Saturday, January 28, 2006


Reading The Whole Bible

Over at the Thinklings Alan is talking about how much, or more accurately how little, the Old Testament is cracked in the reformed tradtion.
Now, I think it's great to study the book of Romans. And I think it's even better to take a book of the Bible and study it in-depth, getting to know it intimately, as opposed to skimming over the surface. But I have to ask: why do we seem to spend so much of our time in the book of Romans and similar books? And in doing so, do we really get a balanced study of the scriptures?

I have this image in my head of these guys around a table at Modern Reformation headquarters brainstorming ideas for the upcoming year. What should we write about? I know! Out of all the books in the Bible, the one we neglect and need to spend more time in is the book of Romans! All the Calvinists who read our magazine have God?s law, the praise of God in the Psalms, the wisdom of God in the Proverbs, the prophetic exhortations, and the history of God?s people mastered. But they really need to dust off the book of Romans for a change.
Now I have to modify this some, I think evangelicals do spend a lot of time in Psalms - they never think about them, they just sort of enter into a "Psalm trance" of some sort, but at least they do spent some time there.

I am consitently shaken by the presence of God when I read the prophetic literature. "Everything old is new again" is the most apt cliche. Again and again I encounter situations in the prophetic literature that I feel like I am in the middle of today.

And then, well, Elijah at Horeb (I Kings 19) is the place I turn everytime I feel God is absent to be reminded of the still small voice.

Jesus said that He came not to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it. It would behoove those of us that call on the name of Jesus to know well the laws and traditions that He came to fulfill.

I, like Alan, long to hear the Old Testament word preached. A year in Jeremiah could, I think, change the world.

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The Worst Cultural Trend

We bloggers discuss cultural trends endlessly, but the is one we write around, but never tackle directly. Dehumanization. As we commodify everything from soup to nuts, from healthcare to church, people stop being people and start being objects. They are market, they are target, they are audience, they are seeker, but they increasingly are not Joe, Mary, or Fred.

Nowhere is this trend more apparent than in end of life issues. We saw it in the Terri Schiavo case where she became a thing argued about endlessly by politicians, parents, "spouses," and all the rest of us for that matter. We are seeing it again in the case of Haleigh Poutre about which I blogged earlier.

She has now been moved from a hospital where she was to have life support withdrawn to a rehabilitation center where they will try to help her live. And as time goes on we learn more and more of the story. And once again we see a human being, in this case an 11-year-old child, reduced to a possession to be swapped, traded, and bargained over.
DSS won approval from a Juvenile Court judge to remove Haleigh's feeding tube and ventilator about three weeks after she was first hospitalized. But her stepfather, Jason Strickland, appealed that decision to the Supreme Judicial Court. Strickland has been charged with assaulting Haleigh, and could face a murder charge if she dies.

The SJC ruled against Strickland's appeal earlier this month, saying he has no right to make decisions for the girl. A day after the ruling, DSS officials reported changes in Haleigh's condition.

Haleigh's adoptive mother, Holli Strickland, was also charged with assaulting the girl. But Strickland, who was also Haleigh's aunt, died alongside her grandmother in an apparent murder-suicide about two weeks after Haleigh was hospitalized.

During the last three years, DSS was aware that Haleigh had suffered injuries. But social workers and doctors believed that the girl's wounds were self-inflicted, and thought Holli Strickland was trying to help her adoptive daughter.

DSS Commissioner Harry Spence has defended his agency's treatment of the case, but criticism of how it was handled has sparked a legislative investigation. Gov. Mitt Romney said he will appoint an independent panel to probe the case.

Haleigh's birth mother, Allison Avrett, would not comment on her daughter's case. Avrett let her sister adopt Haleigh in 2001 after deciding she could not properly care for the girl.
And, frankly, by defintion, the government is no help. It is the nature of bureacracy to make such situations commodified.

I cannot help but reflect on the fact that when the church was part of common social discourse, even for the non-believer, situations like this were better. The church could be relied upon to treat people with humanity.

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Comic Art

You are looking here at the inspiration for the series on the chanacters of the Justics Society that we find ourselves in the middle of. The modern Mr. Terrific is black. A few weeks ago I looked at black superheroes - so I had to talk about him and one thing lead to another.

The coolest thing about the JSA is the concept of generations. Mr. Terrific was, as you see on this cover, originally a Golden Age hero. As a kid. I thought the whole "FairPlay" emblazoned on his gut was just too, too, but in my advancing middle age I have come to appreciate this hero more and more.

We all know the theory of epic heroes, they all it seems must be born of tragedy, and have some sort of tragic flaw -- that's what makes the character interesting. Superman suffered for the longest time from the lack of a tragic flaw (kryptonite is a weekness, but not a character flaw.)

The tragedy out of which the original Mr. Terrific was born wasn't much of a tragedy. Seems the guy was an extraordinarily successful athelete and business man, but who felt unfulfilled - so unfulfilled he contemplated suicide. In the course of attempting his own suicide, he ran into another individual so attempting, rescued her and discovered his fulfillment - A hero was born.

Not exactly a tragedy you can sink your teeth not there, is it? None of the pathos of Bruce Wayne seeing his parents gunned down or Peter Parker losing Uncle Ben to a killer he could have stopped.

What I have come to appreciate from the story though is how fulfillment is found by putting the needs of others in front of your own. That's a rare thing in people, and in this day and age, a rare thing in heroes. Modern heroes seek to avenge, or to act out some obsessive drive created by a huge tragedy or the accident that gave them power. Rare is the hero that does good for good's sake and finds fulfillment precisely from that sacrifice.

The modern Mr. T has left the story somewhat intact, but with a few critical changes. Firstly, the modern Mr. Terrific has a much, much better look. He too discovers his heroism in a suicide attempt. He likewise was a star athelete and in this case technology developer. The difference is that his suicide attempt was rooted in the loss of his beloved wife, and his return from the brink was motivated by the Spectre telling him the story of the original Mr. T.

While a little more "realistic" this character and his legend is lacking in the utter altruism of the original. He is still "purer" than the average hero these days, but his edges are rougher. He's selling a lot more comics than the original ever could, but somehow I miss that corny, utterly altruistic guy. Our world could use more of them - in reality and in legend.

