Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Maybe our folks were right... 

The Chicago Tribune has this story about schools trying to do something about the sexually explicit dancing and music that goes on at so many high school dances, and the obscene clothes so many high school kids wear today. The article included this quote, from someone who predictably thought this is no big deal:
Some, however, say modern critics of teen dancing and attire are the equivalent of those in the 1950s who wanted to stop Elvis from shaking his hips.

Perhaps it is. And perhaps that means that our parents were right to be concerned about Elvis. Perhaps they knew what it would lead to.

It’s like if your mom tells you that sugar will rot your teeth, and you laugh her off, thinking she doesn’t know what she’s talking about, and then ten years later your teeth are full of cavities and your dentist says it’s all the sugar you ate that did it. And you say, “That’s stupid- it sounds just like what my mom said ten years ago.”

Monday, November 29, 2004

Free Will and God’s Sovereignty 

This is, of course, a very old discussion.

Jollyblogger has been posting a very thought-provoking series on the Five Points of Calvinism, and in the one on Total Depravity, he handles the difficulty of how God can be sovereign and man’s will can yet be free. Some people believe that an absolutely free will cannot coexist with an absolutely sovereign God. I happen to be one of those people.

Frequently (and I’m referring especially to a number of commenters on the above article), people who desire to maintain both of these ideas say that the two ideas are not really contradictory. In order to discover whether that’s true, we need to define our terms a little bit. What is meant by a sovereign God, for starters?

Is a sovereign God one who merely is capable of exerting control or authority over anything that He chooses to control, but who does not actually control everything? I’d contest that this violates the meaning of the idea as well as the Biblical teaching of who God is. You wouldn’t consider a king sovereign over a land if he had abdicated his throne. He’s only sovereign if he’s actually exercising kingship.

Further, the Bible is clear- God actually possesses all power. Look, for example, at the book of Job (discussed in more detail here)- it is clear that God accepts full responsibility for what happened to Job, and claims full right to make it happen, despite the fact that in an immediate sense, all He did was to “allow” Satan to cause the events to happen. God never dodges responsibility.

As another example, I posit Isaiah 10. In that chapter, God says that He is using the Assyrians as His weapon to punish Israel for their idolatry. After that, He says that He will turn around and punish the Assyrians for their pride and violence, for their reason for attacking Israel was not to glorify God, but to glorify themselves. But if God was using them as His weapon, then He is taking responsibility for the action that they performed, but also the motivation for the action, because without the motivation they never would have done what they did.

So it’s clear from Scripture, and examples could be multiplied, that God truly does control everything. Everything is ordained by Him, and part of His plan.

Now, can this be reconciled with the idea of an absolutely free will? Something is free if it does not operate under any control or coercion. If my choices are absolutely free, then there can be nothing which restrains, compels or directs those choices. But clearly if God is sovereign in the sense just described, then there can be nothing escaping His control, including my will. Therefore my will cannot be described as absolutely free. And this squares well with logic, as Adrian Warnock has pointed out here. Our wills are definitely restrained by a great many things, of which everyone is aware.

Therefore, it is not a “tension” or “polarity” to assert a sovereign God and an absolutely free will. It is a contradiction.

UPDATE: Just to clarify- I didn't really see this article as a disagreement with Jollyblogger, though some have taken it as such. If by "truly free" he means the same as "absolutely free", then yes, I disagree with him. But I don't think he does mean that, and the two don't necessarily mean the same thing. I enjoyed Jollyblogger's article a great deal, as I do pretty much all of his stuff, which is why he's in my blogroll. My article was aimed more at some of the commenters on Jollyblogger's article.

Thursday, November 25, 2004


Thanksgiving is a very Christian holiday, a very Christian thing to do. We gather together with friends and family to thank God for all that He has given us. We celebrate our prosperity by taking time off from work and eating a far larger meal than anybody really needs. We do this, recognizing that God does not give us material blessings in exchange for our worship, for the rain falls on the righteous and the wicked alike. Our prosperity is not a quid pro quo arrangement, for God blesses even those who do not know Him.

