Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Goode Berry

Of the strawberry, Roger Williams said: "This Berry is the wonder of all Fruits growing naturally in those parts: It is of it selfe Excellent; so that one of the chiefest Doctors of England was wont to say, that God could have made, but God never did make a better Berry" (Roger Williams by Henry Chupack, p66)

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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Christian Reincarnationists?

There's a news report about China regulating reincarnation by Tibetian monks in a ploy to try to control them.

This is an example of going above and beyond the common maxim, "if it moves, regulate it". Reincarnation is fake and, yet, some governments wish to regulate it!

But the saddest part of the article is a short comment at the end. It says:

"Recent surveys by the Barna Group, a Christian research nonprofit, have found that a quarter of all U.S. Christians, including 10 percent of all born-again Christians, embrace [reincarnation]
as their favored end-of-life view."

I realize we live in an age of double-speak, but this is getting mind boggling! At this rate, words will have no meaning whatsoever. The terms "Christian reincarnationist" or "Born-Again reincarnationist" carry as much coherent meaning as "Square Circle" or "False Truth".

There are many legitimate explanations and differences on eschatology within the pale of Christian orthodoxy, but reincarnation is not one of them. In can understand a loose usage
of the term "Christian" to some degree, but not "Born Again". I always thought "Born Again" would be held as being quite a bit more specific than "Christian", but that thought was probably naive.

If you believe in reincarnation, perhaps call yourself a marginally cultural "christian" with eastern leanings, if you absolutely must. However, please reserve the use of "Born Again" and the unqualified use of "Christian" for those people whose worldview resembles the worldview of Christ and the Apostles more than an elephant resembles a shrew. I'm serious. There can be a Square Non-Circle, but not a Square Circle. Sure, the consumer mentality may prevail here in the West and you can "pick and choose" the details of what you believe with a greater degree of freedom and safety than perhaps ever before in history. However, now is the time for truth, the time to weigh what you believe and whether it is true truth, and not just some supposed contradictory "truth" that makes you feel good. The name mere self-appointed name "Christian" or "Born Again" won't do you any good (as its often used, it hardly means anything nowadays anyways), and neither will reincarnation. Only Christ can save us from who we are and reconcile us with God. Only God's saving grace manifested in drawing us to Him can avail.

As an aside: I must now state that my sincere apologies to all fellows with the given name of "Christian" who believe in reincarnation, but make no claims at being of the Christian religion. You, my dear friends, are the only ones who have the right of sincerely being called both "Christian" and "reincarnationist".

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Books I'm Currently Resisting

Here are some books I'm itching to check out. However, I'm stalling for now. I have enough books to last me for a while. I don't need more. Or, that is what I try to tell myself :)

The Call : Finding And Fulfilling The Central Purpose Of Your Life by Os Guinness
OS is a terrific author, so I have high hopes for this book.

Hole in Our Soul : The Loss of Beauty and Meaning in American Popular Music by Martha Bayles
Douglas Wilson has been quoting from this book frequently on his blog. Some of what is said there is intruiging, to say the least. I'm curious.

Prisoner of Woodstock by Dallas Taylor
The story of another "orphan of America" (drummer for CSNY) as he went through the darker moments of his generation. Now he helps other musicians recover.

Will it Liberate ? : Questions About Liberation Theology by Michael Novak
Sounds interesting.

God and Man at Yale by William F. Buckley
This sounds interesting historically speaking.

From the Palmer Raids to the Patriot Act : A History of the Fight for Free Speech in America by Chris Finan
Sounds interesting.

Imagine : A Vision For Christians In The Arts by Steve Turner
Been eying this one for a while.

Trading with the Enemy: A Yankee Travels Through Castro's Cuba by Tom Miller
The title says it all.

Radicals for Capitalism: A Freewheeling History of the Modern American Libertarian Movement by Brian Doherty
I'm thinking this may be boring, but probably worth reading.

Her Hand in Marriage by Douglas Wilson
Don't worry.. its just for a friend.

A Serrated Edge: A Brief Defense of Biblical Satire and Trinitarian Skylarking by Douglas Wilson
Had my eyes on this for a long time, and now Ian, you Book Pusher, you've awakened my longings for this volume by mentioning it to me. You ought to be ashamed of yourself.

