Christmas Afterall?

Went dumpster diving and retrieved a cushy sofa and sturdy coffee table. Props to Nick, my upstairs neighbor and garbage shopper par excellence, for the discovery.

I'm really looking forward to this break for the next couple weeks in Cork. I need to chew the intellectual cud for a bit; let things marinate and distill. I anticipate returning to Amsterdam with renewed vitality. Your prayers for my sake are well appreciated.

I don't intend to post again until I get back around the end of the first week in January.


Total Truth

Various articles and audio pieces by Nancy Pearcey are available here. You can also hear her on WNYC's Brian Lehrer show discuss religion in the public square. I have yet to read the book, but it's received good reviews. You can get excerpts from the book and the entire study guide for free in pdf.

"A Christian worldview is not merely about ideas and arguments. It really begins with dying to the idols in our hearts...
Ask God to conduct a searching examination of your own hidden motivations, to reveal the idols in your heart and then set you free to serve Him alone.


Ice On The Tracks

I waited for over an hour, but the number 5 never came. The 51 was running, and if I took the next one, I could hike twenty blocks and maybe make it in time for after worship coffee. Forget it. I went back to my apartment, made my own coffee, and attended "Laptop Presbyterian." Turned out to be the best service since I've been here.

unlike the photo, we've only got ice. No snow yet.

Here's a selection from the liturgy:

Call To Worship
Hebrews 12:22-24

God our Heavenly Father, we acknowledge and confess our great sinfulness and guilt. Apart from Christ, our whole natures are corrupt, and we are prone to all evil. All our best thoughts, words, and deeds are defiled. We continually break Your holy laws, doing what You forbid, and not doing what You require. We deserve Your condemning judgment, just wrath, and everlasting punishment. In great sorrow for our sin, we humbly repent, and beg for Your mercy and grace. We ask that You would forgive us all our sins, count us as completely righteous, and enable us to live in new obedience, only for the death and merit of Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

Not Peace, But A Sword [mp3] by Rev. Matt Cotta on Matthew 10:34-38

Hymn [midi]
Day of judgment! day of wonders!
Hear the trumpet's awful sound,
Louder than a thousand thunders,
Shakes the vast creation round.
How the summons will the sinner's heart confound!

See the Judge, our nature wearing,
Yet by Spirit glorified.
You who long for His appearing
Then shall say, this God is mine!
Gracious Savior, own us in that day as Thine.

In that day of resurrection
Righteous judgment He'll employ.
Christ will say, ye faithful, well done;
Enter now your Master's joy.
Cursed ones He will everlastingly destroy.

Under sorrows and reproaches,
May this thought our courage raise!
Promised sure, the day approaches
When the world is set ablaze.
So we'll dwell in vindication by His grace.

original words: John Newton, 1774; revised: Gregory Baus, 2005
music: “St. Aus­tin,” Gre­gor­i­an chant; ar­ranged in the Bris­tol Tune Book, 1876


Drinking With The Son Of Confucius

This evening I went out to the local pub and had a wonderful time of drinking and discussion with Frank, 76th generation descendant of Zi-Kong-Qiu, more commonly known as K'ung Fu-tzu, Latinized as Confucius.

We imbibed in beer and Abraham Kuyper's favorite drink, Jenever. In fact there's a brand of old "dutch gin" called De Kuyper... but I don't think it's related. Anyway, Abe was famous for saying "you can't raise a generation of bold, brash Calvinists on chocolate milk." And we heartily agreed.

We, of course, discussed Li Bai (Li Po), the film of Zhang Yimou, Herman Dooyeweerd, and Chinese Bible translation. A good break from studying before exams.
You And Your Racist Friend

update: for the sake of good taste, I removed my former vulgar invectives and linked the example of typcial racist imagery here.

