Archive for the ‘History’ Category

I’ve been wanting to read Marcus Luttrell’s book Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of Seal Team 10 since hearing Marcus talk about it on the Glenn Beck show one day while doing hospital visitation.  It is a moving, and powerful story that I enjoyed greatly.  I recommend people read it to gain a better understanding of how crazy our Rules of Engagement are.  This is the underlying message of Marcus’ account.

For those who don’t know what I’m talking about: Operation Redwing was an attempt to capture or kill a high ranking Taliban leader in the mountains of Afghanistan in 2005.  A Seal team of 4 men were dropped into the mountains to locate and attempt to capture him.  They were discovered by some goat herders.  Militarily, you can’t be sure they are not connected with the Taliban and make your presence known so that a much larger force drops on you like a ton of bricks.  With the strange ROE in this War on Terror- terrorists don’t wear uniforms, and may not be holding a rifle- they knew they could face criminal charges while at least being crucified in the press if they killed the goat herders.  They set them free … and only Marcus lived to regret it.  These 4 men took on 150-200+ Taliban soldiers for 90-120 minutes.  Seal Team 10 and a Rapid Response team answered their call of distress, but the helicopter was shot down and all were killed.  Badly wounded, Marcus was able to escape until finally taken in by a village elder who swore to protect him.

It was a very good book and interesting read, but here is what I’d change (as if anyone cared):

  • Move the material about ROE and the press to a separate chapter.  Since it is interspersed as part of the narrative, it loses some of its rhetorical power to more of a soap box feel.
  • Double check the material on the training.  I was confused with varying accounts of how many guys dropped out when and how long various things took place.  I thought they might be errors, but I’m not sure.

This does not diminish what Marcus is doing here.  It is a book that needs to be written, and read.  Prior to getting to the ill fated mission you hear about Marcus’ background and how he and his twin brother were preparing to become Seals even as a teens.  You gain a better understanding of how difficult it is to become a Seal- the most elite fighting force in the world.  And you learn about how the press bungled the post-battle coverage.  You learn about the mammoth vigil that took place spontaneously at his parents’ ranch, and the generosity of so many fellow Texans.

In describing the battle itself, I wondered if this Texan was telling some tall tales.  It just seemed incredible to read what these 4 men did, and persevered despite serious injuries.  But it all makes sense when you take into account their training which identifies and selects men who can’t give up.  Their bravery and perseverance humbles me.  If you have half a heart, you too will weep when he is finally rescued, says ‘goodbye’ to his friends and comrades in arms, and is reunited with his distraught family.  You also get a taste of Seal culture, for better or worse (yes, lots of bad language and what I would consider blaspheme from the mouths of men who are Christians).  But you also gain a better understanding of how politics and the mainstream media make the task we ask these soldiers to perform most difficult, put their safety and our in unnecessary jeopardy.

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CavWife and I finally watched Amazing Grace, the biopic on William Wilberforce.  We suffered from some laser issues at times- the in-laws’ DVD player is in decline- which affected our ability to both enjoy it and follow the story line, at times.

I know a bit about Wilberforce, having read one of his books and read a short biography on him.  In preparing a lesson on the slave trade I did some more research on him.  As a result, I was more familiar with him than the other people in the room.  As a result, I was able to fill in some of the gaps in the story line.  The movie clocks in at a hair under 2 hours and it could have easily been longer.  There were some things I wish were in the movie, which focused on his romance/marriage and lengthy battle in Parliament to abolish the slave trade.  It is difficult to tell the story of such a long period of time in a meaningful way in 2 hours or less.

Most of the movie takes place when he meets the woman who will become his wife.  He tells her of how he became involved in the political battle.  The movie follows along to eventual victory.  The time shifts mean you have to pay close attention since Wilburforce doesn’t seem to change much physically.  John Newton, played well by Albert Finney, and the troublesome Clarkson do undergo some physical changes providing clues if you miss the message.

I am a great sinner.  Christ is a great Savior.

"I am a great sinner. Christ is a great Savior."

