Wednesday, October 30, 2013

A Review of David Platt's Radical

I really wanted to love this book. So many people that I respect highly have said wonderful things about it (including Mark Dever's blurb right on the first page) that I figured it must be good. The book, boiled down to its core, is a call to American Christians to stop living for their own comfort and prosperity and follow Jesus' call to a radical Christianity that is committed to reaching the nations with the saving gospel of Jesus Christ.

There were several great things that I very much appreciated about the book:
  1. David Platt really does have a heart for reaching the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is very evident in everything he says. In other words, I don't doubt his sincerity in the slightest. 
  2. He does have a very valid critique of the widespread version of American evangelicalism that associates Christianity with America and prosperity and everything that comes with it. And even within those parts of American Christianity that push back against this Christianized American dream, there can be a tendency towards over-reliance on our money and our stuff. 
  3. He also is right to call American Christians to look beyond themselves and their own comfort and see the needs of a lost and dying world around us, both locally and internationally. This is something that I know I need to hear, and has caused me to turn a very critical eye on my own life and how I am involving myself in Christ's mission to make disciples here and around the world. This should and does involve significant sacrifice, something that Platt demonstrates very well. 
  4. Chapter 7, "There Is No Plan B: Why Going is Urgent, Not Optional," is a very good exegesis of Romans that shows why reaching the world with the gospel is so important. If the entire book had been like this chapter, I would have nothing but praise for it. 
  5. Finally, his conclusion, "One Year to a Life Turned Upside Down," is one of the best parts of his book, because the things he calls Christians to are exactly the things he should be calling Christians to: reading Scripture, praying for the nations, give our money generously, serve in contexts outside our local church, and get involved in a local church. 
Unfortunately, while I agree with much of Platt's basic critique, I think that the book falls far short of accomplishing the worthy purpose for which it was written. These are just a few of the reasons why I say this:
  1. He is so hyperbolic in his language that he seems to completely miss his target audience. Throughout the book, he talks of the "American church" as if it were one organic whole, with every individual church being exactly the same, having completely abandoned the gospel of Jesus Christ, distorted the words of Jesus beyond all recognition, willfully spending all of its money on worthless things, and entirely unconcerned with the true mission of Christ. Unfortunately, while hyperbole may make good polemic, it doesn't capture the world we live in. There are thousands and thousands of faithful churches out there pursuing Christ's mission wholeheartedly, and the real problem in much of the American church is a question of distraction from the mission, not wholesale abandonment. But there is so little nuance in Platt's book (maybe because denunciation is easier than nuanced critique) that people like me, who need to hear his message but are members of faithful churches that do pursue Christ's mission, are left out of the mix. It's all or nothing in Platt's picture of the American church, which just isn't an accurate picture of reality. 
  2. It could just be my own perception, but I was overwhelmed by the humblebrag that seemed to pervade the book. His incessant description of his seeming eighty-five trips to India and his high demand in South Korea and his visits with the underground church in China often seem just as intent on showing how great the demand is for David Platt, the speaker and leader, as on actually making the points about the passion and needs of the international church that he is trying to make. It seems that in every chapter there are at least five different examples from his world travels or from his wise and perceptive leadership of his church in Alabama. I know what he was probably trying to say, but all I could hear was "look at all the cool things I've done and the great ways I lead." 
  3. Platt also makes the mistake that I think a lot of authors and speakers make when talking about the international church--namely, the exaltation of international believers to the denigration of American Christians. I do not deny that there is often much passion and love for the Lord evident in international churches, but those churches have all of their own problems, like the widely prevalent struggles with occult practices slipping themselves into Christian contexts. No church in this world is perfect, including churches that are not in America, and holding the practices and/or poverty of international churches over the heads of American Christians as a flat condemnation of American churches is not responsible pastoring or preaching. 
  4. Finally, and most importantly, the way that Platt phrases both his condemnations and his solution is incredibly legalistic--the emphasis ends up being first on what American Christians have done singlehandedly to lose the gospel and thwart God's purposes (as if anyone has the ability to actually thwart God's purposes) and then on the actions that American Christians need to do in order to recover the gospel and spread the word to a world that needs to hear it. In very few places is the point made that anything that we do as Christians ultimately flows from God, and that, just as we don't have the power to thwart the gospel, God will accomplish his purposes through our actions or even our lack of action. It's not about us, and yet Platt's book makes it all about us and the radical changes that we have to make, even as he tries to focus us on Christ's mission. This point is made far more coherently in this excellent review by John Fonville. As Fonville states at the end, "Platt may understand the relationship of law and grace, but Radical undermines a proper biblical perspective for thousands of readers. Ultimately, Radical's demands cannot be sustained and its end cannot be achieved, because only the gospel can give what the law commands." 
Ultimately, while I agree with much of Platt's critique, I think that this book ends up falling flat. To sum up my thoughts, I have often said that I judge a book by its caveats, because a well-phrased caveat demonstrates not only a good understanding of one's own argument, but also the ways in which that argument may be misunderstood and misapplied, and seeks to correct that misunderstanding before it becomes an issue. Platt's book offers few caveats and demonstrates very little subtlety or nuance in dealing with what is a very difficult and widespread problem. Hyperbole may be effective in getting emotional reactions, but it has a very difficult time communicating truth, and Platt's book has very little to offer outside of its hyperbole. I do believe, from everything that I've heard about Platt and the church he leads, that he loves Jesus and is truly pursuing Christ's mission to make disciples of all nations. I just think that his book does a terrible job of communicating his point in a biblically responsible, nuanced way.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

