Saturday, December 22, 2012

Minority Report

I take a number of minority positions for a variety of reasons

I'm a young earth creationist
I'm on the open theist side of Arminianism
I'm an anabaptist (including pacifist)
I'm a partial preterist
I'm amillennial
I'm in the eventual extinction camp on hell

Have you lost all respect for me?
Do you agree?
What minority positions do you take?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Roger Olson

Yesterday I went to Houghton College for the Woolsey Lectures to hear Roger Olson. Here are some highlights of the day, which got better and better as it went along:

1. In the morning, he preached a brief but helpful sermon on Philippians 2:12-13 in morning chapel. The tension, there, is over the double use of the word 'work' in many English translations. Work in verse 12 is our part of continuing on the journey with God. Work in verse 13 is about God providing us with that ability/energy to continue on. There is no contradiction between the two verses. The sermon had 3 points. First, grace is free. We can do nothing to boost it. Sacraments, for instance, are not ways to boost God's grace. God's grace is constant. Second, grace is costly (in that it cost the Father the death of His Son). Third, grace is relational. Though there are no grace boosters, there are grace blockers. To 'work out' our salvation is to identify those blockers and rid ourselves of them so God's constant grace can transform us.

2. In the afternoon, there was a Q&A session. Olson insisted that the main reason his theology takes the [Arminian] form that it does is because of his emphasis on the character of God. That God is good is the center of his theology (not an insistence of free will). In fact, Olson bluntly stated that he, himself, couldn't worship the Calvinist God (unless he simultaneously became a Universalist!). Other notable points that came out in this Q&A are summarized below:

A. He doesn't like 'middle knowledge' (Molinism) as a helpful option for Arminians. It fits better with Calvinism. Olson believes that this is not the world God wanted, but Molinism insists that it is. For Olson, Molinism is still determinism.

B. He is more open to Open Theism. He thinks Open Theism is a sub-category of Arminian. What prevents him from being an open theist is the lack of support in church history/tradition. The Scriptures are not clear enough on the subject to override the non-open-theist consensus of church history. Besides (and this is tongue-in-cheek), Olson helps the open theists better by not being one!

C. The New Calvinism is largely a rhetorical device and it is very anti-ecumenical. It is wrong for them to imply that the 'others' (those that don't agree with them) are either not Christians or are just barely Christians.

D. Most people who think they are Arminian are ACTUALLY semi-Pelegian! The Calvinists are wrong about Arminianism, but rightly suspicious about most who wear the label. True Arminianism isn't held by many people.

E. We all have to live with some degree of mystery, no matter what theological positions we take. We should not accept contradictions, but we must, ultimately, accept some mystery. It becomes a matter of what mysteries we prefer to live with. Olson currently prefers mystery to open theism, but that could change.

F. On Hell, Olson endorses C.S. Lewis' view that there may be a possibility of leaving hell. Because of this, he does not like the Annihilationist view because it cuts off that very opportunity. As for Rob Bell's book, he feels it was basically identical to 'The Great Divorce' and regrets that there is an industry within Evangelicalism for discovering heresy first.

3. In the evening, Olson read an excellent paper titled "A Christian Humanist Manifesto."

Humanism is the belief in the dignity and worth of human beings, but it tends to have a bad reputation with Christians (we think of 'secular humanism'), but the original humanism was Christian. Olson feels a need to balance the anti-humanism of Calvinism (generally) and John Piper (specifically). Speaking only about our depravity misses the whole picture. We tend to emphasize either our goodness or our badness, but we must learn to balance these extremes. We are damaged goods. Damaged yes. But goods too. It is possible to overstate our depravity.

Men like Erasmus (an early Christian Humanist, emphasized that we were created in the Image of God. Sin is not essential to our nature (the Incarnation is proof enough of that!). In fact, humanity is essentially good (even if existentially estranged). God doesn't just seek His own glory, He wants to glorify us too (Eastern 'Deification' is essentially becoming truly human, not become God). We need not escape our humanity, we simply need to be redeemed. Christian humanism has the capacity to give us more energy and optimism in our kingdom work, confident that God is already in the world and is for it.

All in all, a well spent day. Olson shared some very good stuff and I was able to connect with some people I hadn't seen in a while (or much of) while also getting in some library time. Thanks to Houghton for putting this on!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Ranking Jim Carrey Movies

The Truman Show (1998)
Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind (2004)
Dumb & Dumber (1994)
Liar Liar (1997)

Pretty Good!
Bruce Almighty (2003)
Man on the Moon (1999)
The Majestic (2001)
Yes Man (2008)
The Number 23 (2007)

Fun with Dick and Jane (2005)
Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (1994)
Batman Forever (1995)
The Mask (1994)
The Cable Guy (1996)
Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls (1995)

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Hell & Hoarders

The most defensible position on the doctrine of hell, these days, includes the notion that God doesn't SEND people there so much as they choose to go and to stay. This, while attempting to avoid the problem of an overly malicious God, creates a problem of potential incredulity. Can we fathom someone CHOOSING to stay in hell? Can we fathom someone, even if they were given a chance at a new beginning, turning it down in favor of utter filth and unhappiness?

Then I watched the show Hoarders and decided it is fathomable.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Aborting Logical Consistency

People are sick of politics for a lot of reasons, but the one that bugs me today is that the candidates clearly take logically inconsistent positions in order to try to please both sides of a given argument. In the VP debate, both candidates expressed potentially attractive yet illogical positions.

