13 December 2009

The Conservative Bible Project: All Kinds of Wrong

MSN.com recently had a link to the Conservative Bible Project, an attempt to "render God's word into modern English while removing liberal distortions." To accomplish this task, the CBP allows for anyone to remove those "liberal distortions" by copying the King James Version text and editing it to make it more conservative. It is then submitted for review (by other "translators") and then is posted on the site. One of the advantages of this, they believe, is "an unbiased and truthful Bible is of immeasurable value to society." The CBP believes that their efforts are leading to an unbiased and truthful Bible.

I am still in process in my thinking on this subject, but liberals shouldn't be the only ones upset by this. A few thoughts (and I reserve the right to add more later):
  • this process is a mockery of biblical interpretation and Bible translation. The CBP encourages users to click on a link when copying the KJV text that will show them the Strong's concordance number and the lexical form of the Greek word being translated. What's wrong with this? It's backwards: starting with the English and then finding the Greek is simply the wrong way to translate. Further, ignoring the grammar of the Greek and simply translating the dictionary form for each word separately is completely irresponsible. Like any language, Koine Greek is nuanced and meaning can be and often is affected by things like the verb tense, word order, and the case, number, and gender of words (and participles). Putting translation in the hands of anyone with Internet access is naive and dangerous.
  • One example of the above is the proposed translation of Matthew 1:18: "The birth of Jesus Christ happened this way: His mother, Mary, was engaged to Jospeh, but before they were married, she became pregnant with the child of the Divine Guide." My problem with this is the title "Divine Guide." This is not a translation of pneumatos hagiou ("Holy Spirit" in the genitive case); it is an interpretation and downright ignoring of the Greek. If this kind of result is accepted, what else is acceptable? Yes, the Holy Spirit is a guide, and yes, he is divine. But he is much more than that!
  • This will not produce an unbiased Bible. It exchanges a Bible with a perceived liberal bias with a Bible having an actual conservative bias. One of the proposed methods is to "identify conservative terms that are omitted from existing translations, and propose where they could improve the translation." How is this NOT inserting bias into the text? The stated goal is a conservative Bible, not an accurate rendering of Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek.
  • This is a sickening, forced mixing of Scripture and a political agenda. What I hear is "forget accurate translation (and, for that matter, accurate biblical theology), we just want our Bible our way," which is just as bad as what they're accusing liberals of. I also hear "I don't care what those scholars who spend their entire careers translating and interpreting the text say, this is what ____ means."
  • It is also a conflation of liberal theology and liberal politics. The two are not identical.
  • It assumes that recent moves by Bible translators (such as the use of "brothers and sisters" when the word adelphoi occurs) is solely motivated by an anti-conservative, feminist bias. This is simply not the case. There are some places where adelphoi probably refers to more than just men; therefore, it's not some shady liberal plot to undermine biblical authority.
The Bible is God's Word for our lives, not something to translate according to your political views.

31 October 2009

A Reminder On Halloween

I'm not too hung up on the whole "Should Christians let their kids wear costumes and go trick-or-treating?" discussion. I'm sure true pagans scoff at our Americanization of their holiday and would claim that there's no real connection with Samhain or whatever else defines old-school Halloween.

However, there are two facts I'd like to point out on Halloween. One is that October 31st is also the anniversary of Martin Luther nailing his 95 theses on the door of the Wittenberg Cathedral, an event widely recognized as the beginning of the Protestant Reformation and all it stood for: salvation in Christ alone on the basis of faith alone in the message of Scripture alone.

The other point is this: we do live in a world largely controlled by evil spiritual forces: "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms" (Eph. 6:12). "The powers of this dark world" is better translated as "world-rulers of this darkness," in the sense of "world-rulers over this darkness." Most commentators believe that such powers affect leaders of worldly governments. Christians, however, need not fear such evil IF they "put on the full armor of God" and "be strengthened in the Lord and in his mighty power" (Eph. 6:11, 10). The armor of God is God's armor given to the believer which allows him or her to stand against the "wiles of the devil," that is, the various schemes the devil works to battle against the kingdom of God (Eph. 6:11).

