[%] Clash of the Titans

If you are within 250 mile of this event, you must not miss it. And if you are a Southern Baptist within 500 miles, you need to go for the sake of your own convention.

I hear Ray Harryhausen is going to do the special effects and has already set his team to the animatronics. Toho, Ltd., is suing because they had a script in development but they didn't have a contract with Liberty University yet. I doubt it will stop the event.

[#] Baptism

Leave you comments here. Especially if you're coming here from Doug Wilson's blog and you're itchin' for a fight interested in fraternal dialog.

[%] Hewitt

Because I want to win the Crosley Solo, I have submitted the following to Hugh Hewitt:

No links to Hewitt. No endorsements. I just want that stinkin' radio.

UPDATE: Oh brother -- Greg Linscott is in on the action over at radioBlogger. THE Greg Linscott -- the SharperIron straight-man. That fundamentalist baptist guy.

Somehow I think there are a lot more funny people in the dour protestant ranks than anyone is allowed to know about ...

[#] Abdul Rahman: updated.

Here's the update on Abdul Rahman for those of you who haven't seen it yet. All the way at the bottom of the article, you can read this:
"Somebody, a long time ago, did it for all of us," he added in a clear reference to Jesus.

Rahman also told the Italian newspaper that his family — including his ex-wife and teenage daughters — reported him to the authorities three weeks ago.

He said he made his choice to become a Christian "in small steps," after he left Afghanistan 16 years ago. He moved to Pakistan, then Germany. He tried to get a visa in Belgium.

"In Peshawar I worked for a humanitarian organization. They were Catholics," Rahman said. "I started talking to them about religion, I read the Bible, it opened my heart and my mind."
I'm sure the meta will have a lot to say about this. I'll try to be back around later today to take my licks.

For the record, we're not done with Limited Atonement in the John 3.

[$] it's friday?

Shoot: I better do this before I run out of daylight:

Ladies and gentlemen, this clown head is for Kevin Johnson for closing the comments at Communio Sanctorum rather than substantiate his criticism of this blog. Going forward, it shall be called the Kevin Johnson Memorial ClownHaid. I'm only sorry that he doesn't have a cup of coffee on his lips.

pending review

[%] Pheh. baptists! [intro notes]

As I was thinking about this topic while walking in the icy breeze between buildings, one of the things that crossed my mind was the complaint that arguing about John 3 or John 1 and who is actually saved by Christ is distracting from, for example, the looming martyrdom of Abdul Rahman. The complaint would go something like this -- that Abdul Rahman's extraordinary show of faith should not be sullied by squabbling over whether (and the Boarsmen have tossed around) "all means all".

Let me suggest to you something, even though I have not interviewed Mr. Rahman myself: I think it matters to him whether "all means all". If "all" means "all men, including all who would be islamofascist jurists," then he's throwing his life away for nothing. If even the islamofascist is saved by the Son God gave, then dying a martyr's death rather than renounce Christ is overkill, to say the least.

But martyrdom is not portrayed that way in the NT, and the Gospel is not portrayed that way in the NT. If we are going to understand why Abdul Rahman is unwilling to say, "I renounce Jesus, because there is only one God and Mohammed is his prophet," we have to understand what John 3 says in detail and not just as a scattering of verses.

In that, I might have let the exchange at BHT go south on its own if there had not been two grossly-exaggerated statements made in the discussion. The first is this, by the redoubtable iMonk:
[the evangelist John did not believe] that the divine narrative was culminated in a series of technical definitions of words that indicate Jesus Christ came to limit salvation to a few Reformed Baptists.
The exaggeration is this: there not even any legitimately-called "reformed baptists" who believe this. One might want to paint with an acre-wide brush and call (for example) Fred Phelps a "reformed baptist", but those who are actually reformed baptists (you know: like John Piper, and James White, and Tom Ascol, and Albert Mohler, and Mark Dever, and ... oh, you get the idea ...) would have a somewhat-large problem with that over-generalization. It would be like calling iMonk an "emergent pastor", which can only be true in a world where iMonk is "emergent" because of his internet pulpit, and a "pastor" in the sense that he was one once.

Reformed baptists are confessional in nature, and conform themselves to a limited number of admittedly-limited documents. Many of them refer to the LBCF (1689) as a standard. Ad in that case, what the LBCF has to say about the number of the elect, and the scope of Christ's atonement, is 100% applicable to the discussion of whether or not the RB's think only RB's are saved.

The real question is this: even if RB's are that frankly-addled in their reading of John 3, did John have any specific intention in writing the Gospel of John? Or was he merely spinning a great story by which he thought he could get people to say, "huh. Can't wait for the Movie." (or in ancient terms, "O Iohannes! Enim non expecto dramae!") And particularly, does John 3 tell us anything about the work of Christ?

UPDATED: iMonk has delivered the correction in the meta of this post that his reference to "Reformed Baptists" was a funny, a gag, a jest, a quip, a wisecrack, a bit of waggery -- exaggeration made with a light heart.

I accept the correction and leave the note here for reference. Next time I'll try to read a little more closely and frankly, with an ounce more charity. I am quite sure, however, that his main line of reasoning is to agree with Dennis Laing and to argue against the {false} view that Jesus narrowed the scope of God's salvation rather than broadened it if one reads this passage as harmonious with the reformed view.

That is a question we shall deal with in the next post. First, let's deal with the second exaggeration in the exchange at BHT:
I'm certain Nicodemus wasn't blown away by the new found thought that God has narrowed to doors to salvation.
Again, who believes that? Could Dennis Laing name someone who does? I can't.

Look: even the HyperCalvinist -- the one who would say there's no reason for evangelism, and that you can tell God's elect from the time of their birth because of the the outworking of the Holy Spirit due to their election -- would not say that the assertion of particular redemption narrows the Jewish understanding of God's salvation of men. What Jesus has done specifically is to overturn Nicodemus' view that human birth dictates elective state. How do we know this?

Good heavens -- read John 3:
    1Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, "Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him."
Now stop a second: who is "we" in Nicodemus's statement? Is it the royal "we"? I suppose Nicodemus, who is a Pharisee in the synagogue might use the royal we. But isn't it more likely that John, in saying "a man of the Pharisees", is setting up Nicodemus to be speaking for the group of Pharisees with whom he is in agreement? The "we" here is the Jewish religious leaders with whom Nicodemus would associate -- and in that, he is speaking for Jews who are waiting for a Jewish Messiah to restore the thrown of David.
    3Jesus answered him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God."
And think on it: Jesus doesn't say, "I'm so glad you guys see it my way." He says, "Nobody can see what I am doing unless you have something other than your human birth to inform you."

It is not the Jewish birth which informs you about the Messiah: it is the spirit of God, and Jesus makes that clear thus:

    4Nicodemus said to him, "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?" 5Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born again.' 8The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit." (ESV)
In that, Jesus has radically broadened the scope of salvation from Jewish salvation to salvation wherever the Spirit wishes.

And it is in the extraordinarily-expanded view of God's saving grace that John 3 continues in Jesus' discourse on the salvation of the world.

Now, if dispelling these two gross overstatements were enough, we could stop here and say a blessing on the men who said them, having been corrected they would surely recant and either withdraw or rephrase their concerns. But there is so much more here which directly relates to why Abdul Rahman will not recant his confession of Christ that we will pick this up tomorrow and go through both John 1 and John 3 to have the Gospel by two hands and not to let it go for the sake of a political point.

