Saturday, March 18, 2006


Where I Fail

Mark Daniels is doing a great lenten post series on "servanthood." His post last Thursday hit this guy right on the head.
One day, a Gentile woman, one of the Canaanites, historic enemies of God's people in Judea, asked Jesus to cast a demon from her daughter. Up to this point in Matthew's Gospel, where the story is told, no one had expressed such faith in Jesus. Jesus could have ignored the woman. But He could neither ignore her great faith or just as importantly, her great need. Jesus departed from His schedule in order to respond to the woman?s need. (Matthew 15:21-28)

Servants are interruptible.
I do not handle interruptions very well, not well at all. It's at its worst when I am blogging - writing invokes in me a concentration that few other activities do - it takes me a while to "get in the zone" and I don't like leaving it until I am done. That certainly is not in line with the admonition of Paul to "count others as more important than yourself."

Lent is a time of examination both of self and by the Holy Spirit - it is a time when Christ was tried and found holy, and we are tried and found in deparate need of Christ. All I can say is that with this post my friend Mark has been the instrument of The Holy Spirit and examined me and pointed out one place where I desparately need Christ.

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Masking The Debate

This little blurb in the NYTimes is fascinating.
Continuing a recent trend in which the world's richest religion prize has gone to scientists, John D. Barrow, a British cosmologist whose work has explored the relationship between life and the laws of physics, was named the winner yesterday of the 2006 Templeton Prize for progress or research in spiritual matters.


Dr. Barrow, 53, a mathematical sciences professor at the University of Cambridge, is best known for his work on the anthropic principle, which has been the subject of debate in physics circles in recent years. Life as we know it would be impossible, he and others have pointed out, if certain constants of nature ? numbers denoting the relative strengths of fundamental forces and masses of elementary particles ? had values much different from the ones they have, leading to the appearance that the universe was "well tuned for life," as Dr. Barrow put it.


Noting that Charles Darwin is buried in Westminster Abbey, Dr. Barrow said that in contrast with the so-called culture wars in America, science and religion had long coexisted peaceably in England. "The concept of a lawful universe with order that can be understood and relied upon emerged largely out of religious beliefs about the nature of God," he said.
The good doctor is quite right about the origins of the idea of an ordered and therefore examinable universe, but I think noting that Darwin is buried in the Abbey says more about the state of the Anglican Church and the Abbey in particular than it does about the co-existence of science and religion in England. I saw that tomb this past summer and sort of winced when I did.

I also wonder if his comments are not more aimed at typical Bristish civility than at the fact that there is no genuine culture war - if anything England is far more secular than the US, but they are also generally far less rancourous in debate than we are (Except in Commons where they are downright rude).

But most of all this struck me as an attempt by the extremely liberal Times to say "see its not so bad."


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Comic Art

We will complete our look at some of the better characters in the Justice Society of America with a look at one of the older and more enduring legends in comics - Captain Marvel. Now, that name has hung around comics in a variety of publishers for years. Off the top of my head I can think of 4 characters that have had that name, but I'm betting that most of you pictured the hero you see here when I first printed the name, didn't you.

Dating back to the Golden Age, though a character that generally belonged to unsuccessful publishers, Billy Batson was given the power of the ancient greek gods by uttering the magic word "Shazzam!" And he did so long before Gomer Pyle turned it into a sign of stupidity. He was bascially a Superman rip-off, but he managed to find a quite successful life all his own.

After a succession of publishers having his rights, and the character being tied up in litigation forever with Marvel Comics, DC Comics finally purchased the company that had the rights and he was revived well.

He has been in and out of the JSA, and is currently out, but I have to say I think they have finally found the story line that will move the character from enduring to great. Billy Batson is a boy, a very young boy. Yet when he becomes Captain Marvel he is very much a man. What a great tension for story development. His most recent departure from the JSA was triggered by a budding romance with the other childish member of the team Stargirl. The appearance of romance between a "grown man" like Captain Marvel and a barely pubescent Stargirl is simply not accpetable. Captain Marvel is afraid that if the Society found out he was really a boy they would no longer grant him the respect that a hero of his stature deserves. That's great story stuff and I cannot wait to see how it develops.

Just to keep things straight, this is the latest Captain Marvel to grace the pages over at Marvel. They have had a succession of so named characters, many of them thrown out simply to preserve rights to the name or to aid litigation. This is the latest incarnation of one that has gone through several generations and is actually pretty good.

But the original is the one most people associate with the name and with the story telling that is going on right now he may be the best of all time. So I will leave you with an image from the most talented painter - Alex Ross.

St. Patrick's Extra: Check out the green superheroes

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Could It Be?...

A Utah girl won a prestigious science competition Tuesday for analyzing how to protect water quality by improving environmental buffers and changing daily behavior.
...there was just the tiniest bit of political correctness involved? I've judged a few science fairs in my day and well....

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Wars Have Started Over Less

Turkey Smashes Window of Couple Viewing TV

But is it really fair? - a whole nation starting a war with one couple like that!

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And Aussies Everywhere Yawned...

Charles may never rule Australia, says prime minister

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Sometimes...'s OK to run over the squirrel.
A squirrel caused a four-car fender bender in Adams County over the weekend.
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Friday, March 17, 2006


Special Alliance Guest Blogging - Homosexuality and Public Policy

Fellow alliance member Hedgehog Blog has run into some publishing problems so Blogotional is proud to give him this space for this post.

Tolerance In Matters of Conscience?

Two worrisome recent developments caught my eye and leave me wondering whether tolerance is in trouble in this country.

The Berkeley Sea Scouts Case

To begin with, in a case named
Evans v. City of Berkeley, the California Supreme Court held that the city of Berkeley did not violate the rights of the Sea Scouts, an affiliate of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA), when the city stopped allowing the Sea Scouts free use of berths in the Berkeley marina. The change was based on the BSA's policy against gays serving as adult Scout leaders. The L.A. Times story is here. The text of the Court's opinion is here.

