July 28, 2006

Friday Morning Musings

I'm supposed to be headed to work.

All this week, I've been hard at work at my new job. I'm a vendor rep, working in the Hardware departments of three different Lowes stores in Columbus. I get there at 7, and I leave at about 3:30 or so. The length of my drive means that I'm dead tired when I get home, and that's why I haven't been blogging lately. I normally leave the house at about 5 am.

But this morning, the car won't start. At all.

So at about 8 or so, I get to call the towing company and have the car towed to the garage where it will be fixed. And since I'm up, I hit the Internet, looking for blog-worthy topics.

And I found a few:

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July 20, 2006

Reviews Coming Soon!

Just to tantalize a bit, these are the books I'm going to be reviewing in the next few weeks/months:

  • The Message of the Old Testament by Mark Dever. This is a huge book, but I'm looking forward to digging in.

  • Triumphant Christianity by Martin Lloyd-Jones. Part 5 of his "Studies in the Book of Acts" series. Now I just have to buy the other four!!

  • Numbers: God's Presence in the Wilderness by Iain M. Duguid. Part of the "Preaching the Word" series -- which I also will probably have to have.

  • No One Like Him: The Doctrine of God by John S. Feinberg. Another huge book, but this one looks like it will be fascinating.

Since I've been on a somewhat enforced absence from Southern (you kinda need money to go to school there, you know!), my theological reading has been a bit lax. I've read a lot of computer/web design books (thanks to the folks at O'Reilly really liking my reviews) and some mystery (Maisie Dobbs especially). I have never actually stopped reading, but my reading list hasn't been what you would call intellectually challenging -- even though the books I've been reading have been awesome. I'm looking forward to digging into some more scholarly fare, secure in the knowledge that I have Season 3 of Superman: The Animated Series on DVD to review.

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July 14, 2006

On Baptism: Round Three

I've been giving a lot of study lately to ecclesiology. When I started seminary, I focused a lot on historical theology -- the development of doctrine, especially as it was impacted by history and had an impact on history. I'd planned on teaching church history and historical theology at a seminary, after getting my M.Div and my Ph.D in fairly rapid succession. But God has other plans -- I'm meeting with the pulpit committee of a church in West Virginia on Saturday to talk about becoming their pastor. So matters of ecclesiology have become important to me, and I've been realizing exactly how much I've neglected its study.

Baptism as it relates to church membership has become a topic of interest to me lately, as well. Especially with all the controversy about the question of baptism as a prerequisite for church membership at Henderson Hills Baptist Church. I want to first affirm the autonomy of the local church. The elders and pastor at Henderson Hills are ultimately the only people who will stand to answer for what they decide (whatever they end up deciding). Their local association, their state convention, and the SBC as a whole do not tell them what to do. But we all have the responsibility as brothers and sisters in Christ to express concern when another Christian is making a decision that we think is not biblical. We also have the responsibility to discuss the matter as Christians, which I think has been done so far.

The elders at Henderson Hills aren't making the motion without thought and study. Their reports are all available on the church's web site. And there are a lot -- I certainly haven't had the time to read them all, so I won't be trying to respond directly to what they've decided. What I want to do instead is set out what I believe are the biblical motivations behind requiring biblical baptism for church membership, and a bit about why I think the Bible isn't as clear as we'd like for it to be in this regard. It will probably be a long post, and a lot more serious than I've been lately, but I think it will be valuable for all of us.

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July 13, 2006

DRM, the RIAA, and Jim Baen

If you've read this blog very long, you know that I violently dislike the RIAA and what they are doing to music. I've got a healthy dislike for the music industry in general -- one of the reasons I podcast is so that bands that haven't been signed to a label get attention and can possibly make some money without having to sell their souls to corporate music. And I'm picky about the labels I do play -- Centricity is a great bunch of people, and they're not RIAA.

One of the things RIAA keeps saying is that music downloads, especially free ones, are hurting artists. People downloading music for free don't buy music, they say. And if that were true, the music industry would have died a rather well-deserved death several years ago. Artists would survive -- people support musicians they like, and without the overhead inherent in supporting the recording industry bureaucracy they could actually make a living.

The sad thing is, it's not necessarily true. more...

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July 12, 2006

Is MySpace The Problem?

I haven't jumped into this discussion, for a lot of reasons -- mainly because I see a lot of people talking past each other. But I want to discuss it today, simply because I've got a MySpace page (for the podcast, not for myself).

The biggest problem I see with MySpace is not something that the people who set it up have control over. We aren't teaching our kids how to deal with the Internet. When I was little, we all learned about why we don't talk to strangers. We talked about it, we read about it, it was on TV. But we don't do that anymore.

Maybe we think of the Internet as being this vast, anonymous place. We can talk to anyone we wnat to, because nobody really is who they are online. We're all strangers, and all friends, all at the same time. When something bad happens, it has to be because the people running the place let some bad people in -- it can't be our fault.

