the wrecker is coming

Phil posted a video at TeamPyro today which is a parody of the Rob Bell "Bullhorn Guy" video, and then the Friel extrapolation of the Bell "Bullhorn Guy" video, and it made me think about this guy I work with.

He and I have had a few conversations about the Christian faith because he says he's a Christian, but he doesn't go to church anymore -- and here's the irony: it's not because church is too judgmental. It's because, as he says, church is too full of pretty people.

That's his phrase: "pretty people". Now, if you ask him what that means, he'll tell you that he's a pretty messed-up guy with a lot of spiritual problems, and a church full of pretty people with no problems doesn't do anything for him but frustrate him. Their lives don't encourage him or make him a better person or turn him toward God: their lives actually discourage him because he knows, frankly, that he'll never get there.

Now, before we break out the big Calvinist "we're #1" fingers and start playing the Fight Song, that's not all of this guy's thoughts. He's also a guy who doesn't really like the idea of hell and wants to qualify it as separation only, and he's ultimately not into a church that is going to make demands on him.

But I bring this up for a couple of reasons. The first one is this -- we really have to answer the questions people have, and not the questions we wish they had. In one sense, those of us with the Gospel are driving along on the highway of life and we see a lot of cars on the side of the road -- all kinds of breakdowns -- and we are in the only bus that is going to get people to someplace other than the junkyard. And we're supposed to be stopping and picking people up, not just driving past and worrying about these people.

But if we stop the bus and get out wearing a tuxedo (or, for the ladies reading, a wedding dress) and tell these people we've come to help, they're probably not going to take our offer at face value -- because they don't really need a pretty person in nice clothes to help them with a busted jalopy: at the very least, they think they need a mechanic, or a cell phone to call a mechanic, or maybe a guy with a toolbox. They're not looking for someone in clothes so nice that they'd be afraid to mess them up.

The other reason to bring this up is that while they may recognize some part of the problem, the other half of the truth is that they don't really know what they need. They have "felt needs", right? They might be worried that they can't get to work because their car is busted, or they might be worried that they can't afford a new car so this old one has to keep running. But the real solution for anyone is that they have to get on the bus. They don't have to pay a fare, they don't have to sit in any particular seat: they just have to get on the bus and leave the old car behind.

That solution may not seem intuitive to them -- even though it seems really obvious to us. So as we try to get people on the bus, let me suggest that we not forget that the goal is to get people on the bus because the wrecker is coming. Their busted jalopy will get picked up by the wrecker, and they need to leave the busted jalopy or they are going to go where it is going.

We probably should be dressed in a way that they'll believe us when we tell them to get on the bus, but they have to get on the bus -- and the reason is not because the bus will take them where they think they want to go: it's because the jalopy is going someplace they definitely don't want to go, whether they believe it or not.

She's not famous like me

Got a bog kick out of Stephen King's interview with TIME Magazine, especially where he's riffing on how Britney Spears is not news-worthy but his movie about monsters in the fog is.

Because she's not famous like he's famous, even though he admits he's famous for being the "designated kid" who makes up stories.

Because it's the holiday season

Christmas sale at the Pawn Shop. Get it on.

Well, here goes ...

It all sort of comes together here where iMonk makes what case he has against Piper – and it turns out to be something you can't describe with words lest one gets accused of all kind of intellectual villainy.

Get this:
One of my earliest critiques of what I was reading in Piper was that I didn’t hear much to forestall fanaticism. The tone of things- and I don’t mean the content, I mean the tone of the rhetoric- is very interesting to listen to.
Ah – the tone! May heaven forbid that our tone is somehow more than merely academic or disinterested, or that we have any sincere passion in our words. Because, you see, this is where such tone leads:
Today, I hear more and more from the back rows of this reformed revolution that sounds like Washer: Revivalistic. Loud. Aggressive. Angry. Wanting a fight. Desiring persecution.

There’s something about that level of rhetoric that always makes me think of the zealous rhetoric of Islam, and I have to wonder at what point the tone of things becomes a clue to how the Bible is being used and how Jesus Christ himself is being proclaimed.
Islam, you see, and "a clue" to how the Bible is being used – that's nothing like what Alan at Thinklings said about iMonk and his initial pass-by on the topic of Piper's theology.

For those who missed it, Alan said this:

I mean, just as Jared mentioned, I get that over-emphasizing one doctrine to the detriment of others is a bad thing. But I didn't see anything wrong with what Piper said in that clip, and that's where you said to look. He didn't even discuss God's sovereignty. So what are you resenting, other than the implication you created and I responded to?

Frankly, I think you left your statement vague enough so that you could claim this kind of plausible deniability when anybody called you out, but you either won't really say or don't know what your problem is with Piper.
Which, of course, iMonk called, "making my psychological state the issue and I won’t have that discussion with strangers in comment threads".

When Alan does it, it's an offense; when iMonk does it, with overtly inflammatory language, it's rational discourse, objective to the core, with no baggage.

It is. Seriously – anything else I could say would cause much ho-ho-ho.

Ben (withering)10

Last week Ben Witherington posted a little something he titled, "For God so loved Himself?" Is God a Narcissist?, which has received a little bit of play and a (brief) response from John Piper.

I had a long week last week, so I didn’t quite have the time to shake out that post, but I happen to have an hour this morning, and I'm sure Ben is glad that the dark side of town has finally gotten to his opinion on the subject of God and His Glory.

Let's make sure we "get" that this is s critique of Ben's post and not of what's going on in the meta of that post, which may deserve its own treatment. That said, here we go:
I was recently reading through the proofs of a new book on New Testament Theology, and it was stated that the most basic theme or thesis of NT theology is --'God magnifying himself through Jesus Christ by means of the Holy Spirit'.

