The Socinian Connection

In the late 1500s there was a school of recycled Arian heresy centered around the teachings of Socinus. What I find particularly interesting is the Socinian view of ecclesiastical authority, and how this view has basically triumphed in contemporary Evangelicalism and infected most Reformed churches.

In this view it is not the legitimate task of the church to proclaim God's Word authoritatively, but rather to "recommend" the truth. The church does not have a commission of genuine discipleship, but only one of attempted persuasion and mere advice-giving.

However, against this Socinian-Evangelical view stands the old school of Reformation teaching which, upon the very authority of her Lord, dares to exercise the power He gave her to "make disciples of all nations... teaching them to observe all that He commanded."

Tolerance for false doctrine is the order of the day, even in the NAPARC churches. There is little unanimity in any given church on what the Scriptures teach, and no real enforcement of God's Word.

But as for me, I am certain that "obedience is better than sacrifice."
Chanukah Came Early

...so I bought a number of collected essays on continental philosophy: Kearney's Routledge History #8, Solomon & Sherman's Blackwell Guide, Schroeder's Blackwell Critical Approach, and Critchley & Schroeder's Blackwell Companion. These should keep me occupied through the winter.

And if you're even remotely interested in this subject, I would recommend Simon Critchley's Continental Philosophy: a very short introduction*. Retail price is only $10, and it simply and clearly illustrates the history and central concern of this approach to philosophy.


Saddest Thanksgiving

I don't mean to bum you out or to sound ungrateful. But I imagine that the character of my thanks this year may be quite like the pilgrims' that first Thanksgiving. Almost everyone else was dead, yet there they were. It was harvest and they had made it through. Not much to show for their efforts except a thin survival.

The thing is, not having a list of "supererogative" blessings (for lack of a better term), I find my gratitude toward Christ and others profoundly deepend. But it is hard to speak about openly.

Appropriately, along with the feasting and other usual observances, I suggested the family watch Guy Maddin's The Saddest Music In The World. The film explores an array of human response to overwhelming grief. Alas, I don't think anyone else appreciated the off-beat dark comedy or expressionistic style.


All The Leaves Are Brown

Recently Dave Bird and I were discussing the idea of worldview. In connection with a previous topic --the ubiquitous "supernatural"-- David mentioned Charles Kraft's book Christianity With Power. I studied Kraft in a missiology course some years ago, and although I disagree with many of his views, I'm certain his presentation will prove provocative. Ralph Smith interacts with Kraft (and N.T.Wright) in this essay on worldview and culture.

Speaking of... the Kuyperian site has been updated with an piece from David Naugle. I suppose it needs a little reformatting, but it's quite readable.

This past week Calvin's comments on Psalm 73 were particularly challenging and comforting to me. Perhaps you might find them helpful in difficult times.


Maison du Resevoir

Please update your address books:

Gregory Baus
2503 Brookfield Avenue Apt.#3
Baltimore MD 21217

443-278-3020 [new as of 20 jan 05]

I now have [a cell phone]. And I suppose the above info should be good through at least next summer.

In other news, I'm enjoying Updike's early collection. And secular fundamentalists in popular U.S. media and across Europe continue to baffle over how "religious" most Americans seem.


Information About Neocalvinism

Please do visit the Kuyperian info site. I hope you find the materials there interesting and helpful.

In other news, I'm finally feeling settled. Soon there should be enough space on my bedroom floor to sleep upon.

This Reformation Day weekend I'll be visiting friends and taking care of some business in Chattanooga, TN.


My Life In Boxes

Over the years I managed to keep the ever growing archives of my adult life in my parents' basement. However, now it all fills my new bedroom, stacked chest high and overflowing into the hall closet and living room. Going through it all in the next few months will be like a really long Christmas... rediscovering old college papers, lost trinkets, and books I forgot I owned.

So anyway, I'll be busy for a spell. And, unfortunately, I don't have web access in my new place. This means a short blog hiatus. But check in every once in a while --I might post at the library now and then til I find a more suitable arrangement.

In the meantime, to keep occupied, you could visit Ireland and hear my youngest brother play alto sax at the Cork Jazz Fest.


The Sundae Debacle

I took my brother to the ER yesterday morning. After having eaten at Be-Se-To, our favorite asian cafeteria, he complained that his stomach was going to burst. He thought that perhaps he had gobbled down the Korean sundae ("soon-die") too quickly.

The next morning I found him rolling around and moaning. "What's wrong? Why aren't you at work?," I asked. "I'm sick," he said, and proceeded to describe his unsavory symptoms, which I will not repeat here. Just before I was about to leave for work myself, he was crying out in excruciating pain. He had sharp pains in his lower right abdomen, and I supposed it was appendicitis. "Bro, I should take you to the hospital." He was doubled over, and looked up at me with pleading eyes, and managed to gurgle out: "Yes, would you?"

While we were in the waiting room, his pain subsided slightly (he wasn't screaming anymore). When we spoke to the physician, the doctor asked "What does it feel like?" and Jeff said, "At first the pain was localized. But now it's just a general burning."

Well, the short of it is, he got all manner of tests and they were all inconclusive. However, he didn't have a fever, and he wasn't vomiting, and various other things pretty much ruled out appendicitis. We got carried away and started imagining he had cancer or crohn's, and discussed what he would do with the last month of his life.

After ten hours or so, it was concluded that he had inflamed intestines, and he'd have to wait it out. By then the pain was much reduced, and he checked himself out. On the way home Jeff thought about all the spicy food he had eaten in the past few days. "I shouldn't have had that Kenyan goat dish," he said.


