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Sunday, December 21, 2003

New Sermon 

One last thing before I leave- Sunday's sermon is up. It's titled King of Kings, and addresses Jesus as the king and deliverer, the Horn of Salvation. Enjoy. It's short, because we had a Christmas program. The link's on the sidebar.

Saturday, December 20, 2003

Merry Christmas 

Merry Christmas to everyone. I will not likely be blogging much for a week or so, since I will be out of town. Enjoy the archives, and I'll see you later!

Friday, December 19, 2003

Book Review- The Purpose Driven Life 

The Purpose-Driven Life
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?"

The Dirty Bomber 

Volokh has comments on Padilla vs. Rumsfeld. He agrees with the dissent. The ruling was that a citizen can't be detained except by an act of Congress. The Joint Resolution authorizes the President
"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

New Blogs 

I've added some new sites to my blogroll, and taken some off. The ones I've taken off are mostly the big sites that everyone knows about already, and added some less well-known sites that I think ought to be checked out. Perhaps you agree, perhaps not, but check 'em out.


Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Orson Scott Card on the Democrats 

OpinionJournal is running an editorial by sci-fi writer Orson Scott Card going after his fellow Democrats on their current message, or lack of it. It's great. I'd be a lot less likely to think Democrats were a bunch of America-hating wussy morons if there were a few more of them like Card apparently is.

Thanks to InstaPundit for the link.

Wimps and Barbarians 

The Claremont Institute has a great article on the loss of true manliness in our culture. I recommend it.

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.

New Sermon 

My Sunday sermon is uploaded. It's on the subject of peace. and the angels' statement that Christ's coming would bring peace.

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

Death to Saddam 

I am in favor of the death penalty in general, and for Saddam in particular.

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.

It was only a matter of time 

Yeah, They Caught Him, But It's Still a Quagmire and Everything Still Sucks and Bush is Still a Liar So Don't Give Him or the Americans An Inch of Credit For Anything- Reuters Headline

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

Hooray! 

Saddam Hussein's been captured!

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

Courtship vs. Dating 

I was recently asked my feelings about courtship vs. dating. I thought I'd post my response.

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!

Matt Powell

A Very Good Use for $1B US 

I am in favor of this.

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

Yes, we noticed 

Despite the apparent attempt by the main American media to block out this story, thanks to the blogosphere, it's been noticed.

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

Abercrombie and Fitch 

A&F have canceled their kiddie porno catalog, due, they say, to the desire for an exciting new campaign and having nothing to do at all with the boycotts and negative publicity they were getting.

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?

Sermon 

This week's sermon was on Genesis 17 and the Covenant of Circumcision. It's uploaded. Click on the link on the sidebar to download it.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Saudi funding of Terrorism 

All you ever wanted to know about Saudi funding of Al Qaeda and terrorist activities is in a report in US News.

Islam and Growth 

Tyler Cowen has a post at the Volokh Conspiracy on a study done on the effect Islam has on economic growth. He's skeptical of the results. Check it out.

Friday, December 05, 2003

Need some Encouragement? 

If the media's got you down about our progress in Iraq, read this. Den Beste is right- The Belmont Club is great.

Slow Week 

Sorry for the slow blogging this week. It's been, well, interesting, this week.

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.

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Straight flight 

Here's an article about a church being taken over by homosexuals. It's long, but well worth it. Thanks to John Derbyshire for the link from The Corner at NRO.

Den Beste on Strategy 

Steven Den Beste has a great post on why we need a victory strategy, not an exit strategy, here.

Saturday, November 29, 2003

Katie.... 

.... is eating drywall right now. Andrea said, 'OK, OK, I'll feed you!'

Assimilation and Law 

Paul Johnson's A History of the American People (can you tell I'm reading that right now?) says something about the Jews' early experience in America that I think is relevant to the issue of Canada's adoption of an arbitration system for Muslims based on Sharia law. From p. 306:
Even in colonial times, Jews' existence in America was fundamentally unlike the life they lived in Europe. There, they had their own legal status, ran their own courts, schools, shops, paid their own special, heavier taxes, and usually lived in ghettos. In America, where there was no religiously determined law, there was no reason why Jews should operate a separate legal system, except on matters which could be seen as merely internal religious discipline. Since in America all religious groups had equal rights, there was no point in constituting itself into a separate community. All could participate fully in a communal society. Hence from the start the Jews in America were organized not on communal but on congregational lines, like the other churches. ... Hence a Jew went to 'his' synagogue just as a Protestant went to 'his' church. In other respects, Jews and Protestants were simply part of the general citizenry, in which they merged as secular units. Thus the Jews in America, without in any way renouncing their religion, began to experience integration for the first time.

The more I think about this, the more it worries me. One religious group opting out of some large portion of the common law in order to operate in a system exclusive to them seems to me a major step backward. The Muslims enjoy the same benefits as the Jews listed above, of being one with the general citizenry in matters of law, which seems to me to have huge advantages both for the minority and for the society at large. The fact that the Jews were treated differently under law in Europe made it easier for discriminatory and oppressive practices to be directed at them, and also denied the society as a whole many of their talents and contributions.

America has benefited immensely from the contributions of all its minorities, and even though our record is far from perfect, it's a whole lot better than Europe's. I'll repeat my hope that we not follow Canada's lead on this issue, or any other issue that springs readily to mind for that matter.

Friday, November 28, 2003

Sharia Law in Canada 

The Volokh Conspiracy has a post on a system in Canada which is being developed, to allow Muslims to opt in to a binding arbitration system for resolution of civil disputes, the decisions of which would be based on Sharia law and enforced by the Canadian courts.

Eugene is addressing the question of whether or not this would result in Nigeria-style stonings for adultery, and he thinks it's pretty far-fetched. His reasoning on this seems sound.

