Archive for January, 2010

The landing

This is a pretty amazing computer simulation of US Airways Flight 1549 piloted by Captain C. B. Sullenberger a little over a year ago (Jan. 15, 2009) — from take off till the plane lands in the Hudson River. Make sure you watch it in full screen mode.


[HT: Toby Comeaux]

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Today is Anton Chekov’s birthday and I cannot let this day go by without remembering one of the greatest missions “Improv Everywhere” has ever carried out.

IE got Chekov (see the pic to the left) into the Barnes & Noble store on Union Square in New York City, advertising it as an opportunity to “meet the writer.” After Mr. Chekov’s talk and reading, they set up a table in Union Square so that he could sign copies of his play “The Cherry Orchard.”

Everyone was thrilled to meet the great playwright and get an autographed copy of one of his works.

There was only one problem.

Anton Chekov died in 1904 — as the first line on the back of the copies of the play they were selling states.

It was a great stunt. Go here and read about it, then look at the video.


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Dat’s a big phone

Are you sure you want one of these?

Why? Steve just left his iPhone in the “get bigger machine” — idon’t get it.

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Dr. Robert Rayburn (pastor of Faith Presbyterian Church, Tacoma, Washington) has sent a “supplemental brief” to the PCA’s Standing Judicial Commission regarding the case of Dr. Peter Leithart and Pacific Northwest Presbytery (Judicial Case 2009-6). It states eloquently the problem with the PCA’s theological and biblical reasoning and explains the inability to comprehend the point(s) being made by those of us who have been labeled “Federal Vision” advocates.

What Dr. Rayburn points out are the same problems some of us have been seeking to call attention to over the past few years. It’s encouraging to see that he and others also recognize the dangerous nature of the PCA’s theological position (and, of course, what is true of the PCA is also true of every denomination that has agreed with them in this discussion). Read this brief, it’s well worth the time.

SUPPLEMENTAL BRIEF [to the Standing Judicial Commission]
Judicial Case 2009-6
Pacific Northwest Presbytery
[Presbyterian Church in America]
Robert S. Rayburn

Presbytery has received the Proposed Decision of the SJC Panel in Case 2009-6 and respectfully offers this supplemental brief in protest of the decision and its reasoning. To be frank the respondent offers this brief with no expectation of it being read with sympathy. At no point in this process has there been any indication of an intention to give Dr. Leithart or the Presbytery of the Pacific Northwest a sympathetic evaluation, to examine his statements in context, or really to enter into the exploration of the issues raised in this discussion. Nor has there been any acknowledgement that Scripture provides us with data for which the Standards provide us no specific explanations and that is it chiefly this material that comes to the fore in Dr. Leithart’s explorations. I regret to say this brief is offered more as an effort to satisfy the demands of conscience than in any expectation of provoking serious reflection upon the part of the SJC. To that end I protest the decision of the panel and plead with the entire SJC to think again on the following grounds.

The Make-up of the Panel

When the case was first assigned to a panel, Presbytery noted that one of its members had been part of a panel that had heard a case involving similar issues in the Siouxlands Presbytery. Presbytery inquired of the Stated Clerk and the SJC Chairman whether the rules by which panels were appointed had been observed in our case (RAO 17-3) as it seemed doubtful to us that between the spring and the middle of the summer all other members of the SJC would have been selected to serve on panels and the names in the pool been completely turned over (17-3c). The new chairman appointed a different panel, suggesting to us that the roster of the original panel had, in fact, been rigged. But Presbytery now learns that RE Sam Duncan, who authored the panel’s opinion in the present case, was not only a member of the Siouxlands panel, but its chairman. We are trying very hard to believe that this was not an intentional violation of the rules with a view to ensuring that the panel’s judgment would be what it has proved to be. Surely in highly politicized cases such as these, great care should be taken to ensure that the SJC’s conduct of its affairs be above reproach. Has it been? One remembers Herman Bavinck’s melancholy observation – the observation of a politician and a churchman – that while politics are often seamy, church politics are always so.

The Impression of a Prevailing Bias

I simply note the fact that in the panel’s reasoning (C iv) not only is Dr. Leithart cited as writing “The baptized are implanted into Christ’s body, and in Him share in all that he has to give,” but emphasis is added to the last six words. The panel knows very well – it is in the record of the case and was further brought to the panel’s attention during the discussion – that Dr. Leithart retracted that statement as overreaching and unhelpful. To have it used against him in the panel’s report is unconscionable and heightens the overall impression that no effort was made really to extend to Dr. Leithart the courtesy of dealing fairly with his words.

