Monday, December 31, 2007

happy new year!!

Hope the next year is a good one for ya'll!!

Friday, December 28, 2007

the voice 1--oversimplification

One thing I want to avoid with these looks into "The Voice of Luke" is much in the way of the aesthetic side of it. Whether they succeed in the artistic or beauty side of the text is for the sake of these entries mostly meaningless. This is the largely subjective side of the work, and while I may have opinions at times and may even give those opinions, my main focus is the thought behind either the 're-telling' or the comments.

McLaren gives a lengthy comment before opening chapter 1, and it's a fair enough comment. My main concern would be with parts of the comments after that. Luke 1 tells of the events that occurred concerning the priest Zecharias and Elizabeth and the announcement that they would be blessed with a son whom they were to name John.

It may help, in trying to understand animal sacrifices, to remember that the slaughter of animals was a daily experience in the ancient world; it was part of any meal that included meat. So perhaps we should think of the sacrifice of animals as, first and foremost, a special meal.

I was surprised, even rather offended, that the biblical sacrifices should be summed up, simplified even to an extreme, as being "first and foremost, a special meal".

In the "New Bible Dictionary, 2nd edition" by IVP, the entry for 'sacrifice and offering' take up roughly 11 pages. That's small-type, doubl-columned pages, with some charts. The entry gives six stages or act usually involved in the sacrifices: worshipper brings the offering; worshipper puts hands on the offering; worshipper kills the offered creature; priest spreads the animal's blood; some designated parts of the animal are burned; the remaining parts are eaten. There were also several different kinds or reasons for sacrificing, for peace or for the covering of sins or thanksgiving or others.

I find the simplifying of the sacrifices as being "first and foremost, a special meal" to be a gross oversimplication. To not even make mention of the primary reasons for some sacrifices, such as the covering for sins, is something I can't understand. Why not mention it? Isn't it one of the main messages of the Bible, that sacrifices of bulls and goats just wasn't enough, that it took Christ' sacrifice to fully pay for our sins?

The next if from the next comment.

Often in the biblical story, when people receive a message from God, after getting over the initial shock, they start askign questions. They push back; they doubt.

I think I can see some spin going on here, especially when McLaren seems to be saying the the people God spoke to would "push back", which seems to be saying they would stubbornly resist doing what God told them to do, perhaps even bargain at time.

Ok, let's say that there are examples of that. We can think, for example, of Moses when God came to him in the burning bush. Moses seemed to do all he could to talk God out of sending him, even to the point of ticking God off, and it didn't work. Eventually Moses went.

We could think of Abraham, who starting questioning God about when he would have the heir God promised to him. Abraham did try to take matters into his own hands at one point, which led to Ishmael and which led to problems. But even with that failing, God was faithful to him.

Perhaps with Abraham again, when he and God went back and forth concerning the judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah. Was this a kind of bargainin? Maybe.

Perhaps of Moses again, when the Israelites had gone too far and God was ready to wipe them out, and Moses pled with him not do that. Moses' intercession was enough to lessen God's judgment, though there was still some judgment that they went through.

Perhaps Gideon, who still wasn't certain of God's words even after the angel visited. Perhaps he was wise, but at any rate he asked for two signs that God had indeed called him, and God gave him those signs.

But were these "pushing back"? Maybe Moses at the burning bush, though we can get the impression that God was losing patience with him towards the end of God's calling him. Did they doubt? Some might have, but does that make doubt a good thing? Gideon may have doubted, but instead of staying in those doubts, he tried to find out for certain Moses' doubts seem to have been more concerning his own abilities to do what God was calling him to do, but God was with him and helped him and sent some to help him.

I think these contrast with the current ideas of pushing back and doubting. They may have asked questions, but they did so looking for answers. They may have had doubts, but they didn't see the doubts as the end in themselves, but as things that must be resolved. When God had proven to Gideon that yes He really had called him, Gideon went and did what was asked of him. When God had finally cornered Moses and showed him that yes he is returning the Egypt, Moses stopped arguing and trying to make God's words meaning something he wanted them to mean, but he up and went.

At least with these two examples I've given (and I do encourage that you check and see that I'm not taking things out of context), what I'm seeing is a tendency to simplify to the point of misrepresenting. Zecharias was punished for his doubts, God took away his ability to speak until his son John was born, so for roughly nine months he was silent. Perhaps it was best; after all, his wife who was too old to have a child was probably more then able to fill the long silence he was put through :-)

Still, one would have a hard time from the events of Zecharias' angelic visitation seeing how his doubts were a good thing.

I'm not happy with the thoughts so far in these comments concerning Luke 1. Sacrifices are denigrated into meals, and doubts and "pushing back" are given to be good things without much being said about resolving doubts and pursuing answers.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

before they rip our arms off...

Let the Wookie Islamist Win

Current issues seen through the lens of "Star Wars"? Brilliant!!

The boys and I were talking about the hypocritical way in which liberals treat Muslims and Christians. The same 'Progressives' who applaud Piss Christ, engage in crude stereotyping of Christians and use 'Jesus' as an expletive even in family programming, react with horror to the mildest slight against Islam. Criticism of Islam in Canada, most European countries and increasingly in the U.S. is considered a form of hate speech. No similar protections are ever extended to Christians. Piggy banks are banned in Britain in deference to Muslim sensitivities, Muslim footbaths are built with government money in U.S. campuses, and sharia family laws are increasingly being acceded to in the West. Meanwhile, even Christmas trees are attacked by the Left as an unconscionable intrusion of religion into public space.

The most important factor in this double standard, however, is much more visceral in nature -- basic liberal cowardice. George Lucas really captured the spirit of the thing back in 1977:

The dialogue from the movie is here, where C-3PO give R2 the sage advise to "Let the Wookie win".

Substitute Islamist for Chewbacca, CAIR representative for Han Solo and Spineless Liberal for C-3PO and it's a pretty clear picture of current events. In crudest terms, the Left mocks Christians and kowtows to radical Muslims because the Religion of Peace has an ingrained habit of blowing crap up.

movie review--alvin and the chipmunks--cuteness overload!!

I can't remember what movie it was that I was watching when I saw the trailer for "Alvin and the Chipmunks", the live action/cgi version of it. I thought it looked cute, probably entertaining, and all-in-all a nice bit of fluff that kids and probably adults would like.

I was right, it was all of those things, and that is a good thing.

There were few surprises in the movies, story-wise. Down-and-out songwriter finds young chipmunks who can talk and sing and who have a surprising grasp of pop music and some things cultural despite having lived their short lives in the woods, they become big stars, get exploited by big record exec, come back together in touchy-feely moment, and all live happily ever after, or at least until the next movie.

The chipmunks themselves are still very much like the Chipmunks from the cartoons in the eighties (I know the cartoon was around even before that, but I'm largely unfamiliar with the early version). The movie people did a good job of making each of the three like they were, even to the voices sounding similar.

The only real difference I remember would be with Theodore. He is the one who is given the sort of child-like vulnerability that opens the door for the "we're a family" idea to begin and finally blossom out.

One thing the movie did which I liked a lot was that they kept the Chipmunks at chipmunk size. In the cartoon, they were pretty much kid-size, almost like regualr kids with chipmunk-like features. The movie kept them at about 4 inches tall, and hyperactive. They jumped around as chipmunks would if they could sing and dance. In my mind, having them so small only increased the cuteness factor, and exponentially.

And one thing I liked most is that there was very little, if any, objectionable stuff in it. I don't recall any language, nor any kind of innuendo. There was some kiddish roughhousing. Even the bad guy was only marginally evil, and the relationship between Dave and the girl he's after is kept clean.

All in all, I enjoyed it. A nice little bit of fluff which can overload your cuteness meter. I liked it.

the voice--the coming of the ec bible

Hey, have ya'll heard that the EC is doing a translation (correction: retelling) of the Bible, or at least of parts of the New Testament? No kidding (though I wish I was). The project is called 'The Voice' (and if you come on the name 'The Voice' anywhere in the prologue-type writings in the book, you'll find it in bold. Excuse me if I don't do that, please).

What is this project? Here is the website

The Voice

I have "The Voice of Luke", a 'retelling' of the Gospel of Luke with some commentary, or at least comments, by Brian McLaren.

Here are some excerpts from the the preface to the book, concerning the project.

Previously most Bibles and biblical reference works were produced by professional scholars writiing in academic settings. The Voice uniquely represents collaborations among scholars, pastors, writers, musicians, poets, and other artists. The goal is to create the finest Bible products to help believers experience the joy and wonder of God's revelation. Four key words describe the vision of this project:

holistic// considers heart, soul, and mind
beautiful// achieves literary and artistic excellence
sensitive// respects cultural shifts and the need for accuracy
balanced// included theologically diverse writers and scholars

It's an interesting concept, it may even have some merit. I'm not sold on it, and frankly I wonder where "writers, musicians, poets, and other artists" can fit into a translation--excuse me, retelling--of the Gospels.

The four descriptive words cause the raising of eyebrows. 'Holistic' is a curious and even loaded word choice, but if it's what they describe, it could be ok. 'Beautiful' may be ok, as long as accuracy isn't sacrificed to achieve it. When 'sensitive' comes up, I see another loaded word, and here that loaded-ness may be something to consider. What does it mean to "respect cultural shifts"? By "accuracy", do they mean accuracy to the biblical text and it's meaning, or something else? It becomes even stronger, in fact almost off the meter, with 'balanced. What kinds of "theologically diverse writers and scholars" are we talking about? Who pics the representatives for this diversity? How "theologically diverse" are we talking? What are the limits to the diversity they are pursuing?

