Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Finding God's Will

I know, it seems like all I do is paste quotations anymore, but figured I owed ya a sampling from the Kilpatrick book.

Evangelicals spend much time and energy trying to find what they call "God's will." God's will is defined as something that God wants very much for your life but that he refuses to share with you directly. Evangelicals believe it is their job to figure out what he is thinking through prayer, fasting, Bible reading and watching The O'Reilly Factor.

Finding God's will is like living with a mute and uncooperative spouse who won't reveal what he or she wants and who is becoming more anxious, angry, and sad by the moment. It can take years to fully ascertain God's will for one's life, and even after it has been discovered, one must still carry it out with a level of uncertainty and a persistent suspicion that one id doing one's own will instead of God's will. In evangelical circles, one is not allowed to have a will. If one discovers that one's will still exists, one must ask God in treacly worship songs for one's will to be overcome and obliterated.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Almost as Handy as The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

But the last thing that would apply are the word's "Don't Panic" in large, friendly letters on the cover. A Field Guide to Evangelicals and Their Habitat by Joel Kilpatrick (whom you know from Lark News: A good source for Christian news) is quite the handy guidebook. The premise is fairly straightforward, and can easily be figured out from the title. It's a very funny satirical introduction to the strange North American creature called the "evangelical."

We're told how to recognize Evangelicals in the wild, what kind of fun they have, how they worship (priceless), how they mate, how they educate their young, etc. It also includes a handy glossary of Evangelical Terms--and of course, the words to Footprints and The Legend of the Sand Dollar. Absolute must have's to understand Evangelicals.

As with all satire, there's some parts that really miss--but there are parts that are direct hits. Overall, it's well worth the time worth several chuckles--and the occasionally out-loud laugh.

It's really best to not read this book straight through. The humor wears a bit thin if you do, actually gets grating. Take it in bits and pieces here and there, and it'll stay fresh.

Oh yeah, if you don't appreciate the humor in Credenda/Agenda--skip this. Kilpatrick's satire isn't as sharp (his tongue is more blunt, not serrated), but while it's not the same style, it is the same genre.

(H/T to kletois for pointing out that my original title was garbledygook)

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Evangelism Notes

Not sure if anyone will be intersted, but here's the notes we'll be using for Sunday School today on Evangelism. Drawn a lot of this from Will Metzger's Tell the Truth: The Whole Gospel to the Whole Person by Whole People, probably the best book on evangelism written in the last century or so.

