Wednesday, December 31, 2003
Monday, December 29, 2003
People keep looking for a single storyline here, but there's a lot going on. The ultimate storyline, of course, is that if we don't chicken out, things are likely to turn out well -- and if we do chicken out, things are certain to turn out very, very badly.
Our biggest potential enemy here is ourselves.
I wonder if this disaster might be the Iranian Chernobyl. (Or the 21st century equivalent of the Lisbon earthquake, if you remember your Voltaire.) Just as that catastrophe laid bare the lies and the failures of the Soviet system, so might a horrible earthquake call into question the Mullahs’ claim to rule at the behest of the Almighty. It’s hard to insist that Allah wants Israel destroyed but never gets around to leveling Tel Aviv with natural disasters.
He didn't do a very good job of taking the month off. But I won't complain.
Last week we had our Christmas program at church. It was the first one I'd organized, so I was a little nervous about it, but I had lots of very experienced help, so it all went well. Kids reciting verses and singing songs, and the big adult choir and all that. It was fun and uplifting, and a great way to celebrate Christmas. It being church and all, there was no Rudolph, or grandma getting run over by a reindeer or anything of the sort. But there was a lot of beautiful music. The two churches I pastor seem to be blessed with a disproportionate amount of musical talent. We had the big pot luck after that, a holiday classic.
We spent Christmas in Wyoming with Andrea's family. It was nice. The food was great, and there were just entirely too many presents. Katie must have gotten thirty packages. She got the hang of opening them, which was fun, but it's a little sad to see her just tearing through one and setting it aside immediately to move on to the next one, because there were so many.
My nephew Sean was there with his family (Jason and Jenny) too. Sean (14 months old) is about three months younger than Katie and it's interesting to see the differences between them. It is so obvious that he is a boy and she is a girl- he hits things, plays with something for a second and then bangs it on something, and he yells. He doesn't scream, he yells. And he grunts and frowns and throws his food. All boy. Katie on the other hand, plays very delicately and carefully with most things, is much more cautious than Sean with people or with aggressive play (Sean loves to be thrown in the air by his daddy- Katie hates it), speaks in a delicate voice, and throws hissy fits when she's mad, screaming like some superhero with the power to shatter glass with her voice.
The feminists of course would say that they've been conditioned by their surroundings to behave in these manners. And that might be true, if we were animals or robots. If that's true, then nothing we do matters because we're totally slaves to our environment. If babies can be so conditioned by the time they're one year old, then why are the social scientists even bothering to tell us about it? We're all on a course of behavior set for us by an impersonal uncaring world, and nothing could change that. How could you live in a world like that?
No, Sean and Katie were created very differently, and part of that is the fact that one's a boy and one's a girl. It's amazing to see God's creation taking shape in them. It's also sad to see the curse of sin at work in them already, but that's the world we live in. It's a beautiful world, but a deeply flawed one too. But then, that's why we've got Christ.
I guess that turned out to be a little more universal in appeal than I expected.
Sunday, December 28, 2003
Sunday, December 21, 2003
Saturday, December 20, 2003
Friday, December 19, 2003
The Purpose-Driven Life
I picked up the wildly popular book The Purpose Driven Life because a few folks in my congregation have relatives who are reading it and telling them how great it is. So I figured I’d better have an opinion.
Actually, I already had an opinion. I hated the book before I even read it. This is largely the case any time a Christian book gets on the NYT bestseller list- I assume that it’s garbage. This is totally unfair, I know, but there it is.
The first part of the book, the introduction, did nothing to dispel my pre-formed dislike of it. Mr. Warren’s got some great marketers working for him, or he’s just a great marketer himself. But then you don’t turn your church into a successful, well known brand name (Saddleback) without knowing a few things about marketing. And so, The Purpose Driven Life presents itself as A Vital Book, so much so that you need to read it one chapter at a time so that you have plenty of time to think about each chapter you read. And you will have plenty of time if you only read one chapter, because each chapter’s around five pages long in about an 18-point font, of very easy reading material. Most people could read one of these chapters in ten minutes.
And there are forty chapters. So this means that you’ll be reading it for forty days. And, Mr. Warren tells us, we will then be transformed, just like forty days of flood changed the world, or forty days on Mt Sinai transformed Moses, or forty days in the desert transformed Jesus. See, this is a life-changing book.
And Mr. Warren wants us to sign a contract to read the book in this manner, and if possible to find a friend to read it with, or better yet get your church to read it with you. Of course if you go through with this, as any good marketer can tell you, you’ve achieved buy-in, emotional commitment. Now the reader wants to be transformed by the book, to validate all of the emotional commitment he’s already invested in this book by going through the process and signing the contract, etc. And, Mr. Warren assures us, he has been praying for us, individually, the reader of the book.
See what I mean about good marketing?
