October 19, 2005

Midweek In Blog -- October 19, 2005

This is the second in a series of weekly reviews of the blogosphere. Topics this week include Sex & Culture, Harriet Miers, Iraq, Intelligent Design, and Christian Spirituality.

Sex & Culture
Joe Carter of the popular Evangelical Outpost offered a few posts relating to sexuality and culture. The first post consists of 12 things Christians can do to be part of God's movement to redeem sexuality in our culture by rescuing it from industrialization. Among them, according to Carter, we should continuously point out:
  • Sexual intercourse is a non-verbal expression of profound commitment, openness, and trust.
  • “Good” sex is not found by following a formula...Sex cannot be measured...anymore than a good conversation can be measured by the number of words spoken.
  • Sex is intended to be viewed from the place of a first-person participant, not a third-person observer.
  • You can’t have multiple sexual partners and not become desensitized to the beauty and intimacy of marital intercourse.

In his second related post, Carter observes a correlation between Picasso's sexual ethic and his artistic style, ranging from realistic to grotesque as Picasso experienced love or lust in varying degrees.
For Picasso, the dignatas of a woman was entirely dependent on his feelings for her. When in the throes of love he could see the intrinsic worth; when in the faded glow of lust, he could only look upon her with disgust. “It must be painful for a girl to see in a painting that she’s on the way out,” Picasso mused.

Carter's third related post discussed the extent to which advertisers have taken their logic to include sex in advertising. He quotes Chuck Klosterman as saying, "They (advertisers) are actually trying to sell a lifestyle that consumers haven’t even considered as a remote possibility." In typical fashion, Carter provides various ads that serve as data for his point--polyamorous advertising is on the rise. He concludes with:
How long will it take those pushing these polyamorous ads to come to the same conclusion and realize that the public simply isn't ready for it (polyamory)?

Harriet Miers
In addition to believing that Separation of Powers would be enough to prohibit Miers' nomination, this week Paul Deignan at Info Theory concluded that Miers is pro-Roe politically, although she may be pro-life personally. How did he do so?
The analysis revolves around one appointment and one appointment only: SCOTUS justices...What has the President said on Roe? That was indeterminate but did favor the hypothesis that Bush is "personally pro-life" but politically pro-Roe...What of the President's actions? Here there is conclusive proof that Bush is pro-Roe in the nomination of SCOTUS justices.

On the other hand, SkyePuppy has concluded that she is pro-Miers. She weighed the arguments of Laura Ingraham and Hugh Hewitt and found Ingraham's wanting.
In the end, I found Hugh's arguments more compelling. Constitutional law is not rocket science. The Constitution is short and quickly read--even with all those ammendments--and it's fairly easy to understand. Since conservatives are looking for an originalist or a strict constructionist (someone who will look to the Constitution itself and not make stuff up that the Constitution doesn't say), then we don't need a nominee who has spent his or her entire career analyzing the kind of constitutional case law that determines that localized endangered toads threatened by a housing development somehow fall under the interstate commerce provisions of the Constitution.

Since the Constitution isn't that hard, and the constitutional legal establishment is starting to sound like they're suffering from some intellectual inbreeding, now seems like as good a time as any for some fresh blood to be introduced into the "family." Provided that the fresh blood is sharp and capable. Hugh has posted emails and links to blogs that have spelled out the stellar qualities of Harriet Miers.

Townhall is currently running an online poll associated with the Miers nomination. As of 12:53 AM, October 19, 65 percent of the 519 respondents vote for conservatives who are uncomfortable with the Miers nomination to urge the President to withdraw the nomination.

John Hinderaker at Power Line posted unsolicited advice for Harriet Miers with respect to answering questions on Roe. You decide if it is good advice.
Suppose Miers testifies to the following:
  1. She believes Roe was wrongly decided, and has expressed that view from time to time in conversation.
  2. Her disagreement with Roe is not based on her opposition to abortion, but rather on her opposition to judicial usurpation. The Constitution says nothing about abortion, and the idea that the Court suddenly "discovered" the right after nearly 200 years is ridiculous.
  3. She doesn't know whether she would vote to overturn Roe, because that would depend on issues relating to stare decisis that she hasn't yet analyzed, and she would not make that kind of decision without hearing the case before her, studying the authorities and the arguments of the parties, and discussing the issues with her colleagues on the Court.
Mightn't that approach solve a number of problems?

John Hawkins has a post titled "What Has Been Accomplished In Iraq? More Than You Might Think." In the midst of confusion about what was and was not said, there are some good things to notice about Iraq.
The war hasn't been easy, nor is it likely to suddenly become so because of this election, but we're moving steadily, inexorably towards a free and Democratic Iraq that's capable of defending itself from terrorists without Coalition troops on the streets. When that day comes, we'll be able to bring our troops home for the respite and victory parades that they will so richly deserve.

Hammorabi has decided that the constitution will likely pass. It can only be rejected if the majority of votes reject it or if two thirds of the votes in three provinces or more vote for no. In "The Results indicate YES vote for the Iraqi constitution", these conditions are shown to not be likely.
  • The nine southern provinces from Basra to Hila voted between 75-95% by yes.
  • Baghdad region voted by 65-75% yes.
  • The three northern Kurdish provinces voted by 70-80% yes.
  • Kurkuk and Diyala voted for 60-65% yes.
  • Ramadi is gloomy but expected to vote for no.
  • The birth place of Saddam Tikrit (Salah-aldeen) voted by 75% for no.
  • Even taking Tikrit votes in account, this (2/3 of 3 provinces vote no) will need at least another 2 provinces to say no by more than 66%. Even if Ramadi achieved this, (it) is not enough. Mosel votes were 643,000 from which until today we got the results of 419,000 ballots counted. Out of this 419,000 there is 75% voted yes.