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'No Regard For Justice' Elementary

LA names school after O.J. lawyer Johnnie Cochran

Just callin' 'em like I see 'em.

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This Should Be Easy

Malaysia Creates Team to Track 'Bigfoot'

Those footprints are pretty easy to follow - they're huge.

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Usually For Drinking Too Much

Exiled Stars: Milky Way Boots Members

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You Saw It Here First

Air Force Plans Flight Tests Of Hypersonic Vehicle

Exclusively at Blogotional - here's the video.

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Friday, January 27, 2006


Have We Fallen For It?

The A-Team blog wonders:
How has the Church been lured into this materialistic thinking? How did we come to view the world through the same eyes as the materialists?
This is an excellent question, but there is a corollary. There are whole branches of Christianity that are so spiritual they forget that God came to save this world. The question, I think, ought to be phrased more in term of why do we polarize?

But then we don't, not really. There are people that think is wholly spiritual terms and there are peole that think in wholly materialistic terms, but that is how, I think, it is supposed to be.
1 Cor 12:4-6 - Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. And there are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons.
The problem is not that I am this way and you are that way - the problem is we do not talk to each other.

The answer to the materialistic tendencies that worry Amy so is not, necessarily, in trying to become less worldy, but in embracing my less worldly brethren. Together we will get it right. Amy sets up her concerns this way
The assertion that people only argue over ideas because they're trying to maintain their power over others has been appearing again and again in the Christian material I've been reading lately.
She says that is an utterly materialistic view - I think its an honest look at our sinful nature. When I argue with you, I want to "win," and that is, in some sense a power play.

But the point of arguement is not always to win, sometimes its to find common ground. A common ground that places both you and I where we should be. The problem is not argument, but how we argue, and to what end.

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A New War Front?

So the Palestinians went and elected a terrorist organization as thier government. The best breakdown I hace seen was at Best of the Web Today. We now have a "nation" with a government the stated policy of which is to destroy another nation and race. That targeted nation is one of our staunchest allies. Does this put us at war with Palestine? Possibly. But as Taranto says:
The Nazi analogy actually is apt, but only up to a point. Hamas, like the Nazis, does in fact have an exterminationist agenda. But because Israel is so much mightier than the Palestinian Arab nonstate, this agenda has no realistic prospect of being carried out.
Fair enough, but what does this mean for terrorism? Now acts of terror could come as official acts of a military. Hugh Hewitt, in his interview with Karl Rove yesterday said that he thinks this makes an Israeli/Palestinian war inevitable.

Agreed, a "state" of war is inevitable, but war as traditionally understood - I think not. I think we will see terrorism on whole new level. I wonder if this won't make us completely redefine some of our understanding of war and how to fight it. This may be the event that proves the absolute wisdom of Rumsfeld's reinvention of our military.

How do you fight a war between nations without fronts? How do you defeat an enemy that never maneuvers, or entrenches? Fortunately we, and doubtlessly the Israelis, have had some very smart people asking, and trying to answer just those questions.

One thing's for sure -- it'll be interesting.

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A Clarification On "Science And Revelation"

My Wednesday post on the claim that science is a form of general revelation has resulted in a very interesting email discussion with a regular reader and friend.

We went round and round for a while until we came up three key words in the discussion - revelation, truth, and science.

After much discussion, we decided to stick with the traditional definitions of special and general revelation.

We never really bothered to define truth, but we did talk about the fact that many post-modernists don't believe in such a thing. Which is frankly, a huge problem when it comes to this duscussion.

Finally, we found it necessary to draw a distinction between the process of science and the results of science, and whether or not science can result in truth.

Remember the key question is can science result in general revelation? One also needs to recall my discussion from back in December defining science and discussing different kinds of science.

Where we ended up was that general revelation can come from hard mathematical science which results in truth.

The problem is, in the end, the fact that so little that currently bears the label science produces anything even remotely resembling truth in a metaphysical sense, heck, it often does not even result in objective truth.

Having said all of that, I should clarify the point I was trying to make in the Wednesday post. As a blanket statement, to claim that science results in general revelation is a huge problem. Some science, extremely well done, and carefully vetted can result in general revelation.

A generic and blanket claim that science, as the term is commonly used today, results in general revelation is dangerous. It threatens virtually all that Christianity stands on.

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How To Kill Your Presidential Future

Every now and then, John Kerry looks like he might give it another shot in 2008. But I think he blew it yesterday. Michelle Malkin is looking at his call for a filibuster of the Alito nomination.

Aside from the fact that the nation fairly clearly wants Alito on the court, Kerry blows his political future by siding with the New York Times as if anyone cares anymore. Then there is the fact that this move solidifies his hold on the Moveon/DailyKos branch of the Dem party, and we all saw how well that served Howard Dean last time.

I'm tempted to award Kerry a "Stuck on Stupid" for this one, but I think that would give him too much credit.

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Why Is This News?

Starving Kenyan woman curses God, dies in her sleep

I have all sympathy for this woman and all the others on the African continent that die from hunger daily, but given the commonness of this occurance I am forced to conclude this is the most gratuitous and egregious shot at faith in the history of legacy media.

One feels like writing a story along the lines of "Journalist watches woman die of starvation with pocket full of M&M's"

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The Best News In Professional Basketball History

Pacers Send Artest to Kings for Stojakovic

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Friday Humor

Nothing better than lawyer jokes!

How can a pregnant woman tell that she's carrying a future lawyer? She has an uncontrollable craving for baloney.

How does an attorney sleep? First he lies on one side, and then he lies on the other.

How many lawyer jokes are there? Only one. The rest are true stories.

How many lawyers does it take to change a light bulb? How many can you afford?

How many lawyers does it take to screw in a light bulb? Three. One to climb the ladder, one to shake it, and one to sue the ladder company.

If a lawyer and an IRS agent were both drowning, and you could save only one of them, would you go to lunch or read the paper?

What did the lawyer name his daughter? Sue.

What do you call 25 skydiving lawyers? Skeet.

