[%] I have to stop now

Except for the last part of the "nutter" series, this will be my last post about Hugh Hewitt. I promise.

Read this, and then ask yourself if this is the same guy who called Mohammed "the Prophet".

It's too much. I'll become a crank if I ... I mean, I know I'm a crank ... if I keep reading things Hewitt writes, I'm going to keep blogging about them, and because so much of what he says is available via his blog and radioblogger, there will be no end to the blogging. Much more interesting subjects like baptism and the church and the Gospel will suffer.

So Hugh: if you're reading, you win. I can't keep following every randy move you make, so I'm going to go bother someone who I can count on to be the same from one day to the next. Go with God: Inshallah.

(note: let's see if blogging "inshallah" increases web traffic hits ...)

[?] Things on the stove top

I know you are all waiting with baited breath for part 7 of the nutter series, but it got waylaid by the Ferrigno book and a post on another blog about baptism.

Yes: I am going to post the 7th and final part of that series.

Yes: it will be this week.

No: it will not be today.

In the meantime, think about this: can you pose a question to someone without using a question mark? For example, if you behave in a way that challenges someone's view of the world, does that activity pose questions for the other person, or are you merely being inscrutable?

[*] Choosing your friends

After spending a couple of weeks reading and thinking about Hugh Hewitt, I couldn’t miss the fact that he's pushing a book by a fellow named Robert Ferrigno which is called Prayers for the Assassin. I finished reading it last night, and I have to say that Hewitt has now lost the ability to surprise me.

First, about this book: Prayers for the Assassin is simply bad science fiction – the kind which, when translated into a movie, can't hold your attention because it expects so much from you. For example, the two most important characters in the book are former Islamic super soldiers in the classic comic book sense of the term: they underwent extensive physical, psychological and martial training, and then also got a high-tech set of generic and biological cocktails that amped them up with lightning reflexes, enhanced senses, and the ability to heal fast and well.

Sounds like the X-Men, right? The problem is that you have to believe that the society-in-decline portrayed by Ferrigno that is sliding down hill because of its theo-luddite tendancies and intellectual xenophobia has, or has had, the intellectual moxie to invent super-warriors. I'm the kind of guy who can gloss over Capt. Janeway and Lt. Torres trading completely meaningless technological babble to invent a solution for a somewhat-stilted technological problem, but at least they don't pretend that they have any historical relationship with the world I live in today. They live once-upon-a-time in the 24th century; they encounter fairies as easily as they encounter the Borg. Ferrigno wants me to believe that this future is only 30 years away. In other words, if we shuffle through a calendar, he wants me to believe that that main henchman in this book is undergoing these treatments, like, next week. In an Islamic country.


Another hard pill to swallow was the lopsided weight he placed on the lure of Islam. He calls it repeatedly a source of hard, fast answers in a world which seems to have slipped off the objective coil. But throughout the book, he makes it plain that the Islam which apparently has taken over the world is a system of lies within lies – and that those who advance to the highest positions of authority in those religions are various kinds of self-deceivers and liars. That is to say, they don't believe a word of it, and it is only a platform for personal power.

The problem with that is two-fold: the first problem is that even if I conceded that there is no doubt that some abuse of power exists inside the authority structures of Islam, and even if we toss in my clear-throated rejection of the objective truth of Islam, I think it is completely lopsided to try to say that Islam is top-heavy with cynical opportunists who don't really believe in the system they are advocating.

The second problem is that Ferrigno's understanding and portrayal of Christianity is pretty wildly stereotypical. It is clear to me, for example, that Ferrigno has never encountered a single evangelical Christian who was older than 12. His portrayal of the "peckerwoods" as somehow all victims of postmodern license somehow overlooks the fact that in the contemporary landscape, it is the evangelical Christians who are standing up for some kind of moral compass in our society. And you read it here first: his portrayal of Catholics is shameful. Whether you're a hard-reformed advocate or not, to read Ferrigno's description of Catholics as the cause of moral decay in the sense he presents it is simply far-fetched and somewhat insulting to what they represent sociologically.

There are other problems I have with this book in particular, but most of them ought to be chalked up to genre and conceit – I hate the genre that Ferrigno writes in, and I think his conceits are adolescent and wooden. For example, the central antagonist is an ageless schemer with a global network of influence who is working to establish a global kingdom which he will rule. Like Fu Manchu, or the Kingpin. And his chief agent of change is – hmmm, let me think now, what kind of henchman would he employ – an affable psychotic with the same skills the book's hero has, but with a flair for the dramatic and no regard for human life.

See: it's one thing to write comic books, and another thing to try to make comic book plots into 300+ page novels. What Ferrigno uses to fill in is graphic violence and sex – which frankly I can do without in my casual reading.

Which brings me back to why Hewitt has lost the ability to surprise me: he has highly recommended this book. He has endorsed it as "fully imagined". He's enthusiastic about the way this book represents the clash of cultures and the apparently-nuanced view of Islam Ferrigno has presented. But he has overlooked all of the shortcomings of this book – especially from a Christian worldview.

We probably can't expect Hewitt to reproach the secular/atheist cynicism Ferrigno presents in this book. But you would think that Hugh could muster the gumption to refrain from endorsing a book filled with soft-porn titillation and graphic violence.

Well: you would think. Apparently Mr. "In not Of" has forgotten that you ought to be careful in how you pick your friends.

[%] Bugblaster

He says I have never linked to him, so here's a bone. We can't have the Canadians mad at us. They'd start saying nasty things aboot us in French and Inuit.

[#] nutter second helping

Listen: I'm done reminding you to read the original nutter post. You have to keep up on your own; I'm not your summer school teacher.

Yesterday I covered the matter that from inside the Gospel we can see two kinds of work being done in the world – the actual Gospel work, and the work of a backwards Gospel which advocates that if we would only do "X" to charm the world, everyone would fall over for the Gospel and that would be that. There is a type of this backwards gospel I'd like to talk about today which we ought to be very concerned about.

You might be surprised to find out I'm not going to bash the Emergent gospel or the Purpose-Drive® gospel. Let me tell you about this backwards gospel by way of illustration – and to be as transparent as possible, this example is the one communicated to me by the meta-haunter who is now banned whom I referred to in yesterday's post.

Axwell Tiberius, Southern Baptist Deacon
i'll turn you down, pal !
There's a kind of Christian who incessantly listens to Christian talk radio without any regard to who is talking. They play Christian music all the time. They have a plastic fishy on their car. And when you say to them, "hey pal: do you think that's a Christian way to drive," or "Hey bub: turn it down a notch because I'm trying to concentrate over here," or "geez: do you really think that God hates gay sin any more than he hates adulterers or murderers" they crack like a baseball through pane glass and shout you down – as if you have assaulted the Gospel and God.

This kind of Christian is exactly the same kind of Christian as the person who thinks that if they concede enough ground to the culture they can entice the culture to accept the Gospel – the only difference is what they think they have to do to create "good will" for Jesus. The conceder thinks that if I make the Gospel look enough like, for example, Oprah or Dr. Phil, then people will think it is a nice idea and think about it some more; the other guy – the one who makes everything about whether or not he's allowed to be a Christian, and makes everything an equal moral stand about his right to practice "Christianity" (as if having a fishy on your car makes you a Christian, or if listening to R. J. Helton or Southern Gospel makes you a Christian) – has decided that if he does what he does long enough and loud enough, then he has practiced and preached the Gospel, and selah: come Lord Jesus.

This second kind of culture monkey is not any more or less effective or offensive than fat people who wear spandex or parents who take their kids' sports too seriously. But they are employing the same methodology: I'm going to put my "thing" in your face until you give up, and if you try to stop me, well, don't try to stop me. You can't stop me!

And let me say that I have some sympathy for those who run into these people because they get the worst flavor of the backwards gospel, and when they come up to the actual Gospel, it's like smelling tequila for the first time after your first tequila drunk: please, take it away unless you have a clean-up plan and the means to carry it out.

So there's a double warning for those who think they are talking about the Gospel, and a double-sided question for those who don't accept the Gospel to ask themselves.

There's one more thing I need to cover in this series, and I'll get to it tomorrow.