Mary Katharine Ham, at Townhall's C-Log, has a similar post about refusing to see the good coming out of Iraq.
As Rob Anderson notes, "there's nothing admirable about using one injustice as blinders for another."

Abu Ghraib shouldn't keep liberal-minded Americans from recognizing the gains being made in Iraq for universal humanitarian causes, but I'm afraid it does-- which, now that I think of it, is just another example of cultural relativism gone too far.

Intelligent Design
Recently, Eugenie Scott has suggested introducing theology into the classroom. On Darwinian Fundamentalism, Lawrence Selden explains how Eugenie Scott's latest recommendations violate the separation of church and state.
Her final sentence makes it all too clear: Johnny, you don't have to "make a choice between evolution and religious faith." Just switch to a different religious faith! You can even stay a Christian- just switch denominations! It is so easy these days to be a good Episcopalian and buy into Darwinism hook, line and sinker. Hey, I might even write you a good recommendation if you do.

Where can you find Eugenie Scott's strategy guide? Why on a web site funded in part by the US Government, of course. Follow the link Dealing with Roadblocks & Misconceptions, and then the link Dealing with Antievolutionism. Et voila! The juicy stuff is on page 2. Establishment of religion in three easy steps, brought to you by the National Science Foundation.

Krauze over at Telic Thoughts has posted on how his ID conversations usually start. First is the question of ID's stance on common descent and then frustration because ID can't be pigeon-holed--resulting in this statement:
You’re just a bunch of fundamentalist post-modernists, quoting scientists out of context and using the Wedge to turn the US into a theocracy and send all of our jobs to Taiwan. And besides, who designed the designer?

Christian Spirituality
Ben Witherington has a great post on prayer he has called "Chrysostom, Mother Teresa, and George Herbert on Prayer". The snippet from John Chrysostom's Homily on Hebrews 14.9:
There is war in the marketplace; the affairs of every day are a fight, they are a tempest and a storm. We therefore need arms, and prayer is a great weapon. We need favorable winds; we need to learn everything, so as to go through the length of the day without shipwrecks and without wounds. For every single day the rocks are many, and oftentimes the boat strikes rock and is sunk. Therefore, we have especial need of prayer early and by night.

StatGuy at Magic Statistics offers some thoughts on St Luke the Evangelist.
Luke's unique perspective on Jesus can be seen in the six miracles and eighteen parables not found in the other gospels. He is the one who tells the story of Lazarus and the rich man who ignored him. Only in Luke's gospel do we hear Mary's Magnificat where she proclaims that God has brought down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted those of humble estate; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent empty away (Luke 1:52-53). St Luke also has a special connection with the women in Jesus' life, especially Mary. It is only in Luke's gospel that we hear the story of the Annunciation, Mary's visit to Elizabeth including the Magnificat, the Presentation, and the story of Jesus' disappearance in Jerusalem.

Midweek In Blog -- October 19, 2005

October 18, 2005

Real Presence -- Post 1

To begin this series, first it seems necessary to know our author. Leanne Payne has been active in healing prayer ministry for a few decades. Having founded Pastoral Care Ministries, in her later years she still conducts healing prayer conferences twice annually--once at Wheaton College and once in Europe.

She has taught for Wheaton College, in the graduate program in Christian Spirituality at Creighton University, as well as for the University of the Nations. She holds both a BA and an MA from Wheaton College as well as an MA from the University of Arkansas. Payne also served as a research fellow at the Yale Divinity School.1

She was born in the south, and from an early age, she was fatherless. Her mother was a faithful, godly woman who was sure to direct her children to God as their masculine Father. However, as many of us, Payne did not come away unscathed. She was married once with one child but was then divorced and left without a college education. She had come to the point where she did not understand why life was so hard for her, but she decided that even if she never experienced the fresh presence of God again and never understood why, she would obey Him. This was the beginning of significant change in her life.

She has written numerous books about her experiences including Healing Presence, The Broken Image, Healing Homosexuality, Crisis in Masculinity, Restoring the Christian Soul, and Listening Prayer.

Mrs. Payne had a special opportunity to work on a project with Dr. Clyde Kilby at Wheaton College where she read through and chronicled some of Lewis' letters. Much of what we have today of Lewis' letters come from Kilby's work. Many of the fruits of Payne's efforts on this project are contained in this book.

Front Matter
The first foreword is given by the late Bishop John Richard Sheets, former educator at Creighton University and member of the Society of Jesus since 1953. He says he met Leanne around 1990 at a Christmas party from which he left with an autographed copy of the first edition of this book. Titled Real Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Works of C.S. Lewis, he was so impressed that he "asked if she would come to teach in a program in 'Christian Spirituality' at Creighton University" where he was teaching. In his foreword, Bishop Sheets attempted to summarize how Lewis put together what he terms the "constellation of the real": first, transposition was an important concept to Lewis; second, the metaphor of "weight" translated Lewis' notion of levels of transposition; and third, incarnational reality is not neutral as evidenced in The Screwtape Letters. In the end, Bishop Sheets wants us to understand that by God descending into His people, the weight of the glory of Christ progressively grows through the Holy Spirit. This summary is elucidated in Leanne's chapters below.