Pursuing Peace

This evening I attended a lecture at Goucher on Jewish-Arab reconciliation. Eliyahu McLean is a founder of the Sulha Peace Project, utilizing indigenous methods of conflict resolution. I arrived late due to the storm, but I caught the bulk of it. It was quite stimulating, and you can discover more via the above links.

I was invited to the lecture by my new friend, "Pierre." He is an orthodox Jew and something of a Dooyeweerdian, having come upon Roy Clouser's views through his various philosophical readings. I certainly look forward to more discussion of the topic.


Crashing The Parties

The Public Broadcasting Service will air a documentary on the other presidential candidates this Wednesday [29th Sept] some time around 10pm. Check your local listings, and spread the word. This is the opportunity you've been waiting for to reflect on your political responsibilities and the up-coming election. Record the program and watch it later if you have to.


Around Town

Jeff and I browsed a flea market today, hoping to find some stuff for the apartment. We didn't find much, although later in the day I did get a full-22 volume hardback set of Calvin's commentaries very economically!

Anyway, we stopped by downtown's Lexington Market to get a drink at the friendly Mt. Kenya Tea & Coffee (check out their page on economic justice). Afterward we visited the St.Jude Shrine, operated by the Pallottines who advocate a kind of R.C. "priesthood of all believers" --if you can imagine it. (Rumor has it that a good friend once prayed there for the return of his beloved cat, seeing as Jude is the patron saint of lost causes).

We also made our way to the newly renovated Botanical Conservatory & Gardens in Druid Hill Park which is adjacent to our new neighborhood. It was very well done. I hope to have a picnic there before winter.
Demonstrations Of Her Power

I mentioned Oprah in the last post, and as any observer of contemporary American culture knows, she is --for good or ill-- one of the most influential opinion-shapers around. She does what academic "public intellectuals" used to do. In her variegated arsenal, Oprah has a book club, and almost every book she reads or recommends shoots straight to the best-sellers list.

This past week, she recommended a sort of romantic self-help book. Before the hour was up (!) every copy in our store was reserved by customers who called in. Every single day since then about 20 women come in to the bookstore asking for the title.

The main premise of the book seems to be that in things romantic (as in general) men are neither confusing or indirect. However, women are ever circuitous and cryptic, constantly trying to interpret the frank and unsymbolic actions of men. This book apparently speaks femalese and helps women understand otherwise obvious male behavior.

Sometimes I say to Oprah: more power to ya.


Home Is Where Your Books Are

This weekend I strolled through the annual Book Fest. I asked the Book-Thing folk if there was any progress on finding a new location (or financial donations). They told me things seem dire, and that I should write Oprah to request help. I also stopped by the CityLit Project tent to say hello to Gregg Wilhelm (but he's a busy guy and wasn't there). I also visited the YPR booth to congratulate them on the quality debut of The Signal, a long overdue radio zine on local arts&culture.

Recently I bought "The Chicago Guide to Your Academic Career: a portable mentor for scholars from graduate school through tenure." So far I have found it quite encouraging. Perhaps I will have opportunity to explore some other books on this list.

The biggest piece of news, however, is that brother Jeff and I are moving into a new apartment in Reservoir Hill the first week of October. Rejoice all you peoples!


Misunderstanding Terrorism

Perhaps you are already familiar with this brief and insightful article by (Dooyeweerdian) Paul Marshall, but it remains relevant and voices my predominant thoughts on this anniversary. Marshall criticizes secular analysts who unwisely ignore the terrorists' own stated goals.

Other pertinent articles from the Center for Public Justice on subjects related to Just War theory and terrorism.


Genesis 2:15 Day

I had the privilege of laboring today. And I'd like to take a moment and thank Almighty God for comrades in the Christian Labour Association of Canada. And together our prayers pour out for the Christian Workers Movement in Cuba, especially those languishing in prison along with other dissidents for justice.


The Scandal Of Free Speech

I'm trying hard to resist political posts. They can get old mighty fast. Anyway, you will notice my "election season" sidebar block for your edification. As a Kuyperian Constitutionalist (to be distinguished from a Calvinist Libertarian), I am sympathetic to much of the thought represented on those sites.

I cannot restrain myself, however, from voicing objection to current campaign finance and election reform bologna. The Democrat and Republican opposition to 527s is disgusting. You'd think they would try to be subtle about it. "Unregulated" "soft" money?... uh, it's called free speech, you despotic dimwits!

I'm also a supporter of open ballot access and open debate. Educate yourself to be a responsible citizen, and don't let the tyrants enslave you.

Just to lighten the mood, check out this pic of Zell Miller at the RNC last week.


All Under Heaven

This evening I saw Yimou Zhang's film "Hero." It's an excellent piece of story-telling, infused with a classical interdisciplinary spirit. Even though the unity (peace) vs. diversity (chaos) dialectical ideology is conspicuous, it barely distracted from the aesthetic of the narrative. I really enjoyed that the climax was both existential and hermeneutical. Highly recommended. And if you come away not "getting it," at least you'll have enjoyed the groovy soundtrack.

Speaking of heroes and dialectics, Smallville season four premieres 22 Sept. It'll be a ridiculous shame if they get carried away with trying to re-teenify the series, dropping the darkness and mythology in favor of standard WB superficiality.


Will This Be The End Of Monkey-Boy?!

