Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Keller on Lewis on Humility

This is a pretty good piece from Tim Keller in Christianity Today, even without the frequent Lewis quotes. An excerpt:

We are on slippery ground because humility cannot be attained directly. Once we become aware of the poison of pride, we begin to notice it all around us. We hear it in the sarcastic, snarky voices in newspaper columns and weblogs. We see it in civic, cultural, and business leaders who never admit weakness or failure. We see it in our neighbors and some friends with their jealousy, self-pity, and boasting.

And so we vow not to talk or act like that. If we then notice "a humble turn of mind" in ourselves, we immediately become smug—but that is pride in our humility. If we catch ourselves doing that we will be particularly impressed with how nuanced and subtle we have become. Humility is so shy. If you begin talking about it, it leaves. To even ask the question, "Am I humble?" is to not be so. Examining your own heart, even for pride, often leads to being proud about your diligence and circumspection.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Christmas a Pagan Holiday? Bah, Humbug!
Justin Taylor links to this good and common sense from R.C. Sproul. Here's a taste:
Sure, Christmas is a time of commerce. The department stores are decorated to the hilt, the ad pages of the newspapers swell in size, and we tick off the number of shopping days left until Christmas. But why all the commerce? The high degree of commerce at Christmas is driven by one thing: the buying of gifts for others. To present our friends and families with gifts is not an ugly, ignoble vice. It incarnates the amorphous "spirit of Christmas." The tradition rests ultimately on the supreme gift God has given the world. God so loved the world, the Bible says, that He gave His only begotten Son. The giving of gifts is a marvelous response to the receiving of such a gift. For one day a year at least, we taste the sweetness inherent in the truth that it is more blessed to give than to receive.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

More Fun With Facebook Ads
Yeah, me too. I'm so sick of all those Latin Christmas albums out there performed by fake clergymen.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

That Sound of Rustling Pages
you hear all across America is some of us thumbing through our newer Tim LaHaye prophecy library and even our old dusty Hal Lindsey Late-Great books. Read this.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Old Books and New Ideas

I've added a new label representing a theme I'm fond of, "Old Books." It seems that at almost any given time I've got at least one in the stack by the fireplace that I'm working my way through. Sometimes I buy new editions of old books, but the real prize is always the old edition, as close to the 1st Edition as possible.

My most recent finds in the second category happened at a local library book sale a couple of weeks ago. Big room full of old books, grocery bag full: $5.00. What a deal. So I loaded up an over-sized 1880's 3-volume set of Washington Irving (haven't read anything in them yet, just enjoy looking at them with their beautiful embossing and engraved illustrations), and among a half-dozen others, a copy of E. Stanley Jones The Christ of the Indian Road c. 1925. That one is fascinating in the Theological category and will merit a later post.

A lot of the old books around me right now are, predictably, Chesterton books. Now an official member of the American Chesterton Society, I find my self prepping for the monthly discussion group with whatever piece of his work is on the agenda.

Today's first old book is one of them, and one that led me straight to the second, a truly old classic by Henry James—picked up at some long-forgotten garage or book sale and languishing on my shelf until recently.

1. Tremendous Trifles by G.K. Chesterton 1909

GKC inquirers, start here! This excellent collection (download here) of short articles from the London Illustrated News captures the essence of Chesterton. On the idea of Seeing, particularly the smaller things of the world :
...the object of my school is to show how many extraordinary things even a lazy and ordinary man may see if he can spur himself to the single activity of seeing.
Everything is in an attitude of mind; and at this moment I am in a comfortable attitude. I will sit still and let the marvels and the adventures settle on me like flies. There are plenty of them, I assure you. The world will never starve for want of wonders; but only for want of wonder.
The 39 essays that follow are funny, poignant and off the wall.

One not to miss: The Twelve Men—on how some things are just too important to leave to the experts.

Another: The Red Angel, in wonderful support of reading fairy tales and scary stories to kids. His one exception? My next old book...

2. The Turn of the Screw by Henry James 1898

James was a contemporary of GKC and brother of the "father of pragmatism," philosopher William James, a quirky fellow in his own right. Chesterton summarized Henry's effort:
It describes two innocent children gradually growing at once omniscient and half-witted under the influence of the foul ghosts of a groom and a governess. As I say, I doubt whether Mr. Henry James ought to have published it (no, it is not indecent, do not buy it; it is a spiritual matter)...
So, of course I had to read it. It's terrible. Not all old books are good books. My complaint is not about ghostliness, or preternatural terror, but that the author lead me on only to abandon me at the end. The reader feels the evil atmosphere but is left wondering: Were the horrors real or only in the mind of the narrator? Was the evil in the perceiving or that which was perceived? That may have been James' intent, and perhaps even his genius, I don't know. Like so much modern story-telling and unlike good fairy tales and good stories of terror, it ends without resolution or moral point of view. That's the reason, I suppose, for Chesterton's warning that it was a "spiritual matter."

