Ben Stein's Money

Ben Stein thinks about today vs. 1979, and he is right.

HT: iMonk via Facebook.

A fine point

This essay can only be true if God actually designed the human body. If the human body is a consequence of evolution -- that is, survival of the fittest; the ones ready to make it just make it -- then this essay makes no sense.


UPDATED: There are other things God designed as well, and this follow up story hints at at least one of them.

You are going to want to read this

JT linked to this interview by Hugh Hewitt of apologist and author J. P. Moreland (and if that link goes dead, you can find it here as a converted PDF)

I will have more to say about this, either here or at TeamPyro. Pack a lunch.

a thousand words

Final parable

Kudos to David Regier for this fine entry:

There was a group of Christian farmers in Russia during the 1870's. Facing extermination or exile, they had their children pick through the wheat, saving the best kernels in giant seedbags. The rest they baked into hard rolls to sustain them on their journey to America.

Once here, they settled in the unforgiving prairie land of the Midwest. But their healthy, hardy winter wheat thrived in the harsh conditions. Eventually it became the standard throughout America's farmland, the breadbasket of the world.

The sky has fallen. Game Over.

Climate Change is now classified as "irreversible" so it will take a miracle to fix the problem.

Good thing we just elected a savior for the free world. He did not choose us: we chose him.

Last parable for the month

I forgot about the parable thing. I don;t have a parable today.

Post yours in the comments and the best one gets the front page tomorrow.

A field report from NYS

This just in from faithful reader and correspondent PFD from NYS:

There was this lady who was married to the president. She ran for the Senate, campaigned on her “track record” and easily won. It was her first elected political office, ever.

Some dirtbag in Illinois, virtually guaranteed a Senate seat, somehow got himself married to an attractive actress, tried to get her to perform in a sex club, she said No and got a divorce. When all this became public, the dirtbag’s unknown opponent became Senator – and who knows? That guy could become president someday.

Some guy, flawed but not a total dirtbag, in New York had family problems. He was a Congressman. There were domestic disturbances in his house; 911 was called; the police responded. When this was all anybody could talk about, it became the issue – whatever “it” is – it sure sounded like he was beating up his wife. A woman challenged him for his seat. We don’t know what she stood for, but as she’s a woman, so she’s probably against husbands beating up their wives. Let’s vote for her. And if it turns out that the Congressman was the one calling 911 because his wife is violent and dangerous, well, either way he has family problems and shouldn’t be in Washington, right?

There was this other guy in New York – this one was the governor – we’re back to dirtbags. The lieutenant governor became governor. And the guy who could become president someday became president, and he picked that New York senator, the one who was married to the president, to be on his cabinet. So the lieutenant governor–turned–governor appointed the presumably anti–wife beating congresswoman to be replace her in the Senate.

And that is how we find the people to run the country

A book you should love

I panned a book from Crossway over in the meta of TeamPyro yesterday, and I have a small stack of books from them on my shelf which I have been trying to get reviewed for about 4 months now. So to offset the panning they got at the other blog, I'm going to gush a little about a book about house churches.

Tim Chester and Steve Timmis have written what I think is a fabulous book about the life of the local church called Total Church: A Radical Reshaping Around Gospel and Community. It's in the RE:LIT series co-branded with Mars Hill Church in Seattle, and I love it.

Before I get all gushy over this book -- which I think is ridiculously-easy to do -- let me point out some of its limitations. For example, in the chapter on "Theology", it takes a swipe at Protestant models of Scriptural authority and salutes the "Anabaptist" model of "Gospel in community" over that. Eh. I though the point needed more work to convince me than they gave it in the 4 paragraphs on pp 158-159, but at least their point of view is transparent.

Another shortcoming of this book is its radical focus on a church without walls. The idea that a church is a community and not a building is a great maxim, an excellent and transformative point when you really "get it", a great theological point. But I think that, truth be told, in Western Civilization, every significant local community with a particular common interest in the last 500 years at least has raised up a place where it can assemble and demonstrate whatever it is they have in common -- be it a love of a sport or a love of fine art or a love of beer. Our God does not live in a temple, as Paul would say, but I would add: His people need someplace to call home, at least for now.

But that said, there isn't anyone reading my blog who can't learn something significant, church-improving, and of Gospel-centered seriousness from Total Church. Chester & Timmis have really made a labor of love to advance for the church a practical theology of the church which advances beyond the core of the Gospel without for one second taking the Gospel for granted.

