Anaphoric part 2

There is the charge, of course, from that section of the internet that thinks that grace costs us nothing - that it's nice to do good, but it might not happen in your faith life - that Dr. Daniel Wallace is a bit of a jerk for interjecting his theology into his Greek grammar. The particular person who says this claims that we cannot take Dr. Wallace's analysis of the anaphoric use of the article at face value - because it demands a theological conclusion.

Well, let's test his theory. Here's James 2:14-26 (from that shameless ESV):
14What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled," without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

18But someone will say, "You have faith and I have works." Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe--and shudder! 20Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? 21Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? 22You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; 23and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness"-- and he was called a friend of God. 24You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.
Now, I have annotated this passage with some candy colors to help you follow me. The "faith" highlighted like this are the antecedent occurrences of "faith". The "faith" hightlighted like this are the anaphoric "faiths" – the ones which refer back to the other "faiths". And then we have one whole sentence which I want to approach because it is the hardest part of this passage to get, grammatically.

Listen: all the examples outside of v. 22 are pretty transparent. The anaphoric applications are references to predicate "faith" – faith which is the object of the action. But in v. 22 we have something very interesting happening. In the previous verse, we see that Abraham was justified by works when he offered up his son, right? But then, if we translate the words of v. 22 without any kind of art or English idiom in mind, we get this:

You see since {that} faith works together {with} {those} works of him and by {those} works {that} faith was made perfect.

The person who cannot grasp context will look at this and demand, "hey: the antecedent of ‘pistis’ is the one way up in v. 18 – which you say is the false faith, and that doesn’t make any sense. You’re done." I think you’d be right except for the crazy, contextual fact of the adjective "auton" – "of him". There is clearly a juxtaposition here between the faith without works and the faith of him -- that is, of Abraham. The faith of him works together with the works of him. It’s not a faith without works: it is a faith which is perfected by these works.

In that, it's 100% acceptable to not translate the article at all -- because it's not necessary. The particular nature of that faith and that work is conveyed in English 100% by the possessive pronoun -- it distinguishes this pairing from the dead pair of faith without works.

That’s it. That’s all I have to say. If you have an objection, bring it on.

Church and State (answer)

id you know
that the way we swear in the members of the U.S. House of Representative is governed by law? Isn't that amazing? Here is the law which governs that procedure:

Subpart B

§ 3331. Oath of office

An individual, except the President, elected or appointed to an office of honor or profit in the civil service or uniformed services, shall take the following oath:

“I, AB, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.”

This section does not affect other oaths required by law.
That's something, isn't it? "So help me God" is required by law, but the use of the Bible to swear the oath is not required. That's important for a very good reason: the Constitution of the United States.

No? yes? Let's find out. Article VI, clause 3 says:

"The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the members of the several state legislatures, and all executive and judicial officers, both of the United States and of the several states, shall be bound by oath or affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States."
Think about that: No religious tests.

You might hate it, but that's the law: no religious tests. None. If one must use the Bible to swear to God -- which, in itself, is a little anti-Biblical anyway, "yes be yes" and all that -- then we have employed a religious test for office.

Sorry. That's what it says.


Church and State

Read this.

Now: who can guess what cent is going to say about this story?

I'll give you through lunch today to make your guess. Then I'll tell you what I think.


Some of you are wondering, “If ‘euphoric’ means ‘a feeling of well-being or elation’, what can ‘anaphoric’ possibly mean? ‘Elated about Ana’?”

No. That’s clever though – funny in a malaproper way. Anaphoric means “a word or phrase that takes its reference from another word or phrase and especially from a preceding word or phrase”. Compare that to “cataphoric”, which means “a word or phrase (as a pronoun) that takes its reference from a following word or phrase”.

“Yes, I’m sure this is interesting to grammarians and all kinds of language nerds, cent,” some are you are responding, “but what do I care? This is a blog, and I came here to be either amused or enriched. Your wonkery is leaving me bored. ... next blog …”

Well, it has something to do with what Antonio DeRosa has called what “any student of the Greek New Testament” can see for himself in the book of James. That would be “any student who is not using his textbooks”, I imagine, because when I cracked open my Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics (hereafter GGBB) by Daniel B. Wallace (you spell his last name in Greek ending with the “second sigma” for those who haven’t already e-mailed me that fact – find the second sigma in the Symbol font for me, our build one in Illustrator outline, and I’ll fix the t-shirts) and I went to the Scripture reference in the back, I found that Dr. Wallace has dedicated a half-page to discussing the construction of James 2:14-26 under the heading of “Anaphoric (illustrations)”.

Here’s the way Dr. Wallace defines the “Anaphoric” use:
The anaphoric article is the article denoting previous reference. (It derives its name from the Greek verb ‘anapherein’, “to bring back, to bring up”) The first mention of the substantive is usually anarthrous because it is merely being introduced. But subsequent mentions of it use the article, for the article is now pointing back to the substantive previously mentioned. The anaphoric article has, by nature, then, a pointing force to it, reminding the reader of who or what was mentioned previously. It is the most common use of the article and the easiest usage to identify. [GGBB, 217-218]
The underline is my added emphasis (as will be the case in the rest of this post), but all other italics are in the original.

Which would be fine, I guess, as a rogue fact in the universe of competitive theologies – except that one of the 7 specific examples Dr. Wallace gives of this matter happens to be James 2:14-26 – James 2:14 specifically. He offers his own translation of the passage:
What is the benefit, my brothers, if someone says he has faith, but does not have works? This [kind of] faith is not able to save him, is it?
and says this:
The author introduces his topic: faith and works. He then follows it with a question, asking whether or not this kind of faith is able to save. The use of the article both points back to a certain kind of faith as defined by the author and is used to particularize an abstract noun.[GGBB, 219]
And this is an interesting point because in the first half of 2:14, when James writes, “if someone says he has faith,” the faith is question is in the accusative case, the object of the verb “to have” – and when he mentions faith a second time, it has that pesky article in front of it.

Gosh, that smarts. But wait – there’s more, and you’ll like this:
Against the vast bulk of commentators, Hodges argues that the article is not anaphoric, since otherwise the articular ‘pistis’ in the following verses would also have to refer back to such a worthless faith (Hodges, The Gospel Under Seige, 23). He translates the text, “Faith cannot save him, can it?” (Hodges, 21) Although it may be true that the article with ‘pistis’ in vv 17, 18, 20, 22, and 26 is anaphoric, the antecedent needs to be examined in its own immediate context. In particular, the author examines two kinds of faith in 2:14-26, defining non-working faith as a non-saving faith and a productive faith as one that saves. Both James and Paul would agree, I believe, with the statement: “Faith alone saves, but the faith that saves is not alone.”[GGBB, 219]
You know, the subtitle of GGBB is “the exegetical syntax of the New Testament.” Maybe that should mean something, but I’ll bet it gets fouled up somehow in translation.

DebateBlog Fog

This post is based on a comment Antonio DeRosa left at TeamPyro about the DebateBlog exchange with Jodie. In it he said, well, what you will see he said, but as a preface to reading what he said, I want you to see something.

Here are all the major translations into English if James 2:14, less the ESV which you can read via the pop-up:

    14What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him?

    14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if people claim to have faith but have no deeds? Can such faith save them?

    14My friends, what good is it to say you have faith, when you don't do anything to show that you really do have faith? Can that kind of faith save you?

    14What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him?

    14 What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone?

    14 What doth it profit, my brethren, if a man say he hath faith, but have not works? can that faith save him?

    14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith, but does not have works? Can his faith save him?

    14What [is] the profit, my brethren, if faith, any one may speak of having, and works he may not have? is that faith able to save him?

    14 My brethren, what shall it profit, if any man say that he hath faith, but he hath not works? whether faith shall be able to save him?

    4What [is] the profit, my brethren, if any one say he have faith, but have not works? can faith save him?

    14 What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?

    14What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?

13 major translations (including the ESV) in all, and of them 10 translate the phrase indicating that James means there is one kind of faith without works, and another kind of faith which manifests works. The other 3 do something else.

With that information in mind, let's read Antonio's message:
Many translations offer the readings "that faith" or "such faith" where support is supposedly gained by the Greek article appearing before the noun faith. They say that the article has a demonstrative, anaphoric force that refers to something "less than" faith, a substandard faith.

