Because life is a series of edits

Archive for May, 2008|Monthly archive page

Thank You, Sir, May I Have Another?

In Books, Seminary on May 31, 2008 at 2:00 am

Here's a look at the reading list for the Spirit, Church, and Last Things class with Dr. Robert Peterson I'm taking online this summer:

  • Berkhof, Louis - Systematic Theology
  • Clowney, Edmund - The Church
  • Ferguson, Sinclair - The Holy Spirit
  • Fudge, Edward & Peterson, Robert - Two Views of Hell: A Biblical & Theological Dialogue
  • Hoekema, Anthony - The Bible and the Future
  • Letham, Robert - The Lord’s Supper
  • Peterson, Robert - Hell on Trial: The Case for Eternal Punishment
  • Peterson, Robert & Williams, Michael – Why I Am Not an Arminian
  • Westminster Confession of Faith

Thirty-eight lectures, ten weeks, nine books, multiple syllabus readings – classic Doc P.

Summer Plans

In Church, Education, Family, Friends, Places, Places & Spaces, Seminary, Sports, Young Ones on May 24, 2008 at 6:46 am

My friend, Ed, asked for a post on what summer holds. Here it is.

1. I’m one of seven Westminster teachers taking 28 high school students on Summer Seminar to South Dakota for two weeks in June. Over the course of a 12-day trip to and through the Badlands and Black Hills of South Dakota, students will explore the theme of “shalom” (restoration) through three, two-day course cores in literature, ethics, and science. The culmination of the course will be a writing project that integrates a travel journal, a guided project (literary analysis of readings, poetry, photography, etc.), and their understanding of the Christian worldview (I’m in charge of this “integration” part). Should be fun.

2. Speaking of Westminster, I’m hoping to take a half-day a week to work on my teaching. I’ve kept a semi-detailed calendar of what I covered (either intentionally or unintentionally) each day this past school year, and I’d like to give that some evaluation and attention in order to figure out what I actually taught and how to do it better. Armed with some honest feedback from my students and revised scopes and sequences from the Bible department, I want to put some good work into how to teach as a more effective translator.

3. In addition to thinking about teaching, I’ll be participating in a class offered by Covenant titled “Spirit, Church, and Last Things” online this summer. After my experience with Ancient & Medieval Church History this past semester (good class, but I wasn’t as consistent as I wanted to be in keeping up), I’m not all that thrilled about online learning, but you do what you’ve got to get in the classes you need to finish a degree.

4. I’ve got piles of books from a variety of genres that I want to read. Personally, I’d also like to get back to more devotional reading and journal writing as, for better or worse, the blog has taken over the time I have in the past done both, and I can feel the difference in heart and hand. There’s just no replacement for meditative reading and writing, but I’ve not done much of either for a long while. Oh yeah, I’m also supposed to be writing/finishing the first draft of a book this summer.

5. I’m working on some leader development training and initiatives for Memorial for this summer and fall, and hope to do some planning/recruiting for those. Unfortunately, this is an area that got bumped to the back burner this past school year because of my first year teaching, but I’m glad for the request and opportunity to still be involved in this way a year later. I think our family is also going to start attending a small group over the summer, which should be interesting (I’m not really much of a small group guy).

6. While I’ve not really gained any significant weight, I’d like to shed some pounds and actually get back on an exercise regimen of some sort. For whatever reason, I just enjoy exercising my brain much more than I do my body. Guess I’m just too Neo-Platonic for my own good.

7. We may get some tickets to a couple Cards games in July – just when it’s hot enough to really be miserable. I imagine I’ll do a fair amount of yard mowing, grilling, and sweating this summer, not to mention cursing the I-64 construction still going on (it will be interesting to see how increased tourist traffic during the summer months affects things; so far, we’ve managed, but it’s getting old).

8. We’ll also make a few weekend trips to the farm over the summer, as there’s nothing better than sitting with a cold glass of iced tea out on the back patio listening to the corn grow. I’m sure there will be pictures.

9. While buying a house and moving is, I suppose, still a possibility over the next couple of months, the further we get into summer, the less excited I’m going to be about it. Obviously if the bank warms to our terms soon, we’re not going to walk away from things, but we’re not exactly going house-hunting either.

10. Of course, the best part about summer will be being home more with Megan and the girls – playing in the backyard, going to the library, reading books, renting and watching a flick, seeing friends, and just being a family. We’ve tried to keep formal activities for the little ladies to a minimum, so we’re hoping it will be pretty laidback. I want/need to read to them more at night (Megan’s been handling most of that all school year), as I don’t want to miss the window here – they’re all just growing up so too fast.

