"Interesting is easy; beautiful is difficult."

- Gustav Mahler
Keeping Quiet about Creation

I don't think I wrote here that I thought the Ken Ham vs. Bill Nye debate was less than great. The fact that you can still watch it is impressive, but the debate itself disappointed me. I thought Ham posed a question he did not answer. Thought Nye appeared to be prepared to go toe-to-toe with him on specific scientific claims, Ham didn't want to wrestle for some reason. The next day, his group announced that he would answer all of Nye's objections that evening, but I want to know why he didn't do it during the debate. It's a day too late, sir.

A few years ago, I visited The Creation Museum in Kentucky with my family and enjoyed it. My only complaint at the time was the occasional straw man you saw characterizing evolutionists. I would have been much more impressed if certain presentations had presented teachers of Darwinian evolution as serious scientific people who could handle the data. Other than that, it was a great museum. But we need more than this to overcome the big problem as Joel Belz presents it today:

"The big problem more and more is that those of us who profess to be believers have to such a large extent joined them in their silence. So theoretically, we are still creationists. But practically speaking, we don’t let our allegiance to that great truth affect us much in everyday life."

Science is not a godless field of study, and Christian need not cede it to them. As Dr. Poythress explains in his booklet, Did Adam Exist? Darwin's model of evolution is only one valid way of interpreting the data--not the best way and not the only way. Interpretations that include God's designing hand are also valid.

Twelve Reasons Why God Can't Get Tenure, Rebuttal

Twelve top reasons why God can't get tenure (from the Internet of Yesteryear)

  1. He's authored only one paper
  2. That paper was in Hebrew
  3. His work appeared in an obscure, unimportant publication
  4. He never references other authors
  5. Workers in the field can't replicate His results.
  6. He failed to apply to the ethics committee before starting His experiments on humans.
  7. He tried to cover an experiment's unsatisfatory results by drowning the subjects.
  8. When subjects behavior proved his theory wrong he had them removed from the sample.
  9. He hardly ever shows up for any lectures. He merely assigns His Book again and again.
  10. His office is at the top of a mountain, and He doesn't keep office hours anyway.
  11. When He learned that His first two students sought wisdom, He had them expelled.
  12. His exams consist of only ten assigments which most students fail.


Rebuttal: Why God Did Receive Tenure.
  1. The one publication was a Citation Classic.
  2. The Hebrew original was widely translated courtesy of the author.
  3. Being written before journals existed, references were hard to come by.
  4. Original treatises that found a new area often require their own monograph.
  5. Although research has been sparse since the Creation, the professor has taught a number of courses: Human anatomy 212; Ancient Middle Eastern History 101, 102; Hydrology 207; Human Development 350; seminar on Egyptology; extended field trips to the deserts between Egypt and Palestine; Politics of Theocracies 277; Military Science Special Topic: Use of Voice as a Municipal Assault Weapon; Criminology 114; guest lectures in the Vet School: Digestive Anatomy of Whales; Wisdom & Ethics 550; Special seminar: Fertilization without sperm; Winemaking 870; Healing by miracle 987; Theology 101, 102, 230, 342, 350, 466H, and 980.
  6. The substitute teacher (son) was highly committed to his work.
  7. The substitute teacher cancelled the original ten requirements.
  8. The twelve teaching assistants formed numerous discussion groups.
  9. The substitute teacher knew students names without an attendance sheet.
  10. The professor's weekly Sunday lectures by surrogate instructors are attended by 974 million students.


Yes, Even When He Is Silent



Here we have the St. Olaf Choir with Conductor Anton Armstrong performing "Even When He Is Silent" by Kim André Arnesen. It was recorded at Nidaros Cathedral, Trondheim, Norway on June 16, 2013

The piece was commissioned by the St. Olaf Festival in Trondheim, Norway (Olavsfestdagene), using a text was found in a concentration camp after World War II:

"I believe in the sun, even when it's not shining.
I believe in love, even when I feel it not.
I believe in God, even when He is silent."

But, Lord, do not be silent or allow us to be deaf.

