, and his theology was muddled at best. His sermons were often out right heretical. Referencing the Great Awakening to me hurts his case more than anything else.
His second point is that Christianity is no longer the dominant player in American society and culture. I agree with this, and this point needs a bit more examination. The point made by Kevin Johnson here is that we can no longer assume a familiarity with Christianity and that using old creeds and modes of worship do not connect with modern man. He goes on to state the forming the worship service for the believer rules out unbelievers, evangelism, and the chance to grow the church; thus, we cannot model the worship service to appeal only to those already in the community of believers. I grant his premise about the culture and he makes a solid point about the need for true evangelism. My rebuttal is that the worship service does not have to be the answer for evangelism. He is right that it ought to be accessible, although we doubtless disagree about the accessibility of Reformed worship as it is today. However, I do think that the church is not doing enough to reach out to the unbeliever and is not reaching people where they are in their lives. Churches need to change quite a bit in this area, but changing the worship service is not the answer. If you look back on the history of the church one can see the church reaching out in a myraid of ways other than the worship service. How often do churches have active deaconal help and pass it to someone in the community who is not a member of the church? How often do churches start schools and educate the young of believers and non believers alike? This was the common method of the church in the 2nd and 3rd centuries. I would advocate reaching out to those who have no history of Christianity, but I do not think that the worship service is the place to do that. It should not be exclusionary, but it should not serve as the main outreach.
The point about preaching and asking people to make a decision for Christ, I think is a different discussion from the one about the altar call that began the post. Asking men to repent and make a decision for Christ is not the same as having an invitation to come forward during Just As I Am. The post referenced the minor prophets as pressuring men to make a decision. To that I could add Joshua telling the people to choose this day or Elijah asking how long they would hesitate between two opinions. That practice is right and should be done, especially when the text demands it. However, ending the sermon with a time for people to come forward is not that. I believe the worship service has a flow, and build up if you will. The heart of the worship service is to be the Word of God and prayer. That is the heart of the service. I am against the altar call for the same sort of reason that I am against weekly communion. It supplants the preached word as the main part of the service. In Southern Baptist churches it is not going to far to say that the altar call is there sacrament. It is the main point and the high point of their service. It then also becomes something that people can put their trust in. I went forward at an altar call and I made a decision. Did they? Billy Graham usually thinks that about 10% of the people that came forward actually followed through on their decisions and went to church. Are we changing the service for the hopes of reaching 10%, if we preach as well as Billy Graham?
I share the concern that churches today (not just Reformed and Presbyterian) do not practice evangelism and the church is receding because we are not sharing the gospel. However, I think it means we are failing outside of the church walls and on Monday through Saturday, not necessarily on Sunday. This is a mounting problem, and one that I pray the church as a whole can address.
Tuesday, November 04, 2008
Remember to vote today. And this is my last chance to encourage people to vote for a third party candidate. If you really want change, you cannot expect it from one of the two major parties. How many times do they have to fail before this becomes obvious. I have to admit that the rhetoric against voting for a 3rd Party has become increasing hostile. I have argued in the past that voting for a 3rd Party is the best way to change a national party, but some still insist that working within the bankrupt, corrupt political parties is the way to go despite never having any proof. No one is ever bad enough to make them dissert their party because next time the party will not take their views for granted, and they will not count their vote for a sub-par candidate as an endorsement of his flaws.
The latest example of this mindset is American Vision. American Vision is founded by a Theonomist, Gary DeMar. The whole point of American Vision is to promote a Christian Worldview and even to work for an openly Christian government. He has recently denounced votes for 3rd party small government and openly Christian candidates in favor of working within a big government party who avows no real religions belief and does not even attend church regularly. The mind numbing contradiction in such positions makes my head hurt.
So in closing if you like John McCain go vote for John McCain. If you don’t like him, there are other options. If you like Barak Obama vote Barak Obama, but if you don’t like him and want someone a little less socialist and less liberal, the Green Party does have a candidate and Ralph Nader is running is independent.
Most importantly go vote. There is really no good reason not to vote.
So much happened in the past few days in sports it is a must respond kind of post for me.
First, the Cincinnati Bengals won a game. Yes, it is the first. The season went south the minute Carson Palmer went down. Actually, it was done the minute they resigned Chris Henry. Now our Harvard quarterback finally pulled a win out of his hat. At least we did not lose them all.
The University of Tennessee finally fired Philip Fullmer. All I can say is this is at least 10 years too late. Philip Fulmer has a good record over all with over 150 wins, but the SEC was not always as dominate as it is now. Fulmer enjoyed feasting on the weak SEC, but cannot handle the new SEC where Georgia is good, the coach he cannot beat ever is at South Carolina, and in addition to the yearly loss to Florida, former arch-nemesis Alabama is good again. It is simply too much for Fulmer. He did win a national title in 1998, but if you cannot win a national title in the four years that Peyton Manning is your quarterback then you should be fired. That is all that needs to be said about him.
Finally, I am completely justified by the departure of Allen Iverson from the Nuggets. I predicted the Nuggets would stink with AI, and I was right. They did not improve at all during his time in Denver and in fact, it can be argued they got worse. AI cannot play defense, and is a ball hog. That does not work well in a team game. The addition of Chauncey Billups ought to improve both aspects that AI could not. It also lets J.R. Smith shoot the ball and play more. He is a better outside shooter and is a better fit for the team than AI. Billups is a big game player and can make clutch shots down the stretch. The Nuggets will be releasing McDyess, which is good as well. What they do with Cheikh Samb is anyone’s guess, but does having a 7 footer on your team ever hurt? No. Look for the Nuggets to make the playoffs and challenge to get out of the first round. That depends on how long it takes for the team to come together (which will affect who they play in the first round). If it does not take to long and the Nuggets can pull off a 5th seed or even a 6th, they might could sneak out of the first round.
Friday, October 31, 2008
I cannot help myself, I must comment on baseball as it comes to a close for 2008. First the Tampa Bay Rays. This team lost the World Series, but has a real chance to make a dynasty. I am a little excited to see this team continue. They have lots of young players who are already producing at the major league level. What is even more interesting is that they have some of them already signed to long term deals. This team is built to last. Look out Yankees and Red Sox. The favorite to win the East next year is the Rays with only the Twins looking competitive with this team in AL.
Second, the Phillies avoided the dubious distinction of being the biggest team of underachievers ever. That title still belongs to the Atlanta Braves throughout the 90’s. The Phillies were supposed to be great going back 4 or 5 years, but Pat Burrell always disappointed. Think about it. The Phillies had the last two NL MVP’s, yet they still were losers. Don’t count on them this next year because the Phillies depend on the Mets imploding, which they will not do next year. The Phils will miss the playoffs next year as Howard continues to get worse and worse. I would strike out less at the major league level and that is saying something.
