Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Wives and Mothers and Work

This new take on the "Mrs. Degree," frankly, makes me sick. One quote in particular, about a 29 year-old who quit her job as an ad exec: "Lathrop is expecting her first baby (she wants between four and seven children) and she doesn't want to work because she wants to be 'vibrant', run the New York marathon, have energy for her marriage, and, yes, holidays in France."

The good in this article is that it depicts women who want to quit their jobs to raise a family. However, the women quoted make marriage seem to be all about money-- the nice house, the fancy vacations, the "trophy" husband with the six-figure job. And the advice at the end to just "make your husband happy" is coming from the wrong attitude. Yes, I believe wives should do things for their husbands, but they should take joy in the knowledge they are ultimately serving Christ by laundering clothes and making dinner, not just catering to a husband's capricious whim.

There are many modern Christian women who want everything all at once-- the perfect job, the perfect kids, the perfect home. I don't want that-- I know it is unattainable. But there is also a growing movement in Christian circles to do the exact opposite-- the view that young women should stay at home until they are married, forego college, and then should immediately begin a family. I don't think that is always the right approach, either. I think the issue depends on a lot of personal factors, and I'm somewhere in between extremes.

Yes, raising a family is one of the most important parts of being a wife. The Scriptural command to humanity is "be fruitful," and children indeed are a blessing from the Lord. But I also believe it is perfectly fine for a young wife to work for a few years before starting a family, especially if things like student loans and finances need to be in order, or the husband is still in school-- there are a myriad of situations. However, the world today largely has the attitude that couples don't ever need to have children, they only need themselves and their "stuff." This has trickled into the Church as well. That is a misguided attitude. My thoughts on this issue stem from a frustration I've been having lately, of feeling caught in the rush of two streams of thought, and trying desperately to find solid middle ground to stand upon.

If I'm accepted, I'll begin graduate school this summer to get a Masters in Education, prolonging children for a few more years, but not indefinitely. This is fine with me. We both want a family-- a fairly large one-- just not right away. Is that too much to ask? I don't think so. Of course, something could always happen to change things, and that would be just fine, too. "The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps." (Ps. 16:9) I take strange comfort in that thought...all in good time.

Oh, one question: what exactly does it mean to be "vibrant"?

Revelation (There is no "s" at the end, people.)

I wish someone had told me this in high school, before I got into the Left Behind craze. I wasted precious time reading the first 4 or so. Phooey on Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, especially for starting their own writing courses. If the exegesis in the Left Behind books isn't bad enough, the horrible dialogue and descriptions certainly are. This is why I'm thankful for people like Michael Spencer and others, who are slowly educationg folks on the importance of sound scriptural interpretation.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

From the Boar's Head Tavern, in response to book recommendations - fiction:

The best work of fiction I could possibly recommend is "Dispensationlism" by Chuck C Ryrie. [sic]

Thanks for making me laugh aloud, Mr. Josh Strodtbeck.

Of Nightmares, Novalis, and the North Wind

A few years ago, my friend Jenn gave me a book about some famous Christian fantasy writers called Christian Mythmakers. Until recently, I'd only read the chapters on Lewis and Tolkien, but a few weeks ago I began at the beginning, only to discover two authors I've neglected to appreciate: George MacDonald and G.K. Chesterton. Oh, I've read excerpts here and there, maybe some quotes or stories, but I am sad to admit that I have not read any of their works in their entirety. The author, Rolland Hein, has made me appreciate the depth (and breadth) of their works, and caused me to add a few more to my stack of "must reads." He has also made me appreciate the solid theology behind their profoundly imaginative creations:

"George MacDonald's achievement lies in his accomplishing a consistent and coherent system of thought derived from the best of these traditions from Calvinism and romanticism. His muscular intellectualism is evident in his published sermons. His mythopoeia demonstrates an imaginative reach towards Truth, achieving a splendid literary consummation" (Hein, 52).

Monday, January 26, 2004

Yo ho, yo ho

Once again, Michael Spenser, the Internet Monk, has written a provocative, yet very insightful article, this time on Catholicism.

