Thursday, December 28, 2006

2006: Year in Review

My purpose in blogging is two-fold:

1) To practice writing on various and sundry things
2) To proclaim the Gospel’s impact in all things

To that end this year in review will cover religious issues. Some are unique events and others are part of growing or interesting trends. Obviously, given my conservative, Calvinistic, Presbyterian background, some of them will be narrow issues indeed.

I chose religion because where the church goes so goes the culture…and the politics…and the laws….you get the idea.

The church leaders and members need to keep an eye on churchly trends—at home and abroad.

1. Brian McLaren on the Homosexual Question

Brian who…? He is one of the leaders of the emerging church. He tries to tip-toe around the homosexual issue with church visitors. If this is part of being "emerging church" I don't want it!

2. Growth of High-Church practice

The growth is primarily through church movements into Anglicanism. However, in the Reformed churches it is through emphasis on liturgy and the Lord's Supper (hint: weekly Communion).

3. Rocky Mountain (Tainted) Spring Water

Haggard. & then a co-worker. Then Barnes….they all drank from the same fount.

And they all came out of the closet. Terrible. Sad.

4. Christian Leader Is Doctrinally Liberal

More amazing than point 3 (everyone sins) is the doctrinal heresies that lie behind it. Remember, Haggard was the leader of a large Christian group (NEA), yet he believed in sinless perfectionism. (30:15 into the interview). And he defined "Evangelicalism" as ranging from Benny Hinn to R. C Sproul! (4 minutes into the interview). But then most Christians don't take doctrine seriously...

5. The Pope & Islam
Well, you get the picture….

6. Presbyterianism in Action

R. C Sproul Jr., son of the famous Sproul, was deposed (defrocked) for abuse of authority, illegal tax number and practice of paedocommunion. Deposition is not embarrassing for Presbyterians. Rather it shows we take discipline seriously. And discipline is to bring men to repentance. It did. Sproul and his fellow ruling elders repented. Sadly, they left their denomination and joined Wilson's group (CREC) because of their ongoing belief in paedocommunion.

7. Does It Matter How Many Americans Are Christian?

The Barna Group identifies about 40% of them as “born again” (loosely defined I might add) and 9% as "Evangelical" (more serious about the bible, etc.). So, where is the Christian impact on society….?
On the other hand,
Al Mohler (president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) insists “this is a nation whose citizens are overwhelmingly Christian.” Thus, we are not a Christian nation, but a nation of Christians.
I must say, I am not sure what definition of “Christian” he is using….

8. All in the Family

Although starting a few years ago, the “family-integrated church” ideology has been gaining momentum. It is primarily homeschool centered & is not explicitly Reformed. I actually visited their conference. Many good things were said. Other questionable things were said as well. It is against any age-differentiation (ie. Sunday School, youth camp, etc.), yet properly wants children in public worship. There has been no public dialogue (for instance amongst neighboring pastors), just a public confession signed by churches (from Fundy, Arminians Baptists to OPC churches) rejecting such things as unbiblical. I am not sure what long-term impact this will have on families and inter-church relations.

9. Calvinism Is Chic

Christianity Today did a front-cover story on the rise of Calvinism in Evangelical circles (especially the Southern Baptist Convention). Now, Calvinism is certainly something to center a movement upon!

10. Federal Vision Blurred in OPC

The Orthodox Presbyterian Church General Assembly’s study committee finished its report. The importance is not that the battle is done, but that it is rather just begun. The OPC drew a line in the sand. The churches and presbyteries should now begin the discussion in earnest. The issue of justification is no little thing. Such deviancy within the Reformed faith must be brought to the forefront of our churches and discussions amongst our leadership must be maintained. Other things have importance (see number 8) but pale in comparison to the Gospel—that truth which holds all others together.

This year in review is obviously narrow. Nevertheless, I hope it was informative. And it was information that moved you to reflection, encouragement or action.

Either way, keep the faith, watch your theological environment and follow Christ.


Thursday, December 21, 2006


Whiteness everywhere.

Claustrophobia clawing at my heels.

Flurries & horizontal snow threaten to engulf me...

Well, it wasn't that bad, but I was getting worried when I saw a tractor rebuffed by the snow-mass accumulated in front of the house.

