New Blog!

I'm now blogging over at A Wilderness Life!

Come find me there, and please update your links.  The posts here at MEtP will eventually be moved to A Wilderness Life... and when I say "eventually" I mean "possibly some time within the next few months, maybe, if I get around to it."





I overheard some ladies at the Chinese restaurant where I picked up lunch yesterday, grumbling about how the men in their Bible study were just so obsessed with the little details of the Bible that they missed the big picture. "It's just all that... theology. Ugh."

I felt very pleased with my self-control that I managed to keep my wails of dismay to myself, and very pleased indeed that I also held back the lecture on the fact that everyone has a theology, it's just either a good one or a bad one, that theology just means "the study or knowledge of GOD," for crying out loud, and everyone on the PLANET possesses beliefs about God (even atheists!) and if you think theology is about arguing over whether Martha and Lazarus were half-siblings or if the punctiliar emphatic aorist in the Greek indicates a completed action, YOU NEED HELP! AUGH!!! But I didn't say it. Nope! Self control, right there.

So I'm just saving THAT rant for my students. HA.

In the words of a wise friend: "You [ought to] study theology the right way, where truth moves your heart to joy and praise. If more of us would do it this way, maybe it wouldn't have such a bad rap in some circles. Theology should not intimidate the uninitiated, but cause them to want more of it, like a thirsty man who finds water in the desert. "


Ch-ch-check it out...

My buddy Paul is an awesome writer and wicked smaht. So do yourself a favor and head over to his blog, where he's doing a series on whose job it is to train pastors. Get movin' and join the conversation!


Evangelism and the Single Girl

I stink at evangelism. Really. I can't remember the last time I shared the Gospel, or even had a spiritual conversation, with an unbeliever who wasn't a) related to me and under age ten or b) my student. No, I can, it was probably with one of my neighbors in the apartment complex I lived in two and a half years ago. The only reason I knew my downstairs neighbor, Jasmine, is because she liked to listen to hip-hop while studying at 1 a.m., and the only reason I knew my across-the-hall neighbor is because he was completely insane, not unlike several of the other people who lived there. I don't think I ever told you about the time that one of the downstairs residents kidnapped (catnapped?) my next-door neighbor's cat and refused to return it.

Anyway, I digress.

I live by myself in my condo, which I totally love about 75% of the time, particularly when I don't feel like cleaning. The other 25% of the time, I feel either like a cloistered nun (who, uh, is on Facebook) or a weird recluse. Good thing I don't have any cats. I've met a few of my neighbors, and they're nice people, but I haven't felt comfortable going door-to-door and introducing myself or trying to form relationships with them. And herein lies my problem.

I totally believe that God has put me in this place for this time. It's not an accident that I live here, or that I have the neighbors I have. But what's a single girl to do? This is a pretty good-size metropolitan area I live in, and while it's quite a safe neighborhood, you just never know. I honestly don't feel right about going out by myself to knock on doors -- apart from the safety issues, what do you do with the propriety issues that arise, like finding yourself on the front steps of a house full of college-age boys? But how else besides meeting my neighbors am I supposed to even be in contact with adult non-Christians?

It's a very angsty issue for me, really. I want to be wise and safe, but I must be obedient.

I don't have any concluding thoughts, because I haven't concluded my thinking on this subject. If anyone has any suggestions, insights, or practical considerations, I'm all ears. Or whatever the online equivalent of ears is.


...and this is why I love classical education.

"True virtue, my dear Mrs. Graham, consists in a conscious resistance to temptation, not ignorance of it."

-- from The Tenant of Wildford Hall, BBC adaptation


A Mixed Bag of Randomness

Bit of randomness #1: I rarely watch The Simpsons, but I happened to be home when this week's episode ran. It was my favorite kind of Simpsons' episode, made up of a handful of mini stories that the characters tell each other. While The Simpsons' sharp political critique has been blunted of late, this episode leveled some mid-range missiles at public education, showing the brilliant Maggie's efforts at daycare creativity being thwarted and suppressed by a mediocrity-obsessed headmaster who knocks over her block sculptures and ruthlessly enforces conformity. Good stuff.

