My own personal musings, wonderings, thoughts, and results of personal studies. Also, occasional comments on world events.

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Friday, May 31, 2002
The Zayed Center for Coordination and Follow Up (ZCCF) (an Arab League think tank) claims the US military orchestrated the attacks of September 11 using remote control planes. These claims even ran in a Saudi run newspaper. If this is how "partners" act, I'd hate to see how they'd act if they were actually trying to undermine us.

Thursday, May 30, 2002
This piece looks to me as though Pakistan is pretty much telling India, you attack, we nuke. This is getting out of hand. Lots of people want the West, meaning the US (let's be honest), to do more to stop war. I think we should at least try to talk sense into people, but I'm not really sure what we can do. I've also never understood why everyone always seems to assume that the US has the ability and the responsibility to fix everyone else's problems.

Slain journalist Daniel Pearl's wife has given birth to a son. She named him Adam.


Ephesians 4:22-24 RSV Put off your old nature which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new nature, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

Put off the old nature. I wonder sometimes if we really do that. I know that's something I struggle with. Perhaps that's because we don't really believe we were dead. That's something one of our ministers pointed out lately. Sometimes we allow ourselves to think that we were seriously wounded, but not actually dead. Because of that, maybe we don't really see the need to change. That's not how Paul told us to be.

Ephesians 5:3-4 But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God's holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.

God and Father, help us to put our old lives behind us. May we always be grateful for you Son's sacrifice, without which we would be dead. Guide us and teach us how to imitate You. Amen.

Wednesday, May 29, 2002
Psalms 95:1-7 NLT

Come, let us sing to the LORD!

Let us give a joyous shout to the rock of our salvation!

Let us come before him with thanksgiving.

Let us sing him psalms of praise.

For the LORD is a great God,

the great King above all gods.

He owns the depths of the earth,

and even the mightiest mountains are his.

The sea belongs to him, for he made it.

His hands formed the dry land, too.

Come, let us worship and bow down.

Let us kneel before the LORD our maker,

for he is our God.

We are the people he watches over,

the sheep under his care.

Oh, that you would listen to his voice today!

Lord God, we praise you and exalt you. We thank you for the wonderful gift you gave us through the death and resurrection of your Son. May we never cease to be grateful for that sacrifice. May we never forget that without Christ, we were dead. We see your handiwork throughout the world and stand in awe. We love you Lord. Amen.


Marc Velazquez has a post following up on these comments by Mark Byron about "Secular Conservatives." Overall, it was a good post, but this bit confused me.

Secular conservatism could be thought of as market-based faith in the almighty dollar. Who or what do you worship, and what influences your daily decisions? If you're chasing wealth and want free markets and as little government intervention as possible, then you're looking at secular conservatives. If you're trying to store up treasures in heaven and want others to know that Jesus makes a difference in your life, then you're looking at evangelicals.

I'm not sure exactly what it is that Marc is trying to say. If he's saying that as Christians, we cannot allow concerns over wealth to impede our pursuit of heavenly things and bringing the message of the cross to the world, then I agree wholeheartedly. However, I'm not sure that's what he's saying here. It looks as if he's setting up Christianity and free-trade/small government conservatism as systems that are in some way inherently opposed. If that's what he's saying, then I can't agree. I will allow that there may be times when conservatism may be opposed to Christian values on a particular issue, but I don't see in what way the dichotomy he seems to be describing exists.

I guess this was just a long way of asking Marc to clarify his position on this issue.

Marc has written a clarification here. Thanks Marc, that makes more sense. (To me at least.)

Tuesday, May 28, 2002

Mark Byron has some comments on the need for evangelical Christians to work with others in order to build a political majority. While I think he's given a good view of the general politcal climate, I think he's missing a point here. I bring it up because its something I've been thinking about anyway. Maybe instead of spending so much time worrying about politics, we should be focusing more of that energy on converting more Christians.

There are several reasons for this. There is, of course, the fact that our Lord commanded it. There's also the fact that we are unlikely to accomplish anything by going the other way around. If we fight things out on the political spectrum and win a great victory in the culture war, will anyone be saved by this victory? If we remake the world the way we want it, will we have rescued a single soul? I think the answer is no. However, if we convert enough people to Christianity, we likely win both battles at once. Not only will we have rescued them from eternal anguish, but once those people become Christians, the way they vote is likely to change as well.

I don't think we really have the option of teaching the lost or winning the culture war. If we don't do enough of the former, we'll never accomplish the latter. If we pursue the latter to the eclusion of the former, even if we win, we still lose.

For perspecitve, here are some references to times when God did send some sort of collective punishment for sin.

Isaiah 42:24 - WEB Who gave Jacob for a spoil, and Israel to the robbers? Didn't Yahweh? he against whom we have sinned, and in whose ways they would not walk, neither were they obedient to his law.

Jeremiah 44:20-23 - NKJ Then Jeremiah spoke to all the people--the men, the women, and all the people who had given him that answer--saying: 21 "The incense that you burned in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem, you and your fathers, your kings and your princes, and the people of the land, did not the Lord remember them, and did it not come into His mind? 22 So the Lord could no longer bear it, because of the evil of your doings and because of the abominations which you committed. Therefore your land is a desolation, an astonishment, a curse, and without an inhabitant, as it is this day. 23 Because you have burned incense and because you have sinned against the Lord, and have not obeyed the voice of the Lord or walked in His law, in His statutes or in His testimonies, therefore this calamity has happened to you, as at this day."

Lamentations 5:16 - NKJ The crown has fallen from our head. Woe to us, for we have sinned!

Joshua 7:1-55 - NKJ But the children of Israel committed a trespass regarding the accursed things, for Achan the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took of the accursed things; so the anger of the Lord burned against the children of Israel. Now Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is beside Beth Aven, on the east side of Bethel, and spoke to them, saying, "Go up and spy out the country." So the men went up and spied out Ai. And they returned to Joshua and said to him, "Do not let all the people go up, but let about two or three thousand men go up and attack Ai. Do not weary all the people there, for the people of Ai are few." So about three thousand men went up there from the people, but they fled before the men of Ai. And the men of Ai struck down about thirty-six men, for they chased them from before the gate as far as Shebarim, and struck them down on the descent; therefore the hearts of the people melted and became like water.

Plainly, there have been times when God has seen fit to send some calamity as a punishment for sins. I've seen some people say that this only happened to Israel. However, Amos chapter 1 is full of warnings of a similar nature to other cities and nations.

It does no good to try to dismiss these things as just Old Testament behavior of God either, because God does not change. Nor is He likely too. No, it seems that even today, we have to deal with the possibility that God sends (or at least allows) great tragedies in order to call us to repentance.

That being said, I still have problems when people say they know why God has done or allowed anything.

Thomas Sowell has come good comments on Hawaii, price controls, and politics.

Read this post by Tim Blair. Only the second half is a joke.


David Heddle, Mark Byron, and Kevin Holtsberry have all had comments on the subject of whether 9/11 was a punishment to America for sin and a call for repentance. This started with David posting a call for national repentance issued by Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War. He then made some comments about the possibility that the attacks last September might have been punishment for national sins.

I have posted on this subject before, so if you want to know my overall view of this situation, check here and here.

Today, I just want to make a couple of observations. I would agree with Kevin that David was a little harsh on Goldberg, Buckley, et al. I was aghast, much as it seems Buckley and others were, at Jerry Falwell's comments. I wasn't upset at the general concept that these acts might have been punishment. I was offended by the specific application he made. Among other things, I felt it smacked of a huge amount of arrogance. I can't imagine thinking that I had the ability or the knowledge to explain God's action with that type of certainty.

On the other hand, I'm not sure Kevin really took David's comments in the way they were intended. I didn't get the impression that David was saying that the attacks absolutely were God's judgement. It appeared to me that he was only upset at the way so many people dismissed the idea with so much contempt. Of course I'm not sure people's reaction really was to the idea. I suspect it was much more the presentation.

Update - Here is an article written by Cal Thomas on this subject on September 18. It is worth the read.

Monday, May 27, 2002

There's been a lot of discussion on several sites lately explaining different viewpoints on some issues of Christianity. (Nature of scripture, gifts of the Holy Spirit, etc.) I was looking at this passage and I thought it would be good for to look at in this context.