Are these fair questions? In answer to that, let me point out something. Isn't one of the bit things about EC/postmodernism that they think everything should questioned, everything should be doubted? I think it is. Considering that, then my question should be seen as fair. I'm not trying to be unfair, not trying to be leading nor suggestive. They are real questions, and considering the loaded-ness of their four descriptive words, I think these question should be asked, and more then that should be answered. Offering up a translation--I'm not going to play the 'retelling' game--of even a portion of the Gospel is asking for a lot of trust from people, so asking if it is fair to give them that trust is not unfair.

Words that are borrowed from another language or words that are not common outside of the thoelogical community (such as baptism, repentence, and salvation) are translated into more common terminology.

I may be nitpicking here, and if you think so treat it as such, but really, what does any of that mean? Maybe most people in English-speaking countries are ignorant of such terms ('ignorant' here not being used as a insult, simply as a descriptor), but I doubt it. Really, I doubt it a lot. Words like 'baptism' and 'salvation' are quite common, by all that I know. I'm not saying they know the word correctly in the theological sense, but the words themselves are not strange and alien words, and trying to 'dumb down' the scriptures to such an extend isn't really much of a compliment to them.

In addition, as we partnered biblical scholars and theologians with our writers, we intentionally built teams that did not share any single theological tradition. Their diversity has helped each of them not to be trapped within his or her own individual preconceptions, resulting in a faithful and fresh rendering of the Bible.

This goes back to the 'balanced' thing. Why are we to assume, or at least to accept, that such a 'diversity' as they claim has resulted in "a faithful...rendering of the Bible"? Who decides that it is 'faithful'? Who makes the choices when this 'diversity' results in serious disagreements?

It is all too common in many of our Protestant churches to have only a few verses of biblical text read in a service, and then that selection too often becomes a jumping-off point for a sermon that is at best peripherally related to, much less rooted in, the Bible itself.

Such insults are uncalled for, and only give a sense that these people think of themselves pretty highly.

There is finally a list of people involved in "The Voice of Luke". McLaren seems to have been the main writer, and two professors are listed as 'critical reviewers'. A bit of research will show that one of those professors is a part of what seems to be an EC church, Chris Seay's church in Houston. Among the other writers are people like Donald Miller, Phyllis Tickle, Leonard Sweet, and Chuck Smith Jr., people pretty heavily involved in EC. There are many other names mentions which I don't recognize, so while I can't say that it's overwhelmingly EC, I think it's pretty suggestive.

The list of names can be found on the website, but the site is a Flash site, so I cannot link to individual pages.

But as they say, the proof is in the eating. I suppose even a suspect cook, or set of cooks, could make a decent meal. I want to give some thoughts about "The Voice of Luke", as time goes by.

Monday, December 24, 2007

have a...

...Merry Christmas, all of you out there!!

I hope it's a good time for all of you!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

the generosity of the American people

Giving USA Releases Report On Charitable Giving for 2005

Giving USA, the yearbook of philanthropy, estimates Americans gave total contributions of $260.28 billion for 2005, a growth of 6.1 percent (2.7 percent adjusted for inflation).

The year 2005 saw extraordinary philanthropic response to three major natural disasters. About half of the $15 billion increase in total giving from the revised estimate of $245.22 billion in 2004 is attributable to disaster relief giving. The other half reflects donors’ commitments to other causes that matter to them.

I normally try to be a balanced as I can be in my entries on this blog, and I think that is usually wisest and best. Too much off-the-cuff ranting seems to be out there, designed more to stir emotions then to cause consideration.

But I'm a human, not a robot, and sometimes, one must rant.

So, on that note...

Yeah, all you 'Americans-are-all-greedy-capitalists-who-have-lost-their-humanity-trying-to-make-it-rich-and actually-enjoy-see-little-kids-starve-to-death", that link above is for YOU!!! That's right, all you so called 'red letter' christians who think that you somehow discovered charity and helping people, it's for YOU, too!!!

Of course, we all know what it's about. It's about your AGENDA!! Why else are you on the one hand saying that Christians should be careful of mixing faith with politics, while on the other hands your shilling for the Dems and any kind of 'universalized anything' that put forward so long as it takes from the greedy rich and gives to those you deem worthy?

Is this why you're all so into postmodernism? Let me think about it, you don't like systematic anything, you're all into feelings and emotions and making people feel good or bad depending on if they kowtow to your agendas. Hey, wouldn't want the facts and the truth interfere with your agenda, would you?

Oh, and MERRY CHRISTMAS, too!! And if that offends you, tough.

Ok, I'm better now. That was very therapeutic.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

taking God off the throne, part 2

This is a sort of continuation (because I refuse to call it a sequel:-) (it could be worse--I could call it prequel:-) of the entry from a few days ago, the "knocking God from the throne" (assuming I'm remembering the name correctly) (I need to lay off the parentheses, don't I) one.

Gnosticism in the Mainline

Theologian David Miller had already made the implications clear in 1974:
…the announcement of the death of God [is] the obituary of a useless single-minded and one-dimensional norm of a civilization that has been predominantly monotheistic, not only in its religion, but also in its politics, its history, its social order, its ethics, and its psychology.

Miller went on to prophesy: "When released from the tyrannical imperialism of monotheism by the death of God, man has the opportunity of discovering new dimensions hidden in the depths of reality's history." At the funeral of the God, Miller announced the rebirth [of the spirituality] of gods and goddesses of ancient Greece and Rome.

One of the things that first struck was the use of "the death of God" rhetoric, which is has in common with Caputo rhetoric (and with Nietzche, if that tells us anything). Also, Miller's statement above deal with effect of the "death of God" idea outside of just religion, as does Caputo with the "coming Democracy" idea.

Peter Jones, the author of the article linked to above, deals mostly with gnosticism and its influence, especially in regards to such "death of God" ideas. I'll leave much of it to you to read (and I do recommend it) and only point out a few things.

Robert Funk, founder of the Jesus Seminar, and promoter to "canonical status" of the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas, enthusiastically adopts the radical program of Bishop Spong. Ominously, the next project of the Jesus Seminar is "The Mythical Matrix & God as Metaphor." Says Funk: "We are discussing the future of God, so to speak." With what happened to Jesus, one shudders to think what the Jesus Seminar, with its self-declared unbiased objectivity [!], will do to God.

However, modern "Christian" Gnosticism has not quite yet finished with Jesus. Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy, authors of The Jesus Mysteries: Was the "Original Jesus" a Pagan God? deny that Jesus ever existed. Far from being turned off from Christianity by their research, Freke and Gandy say their premise actually strengthened their faith. "What we've discovered is that the message of original Christianity was…about, for the original Christians, becoming a Christ oneself. This leads them to conclude that the Gnostics were the original Christians. Their book has been remarkably well-received, reaching bestseller status in the United Kingdom, garnering at least one "Book of the Year" award, and receiving support from…John Shelby Spong!

More things that are kind of familiar. Not counting "Christianity must stop being Christian" Spong, of course.

Myth and metaphor, for example. There was something I read a few days ago, actually here...

Chris Elrod: TRUTH Wins

...where the discussion went into areas of seeing the story of Jesus as "myth", a "pre-easter" and "post-easter" Jesus.

I realize first off that C.S. Lewis used 'myth' in his writings about Christianity and the story of Jesus, but with him we have an explanation. His view seemed to be that Christ was a mythical type of story that also happened in real life. He took the biblical account of Christ's life serious and seemed to view it as true history, what really happened.

What "mythic" seemed to mean in the discussion above is this, from one of the replies...

The stories are myths, but the man is real. The stories convey truth about the man, but they were never meant to be “impeccably reliable historical records”.

...which seems to be very different from what I remember of Lewis. This view really does seem to see the biblical account as being 'myth', and not necessarily historically true.

I have no further comment about that for now, only to show an example, and a recent one, of the use of myth in regards to the Bible.

In the connections with paganism, I don't understand it as much as Jones seems to. I don't know if some who are advocating for this weak view of God are directly trying to bring in some new brand of paganism, although gnosticism isn't too much of a stretch, I think.

At any rate, dealing only with the ideas as they are, they are disturbing enough.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

not looking for lions

Wanting The Lions Back

A few days ago, I was visiting a certain blog which I usually find enjoyable, and found a link to this pastor's blog on it, with the idea that he had some interesting thoughts. After reading it, I agreed, and came to read some more of it, like this entry linked to above.

Actually, I'm a little leary of the one I've linked to. I'm not certain what to make of it. There are some good points and good thoughts in it, but just as well there are some things I can't help but question, and I do so with something like caution.

I can understand the frustration voiced in the blog entry. There are times when I wished the church had something more (or maybe less), maybe some like a bit more backbone, less spit and polish. If, for example, I'm thinking about music, I wish the songs were less shallow and sanitized and like a faux-pop sound, and more rootsy or bluesy with echoes of frustration and the difficulties of the everyday and how hard it is to fight to keep faith. If it's preaching, I wish it were less about the hollering and hooting and the time and the Powerpoints, and more about how we can be faithful.