Bit of randomness #2: Chowhound, a foodie-type message board that is priceless for seeking out info and advice about everything food-related -- grilling burgers, sourcing uni, pairing wine, finding a great Lebanese restaurant in Sydney, using an immersion blender -- you name it, you can find it on Chowhound. One of the recent topics asked what typically "foodie" foods we just will not eat. Here's what I came up with (partially):

Pate and/or liver mousses and/or meat-based terrines
Sea urchin
Raw bivalves in general
Offal (except maybe sweetbreads. MAYBE)
Raw seafood in general
Pork belly (except in bacony form)
Blue cheese
Washed-rind cheese
Mushrooms, unless chopped so finely that I can't detect them

Now, dear friends and sharp-eyed readers will recognize a common theme here: texture! 95% of the time, if I dislike a food, it's not the flavor that puts me off, but the texture! Anybody else have texture "issues"?

Bit of randomness #3: In the last few months, I've watched a half-dozen French movies (yay, Netflix!). I couldn't tell you what any one of them was about, but I can tell you that I liked them all. What is it that is just so satisfying about French cinema? Languid, unhurried pace? A decided lack of the overwrought melodrama that pervades even the best American movies? The deliberate avoidance of the obvious? Yeah, it's probably all that, but the verdict is that French movies are teh awesome.

Bit of randomness #4: I am at last getting around to that blasted no-knead bread everyone was going on about all over the interwebz last year. I'm not what you'd call a "joiner" with the latest fads, and besides, I was pretty sure you needed a big covered enamel cast-iron pot with a lid that doesn't have a plastic handle on it, in which to bake the bread, and I was just not willing to go out and buy one. I'd love one. I'll probably get one eventually. But just so I can bake one kind of bread? Probably not.

Bit of randomness #5: Yay! School! As much as I am enjoying my summer (and I am!), I'm really feeling ready to get back in the groove of teaching. I function much better with a schedule, and I struggle to finish tasks when I have days and weeks of unscheduled time to kick around in -- I can always excuse my laziness with, "Oh, I can just do it tomorrow, right?" Strangely, when I have more to do, I can get more done at home. Hm, maybe I should get started with lesson plans? That's an idea.


Does God Change His Mind?

An email from my favorite theologically minded friend started this post. Recently, Craig Blomberg, a well-known New Testament scholar whose work on the historical accuracy and reliability of the Gospels has been of great help to many a student, pastor, and layman, wrote an article explaining why he is a "Calminian" -- a jokey riff on the "Why I Am/ Am Not a Calvinist" books of recent years. Blomberg is basically trying to put himself clearly outside the Reformed mindset once and for all. I've read a few expressions of disappointment, and an article agreeing with his position, which is basically what I'm going to attempt to respond to today.

First of all, let me point out that Craig Blomberg is way smarter than I am. I don't pretend that I can tangle with him intellectually. But despite that, I still think he's wrong. Second, let me point out that Craig Blomber is also a brother in Christ, despite what I think are his mistakes on this front. I'm not denigrating his faith or his commitment to the body of Christ, nor am I trying to write off his contribution to the Christian community. One of his books sits on my shelf, and it's staying there! But anyway, here goes.

At one point in his article, Blomberg refers to the story of Joseph's brothers coming to him in Egypt for help during the great famine. Joseph's famous line, "You intended it for evil, but God intended it for good," Blomberg insists, is not a declaration of God's sovereignty, but a mere statement of fact. He says: "Two separate agents, two separate wills, at cross purposes with each other, neither described as logically or chronologically prior to the other. Neither is said to cause the other; they occur simultaneously." What's really happening, he says, is that both wills operate at the same time, without one being over the other.

Well, hold up. I get what he's saying. Joseph says to his brothers, "You sold me into slavery out of a wicked intention, but God's power trumped your evil desires." In fact, God's purposes to preserve his people included the brothers' evil plans and actions. God is so powerful that he can even use human evil -- the condition of our fallen nature! -- to accomplish his purposes. That's comprehensive sovereignty. This is a copout. Blomberg's a great guy, and his work on the historical reliability of the Gospels is priceless, but he just does NOT want to be in the "God is totally sovereign" camp AT ALL. (Plus, calling himself a "Calminian" is cute, but the fact is that there isn't a responsible Arminian on the planet who wouldn't totally acknowledge God's sovereignty in human history. So he's really a Cal-Open Theist-ian. Which isn't quite as cute.)