There were various nuances and amplifications to the discussion, but the more one read, the more it appeared clear that God was being presented as a self-centered, self-referential being, whose basic motivation for what he does, including his motivation for saving people, is so that he might receive more glory. Even the sending of the Son and the work of the Spirit is said to be but a means to an end of God's self-adulation and praise.
I have to admit that one of things about this post that seems not quite right is how one-sided it is. That is, not one-sided in opinion, but one-sided in discussion. Because Ben is reading a book not yet in print, he may have an obligation not to cite it directly – which, I guess, is fine. But it's hard to compare or substantiate what comes next when what we get is a one-sentence summary of a doctrine which, frankly, requires a little more nuance than Ben delivers here.

Does God receive "more glory"? Well, more glory than what? And when one objects to God being "self-referential", doesn’t that overlook God's ontological position among everything in which He is creator and everything else is not?

And what about the well-known first question of the Westminster Catechism –
Q. 1. What is the chief end of man?
A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.
Is that statement making God "self-centered"?

I think what has happened here is that Ben has simplified someone's theology farther than is justified, and has left out a bunch of stuff. Which, you know, happens. But when that happens, maybe one should be careful about saying things like this:
What's wrong with this picture? How about the basic understanding of God's essential and moral character?
Somehow the point that God's essential character, and God's moral character, are in fact self-referential. That is, as God would say: "I am the LORD, and there is no other, besides me there is no God; I equip you." (Is 45 for the verse number wonks)

It is in that which there are effects of God's character – such as love for creation, specifically for man; judgment on creation, specifically on man; mercy on creation, specifically on man; and so on. To try to segment God's reliance on God alone before approaching the rest of this stuff kinda misses the point of who and what exactly God is.

I think that's why I found this particularly disturbing:
For instance, suppose this thesis stated above is true-- would we not expect John 3.16 to read "for God so loved himself that he gave his only begotten Son..."?
In fact, no we would not expect that – because this expectation is seeded by the idea that there is only one goal or one tier of goals in the divine will. May I suggest that there is certainly more than one tier of objectives in God's plan – even to the most divinely-fixated Edwardsian thinker. And in that, in John 3 Jesus is not speaking to the ultimate or highest tier of God's will but to the meaning of redemption in God's will.

To say that God loves the world does not nullify God's jealous love of Himself and His own holiness and perfection – and to anticipate that the only love God would speak of is His view of Himself does make God like us, but neither the common Edwardsian or the nuttier ones you might encounter go that far.
Or again if this thesis is true, would we not expect Phil. 2.5-11 to read differently when it speaks about Christ emptying himself? If the Son is the very image and has the same character as the Father, wouldn't we expect this text to say--'who being in very nature God, devised a plan to glorify himself through his incarnation' if God really is so self-referential? In other words I am arguing Christ, the perfect image of God's character, reveals that God's character is essentially other directed self-sacrificial love. God loves people, not merely as means to his own ends, but as ends in themselves.
I think the irony here is that Ben is asking us to believe that the writer of the book he is considering is making an either/or proposition: either God is glorified –or- a man or mankind is somehow glorified or made right. Can't it be both, where one is an effect of the other – an intended and intentional effect where both objectives are effected to their best possible outcome? Why must it be bifurcated into either God is glorified or God loves man enough to save man – doesn’t it seem more sensible that God is glorified by His love for man and by His saving of man – but that as much as man is saved, the greater objective is the demonstration of who God is because God is, in fact, the greater being both ontologically and spiritually?
Or take Heb. 12.2-- we are told that Jesus died for our sins, not 'for the glory set before him', and in view of how this would improve his honor rating but rather 'for the joy set before him'. That is, he despised the shame of dying on the cross, which death was the least self-glorifying thing he could do, because he knew of how it would benefit his people thereafter, and he took joy in that fact.
Ben's view is that "the joy which was set before [Christ]" is –only- the salvation of His people – but reading this passage closely renders two outcomes which, I think, Ben overlooks:

[1] That the joy set before Christ is parallel to the race set before "us", and that the goal of both seems to be the same goal.

[2] That salvation per se is not listed here as the joy of Christ but that being seated at the right hand of the throne of God is listed as the outcome of Christ's endurance.

The parallel here is that we should reflect Christ's obedience so that we may end up where Christ is -- which is, frankly, in a glorified state. Certainly our salvation is purchased at the cross – but this passage is not talking about propitiation directly: it is talking about our endurance as it reflects Christ's endurance – and the end of such a thing is to end up in glory as Christ is himself in Glory.
Or re-read Hosea 11 where God explains that his love for his people is not at all like the fickle, self-seeking love of mere human beings. But rather God keeps loving his children, whether they praise or love or worship him or not.
This may be the most puzzling part of Ben's riff here because, again, it speaks specifically to God's self-referential nature in that even if men change or are evil, God is still good and faithful! That is, that God isn’t going to get jerked around by the infidelity of men – even of Israel! God will be God and do what He intends.
Let me be clear that of course the Bible says it is our obligation to love, praise, and worship God, but this is a very different matter from the suggestion that God worships himself, is deeply worried about whether he has enough glory or not, and his deepest motivation for doing anything on earth is so that he can up his own glory quotient, or magnify and praise himself.
Dr. Piper has already sent a salvo of scripture over this statement, but my small contribution here is this: what is evident in the Bible is not just that it is "right" that we worship God: it is what God desires for us and from us. That is, God desires the worship of men. Does that really need a proof-text? Do we have to outline the books of Moses to show how God defines worship and take extraordinary time to define what it means to worship him? Or to point of that Hosea makes the case that the real sin if Israel is giving worship to false gods and not to God who desires and deserves it?