Paul Ryan
1. Life begins at conception
2. Our ticket will oppose abortion
3. Except for cases of rape, incest & health of the mother

This is a logically inconsistent position. If 1 is true, abortion is the taking of an innocent human life. 2 is the natural consequence of believing 1. But 3 is logically inconsistent with 1. If conception creates a life, then that life doesn't deserve to die even if the circumstances that brought about its life were rape and/or incest. Of course, if the mother's life were in jeopardy, that WOULD be a possible exception b/c if you have to make a choice b/w one life and another, that is not the same thing as murder (in the rare occurrence of having to choose b/w the lives, I'm pro-choice).

Joe Biden
1. Life begins at conception
2. Our ticket will support abortion rights
3. We don't impose personal beliefs on everyone

This is a logically inconsistent position too. If 1 is true, abortion is the taking of an innocent human life. Given 1, 2 is an outrageous position to take. 3 is immaterial because relativism doesn't apply to situations as grave as the killing of an innocent human being. The pro-choice argument MUST, if it wishes to be logically consistent, insist that life doesn't begin at conception. By saying it does, and then saying his faith leads him to bring aid to the most helpless in society, he is being inconsistent. By saying that life begins at conception, and then saying a woman should control her own body, he's being inconsistent (b/c if life begins at conception, there are actually 2 bodies involved.

So both positions are logically inconsistent and suck because they are either 2 very stupid men OR they are just playing politics. Ryan is being inconsistent so as to offend less liberals. Biden is being inconsistent so as to offend less conservatives. They're both being inconsistent to appeal to moderates. I understand why they do it, but that doesn't make it right or any less annoying.

I long for the day when men and women who run for office are bold enough to run on clearly contrasting and consistent positions.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012


So we've landed on Mars... again
Or, more precisely put, something we built has landed on Mars. And it'll stay on Mars and send us information. We already know some information because there are already other things we built on and orbiting around Mars. We're pretty sure there's plenty of water there (in ice form). This time, we're looking for other elements that would have made Mars an environment for life in some past era of its history. It is important to note, however, that the current vessel (Curiosity) is not equipped to discover evidence of life (fossils and whatnot), only to provide evidence that life could have survived there.
Inevitably, space exploration raises big questions. This is a good thing! Too often we don't ask the big questions in life. This mission tends to raise questions like whether or not we are alone in this universe, what are the origins of life, and why are we here to begin with?
I thought I'd take a moment to give my thoughts on some of the questions most likely to be asked of a person, like me, that thinks in theological terms. Maybe some of these questions have gone through your mind. If so, I hope my thoughts are helpful in the sense that they stir up your imagination and lead you toward good answers.
Q Would Christianity be proven false by the discovery of life on other planets?
A Certainly not. We know from Scripture that God is a relationship. God is Father, Son & Spirit. Because God is relationship, God loves to create the potential for more relationships. The Bible tells us about God's creation of life on our planet, but it is simply silent about whether or not God created life elsewhere. The existence of extra-terrestrial life is an open question for Christians.
Q If curiosity finds the necessary elements for life to survive, does that prove anything?
A Certainly not. It is a MAJOR assumption that in a certain environment life simply emerges. This is not science, it is speculation. The best scientists admit that science can't really speak to the issue of the origin of life. It is quite possible that the emergence of life requires God's initiation and not simply ideal conditions. What's more, Mars could contain life that thrives in totally different conditions than we might expect.
Q Isn't such a mission a colossal waste of time and money?
A Well, I don't actually think so. I think God built into us a desire to explore. Space is part of God's creation and, ultimately, learning more about it is an opportunity to learn more about the Creator. Of course, one can make a million arguments about how that money could be better spent. Many such arguments would be solid. But there are also a lot of worse ways to spend money.
Q Just come out and say it... do you think life exists on other planets?
A I'm not dodging when I say I have no idea. I really don't. If you forced me to guess, I guess I'd say no. I think the concensus that there MUST be life on other planets is built on the faulty assumpetion (mentioned above) that life simply will emerge when environmental factors are in its favor. I disagree. I think life is initiated by God. But I certainly don't claim to know where God initiated life, except for that God did so here.
Q So is space exploration a riskier experiment for atheism or for theism?
A I would boldly declare that space exploration is a riskier experiment for atheism. Christianity would not be shocked if life is found on other planets (since it posits a creative God who loves to make life). Nor would Christianity be shocked if we find ourselves alone (since the emergence of life requires God and God only told us about doing that once). But atheism would be fairly hard-pressed, it seems, to explain our aloneness. The more unique we are, the more the evidence would seem to point to special creation.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

On Memorial 50

As the Wesleyan General Conference wraps up, I thought I'd share a few reflections on some of the major decisions that were made (or not made) by the delegates in Kentucky. Memorial 50 was an attempt to add a new section to our Articles of Religion specifically covering the doctrine of sin.

Now, you might think it weird that something so important as the doctrine of sin is not ALREADY in the Articles of Religion. That would be a good thought, but let me put your mind at ease a bit. Article 8 (on 'Personal Choice') currently includes mention of original and personalized sin and our utter dependence on God's grace to be saved. Indeed, one could well argue that this new memorial is quite redundant.

Apart from this potential redundancy, there were some positive aspects of this memorial. I like that it (unlike Article 8) talked about how The Fall and sin impacted all of creation (not just humanity). I liked the distinction b/w original and personal sin. I also liked the distinction b/w voluntary and involuntary sin. I like theology, and I believe these distinctions are important to make in my opinion.

But do I like these particularized distinctions to be included in a denominations Articles of Religion? That is a slightly different question. Some would question the wisdom of inserting such a particularized statement on sin at a denominational level. One delegate wondered if we were painting ourselves into a corner by taking so many controversial positions in what is supposed to be a statement many can agree about.