[%] Pheh. baptists!

Adrian Warnock says this is "Spencer at his best":
At the risk of being taunted again, I fail to see that I would have spent three years with Jesus and come away believing that the divine narrative was culminated in a series of technical definitions of words that indicate Jesus Christ came to limit salvation to a few Reformed Baptists.

As I said, the reduction of the gospel to a series of logical problems to be solved by refined technical definitions and cross referencing is nuts. What would any 4th grader understand by the Gospel of John? The first 18 verses of chapter 1 summarize the whole book. I refuse to read these great verses as a discussion between universalism, a caricature of Arminianism, and advocates of a limited salvation. How did the Good News get to be the inner workings of interpretation, and not the plain meaning of the story?
To be utterly fair to the iMonk, he was responding to this gem:
How in the world John 3:16 can be isogeted [sic] as a proof-text for limited atonement is beyond the pale of understanding. I'm certain Nicodemus wasn't blown away by the new found thought that God has narrowed to doors to salvation. What's so revolutionary about that? Nicodemus already believed that!

(v15) "...that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life"
(v16) "... that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life"
(v17) "...to save the world through him"
(v18) "...whoever believes in him is not condemned"
(v20) "...whoever lives by the truth comes into the light"

Nicodemus already had a theology of limited atonement and particular redemption. I seriously doubt Jesus was bolstering what Nicodemus already knew!
Posted by Dennis Laing at 08:28 AM
I would post my comments but I have a meeting I cannot miss. When I come back, let's find out what Dennis is trying to say, whether he's right, and then if iMonk has shed any light on the subject worthy of praise.

Nurse: scalpel.

[!] Classic Gospel, tone-deaf world

Yes, I've been ranting about coverage regarding in . And I've been somewhat merciless to the megaBloggers who have jumped on this bandwagon. But this is being played off by them as a political human rights matter.

Here's what brother Rahman has to say about what is happening to him [translation, HT: Afghan Times]:
Being hanged to death! I accept it, yes I do, but I am not an infidel as I am branded and I am not an apostate. I am a Jesus Follower (Christian).
Listen: that's the kind of testimony that needs to be heard here. He's not pleading for his life, is he? He is preaching the Gospel -- that faith in Christ is not an act of falsehood or a matter of comparative religion but a matter of ultimate truth -- right up to the moment at which his life will either be forfeit or spared.

Yes: it is a horror that it is a crime to be a convert to Christ. It is politically unacceptable. But if this story becomes about the politics of this event and not about what Abdul Rahman is preaching as he is threatened with death, his testimony is muted by the partisan cotton in our ears.

There is a visitor to this blog who has asked, "does it matter if I sign the petition?" And I say it does matter. But the larger question is whether we use tis opportunity to clearly and concisely preach the Gospel.

Abdul Rahman is not willing to die for democracy or republican government: he is willing to die for the sake of Christ. That is the story. Do not miss that story. Do not fail to tell that story.

[*] It's like St. Patty's day

In one of my shortest blog entries to date, I have something to say about the blogosphere today:

I think today is like St. Patty's Day for "Christian" bloggers: it's easy to pull out the green gear and have a cabbage-and-corned-beef with a Guiness over Abdul Rahman today. Where are you the rest of the year?

With all these people suddenly with their Christian sensibilities in a bunch over Abdul Rahman, you'd think that it was a high-priority thing for them that the Christian message get out. For example, Michelle Malkin has mentioned Jesus Christ a total of 37 times in the history of her blog, and the word "gospel" only 12 times -- with only 2 of them refering to the message of Christ's work. Hugh Hewitt has mentioned the word "gospel" 18 times in the history of his blog (10 of those refer to the work of Christ), and mentioned Jesus Christ 28 times. Of course, if all they did was press the point that they will not deny Jesus Christ in any context, they might sacrifice their careers. Not their lives, right?

It is a fine political point that Abdul Rahman ought not to be killed for choosing Christ over Mohammed: that is hardly the actual point regarding what Abdul Rahman has done in choosing Christ over Mohammed.

UPDATED: here's the kicker -- Malkin is now angry that President Bush isn't taking notice that suddenly one person is going to be executed under Muslim law for converting to Christianity.

It seems to me that on the days Mrs. Malkin is awake and looking around, those injustices are important, but the rest of the year -- when there are literally hundreds of instances of reported persecution in non-Christian countries every month -- Mrs. Malkin is far more concerned with "moonbats", Cindy Sheehan, and the inane and obscure Al Franken.

The criticism of the White House may be morally correct: it has the timbre of shrill opportunism as it echoes on this side of the blogosphere.

[%] More persecution

This is the high profile example of persecution this week. Brian Mattson, high atop the ivory tower, has opened a petition for the sake of Abdul Rahman, Citizen of Afghanistan, who is currently under penalty of death for converting from Islam to Christ.

The shame is that right now he has only 380+ signatures. Will the readers of my blog please take the time to sign off and drive the count up -- it's a travesty that only 380 people can take the time to type in their own name in order to advocate for a man's freedom to accept the Gospel.

Get after it.

[!] Persecution


That's what the Gospel of Jesus Christ is going to get you: persecution. For example, Samuel Thomas is the President of a group of churches known as Emmanuel Baptist Ministries in India, and he has been arrested.
Thousands of Christians around the world are praying for the persecuted Christians in Rajasthan and sending letters and faxes to the Indian government in New Delhi asking for emergency protection of the children and staff of the Hopegivers schools and orphanages in Rajasthan.

Local government bureaucracies in Kota, which have been politicized by Hindu extremist groups, have taken a series of illegal actions in the last month to prevent Hopegivers and Rajasthani Christian leaders from offering protection to abandoned children, educational and medical services.

"Of course," said Dr. Samuel Thomas in a recent e-mail, "none of these actions are legal. The terrorists and hate groups have taken the law into their own hands and sadly, we have lost confidence in the local government to control them."

Lawyers for Dr. Thomas and Founder Bishop M. A. Thomas are appealing to the High Court in Rajasthan's capital of Jaipur to set bond for the staff being held without charge in Kota jails. Bishop Thomas began a church in Kota in 1960.

"The Thomas'need to remain free so that they can lead a defense of the social welfare work in Rajasthan which includes 65 schools and 13 orphanages," said Hopegivers spokesman Dr. Bill Bray in a recent news interview.
Bring your prayers, and bring your support. This is the Gospel work. Get involved in it.

[?] 100K and counting

Sometime between right now and Monday morning, the blog will cross 100,000 hits. By contrast, TeamPyro will have 100,000 posts from Dan Phillips by the end of lunch today.

Who knew anyone really cared? Thanks for reading, and thanks for thinking about this stuff with me.

[#] Housekeeping

There is a person in Kansas City, MO, who is viewing the blog from a MacOS X platform. There may be more than one of you, but you are all in the same office.

You people scare me. I would rather you read the blog at home than at work. It would make me feel SIGNIFICANTLY more at ease. And e-mail me, so I know who you are. I'm sure that would help me out a lot, too.

secret technorati tags:

[?] it's coming

*.org, *.net and *.com are all in registeration process. The bare page will be up by the weekend, maybe Monday. Details will follow.