Yet it is impossible to argue that the intended Greek fluent readers of the book of James would pick up on this undetectable grammatical nuance when in the span of only a few sentences there are five occurences in the text that also have the article with the noun "faith" that are clearly not demonstrative (2:17, 18, 20, 22 (a reference to Abraham's faith), and 26). In not a single one of these places that have faith with the article is the rendering "that" faith or "such" faith proposed as natural translations.
Let me say, just to give you a quick breather here, that he's right that the article is not translated in his 5 examples, but while it may be "impossible" to argue what "intended Greek fluent readers" might "pick up", I wonder -- does Antonio think that the committees who translated the 9 English translations which disagree with his point about 2:14 were not "fluent" readers of Greek? It's an interesting idea, and I wonder whether he thinks he can make this argument work.
Therefore, if this is something that James wanted his readers to invariably pick up on, he would have used the Greek far demonstrative pronoun or an adjective. If this is something that he wanted to emphasize and clearly show, why would he make it so confusing by merely using an article before the noun "faith", which he does 5 other times in a span of a few sentences, in a culture that often used the article before abstract nouns? (It is well known that the Greek language, like Spanish and French, often used the definite article with abstract nouns (like faith, hope, love) where the English cannot) It is ludicrous that a Greek reader would pick up on this force. "The addition of "that" or "such" is a shameful reading into the text!

The only way that one can insert the words "this" or "such" into the text is by their interpretation based upon their pre-held theology. This is indeed interpretive. The addition of those words are nothing but interpretation and does not befit responsible literal equivalent translation, especially in light of the overwhelming facts that mitigate succesfully against its being rendered that way.
Another breather for you. Note that I added the underline, above, to make sure you didn't miss that word: shameful. All translation but the KJV/NKJ and Darby are "shameful" translations of James because of their rendering of 2:14.
Any student of the Greek New Testament can examine James' text and see for himself that the article occurs with "faith" only when "faith" is the subject or has a possessive word qualifying it (as in verse 18). Otherwise there is no article.

Well, here's what I think: The exchange with Jodie will last probably until the end of next week if things continue at the current pace. Because the translation and understanding of this passage which I would advance is "shameful", "interpretive", "ludicrous" and and has "overwhelming" evidence against it, I'm going to offer -- again -- to Antonio the opportunity to prove the whole world wrong about this passage by overcoming the world's least-able advocate: me.

Antonio: I'm also going to give you the same advantage I gave Jodie.
-- 1200 word opening statement
-- an exchange lasting 10 questions
-- Question length <= 300 words
-- Answers <= 1000 words
-- finish what you start
-- You get the final word, closing statement not more than 1200 words.

Here's the proposed topic: "Is James comparing two different kinds of faith in James 1&2?" The only limiter is that you cannot cite any biblical passages outside of James 1&2 -- you have to prove your case, or demolish mine, from the text we are examining and not by affirming something about some other passage of Scripture. As a bone, our source text will be the KJV only, or the Greek if Antonio can prove he can sight-read the Greek. I'll have to use an English translation because I cannot sight-read the Greek.

To give you a head's up, here's my opening statement:

"If you stick to the context of James, you don't have to hang your whole theology on one Greek definite article. I think that, given the examples James provides, you can see without much difficulty that James thinks that there are two kinds of faith: one which is an inadequate lipservice or a mere affirmation, and one which saves us not just in the eternal sense but also for the sake of doing good works in the present."

That's it. If you don't want to discuss that, fine: don't pretend that you have settled it by posting your term papers at your own blog. Only a fraudulent person thinks he has answered critics when he will not interact with them. Here's your chance to go air out your grief against the vast majority of translations here, and against the historic theology of the church.

Pack a lunch, bub: you'll need it.

Peanut Gallery: DebateBlog

For those of you who just can't stand it, use the comments of this post to make your comments on the DebateBlo exchange with Jodie.


They are forcasting a lot of rain until midnight here, whence the temp will drop below 30 and the precip will continue to fall.

In NY, that means the plows would be out tonight early to get some salt down. Here in Central Time South, it means we will have a layer of ice on everything by 6 AM and everyone will be stranded at home. We will be lucky to have power in the morning.

Nice. See you on Friday, unless the temps hold above freezing.

Speaking of t-shirts ...

InstaPundit linked this story today, and I have two things to say about this.

First, I think that -- in a vaccum -- this is almost the right way to think about sex before marriage. It's healthier, it is the only certain way not to get pregnant, and it ensures that one doesn't wind up having to choose between raising a child alone or having an abortion.

But Second -- and more importantly -- the question is this: while the government may have some interest in reducing illegitimacy, abortion and single-parent families, isn't this none of government's business? Isn't this actually 100% the church's business?

See: what's at issue here -- as I have been trying to tell people in the meta, on the front page, and in private e-mails -- is the sanctity of life and God's design of marriage. But the government has no basis to say, "there are moral reasons to have sex only inside marriage."

"But cent," says one person who can't understand why I'm beating this atonal note which he cannot stand to hear, "this article doesn't say that the Government is making any moral claims. What are you talking about?"

Listen: the claim that having children outside of marriage is bad is a moral claim -- but the basis for saying such a thing (economics, sociology) is so hollow that it's fraudulent morality. It's a statistical analysis posing as a moral affirmation. Why should anyone choose to forgo the pleasure of sex for the sake of what the Government wants or thinks is statistically relevant? Because the ones who get pregnant from such a thing have a higher rate of this or that?

At the heart of that claim is the premise that children are a burden and a curse. What causes poverty among women who have sex outside of marriage? This government progam says: children. It's not "adultery" or "licentiousness": it's children. The equation is simple: children are the cause of the problems related to having sex outside of marriage.

Yes: abstinence is the right class of behavior, but chastity and purity are the right motives for that class of behavior -- not a fear and loathing of children.

And guess what? You can't pass any laws to make people chaste and pure. If you convince them by statistics that having babies is bad, you might get them to lay off the sex, but you will have poisoned their hearts against the blessings of God.

For those who stopped following the cynical faith thread, this is what I am talking about. When the church -- that is, the ones who say they are Christians -- demands that the government "do something" about moral issues that require something more than a binary switch to engage or disengage (libertinism, drunkeness, marriage, welfare), they have stopped being the church. Why? Because only the Gospel can stop men and women from doing these things. Only the Gospel can stop you from having sex before marriage but still have a parental and godly love of children; only the Gospel can stop you from treating liquor like an amusement park ride and still have a responsible drink with friends to "gladden your heart", as the Bible says; only the Gospel can stop you from treating marriage like a leased car which you trade in when the new model is sexier or fast enough; only the Gospel can provide comfort and aid without dehumanizing and making one dependent on fallible men.

It is a cynical faith that thinks that the Government can do better than God and the Gospel through the church. So go ahead: practice abstinence. I endorse the idea that sex is for the marriage bed only. Just don't start spouting statistics at me to try to say that's what I mean.

The other Christmas

I've been blogging about the actual celebration of , and I have 2 posts left in that series, but since Christmas can get a lot of traffic, I thought I'd also make a post or two about the other Christmas -- the one for which a lot of people are spending crazy money for junk that we probably will have thrown away by next year at this time.

I have a new section of the Pawn Shop "For Women Only", and it's my own take on the matter of purity and chastity. This line is called "Chastity Athletics", and has an aged look with a somewhat-demanding moral message for those who are too engrossed with the, um, artwork.

Take a look. I think it's a breakout category for the Pawn Shop.


Jodie (H.K.Flynn) is afraid that I think I'm on shakey ground on the topic of the religion of demons over at DebateBlog -- which would be my motivation for not linking the current exchange either here or at TeamPyro.

Yeah, I'm sure that's it. She has just put up her second of 10 questions. Go see for yourself.

Preparing for Christmas [4]

<< back to part [3]

I'm reading the first 3 parts of this series as I'm writing this fourth part, and I'm betting that you're worn out already -- "OK, cent: wrath of God. I got it. Christ was born to satisfy the wrath of God, and that's good, and that's a really sound reason to have joy at Christmas. Amen -- I'm going shopping with a very reverent look on my face."

Yeah, the meta is already trying to take away all my thunder here -- because all the sidekicks and all the reformed pastors reading have already gotten the "bear the wrath" part of my point. On Earth, peace to men on whom His favor rests, yes? We get it, and now I can't write a 6-part thing on but I just have to say, "Thank you! Good night!" and walk away with a wave -- end on a high note.

Let me say, as I write part [4], that this was not my point at all -- it was only the basis for making my point. So let's think about this for one second: the purpose of most of the Bible is to tell us that the wrath of God is just around the corner, and in that context this child named Jesus is born in Bethlehem -- on that day, a Savior was born.