Its wheels spun freely in the waist-high snow.
It backed away and never came back.

"Surely," I mused to myself, "we are abandoned."

Next, a Ford truck plowed up the street. No dice.

I eventually worked up the courage to shovel the massive snow drift hiding my driveway, even though the streets were still impassable. It seemed pointless since the street was still not cleared. But it had to get done eventually, so why not now?

Meanwhile, I took a few breaks to preserve my back. And I whipped out the ol' camera. Is not God's creation wonderful?



Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Surviving the Blizzard of '06

I survived the blizzard of '82.

And the blizzard of '97, & '03.

Now the Blizzard of '06.

Well, I certainly hope to survive it; it ain't finished yet!

Waking up groggy-eyed at 6:15 AM, we hit the snooze....

6:35 quickly rolled around and we crawled out of bed. It was too warm inside and too cold outside. But we persevered--we had to get to Bible Study. Because of various and sundry house repairs, we had missed the Study and the fellowship.

Leaving slightly before 7, we were encouraged because, although the wind blew through our winter coats, the snow was light. Driving down the highway to Village Inn would have been easily accomplished since the roads were not iced up and retained little snow.

But I knew in my heart of hearts it would not be easy. I could blame all the out-of-state-drivers, but frankly, it was plain caution that kept the traffic to a crawl. We would not beat the 7:30 deadline. It was 7:50 when we stomped into the restaurant on that cold morning.

Coming home (after stopping by the store--a non-too-prudent move...) we encountered, yup, more snow. Entering the loop to our neighborhood, we slowly rested the car as two other vehicles blocked the path. My normal modus operandi is to develop sufficient speed to ram through small snow drifts. Not this morning though. I helped one of the cars out. But I had to back into the main street and turn into the outgoing path in the loop to avoid the very drifts that captured the other cars.

I was home free. Slowly ascending the hill to our house, I retained my calm death-grip on the wheel while instructing my wife to remotely open the garage door so as to allow room for my planned acceleration through more snow.

The best laid plans of mice and men...

I bottomed out in the snow with the tires spinning most freely. I would have thought I discovered the frictionless wheel. Wearily climbing out of the car (really, the snow drift was over 18 inches), I grabbed the shovel and got to it.

I managed to pry the car out of the snow...

I am now warm and snug in our home writing wistfully of my time in past blizzards. I see the snow moving horizontally outside my window as the newscasters predict snow levels greater than the last 40 years.

But that's OK, just as long as I can buy my t-shirt: "I survived the blizzard of '06"


Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Dr. Seuss the Calvinist

After watching The Grinch Who Stole Christmas for
the umpteenth time, an idea spawned in my mind. At first it was subtle, but it grew full-blown during the catchy tune that maligned Mr. Grinch:

You're a monster, Mr. Grinch.
Your heart's an empty hole.
Your brain is full of spiders,
You've got garlic in your soul. Mr. Grinch.

It was staring me in the face: Dr. Seuss was a Calvinist. I mean the ol’ run-of-the-mill, down-in-the-mouth, pessimistic Cal-vin-ist. Who could write such black and bleak lyrics besides Calvin himself?

You're a rotter, Mr. Grinch.
You're the king of sinful sots.
Your heart's a dead tomato splot
With moldy purple spots, Mr. Grinch.

Wow. Have any of the viewers noticed how depraved Dr. Seuss paints Mr. Grinch? Such words would easily drain the most populace meetings of Joel Osteen! What church listener could stomach such a description of mankind?

Your soul is an appalling dump heap
overflowing with the most disgraceful assortment
of deplorable rubbish imaginable,
Mangled up in tangled up knots.

Any well-read Christian would certainly applaud such a description as in line with such well-known passages as Jeremiah 17:9: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” Or more famously Romans 3:10ff.: “Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips.”

It appears that we have some good literature for clandestine evangelism.

But it is not to be.

Too many Christians take persons, book, & quotes out of context. This is such a case. Obviously, Dr. Seuss is not a Calvinist. In fact, this poem is illuminating. What is offensive about Mister Grinch is not any act done in rebellion to God; it is what he has done against mankind:

You're a mean one, Mr. Grinch.
You really are a heel.
You're as cuddly as a cactus,
You're as charming as an eel. Mr. Grinch.

