September 27, 2005

John Frame has some Penultimate Thoughts on Theonomy. Along the way, he talks about 'movements' in general. I've always thought theonomy was best expressed by those who made the least of it being a movement. I also suspect that writing articles that defend reformed orthodoxy exegtically and theology is more sueful than movements that "call the church to repent" of her departures from that orthodoxy
After some reflection, I have come to the conclusion that theonomy (like Dooyeweerdianism in the 1960s) is a good case study of how theological ideas should not be introduced. Forgive the personal reference, but consider this: In my Doctrine of the Knowledge of God I introduce a "multi-perspectival" approach to theology. Now imagine how I might have written the book in a very different way: I might have said that multi-perspectivalism was the clear teaching of Scripture and of the Reformers, but that since the Reformation down to the present the church has been dominated by wicked mono-perspectivalists who have impoverished and disempowered the church by their stupid and willful heresy. With the right rhetoric, I might have sent my students forth to start all sorts of battles in churches, denominations, Christian schools and other organizations between "mono-perspectivalists" and "multi-perspectivalists." Eventually, I might have become the founder of a denomination called the "Multi-perspectivalist Presbyterian Church" (MPC, of course). And perhaps in time I might have been interviewed by Bill Moyers.

I could have made a case for such a polemical and partisan approach. In fact, I believe that Scripture is multi-perspectival and that most good theology (like that of the Reformers) is also multi-perspectival. I also believe that the church has been impoverished by certain narrower approaches which absolutize certain "emphases," or "orders," over against others and which over-generalize and misapply scriptural principles by ignoring perspectives other than their own. Such theology creates rifts in the church. That is denominationalism, in essence.

September 23, 2005

I'm pretty impressed with the new Google toolbar "autoLink" feature. It checks the page you're on for either an address, and ISBN, or a Vehicle Identification Number. If it finds one, the AutoLink button switches to "Look for Map".

If you click the button, it highlights the address on the web page, and then you can click the highlighted address and it takes you right to Google maps. A found ISBN takes you to amazon.com (you can set the default search provider if you wish). I haven't ever seen a page with a VIN, or felt a need for a VIN look-up, so I'm not sure how cool that is.

The spellcheck for text boxes is pretty nice too.

I suppose the easy access of information related to this Wall Street Journal Online article [ht: slashdot], on how better access to information isn't always a "benefit". He writes of
the service offered by LegalMetric LLC, a start-up founded by patent lawyer Greg Upchurch? Contemplating a patent-infringement case in Delaware? For $795, Mr. Upchurch will tell you which judges rule most swiftly and which tend to favor patent holders. Making a motion for summary judgment? Mr. Upchurch can tell you how the judge has ruled on similar motions versus his peers.

These data always have been available in court files, but putting the pieces together was so expensive no one did it. Now, it's on the U.S. federal judiciary's Web site. Mr. Upchurch and his two employees download dockets, key information into a database and push a button so their software generates detailed reports.

For lawyer and client, this knowledge can be very valuable. But does it increase the chances that the judge will come to a just decision?

It is the sort of information that Nobel laureate Kenneth Arrow labeled "socially useless but privately valuable." It doesn't help the economy produce more goods or services. It creates nothing of beauty or pleasure. It simply helps someone get a bigger slice of the pie. Sure, if the product helps win cases, then both sides will buy it -- just as both sides in high-stakes product-liability cases invest in jury-selection experts and software -- and neither will have an unfair advantage. But does that make the society better off?
One thing that does strike me as socially useful about such lists of information is that political watchdog groups could make the information widely publicized in places where judges are elected. It might not fly so well for someone's re-election if it was known he was the most favorable to cases he shouldn't.

Oh, who am I kidding. Philly kept electing the "coyote-ugly" judge. (Is he still a judge?)

September 22, 2005

A song by Steeleye Span abou the Marquis of Montrose.

September 21, 2005

The Onion's boardgame-themed article As Long As You're Under My Roof, You'll Play By My Monopoly Rules is also very amusing. And boardgame-related.

Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological seminary, and council member of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals states that
I can assure you of this: if you are associated with the use of beverage alcohol, I think I dare exaggerate not to say that 99% of all doors of ministry in the Southern Baptist Convention will be closed to you.
I found the quote on blogger Reformissionary's site, and that's somewhat wrenched from the context, but still quite a thing to say. Reformissionary reports more on Mohler's remarks
Closer to the end, Mohler told the story of going to lunch for a meeting with a group of evangelical leaders across denominational lines. If anywhere, this is the place for a Christian to show generosity to those who aren't compelled as he is about the issue of alcohol. But as a couple of leaders ordered beer with lunch, Mohler actually spoke up and asked a Lutheran pastor (friend of his) to not get a beer 'so that sitting here in this Southern town where anyone can walk in and see this table, people do not then barrage me with phone calls associating me with drinking, which I'm not doing.' He finished the story, 'I could not allow my own personal integrity to be questioned, I would [have] had to have left the lunch.'
I'm not sure I would have noticed this otherwise, but a commenter on metalutheran makes an interesting comaprison of this event to one recorded in Galatians.

