Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Lutheran or Mega Church Protestant?

What is the difference and does it really matter? From Josh S over at

A Different Kind of Religion

This goes way back to some discussions with Steve from Stupid Church People. Now I don't claim that Lutheranism fixes everything. You'll find the same human flaws in the Lutheran Church that you find everywhere else. But I would like to make the claim that it is virtually a different religion from what goes on at a megachurch.

The difference comes down to two of the fundamental questions that define religious communities as communities: "Who are we?" and "What are we doing?" The Lutheran answer is sacramental, which makes the Lutheran understanding of "church" different from that of evangelicalism different in kind rather than in degree.

Please read the whole thing here as it really explains what is unique about the Lutheran understanding of church.

One of the many joys of Netflix membership

I often have this issue with Netflix, I've watched many a flick I have no idea why I ordered because my queue is 60 movies long and it sometimes is a few months before I get around to seeing ones I put on the list, and then I wonder, what was I thinking???

Two from Weedon's Blog

These are by William Weedon on his blog. Really good stuff.

First:

Hey, You know What

the Eucharist is? It's the anti-rejection medicine that God prescribes for you after the heart-transplant that He performed on you in Holy Baptism.

Then:

And lifting up His hands...

...He blessed them.

Have you ever followed the hands of Jesus?

See them as Mary first held him, and his tiny hand wrapped around a finger as He nursed in the warmth of her embrace.

See his hands as he reaches out to touch the grizzled beard of Simeon in the temple.

See his hands as He learns to plane the wood and help Joseph in the carpenter shop, hands growing calloused even as a youth.

See his hands as he opens the Torah and reads from it, a finger tracing along with the words.

See his hands as they fold when John puts Him beneath the waters of Jordan.

See his hands as they crack in the dryness of the wilderness, his whole self parched and weary.

See his hands as he touches the leper and the leprosy flees at his words: "I will; be clean!"

See his hands as he takes up the loaves and the fish and blesses his Father for his goodness.

See his hands as he touches the head of the woman he saved from stoning and says: "Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more."

See his hands as he pats the donkey's head, riding into his holy city.

See his hands as he takes a whip and turns it on those who would sell what God gives freely.

See his hands as they take a towel in hand and he stoops to wash dirty feet and dry them, one by one.

See his hands as he takes bread into them, blesses and breaks and gives his body.

See his hands as they enclose around the cup, and he offers the sacrifice of thanksgiving, his own blood.

See his hands, outstretched in the garden, and trembling receives the cup that the Father gives.

See his hands as he touches Malchus and restores his severed ear.

See his hands, at his side, not raised to defend Himself, against the blows, the spit, the venom.

See his hands spread out against the wood, split open with the nails, determined to do this for you and for your forgiveness.

See his hands writhing in agony as the sky darkens and he is left alone with the burden of all your sin.

See his hands, lifeless and torn, touched by His mother as he his lifeless body rests in her loving embrace.

See his hands, folded across his chest, laid in a tomb, at rest, in repose.

See his hands, scars still there, yet alive again, never to die again, reaching out to the disciples, giving them peace, calling them to life.

See his hands, handling the fish for an early morning breakfast beside Galilee.

See his hands, raised in blessing as he lifts our human nature to the very throne of heaven.

See his hands, wounded and yet living, and pleading for all ages for mercy, a sweet smelling savor to the Father.

His hands.

"I have graven you on my hands," he says.

And to be held by those hands? What more could a person ever ask for or desire?

And lifting up his hands, he blessed them, and for your blessing hands, we bless You, O Lord!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

National Day of Prayer

May 1st is a "National Day of Prayer" or so I've been told. Prayer to what or who? This is yet another example of that American Civil Religion that is so pervasive these days. There is some vague undefined power out there called "God" who all Americans are supposed to believe in. Who or what is he? I honestly don't get it. Muslims deny the deity of Jesus Christ and call the doctrine of the Trinity polytheism. Hindus pray to hundreds of gods and goddesses, Buddhists claim no gods at all while the Baha'i faith claims all the gods and prophets as their own.

There is only One True God, that is the Triune God as described in the Holy Scriptures, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Sorry if that sounds intolerant but there can be no compromise on this issue. God is very real and very specific, He is the Father, Son and Holy Ghost and not Krisna, not Allah. Those who pray to these other gods are praying to false gods, praying to lies, indeed, they are praying to demons in the end!

For this reason I cannot support a "National Day of Prayer." The very concept is absurd on its face. Should not all Christians be praying each and every day anyway? I know I do, I pray and read the bible formally in morning and evening prayers every day and a dozen times informally during the day as well. Most importantly of all to declare a National Day of Prayer implies we are all in agreement on who God is, and we are not.

There is an alternative that is nearly as offensive, that is the National Day of Reason :-) Lets all worship ourselves for a day... blech.

Let us keep government out of religion and religion out of government. Yes, do pray, and pray every day to the Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, pray for your country, pray for your city and your family. Don't pray to Allah, don't pray to Krishna and don't pay to some undefined generic American "god" either.

Moving, part 87-b

I have packed... um... yep, nothing is how much I've packed so far. I did shove most of my camping gear into the car and dump it in the garage of the new house though :-) My excuse is I'm working this week my normal schedule...

Lucky for me that Mike and Lora are packing like fiends in the rest of the house!

Serenity is staying with the Domkes for a few days so she is out from under foot, that makes things marginally easier I suppose.

In honor of my fine skills we present this from Wondermark Manor (click on image to actally read the thing):


Monday, April 28, 2008

Best Headline of the Day!

