The Pirates are about to embark on another campaign, and it is time for my annual predictions. The Pirates have some major questions going into this year.
Question #1 – Bullpen – the Pirates lost a good deal of their bullpen, which was not that great anyway. They are keeping John Grabow, Desmond Marte, and Matt Cappas. However, they are adding a great deal of unknown material. Fraquelis Osario is a hard thrower who has no real experience. Phil Dumatrait is a former starter who never broke into the big leagues and is now trying out long relief. Evan Meek is a right hander with potential, but never thrown above AA in his life. The Pirates made a last minute trade to acquire Tyler Yates from the Braves. He has 152 games under his belt, but he had a rocky spring with a different team. These people have to step up if the Pirates want to go anywhere.
Outlook – Good. I think the Pirates actually did well in reconstructing their bullpen. The last minute trade probably helped, and Marte and Cappas are solid at the back of the pen. Osario pitched very well and Grabow has too. The only questions for me are Meek and Dumatrait. Both were out pitched by Sean Burnett, who was sent to AAA. Those two got the job because neither would have remained with the Pirates if they had not made the major leagues. I hope to see Burnett before the year is over and he does provide solid back up to any failures in the pen.
Question #2 – Manager. The Pirates fired their manager from last year, and have hired a relative unknown. John Russel is the new man at the helm. What will he do and what kind of coach will he be? Who knows that is why this is a question mark.
Outlook – Great. Their last coach was a loser. The decisions made by this guy during spring training make me happy with the lone exception of Burnett, but you can understand why that one had to be done. Every other choice, like taking only two catchers to free up an extra spot on the bench, are great decisions.
Question #3 – Consistency. Can the Pirates starters put together multiple good years. Zack Duke was 8-2 with an ERA under 2 in 2005. Since then he has been a train wreck. Ian Snell was 14-11 in 2006, but failed to win 10 games in 2007 (although he did improve his ERA). Tom Grozelanny won 14 last year, but the trend is to take a step back. Someone has to put up a good year and someone else has to live up to past performances.
Outlook – Good. Duke has pitched great in the spring. Snell has done well and Paul Malhom has steadily improved in his couple of years. Grozelanny had a shaky spring, but strong last outing. I think that at least two of these pitchers will have a good year, and hopefully Matt Morris will not stink. He had a bad spring and keeps this outlook from being better.
Question #4 – Bounce back years. Last year many of the Pirates had career worst years. Ronny Paulino went from a .300 hitter to below .250 without the power. Jason Bay had his worst year ever. Adam LaRoche had another very slow start not breaking the Mendoza Line for the first two months. Freddy Sanchez was injured all Spring Training last year and so struggled out of the gate and Xavier Nady had injuries off and on all year (although he put up normal numbers when he played).
Outlook – Encouraging. Sanchez has an injury, but it does bother his hitting. And surely Bay will return to form and Nady looks healthy. That should be enough. Paulino probably will not be a .300 hitter, but he will improve on last year. LaRoche cannot have another slow start. Things hinge on that.
Over all I am happy with the way the Pirates are looking. They have the talent at the plate. They have talent on the mound. McClouth won the center field job out right and Nijer Morgan is a great back up for the outfield. These two ought to fix the leadoff hitter hole. Jack Wilson will perform wherever he ends up in the line up and the other guys are ready all coming off really bad years so that has to look good. The only hole is third base with Jose Bautista. It is enough of a problem that it could cost the Pirates the playoffs. Their bench is a little shaky, but Doug Mientkiewicz shows signs of being solid off the bench. The rest of the bench needs to grow up quickly. Ryan Doumit is the power on the bench and will see a lot of starts at first, right, and catcher. However, as the back up catcher he will not get so many pinch hits.
Prediction – I think the Pirates can with the NL Central, but will get bumped in the first round of the playoffs. The Central is weak as the Cubs are vulnerable. The Cards are weak, the Reds are weak, and the Brewers are young. The Astros are garbage. Thus, the Pirates have as good a shot as anyone, and I think this is their year.
Prediction #2 – If they are not in a serious playoff hunt at the trading deadline the management will blow this team up. Nady will be traded in a heartbeat. Matt Morris will be on the block. Jack Wilson will be gone. Even Jason Bay is not safe. If they could find someone to take Jose Bautista they would get rid of him too. The Pirates next year will feature Pearce in Right, McCutchen in Left, Bixler at short, Walker at third, and Dumatrait in the rotation.
Friday, March 28, 2008
The Pirates are about to embark on another campaign, and it is time for my annual predictions. The Pirates have some major questions going into this year.