John 7:16-24 - NLT So Jesus told them, "I'm not teaching my own ideas, but those of God who sent me. Anyone who wants to do the will of God will know whether my teaching is from God or is merely my own. Those who present their own ideas are looking for praise for themselves, but those who seek to honor the one who sent them are good and genuine. None of you obeys the law of Moses! In fact, you are trying to kill me." The crowd replied, "You're demon possessed! Who's trying to kill you?" Jesus replied, "I worked on the Sabbath by healing a man, and you were offended. But you work on the Sabbath, too, when you obey Moses' law of circumcision. (Actually, this tradition of circumcision is older than the law of Moses; it goes back to Abraham.) For if the correct time for circumcising your son falls on the Sabbath, you go ahead and do it, so as not to break the law of Moses. So why should I be condemned for making a man completely well on the Sabbath? Think this through and you will see that I am right."

One of the things I find interesting here is that even Jesus disclaims the idea that his own opinions are significant. Everything, He says, must be guided by the will of the Father. (I'll pass by the potentially dizzying thoughts that could arise in attempting to differentiate the ideas of the Son from the ideas of the Father. I'm not sure how it works and I'm not certain it would add anything to this discussion. The important thing is to note what Jesus said is important. The ideas of the Father.)

This is relevant because it is sometimes difficult, especially, in the heat of discussion, to differentiate those ideas that are our own (those we've thought up or picked up from others) from those of the Father (those clearly laid out in scripture). This is especially true, because, as much as possible, we (or at least I) try to draw my ideas from scripture as much as possible. However, the Bible doesn't clearly lay out God's position on every possible issue. So we find as much information as we can and then make a decision. The danger is that since we've studied in the Bible and found some passages that seem to address a topic, we conclude that what is really our opinion (while honestly come by and reliant on scripture as much as possible) is still just our opinion. We could be wrong.

It is vitally important that we learn to tell the difference between God's thoughts and our own. Remember, we are charged to handle the word correctly and to avoid pointless arguments. There are some things which are of first importance, and are non-negotiable. Other things are not as vital.

To that end, let me share a way of prioritizing that is proving helpful to me.

1. Those things in scripture that pertain directly to salvation. (The crucifixion and resurrection and the commands from Christ and the apostles pertaining directly to salvation.) I have seen this sometimes referred to as saving orthodoxy.

2.Those things taught in scripture (morality, relationships, etc.) that do not relate directly to salvation. (I've seen this referred to as sustaining orthodoxy.

3.Those things that can be reasonably inferred about the practice of the early church by tangential references in scripture. (I'm afraid quite a great deal falls in this category.)

4.Those things that can be determined to a high degree of certainty through archaeology about the practices of the early church.

5.Those things taught by the contemporaries of the Apostles and those who followed immediately after. To put it another way, those writings of the church that were generally accepted as sound doctrine and were written prior to 150 A.D. (give or take)

6. All other doctrinal teachings from that time on.

Item 1 is what appears to me to constitute those things which we must defend zealously no matter the cost. People's eternal destiny literally depends on it. Item 2 constitutes things which I believe to be important and on which I will be willing to take a stand. However, I will not be nearly as dogmatic on these issues.

Item 3 is where I see the most danger. This is where we are most likely to confuse our opinions for God's commands. A reference that implies that the early church did things in a certain way is not the same as a command. These inferential references are also very open to interpretation in some instances. We should not be fighting over passing comments in the scriptures. Items 4 and 5 I put less weight on still. Nevertheless, there is certainly a lot of useful instruction to be had there. To me, the value of items 3-5 is that we oftentimes are face with an issue where no command is given. To me, the best approach in these issues is to look to what the early church did (when they still had the apostles and their immediate students among them) and take that as my guidance. I would not suggest that someone who looks at the same information and comes to a different conclusion in these areas is in some sort of deep error. These are things you can talk about, but if no agreement seems likely, drop it. Item 6 is primarily useful to help us make decisions in our Christian walk and to help us understand Christianity better. To the extent it helps you in these areas, great. If it doesn't, don't worry about it. If its in opposition to 1-5, particularly and especially 1 and 2, it doesn't matter whether you think its helpful or not, let it go.

I would also suggest that if you find something further down the line in conflict with something further up, always go with the teaching further up the line. (Although with 3-6 this gets a little dicey.) This is just a rule of thumb. You obviously have to use sound judgement here.

This is a tentative (at best) discussion of this issue. Its the first time I've really set down and worked all the way through this. If anyone's got any thoughts, drop me a line. Also, I got started on this line after reading this short piece at Its probably worth your time.

I just stumbled across this article about sharing your faith. Its well worth the read.

Sunday, May 26, 2002
I heartily recommend you read this post by Mark Byron.

Sorry about the lack of posts, the last couple of days. I think I've been doing to much serious thinking so I've decided to slow down and relax for a few days and this weekend seemed as good a time as any.

Friday, May 24, 2002
Okay, am I the only one bothered by this?

Thursday, May 23, 2002

I've mentioned before the need to obey the commands of our Lord. I thought it might be useful to look to antiquity on this subject. Let's look at what Tatian had to say.

From which an example is given us to avoid the way of the old man, to stand in the footsteps of a conquering Christ, that we may not again be incautiously turned back into the nets of death, but, foreseeing our danger, may possess the immortality that we have received. But how can we possess immortality, unless we keep those commands of Christ whereby death is driven out and overcome, when He Himself warns us, and says, "If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments? " And again: "If ye do the things that I command you, henceforth I call you not servants, but friends." Finally, these persons He calls strong and stedfast; these He declares to be founded in robust security upon the rock, established with immoveable and unshaken firmness, in opposition to all the tempests and hurricanes of the world. "Whosoever," says He, "heareth my words, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, that built his house upon a rock: the rain descended, the floods came, the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock." We ought therefore to stand fast on His words, to learn and do whatever He both taught and did. But how can a man say that he believes in Christ, who does not do what Christ commanded him to do? Or whence shall he attain to the reward of faith, who will not keep the faith of the commandment? He must of necessity waver and wander, and, caught away by a spirit of error, like dust which is shaken by the wind, be blown about; and he will make no advance in his walk towards salvation, because he does not keep the truth of the way of salvation. (Emphasis added)

Father, all praise, honor, and glory is yours. I exalt your name. I thank your Lord for sending your Son to die for me. Forgive me of my sins, Father. Teach me your ways more perfectly so that I can walk in your steps. Give me the understanding and the will to obey your commands. I love you Lord. In your Son's Name, Amen.

I've been collecting a few e-mails and thoughts on the whole biblical sufficiency stream, but haven't had a chance to iron out my thoughts on the subject. I'm probably going to try to do that sometime this weekend.


Since I've brought up intriguing questions, Christopher Johnson poses this one.

Would someone be so kind as to inform the Editor of the name of a country anywhere in the world where it is illegal to be a Muslim?

Here's an interesting observation from Tal G. in Jerusalem.

Here's an interesting point: Israel offered no military response to the Netanya bombing last week, and we've soaked up numerous attacks from over the Lebanese border - but nobody praises this as "restraint".

A cynical explanation would be that much of the world considers "soaking it up" to be the simply appropriate response for us. But I think the real explanation is that until we respond, the attacks aren't really noticed by the global media.

Wednesday, May 22, 2002

Josh Chafetz asks what may be one of the most profound questions I've ever heard.

But consider this West Asian veil of ignorance: would you rather be an Arab in a Jewish state, or a Jew in an Arab state?

That sums it up rather nicely, doesn't it?

Update-Oops. You see what happens when you don't pay enough attention. This question was actually posed by another of the OxBlog crew, Anand Giridharadas. Thanks to Josh for pointing out my error and apologies to Anand.


In the self-referential style of the blogosphere, I direct your attention to a post by Roy Jacobsen referencing my earlier comments about on a stream begun by Martin Roth. Martin was concerned about how 97% of Papua New Guinea can call themselves Christian while a large number of them are obviously engaged in sexual promiscuity.

Mr. Jacobsen believes that part of the problem is that while we remember the part in the Great Commission about making disciples and baptizing, we tend to forget verse 20 where we are told to also teach them to obey His commands. (On this point, when I looked up this passage on the Studylight website to include the link, I asked it to put verse 19 "in context." I got back a screen with only verse 19 on it, even though in the NASB the sentence continues into verse 20.)

