Friday, February 29, 2008

Denominational Police States

I spent the last few days at A Conversation on Denominational Renewal, which thankfully met in St. Louis. The conference was well attended, about 300 or more people. The audience was mostly PCA ministers and elders, but because it was held in St. Louis there were a good many Covenant Seminary Students and a few professors.

I'm not going to summarize the conference. All I will say is that it was quite stimulating and helpful. When they post the mp3s of the lectures on their website, you need to listen to them. I'll try to alert everyone when they are posted.

I'd like for us to discuss on part of Jeremy Jones's lecture on Wednesday morning. The title was "On Renewing Theology." I think it was one of the most challenging lectures of the lot.

Jeremy addressed problems with the way we tend to conceive of and do theology in the Reformed world, especially the PCA. Early on he talked about "The Ecclesial Culture of Reformed Sectarianism." He lamented that fact that so many Reformed ecclesial cultures end up as little more than "denominational police states." How does this happen?

Read the rest of the story

Monday, February 25, 2008

Os Guinness on Frank Schaeffer's Crazy for God

Fathers and Sons
On Francis Schaeffer, Frank Schaeffer, and Crazy for God.
by Os Guinness

If asked what is the deepest relationship imaginable, many people would say it is between lovers, or between husbands and wives. The case can be made, however, that from a Christian perspective, no relationship is more mysterious and more wonderful, yet sometimes more troubling, than that of fathers and sons. The depth and wonder begin with all we know of the relationship of God the Father and God the Son, while the troubled aspects stem from the Fall. Consider Absalom's rebellion against King David in the Old Testament, Edmund Gosse's exposure of his father Philip, the Oedipal drive in the writings of Sigmund Freud—and now Frank Schaeffer's Crazy for God, a memoir that is his personal apologia at the expense of his famous father, Francis Schaeffer, who was the founder and leader of the worldwide network of L'Abri communities.

Frank Schaeffer unquestionably adored his father, just as his father passionately adored him. Having lived in their home for more than three years, I have countless memories of this, including the sight of the two of them wrestling on the floor of the living room of their chalet, and ending with a fierce hug. Yet no critic or enemy of Francis Schaeffer has done more damage to his life's work than his son Frank—a result that one might not be able to infer from many reviews of the memoir, including that which appeared in the previous issue of Books & Culture.

The problem is not so much that Frank exposes and trumpets his parents' flaws and frailties, or that he skewers them with his characteristic mockery. It is more than that. For all his softening, the portrait he paints amounts to a death-dealing charge of hypocrisy and insincerity at the very heart of their life and work. In Frank's own words, his parents were "crazy for God." Their call to the ministry "actually drove them crazy," so that "religion was actually the source of their tragedy." His dad was under "the crushing belief that God had 'called' him to save the world." Because of this, his parents were "happiest when farthest away from their missionary work." Back at their calling, they were "professional proselytizers," their teaching was "indoctrination," and it was unclear whether people came to faith or were "brainwashed" and "under the spell" of his parents. Frank's own arguments in their support, he now says, were a kind of "circus trick."

Commenting on the time when Francis Schaeffer went through his watershed crisis of doubt in 1951, which he claimed was pivotal to his faith and work, Frank says it was never resolved with any integrity: "Somehow he convinced himself to still believe." His father's "stunted" theological convictions "he held on to more as emotional baggage … than for any intellectual reason." Really? "Left to himself, Dad never talked about theology or God … . God and the Bible were work." And he was different when away from L'Abri altogether: "Dad never said grace over meals. It was as if Dad and I had a secret agreement that away from L'Abri, we were secular people."

And so it goes. With such a son, who needs enemies?

Read the whole review at CT

Is This You in the Morning?

Sunday, February 24, 2008

In Situ Art - This is Cool

Is Obama Eloquent? Peggy Noonan says: No.

