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“If Jesus really did come back from the dead, then certain things are false, and the gigantic brotherhood of man has gone pfft” (Empires of Dirt, p.35).
“Now, despite this disclaimer, if someone comes up to me angrily and says, ‘I don’t care about all those disclaimers . . . you really are talking about me!’ Well, yes, I guess I probably am” (Food Catholic, p. 39).
So let us talk for a moment about the term “fake news.” Why are we talking about this all of a sudden? Why is this a thing now?
During the campaign there were various stories that circulated on the Internet, made up of whole cloth, some of which were not flattering to Hillary. In the aftermath of the election, when her people were flailing around in search of someone or something to blame besides Her Majesty, one of the things they tried out was the idea that it was “fake news” that had hurt her in the final days of the election. Let’s run that one up the flag pole to see if anyone salutes.
Not only did no one salute, but something else entirely happened.Qualifications
But before proceeding further, let me acknowledge fully and sincerely that there were stories out there about Hillary that, when it came to the falsitudinous quotient, ranked pretty high up there. I also acknowledge that Nigerian princes who are stranded in Manila with a suitcase full of gold bullion are also not, shall we say, legit. Do not send them your bank account number. And further, I cheerfully note that purveyors of clickbait techniques love to tell us that what Ted Cruz said next went BOOM, and that Kellyanne Conway DESTROYED Anderson Cooper, and that when you see what Bo Derek looks like now it will BLOW YOUR MIND. So Hillary had to deal with that foolishness, as well all the rest of us. Welcome to earth, kid.
And here is another qualification. Donald Trump is a wrecking ball. It is possible to applaud the fact of some of the wreckage without applauding, um, the entire project. Remember that Elisha met privately with Hazael, but was not in cahoots with Hazael. Elisha sent a young prophet to anoint Jehu king, but was not part of Jehu’s faction. I look at Donald Trump calling CNN names in a presidential news conference, and I realize yet again that God loves us and wants us to be happy.Back to the Thread
So this is when the other thing happened. Fake news became an item of concern as the Hillary folks were trying to explain to us how the most qualified woman in the world managed to lose to Donald Jehu Trump. They put the phrase fake news into play, but they tried doing so by means of an onside kick. The ball flew like a wounded duck, landed on the pointy end, and bounced in ways that would require a sportswriter of the old school to describe. Trump picked it up, but instead of running for the end zone, he ran down the offensive line of the Democratic Party, knocking over CNN, CBS, MSNBC, two refs, and the water boy, and . . .
Look. Let us be frank with each other, you and I. Sometimes when the metaphor mojo is running a little hot, there really isn’t anything you can do except start a new paragraph and hope that the pistons didn’t melt.
At any rate, the phrase fake news was used by Hillary to refer the mole hill of Facebook stories that described her as an illegal immigrant from Area 51, and then Trump picked the phrase up and used it to refer to the Himalayas of bum dope that has been churned by the metric ton for decades out by we call the main stream media. He used it of them and on them, and the dang thing stuck. He refused to allow CNN to question him in a press conference because “you are fake news.” And in his last presser, he said, no, no, that isn’t quite right. “You are very fake news.” Hillary tried to call flake news by the name fake news, and it got turned around and applied to a more worthy object.
Now ordinarily this would be just an insult and, if Mark Twain is to be believed, an ill-advised one. “Never pick a fight with people who buy ink by the barrel.” But this is not an ordinary circumstance, and I honestly don’t know if the newsprint, broadcast, and cable establishment is going to be able to recover from this. Here is why.Dinosaur Hunting
Let us go back to the logic of the Industrial Revolution, which was a centralizing logic. The capstone of that Revolution was the newsprint media established in major cities (19th century) and the broadcast media (20th century). In the 1980’s, CNN arrived as a Johnny-come-lately on cable, making one think of an episode like the United States colonizing the Philippines—you know, two centuries late and very self-important.
When I was a boy, you got your news, if you got it at all, from the newspaper or from one of the big three broadcast stations—CBS, NBC, or ABC. If they blew sunshine at you, as they frequently did, there was not really much you could do about it. In most cases, you would not even know. There was no real way to cross check anything. What we ingested was mass media, delivered in bulk. To readapt an image from a colorful writer of another era, stories went into the massive news factories on the hoof and came out in cans. The gatekeepers were quite diligent, and there were very few gates to guard. If your news source of choice was broadcast television, you had three flavors to choose from. The cans were all the same size, and had basically the same gelatinous content.
If someone was lied about, or misrepresented, or the story that involved them was significantly garbled, there was no practical recourse for that person. And the fact that there was no recourse meant that there was no real disincentive for the media to avoid doing it. To be sure, there was that pesky concept called journalistic ethics that were supposed to govern the whole operation, but because there was very little practical recourse for the victim of a bad story, this meant that journalistic ethics had no one providing any police protection, and they lived on the bad side of town.