Is it possible that new Christians continue in some sins because they've been culturally hardened to the point that they don't realize the sin? That's definitely possible. Are experienced Christians abdicating their responsibility to teach these people the commands of the Lord? I'm afraid this is so.


Meanwhile, Marc Velazquez over at Spudlets has written to me advising that we don't let this conversation (Biblical authority) become too philosophical or theological. His concern, as I understand it, is that we might confuse or leave behind those new to the faith and might completely lose the unbeliever. I share his concern. In any medium where you don't have direct knowledge of where your readers are, especially if you suspect they're all over the spectrum, it can be very difficult to tailor the discussion so as not to leave some people behind. (You also risk boring those at or above your level.)

I'm afraid that I am by nature very philosophical and I have trouble adjusting my discourse to those who don't "dig" philosophy. I shall try however. In the meantime, if I get too theological or philosophical, I'd appreciate if someone told me so.


I have now realized one failing of the blogosphere. Many people may be engaged in an ongoing discussion that started at the same point, but since everyone isn't (probably even couldn't be) read by everyone else, some parts of the discussion get dropped out along the way and the discussion strays far from its original point. Recently, several Christian blogs have been discussing biblical inerrancy. Everytime I turn around, someone I have been reading seems to be quoting someone I wasn't reading about a discussion I've participated in. Consequently, some of the points seem to trickle in and others probably get lost. This leads to a lot of confusion.

Consequently, it is sometimes necessary to clarify positions. This, David Heddle has done in an excellent post. I think that his summary does a good job of stating an important point.

In other words, the Bible’s self referential claim leaves us, it seems to me, a choice between a Bible that is in grievous error, or one that is inerrant. I choose the latter.

As do I.


Responding to Martin Roth's question about how promiscuity could be so widespread in a country that is purportedly 97% Christian, Ted Esler points out that in identifying Papua New Guinea as largely Christian, the word "Christian" is being used in an almost meaningless way.

My Croat neighbor once said to me, “I am not Catholic because I believe in a religion. I am Catholic because I am a Croat.” This reveals a great missiological dilemma. When missionaries successfully implant Christianity into a society they also insert cultural reasons for conversion. The pressures of family, tradition, acceptance, and economics are often the strongest motivators, rather than truth, a recognition of one’s sin and need for salvation, etc. These “new motivators” gut the spiritual message and replace it with a hollow spirituality that is more secular at its core.

While he's right about the problem with people confusing religion with cultural identity, I'm not sure the problem can all be laid at the foot of "new motivators." (I'm not at all sure that's what Esler is doing.) A lot of the problem comes from misconceptions people have before the missionaries arrive. I've had several friends who have gone on missionary trips to the Ukraine. One of the things they found was that a huge portion of the people they talked to identified themselves as Christian. They did so, not because they believed, or even knew, what Christianity taught. They called themselves Christians because they weren't communist anymore. One friend asked a man how he became a Christian. The answer was, "I tore up my Communist Party card." These people went so long being indoctrinated against Christianity by Communists, that when the Communist government fell, they assumed they must be Christians. Hence, a large number of people with no knowledge of the Incarnation, Sin, Redemption, Faith, Repentance, or Baptism calling themselves "Christian."

On another note, Esler laments that missionaries sometimes don't teach Christianity based on truth. The problem extends further than missionaries. People (in and out of established churches) frequently look at Christianity not to see if it is true, but to see whether it can do something for them. There are no truly workable utilitarian arguments for Christianity. Either it is true, or it is not. If it's true, than it should be accepted as such and the salvation it offers should be accepted. If it is not true, it doesn't matter whether you accept it or not. As Paul said, "if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain."

Note to Ted and Martin, your sites would both benefit from perma-links of some kind so people could link directly to a specific post.

Jacobsen also has a post on the trouble with syncretism in Papua New Guinea. This was apparently the trouble in Colosse. Hence, Paul spends most of Chapters 1 and 2 of the book of Colossians emphasizing the all-suficiency of Christ. (I've mentioned this aspect of the book here.

Roy Jacobsen has a good point on the biblical sufficiency front

Allow me to point out that any argument of Ultimate Authority (TM) is going to be a circular one. For example, "I rely on reason as my Ultimate Authority because it is reasonable to do so." Any time you point to something outside of your Ultimate Authority to validate it, you have just shifted to a different Ultimate Authority.

This is an excellent point. I'd like to add that when determining who somone is, we usually begin by asking that person, "Who are you?" Then, generally speaking, we operate on the assumption that they are who they say they are unless we come up with pretty convinicing arguments otherwise. Of course, if someone claims to be someone quite great, our suspicions are aroused. We might be inclined to be a bit skeptical. Our skepticism though, does not disprove their claim. If someone claimed to be God, we'd be more skeptical still. But again, our skepticism would not disprove the claim. Anytime someone claims to be someone and our skepticism is aroused, the proper course of action is not to dismiss the claim. The proper course of action is to see if that person has the attributes of the one they claim to be. We'd then weigh the evidence and make a determination about whether that statement is true. (There is an interesting discussion along these lines in Lee Strobel's The Case for Christ. I wouldn't say it is a conclusive study. But the book does look at some attributes of God and ask if Jesus met them.)

I belive the same approach we use for testing the identity of people can be adapted to evaluating the identity of books. That would mean that I would first look at what the Bible claimed to be. Many books in the Bible claim to be the direct words of God. (Scan through the prophets and see how many times you come across variations of the phrase, "The word of the LORD came to . . ." Once you've identified what the Bible claims to be, you'll need to see whether it has the attributes required. That is a study much too long for the moment and tons of books have been written on the subject. (Mr. Jacobsen includes a recomendation in his post.)

The point here was not to try to prove the Bible to be the all-suficient word of God. Just to point out that the claim cannot be dimissed as circular reasoning. (And no, this is not a stab at anyone in particular. Its just that Jacobsen's post got me thinking about arguments of this kind that I have heard.) If I am wandering through a bookstore and see a book that claims to be a discussion of Modern Physics, barring evidence to the contrary, I would assume that is what says it is. If I opened it up and found a recipe for a really good Cherry Cheese Cake on page 1, I might suspect the book was not what it claims to be. If I read further and found more recipes, I would suspect it was actually a Cookbook. But I would have only dismissed the book's claim about itself after evaluating whether it had the attributes its claim implied.

People are understandably more skeptical about books that claim to be from God. (Rightly so. Much more is on the line.) But the claim itself cannot be ignored. What I have found is that many people who dismiss out of hand the Bible's claim to be a book by God do so without evaluating the claim. (I use the phrase "by God" only to reference the nature of the claim to inspiration. It is not my intent to spark a debate about possible theories of inspiration. Not that there's anything wrong with those debates, just not at all where I'm going.) They have already dismissed out of hand the idea that it is even possible for for there to be a book by God. Thus, when they find a book making the claim, they don't evaluate the claim, just reject it. This is not to say that all people who make the "Circular Reasoning" argument operate in this fashion, but a lot do.

This post has been longer and more rambling then I had intended. Let me just sum by saying that when we try to identify what the Bible is, what it says about itself must be where we begin our search. Its not the end of our search. No matter what you think of the claim, the claim must be investigated.

Update- Let us not forget that this whole Biblical Sufficiency stream started with this excellent post by David Heddle.


In Matthew 23, we see an event that illustrates well how the divine and the human were able to be united in Jesus. At the end of a long warning to the Pharisees and other Jewish leaders, we find this lament.

Matthew 23:37-38- NAS Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. "Behold, your house is being left to you desolate!

Jesus is clearly heartbroken. Over and over the people have been given opportunities to know God's word and obey it. Repeatedly, they have refused the opportunity. In fact, they've killed the emissaries of God. Jesus looks on the scene of these beloved ones who refuse to return to God, and he is devastated. It is at times like these that the humanity of Christ is most evident.

But in that anguish, there is something odd. At least it would be odd if he were not God. He says that he personally wants to gather them up. And those prophets they were killing. Where did they come from? Well the prophets they have already killed came from the same place the ones to follow would come from.

