Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Bibliography on Natural Law

I've done some posts recently on natural law. For those who might be interested in exploring this topic further, I'm posting this bibliography, adapted from J. Budziszewski, Natural Law for Lawyers. Posted by permission of author. I've added Amazon.com links where possible.

A Very Brief Bibliography on Natural Law

J. Budziszewski
Professor of Government and Philosophy
University of Texas at Austin

The Locus Classicus:
  • Aquinas, Thomas, Treatise on Law (same as Summa Theologica, I-II, Questions 90-97) and other works. Beware: The Treatise on Law was never meant to be read by itself, but only in the context of the rest of the Summa.

The Best Book on Natural Law in the Twentieth Century:

The Man Who Ejected Natural Law from Twentieth-Century American Legal
  • Oliver Wendell Holmes, "Natural Law." Harvard Law Review, Vol. 62 (1918).

The Post-World War II Neo-Thomist Revival:

Is Natural Law Based on a Naturalist Fallacy? Pro and Con:

Three Contemporary Anthologies::

The "New Natural Law Theory" of Grisez and Finnis, Pro and Con:

Three Older Evaluations of Natural Law:

The Present Outpouring of Work on Natural Law (very selective):

Another Bibliography on Natural Law:
From the Acton Institute, <http://www.acton.org/research/reading/natural_law.html>

The Purpose of Moral Education

"Moral education serves at least five purposes.

It reinforces what we know
, because the mere fact that we know something is wrong is not enough to keep us from doing it.

It elicits what we know
, because we know many things without knowing that we know them.

It guards what we know,
because although deep conscience cannot err, surface conscience can err in all too many ways.

It builds upon what we know
, because only the most general and basic matters of right and wrong are known to us immediately, and second knowledge must be added to first.

Finally, it confronts us about what we know, because sometimes we need to be told 'You know better.'"

J. Budziszewski, What We Can't Not Know: A Guide, pp. 114-115 [my emphasis and formatting]

John Kerry

If I were a political operative for the Democrats I'd make it a top priority to keep John Kerry away from a microphone. Because this is what happens.

Here is a response by Bush Basher in Chief, Andrew Sullivan: "What Kerry said he must apologize for. Sooner rather than later. He may not have meant it the way it came out. That doesn't matter. It's wrong to talk about the military that way - wrong morally, empirically and ethically. And the way he said it can be construed as a patronizing snub to the men and women whose lives are on the line. It's also dumb politically not to kill this off in one news cycle. Is Kerry not content to lose just one election? Does his enormous ego have to insist on losing two?"

Update: Kerry finally apologizes, which he should have done in the first place and which should now put the issue to rest:

As a combat veteran, I want to make it clear to anyone in uniform and to their loved ones: my poorly stated joke at a rally was not about, and never intended to refer to any troop.

I sincerely regret that my words were misinterpreted to wrongly imply anything negative about those in uniform, and I personally apologize to any service member, family member, or American who was offended.

It is clear the Republican Party would rather talk about anything but their failed security policy. I don't want my verbal slip to be a diversion from the real issues. I will continue to fight for a change of course to provide real security for our country, and a winning strategy for our troops.

Update: The troops weigh in.

Reformation Day Symposium

Tim Challies posts his Reformation Day Symposium.

Is There a Culture War?

Is There a Culture War? A Dialogue on Values And American Public Life (Paperback), by James Davison Hunter and Alan Wolfe.

Book Description

Red and Blue states . . . the "Religious Right" and the "Liberal Media" . . . NASCAR dads and soccer moms . . . Is America clearly and bitterly divided? Are today's social and political differences truly worrisome, or the unavoidable products of a diverse democracy? In Is There a Culture War? two leading authorities on political culture lead a provocative examination of division and unity within America.

Long before most pundits and analysts considered the notion of a "culture war," James Davison Hunter and Alan Wolfe were laying the groundwork for the debate. Now, for the first time, these two important thinkers join in dialogue to search for the truth about America's cultural condition. Two other brilliant voices enter the forum, commenting on Hunter's and Wolfe's views--historian Gertrude Himmelfarb and Morris Fiorina, author of Culture War? The Myth of a Polarized America.

About the Author
James Davison Hunter is the William R. Kenan Professor of Sociology and Religious Studies at the University of Virginia, where he is also executive director of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture. Among his several books is The Death of Character: On Moral Education of America's Children (Basic Books, 2000).

Alan Wolfe is a professor of political science at Boston College, where he directs the Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life. He is the author of numberous books, most recently Return to Greatness: How America Lost Its Sense of Purpose and What It Needs to Do to Recover It (Princeton, 2005).

Voice @ Bethlehem

Here's a YouTube video of Curtis Allen rapping "Unstoppable" at Bethlehem Baptist Church.


Kelly Kapic and I will be the guests today (Tues., Oct. 31) on the daily talk radio show, Calling for Truth, hosted by Paul Dean and Kevin Boling at 1 PM (eastern). We'll be talking about John Owen and the new work, Overcoming Sin and Temptation.

If you want to listen online or listen later to the archived version, click listen online. Those in update South Carolina can tune in to Christiantalk 660. The call-in number is 1-888-660-WLFJ(9535).

Speaking of Owen and our work on him, Desiring God has now posted John Piper's foreword to our volume as an article on their site.

Also, today's the last day to request a review copy (email: blogbookreviews@gmail.com). Some have asked what the deadline is for posting the review. There isn't a hard-and-fast deadline, but I'll plan to highlight in a blog post whatever has been received by Dec. 1. Thanks!

Monday, October 30, 2006

Quentin Schultze at TEDS

Those in Chicagoland may be interested in this blog entry from Keith Plummer:

Those in the vicinity of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School may be interested in this. Dr.Quentin Schultze, Professor of CommunicationArts and Sciences at Calvin College and author of Habits of the High-Tech Heart (which I've referred to here and here) and High-Tech Worship?, will be speaking this Wednesday, November 1, on Trinity's campus. The lecture is part of the Carl F. H. Henry Center for Theological Understanding "Scripture and Ministry Lecture Series." Dr. Schultze's topic will be "Beyond the Digital Rat Race: Using Technology Wisely in Our Lives, Work, and Churches." Here's the description provided by the Center:
All of us are burdened with desires and demands to expand our technical abilities and to push for greater use of information and communication technologies in our daily lives. Yet the temptations to overuse and misuse technologies are evident all around us. How can we equip ourselves, our families, and our congregations to use email, PowerPoint, cell phones, instant messaging, personal Web sites, and other technologies appropriately?
The seminar is free, open to the public, and requires no registration. See the above link for more details. If you're anywhere in the area and can fit this into your schedule, I urge you to attend.

Audio archives and/or notes from past Henry Center seminars and conferences are available here.

C.J. Mahaney: As You've Never Seen Him Before

I can say with confidence that these words have never before been written about C.J. Mahaney:

"He appeared . . . in sartorial splendor."

You can read the rest of Al Mohler's reflections on C.J.'s time at Southern.

What Is the Emerging Church?

That's the title of a paper Scot McKnight delivered at Westminster Theological Seminary. I encourage you to read it, not because I agree with everything Scot says, but because I think it's helpful to read firsthand self-analysis from within the camp itself.

Race Problems

Michael O'Brien, an undergrad at the University of Michigan and the executive editor of the Michigan Review, has turned in a brave and perceptive editorial in National Review on the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative (MCRI), which will be voted on in the coming election. If passed, MCRI would ban affirmative action in college admissions and state hiring.