Third, and most importantly, the Pirates are going to be great. I can see the .500 mark for 09. Yes, they will be playing the Rays for the 2010 World Series title. Just go ahead and get used to the newest and best rivalry in baseball the Pirates versus the Rays. In 2010 the Pirates will have a load of offensive talent as top prospect McCutchen will be starting in the majors in the outfield. That will probably be the debut year for Jose Tabata as well, who was the lynch pin in the deal made with the Yankees this year. Pedro Alvarez, the top pick in this year’s draft, is scheduled to make his debut at third in 2010. The two pitching prospects we got from the Yankees showed signs of life this year and the one from the Red Sox will be ready by 2010. We drafted three middle infielders in the 2008 draft. One of them will be ready to take over short if Brian Bixler turns out to be a dud. If for some reason Pierce does not fit in at first, then Jamie Romak (aquired from the Braves in 2006) will probably be ready to add his bat to the line up.
Add to that line up the fact that we will be getting more for Jack Wilson and hopefully Adam LaRoche this next year. If Neil Walker looks good at third and Pedro Alvarez makes his way up as fast as expected, then we might could get rid of Andy LaRoche as well for prospects. The Pirates have four major league quality catchers, which means we could probably part with one of those for a stretch drive helper in 2010, and that will be enough to put us over the top. Surely enough pitching will show up in order to make the Pirates a contender in the years to come.
Look out world, the Pirates are back. I for one could not be happier.
Thursday, October 30, 2008
The RCUS requires examinations in the History of Philosophy before you can be licensed to preach. I think we maybe the only denomination that does this. It is not always taken as seriously as it ought, but we still do it. I wish more would because philosophy cannot be avoided. The area of music is one place where I think it comes out quite clearly. Take the next interesting point in the book Young Restless and Reformed is in the chapter discussing a few Calvinist Rappers. They have started their own Christian Music label for Reformed Theology and the Hip-Hop (new name for Rap) sat down and talked with the author of the book. One of the artist defended Christian Hip-Hop as a superior musical method because of the large word count compared to pop or country. Then the book went into a slight discussion of Hip-Hop in the culture at large. Hip-Hop is now mainstream and it is listened to in suburban areas as much as suburban areas. The artist explained why.
There’s something about hip-hop that is similar to the rock music of the 1960’s and 1970’s. It is able to capture the hearts of the listener as the artist communicates a similar experience. So when a Tupac [Shakur] is talking about what’s going on in his hood, millions of youth say, ‘Yes, that’s like me. I identify with that.’”
The book author went on to speak about the raw honest of hip-hop, but I think the quote above is loaded with things to think about and ponder. I really enjoy the analogy between hip-hop today and the 1960’s and 70’s rock. It gives us much to think about.
First the question should be put forward, why do youth today identify so much with hip-hop/rap songs when they do not live in Tupac’s hood? What is it about an artist who was shot 5 times in 1994, probably had something to do with a murder of a fellow rapper one year to the day later, was in prison for abuse, and then was killed in a drive by shooting after assaulting a gang member earlier that night? The person supposedly responsible for his shooting, a fellow rapper, was murdered later. What on earth is it that connects with kids who are not part of gangs and do not live this lifestyle? That question would seem to be very important. Is it really just being honest and “authentic”? The answer I believe, and so does the above quote, is related to the popularity of rock in 60’s and 70’s. The 60’s and 70’s were of course huge for the rock industry as bands like Led Zepplin, Beatles, Grateful Dead, the Doors, and people such as Jimmie Hendrix were amazingly popular. They clearly influenced their culture at events like Woodstock and with their songs. What was it about this music that people connected too?
I would argue that the connection in both instances is rebellion. Youth today may not want to go hang out with gangsters or be “Cop Killers” (the title of a popular rap song by Iced Tea), but they do like the idea of rebelling against society. The same was true in the 60’s and 70’s. As one movie puts it, the soul of rock-n-roll is “sticking it to the man”. The phrase “sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll” came about because of the rampant sex and drugs in rock-n-roll. It was not hidden. In fact, many of the rockers of the time died from drug related problems such as Jimmie Hendrix, Jim Morrison, and Janis Joplin. Others like Freddy Mercury died from sexually transmitted diseases. During the 60’s and 70’s rock-n-roll was how you supported the cultural revolution. Since then it has become absorbed into the culture so that we hear it in the back ground of commercials selling us cars (which started in the 80’s by the way), and new forms of rebellious music had to be found such as punk rock and now hip-hop. Rock clearly rebelled against existing social norms and pushed an agenda of anti-war, pro-drug, pro-sex, and thus obviously anti-Christian messages. Hip-hop today pushes rebellious messages. Drugs and sex are no longer as rebellious as they were so we see pro-violence (especially against authority figures), pro-crime, pro-swearing, as well as pro-drug and pro-sex messages. One might could even argue the format of rap being a spoken rather than singing genre is a rebellion against what music really is. One of the early trademarks of rap was scratching records, a very unnatural sound and one that is not music strictly speaking.
Here is where the philosophy comes into play. Marshal McLuhan has put forth the idea that the medium is the message. Neil Postman follows that same line of thinking although softening it a bit. The point being that the medium that conveys the message at least affects the message whether you want it to or not. That the medium of music massages our senses in specific ways and carries with it inherent factors affecting the message. If I might go a step further in appropriating the McLuhan/Postman philosophy (appropriately I hope), I would argue the same is true of different genre’s of music. That rap has a connotation that is carried innately in the genre itself, as does rock, country, etc. If you don’t think so try thinking about it like this. If you take the words of the Star Spangled Banner and put them in a rap, do feel the same about it as if it were sung normally at a ballgame? If not why not? The words are the same. .R. Kelly turned the anthem into a pop song, but was booed for it. And if we are talking about the anthem I have to link to Jimi Hendrix and his guitar solo. Only the 30 second discussion at the end is related to what we are talking about.
So, I think it worth discussing whether or not the gospel can be presented in a rap song. If the genre screams rebellion to moral absolutes and norms, if that is part of the connotation delivered with the genre, is it then appropriate to use it to promote the gospel? I have to admit I don’t think I have thought it through enough. But, it is something that should be a discussion. If what people connect to in rap is rebellion, just like they may have to rock in the 60’s, is this an appropriate place for gospel presentation? Can one present the gospel if the medium itself undermines that message? Perhaps McLuhan and Postman’s ideas are wrong? Perhaps I have misused them here. I hope you all will weigh in on it. However, I think it is a discussion that ought to be had more and more. One cannot just assume, as the Calvinist Rapper in the book does, that as long as the words are right the deed is right.