A Newcomer's Reflections on the Great Game

I grew up in a football family. As far back as I can remember, I've cheered on the men in burgundy and gold on autumn Sunday afternoons (and have, of course, gotten very used to the feelings of optimism and subsequent defeat, since the Redskins have been mediocre for just that long). I played all of the requisite sports as a child--soccer, basketball, t-ball--but abandoned them at a pretty early age because I was fairly incompetent at anything athletic. Baseball I especially loathed, since it was so incredibly boring, especially compared to the excitement and physicality of football.

Fast-forward to college. I was still a devoted Redskins fan, but I started running into an obnoxious number of pretentious baseball fans (including my eventual best man) who would acknowledge that "football was fun and all" but that "it doesn't hold a candle to the majesty of the greatest game on Earth, America's past-time, the thinking man's sport, etc." Talk about a bunch of insufferable snobs. My opposition to baseball was only strengthened. (It didn't help that both of my area teams, the Orioles and the Nationals, had been terrible for about as long as the Redskins. It's hard to get really engaged with a perpetual loser without any family ties.)

Fast forward again to life after graduation. The year was 2012. I'd just gotten married to a wonderful woman and the world was bright and shiny and new. I decided that situational awareness for my area teams would be a good thing to have, so I subscribed to ESPN ScoreCenter alerts on my phone for the Nationals, Orioles, and Tigers (my wife's family's team). Suddenly I was getting score notifications every night, and around July I started to realize that all three of these teams were doing fairly well for themselves. In fact, they were all winning a good number of games. Especially the Nationals.

I started reading the Washington Post sports section to try and learn more about this surprisingly good team. I started hearing names like Bryce Harper, Stephen Strasburg, and Ryan Zimmerman, and they started to mean something to me. I started to care about the Great Strasburg Shutdown (I still think it was a good decision, for the record), and then I got ridiculously excited when they finished the season with the best record in baseball. The other two teams I was following also managed to make the playoffs in very exciting, last minute fashion (the Tigers after a late-season nose-dive by the White Sox, and the Orioles squeezing into the Wild Card game and then knocking out the Rangers). Suddenly baseball was exciting, and my team was the best in the league, and I couldn't get enough.

I still remember sitting in the kitchen on my computer watching MLB GameCenter update pitches for Game 4 of the NLDS against the Cardinals because I didn't have TBS in my cable package. I remember the tension watching Jayson Werth foul pitch after pitch in the bottom of the ninth with the game tied 1-1 and the Nationals in a win-or-go-home situation. I remember dancing around the kitchen like a maniac when he sent his walk-off homer over the left-field wall on the 13th pitch. I wasn't even watching the game, just a box score on a computer screen, but I was totally in--hook, line, and sinker. I was riding high.