Monday, March 24, 2008
Easter has now come and gone. Easter is one of the times when pictures of Jesus and icons of all sorts come out of the woodwork. So, it seems like a nice time to review the controversy surrounding the use of icons.
The early church was against pictures and representations of any of the trinity. Clement of Alexandria (2nd century) stated, “The habit of daily view lowers the dignity of the divine, which cannot be honored, but is only degraded by sensible material” (Schaff Church History Vol. 2. Pg. 267-268.) Symbols, not direct pictures, began to make their way into the churches as paganism gave way to Christianity. However, there was always a large segment of the Christian Church that rejected these things. In 306 the Spanish Council of Elvira forbade pictures in the churches. The cross became one of the first signs used and accepted in the church as a whole. It started as a clever way of combining Greek letters and became an accepted symbol allowed in churches. This was beginning as early as the late 2nd Century, but again with some great opposition. Even pictures of Mary barely date back to the 3rd century. And they were not wide spread at that time as the controversy of whether Mary should be called the Theotokos shows the opposition to Mary, and ironically led to the promotion of Mary and the making of images of her.
The crucifix (the cross with Jesus still hanging upon it) does not date back beyond the end of the 6th century, but is fairly prevalent by the end of the 7th. Pictures of Jesus were completely rejected by the early church. Even Eusebius (early fourth century) scolded Empress Constantia for asking for an image of Christ. This means real opposition to images must have been still remaining because Eusebius adored Constantine and his family. There are also stories of bishops in the early 5th century still tearing up pictures of Christ as contrary to the Scripture. In the middle of the 5th century we begin to see pictures of Christ. The Greek churches had long loved paintings of biblical scenes, but had not yet accepted physical representations of Christ. With the settlement of the Christological controversies and the rise of depictions of Mary, came with it the pictures of Christ, often in the arms of Mary as a babe. The suffering Christ with thorns on his head also became popular. A theology of images was slowly worked out in the East beginning in the mid-6th century. Despite growing acceptance in the East, it never did become as accepted as one might think now, since they often show up even in Protestant churches, and will overwhelm you in Catholic ones. The church suffered through long wars and debates about icons in the 8th century thanks to Leo III Emperor of Constantinople. He had immediate support from many bishops, and in fact many of them were iconoclasts long before Leo came to power. Asia Minor particular appears to have been a place were images of Christ were not accepted. Constantine of Nacolia, Thomas of Claudiopolis, and Theodosius of Ephesus were all against images (see Seven Ecumenical Councils by Davis. Pg. 296). It is true that during the official policy of destroying images there were many who supported the images. John of Damascus is foremost among the iconophils, and Pope Gregory III had a council of Rome that condemned those who opposed images. In addition the monks stood in favor of images because they often made them in their monastaires. If the images had been forbidden, their source of revenue would have dried up. In 754 the Council of Hieria met. Here 330 bishops signed a statement saying the only proper represenation of Jesus Christ is the Eucharist. This council is often forgotten and overlooked since it is later overthrown by Empress Irene in the Second Council of Nicaea, but there are 330 names attached to that document. Even after the restoration of images in 787, they were still opposed by a great number of churches, bishops and never received support. Even in the East opposition to icons remained. John the Grammarian, a future Patriarch, led renewed opposition to the icons, and the 754 statement became the official position of the church again briefly after another council in 815. Only in 843 were icons restored. It bears noting that both times the icons were restored it was done by an Empress, never an Emperor
Of course the West had a more immediate rejection of the 787 restoration of images. Under Charlemagne the Libri Carolini was written that rejected images, but also rejected their destruction. In 794 Charlemagne headed the Council of Frankfurt where the use of images was rejected. A position that would continue under Louis the Pious. Another council condemned the use of images at Aix-La-Chappel. Theodulf of Orleans appears to be one of the leading spokesman against images during this time. Theodulf clearly believed the use of images was dangerous and would led to errors Pictures and representations of Christ contained errors while the Scriptures did not. Theodulf saw no reason to use a fallible source when an infallible one was available. Agobard bishop of Lyons was also around at that time and he wrote a book against images as well. Slightly later, about 840, we run across another icon-hater, Claudius Archbishop of Turin. Turin hated the images and went on the rampage against them. Even some of those who opposed Claudius, such as Jonas Bishop of Orleans, merely liked the images as decorations, but opposed the Eastern Orthodox use of them. Later Roman bishops would try to trace the Waldenses (12th century) back to Clauidius because the Waldenses also rejected icons and the pope and many other things that Claudius rejected. Thus, the West has a long standing tradition of opposing images on the grounds of the 10 Commandments, the one person and two natures of Christ, and as something degrading to God and Scripture.