Yo Ho Ho! A Papist's Life for Me?

I can especially identify with Spenser's sentiment, particularly the frustration in being turned off by the excesses of wacky evangelicalism, yet not being able to honestly embrace traditions like Rome's.

Arrested Development the funniest new show on television. Usually we tape Fox Sunday shows in order to watch Alias first, but last night Alias was a rerun. We consoled ourselves by watching the Simpsons, Malcolm in the Middle, and tuning in to exploits of the enigmatic Bluth family. The latter has become a highlight of our limited TV viewing. Jason Bateman's character, Michael Bluth, is attempting to be the stronghold of sanity in a family of eccentric, jobless, and downright weird relatives.

Also, Ron Howard provides some hilarious narration. This is a good line from last night:
Jesse, recently dumped by Michael, to Michael's son: "You've ruined your dad's last chance at happiness. How do you like that, Opie?"
Narrator: "Jesse had gone too far and had best watch her mouth!"

Check it out. No, seriously, check it out.

Thursday, January 22, 2004

For some reason, quality music seems to avoid Atlanta. This fact is amazing considering the size of the city. Sure, the "big" names come through town, but for the smaller, indie-folk niche we've come to love, there's really no venue that consistently brings in fine folks like Andrew Peterson, Eric Peters, etc.

There is, though, one shining exception: Eddie's Attic in Decatur. They bring in quality acoustic acts of all kinds, sacred and "secular." Pierce Pettis, for example, plays there a couple of times each year. Other smaller but good acts, like Matthew Perryman Jones and Justin Rosolino, are known to frequent the joint. And thankfully, Sandra McCracken has gotten a recurring gig there for the next several months. She has played there before, and it definitely is a great listening venue for her music. Likely, her husband Derek, will be joining her for most of her gigs, as he did last night. They sound really good together. I like both as artists in their own right, but they are greater together than the sum of their parts. Sandra is a tremendous songwriter with an amazing voice, but she sounds even more impressive with Derek's harmonies and guitar licks. The show was great, and Sandra played several songs from her as-yet-to-be-released latest album. I can't wait to hear it!

But maybe I'm just partial because I'm taller than both of them. :)

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

So, instead of watching the State of the Union last night, we sat back with a nice glass of Cabernet Sauvignon and enjoyed a borrowed copy of Equilibrium. Now THAT is a "thinking man's" action movie! It is all the Matrix sequels were meant to be! Filled with literary and art references (I caught nods to 1984, Brave New World, Fahrenheit 451 and even Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart.") as well as scores of religious symbolism, Equilibrium is a futuristic/philosophic action film set in a utilitarian society void of feelings. Mandatory drug use is enforced to preserve peace. The government is run by "Father," a Big-Brother type figure that is obsessed with routing out "sense-offenders"-- individuals who have stopped taking their daily doses, leaving them open to feelings. The plot is intriguing, the script well-done, and the action sequences will BLOW YOUR MIND. It definitely encouraged discussion in our household. Not to mention that it stars Christian Bale, who I have admired as a performer ever since I first saw him in Newsies. Equilibrium definitely deserves a second viewing, perhaps more...

Monday, January 19, 2004

So, today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. It's sad that I've only thought of it as just another day off, rather than an opportunity to remember why he struggled for freedom and equality, so that "justice would roll down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream."

Bill, in his message yesterday, mentioned King's "Letter from a Birmingham Jail." Since I spent my college years in Birmingham, I've read it quite a few times, and even took a course on "Civil Rights and Justice" with the amazing Dr. Ed LaMonte. (I wonder how his wife is doing now...)

Anyway, all this MLK Jr. stuff reminded me of an interesting incident I once heard. It was during my first January Interim term at Birmingham-Southern, when I spent four weeks working in an area our near the B'ham airport called Woodlawn. It was the inagural Woodlawn interim, and we were the guniea pigs.

The first day we boarded a city bus across from campus, and after many stops and changes and about two hours of bouncing along in the incompetent public transit of Birmingham, we finally arrived at Woodlawn United Methodist Church. The church was to be our home for the next week. As soon as we arrived, we were greeted by a former pastor of the church, who commenced our interim with an inspiring tale.