The movie clearly portrays his evangelical moorings, but doesn’t dwell on them in a way that would make a non-Christian too uncomfortable.  I particularly liked the quick scene with his butler.  Wilberforce explains some strange behavior on God.  “You’ve found God.”  “More like I’ve been found by God.”  I’m not sure about the exact wording, but it reflects the wording of his mentor’s song- “I once was lost, but now I’m found.”  But the movie does not cover his conversion- which was a fairly lengthy process so that is understandable- or that his faith was the impetus and sustaining force in the fight against the slave trade.

One disappointment was the scene in which his best friend died.  His friend lamented that he didn’t have William’s faith.  Wilburforce left it at that rather than offering the promises of the gospel to him.

The movie makes some quick mention of some of his other accomplishments, such as found the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.  This too flowed out of his faith.  He saw Christianity as not less, but more than his personal conversion.  His understanding of Christianity was that God transforms us, and society through us.  Wilburforce was so active in living out this vision that his health did suffer greatly.

... no longer belong to God, but belong to man...

... no longer belong to God, but belong to man...

The film does a good job of telling people about part of this great man’s life.  It is a fairly low budget film.  That it is a period piece helps it to feel like something you might see as a mini-series on PBS.  But I wasn’t looking for style points.

It is sad that most people don’t know about this man, and his lengthy struggle to see the slave trade come to an end, and soon thereafter slavery itself.

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This movie won’t be everybody’s cup of tea.  Charlie Wilson was not a very upright guy.  He was conservative in his politics, and liberal in his personal ethics.  Okay, he was a womanizer, and some of those scenes display breasts and Tom Hanks aging buttocks (I don’t think they used a body double on that one).  He has a long term affair with a rich “Christian” lady, and was accused of using drugs during an investigation by Rudy Guliani.  There are enough F-bombs dropped to make a young Eddie Murphy uncomfortable.

Yet … it has a quirky sense of humor that I found hilarious (CavWife, not so much).  I really appreciated the interplay between Hanks and Hoffman.  Philip Seymour Hoffman was just plain over the top in his role as Gus, an old school CIA guy who is on the outs with the new (Carter era) regime).

Useless Rabbit Trails: At one point I wondered aloud about one character- She really reminds me of Amy Adams.  Good reason, it was Amy Adams.  CavWife was astounded at Julia Roberts’ daring bikini scene- daring because she was like 4 months pregnant at the time.  But she didn’t look 4 months pregnant, or even pregnant.

Back to the Real Deal: And it had a message need to heed, regardless of whether or not you think we should have gone into Iraq in the first place.  Charlie Wilson was able to sell the Afghan War as a great opportunity to “kill Russians” and further the cause of the Cold War.  He was the right guy in the right place at the right time to increase the funding necessary to help Afghanistan defend themselves from the USSR.  You also see that some of interest was generated from the humanitarian angle.  Wilson was won over after a trip to a refugee camp.  And so were other key people.

After the war, and subsequent fall of the USSR, Charlie Wilson tried to do the right thing: rebuild Afghanistan.  But he could get no money for schools, much less roads.  So, we helped destroy Afghanistan but left them to rebuild.  As he noted, there would be no NY Times to remind them that we had helped them defeat the USSR (actually, would the NY Times tell us that?).  With a population in which 50% of the people were under 14, they sorely needed education and attention from us.  But they didn’t, and the Taliban turned their hearts against us.  As the movie ends, there is an earthy quote from Charlie Wilson to the effect that we screwed up the end game.

And this is what some want us to do in Iraq- screw up the end game.  I’m not excited about dumping lots of money into Iraq.  But history teaches us that if we don’t try to help them, the next generation will be turned against us- not for removing Sadaam, but for not finishing the job.

I thought this an odd message from Hollywood.  I agree with the message, I was just surprised to hear it coming from  that source.

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The rather lengthy Gods and Generals (216 minutes) is part of an even lengthier trilogy of films about the Civil War (aka the War Between the States and the War of Northern Aggression, depending on where you went to school).  This first installment focuses on the life and role of Stonewall Jackson.  It concludes 2 months prior to the battle of Gettysburg with his death after taking friendly fire.

