Sunday, August 31, 2008

Surprised by Hope

Some books are enjoyable in that they challenge me to a new way of thinking. Other books I enjoy because they affirm that a new way I've already been thinking is on the right tract. NT Wright's 'Surprised by Hope' fits in the latter category. Though the book faded for me (I enjoy Wright more as a historian and case-maker than as a pastor and application-maker), the first 200 pages were great.

The book is really about resurrection and how the word took on new meaning with Jesus and His people. It's about avoiding the departures from this core doctrine that go both directions (the anti-materialists and the only-materialists). Wright's message is that the Bible's message is not about 'going to heaven when you die' but living the kingdom today and hoping for heaven to be realized here on earth.

Wright is easier to pin down, here than usual, he talks specifically about doctrines he agrees with and doesn't agree with. He shares great insights on resurrection, ascension and mission. He gets specific on paradise, purgatory and the 3 main views of hell. He describes the first 2 views (eternal torment and universal reconciliation) and then seems to agree with the third view (conditional immortality) before, in typical Wright style, proposing a 4th view that is really a blend of 1 and 3 by speculating that the wicked lose their humanity (thus ceasing to exist) while still existing in some other state eternally (Frankly, I think he'd have been better off just to stick with conditional immortality, but I appreciate the fresh approach!).

I don't want my earlier statements to imply that after page 200 the book is not worth reading. There are some good thoughts toward the end, but I prefer to let the reader make the applications from the fresh theology. Great book.

Saturday, August 30, 2008


Well, today I started the Master's Program with a 10-4 'retreat' on Houghton's campus. We discussed Helmut Thielicke's "A Little Exercise for Young Theologians" which was a good way to start an academic theological semester. The author warns theological students against pride and non impacting information. Here are some good quotes:

"Anyone who deals with truth - as we theologians certainly do - succumbs all too easily to the psychology of the possessor. But love is the opposite of the will to possess. it is self-giving."

"The man who studies theology, and especially he who studies dogmatics, might watch carefully whether he increasingly does not think in the third rather than in the second person (about God)."

"(Theology) can be sacred or diabolical. That depends upon the hands and hearts which further it. But which of the two it is cannot necessarily be seen by the fact that in one case it is orthodox and in the other heretical. I don't believe that God is a fussy faultfinder in dealing with theological ideas... Even an orthodox theologian can be spiritually dead, while perhaps a heretic crawls on forbidden bypaths to the sources of life."

Friday, August 29, 2008


* Update: Just listened to Sarah Palin's speech. Very impressive!

It is being reported that John McCain has made a surprising choice in his search for a running mate. While names like Mitt Romney & Joe Lieberman were being thrown around, I had guessed that McCain would pick a woman. But I had never heard of the woman he seems to have selected: Sarah Palin. And so I read all about her just now on Wikipedia. I'd have to say I am very impressed by her and McCain's wisdom in picking her. She sounds really cool. She was a high school basketball star. She finished 2nd in a 'Miss Alaska' competition. She eloped with a native eskimo and the couple used old-age home residents as their witnesses. She's got a very clean political record and has called out her own party on numerous occassions. Very impressive wikipedia article. So it's pretty obvious why I consider this choice wise, but here are the top 3 reasons.

Her Youth
One of McCain's major problems is his age. He was the oldest major candidate throughout this process. Sarah Palin is a couple years younger than Obama. She looks fresh and active. While the democrats will probably attempt to point out her inexperience, they won't have much to stand on since she's been Governor of Alaska which is on par with being a Senator from Illinois. Both have short experiences in perspectives.

Her Gender
The reason I predicted McCain would pick a woman is b/c I think he truly believes he can get a good portion of the 'Hillary' crowd. I don't know if that's true, but I do think this selection will appeal, very much, to soccer mom's around the country. Palin has 5 kids. I think this pick gets McCain a lot of votes.

Her Record
Palin has just the kind of record people want these days. Not only is she void of scandel, but she's actually the kind of politician that uncovers scandel (even when it's happening in her own party). She has a very high approval rating. She's visibly against wasteful spending (McCain probably got to know her b/c of the 'bridge to nowhere' project).

Ways it could hurt McCain...
1) If America views her as TOO young
2) If Hillary voters are more liberal than guessed
3) She doesn't carry any name recognition

Thursday, August 28, 2008

3 Alternatives

Suppose you came to agree with me that the traditional view of Satan's origin (as a good angel gone bad before The Fall) carries some heavy philosophical and theological baggage. Are there alternatives? Are we forced to swallow a pill that just doesn't go down smoothly? I don't think so. Here are 3 alternative views of Satan's origin that are, at least, worth considering.

