[!] Pastor Brad: we can help

I was reading Malkin, and she had someone suggesting that blogs are good for disseminating information. No kidding?

All right: sarcasm tags are officially laid aside for the week. Here's my thinking, Brad: get the people displaced by the hurricane lined up in your office, and start them adding comments to this post. Very simple stuff:
    Hometown before the storm
    Family members with them
    e-mail address of someone we ought to contact for them to say they are OK
I'll send the e-mails (I might make JIBBS do it) if they need the help.

[!] More on the work

More from Brad Williams:
Imagine yourself getting the call to evacuate. You, like myself, would probably get as much as you could pack into a couple of bags and head for a relatives house, thinking to return in a week or so. Except imagine that you have no nearby relatives, or no means of getting to them.

Here you are, plopped down with your wife and children in the midst of hundreds of strangers, sleeping on a concrete floor. Such a scene should arouse the compassions of the basest pagan in the world. How then ought the children of God react?

The indignity of it is pitiful. Last night, a man tried to pay us for a pillow for his daughter. They had been plucked off of a roof. We didn't want or need the money, and he knew it. But I could see clearly that he was trying desperately to hang on to the one thing he had left: some shred of pride and decency. No, I'm not talking about a works oriented, sinful pride. I'm talking about a man who did not wish to be viewed as a bum. I'm talking about a man who, after he had lost everything, still wanted to provide something for his family.
It makes apologetics look a little stupid, doesn't it? I know something about Brad -- and I am CERTAIN he didn't make this fellow feel like a bum. But whatever this anonymous victim of the flood had, he should not have to trade dignity for a pillow for his daughter.

The link is at the top of the sidebar: use it to help the people on the ground as you think is best to help someone right now so that we are not forcing people to trade dignity for a pillow to sleep on or a bite of food.

[*] Since everyone else is doing it ...

... let's talk about New Orleans and the hurricane. The subtitle of this post is:
I gave at the Home Office?
I gave at the Home Office?

My friend and customer Pastor Brad Williams dropped this in the comments of my roundup of relief agencies on the ground in the disaster area (and you can still give to one of those agencies, btw -- they still need help):
This is far worse than most people realize. We have over 200 New Orleans residents staying here in our local high school. They are devastated. They've lost everything.

We are currently gathering as many of the basic necessities as we can to bring them there to donate. Please give to the Red Cross or SBC. The needs are overwhelming.

Just as a footnote, as I hurriedly write this off, Wal-Mart refused to discount anything for us. That seriously irked me. They told me that "they had already given". It strikes me as evil to max out profit on suffering people.
Well, it turns out I have some experience with this. Back in the late 90's, there was a blizzard in Upstate NY -- particularly the Adirondacks region -- which knocked out power for everything north of Albany into Montreal. At that time, I was the GM of a SAM'S Club, and my Director of Operations got on the phone with the Home Office to do what any sane person would do: supply the things people needed most. In this case, it translated into Coleman generators -- 3 truckloads of Coleman generators.

Before anyone thinks that we gave them away, we didn't: we sold them at the exact same retail we had them marked the day before. We ordered them on a Friday and they showed up on a Sunday -- and I remember that clearly because of what happened next.

On Sunday morning, I opened the store because I knew we were going to have a "rush" on generators, and it would have been wrong to stick one of my assistant managers with the burden of dealing with cold, scared, frankly-desperate people who just want to make sure they don't freeze to death in their homes. Sure enough, when I got there at 7 AM (we opened at 10 AM), there were already people standing in the parking lot, and the Coleman truck was parked in the receiving bay.

I let the folks who were there in, told them that we had generators, and that we would give everyone a chance to buy one. One. That made one fella pretty angry because he wanted 5 -- all that would fit in his truck.

"well," I said, "if after everyone who came down here to get a generator has one and there are some left over, you can buy more than one." His response, to say the least, was hardly Christian. See: the thing he thought I didn't know or wouldn't care about was this: rather than looting taking place north of Albany, gouging was taking place north of Albany. The Coleman 5000W generator could fetch $2000-$4000 in Saranac Lake or Lake Placid or (where we had a club that was in very dire straits) Plattsburg -- maybe more if you could get to Montreal. We were selling them for $499. He could write a check today for $2000 and make $7500 before dinner if he was clever and maybe $17,500 is he was patient.

We had 30 generators, and we were going to sell them for $499 to the first 30 human beings standing in line -- less 4 we promised to one of the fire departments from the disaster area which would be there at 4 PM to pick them up. So my plan, barring a riot, was to sell 26 people generators. And we were going to wait until 3 PM to do it in order to make sure that all the people making the trip would have a chance to get what they needed.

When we opened at 10 AM, the line was about 20 people deep, and I had made a flier for my door greeter to hand out explaining what we were doing. We offered coffee and snacks to the travelers, and we asked them to sit down and wait. Most of them did.

Some of them went next door to the National Home Improvement SuperStore Chain when they opened at 11 AM, and the scene was very different: nobody was enforcing rules about generators, and people were walking out with as many as they could carry -- at $695 a piece. In NY State, it's illegal to price gouge (yes, I know the link points to a 2003 memo P.R. from Pataki; it's the best I could do on short notice) -- meaning those who charge more than 2x the normal market price for an item in times of emergency are breaking the law. So our neighbor didn't break the law. How nice for them.

Anyway, by 3 PM, we had about 24 people lined up, and we unloaded the truck, checked them all out (with and without membership cards, than you), and sent them home with generators. We didn't give them away, but we didn't take advantage of them, either.

That very long short story is to say this: it's not necessarily evil to charge someone what it actually costs to deliver goods to them, especially if it is what you have always been doing since you opened your doors to do what you do. I appreciate Brad's frustration and his anger. I understand that people are completely and utterly wiped out. The other side of the coin is this blog entry from Michelle Malkin, of which one highlight reads:
Those trapped in the city faced an increasingly lawless environment, as law enforcement agencies found themselves overwhelmed with widespread looting. Looters swarmed the Wal-mart on Tchoupitoulas Street, often bypassing the food and drink section to steal wide-screen TVs, jewelry, bicycles and computers. Watching the sordid display and shaking his head in disgust, one firefighter said of the scene: "ItÂ’s a f---- hurricane, what are you do with a basketball goal?" Police regained control at about 3 p.m., after clearing the store with armed patrol. One shotgun-toting Third District detective described the looting as "ferocious."
So while WMT may not be handing out its cans of corn and loaves of bread, it also is facing its own problems. <SARCASM> I'm sure unionized workers would have done a much better job protecting their work site than these ununionized workers did </SARCASM>, but WAL*MART is taking as great a hit in this region as anyone. More than 80 stores are closed due to this catastrophe.

FWIW, WAL*MART didn't leave its hands in its pockets on the first pass in this disaster.

[%] I HATE it when he does this!

Doug Wilson has, again, blogged on homosexuality in society, and while he answers one question directly, he answers the far more important questions related to his view not at all.

<JOKE>Now I know where Tim Enloe got it from.</JOKE> It makes me crazy when his "bigger fish to fry" is the single crab cake in the pan and a whole plate full of Catfish Fillets are left warm and slimy on the cutting block.

[!] It's one thing to give a lecture ...

... about the Gospel and talk all this talk about the resurrection and orthodoxy and all that very important, God-purposed stuff. It is another thing entirely to just talk about it.

My wife and I have this joke about how we measure the current state of things in our marriage based on the idiom "high on the hog": we rate the current state of things based on the "mud line". When things are going good, we're above the mud line; when things are getting shook up, we're around the mudline. When we get fired from a job for no reason and it becomes apparent that we may have to file bankruptcy in order to keep our kids from living in a box in Manitowoc, WI (which, BTW, we never had to do, thanks be to God), that's way below the mud line.

Right now Hurricane Katrina has left a lot of people not just below the mudline: it has left them under the hog. All things being equal, it's like 1% of the population of the US that has been effected in the short run here, but that means it leaves the other 99% of us to do something about it.

Pull yourself away from Camp Cindy for 5 minutes; forget about whether Judge Roberts is a crypto-fascist or has closeted opinions about abortion we can't figure out yet; put down the diet Coke or the name-brand Coffee. If you're a Christian, right now pull your head out of your pious little world of concerns. Right now you have to do something about what just happened to these people.

One of your choices is to hit "NEXT BLOG" (HA! There IS NO NEXT BLOG BUTTON! Take That!). You're a moral free agent, and you can choose to do nothing about this disaster because you don't know anybody who got hurt, so it's not your problem.

Another choice is to find out what's going on in your community to help these people and join in. Maybe take a week off from work and got pick up wreckage in a neighborhood you never heard of. Maybe you have a generator you want to bring down and you only live 5 hours away. If that's you, go do it now. Don't wait. Tell your boss you're taking time off and GO DO IT NOW.

