[%] Jason Janz

For those of you who read about the End of the Spear controversy from me, Jason Janz has posted some corrections to his original article.

Fair is fair, right? I don't think it materially changes the issue, but Jason wants to clear the air, and I admire him for it.

[*] I want a blind doctor?

I was reading the complete transcript of the interview Jason Janz did with Steve Saint and Mart Green, and I came up on this quote from Steve Saint:
    In hindsight it seems like poetic justice. After all, I am the one that keeps challenging Christians to let their scars show. Wounded people want to be ministered to by people who have scars in the same places their patients have wounds.
I understand the point, I think: he's saying that if Christians come across as people with no sin, never have sinned, don't give sin the time of day like ivory statues, then there's no way for Christians to reach out to the world of sinners.

If that is his point, I think there is a kernel of truth in it. See: I think it is completely valid that we should not pretend to be something we are not. For example, we should not pretend to be people who do not see the appeal of sin. The question is this: do we see sin as more appealing than we see Christ? That is, we are certainly tempted every day, but what are we doing about temptation and what are we doing about renewing our minds?

We should not pretend that we are people who have no temptations and have no sin. But what we also cannot pretend to be is a people who are only tormented by sin. If we are redeemed by Christ's blood, we have victory over sin -- not just in justification, but also in sanctification. Christ's death secures our sanctification. In that, we are not a people standing around filthy and dressed in rags: we are not dead men in tombs anymore. We are facing Christ, and are clothed in Christ's righteousness, and becoming more like Him every day.

If we are not, we have to ask ourselves if we really belong to Him, amen?

But the problem I see in Steve Saint's statement here is that he thinks that I am only relevant to the unsaved sinner if I am willing to demonstrate that I am a sinner. I think that is exactly wrong: if I am just another sinner, I have nothing to offer another sinner. What is relevant to the sinner is the solution to a sinful life.

If I was going blind, I wouldn't go to a doctor who had the same problem I have but couldn't heal himself. I'd want a doctor who, in the best case, had a track record of healing people like me, or in the worst case, was able to cure his own blindness to show he could heal mine. I would have no interest in a blind doctor who might be able to sympathize with where I am right now.

[#] The lingering question

Because the discussion keeps getting derailed at Phil's blog, and I have said almost all I have to say on the subject there, I have not talked about the cessation vs. continuation debate that seems to almost break out in the blogosphere every other week.

It was a quiet week last week, so this must be the "on" week.

Listen: I'm not going to engage anyone on the topic of the cessation vs. continuation of spiritual gifts unless they can define the terms they are going to be defending or criticizing. If you're curious, I'm a cessationist (because I'm really a Baptist), and I'd define my position thus:

    "Cessationism" is the doctrine that the Apostles and their messengers where given signs and wonders to perform in order to validate the Gospel proclamation, that there is no promise or necessity to any future generation for those gifts, and that there is no "lesser" form of the Apostolic gifts.
If you're a continualist and you want to discuss this matter, the only way I'll engage you with more than a flourish of graphics and smart quips is if you begin by defining your position is an equally-concise and equally-specific way. If you cannot manifest the spiritual gifts of brevity or order, I have no interest in a flame war on this topic. I am interested, however, in discussing the idea that God is actively manifesting outwardly-miraculous signs and wonders in the world today for the same reason He has always done such a thing.

There ya go. Happy New Week.

[#] Another CBA post

So I was checking Stats for the blog this morning, and I noticed that I was getting some traffic from Colorado Springs, CO. Now, since I haven't mentioned Focus on the Family in quite some time, my intuition is that someone from CBA has just gotten word from the Advance show in Nashvegas that I have had some saucy words for them.

I have some more today, so if you're reading from CBA HQ, please take notes.

I saw this on the CBA website this morning:
Signature Website Sales Surge

CBA service provider Innovative Inc.’s Signature Websites reported 4 million-plus visits to its sites and 1.6 million retailer opt-in e-mail promotions during the 2005 Christmas season. Signature Websites online sales in the fourth quarter 2005 rose 74% over the previous year, due in part to the added gift certificates and increased music sampling. Jay Langston, Innovative’s online sales & marketing director, said e-mail in-store coupon redemption rate increased 70% over 2004.
Let me say this plainly: Innovative offers a very nice product. I'm not refering anybody there via link because that would be advertising. But the question, really, is this: How productive is an Innovative web site for the individual retailer?

You know: 4 million visitors is nothing to sneeze at. I'd take 1% of that as traffic to a e-commerce web site for my store any day. The problem is that my store -- if I had an Innovative web site -- would never get 1% of 4 million visits.

I think Innovative runs about 200-300 sites -- it might be more than that. But in that case, the average Innovative site got between 295 and 445 visits a day, and that's peak season traffic. Not for nothin', Innovative, but that's how much traffic my blog gets in unique visits every day -- and if I'm being particularly randy, we get gusts up to 1000 unique visits, or more than 1500 page views per day.

As I remember, the average Innovative web site gets about 800 hits per quarter as they would report at their CBA booth at Advance this week.

My point here is this: why is it that about 300 CBA web sites as an aggregate cannot draw more interest and traffic than one lone blogger with a somewhat-curmudgeonly attitude?

Think about that. I;d be interested in opinions other than my own on that subject.

[?] Updated Reader Snapshot

That's as of 8:00 AM CST 01/27/2006. Nice to see Helsinki Finland is still on the map, and welcome to Singapore and our second reader from Japan.

There are also suspicious visits from Colorado Springs, CO, which is the HQ for the Christian Booksellers Association. It caused me to visit their website today. It's always interesting to see what they are talking about.

More on that in the next blog entry.

[%] Hugh Hewitt

You all know how I feel about Hewitt.

He might change my mind with more interviews like this one. Prolly not since this has nothing to do with being a Christian and everything to be with being even half-way reasonable, but there you go.

[*] Lesson Learned

Moral: It's easy to say you're sorry when the money's in the bank.

Who is kidding whom here?

[*] The business end of the spear (3)

I think this is my final installment on this topic directly; the organ grinder post at PyroManiacs will be my leaping-off place for the broader discussions associated with this topic. I want to finish up on the question of why a provocatively-gay actor was a bad casting choice for this movie and then move on further in to the stack of stuff.

For those reading, thanks to Sharper Iron for its link to this discussion in the last installment.

Now, here's what I'm thinking: There's a kind of Pascal's Wager at-play in the basic permutations of this discussion, and I'd map them out like this:

And for the purists, please simply accept my quadrant numbering scheme, OK? As I look at this table, quadrant 1 and quadrant 4 are "gimmes": they're what you'd expect, right? In Q1, if the artist/messenger is Christian, the creative content would be the Gospel, and there's no controversy. In Q4, if the artist is not Christian, the content is not the Gospel, and there's no controversy. Is that fair?

The questions start to pop when we get to Q2 and Q3, and for the sake of this post we're going to stay focused on Q3. What exactly should we expect in the situation where the content of some creative thing is supposed to be "the Gospel" but the artist or messenger is not a Christian – that is to say, not someone who accepts the Gospel or is, as Paul called himself, a slave to the Gospel?












You know what the answer is, right? Did you have to think about it very hard? Listen: for those who did have to think about it, the Gospel is a stumbling block to those who think they believe in God and foolishness to those who think that they don't. The Gospel is a stench of death to the unbeliever. How would you deliver a message that you think leads to death, and infamy, and a reputation of stupidity?

If your boss at work asked you to go into a meeting with his boss and tell him, "listen: I don't want to be an alarmist, but our company is going bell-up under your leadership. There's nothing good about what you are doing right now except that you go home once in a while and that lets us try to fix the problems you have caused. The right thing to do – if you really valued this company – would be to resign and apologize to all the people who work here for the things you have done to them in your tenure. So whaddaya say?"

That's a message that certainly leads to (professional) death, and the reputation you'd get – even if all those things were true – would be a pretty bad one, most of all because of the obvious stupidity of delivering a message like that. Yet, to the unbeliever, that's exactly what the Gospel is saying: admit you're a failure on a grand scale and give up whatever it is you think you have in favor of, by all accounts, amounts to shame. Do you think any unbeliever is going to deliver that message – even for the sake of "art"?

Now, that's if the Gospel message is clearly stated and proclaimed. What if there's a place on that diagram that's between Q3 and Q4 where the Gospel is frankly indeterminate? What if we come up with an decent fable which represents the Gospel in some way – for example, what if Stephen King's the Green Mile could be read meaningfully as a kind of retelling of the Gospel? King's not a believer, so don't get hung up on whether the example is very good. Think of it as a placeholder.

But if we come up with a decent fable which re-presents the Gospel artistically if not factually – which is to say, as literary truth and not as historical truth (Santa, you dirty little …) – do you think that a non-Christian would bother to make sure that the implicit Gospel would be delivered if we are pretty sure he wouldn’t bother to deliver the explicit Gospel in other circumstances?

