Not about Christmas, and Not about Global Warming

One of the reasons my blog has petered out over here is that I took an oath not to blog about the last great religion: the religion of Climate Change, which never quite found the savior it was looking for.

This morning I found this link, and it speaks for itself.

Well, folks, it's tea-time on Sunday and for anyone involved in keeping people moving it has been a hell of a weekend. Thousands have had their journeys wrecked, tens of thousands have been delayed getting away for Christmas; and for those Londoners who feel aggrieved by the performance of any part of our transport services, I can only say that we are doing our level best.

Almost the entire Tube system was running on Sunday and we would have done even better if it had not been for a suicide on the Northern Line, and the temporary stoppage that these tragedies entail.
And thus:
Back in November, when the Met Office was still doing its "mild winter" schtick, Corbyn said it would be the coldest for 100 years. Indeed, it was back in May that he first predicted a snowy December, and he put his own money on a white Christmas about a month before the Met Office made any such forecast. He said that the Met Office would be wrong about last year's mythical "barbecue summer", and he was vindicated. He was closer to the truth about last winter, too.
You should, for your own sake, read the whole thing. The information is prolly not new, but the way he says it is priceless.

Calvinist Gadfly dot com (2)

Well, it's alive.

The master plan is to make the first couple-hundred weeks of posts about the Larger Westminster Catechism so that the readers are thinking about actual Calvinism and not their view of what they think Calvinism is -- including necessary consequences, such as how we view the church, and how we live in the real world -- and then there can reall be some throwing down against whatever it is that is not Calvinism.

That's a departure from the original Gadfly, may he rest in peace: Gadfly 1.0 was an apologetics site aimed at/against the anti-calvinistic of all shape and stripe. I don't have that kind of time or energy, to be honest, but I do have a real affection for the fact that we have a savior who actually saves, and I think all kinds of people should be stung a little by that -- especially those who believe what I believe there.

Also, I am considering migrating this blog to that URL for the same of simplifying my blog life. DJP pointed out that this blog has been dormant (to say the least) for about 6 months and that if I were anyone else he would have delinked me already.

I don't really want DJP to delink me, but he has a point. Stay tuned for developments.

The Limits of Science

Turns out that a fish well-known to be extinct wasn't extinct at all. It moved.

It must be true. Science has said so.

How we know what we know about what we know

Briefly today as this cannot go without comment.

FIFA takes flack about comments at press conference.

Note the content of the criticism of Sepp Blatter (no punchline there, I am sure): telling people not to break the law in Qatar is "epic ignornace", meaning that of course gay people are going to have sex in Qatar. Apparently that's what they are going there to do -- not watch the World Cup.

Keep this filed for when the next time you hear that being gay in not just about having sex: it is most certainly, primarily, about having sex. If you say otherwise in a meaningful way, you will take absurc levels of criticism -- including calls for you to give up making a living.

Mind your own business

Turns out that people who constantly wish they were someplace else become unhappy.

No kidding? Who paid for that study -- I want to conduct a study to find out if people who blog actually write more than people who do not blog. It'll cost about $1.7 million to find out. I'm available to do the research.

Evolution vs. Parenthood

Have I really not posted a thing since July? I think that's actually criminal. Sorry for the unprogrammed hiatus.

I was reading this gem about human evolution, and I even commented in the thread. I scratched the surface of the problems with that article in my comments there, but there is sooo much wrong with what's being mulled over there I had to link you few remaining die-hard readers to it.

I'm willing to concede evolution for the sake of the discussion, btw. But one thing this discussion completely overlooks is that the way we make babies today in almost 99.99999% of the cases is by having sex -- not through some process akin to researching and then writing and defending a doctoral thesis on the desirable genetic markers in a set of single-source female gametes. I mean: my kids were not the product of some fully-reasoned process by which my wife and I thought about all the likely needs they would have and thereby first provided for all of them, then instituted scientific trial to create their perfect encoded sequence.

My children are a product of love -- and I hope yours are, too. And here's the crazy thing about love: I loved them before I knew them.


From 2007: It's now an Open Letter

The contents of this post is actually from March 2007, but given the bru-ha-ha over Anne Rice's recent exeunt from the label "Christian", I'm reprinting it here are my personal open letter to her. Consider my response here to Pastor Matt Lauterbauch's old post a larger exhortation about Christ, culture, and what it means to keep Him in the center of your life as an object of worship. Enjoy.

Dear Anne Rice ...

I have a sort of backlog on the blog here which I think needs to be cleared up, and in part it revolves around a link provided by reader “scott” to Matt Lauterbach’s blog about what missional means. I give it here for a context, and I have two reactions to it.

The first is this: his exegesis of 1 Cor 6:9-11 is sloppy. Paul’s point in saying what he says in 1 Cor 6 is not, “boy, it’s a sloppy mess when you convert the sinful”. His point is that the Corinthians, who are supposed to be “called to be saints” and “enriched in speech and in knowledge”, don’t have the ability to settle their own disputes: they take their alleged problems to secular courts for judgment. In that, Paul says they disgrace themselves when they have to have the ungodly settle their alleged wrongs against each other. And the admonition that none of these kinds of sinners will inherit the Kingdom of God is made to make the point clear: you are not like this anymore, so don’t give these people authority over you.

And this is a transition from the fact that the ungodly should not judge those in Christ to the fact that those in Christ ought to treat each other as if they were in Christ. That is: “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”

Paul is not talking about missiology here in the sense Pastor Lauterbach is. Paul is saying that our witness to the world ought to be that we have power (cf. 1 Cor 4), and that we are different than what we used to be. That is a missiological statement, but it is couched in ecclesiology and frankly Christian ethics – not in talking about how messy it is to be a person being reformed by the Holy Spirit.

But that said, here’s the real question: what is the mission of the church to those people Pastor Lauterbach has listed by example in his post here? Do we have one – or can we write off the partnered homosexuals who find methods for getting children, the single moms who adopt, the tattooed, the pierced, the surrogate mom, all the people who not only don’t look like “us” but also probably cannot ever “look” like “us”?

I think it’s a great and important question. But there’s a really big problem in the way Pastor Lauterbach frames it: he has implied that somehow “Republican” values are inherently “Christian” values. You know what? That’s a root-cause problem in this discussion.

Yes: I vote Republican – over one issue only, and that’s right-to-life. But I’d vote for a Mormon for public office if he was going to dedicate his political career to the end of abortion. But I have no inherent love for the Republican party. They do not represent me on the matter of the institution of marriage (I’m for the Genesis 2 model – how many laws are based on Genesis 2?). They do not represent me on the matter of public prayer (I’m for the Acts 2-3-4 model of public prayer). They do not represent me on the matter of freedom of religious expression (I’m for the Rom 1:16-17 model of freedom of religious expression). They do not represent me on the matter of race relations (I’m for the Eph 2 model).

So the idea that somehow the Republican party is a template of Christ-in-culture bothers me.

Which brings us, thankfully, back to the matter of Gospel being the solution to culture. The solution to culture is to refute all the errors of culture with the truth of Jesus Christ. And since Pastor Lauterbach brought it up, 1 Cor is a great example of how Christ leads the way for us to be in a culture and at the same time be contra mundum.

For example, Paul says this:

I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people – not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler – not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. "Purge the evil person from among you."[1 Cor 5:9-12]
Listen to Paul. In this passage, he is saying, on the one hand, the church has an obligation to deal with men and women who do not repent of sin but instead abide by their own sinfulness if they want to be called part of the family of God. But equally necessary here is what Paul is saying about those outside the church: you cannot be cut off from these people who have not been saved. You cannot come out of the world.

That is missiology, my friends. If that is not missiology, then there is no such thing, or else it is the shabby thing I have been on about in my last few posts to iMonk. The church must be something which is radically set apart from the world and at the same time in the very presence of the world for the sake of showing them the truth.

