You meant it for evil (1)

This is a continuation of the "problem of evil" posts, and I have changed the title because we are changing gears. So far we have reasoned through the atheist's complaint and found that in truth, the problem of evil (the wily atheist may say "problem of pain") doesn't actually disappear when we snap our fingers at God to say He should have invented a universe without any suffering. If the complaint dismisses God as a cause, we are left with what the problem them leaves for us to do about it.

And in asking that question, we come up with massive shortfalls, philosophically -- like why 60 million people should be willing to lose their lives in a world war to stop the deaths of 6 million people of a small ethnic group. We discover that even atheism will admit that it turns out that for us some things are worth suffering for -- and that somehow, one can self-determine to suffer for the benefit of something other than himself.

But if that's true existentially for man, why would it not be true for God as well? By that I mean if man can show that some suffering is justified, why can God Himself not thereby show that some suffering is justified?

And before I dive into God's case, let me strongly recommend John Piper's latest book, Spectacular Sins: And Their Global Purpose in the Glory of Christ. I got my review copy from Crossway about 6 weeks ago and left it on an airplane, so may God be willing to use that book for somebody's good. But I bought a second copy, and re-read it, and while it is not necessarily a theodicy, it is a strong case from Scripture regarding the biblical understanding of God's purposes in suffering.

But in that book, of course one of Piper's key examples is the case of Joseph, son of Jacob. Joseph was the oldest son of Jacob's favorite wife, but sadly he was also the second-to-youngest os Jacob's 12 sons. And in that, Jospeh's older brothers were fiercely jealous of him and intended to kill him.

BTW, I'm telling you this story because this is one of the stories God tells us in His book about what kind of universe he's running here -- and the atheist needs to at least listen to the story even if he's not willing to buy the whole thing from start to finish.

So the 10 older brothers determine to kill Joseph -- but after throwing him in a hole, they have a small change of heart and determine to rather just tell their father he is dead and instead sell the boy into slavery. The man-traders just so happen to be walking by, and they fish the young man out and hand him other to them -- and that's it.

See: they intended evil to Joseph. In fact, they did evil to Joseph without any qualifications: they sold their own brother into slavery, and then told their father he was killed by a wild animal -- and in fact dipped his cloak in goat's blood to show that plainly, he was torn to bits.

They intended evil to Joseph, and they did what they intended to do. But something fascinating happens to Joseph over the course of the next 20-or-so years: Joseph becomes the second most powerful man in the whole world -- and he does so because his brothers sold him into slavery.

Let's not get confused here: Joseph doesn't scheme to get power in order to make revenge on his brothers. The slave-trading doesn't make him some kind of Count of Monte Christo who spends his life trying to forge justification for himself. Rather, if Joseph had never been sold into slavery, he would have never been in a position to become what he became.

And in order to do that, Joseph had to get framed for rape and go to prison.

We'll pick up our story about what men intended, and thereby what God intended, next time.

Separated at Birth?

"never mind" he says ...


People may "believe" global warming, but they aren't biting on the solutions.

Either common sense or the sin nature is winning out. I'd be willing to take either.

Maybe if we called it "jolly pink friday" ...

... people wouldn't behave like atavistic cavemen foraging for their very lives.

You people are crazy (updated)

The reader who can e-mail me a screenshot of the 500,000 counter gets a free item under $30 from the Pawn Shop of their choice. Cheaters will be banned for life.

UPDATE: a "cheater" would have been a person who sent me a rigged screenshot -- someone who tried to fake a winning screen shot. However, wiley presbyterian [name changed to protect the innocent] stayed up until almost 2:30 his time and sent me this e-mail ...

and this is his screen shot, which cleans up the 500K prize ...

500,000 page views is not something to sneeze at, y'all. And the truth is that I didn't do it: you did it. Thanks to all seven of you for making this possible.


Let's be clear that my primary motive here is to win my pastor 2 tickets to the DG 2009 Pastor's conference -- but let's also not think, then, that somehow this post is phony fictional flippancy.