It focuses primarily on the Southern perspective of the war, though Lt. Colonel Chamberlain (Jeff Daniels) provides a brief glimpse of a Northern perspective- and a far more philosophical one.  The Southern perspective was that the North sought to violate their land and oppress them.  Jackson’s allegience was to the State of Virginia, and what she decided he would do.  They neglect to mention anything about the initial aggression of the Confederates at Fort Sumter.  They think the Republicans as war profiteers, and Abraham Lincoln as a war monger who seeks to disrupt their civil, gentle lives.

Very surprising was an exchange between Jackson and his cook, a free African-American, after they prayed.  Mr. Lewis prayed for the freedom of the rest of his family.  Gen. Jackson told him many Conferate leaders wanted the slaves freed.  Hmmm.  So which state right were they fighting for?  Wasn’t it the right to maintain the enslavement of others?  The cook could see the contradiction.  The cook could see the gap in Stonewall Jackson’s piety.  But Stonewall couldn’t see it.

Chamberlain expressed these very sentiments.  The South saw itself as fighting a second war of independence.  But that freedom was limited to white citizens, what people like President Lincoln where trying to change.

Chamberlain talked about God periodically, but there was not glimpse into his personal piety.  Jackson would pray at the drop of a hat.  He had a very warm piety- but the acting of those scenes seemed outside the realm of my experience.  I just have to wonder if the writers and director were people of faith- because the way it was written & directed made it feel foreign to them.  Like a white guy trying to be black- it just doesn’t work.

The movie had 3 lengthy battle scenes: the battles of Manassas, Fredericksburg and Chancelorsville.  They were not gory.  You certainly got the impression that the Union leaders had no concern for their men.  In battle men will die, but you should implement a strategy that gains victory at minimal cost of life.  They would march their men into strongly fortified killing fields.  God shall hold them accountable too.

If you are interested in a movie about the Civil War, there are better.  This was long, laborious and leaned toward propoganda.  I had to watch it in 3 sittings, and though some scenes were quite touching, overall it seemed too much like Gone with the Wind with flowerly language and bold statements.  Having said all that, I may now be forced to return north of the Mason-Dixon line.

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Memorial Day

We sleep soundly in our beds because rough men stand ready to visit violence on those who would do us harm. –  Winston Churchill

Thanks to all those who have served our country with honor & courage in times of war & peace.  I know that peace doesn’t come without a price, and that some are willing to pay that price since some of us would make really lousy soldiers.

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This will be my final post on Revival & Revivalism, I think.  Although this is a very long book, clocking in at about 400 pages, it is a very good book that blends historical narrative and theology to tell the story of a major shift in American Evangelicalism.  It was more than a pragmatic shift, but a theological shift.  Iain Murray also notes some of the cultural shifts that paved the way for the other shifts.  Christianity is not isolated from the surrounding culture, but often begins to echo it, sometimes in very negative ways.

In the 12th chapter Murray follows the Baptists in Transition.  Their experience was quite different from that of the Presbyterians and Methodists.  The Presbyterians experienced some difficulties and conflict with the new measures and new theology.  But many of those for the new measures and theology ended up leaving for a less confessional expression of the church.  The Methodists easily embraced the new measures and didn’t agree with the old theology from the get go.  The Baptists prior to this time were largely Calvinistic.  This transition left Baptists in America largely Arminian and often supportive of the new measures popularized by Finney.

One of the things that struck me about the early American Baptists was there “catholicity of spirit”.  They emphasized common ground with other Christians, rather than the differences.  Murray notes that a Presbyterian minister preached at Richard Furman’s funeral, and no one batted an eye.  Or that J.P. Boyce wasn’t attacked for calling the Westminster Confession “our confession”.

The thing that shouldn’t surprise any of us is that they arguments used against Calvinism then are the same as those used to argue against the resurgence of Calvinism in the SBC today.

