Friday, March 30, 2007

The Curse of Inflation

Read James Leroy Wilson's latest post at Partial Observer through a link here at his blog Independent Country. The government has the inverse Midas touch when it comes to, oh, well, anything it does. Here Wilson tackles a job of barely scratching the surface of how government screws our lives by even the smallest of good intentions.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Big Brother, George Orwell and Blaming God

Whenever government spies on its citizens, desires too much information about them or tends to be too controlling of them, we use the term "Big Brother" to describe that government. This is in reference, of course, to the "government" character in George Orwell's book 1984. There's even a reality TV show where cameras are everywhere.

People fairly often blame God for things, and this seems to intensify when the ideas of sovereignty, election and predestination are in view. It's funny, because George Orwell had sovereign control over his characters and nobody ever blamed him for Big Brother's actions.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Finding Life in a Theology of Death

We religious folks have a long history of conveying ourselves as morbid and lifeless. We seem to ooze an aura of preoccupation with death. Abundant life? Hardly.

For centuries, the Roman Catholic church dominated culture in the West. At the center of their focus is the body on the cross - or crucifix - which is a corpse. The mass is essentially a re-crucifixion of Christ every week. Catholic assembly, music, monastic life and theology are basically morbid. So are its most ardent adherents. Monty Python satirized this well in The Holy Grail, showing the hooded monks engaged in Gregorian chants while smacking themselves in the head with wooden slabs.

Reformed Protestants, being a reactionary group against Roman Catholic doctrine, found the most disagreements in the areas of doctrine that have to do with Christ's death. Penal substitution, justification, atonement, propitiation, all have to do with death. These were emphasized most - and still are for some reason - because they were the chief differences. The Protestant cry of "He is risen" focuses not on the power of the new life, but serves mostly in removing the corpse from the crucifix. What's left as the central focus is the tool of crucifixion, the cross, an instrument of death. As a result, the Reformed are also morbid.

Arminians and other pietists play the reductionism of justification to a formulaic prayer. Repeat after me and you have eternal life. They don't understand the transformation. But like a mortician, they can apply some makeup and a nice suit to the corpse, via man made rules, and it can look like a Christian. Legalism and self-righteousness decimate the abundant life, resulting in the morbid.

This brings me to the Charismatics. Wow, what a difference. They place the focus on the resurrection and power of the Spirit. Their appearance is much different. Far from morbidity, they portray life. But their great blind spot is in the true doctrines of death from which life springs. Mired too much in Arminian and holiness theology of atonement, they tend to focus most on the appearance of signs of life, as opposed to the reality behind them. Like Simon the sorcerer in the book of Acts, too many try to buy the fruit of the Spirit, and without the discernment of the apostle who rebuked him, the Charismatics tend to let anybody in, as long as they can babble like an idiot or make a good claim. This is why so many of the fallen evangelical leaders in public scandal are Charismatics. The dressed up Arminian stiff simply has puppeteer's strings attached, and it can dance. But it, too, is morbid.

At some point in the future (as a postmillenialist I believe the church is still in its infancy) I'm hoping we'll see a church that borrows the strengths of each of these groups. Unity from the Catholics, strong doctrine of Christ from the Reformed, holiness from the pietists and resurrection power from the Charismatics. We may see real life after all.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Religion, Politics and Life in America

My motivation to write about this comes from posts at The World According To Bruce regarding his definition of Red-Letter Christianity, the intolerance of the Left and Right, and the relation of religion to politics. I'm not necessarily disagreeing with Bruce, but I will give the following with different definitions and viewpoint.

Because God is creator of all things, every thought and action of man is a reaction to God, whether for or against, and therefore inherently religious. Secularism leaves the God of the bible out of the equation, but must fill that void with something else, therefore it is a religion itself, contrary to its own claim.

Because Jesus is the King of kings, every thought and action of man is a reaction to His kingship, whether for or against, and therefore inherently political. So, every thought and act of man is both religious and political at the same time.

For a Christian to desire to be ruled by something other than God is idolatry. So the Christian has no other option in the realm of politics than to promote a theocracy.

Now, to avoid misinformed, knee-jerk gag seizures, strokes or heart attacks to what I just said, a definition of theocracy is in order. Theocracy is simply defined as "rule by God." Well, duh! So the question is not whether God rules, but how that rule is carried out in this earthly world. Starting at the beginning, God rules in this world by delegating that rule to man according to God's word. Genesis 1:26-28. But in giving that rule to man, God maximizes man's rule over his own person and property, and extremely and vehemently minimizes man's rule over other men and their property.

