Monday, December 31, 2007


Well, as we approach the end of the year, here are some highlights (in no particular order) from 2007 and beyond. They're generally brief and I picked them either because they generated some good discussion, or I just like 'em. Vote for your favorite and make my day!

1. JP Moreland's Bombshell -- Are Christians over-committed to the Bible?

2. The Spirituality of Nacho Libre -- Nacho shows us how to live fully integrated lives.

3. Seeing God Everywhere -- I got no comments on this one, but it's one of my favorites.

4. Highlights on Community -- A previous collection on community.

5. Inference to the Favored Explanation -- How should Christians respond to the fossil record?

6. The Grace of Trees -- A short musing on how we see God's love in trees.

7. The Fear of Friendship -- How fear keeps us from enjoying intimacy with others.

8. Stupid Enough -- Why was the Da Vinci code a hit? Stupidity.

9. Banana Epiphany -- My spiritual experience while consuming a banana.

10. Sammy Sinner -- What kind of person is better-off in terms of living the Christian life?

11. Chronicles of Nausea? -- Comments on a negative review of the movie.

12. Mary Moments -- what does it mean to experience Jesus in every day life?

13. Trust In vs. Trust That -- what does it mean to trust God?

Best Videos:

1. Ted Haggard and Richard Dawkins -- Richard Dawkins investigates Haggard and New Life Church BEFORE the scandal. Unnerving.
2. Gondry Solves Rubik's Cube with His Feet
3. How to Get a Soccer Partner -- my absolute favorite video.
4. Preview Man -- comedian Pablo Francisco (sorry about the Finnish subtitles).
5. Kant Attack Ad -- Immanuel Kant: wrong for America
6. History of Religion -- watch the spread of religion unfold before your eyes
7. Hank Hill goes church shopping
8. Diversions
9. Ask A Ninja: How to get a ninternship
10. The Headbutt -- French soccer star Zidane takes down Materazzi

Best Searches:

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Did Jesus *Have* To Be Human?

Alexander Pruss, Assoc. Prof. of Philosophy at Baylor, has an interesting post concerning St. Athanasius' claim that Jesus had to be human in order to accomplish our redemption. (This concerns your question, Joel.)
Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas from Chewbacca

I do have a sense of humor. Merry Christmas!!!
Sunday, December 23, 2007

A Christmas Story

"Who's the baby in the manger, William?" my wife asked our four-year-old son.
"Julia," he replied.

Julia is his baby sister, born in September. We knew immediately that drastic pedagogical measures were required. I'm not having one of my kids walking around oblivious of the true meaning of Christmas! (My older son was even more muddled a few years ago.)

So my wife scoured the internet for an interactive nativity set we could use to lead William toward Christological enlightenment. She found the perfect one, and it was UPSed to our doorstep in days.

Seven little "gift" boxes accompanied the manger scene, six of them containing a figure for the mini-nativity. An illustrated story book explained each person and their part in the story. We let Will open the third box, containing the baby Jesus.

"Who's the baby in the manger, William?"



Then we came to the seventh box. It was different from the others. The ongoing "theme" of the activity was a question: What does God want for Christmas? The answer was revealed in the seventh box, the bottom of which was lined with a simple mirror.

"Who's in the box, William?" Will gazed blankly into the box at the little mirror. "Who do you see, Will?" Finally, he pointed to himself and said, "Me!" "That's right, Will -- God wants you for Christmas." We passed the box around, each peering into it and announcing that God wants "me" for Christmas. A clever poem from the book explained the idea and wrapped up our lesson.

Shortly thereafter, my wife was putting Will down for a nap.

"What does God want for Christmas, William?"

Will pleasantly replied, "A mirror."
Thursday, December 20, 2007

Has JP Moreland Fallen Off His Rocker?

I'm a recovering JP Moreland lackey. I still love him, bless his heart, but I no longer see eye-to-eye with him on a number of issues. (You know, you can get away with saying just about anything about someone as long as you add "Bless his heart." JP often did this in class.) I should say that I owe him a tremendous debt, however, and still consider him a mentor or sorts. So, I was intrigued by the recent bomb he dropped at the Evangelical Theological Society's annual meeting. I was at the conference, but passed on hearing JP, figuring it would be all-too-familiar. (I took six courses with him at Talbot.

Then the bomb exploded.

Christianity Today did a piece on his talk at ETS. Other bloggers picked it up. Talk-radio personality Frank Pastore did a show on it. Whispers and complaints rippled among Christian scholars far and wide.

So what do I think about it? Has JP lost his (Thomistic-substance-dualist) mind? Absolutely not.

If you've dodged all the links I've thrown at you so far, here's the gist of Moreland's paper: Because evangelicals have unwittingly adopted the idea that the Bible is the sole source of knowledge for faith and practice, they are missing out on three things: (1) robust cultural engagement; (2) practical knowledge of the spiritual realm; and (3) the ability to receive certain forms of divine guidance. Moreland is very careful to distinguish between the Bible's being the sole source of knowledge and the Bible's being the ultimate source. He affirms the latter wholeheartedly, and throws in a cheer for inerrancy to boot. In saying that the Bible is the ultimate source, Moreland affirms extra-biblical knowledge as long as it does not contravene Scripture. So the Bible remains the standard by which all other knowldge-claims are judged.

