[*] A little Buckley for your afternoon

You may thank me later that it is not any of his fiction. Read on.

[*] The civil French

Read it for yourself. And there's not even a natural disaster to blame.

[?] Gravatar, 2.0

For those who have tried and tried and got sick of trying, apparently Gravatar is back on its feet and accepting new users and allowing old users to update their gravatars.

I know: headline news stuff. They can't all be geopolitical hand-grenades.

[*] Media Verbal Flatulence

For those that haven't noticed, this blog isn't very genteel. We calls 'em as we sees 'em, and sometimes there's not a lot of editorial process involved in keeping colorful language out of the bandwidth. So when I post this note, let's not think I have somehow become overly-sensitive to the rhetoric and the colloquialisms of others, or that I somehow have lost a sense of self-awareness.

First, read this link at Drudge, and give it sec because it's getting a lot of traffic and is a bit boggy. Then I want you to consider something: this is a person who is allegely at the top of his game in the new media and works for a regular news network -- not even a cable network. His name, ironically, is John Roberts.

If this guy was a blogger in the basement of his parent's house trying hard to find the most offensive way to phrase this question, I am not sure he sould have done better. This kills me. He's talking to the POTUS Press secretary, and that's the best he could do? Why not just pound 2 beers and belch before asking a question like that?

The subject of the question is valid: the manner in which is was asked was patently irreverent and uncivil. That's my beef.

UPDATED: Oh wait -- Mr. Roberts apparently wants to apologize for being rude this morning (Drudge; no viable link). That makes it all better.

[*] It's inside 10 days

And there's a new nominee for SCOTUS. Samuel Alito is a northeastern Catholic, and if we read this profile from AP via Yahoo!, we are going to get the right kind of judge who may not vote the way Pro-Life forces want him to vote.

The question, of course, is why Bush nominated him after Miers and not before Miers -- and it's a question nobody except me is asking, as far as I can tell. All the "right people" are bent out of shape by this nomination. When Arlen Specter apparently has a problem with his judicial philosophy and that dim-wit Harry Reid thinks nominating this man turns SCOTUS into a "boys club", there's some degree of comfort that I personally pick up.

Anyway, Samuel Alito. Nice to meet you.

[#] Nobody in particular

Anyone reading the blog knows I'm in the middle of reading 3 or, well, 10 books for the purpose of having something useful or edifying or amusing to post here. As such, it would be unbelievable to say, "I came up with this post without thinking about any of the books I'm reading right now."

At the same time, I don't think naming names in this particular post actually accomplishes anything. So with that, let's take a look at a passage of Scripture (ESV):
    Deu 7:1 When the LORD your God brings you into the land that you are entering to take possession of it, and clears away many nations before you, the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations more numerous and mightier than yourselves, 2 and when the LORD your God gives them over to you, and you defeat them, then you must devote them to complete destruction. You shall make no covenant with them and show no mercy to them. 3 You shall not intermarry with them, giving your daughters to their sons or taking their daughters for your sons, 4 for they would turn away your sons from following me, to serve other gods. Then the anger of the LORD would be kindled against you, and he would destroy you quickly. 5 But thus shall you deal with them: you shall break down their altars and dash in pieces their pillars and chop down their Asherim and burn their carved images with fire. 6 For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. 7 It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, 8 but it is because the LORD loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. 9 Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations, 10 and repays to their face those who hate him, by destroying them. He will not be slack with one who hates him. He will repay him to his face. 11 You shall therefore be careful to do the commandment and the statutes and the rules that I command you today.
This is an interesting passage because it is customarily cited simply as Deu 7:9 to underscore that God establishes a corporate covenant – that is, a covenant with a certain set of people.

The problem with this interpretation, I think, is that it has the cause and effect exactly backwards. When we look at Deu 7:9, we have to read it in the context of all that God is saying here to Israel, and part of what God says here is, "It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the LORD loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery". In other words, the set of people are not merely "covenanted": their separation into a chosen body is caused by God's act of covenanting. The covenant creates the class of people.

When we look at this passage and think, "there is a class of people with whom God has covenanted, and that class is perpetuated through 'X' means", we have short-changed the statement of Scripture here unless we equate "X" with "God's covenant". God has not chosen a class of people with which to covenant. He makes it clear here through Moses that there was nothing about the people in particular which causes Him to make a covenant with them. In fact, they are the "fewest" of people.

Think about that for a second: one of the reasons that Pharaoh started killing the boys in Egypt way back about 80 years prior in the narrative of the Bible was that "the people of Israel are too many and too mighty for us". The clever and the skeptical will chalk that up to Bible contradictions and be done with the discussion, I am sure. Yet those of us who would never do such a thing are stuck with the problem that God did not see the Israelites as "too many and too mighty" but as "too few" to be made of special status for Himself. In that, it is not the class of people that God seeks out: it is by seeking out and claiming that God creates a class of people. God's covenant creates a class of people to whom He is faithful, and which is proven out by God's faithfulness.

In that, it is not radically-modernist and individualistic to say that, for example, God keeps his own counsel and shows mercy to whom He chooses to show mercy. Moreover, we have to ask ourselves in what way we are called together if not by the fruit of God's mercy rather than the presumption or (more charitably) confidence in God's willingness to show mercy to whomever He pleases.

Let's keep that in mind as we think about the books that get reviewed or otherwise ham-handedly manipulated here in the next few weeks.

[%] "Brooks"

Matt Drudge cited someone named "Brooks" who was on about why the Democrats see every mis-step of the President or Republicans as the results of a conspiracy, and "Brooks'" comments are based on an essay you might want to read for yourself. It's called "The Paranoid Style in American Politics", By Richard Hofstadter, from Harper’s Magazine, November 1964, pp. 77-86.

We should also ask ourselves who else takes this approach to life and think less of them, accordingly.

[%] The Calvinist Gadfly

I just want to note that there is no one on the internet trying to stir up trouble by trying to insult or belittle the Calvinist Gadfly. Why? Because there is no upside to it. It doesn't benefit anyone, and it looks petty.

I mean, why kick a guy that says he gets 800 hits a day when TTLB says he gets 17 (on average)? That's not sporting. That's like slam-dunking on your 6-year-old in Nerf Hoops in the back yard and sending the video tape to ESPN. It's completely unnecessary -- and may rightly be called "cruel".

I may send him a mug or a ball cap or a bumper sticker or something. He's so meek and mild.

Have a nice weekend, Alan.

[%] This is a great coupla pictures

Just click and enjoy. The captions are a little off-color, but 99% of you are grown ups. The other 1% of you need to get your parents in the room before you click through. It's strictly PG-13 stuff.

[?] End of the week housekeeping

Ann Rice's Book didn't ship this week. I'm mad as a devil about it, but them's the breaks. I'm expecting it Wednesday, and I guess I'll have to review it after the hoopla rather than in the midst of the hoopla.

So what's on the nightstand in the meantime?

On the top of the stack is Doug Wilson's To a Thousand Generations, which I will be commenting on here next week if not reviewing. As you would expect, it's compelling and articulate, but I also think it is wrong. I'm probably not going to change Pastor Wilson's mind on the subject, but people of honest-but-conflicting convictions should interact with each other to sharpen each other and to prove out their honesty and their convictions. It's a good read, but not for those who are unstable in their doctrine, one way or the other.

Also, you may have noticed the new book by Dever and Alexander in the Shopping Cart, the Deliberate Church. Many of you are 9 Marks of a Healthy Church fans (those of you who are not ought to find out what the fuss is about), and this book is such an excellent follow-up that I have linked to it here and in the shopping cart for your edification and enjoyment.

For those of you completely in the dark, the Purpose Driven Life is pretty much the flavor of the day in evangelical circles when it comes to "church growth strategies"; there is also the problem of the "Mega shift" which I have discussed briefly here and (sadly) here. Personally, I'm pretty much offended that the goal is "church growth" and not "gospel message" -- because we don't really care if our churches are gigantic or microscopic, do we? Ought we to care? What we ought to care about is that our churches are clearly and actively preaching the Gospel and changing the lives of those who confess Christ as savior. In that, Dever's two books outline the antidote to the Purpose-Driven fad. Review of these two books is forthcoming.

Some of you are also waiting for the reviews of the Narnia books. I'm waiting, too. Hang tight.