Now, a subpoint to the point above. Spiritual warfare is nearly always defined as something like "taking the battle to the enemy" or "storming the gates of Hell," using the sword of the Spirit (the Word of God) as a justification for making it an offensive, not defensive, endeavor. I think this is incorrect, and I think Ephesians 6 is on my side here. The word for "take your stand against" and the word for "stand" in Ephesians 6:11 and 13 are the same word; "stand your ground" in verse 13 is the same word but has the prefix "anti" attached to it. Primarily these words mean "to stand firm" or "hold one's ground in battle" (BAGD). Harold Hoehner, in his landmark commentary, states that "stand" in this passages means that the church is "only 'to stand,' hold the territory that Christ and his body, the church, have conquered."

Further, "the gates of hell" is a bad translation of
pulai haidou. "The gates of Hades" is better, and we need to remember that Hades is the place of the dead, not necessarily the same place as Hell (gehenna in Greek). So when Jesus says, "upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it," I believe the "rock" referred to here is not Peter (Petros) but the confession that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God (Mt. 16:16). The word "rock" in verse 18 is petra, a feminine form of petros, which means that Peter is not the rock upon which Jesus will build his church. Though the world "confession" (homologia) does not appear, it agrees in number and gender with the word petra, and it is what Peter just did two verses earlier. What this means is this: the church Jesus has built will not be defeated by death because it is built upon a confession of the one who has conquered death, not because it is built on Peter (sorry, Roman Catholics).

All of this to say that Jesus holds the keys to death (the fact of death) and Hades (the place of the dead) (Rev. 1:18). Therefore, when people in the church (and remember the church is made up of people, not buildings!) die, the church is not defeated because the death of the believer is simply the event that ushers them into the presence of the resurrected, death-conquering Lord Jesus! One day, death and Hades (as well as all who once occupied them) themselves will be thrown into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:14, also another clue that Hades and Hell are two different places). The devil and his angels (yes, angels can be evil - Satan is a fallen angel) will one day be thrown into the lake of fire where they will be "tormented day and night for ever and ever" (Rev. 20:10).

The devil is not the King of Hell; he is its chief prisoner! He does not torture people in Hell; he is tortured for ever and ever. He does not enjoy Hell; Hell is not the Devil's
paradise; it is his punishment!

Don't be afraid of Halloween. Know the facts: 1. Yes, spiritual forces of evil rule this world. But, 2. All evil spiritual forces will one day be thrown into hell to be tormented for ever.

26 October 2009

Christian Songs that Inspire Me: Revelation Song by Philips, Craig, and Dean

I'm not a total hater. If you've ever clicked on the label at the bottom of the blog that says "Contemporary Christian Music," then you've noticed that nearly every entry is an installment of Christian songs that annoy me. I want to emphasize some songs that I like, songs that actually connect with me existentially. Today I give you "Revelation Song" by Philips, Craig, and Dean. [My comments are in red]

Worthy is the,
Lamb who was slain (Rev. 5:12)
Holy, Holy, is He
Sing a new song, to Him who sits on
Heaven's Mercy Seat (Rev. 4:2, 8)
[Repeat 2x]

Holy, Holy, Holy
Is the Lord God Almighty
Who was, and is, and is to come (Rev. 4:8)
With all creation I sing:
Praise to the King of Kings!
You are my everything,
And I will adore You…!

Clothed in rainbows, of living color
Flashes of lightning, rolls of thunder (Rev. 4:5)
Blessing and honor, strength and
Glory and power be
To You the Only Wise King, (Rev. 5:13)

Holy, Holy, Holy
Is the Lord God Almighty
Who was, and is, and is to come, yeah
With all creation I sing:
Praise to the King of Kings!
You are my everything,
And – I - will - adore You!