It is sad that today’s Protestant churches so openly accept the idea of pictures of Christ. The heritage of the church speaks against them. The early fathers are unanimously against them, and the church itself has never fully embraced pictures of Christ. That is until the last century when the Protestant Church unthinkingly decided to use pictures and images of Christ willy-nilly. Now few churches continue the historic church’s teaching against the use of icons. Something to remember next time you are faced with Easter images of Christ.
Thursday, March 20, 2008
I am not going to spend a long time continuing my rant about how stupid ESPN analysts are or how the mid-major conferences are getting cheated. I do just want to mention Jay Bilas saying that the mid major teams could not compete day in and day out in the big conferences. In other words Jay Bilas and Hubert Davis think that Arizona who is below .500 in the PAC 10 is a better team than South Alabama who got one of only 6 mid major at large bids. South Alabama beat Mississippi State on the road this year, but according to the ESPN crew, they would not be able to beat five more teams if they had a big school schedule. Ignore the fact that they would actually get to play these teams at home, and they have already shown they can win on the road. Stupidity thy name is ESPN.
Rather that moan, I would like to simply point out what is going on and where the NCAA is heading with the help of ESPN. Jay Bilas and Bob Knight (who is awful TV) both openly agreed that the small conferences should not get automatic bids, thus opening the way for all the teams in the big six conferences to make the tournament. Bilas, Knight, and ESPN would rather do a way with the small conferences in order to make the regular season pointless and turn March Madness into Power Conference money making time. As stupid as this sounds that is clearly where the NCAA is going. Remember just a few years ago (2006) when George Mason made the Final Four. That year also saw Wichita St., Gonzaga, Memphis, and Bradley all made the sweet sixteen. 25% of the Sweet Sixteen were mid-majors. Memphis and George Mason made the Elite Eight (again 25%) and George Mason made the Final Four (again 25%). It was a year where the Colonial got multiple bids and so did the Missouri Valley. That year also saw Bucknell, Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and Northwest St. all beat Major Conferences in the first round. Well, since then the mid-major bids have not gone up, but down. Last year of the 34 at large bids only 6 went to mid major conferences and the rest went to power conferences. The same thing happened this year. But, this year of the 6 mid-major at large bids, 3 of them went to teams that have been ranked in the top 25 all year. Last year we did not see a 5 versus 12 upset, and that was used by the ESPN jerks to point out that the mid-majors are not better. However, they failed to point out that last year that most of the 5 versus 12 games were two teams from the power conferences playing against each other. The upsets occurred every year when the 12 seed was from a small school, so the NCAA put a stop to that by making the 12 seeds major conferences. This year we have a Clemson versus Villinova game as a 5 v. 12 match up. The main thing the NCAA is doing to stop the mid-major teams is making the so called Bracket Busters play each other in the first round. One 5 v 12 match up is Drake versus Western Kentucky. We also have Gonzaga playing Davidson in the first round, UNLV playing Kent St in the first round and Butler playing South Alabama in the first round. That way the mid-major teams can be limited since they have to beat each other. Also by moving the mid majors away from the 5-12 game you can put them in the 7-10 game and make them have only 1 day to prepare for the second seed. This can help prevent a repeat of 2006 when Bradley beat a 4 and a 5 and George mason beat a 6 and 3. Davidson and Gonzaga have a week to prepare for each other and then only a day to prepare for Georgetown. The same is true for the UNLV/Kent St. game. It is clear that the small schools are being phased out. March Madness is officially ruined and I hope ratings are low. My ultimate hope is that a new sports channel drives ESPN out of business. I watch a lot more FOX Sports because of my hatred for ESPN.
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
I should probably comment on the recent intrigue regarding the Rev. Wright. Rev. Wright got a lot of attention because he is the former pastor of Barak Obama, and Rev. Wright happens to hate America and have said a lot of really strange things. I just want to make a few observations about this that you are not going to get on the news.
1. I have been really surprised to see the level of vitriol that exists in the black community or in at least the proponents of Black Liberation Theology. What shocked me is not so much the odd comments and damning of America, but the crowd reaction. The people are not shocked. They agree with it. It has been an eye opening experience for me, as a pastor, to see the level of hurt and anger that exists in a segment of the American population, what may be a very large segment of the population.
