August 31, 2005

Andrew Stuttaford of the National Review writes
A new poll quoted in the New York Times has found that 42 percent of Americans hold "strict creationist views, agreeing that "living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time."

And if that's not an indictment of the American education system I don't know what is.
You could say rather that its a commendation of the effectiveness of churches and creationist institutions.

August 30, 2005

Some discussion of organized prayer meetings and participation by the married and the single at DMC News (Tenth pres blog by executive Pastor Marion Clark). I'm somewhat taken aback by the vehemence of the anonymous poster's disagreement with me on what I though was a noncontroversial point, that you'd probably expect less participation in devotional acivities in a church dominated by married persons versus unmarried persons. I always thought that's what 1 Corinthians 7 was teaching, and thus, one was encouraged to remain unmarried if one had such a calling.

Its interesting though that Paul's focus on what will lead to a decline in devotion to the things of the Lord on the part of the spouse is the concern for the spouse. He doesn't mention the factor of those with children and the exhaustion of dealing with children that is probably more at work in encouraging parents to skip the Day of Prayer at Tenth when it rolls around. Sitting in a Sunday School class involves much less effort than participating in prayer. The disciples never fell asleep listening to Jesus teach, but they did when they were called to pray with him.

In other news, Christmas Day falls on a sunday this year. It will be interesting to note attendance that day.

August 29, 2005

Rather tendentiously written, but still a fascinating account of The neem tree - a case history of biopiracy

August 28, 2005

Xtreme Defense: "Bitar traces his interest in nonlethal weapons to his heritage as a Christian Arab. His father was born in Syria, his mother in Lebanon and he in Michigan. 'We're sitting in an Arabic restaurant, speaking Arabic. Honestly, it gives me a little bit of an ad-vantage,' he said. 'I can think the way a Middle Eastern mind thinks. I understand where they're coming from. So, we can design tactical solutions that deal with that.'

Lightning, for example, is a very big fear for Arabs, Bitar contends. Peter Bechtold, the head of Near East studies at the State Department's Foreign Service Institute, was dubious that Arabs would be more frightened than anyone else by lightning guns. 'It sounds strange,' Bechtold said, when presented with Bitar's idea. But ideas are what Bitar overflows with. His latest is to use ultrasonic waves in the dazzler not to just blind enemies, but also to convey messages into their heads, similar to Gibbs's Medusa project. Hearing voices from God is a 'big thing' in Arab culture, according to Bitar. 'We flash-blind them. And, while their eyes are shut, you could send a recorded message or deep guttural voice that echoes in the inside of their head. They're looking around, 'Hey, did you hear that?'''

Bitar laughed. 'That's the psych warfare side of this thing.'

Suddenly serious, he leaned back "You know, I'm a Christian, and I just believe in preserving life," he said. "Yet, preserving it in the context of order, law and force, if needed."

August 25, 2005

From another piece by Whitney we have this less salutary recomendation, though I surely agree with the header
10. Allow only believers to lead believers in worship.
Since only those who have the Holy Spirit (that is, believers in Christ) can 'worship in spirit and truth' (John 4:24), only believers should be given leadership roles in worship. How can an unbeliever lead a believer to 'worship in spirit and truth' when an unbeliever is incapable of such worship? Regardless of whether the leadership role is perceived as great or small, no unrepentant enemy of God - no matter how likable or how talented - should lead in the worship of God. The one who cannot truly worship cannot lead in true worship....

The more difficult application of this in many churches will be with the children's choir or other involvement in worship by young, unconverted children. Because they are so cute and because the parents love to see them singing ('performing' might be a more appropriate word), this can be an emotional issue.
I guess he's a baptist, but really, worrying about compromising one's conscience because you don't have airtight assurance of the salvation status of a worshiping child?

Thank God for presumptive regeneration, or whatever we're calling faith in God's promises to our children this week.

Ligon Duncan recommends the following from Donald Whitney 10 Ways to Improve Your Church Worship Service

Some highlights
5. Give attention to the public reading of Scripture" (1 Timothy 4:13).

It amazes me how many men who fight (and rightly so) for the inerrancy of Scripture do not read the Bible publicly, except perhaps for their brief sermon text. I have observed that ironically it's often the most conservative of churches where this command to "give attention to the public reading of Scripture" is ignored, despite their repeated affirmations of faith in God's Word and of their desire to obey it...

8. Do as much as possible congregationally.

...Biblical worship involves the whole congregation, prompted by worship leaders, focusing on and responding to God. Every believer present should engage in worship, not observe it. So sing God's praises together, read Scripture together sometimes (as in responsive readings), and pray together (recite the Lord's Prayer, pray in small groups, or place microphones throughout the worship space for all those willing to pray publicly). Never let worship decompose into a vicarious experience where the many in the congregation merely watch the few on the platform who at best are worshiping, and at worst are performing

9. Have congregational singing with musical accompaniment, not music with congregational accompaniment.

The music is so loud in some churches I've visited that I can't hear myself sing, much less hear the congregation. A few of the Psalms provide Biblical evidence that sometimes it's appropriate for worship music to be loud. But let's remember our priorities: the musicians are there to accompany the congregation, not vice-versa. Parenthetically, drums are especially problematic in this regard. If you have them, keep them from dominating the music.