1) One route to take is a less literal view of the adversary. Though it goes against many of the fundamentalist and evangelical senses, we should at least consider that what the Bible describes in passages mentioning the satan is just that; a description of human experience. I'm sure there are many variations on this theme. Personally, I am not inclined to go this direction. At least not at this point. And probably never.

2) Another option is a view that seems to be picking up some momentum. Might the satan have been created as a testing-angel. Angels are given specific roles from God. What would have stopped Him from creating an angel with the specific role of testing His people? After all, tests are actually a good thing. Perhaps the satan has performed his role faithfully, but Christ has passed the test with flying colors so that, one day, the tester will no longer be necessary and will be cast away.

3) As a variation of option 2, I have been brainstorming another theory. It may be new. I have never seen anyone, besides myself, argue for it. But my theory (thrown out there for others to dismantle) is that, as view 2 states, the satan was created with a worthwhile role (as a testing agent) and performed this role faithfully. But, in the course of time, mankind's consistent failure to pass his tests, their willingness to offer worship to objects used as tests, and, perhaps, his growing awareness that, in light of Jesus' ministry, his time as tester was running short, the satan became a corrupted agent.

I am testing this 3rd theory out on various message boards. So far, I feel it is quite workable and stands up to the various relevant Scriptures.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Satan's Sin Rewind

Well, I've been getting lots of feedback on my question about Satan's sin (some comments on this blog, but mostly on a couple of message boards). Here are the main responses I have been given to how the Satan (of the traditional view) sinned despite lacking a fallen nature, a fallen world, and a tempter.

1. It's a mystery
Some said we shouldn't ask questions like this b/c it's not for us to know the answers. Others said it's good to ask such questions, but we can't expect to find the answers. It's among the mysteries.

2. Free will is enough
Some rejected the idea that we need a provoking element (fallen nature/world or tempter) to bring us to sin. They said free will, by itself, can produce sin. There need be no pull toward wickedness. Even if man needs a provoking element, angels may not.

3. Traditional view of Satan is wrong
Some agreed that the question was largely unanswerable and that this opened the door for a non-traditional view of Satan's origin. This usually included the idea of the Satan being created as a testing agent.

I respect all 3 of the above positions. Position 1 requires no further speculation (in fact, further speculation would be ignoring the position). Position 2 took many forms. The most annoying answer was that the reason the Satan became wicked was pride. But, to me, that is like answering the question with the question. Better forms of position 2 are respectable, but no satisfy my mind. Position 3 is, of course, worthy of consideration.

Tomorrow, I will consider 3 alternative views of Satan

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


I know some of you probably think acrostics are dumb, but the following acrostic worked really well as a sermon on 'resurrection.' I'm doing a series through the 6 foundations of the Christian faith as mentioned in Hebrews 6:1-3. We arrived at resurrection and so I launched from Hebrews to 1 Corinthians 15 and made this acrostic (built while reading 'surprised by hope' by NT Wright):

Resurrection is the CORE of our Faith

Central doctrine of Christianity
(1 Corinthians 15:3, 14, 17)
Offers us a certain future
(1 Corinthians 15:19, 20, 22)
Redeems our fallen bodies
(1 Corinthians 15:42, 43, 44)
Empowers us for service today
(1 Corinthians 15:58)

Thus, the C works as the introduction to the message. To put the last 3 letters in NT Wright's language, the resurrection offers us 'life after death,' 'life AFTER life after death,' and 'life before death.'

Monday, August 25, 2008

Why did Satan Sin?

The traditional view of Satan says that he is a good angel gone bad. But what provoked him to take that turn for the worse? To be honest, this question (and the attempts to answer it) has bothered me since I was 13 or 14 years old.

We generally think there are 3 provocative elements that can lead us to sin. One is Satan himself (along with possibly demons) as a tempter. A second source is our sinful nature. And the third source is our fallen world (peer pressure). The biblical account of Eve's sin has always made decent sense. She didn't have a 'fallen nature' or temptation from the world. But she did have a tempter (the serpent).

But what about Satan? If the traditional view of the devil is correct, he rebelled against God without a fallen nature, without a fallen world AND without a tempter. How and why? This question causes me to re-think the traditional view of Satan.