Mind Performance Hacks : Tips & Tools for Overclocking Your Brain by Ron Hale-Evans
Those who know me well know I need a whole lot of this.

Of course, that is just a small sampling. Oh, I must resist the temptation to spend :)

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Vonnegut Novel Question

Kurt Vonnegut once wrote that in a story, "Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water."

My question, for those who have read Vonnegut's "God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater" is this: What did Elliot Rosewater want?

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Monday, August 27, 2007

Criteria for Cleaning Up Blog Links

Gradually I add blog links to my right-hand side section by the name of "blogtastic (of all sorts)". And once in a while I go through the list and weed out some of them. I think that is an important activity, because the idea is to make the blog link list as digestible as possible.

Just recently I've given some thought to the criteria of weeding them out. Here is what I came up with. I intend to go through the links a couple times a year and judge them by this criteria:

1. Has there been a new post in the last three months? (in other words: is the blog semi-alive?)

2. Have I ever met the author in person?

3. Does the blog contain posts that are extremely interesting to me and my readers? (assuming I have readers, that is..)

4. Does the blog link to my blog?

5. If they link to my blog, do I ever get traffic from them?

6. Does the blog have more than 20 posts?

7. Out of the last 20 posts, are more than 5 of those posts actually unique content? (not links to other blogs, links to youtube videos, etc.)

8. Has the author ever commented on my blog?

None of these individual questions would become absolute in my decision to remove a link (or not). If 'yes' is the answer to all of these questions, the link is a definite keeper. If 'no' is the answer to all of these questions, the link should be eliminated. For those blogs that fall somewhere between those two extremes, more consideration will be required and some questions will be given more weight than others. If there is only one 'yes' and it happens to be on #2 or #4, chances are I will keep the blog link. And if a 'yes' on #1 is combined with a 'yes' on #3, I'll be inclined to keep the link.

Why am I talking about this? Because it is fun to "meta blog". And maybe this will be helpful to others? I'm an optimist..

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Saturday, August 25, 2007

Jonathan Edwards on Pride

Jonathan Edwards is a well-known preacher/theologian from colonial America in the 1700's. He was a missionary to Native Americans and also served as one of the early presidents of Princeton university.

Edwards taught that pride was one of the worst causes of error and that Satan uses it to fight against revival. He also taught that nothing puts a Christian so out of reach of the devil as humility. In one of his writings, he writes the following under the heading "Pride: a Secret Enemy":


Pride is much more difficult to be discerned than any other corruption because of its very nature. That is, pride is a person having too high an opinion of himself. Is it any surprise, then, that a person who has too high an opinion of himself is unaware of it? His thinking is that he thinks that the opinion he has of himself has just grounds and therefore is not too high. If the grounds of the opinion of himself crumbled, he would cease to have such an opinion.

But, because of the nature of spiritual pride, it is the most secret of all sins. There is no other matter in which the heart is more deceitful and unsearchable and there is no other sin in the world that men are so confident in. The very nature of it is to work self-confidence and drive away any suspicion of any evil of that kind. There is no sin so much like the devil as this for secrecy and subtlety, and appearing in great many shapes that are undetected and unsuspected.

Spiritual pride takes many forms and shapes, one under another, and encompasses the heart like the layers of an onion: when you pull off one, there is another underneath. Therefore, we have need to have the greatest watch imaginable over our hearts with respect to this matter and to cry most earnestly to the great Searcher of hearts for His help. He that trusts his own heart is a fool.

Since spiritual pride in its own nature is so secret, it cannot be so well discerned by immediate intuition on the thing itself. It is best identified by its fruits and effects, some of which I will make mention of below together with the contrary fruits of Christian humility.


After that short excerpt, Edwards continues to speak of "Pride: the Great Fault-Finder", "Pride: Ministering in a Harsh Spirit", "Pride: Putting On Pretences", "Pride: Taking Offence Easily", "Pride: Presumption Before God and Man", "Pride: Hungry for Attention", and "Pride: Neglecting Others".

If you wish to read the entire writing (it isn't very long), you can find it here

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Friday, August 24, 2007

Alienation: A Different Kind of Poverty

"A different kind of poverty
now upsets me so
Night after sleepless night,
I walk the floor and
I want to know- why am I so alone?"

