I was on the radio.

At 11:30 AM EST you can go over to the KFUO live stream and listen to me talk with Andy Bates about my recent post at The Federalist. I’ll update this later with the listen-on-demand link.

I was on Faith and Family at KFUO, talking about language and worldview. I was much more enthusiastic than I sounded – I had a migraine all morning. Check out the interview here.

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My debut at The Federalist.

I had a short piece about fatherhood published over at The Federalist.

Every parent I know has developed a pregnancy pet-peeve. Most women I know have said theirs was unwanted touching of their blossoming baby bump. For my pregnant wife, it’s how total strangers suddenly feel the need to explain how little sleep we’re going to get once baby is born.

I don’t mind that so much, because I assume these are well-intentioned people trying to prepare us for an event we simply cannot understand yet. No, my pregnancy pet peeve was being called a “father-to-be.”

Our culture gets it exactly backward: Every man who has not yet reproduced — including my son, still in utero — is a father-to-be, by virtue of his potential ability to impregnate a woman. I was once a father-to-be, until my wife became pregnant. At that moment, even before we found out, I was, and always will be, a father.

You can read the full piece (and share it, please!) here.

 

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Mike Bickle: “Manifestations of the Spirit are at least 80% false.”

That’s all, folks. All y’all Pentecostals can come home to a good, confessional Lutheran church now. Mike Bickle (the founder of IHOPKC) said that at least 80% of the “manifestations of the Spirit” which take place in the global Pentecostal church  (“thousands of manifestation meetings worldwide”) are faked. (It’s in the first 20 seconds, but the whole video is important.)

Ah, yes, remember how the Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians and told them that a little disorder in their church was okay, how they could enjoy the nonsense without believing it, and how 80% of their speaking in tongues could be babble? That’s definitely what he wrote, right?

This is key, though. The modern Pentecostal movement is based on signs and wonders. But Mike Bickle said that 80% of those are fake. What was it Jesus said about a house built on sand?

Suppose you were sick and you went to go see a doctor. If he introduced himself and said “Now, I only get the diagnosis right about 20% of the time,” would you stay and try your luck or would you get out of Dodge?

That’s the big question, then: If a major leader of your movement is openly admitting your movement is based on falsehoods, why stay in the movement? As I said before, so I say again: It’s time to leave Pentecostalism and come home. Lutheranism is waiting for you.

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“Qui Creavit Coelum.”

This is a translation I have produced of an Advent hymn called “Qui Creavit Coelum.” As I understand it, the earliest manuscript in which we find it is from around 1425 A.D.; the hymn is also known as “The Song of the Nuns of Chester.” The original Latin text can be found here. I added some notes at the bottom. Nothing here is particularly scholarly; it’s simply a little devotional exercise that I wanted to share.

Happy Advent, friends.

The King who is ruling the ages,
He who created Heaven,
is being born in a stable.[1]

Joseph brings some rushes;
Mother wraps up the Child,
and places him in the manger.[2]

There among the animals
they place the Joy of the World.
He is fragrant beyond all.[3]

The Mother of the Lord suckles
and embraces the Little One;
she worships the Lord.[4]

Ask, Mother of the Lord,
that He give us Joy
in everlasting glory[5]

 


 

[1] I’ve taken the last line of this stanza first, for two reasons: (a) grammatically, “rex” as the subject fits naturally when rendered first in English, which makes good sense of the two relative clauses, each introduced by “qui;” and (b) by first emphasizing the transcendent nature of this King who is ruling time (present tense) and created matter (perfect tense) , the humility of His lowly birthplace is magnified in English. That this tiny Babe is ruling the centuries is a great mystery.
[2] “Paniculum” here is not a common word and means something like a tuft of reeds used for thatching a roof. I like the poetic image of Jesus being wrapped in rushes. It reminds me of Moses’s basket being placed in the rushes; so here, a rush-wrapped Baby Jesus is “ponit in praesepio.” The whole of Scripture – indeed, the whole of the world – is the story of Jesus Christ coming to save sinners like you and me.
[3] I like fragrant as a gloss for “dulcis” here: the Lamb of God is laid down next to animals He created, incarnate to do what they never could. He is here to take away the sins of the world. Thus He is “dulcis super omnia;” as an offering to God, He is “fragrant beyond all.”
[4] Mary worships God through her vocation as mother. What is done in faith, even the changing of diapers, is service to God. I think this stanza does a beautiful job of honoring the vocation of Motherhood. It also continues to emphasize the mystery of the Incarnation: That God could be breast-fed! How highly favored is Mary, the Mother of God?
[5] I do not believe in prayers to the saints. I have here translated the text as it is, not as I think it ought to be. I think this language could be understood apart from praying to the saints, but considering that this text comes to us from the nunnery of St. Mary, in 1425, I assume the author was indeed intending this as a prayer to Mary. Instead, I believe that scripture teaches that “rogat nobis mater domini” – that is, “The Mother of God is praying for us.” But that is another discussion, which I do not wish to participate in here.

