August 31, 2002

We sometimes plop the kids down in front of a video series called Spot the Dog. The kids like it. I like it too, but find it very different from any other kids show I've seen. The animation has a slow-motion quality, and alot of time is spent in the show showing movement of Spot and his friends from one place to another. Its particulalry entrancing to watch the Mom and Dad dog stand in unison before Spot and say something, then slowly turn and walk offscreen. There is a repetitive music track too. All in all its a relaxing feeling show, and feels to me like watching a fish tank.

We had the big party/get-together before my parents leave on the train for Arizona on monday. We had a really nice time, but we're also exhausted after the day is done. It is encouraging to contemplate a few months without the move and house hanging over our heads. Arizona seems so far away.

August 30, 2002

Check the subtitle. Maybe somebody will get me this DVD of Star Trek II for Christmas. A review is here (scroll down), along with reviews of the apparently disappointing DVDs of Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs. Tarrantino doesn't do any significant commentary (boo!).

August 28, 2002

Tomorrow we clean out the last remaining stuff from my parent's house before they're off to Arizona.

My son has been making use of a new word since yesterday.


August 27, 2002

This attempt to connect Al-Qaeda to Azimov's Foundation series seems pretty stretched. The comparison here (and here) of criticism, a very stupid example of which is here, of civilian government officials for being more hawkish than their sensible military officers to the imagined world of Starship Troopers is more credible. This is an insightful essay (much referenced already) about the role of fantasy in Islamists dream of world domination.

August 25, 2002

Carl Truman of Westminster Seminary was our guest Sunday School teacher today. He did a session on "God, History, and the Puritan Way of Worship". He is a professor of Church History, and his class focused on the social and historical context for the Puritan development of the "Regulative Principle". Very informative, although too brief. He seemed to be rushing to finish well in advance of the class end time, but that left lots of time for questions at the end.

He sees the development of the Regulative Principle in response to the use and abuse of Book of Common Prayer. The prayerbook, though salutary in giving consistent content for the ignorant and illiterate clergy of England of the time, was considered flawed by many protestants for retaining kneeling at communion, which they considered idolatry when the justification was the purported physical presence of Jesus in the host. Knox's opposition led to the "Black Rubric" which sounds imposing, but it just meant a rubric printed in black ink instead of red, that explained the use of kneeling in non-idolatrous terms.

Knox was not opposed to written liturgy per se, and composed his own; the prayerbook was objectionable because of the things it taught or imposed that were superfluous or contrary to scripture. This became an increasing problem when it was more strictly imposed under Elisabeth, James and Charles, who wouldn't allow anything but the prayerbook.

After his historical survey (too brief) Truman examined the theological contexts. Knox and the puritans were motivated by a strong sense of the holiness of God and the sufficiency of scripture, which is a commonplace when considering the issue of the regulative principle. A different emphasis was in Truman's comparison of the attitude of the puritans to that of post-modern critics who hold a "hermeneutics of suspicion" before all texts. Motivated by their strong doctrine of depravity, the puritans held human forms of worship as suspect, even if on the surface they seemed unobjectionable or generally biblical in approach. Since sin is all-pervasive,. human composition and innovation in worship could not be trusted.

I really appreciated Truman's approach as a professor of Church History. Almost nothing of what he said about the puritan's doctrine of worship was typical of standard explications. Although an advocate of the principle and a decrier of the loss of the heritage of the psalms in reformed churches, he was able to present a less hagiographic explanation of the development of the doctrine. I also think his 'hermeneutics of suspicion" can be wielded two-edgedly, as the puritans themselves did (their journals full of questionings of their own motivations for everything). If there is a tendency to abuse power in the church and state, there is likewise a libertarian streak in the human heart that wants to subvert proper authority. The puritan principle clearly seems to be motivated by this at times, though the rhetoric is occasionally better. And though now we desire freedom from state interference, anglicans and puritans both at the time desired unified worship defended and enforced by the state, but differed over what the basis for the mandated worship would be.

August 21, 2002

This candy is so good. According to the website its only avialable in the USA at Christmastime, and in Canada all the time. How sad.

Interesting sight on the way in to work: a tar mixer caught on fire! The crew of a paving and asphalt company was setting up by the park and I'd seen a lot of smoke coming from the tar mixer (I hate the smell of those things). As I walked by it actually burst into flames - about 2 feet high. The crew rushed over but all they seemed to have to deal with it was a bucket of sand. I watched a bit as the three ineffectually threw handfulls of sand on the flames which did nothing to reduce them. I didn't see anyway I could help so I walked down the block looking for a payphone to call the fire department in case nobody else had (it didn't seem like the crew was trying to). I ended up using a Call Box for the first time, which is a closed phone service for emergencies in University City marked with a blue light. I reported the fire but the operator told me that it was already called in and I watched as a minute later a firetruck pulled up.