The second forward was written by Wayne Martindale of Wheaton College. He describes Real Presence as a short course through Lewis' work. He goes on to say:
Her book systematically explains Lewis's views about God, creation, human nature and the human condition, sanctification, and the fundamentals of the Christian life.
In all, Martindale praises this book because it provides understanding of the Christian worldview's power to critique modern philosophical naturalism and its faults as well as to provide meaning to all of life.

In her preface, Payne provides insight into her intended audience and her purpose, and then she expresses her gratitude to those who made this book possible.
  • Audience: all who have loved and benefitted from the writings of Lewis as well as those who would like to step into Lewis' unique world of understanding.
  • Purpose: to show how "Lewis points a scholarly, imaginative, and thoroughly devout finger at the Real." Lewis puts us in touch with incarnational reality, which is what most of us hunger for most.
It is in this preface that Payne defines incarnational reality--the reality of God, present in and through His creation. Elsewhere, Christopher West highlights the significance of this concept as it pertains to understanding spirituality (see "John Paul II's Theology of the Body").
This is the very "logic" of Christianity. God communicates His life to us in and through the body — in and through the Word made flesh. The spirit that denies this "incarnational reality" is that of the anti-Christ (cf. 1 Jn. 4:2-3).
If this is true, Real Presence and Lewis' writings on which it is based may play a significant role in pointing to God and the supernatural while integrating it with the natural in His holy order.

Chapter 1 Introduction: Incarnational Reality
In this four-page chapter, Payne introduces the concepts of incarnational reality and transposition in the work of Lewis, spending most of the chapter on how Lewis' understanding of the Holy Spirit's indwelling formed the center of his theology and philosophy. According to Payne, this indwelling served as Lewis' own link to the Creator, and yet he knew this is not man's natural inclination. Like Augustine, Lewis knew that man longed for God but sought impostures, possessing restless hearts until they came to rest in Him. As this rest is in Him, it actually results from the Spirit of the resurrected Christ resting in and indwelling the very being of the Christian.

Payne then cites instances in Lewis' work (mainly Miracles but also The Weight of Glory) where he touches on the concept of transposition. She claims that this is a key principle of the universe for Lewis, citing his reference to reason incarnated in man, God incarnated in the man of Jesus, and the Holy Spirit incarnated into the believer. In fact, in Miracles he says, our existence is "but a faint image of the Divine Incarnation itself."2 Because I cannot do it justice, I quote Payne's last paragraph here in which she describes the experience of reading Lewis:
When one surfaces from a plunge into Lewis's world, he generally takes an unprecedented and swift flight upward into a universe that is not only greatly expanded but has been given back its supernatural reality. Its transcendent realm is no longer hidden. The fetters of unbelief snap and he soars the free heights with Lewis. As both philosopher and novelist, Lewis reveals the whole of reality to us that we might better apprehend the parts; he reveals the Creator to us that we might better understand creation. In his cosmic view of supernature and nature, we see that GOd reaches down to man; that man is, indeed, linked with God. The very concreteness of the realities we have all too often abstracted away (including the supernatural) returns. We have retsored to us, not only the knowledge of the Holy Spirit, but of angels, demons, and all the hosts of heaven. And within our very own selves we find a root--"a root in the Absolute, which is the utter reality."

Payne paints quite a picture of Lewis' work, and one that I admit has been true in my life. From The Great Divorce to The Chronicles of Narnia to the most dense of his theological works, Lewis points to the Kingdom of God in all its goodness (okay, not all, but let me have this hyperbole) and the either/or that one is confronted with when seeing Christ. Most signficant, Lewis provides the modern, especially the modern believer struggling with the leftover vestiges of empirical rationalism, a framework in which to see the world that allows for meaning--not only allows for it but points to the Source of that meaning and the Reality in which it can be experienced. I wonder if this book (and more likely Lewis' work itself) might be a good introduction for those leaving a naturalistic, rationalistic worldview, especially scientists seeing merit in Intelligent Design.

Additionally, I have been struck with the beauty of Lewis' transposition. Just as Christ emptied himself to be the servant, so God willingly came down to our level in the person of Jesus, and so does He continue to come down to those who invite Him. Consistent with Biblical interpretive techniques, interpreting creation as that which images God's incarnation opens up new possibilities every day. While I find it an important distinction to make, the fact that God is not the tree but made the tree to point to the incarnation grips me with awe. By His giving of this gift (the tree), I can see His heart that gave His greatest gift (Himself).

— — — — — —
1 Much of this information was taken from text posted on her website.
2 See page 178.

Go on to the next post in this series.

Real Presence -- Post 1

Real Presence series

C.S. Lewis has been a hero of the faith for me as well as countless others. The candid nature with which he handles doubts and modern objections (many of which plague me intermittantly) astounds me and leaves me wondering how I could miss what seems obvious after reading him. In a little book titled Real Presence, Leanne Payne beautifully pulls Lewis' worldview together in one piece. Drawing on his letters, fiction, and other writings, Payne shows how Lewis' worldview largely consisted of what she terms "incarnational reality" (explained below). I've read this book several times and would like to summarize it here. I may bring in points external to this book, but this series will primarily be an introduction to the book--mainly because I think it is worth the attention.