Update: I did not describe the court's holding well in my first post on this matter; here is what the opinion actually said:
[A] government entity may constitutionally require a recipient of funding
or subsidy to provide written, unambiguous assurances of compliance with a
generally applicable nondiscrimination policy. We further agree Berkeley
reasonably concluded the Sea Scouts did not and could not provide satisfactory
assurances because of their required adherence to BSA's discriminatory

In short, Berkeley adopted a policy that in order to qualify for subsidized (or free) access to the marina's berths, any organization must affirm that it adheres to a non-discrimination policy, including discrimination based on sexual orientation. The Sea Scouts affirmed their adherence to the policy, but said in a letter to the city, "We believe that sexual orientation is a private matter, and we do not ask either adults or youths to divulge this information at any time." In other words, the policy was "don't ask, don't tell."

Notably, the Court's opinion acknowledges that

But all that was not good enough for Berkeley, because the Sea Scouts were chartered by the Boy Scouts of America, which has a policy against gays serving as adult leaders. In other words, the Sea Scouts in Berkeley did nothing offensive to gays or any other minority group. Their offense as that of being affiliated with the Boy Scouts of America. (I've blogged here about why I think the Scouts are a favorite target of left-leaning civil liberties groups.)

The Supreme Court's ruling was unanimous and is similar to a federal court ruling in San Diego, upholding a challenge to that city's long-standing policy of granting favorable leases and other subsidies to the Boy Scouts of America. (I posted about that controversy
here and here.)

Catholic Charities: A Matter of Conscience, but Not Politically Correct

Then there is
this story about Harvard Law School students seeking to shame a distinguished Boston-based law firm, Ropes and Gray, out of representing a client. The law firm had been advising Boston's Catholic Charities, which runs an adoption service. Catholic Charities wanted to avoid placing babies with same-sex couples. The Globe reports on the reaction by gay and lesbian law students at Harvard:

Presumably, the Lambda group threatened Ropes & Gray with embarrassment if it did not cease its representation of Catholic Charities:

It is troubling to me that because of its position in a matter of conscience, an organization like the Boy Scouts can be denied benefits available to other groups simply because it adopts a view on a particular issue that is not acceptable to some.

As a lawyer, I find it repugnant and downright un-American that anyone would bring economic and public relations pressure on a law firm to cause it to stop representing a client because that client takes a position, again on a matter of conscience, that is unpopular or politically incorrect. How would liberals react if similar pressure were successfully brought against a law firm that wanted to take on death penalty appeals on a
pro bono basis?

I am not talking about the legal merits of this debate; that's a subject for another post. I'm simply saying that tolerance for opposing religious and moral views in this country is in decline. That's bad for our society and it needs to stop.

Update: I failed to post links in my first paragraph above because Blogger was undergoing maintenance and I couldn't put them in at first. My apologies!

worldcitizenresponds to the Berkely portion of my post:

As I said above, I do not want to get into the legal merits of the Berkeley case. Frankly, the California Supreme Court ruling may well be legally correct. But just because the City of Berkeley can impose their views on the Sea Scouts, and thus make a statement about the Sea Scouts' chartering organization, the BSA, doesn't mean they should do so.

I'm not talking about law, I'm talking about tolerance. The Boy Scouts have adopted a moral position that gays may not be adult Scout leaders (and the Scout policy, again, is essentially a "don't ask, don't tell" policy anyway, just like the military's). I think reasonable people of good will can see the difference between that policy and a "No Jews" policy. The former is a matter of conscience based on widely-held religious and moral beliefs and should be tolerated; the latter is a matter of bigotry based on ethnicity/national origin and should be opposed and attacked. Any effort to equate the two is intellectually and morally obtuse.

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J.W. Hendryx writing at Reformation Theology has an excellent look at the doctrine of election and the "drowning man" objection. Some highlights:
Naturally the next question is why does God not save everyone then? That is a deep mystery but we know God conspires with His own goodness and wisdom and always does what is right. So while we do not know why, the Scriptures do teach that He does so and it is not for us to pry into the mystery of why or presume He has bad motives in doing so. We know the character of God is good so we can trust that He does so for good reason even though we do not understand. The fact that he does it is, in fact, the highest reason in the universe. There cannot, in fact, be a better reason than "God wills it". Can you think of a better reason?


Perhaps if our problem were only of a physical disability or of an innocent man drowning then of course we might be more inclined to make God out to be an ogre. But this is not how the Scripture describes the disposition of a sinner's heart. The Scripture says the unregenerate are rebels, hostile to God by nature. Realizing that analogies are imperfect, this drowning analogy still depends on pity for it to work at all but is actually imposing an alien presupposition on the Scripture that we were just helplessly, innocently in need and God is, therefore, obligated to reach out to save us, lest we drown. So according to this analogy the one condition for us to meet of God is to love us is to reach out and take hold of His hand which He is obligated to extend lest otherwise He must be evil, they reason. Not only is this kind of love conditional but this love does nothing to help the helpless except call to him from afar. I hope you see the clear problem with this reasoning.


We must remember also that God has more than just one attribute. Indeed, God is love and His love is like His word ... He says of it, "It will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it." This is beautiful and is what gives us help and hope ... but we must also remember that God is infinitely holy, just and wrathful. When we say we are saved what do we mean? What are we saved from? We are saved from God. Yes, saved from God. If God is truly a just God, His wrath must be poured out on the guilty. God is holy and no sin can stand in His presence - His justice requires just payment, a payment we cannot repay.
Increasingly there are two essential truths that I hold dearest and they are illustrated in this discussion,

The first is depravity. Any other system of theological thought gives us an innocence that we simply do not deserve. I find nothing so convincing as history itself, and no single fact of history more convincing than that the great genocides of history were thought good by those that committed them. If Hitler thought the final soution good, what am I deceiving myself about - I simply must be depraved.

The second truth is that it is not about the fate of man, but the glory of God. God does not "save" us because of us - He saves us because of Himself. When we think He saves us for us we are guilty of sin all over again because we are putting ourselves in God's rightful place.

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Power Grab?

Prometheus Blog quoting an article out of Kenya on the failure of malaria research to be used effectively in that nation and then commenting
"As scientists in Kenya, we have to do two jobs. We have to conduct research and then convince the government or the Ministry of Health to adopt our research findings. This should never be the case. There should be a mechanism that automatically facilitates adoption of research findings by the government."
What mechanism? How created? Run by whom? What does it mean to "adopt research findings"? Automatically? These are the questions at the core of 21st century science policy. Asking and answering these question are of course political exercises themselves and can create some discomfort among scientists/advocates. Consider the cirle-the-wagon reactions often seen here to suggestions that the IPCC might not be an optimal means of connecting science and decision making. And consider the frustration expressed by scientists such as James Hansen about their role in the political process.

