Thursday, December 31, 2009
Oh, It's Exotic!
My yogurt container says "exotic" on it. Can a mass produced food product be "exotic"? Moreover, if anything is exotic, would it need to say so? If a person is "exotic" (or "erotic"), would he or she need to wear a button saying so?
My, how words are abused to try to manipulate us. The answer to this vexation is to love words and to hate their abuse.
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Bravo to Roger Scruton
Musing on Monk
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
No Answers to Real Problem: Jihad
Monday, December 28, 2009
More Like Him
Sunday, December 27, 2009
Guest Post From Sarah Geis on Donald Miller
We must carefully guard our minds against the dulling effects of such inane triviality by steeping ourselves in truly great works like those of Charles Spurgeon, John Flavel, Jonathan Edwards, G.K. Chesterton, and C.S. Lewis. The ultimate antidote to contemporary superficiality is, of course, the Bible itself. Authors like Miller, who foolishly approach life as though it were simply one large egocentric playground in which truth doesn't really exist in any consequential manner, often tragically enjoy the position of the only author with which an individual has interacted for quite some time. Why? Because despite the vacuousness and even erroneousness of their books, these authors are entertaining. In a culture where the barrage of cheap entertainment is so constant that it presents a corrosive threat to the intellect, we must take extra care to keep our minds sharp.
The Living and the Dead
And Obama Did Nothing to Support the Iranian People Against Their Dictator
We'll never know the man who stood in front of those tanks in Tiananmen Square, but we do know Neda Agha-Soltan: we've looked into her eyes. For one gut-wrenching moment, as she lay dying from the bullet in her heart on that Tehran side street last June, Neda stared directly into the cell phone that was about to immortalize her. Within hours, millions of people around the world had been beseeched by those fading eyes, making an intimate connection with the 27-year-old music student and the cause for which she was killed by the thugs of an embattled regime. Before Neda's murder, the street protests against Iran's stolen election had been a revolution without a face, doomed to be crushed by brute authority and eventually forgotten. But Neda's dying gaze drew the eyes of the world. We can neither look away nor forget.
— Bobby Ghosh
Read more: http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,1946375_1946333,00.html#ixzz0axEolIOB
Saturday, December 26, 2009
Friday, December 25, 2009
Sign of the times
More Bad Obama News
Holiday for Outsiders
And yet, and yet... There are simple joys to be had. Memories to remember. Hope for the future. Grace to be grasped. One can always cast oneself on God, the God who came near and remains near in Christ Jesus. This God refuses no humble tears and has wounds of his own--healed, but still felt.
Thursday, December 24, 2009
Undone by truth.
Refined by reality.
Repulsed by banality.
Fascinated by facticity.
Bored with inanity.
New Reality TV: Ignoramus No More
1. The program finds the most stupefied, addled, ignoramus available. This should not be difficult. Find someone who went to a public (statist) school, watches hours of TV a day, plays video games endlessly, listens to rap, and is addicted all manner of popular culture. Igoramus must be of average intellilgence (insofar as that is possible to ascertain).
2. Isolate Ignoramus from all popular culture for three months. A special compound will be built for this task.
3. Make Ignoramus read challenging books by classic authors such as Augustine, Aquinas, Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Dostoevsky, T.S. Eliot, C. S. Lewis as well as the entire Bible. He keeps a running vocabulary book, writing down and defining words he does not know. The book will likely contain hundreds of entries. He must also memorize key passages from this literature.
4. Ignoramus must spend long periods of time not sleeping, not meditating (in the Eastern sense) not reading, not exercising, but sitting and thinking.
5. Ignoramus must listen to audio courses on things he knows nothing about: Western civilization, the history of philosophy, and the history of art.
6. Ignoramus is tutored by experts in the above subjects. He must write papers on these subjects and pass oral examinations on them as well. No multiple choice or true/false examinations will be given.
7. Ignoramus is given lessons in speaking well. His present vocabulary is expunged of "I mean," "you know," "um," "awesome," and other emotive vacuities. Instead, he learns how to speak in complete sentences with aptly chosen words, spoken at the proper time.