Matthew 23:34-35 NAS Therefore, behold, I am sending you prophets and wise men and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city, so that upon you may fall the guilt of all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar.

If it were just anguish over the state of the Jewish people, that alone would not be unique. What's unique is that He claims to be the source that has been sending prophets and wise men throughout history. Not only that, but he takes the rejection so personally. Yet he does it so casually. Its just there. With those few words, He claims deity. Its so understated, you almost miss it. (I had to have it pointed out to me.) No pretension. Just an offhanded observation. It leaves very little doubt though about who He believed Himself to be.

Al right there in a few short verses. The power of God and the anguish of man. Just as it had to be. For that is what we had to have for redemption. A God-man willing to sacrifice Himself for us.

Father of Love, we praise your name. We thank you Lord for this wonderful sacrifice which you offered on our behalf. May we never cease to be grateful and amazed at the truly staggering amount of love you showed for us. Amen.

Tuesday, May 21, 2002
I'm hesitant to put too much weight on this WorldNetDaily story as their primary source is clearly someone with an agenda. (Yes, their agenda tracks pretty closely with mine, but that doesn't change the fact that people with agendas tend to exagerate the meaning of their studies.) Basically this story indicates a staggering widespread willingness among Planned Parenthood employees to conceal or even abet statutory rape. If true, the implications could be widespread.

Monday, May 20, 2002
Rod Dreher on the murder of Danny Pearl.

Eugene Volokh chimes in on the importance of a Constitutional amendment. (And not the 2nd one this time.)


Matthew 7:3-5 ISV "Why do you see the speck in your brother's eye but fail to notice the beam in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when the beam is in your own eye? You hypocrite! First remove the beam from your own eye, and then you will see clearly enough to remove the speck from your brother's eye."

Recently, I attended the wedding of a friend. He's never been one of my closest friends. He is, however, a brother in Christ. Someone who I've spent time studying and praying with. We have many common friends, some common interests, and most importantly, a common Savior.

Periodically I have regretted that since he began dating the wonderful person who is now his wife, we have not spent anywhere nearly the same amount of time together. I've also regretted that while I know a good deal about her, I don't really know her.

I realize now that all along I've thought this had something to do with them. I wasn't angry or upset with them. I just felt sad. And for some reason I couldn't even began to explain, I just assumed that my lack of time with him and lack of knowledge of her was some sort of natural thing. After all, they're spending a lot of time together; it seemed only natural that they would be spending less time with others. I realize now that our other friends don't seem to have experienced the same kind of problem.

Only now do I realize that the reason I haven't been spending time with him and don't really know her is that I've never really put forth any effort in that area. I haven't put up any obstacles really. I just expected them to take all the initiative.

I feel horrible about it too, because I know that while they are happy together, problems in her family have caused her lots of pain. I can see it in her eyes, in her mannerisms, in the changes I've witnessed in her behavior. She hurts. As they were saying their vows was the first time I've seen real joy in her face for as long as I can remember.

They both could have used one more friend to lighten the load. I could have been that friend. There was nothing standing in my way, but the closer they got, the further I got from them. And all along, I blamed them.

Why? Why could I not see until today as I knelt before my Father that the problems in this area were mine, not theirs? Was it pride? Did I think my friendship so great a thing that surely they would seek it? I do not know. But as I think about the words of the Master, I see plainly (now) that I was walking about with a beam in my eye. I didn't even notice it until tonight.

I know I'm not the only one to fall into this trap. Most of us do similar things. That is, after all, why Christ told this parable. Of course, the fact that I am not alone does not relieve me of my guilt. Only my repentance before the Father, and much more importantly, His forgiveness and grace can do that. But perhaps my jotting this down tonight can serve as a cautionary tale to someone else. Regardless, there it is. For better or worse.

Father of Love, you are Holy and Mighty. I thank you for sending your Son into this world to die for my sins. I know that I am weak and unworthy of Your love, yet You loved me anyway. For that I am grateful. I come before you tonight asking your forgiveness for my neglect of your children. Help me to kill the selfishness that causes me to place my own welfare above theirs. You called us to be perfect. I am far from it. I pray though that you will continue to mold me until I become perfect. Forgive me my sins and help me to kill the sinful desires that war against me. To you I give all praise and glory. In Jesus's name, amen.


If you've never checked out the USS Clueless, you really should. Always interesting analysis on a wide variety of issues. A post today about Europe's inability to understand America and the consequen European arrogance is a true gem. Here's a sample:

Europeans have always tried to concentrate power. Everyone important in Europe has always agreed about this. The only argument has been who, exactly, would be the ones to wield that power. Europe has spent the last thousand years fighting bloody and inconclusive wars to try to decide that minor detail. Both World Wars began in Europe because of that. Now, with tentative steps towards formation of the European Union, that dream of complete centralization of power is finally being realized.
The EU is not a revolution. It is not something new. It is the culmination of the last thousand years of European politics. It is the fulfillment of the dream of Charlemagne, not to mention the Hapsburgs, Napoleon, Stalin and numerous others.

Of course, Europeans didn't just spend that thousand years fighting to rule each other; they also spent it trying to rule everyone else in the world. For several hundred years they almost succeeded by force of arms, but that all started to fall apart about 70 years ago, and the Europeans were largely out of the empire business by 30 years ago.

European "international multilateralism" is nothing more than traditional European imperialism with a paint job. The old European empires were created with muskets and cannons. The new European empire will be created with treaties. But the world will still be ruled from Europe, like it ought to be.

The recent complaints about American "unilateralism" come down to this: The Europeans think that the United States should ask for European permission before doing anything. The United States hasn't been asking. Europe grumbles.

Well said.


I had several problems with Jonah Goldberg's review of Attack of the Clones, though he did have some interesting points. One sentence grabbed me and really set me off though.

Other script problems involve the fact that Clones seems awfully derivative of Empire Strikes Back. But, again, I don't want to spoil too much.

Problem? Problem? Being derivitave of Empire is not a problem. Its the whole point! Lucas has mentioned several times that one of the devices he is using is a planned parallel between the first trilogy and the second. We're supposed to see how many of the same experiences that Anakin and Luke share. You even see some dialogue repeated. It is, I think, an effective plot device. In fact, I belive that the chief failing of Phantom Menace is that is not derivative enough of A New Hope.

Anyway, that's my bleat on Star Wars for today. Being a fan, it probably won't be the last.

People sometimes forget that the book of Psalms is not the only source of psalms in the Bible. Following is the song of Habakkuk. Notice his faith in God, even when things look bad.

Habakkuk 3:2-19 NLTI have heard all about you, LORD, and I am filled with awe by the amazing things you have done. In this time of our deep need, begin again to help us, as you did in years gone by. Show us your power to save us. And in your anger, remember your mercy.

I see God, the Holy One, moving across the deserts from Edom and Mount Paran. His brilliant splendor fills the heavens, and the earth is filled with his praise! What a wonderful God he is! Rays of brilliant light flash from his hands. He rejoices in his awesome power. Pestilence marches before him; plague follows close behind. When he stops, the earth shakes. When he looks, the nations tremble. He shatters the everlasting mountains and levels the eternal hills. But his power is not diminished in the least! I see the peoples of Cushan and Midian trembling in terror.

Was it in anger, LORD, that you struck the rivers and parted the sea? Were you displeased with them? No, you were sending your chariots of salvation! You were commanding your weapons of power! You split open the earth with flowing rivers! The mountains watched and trembled. Onward swept the raging waters. The mighty deep cried out, lifting its hands to the LORD. The lofty sun and moon began to fade, obscured by brilliance from your arrows and the flashing of your glittering spear.

You marched across the land in awesome anger and trampled the nations in your fury. You went out to rescue your chosen people, to save your anointed ones. You crushed the heads of the wicked and laid bare their bones from head to toe. With their own weapons, you destroyed those who rushed out like a whirlwind, thinking Israel would be easy prey. You trampled the sea with your horses, and the mighty waters piled high.

I trembled inside when I heard all this; my lips quivered with fear. My legs gave way beneath me, and I shook in terror. I will wait quietly for the coming day when disaster will strike the people who invade us. Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vine; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the LORD! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation. The Sovereign LORD is my strength! He will make me as surefooted as a deer and bring me safely over the mountains.

