Blog Archive


Sunday, February 28, 2010
How much do I care for these ants? I think I care. I'll stop to watch their wars. I'll buy my children documentaries - insect tributes. I won't crush them when I can help it.

But, if given the chance, would I be willing to become one of them? Would I be willing for them to drag me to the place of execution, taunt me, mock me, ridicule the gift I offered, a gift entirely beyond their comprehension? Would I be willing for the earwig, executed beside me, to add his insults to those of the ants? Would I be willing to die?

Hell no. Never. I have more self-regard than God does. I have less love for the characters beneath me. - N.D. Wilson in Notes from the Tilt-A-Whirl
I just finished this book and it is amazing! Not many books are so engaging and so illuminating. Pick it up today if you get a chance! Or... win it.
Friday, February 26, 2010
Doug Wilson elaborates more on his previous discussion of the supposed "exceptionalism" of America.
American exceptionalism is objectionable because it is a false religion, a false faith. It is a smooth and attractive idol, and probably the idol most likely to ensnare conservative evangelicals.
The problem is that Americanism is seen as a source of ideals, an artesian well of ethics, a fountainhead of standards. This is not just nonsense, it is damned nonsense.
To object to American exceptionalism (for I am an American objectionalist) is not to maintain that there is nothing unique about Americans or American history. It is to say that there is nothing religiously unique. We are sinners like everybody else, we need God's grace like everybody else, we are thoughtless when prosperous like everybody else, and peevish when not prosperous like everybody else. Take off an American's boots, and you will find ten toes. Son of a gun.

Now one of the unique things that is striking about the wisdom of our founders is that they knew this. The constitutional arranagement they made for us presupposes that we are just like everybody else. The founders did not trust Americans with the kind of power that Obama wants, the kind that Congress wants, the kind that the Supreme Court wants, the kind that the Republicans want, the kind the Democrats want, and the kind that most American voters have hitherto wanted to surrender to the aforementioned. The founders knew that Americans were good, old-fashioned me-firsters, and so they built enough booby traps in the constitutional arrangement to make it look like the beginning of an Indiana Jones movie.
The founders knew that we were in no way unique, and that really was unique. As long as we kept that Calvinistic humility in place, we were greatly blessed. And there is nothing wrong with acknowledging and rejoicing in that blessing. We need to return to it.

So American gratitude is something else entirely. That is not what I am shooting at when I go after exceptionalism. Acknowledgement of God's great blessing is not just okay, but is rather mandatory.
So what is this sin of exceptionalism? It is here: "And thou say in thine heart, My power and the might of mine hand hath gotten me this wealth" (Dt. 8:17).
Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means, at the point of highest reality. A chastity or honesty or mercy which yields to danger will be chaste or honest or merciful only on conditions. Pilate was merciful till it became risky. - C.S. Lewis
Thursday, February 25, 2010
Doug Wilson has a good post today on the idol of American exceptionalism, which many politically-minded Christians routinely fall for. Sure, there is something about our Constitution and rule of law which is exceptional as far as world systems go. But only as far as it points more clearly to the ultimate hope and exceptional government: God's. As I mentioned in the comment section and Pastor Wilson agreed, 1 Corinthians 4:7 is most appropriate here.
There are a number of things that are circulated on the foxnewsright that do to my soul what an Athens full of idols did to the apostle Paul. One of the central ones, as readers of this space well know, is that I think there is enough sadness in the world without Republicans going around talking about American exceptionalism. The most recent sampling of a near cousin to this kind of thing was a comment by Jeb Bush when he said that Obama's policies were "not American." Obama's policies are idiotic, sure, but last time I checked, we weren't having to import any of that. We generate enough in a month or two -- just in my part of the country -- to keep New York lit up for a couple years.
So however earnest they may be in their opposition to Obamaman, whenever somebody trots out this exceptionalism business, thinking Christians need to fall upon that claim with merry shouts. However sound they may be on how a health care system should work, any given advocate of this bizarre doctrine of exceptionalism seems to me to be, in the immortal words of Wodehouse, "nature's final word on cloth-headed guffins." This exceptionalism talk really needs to expire with a low gurgle.
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
As long as sin in our minds remains simply a nuisance or an inconvenience or an embarrassment, then we will never ever deal with it and we will never make any progress. - Alistair Begg
Doug Wilson comments on the current status of global warm-mongering:
So there's weather and there's climate. When the global warming shillists were back in their prime, they would regale us with anecdote after anecdote about the weather, claiming that this told us something about the climate. The actual climate claims were based on something else, but they sought to persuade the boobs by means of pointing to the weather. Katrina was the result of global warming, etc.

Then something funny happened. The weather shifted in some very odd ways, we started hearing about climate change instead of global warming, and the Al Gore effect became apparent in weather patterns. Everywhere that poor man went, a snow storm followed. Those who lived by the weather anecdote died by the weather anecdote.

They probably could have managed this, because enormous amounts of money were involved, not to mention a power grab of Orwellian proportions. Men like this were not going to slowed down by snow flurries in Georgia.

But then the climate data went blooey. Turns out the books were cooked, rigged, made up, massaged, bought and paid for, and then lost. There went the climate, and the phrase "the science is settled" took on a much more ominous meaning.

And then God, for His mercies endure forever, sent the world the winter of winters. The one enthroned in Heaven laughs; He holds them in derision.
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
[UPDATE: This video has been questioned regarding its veracity, particularly about whether the people are being beaten because they are Christians. Because of that, the videos aren't currently available.]

