December 27, 2004

I give much thanks for the continued survival of my wife's sister's husband, bu I'm still apprehensive. He has contracted pneumonia, and had 2 litres of fluid drained from his lungs. He is improving from the pneumonia, but obviously this complciates things further.

December 25, 2004

Cavalier books, a publisher of military history books and miniature wargame rules offer this Anti-Christmas Card, containing the 1652 act of Parlaiment banning the
observation of Christmas.

They also offer a Vindication of Christmas. It would be interesting to see the full text.

Hey it looks like they have alot of fascinating facimilie tracts from the English Civil War period.

December 22, 2004

I'm as pro-life as anybody, but I don't think the claims about how the use of 'fetus' and 'baby' display bias work. Rich Lowry's article From fetus to baby takes a shot at it.
During the coverage of the crime, the status of the Bobbie Jo Stinnett's unborn girl steadily changed. All at once on AOL News during the weekend, there were headlines tracking events in the case: "Woman Slain, Fetus Stolen"; "Woman Arrested, Baby Returned in Bizarre Murder"; "Infant in Good Health." Note how a "fetus" -- something for which American law and culture has very little respect -- was somehow instantly transformed into a "baby" and "infant" -- for which we have the highest respect. By what strange alchemy does that happen?
It strikes me that the economy of a headline means that thouse four words are about the best way to convey the strange shock of the story: Its not just a woman was slain and her already born child was stolen from her: it's that a woman was slain and her unborn baby was stolen. But that's five words, and possibly confusing ("Huh? How did the murderer take an unborn baby?")

Its unfortunate that the pro-abortion language police have corrupted "fetus" to make it into a term that implies lesser human and legal status. But its a perfectly good word that has connotations in a single word, and has great utility in four word headlines.

December 21, 2004

Last night, my wife fixed dinner.

Which was good, because it was broken.

In the course of opposing seperate sharia courts in Canada, the Montreal Gazette writes
This equal treatment under the law is at the heart of what it is to be a Canadian. Religious-based laws - Christian, Muslim, Jewish or any other - have no place in our system. The state is the font of justice, and strives mightily, if sometimes imperfectly, to make that justice - from criminal sentencing to child support - uniform. Equality under the law cannot be sub-contracted to religious, or any other, organizations
I wonder what N.T. Wright would say about that claim.

To those of you wondering why I don't reply to comments, it's because Sensus Plenior hasn't been emailing me the comments so I rarely realize I get them.

Since Barlow hasn't charged me for SP since I started with it I guess I shouldn't complain.

My brother-in-law Walter (my wife's sisters husband) had a heart attack saturday night. Early reports were very discouraging, but he had bypass surgery and things didn't seem as bad on first report. But last night he's taken a turn for the worse and had to be moved to a bigger hospital, and may be a candidate for a heart transplant.

Please pray for him. He has two young sons.

December 20, 2004

So while I wait the remaining 138 minutes and 24 seconds that the new Half-life 2 demo is going to take to download, I guess I'll get in some pre-Christmas blogging.

I appreciate the demo, since that way I'll know in advance how out-of date my OEM GeForce 3 Titanium card and Athalon 1800 are for playing half-life. I'm not really going to stay up that late to play it. It will be there later.

I was all excited because I saw that HeroScape was at amazon for only $30, and they were doing a deal where you bought 2 hasbro games and got a third one for free. Unfortunately, the shipping on 3 HeroScape Games is about the same as the price of one, so its not that good a deal. The box weighs five pounds. The minis and especially the terrain are pretty sweet.

I may be about to break out of my toy/game habit, but now I have kids coming up into the age where they can maybe enjoy my habit too. I recenly browsed across some reference to the Micronaut figures of my youth and found not only about all the really neat toys of my youth, but that there were several new sets of a redesigned figure series called Microman. With 30 points of articulation, you can do some interesting poses with them like arms folded across the chest. Some of the writeups indicate these are aimed at the mature (?) toy enthusiast as they come with myriad detatchable acessories, which four-year-olds will certainly not keep pristine.

Lots of the fun of micronauts were the interchangiblity of the accessories and parts. They were a precursor to the Transformers, but not linked to a cartoon (though there was a Marvel comic book) The vehicles also were configurable in many different ways. The Star Searcher was one of my favorites. My brother got a Rocket Tubes set for his birthday one year, but was disappointed that the capsules didn't flow through the pneumatic tubes very well at all. We amusingly tried to lubricate the tubes with talcum powder. Bad idea.

I dropped down to a comic book store in center city that formerly had a vast selection of japanese import and other action figures but found their stock scaled way back in favor of t-shirts and Simpsons collectibles. (and Betty Boop). So no Microman for me this time.

