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11.25.2005
[?] New T-Shirt
[?] New T-Shirt
Visit the pawn shop for details.

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[#] A White flag, or the Laundry?
[#] A White flag, or the Laundry?
Apparently iMonk has had enough, and I can't say I blame him -- although if we apply the "spell the name correctly" chapter of Emily Post, iMonk has apparently slapped Steve Hays in the face, starting the whole intifada all over again.

I can't shut off my comments, but you can exercise self-control. Please do so.

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[*] It must be Christmas
[*] It must be Christmas
One can blog without even trying very hard.

Apparently, UFOs are a bigger threat to the Canadian government than the threat of terrorism. I can prove this is true from the results of my Frappr! map -- check out "Bryan from Winnipeg, Manitoba".

It is also possible that George Clooney and iMonk have something in common. Not gonna say what it is.

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11.23.2005
[?] The New Color Scheme
[?] The New Color Scheme
This is called "fire".

I'm actually working on one for the Christmas season, so don't go blind with the yellow.

Love to see comments on this scheme.

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[?] TOTALLY Worth it!
[?] TOTALLY Worth it!


Dude: the black stoner T. You want one. It's totally worth it.

And just in time for the Christmas season. What's that all about?

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[*] Who is "we"?
[*] Who is "we"?
The sad thing is that this controversy has bumped a really good turkey recipe down the blog. Don't miss out.

I hope you're following the blog, it's meta, and the cross-blogging that has been going on, because I am 100% sure I could not recap the story thus far. I will only recap one statement I made, and the question it has raised.

I said:
Here's what I think: we should not allow emotionally unstable people to speak on behalf of Christianity in any respect. The flaw in your argument in favor of treating iMonk like a sick person who wants to get well is that he doesn't want to get well. He wants to be who he says he is right now because it gives him street cred. If iMonk gave up his "I'm a wounded pastor" riff, he'd have no basis for making any of his criticisms.
The Greek chorus has responded with the refrain, "Who is 'we'?"

It seems to me that my use of the first-person plural pronoun was obvious. The first part of "we" is "me": I include myself in the "we" who should not allow emotionally unstable people (hereafter EUPs) to speak for Christianity. The next part of "we" is "Jared", who has a somewhat-popular (last I checked, it's top 50 TTLB) group blog. So "we" also means the other Thinklings. I think Jared and the Thinklings should not let EUPs speak for Christianity.

And Jared said himself:
We're all grownups here, right? Can't we be honest with each other without deflecting everything with sarcasm?
So Jared seems to think that "we" (he and I) are discussing something here, thus "we" ought to be able to say what "we" ought to do or ought not to do. Jared, the Thinklings and I should not let EUPs speak for Christianity.

I think that's a fair "we" -- a handful of guys who are blogging for the sake of the Gospel. However, let me be clear that I don't just mean a handful guys. When I say "we" here, I mean myself, Jared, and anyone reading who considers himself a blogger for Christ. So when I say "we", I mean, "anyone reading this blog, and anyone who cares about how the Gospel is being communicated to all people, should not let EUPs speak for Christianity."

And it is possible that this is my private opinion, formed in the solipsistic void that has formed between my ears, and if that's the case, we shouldn't let EUPs like me speak for Christianity. But it turns out that I know another guy who said something like this once:
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
Do we have to ask who this fellow is refering to when he says "my brothers"? The admonition here is that when we face trials -- and I think it turns out that this fellow here means trials as believers from both inside and outside the church (cf. James 2) -- we should not be claiming "woe is me! Christian service was the worst mistake of my life!", but instead we should count the trials as a joy toward our perfection in Christ.

I wonder why this fellow did not say, "My brothers, and sisters, and those who are church people, and you who are listening from inside the church, including your elders, whenever any of you find yourself in a trial in the Christian life, remember that that I have been persecuted by my own relatives -- those filthy Christ-killing Jews! Whatever you are going through, I have been through worse and I feel your pain. It's a good thing we have each other around to share our war-stories, because I am sure that the 'truly regenerate' over in Ephesus like that jerk Paul and his toady Timothy would never understand what we are going through. I don't blame Demas for getting out of the ministry -- I wish I had that kind of gumption."

For the record, those who didn't understand "we" might not understand that I am not actually "wondering": it's a rhetorical device that underscores irony and/or sarcasm. I don't wonder why James didn't say this, but it might be useful to think about if you have never thought about it yourself.

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[#] ... and we sneak this one in ...
[#] ... and we sneak this one in ...




Steve Hays










Complaints about the doctored time stamp will be ignored. I admit it: I doctored the time stamp.

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11.22.2005
[*] Complaints about prayer
[*] Complaints about prayer
Those of you who want to complain about me asking for prayer for Michael Spencer need to do two things:

(1) Do a blog search on this blog (the google bar on the right can help you) for the phrase "pray for", and find out how seriously or jokingly I take that phrase. After you find out, don't bother apologizing: fix your eyes on the point of what I was saying when I asked for prayer.

(2) If you still want to complain, do so here. I'm not going to respond to complaints about asking for prayer in the other thread.