On the plus side, my old-old copy is mint condition from the Everyman Library with dust jacket still intact!

Next old book: The Christ of the Indian Road by E. Stanley Jones, and old book with ideas that will appeal to some modern Christians and appall others. It did a little of both to me.

Monday, December 01, 2008

One of the Dumber Things I've Done
The first picture is what a standard trash bin looks like at my house.
The second shows what it looks like after somebody (me) puts ashes from the outdoor fire pit in it under the mistaken impression that there were no live coals remaining.
The third shows what happens to a cedar fence where a conflagration of this type takes place.
Not pictured, the three Dugan children at home while the arsonist was away, each playing a key role in averting greater disaster. Beth, who noticed the unusual glow above the fence gate and alerted Katie, who called us immediately while alerting Tim (the only Boy Scout in the house) who raced to the scene with an extinguisher and put it out.
Also not pictured, the wife exercising heroic restraint as she puts the best construction on it all and speaks to me with kindness and respect (refusing to ask the appropriate "what were you thinking" series of questions) gently suggesting possible venues where the purchase of a metal ash can might be accomplished. We're thinking Home Depot.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Broad-minded Tolerance or Tyranny?
Why do many of us see the gay marriage agenda as the latter and yet feel the sting of being called narrow minded and intolerant? Excellent analysis of the same-sex marriage debate from S.T. Karnick. He begins:
From the beginning, the debate over “same-sex marriage” has been one of those topsy-turvy issues in which the side that is truly tolerant and fair has been characterized as narrow-minded and oppressive, while the side that is intolerant and blatantly coercive has been depicted as open-minded and sympathetic.

Favoring government-enforced recognition of same-sex “marriage” is not, as the media invariably characterize it, a kindly, liberal-minded position, but instead a fierce, coercive, intolerant one. Despite their agonized complaints about the refusal of the majority of Americans to give in on the subject, those who advocate government recognition of same-sex “marriage” want to use coercion to deny other people their fundamental rights.

And, of course, change is coming.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Change Has Come
There is much to say about what yesterday's election means for America, the church, the unborn and the world. But in the third paragraph of Barack Obama's victory speech last night, a watershed moment came and went almost without notice.
It's the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled — Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been a collection of red states and blue states; we are, and always will be, the United States of America.
Don't miss the significance of this sentence. For the first time in American history, the declaration that approval—not mere tolerance, not simply the recognition that private sins are none of anybody's business in the public square, but hearty approval—has now been granted to a particular class of moral misbehavior. Along with gender, racial origin, socio-economic status, physical disability or political viewpoint, homosexual activity is, in the new president's view, elevated to equally protected and respected legitimacy in the United States.

The reason the statement slides by with so little notice is of course that it's been a long time coming, and is already the de facto assumption of popular culture. But make no mistake, a corner has been turned. We have been asked first to tolerate, then accept, and now honor.

Those Christians who still take seriously the Epistle to the Romans' description of godlessness and cultural decay are neither naive nor surprised. They understand that sin of every kind is rampant around us—and sometimes within us—and that all sin puts all people in peril of the judgment of God, that the line between good and evil runs through the middle of every human heart. But with the sobering implications of Obama's statement, they also understand that another full rotation in the downward spiral of America is now complete.
...and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them. —Romans 1:32 NAS

Monday, November 03, 2008

The Point of No Return
What is at stake in tomorrow's election cannot be overstated. On any front; the protection of life, the rule of law, national security, economic freedom, individual liberty. As Thomas Sowell points out in this series of short interview segments, a Barack Obama presidency will almost certainly take us past the failsafe point in more than one category. Do not miss segment five. Then pray, then vote, then pray again.
On the Day Before The Election, First Things First
Happy 14th Birthday to my youngest! You are wonderful!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Al Franken and Christianity
Just imagine the political decapitation if a candidate for the U.S. Senate had written something this disparaging of the Religion Of Peace and its prophet.
C.S. Lewis on Politics Part 2
From God in the Dock, Is Progress Possible?
I believe a man is happier, and happy in a richer way, if he has the "freeborn" mind. But I doubt whether he can have this without economic independence, which the new society is abolishing.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

C.S. Lewis on Politics Part 1
In feeble resistance to the tidal wave poised to engulf us all, a series of quotes from gentle C.S. on Liberalism—the madness of modernity, and the twilight of freedom.
Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies."
—from The Humanitarian Theory of Punishment, God in the Dock

Friday, October 03, 2008

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Creepiest Political Advertising Thus Far

Take a look at this, Mr. Orwell.
(This post is properly filed under Politics AND Religion.)

