June 2005 Archives

The bloke in the outer follows up on my Christian Hedonism post with some further questions about some of Piper's outlook. It's really moving in a different direction from my criticisms of Piper. His questions are more about the elements of Piper's thinking that I think are just plain right, but he raises worries about some things that I think are ways people misunderstand Piper. In particular, do you delight in God in order to gain the desires of your heart, or do you delight in God, and it just happens to lead to the fulfillment of the desires of your heart? Some people claim the latter, but why then is there so much in the Bible to motivate people by telling them their deepest longings will be filled in God? Furthermore, he wonders if it's misleading to tell people their desires will be achieved if they delight in God only to tell them later that it wasn't about the desires they had before being transformed to resemble God more. I think there's something right and something wrong about his response. I don't think he's quite stated the issue right. The remainder of this post is almost entirely lifted from the quick comment I posted there yesterday, with a few modifications.

This Week's Carnivals

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Christian Carnival LXXVI is at ChristWeb, including my Revenge of the Sith and Lucas' Moral Views. Carnival of the Vanities CXLV is Sophistpundit. I'm there in the form of Dr. Seuss on Hardball. (Update: In case you haven't noticed, my sitemeter passed 125,000 today, and the 125,00th clicked from the CotV.)

Matt Jones has performed a great service in collecting links to all the Christian Carnivals from the very beginning and putting up a post that has every single one of them, to be updated as new ones come in. So if you want a list of all the Christian Carnivals, you've got one. I'm in all of them except one, I believe, which was near the beginning when I hadn't quite gotten into the schedule of submitting a post every week. There may not be anyone who is in more of them. Of course you won't be able to follow the links for most of them, since they have links to the older URLs that the new system has changed, but you can probably find any post you see in one of the carnivals by searching my blog with the form in the sidebar.


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Intellectuelle has now been launched. It's a blog by seven Christian women who insist on being good thinkers without abandoning the heart. I've had Marla and Bonnie in my blogroll for a long time, so I'm excited that they're involved with this. I was one of the judges for the contest that ended up selecting the other five Intellectuelles, and some of them were among my top choices, so I expect this to be a worthwhile read. They also plan to have guest bloggers from time to time to capture a wider cross-section of Christian women in the blogosphere.

Real Life Update

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I'm in the throes of finishing up one course, trying to get the grading done before the last day on Thursday, writing an exam for Thursday, trying to secure fall teaching for me and a friend who is out of town with one procrastinating institution and one institution desperately waiting to hear about the other one, and trying to move toward preparing for a course that I'll start teaching before grades are due for the one I'm just finishing, though I have a week in between the two to try to do most of the grading and some prepwork for the second course. It also doesn't help that it's been ridiculously hot. I have a hard time being productive when it's above 70, and it's been in the upper 90s, so I just completely shut down.

I haven't even had much chance to sit down for more than a few hours to get enough grading done to get my students' work back to them. Ethan's out of school, and there's been more need for me to be around to wrangle the kids. My students' work is therefore coming in almost as fast as I can return it. I can't grade when there's more than one kid for me to deal with, and even that's hard, depending on what the kid is doing. Getting a chance to think through what I'll be teaching for this course I've never taught really takes my undivided attention along with my willingness to sit in one of the hottest rooms of the house where all my books are, with the doors closed so the kids can't take the room apart. So anyway, all this is to say that if I get any of the most interesting and contentful posts I've been thinking about, it will be pure indulgence at the expense of more important things, so I'm not planning much of that soon.

Expect to see an interesting post from Wink within the next week or so. He's already written a draft, but he thinks it needs refinement, and I doubt he's going to find a lot of time this week to do it. It will likely bring out some good discussion, and he says it will lead in to some further posts once he's done with that one.

More Searches

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antimony bible
I do know someone who has a metal Bible, but I think it's aluminum. Is antimony even stable?

why car came into existence
Who asks questions like this? Even most people who don't know how to use search engines effectively usually write in complete English sentences. Someone wanting to know the story of the first car would probably want to find out about who invented it and how rather than using terms that are more likely to turn up discussions of the origin of the universe or of humanity that also happen to mention the word 'car'.

condoleeza rice autistic
I can't help wondering what this person was thinking. It's not surprising that it doesn't turn up anything interesting.

Which Revenge of the Sith Character are you?
created with QuizFarm.com

Obi Wan Kenobi




Anakin Skywalker




Mace Windu


Darth Vader


General Grievous


Clone Trooper






Emperor Palpatine


Padme Amidala


Which Revenge of the Sith Character are you?
created with QuizFarm.com

Well, most doctors in the U.S. believe in God, according to a survey reported here. [hat tip: World]

This is surprising according to the author, because supposedly scientists tend not to believe in God, but is that true? I remember seeing some survey that said most scientists do believe in God but accept the standard evolutionary picture other than its denial of God, including the common origins of all animals including humans (the one element of standard evolutionary theory that some but not all of the ID people deny).

