Friday, December 31, 2004

ABC's People of the Year

ABC's Person of the Year--er, People of the Year--is/are bloggers. It feels good for me to finally win an award for something. I'd like to thank all my readers--both of you--and, of course, my family. It is truly an honor.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

What Is Covenant Theology?

If you're interested in learning about covenant theology, there's no better teacher than Ligon Duncan. On his church website, he's posting the transcriptions of twelve 2-hour seminary lectures he gave on covenant theology. He also has a summary on the covenants from a covenantal perspective.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004


Phil Steiger has some helpful thoughts drawn from our book Reclaiming the Center here and here.


I went to Barnes and Noble tonight--Christmas gift cash in hand--ready to buy Hugh's new book. It hadn't arrived yet. So instead I bought Michael Medved's new Right Turns: Unconventional Lessons from a Controversial Life. It looks to be an excellent read.

Here's the cover jacket copy:

Nationally syndicated talk-radio host and noted film critic Michael Medved has taken an extraordinary journey from liberal activist to outspoken conservative. Along the way he has earned millions of admirers—and more than his share of enemies—by advancing controversial, often counterintuitive arguments, including:

• Liberals love losing because it makes them feel virtuous
• America isn’t normal—it’s bizarrely blessed
• Hollywood has lost touch with America—and punishes people who point that out
• Conservatives are both happier and nicer than liberals
• Talk radio is a source of hope, not hatred
• Business isn’t exploitative—it’s heroic
• There is no such thing as “planned parenthood”
• A more Christian America is good for the Jews
• Do-it-yourself conservatism provides the only cure for save-the-world liberalism

In the candid, electrifying Right Turns, Medved chronicles the adventures that taught him these and many other lessons—the startling events that propelled him from Vietnam protest leader to optimistic promoter of American patriotism, from secularism to religion, from adventurous single guy to doting husband and father. In the process he skewers leftist orthodoxy, revealing why the Right is right and why his former colleagues on the Left remain hopelessly wrong on every cultural, political, and social issue.

Medved enters today’s ideological fray armed with experience as, among many other things, a campaign aide for radical Democrats, a minority recruiter for police departments, a Hollywood screenwriter, a Bobby Kennedy volunteer, a teacher at religious schools, a world-champion hitchhiker, an expert on bad movies, and a veteran TV host on PBS and a British network—who declines to own a TV himself.

Medved relishes the contradictions behind the high-profile controversies in which he’s played a leading role—as a prominent movie reviewer who attacked the film industry in a bestselling book, as an observant Jew whose radio show is a favorite with evangelical Christians, as a writer once designated the “Bard of the Baby Boomers” who now expresses contempt for his generation’s arrogant indulgence, and as a fearless battler who has sought advice from both Rush Limbaugh and Hillary Clinton and has given advice to both Mel Gibson and Barbra Streisand.

Right Turns displays the slashing argument and disarming wit that have made Medved’s radio program America’s number one show on politics and pop culture.

Is a Fetus Part of a Woman's Body?

Yesterday's Best of the Web Today expressed puzzlement about the difference between a "baby" and a "fetus." Andrew Coulson of The Ganteloupe wrote in to offer an answer:

When you write about abortion, it isn't clear whether you really fail to understand the abortion rights position, or you are simply feigning ignorance as a rhetorical device. If it's the former, I'd like to answer your question on the difference between a fetus and an infant.

Many supporters of abortion rights consider self-ownership to be the most elementary and inviolable right of all: We are all the owners of our own bodies. The difference between a fetus and an infant is that a fetus is a part of a pregnant woman's body whereas an infant is not. Libertarians do not want the very visible hand of government rooting around in women's uteruses, telling them what they can or can't do with any fetuses that happen to reside there. Any rights of a fetus are secondary because its existence is secondary to (and until late in the pregnancy, entirely dependent on) the woman in whose womb it is located.

The fact that abortion is a sad business is moot.

James Taranto responds, by arguing that "self-ownership" is an archaic concept, that human as property has been long discredited, and that no mothers speak of carrying a "fetus."

Here are four other arguments. Perhaps there are more--feel free to suggest some in the comments section below.

1. If a "fetus" is a "part" of a pregnant woman's body, then they would have a common genetic code, since a "part" of a body is defined by its having the same genetic code as other "parts" in the body. (For example, the lungs and legs and livers of Person X all have the same genetic code.) An unborn baby is a genetically distinct being; therefore it is not a part of its mother's body.

2. If a "fetus" is a "part" of a pregnant woman's body, then if the woman died, the part would die as well. (For example, lungs and legs and livers don't live on when a woman dies). But an unborn baby can survive the death of a mother--see Bobbi Jo Stinnett--therefore is it not a part of its mother's body.