Why would he bother? It seems like too much work to me – too much work for a bad cause. It seems to me that the unbeliever would do everything in his power to bury the Gospel truth of Christian art rather than represent the Christian aspect of that art.

Axwell Tiberius, former vaudevillian
sibo... shivo... shim...
oh forget it!
And most importantly: if we are dealing with implicit truths in an artistic expression, and we live in an age where the press junket is the manner by which we "get out the word" about our new Christian movie or Christian tennis shoes or Christian blah blah blah, in what way could we think that a non-Christian will rightly demonstrate the Gospel in those artifacts?

The essential problem of the End of the Spear from the perspective of ETE is that they are not even sure they want to put the silvered plastic fish on their enterprise – even thought they want (and need) acceptance from the Christian demographic. They have made a story about the results of the martyrdom of 5 men who ended strong for the Gospel, but they don't want people to be upset by the name of Jesus Christ. And in the end, they have placed their trust in delivering that message to (among others) a man who is deceived about what the Gospel says and is frankly an enemy of repentance from sexual sin.

As a final note, I really could care less if gay actors work in Hollywood. Gay actors are going to find work in Hollywood. The question that allegedly Christian film-makers have to ask themselves is whether they are going to proclaim the Gospel or not. Because it goes back to the idea that one can be an organ grinder like all the other organ grinders and still be a "Christian" organ grinder. How? In what way? By what means? For what purpose?

See: when the organ grinder is in Q2 and the monkey is in Q3, the closer to the line between left and right in my diagram they both get, the more likely it is that the monkey is in practical charge. When the artistic content is dependent of the behavior of the monkey, you're going to get monkey-business.

And anyone who's an organ-grinder is clearly peddling monkey business, regardless of the tune he's cranking out of his box. There has to be more than a tin-plated music box and a performer who is more than a fuzzy primate in a clever suit for the organ grinder to be more than a huckster who is trading on sentiment.

[#] Media Habits Poll Results

You can find the results here. Since I have already started blogging on this subject vis a vis the End of the Spear, I'm not sure how much I'm going to comment on these results.

[#] A related local story

I'm somewhat stunned that the national news hasn't picked this up yet. It was a headline story in the local paper yesterday, and I thought it'd be on CNN and NBC by now.

There's also this editorial on the subject. I don't want to throw stones at local media, but forgive the, um, quality of the writing and try to ferret out the things they are trying to say.

The comments, as always, are open. I'm in for the discussion.

Results from the poll will be up later today.

UPDATED: read Tom Ascol's blog more often. It'll do ya good.

[?] Media Habits

Click here to take a survey about your media-viewing habits. The survey is closed. The results will be fodder for this blog.

This link will be active thru 1/26/2006 at 8 AM.

[*] Why I have my own blog

One of the things that won't get aired out at PyroManiacs is stuff like this, from Kevin Johnson at Doug Wilson's blog:
Frank Turk,

Wilson didn't get me to admit anything. I've never had an issue with Scripture being clear. Just because we may not agree doesn't mean that I somehow think that the Scriptures are not clear especially in regards to our salvation. Your comments are unappreciated and unwarranted as usual.
That's an amazing statement from the fellow who wrote this entry at communio sanctorum. You read that essay, and if you have any questions post them here and I'll flesh out the particular aspects of my "unappreciated and unwarranted" opinion about Kevin Johnson as soon as we finish up with the End of the Spear.

I'd put the talking monkey up here, but even he is speechless.

[*] Open Door Policy

Apparently, that's Eerdman's new editorial policy on books. Phillip Ryken at Reformation21 has a brief piece which fits nicely into the strident commentary in my on-going comments on the problem with The End of the Spear controversy.

Seriously: when a publisher like Eerdman's takes the path it is now on, it is somewhat stupid to get upset about a gay actor (pheh! as if being gay makes him a bad actor!) in a movie that doesn't even mention Jesus Christ.

HT: Gene "Mean" Bridges, via e-mail.

[*] The Business End of the Spear (2)

Yesterday I said something that I think could use some further treatment. It went something like this:
I suggest to you that Martin Scorsese could easily agree with the mission statement of ETE and direct movies they would find acceptable. In fact, I think that he would describe movies like The Color of Money and The Aviator in exactly those terms. So why aren't Christians getting their nose out of joint over Scorsese's work and casting decisions?

The answer to that question is simple: he wasn't trying to fool himself or anybody else, and he wasn't confusing the issues. He made his films – he is making his films – about what he thinks they ought to be about, and if people see them, good for him and good for them. The problem is that ETE may have been making movies about what they think they ought to be about, but make no mistake: they were making them to leverage the Christian cultural demographic.
The reason I think this needs more treatment is that it assumes something that I think might get missed if you're not paying attention: the essential nature of evangelism.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and make one blanket statement before I make the blanket statement that will raise the hackles of some people: I think Martin Scorsese is an evangelist. He's not an evangelist for Christ or the Gospel, but he is a person bringing a message which he thinks has power, value, insight and the ability to change lives.

That's why people think he's an artist: he has a message that he finds exciting ways to express. He's good at scratching the itchy ear, as we might say; he has mastered the temptation of the eye. And I admit it: there are some Scorsese movies I have watched and have understood why people think he's a genius.

But let's make sure we understand something about Scorsese: he doesn't apologize for his message. He's not trying to trick anybody into listening. He's not trying to manage people into seeing his movies by pretending they are about one thing when they are actually about something else.

You know: like staging a "rock concert" at your church in order get the lost to come and then singing songs that are all around the topic of the Gospel but then never actually delivering the Gospel to them.

Scorsese is an artist with a message that he values and delivers without any apologies. The reason he's an effective artist is that he doesn't really give a hoot whether you agree with him or not. He didn't try to disguise his message in Taxi Driver. There's not a lot of nuance in Gangs of New York. I'm somewhat dying to see his Bob Dylan biopic because at least it will be delivered well even if I don't think he would agree with me about who and what Bob Dylan is.

So when we look at cinematic icons like Scorsese, he's an evangelist for his point of view because he doesn’t care if you agree with him: he's going to make a movie that is true to his vision, and if you don't agree that's your problem.

With that said, my real shot across the bow in this post is this: I think ETE doesn't understand evangelism in the generic sense, and doesn't understand evangelism in the Gospel sense, and therefore has no business trying to portray itself as a "Christian" film company because it has not idea what a Christian film would look like on any scale.

This weekend I was listening to the MP3 of Jason Janz's interview with Mark Dever from this last summer, and Dever said something in that interview which, I think, is important to this discussion: evangelism is not about obtaining a conversion but about being honoring to God by proclaiming His message to the lost. It is God's work to give the second birth, and to take a person who is dead in sin and raise them to newness of life in and through Jesus Christ.

That is why Paul says something as outlandish in Romans 1 as
    For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, "The righteous shall live by faith."
I am not ashamed of the Gospel! That means there's no reason to play it off as a subtext. To be "not ashamed" of the Gospel means that we don't need to make it sound like U2 or Pearl Jam or Green Day or 50 Cent or whatever in order to proclaim it.

My boss at work is somewhat enamoured with Nooma and Rob Bell. Every time I listen to him (Bell), I get the creeps. Let me frame this criticism in a very limited way: I have no idea what Rob Bell's status relative to Christian orthodoxy is. NO CLUE.

But that is particularly the point. He's supposed to be a pastor of a church. He's supposed to be not ashamed of the Gospel. But what he is, instead, is a 90's version of a beatnick. And I say "90's version" because his coffee-house delivery and cadence was old in 1992 – because my Grad School friends and I were doing that schtick at open mike nights in the late 80's.

And it is in that CCM/Nooma triangulation on "evangelism" that ETE finds itself. "Gosh," they must be saying to themselves, "if we could only produce a movie as good 'Glory Road' that doesn't intimidate people with all the Jesus-on-the-cross stuff! If only we could get Brad Pitt to star in our movie, the Gospel would come up in conversation!"

Listen: that's not evangelism. What that is is trying to tell the world that it doesn't need a savior when in fact it actually needs a savior. If we don't mention the name of Jesus Christ (and note: I don't mean the Latinized version of the Hellenized version of the Hebrew name "Yeshua"; I mean the work and person of the Son of God who is the Alpha and the Omega, through whom all things were made), dude, it's not gonna come up.

Evangelism is, in a nutshell, not being ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. When we are ashamed of Jesus Christ – we who allegedly bear His name, who are allegedly saved by His work – we can't expect advocates for homosexual marriage to buck up and do the work for us. We ought to expect that men like that will, in fact, capitalize on our shameful behavior.

And go figure: that's what happened.

See: Now we are ready to talk about why casting an outspoken advocate for Gay rights was a bad idea in this movie.