Be warned, this video contains graphic violence against Christians. But it is critical to the health of the Western church to see and remember the saints who are perishing for their faith. Guess that rush hour traffic jam today wasn't so bad after all...

Francis Chan's response

(HT: JT)
Doug Wilson has a good post today on where true hope and true political leadership is found.
When I see that a candidate professes a commitment to my big ticket items, and that profession is not transparently hypocritical, this simply means that I feel free to vote for that person, and can do so without troubling my conscience. But it does not mean that I trust that person to fix the problem. Why on earth would I believe that this stalwart candidate, if elected, could turn anything around?
America needs salvation, and there is only one Savior, the Lord Jesus. Unfortunately for our constitutional mythologies, we cannot arrange for Him to save us without mentioning His name. This is the issue underlying all issues. When we speak of the devil, one little word shall fell him, and I am not in sympathy with those who want to keep trying the same impotent words and phrases we have been using for the last century or two -- democracy! exceptionalism! good sense of the American people! gakk!
When the cross is lifted up, then the resurrected Christ comes down, in the power of the Spirit. That can save us, nothing else.

Where will this happen? Who is responsible for it? Who has been given that task? Not the governors, not the bankers, not the congressmen, not the lobbyists, not the business execs, not the U.S. Marines. Who then? Well, this is as good a reason as any to pray for your pastor. Jesus Christ has already ordained tens of thousands of men, they are charged with this very task, and they live right here in North America.
The shadows exist in the painting, the dark corners of grief and trial and wickedness all exist so that He might step inside them, so we could see how low He can stoop. In this story, the Author became flesh and wandered the stage... offering His own life. In this story, the Author heaped all that He loathed, all that displeased Him, all the wrongness of the world, onto Himself. Evil exists so that He might be demeaned and insulted, so that the depth of His love and sacrifice could be expressed as much as is possible in the small frame of history. - N.D. Wilson in Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl
Monday, February 22, 2010
[UPDATE: The CBS bracket website is now live. Password is "book". If you have any trouble registering, let me know.]

Any March Madness fans out there? Or people who like to read good books? Well, this should interest you. This year, I'm combining the exciting intrigue of NCAA basketball bracketology with the suspenseful thrill of a book giveaway. Awesome, huh? I bet all four of my readers have just gone into a catatonic state.

I'm doing this for two reasons. One, because March Madness brackets are fun, fun, fun. Two, to promote good books because ideas have consequences. Three (oops, I lied), to see if I really only have those four now-comatose readers.

I've placed the fuller details of this competition here (which you'll also find on a tab above), but I'll give you a quick rundown of how it will work. I'm giving away a minimum of four books, but that could increase significantly depending on the number of bracket entries. The reason? Each entry (a max of three per person) costs $5 and the accumulated proceeds will go towards more books as well as gift certificates for the winning paid entry. Also, the entry with the closest guess to the total score of the championship game (regardless of the entry's overall success) wins an gift certificate. Now, isn't that a lot more interesting and fun than the ol' dry random number-generated book giveaway? I'd do it all out of my own pocket, but I'm afraid I would end up with 60 entries and $300 worth of books to buy. As Latrell Sprewell once said, "I've got a family to feed."

The bracket website doesn't go "live" for probably another couple of weeks (the NCAA announces the brackets on March 14th). After the 14th, you'll have until sometime prior to the first games on Thursday, March 18th, to make your picks (the "play-in" game doesn't count in this bracket). Until then, feel free to advertise this to friends who could benefit from some good books. If I get a substantial amount of entrants, it could be quite the windfall in books and/or gift certificates for one lucky person. For those who don't follow college basketball, I'll leave you with this encouragement to participate anyway: bracketology is all luck. Picking according to "sweetest uniform" might even work.
What I couldn't see was how the life and death of Someone Else (whoever he was) 2000 years ago could help us here and now - except in so far as his example helped us. And the example business, though true and important, is not Christianity: right in the center of Christianity, in the Gospels and St. Paul, you keep on getting something quite different and very mysterious expressed in those phrases I have so often ridiculed ("propitiation" - "sacrifice" - "the blood of the Lamb") - expressions which I could only interpret in senses that seemed to me either silly or shocking. - C.S. Lewis
Thursday, February 18, 2010
The Wall Street Journal's James Taranto on the "melt-down" of global warmism:
This column was scoffing at global warming back when global warming was still cool. But even we have been surprised at the extent of the past three months' "meltdown" of global warmism, to use the metaphor that everyone seems to have settled on.

As we've written on various occasions, we didn't know enough about the substance of the underlying science to make a judgment about it. But we know enough about science itself to recognize that the popular rendition of global warmism--dogmatic, doctrinaire and scornful of skepticism--is not the least bit scientific. The revelations in the Climategate emails show that these attitudes were common among actual scientists, not just the popularizers of their work.

Still, we would not have gone so far as to say that global warming was just a hoax. Surely there was some actual science to back it, even if there was a lot less certainty than was claimed.

Now, though, we're wondering if this was too charitable a view. London's Sunday Times reports that scientists are "casting doubt" on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's "claim that global temperatures are rising inexorably because of human pollution," a claim the IPCC describes as "unequivocal"...

Meanwhile, the BBC carries an extraordinary interview with Phil Jones, director of the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia and the central Climategate figure. In the interview, Jones admits that the periods 1860-80 and 1910-40 saw global warming on a similar scale to the 1975-98 period, that there has been no significant warming since 1995, and that the so-called Medieval Warm Period calls into question whether the currently observed warming is unprecedented.

