28 January 2011

No More Chocolate!!

Dreadful news.  This Mail Online article out of the UK says we are losing our sustainable cocoa bean growth worldwide, due mostly to unrest in West Africa where most of the beans are grown.



Scary.  Reading it made me get out a some chocolate for a snack.  If you think things would be bad when the world runs out of oil...just watch what happens if we run out of chocolate!

In the mean time, I think we should all buy a few industrial-sized cans of Hershey's Cocoa Powder and sock them away like we did for Y2K.  I'm going to Sam's today to get some.  And some marshmallow creme.  Just in case...

;-)

26 January 2011

Discussions, Controversies, and Divisions- Where's the Line?

In the blog bailiwick where I hang (see the list on the side column), there isn't a lot of controversy.  I tend to read a more monolithic set of blogs.  When I want an opinion contrary, I know where to go find it (like Roger Olsen's blog...if he says the sky is blue, then I assume it must be something else...he's the author of How to be evangelical without being conservative, for example).  I seek those out as the need arises, but the need does not often arise.  Having grown up a semi-Pelagian, I am familiar with the other side of the Calvinist-Arminian debate.

Frank Turk has a blog he shares with a couple other fellows called Pyromaniacs.  It is usually a fun read, and there isn't much there I disagree with, though there's often stuff I don't fully understand.  Today, Frank published An Open Letter to Michael Horton

That got my attention.  I like Mike.  He co-hosts a radio program called The White Horse Inn, which I would listen to more often if I had time, but catch when I can.  Horton has written several outstanding books, including Christless Christianity and it's sequel, The Gospel-Driven Life.  I recommend both (though they can get heavy in places).  He just came out with a new systematic theology that I blogged about earlier today. He edits a magazine called Modern Reformation, to which I also subscribe.  I like Mike (did I mention that?).

So when I started in to Turk's letter, I was a bit ambivalent.  Nothing improved much after reading the very interesting post (found here).  It pointed out how much Turk appreciated and looked up to Horton, as do I. No disagreement there. But it also pointed out a possible problem with the results of the way Horton portrays the gospel.  Turk didn't say Horton said anything wrong at all...on the contrary, he completely agrees with Horton on the gospel.  The problem, Turk said, was how some people might react to what could be a bit of imbalance in the results of the presentation of the gospel in a indicative/imperative dichotomy.  (If you've read my blog in the past, you know I've presented the same dichotomy at times, leaning heavily on Tullian Tchividjian in the process.)

I noticed a lot of comments were already posted, and the article wasn't but a couple hours old.  Unusual.  In fact, there were over 200 comments in less than four hours.  Very unusual. While some of what Turk said made sense to me, I was still skeptical of Turk's thesis, so I started skimming the comments.  I quickly ran across a guy named Charlie (read the post and the comments, down to Charlie's, for the full effect).  Charlie was living, breathing, walking, talking empirical evidence that the problem Turk was fearing was a real problem...in living color.

A few months ago, I read a blog post (or maybe an interview, I don't recall for sure) by John Piper on what he saw as some threats to the integrity of the relatively new reformed resurgence, or as it is sometimes called, the YRR (young, restless, and reformed) movement.  Piper listed a few, but he missed one that I think is a real threat, and that is exemplified by Charlie in the Pyromaniacs comments section.  It's hard to summarize the problem, but it basically involves those of a certain reformed perspective denying that anyone outside their perspective can call themselves 'reformed' in any meaningful way.  Charlie uses name-calling to make his point:  he's a Baptist-hater.  He calls Baptists anabaptists, Arminians, Pelagians, and adherents to Roman Catholicism.  Wow.  He makes so many errors of basic logic, it is hard to even start on a criticism.  But that's not the main point.  I digress.  Back to the main point: divisiveness.

That won't work, folks.  Having heard Charlie, I now see Frank Turk's point, and he's right.  We need to balance the presentation of the gospel with the implications of the gospel, just as scripture does.  No, we don't need to call the gospel 'law' or call law 'gospel', and we certainly don't need to confuse justification with sanctification, but we need to be cognizant of what it means when the gospel is proclaimed and people believe.  We can't divorce the message of the gospel from what it means to us.  Good news is only good news if it is good news to the hearer.  The fact that someone won the Powerball Lottery on Saturday was good news to them, but it didn't mean much to me.  So that means that news was a subjective kind of good news.  The gospel is not subjective, it is objective, in the sense that it is universal good news to 'all He came to save'.  It is not simply an academic concept, as real, objective, and historical factual as it is.  The content of the gospel is express in words (not how we live), but words mean things (to quote Rush Limbaugh).  And the gospel means something very real to all of us.