No, this is not a new blog. Be patient for the details.

[#] "god blogs"

I want to go on-record today to say that I don't want to merely be a "god blogger", or even a "God blogger".

I want to be a Christ blogger. Who's with me?

UPDATED: I need to buy a domain name to make this think fly right, so I'm looking at some options and I'm thinking "scum-of-the-earth.com".

However, that's not everyone's cup of tea. If you're serious about starting a blogs-for-Christ thing here, let's round up a domain name that sends the right message and then we can talk turkey.

[%] british link troll

I just wanted to update the blog with a link to Adrian Warnock's 2000th post in the blogosphere. I know: I don't link to Adrian's blog usually (like he needs me), but this is a special occation and I thought I'd send some TTLB love his way this week.

And for the sake of full disclosure, he e-mailed me and asked. Let's make sure when we put all the cards on the table that we recognize that all bloggers -- no matter how seemingly "above" the frenzy of link-rankings they seem to be -- are link-greedy. We are all like Gollum on the inside: we need the precious. We love the Precious. WE WILL TAKES THE PRECIOUS FROM THE NASTY HOBBITSES!

The other thing about that link is that you should click through just to prove to Adrian that my readers are a force in the blogosphere. When you get a link from this blog, it gets passed through.

[?] TTLB: fluke?

You look at this ranking, and you tell me:

I mean, I'll take it, right? To top out in the Blogdom of God over Jimmy Akin, Phil, and most importantly RELEVANT MAGAZINE (nice work, people) is a pretty cool week.

I just don't believe it. Is that fair? TTLB says I'm one of the 150 most-linked blogs in the BoG and I don't believe it. I must be getting jaded or something.

[*] who's been eating mine?

In an effort to leave no stone unturned from the weekend, Ms. Ellen left a few comments that are front-page worthy for response:
No: I'm agreeing that if someone doesn't want to be called a Christian, we should oblige him.

Is the opposite also true? If a person wants to be called a Christian should we oblige him?

If somebody said, "We are Christians in a very real sense and that is coming to be more and more widely recognized. Once upon a time people everywhere said we are not Christians. They have come to recognize that we are, and that we have a very vital and dynamic religion based on the teachings of Jesus Christ", would you say, OK?

Ellen 03.12.06 - 7:46 am #
To the first question, Ms. Ellen does something which is common is blog arguments: she misplaces the burden of proof. It is my suggestion to this discussion that the action of wanting to disassociate with the church by disavowing its common namesake is actually evidence against one's Christian status. On the other hand, wanting the name "Christian" attached to one's actions – while possibly evidence of one's discipleship to Christ – is by no means a conclusive bit of evidence that one is a Christian.

There is, by all means, more to it than that. I have spent a large portion of the 690+ posts on this blog talking about the matter of orthodoxy. My over-arching point, if I have one at all, is that there is far more to being a Christian than claiming to be one. But in that exact same measure, because the standard is high, claiming to be one is on the list – recognizing one's association with the church is certainly part of the qualifications.

To the second question she asks about a widely-published quote from Gordon Hinckley which is based on her first question. We could just write it off since I dispute her first point, but there is something else important to note: the definition of the Gospel. If some says that they "have a very vital and dynamic religion based on the teachings of Jesus Christ", is that what it means to be Christian? Or does Paul dispel that completely by saying what he says in 1Cor 15, in an echo of what Peter preached on that first Pentecost in Acts 2?

Because Hinckley's "vital and dynamic religion" denies essential tenets of the Gospel, his enthusiasm to be called "Christian" is mitigated significantly by his lack of enthusiasm for the actual Gospel.

Ms Ellen continues:

So I'll be glad to honor his wish not to be called a Christian as long as he doesn't try to glom the things those *who actually are Christians* represent.

Are you saying that you believe that those who prefer to be called "disciples of Christ" - or "Christ followers" are not Christian because they prefer to use those labels rather than share the label with anti-Trinitarians and Mormons?

Question: is the use of the term "Christian" in the Bible "descriptive" or "prescriptive"?
Ellen 03.12.06 - 7:51 am #
The LDS also call themselves "the church of Jesus Christ" and "disciples of Christ" – so by the logic of your hypothetical disassociatives, that label is lost to the faithless. The question is if the faithless co-opt our name, do we change it or fight for what belongs to us?

Look: my wife is married to me, right? She's married to centuri0n, and that makes her Mrs. Centuri0n (notice that her name gets caps). If I come home one day and there's some guy sitting at my place at the table eating my supper and I ask him, "who's been eating my porridge?" He'd have to have a lot of nerve to say, "it's not your porridge: it's mine. I'm centuri0n."

At the same time, he would also have to have a lot of nerve to say, "It may be your porridge, but it is mine also because I am also centuri0n." That is to say, he thinks there's enough to go around, and because he's slightly overweight (no jokes, Daniel), slightly balding and slightly sarcastic, he wants to say he is enough like me to be entitled to what I have. And while I might just let is slide over the porridge, I would absolutely draw the line when he wanted to share Mrs. Centuri0n (among other things).

I think it takes a lot of nerve for Hinckley to say, "Mormons are Christians, too," when the foundational principle of Joseph Smith's writings and office as prophet is that no other church is in fact Christian. To come back with "me, too" when one's foundational premise is "me, only" takes giant amounts of chutzpah. And as such, it cannot be conceded even in the least. For the record, and so nobody misses this point, I would say exactly the same thing about Roman Catholicism. Once you have said "me, only", you had either better be right or better be ready to admit you were desperately wrong.

And after all of that, if you are actually centuri0n, and someone is actually sitting down eating your porridge, you would be somewhat of a dope to look at the phony in your chair and say, "because you have co-opted my name, I'm changing mine to 'leibowitz'. NOW What are you gonna do?" If I were the phony centuri0n, I'd then kick leibowitz out of centuri0n's house – because the house belongs to centuri0n, no leibowitz. Why? Because chutzpah doesn't have limits. And if you think the same thing is not in store for Christians who will not fight for the namesake of our church, you had better think some more about it.

The last question Ms. Ellen asks, however, intrigues me. Is "Christian" either descriptive or prescriptive? I think it is both – when it is used in the historically-common sense. For example, I think the term is abused when we say we are selling "Christian t-shirts" or "Christian toe rings". But when we talk about "Christian message" or "Christian church" or "Christian missions" or "me personally, a Christian", we are using the term in a way which since the first century has described those who are willing to even lay down their lives for the sake of the Gospel and therefore Christ. Saying we are "Christian" is descriptive in the sense that it tells where we come from; but in exactly the same way, it is prescriptive regarding where we ought to be going.

Steve's posts from the weekend are next on my agenda. And then back to the marriage series.

[*] the blog chasers

Whoo boy! Adrian Warnock is sure going to be mad about this post, so before I start let me encourage him not to read it to keep from being antagonized.

One of the stunning parts of my history of interaction with iMonk is the number of times the things I have actually said are replaced by things I have not at all said. For example, in the meta of last week's final comment, Michael Spencer said this:

Thanks for the inclusion of the links, as readers can go there [and] decide for themselves if what I've written is well represented by your post.