My school, like many other colleges and universities, has a serious problem with race. But the problem is hardly racism and systematic exclusion of minorities from access to higher education. If nothing else, schools have been overzealous to the point of unconstitutionality in their efforts to boost minority enrollment at all costs.

This has resulted in a crude disequilibrium in which all minority and obscure causes on campus are embraced to prove the school’s diversity bona fides, while anything associated with a campus majority is met with inertia on the part of the university.

The University of Michigan has let its institutional obsession with race and affirmative action distort and detract from its central purpose of providing its students with a truly meaningful education. Professors and administrators prod students at all times — from bulletin board postings to course themes — to see things in black-and-white, as it were. Most students could easily attest to the increased feeling of suspicion and borderline hostility on the basis of race that is encouraged by the University of Michigan’s policies. Race is the salient issue in classes from Sociology to Biology, and the insinuation (if not outright claim) by some that those who wish to cease this poisonous environment are outright racists is ever-present.

The University of Michigan desperately needs the opportunity to have the dense fog of politicized “diversity” lifted. A true dialogue about race may then finally take place, without the entire weight of a major university bearing down against those who wish to challenge its official assumptions. An atmosphere that labels opposing viewpoints as racist does not foster a truly “diverse” student body.

The Closest Thing to Spending an Hour with the President

Political commentator Michael Barone (US News & World Reports):

This afternoon I had the privilege of being one of eight columnists interviewing George W. Bush in the Oval Office. The others were Tony Blankley of the Washington Times, Daniel Henninger of the Wall Street Journal, Charles Krauthammer of the Washington Post, Lawrence Kudlow of CNBC, Kathleen Parker of the Orlando Sentinel, Mark Steyn of the Chicago Sun-Times, and Byron York of National Review–all conservatives of various stripes. Like many others who have been with Bush in the Oval Office, I have found him to be much more articulate and forceful in that setting than he often is in press conferences or in taking questions from traveling reporters. The interview was on the record, so we are posting MP3 audio recordings of the whole hour. I think you'll find it compelling listening. It's the closest thing many people will get to spending an hour or so in the Oval Office with the 43rd president. We've also posted the full text transcript.

Partial-Birth Abortion

USA Today has a frontpage story this morning about partial-birth abortion.

Jack Chick and Halloween

Just reading between the lines here, but I don't think Joe Carter likes the idea of giving out Jack Chick tracts for Halloween. Excerpt:

I think it's safe to say that if the Lord hates Halloween then he must despise Chick tracts. When a well-intentioned but overzealous Christian gives these "comics" to a child it must be, as Chick would say, a "slap in the face." If you are the type of person who does this on Halloween I only have one word to say to you: repent.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Obama Should Run, Lose, and Win by Losing

Charles Krauthammer on Barack Obama.

" Now that every columnist in the country has given him advice, here’s mine: He should run in ’08. He will lose in ’08."

"The reasons for running are clear."

(1) "At a time of ideological weariness, he has the persona: an affecting personal history, fine intelligence, remarkable articulateness, and refreshing charm." (2) "This is a uniquely open race." (3) "The country hungers for a black president."

"These are strong reasons for Obama to run. Nonetheless, he will not win. The reason is 9/11. The country will simply not elect a novice in wartime."

"Obama should be thinking ahead as well — using ’08 to cure his problem of inexperience. Run for the Democratic nomination and lose. He only has to do reasonably well in the primaries to become such a compelling national figure as to be invited onto the ticket as vice presidential nominee. If John Edwards, the runner-up in ’04 did well enough to be made running mate, a moderately successful Obama would be the natural choice for ’08.

Then, if the Democrats win, he will have all the foreign-policy credentials he needs for life. Even if the ticket loses, assuming he acquits himself reasonably well, he immediately becomes the presumptive front-runner in the next presidential cycle. And if by some miracle he hits the lottery and wins in ’08, well, then it is win-win-win.

He’s a young man with a future. But the future recedes. He needs to run now. And lose. And win by losing."

"Sugercoated Youth Ministry"

Time Magazine on the changing face of youth ministry:

Youth ministers have been on a long and frustrating quest of their own over the past two decades or so. Believing that a message wrapped in pop-culture packaging was the way to attract teens to their flocks, pastors watered down the religious content and boosted the entertainment. But in recent years churches have begun offering their young people a style of religious instruction grounded in Bible study and teachings about the doctrines of their denomination. Their conversion has been sparked by the recognition that sugarcoated Christianity, popular in the 1980s and early '90s, has caused growing numbers of kids to turn away not just from attending youth-fellowship activities but also from practicing their faith at all.

Covenant Life Church is cited as an example.

Update: Al Mohler comments:

Now, that is an astounding approach -- maybe these kids are hungry for biblical substance and something more than entertainment and pizza. Well, they probably still want the pizza, but they don't want to waste their time in useless and superficial youth programs. After all, they are swimming upstream against an adolescent culture. In many cases, they are more seriously-minded than their parents. They have to be, because the stakes are higher.

I am constantly asked a fascinating question by parents: Why are my children more conservative than I? The answer is complex, but when it comes to today's youth and young adults, the fact is that they have had to think clearly about the genuine options available. They have had to make hard decisions about life, meaning, morality, truth, and significance.

The fact that TIME found this story interesting is a story in itself. Now, if only we could encourage these parents to be as serious as their teenagers -- and their pastors as serious as their youth ministers.

Reformed Praise

Reformed Praise
is a site well worth bookmarking. Here's the description:

Reformed Praise is a music ministry dedicated to bringing together the rich tradition of hymnody, especially from the reformers or those directly influenced by them, with the modern worship song movement. Sound like a bad idea? Please see our articles page for links to articles about reformed theology, worship, styles of music, and many other topics by various respected theologians and pastors pertaining to this issue.

We truly believe that an incredible wealth of worship music is being "lost" amidst a sea of often over-simplified contemporary praise choruses. Our worship songs should be full of biblical, rich, and powerful truth, truth that is all too often absent from modern worship songs. Hymns have long been a rich source of deep lyrics, but many traditional tunes used to sing these hymns hinder rather than help believers feel what they are singing. The modern worship styles (and there are many) offer a new arena to make these hymn texts come alive to new generations. When these classic and biblical texts are wed to contemporary tunes, the result is a truly powerful worship experience that enables God's truth to settle deep in our hearts and minds.

They currently have 84 original songs, 1 hymn text, and 5 hymn arrangements.

That Duke Rape Case

Does anyone else out there find it appalling and astonishing that the aggressive DA in the case has still not talked to the alleged victim about what happened that night??

The district attorney prosecuting three Duke lacrosse players accused of raping a woman at a team party said during a court hearing Friday that he still hasn't interviewed the accuser about the facts of the case.

"I've had conversations with (the accuser) about how she's doing. I've had conversations with (the accuser) about her seeing her kids," Mike Nifong said. "I haven't talked with her about the facts of that night. ... We're not at that stage yet."

Nifong made the statement in response to a defense request for any statements the woman has made about the case.

"I understand the answer may not be the answer they want but it's the true answer. That's all I can give them," the prosecutor said after the hourlong hearing.

Defense lawyers said outside court that they found Nifong's statement surprising.

"One of the most interesting things to me of course is Mr. Nifong did admit that he in fact has basically never talked to this woman and has absolutely no idea what her story is, and yet he has chosen to continue to go forward with this case," defense lawyer Joseph Cheshire said.