And then there's this exchange:
When scientists say "the debate on climate change is over," what exactly do they mean--and what don't they mean?

It would be supposition on my behalf to know whether all scientists who say the debate is over are saying that for the same reason. I don't believe the vast majority of climate scientists think this. This is not my view. There is still much that needs to be undertaken to reduce uncertainties, not just for the future, but for the instrumental (and especially the palaeoclimatic) past as well.
So "the vast majority of climate scientists" don't think the debate is over? Someone had better tell the IPCC, Al Gore, the Norwegian Nobel Committee and most of our colleagues in the media, who have long been insisting otherwise--and indeed, who continue to do so.
Even Phil Jones acknowledges climate science is rife with uncertainty, but global warmism's popularizers refuse to brook any doubt or acknowledge that the "consensus" they have touted is a sham.

And they used to call us deniers.
A God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of Christ without a cross. - H. Richard Niebuhr defines theological liberalism
As some of you likely already know, Brian McLaren, the leader of the Emergent Church movement (at least, what's left of it), released his new book, A New Kind of Christianity, this week. Formerly, McLaren has made a living from asking questions without giving any real answers. All that changed with this book. As Tim Challies put it, McLaren "appears to love Jesus but hate God... In this book we finally see where McLaren's journey has taken him; it has taken him into outright, rank, unapologetic apostasy. He hates God. Period."

Several Christian leaders have offered reviews and thoughts about the book, but I found Kevin DeYoung's the most penetrating of all. You can read it all here. DeYoung's closing words summarize McLaren's heterodoxy perfectly.
The message of McLarenism is pretty simple: God is love and wants everyone to be kind and inclusive and care for the poor and the environment. This is what Jesus was like, and we should be like Jesus. This is, of course, not wrong in so far as it goes. The Liberal/McLaren emphasis on the kingdom is right, their concern for the “other” is right, much of their ethics is right. But McLarenism, like liberalism, cannot be right. It has its emphases all out of proportion, its right statements thrown out of whack by all that is missing. In McLarenism there is no original sin, no wrath, no hell, no creation-fall-redemption, no definite future, no second coming that I can see, no clear statement on the deity of Christ, no mention of vicarious substitution or God’s holiness or divine sovereignty, no ethical demands except as they relate to being kind to others, no God-offendedness, no doctrine of justification, no unchanging apostolic deposit of truth, no absolute submission to the word of God, nary a mention of faith and worship, no doctrine of regeneration, no evangelistic impulse to save the lost, and nothing about God’s passion for his glory. This is surely a lot to leave out.

McLaren’s Christianity is not new and certainly not improved. I don’t believe you can even call it Christianity. It is liberalism dressed up for the 21st century. We can only hope this wave of liberalism fades as dramatically as did the last.
The New York Times has a sad article about mainline (read: theologically liberal) churches in the American Northwest that have turned to environmentalism as a last ditch attempt to stave off the impending closure of their doors. It makes sense that they would turn to another religion to postpone the end; they abandoned Christianity long ago, but they've finally found a new god to worship: Gaia. This sentence says it all:
“I’ve never been good at door-to-door evangelism,” said Deb Conklin, the pastor {emphasis mine} at Liberty Park United Methodist Church in Spokane, Wash., where an aging and shrinking congregation of about 20 people worships on Sundays. “But this has been so fun. Everybody wants to talk to you. It’s exciting. It’s ministry.”
Thank God that only through Christ can a church remain alive. These churches will die, and good riddance.
We're still six weeks from Easter, but it's never too early to start preparing for it. Plus, it's healthy and important to always keep Golgotha and Jesus' sacrifice in view during the whole year.

With that in mind, here are 25 great essays centered around Christ's final days. Many of these were first given as sermons.

1 & 2. True Contemplation of the Cross (Martin Luther) and He Set His Face to Go to Jerusalem (John Piper)

3. An Innocent Man Crushed by God, by Alistair Begg

4. The Cup, by C. J. Mahaney

5. Gethsemane, by R. Kent Hughes

6. Betrayed, Denied, Deserted, by J. Ligon Duncan III

7. Then Did They Spit in His Face, by Charles Spurgeon

8. The Silence of the Lamb, by Adrian Rogers

9. The Sufferings of Christ, by J. C. Ryle

10. Father, Forgive Them, by John MacArthur

11. With Loud Cries and Tears, by John Owen

12. That He Might Destroy the Works of the Devil, Martyn Lloyd-Jones

13. I Am Thirsty, by Joseph “Skip” Ryan

14. God-Forsaken, by Philip Graham Ryken

15. Cursed, by R. C. Sproul

16. Into Your Hands I Commit My Spirit, by James Montgomery Boice

17. Blood and Water, by John Calvin

18. He Descended into Hell and Ascended into Heaven, by J. I. Packer

19. A Sweet-Smelling Savor to God, by Jonathan Edwards

20. The Most Important Word in the Universe, by Raymond C. Ortlund Jr.

21. Resurrection Preview, by Francis Schaeffer

22. Peace Be unto You, by Saint Augustine

23. Knowing the Power of His Resurrection, by Tim Keller

24. Sharing His Sufferings, by Joni Eareckson Tada

25. Crucified with Christ, by Stephen F. Olford

(HT: JT)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010
This is an interesting article.
The spring-head of all Divine chastisement is Divine love. There is not, there cannot be, one drop of wrath in the heart of God towards His people. Their Divine Surety bore it all- suffered it all- took it all away. - Octavius Winslow
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy is when men are afraid of the light. - Plato
As a father who loves to read to my five-year-old daughter and can't wait to do so with my nearly two-year-old son (once he figures out the whole sitting-still-for-more-than-6.8-seconds thing), one obvious question that I need to answer on occasion (both for myself and for curious friends) is "what type of literature can they handle?" And I not just referring to literary vocabulary. Clearly, one can't read Crime and Punishment to a three-year-old because the words alone would lose him like Hansel and Gretel in the forest. But what about the content of that same Dostoevsky book? Even if a child can understand the words, are the "thematic elements" (as the movie rating industry might call them) too "adult" for him? I know plenty of parents who would answer with a resounding "yes."