[*] Enough already! She quit!

I was reading a somewhat incongruous headline on my sidebar about President Bush and the failed Harriet Meirs nomination, and I decided that this was worth a few inches of blogspace to settle up on this matter.

ITEM: Thank God she stood down! Listen: she may be a very nice Christian woman with a lot of integrity who was also a very good pesonal counsel for the President even before he was the President, but there was no way to make her nomination look like cronyism. The complains from everywhere that there are literally hundreds of justices out there who are more qualified who would rule in a way a conservative president would appreciate were 100% valid. Meirs was totally loyal to Bush by ending this little sideshow.

ITEM: HOLY COW did Meirs' withdrawl make Ann Coulter look catty today.

ITEM: If there is a new nominee by next Friday, we have just witnessed one of the greatest feats of political sleight-of-hand in history. Mark my words: a quick new nominee was always in the wings if we see one in the next 8 days, and the reason for putting Meirs on the hot seat is not yet known.

ITEM: That AP story at my link is one of the worst-reported stories of the year. The only place President Bush is flagging is in the liberal press -- and if he divorced his wife, married a man, started driving a hybrid vehicle and made journalists tax exempt, they would still heckle him. He can't get good press. Period.

ITEM: I dunno who's hosting Alan K's blog, but I linked to it, and it crashed. You people are animals.

Oh wait. If you thought the AP story was lopsided, Try this one on for size.

[%] Completely selfless links

Allegedly, Alan K (aka DeoVolente) is a "friend" of mine -- he's a regular of the #prosapologian chat channel and a fellow op there, and I have given him some e-mail data on stuff he has blogged about. He also blogs at the Calvinist Gadfly.

I tell you this to point you at his Top 10 list re: the DaVinci Code movie. #3 is classic -- pure gold.

And no, I don't hold it against him that he links to Hank Hanagraaff and William Lane Craig but not to me. Thanks for asking.

[*] There's always Mecca ...

Former senator and Episcopal priest John Danforth tries his hand at political philosophy.

experts !
we need
more !
Here's the web-bite:
People of faith have an obligation to be in politics, he said.

"I think the question arises when a political party becomes identified with one particular sectarian position and when religious people believe that they have the one answer, that they understand God's truth and they embody it politically," he said.

"Nothing is more dangerous than religion in politics and government when it becomes divisive," he said. "I'll give you examples: Iraq. Northern Ireland. Palestine."
It's nice to see an Episcopal priest with such a comprehensive grasp of history and world politics. Of course, he was a Clinton ambassador to the U.N., so maybe he's right and I have no idea what I'm talking about.

Another possibility is that former senator Danforth has no idea what he is talking about philosophically in spite of his position as a man of the cloth. I wonder: what exactly is the parallel to "Christian" identification inside the Republican party and the religious violence apparent in Ireland or the suicide bombers that attack Israel from Palestine? Any syllogism would be interesting to review.

[*] 2000

There is bound to be some circus on Wednesday over this number, and I want you to compare it to some other numbers:

In WWII, 16.3 million men and women fought for the US forces, and over 300,000 died in 4 years. On average, that means about 205 died per day in that military operation. Using that average, 2000 died between August 1 and August 10, 1942. Should the US have halted its action because 2000 soldiers died in battle?

In Vietnam, 58020 US deaths were confirmed between 1961 and 1975. That war was not won, but on-average 23 solders died every 2 days. 2000 were killed every 173 days.

In Iraq, 2000 soldiers have died in combat. On average, that means 4 soldiers are killed every 5 days. In contrast, a low-ball Brookings institute number is that over 48,000 enemy combatants have been killed in the same period. Enemy deaths outnumber US armed forces by at least 24 to 1. And the insurgent forces -- to be sure, the ones who oppose both the U.S. forces and the democratic government just ratified yesterday in Iraq -- are getting desperate.

Most importantly, FARS reports that in 2004, more than 17,000 adults age 20-44 died in motor vehicle accidents. We don't stop driving because driving is, apparently, dangerous.

You can be frantic about war, but our rate of fatalities in this war has been microscopic. The sacrifice has been great, but the sacrifice is meaningless if we abandon the goal. It took us 4 years to rebuild Western Germany after WWII -- with intense guerilla fighting breaking out even 2 years after Hitler's death and the surrender of the Nazis. In 2 years, we have a new constitution in Iraq, and the people there accepted it overwhelmingly.

There have been 2000 US military deaths in Iraq. Let us not forget them by standing down too soon.

[#] The SHOPPING CART now works

I know that about 150 of you have tried to shop some item on the shopping cart, and one truly-dedicated soul did manage to buy something from my vendor partner. But the rest of you suffered the indignity of having the page load in the iFrame where the shopping cart resides.

That problem is fixed. You may now shop with gusto -- including the blog promo items you get when you click the t-shirt. (it's all legit!)

[#] A small but interesting word (4)

At this point in my week, I am riveted by the Dever interview from SharperIron, I have to plan both next year at the bookstore and at my day job, the Rice book will arrive this week and I had better read it before it releases so I can review it before it releases, and I still have this small but interesting word to clean up.

Boy, can life on the blog get ahead of you!

We're talking about the word "muthos" in reference to the charge or complaint that the pre-enlightenment world did not use the same kind of epistemological categories we use today in describing events. In that, it is a false view of things to say that the used "myth" to convey "real" things without conveying "true" or "historical" things – especially in the context of the Gospel message spelled out by Peter and Paul.

There are three passages left to consider in that thesis. Let's begin these with 2Tim 4:
1I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: 2preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 3For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. 5As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
In this exhortation to Timothy, Paul continues what he has already begun in the previous letter: he tells Timothy that it is important that he preach the word -- but he tells him that for a specific reason, and thereby limits what he might mean by saying, generically, "preach the word".

Paul here, as he did previously, makes a strict distinction between "the word" or "truth" and "not sound teaching" or "myth". He says that what Timothy is charged to do is to provide the truth in spite of people "turning away from listening to the truth" who instead "wander off into myths".

Paul is not here instructing Timothy, "you have the spirit, and therefore you have some liberty to update the story to communicate to the felt needs of your audience." He is telling him that there is a specific message, with specific claims, which has the ability and the authority to correct false teachings. There are plainly epistemological distinctions necessary in teaching "the word" – that is, there is a difference between "true" and "false" which is part of the preaching that comes through Paul.

This view of truth is reiterate by Paul to Titus:

Titus 1:5 This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you-- 6if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. 7For an overseer, as God's steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, 8but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. 9He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.

10For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. 11They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach. 12One of the Cretans, a prophet of their own, said, "Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons." 13This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, 14not devoting themselves to Jewish myths and the commands of people who turn away from the truth. 15To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled. 16They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work.
You probably could not ask for stronger language from Paul on this matter. On the one hand, Titus is sent to Crete in order to set things right and appoint men to authority who "must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught".

Let's consider that a second. Here Paul is not advocating that he trained Titus to have a liberty with the teaching so as to frame it according to some contemporary trouble or circumstance: he is telling Titus "I sent you to Crete in order to make teachers who will hold to the trustworthy word as taught." That means that Titus has been taught something which was itself "held to" – Paul was steadfast or saying the course to give it to him. It means that the word itself is "trustworthy" or "reliable" and not subject to interpolations or randy reinterpretations. The word, it can be said, is not the a result of what these men would like it to say: it is itself the source of what they ought to be teaching.

And the opposite – the results Titus must strive against – is that there are some who will not do this but instead are "unfit for any good work". They "deny [God] by their works". And what do they teach? "Jewish myths" – stories or claims which are of no part of the Gospel. And let me be clear: being Jewish is not what is at issue here because, plainly, Paul was a Jew. What is at issue is that there are teachings from the Jewish beliefs of the time which are contrary to the Gospel inherent in Jesus Christ.

Paul was not an anti-semite, and neither am I: the question at-hand is whether Paul was willing or able to say that the Gospel has a truth value which is not merely "real" in some literary or metaphysical way, but that the Gospel consists of true things which are juxtaposed against false things – things with no good use and only harmful use.

But this distinction is not limited to Paul. Peter also makes this distinction:

2Pet 1:12Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have. 13I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder, 14since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me. 15And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things.