1. Calvinism and Hyper-Calvinism were confused and considered as one.

2. Calvinism was viewed something that stifled evangelism and revival.

The first is a sign of either ignorance or an uncharitable spirit.  The ‘strawman’ argument is unloving to the brother with whom you disagree.  The second argument is clearly disproved by history, as Murray repeately shows in his book.

With regard to the new measures, the conflict was not regarding the use of means, but which means.  The old theology, largely Calvinistic, argued that God appointed the means to evangelism and revival in His Word.  We are to use those means and trust Him to fulfill His purposes in our generation.  The effectiveness of those means is under His control, not our.  The new theology, supporting the new measures, placed the efficacy of means under our control, not His.  The new measures also used new means that are not mandated by Scripture.  There is nothing inherently wrong with many of those practices, but to mandate them, or use them as the signposts of revival is wrong.  To rely on them rather than God to produce revival (or treat them like magic, God will send it if we do these things) is wrong.

These new measures led to some other new practices from which Baptistic groups like the SBC today have been unable to entangle themselves despite the best efforts of their Calvinistic contingent.  They took a low view of membership, often baptizing people immediately upon walking the aisle.  People were not well instructed and examined to see the validity of their profession of faith.  Many soon wandered away after the excitment was gone.  It is not uncommon today to find SBC churches (and some Presbyterian churches too, to be fair) with rolls that far exceed attendence.  Low expectations of membership runs rampant today.  These are human problems, not Baptist problems.  But they find a welcome home in many Baptist churches because of this transition in both theology and practice.

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Iain Murray traces the development of Revivalism in Revival & Revivalism: The Making and Marring of American Evangelicalism.  Three factors are most important in the development of revivalism as distinct from revival: the Kentucky revivals, Dr. Nathaniel Taylor and Charles Finney.

The story begins in Kentucky during the revivals during the Second Great Awakening (early 1800s).  There were physical phenomena in previous revivals, but in Kentucky they seemed to take on a life of their own.  Previously, wise pastors put the emphasis on the proclamation of truth.  Most of the revivals took place among Calvinists, so there was an emphasis on doctrine influencing practice.  In Kentucky, the Presbyterians, Baptists and Methodists would join together for camp meetings.  They would celebrate communion, and people would hear a number of sermons.  The camps grew so large, you could have multiple sermons being preached at the same time.  When physical manifestations popped up, some of the pastors began to encourage them rather than restrain them.

By and large the Methodists encouraged the physical manifestations.  The Presbyterians were split over them.  What ended up happening is that those who supported and encouraged these physical manifestations soon began to preach against Calvinism as anti-revival and unbiblical.  They were anti-doctrine in general, and loathed Reformed Theology in particular.  Francis Asbury was one of the leaders in this new attack on Calvinism here in America.  He was one of the people who began to institutionalize the camp meetings.  He thought certain practices produced certain results.  The physical manifestations became necessary elements of revival, which was a new development.  This is a sad development, in part, because American Presbyterians had often assisted the fledgling Methodists.  This was clearly a knife in the back.

At the new Yale Divinity School, Dr. Taylor began his assault on Calvinism.  He rejected the doctrine of depravity.  He began to popularize Grotius’ governmental theory of the atonement.


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The first article of the U.S. Constitution concerns the Legislative Branch.  All legislative powers are established in the Congress, and may not be delegated to others.  This means that the Executive and Judical branches may not make laws.  The Executive Branch may suggest laws, but primarily enforces laws.  The Judicial Branch interprets laws, and applies them to specific cases heard before them.

The Congress is composed of the House of Representatives and the Senate.  The number of Representatives is based on a census to be taken every 10 years, and you may have one representative in the House  for every 30,000 citizens (clause 3).  Initially, a direct tax was placed on states in proportion to the number of citizens.  The 16th Amendment eliminated this in favor of an Income Tax.

Impeachment begins in the House of Representatives which determines what is an impeachable offense, and whether grounds for impeachment exist.  The Senate tries the impeachment.  An impeached person may be removed from governmental office, and is still liable to be charged in either civil or criminal court.  2/3 of the members present must find the accused officer guilty.