Father, may we all have the faith of your servant, Habakkuk. Even when trouble surrounded him, he kept his faith in you. I pray that you forgive us of our sins. I pray also that you help us kill our eartly desires. Further, Lord, help us to increase our faith to the point that we hold firm in all situations. In your Son's name, Amen.

Sunday, May 19, 2002
This NBC poll is one of the reasons I dislike polls in general. Question 3 reads:
Do you think the Bush administration did as much as was reasonable or could have done more to prevent or warn about hijackings?

This question presents a false dichotomy. The propositions "did as much as was reasonable" and "could have done more" are not mutually exclusive. In fact, in many instances, they are not. It is plain that in many cases, as much as was reasonable will not be as much as was possible. In fact, if as much as was reasonable was synonymous with as much as was possible, they wouldn't have asked about reasonableness at all. Consequently, much of the time, it might be possible for someone to simultaneously believe that someone has done as much as was reasonable and that they could have done more. The fact that some of the "more" wouldn't have been reasonable doesn't change the fact that it could have been done.

I myself have had pollsters call me and found many of the questions to have either multiple correct answers or no correct answers at all. The problem is that in the short time they have to answer the pollsters questions, most people don't recognize the false dichotomy put before them. That is probably why some polls end up with questions whose answers seem mutually exclusive. Anyway, that's my short bleat about polls.

If I'm not careful, I'll end up linking to every other Mark Byron post. Still, he's written a good post on applying Colossians chapter 3 to our jaunts through the blogosphere. Its a good read and make me think.

Josh Chafetz has written an interesting piece about what a truly democratic Palestine might mean to the Palestinians and to the surrounding area.

Saturday, May 18, 2002

Theophilus of Antioch was one of the "early church fathers." He lived in the second century and apparently was fierce in his defense of Christianity against both heretics and pagans. I think it is instructive to see such a man's opinion of what it meant to be a Christian. Keep in mind that his argument hinges on the literal meaning of "Christos" or Christ as "The Annointed One." Also remember that the concept of annointing was much more prevalent in his world then it is in ours.

And about your laughing at me and calling me "Christian," you know not what you are saying. First, because that which is anointed is sweet and serviceable, and far from contemptible. For what ship can be serviceable and seaworthy, unless it be first caulked [anointed]? Or what castle or house is beautiful and serviceable when it has not been anointed? And what man, when he enters into this life or into the gymnasium, is not anointed with oil? And what work has either ornament or beauty unless it be anointed and burnished? Then the air and all that is under heaven is in a certain sort anointed by light and spirit; and are you unwilling to be anointed with the oil of God? Wherefore we are called Christians on this account, because we are anointed with the oil of God.

To some, the term "Christian" was a term of derision in the ancient world. Theophilus wears it as a badge of honor. We should remember that "Christ" was NOT the last name of our Lord. His name was NOT Jesus Christ or Christ Jesus. Christ is not a name, but a job description. Jewish prophecy had long foretold the coming of The Annointed One (The Messiah). Jews annointed men to show they had been chosen for one of three offices:prophet, priest, and king. Christ was all of these at the same time and much more.

Theophilus seemed to believe that the name "Christian" was also a job description. One he took pride in. If we have been annointed by God to fulfill an office, what is the job description? I'll list a few of the tasks set before us, but this is not intended to be a complete list.

1. Matthew 28:18-20 - NAS "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."

2. Ephesians 2:10 - ISV For we are his masterpiece, created in Christ Jesus for good works that God prepared long ago to be our way of life.

3. Hebrews 3:12-13 - ISV See to it, my brothers, that no evil, unbelieving heart is found in any of you, as shown by your turning away from the living God. Instead, continue to encourage one another every day, as long as it is called "Today," so that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.

So then, we have a job, a title, and at least a partial job description. How are you doing? As for myself, I know that I'm not doing nearly as well as I should be.

Father, we praise you and exalt you. We thank you for sending your Annointed One to die for us. We ask that you help us Lord, as we try to do your will. Give us the wisdom, the skill, and the will to do the tasks you have set before us. We pray that you forgive us our sins and help us to forgive others. You are the One, True and Holy and we love you today and forever. In your Son's blessed name, Amen.

A great bit at Samizdata about the proper role of government.


Last, the Empire, and Arafat -Lets play the moral equivalence game

In an article whose purpose I am at loss to explain, Jonathan Last attempts to demonstrate that black is white. Specifically he argues that George Lucas got it all wrong and the Empire is really the good guys in Star Wars. While I could tear this apart, and I'm sure others already have, I just want to make a few short points.

The article is infuriating, mostly because of the staggering disregard for facts. For the most part, his argument sets forth the shortcomings of the Old Republic. They are numerous. However, when discussing the Empire, he nicely sets aside the atrocities of the Empire. He does this in part by insisting we ignore all the evils that are chronicled in the related books. (They apparently don't count. I will note that while he insists on ignoring the "Expanded Universe", he draws on it when it suites him. For instance, he references Han's former service in the Imperial Navy, a fact that cannot be gleaned from the movies.) Now that he has ignored a vast array of information damaging to his cause, he states that the Emperor is a relatively benign dictator. One you can, "do business with."

His indictment of the Old Republic, boils down to three points: 1)The Senate is ineffective 2)He doesn't like the Jedi (he grossly misstates a lot about the Jedi, but that's another argument) and 3)The Senate was willing to raise an army to keep separatists in the Republic. Point 2 is a matter of personal preference and not really a good argument that the (little r) republicans are the bad guys. Points 1 and 3 are substantially reduced in effectiveness when you realize that a big part of the reason the Senate was ineffective in Episode I (Which is his real argument. He references Episode II as well, but only to note that an 18 year old boy doesn't think the system works.) is that Palpatine was intentionally manipulating the parliamentary process to keep it from being effective. The same holds true for point 3. Yes, the Republic was willing to raise an army and fight, but Palpatine was manipulating the entire situation. The major weaknesses we see in the Republic then, are caused by his prized benign dictator.

But here's what I really want to talk about. He can only argue that Palpatine is benign if he ignores the evidence, in the movies and elsewhere, of the atrocities committed by Palpatine. We'll stick to the movies even though Last doesn't. Two points. At the beginning of Episode II, there are two assassination attempts on Senator Amidala. Those attempts are made by an employee of Janga Fett. Fett is clearly alligned with Count Dooku. Dooku is the lackey of Sidious. Only a fool can miss that Sidious and Palpatine are one and the same. His benign dictator tries to kill Senators that get in the way.

Now on to a more serious crime. Yes, the Republic raised and army to tried to keep the separatists in the Republic, but the Empire's strategy for keeping separatists in line was to blow up whole planets as a warning to everybody else. Benign dictators don't kill millions of people indiscriminately just to make a political point. Yes, relatively good governments may sometimes engage in tactics that result in lots of civilian deaths, but its not usually the first option. And it's sure not an interrogation technique.

So, one government raises an army to prevent rebellion, the other blows up planets as an interrogation technique. Last wants us to believe the planet killers are the good guys.

So, why do I bother with this, besides the fact I'm a Star Wars fan? Well, there does seem to be some relevance. Last's argument only works if your willing to ignore little things like the fact that his side blows up planets to get people to talk. The argument that Arafat is a "partner for peace" only works if you ignore the fact that we have plenty of evidence that he's actually ordered and paid for a whole lot of suicide bombings. The moral equivalence game is a lot easier to play if you ignore the facts.

I'm not sure Josh Chafetz has heard of the Palestinian bombinb at Rishon Letzion.

As it turns out, Mark Byron is a pretty good satirist as well.


Mark Byron has a good piece encouraging us to take advantage of the proper usage of the joys God has set before us. As it happens, I'm reading The Screwtape Letters at the moment and I think I've got the quote he was looking for. The context is Screwtape giving Wormwood advice on how to take advantage of his "patient's" low spirits in order to turn him away from God.

Never forget that when we are dealing with any pleasure in its healthy and normal and satisfying form, we are, in a sense, on the Enemy's gournd. I know we have won many a soul through pleasure. All the same, it is His invention, not ours. He made the pleasures: all our research so far has not enabled us to produce one. All we can do is to encourage the humans to take the pleasures which our Enemy has produced, at times, or in ways, or in degrees, which He has forbidden.