What do you call a lawyer gone bad? Senator.

What do you call a lawyer with an IQ of 50 ? Your honor.

What do you throw to a drowning lawyer? His partners.

What does a lawyer use for birth control? His personality.

What happens when you cross a pig with a lawyer? Nothing. There are some things a pig won't do.

What's the difference between a lawyer and a vulture? The lawyer gets frequent flyer miles.

What's another difference between a lawyer and a vulture? Removable wing tips.

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Won't The Gravitational Effects Crush The Building?

Coming Soon to a Theater Near You: Mars, in Glorious 3-D

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They Used To Be Animals - Then Look What Happened

Scientists Study Carnivorous Plant's Slippery Slope

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A Major Blogotional Announcement

Evangelical Outpost reminded me yesterday of one of the funniest and weirdest thing ever on the Internet. I had forgotten how hard the Spongemonkeys make me laugh.

So much so, I am heareby declaring The Moon Song as the official Blogotional theme song (at least for a while). See the sidebar.

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SInce When Is This A 'Disguise?'

Michael Jackson shops in Bahrain disguised as woman

Sometimes it's just too easy.

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That's One Big Steaming Pile Of...


13 Years of Animal Feces Damages Rectory

Makes you wonder what those priests were up to, doesn't it?

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This Sounds Like A Job For Superman

Superhumans Could Challenge Ordinary Folks

It may be time to pass the Mutant Registration Act however.

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Thursday, January 26, 2006


The Portrait And The Reality

Brad Hightower is painting a portrait of an "emerging" pastor.
In fact, the key principle is that there is no difference between the emerging pastor's public and private persona. This principle is intended to teach that we ought not to live in fear, but, instead, the church is to be a safe community where there are no hidden rules and hidden agendas. The church is to be first and foremost a "no condemnation zone". The church is the safest place on earth to be open and honest about your struggles with sin....

...It is an interesting thing that the emerging pastor is often criticized for being more concerned with Pop culture than being distinct and holy. But this is a misunderstanding of the values of the emerging community leaders. The meta-message behind being hip is not "look at me I'm hip" but that we do not believe that cultural distinctive are good barometers of heart holiness. Being distinct is not so much about cigarettes and secular music as generosity and hospitality. The emerging pastor has Weezer on his iPod and a homeless family in his living room. By contrast, the old model tended to maintain the home as a sanctuary and to consider keeping in step with Pop culture to be a sign of worldliness. In the new paradigm, being culturally hip is simply a way of saying it is not cultural distinctiveness that is the proper barometer of holiness but honesty, love, compassion and a mild temperament. Being culturally aware is simply a way of showing that the old standards are superficial. The world is in need not of the forms of religion but the power that can transform the affections.
I have met Brad on a couple of ocassions and He is a great guy. I have aboslutely no idea if the comments I am about to make apply to him personally or not, I am dealing strictly with the ideas he presents.

Firstly, I give a hearty "Amen" to the concept that the distinction between the public and private persona of a pastor should be indistinguishable. Anything less simply makes the gospel out to be little more than a suit of clothes worn at certain specific times when necessary - it robs the gospel of its truly transformative power.

But, this idea puts a distinctive burden on those that claim to minister in its realm. They must work very hard to be holy people. Not holier-then-thou but holy people. If the idea is to show the transformative power of the gospel, then that tranformation must be plainly evident.

Secondly, I will agree that pop culture is not a big deal - to a point. Some pop culture truly is a big deal. Defining that line would be a years worth of blogging unto itself, but it exists. One must be in the world, but not of it, to use a cliche. Not all of the old standards are, as Brad describes them, "superficial." Agreed many are, but not all.

There is one other important idea in all of this. While we desire to make the gospel accessible, we also desire to make it transform. We can never forget we are calling people forward. As Christians we must have both an open door and a vision. If we jettison the vision just to have the open door, they come in and find an empty room.

I would argue that some of the apparently superficial helps maintain that vision. In a post on Monday, I stated that in an affluent world, the need to develop a biblical concept of beauty is one way to help develop values. That idea of beuty is part of the vision we must cast. Is beauty "superficial?" - Yes, often, but it establishes a context. Within that apparent superficiality the true vision is more apparent.

Thus, while God is as present in the gymnasium as He is in St. Peter's Basilica, the basilica has a context in which the transformation God wishes to create in me is far more apparent. In this sense the superficial matters.

So what's the point? The public and private personas of those that minister in Christ's name must indeed be indistingusihable. But, I think the way to accomplish that is by elevating the private, not devaluing the public.

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Redefining "Loathsome"

Writing Right thanks Michelle Malkin as she links to and comments on this post:

The BEAST 50 Most Loathsome People in America, 2005

The ad hominum nature of the post alone disqualifies it from serious discourse. I don't care if it is from left, right, or Mars.

What is most disconcerting to me about the whole thing is that someone, anyone, would conceive of and write such a thing. What does it accomplish? It's not even ad hominum in some sort of specific debate context, it's just the blogging equivalent of sticking your tongue out at people you don't like.

Which, I think, strikes right at the heart of the matter - it's immature and childish. The last adult that I knew that kept an enemies list ended up having to resign the Presidency. I thought we left those things behind somewhere in third or fourth grade.

Then, finally, there is the sheer tastelessness. On the list is Terri Schiavo.

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Homosexual Issue Follow-Up

On Tuesday, I took Bruce McLaren to task for his CT blog post on homosexuality. Between Two Worlds links to this post by Tom Ascol as an interesting counterpoint to McLaren, which it is. Ascol is recounting a telephone call he got from a "Christian" homosexual who had seen Al Mohler on Larry King the night before and thought the Southern Baptist Convention was "attacking" homosexuals.
He told me that several homosexual rights groups are planning to picket local Southern Baptist churches with signs that say, "Don't let your children go inside this building. They will be taught hatred and bigotry."

Rick said that he didn't want to see that happen but unless the "war" against homosexuals (specifically, the opposition of civil unions for gay people) stops, he fears such responses will become commonplace. By the time our conversation ended, we had come to a meeting of the minds. He acknowledged that my contention that he is unconverted and in need of salvation from Jesus Christ was not "hate speech," but in fact, very loving. I assured him that, as a Baptist, I would fight for his right to be wrong in his beliefs even while condemning those beliefs.

