Friday, January 26, 2007

I've moved...

I've moved this site over to Typepad, and I've also started posting again. Here's the new New Covenant.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Hasta la vista...

While I enjoy writing posts for my New Covenant blog, I find that the time factor involved continues to be a problem. I've attempted to cut back on the frequency and length of my posts, but it continues to be a drain on my limited resources. Compounding the situation are issues pertaining to family, career, lifestyle, home location and the like, all of which I need to ponder on and, eventually, act. Hence, I have decided to shut down New Covenant until further notice. I will, however, continue to post images at Imago Articulus. Drop by and leave a comment or two on any image that strikes your fancy (or strikes a nerve). Thanks to all who have engaged in fruitful discussion while visiting this site. Thanks especially to Paul who, despite disagreeing with just about everything I've written, has done so in a civil and thoughtful manner. Until time and circumstances permit...

Saturday, October 29, 2005

On what is evil...

Three 16 year-old Christian schoolgirls were attacked and beheaded (per FoxNews) in Indonesia on Saturday. There was not a mention of the viscious incident anywhere to be found on CNN's front page. Ditto for MSNBC. The Los Angeles Times' website did not have a link to the story on its home page. The bomb blasts in New Dehli, a caped killer in California, or the fact that Bush is suffering from the Plame affair all seem to be more newsworthy stories. The same can be said for a good chunk of the blogosphere. Michelle Malkin carried the story here. But are there any other heavy-hitting bloggers carrying this story? I haven't found any. For the most part we just continue to see commentary after boring commentary on:
  • Harriet Miers (and the effects her resignation will have on the future of the Republican party, much less the world as we now know it), or
  • the earth-shattering Plame affair (and how Libby was involved with Cheney who interfaced with Rove while under the direction of Bush blah blah blah blah), or
  • just what 2,000 U.S. dead in Iraq means, or
  • how we should react to a gay Sulu.
Life, for some, goes on.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Setting out a fleece?...

When faced with the task of making major life decisions, many Christians reverently perform a liturgy known as setting out a fleece. Whether it be for choosing a career or choosing a spouse, the idea we seem to have grown up with is that, in following the supposed example of Gideon, we should request a sign from God which can then be taken as a positive indicator of the direction He wants us go. Are these Christians, while well intentioned, aware that the incident of Gideon's fleece was indicative of his lack of faith? And do they, in their misplaced zeal for adherence to Biblical principles, lay out a fleece in which the sign they request has supernatural qualities? HT: Stand to Reason

Friday, October 21, 2005

Yes we have no water...

Two streaks of light blazed across the Martian sky, in January of 2004, as the Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity each approached their respective landing sites. One of the mission’s goals was to search for evidence of past water activity on a Mars that, it is hoped, had a warm and wet past. Inherent in this search for water activity is the search for evidence of life on the surface of Mars, and the implications that such a discovery would have for the naturalistic origin of life on Earth. Interestingly enough, it now appears that the temperature on Mars has been below 0ยบ C for the last 4 billion years (link here, scroll down to the 9/25 entry). The idea of Mars having a warm and wet past seems to have just had ice thrown all over it.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

I like to be in America...

In the Los Angeles Times' article (registration required), U.S. Labor Is in Retreat as Global Forces Squeeze Pay and Benefits, David Streitfeld provides a possible glimpse of the future as he outlines the impact of offshoring jobs, that were once firmly planted on American soil, to countries such as China and India. From the article, regarding the recent problems at Delphi Corp.:
"How do U.S. firms compete in the global economy?" asked UC Berkeley economist Harley Shaiken. "If the only way to compete is with $10 wages, we have a problem that is much larger than just Delphi. We're looking at a society where people exit rather than enter the middle class."
Are we facing a future in which our technological prowess will establish, once and for all, an era of worldwide prosperity; or will our children find themselves thrust into a world in which they will truly have to trust in God for their daily bread?

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Nature, Humans, and procreative strategies...

