Monday, July 30, 2007

It's bush league psych-out stuff! Laughable, man!

I've mentioned to others that Scooby Doo has changed since I was a kid, moving from a modern cartoon to the postmodern.

In the past, everything was phony with no supernatural whatsoever. There was always a rational, "scientific explanation" for all phenomena. Typically, it was "Old Man Withers" trying to scare away people, but the meddling kids saw right through his bush league psych-out stuff. Really, it was laughable, man.

Now, there's room for the supernatural (kind of an X-Files meets Old School Scooby and the Gang).

Plus, Scooby Doo now relies heavily on the music of the Ramones to move the plot along, which is a real bonus to our family, strange as that may sound.

So, when I came across this QUIZ, I had to take it.
Is the storyline ripped from the headlines or a plot from Scooby Doo?
Below are ten stories, some true and some taken from episodes in the Scooby Doo canon. But can you sniff out the fact from fiction? Go ahead and tie up your ascot and hop aboard the Mystery Machine already; virtual Scooby Snacks to anyone who gets 100%.

Take the QUIZ
and let me know how you do. I scored 8 out of 10, but I was very surprised by the 2 I missed.

P.S. I just heard one of these Scooy Doo episodes in the background as the kids watched it about 30 minutes AFTER I took the quiz.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

When you've got to shoot, shoot -- don't talk!

It's cliche for a villian to do dumb things that will eventually enable the good guys to escape and/or cause the villian's demise.

I stumbled upon this list of "The Top 100 Things I'd Do If I Ever Became An Evil Overlord."

From that list, I've picked my top 25 to help educate you would-be villians out there.

2. My ventilation ducts will be too small to crawl through.

3. My noble half-brother whose throne I usurped will be killed, not kept anonymously imprisoned in a forgotten cell of my dungeon.

5. The artifact which is the source of my power will not be kept on the Mountain of Despair beyond the River of Fire guarded by the Dragons of Eternity. It will be in my safe-deposit box. The same applies to the object which is my one weakness.

7. When I've captured my adversary and he says, "Look, before you kill me, will you at least tell me what this is all about?" I'll say, "No." and shoot him. No, on second thought I'll shoot him then say "No."

11. I will be secure in my superiority. Therefore, I will feel no need to prove it by leaving clues in the form of riddles or leaving my weaker enemies alive to show they pose no threat.

14. The hero is not entitled to a last kiss, a last cigarette, or any other form of last request.

20. Despite its proven stress-relieving effect, I will not indulge in maniacal laughter. When so occupied, it's too easy to miss unexpected developments that a more attentive individual could adjust to accordingly.

25. No matter how well it would perform, I will never construct any sort of machinery which is completely indestructible except for one small and virtually inaccessible vulnerable spot.

28. My pet monster will be kept in a secure cage from which it cannot escape and into which I could not accidentally stumble.

30. All bumbling conjurers, clumsy squires, no-talent bards, and cowardly thieves in the land will be preemptively put to death. My foes will surely give up and abandon their quest if they have no source of comic relief.

33. I won't require high-ranking female members of my organization to wear a stainless-steel bustier. Morale is better with a more casual dress-code. Similarly, outfits made entirely from black leather will be reserved for formal occasions.

42. When I capture the hero, I will make sure I also get his dog, monkey, ferret, or whatever sickeningly cute little animal capable of untying ropes and filching keys happens to follow him around.

43. I will maintain a healthy amount of skepticism when I capture the beautiful rebel and she claims she is attracted to my power and good looks and will gladly betray her companions if I just let her in on my plans.

56. My Legions of Terror will be trained in basic marksmanship. Any who cannot learn to hit a man-sized target at 10 meters will be used for target practice.

58. If it becomes necessary to escape, I will never stop to pose dramatically and toss off a one-liner.

65. If I must have computer systems with publically available terminals, the maps they display of my complex will have a room clearly marked as the Main Control Room. That room will be the Execution Chamber. The actual main control room will be marked as Sewage Overflow Containment.

67. No matter how many shorts we have in the system, my guards will be instructed to treat every surveillance camera malfunction as a full-scale emergency.

70. When my guards split up to search for intruders, they will always travel in groups of at least two. They will be trained so that if one of them disappears mysteriously while on patrol, the other will immediately initiate an alert and call for backup, instead of quizzically peering around a corner.

74. When I create a multimedia presentation of my plan designed so that my five-year-old advisor can easily understand the details, I will not label the disk "Project Overlord" and leave it lying on top of my desk.

75. I will instruct my Legions of Terror to attack the hero en masse, instead of standing around waiting while members break off and attack one or two at a time.

81. If I am fighting with the hero atop a moving platform, have disarmed him, and am about to finish him off and he glances behind me and drops flat, I too will drop flat instead of quizzically turning around to find out what he saw.

83. If I'm eating dinner with the hero, put poison in his goblet, then have to leave the table for any reason, I will order new drinks for both of us instead of trying to decide whether or not to switch with him.

84. I will not have captives of one sex guarded by members of the opposite sex.

87. My vats of hazardous chemicals will be covered when not in use. Also, I will not construct walkways above them.

88. If a group of henchmen fail miserably at a task, I will not berate them for incompetence then send the same group out to try the task again.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Good answer. Good answer. I like the way you think. I'm gonna be watching you.

I'm a big fan of Q&A and we benefit greatly from having it at the end of our adult Bible study messages on Sunday nights at Providence Church.

A good answer is hard to come by, but I commend to you the following.

They are some interesting Q&A whammies from Desiring God Ministries, primarily John Piper. I've given an exerpt, but I encourage you to read the answers in their entirety.