3. If a "fetus" is a "part" of a preganant woman's body, then the woman would have four eyes, two hearts, four lungs, etc. And yes, if the "fetus" is a boy, then the mother would also have male sexual organs.

4. Why does Caulson think that a "fetus" is "part" of a pregnant woman's body? There's only two possible reasons I can think of: (a) because the "fetus" is inside the woman; (b) because the "fetus" is dependent on the woman for survival. But both are absurd criteria: (a') being in the hospital doesn't make me part of the hospital (in that sense that I'm am no longer an individual, distinct entity); and (b') being dependant upon a life-support machine does not make me a part of the life-support machine.


Update: On his blog Mr. Coulson writes: "I actually received an e-mail from a gentleman [I assume this is me--though I'm not sure--since I cc'd him on my note to James Taranto] asserting the latter point [that fetuses are not part of a woman's body]. Personally, I don't buy it. I don't imagine many pregnant women would either, whatever their views on abortion."

An interesting response. The fact that he personally doesn't buy it, of course, is no argument, just a restatement of his view. Perhaps more will be forthcoming. And the idea that many pregnant women, even prolife women, would say that fetuses are parts of their body just seems strange to me. I don't know of any prolife woman who would say that.

Anyway, I look forward to continued discussion on this issue.

For further thoughts on the differences--or lack thereof--betwen a "fetus" and an "infant," see my article on abortion published in World Magazine last year.

Charity Navigator is a very valuable site when deciding which charities to donate to (though it seems to be having server problems at present). An interesting find: they give World Relief only 2 stars, but a Christian program like "Food for the Hungry" 4 stars.

And here's some counsel from the Better Business Bureau on giving to charities after a disaster.

Bad Santa

Here's a wonderful slideshow of unhappy kids posing with Santa.

Numbers 7, 9, 15, and 29 are my favorites.

(HT: INDC Journal)

Tuesday, December 28, 2004


Be sure to read Joe Carter's very helpful review of Hugh Hewitt's new book (currently ranked #87 out of all books at Amazon). I'll be anxious to see what advice Hugh offers to churches with regard to blogging. It sounds like a must-read book.

World Vision

World Vision is a trusted Christian relief and development organization that is hard at work in the aftermath of the Tsunami tragedy. They've set up a special phone number for donations: 1-888-562-4453.

Due to the volume of traffic, their site has been slow. But you can make a donation to help the victims, or sponsor a child in Sri Lanka or India. Here's more on what World Vision is doing.

Also, hats off to for setting up an easy way to donate to the Red Cross. The money is pouring in. (HT: Instapundit)

Are All Sins Equal?

No, says J.I. Packer rightly.

Piper on Tsunami, Sovereignty, and Mercy

Here's an article by John Piper, which will be upon tomorrow at [Update; here it is.]

Tsunami, Sovereignty, and Mercy

“The waves of death encompassed me,

the torrents of destruction assailed me. . .

This God—his way is perfect”

(2 Samuel 22:5, 31).

After the loss of his ten children owing to a “natural disaster” (Job 1:19), Job said, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21). At the end of the book, the inspired writer confirms Job’s understanding of what happened. He says Job’s brothers and sisters “comforted him for all the evil that the Lord had brought upon him” (Job 42:11). This has several crucial implications for us as we think about the calamity in the Indian Ocean.

1. One is that Satan is not ultimate, God is. Satan had a hand in Job’s misery, but not the decisive hand. God gave Satan permission to afflict Job (Job 1:12; 2:10). But Job and the writer of this book treat God as the ultimate and decisive cause. When Satan afflicts Job with sores, Job says to his wife, “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” (Job 2:10), and the writer calls these satanic sores “the evil that the Lord had brought upon him” (Job 42:11). So Satan is real. Satan brings misery. But Satan is not ultimate or decisive. He is on a leash. He goes no farther than God decisively permits.

2. Another implication is that even if Satan caused the earthquake in the Indian Ocean the day after Christmas, he is not the decisive cause of 60,000+ deaths, God is. God claims power tsunamis in Job 38:8 when he asks Job rhetorically, “Who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb . . . and said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stayed’?” Psalm 89:8-9 says, “O Lord . . . you rule the raging of the sea; when its waves rise, you still them.” And Jesus himself has the same control today as he once did over the deadly threats of waves: “He . . . rebuked the wind and the raging waves, and they ceased, and there was a calm” (Luke 8:24). In other words, even if Satan caused the earthquake, God could have stopped the waves.

3. Another implication is that destructive calamities in this world mingle judgment and mercy. Their purposes are not simple. Job was a godly man and his miseries were not God’s punishment (Job 1:1, 8). Their design was purifying not punishment (Job 42:6). But we do not know the spiritual condition of Job’s children. Job was certainly concerned about them (Job 1:5). God may have taken their life in judgment. If that is true, then the same calamity proved in the end to be mercy for Job and judgment on his children. This is true of all calamities. They mingle judgment and mercy. They are both punishment and purification. Suffering, and even death, can be one or the other.