Nifong said none of his assistants have discussed the case with the woman either and only have spoken with her to monitor her well-being. They have left the investigation of the case to police, he said.

For more on the case, see the extensive reporting done by 60 Minutes. Those who care about justice should have some pretty grave concerns about this case.

Wise Words for Moms

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Wise Words for Moms

Many parents today focus only on the outward behavior of their children. They have developed the philosophy that if they can get their children to "act" right that they are raising them the right way. There is far more to parenting than getting children to "act" right. We have to get them to "think" right and to be motivated out of a love of virtue rather than a fear of punishment. We do this by training them in righteousness. And righteous training can only come from the Word of God. Wise Words for Moms is a user friendly, quick reference chart that will aid moms in reproving their children biblically and training them in righteousness.

"Wise Words for Moms is an answer to one of the most frequently asked questions, 'How can I find the passages of Scripture that will enable me to address heart issues?' Ginger Plowman has identified themes of response we find in our children and located passages of Scripture that will help address heart issues in richly biblical ways. This book will encourage your study of Scripture and application of God's Truth to your correction, discipline, and motivation of your kids." - Tedd Tripp, Pastor and author of Shepherding a Child's Heart

Wise Words for Moms will help mothers to bend young twigs into strong and faithful trees!" - R. Albert Mohler, Jr., President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

Wise Words for Moms is available for $3.99

To order, go here and scroll down to it.

"The Christian Community is Largely a Performance-based Culture"

Jerry Bridges on Gospel-Driven Sanctification:

Still worse, I assumed that God's acceptance of me and his blessing in my life depended on how well I did. I knew I was saved by grace through faith in Christ apart from any works. I had assurance of my salvation and expected to go to heaven when I died. But in my daily life, I thought God's blessing depended on the practice of certain spiritual disciplines, such as having a daily quiet time and not knowingly committing any sin. I did not think this out but just unconsciously assumed it, given the Christian culture in which I lived. Yet it determined my attitude toward the Christian life.

My story is not unusual. Evangelicals commonly think today that the gospel is only for unbelievers. Once we're inside the kingdom's door, we need the gospel only in order to share it with those who are still outside. Now, as believers, we need to hear the message of discipleship. We need to learn how to live the Christian life and be challenged to go do it. That's what I believed and practiced in my life and ministry for some time. It is what most Christians seem to believe. As I see it, the Christian community is largely a performance-based culture today. And the more deeply committed we are to following Jesus, the more deeply ingrained the performance mindset is. We think we earn God's blessing or forfeit it by how well we live the Christian life.

HT: Matt Perman

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Sanctified Scrubbing

Fred Sanders, associate professor of theology in the Torrey Honors Institute at Biola University, has discovered a way to redeem the time while washing dishes.

Friday, October 27, 2006


C. J. Mahaney spoke in the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary this past week.

"Grace and the Adventure of Leadership" (1 Cor. 1:1-9)
Play MP3 | Download

"Leadership in the Local Church"
Play MP3 | Download

"Cravings and Conflicts" (James 4:1-2)
Play MP3 | Download

CCEL Reloaded

"The Christian Classics Ethereal Library is a digital library of hundreds of classic Christian books selected for edification and education. The online www.ccel.org server reaches several million different users each year."

I see that they've now redesigned their site to make it more attractive, functional, and easier to use. Check it out, and thank God for their incredible efforts to serve the church in this way.

The Natural Law and the Reformation

What is "natural law"? Stephen Grabill explains:

The “nature” referred to in natural law can mean different things, but I mean by it the divinely engrafted knowledge of morality in human reason and conscience, that which all human beings share by virtue of their creation in God’s image. Theologically speaking, I think this understanding of nature points back to our original creation in God’s image, but it also anticipates the fall into sin, where the divine image was corrupted but not destroyed.

“Law,” too, can vary in meaning, but we have used it here as shorthand for the universal moral law written into the human heart by God. Law as a representation of God’s will can be known through a variety of means such as the Ten Commandments, the Torah, the Sermon on the Mount, the pangs of conscience, or the rational intuition of good and evil. When “nature” and “law” are understood in these ways, the claim that natural law is a forgotten legacy of the Reformation is certainly an understatement.

Natural law holds great promise as a bridge to connect the Christian faith to culture, although from the fuller perspective of God’s revelation in Jesus Christ, natural law has limited but significant value. . . . When natural law is understood properly, only so much should be expected from it as a source of revelation. God does not save the world through natural law, nor does he reconcile the world through the pursuit of justice; but he does provide a public record of his eternal power and divinity through the law written on the heart.

To explore this important subject further, see Gabrill's blog (Uncommon Truths), especially his series on why Protestants don't like natural law.

It seems to me that a neglected aspect of the natural law debates concern the relationship between Reformational theology and the natural law tradition. Some Reformation historians, like John T. McNeill (the editor of Calvin’s Institutes) sees a strong line of continuity:
There is no real discontinuity between the teaching of the Reformers and that of their predecessors with respect to natural law. Not one of the leaders of the Reformation assails the principle. Instead, with the possible exception of Zwingli, they all on occasion express a quite ungrudging respect for the moral law naturally implanted in the human heart and seek to inculcate this attitude in their readers. Natural law is not one of the issues on which they bring the Scholastics under criticism. With safeguards of their primary doctrines but without conscious resistance on their part, natural law enters into the framework of their thought and is an assumption of their political and social teaching. . . . The assumption of some contemporary theologians that natural law has no place in the company of Reformation theology cannot be allowed to govern historical inquiry or to lead us to ignore, minimize, or evacuate of reality, the positive utterances on natural law scattered through the works of the Reformers. . . . For the Reformers, as for the Fathers, canonists, and Scholastics, natural law stood affirmed on the pages of Scripture. "Natural Law in the Teaching of the Reformers," Journal of Religion 26 (1946), p. 168.
For more on this connection, see Gabrill's book, Rediscovering the Natural Law in Reformed Theological Ethics, as well as Westminster Seminary's David Vandrunen's A Biblical Case for Natural Law (75 pp.) I have not yet read either book, though I plan to do so soon!

Blog Winsomely

Melinda Penner offers some good counsel on how to blog winsomely.


The Chronicle of Higher Education examines the pros and cons of Wikipedia.com, the open-source online encyclopedia.

Powlison on the Dove Beauty Campaign Video

I received the following reflections on this video by David Powlison, which I'm posting with his permission:

Along the way, it's a great example of the close co-operation and simultaneous interworking between common grace and noetic sin, isn't it. On the one hand, very insightful, well-intended, blowing the cover on cultural idols/ideals, with an instinct that shows traces of a recognition of God's creation . . . and yet, on the other hand, it is fundamentally misguided in its self-referential self-affirming "salvation," in its frank suppression of that Creator, in its denial of the active and fallen human heart that willingly embraces lies. If only the counseling field could see that this is exactly what the secular psychologies are like!: simultaneously so insightful and so off-base. I think that the resolution of the "counseling wars" will come as God's people come to see and get a working feel for how noetic sin and common grace simultaneously operate. It's an intellectual skill -- a wisdom -- that's much to be desired for the blessing of the church in knowing how to engage contemporary culture. Thinking with this mindset is the reason, for example, that Calvin can be both so affirming and so withering when he comments on the Greek philosophers.

