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Archive for July, 2010


The first half of the Red Sox’ 2010 season was not what we expected.  Yes, that is quite the understatement.

Ace Lefty Lester

This was a team built on pitching and defense.  Many people, excluding me, raised concerns about their offense.  No one would have predicted the struggles they have experienced with pitching and defense, or the incredible success they have experienced with their offense.  Their offense, along with Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz have kept them in contention.

It didn’t look that way out of the gate.  The Red Sox had a miserable April.  The starting pitching was a mess and Dice-K was on the DL.  Ortiz looked like Babe Ruth, just before retirement.  Adrian Beltre was on his way to crippling the outfield.  Ellsbury would collide with Beltre and has only played 9 games thus far.  We aren’t sure when he’ll be back.  Unlike his many injured team mates, Ellsbury has not been around to support the team.  No one is sure what the means, but some of the players, like Youkilis, are frustrated with his absence.  Cameron also tore an abdominal muscle and spent time on the DL in April and into May.  He has yet to feel right.

Their injuries were a huge hit defensively.  Their replacements are nowhere near the caliber of defensive players that Jacoby and Cameron are.  At times it was just plain ugly out there, and some blown plays cost the Red Sox victories.

Big Papi returned

But the starting pitching and David Ortiz both came around, prompting the Red Sox to play MUCH better.  Lester and Buchholz have been having Cy Young caliber seasons since April.  But the injuries just kept mounting.  Platoon outfielder Hermida also collided with Beltre and has been out with fractured ribs.  Although Hermida has a horrible batting average, he drove in runs.  And looked horrid in left field.   Daniel Nava and Darnell McDonald have gotten better out there, and filled in well at the plate.

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I’ve begun reading R. Scott Clark’s Recovering the Reformed Confession after someone recommended it to me.  I will confess that I am leery as I begin to open the pages.  While confessionally in agreement with the folks from Westminster West, I find I am not in agreement practically or theoretically.  In other words, we seem to differ on how to apply the theology we hold (mostly) in common.

But, I will attempt to give a fair reading to the book.  I hope I will not be unnecessarily critical.  I hope to remember what I wrote on a post-it note some years ago-

Discernment is recognizing both what is true and what is false.

Therefore, I will attempt to affirm that which is true as well as reject that which is false.  Or at least responding to that with which I disagree (since I am not the ultimate authority on what is true).

Clark begins with identifying the mainline, borderline and sideline denominations.  I am not sure why he calls some “sideline” but that’s not important now.  We are familiar with the mainline Reformed denominations (the PCUSA, RCA & UCC) which have largely squandered their theological heritage.  While there are surely some faithful congregations, as a whole they would appear to have become apostate as they begin denying essential orthodox doctrines.

He identifies the borderline denominations as the CRC and the EPC.  He (this was written in 2008, to be fair) identifies the CRC as moving toward the mainline and the EPC to be moving toward the sideline.  With a large number of former PCUSA churches entering the EPC since that time, I think they are shifting back to the mainline.  The recent approval of female pastors would be a case in point.

Clark right points out the confusion as to what “Reformed” actually means.  It now means nearly anything.  Some use it so narrowly as to identify their position on creation, law or music.  There is a great variety of practice among those churches taking the name Reformed.  There would also appear to be a great variety of theology among them.  I suspect he would disagree with me, but I think our theological system should be the same (therefore preferring the older term Particular Baptists to Reformed Baptists), but there is no need for uniformity of practice (which is what I am reading, fairly or unfairly, between the lines).

“It is the argument of this book that the Reformed confession is the only reasonable basis for a stable definition of the Reformed theology, piety and practice.”

I have no qualms with that.

He refers to Phillip Schaff’s (he of the 8 volume History of the Christian Church) inaugural address.  There he identifies rationalism and subjectivism as the 2 great diseases that threaten to kill the church, including the Reformed Heritage.