And you thought the Dutch were enlightened. I wish. I find their social attitudes to be largely provincial, bigoted, and xenophobic. This particularly occurred to me when I was invited to a party celebrating the favorite Dutch holiday, eve of the feast of St. Nicholas (5 Dec), or as they call it "Sinterklaas." Traditionally, celebrants place their shoes out and wait for Saint Nick to leave poems and chocolates, assisted by his picaninny slaveboy, "zwarte Piet" (black Pete). Hundreds of white Netherlanders dress up in red-lipped blackface and parade around town handing out candy. I am frankly repulsed and outraged by this widely-accepted, dehumanizing caricature. So, here's a poem for Sinterklaas celebrators:

It was the loveliest party that I ever attended
If anything was broken I'm sure it could be mended
My head is tired from this bobbing and pretending
Listen to some bullet-head and the bullshit that he's saying

Can't shake the devil's hand and say you're only kidding

This is where the party ends
I can't stand here listening to you and your racist friend
I know politics bore you
But I feel like a hypocrite talking to you and your racist friend



The Orange Hat

I wouldn't say all these pics (scroll down) are worth an entire thousand words each, but perhaps they will add a little something to the hermeneutical context... or not. The idea is to illuminate the text, not to explicate the photo. This post is an obvious exception.

For some reason, in this recent photo, there is a feathery orange hat floating on my head.


Nebuchadnezzar's Dream

Herman Dooyeweerd said on more than one occasion that the vocation of Reformational scholarship is a call to war against the spirit of apostasy. "This warfare," he wrote, "is a struggle even with ourselves, in the power of the Holy Spirit, a struggle which finds its dynamic in a life of prayer." I suspect that this way of scholarship is known to be more than a pious-sounding (if not foolish-sounding) platitude only by those who practice it.

Sometimes the struggle gets mighty emotional (albeit, no more spiritual for all that). Last night I broke into tears of frustration while wrestling through a theoretical problem that was beyond me but crucial to my tentative thesis question. Through the sobs, I begged the Lord to have mercy and open my mind to find a solution. This afternoon, while meditating on a Scripture (Hebrews 2), an answer came to me.

Since special revelation has ceased with the close of the Biblical canon until the Consummation, my insight remains fallible. Whether the insight is a true one or not, whether it serves to obediently answer God's call or not, is yet to be seen. But I know that I cannot be faithful upon my own power.


The Outrageous Idea Of Dooyeweerdian Scholarship

The first meeting of the Amsterdam Reformational Philosophy Club was an unmitigated success (see three posts down for basic info). Set with Oud Kampen Sigars, and beer, we had very fruitful reading and discussion. After an hour&a-half we moved the philosophizing from vE90 to the Balie and continued for almost three more hours. Do continue to pray for us. DV, our next meeting will be 19 December.


talk To Me, Baby.

I finally got a microphone for my computer! So... if you also have a computer and a microphone, you can download google talk and we can converse for free. I'm typically connected to the net and signed-in to gt whenever I'm at my apartment. If you don't have my email (for adding me to your contacts), just leave a comment, and I'll send it to you.


Giving Thanks Overseas

Thanks to the Polstras who had me and a few expats over for an excellent meal. Turkey with all the works. It was the best meal I've had since I've been here.

Most of all I'm thankful to the Lord who answered my 9 year long prayer and lament, and brought me to the Free University to study. "How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out."

The Free University of Amsterdam main building


Alle Bladeren Zijn Bruin

The weather here has taken a definite turn for the worse. This is the beginning of the wet and cold that I feared. It's nasty and gives people something to commiserate about, but so far I'm holding up.

The new Amsterdam student Reformational Philosophy Club will have their first meeting 28 Nov (Monday) at 8pm in the vE90 facility. So we've got about a week to finish all the arrangements and make sure everyone who's interested knows about it.

There's an update at Reformatorischeblog on Dooyeweerdian basic principles of social philosophy.

vE90 building, actual current weather nowhere near this nice


Veterans Day

I am Constitutionally opposed to undeclared wars, but I am grateful for the personal effort and sacrifice of every U.S. military serviceperson, past and present.

Here are several audio stories about our veterans. Here's a great resource for expressing personal support to active soldiers.


Bach In The Begijnhof

Saturday evening I enjoyed a stunning and intimate performance on Baroque Cello and Harpsichord by the Duo Edelen and the tenor vocal of Richard Zook (who appears on Peter Schat's Monkey Subdues the White-Bone Demon opera CD). The performance was held at the Begijnhof, a perfect setting for the music. Too bad my date never showed up!

courtyard of the Begijnhof

Afterward, I just hopped around the corner to Dante's Cafe & Gallery. But eventually I settled across the street at the more earthy Konings Hut. Philosophical conversation ensued. A good time was had by all.


Jazzy Pictures

Once again, Donal comes through with some nice pics of brother Gary. Apparently, the VSB trio performed, and he also played with Cartoon. I know it's all about the music, but I wonder if he made any dough at the Fest this year.