16For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased," 18we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. 19And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, 20knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. 21For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
Really, this passage needs no exposition at all. Peter says, first, that the reason for preaching and teaching is to establish the truth. Why should he do so? So that when he is gone [dead], there will be something left to recall Christ's teaching and work.

To underscore that, Peter says that he wasn't providing a "cleverly-devised myth" in telling these people about Jesus: he saw and heard it with is own eyes and ears. So when Peter is talking about "truth" here, he is specifically talking about the truth of historical events. And what is even more astounding is that it is not just eyewitness accounts that he holds in this kind of esteem, but also the prophetic word of God. That knowledge – those words, those promises – are even more certain that the tale of eyewitnesses.

In all of this, we must come back to the claim that the NT was written to be "real" as opposed to "true" and ask whether this kind of vaguery is supported by the admonitions of the writers themselves. Given that they themselves make the distinctions between true and false, historic and fictional, steadfast words and myths with lead away from sound doctrine, it is hard to establish the view that they do not have firm epistemological categories by which they view the world.

I hope this series has been of some use to you, even though it has taken a few weeks to grind out. Now back to work with you.

This series has other parts: [1][2][3] 4

[#] Sharper Iron Interview

For those of you who do not get an e-mail from SHarper Iron when they do cool stuff, you should sign up for their forums and tell them to send you e-mail. Why?

Here's why. Pay special attention to the interview at the place where they start talking about Dever's 9-Marks ministry. Great stuff.

I'm not kidding -- this is one of the great interviews of this year in terms of content and the net message for the American church.

[%] born-again ?

"Lestat here."

Anyone who has read any Ann Rice at all recognizes that greeting, but apparently it'll be different in the future.

I've been watching this one for a while, and with this book's impending release, bank on a review here. I have a series on "muthos" that I have to finish, and I have the review of the complete "Chronicles of Narnia" to get out before the movie, but this book from Anne Rice is troubling conceptually. Of course, I might be troubled because I'm a kook, so stay tuned to the review of this work.

[?] Last 100 hits, 10 PM on 10/24/05

[#] Editorial policy

I just wanted to give a few hundred words to my editorial policy after the last post. Some people will be asking themselves, "cent, why link to stories about strippers and CEOs on your allegely-Christian blog?" It's a fair question, because I promise you that James White and Eric Svendsen are not linking to stories like that, and they are the heavy lifters of the theological blogosphere. Doesn't my doing such a thing endorse those acts?

First of all, the answer is "no". No, linking to those stories does not endorse them. In fact, the story I linked to is one of those amazing moments when even the AP newsfeeds make a statement about the nature of man which makes such a fabulous point which agrees with the bible that one hardly needs to comment at all.

Think about this for a second: this fellow, who is a CEO, apparently dropped $241,000 at Scores -- which, for those of you who do not know, is a "top-shelf" strip club in NYC. Mind you: he didn't pay $241,000 to strip -- he paid it to be attended by strippers.

$241,000. And in the end, he expected that they maintain some kind of standard accounting practice with regard to how they charged him for their services.

That's the sin nature, folks: the ability to think that someone who is doing one kind of moral misdeed is not either capable of or likely to do another kind of moral disdeed. And if you cannot recognize it in others, you cannot recognize it in yourself. His problem, really, is not so much that he treated women like objects of lust (which is a pretty big problem, yes?) but that he expected them to like it and to honor his lust with some kind of ethical dignity.

I think this guy is only fooling himself -- just like Tom and Katie, by the way -- into thinking that anyone believes that he really knew what he was doing by spending $241,000 at a strip club.

$241,000. If he just wanted to toss that kind of money down a hole, I have a bank account he can wire the funds to next time.

[*] This just in:

If you spend a quarter-mil at Scores, they might add in the tip without asking you. Who knew that strippers think they deserve 10% of your tab? If you ask me, that's more reasonable than wait staff asking for 15%, but that's a common practice.

THIS ALSO IN: There's something wrong with this picture. For the record, I don't think it's the wildly-disparate age gap between Tom and Katie -- that's proof that Hollywood-types suffer from emotional atrophy at about age 19 or 21 and then they can all "connect" at the same level. What's wrong has something to do with the level of enthusiasm they are having for an illegitimate birth. If theye were Tom Podunk and Katie Bumpus who had an age gap of 20 years and met at the Kiwanis fundraiser, Tom had two previously-failed marriages, there were rumors he was gay, and now Katie was pregnant with Tom's child outside of marriage, this would be a different kind of news.

However, because these people are pretty, the concensus is that this is fine. I suggest that Katie have a phone conference with Char Jackson before she does anything else she will regret.

[$] A bone for those not possessed

Over at Doug Wilson's blog I posted the hack attempt at humor "Domine, non facissem ubiquaque actum ut non essem fictum. Amen."

Since most of you are not demon-possessed, what I was trying to say was, "Lord, let me never do whatever was done in order that I may never be handled like this." That's in reference to Wilson's handling of a local (Moscow, ID) critic who was trying to play the victim for slandering Wilson and anyone associated with him.

Upon review, the demon-possessed and the classical-language mavens might object and correct me to say, "Domine, non facissem ubiquaque actum ut non essem sic fictum. Amen." It would be interesting to see who can come up with the best version of this today before we all go home for the weekend.

[%] Here's the debate - here's the frame

Sometimes you don't have to say anything at all about an essay except, "that's good stuff".

[*] Man Without Fear

Before we get to the meat of this entry, I have just made a transition which anyone who is on the ball probably made two months ago: I have switched my news-viewing habits from Drudge to BreitBart.com. Apparently Matt Drudge can't be bothered to actually report on anything anymore or to assemble the news from feeds, so his site gets about 50% of its day-to-day news from BreitBart, and I say, "why use a middle man?"

Nothing personal, Matt.

OK. So the last time we had a discussion about Bono, I pretty much buried the hatchet regarding my personal grudge against the greatest frontman in rock history and his band. I know it was keeping him up at nights, so I am sure that Bono has slept better since that blog entry.

However, that hasn't stopped Bono from continuing to annoy the monkey-fur off of me. We all got a nice little laugh when U2's publicist came out and said that U2 is upset that both Hillary Clinton and Rick Santorum are using U2 concerts as political fundraisers -- some of us laughing because of the irony, and some laughing because of the pomposity, and yet others laughing over the apparent complete lack of self-awareness evident in the thinking which would prompt such a statement.

Anyway, BreitBart is reporting today (feeding from AP) that Bono has met with President Bush (in a completely non-political way, I am sure; neither Bush nor Bono scored any political points by meeting with each other) to talk (again) about world poverty. Yes, that's fine -- I'm sure lunch from the staff mess at the White House did a lot to enlighten President Bush about world economic forces and the solutions to the plight of people trapped in totalitarian regimes which are siphoning off national resources to fund the personal bling-stash of the totalitarians in question. I'm sure they actually fed a lot of hungry people in Africa over that lunch in the Oval Office dining room.

But you know what? That's not the worst of it. this is the worst part of it:
Bono told Rolling Stone magazine in an interview before they dined that he had no fear of meeting Bush or any other world leader.

"They should be afraid, because they will be held accountable for what happened on their watch," Bono told the magazine for an article on newsstands Friday. "I'm representing the poorest and the most vulnerable people. On a spiritual level, I have that with me. I'm throwing a punch, and the fist belongs to people who can't be in the room, whose rage, whose anger, whose hurt I represent.

"The moral force is way beyond mine, it's an argument that has much more weight than I have. So I'm not feeling nervous."
Emph Added
"No Fear". Think about that for a second – Bono, whose greatest achievement personally to date was the failure of Live Aid to deliver on its promise to end starvation in Africa, and who apparently doesn't have enough free-time to clear up his theological muddle, has "no fear" in speaking to one of the most politically-powerful men in the world today.

Now you would think that perhaps if he was a prophet sent by God with certainty that he had a message of divine authority to warn the President of the United States about some big doin's in the future (and more on that in a second), he'd have some justification for "no fear", right? But what is Bono's justification for having "no fear"? "I'm throwing a punch, and the fist belongs to people who can't be in the room, whose rage, whose anger, whose hurt I represent." He's not representing divine authority: he's representing a threat of violence.