In a nutshell, that’s our summer.

Danny and Chaz

In Education, Friends, Westminster on May 23, 2008 at 2:00 am

It's been a heavy couple of days on the blog this week. While I know I still owe a post on Bible hermeneutics, between today being the last day of school and me trying to grade 105 final exams, it's just not going to happen until next week. I'm sorry. This is not meant as an excuse, just an explanation and plea for a raincheck; do stay tuned.

In the meantime (and to give us all an intensity break), in honor of today being it for the school year, I present Danny and Chaz (a.k.a. Frick and Frack) – two hilarious freshmen who made me laugh (usually when I didn't want them to) in New Testament class:

Danny Teaching

Chaz Outside

Last Day with Danny and Chaz

While I affectionately think of them as the little brothers I never wanted, they're both great guys, and we've had a fun (if somewhat ADHD) year together. Still, don't be fooled: they're hardly as cute and innocent as they look. I'll miss them this summer, but look forward to possibly having them back in Ethics next year (if they pass my exam today, that is).

The Heart of the Matter

In Health, Humanity, Marriage, Thought on May 21, 2008 at 6:49 am

As the comments keep multiplying on my previous post on gay marriage, I thought it best to condense some of the discussion to get at what seems to be the heart of the matter. I’ve enjoyed hearing from each of you (many of you are apparently new readers – welcome), and I’ve entered into a conversation or two on your own blogs as well (click here for a good discussion Paperdreamer and I have been having on ethics and morals).

I’ve gone through all the previous comments (at least the first twenty) and pulled some quotes (hopefully within context) to which to respond. As I think most of you will concur, the issue of gay marriage is ultimately not one of legality or even of morality; the issue is ultimately one of who has the final say in the area of our sexuality (and everything else). For instance:

Vitaminbook: “I’m taking it as a given that nonconsensual romantic or sexual relationships should be illegal…children would be in a position to be exploited by this kind of thing even if it was legal….what marriage is defined as has nothing to do with why most people would agree that adult/child relationships are harmful.”

The questions here are where is the “given” coming from, and why would “most people” agree? The statement implies some kind of outside source (I would say the Christian God) who has already determined right and wrong; we, then, are simply deciding if we agree or disagree with his determination. The fact that we want to break the law – any law – is not a hetero- or homosexual issue; it’s a human one. We all have the two-year-old syndrome: that is, we want what we want, regardless of sexual orientation.

Vitaminbook: “Those who are against gay marriage seem to think that it will open the floodgates for legalized adult/child relationships, but I don’t think that’s being realistic – it’s like saying that legalizing voluntary euthanasia would open the floodgates to legalized, free-for-all murder.”

Given what humankind’s history shows us, we’d be hard-pressed to say it wouldn’t. I’m not trying to blow this point out of proportion, but am simply trying to make the connection that, just as our view of human life/death affects our tendency to respect/take it, so, too, does our view of the purpose for human sexuality affect our perspective in partaking in it.

If our sexuality is removed from God’s intended context of the monogamous man/woman marriage, intimacy has no God-prescribed commitment to cement (which, biblically speaking, is a main purpose of our sexuality). With this as a reality, we will then experiment and walk down some seriously repulsive roads in our search for “satisfaction.”

Vitaminbook: “For the record, I actually do think that people should be allowed to be racist or anti-homosexual if they want.”

On the basis of our shared humanity and the imago dei (image of God) within each of us, I would disagree with this statement completely. I don’t need or want to be “anti-” anyone in order to walk with God and love others.

Escapethedrain: “You and others are commenting on how much marriage is sacred and should be protected (from homosexuals). How sacred is this marriage you speak of when we have the highest divorce rate in the world? (talking the U.S. in general)?”

The question is what makes marriage (or anything) “sacred”? I do not come from the perspective that, because my wife and I have been married for almost twelve years, we are the ones who have made and kept our marriage sacred. The Scriptures teach that God makes marriage between a man and a woman sacred; we have just entered into the sanctity of what God has done. Marriage was God’s idea from the beginning (Genesis 2), and a government document merely recognizes and protects that sanctity; it does not create or power it.

Paperdreamer: “Homosexual marriage is a valid desire, legally and socially…[still] I will say that it is against nature to be homosexual.”

These two statements can only exist in the same sentence if one believes man is an animal who cannot control himself; in other words, homosexuality must be an evolutionary mistake (after all, gay men or lesbian women cannot reproduce, so this cannot be any kind of helpful natural selection), but since we’re nothing more than animals anyway, so be it (the caveat here is usually “as long as they don’t harm anyone else” – then there needs to be limits).