But I have another concern. It seems that this system would accelerate the fragmentation of the society that adopted it. Different ethnic and religious groups, operating under different systems of law, even if those systems were under the larger umbrella, would be connected by one less common strand. I know that many countries in Europe already have major problems with large unassimilated minorities. I also know that the PC crowd in this country at least thinks that's a good thing, but we can look to Bosnia for an easy reference on what happens when different ethnic groups get too cut off from each other, and view themselves as members of their ethnic group first, and members of a nation second.

We've begun to see this country dominated by factionalism and the grievance industry. I don't know that much about what's going on in Canada, but I hope we don't encourage that sort of thing here. It seems like it would be a tacit admission that we can't all get along; that unity is impossible; and that we just need to buy off some groups so they don't cause us too much trouble. We've gone a fair way down that path already, and I don't think there's any end to it except the dissolution of the nation.

Some folks think that would be OK, I suppose, but I think it would be a great loss. An awful lot of the world, besides just this country, would be a lot worse off if America wasn't around any more (think of Israel or Taiwan, for example). But if we're going to be a nation, in public, civil and legal matters we've got to be united, somehow. I hope we don't follow Canada's example. Why we would, I've no idea, but stranger things have happened. The Supreme Court recently cited the constitution of the EU as a precedent in a decision (the Lawrence decision I believe) so it may not be so far off.

Happy Thanksgiving 

Hope everyone had a happy Thanksgiving Day. I know I did. Family and friends, turkey and wine and X-Box, who can ask for more?

I am thankful for my family, my wife and my little girl Katie, who I think had a great time yesterday. She was all smiles and giggles until everyone left around ten, later than she'd normally be up. Katie's a very social fifteen-month old. When people are around, she has to be part of it.

I am thankful for the rest of my family too. My dad was here, but not my mom. Mom's in Oregon visiting her mother who likely is dying. But it was great to have dad here. My brother Joe was here too. Poor old Joe- he's the only one that Katie's still scared of. But I think he had a good time despite that. And my cousin Susanna and her husband Matt, minus their very well-behaved Rhodesian Ridgeback Lucian. I think they were being sensitive to my well-known aversion to dogs, although I really don't mind other people's dogs. Just like them with kids- they like other people's kids, they just don't want one of their own.

I am thankful for my new career as a pastor, and hope that the Lord blesses it. Although I am still an intern and not a full pastor, still I am beginning to live the life, and am finding it quite agreeable. I like working from home. My wife might feel differently though. She says she likes having me home, but she might just be being nice.

I am thankful for X-Box. I think it's important to note that I put this item below all of my family and people-related thanksgiving, even though some might suspect that I'd put it first. But I do believe that all good things come from the Lord, and that includes X-Box. All things in moderation.

Today it's back to work. I know many of my readers will have a day off and I'm glad for them. Enjoy, and give God thanks.

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Free Markets 

Paul Johnson's A History of the American People has a fascinating account of the buyup of land in America in the first half of the 19th century, and how the US Government set it up. The book compares it to the efforts of Britain in Canada, South Africa and Australia. Johnson says that because the British government was worried about land speculators, they tightly regulated the purchase of land, and as a result those regions developed much more slowly than America did. And, ironically, it was the speculators that benefited in the British-run countries- the rules played right into their hands. And it was the settlers that benefited in America. The speculators in America were the ones who were able to get the land developed, get roads and schools built, so that the land they owned would be worth selling. The result was the huge expansion of the country in the 19th century.

Now I compare this to an article in the WSJ (subscriber only link) entitled "Back in the USSR" criticizing the Medicare-strangled state of health care in America:
The U.S. economy has boomed because brilliant entrepreneurs can enter it freely. If they succeed, they are appropriately lionized. A McKinsey report claims that the retailing industry was No. 1 in enhancing productivity, and credits Sam Walton's Wal-Mart for much of that increase. No. 2 was the finance sector, whose productivity was greatly enhanced by John Bogle's dogged insistence on the wisdom of indexed, consumer-driven mutual funds. Yet, had Messrs. Bogle and Walton been forced to rely on government approvals to start their businesses and on government-dictated products and prices to earn their revenues, we might not have benefited from the productivity-enhancing innovations they created. Indeed, they would have been chopped off at the knees if they were in the health-care sector: It prohibits physicians, the health-care equivalent of Messrs. Bogle and Walton, from owning their own facilities. The unattractiveness of these conditions explains why few of the 100 Harvard MBA students enrolled in my "Innovating Health Care" course plan to enter the trillion-dollar health-services sector.


Because government sets the price that Medicare will pay for things, which ends up being the standard that private insurers use, there is no motivation for health-care providers to decrease costs or improve services. Advocates of regulation say health care is too complex and too important to leave to the private sector. But how many complex and important markets have been handled so much more efficiently by the private sector? Land in the 19th century was, and remains today, very complex and extremely important.

It seems that one ought to say, health care is too complex and too important to leave in the hands of the state.

How Dare He 

Lileks is taking a month off from blogging. He should feel ashamed of himself! How Dare He? People are depending on you, James!

How can it be right to just stop providing a product that people have come to depend on and have paid good ... uh ... oh yeah. Nevermind.

Enjoy your vacation, James.

Celebrity Wisdom 

Yeah, it's just too obvious, isn't it? Could anyone say those two words together with a straight face?

David Skinner at The Weekly Standard has a great send-up of a celebrity truth-a-thon. But a warning- it may be better to skip it if you prefer to know as little about celebrities as possible. Sometimes I feel that way too.

Monday, November 24, 2003

Weekly Sermon 

The Weekly Sermon, on Genesis 16, The Son of the Bondwoman, is uploaded. Click on the link in the sidebar, or here.

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