"The proper focus of holiness is not on being set apart from something (i.e., the world), but on being set apart for something."

- Michael Horton
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From internetmonk.com
Thoughts on Hitchhiking

hitchhikeWe rented a cottage this week, and for the first time in quite a while were able to get our whole family together for a holiday. We have no Wifi and as a result monitoring of comments will be spotty, so play nice! We have been staying at Sauble Beach, a beautiful sandy beach, seven miles long, on the Canadian side of Lake Huron. My son Josh was only able to join us for three days, and so I offered to take the five hour return trip to drive him back to the town where he was working. The plan was that I would arrive back at the cottage at about midnight. Traffic was very light, and I was making good time. It was just after 11:00 p.m., and in the middle of nowhere, when my headlights illuminated a couple at the side of the road, their arms out stretched, and thumbs out. I had to make a split decision, and I decided to stop.

It might help to know a bit of back ground that went into my decision.

I can remember the first time I hitchhiked. I was fourteen years old and living in Africa. My parents had sent me away to camp for a week in the neighboring country. Now, who knows what goes on in teenage brains, but for some inexplicable reason a few of us decided to use our free time to swim the half mile across the lake. Once across, and having garnered wisdom from actually swimming half a mile, none of us wanted to swim back. The problem was that it was seven mile back to the camp, and so we decided to hitchhike. We walked and put out our thumbs, walked some more and put out our thumbs some more. It was almost two hours after we started, before a vehicle pulled over to give us a lift.

“You do know it is is illegal to hitchhike here, don’t you?”

We didn’t. But that did explain the long wait to get a ride.

When I was fifteen, our family moved back to Canada. At High School I became involved in a lot of clubs, and would often miss the last school bus home. We lived outside of the city, about three miles from the school, and so, on a very frequent basis I would stick out my thumb and catch a ride home. Often it would be neighbor, driving home from work, but just as often it would be a stranger who would give me a lift. It was the late seventies, and it was still quite common to see hitchhikers on a regular basis.

A couple of years later and I was off to University. It was a four hour trip from my home to the university I attended. Bus fair was expensive, and we didn’t have a lot of money. Plus, if going by car took four hours, the bus took over five, and I found I could hitchhike the distance in about six hours. My dad would drop me at the south end of the city, and usually within fifteen minutes I would have my first ride. I don’t think my parents worried to much about me, I had trained in the Armed Forces Reserves, and they thought I could take care of myself.

My parents moved half way through university and my six hour hike became a nine hour adventure. I didn’t do the trip as often, as the train became a viable, albeit costly, alternative.

I did however have hitchhiking down to a science. I dressed in a suit and a tie, and carried a sign with my destination in large letters. I knew which highway on ramps worked and which didn’t. I learned from experience that if you got stuck on the highway half way through Toronto that your best bet was to find public transit to the other end of town. I also learned that once darkness hit, you could forget it. No one would pick you up.

Most of my experiences were good. Some were a little comical. A little old lady once stopped and rolled down her window. “You aren’t going to beat me up are you?” she asked. “No, Ma’am”, I replied. “Okay, you can get it then.”

I did have three bad experiences. One pervert, one drunk, and one person who kept driving past my stop. In all three cases I asked them in no uncertain terms to stop the car and let me out, and in all three cases they did.

A brother of a family friend was not so lucky. Twelve year old Robbie Brown was walking home from the beach as he had a newspaper route to deliver. It is believed someone offered him a ride. He was never seen again. You can read about his story at couragetocope.org.

Now that I have a vehicle, I feel quite compassionate towards hitchhikers, and tend to pick up most hitchhikers. Most have no other transportation options. If they did, they wouldn’t be sticking out there thumbs. I don’t think I have ever felt unsafe when picking up a hitchhiker, though I am sure that there are stories out there. Probably my strangest experience was being propositioned by a pair of drag queens!

So, getting back to my story of the couple at the side of the road. I honked to let them know I was stopping, and then pulled off to the side of the road. They couple introduced themselves as Craig and Cindy. They had been hitchhiking for seven hours and had only made it about fifteen miles. They had another thirty miles to go. Craig was going to help his brother-in-law fix his car, and then together they were going to go on to visit his mother in another town. Where they were headed was only ten minutes out of my way, so I was happy to drop them at their destination.

People, including my wife, look askance at me when I say I pick up hitchhikers. To them it is like a game of Russian Roulette. You never know who you might pick up. I would agree, but to the hitchhiker it is a game of Russian Roulette as well, and by picking them up I am ensuring that at least one ride is safe.

I think however, that a lot of my motivation comes from the story of the Good Samaritan. In the story, the Good Samaritan is taking a real risk in stopping to help. It is known that there are bandits in the area. But stop he does. Like the Good Samaritan, I will also sometimes give money to help the hitchhiker along their way. Loving your neighbor means going beyond what is easy, or comfortable, or even safe. For me, among other things, it means picking up hitchhikers. What does it mean for you?

From Book Reviews, Creative Culture - Brandywine Books
'A New Dawn Rising,' by Michael Joseph



The scenario is an old standard, and still works just fine. Sam Carlisle used to be a cop in the English Midlands, but after a traumatic loss he climbed into a bottle, quit the job, and moved north. Now he's out of money and looking for work. A local real estate big shot observes him stopping a purse snatcher and offers him a job as his driver and bodyguard. When Sam asks him why he doesn't hire one of the established security firms, his answer is evasive.

Still, Sam needs the job and he takes it. And that's the beginning of A New Dawn Rising by Michael Joseph. Things go all right for Sam until his employer is killed in a fire, and it looks like arson, and the police target Sam as the perpetrator.

I liked A New Dawn Rising, mostly, except for one very large plot problem. There's supposed to be a big surprise near the end, but it's one that's been used a thousand times before. It was obvious even to me, and I'm pretty easy to fool. I felt badly for the author, because all in all the book was a creditable attempt, with interesting, well-drawn characters and good dialogue.

You might enjoy it too, if you're tolerant of plot chestnuts.

From Book Reviews, Creative Culture - Brandywine Books
The Worst 50 + 10

The Intercollegiate Review presents "The Fifty Worst Books of the 20th Century."

Add to this D.G. Myers' list of 10 worst prize-winning American novels of all time.

From internetmonk.com
Fr. Ernesto: Biting My Lip Hard

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Biting My Lip Hard
by Father Ernesto Obregon

The cartoon above makes me bite my lip real hard. The cartoonist caught just what some people think about the trend in some churches to turn the worship service into a coffee shop atmosphere with some talking. While the term “seeker sensitive” is not as much of a buzz-word as it used to be, the concept is still around.

But, there is a root that goes all the way back to the Jesus People of the 1970’s. The Jesus People were the parallel cultural reaction to the “hippies.” In both cases, there was a legitimate and merited rejection of the cookie cutter mentality of the 1950’s. They were not the only groups that pointed out the nominalism and cookie cutter attitude of the 1950’s. For instance, in 1956 the book “Peyton Place,” a book which tore into small town hypocrisy in the North, was released. In 1968, the country song “Harper Valley PTA” was released, pointing out hypocrisy in the South. George Orwell’s book 1984 points to a post-nuclear world in which the prevalent security and Cold War culture of the 1950’s is severely criticized.

