Monday, June 30, 2008

are we really this nuts (or, dare I say, bananas)???

Spain calls for ape’s rights

On Wednesday, the Spanish Parliament called on Spain to protect the great ape’s right to life and freedom. Pedro Pozas, Spanish director of the Great Ape Project called it an “historic day in the struggle for animal rights and in defense of our evolutionary comrades.” The Project works to remove the great ape “from the category of mere property” and to “provide these amazing creatures with the right to life, the freedom of liberty and protection from torture.”

While the Great Ape Project laments “the arbitrary denial of fundamental rights and protections to non-human great apes,” it is difficult not to notice arbitrariness of another sort in such fervent defense of animal rights from a nation that sanctions(and subsidizes) some 92,000 abortions annually.

And who, we may ask, is one of the people behind this madness?

The Project’s chief philosophical proponent, Dr. Peter Singer, doesn’t see the inconsistency. In a 2007 article in the Melbourne Herald-Sun, Singer argued that though “the opponents of abortion are right to say that abortion ends a human life…mere membership of our species doesn’t settle the moral issue of whether it is wrong to end a life.”

Singer argues that consciousness (and thus the ability to experience pain) is the proper criteria for evaluating “personhood.” Thus, for Singer, an adult ape has more intrinsic value than a human infant, more consciousness, and thus more of a right to life.

Yep, Peter Singer.

Friday, June 27, 2008

maybe there's a conflict of interest?

Ok, first, there's this.

Perhaps 30 years later, evangelicals, because of "an increase in
questionable rhetorical practices in the nonprofit sector," need to form the
ECRA: The Evangelical Council for Rhetorical Accountability. Those of us who
have a lot of pew time know ... not to mention those who listen to religious
broadcasting and partake of religious literature, Web sites, and blogs (!) ...
that such accountability is sorely lacking.

The need for an ECRA became clearer than ever to me this week when a
beloved elder in the evangelical broadcasting community spoke out against Sen.
Barack Obama. What is evident to me in this interchange is not just a difference
in policy, but also a ...

.. difference in rhetoric, defined as how one attempts to argue and
persuade. In times like these -- dangerous times, election seasons, and so on --
we must not only scrutinize what people say and whether we agree with it, but
also how they say it and whether we agree with their means of persuasion. I'm
suggesting that we sharpen our sense of rhetorical accountability just as we
sharpen our sense of financial accountability.

The specter of censorship notwithstanding...

Then, there was this.

Faithful in pews might not be voters in November

Meanwhile, Obama's campaign is aggressively reaching out to evangelicals.

The Illinois senator dispatched former 9/11 Commission member Tim Roemer to meet with fellow Roman Catholics. He sent Brian McLaren, one of the country's most influential pastors, to meet with fellow evangelicals. And aides have conducted more than 200 "American Values Forums," soon to be followed up with house parties and town hall-style meetings aimed at young Catholics and young evangelicals.

And a bit later, a response from McLaren.


Of course, we all know that I'm not one of the country's most influential
pastors. Nor was I sent to meet with fellow evangelicals on Obama's behalf,
although I'd be happy to share with anyone of any faith persuasion my hopes,
concerns, and commitments regarding the presidential election.

I was invited to speak on faith and politics at one of Senator Obama's
"faith and values" forums in Iowa last year. And I am an enthusiastic supporter
of The Matthew 25
Network, which is supporting Senator Obama, and which you can read about here and here. And I plan to be more
outspoken about the election in the coming months, here and elsewhere - not as a
spokesperson for any organization, but as a responsible private citizen. In
fact, I just said good-bye to a CNN crew who was here filming a story about
Evangelicals who support Senator Obama, tentatively to be aired on

I think I'll wait for the AP article writer to have his or her say about McLaren's claims. My point here is simply point out that McLaren calls for some kind of niceness when it comes to political rhetoric, at least when it is directed agains the man he is out there campaigning for (which he admits to, whether Obama "sent" him or not).

Btw the God's Politics blog (which has much more politics then God, on may think) was one that quite vigorously defended the statements of Obama former pastor Jeremiah Wright. As seen here.

Putting Rev. Wright's Preaching in Perspective
Why America Needs the Uncensored Prophetic Voice of the Black Church

I think it's a case of these people being quite willing to dish it, but not so much ot take it.

book review--the shack--concluding remarks

A work like this is difficult to deal with, in terms of whether to recommend it or not.

On the one hand, in many ways it is far ahead of much of what passes for 'Christian' thought today. The author's bold statements about the Trinity, about Heaven after death, about the resurrection of Christ, are statements made in the face of attacks on those same doctrines from various fronts. In that sense, the book is well worth reading.

On the other hand, when he says things that smack of universalism, or tries to make us think that God is our servant, well, those are some pretty serious things, too.

And it's not so easy to simply say to take the good and bypass the bad. Not all errors are equal. How one views the Creation account, for example, may be counted a small matter (though I sometimes wonder about that), but how one views the resurrection of Christ is quite another matter. So when people like Crossan and Borg try to tell us that there was no real resurrection, I have no qualms about saying they have no part in the faith. In that sense, Young is well inside it, and I am glad.

When he tries to tell us that God is our servant, however, I can only raise the eyebrows. I fear how such a mindset would be in some people. Isn't that very much how Word of Faith views God, even up to the point of commanding the Spirit to do thing, and using Scripture almost against God in order to make Him do things?

I think this points to where one of my mains qualms is in the book. His portrayal of God is not one that would cause a Moses to take off his shoes before Him, or make a Job be quiet with unanswerable questions, or strike down a man for having the audacity to touch the Ark of the Covenant, or send plagues upon plagues upon a people for the stubbornness of their ruler, or rain fire and brimstone on some wicked and immoral cities, or give His prophets words about coming disasters and conquests if the people didn't repent.

In other words, the God in Young's book is a rather tame, rather nice, rather domestic diety. Papa in the Shack is usually in the kitchen, cooking, talking about being especially fond of people. It's not exactly the type of being who feels any kind of holy awe or even fear before.

If put to the question, I guess I would say that "The Shack" is by a narrow margin a recommend. It's a book to read with one eye's open, so to speak. If one does so, there is much to consider in it, and some good may be gained from it. If one simply accepts what it says because it sounds good or makes one feel good, then the book has become a stumbling block, and would have been best avoided.

Monday, June 23, 2008

book review--the shack--the not-so-good

"Those who love me come from every system that exists. They were Buddhists or Mormons, Baptists or Muslims, Democrats, Republicans and many who don't vote or ar enot part of any Sunday monring or religious institution. I have followers who were murderers and many who were self-righteous. Some are bankers and bookies, Americans and Iraqis, Jews and Palestinians. I have no desire to make them Christians, but I do want to join them in their transformation into sons and daughters of my Papa, in my brothers and sisters, into my beloved."

"Most roads don't lead anywhere. What it does mean is that I will travel any road to find you."
p. 128

I've seen this part of the book references in a few places as well, in regards to some questionable things in the book, and frankly I think they have a point.

For me, it's a bit unclear. It depends on what he means when he says that "Those who love me...They were...".When he says "They were Buddhists or Mormons, Baptists or Muslims...", it is easy to read that as him saying that people in those religions were among those whom the author classifies as having loved Jesus. But when he then says "I have followers who were murderers...", it does kind of give pause to that conclusion. Is he saying that those who loved Jesus also committed murder, or that people who had committed murder then came to love Jesus?

Yet for all of that, I not so certain the author isn't saying that in his mind Mormons, Buddhists, and Muslims were among those whom he considered "Those who love me (Jesus)". Not that they had been in those religions before coming the Christ and becoming Christians, but that they were in those religions and still fall into Young's notiong of those who loved Jesus.