The clearest illustration of this is the death of Jesus. It was both judgment and mercy. It was judgment on Jesus because he bore our sins (not his own), and it was mercy toward us who trust him to bear our punishment (Galatians 3:13; 1 Peter 2:24) and be our righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21). Another example is the curse that lies on this fallen earth. Those who do not believe in Christ experience it as judgment, but believers experience it as, merciful, though painful, preparation for glory. “The creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope” (Romans 8:20). This is God’s subjection. This is why there are tsunamis.

Who suffers from this fallen world of natural disasters? All of us, Christians included: “Not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:23). For those who cast themselves on the mercy of Christ these afflictions are “preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:17). And when death comes, it is a door to paradise. But for those who do not treasure Christ, suffering and death are God’s judgment. “It is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (1 Peter 4:17).

For children, who are too young to process mentally the revelation of God in nature or Scripture, death is not the final word of judgment. God’s commitment to display his justice publicly means that he does not finally condemn sinful people who could not physically construe natural or special revelation (Romans 1:20). There is a difference between suppressing revelation that one can mentally comprehend (Romans 1:18), and not having a brain sufficient to comprehend it at all. Therefore, when small children suffer and die, we may not assume they are being punished or judged. No matter how horrible the suffering or death, God can turn it for their greater good.

4. The heart that Christ gives to his people feels compassion for those who suffer, no matter what their faith. When the Bible says, “Weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15), it does not add, “unless God caused the weeping.” Job’s comforters would have done better to weep with Job than talk so much. That does not change when we discover that Job’s suffering was ultimately from God. No, it is right to weep with those who suffer. Pain is pain, no matter who causes it. We are all sinners. Empathy flows not from the causes of pain, but the company of pain. And we are all in it together.

5. Finally, Christ calls us to show mercy to those who suffer, even if they do not deserve it. That is the meaning of mercy—undeserved help. “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you” (Luke 6:27). Therefore, pray earnestly for Scott Purser and his team as they investigate the best way that the Global Diaconate can mercifully respond with the love of Christ to the calamity around the Indian Ocean.

In the merciful hands of Almighty God,

Pastor John

Instapundit on Hugh Hewitt's "BLOG"

Here's Glenn Reynolds take on Hugh Hewitt's new book:

I FINISHED HUGH HEWITT'S NEW BOOK ON BLOGS LAST NIGHT, and I definitely recommend it to anyone who's interested in blogs, new media, or public relations.

There's a history of blogs, an analogy between the changes blogs are bringing to the media priesthood and the Reformation (with which I heartily agree) and -- most significantly -- a lot of good advice to businesses, of both the media and non-media varieties, on how they can use blogs to help themselves, and how to avoid becoming, like Trent Lott or Dan Rather, the focus of a damaging "opinion storm." He also catches on (actually, I think Hugh was one of the first to make this point, in a post on his blog) to the importance of what Chris Anderson is calling the Long Tail -- that in the aggregate, the vast hordes of small blogs with a few dozen readers are more important than the small number of big blogs with hundreds of thousands of readers. (Here's an article on that topic by Anderson, from Wired.) I think that's absolutely right, and Hugh has some interesting things to say about it. (And journalists mostly don't get this point at all -- every time I get interviewed it seems that they want firsts, mosts, and biggests, when I keep telling them that the real story of the blogosphere is the day-to-day interaction and writing of a whole lot of blogs).

Cutting to the chase (which is what blogs do, right?): This is the best book on blogs yet, which isn't surprising since it's by a successful blogger who also knows a lot about communications and the world in general. I'm sure it will get a lot of attention within the blogosphere, but I hope that it will get a lot of attention elsewhere, because the people who really need to read it are the people who won't find out about it from blogs. Best quote: "Blogs are built on speed and trust, and the MSM is very slow and very distrusted."

PoMo Xtns

Douglas Wilson and Joe Carter are both discussing postmodernism, the church, and objective truth.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Some Wise Words at the End of the Year

We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven. We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us!

It behooves us then, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.

--Abraham Lincoln, Proclamation Appointing a National Fast Day, March 30, 1863

"Abraham Lincoln Online, Speeches and Writings," taken from The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, edited by Roy P. Basler.

John Sanders and Huntington College

CT has a new article on open-theist John Sanders and why he will not be returning to teach next year at Huntington College
(hat tip: ABC)

Harry Reid

A while back I wrote on this blog about Harry Reid--the new Senate Minority Leader--and his pro-life stance. But Fred Barnes isn't so sure about Reid's pro-life credentials.