UPDATE: Wise thoughts from Michael Spencer on this.

September 19, 2005

Among the pork mentioned on this PA senator's page (and yes, Santorum is culpable too) is this
$1.345 million for streetscape improvements to increase accessibility to the Geneva College campus and construct pedestrian walkways (Beaver County);
Do you think that my fellow conservative right-wing Christians at Geneva College can give up a bit of pork to help pay for Katrina relief? I mean, I think the colleges of New Orleans have a much bigger accesibility issue right now, and could use some millions.

September 16, 2005

There seems to be a dangerous and troubling movement among reformed Christians to reformulate the creedal statements of the past. Denials are being made about the meritorious nature of Christ's obedience.

Some seem to be saying that the meritorious obedience of Christ only consists in his 'active obedience' and that his 'passive obedience' (willing death on the cross) merely atones for sin.

This is a departure from the attainments of the clarity of the Savoy Declaration, which states explicitly
by imputing Christ's active obedience to the whole law, and passive obedience in his death for their whole and sole righteousness
Clearly the imputed righteousness we possess includes his cursed death on the cross, not merely his law-keeping.

Last A Proverb A Day up for this week.

Not an 'easy one' this time. Hope that's of some use to somebody.

A thought I have posted to a message board I have recently decided to join and interact on:

"The strange thing to me is that the most worthy meritorious righteous act that Christ performed on my behalf is not his perfect tithing, his avoidance of lust, his proper use of righteous anger, and his honoring of his father and his mother.

It was his accepting the "one act of righteousness" of dying on the cross, performing an act at the father's demand that, by the Torah, results in curse, not blessing. He followed a command for us that according to God's law brings curse.

Is this not the most meritorious thing Christ did in his earthy life? How, then do we claim that we are in absolute need of all the lesser righteous acts of Christ imputed to our account for our justifcation?"

September 15, 2005

An interesting comment by Ramesh Ponnuru on The Corner on National Review Online with regard to the widely quoted survey results that say that 3/4 of amercan's believe that the Bible teaches "God helps those who help themselves". While we might rightly take to task people who think that Benjamin Franklin's phrase is a direct quote of a bible passage, people might not be entirely off base if all they mean in responding to the question is are the ideas of the proverb 'biblical'
I read the quote as a corrective to a kind of fatalism that can tempt religious believers. It is a corrective, that is, to the idea that we don't need to do anything because God will provide. The Franklin quote is a reminder that one of the ways God provides for us is by giving us (or in some way arranging for us to have) whatever faculties we have to help ourselves. It's a summons to get off the couch; and while I am less familiar with the Bible than I should be, the sentiment does not seem "counter-biblical."
Ironically, "from each accordin to his ability" and "to each according to his need" are biblical quotations (and in the Communist manifesto)

Surely there is a major sense in which Franklin's statement taken as a theological paradigm would play havoc with justification apart from works, but is it actually the case that God offers no additional help to those who have done well? The parable of the talents would indicate otherwise.

September 14, 2005

The Heritage foundation with some evidence that Tom DeLay's claim of a fat-free federal budget is pure lard.
  • The federal government cannot account for $24.5 billion spent in 2003.
  • A White House review of just a sample of the federal budget identified $90 billion spent on programs deemed that were either ineffective, marginally adequate, or operating under a flawed purpose or design.
  • The Congressional Budget Office published a “Budget Options” book identifying $140 billion in potential spending cuts.
  • The federal government spends $23 billion annually on special interest pork projects such as grants to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, or funds to combat teenage “goth” culture in Blue Springs, Missouri.
  • Washington spends tens of billions of dollars on failed and outdated programs such as the Rural Utilities Service, U.S. Geological Survey and Economic Development Association.
  • The federal government made $20 billion in overpayments in 2001.
  • The Department of Housing and Urban Development’s $3.3 billion in overpayments in 2001 accounted for over 10 percent of the department’s total budget.
  • Over one recent 18-month period, Air Force and Navy personnel used government-funded credit cards to charge at least $102,400 for admission to entertainment events, $48,250 for gambling, $69,300 for cruises, and $73,950 for exotic dance clubs and prostitutes.
  • Examples of wasteful duplication include: 342 economic development programs; 130 programs serving the disabled; 130 programs serving at-risk youth; 90 early childhood development programs; 75 programs funding international education, cultural, and training exchange activities; and 72 federal programs dedicated to assuring safe water.
  • The Advanced Technology Program spends $150 million annually subsidizing private businesses, and 40% of this goes to Fortune 500 companies.
  • The Defense Department wasted $100 million on unused flight tickets, and never bothered to collect refunds even though the tickets were reimbursable.
  • The Conservation Reserve program pays farmers $2 billion annually to not farm their land.
  • Washington spends $60 billion annually on corporate welfare, versus $43 billion on homeland security.
(quoted on The Corner on National Review Online).