As people focus attention on press releases, NRC committees on hockey sticks, drug approval processes, government science reports, national academy statements, science in developing countries, etc. etc. it will be these questions of process that will be important to keep at the fore.
The Kenyan desire to have research "automatically" translate to policy is terrifying and Prometheus rightly calls it into question, but I really wonder what he is hinting at by saying questions of process should be kept at the fore? We have a constitution that defines how anyone's work, desire, whatever, becomes a matter of public policy - that's why the founding fathers wrote the thing.

Can it be slow? - Yep! Frustrating? - definitely to black & white science and engineering types. But that does not change the fact that it's the best to come along so far.

To claim some "special process" for science results to become policy is to claim autocratic authority for science. We already run dangerously close to that with the authority invested in bureacracy, particularly on matters of science.

Guess what scientists - me included - you want to help make policy, you need to learn the system that exists - anything else undoes the nation.

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Please Link Up

Via Committee To Protect Bloggers
Jill Carroll, a freelance reporter working for the Christian Science Monitor newspaper, was kidnapped in Baghdad over two months ago. All indications are that she is still alive. The Monitor has started a campaign, using Iraqi television, to distribute a video asking for Iraqis to help find and free Jill.

Jill is not a blogger but she's got that spirit. She's an independent intellect who is fascinated by the world and has a desire to speak what she sees. So let's not leave it up to the newspapers and television stations. She's ours as much as theirs.

So, I would like to ask every blogger who gives a damn about individual human life and the individual human voice, to post a link to this video on their blog, to blog about Jill and to pass along our concern to friends, family and other bloggers. Of greatest import are Iraqi blogs and blogs in the Arabic and Muslim worlds that may be read by people in a position to do good for Jill.

Here's a link to the Jill Carroll video.

And here is the CSM's feed for their Jill page.
Please join the effort and link up today.

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The Value Of Process

Blogcorner Preacher looks at a John Piper piece asking the very essential question

If God Wills Disease Why Should We Try to Eradicate It?

John Luke arrives at a great point, using Piper to make it
For now, however, I'm content to let the question rest, unanswered, with these words from John Piper:
God does not permit things willy-nilly. He permits things for a reason. There is infinite wisdom in all he does and all he permits. So what he permits is part of his plan just as much as what he does more directly.
The mystery, of course, lies in God and I have no problem with a mysterious God - if I understood Him He wouldn't be much of a God.

But it struck me reading through this stuff of the real value of this mystery - that God in fact wants, in some sense, the disease AND He wants us working to eradicate it. That's not self-contradictory if you consider that the value is in the process and not in the product. The very fact that this seeming self-contradiction forces us to rely on God's infinite wisdom makes it of immense value.

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You Gotta Love This

via Greenie Watch
A new theory to explain global warming was revealed at a meeting at the University of Leicester (UK) and is being considered for publication in the journal "Science First Hand". The controversial theory has nothing to do with burning fossil fuels and atmospheric carbon dioxide levels. According to Vladimir Shaidurov of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the apparent rise in average global temperature recorded by scientists over the last hundred years or so could be due to atmospheric changes that are not connected to human emissions of carbon dioxide from the burning of natural gas and oil.

Shaidurov explained how changes in the amount of ice crystals at high altitude could damage the layer of thin, high altitude clouds found in the mesosphere that reduce the amount of warming solar radiation reaching the earth's surface.

Shaidurov has used a detailed analysis of the mean temperature change by year for the last 140 years and explains that there was a slight decrease in temperature until the early twentieth century. This flies in the face of current global warming theories that blame a rise in temperature on rising carbon dioxide emissions since the start of the industrial revolution. Shaidurov, however, suggests that the rise, which began between 1906 and 1909, could have had a very different cause, which he believes was the massive Tunguska Event, which rocked a remote part of Siberia, northwest of Lake Baikal on the 30th June 1908.
Given that current thought holds the extinction of the dinosaurs, an "event" likely also associated with global temperature shifts, was initiated by a similar, if larger, impact of a celestial body - which is what is believed to have happened at the Tunguska Event - this makes an enormous amount of sense.

Now what will the professional worriers do?

Also blogging this: Cheat Seeking Missles

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Al Mohler Is Scared...

...because he read an article where someone said:
Science and the law both work on the basis that an embryo at this very early stage is a sub-human scrap of genetic material and only becomes a person later in its development. The majority of people going through IVF probably agree (it does make what they are doing far less morally complicated). But those who have been through IVF or made it happen know that even the clearest of minds can be ambushed by emotion and find themselves personalising embryos. [emphasis added]
Al's right - that's scary. It's scary to know that there are people that think we are somehow victimized by our humanity. Such people end up capable of very inhuman acts.

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And You Thought There Was Consensus!

A Scientific Dissent From Darwinism
Yet public TV programs, educational policy statements, and science textbooks have asserted that Darwin's theory of evolution fully explains the complexity of living things. The public has been assured that all known evidence supports Darwinism and that virtually every scientist in the world believes the theory to be true.

The scientists on this list dispute the first claim and stand as living testimony in contradiction to the second. Since Discovery Institute launched this list in 2001 over 500 scientists have courageously stepped forward to sign their names. The list is growing and includes scientists from the US National Academy of Sciences, Russian, Polish and Czech National Academies, as well as from universities such as Yale, Princeton, Stanford, MIT, UC Berkeley, UCLA, and others.
See there are still some of us that actually do science instead of grind philosphical axes.

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Friday Humor

A priest was being honored at his retirement dinner after 25 years in the parish. A leading local politician and member of the congregation was chosen to make the presentation and give a little speech at the dinner. He was delayed, so the priest decided to say his own few words while they waited.

"I got my first impression of the parish from the first confession I heard here. I thought I had been assigned to a terrible place. The very first person who entered my confessional told me he had stolen a television set and, when questioned by the police, was able to lie his way out of it.

He had stolen money from his parents, embezzled from his employer, had an affair with his boss's wife, taken illegal drugs, and gave VD to his sister. I was appalled. But as the days went on I knew that my people were not all like that and I had, indeed, come to a fine parish full of good and loving people."

