Saturday, May 30, 2009

dangerous things

Got to thinking about this video while camping with my brother and his family this past Memorial Day weekend.  We were camping in the same spot that we've used for years, where there has been much Playing With Fire and Using of Pocketknives.  And Spear Throwing.  It was a good weekend.

For the record, the "five" are:
1.  Play with fire
2.  own a pocketknife
3.  throw a spear
4.  deconstruct appliances
5.  Break the Digital Media Copyright Act
5b.  Drive a car

Friday, May 22, 2009

make mine an Irish cream latte with an extra shot of espresso

I admit to being equal parts horrified and delighted at the idea of there being a Starbucks down the Road-Less-Taken . . . and to not being sure that I like what that says about me . . .

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Book Review: The American Patriot's Bible, NKJV Translation

The American Patriot's Bible (New King James Version) is Thomas Nelson's latest venture into the world of thematic study Bibles.  It has a minimal set of maps, a good concordance, a brief introduction for each book of the Bible, and a large number of essays and reflections purportedly connecting the Bible and American history.  

From a purely physical book-making standpoint, this is a nice Bible.  It has thicker than average paper for a study Bible, a decently large typeface and it looks like a durable book.  It's really too bad that such a nicely designed Bible wasn't matched with quality of content:  as a Christian study Bible, it fails on both counts.  

First off, aside from the "patriot's" material, there are virtually no study elements at all.  No biblical cross-references.  No footnotes aside from the NKJV's translators' notes.  No charts or timelines.  A shameful dearth of maps.  The introductions to each book give considerably less historical and theological context for the book than the equivalent Wikipedia articles.

Secondly, it fails to be Christian.  Michael Horton would call it Christless.  You want a Bible for Moralistic Therapeutic Deism?  Legalism?  This is it.  Its essays emphasize such traditional American values as hard work and our accountability to God.  There is plenty to encourage the idea that what God wants from us is to work harder.  There is nothing here for the broken, repentant sinner, aware of his own inadequacy, whose desperate hope is to fall at the foot of the cross and find grace.

What then of the patriotic elements?  The glowing biographies of people honoring God for their American success, the vaguely spiritual, inspirational quotes scattered throughout, the multiple glossy inserts attempting to sketch out all of American history and tie it to the Biblical narrative?  All I can say is that I found it all as dubious in its history as its theology.  This flag-waving, Chicken-Soup-for-the-Soul-ish pass at a study Bible is best left on the shelf at the Christian bookstore.

Book Reviews

So I've signed up for Thomas Nelson's Book Review Bloggers program.  It's a pretty straight forward they-send-you-free-books-in-exchange-for-publicity type arrangement.  My goals for the program are to get some free books (of course!) and also, some practice writing reviews, a form I enjoy both reading and writing.  I do my best  writing and thinking when I'm interacting with lots of stuff.  Their review guidelines are pretty stringent, so I'm envisioning doing a couple of blog posts on each book--one short one according to the guidelines and word count, and one more rambling and free-floating one, if it seems that there's more that needs to be said/considered about a book than can be said in 200-600 words.  Here's hoping that this turns out to be an enjoyable adventure for all involved . . . :)

Friday, May 15, 2009

7 quick takes, volume 090515

. . . because blogging is more fun than housework.

1.  In the middle of too many books at once, as usual.  Meaty reading is Michael Horton's Christless Christianity.  Continuing Roman history survey is Documentary perspectives, alternating with Polybius online.  For pure escapism (new) I just polished off the archives of Kevin and Kell (one of these days, I'll have to blog about comics as literature). Pure escapism (re-read) is Anne McCaffrey's Harperhall trilogy (the best work of anything she's done, imho).  The summer book club book is Watership Down (a pleasant re-read).  

2.  Also trying to make a point of reading to my younger two more.  Our oldest, before she could read, pestered for books all the time.  She would happily listen to stories several hours a day, before the age of two years old.  I'm realizing how much I developed the habit from that of putting off reading, and encouraging her to do other things . . . with the result that her two younger, less obsessed sisters get put off more they have coming.

3.  Music practice.  Ack.  Never thought I would be raising strings players.  Now I find myself trying to supervise 45 minutes to an hour of practice time every day . . . trying to encourage my daughters to patience . . . to not scream in frustration and hit things when they don't get it right the first time.  I was never any good at it myself.  I'm still not great.  Whole situation:  very bemusing.

