Blogroll Category: People I don't know
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Listened to this on Audible and really enjoyed it. For some reason, although I knew bits and pieces from wherever, I had never read the whole. Really good.
So watch this one to the end. A laugh-out-loud book trailer.
So the time has come for me to encourage all you who area within driving distance of Moscow to make a point of coming to the concert this Thursday night (3/30/17) at the Nuart Theater—at 7 of the pm. This event is our kick-off to the Grace Agenda, which extends into the weekend. Please check that out also.
Now when I say “encourage,” what I mean is “imperiously demand.” Well, maybe not demand, but I do want to say this event is always a boatload of fun. The evening is dedicated to a mash-up of classic rock as performed by a bunch of people engaged in the important work of classical education. These are two things you don’t normally associate with one another, but once you experience it, you realize that it is kind of like chocolate and peanut butter—strangers with a shared destiny.
There will be two sets—the first on the lighter side of classic rock, the second heavier. Come for one set or both, depending on your tolerances. Now by saying “lighter side,” I do not mean to indicate easy listening or soft rock. Nothing here by the Carpenters. A couple songs from the first set, for example, would be, Sharp Dressed Man and Call Me the Breeze. The second set has songs like Sultans of Swing and Somebody to Love. I will be participating on two of the songs this year—Call Me the Breeze and City of New Orleans. If I were any better I would probably be showing off on these songs, but as it is I will be behaving with modesty and decorum.
There will be open guitar cases around so that you can contribute, with all the proceeds being donated to Logos School. We hope to see you there.
Here is the event’s Facebook page, and below is the concert’s promo video. Enjoy.
The “second Reformation” introduced Reformed liturgy and teaching into Lutheran Germany. This was seen by some as a continuation of the Reformation and a purgation of Catholic remnants. The effort to carry on “further reformation” led to disputes with Lutherans. As Bodo Nischan has put it, the hottest debate in German Protestantism in the late 16
century “was the very meaning of the Reformation itself” (“Second Reformation”).
The late William J. Stuntz spent his life studying the American criminal justice system. In a 2001 article on our “pathological politics of criminal law,” he lays out the institutional barriers to the fundamental reform that we need.
The situation described in the following letters continues to be entirely fictitious, including persons, names, crimes, sins, relationships, circumstances and all particulars. The kind of situation that is described, however, is all too common and my hope is that biblical principles applied to this fictitious scenario may be of some help to individuals tangled up in a real one.
Thanks for writing back, and thanks for the (very good) questions. You basically asked, if I understood you correctly, why I thought a “theology lecture” was a good place to start a discussion with a girl who had been repeatedly abused by her father. You expressed it very kindly, but that is how I cashed your question out.
I understand the question, and believe it or not, I also understand the force of the question. But I also believe there is a compelling answer, if you will bear with me for just one more round on this. After that, in our next letters, I would like to get to the other questions you brought up at the end of your letter, particularly the one about the nature of forgiveness.
You have suffered a traumatic injury—to your heart and soul, to your very identity as a Christian woman. In the shock and aftermath of what has happened, you are naturally reeling, and because of that some of the things that happen to you in the ER might seem almost as bad as the injury itself. But there can be a real comfort in understanding why certain uncomfortable things have to happen. One of the more common complaints that some patients in serious situations have about doctors is that they don’t answer enough questions, particularly about the hard things.
Think of it this way. Compare what has happened to you to a broken bone, and let us say the break was particularly nasty, broken in bad ways and in multiple places. Before any “healing” can begin, before physical therapy can start, the bone has to be reset. A cast has to be put on it. What this does is immobilize the injury, preventing further injury. And sometimes the work of resetting a bone can be pretty gnarly—not a comforting experience at all. Considered in itself, it is simply one more bad experience following all the others.
But after you have had time to rest and recuperate a bit, then comes the time for physical therapy. That is when you want an empathetic coach, a trainer who comes alongside to encourage you. That is because encouragement at that point is actually helpful. It really does promote healing. But to begin the therapeutic exercises before the bone is set would simply be malpractice.
So when you are dealing with a traumatic injury like that, there are two tasks, not just one. First, you want to prevent the situation from deteriorating into a worse condition—and there are many ways an unaddressed injury can deteriorate. Secondly—and it is important that it be second—you begin the process of therapy and recovery.