2. Senator Obama’s speech was very good, challenging, well done, and also completely wrong. While it is refreshing to hear a politician speak plainly and openly about a very sore subject. I think he is wrong for a couple of reasons. One, while he did condemn the comments of Rev. Wright, he seems to say it is legitimate for those of that generation to still be angry about the fight they had to go through. Anger held onto will eventually turn into Rev. Wright’s sermons. Yes, segregation is wrong and evil, and so was slavery, but continuing to be angry about those things is wrong, and not healthy. Rev. Wright is exhibit A. Perhaps Obama thinks I just “widen the chasm” by condemning it. However, I think the chasm is widened when we see that anger burning hot after 50 years and the best condemnation it receives is “that anger is not always productive.” Two, and more importantly, Obama looks for the answers in the wrong place. He places the answer in "self-help" frequently mentioned in Rev. Wright’s sermons. The answer to racism is found only in the gospel of Jesus Christ. The government has tried to fix it for years, and most of those attempts to fix it found a place in Obama’s list of reasons white Americans are angry and racially charged today. Other non-Christian answers include the ethnic cleansing found in places like Bosnia, Serbia, and Sudan. There is no hope for unity unless a basis for unity can be found. The gospel is the best place for that. This is what makes this whole situation so sad. Barak Obama got these racist messages and messages of self-help in the one place that should have given him the right answer; help from the Son of God.
3. The third point is about the root problem that exists in many churches. Politics. Yes, Rev. Wright made some horrible sermons and the Sunday after 9/11 too. But, then so did Pat Robertson and Jerry Fawell. A McCain supporter, televangelist Rod Parsley, made a comment that America existed to destroy Islam. These things are all wrong. The main reason they are wrong is because they have lost sight of the true answer. Jesus Christ. The gospel and church are not about America. They are not pro-America and they are not anti-America. What is important is the gospel and building up the Kingdom of God. The churches on the Religious Right and the Religious Left have been placing politics on a level with the gospel. I am strongly anti-abortion or pro-life if you prefer. I vote for pro-life candidates because it is an important issue to me. However, the way to end abortion is not through legal fiat, nor with Supreme Court justices. It is best ended with the promotion of God’s kingdom, His gospel, and teaching people God’s view of mankind, personhood, and responsibility. You can tell the hope of a minister from his sermons. If the sermons are always about politics, the Republican party or upcoming elections that minister places his hope in government. If the sermons are about do this and don’t do that, the minister places his hope in works or in himself. If the sermons are about the gospel and about Jesus Christ and trusting in Him, then the hope of that minister lies in God.
Those are my thoughts about this debate. It has raised some interesting things to think about.
Saturday, March 15, 2008
It is often stated that the English Civil War and the Protectorate of Oliver Cromwell are the high point of Puritanism. This is after all the time the Westminster Confession of Faith is written, although it bears noting, it was never really implemented. I think a lesser known even is actually the high point of Puritanism and it fits into my case about the nature of true Puritanism. It is the Millenary Petition. This Petition was given to the incoming King James in 1603. The contrast between this Petition, the resulting Hampton Court Conference and the Westminster Confession is striking and revealing.
The Millenary Petition, which probably only contained 800 signatures, was a protest from the Puritans about the state of the church and suggestions on how it should be fixed. They asked for many things such as the abandonment of the vestments, sign of the cross, baptism by women, confirmation, bowing at the name of Jesus, and terms like priest and absolution. They wanted stricter Lord’s Day observance, reform of church music, and a required sermon before communion. They also asked for only able men be allowed into the ministry (an obvious slap in the face of many Anglican ministers), allowance of marriage for the clergy, and the removal of certain monetary loopholes like double benefices. They also asked for church discipline reform including no excommunication for light matters and in a round about way protested on the king becoming too involved in church matters of discipline. A few other things were addressed, but you will notice that the form of government is not attacked at all. Nor was it attacked at the Hampton Court Conference where the Puritans won a few concessions such as the forbidding of baptism performed by women. The King as the head of the church was not really even addressed, although perhaps hinted at in the section on discipline. The Puritans presented their request with over 800 signatures and it was in no way a destruction or even a restructuring of the Church of England. Mainly it was a petition designed to remove the last elements of popery, and clean up some of the abuses in discipline and monetary matters.
The Westminster Assembly on the other hand came up with a , and it is not in favor of the Episcopacy. They have it in chapter 31 of the Confession and in more detail in "Form of Presbyterian Church Government" which is not part of the modern day standards. The Westminster Assembly completely replaced the Church of England with a new church. It was an Assembly dominated by Presbyterians who created a Presbyterian Church, not a Puritan one. The difference between the two documents is one that is not given enough stress. They are of a different mind. One has no problem with bishops, and strives to have a biblical church, and sees no problem of that existing with Bishops. The other wants a Biblical church and does not believe that is compatible with bishops at all. The first, attempts merely to purge the existing church of offenses and the other attempts to construct the framework for an entirely new church in England.