It is difficult to frame what Scripture says about worship except by noting how God frames the matter and the problem in that He thinks we desire to worship Him less than He himself desires us to worship Him.
If we go back to the Garden of Eden story, one immediately notices that it is the Fall and sin which turned Adam and Eve into self-aware, self-centered, self-protecting beings. This is not how God had created them. Rather, he had created them in the divine image, and that divine image involves other directed, other centered love and relating. It follows from this that not the fallen narcissistic tendencies we manifest reflect what God is really like, but rather other directed, self-giving loving tendency.
I think Ben would be hard-pressed to demonstrate that from the text. I would enjoy discussing that with him specifically. Until such a time, I think it's appropriate to say, "that definition of the image of God is imaginative at best – and overlooks the definition of the image of God provided, for example, by Gen 1:26-29 and Gen 9:6."
I like the remark of Victor Furnish that God's love is not like a heat-seeking missile attracted to something inherently attractive in this or that person. Rather God's other-directed love bestows worth, honor, even glory. Notice exactly what Psalm 8.5 says--God has made us but a little less than God (or another reading would be, 'than the angels') and crowned human beings with glory and honor. Apparently this does not subtract from God's glory (see vs. 1) but simply adds to it. God it would appear is not merely a glory grabber, but rather a glory giver.
It seems odd that Ben can get this – that God's glory and some other objective can coexist and even be co-terminus – but then stand by his criticism of God-centeredness. But even in that, I think he mistakes the point of Ps 8 – which is that God is glorified by the things He has done.
I suppose we should not be surprised that in a culture and age of narcissism, we would recreate God in our own self-centered image, but it is surprising when we find orthodox Christians, and even careful scholars doing this.
I think what is surprising is that Ben doesn’t really understand the thing he is criticizing here very well. He's a well-respected guy with a very popular blog and quite a few books published – but it seems he doesn’t really get how God-centeredness works. That is to say, the greatest commandment is, "Love the Lord your God with all your mind, soul and strength", and that the Lord commanded this knowing it is for our own good.

New Junk

Same ridiculous prices.

Wallace fan club update

No, I haven't fixed the t-shirt yet. I found this entry at on Bible translations, and if you haven't read it, you should.

In other news, check out my bookstore's new template and let me know if your browser is crashing when it opens. I have one computer in my beta assortment that can't seem to open the page, but everything else from Mac to Windows to Unix seems to be OK. Your opinion may differ, and I am interested in knowing what happens.

Space Madness

I just wanted to point something out about this article I found via Drudge about how long the universe really has before it's all over.

While it is tempting to guffaw at this kind of hyper-theorizing, isn't it ironic that, yet again, as so-called "science" tries to explain the universe without God, what it instead produces is a perfect description of things where the harder man tries, the worse his situation gets and he winds up needing a savior? Think about that: man is in such a ghastly state, according to this article, that even looking at the universe closely causes it to get worse.

I mean: wow. If a Fundie had said such a thing, he'd be laughed at in every place scoffers and mockers could find to do so. But when a Scientist says such a thing, we quiver at the implications.

Weightier Matters

Finished the "weighier matters" post on Rob Bell. For those who lost track.

Traditional centuri0n turkey recipe

Because you won't get by this week without it:

Well, they say that a Turkey recipe will get hits this close to the season, so I'm going to give you my recipe for roasting a Turkey in order to add content that everyone can use to the blog.

You do not have to be "truly reformed" to use this recipe. You just have to like Turkey and stuffing.

Roasting a turkey isn't as hard as it sounds. Here's a basic recipe to get you started. In this case, the turkey is stuffed. DO NOT stuff the turkey and put it in the fridge overnight: that's bacteriologically a bad idea, and we want you all to enjoy Thanksgiving on the sofa, not on a hospital gurney.


12- to 14-lb. turkey, thawed if purchased frozen
1 bag, your favorite "Italian" croutons
2-4 bouillon cubes
2-3 stalks, celery, chopper or cubed
1 cup carrots, chopped
½ cup onions, finely chopped
1 tsp, dried parsley
1 cup, cashews
Pepper and Garlic Salt

  1. Preheat your oven to 325. Remove the cooking racks, then place one rack into oven at the lowest position.

  2. Unwrap your THAWED Turkey in a clean sink, and remove the giblets – that bag of stuff that you never thought you would use for anything because it looks gross. It's not gross. You may have to unhook the metal clip which holds the legs together in order to get all the giblets out; you may have to run some warm water into the bird to get the giblets out. Don't be afraid.

  3. Start a medium-sized pot of water boiling – not more than 3 cups. Put your packet of giblets in the water (sans wrapping paper), along with your bouillon cubes and the carrots, celery and parlsey. 2 cubes will make a somewhat-mild flavored stuffing; 6 will make a very salty and spicy stuffing. You know what you like best, so add the cubes to the low end of your tolerance for spicy. For your reference, I usually use 4 cubes. Boil this mix for about 30 minutes – long enough to cook the giblets thoroughly.

  4. While the soup (yes: you very smart readers knew that we were making soup, didn't you?) is cooking, wash the Turkey thoroughly, inside and out. I wouldn't use soap as you might miss a spot in the rinse and ruin your hours of hard work here, but washing the bird is an important health safety tip. If we were deep frying the bird (that's the Christmas recipe), washing is pretty much unimportant because if some germ can survive the deep fryer, it will kill you before you eat any of the dinner. Anyway, clean the bird thoroughly and put it in a large roasting pan. For this recipe, the deeper the roasting pan, the better. I suggest a large disposable roasting pan from WAL*MART even though it might possibly ring up at the wrong price.

    If you get bored waiting for the soup to finish up, this would be a good time to rub salt and pepper into the skin of your bird. Visually, salt and pepper the skin so that it looks like very light TV static. Do the top (the breast side) and the bottom (where the shoulders are); do not worry if you put less on the breast side. Because of the way this bird is going to cook, pay special attention to salting and peppering the wings and drumsticks.