But is the answer that clear-cut? Recently, I've been reading to my daughter the first in the 100 Cupboards trilogy by N.D. Wilson (Pastor Doug Wilson's son). We're not far enough into it yet to get an idea of where exactly the story is going to take us (my guess is some Narnia-like land), but I am willing to bet that, like the books of Aslan, this trilogy will have some dark moments in it. Isn't it interesting that the classic "children's" literature is ripe with dark plot lines (Dickens, anyone?), while much of today's kid lit is bereft of anything remotely bordering on truly sinister or foreboding?

For my part, I can't wait to read The Lord of the Rings to my kids and, when the time comes, watch the Peter Jackson film versions of the Tolkien trilogy with them (movies are a slightly different animal, as they can overwhelm a child's imaginative capacities). Kids need to know that the world is dark at an early age rather than pretend everything is just Santa Clauses and Popsicles til junior high. N.D. Wilson expands on this point here, saying that the difference between children's and adult literature should be that the truth is just deeper, that adult lit just adds "more dragonflies."
Sure, there are many authors out there who see a children’s book as an opportunity to wise some kids up to the heady ways of the adult world (issues, after all, are important, and future important people should grapple with them at a young age). These adult types want kids to face the Truth, and the Truth is hard. The world is hard and not necessarily interesting... Kid, you’ve seen the world now; I’ve shown it to you in this fine piece of award-winning fiction. Now you know that insurance companies are out to get you, and your sick grandmother and only you can save the wetlands. Or not. Have fun in high school.

On the other hand, the bestseller lists are crowded with kids’ books featuring dragons and vampires and dwarves and many, many comic variations on Tolkien’s creatures and characters. (To say nothing of all the happy, happy endings.) And if you push against this type of fiction for children, you’ll get some very grandmotherly defenses.

A few examples from my own pushings:

It’s important to preserve this time of innocence.

We need to water young imaginations.

What’s wrong with dreaming?

Some kids need to escape (especially when they’re getting beat up at school).

(And variations . . .)

I agree with all of this, but there’s an undercurrent to it that I dislike. The assumption is that kids don’t need/can’t handle the truth. They need some time to be happy before they discover how much the world sucks and/or how boring it really is. Lie to the kids now, and they will look back on it fondly later. (Santa anyone?)

I don’t want to lie to kids. Ever. I don’t want to lull them to sleep before the real world wakes them up with a head slap and a wet-willy in the ear sometime during adolescence. I like the hard-nosed commitment to Truth and The Real that I see in some of my issues-driven colleagues. And I like the joy and the happiness and the thrill that is woven into the work of many others.

The two belong together.

I write kids’ books because I can tell the Truth, and the Truth is that The Real is throbbingly fantastic... I want them to get a world vision that can grow and mature and age with them until, like all exoskeletons, it must be cast aside—not as false, but as a shallow introduction to things even deeper and stranger and more wonderful (and involving more dragonflies).

It is because I try to write this way that I use so much darkness. Evil is more than a prop. True sacrifice is not a sleight of hand. Laughter in the face of adversity is the first step to profound joy in triumph.
C.S. Lewis wrote truth for the young, and he wrote truth for the old. The weave is finer in That Hideous Strength than in Narnia, but the truth and the ingredients are the same in both. That apple pie hasn’t lost its savor, and it continues to feed me even when I’m not reading, when I’m walking beneath a row of maples or climbing a hill or slaving on a project . . . when I’m writing.
The Bible routinely is the victim of people deciding to "kidify" it. Rather than tell the whole story of David and Bathsheba (leaving aside details they wouldn't understand), many children's Bible storybooks settle for "David was bad, God was mad" or don't tell the story at all rather than spend the time explaining why a just God would kill a child because of the sin of his father. Avoid those messy stories, and you may get a son or daughter who grows to find Brian McLaren quite appealing. Avoid the Truth of life, and your child will get one big "wet-willy" sooner than later. Be willing to tackle the dragon of life straight on and slay it with honesty rather than escapism.

Read hard children's books to your kids, and read them to yourself as well. As C.S. Lewis once said,
No book is really worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally (and often far more) worth reading at the age of fifty... The only imaginative works we ought to grow out of are those which it would have been better not to have read at all.
So finally the main global warm-mongers admit that there has been no real warming in the last 15 years... about time someone was honest!
Nobody who gets enough food and clothing in a world where most are hungry and cold has any business to talk about "misery." - C.S. Lewis
Friday, February 12, 2010
By the end of today, we may have a weather first: all 50 states covered in snow.
We must get rid of our arrogant assumption that it is the masses who can be led by the nose. As far as I can make out, the shoe is on the other foot. The only people who are really the dupes of their favourite newspapers are the intelligentsia. It is they who read leading articles; the poor read the sporting news, which is mostly true. - C.S. Lewis
Thursday, February 11, 2010
If you're like me, you've been given the distinct impression that Puritans and others from the "olde tyme religion" of our spiritual ancestors were stuffy-shirted stoics who cared more about right thinking and right doctrine than living life fully and joyfully. We're told that it was only the secular Romantics of the day who knew how to feel and express real love... just as today's wisdom claims that to know true love is to take many sexual partners and to confuse and conflate one's lust with love.