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[*] Another turkey recipe
[*] Another turkey recipe
Most of you know him as "internet monk", but he is plainly Michael Spencer, and before the boom gets lowered, I owe Michael Spencer an apology:

I misspelled his name in the comments at fide-o, and because that (along with calling him "Spencer" and not "Michael" or "Mr. Spencer") is apparently rude, he has taken offense. So: Sorry for the typo, iMonk.

The really crazy thing about iMonk's anger is that what I said in that post was that his self-loathing disqualifies him from being a credible critic of the Christian church -- and, apparently, he wasn't angry about that. Well, wait: let's put the whole thing in the blog here so no one misses the set-up:
Michael Spencer said...

>1. Emergent- someone who rejects the established culture...

I realize that by speaking I have identified myself with the evil
that is emergent, but be that as it may...

Are you saying that Christianity is about supporting the
"established" culture, and that the oppostion to the emergent church
should be similar to the condemnation of the counter culture by the
mainstream culture gatekeepers in the 1950's?

I mean, the "hippies," were a cultural movement that had hundreds of
manifestations, from Woodstock to the Jesus Movement. They were
wrong in their "answers," but their opposition to racism, etc was
certainly preferable to the establishment's acceptance of some of
those culturally accepted sins.

I'm a bit confused. I might agree that a kind of shallow stylistic
fixation typifies some quarters of the emergent movement (and every
movement, including Macarthur Calvinism, etc.) But it seems to me
that the emergent critque of evangelicalism- right or wrong- goes a
bit deeper than beads and pony tails.

5:18 PM

kerri said...

Perhaps you just don't understand the whole EC conversation. May I
suggest that you sit in a comfortable position in your inner prayer
sancturary and increase your contemplative prayer mantra to 40
minutes per day instead of the perscribed 20? You also should
incorporate some good yoga moves.

When everyone joins together in contemplative prayer, a higher plain
of understanding is gained, crime in your area drops 15%, and the
chances of Hillary Clinton in the white house in 2008 increases
significantly.

see you at the pubs ~

7:16 PM

centuri0n said...

Spenser: your view of Emergent is biased by your jaundiced view of
the contemporary church. I complain about some of the trends in
Evangelidom, but your hatred of Christian life (starting with your
own) disqualifies you from being a reasonable commentator.

Merry Christmas.

Scott: I am glad that I am not the only one who was thinking what
you here wrote. Nice job.

8:20 PM

Michael Spencer said...

Mr. Turk:

You misspelled my name, and calling me by my last name is considered
rude. You'll forgive me for pointing this out.

Let me invite you to go to your blog and write whatever you want
about me. I'm eager to hear you out.

>but your hatred of Christian life (starting with your own)

What are you talking about?

michael@internetmonk.com if you have the spine.

8:57 PM

centuri0n said...

"if I have the spine"?

And it's not even Christmas yet ...

8:42 AM
So, in the spirit of Mr. Spencer's concern for my chiropractic health and his own sense of well being – and at the risk of having the iMonk blog *again* removed from the internet and Mr. Spenser going into some kind of counseling program -- let me keep it short and sweet.

Three good examples of Michael Spencer's self-loathing as a Christian:

The first thing I want to say to Denise, Noel and Clay is how much I regret the day I walked forward and said I believed God was “calling” me to be a preacher. There was no one to guide me, and no one to talk to me. There was no one to help me reconsider. No one told me the first thing about preparation, education, money or the life of a minister. I had no models- just a few heroes- and no one to help me see the real-world substance of my choice. I walked that aisle with good intentions, zeal, a love for God, a desire to be useful and a bunch of other things. Still, I was 15. I was a child making a decision that would consume his whole life.

It was, I’m convinced, the great mistake of my life.

I regret it so much today that my bones hurt to think about it. Why wasn’t there someone, somewhere who could have talked to me about my life? Why wasn’t there someone in my family, or at my school or at my church, who could have told me that I could be an english teacher and a preacher? Why didn’t someone tell me what it meant to be the pastor of a church? There were so many options, but I never knew them. I simply plunged ahead.

So what in the world was going on? Why did our churches and seminaries have covenants and rules that said drinking was wrong, and that drinkers were under the threat of church/institutional discipline? Why did we bind the conscience on the issue of teetotalism, without a verse of scripture that required it? Why was alcohol use of any kind,- not just abuse, but moderate, responsible use- held up as a sign of bad character? Why was it such a big deal among leaders? When so many of them drank?

Why were we all involved in this lie?

I came to understand a bit more of the dynamics of the churches I had been a part of as they choose leaders. Divorce and drinking were always the two big issues with leadership. No one cared about anything else. The big questions were, “Has he ever been divorced?” and “Does he drink?” Now I realize that the second could not be taken for granted at all, even among those who answered correctly. There was enough duplicity on the issue of drinking to make fools of everyone. So it became the policy that we acted like everyone was dry as the Dust Bowl, nodding at the official position of the church, amening the crusaders, while the truth simply sat there, on ice.

It was like a bunch of GM execs who had Toyotas at home in the garage. It was like owners of Kentucky Fried Chicken eating their meals at Chick-fil-A. It was like nodding when the evangelist preached on the evils of drink while you had a bottle of wine and a six-pack in the basement fridge. It was exactly like that.

This all worked for me, and when I had been out of seminary two years, I found myself at a church that would pay for the degree and give me the time and opportunity to complete it. So, in 1986, as the associate minister for youth at a large, county seat Baptist church, I decided to enroll in the Doctor of Ministry program at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville.