One thing this attitude (that this result should be surprising) ignores is the difference between doctors and scientists. Notwithstanding the fact that the medical industry is in the pockets of the pharmaceutical companies and is more often a for-profit business than a collection of organizations designed to help people, many doctors are in their profession not to make a buck (or at least not just to make a buck) but because they want to be in a profession that serves, a profession that heals. I don't want to suggest that atheists aren't interested in helping people, but it would surprise me greatly if you found a higher percentage of atheists in healing and helping professions than you do in society as a whole. Those who believe in religion-based morality tend to be much more highly represented in such professions. Why wouldn't this apply to those who go to school for eight years to be in that profession?

Volokh on Religion

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I'd been planning to post these links last week, but I have so much stuff in my file to blog that I must have missed these. Maybe I'd intended to say something about them, but I'm not going to do that.

First, he discussed scientific fundamentalism. Then he considers whether evolution is a threat to religious belief. Finally, he takes on the charge that evolution deniers are like Holocaust deniers. I agree with much of what he says in all three posts.

ChristWeb will be hosting the 76th Christian Carnival this week. The Christian Carnival is a weekly collection of some of the best posts of the Christian blogosphere. It's open to Christians of Protestant, Orthodox, and Roman Catholic convictions. One of the goals of this carnival is to offer our readers to a broad range of Christian thought. This is a great way to make your writing more well known and perhaps pick up some regular readers.

To enter is simple. First, your post should be of a Christian nature, but this does not exclude posts that are about home life, politics, or current events from a Christian point of view. Second, please submit only one post dated since the last Christian Carnival (i.e. from last Wednesday through this coming Tuesday).

Then do the following:

I'm #1

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Before I saw Revenge of the Sith, I gave some preliminary thoughts on some claims people had been throwing about uncarefully. If you haven't read that post, I suggest you read it and the comments before reading this one, because I'll be assuming some points that I spent time establishing there.

I'm interested in two questions. I addressed both of them in the first post, but now I've seen the movie. What do I say (now that I've seen the film) about the claims that the movie is a glaring slam against Bush? What do I say (again, now that I've seen it) about Lucas' portrayal of Jedi and Sith and Obi-Wan's statement about absolutes? The short answer is that I say basically the same thing. There are a few minor points that I'd adjust based on having seen it for myself, but the major issues are the same. If anything, the context confirms for me what I suspected about Obi-Wan's statement. It has nothing to do with relativism. As for Bush, I see almost nothing in the film that fits well with what someone who just wanted to slam Bush would have done.

I just discovered that biblical scholar Ben Witherington has a blog. So far he's not blogging about any of his academic work, but there's interesting and thoughtful stuff there, including some good movie reviews and a reflection on the ethics of cell phones. I had to put my two cents in on his perpetuation of the myth that Obi-Wan's comment about absolutes has anything to do with relativism, so if you want to see a glimpse of the further thoughts on that that I haven't yet put together in a post here since I saw the film, check it out there.

Recent Searches

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Here are some noteworthy ways people have found me of late, two where I just felt the need to do some serious commenting and moral reprimand, two that speak for themselves but get a snappy answer anyway:

what is the bad murder
Aren't they all bad?

what attracts white women to black men
It's usually the same sort of thing that attracts white women to white men, black women to black men, Asian women to white men, black men to Asian women, etc. It's the fact that they're men and that they have some collection of traits that attracts them, usually things that have little to do with race. People are attracted to people for various reasons, and it's usually not because they're reducing all their characteristics to racial ones. Once that's clear it's hard not to see the question as incredibly insulting and probably resulting from residual racism.

is there any kind of truth due to why the sun rises

Bush thinks Christianity and Islam are the same
That's not even close to what he said. He said Christianity and Islam believe in the same God. The being that the practitioners of each refer to is the same being. That's not even close to saying that each is equally good or correct in what it says, never mind saying that they're completely the same. All it says is that the being Muslims refer to when they say 'God' is the same being Christians refer to. That's fully consistent with saying most of what Muslims say about God is false, and most of what Muslims do in their worship is immoral. Since the search didn't turn up the right posts of mine on this, here they are.

Some bozo scheduled Democratic political analyst Bob Shrum and former Bush speechwriter David Frum to be on Hardball tonight at the same time. Was this someone's sick sense of humor, or was it just incompetence in scheduling? The average viewer who doesn't know these two must have been feeling a little confused between the two. It sounds like a Dr. Seuss book:

This is my Amazon review of Jerome Neyrey's 2 Peter, Jude in the Anchor Bible series. The review was first posted on 15 November 2002.