Q: Why is Satan left on earth?
Why then does God tolerate Satan? The key is that God aims to defeat Satan in a way that glorifies not only his power, but also the superior beauty and worth and desirability of his Son over Satan. God could simply exert raw power and snuff Satan out. That would glorify God's power. But it would not display so clearly the superior worth of Jesus over Satan. That will be displayed as Christ defeats Satan by his death and then by winning superior allegiance from the saints over the lies of Satan.
(Read the full answer.)

Q: What is the position of Bethlehem Baptist Church of homosexuality?
5. We believe that all persons have been created in the image of God and should be accorded human dignity. We believe therefore that hateful, fearful, unconcerned harassment of persons with a homosexual orientation should be repudiated. We believe that respect for persons with a homosexual orientation involves honest, reasoned, nonviolent sharing of facts concerning the immorality and liability of homosexual behavior. On the other hand, endorsing behavior which the Bible disapproves endangers persons and dishonors God.
(Read the full answer.)

Q: Does it matter what others think of us?
[The key is] realizing that our aim in life is for "Christ to be magnified in our bodies whether by life or by death" (Philippians 1:19-20). In other words, with Paul, we do care - really care - about what others think of Christ. Their salvation hangs on what they think of Christ. And our lives are to display his truth and beauty. So we must care what others think of us as representative of Christ. Love demands it.
(Read the full answer.)

Q: Do mature Christians pursue unity or do they pursue doctrine?
Some see doctrine as divisive, discordant, and disagreeable. Others see the avoidance of doctrinal clarity as the slippery slope to the church's undoing. So how can Christians grow in unity without compromising the church's foundations for unity, and yet simultaneously press for clarity in doctrine without becoming quarrelsome?

... The way to keep the second commandment (love your neighbor as yourself) is not by abandoning the first commandment (love God without reserve). Clarity on important things (i.e., God) is a means to unity. People who cherish the same truths find themselves unified, seemingly without effort.
(Read the full answer.)

Q: Do Jews have a divine right in the Promised Land?
... the Bible does not teach us to be partial to Israel or to the Palestinians because either has a special divine status.

... This does not mean that other nations have the right to molest her. She still has human rights among nations when she has no divine right.

... The Christian plea in the Middle East to Palestinians and Jews is: "Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved" (Acts 16:31). And until that great day when both Jewish and Gentile followers of King Jesus inherit the earth (not just the land), without lifting sword or gun, the rights of nations should be decided by the principles of compassionate and public justice, not claims to national divine right or status.
(Read the full answer.)

Q: How should you pray for pastoral staff?
1. Ask God to give us an inclination to his Word and not to money or fame or power (Psalm 119:36), and to open our eyes to see wonderful things when we read his Word (Psalm 119:18), and to have hearts united in the fear of God rather than fragmented over a dozen concerns (Psalm 86:11), and to be satisfied in his steadfast love (Psalm 90:14). (This is the IOUS acronym I use almost every day in praying for those I love.)
(Read the full answer.)

Q: How do you fight the sin of pride, especially when you are praised?
I remember that I am by nature a depraved sinner and that, in all my sinning, I have treated God with contempt, preferring other things to his glory. I take stock that I have never done a good deed for which I don’t need to repent. Each one is flawed because perfection is commanded. Therefore I realize that God owes me nothing but pain in this life and the next.
(Read the full answer.)

Q: How has Christ fulfilled and ended the Old Testament regime?

2. All the Scriptures are about Jesus Christ, even where there is no explicit prediction. That is, there is a fullness of implication in all Scriptures that points to Christ and is satisfied only when he has come and done his work. “The meaning of all the Scriptures is unlocked by the death and resurrection of Jesus.” (Graeme Goldsworthy, Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture, p. 54)
-Luke 24:27: And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

5. The law was kept perfectly by Christ. And all its penalties against God’s sinful people were poured out on Christ. Therefore, the law is now manifestly not the path to righteousness, Christ is. The ultimate goal of the law is that we would look to Christ, not law-keeping, for our righteousness.
-Romans 10:4: For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.
(Read the full answer.)

Q: Is it ever right to be angry at God?
It is wrong - always wrong - to disapprove of God for what he does and permits. "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?" (Genesis 18:25). It is arrogant for finite, sinful creatures to disapprove of God for what he does and permits. We may weep over the pain. We may be angry at sin and Satan. But God does only what is right. "Yes, O Lord God, the Almighty, true and righteous are Your judgments" (Revelation 16:7).

But many who say it is right to be angry with God really mean it is right to express anger at God. When they hear me say it is wrong to be angry with God, they think I mean "stuff your feelings and be a hypocrite." That's not what I mean. I mean it is always wrong to disapprove of God in any of his judgments.
(Read the full answer.)

Q: Should only unanimous decisions guide the church?
Bottom line: it is a tragedy when a body of spiritual leaders, or a body of believers in general, give the least mature people the veto power over wise counsel. There is simply nothing in the Bible that says a weak and unspiritual person in the church should be able to paralyze the advance of God's people.
(Read the full answer.)

Q: How do you teach doctrine to a 6-year old?
My daughter, Talitha, is six years old. Recently she and my wife and I were reading through Romans together. This was her choice after we finished Acts. She is just learning to read, and I was putting my finger on each word. She stopped me in mid-sentence at the beginning of chapter five and asked, "What does 'justified' mean?" What do you say to a six-year-old? Do you say, There are more important things to think about, so just trust Jesus and be a good girl? Or do you say that it is very complex and even adults are not able to understand it fully, so you can wait and deal with it when you are older? Or do we say that it simply means that Jesus died in our place so that all our sins might be forgiven?
(Read the full answer.)

Q: Why should you listen to a question before answering it?
5. A question sometimes reveals assumptions that you do not share. If you try to answer the question on the basis of your assumptions without understanding the questioner’s assumptions, you will probably speak right past him. If you listen carefully and let the person finish, you may discern what he is assuming that you do not. Then you can probe these assumptions before you answer. Often, when dealing at this level, the question answers itself. It was really about these deeper differences.
(Read the full answer.)