Monday, September 29, 2008

One Morning at the Super America Station

You pull in. Two pumps, two choices, green and red.

The green pump? No, not what you need. Next pump.

The red one? Not sure how this will affect mileage...

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Ending a Blogging Hiatus

There's so much to blather about with the onset of this most unusual political/meteorological/financial season we're in, that I truly don't know where to begin. So I'll show some wonderful grandson pictures! Enjoy. He just celebrated Birthday Uno...

(Cranky, cynical, highly-partisan posts on the state of Politics and Religion to follow)

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Re-Considering Rick Warren

Expecting the worst (in terms of the popular trend of evangelical pandering to the political left out of embarrassment for being seen as part of the religious right) from the Saddleback forum a couple of weeks ago, I was actually quite impressed with Warren's questions for the candidates and his post-show comments here and there.

Here is a WSJ interview with more encouragement for my cautiously growing respect. Sample:
In our interview, he recalls that tolerance used to be the idea that you "treat others with respect." Now, he laments, it has come to mean that "all ideas are equally valid." And so you can begin to understand why some people today are not happy with the idea of tolerance. But Mr. Warren aims to return Americans to that old view. Despite his calm demeanor, his easy laugh and his casual dress, there doesn't seem to be a relativist bone in Mr. Warren's body.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Lakeland "Outpouring" Analysis from Charisma
We have been watching with fascination and at times horror for several months the satellite TV (GodTV) coverage of the Todd Bentley thing in Florida. What did it mean? Is this Christianity? Is there something wrong with me for finding it appalling? Now that it has imploded, Charisma editor J. Lee Grady offers a post mortem, asks the right questions, and pretty much says what needs to be said. God bless him, good stuff.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Happy Birthday Mrs. D!

You are an amazing person, wife, mother, grandma, teacher, leader, friend, blogger, book-keeper, Bible student, hostess, party-thrower, googler, fearless spokesperson, writer, story-teller, trend analyst, maker of clam chowder, food expert, trip-planner, weeper-with-those-who-weep, smeller of rats, rejoicer-with-those-who rejoice, speed-related card games player, political junkie, expert on all things MWSmith, gift giver, and the list goes on...

This is your day!
Mr. D

P.S. Say Happy Birthday to her here.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

In Praise of Great Hymns

On her recent "Poetry Monday" Mrs. D has posted the lyrics to Come Thou Fount of Many Blessings, one that we've both rediscovered lately. The verse I especially love is:
O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.
Alister McGrath in Christianity's Dangerous Idea notes that hymn writing has not come easy for all branches of Protestantism. The Puritan Cotton Mather (1663-1728) meant well but came up with the following: (you might want to pull out all the stops on the pipe organ during this stanza)
Ye monsters of the bubbling deep
Your Maker's praises spout;
Up from the sands ye codlings peep,
And wag your tails about.
McGrath notes "It certainly rhymes. But it's not exactly inspirational."


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Magical Moments on Facebook

As a newcomer to facebook.com, I'm slightly confused about the point of it all but flattered that a few people are willing to be my friends (come to think of it—just like high school!). The ads at the side of the page are interesting aren't they? Here are two recent ones:

You know, I think I just may rent a log homes, or a cool houseboats or something...

I'm not sure how this might compare to a Protestant diamond. Probably has more facets but not quite as much clarity?

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Things People Say When They Mean the Opposite Part II

I forgot about this one:

"A light bulb went off in my head" = "A light bulb went ON in my head"
What you mean is that a sudden bright idea occurred to you, illuminating your thought processes in some way. When a light bulb "goes off" greater darkness is naturally the result. The only bulb that illuminates when it goes off is a flash bulb (people under 30 may need to google "flash bulb") and therefore the phrase "a flash bulb went off in my head" works fine. That's the original figure of speech I think.

and one more in common usage:

"this new idea is based off something" = "this new idea is based ON something"
What we mean is that our new thought begins with and is built upon an existing foundation. A base is a thing on which multiple structures might all be anchored, including our new one. A new idea might "spin off" an older one or "take off" from it, but to say that our innovation is "based off" something implies the opposite sense while making no sense.

"Don't some of these verbally priggish bloggers have something better to do?"