My Pastor's name is Tad Thompson, and he's the pastor of Harvard Avenue Baptist Church (HABC) in Siloam Springs, AR. And I think that if I gave myself 5,000 words to tell you why I am thankful for him, I could use them all up. But I want to reflect the spirit of the blog which inspired this post, so I will keep it brief.

There are no perfect churches in the world -- none. Some are better than others, but there are no churches which are like the final assembly of all the believers in the final account in Revelation. HABC is not a perfect church.

But there are two things which are true about HABC today which are to its credit: it is a church where people love people, and it is a church where God is honored by the preaching of His word. This fact about our church, to the extent that it is the heart of our church, is due to the commitment and patience of our imperfect pastor who loves his Mighty and Merciful God, the wonderful Savior Jesus Christ.

I am grateful for Tad Thompson, and I am proud to call him my friend. May God pour out a double portion of His spirit on Tad in the years to come.

Traditional Turkey Recipe

You prolly could have googled this, but here's the bird recipe we make at my house when we make bird. For those of you who can't stand turkey, pheh upon you -- but you can make this recipe with two medium-sized chickens. You won't get by this week without it:

Well, they say that a Turkey recipe 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 onions, carrots, celery and parlsey. (FWIW, the leafy parts of the celery are great for this recipe, so don;t get squeemish) 2 boullion 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 ever ate.

I think I said this already

Obama isn't picking progressives, but centrists and ex-Clinton aids for his "peeps".

Apparently the sky has not fallen. Please return to your bunkers peacefully and keep your radios tuned to this frequency for further developments. However, I will trade two cases of canned goods and a half-box of bullets for some top-notch venison jerky.

UPDATED: It's all white guys, except for the rumor of Senator Clinton as Sec of State. I guess the "big change" Obama was bringing was actually less diversity than Bush had in his cabinet. Oh, and Gates for SecDef? I can see big changes on the war front ...

Too Soon?


Wow. The hit counter is about to cross 500K. Based on history, prolly some time before the end of the month.

If you could have one prize from the pawn shop for being the 500K visitor, what would it be?

HT: Alert reader Will S

The Telegraph UK reports that NASA/GISS can't get its reporting straight and dumps tons of ammo into the discussion as to whether or not Global Warming is, in fact, a crisis.

The article also speaks to arctic ice recovery in passing, so you can sleep better for not worrying about the polar bears.

(BTW, I archived the essay in PDF form because I'm tired of reading my own archives and finding that stories I linked to no longer exist at their source. Bleh.)

Seven Degrees of Facebook

From time to time I take a gander at potential "friends" on Facebook -- people who know people I "know" -- and all kinds of faces show up. Once Phil Johnson is your friend, there is no telling who will be in your list.

But tonight as I checked Facebook, I found this one:

Now, the killer is that I actually met Chris at a Munce trade show about three years ago when he sat on a panel about the Emerg* church with Doug Pagitt. And the real irony is that I was one of three retailers in the room that didn't come there to lynch him.

But here's what I'd like to know: which of my facebook friends actually knows Chris Seay? How'd he wind up on that page?

No seriously --

You mean America is not "the church"?

What is Dr. David Jeremiah going to do?

HT: Richard @ BHT [shudder]

The only reason

There's only one reason to post this video here:

It is the weirdest thing in my whole life to hear Ligon Duncan say my name as a member of teamPyro. I mean, if he had said, "um, Frank Turk. Pheh." it would make sense to me -- but for him to list me with Dan and Phil as a blogger he missed while we were on hiatus in October ... weird.

JT already linked it

Carl Truman at his best.

BTW, if you want me to exposit on that essay, here's my take in 150 words or less:

The cultural and sociological issues at stake in both sides of the coin Truman examines here is exactly the reason Paul tells Timothy what the criteria for Elders and Overseers ought to be, and why those issues are the criteria he lists.