8. After this three-month immersion, Ignoramus gives a one hour speech on prime time TV concerning the results of his immersion into this strange world of learning.
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Book Review: Francis Schaeffer: An Authentic Life
The historical significance of recently occurring events is rarely understood in the present or even for several years-or decades-later. (For that matter, historians are still debating the meaning and significance of the Renaissance, the Reformation, the Enlightenment, and so on). A biblical writer can capture the ultimate significance of an act and put it into both a cosmic and theological context of perennial value, given divine inspiration. But the uninspired historian is, of course, differently situated and imperiled by sins of omission, commission, and misinterpretation. Even the best hindsight of professional historians is less than 20/20, being somewhat tentative and open to revision.
Francis A. Schaeffer, evangelist, apologist, pastor, author, and social critic, died at the age of 72 in 1984 after a long and heroic battle with cancer. In approximately the last twenty years of his life, Schaeffer attained notoriety as one who knew how to speak Christian truth to those experiencing the upheavals of the counterculture. Although his first book, The God Who is There (1968), was not published until he was in his late fifties, Schaeffer and his inestimable wife Edith (a writer herself), had pioneered a Christian community in the Swiss Alps in 1955 called L'Abri that became a hub for Christian hospitality, conversation, apologetics and evangelism in the modern world. His lecture tours around Europe and the United States, such as at Wheaton College, were also becoming widely known and respected. In 1960, Time Magazine called him a "missionary to intellectuals." Schaeffer went on to write over twenty books on apologetics, theology, and ethics. Most of these were developed from lecture transcripts or were aided by considerable editorial assistance. Schaeffer's great strength was discussion and lecturing, not crafting the academic manuscript. In fact, for all his status as a Christian intellectual, Schaeffer did not hold an earned doctorate and never held a full-time academic post, although he taught as an adjunct periodically at Covenant Seminary.
Colin Duriez is a freelance writer and biography and, importantly, was a student at the Schaeffer's Swiss L'Abri Ministry. Duriez has a firm grasp of the considerable Schaeffer corpus, but there is so much more to Schaeffer than his books, which were, in some ways, an afterthought that came after many years of ministry in the United States and Europe. Duriez makes very good use of extensive interviews with members of the Schaeffer family and of his associates such as Os Guinness, and Schaeffer's students. Duriez says he was "guided by over 180,000 words of oral history concerning Francis Schaeffer" (10). Edith Schaeffer, who is now in her mid-nineties, was, Duriez writes, "not well enough to give me more than a warm smile and a greeting" (13). This deep resource of oral history helps fill out the biography of Schaeffer in existentially significant ways.
Duriez enters into some of the charges made against Schaeffer's understanding of the history of philosophy and pulls in an interesting ally: C.S. Lewis. Schaeffer famously credited Aquinas as opening the door to autonomous human reasoning by his distinction of nature from grace. Nature is what can be known through unaided human reason and grace provides knowledge from a supernatural source, the Bible. Schaeffer argued (albeit very briefly) that Aquinas's way of construing these two sources of knowledge paved the way for nature to "eat up grace"-that is, autonomous human reasoning would set itself up against biblical revelation and end us secularizing our Western worldview. Duriez notes that C.S. Lewis, an Oxford Don and scholar of much higher rank than Schaeffer, made much the same point in The Allegory of Love (172-73). Although Duriez does not mention it, the controversial Catholic theologian, Hans Kung made the same point about Aquinas in his book, Does God Exist in 1980.