If I might insert my own testimony, as one who has been written about in newspapers and magazines a lot, it is safe to say that it is usually the case that some significant fact or facts are gotten wrong, particularly if the story involves some controversy. In other words, usually wrong, frequently unreliable. And in this regard, there has been no appreciable difference with Christian media—magazines like World, for example, have done a much poorer job with us than The New York Times has done. And this is not to say that the Times doesn’t have its issues. Heh, heh, its issues. Get it?
What this has done, over the course of decades, is create a vast pent-up frustration with the media, not quite coast to coast, but close. This has been recognized for a long time, and politicians on the right have angled for cheap points forever by attacking the media during campaigns. Yay. But everything stayed just the same after elections as before, and the frustration continued to build.
What Trump is doing is attacking a venerable institution that is already wasting away. He is dinosaur hunting with shoulder-mounted RPGs. He is shooting at them from a rented safari jeep.Alt-Media, Not the Alt-Right
So the significant change that has occurred is that it has become possible to stay reasonably well-informed without coming into contact with any of the establishment media. A lot of people have taken the by-pass, and don’t drive through downtown Big Media at all anymore. I haven’t read a newspaper regularly for over a decade. I would have work to find out when the big three newscasts even air. I have no idea where they are hiding these days. I usually find out about breaking news through Twitter, Facebook, or various web sites. Those web sites are collated for me by me—I am my own “editor,” assembling them to taste. The editorial bias that all such sites have can be regulated and balanced with the presence of other sites. I can drop or add, depending. For example, during the heat of this last campaign I dropped Drudge (because of the pom poms), and now that the election is over, I can handle checking him again from time to time.A Day Late
What has been striking to me is that a number of Republicans have been leaping to the defense of the legacy media. They have stood for years against media “bias,” and have complained about that liberal bias in a whiney voice for almost the same length of time, but they draw the line at Trump calling them all out for the buffoons, poltroons, and macaroons that they are. I know, don’t look it up. A macaroon is a small circular cake, a dainty, a trifle. Actually I think that works.
It is not an assault on freedom of the press to identify liars. It is not blackening the reputation of a venerable institution to point out that it has ceased long ago to be a venerable institution. Mencken had something to say on this: “American journalism (like the journalism of any other country) is predominately paltry and worthless. Its pretensions are enormous but its accomplishments are insignificant.”
In short, it matters not that Donald Trump is an unworthy messenger. The dinosaurs are old and decrepit, and the safari jeep has been on paved roads the whole time, Trump is going to sleep like a baby in a luxury hotel tonight, and the entire thing is completely unfair. But the fact that something feels unfair doesn’t keep it from happening.
his accounts for why it is that celebrity journalists are dancing in place, and spitting occasionally.
In their 1662 treatise on Logic, or the Art of Thinking , Antoine Arnauld and Pierre Nicole question the straightforwardness of the Calvinist logical analysis concerning the Eucharistic “This is my body.” They summarise the argument this way: “Their claim is that in Jesus Christ’s assertion, ‘This is my body,’ the word ‘this’ signifies the bread. Now the bread, they say, cannot really be the body of Christ, and therefore Christ’s assertion does not mean ‘This is really my body’” (71).
Reeves writes with zest, and is very engaging. He is steeped in Scripture, and his exploration of the basics of Christian living is really good. On top of that, he has the classic Puritan writers at his fingertips and brings them in frequently to buttress or make a glorious point. This is a very good book.
This was a very fine book on writing. Some really shrewd wisdom in this thing. One of my favorites is this: Choose words the average writer avoids but the average reader understands. Rarely used words are not the same thing as unknown words.
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Of course, glorious and wise. Well worth it. But I was struck — and perhaps unfairly — with the Christlessness of his Heaven.
Every year our congregation sponsors a missions conference, the one we just finished Saturday. It is also our custom to have the sermon following the missions conference be related to the subject of missions in some way. This message is no exception, but it is important for us not to misunderstand. The fact that we mark Good Friday and Easter on an annual basis does not mean that the crucifixion and resurrection are somehow dispensable in other times of the year. And the fact that we are done with the missions conference does not mean we are done with mission.The Text:
“And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15).Summary of the Text:
At the end of the gospel of Mark, Jesus gives His disciples their marching orders. This is not the Great Commission, but it is on the same theme as that commission. Go into all the world. When you go into all the world, you will find creatures there. When you find creatures there, you are to proclaim the gospel to every creature.