The speech of Representatives and Senators during debate is protected from legal action outside of the Congress (Section 6).  Congress may discipline its members for speaking slander, for instance.  But one Senator may not take another to civil court.  This is intended to protect their rights to argue their side of the case without fear of legal action.

Section 7 covers bills.  If a law is passed by the House and Senate, it must then be approved by the President.  If vetoed, he noted objections are brought to the body that originated the Bill.  If 2/3 vote to approve said bill, it passes to the other body.  If 2/3 of that body approves the Bill, it becomes law.  This provides a check on the legislature, so bare majorities may not tyrannize the populace.  All revenue bills are to originate in the House, though the Senate may propose amendments (those dreaded earmarks).

Here are the powers of Congress:


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No, I have not yet read this one.  Lots of people are.  I see it on people’s blogs.  Some rave about it, and others are less enthralled.  Peter Jones has a good critical review of Pagan Christianity at Reformation 21.  What seems to be the problem with the book?

First, Peter mentions that the book does not seek to explain paganism proper.  Viola seems to use it merely to describe a non-Christian influence that is to blame for everything he doesn’t like about the “modern” church in the West.

 “This unexamined term is used as a whip to drive out of the present temple all the money-changers and their godless activities. In addition to “dressing up for church” and Sunday School (“swelling the cranium” 199), such pagan activities include: the notion of a “personal savior” (190); the liturgy (even the hymn-prayer-hymn sandwich); the sermon, the ordained, salaried ministry or “pastoral office” (136); robes; youth pastors; elder directed communities; baptism; the Lord’s supper (“a strange pagan-like rite”197); taking an offering and tithing; denominations; Bible Colleges and seminaries; instruments; hymns and church buildings, and choirs. For its all-knowing pretentiousness, one statement is mind-boggling. (Alas, it characterizes so many of Viola’s generalizations.) Dismissing the place of the sermon in Christian worship, Viola reveals: “…the truth is that the contemporary sermon preached every week…is often impractical…[and] has little power to equip God’s people for spiritual service and functioning” (98-99). He also “knows” that “the Sunday morning service is shamefully boring” (76). How does he know? If these judgments have Barna polling data to support them, they are not mentioned!”

Second, Viola’s book is yet another that traces all the problems to the church back to Constantine making Christianity a legitimate religion.  Okay, it isn’t quite that reductionistic.  But it sounds like all those books that only talk about what is wrong with America (similar to Obama following the stichk of many college professors).  It flattens out reality.  I went through that phase briefly after the Iran-Contra scandal (I was disillusioned by the end of Reagan’s 2nd term).  What happens is you only see what is wrong, and don’t acknowledge what is right.  Yes, Americans have done some horrendous things.  But we hardly have a market on that.  And Americans have done some fantastic things (and are currently doing them in places like Africa).


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Her hair points to the sky, the place she wants to be.

Sorry, ripped that off from a lyric on Daniel Amos’ Vox Humana album.  A fine mid-80’s piece of work that was. 

It was a long weekend, made longer by a stomach bug.  CavDaughter suffered with it most of last week.  CavSon seems to be immune thus far.  I started symptoms on Saturday.  By God’s sheer grace, I had a remission while fufilling my pulpit supply duties making me think it was done.

I filled the pulpit at the congregation where we currently worship.  They let me have an office, so I have a key.  This was their Family Camp weekend, so a large portion of the congregation was enduring the odd weather this weekend (tons of rain & a tornado warning Friday night, very breezy & cool Saturday, and downright chilly Sunday morning) as well as the ever-glorious time change.  I don’t sleep well camping, and that would have thrown me over the edge.  As it was I slept horribly this weekend.  But I digress.

So… the pulpit supply was the guy who essentially opened the facility.  The guy who runs the Power Point was sick, so I quickly figured it out and trained one of the elders to use it.  I discovered they wanted me to do the pastoral prayer just before the worship service.  As the opening song began, the people were looking quite sparse- lots of empty room.  By the time the song was done, the sanctuary filled up nicely.  The service went pretty well (here’s the sermon).  Next thing I know, I’m the guy who is locking up too. 