Moving on to broader arguments about God's sovereignty, I often encounter people who point to the word "relent" in the Scriptures and say, "See? That means that God goes back on his word! If he really is completely sovereign over everything, how can he appear to be influenced by the prayers of his people?" I used to use this argument myself! Well, yes, "relent" means that he will not do what he said he would do, out of a gracious desire to preserve and defend his people. But a couple things:

1) This DOES NOT MEAN that God changes his mind or that he's fickle or doesn't know what he's ultimately going to do. The problem with the argument here is that, while they're trying to just draw a line around the Reformed understanding of God's sovereignty, they END UP basing their whole view on the idea that God actually changes his mind. Listen up: this is where guys like Greg Boyd and Clark Pinnock got started, and where they end up is saying that God takes risks, that he doesn't even KNOW the outcome of certain events, and that in some cases WE have more sovereignty over circumstances than the creator of the universe. That's a pretty stupid place to end up and still call yourself a Christian. It's just like how the Mormons use the methods of 19th century German liberal philosophers to convince people that the Book of Mormon is ok -- the argument might convince people, but you're cutting off the branch you're sitting on!

2) Check out this article. There's some uncool argumentation happening here, and this isn't the only place I've heard this line of reasoning, not by a long shot. You ever hear of "weasel words"? They're little words or phrases that a speaker or writer slips in, sometimes without even knowing it himself, that unfairly denigrate the other position -- it's like straw man + ad hominem all at once. The one that popped out to me was "real relationship." Yates and others imply that, unless God limits his own foreknowledge or sovereignty in some way, it's impossible for him to enter into "real relationship" with his creation. This is nonsense. We don't get to make up the rules for how God interacts with us based on our experiences with each other. The scriptures are full of the truths of God bringing the dead back to life both literally and figuratively. But does that one-sided interaction, that ultimate demonstration of total sovereignty, mean that God has some kind of counterfeit relationship with those he raises to life? Did Jesus have a more or less "real relationship" with Lazarus when he raised him, single-handed, from death?

3) There's also some plain old ridiculousness that gets shoveled around. To quote Yates, who is taking up a common anti-sovereignty argument: "The statements that Yahweh will harden the Pharaoh’s heart at the beginning of this process (cf. Exod 4:21; 7:3) are an expression that Yahweh’s purposes will ultimately prevail in this struggle but not that he dictates or determines the Pharaoh’s responses." Uh... what? What part of "I will harden his heart" is the tough part to interpret? "I will" meaning it's gonna happen, "harden his heart" meaning that's what he's gonna do. Yup. You have to do some pretty sexy contortionism to get around the plain meaning of that sucker.

4) The kicker is the "only a really sovereign God could accomplish his purposes in a universe where he has limited his sovereignty," also known as the "it's true because it ain't" argument. A God who can accomplish his purposes in such a give-and-take, unresolved universe that anti-sovereignty folks try to set up, is truly sovereign? Huh? So only a God who is truly sovereign and omniscient could operate in a universe where somethings are outside his sovereignty and beyond his omniscience? Yeah, that makes sense. What's the purpose of prayer if the God we're praying to has chosen this event to be one of the hands-off parts of world history? How are we to know the difference? Or does he wait until we pray and then decide to re-institute the sovereignty he's chosen to put on hold?

Unlike Blomberg and lots of other people who use these kinds of arguments, I'm happy to live knowing that my choices are BOTH really choices that I really make with my time-bound will and mind AND are mysteriously part of God's plan. It's called paradox, and we have to embrace it, largely because our finite brains can't fathom the depths of God's will. Let's not try to eliminate paradox by making God more like us. That's a pretty dumb Bible study method. Dig?



Have you ever done this? Taken an accidental two-month sabbatical from your blog and then just wracked your brain fruitlessly for days, trying to come up with something really, really profound with which to break the silence?

It's just me, then?