You may have noticed my new "header." Yeah, unfortunately it is quite pixelated. Maybe I can fix it in the future. But I was wanting something more interesting, and it'll do for now.


Were Not The Right Man On Our Side

Old school Calvinists, such as myself, don't observe an ecclesiastical calendar and we don't celebrate any day as "holy" aside from the Lordsday. However, we do acknowledge special providences as occasions for thanksgiving. (Not a widely understood distinction).

That God used Luther's mailing (yes, that's an 'm') of the 95 theses to bring about eventual reform in His church is certainly a “former mercy and deliverance” for which I find occasion to give thanks.

If you are also thanking the Lord on this occasion, I think you will enjoy the entertaining Reformation film series and (if you can play mp3s) the educational audio series "Married To Another" (on the relation of law & gospel).


72 Hours Later...

So after days and nights of too much coffee and a lot of tobacco, I finally completed my second report (and just in time to go to the concert too). I'm happy to say that I also did very well on my exam. God is good to me.

Be sure to stop by and browse through the latest post on Reformatorischeblog. It contains notes on about 10 different readings, mostly concerning the philosophy of Herman Dooyeweerd.
Shaking Pom-Poms In Heaven

I was in a high balcony, to the far side. Singular beams of light cast upon the stage. And I noticed the words in stone relief arched above the window: soli deo gloria. "Because He is the Lord..." in haunting falsetto harmonies the voices rang out upon a hushed and still crowd.

This was the scene towards the end of the Sufjan and the Illinoise-makers show on Thursday night. It opened with the gorgeous Shara Worden and My Brightest Diamond. When S.S. and his band came out it was like a fourthajuly pep-rally parade. And somehow it evolved on a path through the streets of middle America into an apocalyptic vision of the Seven-fold Spirit of the Swan Lord bursting forth in his solar glory. It all took place in an old church building, now a concert hall called "Paradiso."

I really enjoyed it.


Trying To Get Heard

The American Public Media program, Speaking of Faith, interviews Jamie Smith. He tries to help "the other half" of America understand that a good number of bible-believers are not what many assume them to be (anti-intellectual, socially unconcerned).

The title is "Evangelicals Out Of The Box." The host, Krista Tippet, writes in her journal: "Jamie Smith himself, as you'll hear in this program, defies every stereotype at play in our culture now --especially in "blue [leftist] America"-- about who evangelical Christians are, what motivates them, and how they might change America."

I'm not entirely on the same page with Jamie on all the issues, but he is a Dooyeweerd fan, and he's out there speaking up and making a difference.

If what Jamie has to say sounds interesting to you, and you like that sort of program, check out Mars Hill Audio which thoughtfully engages cultural issues from a Christian perspective. See too, the audio resource, thINK, from the Work Research Foundation addressing issues of faith in the marketplace. And for the best in engaging, intelligent theological radio, visit the White Horse Inn.


125 Years On Our Knees

Today is the hundred-twenty-fifth anniversary of the founding of the Free University of Amsterdam. There was a special ceremony with various speakers, a video presentation, a brass quartet (very nice!), and bestowal of honorary degrees. It was, of course, mostly in Dutch, but I still enjoyed it.

Tomorrow there will be a special conference in honor of the retirement of my favorite professor, Dr. Henk Geertsema.

"One sole desire rules my life, a single urge drives soul and will:
to re-establish God’s holy ordinances in church and home, in state and school...
to engrave those divine ordinances, to which Word and Creation witness, so clearly on the nation that once again we bow the knee to God.
--Abraham Kuyper


Tell Me Everything

I recently finished one of two first-unit reports. I have an exam tomorrow and a second one next week, after my second report is due. Right now I'm not too worried. Happily, I feel prepared. So, sooner than later, I'll have some good material to post over at Reformatorischeblog.
In the meantime, if you hadn't yet noticed, there's a reading assignment waiting there for you.

In other news, we've had some gorgeous weather the past few days. This is not to be taken for granted in Amsterdam.


Where's The Beef?

This evening, Peter Berger gave what I can only call a mere "homily" at the University with the Society for International Development. I was hoping for an involved lecture; a serious theoretical discourse. In any case, what he did say was interesting enough.