And if you need me to be a little more specific, this is why a 22-yr-old seminary graduate is not suited to be an elder or pastor. Pardon me for saying so, but we have an immature church because we let it be run by immature males who have been trapped into their roles as mostly-immature and faddishly young. If instead we looked to men who were first spiritually mature who are also successful fathers and husbands -- which it would be hard to do in our society before the age of 30 -- I think we'd find ourselves a church and not a fraternal order of, well, whatever.

Just to say it

Last night as I was installing iLife '08 on my Mac, I was watching CSPAN, and there was a panel of big thinkers there talking about the new New world order, and there was a fellow there who apparently was speaking for or otherwise representing the opinions of Al Gore.

I found it amusing that this young fellow spoke at length about the condition of the roads in America -- that somehow we needed to be able to effectively use our cars and trucks in order to keep America, well, however he thinks we should be keeping America.

I think I would have found him more credible if he had first explained how we are going to have both food and biofuels upon-which to run those cars and trucks. Just for the sake of giving us a fully-orbed picture of the world he and Al Gore are envisioning.

You have to ask yourself ...

... why a post-modern liberal feminist radical is the only one who really gets what just happened in the U.S. election.

Is it all really that complicated? Obama was more charismatic, and it turns our that's who he is in person when he's with his wife in private as well as when he stands before throngs. McCain was a mediocre, milquetoast, uninspiring, undistinctive non-conservative.

It wasn't a chapter from Jenkins & LaHaye: it was another election cycle, and the better politician won.Next.


I find it amusing that Al Gore has the audacity to call anything thought or said by any other mammal "imaginary".

Read the whole thing if you really want to see what world the inventor of the internet lives in looks like.

In case you ever need it

One of the resources I would recommend from my year of teaching the OT is this PDF of the timeline of the Bible from Saul to Malachi.

It is an imperfect resource as I think I got Esther mis-dated, and the timeline advances in 5-year increments, so dating is approximate and not exact. You may find other errors.

However, if you want to read your Bible to find the historical context of a book of the OT, this timeline can help you make sense of the historical context of that book.


The Good Fight

He's one perspective on race in America.

Here's another:
Politics & Black Americans
Racial hoaxes & the NAACP
Liberal views, black victims

You think about that, because it's going to come up again.

If you're happy and you know it ...

Advice to make your weekend go better, if you don't read the Bible or anything.

#10 is the only one I can really endorse, but in terms of making you more happy, the rest of this list is pretty good for a laugh. And the puppy picture -- while I am not a puppies and bunnies kind of guy -- is also a pick-me-up. You should look that happy and care-free as you run to church.

absentee ballot

The election ended two days ago, right? and Sen. Obama is now President-elect Obama, yes?

Now listen: he promised "change", right? I am personally in for "change", but probably not the actual details of change he is going to advance, so let's set that aside for a minute.

read this and ask yourself, "it is really 'change' if the primary attribute of a potential SCOTUS judge is their sex or race? Is that the kind of change we're really after here?"

Maybe it is. Maybe I misunderstood why people hated George Bush. I thought his problem was that people saw him as a person who installed cronies to run the joint. Maybe his problem is that people didn't see themselves has the right kind of cronie ...

How to measure a landslide

This is a map, courtesy of someone at the University of Michigan, of the election results by county, graded on a scale of "Strongly Obama" (bright blue) to "Strongly McCain" (bright red), with variations measured by shades between blue and red.

(FWIW, since when did the politically-left party become the "blue" party? They used to love being the so-called "Reds" ...)

It's an interesting map.

Tony Jones on WOTM

Before we talk about this, go ahead and read this overview of abortion statistics from the Guttmacher Institute. And I use those stats because Guttmacher is a essentially a pro-abortion rights organization, so there are no dodges about who said what to whom.

Now, the Freakishly-tall Todd Friel had an interesting second half of his second hour on Monday as Tony Jones of Emergent Village fame and Scott Klusendorf of squared up on the question of abortion -- and it became a discussion about tactics.