Pilgrim's Hymn by Stephen Paulus



Pilgrim's Hymn by Stephen Paulus

Even before we call on Your name
To ask You, O God,
When we seek for the words to glorify You,
You hear our prayer;
Unceasing love, O unceasing love,
Surpassing all we know.

Glory to the father,
and to the Son,
And to the Holy Spirit.

Even with darkness sealing us in,
We breathe Your name,
And through all the days that follow so fast,
We trust in You;
Endless Your grace, O endless Your grace,
Beyond all mortal dream.

Both now and forever,
And unto ages and ages,
Amen

Did Adam Exist?

Can we still believe in a historical Adam? That’s the question Dr. Vern S. Poythress, professor of New Testament Interpretation at Westminster Theological Seminary, answers in this booklet. He talks through scientists’ claims that Adam and Eve could not have existed, starting with the claim that 99% of the DNA of humans and chimpanzees is identical. Is this accurate? What about an authoritative report that refers to both 99% and 96%? Is that a mistake? No, he observes, both figures come from an interpretation of data using a few restrictions. Without getting too deep for thoughtful readers, Dr. Poythress explains how the data is being interpreted to come up with these figures and what is being left unsaid.

Step by step, asking questions on every other page about what this bit of information could mean to the reader, Dr. Poythress gets to his main point: Darwinist evolution is a framework for interpreting scientific data, and there are other frameworks.

Scientific findings are often reported as unarguable facts, as conclusions naturally drawn from the unbiased data at hand. That simply isn’t true. If a scientist or science reporter assumes gradualism is true, interprets his data set accordingly, and then announces he has proven gradualism with his data, then he has begged the question. This kind of circular reasoning is common, and this booklet aims at tripping it up.

“[W]ithin the mainstream of modern culture, Darwinism is not seen as religious, but merely ‘neutral’ and ‘scientific’,” he writes, yet Darwinists claim to have disproven God’s existence, which is a religious and unscientific claim. Such unscientific claims are being made in the name of science all the time these days, and it falls to those who aren’t scared of religion to point this out.

Dr. Poythress doesn’t shy away from the fact that the Bible states Adam and Eve existed, but he doesn’t argue from the text or any research to prove the point. He is content to poke holes in the claims that they could not have existed as well as criticize the idea that Science sees all, knows all, and cannot be questioned.

This thoughtful, accessible booklet is part of a series from Westminster Seminary Press called “Christian Answers to Hard Questions.” I recommend it to anyone who is wrestling with how to reconcile scientific claims with biblical truths. (I received this title for free as an ebook through Netgalley.com.)

At What Price Liberty?

Professor Alan Jacobs believes we will soon have the freedom to worship without much religious liberty, personal freedom to contemplate the divine on our own time without the liberty to exercise loving our neighbor in the name of Christ.

"I suspect that within my lifetime American Christians, at least those who hold traditional theological and more views, will be faced with a number of situations in which they will have to choose between compromising their consciences and civil disobedience. In such a situation there are multiple temptations. The most obvious is to silence the voice of conscience in order to get along. But there are also the temptations of responding in anger, in resentment, in bitterness, in vengeance. It might be a good exercise in self-examination for each of us to figure out which temptation is most likely for us."

"Hell Can Be Easily Built of Apathy"

A friend of mine, the pastor of this wonderful church, quoted this on Facebook:

"We hope that by believing less we will become less vulnerable to spiritual manipulation. We cannot be duped, we imagine, if critical doubt weakens the force of our commitments. If there is no truth, then we will not quarrel over our visions of the truth. If nothing is worth fighting for, then nobody will fight. However, an iconoclasm of truth will not succeed. Hell can be as easily built of apathy and diffidence as of megalomania and fevered ideological zeal-- perhaps more easily for it is difficult to wake from the narcosis of a velvet barbarism that desires no truth." -- R. R. Reno, Commentary on Genesis

6 Statements Luther Never Made

Martin Luther said many things, but as with many famous people, he did not say a handful of things people attribute to him, such as:

The maid who sweeps her kitchen is doing the will of God just as much as the monk who prays—not because she may sing a Christian hymn as she sweeps but because God loves clean floors.