It should also be noted that King James was a king in Scotland where the Presbyterian Church was the state church. If anyone should have been open to Presbyterianism is England, it should have been James. James had already defended Cartwright, the English Presbyterian extremist when he ran afoul of Elizabeth. He had offered Cartwright a job teaching in Scotland. He had shown that he was not against Presbyterians at all. Yet, the Puritans did not come to ask for Presbyterianism. Why? I think it has to be concluded that it was because Puritanism is not the same as Presbyterianism.
Friday, March 14, 2008
I just watched the last Tucker Carlson show. It was sad. They even brought back Willie Giest. If you did not watch Tucker’s show, then shame on you. He is about the only journalist you can trust to give it to you straight. His libertarianism made him free to criticize both Republicans and Democrats. However, in the increasingly liberal MSNBC, Tucker was out of place. MSNBC ruined his show about a year and half ago by trying to turn it into a real long news show. Originally his show was a late night show where Tucker was allowed to be Tucker. The first 30 minutes were serious and sometimes it would go longer if real important things were happening. The last 30 minutes were pure fun. Tucker would interview Richard Simmons or the Brat eating champ, or have some strange animal act on. Tucker had a voicemail segment where he could respond to viewers, and it was hilarious. Tucker started a mini-war on Canada that lasted for about a week. My wife actually made the voicemail segment once. It was a lot of fun to watch the show. You could tell as they did the ‘Cutting Room Floor’ segment with Willie Giest for the last five minutes that those guys had more fun than people should be allowed to have. Now the show is over, and I cannot help but feeling sad. It is almost as if the last person who enjoyed just being a news show host was fired. Now all that are left are partisan attack machines like Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, Keith Olbermann, Chris Matthews and a few losers like Anderson Cooper. TV news is now officially worthless.
Thursday, March 13, 2008
I have not done a book review in some time and since it is baseball season, I need to sneak in this review. I could not help myself on a recent business trip. I picked up Stat One by Craig Messmer. The book examines the best players at all positions excepting pitcher. After taking you through the eight positions and giving you the top ten at every position and a discussion of them, he gives a section to those who are considered multi-position like Pete Rose and Rod Carew. He also takes a short chapter on the Negro League Players and Players before the World Series era beginning in 1903. Those last two sections of people are not eligible to make his Top 100 players of all time list. He then proceeds to produce that list.
Now let me end the suspense and tell you that Mr. Messmer puts Babe Ruth as the best player of all time and his top 3 of all time are all Yankees (Dimaggio, Gehrig, and Ruth). Sadly, he does not deduct for steroid use and Barry Bonds ends up number 5 all time. Needless to say, I hated the book. Let me list a few reasons why.
1. His choices did not make any sense. One can agree with some of his position choices, but in the end they were way too subjective for me. Take First base. We can all agree that Lou Gehrig deserves to be in the number 1 slot for that position. Fine. However, Messmer puts Mark McGwire at 6 and Albert Pujols at 4. He leaves George Sisler out of the top 10 and has him ranked only as a Category 4 player (Category 5 being best). Sisler is a player you may not have heard much about. Sisler once had 257 hits in one season, a record until recently. Sisler hit over .400 multiple times in his career and was over .350 five times. He was over .300 13 different seasons. He is punished in this book because his run production dropped as he got older and for his lack of homerun power. Mark McGwire’s career batting average is .262. Yet, somehow Sisler is not in the top 10 best first baseman and McGwire is? Please. Plus, Pujols is still playing. If Sisler gets punished for failing to produce as he aged, where does that leave Pujols who has yet to face that criteria? That seems unfair, and completely subjective.
2. Bad editing. We can stick with this same category to continue the examples. Messmer states at the end of Sisler’s entry, “He had negligible power, however, and that prevents him from placing in the top five for this position. He does make the top 10, though” (pg.64). Fine. Let us check where he falls in the Top 10 first basemen. Here is the list in descending order. Jim Bottomley, Bill Terry, Eddie Murray, Johnny Mize, Mark McGwire, Jeff Bagwell, Albert Pujols, Hank Greenberg, Jimmy Foxx, and Lou Gehrig. George Sisler does not appear on the list. You can look up later that George Sisler is the 74 best player of all time and Jim Bottomly the 71st. So, despite the comment that Sisler makes the Top 10, he does not. That stuff should be caught.