Today at work, we narrowed in on the infamous villain. We had our suspicions, but he really gave himself away, when in an attempt to flirt with a new cafe worker, he said tomorrow he would bring her some stickers. "Stickers?," she wondered. Being such an odd encounter, she mentioned it to a manager and me on a smoke break. "Did he say what kind of stickers?!," we hollered back. Well, he hadn't said. But we think we got our man.

You see, for the past six months or so, someone has come into the bookstore each day, gone to the men's restroom, stuffed the toilet full of paper towels, and plastered the underside of the toilet seat with monkey stickers.

One time is annoying, but sort of funny. Every day for a month is aggravating. Every day for six months is an insane outrage. The only thing we were sure of: this fellow has a lot of monkey stickers.

And, oh, what a clever little monkey-boy he was. But now he's going down.


Killer Burrito

Saturday evening I met up with Josh and Beth. Josh is soon off to Iraq to do some teaching. I am very impressed with his Arabic writing abilities. Beth is as industrious as ever, and will soon be running a half-marathon.

On the way home I was famished. Against my better judgment, I stopped at the late night Taco Bell drive-thru. I swore off of fast food ages ago... but every once in a while I remind myself why. So I was up half the night with fever and shaking. Did everyone who ate there that night get food poisoning, or was it just me?

In other consumer news, I'm trying a new handrolling tobacco by Mac Baren. They make an American blend and a Halfzware, which I'm enjoying. It's quite new, so you might not see it around just yet. Former Douwe Egbert's Drum users should give it a try.


Things Trivial, Things Profound

So I'm back with a trace more tint to my skin. The threat of a tropical storm soured the weather in the middle of the week, but we got a few beautiful days at the start and finish. I was motivated to buy my first pair of sunglasses since the seventh grade. They make me look tough.

Although the storm sent them home early, I did get to meet my great-uncle Jimmy and my Dad's cousin Jack. I heard some good stories and learned about that side of the family for the first time.

On a global note, things still look disasterous in Darfur. While most news-reports give the impression that the situation arose without previous history in February 2003, the fact is that northern Sudanese Muslims* have been attacking the southern Sudanese since 1955 and have taken about 2 million lives. Like many on-going conflicts, it has a long history. Visit Frontline Fellowship to find out more.

update: BBC info on Darfur conflict & Sudanese civil war


Last Blast Of Summer

The youngest brother is back in town for a spell. Last night Gary, Jeff, and I went out for drinks. It's been a long time since we were all in one place. Later in the evening we were pleased to meet some members of Fluid Movement who are doing a show at the Pagoda.

Anyway, this next week I'll be with the family down in the Gulf for a reunion. Apparently my paternal grandmother's brother will be there. The last remaining relative of that generation on Dad's side. I'm looking forward to it.

I'm bringing along my latest fiction purchase: McCarthy's "Outer Dark." I read his Child of God some time ago and really enjoyed it.

I also want to mention the Evan Runner "Lecture Project." I'm re-reading his extant lectures and taking notes on them. If anyone wants to join me, send me an email or leave a comment and we can compare notes.


South Of The Border

This past weekend, a few days off work happily coincided with an old college friend's birthday. So I shot down to Columbia, South Carolina for a party. Now, I could say alot about the weekend, but I will mention two things. First of all, you should know that Michele is an obit writer... because that's just really cool. Second, despite the rumor of its financial connections to the Klan, I enjoyed the buffet at Maurice's. I figure it balances out those times I purchased copies of The Final Call.

Gaelic Dooyeweerdian

You may remember the Dutch Dooyeweerdian Farmer, and the French Dooyeweerdian Theologian...
allow me to introduce a Scots-Gaelic Dooyeweerdian Poet.


And Moore Debunkers

I've enjoyed the various anti-Michael Moore sites, and thought I might share them with you.
Moore Watch
Moore Lies
Moore Exposed
Bowling For Truth
Fahrenheit 411
Centigrade 9/11

And then there are several articles you may find interesting.
Dave Kopel
Isikoff & Hosenball
Larry Pratt

Of course there is a book and a movie too.
Big Fat Stupid White Man
Hates America


The Da Vinci Debunkers

Dan Brown's pop-novel is taken seriously by way too many people. And there will soon be a movie to dupe the masses who don't read.

Thankfully, there is plenty of information out there to clear up the confusion. I know of at least eleven books (scroll down) which seek to refute the fiction. How strange.

See also Ledgerwood and Daly.


A Free Citizen

You didn't think I'd fail to post about our National Birthday, did you? Well, here are a few thoughts about what the 4th of July means to me.

It is important to keep in mind that a country is not the same thing as a government. There have been people on this Land for a long time, and the "United States" only came into existence in A.D. 1776. Genuine love of one's country (patriotism) ought not be confused with jingoism or being a national supremacist.

One should also remember that the current Constitution was not written until 11 years or so after Independence.

All that said, I am proud to be a citizen of these united States, and I think we have the best system of government around. So it angers and saddens me terribly that our officials despotically ignore the rule of law and tyrannously usurp powers not rightfully theirs.

That is what I think about when I hear the cannons blast and see the fireworks blaze.

ADDITION: the myth of Republican Conservatism


The Problem With Probability

My attention has been drawn to an apologetic work by Stephen Unwin (via Carter). It reminded me of Richard Swinburne's* work. Swinburne claims that the Resurrection of Christ is 97% probable.

It does not appear to me that these discussions attempt to seriously account for the presuppositional nature of evidence. That is, all "factual" knowledge is necessarily interpreted. I'm sorry, but failure to acknowledge this is incredible epistemic naiveté.