About an hour after heading home, I knew I was in trouble.  CavWife went to Blockbuster to get some “chick flicks” and we ended up watching Rush Hour 3.  Don’t waste your time or money on that dog.  If I went back to see the credits it must have had either a 12 year-old or 4 Alzheimer patients writing it because it was uneven and only sparsely funny.  Not enjoyable at all.

So after the kids went to bed we sat on the couch and watched some of The King of Queens, season 3.  Sometimes you just have to laugh.  And there were more laughs per episode than in the entire RH 3.

Over the weekend I started reading Revival and Revivalism by Iain Murray (so far very interesting) and an early biography of U2 called The Unforgettable Fire.  That has some interesting background on Dublin for us Yanks.  Hopefully I’ll be good enough to go fishin’ with the bros-in-law Tuesday, stupid picture or 2 sure to follow.

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Introducing Dr. Probst

In 3 months long-time CavFriend (roommate, co-leader of a Bible study, co-missionary and world traveler in our single days) & groomsman Chris Probst will have Ph.D. tacked on to the end of his name.  He and his wife Rachel have been in London the past few years while Chris worked on his doctorate in history at the University of London.  His dissertation was about the Luther, his writings on Jews and their contribution to anti-semetism. 

Mr. Probst took his “viva” and passed!  A few minor  changes to the dissertation and the dude be a doctor.  I’m proud of my friend for his perseverence (a Ph.D. is lots of sweat equity), and am sure he’ll make a great professor as soon as someone gets wise enough to give this guy a teaching job.  It sure will be nice to call him for free again.  God has been very, very good to him.  “Our little boy’s all growns up, growns up, growns up!”

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I began reading Spurgeon v. Hyper-Calvinism: the Battle for Gospel Preaching yesterday.  Just the introductary material to give some background on Spurgeon.  Here are a few things to chew on.

“We are only at the beginning of an era of mingled unbelief and fanaticism.  The hurricane is coming.  Men have ceased to be  guided by the word, and claim to be themselves prophets.”

“Let us hold fast, tenaciously, doggedly, with a death grip, to the truth of the inspiration of God’s Word … Everything in the railway service depends upon the accuracy of the signals: when these are wrong, life will be sacrificed.  On the road to heaven we need unerring signals, or the catastrophe will be far more terrible.”

“The only real argument against the Bible is an unholy life.  When a man argues against the Word of God, follow him home and see if you can discover the reason of his enmity to the Word of the Lord.  It lies in some form of sin.”

Referring to the doctrinal battles he fought (and believed he needed to fight) “The fight is killing me.”  Like Paul he contended for the faith once delivered to the saints though he paid a great personal cost.

“”The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul”; nothing else but the living Word of God will convince, convert, renew and sanctify.  He has promised that this shall not return to Him void; but He has made no such promise to the wisdom of men, or the excellency of human speech.  The Spirit of God works with the Word of God … All his paths drop fatness; but man’s paths are barrenness.”

“If we are to obtain a revival we must go directly to the Holy Ghost for it, and not resort to the machinery of the professional revival-maker.”  These were not the words of a bitter man, but one who was used greatly during the great London revival of 1859.

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While reading Crichton’s The Great Train Robbery, I was amused to discover the work conditions for the clerks of the bank which held the gold prior to shipment.  Here are the “Rules for Office Staff” posted in 1854:

1. Godliness, cleanliness and punctuality are the necessities of a good business.

2. The firm has reduced the working day to the hours from 8:30 am to 7 pm.

3. Daily prayers will be held each morning in the main office.  The clerical staff will be present.

4. Clothing will be of a sober nature.  The clerical staff will not disport themselves in a raiment of bright color.


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Considering Crime

I’ve been reading The Great Train Robbery by Michael Crichton.  In the Introduction, he mentions that serious academic inquiry about crime began in the 1870’s.  What he found the experts to say bears repeating, since we often hear contrary statements made.