I have had six thousand or so ideas sliding around half-formed in my summer-gelatinized brain. (Here's a sampling: The reason many pols and bureaucrats support abortion is that they're unwilling to tackle the more difficult task of dealing with pregnant women and the emotional complexities behind unwanted pregnancies. Modern American labor and delivery practices are sickeningly barbaric, and we've got the stats to prove it. Barbara Mouser's The Five Aspects of Woman is great, and I learned a bunch of stuff about womanhood listening to it. Why is U2 SO INCREDIBLY POPULAR?) But none of them, shockingly, have made the cut so far -- I just can't get stuff to congeal into anything coherent.

Once my schedule and my brain are working a little less... uh... Summer-time-ish-ly... I'm sure I'll develop one of the above topics (or, I mean, you know me, something completely different) into an actual post.

Tune in next time to see if I go for the controversial, the political, the theological, or the utterly vapid and meaningless! WOO!!!


What's Up With Those Old Guys?

The brilliant Mikey Lynch posted (AGES ago now) a couple musings on a post at The Sola Panel (har har) about the younger generation's responsibility in engaging the older generation. As I pondered his ponderings, I was reminded of what has been happening in the SBC over the last few years.

For those of you who don't know, the SBC went through a pretty dramatic and trying time in the 1990s. The denomination as a whole had really slipped doctrinally -- the seminaries were getting increasingly liberal (and not in a good way but in a "the Bible? Meh." kinda way), the missionary zeal that had characterized the SBC for generations was getting lost, and the whole thing was generally not going in a good direction. So a group of bold, courageous men decided that they were going to do whatever they could to put conservative leaders in positions of influence in order to steer the ship around, so to speak. Did they do everything with perfectly pure motives and methods? No. But the upshot of the whole "conservative resurgence" as it came to be known was a recapturing of the centrality of the Gospel and of the historical foundations of the SBC.

But that was almost two decades ago. So what's a veteran of the conservative resurgence to do? In too many cases, it seems, the answer to that is sitting around nursing war wounds, talking about "kids these days" and generally being grumpy. Which wouldn't be worth wasting bandwidth on, except that many of them are still in those positions of leadership they worked so hard to get in pre-resurgence days! Their grumpiness can't just be laughed off -- it's grumpiness with the power and influence to, for example, de-fund church plants that don't have such a hard line about alcohol as many SBC churches do. Or to carpet-bomb an entire state with anti-Calvinist propaganda dvds. Or to fire a trustee of the International Mission Board for not toeing the party line.

What's up with that?

Anyhoodles, the SP article and following discussion, as well as the discussion on Mikey's blog, are enlightening and interesting. Check 'em out.


Books, Thunderstorms, End of the School Year, and Other Miscellaneous Musings

Last night I went browsing at a couple of bookstores to try to find the Anne of Green Gables series in box set. The school has a few of them, and I've been reading (or, devouring) them this last week. Have you ever thought of books as friends? The Anne books are that for me -- dear old well-beloved friends. Monday night, when I was finishing up Anne of Green Gables, I sobbed -- sobbed! -- through the last four chapters, and laughed at myself for crying so hard, and then cried some more. If you've read it, you probably understand. It's been wonderfully restful to come home from school and sit in my comfy chair and just read for hours. I haven't done that in far too long.

On my way home from the bookstore, I got caught out in the worst thunderstorm of the year so far. Rain was coming down, hammer and tongs, with lightning streaking across the sky and downbursts of wind from the edge of the storm. When it started hailing, I pulled over in front of the Lyndon fire station, got in the rain shadow of the building, and prayed that the doors wouldn't suddenly open and a fire engine come roaring out! I listened in dismay as the hail pelted the back end of my car, and when it subsided, I pulled around to the side of the building just in case and waited for the rain to let up. It was wild! The hail turned out to be in the half-inch to two-inch range -- definitely the largest hail I've seen since I've been here.

I have two more academic days left at school, and then three fun days which will involve a baseball game, a field day, a talent show, an awards ceremony, and a picnic! And then three glorious months of Summer stretching out in front of me, waiting to be filled with cook-outs and visits from family and afternoons when it's too hot to leave the house and days by the pool and sunburns and hot, muggy air, and melty ice cream and all manner of other delights.

Do all teachers get a panicky feeling about how much hard-fought learning their students will inevitably forget between now and next year? Ooh. That reminds me. I need to get my hands on a couple copies of the books I'm assigning my 8th graders (almost 9th graders! Imagine!) over the Summer... Mwahahaha...