10. Evaluate your worship service each week with several leaders.
I suppose the trouble with open-mike prayers (i've almost never heard them done well) in presbyterianism is that we all have an ideal of 'theological' prayers because thats what pulpit prayers tend to sound like. So the laymen try to emulate them without preparation and a comfortableness using that style of speech, and it ends up awkward or preachy or both.

The Escapist reminds me that maybe I should give Planescape: Torment another shot. Then I can save up for a new graphics card and get HL2 when it drops in price.

Another expansion is planned for War of the Ring game. This one seems to be a board which allows play of a Rohan- and Gondor-specific battle.

John Halton of Boar's Head Tavern writes
The Lutheran conviction about the Lord's Supper is summed up in the first question on the subject in the Small Catechism.

What is the Sacrament of the Altar?

It is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ under the bread and wine, instituted by Christ Himself for us Christians to eat and to drink.

Got that? Not that the Sacrament is a covenant meal that we choose to explain in terms of the bread and wine being the body and blood of Jesus, but that the Sacrament is the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ under the bread and wine. The bread is his body, the wine is his blood, and for us that's not an 'explanation', it is what the Lord's Supper is.
No i don't 'got it' because i don't know what it means to say that the sacrament is the true body "under" the bread and wine.

Obviously, that doens't mean under like "the table is under the coke can", so what does it mean?

And even saying "this bread is Jesus' body" needs further explanation. I said that to my 4 year old and he said "I didn't know Jesus was made of bread"

If Mary asked Jesus: "Jesus, are you in the kitchen?", would it be wrong for Jesus to reply: "No, mother, I'm not, I'm in the living room".

August 24, 2005

Strodtbeck quotes from Zwingli over at metalutheran, asking if the quote is "orthodox"
'I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to me' ( John 12:32ff). This he said, signifying what death he should die. The people answered him, 'We have heard out of the law that Christ abides forever: and do you say the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?' See how those thickheaded people were yet cleverer than we are at seizing the trope. They understand that in using the expression 'be lifted up' he was speaking of dying. Unless, therefore, they deny that Christ can die, and he himself asserts it, it is evident that he is making the quickest possible transition from one of his natures to the other. For the expression 'If I be lifted up from the earth' looks to his human nature, but the words that follow quicker than a flash, 'will draw all people to me,' beyond a doubt look to his divine nature…
I reply that while it doesn't seem like very good exegesis, and is probably be wrong, it doesn't seem heretical or unorthodox to me.

I discovered one Jonathan Leach's paper studying Zwingli’s 'Alloeosis', where it seems that the claim is that Zwingli is here actually claiming that Jesus switches, not just in terms of what he says, but in terms of his essential being, between his human and divine natures, volitionally, in considering various acts that he performs.

I don't see (from this quote at least) that that is actually what Zwingli is saying, and if he was, it would be some kind of heresy. When Zwingli says that the 'expression looks to' one nature or another, I don't see any implication that
Since, according to his reason, God cannot die, Zwingli removes the divine nature from Christ, insisting that at the time Christ speaks of his death, only the human nature is present in the person of Christ.
When Christ speaks of his death, he is speaking of something that pertains to his human nature without affirming that only the human nature is 'present', or that the divine is 'removed'. How can Zwingly be said to say that here?

I mean, i suppose Chemnitz will pwn me for even suggesting this line of reasoning, but when Luke says that Jesus traveled from one town and villiage to another, are we really supposed to take it that such a statement is suppose to reflect what Jesus did with respect to his omnipresence?

This is not to say that I am uncomfortable saying that, in that the God-man died, God died, or that in that the God-man shed his blood, God shed his blood.

Those of course have explicit scriptural warrant. I'm more leery of "in that the God-man was physically located in Jerusalem, God was limited to presence in Jerusalem" and I'm leery of saying, "in that the God-man was omnipresent, the human nature of Christ was omnipresent," as I am leery of saying "in that the God-man was a creature, God was a creature"

It turns out I can save alot of money on my car insurance if i switch to Geico (from Travelers). (I checked, actually)

Anyone know a reason why I shouldn't?

I was somewhat intrigued by Lord of the Rings - The Confrontation: Deluxe Edition, but the picture makes it look too over-the-top for what was a simple elegant game.

LILEKS was talking about politics, but some commenters on theological blogs strike me in a similar way
At this point you might suspect that your interlocutor is not interested in dialogue, but is more concerned with some personal narrative so narrow in focus he will put down "SPOKE TRUTH TO POWER" as "work experience" on a job application for a position as a co-op cashier.

August 22, 2005

A recent Sunday school that touched on Galatians brought something to my attention that I hasn't noticed before
O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith?
When Paul begins to address the Galatian bewitchment, what he is astounded at is not that the Galatians have forgotten the message that Paul had clearly proclaimed to them that their justification was by faith, but rather that their actions in seeking circumcision constituted a denial that Jesus was crucified.

So, they were following another gospel because circumcision was an implicit denial of the crucifiction.

