Saturday, December 30, 2006

Saddam Execution Caught on Camera Phone

Saddam Hussein's execution by hanging was apparently caught with a camera phone by one of the witnesses and was downloaded to the internet shortly after. I found a link to this and viewed it a dozen times or so. It isn't very graphic as the video and sound quality of camera phones aren't great anyway, and the academy award nominee didn't hold the phone very steady. But you can see him drop through the floor, and a bit later below the platform you can see his head and the noose. I can't be quite sure whether he is swinging by the noose or if the camera is swinging by the arm of the camera person. At the end it's dark and what appears to be a camera flash shows him hanging by the noose. You might be a bit more motion sick from the unsteadiness of the camera than from watching somebody die.

I'll do my postmodern, radical individualist, nosy blogger's duty and post the link. Ultra-squeamish and self-righteous need not click thru. Principled abstainers also.

My wife and I were wondering if somehow his hanging would be staged or concealed and he might still be alive in some tropical resort somewhere. Maybe one of his decoy doubles was hanged and he's really with Hitler, Elvis and Jim Morrison drinking a pina colada.

Ecclesiology: Should We Walk By Faith Or By Sight?

Andrew Sandlin will shortly be releasing a new book titled, "Un-Inventing the Church: Toward a Modest Ecclesiology." Since I'm not an avid book reader, I'm usually not very excited about new books. This is an exception. I made a comment on his blog about the upcoming book, and I will expand on it in this post. I wrote:

The relationship of Christ to church - as head to body - is foundational to the NT. In my view, one of ecclesiology’s foundational problems is wrangling with the question of the authority with respect to pastor, pastor-teacher, elder, priest, presbyter, bishop, cardinal, pope, etc, in how they relate to the church. Are they members of the body just like everybody else, with special ministerial duties, or are they members of the head, with magisterial duties? Are they servants or are they overlords? A combination of the two?

Answering this question is a must if we are to "do church" according to God's will. Both ideas have been with us throughout church history, and are with us today. If church leaders are members of the body, then they have the same standing before Christ that everybody else does. They have gifts that are employed for the purpose of helping God's sheep. They are imperfect and make mistakes. They need humility just like everybody else. They themselves can be the recipients of exhortation, admonition, rebuke and correction from those who are not leaders.

If church leaders are members of the head, that is Christ, then because Christ is perfect, there will be aspects of church leadership - what they believe, what they say, what they decide, what they instruct - that will be infallible, perfect, binding, final and beyond either criticism or appeal.

I stand on the former view. Church leaders have duties that are ministerial, not magisterial. They are servants, not overlords. This is also very important for the argument that the church holds the keys to the kingdom. Does the church use the keys to open the door for those God would have go in, or does it use the keys to open to only those who it says can go in? Does it get to decide who is in the kingdom?

With regard to "church discipline" in Matthew 18, Jesus said, "Truly I say to you, whatever you shall bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven." Many use this argument to say that whatever the church decides, Christ has already decided in heaven. They're right. But some would believe that because of their view of authority within the church, that the church is correct. But Jesus never said the church would always be correct. If the church excommunicates somebody, it could very well be that the individual is not in sin, but the church is, and that Jesus already decided for that individual not to remain a part of a sinning church. The blind man in John 9 would be an example. So would Martin Luther.

I think one reason for the view of magisterial duties for leaders is that some people simply cannot fathom the idea that the church's head is in heaven and cannot be seen. He rules His people through His word; He is in control and we walk according to faith. But they need to see the authority in the flesh, so they embody it in an institutional concept of the church.

Should we walk by faith, knowing that Christ rules actively, or should we walk by sight by requiring a human ecclesial political structure?

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Mis-Reading The Ninth Commandment

"Thou shalt not bear false witness" - The Ninth Commandment - Exodus 20:16

Many, many Christians would agree with the above statement. It is from God, after all, and should be obeyed. It is applied to life in so many different ways. It is used by preachers, teachers, parents, friends, authors, commentators and many Christians in general to remind us to always tell the truth. As Christians we should be truthful in our speech. In fact, it is sometimes used to tell us not to conceal part of the truth either.