Just as the priest finished his talk, the politician arrived full of apologies at being late. He immediately began to make the presentation and gave his talk. "I'll never forget the first day our parish priest arrived," said the politician. "In fact, I had the honor of being the first one to go to him in confession."

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No Doubt With Hemp Rope

Marijuana again tied to memory problems

But very loosely because no one remebers how to tie a good knot.

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Bumper Cars - The Real Version

Woman accused of slamming into cars that would not let her merge

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Do NOT Read This Headline Too Fast...

Miles Davis, Genre Bender

...or you'll think Miles had problems much deeper than his drug addiction.

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Bob Knight Moves To Mumbai

Mumbai starts zero tolerance policy on rubbish and public urinating

Sorry Coach, I still love you but the joke possibilities were just too good.

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'Amazing Grace' For Hamsters

Nanotech helps blind hamsters see

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WHAT Did These People Have For Dinner?

Casella Waste System officials told the town Friday afternoon that a truck carrying adult diapers contaminated with radioactive waste was discovered by the sensors in a load of trash that was being taken from the property.
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Thursday, March 16, 2006


Have You Bought The Package Or The Product?

Leigh McLeroy, writing at Common Grounds Online, notes the increasing trend in retail to stock packaging on the shelves and make consumers use that as a mean to retreive the actual product. Then she notes
And while, in both instances, the packages themselves provide incentive enough for consumers to keep on demanding their contents ? I'm struck by the fact that many of us, when "shopping" for something to believe in, buy just the packaging of faith and are satisfied to leave without the "goods."

We buy the trappings of religion - stirring music, a certain worship style, a charismatic teacher with a dynamic delivery - and make ourselves content with these. We equate demonstration with devotion, attendance with attention, and liturgy with love. I know, because I've done it. And down through time, others have, too. We find the package "enough," and so we miss the God inside.

C.S. Lewis likened this to the man who is so thrilled by the letter he's received that he completely ignores the mail carrier who left it. The Bible records that the Israelites - God's chosen people - preferred at times to keep Him at arms length, and deal with Him through a go-between. In Jesus' day, the Pharisees' passion for ritual obedience completely satisfied their appetite for holiness - to the point where they wanted nothing to do with the very God-in-flesh who stood before them!
She's absolutely right and it raises so many issues.

For one, why do we as the church concentrate so much on the packaging when it's the product that matters? In business it is not unusual to use packaging as a means of promoting and selling an otherwise unremarkable product. More sometimes, really mediocre product out sells really outstanding product based on packaging. (How many times have you taken an awful movie home from the rental store because it looked good in the box?) If we focus on the packaging of our faith it means, at least in part, that we do not believe our product itself is very good - or at least it means we think it is a commodity. It certainly means we are competing for market share instead of growing the market. Does that sound right to you?

Secondly, the trend she notes to display packaging and retreive product is done for security reasons - generally it is too easy to secret the product out of the store without paying for it so they make you come to the point of sale to get the product and thus you are forced to pay for it. Do we, as a church really have to worry about security? Isn't our product free anyway? Once again this belies a desire to capture the customer instead of move the product.

And that is the real problem - it seems like the object today is to capture congregants instead share Jesus. The outlet and the packaging is not the product. Somehow I think the church would be well served to concentrate more on the product and less on the packaging and the outlet.

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When Language Fails...

...maybe it is trying to tell us something. Consider this article from LiveScience.
In a study published last month in the journal for the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Vermeij reviewed 23 evolutionary innovations traditionally considered to be unique in the history of life. These included things like genetic code, sex, bird feathers, turtle shells and human language.

Vermeij also reviewed another 55 innovations that evolved more than once in the history of life among unrelated species. Scientists call such instances of repeat innovations "convergent evolution." Some of the cases of convergent evolution that Vermeij examined were multicellularity, eyes, ears, and venom injection.
[emphasis added]
How can an unguided, completely naturalisitic, random process be said to "innovate?" Does not the use of that word imply some sort of intelligence behind the developments?

Convergence is a statistical phenomena. For example, the more time you flip a coin, the more the odds will zero-in on 50-50, but when systems get this complex we are into the realm of chaos theory which also has a covergence phenomena, but where it will converge is extremely sensitive to very small variations - the old butterfly wing makes a tornado thing - an idea which would tend to blow this guy's thesis all to pot. Meaning that for evolution to converge it must be something other than a purely random happening - indicating something is behind it.

Bottom line for Blogotional is this - you want to function in an entirely naturalistic wordlview - by all means, just keep your language and ideas consistent.

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The Christian Response To Homosexuality

However, because my faith is so pivotal to me, I've chosen to be single and to be celibate. I can't say I've always been successful - I am a human being, not perfect.
So says a young African, studying in the UK who is both a Christian and "gay." Those are indeed wise words, and more or less the same ones any unmarried heterosexual Christian should be saying too.

The problem I have with our young friend's article is his attempts to rid himself of the guilt he feels at being attracted to other men. Our pyscho-babble society has removed the guilt from so much previously stygmatized behavior and all they have really suceeded in doing is removing a natural, God-given hint to our understanding of our fallen nature.

Guilt is not, despite what many "therapists" will tell you, the problem. The problem is how we handle our guilt. I thank God for my guilt, for it turns me to Him. Guilt is what makes me know He is the source of righteousness.

Our African friend talks about needing to be "who he is." We all have such feelings, but we need to remember that God calls us to be much, much more. Who we are is fallen and depraved. Who God would have us be involves a complete transformation of our being. For the Christian, denial of "who we are" is a very common experience - Christ denies "who we are" because He has a much, much better idea in mind.

I have much common cause with my African Christian brother. I shall pray for him. I hope you will too.

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Illuminated Scripture

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And It Immediately Jammed At Rush Hour

Archaeologists Find Ancient Israel Tunnels

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Global Warming Commentary?

Scientist Reading the Leaves to Predict Violent Weather

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Nudge, Nudge, Wink, Wink - Say No More!

Woman's Mango Breaks World Record

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I Had No Idea They Were Permitted In The Casinos

Teens gamble with food allergies

Frankly, I didn't even know they could throw dice?!

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Just Before They Emerge As Really BIG Butterflies

Surprising Cocoons Found Enveloping Giant Stars

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And Here I Thought The Bagpipes Were A Bit Of A Joke?!