I do get frustrated with prosperity gospel preachers, emergents who seem to care more relevance then for truth, those who want to have the biggest church with the most gadgets. I've grown weary of the endless repetitions of the same p&w choruses over and over, of worship leaders telling me to leave my troubles somewhere else as I sing.

I wish preachers would quit trying to be cheerleaders. Most of them would be frightful in modern cheerleading outfits, anyway.

I know things are probably much more complicated then I can ever hope to realize, and most of my criticisms need to be balanced with the assumption that what decisions a pastor must make are such as I have never had to make. I am expression frustration and maybe giving suggestions, that is all.

But in saying this, am I necessarily agreeing with the conclusions these young men in the blog entry seemed to come to?

I can agree about the Christ-like reality, the cause, and the action, at least as I understand them. The difficulty and the cost, I think has more to do with each person then on any outside circumstances. In fact, I would say that the reality, the cause, and the action are like that, too. It is possible to have those things, if one is dedicated enough.

My problem may be more with them wanting the lions, or, less figuratively, the persecution.

I suspect that these young men have a slightly romanticized idea of persecution. I suspect they think they are stronger then they really are. I suspect that a taste of real pain for their faith, by real I mean physical, would be a shock to them.

That isn't to say they wouldn't stay faithful, or at least some of them. Perhaps many or most of them would. But that's not the point, either.

The point, for me, is that they are called to face a kind of persecution here, in their current society. They are called to face the insults of those who will say they and their message are not "relevant", that their time has passed, that they are not "on the cutting edge", that their message of sin and repentence is so last century and really "it's not working" (ht bull horn guy).

The truth is as C.S. Lewis said it, and He is only echoing the words of Christ and other words from the Bible, that this whole world is hostile territory. We live each day in the enemy's lands, and so should not be surprised if his people should not wish to tolerate us. If the persecutions take the forms of lions and prisons in some places, in our place they take the form of ignorings and marginalizings, insults and ridicules and superior attitudes.

Face off against some things like that, and maybe one will simply beg for the lions. At least with lions, it's all straight-forward. With such as we face here, one may as well be fighting the fog.

We do well to respect the martyrs and the persecuted. I have known missionaries, was even one myself, who go to other cultures, and some even into places blatantly hostile to their message. They are in need of our prays and support and when possible our participation.

That is one thing few of the voices who cause these men frustrations can really give. While some give their lives, both in years of life and in deaths, for the cause of giving the Gospel to those who may have heard little if anything about it, others are all too ready to compromise and try to say that we need to be less concerned with converting then with other things like saving the earth or helping the poor. And while those missionaries work in secret and suffer and die quietly, these others write books and have influence because their message if popular.

Do not look for persecutions. If you live godly, it will find you. Be faithful in the situation you are in.

Monday, December 17, 2007

WITHOUT SOVEREIGNTY, WITHOUT BEING--taking God off the throne?


But if something unconditional happens, without sovereignty and without being,
without force and without power, would it have the wherewithal to transform
us, to turn us around, to make us new? Would it, could it, be something truly
revolutionary, or would it lie lame and lifeless and ineffective? Could something
be revolutionary without having revolutionary power? Could something that is
at best a “weak force” (force faible) be strong enough to save us?

Why go here? Why even bring this up? Is it necessary?

While I do think that the rhetorical question has it's place, and an important one, those question I asked in the first paragraph are not such questions. The thing is, I do have a reason, a thought or two, perhaps even a warning. Whether this man Caputo and his ilk will succeed directly, or through intermediaries who couch such ideas in more slight-of-hand terms, such ideas as his are out there and seem to be having influence.

What are these ideas?

We are inching closer to the democracy to come, and inching closer to the
coming God.

For now, I will not say much about whatever they are calling the "democracy to come", except that it seems to involve the lose of all national and political sovereignties to a great degree, and to make thing secular. For now, my main concern is Caputo's "the coming God".

Still, if it is irresistible, then is it not an irresistible force? Shall
we then say that “democracy” is a word of sovereign force and power, nay, even
a word of divine authority? That would be to fall down before the old god, the
one that belongs to the order of being and power, whereas Derrida is venturing
out onto more uncharted seas, trying to think god otherwise, trying to tell a
whole new story about God (V, 215-16), about some sort of vulnerable, nonsovereign,
suffering God, some sort of “force without force” or some “power of
powerlessness,” for which we have no concept.

A trace of what Derrida means is found in Levinas’s famous
example of the impossibility of murder. “Thou shalt not kill” is the first word,
that is, it is a command inscribed on the face of the other, and in that sense comes
from “on high,” but it comes not with the majesty of worldly height or power, or
with the authority of a divine command or of a command of pure reason, but
with the penury of the most helpless and vulnerable one. It is inscribed on the
face of anyone, but most palpably on the face of the helpless victim. Thus, the
impossibility of murder is a law in the order of the call, but not alas of being
where it is an all too banal and common fact.

This reasoning is 'off' for at least one serious reason. I find it ironic (perhaps even mocking) that he uses the words of some translations of the Bible, "Thou shalt not kill", to try to tell us that this command does not come "with the authority of a divine command". When God Himself comes down and writing the command in stone, then what else does the command have but the "authority of a divine command"?

And if it did not have that authority, then what? What if someone violates it? If the command "Thou shalt not kill" does not have the authority of divine command, then of what use it it?

What, for example, of the murderer who is never caught, and never pays in this life for that crime? Where is justice in that case? What about the murderer who is caught, but not found guilty? What even about those who did not commit murder, but where judged guilt of a crime and paid the penalty for it?

If such commands have no authority of divine command, more to the point if there is no God who is sovereign and is not the force behind His commands, then such commands become more like suggestions. And if there are no consequences to not keeping the commands, then why keep them?

It's hard to see what Caputo (and/or Derrida) is appealing to when he tries to talk about powerless. Is he assuming that peopel will feel sorry for victims and the helpless? If so, what is he thinking? What has history taught us, except that that is NOT how people operate?

What is called for is to imagine God otherwise, to turn our thinking about God
around, almost upside down or inside out:

In speaking of an onto-theology of sovereignty, I refer, under the name of God,
of One God, to the determination of a sovereign and hence indivisible
omnipotence. But when the name of God would give us something else to think,
for example a vulnerable non-sovereignty, suffering and divisible, mortal even,
capable of contradicting himself, of regret (a thought which is neither impossible
nor without example), that would be a wholly other story and perhaps that of a
god who would be deconstructed even in his ipseity. (V, 215-216)

What calls, what is calling, what is called for is the God to come, the coming of a
God to save us, a God who has no seat of power, no sovereign authority, no
ontological prestige, vulnerable and mortal, who has not the wherewithal to lay
down his head, whose only power is the power of a powerless but unconditional

A God without sovereignty, and without a seat of power? Gee, who does that sound like?

Isaiah 14
12. How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, song of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, you who weakened the nations!
13. For you have said in your heart: I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation on the farthest sides of the north;
14. I will ascend above the heights fo the clouds, I will be like the Most High.

Yeah, who would really want to knock God off of his throne? Who would want to rob God of his power? Who would want to say that God isn't really in charge?

But what does the Bible say about God's sovereignty?

Rev. 19
I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war.
His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself.
He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God.
The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean.
Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. "He will rule them with an iron scepter." He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty.
On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.
Rev. 20
4. I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years.

Any attempt to try to make God "weak", to take away his power, to make him not the king and sovereign of all creation, must be view as suspect. Especially when the Bible itself makes such plain statements about the soveriegn nature of God.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Wayfarer's Redemption--a return to paganism?

Much of reading in recent times has been along the lines of sci-fi and fantasy. Why? I'm not certain. I like the stories, usually. There's often some thought-provoking things in them.

One I finished a few days ago was "The Wayfarer's Redemption" by a Sara Douglass, or that at least is her pen-name (I think her real name is different). It is the first book in a series.

It's a pretty standard fantasy story--something evil has build up an army of strange creatures and is invading a land where some are fighting to defend, there is a prophecy which may tell of deliverance and one who will lead against the coming evil. That's a very simple summation of it.

There are three basic races in the land (there is a fourth, too, though they are not mentioned much in this first book)--humans as we are, humanoids with some physical features like such animals as deer who are called Avar, and humanoids with wings called Icarii. Many years before the book starts, the regular humans fought against the others and drove them from the land into some forests and mountains.

For much of the first book, the other two races are treated as victims of human aggression and the false human religion, although a preview of the second book at the end of the first does seem to say that at least the Icarii are not so innocent when it comes to why humans came to view them badly.

There are good things in the book. Heroism, self-sacrifice, parental love, resistence of evil, care for the helpless, all are put forward as good things. And that's fine.

There are also things in it that were distasteful to me, though perhaps some of those things would be explored further in other books, like what I mentioned earlier in regards to how the Icarii may not have been so innocent in the human's feelings against them.

For one thing, their are the religions of the races. The humans have a religion that is quite simply a mirror or Christianity, or at least Catholicism--a religion with something like a papacy, a holy book, one whose followers make a sign in the air, with priests and places of meeting. It is a separate entity from the government, and has it's own army. It is anti-magic. In the book, the priests and others are mostly corrupt and power-hungry.