Barack Obama's biggest draw is not his eloquence. When you watch an Obama speech, you lean forward and listen and think, That's good. He's compelling, I like the way he speaks. And afterward all the commentators call him "impossibly eloquent" and say "he gave me thrills and chills." But, in fact, when you go on the Internet and get a transcript of the speech and print it out and read it--that is, when you remove Mr. Obama from the words and take them on their own--you see the speech wasn't all that interesting, and was in fact high-class boilerplate. (This was not true of John F. Kennedy's speeches, for instance, which could be read seriously as part of the literature of modern American politics, or Martin Luther King's work, which was powerful absent his voice.)

Mr. Obama is magnetic, interacts with the audience, leads a refrain: "Yes, we can." It's good, and compared with Hillary Clinton and John McCain, neither of whom seems really to enjoy giving speeches, it comes across as better than it is. But is it eloquence? No. Eloquence is deep thought expressed in clear words. With Mr. Obama the deep thought part is missing. What is present are sentiments.

Read the rest of the essay.

Thursday, February 21, 2008


Photographic equipment is very expensive. Even accessories not made by Nikon or Canon can be ridiculous. It's always nice to find ways to build your own stuff. It's not quite as elegant, but if it works and you can make quality images with it, who cares about what it looks like?

I followed the advice of a fellow Nikonian and looked at the Strobist's blog. He has a very simple way to make a lightbox. Too simple. I feel like an idiot for not thinking of this myself.

So here's an image I took in this baby yesterday.

Too cool. Anyone know what kind of skeleton this is? Frog?

Monday, February 18, 2008

Camera of the Year

Popular Photography just named the new Nikon D300 their "camera of the year." Cool.

I haven't been able to capture many images with mine yet. The weather's been bad and I'm a wimp when it comes to taking pictures in the cold. I like to take my time in setting up shots. When it's cold I feel rushed and not relaxed. I don't do this for a living. I do it for fun. The images I've captured so far, however, make me really, really like this camera.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

The Religion of the State

Jonah Goldberg's new book Liberal Fascism reminds me of all the great stuff I read in the 1980's by Rushdoony. He was at his best when he was critiquing the pretensions of the modern messianic state. Goldberg's perspective complements Rushdoony's and is desperately needed in 21st century America. Here's a nice summary of his thesis (pp. 22-23):
Today's liberalism doesn't seek to conquer the world by force of arms. It is not a nationalistic and genocidal project. To the contrary, it is an ideology of good intentions. But we all know where even the best of intentions can take us. I have not written a book about how all liberals are Nazis or fascists. Rather, I have tried to write a book warning that even the best of us are susceptible to the totalitarian temptation.

This includes some self-described conservatives. Compassionate conservatism, in many respects, is a form of Progressivism, a descendent of Christian socialism. Much of George W. Bush's rhetoric about leaving no children behind and how "when somebody hurts, government has to move" bespeaks a vision of the state that is indeed totalitarian in its aspirations and not particularly conservative in the American sense. Once again, it is a nice totalitarianism, motivated no doubt by sincere Christian love (thankfully tempered by poor implementation); but love, too, can be smothering. . . .

Finally, since we must have a working definition of fascism, here is mine: Fascism is a religion of the state. It assumes the organic unity of the body politic and longs for a national leader attuned to the will of the people. It is totalitarian in that if views everything as political and holds that any action by the state is justified to achieve the common good. It takes responsibility for all aspects of life, including our health and well-being, and seeks to impose uniformity of thought and action, whether by force of through regulation and social pressure. Everything, including the economy and religion, must be aligned with its objectives. Any rival identity is part of the "problem" and therefore defined as the enemy. I will argue that contemporary liberalism embodies all of these aspects of fascism.

Where Did these Smart Phones Come From? - Watch more free videos

Friday, February 15, 2008

Richard Hooker on the Church

Matt's blog reminded me of C.S. Lewis's treatment of Richard Hooker (1554-1600) in his English Literature in the Sixteenth Century (a volume in the Oxford History of English Literature). This book is probably the best of all of C.S. Lewis's works. Here's one of his comments on Hooker:
Hooker had never heard of a religion called Anglicanism. He would never have dreamed of trying to 'convert' any foreigner to the Church of England. It was to him obvious that a German or Italian would not belong to the Church of England, just as an Ephesian or Galatian would not have belonged to the Church of Corinth. Hooker is never seeking for 'the true Church', never crying, like Donne, 'Show me deare Christ, thy spouse.' For him no such problem existed. If by 'the church' you mean the mystical church (which is partly in Heaven) then, of course, no man can identify her. But if you mean the visible Church, then we all know her. She is 'a sensibly known company' of all those throughout the world who profess one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism (III.i.3) (p. 454).