Monday, October 27, 2008
The one thing that we can all take away from this campaign is that the national media is worthless and the American public is doomed because the media outlets are all corrupt and lazy. Let me just give you a few examples.
1. Voter Fraud. People have clamored about the possibility of voter fraud in Ohio. The liberal media denying it and mocking Fox News (which is the conservative media). The conservative media simply whines about Supreme Court decisions that did not go there way and give accusations by implication. However, some college kids went out, did real journalism, and proved it.
2. Barak Obama was a registered socialist. Yes, you hear McCain claim he is a socialist, and you hear Keith Olbermann deny it, but it is true. Obama was actually a registered member of the socialist party in America. World Net Daily has the proof. Too bad no one thought to research Barak Obama when he was running for office.
3. The Polls. The polls are all fake. Look at this daily tracking poll that has Barak Obama up 8%. That seems like a commanding lead. However, take a look at the methodology. Rasmussen Reports interviews 8% more Democrats than Republicans. This is to account for voter turn out, which is based on polling but is a guess. In other words, if the Republicans turn out for this election in record numbers like Rasmussen expects the Democrats to do, then we are tied. Remember that methodology when you look at some state by state races like Nevada. If the Democrat swell does not appear or the Republicans also view this election as historic, then McCain wins that state by 3%. It is more than enough to give every toss-up state to McCain easily, and it is enough to keep Colorado, and flip New Hampshire for McCain.
That is just a sample of the stuff that has made me a little upset. Journalism is officially dead. It makes one long for the days of Yellow Journalism. Even that would be an improvement over what we have today.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
I guess I will try my hand at guessing the election again. I do think that Barak Obama will win, but I do not think it will be by the landslide that most predict. In fact, I think at the end of the day the Republicans will have done much better than most pollsters and TV guys will admit. Obama will win because he will flip Iowa and Virginia and maybe Colorado. That is more than enough. However some people are predicting Obama getting 350 electoral votes, and even Rasmussen thinks Obama will pull in 300. I think that is silly. Don’t forget Obama always polled higher in the primaries than he preformed and the polls are all weighted for a heavy democratic turn out. I think the Republicans will turn out more than the polls say they will. I will admit that I am rooting for a 269 to 269 tie. How often does that happen? Then it will be interesting to see what the House does. Will they stick with their parties or their states? The best thing that could happen for Republicans is for the House to stick with their parties. Democrats have majorities in states that will go for McCain such as North Dakota, South Dakota, Tennessee, Arkansas, and North Carolina. Fun for everyone.
Why then will it still be a decent night for the Republicans? Because I am not sure they are going to get blown out of the other races where people think they might. I do not think the Dems will reach 60 in the Senate and the House will be very interesting. That is what I will be watching on election night. To reach 60 the Democrats need to beat Elizabeth Dole in North Carolina and that is going to be tough. She is gaining and they are basically tied. Turn out on the East Coast will be high for the Republicans. The Dems need to beat Gordon Smith in Oregon who is one point ahead, but the West Coast may have a lower turnout for Republicans as the doom and gloom sets in. So let us just give both of those to the Dems for the fun of it. They will not win in Texas or either one in Mississippi nor will they pull of the upset in Kentucky keeping the Dems at 59 at best. To get to 59 they need not only Dole and Smith, but they need to defeat Coleman. Now Coleman is down in the polls by about 4 to Franken, but if you look at the local polls you see that Al Franken only gets 41% of the vote while an independent gets 17%. That number needs to hold for Franken to beat Coleman. If people desert the independent, Coleman has a chance to win as it seems more likely for Republicans to leave the independent than the Democrats who are anti-Franken voters.
The House is going to be fun because this is where Obama hurts the Democrats the most. He is running on a message of change, so incumbant Democrats might fall victim. Add to that the huge sums of money going to Obama, which is at the expense of giving to the DNCC and local House candidates, and that could spell trouble. Even giants like John Murtha are barely outraising no name Republican opponents. Don’t forget to mention that Murtha just called his district “racist” in the paper, and that race could be interesting. But the Dems have high hopes because of the large number of open seats. Republicans retired in large numbers this year. AL-02, AZ-01, CA-04, FL-15, IL-11, MN-03, NJ-03, NJ-07, NM-01, NY-03, NY-25, NY-26, OH-15, OH-16, and VA-11 (OR-05 and AL-05 are also open but were held by Democrats). Add to that list close races in 2006 like Chris Shays in CT-04 and Musgrave in CO-04 as well as Gerlach in PA-06. This makes a lot of Democrats hopeful of a really big landslide. Add in a few coattail victories they think they can have a large majority in the House.
However, 2006 was really a rebuke for many Democrats. They should have picked up more ground in Ohio in 2006 and they won lots of seats that will be hard to defend this year. FL-16 where Mark Foley, the homosexual intern predator was defeated, but the district remain mainly Republican. Add to that the Democrat Mahoney got caught having sex with employees of his own and the Republicans ought to take back this seat. TX-22 was the Delay district and the Republican lost in 2006 because the courts made Delay keep his name on the ballot. Lampson will lose a seat for the Dems here. OH-22 was the Bob Ney district and Congressman Space who benefited from that will probably lose this time as well. Lesser known scandals such as the one where the Republican Sweeney in NY-20 beat his wife and Congressman Sheerwood beat his mistress in PA-10, which cost them the election, should also be reversed. Plus, Republicans can hope to defeat Childers in MS-01. Childers won a special election in May over the same opponent, but Republican excitement is up a great deal since then and the turn out at the polls will be larger. There are plenty of rematches from 2006 as well that Republicans might could pick up since the anti-war sentiment is not as big. Plus the Republicans will put money into AZ-05 and AZ-08 which they did not in 2006 because the Republican candidates were against Bush’s immigration bill. The Dems are not going to sweep through those open seats like they would hope. Not to mention they need to defend some of their southern seats that are trending Republican. Seats like GA-08, GA-12, KS-02, LA-06, and TX-23.
It should make for an entertaining night of election coverage, and hopefully this will lead to a real conservative revolution. Either way, my hope is in nothing less than Jesus Christ’s righteousness.