Principles of Evangelism
Humble Boldness
The Christian is to be bold in his witness, in his evangelism, in his living before God and man; because we proclaim the word of the Almighty God. Yet, we are to be humble—for it is only through the grace of God that we are Christians—it is despite who we are, not because of who we are. Colossians 4:5-6: Conduct yourselves wisely toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.
While 'speaking the truth in love' (Eph. 4:15) must be our objective, this entails commitment. There is more to truth than articulation. Truth demands living and obeying, commitment to Christ and God’s absolute truth. Such a commitment must penetrate and inspire all of our activities, including sometimes asking serious questions, as has been suggested above. The divine model of communication and dialogue is redemptive in nature. The incarnation and death of the Lord Jesus Christ is the outworking of God’s purpose to reconcile men to himself by dealing with their personal sin, which involves the removal of their objective guilt. – Bassam M. Chedid
Principles of Evangelism
The crucial thing to remember in evangelism is the distinction between our responsibility and God’s. Our task is to faithfully present the gospel message by our lives and our lips. Any definition of our task that includes results is confusing our responsibility with God’s prerogative, which is regeneration. Picture a fragile, thin-stemmed wine glass. Now think of a rock the size of a basketball. Imagine lifting that rock and dropping it onto that delicately constructed glass. Shattered. We too will be broken if we try to carry something that only God can carry. We plat and water; God gives the increase (1 Cor. 3:5-9). We may reap—but only when God has brought the grain to maturity. – Will Metzger
Will Metzger draws 5 principles for evangelism from the teaching of Martyn Lloyd-Jones:
  1. The supreme object of the work of evangelism is to glorify God, not to save souls.
  2. The only power that can do this work is the Holy Spirit, not our own strength.
  3. The one and only medium through which the Spirit works is the Scriptures; therefore, we "reason out of the Scriptures" like Paul did.
  4. These preceding principles give us the true motivation for evangelisms—a zeal for God and a love for others.
  5. There is a constant danger of heresy through a false zeal and employment of unscriptural methods.
The Kind of Person God Uses in Evangelism:
Based on studying 2 Corinthians 4-5, Metzger lists the following characteristics of Paul and his ministry:
  • Christian service and witness is based on our calling, not just our gifts. We are a new person of character (4:1).
  • As Christians, we don’t lose heart in spite of the spiritual blindness of those we care about or temptations from failure in our personal lives. We don’t resort to deception, pragmatism or water down God’s word (4:2).
  • We put the truth (Christ is Lord) up front and speak to the conscience, hoping to be both a mirror for others to see themselves and a window through which they can see Christ (4:3-4).
  • Our sight comes from the light that has changes us internally, a knowledge revealed, not figured out by us because we’re smarter or better than others (4:5-6)
  • God uses us because we are weak; that therefore any “strength” that others see must come from outside us—from Christ. We have given up a self-centered life to pass on life to others (4:7-12)
  • Our newfound belief compels us to express it. Witness is not optional (4:13-15).
  • We have a different perspective and look at the present in light of the future (transient vs. permanent). Paradoxically, this makes us ore, not less involved in this world. Also, we now see a reason for suffering (4:16-18).
  • We now have confidence and energy because of the resurrection of our body, which lies ahead. We don’t put down roots in this world, for even our body is a tent. We’re aliens and God has made us long for eternity. So we live by faith with our one goal of pleasing God. We love him and fear him. But this fear is the affectionate reverence by which children accommodate themselves to the Father’s will (5:1-15).
  • We look at people differently—not with the worlds standards but as Jesus saw them. We are driven to love because we have been loved by Christ. We’ve been re-created and given a mission. We are ambassadors representing our King and speaking what he tells us: “be reconciled to God” (5:16-20).
  • Christians not only know the gospel message, they implore people to respond (5:21).
Watch Your Language
As we’ve mentioned before, we want to be careful and not use “Christian-ese”—while this is true of evangelizing in general, it is particularly true with cultists and others who share Biblical terminology. Metzger suggests we have prepared a list of definitions to use in these kinds of conversations. We should use synonyms or a short phrase (not using any of the other words in this list). Start with this list: lost; saved; born again; repent; justified; atonement; righteousness; spiritual; holy; sin; salvation; saving faith; redemption; believe; God; gospel; the finished work of Christ on the cross; receiving Christ.

Other Scriptures to Remember:
  • 1 Peter 3:15-16 but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.
  • 2 Timothy 2:23-25 Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth,
  • James 3:13-17 Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Finished it

It's better written than the last book. But, on the whole...humbug. Not sure if it's a convoluted conspiracy tale wrapped up in an excuse to spout off about religion, or a bunch of religious hooey wrapped up in an excuse to write a convoluted conspiracy tale.

Gonna sit on that one a few days, do think I want to write some about this. Hopefully have something sort of different to offer.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Just Shoot Me Now

Langdon stared at the picture, his horror now laced with fear. The image was gruesome and profoundly strange, bringing with it an unsettling sense of déjà vu. A little over a year ago, Langdon had received a photograph of a corpse and a similar request for help. Twenty-four hours later, he had almost lost his life inside Vatican City. This photo was entirely different, and yet something about the scenario felt disquietingly familiar.
I know the feeling.

Actually, Brown's showing a greater degree of subtlety so far than I thought he was capable. Still, the first few chapters are disquietingly familiar--practically carbon copies of Angels & Demons

(don't worry, after I vent my spleen about the aesthetic problems with this thing, I'll hop on to an extended post about Brown and religion....which, y'know, nobody's doing...)

Morning Diversions

  • Following Challies's command, I put down my Coke or coffee and took a look at Prosperity Praise. Then I laughed, I cried, I resisted calling and ordering...
  • Kim Riddlebarger once again proved that despite having a messed up eschatology, he is likely the most insightful theological blogger around (esp. see his final point).
  • Peter David returns the sliver of hope I had for X3, while the headline (don't read further 'cuz of spoilers) from Harry Knowles took away.
  • Can't believe I forgot to link this last week.
  • Lastly, can't help but notice no one's stepping up to help me out, c'mon people...where's the love?