3. His main stat. Messmer is of the new sabermetric school that thinks regular stats stupid. However, most sabermetric stats are designed to favor the homerun, and thus the newer players. Messmer is no different. He uses a stat called P/E Average. It is (net runs + net runs + complete bases) / plate appearances. The question is does this really show us how good a player is or how good his team is? Net runs is Runs Batted In + Runs Scored – Homeruns. Now we can take the example of First base since we are already familiar with it. George Sisler may have been one of the best hitters in the game, but he played for the St. Louis Browns, one of the worst teams of all time. Thus, there are less people on base to drive in and less people who are able to drive him in once he was on base. Thus, his Net Runs will be low. Mark McGwire was always on a better team. Yet, ignore that fact for a minute. McGwire can post a better P/E average simply by hitting homeruns. That gives him higher Net Runs despite being on an equally bad team. Thus, McGwire can look like the better player, but actually be a worse hitter. Put him on a better team with the likes of Ricky Henderson, and all of a sudden McGwire can have an extremely high P/E compared to Sisler. But, if Sisler played with Ricky Henderson it would be a different story.
4. He also uses a silly stat that is called MVP share where he gives you points for every vote someone cast for the player for MVP. Since the MVP did not exist until late in baseball history, it favors the modern players.
5. Has some sort of Yankee bias. It is fairly clear from putting the best three players of all time as Yankees and he also has Mickey Mantle in the Top 10. No one in their right mind thinks Joe Dimaggio was better than Ty Cobb. He lays out the case for the two side by side. For Cobb he mentions .366 lifetime batting average (highest ever). 892 stolen bases (2nd best ever), 4,189 (2nd ever), unanimous MVP in 1911 and triple crown winner in 1909 (no MVP award given in that season) and on retirement he held or shared more records than anyone. Dimaggio’s credentials? 10 Pennants and nine World Series. Is that a Dimaggio accomplishment or a Yankee accomplishment? Are we punishing Ty Cobb for playing for the Detroit Tigers? How many Hall of Fame players did Dimaggio play with? How many did Cobb? Would that not make a difference if the qualification for best centerfielder ever had to do with team victories? Dimaggio gets credit for missing seasons because of WWII, but Cobb does not get credit for missing a season for WWI, nor does he get credit for actually getting hit with mustard gas during the war that damaged his lungs and ended the career of Chris Matthewson, who was with Ty. Dimaggio played baseball at Pearl Harbor during WWII. Pretty dumb in my opinion.
6. Ignores advice of the ancients. This is what Messmer writes about Cobb, “The fact that [Cobb] received more Hall of Fame votes that Babe Ruth and Walter Johnson in 1936 says something to me that I can’t ignore” (pg. 242). Yet, he does ignore it and puts Babe Ruth as the best player ever leaving Cobb at 6 behind Ted Williams and a trio of undeserving Yankees including Babe Ruth. In other words, despite saying he cannot ignore that the sports writers of 1936 thought Cobb a better baseball player than Babe Ruth, he ignores it completely and puts Ruth as a better ballplayer.
There are a lot of those kind of example in this book. This guy is out of his mind. I still await a book that will not reward the Homerun, the modern player, and take a look at real stats to discuss who is the best of all time.
Monday, March 10, 2008
In an earlier post I defined Puritan as someone who was working to purify the Church of England as a member of the Church of England, among other things. Today the most famous pastors commonly called ‘Puritans’ such as John Owen do not fit my definition. Owen was an Independent minister and others like Thomas Cartwright do not count either because he was a Presbyterian minister. The main reason I have to reject them as Puritans is because they are not working to Purify the Church of England. Rather they are working to destroy it and build a new church in its place. They were wanting to burn the Church of England to the ground and then on top of the ashes build up a new church with a completely different form of government. Let us examine some evidence.
King James was right. ‘No bishops, no King.’ The Episcopal system needs someone to be the top of the hierarchy. In the Roman Church it was the pope. In the Eastern Orthodox Church it became the Caesar. In the Church of England it became the King. In churches that try an hybrid of Episcopacy and equality disaster is always present. Take a look at the United Methodist Church. They have bishops, but try to govern with some courts and with a Triennial conference. What do you have? A giant mess. In the South you still have conservative bible believing churches, but elsewhere in the same denomination you have people being cleared of charges even though the people voting not-guilty admit that the rules were broken. That is hardly an effective system. Episcopacy demands a head. Thus, an attempt to change the Church of England into the Presbyterian Church or a bunch of Independent churches is an attack on it head. To pull down the bishops was to try and pull down the king. The English Civil War should bare that out. The Westminster Confession that was put together during that time did not attempt to reform the Church of England, it built a completely new church.