Turk approaches the issue with fairness and brotherly love, and I have to think Horton will answer in the same way.  (Hopefully the right way to dialogue about disagreements will truly embarrass Charlie and he can see how disruptive his tact can be.  The 'line' in the title of this post?...Charlie crossed it, in my opinion.) I don't say this pointing a finger only at Charlie, however. I can see myself falling into the same trap, if not careful.  I usually lack balance because I'm such a black-and-white person, and I need constant biblical correction from my peers (thank God for my wife and my fellow SS classmates) to not get unbalanced.  If Iva Bates was a knee (a reference that those of you who worked through Experiencing God will get), I'm a foot.  As in, 'I'll-plant-my-size-12-Nike-in-your-hiney' kind of foot. I hope I never grow to old to listen to correction and rebuke from other Godly people.  If I dish it out, I gotta take it!

I also look forward to Mike Horton's reply, as I think it will build up the kingdom (knowing Horton) and God will be honored (knowing Turk).

Horton's, "The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology"

I just got my copy of Mike Horton's new systematic theology.  It is MUCH bigger in the hand than it looks in the amazon.com photo.



I've been waiting on this for a while.  I have used Grudem for years, and still love it and recommend it.  (I don't know of any systematic theology more accessible to the layperson than Grudem.)  There are, however, a few areas of Grudem I don't like as much, and I'm curious to see how differently Horton treats them.  (I think Grudem flirts with old-earth creationism a bit too much, and I tend to be a bit more cessationist than Grudem is, for a couple of examples.)

I'll post a review of this book down the road.  Probably way down the road, as systematic theologies tend not to be page-turners at times, and this one is right at a thousand pages long.

25 January 2011

The Church in a Post-Feminist Culture

Here's a neat article (interview) with Mary Kassian on the church in a post-feminist culture.  (Yes, it will help you figure out exactly what a 'post-feminist culture' is.)

Mary Kassian on the Church in a Post-Feminist World

Purpose-Directed, but Promise-Driven

This tidbit was too good not to pass on.  Mike Horton wrote a fantastic article (found here) in Modern Reformation magazine called, "The Great Announcement".  Here's a good summary of the article-

"The Great Commission actually begins with the declaration, 
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matt. 28:18). 
This is the rationale for everything the church is called to do and to be. 
The church’s commission is indeed directed by a purpose 
(“making disciples of all nations”), but it is driven by a promise."

This is just another reminder of how often we miss the idea that gospel imperatives (the things we are commanded to do) are always stated in context with gospel indicatives (what Jesus has already done).

Rick Warren's book (Purpose Driven Church) got a lot of attention, but I fear it only reinforced many of us missing the main point.  Go read the Horton article for all the details. 

24 January 2011

Importance of Regenerate Church Membership- An Example

Thom Ranier, president of Lifeway, posted this blog on the importance of regenerate church membership.  He calls it, "Responding to the great distraction."

This is a great article.  I wish more churches would agree with this view of church membership.  Ranier says, "First, the standards of church membership have been low in many churches for many years. As a consequence our churches have more and more unregenerate members. Frankly, I would be not be surprised if some of the most vitriolic criticisms come from those who are not Christians."  I agree.  While we can't see regeneration directly, we can see fruit.  Some of the fruit I've seen has been pretty rotten at times, and it is all the more visible because of the contrast with some of the good stuff that is also very much apparent in others. As a member of a church where grumbling and nasty folks have been making the lives of some of the staff miserable, I think Thom has hit the nail on the head.

By the way, just out of curiosity, does anyone who reads this blog know of any scriptural reason why the church should be though of as a democracy?  I've heard arguments both ways, neither being well-supported by scripture; mostly the pro-democracy argument was an Americo-cultural view of what the church should be.

???

23 January 2011

Logos Bible Software Training

I was fortunate to be able to attend Camp Logos 1 given by Morris Proctor this past week in Albuquerque.  I purchased Logos about a year ago, and have been using it (a little bit) for my Sunday School lesson prep.  I hadn't touched what the software is capable of doing.

The training was well worth the cost and time involved.  I highly recommend Morris Proctor's seminar for anyone who has the Logos software.  The software is capable of doing amazing things, and we got into many of those things at the training.  There is a second-level course, called Camp Logos 2, which I will attend first opportunity I get.