What you refer to as my “Calvinism” is like the cast, setting the bone. It can appear rigid and unyielding. That is because it is rigid and unyielding. That is exactly what a cast needs to be. Whatever you do, however you think about this, do not find fault with God. If you start blaming God, there is nothing waiting for you at the end of that road but an everlasting swamp. You will almost immediately find yourself in a world where anything goes—including what your father did—and it will be a world in which you will find yourself victimized again and again. My central concern is to head that off.
Jesus said that we would know the truth, and the truth would set us free (John 8:32). We begin with the issues of truth, not because we are cold and hard, but because we are not. It is not because we want to inflict pain, but because a great deal more pain is coming if we don’t do it.
I mentioned the prospect of being victimized again and again. Let me give you two examples of how this can happen. You have (almost certainly) noticed that some of the boys at school—and not the right kind of boys either—have started paying you the kind of attention that creeps you out and (simultaneously) beckons you. This kind of guy has an instinctive awareness of your vulnerability, and make no mistake, their interest in you is not altruistic. In such a situation, you are the prey (again). The reason it creeps you out is the Spirit within you. The reason it beckons is that you have probably already told yourself (hundreds of times) that you are “damaged goods,” that no Christian man “would ever want you,” that there is “no sense trying,” that there is “no sense caring,” that you are “forever defiled,” and so on. The emotional pull is based on the idea that the kind of guy who is paying attention to you now is the only kind of guy who would ever be interested in you. This is false, by the way, but in the moment it feels like unalterable truth.
That is the reason we have to set the bone—so that it doesn’t move in certain directions. The cast may seem “unkind,” but it is the kindest thing anyone could do for you in this kind of situation.
Here is another example. Because of the trial, and the public nature of what has happened to your family, there are certain people who want to recruit you for “political” purposes. Your father was a deacon in your church—that was another betrayal of his—and there are people who want to capture you and use you in their crusade against conservative Christianity. They are on your side, “completely” they say. Whenever they have spoken to you, they have emphasized over and over that everyone has a responsibility simply “to believe you.”
Now of course, Nancy and I believe your account—absolutely. Your aunt and uncle do as well. But there is a dramatic difference. We believe it because it is the truth. It has been established. It was established in a court of law. It was established with multiple witnesses. It was sealed with your father’s confession in the plea arrangement. We all know what happened. Your story is true, in other words.
But there are people who are willing to believe your story whether or not it is true. These people act like they are on your side, but they are simply using you. In this respect they are very much like the boys who are coming around. They sense a vulnerability, and they sense that this vulnerability (that your father created) gives them an opportunity to get something they want. As soon as you can no longer supply them with that, you will find out that their concern is about as deep as a wet spot on the pavement.
Please know that you have many people in your life who love God and His Word, and who also love you. They want you to flourish. That is certainly want we want for you. Also please know that these people who love you will use many of the same phrases that your father would hypocritically use. But his false use does not negate the true use. In the course of our letter, I may refer to a Bible verse that your father would appeal to all the time. Look past the superficial associations.
In my next letter, I would like to talk about what forgiveness is. Is that all right with you? The Christian duty of forgiveness really is fundamental, but it is also widely misunderstood. Write me any questions you might have about forgiveness, and we can take it from there.
Cordially in Christ . . .
In her “new history” of the Reformation , Lee Palmer Wandel offers a stark, sobering summary of the shattering effects of the Reformation.
Allow me to begin this brief meditation by urging everyone to calm down. Okay, I grant this intro may have worked some people up all by itself.
Let’s begin again, shall we? There is nothing here that should be a cause for alarm, but given the times in which we live, there will likely be alarm anyway. A ruckus, in other words, but no good reason for it.
I tell you what. I will just state the thesis at the outset, and provide my reasoning after the fact. Most efficient use of everyone’s time. Best for all concerned. Those who want to leave in a huff may do so now. In short, with regard to people, I want to argue for the moral necessity of judging a book by its cover.