A much preferable argument against "agnosticism" is made by William Young in his (now impossible to find) Foundations Of Theory, 1967. Let me quote:

"The agnostic's assertion that the existence of God is open to question [if it is to refer to the existence of the biblical God] will be taken to refer to God understood as the Origin of all meaning. If it is true that any meaning is possible only if [this] God exists, it follows that, if [this] God does not exist, then no meaning is possible, and [therefore], assertion, denial, or doubt of His existence is meaningless. [But] for the existence of [this] God to be open to question, doubt of His existence must be meaningful. Consequently, on the supposition that [this] God does exist, it follows that if [this] God does not exist, His existence cannot be open to question. But the agnostic asserts both that [this] God might not exist and that His existence is open to question. Hence the agnostic's position is coherent only on the supposition of atheism."

Of course, "atheism" here must be understood as any view which denies the existence of the biblical God (Origin of all meaning). But do you get it? The position that the existence of the biblical God is open to question already assumes His non-existence if it takes the "openness-to-question" as meaningful. Therefore, genuine agnosticism is impossible.


Visions Of Sin

Despite the joys of occasional research and of recommending good literature to the masses, sometimes working at a bookstore is a sort of torture. And yet, surrounded by the objects of my lust, it is an opportunity for sanctification in mortifying covetousness.

One of the recent titles I find most desirable is Dylan's Visions of Sin. See other review comments here and here.

In other news, little bro Gary is soon to play Dublin's Oxegen Festival with his latest ensemble, Cartoon. Here are photos of him on stage [first pic (in center) and second to last pic, with sax].


Brady Rehabs

For those who are concerned and have not received an update, Andy has the latest.


Public Intellectuals Of The Kingdom

And Jesus said to them, "Therefore every scribe who has become a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a head of a household, who brings out of his treasure things new and old." (Matt 13:52)

I've been doing some more reading on the topic of Public Intellectuals. While the "scribe" that Christ speaks of here is not historically identical to what has come to be called a "public intellectual," there are significant continuities.

In any case, I find it most provocative that Christ takes cognizance of the possibility of disciple-scribes, and envisions for them a kingdom task of excavation and dissemination of valuable things, new and old.

If, afterall, the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are in Christ, then the prospects are certain for even the publicly engaged Christian thinker to work profitably.

What could be more exciting!?


Summer Filled Sky

Our old college friend, Jennifer Daniels, has a new CD. Sooner than later, I am told, it will be available on PasteMusic.

If you are unfamiliar with Jen's music, let me assure you that you will not be disappointed. Her site has mp3s of some of her earlier material, so give it a listen. Jen weaves songs with the stuff dreams are made of, and when you pay attention, you've never felt so awake and alive.


More* Info For Anti-Calvinists

The modern classic, The Five Points Of Calvinism, by Steele & Thomas, is now available in a second edition (with expansions by Lance Quinn). Along with "Back Into Grace," it is the book I most frequently recommend to anyone who is interested in the gospel message.


Charm City Happens

Hoping to contribute to a greater awareness of our city's local happenings, I recently posted some info on a group blog. Find out what you're missing! If you live in Baltimore, there's no excuse for an uneventful summer.


On The Fritz

The computer has been down for a while. But I think I'm back in the game now.
My main email account filled up around the 31st of May, so if you got a bounce-back after that time, try again.

Stay tuned folks. We will resume our normal broadcasting schedule shortly.


Fallen Comrade

My brother, Jeff, who does highrise window washing in Baltimore, received a call recently about his former work&housemate, and our good friend, Brady King.

Brady is an extreme-sport sort of guy and has had accidents before. Once while working in Baltimore he fell several stories, landed on his feet, and shattered both his ankles. But this time he fell quite far and is in critical condition.

Andy M. has a report with update comments on his blog.

If you're the praying type, do pray for him. We love you, Brady. Hang in there, man.


(Re)Defining Worldview

One of the early worldview books that greatly influenced me was James Sire's "The Universe Next Door." Now in it's fourth edition, Sire revises his understanding of worldview.

I suspect that this redefinition was, at least partly, provoked by Naugle's work*. I'm looking forward to finishing Naugle and finding out more about Sire's revision in his new book "Naming the Elephant*."


Desperately Seeking The Church

We arrived early and hiked the length and breadth of Chicago. It's an architecturally stunning city. My one disappointing discovery was that it did not appear to be a "residential" downtown. I guess having a municipal economy larger than most nations requires some sacrifices.

After the conference Scott, Michael, Todd, Nicholas, and I did some official sightseeing. We were given a tour of the Moody Bible Empire, had lunch in the heights of the John Hancock Center, and explored the Art Institute. We finished the evening back at Berghoff’s, since we hadn't quite had our fill of red cabbage, speatzle, schnitzel, and bock earlier in the week. It was a really good time, and I only hope the boys found all the conversation as stimulating as I did. A thousand sincere thanks to Scott for sponsoring me.

It was a pleasure to meet fellow Kuyperians Vincent Bacote** and Hans Madueme. I hope to continue contact with them both.

I was also happy to meet up with Mark, whom I hadn't seen in way too long a time. He's finishing a pastoral internship in the area. Besides the immense personal joy of reuniting with a good friend, discussing his experience in the church was an added bonus to the conference theme.

The highlight of the conference was presentations by D.G. Hart and the keynote speaker, John Webster. We were happy to catch Hart's paper to the ISAE on his latest book* just previous to the conference.