I also thought the ESV's "let me ask you only this" is an intriguing question. Paul seems willing to settle the matter entirely on their historical experience of having begun by the Spirit's work.

August 20, 2005

If all communion instrumentally signifying and sealing Christ and his benefits to the believing participant means is that it brings Christ's work to mind where the obvious mental benefits of meditating on Christ take over, then someone who finds the use of grape juice a constant distraction because he is conviced that the church is not authorized to use unfermented juice and that the symbolism of unfremented juice is all wrong would seem to be greatly helped by at least authorizing some cups of wine to be included in what is offered, ending the mental block.

Thoughts and comments on how Jesus Needs Geeks at Sibboleth.

Shamefully, I sometimes describe theology as a 'hobby of mine' to explain away my bookshelf to curious aquaintances.

Cotton Mather on What Must I Do To Be Saved?. Tough stuff! Some extracts
First this must be done; You must come to be bitterly Sensible, that you want [lack] a Glorious Christ for your Saviour.

You must feel the Burden of your sin, lying on you; and cry out, Oh' Tis a heavy Burden too heavy for me! You must see God Angry with you, Sin Binding of you, Hell gaping for you; and utterly Despair of helping yourselves out of the confusion that is come upon you.

Secondly; This must be Done; You must confess yourselves, Unable To Do Anything Effectually of yourselves, in coming to a glorious Christ, as your Saviour.

Your Impotency must not now be made an Excuse for your Impenitency. Your Inability must Affright you exceedingly. Affect you Exceedingly; It may not Excuse you in a slothful Negligence. You must Not Remain Careless of doing anything, Because you can thoroughly do nothing.

Having first Cry'd unto God, that He would help you to do what you have to do, you must now try to do it; now try, whether He do not help you to do it.

Thirdly; This must be done; You must Admire, You must Adore, You must Address a Glorious Christ, in all His offices for all His Benefits. Oh! Hear a Compassionate Redeemer Calling you; Isai. 45:22 "Look unto me all ye Ends of the Earth, and be ye Saved." Comply, Reply; Lord, I look unto thee, I will be thine, Save me.
under a life of holiness he writes
You must fly to the Death of your Saviour, as the purchase and the Pattern of so great a Blessing; but you must count no Trouble too much to be undergone, that you may come at such a Blessing. This is that Holiness without which no man shall see the Lord.
This must be done: You must set before yourselves the Example of your Saviour: Study how He was in the World; Study to walk as He walked; mightily Delight in every stroke of Resemblance unto Him; Yea, tho' it be in Sufferings that you resemble him. This is that Holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.

You must have an High Value for those two Sacraments of the New Testament, the Baptism and the Supper of the Lord.

You must religiously Observe the Lord's Day.

You must Preserve your own Place and Life and Bed and Wealth and Name: You must, with the same Sincerity, befriend your Neighbours also in theirs. Love your Neighbours as yourselves, and Do as you would be Done unto.

You must be especially and mightily conscientious of Relative Christianity. Carry it well in all the Relations wherein the Lord has placed you, whether Superiors, or Inferiors, or Equals; with such a Carriage as may adorn the Doctrine of God your Saviour; such a Carriage as may render your co-relatives the better for you.
Briefly, You must Deny all Ungodliness and Worldly Lusts and Live godily and soberly and righteously in the World. This is that Holiness without which no man shall see the Lord.

Today i replaced the third floor toilet flush valve assembly completely. This seems to have stopped the slow leak, which has apprently been worsening, since this month we have a $100 water bill!!

It would have been easier (and more procrastinatory) to have just shut the toilet off, but the water shut-off valve actually doesn't completely shut off, which made a slow noisy trickle of water almost constantly, as the tank leak out and the water leak in seems to match. Replacing the shut-ff valve also seemed more complicated.

One down, forty-eight to go.

Star Wars: Universe Gallery. There are some nice pieces here. Huge size miniatures in this set (3"x3" base). There seem to be a good mix of desirable Uncommons, which means they will be cheap on the secondary market.

The AT-ST is pretty sweet. I wonder if it's findable for less than $20. I also like that the Bantha as an uncommon. The Vader fig in this set is also quite nice.

August 19, 2005

Axis & Allies Miniatures Base Set Gallery.

UPDATE: These do look pretty nice. I'm glad there are some uncommon Shermans and Panzers, though the T-34 should also be an uncommon, but I guess they are expecting people to go for the US vs Nazis.

I suppose it leaves a lot of room for expanding the Russians in a second set.

I'm a bit disappointed that squads are represented by single figures, and the hollow bottoms of the tanks are a detriment too.

Flames of War is an up-and-coming system and series of miniatures for WWII that seems fairly well put together. The models will look a bit sharper than the A&A ones, and the full representation of squads is nice. They provide supposedly reasonably priced and well-organized boxed sets.

August 18, 2005

Boardgames get more and more complicated.

(ok, wargames always were)

Sounds equitable to me
federal law currently gives a generous tax credit, or subsidy, without income limit to parents who purchase day care. However, existing policy gives no recognition at all to full-time parental child care which, social science shows, is predictably better for young children.[4] The 'Parents Tax Relief Act of 2005' would set things right by granting a tax credit of up to $250 per month for families that make the financial sacrifice to have one parent serve as the full-time, at-home caregiver for children ages six and under.