The Avar and Icarii are pagans. They keep festivals like beltide and yuletide, and at least at the yuletide festival in the book a sacrifice is made to ensure that the winter will end. There a sites and lakes and trees that for them are places of power.

The book makes no secret that the pagan ways are better then the faux-christian religion of the humans.

The Avar are pacifists, except in the case of the unborn. In one of the festivals, both races meet together and they have a night of making whoopy with each other. As one may imagine, children are conceived of that whoopy-making. Avar women, those pacifists who can barely even abide a human woman who came among them because she did violence in self-defense, will routinely abort the conceived cross-racial child for fear that it will be the evil one of the prophecy.

Sexual mores are decidedly loose among the characters, especially the good ones. The hero and villain are both sons of one of the Icarii, one by an Avar mother who didn't abort her child (is that telling, too?), the other by a human woman. One of the Sentinals, one of the fourth race though we don't know it until towards the end of the book, is not sparing in her favors. There is even mention made of an Icarii relationship that would have been between first cousins, the children of two brothers.

So, is it a good book? I enjoyed it, though not completely. I picked up the second from the library last weekend, though I haven't started it yet. There are things I liked, and things I disliked, in the story. I can't wholeheartedly recommend them, but for those of some discernment they may be good to read.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

because we do know better then God...

Christians Caught Between the Sheets -- How ‘abstinence only’ Ideology Hurts Us

We are in crisis over sexuality in our culture in part because the church has been largely unable to step away from the old Christian ethic and develop a responsible sexual ethic that is based on both what we have come to learn from science and experience, with the revelations of the Gospel. Christine Gudorf in her book, Body, Sex and Pleasure highlights this when she states,

Traditional Christian sexual ethics is not only inadequate in that it fails to reflect God’s reign of justice and love which Jesus died announcing, but its legalistic, apologetic approach is also incompatible with central Judaic and Christian affirmations of creation, life, and an incarnate messiah. Because the Christian sexual tradition has diverged from this its life-affirming source, it has become responsible for innumerable deaths, the stunting of souls, the destruction of relationships, and the distortion of human communities. The Christian sexual tradition uses scripture and theological traditions as supports for a code of behavior which developed out of mistaken, pre-scientific understanding of man, anatomy, physiology and reproduction, as well as out of now abandoned and discredited models of the human person and human relationships.”

I Corinthians 6

9. Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolators, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites,
10. nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit th ekingdon fo God.
11. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.

15. Do you not know that your bodies are member of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a harlto? Certainly not!
16. Or do you not know that he who is joined to a harlot is one body with her? For "the two," He says, "shall become one flesh".
17. But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him.
18. Flee sexual immorality. Every sin a that man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body.

What does forbidding sexual expression or abstinence-only education do? Without an understanding of a God created normal sexual development, open communication, grace filled answers and direction, adolescents will go underground, feeling shame and self loathing each and every time they desire or act on sexual longing. This shame and silence places adolescents and young adults at risk of entering an addiction cycle with their sexuality.

You must understand, with people like the "The Other Journal" people, it's not so much that people shouldn't feel shame and guilt, it's about what people should feel shame and guilt over. Parents who tell their children to save themselves for marriage should feel shame and guilt for repressing and oppressing their kid's sexuality, but the kids who have sex before marriage should not feel shame and guilt.

Keep in mind, this is the same publication that tried to tell us that being capitalists is some kind of evil thing, and we should repent for that. Being capitalists are the kinds of things they think we should feel shame and guilt over. Funny, I could find all kinds of things in the Bible against fornication, but none against capitalism. Such seem to be the modern (or postmodern) 'sins'.

If you want more proof, here are the postmodern 'saints'.

I struggled with religious intolerance of premarital sex. I believe it is an unrealistic standard that utilized guilt to ensure abstinence. At 20 I became very disconnected from my parents because I did not feel comfortable talking to them about my relationship or sex. My junior year I began dating this really nice guy that I had gone to high school with. By the time we had been dating six months I felt ready to sleep with him. I would not change losing my virginity with this person because I know that we cared for one another and it felt mutually loving and respectful." 27 year-old.

"It was not until my late teenage years in my first real relationship that I started to enjoy sexual behaviors. I felt like I was compromising my Christian values and struggled with the question of what purity really was. I lived through the guilt by distancing myself from my faith. I thought how could I be a Christian if I enjoy being sexual with this man before marriage. Nobody had ever told me how to integrate my sexuality and spirituality. All I heard was 'Do not engage in premarital sex!'” 30year-old.

So, what about the biblical commands against things like fornication?

Traditional Christian sexual ethics is not only inadequate in that it fails to reflect God’s reign of justice and love which Jesus died announcing, but its legalistic, apologetic approach is also incompatible with central Judaic and Christian affirmations of creation, life, and an incarnate messiah. Because the Christian sexual tradition has diverged from this its life-affirming source, it has become responsible for innumerable deaths, the stunting of souls, the destruction of relationships, and the distortion of human communities. The Christian sexual tradition uses scripture and theological traditions as supports for a code of behavior which developed out of mistaken, pre-scientific understanding of man, anatomy, physiology and reproduction, as well as out of now abandoned and discredited models of the human person and human relationships

All too often when we absorb information outside of us, preached to us in churches, media, from others, we fail to know the context of that information or ‘truth.’ The teller speaks the truth for God, scripture, or as an expert. Understanding historical context, culture, norms and expectations gives a framework for understanding the information as it was meant to be understood, yet gaining this contextual information is often time consuming and unrealistic.

First, read the article, carefully. See if you can find any scripture, or even a scriptural reference. I can't, and I've read and looked at it, but maybe I missed something. Those kinds of things usually aren't hard to find, though.

Second, read the two paragraphs above taken from the article. It reveals a kind of "We know better then God!" mindset. Welcome to progressive thought.

I hint that you wouldn't find scripture in the article. What you will find are plenty of excerpts from things like testimonies. The lady who wrote the article seems to be not so much interested in what scriptures says and using that as the measuring rod, but in taking people's experiences and then finding some way to explain away scriptural rules.

So, the standards becomes the experiences of people whose experiences and perceptions may or may not have been influenced by things she or others may have told them, not the absolutes of scripture. Scripture becomes "mistaken" and "pre-scientific", while the recorded experiences become what we should be guided by.

Man becomes god, God becomes a crotchety old man who made a bunch a rules long ago that now just no longer apply. Yeah, liberal theology, now we can do each other like rabbits, and do it guilt-free.

Monday, December 3, 2007

thoughts from too much sports talk radio

Random thoughts while listening to far too much radio sports talk over the weekend...

This UK basketball teams doesn't have the talent to run with the other top teams

No joke, heard this on a call-in sports radio show, as a way of explaining away the loss to North Carolina. Granting, no one wants to lose to NC, especially us (though maybe Duke would like such a loss even less, though that's another story...), but when I heard this excuse, I had to almost freak-out.

Ok, let's go ahead and admit, the team may be talent-depleted. After all, they only have what, three or four high-school all-American players, other top recruits, and all-in-all no shortage of good players. Well, there have been some injuries to a couple of their better players, so that's at least a legitimate concern.

The thing is, I remember these three years back about 18 or so years ago, when the basketball team could have used that "lack of talent" excuse for underachieving. All they had were a bunch of third-string rejects, none of whom would not have be recruited (let alone start) for any other school serious about winning big. Guys with names like Pelphrey, Feldhaus, Farmer, Miller, and Hansen. I remember that first team having a rough season, actually having an .500 season that was considered very successful, and winning a big game against a very impressively talented (think Shaq among others) LSU team.

A couple of years later, a team with most of those same under-talented guys and one major talent named Mashburn played a super-talented Duke team in the NCAA. In all likelihood, only Mashburn would have been a major contributor on that Duke team. And when all was said and done, the Duke team won, but only by a miracle, and that game is among the classics.

The problem with this team isn't talent, or lack of it. They've got plenty, they've had plenty for years. They've had plenty for the last couple of years, despite the poor results for the past couple of years.

Do you know that two years ago they had three seven-footers? Did you know that all year long, the main complaint of the team was that they didn't have a strong front-line? And in the first part of the season, everyone was pinning their hopes on the return of a player who the year before had proven absolutely nothing except that he could play in a lack-luster fashion all year and still be the starting center. To be fair, Morris did play better that second year after his return, and in his third actually showed something like heart.

I do think, though, that that situation is what hurt the team, and for all that I like Tubby Smith and think him a better coach then most fans seem to want to admit, how he kept with Morris despite his indifferent play while not keeping with the others when they goofed was one source of mixed-messages and one reason the past two years, despite the high-end talent, that the results were less then they should have been.

Honestly, after Morris pulled his "I'm going into the draft without telling anyone", Smith should have told him to sit out a year and see how truly sorry he really was. At the least, he should have put the bum at the back of the bench and let him not play the role of instant-savior for a team that really didn't need him.

College football doesn't need a playoff

Seriously, some sport-talk radio guy was saying that he was rethinking his position on the that. He had been of the position that it needed a playoff, today he's saying it doesn't. His reasons for this are that it makes the games in the last week of the season more meaningful and important.

Personally, I think Cutler must have been suffering from lack of sleep.

Ok, let's say that in the last week of the season there were, oh, four games that had some big meaning to the overall big national-championship picture. Certainly compelling, no doubt.

Now, lets say we go to a 16-team playoff. We would then have 15 games that were important to the overall big national-championship picture.