On October 11th Michelle Duggar, of Rogers, Arkansas, not only delivered her 16th child but indicated that she and her husband Jim would like to have more. Also last week, Peggy Jo Conner is alleged to have used a baseball bat to beat her neighbor Valerie Oskin, who happens to be eight months pregnant, and then attempt to cut out Oskin’s unborn child to take as her own. If Nature is all there is, as the tenets of atheistic naturalism seem to mandate, then we are at a loss to declare a couple that chooses to intentionally burden themselves with 16 children as any better than a pragmatic nihilist who happens to minimize the burden of her gestation period by stealing another person’s unborn child.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Digitized Relationships...

God bloggers from across the country converged at GodBlogCon 2005, in southern California, this past week to establish a sense of community, discuss the many facets of blogging from a Christian worldview, and ponder the implications of this burgeoning medium. Much ado was made regarding the power of blogging, as it flexes its technological muscle, and sculpts the very way information will be disseminated in the future. However, much ado was also made about how utterly refreshing it was to actually sit down and chat, face to face, with many of the people we had previously only known by means of the phosphorous glow of our computer screens.

GodBlogCon '05, Final Thoughts...

I attended the two final breakout sessions today at GodBlogCon '05. The conference is now history. Some closing comments:
  • All in all, a wonderful conference. Yes, it was heavily represented by conservative Christians (theologically and politically). My question to those who raised this as an issue: What did you expect?
  • Kudos to the Biola students and graduates who volunteered their time to serve those attending the conference. You ladies and gentlemen were absolutely fantastic! After witnessing the genuine and deep love that Dr. John Mark Reynolds (JMR) has for all of you, though, it really isn't surprising that you would step up to the plate for him.
  • A great session on Thursday night by Dr. JMR. Is there anyone else who could so deftly intertwine Plato, the Titanic, the APA, and the Greek Orthodox church into a talk on blogging?
  • While I'm thrilled that Melinda "The Enforcer" Penner attended the conference, I wish that there had been more of a participatory presence from the Stand to Reason organization. For instance, perhaps we could have addressed the question: How can an apologetics organization better utilize the blog format? (BTW, be on the lookout for a new and completely revamped website from STR - coming very soon)
  • Thanks to Jollyblogger (David Wayne) for his insightful talk on Blogging Theology today. I really appreciate your point that theology is a way of life. It brings to mind the quote from either Lewis or Kreeft regarding the fact that whether or not people like philosophy, they all hold to some sort of philosophy - either good or bad. Likewise, whether or not one likes theology does not dismiss the fact that they will hold to some form of theology. Thanks for helping us hold on to good theology, David.
  • Does Hugh ever sleep?
  • Great roundtable discussion from some very heavy hitters in the blog and academic world.
  • Joe Carter is a very special person. I, for one, greatly appreciate you Joe!
  • Can you get over the cafeteria that Biola now has?
  • I'm scared of Stacy.
  • I don't feel quite so intimidated after finding out that I knew the definition of the word penultimate long before Hugh did.
  • A little known (or little publicized) fact from the GodBlogCon is that many a tiny blogger found themselves being encouraged by the community they met.
  • An enjoyable session by James Scott Bell regarding how blogging can bolster a writing career. I also got the chance to meet a few new bloggers including Lores, from Just a Woman, who will have a talkradio program in the southern California area beginning in January.
  • Most important statement made at the conference? "God is not a Republican or a Democrat. He's a monarchist." - Dr. JMR
  • Thank you Matt!
Here are a few pics I shot on Friday, October 14th: A panorama of Hugh's radio broadcast. Here he's interviewing David Wayne and Joe Carter. With the ever present Coke at his side, we immediately know that this is Dr. JMR. And while it may appear that he is praying over his ailing laptop... we know that there must be some Platonic reason for his posture. I believe that is Jason Janz behind JMR, intently listening to Hugh's show. The first of several photos I had taken with bloggers whom I had previously only known electronically. Here I'm with David Wayne, from Jollyblogger. Here I am with Joe Carter from Evangelical Outpost. You 'da man, Joe! Here I am with Bonnie from Off the Top and Intellectuelle. I'm not really that tall, and she's not really that short... we were on a slope. Finally, here are Suzanna, from Salvation Walls, and Bonnie (referenced above).