Eugene Volokh is listing political claims that a law or ruling would not have the effect of or be used for some negative unrelated ruling or subsequent legal principle, which in actual fact turned out to be the case.

Sometimes the slope is slippery.

The recent case of Hawaii seems to be part of this. An apology for the overthrow of the queen of Hawaii seems to now be the pretext for a movement to gain independence for ethnic Hawaiians, even though assurances were given at the time that the apology bill was unrelated.

August 17, 2005

someone asks Tim Gallant: "Could God be a just judge and dispense with the evidential requirement?"

Um, can a judge justly ignore evidence?

I made Lemongrass Pork Satays last weekend after catching this episode a while back and being intrigued.

I had to buy all kinds of strange things like 'fish sauce' and lemongrass. I didn't get any Thai chilis so mine was not spicy at all. The peanut sauce ended up very thick even though I kept adding coconut milk. But it was yummy.

I think i overdid the thinness of the pork, which made it too hard to cut neatly.

While preparing your heart before worship is certainly commendible, I'm not sure citing one of Job's three accusers on the topic is helpful.

Sometimes claims are made that women and children never participated in the Passover in early Judaism. I can imagine that by Jesus' day, Israel might have excluded women from the passover.

But I find it hard to imagine that the houshold men ate lamb the night before leaving Egypt while the women looked on hungrily, then marched through the night with no protien in their system.

The kids maybe, but not the women.

August 16, 2005

Question 39: Why was it requisite that the Mediator should be man?

Answer: It was requisite that the Mediator should be man, that he might advance our nature, perform obedience to the law, suffer and make intercession for us in our nature, have a fellow feeling of our infirmities; that we might receive the adoption of sons, and have comfort and access with boldness unto the throne of grace.

Question 40: Why was it requisite that the Mediator should be God and man in one person ?

Answer: It was requisite that the Mediator, who was to reconcile God and man, should himself be both God and man, and this in one person, that the proper works of each nature might be accepted of God for us, and relied on by us, as the works of the whole person.
If everytime Romans speaks of the 'righteousness of God' we are supposed to read that as a statement of the divine performance of the law imputed to us, why is it that the Westminster Larger Catechism says that the obedience to the Law was of the human nature of Christ?

If Romans is speaking 'improperly', why have we based this whole area of theology around an 'improper' biblical use? Do we teach the immutability of God by refering to texts on how Jesus grew in wisdom and stature? If we do, is it convinicing to anyone?

The Imputation of Sin and Righteousness: "Leon Morris writes, 'It is not our righteousness (imputed or imparted) that has power, but God's grace, and through righteousness expresses the means grace employs to overthrow the reign of death."

If our imputed righteousness has no power, how is it that it has merit?

If Jesus dies on our behalf how is it that the reckoning of this to us takes place later on account of faith?

Saying that it only is reckoned to us later on faith seems to me to undercut him dying "on our behalf". He dies for himself, and then later, the death is accounted as being for us by faith. But that doesn't seem correct.

But if he is the messiah, all he does is for his people, and thus, his reconciliation of his people to God should take place in the cross and ressurection.

Is faith the warranted belief that God is already for Christ's sake, reconciled and propitious toward us? If it is, then how can it be that the imputation of Christ's righteousness, which is supposed to be the only thing that God can find himself reconciled to us by, awaits faith as its instrument?

There seems to be some interesting discussion of the difference between the objective justifcation of the cross/ressurection and a 'subjective justification' that is by faith.

August 12, 2005

Yes, it is a BIG AD.

August 11, 2005

With all this talk about technical jargon and theological terms, i thought these definitions might be of use
Philosophical Terms
discourse - talky talky
hermeneutics - what I mean
logic - why I'm right
apologetics - why you're wrong
fallacy - why you don't even know you're wrong
epistemology - how I know I'm right and you're wrong
existential - don't feel bad--everyone is wrong
postmodern - who cares if I'm right or wrong
systemic - your wrongness goes deep
neo- - you're as wrong as those old guys
crypto- - I'm the only one who knows your wrongness
paradoxical - it only looks like I'm wrong
hyper- - you'd be right if you could learn to state things paradoxically
grand meta-narrative - he thinks he's right about everything
paleo- - you're as wrong as that new-fangled stuff
phenomenal - I only seem wrong
transcendental - if anyone's right, I must be
false consciousness - deep down you know I'm right
subjugated/subaltern - they're right, but everyone says they're wrong
bourgeois - they pay good money to be right
proletariat - we're wrong now, but wait for the revolution!
deconstruction - w/ri(gh)t(e)
Platonism - I know the very Form of rightness
Thomism - it would appear that you are right
categorical imperative - if you're right, let's make it a universal law
problematize - I'll show you how wrong you really are
Cartesianism - cogito ergo rectitudo
ontological argument - I am so right that none greater can be conceived
epiphenomenon - this sentence is neither right nor wrong, as it is the product of a chemical reaction
post- - now we're finally right
eclectic - you are wrong in a lot of different ways
synthesis - you are so wrong that you are right
exegesis - I know what it means and I can discourse all day about it; cf. hermeneutics
presuppositional - I'm right and I won't even discuss it with you
-istic - you started with something good and made it really stupid
dialectic - I'm right, but then again, I may be wrong
Weltanschauung - how you see the world when your brain has been made into mush by German philosophy
deconstruction - if I grind you up I can show that even your molecules are wrong
Bayesian - I'll give you even money that I'm right
teleological - you've got everything backwards
a priori - we'll just assume that I am right
a posteriori - having seen who won, I can assure you I was on that side all the time
I actually started this list and Garver added to it several years ago. Now it floats around the internet, unattributed.

