Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Summer Time

Well, as of June 9th, I haven't been required to go into work, and won't be required to go in until some time mid-August. It's been nice - and busy, much busier than I anticipated. Cathleen and I went up to South Carolina for a few days, went to Orlando for five days, and then back to South Carolina for two more days. Only yesterday were we able to regroup a bit before Cathleen went back to work.

Orlando was great. We stayed here; went here with Matt and Berek; went here with Berek (it was good times); went here as well; had a wonderful time here and here with Berek, Jason, Jonathan, Sandra (and Company), Tallie, The Generous Mr. Hutchison, and Kazu; went here, where Cathleen kindly let me purchase a bag from here; and finally visited here, where I met with Dr. Swain to discuss a directed study that I started last summer, and here, where Cathleen, again, kindly let me purchase this, this, and this.

Just finished the fantastic tale of The Boy Who Lived, and with that done, and with life stabilizing for the next month, I'm going to finish up this and read this so I can finish what I started last summer. And that should leave me with exactly only this, this, and a one-credit directed study (1,350 pages of reading on somebody or something - and maybe a paper) to finally get my degree (and hopefully a raise) by May 2010.

And on a completely unrelated note, I read a lengthy post by Brother Wedgeworth this weekend on "The Federal Vision and Reformed Theology" and quite, quite enjoyed it. Not only does Steven give a helpful explanation of what the Federal Vision is, he also offers some real insight into the nature of the controversy. The pinnacle, for me, I think, is in the conclusion:
So where does that leave one? Where can you go if you just want to be "Reformed," all the while maintaining an outward looking mission and a flexible posture for the future? In other words, what should the normal people do?

I believe the answer is to simply stay put. You can do what you need to do without anything drastic at all. Know ahead of time that many so-called authorities are simply posturing. Discount the noise they make and continue with true ministry. Serve your local church in effective ways and handle all of this other stuff on your own time, if you can do it and remain sane. If not, then forget it and do your real job. Catholicity is a spirit. Promote it. [source]
I don't love this because it's profound, but because it's so simple and so right. It matches my own heart in the matter almost perfectly.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Waters on Wright on Justification

Waters here identifies one of Tom Wright's chief weaknesses:
Wright's discussion of good works and final justification merits two observations. First, some of Wright's critics may indeed deny a final judgment according to works. His Reformed critics do not. They deny a final judgment on the basis of works, but they do not deny a final judgment according to works. In other words, the believer's conduct is not the basis upon which he will sustain God's final judgment. Instead, his conduct will publicly show the Christian to be who he already is: a person justified solely on the basis of the imputed righteousness of Christ, received through faith. If Wright understands the Reformational doctrine of justification by faith alone to necessitate much less to permit a denial of final judgment according to works, then he has been misinformed. Reformed readers' do not object to Wright's insistence that there shall be a final judgment of the believer at the Day of Judgment. They have objected to what he claims are the place or role of the believer's works in final justification. [source]
I've long believed that, for all his good, Wright does himself, his work, and the Church a great disservice by failing to actually know what he is talking about when discussing Reformed theology - and I wouldn't be surprised if he has failed as much with the Lutherans. One of the first things I noticed when I first read Ridderbos, was how remarkably similar his work was to Wright's (though with some obvious differences as well). A scholar as accomplished as Wright should simply know better - and really, all the grief he's gotten from Reformed folk is really what he deserves for not taking the time to first become well-read in Reformed systematics and biblical theology before attempting to make corrections to it.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Good Times

This is the only thing we caught all day.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Up: A Christian Reading in Miniature

Not overly difficult, methinks.

The entire movie is about an ark-house exodus. Much more, the ark-house is planted on top of a mountain with a river flowing out of the side of it.

And don't even get me started about the resurrection of our hero in which the old creation/ark-house plummets into Sheol, defeating the Villain, and inheriting a newer, more glorious ark-house (in which dwell gentile-dogs!).


And for the record, because we are sinful and refuse to name the Creation the way God would have us, we call people "alcoholics" when they have been given over to the drink they worship. The bible calls such people "drunkards" - and with good reason, I think.

Alcohol is used very frequently in Scripture as a symbol of God's judgment and wrath. When people regularly receive God's mark of drunkenness, we undermine the authority of God in two ways by naming those people "alcoholics." First, we are wrong to give them an excuse, identifying their willful sin as an unwilled condition. Second, we are wrong to bar them from true repentance: one can stop himself from getting trashed all the time, but an alcoholic - being one who is, body and soul, addicted to alcohol - is an alcoholic for life, dry or wet.