So, it seems in his mind, a Muslim who thinks Jesus just another prophet, who doesn't believe that Jesus was really crucified, and that God really spoke to some man named Mohammed, is one who loved Jesus. A Mormon who thinks God was once a man and that he will some day be a god and populate a planet with his children is one who loves Jesus.

Young doesn't explain his position here very well, and certainly doesn't deal with the Scriptures against his notions.

Such notions always surprise me. Upon what basis does he make such a statement? How does he determine the truth of it? What is his measure, his standard? What about the commands to take the Gospel to the world? What about Jesus being the only way to God?

And to say that Jesus isn't concerned that about those people becoming Christians is wrong. One may say that He isn't interested in htem only having the name Christian, that may be fair, but if the author is saying that Jesus isn't interested in people putting their faith in Him and trusting Him is unbiblical to the core. Belief in Christ is one of the main things in really loving Him.

"Honey, you asked me what Jesus accomplished on the cross; so now listen to me carefully: through his death and resurrection, I am now fully reconciled to the world."

"The whole world? You mean those who believe in you, right?"

"The whole world, Mack. All I am telling you is that reconciliation is a two way street, and I have done my part, totally, completely, finally."
p. 192

This raises some questions. How was it that God needed to reconcile Himself to the world? What had God done wrong, and the needed to be reconciled?

Rather, I can think of passages in Scripture like this, emphases mine

So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
II Corinthians 5:16-21

5:10 For if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, shall we be saved by his life;
5:11 and not only so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.

1:19 For it was the good pleasure [of the Father] that in him should all the fulness dwell;
1:20 and through him to reconcile all things unto himself, having made peace through the blood of his cross; through him, [I say], whether things upon the earth, or things in the heavens.
1:21 And you, being in time past alienated and enemies in your mind in your evil works,
1:22 yet now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and without blemish and unreproveable before him

Why is reconciliation a two-way street? Isn't it the one who has wronged who must be reconciled to the one wronged?

God did not need to be reconciled to us; rather, it is we who need to be reconciled to God, and the way for that to happened has been performed through the death of Christ.

Finally, for now, there is this, a statement made in regards to the man who kidnapped and murdered Mack's daughter...

But he too is my son. I want to redeem him.
p. 224

I've not doubt that God would want to redeem such a man, like he redeemed Saul who persecuted Christians, and others who committed crimes and did horrible things. And haven't we all done horrible things, even if no human court would say so?

But is such a man, who has not repented of such deeds, really a son of God? Are there not people who are not children of God?

Jesus, for example, tells the Pharisees, "You are of your father, the devil". I John 3:10 tells us "In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother."

In John, we are told of those who are children of God.

1:12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, [even] to them that believe on his name:

Here are some things the Bible calls those who are not children of God

3:5 Put to death therefore your members which are upon the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry;
3:6 for which things` sake cometh the wrath of God upon the sons of disobedience:
3:7 wherein ye also once walked, when ye lived in these things;

9:22 What if God, willing to show his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering vessels of wrath fitted unto destruction:
9:23 and that he might make known the riches of his glory upon vessels of mercy, which he afore prepared unto glory,
9:24 [even] us, whom he also called, not from the Jews only, but also from the Gentiles?

I think these show that God does not view such people as sons or children of Himself. It may be a hard truth, but if it is true, and it is, then there is no use in trying to make Him say otherwise, no matter how nice it sounds.

This becomes especially important in regards to the episode with Wisdom, when she asks Mack to choose which of his children will go to Heaven, and which to Hell, and likens it to how what it would be like for God to send people to Hell. Whether or not Young believes in Hell is unclear.

The problem with the parallel is that, where does the Bible say that God will send His children to Hell? Where does it say that all of the people are children of God?

I think his idea is misleading.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

book review--the shack--the questionable

In this take on the book, I want to deal with some things that are, to my mind at least, a bit iffy.

...Papa is as much submitted to me as I to him, or Sarayu to me, or Papa to her.
Submission is not about authority and it not obedience; it is all about
relationships of love and respect. In fact, we are submitted to you in the same
p. 145

One thing Young goes on about is some kind of anti-authority, anti-heirarchy notion of love and relationship. One can see it some in the above quote, and in a few other places in the book.

Once you have a heirarchy you need rules to protect and administer it, and then
you need law and the enforcement of the rules, and you end up with some kind of
chain of command or a system of order that destroys rather then promotes
p. 122-123

I find such a statement rather...strange. Does the Bible ever give the hint that there should be no rules among us, no laws, no heirarchy or leaders?

Did Jesus not lead his disciples? Did the Apostles not lead the early church? Did Paul not tell husbands that they are the head of their family? Did he not tell wives to submit to the husband, and children to honor their father and mother?

Does the NT say nothing about church governance? About the roles of pastors and bishops and elders?

Does the NT not tell us to obey those over us and to submit to them? Does it not say to even obey the civil authorities, except insofar as it would mean being in disobedience to God?

And if one looked to the OT, one could find God establishing modes of government, the priesthood, family, laws and rules, moral codes, kingdoms.

And as a final bit of surreality, to say that God submits Himself to us seems an almost unbelievably arrogant statement. We're dealing with God, which means right off that there is a heirarchy--God is infinitely above us.

I don't create institution--never have, never will.

What about the institution of marriage?

Marriage is not an institution. It's a relationship
p. 179

This is one of those cases when a definition of what is meant by 'institution' as it is used each time would be helpful. I get the impression that the meaning is being changed a bit, maybe not intentionally, but still changed. Much like how evolutionists can use the word 'evolution' in different ways. Such is a danger with a word that has similar but still very different meanings.

And now, as per usual, a bit of Chesterton, to give another take on the matter...

The principle is this: that in everything worth having, even in every
pleasure, there is a point of pain or tedium that must be survived, so that the
pleasure may revive and endure. The joy of battle comes after the first fear of
death; the joy of reading Virgil comes after the bore of learning him; the glow
of the sea-bather comes after the icy shock of the sea bath; and the success of
the marriage comes after the failure of the honeymoon. All human vows, laws, and
contracts are so many ways of surviving with success this breaking point, this
instant of potential surrender.

In everything on this earth that is worth doing, there is a stage when no
one would do it, except for necessity or honor. It is then that the Institution
upholds a man and helps him on to the firmer ground ahead. Whether this solid
fact of human nature is sufficient to justify the sublime dedication of
Christian marriage is quite an other matter, it is amply sufficient to justify
the general human feeling of marriage as a fixed thing, dissolution of which is
a fault or, at least, an ignominy. The essential element is not so much duration
as security. Two people must be tied together in order to do themselves justice;
for twenty minutes at a dance, or for twenty years in a marriage In both cases
the point is, that if a man is bored in the first five minutes he must go on and
force himself to be happy. Coercion is a kind of encouragement; and anarchy (or
some call liberty) is essentially oppressive, because it is essentially
discouraging. If we all floated in the air like bubbles, free to drift anywhere
at any instant, the practical result would be that no one would have the courage
to begin a conversation.
From "What's Wrong with the World"

The truth of the matter is, marriage is an institution, and it is a good thing that it is. What it may have been in a perfect world, we cannot really say, except insofar as we may determine from Adam and Eve, and that is scarce little. Perhaps with them, it would have been different. Perhaps Adam could have looked upon another woman, naked as Eve, and not have felt the sexual urge he would have felt when looking upon his wife. Perhaps if even the thought of intercourse with another woman would have crossed his mind, it would have horrified him to a degree that we cannot comprehend.

Yet we are weak, shallow, sinful creatures. Young speaks against chains, metaphorically speaking, at one point in the book, but the reality is, love is a chain. If I, being a man, love a woman to the point of marrying her, I am chaining or binding myself to her, and freeing myself from considering or being considered by any other woman.