Thursday, February 14, 2008

My Kinda Guy

80-year-old WWII Vet Shoots Home Invader

Investigators say they were definitely going to rob him - possibly even kill him.

But an 80-year-old North Texan wasn't about to let that happen, so he took action.

One of the suspects is in the hospital and both are facing charges.

Two men obviously thought James Pickett, 80, was an easy target when they showed up at his home on Saturday with a knife.

"He just came through that door, stabbing and beating," said Pickett.

Captain Clint Pullin said it looked as though the men wanted to kill him.

But before you worry too much about Pickett, learn a bit more about him.

He's a WWII veteran, former firefighter and lifelong John Wayne devotee.

In short, even at 80, he is someone you just don't mess with.

What the men didn't know is Picket had taken a pistol and put it in his pocket before opening the door.

"He jumped and turned and I shot him," Picket said.

The two brothers, Paul and Holden Perry, ran but didn't get far before calling an ambulance.

A bullet just missed Paul Perry's spine.

"The only problem was I run out of bullets," Picket said.

Read the rest of the story. . .

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Listen to the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice

Saudi Arabia bans sale of red roses

The sale of red roses and red gifts has been banned by Saudi Arabia's religious police in the run-up to Valentine's Day, reports a local newspaper.

Officials from the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice warned flower and gift shops to remove all red items, including roses and wrapping paper, from their shelves.

"They visited us last night," an unidentified florist told the Saudi Gazette. "They gave us warnings and this morning we packed up all the red items."

In Riyadh, the ban came into force on Sunday and will remain until after February 14.

The authorities believe celebrating Valentine's Day is un-Islamic and encourages relations out of wedlock, which are strictly forbidden.

The crackdown has pushed up the price of the flowers on the black market, with some florists making deliveries in the middle of the night, the paper said.

Couples defying the ban placed orders for red roses weeks before the deadline. Some were sending online Valentine's cards, and others were planning to celebrate the day in neighbouring countries, such as Bahrain, which has a more liberal approach to Islamic law.

Saudi Arabia imposes a strict code which prevents unmarried men and women from socialising together. Relations outside marriage are banned and punishable by law.

Friday, February 8, 2008

NT Wright says Christians Wrong about Heaven

This is a really great interview on the Time Magazine site. Read it. Learn it. Love it.

Church Year Confusion

Prof. Sean Lucas of Covenant Seminary has posted a blog critical of churches that use the church year calendar. You should read the comments attached. They are pretty devastating to his argument from the "regulative principle of worship" and the notion that using such a calendar "binds consciences."

Also, check out John Allen Bankson's nice, succinct argument against this kind of reasoning at his blog Know Tea.

I've commented on this myself in my posts on Christmas. The relevant posts are

A Parking Lot parable

Is the church year an imposition on the conscience of Christians?

Don't these annual festivals smack of OT religion?

Is there any warrant in the Bible for a church year?

Of what use is the church year?

Monday, February 4, 2008

Snow Photos

Last week I was able to get out for a few hours and capture some images in the snow. Nothing really great. I didn't have a whole lot of time to wander around and find the great shots. Capturing snow is not very easy. If you've tried with a point-and-shoot camera, you know that the camera meters the bright white snow and sets the camera to capture it as neutral grey. That's why so many snapshots of snowscapes look so dark. You've got to "overexpose" the shot. Which means you have to have a camera that allows you to either set the aperture and shutter speed manually or lets you dial up exposure compensation. When shooting snow scenes I usually dial up my exposure compensation anywhere from +1.3 to 2.0 EV. Actually, the snow in the two images I've included in this post are a bit grey, but that is on purpose.