Forewords by John R. Sheets, S.J. and Wayne Martindale
1. Introduction: Incarnational Reality
2. God, Super-Nature, and Nature
3. Sacrament: Avenue to the Real
4. Spirit, Soul, and Body
5. Till We Have Faces
6. We've Been "Undragoned"
7. The Great Dance
8. The Way of the Cross
9. The Whole Intellect
10. The Whole Imagination I: Surprised by Joy
11. The Whole Imagination II: The Two Minds
Appendix: The Great Divorce

This will serve as a base for 12 posts on Leanne Payne's Real Presence, subtitled "The Christian Worldview of C.S. Lewis as Incarnational Reality." These posts will roughly follow the structure of the book with the 1st including the front matter and chapter 1 and the 12th including the appendix:

1. Introduction to Leanne Payne and her Real Presence
2. God, Super-Nature, and Nature

Real Presence series

October 13, 2005

iPod Video

Apple has done it again. Repeatedly, they pull off technological feats that leave the typical consumer in awe. This time it was the release of an iPod that plays video. Lifehacker polled its readers to see if they would actually use this iPod to watch video often. As of 10/13/2005 at 11:07:02 AM, 1,169 readers responded with nearly 42 percent indicating they would not because the screen is too small. Another 20 percent said they would be interested in at least downloading the videos to watch on their computer or TV. Another 14 percent looked forward to what seemed like good entertainment--namely, music videos on this iPod. Another 14 percent seemed to indicate they would settle for watching music videos because they've got nothing else to look at while listening to their iPods. The last 10 percent? Like mindless dogs, they imitate what they see in Apple commercials.

Lifehacker summarized the new iPod's features as follows:
  • TV shows and music videos cost $1.99 to purchase from the iTunes Music Store. The files are high enough quality to play full screen, but they are not high-def. Music video quality seems to be a bit lower than TV shows.
  • When you purchase a video from Apple, up to 5 computers and an unlimited amount of iPods can play it, just like songs.
  • Non-Apple DRM videos (home videos, for example) can be viewed in iTunes if they are Quicktime .mov files. CNET says vanilla .mov’s cannot be transferred to the video iPod.
  • You cannot burn DVDs of purchased video that a DVD player can understand. You can, however, burn data DVDs to back up your iTMS video purchases.
  • The TV shows in the iTunes Music Store are only available in the U.S.
  • The video iPod can be connected directly to the TV. Any computer with video output can also be connected to a TV to watch videos.
Within Apple's three-act play, they also announced a new iMac and iTunes 6. The encore is to follow within the next month as Gizmodo has received word there may likely be an additional product announcement.


iPod Video

Links Of Note

In an effort to create a repository of quality links, blogs, etc., I've decided to place a form on this site that allows for submission of any Links of Note (LON). Please provide the link (one at a time) and any information pertaining to it. (Notice comments are required--why should I add it to my blog?) Thanks.

Links Of Note

October 12, 2005

Midweek In Blog -- October 12, 2005

This is the first in a series of weekly reviews of the blogosphere. Topics include Harriet Miers, Iraq, Darfur/Sudan, Intelligent Design, Christian Spirituality, and Smoking Bans.

Harriet Miers
Tim Chapman at Townhall's Capitol Report comments on Hugh Hewitt's rant.
Hewitt could have criticized the actions of GOP Committee staffers without resorting to comments about "grandchildren of rich donors", "copy machine staffers" or never having "worked in the private sector."

The truth is, the majority of those staffers on the committee are among the best and brightest in the Senate. In my interaction with them throughout these two nominations I have been impressed by their intellect, honor, work ethic, resumes, devotion to their bosses and devotion to conservative principle. For Hewitt to cast aspersions on them in the way he does this morning is below him.

Also, Christianity Today attempts to distill James Dobson's remarks.
Today's broadcast did not reveal that Dobson was privy to information he probably shouldn't know, and he was not part of any backroom deals as some have suggested. Dobson needed to set the record straight that he didn't have information "that I probably shouldn't know." He just had information a few days before others did.

Another good summary of the "Dobson Secret" was posted over at Parableman:
What was most interesting to me is the piece of information that hadn't been made public that Rove has now given him (Dobson) permission to reveal. He says there was a short list of potential nominees, and Miers was on it. She wasn't on some lower tier list. But the short list got narrowed down in two ways. One was that Bush really did want a conservative woman on the court...The other...from people telling Bush they weren't interested.

Iraq made progress this week in establishing a constitution. Besides suggesting we focus our attention on the December elections, Publius Pundit expresses hope:
The constant dropping of opposition to the constitution is actually becoming a trend. Shia groups like Muqtada al-Sadr’s militia and (as reported above) the largest Sunni group, the Iraqi Islamic Party, have dropped their campaign to defeat the constitution and will instead be focusing completely on the December elections. As will everybody else.

Following the New York Times publishing of Zawahiri's letter, the battle over the meaning of the letter ensued. Power Line's analysis separates the Times' interpretation from what Zawahiri really said:
Zawahiri's letter is far from being a celebration of the opportunity created by the American invasion of Iraq, as the Times implies. Instead, it is replete with evidence of al Qaeda's tenuous grip on survival.

As well, Jeremy at Parableman comments on the continual spreading of misinformation about Bush's claims that Saddam tried to get nuclear material:
Chris Matthews is on the air spreading misinformation again. He's claiming that there's no evidence that Saddam Hussein tried to get nuclear material from Africa. His evidence? There was no actual deal between Saddam and any African nation. So how is his conclusion supposed to follow? The fact that no one sold anything doesn't mean no one tried. Joseph Wilson's report confirms what the Bush Administration said, and the 9-11 Commission accepts the conclusion that Saddam tried unsuccessfully to get nuclear material, which is all Bush ever claimed.