Another Amusing Video

Of a DUI Stop. (Hat tip: the Spotted Owl)

Big Guy Lip-Syncing Romanian Song

[This post has been removed. The video was okay, but the website it was hosted on was not. I apologize for the post. --JT]

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Rumsfeld's Head Should Roll Over This...

Rumsfeld Failed to Lick Stamps on GI Death Letters

(2004-12-20) -- Forensic DNA testing has revealed that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld did not personally lick postage stamps on letters to families of troops killed in Iraq.

"We're still looking for a positive DNA match on the stamp saliva," said an aide to Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-NE. "We've asked to swab the cheeks of dozens of Pentagon office staffers."

This new evidence of Mr. Rumsfeld's psychological detachment from the war in Iraq follows his admission that letters he wrote to families of soldiers and Marines included a facsimile of his signature, rather than a unique one done with his own hand each time.

Mr. Hagel could not be reached for comment, the aide said, because "the senator is busy handwriting a news release on the topic."

Should We Speak of God's "Unconditional Love"?

I recently bought the DVD (for only $7.50 at Target!) of the movie Rudy, which, as Michael Medved has said, is “without a doubt one of the finest sports movies ever made.” The first thing I did was watch an interview with the real Rudy Ruettiger. The real Rudy basically has one message: you can do whatever you want to do or be whomever you want to be—just follow your dreams. (And hey, now he’s making $17K a speech with that message, so perhaps I shouldn’t knock it!). But to be honest, while a great story, Rudy’s interview was pretty sappy. And I hate to break it to him, but his life motto just isn’t true. Joe Carter puts it well in today’s Evangelical Outpost:

Admittedly, it’s a well-intentioned fib, meant to encourage the young and prevent them from placing unnecessary limitations on themselves. The problem, though, is that it often works too well. Children, who lack experience of their own, tend to trust adults about what possibilities are open in the world. But ambition and hard work cannot always compensate for a lack of ability or aptitude. As much as I may dream of being a doctor or NFL linebacker, the fact that I am 5’10”, 170 lbs, and faint at the sight of blood, prevents me from pursuing those occupations. Recognizing these limitations, though, can help us discover our natural talents. By realizing that not every pathway is open to us, we are able to find our true “calling.”

Amen. But this got me to thinking about another common saying: “God’s love for you is unconditional.” Like the “you can be anything you want to be” saying, most of us say this without giving it much thought. But if it’s not true, and is misleading, then the implications are far worse than telling a student who gets C’s throughout all of his schooling that he can grow up to be President of the United States. (Okay, bad example.)

About 10 years ago, one of my favorite authors—David Powlison—wrote about this question of “unconditional love” in the Journal of Biblical Counseling, vol. XII, no. 3 (Spring 1994): 45-48. The article has since been revised into a booklet, called God’s Love, which you can purchase for $1.

Powlison suggests that people who use the term often have good intentions, wanting to affirm four interrelated truths:

  1. “Conditional love” is bad—unconditional is shorthand for the opposite of manipulation, demand, judgmentalism.
  2. God’s love is patient—unconditional is shorthand for hanging on for the long haul, rather than bailing out when the going gets rough.
  3. True love is God’s gift—unconditional is shorthand for unearned blessings, rather than legalism
  4. God receives you just as you are: sinful, suffering, confused—unconditional is shorthand for God’s invitation to rough, dirty, broken people

These are true—and previous. But Powlison offers several responses. (I can only summarize and paraphrase here—buy the booklet to see the arguments in full.)

First, Powlison suggests that “there are more biblical and vivid ways to capture each of the four truths just stated.” “People currently employ a somewhat vague, abstract word—unconditional—when the Bible gives us more vivid and specific words, metaphors, and stories.”

Second, it’s not true that unmerited grace is strictly unconditional. Jesus Christ opened a way for us to experience the biblical love of God by fulfilling two conditions: a life of perfect obedience to the moral will of God, and a perfect substitutionary death on our behalf. Powlison writes: “Unconditional love? No, something much better. People who now use the word unconditional often communicate an acceptance neutered of this detailed, Christ-specific truth.”

Third, God’s love is more than conditional, for it is intended to change those who receive it. “Unconditional” often connotes “you’re okay.” But there is something wrong with you. The word “unconditional” may well express the welcome of God, but it does not well express the point of his welcome.

Fourth, “unconditional love” carries a load of cultural baggage, wedded to words like “tolerance, acceptance, affirmation, benign, okay,” and a philosophy that says love should not impose values, expectations, or beliefs on another. In fact, humanist psychology even has a term for it: “unconditional positive regard” (Carl Rogers).