Q: What is humility?
2. Humility does not feel a right to better treatment than Jesus got.

5. Humility knows it is fallible, and so considers criticism and learns from it; but also knows that God has made provision for human conviction and that he calls us to persuade others.
(Read the full answer.)

Q: What does John Piper believe about dispensationalism, covenant theology, and new covenant theology?
John Piper has some things in common with each of these views, but does not classify himself within any of these three camps. He is probably the furthest away from dispensationalism, although he does agree with dispensationalism that there will be a millennium.

Many of his theological heroes have been covenant theologians (for example, many of the Puritans), and he does see some merit in the concept of a pre-fall covenant of works, but he has not taken a position on their specific conception of the covenant of grace.

In regards to his views on the Mosaic Law, he seems closer to new covenant theology than covenant theology, although once again it would not work to say that he precisely falls within that category.
(Read the full answer.)

Q: Does God choose who will be saved?
We are not saying that final salvation is unconditional. It is not. We must meet the condition of faith in Christ in order to inherit eternal life. But faith is not a condition for election. Just the reverse. Election is a condition for faith. It is because God chose us before the foundation of the world that he purchases our redemption at the cross and quickens us with irresistible grace and brings us to faith.
(Read the full answer.)

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

You go to some big, fancy school? Think you can stop rubbing my nose in it?

To my shame, I did not know all of these. I guess I'm just a product of my Texas publik skool education.

100 Words That All High School Graduates
(And Their Parents) Should Know

The editors of the American Heritage® dictionaries have published a list of 100 words they recommend every high school graduate should know.
"The words we suggest are not meant to be exhaustive but are a benchmark against which graduates and their parents can measure themselves. If you are able to use these words correctly, you are likely to have a superior command of the language."
- Steven Kleinedler, senior editor

How many do you know?

With whom could I use the majority of these without coming across as a vocabulary snob?

The following is the entire list of 100 words:
laissez faire

Monday, July 23, 2007

Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid.

Darrin Patrick, lead pastor of the Journey in St. Louis, has a great comparison-contrast on the difference between "religion" and the gospel he's adapted from Tim Keller. (HT Paulus Tignarius)

Here are a few of my favorites:

Religion: “I obey-therefore I’m accepted.”
Gospel: “I’m accepted-therefore I obey.”

Religion: Motivation is based on fear and insecurity.
Gospel: Motivation is based on grateful joy.

Religion: I obey God in order to get things from God.
Gospel: I obey God to get to God-to delight and resemble Him.

Religion: When circumstances in my life go wrong, I am angry at God or my self, since I believe, like Job’s friends that anyone who is good deserves a comfortable life.
Gospel: When circumstances in my life go wrong, I struggle but I know all my punishment fell on Jesus and that while he may allow this for my training, he will exercise his Fatherly love within my trial.

Religion: When I am criticized I am furious or devastated because it is critical that I think of myself as a ‘good person’. Threats to that self-image must be destroyed at all costs.
Gospel: When I am criticized I struggle, but it is not critical for me to think of myself as a ‘good person.’ My identity is not built on my record or my performance but on God’s love for me in Christ. I can take criticism. That’s how I became a Christian.

Religion: My prayer life consists largely of petition and it only heats up when I am in a time of need. My main purpose in prayer is control of the environment.
Gospel: My prayer life consists of generous stretches of praise and adoration. My main purpose is fellowship with Him.

Religion: My self-view swings between two poles. If and when I am living up to my standards, I feel confident, but then I am prone to be proud and unsympathetic to failing people. If and when I am not living up to standards, I feel humble, but not confident-I feel like a failure.
Gospel: My self-view is not based on a view of my self as a moral achiever. In Christ I am simul iustus et peccator—simultaneously sinful and lost yet accepted in Christ. I am so bad he had to die for me and I am so loved he was glad to die for me. This leads me to deeper and deeper humility and confidence at the same time. Neither swaggering nor sniveling.

I find it interesting how prone we are as humans to revert back to a religiosity that nullifies the cross, trying to manipulate our deity, as did/do the pagans.

I might add one of my own:
Religion: People reaching up to God, trying to appease Him and merit His favor.
Gospel: God taking the initiative to reach people, ultimately seen in the incarnation of Christ.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

People don't throw things at me any more. Maybe because I carry a bow around.

One of my heros, for rather obvious reasons, is Troy Dungan. Tonight he steps down after 31 years of doing the weather for Channel 8. (HT Oilcan)

Tune in to see him tonight for the 6 o'clock news.
Some Troy Trivia:
How many bow ties does Troy own?
Approx. 220

Why bow ties?
(It's a) Long boring story... basically just became an eccentric while working in Detroit in 1974.

Best advice Troy ever received?
Never try to explain anything you don't understand yourself.

Troy's most influential person?
This life, my dad. For next life, Jesus.

Troy's favorite way to relax?
Having a glass of wine with my lovely wife, Janet.

Troy's personal motto
Six Transit Gloria... basically fame is fleeting.. don't take yourself too seriously.
*Want to hear/see more about Troy's faith? Watch here.

What cologne you gonna go with? London Gentleman, or... wait. No, no, no. Hold on. Blackbeard's Delight.

Some decisions are more difficult than others, especially if you don't want to sting the nostrils ... even in a good way.

But what looks to be difficult is answering the question, who a Christian should root for in the next presidential election?

Is there a clear cut "good guy" or clear cut party that loves Jesus? Some might have you think so, particularly if they see one party as the only one who is pro-life, whether than be seen as in favor of them before birth or taking care of them after birth. I wrestled with some of these issues in the past, but it may become more convoluted this time around.

There are 2 things you should never talk about in polite company, religion and politics. But have you noticed their frequent intersection on the eve of the 2008 political season? Have you noticed that the personal faith of the candidates has been in the news repeatedly?

