Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Imagine: No Television

[Sung to John Lennon's egregious, "Imagine"]

Imagine there's no television.
It isn't hard to do.
No screens around us.
In front of us, only books.

Imagine all the people
Thinking like humans.
Oh, oooh!

You may say I'm a dreamer.
But I'm not the only one
Some day they'll wake up.
And the world will think again.

Imagine there's no celebrity
It's easy if you try.
No Paris or Brittany
We might live before we die.

Imagine all the people
thinking for themselves.
Oh oooh!

You may say I'm a dreamer.
But I'm not the only one.
Some day they'll wake up,
And the world will think again.

Wisdom from Peggy Noonon

It is possible that we are on the cellphone because we are lonely and hunger for connection, even of the shallowest kind; that we BlackBerry because we hope for a sense of control in a chaotic world; that we are frightened of stillness and must interrupt conversations; that we are desperate to make the sale in the highly competitive environment of the Banana Republic on 86th Street and must aggressively pursue customers. --Peggy Noonan from The Wall Street Journal, July 27, 2007.

"The Question of Jesus: Is Jesus the Only Way?"

My sermon from First Evangelical Free Church in Fort Collins, Colorado (July 29, 2007) is now on line, as is a short outline. It is 43 minutes long. If you'd like the longer sermon outline with bibliographic references email me at DougGroothuis@gmail.com.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

YouTube U for You!

In the spirit of digital democracy, the noble amateur, and the subversion of all axiological hierarchies, we are launching YouTube University for You! You pay nothing. You determine Your studies. You are in charge. You chart Your future. Here is how it works for You.

Design a program of YouTube videos to watch--on anything You want! They could be on deconstruction or Paris Hilton or epistemology or Brittany Spears. It doesn't matter. Who are we to tell You what to study?! Then You make ten YouTube videos of Your own that show that You have received visual impressions and acoustic blastes from these videos. You, of course, are the star of these videos. If one thousand people watch each of Your ten videos, You will be awarded a YouTube University diploma, signed by no one, but frameable--and worth nothing.

But it's all for You, the autovideophilic citizen of YouWorld.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Lectures on Hinduism/Buddhism and Islam Now Available

My lectures on Hinduism/Buddhism and Islam given at The Next Level Church are now available on line. However, you must click the "download" icon to hear them. For some reason, the "listen" icon is not working for my talks, although it does work for the first two lectures in the series (not given by me). If you want the lecture outlines, please email me at DougGroothuis@gmail.com.

Doug Groothuis Preaching in Fort Collins

For those of you within striking distance, I will be speaking on July 29 at 9:00 and 10:30 on "Is Jesus the Only Way?" (a nice, noncontroversial topic) at:

Faith Evangelical Free Church
3920 South Shields Street
Fort Collins, CO 80526
Phone 970-226-2095
email faith@faithefc.org

If the message becomes available on line, I will let faithful (and unfaithful) Constructive Curmudgeon readers know.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Taliban Make a Martyr

The Taliban in Afganistan has killed one of their twenty-three South Korean, Christian hostages, a 42-year-old pastor named Bae Hyung-kyu. This man and the others were in Afganistan to do relief work. The other hostages may become martrys as well.

As Bernard Lewis has pointed out, in Christianity, a martyr is one who is killed on account of one's profession of faith and one's refusal to recant under pressure. In Islam (represented by the Taliban) a martyr is typically one who dies in a jihad. The difference reveals a titanic split in the two worldviews.

Pastor Hyung-kyu was in Afghanistan to serve Christ by serving others. What he did, he did in the name of the God of the Bible. For that, he was executed. He joins the legion of martyrs, those who did not love their lives unto death, but who will receive the crown of life from the King of Kings.

Let us pray for those still held hostage by the Taliban terrorists. (I refuse to call them "insurgents.") Pray, too, for the souls of the terrorists. And pray for your own soul if you lack the courage of a martyr, Christianly understood.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Neal Morse Review Pulled

Having done more research on Neal Morse (and having a good friend who is a theologian advise me), I have pulled by review of Neal Morse's record, Sola Scriptura. It appears that the church he is involved with denies the Trinity and holds other seriously off-base teachings. I will look into this further and perhaps try to contact Mr. Morse. It doesn't seem that the record affirms any heresy, though.