A piper killed a fellow band member in an attack after criticising his playing during a competition.
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But Then, Don't We All!

Honest, they have a word for the fear of not finding beer on a trip out of town

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It's Much Better To Use It To Fry Up Some Potatoes

Go Ahead, Drink Bacon Grease for Breakfast

MUCH Better!

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As Long As They Don't Eat It

South Korea gets rare yellow snowfall

We all know you should never eat the yellow snow.

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Wednesday, March 15, 2006



As the economy of the US has moved increasingly away from manufacturing and agricultural it has not necessarily moved into a "service" economy, it has moved into what I would refer to as a "churning" economy. That is to say there is money to be made by simply moving money around - quite a bit as a matter of fact.

Have you ever really thought about the number of non-profits floating around that really do little but move money from donors to receivers, but taking a cut in salaries and fund-raising costs in between? Consider all the "Committes for..." and "Foundation to..." that there are out there.

And just like anything else, such an "industry" is going to develop it's own supporting businesses - consultants, PR types, etc.

Now, if you are in the churning industry support business and you want to expand your market, what are you going to do? How about look at some old school non-profits and try to take them "new school"? - which would make them clients.

Couldn't help but think of that when I read this post:
My brother Andy is a broadcast engineer and attends the National Association of Broadcasters convention each year. He noticed that once again there is a separate conference being held at the convention on "worship technology".
Which took me to this re-post at Jollyblogger.
The upshot of this is that, if you are seeking to grow and reach out, the style of worship in music is probably not the place to start. If your church is contemporary, a return to traditional forms may not be what you need, and if it is traditional, newer forms may not be what you need. If reaching the lost is what you want to do, it will come through training your people to reach out in their daily lives, not through tweaking the worship service. Having trained the people in evangelism, you can then evaluate the content of your worship with questions like - are we sacrificing substance for style? Are we God-centered in our worship? Is our worship intelligible to our people? and etc..
Now I happen to agree very much with David's assertion there, but I think that David and I have a very different "business model" for the church from those that look to music or attend a "worship technology" conference. You see music, etc. is precisely the place to go if view the church as a part of the "churning industry." If the idea is to fill the pews and plates - it's gonna work - all those consultants and technology salesman really do know what they are doing, up to a point.

But the idea is not to fill pews and plates - the idea is to build disciples. See the church really isn't part of the new service economy - it's part of the old manufacturing economy. Running it by the rules of the new service economy will change it into something it is not supposed to be.

Cross-posted at How To Be A Christian And Still Go To Church

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Cerulean Sanctum said
You know what I would like to hear more often from individuals in our churches? I was wrong.

You know what I want to see written on a comment or post in the Godblogosphere, even once? I was wrong.

If we consider the Godblogosphere to contain some of the brighter people in the Western Church today--and I believe that may very well be true--shouldn't we be seeing more admissions of wrongness? Smart people, by and large, should be acutely aware of when they've made an error. Or at least you would think they would be.
Which caused the iMonk to say at the Tavern
I'm prepared to say I am wrong, that I've failed and that Christ alone makes me right. But I'm going to be careful what group of "Christians" I say that around. It's a dangerous admission.
Which may define the biggest problem facing the church today - that confession is a lost art I have bemoaned many times before on this blog, but I have some understanding of how we got there. That hearing confession has become an opportunity to do the "superiority dance" instead of a granting of grace is beyond my understanding.

We are truly lost when we cannot respond to a a confession with grace.

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Here Is Something To Think About

There are few more quoted books on the our nation that Alexis de Tocqueville's "Democracy In America." It is pretty much the defintion of what one would call a "seminal text."

So I am reading a Canadian piece by Mark Steyn looking at a book by some Canadian author that can't find an American publisher in which the author compares himself to de Tocqueville and I run into this rather amazing paragrpah
But my problem with Adams, the founder of the Environics polling firm, is more basic than that. In the "Montreal Gazette" the other day, he was comparing himself to Alexis de Tocqueville: "He was a count. I like to think I can count." Well, I'll take Monsieur le Comte any day. Tocqueville went to taverns and churches and observed Americans on the ground. Adams crunches numbers and then assigns meaning to them, based on a map of "social values." At the top of the map is "Authority," at the bottom "Individuality." Okay, seems reasonable. At the left is "Survival" and at the right "Fulfillment."
How many polls, studies and books have come and gone in the course of a few months in the last 30 years? Maybe de Tocqueville's methods, which produced a work that has been around for nearly two centuries, have something all over all that demographic and polling data.

Just something to think about the next time you are reading something by George Barna or checking the neighborhood demographics to know which direction to take your church.

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This Is Scary

"All the years I worked as a geophysicist, I wondered about issues like global poverty and what it might take to get people out of it," said Dr. Mutter, 57, who is now the deputy director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University. "I kept wondering if there wasn't something we scientists could do about global poverty."

Now married to Carolyn Mutter and the father of five children, Dr. Mutter said he had spent the last five years trying to answer that question.

As a result, he said, "I've come to think that some of the answers to global poverty might be found in the places where the social and hard sciences inform each other."

In most parts of the world, people depend on the earth for their livelihoods. "If we can understand more how the earth functions," Dr. Mutter said, "we can learn how it interacts with human well-being."
It's hard to put a finger on what is most terrifying about this - it's bad that it's utterly naturalistic - it's bad that it could best be described as "squishy" science - it's bad in that it is a bald attempt at wealth transfer - it's really bad in that it is an attempt to place a very direct moral justification on an intellectual pursuit with only long term and indirect moral consequences (in other words a naked grab for research money).

Just a little "god" would go oh so far.

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Now That's What I Call A "Bug!"

Cockroaches Attacked Court Computers

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Lunatics On The Loose

This is news, and not from one of my comic books. Really!
Conrad had come because his son, an elfin 8-year-old with pale skin, had been having problems. The boy, named Dusk, had been doing things that made Conrad worry, things the single father couldn't explain.

In school, for example, Dusk had a hard time concentrating. His grades were dropping, and he was disruptive in class, refusing to do his homework. When Conrad asked Dusk what was troubling him the boy gave him a hair-raising answer. He couldn't concentrate, he said, because he was hearing the thoughts of his classmates. It was a supernatural power the boy could not control. When Conrad relayed this to an administrator at his son's University Park elementary school, he was told he should have the boy tested and possibly put on medication. As it was, Conrad felt overwhelmed raising his two boys on his own, and the thought of putting his oldest on Ritalin upset him greatly. He hoped the event at Unity that night, a film screening, would give him some answers.