But, do you see anything wrong with the above quote from Scripture? Astute grammarians might rightly note that I left out the period at the end of the quote. The quote above is a complete sentence after all. But I left out the period for a reason. The reason is because the above is only a part of the Ninth Commandment. It is a truncated version, and sadly, far too much of our popular theology comes from this taking away from God's Word. Taking away from God's Word is prohibited. So let me now quote the Ninth Commandment in its entirety:

"Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor."

Notice the difference? God does not give us a blanket prohibition of bearing false witness, merely the bearing of false witness against our neighbor to his harm. I've heard many debates amongst Christians as to whether it is ever okay for a Christian (or anybody for that matter) to ever utter something that isn't perfectly true. Even when instances of believers telling lies in the bible are brought up, then further backing that up with God's blessings upon them for lying as a part of faith, many Christians can't see the righteousness of the situation.

Rahab lied to save the skin of the spies, and is set forth as an example of faith. Yet many Christians, completely indoctrinated with a false view of the Ninth Commandment, still label her action as sin. Oh, yes, they say, God used her sin in accomplishing His purposes, but even that never grants us the authority to sin. The Hebrew midwives lied to the Egyptians to save the lives of newborn babies. God pronounced His blessings upon them! But why?

There's something our popular theology is missing. Let me ask this question: if somebody wants a piece of truthful information from us in order to commit an act of evil, is it our responsibility to give them that truth? Or what if not answering at all or giving wavering body language tips that person off to the answer? Is it still our responsibility to not lie? Well, of course not. If telling a lie or "untruth" thwarts evil intentions of others, have we sinned? If God's own words of blessings in the bible aren't enough to help us answer this question, nothing else will.

Then there are the things that are nobody else's business. Even close Christian friends, sometimes. We have no responsibility to inform anybody else of anything that will lead to evil. Jesus instructed us to be as wise as serpents and as harmless as doves, and there's a reason He chose to use the serpent in His instruction.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The Most Reformed of All

Different Protestant denominations have had varying degrees of departure from the theology and practice of the medieval Roman Catholic church toward "pure Christianity," which would be a completed Reformation. I'd like to look at various denominations to show how far they've turned from Rome (in ascending order), and will give their progress in percentages.

First, the Roman Catholic church. They're still unreformed so the progress looks like this:

Roman Catholic score: 100% Catholic - 0% Christian.
Next, Anglican and Episcopalian. These folks recognized the Reformation to some degree, but still retained quite a few Roman distinctives like infant baptism, priestly robes, liturgy and church hierarchy. The only difference between these two churches is English accent vs. American accent.

Anglican and Episcopalian score: 75% Catholic - 25% Christian
Next, Lutheran. Some of the same as Anglicans and Episcopalian, but they've come a bit further, especially in pseudo-Reformed theology.

Lutheran score: 50% Catholic - 50% Christian
Next, Presbyterian. They've done away with the half-baked Catholic views of Lutheranism on communion, but still sprinkle babies, and sometimes wear robes and have stained glass.

Presbyterian score: 26% Catholic - 74% Christian
Next, Christian Reformed. They basically hold the same thing as Presbyterianism, but just slightly lighter on the church hierarchy.

Christian Reformed score: 25% Catholic - 75% Christian
Last, Baptist. These folks have shed every thread of Catholicism. No baby baptism, no preachers wearing robes, no stained glass, no bread turning into Jesus just because a priest says so, no demon alcohol, no church hierarchy whatsoever. Just me, Jesus and my bible. And my quiet time. The greatest deviation from Rome there is.

Baptist score: 0% Catholic - 100% Republican
Thus we have a complete picture of church life in America today. PTL and you betcha.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Christmas' Economic and Moral Lessons

Lew Rockwell posts this gem about the reality of the Christmas story. It's truly a shame that the realities in which biblical characters lived are rarely mentioned in our church culture, whether from the pulpit, Sunday school or general reading. And sometimes sentimental legends are tacked on to the story. Rockwell, for example, rebuffs the idea of Joseph and Mary traveling from inn to inn.