Consider it! He's walking into the White House essentially blackmailing (as he frames his own position) the President to do what he says, or else! With no fear! I have already covered the kind of thinking that is behind this from the perspective of how much money gets sent to Africa in foreign aid every year, right? And just over yonder in the right sidebar, you can see the link for Compassion International, so I'm let's not assume that I think the poor in Africa need to buck up and put on their big-girl panties and deal with it. What I find completely outrageous is the belief that somehow it is right to threaten those who have the means to provide whatever anyone might have the spunk to demand, and it's OK because the motive is "rage and anger".

"Rage and anger"? Against whom? For what reason? It's completely blind rage, completely blind anger, and in that it is fearless because it is completely blind – blind to fact, blind to responsibility, and blind to what is actually the reason to intervene for the poor: the image of God in them, and in those who can and should help them.

Which brings me around to the matter of the actual prophets who actually had God's own words to deliver who actually were bringing judgment upon the mighty for being completely morally bankrupt. You might like to bolster Bono's fearlessness by noting that Samuel wasn't afraid of Saul, Nathan was not afraid of David, John the Baptist was not afraid of the Pharisees, and Jesus was not afraid of Pilate. Bono's in good company, right?

Yeah, not so fast. Moses was afraid of Pharaoh – so afraid that he told God to send somebody else. Paul, in testifying to Felix who held his life in his hands, said, "I always take pains to have a clear conscience toward both God and man." And again to Agrippa, "I beg you to listen to me patiently." Isaiah had enough sense to know that he was in as much danger as anyone before God, and was "undone" (sometimes you have to love the KJV) for his own wickedness. And these are the guys who were actually on a mission from God, not some self-proclaimed crusade that is motivated by "rage".

The only somewhat-redeeming factor in Bono's favor is that he refuses to couch his arguments in God's name. I say, "good for him." That shows at least some microscopic awareness that what is driving him is nothing larger or smaller than his own ego.

Much like people who blog about the famous and the popular.

[%] a nice Catholic girl

Without any further comment or snide remarks about co-belligerence, you should read Ann Coulter's latest column.

Even as shrill as this essay is, it nails down the problem with Bush's nomination of Harriet Miers.

[?] Good News/Bad News

The good news is who is listed beneath this blog in the Blogdom of God. The bad news is who is above me.

Let's work on that, shall we?

[#] In or out - just close the door

More from Doug Wilson's blog. For those who are not interested in the baptism discussion, you can go read about something that does interest you. I'm sure you can find something.

Pastor Wilson said:

| This said, understanding justification includes the
| need to be able to discern the body of the Lord. The
| besetting sin of evangelical and Reformed people is
| to be so tight that they exclude from the body those
| who ought not to be excluded (most notably, our
| children).

I will eventually get tired of saying this and go find something else to complain about, but I still have not seen a clear-cut case that those who do not do what Pastor Wilson's church does have excluded children from the body. Perhaps it will be cleared up by his example, below.

| The besetting sin of people in N.T.
| Wright's communion is the belief that someone who
| is a Druidic advocate of homosexual rights is a
| suitable candidate for the Archbishop of Canterbury.

... let me pause for a moment while I wipe the coffee that just shot out of my nose off my keyboard and monitor ...

| Both of these are a failure to discern the body, and
| both are therefore failures to understand justification
| in this corporate sense.

All things being equal, I would agree.

| In how many Reformed churches is it possible to
| hold back from the Table a ten-year-old girl who
| loves Jesus? Too many to count.

Let me say that, if this is the example by which the reformed who do not agree with Pastor Wilson are being chastised, the set of churches being represented is zero -- or, perhaps with some charity, restricted to a statistically-insignificant number of compounds found in Oklahoma, Arkansas and Missouri (though not Kansas, because they are all godless) for the "really reformed".

I'm a reformed Baptist in a non-reformed convention. In fact, our convention is pretty much anti-reformed if we are to judge it by the sermons and statements of the men who have the most visible influence over it. Be that as it may, I am blessed to have a reformed pastor who is working through the Bible with our church to lay down the reformed foundation for what we believe as Baptists and how we ought thereby to live.

In that, there are no 10-year-old girls who would "discern the Lord's Body" but refuse or be refused for Baptism. None. In fact, if there was someone who came forward who said, "I get the Lord's supper, but I've never been baptized, and I don't want baptism but I want the Lord's supper," I cannot imagine that Pastor Wilson would have a hard time joining me in taking them to the back of the worship center for a few hours of intense, um, counseling with a very large Kin'Jaymes.

So to say that there are "too many to count" children who can discern the Lord's body but cannot sit at the Lord's table because [denomination] are too squeamish about baptism ... gosh! That's hyperbole at best!

| But we are all one
| loaf, Paul says, and his point should be applied this
| way -- all who are bread should get bread. But look
| at this girl (and she is a representative of many tens
| of thousands like her), and ask the question, "Who
| will lay a charge against God's elect? It is God who
| justifies." And the answer comes back -- "Why the
| session will!" The irony here is that it is the session
| which is not discerning the Lord's body -- the girl
| discerns it, knowing that this is "my church, my
| people, my Lord, and may I have some bread?" -- and
| so perhaps the session should suspend itself from the
| Table.

Again, I think it is a bit of a stretch to say that the obviously-elect children who demonstrate some understanding of Eucharistic typology and christocentric ecclesiology (even if they wouldn't say it that way because they don't have the words) are being kept out of the gates of Heaven because some bureaucratic Episcopoi can't see the forest for all these bloody trees.

This example is intended to clear up the concern I voiced about "which children?" and "in what way?" concerning the "being excluded", to be sure. But what it instead does -- because of the particulars it must demonstrate to make the point that Pastor Wilson here is trying to make -- is show that there are only a handful of Campingites and Pentecostals who would behave this way and that churches which are even marginally-reformed or even ashamed of being reformed don't chase children away from the table if they have been baptized.

| The one thing we must understand about the
| Table, the girl understands and the session doesn't.
| We are all one body, and all who are bread should get
| bread. The session says yes, we believe that you
| could love Jesus, but we have subsequent tests you
| have to pass before you get any bread. The session is
| failing to understand that she is clearly part of the
| justified people. They are treating her as unjustified,
| laying a charge against her though God has justified,
| and such behavior from Christian shepherds is not
| justifiable.

"Clearly", though, in what way? It is "clearly" because she demonstrates the fruit of the spirit, and not because we know that she has been baptized or not. In fact, I would propose that if this same girl wanted to partake of the table but refused to be baptized, she does not know what she thinks she knows about the Table.

So I ask this: do we – all of us as an aggregate body, not just Doug Wilson's flock or the SBC – admit people to the table that have not been baptized? And what about those who refuse to be baptized? If the answer is, "sorry, you're at the wrong wedding feast," then we agree in principle and we are dickering over details.

| But there is a ditch on the other side of the road.
| Someone like N.T. Wright would see the folly of all
| this, I believe, and would certainly amen what I have
| argued above. But discerning the Lord's body is a
| two-way operation. Not only must we see who is in,
| but we must also be able to tell who is not really in.

This is an extremely elegant point with which I agree whole-heartedly, but a corollary of this point is that we also cannot accuse people of "refusing" or "excluding" when, in fact, they simply have a different method of making their children members-in-training. A method, btw, which fits the view that baptism is for the repentant believer.

| The New Testament is filled with false brothers, and
| we are told how to identify them. The works of the
| flesh are manifest, Paul says, and those who live this
| way will not inherit the kingdom of God. This is not
| a form of higher math. We have learned to repent of
| that form of pietism that says, at the drop of a hat, "I
| don't that this person is really a Christian," and all
| because they cut me off in traffic once, or I saw them
| drinking a beer at a restaurant. Away with reading the
| hearts of others as though they were tea leaves! But
| the fact remains that this statement -- "I don't think
| this person is really a Christian" -- is a perfectly
| honorable statement to make, provided the standard
| for making it is biblical. I would not be willing to say
| it for violations of the schoolmarmish ethics that
| govern certain quadrants of the Church.

Again, I say Amen from my seat in the back row of the Baptist church.

| Nor would I
| be willing to say it for violations of the Ten
| Commandments, followed by repentance. Think of
| David. But I would be willing to say this sort of thing
| for those who live in high defiance of the law and
| gospel of God -- ecclesiastical officials who
| solemnize homosexual unions, who sponsor
| witchcraft seminars, who draft statements in favor of
| abortion, and so on. This kind of moral folly is
| pervasive in N.T. Wright's communion, surrounding
| him on every hand, and an old-guard southern
| Presbyterian can see the problem with this much
| more clearly than Wright appears to.