This book provides a rich account of the full gamut of Schaeffer's life and teachings. Schaeffer was born into a humble, working class and nonintellectual family in Germantown, Pennsylvania. He surprised his parents by becoming a serious Christian and attending college and seminary. After pastoring in America, he ventured to Europe to examine the state of the churches after the devastation of World War II. He eventually settled in Switzerland where his home became a center for evangelism and hospitality. Out of this ministry eventually came Schaeffer's books and in the final decade of his life, his unexpected and largely unwanted celebrity as a culture warrior of the New Christian Right in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Duriez argues that here was a continuity to Schaeffer's life. Although in the early 1950's he left the cultural isolationism and incessant in-fighting of his early Fundamentalist days, just before starting L'Abri, Schaeffer would not sacrifice what he took to be the essentials of biblical orthodoxy for popularity or for anything else. Nevertheless, he did not treat people as objects on which to protect truth. His early pastoral ministry as well as his work at L'Abri and even into his last stage as something of a Christian luminary were marked by a profound concern for human beings, who (as he never ceased emphasizing) were made "in the image and likeness of God." In his later years, through his book and film series, "Whatever Happened to the Human Race?" (co-written with C. Everett Koop, who went on to become Surgeon General under President Ronald Reagan), he led the way for evangelicals to join and sustain the pro-life movement. Given Schaeffer's theology of the person (divinely created, fallen, and in need of Christ's redemption), he took their intellectual questions, their art, and their God-forsaking lives very seriously. Schaeffer was also a man of the Bible (and of the Reformation) until the end. He was not interested in academic apologetics per se, but wanted souls to know the God revealed in Holy Scripture. He consistently taught and preached from the Bible and wrote books commenting on Scripture (such as Genesis in Space and Time and Joshua and the Flow of Biblical History).
While some claims Schaeffer’s apologetics is out of date, they are wrong. Schaeffer anticipated much of postmodern thinking-for example, critiquing Foucault in 1971-and realized that many in the sixties and seventies had already made "the escape from reason" (the title of his second book.) His apologetic was as much one for the importance of reason as it was as a reasonable apologetic. Moreover, Schaeffer was never an arid rationalist who unloaded his apologetic system on unsuspecting unbelievers (something which might be said for some of the followers of fellow Reformed philosophers Gordon Clark and Cornelius Van Til). Schaeffer's writings always engaged humans as cultural and individual beings, not disembodied intellects; hence, his emphasis on painting, music, architecture, and literature as revealing the conditions of non-Christian individuals and cultures. Further, Schaeffer was renowned for his ability to make Christianity pertinent in one-on-one and small group conversations, which involved much give and take and creativity. Schaeffer was no mere logic chopper. Schaeffer believed in the necessity of reason for a coherent, cogent, and livable worldview, but he did not affirm the sufficiency of reason. We finite and fallible humans need God's propositional revelation in Scripture to make sense of ourselves, our world, and our God.
While Schaeffer admitted that he was not an academic philosopher-and even wrote in a letter to Duriez that his thin book, He is There, He is Not Silent, would probably be his last philosophy book (174)-Schaeffer's basic apologetic insights hold up well today, even if we must refine his method address ideas he did not tackle. Let me mention two basic ideas that I (as a professional philosopher, unlike Schaeffer) find profound and helpful.
First, Schaeffer taught that worldviews need to be compared on the basis of objective criteria. That is, one does not simply presuppose one's worldview apart from rational testing. Every worldview-or basic perspective on life's deepest questions-needs to pass three individually necessary and jointly sufficient tests. First, it must be internally consistent. That is, its defining beliefs must cohere with one another. Second, a worldview needs to fit the facts of reality; it must be "true to what is," as Schaeffer put it. A worldview needs to match the external facts of history and science. Third, a worldview needs to be livable to be credible. This means that it must pass the existential test of fitting the facts of the internal world. For example, any worldview that denies the objective reality of evil (such as secular relativism or Eastern monism) cannot be lived out consistently, since we intuitively know that rape, murder, and racism are wrong. These three apologetic criteria can be nuanced and made much more sophisticated, but they form the backbone of any solid apologetic method. These truths are far from outdated!
Second, Schaeffer repeatedly emphasized that the God of Christianity was an "infinite and personal" being, and that humans were not machines or little gods, but made in the image of this infinite-personal God. In other words, for Christianity, personality is the deepest and most profound ontological category of reality-not impersonal time, space, law, chance, matter or some impersonal sense of deity held by Eastern religions. Schaeffer's apologetic capitalizes on this uniquely personal sense of reality held by Christianity. Persons, though fallen, have objective and eternal meaning on this scheme-as does community, since God himself is a Trinity: a relationship of divine persons coexisting in one Godhead from eternity.