Monday, October 20, 2008
Like I said in the last post. There were some things in the Young Restless and Reformed book that made you stop and think. This quote from Tony Jones Emergent leader at Solomon’s Porch in Minneapolis is one of them.
“I know conservatism works in the face of globalization. I don’t know if postmodernism works, but I really hope it does. All postmodernism means is living on the shifting sand, as opposed to looking for some foundation. But some of us would say, ‘The people who say they stand on the sure foundation – it’s not as sure as they think it is. We all live on the slippery slope.” Pg. 142 of Young Restless and Reformed
Let me say it takes guts and a lot of stupidity to quote the bible and admit you stand on the side the Bible says is the wrong place. I have never in my life heard some reference the Parable of the Wise man who built his House upon the Rock and directly state that the Shifting Sand is really the place to stand. My jaw literally hit the floor. But, let us try to move past the brazen rejection of a parable of Jesus if we can. Let us pray that he did that for shock value. I do think the substance of what he says is also important.
This really is the fundamental point of being Emergent. It is a complete and total acceptance of Post Modernism. All the other details are up for debate. The Emergent Church likes to begin by rejecting things, such as traditional worship, traditional readings of Scripture, traditional values and voting, etc. However, the one thing they accept up front is Post Modernism. Take an article from Precipice Magazine. The author rejects the claim that the Bible is inerrant and infallible and denies that the Bible speaks of itself in this manner. Of course a Post Modernist who believes all life is based on “shifting sand” would need to deny such bedrock principles, but notice how he aims his guns in this article. He refers to the those who accept infallibility as “fundamentalists/foundationalists”. From that point on he only uses the term Foundationalists. For those of you not familiar foundationalism is a philosophic theory of knowledge. It has become a favorite kick toy these days. What Emergent men want to attack is not so much theology as it is knowledge itself. They hate the idea of having properly basic beliefs and building other beliefs on top of those beliefs. Such a practice reeks of surety and that is a no-no in Post Modernism. You can see it color everything they do (as it should if you attack knowledge). Just look at the article discussing the debate hosted by Rick Warren. What really turned the reviewer off was certainty.
Which brings me back to the quote. I know the Emergent church believes they are emerging from the collapsed Christian mindset, but it is much more likely that they are simply wandering off the biblical reservation. The Bible speaks of certainty all the time. In fact, it demands it. I do not need to quote again the wisdom of building on the rock. James 1:6-8 talks of not wavering and how the double-minded are unstable in all their ways. Psalm 119:113 the psalmist hates the double-minded, and more importantly double-mindedneses is contrasted with law. His word does not fade but rather endures forever (I Peter 1:25). Ephesians 4:11-13 even speaks of not being tossed about by every wind of doctrine. Being tossed about is a bad thing. These are just the obvious ones. We could look at other examples such as Matthew 16 where Jesus asks the disciples who the world thinks he is, and they give a great post modern answer since it includes several possibilities. Yet, that is rejected and then Jesus asks who they think he is and Peter gives the correct answer, a certain answer. Or one could look at Jesus’s discussion with Pilate in John where Pilate says “What is truth?” (very post modern) and then allows the murder of an innocent man. The idea that the world is shifting sand is dangerous and deadly. It is clearly against the Bible.
All of this leads me to one last quote from the book by Emergent leader Doug Pagitt. He states:
“I think much of our difference comes from the fact that in many ways we are telling different stories of Christianity.” Quoted from Listening to the Beliefs of Emerging Churches: Five Perspectives on same page as above in Young Restless and Reformed.
We are indeed giving fundamentally different stories. That cannot be stressed enough.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
It has been a while since I have done a book review. So I thought I would review Young, Restless, and Reformed by Colin Hansen. This book was very interesting. The premise of the book is that a young Christianity Today writer was intrigued by the fact that his friends were Calvinistic in their theology when demographically they should be part of the Emergent Church movement. So, he decided to travel around and see if this was an exception or part of a growing trend. The book is a fascinating look at the great success that the Reformed movement is having in America today.
That being said, I do have some quibbles with the book. The first is the loose use of the term "Reformed". He generally applies it to anyone who wants it. He briefly mentions the criticism of men like Michael Horton who draw a difference between Reformed and Calvinisitic, especially when it comes to the infant baptism issues. The criticism gets little play and is not really interacted with much. It is a valid point especially considering my next quibble.
The book focuses almost exclusively on those who are non-traditional Reformed. Most of those featured were Baptists (like John Piper and Al Mohler). Charasmatic Calvinists were featured, Emergent Calvinists are in this book. However, very few of the people shown in the book were Presbyterians or Reformed in the Dutch or German traditions. This is part of the great interest the book provides. Look at all the traditions that are featuring prominent Calvinists now. But, one or two should have been traditional Reformed in the mold of the PCA, OPC, or something. Ligon Duncan is in the book several times, but is never really featured. He is more in the book because of his cooperation with these more non-traditional reformed types.
The third quibble is that he does not tie it all together in the end. I hate the way movies today end without real closure. They give you the resolution of the plot, but fail to deliver any follow up or falling action to get technical. I felt the same way about this book. He interviewed all of these people, Calvinist leaders of today, but I could have used one chapter at the end to hear the author’s final thoughts. Even the very brief epilogue just served as a brief interview with yet another Calvinist. I prefer the wrap up. Admittedly that may be a minor point, but it bugged me.
I would also like to point out one thing that is also a negative or a positive depending on how you look at it. This book could not be read in one sitting despite being only 156 pages. It could not be read in a sitting because of how often something was said in the book that made you stop and think. Often it would be something said from the interview, and there would be no follow up on the comment. However, it would just smack me in the face and I would have to put the book down and ponder it for the rest of the day. That is great, but it is also bad. The book should follow up on great thoughts. It really fell outside of what Hansen was doing, so I just had to stop.
Because of this I will be blogging on the many things that made me stop and go "hmmmmm" over the next several days. I do recommend this book to people who are church planting as an encouraging book that Calvinism and Reformed Theology can win people in today’s culture. I would recommend this book to people who want a broader view of the Reformed landscape in today’s culture. I would recommend this book to people who just want a read that engages the mind. A good book worth a look
Wednesday, October 08, 2008
It is pretty clear that we are going to have a socialist president no matter who wins in November. I can feel my wallet getting lighter already.
However the real problem with the debate was that it was completely slanted toward Obama. No questions about abortion? Guns? Religion? Justices? Same Sex Marriage? In other words no social issues. Do we really think out of the thousands of questions submitted to Mr. Brokaw not a single one touched these issues. Not even stem cell research? Come on. The reason they were left out is because everyone of those issues hurt Obama. The Democrats refer to them as 'wedge issues' and they feel that they drive evangelicals to the polls and they lose when that happens. So the press is avoiding them. It is hard to imagine.