[Insert here a very long story of bad choices, more bad choices, leaving my associate’s job and taking a pastorate close to Louisville, bad luck, poor decisions and outrageous shoddy treatment from people who said they would support me. You don’t want to read it, and I don’t want to write it.]

The bottom line: I did very well. I finished everything in the program….except for doing a final research project and writing my paper. Why? My faculty supervisor went on an unannounced sabbatical. My field supervisor was 3 hours away. My church leaders were tired of their pastors being students and they didn’t care about me being “Dr. Spencer.” Suddenly, finishing the degree was going to be a fight- a fight I wasn’t ready for.

I faltered. My deadlines passed and I dropped the program without my degree.
I am not a quitter. I’ve never failed or dropped a class in my entire 19+ year educational journey. Actually, my life would be considerably better in many ways if I were an occasional quitter, but I’m not that sort of person. I stay and work until I’m done. I show up when no one else cares to be there. But I dropped out of Southern’s D. Min program, with 37 hours of classwork finished, just a few weeks from completion, and with no degree.

I hated myself for quitting, and by 1991, I had asked Southern if I could reenroll in the D. Min program. Technically, they should have asked me to redo all the requirements. Insstead, they were gracious, and said I could simply retake the research class, do the project and graduate.

I took the class, but by now my pastorate had driven me into a mental and emotional state that was paralyzing. My marriage was a disaster, and I was in no shape to complete the degree. I finished the research class and just went home, the entire dream of my doctoral program defeated ever since.

I just typed that this “was” devastating for me, but I corrected it. This failure to earn the degree is devastating for me today. As I get older, I feel the pain of that failure more and more. I feel the losses of opportunity. I look at my peers who earned the D.Min degree, most of whom do not read or write seriously, or love academics of any kind, and I am profoundly disappointed in myself. It hurts and it burns, and though sometimes I don’t think much about it, at other times it is a haunting daily regret.


Let's keep something in mind as we read Mr. Spencer's work here: this is not about proving he's not a Christian. Really: I have no idea if he's a Christian or not. What these examples prove is that he regrets almost every decision he has ever made in being in a ministry role in the church, he resents the treatment he received in the midst of making decisions he admits were bad (either based on the results or based on some standard), and in that he has a predisposition against the church as it exists today.

So when he comes out and endorses Emergent, or anything else related to the church, we have to frame his views with the frame he has built. These links don't require any commentary.

However, in light of these links, I'd like to call on the readers of this blog to do something: please pray for Michael Spencer. Pray for his ministry. Pray for his family. Pray for his motives. Pray for his broken emotional state. Pray that he will see Christ's church the way Christ sees it.

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[?] centuri0n's thanksgiving turkey recipe
[?] centuri0n's thanksgiving turkey recipe
Well, they say that a Turkey recipe will get hits this close to the season, so I'm going to give you my recipe for roasting a Turkey in order to add content that everyone can use to the blog.

You do not have to be "truly reformed" to use this recipe. You just have to like Turkey and stuffing.

Roasting a turkey isn't as hard as it sounds. Here's a basic recipe to get you started. In this case, the turkey is stuffed. DO NOT stuff the turkey and put it in the fridge overnight: that's bacteriologically a bad idea, and we want you all to enjoy Thanksgiving on the sofa, not on a hospital gurney.

Ingredients:

12- to 14-lb. turkey, thawed if purchased frozen
1 bag, your favorite "Italian" croutons
2-4 bouillon cubes
2-3 stalks, celery, chopper or cubed
1 cup carrots, chopped
½ cup onions, finely chopped
1 tsp, dried parsley
1 cup, cashews
Pepper and Garlic Salt

STEPS:
  1. Preheat your oven to 325. Remove the cooking racks, then place one rack into oven at the lowest position.

  2. Unwrap your THAWED Turkey in a clean sink, and remove the giblets – that bag of stuff that you never thought you would use for anything because it looks gross. It's not gross. You may have to unhook the metal clip which holds the legs together in order to get all the giblets out; you may have to run some warm water into the bird to get the giblets out. Don't be afraid.

  3. Start a medium-sized pot of water boiling – not more than 3 cups. Put your packet of giblets in the water (sans wrapping paper), along with your bouillon cubes and the carrots, celery and parlsey. 2 cubes will make a somewhat-mild flavored stuffing; 6 will make a very salty and spicy stuffing. You know what you like best, so add the cubes to the low end of your tolerance for spicy. For your reference, I usually use 4 cubes. Boil this mix for about 30 minutes – long enough to cook the giblets thoroughly.

  4. While the soup (yes: you very smart readers knew that we were making soup, didn't you?) is cooking, wash the Turkey thoroughly, inside and out. I wouldn't use soap as you might miss a spot in the rinse and ruin your hours of hard work here, but washing the bird is an important health safety tip. If we were deep frying the bird (that's the Christmas recipe), washing is pretty much unimportant because if some germ can survive the deep fryer, it will kill you before you eat any of the dinner. Anyway, clean the bird thoroughly and put it in a large roasting pan. For this recipe, the deeper the roasting pan, the better. I suggest a large disposable roasting pan from WAL*MART even though it might possibly ring up at the wrong price.