If the blogosphere can get rid of Trent Lott for assinine comments, can we get working on DeLay?

UPDATE: I didn't read this list to carefully the first time, which is why I missed the reference to the 'goth culture' study subsidy. Sheesh. At least they gave the unused money back.

Apparently, I'm the number one hit on Google Blog Search: ligon duncan

September 13, 2005

Listening to the confirmation hearing for Judge Roberts brings me to again indulge my fantasizing that a president would initally appoint a 'spoiler' candidate, whose job would be to decisively argue directly with the senators and defeat them in debate.

Never gonna happen, but it'd make a good movie.

Maybe I'll just give up politics and voting until they add a "Jesus Christ is Lord of the United States of America" ammendment to the constitution.

Appropos of the post below, let me somewhat tongue-in-cheek suggest why Jesus wants me to favor tax cuts for the rich

1. Jesus doesn't want me to envy the rich.

2. Jesus wants me to be content with what I have.

3. Jesus doesn't want me to put my trust in human institutions for my well being, but to him.

4. Jesus loves everybody, even his enemies.

5. Jesus actaully reminds us in the Torah that judges should not favor the rich OR the poor.

6. Jesus wants me not to just look out for my own interests, but also to look out for the interests of others.

Therefore, assuming that currently a greater burden of the budget of our country and a greater percentage of the income of the rich is taxed than the poor, Jesus wants me to favor tax cuts for the rich. (Clearly, tax cuts for the rich don't make sense or seem at all moral if these conditions don't obtain)

Philip Ryken writes
Bill McKibben is especially troubled by the gap between Christian belief and American behavior in response to the needs of the poor, and by the tendency of cultural conservatives to identify Jesus with their own political views. He writes:

'The gospel is too radical for any culture larger than the Amish to ever come close to realizing; in demanding a departure from selfishness it conflicts with all our current desires. Even the first time around, judging by the reaction, the Gospels were pretty unwelcome news to an awful lot of people. There is not going to be a modern-day return to the church of the early believers, holding all things in common -- that's not what I'm talking about. Taking seriously the actual message of Jesus, though, should serve at least to moderate the greed and violence that mark this culture. It's hard to imagine a con much more audacious than making Christ the front man for a program of tax cuts for the rich or war in Iraq.'

One does not have to agree with McKibben about tax cuts or the war in Iraq to admit that the danger he senses is real: so closely identifying Jesus with a particular political position that people (including Christians) get confused about what Christanity even is. And to bring things to the personal level, McKibben helpfully explains why it is so hard for me to be a good Christian: in demanding a departure from my selfishness, the gospel conflicts with so many (maybe most, but by the grace of God, not quite all) of my current desires.
While there certainly is much truth in this assessment, it worries me that this is a council of depair. At least, that's how I feel after I read it.

"The gospel is too radical..to ever come close to realizing?"

"The gospel is unwelcome news?"

"The gospel demands a departure from my selfishness" (I can hear the lutherans spinning in their grave: since that's 'law', not 'gospel')

Y'know, as C. S. Lewis has sometimes observed, a terrible man can become a Christian, and become a better man as a result, though he may still retain many of his former sins. But imagine what he would be like without Christ moderating his behavior. Likewise imagine what conservative political positions might have been had they not tried to bring Christ to bear on their political theorizing (Nuking Mecca rather than engaging in a costly war with Iraq with the intent of protecting life at home and bettering the situation in Iraq, or being completely plutocratic rather than seeking to make the tax burden more equal as a percentage of income accross social class)

I feel left with three options

1. The gospel makes no political demands on any culture, being focussed only on the next life

2. The gospel makes impossible political demands on every culture, and thus, needs to be ignored by actual politicians

3. The gospel makes practical political demands on every culture, and it is the duty of the church to speak these demands to every culture.