Since this is someone else's experiment and not mine, interested persons
might follow my links to lief rigney's blog to actually dialog with
someone who eschewing the label "Christian." I am not that person.
Michael Spencer | 03.11.06 - 1:22 am |
What I find interesting is the question as to whether I have represented iMonk correctly. For example, did I say he was the one abandoning the label "Christian"? No – in fact, what my last blog post on this subject said was that he does some extraordinarily-bad things in trying to defend what his friend has done. For example, his case that "the Bible is on [rigney's] side" is such a poor example of considering Scripture that we cannot even call it exegesis.

And so I replied to iMonk:

Please note for my readers where I said you where the one tossing the tag "Christian". I think I was pretty circumspect to say you were -defending- your buddy's decision, and not that you were joining him in his little (one-man) piece of performance art.

Your link, which you posted in the meta, prompted this reply. Please do not play yourself off as someone who got blindsided, rail-roaded, dragged out into the street and pants'd.
centuri0n | 03.11.06 - 7:59 am | #
Fair enough, right? iMonk says I have misrepresented him, and I ask him "please tell me where". It's a fair question.

Now please hear me clearly: if it is not a fair question, then there is nowhere this discussion can go. See: when I offer iMonk my opinion, I have the audacity to cut and paste his text, and comment on the substance of his actual text. In that way, when I say, "his reading of 1Peter is absurd because ..." I am referring to something he actually wrote rather than to something I think he was thinking and was trying to sublimate when he wrote what he actually wrote.

But what is the response? Is it, "well, cent, you said, 'and iMonk is himself now abandoning the Christian moniker.' That's pretty self-evident." Or is it, "well, Turk, when you say, 'and iMonk's in the same boat which is taking on water fast,' you are implying that he's doing what rigney is doing." Because those replies would be ways to correct the matters of fact and my own muddy self-perception, right?

Yeah: the problem is that I never said anything like that, so iMonk has the problem of having no evidence. Remember: his original point is that I have misrepresented him as joining in rigney's experiment. Let's see iMonk's response:

rigney's project is not about not wanting to be known as a believer in and follower of Jesus Christ. He clearly states that he is a public follower of the Lord Jesus Christ and wants to encourage others to do the same.

I work with hundreds of unbelievers, many of them from all over the world. All my Ethiopians are Orthodox, and all believe they are Christians. Based on my conversations with them, I doubt that any of them understand the Gospel at all. But if I ask all the Christians in our school to raise hands, they all do. So clarification is a big part of evangelism.

rigney is in a major university setting. His project is not about denying Christ. It is about being able to have conversations with people who hear the word Christian and run down the road of a hundred wrong assumptions. If the experiment allows him to talk about Jesus with people who usually want to ridicule Christians, then he has my prayers and encouragement.

This whole discussion just dances around your desire to say that someone at the bht is denying the gospel, when in fact the very opposite is the case.

Michael Spencer 03.11.06 - 5:08 pm #
OK: so there's no substantiation of the claim that I am misrepresenting iMonk – but a lot of extra information about rigney.

Now: for the sake of argument, let's assume for a second that my stripper-evangelist example was out of line and I have misunderstood what rigney does. In what way does that have anything to do with the central theme of my blog entry that says iMonk has mishandled Scripture to make his point, or the additional theme that disavowing the label "Christian" is itself a misguided effort and anti-church? See: those are the thing I have actually said. The use of Professor X's Cerebro in order to locate my true motives may be useful in the movies, but if you want to complain about what I have done, please complain about what I have actually written.

Thus, my response to this statement:

What is interesting is that I haven't said anything about the BHT "denying the Gospel". What I have said is:

(1) Your assertion that the Bible supports your buddy's view is incorrect

(2) Your buddy's "experiment" sacrifices a moral tenet -- identification with the church -- for a pragmantic piece of "evangelism" -- starting a "conversation". (for Steve: if I deny that I am a Christian, or repudiate the label which is still a valid label for the church {and has been since the Apostolic age} in order to distance myself from actual Christians, I have done exactly the same kind of thing that the stripper "missionary" has done: I have sacrificed a moral standard for a pragmatic approach to evangelism. I stand by my comparison.)

(3) Your buddy's one-man discipleship is exactly one-man deep and wide

After that, where this post makes this into an imputation of all the BHT is up to you to prove rather than merely assert. But I suspect you will simply call me mean again rather than admit that my vivisection of your original post doesn't say anything outside of the scope of your pal rigney (like e.e. cummings, I suppose) and you personally.

Listen iMonk: if you don't want to be accused of defending the ridiculous, don't defend the ridiculous. It's a pretty easy formula to follow. And you have, via e-mail, my desire for you and the BHT. To here synthesize motives for me speaks again to your lack of balance in approaching hard criticism.

centuri0n 03.11.06 - 11:16 pm #
And let's be honest: the shot at rigney via ee cummings was uncalled for, so shame on me. At best, his views are an object in this little exchange, so taking a shot at him ... not good form. Sorry to rigney for venting on him for my frustration with Spencer.

However, that doesn't mitigate the problem that iMonk has said (in words to this effect), "you heap bad person" without any "heap" of "bad" to point to. And what that call gets from iMonk is this:
Your endorsement of the Universal Church of those calling themselves Christians is great. Mormons, JWs and millions of Roman Catholics and Orthodox thank you for your approval.
Again: the question is whether iMonk has any justification to say that I have done him wrong, and again iMonk tries to use a rabbit to divert the hounds. And why? Seriously: I'd like to know why it's so hard simply to review the evidence – that is rehearse it here – and explain what I did that was so wrong. Where did I say that the BHT denies the Gospel? Where did I says iMonk has abandoned the church? Where did I do any of the things iMonk wants to hang on me? Tell me, and I'll offer a correction.

But let's keep something squarely in the center of this plea for substantiation: I didn’t go looking for iMonk's essay on rigney's experiment. I wrote a blog entry responding to Bill at Thinklings, and iMonk took that opportunity to link to his essay – as if my post to Bill was about himself or his band of merry bloggers.

"cent," comes the retort, "your closing comment in that essay was about the BHT. You brought it on yourself."

Ironically, the closing comment in Bill's blog entry was about the BHT and it was his generalization which I referred to. So I guess I could blame Bill for this little bruh-haha, right?


You can scroll down to read it for yourself, but I began that last paragraph, "As for your closing note that some at BHT are thinking about abandoning the monicker 'Christian', ..." Those were Bill's words, and I was commenting on them. If Bill was wrong about representing "some" at BHT, then the generalization was carried over in that way and not as a pot-shot.

If the readers of the blogosphere would like to chime in, please let them come – but let's not start the unfounded idea that I came after the BHT or iMonk here. I was commenting on Bill's essay at Thinklings (which I found via Best of the GodBlogs), and subsequent to that iMonk linked to his essay on rigney's wager, and subsequent to that I commented on iMonk's essay.

And after all of that is said, let's be clear that I'm still looking for the way in which I have misrepresented iMonk's own words. Steve and Ellen have posted some interesting thoughts on that, and I will address them separate to this issue. If iMonk wants to explain that, I'm all ears.

[#] Final: WE AGREE!