The pastor's name, I believe, was John Rutland, (I don't have my journal from that month, so I could be wrong about the name) and he was the pastor of WUMC during the civil rights movement. In the 1960's, Woodlawn was an affluent white neighborhood. Now, due to "white flight" to the suburbs, it is mostly inhabited by multi-ethnic homeless folks and a handful of aging residents. WUMC, along with some other churches in the area, has been working towards community revitalization and reconciliation, and the students of BSC were invited to come along for the ride. The minister gave us some of the history surrounging the church. He told us that Eugene "Bull" Connor, the obstinate B'ham police chief who turned the dogs and fire hoses on the children in Kelly Ingram Park, was once a member of Woodlwan UMC. After that infamous incident, Rev. Rutland denounced Connor's tactics from the pulpit, and supported Dr. King and the other protesters. Bull Connor, flabbergasted, immediately got up and stormed out.

The impact of that story, small though it may seem, has stayed with me these past five years. It wasn't often in those days that a white preacher would stand against those in power, and side with the civil rights movement. That pastor's integrity stands as a reminder of how God is working through those who are faithful to resist oppression in all its forms. Christ has overcome the world, and He is continuing to proclaim liberty to the captives, and herald justice, until He has put all enemies under His feet.

Saturday, January 17, 2004

Game over, man ...

Aliens is one of the greatest movies ever. With some Christmas Best Buy $$$, I snagged the "Collectors Edition." I had been looking for a DVD of the extended version of the film for a long time, but they had pulled them all from stores some time ago, since the huge Aliens Quadrilogy was coming to stores in time for Christmas. And although it looked pretty nice, there was no way that I was going to shell out my dinero for the 3rd and 4th fiascos, er films, in the series. But, I guess the marketing gurus figured other people had the same idea, and they've released them all individually. Woo hoo!

The extended version is really cool, with a good 20 minutes of extra footage. It's a mixed-bag. The extra scenes with Ripley at the beginning (on Earth) were good, but I really wasn't sure about the extra scenes with the colonists, Newt's family, etc. In a way, it's much more creepy to not know anything about what happened, when the viewer's first introduction to the colony is when the Colonial Marines arrive to find it abandoned. Spooky. Tense. Then again, there's an element of tragedy at this point in the extended version, because you realize what has happened to all the colonists (Big Wheel-riding kids included!). But, the best extended footage? More Marines! Including an extremely cocky Hudson giving a speech on the Marines' weapon-power, and those way-cool robot sentries.

All in all, the film rocks. It almost makes me want to watch the 3rd and 4th ones again to remember how the story continues. Almost.

Friday, January 16, 2004

Hmm ... predestination rears its head yet again! Last night at Bible Study, our discussion of Luke's Gospel veered into this topic. We were discussing the question "why did Christ speak in parables?" Jesus gives the answer Himself in Luke 8 (paralleled in Matthew 13), where He quotes Isaiah. The gist of it seems to be that Christ used parables so that some people wouldn't understand and thus wouldn't turn to Him. Naturally, this quickly turned to a discussion on predestination, but I'm not sure it should have. Even if you don't believe in the Reformed view of election, isn't it at least feasible that Christ could have a temporal purpose for keeping most of his listeners "in the dark"? A few people raised the issue (and rightly so) that the confusion of the audience was part of the overall plan of the cross. Of course, we didn't actually get to the ramifications between this fact and the fact that a very large number of the ones blinded never came to faith.