When they arrived the sanctuary was mostly full, so Conrad sat on the front row with his two boys, Dusk and Day, sitting beside him. The room went dark and the film began.

"Do you know what an indigo child is?" a man onscreen asked a group of firefighters. None of them had a clue. On came the doctors in white lab coats, the Chinese scientists, the clairvoyants, the wild-haired psychics and the bearded New Age gurus. These people were experts on the subject.

"We're watching humans evolve," explained one. "Just like we've evolved to now we have an opposable thumb, we're witnessing the human species evolve into a telepathic creature."
Why do I think this guy was involved?

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The Best Of Pravda

Finally, they are lightening up on us:

George W. Bush is not evil. He is just stupid

I'm glad to see that - I was really worried.

And it looks like that news comes just in time too.

Real simple Europe for dummies

Isn't that nice of them to declare the President stupid and then educate him? Such nice people there at Pravda.

And then to prove their veracity, we encounter this:

US secret archives contain records of encounters with winged humans

Now I know they are telling the truth!

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The Fever Swamp Left Eats It's Own

FISH have feelings, too, according to the folks at PETA, who are taking aim at writer Josh Kilmer-Purcell. The author, whose best-selling memoir, "I Am Not Myself These Days," chronicles his double life as an ad exec-cum-drag performer, was put on notice last week by the animal-rights group's "Fish Empathy Project" for alleged cruelty to goldfish. As his whip-cracking alter-ego, Aquadisiac, Kilmer-Purcell donned a pair of clear plastic breasts filled with live goldfish. Says PETA: "It would be, for you, like living in a covered bathtub that's constantly moving, tossing you around as you defecate in it. It's filthy, painful and terrifying for these animals."
All of which is somehow funny as long as I do not have to actually watch any of it...

Oh yeah, as long as we are Stuck on Stupid, I got to tell you this one
BUNGLING crooks who robbed a van on its way to Heathrow got away with £75million - in MONOPOLY money.

The gang snatched the white Ford Transit from a street - convinced it was crammed with genuine currency.

But it was carrying hundreds of copies of the family board game, plus bundles of worthless Monopoly £500 and £100 notes to be used in an ad campaign.
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I Wish...

A woman thought she was in heaven when beer instead of water flowed from the taps in her apartment in west Norway.

"I turned on the tap to clean some knives and forks and beer came out," Haldis Gundersen told Reuters from her home in Kristiansund, west Norway. "We thought we were in heaven."
For the first time I am tempted to move overseas.

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Becasue His Dad Did Not Teach Him How To Aim?

3-Year-Old Boy Shoots Mom in the Knee

Dark humor, I know, but get a mental image of that! In a 3 Stooges movie it'd be hilarious!

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Well Tell Them To Phone Home!

Mouse Hearts Glow Like E.T.'s

Who needs freaks like that hanging around here?

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Let's Be Sure And Give Credence...

Milosevic feared he was being poisoned: lawyer the lunatic rantings of a genocidal dictator. Sheesh

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When Is Moving To America A Handicap?

When your name is Anurag Dikshit. I don't care how much money you have - that's gonna hurt.

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Tuesday, March 14, 2006


Are We Part Of The Problem?

Out of Ur was wondering last Friday if the home church movement was an outcome of or counter-movement to mega-barns. It's an interesting question, but it set me to wondering.

Is blogging, with its insatiable need for something to write about, discuss, challenge, and debate, always the best thing for us personally, or for God's people. I don't want to get all anti-intellectual here, but isn't the question of the true motivation of home churching a bit of navel gazing when we should be focusing on God. I don't want to condemn this specific post, I just want to make the point that it is really easy to get lost in the debate and forget what motivates it.

How do we bridge the gap between thinking and talking about God and living like God's person? Total Truth talked all about bridging the gap between the natural and the spiritual in discussions like evolution, but how do we bridge it in our churches and our blogging?

For example, when we are at a planning meeting for church and we start looking at local demographics and discussing advertising plans, don't you find the room changing radically from the opening prayer? There is a clear divide - there shouldn't be.

As I blog, I can often find my entire mindset shifting when I write about politics as compared to writing about prayer - that shouldn't happen. God should be as ever-present for me when I write about politics as when I write about Him directly. And it seems to me that if He is there are some discussions that will just sort of self-censor because they won't focus on the important stuff.

The question is not one of being anti-intellectual, but a "tamed" intellectual. That's not a matter of boundaries either, but of transformation - not that I can't ask certain questions or explore the answers, but simply that they will fade into insignificance.

As Godbloggers we bear a special burden - our positions are not all that matter, what we even bother to take a position on and how we choose to defend it matters most of all.

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Evil Fatigue?

As the crisis that would be a nuclear armed Iran heats up (consider SecState Rice's warnings last week) I sense a collective fatigue on the part of the American public. I think this has happened before in history, but more on that in a moment.

Taught Perelandra in Sunday School Sunday. We discussed that one of the chief weapons of the tempter in this Garden of Eden recast was fatigue. He was not that persuasive and often his evil was apparent - yet he came deparately close to winning the day through simple effort. He needed no sleep whereas his intended victim and his heaven-sent counterpart did. Evil nearly wins due to fatigue in its target and enemy.

Have we seen this in history? Oh, I think so. Hitler was evil on a scale I am still not sure we fully comprehend, and we well and goodly destroyed him. But in his wake came an evil as bad or even worse - Stalin. Stalin we let go. Why? I think fatigue - evil kept on coming when we were too tired to fight.

Yes, there were all sorts of political and military complications in going after Stalin that were not there in going after Hitler, but, absent the fatigue of having fought Hitler, we likely would have found a way around them.

I think we are in similar times - we have ousted the evil that was the Taliban and Saddam. We have greatly limited the evil that is Al Queda. But beyond that lies the utter evil that would be a nuclear capable Iran. To date, nations with that horrible weapon have come previously equipped with a huge hesitancy regarding its use. Not so Iran, a nation guided by a cultural ethos that demands the destruction of its enemy by any means possible - a nation that would not merely feel justified in using the weapon in defense, but sanctified in using it offensively.