And, of course, any time you say a lot of theological stuff in a short about of space, you open yourself up to much critique. Many delegates objected to some of the wording of Memorial 50. The main debate had to do with the line that involuntary sins 'do not incur divine condemnation and judgment' and yet 'still need the merits of the atonement.' In the absence of mention of prevenient grace, this seemed to many like an internal contradiction.

A number of amendments were suggested to improve the statement, but basically just created more disagreement. In the end, Bud Bence (who apparently was part of the team that put the statement together) stood up and said even he was going to vote against the memorial since it seemed like there was more work to do to make it less objectionable. I think that sealed the deal. It needed a 2/3's majority to pass, and it didn't even get a majority (215 NO, 105 YES).

In my opinion, memorial 50 was pretty redundant. If anything, I'd rather see a slightly improved Article 8 than the addition of a completely new article. I would have voted NO simply because I don't think the addition was necessary. I fear, however, that the majority of the NO votes were not motivated by redundancy, but by dissatisfaction with the wording. So I expect that we'll have the denominations theologians write up a more carefully nuanced statement on sin and it'll be proposed again 4 years from now (though I'm still hoping they'll simply propose an amended Article 8 instead).

But voting on doctrine is definitely a strange thing. For instance, I would have voted no even though I didn't really have any problem with the way it was worded (b/c I don't think ANY statement was necessary). But by voting NO I would have been voting the same as a large group of people that wanted a statement but had trouble with the wording as written. In a sense, I had more in common with those that voted YES than NO. Maybe that explains why about 40 delegates apparently didn't even vote on this issue!

Friday, June 01, 2012

Memories of Internship

I was just thinking, it was about 10 years ago today that I would have started my 6-month internship at Fillmore Wesleyan Church. It's a strange time to think about in some ways. The end of my 3rd year of college was rocky. I broke up with a nice girl to get with another nice girl (and the two were very good friends). It was bad Matthew at his best (or good Matthew at his worst?).
In any case, Fillmore is less than 2 hours from my home. My mom dropped me off on my internship. I was staying with the local dentist is a house next to the church. I see him every so often and it takes him a minute to figure out who I am. Clearly I left a big impression!

Early on in my internship, the pastor and secretary both went on planned vacations (I assume they were planned and it wasn't forced by my presence). I was alone at the church during a rainstorm that penetrated beneath the doors of an unfinished lobby construction. I remember calling many phone numbers before I got some people to come and help me keep the water from the basement. That was an interesting evening.

I remember babysitting my former youth pastor's kids (he was pastoring a few miles away) one evening. First thing I did when I got there was jump on the trampoline with the boys. 10 minutes later I was dead tired. I mean DEAD tired. I was useless the rest of the night. I had just learned how out of shape 3 years of college without gym class could make somebody.

I remember trying each week to read the Scripture passage in a way that was... just right. One lady always commented on it being either too fast, too slow, too loud, too quiet, etc.

I remember going to visit 'another nice girl' in the pastor's car (I don't think I realized at the time how gracious it was for him to lend me his car). I remember the car stalling as I was about to leave her house and her dad being pretty nervous because I was in a sun-spot and could've caused an accident.

I remember working (or talking on the phone) late one night at the church. When I went back to the dentist's house, I was locked out (he probably had thought I was already in bed). I had locked the church door behind me. The pastor and his wife had all their lights off. I was stuck. I ended up sleeping in his van (not sure if I ever told him that).

I remember being invited to a number of homes, each time treated very kindly. Being shy, I was glad most of the families were huge and didn't depend on me for conversation!

I remember helping a certain lady with an errand. And then another. And another. I remember realizing, through her, what ministry was sometimes like.

I remember being in charge of the bulletins one week when the secretary was gone. And ruining them. And learning to appreciate secretaries.

I remember getting a chance to preach at Curriers Wesleyan Church for two weeks when their pastor was away. I preached a series on Obadiah!

I remember organizing a evening lecture series with Chris Miller (my creation-evolution friend) that was well attended and created some... interesting discussion.

I remember singing special music with a young girl at the church and being part of the worship team

I remember that me and 'another nice girl' at some point broke up.

I remember liking about 5 different girls at different points during the rest of my internship.

I remember coming over to see why the lights were on at the church one night and seeing my supervisor mopping floors. I remember that and many other examples of his servant-heart being very impactful.

I remember listening to sports radio and hearing the Vegas line on an upcoming football game and wishing I was allowed to bet. It turns out, I would have won big time.

Sometimes it is strange the things we remember and the things we forget. Honestly, I have no recollection of what where the bathroom that I used was in the house I lived at for 6 months. I assume I went to the bathroom multiple times each day, but I have no recollection of this. Some moments I remember with crystal clarity, some are fuzzy, some are probably gone for good. Some people I wouldn't recognize if I saw them today, some I'd know I knew from somewhere but not know where, other's I'd have trouble remembering their names, and still others I've talked to from time to time.

I don't really have any kind of point to this post, just felt like reminiscing. I guess I will say that, last year, I had my very own intern. I know for a fact that he was a better intern than I was (especially in terms of impact). I got a lot more out of my internship than the Fillmore Wesleyan Church got out of me. I'm thankful that they were givers in a time I needed to take.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Foreign Policy

We finished up our series on getting to know the candidates this past Wednesday. I have a few minutes now to type up a summary of my own thoughts on their foreign policies.

11 points: Ron Paul
I knew Ron Paul would win my mind on foreign policy. I actually enjoyed his book "A Foreign Policy of Freedom" a lot (it's a collection of his speeches in congress on the issue). He's been one of the few voices for non-interventionism (not isolationism). Importantly, Paul distinguishes b/w defense and military (suggesting we stop doing what we're doing in the latter category). He thinks if we're going to go to war we should declare it in congress, get in (by going all in), and get out. He was against the Iraq war, but for getting the terrorists after 9/11. He thinks the Iran stuff is largely war-propaganda. He thinks the Patriot Act and the TSA stuff are invasions of freedom that cost more than they are worth.