Another choice -- which is COMPLETELY AND TOTALLY IN THE SCOPE OF POSSIBILITY FOR EACH AND EVERY PERSON READING THIS BLOG ENTRY is to donate money to people on the ground already:Listen: if you're just going to sit there, don't pretend that you are capable of or qualified for internet apologetics. This is where we trade our ashes in for beauty. If you just have a loud mouth and a good argument, you're no better than a clanging cymbal if you can't find a way to help these people in a time of desperate need. Don't just nod your head and then slip over to Defamer or Hugh Hewitt or back to work or whatever: you have come upon people dressed in rags and half-starved and if you say, "Good morning, friends! Be clothed in Christ! Be filled with the Holy Spirit!" and walk off without providing so much as a coat or a cup of soup--where does that get you? Isn't it obvious that God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense?

Do something about it RIGHT NOW. You. Personally. Even the guy from Billings, Montana and the guy from Helsinki, Finland, and the guy from India who took a look at the site in Mahareshtra. And even the guy in Sheffield, UK.

I didn't just dump these links up here to feel good about myself. And I'm not asking you to do something I wasn't willing to do. The way I see it, if the daily visitors to my blog each give what I gave today to one of these relief agencies, we can feed between 500 and 1000 people. We might provide enough water for 3000 people. We might buy 100 generators.

It's up to you. You want to serve? Serve now. I made it easy for you.

FOR YOU SPIDERS AND SEARCH ENGINES -- FILE UNDER: hurricane Katrina disaster relief list

[%] Speaking of Challies ...

... he's got a decent blog on the matter of pragmatism in the 21st century in the church.

I'm going to need to give it a second pass before I put it up for post of the week, but it'll get you thinking this morning.

[*] Contestant #1 for Post of the Week

Hat tip to Challies for pointing me to Fid-O, and in particular for posting what has got to be one of the best posts in apologetics and theology this week.

There are no big words in that post -- no contrasts between Aristotelian insouciance and Platonic mumbledeepeg. But what you will find is a view into what has become the standard for evangelical Christian ministry. If you like it, that's your problem; if you don't, Pastor Tom Ascol has a bandwagon he's building and you need to think about getting on.

Welcome Fid-o to the Teen Titans. Nice Doggie.

[%] the king of one-liners

Doug Wilson posted this today:
"Given that Christ is our only possible Savior, how is it that Christians believe that Christ can be banished from our public life, while simultaneously believing that sin and disobedience can be kept out of our public life by some other means, some other savior? How can we reject Christ in this way and not have homosexual marriage?" (Black and Tan, p. 20).
I know where he takes this from here and I don't agree with all of it, but I think he's onto something here.

[?] A Nickle Bag

I have this friend who owns a secular bookstore in upstate NY, and he sent me this e-mail today:
Have you ever noticed that wacky conspiracy theories are presented in rhetorical questions?
Do you think it's time I came up with a new one?

Have you actually been to Louisiana in the last day or two?
Have you seen the hurricane?
So how do you KNOW that there's really a bad storm down there?
Isn't it strange that the authorities are herding people into the Superdome for shelter?
(Aren't these the same "authorities" that were deployed in Florida on Election Day 2000?)
Isn't it stranger still that the Superdome doesn't have any windows?
As for us, who aren't in the area, can we really believe the corporate-owned media in its coverage?

You think maybe that this so-called hurricane will drive up oil and gas prices?
Just whose buddies will benefit from that?

Don't you just know that Karl Rove is behind all this?
On my way home I'm buying canned goods, bullets and liquor.

[%] Why Steve Hays is a keeper

He just saved me from spending my whole afternoon trying to say something about Dr. Paul Owen's latest. With many of the top guns at sea this week during the annual AOMIN Apologetics cruise, I was worried that I'd have to interact with the fellow who spends as much time defending Mormon academic theology as he does assailing Baptist theology.

[*] An Oldie, but a Goodie

If you have never read this transcript, then you have cheated yourself out of one of the best popular discussions of authority, meaning and faith in the last 10 years.

Most of this discussion occurs as a kind of street-argument, and there's a lot of unintelligible parts as the men talked over each other. But it is a perfect example of what the problem is in popular culture today.

The topic for the meta is this: what is the problem underscored by this transcript?

[*] Let's pray to Moses, too

Listen: I came to work today with some features from the Sunday paper about Intelligent Design and the people who can't see intelligence in design and competing magisteria and all that stuff, but I only have limited blog time today, so I'm posting this instead: some people don't know when to stop.

Believe it or not, I'm not complaining about "ct". I'm talking about President Josiah "Jeb" Bartlet -- uh, I mean Martin Sheen -- who showed up at Kamp Kindy in Crawford, TX.
"At least you've got the acting president of the United States," Sheen said as the crowd of more than 300 people cheered. "I think you know what I do for a living, but this is what I do to stay alive."

Then Sheen led anti-war demonstrators who are Roman Catholic in reciting the rosary.
Here's what I think: they should get some Muslim clerics out there praying to Allah to help out with Mrs. Sheehan's protest. That makes about as much sense as praying to Mary over this -- maybe moreso, since Allah is the god of the men with whom we are at war.

[%] Katrina prayer requests

Brad Williams and Eddie Exposito (among a few hundred thousand others) are finding themselves in some bad weather today. Don't think about praying for them: take a moment right now and pray for them and their families that God will be merciful and also be glorified in His creation.

[?] My apologies to Sacramento, CA

Today the HaloScan comments have been updated to block a certain server from Sacramento for the purpose of enforcing my anathemacious banning of "ct" in all his/her incarnations.

If you're a reader in Sacramento who's using PacBell.net, you might have some problems posting comments. You can e-mail me if you're desperate to make a statement.

I know, I know: it's creepy. I'm a bad person for it. I just can't spend all day trading barbs with a person who is free from the fear of men and only fears God -- whatever that means.

[?] Just something else to sign up for

If you check out my HaloScan Comments, you can see that I have my own lovely photo adorning most of my own comments. That's thanks to gravatar.com, which allows you to carry your avatar with you by e-mail address. Pretty cool, eh?

Jusr anothger ploy to get you to link and read, I guess.

[?] Speaking of random mutations ...

... the blog has again evolved, making the sidebar stay where it ought to stay on the page by brute force. The rest of the page may be in the wrong place, but the sidebar it super-glued to the window. Don't even try to move it.

[?] Bloody Random Mutations

As those who are following this very important news have seen, my TTLB ecosystem ranking has changed dramatically.

I blame natural selection. How can my daily unique traffic put me in the top 2500 blogs in all of the TTLB ecotraffic, but my ecosystem ranking leave me in the evolutionary backwater? Something terribly sinister is happening. I tell you, no good can come of it.

In the mean time, enjoy this link I found while trying to find a sketch of a slithering lizard.

[?] We've been had

I was reading Pecadillo this evening, and finally finished the Nachos receipe, and I'm still trying to figure out how to eat a can of my favorite chili without my wife finding out and my weight going up by 16 oz. However, I was pleased to read that Pecadillo has linked to this blog, which only proves that turkeys do flock together.

HOWEVER, upon futher review, I ALSO found that Pecadillo links to PyroManiac because they are related. Turns out the impeccible Pastor Johnson has used nepotism to select a sidekick. Nepotism!

It's not right. I feel so dirty ... so full of chili and groggy ...

[*] Mega Shift: Two posts rolled into one

I promised the readers of this blog two more parts on Mega Shift by James Rutz, and I'm just not going to deliver that. I had the outlines worked out, but as I fleshed them into potable material, they just kept getting longer and longer until they stopped being readable and stopped being writable in the sense that I don't have a team of Jesuits in the basement hammering out 50,000 words a night to keep my blog awash in bandwidth.

That said, there are serious things to know about this book, and here are the top 3 concerns you need to have about it theologically in no particular order:

(1) Rutz relies heavily in his book on conclusions or assertions from people who claim to be prophets but are documented as false prophets (based on the Bible's criteria for such a thing) and false teachers. Two significant individuals in this regard are Rick Joyner and Erich Reber, who is associated with the "Kingdom Now" movement, an off-shoot of the Five-fold ministry movement, and the Latter Rain Movement. This association in and of itself is, as far as I'm concerned, enough to disqualify this book from even marginal consideration as orthodoxy.

(2) Rutz cannot make up his mind regarding the importance of doctrine. That is to say, when it suits him, he is willing to make sweeping statements about who is and is not following Christ, but when it comes to matters of expressing a systematic view or a biblically-analogous view, Rutz simply passes. Here's a great example from the text:
In a stated act of "self-cleansing" on January 22, 1998, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Grand Inquisitor for the Roman Catholic Church and head of its Congregation fro the Doctrine of the Faith, speaking for the church, said that their archives (4,500 volumes) indicate a death toll of 25 million over the centuries. That's just those killed by the Catholic Church for being heretics. (An likely two-thirds of the original volumes are lost).25

How could the followers of the gentle Savior cause such a death toll? It all started with doctrine. Following the early church's struggles with heresies, finely tuned systems of doctrine were hammered out. Eye-crossing, i-dotting precision was achieved, even in issues like the nature of the Trinity, the incarnation of Christ, and predestination vs. free will, all of which are beyond the ability of men's minds to fully explain.