2 Peter and Jude are some of the most ignored books in the entire Bible, probably in large measure due to the significant culture gap between the contemporary reader and the authors and their immediate audiences. One way to make such writing come alive is to understand the conceptual framework, theological presuppositions, and social structure of the community surrounding the letters. Jerome Neyrey has produced a very interesting socio-cultural analysis of these letters that begins such a venture. He is at his best when explaining Hellenistic Greek and 1st Century Hebrew life and culture in terms a contemporary sociologist might use.

The 75th Christian Carnival is up at In the Spirit of Grace. Christian Hedonism is my contribution.

We finally made it to Revenge of the Sith late Saturday night. We tried a few times to find time to see it, only to have other events prevent it, with traveling, planned activities at ideal times, and less availability to babysitters during some times when we did have time. Finally we decided to go Friday night for her birthday because my parents would be in town to watch the kids, but Sam forgot that Friday was even her birthday, never mind the movie date, and scheduled something else. We wanted to go later that night, but it would have taken us until way past midnight, which we didn't want to do. So we decided to go Saturday night instead. Then we arrived at the theater, and it was sold out (three weeks after its release!), so we had to go at the late showing anyway so we could still take advantage of my parents' presence. I want to come back to the issues of Lucas on Bush and Lucas on relativism and absolutism, but I'm going to save that for another post. For now, I just want to record my thoughts on how this film stands in relation to the others in the series.

The Bloke in the Outer corrects a common misinterpretation of the Mary and Martha story in Luke 10. People too often assume that everything Mary does is better than everything Martha does and thus falsely conclude that doing things is inferior to listening to Jesus, as if you can listen to Jesus without serving him. The contrast here is between, on the one hand, enjoying Jesus' presence and, on the other hand, worrying about all sorts of things while acting as if you're not in the presence of the most important person in history. It's not between adoration and action, because true worship must involve both. (Hat tip: Christian Carnival LXXIV)

Wayne Leman at Better Bibles Blog has a good response to the common claim that Bibles should shoot for unreadability because Bibles have in the past helped foster literacy. (For a real example of this argument, see the comments on this post.) The key idea is that our translations should imitate how the original books of the Bible were written, rather than imitating how English translators have historically translated, as if the latter model is better than the scriptural one.

New Ecosystem

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In case you haven't seen the new Truth Laid Bear blog ecosystem, check it out. There are now community pages for communities of bloggers, e.g. the Blogdom of God and the Conservative Brotherhood. This ranks the blogs in the community by how many links each blog in the community has from other members of that community. There's also a somewhat randomly ordered aggregator of the latest posts from that community alongside a more organized aggegator of the most-linked posts in that community (which I presume is also judged by how many people just within the community have linked to that post). There's a more general page that does the same thing with the top posts of the ecosystem as a whole (like the Blogosphere Daily News did for a time), and there are the usual links ranking and traffic ranking pages. He's exploring a topical organization of top posts and a list of all the recent blog carnivals, but those seem to be in very rough form still (e.g. out of the last nine Christian Carnivals, he has three listed, none all that recent).

[Note: I've post a slightly fuller, more philosophically detailed version of this post at Prosblogion.] Reading the reviews of Sex and the Glory of God, co-edited by John Piper (see Stefan Matzal's review, and then follow the links at the bottom for more) has gotten me thinking about what Piper calls Christian hedonism. Wink also told me recently that he has stopped believing in Christian hedonism after having been convinced by Piper that it's correct. So I've been trying to figure out exactly what sort of hedonism Piper endorses, because it seems to me that it simply isn't any of the positions philosophers have called hedonism. I'm aware of four distinct theses philosophers refer to as hedonism, each a kind of hedonism with respect to a different issue. I do think Piper holds one of them, but I don't think it's equivalent to what he calls Christian hedonism, which doesn't seem to me to be a kind of hedonism at all.

First, here is Piper's account of what Christian hedonism is (this is all directly quoted from Desiring God, p.23):

1. The longing to be happy is a universal human experience; it is good, not sinful. 2. We should never try to resist our longing to be happy, as though it were a bad impulse. Instead we should seek to intensify this longing and nourish it with whatever will provide the deepest and most enduring satisfaction.
3. The deepest and most enduring satisfaction is found only in God. Not from God, but in God.
4. The happiness we find in God reaches its consummation when it is shared with others in the manifold ways of love.
5. To the extent we try to abandon the pursuit of our own pleasure, we fail to honor God and love people. Or, to put it positively: the pursuit of pleasure is a necessary part of all worship and virtue. That is, the chief end of man is to glorify God BY enjoying him forever.

I don't think this view is hedonism according to any of the standard philosophical views I know of that are called hedonism. (It's clearly not hedonism in the popular sense, but I'm concerned about the philosophical views called hedonism, which are what Piper had in mind in choosing the term.)