[#] It's official

This has been simmering on the back burner for a little while, but since Phil Johnson has officially announced it I guess it's OK to say that there's a new cabal of theological grumblers in the blogosphere, and they're calling themselves "Team Pyro". The blogmeister is Phil, and there are four other people who have been invited and have accepted.

One of them is me.

As I'm typing this, it seems rather redundant to announce the launch of Team Pyro here since about 40% of my referring visits come from Phil's blog. However, the rest of you obviously have good taste and obviously have chosen blog reading as your hobby given the esoteric choices you make. So there's the link.

For those of you who are worried that this is yet another group blog that I have joined and will actually do nothing with, let me first berate you for your skepticism (Gummby). I was invited to join the blog at SolaGratia back in October and sadly have had nothing to give them because, frankly, they have a pretty high standard. Sure: some of my posts here are somewhat thought-provoking, but they're not in the nearly-academic and academic quality that the Sola blog produces on a somewhat-regular basis. And writing like that takes more time and effort than it does to, say, defend the practice of Santa Claus from unimaginative pseudo-Mennonites.

Yesterday, in preparation for the launch of Team Pyro, I contacted the guys at Sola and gave them the liberty to remove my name from their contributors list because I have (A) never contributed anything, and (B) will not likely contribute anything now that Team Pyro is armed and dangerous. There's nothing nefarious or secret and nasty about the change. I highly admire the guys at SolaGratia and hope that my impression of a theological whirling dervish has not harmed their reputation in any way.

So what does that mean, all things being even?

I have no idea. I am totally against making Team Pyro a mirror for this site. When I post there, I expect it to be topical and edgy and new stuff, just like I do here. I expect that I'll also maintain the comic book characters when appropriate because it breaks up the avalanche of text. And I expect to be able to still post here 4-9 times a week as I do now.

Now back to work with you. I have some things to do that I have to get paid for, and then I'm going to go back after controversy surrounding the Edge of the Spear.

[*] ... and on that note ...

... I'd like you to take a look through this new group blog moderated by Hugh Hewitt. In particular, pay close attention to the way the relationship between Protestantism and Catholicism is portrayed.

Listen: there is a common problem between the content of this blog and the question of what, if anything, is wrong with The End of the Spear. I'll let you think about that for a while before I say anything.

[*] The Business End of the Spear (1)

OK, I wasn't going to finish writing this or post it prior to the completion of the survey, but we've already had more participants in this survey than we have had in all the other surveys we've had at the blog. The meta is taking on a life of its own. People are obviously interested in this topic, and far be it from me to walk away from the controversy.

I want to start this discussion by the two main problems many people (including friends who I hold in very high esteem) have tried to provide as objections to the casting of Chad Allen as Nick Saint in the End of the Spear. For those who are keeping score, one of the sources I'm using to develop this is an e-mail I got from Jason Janz at SharperIron.org that recounts his interaction with the producer and director of Spear. It's posted at Sharper Iron (as I have linked), so you can read for yourself the broader comments Jason has made which, I think, are definitely useful in this discussion.

Jason's two serious concerns are "the casting of a gay activist and the lack of the Gospel message in the movie." There is a lot to be said about the first concern, but the only things to be said there that make any sense have to be in the context of the second concern.

UPDATED: Pastor Tom Ascol has a summary review of the movie which I think adds to the point I am making here. I found it useful when I read it this morning.

Let's remember something as I'm starting here: this is not a movie review. This is a commentary on the uproar in the Christian community over the casting decisions made by Every Tribe Entertainment (ETE) and the director of this film. In that, I am going to take Jason's concerns at face value. I haven’t read the book yet, and I haven't seen the film.

If there is a "lack of the Gospel message in the movie," I'm a little perplexed over the level of hoopla here. If you take a little detour to everytribe.com, you can find their mission statement in one or two clicks:
To create quality entertainment for a broad audience
that inspires hope through truth.

Every Tribe Entertainment grew out of the hopes and dreams of film-makers and individuals who desire to make a difference in our world and in our culture. Frustrated with the lack of quality story content in films today, and driven to provide more than just entertainment in our films, Every Tribe was founded to bring to life stories of courage and strength of the human spirit. Courage, tolerance, mercy, forgiveness, faith and love. We base our film choices on what we hope to inspire rather than what we hope to sell.

This philosophy has its fingerprints on what we do and how we do it. We hope to inspire all who view our films as well as those who work with us to create them.
That's nice, isn't it? The problem for critics of this company is that the mission statement doesn't say they are going to press the Gospel at every turn. They are choosing to paint from a wider pallet.

Please notice I didn't say "a better pallet": I said a wider pallet. That means, among other things, that we don't really know what they mean when they say "faith and love" or "film choices on what we hope to inspire" or (and this one should raise the red flag) "bring to life stories of courage and strength of the human spirit". Because their mission is not expressly Christian in that it is not expressly Gospel-oriented, getting a little jumpy because Spear doesn't give an expository sermon from Romans 9 or 1Cor 15:1-4 or (all together) John 3:16 is, in the best case, overwrought.

I'm teaching the youth at our church over the next 7 weeks through 1Cor 15:1-4, and they just finished their Disciple Now weekend. Don't ask me what that means, except that I can tell you that their topic this weekend was "Authentic". (Yeah, I know: your Emergent alert went off. It wasn't like that)

Axwell Tiberius, Juvenalian Solipsist
i'm a Christian!
So as we started 1Cor 15 up, we started with the idea of what makes an Authentic Christian, and I think Paul tells us something about that in 1Cor 15:1-2. Paul says, in summary, that if you received the Gospel from me, and you stand in that Gospel, and you are being saved by the Gospel, then you are a Christian. (that may look familiar to you is you have surfed the links at the top of the sidebar)

And I asked those kids: if a talking monkey said he was a Christian, would you believe him? Now, this is after a weekend of being deprived of sleep and eating junk food, but they had either the good sense or the residual effects of brainwashing to say, "no, a talking monkey cannot be a Christian. Not even if he said 'Amen'."

And you, the healthy readers of this blog, would probably be proud of them. But if the talking monkey cannot be an authentic Christian, why would we think that ETE is "authentic Christian" just because they used some words we think we like?

Is it because they made a film about the son of a missionary who returned to the people who killed his father? Listen: Martin Scorsese made a movie about Jesus Christ, and that didn't make anyone think he was a Christian. The greatest difference I can see between Scorsese and ETE is that ETE is trying to ingratiate itself on the culturally-Christian demographic and Scorsese couldn’t care less.

I suggest to you that Martin Scorsese could easily agree with the mission statement of ETE and direct movies they would find acceptable. In fact, I think that he would describe movies like The Color of Money and The Aviator in exactly those terms. So why aren't Christians getting their nose out of joint over Scorsese's work and casting decisions?

The answer to that question is simple: he wasn't trying to fool himself or anybody else, and he wasn't confusing the issues. He made his films – he is making his films – about what he thinks they ought to be about, and if people see them, good for him and good for them. The problem is that ETE may have been making movies about what they think they ought to be about, but make no mistake: they were making them to leverage the Christian cultural demographic.

And in that, the criticism from Jason Janz that the Gospel is hardly found in this movie ought to be the bigger problem. To open an old wound, it ought to have been the problem with the Passion of the Christ (which all retailers sold at a loss, btw), but because the overt Catholic message of that movie was given a very open and obvious pass by almost everyone on Earth (almost; there are a handful of intransigents who didn't think much of the movie because it was so obviously based on the stations of the cross and on extra-biblical Catholic biases), it opened the door to calling any "stories of courage and strength of the human spirit; Courage, tolerance, mercy, forgiveness, faith and love" "Christian".

And Spear in particular invites the label because, of course, it's about two generations of missionaries. But if the Gospel is itself not brought up, this is a historical drama; it is a biographical drama.

And in that, who cares who is cast in what role, or what his personal life looks like. If we do not care, for example (as I make a quick pass at the poll on 1/23/06), that there are no shows on Network Prime Time television that are even covertly Christian in worldview yet we watch them, why do we care that there is a movie which is, in the best case, covertly Christian in worldview yet has (at least) one gay actor in the cast when he doesn't do anything "gay" on the screen?

We can talk more about the casting of a homosexual activist in a key role in this movie in another post (and I will), but the question is why we think that his involvement here somehow smears the Gospel. If the Gospel is not actually represented in this movie, then the garment-tearing over Chad Allen's sex life is a little eye-popping.

Let me close up this installment for the record by saying "that's not an endorsement of Chad Allen's sex life or moral reasoning." What it is turns out to be the basis for thinking about all our media choices. If we can overlook, for example, the secular rags that CCM and MTV share in common, or if we can watch prime time network television, or we can listen to non-Christian music on the radio of via iTunes (note to Steve Jobs: I left downloaded music off the list by mistake), and all of those things without any question have some relationship with the narrow band of sexual sins, then to here get out the torches and pitchforks over Chad Allen getting work in Hollywood is just inconsistent.

Happy Monday. More on this topic later in the week.