Saturday, August 23, 2008


It seems Obama has selected Joe Biden as his running mate for the November elections. I think this was a pretty wise choice. You want your VP to aid you in areas that you're loosing the votes of moderates. Obama is losing votes b/c of a lack of experience, substance & aggression.

Biden was the most experienced of the democratic candidates, which answers Obama's extreme inexperience. On the other hand, Biden's quote ABOUT Obama's inexperience could come back to haunt the campaign. ""I think he can be ready, but right now I don't believe he is. The presidency is not something that lends itself to on-the-job training."

Obama is viewed, by many, as a speaker with style but little to no substance. Biden is viewed as very articulate and intellectual. Biden is considered an expert on the issues.

Obama promises to fight a clean fight. He hardly ever speaks boldly, instead using generalities and non-specific nuance to answer questions. After the Saddleback forum, Obama went down in the polls b/c people liked McCain's absolute answers. Biden is much more likely to tell you what he thinks. But he's experienced enough to not say anything way too stupid which would ultimately hurt Obama.

Ways it could hurt Obama...
1) If Hillary supporters get bitter
2) If Biden appears to arrogant
3) If it confirms Obama's inexperience

As an interesting aside, Biden was a potential VP pick in 2004, but instead suggested that John Kerry pick... You did NOT guess it... John McCain!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Winning Voter

And the winning reader
of the OT Idol competition is...

Jessica B

By my records, Jessica voted FOR Ruth 4 times and never voted against her. There was a 3-way tie for 2nd place b/w Dena (3 for and 1 against), Regan (2 for), and Gloria (2 for). There was also a 3-way tie for 5th place b/w Tammy (1 for), The Archives (1 for), and Steph (1 for). 8th place goes to everyone in the entire world who never voted for or against Ruth. That means that in 6,837,023,859th place we have a 2-way tie b/w Katie (1 against) and Elizabeth (1 against). And, finally, in 6,837,023,861st place is a 2-way tie b/w AJ (2 against) and Myself (2 against).

Congrats to Jessica and thanks all for playing.
Perhaps in a year or so we'll do an NT Idol.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Interview with Ruth

Well, we have an OT Idol. Ruth! I never would have guessed it. Tomorrow I'll be announcing which of my readers won, but for today I wanted to interview our champion (the following interview uses every single line Ruth speaks in the Bible):

ME: Green
RUTH: Blue

Ruth, Congratulations on your Old Testament Idol Victory! Do you have anything to say to your adoring fans?
"Why have I found such favor in your eyes that you notice me—a foreigner?"
I think your humility is one of the characteristics that brought about your success. My readers love underdogs. And you being a female and a foreigner certainly didn’t hurt.
"You have given me comfort and have spoken kindly to your servant—though I do not have the standing of one of your servant girls."
Ruth… I asked you nicely not to mention my servant girls. Katie might be reading this interview. Let’s go on to the next question. Did you have someone coaching you toward victory during this final day of participation in OT Idol?
"The name of the man I worked with today is Boaz,"
How did he help? Was there physical training involved?
"He even said to me, 'Stay with my workers until they finish harvesting all my grain.' "
That sounds like a lot of work. Did he make sure you had a good meal before the big vote?
"He gave me these six measures of barley"
Well, barley does a body good. You are looking great! And your stamina throughout the competition was very impressive.
"Spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a kinsman-redeemer."
I think you mis-interpreted. I have a girlfriend.
"I will do whatever you say,”
Like Jeanie from ‘I dream of Jeanie’? That sounds great! I used to have a crush on her. But I’m sorry, I really do like my girlfriend and she does 50% of ‘whatever I say,’ which isn’t too bad.
"I am your servant Ruth,"
Not only is this interview going to get me in trouble, but it is actually starting to freak me out. I think you should go.
"Don't urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the LORD deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me."
Wow. You’re really clingy. I’m getting scared. This interview is over. I’m going home.
"We will go back with you to your people."
‘We’? Who are you even talking about? You’re alone. Hmmm. Maybe that is your problem. You’re just acting crazy because you are lonely. I’ll tell ya what. I’m going to find you a man. I have a friend who owns a field and employs some nice single young men who are working right at this moment. What kind of guy are you looking for? Is there a physical attribute that is very important to you?
"Let me go to the fields and pick up the leftover grain behind anyone in whose eyes I find favor. "'Please let me glean and gather among the sheaves behind the harvesters.'
OH! I get it, you want to get a good look at them from ‘behind’. Well that is fairly superficial of you. But I’ll tell ya what. If you’ll leave me alone I’ll let you have your pick of the litter.
"May I continue to find favor in your eyes, my lord,"
Hey, no problem. Congrats again on winning OT Idol.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


We're down to 3. Within 48 hours, we'll have 2 winners (1 OT character and 1 of us). Your job is to vote FOR 1 character and AGAINST 1 character. I will declare the winner after the voting is closed. The remaining characters are DAVID, JOSEPH & RUTH. Vote now.