If any of us were asked if there is anyone in the world right now doing things we believe they should stop doing no matter what they personally believe about the correctness of their behavior, we would all say, “Yes, of course.” Doesn’t this mean that we do believe there is some kind of moral reality that is “there” that is not defined by us, that must be abided by regardless of what a person feels or thinks? If we’re honest, I think we would say we do.

Lwayswright: “It is an often confusing topic because there are so many things in life nowadays that people are ‘born with a predisposition to.’ Where do you draw the line between predisposition and responsibility or lifestyle choice?”

I believe that the cause of homosexuality is as much nature as nurture. By this, I mean that all of us in our nature are fallen and broken sexually, regardless of whether we think of ourselves as being of hetero- or homosexual orientation. Regardless how the lines of brokenness fall, they have fallen on all of us; just as someone who may deal with homosexual tendencies and temptations, I as a heterosexual man deal with my own tendencies and temptations as well.

Thankfully, God woos us out of the sexual brokenness of our fallen humanity. We can embrace the exchange of Christ’s life of perfection for our life of sin, and respond in obedience to his love out of a heart of gratitude for what he has done. Indeed, the Christian God is a god of performance; the good news is Christ performed in our place.

All that to say (and as with all of life), how you and I view gay marriage has everything to do with how we view freedom, which has everything to do with how we view morals, which has everything to do with how we view ethics, which has everything to do with how we view the source of our ethics, which has everything to do with whether we think of the final authority as ourselves (in the form of government, philosophy, or good old-fashioned preference) or God.


We the Pawns?

In Thought on May 20, 2008 at 10:20 am

My colleague, Ken Boesch, teaches upper school history and leads Westminster‘s team in the We the People competition each year (they’ve won Missouri’s contest the past nine years straight). One day over lunch, Ken asked me who I thought the ten most influential U.S. government leaders were. I immediately started thinking of offices – the President; the Vice-President; the Speaker of the House; the Senate Majority leader, etc.

Ken answered his own question: Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve, and the nine federal Supreme Court justices. When I asked why, Ken explained that when Mr. Bernanke so much as sneezes, the markets go crazy (think of it as an instant economic stimulus package), and when Supreme Court justices are appointed, they are appointed for life and have no real oversight (though the Senate can supposedly remove a member, but it’s only happened once in the history of the court).

On the heels of yesterday’s post on gay marriage, I’m rethinking my initial resistance to the idea that the Presidential election in November may just be the most important of my lifetime (I’m trying to remember an election that wasn’t billed as “most important,” but I’m not coming up with one). Hype aside, the reality is that the next President could possibly replace as many as three federal Supreme Court justices – each for an average term of 20-30 years, which is a good chunk of living, indeed.

According to Ken, the framers of the Constitution are rolling over in their graves at the concept of judicial review – our modern-day practice of disregarding the original intent of the Constitution’s writers and reading into it our own. I drew the analogy that it’s the same thing we deal with in biblical studies – a proper hermeneutic (interpretation) has to start with exegeting (reading out) authorial intent and not isogeting (reading into) desired meaning. This is a major problem in both constitutional and scriptural matters.

With regard to the power of the judiciary branch, President Abraham Lincoln (referring in his 1861 First Inaugural Address to the Dred Scott v. Sandford decision) warned:

“If the policy of the government, upon vital questions affecting the whole people, is to be irrevocably fixed by decisions of the Supreme Court…the people will have ceased to be their own rulers, having to that extent practically resigned the government into the hands of that eminent tribunal.”

As much as I appreciate our democratic system, the judiciary power of our government seems its greatest weakness. We’ve just seen how a court can push through its bias at a state level in California, and it may not be too long until we begin to see it happen (if we haven’t already) at a national level in Washington, D.C. in the next few decades.

On Gay Marriage

In Health, Humanity, Marriage, Thought on May 19, 2008 at 11:36 am

In light of the activist action of California’s Supreme Court late last week, here are some things to keep in mind with regard to the question of homosexuality and gay marriage:

  • According to a 2005 study by The Kinsey Institute, 90% of men aged 18-44 considered themselves to be heterosexual, 2.3% as homosexual, 1.8% as bisexual, and 3.9% as “something else.” The numbers are almost identical for women. It’s amazing how powerful a lobby the homosexual community has for being less than 7% of the population.
  • Joseph Nicolosi‘s research in the late-90’s on reorientation therapy’s effectiveness has not been refuted. In fact, Robert Spitzer, who argued in 1973 that homosexuality is not a clinical disorder, wrote in 2001: “Contrary to conventional wisdom, some highly motivated individuals, using a variety of change efforts, can make substantial change in multiple indicators of sexual orientation, and achieve good hetero-sexual functioning.”
  • Homosexuality is not the worst of sins, but neither is it merely a “non-ideal, lesser of two evils” sin. Contrary to what more doctrinally-liberal churches teach, homosexual relationships are not God-given, nor is the story of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 18 and 19 merely an example of God’s wrath being poured out in response to the sin of inhospitality.
  • Apart from Scripture (which is quite clear in both Old AND New Testaments that homosexuality is not God’s model for marriage), there are some very compelling secular arguments against the cultural endorsement of homosexual behavior. Robert A.J. Gagnon, Associate Professor of New Testament at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, has written as much as anybody on the topic and offers six helpful points here.

Considering where things stand, a defining federal Constitutional ammendment may indeed be necessary if traditional marriage is to be legally preserved in the United States. As much as I hate the idea of trying to legislate morality, I honestly wonder if the nation understands (or could ultimately survive) what’s at stake by not doing so.

Satisfying Saturday

In Thought on May 17, 2008 at 10:34 am

It’s a laidback morning here, and the feeling of such a thing is slowly becoming familiar again. It seems a good long while since Saturday morning has meant anything but study, but today – on the backend of another completed seminary semester, as well as an entire year of preparing to teach two classes five times a week – is a joyous day. Granted, there’s still a week’s worth of school left before summer is officially here, but all that amounts to is grading final exams and entering grades – still a chore, but one of evaluation, not preparation.

I woke up with two goals in mind – weed the rose bush and clean out the stairwell leading to the basement. As of 9:15, those are finished, so the rest of the day involves two graduation parties and reading a book that doesn’t require the use of a highlighter. Who knows? I may even take a nap with a cuddly 4-, 6-, 7-, or 9-year-old if any of them would be so inclined.

I’ll post more substance next week (as always, there are some interesting things going on in the world that merit some thought), but in the meantime, here’s an update to finish the week:

1. The bank is playing games with us, so we’re playing them right back. For those following along, we made an offer roughly $30,000 under their initially-communicated price; they came back with their “counter offer” that was $30,000 over said price, which caused us to wonder whether they understood the basics of negotiating or were simply pulling a bait-and-switch. We came back with our planned second offer and are waiting to hear back on Monday. We also took the liberty of offering some reality by including this article from last week’s paper.

2. We went to Covenant‘s graduation last night – two-and-a-half hours of worship of God and honors and accolades for our friends. It was fun to see so many we knew walk across the stage to receive their diplomas and regalia, as well as to be genuinely happy for their accomplishment in light of all the hard work and commitment their degrees represent. To those who graduated last night, well done.

3. My six book per month goal for 2008 is off to a slow start; unfortunately, I’ve only been averaging about 3 books a month, but hope to catch up this summer. Books I’m currently reading: Buffalo for the Broken Heart by Dan O’Brien; UnChristian by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons; and Confessions by Augustine.

4. I’m really enjoying the first season of Dexter on DVD. True, it’s graphic and not for the faint of heart (the main character is a blood splatter forensics expert for the Miami Police Department who also happens to be a serial killer himself), but the internal monologue and tension stemming from his character dichotomy is insightful and well-written.

5. Charlie Peacock has a new jazz album out that promises to be good. Charlie collaborated with Jeff Coffin (saxophonist for Bela Fleck and the Flecktones) on Arc of the Circle and the clips sound very improvisational and interesting – a more eclectic Coltrane, if you will.

Because I Need Something Else to Do This Time of Year

In Thought on May 13, 2008 at 6:33 am

I’m a little hesitant sharing this, but we’re all friends, right? And since we’re all friends, here’s the news: we’re trying to buy a house (this one, actually):


Before you jump to the conclusion that teaching pays a lot better than perhaps you thought, don’t – it doesn’t. In fact, we wouldn’t have a chance at this house if 1) it weren’t a foreclosure, 2) the market weren’t so soft, and 3) we didn’t have some help from family. If you’ve ever bought a home before, you know it’s one thing to buy one, quite another thing to afford one. We’re still trying to figure out if we can really do both; in the meantime, there’s no harm in bidding.

If you know us at all, you probably know we tend to buy houses by accident; that is, we’ve never gone “househunting” or even wasted time thinking about it. Instead, what usually happens is somebody tells us about a house they think would be great for us, we investigate it, start with a lowball offer, negotiate, and voila – we just bought a house. It’s happened this way twice before, and seems to be happening again (we made our lowball offer last night). Think of it as Groundhog Day with real estate.