It does seem to me, that "fundies" only see the contradiction between secularity and faith. They lose the point of contact, in that both believer and unbeliever share the same "ontological situation," having "all things in common ontologically," as Van Til put it. So all the "stuff" of psychology is in common, and faithfulness to God in our times calls for careful practical theological reflection in formulating the Faith's psychology in a more fine-grained way. They don't see how much of life still needs a biblical interpretation, and that there’s not a proof text for every phenomenon.

But integrationists, while seeing something of the contradiction, chiefly see the insightfulness of secular observers. The lose the ability to make a pointed call for unbelievers to an intellectual as well as personal metanoia [i.e., repentance]. They lose sight of the comprehensive "ethical situation," that unbeliever and believer inhabit radically different worlds presuppositionally. They never see the comprehensiveness of the biblical worldview, so, while they screen out some secularities (common examples: homosexual advocacy, easy divorce), they swallow as "truth" things that simply aren’t true (common examples: Maslovian need theory, personal history determinism, biological determinism). Thus, they are equally unable to formulate the Faith's psychology, because they have no standpoint for comprehensive reinterpretation.

Neither thinks about worldview very consistently. Would it be fair to say, as a generalization, that fundies are epistemologically clumsy, while integrationists are epistemologically naive? And the net effect, in both cases, is powerlessness both intellectually and pastorally. Souls aren't deeply understood; and souls aren't deeply cured.

Guest Review of "With One Voice"

I recently received a review copy of Alex Chediak's book, With One Voice: Singleness, Marriage, and Dating to the Glory of God, published by Christian Focus.

I decided to ask my friend and colleague, Lydia Brownback, if she would be willing to pen a guest review for me. Lydia is the author of Legacy of Faith: From Women of the Bible to Women of Today, and Fine China Is for Single Women Too.

I thought it would be helpful to hear the response of a single woman on these issues, rather than to hear my thoughts as a married guy. I'm thankful for Lydia's insightful thoughts below.

Here is her review:

Is there a “right” way to approach Christian courtship and marriage? Recent debate in evangelical circles—much of it heated—reveals that a once simple path has become an intricate and confusing maze. What happened? Clearly we have latched onto some wrong ideas—worldly ideas—and in our attempt to widen the narrow way, we've gotten way off track. Our toleration of feminism and the accompanying loss of cultural masculinity have further obscured our approach. But since the culture has always been opposed to biblical principles, we cannot perpetually point a collective accusatory finger at the latest repackaging of rebellion.

So while it is only wise to recognize the influence culture has had on our compromised practice of Christianity, we do well to acknowledge that we, contemporary evangelicals, are the real core of the problem. When we allow feeling to replace thinking, when we orient ourselves to self-fulfillment, self-actualization, and every other self-centered ideology, when we blend secular psychology with biblical principles—what else can we expect but an erosion of biblical authority in all areas of life? Singleness, marriage, and spanning the gap between has certainly been altered by our culture, but only because we evangelicals have allowed it to do so.

As a result of all this, books advocating a variety of views on singleness, dating, and marriage have hit the Christian market with fresh fervor. With so many to choose from, how do we know the good from the bad? We may consider the experience of the author. Has he or she practiced what’s being preached for any duration? How about training? Has the author sat under the wisdom of experienced mentors? Such categories are helpful for evaluation, but the only criteria that really matters is this: is it biblical? A book with a strong scriptural foundation is not one in which the author has latched on to a passage or two to reinforce his or her views; rather, it is one in which the material presented is based on the Bible as a whole, i.e., one in which Scripture has been used to interpret Scripture.

With One Voice: Singleness, Dating, and Marriage to the Glory of God by Alex Chediak (Christian Focus Publications) is just such a book. Adding a balanced voice to the current debate, Chediak speaks pastorally—and biblically—to young men and women entering the contemporary landscape of courtship.

Chediak sets the stage for his advice with an insightful survey of recent social history and how it has impacted evangelical courtship practices. He explains that in previous decades men and women got to know one another in the company of family and friends. A man set his sights on marriage and wooed a fit companion. His goal was marriage, not amusement. Today men and women go out on dates centering around entertainment, which can easily obscure or displace long-term relational goals. The inevitable consequence of this practice is a skewed view of marriage as little more than a means for emotional fulfillment.

The result of our now insatiable quest for entertainment has led to a prolonged adolescence. Chediak writes:

The concept of a stage of adolescence for teenagers was developed in the early to mid 1900s; today we're seeing adolescence increasingly prolonged into the mid to late twenties or beyond. Sometimes this is referred to as the 'singles' culture. . . . The assumption is accepted that such a young adult phase of irresponsibility is normal. Never mind the fact that this demographic statistically did not exist prior to 1950.

Chediak astutely addresses another reason for the frenzied evangelical debate regarding courtship and marriage: "Numerous conservative Christian countercultures have arisen seeking to take us back in time to 'the good old days.'" Although the motivation is good, the means is wrong, because we cannot go back. "Say not, 'Why were the former days better than these?' For it is not from wisdom that you ask this" (Eccl. 7:10).

After detailing where and how evangelicals have gotten off track, Chediak seeks to challenge men and women of all ages caught in the drift. He asks young men, "Are you passive in your pursuit of a marriage partner?" He challenges single women, "Are you afraid to lose the security of singleness?" and with the precision of a laser beam he exposes this truth: "The longer we are single, the more settled we become. We know how to live single, and the thought of embarking on an intimate, committed relationship can really rock the boat, even if it is one of our deepest desires."

A chapter in the book titled, "The Normality of Marriage?" goes a long way toward centering current arguments on the topic of singleness. He describes how to discern the difference between godly, biblical contentment in a state of singleness and godly discontent that ought to be viewed as a call to marriage. This chapter is particularly helpful.

However, this chapter is also where I found the one point in the book that I believe doesn’t incorporate the whole of biblical teaching. In advising women on how to be marriageable, Chediak writes, "They can learn to be content with their wages and resist the lure of the corporate ladder." Such advice fails to take into account the wisdom of the Proverbs 31 woman, for example, who was shrewd in financial management. Single women must consider the possibility that they may never marry, and in so doing prepare financially for solitary elderly years with no children to care for them. Additionally, too many women today do not maximize their gifts and talents, fearing that doing so will scare off potential husbands. However, this is to make of marriage a higher priority than serving God with the best of what we can offer. I know very few single, Christian women—committed believers—who are climbing a corporate ladder for the sole purpose of ego gratification. Many of them are simply "redeeming the time" in the best way they know how.

One chapter in Chediak's book, "Choosing Wisely," presents a list of questions for men and women to ask when considering a potential mate. There is nothing new here; what we find are tried and true bits of biblical practicality: "If he isn’t sure what he wants to do with his life, if he takes an inordinately long time advancing your relationship, if all his free time is spent in front of the television, consider whether he is ready to lead you and your family." And "does she have a nurturing disposition or is she self-absorbed?

Chediak gives advice for developing a romantic relationship within the safeguards of biblical parameters. Even good things require wisdom when a relationship is in its infancy: "Please note that certain kinds of praying together, in private, can still breed excessive intimacy. A brief prayer of thanks before a meal or a prayer for the health of a cousin might be fine. But it is still too soon to be confessing sin together. . . . " Each person is trying to pursue God at this time, and prayer together tends to communicate that you are making decisions together—as a couple. But you aren’t; that's what engaged and married folk do."

Chediak ends the book with a chapter of hard-hitting FAQs, addressing topics such as pornography, homosexuality, and dating unbelievers. The end, like the beginning and almost everything in between, will be helpful to both men and women—young and old—seeking to reorient their approach to singleness, courtship, and marriage around the glory of God.