The real thing I learned is that the League of Women Voters needs to take over the debate formats again. This Commission on Presidential Debates is a joke.
Friday, October 03, 2008
I have to say that VP debates are always boring and seldom important. Who really cares who wins? Yet, this one was the most disturbing of all because they actually debated the VP’s role, and I was horrified to find out that no one reads the Constitution. No pundit, no candidate, and apparently no Senators.
I could be mistaken because I did not read a transcript, but I did ask the three other people in the room of Biden really said that “Article 1 of the Constitution shows the Vice President to be a member of the Executive.” No commentator challenged that statement (at least that I heard). If you want to debate that the VP is part of the executive, fine, you would be wrong, but you can at least do it. What worried me the most is that Article 1 of the Constitution is about the Legislative Branch, not the Executive Branch. That is Article 2. I am not a lawyer, but I caught that mistake. Apparently no one in the media cares that Joe Biden does not know Constitution 101. No wonder Washington D.C. is a mess.
What was almost as bad an not knowing the Constitution is the assertion that all the VP can do is cast a vote in case of the tie. This is also not true. The Vice President is the President of the Senate (see Article 1 of the Constitution). Cheney has done some stupid stuff. But, bad advice to the President should still fall on the President’s lap since he made those decisions. That is hardly something inherently wrong about the VP slot. Biden is of course wrong again when he states the only power is the tie breaker vote. That is his only voting power, but the President of the Senate can preside over the Senate at any time. John C. Calhoun presided over the Senate a lot while VP. He clearly viewed the VP slot seriously and he stood at his post in the Senate often. As the President of the Senate he has the power to gavel down (or not gavel down) things in speeches as inappropriate. He used that power liberally to attack and tear down the Jackson administration. Cheney has never done anything like that. Both candidates showed a thoughtless view of the VP slot. It was very disappointing. The Constitution is clear the President is the Chief Executive and the Vice President is the Chief of the Legislative branch (and the Chief Justice being the Chief of the Judicial). A little knowledge and taking of the VP slot seriously would go a long way with me. To bad no one does anymore.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
I have to say there is some amazing stuff going on over in the Presbyterian Church of America. Now I am not a member of the PCA, and I don’t want to appear to be throwing stones for the RCUS has troubles of its own, we are just too small for them to become internet fodder. No one has sights dedicated to the troubles of the RCUS. That being said, I would like to lovingly point a few things out to my friends in the PCA.
There is a discussion now that follows up on a conference held a few months ago called Denominational Renewal. Of course the goal is to renew the PCA. Fair enough so far. The discussion includes negative voices and friendly voices and is supposed to be a denominational wide discussion. The latest talk was on Renewing Theology and is positively reviewed by John Frame. It is opposed by Sean Michael, a professor at Covenant Seminary. I believe the talk by Jeremy Jones and the response by Dr. Frame are fundamentally very dangerous, and I fear that it is being missed in the PCA.
Note one of Frame’s points.
3. The PCA is a “confessional church,” as we are often told. We should, however, forthrightly ask the question whether this is a good thing. If it is, what role should a 350 year old confession have in a contemporary church? Is it plausible to suggest that we should treat the confession in effect as an infallible presentation of biblical doctrine? How then can we do justice to the immense amount of quality biblical scholarship and theological reflection that has taken place since that time? Does confessionalism itself lead to sectarianism? If not, how can a confessional church guard against sectarians who appeal to the confession as a “golden age” document? On these matters I am, for now, content to ask questions, rather than presuming to provide answers.
This is little other than John Williamson Nevin, who is back in vogue even among Presbyterians. Confessionalism leading to sectarianism is pure Nevin speaking of creeds as a "necessary evil". The problem with the Confession for Frame is that it is old. It is not contemporary. And more importantly as he points out people will "appeal to it". That is the real problem for Frame. It is out of date and people want to use it anyway. Renewing Theology then becomes a modernization of theology or at least the bringing to bear scholarly developments to it. Implicitly then Frame is saying the Confession is flawed and thus wrong. He would probably want to couch it in terms of the WCF being a ‘second grade text book that is not enough for our 12th grade understanding of these subjects.’ At least that is the analogy used by Doug Wilson in his works not to mention Philip Schaff in his. What concerns me even more is that the opposing reviewer cannot quite put his finger on it. Michael states:
first, it strikes me that his proposal for renewing theology holds out great hope for “creative theological thinking.” And yet, if we pay attention to those witnesses of the past, like Irenaeus and Tertullian, they stressed not their creativity, but their unoriginality. . . . the unspoken tension in Jeremy’s paper is actually between “theology” and “history.” That is to ask, how does this rich confessional tradition (or, to maintain the stream of thought, collection of witnesses) called “the Reformed tradition” speak to contemporary theological reflection? Should “the Reformed tradition” be a privileged witness among other witnesses for those who subscription to a Reformed confessional standard? If so, how does such privileging work?
The tension is identified, but not exposed. Michael sees the "creative theological thinking" as a potential problem, but does not denounce it at all. He sees tension between theology in history in the talk, but does not seem to see that Renewing Theology means making sure theology keeps up with history.
Over at Green Baggins elder Bob Mattes goes into a review of these talks and Rev. Frame’s particularly. He quotes from Frame and then comments (the Frame quote is from above and is the first two lines).
How then can we do justice to the immense amount of quality biblical scholarship and theological reflection that has taken place since that time?
I’m not sure that I understand what Dr. Frame means by this question. Given my response to his last question, does he wish to say that someone has found an error in the Standards in the intervening period? I’m just not sure where he’s going here.
Elder Mattes is being too nice in my opinion here. Dr. Frame in context (as can be seen above) is putting scholarship in contraposition to the confession as an accurate summary of God’s Word although he uses the word infallible in order to make his case look better. Frame is essentially saying if you continue to appeal and use the WCF then you have rejected all the better learning and theological advancements we have made. That is Frame’s position. The goal obviously is the alteration of the WCF or its removal. Why else ask the question in such a fashion. This is the discussion that is going on under the noses of many in the PCA.