Yes, and we'll get back to it now.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Things People Say When They Actually Mean Very Nearly the Opposite

I'm fascinated with a recent upturn in a particular phenomenon of popular language. The true meaning of an expression is not merely modified or flavored or colored to cast the speaker in a better light—but shamelessly mis-stated. A couple of random examples:

In religious/spiritual circles

"I am so humbled..." = "I am so very proud..."
This one drives me crazy. Quite often it is perfectly legitimate that the speaker feel honored, gratified, deeply satisfied with whatever recognition or favorable response has come to him. Nobody would fault him for expressing it as "Thank you! I am so honored...". So why the faux-humility? You're not humbled. When you think you deserve accolades and get the opposite, that's humbling.

In advertising (always a rich source of verbal buffoonery)

"You're pre-approved" = "You're absolutely NOT pre-approved"
You might be approved later, post-approved, but you will in fact jump through many hoops to achieve this status.

"For your convenience" = "For our convenience"
The "convenience" line is usually a tip-off that some customary feature or benefit has been removed. "We no longer serve free ice-water, but for your convenience bottled water may be purchased from the food case."

In general

"It's a win/win situation" = "I will win/you probably won't"
All pyramid schemes and red-hot real estate opportunities are built on this trusty foundation.

"It's not about the money" = "It's about the money"
Nuff said.

I would of course be so humbled to hear suggestions and additions from others...for your convenience.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Chesterton on The World of Obama

Public Radio was fairly breathless all day Thursday as the question "which Democrat will we support?" had been answered at last. As far as most in the media are concerned, the big political questions of 2008 are now resolved. It's time for healing and forward-looking optimism, for reaching out across our differences, working together to elect Obama (virtually a foregone conclusion) in the Fall. And the mood is contagious. All up and down the Malibu beach front broad consensus among ordinary Americans is already palpable. Change at last! Peace and safety! Graduate school, healthcare and hybrids for all! Obama!

For that tiny minority with a rudimentary understanding of the American experiment and a vague consciousness of history, G.K. Chesterton's 83 year old rejoinder is a more accurate assessment of where we may actually stand, and what sort of clouds may be on our horizon. He was addressing those who assume and trust in the notion of inevitable "progress" (Change):
If there is one fact we really can prove, from the history that we really do know, it is that despotism can be a development, often a late development and very often indeed the end of societies that have been highly democratic. A despotism may almost be defined as a tired democracy. As fatigue falls on a community, the citizens are less inclined for that eternal vigilance which has truly been called the price of liberty; and they prefer to arm only one single sentinel to watch the city while they sleep.
—The Everlasting Man: Chapter 3 The Antiquity of Civilization 1925

Friday, May 30, 2008

The Greek Language, Roman Roads and Starbucks
Musings over a cup of Pike Place Roast

What do all these have in common? Much has been made by Biblical commentators of significant historical providences during an otherwise silent inter-testamental period—between the last book of the Old Testament and the coming of Christ. During that 400 years, two grand empires left behind two great legacies transforming both the speed and effectiveness of communication in the Mediterranean world. Alexander provided the Greek language as the common denominator of commerce and learning, the Romans well-built roads and the freedom to travel on them. Both were intended for human conquest, control and profit, but employed by the feet and pens of the Apostles, invaluable to the spread of the Christian gospel. The rest is world-turned-upside-down history.

Starbucks? Assuming that Common Grace still abounds, I ask what else might be identified, particularly in our time, as useful cultural provisions for the spread of Christianity and the edification of the church? Certainly the printed word, globe-shrinking transportation, radio, television, electronic media, the internet. But one recent development not to be underestimated here in America is the Coffee Shop. "Starbucks," you say? With their ever-so-secular feng shui and nasty new little mermaid logo? Remember, there was nothing particularly Christian about Koine Greek or Roman pavement, and both conveyed many things pagan while at the same time serving infinitely higher purposes. Okay, if you don't like the Seattle original, think Caribou (as I most often do), or Dunn Bros. or whatever else is available where you are, but do think about what the genre has accomplished for human interaction.

What the coffee shop has done for the socially starved and spiritually hungry is remarkable. It has provided a thrifty option, a convenient excuse, a ubiquitous venue for people to get together and talk, read and debate, confess and pray and commiserate and counsel and edify and rebuke and encourage the faint-hearted and weep and laugh and strategize and reflect and google and blog and evangelize and study, test the spirits, examine the scriptures to see if these things be so, ask questions and give answers for the hope that lies within us. In the atmosphere of Starbucks white noise confidentiality, put a coffee cup in my hand, I'm ready to talk.