Here is the funniest headline of the day, maybe the week from the BBC:

'Free Tibet' flags made in China

Protesters holding a flag of the Tibet Government in Exile
Made in China? Police believe some flags may have already been shipped

Police in southern China have discovered a factory manufacturing Free Tibet flags, media reports say.

The factory in Guangdong had been completing overseas orders for the flag of the Tibetan government-in-exile.

Workers said they thought they were just making colourful flags and did not realise their meaning.

But then some of them saw TV images of protesters holding the emblem and they alerted the authorities, according to Hong Kong's Ming Pao newspaper.

Moving time coming

Gah, I really hate moving.

Wednesday we are moving four miles south, over the border into Pleasanton. I'm looking forward to it being done and dreading doing it. There will probably be nothing here until after Thursday. Then again, maybe there will be, who knows :-)

Friday, April 25, 2008

8th Commandment - Part 2

The Rev. William M. Cwirla has a post on his blog called:

The 8th Commandment - A Brief Catechesis


He does a much better job than I do on explaining the atrocious misuse of the 8th commandment by our synod rulers.

An extended excerpt follows, I urge you to read the whole post as well:


...the 8th commandment is not a protective blanket of immunity from criticism for those in public office. Public accountability means being open to public scrutiny and criticism. Anyone who runs for public office knows this and ought to expect it. The very nature of checks and balances requires that those who hold public office, whether in the state or the church, be subject to the scrutiny of those they are elected to serve. The 8th commandment was given by God to protect one's personal reputation, not as a set of skirts to hide behind when the hounds of criticism are on to your scent.

The 8th commandment forbids us from attacking a person's name, reputation or character; it does not forbid criticism of a person's conduct, performance, or actions, otherwise job evaluations, oversight, and public justice would be impossible. The 8th commandment does not forbid dissent and disagreement. In fact, it calls for dissent when the truth of God's Word or the protection of our neighbor's rights is at stake. To do or say nothing in the face of tyranny, oppression, and false teaching is not putting the best construction on everything.
To invoke the 8th commandment against criticism and dissent, as the synodical president and the COP appear to be doing, is to subvert the commandment's very intent that justice and truth prevail.

What exactly does it mean to put the best construction on everything? Does it mean "say nice things and don't call people names" as Mommy and our kindergarten teacher always said? Does it mean that we say Jeffrey Dahmer had "an interesting diet," or that Charles Manson was "socially challenged?" Is the 8th commandment a divine mandate for politically-correct sissified speech in the interest of playing nice?

A quick scan of the Scriptures suggests otherwise. John the Baptizer was highly critical of the religions leaders and called them a "brood of vipers." Jesus called the Pharisees "white-washed tombs," and He called Herod a "fox." The prophet Amos called the spoiled women of Samaria "cows of Bashan," while Jeremiah referred to the apostate nation Israel as a "she-ass in heat." Apparently, putting the best construction on things can involve some rather colorful metaphors.


Luther, who coined the phrase "putting the best construction on everything" had a similarly colorful way of putting things, especially in print. He called the pope names are not printable in today's "polite society." He mockingly called Karlstadt and his fellow radical reformers “heavenly prophets.” He called the charismatics of his day “Schwärmer,” buzzing bees. He mercilessly punned on his opponents’ names, like Hans Wurst. He called Thomas Münzer something even James Kittelson, who always delivered the unvarnished, uncensored Luther, couldn’t translate in his book
Luther the Reformer.

A true theologian of the cross calls a thing for what it is. When Peter pulled a fast one at Antioch and withdrew from Gentile associations to be "sensitive" to the James gang, Paul called him a "hypocrite" to his face in public. Yes, we are called to deal patiently and gently with one other, but when the playground bully sucker punches someone, he can’t hide behind the sign that says “No Fighting on the Playground” and claim immunity. There’s a time for war and a time for peace. There is a time to speak up and a time to shut up. And there are times when the best one can do is what Luther advised timid Philip - “sin boldly, and trust Christ even more boldly.”

That’s how free men and women in Christ deal with things.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Check out the monopoly cards...


There are a whole series of them here, perfect! :-)

The 8th Commandment

The 8th commandment, by the Lutheran and Catholic numbering system, is:

The Eighth

“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”

The small catechism of Luther says:

16 What does this mean?

Answer: We should fear and love God, and so we should not tell lies about our neighbor, nor betray, slander, or defame him, but should apologize for him, speak well of him, and interpret charitably all that he does.

In other places Lutheran frequently use the phrase, "Put the best construction on everything," when describing what this means. I really have a problem with that, or at least in the way that it is frequently used by perpetrators of wrong to prevent anyone saying a word against them.

This comes up for me this morning because I read a response from Dr. Gerald B. Kieschnick, President, The Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod about the uncalled for, unjust and improper removing of the program "Issues Etc." from KFUO. You can find the whole letter on the Augsburg1530 blog, the part that got me going this morning is this:

Some have interpreted the decision to discontinue “Issues, Etc.” as being theological or political in nature or purpose. Such interpretations have no basis in fact.

As president of the Synod, I respectfully request and pastorally encourage all in the Synod to be patient and charitable regarding this matter, putting the best construction on actions and decisions connected therewith.

So, the proper use of the 8th commandment is, as far as Dr. Kieschnick is concerned, is to stifle all dissent, to force people to accept what are obvious lies as truth just because they deny they are lies, to shut up and sit down and mail in those darn checks!

Under his interpretation if my neighbor, who is upset with me for some reason or other, brings a load of 12 tons of bull manure and deposits it on my lawn I'm supposed to thank him for the fertilizer?