We have politicians talking about religion and the religious talking about politics.

In the past, most candidates (even on the right) were hesitant to make faith a major campaign issue. There was an aversion to candidates who might let religious morals impact identity and actions. Yet, even among Democratic hopefuls we are repeatedly hearing about how vital and vibrant their faith is and how it shapes who they are (e.g., Hillary Clinton & Barak Obama).

Have we realized that one cannot separate what one believes from what one does? Have politicians realized the importance of faith issues in choosing a candidate, noting the impact the “religious right” is said to have had in the past 2 elections?

This election also has a blurring of the stereotypes. The Republicans want to be seen as “compassionate conservatives” and they are not a uniformly pro-life party. Some Christians who have been historically Republican are wrestling between the likes of Rudy Giuliani, who is pro-choice and for homosexual rights, and Mitt Romney, who is pro-life and for “family values,” but whose Mormon faith causes some concern.

Yet, don't assume the Republican party will necessarily "cater" to the evangelicals, as some have warned. Perhaps they assume/presume the support of the religious right, confident they won't vote for a Democrat seen as extreme (e.g., Clinton or Obama).

Throw in other Republicans and Democrats who speak openly to the importance of their personal faith, and the less informed voter will struggle. Sound bites won’t be enough. Party loyalties aren’t what they once were. Competing values may make for some “strange bedfellows.”

Candidates will want to appear as moral people grounded in a “Christian” faith of some kind, but avoiding the (subjective) labels of “fanatical” or “extremist.” Expect faith to be a significant issue, particularly in the primaries as candidates try to anticipate the role faith plays in your politics. Regardless of personal faith and party affiliation, this election may certainly go down in history as being determined by the faithful.

What role does (your) faith play in your politics? Do you have to vote for a Christian? Have you resigned yourself to the lesser of the 2 (or 3 or more) evils?
Who would you like to see get your party's nomination?

A little self-disclosure. I'm a conservative, but a Barry Goldwater type, who would probably go Libertarian, except for the pragmatist in me. However, after becoming a Christian "pro-life" (i.e., anti-abortion) became my primary issue.

That being said, I've been rooting for a guy who's not even officially thrown his hat into the ring, that would be Fred Thompson. Already seen as a viable candidate, he's suffered some attacks from his (potential) opposition. I take that as a good sign of Fred's potential.

As such, you can chalk this up as another blog for Fred.

This former TN senator is widely known now due to his role on the show Law & Order. I've never seen the show, but I was pretty happy with the last few actors the Republicans have rolled out, particularly the Gipper.

Some Fred info for your viewing/voting pleasure:

On the issue of abortion Thompson was unequivocal: "Prolife." Asked if he supported overturning Roe v. Wade, Thompson was equally unequivocal: "I think Roe v. Wade was bad law and bad medical science And the way to address that is through good judges. I don't think the court ought to wake up one day and make new social policy for the country. It's contrary to what it's been the past 200 years... That's what happened in this case [Roe v. Wade]. I think it was wrong." Source: The Fred Factor, by Steve Gill, p.143-144 Jun 3, 2007

Appoint strict constructionist judges
As President, Thompson would appoint strict constructionist judges like the man he helped through the confirmation process to the position of Chief Justice, John Roberts. Source: The Fred Factor, by Steve Gill, p.162 Jun 3, 2007

Has never been pro-choice despite 1994 news reports Some news reports from Thompson's 1994 campaign classified him as pro-choice. Thompson confesses to being perplexed over the confusion about his position on the issue: "I have read these accounts [about me being pro-choice] and tried to think back 13 years ago as to what may have given rise to them, although I don't remember it." But, he adds: "I was interviewed and rated pro-life by the National Right to Life folks in 1994, and I had a 100% voting record on abortion issues while in the Senate." Planned Parenthood gave him a ZERO rating because of his pro-life voting record. NARAL (National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League) gave him an "F" rating when considering potential vice-presidential candidates in 2000.

Ultimately, however, Thompson is motivated on the issue from a personal level, not just a legalistic or moralistic viewpoint. He has said the issue "means more'' to him now because he has had two children in recent years. "I have seen the sonograms of my babies.'' Source: The Fred Factor, by Steve Gill, p.159-160 Jun 3, 2007

Voted YES on maintaining ban on Military Base Abortions. Vote on a motion to table [kill] an amendment that would repeal the ban on privately funded abortions at overseas military facilities. Reference: Bill S 2549 ; vote number 2000-134 on Jun 20, 2000

Voted YES on banning partial birth abortions. This legislation, if enacted, would ban the abortion procedure in which the physician partially delivers the fetus before completing the abortion. [A NO vote supports abortion rights]. Status: Bill Passed Y)63; N)34; NV)3 Reference: Partial Birth Abortion Ban; Bill S. 1692 ; vote number 1999-340 on Oct 21, 1999

Voted YES on banning human cloning. This cloture motion was in order to end debate and move to consideration of legislation banning human cloning. [A YES vote opposes human cloning]. Status: Cloture Motion Rejected Y)42; N)54; NV)4 Reference: Motion to invoke cloture on motion to proceed to S. 1601; Bill S. 1601 ; vote number 1998-10 on Feb 11, 1998


Monday, July 16, 2007

That's classified. We're not supposed to be in Cambodia but that's where I'm going.

Well, this is certainly bad bull.

Some missionaries that visited Providence Church last fall posted on their blog yesterday that Cambodia has banned all public evangelism: "Including door to door witnessing, passing of tracks, and open air broadcasts."

The state religion is Buddhism and apparently Cambodia doesn't want folks knocking it. Part of the prohibition makes me wonder if that which is said inside the church building can/will be censored:
Teachings of religions must respect other religions and avoid insulting and degrading each other, especially Buddhism, the state religion.
Is it insulting to say that Jesus is the only way and that Buddha is a false god? Something tells me that if not verboten already, it may not be far behind.