Satan desired to rule this world and all men in it by tricking Adam in the garden, so for man to desire to rule over other men's lives to a greater degree than God allows is satanic, and is the essence of politics. (See my definition of politics.) Both the religious Left and Right (and the secularists too!) would do well to learn this.

Blogroll Addition: McIntyre's Tavern

A while back I stumbled on to a blogsite hosted by Andrew McIntyre, called McIntyre's Tavern. I've added it to my blogroll in my margin. He opened for business with this: "There was a time when men were men, beer was beer, and people actually discussed important issues with their neighbors over a pint at the local public house. I have established this site to provide, at least in a virtual sense, a place to debate issues of Theology, Philosophy, Politics, and just about anything else that involves the mind. Most blogs include articles of pontification from the blogger which may or may not spark debate in the form of comments by readers. In other words, the format of most blogs is centered on the blogger. I have reversed that format on this site. The commenter himself is the focus. As the proprietor, I will provide the topic for discussion, with, perhaps, a brief introduction, and open the floor. All are welcome to post their opinions, participate in debate, and otherwise have at it..."

I have found this very interesting and contribute my comments from time to time. I am enriched by the various points of view, and if they don't contribute to my changing my mind, at least I learn what other people believe. Topic so far include creeds, natural revelation, death penalty, the presence of Christ in the sacraments, paedocommunion, ash Wednesday, sola fide, women in the ministry, Ayn Rand, political revolution and birth control. Andrew invites any and all to pull up a bar stool, pour a pint and talk away.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Friday Night Potpourri

  • Finally, a Bud Light commercial is funny. Not funny enough to remember what it was about, though.
  • Mrs. Scott and I watched the Miss USA pageant. I made fun of everything I could. My initial pick ended up as 3rd runner up out of 51 chickies. I visited the reading room during the personal interviews in the last round, as I can't stand to see beauty queens pontificate.
  • My deskmate's father-in-law had a stroke. He has some speech problems, but seems to be improving at a rapid rate. Good news.
  • I made a personal long distance call to somebody 3000 miles away. It's been a long time since that's happened.
  • Mrs. Scott asked me to stop off at the store tonight after work and buy a few items. Ten gallons of drinking water, ice cream, M&M's, and a People magazine. I asked the checker (who was a guy in his 20's) if he couldn't tell that I was shopping for my pregnant wife. He had the perfect comeback, as I'm sure he's seen it all. He said, "It's okay if it's for you."

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Belated St. Patty's Day Joke

Oops, forgot to post this. I'm part Irish so I can get away with it.

Q: How many Irishmen does it take to screw in a light bulb?

A: Five. One to hold the light bulb and four to drink until the room starts spinning.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Dada's Baba

Our two year old has come to call his bottle, "baba." The other day, Mrs. Scott was in the garage taking stock on all of our bulk items, when she noticed I had one beer left. She picked it up to put it in the fridge, and our two year old said, "Dada baba."

The Chapter Division Heresy and Colossians 3

"Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth." - Colossians 3:1-2 (NASB)

I've heard it numerous times during preaching or teaching that chapter and verse divisions in the Bible were not in the original text, but put there by men as a way to help us in various ways, such as an address system for easy reference, or for dividing long passages into ideas. These artificial divisions could be a problem and we should look out for taking things out of context as a result of using these divisions. I can't think of a chapter division changing the meaning of the text more than Colossians 3.

"If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, 'Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!' (which all refer to things destined to perish with use) - in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men? These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence." - Colossians 2:20-23 (NASB)

Colossians 3 taken out of the context of the end of chapter 2 is used by many people to say the exact opposite of the meaning of the text. The hyper-spiritual among us will see other Christians engaging in certain activities, eating or drinking certain things, and mis-apply chapter 3. "Hey, if you're a Christian, why are you watching sports? Or why are you eating at a nice restaurant or drinking alcoholic beverages? Why are you so involved in growing things in your garden or raising animals? You should be setting your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. So we shouldn't be involved with these things."

But to the one who partakes of something - and gives thanks - is setting his mind on things above. Christ is Lord of all things, and that's where the thanksgiving is directed. The hyper-spiritual Christian, on the other hand, is very consumed with the activities that his brother is involved in - sports, leisure, alcohol, physical things - the things of the earth. His hyper-spirituality leads him to conclude that Christians shouldn't handle, taste or touch these "earthly" things, which is the very conclusion that chapter 2 forbids! So he plods along in life, convinced of his spiritual superiority, but only maintains an appearance of wisdom in his self-made religion and misjudges where others' minds are set.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Fools For Jesus

Mrs. Scott and I were watching a reality TV show where the one "voted off the show" was a Christian. She was shown reading her bible when others thought she should have been doing something productive, disobeying superiors out of conscience and like things. In the post-termination interview, she claimed hopefulness in drawing other players closer to God because she was there. I don't want to judge her faith or motives because in such a highly (over)produced reality TV show, much of the truth is probably lying on the editing room floor. But she was made to look like what I perceive as the stereotypical evangelical. And this stereotype is self-made within evangelicalism.