There's a real irony in what you're about to read: I would actually agree in the broadest terms with the ever self-inflicted iMonk that if someone doesn't want to be called a Christian we should just not call him a Christian. This discussion is triggering a flashback to Jesuit all-boys High School where I had a Jesuit for senior elective theology and he was chastising the hypothetical Christian who did not what to self-identify. It made sense, he reasoned, that a devil would want to be reckoned as an angel -- because if you knew someone was a devil, you'd have to be crazy to follow him anywhere, right? And it made sense that if one was on the side of the angels one ought to want the credibility that goes along with being on Heaven's team. But what did you gain, exactly, by being an angel and posing as a devil? How does that deception advance the cause of truth?

This from a fellow who frequently smoke and drank around the seniors when the opportunity arose, and who swore like a sailor. Father, as they say, absolve thyself.

Anyway, iMonk has stopped by to defend or otherwise excuse his buddy leif who doesn't want to self-identify as "Christian" anymore, and he begins his apology thus:
For starters, leif has the Bible on his side. The term Christian is
never commanded to be used in any way by scripture itself. The term
occurs three times:

/Acts 11:26 And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians./

/Acts 26:28 And Agrippa said to Paul‚"In a short time would you persuade me to be a Christian?"/

/1 Peter 4:16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. /

None of these occurrences bears any particular imperative of compulsory weight. The name Christian is, in fact, a derogatory term, given to the disciples of Jesus by their detractors. It is as Christians that some may suffer, because Christians are fit subjects for persecution. Agrippa is amazed that Paul would attempt to persuade him to join such as despised sect.
It always astounds me what people will say when they want to sound reasonable. For example, in Acts 11, on what basis can we say that the word "Christian" was applied to the disciples of Christ as a "derogatory" term? It seems to me that the word "Christians" in this verse is in the context not of the disdain of the unbelievers in Antioch but in the context of Barnabas' somewhat-wild success preaching the Gospel there, having been sent because of the in-roads Cypress and Cyrene had with the Greeks. That is, because there were so many of them, they gained a name for themselves.

Further, when we read Agrippa's response to Paul in Acts 26, how does one leap from Paul's strong exhortation of Agrippa to the deduction that Agrippa is using an insult in saying Paul would have him convert? Especially, consider that Agrippa and Bernice say to Festus 3 verses later, "This man doth nothing worthy of death or of bonds". If they are insulting Paul in v.28, upon what do they base their insults -- they say he has done nothing wrong.

But most incredibly, it is Peter who uses the term "Christian" in 1Pet 4 to denote a true disciple -- one who suffers for the sake of the faith! How, exactly, can this be interpolated to mean "a derogatory term" -- or even a term of indeterminate value?

The argument being foisted out here is that because the Bible doesn't say, "listen: this club you're forming? You must call yourselves Christians or else you're going to hell," the term is itself, at best, a convention which we should strip off if it doesn't suit us anymore. And that, my dear readers, is complete malarkey. It's an argument as-bad as the JW argument which says that the word "Trinity" is not in the Bible, so the doctrine of the Trinity must be false.

Moreover, given Peter's use of the word in 1Pet 4, iMonk's very interesting claim that it is a "historical accident" that the followers of Christ are called "Christians" starts to look like something even he doesn't really believe. What we can see if we turn a few pages in scripture is that there is a people for his name's sake. For example, this turn of phrase is used in Mt 10:22 and Mt 24:9 by Christ Himself to describe his follower as the very reason they will be hated and persecuted. This is repeated in Mk 13 and Lk 21. In Acts 15, Peter sees for himself that there are Gentiles called by Christ's name.

"My dear fellow," comes the tempered and reasonable reply, "you cahn't mean that you think Christ meant we would be called 'Christians', do you? The reasoning is at least as sketchy as you claim to find the reasoning of dear old Michael."

In fact, I do mean that when Christ said "for my name's sake" he meant, in part, "because my name will represent you." It is another way of saying we are in Christ. In that way, it is completely credible to expect that when Paul says he is a "bondservant of Christ", he is placing himself inside the body of Christ in the same way that Peter does when he says that suffer as a Christian is not shameful but glorifying to God.

After that, iMonk dispenses this pearl:

I'm convinced that rigney's interest in southern literature is a contributing factor to this experiment. Most of us who live in the south are aware that the name Christian has suffered the indignity of being equated with so many different aspects of southern culture that a person really has no idea if a Christian is a racist or a martyr against racism. Finding a path through this confusion may necessitate something like an abandonment of the abused and obscured term, in order to refocus the meaning of "Christ" in any meaningful way.
And it is because of racism in the last 200 years or so that we ought to abandon the term -- not because of the history of other kinds of evil perpetrated allegedly by Christians. As I said elsewhere, apparent rigney was fine with being a Christian like Torequemada, and a Christian like Chrisostem (who was an anti-semite), and a Christian like Innocent III, but Boar's Head forbid that one is a Christian as portrayed by a liberal media which cannot gets its fact straight about the abolition of slavery and the rise of civil rights in the West -- which is to say, a tobacco-chaw'n hog-cawler in half-buttoned overalls who don' wan' no nigres 'round a'ter dark.

Spencer's incantation involving George Barna has frankly been debunked here and here. Barna's latest book is latter-rain screed, and his interview with TSK was completely superficial and without any real reflection of Barna's methodology or goals. Using that book and that interview to substantiate anything is simply mishandling sources and ignoring refutations of the errors they promulgate.

Lastly, so as not to open discussions which closed iMonk's blog a year ago, the droll musing that abandoning the label "Christian" has an "apologetic" end and can "open conversations" sounds something like being a stripper missionary. You know: there are a lot of men who are either abandoning their call or are simply lost inside strip joints. If a woman has a mind to, she could be a stripper and therefore a missionary to the patrons of strip clubs.

Before someone calls that hyperbole, what the stripper-missionary would be doing is eschewing that label "modest" for the sake of the lost -- and never mind that the call to modesty is part of the Christian walk. What someone who eschews the label "Christian" does is sack all appearances of Christian fellowship (whether he does, in fact, forsake fellow being completely not in question) in order to present a lopsided (and false) view of the Christian life to the lost.

Let's think about something as I close up for the weekend here: while the Bible may never demand that we adopt the letters C-H-R-I-S-T-I-A-N for the name of our little group, it does in fact demand that we identify ourselves as a group -- and that, as James said, we turn our brothers away from sin. How are we doing that if we are disavowing that we belong to the visible church? And how is confusing the issue of what the followers of Christ call themselves in any way enlightening to those in spiritual darkness?

My opinion of this "experiment" is that it is self-important and frankly silly. It's hyper-separationistic -- it literally draws a circle so small that only one person can stand inside. So I'll be glad to honor his wish not to be called a Christian as long as he doesn't try to glom the things those who actually are Christians represent.

Have a nice weekend; spend it in the Lord's house with the Lord's people and do not be ashamed of His name.

[#] loving the bride

Editorial note: I tried to post this at Thinklings, and their server kept timing out on me. So I posted it here.

Oh wait -- Thinklings.org took it this time. Oh well -- it's good reading anyway.

Bill --

I found your post via Best of the GodBlogs, and they have pre-emptively called it one of the best 7 blog posts of 2006. So kudos for getting nominated real good.

I have read through your post 3 times now and have mulled it over because my knee-jerk response to this kind of post is, "Max Lucado already does it better." And the reason Max does it better is that he doesn't try to couch philosophical criticism under the cover of Helen Steiner Rice platitudes.