We are a generation marinated in visual entertainment. This has resulted a generation of folks who are extraordinarily street smart—provided, of course, there is a bag of popcorn on their lap. Once they are back out on the sidewalk, blinking in the daylight, they are as clueless—when it comes to the consequences of all storytelling signals—as that bag of popcorn. In brief, they are street smart provided they aren’t anywhere near the street.
This is because they have taken the entertainment part out of the theater with them—people’s initial reactions—but they want to have their movie-shaped sensibilities to be absolutely consequence-free as far as any real results in the real world are concerned.
So if someone “does x,” or “wears y,” and people react to him the way everyone reacts to that same set of signals in the movies, then the problem is read as the bigotry of the person who reacted in that way. The problem could never be how that person is casting, costuming, and directing his very own real time movie. We have been so thoroughly catechized by this blinkering process that we don’t even think about it anymore. A daily demand is placed upon us to “read this that way,” but we are absolutely prohibited from “reading this that same way” outside the theater.
Three examples. Suppose a director wanted his character to dash down the subway steps late at night to be confronted with three dangerous looking characters, leaning against the wall of the platform. Could he do that in three seconds? Yes, why yes, he could. Suppose a director wanted his character to be revealed as a high end courtesan. Could he do that in three seconds? Again, yes. Suppose a director wanted to show us a brooding husband, capable of violence against his wife at any moment. Yes, and that would only take seconds as well. I am talking about communicating these things by means of slender indicators, marks that by no means rise to the level of courtroom proof, but which in every way rise to the level of storytelling identification. Jurors should not consider such things sufficient, but readers and viewers must.
But we are suckers for misdirection. If the three thugs in the subway are black, say, and are telegraphed as trouble by means of low-slung jeans and hoodies, and a nervous real life person picks up his pace to get past them, he is thereby condemned as a racial bigot. How dare he react to their skin that way? How does he know they are not accounting majors at CUNY? But we are actively suppressing our knowledge that this misidentification happened because of the cloth, not the skin. The same exact effect could have been accomplished with white skin and motorcycle gang regalia.
The issue is the kind of signal that was deliberately sent by the thugs who were directing and starring in their own movie. In a movie, the signal is sent and received by all—by the other characters in the movie, and everyone with a bag of popcorn. Everybody gets it because everybody is allowed to get it. But in real life, the signal is sent, and mild reactions are enjoyed (being kind of the point), while any real time hard consequences in such reactions are upbraided as unmitigated prejudice.
But the way we dress is communication. What we are doing is communicating, and then insulting as a bigot anybody who is stupid enough to believe what we just said.
One time I was visiting with a young man about his tats and spiky hair and such, and I asked him what he would think if he walked by three ladies from the church all done up like that. His reply was right out of the Cool Kids’ Catechism. “I guess I really don’t care what people think of me.” So then I asked him this. Suppose we got you a haircut, a buttoned-up shirt, a tie and jacket, and walked you by those very same ladies. You are no doubt correct in thinking that their impression now would be something like what a sharp looking young man he is. The guy I was talking to was no slouch, and he kind of smiled and said, “I guess I do care what people think of me.”
Exactly so. The consternation we create for ourselves is found in the fact that we send signals that demand a simultaneous reaction/non-reaction. The right to reinvent yourself has been steered into that bizarre place where everybody has a divine right to communicate A and not A to everybody else, all at the same time. It is like dress-like-a-gangster-day in junior high—where everybody can gasp oooo! but then nobody gets sent to the principal’s office for the plastic gun.
If someone gets sent to the principal’s office, it is because of all the entrenched bigotries we still have to contend with. Nobody around here is woke at all.
Back to the high end hooker. Could a capable director make that statement with no other materials to work with than a ritzy hotel lobby, a platinum wig, heels, and earrings that sparkle like a disco ball? Such that any movie-goer who didn’t get the point was an idiot? Yeah. Now when a woman casts herself in that role, and decks herself out in that same way—and I would like to flag my upcoming emphasis for any of my readers who struggle in this area—this does not make her a hooker. But it does mean that—if the world were just—she loses all ground of possible offense if some poor chump in the lobby makes the faux pas of his life. If she was not selling, why was she advertising?