I’d go into more detail about the house, but we’ve learned through experience the importance of holding onto the possibilities of home ownership with open hands, and details tend to work against us doing that. Proverbs 13:12 says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” The challenge for us has always been to balance our hope for a new-to-us house with the reality that, because we’ve never had much money to just buy our way into something, the possibility of losing said house is very real also. The same is true here, so I’ll hold off for now with the specifics.

Another thing we’ve learned to be aware of in buying a home is the subtle attitude that says, “If God loves us, he will make it so we can get this house.” The problem with this is we are setting our terms for God to demonstrate his love for us, when Romans tells us he already has (“God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us”). We’d prefer to trust God to determine his terms, as the Scriptures promises they’re always better (even if we don’t think so at the time).

All this isn’t to say we won’t be disappointed if the deal eventually falls through (we would be), but after doing this twice before, it feels like we might be learning (finally) to agree a little more with the psalmist when he wrote Psalm 73:25: “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth I desire besides you.” We certainly haven’t arrived in this area of trust just yet, but a sense of progress – even ever so slight – is always encouraging.

More to come (we hope).

When Seminarians Attack

In Thought on May 12, 2008 at 6:22 am

Finished my project for Ancient & Medieval Church History – try it if you dare (and have no life). Thanks to Megan for finding the website and helping with the data entry.

Happy Mother’s Day

In Family, Marriage on May 11, 2008 at 10:03 am

I know most women get nervous about Proverbs 31:10-31 because of the “all-or-nothing” evaluation that often accompanies it, either in its presentation or in its processing. But today on Mother’s Day, could we read the Scripture for what it means? Proverbs 31 isn’t intended as a list to live up to but as a life to live out, and I’m grateful to be married to a woman who wants to live this kind of life (though she’ll admit it’s hard for her sometimes to get everything checked off).

From Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase, The Message:

“A good woman is hard to find, and worth far more than diamonds. Her husband trusts her without reserve, and never has reason to regret it. Never spiteful, she treats him generously all her life long. She shops around for the best yarns and cottons, and enjoys knitting and sewing. She’s like a trading ship that sails to faraway places and brings back exotic surprises.

She’s up before dawn, preparing breakfast for her family and organizing her day. She looks over a field and buys it, then, with money she’s put aside, plants a garden. First thing in the morning, she dresses for work, rolls up her sleeves, eager to get started. She senses the worth of her work, is in no hurry to call it quits for the day.

She’s skilled in the crafts of home and hearth, diligent in homemaking. She’s quick to assist anyone in need, reaches out to help the poor. She doesn’t worry about her family when it snows; their winter clothes are all mended and ready to wear. She makes her own clothing, and dresses in colorful linens and silks.

Her husband is greatly respected when he deliberates with the city fathers. She designs gowns and sells them, brings the sweaters she knits to the dress shops. Her clothes are well-made and elegant, and she always faces tomorrow with a smile. When she speaks she has something worthwhile to say, and she always says it kindly.

She keeps an eye on everyone in her household, and keeps them all busy and productive. Her children respect and bless her; her husband joins in with words of praise: ‘Many women have done wonderful things, but you’ve outclassed them all!’

Charm can mislead and beauty soon fades. The woman to be admired and praised is the woman who lives in the Fear-of-God. Give her everything she deserves! Festoon her life with praises!”

Happy Mother’s Day, moms.

Anybody Got Some Advil?

In Thought on May 8, 2008 at 2:00 am

Got a cavity drilled and two fillings filled today. Thought you'd like to meet my dentist:

Unfortunately, the pain wasn't nearly as enjoyable for me as it was for this patient:

At least the girls got a kick out of my local anesthesia…

Dostoevsky on World History

In Church, Seminary on May 6, 2008 at 2:00 am

While cramming lectures for my online church history class (which, as of today, I have 10 days to complete), I came across this quote from Dostoevsky's Notes from Underground:

"You can say anything you like about world history, anything that might enter the head of a man with the most disordered imagination. One thing, though, you cannot possibly say about it: you cannot say that it is sensible."

My thoughts exactly on the Medieval/Dark Ages period of the Church.

Linky, Linky

In Books, Church, Pop Culture, Theologians, Thought on May 2, 2008 at 6:11 am

It’s usually feast or famine for me with links; today, I happen to be eating well. Here are some particularly inspiring links that I hope fill your creative cup and stick to your spiritual ribs:

Have a great weekend.

National Day of Prayer

In Humanity, Thought on May 1, 2008 at 8:44 am

Today is the National Day of Prayer. What would you pray for our nation and world?