In Acts 14:14ff, Paul and Barnabas attempt to convince a pagan crowd, who believed that the Apostles were gods because of the miracles they worked, not to offer sacrifices to them. They teach them about the one true God, who allowed nations to walk in their ignorance in times past, but who now has revealed Himself to all. But they say that although the nations were ignorant of God, they were not entirely without witness, for God gave them food and blessings even when they did not know Him.

God blesses us not in exchange for our worship, but because He is good, and He wants us to know that He is good. Therefore, we give thanks, not in order to get more blessings, but to recognize that we have already been blessed tremendously. The thanks we offer at this time, and that we ought to offer all through our lives, is the acknowledgement and recognition of what God has already done for us.

And this also means that just "giving thanks" in the abstract is an empty, pointless gesture. We must give thanks to the One who actually provided the blessings. That is, thanksgiving, if it is to be meaningful, must be directed to Jehovah, the one true living God, and not to the "useless things" which men in their dreams believe are responsible for their blessings. We are not blessed because we are clever, or Christians, or Americans, or lucky. We are blessed because God has blessed us. And He blessed us because He is good.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Edersheim on the Apocrypha 

In Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Alfred Edersheim says that the intertestamental books (Maccabees, Tobit, Esdras, etc) were written partially to reconcile Jewish thinking with Greek philosophy. That explained to me why the Catholics accept those books as canonical and the Protestants generally don't. The Catholics were likewise interested (after Aquinas and especially after Trent) in reconciling Aristotelian thought with Christianity, and the intertestamental books would have been a great aid to them in that task.

Just a little trivia for today.

Christian banners 

Dad has some good thoughts on the flap over the banner that Fisher DeBerry hung in his locker. Check it out.

Friday, November 19, 2004

What a Week. 

I haven't been able to blog since last week. First I didn't have Internet for a while, because of the work they're doing on my house. Then I've been in Colorado Springs most of the rest of the week, doing various things, seeing the dentist, waiting for people to not show up to appointments they've made. Nothing like driving an hour to get stood up.

This Sunday I served the Lord's Supper for the first time. I haven't had the Lord's Supper in way too long, and the people here have had it only irregularly for the last year or so. It's good to get back to doing it regularly.

Next week it's off to Wyoming for Thanksgiving. The big Hager Family Thanksgiving. My in-laws always have a much larger production for holidays than I'm used to. There are pros and cons to that, I think. Fun, but exhausting. At least it's exhausting for me to watch them doing all the work. They seem to mostly enjoy it, actually.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

What’s wrong with Sola Scriptura? 

Nothing, that's what.

David from Through a Glass Darkly responded to my article on Sola Scriptura here, along with notes about Jollyblogger's comments about my article here. He thinks I offer a "caricature" of the Emergent church, which seems to always be the case anytime anyone criticizes the Emergent Church. David from Jollyblogger says this is because the Emerging Church is in flux, and therefore not easily categorized. And he's right, but he's also right when he says "though the postmodern/emergent movement is in flux, it has been pretty unified and consistent in criticizing earlier forms of doing theology and doing church."

This is the point of my article. If you criticize "Sola Scriptura", you do so because you think some other doctrine is more suitable. If "Sola Scriptura" teaches that the Scriptures are the supreme authority on any matter on which it speaks, then a movement away from that doctrine is to make it less of such a supreme authority, in some sense. And if Scripture's not the authority, something else must be.

David talks about a book called Beyond Foundationalism which I have not read. But they feel the need to posit a different doctrine of Scripture than the Sola Scriptura. Why are they doing that? David at first tries to make the case that this book's idea of a "norming norm" is not really all that different than "Sola Scriptura". But if that's the case, why the need for a new doctrine? Just so these guys can get their name attached to it? Or perhaps it really is somewhat different:
This isn't to say the concept of a "norming norm" is necessarily the same thing as "sola scriptura." The authors of Beyond Foundationalism seem at some points to suggest that the community not only interprets and applies the existing norms of scripture, but also creates the norms through the act of interpreting and applying scripture. Actually, the book is a bit dense on this point, and I'm not sure if I'm representing the authors' views accurately. So, there may be some points of departure from classical doctrine which might be subject to criticism.