She insists, with furious indignation, that she was not advertising. She was simply waiting in the lobby for her ride. But she was dressed exactly like 100 women in the movies we have seen who were advertising. Why was the chump not allowed to draw this conclusion? Well, let me ask you. Was there popcorn in his lap? There wasn’t now, was there?
Now work with me here, because I would like to run ahead just a few steps. Nothing justifies rape. Absolutely nothing. I would like to take a moment to make this additional important point, which is that nothing justifies rape. In case people have not grasped how strongly I feel about this, I would like to insist that nothing justifies rape.
To use an offbeat analogy, it is also true that nothing justifies holding up a taco stand and shooting the clerk. Robbery is robbery, and murder is murder, and should always be treated as such. But it is possible to hold this position while also maintaining that a taco stand ought not to advertise that they are selling sushi when they are in fact not selling sushi at all. And if that was the fact that made the shooter mad in the first place, it still doesn’t matter because nothing justifies shooting the taco guy, etc. So that principle is clear?
A chaste but foolish young woman does not deserve to be assaulted. Of course not. But she does deserve to hear an admonition from her favorite aunt. She does need to hear a caution from her husband. She does need to have a couple of embarrassing situations from which she might gather some wisdom. And the fact that we are being deliberately shaped and catechized into our incoherence by our entertainment habits can be seen in this simple fact. If someone maintains that a foolishly dressed woman deserves anything at all, even if only mild embarrassment when her aunt talks to her, this is represented as being tantamount to the claim that getting raped would be nothing but her just deserts. Which is crazy.
The problem I am addressing here is the incoherence of an entire generation that wants to be something or someone else, at their leisure, at their will, while never having to pay any kind of cost for being that something or someone else. It is all part of our generation’s revolt against maturity. We think that an entire civilization can flourish while stuck in junior high, all of us pretending to be gangsters and molls.
Extra credit kudos option for those comment: The foregoing post contains a five-word phrase that in saner times would be entirely inoffensive, but in these, our loony times, will not be inoffensive at all. I put in there on purpose. A special attaboy will be awarded to the first one who identifies it.
The post On the Moral Necessity of Judging Books by the Cover appeared first on Blog & Mablog.
This psalm was composed by Moses, making it the oldest in the psalter. On top of that, it also makes it one of the oldest poems in the world. As you meditate on the phrases and connections here, keep in mind that the primary setting is most like the wilderness period. That setting helps to make sense of a number of these expressions.The Text:
Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God . . .” Ps. 90:1-17).Summary of the Text:
There is one basic division in the psalm. The first eleven verses make up the meditation (vv. 1-11), and the second half contains the petition or prayer (vv. 12-17). The Lord has been the dwelling place of His people in every generation (v. 1). Before anything was made in this world, God has been God, from everlasting to everlasting (v. 2). God is the one who turns man back to the dust from which he came (v. 3). A thousand years are nothing to Him (v. 4). Mankind is carried away by time, and carried off quickly (vv. 5-6). This is the consequence of God’s anger (v. 7). Our sins are right in front of Him (v. 8), and so it is our days speed by (v. 9). We live for 70 years, or maybe 80, and yet they are all gone (v. 10). Who understands the power of God’s anger (v. 11)? Teach us to number our days properly (v. 12). God, please return to us (v. 13). Our prayer is that You would satisfy us with Your mercy (v. 14). Make us glad according to the days of our affliction (v. 15). Manifest Your works to us (v. 16). And let the beauty of the Lord rest upon all these transient works, and establish them (v. 17).The Only Dwelling Place:
God Himself is our dwelling place. In the New Testament, we learn that we are the Temple of the Holy Spirit, meaning that He dwells in us (1 Cor. 3:16; 6:19; 2 Tim. 1:14). At the same time, we are told in numerous ways that we are in Him. Paul uses the phrase in Christ or a related phrase over 170 times. The saints in Ephesus were therefore located in two places. They lived in Ephesus, and they lived in Christ Jesus in the heavenly places.