It should also be remembered that originally the Presbyterians and Anabaptists did not consider themselves Puritans and that they more often than not took the above mentioned path; namely that the Church of England was not a true church and needed to be replaced. The Presbyterians were for a while called Brownists after Robert Brown who was often imprisoned for his activities. The Brownists openly called for the end to the Church of England, and they did not think it a true church. The Puritans were openly enemies of the Brownists and the Brownists thought the Puritans enemies as well. The Brownists would go so far that they would even be denounced by Cartwright, but the Brownists thought Cartwright, himself a Presbyterian, simply inconsistent in his old age. These divisions are even apparent later duirng the Civil War when the Independents and Presbyterians work together to overthrow Charles, but soon turn on each other after Charles is gone. Of course both groups hated the Anglicans. Of course there were still actual Puritans as seen in the fact that a few Anglicans attended the Westminster Assembly. Thomas Gataker for example and William Twisse.
In my opinion those who advocated a change in government of the church were advocating for a new church. With the intertwining of the church and state in England this was a revolutionary idea. The Puritans wanted the removal of the papish superstitions in the Church of England, but did not want to overthrow the church as it currently existed. Thus, I do not believe it right to lump those who wanted church purity in with those who wanted church revolution.
Thursday, March 06, 2008
I have to say that the Puritans are a fascinating bunch of guys, but exactly which group of guys they are is a matter of some historical debate. Usually in Reformed circles and especially in Presbyterian circles Puritan is a good thing and thus Puritans are anyone who agrees with you that ever lived in England or New England. Joel Beeke has a book out called Meet the Puritans. I have not bought this book out of protest. Beeke, who is interested in the Puritans because of their influence on the Further Reformation in Holland, does not seem to have a good definition of Puritans. He does not include John Dod, who has to be labeled a Puritan, but is not known because nothing of his work is currently reprinted. John Dod is included in the The Puritan Bookshelf collection, but so is Samuel Rutherford who is a Scottish Presbyterian and should not be considered a Puritan in anyway. Just in case you doubt the wide range of the Puritan Bookshelf they also have Theodore Beza, who I am pretty sure never set foot in England. Fire and Ice, an internet site dedicated to Puritan and Reformed writings, has a Puritan Quote of the Week. This ‘Puritan Quote’ can come from Jonathan Edwards, a New England Congregationalist, Ralph Erskine, a Scottish Presbyterian, or Thomas Watson an English non-conformist during the Civil War. Quite a range.
The problem comes in trying to define what is a Puritan or what are the fundamental beliefs that make one a Puritan. This is something not enough people wrestle with and it leads to the wide broad strokes that is used for Puritan today. In the next few posts I want to try and define this term. The term Puritan does not really appear until the reign of Elizabeth, and thus it seems odd to think of Puritans existing prior to Elizabeth. Even Bishop Hooper, who began the first controversy which the Puritans would take up, the Vestments, should probably only be considered a pre-Puritan. The main tenant of Puritanism has to be the desire for a pure worship and making the Church of England Scripturally pure. Thus, to be a true Puritan one must be a member of the Church of England. They begin in earnest with the Elizabethan Act of Uniformity in 1559 that required the wearing of the vestments and several other things that Puritans found offensive. The Puritans continue as members of the Church of England until Archbishop Laud right before the English Civil War forces them out. Puritanism has to be said to end on St. Bartholomew’s Day 1662 when the Act of Uniformity that had been passed in May went into effect. Over 2,000 ministers left the Church of England and the idea of purifying the church from within ended.
Thus, I think we can lay down a few ground rules for who is a Puritan and who is not. First, there is the time constraint. It has to be between the ascension of Queen Elizabeth in 1558 and the Act of Uniformity of 1662. They have to either be members of the Church of England or forcibly removed from the Church of England. In other words those who are separatists should not be considered Puritans because they do not wish to Purify the Church of England. Americans should be a category unto themselves. Presbyterians should also not be considered Puritans because of the inherent conflicts between Presbyterian Polity and the Episcopal system. This will be explored further at a later time. No real theological test should be applied as some Puritans may favor the Queen as the head of the church and some may oppose it. Some may be strict Calvinists and others favor universal atonement. The only unifying theological theme is the opposition to unscriptural traditions within the Church of England. Usually this revolves around vestments, the Book of Common Prayer, kneeling, and occasionally authority and other such things.
In the end this means the majority of people usually associated with Puritanism should not be considered Puritans at all. I will give a quick list and this too can be discussed further in the future.
Fits my conditions to be a Puritan:
William Ames – was removed, but only by royal decree.
Richard Baxter – he seemed to favor presbyterianism, but always appeared ready to accept Episcopalianism
Do not fit my conditions to be a Puritan:
I hope to have more discussion on the reasons for my qualifications up soon.