GodBlogCon '05...

I've been attending the GodBlogCon at Biola University. It has been simply wonderful to meet many people I've previously only communicated with over the web. While many bloggers are live-blogging the event I, without a laptop or wi-fi, am left to post during the few minutes I'm home at the beginning or end of the day. Hugh Hewitt broadcast his Friday show from Biola and interviewed several of the headline bloggers from the event. It's too bad that Hugh seemed to spend more time with the poli-bloggers than with the theological / culture bloggers... but that's Hugh (I guess). As Hugh's event was winding down several bloggers got together to chat in the Library patio. Initially it was a small group of four or five bloggers, but grew as people wandered by. Eventually Dr. John Mark Reynolds came and joined us, sitting down right next to me. Not being a particularly gifted speaker I was a bit intimidated by his presence, a feeling which he compounded when he turned to me and asked, "So, what profound thing do you have to say?" After a few moments of awkward mumbling I then ask him a question about homeschooling. All kidding aside, it was a very enjoyable roundtable discussion. Mike' Noise caught a picture of the event. Bonnie is the lady in the red top, I'm sitting to her right, and John Mark Reynolds is to my right. Okay John Mark!... here's my belated profound statement: "I'm so glad we're all here, together again for the first time."

Friday, October 14, 2005

The Singularity, and becoming God

The Belmont Club and Instapundit have recently written about the concept of "singularity," not with reference to black holes, but to a supposedly inevitable, and soon to occur, point in human evolutionary expansion, the likes of which no eye has seen, nor ear heard. Ray Kurzweil, who has authored The Singularity Is Near : When Humans Transcend Biology, is quoted as saying, "the implications include the merger of biological and nonbiological intelligence, immortal software-based humans, and ultra-high levels of intelligence that expand outward in the universe at the speed of light." Forever transcending, humans still fall for the original temptation, in which the serpent said to the woman, "You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." (ESV)

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Thursday night...

Per CNN, New Orleans to lay off 3,000 workers:
New Orleans will lay off 3,000 city workers -- about half the workforce -- because of financial constraints caused by Hurricane Katrina, Mayor Ray Nagin said Tuesday. ...Nagin said it was "with great sadness" that New Orleans was "unable to hold on to some of our dedicated city workers." (emphasis added)
How about he start with the moron who told Oprah Winfrey that hundreds of armed gang members were killing and raping people inside the Superdome? (hint: it's the same moron who predicted that 10,000 people would be found dead in New Orleans)

What about those who have heard?...

Nobody's fault but mine, nobody's fault but mine If I don't read it my soul be lost Nobody's fault but mine I have a bible in my home, I have a bible in my home If I don't read it my soul be lost Nobody's fault but mine Father he taught me how to read, Father he taught me how to read If I don't read it my soul be lost, Nobody's fault but mine I have a bible of my own, I have a bible of my own If I don't read it my soul be lost Nobody's fault but mine Oh, Mother she taught me how to read, Mother she taught me how to read If I don't read it my soul be lost, Nobody's fault but mine And sister she taught me how to read, sister she taught me how to read If I don't read it my soul be lost, Nobody's fault but mine - Blind Willie Johnson

Friday, September 30, 2005

My Photo-blog...

Check my Imago Articulus site for continuing and regular updates (unlike this blog).

What about those who haven't heard?...