Pray for Bill & Jennifer Hale and others in Cambodia trying to further the cause of Christ.

They have an effective after school program and they're still allowed to be in country. I pray they will have courage to do the right thing and discernment to know what that is.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

No. I mean, I don't like to be painted with that brush.

Are you a Calvinist? Many of us have been asked that question before.

Rev will tell you that he's not a follower of John Calvin and I've already suggested an alternative to the TULIP, the "loveliest flower in the Lord's garden."

But, am I a Calvinist?

Well, it depends on what you mean by Calvinist, of course. There is so much misinformation and caricaturization out there (like confusion about Calvinism and Hyper-Calvinism) that such a term is enigmatic.

In many respects "Calvinist" would be an appropriate label of my theological perspective, but not my preferred label. I mean, I don't like to be painted with that brush. Just as others prefer not be called Arminians. Since we're not followers or Jacobus Arminius or John Calvin, those labels are inadequate, but I would certainly be more at the Calvinistic end of the spectrum.

I have nothing against John Calvin (whom I'd call great) and find his writing very helpful. I also admire his resolve to stand for truth.
A dog barks when his master is attacked. I would be a coward if I saw that God's Truth is attacked and yet would remain silent.
-John Calvin

So, I don't want to give the impression that I'm trying to "distance" merely out of fear it will seem I got my theology from Calvin, which is not the case. I got it from the same place he did, from the same place Luther did, etc., from the Bible. It just so happens that there are great similarities between our theologies. In short, "Calvinism" is much bigger and predates Calvin.

Yet, there is some of some of Calvin's theology that I don't embrace. I prefer the more inclusive term "Reformed"as it reflects a return to the theological mindset of the Protestant Reformation, particularly the 5 Solas.

I prefer "Reformed" as it's more descriptive of principles that lead to theological precepts, instead of "Calvinist" which tends to be more descriptive of a set of theological precepts, which may vary some in the eye of the beholder.

With regard to the election & predestination stuff, I call it just like I see it on the biblical page (see Slooge Sheet). I believe in the sovereignty of God in election, but also believe every human being has a responsibility to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ to be saved. I don't think they can or will unless aided by the Spirit, but I give them all the Gospel and leave it to God to do what only He can do, particularly among His elect.
Evangelize 'em all. Let God sort 'em out.

Yet, God's sovereignty motivates me to do evangelism and I love the doctrine, much as Spurgeon did.
Some men hate the doctrine of divine sovereignty; but those who are called by grace love it, for they feel if it had not been for sovereignty, they never would have been saved.
-Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Upon reflection, if I had to claim "a" guy with which to align my theology, I'd probably prefer to be a Spurgeonist, but he was more comfortable wearing the label "Calvinist" than I.

In a "Defense of Calvinism," Spurgeon wrote:
"I have my own private opinion that there is no such thing as preaching Christ and Him crucified, unless we preach what nowadays is called Calvinism. It is a nickname to call it Calvinism; Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else. I do not believe we can preach the gospel, if we do not preach justification by faith, without works; nor unless we preach the sovereignty of God in His dispensation of grace; nor unless we exalt the electing, unchangeable, eternal, immutable, conquering love of Jehovah; nor do I think we can preach the gospel, unless we base it upon the special and particular redemption of His elect and chosen people which Christ wrought out upon the cross; nor can I comprehend a gospel which lets saints fall away after they are called, and suffers the children of God to be burned in the fires of damnation after having once believed in Jesus. Such a gospel I abhor."

I guess I could also be called an Augustinian or a Whitefieldian or Edwardsian or an Owenite or a Lutherite or Sproulian or even a Piperite. You could make a case for each one (as well as Mueller, Carey, Knox, Boyce, Boice, Judson, Dagg, Broadus, Carroll, Strong, etc.), but at the end of the day the "Calvinist" just wants what everyone wants, to follow Christ and bear his name.

I would also suggest that none of those men would want their followers to bear a name other than Christ's.

The labels can be helpful, but they can be problematic as well.

Am I a Calvinist?

In short, I don't like to be painted with that brush, but if words mean the things they're supposed to mean, then I would be dishonest if I denied the accusation of being a "Calvinist."

What about you? What's your preferred nomenclature?


Wednesday, July 11, 2007

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

It seems to me that one of the reasons that folks may want to distance themselves from the term Calvinism, though they may be comfortable with its tenets, is that the term means so many different things to different people.

What does it mean to be a Calvinist?

To some it means a follower of John Calvin, the great theologian/reformer to whose credit may be laid the beginnings of Presbyterianism. To some it means a subscriber to the so-called "5 Points of Calvinism." To some it means an aloof or arrogant theologian who thinks that he/she is the only one who has figured God out. To some it means a fatalist who believes in God's predestination and human depravity in such a way that he/she not only doesn't do evangelism, but believes it is wrong to share the Gospel with those who may not be elect.

What does it mean to be a Calvinist?

To adequately answer that, we must determine what it is not. We must ask, what does it mean to be a Hyper-Calvinist?

Part of the problem in these discussions is either (a) labeling a Calvinist as a Hyper-Calvinist or (b) describing Hyper-Calvinism and labeling it as Calvinism.

These are rhetorical fallacies and dirty pool. But, such raises the question, what is Hyper-Calvinism and what is a Hyper-Calvinist?

1. Is a Hyper-Calvinist a lazy Calvinist? (i.e,. one who doesn't evangelize)

2. Is it a Calvinist who needs Ritalin? (i.e., a Calvinist who is hyper, and perhaps obnoxious in being obsessed with Calvinism)

3. Is it a "5-Point" Calvinist? (i.e., one who adheres to the tenets of the Synod of Dordt)

Contrary to popular opinion, it is none of these.

