February 2006


27 Feb 2006

One of the few great (and unknown) rock songs is Stavesacre’s “At the Moment,” released back in the late 90s. It shows the genre’s capability — rarely met — for intense praise. All things come together here in a deeply satisfying way. The lyrics are indebted to various Psalms (46, 62) and speak of that part of the Christian lifely rarely heard but often experienced — futility from sin and lousiness, yet overwhelming awe and hope in God’s faithfulness.

With a sigh i greet the day
I feel the morning on my face
Weary at the moment I awake
Even as I lie
the thought returns to mind
“Welcome to the rest of your life.”

Somewhere I’ve lost my way
from saved to stray and failing
In silence my spirit pleads,
“Is the vision lost
or has it been passed on?
Is there any use continuing?”

My soul will wait
My soul-wait silently
for God, my God (God my refuge)
and I will live
and I know some destiny
still waits for me

His faithfulness, my hope
it brings comfort to my soul
with a still small voice whispering,
“Call upon My name and I
will set you up on high
be still and know that I am God.”

Creation speaks to me
I’m stricken to my knees
in reverence and fear
forever my Almighty
The heavens in Your hand
surpass the grains of sand
who am I before You
elieonai eli adullam [God my father, God my refuge]

22 Feb 2006

Covenant Eyes has not released its filtering software yet. As noted awhile back, I plan to switch both of my machines to Covenant Eyes unless this forthcoming software is a huge disappointment. Given that their technology is very accurate, I don’t expect that to happen unless the software is unstable (you know, a 1.0 version). By the way, for the ten of you using Macs out there (just kidding!), Covenant Eyes just launched a Mac version.

Although Integrity Online Shield will likely lose out to Covenant Eyes, I remain impressed with it. In 2 1/2 months, there have only been two times I can recall where it would not allow access to a valid site. The software has been completely trouble-free on my machine. Integrity Online Shield used with X3Watch accountability software is a far better solution than Cybersitter. X3Church’s logging is much less tidy than Covenant Eyes (in fact, it regularly nabs Jack’s Pipe!), but it’s still better than Cybersitter. And Integrity Online Shield’s filtering is the major leagues; Cybersitter is Tee Ball.

19 Feb 2006

Charles Hodge is one of the all-time great theologians. A formidable intellect, he was always charitable and clear. In his Systematic Theology, he discusses the Augustinian scheme. This is what Calvin and, if you believe this fellow, Luther believed. Here is Hodge’s summary of the scheme:

  1. The glory of God, or the manifestation [display] of his perfections, is the highest and ultimate end of all things.
  2. For that end God purposed the creation of the universe, and the whole plan of providence and redemption.
  3. He placed man in a state of probation [a trial period], making Adam, their first parent, their head and representative.
  4. The fall of Adam brought all his posterity into a state of condemnation, sin, and misery, from which they are utterly unable to deliver themselves.
  5. From the mass of fallen men God elected [chose] a number innumerable to eternal life, and left the rest of mankind to the just recompense [payment] of their sins.*
  6. The ground of this election is not the foresight of anything in the one class to distinguish them favorably from the members of the other class, but the good pleasure of God.
  7. For the salvation of those thus chosen to eternal life, God gave his own Son, to become man, and to obey and suffer for his people, thus making a full satisfaction for sin and bringing in everlasting righteousness, rendering the ultimate salvation of the elect absolutely certain.
  8. While the Holy Spirit, in his common operations, is present with every man, so long as he lives, restraining evil and exciting [stirring up] good, his certainly efficacious and saving power is exercised only in behalf of the elect.
  9. All those whom God has thus chosen to life, and for whom Christ specially save Himself in the covenant of redemption, shall certainly (unless they die in infancy), be brought to the knowledge of the truth, to the exercise of faith, and to perseverance in holy living unto the end.

*This, in a nutshell, is the doctrine of double predestination, a term that confuses a lot of people. Hodge is expressing the understanding that the majority of Reformed believers have held, that while God foreordains who is elect AND who isn’t, He does not do so equally or in the same way. God actively saves the elect but passes over the non-elect to let them die in their sin. When he “hardens” Pharoah, he simply removes the restraints noted in item 8. The point is this: God is absolutely just and forces no one into sin. All of us are unwilling to come to the truth and deserve damnation, but in His mercy God saves some.

