Tuesday, October 27, 2009

UFC 104

It is safe to say that this won't go down as the most exciting UFC ever. I thought the fights were average and the outcomes fairly predictable, yet a few observations are worth making in the aftermath of it all. First, Anthony Johnson, should be fighting in the light-heavyweight division. This guy is a monster at 171 and is going to kill someone if they don't watch out. He is just too powerful and too athletic to stay down at that weight without seriously harming someone. If he does stay there though, I want to see him on the fast track to St. Pierre because I honestly think in a fight or two, this guy will take the belt. Second, Cain Velasquez absolutely mauled poor Ben Rothwell, and showed why he is the most dangerous fighter in the heavyweight division beside Lesnar. His speed, strength, and wrestling ability are off the charts, and I really look forward to seeing him go at it with Brock after he beats Carwin. Third, Lyoto Machida did not win the fight in my opinion, but, Rua did not take the belt away from him either. What Rua did show is that Machida's karate style is not magic, and that a guy with the skill set of Rua can really do some damage to Machida's mobility by working the legs effectively, while escaping the counter punching of Machida. I think other fighters are going to see this as blue print in how they approach Machida in the future, but that doesn't mean necessarily that they will pull off what Shogun did because this guy is exceptional.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


If you have not seen this article, much less, checked out this book, it might be of interest to take a quick peak at it . Basically, McAllister, an Australian anthropologists says that modern men are physically a bunch of wimps and that we could not hold a candle to pre-industrial revolution men, much less prehistoric men. Some of the proof used to back up this assertion is as follows:

German men just a little over a century ago were jumping heights of 2.5 meters (world high jump record today is 2.45 meters)

men have lost 40% of the shafts of our long bones because we have much less of a muscular load placed upon them these days.

Roman legions completed more than one-and-a-half marathons a day carrying more than half their body weight in equipment.

Athens employed 30,000 rowers who could all exceed the achievements of modern oarsmen.

Surely this is all very ironic in a day when more men than ever worship at the shrine of ESPN and the sports arena, are instantly in touch with the "whose who" and "what's what" in the sports world through the steady flow of twitter updates, walk around sporting the jersey of their "favorite" ballplayer, yet are not even physically strong enough or athletic enough to be the team waterboy. Beyond that don't even get me started on the emotional effeminacy, lack of intellectual vitality and curiosity, and the widespread lack of ambition to even move out of mom and dads basement until at least 30 years old, which are all dominant trends of males under the age of 29 today. McAllister blames all of this on the industrial revolution, and no doubt that plays a role, but there are other forces at work. I guess the question that I would like a better answer to is whether the wimpiness of modern man is a self-inflicted wound which is directly linked to the institutionalizing of political correctness or is it attributable to a macro-economic shift from an agricultural and industrial economy to a technological and service oriented economy?

The whole concept of sex roles based upon biological gender types is systematically being erased in the public education system today as well as by those who take the lead in shaping social constructions of gender affecting everything from the kinds of toys children play with, to insisting on "participation ribbons" for everyone on youth sports teams, to banning such harmless things as dodgeball in P.E.. In other words, young men are being set up to be unwitting participants in a culture of male underachievement. What I am saying in response to McAllister is that although I can accept that some of the problem is rooted in macroeconomic shifts, I cannot help but believe we are beginning to reap the fruit of the very intentional attempt made by elitist thinkers and social programmers to systematically destroy biological masculinity in the interest of creating a more "level playing field" for all.

Men, I need you to know that this atrophy in physical strength McAllister documents indicates that we are suffering from an identity crisis due to constantly receiving extra helpings of false guilt for being culturally dominant as far back as history has kept records. We need to wake up and realize that we are being duped by a subversive ideological attack that is simultaneously puritanically self-righteous as well as utterly blind to the dangerous cultural consequences of its agenda. I don't mean to sound like Chicken Little, but I don't at all mind using anecdotal evidence from Manthropology to spark a vigorous discussion about the disturbing post-modern phenomenon of the male identity crisis which is in part characterized by physical weakness. Pushing back against this feminist, pc agenda is not just about re-asserting your manhood, it is also essential for the long-term vitality of our culture for men to possess a combination of physical strength, mental agility, and verbal skill. Its high time that post-industrial men understand the real cultural forces that are working against them (as well as making them weak) and in turn rise above our pre-industrial predecessors.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Emergency Baptisms