He touched on the resurgence of religion in the world (minus Europe), and its impact on international socio-economic development. Taking his cue from Weber (and borrowing from someone else, I think), Berger spoke of contemporary "functional equivalents" to the Protestant ethic among various traditions. He spoke about vangaurds, economic discipline, the advantages of arriving late, the slow death of LatinAmerican machismo, and "new" (borrowed or latent) values and institutions that foster sustainable growth.

He didn't go into much detail about how various religious beliefs specifically produced an equivalent culture or ethos for economy. But I got the basic idea.


A Soundtrack For The Transcendental Critique

Besides occasional news about my brother, I don't often mention music I've been listening to. But here goes. Before I left Charm City, I was surprised by having a taste for the I'm Wide Awake ditties of young Conor Oberst. Lately, I've been pleased to listen to Slowblow, and my new very favorite band: The Baptist Generals. TBGs are not as hard to pin-down as their press would indicate. I liken them to Violent Femmes meets early R.E.M. meets a Texas lo-fi sensibility. It's what I like.

And somehow I got roped into going to see this strange fellow on the 27th here in Amsterdam.


When He's Not On The Sax

From time to time I like to update you jazz fans on the illustrious career of my youngest brother, Gary. Here he is spinning for his regular swing nite "Doubletime" [thanks Donal!] at Spailpin. And here are the kids diggin' it. I was told by several musicians in Cork that they thought ole Garçon was the hardest working musician in town.


News From Out West

Well, Orange County (and our nation) should be so lucky.

[you've got to read that with a Yiddish accent to get my meaning]


Keeping Busy

I'm sorry to have whetted your appetites and then not to have followed through on more frequent and regular posts. However, I've been utterly occupied with reading and thinking. And translating my notes into blog posts (for my academic blog) is more labor intensive than I suspected.

I've also been busy with a few regular extracurricular activities. Every Wednesday I attend a dinner and prayer meeting with various other calvinist international students (and, happily, a few orthodox Lutherans join us). Although, midweek is so hectic, we're thinking about moving it to Friday nights.

Thursdays are packed. After classes, there is a department social (which I'm at this very moment... it just started) every other week. And each Thursday evening I attend a philosophical discussion at the "student chaplaincy." The Thursday evenings when there is no department social, I'll attend a dinner at the chaplaincy before discussion.

Anyway, I hope to post on my thesis topic in the near future. Of course, there have been more unscheduled social activities --for instance, I attend a performance of Carmina Burana at the university Cultural Center this past Saturday-- but I haven't found such things truly "blogsome." But I will try to include more of them to satisfy your curiosity.


It's Pronounced: OW-len-shtay-duh

Just in case you want to send me care packages and such, here's my new postal address:

Uilenstede 102 E-2040
1183 AM Amstelveen

This is my apartment building: backyard canal, front courtyard with bikes, side view of the courtyard. In reference to downtown (or "centrum" as they call it), I'm located at the red star on this map. That's about as far as St.Agnes Hospital on the southwest side is from Baltimore's Inner Harbor.

Anyway, I'm just checking in with ya'. Things are going quite well. I'm really, really enjoying classes (see note below for more info). I deleted the blogger comment system from my academic blog because I was tired of the spam and lame interface. Haloscan should be more convenient.

NOTE: new post at Reformatorische on 21 Sept.


The Travel Blog

Finally, through the extensive help of this fellow named Yahp, I was able to connect to the wireless on campus. I also thank Shawn for loaning me his pass code. In short, I arrived safe and more-or-less sound.

Monday 15 aug 11:58am Wash,D.C.
Jeff dropped me off at Reagan without much trouble. I was able to check my bag and pass through security without delay. My flight leaves in about an hour. Right now, I'm preoccupied with a nasty head-cold which developed last night. Runny nose and wicked sore throat. Very, very annoying... but I guess it could be worse. I'm just praying it doesn't last. I don't want to spend my first week under the weather.

Monday 15 aug 5:18pm New York
The flight from DC to New York was delayed. When I finally got to JFK, I jumped on the wrong train and had to loop all the way back around to get to the correct terminal. Thankfully, the layover was long enough to keep me from missing the flight to Shannon. Now they're saying this plane is also delayed. Looks like we're due to depart at 7:30-ish. That will probably put me in Ireland around 7am tomorrow morning. Can't breathe through my nose. I feel slightly dizzy and chilled. Wish I could have a smoke.

