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Monday, February 28, 2011
I watched the new documentary Waiting for "Superman" tonight. Wow. Directed and narrated by union-loving liberal Davis Guggenheim (who also directed An Inconvenient Truth), one would think that a documentary about the problems in America's public school system would end up centering on the topic of budget cuts and underpaid teachers. And Guggenheim admitted that he went in expecting to find those issues to be the source of the problem. But the script got flipped when he saw the facts, and to his credit, he was honest enough to still tell the story. And what a story it is. The film follows the lives of five young students from around the country, four of whom are from inner city neighborhoods, as their families attempt to find a good education for them. The most heart-rending child is Bianca, a Hispanic girl from Los Angeles. She wants to be a veterinarian, but when one considers that just a small percentage of the children in the middle school she is destined to attend next year will even graduate high school, much less attend college, one can see how dim Bianca's dream probably is.

By the end of the movie, you realize that the only way that the public school system (in the inner city, suburbs, and rural communities) will ever begin to improve is if the teachers' unions lose a significant amount of power, by eliminating collective bargaining and stripping them of many of their current contractual rights. I'd go one step further than Guggenheim and say that teacher unions don't need to just be weakened, they need to be destroyed. While we're at it, I'd love to see all schools privatized. But one step at a time.

Watch this brilliant film and tell your friends about it. This has the potential (along with The Cartel, a documentary specifically focused on teachers' unions) to be a film that will help cause a seismic shift in how education is done in this country.
As many people by now know, Rob Bell made a bit of a stir by releasing a video (see below) to promote his new book (which comes out in a month, I believe). In the video, Bell strongly implies that orthodox view of hell is not an accurate one and leans pretty close to the edge of universalism. Only time (and a thorough vetting of his book) will tell if he indeed steps into that theological wasteland. Plenty has already been said about it, some good, some a bit knee-jerkish for my tastes, but Kevin DeYoung's and Trevin Wax's are the best.
Rob Bell is right about one thing: what you believe about heaven and hell says a lot about what you believe about God. That’s why theological error of this magnitude cannot go unchecked. The God of the Vimeo clip is not a God of wrath, not a God of eternal recompense, not a God who showed us love in sending his Son to be a propitiation for our wretched sins, not a God whose will it was to crush the Suffering Servant in an exercise of divine justice and free grace. Indeed, says Bell—even if he says it with a question—such a God could not be good.

We don’t have to guess if Bell will say something dreadfully, horribly, disgracefully wrong.

He already has.

LOVE WINS. from Rob Bell on Vimeo.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011
I'm working my way through the Prophets right now in my Bible reading and while at times it is quite understandable that we hear so few sermons from them (particularly from ones not named Isaiah), there are some great things that I have found within their pages. Yesterday morning, I was reading Ezekiel 33-34.
The word of the LORD came to me: “Son of man, speak to your people and say to them: ‘When I bring the sword against a land, and the people of the land choose one of their men and make him their watchman, and he sees the sword coming against the land and blows the trumpet to warn the people, then if anyone hears the trumpet but does not heed the warning and the sword comes and takes their life, their blood will be on their own head. Since they heard the sound of the trumpet but did not heed the warning, their blood will be on their own head. If they had heeded the warning, they would have saved themselves. But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet to warn the people and the sword comes and takes someone’s life, that person’s life will be taken because of their sin, but I will hold the watchman accountable for their blood.’

“Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the people of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. When I say to the wicked, ‘You wicked person, you will surely die,’ and you do not speak out to dissuade them from their ways, that wicked person will die for their sin, and I will hold you accountable for their blood. But if you do warn the wicked person to turn from their ways and they do not do so, they will die for their sin, though you yourself will be saved. - Ezekiel 33:1-9
Now that is a scary text in light of the Great Commission. I wonder how many people I will be held accountable for because I didn't share the Gospel with them. Unless you're a hyper-Calvinist, that should concern you. And more than that, it should change how we live.