Monday, July 23, 2007

The End of Politics as We Know It

The Democratic candidates "debate" tonight was controlled by the vidiots. Instead of employing verteran journalists, political scientists, or philosophers to direct their questions at the potential next most influential politician on the planet, the video-apocalyse let YouTube contestants present the questions in short videos. Of course, I did not watch it, but read about it--in near unbelief and then in disgust. When I told my wife, she said "I have a sinking feeling."

Neil Postman warned of politics as entertainment via television twenty years ago in Amusing Ourselves to Death, but this transcends even the nonsense he deplored then. The TV format demands short, superficial answers, even without the vidiot takeover. But things have gotten massively, egregiously worse now. I'm afraid we've crossed a line and gone over a cliff--laughing all the way. The candidates were required to make their own videos to present to the audience. Being live and in person is, of course, not enough. The videographer is more important than the speechwriter or even the one-liner. (The makeup man or woman is right up there as well.)

I wish I could wake up from this nightmare, this horror show of anti-intellectualism and pop culture prostitution. A self-respecting candidate with any sense of honor or culture would have refused to participate in the farce that few can see as a farse. The Presidency of the United States is nothing to laugh at, but everyone was...without shame. We have forgotten how to blush; but we remember how to pose.

This is part of the phenomenon known as Inernet 2.0. You are in charge; you provide content; you are the critic--no matter who you are. Anyone can have a blog, post a video on YouTube, write an Amazon review, have a MySpace entry. No experience or expertise is required. And some call it democracy. It is rather the "cult of the amateur" as Andrew Keen puts it in a new and noteworthy book of that title. Wikis replace bona fide encyclopedias. Experts are replaced by digital entrepreneurs or, if not replaced, blended into the crowd of no-nothings when they should stand out from them given their knowledge.

Information has replaced knowledge.
Information has swamped wisdom.

We are all videographers now.
We are all vidiots now.
We are all entertainers now.

We are the hollow ones.
We are the noisy ones.
We are the televized ones.

We have created--artificial--happiness (and we blink)
--apologies to Nietzsche and TS Eliot.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Douglas Groothuis Lectures on Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam

[The lectures are listed on The Next Level Church web page, but are not working yet. I'll check into it. Stay tuned.]

Would you like to know the basics of three major world religions, as well as hearing a theological and philosophical critique of them from a Christian perspective?

Two of my lectures to The Next Level Sunday night meetings are now on line. They are 1.5 hour introductions and critiques of Hinduism and Buddhism (one talk) from July 8, 2007 and Islam from July 15. You have to scroll down a bit to get to them. They are the third and fourth talks in a four-part series.

I can send you detailed lecture outlines for each one if you wish. Email me at DougGroothuis@gmail.com.

In Line for Harry Potter (slightly revised)

While waiting in the long and rowdy line for the new Harry Potter book, I was reading my Bible. It troubled me. I read of having nothing to do with the occult, of separating from the world, and of seeking first the Kingdom. The Potter books glorify witchcraft and the occult. I talked to some Christian kids (and adults) in line about it. (There was a great feeling of fellowship, until the doors opened when it became every Potterite for himself.)

Me: Do you think the philosophy of the Potter books fits with Christianity? Don't you think it might actually introduce occult ideas into our thinking?

Potterite #1: Chill out, dude. It's like: This is like the coolest story ever. And I'm like reading, not watching TV. These books are getting us reading!

Me: Reading is superior to watching TV...

Potterite #2: I wouldn't go that far.

Me:...As I was saying, but that doesn't make all reading good. Nazis read Hitler's autobiography, you know.

Potterite #1: Hey, Harry Pooter is fiction, a story! What's the big deal?

Me: Paul said to take every thought captive to obey Christ.

Potterite #2: Paul who?

Me: The Apostle Paul, that's who.

Potterite #1: Was he on like "American Idol"?

Me: Do you know what an Apostle is?

Potterite #1: Well, it isn't a character in the Potter books. I know that. I have read all of them twice and have memorized a lot, too. It's like totally cool.

Me: How much of the Bible have you read?

Potterite #1: Some...

Me: There are 66 books in the Bible.

Potterite #1: I thought it was one book.

Me: The Bible is made up of sixty-six different books.

Potterite #2: Dude!

Me: Dude, indeed. But do you think it matters what goes into your mind?

Potterite #2: It's my choice. I have Jesus in my heart and that protects me. He wants me to like have fun.