I got a few friends to go out to the Greene Turtle sports bar with me to watch the Orioles and the Nationals play in back-to-back Game 5's--winner takes all, loser goes home. The Orioles game didn't go so well--CC Sabathia pitched a complete game and shut them down. But my Nationals were riding high on Werth's homer, and started the game off in resounding fashion: 6 runs in the first three innings, an insurance run in the 8th.--domination. Even in the top of the 9th inning, when the Cards had closed the gap to two runs, I was totally confidant. The Nats were on their way to the NLCS to face off with the Giants. Time to start packing up to leave.

And then the unthinkable. Drew Storen, our rock-solid closer...failed to close. With the winning out one pitch away at five different moments, he gave up four runs...and just like that the game, the season, and all of our wild hopes were at an end. Cardinals 9, Nationals 7--the whole bar was dead silent. No more postseason. No more Nationals baseball. I was heartbroken.

In hindsight, there was no better way to make die-hard baseball fan--pure elation followed by heart-wrenching sorrow. I had just experienced, in the course of 24 hours, the very best of what baseball has to offer. All I could do was put on my Nats cap, walk out of the bar, and start thinking about next season.

This year, I followed every game. I read every article the Post wrote about the National. I played fantasy baseball. I checked out The Complete Idiot's Guide to Baseball from the library so that I could learn the nuances of the game. I sent taunting texts to my Orioles friends during the Battle of the Beltways. And I was so sad when the season ended with a loss against the Diamondbacks. Now I'm cheering on the Tigers as they try to come back in Game 6 of the ALCS against the Red Sox. And I've never been happier. 

So here I am. I still love my Redskins, but now I love my Nationals too. And it turns out the two loves aren't mutually exclusive. I still watch every Redskins game on Sunday afternoons, but now I listen to baseball while I do the dishes every night, or while I drive home from work. 

I had to learn a few things, coming to the game as a football fan. You can't treat a baseball game like you treat a football game. They don't lend themselves to straight undistracted viewing for 3 1/2 hours in the same way football does. It's a perfect sport to have on in the background sometimes, to tune in for just a few innings, to watch while you do something else--and sometimes, to sit riveted while Tigers pitchers flirt with a combined no-hitter well into the ninth inning. It's a sport to watch and think about all of the careful decisions being made--which pitch to throw to which batter, whether to steal a base and when, how to lay down the perfect bunt--and then go crazy for those brief fifteen seconds when Denard Span makes an unbelievable over-the-shoulder catch to end the inning. 

It's a beautiful game. And I'm so glad that the Nationals drew me in and showed me how beautiful it was. 

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Thoughts from a Cross-Country Road Trip