Over the next few weeks, I'll post some examples of what the software will do in terms of both general bible study, original language study, and the library that is self-contained in Logos.  It makes what used to be time-consuming study quick and easy, and adds a lot of fun in the process.

20 January 2011

Abortion: A Rational Look at an Emotional Issue (Book Review, part 3)

Here is the conclusion of my review of Dr. Sproul's book.  If you missed the first two parts, they are here-

  Part 1
  Part 2

Part Three is titled, A compassionate response and strategy.

Ch 11- 'Is Abortion the Unpardonable Sin?'- This is a short but effective chapter. Sproul starts with David and explains how God deals with sin in our lives. He leaves no uncertainty about abortion being a forgivable sin. He then explains clearly how to apprehend that forgiveness.

Ch 12- 'A Pro-Life Strategy'- Sproul attacks the issue of what to do in this chapter. He uses comparisons between Wilberforce's work against slavery in England two hundred years ago with our work against abortion today.  On page 144, he says, "On one occasion, Lord Melbourne stated, 'Things have come to a pretty pass when religion is allowed to invade public life.' Doesn’t that sound like today’s media quotes in the United States?" 

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Sproul says we should speak up where appropriate, target pro-choice (not pro-abortion...see chapter 9 for the difference), target (liberal) churches that support abortion, target the medical community (which has been done effectively already), target political officials, and target parents and families.  The strategy for each of these groups varies, but is not complex, and he gives short descriptions of each.

He ends with the idea that the struggle must continue until the time when, "...no human child is destroyed under the sanction of law." (p. 153)

I heartily agree.

There are two appendices included in the book:  (A) Testimony on the Beginning of Human Life, and (B) Pro-Life Resources. 

The testimony section is fascinating.  It is the recorded testimony of a geneticist at a trial about a dispute involving frozen human embryos.  Just this testimony is worth the price of the book.  I wonder why this hasn't made wider rounds?

The second appendix has contact information, including URLs, for various pro-life organizations.

There are summaries and discussion questions at the end of each chapter for group or personal study use.  There is a bibliography, not exhaustive but very good, and a useful index.

I suppose the best summary of the whole thing, and the best way to end the discussion might be a question Dr. Sproul asks in page 115-

"Do we have the moral right to choose what is morally wrong?"
_______________

Here's the link to the book on Ligonier's website-

   http://www.ligonier.org/store/abortion-hardcover/

Portions used in this review were used by permission, per email on December 6, 2010, from D. Finnamore.

This book's copyright information: © 2010 by R.C. Sproul, Published by Reformation Trust Publishing. All Rights Reserved.

19 January 2011

Abortion: A Rational Look at an Emotional Issue (Book Review, part 2)

Picking up where we left off in the first part of this review-

Part Two is titled, An Analysis of Pro-abortion and Pro-choice Arguments.

Ch 7- 'A Woman's Right to Her Body'- Sproul deals with these issues in this chapter- the constitutional 'rights' to privacy; are a woman's rights to her own body absolute?; is the fetus a part of the woman's body?; does a father have rights in reference to the fetus?

Ch 8- 'Three Frequent Assertions'- In this chapter, the three basic assumptions of the pro-abortion argument are considered:  (1) If abortion is illegal, women will have dangerous 'back-alley' abortions; (2) It is inconsistent to be anti-abortion and pro-capital punishment; and, (3) Men should not speak about abortion because it is a women's issue. 

First, Sproul logically argues that for those who believe abortion is the killing of a human being, continuing to protect those who are having abortions is 'ethically intolerable' (p. 105).  He also argues that if abortion is unjust, then the protection of those who engage in the practice is not a duty of the state.  (In other lectures, I've heard Dr. Sproul more fully develop this idea that laws against abortion are not a matter of asking the state to be the church, but rather asking the state to be the state.  I wish he developed these ideas a bit more fully here.)

Second, he refutes the second objection by showing the logical inconsistency that even if anti-abortion people are wrong on the issue of capital punishment, that doesn't make them wrong on abortion.  This is an example of poor logic and is easily illustrated to those who use such an argument.

Third, Sproul shows how the third argument about abortion only being a women's issue is 'specious' (p. 107). Jesus was a man...does he have a right to speak on the issue?  All arguments such as this one are ad hominem.

Ch 9- 'The Pro-Choice Position'-  Because of time and political tactic, the real difference between 'pro-abortion' and 'pro-choice' has been obscured in this country.  Sproul give a good historical analysis of the two, and how they become one.  This chapter is very different than what we usually hear on the subject of abortion from either side of the issue, and may be the most helpful and most informative chapter in the book for many people.