Later in chapter 33, we see one of the first clear pictures of salvation by faith and grace alone in the Old Testament.
‘If someone who is righteous disobeys, that person’s former righteousness will count for nothing. And if someone who is wicked repents, that person’s former wickedness will not bring condemnation. The righteous person who sins will not be allowed to live even though they were formerly righteous.’ If I tell a righteous person that they will surely live, but then they trust in their righteousness and do evil, none of the righteous things that person has done will be remembered; they will die for the evil they have done. And if I say to a wicked person, ‘You will surely die,’ but they then turn away from their sin and do what is just and right— if they give back what they took in pledge for a loan, return what they have stolen, follow the decrees that give life, and do no evil—that person will surely live; they will not die. None of the sins that person has committed will be remembered against them. They have done what is just and right; they will surely live. - vs. 12-16
Do not trust in your own righteousness, God says. Instead, trust in He who blots out iniquity. It also speaks of the importance of finishing well. You can be a righteous person and fall into unrepentant sin and you're in much worse shape than the thief on the cross who repented at the end of his life.

Lastly, in chapter 34, God tells of His plan to fulfill the Great Commission and Abrahamic covenant.
‘For this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness. I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the countries, and I will bring them into their own land. I will pasture them on the mountains of Israel, in the ravines and in all the settlements in the land. I will tend them in a good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel will be their grazing land. There they will lie down in good grazing land, and there they will feed in a rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down, declares the Sovereign LORD. I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice.
I will save my flock, and they will no longer be plundered. I will judge between one sheep and another. I will place over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he will tend them; he will tend them and be their shepherd. I the LORD will be their God, and my servant David will be prince among them. I the LORD have spoken.

“‘I will make a covenant of peace with them and rid the land of savage beasts so that they may live in the wilderness and sleep in the forests in safety. I will make them and the places surrounding my hill a blessing. I will send down showers in season; there will be showers of blessing. The trees will yield their fruit and the ground will yield its crops; the people will be secure in their land. They will know that I am the LORD, when I break the bars of their yoke and rescue them from the hands of those who enslaved them. They will no longer be plundered by the nations, nor will wild animals devour them. They will live in safety, and no one will make them afraid. I will provide for them a land renowned for its crops, and they will no longer be victims of famine in the land or bear the scorn of the nations. Then they will know that I, the LORD their God, am with them... - 34:11-16, 22-29
If you ever wondered where Jesus got the sheep/shepherd metaphor, Ezekiel 34 is the place it most clearly originated (among other Old Testament texts). It's pretty cool when the Bible fits together so well.
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
This is a very good piece in the Wall Street Journal on the dearth of mature men in today's society.
What explains this puerile shallowness? I see it as an expression of our cultural uncertainty about the social role of men. It's been an almost universal rule of civilization that girls became women simply by reaching physical maturity, but boys had to pass a test. They needed to demonstrate courage, physical prowess or mastery of the necessary skills. The goal was to prove their competence as protectors and providers. Today, however, with women moving ahead in our advanced economy, husbands and fathers are now optional, and the qualities of character men once needed to play their roles—fortitude, stoicism, courage, fidelity—are obsolete, even a little embarrassing.
Relatively affluent, free of family responsibilities, and entertained by an array of media devoted to his every pleasure, the single young man can live in pig heaven—and often does. Women put up with him for a while, but then in fear and disgust either give up on any idea of a husband and kids or just go to a sperm bank and get the DNA without the troublesome man. But these rational choices on the part of women only serve to legitimize men's attachment to the sand box. Why should they grow up? No one needs them anyway. There's nothing they have to do.

They might as well just have another beer.
Thursday, February 17, 2011
This is a good post by Doug Wilson on a reasonable and Biblical approach to the subject of birth control. As always, he seems to hit just the right note between either extreme ditch.
Tuesday, February 08, 2011
"If you think of this world as a place intended simply for our happiness, you find it quite intolerable: think of it as a place for correction and it's not so bad.

Imagine a set of people all living in the same building. Half of them think it is a hotel, the other half think it is a prison. Those who think it a hotel might regard it as quite intolerable, and those who thought it was a prison might decide that it was really surprisingly comfortable. So that what seems the ugly doctrine is one that comforts and strengthens you in the end. The people who try to hold an optimistic view of this world would become pessimists: the people who hold a pretty stern view of it become optimistic." - C.S. Lewis
Monday, February 07, 2011
This is a great article in World Magazine about films and discernment. I wish more Christians practiced this kind of discernment when they watch movies.
[Dr.] Zhivago was a breakthrough movie. Made in 1965, the same year as The Sound of Music, it was the first film to make adultery beautiful.

I wrote a little post for the blogs confessing that Zhivago had done me more harm than any other film—and all without showing skin. One commenter wrote: "Funny thing about that movie. . . . My parents went to see it at the drive-in theater when it was first released. There, in the car, they decided to divorce."

