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Archive for April, 2010

Athanasius Press is coming out with a new “Answers in an Hour” book by Doug Wilson, Why Ministers Must be Men.

Get ready to get one . . . or a dozen.

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Yum

Ok, take a good, long look at that stuff the guy in the picture to the left is holding in his hand.

It’s called “huitlacoche” (we-la-ko-chee) . . . or “corn smut.” A fungus that grows on ears of corn.

Here’s the question: Does that look nourishing to you? no wait. Does that look delicious to you?

Well, sounds like you’d better get used to seeing it around. Scientists say this stuff is almost unrivaled for its nutritional value. Mexicans say it is delicious and view it as a delicacy and so do many other people whose taste is classified by those who know as “refined.”

Steve Sando, who is identified in this story as an “epicurean” says this about it: “Who cares about the nutritional value? The flavors are amazing!”

Yeah.

Ok, sorry Steve, but I’m just not up to putting what looks like 3 week-old cows’ brains in my mouth right now.

Nope. Can’t do it.

[HT: George Shubin]

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I take back every snide remark I’ve made about the Apple “Ipad” — concert pianist Lang Lang finally has found a good use for it. And, I have to admit, this is pretty nice.

This was his encore in a concert in San Francisco the other night: Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Flight of the Bumblebee.”

Now if he’ll do this on a bus, we got something.

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Happy Earth Day!

I saw a note that the date for Earth Day (April 22) was chosen because it was V. I. Lenin’s birthday.

Well, interesting, but that is probably not correct, given the stated rationale of the founder of Earth Day, U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson (Wisconsin) — but still, it is a fun thought isn’t it?

Note this hilarious entry in Wikipedia:

April 22, 1970 was the 100th birthday of Vladimir Lenin. Time reported that some suspected the date was not a coincidence, but a clue that the event was “a Communist trick,” and quoted a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution as saying, “Subversive elements plan to make American children live in an environment that is good for them.” J. Edgar Hoover, director of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, may have found the Lenin connection intriguing; it was alleged the FBI conducted surveillance at the 1970 demonstrations. The idea that the date was chosen to celebrate Lenin’s centenary still persists in some quarters, although Lenin was never noted as an environmentalist.

“Lenin was never noted as an environmentalist.”

Uh . . . yeah . . . . I think that’s accurate.

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Mark Horne’s post titled “Who has kept the Law” reminded me that just as many misunderstand what it means to “keep the law” so many misunderstand the term “righteousness.”

We assume that “righteousness” is “sinless perfection.” Thus, we when we see the word “righteousness” we think “sinlessness.” Luther speaks of trembling in terror over the thought of having to stand before a “righteous” God as a sinful man. “Righteousness” was a terrifying concept to him and historically, Protestants have taken the same view. To most, God’s “righteousness” is something to be dreaded and feared.

But this attitude toward God’s righteousness is not the attitude toward God’s righteousness that we find in Scripture. Surely, the wicked ought to be in terror over the thought of standing before a righteous God. But the faithful view God’s righteousness as a great comfort and the source of great joy. Note what we read in the Bible:

God assures Isaiah that it is His righteousness that insures His deliverance of His people (Isaiah 45:21). Thus, when His righteousness draws near, His salvation is going forth (Isaiah 51:5-6). God’s salvation is founded upon His unfailing righteousness. Thus, when salvation comes it is a revelation of God’s righteousness (Isaiah 56:1).

God’s righteousness is expressed in His lovingkindness — His covenant love — indeed, the psalmist effectively equates the two (Psalm 36:10; 103:17-18). Because of this God’s righteousness is always good news to His people (Psalm 40:9-10). Proclaiming the gospel is, therefore, the revelation of God’s righteousness (Rom. 1:16-17).

God’s righteousness, therefore, is the basis for praise rather than terror (Psalm 35:28). It is the foundation for hope rather than despair (Psalm 71:14-15). This is so because His righteousness is His faithfulness to His covenant purposes. He is righteous in all His ways (Psalm 145:17) and because He is righteous, the faithful will be preserved and the wicked destroyed (Psalm 145:18-20).

As His image-bearers, we are to be like Him. We are to be righteous sons and daughters, husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, citizens and neighbors. Righteousness is expressed within covenant bonds of love and thus, it is never merely a matter of keeping to the rules, staying within the boundaries, or refusing to stray outside the lines. Righteousness is living in fidelity to God’s Word in the context of trust, loyalty, and love.