The first chapter, in fact, underscores their focus -- it is called "Why Gospel?" Their conclusion is that the Gospel is a word, therefore the church must be word-centered. But it is not to be word-encased -- the word is not a tomb or a bunker in which the church resides, but a place which calls people out of the world, and into community.

How that community ought to -- and can -- work is the case made in the rest of Total Church, and as is my habit I'm not going to poison it for you by trying to distill it for you. Go out and buy this book, read it, and apply directly to your church.

They can do better, I think

I was watching the Norma McCorvey video at JT's blog, and after it was over, this kid's face turns up:

Now, before you hit "play", LANGUAGE ALERT, OK? It's very average YouTube fare. But I post it here for you to think about something. If you watch this to the end, his argument is that a baby is better off dead than poor. Think about that: he's proud enough of this argument to post it on YouTube.

Better dead than poor. And his back-up is "better dead than 'unwanted'" -- with the "pwn" that babies put up for adoption have no place to go.

Information always improves opinions, right? Here's some information: Since the end of World War II, interest in adoption primarily has focused on healthy, young infants. By the mid-1950's, the demand for healthy infants grew so significantly that it exceeded the number of children available for adoption, a trend that has accelerated with each passing decade.[]

No snark for this one. I'm really stunned that someone would make this argument this plainly about this subject.

what he can't fix

Now that Barack Obama is President of the United States, he has a lot of things to fix. His plate is full, yes?

He can't fix this, or anything like it. That requires a savior.

Short and sweat

Faithful reader and pretty-boy David Regier gets the nod this week with this classic:

There was a man who, having taken a shower, put on the sweaty, grungy t-shirt that he had been wearing for the whole week. It fit him well, and it was very comfortable. But no one wanted to get near him. At last he figured out that people don't like seeing a dirty t-shirt, so he put a clean one on top. It was really uncomfortable and tight, but it covered up the smell some, at least for a little while.

Global Parable Writer's entry #3

I heard this story in church this weekend, so I can't take full credit for it, but I am retelling it in my own words.

There was a young man -- a doctor -- who was sent off to war, and he left behind a young wife and a 7-month-old baby girl. He was away at the war for two years, and was faithful to his wife. In writing to her frequently, he sent back a portrait of himself to her and the baby as a promise that he would return home soon.

He returned two years later, and the baby was now a toddler who didn't know him. In fact, in some ways she didn't want him in their house. He was a stranger, and he didn't belong. She only knew the portrait.

One Saturday the young doctor was sitting on the couch reading the paper when the toddler got up from her bed and slowly came down the stairs. He didn't want to antagonize her, so he just sat and read, watching her out of the corner of his eye.

She started in the kitchen, then the dining room, then came into the living room sort of watching him, sizing him up. She came to the other end of the sofa, and then pointed at the portrait.

"That's my daddy. Some day he's coming home," she said, looking at the portrait.

He lowered the paper, and looked at her -- both bursting with pride at her confidence and aching on the inside from her ignorance.

She looked at him again, and pointed at the portrait. "That's my daddy," she said certainly, and looked straight at the young doctor.

Then there was a curious silence as her face changed.

"You're my daddy," she said breathlessly.

Frank Turk: liar

Phil Perkins is opening up a debate blog which he will moderate, and I'll be posting the exchange in parallel at the actual DebateBlog, on a thesis statement yet to be determined. I anticipate that Phil will also be posting all of the e-mails associated with setting this up just because he can.

So I am a liar: that wasn't the last Phil Perkins post. The truth is out: do with it what you will.

fox to hound: don't guard chicken house

Time for President Obama to sit down and chat with our "friends" in Iran.

making it worse for himself

He wants "so help me God" taken out of the oath of office for the President, but he has lost about 6 or 8 other similar suits in the last 10 years. I think this guy doesn;t realize that, at some point, the precedent he has helped shape by tossing off his vanity lawsuits will have damaged his legal point irreparably.

I say let him knock himself out.

Last Phil Perkins Post – EVER!

We’ve had quite the laugh thanks to Phil, but there comes a point where jokes get old, so this is the last Phil Perkins post at this blog ever – without regard to anything Phil might say or post.