Please. This whole "best construction" stuff is very prone to abuse as far as I can see. The only time I hear it bandied about is when there is a case of plain bull manure deposition that the perpetrators want to get away with, like this whole thing of destroying the ONLY really Lutheran and confessional radio (which today includes podcasts) witness to the world, for the quite obvious reason that the rulers of the "synod" (that word really doesn't apply to the LCMS these days) are not Lutheran, not confessional and barely Christian. They are corporate church growth marketing types who take their examples not from the universal (catholic) traditions of the one Holy and Apostolic Church but from pop American Evangelicalism. You know, those churches that have ditched the cross in favor of self help sermons!

I say we ought to send the load of manure back where it came from and stop allowing liars to abuse scripture to defend themselves. It's time to call things by their right name. BS is BS.

----------------------------

Note, after the letter from Pope Jerry posted on Augsburg1530 there were a number of other posts, some of which did address the misuse of the 8th commandment, do check them out if you are interested.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

From England

Two stories from England about how schools mess up kids, these are full of great quotes :-)

Sample quotes:

I offer these examples as proof of my point: as a method of delivering education, school is overrated. This was Bertrand Russell's view. "Men are born ignorant, not stupid," he wrote. "They are made stupid by education."

Robert Louis Stevenson was of the view that "full, vivid, instructive hours of truantry" were a better education than sitting in a classroom having information drummed into your mind by Gradgrinds intent on producing obedient wage slaves.



Idle parenting means happy children


Last Updated: 12:01am GMT 16/02/2008
Page 1 of 3

Cancel all clubs, ditch the after-school activities and leave those kids alone, urges Tom Hodgkinson

The idle parent: the less school, the better


Last Updated: 12:01am GMT 15/03/2008

Tom Hodgkinson says the idea that school is good for us doesn't bear examination

Eating Green

Some time ago I began to eat more fruits and vegetables, this drifted over into an exclusively vegetarian diet after a while.

My motivation for this change was twofold.

First there was my own health, I am convinced that a diet made up primarily of fruits, grains and vegetables is the one our bodies are designed to use. Small amounts of meats are probably not that bad but I really don't care much for meat, or should I say the very idea of eating the burned corpse of some murdered animal simply makes me feel a bit queasy. ;-)

My second motive was that producing meats uses more resources, land and fuel, than producing an equivalent food value for a vegetarian diet. My thinking was that to feed all of the people on the planet we needed to move toward this sort of eating, we just can't feed 6 billion people beef!

Now there is a study out that demonstrates just how important this idea really is, this time with an eye toward reducing our carbon footprint, reducing greenhouse emissions and thus doing something personal about the severe problem of global warming. Eating vegetarian is the same as driving 8,000 miles less in a car, about what I drive in a year anyway.

Already I do such things as insisting on living close to public transit so I don't need to use a car to go to work, I ride my bike to the train and walk as much as possible. The location of our new house thrilled me, and decided me on going for it, because it's 2.1 miles from the train station and only about 6 blocks from a Lucky's Supermarket so we will be able to walk to get our groceries, it's also 7 blocks from a great park so we won't need to drive to a park for Serenity to play they way we usually do now.

All that being said here is the story from my favorite source for science news, Science Daily:

Web address:
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/04/
080421161338.htm

Want To Reduce Your Food-related Carbon Footprint? What You Eat Is More Important Than Where It Came From

enlarge

The foods you choose, not the distance it traveled to reach your table, is the most important determinant of your food-related climate impact. (Credit: iStockphoto/Willie B. Thomas)

ScienceDaily (Apr. 22, 2008) — The old adage, "We are what we eat,'' may be the latest recipe for success when it comes to curbing the perils of global climate warming. Despite the recent popular attention to the distance that food travels from farm to plate, aka "food miles," Carnegie Mellon researchers Christopher L. Weber and H. Scott Matthews argue in an upcoming article in Environmental Science & Technology journal that it is dietary choice, not food miles, which most determines a household's food-related climate impacts.

"Our analysis shows that despite all the attention given to food miles, the distance that food travels is only around 11% of the average American household's food-related greenhouse gas emissions,'' said Weber, a research professor in Carnegie Mellon's department of civil and environmental engineering and engineering and public policy.

The researchers report that fruit, vegetables, meat and milk produced closer to home rack up fewer petroleum-based transport miles than foods trucked cross country to your table. Yet despite the large distances involved--the average distance traveled for food in the U.S. is estimated at 4,000-5,000 miles --the large non-energy based greenhouse gas emissions associated with producing food make food production matter much more than distance traveled.

The authors suggest that eating less red meat and/or dairy products may be a more effective way for concerned citizens to lower their food-related climate impacts. They estimate that shifting to an entirely local diet would reduce the equivalent greenhouse gas emissions as driving 1,000 miles, while changing only one day per week's meat and dairy-based calories to chicken, fish, or vegetables would have about the same impact. Shifting entirely from an average American diet to a vegetable-based one would reduce the same emissions as 8,000 miles driven per year.

"Where you get your food from is a relevant factor in family food decisions, but what you are eating - and the processes needed to make it - is much more important from a climate change perspective,'' said Matthews, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering and engineering and public policy at Carnegie Mellon.

Adapted from materials provided by Carnegie Mellon University, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS.

APA

MLA
Carnegie Mellon University (2008, April 22). Want To Reduce Your Food-related Carbon Footprint? What You Eat Is More Important Than Where It Came From. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 22, 2008, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2008/04/080421161338.htm

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Father Hollywood tells it like it is...

Here is the beginning of a somewhat longer piece, please read the whole thing here.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Muslim Friendly Worship?

The delightfully candid cowardly amoral anti-hero Harry Flashman in the series of novels by George MacDonald Fraser was so despicable, one could not imagine anything being shocking to him. There is a line Flashman would utter once in a great while when he witnessed something so debased that even he had to raise an eyebrow:

"For an instant even I was appalled - but only for an instant."