August 19, 2002

O Palmer Roberstons' accusation against Norm Shepherd was reprinted in the Counsel of Chacledon recently. I must say I hadn't read it and its helpful to me in clarifying some of the issues. But it also demonstrates to me that Robertson has to be missing something. "Error 11" on pp 25-26 of the magazine says this:
Mr.Shepherd ’s explanation ... is helpful in that it makes explicit that he means that the diligent use of the outward means of grace will be required for a supposed “justification” at the judgment. But what does this language of “requirement” mean?

Mr.Shepherd subsequently interprets the language of “requirement ”as it relates to the diligent use of the outward means of grace with respect to the last judgment. It is not just these who are righteous by imputation that shall escape the wrath and curse of God. It is “godly ones” who will be saved (p.24).

Clearly, at this point, Mr.Shepherd has departed from the concept that the only righteousness that shall stand in the day of judgment is the imputed righteousness of Christ. Our “good”
works, tainted with sin as they are, cannot stand the scrutiny of God ’s judgment. They are regarded as righteous only because the righteousness of Christ is imputed to them even as it is imputed to us.

I would have to agree Shepherd is departing from that concept, but then I have to ask where we find that concept delineated so explicitly as to rule out what Shepherd affirms. I don't see how Robertson allows for a "well done, thou good and faithful servant". If we are "created in Christ Jesus unto Good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them" (Ephesians 2:10) how can we conceive that those good works we perform in faith actually still are filthy and unacceptable? Can Jesus say "You fed the poor and visited the prisoners, but since you are still totally depraved, those objectively righteous acts (that you did by faith yielding obedience to the commands, and trusting my promise of a reward) don't count except I'm counting that I did them as done by me". Where do we find a scriptural basis for the idea that righteous works done by the faithful can have Christ's righteousness imputed to them? And since when do "works" receive imputation instead of people receiving imputation? And since when does Jesus (who does the final judgement) impute his own righteousness to satisfy his own standard? And why is Jesus' focus in the last judgment passages rather that the good works are done to Jesus rathere than by Jesus.
The “diligent use of the outward means of grace” may be required to escape the wrath and curse of God; but it is required only as fruit and evidence of the faith that justifies. Mr.Shepherd errs when he implies that this “requirement” means that only godly men shall escape the wrath and curse of God.

In the last judgment our only righteousness shall be the righteousness of Christ imputed to us and received by faith alone.The works of the believer shall be admitted as “good" only because they also have imputed to them the righteousness of Christ. Faith alone in the work of Christ alone ever and always justifies –alone! Our good works give evidence of our true faith,and only in that sense are “required” for justification.

This is an interesting assertion but I am utterly failing to connect this up to anything in the Bible or Westminster Confession. I have to say this is a novelty in my 34 years of faith and Christian training. This seems contrary to the statements in the confession that in Sanctification we die to sin and live to righteousness. It seems that according to Robertson we never really live to that righteousness, we just keep on sinning. I also wonder how we are supposed to understand the good works done by others. Should I likewise only accept the good works my wife does for me as good on the basis of the obedience of Christ? I don't see where in the Bible that good works are supposed to only really be done by Jesus and are not really done by anybody else.

Some further question must be raised with respect to the concept of "justification" at the last judgment, as posited by Mr Shepherd. Justification of necessity involves forgiveness of sins as the Confession so strongly affirms. Yet it is unclear that the scriptures anywhere speak of the forgiveness of sins at the last Judgement"

Here Robertson seems to be making a mistake of assuming his definitions are the only possible ones. He's refused to enter into Shepherd's viewpoint at all, and is forgetting standard reformation definitions too. Justification is a declaration that a person is righteous. In the cases of Jesus for instance there is no forgiveness of sins involved because he was sinless. Yet he was justified. And we can also broaden the term to include the idea of "vindication" which is more what we're talking about when we contemplate the last judgment (both in jewish thought and in the New Testament). But as we consider our works, done in faith, as Jesus evaluates them at the last judgement we should have no reason to to think that they will be considered first outside of Christ and thus worthless when they were form the start done "in Christ" and acceptable without resort to a doctrine of imputation. A good work done in faith is a real good work, and is not a sinful act that needs a righteous act imputed to it.

Does that make sense? Am I forgetting something? Joel?

August 15, 2002

I always knew there was a reason not to like Delaware.

I didn't get to DK2 yet because tonight I watched a movie with the Garvers. (Laurel will drop any minute I'm sure. I graciously let her sit in my leather chair but I warned her about letting her water break on it). The movie was Life as a House, which was in theatres last sepetember when we were all concerned with weightier matters than movies and probably forgot this one. Its an excellent movie. My wife had seen it last week when I was out and thought it was up my alley. The story is about a discarded architecht (Kevin Kline) who is fired from his job and gets a new purpose to build a house with his estranged son (played by ... Hayden Christainsen!)

I'll say at he outset that Hayden plays the sullen goth teenager about the same way he plays the whiny jedi teen in Episode II, but with a bit more credibility. It works for this movie, but in Clones it never has the gravitas expected of the boy-who-would-be-Vader.