4.  Actually, middle daughter is far more patient that oldest.  Temperment, I think.  Oldest appears to view music as something to be conquered.  Done right.  Looking towards the end result--20 years from now.  Middle is much more able focus on right now.  Middle is also much more able to absorb praise and encouragement . . . if I tell her that she's doing well and making progress, she believes me and is encouraged and keeps working with a good heart.  Oldest (like me), is less able to accept outside validation.  She needs to be able to tell herself that she's doing a good job.  Many lessons from all this, and many more to come, I'm sure.

5.  My good coffee pot broke.  Again.  There seems to be some sort of flaw in this model that makes the electrical system short out at right about a year old.  About a year ago, I had to get my machine exchanged for this flaw.  Now my replacement has died.  Very irritating.  Debating whether to spend $20-30 in shipping to get another $100 model that may die in a year, or whether to bite the bullet and just go shopping for something else altogether.  Or whether I should just live with a $15 machine that makes substandard coffee and learn to drink less of it.  Bah.  Bad options, all of them.

6.  I bought plants this year.  I've never suceeded in keeping anything green alive.  I even killed my aloe plant, which is supposed to be next to impossible.  I bought two lilac bushes for our yard and a few little tomato plants.  We'll see if I can manage to not kill them.

7.  I'm ticked off with the IRS.  I am not going to write about this in detail in this venue, except to say that in surveying what's going on in my life, this situation has a significant place.

7 quick takes is hosted by Jen at Conversion Diary

Monday, May 11, 2009

Christless Christianity

One of the (many) books that my husband brought home from the Gospel Coalition conference in April was Michael Horton's "Christless Christianity."  It's a blistering critique of the American church, one that I've been interested to read since reading Jared Wilson's praise of it a couple of months ago.  And I'm torn.  

My biggest complaint of the book is this:  I'm not sure you could tell from this text whether the good Michael Horton believes that God is a god of love or not.   Dr. Horton's contention is that awareness of God's holiness and majesty are absent in most of the American church.  That the knowledge of impossible gap between God's holiness and our sin, and our complete helplessness in the face of our sin is missing.  I do not argue any of these points.  But salvation in this book seems to be primarily an escape from God's wrath.  There is little sense that we are being saved into anything positive.  That I should want to avoid having Michael Horton's God angry at me, I am very clear on.  But once I'm assured that Christ's atoning sacrifice has taken care of that . . . then what?  Has works salvation infiltrated the American church?  Undoubtedly.  Is the average American church goer able to articulate the fact that our sin is so great and God's wrath with it such that only Christ's death could deal with the problem.  Maybe not so much.  But my friend Barb wrote this recently about understanding the reality of God's wrath without understanding his love:  
I have always viewed sin as something that we do that falls short of a rule that God made. Sometimes this was an intentional act on our part, sometimes it was unintentional. Either way when we did this God was anywhere from mildly frustrated to totally consumed with rage toward us. Sin ultimately gave us the death penalty. Jesus had to die to allow God to even have contact with us. He had to kill his Son for our screw-up-ed-ness. No wonder he was pissed off.
It's an imbalance which doesn't to leave you with a God that you're looking forward to spending eternity with . . .

That said, I presume that Horton probably figures that the American church doesn't need to understand that God is love.  That our buddy-buddy, I'm-okay-you're-okay, God understands if you just try your best . . . or even if you just try some type of culture needs to get it pounded through their skulls that our sin is serious business that we're talking about.  Horton does a masterful job of tracing out works-righteousness and showing how and why human religion constantly returns to it.
He also does a great favor to the American church by diagnosing the dominant spirituality of our age as Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.  (This amorphous spirituality is characterized by the beliefs that:
1.  God created the world
2.  God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and most world religions
3.  The central goal of life is to be happy and feel good about oneself
4.  God does not need to be particularly involved in one's life, except when needed to solve a problem
5.  Good people go to heaven when they die )

By naming Moralistic Therapeutic Deism as the Christ-less, feel-good, self-affirming pablum that it is and then uncovering salvation-by-works (Pelagianism) in many and various forms that it hides itself in the landscape of American spirituality, Horton exposes much in the church that needs to be seen for what it really is and reveals a great deal about why so many American churches produce so little in the way of actual disciples.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Antwerp Station

So you've seen the Antwerp Station Do-Re-Mi stunt (in part notable for taking one of the most definitionally non-techno songs and setting it partly to a techno beat)

Now enjoy the "Making of" sequence