A collection of random thoughts and observations from our 16-day, 7,100 mile, 132 hour road trip around the country:
  • We live in an incredibly beautiful country. I mean, even the supposedly boring parts are incredibly beautiful (e.g. Kansas and South Dakota). Except Ohio. Ohio is boring. I swear this has nothing to do with how many times I've driven through Ohio in the last 24 years. 
  • South Dakota is particularly beautiful. I had no idea. Everything from the rolling hills in the east to the Badlands and the Black Hills in the west definitely made this my surprise favorite drive-through state.
  • Montana's nickname of "Big Sky Country" is no joke. The sky really just feels bigger, and that's probably because of the complete lack of any vegetation. But oh man. I have never felt that small without the presence of stars. 
  • Also, we drove for a good 2-1/2 hours without passing a single house or, more importantly, a gas station in eastern Montana. Thanks Google Maps for not mentioning that fact when you told us to get of I-90.
  • The Mississippi River is huge. That probably goes without saying. But it was not nearly as big or dramatic as the Columbia River in Washington State. You're driving across this incredibly flat and arid farmland that looks like nothing if not the Scottish moors for hours, when suddenly, out of nowhere, you're on the edge of this massive red rock canyon with an unbelievably wide river at the bottom and you just think, "How on earth can we even get across this?" 
  • Seattle was an very friendly city. There's not a ton to see there as a tourist, but everybody was just so nice. Also, the Space Needle is overrated, but the Chihuly blown glass gallery is absolutely incredible. I didn't even know you could do that sort of thing with blown glass.
  • My single favorite moment in Seattle, and possibly of the entire trip, was sitting down after a long day of walking around Seattle in Rachel's Ginger Beer at Pike Place Market and drinking a Montana Mule (ginger beer and whiskey) for a solid forty-five minutes. Talk about delightfully relaxing.
  • All of the coastal roads are beautiful, but US-101 comes nowhere near the coast in Washington, so you might as well wait to get on it until you get into Oregon. 
  • Pretty much all of the West Coast beaches, with a few exceptions, are at the bottom of cliffs. This is very foreign to me, being from the East Coast, so I just thought I'd call it out.
  • Redwoods are very big. And there is a portion of US-101 that winds through them so that it feels like an awesome video game. 
  • Napa is just fun. It really is the only place in the world where people come solely to drink good wine and eat good food, so it feels distinctly European. Plus, it means the food and wine are really, really good. Mmmmmm.
  • San Francisco is very hard to do if you're not with a local. We spent a good 1-1/2 days wandering around the city and felt like we totally missed the real city. We definitely need to go back.
  • However, the tourist stuff in San Francisco is cool too. Alcatraz is awesome, the sea lions are hilarious, and we accidentally were in town for races 3 and 4 of America's Cup, and got to stand at the finish line for both races. In related news, catamarans are awesome.
  • Big Sur would be a lot cooler without being engulfed in fog. Or so I'm told. 
  • Santa Barbara has a ton of shopping. Like, miles and miles of stores, which is only a slight exaggeration. I think people go to Santa Barbara for things other than shopping, but I have no experience of these things.
  • Also, the police department in Psych is a lie. It does not exist. The exterior shot of the police department is nowhere to be found, and boy did we look hard for it. Stupid Vancouver. 
  • Mediocre diner pancakes taste a whole lot better when your toes are in the sand. 
  • Also, I've been trying to avoid mentioning food in these notes, but I had the best sandwich I've ever had at Pickles and Swiss on State Street.
  • If you've never been to Las Vegas, think of every crazy elaborate tourist trap you've ever experienced, and then blow that up to how it could be done if you had unlimited money to make it awesome, and that's Las Vegas. And it really is awesome. Just because it's the mother of all tourist traps doesn't make it any less awesome.
  • You can get an incredible hotel room in Vegas for nothing. But if you want to do things like, I don't know, eat, prepare to spend some serious dough. (Seriously though, our hotel room in the Signature at MGM Grand was a suite with a full kitchen, two bathrooms, a full Jacuzzi, and a balcony. And the TV rose out of the desk with the push of a remote control button and said "Welcome Emily." And it cost $110 a night. No joke.)
  • Utah is gorgeous. But you already knew that.
  • Driving through the Rockies at night is bad. Driving through them in the rain is worse. Driving through them during the Colorado floods of September 2013 means you need to give up and find a hotel in Vail.
  • When you're driving cross-country, and one of your main goals is to see the country, try to plan your days so you don't have to drive at night. In other words, I have no idea what Missouri looks like. 
  • The St. Louis Gateway Arch is actually pretty cool, except it's hard to get a good view if you take I-70 right into the city because you're too busy trying not to drive off a bridge to actually look at it. 
  • The last day of driving on a long trip is the worst, because all you have to look forward to is your own bed. But there is nothing like that feeling of being home and collapsing into your bed. 
Sometime I should share all the incredible food we ate. Maybe I will. But not today.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Is Our Gospel Too Small?