Webster's systematic-theological construction of ecclesiology was unambiguously reformed, and placed the doctrine of the church in relation to both the doctrines of God's perfection and the visible communion of the saints. Throughout, he critically engaged current ecclesiologies and at times bordered on kerygma, articulately drawing lines through Scripture and "in the sand," as it were. He told me later that this was his first foray into these topics, not having published anything on the doctrine so far. I am glad to become acquainted with him, and look forward to seeing how his thoughts develop.

Hart cut most clearly to the chase. In sum, one might say that the scandal of evangelical ecclesiology is that they don't have much of one. Of course, it is important to understand the sort of evangelicals being discussed. And there's the rub. But perhaps the phenomenon being criticized is best understood as the advent of "churchless Christianity," or the notion that a sort of "mere" Christianity sans polity, liturgy, and confession can and ought to have primacy.

The historical and theological influences of this evangelical a-ecclesiology were helpfully discussed by some. Suggested alternatives, including Anabaptism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Radical Orthodoxy, Emergent Pomo-ism, mainline liberalism, Roman Catholicism abounded. However, biblically compelling recommendations were few. I bought a lot of books at the conference, and although addressed from a historical angle, rather than an exegetical one, I'm finding Hart's "Recovering Mother Kirk"* to articulate the sort of vision I find most biblically compelling (aside from Hart's anti-Kuyperianism particularly in chapters 8 and 12).


Life's Worth

This being my thirty-first birthday, I want to share what I consider to be my "birthday hymn."

Father, I know that all my life is portioned out for me,
The changes that are sure to come I do not fear to see;
I ask Thee for a present mind intent on pleasing Thee.

I would not have a restless will that hurries to and fro,
Seeking for some great thing to do or secret thing to know;
I would be treated as a child, and guided where I go.

I ask Thee for the daily strength to none that ask denied,
A mind to blend with outward life while keeping at Thy side;
Content to fill a little space, if Thou be glorified.

In service which Thy will appoints there are no bounds for me;
My inmost heart is taught the truth that makes Thy children free.
A life of self-renouncing love is one of liberty.

--Anna Waring, 1850. ["Trinity" edit]

Reflecting on my own birth, my thoughts turn to those whose lives are brutally cut short before birth. Although I am militantly pro-life, I do understand how some of my friends remain in favor of abortion. Some of them have had abortions, and are not emotionally prepared to accept the reality of what they've done. Others remain in ideological straitjackets that severely limit their ability to be self-critical.

But I have a difficult time stomaching the moral gymnastics and hypocrisy of those who acknowledge that preborns are persons (and hope abortions cease), yet also support abortion's legality. Granted, some of these people display tremendous naiveté about pro-abortionism. They suppose that simply making others aware that children in utero are alive will do the trick. Think again, kids.

Julia Black, a pro-abortion activist in the UK, recently produced a film which showed several abortions and displayed the shredded baby corpses. Mere empirical reality does not persuade. Gruesome holocaust can become mundane. People get used to unspeakable horror.


Dreamy Interlocution

It's been a rough two weeks. Last week I think I was suffering from a bit of post-vacation depression. After digesting the conference, I do indeed have comments to make that will appear here before too much longer. But this week has been exhausting.

I fell asleep after dinner and just woke up now. I was dreaming, and in the dream I was arguing with some unidentified person. I remember saying:

"...[in theological formulation] it is unnecessary to hold christocentrism and trinitarianism in any kind of opposition or tension because while Christ is not the Incarnate Trinity (but rather the Incarnate Son) it is precisely as such that He mediates the fullness of the Father and the Spirit (and Himself) to those who are in Him."

Or something like that.
Anyway, I have to get up early for work tomorrow. I'm going back to bed.


Windy City

I'm off to Chicago for a week. Expect a full report when I get back.


Hineinlebenshaltung Revisited

Last year, I had the opportunity to take an aesthetics course and to write this essay. I recently reworked it as an article that appears in the latest issue of Catapult (on What's Beautiful). It is also posted within the aesthetic modality discussion on the Dooyeweerd Pages.

I, myself, am not an artist by vocation. But since aesthetics, as a good creation of God, is an integral dimension of life; ubiquitous in human existence, I was anxious to search out the matter theoretically. I hope what I've written is of some use to you.


Fascist Religion

While Qur'anic Islam advocates war with non-Muslims (see 11 Sept post), other religions are intrinsically tied to a specific militaristic nationalism. Recently, there has been a lot of fuss about Japan's Prime Minister's involvement in the revival of Shintoism. It may indeed be that Koizumi was worshipping as a private citizen and not in any capacity as a government official. But given the nature of Shinto as a religion and the history of Japan, there is tremendous reason for concern.

Sadly, John ML Young's superb work, The Two Empires In Japan, on Japanese Christianity and the Church-State conflict is long out of print.


Freelance Worldview Consultant

I heard a report that the U.S. suicide rate is currently double that of homicide (2001 NIMH data). Apparently, suicide has been on the rise.

Now I would venture to say that most of these people probably weren't killing themselves out of some sense of religious zeal. Quite the contrary. I could imagine that among those who gave it serious thought many came to philosophical dead-ends about life.

The New York Times Magazine recently printed a story about a "philosophical counselor." The number of such practitioners is growing. There's an increasing awareness that some of our deepest troubles are not, after all, emotional. Some of them are actually philosophical.

This is reminiscent of my part-time job. Since I never bothered to get business cards, a lot of you don't know that I work as a Worldview Consultant. Of course, it's strictly pro bono at this point. But, somewhere down the road, I hope to develop an online preliminary worldview identification test to draw-in paying consultees.

[You know, several such questionnaires already exist for political ideology. Check them out.]