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Permanently Suspended

Seventeen days later, and I'm finished. In my defense, I also had to prepare for a sermon, some bible study lessons, some Sunday School lessons, and 5 tests. No way should this have taken that long. As Chandler Bing once said, "I feel violated. And not in a good way."

There's this thing in literature, sort of a social contract between readers and writers, called the "suspension of disbelief." It's a willingness of a reader or viewer to suspend his or her critical faculties to the extent of ignoring minor inconsistencies so as to enjoy a work of fiction. For example we all agree to accept that a geek who was bitten by a radioactive spider, becomes a super-strong man who can stick to walls and things so we can enjoy the movie/comic. Or we all agree to accept that a mouse making motor noises could propel a toy vehicle. Or that Amber Valletta could be attracted to Kevin James. Or that William Shakespeare was literate. I could go on.

But this book pushes things too far. Just cannot accept pretty much any of it. It's easier to believe that the Red Sox won the World Series within the last decade than it is to accept this plot. I won't go into details...hate spoilers...but this is a mare's nest of a story line.

And the writing, it has all of the panache and creativity of an episode of Hunter during its last year. From the torturous murder at the beginning to the "sexy" and "funny" scene at the end (if it's ever filmed, Stephen J. Cannell's name has to show up on the screen), it was enough to make me pull my hair out.

Here's a sample of the genius that is Dan Brown:

The Vatican switchboard is located in the Ufficio di Communicazione behind the Vatican post office. It is a relatively small room containing an eight-line Corelco 141 switchboard. The office handles over 2,000 calls a day, most routed automatically to the recording information system.

Tonight, the sole communications operator on duty sat quietly sipping a cup of caffeinated tea. He felt proud to be one of only a handful of employees still allowed inside Vatican City tonight.
Do we need any of those things I underlined? This is a throw-away character. Nothing about him matters and he'll not be seen again after the next page.

Towards the end of page 4 thru the top of page 6, we're treated with a large "info drop" telling us everything we're going to need to know about the protagonist. It's like one of those scenes in Asimov where the newbie to the culture is told by a veteran everything about how a spaceship (or whatever) works. Now that's kind of annoying, but at least there are characters interacting...maybe a little development or something. Here, nothing like that. Just the narrator telling us all sorts of nifty things about Langdon. Maddening.

Oh, and my question from day 1? "How did Dan Brown ever convince someone to publish this trite, tripe-filled, self-indulgent, first draft?" Still no idea. None at all.

And yet again contempt has driven me to a rant, not the review I set out to do. Sorry.

On to The Da Vinci Code--maybe you've heard of it.


I've Had It!

I need a new nick to chat with...for the past, 9 years or so, I've used a nickname I got back in junior high. However, just reading it, you pronounce it with many nicknames, it really only works if you know the original. And I'm sick 'n tired of the jokes about me spelling it wrong, and jokes made based on mis-pronouncing it.

So, I need to discard it...just have no idea with what. Am feeling rather unimaginative right now. So, readers (all 6.4 of you), I'm looking for suggestions--some ideas I've had are: Thornwell, ThisGuy, Zaphod, TVsFrank. Not so sure about any of those. Needs to be 10 letters or less. No use of my real name, s'il vous plaît.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

A broad road of liberty and joy

A heart that loves the Lord will leap for joy at the prospect of a day with him. Doesn't a child love to have a day with his father? Of course the worldly will loath giving any time to God. The self-absorbed will regret any day spent in his presence. Without love for God such a requirement will seem narrow and a heavy burden. but for the godly it is a broad road of liberty and joy. There is an entire day each week liberated from my ordinary recreations and labours to serve the lover of my soul and to be with him.

--Walter Chantry

By Popular Demand... (updated)

...and for a limited time only:
My sermon on Hebrews 12:18-29 from last week (for those of you new to this InterWeb thingy: left click to listen, right clock to download).