Bad things have happened because of MySpace. Myspace has some rules in place (though many would say not enough) to try to prevent bad things from happening, but they can't do it all themselves.

We tend to think of kids being so much more advanced than we are when it comes to computers. I've taught computer applications to high school students, and I can tell you that it isn't always true. Kids really think they can hide behind a screen name, or a blog page, and nobody can find anything out about them at all. That's not true, and we need to emphasise that to our kids.

Back in the old days, when I was 20-something, there was a big concern about privacy and identity theft. So the Washington Post conducted an experement. With the permission of Vice President Dan Quayle and the Secret Service, they decided to see how much information they could get on him. Not dirt -- just basic information.

They called the DMV of the state he was licensed in, and got his drivers license number with very little effort. With many states, that is your Social Security number, and we all know what kinds of things you can find out with THAT information. I think they had two more steps to get his SS number, but they got it pretty quickly. With very little effort, they were able to find out all kinds of indormation about the Vice President of the United States.

How hard do you really think it is to find out information about you? Or your kids?

Parents need to do their job -- protect and educate your kids. Make sure they know about the lack of real privacy on the Internet. Make sure they know how to be careful. Make sure they know better than to give personal information out to someone they've never seen before. And know what they're doing online.

If your kid has a MySpace page, you should, too. And you should be on your kid's "My Friends" list. Make that a condition of them having the account to begin with. You'll have access to their blogs. You'll know who they "hang out" with online. Don't act like the Secret Police, but make sure they know you're doing it out of conern for them -- not because you have to know everything they're doing at all times.

MySpace, Facebook, Blogger -- those aren't the problem. The problem is parents who have given up their responsibilities to their kids.

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July 10, 2006

Why I Blingo

A while back, I started using Blingo as my default search engine. It works well -- it's essentially Google, but with a major difference.

You can win stuff. Example:

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

As I was getting ready to record the Pewcast, I was looking for info on one of the bands I was going to play. I won a $50 gift card for something I was going to do anyway. And the person whose site I found Blingo through (who I don't even know) also got $50. For doing nothing. Just because someone he referred to Blingo won something.

A year and five days ago, I won something else from them. My choice of a Sony PSP or $249. I took the money.

Real people actually win stuff from these things. Click the link over there to the left and sign up for Blingo. And go win something.

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July 06, 2006

Book Review: Why Christians Don't Vote For Democrats

The title of this book is a bit misleading, at least it was for me. I was expecting a complete diatribe about why good Christians should never, ever vote for Democrats, and why those who DO are actually not Christians at all. I was expecting a lot of venom, and I was, quite frankly, expecting to not like the book very much. And I was very wrong.

Why Christians Don't Vote For Democrats should be read by every Democratic strategist. Richard Miller is giving them the keys -- he's telling them exactly what they need to change to get the support of evangelical Christians. He's telling them why, for the most part, evangelical Christians don't vote for Democrats. There's no venom -- how could there be, when two of Miller's own daughters are registered Democrats?

This is not a long book -- it's really not hard to show why evangelicals are not voting for Democrats. But the material is presented in a way that a Democrat could read it and, rather than being offended, realize the gulf that separates them from evangelicals.

Miller makes a lot of statements in the book, though, that I would have liked to have seen expanded. We read that "secular Democrats" want to lower the age of consent, don't believe that the teachings of Jesus or Moses have any value, don't want Christians to be able to afford to send their kids to Christian schools, etc. I would have liked to have seen these generalities detailed a bit more -- specific quotes from specific Democratic leaders, for example. A Christian Democrat reading this would of course say "No I don't." Specific examples would have been a welcome addition to the book in these cases.

Miller's purpose in writing this books seems to have been to make people think -- both Democrats and Republicans. He's achieved that goal; there's a lot of material presented in the book that should make people think. As I said, he's provided Democratic leadership with a rough guide to gaining the trust of evangelical Christian voters, if they will read it and listen.

Why Christians Don't Vote For Democrats by Richard Miller, published by Xulon Press. 4 out of 5 stars.

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July 04, 2006


Inspired by the link in the previoius post, I'd like to present the official View From the Pew Arguement Clinic.

This is actually how most message board arguements sound.

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Link Of the Day

I'm a sucker for Monty Python related links anyway, but when they come from Dr. Michael Haykin, they're especially enjoyed. AND, it's one of my favorite sketches. TheInternational Philosophy Football Match: Germany vs. Greece.

Now all we need are the Bruces!

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July 01, 2006

On Donatism and Anonymous Comments

Donatism was the error taught by Donatus, bishop of Casae Nigrae that the effectiveness of the sacraments depends on the moral character of the minister. In other words, if a minister who was involved in a serious enough sin were to baptize a person, that baptism would be considered invalid.
from CARM

It has been alleged that the Baptist practice of extending church membership only to those who have been baptised as believers is Donatism. Anyone who has followed the debate can see that it has nothing to do with the person who administers the baptism; rather, it has to do with the appropriate subject for baptism.