McKibben seems to be stuck somewhere between 2 and 3, mostly towards 2.

Maybe 2.5 would be more appropriate:

The gospel makes impossible political demands on every culture, and thus politicians should be driven to despair and terrorized by it leaving them feeling powerless and indequate to their task. Out of this will emerge some kind of political position that doesn't really match what the Gospel is demanding, and will be, ultimately, just as worldly and sinful as the alternative, but since it came from the personal humiliation of the politician before God its somehow better.

That actually kinda makes sense I guess.

Someone needs to write "The Politics of Ecclesiastes"

I still want someone to write a book on Christian parenting that says there are no Christian household rules, and that parents should not refer to Christian standards of morality in promulgating those rules, and that they should not expect or attempt to tranform their hoseholds to come close to realizing the gospel.

September 12, 2005

I totally agree with Ted Kennedy
'The tragedy of Katrina shows in the starkest terms why every American needs an effective national government that will step in to meet urgent needs that individual states and communities cannot meet on their own,' Sen. Edward M. Kennedy said in a statement prepared for the opening of hearings.
The key word, of course, is "urgent". A bridge to an airport in Alaska is not urgent.

I've listened to some kind of live coverage of Supreme Court nomination coverage since the Souter nomination.

I'm listening now to openeing statements by the committe members. Since we aren't into any questioning yet, we get to hear the members lecturing each other and the nation as to how the hearings should proceed.

Doesn't this sound, well, sacerdotal?
The pastor is an ordinary and perpetual officer in the church, prophesying of the time of the gospel.

[I]t belongs to his office, to administer the sacraments, to bless the people from God. ([see] Isa. lxvi. 21, where, under the names of Priests and Levites to be continued under the gospel, are meant evangelical pastors, who therefore are by office to bless the people.)
What was it Milton said about new Presbyter being old Priest writ large?

(quote adapted for clarity: meaning unchanged.)

September 11, 2005

Joel and I are filling in at A Proverb A Day this week.

Monday's proverb is up already.

September 07, 2005

Barbara Bush: Evacuees Better Off
And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway,' she said, 'so this is working very well for them
David Hill comments on one new development
County workers moved one group of senior citizens from the Astrodome to a new apartment complex. According to the Houston Chronicle, a 64-year old ex-resident of New Orleans public housing exclaimed upon walking into her large new kitchen, "Hallelujah. Oh man, I got a dishwasher — first one in my life!"
Barbara was premature, I guess.

September 06, 2005

Churchgoers across Pa. pray for Katrina victims (phillyBurbs.com)
In a cavernous hall at Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, more than 100 people sat in circles with their heads bowed and shoulders hunched.

In hushed, separate voices, congregants offered prayers of comfort, support and supplication to God to help those who have suffered. They prayed that people will remember that life is precious, and that ultimately God is in control of human events.

'We are reminded that you, God, have power over nature. You are the great God who is sovereign over the world and over each life,' said Rev. D. Marion Clark, his voice reverberating through the nearly 150-year-old church.

He read Psalm 93, which in part said 'The floods have lifted up their voice. The floods lift up their pounding waves. More than the sounds of many waters, than the mighty breakers of the sea, the Lord on high is mighty.'

Tina Simon, a 43-year-old resident of suburban Ardmore, was among those in the church who were praying for Katrina's victims.

'If you really have faith, that you believe God hears prayer, then you lift them in prayer,' she said. 'God will help them to draw together.'"
My shoulders were occasionally unhunched, actually. Glad to see this article, and even more joyful to have participated.

John Tierny on the "Magic Marker Strategy
Instead of relying on a 'Good Samaritan' policy - the fantasy in New Orleans that everyone would take care of the neighbors - the Virginia rescue workers go door to door. If people resist the plea to leave, Mr. Judkins told The Daily Press in Newport News, rescue workers give them Magic Markers and ask them to write their Social Security numbers on their body parts so they can be identified.
Check out the link I added to the details of the "Good Samaritan" policy that apparently was not yet implemented.

I do appreciate that NO would put some reliance on churches. But it raises interesting church/state issues.

September 05, 2005

Mmm, bread. (Warning: kinda gross link). Insert joke about transsubstantiation here.

September 02, 2005

A reader of The Corner on National Review Online writes
Second, Louisiana's Democratic Governor has been a miserable failure where it matters most - rallying the citizens. As my brother put it, 'I have a mother. I need a Governor.' What that means about Americans' view of women in top leadership positions now I dont know, but if I were Hillary, I would go to New Orleans and shoot some looters on national television.

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