The following paragraph from page 115 answers Dr. Sproul's question, "Do we have the moral right to choose what is morally wrong?"  In other words, is the argument opposing laws against abortion because they restrict freedom-of-choice a valid one?

"Again, every law enacted limits or restricts someone’s
choices. That is the very nature of law. If we do not wish to
restrict other people’s choices through legislation, we must stop
legislating and cease voting. I think that most people will grant
that freedom of choice is not an absolute freedom. No human
being is an absolute law unto himself. Unless we are prepared to
buy into an ethical system of pure relativism by which law and
society become impossible, we must flee as the wind from the
proposition that the individual is autonomous."

In moving to application of the abstract, Sproul says on page 116,

"To move from the abstract into the concrete, I wonder
whether pro-choice activists object to laws protecting their
personal property rights? Does the thief breaking into a home
to steal someone’s television have the inalienable right to make
that choice? Does a man have the right to choose to rape a
woman? These extreme examples make it obvious that freedom
of choice cannot be considered an absolute right."


Ch 10- 'The Problem of Unwanted Pregnancies'- Sproul deals with the important idea that the central issue, abortion on demand, should not be clouded by peripheral issues such as rape or medical abortions. Undesirability is never a moral justification to kill a child, either after or before birth. He then confronts the actual statistics around the number of pregnancies resulting from rape or necessary in therapeutic (medical) abortions.  Those numbers are small, but real to the person in the situation.  Sproul offers reasons why and how to avoid killing the fetus in these situations.

_______________________

Here's the link to the book on Ligonier's website-

   http://www.ligonier.org/store/abortion-hardcover/

Portions used in this review were used by permission, per email on December 6, 2010, from D. Finnamore.

This book's copyright information: © 2010 by R.C. Sproul, Published by Reformation Trust Publishing. All Rights Reserved.

Update on Abortion Topic

Ironically, as I was preparing to post the second part of my review of R. C. Sproul's book on abortion, I ran across this news article via a Twitter 'tweet'.

There are no words, other than maybe, 'so much for safe abortions'.

17 January 2011

Abortion: A Rational Look at an Emotional Issue (book review)

I was given the opportunity by Ligonier Ministries to post a review of their recent book Abortion:  A rational look at an emotional issue, by R. C. Sproul.  I first heard about the book when Ligonier decided to send a copy to every member of Congress at the convening of the next congress this January.  (Ligonier gave the opportunity for their followers to purchase a copy for a congressman, which I did...hopefully he or she will read it.  I love the idea that the copy I paid for might end up on Nancy Pelosi's desk!)

Here's the link to the book on Ligonier's website-

   http://www.ligonier.org/store/abortion-hardcover/

I'll do this review in three parts, as it is a bit long for normal blog reading.  Each part of the review will correspond to the same part of the book, since the book is divided into three parts.

First, the list of names in the endorsements section is a roll call of superstars of evangelicalism:  Jim Daly (Focus on the Family), Marvin Olasky (World Magazine), Randy Alcorn (author), Russell D. Moore (pastor and seminary dean), John MacArthur (pastor and author), Chuck Swindoll (pastor and author), Peter Jones (apologist and author), and others.

The book is not long; about 150 pages plus appendices, notes, bibliography, and an index.  The book was first published in 1990.  This is the 20th anniversary edition. 

Part One is titled, Abortion:  The ethical dilemma of our time.

Ch 1- 'A Nation Divided'-  Sproul deals with the following issues in the first chapter-

Abortion is a divisive issue intertwined in our culture; core question is, "Is abortion a form of murder?"; what is a fetus...when does life begin?; philosophical basis for making decisions about right and wrong.  This chapter is a good introduction to some of the problems in thinking about the issue of abortion.

Ch 2- 'The Sanctity of Life'-  The second chapter moves to some philosophical foundations for why both believers and unbelievers can understand the value of human life.  These issues are highlighted in this chapter-

The nature of man; biblical roots of the concept of sanctity of life; the relation (morally) of the death penalty to abortion; the potential desctruction of actual life versus the actual destruction of potential life.  This chapter moves the reader into deeper thinking about the issues involved in abortion, as well as general issues related to life and death.