Tuesday 16 aug 9:13am Shannon
Somehow the flight arrived in Ireland on the original schedule (6:10am). The cramped seats were terrible, and I'm only feeling worse. But I've managed to avoid fainting. I'm now on the bus to Cork. There is painful pressure in my ears that I can't alleviate and I'm virtually deaf. Anyway the bus ticket was 15euro. I hope Gary answers his phone when I call him in Cork. At least it's not very cold as all my jackets are packed away.

Thursday 18 aug 6:08am Cork
I'm feeling much better now. Gary picked me up at the bus station with no problems. I took a hot shower, had something to eat, took some pseudoephed, and gradually my hearing returned, and my cold began to weaken. The past two days were very enjoyable. I met several of my brother's friends and we had a good time going about town and listening to music in a pub on Tuesday. All of Gary's friends were very hospitable and we stayed up til 5am. Wednesday was more subdued. Now I'm at the airport just about to board for the Netherlands.

Wednesday 24 aug 11:27pm Amsterdam
After arriving at the Amsterdam airport on the 18th at 9:30-ish, I took a taxi to the housing-campus in Amstelveen, which is a 5 minute tram ride south of the University. After dropping off my bags at my apartment, I went to the VU and checked in with the department secretary. I met a theology student from Canada and his Texan-born wife, and a computer science student from California who is my upstairs neighbor. That evening the four of us went downtown for dinner. Since then I've met several more international theology students, and other neighbors, but no one from my program yet. I think my cold is now passed. Thank the Lord. Today I bought a European plug for my computer. I'm expecting to hear from my director soon, then I will register and get a university internet pass code. Unfortunately, there is no wireless in the dorms. Until orientation starts we are simply getting settled, adjusting and familiarizing ourselves with the city. I can't wait for classes to begin.

The Church Search

Sunday 28 aug 5:19pm
Last Lordsday I visited a liberal Dutch protestant church which used to be reformed. Surprisingly enough I thought I understood the crux of the sermon and it seemed quite good... but perhaps it was only my imagined translation. This morning I visited the historic English Reformed Church in Amsterdam, and the sermon --in plain English-- was awful. The congregation was established in 1607 and many of my Pilgrim Fathers worshiped here during their sojourn. Today the church has relations with the liberal Church of Scotland. In any case, I intend to call the Vrijgemaakt (liberated) reformed church (related to the Can/Am Reformed in North America) and the Christelijke (or Afscheiding: secession) reformed church (related to the Free Reformed in North America) and ask if they have any services in English. As far as I understand, these are the remaining orthodox Calvinist churches here in the NL. If they don't have any English services, I will probably be attending services in Dutch, and "house-churching" in the evenings with any other confessionally reformed English-speaking students I can find.

Thursday 1 sept 1:17pm
I discovered that the Vrijgemaakt churches are somewhat liberal in this area. That is, they have non-regulative / "unliturgical" worship. I was told that there is a splinter group from the Vrijgemaakt called the Nederlands reformed, but I could not ascertain whether they are really more orthodox (I'm not sure if this has any connection to Joel Beeke's church). I was also told that within the liberal protestant church, there remains an orthodox faction called the Bond and that I might find theological kinship there. But in my "sectarian" mindset, I can't see the prudence of orthodox congregations remaining in a liberal church. Anyway, I met a girl from the Afscheiding church, and I may attend her congregation this next Lordsday.


Yesterday afternoon we had an introductory meeting for our program. There are several Dutch students in the program. The only other international students who arrived are one guy and one girl from China. At least two others, one from Romania and the other from India, have yet to arrive. There may also be another American coming. The Chinese fellow, who we call Frank, is a 76th generation descendant of Confucius, and an avid Go player, which I'm very happy about. He was humored by my fondness for Li Po (which he says is properly pronounced 'bay,' not 'po'). Anyway, I'm only more excited about my studies here, and can't wait for classes to start on Monday. I have been somewhat discouraged with the amount of bureaucracy, however. There is an extensive re-organization taking place in the University, and no one seems to know what is going on or what I need to do to actually register for classes. I've been to a dozen different administrative offices. But I was assured by my professors that this will not prevent me from beginning the course. It does prevent me from getting my university computer pass code, which is why I have been unable to post these entries on my blog. Happily, I did obtain a temporary library card.


The Next Blog

As I gear up to leave for Amsterdam on the 15th, I decided to set up a separate blog for potential studies related posts. I'll probably note here when I've posted there... so you'll be sure not to miss a single word. Go To REFORMATORISCHE.