115 minutes left, but the time estimator is probably whacked.


Reformed Catholicism has been promoting a high view of Mary of late. Kevin Johnson recommends an article from Christian Century which is supposed to be good for protestants to read.
Luke's telling of the gospel begins with her, and her fiat ("let it be" in Latin) to Gabriel's announcement of God's incarnational intent opens the way for a new eruption of grace into the world. She is present at and indeed an instigator of Jesus' first miracle at Cana in Galilee (John 2:1-11). She and other women are present at the cross, when the male disciples flee
I wonder what use this list of biblical observations is intended for.

Take the "fiat", for instance. God said "fiat lux" in the original creation story (at least in the Latin. In English it's "let there be light", which isn't quite as strong a parallel with Mary's statement of "let it be done to me") I have enough interest in biblical intertextuality and theology to not account for it as a complete coincidence that the diction is similar. But what to make of it? That as God was responsible for creating all things of nothing by a divine word, that Mary is "responsible" for allowing the incarnation to happen and thus save everyone? The similarity can be the basis for a very STRONG claim, or various weaker claims. What's to really keep us from making the strong claim?

Wow! God created everything with a "fiat", now God's mommy starts the salvation of everyone with a "fiat". Look at the Synergism!

The issue is: what is the intent of the communication that Mary uses "fiat" in the incarnation narrative? Can't it be a contrast? Mary is passive: Mary is dependent on the Spirit's work. Mary is following the plan of another, not bringing her own plan to fruition.

I guess the paradox of a semi-strong claim is like that of works and faith in general: There is danger in attributing too much merit to the empty hand grasping the gift, which is what the idea of the "empty hand" is to guard against.

Wow! Look how little Mary does! But she says "fiat!" Kewl.

I also have to give the "coincidence" theory at least some props. I was covering Proverbs 7 in Bible Study, and noting that the adulterous woman says that her bed is covered with fine Egyptian linen, and perfumed with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon. I wondered, since we jump quickly with the gift of myrrh the magi bring to the idea that myrrh is embalming fluid, and thus the gift signifies death, if that was the idea with the adulterous woman too. (Helpfully, the text later explicitly connects her ways with death) Aloes were also used in Jesus burial, and linen wrapping would be common as well. No mention of cinnamon, but on the face of it we still have 3 connections in a death context.

But it could be a coincidence too. How many nice smelling substances are suitable and available in the ancient near east? How many bedspreads can one pick from? Is it really necessary to read the death-valence of myrrh in the text, and not the nice-smelling stuff valence of myrrh?

Maybe ultimately its not a question of "reading it in" but just noting it and moving on. In Zechariah 1, the vision of the four horns raised a passing question: what kind of horns? Animal horns or musical horns? Well: for the ANE, the two "horns" were identical denotations, though divergent connotations. Is there some legitimate "totality transfer" in most ANE smart minds when a horn (the dangerous business end of the animal) is blown to summon the dangerous business end of a society?

Yeah, probably.

Still not too sure about 'fiat'

December 16, 2004

Seems like everybody is getting into the "change the classic fantasy story when it gets filmed" act. Ursula K. LeGuin was more credible I think when she complained about the thematic changes [site currently slashdotted] to the Earthsea trilogy. Her current complaint focuses largely on the race of the actors. Frankly it never made much impact to me that the characters in Earthsea were other than white.

But Orson Scott Card has noted the Hollywood skittishness about using non-white actors unless absolutely necessary.

Apparently, Hollywood is more skittish than might be expected about bashing religion too. The adaptation of Pullman's His Dark Materials will apparently make no use of the Church and make the anti-god nature of the story more cryptic

I'm still enjoying the new Return of the King [amazon link] extended dvd. At least sometimes the crew stopped themselves from making a travesty of Tolkien, such as by having Aragorn go toe-to-toe with Sauron in human form at the Black Gate of Mordor. It does seem like the add-ons here are not really as "worth it" as the ones in LOTR or TT. They're either really condensed or still vary from the books too much (Isn't the Voice of Saruman supposed to be a little bit manipulative before Gandalf overcomes it?)

December 13, 2004

Bill Baldwin, a Klinean, makes Several Quick Arguments That the Covenant of Works Is Not Gracious
we need to establish two points by way of refutation: 1) God is required to enter into covenant with any creature created in his image. 2) The reward of eternal life is not disproportionate.
Wow. That's a strong statement.