    If you get bored waiting for the soup to finish up, this would be a good time to rub salt and pepper into the skin of your bird. Visually, salt and pepper the skin so that it looks like very light TV static. Do the top (the breast side) and the bottom (where the shoulders are); do not worry if you put less on the breast side. Because of the way this bird is going to cook, pay special attention to salting and peppering the wings and drumsticks.

  5. You now have a clean, prepped bird and a very delicious-smelling pot of soup. You have to make stuffing now. Remove the soup from the heat and remove the giblets. If you are a complete carnivore (like me), take the fully-cooked giblets to your food chopper and chop them up and put them back into the soup (you can't chop up the neck, but if you have 20 minutes, de-bone the neck and put your neck meat into the soup).

    Those of you grossed out by chopping up the giblets can throw them away. The rest of us will weep for you.

    Now empty the bag of croutons into the soup. If you used about 2 cups of water, you will get a somewhat-damp bread-and-soup mixture; if you used about 3 cups of water, you will get a very wet bread-and-soup mixture. I like the latter better, but some people like their stuffing more dry than others. The extraordinary secret here is that a soupier stuffing makes for a more-moist bird in the final product. After the soup and the bread are well- mixed, add the cashews and mix again.

  6. When you have this mixing complete, use a tablespoon and start loading the stuffing into the bird. Pack the stuffing down into the bird to get the cavity of the body completely full of stuffing. Don't leave any air pockets. Once the Turkey is completely stuffed, position it in the roasting tray breast-side down (I learned that from watching Emeril) in the center of the pan, and load the pan with the rest of your stuffing mix.

  7. Cover the Turkey, and place it inside your oven. After 2 hours in the heat, remove the cover and roast for another hour. In this final hour, the skin of the exposed parts should turn golden brown. At the end of the third hour, test the bird with a meat thermometer; the center temperature should be 175-180 degrees F. It will be the most unbelievable bird you every ate.

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[#] What's right is right
[#] What's right is right
I said this yesterday:
I applaud Mr. Webb for wanting to do the good works; I question why, if Francis is an advocate of the standard, he does not abide by the other matters at stake in this rule.

Honestly: we know why. Mr. Webb is not a Catholic (I would pessimistically add "yet"). He does not abide by the rules of ecclesiastical hierarchies, and yet at least half of the point of Francis' rule he is citing is specifically for the sake of maintaining ecclesiastical order.
Upon review and based on some comments I have seen about this post, I'd like to apologize for the text in red. It was over the top, uncalled for, and worst of all, it was intended to insult. I didn't start out the series on the Derek Webb interview to insult, but I managed to do it anyway.

I apologize to Derek Webb and to those fans of his who read this and were rightly put off by it. I was wrong to say such a thing in the manner clearly intended here.

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11.21.2005
[*] More on Challies' interview of Derek Webb
[*] More on Challies' interview of Derek Webb
- Welcome Boar's Head tavern readers -


You'd think if I was going to comment on the Challies interview with Derek Webb, I would be brushing up on, say, emergent apologetics or perhaps re-read the Institutes to make the finest show of what I had to say.

You'd think that, wouldn’t you? Instead I watched Kung Fu Hustle and Eternal Sunshine of the spotless mind before re-reading the interview. Kung Fu Hustle is not even escapist: it's outrageous comic book stuff, and the only way to get it is to be a life-long comic book reader. It only makes sense in the context of archetypes and stereotypes, so if you're not into that kind of thing you should avoid it. I thought it was completely fabulous, a 4-star flick for its genre. What genre? The same genre as Curt Russell's Big Trouble in Little China and any of the better Jackie Chan movies.

Eternal Sunshine requires a second viewing and a whole blog entry of its own. I suggest to you, to whet your appetite, that it is proof that people with utterly secular and unregenerate minds know the truth about their lives but try to convince themselves that it's OK to be that way and that they should like it. I'll flesh that out in the future.

BTW, if there are any topics about which I have said "I'll flesh that out in the future" for which you are dying to read my promised follow-up and I have never followed up, you should remind me. I'm just one guy, and I don’t really have a master plan for the blog except that it either spreads the Gospel or makes me rich.

That said, let's think about something for a moment: is that really very much of a master plan? For example, if my master plan for the blog is actually either wealth or the spiritual enlightenment of others, can those two polar opposites actually constitute the same master plan?

I would suggest to you that they cannot. The statement "I don’t really have a master plan for the blog except that it either spreads the Gospel or makes me rich" either has to be a joke or a lie, right? Billy Graham, Pat Robertson and James Dobson notwithstanding, one of the objectives of spreading the Gospel ought not to be to get rich. It's a non-sequitur. Yes: you have to eat, and you have to wear clothes, and most of the time you have to spend money to do those things. But if you are spreading the Gospel to get rich -- or if you ultimately fool yourself into thinking that since you are getting rich by doing what you are doing, and you call what you are doing "spreading the Gospel" -- you are somewhat of a moron, spiritually.

