March 2006

28 Mar 2006

Lyn Nofziger, Reagan’s press secretary and longtime confidante, died yesterday at age 81. He was, if I recall correctly, a member of a PCA church. He is perhaps best known as the man who announced that Reagan had been shot.

Observing him from afar, I always warmly identified qualities in Mr. Nofziger that I saw in my parents and others from the WWII generation, namely modesty and common sense. Neither abound in Washington.

Lyn Nofziger was a funny curmudgeon. I emailed the wise old operative a few years ago with an honest question:

After watching politicians from afar for many years, I’m coming to a conclusion that 80-90% of them are basically unprincipled and are mainly interested in power. If Nancy Pelosi were in Boondock, Kansas instead of San Francisco, she’d be voting a whole lot more conservative… If Tom Davis was from San Francisco, he’d be voting like Pelosi… People like Dick Gephardt and Al Gore didn’t “change” their views from moderate to liberal over the years; they never really had any views in the first place. They just adapted them to their circumstances, seeking to meet the needs of whatever consitutencies they are trying to grab at the moment (and probably under pressure from party hacks)… It’s Bob Dole’s infamous “I’ll be Reagan if you want me to be Reagan” line from 1996… [And] now we hear that Hillary may run in ’04 as a “moderate.” What do you think of this – realistic or overly cynical?

His response:

it’s the truth with about 90 percent of them. you’re being nice; i call them whores. l.n.

26 Mar 2006

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has a church that shields George Tiller. And then there’s this ludicrous blasphemy (hat tip: Rev. Paul McCain).

24 Mar 2006

Our smarter-than-thou alternative paper posts its share of dumb articles. But this one (4/3/06 Edit: sorry, link no longer works), “The Vanishing Religious Middle,” wins a Stalin Prize for ignorance. It’s what happens when your understanding of evangelical Christianity comes from talk shows and liberal clergy instead of, well, real life in a local church. I have regularly attended several evangelical churches for the past 15 years, and visited ten others, and can count on one hand the number of sermons dealing even partially with politics. Political idolatry is a problem for many Christians, but most local churches simply are not fixated on political matters. The fault line is theological, not political.

For every Bible-believing church subverting Christ-crucified with politics, there must be 50 beset by moralism. That is, those evangelicals who find the worship of Christ in word and sacrament unappealing to their felt needs don’t want it replaced with marching orders from the Bush administration. They want tips for a better marriage.

And then there’s this:

Rev. Lisa Withrow of Delaware, who teaches at the Methodist Theological School in Ohio and is active in liberal causes, also said she couldn’t name any apolitical pastors.

Now this, priestess, I can believe. As the saying goes, a fox smells its own hole. I and my “pastor” friends are thoroughly politicized, so by projection my Bible-believing counterparts in the evangelical churches must be too.

Politics (aka. power), along with sex, is transcendence for the apostate. Absent the vertical God-man dimension, it’s all horizontal, mano-a-mano (oops, he/she-a-he/she). In more ways than one.

23 Mar 2006

Terry Pluto from the Akron-Beacon Journal is my favorite sportswriter. He writes simple, honest columns on that painful reality show called “Cleveland sports” (last championship in any of the big three: 1964). A mid-life convert to Christianity, Pluto also writes a column on faith in his own unpretentious style. Here is a sample about longtime Cleveland sports broadcaster Casey Coleman and God’s presence via others.

17 Mar 2006

In “Guarding the Holy Fire,” Roger Steer relates this tale of Parson William Grimshaw (1708-63):

Grimshaw’s dress was plain, even shabby at times. Often he only had one coat and one pair of shoes. He ate plain food and hated any form of waste. Picture the scene in one of his services. He is short but well built, robustly healthy and with sharp eyes. Before the prayers he casts a searching eye over every man, woman and child in church. If he sees anyone lounging forward rather than kneeling, he rebukes the offender by name. If he sees a stray dog in the church, he chases it out himself…

After the Third Collect, he may engage in extempore prayer, addressing the almighty with a fervor which suggest to his congregation that he has been walking closely with God. Then he ensures that the Psalm before the sermon is a long one, for at this point he has important business to perform.

He takes his tout riding stick from the vestry well and marches out of the church. He looks around to see if any lazy parishioners are idling their time in the churchyard, the street, or one of the four alehouses within a stone’s throw of the church. If he finds any, he rounds them up and drives them into church.

A friend of John Newton’s, passing one of the alehouses on a Sunday, saw several people jumping out of the windiows and leaping over a low wall just beyond, and thought the building must be on fire.

“What’s the cause of the commotion?” he asked.

“Parson Grimshaw’s coming!” they shouted.