What did we do before coffee shops? We did lunch and dinner; time-pressure and expense. Bars and pubs; noisy and not usually a good idea. We had people over; still do, but it gets complicated and doesn't happen as readily or spontaneously as meeting at a neutral location. We talked after church; surface-y and truncated, unsatisfying. We used the phone; not as good as face-to-face, and curiously enough, nearly impossible for men. We wrote letters; no we didn't, that was a previous generation.

As on Roman roads and most religious television (now there's a botched providential opportunity!), there are time-wasters, thieves and conspirators too, so the coffee shop can be used for the spread of the worthless and even harmful, but used for good it's just so easy. "Let's meet for coffee" is much more appealing than "can we talk?" So I think it's a 21st Century divine providence. By the way, I say don't sweat the new logo, just appreciate the ambiance and the opportunities and enjoy.

The coffee is better than church basement percolated Folgers too.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Grandson Escapes!
Just heard from his mom that after leaving him buckled in his bouncy chair for a little while to take care of things in another room, this is what she found upon her return!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Fun With the Morning Talk Shows
Flipping from NBC's Today Show...
where economist Matt Lauer grilled the CEO of Exxon—scolding him for the nefarious practice of earning a profit for his shareholders and not ignoring the laws of supply and demand. Actually, I think all the supply and demand talk went right over Matt's head. I wonder how he would respond if the handlers of his millions in investments came back and said, "Oh by the way, Mr. Lauer, we thought you were earning too much on this one so we gave your dividend away to somebody who needs it more."
..to Fox and Friends...
where Harry Connick, Jr. live from the Big Easy described one of the post-Katrina houses he helped build for a friend. When asked whether he would ever be invited to stay there,
Connick responds: "That remains to be undecided."

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Even "Christian" Service?
Having pondered for some time the concept of "The World in the Church," and how the secular idolatry of personal ambition, the "pride of life," worms its way even into spiritual enterprises, I find this thought from D.A. Carson's book, A Call to Spiritual Reformation, concise, sobering and dead-on. His topic is glory, Who gets it and in what limited sense it is reflected derivatively in the believer as Christ is "glorified in you" II Thessalonians 1:2:
The Christian’s whole desire, at its best and highest, is that Jesus Christ be praised. It is always a wretched bastardization of our goals when we want to win glory for ourselves instead of for him.... Lying at the heart of all sin is the desire to be the center, to be like God. So if we take on Christian service, and think of such service as the vehicle that will make us central, we have paganized Christian service; we have domesticated Christian living and set it to servitude in a pagan cause. (57–58)
"Paganized Christian service," I suppose, could describe any ministry activity that in the name of the Gospel becomes a vehicle for personal advancement—that motivates participants by an appeal to a need for recognition or to the attractiveness of being "at the center" of a special elite within the ranks.

Sometimes the phenomenon is accompanied by glaring doctrinal, financial or moral deviation—but not every time. Sadly, since 1st century Galatia there have always been preachers, sects and fringe churches with questionable motives. They followed St. Paul all over Asia and beyond. In anything-goes 21st Century America all varieties abound, but I'm convinced it's not just prosperity groups and the patently weird who set Christian activity into "servitude in a pagan cause."

The system works. Personal ambition is an effective motivator. But it is not Christian, and it is a strange bedfellow with Christian doctrine. Yet precious Christian truth is sometimes called into the service of paganized Christianity. Unity. Discipline. Holiness. Even a passionate emphasis on the Cross of Christ and the extirpation of indwelling sin becomes a convenient tool in the hands of some for the advancement of self and the manipulation of others—lots of humility talk, in reality practicing anything but. Mercifully, there are always tell-tale outward signs of corruption on the inside of these gleaming white dishes. Look carefully and Pharisaical roots are showing.

Watch for subtle legalism; a written or unwritten code of extra-biblical conformity necessary to fit in. Watch for evidence of sectarianism; inwardness, group loyalty and pride that goes beyond mere fraternity. And then authoritarianism; an odd preoccupation with "apostles'" and elders' authority and your submission. Without exception, some kind of highly concentrated pyramid structure inevitably emerges to protect leadership and provide a pathway and footholds for the attention-needy novice on his way up. Elitism is another clue. Are there secretive rings within rings inside the church or organization through which a person must progress toward full acceptance?

I'm more convinced than ever that polity is a reliable objective clue to the health of a church. In any church where the ekklesia, the congregation gathered has no meaningful place, where an imperious leader or group of leaders rule absolutely, as in so many apostolic and shepherding groups even within evangelicalism, the culture-medium is perfect for the kind of bastardization Carson describes—and worse.