Here is Powlison again:


We can do better. Saying “God’s love is unconditional love” is a bit like saying “The sun’s light at high noon is a flashlight in a blackout.” Come again? A dim bulb sustains certain analogies to the sun. Unconditional love does sustain certain analogies to God’s love. But why not start with the blazing sun rather than the flashlight? When you look closely, God’s love is very different from “unconditional positive regard,” the seedbed of contemporary notions of unconditional love. God does not accept me just as I am; He loves me despite how I am; He loves me just as Jesus is; He loves me enough to devote my life to renewing me in the image of Jesus. This love is much, much, much better than unconditional! Perhaps we could call it “contraconditional” love. Contrary to the conditions for knowing God’s blessing, He has blessed me because His Son fulfilled the conditions. Contrary to my due, He loves me. And now I can begin to change, not to earn love but because of love.

…You need something better than unconditional love. You need the crown of thorns. You need the touch of life to the dead son of the widow of Nain. You need the promise to the repentant thief. You need to know, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” You need forgiveness. You need a Vinedresser, a Shepherd, a Father, a Savior. You need to become like the one who loves you. You need the better love of Jesus.

Amen. Let us drop the language of “unconditional love” from our vocabularies and embrace the more radical and biblical and conversation-starting language of “contraconditional love”! And let us especially celebrate it during this Christmas, as we ponder the fact that He came to live and die on behalf of those who deserve none of his love.

From Fetus to Baby...

Rich Lowry of National Review has a good article today on the "Bundle of Linguistic Confusion" surrounding the murder of Bobbie Jo Stinnett and her "unborn child" / "baby" / "fetus."


Here's a good summary of why Social Security should be privatized, by Radley Balko of

For example, let’s say you’re a 25 year-old female. You’ve been working full-time since 1998, and you currently make $45,000 per year. Under the current system, if Social Security remains solvent, you could expect to get about $1,950 per month when you retire.

Let’s say now that you are free to invest under a 10% plan. You invest in an even mix of stocks and bonds, with a modest return of 3% on bonds, and 5% on stocks.

Even with these low-ball projections, your monthly retirement income would jump from $1,950, to $3,215. What’s more, you’d have $466,000 in your retirement fund to do with as you please. You could bequeath it to family in your will. You could take a trip to the Seychelles. You could get front-row seats for the Stones, who undoubtedly will still be touring. Under the current system, you’d get $1,950 per month. But no money to leave to the grandkids. No Seychelles. No Rolling Stones.

Privatization would also benefit the poor. It would enable retirees to bequeath the wealth they’ve made by working and investing, thereby helping younger generations escape the cycle of poverty. And since only the first $85,000 of income is subject to Social Security taxes, a privatization program would disproportionately benefit the lower and middle classes. In short, private accounts would go along way toward addressing the growing gap between rich and poor.

Privatization would also benefit African-Americans, who have a lower life expectancy than the general population. Thirty-seven percent of black men fail to reach age 65. Under a private system, if a man should die before retirement, the Social Security he’s paid all of his life — and the yield it’s been collecting — could be passed on to his family. It wouldn’t be returned to the general fund, as it is today.

Women too would prosper. A recent Harvard study looked at 1,992 women who retired in 1981. Every woman in the study would have benefited from a private system similar to the one outlined above. Not one woman would have been worse off. On average, single women would have received 58 percent more than the current system allows, married women over 200 percent more.

Private accounts would benefit everyone, but the young, the poor and women, especially. So how can we bring this about? How can twenty and thirty-somethings roll back sixty years of Social Security bureaucracy?

Step one is to get interested. Step two is to get educated.

Take notice of what’s taken from each paycheck. Digest it. Allow yourself to get a little agitated by it. Consider for a moment how that money might multiply if you could invest it in a 401K, or in non-government bonds. Washington D.C.’s Cato Institute (for whom I work) has an online calculator ( that will crunch the numbers for you.

Talk up Social Security to friends and neighbors. The system is by design an intimidating labyrinth of numbers and percentages and bureau-speak. Consequently, the only people who take the time to learn the issue are those with a pressing interest — retirees and those soon to be retired. Private accounts don’t interest them much. They’re ready to get paid. Younger people have more to gain. But we need to get informed.

The options present a stark contrast in outcomes: a public system that may not survive another thirty years — and will offer only minimal benefits if it does — or a private system that is destined to build wealth, contribute to the economy, and allow for assets to be passed on to future generations.

It’s time to get interested.

Social Security Tax

Imagine this scenario:

You work a full-time job, starting at the age of 18.
You pay the mandatory social security tax on everything that you earn.
You plan to retire at age 65.
You get hit by a truck and die at age 64.

Does your family get your money--the money you earned and were forced to pay to the government? Nope. The government gets to keep it.

So now the question--and I'm not asking it merely rhetorically--can anyone in their right mind not regard this as an act of stealing by the government?