My focus here this morning is to address what is meant by “world.” And how do we “go into” all the world? The short answer is that the world is where the people are.When These Words Were Spoken:
When Jesus spoke these words, going into the world meant what we would call travel (going from one place to another yourself), and it meant communication across distance (going from one place to another by means of media). Media at the time largely meant letters, or epistles. We still have the same basic options—travel and media. The passage of time has not changed the options, but has rather simply changed the ease and speed of those options. We travel with much greater ease, and we communicate with people on the other side of the world with much greater ease. But we are still following these two basic options.
Now, as before, there are people who use both options wisely. But now, as then, there are people who talk big, but do little else. Then, as now, there were bookworms and basement dudes, hiding from the world through lofty sounding books, posts, tweets, or whatnot, and all because they were scared of girls. As Solomon once put it, there is nothing new under the sun.
So what should we bring with us when we travel? What should we send with our messages when we write? The answer is Jesus, but this must be understood rightly. This does not mean that all your Facebook posts have be pictures of saints with three halos, or that your web site has to play Gregorian chant in the background.
The fact is that mankind is created as a tool-making creature. Adam was created naked, but given the magnitude of the task he was given—which included digging mines, sailing oceans, and climbing mountains—the creation of tools was a necessity. This means that when we make tools, whether plows and shovels, smoke signals or iPhones, we are not violating our essential humanity. Rather we are expressing it. Contrary to the theory of evolution, we are not over-developed animals who moved away from the “natural” and into the “artificial.” For man, the artificial is natural. We want nothing to do with Rousseau’s “noble savage.” Ten minutes after Adam figured out what that honeycomb was, he started looking around for a stick.Scattering What You Have:
Now wherever Christians go, they go as themselves. “Now they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen travelled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to none but unto the Jews only” (Acts 11:19).
Wherever hypocrites go, they also go as themselves. “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves” (Matt. 23:15).
Your country can only export whatever it is your farmers are growing. When you go somewhere, or when you send a message somewhere, you are simply projecting what you already are. If you are a bore and a bellygod, then social media will simply enable you to engage in some digital scribbling so that people in New Zealand can, if they wish, read about your grumbles over lunch.
But if you are alive, vibrant, and forgiven, we now live in a world where you can project that.Times of Refreshing:
The gospel is not some tiresome thing that door-to-door salesmen try to talk you into. “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19). We are actually talking about a cool breeze that blows off the ocean of God’s infinite pleasure and delight. We are talking about times of refreshing, and if we are not talking about times of refreshing then we are not talking about the gospel as presented in Scripture.
Piety is delighted, and delightful. Godliness is free in its enjoyment of the pleasures of God. Obedience is liberty. “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31). This is quite true—whatever you eat or drink, on whatever day, for whatever meal. This includes, of course, the French fries, but that does not mean that you are to stand on the restaurant chair in order to thank God that you are not like other men, the ones who do not glorify God for the French fries.
The grace of God is good. Do not be like that nun that Brother Lawrence referred to, the one who wanted to be “faster than grace.” This is how we run headlong into scruples and fussing and wowserism. Enjoy your life, the one Christ has given you. And it is not possible to do this without enjoying Christ Himself.Two Meanings for “Share”:
The charge against the early disciples was that they had “filled Jerusalem” with their teaching. “Saying, Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us” (Acts 5:28).
We do not have pastors and evangelists as hired guns to do all the evangelism for us. They are trained and equipped so that they can prepare God’s people for works of service (Eph. 4:12). The saints are to do the work of ministry, not at the same level as someone gifted or trained. But all of us are involved. And to be honest, how much training does it take to share or retweet something?
It is not a matter of this technique or that one, this Internet trick or that one, but rather experiencing the presence of Christ in your life and communicating that. Who is the Lord Jesus? Who is this king of glory? He is, among many other things, the Lord of the Internet. His lordship and His offered forgiveness should therefore be proclaimed there. Why would it not be? Is the world there? Are unforgiven creatures there?
Learning to live in genuine community is one of the central goals that we have set for ourselves. And, to be honest, we did not set the goal—it is set before us in Scripture as one of the basic elements of the Christian faith. We are one in Jesus Christ, and this is not to be limited to Sunday morning when everyone is wearing their best clothes, when pretty much everyone took a shower, and everyone is on their best behavior. This is the place where we are woven into community, but the thing is not supposed to come unraveled as we are pulling out of the parking lot.
But community on Monday morning . . . that’s another thing. And Thursday afternoon can be even more difficult. Because living in community is what takes the rough edges off . . . but before it takes the rough edges off, living in community reveals those rough edges.
Some of you are regularly late to things. Some of you don’t return things that you have borrowed in a timely way. Some of you think that community means other people baby-sitting for you. Some of you think that community means that your business doesn’t have to honor delivery dates, or honor your word in other respects. Some of you think that community means having a right to be a grouch. Some of you think that community means flirting with all the sisters, or with all the brothers as the case may be.
Community brings all this out, but community, over time, is also supposed to deal with it.