Note for the flacks: In my house, we do not have cable, and we do not receive network TV. We may not be right, but we are consistent.

[#] And in the real world today ...

I'm not a fan of Malkin -- prolly out of jealousy and spite rather than rational reasons like "she doesn't like people who think Catholics aren't Christians" -- but she had this story about "right-to-die" today which deserves some attention.

It reminds me of a parable I read once ... oh wait, I mean a parable I once wrote ...


It's nice to get noticed once in a while.

Anything else I would say will be taken the wrong way. Or else it would betray what a creepy little fan-boy I am.

[*] it looks worse on you

Let's face it: we all have vices. We all have personal shortcomings that we are either trying to overcome, or that we are trying to hide, or that we are trying to whitewash. And before you get that creepy feeling, no: this is not some lousy "this is where I am right now" confession of personal wrong-doing.

In the meta of my complaint against Dr. Juanita Bynum, someone has pointed me at this article by John Robbins complaining about why heretics win battles. This is not the first time I've read Dr. Robbins' work, and frankly I'm willing to say at this point I'm not a fan. He's one of those guys who is apparently "on my team" but that I wish was "on the bench" or "in the locker room" or "not allowed off the bus" or "sent back down to the minors to work on his sinker".

But before I approach the link I was directed to, let me say that Dr. Robbins and I share a vice: we are both a little bit strident in the way we approach people who disagree with us. The less-refined reader will call this vice "arrogance", but it is not anything of the sort. It's a polemical tactic which, in common parlance, is really a form of bluster.

You're familiar with bluster, right? Remember the Very Blustery Day in Pooh? It's the approach that if you blow hard enough, the other guy's house will fall down. Even if it's a brick house, or Owl's house up in a tree. Strident polemicists blow hard, and the best ones also blow hot, so in the end there's a kind of whithering effect on the argument against which one is blowing. Bill Buckley is a little strident, but his delivery is such that you're standing there nekked with scorch marks on your face and all your body hair carbonized before you realize that he has, in a very genteel way, walked all over you.

So Dr. Robbins is a strident polemicist, just like me. The problem, as with all bad fashion choices, is that it seems obvious to me that it doesn't look very good on him. See: it looks better on me because I accessorize it better, and the cut matches my manly lines. So before you read the rest of this criticism of Dr. Robbins, realize that I already know that he and I share this vice in common, only my opinion is that on me it looks very rakish and swank, while on him it's like a newspaper tuxedo with a tinfoil hat.

For example, he uses the term "heretics" a little wildly. That's not an argument. Honestly, he may wage the argument elsewhere for his use of that term, but if his essay "Why Heretics Win Battles" is meant to do anything but preach to the choir, it has to do more than break out the black hats and start putting them on heads.

But in that, he attributes too much to "the heretics", whoever they might be. For example, when he gives them credit for being shrewd by citing Luke 16, he overlooks that Christ's meaning here is the way they handle money not the way they handle Scripture or Authority in God's church. So in being strident, here Dr. Robbins pretty much blows it by doing what he complains the "heretics" have been doing in order to advance their causes.

Getting to the meat of the matter, I was referred to this paper because of Doug Wilson. Apparently, because I do not think he is the great Satan who lies with two tongues for the purpose of sweeping away the faith of the unsuspecting, I ought to review Dr. Robbins' writing with a greater depth. Well, here we go.

Dr. Robbins says this:

Wilson claims, “One of our fundamental concerns is this: we want to insist on believing God’s promises concerning our children.” Unfortunately, neither he nor any other proponent of Neolegalism ever quotes those promises. Worse, no critic of Neolegalism calls Wilson’s bluff in this book. Wilson alludes to Acts 2:39, but that merely shows he does not understand the verse. Neither that verse nor any other verse in the Bible promises salvation to children of believers simply because they are children of believers. Several verses explicitly deny it (Luke 3:8; John 1:12-13), and others report that some children of believers are eternally lost.
Well, problematically, Doug Wilson does actually address this question in his book To a Thousand Generations, which I carry with me because I am going to write a book-length response to it over the course of, well, if God is merciful and generous and Jesus doesn't return before 2050. Since Dr. Robbins missed it, the promises of God to the children of believers are (1) the promises made to Abraham, [Chpt 8] (2) the promises to the Church as a community, [Chpt 1] and (3) the promises to the believer in Christ for salvation [Chpt 6]. The question – and here's where Dr. Robbins draws his view that the FV/AA are works-righteousness neolegalists – is whether and if those promises, made to families, can be left unfulfilled and God still be God. That's the way Wilson frames the issues, and that's the way he answers the issues, but that's not what Dr. Robbins deals with.

Let's remember that I'm not advocating for the FV/AA view – but to rightly refute it, you must first rightly represent it. And my problem with Dr. Robbins is that he does not rightly represent it. After that, no matter how hard he blows, he can't take down the house. He's facing the scarecrow, and man is that fella getting his head full of straw handed to him.

[%] Ken Silva

I've been trading e-mail with Ken Silva from Slice of Laodicea, who runs his own site called "apprising.org". He has recently posted this article about the shift in core theology of Emergent, and it's worth reading.

They continue to be a slippery bunch, but of course they are not polemicists so don't argue with them. Arguing is bad; it proves you are mean.

[*] Open House

Doug Wilson, before scooting off to the Auburn Ave. Conference (and I think it's somewhat stingy of him not to blog from the AA summit as it would prolly be insightful and good reporting), made this post about the problem of lies, falsehood, and really the matter of justice and mercy inside the church. It's an interesting post because it undescores something that has come out in his blog which I think requires some thinking about.

Pastor Wilson has been reproaching Brian McLaren's goofy views for a couple of weeks in a chapter-by-chapter review of A Generous Orthodoxy. The book is a coupla years old at this point, so not for nothin' but it's about time -- and Pastor Wilson is not the first to take this book out for a spin. But because he is who he is, Doug Wilson has made quite a sport of this review -- and in the process has, in my opinion (that's IMO for those who have forgotten the English language), pretty much explained why McLaren's view is post modern, and why post modern is not any better than "modern", and why Christian philosophy is superior, and finally why McLaren's views are not Christian.

And you know what? Through that point, I'm with him. Apologetics! D00D! It's better than coffee with a fresh, hot cinnamon roll. Maybe better than a steak cooked on a wood fire -- and I use the word "cooked" to mean "brown on the outside and hot but red on the inside".

But here's where the fur starts to stand up: in the link above, Pastor Wilson antes up the argument that even if McLaren (as a particular example) does provide a palpable falsehood in his views on Christianity, it is logically possible that McLaren is not aware that he is spreading a falsehood. In that, McLaren cannot be called a "liar" because there's an ecclesiastical aspect to calling him a "liar": a teacher who is a "liar" ought to be subject to some kind of church justice (my words). For example, without an ecclesiastical decision about McLaren's doctrinal turpitude, we ought to willingly sit at the Lord's table with him -- we are obliged to be in liturgical fellowship with him even if we do not see eye-to-eye on the matter, for example, of the "one-and-onliness" of Christ.

And in that, of course I have a problem. But rather than exercise my personal problem, I'm going to change the example but not the subject. There's a very nice young woman in the field of Christian media by the name of Juanita Bynum. Honestly: she's a nice lady with a nice husband who is promoting good social values under the umbrella of Christian living.

Here's what her web site says about her in the first sentence of her bio:
Juanita Bynum is an internationally acclaimed Bible teacher, prophet, psalmist, and media personality.
"Prophet" and "psalmist".

I'd like to see the application of the argument Pastor Wilson has made to (when you shake it all out) the bad ideas of Brian McLaren to the practice of calling anyone -- but we have this particular example by which to draw particular information, so please use it as necessary -- a "prophet" or "psalmist". Should we fellowship with someone who calls himself (or herself) a "prophet" or "psalmist" when they are nothing of the sort?

[?] Frappr mappers

Hey Frappr map members: I have updated the map so that you can color your denomination. If you can't change your pin color, post your denomination here and I'll update it for you.

[#] Mark Driscoll

Holy Moses! You have to read this to believe it.

HT: Fide-o.

[%] ray nagin: prophet or dingleberry?

You be the judge.

[*] context for a book review

I'm re-reading Doug Wilson's the Paideia of God because I'm supposed to review it sometime in the next ... well, before Jesus returns, and I'm stuck on the first essay of the book, from which the tome takes its name.

Pastor Wilson bases much of this essay on conclusions from another book by Werner Jaeger called Paideia: the Ideal of Greek Culture (Oxford: 1939), and let me tell you that I'm not going to read Jaeger's book. I'm sorry that I am not already familiar with it, but if I need it to review this much-smaller volume, I'd rather that I had read it first; since it's too late for that I'm going to take the coward's way out. I'm sure it's somewhat boorish of me not to read the underlying work which Pastor Wilson bases this essay on. Carry on.