Caught between the pincers of the world and the church, I find myself so jaded these days as to rarely find the energy to even shrug my shoulders at what I see going on around me. But, in the case of the following published paper by the chairman of the Missions Department of Concordia University, Portland, the Rev. Dr. Herb Hoefer, who is, of course, an ordained minister of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod, I have nothing else to do than to quote Sir Harry Flashman.

Now, mind you, the procedures for pressing charges against a fellow member of the Missouri Synod are so convoluted that very few people other than law professors from Boston can understand them, and they are so laden with land-mines that rumor has it that Angelina Jolie is considering bringing the issue before the United Nations. Therefore, my expression of "shock and appall" (even if only for an instant) must not be construed as some kind of charge of theological error. Of course, we don't err in the Missouri Synod. Our president assures us that we are united as never before. And as David Strand says: we're all confessional Lutherans. But of course.

But I'm still appalled...more.

Prosecuting No-Threat Stumblebums

April 19, 2008
Prosecuting No-Threat Stumblebums
by Alan Bock

Earlier this week a federal judge in Miami declared a second mistrial in the case of the so-called "Liberty City 7," a group of men accused of a terrorist plot to blow up the Sears Tower in Chicago. Only six men were on trial this time because last December a jury acquitted one of the so-called plotters and was deadlocked on the charges against the others, included the purported leader, one Narseal Batiste, 33, who was supposedly the leader of a self-styled sect called the Moorish Science Temple.

The prosecution had at its disposal hundreds of FBI audio and video recordings documenting supposed plots, including one in which the men took an oath of allegiance to al-Qaeda. Perhaps the jury was less than impressed, however, by the fact that the oath-taking ceremony was led by an FBI informant, known as Brother Mohammed, posing as an al-Qaeda operative.

It quickly became apparent after the arrests of these bozos that they were essentially a bunch of big-talking stumblebums and losers without money, without weapons, without military training, without anything resembling operational knowledge of what it would take to bring down the Sears Tower, and had never even been to Chicago. It turned out that most of the plots were dreamed up at the instigation of FBI informants who sat around with the men in dope-smoking sessions and urged them to dream up ever more fanciful plots. The informants promised to come up with $50,000 to finance the plot and get access to explosives and other nasty stuff. Batiste testified that he was merely trying to con the informant out of $50,000.

By the time of the arrest, the only things resembling evidence that this was anything approaching a serious plot were some cameras and military boots and a warehouse. All this had been supplied by the FBI informants. There were no weapons, ammunition or explosives.

In his closing argument during the December trial, Albert Levin, an attorney for one of the accused, said that "This was all written, produced, directed, choreographed and stage-designed by the United States government." That appears to be the case, and it appears to be what two juries believed.

I wouldn't be surprised if there were a few home-grown terrorist cells in the United States consisting of fairly serious people who just might have a chance to pull off an attack that caused some serious destruction. There might even be some cells with connections to foreign groups.

But almost all the cases brought forward by the U.S. government so far – each time with portentous self-congratulation about how the intrepid government agents had foiled yet another dangerous plot that could have wreaked untold death and destruction on innocent American citizens – has more closely resembled the Liberty City 7 case. In almost every instance the "plotters" have turned out to be a bunch of pathetic losers who made the mistake of talking nonsense and then getting infiltrated by government agents who goaded them into dreaming of ever-bigger death and destruction, then supplied (at taxpayer expense) the only elements of supposed plot that came even close to resembling something real.

There's the case of the "Fort Dix Six," arrested last May and charged with a plot to attack the military base in New Jersey. The supposed plotters consisted of a taxi driver, a former pizza delivery boy and three roofers who had no money, no training and pretty much no clue. But the FBI infiltrated the group of slackers, urged them to dream up the plot while collecting incriminating evidence, and promised to give them access to rocket-propelled grenades and AK-47s, none of which ever quite materialized.

In most cases there were serious elements of entrapment – undercover government agents urging the supposed plotters to commit crimes they might not have thought of by themselves and had no capacity to commit without government help even if they had thought of them.

Entrapment and "sting" operations, setting up fictional crimes that carry real sentences, are all too common in U.S. law enforcement. As ethically dubious as such operations are, however, they have traditionally been carried out against people whom the police have a reasonably well-grounded suspicion are already involved in some kind of criminal or at least illicit activities, such as burglary, fencing or drug dealing. Thus we hear, from time to time, of a bunch of petty thieves being invited to a warehouse where they can get cash for their stolen goods and being arrested upon arrival.

The difference with the domestic terrorist "plots" is that in almost every single instance there was no activity more criminal than foolish talk before the undercover informants got involved. What seems to be the case with these concoctions is that the government is manufacturing plots at least in part to develop fear in the general populace, most of whom hear little more about these stumblebums beyond the initial press conference announcing that yet another dread terrorist cell has been stymied, but there are others out there, so be very afraid.

There's also the little matter of justifying the $4 billion a year or so the feds are spending on anti-terrorism boondoggles. As Rolling Stone explained in a valuable recent article, "The Fear Factory," which describes several more episodes of stumblebums prodded by the feds, there are now 102 Joint Terrorism Task Forces spread around the country, consisting of FBI agents, local police and agents from other federal agencies including Immigration, the IRS and the CIA. They've got to have some apparent successes to justify all this expenditure of time and money, so they increasingly resort to paid informants, often enough drug dealers or real criminals seeking reduced sentences.

The Rolling Stone story also includes a valuable sidebar describing various efforts to ratchet up fear, whether by describing a supposed plot or raising the threat level to Orange, accompanied by the generally inconsequential or non-existent evidence supporting the fear-mongering, along with the potentially embarrassing political incident that just happened to coincide with the breathless warnings.