I can think of a few more. I've always had the picture painted for me that Jesus was poor. Dirt poor. You know, "birds have nests and foxes have holes, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head." An extension of this is the idea that self-inflicted poverty is some kind of Christian virtue. It's odd that we tend to think of Him as poor. After all, he received gold, frankincense and myrrh. From nobility and royalty, no less. A number of times I've heard that contrary to popular opinion shaped by our Christmas stories there would have been far more than three travelers that sought the newborn King. Ancient customs would tip us off that there would have been a delegation of dozens or maybe even hundreds. Historical realities of this nature are only slightly helpful, however, because the more important implications are ignored.

Ancient customs would also direct us to believe that royalty in search of a newborn king would have showered Him with gifts. The amount of gold and spices would have been unfathomable to the average person. In contemporary vernacular, Jesus would have been an instant millionaire. Dirty, rotten, filthy, stinking rich. Just read the chronicle books to discover how kings, like David and Solomon and their peers, treated each other. Ever wonder where that vial of perfume came from that was applied to His feet with that woman's hair? The disciples were indignant at the waste and my center margin notes tell me that it would have been worth a year's wages. That's about 40 G's today, blue-collarly speaking. My revised view of Jesus as being rich sheds new light on how I view Him and His attitudes about people around Him, and has changed how I view my own life.

Another one is Joseph's and Mary's travel to Bethlehem. I've also had a picture painted for me that they were these wonderful, righteous believers who showed their Christian virtue of obedience to the government, floating over the roads a few feet off the ground, with halos and angelic choirs singing in the background, the sun's rays beaming through the clouds. Nonsense. They were terrified people who didn't want their lives turned into a much greater hell by tyrants. I've heard that the road from Nazareth to Bethlehem was long and grueling. This is the last place I'd want to escort a pregnant woman. It was no afternoon cruise down the PCH listening to the Beach Boys. My wife is pregnant and it's enough just getting her to church and back.

God is merciful, political tyrants are not. God's general requirement for worship in the OT was to bring an offering to Jerusalem. If you lived too far away, God would set up a more convenient place. Kinda like FedEx does with their express drop-off boxes. Convenient for the ones you're dealing with. But it seems from the bible that each person was mandated to travel to the city of family origin to register. I stated above that Joseph and Mary didn't obey because it was supposedly the right thing to do, but because they probably feared for their lives. I'm fairly sure of this because only a little while later, Herod tried to murder their son, and did murder many other children.

I've often wondered that if in eternity God would show us a video history of history. If we really knew what life was like, what Paul's face looked like, how tall Noah was, etc, would we be shocked? I'm sure we would be surprised.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

One Foggy Christmas Eve

As part of family tradition, we spend Christmas Eve with my wife's family near Sacramento. It's not quite an hour and a half drive. We have dinner in the early evening and with kids we try to leave by 9pm. I need a coffee to make it home that late, so I've taken to getting a Starbuck's frapuccino for the drive.

All day, and night, the weather was great. Temps in the 30's to low 40's and foggy. Not foggy enough to cause driving hazards, but enough to know it's foggy. On the way home, a train passed by on the tracks which run parallel to the freeway, about 50 yards away. It was off on the right side, headed for Sac, and its lights pierced through the fog. This effect created a silhouette of the train, and the combination was surreal. It was a wonderful sight and feeling and it's too bad everybody else was asleep. I love fog.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Christmas Music

It's a shame that some of the best hymns of the faith are reserved for only one twelfth of the year. Christmas in July, anyone?