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[?] pwn'ing MSIE

I was going to snark Microsoft because I have updated the template again, but I just can't do it. I can't figure out how to adequately complain about how it is possible for the dominant software developer in the world to have a web browser (and as I said yesterday, I even upgraded to IE 7 beta to make sure I wasn't crazy seeing things) which cannot correctly render objects defined in css. I have to add that I feel dirty after having MSIE 7 Beta open for 3 days. For those of you viewing in MSIE, you can finally see what you're supposed to see (except maybe the League of Reformed Bloggers list, which somehow gets truncated). For those viewing in Firefox, you haven't lost anything this time, so chalk one up for the good guys.

The only people who will be complaining are the luddites -- and get serious now: who's using this kind of hardware anymore? -- who are viewing the blog in -800x600- screen resolution (siteMeter says it's about 12% of you). 800x600? That's like trying to web browser from your Palm for cryin' out loud. I'm not going to support big 17" screens with lousy resolution here. You'll have to scroll to see the sidebar, or you can just live with it.

[%] Hewitt: he's like Harvey Dent

After almost a week of complaining about Hugh Hewitt, I just want to keep the whole discussion in perspective. He had this interview yesterday with Alan Dershowitz.

Let's be honest that I generally can't listen to Prof. Dershowitz talk for more that 30 seconds before I'm ready to blog, but as Hewitt points out there must be something wildly and implausibly wrong when honest-to-Reagan conservatives and Prof. Dershowitz find themselves in unqualified agreement on some issue. The forced resignation of Larry Summers at Harvard is apparently one of those issues, and this interview is top-shelf on the subject.

That's where perspective comes in. My complaints about Hewitt -- which you can find here, here and here -- really are balanced on the notion that Hugh Hewitt is generally a competant journalist and influences others. The excellent focus of this particular interview with Prof. Dershowitz proves out that Hewitt has the moxie to cut through the bull. Why does he not apply that same moxie to the exposition of the Gospel when it comes up? He's like the Batman villain Two Face -- Harvey Dent. He's capable of doing the right thing, but it seems like whether that happens or not depends on a daily coin-toss.

[#] Nutter Entre

This would have been up earlier today, but I've been working on the blog template so that it will look better in IE since like 60% of you can't be bothered to download a browser that actually works properly. And I downloaded the beta of IE 7 and it doesn't do any better a job than IE 6 when it comes to css rendering, so if you're thinking about upgrading your browser GET FIREFOX because I'm not kidding when I tell you it's a lot better.

OK: have you still not read the original nutter post? Do you not understand that I keep linking you back to it because it is foundational to the rest of this week's content? Please just go read it already. I'll wait here.

As I let out of the bag last night, there's a character who haunts the meta here (he has asked me to note for the record "and has been banned", so there you go) who has asked me the question, "How do you create good will for Jesus?" And in order to answer his question, I have been looking over some other posts in the blogosphere and looking at some of the errors that these people are making when compared to the actual Gospel.

As some astute readers pointed out in the meta last night and this morning, one of the salient features of the Gospel is that it is foolishness and an insult to the world. Well, great. That wasn't very complicated, now was it? I guess that means you have time to go read Malkin or something now, right?

Actually, I think that's too-simple a view of the problem and a too-simple a view of the question which has been asked. If we are the bearers of His name, I think we ought to not view the world in merely "in" or "out" terms when most of the cases we encounter daily are actually problems in a range of possibilities.

Now, in the end, you’re either saved or your not, right? So I'm not falling off the apple cart here. The question is if everyone in the church is saved, and if every church is itself standing inside the Gospel which saves. It would be a much less complicated world in which to deliver the Gospel if there were only "Gospel churches" and "unsaved people" and nary the twain shall meet but on the mission field.

What we actually have is a diverse spectrum of entities manifest in this world that stand in some relationship to Christ – with varying degrees of flaws among them. From inside the scope of the Gospel, we ought to see that many people affected by the Gospel are more affected by the culture than by the Gospel – and they gravitate away from the Gospel and toward the culture.

But what that looks like from outside the Gospel is that there are some people who say they have the Gospel who are willing to be cooperative about the matter and "tolerant" or "civil" about it, and some who are inflexible and intolerant and show no good will. To those outside the Gospel, not only does the Gospel look like a bad idea, but it seems to them that many who bear the Gospel are not very good at sharing it because if they were, they'd be more like these ones over here that work hard to make peace with the culture.

That's where the question, "How do you create good will for Jesus?" comes from. It comes from the perception that Jesus ought to offer some kind of concession to people in order to get a fair hearing. If He were reasonable, and if His servants were people who really cared, they'd be finding ways to be more like me – more like I want them to be – rather than whatever it is that they are.

Listen: before I crescendo here, it is important to "get" something. One of the clear admonitions that Jesus gave to the Disciples was that they should love one another. We were not saved in order to create a pro wrestling circuit of drama and violence. There is no doubt that, on balance, Christians could be more Christ-like to one another.

What that does not mean, however, is that "Christ-like" equals "your clubbing buddy Jesus". It also does not mean "your very sensitive creative buddy Jesus". It also does not mean "your ethereal pseudo-buddhist goth buddy Jesus". "Christ-like" means something other than "like me and my friends": in fact, it means the opposite of "the kind of person I would hang out with".

The matter of Christ-likeness is fairly shattering because we can only understand Christ in the context of the Gospel. The Christ like whom we ought to be is the Christ who died for sins, and had the authority to take up his life again. He is not someone who imitated anyone but was in fact the standard which we ought to imitate. And in that, Christ's death teaches us that opposition to sin for the sake of righteousness is worth dying for. There is a sacrificial aspect to that statement, but there is also a love of justice in that statement which is completely lost on the contemporary observer.

And the worst case is when that observer is someone in that gray area in my diagram who thinks they are in the church, but the Christ they advocate is a Christ who doesn't oppose sin but simply overlooks it – in order to make people feel OK.

"Well, you are out of line, cent," comes the objection from the lurker. "Didn't the angels announce Jesus with 'good will'? I think you have no idea what you're saying, and you're just justifying your own snarky attitude."

That is actually a good question. In Luke 2, we read this:

    8And in that vicinity there were shepherds living [out under the open sky] in the field, watching [in shifts] over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood by them, and the glory of the Lord flashed and shone all about them, and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people. 11For to you is born this day in the town of David a Savior, Who is Christ (the Messiah) the Lord!

    12And this will be a sign for you [by which you will recognize Him]: you will find [after searching] a Baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.

    13Then suddenly there appeared with the angel an army of the troops of heaven (a heavenly knighthood), praising God and saying,

    14Glory to God in the highest [heaven], and on earth peace among men with whom He is well pleased [men of goodwill, of His favor].

    15When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing (saying) that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us. (AMP)
What the Angels were saying is that there will be good will among and toward the men with whom God finds favor or gives His grace. This is the same Gospel that is in 1Cor 15 or Acts 2! Good will is not the precursor or the messenger of the Gospel: it is the result of the Gospel. And frankly, anyone who has it backwards doesn't know the Gospel or preach the Gospel.

Now, why did I give all kinds of guff to Hugh Hewitt before I made this critical point? It is because Hewitt is indicative of this backwards Gospel preaching which advocates a backwards Gospel. God doesn't fawn over man in order to entice him into taking a gift which has eternal and universal value, and man as an advocate of what God does doesn't (and can't) trick other men by means of wiley methods and winsome words to rationally concede that God is God.

What happens is that there's this shepherd, and he has these sheep. And all the sheep know His voice, but if one of them is lost and unable to find the flock, the shepherd will leave the others in order to go and do for that one sheep what it cannot do for itself. The Shepherd will go and find that sheep, and carry it on His back, and bring it back to safety by His own means and work.

That is the "good will" of Christ: saving those who cannot save themselves, and doing it because He can and not because somehow the ones He saves have it owed to them. In that, recognizing sin as sin, and pride as pride, and human ignorance as human ignorance, and instability as instability, and so on, is being Christ-like.

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[#] bread with nutter

You read the "I'm a nutter" post, right? You didn't? Go back and read the "I'm a nutter" post.

You may not understand this yet, but I wanted to note for the record that what I am doing this week is not bashing Hugh Hewitt. What I am doing is answering a question asked by a person in my meta in and a few e-mails: "How do you create good will for Jesus?" It is an interesting question which I think is deeply flawed. However, I think it requires a lot of context to answer it completely.