Rationalism results in the question to know all as God knows it.  They want to be right, to have absolute certainty  on matters about which Scripture is less than clear.  They do not distinguish between essential matters and matters for the well-being of the church.  All become equally important and you must toe the line.  This group would be the TRs (truly Reformed or thoroughly Reformed).  If you’ve had a bad experience with a Reformed person, it was probably one of these.

Subjectivism (or sectarianism) is the pursuit of the immediate experience of God apart from the appointed means of grace.  Where I suspect Clark and I may differ is the number of appointed means of grace.  But maybe I’m wrong.  Either way, these people place their emphasis on the emotional, the experiential.  They fail to see that Scripture guides our spiritual experience lest we have a counterfeit spiritual experience.

Clark notes how a growing number of younger people are beginning to embrace more traditional forms of worship.  The modernistic experiment of the boomers is insufficient for them.

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I moved to Arizona just about the time the Arizona Law was passed, much to the dismay of the media, Washington, Hollywood and some other people.  People can’t seem to distinguish between what a law states and what some immoral law enforcement might do   Regardless of what you think about this particular law, you have to admit we have a problem.

And part of the problem is Washington.  The President has apparently suggested to Sen. Kyl (Arizona) that any enforcement must wait until there is “comprehensive reform”.  Conservatives are typically in favor of reform.  The question, as usual, is the type of reform advocated.  We don’t need to repeat one of Reagan’s mistakes (yes, one of my favorite Presidents made mistakes).  Amnesty is a bad plan.

I’ve been thinking about this in my spare time.  Since no one in Washington seems to mention anything except amnesty or deporting everyone, here’s my take.

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No, it isn’t about the immigration issue.  It was Dual Citizens‘ subtitle that interested me: Worship and Life Between the Already and the Not Yet.  I eagerly anticipated the day when I could get a copy and begin reading.  That day come recently and I read much of it on the way back from General Assembly.

Let’s say the anticipation far exceeded the reality.  Jason Stellman is a former missionary who was associated with Calvary Chapel.  He has since discovered Reformed Theology, attended Westminster West and is now a PCA pastor in the Pacific NW.

The forward was written by Michael Horton.  The book reminds me of Horton’s earlier work.  Years ago I used to love Horton’s books.  Not so much anymore.  The problem is not that I have shifted theologically.  I found him to be reactionary and prone to over-correction.  That is how this book reads.

At times you can’t really be sure who he is reacting against.  Evangelicalism is too broad to say “evangelicalism”.  At times I wonder if it is his Calvary Chapel background, but sometimes it is the church growth movement and Rick Warren.  But the end result is a book that was more critical than instructional.  When he is instructive, the book is better.

I was hoping he would develop the reality of the already/not yet regarding worship and life.  He doesn’t really spend much time developing the idea of the already/not yet and how both under & over-realized eschatology plagues the church by distorting our expectations and practices.  That could have been a great book.

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… to yourself!

John Newton has become something of my own pastor these past few months as I’ve been reading The Letters of John Newton devotionally.  Every pastor needs a shepherd.  These days I’m finding I need John Newton.

Rev. William Howell was a very effective minister of an independent church who corresponded with Newton.  After many years of great effectiveness for the gospel, restoring a whole community, Howell struggled physically.  As a result, he was deeply depressed for quite some time.  Much of their correspondence was at this time.

What Newton lays out is the disconnect that can happen in the preacher’s (well, any Christian’s) heart.  We can preach one gospel to others, but a different one to ourselves.

“I am ready to take it for granted that you did not preach to your people such a scheme of the gospel as you seem to have proposed to yourself during your illness.  Did you ever try to persuade them that our Lord Jesus Christ could save little sinners and forgive little sins (if such there be), but that great sinners (like you), and scarlet sins (like yours), were beyond the limits of his power and mercy?”