This goes along with Lewis's generally premise, which I have found in many of his works, that it is not possible to be bad in the same way it is possible to be good. Lewis believed that badness was really just the pursuit of good things in the wrong ways. I think he's right, but I still haven't grasped all the implications of that.

Update-Mark Byron says that this passage from The Screwtape Letters is not the one he was looking for. However, he did turn up the desired passage and has added it to his post.

I've appreciated Martin Roth's efforts to compose a Christian Blog list. However, I'm very grateful that he has raised my awareness in relation to the persecution of Christians. It's probably because of him that I investigated this site. They have a newsletter and also several pages giving ways persecuted Christians can receive your assistance. The one that sprang out at me is the drive to print Bibles in the Hmong language.

Friday, May 17, 2002
The wonders of the blogsphere. A few hours ago, I commented on the use of Revelation 22:18-19 in discussions of biblical inerrancy and sufficiency by Mark Byron and David Heddle. (Apparently I wasn't the only one to comment on this point.) Anyway, Dr. Byron has already posted his response to these criticisms here.

The AP is reporting that University of Hawaii astronomers discover 11 new moons orbiting Jupiter. While that's great and interesting, I found this quote from a NASA scientist to be really disturbing. "It's really quite extraordinary — the number of moons in the solar system has doubled." Maybe I'm making to much of this, but he actually said that the number of moons has doubled. Not the number of known moons, but the actual number of moons. I did a Goole search and found several headlines for this story along the lines of "11 New Moons for Jupiter." What I see is indicative of a lot of science. When we find out something, we frequently act as if we just changed the facts of the universe rather than discovering it. Again, maybe I'm making too much of this, but it disturbs me nonetheless.

Wanted to give you a line of a friend of mine regarding Star Wars Episode II. He suggests the alternate title, "Crouching Yoda, Hidden Sith."

I was reading this post by Bjorn Staerk and saw this quote.
Swedens Minister of Integration, Mona Sahlin, has come all the way to Norway to tell us what's wrong with our immigration debate: We've got one.

If you're like me, you read this and said, "Minister of Integration. What on earth is that?" I've done some research and found that's apparently not her actual title. Her real title is, Minister of Industry, Employment and Communications. There, isn't that much better? I've gone to her website. While I admit, I didn't thoroughly investigate it, I still don't understand what she does, aside from lecturing Norway of course.

Update- In a new post Bjorn Staerk has turned up some more information about Mona Sahlin. Its even more convoluted than I thought.


In discussing Star Wars, the Captain of the USS Clueless, while delivering what appears to be a thorough critique of Star Wars weaponry and tactics demonstrates a stunning inability to suspend disbelief. I must say that I was very skeptical before actually seeing Episode II, though not as skeptical as some, probably because I don't watch TV and had seen none of the previews. After seeing the movie, I was very impressed. It may turn out to be the best movie in the series. I'd have to watch it a few more times to be sure, but right now I'd rank them as follows:II,IV,VI,V,I.

Update-I'd also note that its a bit presumptuous to say a wonderful opportunity has been wasted because someone's personal ideas of the clone wars didn't reach fruition. Additionally, he may be happy yet. As it turns out, Episode II only deals with the first battle in the clone wars. I would say, that having read several Star Wars books that allude to the Clone Wars, the actual use of clones in the movie is pretty much what I expected.

James Robbins on Planes, the President, and hindsight, oh my.


Mark Byron and David Heddle have both recently posted on the inerrancy and all-sufficiency of the Bble. I bring this up because while I agree with a lot of what they both have to say (leaning more toward David and less toward Mark), I think they both have overstretched the use of Revelation 22:18-19. David uses this as evidence that revelation ended with the apostolic age. (Mark agrees, but wants us to specify the end of broadly applicable revelations given to one author and written down for all Christians. His view leaves open the possibility of God giving continuing revelation to individuals to guide them and to help them understand scripture. This is a very interesting discussion, but not really what I wanted to comment on. Maybe later.) Mark uses the same passage to defend the position that anyone attempting to add to the canon, "is in serious doo-doo."

Here's my quibble with both uses of this passage. It doesn't actually say either. In reference to the end of revelation, John is here silent. The vast majority of Revelation is prophecy in the Apocolyptic style. At the end, John warns, "I testify to every man who hears the words of the prophecy of this book, if anyone adds to them, may God add to him the plagues which are written in this book. If anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, may God take away his part from the tree of life, and out of the holy city, which are written in this book." It seems clear to me that John was warning people not to alter the words of the prophecy he had just given them. (This point is made more clear when you keep in mind that the book of Revelation was written as letter to 7 churches in Asia Minor. At this point, most of the scriptures were still being passed around in letter form or as collections of lettters. There is no evidence that John had a copy of the entire New Testament as we have it now and simply wrote Revelation as an appendix. This is testified to by the fact that there was some argument about which books were canonical for about 300 years after the death of John. This being the case, it seems unlikely that John was laying curses and blessings on people based on what they would do with other texts that weren't, at the time, attached to his work) I see nothing in this passage that indicates that John was prohibiting any addition to scripture or that he was talking about the end of revelation (in any sense).

In regards to additions or deletions from the canon, as I noted parenthetically above, the canon itself was not firmly fixed at this time. There would still be some argument about which books were canonical (especially 2 Peter and Jude) for quite some time. If it was John's intention to curse people for adding to or subtracting from the canon, don't you think he would have been more specific about what was canonical? If he was referencing the canon, he was cursing people for changing something, but giving them no standard from which they were not to deviate. Under the circumstances, it seems much more likely that the curses were on those who altered his prophecy.

I don't want you to get me wrong. I do believe the canon is closed. I just don't think this passage says that. I also think that the style of revelation exhibited by the Biblical authors is over, (exploring Mark's comments on personal revelation will have to wait) but again, I don't think this passage says that. There are some general rules we can look at in relation to the canon and revelation however. Paul charged the Galatians not to accept any message contrary to the one they had already received, even if it came from an angel. (This passage of course raises very interesting questions about the book of Mormon, but I digress.) Based on this advice, we can confidently spurn writings contrary to the teachings of Christ and the apostles.

In reference to the end of apostolical style revelation, I find it more convincing that after the death of the Apostles, we see a change in the style of writings. Paul, for example, frequently went to great lengths to establish his position of authority when writing to the churches. (For example, see 1 Corinthians 9:2.) In contrast, the writings of Ignatius (an early Father) show him disclaiming this type of authority.

For even I, though I am bound [for Christ], yet am not on that account able to understand heavenly things, and the places of the angels, and their gatherings under their respective princes, things visible and invisible. Without reference to such abstruse subjects, I am still but a learner [in other respects]; for many things are wanting to us, that we come not short of God.

In all, I thought both Mark and David had good points, I just think its important not to oversell a passage when making your case.
Update: Mark Byron has amended his article to allow for this point. Also, I think I should point out that when looking at the letters of Ignatius, there are two versions of most of his letters. At some point in the past, someone has either redacted a longer version to make a shorter one, or added to the shorter one to come up with a longer version. I personally prefer the second theory, admittedly based primarily on my own opinions rather than scholarly research. Regardless, I quoted the shorter version. The longer version is worded substantially different in this passage, but still shows Ignatius declining any claim to apostolic authority. The point then is the same, whichever version you accept.


David Heddle makes an important point about putting too much emphasis on theologians. I would add that while it is good to read or hear what other people have to say about God, it is also dangerous.

It's good because people have been wrestling with the issues of Christianity for roughly 2000 years and it would be foolish to deprive ourselves of the thoughts of others, espeically the great thinkers, as we search to understand our faith better. It's dangerous because no matter how good and wise these people may be, they cannot provide you with the same type of knowledge that is available in scripture. (They could also be wrong.)

Personally, I love to read C.S. Lewis. When Lewis discussed things I'd thought on myself, he usaully expressed my thoughts on the subject, only far more articulately. He also addressed a wide range of topics I might not have thought of if I'd never read what he had to say. So in some ways, he reassures me and in others he forces me to expand my thinking. Nevertheless, I would be mistaken if I believed that studying Lewis was a subsitute for studying the Bible. This is something I struggle with. I also try to avoid starting too many sentences with, "C.S. Lewis said . . ."