Me: Where is that in the Bible?

Potterite #2: Huh?

Me: Exactly. Do you know what the occult is?

Potterite #1 and #2 (in unision): Huh?

Me: Do you know the meaning of the word "occult"?

Potterite #1: Oh yeah. I mean, my aunt was in like a cult, I think.

Me: No: Occult, not a cult. Do you know what it means?

Potterite #1: Nope. No clue. Whatever...

Me: It is the use of hidden or secret means to exercise power in the spiritual world apart from what the God of the Bible says. The Potter characters do this all the time.

Potterite #1 and #2 (in unison): Huh!

Me. The Bible tells us to avoid all such practices. See Deuteronomy 18:9-14, for example.

Potterite #2: Duderectomy what?

Me: Lord help me...It is a book in the Old Testament. Deut-er-on-omy.

Potterite #1: I don't remember hearing about this in church. Are you sure it is in the Bible?

Me: Positive. But what do you hear in your church?

Potterite #1: My pastor quoted a book that said Harry Potter books were cool and that they teach a lot of good spiritual things. He even showed a video clip from a Potter movie. He is sooo cool!

Me: What was the pastor's main point?

Potterite #1: I forgot, but the clip was awesome.

Me: Well, I need to blow my cover. I am not really waiting for a Harry Potter book. I'm here to challenge your thinking. It is obvious you haven't thought any of this through. Neither have your parents. If you want to get serious read Richard Abanes's book, Harry Potter and the Bible or his newer book, Harry Potter, Narnia, and Lord of the Rings.

Potterite #2: Are either one best-sellers?

Me: No.

Potterite #2: Then why buy them?

Me: It is time for me to leave--and pray.

[If you didn't get it by now, this story is fictional, but it still relates truths. Call it a parable.]

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Gods, gods, demons

are not
over dogs.

If they act
as gods
they become demigods

Dog Fighting, Human Debasing

NFL Quarterback Michael Vick has been indicted for dog fighting. The whole notion is sickening and lamentable. The big business of American football (legalized, human violence) is bad enough, but at least the players chose this debauchery. (Sadly, millions chose to watch it as well.) But dogs have no choice. Humans incline them to rip each other apart for human sport. The dogs are kept in deplorable conditions. And people pay to watch it. May God deliver both the dogs and the human dogs who perpetuate it.

Dogs are God's creatures, our lesser brethren, but still sentient beings with sensation, emotion, and life. Dogs have saved people's lives. Humans debase themselves by inflicting wanton torture on these--and other--creatures. Rodeos can be nearly as cruel as dog fights. Bull fights and circuses inflict needless pain on creatures for human titillation as well. It is not right. Don't we have enough forms of entertainment in this culture--without this?

My solution: video game dog fighting! No canines get hurt, no one gets arrested, and we find but another way to live in a virtual world of wanton cruelty and digital titillation--but this time without the real blood, howls, and death. In fact, someone has probably beat me to the punch on this. They already have NFL video games, don't they?

Happy Birthday To It

The Constructive Curmudgeon is now two years old. (That's 558 posts, counting this one.) I have presented:

1. Parodies (which have sometimes been taken seriously)
2. Essays
3. Book reviews
4. Movie reviews (maybe one)
5. Advertisements for my speaking and other events
6. Poems
7. Links
8. Offers to send free electronic files to folks
9. Reposting from other sites occasionally.
10. Assorted other curmudgeonly musings.

The terrible twos are nothing to laugh at, of course. So, give me your most serious, profound, and shocking thoughts on two years of curmudgeonly blogging, if you dare.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Lessons from Francis A. Schaeffer (1912-1984)

Having recently reread many of the works of Francis Schaeffer, it seems right to list several lessons he can teach Bible-believing Christians (and others) today. Schaeffer was a prophetic generalist, pastor, apologist, and primarily an evangelist. That latter is how he typically explained himself.

1. Schaeffer had a deep passion for God and for truth. This came out of his intellectual conversion as a teenager, after he read both classical Greek literature and the Bible, as well as from his intellectual crisis that hit him after over a decade of ministry. Having not see the reality of Christian love and the work of the Spirit, he questioned everything for several months, yet returned stronger, spiritually and mentally to the task.