This battle-hardened theology was bequeathed to succeeding generations of Christians, right down to our parents. Doctrine was a war banner, a flag we waved to flaunt our differences from other denominations. Thus, out most cherished truths became our prime sources of distrust and division instead of unity and love.

Today, however, doctrine is more likely a foundation under our feet or an anchor to keep us from drifting away from the truth. We've learned to unite around the core doctrines we have in common.

Unfortunately, many of the large U.S. and European denominations are dying out because they have abandoned the pretext of conservative doctrine and dove into a sinkhole of liberalism, whose tenets are 180 degree off from the truth.26 Lead astray by their leaders, they have lost touch with the bedrock verities of the Bible. They have followed the perennial pattern of error crashing into the church from the theologians and power players.

25Women's Summit 2000, unpublished 2000 manuscript by Bindu Choudhrie, page 18.
The astounding irony of footnote 26, btw, is that Rutz has the audacity to cite Machen's Christianity and Liberalism as a source for this point -- as if Machen would agree with Rutz about any of his other theological points. But to stay on-point here, notice that this is one continuous stream of text -- no ellipses. This is the thesis as Rutz presents it: The church "made" systematic doctrine to combat heresy even though human minds cannot fully explain the issues at stake, but on the other hand doctrine is based on the Bible and anyone who doesn't have "conservative" doctrine is in a "sinkhole" of liberalism. It's complete blather -- you can't make heads or tales of what he means here.

(3) Rutz can't decide whether "church" is necessary or not. His definition of "church" is so nebulous and wide-open that one cannot rightly judge it. For example, he takes the events of the split pulpit at Christian Tabernacle in Houston, TX on 10/20/1996 to say this:
By striking and destroying this symbol of spiritual apartheid, God gave us a peek inside His heart. Tommy (Tenney) tells me it was "a slap in the face for overly tight human control of the church."
Well, maybe this is the case, but at the same time, Rutz is adamant that a church be based on a five-fold ministry -- which, for those of you not familiar with such a thing, has a system of church government with apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. These two distinct models -- "open" services and church government on one side and 5-fold government on the other -- can't be reconciled, but that doesn't stop Rutz. He just says they are compatible, and the reader is not expected to ask any questions. Apparently, because God said so.

So that's my last two posts on Mega Shift rolled into one readable digest. Gosh: just avoid this book. Read it only if you have to deal with someone who believes that they have finally discovered God's will for the church, and it came from a fellow named James Rutz.

I'll have a few other tidbits later today. If I don't see you, have a nice weekend, and spend the Lord's day in the Lord's house.

Other entries in this series: | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 |

[?] Good Grief! I've Evolved!

After burning 380 calories at the gym this morning and maintaining an average heart rate of 142 for 34+ minutes, I came home and opened the blog while eating breakfast. Of course, I found Perry's always-helpful chit-chat about why pomo linguistic theory is not self-defeating amusing as breakfast fare, but as I scrolled down the blog, I found that I looked in the TTLB ecosystem mirror and found that I was no longer a slither reptile! By Jove, I'm now a FLAPPY BIRD!
Thank you to all the environmental changes and random chance mutation who have made this possible. I love you even if you are impersonal and have no intention or goal for my sudden biophysical manifestation.

[*] If you have trouble sleeping ...

... have a read of this little paper. Here's my favorite part:
The burden of this reply lies, however, in actually producing a linguistic theory that sustains a principled class of sentences that could seriously be regarded as analytic in this way. This, as yet, it is by no means obvious that it can do. Some of its most prized examples, such as (10) in set II, linking killing to death, have been contested on linguistic grounds (see Fodor (1970, 1998), but also Pietroski (2002) for a recent, technical reply). And many linguists (e.g., Jackendoff (1992), Pustejovsky (1995)) proceed somewhat insouciantly to include under issues of “meaning” and “conceptual structure” issues that are patently matters merely of ordinary belief or even merely phenomenology. For example, Jackendoff and others have called attention to the heavy use of spatial metaphors in many grammatical constructions; but, of course, from such facts it doesn't begin to follow that the many domains to which these metaphors are extended, say, the structure of the mind, social relations, or mathematics are, themselves, somehow intrinsically spatial.{Emph added}
I wonder: does this paper itself have any sentences that can be classed as analytic? If not, do the words in this paper actually do anything epistemologically, or are they just some linguistic gaussian cloud which barely maintains existential weight?

Moreover, does this view of language include the metaphysical presupposition of God? That's a question that will never get answered, I am sure.

[?] My People -- they're everywhere

Here's the hit map from the last 100 hits to the blog:

The red one is the last hit to the site; the greens are the last 10.

[*] Rule of Law III: I was wrong

I'm just grateful for fellows like Dr. Al Mohler . Here's why:
With unmistakable clarity and an apparent lack of self-consciousness, Robertson simply called for an assassination, presumably to be undertaken by U.S. military forces in violation of U.S. law.

In so doing he gave the Venezuelan leader a propaganda gold mine, embarrassed the Bush administration, and left millions of viewers perplexed and troubled. More importantly, he brought shame to the cause of Christ. This is the kind of outrageous statement that makes evangelism all the more difficult. Missing from the entire context is the Christian understanding that violence can never be blessed as a good, but may only be employed under circumstances that would justify the limited use of lethal force in order to prevent even greater violence. Our witness to the Gospel is inevitably and deeply harmed when a recognized Christian leader casually recommends the assassination of a world leader.
Now why was I wrong when Dr. Mohler's point harmonizes with my earlier statements on this topic? Because there was no Christian backlash against Roberston's heartless, mindless, useless comments.

Dr. Mohler spoke out in no uncertain terms; RedState.org handed Roberston his head; the national Clergy Council asked him to apologize; Steve Camp awarded him a "Lifetime Loser". Eschaton asks how many commandments Robertson can break in one week. Somebody name "Mark Daniels" has a good bit. As I look around, that's really it.

Hugh Hewitt -- Mr. "in not of" who gets thousands of hits per day -- has no opinion on his blog about Robertson's insidious remarks. Brian Maloney -- filling in for Michelle Malkin -- says that we should just ignore ol' Pat who is "an opinionated, somewhat influential television host". Challies: no mention. Evangelical Outpost: Nothing. LaShawn Barber: no matches found. JollyBlogger: nada e pues nada.

Don't talk to me about evangelical co-belligerence when someone like Robertson is let off scott-free by a 24/7 blogosphere of Christians when he says something as morally fatuous as he said on Monday. Yes, fine: he "apologized" (if you can call it that -- it's like saying, "well, it's my TV station, and without any regard to what I actually said, I meant that we should really just give him the 'angry eyebrows'"). The point is not that he could be shamed into retraction but that he ought not to have said this thing in the first place.

Let's keep that in mind, kids, the next time some Islamic cleric hiding in the Pakistani mountains sends a video tape to Al-Gezira calling for the death of Americans for their moral crimes against Muslim society: maybe the Muslim world just can't be bothered to denounce the ravings of a sad old man who has lost most of his influence -- even if what he is saying is so politically and morally repugnant that they secretly would like to see him go away forever.

[*] Rule of Law, redux

Doug Wilson has interesting things to say today. Whether you agree with him or find him randy, you'll have to stop and think a minute about his point.

What do I think about it? I think he's right about the problem of evil in this application. Does he take it too far? If he does, why did Pat Robertson opine that the U.S. Government ought to cancel Hugo Chavez's check?

[*] Um, Rule of Law anyone?

Pat Robertson.

Thank you and good night.

UPDATED: If we accept the assertion that Pat Roberston just said the dumbest thing in his career of saying dumb things that make Christians look like pitchfork-carrying villagers, and we are pleased to see the White House distance itself from Robertson's uber-gaff, what about the Venezuelan retort that Robertson's comments are tantamount to international terrorism?

I have a couple of things to say about that:

(1) Pat Robertson doesn't bankroll training bases for christian jihadists, so his stupid, ill-considered remarks are only hot air: he has no way to make his weird bloody dreams into reality.

(2) Robertson also is actively being denounced by our government and, if you stroll the blogosphere, his fellow Christians for his murderous edict. That's a different kettle of fish than when Al-Zaqari calls for the death of American citizens on Al-Gezira and Muslims across the Middle East have parties to endorse his murderous edict.

That's all I could come up with before I had to leave today. Pat Robertson is a sick old man who needs some help, and I denounce his view, reject his call to action, and condemn it on the basis of the Gospel.

Anyone else?

[$] I sell out for 5 minutes ...

... and I find an ad for horoscopes at the bottom of my Google ads.