The Christian shoemaker does his Christian duty not by putting little crosses on the shoes, but by making good shoes, because God is interested in good craftsmanship.
Justin Taylor explains:
Luther didn’t say this. As with the quote from the first example, [Frederick] Gaiser argues that it doesn’t sit very well with Luther’s actual views on vocation. The idea that God is pleased with our work because he likes quality work “would be the American work-ethic version of vocation, theologically endorsing work as an end in itself. In the hands and mouth of a modern boss, good craftsmanship and clean floors (or a clean desk or a signed contract) to the glory of God could be a potent and tyrannical tool to promote the bottom line. . . . [W]hat marks Luther’s doctrine of vocation is the insistence that the work is done in service of the neighbor and of the world. God likes shoes (and good ones!) not for their own sake, but because the neighbor needs shoes. . . .”

My Bent Thoughts, like a Brittle Bow, Did Fly Asunder"

Miranda Threlfall-Holmes, vicar of Belmont & Pittington in Durham, England, and author of The Essential History of Christianity writes about how the poetry of George Herbert opened her up to Christ:

"Certainly the poems are unashamedly intelligent. They are an example of the metaphysical school of poetry, which deliberately piled metaphor upon metaphor, and drew those metaphors from the cutting edge of contemporary science and philosophy. They flatter the reader by assuming a breadth and depth of political, theological and scientific knowledge."

The line quoted in the headline is from Herbert's poem "Denial".

Making old bones



I have been thinking much of skeletons lately, specifically my own skeleton (I remember C. S. Lewis mentioning, somewhere, that he found it hard to believe he even had a skeleton. I used to feel the same way). If you missed my previous announcement, I’ve been diagnosed with avascular osteonecrosis (bone death), and I will be going in to have my right hip replaced tomorrow morning.

An unpleasant experience generally, but salutary, I think. I am now the old codger with crutches who blocks supermarket aisles, a character who’s always irritated me. Though no macho guy, I’ve always had strong legs, and it’s a shock to be unable to get around easily on my own power. Thus does God humble us.

If the worst should happen, which is always a possibility, what would I want my readers to remember as my final message?

I think it would be, “Don’t try too hard to be loved.” Love is important; love is central to everything (God is love). But real love comes as a byproduct of virtue. Seeking love for its own sake, out of a fear of being left alone, is not only wrong but generally counterproductive. Do what’s right, and you’ll attract the love of people whose love will enrich you.

This is what is wrong with the church today, I believe. It values being loved (by people) over being faithful. Remember, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.” First things first.

But assuming this isn’t my swan song, I’ll probably be posting again sometime next week.

"Those that sleep in the Lord"

Our friend Gene Edward Veith at Cranach blog links to a post where the blogger wonders why, if many young people are being attracted to liturgical churches, as has been widely reported, they aren't streaming to Lutheran churches.

Our friend Anthony Sacramone, at Strange Herring, provides an answer: Lutherans are boring:

Growing up, all the Lutherans I knew were boring. They minded their ps and qs and paid their taxes on time (begrudgingly—I was LCMS, after all) and kept their heads down and their feet on the ground. They were good citizens and thought things through and were practical, rarely all that imaginative (although every once in a while a teacher would try and shake things up, only to be brought to heel if no great measurable results were forthcoming). There were exceptions, of course. (An elementary school teacher pretty much drank himself to death.) But they were notable for being exceptions.

I would rise to the spirited defense of my Lutheran brethren (and Anthony is a Lutheran, by the way), but I think I need a nap.

We Fought the War for Religious Liberty Too.

Thomas Kidd of Baylor University talks about Christians wanting to sanitize the past and the restrictions on religious worship in the American colonies:

If religious liberty is one of our greatest national legacies, we can thank many early Baptists for being on the front lines of the fight for that liberty. In the Massachusetts Bay Colony, and later Rhode Island, Roger Williams was one of the first dissenting voices speaking out against a state establishment of religion, and against the state policing people's religious beliefs. (For Williams, religion was too important for the government to meddle in it.) In the era of the Revolution, Baptists emerging from the Great Awakening wanted full freedom to create their own churches and to preach to whomever they wished. In most of the colonies, such freedom was not readily granted.