The quoted stuff is from a comment Phil posted at his blog, and before we go any further into that field, I find it a little disturbing that Phil blocks comments which have answered his questions point blank and then calls that action a failure to respond on my part. If Phil wants to find dishonestly, there is a mirror in the rest room which he should check.
Please, read this entire comment. There is a common logical mistake that you made and even if you disagree with me, there's a logical lesson for you to learn that will help you think better in the future.

I'll just give you a couple of evidences you can read right here in the last four or five posts and comment threads.

1. He pretended to be able to judge translations, but doesn't even know the languages. And when asked, he refused to answer.
One of the underlying problems with appealing to “logic” is “truth”. You know: I can come up with a valid logical syllogism like:

All bloggers are porn stars.
Phil Perkins is a blogger.
Therefore, Phil Perkins is a porn star.

Logically: perfect. Factually: a ludicrous slander. Because all bloggers are in fact not all porn stars, the conclusion is false, not true.

In the same way, Phil says, “I refuse to answer” whether I know the languages or not. Sadly, my alert readers here at this blog already demonstrated to Phil that I never claimed to know Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek. In fact, I admit and publicize that I cannot read these languages, as our little context last week demonstrated.

But far worse for Phil, I posted repeated comments to his blog denying that I can read Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic, and Phil has refused to post them.

So the problem is not that not all bloggers are porn stars: it is that Phil refuses to listen to anyone who denies that all bloggers are porn stars – calling their denials in fact “silence”.
2. He actually contended that the biblical command not to tamper with God's word only applies to prophets. Follow the provided links starting with Part II of THE SECRET SINS OF THE ODMs.
As interesting as Phil’s accusation sounds, he’s referring to Deu 18 – in which his exegesis is, at best, of a single note and that not quite in the right key.

See: Phil doesn’t want to say what he means by “change the words” – and my example comparing the KJV, NIV and NASB has (as far as I have seen – he’s welcome to post a link correcting me) gone unremarked upon. In my view, for example, the TNIV is guilty of aberrant translation in Eph 2:15 – not because they changed the words but because they changed the meaning of the passage. And in changing what the passage communicates to the reader, they find themselves in violation of the clear command of Rev 22 – which, oddly, Phil’s blog takes its name from.

So when Phil tosses out a transparently-incorrect statement about me, ignoring evidence which overturns his complaint, and suppresses my own responses, maybe Phil should go get a soda and a sandwich or something – cool out and find a hobby which isn’t so factually-intensive.
Now unless he actually doesn't know better than that he's lying.

If he DOESN'T know better, then he ought not pretend to know much about the Bible.
See: in Phil’s world, all logic results in binary choices: either I’m a liar or a fraud. Either I’m a deceiver or a failure. It can’t be – as I believe is true in his case – that I am merely incorrect, or misguided, or ill-informed. I have to be a villain.

I wonder why it is important that I be a villain and not merely a person who has made )(in Phil’s opinion) mistakes?
3. He pretended right here (again just read) that the TNIV differs in its gender references only because of a different opinion about translation. But the fact is that Zondervan has openly admitted the differences have to do with marketing.
Yeah, as for comments I posted to Phil’s blog which he failed to post, I’ll offer that I have in fact mentioned that conundrum that we may not in fact need a “new” New international version – that the NIV was refreshed by the Zondervan for the sake of marketing a new product.

But factually, the TNIV does differ in translation philosophy from the NIVB. The innovation of gender-neutral translation is a new development since the 1970’s when the NIV was first produced. And those changes are supported by the UBS – whether I agree with them, or not.

What Phil ignores is the larger debate which has gone on over and against the publication of the TNIV where people like John Frame have campaigned against the translation philosophy behind TNIV and people like Craig Blomberg have rebutted those arguments and supported the TNIV. This wasn’t hardly a strident move by Zondervan to do something no one really believes in – in spite of their clear marketing motives.

But of course, in Phil’s world, there are only different kinds of devils, and Zondervan can only be a profiteer or an apostate.
4. He claimed that he didn't monitor the net to try to protect his image, yet he proved right here that's not true.
You see: coming back to discuss the issues Phil brings up – and hoping he’ll at least engage, if not change his mind – is “protecting my image”. I wonder what Phil would say if he was completely ignored?