And this time I actually hear the gray-crowned couple sitting next to me in the pew saying, "Amen."

| It would be nice if we would learn to discern the
| body. Wouldn't it be glorious to find a church that
| accepted the little children (as Jesus commanded us
| to) and was able to do this without simultaneously
| accepting overt and manifest iniquity? And wouldn't
| it be nice to find a believing communion that took a
| stand against sin and evil without simultaneously
| taking a stand against the pre-teens? But alas, most of
| the church does not yet understand corporate
| justification. Fortunately, our salvation doesn't
| depend on this understanding -- after all, we are
| justified apart from works of the law.

It would also be nice somehow to avoid exaggerating what others are doing that we disagree with. Honest to pete, I am in no position or have any inclination to wag a finger at the pastor of a relatively-successful and (on a pass/fail basis) God-fearing church, so please do not read this as giving Pastor Wilson the angry-eyebrows. From a purely discoursive (discursive? Dialectical? Park-bench prattle?) standpoint, if this meta-discussion is ever going to get past the place where some (who are rightly chastised for allowing only one mode of baptism when that mode is, at best, one of a small set of choices) are demeaned for "excluding" their children from church, and the other side (who might be taking reasonable liberty with the text but then change it over to unreasonable demands for inclusiveness) are demeaned for everything from universalism to liberal carelessness and postmodern irrationality, we have to mark out the limits of intra-mural debate.

I'm just a layman in this discussion, and a second-stringer at that, but I see this as one of the most important issues in the theology of the Protestant church – and by that, I mean the theology of any church which is more than merely "not Roman Catholic" by default. This matter of how we treat baptism, how we perceive baptism, how we understand baptism, and how we accept baptism has the ability to tear down more walls than it builds, and all of those new walls are in the right places. But the discussion can't "get there" if those who disagree with us think, in some way, we are beggaring the cross or those for which it paid the price.

[#] Say it, don't spray it

I'm dragging this over here so Brad Williams can again call me his friend. I am also enjoying it, and I want to share the joy.

To begin, let me thank Pastor Wilson for being attentive to this discussion and paying it the respect it deserves. I doubt I will convince him he is wrong, and I am sadly-confident that I am an intractable Baptist. My goal in interacting with him on this matter is to line out the pros and cons of both sides for the sake of the edification of the body.

If this debate turns into a shouting match or someone decides to turn over the card table in order to avoid admitting he doesn't have God's shekinah around his head to strike fear into the rest of us, this debate is a failure and an embarrassment. God forbid we embarrass ourselves in that way.

| With regard to the baptism of infants, I no longer accept the
| requirement for "express warrant" that I used to hold to
| when I was baptistic in my convictions. The "express
| warrant" hermeneutic winds up prohibiting way too much -
| - worship on the Lord's Day, women taking communion,
| and so on. At the same time, when I was baptistic I really
| wanted the question to be settled by an express statement of
| the Scripture. It would be really cool, thought I, if there
| were only a verse recording Paul baptizing an infant from
| the household of Demetrius.
I agree that this would be cool – way cool. The flip side is that Scripture is also sufficient when we wish we got more direction from it. Everybody would be much better served by Scripture if they didn’t draw lines between themselves and other men when Scripture gives us a certain degree of liberty by not telling us that we are supposed to wear socks to church or that we ought to avoid plaid flannel because it is an affront to Jesus' aesthetic sensibilities.
| When I was working through the material for my book on
| infant baptism, I came across what I believe is express
| warrant for infant baptism (by good and necessary
| consequence). Those who want the fuller development can
| find it in the book, but here is the outline of the argument.
| Like I said, I don't believe express warrant from the New
| Testament is necessary, but it turns out we do have express
| warrant. Gravy.
Let me first say that I am treating this argument without reading Pastor Wilson's book first, and I may live long enough to regret that. I will read it when it arrives next week.

And I would point out that if I were to line out the argument against infant baptism, it would include the warrant (by good and necessary consequences) that only the believer is to be baptized. The question would then not be "well, who decides?" without any regard to what the Roman Catholic apologist might proffer: the question is whether we are correct in claiming an "express warrant" on either side when what we have done is elevated our opinions to the status of God's Word.

| The New Testament identifies believing synagogues as
| churches. James identifies the two in his letter. If a man in
| filthy rags comes into your synagogue (Jas. 2:2), don't do
| thus and such. And if anyone there is sick, let him call for
| the elders of the church (Jas. 5:14).
True. No question that if one belonged (or belongs) to a synagogue that recognized the Messiah that it is rightly counted as a church. No question. Let's remember, however, that there are also synagogues of Satan. (Rev 2:9, 3:9) That is to say, being a synagogue does not make a community a church.
| Now when Paul came
| to Jerusalem (where many of these believing synagogues
| were), he went out of his way to reassure everybody that he
| was not teaching Jews to discontinue circumcising their
| infants. This means, in the short form, that there were New
| Testament churches that had infant members.
No. That means that there were Jewish churches who counted infants among those who were part of the nation of Israel. There is a difference.
| A circumcised infant in a believing synagogue was a member
| of that church. Now if Jewish churches/synagogues had
| infant members, on what grounds could we exclude infants
| from membership in Gentile churches?
I think there is a giant leap here, Pastor Wilson, that is conformed to your view of what makes one a "member of a church" which requires some unpacking.

In the first place, there is no doubt that the circumcision is the mark of being a Jew – a member of the nation. No question. This mark is itself instituted by God and required of every male in any household in Israel. It is part of what sets Israel visibly apart from the other nations.

But in the second place, proving that the synagogues which call Christ Messiah also continued to perform the circumcision proves too much. It is a palpable demonstration that baptism doesn't supercede or replace circumcision. If Paul – who we would agree does not demand that all men become Jews to become disciples of Christ – was willing to encourage circumcision among the remnant who gained faith in Jesus, and was not willing to enforce circumcision on the gentiles, but taught baptism to all of them, baptism is "something else" and not the same thing and circumcision.

| We could not
| exclude them. But we could say that circumcision was not
| required for them, because the sign and seal of the covenant
| was in the process of being changed to baptism. "For as
| many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on
| Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek . . . And if ye be
| Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to
| the promise" (Gal. 3:27-29).
I think this conclusion ignores the problem that the synagogue church must have been performing both. If baptism is the sign and seal of the covenant in the same way, for the same purpose as circumcision, doing both (as the synagogue churches must have done) was somewhat extravagant.

I think it is much more plausible to admit that circumcision means something different than baptism because it is not required of the non-Jew.

| The question for our baptistic brethren is this. Are you
| prepared to maintain that an infant brought to your
| congregation (formally and covenantally excluded) is in the
| same position as an infant brought to a believing synagogue
| in Jerusalem in AD 52?
I would say, "that infant is unequivocally in the same position if he is to be baptized and also circumcised." If he is not to receive both, then the comparison is not an express warrant but an implied warrant. It gives one the liberty to do this in good conscience, but not the liberty to claim that this is exactly what Scripture teaches because one is not doing what one claims was done: one is doing less.
| Not only would the believing
| synagogue not exclude such an infant, I believe that they
| would have difficulty even comprehending the concept of
| excluding the infants. And if there was such a generation-
| long uproar over the inclusion of the Gentiles, what would
| the commotion have been if the apostles really were
| teaching the Jews that not only must you start admitting the
| Gentile adults, but you must start excluding your own
| children? I have trouble believing that this would not have
| caused the Mother of all Theological Controversies. But
| there is not a word about such a controversy in the New
| Testament.
This application of the implicit warrant is still the part I have the most problem with. Let's assume for one minute that the Baptist (in this case, me) is unequivocally wrong in not baptizing the infant in his family. Let's assume that there is not just warrant but command to baptize infants. So we have all these kids in AWANA and Sunday school who do not have the visible seal, but we have all these kids in AWANA and Sunday school and church! What is completely incongruous to me is claiming "you must start excluding your own children". Excluded from what? From election? Not hardly. From salvation? In what way? From the teaching of Christ and the word of God? When? How?