As a woman now not only surpassing Lara (Komarovsky's betrayed lover) in age but even her mother and looking for holiness, I took pad and paper and started jotting all the elements of David Lean's direction that led to my seduction:

Do not develop the character of Tonya (the wife); make her two­dimensional and vaguely boring. Bring up the Zhivagos' little boy only enough to establish that Zhivago is a good father. This is tricky. Be careful not to overdo these snapshots. You would awaken common sense in the audience. It would dawn on them that Zhivago is no different after all from the deadbeat dads they disdain in the inner city. Then the jig is up.

The last thing you want to do is shift the point of view of the movie from Zhivago and Lara's relationship to the Zhivago family back in Moscow. The viewer must not be allowed to meditate for even a second on what it is like for the boy. No lingering shots of crying himself to sleep, first during the war separation, and later during his father's repeated absences as he goes to Yuriatin to see his illicit lover.

The goal is that the audience should fall in love with the doctor and the mistress, and not only forgive but root for their love affair. This is very difficult to pull off because of natural revulsion against adultery. Do not allow enough exposure of Tonya to create a heart-tie between her and the audience. We need 10 scenes of Lara for every one of Tonya.
Keep the action moving. Allow no time for viewer reflection. Above all, the forces that brought Zhivago and Lara together must be seen as inevitable. Encourage a particular anthropology—that the human heart is passive and not active, that its noblest intentions can be overthrown by a historical juggernaut against which it is hopeless to resist. Show Zhivago and Lara as good people doing their best (they volunteered in the army), struggling valiantly before succumbing to their inescapable fate.

By the time David Lean was done with me, God was a scowling moralist, a pinprick of light in a faraway galaxy. And you would think that all the best things on earth—fields of daffodils, snow-sculpted minarets, and Songs of Songs—were the gifts given under the sun.
Thursday, February 03, 2011
This is what the Emergent Church is now reduced to, calling Jesus' knowledge into question because the modern idol of science tells us that He couldn't be right. Next step: the resurrection as metaphor.

I, for one, am thrilled to see this new development, as it allows all to see what truly drives the Emergent Church (the idolatry of the Enlightenment over against the eternal truth of God's Word) and makes them easy to ignore and lump in with the rest of the dying mainline churches. It's a cult that has already long passed its half-life. Good riddance.
Wednesday, February 02, 2011
Doug Wilson has an excellent piece on the dangers of political loyalties.
[T]he issue is not whether you vote Republican or not. The issue is whether you trust Republican. If we do that, then we are a bigger fool than we look.

It is not as though God is making us choose between evils, with us trying to figure out which one is the lesser. Voting Republican is not a venial sin, with a vote for the Democrats being a steaming hot mortal one. The issue on all these things is why and how. Trusting the Democrats is certainly a mortal sin. Trusting the Republicans is a venial one . . . but a sin nonetheless. Christians really ought to knock it off. But trusting perfectionistic third party candidates is obviously the Pathway of Light, upon which, if you walk, no political temptations whatever can behall you. Right? Well, suit yourself, friend. If you never enroll in the class, then nobody ever gets to grade your papers.

At the same time, the coordinates of my convictions do place me a bit out of the mainstream. I do sympathize with the sentiment that says, "If God had wanted us to vote, He would have given us candidates." But just as we get the representatives we deserve, so also we get the candidates we deserve. We are not mis-represented. We are not under-represented. We are represented well.

My hope and prayer is that this representation will at some point in the near future signal a turn which can only be described as a political repentance. Repentance means a change of mind, a different direction entirely -- and not just the same old disobedience, only slower. A man in an adulterous relationship, who only sees his mistress once a week now, cannot call his tapering off repentance. A man getting drunk every other weekend cannot think of this as a repentant lifestyle because it is nothing like it used to be back in college. If sin were the city pool, it does not ultimately matter if you are only up to your ankles in the kiddie pool, or doing cannonballs off the high dive.

When it comes to spending, the Republicans are grannies who get into the sherry cabinet way more than they ought to, and Obama is Charlie Sheen. Such comparisons do not redound to anybody's glory, but they do affect what we might decide to do about it. The grannies have an admitted problem, but we do not need to take them off to rehab on a stretcher. Like we do with some people.
For those who have daughters, this is a great post on how to help them navigate a culture that tells them that their worth is directly related to how thin they are.

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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 »