“First, crime is not a consequence of poverty.  In the words of Barnes and Teeters (1949), “Most offenses are committed through greed, not need.”

“Second, criminals are not limited in intelligence, and it is probable that the reverse is true.  Studies of prison populations show that inmates equal the general public in intelligence tests- and yet prisoners represent that fraction of lawbreakers who are caught.

“Third, the vast majority of criminal activity goes unpunished.  This is inherently a speculative question, but some authorities argue that only 3 to 5 percent of all crimes are reported; and of reported crimes, only 15 to 20 percent are ever ‘solved’ in the usual sense of the word.  This is true of even the most serious offenses, such as murder.  Most police pathologists laugh at the idea that ‘murder will out.’

“Similarly, criminologists dispute the traditional view that ‘crime does not pay.’  As early as 1877, an American prison investigator, Richard Dugdale, concluded that “we must dispossess ourselves of the idea that crime does not pay.  In reality, it does.”  Ten years later, the Italian criminologist Colajanni went a step further, arguing that on the whole crime pays better than honest labor.  By 1949, Barnes and Teeters stated flatly, “It is primarily the moralist who still believes that crime does not pay.”‘

Lies make us feel better- as if we just have to educate people better- and have led to many a failed social program as a result.  These lies also rob criminals of personal responsibility, and they pretty much like blaming other people.

Pretty interesting intro to the story of one of the ‘great’ crimes of all time.

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Boston.com decided to post the numbers for some of the greatest seasons in Boston Sports History.  The reason?  The potential record-breaking seasons by Tom Brady and Randy Moss.

Tom Brady: 45 touchdowns (a mere 5 interceptions) with 3 games to get 5 TDs to set a new record.  If he gets 1,000 more yards, he will break Marino’s record of 5,084.

Randy Moss needs 4 TD receptions in 3 games to break Jerry Rice’s record of 22.

Big Papi: from 2004-2006 he averaged .295, 47.3 homeruns, 141.3 RBIs, and 109.3 runs scored.

Pedro Martinez: in 1999 he was 23-4, 2.07 ERA, 313 Ks (only 37 walks), 5 complete games, and a gutsy relief performance against the Indians in the playoffs.  In 2000 he was only 18-6 but with a 1.74 ERA.

Roger Clemens: in 1986 he was 24-4 with a 2.48 ERA, 238 Ks to win the MVP and Cy Young awards in the AL

Larry Bird: from 1983-1986 Bird averaged 26.2 ppg, 9.6 rpg and shot 50.9% from the field.  Not bad for a small forward!  The Celtics went to the NBA Finals each year, and won in ’84 & ’86.  He picked up 3 straight MVP awards.


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When Nations Die- America on the Brink: Ten Warning Signs of a Culture in Crisis by Jim Nelson Black was written published in 1994, near the beginning of the Clinton Presidency.  That is a bit important.  But I think the cover says it all.

Black uses the research of others to identify the common factors in the demise of the great empires in history.  This is something we should be aware of, and they are:

Increased Lawlessness

Loss of Economic Discipline (both personal and corporate)


Decline of Education

Weakening of Cultural Foundations

Disregarding of Tradition

Materialistic Mindset

Immorality run amuck

Destruction of (traditional) Religious Beliefs

Devaluing of Human Life


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My post on Lovelace’s Dynamics of Spiritual Life concerning Continuous Renewal, there is a chart that includes the secondary elements of renewal: mission, prayer, community, disenculturation, and theological integration.  The 5th chapter concerning these elements is quite long (between sermon prep and the Red Sox games, it took awhile), but quite helpful.  He mentions how these are interactive elements: mission depends on prayer; prayer and mission take place in community; disenculturation greatly affects our prayers and mission, as does our theological integration or lack thereof.

I found his section on disenculturation quite helpful as he traces this concept biblically and through church history.  I am currently reading Leviticus, and his discussion is helpful in placing it in redemptive history.  He calls it a protective enculturation.