In our Calvin's Institutes discussion last night, book IV, chapter 15, we had a bit of a spirited discussion on the issue of "emergency baptisms" which is discussed in sections 20-22. Here Calvin brings up the practice of midwives performing baptism in the case of the immanent death of a newborn. Though acknowledging that the practice reaches back into the ancient church, Calvin rejects it as unbiblical:
For many ages past and almost from the beginning of the church, it was a
custom for laymen to baptize those in danger of death if a minister was
not present at the time. I do not see, however, how this can be
defended with sound reasoning

In defending his position, Calvin points to concerns that others had with the practice. For instance, he notes that Tertullian and Epiphanius were flat opposed to it, that St. Augustine had "doubts" about it, and that the Council of Carthage "decreed without exception....that they should not presume to baptize at all." Foundationally, Calvin has 4 reasons why he opposes the practice:
1) it confuses gender roles (4.15.21)
2) it overturns ecclesiastical order: it is wrong for private individuals to
assume the administration of baptism; for this as well as the serving of the
Supper is a function of the ecclesiastical ministry. For Christ did not
command women, or men of every sort, to baptize, but gave this command
to those whom he had appointed apostles
. (4.15.20)
3) divine adoption of covenant children is based upon promise, not merely on the external administration of the sacrament: God declares that he
adopts our babies as his own before they are born, when he promises that
he will be our God and the God of our descendants after us
[Genesis 17:7]. Their salvation is embraced in this word. No one
will dare be so insolent toward God as to deny that his promise of itself
suffices for its effect
4) Zipporah's circumcision of Moses' son provides no warrant for the practice: Seeing her son in danger, she complained and murmured, and anally
cast his foreskin on the ground, and so reviled her husband that he also at
the same time became angry against God. In short, it is plain that this
whole matter arose from her impetuosity, because she clamored against
God and her husband that she was compelled to shed her son’s blood.
Besides, even if she had behaved herself well in everything else, it is
inexcusable temerity that she circumcised her son in the presence of her
husband — not any private individual, but Moses, the chief prophet of
God, than whom no greater ever arose in Israel. This was no more
permitted to her than for women today to baptize in the presence of a

So that is Calvin's view on emergency baptisms. Just in case this topic comes up over coffee, you will at least know what Calvin had to say about it.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Romans 14:21 and drinking wine

I am fairly certain I don't have to tell you that this is a favorite proof text of teetotallers and legalists who want to make sure no Christian drinks a drop of alcohol. It is sort of an end run argument in the sense that the passage does not condemn the use of alcohol, rather it seems to prohibit use of alcohol out of a brotherly interest not to lead a fellow Christian to stumble by seeing you drink it. That last point though, must be defined clearly by the passage itself, and not by ideas that we import back into it.

Two questions need to be answered in order to get a handle on the meaning and application of this passage:
1) who is the "weaker brother"?
2) what does it mean to cause them to "stumble"?

Well, in order to handle this passage accurately, we need to understand this verse in relationship to the rest of the passage. In context Paul is exhorting the weak and strong not to engage in hostility and judging one another on account of how they either restrain or exercise (in the case of the strong) their freedom. So we need to answer the question, who are the weak and the strong? Well, the strong are converted Gentiles, who really don't have any scruples about diets or drinks. The weak are Jewish converts who living in an urban, metropolitan context, are unsure about where the meat sold in the market has come from. Because they are not sure if the meat was actually offered in sacrifice to a pagan god, they won't eat, thinking it could be defiled. Instead of eating meat, they eat vegetables according to the example of Daniel when he was in exile in Babylon (Daniel 1:8). So the weak are converted Jews and the strong are converted Gentiles.