Paul says more about that here:
For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men. We are fools for Christ's sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things. [1 Cor 4:9-13]
Paul doesn’t say, “Gosh, we have a good footing in the political arena and now we can go do God’s work.” And he doesn’t say, “I’m glad I have, at last, become my own reality TV show so that I can influence the culture.” He says, (I paraphrase) “God has made me suffer greatly in all things so that I can be theatron for angels and men and everything in the world.”

Theatron. Listen – that’s got to slap you in the face no matter who you are. Paul says he is made sport of for the public amusement for the sake of Christ; he’s the object of scorn. It doesn’t mean he’s in people’s face with some kind of insult: it means, as he says clearly here, that he makes a fool of himself for the sake of Christ.

He is not seeking anyone’s respect. And why is that? Does he say why? I think he does – it’s the premise of what he is telling the Corinthians here:

And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
Paul says that his mission was itself not to gain anyone’s trust or to gain anyone’s approval but to in fact to deliver a message which, by any other standard except God’s standard, is a folly -- so that God will be glorified.

Now, please hear me clearly: I’m still the guy who thinks that the message of Jonah has a lot to do with what our missiology ought to be. I’m still the guy who thinks that Stephen delivered the Gospel to the council of the High Priest. I’m still the guy that believes strongly that God is just as glorified by His love as He is by His justice and holiness. But my point here is that we are not sent here to get anyone’s approval but God’s.

You must speak to people in an idiom they grasp, and you must use the aspects of the Gospel which will have the most impact on culture. You know: in a nearly-monolithic American Republican culture, the truth that Jesus Christ demolishes the demands of the Law is devastating. And in a nearly-monolithic American Democrat culture, the truth that Jesus Christ fulfills the Law and demands repentance from sin is equally devastating. And in a popular counterculture where nihilism and radical autonomy is exalted, the fact of Jesus as Lord and Christ sweeps the ants off the anthill without and regard for their outrage.

These are all expressions of the Gospel – all cross-centered, Christ-exalting, God-filled visions of what the world is and they do not contradict each other. But they do create a culture which contradicts what the world demands of us.

This is missiology: being something in the world which is an affront to the world and a stumbling block to its ideas of wisdom and status. The mission of the church is not to try to make Republicans out of disenfranchised bar hoppers, gender role breakers and all manner of prostitutes: it is to make sinners grateful to God for grace, and to make them repentant that they have tried to reinvent His law, and to make them humble in love and service to men. It might obviously cause them to vote against abortion and those who protect it, but that doesn’t mean it’ll make the world into a suburban Tennessee cul de sac.

When the finger starts wagging about “missiology”, let’s not forget that the purpose here is not to become as much like the culture as we can before we fall into just being the culture: the purpose is frankly to devastate the idols of culture and all their sacraments in order that Christ may be lifted up.

Facts about Lightning

Before I get to the reason I'm posting today (meager as it is), let me confess that my blogging output is in the stink-bucket. Sorry about that to all the fans and peeps. The only way to resolve that is to win the PowerBall, so if you folks want to buy me lottery tickets, I promises here in public and in writing to split the winning ticket with the person who bought it for me 60-40, where you get 60 and I get 40.

Not that I'm encouraging gambling or violating any of my deeply-held principles about the stupidity tax: I'm just saying that the only way to improve my blogging output is to become independently wealthy -- becuase I have a great job which really consumes all my mental and creative energy.

OK -- Thanks for that.

Did you know that more people are killed annually by lightning strikes than by tornadoes and hurricanes? That's what's reported here (Thanks Google Documents!), along with other fun facts about how not to be one of those people.

Tom Ascol: take note.

Ethel Merman-esque

pa·tri·ot·ism  /ˈpeɪtriəˌtɪzəm or, especially Brit., ˈpæ-/ [pey-tree-uh-tiz-uhm or, especially Brit., pa-]
devoted love, support, and defense of one's country; national loyalty.

pa·tri·ot   /ˈpeɪtriət, -ˌɒt or, especially Brit., ˈpætriət/ [pey-tree-uht, -ot or, especially Brit., pa-tree-uht]
1. a person who loves, supports, and defends his or her country and its interests with devotion.
2. a person who regards himself or herself as a defender, esp. of individual rights, against presumed interference by the federal government.
3. ( initial capital letter ) Military . a U.S. Army antiaircraft missile with a range of 37 mi. (60 km) and a 200-lb. (90 kg) warhead, launched from a tracked vehicle with radar and computer guidance and fire control.

I bring it up because closet-anarchist pastor Bob Hyatt wants to do for the 4th of July what Santa haters have done for Christmas -- which is, marginalize Christians by portraying us as people with a tone-deaf understanding of what we actually do well who are overzealous to use the prophetic voice and underzealous to really find common ground with unbelievers in order to speak to them as human beings rather than idjits.

Bob's view, as you may have witnessed on Twitter, is that anyone who thinks patriotism is a good idea is somehow not an alien and a sojourner in the Heb 11 sense who is desiring a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Bob has frankly equated patriotism with idolatry because there are no verses in the Bible which say, "God Bless America! My Home! Sweet! Home!" in Ethel Merman-esque bravado.

Well, let's at least admit a couple of things:

ITEM: There are some people who think America is the primary end of the Christian faith. Those people have never read their Bibles.

ITEM: There are some people who think you can't be Christian unless you're a [political party, left or right] here. Those people are a different version of the first item -- just a more nuanced version.

ITEM: Some people use faith to gain political ends, but have no faith -- not even in the politics they use for their own gain. These people aren't patriots, but they say they are.

ITEM: There are no human governments on-par with God.

So if Bob is talking about any of these things, then good on him. But he is in fact talking about celebrating the 4th of July -- the declaration of independence of our nation, and the celebration of our (spotty) national history. Is that really "idolatry"?

Let's see: is it idolatry if I celebrate my wife's birthday? I would say, "no." I don't have a Bible verse for that, but the most important day in the history of the world after the resurrection of Christ as far as I am concerned in the birth of my wife, followed by the day she married me.

How about this: is it idolatry to celebrate our anniversary? I would say, "no," -- again, sans scriptural prooftext. Celebrating the fact that so far we have been, for richer and poorer, in sickness and in health, joined together by God and faithful does not supplant God, or take something away from him. It's a way to enjoy what he has done -- through human agency.

OK -- how about this one: what if I celebrate my grandparents' anniversary? That has nothing to do with me and mine directly -- and to lift up other people for doing what's right seems a little shady, yes? Maybe it's the way we sneak in and replace something about God with things on greeting cards? No? See: we can celebrate the faithfulness of others and not be Athenians worshipping an unknown god -- even if they are not perfect people.

And these are all commemorations of human accomplishment in God-ordained institutions.

So when we turn to another God-ordained institution -- i.e., government, a la Romans 13 for starters -- is it actually wrong and a form of Roman idolatry to roast some meat on the fire (especially hot dogs and italian sausage, pork products that they are), drink something cold with friends, maybe hit a soft ball or throw a frisbee, and end the night with a bang-on fireworks show because in the last 234 years we haven't yet actually given up on the hope, politically, we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Prolly not, even if I would want to pick a nit over the part I underlined there. It seems to me that being glad that we have what Paul wanted for Timothy (1 Tim 2), and grateful that we have what Paul desired in Rom 13 in our imperfect political way if not a wholly-spiritual way. We can celebrate that these things right now belong to us even if they are in some way on a decline.

Even if I can't give Bob a verse which says, "dood: I like the ones which sparkle at the end and crackle like rice crispies."

Enjoy the holiday weekend, but don't confuse what ought to happen on Sunday morning with what you're going to do on Sunday evening. Be in the Lord's house on the Lord's day with the Lord's people for worship, and have a party with your neighbors Sunday night so you can tell them about the only one who can save us from our accomplishments as well as our sins.