Again, while you'd be well advised to read the great Christian philosophers and theologians, don't think they are a subsitute for scripture.

Recently I had a post about a passage in Joshua that appears to be an appearance of Christ in the Old Testament prior to the Incarnation. I was doing some reading this morning on another passage that some people also believe to be a pre-Incarnation appearance.
Genesis 32:24-32 - NAS Then Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When he saw that he had not prevailed against him, he touched the socket of his thigh; so the socket of Jacob's thigh was dislocated while he wrestled with him. Then he said, "Let me go, for the dawn is breaking." But he said, "I will not let you go unless you bless me." So he said to him, "What is your name?" And he said, "Jacob." He said, "Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed." Then Jacob asked him and said, "Please tell me your name." But he said, "Why is it that you ask my name?" And he blessed him there. So Jacob named the place Peniel, for he said, "I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been preserved." Now the sun rose upon him just as he crossed over Penuel, and he was limping on his thigh. Therefore, to this day the sons of Israel do not eat the sinew of the hip which is on the socket of the thigh, because he touched the socket of Jacob's thigh in the sinew of the hip.

I personally find the evidence that the wrestler might be Christ much less striking then the passage in Joshua referring to the Commander. Nevertheless, I can see why some people might think so. Jacob certainly seems to believe he was wrestling with God. (As in the passage in Joshua, for this to be Christ presupposes that Yahweh in bodily form is always the Son rather than the Father. This is a reasonable supposition, but not a provable one.)

I was really struck by some of the commentary I've found on this passage in reference to angels. I've got to admit that the study of angels has never been one that's been terribly interesting to me. Consequently, I've not spent much time on it. (There's also the fact that most of the scriptural references to angels are so vague that they seem unlikely to provide much useful information.) Perhaps my lack of interest in the study of angels explains why some of the commentary I found surpirsed me. Consider this passage from the Matthew Henry commentary:

Some think this was a created angel, the angel of his presence (Isaiah 63:9), one of those that always behold the face of our Father and attend on the shechinah, or the divine Majesty, which probably Jacob had also in view. Others think it was Michael our prince, the eternal Word, the angel of the covenant, who is indeed the Lord of the angels, who often appeared in a human shape before he assumed the human nature for a perpetuity; whichsoever it was, we are sure God's name was in him, Exodus 23:21.*

The new idea here for me is that some commentators appear to believe that Michael is just another name for the preincarnate Christ. I must confess that this is an entirely new idea for me. I've never seen anything in scripture that would have pointed me to this conclusion. I have just gone back through all the references I can find to Michael, and I can see some passages that would leave room for this interpretation. On the other hand, some passages just don't seem to fit this framework. For instance, there is Daniel 10:13 which refers to Michael as, "one of the chief princes." If Michael is Christ, and Michael is only one of several "chief princes", how can this be squared with the doctrine of the Trinity? (If there are others like Christ of which he is only 1, wouldn't there have to be more than 3 members of the God-head? Father, Spirit, and lots of Sons? This would be truly mind-boggling.) For that matter, how can it be squared with passages like Colossians 1 where Paul forcefully makes the point that Christ is all-suficient. (If there are others like Him, how could he be all-suficient.)

I also have trouble squaring this idea with Jude's Epistle. Having just made reference to Christ, in verse 9 he talks about Michael without so much as a hint that they might be the same. It also seems to me that the actions he ascribes to Michael would be a little strange coming from Christ. (I also note that when I read Matthew Henry's commentary on Jude he explains Michael's behavior as a choice made in order to avoid offending God. If Christ and Michael are the same, I am at a complete loss to understand this explanation.)

Having explored this topic in every way I can think of offhand, I conclude that while the idea of Michael and Christ being the same is interesting, I find no evidence to support it and I can't reconcile it with what I find in other passages. Unless I find something else on this subject, it appears to me that Michael is not just a preincarnate name for Christ. Instead, Michael appears to be a separate being. Powerful yes, but not the preincarnate Word.

*=John Gill seems to approach this issue from a similar position as Henry when he refers to Michael as a "divine Person."

Thursday, May 16, 2002
John Hawkins compares the idea that Bush had enough info to stop 9/11 to trying to predict Hitler by reading Nostradamus.

Josh Chafetz is back from vacation with a vengeance. He's got some things to say about political orthodoxy and "being black."

But if you really want to know why James is awful, all you have to do is look at this cartoon. It comes from the main page of James' campaign website. It is a tidy graphic statement of everything that is wrong with the old, racist, stifling, "civil rights" elite. The cartoon suggests -- no, that's not right: "suggests" implies subtlety, and there is nothing subtle about this cartoon. The cartoon makes it very clear that there is only one true way for a black politician to think. It shows Clarence Thomas, Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, and Cory Booker coming off a "Neo-Black Politicos R-Us" assembly line, with two fatcats (helpfully labeled "rightwing foundations") saying "They're so popular we can't produce them fast enough" and "I hear they always sell out!"

In other words, any black politician who dares to deviate from the Jesse Jackson-Al Sharpton-Sharpe James party line (did I mention that Sharpton and Jackson both campaigned for James?) is a sell-out. A race traitor. Has Martin Luther King's dream really come to this? Have we really come to a place where espousing certain political views means you're "not a real black man" (as a Yale classmate once said of Justice Thomas)? Does freedom for blacks really mean nothing more than freedom to toe the old guard "civil rights" party line? And, if so, doesn't this make their political voice worth less than the voice of white people?

But even with James' victory, I see signs of hope. Booker did amazingly well for a young man running against the machine in a machine-dominated town. And he's only 32 -- the man has a brilliant future. And so does Condoleezza Rice. And so do countless other young men and women who actually believe that democratic equality means everyone thinking for himself or herself, who actually believe that equality means not letting their race define their politics, who actually believe that they can push the old guard out of the way and get on with doing some good in the world. So let's find these young men and women, and let's support them, and let's welcome them to the American dream. Cory Booker for Newark Mayor in 2006!

I know he's right that we're seeing more and more black politicians (and regular citizens) willing to think for themselves. Unfortunately, I don't see any chinks in the campaign to paint them as "un-black" developing. I know it will happen eventually. (At least I hope that to be the case.)

Thomas Sowell says pipebomb boy isn't crazy, he's just been spending time in the American education system.

Wednesday, May 15, 2002
I'd pick apart this article, but just reading it made me sick. I'll just have to defer this one to Amy Wellborn.
(Link to this story came from The Midwest Conservative Journal. Bye the way, the Journal's changed the blog portion of the page to a white background which is much more readable.)

David Heddle has a post about amusing passages in the Bible. That got me thinking, but instead I started thinking about the most interesting passages. One of the most intriguing ideas to me are those Old Testament passages which seem to indicate appearances of Christ BEFORE the time we commonly call the Incarnation. I am aware of four instances that at least some people have argued might be Old Testament appearances of Christ. Here is one of them.
Joshua 5:13-15 WEB It happened, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and, behold, there stood a man over against him with his sword drawn in his hand: and Joshua went to him, and said to him, Are you for us, or for our adversaries? He said, No; but [as] prince of the host of Yahweh am I now come. Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and did worship, and said to him, What says my lord to his servant? The prince of Yahweh's host said to Joshua, Put off your shoe from off your foot; for the place whereon you stand is holy. Joshua did so.

There are several arguments that favor this man being Christ. The first is that he identifies himself as the commander of the host (more commonly translated army) of Yahweh. Who but Yahweh Himself can command Yahweh's army? And this Commander was apparently on earth in the flesh. Since it appears that Christ is, by definition, God in the flesh, and this Commander was apparently God in the flesh, then it would follow that the Commander was Christ.

Additionally, as you go into Chapter 6 the text now shows Joshua to be speaking to Yahweh directly. (It is possible that Joshua was talking to both God and an angel, but I see nothing in the text to indicate this.) Further, Joshua is instructed to remove his shoes because he is on holy ground. I am aware of only one other time that this happened in the Old Testament. This was the instance of Moses and the burning bush. In that passage, again, God is speaking directly to Moses. However, it was apparently an angel that was causing the bush to burn.