4 points: Mitt Romney
Given that all the rest of the candidates are interventionists, I sorta liked the Romney was the most honest about needing to spend more money here to make sure we're equipped to be all that we seem to want to be in the world. But really there isn't much that separates him from the other republicans here (except Paul).

2 points: Barack Obama
Yes, Obama slips b/w the left-over republicans here. Of course, there's a lot I dislike about his foreign policy, but there are other things I actually like on paper. I like the banning of torture. He was right, along with Ron, about Iraq I think. He's right not to want to rush to war with Iran. He's right to emphasize our obligation to veterans. I really don't like his positions on illegal immigration though (pure pandering in my opinion).

1 point: Newt Gingrich
I like that he remarked that defense is the feds top priority.

1 point: Rick Santorum
Good stuff on immigration, but nothing worth noting here really.

I think that creates the following totals
Ron Paul 37 points
Mitt Romney 26 points
Newt Gingrich 21 points
Rick Santorum 19 points
Barack Obama -7 points

Friday, March 09, 2012

Health & Education

This past Wednesday in church we covered the candidates on the issues of environment, energy, health care, entitlements, and education. Yes, we covered a lot of ground. Here are my personal ratings:

5 points: Newt Gingrich
I think he does the best job of articulating a stewardship mindset about the environment. He's not an environmentalist wacko OR indifferent about the environment (though I do think his positions change based on whether he's in an election or not). But he got most of his points on education. I like the funds being linked to the child and not the school district idea. I also think he's right about leaving education to the states with the federal government playing the role of swapping stories of success.

3 points: Ron Paul
The main area Paul got points from me here was on entitlements. He believes the entitlement system is heading toward bankruptcy. We need to teach people against the 'entitlement' mindset. This would be a painful but necessary process.

2 points: Mitt Romney
Nothing really of note here. Nothing made me excited or mad. Pretty 'moderate'... go figure

1 point: Rick Santorum
See above

-2 points: Barack Obama
Obviously he supports ObamaCare which I think is a move in the wrong direction. I don't profess to be an expert in such things, but given our deficits I don't think moving health care into the entitlement realm is a long term solution.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Money Matters

A bit of a flaw in my system when it comes to money matters. I grade them based on what they say, but I may not really trust them all equally to do what they say. It's easy to throw out numbers, in other words.

12 points- Ron Paul
I think Paul has the most specific plan to cut the federal budget. And they are big cuts! I also tend to think he's right about the federal reserve system being flawed at its core. He may be the only guy who suggests lowering taxes that can actually match lost revenue with deleted programs. But would it ever happen? Probably not.

11 points- Mitt Romney
I have him and Santorum as 11's on paper, but my gut trusts Romney way more than Santorum on economic issues. I like the idea of linking the federal budget at 20% of GDP. His 25% corporate tax number is better and realistic compared to some of the other lower suggestions. Other issues made him sound pretty similar to Obama.

11 points- Rick Santorum
He talks a big game (5 trillion in cuts in 5 years), but I haven't seen a specific plan to get there. His other positions seem pretty reasonable.

9 points- Newt Gingrich
I think I'd trust Newt on the economy more than Santorum, but his plan is pretty vague and seems more like a campaign than a realistic set of ideas. I don't see how we could cut the corporate tax all the way down to 12.5% without cutting out a lot of government. I do like the optional flat tax idea for the sake of simplicity, but I am sure this would create tons of lost revenue too.

-6 points- Barack Obama
I just don't think his positions reflect the serious nature of the problem. Increase spending? Try to increase revenue? Bernanke's doing fine? Raise the debt ceiling? Bailouts are working? Keep taxes the same or raise them? I only found a few points of agreement here, but many minuses. Big contrast.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Moral Values Grades

Just like 4 years ago, I'm doing a 4 week evening series on the presidential candidates and the issues. This week we covered 'moral issues.' In the session I just present the information, but here are my personal grades.

11 points: Ron Paul
9 points: Mitt Romney
6 points: Rick Santorum
6 points: Newt Gingrich
-1 point: Barack Obama

In the background/faith column, Gingrich actually lost a point, Obama broke even, Santorum got a point, while Paul & Romney both got 2 points.

In the abortion/marriage column, Obama lost 2 points, Santorum gained 3, Romney & Gingrich picked up 4, and Paul got 6.

In the miscellaneous column, Obama gained 1, Santorum 2, while the other 3 each got 3.

My system is simple
+2 when I agree big time
+1 when I agree
0 when I am generally indifferent (or can see pros and cons)
-1 when I disagree

Monday, February 13, 2012

Top 10 Christian Music

10. Rebecca St. James
Like most Christian guys growing up in the 90's, I had a crush on Rebecca Jean Smallbone (strangely enough, that is her birth-name). I remember thinking that we'd probably meet at a concert and fall in love. Well, I got married on the last day of 2008 (and, apparently, Rebecca got married in April of 2011), so that love story is over. But she can still stay on the list for now.

9. Michael W. Smith
If I had made this top 10 list 15-20 years ago, Michael W. Smith may have been number 1. But, as they say, timing is everything. I liked Michael W. Smith back then because I could sing in a way that sounded a lot like him and his songs were often fun. He's fallen down the list b/c the majority of his lyrics aren't as strong as some of my favorites. I actually like him better as a worship leader nowadays.