A Psalmic Reflection

Since discovering the Genevan Psalter, I went ahead and burnt all 150 psalms to four CDs and have been making my way through them while I drive. It's been great. There are lots of things about the experience that could be commented on, but the one thing that I keep noticing is this: The Psalms are thoroughly militaristic.

Now, I never noticed this about the biblical psalmody before, and this is mostly for two reasons: 1) I've never straight read through the book of Psalms, and 2) I've never just listened to the Psalms. But doing this, I find there's a lot I've been missing out on, not least about the nature of Hebrew worship. Given that the Psalms more or less represent the Jewish hymnal, and comparing the trends of their hymnody to much of what passes for Christian worship songs presently, I see a significant difference between the two. Where as many "spiritual songs" bask in the existential experience of salvation, meditating deeply on the soul-penetrating effects of being forgiven, the songs written in Scripture are shot through instead with themes of warfare. (I finally understand what is implied by the slogan "Worship is Warfare" - much more, I see how biblical it is, too. Also, it makes far more sense to describe the temporal/visible Church as "the church militant.")

Now, seeing this, I have to wonder about the silliness involved in questioning whether or not it is right to sing "imprecatory" psalms - that is, Psalms which call for God to justly inflict harm on our enemies. Christians certainly have a responsibility to explain how this relates to the call to "love our enemies," but if one takes this to mean that we no longer should sing imprecatory psalms, then it's really not a stretch to say that Christians shouldn't sing any of the Psalms. 'Cause honestly, I don't think I've found a Psalm yet that doesn't have at least some level of imprecation involved. They may not each talk about dashing the heads of infants on the rocks (Psalm cxxxvii), but almost every Psalm I've been listening to has brought to worship the matter of "enemies" and "evildoers" and "the wicked" who are constantly posing a threat to the righteous. Even psalms that don't explicitly use such words can be easily read in light of the context of all the others.

So, the Book of Psalms is a collection of Hebrew War Poetry. Enlightening stuff, this.

P.S. This is why the "Lord's Day" is the "Day of the Lord."

The Potent Novetly of Christian Mythology

Been meaning to share this for a few days now. Josh the Liar has some really great things to say about the foolishness of Christ. Here's but a snippet, but the whole thing is really worth review:
For the Greeks, death separated the gods from the mortals. Death was not a threshold the gods could ever cross, thus death was an impediment between mortals and immortals ever knowing one another. It is strange that Jesus comes preaching a "knowledge" of God by men, or a "knowledge" of men by God. When the Greeks heard of a God who would ultimately claim to know some men and not others, they had no hook to set such claims. Further, the Eschaton, the End of Things, is curiously absent from Hesiod's work. The concept of the Eschaton must have been bizarre to the Greeks, who seem to assume the eternality of this earth, the eternality of war, the cyclical nature of all things. We take The End for granted today, but there was a time when The End Of All Things was pure revolution. [source]

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Let the Reader Understand

Douglas Jones' "The Art of Pettiness" is one of my all-time favorite Credenda/Agenda articles:
Simplicity Reigns — Life is always simple. We are monotheists. Only relativists and perverts believe that there's more than one way to see things. The universe is orderly, edged, and snaps together at the joints. The simple is the true. Other people try to hide their disorderliness by claiming complexity. Words have only one meaning. People can only mean what they explicitly say. Coins have only two sides. She's either blond or not. You can't be a little bit decapitated. Don't trust anyone who can't give you a precise definition. Definitions snap together like a good plastic car model. If it doesn't click, it doesn't fit. God gives us definitions so that we might be free. [source]
Please, no arguments. Just follow the link and read the whole thing.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Mighty Arms

Oh geez. This is too amazing not to post. HT to Rich:
As a Christian pastor I believe that without a deep-seeded belief in God and firearms that this country would not be here... [source]
Seriously, you could write a book about all the things implied by that fragment of a sentence.

Monday, June 8, 2009

WCF on Good Works

Passages like this make the Westminster Confession of Faith look hot:
Chapter XVI
Of Good Works

I. Good works are only such as God has commanded in His holy Word, and not such as, without the warrant thereof, are devised by men, out of blind zeal, or upon any pretence of good intention.