One of the most helpful passages I've read in a very long time comes in the midst of Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert's book What is the Mission of the Church? They take a chapter to look at the current evangelical controversy surrounding what is actually included in the "gospel." Is our gospel too small? Do we limit the gospel when we focus on the cross? Their thinking is very wise and insightful and helps to draw out the exact questions we are asking. I cannot recommend highly enough taking the time to read and absorb them.
     Both of us have over the past several years been immersed in the world of evangelical discussion about the gospel. We've attended the conferences, read the books, looked at the blogs, and written a few things ourselves about this most controverted and important of topics. One of the things we've concluded over the years is that in many ways evangelicals seem to be talking past one another on this question of what the gospel is.
     On the one hand, some would define the gospel as the good news that God is going to remake the world, and that Jesus Christ--through his death and resurrection--is the down payment on that transformation and renewal. They look at the gospel with the widest possible lens, taking in all the promises that God has made to his people, including not only the forgiveness of sins but also the resurrection of the body, the transformation of the world, the establishment of God's kingdom, and all the rest.
     On the other hand, there are those who would define the gospel as the good news that God has acted to save sinners through the death of Jesus in their place and his subsequent resurrection. They look at the gospel with a narrow lens, focusing particularly on that which lies at the foundation of salvation.
     The conversation between these two camps has gotten quite tense, even heated at times, with one side accusing the other of being "reductionistic," and that side firing back with the accusation that the first side is "diluting" the gospel and losing the heart of it.
     A good deal of this confusion can be untangled, we think, by making some careful observations about how this conversation often plays out. It seems to us that these two groups--those who say the gospel is the good news that God is reconciling sinners to himself through the death and resurrection of Jesus (let's call them "zoom-lens people"), and those who say that the gospel is the good news that God is going to renew and remake the world through Christ (call them "wide-angle people")--are really answering two different though highly related questions. Of course both groups say they are answering the question "What is the gospel?" (and they are!), but if you look closely at how they talk, it turns out there's quite a lot being assumed by both sides about that simple-sounding question.
     To a zoom-lens person, the question "What is the gospel?" translates as "What is the message a person must believe in order to be saved?" And so he answers by talking about the substitutionary death of Jesus in the place of sinners and the call to repent and believe. To a wide-angle person, though, the question "What is the gospel?" translates instead to "What is the whole good news of Christianity?" And of course he answers by talking not just about forgiveness but also about all the great blessings that flow from that, including God's purpose to remake the world.
     Now with that in mind, you can see where the confusion comes from. When a zoom-lens person hears a wide-angle person answer the question "What is the gospel?" by talking about the new creation, he thinks, "No! You're taking the focus off the cross and resurrection! A person doesn't need to believe that to be saved! That's diluting the gospel!" On the other hand, when a wide-angle person hears a zoom-lens person answer the same question by talking only about the forgiveness of sins through the cross, he likewise thinks, "No! The good news doesn't stop there! There's more to it than that! You're reducing the gospel to something less than it is!"
     The fact is, depending on how you think about it, neither the wide-angle person nor the zoom-lens person is off base. It's true that when someone asked in the New Testament "What must I do to be saved?" the answer was to repent of sin and believe in the crucified and risen Christ. It's also true, though, that the Bible sometimes (even often!) talks about the gospel with a wide-angle lens. It includes in the whole good news of Christianity not only forgiveness of sin, but also all the other blessings that come to those who are in Christ.
     Another way to put the point is that neither of these two questions is illegitimate. Neither is more biblical than the other. In fact, the Bible asks both the question "What must a person believe in order to be saved?" and the question, "What is the whole good news of Christianity?"--and it answers both in terms of the word gospel. 
The authors proceed to examine in depth several New Testament passages that use the word gospel in both senses. After establishing some shorthand for the two senses of gospel--the gospel of the kingdom for the wide-angle lens sense, and the "gospel of the cross" for the zoom-lens sense, they summarize their finding and bring the two together with the following points:
     First, there is only one gospel, not two.... There is only one gospel--one message of good news--but the New Testament writers seem to have no problem zooming in and out on that one message, sometimes looking at the whole thing and calling it "gospel," and other times zooming in particularly on forgiveness through Christ and calling that "gospel," too.
     Second, the gospel of the kingdom necessarily includes the gospel of the cross. You cannot proclaim the "full gospel" if you leave out the message of the cross, even if you talk for an hour about all the other blessings God has in store for the redeemed. To do that would be like picking up an armful of leaves and insisting that you're holding a tree. Unless those leaves are connected to the trunk, you don't have a tree; you just have an armful of dead leaves. In the same way, unless the blessings of the gospel of the kingdom are connected to the cross, you don't have a gospel at all. Take a look again at those passages from Matthew and Mark where Jesus preaches the arrival of the kingdom. If you look closely, you'll notice that Jesus never preaches simply "The kingdom of heaven is at hand." He always preaches, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand," or, "The kingdom of heaven is at hand; therefore repent and believe the gospel." That is a crucial thing to keep in mind; indeed it is the difference between preaching the gospel and preaching something that is not the gospel at all. To proclaim the inauguration of the kingdom and all the other blessings of God without telling people how they may become partakers of those blessings is to preach a nongospel. Indeed it is to preach an antigospel--bad news--because you're simply explaining wonderful things that your sinful hearers will never have the opportunity to be a part of. The gospel of the kingdom--the broad sense of "gospel"--therefore, is not merely the proclamation of the kingdom. It is the proclamation of the kingdom together with the proclamation that people may enter it by repentance and faith in Christ. Perhaps, in fact, it would be more accurate (though clunky) to speak of the gospel of the cross and the gospel of the kingdom through the cross. And that leads to another point.
     Third, and more specifically, the gospel of the cross is the fountainhead of the gospel of the kingdom. It is the gate through which all the blessings of the kingdom are to be gained. The fact repeated over and over again throughout the New Testament is that the only way a person can become a partaker of the blessings of the kingdom is by coming in faith and repentance to the crucified and risen Lord Jesus for salvation....
     Incidentally, that's why it makes perfect sense for the New Testament writers to call the gospel of the cross "the gospel," even as they go on calling the whole complex of good news "the gospel" as well. Because the broader blessings of the gospel are attained only by means of forgiveness through the cross, and because those broader blessings are attained infallibly by means of forgiveness through the cross, it's entirely appropriate for the New Testament writers to call forgiveness through the cross--the fountainhead of and gateway to all the rest--"the gospel." That's also why we never see the New Testament calling any other single promise of God to the redeemed "the gospel." For example, we never see the promise of the new creation called "the gospel." Nor do we see reconciliation between humans called "the gospel." But we do see reconciliation between man and God called "the gospel" precisely because it is the one blessing that leads to all the rest.
     --Kevin DeYoung and Gregory D. Gilbert, What is the Mission of the Church? Making Sense of Social Justice, Shalom, and the Great Commission, Wheaton, IL: Crossway (2011), pp. 92-94, 106-109. Italics original, bolding added.  