Twisted Sister Adores Jesus

I just saw a very inspiring piece of music on TV - and NO, I'm not making this up! - 80's hair metal band "Twisted Sister" just performed a thrashing version of "O Come All Ye Faithful" on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. It was done in the same vein as their greatest hit, "We're Not Going To Take It." As they performed it, I couldn't help but notice how much the two melodies have in common. And they didn't twist any words, but stayed true to the lyrics, and it was quite obvious that no parody or sarcasm were intended. So hearing Dee Snider belt out, with convincing enthusiasm, "O come let us adore Him, Christ the Lord!" gave me a rush.

Many times in the bible God says that all of creation will praise Him. Jesus claimed that even the stones would cry out if the children didn't. I have no idea if Dee or any other members of the band are Christians, but if they can sing such a great piece of music with heart and energy, I can really enjoy it. Thanks, Dee and Co.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


I guess a backlog of blogging ideas could be a "backblog." I have so much I want to write about, but little time. A career, a family with another one on the way, long commute, etc, has delayed some things. I'd really like to continue at a faster pace on my "Re-Thinking Romans 13" series, and start my "Re-Thinking Church Membership" series. I also want to post regarding rent control, carpool lanes, privacy, the "regulative principal of worship," and do much more at my baseball blog. Christmas vacation?

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Blogroll Addition: Blessed Economist

It's not too common when I run across a blogsite where I agree with most of the theology, economics and politics written about by the author. Many of the sites on my blogroll contain some things I don't agree with, or things I haven't thought through, or contain many other types of topics.

So I am adding the Blessed Economist to my links section. It's refreshing to hear his views with such an uncomplicated process from presupposition to conclusion, without a 1000 page volume to tread water through. I found him through Gene Redlin at Northern Gleaner.

Post-Modern Christmas Gifts

All the great stuff our culture has brought us in the last ten years, "extreme" anything, "reality" TV shows, etc, are all very interesting. In light of this, here's a list of what I think would make good Christmas presents.

  • Extreme Anatomy Barbie
  • On DVD: "Winnie The Pooh Goes to Vegas"
  • Desperate Housewives Action Figures
  • Survivor, Berkeley - Home Version

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

I Am "Personal Quiet Time" Challenged - or - The Tyranny of The Personal Quiet Time Mongers

I just came across this at Chalcedon's blog section of their website. I'm thankful to see such a critique of one of pietistic Protestantism's sacred cows, the "personal quiet time." It is pointed out that the personal quiet time is nowhere commanded in Scripture, nor even shown as an example, yet it is put forth as one of the top barometers of spiritual life. I can testify to this fact quite readily. Just last night in our "home group" bible study, several people talked about struggling with keeping up their quiet time, and one claimed to realize that our acceptance with God is not based upon our works so even when she missed her personal quiet time, she could still know she was accepted by God.

A couple of months ago at an initial meeting for a men's ministry, a questionnaire was given out to determine how our lives were lived. All kinds of questions were asked, and many were the wrong questions, and therefore unanswerable, so "wrong" answers were guaranteed to come from me. Many were scaled answers rated from zero to 10. One of the most important was about "personal quiet time." I answered with a zero, and wrote my own note that said I don't believe that a "personal quite time" as taught by evangelicals was necessary for the Christian life.

Don't get me wrong. If somebody has this type of discipline, then fine. Good for them. But I don't. I pray, I read the bible, and God knows I sit quietly for periods of time, but it doesn't mesh like I've been taught at all. But it's held over people's heads as a form of guilt manipulation. I'm glad I've discovered this and now I rejoice that I'm spared this tyranny.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

I'm A Radical Individualist Shot Down In Flames

Commenters at, in reaction to Kevin Johnson's posting a snip of one of my blog posts, skewered me for mis-using Luther's priesthood of believers doctrine among other things. My attempt to show Protestantism's duplication of many of medieval Rome's despised errors also brought about some pretty wild speculations, warnings and general goofiness on behalf of the commenters. I learned quite a bit about myself that I doubt my wife even knows.