Let's say Wright is right about 'righteousness' being covenant status, not so much moral innocense and virtue.

(ok, "Wright is right")

So if so, when Isaiah 64:6 says that the righteous deeds of Israel are like menstrual rags, is it possible that this isn't just a comparison to something gross and revolting, but a comparison to something that separates the people from covenant status (and even does so contagiously, as the place were the woman sits makes others unclean as well).

Why wouldn't God delcare that the righteous deeds are sins, or wickedsness, or evil? Mentruating is not of itself immoral (right?) so if were are in the zone of deeds that mark and declare covenant status, not merely morality.

The next chapter's description of israel's (?) sins seems more to match covenant markers than issues of moral virtue
I spread out my hands all the day
to a rebellious people,
who walk in a way that is not good,
following their own devices;
a people who provoke me
to my face continually,
sacrificing in gardens
and making offerings on bricks;
who sit in tombs,
and spend the night in secret places;
who eat pig's flesh,
and broth of tainted meat is in their vessels;
who say, "Keep to yourself,
do not come near me, for I am too holy for you.

YAY!, The New York Post is on the case against bad fashion. Better them than me.

He may have banned me again without justification, but I still feel bad for him that he's going through so much buyer's remorse dealing with the rigid and inflexible approach to law and gospel found in conservative lutheranism.

I really mean that. This is not a troll (can one troll on one's own blog anyway? well I guess so).

August 10, 2005

Y'know, if you make alot of hey about the contrast between "Jesus is Lord" and "Caesar is Lord" for the political dimension of the early church, what does that leave you to say about "Ave Caesar?"

Geeklists like GeekList: Games worth gold!! (they easily sell for about $100 USD or more on the current market) make me queasy in the back of my mind: I knew I should have snatched these up when Avalon Hill was liquidating them! My other quesy thought is wondering which games that are available now that won't be if I delay getting them.

Hannibal and We the People are the two I see on this list that I'd be happy to have added to my collection.

The problem here is that these aren't being reprinted because Hasbro is sitting on them, because though they are popular enough to go for $100 on ebay, they are not popular enough to make Hasbro a mint of money like Axis and Allies miniatures, or somesuch.

I am considering dumping my (punched, (un?)fortunately) copies of Advanced Civilization and Titan. I'll possibly miss Titan for its fistfulls-of-dice simplicity, and Advanced Civ is a classic, though both take way too long to play.

I thought a new comic from DC/Vertigo called Testament, at least had some potential to be thought provoking. But as this article that interviews the writer indicates, he's not even a coherent critic of the Bible's message
So let me say that I begin by telling parallel stories. Abraham's attempted sacrifice of Isaac becomes a parallel for whether or not Alan Stern will implant his son with an RFID tag so he can be tracked for the military draft. Both are examples of fathers sacrificing their sons for false gods.

And in the telling, I hope to reveal the real Bible stories that have been suppressed for so long. Most people think God told Abraham to kill Isaac as some kind of test. If they read the actual Bible and other ancient texts, they'd see that people sacrificed their first sons all the time! It was the normal thing to do. There are still remnants of giant altars in Israel with furnaces into which the babies were dropped. What made Abraham unique was not that he was willing to sacrifice his son, but that he was willing not to sacrifice his son. But the whole story got changed around during the Crusades, when people were supposed feel okay about sending their kids off to war, or letting their children die rather than being converted
UPDATE: DC/Vertigo used to actually be skittish about having a time traveling Swamp Thing meet Jesus in a somewhat respectful manner. But now we get this
And there's tons of sex magick in there, too, that no one likes to talk about but is completely apparent to anyone who bothers to read the words on the page. Abraham's wife is a Temple Prostitute. Lot has sex with his daughters - and every messianic character comes from the offspring of that union. Moses has man-to-man sex up on Mount Sinai. God has fights with other Gods. There are monsters and giants praying to Astarte (basically Kali). There's aliens having sex with the human women. I mean, you actually read the stuff and your jaw just drops. Abraham did what? And he's a hero?!