Anyway, in the course of the discussion (which, thankfully, never got very heated), the bold statement that "God desires all men to be saved!" was thrown out repeatedly. And out of context. It's as if this handful of verses (drawn from I Timothy 2:4 and II Peter 3:9) automatically overwhelm the vast number of passages dealing with election, man's inability, etc. II Peter 3:9 was specifically quoted, but we ran short on time. As is my custom, I've been reflecting on this passage and what it actually means. The more I study, the more I'm convinced that this passage poses no contradiction whatsoever to the doctrine of election. A few thoughts:

1. The underlying assumption is that God "not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance" means that, because God wants every single human being to be saved, He would never work in violation of that by limiting salvation to the elect. However, who is "anyone" and "everyone"? Do we have good warrant to assume that it means "every single human" in this context? Perhaps not. The phrase immediately preceding states that God is patient to you, which is the "beloved" to whom Peter is writing in 3:1. So is the "anyone" universal, or is it limited to "any of you"? The latter seems to make more sense. Additionally, the examples of God's judgment in preceding chapters gives special attention to God's rescuing of the righteous from the wicked. This again seems to create a distinction between God's people, whom He saves, and the wicked, whom He destroys. So, it doesn't seem unreasonable that the "any" in 3:9 has a specific reference to believers (and Peter's audience in particular). This hardly undermines the Calvinist view of election. But, this limited view of "any" is not really inconsistent with an Arminian view, either. So, it makes a very poor proof-text for disproving the Doctrines of Grace.

2. But, assuming for a second that every single human is in view in II Peter 3:9, there still is not a contradiction for the Reformed view. And, an Arminian stance still has to wrestle with the indisputable fact that not "everyone" comes to repentance, and there are many who indeed perish. So, if God doesn't want them to perish, why does it still come to pass? Indeed, why does He actively enact His judgment on the wicked, as demonstrated throughout this epistle? The answer, I believe, is related to that last question.

If God's highest desire truly is that every single person not perish, and people actually do perish (as Scripture indicates), then we can only conclude that God is somehow incapable of saving them. However, most people won't go this route. Rather, they will say that people perish because they choose to reject God, and God would rather let them have their choice than to force them into the Kingdom. Therefore, God's highest desire is actually to allow man to have His free choice, and the desire that all men be saved is subordinate to this. The Reformed position would agree that God's desire that all men be saved is subordinate to His other desires. Bottom line: again, this passage can't be used to refute particular redemption.
John Piper has a much more thorough discussion of this idea here.

Anyway, this issue keeps popping up more and more among "real people" (i.e., not just internet people I dialogue with), so it looks like more study. West Merritts' sermon series through Romans will be reaching chapter 9 very soon, so I imagine this issue will keep popping up. Sort of like a bad rash.

Thursday, January 15, 2004

So, the name of Calvin is an oft-spoken one at the Redd household these days, probably since there are numerous discussions on the subject of predestination at the good old Andrew Peterson Messageboard. And also, I'm reading a good bit on the great Reformer these days, both his own work (Institutes) and Keith Mathison's look at his view of the Lord's Supper. One thing I've quickly realized is that Calvin is marginalized by most evangelicals. His name is synonymous with predestination, the TULIP, etc. This is a shame, because the guy did not devote such a huge portion of his writings to those subjects! I've heard it said that Luther actually wrote more on the subject of election than Calvin, but as it stands, the latter is more often associated with the "Doctrines of Grace." Anyway, in reading more of his actual work, I'm developing an appreciation for Calvin's scholarship, grasp of the Scriptures, and ability to pull it all together in the big picture. (He also has the same agressive tone that seems to have dominated theologians of that day -- although not to the same extent as Luther.) We'd do well to study his works, as well as others from antiquity.

The current section I'm reading from Institutes is on faith. The following is lengthy, but I really enjoyed Calvin's assessment of faith and assurance of the believer.

Thus the disciples, while reprimanded by their Master for the weakness of their faith in crying out that they were perishing, still implored his aid, (Matth. 8: 25.) And he, in rebuking them for their want of faith, does not disown them or class them with unbelievers, but urges them to shake off the vice. Therefore, as we have already said, we again maintain, that faith remaining fixed in the believer's breast never can be eradicated from it. However it may seem shaken and bent in this direction or in that, its flame is never so completely quenched as not at least to lurk under the embers. In this way, it appears that the word, which is an incorruptible seed, produces fruit similar to itself. Its germ never withers away utterly and perishes. The saints cannot have a stronger ground for despair than to feel, that, according to present appearances, the hand of God is armed for their destruction; and yet Job thus declares the strength of his confidence: "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him." The truth is, that unbelief reigns not in the hearts of believers, but only assails them from without; does not wound them mortally with its darts, but annoys them, or, at the utmost, gives them a wound which can be healed. Faith, as Paul (declares, (Eph. 6: 16,) is our shield, which receiving these darts, either wards them off entirely, or at least breaks their force, and prevents them from reaching the vitals. Hence when faith is shaken, it is just as when, by the violent blow of a javelin, a soldier standing firm is forced to step back and yield a little; and again when faith is wounded, it is as if the shield were pierced, but not perforated by the blow. The pious mind will always rise, and be able to say with David, "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me," (Psalm 23: 4.)