17 Feb 2006

It is painful, being a man, to have to assert the privilege, or the burden, which Christianity lays upon my own sex. I am crushingly aware how inadequate most of us are, in our actual and historical individualities, to fill the place prepared for us. But it is an old saying in the Army that you salute the uniform and not the wearer. Only one wearing the masculine uniform can (provisionally, and till the Parousia) represent the Lord of the Church; for we are all, corporately and individually, feminine to Him. We men may often make very bad priests. That is because we are insufficiently masculine. It is no cure to call in those who are not masculine at all. A given man may make a very bad husband; you cannot end matters by trying to reverse the roles. -from the essay Priestesses in the Church?

15 Feb 2006

Pathetic. Molech’s priestesses.

14 Feb 2006

Baylyblog has been cooking up some tasty stew lately.

First, PCA pastor and African missionary David Wegener has some nourishing advice about how we can wisely aid Africa. It is not quite what you are hearing from Rick Warren and his universalist friend, Bono.

Second, Tim Bayly stirs the pot with a fiery summary of a simmering series of posts on the gradual advance of feminism in the PCA. Savor his wise words.

OK, enough of the dime store cooking allusions. Really though, Baylyblog is the goods. It’s one of the few blogs where the commenters (many of them pastors) edify.

Finally, a brief and unrelated personal note: Happy Valentine’s Day, dear!

13 Feb 2006

There is a strange idea abroad that in every subject the ancient books should be read only by the professionals, and that the amateur should content himself with the modern books. Thus I have found as a tutor in English literature that if the average student wants to find out something about Platonism, the very last thing he thinks of is to take a translation of Plato off the library shelf and read the Symposium. He would rather read some dreary modern book ten times as long, all about “isms” and influences and only once in twelve pages telling him what Plato actually said. The error is rather an amiable one, for it springs from humility. The student is half afraid to meet one of the great philosophers face to face. He feels himself inadequate and thinks he will not understand him. But if only he knew, the great man, just because of his greatness, is much more intelligible than his modern commentator. The simplest student will be able to understand, if not all, yet a very great deal of what Plato said; but hardly anyone can understand some modern books on Platonism. It has therefore been one of my main endeavors as a teacher to persuade the young that firsthand knowledge is not only more worth acquiring than secondhand knowledge, but is usually much easier and more delightful to acquire. -C.S. Lewis from the introduction to Athanasius’s On the Incarnation.

11 Feb 2006

Check out this grilled concoction. I’m speechless. It’s not named after Martin.

10 Feb 2006

George Orwell is known for his fiction, but Politics and the English Language is my favorite of his writings. This essay should be read by all. In addition to highlighting my own incompetence as a writer, Orwell shows how stale imagery and vagueness are used to deceive others.

Both major political parties do it. Hazy-speak is at least 95% of all political communication; the best way to lose an election is to directly state your intentions. And so listening to politicians is a tedious exercise in deciphering code. A favorite example was Bill Clinton’s 1992 announcement of a “New Covenant,” which he called “a solemn agreement between the people and their government based not simply on what each of us can take but what all of us must give to our Nation.” Translation: fork it over.

This mixture of vagueness and sheer incompetence is the most marked characteristic of modern English prose, and especially of any kind of political writing. As soon as certain topics are raised, the concrete melts into the abstract and no one seems able to think of turns of speech that are not hackneyed: prose consists less and less of words chosen for the sake of their meaning, and more and more of phrases tacked together like the sections of a prefabricated hen-house.

Orwell’s observations about “tacked together phrases” and Strunk&White’s famous epigram (“Omit needless words!”) ring in my ears louder than my ability to silence them. It is an ongoing struggle to be clear, to edit away. Clarity is a headache, but muddled thoughts betray a lazy lack of understanding. Generally you understand something when you can explain it so that others understand it. If you can’t, then the roast needs more time in the oven before it is ready to serve.

The political dialects to be found in pamphlets, leading articles, manifestos, White papers and the speeches of undersecretaries do, of course, vary from party to party, but they are all alike in that one almost never finds in them a fresh, vivid, homemade turn of speech. When one watches some tired hack on the platform mechanically repeating the familiar phrases ā€¯bestial atrocities, iron heel, bloodstained tyranny, free peoples of the world, stand shoulder to shoulder” one often has a curious feeling that one is not watching a live human being but some kind of dummy: a feeling which suddenly becomes stronger at moments when the light catches the speaker’s spectacles and turns them into blank discs which seem to have no eyes behind them. And this is not altogether fanciful. A speaker who uses that kind of phraseology has gone some distance toward turning himself into a machine… This invasion of one’s mind by ready-made phrases… can only be prevented if one is constantly on guard against them, and every such phrase anaesthetizes a portion of one’s brain.