While Katrina may have caused some devastating circumstances, Eugene Oregon at Coalition for Darfur claims that this is a way of life for some in Darfur.
For more than two years, nearly two million people have been relegated to displacement camps across Darfur, with limited access to food, water and medical attention. They live in makeshift tents that provide little shelter from the elements, and in constant fear of rape, looting and death at the hands of the Janjaweed militia.

On Common Grounds Online, an anonymous poster provided his perspective on Darfur by describing his experiences during an effort to document attrocities.
Assigned the task of documenting the atrocities occurring in Darfur, my team spent weeks in the field speaking with survivors. The very stories they told were toxic to the soul—how can they be repeated without searing the hearer as well? Innocence crushed, the fragile deliberately snuffed out, those who tried to defend their families and justice defeated in the name of a predatory God. The survivors with whom we spoke would often conclude their narrative with a silent, macabre revelation of the legacy these horrors wrought in their flesh.

Intelligent Design
In two posts, William Dembski explains how theological implications do not undermine ID as a scientific program as well as how creationists are unwilling to go in with ID. The creationism post was followed by quite a discussion.
Critics of ID are quick to label it creationism. It is therefore ironic that creationists are increasingly reluctant to identify themselves as design theorists. Creationists, both of the young-earth and the old-earth variety, tend to think ID doesn’t goes far enough and hesitate to embrace ID’s widening circle of allies, a circle that now includes Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, New Agers, and non-dogmatic agnostics. Indeed, creationists are increasingly distancing themselves from ID’s big tent.

Also, MikeGene at Telic Thoughts provides some interesting perspective on how not all ID proponents hold the same views by listing where he departs from mainstream ID and where he holds different views than those of ID critics. While he does not think ID qualifies as science yet, he also does not think that:
ID is nothing more than religious belief and an attempt to sneak creationism into the public school curricula
nor does he think
To detect design, one must first demonstrate the identity, methods, and psychology of the designer.

Christian Spirituality
Mark D. Roberts posted his second commentary on "contradictions" in the Gospels. Today he cites Craig Bloomberg's book The Historical Reliability of the Gospels and goes into an example of a supposed contradiction surrounding the healing of the paralytic. His main point:
If God chose to work through biographers who, like their Hellenistic peers, paraphrased sayings or ordered events thematically rather than chronologically, who am I to say this is wrong? Isn't that asking, not only Luke, but even the Lord to conform to the values of my culture, rather than accepting God's choice to work within the constraints of another culture?

Adrian Warnock has interviewed CJ Mahaney on his weblog regarding the upcoming release of Humility. To end the interview, Mahaney expressed this hope for his book:
John Stott has written, "At every stage of our Christian development and in every sphere of our Christian discipleship, pride is the greatest enemy and humility our greatest friend." I hope this book will assist the reader in opposing pride, our greatest enemy, and cultivating humility, our greatest friend. And I hope the book effectively reminds the reader that we do this recognizing that only one has been truly and fully humble before God, only our Savior, Jesus Christ. Only One in all of history has ever completely and perfectly obeyed Isaiah 66:2. Only One! Only Him! And He did this on our behalf, as our representative and ultimately as our substitute dying on the cross for sinners like you and me.

Smoking Bans
Maxwell Goss at Right Reason responded to Clay Littlejohn's rebuttal pertaining to Goss's critique of banning smoking in public places. He concludes there is really nothing to the rebuttal as it is largely based in a bad analogy--mining dust.
Consider two cities, Dustville and Smokeville. In Dustville there is one major industry, mining. Though it may be possible to find alternative employment in Dustville, mining is the only industry that pays enough to support a family. Moreover, most Dustvilleans are so poor that moving to another city is not a viable option. Consequently, the prospects for survival for many Dustvilleans are closely tied to the mining industry. (See here to make the example more evocative.) In Smokeville, by contrast, there is a wide range of industries, among which is the bar and restaurant industry. Most Smokevillians employed in this industry do not support families, and even those that do could generally find employment in other industries in Smokeville without too much trouble. They have a range of options not enjoyed by the residents of Dustville.

Midweek In Blog -- October 12, 2005

Midweek In Blog

I've decided to start a weekly review of posts I've seen during my reading as well as posts that are pertinent to current Hot Topics that might be of interest to others. Because I intend to do this around Wednesday evening each week, I'm going to call it Midweek In Blog--MIB for short. Here's a summary:


This series has changed. See this post for the remaining items in the series.

Midweek In Blog

October 11, 2005

Tribute to Joe Carter's Evangelical Outpost

Joe Carter has been writing for two years now. If you haven't had a chance to read his blog, you are missing out on some great thinking within the contemporary evangelical blogosphere. He's currently going through ten of his most favorite posts. I'd suggest reading them, and while you are at it, add him to your list of regular reads if he is not there already.

Here's to you, Joe.


Tribute to Joe Carter's Evangelical Outpost

October 05, 2005

Free AND reliable?

There is something inherently troublesome when free and reliable are used together. Wikipedia began when Ward Cunningham embraced the concept as it came to him in the late 1980's.

Wikipedia's goal is to create a free, reliable encyclopedia.

While the merits of this idea may be questionable due to a simple economic theory (the tragedy of the commons), I have been impressed with what Wikipedia has to offer. The ideals with which this site is designed to work toward are desirable. However, as I began to look into the entries regarding intelligent design, Phillip Johnson, and other individuals associated with the Discovery Institute, I began to see the failings of such a project's ability to handle topics that might have associations with "religion" or things "supernatural". Wikipedia should probably stay out of some areas, the current intelligent design debate being one of them.