We’ll find out in the future.
5. He claims to actually be a Christian, but still supports Tim Challies, who is in open sin.
Says Phil. I say: Phil – contact Challies’ pastor and ask him to start discipline. Turn it up a notch, wiseguy. If a local pastor and elders discipline Tim for sin and he doesn’t repent, I’ll disavow him right here.

But here’s the thing: if they find him guiltless, you have to repent. For the first time in your life, maybe. Repent, Phil.
There are five lies right there. But it's even worse than that.

But his sin is deeper even than that. Go back and read what he started his comments. At least half of what he said, starting with his very first sentence, was simply taunting like one expects on a playground. This is not the sort of behavior of a Christian man.
Indeed – we should all be dour and sour when someone slanders us – because by a long shot, that will cause the slanderer to repent.

Take Phil for example ...
AND, if you think these men show any sort of grace and honesty with brother who confront them over their sin, I'm not the only one who has experienced their scorn.
You can read that in Edward's comments, too.
Edward who? Should I google it to see what he’s talking about, or should I ... oh nevermind ...
Here is the logical lesson I mentioned:

Since you don't know what I may or may not know about Turk, aren't you uninformed about whether or not I'm informed in my judgment?

You admitted you don't know, so be consistent and logical.
If you e-mail me, Phil, I’ll give you my cell phone number, and you can tell me all the things you know or don’t know about me. Until then, thanks for the laughs – but this sort of humor is funny for a very short time, and then it gets old.

I am sure you can find me when you’re ready. Until then, grace and peace.

The Offer

This is what I get for not just getting ready for work in the morning. I read this this morning:
The old Calvinist saw is right: everyone limits the atonement, but only with respect to its effectiveness. That is, unless you’re a universalist, in which case the atonement is thoroughly effective at bringing people into God’s Kingdom in the end.

But, leaving aside universalism, we should admit the old Calvinist saw. However, the charge people are bringing against the Calvinist doctrine of limited atonement is that, by Calvinist lights, the atonement is not merely limited in its effectiveness, but also in the extend of its offer. Calvinists aren’t logically compelled to accept this, but there is a line of reasoning that very easily leads to this.

Suppose that one is a Calvinist and believes in (1) limited atonement and (2) unconditional election. If the doctrine of unconditional election is correct, God chooses those for whom the atonement will be effective from the foundation of the world. But suppose God then offers atonement universally. Doesn’t this offer sound a bit disingenuous? Here’s an analogy: it’s as if I determined my students’ grades before the semester begins, and then told them that, if they work hard enough, they can get an A. In short, there’s a lot of tension in holding the Calvinist doctrines of limited atonement and unconditional election together with the idea that God freely offers salvation to all. Of course, since everyone mystery-mongers at some point, the Calvinist is free to follow suit here.
Heh. Mystery-mongering.

The mystery is how this person reads the Bible and can't admit that this is not a Calvinist invention, but actually what the Bible teaches -- that God has both predestined sinful men for salvation AND makes the offer of the Gospel to everyone who will believe.
Another way to look at this problem is to consider why the atonement is limited. For Calvinists, it seems that the ultimate cause is God’s unconditional election. Accepting this seems incompatible with holding people responsible for their sin. This is what ultimately lead me to reject unconditional election in favor for some bizarre Molinist view. I’m not a Molinist anymore, but that’s only because I am a theological skeptic. I don’t feel obliged to have settled views on the matter anymore.
Poor Jesus -- I don't know what he will do without you.

Rachael Starke hits the mark

Al Sends anecdote is nice, but not much of a parable I think.

Dominating the competition, Rachael Starke again gets the nod for spotlight parable of the week. BTW, Rache, less was definitely more this week.

A morbidly obese man went to visit a doctor for his annual physical. After completing the exam, the doctor said to the man solemnly "Sir, your weight is killing you. You must get your diet under control if you want to lose weight. Take this nutrition plan and follow it carefully and you'll get results."

The man took the plan home with him and followed it religiously for several weeks, but his weight barely changed.

Dejected, the man decided to visit another doctor. On completing his exam, the second doctor said "Sir, your weight is killing you. You must exercise vigorously every day if you want to lose weight. Take this exercise plan and follow it carefully and you'll get results."

The man took the plan home with him and followed it religiously for several weeks, but his weight barely changed. Even more dejected, the man drowned his sorrows in an extra-large dinner, and that night, true to both doctors' warnings, he died.