In the meantime, I want you to think about this: what is the Gospel? I know -- one-note tune and you've heard it before. Don't hit shuffle on your iPod yet because I'll bet you have never applied the Gospel to the question of "good will" before.

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I also wanted to add: David Gregory, I revoke my proxy, and if I can take back Helen Thomas, too, let this be the day.

[%] In all fairness to Hewitt ...

... you have to read this interview with Lileks. It is not very frequently that I have to close my door to my office to read a blog entry, but tis is just honest-to-Doug-Wilson laugh-out-loud stuff.

And in real fairness to Hewitt, Lileks gets all the laughs. But it takes a real showman to allow someone this funny to come into your house and upstage you. Brilliant stuff.

[#] The glass ceiling

I'm stuck at about #200 in the Blogdom of God, my face pressed against the glass ceiling, and I look behind me and GOOD BROWNIE has somehow crept up within striking distance and those ... those ... RELEVANT MAGAZINE still stands safely 20 places ahead of me.

I'm really not so much angry at GOOD BROWNIE as I am at those pomos at RELEVANT.

[%] Real Estate Novelists

I just wanted to plug this blog because of the interview she's going to post tomorrow. I'm not sure it's sidebar material, but I can't wait to see how Karen Kingsbury can turn out 10,000 words a day (that's 20 pages a day).

Just for your edification; carry on.

[#] soup and nutter

You read the "I'm a nutter" post, right? You didn't? Go back and read the "I'm a nutter" post.

Annihilius, alleged god-blogger
Now that you're back, we have only a cup of soup today: there's a book called The Embarassed Believer. It's by Hugh Hewitt -- and it's interesting for a couple of reasons. To me, the most important reason is that it is out of print. Do you know how you can tell that at Amazon.com? When Amazon doesn't list a standard retail, it's becuase they cannot get the book under any circumstances from the publisher and you can only buy it used from an Amazon affiliate.

So Hugh's forray into the world of practical apologetics is out of print after only 8 years. Truth be told, part of the reason his book is out of print is that it's part of the Thomas Nelson book gin which produces oceans of material which is then immediately discounted and eventually made obscolete because Nelson can't possibly support the backlist of titles they would have to support for all these marginal titles. So maybe it's not Hewitt's fault for writing a book that went out of print.

But the second most important reason this book gets my attention is that it is Hewitt's follow-up to the astonishing PBS-funded "book" Searching for God in America. This book is also out of print, so at least Hugh's track record is consistent. The real question, I think, is whether Hewitt sees the, um, ambiguity of writing, in 1996, a book which implicitly says that Islam, Judaism and Christianity are all about the same thing, and in 1998 writing a book which, allegedly, says Christians are "too timid" in proclaiming their own faith and values.

Just to make a fair comparison, John MacArthur has a little book called Our Sufficiency in Christ. (you don't have one? You can buy one at that link) It's published by Crossway, and has been in print since 1999. The comparison is fair, btw, because this is the actual advocation of Christian moral reasoning instead of the politically-expedient version we get from Hewitt all the time.

Given what I have read by Hewitt and from Hewitt on the topic of the Christian life, I think he doesn't know very much about it. I'm sure that makes me a bad person -- very unloving to say such a thing. You can see how broken up I am about it.

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[*] Nutter appetizer

You read the "I'm a nutter" post, right? You didn't? Go back and read the "I'm a nutter" post.

OK – now that you're back, apparently on Saturday Hugh Hewitt decided to start dipping a pinky toe in the pool of Christian blogging – with this post. HT: Dan my fellow PyroManiac. And when you read the length of the post itself, you will realize that it's only the pinky-toe of his left foot, which due to an amusement park accident in his childhood, is not much of a pinky toe.

The real gems, of course, are the links – one to the courageous and outspoken John Piper (do you need a link?), and two to a fellow named Rhett Smith, who has demonstrated a kind of courage as well, I guess.

At issue here is the meaning of cancer in the life of the Christian. See: John Piper – who has cancer, in case you didn't know – has come out with an extraordinarily God-focused manifesto regarding what faith in God means even when you have cancer. In particular, I'd like you to read this bullet point from the exhortation:

9. You will waste your cancer if you treat sin as casually as before.

Are your besetting sins as attractive as they were before you had cancer? If so you are wasting your cancer. Cancer is designed to destroy the appetite for sin. Pride, greed, lust, hatred, unforgiveness, impatience, laziness, procrastination—all these are the adversaries that cancer is meant to attack. Don’t just think of battling against cancer. Also think of battling with cancer. All these things are worse enemies than cancer. Don’t waste the power of cancer to crush these foes. Let the presence of eternity make the sins of time look as futile as they really are. “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?” (Luke 9:25).
What is Piper saying here? Is he saying that you have nothing to worry about if you have cancer, or that it is your fault that you have cancer? Of course not! He is saying in particular that Christ is still Christ if you have cancer, and if you are dying with cancer, today is a good day to live as if eternity matters more than the fleeting appeal of sin.

Now, here is what Smith says initially about Piper's manifesto:
Piper reminds me a lot more of Job's friends that sat around criticizing and questioning his faith, rather than sitting with him in his pain and suffering. Doesn't remind me much of Jesus and the ministry that he carried out in his interaction with people in the midst of their suffering. I think the purpose of many of the laments in the Bible, or the book of Lamentations is to reflect a concept of suffering, and that life and pain and death do not always make sense.
Now I will end by saying this. I may have missed Piper's overall message that he was trying to convey in this post. But the overall message was lost to me because of some of the comments that he does make, and the lack of true grace, love and humility that I think he reflects on true suffering.

It is interesting, I think, that Smith finds more comfort in meaningless suffering than he does in Piper's view that suffering has a purpose which belongs to God (speaking of Job, btw, ...). And in that, Smith also has a kind of audacity to say that the belief in pointless, senseless suffering is more gracious, loving, and humble than to say that God is in control of suffering. That's exactly like saying that a dentist who is pulling random teeth out of random patients is a better doctor than the one who is pulling teeth and filling teeth in order to achieve the end of better oral health.

However, Smith does not stop there. It's interesting to read his next post (the third link at Hewitt's page) which says this:

5. I do think and believe that some people come to have Piper's views, but I hold strongly that those our Piper's views, rather than prescriptive for the Christian life.
Translation: Piper's beliefs are idiosyncratic or ahistorical, or both. They are not based on the Bible or on the historical faith.
6. My theology is very different from John Piper's and it is not going to get any closer....but more than likely, it will get farther away.
Which we would expect if Smith thinks Piper is some kind of errant meanie.
7. I am learning a lot from my blogging friends that have different perspectives, and I hope that we can continue to use our energy to dialogue and learn from one another.
As opposed to the Bible and the actual teaching of the apostles.
8. I know there are many in the Protestant-Evangelical camp who are appalled at the concept of the Pope speaking "ex cathedra." So why is is that we allow, or give freedom to a few in evangelical circles to speak the same way..."ex cathedra"...as if they are the only ones who speak, teach, write and preach with absolute clarity?
This is my favorite quote from Smith because it is so inane. How exactly can we compare what Piper has written here with, for example, "Munificentissimus Deus", which is an actual ex cathedra Papal document?

I suspect that Mr. Smith really doesn't have any idea what he's talking about here. However, it would be interesting to see him defend the idea that anyone who thinks he is wrong about Piper is making Piper an infallible source. In fact, I’d be willing to open up the DebateBlog with him on this subject.
9. Do we each have perfect theology, or can we continue to grow and learn from one another?
That's an interesting question for a fellow who has consigned John Piper to the ashcan of theological discourse. If the view that all theologies are equal partners in a perpetual dialog, Piper's views are certainly views that ought to be included – not by any merit I might find in them, but because Smith's view is that we should all "continue to grow and learn from one another".

However, it is already clear that Smith finds nothing that can make him "continue to grow and learn from" John Piper – Piper, in his view, is a kind of scandal and a disreputable messenger who is only grinding an axe. It's funny how people who want us to all just "continue to grow and learn from one another" don't want "one another" to include people who think there is a wrong answer concerning Jesus Christ and the position of God as creator and sustainer of the universe.
10. It might just be me, but I tend to view my own theological understanding as one in constant growth and process, and any type of complete and full clarity on every theological topic in this universe, I will never have.
I don't think Piper's 10 points were even remotely about clarity on every theological topic: it was limited in scope entirely to the personal problem of having cancer from the perspective of a pastor who actually has cancer.