Forgot he was a wanted man

Quick link to a story from Associated Press via Yahoo about Frank Dryman, aka Frank Valentine, aka Victor Houston, who is 79 years old and will spend the rest of his life in prison.

This is a real man's life, so let's not make light of it: he's a criminal, and a lawbreaker, and he's going to spend his last years in prison for two crimes -- murder, and the violation of his parole.

But it seems to me this is a parable as well -- something written by God's providence that we must see through the eyes of faith. When Frank Valentine didn;t want to be a criminal anymore, he simply said he wasn't that man anymore -- and did his work to prove he was a different man.

But history and the Law say differently: he is who he is, guilty of his crime, and worse for pretending it never happened.

This is a parable about us, dear reader. It is a parable about me. I dare say it is a parable about you.

More on Watchbloggers


For the record, when Pastor Silva reviewed this post, he made the correction on-line to the very post I referenced, and made it clear that his concerns have been addressed -- at least insofar as it relates to my opinion of him. I appreciate his forthright approach in this matter.

As I unwind this chain of posts (which are evolving and not canned or pre-recorded), I can’t help thinking about that scene in Star Trek VI where Star Fleet tells Kirk and crew that they are the ones who are going to negotiate the peace treaty with the Klingons. The money quote is when Spock tells Kirk that “Only Nixon could go to China.”

Let me be honest: I have not idea how that analogy works out on a one-to-one basis in this walk-through of differences in theology, ministry, and the basics of logic and civility.

That said, TeamPyro became the #1 blog in Technorati’s ranking of “Lifestyle: Religion: blogs last week, in part on the back of links my rebuttal to “Coram Deo” produced. In particular, Ken Silva posted this in two places – Apprising Ministries, and Christian Research Net:

And kudos, fwiw, to Pastor Silva for keeping the “Moses Lolcat” quote in there because it is the little things which make blogging so rewarding.

What I’m concerned about is the part I highlighted in yellow up there – the part where Pastor Silva says my statement is about “online apologetics and discernment ministries such as this one”. It’s a puzzling statement for at least three reasons:

[1] In my last post on this subject – and indeed, in almost everyone of the threads/posts where this comes up – I have made it clear that there’s a difference between “watchbloggers” and credible apologists and discernment ministries.

[2] In almost every list of “Credible discernment ministries” I have ever provided, I have been explicit to list “Pastor Ken Silva” as one of the good guys – in lists which include James White, Greg Koukl, and so on.

[3] When I have defined the purveyors of the problem, I have been explicit to say that these are people who are both anonymous and also unapologetic for their mistakes. To my knowledge, there’s no way this applies to Ken Silva, is there?

What seems to me to be true is that Ken Silva does not want to say that there are any “discernment ministries” which are, frankly, in grave error as defined by their tactics and their philosophy of ministry. And Pastor Silva is willing to stand arm-in-arm with those people to this extent: that he is also willing to publish something which is patently untrue to oppose the argument. My justification for saying this is the evidence above – in which Pastor Silva wants to put words in my mouth, specifically about his own work, in order to “expose” my error.

Look: as I said in my response to Chris Rosebrough, reputable discernment ministries (and reputable bloggers, for that matter -- you don't have to be an elder in a church to be a decent writer and thinker) should not fall into the trap that the "careful charismatics" fall into all the time. That is: the careful charismatics don't rebuke/disavow the awful charlatans like Todd Bentley until after they have discredited themselves through moral failure, after many have been bilked, for fear of being seen as a "friendly fire" against the charismatic movement and sewing the seeds of skepticism in their own ranks. The careful bloggers, apologists, and theologians should openly discredit anonymous drive-by slanderers who don't have any visible accountability – and the argument that they should somehow avoid “friendly fire” is simply not compelling. It doesn’t speak to the issues which are at the heart of apologetics, like discernment and maturity and humility in the face of the truth.

So here I call on Ken Silva to disavow his statement that I have been including him [and all discernment ministries] in the “watchbloggers” category when in fact I have been circumspect to specifically disavow the idea that he’s a “watchblogger”. It doesn’t do his point of view any good to participate in muddying the water – because in doing so, it’s his own hands that get dirty.

Contemporary Reports

This weekend I got a tweet from a PyroManiacs reader who was worried about some “historical Jesus” polemics going on via Twitter under the hashtag "#atheist". Which, in my book, is like saying there was some basketball being played in the Boston (TD Banknorth) Garden – I mean: what did we expect? They’re atheists.

Anyway, I allowed myself to get roped into the “discussion”, and of course it got into the dating of the New Testament. One fellow has even found a “Christian-friendly” source that dates the Gospels to 120-170 AD. However “friendly” that source might be, I directed him to Wikipedia on the topic:
The earliest works which came to be part of the New Testament are the letters of the Apostle Paul. Most scholars generally agree on the dating of many books in the New Testament, except for those some believe to be pseudepigraphical (i.e., those thought not to be written by their traditional authors). The Gospel of Mark is dated from as early as the 50s, although most scholars date between the range of 65 and 72.[21] Most scholars believe that Matthew and Luke were written after the composition of Mark as they make use of Mark's content. Therefore they are generally dated later than Mark although the extent is debated. Matthew is dated between 70 and 85. Luke is usually placed within 80 to 95. However a select few scholars disagree with this as Luke indicates in the book of Acts that he has already written the Gospel of Luke prior to writing the introduction to Acts. The earliest of the books of the New Testament was First Thessalonians, an epistle of Paul, written probably in A.D. 51, or possibly Galatians in 49 according to one of two theories of its writing. Of the pseudepigraphical epistles, scholars tend to place them somewhere between 70 and 150, with Second Peter usually being the latest.

In the 1830s German scholars of the Tübingen school dated the books as late as the third century, but the discovery of some New Testament manuscripts and fragments from the second and third centuries, one of which dates as early as A.D. 125 (Papyrus 52), disproves a third century date of composition for any book now in the New Testament. Additionally, a letter to the church at Corinth in the name of Clement of Rome in 95 quotes from 10 of the 27 books of the New Testament, and a letter to the church at Philippi in the name of Polycarp in 120 quotes from 16 books. Therefore, some of the books of the New Testament were at least in a first-draft stage, though there is negligible evidence in these quotes or among biblical manuscripts for the existence of different early drafts. Other books were probably not completed until later, if we assume they must have been quoted by Clement or Polycarp. There are, however, many discrepancies between manuscripts, though the majority of the errors are clearly errors of transcription or minor in scope.

On the other extreme is the dating proposed by John A. T. Robinson. He claimed that, since he believed none of the writings in the New Testament showed clear evidence of a knowledge of the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem (in A.D. 70), which Robinson thought should certainly have appeared considering the importance of that event for Jews and Christians of that time, that every book which would come to form the New Testament was therefore written before A.D. 70.[22] Given Robinson's appeal to the absence of evidence, his view is widely rejected by New Testament scholars.
Now, notice 3 thinks about this publicly-edited summary of the dating of the NT:

[1] It lists three distinct theories about the dating of the books of the NT, and discredits the one most favorable to the Christian case. This speaks to the degree to which there has been some amendments to the article over time as it diminishes the overzealous statements of the advocating side regarding the validity of Robinson’s theory. I like Robinson’s theory, but it’s right to say that it’s an argument from silence.

[2] It also discredits the worst case for the NT as attempted by 19th century German scholarship. What’s interesting about this section is that the Germans are discredited by the use of the NT by Polycarp (who lived 65AD – 155 AD), and Clement of Rome (died 99 AD), and by the archeological evidence in manuscript form. The case against the late-date of the NT has what the atheist is allegedly looking for: hard archeological evidence.

[3] The “majority” opinion, then, phrased by Wikipedia, is that the Gospels were written no later than 72 AD – a completely-conservative (in terms of “conservative estimate” not “conservative theology”) estimate.