And such a binding is necessary, for the thrill of the honeymoon would run out, and the dullness of common drudgery would no doubt seep in. She who was the darling of my eye may become simply another face around me.The practicalities of life together would grind at us, wear us down. The romantic edge would wear off.

When such may happen, then the institute of marriage must come in, as Chesterton says, to keep us together, to help us get through the difficult to the joys beyond, to a deeper love for each other.

My words are alive and dynamic--full of life and possibility; yours are dead,
full of law and fear and judgment. That is why you won't find the word
responsibility in the Scriptures.
p. 205

I did look in a concordance, not a full one I think, and while yes I didn't find the word 'responsibility' in it, I did see a few instances of the word 'duty', and some of the word 'account', as in giving account of ourselves to God.

There is one other thing in the story that kind of rubbed me wrong.

The basic premise of the story is this--our hero Mac gets a letter from God inviting him to meet Him at the shack at a certain time. Mac makes the trip, which leads to the events of the rest of the book.

As the conversations progress, reference is made to Mac's wife, the mother of the missing child (Mac is the father), in ways that seemed to hint that something was wrong. Towards the end, we learn that her being there was expected, or something, too, and that Mac should have brought her with him, or at least have tried to do so.

What bugs me about this is, the letter he received was addressed specifically to him, asking him to come. There was no mention made of anyone else, and given the nature of the message and the possible dangers, not to mention the idea of God sending a letter, he judged it best to not tell her of the invitation and his trip.

Upon what basis was Mac to assume that the invitation, addressed to him alone, was also meant for his wife? Assuming we are not dealing with a general invitation to come to Christ for forgiveness and salvation, why should Mac have thought that God didn't want just him to come, when only he is asked?

These are a few of the things that raised the eyebrows. They may not be things I'm willing to get too intensely into, but they are there, and I think they need to be questioned, and answered.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

book review--the shack--the good

There are some things, in reading the book, that struck me as good. One is that he takes the Trinity seriously.

In saying that, I'm not disregarding what his personifications of the persons of the Godhead may mean. I don't think it's an accident that his Godhead, and also the wisdom personification that makes an appearance in one chapter, are given racial appearances that in the US would be considered minorities--African-American, Asian, Jewish, and wisdom is Hispanic. Much like how McLaren puts his words into the mouth of the Jamaican Neo in some of his books. One could point out that the last appearance of the Father was of an older man, though even with it we are not given anything about the race of the appearance--are we to assume the Father in this appearance is Anglo because no other race is given, or is He still African-American like previously because nothing is said about it?

Having said all that, though, I have to admit I was impressed that he takes it seriously, and seems to put forth the Trinity as being true.

We are not three gods, and we are not talking about one god with three attitudes, like a man who is a husband, father, and worker. I am one God, and I am three persons, and each of the three is fully and entirely the one
p. 101

I think that statement is pretty strongly trinitarian.

There are some interesting occasions in the book, when Mack is talking to one of the persons only to have the conversation continued with another of the persons, which disconcerts him a bit.

Another thing that I could appreciate was what was said about good and evil. It really is quite an insight into the nature of relativism, and in defense of absolutes

Then it is you who determine good and evil. You become the judge...And then beyond and even worse, there are billions of you each determining what is good and what is evil...

And if there is no reality of good that is absolute, then you have lost any basis for judging. It is just language...
p. 135

Perhaps no plainer judgment and conclusion could be made against the whole postmodern trend.

One more thing to note, positively, are his views on Heaven.

This life is only the anteroom of a greater reality to come. No one reaches their potential in your world. It's only preparation for what Papa had in mind all along.
p. 167

If you've read some of the more recent emergent writings, or what I've posted here about them, you'll know that they are pushing the view that redemption is something here on earth, the kingdom of heaven is something here that needs to be made reality, and even from McLaren are hints that he thinks along the lines of full preterism, that all prophecy has already been fulfilled.

These are a few things I agreed with in the book, and they're not small things, either. His views on the Godhead, on absolutes, on Heaven, and on other things as the resurrection, put him miles ahead of many of the louder voices out there--the emergents, the Jesus Seminar nuts, the postmoderns. In that regard, I find it reassuring that this book is rather more popular then any of their works have yet to be (I can imagine one emergent author calling it something like "jejune", like he did the Left Behind books).

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

book review--the shack--overview

I have mostly missed the hype behind "The Shack", not always by plan, because for whatever reason the book still hasn't made it to the library I frequent.

But I finally caved, and bought a copy of it last week.

It's an easy read, not overly long, and I finished it in a couple of days.

My impressions of it are mixed.

For one thing, comparing it to "Pilgrim's Progress", as one reviewer seems to do, is to my mind premature. It's not yet a classic, and I have my doubts that it will reach that status.

Story-wise, much of the first part of the book is interesting enough. He creates a good premise, and develops it rather well, up to a point. I'll not spoil it, and for that matter my concerns are not with the story itself.

There is a touch of un-real-ness to parts of it, though. The characters are perhaps too nice, too cooperative. The only evil character in the book, the kidnapper, isn't even really in the book per se. There is brief mention of some people having seen him, but he is distant, though his actions are of great consequence.

In truth, though, the book is less about the story then it is about the talks between the main character, Mack, and the persons of God. It is here that his ideas become clearer, and such are what I'm most concerned about here.

I think I will treat this differently from other books. There are things that I found to be good in it, and as well things that were at least questionable. I want to deal with the good things first, because they are pretty important things, and then with the other things after that.

There is one thing that I want to make mention of here, though, before anything else.

There is always a problem when dealing with spiritual and supernatural elements in novels, especially I would suppose Christian ones. And if one goes so far as to have Jesus or even the Father act or speak, that difficulty only increases.

And so, there are often work-arounds. For example, in the Narnia books, the Christ-like character is given a different name and different form. In Lewis' Space books and Peretti's Darkness stories, angelic beings are used. Dostoevsky puts a silent Jesus into the story of the Grand Inquisitor, but that is actually a story told in the overall book.

To my mind, Young, the author of The Shack, made a mistake in putting his words into the mouths of the persons of the Godhead. This simply gives them more weight then they may otherwise have had. I'm not going to say that what he did was unique, but that it's something that is questionable at best.

movie review--the incredible hulk

There is a question I've asked, a bit of a humorous one, in regards to the two Hulk movies.

What do the two main actors in the Hulk movies, Bana and now Norton, have in common?

They've each played characters that have beaten up by Brad Pitt (Fight Club and Troy).

Well, not that it has anything to do the movie itself, but it's a bit of something. Not much.

Anyway, back to the movie...

It's not really a sequel to the movie that came out 4 or 5 years ago. The intro to the current movie gives a very brief telling of the Hulk's origins, different then the one from the first movie. It's as if they didn't want to retell the origin story of the first movie, but still wanted to have that story out of the way.

In many ways, the movie seemed based mostly on the old tv series, and it gives several hints to it. There is the brief appearance on Banner's tv of a movie or series with Bixby in it. Some of the music in the movie was taken from the series. And, in common with the first movie, there was Ferrigno (sp) who made a cameo as a guard.

As in the series, Banner is a wanderer, though it seems in foreign lands.

Norton as Banner seems to have been a good choice. Like Bixby, he's of average or even below-average build. He's also a very good actor, and does well with Banner in this movie.

One difference I didn't like was with General Ross. The one in this movie was a bit extreme.

The Hulk was different in this movie then in the last, too. Not as cartoonish, and while still much larger then human, he's not as huge as he was a few times in the first movie. Nor as polished. Although he didn't speak except one time, to say the obligatory "Hulk smash!!", he seems more intelligent.

The Abomination gives the movie something the first one lacked, which was needed--an enemy. The one in the first movie was undefined, not very specific, and I'm still not sure how it was defeated, while the Abomination was rather clearly an evil version of the Hulk.