And look at college basketball. Sure, the fact that the NCAA basketball tourney has,what, 64 teams (not counting the loser of the play-in game), that yes some of the conference championship games are not so relevant (though one may not want to tell the rabid fans that), what you get in exchange is the craziest three weeks in sports (not counting the World Cup) (ok, let's count it anyway).

So, a few games lose some significance, but several others gain an extraordinary amount. That's a positive trade-off.

And anyway, the NCAA football scene is a joke. Just ask Auburn.

What can be done? Simple. The fans of the teams that could have been considered realistic contenders for the playoff if the NCAA football people has sense need to think that while they do want to support their team, that so long as they keep on spending their money for tickets and hotels and food and fan stuff like t-shirts, then the bowl-people have no reason to change.

Thus, here is my idea--support your teams by not supporting them. I'm serious. The bowls are cheating your team, and they will continue to do so so long as they keep getting your money. Therefore, don't give them your money. When they realize that the fans really do want the playoff, and they'll not spend money until they get it, the big bad bowl boys will crawl to get the playoff.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

confessing the revolution--because some things work too well

Confessing the Revolution: Capitalism and the God in Whom We Trust

For what it's worth, I'm not an economist, and I'm not appoaching this person's article as an economist. One reason for that being, as the person himself says...

The first question put to any economic order should be not “Does it work?” or “What is in it for us?” but rather “Does it enable and enhance humanity’s chief end of glorifying and enjoying God forever?” Another way of putting this is to say that the fundamental question that should undergird all other questions we put to capitalism is, “With our economic lives ordered by capitalism, are we able to worship God truly?”

...and since he obviously things that simply saying that capitalism's successes are irrelevant, I don't need to be an economist to argue with and against him.

The quote above is a good place to start--can a capitalist truly worship God?

It's an interesting question. What are the alternatives? Socialism? Communism? Distributism? Barter? Primitive hunting-gathering?

In fact why stop there? Shall we look at forms of government? Democracy? Monarch? Anarchy? Tyranny? Feudalism? What about science? Does Bell, or maybe more the people at the site who have printed this article, think that we should do science different? Shall we discard evolution, because it makes God into some kind of myth-maker? Return to relying on divine providence for healings? Stop finding cures and doing surgeries, because those take our faith from God and put them on science and human efforts?

Why ask those questions? Because his questions are meaningless, and perhaps worse leading. The fact is, there have been plenty of godly people who have been able to worship God while living in a capitalist society, and there have been plenty of evil people in others forms of economy.

In other words, questions of being able to worship God have nothing to do with what kind of economic systems. It does have to do with the godliness or lack thereof of the persons in that system. Heck, I'll even posit the possibility of Christians who are committed communists. They may be misguided, but I willing to admit there is the possibility.

Bell tries to say that the God of capitalism has three characteristics...

The Creator who does not create enough
The God who does not save
The Market Sustains

Concerning the first...

God did not create enough; creation is insufficient. Apparently when God rested on the seventh day, God was punching out a little early. Creation was good, but not good enough. The created order is marked by scarcity. Most theological defenses of capitalism take this as a given, as a rather obvious matter of fact that usually requires no theological support at all. It is just the way things obviously are.

...and he gives a quote by someone named Novak. I know nothing about Novak, and so I'm not sure what his views are. Nor am I so sure that Bell is representing him in the best light. For example...

Creation is full of secrets waiting to be discovered, riddles which human intelligence is expected by the Creator to unlock. The world did not spring from the hand of God as wealthy as humans might make it.

What about these statements is necessarily off-whack? Since Bell didn't italicize the first statement (although there it is in the article) I assume he has no problem with the idea of creations being full of things to discover. But having granted that, why have a problem with the second? It seems almost like saying that God gave up a palate and paints, but we get to use them to paint whatever pictures we want.

Given the account of God as an incomplete creator, what do theological accounts of capitalism tell us about how God acts to redeem us from material deprivation, from sin, death and the devil, here and now? To be blunt, they tell us nothing. This is to say, they tell us that God does nothing to save or redeem the material world now. What is to be accomplished in terms of redemption here and now, what is to be experienced of the abundant life here and now, is entirely a human work.

Right about now, I start to see what's going on, and I smile sardonically. Certainly we should be wary of any thought that says that capitalism is some kind of end-all-and-be-all, a kind of divine command, but when someone tries to tell us that capitalism tells us that God is in essence pulling an agnostic, credibility goes beyond being a bit stretched.

Again, history proves otherwise. Why is it that so many of the people who see salvation as being a product of human work only seem to hold to other forms of economy? Granting the existence of Ayn Rand and her philosophy of capitalism being a great good, usually when one looks at the humanists and their ideas of salvation, one eventually finds that they tend more towards some form of socialism.

Is it any wonder that when one looks at the great non-thiestic efforts of the past century, they have usually been socialistic? Shall we point out the good old USSR? Red China? Cuba? Various other places in the world?

Thus, if we are to confess capitalism as a theological and not merely economic revolution, we should confess not the god of capitalism but the sin that is capitalism. We should confess and repent of the capitalist revolution for the sake of rightly worshiping the God who graciously inaugurated the original revolution in Jesus Christ, whose work of mercy meets the needs of all prodigally.

We should repent of the capitalist revolution that does not really change anything, only managing sin in a more efficient manner perhaps. And we should confess the original revolution that turns the world upside down (Acts 17:6) by setting us free from sin.

We should confess, lest we end up like those whose fate Jesus bemoans in his sermon on the plain, those whose imaginations were so impoverished that they desired nothing more than what this world’s economy offered. Why, Jesus laments, do they settle for so little, when God’s economy offers so much and when God wants nothing more than to give and give abundantly?

Let us stop bowing down before wooden gods, no matter how much gold and silver they have laid on. Instead, let us worship and enjoy the true God. Let us be about the work – the economy– of God which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.

So, capitalism is a sin? Only if we accept Bell's definitions.

Let's say for the moment, he's right about what he claims some theologians have said about capitalism. So what? All we would be dealing with, then, is some people's thoughts about it, not the system itself. People may have the right idea, but have some wrong thoughts about the idea. A sick person may be right to trust God, but wrong to listen to Benny Hinn's WOF rantings.

At the first, Bell wants us to look beyond the idea that capitalism either does or doesn't work. That's fair, but it can't be disregarded either. We should be able to look beyond whether something 'works' in the short term, but if a compelling reason from morality and ethics cannot be made against it, then the question of utility, whether something works or not, become of the greatest importance. Would he rather that we adopt a system that has proven to be failing?

This does not mean that capitalism is the perfect form, nor that improvements can't be made, nor even that people cannot take advantage of the system for their own ends and cause bad things to happen. It is saying that such faults can be found in any system put forth, and are more the signs of mankind's fallen nature than of any great problems in an economic system.

People had problems worshiping God and with scarcity of resources and with wrong views of God long before someone thought up capitalism. It has to do with things like original sin, man's fallen nature, greed and idolatry and selfishness and laziness. Nothing new, nothing really special, nothing that isn't universal, and none of the problems can't be found in some form or another in any society throughout history.

So, shall we maybe say that capitalism tends to heighten certain negative human tendencies? That's possible, and not unreasonable. Some seem to say it's conducive to greed. But greed is universal, why else would communism have been so popular? Didn't ancient nations go to war so they could get stuff the other country had? Which is worse, conquering to get an empire so you can control diamonds in India (assuming India even had diamonds, which I don't know), or getting up at four in the morning to go to a Black Friday sale?

Don't answer that.

For what it's worth, I think the fact that capitalism works, and works well, is a point in it's favor, especially considering the failures of some of the other systems. Warnings and cautions about potential failings and trends have their place and uses, but going over-the-top like this guy has done is ridiculous.

Monday, November 26, 2007

movie review--beowulf

Yesterday I went to the movies, and decided to see 'Beowulf'. I still wonder if it was among my better decisions.

The look of the movie is a kind of reverse of where it seems animation is going. In some movies such as "Final Fantasy", the idea seemed to be to attempt to make the animation as life-like as possible, but with 'Beowulf' the idea seemed to be to give a live-action movie a slight look of animation.

The results were fair. The movie had a kind of other-worldly or fantasy look to it, kind of like can be given to images in programs such as Photoshop if one knows how to do it. The human characters are realistically done, but they look idealized, without many of the marks of normal human features. I would suspect that was the kind of thing the creators were looking for, and the movie takes on a kind of grown-ups fairy-tale appearance, and considering the story, it's not an unrealistic thing to attempt.

For the record, there may be some spoiler material after this. I've tried to keep if pretty vague, but if you don't want any kind of hint as to the movie's contents, you may not want to read after this.

The movie itself is not an easy one to watch, at least for me. The people we are first introduced to are a crude and crass people, but more then that they are debase. It is set in Denmark in the 5th century AD and the civilization had only recently had Christianity introduced to them, and in at least one it is referred to as Rome's religion. It is not easy to say whether the movie is pro-Christianity or anti-, or even if the creators had an opinion this way or that. There were two times when statements that coujld have been considered anti-Christian were made, but then the characters who made them were perhaps not the best of characters, either.