All this suggests that while there is probably some real danger, the threat of domestic terrorism in the United States is drastically and purposely overblown by the government to justify ever-greater expenditures of money and liberty-threatening surveillance. And even if the bogus plots the government has chosen to publicize had been real, they would have caused strictly localized damage akin to what hurricanes or tornadoes cause, and much less than has been caused by recent floods or would be caused by the earthquakes the prognosticators have once again warned are imminent in California.

We are encouraged to live in fear and trembling of the terrorist jihadist threat when the potential damage, even if the threats were real, is on the kind of scale that insurance companies and local governments are well equipped to handle.

Add the fact that that Stratfor.com and other private international intelligence sources have sent out several e-mail essays in recent months suggesting that for all the likelihood that al-Qaeda Central has to some extent reconstituted itself along the Afghan-Pakistan border, one of the reasons it hasn't mounted a major attack on the U.S. since 9/11 is that it simply doesn't have the operational capacity to do so. Its successes of late have come from adopting local groups – al-Qaeda in Iraq – and to some extent offering advice and training. But there may be less to it than many people suspect.

All this makes the recent advice from the invaluable Bruce Fein, who served in the Reagan Justice Department, timely and relevant. In the series of pieces on Slate.com offering tips to the next president, whoever he or she may be, he includes this:

"End the ‘war on terror' as a legal paradigm. International terrorists are criminals, not warriors. The next president should see to it that terrorists will be captured, interrogated, prosecuted, and punished according to civilian law. The United States is not at war with international terrorism. The next president should ensure that we do not brandish the weapons of war in lieu of traditional law enforcement against international terrorists."

Haven't we lived in fear of phantom threats long enough?

Afternoon Dung

David Strand, the clearly mentally challenged dude who took the ax to the only truly Confessional Lutheran Voice to the world, said in a recent interview (source is this story in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch) that the new Afternoon Show they replaced Issues Etc. with " is different from "Issues, Etc. in that it doesn't dwell largely on Lutheran apologetics at a sophisticated level. It still takes its Gospel proclamation seriously, but it finds new ways to capture attention."

In other words, he said that they replaced a sophisticated apologetics program, that has brought thousands to understand that Confessional Lutheran theology is Biblical theology, with the stinking dung of generic American evangelicalism. That is the same stuff that you can scrape off of the bottom of your shoe after trolling through TBN for a while. Sure it will "capture attention" as he said, but only long enough to scrape away it's annoying smell, it will not feed anyone nor will it lead anyone to true understanding of Law and Gospel or Word and Sacrament. Instead it will lead them to Joel Osteenism...

Satan is surely rejoicing.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Beards and such

The real reason my beard comes and goes from time to time:

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Revenue Generation Lights

One of my favorite pet peeves is the existence of "Revenue Generation Lights", known to most people as "traffic lights." These vile frauds cause massive death, destruction and waste of resources, mostly time and gasoline, all for the profit of Govco, that organized crime syndicate that just today forced millions of people to file reams of paper and send in gigantic checks to ensure it's parasitic and murderous existence continues another year.

It was with great pleasure I read Obedience as a Radical Act by Butler Shaffer.

A recent news story told of cities that are removing their cameras that photograph cars running red lights at certain intersections. The reason? Drivers are aware of such devices and, rather than run the risk of getting a ticket in the mail, they stop in time. One would think making intersections safer might be a cause for self-congratulatory celebration at city hall. Not so. By reducing red-light violations, cities have also reduced the revenues coming from the traffic tickets.

This report reminded me of another phenomenon of local policing: the use of parking meters. On first impression, one might conclude that city governments would want car owners to keep meters filled with the necessary coinage for the duration of their stay. Quite the contrary. City officials count upon time expirations on meters so that motorists can be given tickets by the battalions of meter-maids who prowl the streets in search of prey. An additional dime or quarter in a meter pales in monetary significance to a $25 parking violation. This is why most cities have made it a misdemeanor for a person to put coins in a meter for cars other than their own.

A former student of mine once made an inquiry into the revenues cities derived from parking violations. Without such monies, he concluded, most cities could not sustain their existing municipal programs. This leads to an obvious conclusion: if you would like to reduce the scope of local governmental power, keep your parking meters filled!...

...While contradictions confuse the information base upon which marketplace transactions are conducted and, thus, impede trade, political systems thrive on them. If the police system fails to curb crime, or the government schools continue to crank out ill-educated children, most of us are disposed to giving such agencies additional monies. The motivations for state officials become quite clear: "the more we fail, the more resources we are given." Contrary to marketplace dynamics, contradictions arise between the stated incentives of government programs (e.g., to reduce crime, to improve the quality of education) and the monetary rewards that flow from the failure to accomplish the declared purposes. Like the intersection cameras now being dismantled, public expectations end up being sacrificed to the mercenary interests of the state....

...Drawing from the earlier examples, one such tactic might be – depending upon the circumstances – to foster a widespread and persistent obedience to the dictates of state authority. As valuable a tool as the ACLU is in using the courts to attack governmental programs, judicial decisions upholding a right to privacy are not what is bringing down traffic cameras. It is the fact that such devices are inadvertently – through motorists’ obedience to them – promoting traffic safety (the stated purpose by which they were sold to the public) at the expense of their actual purposes (i.e., to generate more revenue for local governments).

Read the full story here.

Why?

Paradoxy

Since today is the 52nd anniversary of my baptism I have been thinking about the concept of baptismal regeneration for much of the day, in the little bits of time here and there during the work day when nothing much is happening, though today is a pretty busy day what with a water shut down, extra engineers and plumbers wandering about causing extra work.