2. Schaeffer cared deeply about the lostness of modern people. NonChristians were not "objects" for this man of God, but image-bearers of God who were hopeless apart from the gospel of Jesus Christ. When Schaeffer exegeted culture, he did so with an angle on how so much of culture reveals a lack of hope and meaning. In his apologetic conversations, Schaeffer would not cognitively spare with opponents, but try to lead souls to truth through love and reason--and not without tears, as he often said.

3. Schaeffer was an unapologetic generalist for the cause of Christ. He studied the areas he thought pertinent to ministry and the calling of the church in his day. While some wrongly took his judgments as the last word, they were almost always a vital first word and call to further study and prophetic engagement with the world under Christ.

4. Schaeffer was not a self-promoter, but sought God for life and ministry. The L'Abri ministry of apologetics, evangelism, and study in the Swiss Alps developed as Francis and Edit responded to the needs of questioning students. Later in his ministry, Schaeffer was sometimes promoted too heavily. This may have been the fault of his son, Franky, who produced the film series, "How Shall We Then Live?" and "Whatever Happened to the Human Race?" (Franky is a sad story. He went on to leave Protestantism for Orthodoxy and to write series of not-so-thinly disguised autobiographical/fictional works criticizing his parents and their religion.) Schaeffer never even planned to write books, but wrote when his lectures and discussion were so well received that books were requested.

5. Schaeffer loved the arts, could recognize aesthetic goodness even in nonChristian (or anti-Christian) art, and gave Christian artists permission and vision for artistic endeavor. On all of this see Art and the Bible, recently republished with a foreword by musician and author Michael Caird. He often spoke of bringing "beauty" into the Christian life.

6. Schaeffer had a deep knowledge of and love for Scripture. The Bible was a living reality for his man. He said in The God Who is There that we must be studying the Scriptures daily in order to present the truth to unbelievers. He himself read at least three chapters from the OT and one from the NT each day. His writings exude biblical truth and wisdom. Let us do likewise (Acts 17:11).

7. Schaeffer was "a man of the Reformation," who, nevertheless, was not doctrinaire or haughty about his Calvinism. Schaeffer realized that the Reformation was necessary and that we must remain "a reformed church always reforming." The Reformers, while hardly perfect, brought the Scripture back to its rightful centrality and also opened up social and cultural wonders for the West, as Schaeffer pointed out in How Shall We Then Live? and A Christian Manifesto. While Schaeffer believed in and taught The Westminster Standards, his appeal radiated far wider than Reformed and Presbyterian circles.

In a time when some, such as emergent author Brian McLaren, are calling us to be "post-Protestant," this means needs to be heard and headed. The Five Solas of the Reformation are not optional for Christianity, but are its life blood. Nevertheless, those who hold to the Five Points of Calvinism (the TULIP), as I do, should do so with conviction, but also humility. Five Pointers can and should work with Christians of other persuasions so long as the essential gospel is not compromised. (I believe some forms of Arminianism do this, however.) I worked with a committed Arminian for over three years of campus ministry.

Therefore, let read and reread Francis Schaeffer. I suggest you purchase The Collected Works and work your way through them--for the glory of God, for the good of his church, and for the furtherance of the Kingdom. If you think you have "no time" to read, then make time. Eliminate distractions and immerse yourself in these books.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

"Rim of the Broken Wheel" Lyrics by Bruce Cockburn from "Inner City Front" Recording, 1981

[These lyrics by Cockburn came to me after seeing the film, "India's Hidden Slavery," about the Dalits.]

Way out on the rim of the galaxy
The gifts of the Lord lie torn.
Into whose charge the gifts were given
Have made it a curse for so many to be born.
This is my trouble.
These were my fathers.
So how am I supposed to feel?
Way out on the rim of the broken wheel.

Water of life is going to flow again,
Changed from the blood of heroes and knaves.
The word mercy's going to have a new meaning
When we are judged by the children of our slaves.
No adult of sound mind
Can be an innocent bystander.
Trial comes before truth's revealed
Out here on the rim of the broken wheel.

You and me -- we are the break in the broken wheel
Bleeding wound that will not heal.
Lord, spit on our eyes so we can see
How to wake up from this tragedy.

Way out on the rim of the broken wheel.
Bleeding wound that will not heal.
Trial comes before truth's revealed.
So how am I supposed to feel?
This is my trouble.
--Can't be an innocent bystander
In a world of pain and fire and steel.
Way out on the rim of the broken wheel .