What I am talking about is the interesting statement you make when you say, "Of course, the church isn’t a building. It’s people. Including those beloved and sweet people who enthusiastically read Your Best Life Now or Left Behind and who are, unbeknownst to them (because they don’t really care about the blogosphere), laughed at. By snobs like us."

"By snobs like us"? I'm not sure that the use of self-denigration in "us" here mitigates the philosophical concern that it is snobbery to (as you say) "laugh" at those who read YBLN or LB and think themselves spiritually-enriched. You did pick two keen examples of things we can laugh at (rightly), but if we are rightly laughing at them, how is that snobbery? How is it snobbery, as you continue down in your brief essay, to object to immature believers demanding to lead worship as they are lead by their emotions? I think it is overstated at best to call the premise that the mature should lead the immature "snobbery", but I'd be interested in someone who could demonstrate otherwise.

But that's my knee-jerk reaction. After consideration, I think you make a much worse mistake -- and that is mixing together necessary, humble things like working in a benevolence kitchen and doing the physical work around the church with randy, damaging things like EC pseudo-monasticism and Charismatic experiential excesses. I would suggest to you, without confiscating the blog meta here, that you are personally confusing the wheat with the tares. If your premise is sound -- that the bride is right now beautiful -- it cannot be because she is lost among the foolish virgins: it is because she is the bride and cannot be confused with those who reject her Groom.

Listen: I would say with you that I love the church -- no question that one of the marks of the believer is love of the church not only in theory but in fact, by action. But what is one of the hallmarks of love of the church? The book of Hebrews says, "23Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near."

Holding fast to our confession of faith; stir one another to do good; meeting together to encourage each other. In that, criticism is not snobbery: it is itself love -- because criticism is not just saying, "man, that's bad" but also "because this is what is good."

I think it is somewhat phony to believe that the only way to love is to white-wash the problems; I also think it is phony to believe that confusing the right with the wrong -- or saying that the distinction is arbitrary or unimportant -- is a kind of loving response.

As for your closing note that some at BHT are thinking about abandoning the monicker "Christian", what could I possibly say about that which would not be perceived as taking a shot at them? If they didn't mind being called "Christians" when they knew Christianity had a history which included anti-semites, crusaders, auto-flagilists, pardoners (in the Chaucerian sense), inquisitionists and witch-burners, but now suddenly because the popular modern church has a serious case of stupid they are too good for the family name, the point of view speaks for itself.

Sorry to be a nay-sayer. I think your view here is simplistic and gives comfort to those who need to be less comfortable with what they think they believe.

[#] A parable about blogging

There once was a guy who wanted to own a christian bookstore. He wanted to build it from scratch, so in that he had to find some way to stock the place full of books -- because you can't open without any books. He puzzled over that problem for a few weeks, and he decided to bring the problem to the people who would be his #1 supplier for books.

"No problem!" they said rather enthusiastically. "We can give you a recommended model inventory which will tell you exactly what you need to know -- all you have to do is tell us how much money you want to spend on inventory!"

He asked them how they came up with this RMI, and they told him, "Oh that's easy: these are the best seller."

Now, the reason this fellow wanted to own a Christian bookstore was that he thought that Christian bookstores were a fantastic idea that, at many levels, were being executed in an extraordinarily-poor way. And in the back of his mind, he started thinking about what the best-seller list for Christian retail would reflect. For example, it would reflect the best sellers of a channel of retail that, primarily, he thought was not very retail. It would also reflect the best sellers of a channel that doesn't exercise any doctrinal fortitude. But, most importantly, it would reflect a channel of retail that -- as he knew, from his business plan research -- was shrinking.

However, he told his supplier to go ahead and send him the RMI and he would review it and get back to them. And he did: he reviewed every line, struck out the items he knew would be poison, struck out the stuff that he knew he would be unwilling to sell without some kind of intermediate explanation, and then added back enough stuff from authors on the list who were substantial to get his dollars back into the range he wanted to spend.

In short, he started from the best position he knew he could start from to make a statement to his customers.

The books came in, he put them on the shelf, and believe it or not, they started selling. He was somewhat excited about the fact that he was right about selling "the good stuff", but he noticed that his competition was selling the stuff from the RMI and doing pretty well. And over time, his customers started to request things he would rather not carry -- Your Best Purpose Now, The Life-Driven Life, A Divine Revelation of Pizza, whatever. And, if they wanted to order it, he would special order it.

One day he was reviewing his business, and he realized something: his automated reordering system was starting to stock the stuff he explicitly disqualified in the RMI. The RMI was creeping into his inventory in spite of his initial circumspection -- because of the volume of specials he was generating.

Another thing he noticed was that the complaints were starting to file in -- what did he have against this author? What's wrong with this book? You're not a "Calvinist", are you? And sadly, his employees were just employees, and they couldn't answer all the questions -- so some of the inventory creep was due to his employees being ill-equipped to respond to the questions.

And the bookstore owner realized something: unless he took stock of his bookstore frequently, he would wind up exactly like the kind of christian retail he got into the business to campaign against. While it was important to stay in business, it was far more important to first stand up for the truth for the sake of the body of Christ.

[#] It's not up to you [plagerism]

Just to show that he is willing to steal from any source in order to bump a post at TeamPyro, Dan Philips has posted this piece which clearly rips off my entire desiderata for the "not up to you" series.

Of course, I have more to say, and I will say it much more eloquently, so don't think you're going to get off light. But until I get it written out long-hand, you'll have to suffer through Dan's prose and try to make out the good bits hidden behind his lumpy and inarticulate murmuring.

[%] blog spotting?

We don't do that here. It's untoward.

However, Tom Ascol had some nice things to say about me personally. When a fellow like Pastor Ascol can spend a minute to say, "nice work," the least one can do is say "thank you".

[%] We interrupt the blog ...

I am loathe to even refer you to this other blog as it is frankly a barnyard of large livestock and you have no idea what you might step in while walking around, but Harry Shearer (who does wa-a-a-ay too many voices on the Simpsons) wrote this, and I think it's worth reading.

I think the take-away from his little essay there is not, really, the information that the Democrats can't pony up a credible opposition: it's that there are not even any opportunists inside the DNC which can capitalize on the party's listless drift. When all is said and done, Reagan was an opportunist in the 1980 election for a Republican party that really had nothing on the ball -- and he wound up literally changing the course of history. You'd think some honest-to-Lieberman centrist Democrat (and not the poseur Hillary) could capitalize on the party's ideological void and pour himself into that place to pick up a lot of support when the RNC is also especially weak.

The problem for the DNC, though, is not that they don't have any opportunists: it's that all of their opportunists are like George Clooney and Howard Dean. They are so far outside of the middle current of National politics that they can only barely excite their own radical base, and they cannot at all excite anyone within 4 sigma of the middle.

And since political commentary is really not this blog's purpose in life, I'll leave it at that.

[#] It's not up to you [2]

For the sake of not flooding the blog, I stopped mid-example yesterday, but I'm sure it left you wanting more, so welcome back.

Before I go on, my wife heard I was going to blog on marriage, and she was all for it. Which means she gave me a little liberty to talk about us, if not her personally. But this is really about me.

About 4 years ago, I lost my job. It lead to the hardest 2 years – think about this, 2 years -- of our marriage. I was out of work for most of that time, and we almost lost our house (we sold it for a massive loss), and we were living with relatives, and I was cooking up this wacko idea to start a Christian retail store which we could own as a family business. You know: desperate times and all that.