So let's address the 2nd question now, what is it to stumble? Well, vv13-14 seem to help clarify that. Paul admonishes believers in v13 to not put stumbling-blocks in the way of a brother, and then clarifies the matter by saying in v14 that the issue is what a person thinks in his mind. If a brother thinks meat is unclean, then to him, it is unclean. In other words, he thinks that if he partakes of the meat, he is worshiping idols and thereby violating the 1st commandment, because of the strong association with meat and pagan worship in this gentile, pagan context. To cause that brother to stumble means that by eating meat in front of him, he may be led to eat meat, and by doing that, violate his conscience and sin against God for doing what he thinks is idolatrous. Just to be clear, he is not sinning because meat is intrinsically evil, he is sinning because he thinks eating meat is a form of participating in the worship of the god to whom the meat was offered to.

Let's take that information and plug it into the prohibition against wine. Douglass Moo in his outstanding commentary on Romans argues convincingly that the "wine issue" in this passage is not about scruples of conscience over whether it is permissible to consume alcoholic beverages, it is about whether the wine has been offered as a libation in a temple sacrifice to a pagan god. Just as the weak refused to eat meat because they thought it was defiled on account of it being part of a sacrifice, so they refused to drink wine because they believed it to be defiled through an act of pagan worship. So again, causing a brother to "stumble" in the matter of wine is to coerce him to violate his conscience about wine by following the strong believers example of drinking a glass of wine. The sin is not drinking wine per se, any more than it would be a sin to eat meat; the sin is drinking wine thinking that it is defiled, and thinking that by drinking it one is participating in the worship of a false god.

What does all this mean for drinking alcohol then? Well, it means several things:
1) the issue in this passage is not about the principle of whether alcohol is permissible to drink, the issue is, has the wine been defiled because it formed part of pagan offering.

2) just because this passage does not forbid drinking alcohol does not mean then that believers are commanded to drink alcohol, or are better Christians if they do. If you choose, out of Christian liberty, not to drink, that is ok. However, it does not mean you are in any way morally superior to or on better terms with God than the guy who drinks in moderation.

3) legalists who insist on abstinence from alcohol have no proof-text here in this passage. Romans 14:21 simply cannot be forced to support the typical reasons given for why Christians should not drink. If you make your argument for total abstinence from this passage you are just not being faithful to the text. That is a mishandling of the word of God to squeeze a legalistic ideology into this passage.

4) "causing a brother or sister to stumble" by drinking wine does not mean that they will be morally offended by you drinking it and think they are better Christians than you. No Christian, has any right to be morally offended by seeing another believer drink. If they are morally offended by that, they are in sin; that is Paul's whole point in 14:3.

5) I am open to the application that if a person is weak in conscience and believes they must abstain from alcohol because they have no self-control due to sinful patterns of behavior in the past, then a strong believer should avoid drinking alcohol around that "weaker" brother. But then again, I don't think you need this passage to tell you that, because the law of love and common sense should tell you that!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Calvin resurgence: a two-edged sword pt.2

(In the first installment of this essay we set forth the thesis that Timothy George presents a portrait of a two-sided Calvin, one who is malleable and adaptable to progressive evangelicals in a postmodern age and one who is intolerant, divisive, and better ignored and left in the past. In this second and final installment, an argument is presented for interpreting George as presenting a two-sided Calvin, and focus is on the divisive, intolerant, and dangerous Calvin who is better left ignored.)

Where is the other Calvin, the one who is intolerant, divisive, and better left in the past? The answer is, he is found in the things that have been conspicuously left unmentioned. While it is true that George makes reference to the doctrine of predestination, what casual and uninitiated folks might think is the central identifying feature of Calvin’s thoughts, he gives a superficial explanation of its meaning and role in Calvin’s theological system and offers no suggestions for how gaining an appreciation for Calvin’s views on the topic may be useful for contemporary evangelicals. But more disturbing is what is missing. Careful examination of the essay reveals a complete lack of reference to any of the doctrines which Calvin himself identified as the most salient features of Reformed thought: worship, the gospel, and church government.