A warning to those who have not read this essay before: It may infect you for life. You may find yourself recalling its words often, perhaps while watching political hacks argue on TV, or listening to a company presentation, or reading a mission statement.

08 Feb 2006

The late Dr. Gerstner once wrote on the question of whether God hates the sin and loves the sinner. His words (excerpts below) are a reminder for Christians to be thankful and to pray for our unsaved loved ones, remembering that it is their injustice, not God’s justice, that is the problem.

How can God let the sinner live and give him so many blessings, unless He loves him? There is a kind of love between God and sinners. We call it the “love of benevolence.” That means the love of good will. [cf. 2 Peter 3:9]

… The sinner hates God, disobeys God, is ungrateful to God for all His favors, would kill God if he could. He is dead in trespasses and sins. (Eph.2:1) “The thoughts and intents of his heart are only evil continually.” (Gen.6:5). He is the slave of sin (John 8:34), the servant of the devil (Eph.2:2).

God has no complacent [affectionate] love for the sinner at all. He has a perfect hatred of him, “I hate them with a perfect hatred.” (Ps. 139:22) … It shows the sincerity of God’s willingness to pardon the greatest sinner that, even while He hates him with a perfect hatred, He showers him with constant daily blessings.

… [God] is determined to give the sinner a “chance,” an opportunity to repent. Alas, most sinners use it as a chance to sin! They make God’s blessed love of benevolence into a curse.

In this world the sinner enjoys nothing but the benevolent love of God. Every experience of pain as well as pleasure is from God’s love of benevolence. Even pain is from love because it tends to wake the sinner to his danger.

… Construing God’s love of benevolence as a love of complacency [affection] is fatal. Instead of the divine forbearance leading to repentance, it is used as an excuse for non-repentance. Thus the sinner is not saved but damned by God’s love of benevolence.

06 Feb 2006

Do you get tired of using your mouse? Arms and wrists get that gimpy feeling?

I like Firefox for many reasons, but especially for its keywords. They allow you to substitute a letter or word for a web site address (URL). These keywords combined with quick search URLs are primo.

Let’s use an example to make it clear as mud. Add a new Firefox bookmark with this info:

Name: Amazon
Location: www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/external-search/?index=blended&keyword=%s
Keyword: a

Now, hit F6 (or Ctrl+L) to go to the address field, type in “a martin luther” (no quotes), and hit enter. Voila, it searches Amazon using the term ‘martin luther’ and you haven’t touched the mouse. Here are a few more quick search URLs:

http://www.google.com/search?safe=on&q=%s

http://www.dictionary.com/cgi-bin/dict.pl?term=%s

http://search.ebay.com/%s

http://bible.crosswalk.com/OnlineStudyBible/bible.cgi?new=1&word=%s&section=0&version= esv&language=en (note: remove space that was inserted in this URL to fit on the blog)

Use whatever you want for keywords. I use g, d, e, and b, respectively.

04 Feb 2006

GOOHF

Interesting discussions ongoing at Veritas Redux about the (misnamed) “Free Grace” movement. Typified by orgs like the Grace Evangelical Society, these anti-Lordship folks attack the Reformational understanding that we are saved by grace through faith alone, but not a faith that is alone. The Free Gracers believe that once you decide for Christ, that’s it. You’re a card-carrying Christian no matter what you do. You can deny Christ for your entire life and still be a Christian. Presumably, this adds ex-seminarians like Josef Stalin and Karl Marx to the ranks of the elect.

“Praying the prayer” is so often the Evangelical version of indulgences, an emergency card you can flash at the pearly gates to show that you have your Heaven’s Club membership. While most of the people who believe this seem to be sincere Christ-followers themselves, they teach a doctrine that has boundless potential to deceive. The Reformers correctly believed that faith is a free gift of God (Eph 2:8-9, John 6, John 10), and that gift always produces good works (Matt 3:8, 3:10, Matt 7:17-19, Matt 12:33, Mark 4:20, John 15:8, Romans 8, 1 Cor 6:10, James 2:14-18, etc). Sanctification always follows justification. What God starts, God finishes, using warnings and encouragement as a means to keep His elect on the right road.