We forget that at the same time as the fight for independence from Britain, Americans were also fighting for freedom from oppressive religious laws. There were Baptist pastors being fined and even jailed for illegal preaching in Virginia in the early 1770s.

We Don't Serve Your Kind Here?

Rev. Andrew Damick spells out the theological dangers revealed in your coffee choices. "Your local coffeehouse may be a hotbed of heresy. Check the following list and see how yours measures up.

  • Decaf is Docetic because it only appears to be coffee.
  • Instant is Apollinarian because it’s had its soul removed and replaced.
  • Frappuccinos are essentially a form of Monophysitism, having their coffee nature swallowed up in milkshake.
  • [This one influences my wife] The Cafe Mocha (espresso + steamed milk + chocolate) is syncretic and polytheist, for it presumes to adulterate coffee with another nation’s gods.

Horus Wishes You Merry Christmas

A group calling themselves The Lutheran Satire offers this holiday video.

'A Thousand Christmas Candles Now Are Lighted'



Sissel singing a beautiful Swedish Christmas hymn from her first big breakthrough album in Norway. Gives me goosebumps still.

A blessed Christmas to one and all.

Where Are the Catholic Writers Today?

Gregory Wolfe, editor of Image and Slant Books, writes about the idea that strong Catholic writers can't be found today. He is responded to a piece by Dana Gioia, which lists many Catholics in letters from several years ago, but none working today. Wolfe disagrees:

To take just one example, in arguing that few contemporary writers take on the fundamental question of belief versus unbelief, Elie dismisses Alice McDermott’s fiction as being merely about Irish Catholic New Yorkers from the 1950s and ’60s. But this is an oddly literal and obtuse reading of, say, Charming Billy. True, the novel is set in that earlier time period, but the novel is told from the point of view of a younger woman—a disaffected, lapsed Catholic—whose exploration of her Uncle Billy’s life slowly and quietly brings her back to faith. Billy the alcoholic protagonist is a mess, and yet he is a loving soul, a kind of saint—a man of boundless faith in spite of his woundedness.

Then, in an unexpectedly poignant turn of events, the novelist Oscar Hijuelos wrote to the Times in response to Elie, citing his own novel, Mr. Ives' Christmas, just days before his sudden death of a heart attack. Like Charming Billy, Mr. Ives’ Christmas is another whispered tale of a wounded saint, a man of deep Catholic faith whose seminarian son is senselessly murdered. These novels by McDermott and Hijuelos are meditations on sainthood in the same vein as Graham Greene’s The Power and the Glory, but instead of a protagonist as priest hunted by totalitarian thugs, they show us New Yorkers as unlikely saints: an advertising executive and a worker for Con Edison.

"Mitt hjerte altid vanker"



I have been dilatory in my responsibility to provide you with Sissel Christmas videos on this blog. Here is the greatest singer in the world in concert in Iceland, doing what I believe is her favorite song, a Swedish Christmas hymn called "Mitt Hjerte Altid Vanker" (My Heart Always Wanders).

Vitae Lux



Today is St. Lucie's Day, celebrated every year in Scandinavia (especially in Sweden) with morning processions of young girls, led by one special "Lucia" who wears a crown of candles. The video above is from Sissel's televised Christmas concert with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir a few years back. Unfortunately for you, this is the Norwegian TV version, so her introduction is dubbed in Norwegian, which you probably can't understand. But trust me, she's talking about St. Lucie's Day. The video's also a little misleading, because the song she does here isn't the traditional song for the ceremony, "Santa Lucia" (yes, the Italian one). But it'll give you some idea of the thing. And it's always nice to hear Sissel sing, whatever she does.

Happy Luciadagen!