Both the hippies and the Jesus People challenged the prevalent culture by dressing in ways that challenged the culture and behaving in ways that shocked prevalent culture. In the case of the hippies, events such as those chronicled in The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, was one example. Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters were chronicled as they made their way around the country in their brightly painted bus, using LSD and generally shocking people. The Beatles write the song “Magical Mystery Tour” about that type of trip:

Roll up, roll up for the mystery tour
Roll up, roll up for the mystery tour
Roll up (And that’s an invitation), roll up for the mystery tour
Roll up (To make a reservation), roll up for the mystery tour
The magical mystery tour is waiting to take you away
Waiting to take you away.

The Jesus People were something different, however. I am fully convinced that this was a true movement of the Holy Spirit. To this day, I still believe that God could not get into the churches of that time. After all, as chronicled by Martin Luther King in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail, many of the churches either openly supported both the segregation and miscegenation laws, or were cowed into total silence. Their stand was so antithetical to Christianity that God decided to raise praised to himself from even among the stones. Many youth with a “stone” heart, many a youth who was rejecting the culture and acting out by taking drugs and joining other religions, had their heart touched by the Holy Spirit and a revival broke out.

As with many a move of the Holy Spirit, people with free will took that move one way or the other. To the good, many churches were renewed, many people were touched for God, many people became life-long Christians. Twenty years after the beginning of the Jesus People movement, a group of those people entered the Antiochian Archdiocese, changing the face of Orthodoxy in America. That very move of the Holy Spirit in the 1960’s has today resulted in an openness to converts that was simply not present in American Orthodoxy of the early 1960’s.

On the other hand, it is also true that some have slowly taken the Jesus People movement in a different direction. For them, the message of what they experienced was misheard. Over the decades since then, the message that they took from it is that the Church must be a counter-cultural entity, meaning that it must always be doing things that are on the “cutting-edge” of culture. Any “rules” about what should happen in a worship service were slowly relaxed, and then dismissed. Nowadays, one can indeed find churches like those mocked in the comic above, where one comes in with their coffee, sits on a couch, has a sermon/discussion, etc. When multiple tattoos were still cutting-edge, many in these churches jumped into tattoos, piercings, etc. [Note: my purpose is not to criticize tattoos and piercings.] What I am trying to point out is that Christian slowly became defined as one who is always adopting the latest cutting-edge cultural trend and bringing it into the Church.

I look back with both nostalgia and horror. I was part of the events back then. I have a deep nostalgia for singers such as Keith Green, who truly called us to live out what it means to follow Jesus. I have a deep nostalgia for a faith tinged with wonder and discovery, and strong church growth. At the same time, I look back with horror over some of the other events from back then and how they led us into some of the craziness we see today in the cutting-edge congregations. And, yet, I would welcome another move of the Holy Spirit, a move so strong that Orthodoxy is again touched with the wonder that Metropolitan Philip of blessed memory expressed when he welcomed home the Evangelicals who flocked in back in the late 1980’s and continuing on for many years after that.

• • •

Thanks to Fr. Ernesto for permission to re-post this piece. I resonate with much that he says.

He blogs regularly at OrthoCuban.

From Semicolon
Ollie and the Science of Treasure Hunting by Erin Dionne

This 2014 middle grade adventure is a companion novel to the author’s Moxie and the Art of Rule Breaking, a book I read and enjoyed last year when it came out. In this “14 Day Mystery” Moxie’s friend Ollie steps up and becomes the featured character and detective and lead treasure hunter as he searches for pirate treasure at his Wilderness Scout camp.

There’s danger, boy pranks, camping stuff, and island adventure. Ollie goes to Wilderness Scout camp to get himself out of the media spotlight after his and Moxie’s solving of the (in)famous Gardner art heist. I wanted to adopt Ollie in the first book, and in this one he just gets better and more adorable. He’s a little bit tired of being seen as the sidekick, so when one of the adults at camp asks him to help find a pirate treasure, he can’t really turn down the opportunity—’cause after all, it’s pirate treasure!

The book includes some boys-will-be-boys sneaking and pranking that didn’t offend me, but might be too much for some adult readers. And the whole finding of the long lost pirate treasure rather easily and accidentally is a little bit unbelievable. But hey, go with it and enjoy the ride. How many books have you read lately about kids and pirate’s treasure?

You can go back into the out of print archives:
Mystery in the Pirate Oak by Helen Fuller Orton. I used to read Ms. Orton’s mysteries when I was a kid of a girl. Good children’s mystery books.
Ghost in the Noonday Sun by Sid Fleischman. Oliver FInch, because he was born exactly at midnight, has the ability to see ghosts. And the pirates who kidnap him need his help to to get to a treasure guarded by ghosts, of course. Fleischman wrote lots of funny adventure stories just right for a rollicking good time.
Captain Kidd’s Cat. The True Chronicle of Wm. Kidd, Gent. and Merchant of New York as narrated by His Ship’s Cat, McDermott, Who ought to know by Robert Lawson. Not as well known as Lawson’s other animal-narrated historical chronicles, Ben and Me and Mr. Revere and I, but this story of Captain Kidd is written in the same style and just as fun and informative. By the way, I think I may be related to Captain Kidd. At least I have some Kidds in my family tree.
Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. Classic story of the boy, Jim Hawkins, and the pirate, Long John Silver.

But for contemporary piratical adventures, I’m drawing a blank. (I did find my review of Deadweather and Sunrise by Geoff Rodkey, but it’s not exactly set in the twenty-first century, more Dickensian.)

Do you like to read treasure hunt adventures? Do you know of any good pirate treasure books I didn’t mention?

From Book Reviews, Creative Culture - Brandywine Books
'The City,' by Dean Koontz


After you have suffered great losses and known much pain, it is not cowardice to wish to live henceforth with a minimum of suffering. And one form of heroism, about which few if any films will be made, is having the courage to live without bitterness when bitterness is justified, having the strength to persevere even when perseverance seems unlikely to be rewarded, having the resolution to find profound meaning in life when it seems the most meaningless.

One of the many things I love about Dean Koontz is the breadth of his artistic pallet. Your average bestselling writer (and I do the same though I'm not a bestseller) will keep doing the thing that made him famous, over and over. And the public likes it most of the time.

Koontz improvises. He tries stuff. He can write horror or fantasy or mystery. He can be funny, or heartbreaking, or profound, or terrifying. The City, his latest, is mostly a fusion of the lyrical and the tragic.

Jonah Kirk, his narrator and hero, tells us of his childhood in the 1960s, first of all in an apartment house in a poor black neighborhood, his father mostly absent. That's the downside. The upside is that he's part of a big, loving, extended family. His grandfather is a legendary jazz pianist, his mother a gifted vocalist. And Jonah himself soon finds he has the makings of a great piano man. He also finds a friend in a neighbor, Mr. Yoshioka, a survivor of the Manzanar internment camp.