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Thursday, October 26, 2006

Derek Thomas in Siouxland

As a native of Sioux City, IA, I'm delighted to learn that Derek Thomas of Reformed Theological Seminary will be in Siouxland Oct 27 and 28 lecturing on Calvin. The event is free and open to the public. Information below for all those in the area:

Siouxland Reformation Conference - "The Reformation: Was it a Mistake?" is the topic of the 2006 Siouxland Reformation Conference, to be held at Dordt College, October 27 and 28. This conference is free and open to all who are interested in Biblical reformation in the church.

Dr. Derek W.H. Thomas will be the featured speaker at the conference. Thomas is a theology professor at Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, MS., a popular speaker, author/editor of 15 books, and the editorial director for The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals.

"Calvin: A Portrait" will be Thomas' topic on Friday, Oct. 27, 7 p.m., in S101. Following a brief break, he will speak at 8:10 p.m. on "Calvin and the Scriptures: Some Important Contributions."

On Saturday morning, lecture topics will be "Calvin and the Holy Spirit," at 9 a.m., "What would Luther and Calvin say about the New Perspective on Paul? The Continuing Debate on Justification." at 10:10 a.m.; and his final topic at 11:10 a.m. will be "Calvin and Prayer: The Real Heartbeat of the Reformation."

For more information about the conference or the Siouxland Reformation Society, email reformation@mtcnet.net or contact KDCR Radio.

Resources for NT Exegesis

Gordon-Conwell's Roy Ciampa has assembled a very nice collection of online resources for those studying the New Testament.

Curtis "Voice" Allen at BBC

Curtis Allen, whom I interviewed here on this blog, will be at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis this weekend. Marc Heinrich has the details if you're in the area and want to check it out.

Agassiz and the Fish

Samuel Scudder (1837-1911) was a famous entymologist, who once recounted his first experience of studying under the legendary Louis Agassiz (1807-1873), professor of natural history at Harvard from 1848-1873.

It was more than fifteen years ago that I entered the laboratory of Professor Agassiz, and told him I had enrolled my name in the scientific school as a student of natural history. He asked me a few questions about my object in coming, my antecedents generally, the mode in which I afterwards proposed to use the knowledge I might acquire, and finally, whether I wished to study any special branch. To the latter I replied that while I wished to be well grounded in all departments of zoology, I purposed to devote myself specially to insects.

"When do you wish to begin?" he asked.

"Now," I replied.

This seemed to please him, and with an energetic "Very well," he reached from a shelf a huge jar of specimens in yellow alcohol.

"Take this fish," he said, "and look at it; we call it a Haemulon; by and by I will ask what you have seen."

With that he left me, but in a moment returned with explicit instructions as to the care of the object entrusted to me.

"No man is fit to be a naturalist," said he, "who does not know how to take care of specimens."

I was to keep the fish before me in a tin tray, and occasionally moisten the surface with alcohol from the jar, always taking care to replace the stopper tightly. Those were not the days of ground glass stoppers, and elegantly shaped exhibition jars; all the old students will recall the huge, neckless glass bottles with their leaky, wax-besmeared corks, half-eaten by insects and begrimed with cellar dust. Entomology was a cleaner science than ichthyology, but the example of the professor who had unhesitatingly plunged to the bottom of the jar to produce the fish was infectious; and though this alcohol had "a very ancient and fish-like smell," I really dared not show any aversion within these sacred precincts, and treated the alcohol as though it were pure water. Still I was conscious of a passing feeling of disappointment, for gazing at a fish did not commend itself to an ardent entomologist. My friends at home, too, were annoyed, when they discovered that no amount of eau de cologne would drown the perfume which haunted me like a shadow.

In ten minutes I had seen all that could be seen in that fish, and started in search of the professor, who had, however, left the museum; and when I returned, after lingering over some of the odd animals stored in the upper apartment, my specimen was dry all over. I dashed the fluid over the fish as if to resuscitate it from a fainting-fit, and looked with anxiety for a return of a normal, sloppy appearance. This little excitement over, nothing was to be done but return to a steadfast gaze at my mute companion. Half an hour passed, an hour, another hour; the fish began to look loathsome. I turned it over and around; looked it in the face -- ghastly; from behind, beneath, above, sideways, at a three-quarters view -- just as ghastly. I was in despair; at an early hour, I concluded that lunch was necessary; so with infinite relief, the fish was carefully replaced in the jar, and for an hour I was free.

On my return, I learned that Professor Agassiz had been at the museum, but had gone and would not return for several hours. My fellow students were too busy to be disturbed by continued conversation. Slowly I drew forth that hideous fish, and with a feeling of desperation again looked at it. I might not use a magnifying glass; instruments of all kinds were interdicted. My two hands, my two eyes, and the fish; it seemed a most limited field. I pushed my fingers down its throat to see how sharp its teeth were. I began to count the scales in the different rows until I was convinced that that was nonsense. At last a happy thought struck me -- I would draw the fish; and now with surprise I began to discover new features in the creature. Just then the professor returned.

"That is right," said he, "a pencil is one of the best eyes. I am glad to notice, too, that you keep your specimen wet and your bottle corked."

With these encouraging words he added --

"Well, what is it like?"

He listened attentively to my brief rehearsal of the structure of parts whose names were still unknown to me; the fringed gill-arches and movable operculum; the pores of the head, fleshly lips, and lidless eyes; the lateral line, the spinous fin, and forked tail; the compressed and arched body. When I had finished, he waited as if expecting more, and then, with an air of disappointment:

"You have not looked very carefully; why," he continued, more earnestly, "you haven't seen one of the most conspicuous features of the animal, which is as plainly before your eyes as the fish itself. Look again; look again!" And he left me to my misery.

I was piqued; I was mortified. Still more of that wretched fish? But now I set myself to the task with a will, and discovered one new thing after another, until I saw how just the professor's criticism had been. The afternoon passed quickly, and when, towards its close, the professor inquired,

"Do you see it yet?"

"No," I replied. "I am certain I do not, but I see how little I saw before."

"That is next best," said he earnestly, "but I won't hear you now; put away your fish and go home; perhaps you will be ready with a better answer in the morning. I will examine you before you look at the fish."

This was disconcerting; not only must I think of my fish all night, studying, without the object before me, what this unknown but most visible feature might be, but also, without reviewing my new discoveries, I must give an exact account of them the next day. I had a bad memory; so I walked home by Charles River in a distracted state, with my two perplexities.

The cordial greeting from the professor the next morning was reassuring; here was a man who seemed to be quite as anxious as I that I should see for myself what he saw.

"Do you perhaps mean," I asked, "that the fish has symmetrical sides with paired organs?"

His thoroughly pleased, "Of course, of course!" repaid the wakeful hours of the previous night. After he had discoursed most happily and enthusiastically -- as he always did -- upon the importance of this point, I ventured to ask what I should do next.

"Oh, look at your fish!" he said, and left me again to my own devices. In a little more than an hour he returned and heard my new catalogue.

"That is good, that is good!" he repeated, "but that is not all; go on." And so for three long days, he placed that fish before my eyes, forbidding me to look at anything else, or to use any artificial aid. "Look, look, look," was his repeated injunction.

This was the best entomological lesson I ever had -- a lesson whose influence was extended to the details of every subsequent study; a legacy the professor has left to me, as he left it to many others, of inestimable value, which we could not buy, with which we cannot part.