I have a misconception of Luther's doctrine (comments #1 and #3), am headed for "house church" theology (#2), wrote a troubling post, have some kind of problem attitude, and am implied as being a radical individualist (#3), but the spirit of my post is what is important (thanks for noticing, Kevin! [Edit. Kevin was the poster]) (#5), am attributed - incorrectly - with saying that every [Protestant] pastor has begun to speak "ex cathedra" (#6), in combating the error of the tyranny of the community I have introduced the opposite error of tyranny of the individual (#7) haven't thought things through to their conclusions (#7), am alledged - incorrectly - with saying that the highest authority in existence is the individual (#8) - (which would of course make me God), and by extension "walk[s] with all the glory of a Metropolitan, each one with his own, custom-made, paper mache mitre stapled to his hair." (#8), and another commenter (#10) agrees whole-heartedly with comments 6 and 7.

Whoa, am I messed up! One commenter (#3) believes that my understanding "of of the point of the Reformation relative to the private individual is, though quite a common one held by Protestants, historically and theologically inaccurate." Now, he may have a point here. I admit that my understanding of Luther here is solely based upon what I have learned from my churches and accepted literature. So, maybe I should go outside of my community and, in the spirit of radical individualism, learn for myself about what Luther really believed. But of course, as these commenters proved, such an attitude is destructive, so maybe I'll just hold to what my churches have taught me and stand by everything I said in my post.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Power and Corruption

It is often said that power corrupts. But is this really true? Does power corrupt, or, conversely, does corruption seek power? Maybe we've all looked at this from the wrong angle. Maybe power simply reveals a hidden and already existent corruption.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Lyrical Revelations

Being that rock music's lyrics are hard to understand, only on occasion - maybe once a year - do some muddled lyrics in a familiar song suddenly become clear to me. It's usually when I merely hear the song but am not concentrating on the words.

Well, today I had a major revelation of lyrics. Four times in the space of an hour I had lyric revelations, three times in one song in the space of ten minutes, and one time in another song. The first song was "Rock and Roll Band" on the self-titled debut album from Boston. This is probably my favorite album of all time, or at least one of the top three, and I've heard it a million times over the last 30 years. My first revelation came while I was concentrating on my project at work and had some tunes on. The other two came while I was double checking the first; I was concentrating on only the words I thought I had revealed, so I was merely hearing the other words. Of course this is exactly when I hear words for the first time.

The revelations were in order in the following lyric string: 1) car radio, 2) man, 3) Rhode, in "Playin' for a week in Rhode Island - A man came to the stage one night - He smoked a big cigar - Drove a Cadillac car - And said, Boys, I think this bands outta-sight - Sign a record company contract - You know I've got great expectations - When I hear you on the car radio - You're goin' to be a sensation!" Thanks to this link from The words "car radio" and "man" I had no idea what they said, but for 30 freaking years I heard "playing for a week in LONG Island," wondering why Boston was in New York before they made it big. Now the fourth revelation I can't remember, but I'll be listening again.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Adoptive Parents Are Suspected Terrorists

Shortly after we adopted our youngest child almost two years ago, my wife and I discovered that, thanks to the Patriot Act and various other regulations created by Homeland Security, adoptive parents are now suspected terrorists. We were put on a no-obtaining-of-documents list, similar to the no-fly lists we hear about in the news. We were prohibited from directly obtaining official documents for our very own child, even after the adoption was complete. The only workaround was to secure the services of an attorney that could lobby on our behalf to obtain any necessary documents.

Long ago I decided that I would do the utmost I could to live my entire life without ever using the services of a lawyer. So much for that. I compromised on my principles and decided that keeping my son was more important.

Then, after we received the paperwork from the state, we were required to immediately return the paperwork to the state so that they could confirm that the documents were legitimate before they returned them to us. Yes, you read it right. All this screwed up our taxes and tied up thousands of dollars of our own money for quite some time, with some still being tied up.

How interesting that the political party in control of both houses and the white house when the Patriot Act was passed claims to be the "Pro-Family" party. Well, I'd like to thank them again publicly for being so pro-family to us. I already thanked them in private on November 7th.