I hope this was in some way a blessing to you this Advent.

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A Free Chrome Extension That Changes Abortion Into Murder

Since Ohio passed a law making abortion after a heartbeat can be detected illegal, pro-abortionists have been up in arms that anyone would dare to infringe on the brutal slaughter of children within the womb for the name of convenience. I got sick of reading news articles full of pretty euphemisms for abortion like “choice” and “reproductive rights.” So I did something about  it.

Introducing Abortion Is Murder.

Abortion Is Murder is a free extension for Google Chrome that changes sanitized, clean, approved pro-abortion euphemisms into words that relate the reality of abortion. So instead of “abortion,” you’ll get “murder.” Instead of “reproductive rights,” you’ll see “the right to kill babies in the womb.”

murder

Exempli Gratia

This is more than a rhetorical exercise.

If you are pro-life, then this should help motivate you to do something today to fight the culture of death in which you live. This should help recenter your way of thinking about abortion: It is legalized murder. It is happening near you today. But be forewarned: Reading the news like this really makes pro-life concessions seem wimpy.

If you are pro-abortion (if you have the extension installed, that says pro-murder), installing this extension should help you understand what we are opposing. It should help you to read the news as we read the news.

This extension is free. Just click here and install it.

 

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Devotional practices.

This is less theology, I suppose; or rather it’s a practical application of theology. I wanted to spend a few words on devotional practices, and invite you to comment on your own practices as well. I will shamelessly incorporate any good ideas into my own spiritual life. I hope the tone of this doesn’t come across as braggadocios. My devotional life is certainly not worth bragging about. I often lose myself to work and school and social events, and don’t set aside proper time for God. Remember that someone’s “instagram” life and their real life are very different. This is me on my better days.

Scripture study.

The study of Scripture is very important to me. I try to read daily, but I’m not a very organized study kind of guy. I usually approach topics and themes, or books individually. While I’ve read the entirety of Scripture, I don’t think I’ve ever read cover-to-cover straight through.

Right now I’m taking a little time each day to work on a translation of the Vulgate. My Latin training isn’t quite finished, so there are plenty of parts with which I struggle, but I have found that the translation process is quite illuminating. I’ve been working through John and I’m considering putting my translation up if all goes well.

The important thing for me when reading Scripture is context. I don’t read verses individually, I read stretches and passages and chapters and books. I try to parse the arguments of Paul, or the narrative flow of the Gospels. I read seeking understanding, always trying to use the text to challenge my beliefs.

Prayer.

As with most things in my life, my prayer life is also less organized than it ought to be. I try to spend a little time each day with a personal liturgy-inspired prayer: The Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, a prayer from the Small Catechism, a time of silent meditation. I find that liturgy focuses my mind and follows a evermore familiar rhythm. I have to submit my ego to the Word of God. It’s very freeing. My wife and I have a little family liturgy before bed. When baby gets here, we’ll have a liturgy for three.

Fasting.

I’ve written about fasting before, so I won’t rehash all of that here. I bring this up more to say that I have found fasting to be an incredibly useful discipline. I like the extra time it gives me and the mental sharpness I develop.

Church Fathers and other saints.