Charm and cuddliness are not necessarily fruits of the Spirit. However, in the movie they reflect those essential elements of civil religion, a kinder, gentler secularism. Be nice to your neighbor; love everyone; demand nothing; be generous with other people’s tax money. These are the fruits of the Christmas Spirit.

Already in the 1950s Christmas was being neutered. Since the churches in America as a whole were theologically effeminate, proclaiming a Santa Claus god to their parishioners, it was inevitable that such a view of the birth of Christ would arise.

Too often Americans forget that those who shape ideas shape culture. Many attended church back then and many do so today. But what are they hearing? What are they tithing their hard earned money towards? It is certainly not to hear bleak pronouncements about mankind—unless it is in line with Dr. Seuss.

If one were to describe mankind in moral terms akin to the poem on, say, a radio talk show, the ratings would bottom out. Listening to the likes of Hannity, Hewitt and Medved impressing the mind with fuzzy good feelings of a commonality rooted in a vanilla Christianity offends no one except the Left (and only because its from the Right).

The Grinch Who Stole Christmas stole the hearts of millions of Americans. It taught them that Christ was irrelevant and humans can spontaneously regenerate themselves unto goodness.

There is no Gospel offense in Christmas anymore—unless it someone who is acting like a Grinch.


Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Bumping Into Bloggers

I providentially bumped into another Reformed blogger (a rare bird). And not just any Reformed blogger, a conservative Reformed blogger! I've added him on the side: Wheat & Chaff.

Perhaps over time enough of us out West could create an aggregate. I've always wanted and aggregate :-)


Saturday, December 09, 2006

Prager's Mostly Right: Vows & Values

The national talk-show host, Dennis Prager, contends that the newly elected Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) should not be allowed to swear into office upon the Koran “because the act undermines American civilization.”

To let this pass without a fight is to “embolden Islamic extremists” whose sole goal is the “Islamicization of America.”

He concludes the thought-provoking essay with a bang:

“When all elected officials take their oaths of office with their hands on the very same book, they all affirm that some unifying value system underlies American civilization.

If Keith Ellison is allowed to change that, he will be doing more damage to the unity of America and to the value system that has formed this country than the terrorists of 9-11.”

I sometimes listen to his radio show. And I sometimes appreciate his comments. And this article is most heart-warming insofar as he summarizes the truth: taking such an oath is an affirmation of the unifying value system of America. I wish more people, even Christians, understood that fact.

In fact, the seriousness of oaths has been the hallmark of Christianity and even included in the Puritan Confession of Faith:

“Whosoever taketh an oath ought duly to consider the weightiness of so solemn an act, and therein to avouch nothing but what he is fully persuaded is the truth:[7] neither may any man bind himself by oath to anything but what is good and just, and what he believeth so to be, and what he is able and resolved to perform.” [WCF 22:3, 7. Proof Texts: Exod. 20:7; Lev. 19:12; Jer. 4:2; Hosea 10:4 8. Gen. 24:2-9; Neh 5:12-13; Eccl. 5:2, 5 ]

Thus, many of the early State constitutions only allowed avowed Protestants as civil officials. For only a Protestant could take an oath upon the Bible in good conscience. (In contrast, Prager has no problem commending Jews and others to take an oath upon the Bible. For him, it is a sign of supporting the “value system of America”—that Judeao-Christian values system. I find that rather strange to put it mildly.)

In spite of that, I still find his position commendable. For the fact of the matter is that America was mainly founded upon explicit Christian values (and Calvinism in particular); and voting into office men who publicly and avowedly uphold a foreign value-system (a world-view) is to undermine the intellectual, historical, religious, cultural, societal and political system of America. One element that makes treason so serious for most countries in the world is its attack upon the heart of the country's political & cultural system.

Each and every human political, cultural, societal—indeed, any human endeavor—is built upon certain presuppositions. And the Triune God was such a presupposition—an irreducibly complex & epistemologically necessary Person & Truth without which this essay would be meaningless gobbledygook.

More to the point: oaths require a higher authority to enforce them. If there is no higher authority in modern America than the polled masses or the leaders and judges—all fallible & sinful humans—then one man’s opinion is as valid as the next. Only those with the most power will be able to enforce their oaths. The will-to-power becomes all. In Ellison’s case, that higher authority is allah; hence, his consistent insistence upon vowing before the Koran. That book represents his world-view (Weltanschauung). His set of presuppositions.