A year afterwards, some of us were amusing ourselves with chalking outlandish beasts upon the blackboard. We drew prancing star-fishes; frogs in mortal combat; hydro-headed worms; stately craw-fishes, standing on their tails, bearing aloft umbrellas; and grotesque fishes, with gaping mouths and staring eyes. The professor came in shortly after, and was as much amused as any at our experiments. He looked at the fishes.

"Haemulons, every one of them," he said; "Mr. ____________ drew them."

True; and to this day, if I attempt a fish, I can draw nothing but Haemulons.

The fourth day a second fish of the same group was placed beside the first, and I was bidden to point out the resemblances and differences between the two; another and another followed, until the entire family lay before me, and a whole legion of jars covered the table and surrounding shelves; the odor had become a pleasant perfume; and even now, the sight of an old six-inch worm-eaten cork brings fragrant memories!

The whole group of Haemulons was thus brought into review; and whether engaged upon the dissection of the internal organs, preparation and examination of the bony framework, or the description of the various parts, Agassiz's training in the method of observing facts in their orderly arrangement, was ever accompanied by the urgent exhortation not to be content with them.

"Facts are stupid things," he would say, "until brought into connection with some general law."

At the end of eight months, it was almost with reluctance that I left these friends and turned to insects; but what I gained by this outside experience has been of greater value than years of later investigation in my favorite groups.

Source: American Poems (3rd ed.; Boston: Houghton, Osgood & Co., 1879): pp. 450-54. Emphasis is mine.

David Howard, Professor of Old Testament and Dean of the Center for Biblical and Theological Foundations at Bethel Seminary in St. Paul, writes about this story:

Its lessons certainly apply to studying the Bible. Too often students of the Bible rely on second-hand, derivative knowledge, acquired from pastors, teachers, parents, books about the Bible, or other secondary sources. While all of these have their place, there is no substitute, in the end, for one's own first-hand study and experience of the Scriptures, and for the joy of discovery.

Bring the Books!

From a sermon preached by Charles Spurgeon in 1863 on 2 Tim. 4:13 ("The cloak that I left at Troas with Carpus, when thou comest, bring with thee, and the books, but especially the parchment"):

How rebuked are they by the apostle! He is inspired, and yet he wants books! He has been preaching at least for thirty years, and yet he wants books! He had seen the Lord, and yet he wants books! He had had a wider experience than most men, and yet he wants books! He had been caught up into the third heaven, and had heard things which it was unlawful for a men to utter, yet he wants books! He had written the major part of the New Testament, and yet he wants books!

The apostle says to Timothy and so he says to every preacher, "Give thyself unto reading." The man who never reads will never be read; he who never quotes will never be quoted. He who will not use the thoughts of other men's brains, proves that he has no brains of his own. Brethren, what is true of ministers is true of all our people.

You need to read. Renounce as much as you will all light literature, but study as much as possible sound theological works, especially the Puritanic writers, and expositions of the Bible.

We are quite persuaded that the very best way for you to be spending your leisure, is to be either reading or praying. You may get much instruction from books which afterwards you may use as a true weapon in your Lord and Master's service. Paul cries, "Bring the books"—join in the cry.

Hugh Hewitt on Andrew Sullivan

Hewitt, reflecting on his interview yesterday with Sullivan: "That Andrew Sullivan is read at all is a symptom of a fundamentally unserious country in a deadly serious age. A nice and well read fellow, yes; but serious? No."

Eating on the Run

Leon Kass, The Hungry Soul: Eating and the Perfecting of Our Nature (Free Press, 1994):

“We see clearly what is culturally and spiritually at stake in certain current habits of eating. We face serious dangers from our increasingly utilitarian, functional, or ‘economic’ attitudes toward food. True, fast food, TV dinners, and eating on the run save time, meet our need for ‘fuel,’ and provide close to instant gratification. But for these very reasons, they diminish opportunities for conversation, communion, and aesthetic discernment; they thus shortchange the other hungers of the soul. Disposable utensils and paper plates save labor at the price of refinement, and also symbolically deny memory and permanence their rightful places at the table. Meals eaten before the television set turn eating into feeding. Wolfing down food dishonors both the human effort to prepare it and the lives of those plants and animals sacrificed on our behalf. Not surprisingly, incivility, insensitivity, and ingratitude learned at the family table can infect all other aspects of one’s life.”

(HT: Ken Myers)

Introduction to the Art and Science of Exegesis

Crossway has just released Interpreting the New Testament Text: Introduction to the Art and Science of Exegesis, ed. Darrell L. Bock and Buist M. Fanning.

"This book teaches the principles, methods, and fundamentals of exegeting the New Testament. It also has examples of textual exegesis that clearly and helpfully show the value of exegeting a text well. Any serious student of Scripture would benefit from utilizing this book in the study of the Bible.

Interpreting the New Testament Text is a contemporary application of Paul’s charge to Timothy to study to present himself to God, approved as one who correctly handles the word of truth. Highly recommended!”
Andreas J. Köstenberger, Professor of New Testament and Director of Ph.D. Studies, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary

“This ‘how-to’ guide provides significant step-by-step help for first-year seminarians. It should prove very helpful.”
Klyne Snodgrass, Paul W. Brandel Professor of New Testament Studies, North Park Theological Seminary

“Not only an excellent textbook but also a useful refresher for pastors and teachers engaged in the weekly study of the text for ministry.”
Clinton E. Arnold, Professor and Chairman, Department of New Testament, Talbot School of Theology, Biola University

“Covers the exegetical landscape admirably.”
B. Paul Wolfe, Associate Professor of New Testament, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

“A comprehensive, thorough, and excellent guide to exegetical method that I am happy to recommend with enthusiasm!”
Donald A. Hagner, George Eldon Ladd Professor of New Testament, Fuller Theological Seminary

“Fanning and Bock have compiled an all-star cast of lucid writers on exegetical method with like-minded writers illustrating good interpretations of texts and themes. It’s really two books for the price of one, with each made better by the other!”
Craig L. Blomberg, Distinguished Professor of New Testament, Denver Seminary

“This excellent collection of essays provides a solid foundation for all whose goal is to hear and obey God’s Word.”
Mark Strauss, Professor of New Testament, Bethel Seminary–San Diego

“A tool that takes you into the best New Testament classrooms for the simple price of one volume.”
David Wyrtzen, Adjunct Professor, Dallas Theological Seminary; Pastor, Midlothian Bible Church

Firefox 2.0

Has arrived.

(HT: Challies)

How Hillary Clinton Could Get Elected President

Ramesh Ponnuru, senior editor for National Review, has emerged as one of this country's most articulate and winsome pro-life thinkers. In his book Party of Death he opens with a dream of Hillary Clinton giving a speech on this issue. At the end of it, he says that he awoke and realized that if Hillary Clinton ever gave this speech, she would be elected president of the United States. In a subsequent interview, he even said he'd consider voting for her if she gave such a speech. I don't think either will happen (she won't give it, and she won't be president), but it might be helpful nonetheless to reprint the excerpt below:

I do not often dream about Hillary Clinton. I did once, though, and I will try to clear away the haze and reconstruct it here.

She is at the podium, well into a campaign speech. The audience is more than sympathetic. NOW? The Democratic National Convention?

"Like so many of you in this room, I have been an advocate for women and children for years. And while we have more work to do, we should be proud of what we have accomplished. (Applause.)