He said that our conversation had "opened his mind" to things he had never considered before. He also said that he had never had a conversation like that before--certainly not with a Southern Baptist pastor. I assured him that there are many such pastors who would take a similar view to my own and that, unfortunately, he simply had not come across any of them yet in his research. He even asked if he could give my phone number to several leaders of "gay rights organizations." I said, sure. Then he asked if he could quote me. Well, I have been misquoted enough to know how dangerous that is, so I agreed with the provision that he write down very specifically my statement.

Here is what I said: "You may say that Tom Ascol believes that homosexuality is a sin that will send people to hell, just like others sins will, such as adultery, fornication, theft, lying and murder. Tom Ascol also loves homosexuals and wants to see them come to know and love Jesus Christ as Lord through the power of the Gospel."

Those are true statements. All of us are sinners. It is foolish and very much unlike Christ to disdain someone because his sin is less culturally acceptable than your own. Sometimes we conservative evangelicals have sent the wrong message by the way that we have positioned ourselves on moral issues. It is as if we are saying that it is OK to be opposed to the living God (which all unbelievers are) as long as you are not opposed to God while being homosexual. We do not believe that and we must be careful that we do not miscommunicate that we do.
I'll take that as an "Amen" to my Tuesday post.

There is no doubt in my mind that Christians that continue to stand on the sinfulness of homosexual practice will be cast as haters. But this is a perversion of love. Does not love wish what is best for its object? If the object of love is stuck in quicksand, is it love to say, "Well, if that is where they want to be, I'll leave them there without comment."

Our culture has developed some very twisted ideas about love. Consider those that supported the starving to death of Terri Schiavo, or so many others as happens every day, in the guise of love. How can love condemn someone to a cruel death? Is that not what we do when we leave the homosexual in their homosexual practice - condemn them to not knowing the real joy available Christ.

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Illuminated Scripture

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Making Me Wish Blasphemy Was A Crime

West Poses As Jesus for Rolling Stone

Well, forget blasphemy, this is just in God-awful taste....

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More On Worship Music

Res Ipsa Loquitor

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The First Decent Argument For Banning Automated Weapons I Have Seen

Hiccups lead to two shooting deaths in Colombia

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That is certainly how I'd spell it!

Tokyo man says 'spell' won him harem of 10 wives

I love my wife dearly and am proud and happy to be her husband -- but 10!? No thank you.

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Those Snakes In The Grass

Snake lovers uniting to fight city hall

All becasue one bad apple is spoiling it for everybody
What looked like a man selling snakes from the trunk of his car caused Cleveland residents to light up the switchboard at Cleveland's WEWS-TV.
You have to give city hall their cut or they get real testy.

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The Truth About Hockey?

Furry Gun-Mo goes ice skating in Seoul, South Korea - after learning in two weeks.

A stick, a puck and two more weeks, that's all it'll take!

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Why I Got Married Late In Life

Male bats trade brains for better odds at sex

Too smart!

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Honey - Bring The Ipecac

Whale 'vomit' sparks cash bonanza

I wonder if you can buy it by the drum load?

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My Jeans Usually Wear Out A Lot faster Than My LIfe

Genes record orangutans' decline

Oh, wait - 'genes' - never mind. I should have known, orangs don't wear pants.

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Wednesday, January 25, 2006


'Science' and Revelation

Marco Gonzalez, writing at Reformation Theology had a fascinating post yesterday. He is looking at the relationship between psychology and theology. This topic fascinates me as the two have become far too deeply intwined in my opinion.

When I read the piece I must confess to being stunned. Here's why:
All of us, at one time or another, have heard the expression, "All Truth is God's Truth." We need to understand that this assertion is the starting point for the integrationist's model without which their theological definitions could not stand. Theologically, it follows, that God makes known his truth through two sources: General and Special Revelation. Integrationists define special revelation as a proposition truth in scripture and general as a non-propositional truth given by God, which, must be discovered by man. James D. Guy, in the Journal of Theology and Psychology, contributed his article named "The Search for Truth in the Task of Integration." He stated the following:

If integration is conceptualized as the search for truth concerning human nature, and God is identified as the source of this truth, the next logical issue involved the revelation of this truth. It has traditionally been held that God reveals this truth to us through both general and special revelation, with both nature and the Bible serving as expressions or representations of this truth. The disciplines of psychology and theology are attempts to discover and systematize truth by means of the study of the natural sciences and biblical revelation.
Let me rephrase what Guy is saying here. He is, if I read this correctly, saying that the study of God's creation, that is to say science, is revelation! I am truly stunned.

The roots of science do lie in exploring God by exploring His creation, and it is in fact a crying shame that such a view of science has largely been rejected by the scientific community. But even those origins do not rise to the level of a claim to revelation. If such were the case then all explorations into the character of God's creation must be categorized as revelation, from the writings of CS Lewis to Einstein's "God does not play dice with the universe."

This is incidious in ways that I can just barely get my head around. Revelation proceeds from God. Science is our efforts and as such will always be somehow imperfect and flawed. To make this claim is to simply flip reality upside down, it makes God our conception, our creation.

I need to look into this more.

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Right Turn Clyde!

That's a movie reference for the uninitiated, but what I am really talking about are the Canadian elections. The conservatives won - it'll be a minority government, but after 13 years, hey!

Jack Kelly says its all Captain Ed's fault. One voter cast his vote in a most unusual fashion.
An angry man with a grudge against the government ran into a voting station in Atlantic Canada on Monday, grabbed a ballot box and then drove over it with a truck before fleeing, officials said.
Good news that this is, I am not so foolish as to think that this changes everything - but it is a sign that the general liberalization of the last several decades is drawing to a close.

I don't follow Canadian politics all that much, but when I visited there a couple of years ago, I found the liberal viewpoints almost sickeningly intolerable, even compared to my European travels this past year. I am pleased to see some common sense prevail.