In the same way, the Shekinah presence of God was in the camp of the Israelites, at the tabernacle. And the entire camp of the Israelites was located within God Himself—He is the dwelling place of His people in every generation. He dwells in us, and we dwell in Him. God was in Israel and Israel was in God. In Him we live and move and have our being.A Transient Wisp of Fog:
This psalm emphasizes how short this life is, and does so with various figures. Death comes upon us like a flood. This life is like sleeping—blink and it is done. We are like grass that withers, so green just yesterday. Our life is like a dream—you cannot take hold of it, not even with both hands. It is like a tale that is already told. Our lives are like a mist, a wisp of fog (Jas. 4:14). Whether you are 80 years old or 10 years old, all your yesterdays stack up to the same height, which is a negligible one.
So imagine a river cresting at flood stage. You see various people struggling in the river, bobbing up and down. One of them you see bob up and down three or four times before he is swept around the bend and out of your sight. If his head went down and came up four times, that means he had an exceptionally long life. He was an old-timer—he bobbed four times.
Bede records that when Edwin of Northumbria was considering Christianity as preached by Paulinus, a pagan thane recommended conversion. He said that this life was like a swallow in a mead hall. There is a fire on the hearth, but tempest and black storm outside. A swallow flies in one door, is briefly warm in the hall, and then flutters out the other door. That’s all we pagans know about this life, the thane said, and if the Christian faith gives us anything with more certainty than that, then we should certainly adopt it.Numbering Our Days Means We Should Weigh Them:
The petition is for God to teach us to number our days, and this numbering is defined as that which is consistent with wisdom. Numbering our days actually means weighing our days. Some people have many days, but each day is like a Styrofoam packing peanut. Others have fewer days, but they are hard, gold nuggets. Teach us to number our days so that we remember our own mortality, and live before God in the light of our own mortality.
Numbering our days rightly means coming to a right understanding of what sin is, and what sin does. God sets our iniquities out in front of Him, our secret sins in the light of His countenance. He sets our sins out in plain old daylight (v. 8). Nothing is hidden from His sight. Nothing. Remember that if there were no sin, the brevity of this life would be no trouble at all.When Beauty Rests Upon Us:
One of the primary works of the Israelites in the wilderness was the construction of the tabernacle. This was the work of their hands. Like all their other works, it was built in this world, meaning that it was transient and temporary.
It would be a noteworthy prayer to ask God to allow the beauty of His holiness to descend upon any of our works. But consider what has been reinforced by the first part of this psalm. Remember what kind of airy molecules make up our works. And what are we asking for then? We are asking that the crushing weight of the beauty of God come down and do what to our works? You would think that crushing weight would crush. But no. What is being requested? God, You see this little bit of fog here in my hands? Do you see this wispy bit of nothing? God Almighty, send down Your beauty upon this, and establish it. Yes, I asked You to establish my fog, and to glorify my mist.
This prayer is not impossible for God to answer. But it has to be said that it would be impossible for Him to answer apart from an incarnate Messiah—one who lived a perfect sinless life (which the beauty of the Lord rested upon fully), and who then went to the cross and the tomb in order to deal with our vain little lives. When He rose again from the dead, the foundation of this ultimate answer to prayer was finally and completely laid. For God so loved the fog that He gave His only begotten Son.
For various reasons, the practice of bringing your Bible to church is slipping away from many. Because of a number of factors—the fact that many of you have six little kids, the fact that eight psalters are quite enough to haul around, the fact that the text of the sermon is on the outline—has led to some thinking that it is not necessary to bring a Bible to church at all. And, on a practical, physical level, it might not be necessary—but here are some other considerations.
Bringing your Bible to church is an important liturgical act. By it, you are making the statement that we want to be a congregation of Bereans, searching the Scriptures to see if these things are so. This remains the case even if some of you, as I did, grew up seeing a great deal of emptiness in the ritual. As a small boy, I was drilled in Sunday School on finding my way around in the Bible, for which I am exceedingly grateful. But the Bible drills were overseen by people who didn’t know what a covenant was, who didn’t believe that God decreed all things, and who thought that Jesus drank grape juice. Just carrying your Bible around can be as hollow as just carrying around a prayer book. But don’t over-react. If you are steeped in Scripture, and you bring your Bible, it is an important symbolic and liturgical act. The Bible is central to our faith.