To be righteous then, is to be faithful to the God of righteousness. Job is an upright man (Job 1:1). He not only refused to rebel against God (shunning evil) but feared Him. This is righteousness. (more…)

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Well, just ask me if I’m fired up about this — and I’ll say “yes!”

The European Union commissioner for enterprise and industry, Antonio Tajani, has stated that getting to take a vacation to a foreign country is a basic human right. He put it thisaway:

Traveling for tourism today is a right. The way we spend our holidays is a formidable indicator of our quality of life,

Brussels has agreed, declaring that “tourism is a human right and pensioners, youths and those too poor to afford it should have their travel subsidised by the taxpayer…” It is expected that the European Union will subsidize about 30% of the cost.

NOW we are talking, eh?

If we can only get President Obama to agree with this (and why wouldn’t he?) — we’ll be packing our bags! Me and Momma are going to Milan or maybe Athens or Paris or someplace really exotic. And maybe, by the time we get there, housing will be a basic human right and they’ll give us a house to live in too!

Wow. VA-CA-SHUN! I’m sayin.

Is this a great time to be alive or what?

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The Pope nods off during mass in Malta.

The guy to his left apparently is his official “waker-uper” (or “Pope-poker”).

At least he didn’t fall out of his chair . . . ex cathedra . . . as it were.

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Nate Wilson was on the Today Show this morning talking about his book 100 Cupboards. This is not only great for Nate but a lot of fun for me since it greatly increases my effectiveness when it comes to “name dropping,” which is always good.

So, thanks Nate.

Oh, and go here to see the clip.

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Tax Day, 2010

[this is a redo from last April 15]

You probably can’t read the form to the left (it’s available online so no big loss). This is the first 1040 form issued by our federal government in 1913 — the first year (since the income tax passed during Lincoln’s administration was repealed in 1872) that Americans paid this thing called the “income tax.” Note the tax rates:

1% on income over $20,000 and not exceeding $50,000
2% on income over $50,000 and not exceeding $75,000
3% on income over $75,000 and not exceeding $100,000
4% on income over $100,000 and not exceeding $250,000
5% on income over $250,000 and not exceeding $500,000
6% on income over $500,000

This meant that the vast majority of Americans were exempt from paying anything since the income for the average American was well below $20,000. But even the most wealthy only paid 6% of their income. Those were the days.

As you can imagine, the passage of the income tax was hotly debated. Opponents of the measure objected that once passed the tax rates could be increased to any level whatever. One opponent was indignant over the thought that Congress could raise taxes as high as they pleased. The day might even come, he stated, when the tax rate would climb as high as twenty percent! Senator William Borah of Idaho, was outraged that anyone could even imagine this law being abused to such an extent:

“Who could impose such socialistic, confiscatory rates? Only Congress. And how could congress — the representatives of the American people — be so lacking in fairness, justice, and patriotism?”

Borah could not conceive the American people ever allowing Congress to pass such oppressive tax laws. In his mind, if Congress ever had the audacity and disregard for common morality to pass such confiscatory rates (as a 20% tax would be), the people would revolt.

By 1918 the highest tax rate had been raised to 77%.

We’re still waiting for the revolt.

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Thanks to Canon Press, a new edition of Face to Face has just been published. I’m especially grateful for this since it gave me an opportunity to clarify the text as well as to embed it more deeply in a Trinitarian context.

Along with a new Preface, a number of corrections have been made (and a few additions) which I hope have improved the whole.

Here’s a part of the new preface to give you a feel for what I’m talking about:

Friendship and hospitality are vital for life simply and fundamentally because God is a Triune being. He is not a solitary monad (like Allah e.g.), but Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. John reminds us that God is love (note: not that God loves but that love is fundamental to God’s very being). This can only be true because God is Triune. As a Triune being God has always existed in a communion of love, joy, and fellowship. The Father has eternally loved the Son and given Himself for Him; the Son has always loved the Father and given up Himself for Him; and the Spirit has always been the bond of love between the Father and the Son and ever lives to exalt both.

Man, being created after the image of God cannot but be a social being – one who finds his true humanity in society and fellowship and communion with others. Man, like God, is fundamentally a relational being.