(okay, it wasn't really popular demand, one guy said, "dude, post it. I'd love to listen."

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Yeah, that would've helped...

from The Corner:

Around here is that Bush's speech needed a lot more frickn' cowbell.
...a nation without borders, a nation without a viable conservative party, and a nation without enough cowbell.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Daily Dose of Culture

History and art all at once: The Evolution of Dance

(H/T: My sister and those emailing this around her workplace--which I won't identify so the taxpayers supporting it won't get mad)

Security in Truth

The world, the flesh and hell all conspire by glossing falsehood to seduce us to perdition. A covering is spread upon the grave and the pit, and the ways of sin are adorned with all that can please the eye, fascinate the ear or enchant the heart. Our security against these danger is conviction of the truth. The Word of God, which is preeminently the truth, and in which a truth-loving heart will lead us to rest, dissipates the spell reveals the snare and delivers from the lot. It paints life in its true colours, tares the mask from the face of guilt, disrobes the world of its gorgeous drapery and points to Him who is emphatically the way, the truth and the life. All the rays of moral truth ultimately centre in the Cross of the Redeemer; and we never reach the summit of wisdom until we attain that life which is alike the knowledge of the Father and of His Son Jesus Christ. Every one, says the Saviour, that is of the truth heareth My voice. None perish but those who love darkness rather than light. A deceived heart turns them aside.

--James H. Thornwell

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Taking the plunge

Did something today I've never done before. I delivered a sermon with less than a full manuscript--far less, mostly talking points. Dr. Carrick at GPTS (and I understand, Dr, Pipa, too) insists upon it, but is gracious to Homiletics I students, and lets us get away with more. Dabney said (paraphrasing) that preaching isn't reading. That those who read sermons, aren't preaching--no matter how well they may read. Dr. Carrick says an integral part of preaching is "thinking on your feet."

So, today, I studied up, and thought on my feet. Slightly more rambling that I would want, definitely longer than I normally go, but on the whole, not bad for a first time. With less than a minute to go, I drop the last page of notes...2 notes to go, I let it drop figuring I can wing it, and realizing that the last 2 things I had to read on that page really wouldn't be helping fact, the two talking points that I thought would lead me into a self-evident conclusion, weren't going to lead me anywhere, so I just leave the paper down there, and try to come up with a conclusion on the fly. Really thinking on my feet, Dr. Carrick!

And unlike every other time I've mentioned feet in the last year or so, there wasn't intense pain involved. Just a lame-o conclusion.

How could I forget to write a conclusion? Hate just leaving ideas hanging in empty space...

Oh well, it went okay (on the whole). A few very kind people from the congregation today said it was helpful (S.D.G.!!!!) But doubt I'll be posting that audio file anywhere for download :) Can only get better, right?

Cleaning up with GREAT pleasure

I'm probably the only one who cares, but it makes me feel very, very good to wipe out a few items from the current book list:

  • Gateway to the Middle Ages: Monasticism by Eleanor S. Duckett
  • The Baptism of Disciples Alone by Fred Malone
  • Guide to Thomas Aquinas by Josef Pieper
only one of those was worth the effort, only one of those was written by an apparently Christian person, and one makes me think of Dorothy Parker's famous line, "This is not a book to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force."

I'll leave it to you to guess which is which.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Nice post

Of course, I sit through Tuesday's debacle (and I'm not referring to McPhee's laughable collapse), and then last night I miss (due to mlbtv feed issues and a family engagement) this gem! Oh well, rubber game's tonight. I'm going to focus on the fact that Wakefield is 4-5, 3.05 in 17 games at Yankee Stadium and ignore the his 8-12 record with a 4.47 ERA in 40 career games vs. the Bombers.

But that's not why I started this post. While reading the YanksBlog wrap-up, I was struck by a couple of sentences:

Roughly as improbable as Schilling saying the words "no comment."
Ortiz gets a leaking hit from the Yankees' patented "Shift for Ortiz but when he hits it to the right he's somehow safe" shift.
Succinct, 100% spot-on, and funny. Wish I could write like that.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Literally laughed out lout...

(which I needed to do after watching Vent, reading Malkin and other political blogs)

Tim Challies points to this in today's A La Carte: You Know You're A Homeschooler When...