Ch 3- 'The Sanctity of Life and Natural Law'- Sproul continues to develop the themes from chapter 2 in this chapter.  Here, he deals with these issues-

Abortion as an act against nature; our culture's intense concern for living individuals but not for the unborn; the early church's opposition to abortion; the connection between abortion and infanticide in early cultures.

Ch 4- 'When Does Life Begin'- Sproul deals with some of the key issues in the legal realm as well as the philosophical realm in this chapter-

Scriptural support for the idea of the fetus as human life; scriptural distinction of the unborn baby from the mother; the power of prejudice in decision making and the forming of opinions; 'What should we do if we remain unsure of the answer?'  Dr. Sproul will more fully develop this last idea in the next chapter.

Ch 5- 'What if You Are Not Sure about Abortion?'- In a continuation from the last chapter, Sproul deals with these issues-

The argumentum ad populum; the logic of dealing with the rightness/wrongness of abortion; the conscience and abortion (Luther- 'To act against conscience is neither right nor safe').  Dr. Sproul makes a cogent logical argument for the moral duty of anyone who may have doubts, one way or the other, about any moral dilemma.  This is a valuable chapter for what is probably the majority of non-believers on the topic of abortion...not sure about what is right or wrong.

Ch 6- 'The Role of Government in Abortion'- Sproul moves to the political side of the issues in this chapter-

'Is abortion a private ethical issue or does it fall within the scope of government regulation and control?' (p. 75); the role of government in restraining evil in society; separation of church and state; the moral implications of law (and how this does not entangle church and state); how Roe v. Wade was the state's greatest failure at being the state.  This chapter breaks down some of the mythology that has developed around the 'wall of separation' issues between the church and the state, and shows why the state's dealing with moral issues falls fully within the appropriate sphere of activity for a state.


To be continued...

____________________
FCC disclaimer:  Ligonier provided me with a PDF copy of the book for review purposes.  Anyone who writes a review is eligible to receive a paper copy of the book.

Here is the copyright information for the book.  Portions used in this review were used by permission, per email on December 6, 2010, from D. Finnamore.

This book's copyright information: © 2010 by R.C. Sproul, Published by Reformation Trust Publishing. All Rights Reserved.

13 January 2011

The Bible in One Sentence

Over on Dane Ortlund's blog, Strawberry-Rhubarb Theology, he asked a number of pastors, writers, and similar folks to sum up the Bible in one sentence.

Here's the post...very much worth the read just to see the variety of responses.

I have my own response, and I can tie for the shortest sentence in the list.  Not only that, mine is a play on words (see if you can figure it out). My one-sentence summary of the Bible is,

   "The Bible is His story."

We try so hard to write God into our stories, our lives, our meta-narratives.  But that's the backward approach, and it results in some very bad theology (like health/wealth nonsense, for starters...throw in some moralist therapeutic deism as frosting on that cupcake).

The correct approach, and the one that makes sense in light of the revelation of Scripture is, we are to write ourselves into His story.  We are part of His story.  And all of history is His story.

12 January 2011

We Lost a Hero

I am saddened by the passing of Maj. Dick Winters this past week.  He needs no introduction to anyone who saw the Steven Ambrose mini-series Band of Brothers, or who read the book.  For those that haven't yet seen it, Maj. Winters was the unlikely hero of Easy Company, 503rd PIR, 101st Airborne Division, in the battles of France and Germany at the end of World War II.  (If you haven't seen it, go NOW and buy or rent it.  It is not appropriate for children because of violence and language, but is essential for adults who want to try to understand the level of sacrifice that generation offered, and to get a comparison of how a we-centered generation lived versus how our me-centered generation(s) live.)

Maj. Winters was truly a hero, though he declined that description for himself.  In his words, he served in the company of heroes.  There were a lot of heroes in those places, some more likable than others; but heroes nonetheless.  For quite a while now, we've been hearing of the death of these men.  As most who served in WWII were born between 1915 and 1925, that generation (the Greatest Generation, as Tom Brokaw appropriately called them) is disappearing quickly.

One of the things about Maj. Winters that is compelling is the thought of him as simply the face of so many unknown heroes just like him.  If you read Ambrose's series of books on that period and place of history, you'll meet many more of them, but they have not had the benefit of a mini-series to bring their stories to light.

I guess this is a reminder of why we should pay our respects (in words and actions) to those who served...we may often be showing our respect to a real hero, and never know it.

Obituary for Major Dick Winters (NY Times)

10 January 2011

Things the Internet has Killed (Part 5)

This is (I think) the final part of the things-the-internet-has-killed saga.  This part will deal with some other things that didn't make the first (Newsweek) list.