And yet, I cannot find much concern about Iran outside deeply involved clique of political watchers and commenters. Evil fatigue has set in, having dealt with so much, we have lost our ability to see even worse.

In an age where one such evil can kill so many with so little effort, we cannot afford such fatigue. The administration must find a way to energize the populace on this one - they cannot act without that populace support.

I am very concerned about this one. I pray for a diplomatic solution, but fear its ineffectiveness. If it fails it will be too late to try and build popular support then - our diplomacy will be that much more effective if Iran knows we are ready and willing to strike and strike rapidly if diplomacy fails.

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Thinking About The Military

First I want to call your attention to this personal account of the loss of 4 soldiers to an IED in Afghanistan. Captain Dan concludes
Please keep these brave soldiers in your thoughts and prayers.
You bet I will Capt. Dan, and I trust my readers will as well.

Then I want to look at a post from recently home Firepower Forward
During one of these moments of doing nothing when Pam and I were sitting on the front porch watching the sun set over Pikes Peak she suddenly asked me if I had ever been afraid. The answer; the honest answer; was 'yes', but not when someone looking from the outside might have thought. The fear hadn't come when riding in Blackhawks or Chinooks over inhospitable terrain, or when crouched in concrete bunkers with rockets exploding around us. I remember that I genuinely felt the cold touch of fear on my heart while staring into the absolute blackness of a Salerno night and realizing that that darkness held people close at hand that wanted to kill me. Having grown up in the security of America's borders, this thought had been only an abstraction to me as I'm sure it is to most Americans.

I had thought back to another night nearly 4 years earlier when I had felt fear of what the darkness held. I had watched the horrific events of September 11th on the large screen TVs at the Merrill Lynch Campus in South Denver and had felt the same shock, horror, and disbelief that each of us did. Driving home that night though, I had crested the top of an exit ramp on the far eastern edge of the Denver metropolitan sprawl when I had been struck by the absoluteness of the dark. From where I sat that night, I should have seen the lights of dozens of planes either landing or departing from DIA but instead there was just the suffocating blackness of an empty sky. It was the first tangible evidence that I had seen of that day's events and I had been horrified at what the darkness held.
I just want to second this in my meagre way. I have never been in the military but the vagaries of life have seen me, on a few occassions, in foreign lands where the darkness held people that would have greatly enjoyed an American pelt on the mantle. It's an interesting situation to be in, but one you prepare yourself for before you go and one for which you take appropriate precautions. Most importantly you know that you will return home and that dangerous darkness will retreat into memory.

On September 11, 2001 that dangerous darkness came here and I, for one, was far more afraid than I was in the foreign lands. I had no precautions, I was unprepared.

I am most grateful for those that have caused the dangerous darkness to retreat to foreign lands, and add to that gratitude deep humility for those that have made the ultimate sacrifice to force that retreat.

We cannot afford to forget.

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This Is A Little Frustrating

Last week I blogged about beauty as an indicator of God and a reflection thereof. This post over at AnotherThink seems to agree with that point.
Without a doubt, the world is falling into decay. War, famine, disease and hatred have sown ugliness and horror everywhere. But God's fingerprints are still visible, both in the natural world and in the unfailing strength of human love and compassion. We have only to stop and take notice of the beauty.
In my post, I opine that if beauty is indeed indicative of God, it must therefore be objectively definable because God Himself is objective. The AnotherThink piece seems to disagree
Are these things intrinsically beautiful? Probably not. Objectivity gets shoved aside by emotion. Our minds (and hearts) filter and reorganize. We idealize. We soften the focus of the lens.

Which means that beauty is not perfection, but a value judgment. A beautiful thing can be flawed, and in such a world as ours it always is. When we call something beautiful, it is as much an act of grace as appreciation. We are not saying it is perfect, only it is perfect in our eyes.
So I must put the question to you - Are "God's fingerprints" purely subjective?

I, for one, cannot live with such a notion. Such makes the case that God is somehow our invention instead of us His creation.

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Congrats Adrian!

On your 2000th post!


Common Sense Found In England

Creationist theories about how the world was made are to be debated in GCSE science lessons in mainstream secondary schools in England.
What do they know that we don't?

OH and while we are on the topic, ran into this piece at SciAm

15 Answers to Creationist Nonsense

It's from 2002 and most of it is really old hat. It's in the form of a point/counter-point and I must point out just one thing - the concluding paragraph
Time and again, science has shown that methodological naturalism can push back ignorance, finding increasingly detailed and informative answers to mysteries that once seemed impenetrable: the nature of light, the causes of disease, how the brain works. Evolution is doing the same with the riddle of how the living world took shape. Creationism, by any name, adds nothing of intellectual value to the effort.
Note what's important here, at the conclusion of page after page of minimalist data, suppositional assertions, and and a whole bunch of "will someday's"what the author chooses to hold onto is the philosphical underpinnings of naturalism and to reject the idea of a Creator prima facie.

When I read stuff like this I become increasingly concerned that "the battle between religion and science" is not an intellectual one, but a truly spiritual one. It continues to make me wonder if we need to worry less about ideas and shift the battleground to its true spiritual turf where we have an undeniable advantage?

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Bureacracy Run Amok

Chicago Requires Driver's Ed for the Blind

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Alphabet Soup

Well, we have reached the end of Alphabet Soup with the letter "z." Not an easy letter to come up with a place for , but there is Zion National Park. Located in southern Utah, this is a truly spectacular park if you like rocks and rivers -- which most everybody does.

All the names in the area are biblical -- It's a Mormon thing. They thought this particular area so beautiful that is was the North American Zion.

A couple of years ago (we've been there numerous times) I was taking a short walk thorugh the park with my wife and my extended family. As we walked along there was a curious sound from just off the trail in the tall grass, I recognized it but said nothing. After we travelled 20 feet or so, it stopped.

My wife commented on what an unusual bird it must have been,. I said nothing for another 20 feet, then informed her it had been a rattlesnake. I was grateful I did not start a stampede.

These arches that erode out of the rock are fascinating. They also are the source for the arches so famous in Arches National Park located a hundred miles or so up river still in Utah.

Zion, as all the near the Grand Canyon parks, is quite crowded in the summer (and HOT!), but in the off season, it is a great place, you feel especially coddled and nestled in the depths of the canyon - A recommended stop!