Much of the evangelical mindset is not so much in you being a Christian as it is in letting others know that you are a Christian. Via external, superficial, visible things. Even if it means acting like a fool to do so. I pointed this out to my wife, and she replied that her best friend, who is a staunch unbeliever, has this very thing as her number one complaint about Christianity. We seem to talk the talk, but can't walk the walk. I've heard this also from some of my non-Christian friends. They point to blatant dishonesty in Christian's motives. Things like bait-and-switch. Christians inviting them over to dinner or to their church choir's Christmas performance, only to find out it was a sleazy sales pitch style crusade aimed at evangelizing the heathen that just walked in the door - them. Or the recent flaps about Southern Baptist conventions where attendees fail to tip waitresses at nearby restaurants, or use billfold gospel tracts with a phony $20 bill printed on the front. You know, "the gospel is more valuable to your eternity than my tip is to feeding your kids."

A few years ago we attended a bible study full of otherwise strong, mature, intelligent Christians. One evening, the topic broke out about "witnessing" at work. It went around the room, and everybody chimed in about their witnessing. I was shocked (but not really surprised, because that's how I learned Christianity too) at some of the methods. Some people created passwords for accounts that were bible verse addresses, to witness to the computer geeks or managers or other workers who had access to those accounts, because they were forced to type the password! Login: AcmeCorp. Password: john316. Whoa! What a witness for Christ! Some wore jewelry shaped like a cross. Some pasted bible verses on their monitors, just so everybody would know. One guy, who worked on a construction site, boasted that his ministry was to crank the Christian radio station at full blast so everybody could hear the gospel every day all day long. "We got two lesbians who live next door, and I make sure they can hear Pastor Joe at 10am!"

When the apostle Paul said we are "fools for Christ", he meant that our living life with the hope of the resurrection to eternal life would seem foolish to the world. He didn't mean that we should act like fools.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Happy St. Patrick's Day

I'm part Irish, I'm wearing green, my favorite beer is Guinness Stout and I am a Christian. With St. Patrick using the shamrock, according to tradition, to explain the Trinity to the king of Ireland, all these things go together for a good holiday to celebrate. Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Friday, March 16, 2007

Did Jesus Go To Hell?

"He descended into hell. The third day He arose again from the dead." Apostle's Creed

I've always had a problem with this line in the Apostle's Creed, the one that claims Jesus descended into hell. I added the resurrection line to the above quote just to put it into context. I have no problem with that line.

My problem has always been with being able to prove from Scripture that Jesus went to hell. It is further complicated by several alternate versions of the creed that say, "He descended into hades," and "He descended to the dead." It's not that I disagree with the statement, because I can't disprove it, it's just that I can't prove it. I've never heard an adequate argument for what it does actually mean or why it's in the creed. After all, doesn't Jesus tell the thief on the cross that "Today, I will be with you in paradise"? Since the next day started at dusk he would have had only a few hours at most to go to hell.

What did he accomplish there? Some say that he went to preach the gospel to those Old Testament saints, who were in hell because Christ hadn't died on the cross yet to pay for their sins (a proof-text verse is the one about preaching to the spirits in prison). But then He was the Lamb slain from before the foundations of the world.

About ten years ago, I went to a Christian bookstore (maybe this was my error) to look for books on the creed. I found several written by popular authors, but this line was completely avoided by all who wrote about it. I've read some comments by Calvin on this, and it doesn't seem he's even sure why it's there or what it means. I read one commentary that said it was a kind of spiritual meaning that was aimed at debunking a certain heresy at the time the creed was written.

Even so, I recite the line along with the rest of the creed every time my church does. Any ideas?

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Christian Conferences and Retreats

I was inspired to write this by Bruce's link to Dan Edelen at Cerulean Sanctum. I have much experience with Christian conferences and retreats. I'll focus on retreats. Our church has many retreats during the year. The family retreat, men's retreat, women's retreat, leadership retreat, college retreat, youth group retreat, etc. When I was single, these retreats were automatic to me. Now that I have a family, not so. We decided this year to not go to any of the retreats. Finances and a baby on the way were the main villains. Yet I still received a number of reactions bordering on shock.