See: I'm stuck on the first essay because Pastor Wilson says this:

Werner Jaeger, in his monumental study of paideia, shows that the word paideia represented, to the ancient Greeks, an enormous ideological task. They were concerned with nothing less than the shaping of the ideal man, who would be able to take his place in the ideal culture. Further, the point of paideia was to bring that culture about. To find a word of comparable importance to them, we would have to hunt around for a word like "philosophy". To find a word of comparable importance in our culture, we would have to point to something like "democracy". The word "paideia" was as central to the thinking of the Greeks as the idea of the proletariat is to the Marxist, or cash to the televangelist.
And in standing on this outcome of monumental study, Pastor Wilson applies this understanding of "paideia" to Eph 6:4 and uses it to begin a battle cry for cultural battlements to be built against the creeping ooze of American public education.

Listen: fair enough, alright? Please do not read this brief blog entry as a defense of American public education. I like the Homeschool movement as a trend even if it gets people in it that are too embarrassed to send their child back to Public schools, or people who think that Homeschool texts ought to be free or at least sold without the opportunity of profit on the part of the retailer or publisher (there's are bookstore stories in there, but this is not about my bookstore right now).

My problem is trying to squeeze Jaeger's 544-first-volume into the 16 Greek words of Eph 6:4. The English is well-rendered:
And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord. (NKJV)
In making his point, Pastor Wilson here wants us to read Eph 6:4 as a challenge by Paul to make everything about a "Christian civilization" and the Father's role in pressing on from here to there. However, I think that application goes beyond what Paul is talking about.

See: in the first place, Eph 6 comes on the heels of Eph 5 (as if …), which is the extended discourse on the topic of " giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ." In that, the model of marriage is outlined, and then the model of parenthood and child-hood is outlined. So the Child is to obey the parent in right-observance of the commandment, but the Father – to whom the submission is required – is not given the liberty to be just any kind of master. He is not to "provoke [children] unto anger" but instead to nourish them in the "paideia" and the "nouqesia" of the Lord.

And that's the second place: Paul uses two words which, when placed in proximity like this, tell us something somewhat specific about the Father's duties. If Paul has written only alla ektrefete auta en paideia kuriou, then perhaps we would have to simply take the word of Jaeger by way of Pastor Wilson and start the culture war (again, and for real this time) with gusto. But Why say "nouqesia" if "paideia" already means "inculcation of all the parts of culture"?

See: I think that Paul is saying something here which goes back to the harmony with James. On the one hand, a father should nourish his children with the "paideia" of God – all the right doings, all the outward acts that God would have us do. But on the other hand, Paul also says that a father should be nourishing his children with all the right ways of thinking from God that children will need.

It's a two-fold teaching. On the one hand, it ought to be a teaching which gives way to action, but on the other which is equally important, it ought to be a teaching which instills self-control and self-discipline. It is a two-edged sword of liberty and conscience, license and restraint, that Paul is talking about here and not necessarily a cultural mandate.

I'm not sure that we do justice to the book of Ephesians or the Pauline epistles to here say Paul is establishing a vision of broad (and, as Pastor Wilson might read it) post-millenial kingdom culture which is established through the outworking of families. I think Paul is specifically talking about something here a little more narrow-band even if, in the end, it can logically result in a larger consequence.

Now that I have that off my chest, I can re-read the rest of this book and give you a review worth reading. Thanks.

[*] Why CBA is a cess pool

UPDATED: Welcome SBTS readers!

HOLY MOLEY: Welcome readers from albertmohler.com!

One of the things that really gets me angry is the fact that CBA doesn't understand why it is wandering into the grand canyon of irrelevance. For those of you who don't know, "CBA" is the "Christian Booksellers Association", and I am a former member because of my bookstore. That is to say, I joined CBA because of my bookstore, and I left CBA because of my bookstore.

I got a postcard this week at my bookstore about the book to the right, and on that postcard, the following copy was given:

You've seen the lively discussion on CBN.com. You've heard Charles Colson talk about the book on Breakpoint. Albert Mohler wrote on Crosswalk.com that "Nelson's book is genuinely interesting, offering credible and helpful insights into the Oprah phenomenon."
There's more on that postcard, but that's the part I want you to think about.

See: while Dr. Mohler actually did say that about this book, he actually wrote a complete review of the book which is very balanced and does not require any centuri0nization for the astute readers of this blog.

What I wanted to point out is that what Dr. Mohler concludes about this book is the following:
In her substitution of psychology for theology, Oprah has become a high priestess and icon of the psychologization of American society. When she features prominent New Age figures on her television show, she helps to mainstream New Age influences and philosophies among millions of Americans. Her substitution of spirituality for biblical Christianity, her promotion of forgiveness without atonement, and her references to a god "without labels" puts her at the epicenter of a seismic cultural earthquake.

At the same time, Oprah cannot be ignored. Marcia Z. Nelson's new book is intended as a celebration of Oprah's significance as a harbinger of a new gospel. In the end, the importance of this book is grounded in the fact that it draws attention to Oprah's influence and cultural impact. Oprah's newly-packaged positive-thinking spirituality is tailor-made for the empty souls of our postmodern age. She promises meaning without truth, acceptance without judgment, and fulfillment without self-denial. Marcia Z. Nelson is certainly right about one thing--Oprah Winfrey's "congregation" cannot be ignored.
That's a little bit different than the postcard intimates, yes?

And that is why CBA is irrelevant. I have an object lesson related to that which I have to get off my chest, so bear with me.

Let me let you in on a not-so-little secret: in the next 4 months, a WAL*MART near you is going to start carrying a short line of "Christian" t-shirts branded "Only Son". The price-point is going to be $ 9.77. (source: Arkansas Democrat Gazette, dated: 1/15/2006) When that happens, there is going to be a massive exodus of apparel vendors from the CBA arena because $14.99 Kerusso T's won't sell at all when a very comparable shirt at Big Blue will be 30% less. Sadly, two years ago at CBA Advance I was telling all the shirt vendors that the right price for their wares was (based on Comp at GAP and Old Navy) $9.99 -- with seasonal T's being $7 or $5.

The funny thing about these T's is that all references to Jesus have been reduced to the "Only Son" brand line, or reduced to 6-point type in order to keep from "offending non-believers". So in order to stick a fork in the CBA apparel market, WAL*MART has done exactly what Oprah has done: taken the stupidity and ignorance of alleged Christians and capitalized on it.

And the co-dependent partner in this deal is CBA. "Cent: you've cracked," comes the response from the clown car. "CBA is the enabler of this deal? How so? Did CBA broker the deal?" No: CBA set up the marketplace through apathy to orthodoxy.

Listen: it may make me crazy to listen to Tim Enloe talk about objective sacraments, and it may make me dizzy to listen to Lutheran Pastors discuss the Eucharist, and it may make me punchy to watch Baptists take pot shots at Limited atonement and Unconditional election, but that's what apologetics is there for. We can at least stage the argument even if nobody is going to change his mind, right?

The problem with CBA is that they don't think the arguments are valid. T.D. Jakes has more clout than John MacArthur because Jakes has a talk show, has been on Oprah, and sells a lot of self-help books in spite of his open rejection of the Trinity. Nobody asks any questions of Randy Phillips regarding his take on the Trinity, either. Nobody wags a finger at Joel Osteen for being unable to preach the Gospel when questioned by Larry King. And if you can get past Richard Abanes to ask Rick Warren a question, you're a better man than I. But raising any of these objections is categorically verbotten in a CBA forum.

And listen: if you don't carry Rosaries, you're branded irrational. It's a classic Seinfeld episode: it's "You don't wan' to wear the ribbon? " and "Not that there's anything wroing with that" all rolled up into one.

But because of this blind rejection of the simple categories of the faith which have been in play for centuries -- some for millennia -- CBA has lead the Christian consumer into a dead end where Oprah can be called a Christian because she doesn't openly reject Christ even though she would never mention Him by name, and her message can be called "the Gospel" even though it doesn't just fail the Galatians standard: it fails the 1Cor 15:1-4 standard.

Let me say something clearly here: while I reject Communio Sanctorum and Tim Enloe's view of the faith, I respect that they have bothered to offer some basis for their view of the Christian life and the Christian church. It may be dreadfully wrong, but at least it offers something to think about -- and it asks a lot of the right questions. Blind ecumenicism is the worst enemy of orthodoxy because it has no way to consider questions like "church" and "believer" and "salvation".

But blind ecumenicism is exactly what CBA offers its customers. And in that, it eliminates the true ministry of Christian retail and, ironically, the true competitive advantage of Christian retail. See: if I can walk into my local CBA store and what it carries has no more or less spiritual advantage to what I can find at WAL*MART, why on earth would I buy (as an example) Max Lucado's Cure for the Common Life for full retail at a place that is out of my way when I can buy it at WAL*MART off the endcap on my way to the checkout at the Amazon price?