Anyway, baptismal regeneration is the concept that baptism actually does something concrete and is not merely "an outward sign of an inward faith" or however that goes. See this post in Ask the Pastor for a good explanation of original sin, the need for infant baptism and baptismal regeneration.

Well thinking about baptismal regeneration and listening to a podcast from Stand to Reason, a very Calvinist apologetics ministry that I like to listen to that tries to be rigorously logical, got me to pondering the fact that Lutheran Christianity is unique in its embrace of paradox. Calvinists and others try to force Christianity into a logical system, usually at the expense of the plain teaching of the scriptures on such things as baptism, the Lord's Supper, our need to "make a decision for Christ" and other things. This acceptance of paradox is actually one of the very things that attracted me to Lutheranism! In some ways it is a little like Zen with its Koans. They have "what is the sound of one hand clapping" while we have "simul justus et peccator" (we are both saint and sinner, never only one or the other, but always both), and the real presence of Christ's body and blood in with and under the bread and the wine, both are really there at the same time. There are more but I'll give you this excerpt from a longer article "Evangelical Catholics & Confessional Evangelicals, The ecumenical polarities of Lutheranism" by Gene Edward Veith.

Paradoxy

The distinctive characteristic of Lutheran theology is its affirmation of paradox. Calvin and Arminius both constructed systematic theologies, explaining away any contrary biblical data in a rationalistic system of belief. Luther developed his theology in Bible commentaries, following the contours of Scripture wherever they led and developing its most profound polarities: law and gospel; Christ as both true God and true Man; the Christian as simultaneously saint and sinner; justification by faith and baptismal regeneration; Holy Communion as the Real Presence of Christ in material bread and wine.

Not only have Lutherans always affirmed both "evangelical" and "Catholic" ideas, their way with paradox also resolves issues that have divided Protestants. Calvinists insist on salvation by grace alone to the extent of double predestination; Arminians insist that everyone, potentially, can be saved, and so stress the utter freedom of the will. Lutherans stress grace above all, that God does literally everything for our salvation, dying on the cross, with his Spirit breaking into our lives through Word and Sacrament, the means of grace. But Jesus died for all, and potentially anyone might be saved. Lutheranism affirms the best of both Calvinism and Arminianism, while avoiding the exclusivity of the one and the potential Pelagianism of the other. Charismatics emphasize the Holy Spirit-so do Lutherans, finding that Spirit not in the vagaries of human emotion but even more tangibly as being genuinely operative in the Word and Sacraments. Lutherans are fundamentalist in their doctrinal rigor, while excluding separatism and legalism. Lutheran cultural theology affirms Two Kingdoms, preventing the secular from swallowing up the sacred, and the sacred from swallowing up the secular. This explains why Lutherans can seem both inwardly focused and free and easy, why they seem conservative yet apolitical, and why they often have beer at their church dinners.

Lutheranism-with its sacramentalism and liturgical worship synthesized with its biblicism and evangelical proclamation-might serve as a bridge between the various factions of Christianity. Of course, it is not that simple.

If Lutheranism represents an "evangelical Catholicism" (a term favored by many confessional Lutherans), its paradoxes mean that it is likewise subject to attack from every side. Evangelicals consider it "too Catholic"-making fun of what they consider its stiff formality, its old-fashioned music, and its ancient liturgy and, more seriously, questioning how Lutherans can say salvation is by faith if they believe in baptismal regeneration and being appalled at the way the pastor says when he gives the absolution that he forgives people their sins. Catholics and Orthodox lump Lutheranism with all other Protestants-in fact, Lutherans are the worst Protestants because they started the dissolution of Christendom.

Within Protestantism, Calvinists attack Lutherans for "not going far enough in the Reformation," for keeping papistical practices and idolatrous worship. Arminians attack Lutherans for not believing in the freedom of the will and for leaving the door open to anti-nomianism. Charismatics think Lutherans are "cold." Fundamentalists say Lutherans are strong on doctrine but weak on morals.

And, just as the Lutheran framework seems to invite attacks from every side, Lutherans counterattack everyone else. Lutherans condemn Arminians for not believing in predestination and Calvinists for believing in double predestination. Catholics and charismatics are considered alike in believing that the Holy Spirit reveals himself in human beings, apart from the Word. Fundamentalists are savaged for their legalism. In fact, many Lutherans do not see themselves as being Protestant at all.

The Lutheran synthesis is a baroque structure that can only be held together by a doctrinal rigor that constantly reinforces every point. Anglicans attempt a via media between Catholicism and Protestantism, which works through compromise, broad consensus, and a tolerance for differences. The Lutheran way, on the other hand, is one of polarities. Each pole of the paradox must be maintained and heightened. What Chesterton said in Orthodoxy of the paradoxes of Christianity is particularly descriptive of Lutheran theology: "We want not an amalgam or compromise, but both things at the top of their energy; love and wrath both burning." Christianity does not approach doctrinal issues, such as the nature of Christ or the moral status of a human being, in terms of the Aristotelian golden mean. Rather, "Christianity got over the difficulty of combining furious opposites, by keeping them both, and keeping them both furious."

Thus, Lutherans are very sacramental and very evangelical. Anglicanism, even in its high-church phase, has always been dismissed by continental Lutherans as merely another variety of Reformed Calvinism, its articles being so wishy-washy in not clearly affirming the Real Presence. Evangelicals are not evangelical enough, falling as they do into the trap of "decision theology" and moralism, not trusting God to accomplish literally everything that is needful.