In the Spirit of Grace will be hosting the 75th Christian Carnival this week. The Christian Carnival is a weekly collection of some of the best posts of the Christian blogosphere. It's open to Christians of Protestant, Orthodox, and Roman Catholic convictions. One of the goals of this carnival is to offer our readers to a broad range of Christian thought. This is a great way to make your writing more well known and perhaps pick up some regular readers.

To enter is simple. First, your post should be of a Christian nature, but this does not exclude posts that are about home life, politics, or current events from a Christian point of view. Second, please submit only one post dated since the last Christian Carnival (i.e. from last Wednesday through this coming Tuesday).

Then do the following:

Matt 10:40-42

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I've been getting a great many searches for the above passage. They're undoubtedly all ending up at this post. Does anyone have any ideas why this passage, all of a sudden, should be drawing so much interest?

This is from my Amazon review of J. Alec Motyer, The Message of James: The Tests of Faith (Bible Speaks Today) from 15 November 2002.

Alec Motyer is one of the best biblical expositors out there. His greatest strength in biblical scholarship has been in the structure of biblical works, something most people have found entirely lacking in James. Motyer reconstructs what may well have been the connections in the mind of James between seemingly unrelated teachings. In this book, James no longer seems to be a collection of miscellaneous proverbs but is more a summary of a thought process that moved from one thought to the other very quickly and without explicitly tracing the connections, but Motyer shows the connections behind such moves.

The unity of the book of James thus comes out very strongly, and Motyer's thesis that James is a summary of a sermon or series of sermons makes much sense. On the level of details, Motyer does a great job explaining the text and its significance for daily life. He explains the theology behind James's thinking, something many scholars have assumed is not present in this book, and he presents his material in an easily readable manner without sacrificing the quality of his comments or the grounding of what he says in the actual text of James and the light of biblical theology.

This is certainly not the most in-depth commentary on James or maybe even the best. The work by Luke Timothy Johnson in the Anchor Bible series and Douglas Moo's Pillar Commentary (as opposed to his earlier, more brief Tyndale volume) are probably the best works on this epistle. However, Motyer is an excellent place to start for a more popular level and provides a nice complement to those works.


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Eugene Volokh points out the WordSmith word of the day: mopery. He's a law professor, and he'd never heard of this legal term. I guess he never saw Revenge of the Nerds. I don't even remember the context, and I'm not even sure of the sketchy details that follow, but I think someone (Booger?) had been arrested, and he described the reason as mopery. In response to the quizzical look that followed, he explained it as "exposing yourself to a blind person". I don't know if that was supposed to be the definition of the term or the description of the particular action that led to the mopery charge. If it was the former it was inaccurate, but if it was the latter it was probably correct. That may well be mopery. It's about as trivial a crime as there can be. According to Volokh, the OED definition is: "The action of committing a minor or petty offence, such as loitering, etc.; contravention of a trivial or hypothetical law, esp. when used as an excuse to harass or arrest a person against whom no more serious crime can be charged."

One reason I thought this was funny is because I just saw Fletch Lives, and one of the characters in that movie tells Fletch that he's in jail for molesting a dead horse. I've always thought of these two scenes as a pair for some reason. I wonder if it's because molesting a dead horse would be mopery as well.

Then Jephthah fled from his brothers and lived in the land of Tob, and worthless fellows collected around Jephthah and went out with him. (Judges 11:3, ESV)

Some people think of the ESV as a more literal translation, though it's really just more willing to preserve the form of the original over the meaning of the original, and it's less willing to do that than some translations. Sometimes it's still too formal, as here. One thing that's just pretty stupid is to use an expression that's formally equivalent to the original term but that in the language you're translating into usually means something else. Translating something about close interaction among friends as "intercourse" nowadays is just stupid. You're altering the meaning by using a word that most of the time means sexual intercourse.

The same is true of the English expression 'going out with'. If someone had translated this verse this way seventy years ago, there would clearly have been no problem. Nowadays, if you say someone went out with someone else, we tend to hear it as a dating relationship unless contextual clues force us to do a double-take and lead us to try to hear it another way. In this case, that isn't immediate. These worthless fellows collected around Jephtah and went out with him. It first sounds funny to me, because it gives me the image of these guys trying to take Jephthah out for dinner and a movie, and finally I think about what it was supposed to convey nearly immediately afterward. An intelligent reader won't really assume he was having a romantic relationship with these worthless fellows, but the fact that it will strike some readers as an odd way to say it shows that it's a bad translation.

The NIV and NLT translate this as something like "they followed him", which is a little beyond the original meaning. The NKJV, one of the most formally equivalent English translations (though it uses a less reliable textual tradition as its basis in the NT) amazingly says "went out raiding with him", supplying a participial verb to clarify. The HCSB seems better than the NIV and NLT, saying they "traveled with him", but I think the sense of the NKJV is probably right, that it was more than just traveling. Believe it or not, the best of all the translations I looked at was The Message, which says "they went around with him". That gives enough of the sense of the original without overinterpreting it.