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On Repentance

Jollyblogger is engaging in reruns here lately and yesterday featured a doozy. Springing off of a commentary he write on Warren's Purpose Driven Life and some comments/question he received, David draws some distinctions between repentance for a believer and non-believer, concluding his post this way
In that respect I would argue that, at any point the book claims to present the gospel, if the gospel presentation lacks a clear presentation of the nature of sin and corresponding need for repentance, then yes it has failed in that regard.

If the book claims to be a manual for Christian growth and leaves out any reference to the ongoing war with indwelling sin and corresponding victory through gospel-faith-repentance, then yes, it falls short.

If it were merely a manual on evangelism, or worship, or fellowship, or some very narrow aspect of the Christian faith, I would have no problem with the fact that it didn't cover repentance. After all, any systematic theology doesn't cover repentance on every page. But I do have some concerns that, if the book bills itself as a broad-ranging manual for discipleship, and leaves out repentance, then it has short changed the reader.
Warren's book, while leading is, I think, more reflective of the times than establishng of them. The minimization, if not disappearance, of discussion of sin/gospel/faith/repentance is a church trend of the last 30 years at least.

Two general comments I want to make. Firstly, this is where I think the culture wars matter. There was a time when to convince people of their sinful nature, one merely had to tap an already existing sense of "something not quite right" that most people had about themselves. Today, we inculcate and educate that sense out of people as rapidly as possible. Convincing a person of sin these days is not a small nor trivial task, it may be the single most difficult task in sharing the whole gospel with someone. They just don't want to hear it. Our current culture has not merely done away with God or religion, it has done away with the apparent NEED for same.

Secondly, I think the church does itself no favors when it consistently lowers its own internal standards. A pastor that commits sexual sin and is allowed to sail away "below the radar" for the sake of the church (for example) never really stays below the radar - it becomes gossip and does enormous damage. Far more damage than could be casued by handling it up front and publicly.

Repentance is absolutely integral to the gospel.

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Blogging Thoughts

Much has been made of the new Together For The Gospel blog. Even more has been made of Mark Dever's post "The Unbearable Lightness of Blogs". Some of the most interesting comments on the topic I found were by Tim Challies.
Then again, perhaps not. I have yet to find a blog environment that models any genuine sense of fellowship, the likes of which can be compared to face-to-face conversation. It seems that the medium does not lend itself very well to that type of communication. I could be wrong, of course, but I have yet to see a really strong example. There are many blogs that allow and encourage interaction between participants, but few that create an atmosphere that approaches real conversation and fellowship.
I both agree and disagree. Blogs in a vacuum, Tim is absolutely correct, but blogs, when bloggers at least ocassionally get together face-to-face, then you are on to something. But Tim's best comments are these
What I think Dever misses is that for some, blogging is uniquely connected to spiritual health. It is an extension to or an outpouring of a person's walk with God. I speak out of personal experience here. The times I spend blogging are almost always connected to times of spiritual edification. I read the Bible and pray in the morning and then turn to my keyboard to reflect on what God has been teaching me. I read a good book and then write about what I have learned through the pages of that book.
I am the kind of person that learns best through teaching. I organize new information by passing it on. Blogging has openend up so much for me both spritually and generally. I read stuff I would not have previosuly read, because before blogging would just have been useless information -- now it's a post!

Spiritually, things I read, learn, or discover in prayer do not now just sit there. I share them, and through sharing them they become part of me. You might retort - hey a small group does that. Yes and no. I have never been in a small group that ranged as far or as deeply as one can in the bloosphere.

As with most things - blogging can be a blessing or a curse. It's how we do it, not the thing itself that is at issue.

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So, Like, At the Start...

Seems an Aussie chap has recast part of the Bible into Strine, that is the particularly heavily idiomatic form of English they speak in Australia.
It was promoted as a "ripping yarn about Jesus of Nazareth" in which Mary was "a pretty special sheila" and the Three Wise Men were "eggheads from out east."
The possibilities here are endless.

I am hoping a version in American teenage girl speak, you know a series of short choppy sentences, punctuated with "like," usually missing antecedants and constantly crescendoing until, "Well, that's my story."

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On Weapons

Just some interesting links I have found on weapons. The first is a piece on the development of the new JSF (Joint Strike Fighter) definitely an aircraft I would not want to be on the wrong side of.

The other is at the blog Camp Katrina where they are catalogging all the terrorist weapons caches found in 2006. What a great idea.

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The Best Of Pravda

I thought legends of things like the "evil eye" began in the Carpathian Mountains in Romania, but leave it to Pravda to give it a modern twist.

Human eyes possess destructive power of laser

Paranoia? In Russia? Oh yeah, it's the national pastime --

Women gradually take the world under their control

There appears yet another in their series of Americans describing Americans
The political system in the U.S. was originally conceived so as to provide checks and balances between the representatives of the people, the Administration, and the judicial. That was the original "American Way". Somewhere along the road, this became less of a priority, and the Representative factions, Congress and the Senate, which the original founders had intended to be the dominant force, became rubber stamps to Presidents from their own parties.
Res ipsa loquitur

Next time they should find a guest columnist that has actually studied some American history and knows a little about how the government works.

And finally:

Russian politician determined to stop migration of birds to fight avian flu

Those Russians do know how to think big....

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Why Not? Arnold Did It In 'Commando'

Man Jumps From Moving Jetliner Onto Tarmac

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He's Read Too Many Comic Books

Man arrested for throwing own prosthetic legs

Cyborg guys throw their limbs all the time.

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Godzilla Called To Help

Japan fights invasion of the jumbo jellyfish

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What Body Shop Do You Get To Fix This?

Black Hole Puts Dent In Space-time

And what color paint do you use? I'm betting it's a custom blend.

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Understatement Of The Year

Conference USA said Monday that officials "exercised poor judgment" when they upheld a technical foul on Houston coach Tom Penders after he collapsed during a game against UAB last Saturday.

Penders, a former Texas coach, passed out on the sideline late in the first half of Houston's 82-79 loss and was carried off the court on a stretcher and given oxygen. He returned to coach the second half.