We are tangled up in one another’s lives, and this is as it ought to be. But we are not tangled up so that we would surrender to various forms of thoughtlessness.
Confronting this kind of thing as appropriate, covering it in love as appropriate, is the training ground that God has given to us. We are a rag tag collection of forgiven sinners, and a number of us have some messy things lying about in our lives. The task before us is to pick up, and to help one another do so in all patience.
So patience does not mean leaving it alone. Addressing it firmly does not mean impatience. And learning how to do this is one of God’s great gifts to us.
The apostle tells us that all the Jews in the wilderness drank the same spiritual drink. They all drank from the same spiritual Rock that followed them, the Rock that was Christ.
But with many, he says, God was not pleased. They were overthrown in the wilderness. In the same way, certain members of the church at Corinth were overthrown in their wilderness, and did not enter into the promised land of the Christian aeon. They came up out of Egypt, but (in a figure) died during the forty years between the crucifixion of Christ and the destruction of the old Jerusalem. They did not enter in because of unbelief. But the fact they did not enter in to the promised land did not keep them from communing with Christ in the wilderness. They did commune with Him in their unbelief, just as the Jews had done in a type.
When we look at the Jews in the wilderness and the Corinthians in their wilderness, we want to draw a contrast—everything must be different in the new covenant, we say—but Paul teaches that in this respect, everything is the same.
And so we reason by analogy to a third set of circumstances. The bread from heaven was Christ, but so was the bread of the land, so was the milk and honey.
This is our situation. Everyone in this room who partakes of the bread and the wine partakes of the same bread and the same wine. Christ is not present for the one who has faith, but absent from the one who does not have faith. Rather, He is present covenantally for both. His covenant presence is an enormous, glorious blessing for those who come in simple child-like faith. His presence is terrible for those who trifle with Him, and who think that He does not see.
So come, and welcome, to Jesus Christ.
The content was really good, but the 19th century stiffness could afford to unbend a little. But still, I read it all the way through.
“Sorry to get into all the deep theology here but the Christian faith means calling everyone to believe in Jesus” (Empires of Dirt, p. 32).
“You can still see the modernist idol at work in the television advertisements for the newest Big Pharma drugs. You know the kind—where the fine print of ad copy was written by lawyers with a gruesome turn of mind? ‘Side effects may include writing on the living room floor, chewing on the coffee table leg, and vomiting up blood.’ I can’t really say I have felt enticed to try MadcowMyrica myself. Side effects may also include sitting in two claw foot bathtubs in odd, open air locations” (Food Catholic, p. 38).
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“Conservatism is dead and deadening, only upon the hypothesis, that the universal history of man is the realm of death” (Shedd, Homiletics and Pastoral Theology, p. 384).
According to Pierre Manent ( Beyond Radical Secularism ), May 1968 marked a critical turning point in the political history ofFrance. Despite the persistence of the “Gaullist” party in political power, ‘68 undermined “collective rules, both political and merely social. The citizen of action was followed by the individual of enjoyment. . . . From this moment on relaxation becomes the law of the land. It makes every constraint appear to be useless and arbitrary, in a word vexing, whether in civic or in private life. As each letting-go justifies and calls forth the next, governments are motivated to tout themselves, no longer by the guidance and energy they give to common life, but by the ‘new rights' they grant to individuals and to groups” (5).
Separation of church and state, religion and politics, is not “sufficient unto itself,” argues Pierre Manent ( Beyond Radical Secularism ). After all, he points out, citizens are believers, believers citizens, and they don’t cease to be one when they take up the role of the other. Separation “suggests the dangerously clear figure of a reciprocal exteriority, as a plan divided by a line, or a three-dimension figure divided by a plane.” It is more realistic to speak of a “reciprocal envelopment of the political form and the regime,” in France, the secular state and a nation “marked” by Christianity” (62).
The title essay of John Summerson's Heavenly Mansions sets Gothic architecture in a story of the architecture of fancy. He begins with doll houses, and moves to aedicules, originally small buildings holding the image of a god that eventually became purely decorative alcoves. In Gothic, the ornament is turned into the structure: “Instead of the aedicule serving to adorn the structure, the structure was made the slave of the aedicule” (14).
Rise and Fall of American Growth
, Robert J. Gordon argues that the growth rates for the American economy have leveled because the rate of innovation has leveled. And the rate of innovation has leveled, in part, because some innovations happen only once:
According to Ingolf Dalferth ( Creatures of Possibility ), Christianity “contradicts a view that understands human beings in their fundamental dependence, finitude, and passivity, not merely biologically, but anthropologically, as deficient beings , interpreting their absolute dependence as absolute neediness, their finitude as a metaphysical evil, and their experience of the inaccessible as a threat of fundamental meaninglessness.” Such an “anthropology of deficiency” blocks our understanding of gift (105).