8. Robin Mark
I'm not as big a fan of some of the real hip worship leaders as a lot of people are, but I do really like Robin Mark's stuff. I find that he consistently writes songs that lead me into worship and for that he definitely deserves to be on this list. I haven't gone out of my way to listen to all his stuff, so there's real potential that he could move closer to the medal positions.

7. Third Day
There was definitely a time when Third Day was my favorite Christian band. They are a high quality band. I think they did a good job of sounding as good as secular music while still having rich Christian lyrics. What hurts Third Day in my rankings is just the fact that they put out so much stuff that I just feel a lot of it is sub-par. I haven't listened to them in a long time. Maybe if I do they'll make a comeback?

6. Phillips, Craig and Dean
They might be modalists, but PC&D are certaintly gifted song-writers and singers. I love a lot of their songs. I haven't listend to their more recent praise-song stuff, but they were awful good at writing story songs and/or hammering home a powerful biblical truth. I should probably re-listen to them again soon.

5. Derek Webb
I am not sure about Derek Webb. He used to be in the band Caedmon's Call, but then went solo. I absolutely loved one of his free CD's (he does all sorts of interesting things to share his music). What I like about Derek is that his songs, unlike a lot of Christian music, are trying to say something substantial. His songs, in other words, can be convicting... and that's a valuable thing. I might not always agree with everything he sings, but I want to hear it.

4. Caedmon's Call
I rank Caedmon's Call ahead of Derek Webb based mostly on quantity. Yes, they seem to be pretty strong Calvinists, but I freely decide to like their music anyways. They have a good combination of fun songs and theological songs. They also have a great ability to put Scriptural phrases and images to music. It's nice to hear different lead vocalists while listening to a CD (although I definitely prefer the main leads in this group to the less frequent leads).

3. Steven Curtis Chapman
I'm giving SCC a medal spot for a combination of quality and quantity. He's not super theological like Derek Webb, Caedmon's Call, or even PC&D.... but actually he's written a lot of practical theology. SCC has helped me grieve, love my wife, etc. That's powerful stuff. He's also had fun doing it, which is a big plus in my book.

2. Michael Card
There's a pretty good gap between the top 2 and the rest of this list. I love Michael Card's music. I really enjoy how he has music for different books/sections of the Bible. Rich lyrics combine with an impressive vocal range. I was about to go see him in concert (in Lockport, no less), but decided to propose to Katie instead. Maybe I'll see him in the future, but I'll definitely be listening in the meantime.

1. The Waiting
It was not hard for me to select my number 1 all time favorite Christian music. It comes from the band The Waiting. Who? Not very many people have heard of this band, but I just loved almost every song they put out. I heard them in concert multiple times, but I'm not much of a concert guy. I have 4 CD's in my possession. The first 2 are incredible. The last 2 are very good. There are even rumors of a new CD (after a decade plus off?). I can't imagine them losing their #1 spot. It'd take a ton.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Important Issues

I had my Wednesday night group check what national issues are important to them (to help me prepare our 'meet the candidates' series starting in a couple of weeks). The list was made from the 'issues' that appear on the campaign websites of the 5 current Presidential Candidates.

Here are the issues that matter most to them:
17 votes (Abortion, Economy, Health Care)
16 votes (Social Security)
14 votes (Faith, Immigration, National Debt)
13 votes (Gay Marriage, Taxes, Homeland Security)
12 votes (Energy)
11 votes (Gun Rights, Education)
10 votes (Environment, Foreign Policy)
7 votes (Equal Rights, Court Judges, Entitlements)
6 votes (Home-schooling)
5 votes (Federal Reserve/Monetary Policy)

Monday, February 06, 2012

Top 10 in Music (Non-Christian)

I'll admit, this is an odd collection of artists from multiple genres, but that is the beauty of my individual top 10 lists :)

10. Haley Reinhart
In some ways this is a projection, but in other ways it's not. Haley finished 3rd on Season 10 of American Idol, but won me as a fan. I often mow to her music (you read that right) and anticipate more good stuff coming from her. She could either fall of the list or rise quite high based on what she does independent of the show.

9. The Goo Goo Dolls
I really like their sound, but it certainly didn't hurt their top 10 status to be from my home (Western NY). With one awesome CD (Dizzy up the Girl) and a number of other solid songs, the Goo Goo Dolls can make quite an argument to stay in the top 10.

8. Iron and Wine
There might not be a 'sound' I like better than Iron and Wine. Sam Beam's hushed vocals and hauntingly beautiful guitar playing make him the perfect companion for a relaxing drive. He's at number eight simply because I've only fallen in love with a small number of the songs.

7. Thomas Newman
Not as famous as his brother Randy (perhaps you've never heard of either!), but you know Thomas Newman's work. He's made the music behind some of my favorite movies (including the Shawshank Redemption and Meet Joe Black). Look him up and you'll discover that he's made a lot of great movie scores. We even used his music for our wedding.

6. John Michael Montgomery
I used to listen to a lot of country music. At one point I decided to compile a list of all my favorite country songs so that I could put them on one CD. Low and behold, I discovered that a large percentage of my favorites were from 1 guy: JMM. His greatest hits CD is almost synonymous with my favorite country song list.

5. Randy Travis
Randy edges JMM in a tight race. I guess what gives Randy Travis the advantage is his rather distinct sound. It might also help that I can somewhat duplicate that sound. I like to sing along in the car and Randy & I are a pretty good match. He also sings quite a few Christian songs.

4. Avril Lavigne
Surprised? I like pretty much all of her songs. They are fun. I like songs with deep meaning, but sometimes I just like to relax when listening to music. Another good thing about her is that she's still young and has the potential to come out with a bunch more stuff I enjoy.