In my previous post I described the non-Biblical notion that a Christian can, and should, seek direction from God in day-to-day decision making. Such a practice can essentially be reduced to hearing a word from God. One of my points, in refuting such a practice, was to note that God does not try to speak to us. If God intends to speak to you, you will hear Him; if God does not intend to speak to you, you will not hear Him (due to the important little fact that there is nothing to hear). Note very carefully the context here: that of special individual revelation from God. In the comments of the previous post Paul brought up the following,
...It's not much of a trick to say that God will make sure I hear his message when I live in a Christian country, having been born in another Christian country, and spent all but a few weeks of my life in a Judeo-Christian culture. I had assumed you meant something deeper than that. Nonetheless, it troubles me that there are billions of people who, because of their society or culture, don't get to hear that message. Does that mean God doesn't want them to hear it?
While Paul raises a very important question, it is way off-topic from my previous post. Again, the issue of my previous post had to do with Christians receiving extra-Biblical direction from God. However, since it is a very important question, I would like to briefly address it here on this post. There are, actually, several issues that such a question addresses. How does Christianity view the human condition? Who is God and what is His responsibility to us? What is justice? What is grace? How has God revealed Himself to all of humanity? What influence, if any, does culture have in one's decision to accept the God of the Bible? Has God chosen an elect group? With regards to a culture's influence on an individual's belief system, one must first understand that the primary issue is whether or not the belief system is correct, and not why someone believes it. In other words, even though it may be true that one believes in a particular religious system because of the culture he was raised in, that tells us nothing about whether or not the religious system he believes in is actually true. In the Christian Worldview, God is creator of all, and God is Holy. Mankind is separated from God by sin. God, being Holy, is also just. The just course of action for those who are guilty is condemnation. The Christian Worldview states that all mankind is guilty of sin against God and, as such, is due condemnation from God. It is only through grace, granted by God, that mankind can enter into communion with God. God is not obligated to issue such grace, or else it wouldn't be grace. So... what about those who haven't heard God's Gospel message in specific terms? The Christian Worldview understands that God is just and that God has revealed Himself to all mankind in a manner that leaves all mankind "without excuse." How does God do this? I don't know, and He isn't telling us. What He does tell us is that we are to be about making disciples into His name. Thus, to question the manner in which He reveals Himself to all of mankind potentially ignores at least the following points:
  • Who God is.
  • Because of who God is, what He is owed.
  • What mankind's condition is.
  • Because of mankind's condition, what mankind is owed.
  • What mankind is not owed (e.g., God's grace).
  • God is just.
  • God has revealed Himself to all of mankind.
How He works out His will with regards to His creation is His business.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

A word from God...