But if my local Christian retailer is someone who trains his associates to know the difference between KJV, NASB, NLT, NIV and tNIV and the Message, maybe it's worth going there. And if my local Christian retailer offers me the service of screening the books that come out so that he (and his employees) can tell me, "this author denies the Trinity," and "this author soft-soaks the Gospel -- he talks a lot about grace and not so much about the cost of discipleship" and "this book is biased by anti-dispensationalism," and "this book is founded on traditional Protestant theology, which in the end is useful to a broad spectrum of readers," then maybe it doesn't hurt that I have to pay 20% more for books I can trust.

But because CBA is like CBN and TBN and is blind in its ecumenicism, WAL*MART beats it up all the time -- because when there's no discernment at stake, price is the only issue. That is to say, we have already established what kind of girl you are and now we are haggling over the price.

So when you see the Oprah Gospel book on your local CBA bookstore shelves, take it to the owner or manager and ask him/her if they have read it. And then ask them why they would sell a book like that when they don't know what it's teaching. And then ask them what their ministry statement is and whether it is in-line with their ministry statement to sell books which dare to call what happens on the Oprah show in the same league with the cross of Jesus Christ.

Then come back here and tell me what happened. Only do it before Saturday because CBA Advance is next week and anyone who's a manager or owner will prolly be there in Denver Nashville at the Gaylord Opryland pretending he's in the New Jerusalem.

[*] So it's not a lie if ...

I have a buddy who runs a secular bookstore in upstate NY, and he told me about this rancid little book called A Million Little Pieces that some customer of his was very certain would sell a million little copies for him. Well, it's sold a few, but it turns out that it's not so much fact as fiction.

The somewhat-astute readers of this blog will read this portion and then start giving me the stink-eye:

Frey has acknowledged to The Smoking Gun that he embellished parts of the book and he said so again Wednesday night on "Larry King Live," stating that alterations were common for memoirs and defending "the essential truth" of "A Million Little Pieces."

"The book is about drug addiction and alcoholism," he said. "The emotional truth is there." (emph added)

Frey's book was first published in 2003 and became a sensation last fall after
Oprah Winfrey selected it for her book club. On Wednesday night, Winfrey made a surprise phone call to King's show and supported Frey.

"If you're an addict whose life has been moved by this story and you feel that what James went through was able ... to help you hold on a little bit longer, and you connected to that, that is real. That is real," she said. "And it's ... irrelevant discussing, you know, what happened or did not happen to the police."
Now, I want you to think about something: if a substitute teacher in, say, NJ, stood up in front of her class of, say, 8-yr-olds and began telling them that the facts of some lesson don't matter, but the emotional truth matters, would she be teaching them a lie, or would she be teaching them the truth?

Hm? What do you think? I'm curious.

[#] And just some Friday complainin'

Over the last week I have had the opportunity to look at my own blog from a variety of platforms and browsers that I don't usually get to use because my in-laws have a PC that is configured differently than the ones I use at work and at the bookstore. It made me somewhat crazy (as opposed to ...) because I just don't understand what Microsoft thinks it is doing, and I don't understand why anyone, right now is using the current version of IE.

Listen: the old version of IE (5.X) renders css correctly; the old MAC version of IE (5.X) renders css correctly; all versions of Mozilla after 1.4 render css correctly; of course all Mac OS X browsers render css correctly.

Only the current version of IE does not render css correctly.

And it's sickening because I have spent a LOT of time trying to get my lovely blog template to render in some semblence of aesthetic pleasure for IE -- to the place where right now sometimes IE will load the page and sometimes it will not because it gets confused by the use of table and DIV tags.

There are no really good reasons not to use Firefox. You may have a reason, but it's not a good reason.
Upgrade to Firefox 1.5!

[#] Arlen Specter: genius or cretin?

I'm sitting in my office this morning with a lot of work to do, but I'm trying to figure out if Arlen Specter is an incompetant doofus who can't find his party platform with either hand, or if he is the most astute politician since FDR.

See: on the one hand, the hearings this week in the Judiciary committee were a disgrace to the Senate and to this country's constitutional process -- and the person that is responsible for the way the hearing is run is, of course, the chairman of the Committee. That's Arlen Specter. The shame of those hearings was the rank petulance of guys like Chuck "I'm Hillary's little sister" Schumer and the ever-corpulant and self-parodying Ted "make mine a double (quarter-pounder)" Kennedy, attempting to smear a judge who has a spotless record of integrity and restraint -- something neither one of those two counterfeit conscience-bearers could muster for 5 minutes let alone 25 years of public service. If I see another picture of Schumer waving a tract-sized copy of the constitution around as if it was a hanky and he was preaching at a tent meeting, I'm going to call Al D'Amato up and tell him to tell Schumer what I really think of him.

But, on the other hand, there has been a great problem for the Democrats this week: all their shrill chiding of Alito has demonstrated what complete wash-outs they are ideologically. In the end, it is clear that they are the ones who do not know what the consctitution says or ought to be understood as saying, and that for them to use tactics like "I have a picture here, Judge Alito, of you standing on a street corner where the KKK once protested against civil rights -- how could you ever associate yourself with such a street corner?" only paraded out, for all the country to see, the stark choice between the garbage heap of the left and the shanty-town of the right.

So in that, Specter may be a genius. He may have purposefully let the hearings run rampant over Alito in order to prove to the world that our left-wing policitians are fatuous gas bags with the emotional turpitude of 12-year-old mean girls.

I wouldn't bank on that, but it's a logically-possible option.

[?] OK: back to the OLD template ...

Sheesh. James Swan is right: I'm like a girl trying on clothes at the mall.

Don't hate me because I'm beautiful. And Swan gets added to the Blogroll for his insight. Go Figure.

[?] New Template

It's not perfect, and the counter is missing, so I'll fix that tomorrow.

You can tell I'm tired because I'm letting the counter coast. Stats.

[*] Robertson apologizes

Not sure if it does any good. You can only say so many stupid things before people think you're stupid.

There's a lesson in there for this blog someplace, but I'm not sure where ...

[%] And so it begins ...

By some fluke of fate, on the day I berate Tim Enloe for berating Baptists, Doug Wilson has added me to his blogroll.

I should have checked stats before telling Tim "blah blah blah". If we're still there tomorrow, it will be by grace alone. Thanks to Doug Wilson for his support.

[$] Foster's

Dude: Cartoon Network has some amazing things going on.

I was blown away by Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends this last week. It's a good thing we don't have cable, because I'd be completely ruined by stuff like that. The theme music alone is worth the rest of the half hour.

[*] the material never runs dry

Before I get into this, let me warn you that the template will update sometime in the next 7 days. I have a great new ideaer for the blog's look, and I'm sure nobody will like it but me, but them's the breaks. Stay tuned.

OK: while I was out of town at a funeral (thanks to all who were praying for my wife's family, btw; they still need prayer if your knees aren't worn out), Tim Enloe came by to add his few cents to my reply to him from Doug Wilson's blog.

He begins:

Good questions, and good to see an "incurable Baptist" asking them. Unfortunately for you, my answers to the first two are contained in the basic reasoning you dismissed as "Blah, blah, blah."
For the record, what I "blah-blah-blah'd" was this from Tim:
    There is not a shred of Scriptural information anywhere which can, apart from a positivistic Bible-Only hermeneutic that looks more like Enlightenment humanism than Reformation faithfulness, be made to teach that the validity of GOD'S OWN sign depends upon subjective human appropriation of certain intellectual content.
Now, let's consider something: in the course of the last 4 weeks, I have unequivocally affirmed that the word "faith" does not mean "the theological contents of the mental cup", yes? Faith is more than just an idea about God. Faith is the harmony of Paul and James: it is the place where God demonstrates He is more than just a keen idea, and man demonstrates he has a greater relationship with said God than he does with, for example, his belief that democracy is a good idea and people ought to vote, but I can't get away at lunch this November.

In that – which is to say, in agreeing with Doug Wilson that saying works are the way faith is manifest – it is my further statement that faith is the basis for sacrament. That is to say, not a mental cup full of propositions but the second birth which results in a renewed mind and therefore a renewed repertoire of things one will do.

Yes: it is "GOD'S OWN" (note to Tim: Paul Owen doesn't read any better in all-caps than you do) sign – but a sign of what? Is it a sign of what could be, or what might be, or what potentially will be? Or is baptism – as with Christ's own baptism – a sign in which "it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness"? That is to say, rather than circumcision – which is actually a sign of a promise – we have baptism because we demonstrate the fulfillment of the promise.

If faith is more than a mental state, baptism is more than a sign of good will. Faith works out in Baptism. Baptism without faith is exactly the same kind of work as the Temple without faith, or the Law without faith, or frankly the Scripture without faith.

It is the cart put before the horse, with the great hope (in the best case) that the horse can still push the cart.