A “faith” that fails to produce a Christ-follower isn’t faith.

02 Feb 2006

As a public service, I have pinpointed the acme of American popular music. It occurred in 1956 during the final 1/3 of “I’ve Got You Under My Skin.” An oboe solo (!) resolves to a joyous, Riddle-led orchestra, and a giddy singer drives it home. Arrangement and vocal: peerless. The great American albums aren’t the White album, “Woodstock,” or “Dark Side of the Moon,” they are “Songs for Swingin’ Lovers,” “In the Wee Small Hours,” “Nice n Easy,” “Jolly Christmas,” and assorted other Sinatra discs from the 1950s.

Classic Sinatra never gets old because, like old school country and bluegrass, it is music for adults. It doesn’t look dumb to see a seasoned Tony Bennett or Ralph Stanley onstage. It does look dumb to see the Stones up there “rocking” while a bunch of gray-hairs bang their heads. I remember bemusedly observing an audience engaged in this while walking by an outdoor Grand Funk Railroad concert back in the late 90s. The hypnosis ended when the singer shooed us along, berating us for not buying a ticket.

How many of us have heard the standard rundown about the rock era, that to appreciate rock you have to get into the blues, and then you have to see the mixture of Gospel, blues, and country that was Elvis, and then along came the British invasion, then Dylan went electric and the Summer of Love happened, Hendrix blew up, and Woodstock showed us peace, love and understanding, and then the punk rockers came along to reinvigorate things when they got stale, and then… OK, you get the point. Folks, trust me, most of this music isn’t worth such scholarship. And why do insular Boomers listen to little but James Taylor, the Beatles, the Eagles, and CCM? Someone is paying $100 to see Dave Matthews in concert.

And now this music has been imported into the churches. Look, I love classic Sinatra, but I don’t want the organist laying down an East Coast Swing rhythm during the liturgy. I like Johnny Cash but must we hear boom-chicka-boom during the prelude? Boomers, listen: It’s time to grow up.

You know, popular entertainment was once aimed at adults. Movie stars were often in their 40s, even 50s: James Stewart, Cary Grant, Clark Gable, Ronald Colman, and my own favorite, the inimitable, but not dreamy, Basil Rathbone. Glenn Miller and Tommy Dorsey and Bing Crosby were the big boys. Today it seems as if everything is targeted to youth, perhaps because someone discovered the buying habits of 18-34 year olds in a wealthy society.

And so the youth movement continues. These youths seem to know almost nothing beyond popular culture, with bits of pieces of knowledge gathered from fifth-rate sources like the Daily Show. Politics is pop culture’s only intellectual endeavor. Not politics informed by economics or political theory or Christianity, mind you, but the kind of unfocused blather skewered so perfectly in Orwell’s “Politics and the English Language.” What we have in popular culture today is a big self-referential web of half-formed thoughts, like ping pong balls popping about in a lottery tube.

What can I say: This old crab Gen-Xer is ready for the juvenile “Rock Era” to end.

01 Feb 2006

Every time Larry King has a Christian leader on his show, he asks where God is in disasters. And most of the time, the leader responds by saying “God didn’t cause it, He let it happen to protect our free will!” Larry King always seems dissatisfied to hear this. And so he should, because it’s a pansy response (and it’s false, too).

Consider Luke 13:1-5:

There were some present at that very time who told [Jesus] about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And He answered them, Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.

Jesus mentions two incidents where people were in the wrong place at the wrong time. The first group was slaughtered by Pilate while apparently offering temple sacrifices. The second group was killed by the seemingly random collapse of a tower. And so Jesus asks, do you think these victims were singled out because they were especially rotten? No, he answers in His authoritative way, they weren’t any worse than you. So quit screwing around and repent, because death and judgement are coming for you, too! Note that Jesus doesn’t lament how the victims got a bad rap. Nor does He explain why it happened; such things are not revealed to us (Deut 29:29). He just tells them to repent or perish.

God authorizes all things to happen, including calamities (Is 45:7, Amos 3:6, Lam 3:38, Proverbs 16:33, Romans 9, etc), but He does no evil (Deut 32:4, Ps 5:4, Ps 19:9, James 1:13). He made us and can do with us as He pleases (Is 29:16, Romans 9:21, Job 38). We are all evil and deserve condemnation (Romans 3:11-18). So, when we see “bad things” happen, we should remember God’s mercy and his infinite blessings, and we should repent (Rom 2:4-5).