Moving with his mother out of the apartment and to his grandparents' house, he soon meets two neighbor kids - Malcolm Pomerantz, an archetypal geek who is nevertheless a talented saxophonist, and his beautiful sister Alathea. They're all gifted dreamers, and their dreams are large...

But there's a destiny hanging over Jonah. He once had a dream of a beautiful woman strangled to death, and the next day he met that woman on the apartment building stairway. That touch of premonition in his life kicks off a series of visions and revelations.

And visions and revelations, the author makes it clear, come at a price.

I loved The City. It was a beautiful story, beautifully written. It broke my heart. I read it with fascination, but could only take it in small chunks, because of the sadness.

Highly recommended. But keep a hanky handy.

From Book Reviews, Creative Culture - Brandywine Books
Impressive Presentation Showing Sen. John Walsh's Plagiarism

It's remarkable when someone does the research to demonstrate extensive plagiarism from a public official or someone of high profile, but the NY Times' presentation of how Senator John Walsh (Democrat-Montana) is elegant. Highlighted sections of this master's thesis pull up comparison copies of their sources, so you can see how closely worded they are. A bit of explanation, like the following, is one thing: "Though a footnote indicates that this information came from a report on a State Department website, the language appeared in a post by Dean Esmay on his Dean's World blog nearly verbatim." Showing comparisons is step up. (via Hunter Baker)

From Book Reviews, Creative Culture - Brandywine Books
Who Created Batman?

Today is Batman Day. The Bat-Man, as he was once called, is 75 years old today, and DC Comics wants everyone to celebrate. Ignoring rumors that one-year-old prince George is being groomed to take on the Dark Knight's mantle (don't call him Robin), Jim Lee talks about the future of the character with Entertainment Weekly. He mentions strong fan-boy love for Batman '66 on Blu-ray. I guess the cheese is never too far from Gotham City.

Apparently there's one part of Batman's history the publishers have never quite settled: who actually created him? Today they are giving out special edition reprints Detective Comics #27 (1939), in which The Bat-Man first appears. The cover of this issue states it was "illustrated by creator Bob Kane and written by Bill Finger." The official word from DC Entertainment is that Bill Finger was a great guy who helped write many things, but Bob Kane was the first to imagine the hero.

[Steve] Korté, a 20-year DC Comics veteran, explains the sequence of events that lead to the creation and development of Batman. "After Superman debuted in 1938 and became an instant hit, DC editor Vince Sullivan asked Bob Kane to come up with a superhero, which he did with Batman," he adds. "During that process, he went to a friend, Bill Finger, who gave him some tips on costume adjustments. For example, Bob initially drew bat wings on Batman. Bill suggested a scalloped cape. After Batman became a hit in May, 1939, Bob brought in more people throughout the year."
Both men are dead now, but Finger's granddaughter is rally fans to give Bill the credit she believes he deserves.

From internetmonk.com
iMonk Classic: Letters to a Friend (parts 2-3)

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Note from CM: Letters to a Friend was a series of posts Michael Spencer wrote in July 2007, responding to some comments from a Christian friend regarding theology, divisions and debates. Today we look at parts two and three of this series.

• • •

Friend says, “I reject the claims of various (evangelical) Christian groups to be infallible, right about everything and all other Christians except themselves wrong. This makes the entire business of theological debate meaningless and ridiculous to me. God is obviously above theology, and we have no idea what God thinks about who’s right in these theological debates. Perhaps God sees issues like the Lord’s Supper in a completely different way than any church teaches. When unbelievers, like my atheist friends, hear of these doctrinal debates, it discredits all of Christianity.”

ON INFALLIBILITY

Dear Friend,

One word that stood out to me in your talk was the word “infallible.” I found myself in considerable disagreement with what it appears you meant when you assigned this word to persons like myself and others who promote theology. Perhaps you can clarify and we will be in more agreement.

I understand the term “infallible” to mean “unable to be wrong.” If something or someone is infallible, it is not possible for error to originate with them.

A person may claim to be right, but the claim of infallibility is something quite separate. I’m not surprised when anyone claims they are right. Your own words indicate you believe, on the basis of logic, that you are right. But you would not make a claim to infallibility.

Infallibility is considerably different from saying that someone believes they are right and not wrong. I believe I am right in saying I am 50 years old, but I do not claim to be infallible. I could be wrong. Error in knowing my age could originate with me. Many circumstances could cause me to be in error, but I am reasonably sure of this fact and would defend that conclusion.

The word “infallible” commonly occurs in two contexts among Christians. First, the Roman Catholic church claims that when the pope is functioning as the head of the church in an official teaching capacity, he is infallible. This produces a chain of tradition from the church that is infallible tradition.

This is a real advantage to the RCC. They use it, for example, to say only an infallible church could canonize scripture. I would disagree strongly, but the advantage of that approach is obvious. The problems are also obvious.

This is not saying the pope or the church cannot be wrong or do anything wrong. Some Catholic teachings, and many claims and practices, are not promoted infallibly. “Infallibility” is applied to very specific situations.

For example, in Galatians, Peter is confronted by Paul for his hypocrisy. This does not bother Roman Catholics in regard to Peter’s infallibility as the first pope, because all popes are sinners and make mistakes. Only in an official teaching capacity can he claim to be infallible. Bad people can be infallible popes in the RCC.

This does mean that the Roman Catholic church makes a kind of claim to infallibility that is different from the way other churches use the term. Since I disagree with it, I will gladly point out that when the RCC argues its case for doctrine, it does claim infallibility on a human level.

The second common use of “infallible” is among most Protestant evangelicals, who apply it to the Bible and the Bible only. They believe the Bible is inspired, infallible, authoritative and inerrant. (Not all evangelicals use all of these words or use them all in the same way, but that is another discussion.)

This means that no pastor, no church leader, no teacher and no denomination are infallible. The Bible only is infallible. The infallible Bible produces authoritative tradition through the infallible Holy Spirit and very fallible people.

Does that mean that, if the Bible is used to make a case, then infallibility is transfered to what is said or believed? The answer is “no.” While we believe the Bible is infallible, my version of what the Bible teaches about baptism is not infallible in the same way. My version of this doctrine may be in error, may be revised and may be improved. While I am reasonably certain I understand the Bible on this topic and I would have no problem saying I am convinced my view is right, I would never claim anything like infallibility.

I’m sure that the energy of many Christian debates seems to indicate that someone believes they cannot be wrong. I certainly know Christians who believe they, their pastor, their doctrine and their “team” are infallible, but if pressed they would admit that the only thing that actually can have the characteristic of infallibility is the Bible.

You were particularly bothered that I said I was certain enough of some doctrines that I would rather die than renounce them. This isn’t a claim to infallibility. It is a claim that I am convinced, as much as I can judge the subject, that I am correct. Being convinced doesn’t mean I am closed to the possibility of correction or change.

For example, I would die for certain aspects of my country, but I do not claim that America or myself are beyond error or absolutely right in an “infallible” sense. In a fallible, comparative sense, that response of loyalty is the right one.