Filled with wonder,
Awestruck wonder
At the mention of Your Name
Jesus, Your Name is Power (Phil. 2:9-10)
Breath, and Living Water (John 4:10-15)
Such a marvelous mystery

Holy, Holy, Holy
Is the Lord God Almighty
Who was, and is, and is to come, yeah
With all creation I sing:
Praise to the King of Kings!
You are my everything,
And – I - will - adore You!

Holy, Holy, Holy
Is the Lord God Almighty
Who was, and is, and is to come,
With all creation I sing:
Praise to the King of Kings!
You are my everything,
And – I - will - adore YOU…
This song is based largely on Revelation 4-5, two of my favorite chapters in all of Scripture. The glory! The power and majesty are nearly indescribable. This passage ought to challenge the Buddy Christ, Jesus-is-my-homeboy attitude prevalent in so many Christians' lives and sermons. Jesus is the living Lord of all creation, whose name is above all names, before whom every knee will bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth. The elders who surround the throne, who understand Jesus' identity better than anyone, cannot help but fall before Jesus in worship, laying whatever rewards they have been given (their crowns) before him.

Thank you, PCD, for reminding us that reverence is always relevant.

17 October 2009

What I'm Reading and Stuff

It's painfully obvious that I'm not very good at blogging, and I'm really, really not good at blogging often. I thought I'd share a list of what I've read and what I'm reading these days, and maybe some ideas for future posts.

What I'm reading now:
  • The Myth of a Christian Nation, by Gregory Boyd. Boyd is my favorite Open Theist, and he has some provocative ideas regarding evangelical Christianity and its (in his words) idolatrous quest for political power. The Kingdom of God was never supposed to be an improved version of any kingdom of the world (even America's!). It is debatable whether America ever really was a Christian nation, so trying to "take America back for God" and many other conservative evangelical hobby horses are wrongheaded and destructive to that which actually is the kingdom of God. It's pretty interesting so far.
  • Relativism: Feet Firmly Planted in Mid-Air, by Francis Beckwith and Greg Koukl. Moral relativism is a self-defeating philosophy which is impossible to be consistently and honestly lived, let alone defended as "right."
  • Making Small Groups Work, by Henry Cloud and John Townsend. I'm not very far into this book, but I can tell it will be a gold mine of material for anyone starting, leading, or attending a small group.
Some ideas I'm kicking around:
  • A Sunday School series on social issues: what does the Bible actually teach about . . . homosexuality (and the Christian's response to it), abortion, multiculturalism (esp. how to react to the growing immigrant population in the US), and any other issue that will probably get a lot of people really mad at me. :) The aim is to use the Bible (and not Fox News, conservative talk radio, or Focus on the Family) as our guide to seeking truth and grace regarding people who behave or believe differently from what we believe. Christians, let's stop being jerks to people who disagree with us. We all know about 1 Peter 3:15a-b ("But in your hearts set apart Christ Jesus as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have."), but how many go on to read 1 Peter 3:15c: "But do this with gentleness and respect"?
  • Christians Songs that Inspire Me: this would be a counterpart to my several entries under the title "Christian Songs that Annoy Me."

14 September 2009

Cold, Hard Cash?

There are lots of ways for you to receive "cold, hard cash": selling your unwanted gold, winning contests, selling stuff on craigslist (my preferred method of selling, by the way).

I have a question: Why is cash always cold and hard? Is there some advantage to freezing money? Does freezing money really even make it hard? You never hear about a car dealer offering you "warm, limp cash" for your trade-in. "Just send in your broken our unwanted gold in our secure envelope and turn it into room-temperature, flimsy cash!" It just doesn't roll off the tongue as well.

[Interestingly, I found this site, which explains the origin of the phrase. If the explanation given is true (it certainly sounds plausible), then I understand why cash is always cold and hard. But given its modern usage (referring to physical money and not an intangible line of credit), it no longer carries much meaning.]