See: Tony Jones said plainly, "I hate abortion". But his view is that the alleged pro-life movement has had an abysmal record on curbing the number of abortions in this country and that (now President-elect) Barack Obama is going to address the causes of abortion rather than the symptom which is abortion itself.

Jones' view is that if there are fewer women below the poverty line, there will be fewer abortions -- because in his view, poverty causes abortion. Fear of not having money, or not having enough money, causes abortion. And Klusendorf rightly pointed out that there are socialized countries in the world with heavy support for the poor which have exactly the same rate of abortion as the US, so that argument is a little lame.

But I think there's a bigger fish to fry here, and I'm sort of stunned that Klusendorf didn't go after it. This is from Guttmacher: single women account for two-thirds of all abortions, and half of the women getting abortions state that their lack of having a stable male counterpart is the reason they want an abortion.

So what is happening in the real world (as opposed to what I guess Tony Jones has observed at Solomon's Porch in Minneapolis) is that single women are having sex with men they don't really respect -- men they would call (according to Guttmacher) "problem relationships" -- and they don't want a baby making their problem relationships more problematic.

Stew on that a while. It comes back to the problem of evil.

Prayer for the Chief

May God bless him with a love of justice and mercy, and a hunger for wisdom. Let him remember the fatherless and the orphan.


Pray, and then vote, and then pray again. Notice that you can rightly prayer more than once today, but you can only vote once today. That should give you some idea as to which is more important in the scheme of things -- but don't neglect one for the other.

If you need a prayer to start you, here's one which is good. As I think about it, this one is even better.

Then resume your life as a disciple of Christ.

UPDATED: That's what I'm talkin' about.

for JT's blog

I dropped this in the meta at JT's blog and I liked it enough to store it here for future reference.

Aside from all the praise here, Justin, I think the point of Dr. Piper's video was exactly to waylay extremism in considering the election.

You know: people have a variety of hopes hanging in the balance in this election. I think it is hard for us white people to really get how publicly liberating it is for our black brothers and sisters to have a credible, eloquent, and in many ways admirable man from their cultural community this close to being president of the United States; I think the same holds true for Governor Palin's candidacy for a different demographic in spite of the backlash against her from some quarters.

But I think Dr. Piper's message was that our hope is not in this election. You know: our hope is not in Dinner tonight, but we will all have dinner. In the same way, our hope is not in this election and we should still have the election. We simply cannot veer into the mad rhetoric of what my wife calls "doggie brains" -- that is, we can't see what is happening right now as the only thing which has happened, or is happening, or will happen.

Let me suggest something here: I want you to imagine whatever it is you think is the worst scenarion for the outcome of tomorrow's election. To me, the worst outcome would be a blindside victory by Nader, but that's another story.

Now, on Wednesday, that's the world we have. You voted your conscience, as did everyone who voted, and now the electoral college has to confirm the voting and we have the worst possible president with the worst possible Legislative branch possible.

How does that change the scope of your life as a disciple of Christ?

Listen: even if FOCA becomes law on Nov 5th, how does that change the mission of the church?

Here's my thing: Freakishly-tall Friel was going over this on 29 October with his sidekick "Brainiac", and listening to him something struck me: the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness,self-control; against such things there is no law.

That is to say this: in a country where abortion on-demand is simply the rule, should the church try to overcome the government, or should it seek to overcome sin by the work of the Cross? Should is save by the power of the ballot box, or by the power of the Gospel?

It seems to me that all of us here know abortion is wrong. It's not advanced moral calculus: killing babies is wrong. But how many of us who are frankly very worried about the law regarding abortion have given the Gospel in both word and deed to a woman who perceived her need was abortion and not Christ?

I am sure there is one or two out there. What if we sacrificed ourselves for the sake of ending this horror? What if we each took one woman who was going to have an abortion into our home and blessed her with grace at a high cost to ourselves, and sought to either reconcile her to the babiy's father or find her a godly husband to redeem her from her worldly, secular trap?

It will only take a million households, and there is no law against that kind of voting -- against such things there is no law.