This helps us to understand the disaster sin wrought by its entrance into the world through Adam’s disobedience. Sin isolates. Sin causes man to focus upon himself, love himself, and serve himself – i.e., become thoroughly inhuman. Sin causes “death” (isolation from God and man). We see it right away in the garden. Adam blames Eve for his failure and is apparently willing for Eve to perish in God’s wrath (“The woman that You gave me, she gave me of the fruit. . .”). Pretty callous. Amazingly indifferent to the one whom moments before he referred to as “bone of his bone.” But that’s what sin does to us.

This also helps us understand the whole business of salvation. Salvation is deliverance from the death and isolation of sin. Salvation brings us back into the life, love, and communion of the Triune God. It is, in the fullest sense, life. Life is restoration to communion, or perhaps better, restoration into the life of the Triune community (thus, we are baptized “into the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit”). Salvation involves a restoration of the image of God in us. Salvation makes us like God again – and that means that salvation is inescapably social. It doesn’t happen in isolation from others. God works through others to bring us to Himself and to restore His image in us.

It is interesting that the image God uses to describe the Church is not a solitary mountain retreat or a quiet, orderly monastery. Rather, He likens it to a bustling, thriving, vibrant city – with emissaries from the nations coming and going, bringing gifts, seeking assistance, rejoicing in the glorious love, and the infinite life and light of God Himself (Revelation 21-22). The focus is not upon a deliverance worked out as a private matter between God and the isolated individual. Rather, God brings the individual out of his isolation into the deliverance that has been worked for His people, the new Israel.

The work of redemption has as its goal the preparation of a Bride for the Son – and that Bride is the Church, the body of Christ. It is in the Church that one finds the Spirit dwelling in His fullness, hears the word of God plainly spoken, and enjoys the life of God as manifested in and through the other members of the family (the citizens of the heavenly city). And it is through communion with the other members of the body that each individual is nourished and built up to maturity in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 415-16).

The unhealthy over-emphasis upon the individual that we find in modern American evangelicalism has seriously undermined this way of thinking about salvation. We have reduced salvation to “going to heaven when you die.” We think of the Church as a nice, sometimes helpful organization where one can perhaps receive encouragement and comfort in times of need. But for far too many of us, “salvation” is something that is received, worked out, and experienced, solely within ourselves, apart from others.

God, however, sees salvation more along the lines of bringing you out of the darkness and isolation of sin and into the glorious hubbub and life of the Church. Salvation is incorporation into Christ. It involves being united by the Spirit to His body. It means not only having an individual relationship with God through His Son by the power of His Spirit, but enjoying and experiencing this relationship through vital communion with God through His people.

There’s more, but that gives you the basic idea. You can order a copy of the new edition here. In fact, order two copies. It’s for a good cause.

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I continue to be amazed over the hysterical reactions that come from the media, academia, and even evangelical Christians, when someone, somewhere says something that might be considered favorable toward the Old South (the Confederacy). They can be patient and tolerant toward nearly every crazy, insane conviction (or person) . . . but if someone says he appreciates Robert E. Lee, he is immediately labeled an enemy to all life and godliness.

And I’m not talking about reacting against things said by the lame brains that think that racism and slavery were (and are) wonderful blessings to the country or the halfwits who still think that people who have a skin color different from mine are somehow not fully and truly human. If they were reacting against these dim bulbs, I’d be happy to join them in their ridicule and outrage.

But instead of having real, genuine “grounds” for offense, they’re outraged over things like Governor Bob McDonnell’s declaration proclaiming April “Confederate History Month” in the state of Virginia. Governor McDonnell consented to a request from the Sons of Confederate Veterans and declared April to be a month to remember the men, women, and children who died in the most deadly war our country has ever endured.

That’s all he did. Really.

Gov. McDonnell along with the Sons of Confederate Veterans opposes slavery and laments its presence in the past (and the present). Gov. McDonnell along with the SCV believe that racism is evil. But, no matter. Gov. McDonnell has committed one of the unpardonable sins of modern America: being gracious toward the South.

Look. No one says that the Confederacy was sinless or perfect or ideal and no one in their right mind wants to “turn back the clock” to the mid-1800s. But to view the Confederacy as the “one of the most evil regimes in world history” (as one of my friends called it) is about as far off the mark as the distance of a round trip to Pluto.