Offering even just glancing insights into Calvin’s views on these core Protestant doctrines in order stimulate a discussion of his views on these topics seems in order if the aim of the biographical essay is to explain how a recovery of his thought could be beneficial to 21st century evangelicals. For instance, to an evangelical world which experiences anything but a consensus on what constitutes a standard of worship, it is strange that George is utterly silent about Calvin’s very clear definition of what constitutes Biblical worship. In an evangelical world where defining what the gospel means is a constant issue of debate, how could George fail to make reference to Calvin’s view of justification by faith alone, which is Calvin’s definition of the gospel? To an evangelical church which has self-consciously attempted to train its pastor/leaders in the mold of Fortune 500 CEO’s, why not present Calvin’s view of a pastor a teacher and as a holy person who “ought to excel others, and shine by the example of a holier life”? (Cf. 2 separate articles in this CT issue for pastors as CEO's, "Liberty Unbound," p.40; and "The Art of Cyber Church," p.54ff).

Failing to offer even brief discussion on these points which Calvin himself identified as the central doctrines of evangelical Protestantism is curious at best and conspicuous at worst. Of course it would be illegitimate to expect slavish conformity to one man’s views on these crucial doctrines, but it is extremely befuddling that no space at all is given to these basic positions and the claims Calvin made about them in an essay designed to encourage recovery of Calvin’s thought. This glaring omission coupled with George’s rather lame attempt to portray a protopostmodern Calvin characterized by bold strokes of mystery shaded in with highlights of tentativeness, leads the thoughtful reader to conclude that George has serious reservations about a robust Calvin resurgence.

It might be reasonable to suggest that lack of space prevented discussion of such issues, but weighed against the significant amount of time he spent filling in highlights of Calvin’s biography in order to set up the narrative of Calvin as a savant wondering the far reaches of the outpost of modernity in search of entirely new way, seems like an intentional effort to direct attention away from the intolerant, theologically defined, and divisive Calvin. The not so subtle impression left by this biographical piece is that a contemporary Calvin resurgence is like a two-edged sword, fraught with potential danger for evangelicals, if left in the hands of the unskillful. Apparently, the real story is, that five hundred years after his birth there is precious little of the historical Calvin to salvage for contemporary use, and deconstructing those rare and precious parts and translating them into 21st century terms is best done by experts like George who are better equipped to figure out what to ignore, suppress, and leave safely behind in a remote and premodern past.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Romans 15:4-5 and the centrality of preaching

In studying out Romans 15:1-6 for my weekly 5:30 a.m. Bible study in Chino at Denny's just of the 60 hwy and Central ave (shameless plug for you who are willing and able to make it), I noticed a very interesting comment in John Murray's commentary that is worth sharing with a broader audience. After explaining that the things written in the Old Testament were written to generate perseverance and encouragement in the hearts of believers in order that they may have hope (this verse by itself calls for a whole different article when I have the time), Paul prays in v5 that the Roman believers would be of the same mind toward one another according to Jesus Christ. The key to that prayer request is that Paul prays that "God who gives perseverance and encouragement" would grant those spiritual graces to the Romans in order that they would maintain unity according to Christ's will.

Murray in commenting on verse 5 drew out the following point which is worth reflecting on:

The close relation of God to the Scriptures is clearly indicated. Perseverance and encouragement are derived from the scriptures (v4) and they are also derived from God. There is no disjunction. It is through the means of scripture that God imparts to us the patience and comfort that are his.

What Murray is saying here is that we should not think there are 2 separate and distinct ways of acquiring perseverance and encouragement, as if one option is to seek it through the study of scripture, and the other is to just go directly to God in prayer and ask for it. Paul's point is that God is the source of these spiritual graces because of who he is, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort (2 Cor. 1:3), however, he grants those crucial spiritual graces through the means of his inspired word. In other words, if you want these graces to intensify within your soul, you must seek them from God through the means of the preaching of the word.

Paul then makes the same very important point here, that he made back in Romans 10:14-15, and makes in other places, e.g., Ephesians 4:20, that God binds us to the preaching of the word in order partake of Christ and his grace. This of course reinforces unto us, from one more angle, why Christian's are to be a people of the book, and why the Protestant church has been radically committed to the supremacy and centrality of the preaching of the word in worship.