My loving brotherly encouragement to men like brother Mattes and Michael is to dig deeper into what they mean. Have the debate of whether history and modern scholarship really has advanced theology to the point of changing it substantially so that it needs to be renewed. Do not be distracted by the talk of theology is application to modern life because it is not. Theology is the study of God, words about God. I have no problem with applying theology to life, and I admit that as history and technology move forward we will apply our theology to new situations. But the talk of changing the way we apply theology or updating or contextualizing applications of theology is really a back door way to change the theology itself. Has man’s sinful condition changed so much that we need a new way of applying ‘justification by faith alone’? What about Scripture? Is allowing people to understand creation as either 6-day creation or Framework or Day-Age really just contextualizing the doctrine of creation for modern man or updating it considering all the great ‘science’ or is it altering the theology fundamentally?
Normally, I would keep my mouth shut about such things, or at least I might have. But, I fear that the PCA is letting its guard down. I have spoken to several who believe the threat of challenges to justification by faith and other fundamental doctrines are basically over since the Federal Vision has been “defeated”. Many have said it but Bob Mattes again gives it the best expression in a comment on Professor Michael’s essay.
Al - May I offer that our current constitution (Westminsters + BCO) handled everything thrown at it so far? To address your specific examples,the Standards handled Federal Vision nicely. Yes, it took a study committee to ferret out the details, but there's nothing wrong with a careful effort. Feminism in the church context is nicely covered in the BCO backed up by Scripture.
While I have no doubt the Westminster rejects Federal Vision the problem is far from handled. Rev. Wilkins left as a minister in good standing and is now a part of another denomination. We could all list several other ministers still in good standing in the denomination who follow the Federal Vision and contributed to a book by that title. The fight is not over, it is simply in a new phase. The direct attack failed. Now the back door approach comes. Read Dr. Frame again. He complains of appealing to a 350 year old document and how it hampers new scholarship. I hope you can all see how accepting this Denominational Renewal would allow the NEW perspectives on Paul and the Federal Vision in the driver seat.
One last thought about Third Parties before I resume regularly scheduled blogging. Every now and again something comes along that is ignored by the major parties, but not by the American people and the Third Party becomes a major party. Note the Republican Party was once a localized third party that never even appeared on the ballot in most Southern States. They ran a candidate for President in 1856, but failed miserably. All the Whig Party had to do was reject slavery’s expansion into the west and the Republican Party would have dried up and gone away. They didn’t and the rest they say is history.
Well, this recent economic downturn might just might shed light on the big government-free spending-punish the taxpayer-socialist leanings of both parties. Which would open the door for Third Party asking for a return to the free market-low tax-small government way America was meant to run. It will have to be a party that holds to its convictions despite pressure. Thus, the big winner from all of this might be the Constitutional Party. They did the one thing that the Republican Party would not do, the Green Party did not do, and the Libertarian Party would not do. The Constitution Party did not choose their candidate based on who would win the most votes. McCain was clearly a pick based on electability. Cynthia McKenny and Bob Barr are both picks designed around who can win, not who supports the ideology of the party since both are very recent converts to those parties. The Constitution Party selected Chuck Baldwin, a sure-fire loser, and rejected a bigger name in Alan Keyes, who is a recent convert to the Constitutional Party.
The reason they may very well be the big winner is the force of rogue Republican Ron Paul. Paul raised millions without effort during the campaign and recorded votes on the floor of the convention, which was an unusual occurrence that did not get much media attention. Paul was planning on staying neutral and endorsing no one which was a loss for McCain, but served the Libertarian Party just fine. However, things have changed and Paul has endorsed Baldwin and the Constitutional Party. Note the number of responses and this was posted on Wed. Paul has a massive following that is now directed to vote for Baldwin. Expect a huge leap in the numbers the Constitutional Party receives. Expect Bob Barr’s campaign to wither and die with this explicit rejection.
I know this did not even make the news and is probably not even a blip on the radar screen of most people; however, for a Third Party junkie like myself, this was some pretty ground breaking news.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
The financial bailout that seems to be looming of many investment banks is a good time to see the state of the Republican and Democratic Parties. The only real difference is where the increased power of the federal government will go. Will it go to the Executive branch as the Republicans like to do? Or will it go to the Legislative branch as the Democrats like to do? The few conservative voices that reject the idea of a bailout at all are few and far in-between proving once and for all that the two parties are basically the same. So the real question you have to ask yourself in this election is whether or not you want the President to be stronger than Congres or Congress stronger than the President.
Monday, September 22, 2008
It is election time again and it is time for people to start bashing Third Parties again. So, it is time for me to defend them again as a vital part of the process. One might could even argue as restrictions against third parties got tighter, the country as a whole got worse.
Rev. Mark Horne has a post up about his problem with the logic of Third parties. I could spend some time arguing about immigration and wondering if Rev. Horne is confusing the duty of the church to welcome people when they are a stranger and the job of the state, but that is a side point in this blog. Rev. Horne contends that to be a member of a Third party one has to renounce any and all compromise and thus any minor point of disagreement should chase one from that party. I am not sure that is the real motivation for Third parties. Are all members of the Constitution Party or the Libertarian Party saying that they agree 100% with their party and they would never deviate at all? Need I remind you that Congressman Bob Barr beat out super liberal Mike Gravel for the Libertarian Party nomination. These two do not exactly see eye to eye. In fact they are simply joined together by a fundamental commitment to the government staying out their personal business. Hardly the situation Rev. Horne describes. Besides, I think it also a leap in logic that one who accepts compromise must then accept so much compromise as to be stuck supporting one of the two major parties. Could he not support compromise and see that he compromises less by supporting Constitution Party? Is it not better to compromise less by only compromising on immigration and voting for the Constitution Party than compromising on taxes, ethics, foreign policy, the size and role of government, and executive power by voting for the Republican Party?
Andrew Sandlin also has an article up against Third Parites. His article is actually a quote from someone else. The claim is that Third parties are irrelevant. The author admits that these Third Parties do only two things. One is cipher off votes from the major candidates. And the second is stated as "they may provide an issue or a voting block that one of the major parties successfully woos before the next election."
YES!!!!! Someone finally gets it. It is amazing to me that this is listed in an article against Third Parties because this is the critical point. Third parties can reform the major parties, but only if you vote for them. Third parties call the major parties back to their roots. If the parties do not listen then they are eventually replaced. Most of the time they will listen. Take for example Ross Perot. He clearly cost George H.W. Bush the election in 1992. Perot ran and took votes out of the conservative base by running on governmental reform, lower taxes, balanced budgets, and less spending. Clinton gained the White House because people “threw away” their vote on Perot. However, in 1994 a bevy of new Republicans took control of the House and Senate on the Contract with America, which called for governmental reform, lower taxes, balanced budgets, and less spending. The House, which was the new guys for the most part, delivered on every part of the Contract. Eventually the budget was even balanced and a surplus created under Clinton. Do we really think that Perot had nothing to do with any of this? Clearly, at least Newt Gingrich was listening.