Each of the doctors received a report of their patient's demise, and on reading it, sighed and said, "If only he'd listened to me, he'd be alive today."

people I might know

Global Parable Writer's entry #2

Here's this week's opportunity for you to write a parable and share it with the gang. Think of it this way:

There once was a pastor who preached every sunday for 90, 105, 115 minutes -- as long as he could,and through the Bible as specifically and sincerely as he could. His doctrine was serious and thorough, and he always tied his sermons back to Christ. For the 3-dozen people who attended his church. They were glad for their pastor, but wished more people would listen to him.

Down the road was another pastor, and he preached 20-minute sermons every week -- no matter what. If he had to split an important theological point right down the middle, he did. And he did it because his sanctuary was overflowing with people. To get them all in to worship on Sunday, he had to have 3 services, and in order to have 3 on Sunday morning he had to start at 7:15 AM, 8:45 AM and 10:15 -- 60 minutes of worship, and 30 minutes between services to turn over the parking lot.

The second pastor knew the first was frustrated with him and his church, so he invited the longer-winded fellow to lunch, and at lunch he invited him to preach the three services at the larger church because (1) he bore the man no ill-will, and (2) he wanted him to see that fruitful ministry was possible in their city. The only stipulation was that the first pastor had to preach a 20-minute sermon three times that Sunday.

The first pastor was stunned, and initially he accepted because he thought this was a great opportunity to preach God's word to the lost. But after two weeks, he called the second pastor back and sadly declined -- because he had no idea how to preach for only 20 minutes.

Here's your chance at 20 minutes. Go for it.

See: this is the punch line

The Russians say we're entering a new ice age.

Stock up on canned goods and boxes of bullets.

You know: or not.

More on Phil Perkins

He's accused me of not "coming clean" about my ability to read Greek and Hebrew.

Tell me, class: have I ever said I could read Greek and/or Hebrew? I am pretty sure that I have never said or implied such a thing, but let's make a game out of it. Anyone who can find a link to me saying I can read either Greek or Hebrew (first one to post that link in the meta) gets a free item of their choice from the pawn shop.

Now, here's the other half of the challenge: Anyone who can find three or more links to me confessing openly that I cannot read Greek or Hebrew will also get a free item of their choice from the pawn shop.

So anyone who can prove I'm a liar (plan "A") can have a free pawn shop item; anyone who can prove I have been rather consistently honest about my lack of ancient langauges (plan"B") can have free stuff.

Post your entries in the comments, and go back and visit our buddy Phil and post your entries there so he doesn't miss them.

I gotta say it

Blogger supports porn blogs and profanity.

Phil Perkins blogs on Blogger.

Therefore, Phil Perkins is in league with porn blogs and the profane.

... wait for it ...

Featured Parable, Week 1

This one, in spite of it's incomprehensible length (Rache: second draft -- eliminate half the words), is from fledgling sidekick Rachael Starke:

A wealthy man who had recently purchased a very large area of land hosted a lavish party for all the people in his town. At the end of the evening, when all the very excellent food and wine had been consumed, the man announced -

"I want to use the land I've just purchased to produce wine that is even better than what you've drunk tonight. But I have many interests, and won't be here for the length of time necessary to oversee such an important endeavour.

"I have chosen three of you to tend this land for me. I will give you seed from my other vineyards, capable of producing the very best wine. You have only to plant the seeds, tend the vines that grow, harvest them and bottle what they produce. While I will want regular updates about your progress, I will leave you entirely in charge. After the wine has been bottled and allowed to mature, I will host another party where we will all enjoy the results of your labor. Then I will pay you a fair market price for the wine you have made."

The three men the wealthy landowner had chosen could not believe their good fortune. They had all tasted the wine at the party and could tell by its quality that it was incredibly expensive. Surly their efforts would result in both great fame and wealth for their families.

All three men went straight to work. The landowner left it up to each man to choose where he would plant his vines and how he would tend them. The first man worked quickly. He had many other responsibilities, and while he knew tending a vineyard took effort, he was determined not to let all his other endeavors slip. Besides, how hard could growing grapes be? You planted the seeds, watered them, checked on them when you could, and waited for nature to take its course. So he chose the most fertile, flat plot of land he could find, planted the seeds, then watered them.