The basis for any joy at Christmas is that Jesus is a savior. You know -- he wasn't a fireman. He wasn't a cop, or an EMT -- and those are pretty good things. Those people do, in fact, save other people. But I can't remember the last time I heard someone say that a doctor or a soldier was a savior.

See: it's important to realize that the first reason anyone was happy about a Messiah coming was the fact that he would save his people from their sins. He wouldn't make their salvation possible: He would save them -- they would be saved after He did whatever it was that He was going to do.

When Jesus was presented in the Temple like every good Jewish boy was presented, this is what happened:
Luke 2 Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ. 27And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, 28he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,

29"Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,
according to your word;
30for my eyes have seen your salvation
31that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,

32a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and for glory to your people Israel."
Simeon was glad to see salvation in the child. Not just optimism, not just a leg-up for man to God: salvation. God's wrath -- it was coming, and frankly, it is in fact coming. God's wrath is coming. And Jesus is the savior from that wrath. So at Christmas, we have the "light of revelation" (as Simeon said) that God is going to save from the wrath that is coming -- and maybe, if you are a Christian, you are happy about that. And that is good ... as far as it goes.

But I have a question for you: is that enough? Seriously now -- is that as happy and joyous as God wants us to be at Christmas? Is that all the Gospel there is? I mean, if it is enough, great. Let's be happy with what we have.

But I know for certain that this is not all of the good tidings of great joy that the Angels have delivered to Shepherds. And I am afraid that many of us -- maybe most of us -- are ready to settle for only that much of the joy that is evident in the face of the wrath of God.

The wrath of God is coming, and the savior from sin is born in Bethlehem. Is that all we have, or is there more evident and necessary in the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes? I think there's more -- and Christians must seek that joy if they are to take this holy celebration for more than a day we have family over for a meal and a prayer.

A Stone's Throw

I'm having a dialog in the meta with "touchstone" about my last post, and I thought I'd drag it up here to make sure that nobody misses it - especially those who simply do not understand this problem as it relates to the local church and God's people.

This is about, at its root, the claim that I have made that Bono, Bill Clinton and James Dobson all share the same kind of cynical faith. Touchstone's case is that if we are not politicians, activists, and what-have-you, we are doing less than out part, and that I am advocating that we all ought to be "only" preachers.

Let's see where this is going ...
I think you're seeing dichotomies that aren't there. A man can preach the Gospel in the street and advance the Kingdom that way. Another man can serve in the U.S. Senate, and advance the Kingdom that way. I think you'll find me at least as adamant that the church cannot and should not affiliate with a particular political party as you.
Let's be clear about something: my original complaint wasn't about just steering clear of a political party affiliation -- it was about the view of the world that somehow we are doing God's work when we are doing something via the ministry of the sword which we refuse to do via the ministry of God's word.

You know: homosexuals aren't going to want marriage less if we (Christians; the Church) make sure it's outlawed in the U.S. They're going to want it less if marriage turns out to be about how two people can practice being more obedient to God and less concerned about whether or not they are getting what they think they deserve.

People aren't going to want abortions less if we can succeed in outlawing it. They're going to want it less if we, the church, practice the sanctity of life rather than talk about it as if it's some kind of theoretical thing. For example, when we stop making jokes about people with large families, and we stop pretending that prosperity equals a fat bankroll rather than a household full of children.

If a man is a senator or a mayor or a president or a rock star or the head of an international organization with the word "Jesus" in its mission statement, and he says he is a Christian, I say, "good for you, fella." Now let's talk about whether you believe this stuff or not - for example, does the Bible say that the government is in charge of whether or not marriage is kept holy, or is that the purview of the church?

Listen: unless the church gets itself together and starts teaching people that divorce equals adultery, and that human life is more sacred than our retirement portfolio - which is what the Bible explicitly teaches - it doesn't have a lot of ground to stand on to demand that the government start working on people for things which the Bible implicitly teaches.

The question is not "do we get involved in politics". We live in a democratic republic, and we will probably get involved in politics if we live long enough. The question is if we can ask the Government to do the things that the church ought to be doing, or has the local church ceded its mission not only to the traveling circuses and the stadium events but also to the self-serving power brokers and the deal-makers.

This is the cynicism I am talking about: that somehow government can be the savior of the church and its people. If I wasn't full of turkey and biscuits, I'm have the energy to call it "idolatry", but then of course the boys at the bar with the pig's head in the window would say I was "libeling" someone.
But that's not to say the church should not be an engaged, involved advocate in the affairs of men. Social justice is the ugly step-child that many conservatives want to keep in the closet, but it's part of what Jesus preached right along with the parts you guys *do* like.
That's actually really funny - because if I were the kind of person you are describing here, doesn't it seem obvious that I wouldn't think James Dobson is a religious cynic?

The church has to be in the world but not of the world. There are no bloggers in the world today who have been clearer than I have about that maxim - none. Zero. But unfortunately, if I want to criticize Bono and James Dobson as being the faces on both sides of the same coin, everything else I have ever written on this subject has to be ignored.

However, rather than link you into oblivion, let me ask you: how many government agencies are implicit in the teachings of Jesus? I would be willing to go to the DebateBlog on this one and say that, outside of a king, a court of law, and an army, there are ZERO. The "social justice" Christ preached was the justice one man owes to another based on the mercy God has shown to us.

If you want to start grinding the organ of social justice here, be prepared to go to the mat on the definition of such a thing - and whether Jesus wanted us to start corporations and cabinet-level departments to do such things, or if he wanted us to do them one man at a time.

And let me say this because it needs to be said: this is not about apparent efficiency, but about obedience and fidelity to Christ.
Which isn't to say that government or anyone but the Holy Spirit can cause regeneration in man. But focusing *only* on regeneration is a distorted lens to look at the Kingdom of God through. It argues for abdication of the churches role in advancing the Kingdom.
Let me say that this is my favorite canard from the apologists for guys like Dr. Dobson: that if we rely only on regeneration to reform men, we are talking about a do-nothing church.

Dude: there is nothing do-nothing about the church which is taking itself seriously. Phil Johnson linked to something recently by Chris Ortiz which cited R.J. Rushdoony. Let me fill it in here:
According to a common error, theocracy means the rule of men in the name of God. The Bible clearly contradicts this view. The state in Scripture is a minimal institution, and so too is the church an institution. The rule of God's law is essentially through the lives of men as they apply their faith, and as they create tithe agencies to govern various areas and needs. Where faith wanes, the theocracy wanes. The Book of Judges gives us no change in polity from beginning to end, but it gives us an alternation from peace and prosperity to oppression and tyranny, and the key is faith. The essential government comes from the self-government of the Christian man. The U.S. was best governed when it was least governed, not because less control from the state was the essential ingredient but because Christian self-government was central in the eras of good government. Without strong, self-governing Christians taking back self-government under Christ in health, welfare, education, and more, we cannot return by politics to less statism.
What is at issue, as Rushdoony says rightly, is that if we think we want to be activists in the culture, our faith must come first and not like some condiment which makes our welfare, our fascism, our taxes and pork-barrel budgets somehow the good kind, the tasty kind.

The evangelical church today is in a wicked state - because we think "our" rock stars and politicians and NPO chiefs are the good ones, even if our rank-and-file is just like the other side's rank-and-file. What a joke! It's 100% true that we were once such as these - but if we are still ones such as these then what kind of faith do we have? Have we not changed at all? Then don't say the words "the second birth" unless you mean them as some kind of punch-line to the joke you have started telling.

The church is in no position to demand political action when it has completely surrendered the necessary spiritual offensive against the evil in men's hearts. It is our fault that our institutions have been co-opted and are now the political weapons of our enemies. The only way to reclaim them is to actually reclaim them and not to try to make our government into a church. We know where that leads, and that way is wide and easy.
I believe it is this distorted view of the charter of the church as agent for the proclaiming of the Gospel and the reification of the Kingdom of God on earth. The belief you see as cynicism in my experience is largely a fiction of your imagination, and a logical mistake. We need not choose "The Gospel" or "government" to pursue God's will for man. The Gospel applies everywhere, and we are well served to have Godly men and women serving in government and using their votes and voices toward God's agenda.
What takes imagination is the idea that somehow government can be the church's partner in anything. What we need is a robust church life which does not merely announce a spiritual headline to people, a church life which in not merely the paperboy of the King of kings. We ought to be the ones declaring the good news and making disciples.