Listen: don't click thru for your horoscope. I'll give it to you for free:
Your life is about to change. Something your were expecting is not going to happen, and something you didn't expect will materialize instead. Love is always a possibility, but caution is always advised.
That applies to all signs and all birthdays. Don't waste a click on a horoscope that won't be any more specific or insightful than the one I just gave you.

[?] You MSIE users ... MESHUGANA!

Last night, the beloved and highly-esteemed Phil Johnson commented
Yeah, you've definitely got a better blogheader than the PP. I like the splash of color on the latest edition.

The right column is still messing up in IE, though.
Phil Johnson | Homepage | 08.22.05 - 5:30 pm | #
Now, because Phil is a Pastor, and due double honor and all that, I am not going to point out that I warned all the MSIE users a long time ago that they were going to have problems rendering this blog, and that they could get a browser for free that would give them better web browsing results not just for us but for all men. Instead, out of deference to a greater man who is almost single-handedly responsible for the popularity of my blog in the first place, I spent my morning mucking up the blogger template so that MSIE users -- who, like lemmings, still comprise 66% of all visitors -- get almost exactly what they ought to be seeing and my sidebar doesn't drop down to the footer of the page. I can't make the post subject lines render in all-caps in Arial Black in MSIE. I have tried everything, and IE 6.X just won't do it. Sorry 'bout that.

For my brethren Firefox users, I am sorry that you have to suffer with the aesthetically-obscene gap between the sidebar and the date headers. If I close it up, MSIE luddites can't see my sidebar except as a hanging chad at the bottom of the blog. Believe me: as soon as we get a critical mass of 51% of all hits from Firefox, life will be better. It's hard being trailblazers. Think of this as your sacrificial love for those less fortunate than yourselves.

[?] Oh yeah, I almost forgot this ...

... but when TTLB ecosystem finishes updating, Pedantic Protestant will have overtaken me in the net rankings by ONE LOUSY LINK. It seems my generosity in giving him 3 links last week turned the tide, and now he's in the low 8000's while I am in the low 8100's.

Use the link in my sidebar to go visit his black little blog and tell him that he looks like President George Bush. It will make his day.

[*] Maybe we should schedule around ESPN

Tom Ascol has a very plain piece at his blog about church membership vs. church attendance in the SBC.

When it's gourmet-quality, it doesn't need a lot of garnish. Someday the SBC is going to wake up and realize the great commission is to go, make disciples and baptize -- but they're very busy with the purpose-driven church right now. If Jesus calls, take a message and we'll get back to Him after we've finished our building program.

[*] How many PBS Documentaries does it take ...

... to change a lightbulb?

This new book, based on the PBS documentary of the same name, covers a lot of ground regarding a problem that everyone can recognize but no one seems to want to fix: people graduate from college in the U.S. who don't seem to have an education in either the classical sense or the practical sense.

I'm recommending this book to read as a counter-example of how to analyse and solve problems. If you're a person who wants to see what the problems are with higher education in the U.S., you can read this book and see exactly what is wrong -- but not becuase this book is insightful. You can read this book as an example of how the navel-gazing of academia will never find solutions for anything because it has stopped being about reason and evidence and started being about hypotheses and ideological models.

BTW, how many PBS documentaries does it take to change a lightbulb? The question in moot -- PBS documentaries have never changed anything because they are more concerned with who saw the lightbulb go out and what kind of lighting fixture it is than with screwing out the old and screwing in the new.

[?] A Blessed Lord's Day

Sometime this Sunday, the blog is going to cross 10,000 visitors.

I just wanted to thank you all for reading my schtick. I hope it is as much fun for you as it is for me, and that God's word somehow makes it out in spite of my unintelligible groanings.

[*] Another reason to camp in Crawford, TX?

I was doing some current-events reading, and have found that there is a place where a lot of people are dying – not just people mind you, but our sons and daughters. The statistics from 2002 -2004 are startling: on average, 47 of these young people upon who we have placed our hopes and dreams are killed every day. Mind you, I am sure they all volunteered to go, and they went knowing the danger because they were trained to deal with it, but it doesn’t make losing them any more or less horrible. Frankly, I’m shocked that someone isn’t doing something about this because the President just signed a bill into law that is going to spend $268.4 billion which funds the future deaths of young people.

“Where is this place?” you might be asking – or perhaps you are simply packing your bags to go to Crawford, TX to draw some media attention to this horrible national disgrace. Well, if you are, don’t drive there – because “this place” is the United States, and the bill is the newest Federal Transportation bill President Bush just signed into law. In 2002 and 2004, on average, 47 people between the ages of 15 and 34 were killed every day in driving fatalities (source: here and here) and on average in Iraq, among our combat troops, an average of 3.5 soldiers have been killed every day since we invaded.

An interesting comparison is that for every US Soldier killed in Iraq, 55 enemy combatants have been killed, but that doesn’t solve the problem of our children dying for the sake of oil right here in the US. Seriously now: what other excuse could there be? We are letting our children die so that the oil companies can become rich and fat – because if we stopped letting kids aged 15-24 drive, we’d cut the number of licensed drivers by almost 30% (about 54.7 million drivers), and that would undoubtedly cut our consumption of gasoline. Why go on sending our kids to die for oil?

That’s not to make light of the men and women who are serving in the military: that’s to show that the argument “those who favor the war in Iraq have no regard for human life” is a shallow, pointless argument. It can’t be applied to a much more common case where young people are losing their lives at a high rate.

Interesting study: we lose more soldiers in traffic wrecks than we do in training and combat combined.

[#] MEGA SHIFT: Lots and Lots and LOTS of stuff

So I promised 4 parts on Mega Shift by James Rutz, and I have furnished two good parts and owe you two more. But I have a problem, and I’m going to explain it by way of an anecdote.

My wife and I read books all the time – we own a bookstore, and that’s one of the perks. Lots of books. She usually has one in process and I usually have 2 or 3 in process that we are reviewing for content for the store, or reviewing to give the Banty Rooster or some other blogorific sparring partner a hard time, or maybe just reading for a kick.

In the last two weeks, the only book I have been reading is Mega Shift. Last night while I took my family to the pool of Siloam (not that one but this one), I brought Mega Shift with me because I am marking it up pretty significantly. My wife noticed this and asked me why I was spending so much time on this book – because most books I can plow through in about 4 hours and have a decent grasp of its most salient points.

“I’m still reading it,” I told her, “because it is such a disaster. Just when I think I have the worst of it tackled, I find something else that isn’t right.”

“So throw it away,” she says helpfully – because she is intentionally-ignorant of the blog, not wanting to know about cyberspace except eBay and e-mail. She doesn’t understand I have people counting on me to finish this book and finish blogging about it.

So I can’t just “throw it away”. I have Postit notes on almost every page of this book, and I’m at the place where I’m trying to cull the concerns into categories so I can demonstrate the worst examples and keep the next 2 blog entries about this book under 6 pages each. Believe me: if we cataloged all the problems with this book, it would be another book.

If my weekend goes as planned, I may get the next part up by Monday. If I spend time with my family instead, which would be the right thing to do, we’ll see when the next part gets up. Thanks for your patience, and before I forget:


Other entries in this series: | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 |

[?] Good News/Bad News

GOOD NEWS: Blogger has made a tool that allows you to publisher from WORD to BLOGGER without cutting and pasting or actually knowing much about HTML at all. It's a good idea, and it is seems to be relatively bug-free.

BAD NEWS: It also seems rather feature-free. For example, when I hit [ENTER] twice in the BLOOGER edit window, I get a nice break between paragraphs. When I do that in my WORD file and upload it, WORD changes what OUGHT TO BE a <P> tag and changes it to a <BR> tag, thus not giving me the paragraph break I want. It also doesn't use the style sheet I built for my blog, and I can't hand-code the tags from WORD becuase they turn into text rather than tags in the final publishing step.

So word to BLOGGER: wildly-great idea that needs some work. It will help the noobs a lot more than it will help the crusty old HTML geeks like me.

[?] A heart-felt welcome and "howdy"

I'm addicted to my site meter. If you have a blog, get a site meter counter -- because it's free.

Today's spot-light visitor: Moscow, Idaho. From the University of Idaho, in fact. Welcome. If you're a Christ Churcher, welcome. If you're a temperance wonk, we don't serve alcohol here. Go shake someone else down.


I'm not going to blog on this woman because she has already said more than is necessary. Besides, EVERYONE ELSE ON EARTH WHO BLOGS IN ENGLISH has already said something about this woman.

Cindy Sheehan's son was killed in Iraq as a soldier for the US Army. You can Google her name and his name (Casey Sheehan) if you're interested in the over-1.8 million hits available on this subject.

UPDATED: look -- one of the things that offends me about this whole topic is that this woman did actually lose her son in a war, so without any regard as to how she personally is acting right now, she deserves some space and some grace, right?