As a result, Lutheran theology, though embracing in one sense the whole range of Christian spirituality, is nevertheless an entity unto itself, with its own spiritual disciplines that are quite alien to those of other traditions. Consider, for example, the way Lutheranism opposes the so-called Theology (or rather, spirituality) of Glory-with its pretensions of power, victory, and earthly success-with the Theology of the Cross, in which God reveals himself in weakness, defeat, and failure. Or the Word of God, not merely as a sourcebook of information, but as a sacramental means of grace. Or the way God hides himself in what seems to be his opposite, in the material elements of the Sacraments, in humiliation and defeat, in what seems most secular and nonreligious. Or the exhilaration, under the gospel, of Christian freedom.


Today is my real birthday

On this date in 1956 I was baptized into the family of God.

Luther's Flood Prayer

Almighty and eternal God, according to Your strict judgment You condemned the unbelieving world through the flood, yet according to Your great mercy You preserved believing Noah and his family, eight souls in all. You drowned hard-hearted Pharaoh and all his host in the Red Sea, yet led Your people Israel through the water on dry ground, foreshadowing this washing of Your Holy Baptism.

Through the Baptism in the Jordan of Your beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, You sanctified and instituted all waters to be a blessed flood and a lavish washing away of sin.

We pray that You would behold this child according to Your boundless mercy and bless him with true faith by the Holy Spirit, that through this saving flood all sin in him, which has been inherited from Adam and which he himself has committed since, would be drowned and die.

Grant that he be kept safe and secure in the holy ark of the Christian Church, being separated from the multitude of unbelievers and serving Your name at all times with a fervent spirit and a joyful hope, so that, with all believers in Your promise, he would be declared worthy of eternal life; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

AMEN.

(Lutheran Service Book 268-269)

How does a Homeschooler change a light bulb?

First, Mom checks 3 books on electricity out of the library, then the kids make models of light
bulbs, read a biography of Thomas Edison, and do a skit based on his life. Next, everyone
studies the history of lighting methods, wrapping up with dipping their own candles. Next,
everyone takes a trip to the store where they compare types of light bulbs, as well as prices,
and figure out how much change they'll get if they buy 2 bulbs for $1.99 and pay with a five
dollar bill. On the way home, a discussion develops over the history of money and also
Abraham Lincoln, as his picture is on the five dollar bill. Finally, after building a homemade
ladder out of branches dragged from the woods, the light bulb is installed. And, there is
light!

Ah, so that's how it's done!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Now this would really suck... sort of...

Here is an implausible, though just barely possible, but still very entertaining, for empire haters like myself at least, scenario for the collapse of the American Empire:

Decline and Fall

Paul Craig Roberts on the end of US hegemony.

Days in the park

This last weekend we had our first stretch of really nice and warm weather, it got up into the 90's even. Serenity and I spent most of three days at various parks :-) A day at the park is generally better than any day in the house, especially when it's this nice.




There is a larger set of photos here.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Let's put it in terms even a child can understand...

What is the difference between a criminal gang and a government? Size! Yep, that's about it.

Check out this wonderful cartoon aimed at kids of all ages.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Torch this...

The Olympic Torch came to the Soviet Republic of Frisco today and they wound up sending it up empty streets away from the crowds in order to obtain the best propaganda videos possible for their good buddies the murderous, massively polluting, genocidal, Communist Chinese government. The torch run here was a complete farce, as befits a propaganda event as farcical as having a murderous totalitarian state hosting the Olympics in the first place. I think they need to just build a permanent Olympic village in Greece and quit all of this nationalistic bull shit they smear the athletes with these days. I wasn't going to watch the Olympics before and wasn't going to even bother commenting on them but this pathetic display of pandering to the communists made me want to scream. OK, not just want to scream, I did shout a bit, right here a couple of blocks from several thousand demonstrators, many carrying Red Chinese flags, those folk just need to go back to China... if you love Communist China so much, go back there jerks!

On Senator McCain and real service

I have had to revise my impression of Senator McCain after reading this story in the New York Times about his son's decision to join the Marine Corps.

Senator McCain objected to the printing of the story:

The McCains declined to be interviewed for this article, which the campaign requested not be published. “The McCain campaign objects strongly to this intrusion into the privacy of Senator McCain’s son,” Steve Schmidt, a campaign spokesman, said in a statement. “The children of presidential candidates in this election cycle should be afforded the same respect for their privacy that the children of President Bush and President and Senator Clinton have been afforded.” (To protect Lance Corporal McCain in case he is again deployed to a war zone, The New York Times is not publishing recent photographs of him and has withheld some details of his service).

It tells me a LOT about the sense of honor and service that was taught in that family that a son of privilege like Jimmy McCain would choose to serve in the way he has:

Jimmy wanted to attend the Naval Academy, he told Mr. Moore, and then learn to fly. But how he would get there was uncertain. In interviews, classmates and teachers described him as the kind of kid who contributed impressive thoughts to classroom discussions but did not always turn in assignments, who was always collecting demerits for minor offenses like smoking — descriptions that echo those of his father at the same age. He left Culver after his sophomore year, making it the second school he passed through in two years.

Sometime in the next year, Jimmy enlisted in the Marine Corps. He only called his parents to tell them afterward, according to Lance Cpl. Casey Gardiner, a friend from boot camp. Iraq was tilting toward civil war, with blasts of improvised explosive devices at their highest levels yet. Jimmy McCain was 17, so young that Cindy McCain had to sign consent forms for his medical tests before he could report for duty, according to Gunnery Sgt. Edward Carter, a recruiter in Phoenix who handed her the papers.