Let me try to make this as clear as possible. Let's imagine a private school. 30 years ago, it had a reputation for excellence - and it had earned such a thing by turning out young men who were disciplined to a certain way of writing, thinking, learning, doing. In those days, the school had a robust vision which it demonstrated by creating students of its vision. When we look at it today, we see it resting on its laurels. It has a list of famous or successful alumni, but it hasn't turned out one of that caliber in a decade or more. Today, when a parent comes to a teacher at that school and demands that his child's grade isn't warranted (it's too low, of course), the teacher is more concerned about making sure the parent is happy (happy enough to pay tuition) than he is about making sure the standard is upheld for the sake of the vision of the school.

What basis, then, does that school and its leaders have to criticize -- or even consult on -- the standards of other schools or the students of other schools? It has none - because it has surrendered its own credibility and mission. It can't even reasonably market itself as some kind of alternative to other things - because it has violated its own mission and is just like the other things.

If that's true for a hypothetical school, why would it not be true for the real church?
It's precisely because the Gospel *is* powerful that we advance it in all areas of life, whether it's on stage with a guitar, or behind the microphone of your daily radio show, or voting for justice and liberty in the US Senate. That's how the Kingdom advances!
Yes, but the presumption you make is that the Gospel expects and wants us to employ things which are not even tangential to real discipleship and proclamation. Can you be a musician and a Christian? Of course! Can you be a ruler of some kind and a Christian? Of course! The final question, however, is whether we are using the methods of the world over and against the methods of the Gospel.

Nobody was ever saved and reformed at the point of a gun or the end of a baton. Or by a great riff. In that, the question is not "will all kinds of men come to Christ" but "is the Gospel the power to save, or is it one method of saving?"

The pitfalls of days off

See: when I have to work all day, I don't have time to find inventive ways to search technorati for people who are saying things about me, but of course when I have prep'd the bird and have nothing else to do for three hours, I find stuff like this.

So I "libelled Bono", yes? That's rich. Let me make something clear: the cynical version of Christian faith Bono exercises is about the same kind of faith guys like James Dobson and Bill Clinton have -- it's lipservice underlying the quest for popular and political influence. And you know something? People who miss that are not exercising great spiritual mercy: they are exercising blindness.

This is not about altar calls -- this is about expressing the unique position of Jesus Christ in the history of the world. Bono can't bring himself to do it in private conversations, he thinks very little of those who do, and he perpetually does things like what I have already beaten to death in that video.

But I'd be very interested in what "libel" I have proffered. That's a statement which is a lot less subjective than what I have said about Bono, and it's also something which ought to be pretty easy to work out. I welcome Phillip Winn or any of the squeekers at BHT to explain it to me, and I promise not to lose my appetite over it.

Preparing for Christmas [3]

<< back to part [2]

See: at , we think –- we, Americans who say we are Christians –- we deserve a break from the things we do every day. We deserve a rest. We deserve to sleep on the sofa, and to have a big meal, and then to sleep on the sofa again, and watch a parade or some football, or whatever it is that gets done on the only day of the year WAL*MART closes for business.

But what happens at Christmas happens exactly because we don’t deserve a break. What we deserve is, frankly, the wrath of God. That’s why Malachi gave that warning when he was closing up the Prophetic shop of the Old Testament – that’s what we deserve. That’s why, 400 years later, John is in the Wilderness in the spirit and power of Elijah demanding that we make a straight path for God, and that we repent from sin.

It’s because the King is coming. See: the King is coming here. If your football buddy is coming to dinner, you clean the house up a little – but what if the Governor of your state was coming to dinner? You’d probably get some help to clean up, wouldn’t you? You’d recruit people to make sure your lawn wasn’t a disgrace, and your whole house – from linen closet to kitchen sink – would be ready for him to come. You’d do something extra because the Governor is important.

But John was saying, “Listen: the King of Everything is coming – His Kingdom is at hand. Get ready because the King is coming and things should be set right for His sake.” And what people did, when they heard this message, was repent.

Isn’t that crazy? You’d think that if God the covenant-keeper, God the friend of Abraham, was coming to Israel, they’d set up a party and pull out the stops. It ought to be a moment of history when people – especially Israel – are dancing in the streets and having a tail-gate. But these people heard John and they wanted to repent of their sin.

If you don’t understand why, let me explain it to you. Or rather, let’s let Jesus explain what the Kingdom of God is like:
Luke 19:11 ... they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately. 12He said therefore, "A nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and then return. 13Calling ten of his servants, he gave them ten minas, and said to them, 'Engage in business until I come.' 14But his citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, 'We do not want this man to reign over us.'

15When he returned, having received the kingdom, he ordered these servants to whom he had given the money to be called to him, that he might know what they had gained by doing business. 16The first came before him, saying, 'Lord, your mina has made ten minas more.' 17And he said to him, 'Well done, good servant! Because you have been faithful in a very little, you shall have authority over ten cities.' 18And the second came, saying, 'Lord, your mina has made five minas.' 19And he said to him, 'And you are to be over five cities.’

20Then another came, saying, 'Lord, here is your mina, which I kept laid away in a handkerchief; 21for I was afraid of you, because you are a severe man. You take what you did not deposit, and reap what you did not sow.'
Now, before we finish this story up, think about this: the third servant feared his master enough to hide the small treasure he was given. But the others have returned the gift to their master greater still. Now: is it because they didn’t fear him, or is it because they appreciated the kind of gift they were given? Let’s see what the severe master says about that:
22He said to him, 'I will condemn you with your own words, you wicked servant! You knew that I was a severe man, taking what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow? 23Why then did you not put my money in the bank, and at my coming I might have collected it with interest?' 24And he said to those who stood by, 'Take the mina from him, and give it to the one who has the ten minas.'

25And they said to him, 'Lord, he has ten minas!'

26'I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 27But as for these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slaughter them before me.'"
So the severe master thought that if he gave something to a servant, the servant ought to do something with it. But notice that the master doesn’t say, “no, I’m not a severe master – please forgive me for making you think I was a bad guy.” He said, “You’re right – and because you’re a lazy and wicked servant, I’m going to show you have severe I am.”

But think about it: The Kingdom of God is not going to be about a lot of plush animals getting handed around to be hugged so we can feel better. It’s going to be about a judgment which leaves the enemies of the King slaughtered – not merely by some act of war, but as an act of noble justice and holiness because He commanded it. His enemies will be at His feet, and He will deal with them severely.

And the one who’s going to do this – He came born in a stable, and sent His messengers not to the castles or the palaces or the Senates of His day, but to a few Shepherds who had enough good sense to be afraid of what they heard and saw, and then do something about it.

They were afraid of the wrath of God. The people John baptized were afraid of God’s wrath. When you get ready to shop this weekend, you should think about whether or not you are afraid of God’s wrath. Because if you are not, you don’t really know why we can enjoy Christmas after all.

Today or Tomorrow

It'll happen in the next 36 hours: somebody's going to be visitor 200,000 at this blog.

If it's you, take a screen shot of the page and e-mail it to me, and you'll win a from the . White t's only, short sleeve only, any design including TeamPyro designs.

No cheaters -- try not to hit reload 50 times in order to win, OK?

We get letters ...

I got this in an e-mail from an alert reader, and at the risk of inciting Richard Abanes, I'm linking it here for the consideration of the rest of you.

Listen: choosing to hold one's nose for the sake of a common cause always -- always -- leads to unions like this one. But for the sake of African pandemic compassion whatever, it must be OK. But because has planted thousands of churches and reverse tithes (even on the mint and the cumin), he won't answer quesions about this.

For some reason, I keep hearing a choir of all male monks humming in the background, and I have this picture in my head of Warren in red, wearing a pointy hat and carrying a big gold cane. James Dobson is at his left, and Chuck Colson is on his right. I don't know what it means -- maybe I can find somebody to interpret my dreams for me.

sidebar: Christmas stuff

Here's the CBD description:
What Jesus Demands from the World

By John Piper

The four Gospels are filled with demands straight from the mouth of Jesus. These demands are His way of showing us who He is and what He expects of us. Rather than the harsh demands of a taskmaster, they're like the demands of a father to his child in a burning window saying, "Jump to me!" All of Jesus' authoritative commands can be summed up as "Trust and treasure me above all!"

In What Jesus Demands from the World, Piper has gathered fifty of Jesus' demands from the four Gospels. Blending historical context, exegetical insights, and application, Piper concisely examines each demand. The result is an accessible introduction for seekers and new believers as well as meditative meat for mature Christians wanting to know Jesus better!