Friday, July 13, 2007

A Royal Ruin: New Pascal Essay Posted

My essay, "A Royal Ruin: Pascal's Argument from Humanity to Christianity," has recently been posted at the TrueU web page. I have written about, preached on, and taught this basic argument for many years, but this is a new essay on the matter with some new material. The page containes several other apologetics essays of mine, as well as many other fine essays by others such as J.P. Moreland. I hold the copyright, so feel free to post it elsewhere with the appropriate citations.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Book on Alternative Medicine is on Line

This from Robert Velarde, author and friend:

My book Examining Alternative Medicine (IVP, 2001), coauthored with Drs. Paul Reisser and Dale Mabe, is now available for FREE download at the following links.



This book contains, among other things, one of the most detailed assessmentsof Deepak Chopra available from an evangelical perspective. Also includedare sections on Andrew Weil, natural medicine, herbal medicine, and two extensive chapters on energy-based medicine.

Monday, July 09, 2007

When to Defend Truth

My "three maxims" post of a few days ago needs a qualification at point #3, which stated, "Defend the truth, whatever the cost." Strictly speaking, this is not advisable in a universal sense. My point--given in epigrammatic form--was that we need backbone and fortitude in standing up for what is true. However, not every truth demands defense in every setting.

There is a time and purpose for everything under heaven, as Ecclesiastes says, "a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing." As Jesus exhorted us, we must be "wise as serpents and innocent as doves" (Matthew 10:16).

So, while the truth should never be denied, one must find wisdom for when and how to present and defend it. We must never deny Christ, of course. Nor should we keep silent when it is time to speak. But it is not always the proper time to speak. We need a Spirit-led sense of (1) what the most important truths are, (2) how to defend them, and (3) when to defend them.

I am not backing down here, but clarifying an epigram--at the urging of a wise person who shares my last name and who is much more discreet.

India's Hidden Slavery

There are approximately 250,000,000 creatures, made in the image and likeness of God, who are outcastes (literately) in India today. Caste may be officially illegal in the world's largest democracy, but it is a cruel daily reality for the Dalits (doll-leets), who are considered lower than than the lowest caste (the Sudras). (Dalit is the name that those called "the untouchables" have given to themselves. It means "the crushed.") Most of the world ignores this ancient and systemic evil. Hinduism has perpetuated it for 3,000 years. The Dalit Freedom Network does not.

On Saturday, July 14, from 6:30-8:30, a new film will be premiered call "India's Hidden Slavery." Dr. Joseph D'souza, head of the Dalit Freedom Network, will also speak. This will be held at Cherry Hills Community Church, 3900 E. Grace Blvd. Highlands Ranch, CO, 80126. You can get more information at http://www.dalitnetwork.org/. There will also be an appeal for funds.

Two of my dear students are now working in India to help the Dalits spiritually and economically under the auspices of The Dalit Freedom Network. I support them and plan to attend this important film. I encourage those in the Denver area to do so as well. Face the reality--and do something godly about it.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Three maxims: A cord of three strands

1. Follow the argument, wherever it leads.
2. Accept the truth, whatever it is.
3. Defend the truth, whatever the cost.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Doug Groothuis Preaching on Other Religions

I will be preaching at the Sunday meeting of The Next Level Church (TNL) on July 8 and 15. On July 8 I will give an introduction and critique of Hinduism and Buddhism and on July 15, I will address Islam. Detailed outlines will be given out. TNL meets at Greenwood Community Church: 5600 E. Belleview Ave., Greenwood Village, CO 80111. The service starts at 6:00 PM. There should be a question-answer time.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Apologetics on Line

BeThinking.org is a tremendous resource on apologetics and culture, with essays by J.P. Moreland, Bill Craig, Don Carson, and many others.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Philosophical Fact Check: Pascal's Vacuum

I am sometimes asked where Pascal said, "There is a God-shaped vacuum in every person that only God can fill." In fact, I was just so asked today.

He did not say it. But he did write something similar in Pensees.

What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself (148/428).

Monday, July 02, 2007


Eric Goodman has created a short video in the spirit of Neil Postman's critique of the "now this" discontinuity of television. (For the full treatment, read Amusing Ourselves to Death, especially chapter seven.) It uses video images to help subvert the subtle deceptions of video images.