Demonic Bullying

Missionaries supported by my church, Dave and Eowyn Stoddard, serve in Berlin. I urge you to pray for them and read this remarkable post on what Eowyn calls the bullying of demons. She writes:

Satan was not playing fair. Now the shock turned to anger. I scanned the recesses of my brain. What had seminary taught me about demonic activity? I couldn't recall any class where we had discussed anything remotely similar to what we were experiencing. "Demonology 101" wasn't even offered! But seminary did teach me not to panic in the face of theological conundrums. It gave me a lens through which I could see everything from the perspective of God's sovereignty.

An apology, and Baker

First off, I have to apologize and say that you'll be seeing slow posting from me this week, or none at all. I have a major paper to write for my Library Science class, requiring my undivided attention.

Meanwhile, I direct you to our friend Hunter Baker, who posted a very thoughtful piece today on the minimum wage controversy, and Christian compassion in general.

During a recent visit to twitter, I happened across a post from a noted Christian academic. He had composed the kind of pithy remark which is tailor-made to launch a hundred admiring retweets. Paraphrasing slightly, it was something like this: ”Conservatives, don’t talk to me about family values if you doesn’t endorse a minimum wage increase.” I am sure that he thought it was a pretty high-powered zinger.

The problem is that there is no necessary connection between family values and increasing the minimum wage....

You'd better watch out


The Council of Nicea. I think St. Nicholas is the bald guy with the book on the right. Photo credit: Hispalois.

Our friend Dr. Paul McCain of Cyberbrethren quotes another friend of ours, Dr. Gene Edward Veith today, reprinting his classic account of Saint Nicholas (whose feast day is today) slapping the heretic Arius.

During the Council of Nicea, jolly old St. Nicholas got so fed up with Arius, who taught that Jesus was just a man, that he walked up and slapped him! That unbishoplike behavior got him in trouble. The council almost stripped him of his office, but Nicholas said he was sorry, so he was forgiven.

Dr. Veith goes on to make some constructive suggestions concerning new Christmas slapping customs we might adopt.

The Calvinist, A Poem by John Piper

Thanksgiving 2013


"Home to Thanksgiving" by Currier & Ives, 1867

“He who sits by the fire, thankless for the fire, is just as if he had no fire. Nothing is possessed save in appreciation, of which thankfulness is the indispensable ingredient.” (W.J. Cameron)

I’ve used that quotation for Thanksgiving before, but it was a long time ago. On the old web site, I think. Anyway, I like it.

It occurred to me today how closely thankfulness is connected to faith. One of the most common hindrances to faith—at least in my experience—is worry about the future. “Things are all right just now,” I say to myself, “but what about tomorrow? Being thankful feels too much like complacency. I have to keep my eye out for what’s coming down the road.”

This is one reason, I suppose, why Jesus tells us to cast no thought upon the morrow. Worry kills thankfulness, and lack of thankfulness destroys our spiritual perspective.

So have a blessed Thanksgiving. I hope you spend it with people you love. Or, alternatively, that you love the people you’re spending it with.


50 years gone


C. S. Lewis' grave in Holy Trinity churchyard, Headington Quarry, Oxford
Photo credit: jschroe


I’m going to alter my long-established custom of always posting about a days’ commemorations in the evening of that day, which means most of you read it the next day. Tomorrow is the fiftieth anniversary of the death of C. S. Lewis (also of a couple obscure characters named John F. Kennedy and Aldous Huxley).

I was, of course, around when it happened, in junior high if you must know. What did I think when I heard Lewis was dead? I’m not sure, because I wasn’t aware of his death date until years later, long after I’d become a Lewis enthusiast. I do remember the day though, because of the Kennedy thing.

But I’ve written about that before. I’d like to just recall what Lewis has meant in my life. It occurred to me today that Lewis was himself my Wardrobe, the portal through which I entered a larger world.