Penders dropped to his knees, then fell face down. Officials called a technical foul on Penders, apparently thinking he was reacting to a foul call.
The line between "poor judgement" and maliciousness is much finer than I thought.

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Is There A Doctor In The House?

Boy, I'll say.

Man Has Cardiac Arrest at Cardiologist Ball

Can you imagine the billing problems this one caused, I mean who was the primary, who was te consulting? This'll go on forever.

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Tuesday, January 24, 2006


Oh Hogwash

Bruce McLaren wrote about the "homosexual issue" at the CT blog yesterday.
Perhaps we need a five-year moratorium on making pronouncements. In the meantime, we'll practice prayerful Christian dialogue, listening respectfully, disagreeing agreeably. When decisions need to be made, they'll be admittedly provisional. We'll keep our ears attuned to scholars in biblical studies, theology, ethics, psychology, genetics, sociology, and related fields. Then in five years, if we have clarity, we'll speak; if not, we'll set another five years for ongoing reflection. After all, many important issues in church history took centuries to figure out. Maybe this moratorium would help us resist the "winds of doctrine" blowing furiously from the left and right, so we can patiently wait for the wind of the Spirit to set our course.

Later that week I got together with the new couple to hear their story. "It's kind of weird how we met," they explained. "You see, we met last year through our fathers who became . . . partners. When we get married, we want to be sure they will be welcome at our wedding. That's why we asked you that question on Sunday."

Welcome to our world. Being "right" isn't enough. We also need to be wise. And loving. And patient. Perhaps nothing short of that should "seem good to the Holy Spirit and us."
This is, frankly, niave. I belong to a denomination that has declared such moratoriums and all they accomplish is giving the various factions opportunities to re-organize and come back at the end of the moratorium invigorated and more agressive. They serve to intensify the debate, not calm it.

More importantly, what difference does it make what all those scholars say? Scripture is wholly unambiguous on this topic. The problem does not lie in some misunderstanding of scripture or some need for new doctrine. The problem is in a proper understanding of current doctrine. As I see it, the problems are twofold.

The first lies is singling out homosexuality as some sort of "special" category of sin. It's not, it's just sin. Once that is established, then homosexuals are welcome in our midst as are any other sinner.

The second problem lies in the church's increasing reticence to deal with other types of sin in its midst. There is much sin we look the other way about in the church today. Under those circumstances it is only natural that practitioners of that one specific sin would want "equal" treatment.

What this really says is that I don't think there is middle ground on this issue. The church will either liberalize further or it will turn back the clock on some of its current liberalities. I am praying for the later. If the former, the church will stand for little anymore.

UPDATE: Evangelical Outpost takes a far more detailed look at McLaren's post.

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Are Words Really Necessary?

An old friend and regular correspondant sent me this link yesterday:
Registry offices in the UK are taking down all signs referring to "marriage." The Government has advised regional councils to change sign wording in case gay couples are offended. Homosexual relationships can now be registered as Civil Partnerships, under the UK's new legislation.
Then he added this:

Do you suppose that I might argue that

  1. humans and animals are different only by degree, otherwise they are exactly the same
  2. humans using speech is an assault on my view of the world and an offense to me
  3. I should be able to live my life in peace and freedom without being exposed to any offenses whatsoever
  4. It is society's job to adapt to my needs, and not the other way around because I should not be forced into an unwanted lifestyle.
  5. Word use should be abolished from public areas.

No, that would be silly.

Smart friend, huh?

I can only add this - "Tell me again how allowing same sex 'marriage' doesn't harm what the rest of us are doing?"

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Culture, Counterculture, Or Just The Church?

Transforming Sermons points to a Christianity Today article that Milt describes as "strong stuff." The article is by Michael S. Horton, professor of apologetics and theology at Westminster Seminary California. Here's a sampling
So Christians are not called to make holy apparel, speak an odd dialect of spiritual jargon, or transform their workplace, neighborhood, or nation into the kingdom of Christ. Rather, they are called to belong to a holy commonwealth that is distinct from the regimes of this age (Phil. 3:20?21) and to contribute as citizens and neighbors in temporal affairs. "For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come" (Heb. 13:14). The church, therefore, as the communion of saints gathered by God for preaching, teaching, sacrament, prayer, and fellowship (Acts 2:46?47), is distinct from the broader cultural activities to which Christians are called in love and service to their neighbors. In our day, this pattern is often reversed, creating a pseudo-Christian subculture that fails to take either calling seriously. Instead of being in the world but not of it, we easily become of the world but not in it.

But the church is not really a culture. The kingdom of God is never something that we bring into being, but something that we are receiving. Cultural advances occur by concentrated and collective effort, while the kingdom of God comes to us through baptism, preaching, teaching, Eucharist, prayer, and fellowship. "Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our 'God is a consuming fire' " (Heb. 12:28?29). There is nothing more important for the church than to receive and proclaim the kingdom in joyful assembly, raising children in the covenant of grace. They are heirs with us of that future place for those "who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the Word of God and the powers of the coming age"?a holy land "which drinks in the rain often falling on it" and is "farmed" so that it reaps its Sabbath blessing (Heb. 6:4?8).
I love those opening sentences - have you been to a Christian bookstore lately? The author, not satisfied to simply critize, ends his post with a vision
Can churches be a counterculture amidst anonymous neighborhoods and tourist destinations, the apotheoses of individual choice, niche demographics, and marketing? Yes. The church can exist amidst suburban sprawl as easily as in cities or small towns, precisely because its existence is determined by the realities of the age to come?by God's work, rather than by the narrow possibilities of our work in this present age under sin and death. After all, this is our Father's world, even though, for the moment, we are just passing through.
The thought when I read this stuff is that we don't need to make Jesus, God, or the gospel somehow relevant to society - it is by defintion.

Besides, isn't it really the world's job to make itself relevant to God? Isn't that, in fact, why Jesus came, why He died, and why He was resurrected? Not because the convenant with Isreal had become somehow outmoded or outdated, but because it had become apparent to God that for the covenant to work, we had to be transformed.

It has always struck me as he height of hubris to assume that Christianity has to be made relevant - it defines relevant.