Well, what do you do with someone to whom you are trying to give some space and some grace who takes a step-and-a-half toward you every time you take one step back? For example, if I wanted to grieve froma family member I had lost, I'd go and grieve -- and if the press was hounding me for a story, I'd send them away. That's the grief process handled "healthy", for lack of a better term: not dragging others into your emotional distress but gaining comfort from reaching acceptance.

For those of you who don't have the facts about this, the Wikipedia article is frankly the baseline reading. One of the really stunning things about this story is that Mrs. Sheehan has already had a personal meeting with President Bush, about 2 months after her son was killed, and you can read about her feelings after that meeting in this Vacaville Report feature piece.

In fact, you ought to do so for your own sake -- to see the kind of event that is being staged in Crawford clearly.

OK. That's all I'm going to say. Really.

[*] This is not comedy: this is life

I'm minding my own business at lunch, reading Drudge for headline news because I'm too stupid to "get" how to read other blog'd news sources, and I find This bit of feature news from the L.A Times.

Here's the real stunner, buried down far enough that you might not catch it:
[Snoop Dogg], whose real name is Calvin Broadus, also has deep roots in youth football. He remembers the life lessons he learned while playing for the Long Beach Poly Junior Jackrabbits.

"It taught me how to work with other kids," he says, "how to have a relationship, how to learn. My coach taught me about religion as well as football, about keeping God in everything we did." (emph. added)
You all read my blogging about Christian hero Bono, right? I'm waiting for somebody to start calling Snoop Dogg a Christian hero. Who's got that kind of moxie?

Hey Snoop: care to tell us where God is in you CD Doggystyle? Anyone?

[$] Man, that site meter counter is cool!

I'd like to say "hi!" to the readers in:
Marysville, WA
Nampa, ID
Sacramento, CA
San Gabriel, CA
Casa Grande, AZ
Abilene, TX
Oklahoma City, OK
Little Rock, AR
Granite Falls, MN
Kansas City, MO
Nashville, TN
Marietta, GA
Fairfax, VA
Hatfield, PA
the Burg!, PA!
Danbury, CT

That's crazy, isn't it? Get these:
Nothingham, UK (how kind of you to join us!)
Baden-Wurttemberg, Germany (nett, Sie, Freund zu sehen)
Perth, Australia (good on ya mate! Thanks for poppin' in!)

Now I'll lose my job just keeping up with who my visitors are.

[%] Just read this

I am 40 years old (give or take a month), and I will never be this funny and restrained. I just have to admit it to myself.

That's another way of saying: "I blame Doug Wilson for my mid-life crisis; it's all his fault."

[$] Theme Music

I know you were all sure I was kidding about theme music, but I wasn't.

click here to preview

I'm looking for a suitable way to embed this in the site without actually using the EMBED tag. Any of you HTML ninjas have any ideas?

UPDATE: the new and improved theme music is available to hear or not hear in the sidebar. The QT controller was constructed using The Embedded Media HTML Generator from the UCSF/CIT web site. You'd think this information would be easier to find!

[*] Sic Semper Jus Divinum

This is a carry-over from the meta at Steve Hays' blog:

Coupla notes:

- If I have ever implied that JD has a bad relationship with the Gospel in the general sense (that is, that he's disconnected from the Gospel at the aggregate level, that he does not have faith), then my words were chosen poorly because I do not believe that is the case. However, it is important to understand that someone can have good faith and do bad things which do not promote the Gospel. When I asked "what is our relationship to the Gospel ..." I was asking about the relationship of a specific act to the Gospel message (as demonstrated by the example as I spelled it out), I was saying that DOMA does not take a right view of the Gospel and therefore makes a mess of defining marriage.

- I drew my text from DOMA, which is actually the law, not FMA, which is not actually the law. DOMA was the law as it was passed in 1996 in the earliest round of this broo-ha-ha, and it was seen as a big victory by the ECBs. It is also the basis for further lobbying on their part at the state level. DO you think DOMA did anything to actually defend the Christian view of marriage? Is it the defintion you would use or defend?

- Given the text you cite, and your confession that this amendment only recognizes marriage as a legal status, how can it be seen as a victory for the Christian view of marriage? Do you think this is the definition of marriage that people ought to abide by? If it is, you are going to find that you have just handed the keys to the car to homosexual lobby -- because there is no legal basis for restricting this legal status to just one man and one woman.

"Oh Cent," you say, "you're so stupid. This is a constitutional amendment. The courts can't tamper with it once it's adopted." No, they can not -- but the question this amendment completely begs is "what other kinds of unions are there besides marriage that states can adopt?" If this amendment is made part of the Constitution, other kinds of unions are right around the corner -- not by slipper slope reasoning, but by the fact that this amendment does not forbid making other kinds of unions like marriage: it only forbids "construing" (which is to say, interpreting or assuming in the legal sense) that other kinds of unions are like marriage.

- What inevitably happens in this discussion, JD, is that you start sticking words into my mouth. For example, when you change my statement My gripe is that the Gospel is not in their legislation at all into Hello?! What, now the law *is* the gospel? This is ridiculous, you have changed what I have said into something you are more comfortable arguing against.

All men make laws. Romans 2 says that when those without the Law demonstrate that they know something about the Law (by conscience or by moral duties), they remove the excuse that they didn't know any better. So when men (generic) make laws, they demonstrate that they have some awareness of God's decrees.

If all me make laws, what kind of laws should disciples of Christ make? For example, should we make laws about murder which plead about fairness or citizenship as the basis for the right of a person not to be killed in the street? Or should the disciple of Christ say, "All men are created equal, and are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, among them being life"? Ceratinly that is not how any law against murder is written in our country, but it is certainly how all laws against murder are framed in this country because this presupposition was in the basis of the Declaration of Independence.

"Cent, you nitwit," you may respond, "if the Declaration frames the murder laws, why not just admit it frames the marriage laws as well?" Because, in fact, it does not frame marriage at all. It advances broad general principles which do not cover all moral reasoning. It is the responsibility of the Christian political activist to advance the Gospel by making sure that moral precepts are demonstrated in the law from the right metaphysical and epistemological foundation.

In that way, your criticism of my statements simply overlooks the fact that just saying "murder is illegal" is not even remotely a Christian view of things -- and I can prove this by pointing you at the current rush to (again) outlaw the death penalty. If murder law was based on Biblical principles, the right of Government to execute the murderer would be unquestionable -- and would not be equated with murder but with justice. But our penal codes don't even come close to making that kind of distinction, and in that they fail to uphold the right (yes, it is a right) of the government to punish the evildoer.

So when you object to me for trying to equate the Gospel and the civil law (which I do not do), think about the impact having the actual Gospel -- that is, all of God's truth -- as the basis for the things that are and are not illegal (which is what I have been saying over and over and oner ...). The law with the Gospel in it is radically different than the law which does not intersect with the Gospel.

- When you confuse my assertion that the current acts which forbid Gay marriage are merely a club with which to beat Gays off of "marriage" with what Rome was doing, you are making an error of type -- by ignoring who you are defending and why. No one is denying that Paul affirmed that Roman authorities bore the ministry of the sword. The question is, "should Christians implementing laws make judgments by the standards and implement the same kinds of political reasoning as pagan Romans?"

The answer has to be "no". If our political philosophy -- which includes why things ought to be illegal, what the consequences of illegal behavior ought to be, and in what social realm behaviors ought to be defined and dealt with -- is no better than Roman Senators and Caesars, then you have won your argument and lost the point.

I am not calling for or advocating an abandonment of law: I am calling for a view of civil law which places the Gospel first. In that, an ECB ought to have more concern that the civil law is based on God's principles than some person who thinks he is a god who lives in Rome. If the ECBs are the same kind of people that the Roman rulers were, then they should just make laws like the Romans did: for pragmatic reasons as they saw fit, and through the guidance of general revelation rather than Scripture. But if the ECBs are not the same kind of people that the Roman rulers were, then they have something else they have to do besides lobby for pragmatic legal language.

- The definition of marriage is most certainly a function of the Gospel, if you read Eph 5. Marriage is not just about created function but about God's revelation of the Gospel in the roles man and woman have toward each other. If you were reading everything I have typed and not just snatching sentences out of context to score points, you would undoubtedly have seen me make this statement before.

- Last and not least: I have made an effort to avoid zinging you as we have discussed this because I consider you a smart person and a brother in Christ. However, if you're more interested in a street fight, I'm not interested. The reason for me "ignoring you" is that you fly off the handle -- I have the good taste to step back and cool off rather than to tell you, "it's ashame that you don't know the difference between the actual law and proposed constitutional amendment -- maybe if you brushed up on your current events you'd be someone worth discussing this with" or "Your Bible may end in Genesis, but the Bible the ECBs carry does not, and they (and you) might find Eph 5 useful in determining what God's plan for marriage is all about".

If you are interested in this being an exchange of ideas, I'm in -- and will do my best to keep up with you. If you are interested, however, in a flame war, you can look someplace else.