(Institutes III.2.21)

Good stuff. It almost makes me forget he was French. ;)
There are many things that would qualify for the "Greatest Invention of the Twentieth Century," but I don't think Post-It Notes would normally be one of them. However, today I have come to have a new appreciation for those little yellow sticky pieces of paper. Imagine how disrganized and messey a receptionist's life would be without them. And my life, for that matter. There's even a book about how helpful they are.

You know the scene in Bruce Almighty where he converts the prayers to Post-Its and they fill the room? Well, that is exactly what our computer desk looks like right now, thanks to me trying to organize materials, addresses, and to-do lists for graduate school scholarships. Greatest Innovation Ever.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

All of my life, I have loved anything and everything pertaining to the English language. When I was in elementary school, I perused the local library like my friends cruised clothing stores. I wrote stories and poems, spent my allowance exclusively at Waldenbooks, attended numerous “Young Authors” conferences, and even created my own weekly newsletter, which lasted about two months. However, in junior high and high school, I somehow acquired the strange notion that to be “successful,” I needed a scientific occupation. So I dived into the study of biology with eager abandon, following dreams of being an oceanographer, archaeologist, medical doctor, and later, a genetic engineer. Even though I soaked up every minute of my high school English classes like a Brawny paper towel, somehow my vision of majoring in biology and studying genetics lingered throughout my first year of college.

This mistaken goal gloriously fizzled out the spring semester of my freshman year, when I took the obligatory English 102. My calculus homework and fruit fly experiments could not stand up to the vigor and interest with which I pursued class discussions in my composition course. I stayed up long hours working on my research essay (resulting in my first college “all-nighter”) and poured over the reading assignments with an excitement I usually only reserved for Jane Austen novels. That sealed it – I would change my major to English. Jobwise, I was sure I'd be destined to ask the world, “Would you like fries with that?” with perfect articulation. Now, though, I’ve figured out how to use my degree for something other than collecting dust. I’m applying to graduate school to be a high school English teacher, and to get a fancy-schmancy certificate saying I can teach international students English as a Second Language. Fun, eh?

In order to do that, though, I have to write an application essay, which is what I've been attempting this afternoon. The preceding two paragraphs were one my first drafts, which got to be too much a "story-of-my-life" type essay instead of "career-goal oriented" essay. Oh well. It is becoming increasingly clear WHY I had so many all-nighters in college -- I procrastinate on an assignment, and then labor over it until I think it is "perfect." We'll see how long it takes me to finish this time...
Gaines read it. I read it. And I think everyone should read it.
What? This article from Modern Reformation mag, which we'll probably subscribe to, someday.
So, this blog contraption has been up and running for a couple of days now, and I'm feeling the pressure to post something profound or eloquent. I think Redd-2 is way ahead at this point. But that's no reason to give up!

One thing that has struck me recently is the pervasive stereotype of the "elitist Calvinist." That is, I think many people have the perception that so-called "Reformers" are usually arrogant, "smarter-than-thou" jerks who are pre-occupied with drilling their dogmas into the brains of all the lesser folks who disagree with Saint Calvin. Granted, their perceptions are not without basis. There are a whole lot of argumentative Reformed folk out there, and a fair number of them would rightfully be labeled as jerks. Of course, you could easily make the case that people of all ideological stripes can come across as condescending, etc. A real-life example: Hank Hanegraaff, the Bible Answer Man. Hank is definitely not aligned with the Reformed camp on many of the crucial issues (i.e., of soteriology). And granted, he has done a great service to the Church by researching various aberrant movements, both inside and outside of the stream of Christian orthodoxy. His desire to equip believers with the tools to defend their faith is to be commended. But, at the same time, he really comes across poorly over the radio. Intentionally or not, he often talks down to callers, and he can come across as arrogant.