For those who wonder what Biblical passages Rushkoff is referring to, he offers a few citations. "God of the Bible battles the other gods in some of the Psalms. Mordechai and Esther are based on the Persian Marduk and Astarte. Joshua was Moses' apprentice, and the Bible talks of their encounters 'face to face' - which, as any Greek knows, is the sexual position reserved for man-to-man sacred sex - women are to be done from behind.
Um, ok. Well, I think he meant that Judah's 'wife' was a temple prostitute, and yes, Christ's lineage includes Ruth the Moabitess. But the Joshua and Moses thing is just pure bug-kook. On Esther, answers.com helpfuly states
Others associate the story with the Babylonian god Marduk and his consort Ishtar, suggesting similarities of the Jewish festival of Purim with a conjectural Elamite festival. Purim marks the rescue of the Jews by Esther and Mordecai while the Elamite festival is said to mark the victory of Marduk and Ishtar over rivals said to be named Uman (or variations of this, similar to Haman) and Mashti (similar to Vashti), suggesting that "Esther" and "Mordecai" are simply Hebrew forms of "Ishtar" and "Marduk". The custom of preparing hamantaschen is reminiscent of a description of Ishtar in Jeremiah 7:18, when it was customary "to make cakes to the Queen of Heaven." In this view, the story is "historic fiction" with no basis in fact, but intended as an allegory or "teaching story", and ultimately dependent on Chaldean mythology. Critics of this view point out that nothing is known with certainty about Elamite religion and that such a festival as well as the names Uman and Mashti are purely conjectural. In addition phonetic difficulties exist in attempting to relate the names Esther and Ishtar, and hamantaschen originated amongst Jews of Eastern Europe in relatively recent times.
being a 'sex magicK' practitioner means your conjectures are facts, I suppose.

August 09, 2005

According to Zero Tolerance Makes Zero Sense, parents are better to serve the alcohol to the minors at home
When they learned that their son planned to celebrate the prom with a booze bash at a beach 40 miles away, William and Patricia Anderson instead threw a supervised party for him and his friends at their home. They served alcohol, but William Anderson stationed himself at the party's entrance and collected keys from every teen who showed. No one who came to the party could leave until the next morning.
Other things the parents could have done
1) forbid the son from attending prom if he went. (what if he goes anyway)
2) offered to host an alchohol free party.
3) called the cops on the party if he went anyway
4) raised a son they could trust wouldn't drink at such a party (too late for that?)

What if he was going to a coke party? Would the parent have scored him some coke? How about hookers?

August 08, 2005

Invisible Frodo miniature (click 'next' to view). Maybe Alastair will get me one. I'll pay shipping!

August 07, 2005

I had an enjoyable and thought provoking Sunday School today. We discussed the 'problem' of Ephesians 4:8, where Paul quotes Psalm 68 to the effect that God 'gave gifts to men,' when the text of Psalm 68 indicates that God takes gifts from men, the captives that he has captured.

While I agree that Paul's reinterpretation of OT texts in the light of the surprising life and work of Jesus the Messiah is behind a great many of the surprising uses of OT scripture by Paul, I'm not sure that's entirely necessary to resort to that as the main explanation here, and that Paul can actually be seen as engaging in some kind of grammatico-historical exegesis.

We do have to look at the entire context of Psalm 68 to make this kind of understanding. What I think Paul is doing is reading the entire message of Psalm 68 into his citation, and modifying the citation 'freely' to get the sense of what the whole psalm says across without citing the whole psalm. If he had square brackets he may have used them, but he didn't.

The message of Psalm 68, even apart from a Christologial reading, is that YHWH is the god who defeats the enemies of his people. When he defeats the enemies, he despoils them, but the spoil is not just kept for himself. As 12b says "The women at home divide the spoil" and the Exodus event is also behind the Psalm. In the exodus, God despoiled the Egyptians, and then used that spoil to build the tabernacle for himself. But there was much spoil left over after that. And the tabernacle was not build solely for the benefit of God, but as a place of meeting to allow God and his blessed presence to be with the Israelites through their wanderings. That gold spoil was used to overlay articles of furniture that represented Israel gathered around God. So when God 'takes gifts from men', despoiling them, of necessity it means that he is sharing those gifts with his people.

Now, the Jews of Christ's day would certainly have read that text chauvinisticly, that God was going to despoil those enemy Gentiles and give the stuff to Israel, and that God instead 'takes captive' those gentiles and turns them into the 'gifts' that benefit all the people, Jew and gentile alike, is unexpected. Paul himself can be seen as Egyptian spoil, refined and turned into a gift for men, as one of the Apostles (Eph 4:11). But a reading of the Exodus already has to take into account the way that the group departing was a mixed multitude, and that the despoiled nation was bringing her own people in. Maybe 2nd Temple Judaism midrashed that away, so that Paul is declaring a mystery hidden, but it doesn't seem here like this is the most obscure of the mysteries of gentile inclusion.

I don't think though that the ability to actually re-read the text and cite it in such a way that 'taking gifts' is interpreted as 'giving gifts' is problematic when we just consider the terseness of biblical quotation in general, and the need to communicate something contained in the whole Psalm merely by citation. We expect 'cut-and-paste', but why should we really in this instance?

August 04, 2005

Joss Whedon interviewed here. May be spoilers.

If a gifted Lutheran minister wakes up one morning and says "WOW, I was so wrong about the Reformed faith. Clearly double predestination is correct, along with the regulative principle and whatever it is the WCF is saying about the sacraments. The formula of concord is wrong, Jesus is in heaven, etc etc etc. "

And then he comes to the PCA and asks if he can be a pastor. Say he's bringing his whole congragation with him. He goes to a presbytery meeting and passes the exam with flying colors, because he already has a Ph.D. from Concordia or something.