  5. You now have a clean, prepped bird and a very delicious-smelling pot of soup. You have to make stuffing now. Remove the soup from the heat and remove the giblets. If you are a complete carnivore (like me), take the fully-cooked giblets to your food chopper and chop them up and put them back into the soup (you can't chop up the neck, but if you have 20 minutes, de-bone the neck and put your neck meat into the soup).

    Those of you grossed out by chopping up the giblets can throw them away. The rest of us will weep for you.

    Now empty the bag of croutons into the soup. If you used about 2 cups of water, you will get a somewhat-damp bread-and-soup mixture; if you used about 3 cups of water, you will get a very wet bread-and-soup mixture. I like the latter better, but some people like their stuffing more dry than others. The extraordinary secret here is that a soupier stuffing makes for a more-moist bird in the final product. After the soup and the bread are well- mixed, add the cashews and mix again.

  6. When you have this mixing complete, use a tablespoon and start loading the stuffing into the bird. Pack the stuffing down into the bird to get the cavity of the body completely full of stuffing. Don't leave any air pockets. Once the Turkey is completely stuffed, position it in the roasting tray breast-side down (I learned that from watching Emeril) in the center of the pan, and load the pan with the rest of your stuffing mix.

  7. Cover the Turkey, and place it inside your oven. After 2 hours in the heat, remove the cover and roast for another hour. In this final hour, the skin of the exposed parts should turn golden brown. At the end of the third hour, test the bird with a meat thermometer; the center temperature should be 175-180 degrees F. It will be the most unbelievable bird you every ate.

Piper Sounds the Charge

This is what I want for Christmas.

More Important Matters

Look - I'll just start the post with the fireworks, and then let the chips fall where they may.

Rob Bell.

Everybody over it already? I said "Rob Bell", and now you can all just settle down and listen to me for a minute. We have a new reader, or a lurker who came out of lurking to comment on a post last week, and I popped over to his blog to see what sort of blogospheric fauna he represented, and all in all I liked his blog. It's a little, um, dark in template for me as I am old and getting more and more squinty-eyed, but at least he doesn't play his music too loud.

Of particular interest today would be Tyler's review of Velvet Elvis to point out that he's no raving sycophant for Bell and his teaching.

This is important to point out because of this post by Tyler which leads us to this sermon by the afore-mentioned Rob Bell. The version I have linked to is at for the sake of having a static link which is unlikely to be banished or shuffled by the needs of someone else's server.

Tyler says this, among other things about Bell's sermon on a section of Mt 23:
It was awesome. It was fantastic. It was balanced, clear, biblical, exegetical, and utterly entirely convincing. In his opening prayer he even mentioned that the words of Jesus contain edges, which was nice to hear. I honestly cannot think of any one point where I would disagree or ask for clarification. Listen to it yourself, because it was awesome.
Which, of course, causes one to want to listen for one's self because who wants to miss "awesome" and "fantastic" "balanced" preaching? It caused me to listen, anyway.

Now, here are some highlights from the mp3 I listened to:

[*] A really, really good cross-reference to the OT laws on tithing and dietary law; very useful in exposing the problem Christ was condemning the Pharisees and Teachers for, especially in the context that they were Jews who were in Moses' seat and were teachers of the Law.

[*] A really, really good exposition of the counterpoint between the keeping of the Law and the "weightier matters" of the Law ("justice and mercy and faithfulness" in the ESV; "judgment, mercy, and faith" in the KJV).

[*] And all things considered, a really good view into the faulty heart behind legalism which seeks, as Jesus says elsewhere, to get the outside of the cup clean but forgets that it's the inside of the cup that needs to be cleaned up - which is an important contexter here, which we will also come back to.

So yeah - on the on hand, there's something worth listening to in Bell's presentation which, I think, any decent Bible expositor would be excited to hear in and of itself.

That, however, is not all. And I think it's somewhat interesting that this sermon turns out the way it does in the context of some of the larger conversations and meta-threads in the blogosphere these days - because it winds up pointing directly at the question of what it means to have a "kingdom on earth" in some relationship with "salvation in heaven".

Here's what he says:
All of this wasn't because you don't want a gnat - because a gnat had religious significance. For a Pharisee, their understanding of why things had fallen apart for them - remember, you're a good Jew, you live in Israel, you believe you're God's chosen people, you believe that God called your father Abraham and you are one of Abraham's sons and Abraham's daughters and your job is to show the world what God is like. SO your whole worldview is built on, "you are chosen, special and predestined". But something unfortunate has happened: world history hasn't really worked that way. You've been conquered by the Assyrians, the Babylonians, you ancestors were slaves in Egypt, you have now been conquered by the Romans. And this giant global military super power, the Romans, has just crushed you. And so you've got Roman soldiers in all of your streets, and these Roman soldiers don't even believe in your God. Your God is like, what, the God of the Jews? I mean, you don't even have statues, c'mon.

So as a good Jew, you live with this aching {sigh} ... we were supposed to be the ones who, like, showed the world what God is like, and instead we just get beat - who-whoever seems to be in charge of the world, we just get beaten up, just consistently, and now with these Romans have taken over [sic].