One was the first king of the village, an old man gone to seed. When we first see him, we get the impression that although he is or was a brace and capable warrior, as a person he had some serious character flaws, such as drunkenness and promiscuousness. His remard was that the village didn't need help from gods, even the Roman god Christ, but needed heroes.

The other was Beowulf himself, and in the first half of the movie he is the obvious hero, though it could be wondered at times if he's more bluff then substance. Like the king, he and his men are brave enough, though not necessarily nice. His remark came several years after being made king of the village, and Christianity had begun to take a firmer hold, and his thoughts were that Christianity had ended the time of heroes and now all they had were meek and weak martyrs.

But these two characters also fall in much the same way. Both meet a sort of water-creature or water-demon, and have a son by her, the first being the creature Grendel and the second a dragon-like creature. In both cases there is a sense in which the 'sins of the father' are visited on them, as one character quite strongly hints in the lead-up to the final fight.

One way in which the story could be characterized is at the rise, fall, and redemption of Beowulf. We see him young and strong, then his fall and how it comes to haunt him, and finally a time when he comes to see how the secrets and lies have damaged him.

On the down side for me, is much of the first parts of the movie. The references to womanizing and other things were not things I enjoyed, but while some of it was stuff that probably could have been different, it did have a place in the story.

I don't know if I would recommend it. Much of it would be a matter of personal convictions, and since there are some things in the movie that may not be things one would want to see, let each decide. There are some interesting thoughts in it, though, and while I may not want to see it again for a while, I can't necesarily be against it, either.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Pink Floyd Open--went for the 'Money', hit 'The Wall' :-p

My apologies for the attempt at a pun in the title.

This past Saturday, there was the Pink Floyd Open chess tournament in Lexington. This one was a regular four-round game/60 thing, with a twist--they played Pink Floyd music on a CD player while we played chess. I blame the music for my results.

Actually, I have little to complain about concerning the day, except the final results. And the first game.

That first game was a grim affair. Thinking to win some material, I goofed and wound up losing a piece with no compensation. My opponent is a good player, and while he probably could have finished me off sooner, he nonetheless took away any hope I may have had of active counterplay and all I could do was dig in until he finally opened me us and won.

Game two was one of the more interesting games I've ever played. In the middle game, I exchanged a minor piece to win three pawns, and while my opponent did win back one pawn, in the endgame I had two connected passed pawns while he had a knight, and in the we drew.

The third game was my only win. In the middle game complications, I came out a pawn up in and we went into a bishops-of-same-color endgame. I think I handled it pretty well, getting a passed pawn on one side of the board while keeping an eye on his pawn on the other side, which meant his bishop was tied to defending it. He resigned when it was clear he couldn't stop the one pawn without giving up his bishop.

The fourth was another very complicated game. I probably could have handled things a little better towards the end, and at least held the draw, but I didn't and my opponent had pawns threatening to queen and I couldn't stop all of them.

I was reasonably happy with how I played, except that I didn't finish off very well, I think. The games were complex and with good chances to win, and while I'm disappointed in the overall results, I'm actually enjoyed the play (except for, of course, that first game).

Monday, November 12, 2007

movie review--fred claus

So, if I should ever go on about how Christmas stuff gets started far too early, and go on about how I wish we could at least make to, oh, Independence Day without having to put up with anything Santa, you can point out to me that a good week-and-a-half before Thanksgiving of this year, I went to a movie theater and saw "Fred Claus"

I could probably point out that there was little else worth watching, but that wouldn't really be a good argument, would it?

Anyway, "Fred Claus"...

It was a pretty good movie, as long as you keep in mind the types of actors in it. Vaughn can do funny stuff, and having him as the black sheep of the Claus family works. Kevin Spacey as the 'bad guy' efficiency expert was good, and they sort of have some fun with his role in the last Superman movie. Another scene I liked was the 'Siblings Anonymous' one, where the less-famous brothers of famous people are getting group therapy.

There is little really original in it. Christmas is once again in jeopardy because Santa may not be able to do his rounds, since he's not making quotas and the whole operation may be moved to the South Pole, or some such thing. Santa's operation is, of course, state of the art, and with some kind of giant magical snowglobe through which a person may look anywhere on earth and even into the past.

The religious imagery and message of Christmas is almost completely lost in it, but not quite. Santa is identified as a saint, though what that may have meant is unclear. We see him as a child, one who is selfless and kind but not overly observant--his ideas of helping others may not be well informed on how may be best to help them. The Christmas music in the movie is also almost completely Santa-related, with the sole exception I remember being a nice rendition of "Silent Night", but even that scene had little to do with Christ and Christmas. It was used more as mood-music then as fitting the words.

Maybe "Talladega Nights" used up their quotas of references to the Baby Jesus, because I can't remember even one in this movie, except the before-mentioned "Silent Night".

One of the main messages of the movie has to do with the whole "naughty and nice" thing. Fred's job is to take a small dossier-like summary of the kid's year and so stamp each one 'naughty' or 'nice', with the naughty kids being exempt from getting gifts. In one scene, we see Fred indiscriminately stamping 'nice' for each kids without even reading about them. Later, he tells his brother that there are no naughty kids, that each kid deserves a gift.

One could really have some fun with the concept of "deserving a gift". We probably do use the word 'gift' in such a way, but at it's core, I rather think that the idea of 'gift' is something that isn't deserved, isn't earned, but given anyway. If we do deserve something, it may be merited as an award, or earned as a wage, but it's not really a gift anymore.

But the whole idea of there being no naughty or bad kids is outrageous. This isn't a slam on children and childhood, it's the truth--there are children out there who are not good children, and while there may be external causes that effects them, in the end they are simply bad kids. Period. They're selfish, they are rebellious and disobedient, they lie and steal and do things they shouldn't do.

That message of "Fred Claus" is some kind of simplified, idealized, feel-good message, but without any kind of support.

King's Island Open--not what I would have hoped

This past weekend was the King's Island Open chess tournament.

I had some hopes for this one. Whether the hopes were based on reality, is perhaps open for question. At the least, the results were not all I had hoped.

And, in the end, that's my fault, if fault could be found. At the least, I could have done better.

The first round game was one that up until the last few moves I would view as one of the best ones I had ever played. It was tight and intense, with my opponent putting me under some pressure on the kingside but I had a bind on him on the queenside. Things opened up and bit and we exchanged down, and in the endgame I was a piece up and should have won easily. But in a position when I should have spent a few seconds and calculate a little, I made a stupid move and we ended up drawing.

The second game was another intense game, with a good bit of back-and-forth. My opponent chose an opening that wasn't overly aggresive, but would give him a small advantage, and then things got a bit wacky. I thought I had some tactics that would have been good for me, but I missed a move at the end of it that was good for him and bad for me, and he got a well-earned win.

I guess I was a bit ticked for the last round, so I came out with a certain "attack quick and blow the guy away" attitude, and right at first I thought it was working. A few moves in, I had his king under pressure and then simplifid into an endgame-like position an exchange up, but it was still difficult, and I guess I handled that part wrongly. Anway, in the end we had a drawn rook-and-pawn ending.

So, three rounds, two draws and a lose. There were two more rounds on Sunday, but I decided to cut my loses (as in not needing to spend far too much on a hotel room) and withdrew.

I'm starting to realize some things. For one, if my results are any indication, I'm pretty much playing people on the level where I'm playing. I'm getting a lot of draws, and I'm winning about as much as I'm losing, so if my results are about 50%, then I guess that's an indication that my current level is the correct one.

Another thing, I need to start seeing that local tournament in which I tied for first as not really an indication that I am consistently that good. Looking back on it, of the four games I played in that tournament, one that I won I should have lost, and another which was a draw was maybe pretty close to being lost. It's not to mean that I downplay that result and discard it, it was a high mark in my play and I view it with something like pride, but it's not really an indication that I've arrived and that my game is really at that level.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

not in my 'comfort zone'

Hang around most contemporary churches very long, and the idea of "comfort zone" will creep in. In fact, it won't so much creep as it will parade itself, being a part of almost every idea being spoken of. The ways it may be expressed would probably be in words such as these, "God wants to stretch us, take us out of our comfort zones", "Yes, doing this will be strange for us, and some people may think we're crazy, it's not traditional, it's not comfortable, it will take us out of our comfort zone".

Over a year ago, while living in Lexington, I was attending a certain church, and one Saturday was with a group from the church having dinner at a restaurant. I was sitting with three other guys, two of whom seemed to have been newbies in town, and were talking about a certain minister or ministry I had some familiarity with, and wasn't one I thought overly highly of. I didn't really say much, nor get too upset about it, but to one of them did mention that I did question some things that person taught. But when in response he tried to say something about my 'comfort zone', I have to admit I spoke pretty hard in response. Nothing major, no shouting, just rather firmly stated that he shouldn't play the 'comfort zone' game with me.

It's an idea I've never really liked, and didn't really think was completely correct, but didn't think it out far enough to see why I thought it not quite right. Until somewhat recently.

In an essay called "The Weight of Glory", C. S. Lewis began by pointing out the differences between unselfishness and love. If I remember correctly, his idea was that while unselfishness has more to do with what a person chooses to do without, love has to do with considering the good of the other. In essence, unselfishness measures itself by the what the self chooses to not have, while love measures itself by the good done to the other.

A similar parallel could be made between, for example, being nice and being kind. Niceness tends to have be concessional, not given to standing strongly for anything, and afraid of offending. Kindness can be firmer, stronger, may even offend if need be.