1. Arminians can be just as lazy as Calvinists when it comes to evangelism. The criticism is the allegation that Calvinism necessarily leads to diminished evangelism attempts because people will say, "Well, if God's already chosen, why do I need to evangelize?" However, the compelling hope of the Calvinist is the knowledge that those whom God has appointed to eternal life will believe (Acts 13:48). Of course, always overlooked are the facts that the greatest evangelist of all time, George Whitefield, was a Calvinist as was the father of the modern missions movement, William Carey.

I should add that in reality if this effect was true of Calvinism because of its doctrine of election & predestination, then it really should be true of Arminianism as well. You see, both believe in election. You have to, since "predestination" is in the Bible (e.g., Rom 8:29-30; Eph 1:3, 11). Both believe it's something that God does and something that He does before one's birth. The difference is the basis on which God chooses. Is it conditional or unconditional, is there something in the person that merits His choice? But an Arminian has to also know that God's choice has been made, but for some reason he/she think his/her actions make a difference, that God uses those efforts. But the Calvinist believes that as well.

In other words, any Christian should realize that God has ordained, or chosen, the end, but He has also ordained the means to that end, our participation in the process.

2. While I'll admit that Calvinists can be obnoxiously hyper-active, Arminians can be just as much so. They typically aren't painted with that brush, however, since the Calvinist does seem more prone to intellectual/theological conjecture/speculation.

3. A "5-Point" Calvinist is a "Calvinist," by definition. All other varieties of Calvinist have to modify themselves (e.g., "I'm a 4-point Calvinist"). Ergo, a "5-Point" Calvinist is not a Hyper-Calvinist.

One of the best attempts to distinguish between Hyper-Calvinism, Calvinism, and Arminianism is that of Fightin' Texas Aggie Tom Ascol in this excerpt of From the Protestant Reformation to the Southern Baptist Convention: What Hath Geneva To Do with Nashville?
Calvinism, Hyper-Calvinism, & Arminianism: Issues Shaping Our Identity as Southern Baptists
It might be beneficial to distinguish Calvinism from hyper-Calvinism because the two are often confused. (Indeed some writers and teachers confuse them so often and so willingly that one must wonder if the practice is intentional.) In one sense, hyper-Calvinism, like Arminianism, is a rationalistic perversion of true Calvinism. Whereas Arminianism destroys the sovereignty of God, hyper-Calvinism destroys the responsibility of man. The irony is that both Arminianism and hyper-Calvinism start from the same, erroneous rationalistic presupposition: Man's ability and responsibility are coextensive. That is, they must match up exactly or else it is irrational. If a man is to be held responsible for something, then he must have the ability to do it. On the other hand, if a man does not have the ability to perform it, he cannot be obligated to do it.

The Arminian looks at this premise and says, "Agreed! We know that all men are held responsible to repent and believe [which is true, according to the Bible]; therefore we must conclude that all men have the ability in themselves to repent and believe [which is false, according to the Bible]." Thus, Arminians teach that unconverted people have within themselves the spiritual ability to repent and believe.

The hyper-Calvinist takes the same premise (that man's ability and responsibility are coextensive) and says, "Agreed! We know that, in and of themselves, all men are without spiritual ability to repent and believe [which is true, according to the Bible]; therefore we must conclude that unconverted people are not under obligation to repent and believe the gospel [which is false, according to the Bible]."

In contrast to both of these, the Calvinist looks at the premise and says, "Wrong! While it looks reasonable, it is not biblical. The Bible teaches both that fallen man is without spiritual ability and that he is obligated to repent and believe. Only by the powerful, regenerating work of the Holy Spirit is man given the ability to fulfill his duty to repent and believe." And though this may seem unreasonable to rationalistic minds, there is no contradiction, and it is precisely the position the Bible teaches.
Calvinism is today the minority theological report, though that has not always been the case. This country was, for the most part, colonized by Calvinist Puritans who sought to create a better world, one in subjection to the Sovereign God.

So many of our Baptist forefathers were Calvinists (e.g., John Bunyan, author of Pilgrim's Progress, and Charles Haddon Spurgeon). Our beloved Southern Baptist forefathers were predominantly Calvinistic.

Historically, Baptists have been a group where both the Reformed and the Revivalistic (more Arminian) have co-existed and worked together in biblical love to glorify God through the evangelization of the world.

However, now that Calvinism is rising in popularity, there are a lot of folks out there who are seemingly intent on attacking it, including the use of libel and slander. I'm all for good, honest theological debate, which I think is edifying for the saints. Yet, using words you either (a) don't know the meanings of or (b) intentionally misrepresenting the theological views of others only edifies ignorance and arrogance.

I'd love to see more of what we had last year at the SBC annual meeting, a scholarly and friendly discussion of these matters by Drs. Paige Patterson and Al Mohler, presidents of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, respectively.

Sure, there are legitimate differences between the two schools of thought, but the goal of the Calvinist should not be to merely recruit for his/her party, nor for the Arminians to eliminate the Calvinists from their midst.

In that article, Ascol continues ...
Why are these things so important to our discussion? Baptists have been confronted with these theological issues throughout their history. The Arminianism-Calvinism-Hyper-Calvinism debate has played a decisive role in shaping our identity as Baptists, and particularly our identity as Southern Baptists.
The way the SBC is organized, it seems to me that there will always be Calvinists & Arminians, so there needs to be some methodology for working together for the glory of God, while honestly dealing with one another with regard to what the Scriptures teach. That includes intellectual honesty and not labeling as "hyper"anyone more Calvinistic than yourself.

So, to sum up, a Hyper-Calvinist is one who denies the necessity of the non-elect to respond to the gospel, because they cannot. And a Hyper-Calvinist, subsequently, would deny any responsibility on the part of a Christian to sow the gospel broadly. In short, a Hyper-Calvinist is the real-life caricature often maliciously painted of the Calvinist, one who sees no point in doing evangelism since God's already determined who He's going to save.