So, what’s the purpose of your life? Well, he takes a few chapters to get there, but the purpose of our lives, it turns out, is to glorify God. Not to please ourselves, not to acquire wealth or even to be happy, but to serve and glorify God. He takes a week to give us the introduction to the theme of the book. He then gives us five purposes (sub-purposes, I guess) spread over the next five weeks, although he only takes five days on the last one so that he can fit it all into the “spiritually significant” forty days. These purposes are: “You were Planned for God’s Pleasure”; “You Were Formed for God’s Family”; “You Were Created to Become Like Christ”; “You Were Shaped For Serving God”; and “You Were Made For A Mission”.
The actual content of the book isn’t so terrible, apart from being totally Arminian, of course. For how does Rick know I was created to become like Christ? What if I’m actually a vessel of destruction, created for the purpose of glorifying God by my everlasting punishment?
But leaving such impolite questions aside and assuming that it’s elect Christians reading this, the book makes some good points and teaches some solid basic truths. As I said before, I went into this wanting to hate this book, but I have to admit that there’s a fair amount of good substance in it. It is true, and a lesson that all Christians need to remind themselves of, that we are here to serve and glorify God, and not ourselves. He teaches us that we need to belong to a church, that we need to love that church and serve it, that we serve Christ by serving His body. He talks on Day 20 about the need to restore broken fellowship and not let divisions fester, but address them lovingly as soon as possible.
I was perhaps most impressed with what he says on Day 13 about worship. He says, p. 128:
God is pleased when our worship is accurate. People often say, “I like to think of God as …,” and then they share their idea of the kind of God they would like to worship. But we can not just create our own comfortable or politically correct image of God and worship it. That is idolatry.And a little later:
Today many equate being emotionally moved by music as being moved by the Spirit, but these are not the same. Real worship happens when your spirit responds to God, not to some musical tone.This is all good stuff, and badly needed today.
But this is about as far as it goes. This is all baby Christian stuff, really. There's nothing life-transforming except in the basic sense that being converted is life-transforming. But nothing you wouldn’t hear constantly from the pulpit of any decent church, especially any Reformed or Presbyterian church.
Mr. Warren's hermeneutic is a major problem. The way he uses Scripture is simply scandalous. He is proud of the fact that he has over a thousand Scripture references, and that they come from many different paraphrases (to help us think more about them, he says), but Scripture to him is simply there to support the point he has already made. He makes his point, and then says, “The Bible says, …” and quotes some verse from some translation to add authority to his statement. He almost never even provides a reference in the text, but buries it in endnotes. Thus, the reader is not directed to Scripture in any meaningful sense. Passages are never examined according to context or interpretation, but simply are said to mean what Mr. Warren says they mean, which is always just the same as whatever Mr. Warren just said. Scripture therefore serves his purposes, rather than the other way around. It’s a terrible use (or abuse) of Scripture, but it is a very typical one, I’m afraid. Rather than his thousand references, I’d much rather he took ten and actually dealt with them in a meaningful way. It’s just classic proof-texting and is a big turn-off. You could strip every Scripture reference out of this book and lose nothing.
So, apart from the fairly shallow content, terrible hermeneutics and the extreme hubris of saying that you have written a book that God wants to use to transform someone’s life, this really isn’t a bad book. I’m not sure how much more would be added by also reading The Purpose Driven Church, doing The Purpose Driven Workbook and buying The Purpose Driven CD, but I’ll leave that to the reader to explore.
What, no "Purpose Driven Weight Loss Plan?"
"to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons."
The government argued that this is the act of Congress which authorizes it, but the majority opinion was that this did not explicitly authorize detention of citizens clearly enough. Seems like a silly opinion to me. I hope Volokh's right, and it gets reversed in the Supreme Court.
Thursday, December 18, 2003
Tuesday, December 16, 2003
Thanks to InstaPundit for the link.
It seems to be to be self-evidently true that we are raising a generation of males that does not know how to be men. The extremes are either whining and an inability to commit, or barbarity, vulgarity and stupidity.
Thanks to Hugh Hewitt for the link.
Critics of Christianity sometimes say that this statement proves Jesus was not the Messiah since His coming did not bring peace. Many Old Testament prophecies said that the coming of the Christ would bring peace (shalom). So the sermon is about that idea, shalom, and just what it was that they were promising with the coming of Christ.
Monday, December 15, 2003
He ought to be dealt with humanely. The image of God must always be honored. But it is precisely because the image of God must be honored that he must die. To deal with him in any way less than death is to dishonor the millions of images of God that he tortured and twisted and broke, including his own.
"He who sheds man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed." These words were spoken by God to Noah, as part of what's often called the Covenant of Preservation. It was the mechanism that God put in place to restrain the wickedness of man, so as to avoid the need for another worldwide flood until God's redemptive plan was complete. We can see how that mechanism would work when we imagine the effect that hanging Saddam would have on every dictator in the world. It would send a message that there are a few countries in the world that are willing, if you get too far out of line, to invade you and hang you. This would be a wonderfully bracing message in a world where Yasser Arafat wins a Nobel Peace prize and Robert Mugave is treated like an elder statesman instead of the cheap thug that he is.