I fear that the younger generation of evangelicals does not know enough about the remarkable life and achievements of Francis Schaefer; instead they are opting for the trendy but intellectually barren hype of much of the emergent church movement-which claims to be "authentic." ("Authentic" often means little more than emotional, unconventional, and obsessively autobiographical.) Many older evangelicals may have forgotten many of the salient lessons from his life and teachings as well. Reading this biography can help rectify this problem. But better yet, one can read or reread Schaeffer's own books and watch his two film series (the ten-part, "How Should We Then Live?" and five-part, "Whatever Happened to the Human Race?" which are both available on DVD). Indeed, Schaeffer did live an "authentic" life-a life of piety, truth, and courage-worthy of our attention and of our thanksgiving to God.
TV Insanity, Take 2000000000000000000000000000000
"It has to be on."
Out in the Streets: Matthew 25:31-46
A cardboard sign for an address.
Scraps for food.
Out in the elements.
Out alone with cars rushing by or idling near.
Some look away.
Some give something.
Some give nothing.
None can ignore.
A car horn or wave draws them near:
another hand-out. Then, gone...
Home-less men and women,
Appealing to strangers as stranger still.
Each owns a story,
Each a tale of woe and ruin.
We return to our rooms full.
They stand and pace without roof, heat, or menu.
Another left his home and became homeless,
With nowhere to lay his holy head.
Yet by design.
He seemed to wander,
but carried his Sign in himself.
Some looked away.
None can ignore--forever.
Still he is homeless, although above.
He is home-less, in our midst.
Yet he is found in the least, the last, the lost.
Book Review: "The Deniable Darwin" by David Berlinski
The inimitable David Berlinksi, mathematician and literary stylist, is a free thinker--not in the common sense of skeptics who revel in denying religion on principle, but in the sense of assessing arguments on the basis of evidence, not on the basis of mere consensus or social pressure. He long ago found Darwin evidentially-challenged and began to say so--cutting against the grain. He continues to say so, and so educates his readers in critical thinking and good writing. May his number increase.
If you are tired of the stereotypical and monotonous defenses of Darwinism and denunciations of intelligent design that clutter and litter the press, read this important book. If you read nothing else, consult, "The Deniable Darwin," an essay in Commentary that rocked the readership in 1996.
By the way, Dr. Berlinksi is neither a Christian nor a practicing Jew. But even if he were one or the other (or a member of any other religion) it would make no difference for the force of his arguments. To think otherwise is to commit the fallacy of poisoning the well
Steele: Dems 'flipping a bird to the American people'
Posted: December 21st, 2009 06:32 PM ET
From CNN Ticker Producer Alexander Mooney
Steele says the Democratic health care bill is 'bad for America.'
(CNN) - Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele made clear Monday he's not happy with Democratic efforts to pass a health care reform bill, saying the measure which cleared a procedural hurdle Sunday amounts to "flipping a bird to the American people."
"This is a bad bill. It's bad law. It's bad for America. It is bad certainly for individuals and enough is enough. I am tired of the Congress thumbing their nose and flipping a bird to the American people," Steele said on a conference call with reporters Monday. "I am tired of this Congress thinking it knows better than me and my family how to provide for our health care now and in the future."
"It Don't Mean a Thing if it Ain't Got That Swing"
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
2009 Constructive Curmudgeon Awards
1. Most refreshing young writer on the church: Francis Chan, for his books Crazy Love and Forgotten God. These, while written gently, will shake you up for the good.
2. Best jazz CD: "Mostly Coltrane," by Steve Kuhn (piano), featuring Joe Lovano (tenor saxophone). Recorded on the inimitable ECM label, the quartet explores Coltrane pieces (and others) with tact, fire, beauty, and reverence.
3. Best science book: Signature in the Cell by Stephen Meyer. This tome is nothing less than a magisterial tour de force in the philosophy of science, pertaining to the origin of life on earth. It is a watershed book for the Intelligent Design movement. The Darwinists' carping against it has typically been both comical and pathetic. They are like ants spitting at a lion.