I think a sad fact is that many Christians neglect the Church Fathers. Now, I’m not saying that we should approve of everything that they said. I disagree with them about veneration of the Saints, for instance. But these are men who have walked the entirety of this path, and from whom we may learn much. They knew Scripture in ways which we could only hope to know it. Many of them faced persecution, exile, and martyrdom, and were rewarded with the crown of righteousness. To read the Fathers is to drink from deep springs.

I love Chrysostom, personally. Every Easter I hear his famed Paschal Homily as many times as possible. Right now I’m also trying to translate St. Anselm’s Proslogion, which is very slow going because his Latin is, in many ways, far beyond my grasp. I may have to come back to that after the semester is out, but it is a fun challenge, at any rate.

One devotional tool I really enjoy is the Treasury of Daily Prayer. It combines liturgical readings of the Old Testament, a Psalm, the New Testament, some hymnody, some quote of a Lutheran reformer or Church Father, and prayers. It also reminds you of feast days for saints (which is another helpful devotional tool in my opinion) and other important events in the Christian Church. It comes with helpful layouts for various liturgical settings as well. There’s an iPhone app called PrayNow for $8.99 which is, to my knowledge, the same content, but interactive. I enjoy the physical book, personally.

That’s it for now, I suppose. If you have any particular practices you find helpful, feel free to share them below. Of course, please note that the comments below do not necessarily have my endorsement. Anyone can put anything they want on the internet.

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Debate recap: Introduction.

On July 24th I had the pleasure of joining Jeremy Goff, a popular LDS lifestyle blogger, in a moderated public discussion of the question “Who is God?” Dr. Wallace Marshall moderated for us, which was a real treat, as his past debates have always been very interesting. We had a decent turn out, and I managed to get some video of the event, although technical difficulties prevented us from capturing the whole thing.

While I’ll be taking up a number of topics from the debate, I wanted to take this first post to reflect on how the debate went overall. Here we go.

We followed a pretty standard format with opening statements, rebuttals, cross-examination, closing statements, and then audience questions. I’ve uploaded a copy of my opening statement here if you want to read it. We had flipped a coin earlier in the week and God willed that I go first, so I kicked things off and we went from there.

I have to say, over all, I was satisfied with how things went. I certainly had a good time, and I think Jeremy did as well. We got some good questions from the audience at the end which showed they had been paying attention, and I had some interesting conversations with people after the event.

I wish Jeremy had engaged more with my opening statement, but he did come at it from essentially the angle I was expecting. My argument was, roughly, that if you believe Jesus is raised from the dead you should also trust the Scriptures, and that the Scriptures teach the doctrine of the Trinity. He didn’t engage with my exegesis of John 1 at all, nor did he take up Isaiah 43:10. Instead he kept asserting that God is our literal Father and that the Bible had been tampered with by men.

For my own part, my first response should have spent less time pointing out how Dan Brown-esque Jeremy’s understanding of church history was and more time demonstrating why his points didn’t touch my initial argument. My feet got out from under me and I spent way too long talking about what Gnosticism does and doesn’t teach. I’ve got to be more concise in further engagements, and really tether myself to the topic.

The cross-ex was a lot of fun. Jeremy failed to produce sources for any of his claims there, which was unfortunate because that left him with just assertions. This really showed a lack of authority, from my perspective. Anyone can say “such and such happened,” but as the late Hitch was wont to say, “that which can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.” Since Jeremy provided no evidences for his claims, his earlier plausible sounding story really fell apart. I wish I’d pinned him down more on the nature of God, though, but he kept side-stepping questions.

All in all, it was quite interesting to hear “straight from the horses mouth” what a lay-LDS member believes about church history, philosophy, the Bible, and the rest. I had a really good time, and I think that for two first-time debaters the event went very well. I’d love to go at it again sometime!

Like I said, a number of interesting points came up during the debate. I’ll be exploring them over the next few weeks, hopefully with video clips from the debate to provide some context. I hope you keep reading! If you want updates you can get them via email/Wordpress (above right) or via my Facebook page.

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Update: Published! and a return to regular scheduling.

Happy Monday, friends. Two posts today, of which this is the first, so be looking forward to a Mormonism Monday post. Here’s a brief update, though.

First, I have a short story that got published as an honorable mention in a writing contest. I’m very excited about that. I’d love for you to go and read that story, but be aware that it deals with a miscarriage and read at your own discretion. If you’re interested, click here.