3. The Buffalo Chips
Who? The Buffalo Chips are SUNY Buffalo's only all-male a cappella group. The members have changed much over the years, but the sum of their many CD's is a great collection of pop hits done solely with voices.

2. Jewel
Her debut album may be one of the greatest debut albums of all-time. For me, it's also one of the greatest albums of all-time in general. Since then, her stuff is not as raw (and I use the term raw in a totally positive way here), but on the first CD alone she'll forever be on my top 10 list.

1. Weird Al
It isn't really even very close. Weird Al is by far my favorite secular musical artist. He has both top-end quality and overall quantity in his favor. His parodies are clever and often better than the originals. Great stuff for a fun and relaxing drive. I tried to make a best hits CD a while back and had trouble getting down to 40 songs for 2 CD's. And he's still pumping good stuff out!

Friday, February 03, 2012

Monday, January 30, 2012

Singleness Sermon

Almost half of American adults are single, but how often is the subject of singleness addressed by the church sermon? A sermon on singleness need not be anti-marriage. One can be pro-marriage and pro-singleness. So here is my 3-point sermon for singleness.

1. Singleness is good
In Judaism, singleness is next to sinfulness. And the same is true for a variety of religions. Film & FM Radio speak the message loud and clear: Singleness is a deficiency. You're not complete until you've found 'the one.' But Jesus and Paul have something different to say. Jesus talks about people choosing singleness for the benefit of His Kingdom. Paul bluntly states that singleness is good, even better than marriage from his point of view. Do we agree with Jesus and Paul? Do we, as Christians, view singleness as a high calling? A good gift?

2. Singleness may come with greater freedom
I don't mean this so much on a superficial level (more freedom to have your own morning routine, all your favorite foods, choice of TV show, etc.). Most importantly, singleness may bring greater freedom to serve Christ. Paul is very clear on this issue. Marriage brings divided attention. A husband or wife must pay attention to their spouse/family (it would be sinful for them not to). A single person (granted they don't have children, of course), will most likely have greater freedom to serve Christ. Jesus and Paul are great models for living the single life well. Are single Christians using their freedom to serve God?

3. Singless has a message to tell to the church
When a Christian single recognizes their singleness as a good thing and utilizes their freedom to better serve Christ, they become a teacher of many lessons to the church. They teach that wholeness comes through Christ alone (I don't need marriage to 'complete me'). They teach us that the church truly grows by conversion, not by procreation. They remind us that single-minded focus on Christ is the way of the future. It is not singleness that is a temporary role we play until the wonders of marriage, it is marriage that is a temporary role until the wonders of eternity.

If singles can say this to the church, what does the church say to singles? Do we value their singleness or do we try to play match-maker? Do we invite their singleness or do we declare ourselves a 'family friendly church'? Do we learn from their singleness or do we segregate them to their own ministry area? A healthy church needs healthy singles for the sake of the Kingdom.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Teaching Topics

I'm really enjoying the various books/topics I've been learning/teaching about recently.

LWC & SS = War & Peace
We've studied Jesus, the Apostles, the Early Church, Constantine, Augustine, the Crusades/Inquisition, and we've still got a long way to go. I've really learned a lot through this series.

HRWC Sermons = 1 Corinthians 7
Looking forward to preaching on 'redeeming singleness' this week and 'redeeming marriage' next week

Prayer Meeting = Prayer
We spend about half an hour each week looking at the next prayer in the Bible. We've been doing this for over 60 weeks and are currently in Matthew.

Wednesday Night = 4th in 1: A study in John
We're almost done with John and have been working at it for about 30 weeks. I think we have 3 weeks left. I've been using Carson and Lincoln commentaries and they've proven to be worthwhile purchases. John is the final book in the Bible for me to teach through. I've been avoiding it, but in some ways I saved the best for last!

MOST = Luke
MOST is my 20-something small group that meets every other week. Most of us are in our 30's now though, haha. We methodically study a small portion of Luke each week after sharing supper together. I try to pick a theme for each night and use the Q&A approach.

LWC Small-Group = Genesis
We just started an every other week get together for the Lockport Wesleyan Church. I decided to start right from the beginning with Genesis. We've only been doing it for 2 weeks, but I've really enjoyed each session. I'm using Hamilton's commentary as support.

Thesis = Hell
I've also been working on my Master's Thesis on Hell. My thesis is basically that given our theological epistemology, The Wesleyan Church should be more open to various views of Hell than the current Discipline statement on Destiny seems to allow. I will take 3 views of Hell through the Wesleyan Quadrilateral and see what comes out the other side.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Five

I realized recently that there are 5 Christian thinkers/teachers/writers that have most heavily influenced me.

Greg Boyd
Bruxy Cavey
Steve Gregg
Clark Pinnock
N.T. Wright

How about you?

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Modern Sitcom Top Ten

I'm trying another Top Ten list. This time, it is a list of my favorite Modern TV Sitcoms. The criteria here is that the show has to be a half-hour situational comedy no older than Cheers. This was a hard list to make and many quality shows had to be left out.

10. How I Met Your Mother
It may be a bit premature to place this on the list ahead of some shows that I've seen plenty more of. Truth be told, I'm only on season 2 of this show, but I really enjoy it. Each episode is well written and the characters all bring something to the show. I predict it will climb into the middle of this list before too long.

9. 30Rock
I've always liked fast-paced humor. I think Tracy Morgan, on this show, is a classic character. It's well written. Most of the episodes are well worth watching. I don't think this show has much of a chance to climb more than a spot or two, and it could fall of the list completely, but it deserves its spot for now.

8. Parks and Recreation
Parks and Rec. has the potential to move up a little bit. I think the new storyline with Leslie running for office could be really funny. I think the Andy character is hilarious. Of course, if the show gets lame it could lose a couple spots and be left off the list.