After having pointed this out to the Twe-atheists, I was called a liar (which, of course, thanks for that – of course I wrote the Wikipedia entry), and then told, “we agree then: there are no contemporary reports of Jesus.” (or words to that effect)

Well, if one is looking for newspaper clipping, of course not. But let’s consider something:

This is a chart which shows when stuff happened historically, and when someone thought it was about time someone wrote something down about it. It speaks to a short list of concerns:

[A] It speaks to the preservation of the manuscripts we are talking about. The amount of skepticism we should have toward the Gospels regarding their reliability based on how well they are preserved has to be minimal – unless we want to start elevating our skepticism toward Plutarch and Pliny as well.

[B] It speaks to the proximity of the Gospels to the events they report. That is, the Gospels were – even in the most conservative estimate – written down only 30 years after the events. That’s entirely consistent with the practices of other historians in the ancient world.

[C] It speaks to the perception of Jesus at the time of the composition. Let’s face it: the ancient world was not like our world in about a million different ways, but the two most striking differences for this examination are that they did not have mass media, and they didn’t spend a lot of time doing things which didn’t directly relate to staying alive – they didn’t have a lot of free time due to the lack of, well, stuff. So for not one but four stories about the life of Jesus to be circulated and then copied and propagated with a high degree of concern for accuracy speaks to the perception that the earliest writers about Jesus had toward the telling of his story.

Does this prove the tales of the miraculous? Of course not. Does this demand that atheism is utterly false? Not hardly. But what it does do is speak directly to the claim that these tweeting atheists have made that Jesus was not even a person. It speaks to the kind of evidence they are and are not willing to accept to even begin to frame their own arguments – and whether they are consistent in their demand for the “scientific” and the “rational”. The dating of the books speak to their origin and autheticity -- which is to say, their overall reliability.

If you want to disbelieve God, I leave it to you to do so. But you ought to first be sure you’re not disbelieving God a priori and then demanding the evidence fit your own requirements – because that is, in fact, dishonest.

No one expects the Spanish Inquisition

Coram Deo has decided to be my Jiminy Cricket, for which I am grateful. I think. Thanks for following the link from the comments at TeamPyro.

| I'm not sure how helpful that
| response actually was, Frank; but
| it was rather revealing.
It always is. It ought to point you back to the other responses on this topic I have given you as well, CD, but it doesn’t. What that reveals, of course, is your own shallow vision of discernment.
| For all your usual ability to
| appreciate fine distinctions, and
| understand nuance, you once
| again lump together an entire
| genre of bloggers (the 95-
| percenters) and caricature them
| negatively.
I have actually already made a very necessary distinction: between reputable people (i.e. – pastors and theologians/teachers with public ministries who do not hide behind aliases and anonymity with a clear view of accountability) and people like you who [since we need to be as specific as possible for the sake of nuance] who are not accountable, are not public people, do not have any regard for the biblical standards for discernment, and who want to be the judges of others without impunity or responsibility.

I made that distinction back when you decided to start your campaign on this issue over at Zach Bartels’ blog. Since you missed it then, I’ll put it here for your review, and you can consider that aspect of your concern answered.

There is a vast difference between being a minister of discernment (a la James White, Greg Koukl, Mike Horton, etc.) and being a loose cannon who simply cannot engage anyone in a way which really is meant for correction rather than self-aggrandization. Because you and your cohorts don’t understand that, it should be the first sign that what you do is not actually very discerning.

Take, for example, this statement:
| Are there some really bad
| watchbloggers out there? Of
| course!
| Are there some that are truly
| edifying and Christ-honoring? Of
| course!
| But there's apparently no
| distinction in your mind.
Now, think about this -- your approach says this specifically: Frank has never made a distinction between good and bad discernment blogs. This is demonstrably false even if I have never given the abridged list of names of examples because I have in fact given the core criteria for telling the apples from the poison. The distinction I have given above is the one I have given you at least once before. But on top of that, I have also given you a short list of examples previously.

So let’s think about how that reflects on your discernment personally:

[1] You have the clear evidence you need to dispose of this statement
[2] Because you have made it before, the very least you should do in honesty is to retract it; the actually-contrite thing to do would be to disavow the statement and apologize.
[3] Instead, you repeat it as if I have never confronted your complaint.

What kind of discernment is that, exactly?
| And it's
| not even as though you caricature
| them as well meaning yet
| miguided Biblically-impoverished
| lone rangers on ill-advised
| Jeremiads. Such would at least
| demonstrate some level of actual
| patience and love on your part
| towards your errant brethren, but
| no.
| You characterize them as a self-
| appointed "magisterium" and
| deride them as subjecting those
| who disagree with them to
| treatment akin to that doled out
| during the "Spanish Inquisition".
Before we get to your next indictment, let’s remember that after giving the clear distinction between watchbloggers and actual apologists, I have then given some specific complaints about the methods and modes of those who are the bad examples.

For example, they are uncorrectable (see above). Not only will they not offer corrections when they are wrong, they are revisionists who delete blog posts and comment threads. They cannot ever offer an apology – in spite of the damage they do to others. It is simply unheard of and unfound in fact.

That sort of activity in the NT was dealt with in the harshest terms, and I think that’s a mandate to do the same when one is dealing with that sort of error. For example, Paul tells Titus that people who are “teaching” but misleading people through falsehood (again, see above) are “detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work”.

I have not done more than that by any means. What I have done, however, is use a word which they/you will find most offensive: “magisterium”. The offense is meant full force, and I stand by it – until such a time that those who are guilty of it (see above) repent.
| Can you see the rich irony here,
| Frank?
I can – but I think you have missed it. The rich irony is that you demand something of others you have no intention of ever delivering. You want to hold others captive by their good conscience but hold yourself to another standard – one which is disabused of fact and charity and humility.

Look to your mistake in defining my own position, and do something about that if you are remotely serious. Then apply the principles which guide you to that effort broadly. And then you won’t be a watchblogger anymore.

This next part is actually my favorite part, in two acts. Act 1:
| Is it really the love of Christ
| that compels you to sacrificially
| love those with whom you
| disagree by equating them with a
| corrupted body that has
| arrogated to itself the role of the
| Holy Spirit Himself (the infallible
| magisterium) and their work as
| being equivalent to the Spanish
| Inquisition?!?
Given that you and yours, CD, are doing exactly what they did, and making the same scope of errors they made, and eliminating any opportunity for rebuttal, rebuke, reconciliation, or retraction, I would say, “yes, it is the love of Christ which causes me to tell you how far from the true vine you find yourself.”

The evidence of that love is that I am replying to you (again) in spite of your failure to repent of your mistakes toward me, and spelling out in detail what my concerns are. If I hated you, I’d just ignore you as irredeemable.
| Really Frank?
Really. And the next part is the best part, Act 2:
|'Cuz I can tell that
| I'm not feeling the love, brother
| and although I smell something, it
| doesn't smell like the pleasing
| aroma of the love of Christ. It
| smells more like a pair of sweaty
| gym socks that have been left in
| the locker festering for way too
| long.
Now, think on it: what’s that sound like? If we pulled it out of this discussion and just cited it randomly as a response to criticism (overlooking its error and omissions to get to this conclusion), who could this be?

It could be the retort of a careless charismatic who doesn’t actually have any arguments left.

It could be the retort of a KJVO guy who cannot respond to the criticisms of his position.

It could be the first round of responses from an Emerg* advocate.

That is: our mate the Watchblogger finds himself in the same place all people who are doing the indefensible find themselves – complaining about how “unloving” his adversaries are because they cannot agree with him and fully capitulate.
| As far as your much vaunted high
| view of repentance and
| reconciliation, that's a good thing,
| but methinks log should meet
| mote in genuine repentance ...
... which has been demonstrated repeatedly in 6-7 years of blogging in practice through a commitment to offer plain apologies with no qualifications in plain view, and a practice which does not revise the record in order to hide my own fallibility, ...
| ... because (at least on this subject)
| your level of snark and hyperbole
| belies something other than the
| sacrificial love of Christ you claim.
Ah. So sarcasm < > love; but anonymous and a-biblical exercises in character assassinations, and failing read and address the clarifications of those reproached, and thereafter not retracting or apologizing for one’s own errors == LOVE OF CHRIST!
| Think about it.
I have thought about it. This has been the result of that. May it be a blessing to you.