I ask my children to obey me, but I would not claim infallibility in any aspect of parenting. Infallibility isn’t necessary to believe something is right enough to take a strong, sacrificial stand.

I have to disagree with you that contentious Christians are claiming infallibility. They may lack the humility and graciousness that should accompany any discussion. They may defend their position in a way that says they believe they cannot be wrong or less than perfectly right. They may demonstrate extreme stubbornness. But unless they are departing from their own Protestantism, all they can do is claim to be presenting the infallible claims of scripture fallibly.

Your answer to what you perceive as the dilemma of everyone claiming to be infallibility is to say that “God is beyond theology.” I’ll comment on that very postmodern assertion in another post.

So let me summarize where we are so far: I am not convinced that the kind of division or claims of infallibility you are reacting against actually exist. You may be “standing” in a place where these divisions seem to fill your screen, so to speak. I would suggest you take a more measured and less emotional look at the issue of Christian unity and doctrinal division. While there is much to lament, there is also much to celebrate, particularly among Christians who work, witness and minister together.

Peace,

Michael

iStock_000014882479Small-634x252ON “GOD ABOVE THEOLOGY”

Dear Friend,

Probably the most provocative comment in your talk was the statement that “God is above theology.” If I remember correctly, you said this several times and it was obviously very crucial to your statement. I’d like to respond to this statement, because I believe it is the heart of the issue.

If God is not above theology, a number of things must change in your position.

For example, if God reveals or gives theology to human beings in a way they can understand, then we should not be surprised that there is a certain amount of contention and division among Christians. The Bible itself shows us conflict and division occurring among the churches and leaders in the New Testament over the issues of circumcision and inclusion of the Gentiles. Serious divisions are the reasons for some entire letters, such as the First Corinthian letter and the “Letters to the Seven Churches” in Revelation.

Theology has many definitions. I’ll assume that you are using theology in the sense of “human thoughts about God,” and that God has said “My thoughts are not your thoughts,” therefore our thoughts about God are not identical to God’s thoughts and ways.

No Christian that I am aware of believes there is complete identification between our thoughts and God’s mind. Every serious theologian wrestles with the issue of how we can say anything true about God since he is, as you say, “above” us and “other than us” in every way. The entire idea of divine revelation starts with the incomprehensibility of God.

To say that God is “above our theology” seems to indicate some despair on your part about theology, and this despair is your response to the arguments and disagreements you have observed. It is a position that would make some churches very attractive because they either reject all theology in favor or experience or they refuse to participate in most theological debates out of a certainty they have the truth.

Some despair about theology may result in the decision that all churches are equally “in the dark” in regard to truth, and therefore any church is equal to any other church, since doctrine is meaningless and practice/experience is all that matters. I would be cautious about taking these basically postmodern, relativistic positions that arise from a strong emotional reaction. The absence of conflict is hardly the proof that God is being honored rightly.

The important question here seems obvious: Is our theology completely our own creation, or does God reveal “theology” to us so that we can have “true truth” about him and respond accordingly?

The answer to that question seems simple, and I am sure that you appreciate it, even if you say God is “beyond” theology. God has revealed himself in creation, in Jesus and in scripture. I would say it more like this: God is revealed in general revelation, in Christ, in the scripture, through reason and in experience. All of these things are judged and regulated by scripture. I believe that there are several ways that God has given us theology and that he expects us to pay attention to what he has revealed.

For example, we have been studying Genesis 1-11 recently. You will recall that I said I have often asked students to do an assignment where they write down 50 things we can know about God from these early chapters of Genesis. This assignment typically yields statements like this:

“God exists.”
“God is creator.”
“God is creative.”
“God made human beings in his image.”
“God gave commands to Adam.”
“God is merciful and patient.”
“God punishes sin.”
“God chooses to remain involved in a rebellious world.”

All of these are theological statements, and I would have a hard time seeing that God is “beyond theology” when he has inspired these chapters with the obvious purpose of teaching these truths in language and example that anyone can understand. It actually seems that God is speaking, as Calvin said, “baby talk” so we can understand.

In John 1, John says that no one knew the Father until the Son made him known. The role of the Son in revealing what the Father is like, what the Father is doing, and so on is a major theme of the Gospel of John. This doesn’t seem to comport well with the idea that God is remaining above theology. It appears that the incarnation makes theology possible.

The inspiration of scripture rests upon the belief that God has expressed in human language what he wants us to know about Christ and salvation. If God is above our theology, then we should abandon any belief in the divine side of inspiration.

These various examples, however, are probably not what you intended by this statement. I believe you are looking at particular theological debates, such as the Lord’s Supper debate, and asserting that God is above this debate. Your statement that God’s view of the Lord’s Supper may differ from all of our views is the heart of what you mean. If this is true, then I must ask why God has revealed enough to start the theological discussion, but then made the solution inaccessible to anyone?

The problem is that all Christians are working with the same material: the incarnation, the salvation story and the Biblical text. These are revelatory. God has “come down” to us in ways that create faith, but that also create theology…and some conflict in interpretation.

So while I can agree that God is far “above” our confident efforts to say all there is to say, I do not believe God is above theology. I would agree with you that theology should be far more cautious and humble than many traditions attempt to make it. That is why I appreciate the minimal confessionalism of my own tradition and have some confusion at the attraction someone would feel for traditions that require complete confessional agreement with volumes and volumes of church teaching.

The Nicene Creed summarizes the theology that ought to bind the church together. A thousand page tome on the inner working of the Lord’s Supper is another attitude entirely. But that God does give us revelation in a way that causes theology to think some of God’s thoughts after him is undeniable.

Peace,

Michael

From Book Reviews, Creative Culture - Brandywine Books
R.I.P. The Rockford Files (James Garner)



The death of James Garner this weekend has affected me more than is reasonable. I certainly didn't know the man, and we very likely wouldn't have gotten along if we'd met. He was a lifelong lefty, and by all accounts a pacifist. His favorite movie of his own was "The Americanization of Emily," an anti-war film whose message (as I recall it) was that anybody who fought in World War II was a chump.

I read Andrew Klavan's laudatory post today, along with our friend S. T. Karnick's more equivocal one. Klavan sees Garner's Maverick and Rockford characters as laudable examples of American individualism, lost today in a flood of cop shows. Karnick finds the anti-heroism of those same characters a sign of cultural decline.

For me, although I like Maverick, The Rockford Files is a personal touchstone. I consider it the best network detective show ever produced in America. Over a six year run the characters remained lively (often very funny), the acting excellent, and the scripts only slipped a little at the end.

I read a critique once that described the Jim Rockford character as "pusillanimous." I don't agree. What he was, in my view, was a believable good guy. Unlike the standard American TV hero, he had no illusions of invincibility (you could sometimes detect the limp that came from Garner's real life bad knees). Like any sensible man in the real world, he didn't fight if he could talk his way out, and he'd run away if he had a chance. Because fights with other guys are rarely a good idea. But when he had no choice, or when a principle, or a friend or client, was threatened, Jim stood up and gave as good as he got.