Sam posted some pictures of the garden from two years ago, with young Ethan and Isaiah testifying to the age of the photos. She's got another post at her main blog that I won't highlight yet because I'm still mulling over whether I'm going to post something else on it myself, but I've had basically zero time for the past few days to do more than write a few comments, work on my sidebar a little, and edit some permalinks.

Christian Carnival LXXIV is at Daddypundit.

OrangePhilosophy has moved to a new server to match the URL format for all the other Ektopos blogs now. Irem posted something about temporary intrinsics this week, and I'm still trying to decide if it's an extremely interesting issue or a total non-problem.

Next Monday is the next Philosophers' Carnival. As usual, all the info is here.

The Christian Carnival submissions deadline has been moved to 8am tomorrow morning. See here for submissions info.

This review is by Stefan Matzal, an elder in my congregation, Trinity Fellowship. He is also the author of "The Structure of Ezra IV-VI" in Vetus Testamentum 50:4 (Oct 2000) 566-569.

Book Review: John Piper and Justin Taylor, editors. Sex and the Supremacy of Christ. (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 2005), 278 pages.

How ought Christians to think about sex? That was the question addressed by Desiring God Ministries' 2004 National Conference in Minneapolis. The addresses given at that conference have been augmented and are presented in written form in this book. Sex is viewed from a variety of vantage points. Addressed are the perspectives of both marriage and singleness, of both church history and contemporary culture, of both sex as God intended it and sexual sin.

There are three high points to the book. The first is the book's second chapter. John Piper's transparent passion transports his readers to the presence of our glorious Christ. From that altitude, sex is not an idol; it can be appreciated for what it truly is. For the married, sex is a remarkable gift; for the single, self-control is a reasonable calling. The second is David Powlison of the Christian Counseling and Education Foundation on sexual sin. Powlison's comprehensive chapter addresses perpetrators and victims, the motivations for sexual sin, and the way out. "The purpose of a man's heart is like deep water; but a man of understanding will draw it out." David Powlison is such a man (and a gifted wordsmith to boot!). The third peak is C.J. Mahaney's address to married men. Mahaney, the founder of Sovereign Grace Ministries, sees in the Song of Solomon a call for men to romance their wives. It is the rare married man who will not be appropriately challenged by this searching chapter.

Recent ways people found me:

prove william alston's claim to perceive God
Um... Alston's point was to show that belief in God can be justified without proof.

phil ehart sang all i wanted
Maybe in the shower. I don't think Phil Ehart has even sung background vocals for Kansas. He's a really nice guy (I've met him), a good band manager, and a great drummer, but singing doesn't seem to be one of the things he does. Steve Walsh probably sang every vocal in that song.

infp fundamentalist
So is this someone who is a fundamentalist about being INFP, or is it a fundamentalist who happens to be INFP? I hope it's not an attempt to find people who think being INFP correlates in any way with being a fundamentalist. You're not likely to turn up much for that one. INFPs don't like order imposed by others and prefer to come up with their own ways to do things rather than follow any method they didn't devise themselves.

Daddypundit will be hosting the 74th Christian Carnival this week. The Christian Carnival is a weekly collection of some of the best posts of the Christian blogosphere. It's open to Christians of Protestant, Orthodox, and Roman Catholic convictions. One of the goals of this carnival is to offer our readers to a broad range of Christian thought. This is a great way to make your writing more well known and perhaps pick up some regular readers.

To enter is simple. First, your post should be of a Christian nature, but this does not exclude posts that are about home life, politics, or current events from a Christian point of view. Second, please submit only one post dated since the last Christian Carnival (i.e. from last Wednesday through this coming Tuesday).

Then do the following:

As he was drawing near -- already on the way down the Mount of Olives -- the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, "Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!" And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, "Teacher, rebuke your disciples." He answered, "I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out." (Luke 19:37-40, ESV)

We had NPR on in the car yesterday as we were driving, and for about the first hour of our journey Ethan decided that he didn't like the music vacuum (he gets it from his father, who thinks NPR is for checking to see if anything specialized and interesting is on before almost always putting on some more Spock's Beard or Proto-Kaw.) He just decided to fill the void himself by singing all the songs from a kids' praise CD his grandmother gave him that his little brother has since hidden on him. Ethan understands pretty much none of the content of these songs. I don't mean that he understands few of its implications. I mean that he really doesn't know what almost all of the words he's singing mean, and in many cases he might not even think they mean anything. It's the sounds he's singing, because the songs he likes have those sounds. He doesn't have a clue that he's even singing about anything, never mind understanding what it means. Yet he's belting out "Oh, oh, oh, give the glory all to God!" The stones will cry out indeed, but you don't need to be an inanimate object to do what Jesus was talking about.