Literate writing and literate reading

I have a lot on my heart today, but I am going to post something here which I think I have mentioned often in the last 6 years. Yesterday, I tweeted the following:

Of course, my iPod corrects a lot of typos (whether they need it or not), but it didn't catch that one. So much for actually-literate. But some have asked, “well, what do you mean by that?” That’s a reasonable question, and I have a reasonable answer.

The biggest book in the Bible is the book of Psalms, yes? It’s huge. Nothing compares to it as a feat of literature, or, if I may be so bold, as a feat of theological exposition. And you would think that, for the latter to be true, it would have to be rote seminarian essays in somewhat-bloodless prose. But instead we get stuff like this in Psalms:
    Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!
    Let Israel say, "His steadfast love endures forever."
    Let the house of Aaron say, "His steadfast love endures forever."
    Let those who fear the LORD say, "His steadfast love endures forever."
    Out of my distress I called on the LORD; the LORD answered me and set me free.
    The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?
    The LORD is on my side as my helper; I shall look in triumph on those who hate me.
    It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man.
    It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in princes.
    All nations surrounded me; in the name of the LORD I cut them off!
    They surrounded me, surrounded me on every side; in the name of the LORD I cut them off!
    They surrounded me like bees; they went out like a fire among thorns;
    in the name of the LORD I cut them off!
    I was pushed hard, so that I was falling, but the LORD helped me. [Ps 118:1-16]
That’s not an essay. That’s not a book report. That’s not “exposition” in the sense that it has a topic sentence, three examples and a summary statement. It’s a poem about the grace of God.

Now, that should be enough to run after the idea of literate reading – for example, is this poem about a promise being made or a promise being kept? Why is that distinction necessary to comprehend and therefore interpret the meaning of the Psalmist’s thanks to YHVH? A literate person would grasp this immediately and know it’s part of what we’re getting ourselves into here.

But there’s more to it than that. This poem occurs in the Old Testament, and speaks to both some event in the history of Israel, and ultimately to the victory of Christ. Therefore the literate reader sees this psalm occurring in the narrative of the Gospel; that is, somehow the story of which it is a part is necessary and meaningful for the reader who is actually reading the psalm. The ESV study Bible tells us that this is the Psalm the crowds sang as Jesus entered Jerusalem in triumph, and that Christ intimated it would be sung at his second coming.

Now seriously: so what? Is this just another kind of internet snobbery about to make the rounds? Is this just another way to look down the nose at other people and dismiss their use of Scripture and their kind of faith in Christ?

It could be. In fact, I would say that in some circles it is. For me, I bring it up for one reason only.

We love the Bible: all you readers and me love the Bible. Let’s not love it like we love Ice Cream – that is, for the short and self-centered moment in which it tastes sweet and cold. Let’s love it like a living and active thing which will cut us meat from bone, and also equip us, and inform us – if we treat it like what it is.

But this was said to me yesterday, also via Twitter:
I agree. It's most common to tell stories in Scripture. But it is not the way the apostles taught the Church ab Christ.
There are at least three things wrong with this view of the NT which point to a deficiency in having or showing knowledge of literature, writing, etc.:

[1] The apostles preached the Gospel, but they aren’t hardly the only place where Christ is expounded and extolled. For example, the letter to the Hebrews is almost entirely a book about Christ fulfilling the Old Covenant – which is a narrative point, requiring all the types and symbols, and yields a rich theology of salvation in the Bible.

[2] This completely overlooks the role of the four Gospels in presenting the Gospel, and neglects the book of Acts as a book which informs us on everything from soteriology to evangelism to ecclesiology.

[3] This denigrates the Old Testament in an entirely unacceptable way because it ignores the apostolic use of the OT, and it ignores the nearly-complete apostolic reliance on it as the firm foundation of scripture.

The bottom line is that the Bible – not our doctrines of the Bible – will do more to help us reform ourselves and evangelize and inform others than our cultural pup tents set up for a short time in the changing world will do. We have to read it as if it was literature and not as if it was merely the annotated and unabridged version of the reformed confessions.

Just for the record

Instapundit just called President Obama "Jimmy Carter".

He's only 18 months late to the party.

Separated at Birth?

Emperor Palpatine & Helen Thomas?

The Whole Gospel

As a brief interlude to prove I haven’t forgotten about you, first I want to point out a review of a Zondervan product I received under the condition that I actually review it (for good or ill), which is now up at Evangel. I point to it because it is ironically called The Whole Gospel, which is the point of this series, after all.

As a second review of a new resource on this topic, let me heartily commend to you the new book from Greg Gilbert, What Is the Gospel? It has been endorsed by everyone on earth at this point as the burbs indicate (well, everyone associated with 9Marks, T4G, and the Gospel Coalition, anyway), but let me underscore three attributes of this book which I think make it a necessary resource for the discerning reader and faithful Christian:

[1] It’s spectacularly brief. Including the 3-page Scripture index and the front blurbs, it’s 127 pages. There are devotional books with less real meat in them which are half-again longer than this book, yet this book will do more good for those who read it if they take it even marginally-seriously. And at a compact 5x7 page size, the only people who will find reading it a burden will be those who cannot read English. This is a time when condensed text and content are a massive advantage.

[2] It is written at a popular level. It’s conversational writing without being breezy, but it is utterly readable.

[3] It looks like it’s worth giving away. You all know my beef with tracts: we have this God-sized ransom of good news we are trying to tell people, and the only thing we can think of to put it on to give away is 7-cents worth of 2-color print. This small book is in hard cover, and if you give it to someone, it looks like you gave half a thought to the value of the real gift you are trying to give them.

This is not light matter, btw. Back when Piper first published The Passion of Jesus Christ (now titled: "50 reasons Christ came to die"), it was an indispensible intro to the Christian faith. This book surpasses that accomplishment not because it is more thorough, but because it is more concise, putting the reader’s attention on what matters most.

Note to Crossway: find a way to make this book not $12.99 but $6.99 so that it will be distributed widely and used often as the first place people are introduced to the faith. There are at least three material improvements that could be made that would make this book the tract of choice for those concerned about serious, discipleship-minded evangelism (cover, paper and layout) which could be changed for the sake of cost but not made so cheap that they make the whole thing a throw-away. Consider it.

If you want a full review of this book, go here to Discerning Reader and read that review and recommendation. Otherwise, go get 5 and give them away this week.

Very Briefly

Long to-do list at work, and still only the same number of hours to do it in, so the third part of the "half-gospel" series will be delayed.

In the meantime, you're all clever people. Think about genetic engineering for a little while. There's a false gospel with teeth.


Been working on some font embedding for the blog this weekend, and thanks to some ingenious on-line tools, it works in IE8 and pretty much nothing else. Not in Firefox, not in Safari, nothin'.

It does look pretty sweet in IE8, though.

The Half Gospel (2)

Last time I made a point of saying:
And how are any of the admonitions in the NT to the various churches to live as if Christ’ death and resurrection were real any less a part of the Good News? You know: Paul’s point in making these things plain is summed up when he says plainly, “such ones as these you once were” [Eph 2; Col 1] – meaning you are now something better, and have a better purpose and objective.
There are several reasons I said this, and of course the first is that it’s the first post in a series of bloggery goodness and I had to make sure I said something worth blogging about a second time.