I want you to think about that in the context that I own a Christian bookstore, OK? I don’t want anyone to say that somehow I don’t apply that standard to myself. For example, we throw away books that come in on bargain pallets that we know are written by people who reject the Gospel. We don’t sell rosaries (send your hate mail here). We work hard to educate our staff in the right way to address people who do not understand the basics of Bible translation, or who come in trying to peddle non-Christian spirituality as the Gospel, and we work to help people move from bad self-educational choices to good self-educational choices -- even if it means we don’t always make the first sale to them.

And I say all that to say this: there is no doubt that the Gospel has (on the one hand) clear consequences on our lives and (on the other hand) clear admonishment against the things we ought to studiously avoid. The Gospel is not some vague platitude that you can interpret any way you want to in order to be relevant to where you are right now. Seriously: what complete rubbish it is to think that you can make that message -- that begins and ends with a God Almighty who is completely in charge of the universe and has, as the main course of its philosophical feast that not only is man not good enough to please God, he is also not strong or smart or big or fast or clever or anything enough to save himself from being under God's wrath – into a message that appeals to people like a marketing campaign or a good political slogan.

Then let's begin to address Challies' interview with Derek Webb from the standpoint that, in principle, I agree with Mr. Webb that there is a supernatural aspect of the Gospel and a "natural" or common-place aspect of the Gospel, and these aspects cannot be separated from each other. The question, as with the shyster who thinks that the Gospel is good business, is whether the conclusions we come to from that place are compatible with the Gospel.

An interesting place to start this commentary is with this statement from Mr. Webb:

The way we proclaim that kingdom is by putting our hands to that. So you see someone who is hungry and you proclaim to them a kingdom where there will be no hunger by putting food in their mouth. If someone is ill or sick you proclaim to them the kingdom where there will be no sickness by caring for them or giving them lifesaving drugs. I think that is probably what St. Francis might have meant when he said to "proclaim the gospel at all times and if necessary use words." That is his famous quote. I really think that is exactly what he could have meant. We go into culture and proclaim the coming of Jesus' kingdom where all things will be made right by putting our hands to "the being made right of all things" and of course there is the literal proclamation of his showing up on the scene that we also need to tell people.
This is an interesting statement from Mr. Webb because of his use of St. Francis of Assisi here. It turns out that, if you do 5 minutes of research on this phrase, these are not Francis' words at all. It is in fact a bad paraphrase of Francis' Rule of the Order from 1221:
Let no friar preach against the form and arrangement of Holy Church nor unless it has been conceded to him by his minister. And let the minister beware of himself, lest he indiscreetly concede (this) to anyone. However let all the friars preach by works. • And let no minister or preacher appropriate to himself the office of minister or the office of preaching, but in whatever hour it has been enjoined upon him, let him without any contradiction surrender his office.

Whence I beseech in the Charity, which God is (cf. 1 Jn 4:16), all my friar preachers, prayers, workers, clerics as much as lay (brothers), that they strive to humble themselves in all things, not to glory nor rejoice in themselves nor to exalt themselves interiorly because of the good words and deeds, indeed because of no good thing, which God does or says or works at any time in them and through them, according to what the Lord says: "Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you" (Lk 10:20). And let us know firmly, that nothing pertains to us, except vices and sins. • And we ought to rather rejoice, "when" we would fall "into various temptations" (cf. Jm 1:2) and when we would sustain whatever kind of difficulties of soul or body, or of tribulation in this world for the sake of eternal life.
What Francis is here exhorting his brother friars to is not silent "random acts of kindness" but a kind of humility which was absent from the monastic orders in his day. His order here is not to preach with works first then with words, but to hold one's self in the right perspective and not to seek after any great station in life.

Now why is this bit of nit-picking important? I'll give two reason that I think are important:

(1) In the least case, if we are going to use Francis as an example of what we are talking about in terms of the physical ministry of the Gospel, we should portray him as he was and not as we would like him to be. He certainly thought that doing good works were the central part of his order's mission -- but that was, in part, because his order was setting out to reform monastic abuses. If we are going to use this example to underscore Mr. Webb's idea that the believer ought to do more things in Gospel ministry, we should at least ask him who then gave him the permission to preach this truth through his music and his extensive portfolio of writings. Francis' point is highly nuanced -- touching on the attitude of monastic service, the kind of aspirations a friar should have, the kinds of service appropriate for the life in the order, and the relationship the order ought to have to "the church". I applaud Mr. Webb for wanting to do the good works; I question why, if Francis is an advocate of the standard, he does not abide by the other matters at stake in this rule.

Honestly: we know why. Mr. Webb is not a Catholic (I would pessimistically add "yet"). He does not abide by the rules of ecclesiastical hierarchies, and yet at least half of the point of Francis' rule he is citing is specifically for the sake of maintaining ecclesiastical order. In that, we have to be careful in letting a statement like this wedging itself into a place in this discussion where it doesn't belong.

(2) It indicates the loose sort of reasoning Mr. Webb uses to jump from point to point. To be specific, if this is how he handles a merely-historic source, how can we trust him to handle the word of God better?

Of course, we need to offer some charity here -- because I certainly do not deny the point, as the book of James says clearly, that true religion is to visit widows and orphans in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained from the world, that we are to be doers of the word and not just people who say "amen" when the pastor gets into his Calvinism riff. Nobody is denying that the very core of Christian life is doing the things that the Gospel says to do, and that the Gospel does not just say that we should look forward to a resurrected life and yammer on about theological paradigms, but that we should be living right now as a life resurrected from the sinfulness and death we lived before.