II. These good works, done in obedience to God's commandments, are the fruits and evidences of a true and lively faith: and by them believers manifest their thankfulness, strengthen their assurance, edify their brethren, adorn the profession of the Gospel, stop the mouths of the adversaries, and glorify God, whose workmanship they are, created in Christ Jesus thereunto, that, having their fruit unto holiness, they may have the end, eternal life.

III. Their ability to do good works is not at all of themselves, but wholly from the Spirit of Christ. And that they may be enabled thereunto, beside the graces they have already received, there is required an actual influence of the same Holy Spirit, to work in them to will, and to do, of His good pleasure: yet are they not hereupon to grow negligent, as if they were not bound to perform any duty unless upon a special motion of the Spirit; but they ought to be diligent in stirring up the grace of God that is in them.

IV. They who, in their obedience, attain to the greatest height which is possibly in this life, are so far from being able to supererogate, and to do more than God requires, as that they fall short of much which in duty they are bound to do.

V. We cannot by our best works merit pardon of sin, or eternal life at the hand of God, by reason of the great disproportion that is between them and the glory to come; and the infinite distance that is between us and God, whom, by them, we can neither profit, nor satisfy for the debt of our former sins, but when we have done all we can, we have done but our duty, and are unprofitable servants: and because, as they are good, they proceed from His Spirit, and as they are wrought by us, they are defiled, and mixed with so much weakness and imperfection, that they cannot endure the severity of God's judgment.

VI. Notwithstanding, the persons of believers being accepted through Christ, their good works also are accepted in Him; not as though they were in this life wholly unblamable and unreproveable in God's sight; but that He, looking upon them in His Son, is pleased to accept and reward that which is sincere, although accompanied with many weaknesses and imperfections.

VII. Works done by unregenerate men, although for the matter of them they may be things which God commands; and of good use both to themselves and others: yet, because they proceed not from an heart purified by faith; nor are done in a right manner, according to the Word; nor to a right end, the glory of God, they are therefore sinful and cannot please God, or make a man meet to receive grace from God: and yet, their neglect of them is more sinful and displeasing unto God. [source]
Hope y'all got that. The Reformed teaching on good works is that, while unable to merit forgiveness, and while plagued with weakness and imperfection, they are still accepted by God. Much more, it pleases God to accept and reward them.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Big Fish

I love Big Fish. Almost every time I watch it, I notice something new about it. Last time I watched it (not counting tonight) was back in Orlando with friend Gary. It was then that I think I understood the character of Edward Bloom better than ever.

Edward Bloom's elaborate mythology and colorful re-narration of his entire life is in no way whatsoever to be understood as an attempt to dress up an otherwise unhappy and dissatisfying lot. Nope. If you think that then you haven't watched it 15+ times yet, and if you've got a couple hours to kill tonight I'll tell you what you should do with that time.

And you have to see this, because this is it, this is what's going on. To get it all, you have to pay attention to one of the last scenes, when Edward's son, Will, is speaking with Jenny the Witch about an alleged affair between her and his father:
You see to him, there's only two women: your mother and everyone else.
One day I realized I was in love with a man who could never love me back - I was living in a fairy tale. I wanted to be as important as you were to him. That was make believe. And his other life, you, you were real.
Edward Bloom's entire life is written in fantasy because the only thing that was real to him was his wife and his son. The bizarre and unlikely details that fill every histoire is not a testimony to an implicit lack of interest or dullness. Rather, the "story" of his life is, instead, a testimony to the relative insignificance of every other thing outside of the those he deeply loved.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Genevan Psalter

I don't normally post straight up "links" on this page, but I've discovered something that is plainly too awesome not to share: a collection of metrical psalms available in both audio and lyrical format.

Go here now: GenevanPsalter.com.

Go. Sing. And be merry.

Friday, June 5, 2009

7th Grade Math Department

On a more positive note, today was a nice end to a good year. I brought my kids from an average FCAT score of 1.95 to 2.32 (3 is passing). Many 2s became 3s and 4s. I'm proud of myself and my kids. I can't wait till next year.


Oh Heavens

Spare me the rhetoric.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

A Multiplicity of Misdeeds

Tiller was known as "Tiller the Killer" because of his well-known willingness to perform late-term abortions almost no other doctor in the nation would perform.
George Tiller was shot to death Sunday morning as he was serving as an usher at Reformation Lutheran Church in Wichita. [source]