This is a watershed moment.

But in another sense, it is only a outward manifestation of a century-long decline in America’s original Christian worldview.

In other words, Prager is a day late and a dollar short.
With the liberalization of the mainline churches reaching a critical point in the 1930s (in both the Presbyterian and Baptists churches), the leavening dimension of the churches was severely hampered (the parallel rise of fundamentalistic Dispensationalism did not help much either). With the downplay of the centrality of the Bible as a God-breathed document relevant for God’s people and all their activities in life, the church weakened collectively until outright denial of the Bible and the Bible’s God was the mainstay of many churches. In short, any and all worldviews were becoming increasingly acceptable.

This decline erupted in the open wickedness of the 60s. And it is mutating quickly. The fact that Americans voted for an avowed Muslim simply demonstrates this devolution. It also contributes to the problem as well. But historically, it is not the root cause of our modern malaise. En masse denial of an absolute standard as found in the Bible is the root cause of our difficulties. Prager is absolutely right that “When all elected officials take their oaths of office with their hands on the very same book, they all affirm that some unifying value system underlies American civilization.”

Unfortunately, there currently is no consistently widespread “unifying value system.” Christianity is the closest. Yet one man’s Christianity is another man’s heresy. That word and idea are so diluted and stretched to non-recognition that even the Clintons can lay claim to the word.

Vowing upon the Bible will not remedy this spiritual problem.
Many of our leaders break these vows and do not hold to America’s traditional unifying values. In fact, church leaders break their vows. And many do not hold to America’s traditional unifying values. Those values are not some vague Judeao-Christian ethic (ala Prager), but the unique worldview Gospel of classical Protestantism. How many would willingly submit to colonial Puritan doctrine? The only way America can revert to the days of yore is through a Spirit-wrought revival through churches with faithful Gospel preaching, for “it is the power of God unto salvation.”

We are in a cultural war. The homosexuals are enlarging their closets. The atheists are pounding the war-drums. And the schools are fulfilling their pagan mandates. Now the Muslims are infiltrating the government (see White Horse Inn interview with Muslim lawyer expert about the Muslim doctrine of lying). It appears that America is surrounded by enemies within and without.

To such men as Prager, it may indeed seem that all is coming to an end. But we Christians should know better. God’s kingdom is not America. It is greater than America. And the most visible form is Christ’s Bride, the Church. The gates of hell shall not stand against her.

This culture war is only the outward manifestation of a spiritual war.
The wicked only hate “America” insofar as she reflects the Gospel. Their real hatred is aimed at Christ. And the real battle is in the hearts and minds of the churches throughout this land. And the weapon that will win the day is the Sword of the Spirit, the church’s faithful proclamation of the Gospel to a dying world.


Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Something Bad; Something Good

This magazine was introduced to me by my father-in-law. I like it. It is a reader digest of several news and entertainment sources summed up into pithy paragraphs quoting one source of against another. Conservative, Liberal and in-between writers are all here.

The Week (Dec. 8, 2006):

French soccer fans riot after Israel beat them. 100 white French fans chased a Jewish soccer supporter. A black police officer confronted them. They turned on the officer, yelling epitaphs and making monkey noises.

France's enlightened socialism has certainly come a long way in race relations.

In Ambrus, Slovenia, the villagers blocked a returning gypsy family. The police intervened but eventually gave up. The Gypsies (who prefer to be called Roma) are under more persecution in Europe. One mayor in the Czech Republic evicted 100 Gypsies, declaring that he was "cleaning an ulcer."

Of course, we have our problems in America. And that racism is found in another enlightened socialistic-inclined country: Hollywood. Michael Richards, Mel Gibson & even Ted Danson.

On the brighter side: 69% of American polled believe that "spanking children is sometimes necessary." (Scripps Howard Service/Ohio University)

We won't have to worry about the steroid-crazy chess players anymore. The World Chess Federation requires its players to undergo drug screening. (p.4)

"Good communication is as stimulating as black coffee, and just as hard to sleep after."
Anne Morrow Lindbergh (p.17)