The real irony of Smith's objections lie in his citation of Nouwen. What Nouwen has said here is so utterly parallel to what Piper has said in his 10 points on cancer that if Smith really understands Nouwen at all, he ought to retract his criticism as self-refuting.

What Nouwen here has said – in an unmitigatedly-Catholic way, to be sure – is that in the end, if someone is a pastor or a preacher of God's word, his primary duty is to be honest about the relationship between man and God, and that relationship is essentially a contingent relationship: man is utterly reliant on God to the extent that man is nothing at all without God.

Moreover, Nouwen is also clear that preaching is about expressing this relationship honestly, which is to say truthfully. Piper has not buried the truth under some theological grandstand in his 10 points – and his primary truth is the one Nouwen points out, which is that man must rely 100% on God and see himself 100% derivative of God.

And let's bring this all back home: the reason this obscure blogger (cf. technorati) is getting all this attention from a nutter like me is that Hugh Hewitt thinks this is what "Christians" ought to be saying to people like John Piper. If this is a prime example of what Hewitt thinks is a good Christian methodology – that is, misconstruing someone you say you disagree with, and then building an argument you clearly do not understand in order to refute him – then Hugh is a joke.

I have more on this punchline, but I have to go get my kids for lunch. Think about these things.

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[$] a more valuable service

Glenn Reynolds said this, and I think it's a decent piece in spite of some language.

And don't forget to buy a t-shirt or something.

[#] I'm a nutter

Welcome WorldMagBlog Readers!

Listen: before you read another word of my blog, I'm going to explain something to you that you need to know -- a kind of disclaimer or truth-in-advertising issue.

I am a nutter. If you are a regular reader of this blog, it is entirely possible that you are a nutter, too, but let's be honest: you knew that already. It's the new readers, or the occasional readers, who may not know this on the front-side and need some information to make good choices.

So what is a "nutter"? It's British slang that means "a foolish, eccentric, or crazy person". You're reading a blog, so you probably had some idea that this could be true, given that there are no calm, rational bloggers. But, unlike 99.9% of all bloggers, I am ready to come across and particularly explain my nuttery and admit up-front that it is my nuttery.

In the first place, I am nutty for Jesus. Let me give you an example: yesterday, I was teaching Sunday school for the teens in my church and we are reading 1Cor 15:1-4. We were talking about the word "us" in that passage -- talking about who "we" are, who the "our" is in "Christ died for our sins". Now, I attend an SBC church, so in the best case we are a mixed bag of tricks when it comes to consistency regarding the matter of soteriology.

What we stuck to in 1Cor 15:3 was to whom Paul was specifically talking, and about whom Paul was talking. The "us", of course, is Paul, his companion Sosthenes, and the church at Corinth. It is also possible, in the broader sense, to believe that Paul is also talking about all those "called to be saints", as we read through 1Cor 1:1-3. In that, the principles Paul is expounding in 1Cor are not just for the particular local church at Corinth, but for all the Church (big "C") wherever you may find it.

Now, why does that make me a nutter for Jesus? It makes me a nutter because I believe that one of necessary parts of 1Cor 15:1-4 is that Paul is saying specifically that you can tell the difference between the church and the rest of the world. The church is not a theoretical entity or a metaphorical entity or some anthropomorphic device: it is clearly distinguished from the world by something is particular -- and that's the Gospel. Paul says as much when he says that it is the Gospel in which the church stands and by which it is saved.

And that Gospel, for those who have missed it in my sidebar, is that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scripture, he was buried, and he was raised on the thrid day in accordance with the Scripture. The reason I am telling you this is that as we are talking about this in Sunday school, these teens are seeing the message that Paul thought was good news back c. 60 AD was not some jolly philosophical position or some literary device to describe God's love: Paul knew – and was arguing forcefully – that this news was a dividing line between hope and despair.

I am nutty for Jesus because I am certain this is the case. Jesus did something for me personally that I could never have done for myself -- which is to redeem me from sin not just in the eternal sense but also in the present, immediate sense. Jesus' work has changed me from who I used to be -- a sin-bent self-idolater and atheist -- to who I am today -- a decent husband, a loving father, a diligent worker.

And just so you understand what I mean when I say "nutty for Jesus", I mean I am nutty only for Jesus: Jesus is unique and not a first among equals or a peer in the common spiritual heritage of the world. Jesus is greater than Abraham and Moses; Jesus is far greater than Mohammed; Jesus outstrips the gods of the caste system, the household, and the planet Kolob; Jesus is greater than any ancestor or any alleged spirit. To ever draw the conclusion that Jesus can be compared with these other things in a way which allows those other things to be worshipped or admired completely overlooks the method by which these other things attempt to replace Jesus in the hearts of men.

So I am a nutter for Jesus, and when you read the rest of the posts this week, both here and at PyroManiacs, you will understand why I started at this place. Nice to meet you; nice to see you; prepare to be boarded.

[1] 2 3 4 5 6 7

[#] For fans of that last post ...

... you ought to head over to Focus on the Family and listen to James Dobson's 2/16/06 broadcast after about :15 to the end. I honestly have no idea what the controversy is he's on about, but his riff on "drafting" is, in my book, hillarious. The famous quote has to be the Caesarian "I didn't ask for this influence, believe me."

Just to be sure I said it, I'll say it again: I have no idea what he's so worked up about, and I'd like to keep the meta clear on the "what controversy" until I have had a chance to read up on its and blog a foundation for discussion here. His view, however, of Focus and its critics is priceless.

[%] Hugh Hewitt, mere religionist

The Hugh Hewitt thing is going to get me into more trouble than any other thing I do, I am sure, but until somebody else takes up the torch, I'll be the one who is reviewing the tape.

This week, he interviewed a guy named Robert Ferrigno who wrote a book called Prayers for the Assassin which is getting a lot of praise and attention in the blogosphere. I have a copy on-order and I'll be reviewing it in the future.

In the interview, this transpired:

RF: Well, in no way am I an expert on Islam. I think it is...you could study it for your whole life and never do it. I spent about a year reading the Koran, reading lots of books about Islam, going on websites. I spent a lot of time online. Some of the most interesting sites are things like Askimam, which is like the ultimate Ann Landers internet site. In other words, if you're a Muslim and you have a question, no matter how minute, from how to boil and egg properly, or...there will be a Koranic reference, or a reference from the speakings and teachings of the prophet. And you'll get an answer. And so I spent just days going through, and trying to get a feel for the people. And I think I probably started out more hostile to the faith. And after a great length of time, I started having...I felt the spiritual connection that runs through all faiths, and was very taken with it. So it was mostly just reading a lot of books, being online a lot, and a lot of what I saw was highly disturbing. It is not a faith that someone like me who believes in free expression...

HH: You lived for five years as a gambler.

RF: Yeah. I mean...

HH: In Vegas, right?

RF: Exactly.

HH: Yeah, that's not going to really work.

RF: I'd last about an hour and a half in Pakistan, you know?
Now look: I'm not going to play myself off as an expert on Islam, OK? What I am going to do is play myself off as an expert on two things:

(1) As an expert on the Gospel, I can say conclusively that this exchange either overlooks or undercuts the genuine uniqueness of Jesus Christ as demonstrated by the life of Robert Ferrigno.

"cent, again you have demonstrated blog madness," come the retort from the Hugh Hewitt fan reading this commentary. "Ferrigno is no kind of Christian -- especiall in the way you'd define it. Your point is ridiculous."

Actually, I don't think Ferrigno is any kind of Christian: I think it just turns out that he has the benefit of Christian moral standards to protect him from himself. Now, what does that mean? It means that Western Civ is based on the Christian ideal of justice and mercy, so for example someone like Ferrigno doesn't have to be caned for having once had a somewhat-reprobate life. In that, he recognizes that he would have no such benefit in an Islamic society. The pre-eminance of Christ in the culture of the West -- even if that influence is declining -- grants benefits to a fellow like Ferrigno even if he only vaguely recognizes it.

(2) That brings me to my second point -- As an expert on being verbally light on your feet, the statement that there is a "spiritual connection that runs through all faiths" is a bogus statement that Hugh, as an alleged Christian, ought to have challenged.