~ Killed animals as a young man
~ Killed an arrogant giant guy
~ 2nd King of Israel
~ Committed adultery & murder
~ A man after God's own heart
~ Author of many Psalms

~ Favored child
~ Fancy dresser
~ Dreamer & interpreter of dreams
~ Lived a roller-coaster life
~ Able to hide identity from family
~ Controversial political dealings

~ She's the minority candidate (gentile)
~ She's the minority candidate (female)
~ Actually liked her mother-in-law
~ Willing to work in the fields
~ Willing to take risk in romance
~ Made it into Jesus' genealogy

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Saddleback Forum

I just watched the 'Saddleback Civil Forum' which I had taped from a couple days ago. Pastor Rick Warren of Purpose Driven Life fame interviewed presidential candidates Barack Obama & John McCain on the issues of leadership, worldview, domestic policy & foreign relations. I thought Warren did a great (and compact) job of bringing lots of great questions to the table.

So what did I think? Well, there are a couple of different ways to answer that question. Who's style do I prefer? Probably Obama's. His answers were conversational and nuanced. But I was with McCain when it came to substance more often than not. Here's how I evaluated the various categories of answers:

On Leadership
Obama had the 1st hour with Pastor Rick and gained points, in my evaluation, for his transparency about his former selfishness and emphasis on 'work' in reforming welfare. But he lost points by mentioning Ted Kennedy as one of the wisest people in his life. McCain mentioned the failure of his previous marriage as his greatest moral failure. He had a lot more to say than Obama on various issues, which showed his advantage in the area of experience. Obama has the ability to speak well without saying very much while McCain says quite a bit in a way that isn't as pleasing to the ear. McCain seemed to pick up some passion as his hour got going. Hands down, McCain won this section for me.

On Worldview
Both gave answers to the 'Christian' question that seemed genuine. Obama had misinformation regarding abortion (stating that they haven't declined when, in fact, they have). McCain was clear and, in my opinion, correct in stating that life begins at conception. Surprisingly, I actually preferred Obama's answer to the question 'does evil exist' seeing as how they both agreed that it does, but McCain comes across as if he can defeat it by himself in the flesh (tongue and cheek). But, overall, I still have to give the slight edge to McCain here on the strength of the abortion answer.

On Domestic Policy
Obama lost big points here in my book. He said he wouldn't have nominated the 3 best SC judges. His reasoning against C. Thomas was lack of experience, which hardly seems fair considering Obama may be the least experienced presidential candidate in US history. McCain was very strong on education and was on the verge of an excellent example on the 'how do you define rich?' question before answering too quickly to flesh it out. He was also very good on faith-based organizations. Size-able victory for McCain here.

On US Responsibility to World
On the issue of war, both candidates tried to come back to the middle a bit since they have extreme views on the issue. McCain, as expected, sounded much more informed on world situations. But most of the answers in this category were fairly bland. Perhaps a slight edge to Obama here for his insistence that we examine our own eye first.

Closing Statements
Obama had time for 1 more question than McCain, but overall their concluding thoughts were not surprising. Pretty even here. McCain was the overall winner in my opinion. Obama had nuanced answers, just the way I like them. But there's something to be said for just coming out and saying what you believe AND, of course, believing the right things. Even still, my respect level for both went up. But I'm still not voting for either of them!

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Dark Knight

As usual, I am late to watching & reviewing the Summer's big hit. Katie & I went to the Erie County Fair on Saturday and then decided to watch The Dark Knight on the way home. I should preface this short review by reminding you that I'm not a big superhero movie fan. Nor do I hate them. That being said, of all the superhero movies, I think Batman movies are usually a little more interesting than the others. And this film was no exception to that general rule.

I'll start with what was best: The joker. When I heard the glowing reviews of this role, I figured it was partly sympathetic in that Ledger had since died. But I was wrong. He was brilliant in this role. I found the Joker character to be the perfect bad-guy (so to speak). A lot of his lines were hauntingly funny and the acting was superb. The overall message of the movie was fairly decent. Though the world sometimes seems chaotic, there is some order in it, not to mention some good people (who are willing to have their good deeds go unmentioned). There were also some interesting themes regarding the truth and whether the public should be informed of it.