Certainly, Wikipedia makes no guarantee of validity. In addition, self-selection effects due to individuals more likely to use and edit an open-content encyclopedia bias opinions contained therein with a liberal slant. At the very least, a system based on "consensus" (which actually turns out to be the perceived consensus of active administrators) that collects those of a liberal perspective is bound to bias the content.

Nevertheless, there are a number of great articles with helpful information. I think I agree with what I've seen posted elsewhere: it is reliable in about 80 percent of what if offers as a supplement to Google rather than Britannica.


Free AND reliable?

Confessional: repenting from a critical spirit

When Jesus said, "Do not judge, or you too will be judged,” what was He talking about? He continued, “For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Matt. 7:1-2) What a delicate topic to breach! So much potential exists to be judgmental of those who make critical judgments.

Jesus Christ spent much of his public ministry pointing out the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. Os Guinness writes on page 211 of The Call, “The most common equivalent to Pharisaism today is moralism, the curse of Christian witness in the public square. Moralism operates in a characteristic way. First, it removes grace from the discussion in question. Then it reduces the whole issue to the moral dimension. Next it rationalizes its own sense of superiority by using moral judgment as a weapon to attack others. In the end it reinforces both sin and hostility to God, who – alas – is blamed for the moralism dispensed in his name.”

What are the roots of this moralism? Pride. Jealousy. Vanity. Unforgiveness. Fear. Hypocrisy. I know these attitudes all too well. I’ve lived my life until the last year as “the keeper of truth.” Some of you may be able to relate. This status was even confirmed to me as a nickname developed among friends over the past year – Sword.

According to Jonathan Foreman in Ammunition, “We’re the issue / It’s our condition.” It starts in my heart. By my unacknowledged need, I forget the grace that sustains me. If I do not call on God in my need of a savior, I consequently deny this need, propelling me out into the world, believing I am like God in order to call sinners from their wretchedness.

Furthermore, truth without grace is law. If I am “the keeper of truth,” and my heart is not bathed in grace, then I define the law. If I am to preserve the truth, then I must be on the lookout for sin in order to rebuke those who need rebuking. I focus on sin, I become pessimistic, I blame others, and I hate myself for doing it. It is a sick cycle. Who will rescue me from this critical heart? Thanks be to God through Christ Jesus.

So what am I learning as I repent?

First, as every action has an equal and opposite reaction, so it is with the authority we are given to bless or curse. We can use this authority to encourage. We can use this authority to hurt. Whichever we choose will boomerang back to us – in the short term through hardness of heart and in the long term with numerous other effects, one of which is being out of fellowship with God.

Second, I have discovered that unless I am Spirit-led, I am not to mention a brother or sister’s sin. Only when I am Spirit-led will the Spirit convict. If I am ”in control” Satan uses me to condemn, and there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. But when I allow the Spirit to lead, truth is the message bathed in grace. We see Christ doing this with the adulterer in John 8. He cleared all hypocritical finger pointing and said, “Has no one condemned you? Then neither do I condemn you.” He went the distance with her and then admonished her to go and sin no more.
Third, rebuke is personal. If I have been wronged, I am to go to the person to communicate the hurt in order to be reconciled. Anything beyond communicating the hurt is judging. Christ explains this model in Matthew 18. Church discipline is meant to restore a brother or sister to God’s mercy. It makes no room to judge another on matters not affecting the immediate offense at hand.

Fourth, necessary to God’s people is the prophet speaking His objective truth into the body. Within scripture you will see this as exhortation to submit to God’s will in light of the consequences. Out of His mercy, God communicates to His people via a statement about truth in order to keep us in His love. Encouraging us to judge, Jesus said in John 7:24, “Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment.” The communication is impersonal, although the consequences are very personal. In other words, the gauntlet is thrown down for the people of God and the Spirit leads each person through it.

Fifth, God’s timing is perfect. Along the timeline of sanctification, God has a specific way to work with each of us according to our unique souls. He gives us a new heart and aligns our desires with His. If a person is challenged out of God’s timing, most often the result is worse than hoped for due to resentment and bitterness. In His patience He will only give us what we can handle. In the words of some wise guy, “A man forced against his will is of the same opinion still.”

Sixth, unless I am on my knees beside a brother in repentance from sin (all sin, not just his specific sin), my word of judgment creates in me the heart of a Pharisee and in him the shame of condemnation. This bitterness is the sperm for Satan’s egg of dissension, conceiving division.

In John 5 (verses 22-23, 27, and 30) Jesus says, “Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him. 27And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man. 30By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.”

Even the Father judges no one. It’s not that He would not be justified in doing this. He would be in His perfection, but nevertheless He gives up this right. He entrusts that authority to the atoning One. Furthermore, the Son seeks to please the Father in His judgments. Every motivation is love! The Father giving His Son as a ransom for us. The Father giving up His role as judge to the righteous One who chose to be the sacrifice. The Son loving the Father by sustaining justice. The Son loving us by fulfilling the law. The Son loving us by atoning for the Father’s wrath. The Holy Spirit quickening our hearts to holiness. Jesus creating others to come alongside us to help us bear our burdens. The Holy Spirit comforting and counseling.

Only out of my repentance back to this Trinitarian fellowship do I have the right to point to the Holy One and His ways. As the Spirit leads this repentance, I am empowered to love others to the same source. And now, in my neediness, join me in repentance.