-- Stephen Stills in 4+20

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Saturday, August 18, 2007

Trademan's Sons Need Not Apply

In Henry Chupack's book about Roger Williams, the founder of Rhode Island and a member of the first Baptist church in the USA, the following is said:

"...Williams, now twenty-five, had fallen in love with and wished to marry Lady Joan's niece, Jane Whalley. But because of his background as a trademan's son, Roger's suit was repulsed by the aunt, who apparently sought a suitor from a higher social level. Despite a serious illness suffered as a consequence of his rejection, the young clergyman soon recovered and found love elsewhere."

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Friday, August 17, 2007

High Literacy Rate - Only Half The Story

In his epic work entitled "And It Came To Pass - Not To Stay", R. Buckminster Fuller poetically speaks of the progress of history. At one point, he says:

"World's people have changed from 90 percent illiterate to
90 percent literate;"

Quite a change, eh? That was in the 70s and now I'm seeing the literacy rate rated as 82%. Perhaps he rounded up?

However, that is only half of the story. It does look impressive, but there are some other facts which give a slightly more bleak picture:

* The female literacy rate is under 80%
* Two thirds of all illiterate people are concentrated in 8 countries in Asia and Africa
* In certain areas in Africa, 50% of females and 1/3 of men are illiterate

But, there's more.. Literacy in the Western world, while technically widespread, still stands on shaky ground. Countless thousands of affluent kids and adults in North America are literate but almost never read.

So, we may have a high literacy rate, but do we read? Can we read challenging books? Are we Biblically literate?

I'm afraid that the percentage of Christians who are Biblically illiterate is probably higher than the number of people in Sub-Saharan Africa that are generally illiterate.

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How Am I Made Right Before God?

Romans 4:4-6: "Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works: 'Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.'"

The issue of Justification by Faith is, and always has been, a very central issue in the Christian church. While pretty much everyone (Catholics, Protestants, Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, etc.) concurs that faith plays a role in justification, when it comes to the sufficiency of faith they differ radically. Most often, the history of religion has been filled with people trying to make "minor" additions to the equation by saying "Yes, Christ is in the equation, but we need to add [insert whatever: circumcision, baptism, restitutions, good deeds, alms, time in purgatory, etc.] to make it sufficient". However, from Galatians we lean that such additions are not "minor". If any one of those things enter into our perception of how we are made right with God, we are frustrating the grace God! ( Gal.2:21)

The Biblical position is that the only thing that can make us right before God is the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ (Rom.4:23-25, Eph.1:7, etc.). This means that when God judicially declares a believer righteous, the only basis for that declaration is Christ's finished work, which excludes works ( Rom.4:3-4, Rom.3:28, Rom.11:6). The believer clings to that work of Christ made on their behalf via faith and receives His righteousness because his own righteousness is futile in regard to justification (Phil.3:9 ). Our works are not what is under consideration when God graciously saves us--if they were we would be all destined to eternity in hell ( Rom.6:23). And even that faith that we have, according to the Bible, is an empty hand grasping on Christ's sacrifice. And, incidentally, even the faith is granted to the believer by God (Phil.1:29, Luk.7:5, Eph.2:8, John 6:28-29, etc.). We stand as the poor, weak beggar on the receiving end in every aspect of our salvation.

Salvation is God redeeming us from our lawlessness unto a new life and that new life can only come about by a decisive act of God (Titus 3:5). This is not to diminish good works. God's delight is that those who are saved through faith be zealous about good works ( Mat.5:16. Tit.2:7-14, Titus 3:14, etc.) . We are God's workmanship unto good works (Eph.2:10). But the good works flow from the regeneration and the faith, not the other way around. So it is that we say that the Bible teaches Sola Fide (a Latin term used to refer to Salvation by 'Faith Alone'). A theologian put it well when he once said: "We are saved by faith alone, but the faith that saves is never alone". This concept is supported by careful study of both Romans 4 and James 2 in their individual contexts.

Being justified by faith, we are not only liberated from the burden of trying to measure up to God's perfect standards with our filthy-rag works, but our hearts are changed as sons and daughters of the living God. We then should look for evidence of this lively faith. As the London Baptist Confession says of a believer's good works: "These good works, done in obedience to God's commandments, are the fruits and evidences of a true and lively faith; and by them believers manifest their thankfulness, strengthen their assurance, edify their brethren, adorn the profession of the gospel, stop the mouths of the adversaries, and glorify God, whose workmanship they are, created in Christ Jesus thereunto, that having their fruit unto holiness they may have the end eternal life."