The most important thing – relative to this series – that I learned in that period was that I had to decide whether or not I was my wife's husband or not. That is to ask, if I don't have a job, and I'm not bringing home a paycheck, and I am not supervising other people, blahblahblah, am I still the husband or am I now something else?

When my wife is having difficulty finding security in this world because we are about to start spending some of our hard-earned retirement money, am I still her husband? What if she gets sick and we don't have any medical insurance because COBRA has run out – am I still her husband? What if I forgot to do the laundry and we don't have any clean underwear – am I still the husband?

The answer the Bible gives me – particularly in Eph 5 – is that I am still her husband in the covenantal sense. That is to say, I am her husband because I left my father and mother and held fast to my wife, and nobody -- not even me -- has any right to try to take apart what God has joined together. (that's Mt 19, but you get the idea) If the love a husband is supposed to show his wife is the love Christ shows the church, my job as a husband is not to worry about how "happy" (whatever THAT means – God forbid we ever become people who are obsessed with being "happy" because we would never sleep) I am but whether or not I am living up to my vow to hold fast to my wife.

See: it's not up to me to decide that marriage is too hard, or that I'm not happy, or that "it's not you: it's me". If I have read Eph 5 right, if I'm trying the ol' "it's not you: it's me," I have done exactly the opposite of what Christ does for the church.

So in that, when I thought I was useless because I lost my job, my response ought not to be, "Why would she love me if I couldn’t keep that job?" but "I love my wife and I should do what she needs to be set apart for righteousness' sake." I should consider my vow to love her in sickness and in health – understanding that not only does it mean if she gets sick, but it also means if I get sick, mentally, spiritually, physically or economically. I took a vow to love her -- as Christ loves the church -- which means circumstances do not dictate whether I will love her right now or not.

And it's funny: when Christ spelled this out for the people listening to him, his disciples said, "If this is the case with a man and his wife, it would be better not to marry." And if you read this, and you don't think that the first time you read it, I suggest you do not understand what it is saying to you. It means that golf takes second place behind your wife. It means you put NASCAR in second place behind your wife. It means you put your job in second place behind your wife. The KJV says cleave to your wife. That word is only used to described the commitment of husband to wife -- except in Acts 5 where Gamaliel describes the men who joined themselves with Theudas to the death.

And in the example of me, the clarity of Scripture regarding exactly what I ought to do for and toward my wife was so clear that it changed me. Eventually, you will get sick of me telling you how many times Scripture has changed me, but in the same way Scripture changed me when I was an atheist into a repentant sinner who pleaded with God for forgiveness, Scripture changed me from a man who was romantically and passively in love with his wife to a man who sought Christ-likeness through his relationship with his wife, who would love his wife as Christ loves the church.

So in those two examples, let me say this: it is not up to you to determine what marriage is, and in particular men, what being a "husband" is. Like any driver on the road, and like anyone who plays sports, and like anyone who works inside a business, it is already determined what you will do if you are actually what you say you are. The question is only if you will go out and do it.

And let me also say this: the rest of us who are not in circumstances which are testing our marriages ought to treat people in marriages who are driving them on the wrong side of the road as people who need immediate and urgent advice about getting back on the right side of the road. When we treat it like it is not our business, we are saying that the spiritual and physical well-being of those with whom we are gathered together in Christ's name is not our business. I hope you can see how wrong that is without an extended proof.

"But cent, you insensitive Baptist slob," comes the reader who has been offended, "my spouse left me. My spouse is cheating on me. The Bible and Christ say without a doubt that I am off the hook, right? Or are you going to look down your nose at me for being the one who was violated?"

That is a great question, and I will pick it up next time.

[#] Things that make you proud

I was listening to the radio at lunch today, and I was proud to learn that my Christian bookstore is a ministry partner with "Cheapo's pawn" in supporting Christian radio.

Campi: don't say a word.

[*] BHT needs some help

The link they are looking for is right here.

No problem, fellas: glad I could help.

[#] It's not up to you

So I have started this series on marriage without a degree in family counseling, and without 15 years of pastoral experience, and without a net. What I ought to do is somehow pot a course from here to there building precept upon precept until I have an unassailable case by which you, the reader, can then go out and beat up you lesser-informed church family on the nuances of nuptial theology.

Yeah. And where do the comic book images come in to that?

Instead, I'm going to start by making a bold statement: whatever it is that marriage is, it was not made by you and is not subject to what you would rather like it to be. In other words, when it comes to marriage, it's not up to you.

You know: like driving on the right side of the road (which is the right side for everyone but Libbie reading this blog) is not up to you. You're not a conformist or mired in modernist presuppositions if you drive to the right: you're a good driver. You're doing what's expected if you are going to drive a car on the road at all. You may chose to drive a big, gas-hogging, terrorist funding SUV like Arianna Huffington, or you may choose to drive a paid-for beater that gets 30+ MPG like centuri0n, but in order to drive you have to drive to the right. If you don't, the other drivers will tell you what kind of driver you are – nobody's going to hang their heads or look the other way when you come barreling down Rt 16 on the wrong side of the road.

And that's the really crazy part of my assertion here: if we see someone driving like an idiot, we honk our horn, and employ sign language, and shout at the top of our lungs – and maybe we even discover parts of our vocabulary usually compartmentalized to BHT and drunken stupors. But if we see two people driving their marriage on the wrong side of the road -- even in church -- we pretend that it's none of our business. However, again without any extended syllogistic infrastructure, I'd bet that if we were honking our proverbial horns and waving our proverbial sign language and raising our actual voices to warn and scorn people who were using their marriage like an El Torino is a demolition derby, it'd be harder to want to become divorced, and I'll bet we'd be more careful not to "drift apart".

Are you divorced people reading angry yet? I'll bet some of you are. But I haven't been talking about you yet: I've been talking about the church's attitude toward divorce. Let me give you two counter-examples from real life.

I was working in my bookstore back when I was sole prop and chief bottle washer, and it was a quiet night. A guy from church walked into my store (and this has happened more than once, so if you're from HABC and reading this, I am sure you don't know who I'm talking about) and we started chatting. The conversation turned to family, and our wives, and he started telling me he wasn't really happy right now, marriage-wise.

It's a statement that always makes me stand up and open a Bible – which is what I did. I asked him, "what do you mean by 'not happy'?" And I turned to Eph 5.

He started to tell me (in words to this effect) that he didn't feel appreciated, didn't feel honored, didn't feel motivated, etc. He was more open than most guys who see me open a Bible, so points for his transparency, but as you can imagine, I didn't want to hear that garbage.

Ephesians 5 says this, for those of you who are not already there in your Bibles:

    15Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 17Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart, 20giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

    22Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

    25Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30because we are members of his body. 31"Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh." 32This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
Now, every decent Baptist has read and been embarrassed by Eph 5:22-24 because it seem to say – and is often preached, sadly – that women are simply at the disposal of their husbands: the husband is a god and they are his church which ought to follow him without any lip. Let's say, for right now, that this interpretation is both horrible and an affront to the Gospel, but let's also remember that even Jimmy Carter thinks this is what this verse says – and it is part of the reason he has ultimately rejected Biblical inerrancy.