And so for the Pharisees, central to their worldview is, "I'll tell you why this has happened to us. I'll tell you why our country is under oppression and occupation. I'll tell you why this has happened: because of sinners. God is judging us because we haven't been pure and upright." So the problem is all of these, ah, prostitutes and sinners and unclean people. And so for a Pharisee, their, uh, drive to be what's called 'ritually clean' - we want to show God that there are some of us who aren't like "them". And so for a Pharisee, your spirituality was tied up in how well you could distance yourself from anybody unclean or any sinners. They're the reason why we're in this political mess.
Now, listen closely here because this is sort of tricky. Ultimately, Bell is right about this. To a large part, there was an apparently-good motive behind what the Pharisees did. It wasn't the only motive, but it was one of them. There are other motives which the Pharisees are given woe over by Jesus - in the rest of Mt 23. Woe for taking the best seats; woe for being greedy; you read Mt 23 and decide for yourself how much woe Jesus calls down on these guys - because there's a lot of reason for Jesus to call woe to them, not just a mistaken sense of how kosher works.

But let's first be completely fair about this one section: it does, in fact, point out that one of the problems that the Pharisees had is that they thought that if they kept all the rules, God would like them better - God would be faithful to them if they were faithful. Any reader of this blog ought to recognize that as rank legalism, and in that we can applaud Bell for recognizing rank legalism.

Now before we go on, it would be useful to keep in mind the rest of Mt 23, which goes something like this:

    Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, "The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so practice and observe whatever they tell you— but not what they do. For they preach, but do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ. The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

    "But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.

    "Woe to you, blind guides, who say, 'If anyone swears by the temple, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.' You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that has made the gold sacred? And you say, 'If anyone swears by the altar, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gift that is on the altar, he is bound by his oath.' You blind men! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred? So whoever swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. And whoever swears by the temple swears by it and by him who dwells in it. And whoever swears by heaven swears by the throne of God and by him who sits upon it.

    "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!

    "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.

    "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

    "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous, saying, 'If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.' Thus you witness against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers. You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell? Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, so that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of innocent Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. Truly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.

    "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! See, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.'"
See: Jesus isn't just concerned with so-called "legalism" here, right? Jesus is concerned about something which He labels "hypocrisy", which looks like "cleaning the outside of the cup and the plate, but [leaving the] inside they full of greed and self-indulgence". In that, what Bell misses pretty boldly is that Christ is not merely saying, "legalism is bad": He's also say that legalism for the sake of oppressing others and lifting one's self up is bad.

The "woe" of the Pharisees is not merely personal holiness: it is also leveraging holiness for the sake of trodding others down.

That's why we should have some kind of qualm with Rob Bell saying this:

So the reason you don't want a gnat in your wine is because you are a Pharisee and you want to be ritually clean as a way of saying, "we understand how we got in this mess, and if people would just be righteous and pure and holy like us, then God could show up and do what God's supposed to do." So for them, the gnat was about their standing with God, their holiness, righteousness, uh goodness, and at the same time simply them being, uh, holier, better, more righteous than the sinners around them.

So Jesus says, "you strain out a gnat, you are so devoted to personal holiness and cleanliness - your own definitions - before God, but the problem is in straining out a gnat you swallow a camel." ... (riff on Lev 11)

... It's a crushing blow to the Pharisees because for them, everything was about being right with God, being clean, being holy, being pure, being in right standing with God. It's the driving thing for a Pharisee is I wanna be right before God [sic]. And Jesus says, "you are so consumed with being in right relationship with God and your own personal holiness and purity and cleanliness, you are spending so much time making sure that you don't get gnats in your wine that in the process you have neglected the bigger issues of the suffering of the world.
The context of Mt 23:23 is far broader than Rob Bell wants it to be – because Bell is frankly trying to imply something here that impugns traditional, conservative Christian churches. And that is: somehow, churches don’t do enough for the world.

Here's how he phrased it:
And because God's heart beats for the suffering of the world, and because you have missed the more important matters (Jesus' words) all of your efforts at cleanliness have actually lead you to be unclean before God. You strain out a gnat, yeah, but in the process you're swallowing a camel.

Well, uh, what do you do with that? What do you do with that? Perhaps, by way of reflection, just a couple thoughts. Sometimes you will hear somebody talk about "It's all about me and God".

Sometimes you will hear among Christians spirituality as defined the kind that pleases God, when it all comes down to it, it's all about me and God. And that sounds great, but the problem is that it's not what Jesus teaches. The obsession of the Pharisees, which started as a very righteous, good, beautiful impulse, which is we want to be standing right with God, we want personal cleanliness, had become so far out of wack - and once again, it's not to neglect this, isn't not like, "hey just live however you want, but what matters ... " no no no: cause Jesus says you gotta do both. It led them to miss the larger issues of justice, mercy and faithfulness which God never stops talking about. Which Jesus never stops talking about. Which the first Christians never stop talking about.

Be very, very careful. When somebody takes their relationship with God and says, "all that matters is me and God". Because Jesus didn't teach that. God isn't just interested in saving you. God isn't just interested in redeeming me. God isn't just interested in help you work through your stuff. God isn't just interested in your own morality purity and devotion to the way of Jesus. God wants to use us to do something about the greatest suffering in the world.
What he does is make that same phony distinction which some of you have seen Doug Pagitt make recently over at the TeamPyro blog – that is, that somehow there's no "already"/"not yet" tension in the message of the Gospel and Jesus' message of the Kingdom – and he translates that into something wholly-bizarre.

In Bell's view, personal holiness tracks parallel to the Pharisees' obsession with the keeping of the whole law – but somehow, the social gospel, and doing acts to relieve "the suffering of the world" is not a dangerous and legalistic way of interpreting Christ's message.

Listen: the works-righteousness of "I don’t drink or smoke or cuss or go with girls who do" is not any more or less legalistic than the works-righteousness of "I don't waste paper or water or gasoline or go with humans who do, without regard to their sex or gender". If it's the works which make us closer to God, we are only trading one menu of laws we can't keep for another menu of laws we can't keep – in spite of our very humble smugness as we shop at the mall or drink coffee which costs $5 a cup.