[%] Against the charge of being 'unmutual'

The Pedantic Protestant is having a hard time finding a girlfriend, and he's taking his frustrations out on me -- for being ranked above him in the TTLB ecosystem. To help him along -- and to boost him above me in net links, I have provided a few links here to promote the spirit of mutualism (whatever that means -- I think it is a non-layer method of solving Rubik's Cube):

Pedantic Protestant demonstrates that he doesn't understand the category differences between atheist objectivism and Christian human dignity

Pedantic Protestant slays 1000 men with the jawbone of an ass

Pendantic Protestant demonstrates he has too much time on his hands

Pedantic Protestant does not have a sidekick

If I could have come up with a 5th link, I would have called this post "5 reasons I feel sorry for Time Enloe the Pedantic Protestant", but then I would have taken the joke too far. As it is, I am sure I have just upped the ante for future good-natured ribaldry between PP and myself.

[*] There's no place that's home

I found this article in the Washington Times, and I haven't made up my mind yet whether it is a sign of bad things regarding the future of the two-parent family, or a statement about what happens when the Baby Boomers turn 70.

I'll think about it. You should, too.

[%] Head Rush: off the cuff

I was checking my blog links today (and you can, too -- and I recommend all of them, even the bad ones), and found the Banty Rooster hyping a monologue by Rush Limbaugh from 8/15/05. One of the meatier sections to whet your appetite:
The people of this country, the people who make this country work differ from you in tremendous ways. They are religious. They are God-fearing. They respect values and morality. They know what's right and they know what's wrong, and they do their best to abide. You are offended by all that, claiming they don't have the right to make such decisions, while you sit around and make no decisions whatsoever because you're willing to totally put your life in the hands of some liberal politician and that will take you off the hook for having to make any decision about your life or anybody else's. Well, that's not how the country works. This country works on the basis of an educated and informed public seeking excellence in their own lives to whatever degree they wish it. People pursuing life the best they can, using freedom, God-given freedom -- and for you to call here and to come up with something as irrelevant as to say this war is not worth it because the president's kids aren't there or because nobody from Washington's kids are there doesn't say a thing about the war effort, doesn't say one thing about it, doesn't make it noble, doesn't make it ignoble, doesn't make it anything, because the war is taking place. Whether you agree with the fact that it's going on or not, we all have come to the decision that it's best that we win it. You haven't even joined us on that. You hope we lose it. You want to lose it because you want to embarrass the leaders of the country. What must your lives be like?
And that wasn't scripted -- as far as I know or as far as I have been able to discover. I kinda got sick of Rush about 6 or 7 year ago, but this monologue tells us something about him. It tells us that Rush really believes this stuff.

What someone should do is compare this dissertation to any dissertation of equal length that was not scripted that has been tossed out there by someone from Air America or anyone else from the Left. Compare it in tone and in substance; compare it line by line.

[%] Challies follows up

After blogging in a 6-part series on Mark Driscoll's Radical Reformission, I have found that Tim Challies has read the book and has some insights.

Because I am not the pope of blogdom (I'm just a superhero, and a second-stringer at that -- just look at my sidekick), you should read Tim's stuff for a second opinion.

[$] Sublime Star Trek musings

Has anyone ever thought of the ecclesiological implications of the fact that the Captain of the Enterprise was "Kirk" but the lowly nurse was merely "Chapel"?

Most of you will not get that one, but I've been laughing about that since I realized it on Saturday. You can see what kind of life I actually live.

[$] Proof that I am a sinner

Like you needed proof, I am sure. However, I have this obsession with stats -- that is, where do I rank? Who's better than me? Who am I better than? Am I popular? Am I despised? So I am a member of the Blogdom of God, and in its ranks in the TTLB ecosystem, I found this:

To keep things in perspective, there are more than 3200 blog which get more links and views than my page does in this ranking system. And the blog rank in the "bigger picture" of the whole TTLB ecosystem is that we're like #8100 out of more than 30,000 blogs. Slithering reptile indeed.

The point, however, after all qualifications, is that somehow communio snactorum does not have the same statistical rank as we do. I know it's hard to believe -- I know it cannot be true that more people link to my blog and more people actually view my blog than the reformedCatholics can muster -- but there it is. Somehow a view which takes the Bible at face value, admits to having a tradition that is subject to reform by Scripture, and addresses issues in the regular world of books and events (as opposed to the Medieval world of books and events) has more relevence than the collective fire power of that particular battle station.

It must be the end-times for Evangelidom. It's just not fair.

[%] Speaking of Mothers ...

... Tim Challies has an interesting review of a biography of Mother Theresa.

Let's remember, as we read the review, that an atheist will say anything to discredit something he sees as superstitious -- but there's a difference between ad hom attacks like, "she had a superstitious belief in God, therefore we cannot trust her moral judgment" and "she said that suffering was beautiful, but she would seek help at expensive hospitals (rather than her own clinics) when she needed medical attention."

[$] Note for our Catholic readers

Today is the feast of the Assumption of Mary -- I would have forgotten except that my Palm reminded me. For your edification and information, I have a link you might want to review: Where does the doctrine come from?

[#] Evangelical Co-Belligerants: who is who?

OK: BEFORE we do the stuff which Steve and his sidekick JD may or may not respond to, the BEST part of yesterday's "Justice Sunday II" was this report fromthe Swift Report. Sources close to the Devil say that his appearance at the event was prompted by a much simpler reason: the prominent place of sodomy on the evening’s agenda.


Ok. Anyway.

I was reading then news about yesterday's Justice Sunday II, and one particular news item caught my eye. It seems that there were Christians who were actually opposed to what was happening in Nashville, a group called Faith Voices for the Common Good.

For those not familiar with Faith Voices, here's their mission statement:
Faith Voices serves its diverse member organizations by enhancing community interconnections. We are the exclusive provider of the powerful new technology, Synanim, a dialogic, collaborative internet technology that enables large numbers to create consensus.

Through our unique technologies and services, we help our membership contribute to the renewal of American democratic life.

Strengthen Organizations

* Encourage dialogue and synthesize consensus among members
* Coordinate event planning and information sharing among members
* Deliver a unique fundraising method that broadly enfranchises donors

Engender Ideas and Leadership

* Spark new thinking about values, religion, and public policy
* Broaden the public role of theological schools and religious scholars
* Prepare emerging religious and activist leaders
Apparently, they are religious activists, too -- but of a stripe from which Steve and Jonathan (and me) would distance themselves. Now here's the question:

Why is what Faith Voices doing wrong and what JSII ECBs doing right?

I look forward to the answers from our theonomist brothers in Christ.

[*] Mega Shift: in the break room?

This wasn't part of my intended series on Mega Shift, but I was at the soda machine in the break room, and one of the guys who is my peer stops me and asks me if I'm selling this book at my bookstore.

Now this is a guy who is relatively-grounded in his view of the church, though I wouldn't call his theology high-octane. In any case, I started to give him my outline regarding why this book is a bad idea, and he looked like I hit him with a brick. He said to me, "I just want to make sure that if God is moving, I'm a part of it."

Holy Mackerel, readers. I used to think that the Evangelical church was not unsalvagable. Now I'm not so sure. If a guy like that -- who has been in church leadership, btw, for a decade of more -- cannot see the fatal flaws in this book, we have a worse problem than anyone I have read has assessed.

Other entries in this series: | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 |

[%] This speaks for itself

Just follow the link and read it.

[*] Mega Shift: the Shell Game

Last time I blogged on this subject, we talked about the (a-hem) loose methodology James Rutz used to decide there was a move of God afoot about which the rest of us ought to be learning something. Let's remember that in that 4-ish page introduction to his book, I did not call into concern his lavish attention to the miracles he could find witnesses for, but I called into account his method for defining and deciding who were and who were not "core apostolics". My problem was that he created one system of measure (method and degree of institutional organization) to place all kinds of people one might call Christians on a spectrum, and then "lopped off the ends" of that spectrum to determine who is and is not growing the fastest.

There's more fire where you see the smoke in that method. Refering back to Mr. Rutz's endnote 15 for Chapter 1, he says this:
I dispensed with 1.238 billion nice folks who comprise the mainline denominations plus the highly overlapping 1.330 billion souls whose only "problem" is that they are capital-E Evangelicals, meaning they are not charismatic or pentecostals. My sincere apologies to my evangelical friends (now perhaps ex-friends), but my numbers cover 1970-2000, and they show that during those 30 years, charistmatics and pentecostals grew worldwide at a blistering 8.8% annual rate, while Evnagelicals limped along at 1.1%.
That's an interesting assertion, but what does it mean? Let's look at a quick chart for one group, the Southern Baptists:

These are the stats for 2004, released in June of this year. Of particular interest is the ratio of Baptisms overseas to church membership (the pink cells).
607132 / 7,400,000 = 8.2%

Now that doesn't look like "limping along" if the base line for "blistering" is 8.8% -- especially if you consider that 607,132 translates into a growth rate year-to-year of 8.9%. But the problem for Mr. Rutz, really, is that this is not an isolated blip on the church growth map. The self-reporting from the SBC International Missions Board is that while 2004 was a high-water mark for the SBC's international mission, it has consistently been baptizing in the 7% range since 1980 -- which, btw, demonstrates the same 5-fold growth since 1980 Mr. Rutz sees in his "core apostolics".