For the first few weeks, he visited his field every few days, training the vinest onto stakes and making sure everything looked okay. But as the weeks went by, and the man's schedule began to be overhwhelmed with his other endeavors, he visited his field less and less. He ended up oustourcing the day to day work of tending the grapes to professional vinetenders. They sent him updates telling him his vines were doing well, and so he was content to leave the majority of the work to them. Besides, by late summer, he had learned to his dismay what hot, dirty work vinetending could be, and he just wasn't that into manual labor.

The second man took a much more carefully thought out approach. The minute the landowner told him he was one of the fortunate three, he raced home to his computer and bought every book about farming he could find. Interestingly, he saw the landowners name referenced frequently in a many of the books he read, but the references went back a ways, and this man was determined to use only the latest and modern techniques, along with his own highly developed natural instincts. He'd had experience in other types of farming, and was confident that this would give him a serious advantage.

So he set to work - clearing his carefully selected plot of land of every rock and pebble, planting seeds at the right point in the lunar cycle, laying down a state of the art, drip irrigation system that delivered specially filtered water to each vine 24 hours a day. He carefully nursed each leaf and shoot that grew up and around the custom carved stakes he had imported from Bordeaux, hung hemp shades over the vines to shieled them from the hottest rays of the sun, and rejoiced at all the leaves and shoots his care was producing. He spent as much time as possible amongst his flourishing vines, confident that all this leafy goodness would yield an abundant crop.

The third man's approach was decidedly unorthodox. At least, that's how it seemed to the other two farmers. The man didn't select the flattest field, nor the greenest. Instead, he planted his seeds on the rocky side of a steep hill. He planted the seed and trained his young vines onto ordinary wood stakes. Then, as they began to blossom, the farmer would walk carefully and thoughtfully down each row, tearing off leaves and even flowers buds at regular intervals.

As grapes began to grow, he continued the practice - picking off what appeared to be perfectly good grapes, and tearing off branches that were leaving other clusters in the shade, exposing them to the sun's hottest rays. He watered the vines sporadically, content to let Mother Nature do it most of the time, and supplementing when the weather was unusually dry, usually with water from buckets to which he could be seen adding mysterious substances. His vines grew well, although they certainly weren't as prolific as the second farmer's, but certainly more so than the first's.

All three farmers were invited regularly to the landowner's estate to report on their progress, and to receive answers to any questions they might have.

The first farmer visited sporadically, offering up his crew's brief reports (which he first carefully copied in his own hand to make them look like they came from him) and assuring the landowner that he would be please with the results. Leaving quickly, and after only a cursory check over the vines, he returned to his other businesses. He noted as he returned that his staff were no where to be seen, and the vines seemed somewhat sickly, and he made a note to call his head laborer as soon as his other business matters were taken care of.

The second farmer visited the landowner faithfully, armed with scrapbooks of pictures of his vines, and notebooks with pages of data on every leaf and shoot. He talked so excitedly and so long about how all his experience and research into the latest farming techniques were producing such marvellous results that there was rarely any time for questions. Still, the second farmer assured the landowner all was well.

The third farmer, as usual, took a different approach. Bringing nothing with him, he would disappear inside the landowner's front door and not emerge for several hours. The other two farmers wondered what he was talking about all that time, particularly as he almost always headed straight back to his vines to tear off more leaves, break off clusters, and occasionally water with his bucket and the mysterious substance.

Finally, harvest time arrived. All three farmers gathered in their grapes in their own way.

The first farmer found himself in the middle of a very serious business deal, and paid his crew overtime to quickly harvest the grapes and to send them to a local crusher to be pressed and bottled.

The second farmer brought in highly sophisticated machinery, all computerized to automatically detect only the best quality grapes and then use custom hydraulics to apply just the right amount of pressure to produce the right yield of juice. The farmer was amazed at how quickly the machines went through his vines and was excited that their efficiency meant more time for the juice to spend fermenting and maturing into wonderful wine.

The third farmer, once again, did things diffferently. He brought out his whole family to work around the clock, picking the grapes by hand, then, using an ancient wooden wine press, crushed the grapes himself. It was hot, dirty work, and the farmer's posture grew increasingly stooped from his labor. But he finished only a little behind the other two.

Finally, they day arrived. The entire town descended onto the landowner's estate to once again enjoy the landowner's hospitality. The landowner called each of the farmer up to his table and ceremoniously opened a bottle of the wine the farmer had produced.