The question was raised as to whether Dr. Al Mohler's stance on baptism as a requisite of church membership makes him a Donatist. Ironically, the commentor who disputed this defines Donatism much as CARM does: "donatism was concerned with the validity of the sacraments administered by people who supposedly did not have the right to administer them. It viewed the sacraments not in an objective way, but as intrinsically dependent upon the qualities of the one administering them. It did not necessarily question the Christianity of those whom they denied could administer it, and it certainly did not question the Christianity of those receiving the sacrament." Compare this to Dr. Mohler's actual statement:

baptism has been understood by all major branches of Christianity, throughout the centuries of Christian experience, to be a requirement for church membership and the fellowship of the LordÂ’s table. Thus, for Baptists to receive into the membership of a Baptist church (or to invite to the LordÂ’s Supper) any believer who lacks such baptism, is to receive non-baptized persons as if they were baptized.

Any compromise of Baptist conviction concerning the requirement of believerÂ’s baptism by immersion amounts to a redefinition of Baptist identity. More importantly, it raises the most basic questions of ecclesiology. We must give those questions intent attention in these days. Otherwise, will there be any Baptists in the next generation?

Baptist ecclesiology defines the proper subject for baptism as one who has been regenerated -- thus, believer's baptism. Anything else is thus not considered scriptural baptism. The conflict we have, then, is whether scriptural baptism is required before someone is admitted into the fellowship of a local church. As the pastor of Henderson Hills reminds us, Baptist churches are autonomous, so the decision is made by that church. And the rest of us can agree, or disagree.

I happen to disagree.

Now, on anonymous comments. I don't allow them here. I don't care if you don't leave your name, but you have to leave a valid email address. Why? The main reason is accountability. The Internet is a place where we can shoot our mouths off without a thought of the implications of what we're saying. If a name is attached, the post or comment becomes our thoughts, and we have to face the consequences. Without that name, we can say whatever we want, portray ourselves however we want, and behave however we want without having to be concerned about what our actions say about ourselves.

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On Baptism, Round Two

I wrote on this subject quite a while ago, but recently there has been a lot of discussion and debate on the issue of believers baptism as a condition of church membership among Southern Baptist bloggers (I'll link to all the posts I've read at the bottom of this one, and will add more as I find them).

The cause of this round of discussion and debate is Henderson Hills Baptist Church. In short, they have decided not to require believer's baptism by immersion as a condition for membership in their church. From one of their supporting documents (HT to Wes Kenney):

We see that it would be a tragic mistake to exclude Christians from membership, solely on the basis of baptism, who may potentially have a great impact on the Kingdom of God. For example, under our current rules, great theologians such as John Owen, Jonathan Edwards, Sinclair Ferguson, R.C. Sproul, and J.I. Packer would be considered unqualified for church membership

It should be made clear -- nobody who holds to believers baptism is implying that any of these great men were not born again. We may disagree with their ecclesiology, but we would never question their salvation or their committment to God. And I'd be inclined to agree with Wes that I wonder how their "impact on the Kingdom of God" would be lessened by their not being members of a Baptist church. I thought that ground had been covered pretty well by the Together For the Gospel meetings and blog. Ironically, Al Mohler is one of the people who are most in favor of cooperating with Presbyterians, and he's been accused of being a Donatist by some commentors at Reformed Baptist Thinker. He agrees that believer's baptism should be a requirement for membership in a Baptist church, but is willing and able to work with people who disagree with him (something the Donatists would never have done, by the way).

I'll have more on the Donatist comment later on, and will address the anonymous posters comments to me then. I think that part of the issue with believers baptism today stems from our lack of appreciation of what baptism is. If it really is just a symbol, then what difference does it make?

The very word sacrament that is used so often for baptism and communion is from a Latin word that was an oath of allegience. The oath that Roman soldiers took when they oined the army was a sacramentum -- they swore to obey orders and follow their commander. This is a perfect picture of what baptism is -- it is the oath of allegience that a believer makes to Christ. We are publically identifying with Him. Baptism is not salvific -- that's one thing that Baptists and Presbyterians can agree on. (I keep referring to Presbyterians since the main debate comes from conservative Presbyterians and conservative Baptists, who agree on most other things.) Throughout Acts, we read of those who received the word, and as a result of thier conversion were baptised, and as a result of these two things were received into the church. In the early church, baptism was immediate upon conversion -- so much so that the two seem to be one event. Membership in the church followed immediately thereafter, as much as a matter of survival as anything else. If someone wasn't committed enough to the faith to publically be baptised, to take that public stand, they weren't allowed into the church. They weren't committed.

Today, we look at baptism as something optional. It's pretty easy to be a Christian in the US, and our public stand isn't that hard to make. But if someone isn't willing to make that stand, that profession, should we let them join the church anyway? I think this touches on baptism as an act of obedience to Christ, a topic that has been covered in more depth by others.

Links: more...

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