Look: I "get" that Hugh didn't bring this guy on the radio show to preach the Gospel -- because Hugh doesn't do that anyway. Hewitt brought Ferrigno on the show to hype the book, which Hugh loves. Great -- no problem there as a retailer.

But Hugh, as a Christian, could have said this: "I take offense to that, Robert. There is not a common spiritual connection between Islam and Christ, but you know what, that's not why you're here. You're not a theologian: you're a fiction writer, and I loved your book." That's about 10 seconds of text, and it sets the record straight.

It is 10 seconds of text you will never hear from Hewitt. He doesn't care that much. For all his alleged interest in "God blogging", Hewitt doesn't really care about who God is because he doesn't think there is one specific truth about God. Mohammed is a prophet; Mormonism is a legitimate faith; Christianity is in a common spiritual heritage.

I could go off on a tear here, but I have to get to work. Talk amongst yourselves.

UPDATED: SHOOT! I submitted this post for blog of the week at RadioBlogger and because it's about DOUBLE THE LENGTH for qualification, I'm out! Even if I chop the quoted stuff from Hewitt's blog I'm about 200 words over. Who can say anything worth reading in 300 words? And who else would call the Reformation Police out on Hewitt? MAN!

[#] All about hate

I was going to call this post "Apologetics 101", and then I thought maybe I should call it "Adulthood 101", but I settled on this subject line. It's catchy, right?

It's been an very odd week at the centuri0n compound. I started the week with an e-mail from some I respects who said I was mean and shouldn't act "that way", then I got an e-mail from a guy who thinks I hate him because every time he types something it seems apparent he didn't engage what he contests is this otherwise-sound judgment as a Christian, and then I had a series of e-mails from someone who (and later, this person said it was a joke) said I hate them because I think they are gravely mistaken about some factual issues to which both of us have been witness.

Let me start here: before anyone starts up the "I didn't expect you to blog about that" organ and sets the monkey to dancing, the only people on this earth I do not blog about are my wife, my kids, and my employer. If you don't want me to blog about you, don't get involved in my life. And especially consider this: if the only way by which you know me is "the blog", expect that the way in which I will communicate with you and about you is "the blog". It's all fun and games until you're the one I blog about. For everyone else, it's still all fun and games.

you hate me
 it's my pomo haircut, isn't it?
That said, let's consider something: as I have taken the inventory of conscience these conversations have rightly called up, the internal auditors came up with what I thought was true before the conversations started. That is, I have a list exactly one person long of people I find completely and utterly despicable, and I haven't interacted with that person directly in a LONG TIME in blogger time. One person who, if pressed, I might say I "hate".

Let's assume, for the sake of not shovelling my morning into the blog, that by "hate" I mean "to feel extreme enmity toward". That's fine as a definition, right? So if I hate this one person, what do I do about it?

Well, it seems obvious, right? I go and I burn down one person's embassy. I start riots against one person. I start milling my own nuclear arsenal against one person.

No? Oh that's right: I'm a Christian, I forgot. As a Christian, what I do is I either seek reconciliation, or, if that is not possible, I flee from the sin and avoid this one person studiously to avoid wrong-doing.

Now, here's the rub: somebody's going to disagree with me about that -- either in a little way or in a big way. I have expressed my opinion, I have made myself the example to avoid offending anyone in particular, but somebody's going to tell me I'm going to hell (more or less) because it turns out that I have someone I hate.

When that disagreement turns up in the meta, on what grounds could I say that the person seeking to correct me -- who disagrees with me and could be (hypothetically) right -- hates me? Would that be reasonable -- or better yet, would it be warranted? How about funny -- would it be funny to say that a person hates me because they disagreed with me?

Now, you can be sure if someone said, "cent: repent from the sin of hate before it hurts you," and I said, "bub: you hate me. Don't say things like that about me," that would not be the end of it. It's the meta: we can get 30 comments around here on almost anything. If I brushed someone off as "hating me" for telling me I was wrong, I'll bet the exchange would go on for a week -- especially if I defended such a statement. If the other person defended their view, would it then be useful or reasonable to say that this new person "hates" me?

I can promise you that the other person doesn't hate me. I may be wrong; they may be wrong. Either way, I'll bet that hate had nothing to do with why they tried to correct me or why I tried to correct them.

Listen: offering correction is not hatred. Even if it is wrapped in snark, offering correction is not hatred. Sending out the lynch mob is hatred; a random physical beating is hatred; burning down your house is hatred; getting you fired unjustly is hatred. Offering correction is not hatred.

We all make mistakes. You know, I make mistakes -- like the time I accused Derek Webb of going Catholic on us. That was a mistake -- to which I pretty promptly offered a stand-alone, no-qualification retraction and apology. It didn't take a convocation of the global blogger's congress to draft a motion calling on me to stand down from my egregious position: somebody in Derek's forums pointed out that there's no way to read that statement except as one intended to hurt, and upon review, they were right. It didn't have to keep coming up.

They didn't hate me: in fact, I think that they showed me a good bit of love to say, "that's a pretty hurtful statement", and it would have been inside the bounds of love to tell me (using my own medicine) "the logic cent used to get 'Derek's going Catholic' from the interview in question is about as useful as a ham sandwich in Mecca, and just as offensive."

There's no hate in that. And saying there is doesn't advance either argument: it is an attempt to leverage the emotional distress someone with a good conscience ought to feel over the act of "hating". And in that, what kind of act is it that attempts to falsely leverage someone's conscience for the sake of ending (or winning) an argument?

There's no hate in disagreement: there is hate in using "shut up, you hate me" as the substitute for an argument because it attempts to replace reason and true love -- which is the love of the truth first -- with a lie for the sake of personal gain.

There are at least ten applications of that we could talk about, but you are smart enough to have an internal dialog over that on your own. I have to show my boss how much I love him by doing what he asked me to do in order to get paid tomorrow.

[*] general grief

Sounds like a supervillain, right? General Grief -- commander of the forces of Unfunnia. I even have a picture of General Grief (to the right), although I was going to save him until I could call him "Doctor Detroit" and make all kinds of people pop off.

Here's the General Grief for today: Listen -- I like you people who read my blog, ok? I do. I like it when you e-mail me for whatever reason. That's fine -- that's what e-mail is for. Whatever reason.

Let's all do me a favor -- and this is a personal favor on-par with giving me money or buying me lunch, so pay attention. Let's all not start calling me or my business to talk about the blog or things we have discussed in e-mail. Honest to pete, I don't have that kind of time. I'm not saying, "don't call the bookstore to place an order or get help finding resources for your church," because that's what the bookstore is there for: call the bookstore (not me personally) to place an order or get help finding resources for you or your church.

And please pay close attention, because this point is crucial: if you cannot resist calling the bookstore and asking for me, don't leave easily-misunderstood messages for me like, "just tell him this is the brunette with the lisp". You know who you are, and I know who you are, and all the readers of the blog may know who you are, but my employees and my wife do not know who you are. Think about it: if your spouse got that kind of message at work and you saw it, what would you think? OK: now frame it in the context that your spouse got this message at work from someone who knows him/her from the internet.

Yeah. Everyone with me so far? There's no need for anyone to apologize, or to make a bigger thing out of this than I am making of it right now, or to call to apologize or anything like that. The new Rule 40 at this blog is that nobody calls me unless I specifically ask them to, and no hard feelings about anything that has happened to date.

Last thing, and then back to regularly-scheduled snark: if we cannot obey this rule and its corollary, it will be the end of my blog. My wife won't ask me to do that, but we don't run our family like an episode of Three's Company. Bawdy malaprops and salty comedies of error are not standard fare, and I respect my wife too much to force her, on top of all the other things she has to do, to sort out the intentions of people she has never met who know me through a medium that is, at best, full of people with somewhat-questionable intentions.

Be fair. Be fair to me. Deal?

[?] Odds and Ends [updated]

Doxo admits that his button-building skills are impaired, so for his sake and the sake of any other Rule 40 miscreants, I am providing this little web-standard button:

It's tiny, and you can link directly to my server if you want to. You can also copy it to your hard drive and host it yourself. It's totally open-source. So if you get added to Rule 40, wear the badge with pride. You earned it, I am sure.

UPDATED: you won't believe this, but BHT has gone from having 40 rules to having no rules. The rules page link is dead. See: I don't see that as an actual change in policy -- I see that as an admission that there were actually no rules to start with and now because their hypocrisy has seen the light of day, it has to be done away with.