In other news, I've secured housing not far from the University. Moving the majority of my earthly belongings into storage went smoothly. And I am so ready to go. I've never been readier.


Belated Bye-Bye To B&N

Thanks to all my co-workers and managers at the Pikesville Barnes&Noble bookstore. After working there for about a year and a half, I can say it was one of the more pleasant jobs I've ever had (thanks to you) and thus, the longest period I've been employed at any particular business.

It is regrettable that our friendships didn't extend much outside of work, but I am truly grateful for the magnanimity and humor you brought to our co-labors. And it was always a relief to have sympathetic ears about difficult customers.

I hope you will continue to check back for updates on my progress over the next year. Several of you suggested you might email me and/or come for a visit. I would be so pleased if you did! Contact Brad if you've lost my info.

[notice: This post was made from my new laptop!]


The Rush And Push

Long, weary story short... no convenient web access of late. However, in the Lord's gracious providence, He has made the bulk of my funding for school available (although any additional support is welcome and will be put to neccessary use). I am tremendously relieved... beyond words. So, a few more weeks of work, then packing belongings for storage, then off to the VU on the 15th of August (with a day's detour in Cork to see my brother). I'll have a week or so before class starts to find a place to live [DV].

The support of family and friends during this hectic transition means a great deal. Thank you all. More trials remain ahead, I'm sure. I'll keep you posted.


Paid Vacation

After working at the bookstore for over a year, I merited some vacation pay... a first for me. So, the first weekend of June, courtesy of a friend's frequent flier miles and superb hospitality, I flew out to Los Angeles. The first thing I did was drive to the nearest In-N-Out and enjoyed the best un-fastfood in the universe.

I really enjoyed the live performance of Prairie Home Companion at the Hollywood Bowl. The air was a bit crisp, but we had wine and cheese and performances by the Old Crow Medicine Show, among others. Phenomenal.

The rest of my time in LA was dinners and cookouts with old friends and new acquaintances. I'm generally not a fan of the westcoast, but I hated to leave.

Upon my return, I eased back into work by filling in for our community relations manager. I setup and enjoyed a local author discussion and signing with Catherine Rogers Arthur, curator of the Homewood House. Wish I could afford to attend the Evening of Traditional Beverages.


Top Worldwide Destination

Frommer's placed Charm City on its recent top 10 summer 2005 travel destinations.

(that's all. just wanted to brag.)


Intro To Transcendental Critique

Roy Clouser's The Myth of Religious Neutrality has recently appeared in a new revised edition by Notre Dame Press. This work is the best introduction to the foundation of Dooyeweerdianism available in the English language. I can't recommend it highly enough. See a comment on the first edition here.

Also, check out the Roy Clouser Pages. I particularly recommmend his article "Is God Eternal?".


Shameless Self-Promotion

If you haven't heard the news, I was recently accepted to a Masters program in philosophy at the Free University of Amsterdam. I am tremendously excited about it, but the funding is still up in the air. Please consider an endorsement from Gideon Strauss, and pass it on to other possibly interested parties.

[Gideon is director of education and research at the Christian Labour Association of Canada; a senior fellow of the Work Research Foundation, and editor of Comment]


The Political Crux
or, secularist thought police in the public square

In his recent NYTimes BookReview back page essay Mark Lilla suggests that the ubiquitous preoccupation with public Christianity since W.'s re-election is "a media bubble, and like all bubbles it will burst." I don't doubt he is correct. But that certainly doesn't mean public Christianity is going away.

If (as I suspect) Lilla's views are fairly representative of secular academic would-be interlocutors with public Christianity in this country, the road ahead looks tedious. One hopes that Lilla's forthcoming book may provide a more enlightened analysis than his essay. There are so many things problematic with his understanding here. I might even call it propagandist schlock if I had the time to detail his confusion. But his main beef with public Christianity is, of course, that it doesn't play by his own ideological rules.

To Lilla's thinking, as to all secular fundamentalists', genuine pluralism is impermissible. Unless religionists drop their undemocratic fascination with the supernatural and adopt a modernistic theology, they are not welcome at the table. Lilla's hypocritical dogma is clear: when entering the public square, leave your faith at the door, or else you are neither sober or rational.

It's hard to say how long this sort of philosophical naivete will persist. But one thing is certain: a genuine civil society cannot be attained without cultivating intellectually critical habits of mind among so-called liberals. This was as true for Abraham Kuyper and J. Gresham Machen in their respective times as it is for us today.