My thought is that in this likening of "comfort zone" rhetoric and obedience, a similar transposition is occuring. The focus is more on the self, and how an action is considered right or wrong. More so, it's a way of measuring if an one is 'living in faith' or if what one wants to do is based on faith.

But it's a subjective measure, and it's based on feelings. It assumes that an action of faith will feel a certain way, a sort of Christian version of a Mountain Dew commercial.

And as with the others, the focus becomes more on the self and less on God, more on feeling and less on real obedience.

Perhaps more then that, it's a catch-all that can be used to justify almost anything. Those who want to do something, and more so something questionable, can use the "comfort zone" type of rhetoric to claim that those who disagree are not willing to "go out of their comfort zones". A person speaking things that may be bizarre can also insinuate that their opposition is based solely on the 'fact' that what he is saying makes them "uncomfortable". Kind of like what the man in the restaurant tried to pull on me.

It's not that there isn't some truth in the "comfort zone" idea. Often, perhaps even most times, obedience isn't comfortable, just as love will cause one to sacrifice and kindness does consider how one's actions are perceived. But that is only a part of the thing, just as those others are only parts of the bigger virtue.

But it's an emphasis on the one aspect, not the whole. Discomfort is not a reliable measure for the obedience of an action. I would guess that most people could think of things they considered bad and even evil that they would be uncomfortable doing. But the thing is, God could well ask a person to do such a thing, much as how He asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac.

That is perhaps the biggest charge against the idea--it's trite. Speaking of "comfort zones" to Abraham while he is on his way to sacrifice his son would rightly in my opinion by considered insulting. It wasn't a case of him "leaving his comfort zone", it was a case of him obeying when what was asked was rending him to pieces.

It is obedience, not discomfort, that defines faith.

Friday, November 2, 2007

oh joy of all joys!!!!

X-Files 2 Movie Returning in 2008

Be still, my heart!!!

thougts on l'amour and community

Last night, for the first time in quite a while, I finished up a Louis L'amour book.

Several years ago, mostly in my time at Morehead State U, I was on a serious kick of reading novels about the American West--mostly Zane Grey, Max Brand, and Louis L'amour books. One of my desires was to see the country they described so very beautifully--the canyons, the mountains, the deserts.

As time has gone by, I have seen some of them, and have not been disappointed. There was the time I was with a group riding from Georgia to Colorado, and being entranced by Kansas and it's overwhelming flatness, and then how abruptly it flatness ended quite a ways into Colorado with the Rocky Mountains. There were the mountains of Alaska, and I think a part of me is still up there. I couple of years ago, there was flying to Nevada and seeing the country along the way--a gashed, dry, sparce place both beautiful and terrible. About the only place I haven't seen that I would really like to would be the Grand Canyon. Maybe someday.

This isn't really about the sights, though I don't regret having taken that rabbit trail.

Reading L'amour's book over the past week (I began it several days ago, though had gotten only a few chapters in until last evening. For the record, the book was titled "Milo Talon") was in some ways refreshing.

The big thing today in Christian circle, at least from my admittedly narrow view (no one's going to mistake where I live for one of civilization's bleeding-edge places), is 'community'. The word gets tossed around with regularity. And I'm fine that, to some degree.

It's not really anything new, and certainly nothing the church hasn't been doing, to some degree or another. Of course concepts of community have been different. Some have had a narrow, separatist view--they in essence take their belief community and more-or-less separate themselves from the overall community. Others were more involved in their societies.

I would suppose that concepts of 'community' today are also different, and I don't want to do a compare/contrast with each one. My idea is broader, though I hope accurate.

When I hear some people talk today about "community", I can't help but think "co-dependence". Alone-ness becomes almost a thing to be avoided. Concepts such as 'individualism' and 'independence' seem to be to be looked at warily, if not outright questioned and discarded.

So, what does L'amour have to do with this?

I'm struck in ways in his books by how much individualism and community are blended, to the good of both concepts. The people he writes about in good ways are individuals--strong, independent, able to stand on their own, wary of asking for help where they don't think they need it. But he doesn't take individualism to the extreme of an Ayn Rand, where the individual becomes god and has no responsibility at all to the overall society.

On the other hand, L'amour's heroes are part of the community--their family ties are strong even when the family may not be present in the story, they "ride for the brand" meaning they give honest work for honest pay and are loyal to the people they work for, they are ready to help those who are truly helpless but expect those who can help themselves to do so, and they will go far to help those who may be friends or whom they consider to be good people.

The L'amour hero is independent, but not completely separated from those around them.

Consider the book I just finished. It wasn't a big book, but here are things that were in it. The hero, Talon, helps a young lady, a stranger, to get established in the one-horse town where most of the story takes place. He takes a job and sees it through to the end, even when he starts to question many aspects of it. He makes friends with a Mexican man who watches over the horses for a rancher, and helps him when he is injured in an attack. When Talon has to face off against several men set upon gunning him down, he helped by the Mexican man he had helped and a friend of his, and a third man sent by a friend to watch his back (even though he didn't know it at that time). And at the end, when the townspeople grew sick of the killing and told him to leave, even if I would have considered their position unfair against him, he still respected their opinions and left.

Of course, one should be careful of using a source like L'amour. I don't know what his religious views were, and while his heroes often showed respect to the country churches and religion they grew up in, I don't know how Christian they may have been. To use a phrase I heard recently, it may be best to think of them as being "Christ haunted"--their morals and ethics were markedly based on the Christianity in their culture, even if they didn't really know it.

But I like the balance in them, between Randianism and Communism--people are there to help each other, but refuse to be used as crutches for those not willing to at least attempt to stand on their own. Neither extremely individual nor extremely communal, but with a healthy respect for both--each person is an individual and are still part of their society.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007


It may be a bit redundant to comment about comments to an article, but so be it. It's interesting stuff, so here it is.


Morford passes along the opinions of a “longtime reader,” a public high school teacher in the San Francisco area, about the “horrifying” state of teen minds. The teacher “speaks not merely of the sad decline in overall intellectual acumen among students … not merely the astonishing spread of lazy slackerhood ….” Morford shared a few more observations about iPods and cell phones and the lack of time spent outdoors before throwing the “mindless, fundamentalist evangelical Christian lemming” bomb.

Here is that 'bomb'...

We are, as far as urban public education is concerned, essentially at rock bottom. We are now at a point where we are essentially churning out ignorant teens who are becoming ignorant adults and society as a whole will pay dearly, very soon, and if you think the hordes of easily terrified, mindless fundamentalist evangelical Christian lemmings have been bad for the soul of this country, just wait.

I don't think it's any big secret that public schools are pretty much failing. Sure, not all are, and no doubt even from the bad ones there can come students with a somewhat decent education, but by and large yes there are reasons to question whether what we are putting into public schools as far as tax monies goes is really being returned to us in well-educated students.

The statement about 'evangelicals' is, of course, simply a cheap shot by someone with an obvious bias. He is entitled to his opinion, even one as flaky as that one.

Then our discussion often turns to the meat of it, the bigger picture, the ugly and unavoidable truism about the lack of need among the government and the power elite in this nation to create a truly effective educational system, one that actually generates intelligent, thoughtful, articulate citizens.

This opinion, however, has to be more then a little off. Is he really trying to tell us that the US government thinks it doesn't need well-educated citizens? That we don't need scientists, authors, researchs, doctors, lawyers (yes, sadly, they must be mentioned here), and any other such roles? That it is some kind of grand conspiracy that schools are producing morons?

Why do I sense some kind of Bush-bashing here? After all, this guy seems pretty strongly on the left, and isn't that their first excuse for all that goes wrong?

Hell, why should they? After all, the dumber the populace, the easier it is to rule and control and launch unwinnable wars and pass laws telling them that sex is bad and TV is good and God knows all, so just pipe down and eat your Taco Bell Double-Supremo Burrito and be glad we don't arrest you for posting dirty pictures on your cute little blog.

I get more the impression of a tirade here then of a coherent position and argument. True, there is a further shot at Christianity, and if his last statement is meant to mean that he thinks that posting porn on the web is ok, then maybe we can see why he thinks God is not good. It think it was Aldous Huxley who said that when he was young and full of athiesm, for he and his fellow unbelievers it was a case that behind all of their protests and rhetoric, in the end it all came down to sex.

In response to that last paragraph, here's what the CMI writer wrote...

This is what liberal goulash looks like. String together a bunch of leftist lunacy, smear Christians and blame everyone else. Personal responsibility? Pshaw.

...and further...

Somehow Morford overlooks one obvious point: the teachers who dominate the “horribly failed educational system,” whom he suggests are deliberately dumbing down American students, are overwhelmingly liberals.

Perhaps if Morford and his reader/teacher traveled outside the liberal enclave of San Francisco, where the city grants permits for fairs celebrating sadomasochism on public streets but denies the Marines permission to film a commercial on those same streets, they’d see a different American teen. And maybe if they, and parents, held kids accountable for making the most of their education, instead of blaming the government and the “power elite,” they’d be a little less despondent.

And there is the point to all of this. It has been liberal ideas that have, for example, discouraged certain types of disciplinary measure which may have helped in straigtening ot unruly students, that have put self-esteem and feelings over performance and learning, which have watered-down textbooks and basically rewritten history books so that they reflect liberal worldviews and biases, that have told kids to be so ashamed of their country that they will not even say the Pledge of Allegiance but rather make up their own version based on their own selfishness.