On the negative end, it felt like the movie-makers had too many good ideas thrown together at the end. It was somewhat hard to follow. It almost felt like 2 movies combined. There were a couple of minor storylines that I didn't care about in the least.

Rating: 7.0
Status: Must See

Thursday, August 14, 2008


This week my SS class will be talking about angels. Here is a list of questions I will use as conversation starters. What other angel related questions come to mind?

1. Who created the angels?
2. Why did God create them?
3. When were angels created?
4. How many angels are there?
5. What are angels like?
6. Do angels have free will?
7. What do angels do?
8. Where do angels live?
9. Who is the ‘angel of the Lord’?
10. Who are some notable angels?
11. How involved are they in our lives?
12. Do we each have a guardian angel?
13. Do we become angels when we die?
14. Can angels become human if they wish?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Final 6

We're down to the final 6 and it's time for another TWIST in the game. In this round, you vote AGAINST 2 characters that you don't think should make it to the final 3 AND vote FOR 2 characters that you want to make it to the final 3. The 3 lowest scoring OT Idol candidates will be eliminated and miss out on next week's finale! Here are the remaining characters:


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Most Mini-Golf

This evening is our small group's 2nd annual Mini-Golf challenge. Last year I won by 10 whole strokes, but I had a home course advantage in that I had played there quite often. This year, they only let me play once (and that was at the beginning of the Summer), so here's how it went:

46 Matthew
52 Katie
53 Mandy
55 Mindy
59 Jeff
66 Betsy

Tomorrow we'll get down to the final 4 in OT Idol

Monday, August 11, 2008

Play Cards

My favorite card games has many names (some of which shall not be mentioned), but around my neck of the woods it's most often called 'oh poop'. Frankly, I don't even like to say 'poop' so I call it Trix. I found a place you can play it (along with some other card games) online. On that site it is called 'oh hell' and the rules are not as fun as the way we play. In any case, it's a fun game.

What is your favorite card game?

Thursday, August 07, 2008

The Final 8

We're down to the final 8 in our OT Idol competition. Remember, the competition has changed now in that we are voting FOR the people we want to win. But there are still categories. This week: Since we're having a kid's sleepover this weekend at church, vote FOR the character with the coolest childhood story in Scripture. Second, in contrast, vote FOR the character with the coolest 'elderly' story. In other words. Who had the neatest beginning and who had the neatest ending?


The other winner of this competition (besides the winning OT character) will be the person who has voted FOR the winning OT character the most often UNLESS the winning OT character is my pre-competition plant character (in which case I and that character are the winners).

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

SIRI Stock

When I graduated college I had about $500 dollars left-over. I decided to invest it in Sirius Satellite Radio. My money pretty much doubled and I sold the stock and bought a nice widescreen TV. This week, Sirius has reached a low point and I'm tempted to buy some Sirius stock again. I believe the stock will go up, but I'm just not sure I'd be being a good steward. What do you guys think?

Monday, August 04, 2008

Niagara Falls

Yesterday Katie & I made our 2nd trip to Niagara Falls in a 2 week span. We had taken Steve Gregg when he was visiting and this time we were taking Missy and her friend Nicole since they were in town for our global emphasis week. Here's a picture of Katie & I at the Falls.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Camp Talk

I had a good number of conversations this past week about our District Family Camp. Like many camps, the attendance has decreased over the past 10 years or so. Since our church loves and supports camp, we wonder why. But more important than the 'why' question is the question of what (if anything) could be done to return the camp to its former popularity. So I have some questions for YOU:

1. Do you attend a camp? If not, why?
2. What is the best thing about your camp?
3. What is the worst thing about your camp?

Friday, August 01, 2008

Friday @ Camp

~ Slept from 6am to 8:30am
~ Breakfast, final bible studies
~ Cleaned room, ate lunch
~ Packed car, played cards
~ Left around 3:10pm

This was my 23rd year of family camp. Overall, I'd say it ranks up as one of the best. It was great to share a vacation with Katie. I got to spend another great week with Aaron. A lot of my favorite people were there. Our church had the best attendance. Steve Wilson & Will MacFarlane did a great job. I got to teach 4 one-hour seminars. I mastered a new ping-pong strategy. I won a lot of card games. And I had a lot of good conversations and memories made.