10 September 2009

Steven Curtis Chapman "Heaven Is The Face"

For those of you who may not know about Steven Curtis Chapman (yes, he always goes by three names), he is a five-time Grammy award winning Christian musician who puts a lot of thought into his music. This song was written about his five-year-old daughter, Maria, who was accidentally killed in the driveway of Chapman's home when her older brother was pulling into the driveway in the family's Land Cruiser. Maria, along with two other Chapman children, were adopted from China.

One thing that sets Christianity apart from other worldviews is the hope of Heaven. This life is not the entirety of our existence; Heaven awaits those who belong to Christ. Because of the resurrection of Jesus after his death on the cross for our sins, Jesus now "holds the keys to Death and Hades" (Rev. 1:18). He has gone ahead "to prepare a place" for his people, and he will return to take us there personally and live there with us forever.

That is why, for the Christian, death is not a wall that marks the end of one's existence. It is a door, on the other side of which is eternal life with Jesus and loved ones who have gone before.

04 September 2009

Christian Songs That Annoy Me: "Holy Spirit Come"

Today I want to whine about a song I occasionally hear during worship at church, "Holy Spirit Come," written by Kate Miner:

Holy Spirit come, Holy Spirit dwell
Fill Your church with joy over flowing
And peace over flowing
And love over flowing
In all of Your glory

What bothers me most about this song is not the fact that it doesn't rhyme (it's the same word repeated three times; though "glory" sort of rhymes with "overflowing" but rhymes better with "overflowy"); what bothers me most is its contradiction of Scripture. I present another song, much older, perhaps, but much more correct:

O LORD, you have searched me and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD.
You hem me in-- behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.
Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, "Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,"
even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.

(Ps. 139:1-12, emphasis mine)

It cannot be stressed enough: Christian musicians are responsible for the lyrics to their songs. In a way, Christian songwriters are teachers, and music is a powerful tool for teaching Christian doctrine (remember hymns?). Worship leaders and songwriters ought to be very careful in deciding not only how a song sounds (is it worshipful?) but also careful in deciding what the song says (is it true?).

01 September 2009

Countdown to the Big Move

Come Saturday, it will be three weeks until we move. That is crazy!

In other news, Michael turns one this Sunday. And it's a three-day weekend. We're having a party at a friend's house after church.

So many changes. . . .

22 August 2009

The Renewed Mind Is The Key

Yeah, you're not helping Christianity to look better.

20 August 2009

Jesus Is My Friend by Sonseed

This is a YouTube classic. You will be hearing the chorus in your head for weeks!

"He taught me how to praise my God and still play rock 'n roll."
"He loves me when I'm right; he loves me when I'm wrong. He loves me when I waste my time by writing silly songs." Indeed.


06 August 2009

A Good Quote

I feel that my job, my calling, is to help the church understand who they are, who God is, and the difference he makes in their lives. While thinking about this calling, I wonder what I can do to accomplish this three-part task. One of these days, I am going to write a book explaining each part of that calling, which, put another way, explains the doctrine of man, the doctrine of God, and the doctrine of the church/Christian living.

With the who-knows-when-book in the back of my mind, I read books and articles with an eye toward finding quotes that explain what I want to say better than I can say it. Here is one example; it is C.S. Lewis describing the new life Christians have in Christ:

A live body is not one that never gets hurt, but one that can to some extent repair itself. In the same way a Christian is not a man who never goes wrong, but a man who is enabled to repent and pick himself up and begin over again after each stumble- because the Christ-life is inside him, repairing him all the time, enabling him to repeat (in some degree) the kind of voluntary death which Christ Himself carried out.

(From Mere Christianity, p. 64)

22 July 2009

Open Theism and 1 Peter 1:20

I am intrigued by the arguments of Open Theism. This doesn't make me an Open Theist; I am Arminian in my theology, but not Open Theist. For those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about, here's the gist of Open Theism: God created everything, he gave people free will, he desires genuine relationships with his creatures (code for "we think that God predestining his relationships is not genuine"), so he has chosen to limit himself with regard to certain things, included in which is a comprehensive knowledge of the future choices of free-will creatures. In other words, even God does not know exactly what you or I will choose with regard to many of the choices we make in life. Because he knows the past and present perfectly, though, he can anticipate with a great deal of accuracy, but he cannot know that future perfectly until it happens.