Second, the church is our mother, as Paul says in Galatians. Now you should know to honor your mother, but one of the ways to honor her is to grow up into individual maturity. A two-year-old who defies his mother is not honoring her. A forty-year-old with no job, living in the basement, is not honoring her either. “Your mother cuts your meat for you” is a taunt or not, depending on the circumstances. If all you know about the sermon is what comes off the outline, you are being fed, but you are being fed in a high chair. But if the message makes you think of other connections, and you have your Bible open on your lap, and you go to check them, then you are growing up into a mature interaction with the teaching of the church.
And last, realize that each generation has the capacity to step a little farther in the direction you set. Someone who has read the Bible fifty times can easily follow along without bringing it. But the next generation might not have that background knowledge to draw on, and yet continues the practice of not honoring the Scriptures by bringing them. The generation after that will likely be even farther away, which is not what we want at all.
God plows his people. He deals with us, and He deals with us here in the Supper. He deals with sin in the Supper.
This is very different from us trying to deal with sin on our own before we come, in order to make ourselves worthy. That misses the point, almost entirely. You do not improve yourselves, and then come here for the reward. Of course, living in known and overt sin is inconsistent with coming to the Table, and so in accordance with the Scriptures we do require you to confess your sins in the service before coming to the Table. But this does not mean you arrive at this Table in a sinless condition. God still is dealing with us, gently, patiently, for He is God our Savior.
God plows us here, and as He plows, rocks that were buried deep start coming to the surface. The rocks that were lying on the surface should have been confessed by you already. But when God uses this Table to cause rocks to arise from the depths of your heart, and they confront you here, do not be dismayed. God is dealing with all of us.
And when the rock is lying on the surface, it is not your job to remove it. It is not as though God’s part is to point, and your part is the hard work of hauling it off. God’s work in your life is to identify, and He enables you to confess, honestly and openly, surrendered to Him completely. And then He takes it away. He is our Savior.
Our task in all this is to be saved. It is quite true that you have been saved already; you are freely justified through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. But according to the Word, we are also being saved, and at the last day, we will be saved. And each day that we live before God is part of this sovereign process that He oversees.
In this, what does He call you to? Be patient, for you are the patient.
So come, and welcome, to Jesus Christ.
Candy Gunther Brown's The Healing Gods is an effort to explain how Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) “entered the American cultural mainstream,” and especially how it achieved “a niche among evangelical and other theologically conservative Christians, although much of CAM is religious but not distinctively Christian and lacks scientific evidence of efficacy and safety.”
At the American Interest , James S. Henry examines Trump's Russian connections. It's an unnerving read. Whatever his relationship with Putin, Trump “has certainly managed to accumulate direct and indirect connections with a far-flung private Russian/former Soviet Union (FSU) network of outright mobsters, oligarchs, fraudsters, and kleptocrats. Any one of these connections might have occurred at random. But the overall pattern is a veritable Star Wars bar scene of unsavory characters, with Donald Trump seated right in the middle.”
Two hundred years ago this month, Jane Austen put aside her pen for the last time, dating an unfinished novel that has come to be known as Sanditon . Anthony Lane thinks the novel shows that, despite her physical decay, Austen had lost none of her powers: “Although—or precisely because—‘Sanditon' was composed by a dying woman, the result is robust, unsparing, and alert to all the latest fashions in human foolishness. It brims with life.”
Summarizing the argument of Walter Scheidel's The Great Leveler , the Economist reports: “inequality within countries is almost always either high or rising, thanks to the ways that political and economic power buttress each other and both pass down generations. It does not, as some have suggested, carry within it the seeds of its own demise.”
“T here's a new ‘sacred' in town,” write Juan and Stacey Floyd-Thomas in The Altars Where We Worship .
Patrick Deneen ( Democratic Faith , xiv) tells the story of the desacralization of the Cathedral of Saint Genevieve in 1791. The national assembly decided to “rededicate the basilica as a resting place for France’s revolutionary heroes. Above its doors were carved the words, ‘Aux grands hommes la Patrie reconaissante' (The nation honors its great men).”
In his Aesthetics of Architecture , Roger Scruton summarizes RG Collingwood's distinction between art and craft. It has a surface plausibility: “Initially it seems quite reasonable to distinguish the attitude of the craftsman - who aims at a certain result and does what he can to achieve it - from that of the artist, who knows what he is doing, as it were, only when it is done.”