Monday, December 20, 2004

Racial Preferences and the Law Schools

A while back I posted on Richard Sander's major new study showing that racial preferences in law school admissions are counterproductive. If you're interested, over at, guest blogger Reihan Salam is responding to a critic of it. He makes a number of thoughtful points.

You Tell 'Em, 41!

(Hat tip: INDC Journal)

From Time's Man of the Year press release and the current issue:

“Michael Moore’s got to be the worst for me,” former President George H.W. Bush tells TIME’s Hugh Sidey when asked about the low point of this last term. “I mean, he’s such a slimeball and so atrocious. But I love the fact now that the Democrats are not embracing him as theirs anymore. He might not get invited to sit in Jimmy Carter’s box (at the Democratic Convention) again. I wanted to get up my nerve to ask Jimmy Carter at the Clinton thing (the opening of Bill Clinton’s library), ‘How did it feel being there with that marvelous friend of yours, Michael Moore?’ and I didn’t dare do it.”

Abortion and the Sex War

With all of the awards for blogs out there, I'm surprised I haven't won one yet--for "blog with the least amount of user comments!" Oh well!

Here's a question you can weigh in on. Will we ever reach the point as a culture where abortion is put into the same category as slavery--a widespread practice that is later seen to be a horrific, embarrassing evil? Two good friends have suggested such in recent days. I certainly hope this will be the case, but I have my doubts. The reason I doubt it is because the abortion-rights movement is so closely tied to the sexual revolution. Sex is the effective religion of our culture, isn't it?

Kreeft, in How to Win the Culture War, writes: "we cannot win the culture war unless we win the sex war, because sex is the effective religion of our culture, and religion is the strongest force in the world, the strongest motivation there is."

"...It is no accident that our culture's deepest and most shocking moral defeat is abortion. Nothing less than a false religion could so overcome the natural moral law and nature's deep instinct of motherhood. Aboriton is a religious issue not just because traditional religions happen to oppose it but because abortion is necessarily about sex. ...A woman (or more usually, the man!) wants abortion only because she wants to have sex without babies."

"So in order to fully persuade the people in our society that abortion is not an option, that babies are holy and not to be treated as toys to be thrown away at will, we must achieve a much harder task: we must persuade them that sex is holy and not to be treated as a toy. For sex is the context of abortion...." (pp. 95-96).



I've really been enjoying Frederica Mathewes-Green's movie reviews over at National Review. Her review today is on the new film, Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events. I've read the first book and part of the second book in the series, and have enjoyed them. But it sounds like the movie isn't nearly as good.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Hugh's New Book

The full title of Hugh Hewitt's new book will be, Blog: Understanding the Information Reformation That's Changing Your World--Why You Must Know How the Blogosphere Is Smashing the Old Media Monopoly and Giving the Individual Power in the Marketplace of Ideas. (With a title this long, I wonder if Hugh has been reading the Puritans lately?!)

Here's the publisher description:

"Blog" is short for "Web log"—an online site with time-dated postings, maintained by one or more posters, that features links and commentary. But that is like saying a car is a means of transportation featuring four wheels. Millions are changing their habits when it comes to information acquisition, and the blogosphere has appeared so suddenly as to surprise even the most sophisticated of analysts. In Blog, best-selling author Hugh Hewitt helps you catch up with and get ahead of this phenomenon.

Up until now no influential blogger has written a definitive book about this phenomenon. Since Hugh Hewitt's blog site—HughHewitt—was launched in early 2002, more than 10 million people have visited this site. Why does this visitor traffic matter? People’s attentions are up for grabs. If you depend upon the steady trust of others, suddenly you have an audience waiting to hear from you. The race is underway, though, to gain mindspace and to be part of the blogosphere readers’ habits and to position yourself as well as your business or organization at the forefront of this information movement.

I encourage everyone to order it now and to learn from it in early 2005!

Blog of the Year

Congratulations to the guys at Powerline. This has been quite a year for them. Earlier this year they won the poll for "Best Overall Blog" at Wizbang's 2004 Weblog Award. But now the MSM is recognizing them as well. Time Magazine, in their Person of the Year issue, has named them Blog of the Year. (President Bush is their Person of the Year. Rick Warren also gets a nod in the issue as one of the "people who mattered.") But back to the Powerline guys. They were the ones who drove the Rathergate story, and they write one of the smarts blogs in the blogosphere. I'm sure that they will be a significant focus of Hugh Hewitt's forthcoming book, Blog: Understanding the Information Reformation That's Changing Your World.

Colson's Law

I've found Peter Kreeft's discussion of "Colson's Law" very illuminating. Here's his description and explanation (quoting from his book How to Win the Culture War). It can take a little while for the paradigm to "click," but I think it's worth the effort. Anything in brackets is from me, the rest is straight from Kreeft:

[Colson's Law] could also be called the Law of Four C's: community, chaos, conscience and cops. It can be remembered best visually, like the square of opposition in logic:

[You can ignore the brackets for now, but they'll help once you see Kreeft's explanation.]