One of Open Theism's most interesting proponents is Gregory Boyd. Known for writing provocative books about a variety of Christian issues (The Myth of a Christian Nation, God of the Possible, Satan and the Problem of Evil to name a few), Boyd's website is the most thorough I've seen when it comes to teaching Open Theism and answering objections. Some of Boyd's explanations are pretty good (because they reveal the close similarity between Open Theism and Arminianism, from which OT came).

Some of his explanations, however, I find unconvincing. Take, for example, his explanation of 1 Peter 1:20:

“[Christ] was destined before the foundation of the world, but was revealed at the end of the ages for our sake. Through him you have come to trust in God…” This passage reveals that God created the world with Jesus Christ in mind (cf. Col. 1:15–17). The divine goal was (and is) to acquire a people who freely participate in and reflect the love of the triune God, and the plan to attain this goal was by having people trust in God through Christ. Though it is sometimes cited as evidence in support of the classical view of foreknowledge, this verse actually has nothing to say on the subject.

What I find unconvincing is Boyd's lack of attention to Greek grammar. For those of you who care, here is the transliterated Greek of 1 Peter 1:19-20 (it's important to include v. 19, as we will see):1 Peter 1:19-20: alla timio haimati hos amnou amomou kai aspilou Christou, proegnosmenou men apo kataboles kosmou phanerothentos de ep' eschatou ton chronon di' humas

The key phrase here is hos amnou amomou kai aspilou Christou, proegnosmenou, which I translate as "as of the spotless lamb without blemish, Christ, having been foreknown. . . ." This phrase describes the blood with which we have been redeemed. I believe that the verb proegnosmenou ("having been foreknown," a perfect passive participle, genitive masculine singular) modifies the entire genitive phrase amnou amomou kai aspilou Christou ("of the spotless lamb without blemish, Christ." What God foreknew ("destined" is a poor translation) was not only Christ, but Christ the spotless lamb without blemish, an identity that requires a significant amount of foreknowledge (that there would be an incarnation among the Jews, that the blood of lambs would be used under the law to atone for sins, that Christ would be killed, that he would be killed in such a way as to make the metaphor of lamb meaningful, that he would die in a period of history in which terms like lamb, redeem, and blood made sense in the same sentence).

Remember, all of this was foreknown "before the foundation of the world," which means before Genesis 1:1, before God said, let there be light, before there was anything else in existence apart from God. How did God know Jesus would die? How did God know how Jesus would die? These are questions for which Open Theism has no sufficient answers.

16 July 2009

Fetuses found to have memories - Washington Times

Fetuses found to have memories - Washington Times

Shared via AddThis

I think this shows in yet another way that it is extremely questionable to assume that fetuses aren't human until they emerge from the womb.

12 July 2009

Not Yet, But Someday

I can’t wait to see my child take his first steps.

This afternoon, while watching Michael struggle to stand on his own, I could tell that he wanted to take a step, but he couldn't. As an adult, I know that there's a process of learning how to walk, but with patience and persistence, he would indeed master it one day. He pulled himself up on the sleeve of my shirt like he’s done a hundred times, but this time I wrapped my arm around him and said, "Michael, I know that one day you will walk. I know it seems impossible now, but you will walk. You'll walk, you'll run, you'll dance. You will walk; I promise. Trust me; trust Daddy. I have been where you are and I know the way."

I think God speaks to us like that when we think about death and pain and suffering and how hard this life really is. We know we are made for more than this life. We know that these bodies should be better than they are. Something has gone terribly wrong with us; we were made to run and dance and all we can do is crawl along on the ground in frustration, so to speak. I think Michael senses that he is not supposed to crawl forever; he knows now that he was made to walk, run, dance, jump, play.