NPR Takes Note... sorta'

In a recent series, NPR has been trying to get a handle on "Public Christianity." Of course they don't get it. As secular fundamentalists they have a core (religious) commitment to the myth of religious neutrality in public life.

I found the piece on Christian legal organizations interesting. The paranoia was palpable. They mentioned Mat Staver and the Liberty Counsel, Alan Sears and the Alliance Defence Fund, & Jay Sekulow and the American Center for Law and Justice, but they failed to mention "the daddy" of Christian legal groups (and my favorite): John Whitehead and The Rutherford Institute. Neither did they mention the Christian Legal Society or the Christian Law Association. Happily, there are several more such groups out there.


German Reformed Liturgy Debates

For many years now the history of Reformed worship has been one of my "hobbies." Lately I've enjoyed reading Maxwell's Liturgical Lessons of Mercersburg. It's in dissertation format and type, but nonetheless a good read. And I noticed that D.G.Hart is coming out with a book on J.W.Nevin. I'll probably wait til it's out in paperback.

For more background on the RCUS and Mercersburg, see David Koyzis' posts of 7 Jul 03 and 8 Jul 03.

There's also a helpful comparative chart of various historical Reformed orders of worship on page 24 of the Ordained Servant, vol.3 no.3 [in PDF only].


Sex and Fraud

At the bookstore we often have small tables devoted to movie tie-ins. Such was the case with the somewhat recent film on Kinsey. I tried to order the book that debunks his research, but it was out of print. Kinsey: crimes & consequences and The Kinsey Corruption only recently came to my attention.

The Center for Public Justice has several valuable articles on the subject of homosexuality and public policy. Guidelines, Marriage On Trial, Sex and Race, Vermont, Skillen 1, 2, and 3.
See also my previous post on the topic.


Liberty Of Conscience

I haven't had the leisure to respond to certain objections to my post on Socinianism of 12 Dec. But the following comments address the issue further.

One of the implications of the fact that the church is obliged to teach God's Word with authority is "confessional communion." This is the view that church members who would be admitted to the Lord's Supper may not hold to doctrines which are contrary to what the church teaches as the Word of God. We can understand this view more clearly when we consider the biblical doctrine of "liberty of conscience."

The church must teach God's Word with authority, and it must teach God's Word alone. Everything other than the authoritative teaching of God's Word is the "doctrine of men." And God has left the consciences of believers free from whatever might be taught that is "in any thing contrary to His Word, or beside it, in matters of faith and worship."

Authoritative teaching of God's Word "is to be received with reverence and submission, not only for its agreement with the Word, but also for the power [whereby it is taught], as being an ordinance of God, appointed thereunto in His Word." And so, "because the power which God has ordained, and the liberty which Christ has purchased, are not intended by God to destroy, but mutually to uphold and preserve one another; they who, upon pretense of Christian liberty, oppose the church's lawful authority... resist the ordinance of God. And for their publishing of such opinions... as are contrary... to the known principles of Christianity, whether concerning faith, worship, or conversation; or to the power of godliness,... they may be lawfully called to account, and proceeded against by the censures of the church."

The church is not at liberty to teach anything other than God's Word, and so believer's are free to disagree if anything else is taught. And because the church must teach the Word with authority, believers are not at liberty to disagree with its biblical teaching.


Lily On The Mountain

I am an uncle to a Lillian Grace Rees as of the 19th! Congratulations to my sister and bro-in-law, Amy & Jonny. I can't wait to see the beautiful kid in person.


Fukuyama's Religion

In the back page essay of the recent NYT Book Review, Fukuyama discusses Weber's famous work on the Protestant (read: Calvinist) work ethic. Apart from the question of the merits of Weber's thesis, F.F. seems fundamentally confused about the nature of culture. For example, he states "What held traditional China and Japan back, we now understand, was not culture, but stifling institutions, bad politics and misguided policies" --as though institutions, politics, and policies are not constitutive of culture! He also makes the classic secularist error of assuming "modern rationalsim" lacks religious commitments.

Wish I had more time to comment on this topic, but you will find the essay here.
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Swift To The Booty

My sister is due to have her baby soon. Of course, I'm looking forward to being a first-time uncle. In the meanwhile, my thoughts turn to that most ancient of human vocations --naming. I was recently surprised to happen upon the fact that there is a contemporary TV actor who is named Mahershalalhashbaz (which, as I'm sure you know, means "swift to plunder, quick to spoil;" see Isaiah 8:1-4). I'm sorry, but I think that's cool.