If you missed the first four, they can be found here-
  Part 1
  Part 2
  Part 3
  Part 4

Local Shopping- This one is a no-brainer.  More than half of the Christmas presents I bought were purchased online this year.  Statistically, I'm not much different than the rest of the populace, except I might be a bit behind the times...they bought more than half online.

I hate what this does to the local (mythological any more) mom-and-pop shops, but I certainly like what it does for my wallet.  (What's in your wallet?  Well, more money than if I'd bought the same things locally.)  Or at least, I think I do.  I wonder if all the stuff I have access to online wasn't so accessible, if the cost of things I can access locally wouldn't be a bit lower?  We'd need a PhD-economist to figure that one out.  I don't happen to have one handy.

The Gospel-Whoa, there.  That's a pretty big accusation!  I really don't think the internet can kill the gospel (in fact, I know it can't).  But it can make it harder to come by.  With all the talking heads and bloggers (like me!) out there, it is getting harder to find orthodox Christianity amid all the health-and-wealth nonsense put out by the Joel Osteen wannabees.  (I'm not saying I'm an Osteen wannabee, I'm saying I'm another blogger who has an opinion.)  All media is a tool, and just as the internet can be used to make pornography more accessible, it can be used to make the gospel more accessible.  And in the process, those who think they are spreading the gospel but are instead spreading something other than the gospel can obfuscate the real gospel without even being aware of the problem they are causing.

Asking Questions- In the good ole' days, if you needed to know something, you asked a person smarter than you.  Now, you ask Jeeves.  Or Google.  Or whoever your search engine has happened to make your default search provider.  I guess people are still asking questions, maybe even more than they used to (after all, when's the last time you saw a search engine reply to a stupid question, "Now that's a Stupid Question!"?).  But they aren't asking each other.  They are typing their questions into a search box on their computer or their smart phone.

Maps- This one might fall under Reference (#12), but not quite totally.  I recently took a trip over into Oklahoma.  I didn't bother putting a map in the car with me, other than the mapquest.com map I printed of the military base where I was going (which showed me how to get to the building to which I needed to get).  I also took my smart phone, which has a 'Maps' app, and whenever I needed to look for a road number or a turn, just flipped my phone on and looked.  If the 3G wireless had been down in some of those rural areas, I'd have been lost.  Maybe keeping a printed map in the glove box isn't a bad idea after all.

Newspapers-  This one's not news to anybody.  It's been going on for some time.  And with the amount of bias that seems to be inherent in national news sources any more, I can't say that I'm terribly disappointed with this trend.  But then, the biased used-to-be-professionals-but-that-doesn't-matter-anymore reporters and editors will just take their trade somewhere else...they won't go away.

Spontaneity- How so?  Well, we used to be driving around and on the spur of the moment, would pick a restaurant or other attraction and simply walk in.  Now, we have to plan everything.  Menus are viewed, prices are investigated, specials are researched, coupons downloaded, and so on.  Nothing much seems to happen on a lark anymore.  (Even in the car, the smart phone comes out when we need to find a place to eat.)  This has HUGE ramifications for where and how a business should spend their marketing money.  I just don't know if all those ramifications are sorted out yet.

Exclusivity-Used to, if you had some information, a story, news, or even gossip, you had a small-time monopoly for a while.  Now (unfortunately), we can know what the Kardashians ate for dinner before the maid has cleared the table.  Everybody can know (if they want).  In a way, the volume of information available now is mind-boggling.  And almost all of it is useless.

Originality-  Well, maybe the internet has not really killed it, but made it plain its not a real as we thought.  In the past, two people who had a very similar thought, and managed by chance to put that thought into words and write it down somewhere, were very unlikely to ever know about the other, and very few (if any) people in the world ever knew the two thinkers had the same thought.  Now that we put almost every musing on paper (ok, not paper, on screen), and all of this musing is then searched and cataloged by some mystical web crawlers, and can be retrieved in an instant with a search engine, we see whenever anyone has something similar to say.  In fact, we see examples of real and accidental plagiarism all the time.  (The trick is to determine which was accidental and which was not...my English teachers always told me that plagiarism was wrong even if it was accidental...we'll see how that goes over in the internet age.)  There's no better example of the importance of motive (a big deal in criminal law) in making attribution to someone's actions than with all the similar thought going on. 

How much of what we think and say is really original, and how much is recycled, sometimes verbatim, of what we read and hear?  More than we realize, I'd guess.