I was educated, like most of my friends, in Lutheran colleges which are now under the umbrella of The Very Large Lutheran Church Body Which Shall Remain Nameless. But, unlike a large percentage of my friends from those days, I neither apostatized or became a liberal. It was Lewis who made that possible (with the help at a later stage of Francis Schaeffer). The Lutheran schools I’m speaking of had then, and I assume still have, one single purpose in their religious education curricula, and that is to destroy all Christian faith in their students. But Lewis (though no biblical inerrantist) showed me that embracing orthodox Christianity doesn’t mean giving up reason. I clung to reason, and I clung to the faith of my childhood.

You yourself may approve or disapprove of that course on my part, but as for me, it’s one of the things I’m thankful for as Thanksgiving approaches.

91 New Theses Opposing Modern Heresy

Door where Luther posted 95 ThesesEarlier this year, I was going over Martin Luther's 95 theses, and it occurred to me that many of them apply to the teachings we call the prosperity gospel. The comparison isn't exact, of course. Prosperity teachers may be popular, but they aren't part of the majority church as were the teachers Luther opposed. And if you remember from reading Luther's list, he gives the Pope all due respect, suggesting that he is being misrepresented, not that he is teaching heresy himself. We can't say that for the preachers of the prosperity gospel.

Here's my list, taken from and based on Luther's original--and four theses short. You see today's Wittenberg doors on the right. They're bronze, so we'll have to post new theses with sticky tack. You'll also see that several of the theses here are Luther's own statements, taken from this translation.

No doubt, the spirit of Luther will pull me out of bed tonight, knock me in the head, and rebuke me until daybreak for pulling this stunt. I hope it doesn't offend you and bore only some of you. Hope you continue to have a good and holy All Saint's Day.

91 New Theses for the Modern Church

  1. When our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, said "Repent", He called for the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.
  2. The word cannot be properly understood as referring to living your best life now, i.e. positive thinking, as taught by some preachers.
  3. Yet its meaning is not restricted to repentance in one's heart; for such repentance is null unless it produces outward signs in various mortifications of the flesh.
  4. As long as hatred of sinful self abides (i.e. true inward repentance) the penalty of sin abides, viz., until we enter the kingdom of heaven.
  5. Preachers of “kingdom prosperity” have neither the will nor the power to remit the penalty of sin.
  6. They cannot remit guilt, but only ignore or excuse it because original sin and Christ’s atoning work are not in their view.
  7. God never remits guilt to anyone without, at the same time, making him humbly submissive to Christ.
  8. The promises of God apply only to followers of Christ Jesus, those who have been raised to life from a spiritual stillbirth.
  9. Mere fandom for a church or preacher does not qualify anyone to be particularly blessed by the Lord of Hosts.
  10. It is a wrongful act, due to ignorance, when mere fans of a church claim statements from the Word of God as particular promises for their personal lives.
  11. When preachers encourage their followers to claim particular promises, instead of repentance, surely it would seem that tares were sown among their congregations.
  12. Read the rest of this entry . . .

The Reformation in LEGO

I've been playing with the kids today and working on theology piece which I hope to post here soon, so while it's still Reformation Day, let me direct you to this recreation of Luther's Reformation acts in !!eye-poppingly realistic!! LEGO form. You will believe you are actually in Germany with these events went down.

Luther's Rose - Happy Reformation Sunday!

Something rotten in Sweden

Someone posted this on Facebook this morning, and I re-posted it there, because it epitomizes everything I’ve been saying about the course of liberal Christianity. A new archbishop has been elected for the Church of Sweden – its first woman archbishop, Antje Jackelén. At another time I might have had something to say about women’s ordination, but that issue is least of the problems here. Dispatch-International’s story says:

Like kings, all bishops have their own motto and Jackelén chose ”God is greater”. If that sounds familiar, it may be due to the fact that an Arabic translation renders it as ”Allahu akbar”. There are those who believe that her choice is far from random – but very deliberate.

Many have been taken aback by the theological opinions Jackelén revealed during a questioning in Uppsala on October 1. The candidates for the highest position in the Swedish church were asked if they thought Jesus presented a truer picture of God than Muhammed. With her evasive answer Jackelén suddenly emerged as the bishop who couldn’t choose between Jesus and Muhammed. This provoked strong reactions on some editorial pages.