For me, retreats have always been a "hope" for some kind of spiritual experience. That's because it's promised. What I get instead is sharing a "cabin" with ten snoring elephants. There are always some slobs who I need to share a toilet with while somebody else is in the shower using the last of the hot water. I have stage fright, so my body shuts down and I get constipated for the entire time. Motel 6 is roughing it for me, and I need porcelain and four sound-proof walls. The food is always tragic, and it sits in my gut for days. The food doesn't say much for Christians loving one another. I can't sleep. I'm up all night in a funk. All I can think about is when the next time I'll take a regular crap. There's always six two-hour teaching sessions from some pastor or seminarian from somewhere. Not much time for relaxing and enjoying time with others. It takes all week back at work to recover. So how far do we have to push personal sacrifice again?

Monday, March 12, 2007

The Real Reason for the High Price of Gas

Well, I don't know what the real reason is, because there are many reasons. But an interview tonight on the local news of an economist at UC Berkeley surprised me. Not what he said, but that it was on the news. His opinion was that refineries across the country were what he called "boutique" refineries. That is, they catered to the specialized formulas of gasoline used in each region of the country. The various environmental laws and regulations in each region necessitate unique gas. California has the most strict environmental laws in the country, and we have the most expensive gas.

But the reason for the relatively high prices is that there is no competition. We can't use somebody else's gas (this situation is forced upon us by law, of course) so supply is extremely limited, while demand remains the same. That results in high prices. Isn't it ironic that the same group of people who blame the oil companies for such high prices are the ones crying for greater regulation that result in higher prices? Well meaning ignorance and the law of unintended consequences always seem to go hand in hand. Indeed the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Fascinated with Baptism

Our five year old was fascinated with the baptism service today. Nine people were baptised, and he was so captivated by the idea (he was for our last baptisms) that he wanted to sit in the front row to watch. He has asked numerous questions about baptism. It's funny, but God says this in the Old Testament about the Passover. Do this, then when your children ask about it, you may tell them about what it really means.

It really works the way God says.


I set all our clocks back (or is it forward) for the new, improved Daylight Saving Time. I think it's forward. Spring forward, fall back. Okay. We've got a lot of clocks. In the kitchen there is the range clock and microwave clock. In the bedrooms, my wife has a clock radio, I have a digital alarm clock, the kids have a digital clock. Two DVD/VCR's. My 10 year company clock. Two cell phones. Printer/fax machine, computer. My wife has one in her car, I have two, the dash clock and a separate stereo clock. I count fifteen. There's probably more, I usually miss one or two.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Three's Company

My favorite beer, Guiness Stout. Ground pepper. My favorite Mexican hot sauce, Tapatio.

Friday, March 09, 2007

John MacArthur's Wine List

I came across a written outline of a sermon John MacArthur preached a number of years ago about alcohol in the life of the Christian. I heard this sermon on his radio program. In this sermon, he asks eight questions of his listeners in order for them to examine their own lives in light of the bible's teachings about alcohol. I've decided to answer these questions here.

Question #1: Is drinking wine today the same as in Bible times?

I don't know, I wasn't alive then. But if they enjoyed it as much as I do, then praise God.

Question #2: Is drinking wine necessary?

No, but it sure can be a blessing.

Question #3: Is drinking wine the best choice?

No, beer is.

Question #4: Is drinking wine habit forming?

It can be - for some people. It is for me. I have a habit of drinking one beer per day, plus or minus. A little wine (always red) here and there, too.

Question #5: Is drinking wine potentially destructive?

Yes, but so is reading the bible.

Question #6: Is my drinking wine offensive to other Christians?

I don't know, I've never been confronted by somebody who claimed to be offended. I'd hate to think that there are Christians out there who are harboring secret grudges against me for enjoying God's creation, which He pronounced "good," by the way.

Question #7: Will drinking wine harm my Christian testimony?

No, actually it has helped it fairly well.

Question #8: Am I absolutely certain drinking wine is right?

Yes. Hey, "absolutely" is a good word for this question!

Any more questions?

Daylight Wasting Time

To err is human. To really foul things up requires a computer. But to render unanswerable one of the most essential questions to the ability to live life, "What time is it?" requires a politician.