He would be welcome with open arms, no?

Say a PCA minister says something that sounds like a reformed version of Lutheran views on baptismal regeneration, but thinks he's still following the WCF. Maybe he writes up a paper on it. Controversy ensues. He is examined by his presbytery and says "maybe I put that too strongly. Let me just put it this way, etc, etc" and his presbytery accepts that whatever it was he said before, he's orthodox now. He changes the paper he had on the web and takes out all the troubling statements.

How should he be treated?

August 02, 2005

I suppose that someone could get baptized, and believe at the time that they were being saved by God through the means of baptism, and then start to doubt that God's saving purposes were actually intended in the baptism.

I suppose such a person would be echoing the israelites: "He has brought us out of egypt to kill us in the wilderness".

John Robbins accuses Steve Schlissel of saying that God lies. If the direct quote is accurate, that would seem to be the case.

The text in question is 1 Kings 22, where God solicits a plan, chooses a plan that involves lying from among the plans, and commissions the lying spirit.

I find interesting that Robbins's objection to Schlissel characterizing God as lying here rests on his claim that we just have to say that when God does something that would be culpable lying if done by a human being, his status as creator exonerates him from the possibility of being charged.

I don't like claiming 'God lies' either, but maybe Schlissel was just trying to make some use of Robbins denial of paradox.

We now go live to a communion service, where Joe Schmoe is participating. He doesn't know it, but we've just replaced his Phillips based theology with one that integrates the insights of Steve Wilkins. Lets listen in

"Ok, the music is playing before the prayer. What does the WCF say I'm supposed to do? Here let me flip open the back of this hymnal".

"The larger catachism says I should 'prepare myself by examining of my being in Christ'"

"Ok, what's that mean? That always bugs me. I mean, I know I beleive that Jesus died for the elect, but since I keep stubmling in sin, and I feel like I never see any progress against sin, which I supposedly died to, then where are the inward evidnences?"

"Well, Phillips always reminds me that its faith in Christ that saves me, so as long as I can be assured that I have some kind of faith in Christ, as my savior, i'm in Christ"

"I guess I have faith. I'm trying anyway. Lord, help my unbelief! (why do they call this a celebration of communion if I feel so miserable?)"

"Hey, where did this thought come from: When I was baptized, that was Jesus himself marking me as his own, which means that he was claiming me as included in the people for whom he died. That's encouraging news! Not just that Christ died for some abstract 'elect' but that he died for me."

"So since I believe that Christ death was applied for me and my salvation in my baptism, then that means that, its necessary that I must be 'in Christ'. But wait, do I have faith that Christ has saved me..."

"Oh, silly me! that was already shown to be the case by my assent and trust to the marking as Christ's own in Baptism.

Here is a way of reading the WCF that matches Wilkins view, and calls into question the Knox/Greenville/Misc Seven's accusation that Wilkins is contrary to the standards
This certainty is not a bare conjectural and probable persuasion grounded upon a fallible hope; but an infallible assurance of faith founded upon the divine truth of the promises of salvation,
the divine truth of the promises of salvation are offered in baptism, which is a form of the Word, and which is an application of Christ and the benefits of the new covenant
the inward evidence of those graces unto which these promises are made,
When someone trusts Christ as he is offered in the sacraments, it means he believes that when he is baptized, he actually experiences the inward presence of Christ. Knowing that is unarguably a ground of assurance.

The Christian who is baptized is able to know the things which are freely given him of God, which include the things that are given him in baptism. Someone who trusts that they objectively meet Christ salvificly for them in the sacrament has infallible assurance that they have been freely given Christ by God.

Recalling Peter Leithart's re-biblicized defintion of sign made me think of the way in which the old covenant signs of circumcision and the passover functioned.

When Moses approached the people of israel with an uncircumcized son, an angel sought to kill him. The sign of circumcision turned aside the detroying angel.

When the angel of death went though egypt killing the firstborn, it was the sign of blood on the doorposts that turned aside the angel, causing him to pass over the houses in which he found the sign.

So, far from being symbols which bring something beneficial to mind for the israelites, the signs of circumsion and passover have referent to being marks ordained by God that turn aside his wrath when he sees them.

On the naming convention of this war:

The 'war on terror' or 'struggle against violent extremism' both fail to name an enemy. I can sympathize with the difficulty presented by saying 'war on violent islam' or 'war on islamism' or 'war on mujahidin' since 'moderate' muslims might consider themselves targets (particulalrly in the latter two).

The most accurate name I can come up with I think should match the stated goals of Al-Qaeda, which is a restored caliphate.

So, 'war on neo-caliphocracts'. No not much of a ring to it. And, I rather suspect that alot of 'moderate' muslims are yet caliphocrats, even if they are not supporters of al-qaeda or terrorism. But that's not very moderate, especially by western secular standards.

August 01, 2005

My wife has been reading Why Gender Matters: What Parents and Teachers Need to Know about the Emerging Science of Sex Differences, and its been fascinating. Very useful information for raising boys and girls, informing me that its pretty useless to ask a four year old "how do you think that made him feel".