{EDIT 8/24/06} Here's the chart that supports this which I got from the folks at the International Missions Board at SBC:
---- --------- -------- ---
1980 1,297,418 109,935 8.47%
1981 1,457,477 127,239 8.73%
1982 1,560,566 142,394 9.12%
1983 1,683,573 144,224 8.57%
1984 1,867,993 156,255 8.36%
1985 2,000,847 158,626 7.93%
1986 2,032,193 185,689 9.14%
1987 2,145,113 203,824 9.50%
1988 2,105,066 197,863 9.40%
1989 2,450,884 227,564 9.28%
1990 2,661,668 208,381 7.83%
1991 2,988,052 233,334 7.81%
1992 3,456,900 251,901 7.29%
1993 3,735,949 262,758 7.03%
1994 3,918,915 302,132 7.71%
1995 4,111,979 287,806 7.00%
1996 4,100,923 283,674 6.92%
1997 4,112,181 283,100 6.88%
1998 4,432,292 333,034 7.51%
1999 4,917,088 363,703 7.40%
2000 5,624,018 451,301 8.02%
2001 5,834,043 395,773 6.78%
2002 6,237,706 421,436 6.76%
2003 7,042,714 510,357 7.25%
2004 7,451,242 607,132 8.15%

What is far worse for Mr. Rutz's on-going development of his thesis is that while he attests that he "lopped off" the "slow growing groups at both ends of the spectrum", it is transparently clear as one reads through his book that he has not actually lopped off the Southern Baptists even though there is no way to say that they are "penetcostal" or "charismatic" -- he uses the anecdotes of Baptist missionaries several times in his book. Thus, in accounting for his "core apostolics", he has fudged the recipe at least by 10%.

Now that's all I'm going to say about the method of his fact-gathering. In the last two installments on this book, we're going to discuss the theology of his book.

Other entries in this series: | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 |

[*] Mega Shift: Introduction

The first thing you should do if you intend to read Mega Shift is make a quick google of the internet for "" and "Open Church", and you can find a lot of people who apparently like James Rutz - and think well of his first book, The Open Church. You'll find fellows like this one -- which is an interesting study in what bloggers do. tallskinnykiwi apparently has never read Mega Shift, but believes that it will "stir things up". Very perceptive, I guess, if by "perception" we mean "clairvoyance".

If you keep poking, you will find megashift.com. What you'll find there is a sample of Mr. Rutz's thoughts on a lot of subjects. Particularly of interest are the "articles and info" links, like his "a few questions from God". I'll leave it to you, the reader, to make something of that site.

OK - t. One of the very dramatic features of this book is its focus, in the first chapter, on the plethora of miracles happening in the world. We're not talking about "I saw Jesus at McDonalds at Midnight in a bag of fries" sort of miracles: Mr. Rutz does a fairly decent job of elaborating (if not documenting - which is bizarre, given his penchant for endnotes {there are 139 for chapter 1 alone}) on many healings, and particularly many cases of resurrection where dead people are coming back to life 2 and 4 days after they are pronounced dead by a doctor.

Here's one place I want to start a review of this work: let's concede that all the miracles Mr. Rutz reports are 100% true. There's no sense in disputing claims of the supernatural because, frankly, Christians ought to believe that the supernatural - that is, acts which transcend the laws of the physical world perpetrated by God Almighty - happens. Our faith is based on the fact of a supernatural act, and to come out and say, "yeah, but ..." when we are faced with supernatural claims today is not quite consistent. As a Baptist, I'm a cessationist, but that's to say that I don't believe men are invested with supernatural gifts today as an endorsement of their office or mission because there are no apostles and prophets today. But to say that God has stopped working miracles is to deny that God saves anyone - because salvation is itself a supernatural act, replacing the old sin nature with a new nature which seeks Christ-likeness.

The question, then, is not "do supernatural acts occur," but "why do supernatural acts occur?" If we use the Bible as a guidepost, there are all kinds of supernatural acts done by God for the purpose of clarifying His declaration and validating His role in some historical act. But let's be clear: When God perpetrates a miracle, God tells the reason why He's doing such a thing. For example, in 1 Kings 17:
    8Then the word of the LORD came to {Elijah}, 9"Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. Behold, I have commanded a widow there to feed you." 10So he arose and went to Zarephath. And when he came to the gate of the city, behold, a widow was there gathering sticks. And he called to her and said, "Bring me a little water in a vessel, that I may drink." 11And as she was going to bring it, he called to her and said, "Bring me a morsel of bread in your hand." 12And she said, "As the LORD your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. And now I am gathering a couple of sticks that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it and die." 13And Elijah said to her, "Do not fear; go and do as you have said. But first make me a little cake of it and bring it to me, and afterward make something for yourself and your son. 14For thus says the LORD the God of Israel, 'The jar of flour shall not be spent, and the jug of oil shall not be empty, until the day that the LORD sends rain upon the earth.'" 15And she went and did as Elijah said. And she and he and her household ate for many days. 16The jar of flour was not spent, neither did the jug of oil become empty, according to the word of the LORD that he spoke by Elijah.
God intends the miracle to be done; the vessel (the prophet or the apostle) is not surprised when the miracle is done. And the miracle is foretold, intended for a purpose, and comes to pass on command.

What is starkly missing from all of Mr. Rutz's reports is the clear intention for a specific miracle to happen. When Jesus raised Lazarus, He went to the tomb and intended to raise him. When Elijah raises the widow's son, he goes with the intention to do such a thing. When Paul raised Eutychus, Paul intends to do so. And it is in the intentional nature of these acts that we can say they are revelational in the sense that they are meant to do something for the church in terms of fortifying them or teaching them about God and His plan. When Mr. Rutz is listing his plethora of miracles, there is no indication that there is someone through whom God is manifesting a miracle who knew for certain that a miracle was about to take place.

So the basis of my first concern is that Mr. Rutz has no ability to say "this act means 'X'" because his claim exists in a revelational void. Yet he takes the acts he describes and claims they are the evidence of something which is conjectural at best.

To move to my second concern about this book, let's talk about methodology. From page 14:
The direction of world events has made a sharp turn. Before the mid-1980's, Christians were growing about 2% a year, barely above the world population growth rate. Now God has stormed on the scene like a tornado. Compare today's annual growth rates:

Core Apostolics are the new saints who are at the heart of the mushrooming kingdom of God.
You can take your favorite quote about statistics and apply them to this chart - because we're not looking at a rigorous study of fact in Mr. Rutz's illustration. In the first place, his "source" for these number behind the chart - according to his endnote #14 - is a place called uscwm.org. Their "fact" is that "for the first time in history, there is one believer for every 9 people worldwide who are not believers." Mr. Rutz does the math, and comes out with "707 million switched-on disciples".

This part of his set-up is very rapid-fire stuff - until we get to the place where he says, "if you don't mind some tedious reading, you'll find my long-winded explanation of core apostolics and their numbers in this endnote.15"

Now, in the blogosphere, "long-winded" means "long" - you know, like my 4-part, 20-page treatment of Tony Campolo's last book. For Mr. Rutz, 2 pages gets him to "long-winded", but if you ask me (and did you really ask me?) when we're talking about methodology -- especially when we're talking about some research and its conclusions which are "a new ball game" for the church - you can't be too specific in telling how you came to your foundational presuppositions.

He begins his explanation with this statement: "I will defend my statistics to the death - or until the numbers change, whichever comes first." Well, OK: he's passionate. He believes he's right. Can't fault a guy for being on about something. But this is supposed to be his explanation of his methodology. Is the basis of his methodology, "I have the numbers I want: now I will defend how I got them"?

I think it turns out that this is his methodology - because when he tells us specifically what he did, you have to wonder why. His source of starting is a pretty valid source - Barrett and Johnson's World Christian Encyclopedia (NY: Oxford Press), 2001.