So the charity is this: I agree with the principle Mr. Webb here is advocating on-net. What I question is the method for advocating that principle which he uses here -- which is not a fair treatment of sources but a lopsided treatment of a source which is not necessarily saying what Mr. Webb is trying to say.

What is far worse, unfortunately, is what comes next in this answer to the first question Tim asked:

And I really think that the other half of that gospel is so neglected that it was worth devoting a record to.
Listen: I'm a complainer about the state of the church in the U.S. I admit it. There's no question that the American Church is frankly in disarray. It's sickening. But one of the reasons it is sickening, all told, turns out not to be that the church doesn’t do good works.

Now, how do I justify saying that? Well, let's think about Hurricane Katrina for a second, shall we? What was the largest private relief force on the ground for that disaster? Some of you are about to say, "Red Cross", and that'd be pretty close. The problem is that the agency actually putting the most people on the ground may have been under the umbrella of the Red Cross, but they were a little group known as the North American Missions Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. Yup: conservative evangelicals turn out to be the largest relief organization in America.

Let's also look at poverty relief in Africa. As you may have seen in my previous posts on this subject, private American donations to African relief equal the total contributions made by France or Germany or Canada, or any number of combinations of European countries. What my previous posts didn’t outline was that most of this money comes not just from "private" organizations but from "religious" organizations. And that money, for the most part, isn’t just shoveled into a furnace blindly: it is directed to particular missionary activity that includes food and medicine and infrastructure.

To say that "the other half of the Gospel is neglected" is a vague accusation at best. Before I get all cylinders firing here, let's move on and see what Mr. Webb does to flesh out his concern in particular in order to see if he's talking about things that can be fixed -- or ought to be. For that sake, I am going to pass over a comment he makes in this first question, reserving the right to amend and revise my remarks in the future.

In the next question he includes this reply:
And I think that anybody can tell you that when you study a lot of theology and you study a lot of God's character and you study his attributes you get into a very theological type of discourse. That is a great thing to do. That is a great foundation to have. But if that theology never turns into ethics then it can become a real idol because the rubber of theology must meet the road of ethics at some point or the other or else it's not informing how we truly love the people around us. It's all very theoretical. Being very well trained in theology but having it never affect your ethics, we run the risk of being nothing more than ringing cymbals and clanging gongs.
And who isn’t going to say "Amen" to that? Theology is not just a comfy chair where we read a good book: in case you missed it in my on-going series on orthodoxy, theology ought to be the basis for all the decisions we make.

Let me be clear here that there are two kinds of error that good theology ought to head off: the first is the error that we ought to do nothing; the second is that what we ought to do has no direct relationship to our theological bedrock. Now, in theory, Mr. Webb is against both of these errors as he elaborates in his "rubber and the road" analogy. But does he actually practice this opposition?

He eventually says this:
I have a certain view of the way God governs all things, I think those are the main distinctives of the Reformed tradition, and of course I believe that. And that is part of who I am and that's part of how I see the world. ...
... there has been a little bit of a mutiny happening because there are some folks who are more into Reformed theology (and I think that might have been what first attracted them to me) and they are starting to get a little nervous. A few of them have started to jump ship because I think my views on the role of social justice in the life of the believer might begin to take a turn from typical Reformed theology on some of these points. And that's okay with me because, again, I didn't sign up to be the poster boy. And so what's starting to happen is that there are some really Reformed folks who are starting to get a little nervous who have typically been the ones who have blindly come to my defense, no matter what I would do, because I think I've been so predictable to them.
The italics are mine, not Challies'. This gets back to my intro comments: your premises ought to determine your conclusions. For example, if you think that the Gospel is good news spiritually but you do not think that the spiritual world has any interaction with the day to day way things run in the material world, you can claim you're "born again" and then live any way you want. But if you believe that you cannot view the world as if everything on the left-handed spiritual world never interacts with the right-handed material world because Christ was God incarnate, and God is therefore active in this world, you cannot claim that you have received spiritual renewal and then sit on your spiritual size-48 butt.

In the same way, reformed theology is not a new player on the block. It is a pretty astonishing thing when you study it. It has a lot of philosophical moxie outside of the centerpiece of the Gospel because it has, as its centerpiece, the Gospel. It has political ramifications; it has social ramifications; it has interpersonal ramifications; it has economic ramifications. And, for the most part, those implications have been spelled out by some pretty smart fellas -- and I don’t mean just Steve Hays.

So when Derek Webb turns out not to advocate the rest of Reformed theology's world view, we have to ask the question, what does he mean when he says, "that is part of who I am and that's part of how I see the world"? Doesn’t compartmentalizing the high view of God's sovereignty and the finished work of the cross from the rest of one's worldview do exactly what Mr. Webb has, up to this point, advocated against in saying that the two prongs of the Gospel -- love God, love your neighbor -- must come together in the life of the believer?