Jesus speaks to us from heaven: "I know right now you are stumbling, crawling yet knowing that you were made to walk. Your knees are scarred and scraped. You're tired of falling down and not knowing how to be what I created you to be. But I promise: you will walk, you will run, you will jump, you will dance, you will play. You WERE made for more than this. There IS something wrong with the world, but behold, I was dead and now I am alive forever and ever. And I hold the keys to death and Hades. One day, you will join me, and together we will walk in the kingdom I have prepared for you from the foundation of the world. You will walk. Trust me; I have been where you are and I know the way. Hold on! I am coming soon, and my reward is with me!"

He can’t wait to see his children take their first steps.

08 July 2009

Oh, For a Thousand Days to See

If only I could see 1000 days into the future (or even six months, but "a thousand days to see" fit the adapted hymn title). I would know just what I would be doing, and, hopefully, that it would be something other than working at Fed Ex (no offense, Fed Ex). I feel stuck in a job I still have only because we get our health insurance through it. Six years of college and four years of grad school have prepared me to work in an Ottowa yard switcher for FedEx Ground? I sure don't get much use of my Master of Divinity degree sitting alone in my truck waiting for instructions over the radio. Things are turning out very differently from what I had imagined a year or two ago.

I have sent out resumes to some churches. I have sent my CV to a couple of colleges (one, my undergraduate alma mater, has laid off several full-time faculty and is in a hiring freeze indefinitely, and the other will only consider me for adjunct teaching, i.e., one class occasionally). I need experience to get a job; I need a job to get experience. But I don't want to go into a ministry where I'd feel like I settled for the job just to get out of Fed Ex. And few (if any) Bible colleges are hiring full-time faculty. The ones that are prefer PhDs.

So we stand at a four-way fork in the road. Here are the choices/options:
  • Try to get into a PhD program. I've wanted to do a PhD anyway, but I'm sure it would help me get considered more seriously.
  • Stay in Cincinnati and work secular jobs until I find a ministry or get into a PhD program.
  • Look only for a ministry, no matter how long it takes.
  • Move somewhere else more beneficial for all three of us (that is, move to Iowa or something) and apply the three options above. We came to Cincy to study, not to live here forever (unless I get a ministry or Bible college professor position here).
There are good things and bad things for each option, mostly having to do with time, level of personal satisfaction, and making the most out of my education. There are also so many unknowns for each one. Would I even get accepted for a PhD program? How many churches say no before I reconsider ministry at this point? Do I want to begin a career at age 36 or so? What if we move and then I find "the church"?

I have rambled enough. Suffice it to say that while I believe God knows what will happen eventually, he has chosen not to reveal it to me. Instead, he asks me to take the harder road of faith and trust in him rather than doing it all myself. Clearly I need the practice.

25 June 2009

Christians Aren't the Only Hypocrites

As I drove home from work today, I passed a Mercury Mountaineer (EPA est. 14 mpg city) whose driver was drinking from a Styrofoam cup. Though not an unusual sight, what made this whole scene interesting was the bumper sticker on his gas guzzler: "Tree-Hugging Dirt Worshiper."

Does this make him a bad dirt worshiper? Maybe, maybe not. Perhaps I caught him in a moment of weakness, when he was, for the first time in months, acting out of accordance with his beliefs. Or he just says one thing and actually lives another. If that's what being a tree-hugging dirt worshiper is, I don't want to be one.

(Now you Christians out there catch my drift, don't you? Sometimes we say things about God or Jesus [whether in our words or on our bumpers] up to which our lives don't measure. While every day ought to be characterized by our continual striving for increased virtue and closer discipleship, the truth is that at times we ARE hypocrites, every one of us, Christian or not. Remember that what counts is our overall trajectory: am I bearing the fruit of the Spirit a little more than five years ago? Ten years ago? Do I get back up every time I stumble?)