Here are some quotes from the history of the church on the matter:

Jerome (347-420) on Romans 10:3: "God justifies by faith alone." (Deus ex sola fide justificat). In Epistolam Ad Romanos, Caput X, v. 3, PL 30:692D.

Chrysostom (349-407AD): The patriarch Abraham himself before receiving circumcision had been declared righteous on the score of faith alone: before circumcision, the text says, "Abraham believed God, and credit for it brought him to righteousness." Fathers of the Church, Vol. 82, Homilies on Genesis 18-45, 27.7

Ambrose (c. 339-97): "Therefore let no one boast of his works, because no one can be justified by his works; but he who is just receives it as a gift, because he is justified by the washing of regeneration. It is faith, therefore, which delivers us by the blood of Christ, because blessed is he whose sins are forgiven, and to whom pardon is granted." George Finch, A Sketch of the Romish Controversy (London: G. Norman, 1831), p. 220.

Augustine (354-430): "But what about the person who does no work (Rom 4:5)? Think here of some godless sinner, who has no good works to show. What of him or her? What if such a person comes to believe in God who justifies the impious? People like that are impious because they accomplish nothing good; they may seem to do good things, but their actions cannot truly be called good, because performed without faith. But when someone believes in him who justifies the impious, that faith is reckoned as justice to the believer, as David too declares that person blessed whom God has accepted and endowed with righteousness, independently of any righteous actions (Rom 4:5-6). What righteousness is this? The righteousness of faith, preceded by no good works, but with good works as its consequence." John E. Rotelle, O.S.A., ed., WSA, Part 1, Vol. 11, trans. Maria Boulding, O.S.B., Expositions of the Psalms 1-32, Exposition 2 of Psalm 31, ¡±7 (Hyde Park: New City Press, 2000), p. 370.

Martin Luther (1483-1546): "Therefore it is clear that, as the soul needs only the Word of God for its life and righteousness, so it is justified by faith alone and not any works; for if it could be justified by anything else, it would not need the Word, and consequently it would not need faith."

Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758): "This is evident by these words — 'that justifieth the ungodly' (Rom 4:5), which cannot imply less than that God, in the act of justification, has no regard to anything in the person justified, as godliness or any goodness in him, but that immediately before this act, God beholds him only as an ungodly creature, so that godliness in the person to be justified is not so antecedent to his justification as to be the ground of it. When it is said that God justifies the ungodly, it is as absurd to suppose that our godliness, taken as some goodness in us, is the ground of our justification, as when it is said that Christ gave sight to the blind to suppose that sight was prior to, and the ground of, that act of mercy in Christ. Or as, if it should be said that such an one by his bounty has made a poor man rich, to suppose that it was the wealth of this poor man that was the ground of this bounty towards him, and was the price by which it was procured."

Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892): ". There is no means among men of justifying a man of an accusation which is laid against him, except by his being proved not guilty. Now, the wonder of wonders is, that we are proved guilty, and yet we are justified: the verdict has been brought in against us—guilty—and yet notwithstanding, we are justified. Can any earthly tribunal do that?"

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Liberty or Death Revised

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

One Thing The Blues Ain't

At a concert, Stephen Stills performed a heavy deep-south Blues solo. Some time during the introductory riffs, for some reason or another part of the audience broke into laughter.

Stills then quipped in a solemn drawl: "One thing the Blues ain't--is funny"

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Friday, August 10, 2007

A Rescue Mission

This is an amazing instance of cud-chewers cleaning house and rescuing one of their own very literally from the jaws of multiple predators.

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Sunday, August 05, 2007

Be Still My Soul

Be still, my soul: the Lord is on thy side.
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change, He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: thy best, thy heavenly Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake
To guide the future, as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know
His voice Who ruled them while He dwelt below.

Be still, my soul: when dearest friends depart,
And all is darkened in the vale of tears,
Then shalt thou better know His love, His heart,
Who comes to soothe thy sorrow and thy fears.
Be still, my soul: thy Jesus can repay
From His own fullness all He takes away.