Well, either it's not a departure from the classical doctrine, in which case it's totally pointless to come up with some new name for a doctrine that's already well-known by another, or it is a departure from the classical doctrine, in which case you better believe it's "subject to criticism". And the reason that it's subject to criticism is because it's an attempt to set up a different authority in competition with, or in place of, Scripture. And if Scripture isn't an absolute authority, then you're stuck in relativism. That's why Postmodernism and all versions of Christianity which ascribe to it are always called relativistic- because they ARE relativistic. They become relativistic by the very process which makes them Postmodern. If you reject, in any sense at all, the idea that the word of God is not an absolute, and universally applicable authority on all subjects to which it speaks, then you're stuck only with opinion and speculation. I know which one of those options I'd rather rest the fate of my eternal soul. The concept of a "norming norm" just doesn't really inspire me with confidence.

Friday, November 05, 2004

Well, so much for unity 

As I said, I'm all for playing nice. But not to cretins like Jane Smiley.

Smiley's main contention in this much-discussed piece at Slate is that Bush was elected because Americans are really stupid. Her piece has all of the stereotypes- Bible-thumping, gay-hating, NASCAR-watching, sister-impregnating morons make up the red states. Charming. One part of me wants the left to keep saying things like this, because as long as they do, we will keep beating them in elections. Another part of me, though, realizes that it just contributes to the division of the country, keeps radicalizing our politics, and this is not a good thing.

Smiley's piece is unintentionally revealing:
The history of the last four years shows that red state types, above all, do not want to be told what to do—they prefer to be ignorant. As a result, they are virtually unteachable.

First of all, the rest of her article asserts that Americans are so stupid that they do whatever the evil masterminds (read: Karl Rove) tell them. Now she says that they won't let anyone tell them what to do. Which is it?

But the unintentionally telling part?

She thinks that being "teachable" means letting other people tell you what to do. The fact that I don't like other people tell me what to do (except for big-haired preachers and evil capitalist masterminds) means I'm unteachable.

What the liberals are so mad about is that they know (it's seared, SEARED into their brains) that they are our superiors, and yet we refuse to let them order us around and tell us how to think. Even from the most reasonable sources on the left, I am hearing very little right now about the possibility that the left lost the election because their ideas are wrong, or that they did a poor job of explaining their ideas or even that their ideas are out of touch with America. No, they lost because a) the election was stolen (again) or b) the electorate is stupid and/or evil.

This is an ideological position well on its way to total irrelevance. Keep telling America how stupid and evil they are, and see how many of them vote for you.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Specter's Litmus Test 

Kathryn Jean Lopez just posted an article on The Corner at National Review Online about Arlen Specter's statements regarding federal judges. Go read it, and then make the call Lopez wants you to make.

Per my last post, I'm all for niceness to those on the losing side, but that doesn't mean we should give up the conservative victory we've just won by allowing guys like Specter to hijack it.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Election Thoughts 

I am very happy that Bush won. This I am sure comes as a surprise to nobody familiar with me or my blog.

I am also especially happy that he has won with a majority, which will hopefully silence some of the "Selected, not Elected" talk. I say this because I am hopeful that this country will be somewhat more united now than it has been for the last few years.

I do not say any of this because I think Bush is a perfect candidate. I'm not sure that anyone does think that. But our democratic institutions are more important than any one man. I said before the election, and I'll say it again- it would have been better for Kerry to win, than for Bush to win but our electoral system to be trashed in the process.

Also more important than any one candidate or any one party- the Christian's love for his neighbor. I'm sure most of the people reading this are Bush supporters. Do me a favor- don't gloat. Don't rub it in your Democrat friends' faces. Maybe we can rebuild a little bit of civility in this country. The folks over at Democratic Underground are talking about secession and leaving the country. I'm sure they're a small minority. But a snotty winning side will push more moderate Democrats into that camp. So, let's be nice.
Proverbs 24:17-18:
Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, And do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles; Lest the LORD see it, and it displease Him, And He turn away His wrath from him.

I think it would be a little bit of a stretch to call the Republicans the "Party of God" right now. Let's not act like it is.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Another advantage of small-town living 

My wife and I were in and out of the polling station in 10 minutes. No long lines for us!

Carnival of the Reformation, #1 

Jollyblogger has posted the first ever, Carnival of the Reformation. He's linked to one of my articles with some very kind words, too. Thanks, Jollyblogger! Go check it out. There are a lot of great posts linked, as we'd expect from a "carnival".

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