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Give Me A Break...

Douglas Groothuis, writing at Culture Watch: Thoughts of A Constructive Curmudgeon has been a welcome addition to the blogosphere. I don't always agree, and I think his tone can be a bit "superior," but on balance his contributions to the blogosphere have been valuable.

I try to make a habit of not writing critical posts in the heat of passion, but the Construcive Curmudgeon's Saturday offering is both too inflaming and too silly not to address quite directly and succicntly.
The argument is brief, sharp, and probably unpopular. Baseball is both aesthetically and morally superior to football as a cultural form. Moreover, football is not only inferior to baseball, but possesses deficits that should cause Christians to consider their participation in the sport - whether as players, managers, owners, or fans - in principle. As an ideal, a team sport should evince aesthetic beauty, moral virtue, and intellectual value. Now consider baseball and football.
He then goes on to make his argument in a fashion more reminiscent of a George Carlin comedy routine than a genuine argument for his thesis.

All I can say is that Mr. Groothuis has a very low definition of "violence" if football is inherently so. It is a game of physicality and of force, but I did not realize force equated to violence. I played the game for years, never hated my opponent, never tried to injure him, my goal was never to harm, and I can state emphatically that is true for every person I have ever met playing the game - and I participated (not played, my skills were too low, but as scholarshipped manager and trainer), albeit briefly, in Division 1 college football.

I should also add that the two worst injuries I have ever seen in sports happened in baseball -- one of the them intentionally inflicted -- spiking while sliding into second base. The other was when a guy sliding head first caught his thumb on the base and...well, you don't really want to know.

As to his contention
Baseball is intellectually superior to football, because of the degree of strategy, finesse, and intelligence required to play it well. Football knows of many plays and patterns, but most of them reduce to speed, strength, and coordination--as opposed to intelligence.
The man obviously has never stood on a football field in his life and has no understanding of how a football play works, how complicated the formations are, and the simple fact that the best plays work by deception on some level (a great intellectual challenge) than on the application of brute physicality. And while the pyschological game playing between pitcher, batter and catcher can be quite intense and cerebral, it ain't rocket science to play left field.

They are both games. That's all, and while Groothuis' contention that they have great cultural impact cannot be refuted, the idea that there is a moral superiority of one over the other is silly. This is a proclamation from someone that for sure does not understand football, and from the shallowness of his statements has likely had little participation in sports in general in his life.

There are issues with the role football plays in American life, but they are not intrinsic to the game itself. They are what we have made of the game.

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Avast Ye Scurvy Swabs!

U.S. Navy Seizes Pirate Ship Off Somalia

Just because I was always wanted to write that as a headline...

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Oh, Gee, Ya Think?

Russia accuses UK of spying

It took them this long to figure that out?

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Alphabet Soup

Let's say you are the king of Scotland -- where would you sit? Generally in the most strategically important point of attack from your primary enemy -- the English. That would be Stirling Castle. Sitting atop an ancient volcanic ridge on the primary approach from the south Stirling has guarded the Scots from the English for centuries and been the location of most of the most famous battles, most notably Bannockburn wherein Robert the Bruce secured Scottish independence for many generations. Thus Stirling Castle is the "S" in our alphabet soup.

Picutres above are the thrones in the Great Hall. The castle now belongs to Historic Scotland and is being renovated and is available for rent for weddings and such.

Here you see the primary approach to the castle and why it was such a stronghold. Pretty formidable, huh. Edward II was trying to solidify his hold on Scotland post-Falkirk (that's were William Wallace took in on the chin) by taking Stirling -- the Bruce stopped him before he ever got there.

Here's an aerial view -- the place meant business, as you can see.

Stunning to look at, well appointed, heavily fortified and with a view for miles in every direction. Easily defended and difficult to siege, let alone take, Stirling remains one of the greatest fortifications in history. It would still work today were in not for air travel and the ability to penetrate behind such fortifications.

And this is the view from the castle across the valley to the Victorian Era monument to William Wallace. This place sit truly at the heart of Scotland, at least the lowlands. You just canot get to Scotland without going through here, thus it matters a lot. The castle was not yet constructed, but even the Romans could not really advance past this point in their efforts to conquer Britainnia.

Few places I have ever been have at more history, more distinguished history and more beauty. A must-see if you are anywhere near Scotland.

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What Happens When You Have Too Much Money?

Hydropolis - The World's First Underwater Hotel

I hear the bellmen there are all wet.

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Which At Sea... an entirely self-referential headline.

Soybean paste turns toilet industry on its head

Think about it -- it'll come to you.

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Calling Steve Irwin...

An Australian great-grandmother who was bitten twice by a deadly snake while she sat on her sofa knitting and watching tennis has been offered free tickets to the Australian Open.
Steve, doesn't that sound like an easier way to catch them than running around the bush like a half-crazed idiot?

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My Friend's Ex-Wife Makes The News

What lurks beneath - flesh-sucking sex fiends

Although the "flesh-sucking" and "sex fiend" attributes displayed at very different times.

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Things Return To Normal... New York City.

Dead Man Rides NYC Subway, Possibly for Hours

I had heard that post 9-11 there had been a big turn in the attitude of people in the Big Apple. I guess some things are just too good to last.

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Better Than Other Frozen Possibilities

Man Trapped in Toilet When Lock Freezes

Let's put it this way, you know the scene in "A Christmas Story" where the guy's tongue freezes to the flag pole? Let's just say that works with body parts besides the tongue....

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Monday, January 23, 2006


The Challenge For Youth Ministry

CT carries a really interesting article about what they call "affluenza." The idea is that the listless, directionless lives many youth seem to live is not a result of disinterest or lack of discipline, but rather
But many others, like Susan, become dazzled and bewildered, frozen by indecision or jabbing in five directions. A million options promise five million happinesses, but they often lead to a billion disappointments.
While I think the article gives a little more credence to this idea than it deserves, I think there is great value here.

Here's how I would frame the essential issue. In our affluence, we can no longer rely upon scarcity to teach value. It used to be you had to decide what was important to you because you only had so much to work with. Now, you can have a little of everything, you never really have to learn to decide what's really valuable and what is not.