Incidentally, the blade cuts in many directions. Personality-driven seeker churches and emergent churches are in danger, some apostolic groups for sure, but surprisingly, there may be as much to worry about among the young Reformed reaction to Emergent. There is a troubling growth of not-very-reformed authoritarian chatter among some of them, and at least one up-and-coming new "Reformed" denomination with very ominous symptoms. Almost as if the right reaction against the emergent loss of scriptural authority is to assert your own authority. Yikes! But that's a topic for another day.
But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. Matthew 20:25, 26

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Fun With Bumper Stickers
Sometimes it's the juxtaposition of two that provides the entertainment. Yesterday I saw these two placed inches apart on the back of a mini-van:

Yes, when I do pay attention to Minnesota Public Radio I'm frequently outraged.

Friday, April 18, 2008

"What Should They Regard as Too Obscene...?"

This, from the Yale Daily News, pointed out by Gary Miller over at TVM and others (filed under "Western Culture—It was one heck of a run") apparently is not.

A Bible perspective on the nature of this "art":
"And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done." Romans 1:28 ESV
on the tragedy of the lost soul of an "artist:"
"...having no hope and without God in the world." Ephesians 2:12
on the complicity of others at Jonathan Edwards' Yale:
"...they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them." Romans 1:32

From C.S. Lewis in That Hideous Strength, describing a fictitious regime whose aim in the absence of God, is to reinvent Man as his own God:
What should they find incredible, since they believed no longer in a rational universe? What should they regard as too obscene, since they held that all morality was a mere subjective by-product of the physical and economic situations of men? The time was ripe. From the point of view which is accepted in Hell, the whole history of the earth had led up to this moment.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Limitations of Spell-Check
Eye halve spell check too sea and ketch the miss steaks the I can knot sea. Due ewe?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Blogging Hiatus Apparently Ends

Too busy to do anything but check in on other peoples blogs for the last few weeks, I'm back with a few random links and observations.

Random L & O #1: I'm enjoying the work of Os Guinness again, after hearing him speak on Minnesota Public Radio's Westminster Town Hall Forum last week. An earlier MacLaurin Institute talk entitled "Can Freedom Last Forever?" explores similar themes and goes a little deeper. He's an Englishman (sort of modern-day de Tocqueville) who articulates what America is and needs better than most American pundits. He writes and speaks on a broad range of cultural and spiritual topics.

Random L & O #2: I love quotations, pointed and to the point. Mind and Culture from the Cambridge Study Center is a drawer full of sharp knives. Two examples:

Anti-intellectualism is a disposition to discount the importance of truth and the life of the mind. Living in a sensuous culture and an increasingly emotional democracy, American evangelicals in the last generation have simultaneously toned up their bodies and dumbed down their minds. The result? Many suffer from a modern form of what the ancient stoics called "mental hedonism"-having fit bodies but fat minds.
- Os Guinness

What luck for rulers that men do not think.
- Adolf Hitler

Random L & O #3: Psalm 33:5 "He loveth righteousness and judgment: the earth is full of the goodness of the LORD." KJV

Friday, March 21, 2008

It's Springtime in Minnesota!

My driveway on the second day of Spring, 2008.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Larry Norman and G.K. Chesterton
Dale Ahlquist, founder of the American Chesterton Society and acting czar of the Twin Cities Chesterton Society, offers this 2005 interview with LN regarding GKC and other matters contemporary Christian. Troubled soul and controversial though he was, Norman is intellectually impressive and quite perceptive about the state of things in popular Christianity in this Gilbert Magazine piece. Regarding Father Brown (GKC's detective protagonist):
...But when I began reading the Father Brown volume, I realized that nothing is more natural than a Christian doing detective work.
GM: How’s that?
LN: Because that’s what each of us is called to do; to search the scriptures, and test the spirit, and follow the light. In essence, to become a converted believer is a miracle beyond our intention. But to carry on from the cross and find out what it means to be a Christian requires that we sleuth our way through the misdirection of modern religious culture and uncover the crimes of our own heart and amass the evidence against ourselves so that we can throw ourselves upon the mercy of the court, which is God’s own unconditional love. So in the end, there is no penance required for our conversion itself, though we may continue to pay the price for our previous choices.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Happy(?) St. Patrick's Day!

"Being Irish, he had an abiding sense of tragedy, which sustained him through temporary periods of joy."