What bothers me about this talk is not the mulling-over of what kind of works-righteousness the Pharisees had: it's the failure to mull over the works righteousness someone is trying to put in its place.

Let me define missiology ...

... by linking to a post by John Piper on how the church ought to foster maturity.

da bea'down

Anthony Bradley represents:
The great tragedy of American Christianity is that it has no idea how to reach men like Joe. What do guys like Joe need? Answer: salvation, healing, restoration, mission, fortified in genuine love because Jesus died for guys in hardcore culture but few men have the vision to tell these men the story.
Read it, and then ask yourself: why do all the people in my church look alike?

five reasons

Piper gives 5 reasons why ETS should recapture the doctrine of justification as fundamental.

The 6th reason is that it will make J. P. Moreland mad ...


J. P. Moreland goes too far in saying that evangelicals have gone too far. I leave it to you to decide in what way -- you'll enjoy thinking about it.

Darrin Patrick thinks I'm cute

Part 2 of Darrin Patrick's talk at Covenant Seminary is allegedly up @, but I couldn't get the link there to download the file. I had to monkey with the URLs and it's just to darn complicated to explain -- so I archived the file I finally got at so you could enjoy it, too.

He makes a minor mistake by calling TeamPyro "John MacArthur's boys", but he makes up for it when he says we're "cute when we're angry". If you're reading this, Darrin, you must be doing something right -- my brother-in-law lives in St. Louis and you make him crazy every time you're quoted in the paper. I love that.

handles and weight

I hate to break up all the really interesting side-shows going on here at my blog, but I had a half-hour today and something has been coming up this week over and over as I have been chatting to flesh-and-blood people, and I wanted to play it here a little for a wilder audience that will either ridicule it or sharpen it with their various tools of rock, copper, bronze and iron.

Here's a little passage from Mark 4 (ESV), with the verse numbers left in to keep us all on the same sheet of music:
    30 And he said, "With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it? 31It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown on the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth, 32yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade."

    33 With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it. 34He did not speak to them without a parable, but privately to his own disciples he explained everything.

    35 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, "Let us go across to the other side." 36And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. 37And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. 38But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, "Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?" 39And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, "Peace! Be still!" And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40He said to them, "Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?" 41And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, "Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?"
And any person you meet except the really militantly self-absorbed would agree with the following statement:
The Gospel of Mark is a historical account of jesus' life, and as such, this passage of Mark reports historical events in the life and ministry of Jesus.
Now, here's where many people will bail out of the discussion: How much time elapses between v. 32 and v. 35 in Mark 4?

I mean, this is a historical account, right? So it doesn’t seem very problematic to say, without being very cheeky, "The rest of the day, cent. Pay attention."

That's fine, I guess – no reason to argue about that. But what did Jesus say during the rest of the day? We know in general what Jesus said – Mark says, "With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it. He did not speak to them without a parable, but privately to his own disciples he explained everything" – but we don't have any kind of a record of what Jesus said in the rest of the day.

Now, that's pretty much undeniable – we don't have any way to tell what Jesus said specifically the rest of that day. And worse still, when v. 35 begins, "on that day, when evening had come," Mark may also be saying "on that day when this next stuff happened", so it's another day entirely.

And I bring this up not to impugn the clarity of Scripture, but to instead ask what it means to have a class of literature which conveys historical facts. In the first place, we can see that not every minute detail has been included in Scripture – how often Jesus drank water, for example, is not included in the holy writ. In the second place, there are massive omissions of dates and time – so much so that there's no way to say that the "synoptic" Gospels actually list the events of Christ's life as if they were a travelogue.

But if this is so, how does the good Christian say that the Bible says things which are true, let alone that the Bible is truth? How do we trust them, for example, as history when these texts are practically date-free?

Well: we have to be better readers than my first-grader. We have to be somewhat literate readers who understand things like genre and type and authorial intent. Because it turns out that Scripture is clear, and is truth, but not in some wooden sense where words don’t do what they do in every other place we use them.

So on the one hand, to stick with my example of Mark, we can say that Mark wrote a historical account of the life of Christ. But on the other hand, he wasn't transcribing Jesus' diary of his 3-year ministry: Mark was ordering the events, or grouping them, or relating them, to underscore specific truths about the life of Christ – building contrasts and comparisons in the events in order to make what we can call expositional points.

That's going to rub a lot of people the wrong way, but who asked them? Here's what you can't do with the Bible: you can't demand that it be "narrative" and not define what kind of "narrative" it is, especially in its diversity of text types. But once you define its genre – its type by book and author – you then have the broad opportunity to read and receive what's written as it was intended to be received.

And I say all that to say this: we can't get all broken up when somebody comes to us and wants to tell us that the Bible is a shaky foundation for faith. For centuries – millennia almost – the Bible has been recognized as one of the great sets of literature man has available to read. And in that, we can’t read it like it's simple hack writing; we can't receive it as great literature but expect it to be easier to read than Milton or Shakespeare or Spencer. The Bible is a beautiful thing, and in that it has all the attributes of beauty: simplicity and complexity, accessibility and incomprehensibility, small handles that even a kid can grasp but massive weight that grown men will strain at to carry.

We have a beautiful thing in the Bible and we can't let someone scare us off that just because they don’t really understand how beauty works. There's more to be said about this, but I have run out of daylight today, so think about that and we'll come back to it eventually.

They read my blog

Maybe I should sue, since they obviously got the idea from me.

Maybe I should be glad I didn't get a "cease and desist" for all the cool comic images I scanned from my boxes of tattered comics ...

a note about taxonomy

I just read that we don't really know anything about 90% of the life on our planet.

If that's the case, I think we have to ask ourselves what kind of sweeping statements about life and its origins we can make based on observation.

I thought plants were good for the environment?

I read this yesterday and it stayed with me all day like bad salami.