Let's make sure I am not accused of saying, "Boy, we Baptists do a great job of catechizing our kids," because we are not the most rigorous bunch of catechists on the planet. I will be the first to admit that Baptist Sunday school is, in the largest aggregate picture, not a weekly session in systematics. But the question is if we are giving our children any more or less than their parents are getting, and unequivocally the answer is "no way".

In same ways that's something to be ashamed of for the sake of the adults, but to say that children in Baptist churches are "excluded" from something is overstated. I go back to the original complaint I made a few posts ago when I recognized that Pastor Wilson would call refusing them the sacraments a serious kind of exclusion (cf. the WCF), and in that ask again to explain how that is an exclusion in fact without resorting to a semi-sacerdotal position.

[*] More terms

Since we are defining terms today, a "levee" is "a continuous dike or ridge (as of earth) for confining the irrigation areas of land to be flooded" or "an embankment for preventing flooding unless it means killing a lot of black people", but a "dam" is "a barrier preventing the flow of water or of loose solid materials (as soil or snow); especially : a barrier built across a watercourse for impounding water which, if it fails and thereby threatens white people, is no cause for political hectoring."
"I've got my fingers crossed that this thing is able to hold," Gov. Mitt Romney said Tuesday morning. "Water's going under the dam. It's going through some areas that are weakened and there's every prospect that it will give way and we'll have a very significant water event.

"On the other hand, a few of us can hope that it hangs together and it ties together as long as possible and that the water is able to leak out in a relatively controlled manner," he said.

Apparently keeping up a hundred-year-old dam in historic Taunton, MA, was not on the radar for Mitt Romney and President George Bush, but neither do Louis Farrakhan, Jesse Jackson, nor Al Sharpton find the disposition of white people after a natural disaster especially disturbing.

Maybe they had it coming to them -- maybe God is trying to wipe them out for their sins, yes?

[*] Defining terms

If you click through to this link, you'll find an interesting definition of the legal term "adult":
Planned Parenthood argued the girl, a high school senior, was legally an adult because she already has a child. “Clearly our definition is that she was a legal adult,” said Planned Parenthood’s director of marketing communications, Marta Coursey, according to an AP report. “We are really committed to making sure this young woman’s rights are protected.”
In this particular case, the girl in question was 17, and the part of me tat has other things to do today wants to say, "oh, move on. She's 17! That's close enough for governemnt work, cent."

But it is actually not close enough for government work. The legal definition of "adult", state by state, varies -- but it is age-specific. If we allow the law to determine, for example, that anyone who has a child is a legal adult, we are opening up a wicked can of snake nuts. Should a 12-year-old with a child be considered an adult -- thereby getting the right to vote, the priviledge of buying alcohol, the priviledge to drive?

It sounds a lot more to me like the murderous loons at Planned Parenthood are trying to slip one by on a sleepy judge in Minnesota.

FWIW, HT to JR at RightFaith, and we hope his test results are better than government work.

[*] But who rides the beast?

Madonna finally speaks up. Apparently the material world is an illusion and those who do evil are going to hell.

I'm glad she cleared that up for us. And most priests are gay? It's shocking! Never heard of that! What we need is a documentary or something from her -- maybe a series of children's books. We never would have figured these things out if she hadn't gone and done the research.

[#] Prove it to yourself

Prove for yourself how much good or evil is in a given website. It's mathematical, therefore it is incontestible.

Here's what came back for this blog:
This site is certified 73% GOOD by the Gematriculator

Here's what came back for AOMin.org:
This site is certified 61% GOOD by the Gematriculator

Here's what came back for the Drudge Report:
This site is certified 61% GOOD by the Gematriculator

Here's what came back for Doug Wilson:
This site is certified 61% GOOD by the Gematriculator

You be the judge.

[%] Superman's cape

beware !
do not mess with
steve hays !!!

Let me be clear with you: there are some things people with street-smarts don't do. For example, you're "street" if you have the sense not to stand between a crackhead and his pipe. You're "street" in internet apologetics, for example, if you have the good sense not to accept the challenge of James R. White to a public debate on any topic he has challenged you. You don't spit into the wind. You don't tug on Superman's cape.

The other thing you don't do is tussle Steve Hays' hair. He's like the "XXX" of blogogetics -- he lives for that stuff. Like calling John Frame a theological hick, or dismissing sola Scriptura as untenable.

However, if you want to take apart Steve's html skills, it's open season. Actually, I have had this graphic sitting on the server for a month now and haven't had another good reason to use it, so here we go. I can promote Steve and chide him at the same time.

[$] Introducing Captain IronJaw

So I was playing with my son, drawing comics in Adobe Illustrator, when suddenly I realized that the boy had just created something for my blog: Captain IronJaw.

You cannot imagine how much easier it is to create images in Illustrator than it is to sift through 1000+ comics to find the one frame that tells the story you need for your blog article and then scan it in and size it. Of course, some would argue that it is actually easier just to post text in your blog and make a cogent point the old fashioned way.

To those intellectual malefactors, I say this: someday you will find yourself in possession of a personality, and I hope you don't trade it for a sack of magic beans.

[?] paying Cherokee taxes

I'll have to cross the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma this weekend to take my parents to the Tulsa airport, and in doing so, I will have to pay the obligatory Toll on the Cherokee Highway. Of course, I will also get to spend the day in Tulsa with my wife and kids, which is enough to make even Phil Johnson envious of being me.

Try not to exercise any Latin-speaking supernaturals while I'm away, but do spend the Lord's day in the Lord's house. And don't read any blogs that will make you angry this weekend. The weather looks good for most of you, and it would be better to spend the weekend outside with your family (or, in the case of PP, gaining street cred by using the fall weather to enhance his love life).

[*] Insight into Latin-speakers

There are so many things to say about this link that I can't find a place to start. The most novel thread that comes to mind is that this article finally gives us significant insight into why the advocates of a "reformed Catholicism" position so many of their web sites and theories in Latin.

You have to read the whole linked article to understand what I am talking about.

[#]A small but interesting word (3)

What? Was
I saying something?
Nice week I'm having. Anyway, we were talking about whether or not Paul (and then we will get to Peter) was able to perceive epistemological categories in his view of the written word when I was very rudely interrupted by my paycheck. Let's keep in mind that, as I continue to take a look at what Paul wrote relative to his use of the word "muthos" (which is translated "myth" in several English translations), I am not asserting that Paul would use the term "epistemological categories" to describe what he is saying, but that we can and should – because what he represents in these passages is an understanding that there is a difference between artistic or creative writing and historical or factual writing.

My second example comes from 1Tim 4:
    1Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, 2through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, 3who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. 4For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, 5for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.

    6If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed. 7Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths (muthos). Rather train yourself for godliness; 8for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. 9The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. 10For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.
We seem to be able to take at face value that here Paul is telling Timothy not to waste his time on "silly myths", and in that we can assume that Paul is saying that what Timothy ought to believe are not myths but facts. The question is whether Paul is telling Timothy that there are "silly myths" as opposed to "non-silly myths" in which he ought to believe.

That's why context is so important in looking at a question like this. In leading up to his admonition to young Timothy, Paul clearly spells out that one will depart from the faith if one accepts the teaching of "liars" and "demons". It cannot be any more plain on Paul's part that there are some who teaching something which is in a category in opposition to the teaching of the Gospel. That is to say, it is possible to believe something false which would nullify the claim of "faith" because its content would be at odds with true faith.

The other side of the "deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars" is what Paul directs Timothy to do instead: "being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed". Paul does not mince words on this matter. One is either following something not true which is intended to deceive and is itself false, or one is following "good doctrine". It is difficult to understand how the advocates against "Enlightenment categories" can muster the courage to tongue-lash those who practice exposition from Scripture when Paul is the one who provides the concrete basis for establishing the epistemological categories in question. There is no social context which changes the meaning of these words. Saying one kind of teaching is false and another "good" and "godly" is about as stark a contrast as one can imagine. And to be clear: those are not some exegete's words for these categories but the very words Paul uses to describe these categories.

We're going to pick up some steam as we observe the other uses of the word "muthos" in Paul, but let's not allow the velocity of the exposition to undercut the importance of the point: affirming the view that pre-enlightenment readers and writers did not uphold epistemological categories in their thinking or in their methodology is simply unsupportable in fact when it comes to the NT documents.