One of the findings is that as boys and girls mature, girls begin to process more of their emotions in the cerebellum and boys pretty much keep processing it in the amylgada, which isn't involved with verbal processing. So asking your average sullen teen boy 'why do you feel bad' may be painful for him, because he is physically less capable of verbalizing why he feels bad.

I can relate to that, although obivously males can do some emotional processing in the cerebellum. I'm begining to wonder though if the amylgada-based nature of male emotional processing also allows males to consciously avoid dealing with verbalizing their emotions. I know I'm feeling like I'm pushing them down into my lower reaches of consciousness at least partially to avoid the burden of the conscious analysis of them.

That carries its own problems, though. Like feeling like a sullen teen.

Not Really 'Over There': an interesting piece comparing the military situation and actual military tactics to those of the new FX show Over There. The show does not come out very favorably.

Even in my ignorance I thought the clip i caught on NPR the other day rang untrue: "we're stuck here holding the cordon so some stupid general 75 miles away can look good on TV!". The piece is full of specifics
In the real war, one, five-man fire team would not be the only grunts on the scene. A fire team may be in an area off on their own for a while, but once the bullets started flying, every swinging soldier in the area would be converging on the action.(1)

In the FX war, the soldiers are given orders to advance towards the building. So, in keeping with the 'reality' of this 'gripping' drama, they all stand up on-line and walk towards the building. Wrong.

A fire team advancing over open terrain towards a building they took fire from would be in 10 yards sprints, one team member at a time.

Finally, there is the shoot out. The terrorists rush out of the buildings in a mob and the Hollywood tacticians have members of the fire-team rush at them as if recreating a scene from Braveheart.

In real life, the grunts would just sit back and pick the terrorists off. But, evidently that isn't dramatic enough for FX.

musicologyman comments in response to my posting below
there are elements of the sort of the contemplative worship that Duncan advocates that may be just as questionable as some more contemporary worship practices. (For example, in our present-day context, encouraging quiet contemplation [e.g., while listening to music] during a corporate worship service comes pretty close to an unbiblical cultivation of interiority.)

For that matter, I'm not sure that Duncan really understands wat he's saying when he calls for "reverent" worship. Does he mean the sort of low-key worship that engages the mind while failing to give the body its due? As I recall, the Bible is replete with accounts of loud, enthusiastic instances of public worship.
I was thrown for a loop at first, because I wasn't familiar with the idea that I was supposed to be engaging in queit contemplation while listening to music in church. I've always just, well, listened to and enjoyed (almost always) the music. I'm curious about the cultivation of interiority, and what that means.

I don't think Duncan is in favor of it, in any case, as his citiation of Terry Johnson's comments on music seem to be restricted to sung praise by the congregation. Though there, he argues against "repetition" calling for it to be minimal both textually and melodically. That seems highly questionable to me. At least one psalm is highly repetitive textually, more repetitive than the majority of contemporary praise songs; and isn't the traditional versified hymn a repetitive melody by definition? Many praise songs I can think of encompass more melodic diversity within the song than many hymns. So what are the actual criteria being argued?

Howcome there are almost nil acrostic hymns or versified psalms anyway?

Absolutely disgusting immoral unreasoning: Trey Ellis on why divorce is good for kids

Josh Strodtbeck contemplates the impossibility of Christian government, noting that socialism and capitalism both result in bad effects. He says that 'because the death and resurrection of Jesus declares this world to be a corpse lying in wait of resurrection from his hand alone, thereby trivializing and relativizing the kingdoms of this world and the whole project of constructing a secular utopia'. I'd be against utopias, both secular or religious, but I wouldn't want to say that political systems are outside of the reign and salvation of Christ.

Later, in the comments, Strodtbeck descibes how capitalism might leave a downtown 'dead', even though the Wal-mart sells milk for a dime cheaper. It almost seems like he's claiming that anyone trying to make money, or otherwise exercize a granted power is going to increase suffering somewhere, and therefore all these things are inherently deadly. Yes, in a sense, I suppose.

But why should we be concerned that the 'downtown is dead' if the world is a corpse waiting for the ressurection directly from Jesus hand?

Romans 8 describes the creation under sinful man as more like a woman in labor, where the labors are part of the process of birth, and the redeemed, set free from the bondage of death, are part of that process.

Sure, the final end of the labor pains await the ressurection of our bodies, and it is not fully apparent what we and it will be like, but that doesn't mean that better government with the participation of the polis of the church modeling it can't be part of the equation even now.

I was rather supised by Acts 3:19-20 when I went through it a while back, because I recall very little ever being made of the 'times of refreshing' that come from repentance that seem clearly to be distinguished from the 'restoration' that will come when Jesus returns from heaven. Can't godly government (Peter is addressing an assembly and including rulers) have a role to play in 'times of refreshing' that come from repentance and the blotting out of sins?

(For some reason, the ideas expressed in this post are too calvinistic to even be mentioned in the comments on metalutheran. Sigh.)

My wife knew scientology was kooky, but didn't know any specifics. You can find out more at Operation Clambake - The Inner Secrets Of Scientology.

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