Yet here is a snippet of a love letter written by John Broadus, a founder of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, to his wife in 1863 that paints a different picture:
Oh, my darling! The love of my life is bound up in your love. Tell me! Tell me that without reserve from a full overflowing heart you love me and that you will always love me with your whole heart! Then I am happy.
Or this excerpt of a letter written by Samuel Pearce, a renowned Baptist preacher, to his wife Sarah in 1795:
Called as I now am to mingle with much society and all its orders, I have daily opportunity of making remarks on human temper and after all I have seen and through my judgment as well as my affections still approves of you as the best of women for me. We have been too long united by conjugal ties to admit a suspicion of flattery in our correspondence or conversation. I begin to count the days which I hope will bring me to a re-enjoyment of your dear company.
Are not modern pop culture's attempts at displaying love largely poor impressions by comparison?
Then it comes to be that the soothing light
At the end of your tunnel
Was just a freight train comin' your way
A few years ago, I heard a testimony on the radio from a Teen Challenge graduate talking about how he was listening to Metallica's song "Nothing Else Matters" (which, by the way, is one of the greatest songs of all-time, in my opinion... see for yourself here) and how that song led him to realize that the only thing that matters in life was getting his life right before God.

Fast forward to one day this week when I happened to hear another Metallica song, "No Leaf Clover," on the radio, which is where the lyrics above come from. It struck me as I listened to the song that unbelievers are exactly in this position... they can see death as a "soothing light" at the end of the tunnel of their life, but Christians know that it is rather the "freight train" of God's final judgment for those who aren't in Christ.

Now, I am under no illusion that Metallica intended these songs to lead their listeners to deep thoughts about God ("Nothing Else Matters" was written for one band member's girlfriend, in fact). But that is exactly the point of this post which I'll now get to: redeeming that which may be intended as worldly, shallow, or sinful into that which is spiritual, deep, and pure.

Recently, I was taken to task by a Christian couple for promoting the movie "The Book of Eli." The reason: the movie included significant violence and had a single profanity (G-damn) in it. Furthermore, it was their view that Christians should do as Ray Comfort suggests and boycott all movies with any profanity in them, along with movies that depict violence or other sin. The Scriptural proof-text they used for support was Philippians 4:8.

Now, at first blush, they have a point. And I readily agree that certain movies are pretty much worthless as viewing material for Christians (the current spate of obnoxiously crude comedies come to mind). However, to follow the logic that anything that depicts sin is wrong to watch is to conclude that we should stop reading large parts of the Bible, because it shows some particularly gross sin or violence. For example, David's sin with Bathsheba. Or Israel's genocide of whole tribes, women and children included (I'm not saying that this was sin on Israel's part, but that it involved terrible violence).

Just as the Bible needs to be read within its genre and message, so too must movies and books be viewed with the genre in mind, as well as the message behind them. Is a movie trying to tell a story or glorify sin? There is a difference. For instance, the film "To End All Wars" is one of the most powerful modern-day representations of what sacrificially loving others looks like in an extreme context, yet it shows violence (and probably a few curse words, I don't recall). As a whole, the movie points the viewer to Christ. But if we followed the demands mentioned above, then this movie would be off-limits to Christians. Just this week, Christianity Today released their list of the ten "most redeeming films of 2009." By "redeeming," CT means this:
We mean movies that include stories of redemption—sometimes blatantly, sometimes less so. Several of our films have characters who are redeemers themselves; all of them have characters who experience redemption to some degree—some quite clearly, some more subtly. Some are "feel-good" movies that leave a smile on your face; some are a bit more uncomfortable to watch. But the redemptive element is there in all of these films.
Isn't it possible to watch movies and read books with an eye on the main message, similar to how we read the Bible?

Furthermore, as I alluded to at the beginning of this post, can there not also be a second principle at work beyond the "does the movie tell a redeeming story while not glorifying sin?" standard? Can we not also watch movies, listen to music (even Metallica!), and read books that are not intended to be particularly spiritually uplifting yet, because of the principle found in Philippians 4:8, still think on "whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable?" Obviously, there are limits to this principle, just as there are limits to all freedoms in Christ. After all, "everything is permissible but not everything is beneficial." Finding those limits is best left between each of us and our Savior. To some, Ray Comfort's standard may be the only option. To others, taking in a film like "To End All Wars" or "Braveheart" may lead them to a deeper appreciation of God's glory and His creation. Only, "each one should be fully convinced in his own mind."

I'll leave you with an example from my favorite film of all-time, "A Simple Plan." Without spoiling the plot, the movie shows what happens when people make money or possessions into an idol, how one relatively "harmless" crime or sin can lead to the destruction of many lives, and the value of contentment in life. However, it does so while employing plenty of profane or obscene language and a good dose of violence. Sounds a bit like the story of Achan in the book of Joshua, doesn't it?

UPDATE: Southern Baptist Theological Seminary just posted this video of a group discussion on Christians and pop culture. It's worth a listen.