4. Worst politicians: This is a three-way tie: Barack Obama, Harry Reid, and Nancy Pelosi. Their incomparable incompetence, towering arrogance, and moral bankruptcy is both breath-taking and nauseating. America is far worse for the wear; they are reducing our liberties to rubble.
5. Best student comment in my classes (undergraduate): In responding to the error of ethical relativism, young Nick K. shook his head and said, "They [the relativists] couldn't even know themselves." Teachers can live a few weeks on such remarks.
6. Worse ongoing cultural trend (barring big moral issues): tatoos.
7. Best political book: Liberty and Tyranny by Mark Levin. An expert on the Constitution, Levin outlines the basic framework of American liberty and how it is being threatened by the Obama onslaught.
8. Most ominous political event: The very real possibility of abortion on demand supported by our tax dollars. This is a watershed issue and may be a turning point in American history.
9. Ignoramuses of the year: All those who blinded their eyes and shut their ears to the jihadism of the Mount Hood murderer who executed 14 innocent people while shouting, "Allah is great."
Harry Reid's Fascism
Monday, December 21, 2009
I cannot overestimate what a titanic change in American civilization this represents. The Constitution is not a statist document; neither does the Bible promote statism or view the civil government in the messianic terms that the Democrats do. Both the Constitution very specifically and the Bible more generally limit the power of the state, since the state is composed of fallible people who have a monopoly on legal violence and coercion (incarceration, conscription, and extraction of funds). For the kind of state we are moving toward, read Revelation 13. I am not making an end-time prediction, but pointing out a biblical category: the state as a beast.
If this so-called health car bill passes, many of us will have to fundamentally reassess our relationship to the federal government and our mode of living in general. "When the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?", as the Psalmist wrote.
Holland: Once Famous for Freedom of Speech
Islamic Law for the US
Remember Lebanon! See Brigette Gabriel, Because they Hate.
Sunday, December 20, 2009
Graham on Islam
Seriousness in Preaching (updated)
1. Never preach without an awareness of sin, the Cross, repentance, and the power of the Holy Spirit. I heard a sermon recently that mentioned none of them. It grieved me deeply.
2. Preach as if it were your last sermon. It might be. This is the way Stevie Ray Vaughn played the blues. There is an apt analogue.
3. Preach as if God were your ultimate and primary audience. God is.
4. Preach as if you were to hear your whole sermon again at the Last Judgment. You will.
5. Exhort, do not entertain. Do not fear biblical exhortation, which may be sharp and painful. On that, see the chapter on lukewarmness in Crazy Love by Francis Chan. Or, better, yet read Jesus' exhortation to the Church as Laodicia in Revelation 3.
6. Pray before, during, and after the sermon.
7. Preach the sermon to yourself before, during, and after you preach it to others.
8. Comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable--from Scripture.
9. Beware of humor in preaching. In the US, as Jean Baudrillard said, the "laugh track is always on." Turn it off in the pulpit. Any humor should have a purpose, not be gratuitous, and not be in service of self. See A. W. Tozer's classic essay, "The Use and Abuse of Humor."
10. Ruthlessly eliminate all fluff, bovine excrement, and other extraneous matter from sermons. Distill it down to truth on fire. See Jeremiah 20:9.
11. Eliminate trivial references to popular culture, since they typically only debase the discourse.
One could go on, but that is enough to indict and convict most pulpits in the land of make believe. Can you add other principles?
Saturday, December 19, 2009
"On the Road with Duke Ellington" (DVD, 2002)
The film is minimally and tastefully narrated, and lets Duke and his orchestra do the talking. We see and hear Duke with his road band, with symphony orchestras, performing sacred music, and in a trio format, which ends the film. His rendition of "Take the A Train" accompanied by only bass and drums is (to use a Duke-ism) "beyond category." There is so much information supercharged in every note, every chord, and every pause...that one feels the entire history of jazz in just a few fleeting but unforgettable moments.
I hate most all television for many reasons, but this was shown on television in 1974. In this case, the medium fits the message, even if the man is larger than life. I recommend it to every student and lover of jazz.