The relationships made the show work. Jim's father (the great Noah Beery, Jr.) loved him dearly and worried about him, and Jim clearly reciprocated. Nevertheless they nagged and teased each other all the time, and did not hesitate to trick each other out of a free meal or a tank of gas. Jim's old prison buddy Angel (Stuart Margolin) was a brilliant addition - a man with no redeeming qualities whatever, but Jim remained loyal to him. We never knew why, but we loved him for his grace. His lawyer, the lovely Beth Davenport (Gretchen Corbett) admitted she was in love with him, but had accepted the fact that the guy couldn't be domesticated. And Sgt. Dennis Becker of the LAPD (Joe Santos) put up with a lot of flack from the department in order to maintain a sometimes stormy friendship with the low-rent PI. It was an ensemble effort, and a thing of beauty (by the way, I pulled all those actors' names out of my memory without consulting Wikipedia, which will give you an idea how many times I've watched the credits).

The rusty trailer on the beach at Malibu. The copper-brown Pontiac Firebird. The wide-lapelled 1970s sport coats. The gun in the cookie jar. The answering machine. It all felt, if not like home, like a friend's home to which we were welcome once a week. It meant a lot to me. Still does. I watch it every Sunday on the MeTV broadcast channel.

Jim Rockford made me want to be a better man. And it didn't seem impossible to do it his way.

I'm not sure I want to live in an America without James Garner in it. We take ourselves too seriously already.

From Book Reviews, Creative Culture - Brandywine Books
Alton Brown, Media Mogul

At least twice on my current list of regrets is that I have not learn enough from Alton Brown. The man is the mad scientist of culinary delight. Grade school kids should have classes based on Good Eats. Here's a recent morning interview he did that briefly mentions his many media products.

From Semicolon
Pawn in Frankincense by Dorothy Dunnett

The fourth book in Dorothy Dunnett’s historical series Renaissance man, Francis Crawford of Lymond, aka Comte of Sevigny, takes the characters, especially Lymond himself, to a new level of complexity and human triumph over adversity and suffering. And at one point in the story, we are informed or perhaps reminded that Lymond is only twenty-six years old. He’s already survived more than most men three times his age, even in the adventurous Renaissance times in which he lives.

In this book, Lymond manages to escape a couple of assassins disguised as nuns, imprisonment in a North African harem, poisoning, an underwater struggle with his murderous arch enemy, and a rather deadly chess game featuring human chess pieces who forfeit their lives if taken by the opposing player. The chess game in the seraglio in Istamboul is unforgettable, by the way. And that’s just a sample of the perils and predicaments that face Mr. Crawford in this highly entertaining adventure.

Entertaining, yes, but the denouement of the novel is heart-rending. Lymond must choose whether or not to forfeit the life of one innocent in order to save the lives of many more. It’s a no-win situation, and of course, since Lymond is the sensitive soul that he’s always been in all of the other books in the series, he blames himself for the outcome and carries a heavy burden of guilt into the next book in the series, The Ringed Castle.

Has anyone else read this series, and if so, what did you think? The vocabulary and writing style are challenging for me, in a good way, and I don’t usually find that to be so with novels written after 1900. Lymond is also a complex, conflicted, and challenging character. I do have a prediction to make at this point in the series, a prediction I came up with halfway through this volume: I predict that Lymond and Philippa will end up truly married by the end of the sixth book. Don’t ask me how (I don’t know) and don’t tell me if I’m right or wrong. I’ll see how my prediction pans out as I read books five and six.

If you want to read a little more about this engaging novel, here are some other blog reviews of Pawn in Frankincense:

She Reads Novels: Pawn in Frankincense by Dorothy Dunnett.
Shelf Love: Pawn in Frankincense (some spoilers)
Semicolon review of The Disorderly Knights, book three in the series.
Semicolon thoughts on Game of Kings, the first book in the series.

From Transforming Sermons
Burdens in discipleship

Jeff Weddle shares a few biblical thoughts on burdens.

From Transforming Sermons
The need to preach on body image

Darryl Dash shares a link at Christianity Today on the importance of preaching about body image.

From Book Reviews, Creative Culture - Brandywine Books
The Changing World of Publishing

Philip Yancey writes about this many years of experience in publishing.

I had an enlightening experience with e-books in 2013. In April I finished the book The Question That Never Goes Away, based on my visits to three places of great tragedy. My traditional publisher wanted at least nine months lead time to publish it, the typical schedule for a new book, yet new tragedies such as the Boston Marathon bombings, tornadoes, and school shootings were occurring almost weekly, the very situations my book addressed. So I signed on for an Amazon-exclusive program to publish an e-book for 90 days before the hard copy book came out. Leaning on my friends for email lists, I managed to sell about 3,000 copies. On September 11 and Thanksgiving weekend I offered free downloads and 40,000 people downloaded the book! The moral of the story, as many have learned: things can quickly go viral on the Internet but it's a tough place to generate income.

From Transforming Sermons
A taste for the Word

Preacher, do you approach Bible study like a starving chef?

From Transforming Sermons
Wisdom in discipleship

Jonathan Leeman offers some sound advice on when you should not submit to a church.

From Semicolon
The Great Greene Heist by Varian Johnson

“Varian Johnson lists his inspirations for this book as Ocean’s 11, The Westing Game, Sneakers, The Thomas Crowne Affair, and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.” I would, guessing, add the movies Star Wars and The Sting, not to mention a few pick-up basketball games along the way, but I could be mistaken about those particular influences.

Jackson Greene has reformed, changed his ways, and sworn off all scheming, finagling, conning, and pranking. When the girl you like (Gaby) sees you brush lips with another cutie and totally misinterprets the situation, and when the principal catches you breaking into his office, you had better call it quits as far as con games are concerned. Even if it’s for a good cause. Then again, maybe if Keith Sinclair, Jackson’s arch enemy and nemesis of all good clubs and organizations at Maplewood Middle School, plans to run for Student Council against that same girl, Gaby, the one Jackson kinda sorta likes—then, maybe, a small benevolent interference, just to keep Keith from stealing the election, is in order. What could it hurt?

Mr. Johnson’s middle grade (upper middle grade since it has lots of tame boy/girl stuff) heist novel got a boost on Twitter earlier this spring and summer with people using the hash tags #weneeddiversebooks and #greatgreenechallenge, the latter tag referring to a friendly competition between independent bookstores to handsell Mr. Johnson’s book. The book does feature “diverse” characters, Asian American, African American, and Hispanic, and it is a a good solid summer read. As far as kid caper books are concerned, I preferred I Kill the Mockingbird by Paul Acampora, but Acampora’s Mockingbird doesn’t have quite the same “diversity factor”. (Catholic characters and bookish characters don’t count as “diversity” the same way people of color do. Who makes up these rules, anyway?) Still, reading The Great Greene Heist was an enjoyable way to spend a summer evening, and I recommend it to fans of Paul Acampora’s book or of Ally Carter’s Gallagher Girls and Heist Society books.