Well, that about wraps this topic.  The fun will be coming back to this list in a year or in five years and seeing how right some of these predictions/explanations were, and how wrong others were.  We'll see.

Southwest Airlines- Not Just Because They Have Cheaper Fares

This isn't a long post, but I think an important one.  I ran across this blog today, telling of how a SWA pilot held a plane in order to get the grandfather of a 3-year-old murder victim on the flight and on his way.

We hear a lot about how bad air travel has gotten, and I've posted some of those stories here.  But we shouldn't forget there are still heroes in the mess that terrorists (and our government's response to them) have made of private air travel in this country.

06 January 2011

The Gospel in the Old Testament (an Ongoing Quest)

One of the things that has consumed me for the last few years is the task of finding the gospel in the Old Testament.  Having studied the OT for years as a dispensationalist, that task has not come easily.  After being introduced to the doctrines of grace, my view of theology proper changed, and is still changing (I suppose you could say I am semper reformanda).  My leaky dispensationalism is rapidly becoming empty, and some sort of covenant theology is slowly taking its place.  Part of this is finding, as I said, the gospel in the OT.

I recently ran across a review on the 9Marks website about a new book that may help with that quest.  The whole review can be found here.  The book is God's Glory in Salvation Through Judgment by James Hamilton, Jr.  It is an overview of how judgment, looked upon by many Christians as a topic not to be discussed, and by others as a myth, is shown in the OT to be a manifestation of God's character and a picture of unity with the NT view of God on sin and salvation.  If covenant theology is true, then the God of the OT is not only the same God of the NT, but his work and activity then reflect the same goals and objectives that his work and activity did at the time of Christ, and of today.  Reading the OT in this light makes a huge difference in how one interprets the events found there, and even how one interprets why certain events are included in the OT narrative.  (For example, read the story of David and Mephibosheth as an Arminian dispensationalist, then re-read it as a Calvinist covenantarian...see what I mean?)

I'm adding this book to my Amazon wish list...and look forward to getting into it in the near future.  (My stack of 'must' reading is about 15 inches high now...I gotta get busy!)

05 January 2011

04 January 2011

Things the Internet Has Killed (Part 4)

Well, I suppose it is time to get back to the series I started in December.  Seems like it was last year.

If you didn't see the first three installments, they are here- 
  Part 1
  Part 2
  Part 3

For Part 4 of the series, we'll look at

    11. Polaroids and other Film
    12. Reference Books
    13. Yearbooks
    14. Peep Shows and Adult Bookstores

Polaroids and other Film-  First, I have to say I always thought 'Polaroid' was a terrible name for a product/company.  Didn't they do focus groups back then?  When was back then?  (I just googled it...Polaroid was founded in 1937...I doubt they did many focus groups back then.)  The name has always sounded like a disease instead of a film product.  It reminds me of this dialogue from Vacation:

Rusty Griswold: Hey, ya' got Pac Man?
Cousin Dale: No.
Rusty Griswold: Ya' got Space Invaders?
Cousin Dale: Nope.
Rusty Griswold: Ya' got Asteroids?
Cousin Dale: Naw, but my dad does. Can't even sit on the toilet some days. 

Polaroids, asteroids, they both sound like a pretty bad condition to have.

Anyway, I'm not so sure that the internet is primarily responsible for their downfall; I think it is secondarily responsible, however.  The primary cause is the digital camera.  Anyone who was even a little bit into photography in the past hundred years or so knows the frustration and expense of taking bad photos.  Film wasn't cheap, developing wasn't cheap, and you had no feedback on what you or your camera were doing until you got the pictures back.  That took a couple of weeks back before the one-hour developing shops opened up. With a digital camera, you shoot, you look, and if it isn't a keeper, you hit the delete button.  At worst, you shoot about a dozen more shots than you need, then later at the computer you pick the best one or two and delete the others.  (Side note:  I've learned that some in the older generation don't delete bad photos...they can't stand to do it.  They just haven't made the connection that it didn't cost them (effectively) anything so they aren't wasting anything...they just won't delete bad pictures.  I assume they buy larger hard drives to store all those bad photos, and that does cost them something.  Go figure.)

What the internet has done in a secondary way is it has made sharing the photos easier and no paper-developing is required.  You don't even need instant film if you can email a photo to grandma a thousand miles away.  In fact, the concept of photos on the internet probably deserves its own blog post.  Think about it...how many casual acquaintances in the past showed you every photo they'd ever taken?  Well, if you look on facebook now, there they all are.  You can see photos of other people you may just barely know in situations and places you know nothing about, acting silly or sad or whatever, totally meaningless to anyone but those who were there.  It's kinda weird, if you think about it.