So the question becomes, how do we teach value when scarcity is not there to do it for us? I, for one, don't think a life of somehow self-inflicted scarcity is the way to teach those values. How do those of us with our values well-formed make these decisions in the midst of our plenty? That's where we need to start.

A faith-based approach will only go so far. So much is ethically and morally neutral.

One suggestion. We need a well founded biblical idea of beauty. In a time of abundance, beauty should be more valuable than the ugly. But anymore, those concepts have been reduced to matters of taste.

Where would we begin to develop such a thing? How would we begin to develop such a thing? These are questions I intend to ponder. How about you?

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Thinking About Iran

The seeming inevitable nuclearization of Iran is leaving a lot of very smart people exploring the options. Here is a look at some of the diplomatic options. But increasingly calls for military options are being seen and seen forcefully.

The Corner points to this piece making the case for war. Dadmanly points to this piece examining the military option as well and makes his own case for it.

For me this is simple. Years ago my father advised me that when investing you invest in the company's management. Good people run a good company, everything else is a bubble. When it comes to International relations I think there is a corrolary. Diplomacy only works with reasonable people, nutters you end up at war with. Hussein was a first order nutter. Kim Jong Il is a huge nutter, but we can starve him out. We are in seige war with him and we are and will prevail, and why push it to open war if we can do it this way, its cheaper. Which brings us to Iran. There is a new nutter in charge, and given the oil reserves, seige warfare isn't going to work.

We are seeing Russia and China trying to smooth things over for the same reason France did with Iraq - economic self-interest. So if they don't overthrow the nutter and soon, I think war is inevitable, and we sure as heck ought to do it before they actually get the bomb built, cause the nutter won't hesitate to use it.

Personally, I think we haven't started it for two reasons. One, the current political instabilty in Isreal, and two, I think we are still hoping a revolution will happen. We can wait a little while longer for those factors, but not too long.

All I can say is I hope the planners are real busy and I hope the pre-positioning is underway.

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How Fundamental Are You?

SmartChristian has written a great piece on the history of the movement of fundamentalism in the American church. This really struck me
Although the Fundamentalists portrayed a consistent resistance to both Communism and Catholicism, the central cultural issue that Fundamentalists took up in the battle for America was biological evolution. The fight against biological evolution was led by the dynamic speaker William Jennings Bryan during the famous Scopes Trial in 1925. Following the highly publicized Scopes Trial, the Fundamentalists? cultural impact began to diminish drastically.
I couldn't help but wonder about Evangelicals and I.D. There was another good quote
The original Fundamentalist coalition was in unity around their mutually aggressive protest against modernism. However, once their efforts to reclaim the denominations began to fail, they could not internally agree upon the specific constructive approach they should take in the reclaiming of America?s church and culture. As George Marsden writes, ?As with all revolutions, they agreed on what they were against, but the unresolved differences among the co-belligerents became apparent as soon as they attempted to define their own positive course?
Which begs a really serious question for me. What is it evangelicalism seeks to build?

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Speaking Of Nukes

Great Britain is building a laser to study nuclear explosions without actually making them. Sounds reasonable to me, but then that is just me
The project has inflamed anti-nuclear campaigners, who believe Orion may be used to develop next generation nuclear weapons and want the matter settled by a public inquiry.
The development of nuclear weapons is an inevitability. Seriously. Better us than them under those circumstances.

One of the biggest problems in the intelligence business is knowing what to look for. Let's say for the sake of argument that we cease weapons development altogether. Now let's say, Iran, Pakistan. North Korea continue to push it. We need to know about that don't we? let's say one of them figures out how to make an undetectable suitcase nuke. Good-bye New York, Washingtion, London, LA....

So, it's in our best interest to know what they are up to. The best way to do that is to be ahead of the curve so we know what to look for. That reason alone justifies continued research.

When will people learn. Evil does not begat evil -- people simply are evil. Sometimes you have to kill it, and sometimes, you have to kill it with a very big explosion.

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Unless You Count Beer Bong Use

Study: Most College Students Lack Skills

I joke, but the statistics are startling.
More than half of students at four-year colleges - and at least 75 percent at two-year colleges - lack the literacy to handle complex, real-life tasks such as understanding credit card offers, a study found.
It may be time to reinsert the "core curriculm concept."

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No More Waiting For the Midnight Hour

It is here.

Wilson Pickett Dies of Heart Attack at 64

Look I know I late with this, but they guy was one of the great ones - he deserves to be remembered for many days to come!

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I must start with this absolutely irresistable piece:
Williams said the truck leaked about 1,000 gallons of milk which flowed into the gutter and storm sewer. Considered a hazardous material, the milk had to be cleaned up by a special crew that tried to remove as much milk as possible from the storm sewer, he said.
Can there be better proof that we are over-regulated? Milk? Hazardous?

We haven't looked at global warming silliness for a while, but apparently I have done so at worldwide peril. It's amazing:

Warm weather 'to boost food bugs'

Climate culprit for frog deaths

It's Over, We're Doomed -- The Gaia Hypothesis

Now,in the contrary camp, this is a riot:
He said government plans could be summed up as: "If you must [create waste] then preferably recycle it, failing that burn it to make electricity, and only bury what is left."

Ministers believed more burning was justified as it provided a green source of energy, reduced our dependence on foreign fuel, and health risks from emissions were small, our correspondent said.
But burning is the source of greenhouse gases???!!! Speaking of which, here is a sober look at the ramifications of Kyoto (subscriptions required)
The Kyoto environmental protocol committed nations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. By this standard, the pact's biggest fans, the Europeans, are failing. And what about the U.S., the global villain for withdrawing approval of the accord in 2001? It's doing very well, thank you.
Finally on the subject of global warming, here is a story about what it is not:

Irrigation Fuels Warmer Temps in California's Central Valley

This is a real, but local, event. Just because it is a bit warmer in the central valley does not mean the world is warmer. Trust me on this, you can't see that far.

And finally, finally - since we haven't run out of oil as originally predeicted, we are now going to run out of metals. Uh-huh.

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