Congrats to the iMonk and his monk-ees for finally realizing that the only rule they really have is "because I said so".

[#] The Debate Blog

Well, there is an exchange going on at the Debate Blog. It's a little less theatrical than I expected the Free Gracer debate to be, but Bobby Grow's a nice guy. It's worth reading.

[#] 4 gratifying words

I told you so.

[#] Still all about me (last call)

After all the edifying posts and e-mails I got today, I'm sure I'll be blogging for a long time, so let's not break out the prayer of Jabez or anything for the sake of my poor widdo self-esteem. However, one of the e-mails I got was so exceptional that I'm posting it here.

HT and "go Devils" to the alert reading staff at the "Pros from Dover":

First, the lead: I like your blog. It's your blog, which is to say it's YOU, and anything less would make the blog worse.

Next, an explanation: COMMENTS would be the ideal venue for my (um) comments, but half the time I can't even read the comments under your posts, and Ctrl-Alt-Delete--End Task is the only way to unfreeze my machine. It's my 20th-century technology, so please don't see it as anything you'd have to address from your end. (That is, you're having problems with Haloscan, 'cuz I'm the one having the problems.)

Final disclaimer: Your way-back-when post about being in or out of the debate was both memorable and dead-on right, satifying the two criteria for "classic." That said, I'm out of the debate. As requested, then, some thoughts on the nature of the debate.

Check this out, which I hope is relevant. Specific stances aside, he addresses the nature of controvery and the different ways style adds to or detracts from a debate. Ask yourself this: If you're being controversialist, what results? Do you get disagreement on details from people who accept your fundamental theses on Christianity, thereby yielding an elevated systhesis of ideas (a la Georg Hegel)? Or do you get called nasty names from people stressing petty disagreements (a la contemporary Democrats)? Your Santa Claus posts -- and I won't get into whether you were right or wrong, Christian or non-Christian or anti-Christian, since I've learned my lesson with the Great Pumpkin some years ago -- what kind of debate does it prompt? The Lincoln-Douglas variety or the Bush-Gore kind?

Here's the extent of my exposure to religious debate: I'm officially Lutheran (ELCA as opposed to Missouri Synod). When Lutherans get together with Episcopalians and the discussion veers to larger Church issues, it initially focuses on the unification of the two denominations. (Good so far.) It quickly degenrates to Catholic bashing, starting with the pope, ending with all Catholics. That bridges into an elitist unity between us, as we in the "high churches" -- an actual term! -- look down our noses at the Presbyterians and Methodists and Baptists and Seventh-day Adventists. Then, when those stinking Anglicans leave, we talk about them behind their backs. {Cent notes for the record that no Reformed Catholics were given merciless beatings for the sake of this post}

Of course we think we're right -- we all do -- none of us holds an opinion on anything we think is wrong -- so assuming that one side (your side) is right, is the ensuing debate right vs. not-quite-right but getting there with your help or right vs. hopelessly stupid or right vs. something else? Drawing from the above example, Lutherans are right as opposed to not as good as them, leading one to conclude that either one is right or one should know one's place. That's not your style either. (By the way, just to put it out there, there's a big overlap between Lutherans and Germans.)

I think your tone -- to finally answer your question -- strikes the right balance: you have opinions, so you're opinionated, thus you attract other opinionated people to your discussions -- and by the way, they all see themselves as preceding the "vs." No, you're not nasty, nor are you condescending or combative, though you do highlight what you see as errors in others' opinions -- and you accordingly influence whatever debate you host -- but you can't control it completely. You'll get all types, including ones who just want to fight and the ones who shy away from controversialists. Oh well.

Last things: At risk of entering the debate, your family has Santa Claus. Inasmuch as I think that's a good thing, it doesn't matter what I think -- it's your house, it's your family, and (to get back on point) it's your blog. Also: It doesn't matter that I'm not personally big on the inclusion of Santa in Christmas -- I have no kids of my own, my nieces are too big, my nephews are totally into the big guy but they're in New Jersey. And I'm glad that Coca-Cola replaced Santa with the polar bears on their cans. Personal opinions for what they're worth. I do, however, celebrate St. Valentine's Day. In addition to the secular celebration, I recognize that it's a feast day on the Catholic calendar to commemorate a man who was martyred for his faith in A.D. 270. Some people have a problem with St. Valentines Day, others with (regular) Valentine's Day, or with V-Day, or the latest mutation of "V-Day." All types. Oh well.

(So after all that typing I've come full circle. Almost as long as "The Dark Tower" series by Stephen King which did the same thing. Sorry.)

By the way, this is the stuff of life-long friendships, and the reading staff at PFD has been my friend for (unbelievably) more than 20 years beginning with the day he offered me a nickle bag (which was literally a bag full of nickles).

That has no business on a christian apologetics blog, but there it is.

[#] It's all about me

I just got a couple of e-mails tonight from various parties who shall remain nameless, and they shared some things with me -- two of them indirectly, one directly because of a question I asked him -- which are plausible enough that they deserve some consideration. I consider the people that I have heard this from friends, though for the invasively-curious I can assure you it was not Phil, Daniel, James, Pecadillo, JIBBS, Gummby or Cubby.

The topic is the blog, specifically its author. The advice/observation is that I am too much of a controversialist, and it hurts my credibility as an apologist and as a Christian.

Now, if that's true, asking the question(s) I'm going to ask can look like I'm trolling for a fight, so if you think this is just me throwing bottles of beer out of a truck window at bikers, don't bother to give your opinion.

I'd like to know if my long-time readers think the blog has taken a nasty turn, and if so what are the current topics that make it so. Special note: I already know how you feel about the Santa topic, which is why I stopped blogging about it. There have been almost 100 posts since the last Santa post, so let's deal with today, shall we?

Thanks. I really am interested in your opinion.

[%] The prophet Hugh Hewitt

As you daily readers know, I think that the Danish/Islam cartoon controversy is a somewhat important issue because it says so much about what the difference is between the West and the Middle East in terms of the clash of cultures – and honestly, it's Christian and post-Christian culture vs. Islamic culture, however you want to slice it.

I have been trying to stay current on my reading regarding what's going on with this, and the very important Hugh Hewitt had an interesting interview which I just caught as a transcript at RadioBlogger.com. You can read it for yourself here. In retrospect, you have to hope that Hewitt's political commentary is better than his sports prognostication.

Unlike a lot of people, Hewitt is not much about defending the cartoonists or their editors. Here he's talking to Frank Gaffney, and they say this:
HH: Frank, let's turn to the Danish cartoons at this point. I have opined that while I denounce the terrorists who are threatening them, and the violence and the overreaction, and the terrible hostage-taking in the European Union, that it is nevertheless not in the interest of the United States who have military in Muslim countries to go about inflaming the sensibilities of Muslims who are otherwise on the fence or are our friends, by attacking the prophet. And I point to you and Dan Pipes, for example, as people who are always careful to delineate who our enemy is, and that it's not the overall Muslim people. Your reaction to these cartoons?

FG: Look, I believe very strongly in freedom of speech, and I think that's what this represents. As we've said before about others, in other contexts, words, or in this case, drawings can have consequences, and it is important to understand those consequences as one's exercising one's free speech. The problem that I think our European friends are beginning to wake up to is that they are, in this kind of action, playing into the hands of the Islamo-facists among them, who are trying very hard to dominate that non-Islamist Muslim population, and I think are using this sort of evidence of insensitivity, albeit within the bounds of free expression, as a means of trying to do just that, and thereby radicalize both the Muslim population in Europe, and that elsewhere around the world.

HH: That's what I expected a strategist to think. It was a gift to the Islamo-facists to do this. It's always a gift to provide propaganda to the other side. And even if it is freely expression protected. You know, I just think we're not serious about the war, Frank, when we don't take into account and view the war, every action, through the prism of that. I know you do, and I just wish others would, which brings us to Egypt.
Now, before I get to the parts I highlighted above, it is also interesting to read part 2 of the Gaffney interview in order to understand why Hewitt and Gaffney think what they think. Here's the meat and potatoes:
FG: I have no idea whether they instigated this, but as I was saying before we broke off, that there's little doubt the Islamo-facists are exploiting the dickens out of it. Could it be that someone has penetrated a Western journal and used innocent editors and you know, the vehicle that they provide to advance a political purpose? I don't know, but we certainly are sure that throughout history, it's been done by people in the past. I think you were talking before I came on about the Soviet Union. They made it an art form.