—William Butler Yeats

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Reading and Listening, (Not Much Watching)

Pagan Christianity by Frank Viola, George Barna
More in-depth analysis will follow, but finished this one in a few sittings over 2 days with great interest. Off the top impressions: A lot of sacred cow tipping, most of it legitimate and even refreshing, some of it perhaps unnecessarily picky (the chapter on the modern concept of Pastor and how that function even in Reformed and evangelical tradition has devolved into a de facto priesthood class is spot-on and powerful, whereas the chapter on the pagan roots of dressing up for church seems less convincing); voluminous foot-notes and references make up for the deficiency of same in Barna's earlier (and related) title Revolution; a little broad-brushing of church history in order to make the case, which is generally a good one; the only alternative offered for "doing church" is house church—a credible one but I still think there are other models that adequately dispense with most of the dispensable excesses of modern American evangelicalism.
Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton
Again, this time for discussion at the Twin Cities Chesterton Society meeting in March. The book is 100 years old this year, and more timely and relevant than today's paper. The introduction alone is a hoot. The chapter entitled The Suicide of Thought is worth the price of the book. My daughter Katie (19) has now joined the eclectic company of Chestertonians meeting at the University Club in St. Paul. Cool!
The Passion of Jesus Christ by John Piper
Getting ready for Easter, 50 reasons why Christ had to suffer and die. Biblical, devotional, wonderful.

Brandi Carlile The Story. A perfect mix of electric alternative and old finger picking (!?!) from a twenty-something Seattle song-writer. The title track is electrifying.
Tommy Emmanuel The Endless Road. Takes acoustic finger picking to unbelievable heights.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Another Blog Forecast

And oh...the last time I issued one of those, such a kerfuffle! (thanks to Gary Miller over at Truth vs. the Machine for teaching me that wonderful word)...but I digress.

I have yet to read a single word of the new George Barna/Frank Viola tome Pagan Christianity, but I shall, and this reporter promises to faithfully render a thoughtful review and in-depth analysis for the enjoyment of all seven of you. OK, all six of you.

Barna's first book (Revolution) on the subject of "what's going on in the church/where is it headed?" was somewhat weakly data-supported considering the author's credentials, but nevertheless a wonderful exploration of the topic. It was of course virulently excoriated by all the usual suspects—those who have a career interest in the declining mega-church, seeker-church, authoritarian-church, corporate-church status quo—because it had the temerity to imply that many of the practitioners and gate-keepers of American evangelicalism may not be—gulp—absolutely necessary! That the wind of the Holy Spirit "blows where it lists," that believers can gather and function and the Church be engaged outside the hallowed worship centers and rented auditoriums, and that "where the spirit of the Lord is there is liberty." Don't panic, guys, the sun country Relevance and Next Gen Church Growth convocation is still on....lap-top, check...soul patch, check...snorkel & fins, check...Driscoll book for autograph, check....

(Note: If I knew how to put smiley faces all over, I wouldn't sound so mean-spirited. >emoticon here< I love the Church, even when it's silly!)

Barna's summary research on the subject can be read here. I am having some evil fun with one (slightly unfairly isolated) finding:
Among the pastors least likely to support the legitimacy of house churches were pastors who earn more than $75,000 annually;>emoticon with crooked smile<

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

"I'm Mel-l-l-ting!!"
The Rest of What Lord Acton Said
His over-quoted but ever-true dictum about "power corrupting" is not usually read in the context of what precedes it. Interesting.
“I cannot accept, your canon that we are to judge pope and king unlike other men, with a favorable presumption that they do no wrong. If there is any presumption, it is the other way against holders of power…
Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”

Friday, February 15, 2008

Tabletalk on C.S. Lewis
Ligonier Ministries (R.C. Sproul & Co.) has dedicated an issue to the life and work of CSL. A rather handsome and readable page-turning version of it is online here. Tabletalk is a monthly(?) devotional magazine I used to get. I always enjoyed it, though I don't find myself quite in it's theological camp always. Growing up Arminian you sometimes need a shot of Calvin & Co. to keep you healthy! A.W. Tozer has a line about that somewhere. (Anybody know where/what that is?) In any case, this is a nice issue.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Vote Harding

Ran into my friend Chuck Chalberg, historian and Chestertonian extraordinaire at the local coffee shop this morning. Now it so happens that in an early '90s fit of apoplectic reaction against the Mpls. Star-Tribune, we decided we just couldn't take it any more, so we don't*—but I'm grateful that Prof. Chalberg pointed me to his piece on Sunday's op-ed page, wondering about what our candidate selection process has become.
*Mrs. D once nailed it in an off-the-cuff one-liner to a Star-Trib phone salesman: "Why would I re-subscribe? I don't like your politics and I don't own a bird."