That said the movie has some excellent reflections on fatherhood and involvment with kids and being willing to set limits and the father/son bond. Kline's obervations tend to the witty more than the profound, but its his action that is key in restoring his relationship with the son. I was also struck with the high level of "poetic justice" on display in the movie, and how there were no loose ends. That's fine in a sense, but you also start to realize that you are predicting the arc of the plot too far in advance because you are so used to seeing all the loose ends tied up in the most obviously satisfying way that it ironicly becomes unsatisfying. Maybe I like twists too much. I will have to see Signs soon.

August 14, 2002

Hit the comic book store after work today for the first time in a long while. Its been the first time in a long while that I'd wanted to buy a comic. I basicly am not following any monthly books anymore. I dropped JLA shortly after Morrison left, and I dropped Avengers after Perez left. Tom Strong comes out too infrequently, Promethea got too occultic (in the realistic sort of way), and I get Cerebus by phonebook.

But today Dark Knight 2, issue 3 came out, and also picked up the recent release of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Volume 2, issue 1. Mars is attacking in this one, but it's Wells' Mars at the same time it is Burroughs' Mars, and even C. S. Lewis' Mars (all three names with final Ss, hmmm.) Dark Knight I haven't plowed through yet, but I'm not as enthralled with this sequel in comparison to the first.

I was very productive yesterday, both at work and home. (Work was interrupted by my eye doctor appointment though). I fixed some broken things around the house: 1) the dripping bathroom sink 2) the broken porch tile 3) the very high up lightbulb in the basement stairwell. Three down, fifty-two to go.

Today was much too hot to walk in to work. But I read five pages of Use of weapons on the trolley

August 09, 2002

Trying to work through all my books to read and still lead a productive life as a husband and father, and an unproductive life as a PC gamer (Neverwinter Nights is definitely been backburnered as there are only so many troll caves one can explore before it gets unsatisfying. CounterStrike still beckons though)

This week we've had beautiful weather in Philadelphia, so I've returned to walking to and from work. I can only handle one-directional walking in the sweltering heat we had last week. Yesterday I also resumed my practice of reading while I walk. I thought it would be harder, either concentrating on the book or the walk, but actually its not. I get into a good routine on the walk, and there isn't alot of other traffic (foot or auto). It adds about five minutes to my travel time (30 minutes usually) and I get about 30 pages read (of Banks right now). I put the book away at busy intersections. My walk is very nice. I come down past Clark Park, which is shady (I walk east in the am and west in the pm so I am sure to wear my ballcap) and there is a bit of a hill from 43rd to 41st street. My least favorite part is actually the flat area by the vet school, which is treeless and I'm usually feeling awful when I get to it under the direct sun. Then I'm past that and go through campus. Even the vet school part was fine the last few days though.

I'm glad I can get some excercize this way. I used to love when we lived on Hamilton street and I could easily bike across the Art Museum bridge and up and back the river drive bike path. But the extra distance I'm from that now is too much and the kids and mom need me home around then.

What I've really missed this summer is staying here with my in-laws for a week. We were generously invited to do this the last two years, but last year was sadly our last time. We actually stayed in the central cabin in the lakeview picture you see there. Very nice.

August 07, 2002

This recommendation to keep cameras away from the scene of terrorist attacks makes sense, particularly when the pictures can be used as trophies on sites like the one described here on lgf (a couple of comments on lgf are from me, by-the-way)

I think Great Britain adopted that policy with respect to IRA bombings.

Jonah Goldberg has quite a defense of elitism with respect to bad ideas. Its in two parts on National Review Online. I found this very intriguing:
Instead of using feminism, critical race theory, postmodernism, and Marxism as useful descriptive tools, akin to biology or chemistry in the sciences, the Left abandoned the "as if" or the "is." There's a great deal of useful stuff in Marxism, feminism, and the rest. The Marxist historians in particular contributed greatly to our understanding of some events. I enjoy reading a lot of postmodern analysis because it tends to provide a different perspective on established understandings. But different perspectives should not be mistaken for the physical or moral reality. I can hang upside down looking at the Mona Lisa all day. I might even learn something from it. But that doesn't mean I will confuse this different perspective with the right or best perspective.

So if you apply Marxism like one of those blue lights cops use to illuminated hidden substances, it's great. If you employ postmodernism as a juicer for squeezing the last few drops of meaning from a text, that's fine. If you see feminism as a way to see events from another point of view, that's cool. But, if you think that simply because there are a multiplicity of perspectives that there is no perspective that is better than any other; if you insist on using the blue light of Marxism even when normal a light bulb will do; if you demand that women think of themselves as women in all circumstances, even when women themselves wish to see themselves as citizens or doctors or wives or Jews or Muslims or Christians; if you think every time a black man is treated unfairly by life it is because of his race rather than because life can be unfair — if you do any of these things, then you've confused the hammer for the temple it is supposed to help build.

I never was allowed to have a BB gun when I was growing up. Now I'm an adult. I still don't think I can have this

August 02, 2002

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