After one's current basic life-orientation is identified via the worldview test, I devise a more specialized, in-depth list of questions and topics for discussion. Depending on how far a client wants to go, and in which direction, I make particular recommendations for ways that one might continue to live an examined life.

No foolin'.


New Feature

At the bottom of this page, you can now search my blog, thanks to Google's Free Stuff.


Against The Idols

Although I previously posted on worship (29 Sept.) and idolatry (30 July), let me suggest a book on the subject in Reformation history. The author, Carlos M.N. Eire, is himself a Roman Catholic. But unlike so many icon-loving "protestants" today, he seems to understand that being reformed is about biblical purity of worship.

It is available directly from Cambridge University Press, or SWRB (scroll down), or here in the U.S. through The Trinity Foundation. See a review here.

In other news, stop by Catapult magazine and give the latest issue a read, including my blurb about vagrancy. Maybe you'll get to know me a little and find I'm not just a hardened iconoclast.


Why Remember?

Charlie Kaufman is at it again. I recommend that you don't talk to anyone about it beforehand... just go see it. I'm going to see this "not quite psychological thriller, part romantic comedy-of-errors" again soon. Then I'm going to see a doctor and then watch it again for the first time.


St. Paddy's Day Resolution

This year, while donning my orange ribbon, I resolved to renew my subscription to the Nicotine Theological Journal.
I have it on good authority that an NTJ website is planned for sometime in 2008. There is already a facebook group. After more than 10 years in print, it's about time they went digital.

The NTJ is "a quarterly publication dedicated to a full and fiesty exploration of the riches of Old School Presbyterian culture, from helpful hints on how to sanctify the Lord's Day to recommendations regarding the best and most affordable single malt scotches. In the NTJ, you will find out what Presbyterians can't sing and what Presbyterians should smoke. You will read arguments on why confessional subscription still matters, and how it is affected by the political economy."

Send ten dollars U.S. [$10 is the updated 2008 price] to
1167 Kerwood Circle
Oviedo FL 32765
and request your annual subscription of four edifying issues today! (seriously)


For Tim & Ana

In honor of their wedding, I present a metrical version of the "wedding" psalm 45 --which Ryan and I attempted to sing for Tim. Alternate versions here. Keep in mind that the groom is King and God, that is Christ.

My heart doth overflow; a noble theme I sing.
My tongue's a skillful writer's pen to speak about the King.

More fair than sons of men thy lips with grace o'erflow,
because His blessing evermore did God on Thee bestow.
Thy sword gird on Thy thigh, O Thou supreme in might,
and gird Thyself with majesty and with Thy splendor bright.
To victory ride forth for meekness, truth, and right;
and may Thy right hand teach to Thee the deeds of dreadful might.
Thine arrows sharpened are, men under Thee to bring,
to pierce the heart of enemies who fight against the King.

Thy royal throne, O God, from everlasting is;
a righteous scepter evermore Thy kingdom's scepter is.
Thou righteousness hast loved and wickedness abhorred;
on Thee 'bove all has God, Thy God, the oil of gladness poured.
With casia, aloes, myrrh, Thy robes sweet fragrance had;
from palaces of ivory the sweet harps made Thee glad.
King's daughters are among those who in honor stand.
Thy bride arrayed in Ophir gold there stands at Thy right hand.

O daughter, hear and heed; incline to me thine ear:
"Forget thou now thy people all, thy father's household dear.
Thy beauty to the King shall then delightful be;
because He is thy Lord, do thou to Him bow rev'rently."

The daughter then of Tyre there with a gift shall be,
and all the wealthy of the land will make requests of Thee.
The daughter of the King all glorious waits within;
her lovely gown with threads of gold has interwoven been.
She to the King is led in fine embroidery;
the bridesmaids in her train, her friends, are brought to honor Thee.
Attendants following their joy and gladness bring,
until they all have entered there the palace of the King.

Then in Thy fathers' stead thy children Thou shalt take
and everywhere in all the earth them noble princes make.
Through every coming age I'll make Thy name to live;
the peoples therefore evermore their praise to Thee shall give.


French Critics

Lately I find myself reading two socio-political books authored by Frenchmen. The first is Raymond Aron's The Opium Of The Intellectuals. It was written around 1955 and seems even more relevant to the intellectual scene today. Ideologies rage on in full force.

The second is Jean-Francois Revel's Anti-Americanism (2003). All you leftist critics of U.S. foreign policy really ought to have a look at this one. Revel is not out to vindicate Bush, but rather to examine the nature and motives of the European complaint. I'm finding it all terribly entertaining.

It's frustrating when a critic is self-contradicting, and it's refreshing to hear others answer deep confusion with patent clarity.


Seeger Seeds

Pete Seeger says that real folk music isn't someone with a guitar in front of a mic singing a song they just wrote... rather, it's people singing together. Dig it.


A Few Weekends

Last weekend I heard The Tarbox Ramblers at the Roots Café. I didn't like the opening group at all, the acoustics were poor, and I was cold, hungry and tired... so it took me a while to realize how tremendous they were. Haunting stuff. DaveBird-esque.

After a while, Jeffrey and I set out for a midnight meal at our town's best breakfast joint. Since the bars weren't closed yet we had the place all to ourselves. That was a moment to cherish, man.

This weekend I think I'm heading down to D.C. for a friend's birthday.

And the following weekend Dr. Tim is gettin hitched (sorry, ladies)! Although not the bestman, I have the honor of bachelor party organizing. So if any you boys read this and plan on being there, let me know. Ask the wives to babysit ahead of time, please. It all goes down on Thursday evening.