This is taken from my Amazon.com review of this book, 17 April 2002 (with some modifications).

Rooker does a good job of treating the book of Leviticus on a level designed for a pastor. By many accounts the best evangelical commentary on Leviticus in existence is Gordon Wenham's in the NICOT series, but that is getting more out-of-date. John Hartley's more recent one (Word Biblical Commentary) updates it well but is much harder to use if you don't have a strong Hebrew background. Some evangelicals might also raise questions about Hartley's attitude toward scripture, so there's need for a good, readable, recent commentary on this book from a solidly conservative position. Rooker's is probably the best to fill this need.

Rey asked in a comment on this post what the New Perspective on Paul is, and I decided my response was worth a whole post.

It's a three-stage thing. It started with E.P.Sanders in the 1970s, who argued that people have too harshly criticized first-century Judaism as legalistic and works-based salvation. He described the view not as earning a place in the covenant by works but as getting in the covenant by grace and staying in by works. There's general agreement now that he selectively picked evidence to support that, and the Jewish picture in the first-century was not monolithic. At the same time it's also not clear that this notion filtered down to the average person anyway. Still, there were people who said what he described the whole of first-century Judaism as believing, and it was significant enough that you have to be aware of that as you read Jesus' criticisms of the Pharisees and Paul's description of his past and the Jews in Galatians, Romans, and Philippians.

Jonathan Ichikawa defends the non-personhood of embryos at Fake Barn Country. I don't have time to look at his argument in detail right now, and I don't know if I want to think about reading the 63-comment discussion that follows, but I did notice that Jonathan agrees with me that his argument for the non-personhood of embryos is question-begging. I think all arguments for the non-personhood of any stage of human life are circular. The debate is over the meaning of the term 'person'. If you define 'person' in a way that guarantees the non-personhood of whatever you want to kill, that's question-begging. Yet that seems to be exactly what the original pro-choice arguments in the early 1970s did. The issue is over whether a fetus (or embryo) has moral rights, and their answer was to tie moral rights to personhood and then to tie personhood to features like self-awareness, the ability to look forward to one's future, etc. Yet that begs the question against those who don't think such conditions are necessary for something to have moral rights. That account of personhood has now become standard in philosophy, but I still haven't seen an argument for it that doesn't assume what it's trying to prove. Since he admits his argument is question-begging, I don't expect that it will be what I haven't yet seen.

That's not why I'm writing this post, however. I just consider his admission noteworthy. I'm writing this to respond to Jonathan's discussion (on his own blog) of whether Bush is inconsistent on these issues, along with his suggestion that most pro-life activists are similarly inconsistent. I don't think Bush is inconsistent on this, and I think he's just plain wrong on the empirical question of what most pro-life groups believe.

Link Policy

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There's nothing you can do that will automatically secure a link from me, unless you know me in real life. I won't give someone a link just so I can get one back. Some blogs in my blogroll are there because they were the first blogs to link to me, and I responded out of gratefulness to their reaching out to someone with little exposure. A few are ones I read once and loved so much that I linked them immediately. A bunch are just some of the most widely respected blogs in their categories. For a short time I linked to any high quality, contentful philosophy blog, especially if it was along my interests and not thoroughly offensive, as some are.

For many, I had enough repeat visits to the site over a long period of time and decided that the blog in question was consistently good on topics I found interesting and worth my time. A few of my favorite blogs didn't interest me at first, and then I found post after post that was just on the same wavelength as my own thinking. Some people leave comments asking for a link or asking to exchange links. Such comments will probably just get deleted as off-topic. If you consistently interact with what I write on my blog or link to my posts and discuss them in an intelligent way, then it's likely that I'll keep following you, just because I'm more likely to check your site to see what you're saying about me.

Of course, the stuff on your own site has to be of interest to me in the first place enough for me to want to read it now and then, or I'm not likely to link to you no matter how much you interact with my stuff. The most important thing is that I deem your blog good and worthy of promotion. I have very specific things that I think make a blog good. One thing I really appreciate is friendly interaction with people you disagree with and positive attempts to understand those who disagree with you. It's going to be hard to get my interest if the main purpose of your blog is to say negative things about anyone. I also have a fondness for thinking outside the box and not toeing a party line, even one I agree with. If you say things I agree with that every blogger is saying, you won't stand out as worthy of special attention. If you engage in careful analysis in a systematic and thorough way, I'm likely to be interested. If you spout off slogans that oversimplify and seem merely reactive, I'll tune out immediately. I tend to want to promote those who agree with me enough that we share a common basis but disagree enough that I will be challenged by their thinking. Regularly producing high quality stuff along these lines while consistently showing enough interest in what I do is the easiest way to secure a link from me.