John Newton himself, who sometimes visited Haworth, noted that the villagers were more afraid of Grimshaw than the Justice of the Peace, but added that “his reproof was so authoritative and yet so mild and friendly, that the stoutest sinner could not stand before him.”

14 Mar 2006

Tim Ware notes a detail of 17th century Russian court life.

[Worship] Services lasting seven hours or more were attended by the Tsar and the whole Court… The children were not excluded from these rigorous observances. ‘What surprised us most was to see the boys and little children…standing bareheaded and motionless, without betraying the smallest gesture of impatience.’


09 Mar 2006

Winter Palace

In St. Petersburg, we stayed at a hotel where, looking out a window, I could see one of Dosteovsky’s flats. Across the square lay majestic St. Isaac’s, commissioned by Alexander I. Not far away was Tchaikovsky’s apartment. Across a small park, the Bronze Horseman rears up along the Neva. A ten minute walk leads to the Winter Palace, seat of 200 years of Romanov rule and site of the final Bolshevik blow against the crumbling Provisional Government. Today it houses the famous Hermitage; locals and tourists wander about the large square below where many died in 1905. Who can understand the rhythms of Tsarist life, or the fear that reigned during the great siege of 1942, or Stalin’s terrors the decade before? Even in this recent city, born from 18th-century swamps, the past overwhelms.

Somewhere – I wish I remembered where – the late Shelby Foote noted that when it was still at Shiloh in early April, he could hear the yells of the boys in the wind whistling through the first growth on the trees. The history that he knew so intimately was alive. In some sense he communed with his forbears. How many have felt the same when peering at the crosses overlooking the windy sea at Normandy, or standing in the Gettysburg wheat field, or overlooking Rome from the Palatine Hill, or walking the grounds of Oxford, or a thousand other places including St. Petersburg?

And yet God’s glory, His weight, encompasses and far surpasses all of it combined. Who has known the mind of the Lord? (Rom 11:33-36)

06 Mar 2006

Lately I have seen critical articles written in various places about mini-popes with blogs. Indeed, you see a number of sites with widespread influence who upbraid and even call the offices of other ministries, and yet few of the people doing this are themselves ordained. I ask this of blogs aggressively geared toward teaching: What authority do you possess? It is the role of laymen to for web teaching ministries via their blogs? I am not convinced that it is. (And need one mention the number of women doing the same?)

At the same time, blogs are conversations and thoughts. It seems absurd to seek pastoral blessing to post an article any more than you phone your elder before discussing Christ with a relative. However, at what point do one’s thoughts become teaching? This is something I have thought much about lately, with no resolution (yet). I have left it at this: Resolve to be purposely deriviative in all theological writing on this blog. It’s 99% recycled paper. This is why quotes are common in the land of Pipe. I am not a teaching elder or one given to novel intepretations of Scripture. I’m content to popularize the thoughts of others and stay in the middle of the penguin pack of historic Christianity.

I proclaim freely on Culture posts, aided by Solzhenitsyn, Lewis, Muggeridge, Orwell, various churchmen, Sobran, Hazlitt, Nock, and others. Although interested in political and economic theory, I despise the daily partisan hackery and shilling that the pretentious like to call “political discourse.” Besides, politics is a god of this age. Who but a fool expects much of politicians? Manure attracts flies; power attracts power-seekers. Politicians bring ill-gotten goodies; Christ, eternal life.

Many blog comment sections are overrun by legalists, here’s-what-I-feelers, and other spiritual troublemakers. Whether it’s a sports blog, a political blog, or a Christian blog: erudite commenters are the minority. I don’t want known error being given space on this blog, and that includes the comments, and I’d be compelled to patrol it. It often takes hours to create a simple article for this blog, as the process of writing and editing is a way of coalescing my thoughts. Even brief prose is struggle. Because there is life to live in my local world, comments remain closed.

One goal of this site is to create a reference library of sorts– a searchable compilation of quotes and thoughts. I try to avoid writing endless articles, the exception being when I am creating something for later reference (e.g. the women’s ordination writeup). There are too many blogs posts out there in severe need of an editor; pithy the web is not. A lot of people spend more time writing than thinking.

02 Mar 2006

If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema. -1 Cor 16:22

Charles Hodge comments:

If our Lord be “God over all and blessed for ever,” want [lack] of love to Him is the violation of our whole duty. If He be not only truly God, but God manifested in the flesh for our salvation; if He unites in Himself all divine and all human excellence; if He has so loved us as to unite our nature to His own, and to humble himself and become obedient unto death, even the death of the cross, that we might not perish, but have everlasting life; then our own hearts must assent to the justness of the malediction [curse] pronounced even against ourselves, if we do not love Him.