Here's what bothers me about this little incident:

[1] Drudge's complicity in what is frankly a non-story.

[2] The very shallow perspective of the college kid who is so disillusioned.

[3] The unwillingness of Hillary's sideshow to say, "Oh please: everybody does this. Phil Donahue did it back in the 80's when he travelled with Posner, there's at least one plant in every audience to start questions, and it's nothing new..." It demonstrates that they think they did something wrong -- which, sadly, indicates they don't know the difference between right and wrong.

Be serious. Why wouldn't she plant some softballs in the audience? These public events are to show how good she is, not how bad she is -- she should have somebody there who's going to ask an intelligent question which she can answer intelligently.

Would it be better if the candidate could just answer any question asked? Why yes: it would. But the problem is that most people don't even know how to ask questions anymore. As Chris Arnzen has said in the past, a question ends with a question mark -- it's a brief interrogative which causes the one asked to respond.

Isay this isn;t even newsworthy. It's barely blog-worthy.

Because Oklahoma doesn't have any worse problems...

... like rampant and vulgar Charismatic chaos or the appearance of casinos on every street corner, the Arbuckle Baptist Association has issued a fatwa against (sorry) issued a recommendation that the SBC take a stand against reformed theology and/or Calvinism.

It's funny how the Calvinists want the SBC to have truthful membership records and take a resolution to exercise biblical church discipline, but the other side wants to ban alcohol and Calvinism. There's a punch-line in there someplace, but I'm just too vexed to think of it.

Because Mars Hill never does anything but entertain ...

... they provide a web site formerly known as "zhubert" which is now called Re:Greek. Because Greek plus the NASB plus the ESV is only a sideshow.

For VoxPop visitors, that's sarcasm up above. Reading this blog once is like coming into the middle of a soap opera -- you can't even tell who all the characters are in one episode, but if you stick around the right ones will grow on you.

The Main Event

You most faithful readers know that ultimately, I'm a fan of Mark Driscoll. Fan -- can't help it. Somebody has said that there isn't a "Billy Graham" for 21st century Christianity, and I totally disagree -- I think Driscoll is in the running to be such a thing, if I can say that and not cause a complete melt-down of the blogosphere and everything that's holy.

I just got wind of this because I was poking around at his church website, but Pastor Mark is conducting a poll to find out what he ought to preach on in January, and I just scanned the top-50 contenders for topics, and I think it's pure gold.

Now, some of you are going to have a lot of negative things to say about this technique -- like it's a little cheeky of Driscoll to ask the internet, which is frankly overpopulated with non-believers, to pick his sermon topics. But before you start cranking the handle of your organ and set the monkey to dancing, look at the list of questions.

If Driscoll preaches through this list of questions and gives the orthodox answers to these questions, he will have done more for Christian evangelism than anyone since Billy Graham because this is the ground in which we are conducting evangelism today.

Greatest Scam in History

Some of you have already seen this, but NewsBusters has digested a longer essay by the guy who founded the Weather Channel about Global Warming, found at the treasure trove known as "".

You should read the whole original article, but before you click through, turn your sound off as the home website has annoying theme music.

It's the greatest scam in history, and somehow I haven't cashed in on it. What kind of retailer am I?

UPDATED: In case you are looking for a kind of Executive Summary of what's what in Global Warming, here's one of the best summaries of the subject by FAQ you can find.

Final Soccer Update

We started the first quarter down 2-0, came back in the second quarter to tie it 2-2, they scored one in the third period, and we never were able to get the ball back on their side of the field in a meaningful way. Final: 3-2.

No complaints. I'm mostly glad it's over.

Note to Steve Camp ...

Apparently I'm not the only one who thinks "prominent evangelistic ministries ... have illegally used donations to finance opulent lifestyles."
Mr. Grassley said that he and Finance Committee staff members focused on these ministries because they were “intrigued” by investigative reports about many of them in local newspapers and on television. They also received tips from watchdog groups like the Trinity Foundation in Dallas and

“It centered on these six ministries,” Mr. Grassley said, “but I wouldn’t want to say there’s something magic about these six. It could be seven or eight. Who knows, after we get these answers back, we might decide we have to look at others.”

They're only 8, dude ...

I didn't sleep last night. Finals tonight. I hope I don't have to make any serious decisions at work today because I'll prolly just tell them, "look: drive down the side, let the defender over-run, pass to the center and the open man shoots. It's a simple game."

Just a game. It's just a game. Just one game. Season is over, really, and it's just one game. We play one game, and I get my evenings back. Just a game. There's not even money involved -- just a game. Just a game.

Just a game.

just a game.

yeah, but ...

soccer update: semifinals


We played the Geckos, coached by the evil Dr. Wakefield (comic book rule: all evil scientists are "Doctor", all good intellectuals are "Professor"; the notable exceptions are Professor Moriarity and Dr. Strange), who beat us the last time 4-2, and went through the season 8-1. We took the early lead at half time and were ahead 2-0, but they staged a comeback in the third period, tying it up at 2-2. In the last minute of play, the ball was loose in front of the goal, and after a series of rebounds, our star scorer finally nailed it home to win the game 3-2. Howitzer indeed.

We get a night off tomorrow, and then we play Thursday at 5:30 for the championship. I'd post video of the game, but who knows how someone would misuse it.

Now My Wife is going to take me to the hospital to check to see if I had a heart attack.

Soccer Update

When the score is 12-0 and you win, there's nothing else to say.

Tomorrow is game 2 in the tournament, and we are now the #1 seed.

Stay tuned.