By enlisting in the Marines, Jimmy seemed to be giving up his birthright. The Navy is, by reputation, the most aristocratic of the armed forces, the McCains among its most storied families. Now he would hold the lowest rank in a branch known for its grittiness. “The first time I heard he was going to be in the company, I couldn’t believe it,” said First Lt. Sam Bowlby, one of Lance Corporal McCain’s officers in Iraq.

“He didn’t want to be in the shadow of his father,” Lance Corporal Gardiner said.

I must admit I'm impressed, this is so unlike the way "W" evaded real military service.

I still find Senator McCain's foreign policy ideas borderline lunatic but I see him in a different light now, especially since he did everything to prevent the publication of this story. I may have to reconsider where my vote goes this fall.

Full Story is here.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Monday, April 7, 2008

Hybelspongism

Following is an excerpt from a Mason Beecroft's "Wayfarer in the Desert" blog about the cancellation of Issues Etc. If you are at all concerned or interested in this huge problem in the LCMS please read the whole article here.

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I would argue that there is a prevailing ideology influencing Western Christendom in our day. My neologism for this ideology is “Hybelspongism.” The ideology proclaims that the church must change or it will die. In its liberal forms, this requires widespread acceptance of the cultural and social norms of the day, including tolerance of sexual deviancy, inclusion of all religions while denying the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and embarrassment for Christian faith. Instead, this ideology reduces the church to social activism (inclined toward the Democrats) and bows to pluralism. Spong is a representative figure of this wing. In its conservative forms, Hybelspongism rejects the historic liturgy of the church, direct and consistent proclamation of Christ crucified and resurrected for salvation, and an aversion to catholic and orthodox faith and practice. Rather, conservative Hybelspongism preaches relevance to a world bent on destruction, pandering to prevailing ideologies for the sake of attraction (consumerism, entertainment, democracy, therapy, etc.), and places its hope in the charisma of its leaders and their ability to program in a way that will numb the masses. Hybels, of course, is a figurehead for the conservative branch. Other figures include Osteen and Warren.

If anyone in these branches of Hybelspongism dares to speak against the ideology of their church, then they are immediately dismissed and even destroyed. Consider the current state of orthodox pastors and congregations in the ELCA, Episcopal Church USA, PCUSA, etc. Those who do not get with the program are marginalized, a term I borrowed from the more sensitive bureaucrats in these bodies. In the conservative wing of Hybelspongism, those who do not change the church to get with the times are tagged as fundamentalists and accused of not being missional, concerned or emergent.

Full text here.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

"A Spiritual Hiroshima"

Thanks to Dr. John Stephenson of the Concordia Lutheran Seminary in St. Catharines, Ontario for sending me this brilliant essay based on a presentation by Dr. Peter Kreeft (pictured) of Boston College.

While his speech was obviously written from a Roman Catholic perspective, and bewails his own communion's failure (at least in America) to mount a defense of the Gospel in the face of the "Culture of Death" - both among the hierarchy and in the church's colleges - we Lutherans are largely fighting the same battle.

Like Nero who played the lute while Rome burned, our church leadership fiddles with silly marketing gimmicks and programs while our antichristian culture is Ablaze!(tm) with the "crafts and assaults of the devil." Our bureaucrats seem to have no clue that we are living in apocalyptic times. Our hierarchy pushes the marketing of the emerging gurus, when what the Church and the world really need is the example of the eternal martyrdom of the saints. The Church needs communion with heroes who emptied themselves out in the arena, not the imitation of charlatans who fill their own coffers by filling up arenas.

The battle lines are clear. More

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

From my evening devotions...

Devotional Reading for:
4/2/2008

Associated Scripture Readings:
Colossians 3:12-17
Psalm 90:12-17

The Architect’s Reputation
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men. Colossians 3:23

It takes hundreds and sometimes thousands of workers to build a great cathedral. The architect’s reputation is dependent on the reliability of each worker. Though the hours of work may seem like drudgery, every stone that is laid either enhances or detracts from the masterpiece and, consequently, the reputation of the architect.

The reputation of Christ, our Master Architect, is also at stake by the way we perform our daily tasks. The stones we lay may seem ordinary; the cutting and hammering may seem to lack significance. But under the direction of the Master, the mundane composes the magnificent. Whatever we do in life, we strive to please God and to bring honor to Him before others.

Regardless of our diligence, we cannot earn favor with God. But Jesus earned God’s favor on our behalf. Christ accomplished the work of our salvation when He carried our sins on the cross. His resurrection was God’s mark of approval that proclaims Christ’s victory over our sin. We cannot add to His gift, but daily work, done in faith, can be a grateful response that honors our Master Architect.

Eternal Master Architect of our faith, lead us so to trust Your Word and promises, that all our thoughts, words, and deeds may honor and please You. Amen.

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I pretty much needed to hear the whole 3rd chapter of Colossians tonight... and this devotion with it 's emphasis on attitude toward work was especially appropriate. I go to bed now in a spirit of repentance and with the hope and trust the Lord will enable me to rise in the morning with a new attitude toward work and the world in general.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Who to vote for...

The decision is harder this round than most...



FYI, I was trying to use Google Reader to read my blog and at first it did not work, then today it seemed to, so try it out if you want, it really is the best way to keep up with several blogs if you are into that sort of thing.

Millions of dollars for heresy, not a dime for Christ Centered Cross Focused Confessional Lutheranism!

Kieschnick Authorized $5 Million Line of Credit for Ablaze ** Updated **

NOTE: This is NOT an April Fool's Joke

Yesterday President Kieschnick claimed that Issues Etc. was losing $250,000 per year. In the course of putting that figure into its proper context that we also explained that the Ablaze Fan Into Flame initiative lost $2.2 million during the same timeframe that Issues Etc. lost $250,000.

Please go here to read the entire article.