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Gospel According to Handel

Or, The Story of Redemption as Compiled by George Friedrich Handel
Presented in the English Standard Version

Part 1: The Coming of the Messiah

“Comfort, comfort my people,” says your God. “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the Lord's hand double for all her sins.”

A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

For thus says the Lord of hosts: “Yet once more, in a little while, I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land. And I will shake all nations, so that the treasures of all nations shall come in. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming,” says the Lord of hosts.

But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner's fire. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the Lord.

Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. Go on up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good news; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good news; lift it up, fear not; say to the cities of Judah, “Behold your God!” Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.

For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you. And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

There were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, and he shall speak peace to the nations. Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.

He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young. Come to him, all who labor and are heavy laden, and he will give you rest. Take his yoke upon you, and learn from him, for he is gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For his yoke is easy, and his burden is light.

Part 2: The Suffering and Triumph of the Messiah

Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief. He gave his back to those who strike, and his cheeks to those who pull out the beard; he hid not his face from disgrace and spitting.

Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; but he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.  All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

All who see him mock him; they make mouths at him; they wag their heads; saying “He trusts in the Lord; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him!” Reproaches have broken his heart, so that he is in despair. He looked for pity, but there was none, and for comforters, but he found none. Look and see if there is any sorrow like his sorrow. He was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of his people.

But you will not abandon his soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption. Lift up your heads, O gates! And be lifted up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord, strong and mighty, the Lord, mighty in battle! Lift up your heads, O gates! And lift them up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts, he is the King of glory!

For to which of the angels did God ever say, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you”? Let all God's angels worship him. You ascended on high, leading a host of captives in your train and receiving gifts among men, even among the rebellious, that the Lord God may dwell there.

The Lord gives the word; the women who announce the news are a great host. How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness. Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.

Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying, “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.” He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel.

Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever. King of kings and Lord of lords. Hallelujah!

Part 3: The Return of the Messiah

For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God. For now Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.

Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality.

Then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

If God is for us, who can be against us? Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.

Worthy is the Lamb who was slain—by your blood you ransomed people for God—to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing! To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever! Amen.