More later. Thanks to those who are still interested in this subject.

This series has other parts: [1][2] 3 [4]

[#] On the salvation of Infants

As I sit down to type this post, I realize something: I would really rather not talk about this at all. And when I say "at all", I mean "I would rather talk about the nuances of Victorian serial fiction than talk about the salvation of infants". If you want to know why, I can tell you that this topic causes more flack when it comes up than it can possibly be good to cause, and it also has never once in the history of the world been the reason for anyone finally accepting the Gospel.

In that, I'm not going to say anything about the topic. I think it's a no-win topic. It doesn't mean anything to anyone reading this because whatever deduction we can make about what God does in these cases, it doesn't apply to you personally. You're not a fetus. You're not an embryo. Whatever God chooses to do in the case of infant mortality is 100% in His prevue and 100% not applicable to those old enough to read my posts in the blogosphere.

If you are angry with me for posting this, I am sorry that I have made you angry. I am also sorry I have nothing else to say.

[*] Better than the Real Thing

I had 5 minutes at lunch today, and it turns out the U2 doesn't want to make their concerts into political fundraisers.

Go ahead and read that again. I'll wait.

<shatner> U2. Doesn't want to make their concerts. Political. fundraisers. </shatner>

Apparently they meant, "political fundraisers for American political activities."

Johnny take a walk with your sister the moon
Let her pale light in to fill up your room
You've been living underground
Eating from a can
You've been running away
From what you don't understand.

[#] Bets are off this week

I'm buried at work. Will update when time allows.

Talk amongst yourselves. Try not to put Jonathan Moorhead into a tizzy over a cult of personality around here.

[#] Clean up: the Trick Question

Last week, before we rolled down the gates on Friday, I asked the astute readers of the Blog to take a look at a blog entry by Pastor Doug Wilson regarding his view of things, and asked you all to think about what the implicit question was that he was asking and why it is a trick question.

Well, that's what I get for linking to one post after reading a second post. It turns out I was thinking about the other post when I was blogging. So let's try this again:

Pastor Doug Wilson has a interesting post on "asking questions about the 'minimum amount' of orthodoxy it takes to get somebody into heaven" which he expands into a whole metaphor of a meal with cooks and people at the table. In that article, Pastor Wilson demonstrates why Wile E. Coyote frequently gets crushed by his own boulder. Sometimes we are victims of our own metaphors and idioms.

Pastor Wilson starts here:

When [God] saves us, and we go on to live our lives, we know from the Scriptures what sort of thing to expect, such as the fruit of the Spirit. In cases where these are egregiously absent, and the works of the flesh are egregiously present, all said works of the flesh drunk and downtown, shooting out the street lights, the Church has the authority to declare that such a person is outside the communion of the saints. But even there, the Church does not have authority to pronounce on that person's election. That is not within our competence to know.
Fair enough, right? Election is God's prerogative, but the church has the authority to exercise right judgment on disciplinary matters. Who can have a problem with that, really?

Then pastor Wilson goes on to say this:
Whether someone has a correct grasp of the gospel matters a great deal -- at his ordination exam. At the great presbyterial banquet, I wouldn't let anybody into the kitchen to cook if he did not know all about the Deity of Christ, the hypostatic union, the triune nature of God, the substitutionary death of Christ on the cross, His resurrection from the dead, and so on. But would I let people into the banquet to eat if they did not know about these things? Absolutely -- the more they come, the more we feed them. And because we keep a close eye on the cooks, we feed them good stuff. {the bold is my emphasis; italics are in the original}
Well, maybe there's not so much there to grouse about. The point Pastor Wilson is making is that there is a great gap between discerning who the properly-equipped teachers are and who the faithful in Jesus Christ are. That is itself a pretty fair distinction because nobody I know is going to say that Abraham could enumerate all the nuances of Trinitarian theology without a fault, but indeed Abraham has saving faith. It would be a mistake at this point to try to force from Pastor Wilson's metaphor something he's not saying, like "and then we can say that it doesn't matter at all what you believe in order to know you are saved in the way that Jesus saves." Because at this point he has said no such thing: he's saying that we need to be stringent when we are assessing the teaching of teachers, and perhaps forgiving when we look at those who are also inside the church who haven't had time to read or write a systematic theology because our theology stinketh, too.

But then he goes on to this:
This is the besetting sin of conservative Reformed evangelicals. They think you are not qualified to eat until you are qualified to cook. And we scratch our heads over the dismal results, and conclude that we need to pray for revival. But, as Tozer once put it, if revival means more of what we have now, we most emphatically do not need revival. We don't need revival at all, frankly. What we need is reformation. One of the prophets condemned those shepherds "who feed only themselves." And we won't have reformation in the historic evangelical world until the trained cooks stop stuffing all the food into their own pie holes, and show some kind of willingness to feed and nurture the ignorant. But we are stiff-necked, and refuse to waste any food on him. Why? He's too skinny.
So Pastor Wilson's complaint here is that "conservative Reformed evangelicals", apparently, don't want to feed anybody anything about the Gospel unless they do not appear to need to know anything else about the Gospel.

The first problem with this assertion, unfortunately, is that I can't think of anybody it applies to. I am certain that Pastor Wilson's first answer would be, in a very loving way, "that is because you are a credobaptist: Let me suggest to you that credobaptism is itself a method by which the cooks are only feeding the other cooks – even if we are only talking about the souce chefs among you. To baptize only those with a confession of faith is to exclude from the benefits of the covenant, by God's view of things, those who are covenant members."

Since my Pastor Wilson puppet has provided an answer, let me not think less of him but thereby respond (and scare Jack Russell at the same time): "sez you, raghead." The only way to say that is to say that the bases for demonstrating any other method of "feeding" are the sacraments – that is, baptism and eucharist. So, for example, in this view of "feeding", those who have not been baptized do not receive a proper formation when they are taught in Sunday school – somehow they cannot. Those who cannot receive the Lord's Supper apparently cannot be taught the meaning of Romans 1&2 or John 6 in a satisfactory way.

Those assertions – which are what is left when you boil down the broth of Pastor Wilson's assertion to a gravy which can actually be applied to something without running all over the plate – don't make any sense. Nobody believes that we don't teach catechetical points to unbelievers because they are unworthy – and there is no way to make a cook out of the busboy (or, to be consistent with the metaphor, out of the delivery guy) without first serving him the milk, then the mush, then the lumpy bits, then the whole veggies, then the meat of the word.

In the view Pastor Wilson is proposing here, because someone is available we ought to give him better than the benefit of the doubt regarding his spiritual status. Let's be fair to him that, in his post following this one, he does say that you haven't saved someone from drowning unless you have actually fished them out of the pool – meaning that those who come from an inherently-false confessional view of God have to repent of that view in order to get a seat at the table. But in saying that, we find that Pastor Wilson wants to have it both ways. The coyote, as I opined earlier, finds himself in the ever-expanding shadow of the falling boulder.

On the one hand, for the adult who is not born in a Christian home, the personal confession is necessary in order to demonstrate the effects of God's grace in one's life; on the other hand, he also wants to say that for anyone who is born into a Christian home does not need to demonstrate the effects of God's grace to get a seat at the table.

It seems to me that this view has a much harder time freeing itself from the accusation that those who are the skinniest are not getting fed. Surely the question is not whether those without faith are any more needy than those who actually have faith? Because, I think, that we can admit that all men are of equal need of the Gospel and of grace. So by "getting fed", what does Pastor Wilson mean?

Unless he can clear that up, I feel like he's standing out there with a little sign ...

[*] Strange Bedfellows

It seems that Patti Hearst said this, and in order to prove her right, Pat Robertson disgraces American Christianity and proves her right by saying this. Just to make sure you don't think I'm kidding (or that he was kidding), Hal Lindsey agrees with Robertson.

Somebody needs to take him out ... TO LUNCH, PEOPLE: TO LUNCH. There's still the rule of law in this country -- at least there was yesterday the last time I checked. Sheesh.

[?] Monday Public Service Announcement

[1] When you go to the junkyard to get used replacement rims for your car, consult the book on what size rim your car takes, and save yourself 2 hours of stripping tires off of cars with rusted-on wheels. At least. That center hole is a killer.