This is going to wrap up part 1 of this discussion, but here's what gets me about where this conversation inevitably goes from here: Somehow, because the last 30 or 50 years of American Christian history have been an ideological battle against disastrous theological errors -- like diluting the authority of Scripture, and radical individualism, and secular hegemony, and atheism -- folks like Mr. Webb and a whole host of smart guys think that the church has given up on anything but the theoretical doctrinal positions of the faith. And in that, they say, "fine: good. Doctrine. I'll put on a reformed t-shirt for the sake of argument, but what about this idea that there should be economic justice? What about loving gay people? What about war?" And they ask these questions as if Reformed theology and the Bible do not answer these questions clearly and frankly, with significant "rubber meets the road" applications to the problems at-hand.

This is a pretty slippery fish that Mr. Webb tosses out on the table, and we'll see if, over the next few installments, he has any kind of a grip on it that gets it off the table and onto the frying pan.

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[#] LibraryThing
[#] LibraryThing
HT: Steve Hays.

I have something called a POS system that catalogs all my books, but if you can't drop $10K on hardware, maybe this will help you catalog all your books.

It's a great idea. If you have more than one bookcase full of books (doesn't everyone?), you should use this web-based software.

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11.19.2005
[*] As opposed to Moses
[*] As opposed to Moses
Here's the definition of "bigot".

See you on Monday.

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[*] The Challies Interview: Derek Webb
[*] The Challies Interview: Derek Webb
First of all, how Challies gets to interview Derek Webb is completely beyond me. Who is "Challies", anyway? Could you pick him out if he was standing next to you at McD's ordering a #1 Large-sized with an extra cheeseburger? Yeah, I didn't think so.

Don't get me wrong: Challies is a top-cat in the blogosphere -- an achievement for which I am extremely jealous. He's in the top 120 blogs on TTLB, and he has 585 inbound links (even if TTLB says he has barely 25 visitors a day; not sure how that works out). But since when does a blogger of upper-intermediate influence get a chance to interview a character like Derek Webb up front and personal? Well, it turns out Mr. Webb is a fan of Tim's blog, so good on Tim.

Much more interesting is Tim's take on whether he should comment on what he made of the interview:
It seems that some people are expecting me to deconstruct the interview with Derek Webb. I am not going to do that. I am not going to write about what my conversation with him did to my opinion of his life, faith or ministry. There would be no value in that. However, I do have a few observations that I would like to make.
Tim: your observations are nice, but I'm sure you have more to say than that. Unless you want to become the David Suskind of the blogosphere, you have to do more than simply represent controversial issues and people.

More on this later. I'm in the bookstore today, and the Catholics are in today trying to buy rosaries and jewelry for the priest to bless. Please do not get me started.

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11.18.2005
[*] Classic "put up or shut up"
[*] Classic "put up or shut up"
Just before I go home for the weekend, I wanted to say that you should watch this classic case of "put up or shut up" today if you have access to cable news/C-SPAN.

How many Democrats, do you think, are going to vote against this resolution?

Apparently 2 3.

Pray for all of our Senators and Representatives today as they all make complete monkeys ou of themselves. God willing they will find a way to stop making politics the first business of every waking day.

Be in the Lord's house with the Lord's people this Lord's day.

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[?] So, who did you have lunch with yesterday?
[?] So, who did you have lunch with yesterday?
Seriously: is that a topic for blogging? For example, one of the deacons at my church had lunch with me on Tuesday and we talked about some things, and it turns out that nobody (until right now) blogged about it or sent any e-mails around to find out the skinny.

Yet, Phil Johnson blogged last night/today about his lunch with me, and I'm getting requests to reciprocate because, it seems, Phil didn't spill enough beans to satisfy some folks.

Let me let you all in on a little secret: I think Phil has lunch with me because he actually likes me. It's not a mini blog summit; it's not a serious gathering of theological middle-weights called out to make some intermediate pronouncement of reformational evangelistic theology. We talked about our kids. We appreciated and enjoyed the company of our wives. And, for the lack of a better term, we "pal'd around".

Is that shocking? Does it change your world view? I'm not trying to be outlandish here when I say that it turns out that Phil's a middle-aged guy (like me) who has a somewhat-bold personality (like me) who has a somewhat-broad range of responsibility and the commensurate degree of "fence" he has to maintain in real life because of those responsibilities (like me) and it's nice to have someone around with whom you don't have to be guarded.

We talked about our experiences coaching our kids sports teams. We talked about Tulsa -- and I asked my wife to ask Phil about the Oral Roberts hospital thing he blogged about because he tells it so good. Phil tried to flip a lemon pit onto my lapel. My daughter wow'd the whole place with her exquisite table manners. And, against all blog protocol, we didn't even take any pictures.

He's just a pleasure to be with. And it helps that, to a certain extent, we are sort of fans of each other. I'm jealous of his roguish good-looks, and he's jealous of my tempered use of reason and snark to thump the underbelly of the blogosphere. I'm jealous that he's close to John MacArthur, and he's ... well, there's no like/as comparison there. Maybe he's jealous I get to live in Siloam Springs.

I like Phil. I'd call him my friend even if it meant some people would be put off by it. His wife is not just nice but good company, and she makes it easy for my wife to be friendly. And, while I find it interesting that some people think it's big news that I had lunch with them, there's no book deal brewing. I'm not interviewing Phil for the Blog. The balance of power isn't tilting.

It was lunch. He had a veggie platter, and I had grilled chicken salad.