From The Boar's Head Tavern

I agree that some of the “aha” moments seem kind of weak. I even found myself reasoning through some potential explanations that didn’t fall back on some kind of inerrancy argument. Still, the series is good if for no other reason than to show others that one doesn’t need to hold to some kind of Fundamentalist thinking or dogmatic adherence to the Chicago Statement in order to maintain a strong faith in God/Christ in the face of problems caused by certain methods of interpretation.

As an aside, I’m finding it more and more useful to think of Fundamentalism as a level of emotional and intellectual maturity that fears openness to thinking outside one’s understanding, as opposed to the legalisatic Christianity that still lives in the US. It also makes it easier to see how that kind of thinking finds its way into both conservative and liberal theologies, as well as other religions.

From Book Reviews, Creative Culture - Brandywine Books
'There Are No Jobs in Academia.'

Ryan Anderson is a grad student in anthropology (not the clothing store). "I realized how bad things were when I was about half way through my PhD program-and it didn't help that the global economy was literally crashing right when I started. You know, the whole 'Great Recession' thing. After one year, I nearly dropped out. Looking back, maybe that would have been the better decision. But, for some reason, I kept going...in part because of a vague hope that things would somehow 'work out.' I too pinned my hopes on that imagined employer."

The bottom line, he says, is this isn't the 1960s and there are no jobs in academia. He points to data showing about 36,000 new PhDs for every 3,000 new positions created. Is this education making 33,000 better people or just dragging them and their families down? (via Anthony Bradley)

From Semicolon
The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer

Georgette Heyer, besides authoring several Golden Age of detective fiction mysteries, also wrote romance novels and according to Wikipedia “essentially established the genre of Regency romance.” During her career,she published over thirty Regency novels, for a period of her life publishing one mystery/thriller and one romance per year.

The Grand Sophy, one of those Regency novels, was published in 1950. It’s the story of a rather indolent and somewhat impecunious family, Lord and Lady Ombersley and their several children, including the eldest, Charles, who has become something of a family tyrant in his quest to save the family from bankruptcy. When Lady Ombersley’s niece, Sophy, comes to stay for a while while her diplomat father goes on an ambassadorial trip to Brazil, the entire household is turned topsy-turvy by Sophy’s free and easy ways and her lack of female propriety, not to mention her monkey, Jacko.

Sophy is a grand character. She’s independent, intelligent, and spirited without being obnoxious. Sophy’s cousin Charles is less well-developed as a character. At first, he seems like a petty family dictator, ruling over his parents and his younger brothers and sisters in a rather arbitrary way while planning to marry an heiress to re-coup the family fortunes. As the story continues, Charles becomes more sympathetic as a character, but I was never sure why he was so high-handed and unbending at the beginning.

Jane Austen fans and Regency romance readers should definitely check out The Grand Sophy. Ms. Heyer’s novels, including this one, are not as subtle and deep as Jane Austen’s, but as far as straight light romance novels go Georgette’s Heyer’s books rise near to the top of the list.

From Book Reviews, Creative Culture - Brandywine Books
The Cole Sage novels, by Micheal Maxwell



A few days back I reviewed Micheal Maxwell's novel Diamonds and Cole, which I liked very much. I liked it so much that I went on to purchase the next three books in the series, Cellar Full of Cole, Helix of Cole, and Cole Dust, and read them all at speed. Though I have quibbles, I recommend the series highly.

First, the quibbles. The titles, as you can see from the previous paragraph, are a little silly.

Secondly, there are weaknesses in plotting. Occasionally our hero Cole Sage makes an improbable deductive leaap (always correctly, of course). And the stories tend to be episodic, a sin to which I too am prone in my own books.

And there are word problems. Author Maxwell is prone to homophone confusions, like "waste" for "waist." At one point he describes Cole's granddaughter's hair, well established as dark and curly, as "flaxen." Maybe he doesn't know what flaxen means. Who sees flax these days?

But I easily forgive these minor sins, and I think you will too. Cole Sage is a fresh kind of mystery hero. He's essentially optimistic, and he enjoys making life better for the people he meets. No cynical, hard-boiled attitude here. Cole likes life, and he likes people.

In the second book, Cellar Full of Cole, we find our newspaper reporter hero, newly relocated from Chicago to San Francisco, facing off against a serial killer who targets little girls. His investigation is motivated in part by his fears for his own granddaughter, who he never knew existed until the previous year.

In Helix of Cole he is singled out by an old '60s radical, on the basis of a news story he wrote decades ago. This radical has a nuclear device, and a god delusion, and he won't let anybody but Cole near him.

Finally, Cole Dust is an entire narrative departure. Cole learns a relative he barely knew has died, leaving him a house in Oklahoma. In that house he finds the journal of his grandfather, a man he barely remembers. Spending a month in residence, he gets the chance to get to know a remarkable, courageous, deeply flawed man with a dramatic, tragic story. He also gets acquainted with the inhabitants of a nice little town, portrayed more sympathetically than such people would be portrayed in most mysteries.

Another book by Maxwell, a flawed but interesting non -Cole novella called Three Nails, provides some insight into the author. It would appear he's a Christian of some sort. Probably more liberal than I am, but emphatically Christian, even evangelical. Which means he's doing what so many of us talk about but rarely do - writing novels that aren't evangelistic tracts, but straight stories in which Christianity is implicit rather than preached. For which I laud him.

There must have been some rough language, but I don't recall much. There are a couple homosexual recurring characters, one of whom is what you'd call "flamboyant." But there's no preaching on the subject, pro or con.

All in all, I endorse the Cole Sage novels highly, though your mileage may vary. E-book only, and not expensive.

From Transforming Sermons
Knowing when to let your hair down

Craig Keener's blog insights on biblical texts are always insightful. His latest is on Proverbs 23:7.

From Semicolon
Saturday Review of Books: July 19, 2014


“I read books in all the obvious places—in my house and office, on trains and buses and planes—but I’ve also read them at plays and concerts and prizefights, and not just during the intermissions. I’ve read books while waiting for friends to get sprung from the drunk tank, while waiting for people to emerge from comas, while waiting for the Iceman to cometh.” ~Joe Queenan

SatReviewbutton

Welcome to the Saturday Review of Books at Semicolon. Here’s how it usually works. Find a book review on your blog posted sometime during the previous week. The review doesn’t have to be a formal sort of thing. You can link to your thoughts on a particular book, a few ideas inspired by reading the book, your evaluation, quotations, whatever.

Then on Friday night/Saturday, you post a link here at Semicolon in Mr. Linky to the specific post where you’ve written your book review. Don’t link to your main blog page because this kind of link makes it hard to find the book review, especially when people drop in later after you’ve added new content to your blog. In parentheses after your name, add the title of the book you’re reviewing. This addition will help people to find the reviews they’re most interested in reading.

After linking to your own reviews, you can spend as long as you want reading the reviews of other bloggers for the week and adding to your wishlist of books to read. That’s how my own TBR list has become completely unmanageable and the reason I can’t join any reading challenges. I have my own personal challenge that never ends.