Rutz - who is not a statistician, but self describes as "a dogged scholar who managed to compress five years of college into eight" - then tells us this:
My tiny contribution today to church statistics is that I've been able to put a frame around the growing heart of Christianity - a very rough and ruthless frame, but a sensible one:

A. I've place the entire church on a continuum. On the left side, you have the denominational folks. At the far left end, you have a vast pile of tradition-bound, liberal, ancient, highly-centralized, and strategically-useless organizations that haven't grown much since the 1940's.
I am certain anyone reading this blog - friends and whipping-boys alike - can see where this is going, or at least where it is coming from. However, it's instructive to see him spell it all out. It's actually funny if you approach it from the perspective that he clearly no idea what he is talking about.
On the right side, you have the independents, composed of overlapping groups know by such labels as post-denominational, neo-apostolic, radical, restorationist, free, etc. Bartlett and Johnson trace their origins to 61 AD, starting with the Celts, then flowing onward through the Montanists, Donatists, Monophysites, Arians, Cathari, Bogomils, Waldensians, Lollards, Lutherans, Puritans, Methodists, etc.(World Christian Trends, Part 6, p. 293) Eventually, most of them have either turned into denominations or been stomped out of existence by their better-armed brothers in the faith.
See: when I read somebody lumping "Montanists, Donatists, Monophysites, Arians" in with "Lutherans, Puritans, Methodists", I wonder how this book got past the editor. And that's just his "A" methodological prop. Check out his "B":
B. I've pin-pointed the groups at the growing heart of Christianity. But hold the applause, it was not through a stroke of brilliance by isolating some magical quality that sets the core apostolics apart from everyone else. It was through the far-cruder tactic of lopping off the slow-growing groups at both ends of the spectrum en masse.
So this fellow apparently lays out the classes of "Christians" on a spectrum based on organizational characteristics, and then lops off the ends of the spectrum based on the criterion of "slow growing".

There is a very large part of me that wants to say, at this point, "The toy store just called, and they have apparently found Mr. Rutz's marbles", so I will instead confess to having nothing nice to say about what he has here done. He admits that he dispenses with about 1.330 billion "whose only problem is that they are capital-E Evangelical" - but Mr. Rutz: I thought the criterion was "slow-growing"? How do you make the equation you make here stand up on its own?

And consider this as we close for the weekend, faithful readers: that's James' Rutz' methodology. Wait until we start covering some of his extraordinary deductions based on this metholodology.

It'll be good for reference. How you get the lawn mowed this weekend because I will not finish mine: it's knee-deep after missing it last Saturday and I'm afraid the snakes have moved in.

Other entries in this series: | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 |

[%] Ardian Warnock Speaks

He asked bloggers last month to link to this post and then link on a blog entry to 5 "favorite well-known living preachers", and tell why they have been a blessing.

Adrian (funny how all bloggers are on a first-name basis, isn't it? Hi Adrian!) listed John Piper in his list. Oh, big woop. Everybody would list John Piper because he's what all of us stupid bloggers wish we were: well-known for telling God's truth with no holds barred but with a charitable spirit.

Well, here's my list just so there's something to get upset about before you go home on Friday:

HONORABLE MENTION: J. Vernon McGee. He's "HM" because he's gone to be with the Lord, but let me convey a personal anecdote. The year that I was baptized I was "promoted" to being the receiving manager for a new SAM'S Club, and I had the distinct privilege of opening the place up every morning at 5 AM. On the drive in to work, there was only 1 radio station to listen to, and it was Christian talk. At 4:30 AM they had Thru the Bible on, and at first I just couldn't listen to it. That guy's voice -- can't be get a coach or something? But he was teaching through the book of 1 Samuel, and he was talking about Saul's disobedience to God and then about David. I can't remember at what point I realized that something was happening in that half hour, but one morning I got up early and had to listen to the whole broadcast. I was a brand new Christian, and I was hungry for the word of God, and I knew that this southern fella with the corny accent was saying something I needed to hear. It wasn't high theology or the micro-parsing of verses: it was the first pass I ever had at the Bible. I praise God for Dr. McGee, and for those who are still replaying the 5-year journey of his teaching through God's word.

Dr. John MacArthur -- If anyone from CNN is reading this, you should have Dr. MacArthur on Larry King every week. There is no one -- and it's a long list to compare against -- who presses the case for Christ and the Gospel harder than John MacArthur, especially when the stakes are high. He's clear-spoken, witty, gentlemanly, and will not accept anything but God's truth when it comes to world-view issues. And that's not even to mention his great books, like Twelve Ordinary Men, Hard to Believe, or and Unleaching God's Word in Your Life. If I were a more serious person, I'd want to be more like Dr. Mac.

Andy Stanley -- some people are going to find me repugnant for listing Andy Stanley as one of my favorites, but I have met Pastor Stanley and I have heard him preach. The stats on his church are about 10,000 attenders on Sunday, with only about 4,000 as members -- not counting kids. But read this bit from their church FAQ:
Why is membership important?

* Membership helps the staff to identify the people in whom we can trust to lead and care for others.
* Membership identifies that a person has a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and that he/she is willing to go public with that faith through baptism.
* Membership identifies that a person is willing to support this ministry with their time, talents and treasure and to be held accountable to the values of NPCC. With the added requirement of participation in a strategic service team or community group, it also identifies that the person will partner with us in our strategy of "Foyer to Kitchen".

Why is it important to be a member in order to be in a leadership role?

* Because of what membership represents, members are the most qualified people to be in a leadership position.
* Often, if people are not willing to be held accountable, to go public with their faith through baptism, or to commit to leading people into a relationship with Jesus Christ, it can be an indication that they are not ready to lead others within the church environments.
Stanley isn't playing games about discipleship of believers. My personal opinion is that he learned a lot from watching his father (the mistakes as well as the good things), and if (BIG "if") the megachurch is useful in God's kingdom, Pastor Stanley is someone to watch to do it well.

Dr. James R. White -- in spite of my current defrocking in the #prosapologian channel, James White is someone a greatly admire. Somehow he has the reputation of being some kind of bully or ruffian, but I have never seen him lose his temper or deal with someone in a way which was unwarranted. There is literally hundreds of hours of evidence of his apologetic testimony, and one would be hard-pressed to put together 10 minutes of uncharitable discourse for James. However, that's only the best reason to admire him. My personal reason to admire him is that when I wasa stupid evangelical with a dim view of Christ's work, he spent his valuable time correcting me because it was the Gospel work to do so.

Chuck Swindoll -- If he wasn't Chancellor of Dallas Theological Seminary, I'd have nothing to complain about. He has a very dynamic radio ministry (which is sometimes too theatrical for my tastes, honestly), but he is always about reading God's word at face value and making practical application to your life.

Kay Arthur -- everyone always laughs at me for this one because she's not a man. Well, you're right: she's not a man -- so she's not a pastor. And she accepts that as far as I can tell becuase her ministry in under the headship of of her husband (who is President of Precept Ministries), Jack Arthur. Moreover, the content of her studies is clearly constructed to be by women and for women -- and is growing for children and teens as well. That is not why she is on this list. She's there because her teaching caused my wife -- who had been an SBC Baptist since she was 7 -- to start reading the Bible at face value for the first time. There is no greater blessing than to have a wife who wants to study God's work and grow spiritually from it, and my wife gained that zeal from Kay Arthur's teaching.

[$] The Aristocrats,and Dice

The funniest punch line to a movie review in 2005 goes to Roger Ebert for his summary paragraph of Penn Gillette's new Movie "The Aristocrats":
“The Aristocrats” might have made a nice short subject. At 87 minutes, it's like the boozy salesman who corners you with the Pinocchio torture. I am left with three observations. (1) If Buddy Hackett were still alive, he could have told it better than Gilbert Gottfried. (2) Whatever happened to Andrew Dice Clay? (3) The punch line stinks. These are better:

“The Brothers Two.”
“The Mellow Tones.”
“Penn and Teller.”
FWIW, I can tell you what happened to Andrew Dice Clay. The Diceman is an entertainment outcast. When he came out with "The Day the Laughter Died", he crossed a boundary that people who want to stay employed in entertainment should never cross: he made the audience the joke.

Frankly, his audience deserved to be the object of jokes because most of them didn't get his real schtick anyway -- they actually thought that the dirty nursery rhymes and the misogyny was funny, when what was funny was the "Diceman" character. But even other comedians didn't get Dice.

Here's an example -- in the early 90's (like '91) -- I saw Gilbert Godfrey live in Rochester NY. He was funny -- but his closer was a goof on Dice. He put on a Brooklyn accent and started muttering incoherently, and then he punctuated his sentences with f-bombs. Some people in the audience thought it was funny, but I admit I didn't "get" Godfrey's joke. Did he think Andrew Clay was Dice? Was he spoofing raw comedy? However, it was clear that Godfrey thought Dice's act was contemptible, so much so that it wasn't even worth a decent parody.

So that's where Dice went: he alienated his audience by spoofing their own love of his first-round schtick, and it gained him the contempt of both his audience and other comedians. Which is extraordinarily funny in the context of "The Aristocrats" because the joke is that form matters over content -- and the Diceman demonstrated that when Penn Gillette and his sidekick Teller were doing gross body-piercing comedy. Nice of you to drop by.

Oh yeah -- notice the new feedburner counter for each post. Pretty cool, yes? UPDATED: The feedburner counter LOOKS cool, but it doesn't work very well. I'm tweeking it; it's in the sidebar now.