Because of our efforts, domestic violence is no longer hushed up, no longer seen as just a part of marriage. We treat it for what it is: a crime. We have raised awareness of rape, and made sure that the victims are no longer put on trial.

You know, I'm old enough to remember when they called business a "man's world." Now almost everyone knows that a woman's place is in the boardroom. I know, we still have far to go. The pay gap has shrunk, but it hasn't disappeared. The lack of child care still keeps our society from realizing its full potential. And there are still some glass ceilings out there. I think we're going to break some of them soon! (Cheers, applause.)

And we've fought for something else, too. No woman should ever find herself in jail because an unplanned pregnancy has left her desperate. We don't make criminals out of pregnant women in America. The Supreme Court guarantees that. If idealogues in the other party tries [sic] to change that, we will fight them every step of the way. ("HILL-A-RY! HILL-A-RY!")

But that doesn't mean we're for abortion. Don't let anyone pretend that's what we stand for! Abortion is a tragic choice. We want to liberate women. Abortion is a sign that our society is pitting them against their women. (Scattered applause, murmurs.)

We should all be able to agree that 1.3 million abortions a year is way too many, and we should work together to bring that number down. The most important thing we can do is to give women more options. We need to balance the federal budget. But let's do it by ending giveaways to big corporations that don't need the money--not by cutting programs that help women take care of their families.

I'll admit that like many Americans, my thinking on this issue has changed over the years, and what I'm about to say may trouble some of my oldest friends and allies. I think maybe we've been so busy fighting the people who want to throw women in jail that we've somehow lost sight of the fact that abortion is a terrible act of violence against the young. If the law can discourage it--without, I repeat, making criminals out of women--then we ought to consider it. We ought to make laws that involve parents in their children's decisions, for example.

I'm not saying that I have all the answers. I don't. But I think states out to be able to try different approaches to protect women and children. And I think the Supreme Court ought to let them. Because America deserves better than abortion, and America deserves better than this fight we've been having for over a generation. And I'm willing to work with anyone, in either party, who wants to move past this fight."

The people in the audience had turned quiet by now, some in confusion, some in anger. People were looking at one another to see how to react.

Then I awoke. And I realized that if Hillary Clinton ever made that speech, she would be elected president of the United States.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Caricatures to the Glory of God

I have long been a fan of caricature drawings--the combination of exaggeration that also conveys reality.

One of the best working today is named Thomas Fluharty--who is also a member of a Sovereign Grace church in Minneapolis. You can check out his blog here.

Suburbia vs. Social Justice

Doug Hayes, head of Covenant Mercies (a “non-profit organization established for the purpose of serving the poor, the orphan, the widow, and others facing severe adversity") writes on suburbia and social justice:

Living in suburbia can lead to an “out of sight, out of mind” mentality toward the poor. We’re pretty comfortable and typically pretty busy, so it’s easy to forget that our experience is not shared by many – even most – people in the world. We need to develop what Gary Haugen calls compassion permanence: the capacity to remember the needs of those who are suffering due to injustice, multi-generational poverty, disease, calamity, etc., even when they are out of our immediate sight.

Those of us who live in suburbia can sometimes feel a pang of guilt for the comfortable lives we lead in comparison to the world’s poor. While I wouldn’t want to douse any legitimate conviction of the Holy Spirit, I don’t believe the Lord wants us be motivated by guilt. Could God be calling some of us to forsake the suburban lifestyle and “incarnate” with the poor, taking up residence with those who are marginalized in our world? Absolutely. Is he calling all of us to do that? Probably not. The great majority of believers who live in suburbia are called to remain right where they are, but to develop a compassion permanence that leads us to remember the poor even though they are not immediately before our eyes day after day.

To see his suggestions for cultivating "compassion permanence" read the whole thing.

Reformation 21

The latest edition of Reformation 21 is now online.

Featured are:

Jerram Barrs on Francis Schaeffer: The Man and His Message
Marc Ryan providing A Brief Introduction to Francis Schaeffer's Writings

There's also a review of Gilbert Meilaender's The Way That Leads There: Augustinian Reflections on the Christian Life (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006), which looks very helpful.

Carl Trueman
critiques religious nostalgia. Carl writes: "There is, however, a more insidious anti-historical dimension to some parts of modern Christendom: nostalgia, that uncritical adulation of the past, nay, that invention of an idealized past, which legitimates all manner of criticism of the present, and yet which really provides no answers but rather simply an excuse for inactivity."

Phil Ryken looks at the Mark Foley scandal.

And more.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

How to Prevent a Church Split

Thabiti Anyabwile has begun an important series on one of his callings as a pastor: to do all he can to avoid having a church split. I'll link to the whole series once its complete. I encourage you to read his wise, biblical words--especially if you are a pastor.

A New Path to Theological Liberalism?

Al Mohler reviews Wayne Grudem's latest book.

Update: It looks like Grudem was also a guest on Mohler's radio program yesterday, discussing the book.

The Enemy Within

Kris Lundgaard has performed a wonderful service to the church with his modernizations of John Owen's thinking and writing (see The Enemy Within and Through the Looking Glass).

At the recent Omaha Bible Church Conference, Mr. Lundgaard gave four talks on Owen's view of mortifying sin--which are available online for free stream or download. These would be a great preparation before reading Overcoming Sin and Temptation.

(HT: Jeff Downs)

Paul Edwards Program

Just a heads up here: Mark Talbot (Associate Professor of Philosophy at Wheaton) and I will be the guests this afternoon on the The Paul Edwards Program (AM 1500 WLQV Detroit). We'll be talking about Suffering and the Sovereignty of God.

The show is live, from 5-6pm (eastern), 4-5pm (central). You can stream the program live.

Bleak House

For those who follow politics--and I gather some of you do!--Pete du Pont offers a preview of what is likely to happen in the likely event that the Democrats take control of the House.

It's hard to disagree with his conclusion:

It is possible President Bush and Karl Rove can stem the anti-Republican political tide. But more likely on Nov. 7 American voters will send the Congress a strong disapproval message by voting out the current Republican majority. In politics as in other jobs, there is a price to pay for poor performance.

Have You Yourself Read It Yet?

J. I. Packer offers many of us a gentle rebuke:

For two centuries Pilgrim's Progress was the best-read book, after the Bible, in all Chrisendom, but sadly it is not so today. When I ask my classes of young and youngish evangelicals, as I often do, who has read Pilgrim's Progress, not a quarter of the hands go up. Yet our rapport with fantasy writing, plus our lack of grip on the searching, humbling, edifying truths about spiritual life that the Puritans understood so well, surely mean that the time is ripe for us to dust off Pilgrim's Progress and start reading it again. Certainly, it would be great gain for modern Christians if Bunyan's masterpiece came back into its own in our day. Have you yourself, I wonder, read it yet?
J. I. Packer, "Pilgrim's Progress," in The Devoted Life: An Invitation to the Puritan Classics, ed. Kapic and Gleason (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press: 2004), p. 198.

If you're looking for a handsome edition of the work, you can do no better than the edition produced by the Banner of Truth:

"This de luxe edition of Bunyan's great work comes as near as possible to the 'ideal'- with the original marginal notes and references from Scripture, both parts of the Progress, and a series of magnificent and evocative etchings by William Strang."

It's 396 pages, cloth-bound, and retails for $36. (ISBN=851512593)

Monday, October 23, 2006

Dangerous Journey

Although we've owned it for a couple of years now, we just started reading A Dangerous Journey with our daughter.