From Semicolon
Summer Reading and Book News

New from Sarah Clarkson at Thoroughly Alive:

Storyformed.com is both a literary online resource, and the home of a new publishing imprint, Storyformed Books.
We’ll be republishing excellent out-of-print classics, releasing new fiction by contemporary authors, and publishing a series of essay collections on reading and imagination. My book, Caught Up in a Story, written largely to explain the Storyformed worldview, is the first to release with the imprint. We’ll follow it soon with Just David, one of the favorite children’s classics of my childhood.

I love book lists. If you have a summer reading list that you’d like to see linked here, leave me a note in the comments. Meanwhile, enjoy the following Summer Lists of Reading before summer runs away from us and inevitably turns to autumn.

Beach Books by Betsy at Redeemed Reader.

Book Tag: Summer Setting, Summer Reading

Summer Reading: 52 Picks for the Hols

Death in Summer: Mysteries for Hot Days

From Book Reviews, Creative Culture - Brandywine Books
Bullies on Mars Hill

The stories out of Seattle regarding Mars Hill Church are one of the reasons this past year has been one of my hardest. I hate this news. Many stories are coming forward through many venues.

This co-founder of the church, who left in 2007, says:

It has been written, spoke of and declared, that in order for a church to be "On Mission" that sometimes people need to be "Run over by the bus" and a large pile of bodies is a good thing. I know where this kind of thinking came from because I believed it to be true and was in full agreement. While it is true that those who desire to lead people astray (the bible calls them wolves) need to be dealt with, I believe we went way too far and responded with anger and self-righteousness' in throwing people under the bus. I ask your forgiveness for my part in promoting and approving this kind of behavior, it was godless!
Run over by the bus? Is that a line from the Inquisition?

A long article with many stories of spiritual abuse appeared this week on Crosscut.com. It describes Driscoll's inflammatory language, the congregation's habit of shunning disgraced members, and narcissism from many leaders. Witnesses claim the church encourages misogyny and sermons are "relevant" at all costs.

Stacey Solie writes, "Driscoll also started to preach more about male privilege and sexual entitlement. This had a damaging impact on many marriages, said Rob Thain Smith, who, with Merle, was acting as an informal marriage counselor to many young couples.

'He created enormous abuse of wives,' Smith said. 'He helped young men objectify women, by his over-emphasis of sexualization of women and subservience.'"

Christine Carter confesses she thought she knew how to spot abuse from a distance, but what she endured from Mars Hill was too subtle. "I believed what was preached numerous times over the years about how a woman should look, so much to the extent that I thought I was being a good wife by starving myself so that I'd be pleasing for my husband to look at almost to the point of my death just after the birth of my second child. I believed the elders that told me that I was not trusting my husband enough (I believe it was in the beginning of 2007) when I went to them, scared, and told them how I felt my husband didn't love me and that I feared and suspected that he was cheating on me for quite some time." Months later, her husband rejected his family completely and disappeared into his other life of self-indulgence. Since the family had resigned from Mars Hill shortly before the disappearance, church representatives said they couldn't help her.

And then there are money issues at Mars Hill. Donations given a couple years ago to a global fund for an Ethiopia project went to the church's general fund and were used for video production instead. One woman describes the story of her being forced from her satellite church after she asked questions about $16M of church debt. And there's that bit about gaming the bestseller list for Driscoll's Real Marriage.

In the end, we have a picture that resembles either a very sick church or fake one.

From Book Reviews, Creative Culture - Brandywine Books
ThinkGeek's Useless Box

From Book Reviews, Creative Culture - Brandywine Books
An Illustration on Paying Attention

"(And whatever is placed in active and direct Oppugnancy to the Good is, ipso facto, positive Evil.)" Patrick Kurp ties this line by Coleridge to this line by Waugh: "Civilization has no force of its own beyond what is given it from within."

From Transforming Sermons
On spiritual experiences

Doug Floyd shares some of his personal struggles in the ongoing transformation into the image of Jesus Christ. Doug also offers a few thoughts on spiritual direction.

From The Boar's Head Tavern

I’ve never been a fan of the word “inerrant”. It just never seemed like the right descriptor for the bible, even if one doesn’t think it contains errors. Inerrant poetry?

I’ve started to read Enn’s series. It’s good, and I agree that a traditional, literalistic approach to the whole bible isn’t quite right.

But some of the “aha” moments seem a bit weak, like Jesus story about David in the showbread in Mark.

From Transforming Sermons
Conceived in sin

Here's one of the most fascinating, short articles I've read in a while: Jeff Weddle's interpretation of Ps. 51:5.

From Transforming Sermons
Christ or me?

Thanks to Darryl Dash for passing along this link: The Great Commission Means Sharing Christ’s Story, Not Yours.

From The Boar's Head Tavern
Aha

Jason, yeah, I’ve been following Enns’ series. With my background (and somewhat my present) in churches that pretty much worship the Bible, having stories from folks who don’t is really helpful.

That sort of historical literary study really helps reinforce for me that the Bible is an inspired means by which God has made Himself known to us, but that it doesn’t belong in that fundie trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Bible.

I think that bibliolatric literalism is pretty much an attempt to control the Good Lion by those who fear the fact that He isn’t tame.

From The Boar's Head Tavern

I don’t see anything wrong with telling every parent between the Rio Grande and Antarctica that if you are wildly irresponsible enough to send your child hundreds or even thousands of miles away unattended to a foreign country without any plan of survival, don’t worry, the American taxpayer will take care of it. Your bewildering neglect of your children is only exceed by our taxpayers’ duty to take care of them. (The ones that are actual children. An awful lot of them are teenagers.)

That could not possibly create perverse incentives or backfire in any way.

From Transforming Sermons
On PPSD

Yes, it realliy does exist: Post-Preaching Stress Disorder.

From Transforming Sermons
Grace and truth

Parse has a valuable article this week on codependency and true service.

From Transforming Sermons
Excellent Romans overview

NT scholar Craig Keener has written the best brief overview of Romans I've ever seen. I shows the unity and cohesiveness of each of the letter's parts and makes the whole work easier to understand.

From The Boar's Head Tavern
When You Read the Bible and…

Have any of you been reading Peter Enns’ “aha” moments series? He’s posting the personal stories of moments of discovery from scholars and pastors who confronted those moments when they realized something in the Bible didn’t add up the way they were taught.

Some might look at it as a poke in the eye of inerrancy, but I read it as a way for people to save their faith when they discover the holes in certain ways of reading and understanding the Bible. Here’s what he has so far:

Part 0 (introduces what he’s about to do)
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7
Part 8

That gets you up to today.

I bet Michael would have been a fine candidate for this…

From The Boar's Head Tavern

It’s not just you. The world is bat-s**t crazy.

From The Boar's Head Tavern
After this long, do we really need a title for a new post?

Well, we’re going on three weeks here, folks. How’s the summer going for everybody?

Our kids are about to wrap up our semi-ecumenical cycle of VBSs – they’ve done two local Bible churches, our EFree, the local Assembly of God, but missed the local LCMS this year; that was just one too many.