Hurray For Un-lent

As a Calvinist, I follow a very puritan form of moderation in my use of the things of this world. Mine is such a rigid adherence to moderation that I take care to indulge on a regular basis... lest my moderation be extreme, and hence immoderate.

At this time of year especially (we Calvinists disdaining all monkish superstitions) I make it a point to indulge. Here's a list of things I try to do more of at this festive time:

1) smoke more
2) eat more bacon
3) drink more liquor (preferably the good stuff)
4) sleep more (when not partying)
5) eat more chocolate
6) drink more coffee
7) eat more steak

Please join with me in this "however-many-days-we-feel-like-it" period of God honoring pro-tobacco, pro-pig fat, pro-booze, pro-nap, pro-sugar, pro-caffeine, pro-blood indulgence. Don't forget to give thanks!


Info For Anti-Calvinists

If you know anyone who has been mislead about the biblical teaching of salvation by false teachers such as Dave Hunt, Chuck Smith, or Tim LaHaye, you might recommend to them a new book which is reputed to have shut the mouth of slanderers.


Of Libel And Blood Libel

The cover article of a recent Entertainment Weekly caught my eye. It was about Gibson's Passion film, and whether his career would survive the accusations of anti-semitism. (You can find my initial speculation about the film in my 30 July post).

Since I first heard about the film and all the outcry about it being racist, I have been curious about what, if anything, the accusation of anti-semitism was based upon. Apparently, it has to do with the fact that Gibson and Fitzgerald develop the character of Caiaphas as the main antagonist (which is certainly historically accurate). The EW article says that there is some debate about whether Caiaphas will utter the "blood libel" in the final cut, referencing Matthew 27:25.

Now there are several things seriously wrong here. First of all, in actual fact, it is not only Caiaphas who spoke those words, but "all the people," that is, the crowd who had gathered to demand that the governor allow the execution. Perhaps the film takes license and puts the phrase in the mouth of Caiaphas alone.

Second, and most importantly, the words "His blood be on us and on our children" is NOT the anti-semitic blood libel! So here's a little history lesson for you.

Very similarly to the way the pagan Romans accused early Christians of ritually killing children and cannibalizing them in sexual orgies... around the mid-12th century Jews were falsely accused of using the blood of Christian children in Passover matzoh. Ironically, the libel was started by a Jewish "convert" to Christianity named Theobald (of Cambridge).

In any case, that the crowd accepted responsibility for killing Jesus is not in any way anti-semitic. You must understand that the Old Testament is loaded with the history of how we, God's people, persecuted and murdered our own prophets, one after the other. And, by way of comparison, can you imagine anyone seriously complaining that the portrayal of the death of Socrates in a play or film was anti-hellenic ?! This is the level of absurdity such outcries of anti-semitism and blood libel against the historical account of Christ's passion have achieved.

Of course, many so-called Christians have persecuted Jewish people and sought to justify themselves by appealing to the fact that their ancestors "killed Jesus by the hands of lawless men," yet not believing the Scriptures that He was also "delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God." The Messiah Himself told us that "No one takes my life from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again" (Acts 2:23 and John 10:18).

Unfortunately, no artistic portrayal, however historically accurate, will ever cause unbelievers to understand what the atonement was all about.* On the contrary, such films tend to compound popular confusion. So it's best to prepare oneself to do some preaching in order to "demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, to take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." Proclamation of God's Word is the only hope.


Valentines For Everyone

So I've been underground for a while. Doing some thinking. Stuff I can't blog about, sorry to say. But with the approach of Valentine's Day, I did a little writing about sexuality. Here's a bit I'd like to share with you.

When I was 6-years-old my father had the birds-and-bees discussion with me… after I had inquired about the meaning of the F-word. Besides explaining certain fundamentals of "intercourse" (penetration and fertilization!), the talk was short on technical "how to" details. I was only six, after all. But Dad's careful and natural explanation was long on the inexpressible awesome-ness of God's creative and good design for marital relations.

I could tell my father was speaking from his heart, and he made it appear to me that sexual intercourse was the most profound theological truth of them all, second only to redemption. It turned out that puberty was horribly difficult (and life since then hasn't been a cake-walk either). But the big sex talk was a profoundly positive influence on my future sexual development.


Niche Market

As with many of my friends, I am a fan of single-malt scotch. Perhaps it's a kind of a quasi-ethnic religious thing. But recently I ordered a "Presbyterian" (bourbon and ginger) and a friend asked me about the origin of the drink's name. I had no idea. After a little internet research, I still have no idea.

I did learn that the recipe varies, however. The drink may have originated as club soda and whiskey... appearing a bit like ginger ale. Sometimes it calls for rye instead of bourbon. If the name is supposed to imply that Presbies are shy about their liquor consumption, it certainly did not come from theologically orthodox brethren.

I also enjoy a good pipe of the world famous Presbyterian Mixture every once in a while. ...so the weather has been rough and I'm feeling a bit of cabin fever. Must... get... out.


If It's Not Love...

Went out to eat this evening, then planned to hang upstairs at the OttoBar. However, it turned out that downstairs they were putting on the infamous Smiths/Morrissey sing-along. I didn't pick up a mic myself, but enjoyed every song.

In the course of things, there was some conversation about sensus divinitatis. It occurred to me that believers to whom I recommended Clouser's book might also be interested in his comment on hermeneutics.