7. Friends
In some ways, Friends makes number 7 more out of respect than actual preference. I know a lot of people love it and it was certainly one of my favorite shows for a couple of years. It had a good run and plenty of funny lines, a decent storyline, and a good cast. Unfortunately for this show, the 3 shows ranked behind are gaining ground right now.

6. Cheers
Like Friends, Cheers makes number 6 largely out of respect. Yes, it's a great show, but I also value the role that it played in changing television. I think Cheers really prompted a new era of sitcom. The cast on this show was great. Few shows can change leading ladies and survive. They also switched bartenders pretty successfully. I liked the squabbles with Gary's Old Town Tavern a lot.

5. Arrested Development
This is a very different kind of show, but in a good way. I don't think nearly as many people have seen this show than the others on the list. It has a lot of re-watch-ability in my opinion b/c of the fast paced humor. And, apparently, its coming back in some form via Netflix.

4. Coupling
This is a BBC show. It's like Friends in a lot of ways, but more obsessed with sexual humor. I just found it so well written and cast. It'll be hard for any current shows to reach this level in my book, so Coupling's spot in my top 10 is pretty safe for a while I think.

3. Frasier
Frasier is not so much laugh out loud funny as it is just downright clever. Well crafted, I cared about the characters in Frasier more than those of any other show on this list. It wasn't just a comedy; it actually said something about life sometimes. But that's not to take away from how funny it was.

2. The Office
The Office (US version) was well on its way to claiming the top spot, but then it faded pretty fast and has only sometimes recovered with a good episode here or there. The first 3 or 4 seasons were pure comedy gold. Almost every episode was classic and quotable. Now such episodes are few and far between. Barring some amazing last season, this will probably stay number 2.

1. Seinfeld
Seinfeld wins the top spot. Jerry, George, Elaine, Kramer and friends took a little while to develop great chemistry, but then kept it for season after season. It really was a show about nothing, but at the same time it was about people interacting with all their idiosyncrasies. The last season wasn't the best, but it wasn't the worst either. This show contained too many great quotes and moments not to be first.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Best Bad Speech Ever?

It's a campaign year, so there are plenty of people out there trying to give great speeches. Of course, you can give a great speech that gets people excited and, yet, has terrible content! In this regard, perhaps the best 'bad' speech ever was given by Pope Urban II at the Council of Clermont in the year 1095. This speech started The Crusades. I'll give you the highlights (via 4 ear-witnesses):

Account 1 Summary:
"The Turks and Arabs have attacked... If you permit them to continue thus for awhile with impurity, the faithful of God will be much more widely attacked by them. On this account, I, or rather the Lord, beseech you as Christ's heralds to publish this everywhere and to persuade all people of whatever rank, foot-soldiers and knights, poor and rich, to carry aid promptly to those Christians and to destroy that vile race from the lands of our friends... Christ commands it... All who die by the way, whether by land or by sea, or in battle against the pagans, shall have immediate remission of sins."

These statements are rendered even worse when you consider that earlier, in the same speech, he had urged the church leaders to be examples of righteousness by declaring, "If anyone hates peace, how can he make others peaceable?" And even though he was trying to arouse a war at the request of the secular leaders, he had the nerve to tell the church leaders under him to, "keep the church and the clergy in all its grades entirely free from the secular power." Besides these things, the summary (above) is alarming in and of itself. The insistence that his words are actually God's words, the seeming hatred of the Turkish race, the promise of forgiveness of sins for anyone willing to serve as a soldier... all these elements make this one awesomely bad speech.

Account 2 Summary:
"An accursed race, a race utterly alienated from God... has invaded the lands. You, upon whom above other nations God has conferred remarkable glory in arms, great courage, bodily activity, and strength to humble the hairy scalp of those who resist you. Let the deeds of your ancestors move you and incite your minds to manly achievements... Oh, most valiant soldiers and descendants of invincible ancestors, be not degenerate, but recall the valor of your progenitors... the land that you inhabit... is too narrow for your large population... wrest that land from the wicked race, and subject it to yourselves. That land which as the Scripture says 'floweth with milk and honey'... Undertake this journey for the remission of your sins, with the assurance of the imperishable glory of the kingdom of heaven. [at this point the audience cried out: 'It is the will of God! It is the will of God!' to which Urban replied...] Let this be your war-cry in combats, because this word is given to you by God... wear the sign of the cross of the Lord... fulfill the precept of the Lord, as He commands in the Gospel, 'He that taketh not his cross and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.'"

Again we see the seeming hatred of Turks (what happened to 'love your enemies'?). We see the abundance of guns as an obvious sign of God's blessing. We see an appeal to ancestors, but which ancestors are in mind? It is not their spiritual forefathers (the early church, which was a peace church), but their natural ancestors who are in mind. We see an outright appeal to greed. Again the promise of forgiveness and eternal reward. We see the implementation of religious props to provoke passion and unity. And to top it all off, we see a total mis-interpretation of Jesus' words (turning the passage on its head!). Instead of the cross being a symbol of sacrifice for the good of one's enemies, it is used as a symbol of sacrifice toward the death of one's enemies.