And as an added point of interest was the last few scenes, where Banner seems to be gaining control of his transformations, and Stark from the 'Iron Man' movie shows up telling General Ross about the team 'they' are forming. One thing that connects with is the "Super-soldier" project mentioned before in the movie, which would lead up to Captain America and, one would say eventually, the Avengers, mentioned in 'Iron Man'.

What wasn't clear, though, was if and how the Hulk fits into it. I had thought it likely the Hulk would be part of the Avengers, but since Stark was talking to Ross, it may also mean the Hulk could be part of the problems. Or maybe he won't be in the Avengers' story at all.

At any rate, 'The Incredible Hulk' is a good movie, with lots of action and a good story. It's one I recommended.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

book review 5--a christianity worth believing

Jesus' message wasn't centered on individual people leaving this world and living in little rooms of glory in heaven. It was about the kingdom of God thriving on earth, just as it was in heaven. And this heaven was not another place but anywhere Gods agenda was fulfilled.
p. 220

So, is Pagitt really trying to say that there is no such place as Heaven, let alone Hell?

..."Do you know where you will go?" has this limited sense to it. It clearly implies that there is a place. Embedded in the question is the expectation of a location called heaven as opposed to a location called hell. So to answer the question, one has to build a congruent view of these places called heaven and hell, of life and eath, of God and faith and works. The question assumes an entire worldview
p. 221-222

What about things Jesus said, such as about going to prepare a place for us?

While it might not seem like it a first glance, even Jesus comments about "going to prepare a place for you" and "in my Father's house there are many rooms" come from the rabbinic tradition and are meant to create a picture of God's redemption on earth.That's the way Jesus intended it and the way the disciples heard it.
p. 223

Perhaps the one thing I most notice about this statement of Pagitt's is that he gives no source for such an opinion. There is no footnote, he does not refer to any commentaries or any other thing. He refers to "rabbinic tradition", but does not tell us where he gets such a claim. I find such silence telling.

Here is another example of such a thing, and of someone wondering where the emergent 'interpreter' got his take on a passage. This one is about McLaren's statements in "Everything Must Change", where he tries to say that the Revelation 19 prophecy about Jesus' return, a prophecy filled with imagery of judgment and violence, is actually about some kind of pacifistic non-violent non-judgmental thing probably having to do with Jesus' first coming. Here is what some asked about McLaren's claims.
Now this is more than ironic because one can find numerous commentaries by people who are experts in apocalyptic literature and they do not deny the theme of what McLaren has pejoratively dubbed 'the jihadist Jesus'. I, for one, would be interested in knowing if McLaren has found any seasoned commentators who so reverse Revelation 19 so that it is a peaceful non-violent second coming.

I think that's a fair question to ask, both of McLaren, and of Pagitt in what he's saying. If he has sources, where are they? He uses footnotes several times in the book, why is this passage without any support?

The early Christians saw heaven not as a place we go to but as a reality that comes to us. They talked about redemption and healing coming through God's creation, not apart from it.
p. 229

Now, is this true? Did Jesus and the early Christians not think of Heaven as another place?

(And is it an accident that Pagitt's book doesn't capitalize Heaven or Hell in some of those passages I referred to? I haven't capitalized them in his quotes because his book doesn't have them capitalized. I can't help but think that such a thing is not accidental.)

What about Jesus' account of the rich man and Lazarus the beggar? Was that only a story? Was it not telling us anything about what happened to those two men after their physical life ended?

What about the words Jesus said to the thief who was being crucified beside Him? Was the promise of being that day in Paradise with Him an empty promise? Was there no Paradise for them to go to? The man was dying, one may say as good as dead, it being only a matter of hours. When he asked for Jesus to remember him when He comes into His kingdom, one may safely think that he wasn't thinking of some kind of far-off earthly reality.

What about Jesus' statement in Matthew 7

21. Not everyone who says to me, "Lord, Lord" shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.
22. Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?'
23. And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'

Quite a bit said here. There is certainly an element of judgment here, one may think as well that such things take place some time after physical life has ended. There is as well Jesus rejecting people, telling them to depart from Him, something Pagitt's holism cannot allow.

But here the kingdom of Heaven is obviously something not of this world.

What about in Acts, when Steven is about to be martyred, and he has the vision, "Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!", Acts 7:56

What about II Corinthians 12, where Paul tells us about a man, perhaps himself or someone else, "such a one was caught up to the third heaven. And I know such a man--whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows--how he was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter."

Pagitt's holism has already been shown to be questionable, and it is so here, too.

In his book "Christian Beliefs", Wayne Grudem points out some places in the New Testament where there is support for the ideas of separation.

II Corinthians 5
1. For we know that if our earthyly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
2. For this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitations which is from heaven,
3. If indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked.
4. For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life.
5. Now he who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us his Spirit as a guarantee.
6. So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord.
7. For we walk by faith, not by sight.
8. We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.

Philippians 1
21. For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
22. But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell.
23. For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be Christ, which is far better.
24. Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you.
25. And being confident of this, I know that I shall remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy of faith.
26. that your rejoicing for me may be more abundant in Jesus Christ by my coming to you again.

How very different this is from Pagitt's claims. How does he explain this away, by claiming "Hellenization" and that Paul is introducing Greek dualism here? That Paul didn't really believe any of that stuff about being separate from the body and being present with the Lord? Is he going to say that Paul is not speaking truth, that it's some kind of culturally acceptable lie he's saying in order to make thing palatable for those Greek-thinking people in Corinth and Philippi?

So much in the Bible refutes almost everything Pagitt teaches in this book. So many, perhaps all, of the dualisms Pagitt wants to do away with are in the Bible, and even supported by Christ--Heaven and Hell, body and soul, material and spiritual. For Paul, this body is a tent, a dwelling but not a permanent one, and instead of this life being the end of it all, we actually are not at home here, but long to be at home with our Lord.

I'm actually rather embarrassed that I had to reference another book to find these passages. I knew about them, though, and had been taught this, but did need a refresher.

Monday, June 9, 2008

book review, part 4--christianity worth believing

It's an occasional criticism levelled by these emergent-types, that those "others" (whom they disparage, as opposed to the "other" whom they seem to think can do no sin) who call themselves Christians are not nuances enough. They don't take all of the ins and outs, or try to balance everything like angels on the points of a needle.

I suppose it goes without saying that the reality is very much the opposite of the emergent fairy tale.

Let's take, for example, Pagitt's take on the Fall.

...If we lived out a theology of depravity, we would have a very different society. One could argue that the logic of every person being born depraved and living as a sinner until being released from sin at the point of death makes infertility a sign of God's kindness--one less child will have to live with the scourge of sin.
p. 125

To say that Pagitt logic is sick and sickening is to pay it a kindness.

This statement is in a chapter called "Wonderfully Made". I would assume that he takes that statement from the Psalm that says, "I will rejoice, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Marvellous are Your words, and that I know right well".

I suppose, then, that means that he doesn't care much for other statements in the Psalms, such as "I was born in iniquity, and in sin my Mother conceived me".

Or this, in Romans 3

9. What then? Are we better than they? By no means, for we have proven that both Jews and Gentiles are all under sin.
10. As it is written, There is none righteous, no not one.
11. There is none who understands, there is none that seeks after God.
12. They are all gone out of the way. They are all unprofitable. There is none who does good, no, not one.
23. For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.

One part of that is taken from a Psalm, number 14. It has these cheery words about the condition of man.

1. The fool has said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable things, there is none that does good.
2. The Lord looks down from heaven upon the sons of men, to see if there were any that understand, and that seek God.
3. They are all gone aside, they have all become filthy. There is none that does good, not one.

One may guess that Pagitt doesn't like that Psalm, either.

Or what about this, from Isaiah?

64: 6
But we are all as an unclean thing, and our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.