Nevertheless, the stereotype of the mean, elitist Calvinist remains. My question is, why is this generalization so often true? Certainly, not all Reformed types fit this mold, but there are undoubtedly a lot that do. Why is it like this? One thought I had concerned the dangers inherent in knowledge and learning. The Reformed tradition is most definitely steeped in scholasticism, and the weight of sound Scriptural exegesis is definitely in its corner. Admittedly, this is the strength that I find most convincing. However, as Paul warns us, knowledge without love is quite unprofitable. Without love, the pursuit of knowledge - even the study of God and His revealed Word - can de-volve into a sort of Gnostic quest for the "secret knowledge" that is reserved solely for the spiritual elite. Our great learning may not drive us mad, but it can stoke the embers of pride that are always lurking in our fallen hearts.

The solution, though, is not to jettison the learning. Unfortunately, this approach is all too-prevalent in modern evangelicalism, which is rife with anti-intellectualism. Evangelicals have properly identified the problems with too much learning, but all too often, they have come up with poor solutions, usually involving a "love is all you need" mentality. In olden days, the scholars who studied the Sacred Writ were given the highest regard. Nowadays, though, "theology" is a dirty word, often visualized as stuffy, lifeless doctrines contained in dust-filled tomes of boring academia.

Instead of forsaking our God-given command to diligently study His word, the Biblical solution is to guard our learning with love. Instead of using our doctrines as weapons to assault the less-learned, we Reformed folks (and all Christians, for that matter) need to extend the same grace to others that we believe God has already given to us. This includes patiently discussing the Scriptures with people who disagree. This includes trying to understand the other person's point of view, even if it is incorrect. We didn't come into this world with a correct view of God, and hopefully, we don't see ourselves as currently having a perfect grasp on His truth. If we can show leniency to ourselves for not having 100% pure doctrine, is it so inconceivable that we should cut others a break every now and then?

Michael Spenser, the Internet Monk, wrote a great article on this subject. Perhaps he said it better than me. But then again, I'm trying to make good use of this blog. As we all know, there are plenty of stuffed animals that need to be preached to. ;)

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

At our monthly meeting Monday night, the President of Apartment Life, Stan Dobbs, flew in from Texas to speak with the Atlanta teams. One of the most encouraging points of his talk was his summary of the vision for the organization. Rather than continuing to expand indefinitely, the goal is that eight years from now, the Apartment Life ministry will be given completely to local churches to oversee. There will be no more need for a parachurch organization to run the program, because the churches will be provided with all the materials needed to place teams in aparment complexes. Doesn't that just make you GLAD? The leadership and "sending" agency of missions to apartments will be where it should be-- in the local church.
I'm not usually a fan of the color pink. My decorating choices include lots of earth tones-- browns and reds and olive colors-- that leave no room for even a hint of fairer shades. This morning, however, I was struck speechless by the pepto-pink brilliance of the Atlanta sunrise. Morning deep still shadowed the interstate skyline in a hazy grey, but behind the dark trees rose splashes of color I haven't thought about since I last dressed a Barbie doll. The flamingo-feather sky softly reminded me of how very glad I am that God rules the world. If I picked out the earth's color scheme, I would've never wanted anyone to see such a garish shade before 8 o'clock in the morning. But there it was, spread out for all the urban sprawl to see on their eastward commute. It spoke forth a glory beyond any of the splendored palaces of this world. As the Psalmist wrote: "The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard." Someone once told me that smog-- the vile haze that hangs over the city like a curse-- is necessary for such beauty. It is air pollution-- all those particles in the air-- that allows us such sunrises. I am thankful, then, that even city smog can speak.

Monday, January 12, 2004

Yeah, I guess it's time to hop on the technology bandwagon. :)
And so it begins....our first foray into this alterna-world called blogging. Who knows what randomness lies in the hearts of men?