The Evangelical Mind
Friday, December 18, 2009
Duke: Beyond Category
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Groothuis on Tillich
Monday, December 14, 2009
Technology allows us to simulate the world without knowing it, without being in it.
Just like this.
Sunday, December 13, 2009
Saturday, December 12, 2009
How to Read a Book
1. Read worthwhile books. These come in two categories: (A) Books that are in themselves worthwhile. (B) Books that are substandard but influential, nevertheless. I know nothing of "killing time" by reading. As Thoreau said, "You cannot kill time without wounding eternity." Be sensitive to the Holy Spirit as to what books you should read and when. I cannot separate my professional reading from my pleasure reading. However, I will not read books I profoundly disagree with on Sundays, since that is a day of rest (not torment).
2. Always read with a pen or pencil in your hand. Annotation is part of the art of reading. The book should become your own. I underline, make comments, and put notes in the front of the book pointing out important points. I also cross reference important points.
3. Write in the front of the book when you started reading it and when you finished it. This gives you a sense of intellectual history. (Don't ask how many books I have not finished. Some do not deserve to be finished, though.)
4. Recommend books to others on as many topics as you can. Be a walking and talking annotated bibliography.
Unmasking the New Age (again)
Much to my amazement, my first book, Unmasking the New Age, has been reprinted, now in the 23rd printing. 151, 863 copies are in print. It was published in 1986. While some of the players have changed, the basic issues concerning the New Age worldview (pantheism, monism, occultism, reincarnation) have not changed. If you want to understand the thinking of Deepak Chopra, The Secret, etc., and compare it with Christianity, this book can help.
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Lectures on Religions
Tuesday, December 08, 2009
The Examined Life
Colorado Senators for Abortion
America is tragically moving toward a European-style, socialist, federally-funded abortion "health monopoly" model. I am at a loss for words. What is next?
Monday, December 07, 2009
Sunday, December 06, 2009
Obama on Afganistan
Saturday, December 05, 2009
Award to Stephen Meyer
"Intelligent Design and the State University: Accepting the Challenge"
"Obstinancy in Religious Belief"
For What It's Worth
Friday, December 04, 2009
Thursday, December 03, 2009
Doug Groothuis on The Manhattan Declaration This Sunday
This is more than a statement of ideas; it is declaration of principled resistance against the imposition of immoral programs and demands by the state.
On the Compatibility of Ontological Equality, Hierarchy, and Functional Distinctions
War on Human Embryos
No, it can not be defended by those who believe in the sanctity of human life. The sanctify of life claims that human life qua human life has intrinsic and incomparable value. Humans should never be used as merely a means to an end, especially if that end means their own death by killing (even when euphemistically referred to as "experimentation").
Wednesday, December 02, 2009
I talked about this attack with Walter Martin (d. 1989), the great counter-cult author and speaker--and a man with a personality as big as any room he was in. He said, "You can fight a skunk and win--but who wants to?" He then told me to write a letter responding to the charge and send it to the barracuda by registered mail. I did so.
Yet it is hard to remember this lesson, particularly concerning the anti-intelligent design "skunks" out there. I am not impugning all Darwinists or opponents of ID, but there is a certain strain of them that simply taunt and mock--for example, through comments on Amazon.com reviews. I am tempted to fight back a tit-for-a-tat, but this is really just a waste of time. As Jesus said, "Do not caste your pearls before swine."
It is difficult for a philosopher to have his arguments disregarded and to be mocked or scorned instead. Nevertheless, this is the strategy of the skunks. We need to let them stink alone and turn our attention elsewhere.
Tuesday, December 01, 2009
Article on "The Deniable Darwin."
Send me an email if you are interested in getting this file.
A Most Serious Error of Judgment
Well, Egan is wrong, at least concerning one conservative. Yesterday, radio host Hugh Hewitt said that Huckabee's political career was over. He made no excuses for him. If Huckabee did, in fact, play a major role in this serial offenders early release (which seems certain), then I can only agree. (I have never been a big fan of his anyway.) Conservatives are historically known for their support of "law and order." That doesn't mean that all offenders should be sent to jail for as long as possible, but it does mean protecting civilians from incorrigible criminals and justly punishing serious criminals.