We don't need to first talk about "clear" verses of Scripture and what they "plainly" teach about baptism; we need to first talk about the sociological assumptions of baptism as a mere act, and what the catholic and baptistic visions of this respectively do to society. This information isn't contained in Scripture, which is exactly why a Bible Only view cannot ever answer the questions, but only produce endless rounds of Prooftext Wars.
Let me be honest enough to say that I think that the "popular" Baptist view of things is not great. There's an "s" word for it, and it's not "sacrament". So in the spirit of honesty without being vulgar, we can agree that the "me, my Bible and Jesus" vision of Christian life prevalent in Baptist circles is pretty bad.

The questions are, "is that the Reformed Baptist view of things?" and more importantly, "is that the view of the men at whom Tim Enloe has spit the lion's share of watermelon seeds?"

In that context, Tim's response here is more of the same from him to which I have said previously, "blah blah blah". For example, if for one second we allow the assertion that Tim makes here that there is something necessary for the Christian life which is not taught by Scripture, what does Sociology tell us about baptism? For example, Doug Wilson says that all the members of a Christian synagogue would have been both circumcised and baptized. That's an interesting assertion, but it turns out that even into the 3rd century the massive majority of baptisms were adult baptisms, with baptism being understood as a very serious and important act for the believer to accept. If the Jews were the first believers, and they were baptizing all their infants because they were circumcising all their male infants, why did they not baptize all the children of their Gentile converts in order to give them the same sign they felt compelled to give their own children?

See: I think the socio-historical evidence (talk about an enlightenment class – but it is Tim's class of choice, even above what Scripture teaches) points to something radically different than Tim would advocate. But for us to consider such a thing, we have to go back prior to the medieval church and risk being berated for some ad fonts claim for truth. And again, what we find is that to search the medieval period for the roots of the Reformation is not a bad ad fonts claim, but the search the period(s) prior to the medieval age for the roots of medieval churchiness – that's bad. That's Enlightenment propositionalism. That's Baptistic schismaticism in action.

If Baptism was instituted for the sake that Tim and Doug Wilson would advocate, why was it not practiced in the way that their view would have inspired if their view was present at all in those receiving the sacrament?

So I stand by "blah blah blah".

The answer to the third question is 'Of course the society does not contain people inside its boundaries who are outside its purpose.' This is because the society's purpose isn't to create an eensy "pure" enclave in the midst of vast realms falling away into perdition. The society has a larger purpose than the redemption of Private Individual Persons. But of course it's difficult for incurable Baptists to understand that, since their worldview ultimately reduces to the Private Individual Person, clutching Scripture Alone and never truly becoming able to grasp why the rest of the world "hates" him when all he's doing is humbly claiming to love pure, unadorned TRUTH more than them.
Again, it seems appropriate to say, "blah blah blah" to such hyper-polemical finger-pointing, but for the sake of my readers, let me flesh that out a bit.

The first thing to note is that, in spite of the ample and previously-stipulated set of examples of dumb Baptists, it is unfortunate for Tim that none of those people are here. And none of those people are present in the apologists/scholars/theologians upon whom he'd like to grind his axe. Just because they (and I) affirm the very well-attested reformational statement that the Pope is anti-christ, and in that we reject the orthodoxy of people with a baptism which is supposed to be regenerative into a salvation which is mediated in part by a woman about whom we must believe bodily-assumption into heaven (among other things), it is at best overzealous to assign us to some crazy semi-solipsistic theological worldview.

But in that, there is a very interesting aspect to Tim's complaint that ought to be reviewed: in response to the question, "does [the society of faith] ever have people inside its boundaries who are outside its purpose?", he says, 'Of course the society does not contain people inside its boundaries who are outside its purpose.' Now, if we take this reply at face value – and can we grant Tim the grace to say it's not a very nuanced reply, so the record stands open for him to revise and expand his remarks – we have to ask, "then what exactly is your point again?"

See: the point of the AA view of Baptism is to admit those who ought to be admitted to the Covenant (and therefore brought into the church) expressly for the reason of placing them inside the purpose of the covenant. In the best case – like the case where Pastor Wilson, in his debate last year with James White, said he took pleasure in baptizing his grandchildren into the covenant (which, for the record, was indeed cute) – that's a hope of the promise of Christ's work, but in the case at hand – like a Roman Catholic who buries icons in his yard to get his house sold and prays JPII's prayers to Mary – the purpose of the covenant is to lay down curses for covenant-breakers.

See: my view of the church is that it is a city on the hill into which some who are unworthy sneak but from which they do not benefit, a city which proclaims an offer which Christ can (and does) fulfill. In that, the Church's society – its sociological work, its historical presence, its hammers and tongs – draws its lines boldly, based on completed work and not on potential work. "We claim this one based on what God has already done," not "we claim this one and we hope we get to keep him when God does His work in the future."

And when we get through all of that, we are left with these two outcomes particularly for the case of the Roman Catholic. In my view, because his baptism is a phony promise of regeneration, and it is into a phony claim of someone who places himself in the place of Christ, and it demands phony acceptance of things like the mediation of Mary and the godhood of bread, he's no kind of Christian: his faith is phony because it's full of phony (essential) things. But Tim, who is apparently offering the olive branch to this person, would say that the promise of regeneration in Baptism is actually phony, the apostolic place-holding of the Pope is actually phony, and the godhood of the bread is actually phony, but because the baptism was itself made in the proper formula based on a set of pre-enlightenment propositions about the Tri-unity of God, this fellow is a brother: a bad, in-danger-of-covenant-curses, needing-broad-correction, holding-on-only-by-his-baptism brother.

I'm sure that's very consoling.

[?] OG Calvinist Gadfly

You must see it to believe it.

[*] The Baptism Show

Well, before I disappear for a few days, I have some unfinished business with Tim Ennloe, who posted this at Doug Wilson's blog:
Frank, I believe everything that Scripture says about baptism. Including that one in 1 Peter that goes "Baptism now saves you..." …
See – I break in here to note that the passage of Scripture I cited to Tim in order to see how he would respond is 1Peter3:21, which does say:
    Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ
but notice something: Tim wants to focus on the "now saves you", but not on the "in what way" and "by what means" and in particular who the "you" is. His complaint in a moment will be that "no one every answers that part of his remarks", so to oblige him, I will do so here.

Tim: Peter undoubtedly says, "baptism … now saves you", but the "now saves you" is in an analogolous relationship to what Christ did. V. 18 says Christ died for the unrighteous; v. 20 says the ark delivered Noah & his family through the water; v. 21 says that baptism, which is like the flood, saves not by washing "but [as] the answer of a good conscience toward God". In a very real sense, Peter is saying that baptism separates the just from the unjust in the same way that the flood separated the just from the unjust. Baptism saves in the sense that it demonstrates the good conscience of the baptized person through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Peter isn't here saying, "Baptism confers the seal of grace upon you": He is saying "Baptism shows or testifies to the seal of grace upon you."

And it is also important to note that Peter says baptism "now saves you", with you undoubtedly being "you who through Him are believers in God" (1Pet 1:20-21). I think this also goes back strongly to the point Pastor Wilson was making about James and Paul: the "believers" are not just people with some head-knowledge about Jesus: they are people who show faith in action. So if this is the definition of "believers", how can "you" include infants? Moreover, how does it include those who do not show faith in action? If "baptism now saves you believers", then the question you are raising here is obscure at best.

And please: make sure you bring up the matter of the historical practice of infant baptism when you respond. Was it never practiced in the first 3 centuries? It certainly was. Was it the majority practice in the first 3 centuries? It certainly was not? What kind of minority practice was it?
… and that one in Colossians that says, as my old PCA pastor summarized it, "You were circumcised, having been baptized."
It's interesting that your PCA pastor would make such a paraphrase, as Col 2:11-12 says,
    In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.
I think that making this passage into the equation "baptism=circumcision" is in the best case enthusiastic. The circumcision here is not the OC circumcision: it is a different one made without hands. Moreover, it is not put on in baptism: the death of Christ is put on in baptism. And most importantly, what is put on is put on by a believer, by someone who is exhibiting (or rather receiving) faith. See: when you cross the bridge that "faith" is not a mental cup that gets filled but a fully-orbed "new man" that has thoughts which result in action and a life which yields fruit of this new spirit of life, you are stuck in a place where saying God does things "by faith" has to mean that the person God is doing these things to is somehow involved.

That's not a confession of synergism over monergism: it's a confession that when God says "believer" He doesn't mean "someone with a name on an invisible list": He means "someone whom I have changed who will now demonstrate that change."