Monday, February 08, 2010
Theodore Dalrymple wrote a penetrating piece in the March 2010 issue of "The American Conservative" on the cultural and political deterioration of Europe. It's a lengthy essay, but well-worth reading from start to finish.
Prosperous and long-lived as never before, Europeans look into the future with fear, as if they have a secret sickness that has not yet made itself manifest by obvious symptoms but is nevertheless eating away in their vital parts. They are aware that, in Chinese parlance, the mandate of heaven has been withdrawn from them, and that in losing that, they have lost everything. All that is left is to preserve their remaining privileges as best they can...

The secularization of Europe is hardly a secret. Religion’s long, melancholy, withdrawing roar, as Matthew Arnold put it, is a roar no longer, and hardly even a murmur. In France, the oldest daughter of the Church, fewer than 5 percent of the population attend Mass regularly. The English national church has long been an object of derision, and the current Archbishop of Canterbury succeeds in uniting the substance and appearance of foolishness and unworldliness not with sanctity, but with sanctimony. In Wales, where nonconformist Christianity was the dominant cultural influence, most of the chapels have been converted into residences by interior decorators. Vast outpourings of pietistic writings molder on the shelves of secondhand booksellers, which themselves are closing down daily. In the Netherlands, some elements of the religious pillarization of the state remain: state-funded television channels are still allotted to Protestants and Catholics respectively. But while the shell exists, the substance is gone.
God is dead in Europe, and I do not see much chance of revival except in the wake of catastrophe. Not quite everything has been lost of the religious attitude, however. Individuals still think of themselves as being of unique importance, but without the countervailing humility of considering themselves as having duty toward the author of their being, a being inconceivably larger than themselves. Far from inducing a more modest conception of man, the loss of religious belief has inflamed his self-importance enormously.

For the person with no transcendent religious belief, this life is all he has. He must therefore preserve and prolong it at all costs and live it to the full. There are not many Hamlets who could be enclosed in a nutshell and count themselves kings of infinite space. For most people, living to the full means consuming as much as possible, having as many experiences as possible, and not only many experiences, the most extreme experiences possible.

But the problem with consumption is that it soon ceases to satisfy. How else can one explain the crowds that assemble in every city center every weekend to buy what they cannot possibly need and perhaps do not want? Will another pair of shoes supply a transcendent purpose?
So what is left for Europeans? The present being all that counts, it remains to seek the good life, the enjoyable and comfortable life, for themselves alone. Europeans are fearful of the future because they fear the past; they are desperate to hang on to what they have already got, what the French call les acquis, because it represents for them the whole of existence. So important is the standard of living that they see children not as inheritors of what they themselves inherited, but as obstructions to the enjoyment of life, a drain on resources, an obstacle to next year’s holiday in Bali.

Dean Acheson said that Britain had lost an empire and not found a role. You might say of Europe that it has lost its purpose and not found any to replace it.

Is there anything from this experience that Americans might learn?
In short, the United States is free, or nearly so, from the principal factors that have led to the decline and immobilism of Europe, its sclerosis, rigidity, and lack of ability to confront the challenges facing it.

But like Europeans, Americans have not proved deeply attached to limited government, and the difference between Europe and America in this respect is only one of degree rather than type. The extension of government power in the current crisis is not meeting much resistance. The leaders of American life have placed almost religious faith in a man who promises to extend the role of the state.

American religiosity strikes foreigners as superficial and as much a kind of communal psychotherapy as a genuine faith. American religion is Dale Carnegie transposed to a mildly, and unconvincingly, transcendental plane; a lot of American religious services are like meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous without the alcoholics.
[A] defense of all that is best, and of all the achievement, in U.S. history is necessary. That is why the outcome of the so-called culture wars in America is so important to its future. A healthy modern society must know how to remain the same as well as change, to conserve as well as to reform. Europe has changed without knowing how to conserve: that is its tragedy.
This is old, but it seems like rarely a week passes that I don't hear someone repeat the same tired canard that the Church has always been anti-science and repressive... "just look at Galileo." Well, Joe Carter gave the fuller and true story behind Galileo a couple years ago here.
Dr. Dalrymple's been writing weekly over at Pajamas Media and so far every installment has consisted of his classic wit applied to everyday life. This week's, involving Dalrymple's new idea on how to save the planet, is no exception. Enjoy!
The best, indeed only, way to prevent road traffic accidents is to prohibit people from leaving their houses in the first place! By a process of association of ideas, I remembered the slogan that was used during the war to cut down the demand for public transport: “Is your journey really necessary?”

The answer, of course, is usually a resounding no, especially in these days of the internet. I bet that if you took a spot survey of all the people who are moving about at any given moment, not one in twenty would have a really good reason for doing so. Here, surely, is scope for proper regulation: traffic police who would not only regulate the speed at which you go, but your reasons for going. If you could provide a good reason, a heavy fine would be payable, with imprisonment for subsequent offenses.

This, naturally enough, brings me to the question of global warming. It must be admitted that, for three reasons, things have not been going very well for global warmists of late, at least in Britain. The first reason is that the scientists have been caught doing the scientific equivalent of fiddling the books; the second is that we are enjoying, if that is quite the word, the severest winter in thirty years; and the third is that the economic recession has conclusively demonstrated that people care more about a decline in GDP of five percent than a rise in temperature of two degrees — if it had taken place, that is.

Now it so happens that the other night I went to dinner to a friend who is that most reprehensible character, a skeptic. He says that global warming, if it occurred, would be more likely caused by sunspot activity than by anything we — mankind — did. To think otherwise is to be like the madman in Doctor Johnson’s Rasselas who believes that he controls the rising and setting of the sun.