“Since the full benefits of union with Christ were not available under the Old Covenant, it was necessary for God to build around Israel a wall of protective enculturation formed by welding together the Jewish culture with its religious core. …

“This cultus served as a tutor to bring them into readiness for the coming Messiah (Gal. 3:24).  It was protective, but it was also restrictive of the flesh.  This restriction aroused sin and made it visible, producing guilt which drove the believer to the sacrificial system which pointed toward the coming Lamb of God.”

Things like the section on clean & unclean food in Leviticus (which I read yesterday) was preparative as well.  “The objects among which they discriminated were morally indifferent from a New Testament perspective, but the constant acts of choice they had to make between clean and unclean items was a kind of game preparation for the serious business of discriminating between the holy and unholy which is part of a walk in the Holy Spirit.”


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I just finished the first chapter of Richard Lovelace’s Dynamics of Spiritual Life.  Lovelace has been influential on guys like Tim Keller and Jack Miller.  The rather lengthy and dense first chapter traces the history of revivals and renewal.  He is looking to see the common threads in history before moving into the biblical patterns.  He leans heavily on Jonathan Edwards’ works in this area during the First Great Awakening.  Here are some nuggets, and thoughts of mine in response.

From the preface:  (A.W. Boehm) “dismissed much activity in the church as a lifeless product of human conditioning.”  I never cease to be surprised at how complicated, and time-consuming, we have made church.  God intended it to be one of the threads in our lives.  It is the God-ordained community for evangelism, missions, spiritual development and worship.  But we have created churches that keep us (or distract us) from our mission in the world (vocation, family, and more) to maintain complex systems.  I think we are missing something here.


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Review: Breach

This is the story of the final investigation that bagged the most infamous spy in modern U.S. history.  Chris Cooper does a great job as the man under scrutiny.  The screenplay and directing allow you to build a strange sort of affinity with him.  I found his sarcasm delightful.  I distracted CavWife a bit in this regard.  But he never seems quite right.  He is able to compartamentalize.  He seems a devout Catholic, concerned for the spiritual welfare of his new clerk, who was sent to investigate him.  But there is a deeply dark side of him that is slowly revealed.

Ryan Phillippe plays the clerk, hoping to make FBI agent as a result of this investigation.  The story is just as much about him, particularly his relationship with his wife.  The things he must hide, and the “creepy boss” begin to come between them.  As first he is overwhelmed by his boss, but soon finds his bearings and is up to the task.

It is suspenseful, and full of intrigue.  As mentioned, I found it funny in an off-beat sort of way.  Don’t expect shootouts, murders and the like.  The PG-13 is for some language and a quick, black & white nipple shot.

CavWife and I give it two thumbs up.

I forgot about Laura Linney.  She plays the Special Agent leading the undercover investigation.  She struck me as Helen Hunt on steroids.  Her vocal patters are very much like Helen’s in this movie, but she is so much more intense than Helen. 

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In the church history class I teach to teens, I’ll be talking about Jonathan Edwards and revival.  Sadly, the book we are using doesn’t mention him except in passing.  But here is my outline of his life & work.   I’ll summarize some lessons below.

 jonathan-edwards.jpgJonathan Edwards

         Born October 5, 1703

         1726: moved to Northampton, MA to become an Associate pastor under his grandfather, Solomon Stoddard.

         1727: marries 17-year old Sarah Pierpont, who he respected for her piety.

         February 1729: Stoddard dies, and Edwards becomes the Senior Pastor.

         At the time, the younger generations were disinterested in Jesus & church.

         1734-35: Edwards preaches on “justification”.  Tragedies strike the people.

         December 1734: 7 people are dramatically converted triggering great changes.

         Families were reconciled; worship was enthusiastic.  300 professed new faith.

         Rev. Davenport criticized their ‘enthusiasm’ as signs of false religion.

         Edwards wrote A Narrative of Surprising Conversions & The Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God.

         Scripture is silent on such physical manifestations; therefore they are inconclusive.

         The presence of excess does not prove people are not Christians.


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