So what is wrong with this? Not much. Most of the hub-bub, in my opinion, has been completely groundless or misplaced. The paper just wasn't that big of a deal. If you focus in on the essence of his manifesto and set aside your personal views on the practice of "sign gifts," then I think it is hard to disagree with him. (Unless you're a hyper-Calvinist who has an unyielding aversion to natural theology/revelation -- then I can see the problem.) Granted, it is hard to stay honed in on the main thesis of his paper when he tosses in references to Pope John Paul II, the demonic realm, and "words of knowledge." Moreover, he has an extensive section in the middle concerning historical-social developments that could have been omitted, honestly. Those things aside, I think Moreland is absolutely right about our ignorance of and relcutance to explore extra-biblical sources of knowledge. All truth is God's truth, I have always said. If a claim is true, whether it be in geometry, biology, mathematics, philosophy or psychology, then it can be embraced and employed by the Christian.

To sum up, I think Moreland's diagnosis is basically correct. But are we missing out on all that he claims we are? We certainly are lacking in sound cultural engagement. But I'm not so sure about (2) and (3). I think he's correct in principle that we would be missing out on those things if they are legitimate experiences. I also think there is theological space in the Bible to affirm these phenomena, but I haven't had the personal experience with them that Moreland has, nor have I done the research.

But at the end of the day, JP's still on his rocker, bless his heart.

For more, read JP's paper here. Here is JP's response to the CT piece.

[Post edited 12/21/07]
Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Anagrams, reprised

This post slipped by without comment (back in May), so I'm bringing it back. It's just too fun. But instead of asking all of you to offer your own anagrammed names, I'll do it for you. See if you can find your name below: (I've chosen some of my frequent commentors.)

(1) Hold a jingler!
(2) Bent on straw.
(3) Make red, sir.
(4) Oh, Thyn Jar! (Olde English)
(5) No sin -- bad over.

Maybe you can come up with a better one?

(I know what you're thinking -- semester's over, too much free time.)
Monday, December 17, 2007

Crazy and Christmas

So, I've been studying Genesis this fall, and I've thorooughly enjoyed it. Recently, I spent some time in the "Jacob wrestles with God" passage (ch. 32). I'll share two thoughts about it, one crazy and one Christmassy.

First, could it be that the "man" Jacob wrestles with is not God, or even an angel, but rather Esau? Here are some supporting facts/inferences from the text:
  1. Esaus knew Jacob was coming, but Jacob wouldn't have known whether Esaus was coming or not. Thus is it reasonable to suppose that Jacob wouldn't have assumed this man was Esau.
  2. They hadn't seen each other in 20 years. Thus, it is reasonable to suppose that Jacob would not have recognized Esau.
  3. Esau was the "hairy" outdoorsman, and would not have been easily beaten by Jacob in a wrestling match.
  4. Esau was probably still angry at Jacob, and wanted to confront him.
  5. The "man" renames Jacob -- who better to do this, since Jacob was the "supplanter" of Esau? "Your name shall no longer be "supplanter." This could be a means of reconciliation.
  6. The "man" says, "You have striven with God and men." (emphasis mine)
  7. Jacob asks his name, and the "man" seems surprised, as if Jacob should know.
  8. We can explain v. 30 "I have seen God face to face" by supposing that Jacob, still unaware that this was Esau, thought he had wrestled with a divine being. (I admit, this is a stretch -- the weak link in my case.)
  9. Esau was probably strong enough to dislocate Jacob's hip. (plausible?)
  10. Here's the kicker: in ch. 33, when Jacob does meet Esau, Jacob offers him bountiful gifts, and says to him, "for I see your face as one sees the face of God, and you have received me favorably."

If nothing else, it's interesting. Thought-provoking. Probably wrong, but thought-provoking.

Second, here's the Christmassy thought . . .

Suppose this is God with whom Jacob wrestles. Have you ever stopped to think on this event? GOD incarnate visits Jacob and wrestles in the dirt. The omnipotent Creator of a billion galaxies put on flesh and embraced Jacob. We need to stop and meditate on the wonder of the incarnation more often. "Immensity cloistered in a womb" as John Donne puts it.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Kant Attack Ad

Monday, December 10, 2007

The Office Best Moments

I can't watch The Office. Something about it bothers me, unnerves me. Now, don't get me wrong -- it makes me laugh out loud. So what is the problem? It took me a while to realize what it was. I'm afraid, deep down inside, that I am Dwight. Or worse, Michael.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Does God Coerce?

I'm in a graduate seminar this semester ominously entitled "Coercion and Consent." While discussion has been mostly limited to human relations, I've thought a good bit about consent as it relates to Christian conversion. (By "conversion" I mean the point in time when we first exercise saving faith, thereby entering into a certain kind of covenant relationship with God.)

The standard Calvinist view is that consent is something of a formality in conversion. God initiates the process, and God closes the deal. You can't get saved without consent, but this is like saying you can't have your head removed without dying. God's justificatory work brings about our consent. This is the monergistic view. (mono = one, energo = work; i.e., one side does the work).

The standard Arminian/Catholic view is that consent is necessary for and prior to converion. God can't convert you until you consent. But consent is not enough to save you -- God has to do his part, or your consent is useless. This is the synergistic view. (syne = together)

One thing we've discussed in class is that coercion invalidates consent. Is God a coercer on the Calvinistic view? If so, then it seems that our consent is not legitimate -- we aren't giving ourselves to him freely. If a mad neuroscientist put a device in my brain, unbeknownst to me, that enabled him to control my beliefs and desires, he could cause me to consent to anything. He could propose that I give him all my money, or jump off a building, and then he could cause me to say, "Sure!" and happily comply.

Why do we cringe at the thought of being controlled this way, and yet approve when God does it?

On the other hand, perhaps we are all so corrupt, that no one would ever consent voluntarily. So, is involuntary consent better than hell? I think so.

So there's some food for thought. Just a new spin on an old problem.
Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Secrets of Narnia

Very intriguing essay about the Chronicles. Dr. Michael Ward reveals Lewis' "secret" unifying theory.