As my friend was uttering these heretical words — I am sure he would be burned at the stake for them, if it were not for the carbon emissions thereof — he happened to be screwing one of those new, energy-saving (and now mandatory) light bulbs into a light fixture. These new bulbs always seem to me to cast a kind of yellowing gloom rather than light, the color approximately of the pages of bad-quality paper in old books, reminiscent — perhaps not coincidentally — of artificial illumination in the Eastern Europe of the good old days.

Then it came to me — the solution. The problem with so many light fixtures is the lampshades of one kind or another that surround them. How much of the light emitted do they absorb! If they were prohibited, the necessary wattage to light a room would be much reduced, and the planet would be saved!

Moreover, the prohibition of lampshades would have socially desirable consequences. No one who has traveled to a poor part of any city can have failed to notice that in many rooms lights do not have lampshades. The bare bulb is exposed to the air.

The prohibition of lampshades would therefore have a socially equalizing effect, by definition desirable. I concede, of course, that a government program of distribution of lampshades to the poor would have the same equalizing effect, but without the healing consequences for the planet that the prohibition would have. Such a prohibition would kill two birds with one stone.

Of course, total nocturnal darkness would be best, but let us remain always in the realm of the possible and the realistic. We do not want to be mere dreamers.
“I’m against sin. I’ll kick it as long as I’ve got a foot, and I’ll fight it as long as I’ve got a fist. I’ll butt it as long as I’ve got a head. I’ll bite it as long as I’ve got a tooth. And when I’m old and fistless and footless and tootheless, I’ll gum it till I go home to Glory and it goes home to perdition!” - Billy Sunday
The decline of "religion" is no doubt a bad thing for the "World." By it all the things that made England a fairly happy country, are, I suppose, endangered: the comparative purity of her public life, the comparative humanity of her police, and the possibility of some mutual respect and kindness between political opponents. But I am not clear that it makes conversions to Christianity rarer or more difficult: rather the reverse. It makes the choice more unescapable. When the Round Table is broken every man must follow either Galahad or Mordred: middle things are gone. - C.S. Lewis
Saturday, February 06, 2010
Thursday, February 04, 2010
Here is an excellent piece about blogging and where the emphasis should be for Christian bloggers.
Blogging, it seems to me, is neither good nor bad. It is a neutral field that can be used for either good or bad ends. It thus takes discernment and careful thought to blog in a distinctly Christian manner. From a quick and under-developed look at the evangelical blogosphere, I think it's clear that many of us need to think more about how we blog, myself included.

1. Be careful about narcissism. ... It is easy to construct a blog that promotes oneself and that makes much of oneself. Constantly referencing what we do, who we are, and who we know shows that our blogging is not primarily glorifying God, but ourselves. In such a situation, though we may have some good content, we're dishonoring God. As Christians, we're not to tirelessly promote ourselves. We do all represent ourselves publicly, of course, and it is no bad thing to point readers to our writings, but we've got to be really careful that our blogs are not propelled by narcissism and filled full of hot air by our own egos.
2. Make your blog about ideas. ... I do think that one way we Christian bloggers can avoid narcissism is to make our blogs about ideas, not about ourselves. We will of course state our own opinions and thoughts, and our blogs will be driven by our own agendas, but in discussing ideas, we can do alot to steer ourselves away from narcissism, and we can do much to create meaningful, edifying discussion among brothers and sisters--and others.
3. Watch out that you're not contributing to a culture of amateurs. ... Am I an amateur posing as an expert? Do I bloviate on things I don't know much about? Does my writing subtly undermine the work done by professionals and those better equipped than me? Do I point people to real resources that will help to settle their questions and form their opinions, or do I act like I'm the authority on things?

4. Remember that blogs aren't really that significant. It is hugely important to be a member of a church, and to contribute to that church in all kinds of ways. ... We should not give great attention to our blogs and sports and pastimes and other things that don't matter. This is not to say that these things are not gifts from God and good for us to do, but it is to say that we should devote ourselves to things that have lasting significance. ... We're going to have to remember often that our blogs can do some good, that they can prove helpful and edifying to others, that they can help to advance the kingdom, but that they are just a tool, albeit a small one, in a world in which the local church is the most important institution of all. Keeping this in mind as we blog will help us to avoid giving too much priority to blogs.

5. Seek accountability in your blogging, like anything else. ... Ask a friend to help you apply biblical wisdom to your own blogging. Your writing can be a help to many, it can be an encouragement, it can glorify God, but if it is to do so, you and I will need to approach our writing with care, with thought, with discernment.
... if this blog looks weird in the next 24 hours, as it's likely due to me working on revising the template on the advice of a friend.
Tuesday, February 02, 2010
I guess Hugo Chavez is losing his appeal in Venezuela...
As most people by now know, Tim Tebow, the Heisman trophy-winning quarterback from Florida, is part of a pro-life ad during the Super Bowl. Not surprisingly, the ad, sponsored by Focus on the Family, has taken some flak from the pro-abortion nutjobs on the Left. So it was refreshing to read in this morning's Washington Post a pro-choice sports columnist defend the ad.
Tebow: I'll spit this out quick, before the armies of feminism try to gag me and strap electrodes to my forehead: Tim Tebow is one of the better things to happen to young women in some time. I realize this stance won't endear me to the "Dwindling Organizations of Ladies in Lockstep," otherwise known as DOLL, but I'll try to pick up the shards of my shattered feminist credentials and go on.
Tebow's 30-second ad hasn't even run yet, but it already has provoked "The National Organization for Women Who Only Think Like Us" to reveal something important about themselves: They aren't actually "pro-choice" so much as they are pro-abortion. Pam Tebow has a genuine pro-choice story to tell. She got pregnant in 1987, post-Roe v. Wade, and while on a Christian mission in the Philippines, she contracted a tropical ailment. Doctors advised her the pregnancy could be dangerous, but she exercised her freedom of choice and now, 20-some years later, the outcome of that choice is her beauteous Heisman Trophy winner son, a chaste, proselytizing evangelical.