But another significant reason for saying this is that this is part of Paul’s Gospel which, I think, is getting lost in our “Gospel-centric” movements. I say “our” because let’s face it: I was blogging about the definition and centrality of the Gospel before it was a fad. I’m an O.G. blogger – Orthodox Gospel. Before there was T4G there was centuri0n out there giving Tony Campolo the angry eyebrows, and writing open letters to Derek Webb wondering if he has both hands on the discipleship wheel, and of course declaring that others who are far more post-medieval than I am are “clowns”. I’m a Gospel-centric guy.

But here’s the thing: I suspect some people say they are “Gospel centric” and they are in fact intellectually and academically afraid that if the Gospel means more than “God did”, they are trudging into either Liberalism or Catholicism. And these are guys who, frankly, think that people who don’t baptize babies are “churchless” and that those who do not pass the cup and the bread around every week are somehow turning their back on grace.

But the Gospel is in fact, “God did for us.” For example, take a look at what Jesus says here:
Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going. [John 14]
Consider it: Jesus is here at the last supper, and when he tells the Apostles that the reason their hearts should not be troubled that he is “going” is that he is going somewhere for their sakes. That is: the “good news” is not that Jesus goes [to his death on the cross]; it is in fact that Jesus goes [to his death on the cross] to prepare a place for the believers. That is: it is not just that Jesus does something, but that it is for us, and that somehow there is something that makes us different.

Jesus also said this:
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. [John 15]
”Aha!” says one of those who thinks I have gone AWOL here, “You’re confusing ‘Law’ and ‘Gospel’, Frank: ‘Abide’ is a command, and this cannot be the Gospel because it something one must do. My doing is my death, if I can be so bold: only Christ’s doing is life for me, and I’ll trust him thank you very much. I’ll put my hope in His death and resurrection, and really hold your advice at arms length because let’s face it: you’re veering into the land of the doubtful here. This is not good systematic theology, and I exhort you to turn back.”

Well, before you start wielding the systematic fire hose to get me off your theological front porch, let’s see what some actual bacon-in-the-fire Protestants thought about this.
They who are effectually called and regenerated, having a new heart and a new spirit created in them, are further sanctified, really and personally, through the virtue of Christ's death and resurrection, by his Word and Spirit dwelling in them; the dominion of the whole body of sin is destroyed, and the several lusts thereof are more and more weakened and mortified, and they more and more quickened and strengthened, in all saving graces, to the practice of true holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.
That’s the WCF XIII.1, yes? And that’s what Christ is talking about in John 15: those in Him are not just “in him” but he is also “in them” so that they are no longer dead branches but branches full of new life.

Paul says it this way:
For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. [Rom 8]
I mean: that’s the book of Romans, people. This is the Reformed home court. Yet when Paul says that we do not keep the Law in order that we be righteous but that Christ kept the law in order that we might live according to the spirit of life rather than the dead flesh, somehow we start wondering what’s for lunch or how nice it is outside. Paul says here without any real qualifications that God sent Christ to fulfill the law for us in order that we can therefore walk according to the Spirit.

This is the Gospel: Christ died for our sins according to the Scripture, was buried, and was raised on the third day in accordance to the Scripture. But if it is for us, and now our sins are the things ruined and we are now in the spirit, in the true vine, headed for a place prepared for us, is it moral and spiritual beer-thirty? Can we take eternity off? Is the Gospel the good news that we have a permanent vacation?

Or should we instead say, “God loves us, and has a wonderful purpose for our lives?”

I’ll be thinking about that next week. You think about it until then, and be with the Lord’s people on the Lord’s day in the Lord’s house, because of the Gospel.

Bleh. Blogger Comments.

The Blogger Comments are turned back on.

This is also a review of the "Echo" comments platform: while Echo plainly has many "Web 2.0" capable functions, it is utterly useless for the blogger who does not use a generic template. I am sorry I paid them money for their service, and I would paid double what I paid them for Echo on an annual basis to get Haloscan back.

Total thumbs-down to Echo and JS-Kit.

Oh Brothers and Sisters ...

After much toil, I have upgraded the blog to a "new" blogger template, which means growning pains. And in my haste I think I have annihilated the old template, so I am certain I will have lost a lot of things -- like the blogroll, and the Gospel in the sidebar, and the books that used to be on the right ...

... pheh. Look for things to keep getting upgrades as the weekend and week wears on ...

UPDATED: Thanks Google Cache! Wow -- they cached the site from THURSDAY! What a life-saver!

Also: comments disabled for a little while. I'm sorting it out.

UPDATED: Yeah, the comments may be lost forever and we may need to start from square one with Blogger comments -- which will be better than nothing. Not much better, mind you, but better than talking to myself. Will research this week and get back to y'all.

The Half Gospel (1)

The permanent fixture in my sidebar is 1 Cor 15:1-4, yes? You’ve seen it over there for ages, and I’m sure you all remember it by inclination if not by heart:
Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you--unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures
Now, I want you to consider two things, both of which are systematic interpretations/paraphrases of that passage.

Here’s #1:
Now I would remind you, brothers, that I preached to you, and you received my preaching, in which you stand, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you--unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that we are now OK in accordance with the Scriptures, and that we have new life in accordance with the Scriptures
You all recognize this, yes? It’s the flimsy feel-good motivational speaking that can pass for preaching in some churches, and many good people are sadly these kinds of preachers, and these kinds of Christian disciples. They want to know about themselves – and they want the Scripture to talk about them. That would be relevant, you see.

Is there really a reason to take that apart? It’s been done. We get it: It’s not good news if it’s merely about “us”. The only insight I would add to those critiques is that this is a systematic theology – it’s just a very flawed systematic theology.

Now here’s #2:
Now I would remind you, brothers, of the Gospel, which was delivered as of first importance: that Christ died in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.
Let me say this: for some people, this is the Gospel – which is Christ’s work only, to the exclusion of all things not actually personally done by Christ – for example, evangelism. Evangelism is not the Gospel, they point out with very fine systematic precision. And one wonders thereafter what kind of a Gospel it is that is not proclaimed, and which does not have an effect both in this life and the next on real people.

“Well, wait a minute, Frank,” comes the rejoinder from the seminary student who undoubtedly will take exception, “Of course it’s the Gospel that must be proclaimed – it’s the message that something was done! It has to be proclaimed; it has to be believed. There has to be repentance. Let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater here because we want to make the work of Christ an objective fact of history.”

This is actually my point and my complaint toward this seminary student and his kin as they come in many shapes and sizes: if the Gospel is an “objective fact”, it’s like a rock or a golf ball. It’s just something that was or is. It’s something we describe – saying what it is, meaning of course you cannot “live the Gospel” or something like that (or so we say) becuase it is somehow apart from us.

The problem is that the Gospel is not “Christ died”, but in fact “Christ died for our sins”. Christ died for us. That makes the Gospel not merely something “out there” or even “right here” but in fact something in which we, for whom it was done, somehow participate. That is, if there is a Savior, there must then be those who are saved. Something is received, and it makes “us” different both now and forever.

If that’s not enough – and it seems like plenty, and it seems plenty obvious – think about this: if we are “saved”, what’s it mean to be “saved”? See: to say that the Gospel is only that Christ died and was resurrected is to cut off the Gospel on the God-only side of the issue. This is a mistake, it seems to me, as grand as to cut it off on the “us” only side. The “us”-only Gospel thinks the effect is the only thing; the “God-only” side thinks the cause it the only thing. But the Gospel is good news to us, and somehow it makes something of us we weren’t before.

I want you to think about something: what if the Gospel was only “Christ died and raised from the dead, just like Scripture said he would”? That is – what if what Jesus did was only prove that He was God? That’s actually pretty cool, if you ask me – but even if that’s all Jesus did, he’d deserve to be worshipped, right? If someone could prove they were actually God, they would deserve worship because God, by definition, deserves worship. But even in that case, there is an effect which cannot be denied without in fact denying the cause.

How much more is this true, then, if Jesus’ death doesn’t just prove His Godhood? What if He proves He is both Lord and Christ? What if what He has done is actually glorifying to Him because its effect is actually greater than the act of Creation? Doesn’t that mean that we have an obligation to call that part of the Good News as well?