The Change of Daylight Saving Time fiasco is causing quite a bit of mental anguish out here in the real world. Computer people are scrambling to work their Microsoft patches and fixes into their computer systems to deal with the difference in time change. But if that weren't difficult enough, our office, being an international firm, has added difficulties. We have people who work both in time zones with and without Daylight Saving Time, and use the same software to coordinate meetings, etc, between these two groups. Some of the calendars will be changed, some won't. And these changes will affect the other group's perceived meeting times. It depends on who originally did the scheduling. Not only this, but everyday electronic devices have DST programmed into them, from VCR's to digital cameras to camcorders, ad infinitum. There are no patches for these items. I can't even begin to imagine the logistical nightmares faced by airlines and other time-sensitive industries that have already programmed the old DST into their lives.

The law of unintended consequences in this case just shows the reality that the pen is mightier than the sword. I don't know whether these politicians had any grasp of the destruction they would cause by this legislation. The same is true of all legislation. If they do grasp the gravity of their actions, then they are spiteful criminals. If they don't grasp it, then they are incompetent boobs. Either way, politicians are worthless. Far more daylight will be wasted trying to solve the problems caused by trying to save it than will be saved in the first place.

Experts Usually Aren't

Experts usually aren't. They're just good salesmen in their field.

My brother has spent his entire career in the auto industry, mostly working in shops that offer maintenance and tire sales. His area of specialization is in tires. Much of his time has been spent working for Goodyear franchises. Not surprisingly, he maintained that Goodyear tires are the best, and always offered technical evidence as to why. Even when he worked for independent shops that sold many brands of tires, he still believed in Goodyear. Well, guess what happened when one time he went to work for Firestone? Yeah. But in any case, I've always had good tires on my car.

Nothing against my brother, of course, but my whole point is that "experts" don't always agree. In fact they quite often don't agree. They are even rarely expert enough to prove that their way is the only way to view things, even though they claim so. An expert doesn't even agree with himself consistently on the same subject as time goes by, such as my brother who worked for Goodyear, then Firestone, then Goodyear again. Experts who spend their entire lives studying certain areas of life vehemently disagree on almost every topic there is. Take for example the arguments of public education versus home schooling. Or Catholic and Protestant theologians. Or baseball experts that can't agree on who the best pitcher was in the 60's.

Or global warming.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Just Like Goliath

Our two year old threw a rock and it hit our five year old square in the forehead. He cried, ran in the house to be comforted by Mrs. Scott, and wailed, "Just like Goliath!"

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

The Lure Of Democracy

In my last post, I gave a definition of politics: "Politics is the art and science of acquiring power in order to control other people and their property."

Because God is the creator and we are the creation, God has legitimate rule over us. All rebellion against God by man says, "God will not govern over man." Because authority doesn't happen in a vacuum, somebody has to replace God as authority over his human creatures. The only possibility is that man himself is now to rule over man. Man sees himself as God to rule the lessers. All throughout history, the few, the elite, have acquired power to rule other men. Whether monarchies, aristocracies, patriarchies, matriarchies, ecclesiocracies, military dictatorships, what have you, the very few have always been in control, while the masses are oppressed.

Democracy has sought to change all this. Democracy promises to wrench the ruling power from the elite and give it to the common man, but there is a catch. Democracy says, "Now, you, the common man, have the power of God to control other people and their property - provided you can persuade 51% of the people to agree with you." Marx had it partly correct when he said that religion was the opiate of the masses. In the West, Democracy is that religion.

Monday, March 05, 2007

A Definition of Politics

Politics is the art and science of acquiring power in order to control other people and their property.

Thursday, March 01, 2007


A few hours ago we experienced an earthquake, magnitude 4.2 on the Richter scale. It was a few miles down the raod and shook us up a bit. I was in the kitchen and Mrs. Scott was giving the kids a bath. Things fell off store shelves and people's walls near the epicenter.

Earthquakes are always a strange experience. Just before it hits, there is an almost sub-sonic sound that can both be heard and felt. It's kind of like a truck coming up the street, but not quite. When it hits, I ask myself two questions immediately. How big is this going to get and how long will it last? When the intensity doesn't increase beyond a certain level, I wonder, "is this one of those that starts out light, then increases to a major quake 20 seconds later?" The most bizarre of quakes is when there is uplifting motion. Those can lift a house a mere fraction of an inch up off its foundation, and there can be a huge crashing noise like a truck hitting your house. Tonight didn't get that serious, although there was an uplift motion.

The greatest quake I've ever experienced was the 7.1 San Francisco quake of 1989. I was at game 3 of the World Series when it hit. That was an unbelievable shaker. I was standing, and could see my feet sway back and forth under me 3 or 4 feet in each direction and it lasted almost a minute. Wild.