Dervish has an interesting take on the Jollyblogger posts on Hebrews 6 that I highlighted in my last post. She knows a whole lot more about the history of Islam and Muslim theology than anyone I even know, and she presents a historical introduction to various Muslim positions on salvation. Muslim thought on salvation, the losing of it, and the grounds of it as there are in Christianity, and some of these positions are remarkably parallel to some in Christianity.

Her initial point was that this undermines one Christian apologetical argument, an argument that says that Christianity allows for assurance of salvation but Islam doesn't. I think what she says also undermines one common charge against Islam, that it's a works-based religion with no room for God's grace. That's an unfair portrait of Islam, because some Muslim views are somewhat like Reformation Christianity in that respect. On the other hand, I do think what she's saying undermines a common Muslim apologetic. It's commonly asserted by Muslim apologists that Christianity is fragmented and sectarian, while Islam is not. Nothing could be further from the truth. There have been schisms within the larger umbrella of Islam, one very major one, with some of them leading to as much violence as any of the schisms within the larger umbrella of Christianity. There also seems to be as much variation within Islam theologically as there is within Christianity, so the unity argument in favor of Islam is simply historically inaccurate.

Jollyblogger has been doing a series on Hebrews 6 in anticipation of a sermon that I assume he gave yesterday. His treatment of the subject accords much with my own. He points out the need to avoid the Scylla of taking it to mean a genuine believer can lose salvation while also stopping short of the Charybdis of thinking it's not a warning to believers. He then presents the Westminster Confession on the subject, which says exactly the same thing. He starts his sermon here and reiterates his two main themes, emphasizing that all scripture is God-breathed and profitable for all professed believers, including a passage often dismissed as only applying to nonbelievers. He then presents the biblical support for the Reformed understanding of eternal security of genuine believers, being careful to state that salvation is a gift of God, not caused by belief, which is simply the evidence of salvation and not its originator. This is the objective reality of salvation, but it's distinct from the subjective experience of salvation. This subjective sense of being saved is neither necessary nor sufficient for salvation. He suggests that the author of Hebrews wanted Christians to be seriously considering the possibility that their sense of assurance isn't grounded in objectively being saved.

David moves on to distinguish signs of a true believer as opposed to a false oppressor, with an interesting result. The evidences of salvation include visible things like whether one's life is bearing fruit in good works. Is this performance-based assurance? David says no, because good works, while produced by one's own efforts, are more fundamentally produced by God's work, and therefore the good works are evidence that God's work is present. The assurance is thus based in the evidence that God has been working, not in mere works. Then he turns to biblical discussions of false professors, including calls to examine oneself to see if one is genuinely in the faith. He's not done yet, but this is plenty to begin with, and I'm looking forward to the rest.

Reformed Politics will be hosting the 73rd Christian Carnival this week. The Christian Carnival is a weekly collection of some of the best posts of the Christian blogosphere. It's open to Christians of Protestant, Orthodox, and Roman Catholic convictions. One of the goals of this carnival is to offer our readers to a broad range of Christian thought. This is a great way to make your writing more well known and perhaps pick up some regular readers.

To enter is simple. First, your post should be of a Christian nature, but this does not exclude posts that are about home life, politics, or current events from a Christian point of view. Second, please submit only one post dated since the last Christian Carnival (i.e. from last Wednesday through this coming Tuesday).

Then do the following:

This is part two of a review of Mary Kassian's The Feminist Mistake. See this post for the links to the whole series. Kassian divides her book into four sections, and each part of my review deals with each section in turn. In the first part of her book, Kassian details ways that feminism began a move toward redefining womanhood in the 1960s and 1970s, beginning with a critique of the ways women were unable to define themselves, in society at large and in a few select areas. Kassian is especially interested in the ways feminism has dealt with Christianity, and the critique of patriarchal influence on Christianity plays a large role in the first section.

The second section of the book moves away from the critique of patriarchy and more toward an acceptance of femininity as good. The critique of patriarchy identified defining of woman in patriarchal ways, but it didn't take too long afterward for feminists to decided that such a critique shouldn't lead to women seeing themselves as inferior or as deserving of minimization and marginalization. Indeed, the next stage in feminist thought included an explicit acceptance of what is good in womanhood, rather than simply treating the feminine as a patriarchally defined negative image. This isn't to say that it was an abandonment of the critique of how men had defined the world, including how men had defined the feminine. It was rather a response to that definition by seeking to have women redefine the world in their own terms.

Isaiah got into the peanut butter this week.

The 140th Carnival of the Vanities is at Blog Business World. My Affirmative Action, Part X: Race as a Qualification is part of it.

Christian Carnival LXXII is at A Physicist's Perspective. My Baptism for the Dead is among the entries.