01 June 2009

A Brief Word About George Tiller

As a Christian who believes that human life and personhood begins at the moment of conception and lasts until death (which, unfortunately, is also a debatable term), I am immensely disappointed and angry with Scott Roeder (the man who shot Dr. Tiller) and those who approve of his actions. Their logic baffles me: one can be so "pro-life" that they are willing to end a life to prove it? I can understand protesting outside a clinic (peacefully, I might add). I can understand feeling baffled and upset at the thought of a doctor who willingly performs late-term abortions (abortions on unborn babies of 21 weeks and older). But I cannot understand how killing a man helps the pro-life cause.

Apart from the horrific nature of the crime, the irony is profound (killing a man based on your convictions about life, and doing it at a church!), and the PR fallout is certainly not going to help pro-lifers gain a hearing among their pro-choice peers. Of course, it would be unfair to lump all pro-lifers into the same group, as if we all would have done the same thing given the opportunity. This man belongs to a fringe minority segment of the pro-life camp which represents me about as well as Fred Phelps represents all Christians. It might even be safe to call him a terrorist. I don't know if he claimed to be Christian or not, but if so, then I challenge that claim as well. Such actions do not represent the ethics of Jesus, who came to seek and save "the lost" and was a friend of sinners who gave his own life because he values every life and desires to reconcile us all to God.

Killing someone because you don't like what they do (even if you consider what they do as legalized murder) reveals a twisted logic, a moral depravity, and a desire to do God's job of judgment for Him. Dr. Tiller does deserve to stand before God and face his sins, just like all of us do. But it is never the job of another human to arrange that meeting (except for cases of self-defense). I hope that pro-choicers see this for what it really is: a lunatic, fringe extremist whose actions warrant the death penalty (which I believe is consistent with a strong pro-life ethic: I believe that life is so precious that if you intentionally take another life, your life ought to be taken as well).

09 May 2009


Here are a few random things going on here lately:

  • In six days, I will be a Master of Divinity. (I think the title is a bit of an overstatement of my actual grasp on divinity)
  • I'm looking forward to visits from family this week.
  • I wish I knew what I was going to do after graduation career-wise. Right now, I have no clue where we'll be. I love to teach, and I love the church, but it's a huge decision and a slow process.
  • I want to run another marathon. I'm seriously looking at Indianapolis in October. "Flat and Fast" they say. I like that.
  • If we're still in Cincinnati (or within 100 miles or so) next year, I might want another crack at the marathon. If you have read about my experience on facebook, then you know it won't be hard to prepare better (at least the day before).

30 April 2009

Andrew Peterson - Family Man

Great song; great message. I love being a family man!

18 April 2009

The Deification of Spices, Or, Whatever Happened to Dylan McDermott?

Heidi and I watched The Mistress of Spices the other day, and I have to admit, I was disappointed. The plot was just, well, lame. Tilo (Aishwarya Rai) is a "mistress of spices," which means that as a young girl, she was trained (in addition to having the ability to see the near future) to know all spices, their uses, and to be able to communicate with the spices. She is not allowed to touch other people, leave her shop, or ever to use the spices for herself.

She lives in Oakland, where she lives at and manages her spice shop, Spice Bazaar. One day, a wealthy architect, Doug (Dylan McDermott) notices Tilo, and (surprise!) love at first sight.
Some time later, he has a motorcycle accident in front of the Spice Bazaar, which necessitates Tilo binding his wounds with a special healing spice mixture. She falls in love with him, too, beginning a time of disobedience to the spices. All her spices have a contrary effect on her customers, so she must repent and re-dedicate her life and service to the spices.

The ultimate conflice arises when Tilo must decide between being faithful to the spices or faithful to her heart in allowing a relationship with Doug.

SPOILER ALERT: Here's how it ends: Tilo chooses Doug, which nearly gets her good friend, Haroun (Nitin Ganatra, one of my favorite Indian actors) killed. She and Doug touch, and she leaves the shop to see San Francisco. Her spices start to die, and in an earthquake, she nearly dies until it is revealed (by the spirit of her spice guru) that she has proven faithful to the spices, so she can be with Doug AND have her successful spice shop.