And these, from John 1

10. He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.
11. He came unto his own, and his own received him not.

and John 3

19. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather then light, because their deeds are evil.

And one I remember, though the reference escapes me at the moment.

For by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin. So death passed among all men, because all have sinned.

(I wonder if he would consider that as an example of using Scripture as a weapon, something he whines about in another part of the book. I hope he would, I would hate if he got the wrong impression.)

Taking the overwhelmingly negative (and realistic) view that Scripture gives of the human condition, what do we then get from Pagitt?

The Biblical story is one that inspires us to live out God's love for us as we interact with one another. It's the one that reminds us that people are good and kind and creative.
p. 121 One may well ask, in the phrase "there is none that does good", what part of "none" does Pagitt not understand.

you don't have to believe in God to believe that it's wrong to be cruel to another human being.
p. 119-120

Is Pagitt that ill-informed about human history? How many millions (billions? trillions?) of cruelities have people done to other human beings throughout history? How many slaveries, how many tortures, how many rapes and molestations, how many robberies and murders, how many scams and cons, how many humiliations? How many death camps and holocausts? How much true hateful rhetoric? How many deaths for enjoyment? How many lies and beatings and name-callings even by little children? How many mutilations? How many martyrs?

For Pagitt to say what he's saying here shows a blindness that is staggering to the dark and evil depths to which people can fall. And it isn't just the Hitlers and Stalins of the world who are so evil. It was only a few weeks ago that we heard about a man who kept his daughter locked in a basement for something like twenty years, raping her and having children by her, and keeping those children locked away.

We have stories of mothers drowning babies, of school kids taking guns and shooting classmates. We have fathes and husbands abandoning their families.

I can remember things from my own childhood, of being on the receiving end of schoolmate's cruelties. I can remember some of my own cruelties, as well. I know the truth of the fallenness of even the youngest of children.

Pagitt's blind if he thinks his nice words do anything to change the reality of the human condition. We don't need nice words, we need salvation. We need someone to tell us how filthy we really are, and to point us to the One who died for us to so we can be "cleansed of all unrighteousness".

What about his claim that the idea of depravity makes human life less valuable? It's nonsense. The same Psalms that speak of the filth and corruption of mankind also tell us that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. The truth is that Pagitt, the great theologian of holism, thinks that since the one, positive statement is true, the the other, negative ones must be, well, less true, I would suppose, or at least must be ignored lest they rain on his positive and holistic parade.

If you've read me enough, you probably know that I may have some Chesterton to throw into this post. Here we go, from "Orthodoxy".

In one way Man was to be haughtier than he had ever been before; in another way he was to be humbler than he had ever been before. In so far as I am Man I am the chief of creatures. In so far as I am a man I am the chief of sinners... Christianity thus held a thought of the dignity of man that could only be expressed in crowns rayed like the sun and fans of peacock plumage. Yet at the same time it could hold a thought about the abject smallness of man that could only be expressed in fasting and fantastic submission, in the gray ashes of St. Dominic and the white snows of St. Bernard. When one came to think of ONE'S SELF, there was vista and void enough for any amount of bleak abnegation and bitter truth. There the realistic gentleman could let himself go--as long as he let himself go at himself. There was an open playground for the happy pessimist. Let him say anything against himself short of blaspheming the original aim of his being; let him call himself a fool and even a damned fool (though that is Calvinistic); but he must not say that fools are not worth saving. He must not say that a man, QUA man, can be valueless. Here, again in short, Christianity got over the difficulty of combining furious opposites, by keeping them both, and keeping them both furious. The Church was positive on both points. One can hardly think too little of one's self. One can hardly think too much of one's soul.

The phrases above I think puts it quite well, "In so far as I am Man I am the chief of creatures. In so far as I am a man I am the chief of sinners." This shows man's dual state (which is real despite Pagitt's holism), that we are both God's creation and fallen from God. To have one without the other is to become a monster, and perhaps even to lose the other. Emergents want us to lose the fact that we are the "chief of sinners", and so they are becoming pagans who would have us fall into earth worship and so lose our status as "chief of creatures". If you think I'm making that up, go over to here. There are four entries in this series, I'll link to the first one. Read it, and learn what's going on.

That is why it is so important to say "all our righteousness is a filthy rags" and "there is none that does good", and also to say "for God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten son". That is why the message must be about human sinfulness and God's salvation available to sinful humans. To have sinfulness without salvation is despair, and to have salvation without sinfulness is blindness and pride.

Friday, June 6, 2008

book review, part 3--christianity worth believing

The Bible gains its authority from God and the communities who grant it authority.
p. 64

Does it?

Now, let's grant the idea that a person may not recognize the authority of the Bible. That's not hard to imagine, it's only a large majority of the human race.

Does that mean that the Bible does not have authority,then, over them?

Pagitt here says "The Bible gains its authority from God...". Perhaps there are more accurate ways of putting it, but that'll do for now. Granting this, upon what basis does the Bible need to gain "its authority from...the communities who grant it authority"?

This is of more then academic importance.

For example, before His ascension Jesus told His disciples "All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth". From that moment until now, has even a large percentage of the human race recognized Jesus' authority? Does that mean that Jesus does not have authority, particularly "all authority"?

I will put it this way--if ever the day should come when absolutely no person on this earth recognizes the authority of the Bible, that would not mean that the Bible has no authority, anymore then a world full of atheist or pagans would negate God's authority.

Like many people, I believe in the Bible because I believe in God. But I know plenty of people who think it ought to happen the other way around, that a person needs to believe the Bible in order to believe in God. So they'll give a Bible to a non-Christian in the hope that by reading about God, that person will be enlightened. Certainly that can happen, but it seems kind of backward to me. I mean, what possible reason would someone have for believing this story if they didn't already believe in God?
p. 64

I wonder, then, what kind of God he expects them to believe in if they do not want to learn about God from the Word that He Himself has given to us?

Really, I think Pagitt has it backwards. No, not everyone who reads and knows the Bible is a believer, in fact Jesus' temptations show that even Satan can make use of Scripture for his own ends. But without Scripture, what kind of God is someone suppose to believe in?

Pagitt may point to his own upbringing and conversion as examples. But would that be an example? He may not have had a typical religious or Christian upbringing, but even by his own telling, he had some knowledge of God, even if it was only rudimentary. For all of its faults, he was raised in a culture permiated by Christianity, where Jesus and God are often talked about--maybe too often without much real knowledge, but still mentioned and considered. He may not have gone into churches, but he likely saw many of them, and had some idea of what they were about.

And more then that, Pagitt himself relates his conversion to seeing a Passion Play, a play about the death and resurrection of Christ, taken from the Bible. He says that it showed him about the crucifixion and the resurrection.

As such, then, Pagitt had some knowledge of the Bible. To give a counter-example, if he had been raised in the Middle East, brought up from birth on the Koran and to pray to a god named Allah, then his ideas of god would have been much different.

It is as the Bible says, "So then faith comes by hearing the Word of God".

book review, part 2--christianity worth believing

If there seems to be one thing that all of these emergent 'thinkers' have in common, it's that they go to great lengths to put into question the reliability and authority of the Bible.

I just don't think the Bible is always the best starting point for faith.
p. 64

And just to show you that I'm not taking anything out of context, here's the whole paragraph where that quote can be found. It trails over onto p. 65.

I just don't think the Bible is always the best starting point for faith. Abraham didn't believe the Bible when God claimed him to be a righteous man because it hadn't been written yet. Moses didn't read the lived history of his people as devotional material. David didn't meditate on the words of Isaiah. The disciples didn't read the letters of Paul in between conversations with Jesus. The Bible, both the Old and New Testaments, came along in the midst of the story. It is the result of the story of faith, not the cause.