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Lodge Needs New Home

Police Rescue Moose Tangled in Swingset

This is what happens when you try to move the lodge brothers out, they wander the streets and become a much larger public nusance than they were in the hall.

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So This Is What Happens When There Is No Separation Of Church And State!?

Thai PM accuses critics of resorting to black magic

And why didn't Bill Clinton think of that? I'd buy Monica Lewinsky in the role of witch doctor a lot faster than the role of hottie.

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Boy, It's A Good Thing I Got Out When I Did!

Four seniors have been suspended for spraying skunk oil in Springville High School. The Nebo School District board voted Wednesday to suspend the seniors for 90 days, which could affect their graduation.
There was that whole episode with the anerobic digestor waste and....Oh wait, they might read this. Shhhhh - don't tell anybody.

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By The Animal?

Animal's lungs discovered abandoned in a public toilet

I hope he had his spares with him! It's kind of rough to cough them up, then have to find the replacements. Wanna bet it was one of those smoking chimps?

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As Passenger Or Driver?

Snake in taxi gives driver fright

The lack of appendages would make driving a problem, but as a passenger, what's the big deal?

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Because Anything Else Would Be Too Wimpy

A man has to have what a man has to have - get yours here.

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Monday, March 13, 2006


The Heresy Of Orthodoxy

This may meander a bit, but I hope you'll stick with me, the pay-off should be worth it.

It's a weakness, I know, but I approach pretty much everything like a scientist - after all, it's my education. In science we move from hypothesis (idea) to theory (suppported idea) to "law" (as close as we can get to truth in science, it certainly qualifies as orthodoxy). Now, these distinctions are not so strictly adhered to anymore, evolution being the classic example - it is still really a hypothesis on the cusp of being a theory, but it many regard it as orthodoxy.

Now because Darwin has been elevated to law well before the evidence is sufficient to justify it, the support for that elevation is often quite specious, the most common being the dismissal of those that insist it is still a hypothetical on ad hominum grounds - "irrational," "non-thinking" and the like. Usually such arguement springs from the fact that those making them feel attacked on levels far more than just the idea. The idea they defend has become more than idea, but a part of their very identity.

Which brings me to Acts 17, in which Paul pays his first visit to Thessalonica where he is shortly driven out by the resident Jewish authority.
Acts 17:5 - But the Jews, becoming jealous and taking along some wicked men from the market place, formed a mob and set the city in an uproar; and coming upon the house of Jason, they were seeking to bring them out to the people.
So threatened by Paul are these Jews that after he leaves Thessalonica, they chase him to Berea to where he has fled and where his preaching is far more effective. Clearly, Paul's departure from Jewish orthodoxy affects these men as more than just a wrong-headed idea - scripture itself describes it as "jealousy."

Being of the reformed tradition, we need to have a vey jaundiced view of the idea of orthodoxy. We owe our very existence to the fact that orthodoxy can become a stale and even corrupt thing. When we hold fast to the idea of "always reforming" our relationship to orthodoxy must be a careful one indeed.

What sent me thinking about all this? Well, there is this post I wrote last Friday and this post Adrian Warnock put up a few hours before. My post looks at the two different approaches to the subject of heresy, validates each, but looks for guidance as to when each approach is the correct one - one of my examples is one of the Pyromaniacs. Adrian's post is a much more direct strike at the matter - the continuing, if softening, dust-up between iMonk/BHT and Johnson/Pyros. Adrian says some very wise things
It strikes me that we should be more sensitive to the fact that our job is not to win arguments but to win people. That is our job is not to merely persuade people of the intellectual truth of our theology but to help people get to know the person Jesus more and more.

There is another power struggle going on in the hidden realm that directly impacts on our theological conversations. This battle is between the blindness that the devil would seek to bring to all of us and the light that the Spirit would shine upon us. It really is down to God to grant both unbelievers and believers who think differently repentance - unless this happens we can argue till we are blue in the face and no change will occur.
To me, the key idea is that the blogosphere is not the church. For orthodoxy to have meaning, it must be attached to some defining instituion. Orthodoxy is part of defining and preserving that institution, but that is really the only purpose it serves.

To understand that last sentence, let's go back to my opening paragraphs on science. Way back when dinosaurs ruled the earth, and I learned about hypothesis, theory and law, I was taught that a "law" was never absolute, everything remained on some level a theory because you just never knew when new data would arise to challenge the law. The classic example was Newton which had certainly risen to the level of "law" but Einstien eventually came along and redefined everything.

Now when it comes to the world of words we can never have the certainty of orthodoxy that we enjoy in physics - words never have the precision that mathematics does and the interrelationships are not nearly so mechanical. So if physical law is subject to new data, certainly orthodoxy in other areas of thought must be subject to examination from time-to-time as well. Confident orthodoxy should in fact welcome such scrutiny.

Christian orthodoxy has an added burden - its essential truth is measured not in eloquence, logic, or persuasion, but in the changed and redeemed lives of its adherents. It is not enough to proclaim orthodoxy, the proclamation itself must bear witness to that which it speaks. That's what Adrian is saying in the pull quote above.

So here's what I don't understand. When things get as rancourous as they have in the blogoshpere, what institution or territory is the orthodoxy supporting and what threats are the proponents feeling with their strongly emotional defenses? It doesn't make any sense to me - the blogosphere is not an institution and it has, literally infinite territory all of it equally accessible. That says to me the only thing possibly at stake is egos.

Now I have a very definite idea about who has the most fragile ego in all of this, but I'm not going to say, I'm going to let you the reader follow the links at Adrian's post and figure it out for yourself.

What I am going to say is this, when it is our egos we are defending, we are standing on indefensible territory. I've been there. God has a really funny way of demonstrating to us just how indefensible that territory is - in my case He did it by absolutely pulling the rug out from under me. In that experience I learned that most essential truth that Adrian proclaims in the pull quote above, but I would not wish that lesson taught in that way on anyone else, there has got to be an easier way to get the point.

I would really like to see the Christian blogosphere learn that lesson without God having to bring the whole thing crashing down on our heads. We have here a fledgling tool for communication. We can learn to use it to advance God's agenda, or we can declare it territory to carve up and argue over. We may not agree on all of God's agenda, but somehow I cannot help but think we agree on enough to act on it.

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