Abednego over at Parableman raises the question of whether Biblical silence is a sufficient argument for individual conscience.

Confessional: repenting from a critical spirit

October 04, 2005

On Things

In the words of Bono, "Some pray for others steal." Jesus said words proceed from the overflow of the heart and behaviors are fruit of the heart's condition. When confronted with any thing of this world, whether it be material or even time, I can either demand I have something and take it or I can ask for it, and, should God provide, receive it. While it may not be clear to me what place my heart is in, it is in the place of being for God or for me, which is against Him.

On the other hand, I am convinced that I am given a number of things whether I receive them or not. I may think I finally got what I deserve, but God's heart is so full of goodness and love for me that He will give the gifts anyway because He gets joy from blessing me. And it is in learning to receive the things He gives me while asking for the things I don't have that I learn of His provision and His commitment to me that He says will not let me down.

Seek first the Kingdom of God and all things needed to live will be provided. Jesus says this because He knows the Father who is also my Father. He knows the Father's heart toward me, and Jesus wants me to know His Abba the same way.

On Things

On Mentors

Distilled, Jesus, the hero, the stoic, and the hedonist are the only options. The hero, stoic, or hedonist will leave you proud and merciless.

The Hero? Living the life of a hero, a person cannot come to terms with his need. As he constantly strives for the next achievement, no time is taken to accept the love he needs. It will leave him self-protected, isolated, proud, and critical.

The Stoic? The arrogance of exercising the will over the flesh will leave a person either trapped in irrelevant, arrogant judgment or hopeless self-hate. Either way, pride blocks the way to the cross. Need is denied, and by trying to preserve his life, the Stoic loses it.

The Hedonist? Pleasure serves as an idol for the therapeutic and is nearly equivalent to hedonism. Living with moral license hardens the heart and destroys the soul. When purpose is immediate gratification, one can no longer see God. He has created a fence around his heart by thinking his real need is pleasure, and when he finds out that instead it is love, he rages at the idea.

Jesus finishes the list of potential mentors. His way is mercy, love, hope. He is more masculine than the hero, more holy than the stoic, and more joyful than the hedonist.

These ideas come largely from James Houston's The Mentored Life.


Jesus Creed is currently reviewing Houston's book. Check in over there for more.

On Mentors

On Luck

We attribute to luck anything we do not understand because it is beyond what we are able or willing to grasp.

God created us with freedom, and it is in the use of this freedom that things appear to happen by chance. However, there is a reason behind every action. The causative agent may not have intended the effect. Nevertheless, the agent acted with intent. Therefore, there is no random, chance event.

God also has the power to intervene into our world and change the course of events - whether they be spiritual, supernatural, or natural. In addition, God can suspend natural laws in order to carry out His loving purposes.

Not only that, He can also use the freedom of men to meet His purposes without suspending natural laws -- the great deal on a car, the free lunch, the conversation with a friend where He answers a question before you ask.

Finally, there are things in which God chooses to not play a role, but rather, He respects and delights in the freedom with which He created us. It is like a father, who after showing his son the why's and how's of saw use, takes great joy in seeing his son's box made of wood, not because of the box itself, but because it is an expression of the will of his son.

Nevertheless, Paul says that all things work for the good of those who are called according to His purpose, which is love. With every situation God desires to show us His love and invites us to participate in it.


Meta-jester has commented on providence and chance with respect to the intelligent design debate over on Real Physics.

On Luck

October 03, 2005

Who's afraid of understanding?

My coworker passed on a copy of “Who’s Afraid of Freedom and Tolerance” which appeared in the Fall 2005 issue of UU World. While the article may serve its purpose as chicken soup for the “religious liberal’s” soul, through a number of errors, the author fails to provide real understanding of the “conservative” Christian worldview.

Foremost of his foibles, Doug Muder fails to distinguish between his generalizations based on Ault’s anecdotal, yet sympathetic, investigation of one congregation and the actual basic differences between “religious conservative” and “religious liberal” worldviews. Being generous, let us suppose the appropriate dichotomy is between obligation and choice, which Ault does distinguish (albeit between academic friends and the middle class members of this congregation). Beyond other explanations, such as greater liberal choice resulting from socioeconomic status, which is largely beyond one’s own choice, if Mudor were to look at the Fundamentalist worldview, he would appropriately deal with issues of Fundamentalist beliefs, symbols, and practices as well as their roots in authority. Taking the risk of losing interested readers, I suggest Muder fails to discuss the basic issue at hand—-epistemology. In its best form, not the abusive form depicted in this article, a “religious conservative’s” worldview includes a reasonable choice of and a commitment to indisputable pillars based on knowledge stewarded from trustworthy sources. On the other hand, it appears that “religious liberals” tend to view knowledge more from a post-enlightenment perspective where, with often too much suspicion, one comes over above information at hand and makes his or her own determination of what constitutes knowledge—-all largely the result of reactions to abusive authorities and their metanarratives.

At this point I will not elucidate the epistemology of “religious liberals” any further. However, as an Evangelical I can speak to something else-—Muder’s failure to distinguish between Fundamentalist (fideistic and politically conservative) and Evangelical (range of epistemologies and politics) worldviews. Unfortunately, the author makes hasty generalizations about “religious conservatives” by interpreting anecdotal sociological data to fit his straw man. As David Brooks said in his November 29, 2004, column, “You have to begin by understanding the faith. And you can't understand this rising global movement (evangelical Christians) if you don't meet its authentic representatives.”