Scripture is the Word of God. Abraham believed the Word of God, as did Moses, David, and the disciples. As did Isaiah and Paul. The fact that Abraham may not have had much of the Scripture does not negate the fact that he believed what God said to him. The fact that David did not have Isaiah's prophecies did not mean that he did not have the Law to meditate on. God's Word, then, was to them very important, I would dare say of the ulmost importance.

Their faith was not in what they thought, or in things they imagined. Their faith was not based paintings, or poems, or things in the temple to false gods, or idols, or false doctrines. As the Bible says, "faith comes by hearing, and that through the Word of God".

I don't think I'm overexaggerating a bit when I say that Pagitt's statement that "I just don't think the Bible is always the best starting point for faith" is one of the really real corkers that I've ever seen. I suppose he would rather they get their faith from the books he and his emergent friends write?

This is usually the point in a conversation where someone starts accusing me of a low view of the Bible, of stripping it of its authority.
p. 65

You think??? Wow, we wonder why??

Maybe because...that's exactly what he does have??

book review, part 1--christianity worth believing

I bought this book, A Christianity Worth Believing by Doug Pagitt, yea few days ago.Read through it in a cople of evenings.

I still have a hard time believing someone would write some of this. Well, no, I'm not, but I really do have a hard time believing that someone who calls himself a Christian minister would write this stuff.

Much of the first part of the book is only him talking about growing up, his conversion, and things directly afterwards. It's not that there are not points of interest, but at least for the moment, I'm not going into them.

One may say that Pagitt's main point in the book is that Christianity, as we know it, has become too Greek. And we need to get back to a more Hebrew understanding.

It's really not the first time I've heard such a thing. There have been people who have talked about how the introduction of Platonic and Aristotelian thought has had a not-good effect on Christian and even world thinking.

Where Pagitt goes with it, though, is for me rather new.

See if any of this soudn familiar. The Greek philosophers like Aristotle, Plato, and Socrates believed that god was an abstract force, not a personal father figure. This notion was built on the assumption that there were two forces in the world--flesh and spirit. Spirit was perfect and good. Flesh was limited and needy. The spirit and the flesh were distinch and separate. This all transferred to Greek thinking about God, suggesting that God must be wholly Spirit. Plato concluded that God was perfect, unchanging, and in need of nothing. God existed apart from humanity in a state of divine purity. God's perfection had to be timeless, and therefore God must exist outside of time. God, then, was the best we could imagine, the Ultimate.
A Christianity Worth Believing, p. 46

I suppose one could point out that the ancient Greeks were pagans who didn't believe in God. They had their own pantheon.

Look at what he's saying. "This all transferred to Greek thinking about God, suggesting that God must be wholly Spirit". What is that suppose to mean in light of John 4:24, "God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth"? These are Jesus' words, and He's talking to a Samaritan woman. Is Jesus using Greek-speak to give an inaccurate description of God to this woman? Or is this something some writer later inserted that conformed to accepted thinking?

(Which reminds me, there's some things about Pagitt's take on the Bible that could be brought at a not-too-much-later date. Now, back to your special feature.)

For the moment, I'm going to concentrate on things he says in chapter 8. It has to do with his concept of holism.

Although the integration model I was finding in science and natural health was exciting and inspiring in many ways, it also put me at odds with my faith. The Christianity I'd been taught was built around a dualistic disconnection: we are to be "in the world but not of it". The world is not our home. There are those who have the spirit of God and those who don't. We are one thing, and those other people are, well, other.
p. 81

And a bit later on that same page.

The language of separation is ingrained in the way many of us think about and talk about Christianity. And it isn't accidental or unintentional. It is often a crucially important starting point to faith...This is the kind of separation-based thinking that made sense for those who held to the Greek idea of the distinct, divided nature of flesh and spirit...But once we have an understanding of the interconnection of all things, that dualism ceases to be useful.

Would I be wrong in thinking that this sounds more like an eastern "all is one" type of thing? That I could read this kind of statement in a any of the new-agey writings of Chopra or Wilbur?

(Is it an accident, then, that Bell and McLaren have spoken in support of Wilbur? That Bell even suggested a rather length study of one of his books? And that Pagitt is rather deeply connected with Bell and McLaren?)

Does Pagitt realize that the phrase "in the world but not of it" is an idea Jesus expresses? In John 17, we have these statement...

17:11 And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee.
17:15 I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.
17:16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.

And just we can know what we're walking into...

17:14 I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.

He tries to tell us that this "language of separation" comes from Greek thinking, but this claim is not supported, either in the book or in Scripture. It is from Jesus, for example, that we get such "language of separation" concepts as--the narrow way and the broad way, the sheep and the goats, the wheat and the tares, the four types of soil, those who are with Him and those who are against Him, those who gather with Him and those who scatter, the Pharisees who boasted of his own 'virtues' in prayer and the tax collector who only beg for God's mercy. From other places in the New Testament, we can find such examples as--those who believe and are saved and those who don't and are damned, those whose names are written in the Book of Life and those whose names aren't.

In other words, the New Testament is filled with this "language of separation". To say that it's some kind of Greek import seems like an artificial way of explaining away these separations, but they do not so easily go away.

It is Pagitt's attempt to inject some kind of 'holism' or 'interconnection' that is unwarranted and without bibilical support. This will no doubt be looked into as we get more into his book

Sunday, June 1, 2008

movie review--indiana jones

So far, May has been a good month for movies, at least up until this weekend, when the big release has been "Sex and the City", for which I have no intention of darkening the cinema doors.

Last weeks offering was "Indiana Jones...". Sorry, but I'm nor sure what the rest of the title is, expect that involves a crystal skull.

This movie was fun, I enjoyed it. It had it's share of action and thrills, as well as humorous remarks and situations.

The story was maybe a little convoluted at times. I'm not sure that the whole alien thing was out-of-place, although it did give the movie more of an "X-Files" feel then a "Raiders..." one.

The characters were certainly interesting, too. What do you call it when someone double-crosses a double-cross, and then double-crosses that double-cross? If I could remember the line from the old Disney "Babes in Toyland" movie about that, I'd give it here, but I can't remember it, sorry.

Reintroducing the love interest from "Raiders..." was an interesting twist.

The movie isn't perfect, and there are some things that could be questioned. There wasn't any sex that I remember, and little bad language. The issue of Indy backing out of the marriage several years before, especially with the lady pregnant with the son who shows up in this movie, is mostly glossed over. And the idea of trans-dimensional aliens as bringers of progress and enlightenment does raise the eyebrows.

Nevertheless, I can say that I enjoyed it, and I recommend it.

lengthy response to controversy elsewhere

I have found myself in a controversy, a heated discussion, on another blog, and considering the nature of such a discussion in such a place, there is little if any chance to deal with the topic in a reasonable way there. So, in order to get some measure of reasonableness into it, and to give a reasonable defense to my ideas concerning it, I have decided to do so here.

A few weeks ago, when the whole Cyrus photo stink was going on, I knew about it, but didn't go out of my way to know more about it. I did listen to an Albert Mohler radio show podcast where he dealt with it, and thought he gave some good thoughts, such as why wasn't it treated as a case of child pornography, but outside of that it mostly came and went without much notice by me.

And to an extent, most of that is unimportant in the present discussion elsewhere, in which I am embroiled. Although she is mentioned, the discussion is much less about her, then it is about what someone else said about her, and how the people at this other place by-and-large think of those remarks.

The blog I'm commenting on is called, and the one the comments were taken from is called Slice of Laodicea.

For the record, I'm not a huge fan of Slice. In an earlier incarnation of the Slice blog, one which had moderated comments, I made some comments in disagreement with some things said there by the blogger. One involved some comments about churches which have nice chairs instead of pews, which I considered a non-issue, and another was a rant against Veggie Tales, which I happen to like and think are good. A recent controversy involving Ravi Zecharias and the National Day of Prayer was one that I think got out of hand, and caused far more damage then the issue was worth. It was one thing for Slice to voice disagreement, but someone like Zecharias has proven his stripes, and in that issue a degree of grace even in disagreement would have been good.