Tomorrow I aim to answer the oft asked question, "Are you a Calvinist?" But before you label myself or another, be sure you know what the words mean.


Monday, July 09, 2007

Gentlemen, I wouldn't trust this overgrown pile of microchips any further than I can throw it.

Sometimes I think my computer is possessed and is out to get me. Maybe it is.

Regardless, I don't trust it.

The following are some quotes about computers, some funnier than others.

  1. Passwords are like underwear. You shouldn’t leave them out where people can see them. You should change them regularly. And you shouldn’t loan them out to strangers.
  2. You have just received the Amish Computer Virus. Since the Amish don't have computers, it is based on the honor system. So please delete all the files from your computer. Thank you for your cooperation.
  3. Use The Best ... Linux for Servers, Mac for Graphics, Palm for Mobility, and Windows for Solitaire.
  4. Microsoft: "You’ve got questions. We’ve got dancing paperclips."
  5. Girls are like internet domain names, the ones I like are already taken.
  6. Windows has detected you do not have a keyboard. Press 'F9' to continue.
  7. Ethernet (n): something used to catch the etherbunny
  8. That's a PEBKAC problem. (Problem Exists Between Keyboard And Chair)
  9. Windows XP - Now comes with free anger management courses!
  10. Who is "General Failure" and why is he reading my disk?
  11. There are 10 types of people in the world: those who understand binary, and those who don't.
  12. Who needs friends? My PC is user friendly.
  13. There is only one satisfying way to boot a computer.
  14. A computer lets you make more mistakes faster than any invention in human history - with the possible exceptions of handguns and tequila.
  15. Alert! User Error. Please replace user and press any key to continue.
  16. It has been stated that a million monkeys using a million keyboards could reproduce the complete works of William Shakespeare. With the advent of MySpace, we know that to be false.

Friday, July 06, 2007

We was always taking long walks, and we was always looking for a guy named "Charlie."

What's in a name? What's in a nickname?

Some good bull for your Friday. The author of this article laments the decline of nicknames in American culture & sports, their drop off in usage and their drop off in originality. (HT Thabiti Anyabwile)
"I don’t know why I’m surprised. Over the years, our culture’s gift for nicknaming has slowly vanished along with so many of our other celebrated American skills, like nation-building and math. The same country that came up with the Splendid Splinter, the Say Hey Kid and Mr. October now settles for A-Rod, T-Mac and AI. (Don’t even get me started on the San Diego Chargers’ franchise running back LaDanian Tomlinson, whose nom de plume, LT, is not only lame but recycled, too. Excuse me, LaDanian, but Lawrence Taylor called and he wants his nickname back.) What passes for creativity these days is taking the word “big” and sticking some physiologically or descriptively appropriate term after it. Which is why the sports landscape has a Big Hurt, a Big Papi, a Big Unit—which has never been confirmed, by the way—and even a Big Fundamental. That last one is Tim Duncan’s nickname. Or if you prefer, you can call him by his other nickname: Timmy."
I'm a big fan of nicknames and many in our congregation have them (e.g., King Pin, Oilcan, Shock (and Awe), Smokin' Joe, Tank, Double J, Mama J & Papa J, Horhay, and St. Nick).

My nickname is "Gunny," which I picked it up in college, but before that I was "E-Rock(er)" and "Rookie" around the extended family (much better than my cousin's "Farquar").

Some are too sophisticated for such tomfoolery, but it's fun and endearing, a sign of affection, it seems to me. You don't waste a nickname on someone about whom you are apathetic.

What are some good nicknames?

My favorite was when in high school, we had a gal in computer class who preferred to be called by her nickname. So, the first day when her name was called, she said to the teacher, "You can call me "Sweets."

What are your favorite sports nicknames?

In Cardinals baseball (2006 Champs), I liked "Stan the Man," the "Wizard" (Ozzie Smith), "Dizzy" Dean, and the "Mad Hungarian," (Al Hrabosky). Elsewhere in baseball, I like(d) "Charlie Hustle" (Pete Rose), "Shoeless Joe Jackson," and "Pudge" (Ivan Rodriguez).

In Cowboys football, Staubach was "Roger the Dodger" and "Captain Comeback," while Randy White was the "Manster," half-man, half-monster. Michael Irvin was "the Play Maker."

In basketball, there was "Magic Johnson" of the Mighty Lakers, George "the Iceman" Gervin (not to be confused with George "the Animal" Steele), and "Dr. J."

The whole ?-Rod thing is so silly and very unoriginal. I'd scrap all of those, or at least fine the players/commentators for encouraging such shenanigans!

Any good suggestions for sports nicknames?

Many of us had nicknames as kids, some we shed, some we kept. Did you have a childhood nickname? Do you have one now? If you had/have a nickname, what's the story behind it?

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Thursday, July 05, 2007

I'm your huckleberry.

Apparently, the recently departed Ruth Graham had (half-jokingly) suggested the following for the epitath on her tombstone:

End of Construction: Thank You for Your Patience.

That's good bull. I know on mine I want:
O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?
- 1 Corinthians 15:55
Have you thought about what you want on your tombstone?

I mean, other than "I'm your huckleberry."

Click here to experiment.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

tell them to go out there with all they got and win just one for the Gipper

One of my favorite American presidents was Ronald Reagan.

I'll let him wish you a Happy 4th of July ...