While Muder does mention the horrifying-to-liberals term “absolute” in the context of moral values, he fails to see the basic difference between a Fundamentalist worldview and an Evangelical worldview—how to determine truth and apply it to life (truth defined here as that which accords with absolute reality). While the split between Fundamentalists and Evangelicals began regarding issues of engaging non-Christians, it is rooted in a dichotomy between viewing the Bible as the only input into discerning what is true (Fundamentalists) and seeing all truth as from God beginning with God’s revelation in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, but including knowledge from scientific study as well (Evangelicals). The distinction plays itself out in methods of interpreting the text of the Bible. Fundamentalists fail to discern their own worldview when engaging a text, asserting their literalist reading, while robust Evangelical methods of exegesis attempt to account for them (see Oxford don and Anglican Bishop of Durham N.T. Wright’s critical realism as an example). Although Fundamentalists are depicted as conservative Evangelicals typically (and there is a case to be made for this), some essential differences exist between worldviews as communicated and lived out that must be acknowledged if one is claiming to take “a look at competing” worldviews in an effort to understand the basis for fears about liberals.

There are additional errors in Muder’s characterization of “conservative Christians” worthy of mention. First, Muder’s thesis that “conservative Christian” fears of “religious liberals” are founded (although not well-founded in his opinion) in their loss of the “obligation” order is patently absurd, simply because it is too simple—it does not account for the worldview and the corresponding authority, beliefs, symbols, and praxis as mentioned above. The larger point here, though, is that his use of anecdotes from Ault’s book throughout the article to support this claim is weak. His fictional scenario from what he sees as popular mythology that sets up “Fundamentalist communities” of “embattled citadels, islands of eternal values” against liberal communities housed in “corrupt and decaying cities,” and the resulting argument, merely set up another conservative Christian straw man only to knock it down again, this time with unbalanced data. In support of this argument, Muder sites Ron Sider’s book about moral failure within Evangelicalism without clueing in the reader to the scope of Sider’s data (surveys of Evangelical churches, not Fundamentalist communities) or to Sider’s conclusion as to the cause of the moral failure (rampant materialism, which is the result of Muder’s hero, modern capitalism). And to what evidence of “religious liberals” should the reader compare this? Muder’s own experience of being “consistently impressed by the quality of the young people” he meets in his church and in other churches he visits.

Second, Muder completely fails to see the greater issue—that “conservative Christians” (1) discern God’s intention for the nuclear family, heterosexual marriage being the cornerstone, to symbolize His relationship with His people, thusly, it is an offense against God to devalue; and (2) see solid data to back up the value of marriage and family to society (see the work of Linda Waite, Lucy Flower Professor of Urban Sociology at the University of Chicago). In short, Muder makes the “conservative” claim seem obtuse and based merely on the unfounded pre-commitment to an obligation society. He so much as says this on page 28, “If I see Western civilization as a network of obligations with millions and millions of people filling timeless roles for no reason other than the expectation that everyone else will fill their own timeless roles, then I might suspect that the whole structure was about to come down.” Muder’s despair might be appropriate if the only reason for meeting obligations was the expectation that everyone else was going to fulfill theirs. However, as an Evangelical, I find that it is not in avoiding obligations and choosing commitments that is the side-step of this despair. Actually, it is the fulfillment of all obligations in Jesus of Nazareth and trusting Him in my bearing witness to his unique glory and absolute sufficiency that provides real hope—hope beyond all despair and beyond even death. Of course, this might sound foolish to “religous liberals”.

Third, Muder uses Ault’s claim that members “generally held such views before they were ‘saved’” in support of his conclusion that they are already committed to obligations from above rather than autonomous choice from within. While Muder is right that James Ault’s Spirit and Flesh attempts to look at an appropriately termed fundamentalist Baptist community from the inside, Muder fails to provide an important point made in the book. In attempting to account for what drew conservatives to a Fundamentalist congregation, Ault concludes it is the church’s ability to bring peace to their troubled marriages. In fact, the church’s ability to save marriages was a key predictor of those who stayed in the church and those who left. It was the choice to seek help for a troubled marriage that was directly correlated with involvement in the Fundamentalist church. Of course, this choice is a problem for Muder, who'd, rather than consider this as a legitimate choice, assert, “Scriptural support for their more controversial positions is often scant and open to alternate interpretations.”

Fourth, Muder’s folly is exhibited in his quote of Ault:
Liberally minded people often do not realize…that rather than respecting fundamentalists’ views, they are denying them by insisting that religious beliefs or ethical standards be seen as personal, private matters we must all tolerate in one another—that moral standards are relative, not absolute.
While claiming to highly value tolerance and yet mocking belief in absolute moral standards, in this article Muder serves as an example of Ault’s point. Muder chooses intolerance of a view that admittedly holds to moral absolutes (based on a necessary being and the stewardship of the revelation of Jesus of Nazareth). Even while trying to exhibit a lesson in tolerance, by misrepresenting Evangelicalism and setting up quite a straw man, Muder merely mocks it.

In conclusion, there are some redeeming points to Muder’s good try. I agree that Fundamentalist groups such as the Christian Coalition are struggling to deal with the consequences of their failure to establish a theocracy. Furthermore, I appreciate the author’s willingness to try to consider a “religious conservative” worldview. At least he sees the need to. However, from 10,000 feet this article seems to be a mere attempt at understanding while failing to do so—-fundamentally.


Who's afraid of understanding?