And I hope that he is tried by the Iraqi people. As long as we could make sure that it wasn't Saddam loyalists trying him (and that shouldn't be too hard to ensure), we wouldn't have to worry about justice being done. Everyone who's ever lost a loved one to crime wants the perpetrator brought to justice. And the Iraqis have lost millions. So I hope they try him, and I hope they hang him, and I hope they do it all in public.
They say that if God never judged anyone on earth for their crimes, we might not have reason to believe that God judged at all. And if God punished all crimes here on earth, we might not have reason to expect any future judgment. So a lot of people get away with things for a while. Some people get away with it their whole lives, and die in peace (like the elder Kim of North Korea) to go to be judged by the Almighty in eternity. And God in His mercy shows us some people getting judged right here and now, for all to see, that there is a God in the heavens, and He does care what we do to each other. Thank God, and praise Him for this victory.
To support this story, Reuters rounds up a half-dozen or so unhappy Iraqis to complain, and then calls it "Iraqi Ire" as if they had just scientifically sampled the mood of the country with a handful of interviews. Well, they are Iraqis, I guess, and they did have some ire.
Let the media and the lefties cry. They know they just lost the 2004 election, and any number of other contests as well.
Sunday, December 14, 2003
Read, well, practically anything on it. Instapundit's got tons, of course. So does Fox News. The Command Post has a great roundup of stories.
I can't imagine what it would be like to live under the fear of a monster like that for thirty years, so I also can't imagine what the people of Iraq must be feeling now. But I understand there's a lot of celebratory gunfire in Baghdad right now.
Good for them.
Friday, December 12, 2003
I don't think there's a set of rules or a program that's going to work in every case. That's why the courtship thing rubs me wrong a lot of the time.
But the dating thing isn't any good. My big problem with it is that two young people make a commitment to each other, to 'see' only each other, that lasts only so long as both feel like keeping it. It teaches kids a very bad idea of what commitments are all about, and I believe just sets them up for divorce later. There is a lot of pressure to get physical, as a proof of the validity of the relationship, and then when the relationship fails, and the next one starts, the girl (especially) will say to herself that this relationship is the real one, and validate that by getting more physical than the last time. It's a bad cycle to get into.
So my feelings on it are this. Young people should be encouraged not to make these bogus commitments to each other. A young girl should not believe she has any special status in any young man's life until that young man puts a ring on her finger. The girl usually only gets inappropriately physical with a guy to legitimize the relationship; so if she understands there is no commitment until there's an engagement, then that should help with that kind of pressure. Parents should be involved in this, in helping young people, especially a daughter, select the right mate.
So there's some of the principles of the courtship movement that I think are right on. I'm just not willing to tell people exactly how it's supposed to look in their case. The courtship people sometimes are quick in my mind to lay down a system for people, say 'these are all the things that a courting couple is allowed and not allowed to do'. And I think that's between the parents and their kids.
Hope this helps!
No, really. I would very much like to see a billion of these people's money go to meditation centers. It's just one step away from them flushing the money down the toilet. Given the sorts of things many of these folks are given to spending their money on (crack, crack whores, UN donations especially to the UN Crack Whore Fund, I'm told), it seems one of the most harmless things they could do with it.
A giggle of pure happiness, indeed.
Thursday, December 11, 2003
It's great to be part of the revolution. Finally, the average guy doesn't have to sit and accept whatever Dan Rather thinks he ought to know. Bloggers, unite! We've nothing to lose but our chains.
And it's the internet that made it all possible. Also, it made this possible, which is almost as cool.
Wednesday, December 10, 2003
I'm glad to hear it anyway, even if they don't admit what seems to be the real cause. It shows that when a lot of people become aware of something, change can still happen, and that businesses can be forced to respond to the still mostly centrist 'bourgeois' morality of middle America.
If we as a Christian community think that there's a lot going on in our culture that's lamentable (and there is), we can make a difference. This proves it. We need to make our opinions known, and vote with our dollar. I'm not saying we've got to shut down every company not run by Christians or every company who supports anything we don't agree with. But surely we can agree that the line's got to be drawn somewhere, and if we can't draw it at pornographic product catalogs targeted at youth, then where can we draw it?
Tuesday, December 09, 2003
Friday, December 05, 2003
Anyway, here's a few things you might find worth looking at.
Christian Lowe thinks about Iraq strategy at the Weekly Standard.
Jonah Goldberg laments the current state of television, and pines for the good ol' days (and he doesn't mean "Happy Days").
Want to know which historical lunatic you are? I'm Nicola Tesla, apparently.
Which Historical Lunatic Are You?
From the fecund loins of Rum and Monkey.