What if we lived as if we believed in sacrifice rather than earthly authoritarianism? Would any candidate matter?

This is where we really get after the sovereignty of God: when we live the way He has said to live, not out of some stupid attempt to earn from Him the kind of country we want to live in, but because He has already done so much. This is where we fill up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, people [Col 1:24]. Not in the voting booth, but in the lives of those who are seeking salvation by killing their babies.

Now go vote. Thank you.

My last comment/link before the election

Consider the inplications of voting based on a crisis-aversion mentality, and encourage the guy next to you to do the same.

Is evil a problem? (6)

So we’re at the place where we can say a couple of things from the existential side of the problem of evil:

[1] from the perspective that pain exists, and we perceive it, we as human beings (you could say “people”) have an urge to do something about it when we see it.

[2] that urge even extends to the pain of others; we have the ability to empathize with the pain of others and therefore want to do something about it as well.

[3] Often – and I would make the case that almost always -- the problem of pain results in our having to choose to suffer a greater loss to end one kind of pain or suffering. For example, to end the holocaust and the death of 6 million Jews, people were willing to pay the price of over 60 million deaths.

[4] Atheism in general doesn’t give us the philosophical tools to sort out when a greater loss is worth the price of ending the suffering of others – and in fact it can create dilemmas like the problem of what to do with children who are being indoctrinated by their parents into ideas we do not agree with.

And the atheist, as we have noted, would say this: “yes, fine – by that doesn’t get your idea of God off the hook. God should be good enough and smart enough and strong enough to have made a universe in which we shouldn’t have to choose between bankrupting a prosperous nation and feeding all the yungry children in the world. Your ‘God’ should be clever enough to sort out how to have made all of us all happy all the time – and in the very least, He didn’t. So in the best case for you, He’s not all you have cracked Him up to be.”

Yes, well: let’s hold the horses here. Before we stampede all over God’s goodness or wisdom or power, I think the Atheist has frankly left his barn door open before he can get to this critique.

Let’s consider something: if in the atheist existential case we can admit that in order to achieve outcomes which we desire we often have to pay a steep price for the sake of achieving what we intend to achieve, why must this be ruled out in the case of God? That is: let’s imagine for a moment that there are outcomes in the purpose of the universe for which God requires that there be some suffering. In order to achieve some of the goals of the universe, God may require that people suffer.

See: the atheist can look at this, and even imagine it, but in his mind the only way to judge this is to say, “if that’s so, God must be evil. Any God which requires suffering to make His objectives into reality is a cruel God who somehow enjoys our pain.”

The problem is that the atheist, in saying this, credits God with less than the atheist would credit himself with. The atheist would admit that it is better to dig out a splinter than to let it fester and infect its victim – in fact, the atheist would call a doctor who refused to dig out splinters a cruel doctor for refusing to treat his patient. The atheist would demand that the law-breaker who committed a crime be incarcerated for his crime – even though the time of rehab or punishment would be far longer than the time it took to commit the crime, and the prime the criminal paid would in fact be far higher than the pain he inflicted. At the same time, the atheist would call the doctor who forbade the activity which caused the splinter cruel or inept; he would call the government which eliminated convenience stores for the sake of eliminating convenience store robbery oppressive.

Knowing this, it is a false accusation to posit that God is cruel if pain exists. The only way to know why pain exists in a theistic framework is if God tells us why pain exists, and at that point we have to assess only if God is telling the truth or if God is a liar.

And this is why we turn the corner from assessment of the atheist complaint and his own solution to the problem to actually advocating for God: theism – particularly, those who say, “know for certain that Jesus is both Lord and Christ” – have an obligation to speak to the problem of evil not merely from a philosophic standpoint, but from an existential standpoint. We have an obligation to tell people what God has actually said about this matter – because he has said something, and His view of things are authoritative because He’s the author.

More next time.

a what?

I want to know what that means. I thought that we already had police -- does this mean we need a different kind of police? Does it mean we need to give the police a different set of rules to do their job by?

What does that mean?