[Defensive Army]

[Good / Outer Shield] Cops--------|--------Conscience [Good / Inner Shield]

[Offensive Army]

Community and chaos are "vertica"l opposites of good versus evil, while cops and conscience are "horitzontal" of two goods.

Community and chaos are inherently opposed forces, like battling armies.

Cops and conscience are the two possible weapons or strategies of the defensive army (community) against the offensive army (chaos).

Both pairs of opposites are inversely proportionate, but the "vertical" opposites are necessarily opposed (chaos and community destroy each other), while the horizontal are not. In fact, cops and conscience are often complementary.

But the need for each one decreases as the supply of the other one increases: the more conscience a community has, the few cops it needs; and the more cops it has, the less conscience it needs to rely on....

...Community integrates; chaos disintergrates. Community is coinherence; chaos is incoherence. Community is construction; chaos is deconstruction....

...Social bodies as well as individual bodes [sic] need shields. Like the body physical, the body politic has two shields against chaos: the outer shielf is "positive law," that is, human law, which is enforced physically by cops.

The inner shield is "natural law," moral law not made by man but discovered, which is enforced spiritually by conscience.

The inner shield is made of freedom; the outer shield is made of force. The inner shield is love--love of the good. The outer shield is fear--the fear of punishment. And love is free, while fear is unfree.

Colson's Law dictates that a community with few "inner cops" needs more "outer cops." America's Founding Fathers saw this and repudiated an unfree state based primarily on "outer cops." They explicitly said that the free democracy they were designing was designed only for a moral people. The foundation stones for a democracy are conscience.

But the paradox of democracy is that it is founded on the premise of strong moral consciences yet tends to produce weak ones by its very permissiveness. Its maximization of freedom (that is, freedom from cops) depends on its willing submission to conscience, yet this freedom from cops tempts us to free ourselves from conscience too. And then, paradoxically, this excess of external, physical freedom requires more cops to starve off internal, spiritual chaos (which erupts into external public chaos sooner of later). Thus we get more cops and less freedom. For the two kinds of freedom--from conscience and from cops--are also inversely proportionate. The more of either one you have, the less you need the other. (Think this through!)

Colson's Law states that the only alternatives to conscience are cops of chaos. If the inner shield [natural law / love of the good /freedom] is lowered, the outer shield [human law / the fear of punishment / force] must be raised to prevent chaos. Therefore, a democracy that loses its conscience will necessarily become totalitarian.

The point should be obvious, but it sounds shocking to most Americans. And that fact itself is shocking.

The idea of America becoming totalitarian will seem absurd to most Americans, but that is because they forget that there is what de Tocqueville called a "soft totalitarianism" as well as a "hard totalitarianism," a Brave New World as well as a 1984. The dictatorship of what Rousseau called "the general will," that is, popoular opinion, can be just as totalitarian as that of any king or tyrant, and much harder to topple, especially when manipulated by a powerful and ideologically united media. For the media are more powerful than then military; the pen is indeed mightier than the sword.

The cops in a "soft totatitarianism" wield pens rather than swords--for example, speech codes that see "hate speech," "right-wing extremism" and "homophobia" in more places than meieval inquisitors saw devils and witches....

Colson's Law predicts that a community's longevity is proportionate to its morality. And to its religion, for no society has yet existed that has successfully built its knowledge of morality on any basis other than religion....

From Peter Kreeft, How to Win the Culture War: A Christian Plan for a Society in Crisis (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 2002), pp. 46-54.

Doug Wilson

Doug Wilson is not known for his nuance! Here's his take on our book, Reclaiming the Center:

No Matter How Thin You Slice It, It's Still Baloney
Topic: Book Review

I am working my way through a new book, and I cannot wait until I am done before recommending it. Entitled Reclaiming the Center, this book does a number on all the postmodern hooey that is afflicting contemporary evangelical types. The subtitle is "Confronting Evangelical Accommodation in Postmodern Times." The hooey is decked out in different ways, as with the absurd moniker postconservative, and the contributors to this volume promise to give this nonsense the thrashing it deserves. Of course, from what I have read thus far, it appears they will deliver said thrashing in a courteous, gentlemanly way.