Perhaps most telling is that Joshua fell to the ground and worshipped the Commander. It is of course, not appropriate (to put it mildly) to worship an angel. If the commander was a mere angel (even Michael), I would expect him to spurn worship, as John's guide did. The fact that the Commander accepted worship heavily implies Deity. As I mentioned above, in this context, Deity appears to mean Christ.

Could I be wrong? Sure. Does it matter to anyone's salvation whether I'm correct or not? Not as far as I can tell. Is it interesting? You bet.

According to this story,the US military has concluded.that the Israeli Defense Force cannot beat the Palestinians.
Officials said the U.S. Defense Department was struck by the slow pace of Israel's offensive and the failure to deliver a strategic blow to either the Palestinian Authority or the opposition Hamas and Islamic Jihad. They said the Israeli operation reminded them of the Russian war in Chechnya.

And that didn't have anything to do with them having our country looking over their shoulders screaming at them to slow down and show restraint, now did it?

The Washington Times is reporting that the Palestinian gunmen at the Church of the Nativity ate like pigs, drank like fish, used bibles for toilet paper, destroyed property, stole artifacts, and generally had a grand time. Meanwhile the priests and nuns who live there along with Palestinian civilians who ducked into the building to avoid the fighting were forced to get by with practically no food at all. One source said the gunmen ate six months worth of food in 15 days. Remember, some people wanted us to think that these guys were "guests."

Check out David Heddle on the Anthropic Principle.

Tuesday, May 14, 2002
Sometimes cartoons speak volumes. Check out Big Nate.

You really ought to go visit Politics and Protest for their 9/11 tribute. If you have, but its been a while, do it again. Sometimes its good for us to just remember what has happened.

Don't know what to make of this, but Fox News is reporting that a hanger has exploded at a municipal airport in Nebraska.

In his book The Bear and the Dragon, the US invites Russia to join NATO in hopes of staving off an attack by China into Siberia. After Russia signs the NATO charter, the following exchange takes place between Ed Foley, Director of Central Intelligence, and John Clark, head of a paramilitary anti-terrorism group funded by CIA.
"Okay, Ed. If they come to me, I'll let you know. We cooperate, I presume."

"Fully," the DCI assured him. "We're allies now. Didn't you see CNN?"

"I thought that was the Sci-Fi channel."

I bring this up, because it was the first thing that entered my head when I say this story about the new Russia-NATO council. Its not quite like having the Russians actually join NATO, but it's pretty close.

This is also what makes reading Clancy so terrifying and compelling at the same time. Many of the things he writes about are so plausible. If you were unsure before, I will only remark that the WTC attacks were strikingly similar to the events at the end of his book Debt of Honor. The only difference being that in that book, a 747 flies into the Capitol during a joint session of Congress. In fact, given the attacks we'd already witnessed, I heard radio commentators before Bush's speech to the joint session shortly after the attacks questioning if such sessions were a good idea.

The plausibility of his writings also terrifies me. When I first read Sum of All Fears I was shaking for most of the last 100 pages. All I could think was, "This could happen!" These things certainly make Clancy a great author, but his prescience can sometimes be unnerving.

The Saudi-Terror Subsidy: A must read article by David Tell.

In his excellent book, Ten Lies about God, Edwin Lutzer has this to say:

"I believe in God" is perhaps one of the most meaningless statements we can make today. The word God has become a canvas on which each is free to paint his own portrait of the divine; like the boy scribbling at his desk, we can draw God according to whatever specifications we please. For some He is "psychic energy"; for others He is "whatever is stronger than I am" or "an inner power to lead us to deeper consciousness." To say "I believe in God" might simply mean that we are seeing oursevles in a full-length mirror.

Lutzer says that Karl Barth was right; there are only two ways to find out about God:

1. You can start with yourself and try to reason your way up to God.

2. You can accept what God Himself has revealed to man.

One of the problems with modern Christianity is that the Bible is often completely discarded as a source of actual knowledge about God. More and more, people rely on what they believe they can deduce about God with no reference to scripture at all. All to often I hear religious discussions begin with the words, "I feel" or "I think." We often fail to realize that it is not about what we think or feel. Study of God must revolve around what He has seen fit to reveal.

As Lutzer notes, the problem with trying to deduce the nature of God is that we tend to end up with a god that looks pretty much like us. Which would be fine, except God is not like us. Asaph, speaking for God, had this to say:

Psalms 50:21 - WEB You have done these things, and I kept silent. You thought that the "I AM" was just like you. I will rebuke you, and accuse you in front of your eyes.

The problem with trying to deduce the nature of God is that He is NOT like us. We are fallen beings; He is perfect.

Another problem with the idea that God can be what you make Him be is that it leads to a tendency to mix and match religious concepts to suit your fancy. This is apparently what the church at Colosse was doing. In doing so, they were detracting from the all-sufficiency of Christ. The book of Colossians is roughly divided in half; the first part of the book is devoted to theology while the second half deals with the practical applications of that theology. Probably the cornerstone of Paul's theological argument is this:

Colossians 2:6-12 - WEB As therefore you received Christ Jesus, the Lord, walk in him, rooted and built up in him, and established in the faith, even as you were taught, abounding in it in thanksgiving. Be careful that you don't let anyone rob you through his philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the elements of the world, and not after Christ. For in him all the fullness of the Godhead dwells bodily, and in him you are made full, who is the head of all principality and power; in whom you were also circumcised with a circumcision not made with hands, in the putting off of the body of the sins of the flesh, in the circumcision of Christ; having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.

Here, as in the rest of chapters 1 and 2, Paul makes it perfectly clear that Christ is all you need for salvation. He is sufficient to fill your needs. Any arguments to the contrary are "vain deceit." Of course, it follows that if Christ is all you need, anything else you throw into the mix to try to "cover yourself" is not only a waste of time, but an insult to the Savior who died for you.

We would do well to spend more time studying what God has chosen to reveal about himself rather than what we dream of discovering on our own. We would also do well by giving our all to the Risen Savior and thereby show him we recognize his all-sufficiency in our lives.

Wendy McElroy has an article detailing how lawsuits are causing a shortage of obstetricians.

Monday, May 13, 2002

Psalms 3 - WEB Yahweh, how my adversaries have increased! Many are those who rise up against me. Many there are who say of my soul, There is no help for him in God. Selah. But you, Yahweh, are a shield around me, My glory, and the one who lifts up my head.

I cry to Yahweh with my voice, And he answers me out of his holy hill. Selah. I laid myself down and slept. I awakened; for Yahweh sustains me. I will not be afraid of tens of thousands of people Who have set themselves against me on every side. Arise, Yahweh! Save me, my God! For you have struck all of my enemies on the cheek bone. You have broken the teeth of the wicked. Salvation belongs to Yahweh. Your blessing be on your people. Selah.

Father, we honor you above all. Sometimes it seems that Satan has sent ten thousand to oppose us. We thank you for sending your Son to deliver us and you Spirit to give us strength. Lord, I see so much in this world that frightens me and that I know must pain you. Give us the courage to spread your word to the world. May we be doing the task you set before us, reconciling a lost world to you.

I pray Lord that you provide my needs daily and help me not to be puffed up and think I have provided for myself. I ask that you forgive me of my sins and help me to forgive others. Teach me to flee from temptation and to resist it when I can't outrun it. You are the holy, awesome, and might God and I praise your name above all the earth. In your Son's glorious name, Amen.

Martin Roth has added David Heddle's blog, He Lives to his list of Christian Blogs. I just got an email from David myself and went to check out his site. What I've found so far was thoughtful and well reasoned. I suggest you give it a look.

More proof that Happy Fun Pundit is the king of political satire.

Eugene Volokh has an interesting entry about fear, guns, and cars. He notes in their that one argument that some gun control people make is that guns aren't fun. He points out that this is clearly a matter rational people can differ on. I would point out that while many people fine cars to be fun, I do not. That is no argument to ban or clamp down on cars. He is right that this is a matter rational people can differ on, but he he leaves open the possibility that it if you could prove conclusively that "guns aren't fun," that would have any relevance to the gun control argument. It doesn't. Its a complete non sequiter.

Despite that minor quibble, I find the Volokh Brothers blog to be very interesting and recommend that people read it. (Especially if you have an interest in the Second Amendment. [If you live in the U.S., even if like me, you've never owned a gun and don't plan to, you should have and interest in the Second Amendment.])