I guess I shouldn't be surprised that there would be eastern mysticism in a movie about a psychic girl trained to communicate with peppers and powders and seeds. I just thought that the whole concept of the spices having a god-like status was strange and a little ridiculous. Throughout the movie, Tilo has a conversation with the spices (presumably as unspoken thoughts) in which she apologizes to them, begs them for mercy, and expresses her devotion to them.

But there is some truth for the Christian to latch onto. Disobedience can lead to unintended consequences (though not in a karmic way as in the movie) such as stained relationships and personal pain. Sinning against the sovereign requires atonement (though, again, the sovereign is not the created, but the Uncreated Creator, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob). And though one may occasionally disobey (even in a major way), what matters most is faithfulness to God and getting up after you fall down.

Anyway, it was okay.

15 April 2009

Should We Push for Prayer in Public Schools?

My brothers and sisters in Christ,

Here are some random thoughts I have about the perceived need many of us have for getting prayer/the study of the Bible back into public schools:
  • this effort is misdirected. For what purpose are we wanting prayer in schools? So that all those unbelievers will suddenly start sincerely praying to God and will come to Christ? So that revival will break out in schools across the country? Not likely; mandating prayer may only serve to make people resent us more and believe that we want to convert by any means necessary.
  • perhaps we should work on getting more prayer in church and at home before we worry about the schools, as if that's the place for moral and religious education.
  • is there not already prayer in schools? Christians can pray anytime, anywhere, and those children who have been taught well will know this and can pray during class, before lunch, and even during conversations with other students.
  • we use an argument that can be effectively used against us. When we argue that evolution is wrong and should not be taught in part because Hitler used its premise to justify the Holocaust, we are saying, in effect, that teaching something which has been hijacked by people who do evil in the name of evolution is wrong. People could counter with this: the Bible has been used to justify some pretty evil things that go against the teachings and spirit of Jesus Christ. If people do evil in the name of Christ, then the Bible should not be taught in school, either.
  • the way to persuade people of the validity and effectiveness of a Christian worldview is not to try to make rules getting people to behave like us but to live a life of consistent love of God and of neighbor. Your life is a greater testimony that many, many debates and arguments.
Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe Randall Balmer has gotten to me (probably not). But it seems that "getting God into public schools again" is a scenario based on misinformation: he never left. It is debatable that Christian fervor really thrived when prayer was in school. Lest I be branded a heretic or something, I will say that there is an anti-Christian bias in public schools, but I affirm that the answer is not to respond with a martyr complex while trying to legislate theology.

Am I wrong?

10 April 2009

For This Christ Died? (a repost from last year)

Easter, like most holidays here in America, tends to be marked

by mixed messages. There is truth, and there is all the crap on sale at Wal-Mart.

"God made him who had no sin to be sin for us,

so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Cor. 5:21)

"Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows,

yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted.

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities;

the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,

and by his wounds we are healed" (Isaiah 53:4-5)

"Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us,

for it is written: 'Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.' He redeemed us

in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus,

so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit"

(Galatians 3:13-14)

"And they sang a song: 'You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals,

because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God

from every tribe and language and people and nation. . . . Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,

to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!'"

(Rev. 5:9-10, 12)

The contrast is phenomenal, is it not? Now, the Easter bunny is not the Antichrist, nor is Easter egg hunting a sin. But, as is the case for most holidays, we need to stay focused on the source of the holiday and the true meaning. Easter is a bouquet of truths given to us by God. Lean in and savor them for yourself:

"Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."

"The Son of Man came to give his life as a ransom for many."

"While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."

"It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Jesus called out in a loud voice, 'Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.' When he had said this, he breathed his last."

"But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep."

"For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him."

"For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God's presence. . . . But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him."

"Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades."

22 January 2009

Countdown to 26.2

For anyone interested in keeping up with my training for the Flying Pig Marathon I'm running in May, see my facebook page, where I will be writing notes every week or so to check in on progress.