Interesting to see how the various curricula reflect the various denominations. The AoG is loud, broad themes with lots of music. The Lutherans are charmingly old-fashioned in their music and puppetry but are very focused on just teaching the kids truths about God. The evangelical curriculum this year has a spy theme and the tagline “Discover, Decide, Defend”. It’s all about evidence, after all, so we can be good little culture warriors and go convince others to believe…

Oh, and what’s up with the thousands of refugee kids in Texas? The pastor of FBC Dallas announced on Fox News the other day that the “most compassionate” thing we could do is to build a border fence to keep ‘em out. He likened it to fencing out a swimming pool – it’s a great place to be but not safe to just let kids in willy-nilly, I guess.

Then Glenn Beck is wanting to take the kids sandwiches and soccer balls and actually be caring for them. But then on FB tonight a friend posted an article suggesting that these refugee kids are “child soldiers” being used as an “insurgency”, and that Beck is allowing himself to be used for propaganda. Is the whole world on crazy pills, or is it just me?

From MzEllen - For the Life of Me
Left vs. Liberal; Right vs. Conservatism.

(In preparation for the upcoming election cycle – with an eye toward “where faith and politics intersect.”

when I discuss the “contraception mandate” or the “gay agenda”, I specifically use the term “leftist” instead of “liberal.”

I’ve heard the question asked again and again, “why can’t we reach a compromise?”

I believe the answer lies in the “rise of the wings” – classic liberalism and classic conservatism had much in common. When the “wings” – right wing and left wing – move further and further apart, compromise becomes more difficult.

Classic conservatism and classic liberalism had, more or less, the same goals. Left wing politics and right wing politics do not.

One problem is that modern politics don’t use Biblical meanings. Christianity stresses personal responsibility, while the following thoughts on political conservatism stress societal responsibility. Liberal politics stress individual rights, but not responsibility.

A couple of basic definitions:

Conservative: A traditional conservative will support any social institution (public or private) that promotes and maintains social order and public good. A traditional conservative will emphasize the social/societal (both social responsibility and social benefit) over the isolated individual. (link)

Liberal: When the term “liberalism” (from the Latin word liberalis, meaning “pertaining to a free man”) first emerged in the early 1800s, it was founded on an unwavering belief in individual rights, the rule of law, limited government, private property, and laissez faire economics. These would remain the defining characteristics of liberalism throughout the liberal epoch, generally identified as the period from 1815-1914.

I’m looking for a simple comparison between “conservative” and “right wing” – which will be useful. But for time being, here is a short comparison between “liberal” and “leftist:”

Similarly, a liberal believes in and defends our Western heritage, while desiring to make it more egalitarian. A leftist is instinctively hostile to the Western heritage, regarding it as fundamentally unequal and therefore bad, and only redeemable through radical change. link

we are seeing it more and more, most publicly in both the “gay marriage” debate (you WILL celebrate the gay, or be sued) and the Hobby Lobby decision (Leftists are getting ever more open about wanting to eradicate religious liberty.)

And so it begins.

From Transforming Sermons
No creed but the Bible?

Scot McKnight, considering a recent book by Carl Trueman, asks if the Bible is really the only creed for Christians (HT). I don't agree with all the conclusions either man makes, but I'm pretty sure of this: the church ignores or grazes over the question at our peril.

From Transforming Sermons
So much change, so little time

Much of what Roger Olson's observations on how American Evangelical Christianity has changed in his lifetime is relevant for many non-evangelicals as well (HT).

From Transforming Sermons
Awake at the wheel?

Jeff Weddle looks at the NT"s three calls to wake up and draws some conclusions:

Life isn’t that exciting; it’s mostly just humdrum routine. It gets old. Nothing exciting to rally the troops. 
That’s why lots of Christians obsess over the news and do boycotts and post weird things on Facebook to engender outrage, or at the least emotion of some sort. 
It’s easier to spur emotions like hatred and anger than it is to stir up love and compassion.
Yep. Or a hunger and thirst for righteousness.

From Transforming Sermons
Strong links

Darryl Dash's latest collection of weekly links is worth a look.

From Transforming Sermons
Shiny!

Christian, would you name your son Lucifer? Some early Christians did (NB: their sons, not yours).

From The Living Room
things I am thinking about, but not enough to write whole posts about them

- My church is having its 10th anniversary in September. We’re throwing a party. I’m more or less in charge of planning it and I have a lot of help, for which I am extremely grateful. Anyway, it’s going to be fun.

- I think I have a mild sinus infection or really serious allergies. Either way, the right side of my face hurts.

- I’ve been in the doldrums the past few weeks in regards to pretty much every area of my life and I have no idea how to get out except just to wait it out and keep going and hope my emotions and motivation catch up with the truth.

- YouTube channels I subscribe to and recommend highly if you’re into learning about stuff: Crash Course (10ish-minute-long videos on stuff you learned about in high school and probably forgot, run by John and Hank Green [yes, the John Green who wrote The Fault in Our Stars]), Sorted Food (British guys show you recipes, plus occasional silliness), SciShow (short videos about science), and How to Adult (two folks teach you about things like how to do your taxes or laundry or interview for a job–not that I really need to learn this, since I am a legit adult and all, but if you know a person about to go to or graduate from college, or who really, really needs to get their life together, send them here).

- I need to get back into writing, using the Getting Things Done system, finishing books (I’m one or two chapters in to about 9 things right now…), and not spending most of my time watching YouTube videos.

- I know this is not the greatest post ever, but part of getting back into writing is just sitting down and putting some words on a screen, even if they’re not particularly interesting. So thanks for putting up with this, all.


From Transforming Sermons
Moral revolution at warp speed

In an essay at 9Marks, Albert Mohler really nails the current moral climate in the United States with this opening:

Western society is currently experiencing what can only be described as a moral revolution. Our society’s moral code and collective ethical evaluation on a particular issue has undergone not small adjustments but a complete reversal. That which was once condemned is now celebrated, and the refusal to celebrate is now condemned.

What makes the current moral and sexual revolution so different from previous moral revolutions is that it is taking place at an utterly unprecedented velocity. Previous generations experienced moral revolutions over decades, even centuries. This current revolution is happening at warp speed.
That's sad but true, and well stated. And the rest of Dr. Mohler's essay is equally as strong.

From Transforming Sermons
Persecution in perspective

This article from Persecution Blog is eye-opening: a woman executed for religious dissent in Massachusetts.

From Gospel Driven Church
Things Jesus Will Never Say to You

To those who trust in him for salvation, Jesus will never say:

“Go play somewhere; I’m busy.”

“Fake it til you make it.”

“I just don’t think it’s gonna work out between us.”

“I knew you were a screw-up, but this one really surprised me.”

“It’s too late.”

“I don’t care.”

“My assistant will get back to you on that.”

“We’re through.”

“I need some ‘me time’ right now.”

“I just ‘can’t’ right now.”

“I feel like I’m doing all the giving; what have you done for me lately?”

“Yeah, good job on ___________, but what about ____________?”

“I’ll be glad to help if you’ll ‘let’ me.”

“I can’t bless you until you release my power with positive words.”

“Who are you, again?”

“Beat it.”