The owner poured out a glass of the first farmer's wine, held the glass up to the light, and the drank. His eyes widened and he spat the wine unceremoniously back into the glass.

"Isn't this supposed to be wine?! This is undrinkable!! This is a wine of neglect and apathy, not love! You told me your vines were well-cared for! What happened???"

Shaking and stammering, the first farmer said "I was so busy, and so I hired experts from another town to do the most difficult work for me. They said they knew exactly what to do! They told me everything would be fine!"

"Well, they were wrong!" the landowner roared. "Those seeds were incredibly valuable and they were ruined by lack of care and proper handling. You will work in my fields every day until you have earned their value back." And the landowner's security guards ushered him firmly off the property.

The second farmer, having seen the first farmer's undignified exit, was hopeful of a far better reception. He waited confidently as the landowner poured a glass of wine from his bottle, held it up to the light and drank. This time, he swallowed the wine, paused thoughtfully and then said "Tell me how you came to produce this wine."

Delighted, the second farmer carefully and loudly (for the benefit of all the other guests) went over each piece of research, and each book he'd read, and the glorious results his careful techniques had produced. He praised the computerized machinery that had so quickly harvested and pressed his grapes, all leading to the wonderful wine the owner had just consumed.

The landowner smiled ruefully. "Wine, it certainly is. Wonderful, it definitely is not. It is thin and sour. All those leaves and shoots on your vines stole nutrients from the grapes, and lack of strong sunlight meant the flavors of the grapes were never really concentrated. This is, what grapes there were. No vines that prolific produce large grape clusters, only small ones. And those machines? They probably added no small measure of twigs and leaves, and probably more than a few bugs. I can sell this, but will most likely only make enough to cover my costs. There won't be much profit left over for you." And the second farmer quickly found a quiet corner to sit and drink a glass of his own wine (which he personally thought was quite nice) and contemplate his misfortune.

The third farmer walked quietly to the landowner's table and watched him do as he had done with the other two. The landowner held his glass up to the light, paused briefly, and then drank slowly and deeply. He paused and then said "Tell me about your methods, farmer."

The farmer smiled. "Well, sir, they shouldn't be a surprise to you! When you kindly invted me to make wine in one of your fields, I just thought of the wine you offered us at that first party. Now, I didn't know much then about wine, but when I drank that, and you said you had other vineyards, well, sir, I just figured maybe you knew more than I did. And maybe, if I just asked you as many questions as I was allowed, maybe you'd help me come up with the right approach to make the kind of wine you liked. So that's what I did. Each week, when I came to tell you my plan and my progress, you answered all my questions, and gave me all the help I needed! You showed me all the soil reports you'd had done, which helped you know exactly which kinds of seeds would grow best on which parts of the land. And I remember you telling me about limestone, which absorbs water, and offers up just enough to the vines that when they really work for it, gives them both mosisture and extra nutrients. So I made sure to plant my seed exactly where the limestone would make the vines work the hardest.

"Then, the vines started to blossom, but instead of letting them grow any which way, you taught me to actually break isolated grapes off and leave just the solid clusters, and to tear off the leaves that would shade them too much from the sun. That made the grapes actually work harder to grow, and each grape had more sugar and more flavor, than if they were just left alone. And, of course, I always made sure the vines had the right kind of water, the kind that had plenty of that additive you gave me that you said was essential to make really good wine in this kind of soil.

"Finally, when it came time to harvest, I taught my family how to carefully pick each cluter of grapes, and then each grape from each cluster. It took a long time, but you warned me that twigs and stems wouldn't add anything good to the wine, and I just figured it was better to go with what you said, even though I sure did feel like cutting corners more than once! And, well, then you told me where I could find the winepress you'd had used on your other vintages, and I just thought you might like to know that this wine was done the same way. It took a little longer, but, well, you told me that most times it's the longer process that's the better one. And I just kept thinking about that wine that we'd drunk before and, well, sir, that's what I wanted to make.

"So I did. I hope you like it."

The landowner smiled. And smiled wider. And wider. Until he laughed a hearty laugh and threw his arms around the farmer, dousing hin with a good splash of the wine in the process.