Enough for that. I've already said that the current controversy involves things said about a celebrity, one still in her teens. Here are links to the articles in dispute.

Where Have All the Little Girls Gone?
**Update 4-28**On Reporting in an Age of Liars

And here is the discussing I'm in the middle of.

Miley Cyrus 2 1/2 Ingrid 1/2

I want to try to sum up the controversy in a few question or things we are contending over, so as to make things clearer. Please read what we are saying, in order to discern whether I am doing this accurately.

1. One point being made is that Cyrus is still very young, only 15 years old. But even if that is so, should we still have a reasonable expectation that a girl of such an age should know better then to pose in that way for such a photo? Or to put it another way, is a 15-year-old morally responsibly for such actions?

2. Another point being put forth is somewhat unclear. Are the commentors at telling us that we should not say anything about the controversy? Since has at least two threads about it, I doubt that is what they are saying. Are they saying that we should not be critical of her? I doubt that, too, though not as strongly as the first. Perhaps to put it broadly, we are debating about how such a controversy is to be handled.

So, for example, should we discuss the actions of a 15-year-old differently then we do the actions of an adult? Does that girl's celebrity, fame, and potential influence warrant a more public discussion? What about that girl's claims to be of the Christian faith, and the potential her actions may have to influence Christian kids of her age to act as she does, in good and bad ways? Is rebuke of her and/or those who are suppose to be watching out for her warranted when she stumbles in such a public and obvious way?

3. Another point of controversy is what responsibility a blogger has when a cited source turns out to have been wrong. Such is what seems to have happened at Slice. Not having read that first article, I can't comment directly on it, but apparently Slice started out with one entry which cited a news source, which then proved to have had incorrect information. Slice acknowledged that in a later entry, took down the entry with the link to the incorrect information, but did not give an apology for the other article, and still gave other information which supported their original contention.

Questions that could be asked about that, then, are...Does a blogger have the responsibility to apologize when a theoretically trustworthy source gives wrong information? If the blogger owns up to the mistake and tries to correct it, is that enough? Especially when the mistake is not their own, but the sources? And must that blogger back down and be forced into silence on a issue when such a thing happens, especially if other information is available and can be cited? Is it reasonable for someone not in that blogger's sphere to demand more of an apology?

4. When might one's rhetoric go over the line? Who decides whether it does or not? What right does one blogger have to comment on the rhetoric of another blogger? What about when comments are made about the supposed intentions of another blogger? And are those who express outrage at one blogger's strong language then allowed to use similar language in response even as they say the first is wrong to have done so?

Concerning no. 1 above, there is a tricky element to the age question. I think that the contention that "She's only 15" is only half a point, if that. I think that we are right to have a reasonable expectation that a girl of 15 years of age should know better then to pose in such a way for such photos, and that she is morally responsible for her actions. And to link in no. 2, considering her fame and influence, the possibility that it could mislead other kids of her age should not be downplayed.

Aren't most teens these days already oversexed? Do they not already have to deal with sexually charged messages on tv, in books, in movies, in their classes even, and from their own classmates? For those who may have seen Cyrus as a good example, does this not tear down that view? How does that effect them? Even if, as with her, we must seem them as responsible for their actions, doesn't the influence of a Cyrus not have some effect, too?

As such, then, it is certainly something that people should be concerned about. And in regards to Christian bloggers, one would hope they would comment about it in a disapproving way, even as they may feel pity and concern for the girl.

Because the "She's only 15" argument does have some part of a point. She is responsible for her actions, as much as any other 15 year old is responsible for sleeping with a boyfriend or girlfriend, or for dressing in revealing and provocative ways, or for doing drugs, or even for simply cheating on an exam. But she is still not an adult either, at least by our cultural standards, and the adults over and around her still have authority and influence over her, as well as responsibilities to and for her, and in this case something happened, and it broke down, and she was left both literally and figuratively exposed. One may in fact be grateful that worse didn't happen, though what did happen is certainly bad enough.

So, I think that it is a fit subject for online debate and comment. Her age, while taken into account, does not preclude her from rebuke. She is a celebrity, one of the most popular and public figures in this country, and perhaps even the world, at this current time, and whether wisely or not many kids of roughly her age look up to her and see her as an example. As such, then, her actions have a large degree of influence on them, so her allowing herself to be photographed in such a way has influence on them, and sends a message to them. And it is a message that she should not have given.

To her credit, she has issued apologies, and as far as I can tell, they seem to be sincere. There is grace, then, that can be shown, for we have all sinned and stumbled. Hopefully what was intended for evil God will turn to good.

Having dealt with 1 and 2, let us now deal with 3, the issue of how Slice should have handled the circumstance of having learned that a cited source gave incorrect information.

In regards to this, I would point out how Slice did handle it, which is in one of the links above. Slice acknowledged that error, and took down the entry where that information was cited. Slice did not now, however, apologize for having used a source that they considered to trustworthy. Here are the comments...

The source lied about the pictures and every major media outlet reported it as
truth. I have deleted the story accordingly on my blog. The story, that is,
about the photos. The Fox News story that reported on Miley’s erotic dance moves
at the concert remains fact, as there have been no reports of a body double at
the event. Yet. I will not apologize for linking to stories from major media
that are presented as fact.

I am operating somewhat in the dark here, because I did not read that original post, and so do not know what news source was cited that later proved to be incorrect. Was it a major news source? The comment above says it was. Was it one the most people would expect to be accurate in its news accounts?

Since I can't say anything for certain about the source, I can only give a somewhat broad statement. If the source was one that we could expect to be accurate, then if an apology is owed, it is an apology from them, not necessarily from anyone reading their news and thinking they were reading a true account.

Does Slice owe its readers an apology? I would point out that Slice did acknowledge that the source was wrong, and did take steps to correct things. As such, I think responsibility was taken for their own actions. Should an apology have been given as well? To my mind, it may have been nice, but I'm not sure I can say it's necessary. As long as the mistake was fixed, I'd have been happy with that, and would not feel the need to demand a apology.

In regards to the concerns raised in 4, we are dealing with a realm that is more subjective. By that, I mean it depends much one's level of comfort and experience with some rhetoric that may be considered strong. I do not mean profane, or vulgar, but simply strong.

Here are the two main things that were written at Slice, that seem to have provoked the most response on

Miley is the archetypal evangelical today. Holiness of living, separateness from
the world and its value system, a narrow way described by Jesus? No. Jesus is a
fashion accessory. He’s a life enhancer. He rocks, Miley says. This is the
evangelical spirit of the age and it is antithetical to biblical

and the other...

I grieve for the painted little girls of Sodom today. Their mothers and fathers
have not protected them but have thrown them into the dangerous stream of
popular culture. They will be destroyed by that stream—pulled under by the
powerful currents of lust and greed and hedonism that wait beneath the
glittering surface.

The consensus at is that Slice's rhetoric was in these places is, to put their opinions mildly, too hard. Is that so? Upon what basis can such a judgment reasonably be made?
I'll deal with the second one first, since that seems to be the one that has the most riled.
The idea over there was that in using the term "painted little girls of Sodom", Slice was refering to Cyrus. Or if one factors in the plural, then that at least she was included. In reading the entire article, though, I think such an interpretation may not be true.

Read the whole thing, please, but I'll give some excerpts here, emphases mine...