For myself, I could stand to see a good deal more fur fly. What are we to make of postmodern evangelical accommodationists? My tentative judgment is that this is a movement that is straight from the Pit of Hell, old Slewfoot himself is the chief philosopher involved, and all the adherents of this movement, head for head, are all headed straight for the Bad Place. Of course, this initial assessment may need to be nuanced somewhat.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Friedman Summarizes

Milton Friedman, the 92-year-old Nobel economist, is one of those rare individuals--like, e.g., Thomas Sowell--who is able to say more in one column than most people can say in a multi-volume book, and can say it clearly, manifesting massive common sense. In this column for The Australian, he summarizes the intellectual opinion and practice of the US in the last six decades concerning the desirable role of government. Here's his summary:

To summarise: After World War II, opinion was socialist while practice was free market; currently, opinion is free market while practice is heavily socialist. We have largely won the battle of ideas; we have succeeded in stalling the progress of socialism, but we have not succeeded in reversing its course. We are still far from bringing practice into conformity with opinion. That is the overriding non-defence task for the second Bush term.

(Hat tip: Instapundit)

Friday, December 17, 2004

Three Cheers for Neal Hawks and the Mavs

(Hat tip: MT)

Wounded GIs get front-row Mavs tickets


DALLAS -- About 140 U.S. soldiers wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan will get a courtside view of the action at a Dallas Mavericks game Saturday night, thanks to season-ticket holders who offered their seats in a show of gratitude.

"It's a small way for me to show some appreciation for what they've done for us," ticket holder Jim Leslie said. "I still don't think it's enough."

The soldiers from Brooke Army Medical Center near San Antonio will fly to Dallas - on a chartered jet donated by American Airlines - to see the Mavericks play the Atlanta Hawks. They will be treated to free food and drink and have their pictures taken with Mavericks players, dancers and team officials.

Team owner Mark Cuban said in an e-mail: "This is a chance for these servicemen and women to feel the admiration and respect of 20,000 people, reinforcing for them that we as a nation feel grateful for what they have done for us."

Season-ticket holder Neal Hawks began offering seats to soldiers last season. This year, he approached other season-ticket holders and got 133 tickets worth roughly $150,000, all in the front row.

"Virtually everyone said I could have their tickets," Hawks said. "I even had a couple season-ticket holders who had already given their tickets away go and get them back."

Cpl. J.R. Martinez, 21, attended a game last season while recovering from severe burns he suffered when his Humvee hit a land mine in Iraq. He said many of the wounded soldiers are "probably in the depression stage."

"For them to go and be able to feel that energy, it's definitely going to help their morale," he said.

Quote of the Day

From Blaise Pascal:

When everything is moving at once, nothing appears to be moving, as on board ship. When everyone is moving towards depravity, no one seems to be moving, but if someone stops, he shows up the others who are rushing on by acting as a fixed point.

Pascal, Pensees, ed. Alban Krailsheimer (New York: Penguin, 1966), 699/382, p. 247

"He Is Altogether Lovely"

My friend Eric Schumacher has written a Christmas hymn entitled "He Is Altogether Lovely." It was written to be sung to the tune Hyfrydol ("Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus"), and is based upon Jonathan Edwards' 1736 sermon "The Excellency of Christ," the subject of which was: "There is an admirable conjunction of diverse excellencies in Jesus Christ," such as:
  • Lion and Lamb
  • infinite highness and low condescension
  • infinite justice and infinite grace
  • infinite glory and lowest humility
  • infinite majesty and transcendent meekness
  • equality to God and deepest reverence to God
  • infinite worthiness of good and greatest patience in suffering
  • supreme dominion over heaven and earth and a spirit of obedience
  • absolute sovereignty and perfect resignation
  • self-sufficiency and entire trust and dependence upon God
  • Judge and Savior
Eric's hymn was written to be sung to the tune Hyfrydol ("Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus"). Enjoy.

He Is Altogether Lovely

He is altogether lovely,
Jesus Christ, the Risen Lord.
We delight to see His glory
As unfolded in His Word.
In one person are conjoining
Attributes diverse and grand.
The eternal God and Maker,
In the flesh and form of man.

High, we see the Lion of Judah
Coming in His might to reign.
Low, we see Him condescending
As the Lamb who would be slain.
Perfect justice, endless glory,
And unrivaled majesty
Meet transcendent grace and meekness,
Perfect in humility.

One and equal with the Father,
Absolute in sov'reignty,
He resigns in full submission;
Deepest rev'rence bends His knee.
He, whose is supreme dominion,
Does obey His Father's will.
He, the self-sufficient fountain,
Trusts in God His needs to fill.

He is worthy of all honor.
He is worthy of all praise.
Yet with patience in His suff'rings,
No complaint do His lips raise.
He, our Judge, the Lion of Judah,
Is our Savior and God's Lamb.
He is altogether lovely,
Jesus Christ, the great I AM!

Text: Eric Schumacher
Tune: HYFRYDOL,, Rowland H. Prichard (1811-1887)

(c) 2004, Eric Schumacher. Permission granted to reproduce for temporary use in worship services. All other duplication requires the permission of the author.