12 items - some mistakes

Alert reader Joel Griffith sent me this link, which gives this list:
12 Mistakes Western Mission Agencies Make:

1. The Mistake of Starting Bible Schools, Not Universities
2. The Mistake of Only “Salvation in Heaven,” not “Kingdom on Earth”
3. The Mistake of Congregations Sending Missionaries, Not Using Mission Agencies
4. The Mistake of Whole Congregations in Direct Involvement, Not Professional Missions.
5. The Mistake of Insisting that Devout Followers of Jesus Call Themselves “Christians” and Identify with the Western Church
6. The Mistake of Sending Only Money, Not Missionaries
7. The Mistake of Sending Short-Termers, Not Long-Termers
8. The Mistake of Not Understanding Business in Mission and Mission in Business
9. The Mistake of Healing the Sick, Not Eradicating Disease Germs
10. The Mistake of Thinking “Peace” Not “War”
11. The Mistake of Assuming Science Is a Foe Not a Friend
12. The Mistake of An Evangelism That is Not Validated and Empowered by Social Transformation
Here are the questions for you other alert readers:
  1. Are all of these items mistakes?
  2. Which one would you change in your church today, if any?

obama plays his trump card

Let me say frankly that Senator Obama gets points for being the only guy who could say this and not get tagged as a sexist.

Why? Because you can't call a black liberal a sexist, and he knows it. Only Sentaor Obama could say plainly what every human in America knows right now without taking political flack: Senator Hillary wants to be treated like everybody's younger sister when she really wants to be everybody's daddy.

If you want to be Daddy, you have to wear the pants and carry the load -- you can't cry foul because the other boys play with you like you're a boy. Buck up, Senator Hillary. Putin and Amajadanad or whatever his alphabet-soup name is aren't going to play tea party if you become president: they are going to play full-contact ball. If you can't take it in the primaries, you prolly won't be able to take it when Iran runs blows up a radioactive hole in the middle of the desert and then tells you that while the market says gas is $100 a barrel, they are now charging $250 and you can take it or leave it.

Points to Obama. I hope he wins so that Ron Paul can explain to him that life begins at conception, and that nobody is too poor to be born. I'll enjoy that.

Q5 at D-blog

I havbe an e-mail out to Jesse on his Q5 answer, and I'm waiting for him to reply. Until he does, I'm refraining from commenting on the outcome of the exchange. Keeping with the spirit of the D-Blog, I will not make a promouncement on "who won". I think the blogosphere won big-time in having an exchange like this taking place, but I'll let the readers decide who supported their claim better.

What do you think of Jesse's answer to Q#5?

Soccer Update

Wow! After being down 1-0 in the first period, the boys battled back through injury and fatigue to tie it up 1-1 and hold off defeat. My son came out in the 4th quarter with a twisted ankle. We had possession for about 65% of the game and took about 10 shots on goal, but we were taking long shots wide of the net or directly at the goalie.

A real nail-biter. Tournament starts Monday.

Itchy Ears

My ears are itchin' to hear the audio from the Schafer lecture Darrin Patrick gave at Covenant two weeks ago. Anyone have a link or a copy of a podcast or something?

All Saints Kiwi

I have a pdf of a book which I am going to review in the near future, but somehow I found myself reading Tall Skinny Kiwi today, specifically his iMonk-like Reformation Day post. It has several points, and I’m going to address them here:
1. The Reformers were committed to an ecumenical consensus of unity. They wanted to reform the whole church, not just one break-away segment that became the Protestant Movement. Sectarianism was not the intention.
Um, depend what you mean by “ecumenical unity”.
2. If there is a Babylon the Great today, it is not the Roman Catholic Church. It is probably something closer and dearer to us.
Well, if the Emgerents want to take on that mantle, it’s no skin off my nose – they’ll just wind up owing Ken and Ingrid an apology.

If what Andrew means by this is that there’s somebody in Memphis or perhaps at a megachurch someplace that’s inadvertently but actively supplanting Christ from His position of Lord in the church, fine. The RCC has way worse theological problems today than it had 500 years ago, including the phony ecumenism which include Jews and Muslims as true worshippers of the God of Abraham.
3. If USA and England had as many Czech immigrants as they did German, history would probably show that the Reformation started much earlier and its geographic center was a few hundred miles eastwards of where we currently believe it to be. YES - I am talking about Jan Hus.

Um, Wycliff? Francis of Assisi? You’d think a friend of emergent would be in for Francis. Yes, Hus is fine – he wasn’t the first guy in for reform and confronting the Pope with his big problems. The question, really, is who brought the matters to a head. Luther had a different political environment to work in, which is why he gets more press than Hus – and you also can’t go with #1 on this list and count Hus in as a guy who wanted “ecumenical” reform – again, because of the political environment he found himself in.

4. The Reformation was initiated NOT because of doctrinal purity, as commonly taught, but because of corruption in the use of power and wealth. Doctrinal reform was a bonus, but not the primary motivation.
Wow. My suggestion, Andrew, is that the Protestant reformation was seeking to remove political flaws in Christendom by clearly expressing theological truths – leveraging the truth of Scripture to reform the hearts and actions of men. Doctrine wasn’t a “bonus”: it was the foundation. That’s why Wycliff was the guy the Pope was trying to suppress in Hus’s day.
5. There is reform in the church today because there is corruption in the church today. God still cares about his church. So should we. The way we play with ecclesiastic power and the way we spend the Bride's finances should concern us all, not just our commitment to a common creed.
Agreed in principle. Which is, of course, where the deepest divisions begin ...
6. The emerging church might well be a protest (Don Carson) but it might also be a corrective measure to the excesses and imbalances of the reformation and the Enlightenment.
Which, of course, is the rosiest view of the movement. There’s nothing “corrective” about turning out the doctrine of penal substitution or throwing rocks at the book of Romans because it’s a didactic letter and not a piece of flowery narrative story-telling.

Let the charity police cry havoc and let loose the wiener-dogs of their disappointment …