In other news, I was privileged to give a presentation on Dooyeweerd's transcendental critique to the upper grades of Covenant Christian Academy a week ago. I enjoyed it quite a bit, and hope they'll have me back again.

Also, my brother, Jeff, and I eagerly anticipate the Baldwin & Cocktails Monday night. Join us if you're in town.


The God Of Second Causes

This weekend at a surprizingly well done "modern dance" performance, I met three Dutch students who are currently researching at Johns Hopkins. After the show we went out and enjoyed discussing the cultural particularities of various "Western" societies. Perhaps as "westerners" we have an initial bias that the social differences between us are very slight. But if you've done any traveling, you'll be disabused of that assumption fairly quickly. This is even the case within the U.S. itself, from region to region.

Anyway, the students were curious about my own interest in studying in the Netherlands. And so we talked about that for a while. They recommended The UnDutchables as a keen exposé on Dutch culture.

Of course, I told them about my affinity for Reformational philosophy, particularly for that of Herman Dooyeweerd. In the course of discussion, I was asked why I would want to bring religion into philosophy. I tried to explain that it wasn't really an issue of bringing religion into it, as much as a critical understanding of how religion is the inescapable starting-point of all philosophy.

I'm not sure my explanation was very lucid. In anycase, one student kept asking me if it just didn't seem too convenient to reference God in philosophy. At the time, I struggled to understand what exactly her objection was. But after further reflection, I think I know what she was expressing.

I think she was trying to say that if one brings God into the equation, then there is no room for further explanation, and therefore all too simplistic, and not very helpful in really explaining anything. Of course, had I understood her question, I would have attempted to discuss how God's creational ordinances are a matter of the normative principles which we see functioning in the order of the universe. That God is "behind" the order certainly doesn't exlain it away, nor is it the end-all of what the order is, or how it operates.

"God, from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass: yet so, ...the liberty or contingency of second causes in not taken away, but rather established. God, in his ordinary providence, makes use of means... Although, in relation to the foreknowledge and decree of God, the first Cause, all things come to pass immutably, and infallibly; yet, by the same providence, he orders them to fall out, according to the nature of second causes, either necessarily, freely, or contingently." (See WCF 3.1 & 5.1-2).


The End Of The Line

The Japanese government is considering modifying its constitution to allow for a female monarch. Much of the press seems to be playing this as a late-born women's liberation issue, when in reality, it's all about the end of Shinto Nationalism* itself.

The Shinto claim of descent from the Sun-goddess Ameratsu is reckoned only through a direct line of male heirs (unbroken for at least 125 generations). If there is no male heir, the line is broken, and Shintoism is ruined at last.

Speaking of lines...
I'm hooked on The Wire. I haven't heard whether it's going to be cancelled or not. But I have to wait for the seasons to come out on DVD anyway, so it will be awhile before I reach the end. If Shakespeare were writing today, he'd be a cohort of David Simon.


The Ties That Bind

So, I have a new phone number again.
Please take note.

Brother Jeffy had his 30th recently, so we enjoyed one night of duckpin bowling and another of Ethiopian food. I think my New Year's resolution might be to bowl more. Bowl. That's a verb.

In other news, the old Theodicy sonnet has appeared.
My thanks to Matt Kirby.


Red Emma

So I've found a nice spot for web access. It seems like such a good thing, I wonder how long it will last. In anycase here I am. My friend, Dan Van Allen told me about his work being shown here, so I stopped by and am very pleased.

The comments are piling up two posts below. Perhaps now it will be more convenient to respond without long delays.


In With The North Wind

Over the "holidays," I was pleased to host three seniors from Redeemer University College, Ontario for a week during their winter break. I hope Steven, Andrea, and Jane found me a sufficient tour guide. I had a good time, anyway. Since I was also working most of the time, I'm not sure how much more we could have added to the family dinner, Federal Hill, the Visitor's Center, Fells Point, Sip&Bite, Machen's grave at Greenmount, Sylvan Beach Cafe, Lexington Market, Dizzy Issie's, the BMA, the Charles Theater, Club Charles, and the Dionysus.

I hope my friends got a good taste of the possibilities that await them in urban post-college life. You've got to choose your ghetto. Choose wisely.