Saturday, February 02, 2008

A Book About Nothing
On a tip from my niece, I've re-discovered the short stories of P.G. Wodehouse [1881-1975], specifically the Jeeves stories. Jeeves is the original quintessentially capable and nearly omniscient butler, prototype for any number of movie and sit-com characters. The cast of impossibly vain and shallow (but largely harmless and lovable) characters actually remind me of Seinfeld.
Each plot revolves around some minor mess young Bertie Wooster has gotten himself into and Jeeves, his valet, gets him out of. As in TV sit-coms, the principals seem to exist at perpetual leisure and 1920's English social situations provide most of the setting. Sort of Great Gatsby without foreboding and dark cynicism. Cleverly written, fast-moving, mindless entertainment. I'm enjoying it. Sample dialogue:

"Bertie," he said, "I want your advice."
"Carry on."
"At least, not your advice, because that wouldn't be much good to anybody. I mean, you're a pretty consummate old ass, aren't you? Not that I want to hurt your feelings, of course."
"No, no, I see that."
"What I wish you would do is put the whole thing to that fellow Jeeves of yours, and see what he suggests."

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

You Must Read This
Not just because the writer is my daughter....

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

January 22, 2008: 35 Years of Divine Mercy

But the clock is ticking. Consider these facts:

During 2004, in the U.S.

  • One baby is aborted every 24 seconds

  • 147 babies are aborted every hour

  • 3,542 babies are aborted every day

  • 24,865 babies are aborted every week

  • 107,750 babies are aborted every month

It's not a Democrat vs. Republican issue—even though one party's record is significantly more dismal than the other. My Republican Congressman, Jim Ramstad has exhibited a tin ear and teflon heart on this issue his entire Washington tenure. Any vote I've cast for him has been a "hold-your-nose-keep-a-conservative-majority" compromise—with an uneasy conscience.

May God have mercy on us.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Archaeology Supports the Bible—Again

But there is good news and bad news (or at least sobering news) in the story of this ancient temple seal recently unearthed in Jerusalem.

The good news is that once again the Bible is vindicated as history. The seal spells out the name of a priestly family mentioned in Nehemiah as having been in Babylon during the captivity c. 586 B.C. and then returning with the exiles to Jerusalem.
"The seal of the Temech family gives us a direct connection between archaeology and the biblical sources and serves as actual evidence of a family mentioned in the Bible," she said. "One cannot help being astonished by the credibility of the biblical source as seen by the archaeological find."—Dr. Eliat Mazar
It seems, however, to also depict something sadly prescient of syncretistic, spirit-of-the-age influenced Christianity all around us today. The two figures represent priests serving at an altar of incense—Godly activity perfectly consistent with Old Testament law. But above them "a crescent moon, the symbol of the chief Babylonian god Sin, appears on the top of the altar."

Imagine a logo today featuring a cross and a dollar sign, or...?

Friday, January 04, 2008

Quotable Quotes
From Murray and Spurgeon on the sometimes difficult task of "...rightly dividing the word of truth." (II Tim. 2:15 KJV)
The difference between truth and error is not a chasm but a razor's edge.—John Murray (1898-1975)

Discernment is not a matter of simply telling the difference between what is right and wrong: rather it is the difference between right and almost right. —Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892)
Theology is a tricky business. False teaching throughout the history of Christianity begins with the slightest twisting of a text or diversion from principle, even a minor redefinition of words in favor of the innovator's predilections. The only corrective has been free, open, often excruciating "contending for the faith," sometimes arguing over seeming minutae—"on the razor's edge." Great, solid, resilient doctrines have been formed and clarified in the crucible of controversy from the Jerusalem Council onward. It's been fascinating to me over the last few years of reading (and experience), how in the development of aberrant Christian groups one of the first things insidiously ruled out has always been internal or external doctrinal debate—too "contentious," "divisive" or "distracting" —solidifying the position of leaders but effectively closing the door to any restorative influence, insulating the group from change or growth and ensuring a continuation of error.

In the political sphere you also encounter that "fine line" dividing true public virtue from moral insanity. For example: It is always a Christian virtue to care for the weak and needy. But is it Christian virtue to entrust that task to an ever more oppressive, confiscatory secular state—in the name of Christian virtue? True compassion flows from an ethic which rightly values life originating in the command "Thou shalt not kill." But should that compassion be implemented at the casting aside of another Christian virtue rooted in the command "Thou shalt not steal?" My good friends on the religious left seem to think so.

These are indeed times for discernment—and drawing fine lines.