It also strikes me (at least, especially point 1 above) as falling more on the Ralph Smith/James Jordan side of understanding covenant. That the members of the trinity must relate to each other covenantally, or in a manner that is analogously expressed in the necessary relationship of creature and creator is a matter disputed by Rick Phillips.

Baldwin is willing to object to the WCFs claim that the only manner to understand covenant is voluntary condescension of a creator to a creature. Good. We should be able to see some kind of free and voluntary giving of the self to the other inherent in the ontological trinity at the start, and that it is in some sense necessary that having decided to create a being in his image, it is necessary to relate to that being in a manner analogous to the original relations of persons of the Creator.

Its rather odd to push a employer/employee analogy back onto the relations to the trinity. Maybe the free market analyses of Gary North and other are suitable here: the best merchant is the one who seeks to be the best servant to his clients. Economic relations don't have to be cold and contractual, they can be warm too. Perhaps we have taken Ayn Rand's descriptions of market capitalism too much to heart if we are unable to see the Spirit as the contract employee of the Son and the Father.

Some interesting discussion (and irritating anonymous referee kibitzing) on Sacra Doctrina over issues of Merit and the Covenant of Works.

Rick Phillips wisely suggests that being more forthright about the deep concerns of the participants in the debate is helpful. Here are some of mine:

1. I want to be able to agree with Shepherd that Jesus Christ is the model for our faith.

2. I want to affirm that the good works done in union with Christ by the Christian empowered by the Spirit are in fact good, and will receive a "well done" at the end from the Father who will evaluate them in a fatherly way.

December 09, 2004

Testing blogthis:

I'm trying to get this to immediatly publish to my blog. I tried and I still had to go to the blogger site and make it publish. It was an edited post.

Blogger Help : What is BlogThis! ?

An answer to the question: Why does all the cool stuff come out in Asia first?.

Americans are more price-conscious, and need less multifunction devices because they have space. Many young professionals also live at home and have more disposable cash.

December 07, 2004

Howard Douglas King engages the AAPC position paper on John 15
2. The Statement asserts that, in John 15, Jesus says that those who are truly in Christ -- in vital union with Him -- can become unfruitful and be cut off:
Art.9. Salvation depends upon being united to Christ. Clearly, those who are eternally saved are those who continue to abide in Him by the grace of God. There are those, however, who are joined to Him as branches in the vine, but who because of unbelief are barren and fruitless and consequently are cut off from the vine and from salvation. Jesus says these "believe for a while" but do not bear fruit unto salvation.
Lest we make the mistake of thinking that a merely formal, or outward connection to Christ is intended by these words, note the use of the term, "continue". To be eternally saved, we are told, all one must do is to "continue to abide in Him". So it must be talking about a vital, mystical union such as the Reformed teach only true believers have. This being so, the document must be seen to teach the falling away of some who were at one time "abiding in Him" -- in the fullest sense in union with Christ, just as Arminianism does.
This is misconstruing the AAPC position. The AAPC states quite rightly that 'continuing to abide' in the vine is a condition of final salvation. But is so saying they are redundantly spelling out the difference between the abiding that leads to final salvation ane the being joined to the vine that does not. Abiding neccesarily implies continuous abiding. The AAPC is careful NOT to state that there are those who "abaide in Christ in the fullest sense" who fall away.

What the AAPC is trying to distinguish is that there is a vital mystical union that the temporary believer has that at least differs in the sense of duration and some unspecified other sense as well.

December 04, 2004

Lisl Tyson (nee Gaffin) died peacefully Friday afternoon at 4pm.

This is an old picture of her when she counseled high school kids at French Creek Bible Conferences in summers long ago. It was primarily in that context that I knew Lisl. I was always impressed with her graciousness, and I even now struggle to express the Christian maturity that she posessed in her youth.

Two little ones remain behind, and her husband.

December 02, 2004

David Brooks likes John Stott. John Shelby Spong does not
John Stott's Christianity and the fundamentalist, evangelical tradition he espouses will finally do nothing except justify the human divisions between the saved and the unsaved. That religious stance will ultimately victimize every person who does not reside inside the definition of the Bible as "revealed truth," as Stott interprets it.

So John Stott has decided to retire. What he needs to recognize is that all of his major ideas have also retired long before him. Perhaps they will now be happy together.
In answer to Brooks' question about why the media pays attention to Falwell and not Stott, is that Falwell (or Robertson) is prone to make political pronouncements and is interested in political organizing around many different issues. Stott's political pronouncements are much more limited. But Brooks is right about the general ignorance of the media as to who really is influential among evangelicals.

Oh, and if Spong's quote isn't irritating: check out the United Church of Christ's implication that other Christian churches exclude gays, minorities, and old people.

De script shun




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