I think I'm going to go call Johnny Depp and tell him how the blogosphere is treating me and tell him to stick up for me and Phil before our widdow feewings get hurt.

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[?] Follow up: Carla Rolfe
[?] Follow up: Carla Rolfe
I honestly don't know why you really added me to your blogroll to begin with, but I'm honored that you did. I also don't know why you put my blog link up there at top billing, but I have to say, my traffic has honestly doubled in the last few days, since you did that. So that was very cool of you to do that. Truth is, I don't really think your animated eyebrow is creepy, it just seemed funny at the time, so I went with it.

Anyhoo, thanks Frank. In a "men's world" (the God blogosphere) it's nice to be recognized by a few of you - even if it is just for the jokes.
-- Carla Rolfe
There's nothing like being proven right.

It is a difficult responsibility
That you accept from the Number 1 blogmaker, me
Have it known throughout the land from sea to sea
There'll be no more toy makers to the King!


I have no idea why I am spouting Rankin and Bass lyrics from the late 70's on the blog this afternoon. Maybe it's my own prayer language and I've finally received the holy spirit.

And this doesn't really have much to do with Carla anyway.

Hmph.

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[%] Carla Rolfe's challenge
[%] Carla Rolfe's challenge
Carla is mad checking her counter too often, apparently, because I linked to her and nobody visited her site.

Carla:
(1) My readers came here to read me. The links are like a side dish.
(2) I'm going to leave you linked here on the front page, top billing until Friday at 6 PM my time.

READERS: Son of a gun! Carla says you people didn't visit her, but Challies readers did. Is that a fair assessment of you? Are you really so stingy with your clicks -- good grief, it's ONE CLICK! -- that you can't stop by and show Carla that cent's readers are the ones which keep the blogosphere afloat?

From now 'til Friday. Make it so.

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11.17.2005
[#] Anne Rice Christ the Lord (3 of 3)
[#] Anne Rice Christ the Lord (3 of 3)
What gradually became clear to me was that many of the skeptical arguments -- arguments that insisted that the Gospels were suspect, for instance, or written too late to be eye witness accounts -- lacked coherence. Arguments about Jesus himself were full of conjecture. Some books were assumptions piled upon assumptions. Absurd conclusions were based upon little or no data.
That's an interesting quote, yes? I've got another one for you:
I was unconvinced by the wild postulations of those who had claimed to be children of the Enlightenment. And I had sensed something else. Many of these scholars, scholars who had apparently devoted their life to New Testament scholarship, disliked Jesus Christ. Some pitied him as a hopeless failure. Others sneered at him, and others felt an outright contempt. This came between the lines of the books. This emerged in the personality of the text.
These aren't the mad ravings of some blogger who's just now discovered internet apologetics and is voicing his disgust at what he finds in skeptical circles: this is Anne Rice in her Author's Note at the end of Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt. They are part of the reason I saved this part of the review for last.

See: when I got wind that Anne Rice was going to write historical fiction about Jesus Christ, I was somewhat, well, disgusted. Frankly I find the Lestat novels creepy and amoral (which, of course, is their point), and I have intentionally distanced myself from reading any of Mrs. Rice's other works because of that work.

I am refraining from saying, "apparently, something has happened to Anne Rice," because she has gone from being a lapsed Catholic to being a relapsed Catholic. In all her years of researching this book, apparently the matter of the Reformation didn’t come up -- and really, why should it if all she is studying is the first century? But Mrs. Rice has discovered something in her reading that doesn’t normally dawn on people coming from her perspective.

She has discovered the problematic nature of 21st century religious skepticism -- independent of prior religious conviction. In that, even with the flaws I mentioned in the previous installment of this review, the novel clearly reflects her position that Jesus Christ was not just a misunderstood man.

She also says this:
Anybody could write about a liberal Jesus, a married Jesus, a gay Jesus, a Jesus who was a rebel. The "Quest for the Historical Jesus" had become a joke because of all the many definitions it had ascribed to Jesus.

The true challenge was to take the Jesus of the Gospels, the Gospels which were becoming ever more coherent to me, the Gospels which appealed to me as elegant first-person witness, dictated to scribes no doubt, but definitely early, the Gospels produced before Jerusalem fell -- to take the Jesus of the Gospels, and try to get inside him and imagine what he felt.
So let's be clear that she doesn't take the Scripture to be inspired (at least, not in this confession), she doesn't take the Gospels to be inerrant even if she finds them reliable, but she also doesn't think they are completely biased trash.

In contrast to the ham-handed DaVinci Code, this is as fair a treatment in fiction from the secular world as we probably can expect. Mrs. Rice's academic heroes are diverse -- from Blomberg and D.A.Carson to N.T. Wright to Frank Kermode to Karl Rahner -- and of course taking a detailed survey of her informal references would undoubtedly not turn up the reading list at Monergism.com. She is not openly hostile to the Gospel, and in many respects that's somewhat refreshing, but that is the real rub.

In the final tally, it is the best reason to read this book. Given that she has composed a psychological history of Christ here -- and we have to presume she intends to round it out with the rest of Christ's life -- which does not conform to conventional orthodoxy, I strongly urge the readers of this blog to take this book under consideration and mark it carefully for the near-misses it has with orthodoxy. It's going to come up. People are going to ask questions about it. Be prepared to give an account.

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