I once had a disagreement with a pastor regarding the direction he was taking the church he shepherded. In short, I thought he was over-emphasizing the experiential aspect of Christian worship to the point of excluding serious teaching about God. It was my opinion that such an unhealthy emphasis on the experiential would result in a breakdown of the very fabric of the church. Thus, it was not surprising to eventually see key families and members of leadership leave the church as they tired of having to continually wade through the shallow waters of "experience." While the details of that disagreement are important (and will eventually be told) I would like to focus on the justification that this pastor had for continuing in the direction he so fervently believed in. A word from God. Not the Word of God, mind you, but a word from God – a still small voice, the leading of the Spirit or, quite frankly, what God was telling him to do. You see, with regards to his approach to ministry he acknowledged that he and I had differing viewpoints. Yet he justified the direction he was going as valid because, according to him, it was the direction God was telling him to go. When you stop and think about it, though, that really is a good tactic. I mean, who can argue with him? If he really is getting direct messages from God, then anyone who disagrees with him is, in effect, disagreeing with God. Game. Set. Match. Never mind that I was using the Word of God as the basis for my arguments. Never mind that God has already spoken to me, and to him, and to all Christians, through the Word of God. No, never mind all of that because, in those circles, a word from God seems to always trump the Word of God. A few words of caution*, though, for those who so casually invoke the reception of a word from God:
  • Is your "word from God" infallible? If the following syllogism is true: "God cannot err. The Bible is God’s Word. Therefore, the Bible cannot err."; then it goes to follow: "God cannot err. I’ve received a Word from God. Therefore, the Word I’ve received cannot err."
  • In the past, those who claimed to speak for God staked their lives upon the claim. Do you truly understand the seriousness of what you are advocating?
  • Those who claim to hear from God cannot claim to have honed or, to be honing, their ability to hear from God without implying that God is trying to speak to them. God cannot try, for trying implies the possibility of failing, and God cannot fail at something He intends to do. The conclusion is that you cannot try to hear what God is telling you – for if God isn’t telling you anything, you won’t hear it; and if God is telling you something, you can’t help but hear it.
  • God certainly has the power to speak extra-biblically through prophets in the past, present, and future, but we know that He has spoken objectively through His Word. Therefore, while it is possible for someone to receive a word from God, the burden of proof rests on that person to demonstrate that it is, in fact, a word from God.
* These words of caution are paraphrases of points made by Greg Koukl, of Stand to Reason. Many thanks to him for providing two very important resources on this topic: Decision Making & the Will of God, and From Truth to Experience. Update: Now that I post much less frequently, I also avoid extending a post's debate or discussion via the comments section. People are certainly welcome to leave their own comments but, due to my own time constraints, I am not likely to respond directly. However, Anon, left a comment on this post that I would like to address. Anon said, does this relate to leading of the Spirit? I was asked once whether God was leading me to do this or that and I wasn't sure how to respond. And if God does lead, how do I know it's God and not my own guilt or feelings.
I would strongly recommend dropping about $20 on Greg Koukl's Decision Making and the Will of God CD set. Look up the verses in which the leading of the Spirit is referenced. You will find that, based on the context of the passages, the issue being discussed is how we are to live - not how we are to make specific decisions. In Romans 8, Paul is contrasting the differences between those who live by the flesh and those who live by the Spirit:
So then, brothers and sisters, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh (for if you live according to the flesh, you will die), but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are the sons of God.
The idea that, as a matter of normative practice, the Spirit leads us in our decision making process is simply not found in the Bible. The second part of your question implies that you are attempting to discern whether or not God is leading you in a particular matter. To reitierate one of the cautionary notes I learned from Greg Koukl - you cannot learn to hear from God. Put quite simply, if God intends for you to hear something, you will hear it. This is Biblically based. Read the book of Acts and note how many times God intervened and re-directed courses of action. There was no indication that the people involved were seeking for direction or that they were developing a sense of hearing from God. Yet, despite the many accounts of supernatural intervention, there are also many accounts of the apostles making decisions based purely on wisdom, desires, and opportunities, all grounded in the understanding that God's Sovereign Will was in control.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Yo!, U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton...

Judge: School Pledge Is Unconstitutional,
A federal judge declared the reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools unconstitutional Wednesday in a case brought by the same atheist whose previous battle against the words "under God" was rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court on procedural grounds.

U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton ruled that the pledge's reference to one nation "under God" violates school children's right to be "free from a coercive requirement to affirm God."

Yet another reason, in a littany of reasons, why we homeschool.

Yo!, Judge Karlton? Stop by my home around 9 a.m. to get a glimpse - actually, an education - in how coercive it is to have children recite the pledge of allegiance and engage in prayer (shudder!).

Perhaps our public schools should just follow the advice of a local radio personality who said that if someone objects to reciting the words "under God," then they should just replace them with "under no one in particular."

Thursday, September 15, 2005

From the Belmont Club...

Per Gaza looters settle old scores: As the last Israeli tanks depart the settlements are ravaged, from the Times of London,
Pillars of fire lit up the night sky even before the last Israeli tanks rolled out before dawn yesterday, as thousands of Palestinians swarmed into the forsaken settlements and youths set fire to synagogues and other symbols of the hated occupation. ...The Palestinian Authority accused Israel of cynically leaving the synagogues standing to make Palestinians look bad for demolishing them.
Wretchard, at the Belmont Club, states,
Ariel Sharon forgot the single most important fact of the media age, a fact that generations of Israelis had heretofore always remembered: that the mantle of victimhood belongs, not to the aggrieved, but to whoever can point the finger of accusation most vigorously. One of the most powerful properties of representation is that it transforms perception. It can make a city Mayor with hundreds of buses at his disposal into a supplicant wholly dependent on outside help to evacuate his constituents; it can transform Todd Beamer's heroic stand against Islamic hijackers into a Crescent of Embrace facing Mecca. It can transform reality so completely that, in the case of Gaza, it is the Jews who are ultimately responsible for the destruction of the synagogues because they left them standing. Were it not for the Internet, which has made it possible to revive the classic military memoir in the form of milblogs, the public would have no more idea of the battle against terror than they do of the whys and wherefores of synagogue burnings in Gaza.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

From Truth to Experience...