It’s hard to believe that no one remembers (or apparently cares about) what Sherman did on his “March” (with President Lincoln’s full approval) which was far more wicked and evil than anything ever condoned by the Confederate government.

If you want to know evil regimes, read Paul Johnson’s Modern Times and learn what a truly evil regime looks like. In spite of all its sins, the Old South doesn’t even come close to matching the “big boys” of evil that have appeared on the stage of our “enlightened” age.

The selective indignation involved in all this almost defies description — but Pat Buchanan takes a shot at it, and hits the bull’s eye.

And, truthfully, he’s only scratching the surface. Lots more could be said.

Too bad that most won’t listen. Understanding the whole story often takes the fun out of demonizing people. And besides, hatred is fun — especially when you can do it and feel really righteous about it.

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Wow. This is an amazing story about some courageous U.S. military docs in Afghanistan. A soldier from the Afghan National Army had an explosive bullet lodged in his brain. American docs risked their own lives to remove it:

The Taliban bullet, containing 2oz of high explosives. was powerful enough to have killed the entire surgical team. But the brave US medics succeeded in delicately extracting it during the marathon operation at Bagram air base, Afghanistan.

Amazing work, guys.

[HT: Burke Shade]

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Today I have been pointed to a couple of video clips of Bishop N. T. Wright which illustrate the problem he poses to modern evangelicals and why opinions about him are so polarized. In the first clip, he explains why, in his view, it is not only possible but desirable to read Genesis 1-3 in a non-literal sense.

If I’m hearing him correctly, this is very frustrating for me. Bishop Wright has forgotten more about the Bible and theology than I will ever know, and that makes me wonder why he would take this position? How can you not see the unhappy ramifications this position holds for what Jesus and Paul say about creation and Adam and Eve?

Why, I wonder, is it not ok to see Genesis 1-3 as an historical account (true, factual, exact, i.e. it happened just like it reads) AND as something that points to other, bigger and equally glorious realities? Why must I choose between history and “myth” (and here I use “myth” not in the sense of a “fairy tale” or fiction but in the sense of a story with a larger, wider, deeper meaning than the mere literal sense)? It seems to me that the Bible is both, and happily so. The only possible attraction I can think of for the position Bishop Wright takes is that it places a safe distance between you and the flat-headed fundamentalists who believe in a literal, 6-day creation AND think that the goal of life is to die and go to heaven AND that all science is of the devil. Now, I understand why one would oppose that. But why do I have to discard a literal, historical reading of Genesis 1-3 to get there? Well, of course, the truth is that I don’t. And I don’t see why Bishop Wright seems to think that he does.

Now, contrast that with this clip which is also of Bishop Wright. Here he comments on what he would say to the upcoming generation of ministers . . . . and this is right on the beam:

Well, right on and “Amen” brother! Preach it all day long and twice on Sunday!

Now you see why he is a difficult man to categorize, yes?

So what’s the solution? Should I quit listening to him and denounce him as a compromising, confused, dangerous “wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing”? Or should I listen to him like the faithful Bereans listened to Paul? Yeah, I know. Silly question.

Look. Bishop Tom is a man. Limited. Faulty. Error-prone. Just like you and me. So, listen with discernment. Praise God for those things that are helpful and profitable and leave the rest aside. Thankfully, this isn’t like the broccoli your Mom put your plate . . . you don’t have to eat it all.

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The Bucer Institute continues to pop. This Saturday, Mark Horne will be giving four lectures on Paul’s epistle to the Romans: “Romans in a Day.”

It’s gonna be fun.

Y’all come.

[and you can register here]

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Here are the top five most watched cable shows according to Nielsen:

1. “Hannah Montana” (Sunday, 7:30 p.m.), Disney, 4 million homes, 6.31 million viewers.
2. “Pawn Stars” (Monday, 10:30 p.m.), History, 3.86 million homes, 5.34 million viewers.
3. “WWE Raw” (Monday, 10 p.m.), USA, 3.74 million homes, 5.52 million viewers.
4. “WWE Raw” (Monday, 9 p.m.), USA, 3.53 million homes, 5.11 million viewers.
5. “Pawn Stars” (Monday, 10 p.m.), History, 3.52 million homes, 4.93 million viewers.

I’ve never seen even one of them.

Not even once.

Ever.

I guess I just redefined the phrase “out of it”

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