That's why the faith component cannot be assumed in Baptism any more than it can be assumed in the Table: the sign means nothing without faith, and means everything and more in the grip of faith.
There is not a shred of Scriptural information anywhere which can, apart from a positivistic Bible-Only hermeneutic that looks more like Enlightenment humanism than Reformation faithfulness, be made to teach that the validity of GOD'S OWN sign depends upon subjective human appropriation of certain intellectual content.
Blah blah blah. Re-examine your own understanding of the theological object "faith" – especially as Pastor Wilson has outlined it in his recent post – and then try to float that air biscuit without holding your nose.
As I have argued, to quite stunning silence from those on your side who most loudly proclaim their exegetical prowess, that sort of view destroys not only the Reformation, but society itself. It is the ultimate capitulation to secular humanism, with its idolatrous obsessions with "epistemology", the autonomous private self, the subjectivization of religion, and intellectual slavishness to the Myth of Universal Reason. You can quote "clear" Scriptures all day long, but until you can deal responsibly with how you approach the Scriptures, I don't know why you ought to be taken as saying anything intelligible in a discussion that partakes of public, not merely private, standards of truth and accountability.
The irony here, Tim, is that I agree with you that you cannot even approach the Scriptures apart from faith and get anything like a right answer, but the question is then, "what next"? If society itself is at stake – and in many respects, it is – what kind of society is it? Where does it come from? Where is it going? And does it ever have people inside its boundaries who are outside its purpose?

With that, I have a funeral to attend, and I will be out of pocket for a few days. You-all play nice while I'm gone.

[%] What? -Fewer- Baptisms?!

So I was reading Tom Ascol's latest piece on the need for modern reformation in the SBC, and it turns out he's in favor of fewer baptisms and better pastoral care as the method of evangelism in SBC churches.

WOW! Here's what I think: If baptism doesn't really mean anything, then Pastor Ascol is a rebel and a bad person. But if baptism really does mean something -- as an ordinance, as a sign, as the LBCF might define it -- I think it turns out he's actually advocating for a robust faith life in the church by using the ordinance not as a tally sheet, but as a sign of active obedience on the part of the sinner who comes to Christ.

If the accusation against baptists is that we are gnostics who trample God's promises under foot, why would a fellow like Ascol want to resist using the means of God's promises for those who are not able to receive those promises?

And think of the application to -- as we have seen in the past on this blog -- the idea of people experiencing multiple baptisms for the sake of celebration or what-have-you. What Ascol is advocating here is exciting: it's about having a faith life inside the church that isn't a token or a subculture. Personally, I'm with him.

[$] Oh yes. You want one.

Oh yes. Whether you read his blog or not, the spirit of the Calvinist Gadfly lives on. If this one goes over, I have a "Baptist Gadfly" and "Reformatyion Gadfly" design on tap.

[#] a personal bias

It's not a church, and it doesn't feed hungry people, but it is quite the handy resource. Wikipedia runs on donations and it is conducting its annual fund-raising drive.

Wouldn't $5 be worth it?

[*] Pat Robertson ...

It's the 5th of January, and Robertson has apparently decided to start the new year with gusto.
The Reverend Pat Robertson says Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's massive stroke could be God's punishment for giving up Israeli territory.

The founder of the Christian Broadcasting Network told viewers of "The 700 Club" that Sharon was "dividing God's land," even though the Bible says doing so invites "God's enmity."

Robertson added, "I would say woe to any prime minister of Israel who takes a similar course."

He noted that former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated.

Robertson said God's message is, "This land belongs to me. You'd better leave it alone."
UPDATED: Breitbart has a better summary of the comments here.

Who better leave it alone? Who is supposed to live there? Which Israel?

He's a kook. He's unhinged. His theology is, at best, not ready for baking -- half-baked would be a lightyear ahead of what he's turning out these days. Sharon is 77 and is not a poster-child of healthy eating habits, Pat. To connect this with the wrath of God regarding the land promised to Abraham is without any warrant.

Please: retire. Let someone else make Christianity look stupid. You have done your bit. Let CBN pay you an emeritus salary and just go enjoy your golden years in obscurity.


[?] Meaningless words

The word "meme" has no meaning. In the last 24 hours, I have found it in a variety of contexts, and there is no way it has meant the same thing in all contexts.

It has been used to describe a list of questions, a graphic image, the use of a graphic image, a political term, the use of labels in political dialog, a group mentality, iconography associated with pop culture, and commercials.

What we are seeing here is the devolution of a great language into barbarism. Somebody please break out a dictionary before it is too late.

[%] It's not right

The Calvinist Gadfly is going out of business. Why's a blog like this have to go away when so many other blogs ought to just die a quiet death and never be noticed?

We are sad today. The Gadfly will be missed. His gaze was steely and unblinking. His logo was top-shelf.

[#] Not yet, but soon

In my on-going attempt to get the blogosphere to be all about me -- one way, or the other -- I have noticed that I am only slightly behind the enjoyable Purgatorio in The Blogdom of God rankings, but much to my horror RELEVENT MAGAZINE is ahead of both of us in a pretty serious way.

RELEVENT MAGAZINE -- the rag that couldn't force itself to come out and say that the Bible forbids homosexual unions. It gives me the motive to up the blogging ante in 2006.

The only edifying part of the current BoG rankings is that Hugh Hewitt lags behind Challies. Sure: I'm jealous of Challies. But if I can't be beating Hewitt in stats, at least someone who we can all be proud of should be beating him.

[#] Baptism, 2006 edition

Well, you couldn't think that it wouldn't come up, right? It's a topic here at the blog and you can't escape it.

Doug Wilson had a good short bit on the harmonization between James and Paul as it relates to some critics of the Federal Vision (*koff* jOHN rOBBINS *KOFF*), and in agreeing with him I somehow called down the wroth (it's "wrath", but when you see stuff like this you know you have to pronounce it "wroth") of the proverbial Tim Enloe.

I said this: I don't know if I've made it obvious over time that I'm an incurable Baptist, but I am. So in that, I don't agree with much of what AA-ism says even in the scope of what it is trying to say.

However, the kind of objection Robbins makes is either extremely esoteric or extremely ungenerous. The web page on which he "cites" the AA majors as denying justification by grace thru faith is not very convincing because it doesn't really keep the statements in context.

And in that, I have a hard time believing that even he thinks that a faith that is not working out sanctification is the kind of faith Paul was talking about in Romans. Yes: the Law doesn't justify us but rather defines us as sinners. However, in Christ we have a willingness to accept the judgment of the Law and be conformed to Christ both "objectively" (that is, with Christ as our righteousness -- something we can bank on) and "subjectively" (that is, as it says in Rom 12 as one example, transformed by the renewing our minds rather than being conformed to this world -- something to show for it).

There's a good bit of controversy involved in the federeal vision, but I can't see why contending over something that people of good faith and acting in good faith ought to agree on [should be part of that]. The harmony of Paul and James ought to be something which, to paraphrase Tim Enloe, we do not hand out merciless beatings over.

Or about which we end our sentences with prepositions.

To which the Enloe in question responded:
It's not the harmony of James and Paul that the "merciless beatings" are being handed out over. It's whether God is allowed to do things through matter without some of His more perfectionistic children concluding that that is "works" in a sense that violates the Disembodied Propositional Principle of Sola Fide, without which there is no Gospel (TM, 1517, 1646, 1689) at all, and therefore no Visible Church. After all, we don't want to run around proclaiming that "just some sign" involving ultimately irrelevant physical water has any kind of validity outside of personal internal subjective conditions making it so. For then we wouldn't be able to be incurable Baptists, but would have to be orthodox catholic Reformational Christians instead. And then the sky would fall along with the Church.
Sheesh! As if THAT'S what I was talking about!

See: my point was that it seems a little odd to bother with an "argument" (such as it is) from John Robbins that is itself somewhat saucer-eyed. I think Pastor Wilson made a keen point that it is wholly reformational to read Paul and James as in-harmony, and that people who want to take that and turn it into some kind of scrapping of the Solas are, to one degree or another, loopy.

I'm not sure whether Tim thinks about our conversations when we aren't directly interacting, but I do. I'm wondering right now, given his hoopty-do over whether "God is allowed to do things", if he has considered that God is actually "allowed" to do the things which He says He will do. You know: maybe Baptism does do something -- in the context that it is Baptism as defined, say, as "an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ".

I'm just saying that this explanation is at least as plausible as the AA explanation which says the work prior to faith has any meaning.

Seriously now ...

... my Wife's Grandfather is going through his last days this week, and barring a miraculous healing he will be with the Lord this week. Please pray for my wife, her parents, and her Grandmother as they are going to go through a lot of rough water in the next few days.

Thanks in advance because I know you folks are the praying kind.

[?] a brief word about t-shirts

Today I got an e-mail from cafepress.com about the pawn shop, and it was a bill for their services over the last 30 days. It's fine -- they charged what they said they charged, and it's a (mostly) fair deal.

I just wanted to remind everybody that to keep the shop open, you have to buy t-shirts or mugs or whatever. I need to sell about 4 items a month to make the shop break even. If we can't make it break even, we'll have to close it up.

I know, I know: you're mortified. In the end, I blog so I can sell trinkets. If you didn't know that about me, welcome to my world.