In the end, I think Third parties are not just the domain of the crazed fringe. Rather it should be the place that people run when the major parties ignore them and drift from their ideological roots. It is good to have these ideology-based parties so that the people can always have a voice. It is not all about winning. That is hard for a lot of people to believe, but it is not. The State will always be the State in the long run, and the Christian’s responsibility to the state is the same whether it is to Nero or to Constantine. It will never bring any real change. However, we do have an opportunity to make sure the candidates continue to focus on what is important to us by voting on what is important to us. That may mean voting for a Third party from time to time or
Monday, September 15, 2008
History is often written by the winners. That much is a truism. However, these days we can often go back and examine the claims of the winners by looking at the source material to make sure that our histories are correct. Sadly, I do not believe I have yet found a good history of the Presbyterian Church as it exists in America. Some are okay such as Richard Webster’s A History of the Presbyterian Church in America, but it only goes to 1760. It has a fairly New Side slant to it, but oddly enough, not nearly as much as the current histories. Charles Hodge’s Constitutional History of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America is good as well, but it is written for a political purpose. Thus, Hodge, while mentioning Old Side leaders and even occasionally championing them, still tries to smooth the differences between the two sides in order to help his debate against the New School. Other histories such as James Smylie’s A Brief History of the Presbyterians are just pathetic. His mentions the schism between the New Side and Old Side, but fails to mention any of the Old Siders by name, completely takes the New Side line and even makes historically inaccurate statements such as when he says, “Old Side members of the Presbytery of Philadelphia decided to go their own way.in 1741” (pg. 49). This is simply factually wrong. The New Side leaders left the meeting, not the Old. The New Side leaders formed the Conjunct Presbytery after marching out. But, it always helps to demonize the side one disagrees with as schismatic. The problem is not to be confined to broad histories. Even the more particular histories such as Morton Smith’s Studies in Southern Presbyterian Theology calls the difference between the Old Side and New Side “having been over matters of experimental religion and not doctrinal” (Smith Pg. 28). Of course the participants in the schism disagree greatly. Smith does admit that trouble continued in the north, but contends the southern part of the church was able to continue in peace. He of course forgets to mention that this was because those Old Side ministers were denied their right to form a presbytery west of the mountains. They proposed one which would have had a 3-2 Old Side majority, but it was denied for obviously partisan reasons by the Synod. Hardly the sign of peace pictured in the book. Books about the Great Awakening itself are almost always worse. Joseph Tracy’s famous work The Great Awakening actually says that the Old Side would have become “Arminian” and they even would have slide into “Unitarianism” (Tracy, pg. 388). This bold claim of course goes unsupported.
I am sure that other areas of history in the Presbyterian Church are just as biased. I just finished reading Can the Orthodox Presbyterian Church be Saved?, by John Robbins, which makes a similar claim of amazing neglect of primary sources and popular bias in the history of the OPC. Whether that is true or not, I am not qualified to say, but bias exists in us all, so it should not be hard to believe.
I am not claiming that I am unbiased. I have a great deal, I am sure. However, I do think that a new history of the Presbyterian Church needs to be written. One that critically examines the history we know and uses the primary sources. History is vitally important. The mistakes of history are all too often repeated if not learned from. If the history itself is wrong, then one be assured never to learn from it because they will be unaware of it. So you historians out there. Get to it! The time for writing is now.
Saturday, September 13, 2008
USC has beaten Ohio State. Sports fans are now going to have to put up with USC is the greatest dynasty of all time talk again. Let us remember that USC only has one legitimate national championship, and that a disputed one. They won one AP title out of spite for the BCS system not because they were actually better than LSU. They won the next year in the BCS although Auburn went undefeated and was left out of the BCS title game out of spite for the SEC. Utah was also undefeated. The next year USC lost to Texas ending their run. Last year they were overrated losing multiple games just to prove it. Of course I will not mention the allegations of paying Reggie Bush to play football. USC is a good football team because they are able to recruit up and down the west coast with no competition. UCLA and the rest of the PC-10 are a joke. Thus, every good football player in California ends up at USC (probably for a good signing bonus). This is not the case in other big states like Florida, which has a legitimate 5 colleges to choose from, and Texas where there are at least 3 big programs to take up quality players. Even Alabama has two big time schools. Something to remember.
But more important than that is the fact that USC will now run the PAC-10 and be in the national title game for sure. But, there are non-BCS schools that are better and play in better conferences. The announcers for the game mentioned what a joke the Big 10 had become thanks to two embarrassing beat downs put on Ohio State in National Championship games. Both to the SEC I might add. Throw in Michigan getting beaten by Appy St. and you have a conference that is a joke. But, the real bias of the announcers is in the fact that they do not see that the rest of the BCS conferences are a joke too. The SEC is okay. The Big 12 has two good teams, which makes them deeper than the ACC, the Big 10, the Pac 10, and the Big East. Just as a refresher course, I should remind everyone that Utah went undefeated a few years ago wining a BCS bowl game. Boise St., of the Western Athletic Conference, conference went undefeated and beat Oklahoma of the Big-12 in a BCS bowl, two years ago. Hawaii, also of the Western Athletic Conference, also went undefeated, but they lost their BCS bowl game. Little conferences have a winning track record against the BCS conferences. Let me just start this year with East Carolina from non-BCS Conference USA. They beat the defending ACC champ and the defending Big East champ in back to back weeks. Surely that says something about East Carolina and Conference USA. The Mountain West Conference is even better. BYU is now 2-0 against the Pac-10. They beat Washington and this week put a 59-0 beat down on UCLA, who beat Tennessee from the SEC in week 1. But, do not stop at BYU. Utah beat Michigan of the Big 10 in week 1 and New Mexico beat Arizona, from the Pac-10, tonight. UNLV is only down three at halftime to Arizona State, nationally ranked from the Pac-10, at the time of writing this post. Is the Pac-10 really a better conference than the Mountain West? These games are not being played in the Mountain West home stadiums you can count on that. The Western Athletic Conference continues its tradition this year as Fresno State beat Big East hopeful Rutgers on national TV earlier this year. Louisiana Tech, surprisingly of the WAC, also beat Mississippi State of the SEC in week 1. The MAC (Mid Athletic Conference) is also flexing its muscle since Akron (currently second to last in the conference standings) beat Syracuse of the BCS Big East in week 2. Bowling Green of that same conference, and with the same record as Akron, beat then nationally ranked Pittsburgh of the Big East. They did lose this week to the aforementioned Boise State of the Western Athletic Conference. Do we really think that the Big East is a better conference than the MAC? Surely not. The games on the field say no.