David Velleman looks at genetics and homosexuality. I agree with almost everything he says, with the only notable exception his insistence that there is no moral dimension to homosexuality.

I'm working on what I'm expecting to be a four-part review of Mary Kassian's The Feminist Mistake. This post will contain links to the parts of the review once I've completed them:

Part One: Naming Self
Part Two: Naming the World
Part Three: Naming God (incomplete)
Part Four: Shock Waves

Note: This book was reviewed as part of a book review program coordinated by The Diet of Bookworms. To read reviews of this book written by other bloggers, please visit The Diet of Bookworms.

My new RSS feeds are now in the sidebar. My old ones shouldn't work anymore. I've got a few minor things to change in my sidebar still, including some font formatting issues, and then I can begin working on the internal links that should now all be dead, incluyding getting my favorite posts and series back in the sidebar once the fonts are small enough to allow more room for them.


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Due to the upgrade and an unavoidable move back to parablemania.ektopos.com, some things will be a little weird here for the time being. A lot of the permalinks might not work. I couldn't access my template last night to make changes to this default one that came with the new version of MT, so my whole sidebar has been gone. I believe commenting should work fine, but the list of recent comments will have to wait until I can get to the template. I don't know how soon all this will be able to happen.

Matthew's putting in a lot of work to get things up and running, but it's not instantaneous, and there was no ideal solution to some of the problems he's had to deal with. Unfortunately it looks as if my permalinks will be the biggest problem once he's done, assuming the same thing happens as what happened last time when I moved from parablemania.ektopos.com in the first place. It does look as if it will solve my archive problem, and I hope he can do that without losing any posts.

Update: In the meantime, please update any links you might have to this blog. The old address forwards here, but it's best to go right to the new one, and the blog directories might not keep track of the old one once I submit the change to them.

I guess I've had a series without intending it on Roman Catholicism. I was going to do one more post on these things dealing with a multitude of issues that I might as well separate out into separate posts. So it seemed fitting to put together a post linking to all the posts so far, and I'll add links to ones that follow as I come up with them.

First, I wrote a tribute to John Paul II as the pope a Protestant could be glad for, in part because of his views on justification that seemed to me to move closer toward the Protestant understanding. The I argued that Roman Catholicism does not, at least in principle, commit the heresy Paul was arguing against in the letter to the Galatians. Then I wrote some initial thoughts on the choice of Cardinal Ratzinger to be pope. I ended this portion of the series with an email from someone who was involved with the recent talks between Catholics and Lutherans, who said that Benedict XVI, when he was Cardinal Ratzinger, was in agreement with John Paul II on these issues. I threw in a postscript on John Paul II and Campus Crusade in Poland that might as well go in the list.

Next I will be working on arguments commonly offered against Catholicism by Protestants. I have no intention of defending Catholic positions as true, but I do think the common claim that these positions make Catholics automatically not really Christians goes a bit beyond the evidence. There are easy explanations of most of the things Protestants complain about that show that holding such views or engaging in such practices does not entail denying the gospel.

Deep Throat Revealed

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I have the scoop on the truth. Somehow the source that leaked a political scandal in the 1970s had previously been a star of a famous porn film, and no one has ever thought that strange. Yet no one has known who this mysterious Deep Throat character is. Well some of us know. Deep Throat is Jerry Hardin. How he managed to pull off the porn film playing the particular character he played will have to remain a mystery, of course, and Bob Woodward and the Washington Post crew will continue with their cover story of some FBI guy who knew Nixon, but the truth is out there.

In related news, we now know the name of that guy who kept popping up in the first season of The X-Files whenever Mulder would put the X in his window, that guy way up in the conspiracy who would leak little bits of information to gave Mulder enough to get himself into trouble but never to get any proof, at least nothing he could hold onto. That guy, apparently, is named Mark Felt, and he was second in command at the FBI, right below the Smoking Man. I'm actually a little disappointed. I was hoping it was Pat Buchanan.

Comment Problems

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Apologies to those who had comment problems last night. The MT software was being upgraded on the Ektopos blogs server, and I couldn't get in to edit my template to fix my recurring MTAmazon problem. For future reference, if you ever leave a comment and see an error that says anything about MTAmazon, that means my main page can't rebuild because one of the books in the margins isn't loading properly. The problem is on Amazon's end, and the only way I can fix it is by isolating which books is causing the problem and editing the MTAmazon code so that it's a regular HTML link. When it happens, commenters get errors, and the comment won't show up on the main page. That does not mean your comment didn't get saved, so there's no reason to leave multiple comments for me to delete. Usually I get to it within hours, but last night I couldn't do it because of the upgrade. Now I've got all these comments to respond to that I normally would have gotten to last night, and I probably don't have enough time to do it this morning.



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