Think of it this way, my systematic friends: even the “Solo Christo” commandos believe that someone is not really a Christian if he doesn’t practice the sacraments. These fellows are plain in their view here: it’s a necessary consequence of the Gospel to celebrate the Lord’s table, and to baptize those who are rightly named in the church – those who refuse to do so are, frankly, not Christians. Irenic footnotes are made for those who are martyred before they can be baptized and who are never in fellowship because of extraordinary circumstances, but those who frankly refuse the sacraments are simply not Christian in their view – because these things are necessary consequences of the Gospel. How, then, can those things not actually be part of the good news? How are they any less part of the good news than the sound preaching of the Word of God?

And how are any of the admonitions in the NT to the various churches to live as if Christ’ death and resurrection were real any less a part of the Good News? You know: Paul’s point in making these things plain is summed up when he says plainly, “such ones as these you once were” [Eph 2; Col 1] – meaning you are now something better, and have a better purpose and objective.

It’s in this Gospel where all of Paul’s letters reside. It is this Gospel which Paul re-preaches to the Corinthians in order for them to stop acting like lost people. It is this Gospel which Paul preaches to the Galatians so that they don’t start seeking the approval of the Law but to exceed the requirements of the Law [cf. Galatians 5] by putting on the Spirit of Christ.

And here we are, just like those churches, with half the Gospel. We can identify the doer of the Gospel; we can identify what he does. And we forget for whom he did it and what then they (meaning: we) ought to be.

This relates to some of the goings-on around the internet lately, but this is already quite a gale force blow. Stew on it and I’ll be around another day to give you a more particular application of this point.

In Christ, I am sure

Y’know – first of all, who is “Coram Deo” anyway? Not “who does he think he is” but “why is he an anonymous voice on the internet?” It’s always an interesting encounter when someone who cannot/will not tell us who he is or whether he’s a credible person comes out and chastises someone else who is essentially a public person, who has historically been on full disclosure for years regarding his status and station, and wants to impugn either his argument (by calling the public person a bad person) or his character.

So to reply to someone like this in any serious way is itself a labor of love – because if “coram deo” is wrong about any of his accusations, or all of them, he goes to work tomorrow with nothing lost; he goes to church on the next church day with nothing lost; he goes to his friends and his family with nothing lost – because he makes all his charges from his digital batcave from behind a mask of bandwidth and anonymous e-mail addresses. He’s immune from any ill he may have done because he’s not accountable to anyone.

Therefore, let’s begin our labor of love for his sake, that in all he cannot lose he might gain something useful.
Frank said: There is a massive difference between Alpha-Omega Ministries (as one example; a group of men blogging under the spiritual guidance of an elder in a local church who -regularly- proclaim Jesus Christ) and the people I am talking about in my comments here.

Okay so aomin is off the table, check. It would seem that leaves Zach's readers a bit clearer about the people you're not "talking about in [your] comments here".

So we have at least one negative case; is it then up to those who'd like to take up your challenge to figure out who the quote-unquote "discernment ministries" are who - at least in your mind -serve no purpose?
The very-odd thing about this is that my opinion here is not a new one. I have stated it over and over again during the last 5 or 6 years. I said it most visibly here, and I am certain that I have said on either TeamPyro or my home blog that 90 or 95% of all “watchblogs” would be better off closing the doors forever (can’t find the link; sorry). To just now discover that I hold the practice in ill-repute is to sort of admit that you really don’t follow my blogging and therefore don’t really have a basis to judge it broadly.

That said, why make a list? I’ll just throw this out there: if you take all the plainly-credible (i.e. – elders in churches and men who are obviously under an elder in accountability; university professors who are accountable to their faculty senate and their peers; etc.), non-anonymous guys blogging on apologetics off your list, you’re left with 90-95% of all “discernment blogs”, and that would be my list. Work with that.
As you can probably appreciate, your challenge becomes much more difficult when there are no goalposts, or else when you move them to suit your mood.
Unlike you, who is anonymous, has an anony e-mail address, and who doesn’t really have a history of reliability (or, to be fair, unreliability). My goalposts are the mobile ones.

It’s an interesting theory. The problem is that I suspect you know who I’m talking about and you would rather say, “Frank Turk hates Ken Silva,” to generate something to occupy your hobby-time rather than thinking clearly about this issue.

And by “thinking clearly,” understand that I mean this:

There are no advocates in the “watchblog” category who have ever issued an apology or a retraction for anything they have every published on their blogs. Some of them anathemaciously delete posts they discover they ought to be ashamed of – usually without comment – but you can’t find them coming back and demonstrating that they are actually protestants. They are more like Anabaptist prophet-kings who, in lieu of an overtly-stated belief in their personal inspiration by the Holy Spirit, hide behind the words “reformation” and “scripture” and “orthodoxy” as if their interpretation of those words and all Scripture is both encyclopedic and perfect -- de facto inspired, but not that you can get them to say it. These are the ones I am talking about, and these are the ones who comprise nine-and-a-half of every 10 blogs which are ranting about “discernment”. Look to them.
Frank said: "That distinction is regularly lost in this discussion, so feel free to do what you think you are setting out to do as long as you keep in mind that I am not throwing the baby out with the bath water."

Hey, foul on the play, coach! I'm only offering to take up the challenge that you set forth here. Are you revoking your offer?
I am asking you to read what I wrote – but that might be unfair. Let me say it this way: in your mind, you have already defined my complaint as “all forms of apologetics,” and that’s simply your own biases and lack of insight in this matter emitting a radioactive glow from the center of your anonymity.

That you cannot see that there is a difference between “academic/pastoral apologetics” and “drive-by theology vomited out by anonymous, unaccountable people” points to a problem in your approach, not mine.

Feel free to “take the challenge”. Feel free to employ an army of research assistance. Also, feel free to think about what I did say rather than what you would have liked me to say in order to make your own point, such as it is.
Frank said: "As to the PS, is it really so disturbing or actually unhumble to admit that somehow I have fairly-large platform to say what I have to say, and that I didn't hard-scrabble it together, but rather God has given it and I have used it well?"

I just couldn't help being impressed by the wording of your comment. You seemed to be awfully thankful that you weren't like the sinners and tax collectors over at the "discernment blogs" - whoever they may be.
Huh. Where did I say that? It seems to me that what I did say is this:

[1] TeamPyro and Evangel (and my blog, until it fell into what is essentially disuse) are fairly-large platforms in the blogosphere. That’s an empirical fact.

[2] Because I know what I did to make them successful (which is: nothing which really counts as a big kudo to me), I thank God for those opportunities which He has provided.

[3] Because of the feedback I have gotten privately and publicly for that work, I count it as “good work”.

[4] It does actually stand in contrast to all the blogs I would toss in as “watchbloggers”. As one example, I’d point you to your own comments to me and my approach at the D-Blog – where I treat the people I debate like they’re human beings, and in some cases brothers in Christ who are merely but clearly wrong.

To blow that up into some kind of self-congrats is simply viewing it with a bias.
Frank said: "Feel free to help me understand the problem as you see it there. It will be enlightening to get advice from a guy who names himself 'coram deo' regarding humility."

Nice diversionary tactic, but Mahaney wrote the book, not me. Maybe you have a dusty unread copy laying around from your Christian bookstore days?
That’s not a diversion: that’s pointing out that a lecture on humility from someone who calls himself “coram deo” is like a lecture on fashion from someone wearing a tin-foil hat and a newspaper tuxedo. The degree of self-inflation it takes to call one’s self “coram deo” when, in the best case, one is seeking to be “coram deo” – that is, “before the face of God” or “in the presence of God” or “(personally) before God” – and cannot have achieved such a thing.