But what comes next is far more important in the context of standing in my bookstore with an apparent brother in Christ who says his marriage doesn't make him "happy". When Paul starts up the music in v. 25, we have to remember that he just spent the last 4 chapters of his letter to the Ephesians fairly agog over the nature and work of Christ. It's like a Calvinist Christology picnic in those chapters, so when Paul says to Husbands "love your wives as Christ loved the church," he has pulled out a rather large theological drumstick from the picnic basket.

This statement by Paul doesn't have anything to do with "being happy". It has everything to do with (Baptists, hold on to your hats) the matter of covenant and finished work. For instance, Christ loved the church by choosing the church (v. 1:4) not in a fickle or conditional way, but in a way which reflects his own purpose – which says something about Him as God. We have "redemption in His blood" (v. 1:5) – which means He pays a generous price for us when we are the ones who incurred the debt. You know: Christ doesn't love the church because it's such an example of what it ought to be. Christ loves the church because Christ loves the church. It's His purpose and character that is revealed in the way He loves, not even a microscopic jolt about what we deserve or might earn. He does it because He has decided to do it, and He's not a soteriological indian-giver.

So in that, Christ doesn't love us because we made Him happy. If you are going to love your wife the way Christ loves the church, you don't love her because she makes you happy: you love her because you are loving, and because you have purposed in your heart that you will love her. you do it because you made a vow that you will do it, which means if you don't do it, you're a liar.

You might imagine that he was a little stunned that I would give him both barrels and stop to reload, but it shook him up, and a few days later he realized that if he really trusted God's word, he needed to change the way he thought about love, and the way he thought about his wife. Amen?

Love is not duckies and puppies. It's not all cotton candy and corndogs. In fact, I would say from experience that the times when I have least demonstrated and least loved my wife was when it might have been easiest to do so. Which leads me to my second example, who is me personally.

We will continue the exposition tomorrow.

[#] "unobtainium"

So I'm reading this story about the Space Elevator, and I scoll down to the last comment (at that time) and I read this:
This is a classic in material science classes. Most real engineers look at this problem and laugh at it, myself included. The material science involved in this issue are light years ahead of where we are right now. Even then its not likely that a matierial exists that could provided the following characteristics: Light weight, incredible tensile stength, toughness, abrasion resistance, nonexistant ductility. In short, unobtainium. If you used our currently most extreme materials the weight of the material while in atmosphere before it was under the influence of the tensile force would be enough to destroy the material at nearly any point higher than a mile. The weight of the cable would literally be too much for the cable to hold up.

50 years would be a magical shot in [bleep]. We'll be using brain waves to lift things to the heavens before a material that can do this is synthesized.
There is nothing more dangerous than an engineer with a decent vocabulary.

[#] a blog primer

Yes, I incessantly talk about myself. All the time. I am my favorite -- I admit it.

What I don't do for the most part is cover national news as if I couldn't go to work tomorrow if something happened in Washington -- and it's funny because I have talked Baptism into the ground and am ready to go back for 565th's on the Gospel and Orthodoxy when it comes to (as the new series has begun) marriage. So if you disagree with me on baptism, orthodoxy, the Gospel or marriage, I might not make it to work tomorrow if I don't respond with a full-force gale -- but if John Roberts getting a "walk" from his fellow justices, or is George Bush limping into history? Yeah -- I don't care much.

So my blog is not really trying to compete with Malkin or Reynolds or LGF or whatever. I mean seriously: how many more blogs need to be talking about the same things these people are completely raving about already? And who's going to add something someone else isn't already saying?

Now, on the other hand, I want to offer you a challenge. The first part of my challenge is that you have to decide whether or not you're really a Christian, OK? You decide for you and I will keep my opinion about that to myself. Now, if you don't choose to say, "yeah, I'm really a Christian," that's all you need to know, and you may continue with your day. If you're not really a Christian, what do you care about baptism or orthodoxy anyway? You're not a nutter -- a non-Christian interested in Christian orthodoxy is like a Muslim interested in how to run a decent tattoo parlor.

The second part of my challenge is this: if you are really a Christian, can you tell me what that means? The usual way I ask that question is "in 150 words or less", but in this case if you can do it adequately in less than 500 words, you are probably better off than half the people you'd meet at church. If you can't do that, then you should keep reading here, but remember: you're reading to learn something.

The third part of my challenge is to those who have passed the first and second part: now I want you to find 10 blogs in the blogosphere that are actively advocating what it is to be a Christian as you have defined it above in the Year of Our Lord 2006 which are not in my blog roll.

If you're a lurker, or a passer-by, and you think you've got this one licked, then the last part is simple: leave a comment here which lists your 500-word (or less) self-confession, and a second comment which lists the 10 blogs you think best represent your view of the faith.

This should be interesting.

[%] Ben Stein's money

I just wanted to say that if you want to see Ben Stein's money, click here. Clearly, he is right on it.

[#] rank vendetta

Well, Good Brownie took a hit this week, but I'm back in the TTLB top 200 in the Blogdom of God:
Notice that BHT has suffered a setback, and that this blog is also closing in on the pomos at RELEVANT.

It's trivia, really. But I had a minute to share it with you.

[#] A blog about failure?

So I got this e-mail about a week ago:
...I've sought and obtained Godly, wise counsel when responding to my marital circumstances. And I've read both sides of the divorce & remarriage issue. At this point, I've pretty settled squarely into my current stand on it.

All 'at to say: My Good Brother, if you've been pondering this matter, and have previously considered blogging it, then by all means...do so. I provoke you to such, not as one seeking more guidance on the matter ~ for me, it is settled ~ but to the potential benefit of your (assumedly level-headed) readers.

I mean, after all, even if I happen to disagree with your writings, it matters little, if at all. Your blog is simply that, a web log, not a Universal Pulpit, right? (As long as you don't pronounce some kinda curse on me or an excommunication from the church catholic, or the like...)

Then, again...if for you, propounding upon this issue would necessitate your having to draw some sort of "line in the sand," then maybe just forget I ever brought it up providin' your conscience says the same.
I'm keeping the writer's ID obscure because if this person wants to tell us who they are, they can do so in the meta (and I know "they" is plural -- don't brow-beat me).

Here's where I start with this topic: I think that we, as Christians, spend too much time talking about the tragedy of divorce and not even remotely enough time talking about the nature and definition of marriage. For all the oceans of books out there trying to minister to the hurting who have been through a divorce, books about the actual state of marriage are either superficial and overly-romantic, or they are simply wrong.

Listen: divorce is tragic -- worse by far than unexpected death. And it is also epidemic (although not as bad as some people make it out to be). But the root cause of divorce is not marriage: the root cause of divorce is a failure to understand marriage and the roles of man and wife inside marriage.

So if we are going to discuss this topic, we have to start with the essential definition of marriage first, and then work from there to what the solutions are when things veer off the perfect world of the ideal and the theoretical, and it has implications which even help us sort out problems like the alleged-desire of Homosexuals to have "marriage".

Let me also say, as I begin this series, that the only marriage I have substantial knowledge of is my own marriage to my own extraordinary wife, and in that I may be basing my experience on something which is far above the norm because of the person to whom I am fortunate enough to be married to. In that, you are probably going to be offended by what I am going to say in this series. While a lesser blogger would say to you, "don't take it personal," I say to you, "take it personal because that's the only way it makes any sense."