Yet, the announcers will continue to support the BCS. And if they do favor some playoff system it is poll based and not just putting the champs from each conference into the playoff. No, they want two or three teams from these so-called ‘power conferences’ because these conferences send them the most promotional material. It is ridiculous to watch people neglect the obvious truth. The BCS conferences are all a joke.
Thursday, September 11, 2008
Today is September 11th, a day that will forever be marked in our minds. I used to think it was weird that people of my parents generation could tell you exactly what they were doing and where they were when Kennedy was shot. I no longer think it is weird. I can tell you exactly where I was when the radio broadcaster first mentioned a plane into one of the towers. A few minutes later they interrupted a song to say that a second plane had hit and that this was no accident, it had to be terrorism. It made the rest of the drive to work pretty quick. It was only my second day of work, so I did not go to the room where everyone kept gathering to watch the news. I had meetings about insurance and stuff, and I was still trying to make that good first impression. I sat quietly listening to the radio and folding letters. I did not see the first images until I got home that day after 5pm (MST). They are images I will never forget. I actually preached my first sermon ever that Sunday. Of course that Tuesday I complete scrapped what I was going to say and started over.
We should never forget as a country, as people. We need to be constantly aware of terrorism and that we are not protected from it. But what is the message that we as the church should remember from 9/11. The church is not America, and we should never confuse the two. I was preparing a message on Jonah 4:2 this week. There Jonah says the reason he ran from God in the first place, "I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, One who relents from doing harm." It really struck me this week that Jonah would rather the Ninevites die than be saved. Of course, I had noticed this before, and it is pointed out in seminary class after seminary class. It had always been easy to laugh off Jonah as a really bad prophet. The unloving prophet, the prophet who did not have the right attitude. Yet, how many of us would rather Bin Laden die than be saved? I am not saying that he should not face criminal punishment for his actions. Being saved it not a get out of jail free card, but we should still whole heatedly desire his repentance. Islam is no religion of peace, no matter how much our President like to think it is. It is a religion of evil that enslaves millions to its lies. Yet, we must have the same view of them that God has: pity. "And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left" (4:11). Is this not true of those Islamic fundamentalists we hear so much about? They cannot discern their right and their left. So, I think that this is the lesson of 9/11 for the church: we must never lose our pity. We must never forget to spread the gospel, because it is the only weapon against evil. The Sword of the Word (Eph. 6) is stronger than any tank, any bomb, or military force we can send. The church can never forget its mission to evangelize. No matter what Rick Warren, Barak Obama, and John McCain think evil is not defeated by the state, it is defeated by Christ.
Sunday, September 07, 2008
The Pirates need a little more time. This year is over. It has turned out to be a disaster, but with a few high points. I like the new management that did not stick with players that were not producing. It sends a good message, to me the fan at least. They demoted Ronnie Paulino, starting catcher from a year ago. They demoted Tom Grozelanny, who had the most wins on the team last year and was the starter for the home opener. They sort of forced a pitcher to retire at the beginning of the year, and they finally traded Jose Bautista who was a hole at third. That was also a good thing because they let Bautista go and try to make his mark with another team rather than keep him in the dungeon of the Pirate farm system.
September should always be an exciting time for people who are fans of teams out of the race. Ten players are joining the Pirate roster. Some are familiar like Ronnie Paulino, who played well at Triple A all year, Brain Bixler, who struggled while filling in for Jack Wilson, and Steven Pearce, who was called up when Xavier Nady was traded and would never have gone done except for a freak illness for our center fielder. Others have seen some time at the major league level, but are not so familiar like Criag Hansen, T.J. Beam, Marino Salas and Romulo Sanchez. All of which are bullpen guys. However, the people I am most excited about are Ross Ohlendorf, a pitcher who came over in the Xavier Nady trade. He saw some time in the bullpen for the Yankees, but he is going to be a starter for the Pirates. His first outing was a win for the team and a quality start for Ohlendorf. He is in the mix to be a starter next year. I am also excited to see about Robinson Diaz. Diaz is a catcher who was acquired in the Jose Bautista trade that came after the trading deadline. I want to see what kind of quality we got in this late season deal. Luis Cruz, who was just added to the 40 man roster. He is a middle infielder, where the Pirates are weak. He came out of no where this year with a decent Double A season and then got even better when promoted to Triple A. If he can show he is good, then the Pirates will be better off rather than putting all of their eggs in the Brian Bixler basket, which looked scary early in the season. In fairness it must be said that Bixler improved during the rest of the year at Triple A.
The real problem with the Pirates is not offense, it is pitching. Lots of pitchers are not living up to their expectations. The bullpen particularly is a problem. So far this season the Pirates have used 26 different pitchers, a franchise record. That is a lot of pitchers. This is where the Pirates are really going to look different next year and where September is important. The starting line up ought to be fairly set. They should have an outfield of McCutchen, McLouth, and Moss (with Morgan and Pierce backing up). They should start LaRoche at first (with Pierce backing up), Sanchez at second, Wilson at short (with middle infield back up is up for grabs), and Adam LaRoche at third (with Walker as back up) and Doumit catching (with Paulino as back up). The bullpen and starting rotation will be what to watch.
Take for example the bullpen. Matt Capps is the closer. John Grabow probably has a safe spot as does Tyler Yates. I will even go out on a limb as say Sean Burnett is in for next year. That means competing for the remaining spots are R. Sanchez, Beam, Hansen, Bautista, Davis, Chavez, and Salas. All of whom are getting their try out starting now. One could also throw in Evan Meek, who is not on the current 40 man roster and thus unable to be with the team, but is a possibility to earn a bullpen spot. That is a lot up in the air. The starting rotation is also a question. Right now the Pirates are doing a six man rotation with Snell, Grozelanny, Malhom, Duke, Olhendorf, and Karstens. That is six guys and five spots. Add into the mix for next year the currently injured Dumatrait, who looked good before the injury, and former top pick Van Benschoten. That makes 8 guys fighting for 5 spots.
The future of the Pirates looks bight with possibility, but it could also be a sign of complete mediocrity. It gets worse if you look further down in the Pirates organization. Their Triple A, Double A, and High Single A teams all finished at the bottom of their leagues. In fact, the only team that played well in the minors was the Rookie League organization, and that is a bad sign for the Pirates minor league system. No matter what, I am looking forward to seeing these new Pirates play.