Over 12,000 fans screamed in ecstasy this last week as rocker Miley Cyrus, aka
Hannah Montana, strutted her stuff on stage at the CenturyTel Center outside
Shreveport, Louisiana. Most of the fans were little girls between the ages of
6-12. Outside the arena before the concert, thousands of little girls gathered
in anticipation as speakers blared their favorite star’s biggest hits. Swinging
their hips and mouthing the words to the hit, these girls could easily have been
years older in their behavior and dress.
One anxious fan, still missing her
front teeth, lisped to a reporter how she was preparing to "go nuts" when she
saw her beloved rock star. Huge earrings and eye shadow were the norm among
these small girls.
Their entire world had obviously been shaped and molded by
the media-created sensation of Hannah Montana. As I watched the news video of
the event, I was struck with sadness at what has become of the world of young
girls today. The word "tragedy" comes to mind.

The era when little girls were allowed a latency phase in which to grow up
emotionally and physically is gone. Sexuality and its burden did not used to be
a part of childhood. Those who sexualized children used to be called criminals.
Now they are called pop stars. Today we have stupid mothers and fathers who push
their little girls onto the latest consumer bandwagon designed by marketers to
make money. Who cares what little girls are learning? Who cares what messages
they are receiving about their worth? Not Mom and Dad who are online buying
tickets for the latest kiddie rock concert.

Our daughters need to seek to please Jesus alone and to turn their backs on the
world’s value system. They cannot do that if what they learn about girlhood
comes from the entertainment media.
Parents will be held responsible by the Lord
for the influences they allow and the examples they set in their homes. It is a
very serious matter.

Considering the context, then, the phrase "painted little girls of Sodom" is not about Cyrus at all, but about those young girls who act and dress as described above, those who are fans of hers. It's about those young fans who look up to her, emulate her, think highly of her and celebrities like her (the article also makes mention of the Spice Girls and the influence they had).

Still, does such rhetoric go too far? I certainly will not blame anyone for not being comfortable with it, and for myself it is a turn of phrase that I would not be comfortable using. But as someone who has some experience with truly hateful and insulting rhetoric, I have to say that it doesn't fit that bill at all. I think it is not insulting, but her trying to show how she sees how the pop culture is causing these kids to lose their innocence.

That article was posted last year, well before the currect flak over the photos. But are the concerns expressed there unreasonable ones?

I am struck as well by the insertion of the word "grieve" into the statement. To put it bluntly, that whole article is more a plea for parents to judge wisely concerning the things their kids, particularly daughters in this case, do, and the people they look up to and emulate, as well as expressing sadness at what is happening to such young girls today.
One of the other commentors on asked this of me...

Show me one clear sentence from Ingrid in all this that show reconciliation and
love for the "painted little whores" or whatever Ingrid calls these girls

I would say that the answer is right in front of him when he visits that link, if he would bother to really read it.

Now, in the interest of fairness, Slice's comments may be rightly critiqued, too. Whether such an idealized vision of childhood as is expressed in one paragraph ever really happened, or was widely available, is a just subject for debate. The past, I suspect, had it's own share of problems and trials, though it may not be unfair to say that things have escalated since then. I could look at my own childhood experiences, and see things that were far from any ideal. And whether allowing children to listen to such music and go to such concerts is a sign of bad parenting is a judgment I am not comfortable making, though the charge to parents to be more discerning and involved in what their kids are listening to is not unreasonable.

The first statement can also be better understood in it's context. Again, please read the whole article.

I further stand by my contention that Ms. Cyrus has no business displaying
herself in a carnal manner in front of millions of impressionable little girls
and a whole lot of adolescent boys and then attributing her sexy moves and
humanistic song lyrics to her "Lord and Savior Jesus Christ". As Napoleon once
told a wayward soldier who bore his same last name, "Change your name or change
your ways." I think the same here. You can’t love the world and love the Lord at
the same time. Flesh and spirit do not mix. Self-promotion does not go with the
command from Christ to deny ourselves, take up our crosses and follow him. Miley
is the archetypal evangelical today. Holiness of living, separateness from the
world and its value system, a narrow way described by Jesus? No. Jesus is a
fashion accessory. He’s a life enhancer. He rocks, Miley says. This is the
evangelical spirit of the age and it is antithetical to biblical Christianity.

In the article is a video of the dance that is suppose to have raised eyebrows by any and all. View it, and determine for yourself if such are appropriate.

All things considered, then, I am surprised that these statements have generated the heat at that they have. The one about "painted little girls" has been taken out of context there, perhaps not intentionally so, but if any had bothered to really read them they would have seen it. But considering the nature of the site, their "interpretation" fits their own view, and so it was accepted by the consensus.

I will, then, point any reader who wished to go there, to how those same people who got all twisted in knots over Slice's comments, themselves have in their comments said things far worse then that about the writer at Slice, Ingrid. That discussion is linked to, and you can read those things if you have the stomach for it, but here is some examples.

I wonder if Ingrid ever has angry dreams where she walks around the house
slapping herself and mumbling things like "Hannah
Montana….argghfieifhfgargle…naughty dancing …..bberghahtgrgleldjfjkfkd….No,
daddy, that’s my pony, you can’t ride it! bhafdhflakfhdlfldhfld…"

ME: Sweetheart - when you get a chance to do a photo-spread for Vanity Fair,
please make sure that the photographer and your publicist don’t do anything that
would look racy. Also, I need to remember not to leave the set before the photo
shoot is done, because our publicist, as nice as he is, doesn’t have your best
interests in mind.
HER: What’s a publicist?
ME: Sweetie, I need you to
know not to do what Miley did.
HER: Oh - OK. When do I get to be in Vanity
ME: Never. But I need you to know that Miley did something wrong and
all of the salacious details so that I can be self-righteous about it warn

Ingrid should be ashamed to place herself as one that acts like the Grace God
gave to all of us who are not righteous… ("no one is righteous not one") She
acts like ssince she recieved Grace she still can go out and bully people…

Miley Cyrus wears underwear?!?! And she has friends?!?!
Ingrid would never
wear underwear or have friends!
(This condemnation thing is so intellectually

As someone who received a decent share of the bile as well, and since it has been a public debate and those remarks can be viewed by the whole world on the blog, I have few qualms about sharing those examples with any who want to see them.

And that doesn't even deal with some of the bad thinking going on there. Such as that on a blog whose very reason for existence it point fingers and accuse certain other websites, the notion that we should not accuse has been put forth and even supported. Or the fact that some of those who have spoken out most strongly against Slice rhetoric have not spoken out over such remarks as are above, or worse did so in a way that can only be considered mocking and insincere. And the repeated notion that since one side is using such rhetoric, then they are allowed to use it too, even though they condemn the other side for using it.

A few months ago, I left off writing on that blog for a while, because of the feeding frenzy and hate-fest they had concerning a man who runs an organization working to keep gay marriage legislation from becoming reality. That opened my eyes, and sickened me. My feelings have not changed, and this latest bash-fest of Slice has only confirmed it and may even have made those feelings stronger.

When I was leaving that time, one of my last statements was that they are becoming the things they hate. In that, I may have been inaccurate (should I apologize for that?)--they are in fact becoming worse then the things they hate.

If I had one hope for all of this, it's that the people would wake up and see that they can't continue like that. Perhaps the role they have taken for themselves has its place, but if so, it is one that demands fairness and integrity, and at the moment their desire to score points (which no one counts), and to mock and ridicule, has trumped the need for truth and accuracy, not to mention real concern for those they think are wrong.

Where I a betting man, I would lay odds that such a thing will not happen. Instead of examining what I've written and examining themselves in light of it, one or two things of a real or imagined nature will be latched on to, I will be labelled, my statements and claims dismissed, and they will continue as before, if not become worse because that is the nature of such errors.

But as I think it was Han Solo put it, "Don't quote me the odds". If there is even a small hope for something good to come of this, let that hope remain, until such time as it is either fulfilled or shot down.

The rest is now in God's hands.