"Somewhere in our growing up we began to be aware of the meaning of days and with that awareness came the birth of patriotism. July Fourth is the birthday of our nation. I believed as a boy, and believe even more today, that it is the birthday of the greatest nation on earth... In recent years, however, I’ve come to think of that day as more than just the birthday of a nation. It also commemorates the only true philosophical revolution in all history. Oh, there have been revolutions before and since ours. But those revolutions simply exchanged one set of rules for another. Ours was a revolution that changed the very concept of government. Let the Fourth of July always be a reminder that here in this land, for the first time, it was decided that man is born with certain God-given rights; that government is only a convenience created and managed by the people, with no powers of its own except those voluntarily granted to it by the people. We sometimes forget that great truth, and we never should. Happy Fourth of July." (Emphasis mine)

Enjoy today and have a burger and a hot dog and an ice cold Cherry Coke, but enjoy just one for the Gipper as well.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Condolences. The bums lost. My advice is to do what your parents did; get a job, sir. The bums will always lose.

I'd seen this before, but saw it again recently (HT King Pin). I found it interesting how applicable much of this was/is, even though originally compiled over a decade ago.

These thoughts remind me of the message I gave at a baccalaureate service. I may have to share it here some time.

*Edge Disclaimer: I'm not responsible for any tenderness and/or edge that might develop from reading the rantings herein. Please embrace in the spirit they were given.*

San Diego Union Tribune -- Charles J. Sykes (1996)

Unfortunately, there are some things that children should be learning in school, but don't. Not all of them have to do with academics. As a modest back-to-school offering, here are some basic rules that may not have found their way into the standard curriculum.

1. Life is not fair. Get used to it. The average teen-ager uses the phrase, "It's not fair" 8.6 times a day. You got it from your parents, who said it so often you decided they must be the most idealistic generation ever. When they started hearing it from their own kids.

2. The real world won't care as much about your self-esteem as much as your school does. It'll expect you to accomplish something before you feel good about yourself. This may come as a shock. Usually, when inflated self-esteem meets reality, kids complain it's not fair.

3. Sorry, you won't make $40,000 a year right out of high school. And you won't be a vice president or have a car phone either. You may even have to wear a uniform that doesn't have a Gap label.

4. If you think your teacher is tough, wait 'til you get a boss. He doesn't have tenure, so he tends to be a bit edgier. When you screw up, he's not going to ask you how you feel about it.

5. Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your grandparents had a different word of burger flipping. They called it opportunity. They weren't embarrassed making minimum wage either. They would have been embarrassed to sit around talking about Kurt Cobain or Britney Spears all weekend.

6. It's not your parents' fault. If you screw up, you are responsible. This is the flip side of "It's my life," and "You're not the boss of me," and other eloquent proclamations of your generation. When you turn 18, it's on your dime. Don't whine about it, or you'll sound like a kid.

7. Before you were born your parents weren't as boring as they are now. They got that way paying your bills, cleaning up your room and listening to you tell them how idealistic you are. And by the way, before you save the rain forest from the blood-sucking parasites of your parents' generation, try delousing the closet in your bedroom.

8. Your school may have done away with winners and losers. Life hasn't. In some schools, they'll give you as many times as you want to get the right answer. Failing grades have been abolished and class valedictorians scrapped, lest anyone's feelings be hurt. Effort is as important as results. This, of course, bears not the slightest resemblance to anything in real life.

9. Life is not divided into semesters, and you don't get summers off. Not even Easter break. They expect you to show up every day. For eight hours. And you don't get a new life every 10 weeks. It just goes on and on. While we're at it, very few jobs are interesting in fostering your self-expression or helping you find yourself. Fewer still lead to self-realization.

10. Television is not real life. Your life is not a sitcom. Your problems will not all be solved in 30 minutes, minus time for commercials. In real life, people actually have to leave the coffee shop to go to jobs. Your friends will not be as perky or pliable as Jennifer Aniston.

11. Be nice to nerds. You may end up working for them. We all could.

12. Smoking does not make you look cool. It makes you look moronic. Next time you're out cruising, watch an 11-year-old with a butt in his mouth. That's what you look like to anyone over 20. Ditto for "expressing yourself" with purple hair and/or pierced body parts.

13. You are not immortal. If you are under the impression that living fast, dying young and leaving a beautiful corpse is romantic, you obviously haven't seen one of your peers at room temperature lately.

14. Enjoy this while you can. Sure parents are a pain, school's a bother, and life is depressing. But someday you'll realize how wonderful it was to be a kid. Maybe you should start now.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

All your life has been spent in pursuit of archeological relics. Inside the Ark are treasures beyond your wildest aspirations.

Canadian Tim Challies has offered some noteworthy thoughts on why the movie Evan Almighty (contemporization of "Noah's Ark" story) is not doing so well at the box office.

In particular, he has a great point about the real problem being a product of non-Christians making a movie for the Christians.
The studios just do not understand Christians. They think they know what will appeal to Christians, try to give it to them, and then find that they've failed. Why? Because they don't know the audience. They try to appeal to some watered-down, ridiculous notion of what a Christian is and then are surprised to learn that true Christians really bear no resemblance to that caricature.

One other thing to throw into the mix is the fact that this is a sequel and most Christians probably found the first one to be over the line in a variety of ways.

In other words, I actually think the movie might have done significantly better for the Christian, for the Christian now, only for the Christian, if it had a different title and no relation to the first movie.

I know that was/has been a stumbling block for me with regard to seeing it.

But, assuming the first one did well, they're trying to ride its coattails. It may be another one of those movies trying to appeal to too broad of an audience. I'm sure there's some stuff too adult for kids and some too juvenile for many adults.

Shrek comes to mind. The first one was okay, but the 2nd beat me down and I'm out on the 3rd. A cartoon would certainly appeal to kids, but there were clear indications that the storyline was geared to the adult. As Kip would ask, "Why is that?"

Of course, a great movie has already been made about the Ark, and not a farcical comedy. There's a reason it was shut up in a wharehouse amid other similar crates. The Ark is not a laughing matter.

So, have you seen Evan Almighty? What did you think?

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