In The Wake Of King

Following the murder of MLK in April of '68 several nights of rioting, mass looting and arson swept our country's major cities. Baltimore was severely effected and has yet to recover. Besides the loss of life, there was millions of dollars of destruction. The few businesses in rioted areas that survived fled the city for good. Rioters burned down their own communities and left them at an economic dead end.

Ironically Civil Rights achievements made it possible for middle class and upwardly mobile blacks to move to the suburbs, largely stripping the urban black neighborhoods of whatever socio-economic and cultural resources remained. And thus the horrific conditions of the contemporary black urban ghetto took shape.

A pathology of failure, victimization, and despair set in deeply --reinforced by broken families, drugs, violence, and the poverty-perpetuating welfare system. In the midst of this devastation leaders such as H.L. Gates (director of the W.E.B.DuBois Institute) cling to the worn out cliché of more State paternalism. Although testifying* that his own successful orientation and drive was due to an encouraging and stable family life, Gates believes the solution to the many profound difficulties of the black underclass resides in government controlled afterschool programs. So much for the self-determination of DuBois and the virtues of Kwanzaa.

Thankfully, there are yet a few voices in the wilderness. God-fearing men such as Alan Keyes and Kenn Blanchard provide a genuine alternative and real hope.


Respecting Jesus

Once a "yahoogroup," the Philosophers With Faith forum now has their own site. This group evolved out of dissatisfaction with the perceived limitations of the SCP and the EPS.

I wouldn't call PWF Christian, per se. But they provide the rare and important service of "leaving Jesus in" and challenging those who have reactionary prejudice against Him.


Small Solidarity

Always hoping to contribute in the resistance to oppression, I encourage you all to support the little guy.
Christ And Culture Revisited

I've had a few days off of work which (un)fortunately coincided with a period of illness. I think I'm finally feeling better. And although I wasn't in a frame of mind to do any good reading, my thoughts turned to a discussion from my college days.

I was talking-up the culture engaging neoCalvinist worldview as usual, trying to arouse my comrades to arms in the great struggle for societal transformation. One friend in particular never caught the vision. He complained that in God's likely providence none of us would ever gain "power" in this world, and that my rhetoric was earthly and vain.

Of course, I knew he was right in a certain sense. The biblical view of Christian cultural influence doesn't demand that every sincere believer somehow become a CEO, civil magistrate, movie star, or any other kind of cultural "power-broker." But that's not the point at all. I was trying to articulate that even the believing slave is, by his slavery, serving the Lord Jesus. And couldn't my friend see how that changes everything?!

Well, it changed everything for me. And it has been a deepening multi-part harmony to the gospel's melody ever since. I was encouraged to read D.G.Hart articulate this perspective so clearly here.


An End To Evil?

My public policy-buff friends may find interest in a new book by Richard Perle and David Frum. There are interviews available on NPR's Morning Edition and Fresh Air.

My libertarian leanings militate against much of this neoconservatism. I prefer a free and more dangerous society to "efficient" government with every aspect of life under their safe control. At the same time, I don't think that negates everything they have to say.


WhiteTrash Unto Harvest

Recently I visited a friend who is now the director of New Geneva Theological Seminary's Baltimore extension campus. It's southeast... basically Dundalk. That's where the port and docks are... the last stronghold of old time, white catholic blue collar Mob Town culture.

So what exactly is "uncle" Steve trying to do? From what I can gather, he and N.G. have an eye to educating the workaday masses (something RTSdc and the practically defunct ChesapeakeTS are unlikely to do). And it looks like a "build it... and they will come" kind of endeavor. I find their vision refreshing and inspiringly radical. But will graduate level biblical education be viable among the least of our brethren?

Let's pray so.


Piper And Culture

NewYear activities were enjoyable as (if not more domesticated than) usual. But I'm back from a brief hiatus, which justifies a somewhat lengthy post.

Recently several publications have reprinted an article by John Piper entitled "Taking the Swagger Out of Christian Cultural Influence." I find Piper's use of metaphors tortured and lame. But his main point is what bothers me the most. Here is my letter to various editors:

Piper's article does not present sound exegesis or a biblical conclusion. He correctly points out the fact that if something is American, that does not make it Christian, and that Christians must not be selfish or arrogant. However, the article concludes “We (Christians) don't own culture, and we don't rule it.”

This erroneous conclusion is the inevitable outcome of Piper's belief that “Christ died for sinners so that all things might one day belong to his people” (emphasis mine). Piper assumes that all things will belong to God's people only after the consummation. Certainly God's people before the consummation have but a foretaste of their full inheritance in Christ. However, since presently all things belong to Christ, all things belong to those who are in Him right now. This is the clear teaching of Scripture: “all things belong to you” (1 Cor 3:21-23). This is a present reality for everyone in Christ!

Piper's denial of this present reality leads him to advocate a view of Christian cultural influence that amounts to little more than attempts at moral persuasion. However, it is God Himself who commands us to rule, and who created us for that very purpose (Gen 1:28, 2:15). So we are not in the service of American culture (as Piper would have it), but in the service of Jesus Christ.

There is no "winning" or "losing" for Christians in their cultural task. As aliens and strangers in this age, we groan under the temporary subjection to corruption. And we have a heavenly citizenship for which we gladly suffer as we obey our Lord's call to cultivate and keep His creation in all its depth and diversity: from parenting to politics, from art to aerospace, from scholarship to surfing. We must not reduce Christian cultural influence to moral witness.

God has given us culture and the sacred task of ruling it. Culture does belong to us, and we exercise dominion in Jesus' name. Affirming this biblical teaching does not produce “swagger,” and denying it will certainly not encourage biblical piety.