Second, I’ve finished my crazy Latin intensive at school (I’m almost entirely done with Latin grammar, if I understand correctly) and I will be able to return to a more regular schedule of posting. That includes a Mormonism post today, so check back soon and read up on that.

That’s all I’ve got for now. See you soon.

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If it’s Saturday, it must be Arians [Trinity Misconceptions]

This is a post in a series about the Trinity. The introduction is here, and part two is here.

It’s a Saturday morning. Two well dressed guests knock on your door. They introduce themselves as Jehovah’s Witnesses, and ask if they can show you what the Bible really teaches. They deny that Christ is the second person of a Trinity, and say instead that He is the first of God’s creation, who created everything else.

Although the Jehovah’s Witnesses are a very recent development, the Preacher in Ecclesiastes got it right: There is nothing new under the sun. The teachings of the Witnesses about Jesus are an ancient heresy known as Arianism.

The History

Early in the history of the Christian Church, a young man named Arius was studying in Alexandria. From the work of earlier teachers (perhaps Paul of Samosata) he concluded that the Son was created; that is, there was a time when the Son, the Logos in John, did not exist. The teaching of Arius was very popular among the Alexandrian schools, and his theology spread fast.

Proponents of orthodoxy initially won out, led by Athanasius, the bishop of Alexandria. The Emperor Constantine, a catechumen in the church at the time, called a council at Nicaea in 324 A.D. and all but two of the bishops there agreed that the Scriptures taught that the Father, Son, and Spirit are “consubstantial” (i.e. they share the same substance, or essence, or being). They composed the Nicene Creed, to put into a succinct statement of faith what the Scriptures teach.

Many have criticized the political power with which Constantine upheld orthodoxy. Often there are myths such as “Constantine determined the canon of Scripture at Nicaea,” or other such silliness. Those improper understandings of the council aside, Constantine did use his power inappropriately (in my estimation) when he ordered the destruction of Arian documents and the death penalty for those who did not volunteer Arian documents in their possession.

Ironically, Constantine later exiled Athanasius, the hero of orthodoxy, in an attempt at conciliating Arian sympathizers. At any rate, when Constantine’s son, Constantius II, assumed power, he used it to spread Arian doctrine throughout the Roman Empire by force. The point being, political force was used inappropriately on both sides of this issue. What we must look at, then, is the doctrines themselves.

The Theology

For a good starting point in discussion with any Jehovah’s Witnesses you may meet, I don’t suggest John 1:1. In their New World Translation of Scripture, they twist this verse to read “and the Word was a god.” Unless you speak Greek fluently, and are able to teach them Greek fluently, it won’t be much use to tell them that their translation is wrong. They simply won’t believe you.

Rather, I’d suggest jumping over to John 1:3. Even in the NWT it reads “[a]ll things came into existence through him, and apart from him not even one thing came into existence.” When I read this with them, I’ll change the “all” to “some” and “not even one thing” to “almost nothing.” So I will (mis)read “some things came into existence through him, and apart from him almost nothing came into existence.”

When I misread it, they will usually correct me. When the answer comes from their own mind, instead of being supplied by someone with whom they disagree, it is much more effective at communicating the point.

That point is that, according to the grammar of John 1:3, Jesus cannot have come into existence. Why? Because all things that came into existence came through him. Can a man be his own father? His own cause of being (in other words, his own efficient cause)? Of course not. So also, if not even one thing came into existence apart from the Word (that’s Jesus, remember? see Jn. 1:14) then Jesus can’t have come into existence, because then at least one thing came into existence apart from Jesus.

If you’re more of a visual learner, you’ll appreciate this very helpful blog post by Greg Koukl. It is essentially no different to what I outlined here, but he has a visual aid that make the point very clear.

Like I mentioned before, I’ll only be posting on Thursdays for a while during my summer intensive at school. I hope to get back to a regular Monday post soon, but I may edit the schedule further to allow for all of my obligations. God’s blessings on your week!

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Schedule update. 

I’m taking a intense month long Latin course right now. As a result, I’m going to post Thursday’s only this month, and go from there. Thanks for your support! I’ll see you in a couple days. 

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