Let me add this: I was educated by The Deliberate Church. I was entertained and informed by The Serrated Edge. I was edified by Above All Earthly Pow'rs.

This book is better than the other three combined. Listen: if you want the outline of the greatest discipleship course ever invented, try out this book. Classic Piper, but focussed on what the marketplace seems to want to hear today -- the "how to" of the Christian life. It's brilliant in that it doesn't roll out scientific studies on whether Christian ethics work or not, or whether we are "ready" to hear this stuff: Jesus commands these things, and we are tasked to obey.

Read it -- and don't post criticisms here if you haven't read it. I'm not interested in reading it to you, or correcting your misconceptions before you read this book. Do yourself a favor and read it yourself, and come away a changed person, for the better.

Before I forget ...

... All you faithful readers need to take your hats off to the Sidekicks for keeping the blog from dying a 6-week death of non-posting while I was busying making sure there was bread on the table at my house. They did good, and I'm proud of them for what they posted and grateful that they took the time.

Nice job people. Except for JIBBS, who was too busy loving his wife to show us any love. Nice friend ...

Preparing for Christmas [2]

So some of you are thinking, “cent, you’re a jerk, you know that? This is Christmas, and you’re ignoring the fact that the Angels we have heard on High sang Glo-o-o-ria in-ex-chel-sis-day-o. They were happy – John Piper would say they were happy. Mark Driscol would say they were happy. I’ll bet Phil Johnson would say they were happy. Last year you said we Christians should be happy and not frowny-faced kill-joys at the Yuletide. Christmas is about happy! You’re off the chain, bro, to say that ought to be scarier than Halloween.”

Listen: there’s no question that the angels gave up a “Joy to the World! And Heaven and nature Sings!” to the Shepherds. No question. The matter is whether they were celebrating some sugar-and-cinnamon baked goods, or if they were celebrating something which requires a host angels -- creatures the Bible calls "as a flame of fire" which are ministers to God -- singing in a way which brings fear into the hearts of the first-century equivalent of cattle-herding cowboys.

There is joy at Christmas – holy, beautiful joy which ought to blow our pride and our smallness to pieces, and make us, as Paul wrote, even in a severe test of affliction coupled with extreme poverty, overflowing with a wealth of generosity. We ought to be people who are crazy about giving to others because of what we celebrate at Christmas.

But hear me: the joy comes not from mere emotional inflation, or from having a nice Christmas goose, or from having family together, or God forbid that is comes from being wealthy and warm. The joy comes from the fact that whatever happened on that silent night, it happened in the face of, and as a herald of, and as a direct purpose of the wrath of God.

If there is no wrath of God – if God is, Himself, (if you will excuse me for saying it) a jolly fat man with a sack of goodies He brings in a sort of random and sentimental way – then why ought we to have joy at Christmas? What is a “Merry Christmas” unless we understand that manger – that feeding trough which earlier in the day held dirty straw and cattle spittle, but now holds this child who draws men from the East with riches and hearts ready to worship – as the place where there is an answer to the problem man has in the face of the wrath of God?

The joy at Christmas is only as great as the wrath of God which is about to be laid out. It is not because we got something we didn’t expect: it is because, in this child -- who ought to have his enemies as a footstool and the Earth as His throne, but who is instead obedient and willing to be born in the midst of barnyard smells and the flies -- we receive something we could not, and can not, and did not, and do not, deserve.

a weekend note

Who knew? Well, we did, I am sure, but I think that's the last liberal myth that had any chance of being true. Now what do they do?

Preparing for Christmas [1]

You know: when most people get ready to write a little something for the season, they fire up the Yule log, and they have a little eggnog, and toss a little tinsel, and eat a cookie, and then they have this sweet smell on their breath as they talk about how joyful a season this is.

I’m going to try something different this year, and I hope you’re ready to come with me. We’re going to start in Malachi:
    Mal 3:16Then those who feared the LORD spoke with one another. The LORD paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the LORD and esteemed his name. 17"They shall be mine, says the LORD of hosts, in the day when I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him. 18Then once more you shall see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him.

    4:1 "For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the LORD of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. 2But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall. 3And you shall tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet, on the day when I act, says the LORD of hosts.

    4"Remember the law of my servant Moses, the statutes and rules that I commanded him at Horeb for all Israel.

    5"Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. 6And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction." [ESV]
Those are the last words from the Old Testament – the last part of the book of Malachi, and the last words God spoke to the nation Israel for 400 years. It doesn’t sound like God was getting ready to make any cookies to me – it sounds like God is spelling it out for Israel:

My wrath is coming.

“The day that is coming shall set them ablaze.” That’s not very holly-jolly, is it? I mean – what kind of person can have Christmas when what God’s last words before a 400-year silence prior to Christ’s birth say explicitly that He’s getting ready to burn evildoers up like what’s left over after a harvest?

“It will leave them neither root nor branch.” See: He’s not saying, “I’m going to purify you with fire,” but “I’m going to make sure there’s nothing left of you by means of fire.” “You” who are arrogant and do evil; “you” who are not my treasured possessions; “you” who are not my sons who serve me; “you” who are wicked and do not serve God. There’s a fire coming for you, and it’s going to leave nothing behind.

That’s a little dark, isn’t it? I mean – this is God saying He’s going to take evil out for good is a way that isn’t like taking the kinks out of a stiff neck, but in a way like Chemotherapy. He’s going to burn evildoers up. How is that a preparation for Christmas?

Seriously: this is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year, isn’t it? We have partitioned it off, and we have made a lot of happy elves and angels and smiley snowmen, and of course the jolly Fat Man, and we have a lot of songs which everyone sings about this time of year. And we have white snow and sweet candy and the smell of pine or fur or holly in our homes, and heaps of presents – who doesn’t like presents, even if it’s just a fruit cake from a friend from college we haven’t seen in 20 years? We have made this time of year completely insulated from who we are the rest of the year. God doesn’t do that.

Before God in the Bible tells us about Christmas – about premier noël, the first time there was a day in history we could talk about the person of Christ – God says, “Listen to me: my wrath is on-tap. And it’s not like a fire hose on a dirty street: it’s like a forest fire that burns everything to the dirt. It’s like an atom bomb. If you are caught in it, there’s nothing you can do but be swallowed up. Either your hearts are going to be turned to me, or else I am going to decree utter destruction.” That is, “I haven’t forgotten who you are, kids. And I haven’t forgotten what I have promised to do. But I haven’t forgotten who I am.”

Christmas is coming, but the way the Bible tells it, maybe we ought to have a little bit more concern about who this child in the manger is – because if he’s related to this God in Malachi, the rest of us are in pretty dire straights.

BTW, find yourself in the Lord's house with the Lord's people on the Lord's day this week. Ask any of them if they ever considered how much the Wrath of God means on Christmas, or on any other day of the year.

BOC-Turkey Recipe

First, on behalf of all the Sidekicks, let me thanks to Cent for letting us tend the blog. It's been an honor.

The final BOC post for this round is one that, sadly, was overshadowed by other events happening at the blog last year. This year, happily, there are no clouds on the horizon, and the forecast is for turkey with a side of stuffing...

Well, they say that a will get hits this close to the season, so I'm going to give you my recipe for roasting a Turkey in order to add content that everyone can use to the blog.

You do not have to be "truly reformed" to use this recipe. You just have to like Turkey and stuffing.

Roasting a turkey isn't as hard as it sounds. Here's a basic recipe to get you started. In this case, the turkey is stuffed. DO NOT stuff the turkey and put it in the fridge overnight: that's bacteriologically a bad idea, and we want you all to enjoy Thanksgiving on the sofa, not on a hospital gurney.


12- to 14-lb. turkey, thawed if purchased frozen
1 bag, your favorite "Italian" croutons
2-4 bouillon cubes
2-3 stalks, celery, chopper or cubed
1 cup carrots, chopped
½ cup onions, finely chopped
1 tsp, dried parsley
1 cup, cashews
Pepper and Garlic Salt


1. Preheat your oven to 325. Remove the cooking racks, then place one rack into oven at the lowest position.

2. Unwrap your THAWED Turkey in a clean sink, and remove the giblets – that bag of stuff that you never thought you would use for anything because it looks gross. It's not gross. You may have to unhook the metal clip which holds the legs together in order to get all the giblets out; you may have to run some warm water into the bird to get the giblets out. Don't be afraid.