Kyrkans Tidning thought that the bishop’s answer might indicate that Christ is being relegated to the margins of the Church of Sweden and Dagens Nyheter encouraged the candidates to show some theological backbone. The editorial writer at the newspaper Dagen wrote that it is time to accept the idea of a split within the church – between Christians and those who think all religions are equally good.

Now let me say that this article seems just a little sensationalist to me. Its title, "Swedish Archbishop Prefers Allah," for instance, is an exaggeration of the actual content of the text. Judging by this account, Archbishop Jackelén hasn’t said she prefers Allah to Jesus. She just refuses to make the choice.

I am fairly certain that, in the historical Christian church at all times up till the 20th Century, one thing that would always have disqualified any candidate for a bishopric is a refusal to confess Jesus Christ as Lord. That’s just basic, like failing an eye test for an airline pilot.

Which means that, as far as I can see, the Swedish church has apostasized in electing this woman. Anyone who holds to the faith of the creeds ought to leave that church. At a full run.

And don’t think it’s not happening here. I am confident, on the basis of a lifetime working in churches both liberal and conservative, that there are many church leaders and seminary professors in America (Ms. Jackelén in fact taught at the Lutheran seminary at the University of Chicago for a time) who believe – or disbelieve – in pretty much the same way.

At the risk of sounding like somebody from Left Behind, I declare ours the day of the Great Apostasy.

Neglecting the Ministry of the Word

Al Mohler writes:

Indeed, in many churches there is very little reading of the Bible in worship, and sermons are marked by attention to the congregation’s concerns, not by an adequate attention to the biblical text. The exposition of the Bible has given way to the concerns, real or perceived, of the listeners. The authority of the Bible is swallowed up in the imposed authority of congregational concerns.
(via Jared C. Wilson)

"Osteenian"

Today I got an e-mail from super-author Andrew Klavan, directing me to this column on his blog, in which he gives me a nice plug.

Novelist Lars Walker — a friend of this blog and an insightful reviewer of some of my own novels — makes a trenchant comment in the Elizabeth Smart post below. I know it’s trenchant because I was about to make basically the same comment but Lars beat me to it! In the comment, he makes a delightfully concise reference to “the Osteenian view that suffering is always a sign of God’s displeasure.” This, of course, refers to popular preacher Joel Osteen, who has been promoting his new book at the Blaze and other places. He basically preaches that God wants wonderful things for your life and you only have to open yourself to God’s will in order to receive those blessings.

He was particularly pleased, he said, by my use of the adjective "Osteenian," meaning theological ideas in line with Joel Osteen's preaching. He seems to think I may have coined it, though I find it hard to believe nobody's used it before.

In any case, this counts as a good day.

I, bully

News item: This story from CBS Dallas-Fort Worth seems to have surprised a lot of people. But I suspect there were a lot of us for whom it was no surprise at all. The story has to do with a study done at the University of Texas, Arlington which indicates that anti-bullying programs in schools don’t seem to do any good, and indeed may do harm.

The student videos used in many campaigns show examples of bullying and how to intervene. But Jeong says they may actually teach students different bullying techniques — and even educate about new ways to bully through social media and texting.

This is what happens in a post-Wisdom world, where experts have replaced sages, grandmothers, and the Scriptures. Experts believe that children are basically good, and desire to learn how to avoid bullying. Those of us who are familiar with actual children know that the true situation is different. You can’t divide kids up into “bullies” and “victims.” The categories are fluid. Every kid has it in him to bully, by the same kind of instinct which causes chickens to single out a member of the flock who’s been wounded, and peck it to death.

I’ve spoken of being bullied here before. I was bullied a lot, both at home and at school. There were few safe places in my world.

But I was also a bully, now and then, when fate chose to make me the alpha dog in some tiny situation. I never even thought about it. It came naturally. Today I’m hotly ashamed of those incidents, but at the time it just seemed like the obvious thing to do.

We won’t make progress until we recognize human nature for what it is. And we won’t do that until we start reading the Bible seriously again.

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