Account 3 Summary:
"Christian blood, redeemed by the blood of Christ, has been shed... base and bastard Turks hold sway... blindness of mind rules over them... you rage against your brothers and cut each other in pieces. This is not the (true) soldiery of Christ... the Holy Church has reserved a soldiery for herself to help her people... if, forsooth, you wish to be mindful of your souls, either lay down the girdle of such knighthood,or advance boldly, as knights of Christ... Under Jesus Christ, our Leader, may you struggle for your Jerusalem, in Christian battleline, most invincible line... but if it befall you to die this side of it [Jerusalem], be sure that to have died on the way is of equal value, if Christ shall find you in His army... you should shudder at raising a violent hand against Christians; it is less wicked to brandish your sword against Saracens. It is only warfare that is righteous, for it is charity to risk your life for your brothers... the possessions of the enemy, too, will be yours, since you will make spoil of their treasures and return victorious to your own; or empurpled with your own blood, you will have gained everlasting glory... Short is the way, little the labor, which, nevertheless, will repay you with the crown that fadeth not away... brothers and fellow bishops; you, fellow priests and sharers with us in Christ, make this same announcement through the churches committed to you, and with your whole soul vigorously preach the journey to Jerusalem... you who are to go shall have us praying for you; we shall have you fighting for God's people. It is our duty to pray, yours to fight."

Obvious racism here. An interesting admission that they already aren't practicing Christianity (maybe they should have judged themselves a bit more aggressively before commenting about the Turks?). Ironically, he refers to the blindness of the Turks when, in reality, he was blind to the teachings of Christ. Promised blessings, appeal to greed, appeal to ease of victory... and a pretty convenient announcement at the end about how Urban himself will be staying home, of course.

Account 4 Summary:
"You should strive with your utmost efforts to cleanse the Holy City... If in olden times the Maccabees attained to the highest praise of piety because they fought for the ceremonies and the Temple, it is also justly granted you, Christian soldiers, to defend their liberty of your country by armed endeavor... you have thus far waged unjust wars... we now hold out to you wars which contain the glorious reward of martyrdom... [According to Prophecy] Antichrist is to do battle... He will attack Christians. And if Antichrist finds there [in Jerusalem] no Christians, no one will be there to oppose him... With the end of the world already near... it is first necessary, according to their prophecy, that the Christian sway be renewed in those regions... before you engage in His battles, believe without question that Christ will be your standard-bearer and inseparable forerunner."

Notice how the strongest appeals for this sort of thing usually come from Old Covenant times. Interestingly, in this version, we see an appeal from eschatology. If prophecy says the Antichrist is going to fight against Christians in Jerusalem, then we better make sure the Christians are in power there so the end of the world can come!

Best. Bad. Speech. Ever.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Space/Alien TV Top Ten

This top 10 list ranks my favorite sci-fi shows that specifically deal with space and/or aliens. I don't know how to compare these shows to other sci-fi shows that don't involve space and/or aliens. So here we go...

10. Star Trek (Voyager)
I avoided watching this show until recently... and even then I skipped most episodes that weren't centered on either the doctor or Seven of Nine (both characters seemed to be a spin-off of Data from TNG). But I did watch a few dozen episodes and enjoyed most of them. I also liked the ending. This beats out the only other candidates for #10 that I can think of (shows I've seen): Star Trek (Original) and Earth 2.

9. Firefly
I think I will get in trouble for ranking Firefly 9th instead of top 5 (or even top 3). I know a lot of people really loved it. I liked it a lot (there's a big gap b/w 10 and 9 here). I wish it had been on for more episodes. It certainly could have climbed the list a bit if that were the case. The combination of Sci-fi and Western was creative (I also liked Dollhouse, from the same mind... though I maybe even liked Dollhouse better).

8. Roswell
Yes, I know, this was a teen romance more than sci-fi sometimes. But I have to admit I really enjoyed this show. I thought the storyline was good and the characters likeable. It was a bit longer than Firefly, which gives it the extra spot.

7. Caprica
I posted this list on Facebook some months back, but have sinced watched the one season of Caprica. Why was this cancelled. I really enjoyed it. I don't think the storyline could have gone more than a few seasons, but they would have been good.

6. Stargate Universe
This is where it gets really tough for me. All of the top 6 make a strong case for the #1 spot in my mind. I really feel that if Stargate Universe had continued for 5 or 6 seasons, it'd be number 1. I know I'm in the minority since most stargate fans liked this show the least, but I really enjoyed it. I wanted more.

5. Stargate Atlantis
How do you decide between these Stargate series'? I find it very difficult. I've basically ranked them, here, according to length of the show since I value quantity when quality is pretty equal. This show was a good combination of solid storyline, quality character development, and humor.

4. Stargate SG-1
Longevity is a big help here. Great show and it was on for a long time. Solid characters. They were even mildly successful and totally changing the enemy and some of the major characters to enlongate the series. Plus, this show gets the credit for making the spin-offs possible.

3. Farscape
It was a tough call, but I am ranking Farscape beyond the Stargate shows. I very much liked this show. It wasn't that the enemies were the worst or the storylines the best, the show was just fun. The characters were so varied and fresh. I really liked the cast selection here.

2. Star Trek (Next Generation)
If I'm watching this today for the first time, it gets nowhere near #2, but I have to keep in mind that if it weren't for Star Trek TNG, I might not even have bothered watching the other 9 (including the original Star Trek, which I watched after watching TNG). Growing up, this was one of my favorite shows and, though it's hard to look at compared to today's sci-fi, it's still great.

1. Battlestar Galactica (New)
The original Battlestar Galactica was pretty good for its time, but I would have to say that the new Battlestar Galactica is, by a very slim margin over most of the shows on this list, my favorite Sci-Fi show of all time. Lots of episodes, awesome character development, fresh episodes, solid special effects, plenty of twists and turns, etc. Granted, I didn't always like the storyline, but that simply shows that I cared. The ending was so-so in my opinion, but overall, this show tops the chart.

Feel free to argue or tell me what I NEED to see that fits this genre

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


Should this blog be resurrected? I require 3 comments from 3 different people to re-activate this blog.