HH: That's what I...

FG: In fact, they had an entire chief directorate, or a deparment of a chief directorate. They called it Department A of the 1st Chief Directorate that was dedicated to precisely the practice of disinformation, and the manipulation of foreign press. In fact, I've got a wonderful quote by a General Ivan Ivanovich Agayants, who I think ran the directorate, if I'm not mistaken. "We must constantly encourage Western journalists to write precisely the opposite of our real intentions. And anyone who writes or speaks about our real intentions, accurately or impartially in the Western sense of these words must quickly be dismissed and ridiculed as someone of the right, or a facist, someone who wants to bring back McCarthyism."**

HH: Wow.

**(This quote is found in a 1984 book by Brian Freemantle called KGB: Inside The World's Largest Intelligence Networks. -- RB)
Think about this for a second: there is no doubt that the USSR was completely geared, politically, to disinforming as many people as possible. But the key matter of disinformation – as the quote Gaffney uses here points out – is to discredit truth and make falsehood and misdirection seem more credible.

There is no doubt that some Islamofascists have used these cartoons to make a statement which endorses their political view that the West must be destroyed – and that perhaps they have parleyed this into an issue which is swaying some (and for the sake of this discussion, we might even say "many") on-the-fence Muslims to think less of the West.

But the argument that Hewitt is making here – that making stark political commentary against Islamic terrorism is itself not useful in combating Islamic terrorism because it makes some Muslims angry – is somewhat absurd. The logic is that by combating ideology with ideology, one is creating resentment in the "center" of the debate which does not benefit "our side" of the debate.

My thinking is this: if Islamic terrorism is employing violent means when violent means are not warranted and that they are the aggressors when in fact they are actually the aggressors, and pointing that out makes those Muslims who are "on the fence" angry, the problem is not that we are driving away people who might be reasonably convinced that terrorism is a bad way to conduct international affairs. These people are not actually "undecided" but, like a lot of Christians, they are just "non-practicing". By that I mean to say that they don't object to the practices in question or the objectives up for grabs: they just had other plans today and they aren't going to change them.

Look: when Hewitt and Gaffney get to the part about Egypt, they make a pretty amazing confession – Egypt is our "friend" only to the extent that they are not overtly and actively our enemy. And Egypt is an example of the kind of Muslims they are afraid that the cartoons are driving over to the wrong side of the argument.

So the first question, really, is how did this damage the war effort if the people who are now coming "off the fence" for the other side are simply the second-stringers? I think it didn't damage the war effort except to demonstrate that the war is a lot broader and deeper than it looks on the surface. The real irony, btw, is that I think Gaffney and Hewitt would agree with me on that.

But after we get past that haggling, we have the problem that Hugh Hewitt calls Mohammed "the prophet". Yes, you were wondering what this all has to do with a so-called Christian apologetics blog and being the missionary to the curious, but here it is. Listen: when we start calling Mohammed "the prophet" in the same way we might, in casual conversation, call Jesus "Christ", we have lost the war of civilizations already.

Foundational to the conflict between Islamic society and Christian society is the fact that Christ and Mohammed make exclusive claims of each other: Mohammed says that Christ was just a prophet and his (Jesus') followers corrupted his message and have ruined his scriptures, and he never died and rose from the dead; Jesus says that He is the (only) way, the (only) truth, and the (only) life, and that anyone who comes to the Father must come by Him. If Christ is right, Mohammed is a false prophet – so the debate as to whether there is some negotiable middle ground in which the Christian must accept demands, for example, not to criticize Islam (especially, btw, radical Islam which the defenders of Islam say is a minority view and not representative of this "religion of peace") is based on the false premise that Islam has a true prophet and a valid and holy relationship with God based on divine revelation.

When someone like Hewitt gives up the ship and calls Mohammed "the prophet" as if that title is valid or truthful, it is far worse that sketching a picture of this person with a burning fuse sticking out of his turban.

Thus Gaffney's come back with the assertion that it is critical to use one's free speech responsibly points directly at Hewitt. Perhaps Hewitt ought to be the one to think about his own method of speaking. It happens to be true that Islam actively promotes violence to intimidate and repress dissenting views; it happens to be false that Mohammed is a prophet of God if Hewitt is actually an orthodox Christian and upholds the tenets of the Gospel. When Hugh makes the decision that some honest relationship with the truth is actually foundational to the reason why it is important to win this war, then he can come out and talk about the use of words and how we can leverage them to defeat this enemy.

UPDATED: Malkin linked to this story, and it is well worth the read in the context of Hewitt's nuanced theory of appeasement.

Now that I've said all that, I'm going home to sandbag my living room and implement metal detectors in my bookstore. Nice to meet you.

[#] The Spirit made me do it

Thank heavens I had a dead night at the Bookstore today! Now I can beat Brad Williams into a wet and sanctified paste! Booyah!

Pastor Brad wrote:
When you write "when your spirit leads your flesh" you mean, I believe, the new spirit that God has given you. No problem there. But when you write that "the Spirit of God testifies to the Father in the same way your spirit, leading your flesh, testifies to the Father" I am scratching my head here. If you are referring to Rom. 8:15, I understand you. But even there I think you'd have to suppose that the "spirit of adoption" refers not to the Holy Spirit but to your newly created spirit. (I believe it is a reference to the Holy Spirit.) If you are referring to 8:16, I do not.
Here’s what I’m saying:

v. 16 reads “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God”. Well, bears witness to whom? To us? That doesn’t make sense – because we are the other witnesses. If I may take some interpretive liberty with the text, it is not saying “The Holy Spirit tells us as we bear witness that we are God’s children” but “we are one witness and the Holy Spirit is another witness that we are children of God.”

The Spirit (big “S”) is not testifying to our spirit (small “s”), but is testifying with our spirit. They are both making the same testimony – to whom?

That’s the question you have to answer.
Here is how I understand 8:16, and I believe that this is the most important part of our discussion:

When Paul writes, "The Spirit Himself" I believe that he is referring to the Holy Spirit. (I think you agree.) Paul says the Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit. You also write, If you are sons of God, you will be led by this new spirit in you. Which new spirit?
The new spirit Paul has already described in v. 9-11. The Spirit of New Life; the new creation in Christ, if I may grab a phrase from outside of this passage to underscore my point.
Do you mean to say that we will be led by our new nature? I believe that is true. However, verse 14 explicitly says, "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God", not by our "new spirit". When Paul speaks of sanctification in 1 Thess. 4:3-8, he ends by saying, "Therefore he who rejects this does not reject man, but God, who has also given us His Holy Spirit" (v. 8). Why did God give us His Holy Spirit? To justify and cleanse us. I do not believe that the Holy Spirit justifies us and then leaves it up to our new spirit to walk in sanctification.
No, I don’t think that either, when you put it that way. I think that our new nature, the new creation in Christ, is of the same mind as Christ, the same mind as the Holy Spirit. I admit I’m having a little rational block tonight and can’t seem to say, “because it is the Holy Spirit,” because while I believe we are indwelled by the Holy Spirit, we still have our personal souls which are being sanctified.

I have a gap in my argument. So the beating I was looking forward to giving you will have to be postponed until I can overcome that.
How, then, is one "led by" the Holy Spirit? How are we even led to do good works? I believe that the Holy Spirit does, in a mysterious way, bear witness to use through the mediums that I listed above. It is this witness that gives me the assurance of salvation, not the reflection upon the deeds that I have done.

If I am wrong about this, I implore others to help me see my error. I am, after all, a pastor. So far, Centuri0n, I do not know what you are really saying about how one gains assurance of salvation. We have agreed that regeneration is a revelation, why then does God not continue this witness throughout our sojourn here in this flesh?
I think I also have an allergy for the phrase “led by the Holy Spirit”. I think it somehow says the right thing the wrong way, but I don’t have it worked out tonight.

So you’re going to be able to preach on Sunday, but put your people on notice that after Sunday you may receive a theological thrashing that will change you in a significant way. Perhaps requiring rebaptism or rehabilitation.

[*] debatable? are you are they?