The downside is, there won't be any boxes of old photos discovered in the attic by the next generation.  (Of course, in my family, the last couple generations didn't write anything on the back of those old photos, so even when we found them, we had no idea who they were or when or where they were taken.)

Reference Books-  My kids have very possibly never looked at a Worldbook or Britannica, and I'm pretty sure they've never opened a Miriam-Webster.  I got a new set of Worldbook encyclopedias when I was in the 4th grade.  By the end of 5th grade, I'd read every volume, cover-to-cover (I suppose that's why some of my classmates thought I was strange).  I still have that set, along with yearbooks through the 70s and 80s, in my home office.  We also have a set of Britannicas that belonged to my wife.  But why would my kids pick up those heavy books? Everything is done online now in the reference world.  I used to spend hours at card catalogs looking for library books.  Now, everything is 'googled'.  (We call it that when we do any search, not just a search on Google.)

I have to admit, in many ways, we have it better now than ever before.  Access to information is much quicker, so we don't tend to put off or forget about finding things we want to know.  But this has its downside as well, as others have written so much about.  You can google (ha!) lots of interesting articles about how the internet, Twitter, and Facebook are making us all dumber, less able to concentrate, or whatever.  It may be true.  Where was I?  Oh, yeah, lost my train of thought...  (humor)

Yearbooks- I hadn't really noticed this one where I live.  Our kids still take money to school each year for their yearbooks (in these parts, they are called, 'Annuals').  Its a lot more money than I used to take to school, and the books are paperback now.  My yearbooks were hardbound, with sometimes fantastic, sometimes geeky cover art done by the yearbook crew.  The ones the kids get new are all photos...very little or no art.  But they do what they do.  I think the online yearbook fad is something that's a lot bigger in other parts of the country, and will get here soon enough.

I think it's a bad idea.  I have all my old yearbooks in the bookshelf in my office at home.  It's fun to pull them out, see the old pictures, and get laughed at by the kids.  I suppose you could do the same thing by pulling up a web page, but one thing you can't do is write all over your friends' copies.  I still enjoy reading some of the notes written in the front and back covers of my yearbooks by friends (some of whom are now dead).  I hate to see that go by the wayside.  It'll be just like not finding those boxes of old photos in the attic.

Peep Shows and Adult Bookstores- At first glance, when you look at the statistics about the dramatic decrease in the number of brick-and-mortar adult bookstores in the US, it looks like good news.  But if you think about it, there isn't any less use of pornography in our society, there is just a shift in how it is obtained.  When I was very young, porn was nearly impossible to get ahold of...you had to go to a seedy place in a seedy part of town to get it.  Where I grew up, we didn't have these seedy places, nor did we have that seedy part of town (at least, I was never aware of it).  But in the Texas panhandle, in a town of less than 2000 people, that's not surprising.  You still can't find adult bookstores in towns like this today.

When I got to college, porn was more prevalent...there were always guys in the dorm who had magazines, and living in an apartment next to some Air Force pilots made it real easy to find...they had a movie going pretty much 24-7 there.  Fortunately, I wasn't a big hit with those guys, them being top-gun wannabees and me being a junior in college working at the Frito Lay plant every day from 330 to midnight; I didn't get invited to many of their parties.

Now, I rarely ever see an adult bookstore, and the few that are here in Amarillo are still on the seedy side of town, and only stay open because of the truckers who don't have much internet access on the road.  (But that's changing...many of the rigs now use 3G and 4G setups and have full internet access.)  Nobody I know goes there.  They don't need to.  Get on google and try searching for anything that might remotely sound like it is adult-related (try finding an Adult XL tee-shirt with google) and you'll find porn.  And supposedly, where all the porn sights used to require a credit card, now many are free to browse.  No age check (other than the silly front screen asking if you are 17), no ID check, nothing.  It's nuts.

I suppose I'm glad the local losers who peddled porn through adult bookstores for years have suffered due to the internet.  But really, the money has just skipped these middlemen and gone straight to the producers.  It's not a pretty picture (pun intended) when you see what's really happened.

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This isn't finished yet, even though I've gone through the entire list.  Next post, I'll add some things that I've thought of that the internet has killed, or is killing, that didn't make the Newsweek list originally.  Feel free to add things in the comments section that you've seen as well.

Reftagger