In other words, it is the ideas of people like Morford which have resulted in this train wreck, and for him to try to shunt the blame on to evangelicals or the government is childish.

If such students exist as he claims, they are the children of himself and his liberal pals. They are the result of their ideas being put into practice, and are the logical outcome.

Monday, October 22, 2007

mclaren on 'di vinci code'

Ok, I'm not exactly bleeding-edge here. This interview was roughly a year and a half ago, and seems to have even been done before the movie was released. But although some things may have moved on, maybe not so much, either. Anyway, here are my comments about it, for what they are worth.

I think a lot of people have read the book, not just as a popular page-turner but also as an experience in shared frustration with status-quo, male-dominated, power-oriented, cover-up-prone organized Christian religion. We need to ask ourselves why the vision of Jesus hinted at in Dan Brown's book is more interesting, attractive, and intriguing to these people than the standard vision of Jesus they hear about in church. Why would so many people be disappointed to find that Brown's version of Jesus has been largely discredited as fanciful and inaccurate, leaving only the church's conventional version? Is it possible that, even though Brown's fictional version misleads in many ways, it at least serves to open up the possibility that the church's conventional version of Jesus may not do him justice?

So, what does it say? Let's say that there are some who are misrepresenting Jesus--for example, the televangelist Jesus who wants everyone healthy and wealthy. But can that explain why 'Di Vinci' has been so popular?

McLaren, in his fashion, is all too ready to blame the church for all things he thinks are wrong with the world. Read the above, and you'll see some PC reasons, with the idea I suppose that Jesus would be for those PC things

Why would some people be drawn to a fictional Jesus? Maybe because such a Jesus would be a Jesus made in their own image. Maybe because it would be a Jesus that they could control.

It would be the same as imagining meeting someone, and actually meeting them. Let's say, for example, that a man sees a woman from the distance, and is attracted to her. In his mind, he images what she must be like, how there conversations may go, how she laughs and talks and what things she likes and doesn't like. He does, in essence, make a version of her that has a basis much more in his own self then in any reality of the real woman.

Let's say that he does eventually meet her. The real woman is different from the one he imagined. She is a real person, with real ideas and opinions which he has no control over. She is much more complex and difficult then he could imagine. Perhaps he may even like the imagined her over the real her, maybe with good reason--the real her may be vain and snide and not a nice person--or maybe for bad reasons--she may not think him as good a guy as the imagined one does.

We simply cannot ignore the words Jesus spoke about how the message about Him would be received, that He was hated and not received, and that those who preached him would be hated because of Him. We are told that those who live godly will suffere persecutions. We are told that with Jesus light has come into the world, and that men loved the darkness and not the light, because what they did was evil.

Too many Christians have suffered and died for Christ for someone like McLaren to use political correctness to try to explain why people don't like Jesus.

McLaren: For all the flaws of Brown's book, I think what he's doing is suggesting that the dominant religious institutions have created their own caricature of Jesus. And I think people have a sense that that's true. It's my honest feeling that anyone trying to share their faith in America today has to realize that the Religious Right has polluted the air. The name "Jesus" and the word "Christianity" are associated with something judgmental, hostile, hypocritical, angry, negative, defensive, anti-homosexual, etc. Many of our churches, even though they feel they represent the truth, actually are upholding something that's distorted and false.

I suppose we should never mind that many of those stereotypes have more to do with media depiction and distortion then on actuality. Judgmental and hostile? No, but if all one does is read the press, one could get that impression. Hypocritical? That's a copout. Again, the press makes much of hypocracy in conservatives and Christians, but essentially ignores it when liberals are--think of the Louisiana congressman found with money in his freezer, but who far from being asked to step down has been promoted. Think of Ted Kenndy--what true conservative could have such a history without it being brought up every five minutes by the liberal media.

In fact, here a perfect example of what I mean. The governor of Tennessee, a liberal Dem, uses a derogatory term for Chinese workers from many years ago in a letter to the newspaper. It happened a few days ago, and so far, I have not heard any broohaha about this. I'll wait, though not with bated breath, for the media and fellow libs to get in a dander about this, call for investigations, demand that the governor step down, and the usual shenanigans they demand whenever a conservative is even accused of such thing (please note, not even proven, only accused).

Angry, negative, and defensive? No more then any other political movement. The most distasreful rhetoric I have heard, the most vile insults, have come from liberals. Defensive? Only because there are things worth defending, like the life of the unborn, and morality.

Anti-homosexual? I think McLaren is showing some serious PCness here. We are dealing with what is clear biblical morality, that homosexual activity is clearly sinful. McLaren may think that some of the rhetoric may be too strong or too judgmental or too condemning, maybe he'd be right on some of it and maybe he'd be wrong, but as a biblical Christian I would hope that he would be at least anti-homosexual in the sense he thinks it is sinful and those who practice it are going against God's commands to not do those things. He may want to approach it from a "kinder, gentler" position then others, but he should be careful of those whose position is more strongly stated then his.

McLaren: The book is fiction and it's filled with a lot of fiction about a lot of things that a lot of people have already debunked. But frankly, I don't think it has more harmful ideas in it than the Left Behind novels. And in a certain way, what the Left Behind novels do, the way they twist scripture toward a certain theological and political end, I think Brown is twisting scripture, just to other political ends. But at the end of the day, the difference is I don't think Brown really cares that much about theology. He just wanted to write a page-turner and he was very successful at that.

I think this comment of his is simply distasteful. Comparing 'Di Vinci Code' to 'Left Behind' can be nothing but a sign of a lack of balance on his part, and to even hint that 'Left Behind' may have caused more damage then 'Di Vinci Code' is sick.

I'm not saying McLaren needs to become a dispensationalist, though I would recommend it, but for him to try to be so understanding of Brown while then making such a slam on Lahaye, Lahaye being a fellow Christian whose works have lead many to Christ while Brown is not a Christian and whose works have been a source of deception, is not right. Surely McLaren can disagree about end times matters without making such comments.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

book review, part 4--velvet elvis

Continuing on, more or less where the last entry left off...

Somebody recently said to me, "As long as you teach the Bible, I have no problem with you."

Think about that for a moment.

What that person is really saying is, "As long as you teach my version of the Bible, I'll have no problem with you." And the more people insist that they are just taking the Bible for what it says, the more skeptical I become.

Say what?

I have to call 'shenanigans' here. Does Bell really think that we are completely unteachable, only wanting to hear what we already know? What attitude would make him happy? One that would accept anything any teacher calling themselves Christian may say?

A phrase such as "As long as you teach the Bible" does say at least one thing, that the person saying it has some knowledge of what the Bible says. Not perfect knowledge, certainly, but although I do agree to some degree that the Bible can be difficult, it is not all difficult.

I would say that by that phrase, the person meant that as long as Bell teaches what is plainly taught in the Bible, there would be no problem. If, for example, he tries to tell us that the Bible teaches that Christians need to return to the Mosaic law and for example men need to be circumcised, then there would be problems.

So, I'm not prepared to accept Bell's interpretation of this person's statement, and certainly not that every person who thinks that way means what Bell means. It seems more like an attempt on his part to dismiss such thinking, though I question why he would want to. As a pastor, he should want people to see if what he or any other pastor or teacher is saying is biblical.

Which for me raises one huge question: Is the Bible the best God can do?

With God being so massive and awe-inspiring and full of truth, why is his book capable of so much confusion?

Why did God do it this way?

Where does on go in trying to make sense of what the Bible even is, let alone what it says?

I find this a bit disturbing. Perhaps he means to be provocative. Very well.

Is the Bible the best God can do? Does anyone, even Bell, really want to say 'not'?

Why is the Bible capable of so much confusion?

That question is actually pretty good. I don't want to blithely dismiss the Bible's difficulties, but maybe more importantly, why do people insist on making it confusing? I suspect there are many issues that have been called confusing not so much because the Bible is confusing, but because there are people who do not like the Bible's teaching and so try to muddy the waters, to add confusion, so they can explain away.

Why did God do it this way? Again, do any of us want to say God should have done it some other way?

Where can we go to understand the Bible?

That's a fair question. There are no lack of resources, but how are we to know which are the best and which are dead wrong?

Here is Bell's answer, or at least the part that he writes about in that part of the book.

For me, clarity has begun to emerge when I've begun to understand what Jesus believed about the Scriptures.

I have no problem with that answer, again as far as it goes. But at least for the next several paragraphs, which I'm not going to put here, I'm not sure what he means by this statement.

I have recently listened to a couple of mp3 audios from a man called Mark Driscoll, a pastor in Seattle. The audios were him talking about the Scripture, and in one part of it he goes into how Jesus viewed them. He tells how Jesus treated the OT as real history--that for example Jesus says that Moses wrote the Pentateuch, that Isaiah wrote the book now called Isaiah, that Daniel wrote the book of Daniel. He goes into it more, but the point for now is that Jesus treated the OT as real history.

With Driscoll, I have a pretty good idea of what he would mean if he says something like what Bell wrote above. Maybe I'm missing it, but I haven't seen where Bell explain his understanding of what Jesus believed about the Scriptures. I'm really not trying to be difficult, I'm just not seeing it.