Y'know: one opens up a blog in which to demonstrate what someone thinks about the Gospel, and then that someone goes and makes comments like these in his own blog.

Listen: when I said that Anotnio was grossly misinformed about the Gospel, I never thought I'd be able to get him to say something like this. Honest to pete, the best I was hoping for was to show he didn't understand the NT. I didn't think I could get him to admit he didn't understand anything after about 1500 BC.

[*] The holy words

As you can see here, the same words which are holy to liberals and the ignorant everywhere are holy to Islam.

Which words are those, you ask?

I ought to say, "read the article for yourself and be edified," but instead I'm going to clue you in: the holiest words in the vocabulary of the ignorant are ...

shut up

Everyone else will debate a matter or prove it false by some rational means. You heard it here first.

[#] Called as a witness

Pastor Brad, in his continuing effort to get me fired so I can blog full-time and have my wife and kids leave me, asked this (among other things) in the meta:
Here is what I'd like to know about what you wrote. You write:

Because our spirit is doing the things the Holy Spirit wants done, we have a witness that we are children of God.

The question is, what do you mean by "a witness"? Do you mean that we rest assured in our salvation based on the works that we do? That they are our "witness"? Or do you mean that as we do, with joy, those things our Lord calls us to do we have an inward witness that says, "Well done, good and faithful servant?" (Not audibly, but spiritually.)

I think that we have to be careful to look to the whole counsel of Scripture when we start talking about the way in which the Spirit "testifies" to us about anything.

For example, in the passage in Rom 8 we are considering here, Paul is making a somewhat-protracted point. If we follow it from the beginning (which is actually in Rom 1), Paul is making a case here that there is a difference between the idolatrous reprobate and the person saved by grace – and that difference is not merely eternal or supernatural but active and present.

In that, Paul begins this section "there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus". That distinction – being in Christ vs. not being in Christ – is the basis for the balance of this section's discussion of how those in Christ shall live. Being "in Christ" is equated with being "in the Spirit" (v.7-9). Those "in the Spirit" have a "life to [their] mortal bodies through his Spirit" (v.10-11) rather than a life still stuck in death by sin.

Then Paul says this, which is the basis of your comments:

    14For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, "Abba! Father!" 16The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17and if children, then heirs--heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
My opinion on this passage goes like this:

(1) Paul has already demonstrated that he's talking about what we will do based on who and what we have been made into. That is, if we have been given the second birth, we will act in the new life we have been given and not in the old life.

(2) Paul has also already demonstrated that the flesh is lead by the spirit, and not the other way around – remember, this is the wonderful rejoiner to the dilemma of the problem that I do what I do not want to do, and do not want to do what I do.

(3) If this is the case, Paul is here saying, "look: your human actions – the things you do with your flesh – will be reformed as your flesh is lead by the new spirit Christ gives to you. If you are sons of God, you will be led by this new spirit in you. When you show you are sons of God (when your spirit leads your flesh), you can know that the Spirit of God testifies to the Father in the same way your spirit, leading your flesh, testifies to your Father."

(4) Paul also says here that we will undoubtedly suffer if we are demonstrating this spirit because we will be sons in the way Christ is a son – obedient even if it means death.

I don't think this is talking about a still, small voice or anything like that: I think it is talking about (a-hem) incarnational theology. It is talking about our salvation being present and real and not just a promise which is far off and only for the "end times". Paul is saying, as he does further down the page, that we are more than conquerors: nothing can separate us from God's love either in this life or the next.

The testimony of the Spirit is not, in this case, Scripture per se: it is our conformity to Christ. Now, we might go elsewhere and try to hash out how we know what the Spirit will do in us – and that might point us back at Scripture (I think it does) – but Paul is not talking directly here about the Spirit speaking through the Scripture: he is talking about the indwelling of the Holy Spirit reforming our motives and our actions to demonstrate Christ-likeness.

Pastor Brad continues:

Let me sum up by emphasizing the main things in the passage that indicate that the Holy Spirit communicates with us:

1. Verse 14 says we are "led by the Spirit of God".

2. We cry "Abba!" by His Spirit.

3. His Spirit bears witness with ours that God is our Father.

Is it His Spirit alone or our works alone that confirm our salvation? You may say, "Both." However, I'd like to hear how works confirm salvation to the heart of a believer but the same work brings no rest to the unbeliever.
As you can see above, I do say "both". But your question is an interesting one because it makes the assumption that if BonoBill Gates gives $1 billion to Katmandu and Brad Williams gives $1 billion to Katmandu, they have both done "the same work". I disagree with that on-premise.

I suggest to you that Romans 2-3 gives us a very important context for the affirmation Paul makes in Romans 8: "Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself" and of course "we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law". See: when Bill Gates spends $1 billion on anybody for any reason – let's say, for the sake of the argument, that he spends it specifically on food and shelter – Bill Gates is only acting in the spirit of the flesh. In the best possible case, he has only condemned himself by demonstrating he knows what the Law says. But when Brad Williams gives $1 billion to Katmandu, Brad Williams does so in the name of Jesus Christ, confessionally and intentionally for the sake of the mercy already shown to him. There is a vast gap between those two things which Paul has enumerated in Rom 7-8.

The reason the unbeliever cannot take solace in the work is that the unbeliever wants to take credit for the work. Doug Wilson had a fabulous parable last week about bus fair, and this is exactly the same thing: the believer comes to the table with nothing but the firstfruits of the Spirit – something he didn't earn and has no right to, but has the obligation to give away as freely as it was given to himself. The believer knows that only Jesus Christ has any merit in the equation, and please God do not let me stand between Christ and what He wants to accomplish.

That's what I think. You might think something else, and that's what the meta is for.

[*] I had no idea ...

While I was waiting for Antonio to decide if he could answer a direct question about the relationship between baptism and faith, I got an e-mail from a fellow troublemaker which pointed me to the following image:

Now, at first blush, I had no idea what this thing meant. So, after donning a HazMat suit and an air tank I pointed my browser at BHT to see what exactly the hub-bub was about.

Did you know that the BHT has rules? They are interesting rules, to be sure -- like "If you are a legalist or a sensitive type, you are probably not going to be very happy here". It's one of those things where you read, catch your jaw before it hits the desk to avoid bruising, and read some more, etc., until you simply place a pillow and a towel under your jaw to allow it to hang free, agape (that "uh-GAYP", not "uh-GAH-pey"), in drooling wonder.

But rule 40 is apparently it's own beast:

40. ALL links from, ALL quotes from and any comments about the BHT or its fellows (and their blogs) taken from the sites listed are prohibited at the BHT. This does NOT mean these blogs cannot be mentioned or topics at these blogs discussed, but ALL links from and ALL quotes from these blogs and any comments CONCERNING THE BHT or its MEMBERS (and their blogs) are prohibited. [Fide-O, Triablogue, Centuri0n, Pyromaniacs, Alpha and Omega Ministries, Calvinist Gadfly, Doxoblogy]

In nomine patri, et filii, et spiritu sancti, a-mayn. I am certain that, for example, Purgatorio is highly offended that he didn't make the list, and my sidekicks JIBBS and Gummby are going to have to restrain the rabble from storming Danish embassies over being omitted from Rule 40, but we will have to work harder, I guess, at bringing them up to par.

What is especially interesting about this rule is how it sits in contrast to, for example, Rule 7:

People's feelings can get hurt (though we might hate to admit it.) And it usually happens because you are immaturely upset that someone holds a different opinion than you, or you forget that discussing opinions doesn't involve making personal judgments about people you only know on the other side of a monitor. It's conversation, not sport.

You see, it's about you, not about them, and you must be immature if you take offense to their use of thinly-veiled profanity or heterodox views of the church or ministry.

Rule 40. Just when you think that the blogosphere is going to get boring between the change in seasons, there's always something new to keep things lively.


[#] the frappr map: summary

I was just winding down after a long day, reviewing the somewhat-stagnant frappr map, and I was reading through the "shout outs".

You people are crazy. Presbyterians in Idaho? Who would admit to that? You might as well wear a t-shirt that says "fundy cabal" or "comitatus Wilson" or "potato militia" or something.

This is post #551 on the blog, and I just want to say that even though you all missed the anniversary, your raging fanaticism for this blog measured in ergs is only exceeded by your cumulative IQ measured in grams.

That's supposed to me a compliment. You work out the details.