In his depression, Howell began to believe that his sins were too big for Jesus.  How big is your Jesus?  Can he lift the burden of your sin from you, or does he need help?  Does your Jesus tell you that you need to help him by trying harder, doing better next time?  Then you’re listening to a quasi-Jesus, not the Jesus we find in Scripture.  He is big enough to remove the accursed load, to silence the law’s loud thunder and triumph over Satan, sin and death.

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I finally put my thoughts and impressions of the PCA General Assembly, comparing it with the ARP Synods I have attended.  I’ve been scanning reports from other denominational meetings.  While I may not be thoroughly pleased with the denominations I’ve worked with (why should I?) there are some that I would have a most difficult time.

The PC (USA) General Assembly has just gotten started.  And it was an interesting beginning to say the least.

The sermon and infant baptism focused on the future of the denomination – but not before the assemblage faced east, west, north and south while praying for the Holy Spirit to come and watching people in animal costumes march up the aisles and wander through the worship space.

Elder Fern Cloud of Dakota Presbytery led the call to worship at the Presbyterian Church (USA) General Assembly’s opening worship ceremony Sunday morning, which included interpretative dancing and four processions of flowing banners led by animals such as buffalo and eagle.

Reminiscent of the 2010 Winter Olympics opening ceremony in Vancouver, people dressed as skunks, rabbits and wolves paid homage to the area’s Native American heritage to the sound of a rhythmic drum beat and flute.

One hot issue for them (yet again) is the G.6, or The Fidelity and Chastity Standard for elected office in the denomination.  The female ruling elder who was elected moderator had this to say about the rule that required officers to either be faithfully married (heterosexual) or celibate if single:

“I have been a strong advocate of removing G-6.01016b (the fidelity and chastity standard for elected officers) from the Book of Order. I think it is a stain on the Gospel. I think it does not carry out the inclusivity that we need. And as a lawyer I think it’s pragmatically stupid because it means that we lose many faithful and committed people just because of their sexual orientation.”

A stain on the gospel?  Didn’t Jesus have something to say about adultery and porneia?  They stain the gospel, not fidelity and chastity.  This may finally be the year that the PC (USA), which has half the members it did when I was born, goes down the same road that the Episcopal Church (US) did.  They’ve been trying for years- it is important to be cutting edge you know.  With the floodgates open, the moral conservatives have largely departed.

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Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling by Andy Crouch was one of the hot books of 2008.  It has endorsements from such people as Lauren Winner, Richard Mouw, Tim Keller and James Emery White.  As such, it is not a book for a narrow group of people but is respected by a broad spectrum of Christian leaders.  As a result, I was looking forward to reading the book as I worked through Genesis.

I was not disappointed.  I expected an interesting, challenging read.  As far as specifics, I was not sure what to expect.  It did not go in some directions I had hoped, but took me in directions I probably needed to go.

One of the main things that Crouch does is look at the cultural import of Scripture.  This takes up much of the book.  He develops the way in which Scripture traces major developments in Scripture, and how culture affects the people in Scripture.  Scripture places us in a variety of cultures (ancient Canaan, Egypt, ancient Israel, Babylon, post-exilic Jerusalem and Galilee, etc.).

Crouch begins at the beginning- how the Scriptural account of creation is very different from the myths of other cultures.  There, we find the importance of structure for creativity.  Structure creates regularity without which no creativity can happen.  There must be some type of predictability for us to manipulate creation in order to display creativity.  Too much structure though stifles creativity.

“Culture is the realm of human freedom- its constraints and impossibilities are the boundaries within which we can create and innovate.”

He lays out some of the common questions regarding culture, and a few I hadn’t thought about before.

  1. What does this cultural artifact assume about the way the world is?
  2. What does this cultural artifact assume about the way the world should be?
  3. What does this cultural artifact make possible?
  4. What does this cultural artifact make impossible (or at least very different)?
  5. What new forms of culture are created in response to this artifact?

Questions 3 & 4 address the horizons of the possible and impossible in a culture.  This was some of the new material that I had not really pondered before.

“Family is culture at its smallest- and its most powerful!”

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