3. Start a medium-sized pot of water boiling – not more than 3 cups. Put your packet of giblets in the water (sans wrapping paper), along with your bouillon cubes and the carrots, celery and parlsey. 2 cubes will make a somewhat-mild flavored stuffing; 6 will make a very salty and spicy stuffing. You know what you like best, so add the cubes to the low end of your tolerance for spicy. For your reference, I usually use 4 cubes. Boil this mix for about 30 minutes – long enough to cook the giblets thoroughly.

4. While the soup (yes: you very smart readers knew that we were making soup, didn't you?) is cooking, wash the Turkey thoroughly, inside and out. I wouldn't use soap as you might miss a spot in the rinse and ruin your hours of hard work here, but washing the bird is an important health safety tip. If we were deep frying the bird (that's the Christmas recipe), washing is pretty much unimportant because if some germ can survive the deep fryer, it will kill you before you eat any of the dinner. Anyway, clean the bird thoroughly and put it in a large roasting pan. For this recipe, the deeper the roasting pan, the better. I suggest a large disposable roasting pan from WAL*MART even though it might possibly ring up at the wrong price.

If you get bored waiting for the soup to finish up, this would be a good time to rub salt and pepper into the skin of your bird. Visually, salt and pepper the skin so that it looks like very light TV static. Do the top (the breast side) and the bottom (where the shoulders are); do not worry if you put less on the breast side. Because of the way this bird is going to cook, pay special attention to salting and peppering the wings and drumsticks.

5. You now have a clean, prepped bird and a very delicious-smelling pot of soup. You have to make stuffing now. Remove the soup from the heat and remove the giblets. If you are a complete carnivore (like me), take the fully-cooked giblets to your food chopper and chop them up and put them back into the soup (you can't chop up the neck, but if you have 20 minutes, de-bone the neck and put your neck meat into the soup).

Those of you grossed out by chopping up the giblets can throw them away. The rest of us will weep for you.

Now empty the bag of croutons into the soup. If you used about 2 cups of water, you will get a somewhat-damp bread-and-soup mixture; if you used about 3 cups of water, you will get a very wet bread-and-soup mixture. I like the latter better, but some people like their stuffing more dry than others. The extraordinary secret here is that a soupier stuffing makes for a more-moist bird in the final product. After the soup and the bread are well- mixed, add the cashews and mix again.

6. When you have this mixing complete, use a tablespoon and start loading the stuffing into the bird. Pack the stuffing down into the bird to get the cavity of the body completely full of stuffing. Don't leave any air pockets. Once the Turkey is completely stuffed, position it in the roasting tray breast-side down (I learned that from watching Emeril) in the center of the pan, and load the pan with the rest of your stuffing mix.

7. Cover the Turkey, and place it inside your oven. After 2 hours in the heat, remove the cover and roast for another hour. In this final hour, the skin of the exposed parts should turn golden brown. At the end of the third hour, test the bird with a meat thermometer; the center temperature should be 175-180 degrees F. It will be the most unbelievable bird you every ate.

I don't get it

There are a lot of things I don't understand. I could make you a list, but I don't have all day.

What I am most concerned about this morning is that I have no idea how Emmitt amd Cheryl beat Mario and Karina last night for the Dancin' with the Stars Grand Finale. Seriously: Emmitt was sort of light on his feet for a big guy, but Mario ... dude, don't get me wrong. That kid gives me the creeps. But he was dancin', yo!

There's no justice on Prime Time, I swear.

BOC-Talking to Atheists, Part 2

Part 2 of Cent addressing atheists takes us back to May of this year, just as the big debate with Brian Flemming was wrapping up. If you didn't read it "live," it is worth your time to head over to the Debate Blog and have a look.

OK: before I bore you all to tears with addenda to the last exchange on DBlog, I have one last thing I want to talk about and then we can get back to more important stuff – like making fun of other Christians and antagonizing bloggers with more traffic than this site.

Brian Flemming said this:

I should mention that the above essay merely skims some conclusions that I have reached in my own research. This essay is by no means a comprehensive representation of the mythicist case, nor is The God Who Wasn't There, which is merely an introduction to the case. Earl Doherty, Robert M. Price, Richard Carrier and others (none of whom I speak for here) have made the case and various facets of it more comprehensively and far better than I can. I would encourage readers of the DebateBlog to experience these works directly, especially if you fear them.

The underlined part there is what grabs my attention.

See: when a Christian expresses the Gospel, there is no doubt that part of the message is about something scary. After all, we’re talking about a savior, right? And a savior is not someone who saves us from ice cream or from endearing friendship, is it? No: if we are talking about a savior, he must be saving us from something bad. The definition of “savior” is “one that saves from danger or destruction”; if we want a savior, or need a savior, or are talking about a savior, we are talking about something else dangerous that, frankly, we should have some kind of apprehension over.

In order to deliver the Gospel, we have to deliver the bad news, the danger that all men are facing without Christ. And part of that news is that Christ himself is coming back as the judge of all men. So the choice we are offering is that there is danger, that Christ can deliver you from the danger, but that if you reject His help He will be the judge who makes sure that you do not escape the danger – the punishment of your sin.

So in one way, we are saying, “You should fear this person Jesus – let me tell you about him.”

But in what way should I fear Doherty, Price, Carrier, or any of Flemming’s experts? Let me admit that I think Earl Doherty is a scary guy, but not in a way that makes me want to give him a bigger slot in my PDA’s calendar. In the best possible case for Flemming and his war on Easter, these fellows offer a truth which is a hollow victory for rationalism.

What do I mean by that? I mean that even if their case is not like trying to carry a pound of boiled angel hair pasta on a KFC spork, and that in fact they can prove that there’s no Jesus, they offer nothing to compete with the positive implications in faith in Christ.

For example, Brian was obliging enough to offer this in his last answer to me at the DebateBlog:

Growing up Christian and attending Christian schools, I heard about Jesus a lot. No doubt some of the values I hold I first learned from Jesus, if only by default.

So, what in Christianity has been "beneficial or worthwhile" to me? I guess it would be those things that I grabbed from between the nasty bits and made part of my own value system.

Now: that is a huge concession by any atheist. I’ll go on-record to say that I have never heard any atheist make that kind of concession while in a debate over the existence of God or Jesus.

But it is large enough that it leaves the door wide open to asking: so how will atheism fill that gap after the abolition of Jesus?

If atheism offers nothing to those who cannot self-actualize, it also offers nothing regarding a sustaining moral direction -- not because atheists today are bad people who have vicious ideas of right and wrong, but because the way they learned about right and wrong is the very thing they are attacking.

The source of western values is Christian philosophy; the way those values have been taught for millennia has been Christ and the Bible. If we count those things as the great evil lie which Eusebius and his ilk fabricated out of the hodge-podge of legends started by disgruntled Jews who wanted to be more like the pagans around them, the methods of instilling moral behavior in the next generation are gone.

Unless Brian knows something that no other atheist has been able to explain in the last 150 years. You see: you can’t throw out the Jesus but keep his wardrobe and expect to wear it as if it has always been yours. It doesn’t fit you, and everyone can spot a kid in hand-me-downs from a mile away. And nobody I know is afraid of a kid who’s wearing second-hand shoes.

BOC-Talking to Atheists, Part 1

A BOC first: the debut of an exchange that took place in the comment section on another blog back in April, during the whole War on Easter thing...[Note: I've added hyperlinks where I thought they would add context.]

Well -- lookie here! It seems that some people have been reading the debate blog!

One of the things I have found interesting in this exchange with Brian is that he paints with the broadest possible brush and then expects the reader to accept the broad strokes as actually filling in the blanks.

Let's take the current 2 questions, for example {1, 2}. On the one hand, the history of literature is filled to the brim with people who have copied other sources to create their work. A great example of this is English Renaissance poetry, which takes gigantic cues and even lifts whole passages canto by canto from Italian renaissance poetry. In that case, there is a clear genetic relationship between the English Renaissance and the Italian renaissance, and one has to be somewhat of a spectacular bone-head not to be able to see it.

But in that particular case, we have two things in evidence: one set of writings with a particular subject matter, theme, and aesthetic philosophy, and a subsequent set of works which are a radical departure from the language's previous aesthetic trajectory which now leaps off in the direction of the influencing body of work.

What I have asked Brian for -- and what he cannot provide, because it doesn't exist -- is the sources which produced the NT works in the way he has suggested.