The snide remark “so what about a guy who calls himself ‘centuri0n’?” and all its cognates misses the facts of the matter – because when I adopted the handle I did actually have 100+ employees, and the guy in Luke 7 which helped me choose that handle was actually humble and knew what to expect from a man in authority.
Since you brought it up, regarding the "fairly-large platform" that God gave you - and this is just a suggestion - you might reflect on your [ab]use of it as a personal Isengard from whence you can hurl your thunderbolts of glib and gratuitous ad hom at people who - at last presumably - you would claim as brothers and sisters in Christ. From what I can tell this appears to be at least part of your gripe with the watchbloggers, no?

Mote, meet log.
There’s simply no substance to this accusation. You can’t find any evidence for it – expect for the incidents when I have made mistakes, and in all of those cases which I am aware of, I have apologized publicly and without any qualifications.
Anyway, if you're serious about the challenge let me know and I'll serve you, otherwise I'll assume you were just blowing smoke, and leave it at that.
I am serious. I think it is you who are less than serious since you yourself as anonymous, aloof, often unable to make simple distinctions, and frankly unable to substantiate any of your charges.

But feel free to do what you say you are going to do. It will be educational for they rest of us, I am sure. It seems your education is complete.

No need to worry about civility or "tone", Frank's a big boy.
The last fellow who said that found himself in over his head because he thought he could strike a pose and I’d walk away – because most guys in the blogosphere who have a good rep do walk away. Sadly for you, I am the last of the last of the reputable street fighters, CD. Please, as they say: bring it. If your case against my statements is as vague and unsubstantiated as this little chat has been, I am sure that at least the readers of Zach’s blog (and now, my blog -- who are now fewer than in days past, but probably more than is necessary) will have a good laugh at your expense.
In Christ,
I am sure.

Pray about this

Michael Spencer has gone to be with his Lord and Savior. May God have mercy on his family.

Right before your eyes

Artic sea ice rebounds; Al Gore has no comment.

More of the same

The BBC interviews James Lovelock and I think it's even better than yesterday's version from the Guardian.

You've got to have standards

On the Global Warming front, James Lovelock opines about global warming and human stupidity.

This is quite ironic from a guy who also thinks that science has standards.

Read it and weep.

Fiction and non-Fiction

Fantastic news over at

The pink line there is Cartoon Network's rank among the cable networks. The blue lines are FoxNews and the next highest-rated news network after Fox in each category.

For the record, more people watch Cartoon Network than CNN or MSNBC.

I love that.

You're Fired

Trump says "take away Gore's Nobel Prize."

I love it.

Death from below

You totally needed to know this.

Your seat belt is useless as a floatation device when it's in the belly of a 40-meter long Dino-Shark. Just another reason that people need Jesus: we are helpless to defend against MegaShark.


HT:Phil Johnson

The Weekly Standard on the Global Warming melt-down.(PDF version)
The body blows to the climate campaign did not end with the Climategate emails. The IPCC—which has produced four omnibus assessments of climate science since 1992—has issued several embarrassing retractions from its most recent 2007 report, starting with the claim that Himalayan glaciers were in danger of melting as soon as 2035. That such an outlandish claim would be so readily accepted is a sign of the credulity of the climate campaign and the media: Even if extreme global warming occurred over the next century, the one genuine scientific study available estimated that the huge ice fields of the Himalayas would take more than 300 years to melt—a prediction any beginning chemistry student could confirm with a calculator. (The actual evidence is mixed: Some Himalayan glaciers are currently expanding.)
And then this, of course:
The ruckus about “weather is not climate” exposes the greatest problem of the climate campaign. Al Gore and his band of brothers have been happy to point to any weather anomaly—cold winters, warm winters, in-between winters​—as proof of climate change. But the climate campaigners cannot name one weather pattern or event that would be inconsistent with their theory. Pretty convenient when your theory works in only one direction.
OK? Sheesh -- it's a nice day out. Does it have to be a political statement?

The other side of a day like today

The world doesn't turn into gumdrops and soda pop just becuase the sun comes out.

This report from Yahoo!/AFP reports from the UN that 96 million women are "missing" in Asia.
Female infanticide and sex-selective abortion have caused a severe gender imbalance in Asia, and the problem is worsening despite rapid economic growth in the region, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) report said.
The actual UN report is listed here. And the stunning thing is that this is reported by the Un of all orgnaizations in the world. here's how they describe it:
The problem of “missing girls” ―in which more boys are born than girls, as girl fetuses are presumably aborted, and women die from health and nutrition neglect— is actually growing. Birth gender disparity is greatest in East Asia, where 119 boys are born for every 100 girls.

China and India together account for more than 85 million of the nearly 100 million “missing” women estimated to have died from discriminatory treatment in health care, nutrition access or pure neglect ―or because they were never born in the first place, the Report found.

A tenth of women here report being assaulted by their partners, and a majority of women who do work —up to 85 percent of South Asia’s working women― are engaged in unstable low-end work in the informal economy.
Now, here's something the UN folks don't want to tell you: the population in Asia is still growing. For example, in China the population growth rate is 0.6%, compared to in the US which has a growth rate of 0.98% -- but that means that in the US, our population grows by about 2 million people every year -- and China grows by about 8 million every year.

Here's why I point that out: the problem outlined here by the UN is not that discrimination against women is the cause of economic distress, and it's not causing depopulation (yet). Moreover, improved economic conditions and medical treatment have not diminished this trend.

Somehow women aren't treated well just because there's more money around.

I wonder why.

Briefly today

I don't have any global warming updates today as winter is over and the true believers in global warming don't have to fight off doubt since they aren't freezing to death. And 6 months too late to be trendy, my wife and youngest precious cargo have apparently developed Swine Flu -- or at least "type A" influenza. So I spend my weekend dispensing Tamiflu and doing laundry. I'm also feeling a little run down m'self, so no handshakes or hugs for the next 10 days if you know what's good for you.

All of that to say this: life is full of ordinary things. The seasons change. We get sick, and God willing, we get better because we are fearfully and wonderfully made, and there are doctors in our neck of the woods, and God is also gracious. We have friends who care about what's happening to us. The sun comes out and our pets and our children like to wiggle and romp in the warm, bright light.

And sometimes, we forget how brilliant all of that is. I don't have a short story or a parable about that right now -- I'm just at work, doing the things God has ordained will ordinarily get the job done. And I think I love it.

I hope some of that rubs off on your today, too.

Human interest

This is just a story about a guy who had a rare video game in a stack in his basement, until you get to this part:
"After taxes and tithing, the rest of our part will be going to a retirement account that has been decimated by the dot-com bomb, 9/11, and the recent market problems. Not very sexy, but needed." He's also going to auction off the rest of his Nintendo paraphernalia.
I like it just because they reported what he said. That he did it or would bring it up is pretty good, too -- regardless of your view of "tithing".

What's at stake


Here's the latest op-ed from Al Gore in the NYT (single-page printer-ready format) (and here's the PDF in case the link goes dead).

Here's the money quote from the end of the essay:
Simultaneously, changes in America’s political system — including the replacement of newspapers and magazines by television as the dominant medium of communication — conferred powerful advantages on wealthy advocates of unrestrained markets and weakened advocates of legal and regulatory reforms. Some news media organizations now present showmen masquerading as political thinkers who package hatred and divisiveness as entertainment. And as in times past, that has proved to be a potent drug in the veins of the body politic. Their most consistent theme is to label as “socialist” any proposal to reform exploitive behavior in the marketplace.

From the standpoint of governance, what is at stake is our ability to use the rule of law as an instrument of human redemption. After all has been said and so little done, the truth about the climate crisis — inconvenient as ever — must still be faced.
I hope none of you are wondering at this point why I have been obsessed with blogging about this anymore. Plainly, this is about which instrument of human redemption we're going to invest our faith.

UPDATED: published a FANTASTIC piece on a report from the UK blasting the ClimateGate perpetrators from East Anglia CRU. Here's the original report.