"Farmer," said the owner delightedly "this is exactly what I hoped for. In all my decades of winemaking, this is the wine that I always believed could be made. It will make me a wealthier man than I already am, so wealthy that I am compelled to offer you, not just a fair market price for this wine, but also a permanent position on my estate as head vintner. From now on, you will make all my wine, following my methods. You can start tomorrow, when you tear out the vines of your colleagues and replant them, using all of the instructions and assistance I had prepared to offer them in the beginning, if they had only asked."

And the landowner called for a chair to be placed next to his, and the farmer and the landowner ate and drank and talked long into the night, of all the wonderful wine yet to be made.

Before we get to this week's parable ...

... stop by and visit a new fan of the blog. Phil Perkins has a real winner on his hands, and he blogs not just at one blog for all his cogent and rational thoughts, but actually three to express his theological depth and diversity.

Stop by to Phil's blog and ask him who his pastor is and whether his pastor reads his blog. He'll enjoy the attention.

Global Parable Writer's entry #1

So Doug Wilson has (rightly) noticed my little open invitational here, and he has somewhat criticized my narrow interpretation of the genre (in spite of my linking to the broad-minded Wikipedia entry to give people an idea what I am talking about), and it got me to thinking about his point.

In fact, Doug said specifically, “Jesus told a particular kind of parable, but there are many examples of other ways of throwing something alongside something else to make a point.” Yes, well, if I knew that my wife's favorite restaurant was Macaroni Grill, and I promised to take her to her favorite restaurant, but when the evening arrived to take her there she came into the kitchen and the kids and I were blowing the place up making a runny little lasagna and a droopy salad with sliced white bread and warm water … you can't hardly blame her for being disappointed and a little cheated, can you? Especially if we made her clean up afterwards?

So write your parables “up”, not just “down”. And link them in the comments of this post – best ones will be carried over to this page tomorrow.

Wanted: Actual Writers

I threatened Doug Wilson about this about two weeks ago, and now I'm making good on the threat. I'm declaring (insofar as I am able and anyone will actually hear this tree fall in the woods) Jan 2009 Global post-scriptural parable month. It's a mouthful, but here's what I'm thinking: Doug has been abusing the genre "parable" for about 6 months now by writing fables and moralizing stories (no offense dude), and I think that there are at least 100 Christian bloggers who can write more parable-like parables than what Doug has been foisting on his readers.

For your reference, here is Wikipedia's somewhat-faulty summary of the genre. Rather than debate the faults of the thing, use that as your point of reference, and then you go ahead and write a parable a week to post each Monday in Jan 2009.

I'll post mine each Monday, and you can link to your parables in my comments section; on Tuesday each week, I'll pick the ones which I liked best to feature on my front-page.

Here's a warmup:

There was this guy I worked with who was telling me he thought Christians should shut up about the right-to-die issue because it's evil and self-centered to go to the extreme lengths of keeping someone alive on a machine. So I told him that my wife and I used to live in Wisconsin, in a town called Manitowoc. Manitowoc has a great full-service marina (allegedly the only one on Lake Michigan), and is a great place to live in the summer. The lake does a really swell job of keeping the temperature in Manitowoc enjoyable about 6 months out of the year -- 60's in the daytime, and 40's at night.

The problem with Manitowoc is that in the winter, it is far enough north (like Green Bay) that many nights dip way below zero -- like -20°F and -30°F . That's cold. In fact, it is so cold that if you don't have a heater, you're probably going to freeze to death.

I can remember one week in particular when we lived there that the temperature did not get above 5°F. That’s cold – so cold that salt won’t work on the streets and sidewalks, so everything is just frozen over. That's so cold, in fact, that you can hardly even make a snowman because the snow has little or no cohesion -- the flakes don't have any dampness to stick together, so they stay a fine powder. Even the air has zero humidity -- which you can feel in your nostrils.

I was sure glad, during that week, that I could get up and turn the heater on for myself – because if I couldn’t, I’d be dead right now. He laughed and said sacrastically that this might be a good thing; but I pointed out my kids would be dead, too, as would my wife. I think it’s amazing that I wouldn’t be here right now except for the fact that a machine kept me and my family alive during those cold weeks in Manitowoc.

Of course, even though I couldn’t have possibly kept myself warm those weeks when the temperature was too cold, at least I could feed myself. Thank God I didn’t need a machine to keep me warm and to feed me. Who would have bothered to turn my machine on if I needed to be kept warm and also to be fed?