What Brian does say is that Jesus is like Mithra, and Jesus is (apparently) like Zeus, etc. That's fine as a summary or as a thesis statement, but it's not actually an argument. An argument would look something like this:

In Ovid's Metamorphosis, 2.299, Zeus ends one kind of argument with a demonstration of his power; this section of Metamorphosis was clearly influental in the composition of Mt where Jesus drives out the demon which keeps a man blind and mute. So Ovid is clearly a source for the NT.

And so on. The problem is that while Brian may be relying on, um, scholars who assert that there is a logical genetic relationship between Jesus and all the ancient mythic heroes, none of these scholars demonstrate the particulars of the alleged genetic relationship.

What almost all of them do -- especially those who have been carrying on this idea in the last 20 years -- is depend on Joseph Campbell's Hero with a Thousand Faces as a premise for their conclusions. The problem is that Campbell doesn't do the footwork either. Campbell's work on the subject of heroic literature is interesting in that it demonstrates the broad themes of human literature over the span of millenia, but it fails to note how -- if at all -- any of these stories influenced each other.

And that, by the way, is supposed to be Brian's point: heroic stories from the beginning of human history influenced each other all the way up through about 30 AD when the cult of Jesus sprung up, and then about 30-40 years later the cult started producing literature like other cults did.

Yet, problematically, the literature which previous cults produced were in radically different genres; they were based on radically different aesthetic philosophies; they attempted to convey truth by a different measure. And in the end, even if all of that is not enough to demonstrate that the NT is nothing like these works, there is the problem that you cannot find a single passage of the NT which is influenced by any cultice literature before it -- unless you admit that it looks suspiciously like the OT.

And when you make that admission, you have frankly lost the argument that Jesus looks like Mithra, and Osiris, and Orpheus, and Perseus. Why? Because Jesus actually looks like Joseph, and Moses, and Joshua, and David, etc. because there is where the actual logical genetic relationship lies.

Let me close up here with this: I suppose it is possible that the NT is actually a literary smoothie which has all of the near-eastern religious berries and fruits mixed together with Paul's secret fizzie ingredient. However, such a thing itself is simply not repeated anywhere in the history of literature. The hand-off from one generation to the next in cultural literature is, critically speaking, a much cleaner ordeal. When one source influences a later source, the influence can be demonstrated by comparing passages and reviewing the similarities.

All I have asked of Brian is to produce the influencers of the NT -- the texts, the original sources even in translation. If anyone wants to reject jesus as a historical figure on the basis of vague assertions, you are welcome to do it. Please do not pretend, however, that you have decided anything based on evidence.



You keep saying "genetic" this and "genetic relationship" that, but I think the word you're actually going for would be memetic. You should look it up.

It also seems like you've never heard of folklore...



ah, the love of the dictionary! Actually, I do mean "genetic", but there are a couple of words that you might in fact be thinking of that may be confusing you.

The first is "memetic", which has to do with Richard Dawkins' ideas on the transmission of data inside a culture. While that set of theories might have some relationship to this discussion, they are not included in the argument Brian has provided so far.

The next is "mimetic", which of course means imitative, or related to mimicry. And I can se why this may be what you think this is the case in Brian's argument. Unfortunately, it is not what I mean.

I have used the word "genetic" in its most-obvious etymological sense: "relating to or determined by the origin, development, or causal antecedents of something". It's the first definition for the word at

See: Brian's theory is that the NT's origin is not the life of a man named Jesus, but with some sort of syncretic interaction between the culture of Palestine around 30 AD and the pre-existing religious stories of Attis, Mithra, Osiris and so on.

In the Christian account, the genetic origin of the NT looks like this:


In Brian's account, it looks like this:

Cult -
Other Cults --- Jesus Cult -> N.T.

To which I say, "That's interesting: we would agree that there were other cults in the last century BC and the first century AD; we would agree that they had some form of literary expression. Let's compare them to the N.T. and see where they overlap in order to demonstrate your point."

What is puzzling is that I gave a clear example of how this would work vis. renaissance literature (I'll bet you didn't know my MA was in Literature in English, did you?), and still the question -- and so far, it is only a question, expanded here due to the many cries of foul -- is sniffed at as if I was asking for the autographs of the religious literature you claim exists.

I would think that scientific folk like you-all would relish the chance to demonstrate causation. And that's all I'm asking for: demonstrate causation. The genetic source of the N.T. ought to pretty easily turn up if it was in the religous literature of the previous 400 years.


There are many ancient texts that have been unearth over the last 50 years or so, that prove over and over again, that when different cultures intermingled they influence one another. To assume that.. maybe so, but not mine... is childish, silly thinking. Christianity evolved out of the Jewish religion and yet the majority of its followers are not. If that doesnt set bells off for you, check my link to the comparisons between Buddhist texts and the NT. And Buddhism is way older than christianity by a long shot.

say no to christ

Say No:

The question is not whether "cultures" have broadly "influenced" each other in the history of the world. The question is whether the Jewish expectation of a Messiah, based on the prophecies in Daniel in particular, were subverted by (as Brian has pointed out) stories of Mithra and Attis (or others, or all of the others) to create this literary Jesus in the N.T.

It would be quite stupid to assert that the occupation by Rome of Jerusalem had no cultural effect on the Jews. For example, the means and method of commerce changed under Roman law; the political evironment of Palestine changed in large part for the better as it was more stable; many Jews became Roman citizens and liberalized their religious practices. Denying any of that would be simple ignorance.

But whether I deny or affirm any of that, none of it is evident in Brian's argument. The argument which Brian asserts is, in effect, that all cultures had an equal influence on the Jews of Palestine within 100 years of 30 AD, and all that influence simply created this cult of Messiah, and after about 30 years this cult produced a body of literature influenced by all the predecessors in religious lit of the day, which we now receive (in part) as the NT.

Listen: it all sounds pretty good until you think about how broad a statement it is to say that all the previous religious heroes of the near east influenced the origin of Jesus. In the best possible case, it is so broad that it is undemonstrable -- the claim is too broad to have any particular evidence. But even if it is not too broad, it simply doesn't bother to provide any evidence at all.

However, you can prove me wrong: you can list one particular work Brian or his list of expert witnesses have produced and compared to any part of the NT in order to demonstrate a cause-and-effect relationship. One.

After that, you may be as silly or as childish (your words) as you like.


you supply the caption

Read this, and then try not to swear as you comment. That's one place where they're not going to be able to recocile with Rome, I guess.

Where God Is

Over the weekend, I had this brilliant idea. See, the kids need new pajamas, and I'm not about to pay $19.99 a pop so they can sleep with Dora or Sponge Bob - so I had to come up with something more reasonable. Enter the brilliant idea...

Make them myself.

So, that's what I did. For the girls, the tops are Giant Tiger (Canadian and much smaller version of WalMart) brightly colored, plain t-shirts at $2.97 each, with .10 appliques from the dollar store (daisies, butterflies & other girlie stuff) strategically placed on the front. The jammie pants are created from fleece throws at $2.97 each.

Total cost for new jammies for 1 kid = $7.00

They're cute, they like them, and I saved a load of money on each pair. So what does that have to do with where God is? Everything, and I'll explain why.

Yesterday in church we had a guest preacher speak about Jonah and how Jonah wasn't all too thrilled with God's sovereignty in salvation. It was an excellent message that everyone here should have heard. Jonah didn't want God to be merciful to the Ninevites, he wanted Him to smote them off the face of the planet.

Also at church yesterday was a guest musician (who is nothing short of amazing on the acoustic guitar) that had a challenge of sorts for us when we pray about where God would have us be. He suggested that when we pray, that instead of asking God to bless our ministry (which is a perfectly acceptable way to pray), that we might ask God to lead us into where He wants us to be, and be ready, willing and able to go where He leads. I've heard this message before - asking the Lord to lead us into where He is, rather than asking Him to bless us where we are. It's a good message and something I think we should all seriously consider on a regular basis.

How that all fits together with dollar store & Giant Tiger jammies is pretty simple. In honor (sort of) of Frank's disdain for "this is where I am right now" posts, this is where I am right now. At my sewing machine. And my kitchen, and my laundry room. I'm at home with my kids, persuing the opportunity to be the best stay at home mom I can be, and seeking His guidance and wisdom every step of the way. But this isn't where I was headed at one time.

Before I had kids and even after I had kids, being a stay at home mom wasn't my goal. Ironically when I think back on it now, I realize that my children's best interests weren't even my goal. I had huge plans, and going back to school to study in criminology was one of them. Twice I enrolled at community college for my 2 year degree - both times with the plan of eventually heading to Quantico and working in the best forensics lab in the world. Quincy MD was a role model growing up, and I was fascinated with forensic pathology. So that's where I was going.