I just purchased a 2 CD set from Stand to Reason titled, From Truth to Experience: Why the Church Is Losing Its Vitality in the 21st Century. In it, Greg Koukl explains that he is,
deeply concerned about the church'’s ability to fulfill Jude'’s admonition to "“contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints"” because of a trend in the church that'’s getting worse.
He believes that the church (especially in America) is becoming increasingly ineffective, primarily because
...there is an unhealthy hunger for experience of personal revelation that has replaced our hunger for truth.
And that,
We desperately want God to communicate with us directly. [and] ...We are taught more and more from pulpits all around the country that this is what every Christian can expect to have happen.
He further states that such an unhealthy hunger is evidenced by three traditions in modern evangelicalism,
1. we go to our Bibles not to study the text for its truth, but to look for private, personal, individualized messages from God to us. 2. we think that God has put His will in code and we must decipher in order to find "“God'’s will."” 3. we think that a vital part of a real relationship with God is learning how to receive private, personal, special revelations from God.
The problem, as Koukl sees it, is that we've placed too much importance on the aspect of experiencing God. In our culture, feelings seem to be so much more relevant, and valid, than mere academic knowledge. That which entertains, or titillates the most, is deemed that which is most important. Is it no wonder, then, that many of our evangelical churches emphasize the fact that one can experience God when one enters into a personal relationship with Jesus? Is it any wonder that such an experience is considered to be the cornerstone for our Christian faith and the means through which our maturity occurs? Instead of hearing and learning about God, we end up hearing catch phrases such as, lives are being transformed, or, people are experiencing God's Spirit. Instead of hearing and learning about God, we are told that we, as a congregation, must be about connecting at deeper and deeper levels. The idea, so it goes, is that if people could just experience God, then they'd not only connect at deeper and deeper levels, but they'd also yearn to learn more about God. But is that what really happens? Do we see those people that have experienced God (supposedly) striving to learn more about Him? Or do we simply see them striving to get more of the experience? Yet, Koukl's concerns run much deeper than that of experiential, illiterate Christians. You see, when we elevate experience over revealed truth (i.e., the personal revelation of experience over the general revelation of Scripture), then we run into the problem of relativism. For example, if one person reads a verse and receives a personal, individualized message, then that verse has a different meaning for that person than it does for either you or I. When a static passage of text can mean one thing to you, another thing to me, and yet another thing to someone else, then that text is being viewed in a relativistic manner. And that is no way to view the revealed truth of God. Update: Joe Carter links us to Signs: I'm Weary of Weird Christians, by The Internet Monk. An excerpt,
I am tired of hearing people I work with say that God is talking to them like He talked to Moses at the burning bush or like He talked to Abraham. I'm weary of people saying God speaks directly to them about mundane matters of reasonable human choice, so that their choices of toothpaste and wallpaper are actually God's choices, and therefore I need to just shut up and keep all my opinions to myself until I can appreciate spiritual things. I'm tired of people acting as if the normal Christian life is hearing a voice in your head telling you things other people can't possible know, thus allowing you a decided advantage.
Read the whole thing.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

A Letter to Gilligan...

Dear Gilligan, I heard you finally left the island... your island... and that you won't be coming back. Was it really over 40 years ago when you were first shipwrecked? Black and white. That's how I like to remember you - fishing from shore, while The Wellingtons sang in the background. But it was the '60s, after all, and color TV was the "in" thing. And with color TV came - color TV shows. Color TV shows that seemed to demand that the hue and saturation controls of the television set be turned up full blast. And amidst this psychedelic potpourri we kids would watch, anxiously hoping that you'd be rescued, but pleasantly relieved when you weren't. You know what? Even after we knew you weren't going to be rescued, we'd still watch, over and over and over again. You know why? It was fun. Thanks Gilligan. Thanks for the fun.