Here's the publisher (Eerdmans) description:

The world-famous, much-loved classic Pilgrim’s Progress is here retold for children. This abridged version uses the original words of John Bunyan as selected by Oliver Hunkin to present a gripping narrative. Filled with intricately detailed illustrations, this handsome, large-format book makes an ideal gift.

It really is a wonderful volume--full of truth and wisdom, and a true joy to read aloud.

Constitutional Interpretation

Here are some notes from J. Budziszewski's appendix on "Constitutional Interpretation" in his book, True Tolerance: Liberalism and the Necessity of Judgment:

"Originalism, as represented for instance by former Judge Robert Bork, has at least four deep flaws":
  1. The reasons advanced by the leading originalists for reliance on the original intentions of the framers and ratifiers are incoherent. (Bork is an ethical neutralist, therefore he does not want judges to enact their moral views; however, his goal is to liberate legislative majorities--which is itself a violation of neutrality.)
  2. Originalism presents the intentions of the framers and ratifiers as much less ambiguous than they really are. (Originalists rarely go to the trouble of penetrating the obscurities occassioned by the fact that different groups involved in the Constitution approved the same provisions for different reasons.
  3. Originalists often construe original intentions as overriding the actual text to which the framers and ratifiers gave their endorsement. (Originalists tend to ignore or at least cramp the Constitution's open-ended provisions.)
  4. Originalism gives no guidance for cases where the relevant intentions of the framers and ratifiers cannot be ascertained. (Their functional maxim is often, "When in doubt, defer to the other two branches," which does not follow from the axiom of relying on original intent.)
In its place, Budziszewski advocates "Neo-Originalism." This is "a way of relying on the intentions of the framers and ratifiers that avoids these four problems. The procedure I suggest involves three sharply distinguished principles of interpretation, and requires that they be followed in a fixed order."
  1. The Text Principle. This is "to impute to the framers and ratifiers a general intention that the words that they actually wrote be taken according to their face value--as face value would have been taken in the English of the time of enactment." In other words, "it does not allow special intentions to override text: so far as possible, text controls." But because some of the constitutional language is ambiguous on its face, we need to turn to:
  2. The Context Principle. This means that "choice from among the possible meanings be made according to the more specific intentions of the framers and ratifiers, so far as they were in consensus and so far as this consensus can be known." But of course, sometimes more than one possible meaning remains even after both of these principles are applied. Therefore we need:
  3. The Reconstruction Principle. This instructs the judge: "Of all the possible meanings for a disputed passage, choose the one for which the best argument can be constructed from the philosophical premises that would have been broadly accepted at the time that the passage was enacted."
"In constitutional interpretation, reliance on original intent can take us no further than this. The Text, Context, and Reconstruction Principles will not produce a unique interpretation for each disputed passage. Arguments will still be necessary. However, not only do the three principles avoid the four pitfalls of the old, 'unimproved' originalism, they also go substantially beyond it by telling us what kinds of arguments to look for. No theory of constitutional interpretation can do more than this; therefore, it is enough."

Redeeming Science

Vern Poythress has now posted his new book--Redeeming Science--online.

I'm only a few chapters into the book, and I am enjoying it very much.

(HT: Jeff Downs)

Sources of the Self

I mentioned earlier that I'm currently reading Charles Taylor's The Sources of the Self. I found today that C. John Sommerville, Professor of History at the University of Florida, has penned an interesting review of the book. Here are a couple of excerpts:

Did you ever think you would see a time when the most talked-about, most comprehensive and challenging book in academic philosophy would identify itself as Christian? Charles Taylor’s Sources of the Self has been out for fourteen years now and is being cited as “magisterial.” It is nothing less than a review of the whole history of Western philosophy on its central point. That is, how do we understand ourselves or our “identity,” and consequently how should we argue our political and social issues. . . .
Taylor may have thought he was writing for a general audience, but despite his efforts to be clear, it is a long and tough read. His efforts to show how philosophical views of the human found expression in painting and literature would be more interesting if we were all on his level. And he is frank in admitting that he is neglecting the social factors that might help explain the movements of thought. But Christians who were less than satisfied with Francis Schaeffer’s sketchy and flawed works, and do not know whether to trust Peter Kreeft’s somewhat tendentious surveys can feel more confident with Taylor. The book is an education in itself, if one has the patience. And one can be assured of knowing how an expert like Taylor surveys a playing field like philosophy.

"Reading It Can Feel a Little Like Watching a Michael Moore Movie"

Al Mohler provides a roundup of recent scathing reviews of Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion.

Halloween Reflections

It's a tradition: (1) Halloween is almost upon us, (2) Tim Challies writes on the issue; and (3) I link to Tim's reflections.

Seeing no good reason to break with the past, I'll once again quote from Tim at length:

I am guessing my neighbourhood is all-too-typical in that people typically arrive home from work and immediately drive their cars into the garage. More often than not they do not emerge again until the next morning when they leave for work once more. We are private, reclusive people who delight in our privacy. We rarely see our neighbors and rarely communicate with them. It would be a terrible breach of Canadian social etiquette for me to knock on a person's door and ask them for a small gift or even just to say "hello" to them. In the six years we have been living in this area, we have never once had a neighbor come to the door to ask for anything (except for this time). Yet on Halloween these barriers all come down. I have the opportunity to greet every person in the neighbourhood. I have the opportunity to introduce myself to the family who moved in just down the row a few weeks ago and to greet some other people I have not seen for weeks or months. At the same time, those people's children will come knocking on my door. We have two possible responses. We can turn the lights out and sit inside, seeking to shelter ourselves from the pagan influence of the little Harry Potters, Batmans and ballerinas, or we can greet them, gush over them, and make them feel welcome. We can prove ourselves to be the family who genuinely cares about our neighbours, or we can be the family who shows that we want to interact with them only on our terms. Most of our neighbors know of our faith and of our supposed concern for them. This is a chance to prove our love for them.

The same contributor to the email list concluded his defense of participating in Halloween with these words: "One night does not a neighbor make (and one night does not a pagan make), but Halloween is the one night of the year where the good neighborliness that flows from being in Christ is communicated and reinforced. We are citizens of another Kingdom where The Light is always on."

The truth is that I have several convictions regarding Halloween. I despise the pagan aspects of it. I am convicted that my children should not dress as little devils or ghosts or monsters. But I am also convicted that there could be no worse witness to the neighbours than having a dark house, especially in a neighbourhood like ours which is small and where every person and every home is highly-visible. We know that, if we choose not to participate, the neighbors will notice and will smile knowingly, supposing that we feel too good to participate. We have nothing to fear from our neighbours or from their children. So my children will dress up (my son as a police officer and my daughter as a princess) and we will visit each of our neighbours, knocking on their doors and accepting their fistfuls of candy. Either my wife or I will remain at home, greeting people at our door with a smile and a handful of something tasty. If the kids are deemed too old to trick-or-treat, they'll be forced to sing a song to merit any handouts. Our door will be open and the light will be on. And we trust that the Light will shine brightly.

My encouragement to you today is to think and pray about this issue. I do not see Halloween as a great evangelistic occasion. I do not foresee it as a time when the people coming to your door are likely to be saved. But I do think it is a time that you can prove to your neighbors that you care about them, that you care about their children, and that you are glad to be in this world and this culture, even if you are not of this world or this culture. Halloween may serve as a bridge to the hearts of those who live around you who so desperately need a Savior.