[2] The "small but interesting word" series will pick up later today or tomorrow. I have meetings all morning thru 2 PM CT, and it is unlikely I will have anything useful to say between now and then. Whether what I have to say after that is useful is entirely arbitrary.

[3] You'll notice the new "...and his SHOPPING CART a BASKET of GOODIES" to the left. After much wrestling with BLOGGER and the css styles that will actually work, I have discovered that it is possible to imbed a blog within a blog in such a way that the imbedding will work on any browser on any platform. That in itself deserves a "HOW TO" post, so those of you who are curious can look forward to that.

[4] The last week my parents have been up and I have completely ruined my diet. The upside is that I have slidden back only 2 lbs since my last offical weigh-in, so that's hardly a tragedy.

To keep yourself occupied, you should wander the blogroll until I get back. I didn't make it through the League of Reformed Bloggers, but all of my favorites (except Challies, of course) have posted something interesting and meaningful this weekend. Challies is off about some conference at some Baptist church that has a pastor who wriotes books about Desiring God. Fide-o has classified me as a "treat" and as "on my own planet". You decide if that's worth reading or not.

[*] For Educational purposes only

Yeah. Sure.

Have a nice weekend and God bless you. Spend the Lord's day in the Lord's house with the Lord's people. Anything else is second-best.

[*] The trick question

Somebody asked me in the past 2 weeks why Pastor Doug Wilson is "for reference only", and I said that he has rejected Baptist conformity for Auburn Avenue conformity (which, no offense to anyone, is a kind of presbyterian conformity), and in that he's ready to accept Roman Catholics as christians based on their baptism. That's enough, I think, to keep him where he is in the blogroll categories for the time being.

The other thing that keeps me from promoting this man -- who is, no doubt, a lot more influetial than I am and has a lot more savvy than I do -- on the blogroll is posts like this one, in which he begins with a fairly-lucid point about the nature of grace and ends up saying (in words to this effect), "I don't deny the reality of hell for those outside of Grace -- I just don't believe there will be that many of them."

And look: if his eschatology requires that he reads verses like Rev 7:9 to mean a literal infinity and not a figurative extraordinary number, I'm not going to beat him up for that. But what I am going to beat him up for is taking for granted that the number who are going to be cast into the lake of fire do not have obvious and prior ways of knowing they are not the ones who will be saved. His point that grace is, well, gracious, is a great one -- but grace is not sloppy, and grace is not arbitrary, and grace is not somehow furtive. Grace is manifest in the sacrifice of Christ and is then manifest in the lives of His disciples. In this particular case, Pastor Wilson has overplayed his hand regarding the distinction between "believeing that I am saved by grace" and "believing that the knowledge of saving grace is necessary for salvation".

I posted a question to him regarding his blog entry at his blog, and it will be interesting to see if he has anything to say about it.

UPDATED: Sometimes I think fatser than I type, and then I hit 'post'. The "trick question" is not my question to Pastor Wilson. The trick question is actually the one Wilson implicitly asks in his post, and I'd like to see if any of our astute readers can nome up with the question itself and why it is a trick. I'll be checking over the weekend, and we'll post the answer to this puzzler on Monday.

[#] A small but interesting word (2)

After greeting Timothy, Paul writes this to him:
    3 As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, 4 nor to devote themselves to myths ("muthos") and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship {Or good order} from God that is by faith.

    5 The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. 6 Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, 7 desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions.
    1Tim 1:3-7 (ESV)
This charge to Timothy by Paul comes (as Paul says) not as a new direction but as part and parcel of the teaching Paul has given him before -- "As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus". Paul has sent this letter as a supplement to Timothy to do what has already been set out before the young man. That point is made clear with the clause which begins "that": the purpose of Timothy's mission in Ephesus comes after the word "that".

So what is Paul's purpose for Timothy? "that you may charge certain persons" are Paul's words, meaning that Timothy ought to indict or accuse some of the people there with a certain wrongdoing. What kind of wrongdoing is it? Paul says, "charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine".

The express reason Timothy is in Ephesus is to teach the same doctrine as Paul, in opposition to any different doctrine that may exist in that city. That may seem somewhat commonplace to those who have never heard the charge that evangelicals are slaves of enlightenment thinking when it comes to the Bible, but it is an important foundational matter in this discussion.

What Paul has begun to lay out here is a category distinction in kinds of teaching. This idea is in almost every letter of his: there is a true teaching, which is the Gospel, and there is false teaching which is not the Gospel which must be opposed by returning to true teaching. This idea that there is content which undercuts the Gospel message is important for making some headway with those who want to claim that placing NT claims into Enlightenment categories defaces the text.

Thus, if there is a false category which Paul classes as any different doctrine, what is he talking about? Well, he's a smart guy under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, so he makes his point clear by saying "not to teach any different doctrine, nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies". Now think about this: Paul says that teaching any different doctrine is to be charged in the say way as devotion to myths and endless genealogies. That is to say, these myths and genealogies have the same value as any different doctrine. Now what value might that be? Paul says, "[myths and genealogies] which promote speculations rather than the stewardship {Or good order} from God that is by faith". That is itself an interesting charge – because it underscores the non-factual nature of these classes by saying they "promote speculation rather than stewardship".

Paul's concern for Timothy (and for those in his care in Ephesus) is that the young man teach a sound doctrine which has sound results and does not turn people toward speculative endeavors that interfere with right stewardship in the faith. Again, I think most Protestants would be somewhat bored by this claim because it seems so obvious and foundational to us: there is a right teaching, and there is a wrong teaching, and wrong teaching leads to wrong actions.

What is important about this, however, is the nature of this claim: it says that it matters how you teach the Gospel message in substance. That's not an Enlightenment claim but a first-century claim which Paul presents to Timothy as marching orders. If this is Paul's view of the method of presenting the Gospel, we have to challenge the view that Paul would have had what Prof. Enns and John Dominic Crossan would call a "pre-enlightenment" view of the text which says that things can be "real" and "true" but not necessarily "factual" or "literal".

Let's also keep in mind here that we are not disqualifying genres from existing inside the NT: we are demonstrating that Paul's view of truth demonstrates epistemological classes that distinguish from made-up stories which are false or lead to falsehood and the Gospel itself which is neither "muthos" nor rhetorical but factual.

In that, Paul describes this first charge to Timothy rather boldly for our cause: "The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith." Paul is giving this direction from "good conscience" and from "sincere faith", which are interesting qualifiers to maintain over against "myth" and "different doctrine". Paul's charge is for a purpose which is completely wholesome, and he continues: "Certain persons, by swerving from these, ..." Now to what does "these" refer to? It refers to "good conscience" and "sincere faith". So those who are teaching a different doctrine, and teaching myths and endless genealogies, are here impugned by Paul as swerving away from good conscience and swerving from sincere faith. Again: this underscores Paul's method of thinking about the Gospel not as a set of non-propositional truths transmitted by likely stories of some artistic and (ultimately) theological value, but as propositional truth – things clearly distinguished from falsehood that are falsified only by those with bad motives.

For clarity's sake, let me say that I an not sure that Paul would use the Greek (or Hebrew) words for "propositional truth" that I might use to describe his thinking here. I'm not sure that rhetorical formula existed in his time in that way. But what I am saying is that Paul's methodology for teaching was (A) toward a specific, objective truth that was manifest in history, and (2) against any other assertion that manifested counterclaims which effaced that truth by using loose talk or "made up" stories.

He continues: "[they] have wandered away into vain discussion, desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions." In this last assertion, Paul makes one last ting clear: there is a difference between knowing the truth and not knowing the truth. The ones Timothy was sent to Ephesus to charge with teaching a different doctrine were devoted to myths, not of good conscience, not of sincere faith, and they had not understanding of what they were teaching, but taught anyway because they wanted to be seen as "teachers of the law". Those are fairly comprehensive charges by Paul – charges which set the stage for Timothy's ministry as discussed in the rest of the letter. But the foundational matter which Paul bases these charges on is that there is a difference between the right method of teaching the Gospel and the wrong method. In that, the use of "muthos" or "myth" is plainly disqualified as useful to those with "good conscience" and "sincere faith".

Next time we move on to another use of this word in this same letter to Timothy.

This series has other parts: [1] 2 [3][4]