Monday, May 08, 2006

Started it for the 2nd Time

Gonna finish it, too. Good distraction from studies--and pretty good motivation to get back to work, 'cuz I sure don't want to spend too long in this thing. Here's what I want to know: How did Dan Brown ever convince someone to publish this trite, tripe-filled, self-indulgent, first draft? Much less a sequel? Angels and Demons is just...bad.

I know, I know, I'm in the minority here. H. C. Contra Mundum, etc. Or people are just going to accuse me of not liking Brown 'cuz I'm religious and therefore am against anyone who's next book is going to be full of pot-shots at Christianity. Sorry, no. I assure you, on my Lolita-loving, Tarantino-adoring, Mark Leyner-relishing, Kevin Smith fan-boy honor--this is just poor writing. Ed Wood wouldn't shoot this stuff.

I had a point when I started this...seem to have lost track of it. So pure is my hatred for this. Guess we'll just chalk this one up to a random venting and move along.

Pop Quiz

I'd put this in the comment section below, but then it hit me that probably no one would read that, so...

First thing…a little tip for anyone who does this kind of thing for their own blog…write the page number somewhere! There’s 30 minutes I’m not getting back…

Anyway, the quotation is from L. M. Grensted’s work A Short History of the Doctrine of the Atonement (incidentally, it's a pretty nice piece of work). Luther has built upon Anselm’s work and Melanchthon and others refine and perfect Luther. "It is here that we first find in a developed form the Penal theory of Atonement." And that’s where Grensted gives us that quote. It’s that concept of the Penal Theory of Atonement that underlies the Augsburg Confession, and is fleshed out and refined in the development of Confessional Protestantism.

In that case, not sure it’s fair to say it’s "missing" things like the active obedience of Christ, so much as it is important to note that such a concept isn’t there.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Han Shot First!

Sure, by the end of the day, every geek's blog in the world will be reporting this, so it won't be news to most of you, but I gotta post this.

(patched together from multiple sources, plagiarism and copyright infringement abounding no doubt)

From September 12th to December 31st of this year, in response to overwhelming demand, Lucasfilm Ltd. and Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment will release attractively priced individual two-disc releases of Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. Each release includes the 2004 digitally remastered version of the movie, as well as the original theatrical edition of the film. That means you'll be able to enjoy Star Wars as it first appeared in 1977, Empire in 1980, and Jedi in 1983.

The original Ewok party! The real cantina band!

That sound in the background is Rusty sobbing uncontrollably.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

This just in...

(thanks to for the paper)

Public Service Announcement

For some reason my boys weren't reminding me about this three times a week (starting in February) this year, so I'd totally forgotten about this:

If we'd dropped the ball on this, maybe you did, too.

Be sure to drop by your local shop!

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Research Help...

Do any of my readers have the tapes to the Sproul vs. MacArthur debate on baptism? I listened to it once--right after it was released on tape, what was that '99? (good to have a reminder that winning a debate isn't necc. a sign that you're right) There's a line Sproul uses early on (as I recall) in his presentation that I'd like to use this week for a paper.

Them's Fightin' Words

What I hope to demonstrate is that the hermeneutical error that establishes infant baptism is also found in dispensationalism, modern-day Theonomy, and a normative view of worship that misunderstands and misrepresents the regulative principle.
--Fred Malone,
The Baptism of
Disciples Alone, p. 2

Obviously, there's not a lot there to chew on--nor am I going to retype his evidence for that assertion. Just thought I'd throw that out there for ya'll to chew on.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Pop Quiz Time

Orthodox, Heterodox, or Heresy? Why? You tell me.

Justice demands the punishment of sin. Therefore the attitude of a just God towards the sinner can only be one of wrath. But if the punishment is endured to the uttermost by One who adequately represents the sinner, justice e is satisfied and God's mercy towards the sinner can have free play. The thought is wholly Godward, and that from the assertion of which the early fathers shrank is now boldly proclaimed. By the death of Christ God's attitude towards man is actually changed. Wrath is transformed to love. Mercy is the result of Calvary, or, at least, is freed by the Cross from the necessity of enforcing the stern obligations of justice.