Or, take another illustration. Dr. Leithart’s statement, cited under C vi, that “justification and definitive sanctification are not merely simultaneous…” becomes in the panel’s evaluation a failure to distinguish between justification and sanctification, as if Dr. Leithart were speaking of sanctification in the customary sense of its definition in the Confession and Catechisms. Everyone knows that the distinction between definitive sanctification, a theologoumenon now widely embraced in our circles, and sanctification as a life-process of renovation in righteousness does not appear in the Standards and that definitive sanctification is a dimension of the biblical doctrine that is not clearly represented in their definitions. This failure to extend to a brother the ordinary courtesy of faithfully representing what he actually writes seriously undermines the credit of the panel’s report.

Or, once more, take the statement in the panel’s reasoning that “The Standards teach that faith is the proper response to the Gospel – not to baptism.” [C v] Not only is it an egregious misrepresentation to suggest that Dr. Leithart does not think that faith is the proper response to the Gospel, it is passing strange that a Reformed Christian would not think that faith is the proper response to one’s baptism. Am I not to believe that by baptism I have been enrolled in the church of God? Am I not to believe that being baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit I have a calling to fulfill? Am I not to believe that great and precious promises have been sealed to me in the sacrament and that is my privilege to base my life and hope upon them? Paul certainly seems to feel that faith is the proper response to one’s baptism (e.g. Romans 6:3-4). This kind of argument by false disjunction betrays a spirit and it is not a spirit we should commend. (more…)

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Happy birthday, Stonewall

“I hope to have the privilege of joining in prayer for peace at the time you name, and hope that all our Christian people will; but peace should not be the chief object of prayer in our country. It should aim more specially at imploring God’s forgiveness of our sins, and praying that He will make our people a holy people. If we are but His, all things shall work together for the good of our country, and no good thing will He withhold from it.”

Thomas J. Jackson, in a letter to his wife, 1862

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Happy birthday, general

“The truth is this: The march of Providence is so slow and our desires so impatient; the work of progress is so immense and our means of aiding it so feeble; the life of humanity is so long, that of the individual so brief, that we often see only the ebb of the advancing wave and are thus discouraged. It is history that teaches us to hope.”

— R. E. Lee, in a letter to a friend, 1870

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William Lind has gotten all giddy over Pope Benedict’s invitation, issued last October 20th to the Anglican church, to “come home to Rome” (in the latest edition of The American Conservative). Lind says, “[The Pope] invited [Anglicans] to move in—individuals, parishes, whole dioceses—while retaining their Anglican identity. They could keep their Book of Common Prayer, their liturgies, their priests—even married ones.”

Right . . . with one small proviso, “The Apostolic Constitution stipulates that Anglicans would have to accept ‘The Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church as the authoritative expression of the Catholic faith professed by members of the ordinariate.’” Ok, so that means that you can remain Anglican except you now have to believe in papal infallibility, transubstantiation, the doctrines of Mary’s immaculate conception, assumption, and perpetual virginity, praying to departed saints, etc., etc. — in other words, you are free to be Anglican so long as you give up the primary historic distinctives that have been at issue since the Reformation (and before). If you reject what Anglicans have always believed contrary to Rome, you can still be one. Got it?

Oh, and the Pope also reminded Anglican ministers that the Roman Church does not recognize the validity of Anglican Holy Orders. So, though this agreement will allow married Anglican clergy to come into the Roman Church, if they want to continue to minister to their congregations, they will have to be ordained again by the Roman Church after their “conversion” in order to do that. And in addition, they cannot be ordained as bishops.

Well, as Uncle Boudreaux says, “Dat’s a fine kettle of catfish.” When it’s all said and done, the Pope’s invitation amounts to nothing more than another call to become a member of the Roman Church. Nothing new here. There is no mention of a willingness to study the differences that have historically existed between the two communions. No willingness to submit the peculiar views of Rome to a fresh scriptural examination. No acknowledgment that Rome could possibly be “wrong” (shudder) in some of its dogma. Nothing that would open Rome up to any “reformation” at all. At bottom it’s merely an invitation to become a Romanist while pretending in your head (if you’re capable of that sort of trick) that you’re still an Anglican.

This is what Church unity looks like from the perspective of the Vatican. Church unity is easy, just become one of us! If the Baptists did this, it would be received with outrage and an uncontrollable case of the giggles. But Rome does it with a straight face and expects all the rest of us to take it seriously. And then, if we don’t, we’re portrayed as intractable, unyielding, and stubborn. Pretty neat trick, that.

The only appropriate response to the Pope’s “Apostolic Constitution” of last October (after making sure it is not a joke) is, “Please. Repent of your divisive sectarianism and come back to the Catholic Church. Really. You’ll be welcome — oh, and we promise not to make fun of your funny hat.”

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