The Lord clearly had other plans for me even though I was a thick as a brick and didn't catch on right away. Both times I enrolled in school, those plans were wiped out. Both times I was upset and didn't understand why it didn't work out for me. Eventually I came to understand that as a mother, my top priorities were right there in my own house, and I didn't need to go to school anywhere to invest my attention in the right place. Someone once jokingly said that the Lord gave me a whole houseful of my own little criminals for me to study and investigate.

I know it might sound odd that as a mother I didn't put my kids first. The thing is, I didn't realize that I wasn't putting them first. I had the mistaken notion (read: subliminal feministic type brainwashing) that my fancy-dan career would afford them better opportunities, etc. so forth and so on. In other words, I had convinced myself that if I could justify taking time away from them and investing it elsewhere, that eventually it would be good for them. Um... no. Any time a mom takes her time away from her little ones, she cannot get it back. Ever. Time gone, moments lost, period. That's never good for them, and never good for mom. Ever.

The day it hit me was like a ray of sunlight accompanied by choruses of angelic alleluias. Or maybe it was like a rap on the forehead and hearing "hello, McFly?". I'm not sure. All my plans were washed away and my top priorities (my kids) were standing right in front of me. It was so simple it brought me to tears that I hadn't understood it sooner. God gave me (and Kev of course) all these kids and also gave me a few gifts and talents to be able to take care of them. That, is where I was supposed to be.

So when I heard the messages yesterday about seeking God's guidance to be where He is, or go where He is - and Jonah's resistance to being and going where God wanted him to go - it was a personal message to me. I had lived that way (in rebellion) for a while and I can tell you it's no fun. Even as a believer, I wasn't "getting" that I needed to be where God wanted me to be. It took Him literally closing doors left and right, before I finally understood it. It was unpleasant, frustrating, upsetting and quite simply a miserable way to live. I continually asked God to bless me where I was going, without ever once asking Him to lead me where He wanted me to be.

That was many years ago. Things have changed a lot since then, and even though the message was one I needed to hear way back then, it was a good reminder for me yesterday. There is a world of difference in asking Him to bless you where you want to go, and asking Him to direct you to where He wants you to be.

The latter is much better, trust me.

Oh, and that musician I mentioned? His name is Jay Calder, and I had the chance to speak with him a little bit after church. I got the impression that he is somewhat "emerging-ish", but I could be wrong. He was quite friendly and it was a pleasant conversation. In any event, God has blessed him in ridiculously astounding ways, musically. You can visit his site here, and even listen to his music. If you like acoustic guitar like I do, you'll love this guy. Watching him play was an added bonus, but listen to his clips anyway. Apply all doctrinal disclaimers & stuff as needed. If needed, I don't really know where he is doctrinally.

Have a great week. :o)


Since you can't play "next blog" from my blog, check this blog and give a budding blog mom a leg up.

No, this is not my wife, but I do know who it is and I'm not tellin'.

we get letters

OK -- I guess I'm unofficially off vacation since I have posted here more this week than all the sidekicks combined. I got this e-mail today from a presbyterian reader who axed me, "cent, I was watching this video on YouTube of Johnny Cash, and, um, what do you think of Johnny Cash?"

The first thing to say about the Man in Black is that he never pretended to be a theologian or a preacher, so he gets a lot of grace for being what he was and not what he thought he wanted to be. And that includes his charismatic/AOG leanings. You, the reader, can contrast that with, say, Bono, or me for that matter, and draw your own conclusions.

But the far more important thing to say about Cash is that because of his flaws, he had a genuine and fully-orbed Christian testimony. Now, what does that mean? Does it mean that because he wore his pain and suffering on his sleeve he made more sense to people? Oh please: one of the things I admire about Cash is that he did not wear his pain and suffering on his sleeve: he wore the redemption of Christ on his sleeve.

Let me give you a great example of that:

Listen: if you ever catch Bono talking like this, call me immediately. But it'll never happen -- because he thinks Jesus is about a political change on Earth. Now, the more erudite of you might say, "well, cent, Jesus does call for a political change on this Earth," and I might agree with you: Jesus calls for an eschatological change in this world. But it's not a change which puts the U.N. in charge of world affairs: it's a change which puts Christ in pre-eminence above all things.

Johnny Cash, sitting in a crowd of MTV zombies, preached the Gospel. When was the last time you put yourself on the line like that for Jesus?

So I think much of the drug addicted and adulterous Johnny Cash. He had real shame, and real hope -- which is more than we can say for a lot of people. God willing it is not more than we can say about ourselves.

UPDATED: This is the video our vigilant reader saw --

Let me say two things about that video:

[1] In the first place, I promise you that maybe one or two of the people who are seen in that video actually "get" what the words of this song are saying. Maybe.

[2] But in that, make sure you freeze the frame on the graffiti Bono paints on the handbill wall. It says, "Sinners make the best Saints. J.C. R.I.P."

Listen: if you need evidence that Bono is nothing like Cash, it's right there in Bono's handwriting. Jesus is not "R.I.P.". Jesus is Lord and Christ, and our proof is that he walked out of the grave. Jesus is not a Gandhi: Jesus is Lord and Christ. And if this song is about Jesus who is "R.I.P.", then it is meaningless -- but if it is about sin, and judgment, and the end of men who do not repent, then it is about men who will ultimately be judged by Christ.

Holy ... listen: use this video to preach the Gospel. It was sung to preach the Gospel -- use it that way. Don't let people like Kid Rock and Flea from RHCP and (pheh) Justin Timberlake co-opt the message of the Gospel for some kind of ludicrous popular gravitas. Pray for them that this song is used by God to change their hearts, and let them be cut down by God and then raised up in the likeness of His Son.

he's not even funny

Last Friday I got poor Daniel's post sort of trampled under foot, and this Friday I hope we don;t go to that extreme.

I was reading this before breakfast this morning, and the question came up in the meta, "why is outing gay Republicans 'vile slander'?"

Let me paint a picture for you. On the one side of the picture, we have a political party which, as a right of passage, requires all of its members to have some kind of social defect -- either perceived or real. For example, some of them are soldiers who claim their country is, historically, a perpetrator of war crimes; some of them wear the badge that they are female and therefore are victims of historical injustice; some have ethnic roots which gain them access to the mantle of downtrodden and weary and representatives of a class of people who are owed something by this generation who never did any of those things. For that team, you must be an elitist jerk if there's not something wrong with you -- you must not have any way to relate to "the people".

On the other side of the picture, the other team wants people (allegedly, anyway) to be able to keep what they set out to earn, and frankly they want to fortify the country as a meritocracy -- so whatever you are able to achieve, you can achieve. And in that, the only shibboleth to membership is not even success, but instead an appreciation of success. So, for example, you don't have to own a chain of successful Christian retail stores to be a slam-dunk, but you can't look down your nose at someone who is willing to try to open a couple of those things but fails -- because they tried. The leaders of the team tend to be people who either have actually had some business success, or have supported policies which lean that way -- and they hire people not based on quotas or whether they are this superficial thing or that superficial thing, but whether or not they get the job done. In that, someone can be gay and be on this team and it not matter -- because they didn't take a test or sign an oath that nobody on the team would be gay.

The first team, it turns out, resents this. A decade ago, it was fashionable for them to call some ethic types who joined the second team "not really [ethnic]" -- and they still do it. Now, because of the stage homosexuality has politically (in their camp), the first team thinks "outing" gay members of the second team has some kind of relevance -- they think it's exposing hypocrisy.

Let me explain something to those on the first team: the second team isn't a church -- it's a political party. And frankly, this blog is on-record standing against the unsavory notion that the second team ought to be a church. But in that, you can't have it both ways. That is, it can't be a badge of honor to have some characteristics and at the same time be something that someone ought to be ashamed of. It seems to me that, if the second team has (for example) gay members, the idea that the second team hates gay people is clearly false -- in the same way that the fact that there are great ethnic Republicans dashes the idea that Republicans are, as a party, racist.

So the joke is actually on you -- on your party which tries to vilify its opponents with slander. And someday, you guys will actually have somebody funny to do your dirty work for you. Until then, you're stuck with Bill Maher and the boozy, self-absorbed Al Franken.

The rest of you: spend the Lord's day in the Lord's house with the Lord's people. And if you find out that your local precinct leader is gay, do yourself a favor: remember that you yourself are a liar, and adulterer, and a murderer. Then act appropriately.