Jeff Meyers has a post up about a recent conference lecture. The lecture is by a man named Jeremy Jones and is entitled Renewing Theology. From what Rev. Meyers discusses it seems that the talk spoke of how Reformed Churches often become ‘Police States’, and tries to explain how that happens so it can be avoided in the future. This post intrigued me and I think deserves a thoughtful response. I will use the same number used in the Meyers post for ease of reference.
An unnumbered point is that all Reformed churches or theologies begin with a ‘golden age’. The example of the 17th century is used. When you read someone attacking a golden age and equating the golden age with the 17th century you can simply substitute in Westminster Confession of Faith. It sounds better to attack an idea of golden age, but I think it is also a vain attempt to hide the real source of the attack, the creed. Likewise if you ever read of someone attacking a 16th century golden age you can substitute the Heidelberg or Belgic Confession. So reading the post, understand that point. The creeds are in view.
1. Presupposed theological decline – This sound interesting. If we start with a golden age (creed) one can only go down and not improve on the creeds, or at least that is the supposition attacked here. Thus, the inverse is being argued, that theological progression is indeed possible. Not only is it possible, but it is desirable. There really only appear to be two options on understanding point number one. Either it is wrong to require adherence to the creed and punish people for failure to adhere or theological progression should be the norm and thus creeds are only a “necessary evil” as John Nevin once said. I would bet that the latter is in view, but it is a debatable position. Theological Development is not universally accepted and a full fledged debate on that point has yet to occur.
2. Equating current disputes with past ones – Again this is well put. It seems wrong to compare one position to an older already condemned position. Almost as if it is a logic trick of some kind to poison the well of debate. However, what of the Biblical admonition that there is nothing new under the sun? If nothing is new is it not possible that many of the ‘new’ ideas are really old ones with a new coat of paint? And if so it is wrong to demonstrate similarities? If we can never equate current events with historical ones then why study history at all? What purpose does it serve if not to warn? It seems the real objection ought to be the lack of listening or the sloppy connections or the lack of proof. But, that is not how the objection is phrased. The objection is the comparison in the first place.
3. The use of slippery slope argumentation – Here the objection is made that opponents will say that someone’s thinking leads to some other outright error even if it is specifically denied by the defendant. Is arguing the ‘logical consequence’ of a position a wrong or the sign of a police state mentality? A quote is given from Dabney who argues that false principle will always work out to their logical conclusion. A sound statement in my opinion. Logical consequences must be examined. At the very least there seems room for disagreement about whether or not false ideas will work out to their logical consequences in time.
4. An interconnected system means one problem threatens all – Here again I believe real and deep philosophical possibilities are simply rejected out of hand. Coherentism is an espistemological position that does seem to say that breaking one strand of the spider web damages the whole. That all beliefs are interconnected. Even such recent theologians as Gordon Clark thought that how coherent a system of thought is should be the ground to judge it as a legitimate system. Like it or hate it, it is a real philosophical debate. One cannot cast it aside as if it were wrong outright.
These things add up to show a denomination police state according to the lecture/blog. One wonders at the real nature of the objection when the comments are read. Look at the first comment by James Jordan.
You know that there is much, much more that is going to come forth from the Word as new cultures are converted and bring new questions and perspectives. The Spirit has only begun His work. We are in a Conversation.
I believe the real objection at work here is the whole idea of creeds. Creeds are not a conversation. Creeds hold people back from moving along with the developing culture and questions. What one needs is to be open to theological development. The real objection is to the resistance to tearing down the old spider web and building a new one. Mark Horne also comments in the sixth comment.
But in general, everything in the past is meant to be surpassed. Everything we know will one day seem uncivilized and tainted with error by future generations that know better.
Everything we know will be overthrown as tainted with error? Jesus Christ as the eternal-godman will one day be seen as an outmoded way of talking about Jesus? Nicaea, Chalcedon, Ephesus, all will be in the dustbin of history with Marx and the Westminister Confession of Faith? I beg to differ. I do not hold to Theological Development, nor do I hold to golden ages. It is interesting to me how the word postmillennial is now co-opted to mean Theological Development. I know that people can hold to a return of Christ that comes after a 1000 year reign and not think that all knowledge is meant to be surpassed and that the church is still an infant.
I could talk about how this was argued by Schaff and Nevin, but that would break one of the rules. I could talk about how such a position logically is an attack on history and those who have gone before, but that violates another rule. I could talk about how such a belief in theological development necessitates developing and changing the rest of your beliefs, but that was also forbidden. I do not think this Renewing Theology Lecture is so much an attempt to show the police state nature of modern churches as to frame the debate so that there is no way for Developmentalists to lose.
I am not defending the PCA, but I do not think this helps further the discussion