Pam Tebow and her son feel good enough about that choice to want to tell people about it. Only, NOW says they shouldn't be allowed to. Apparently NOW feels this commercial is an inappropriate message for America to see for 30 seconds, but women in bikini selling beer is the right one. I would like to meet the genius at NOW who made that decision. On second thought, no, I wouldn't.
Here's what we do need a lot more of: Tebows. Collegians who are selfless enough to choose not to spend summers poolside, but travel to impoverished countries to dispense medical care to children, as Tebow has every summer of his career. Athletes who believe in something other than themselves, and are willing to put their backbone where their mouth is. Celebrities who are self-possessed and self-controlled enough to use their wattage to advertise commitment over decadence.

You know what we really need more of? Famous guys who aren't embarrassed to practice sexual restraint, and to say it out loud. If we had more of those, women might have fewer abortions. See, the best way to deal with unwanted pregnancy is to not get the sperm in the egg and the egg implanted to begin with, and that is an issue for men, too -- and they should step up to that.
Tebow's ad, by the way, never mentions abortion; like the player himself, it's apparently soft-spoken. It simply has the theme "Celebrate Family, Celebrate Life." This is what NOW has labeled "extraordinarily offensive and demeaning." But if there is any demeaning here, it's coming from NOW, via the suggestion that these aren't real questions, and that we as a Super Bowl audience are too stupid or too disinterested to handle them on game day.
Monday, February 01, 2010
This is a hilarious story regarding the U.N. climate change panel's recent embarrassing discovery that claims they published a few years ago about some glaciers were based on faulty data. Turns out, it was based on anecdotal evidence from a mountaineering magazine and a graduate student's dissertation, among other sources. Science has rightly gotten a black eye from this climate change scam, and hopefully won't recover too quickly. People need to recognize the dangers of a modernistic approach to science as the answer to all of life. Modern science is great, but it has its limits.
Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! - Isaiah 5:20
I rarely mention the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since there is little new under the sun in regards to that topic, but this made my blood boil just a little. Brian McLaren pretends to be "generous" toward those he disagrees with (if you can get him to be honest about his disagreement, that is), but then he goes on "fact-finding" missions to Israel and only talks to those stuck in the same echo chamber as himself.
McLaren learned that Palestinians do not want a “two-state solution” but instead desire to “live in peace with Israelis” and want “Jews, Muslims, and Christians to learn to live together as neighbors.”
Really?!?! I suggest that next time McLaren visits Israel, he should visit the widow of Danny Haran and mother of Einat and Yael. She can tell him what happened to her family at the hands of those peace-loving Palestinians.

We live in a time where obvious evil is rare. Then again, evil has almost always been subtle. Few people recognize evil for what it is when it's occurring. Slavery, Nazi Germany, Soviet communism, abortion-on-demand, etc. "World opinion" supported all of those before it denounced them (it still hasn't quite done so with abortion). So it's easy to get lackadaisical about fighting evil when it isn't readily apparent. But that is actually when it is most important to fight evil. In hindsight, everyone agrees that the Rwandan genocide was terrible, but how many spoke up against the daily hatred of Tutsis going out over the radio waves in the months and years prior to the 1994 genocide? A few prophetic voices would have gone a long way then. Likewise, we need to stand up against false teachers and evil prophets like McLaren before we find that through our silence, we have aided and abetted the destruction of Israel and the murders of thousands of innocents.

As the late Richard Weaver would say, ideas have consequences.
"Take the case of a sour old maid, who is a Christian, but cantankerous. On the other hand, take some pleasant and popular fellow, but who has never been to Church. Who knows how much more cantankerous the old maid might be if she were not a Christian, and how much more likeable the nice fellow might be if he were a Christian? You can't judge Christianity simply by comparing the product in these two people; you would need to know what kind of raw material Christ was working on in both cases." - C.S. Lewis

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Darius' book montage

The Cross Centered Life: Keeping the Gospel The Main Thing
Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God
Overcoming Sin and Temptation
According to Plan: The Unfolding Revelation of God in the Bible
Disciplines of a Godly Man
Money, Greed, and God: Why Capitalism Is the Solution and Not the Problem
When Helping Hurts: Alleviating Poverty Without Hurting the Poor. . .and Ourselves
The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith
Respectable Sins
The Kite Runner
Life Laid Bare: The Survivors in Rwanda Speak
Machete Season: The Killers in Rwanda Speak
A Generous Orthodoxy: Why I am a missional, evangelical, post/protestant, liberal/conservative, mystical/poetic, biblical, charismatic/contemplative, fundamentalist/calvinist, ... anabaptist/anglican, metho
Show Them No Mercy
The Lord of the Rings
Life at the Bottom: The Worldview That Makes the Underclass
The Truth War: Fighting for Certainty in an Age of Deception
Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist's Guide to Global Warming
The Chronicles of Narnia
Les Misérables

Darius Teichroew's favorite books »