Biblical Texts:

Part 1: Isaiah 40:1-5; Haggai 2:6-7a; Malachi 3:1b-3; Isaiah 7:10b; Isaiah 40:9; Isaiah 60:1-3; Isaiah 9:2, 6; Luke 2:8-11,13-14; Zechariah 9:9a,10b; Isaiah 35:5-6; Isaiah 40:11; Matthew 11:28-30

Part 2: John 1:29; Isaiah 53:3; Isaiah 50:6; Isaiah 53:4-6; Psalm 22:7-8; Psalm 69:20; Lamentations 1:12b; Isaiah 53:8b; Psalm 16:10; Psalm 24:7-10; Hebrews 1:5a, 6b; Psalm 68:18, 11; Isaiah 52:7a; Psalm 19:4a; Psalm 2:1-4, 9; Revelation 19:6b; Revelation 11:15b; Revelation 19:16b

Part 3: Job 19:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:20-22, 51-53, 54b-57; Romans 8:31b, 33-34; Revelation 5:12a,9b,12b,13b,14

Helpful Sources:
http://www.angelfire.com/tx5/jeansptx/messiahh.htm
http://opera.stanford.edu/iu/libretti/messiah.htm

Friday, January 07, 2011

Albums of the Year

It seems that the posts around here have been getting more trivial...not to mention spaced very far apart. Believe it or not, I'm halfway through a post about evolution, science, and the Bible, but then, I started it two months ago, so we'll see if it ever gets finished. This post is more on the fun side, though.

I discovered several new bands last year, some new and some old, and some of my old favorite bands released some great new albums. So this is my list of the 15 albums that I enjoyed the most in 2010. There's no particular order, and you'll see that the albums stretch from released last year to released thirty years ago.

1. Mumford & Sons - Sigh No More

Possibly my favorite album of the year, this Irish band somehow manages to pull off something I can only describe as alternative folk rock...although I can't neglect the bluegrass influences. They have a knack for melody, and the arrangements usually range from stripped back acoustic to symphonic choirs, often in the same song. I'll admit, I haven't been able to get enough of this album, and I'm already eagerly anticipating their follow-up. Stellar tracks include, well, the whole album, but especially "The Cave," "Roll Away Your Stone," and "Little Lion Man."

2. John Mark McMillan - The Medicine

An impulse buy at the beginning of this semester, this indie-feeling rock album quickly earned my respect. The sound is reminiscent of Kings of Leon, but managing to sound a little less like it was recorded in a garage without sounding overly produced. There's a raw energy that comes from McMillan's raspy rock vocals, yet staying much closer to folk rock. Plus, his lyrics entertwines Christian themes with incredibly skillful and sometimes beautiful poetry, approaching old topics in fresh new ways. Highlights include "Carbon Ribs," "Out of the Ground," and the title track.

3. OneRepublic - Waking Up

Something about OneRepublic's blend of incredibly skillful singing, catchy rhythms, and string section allows me to keep returning for more enjoyment. It's fairly light fare, but oh-so-catchy. I think I had "All the Right Moves" stuck in my head for half of the year. Other great tracks include "Secrets," "Fear," and "Marchin' On."

4. The Gabe Dixon Band - The Gabe Dixon Band

Someone gave me the live version of their track "All Will Be Well" a few years ago, and it quickly became one of my favorite songs. This year I finally decided to buy their whole album, and I can't say enough good things about it. It's a trio of a pianist, a drummer, and a bassist, and the lack of a guitarist leads them to create some sweet piano-driven tracks, carried by Dixon's beautiful tenor voice and skillful lyrics. Every track on this album is a winner, but especially "Disappear," "Find My Way," "And the World Turned," and the incredible forementioned "All Will Be Well" (which is still in my top five list of songs all-time).

5. Kings of Leon - Only By the Night

When my iPod got wiped in Turkey, this was one of the only albums I managed to salvage from other people's iPods. Thank goodness. The rough, raw vocals and guitars of this alternative rock band go way beyond the song everyone knows, "Use Somebody." There's a raw energy here that is infectious, and Anthony Followill's almost soulful voice soars over the somewhat grungy guitars. Listening to this album in many ways is its own experience. Highlights include the forementioned "Use Somebody," "Closer," "Crawl, and "Sex on Fire."

6. Switchfoot - Hello Hurricane

I've been a Switchfoot fan since the wonder that was The Beautiful Letdown, but with this album they've almost outdone themselves. It feels like they've returned more to their roots and given some straight-up alternative rock that flows with energy. Although it feels a little more produced than some of their previous efforts, that doesn't hurt it at all, and Jon Foreman has never sounded better. Hightlights include "Needle and Haystack Life," "Free," "Enough to Let Me Go," and the title track.

7. House of Heroes - Suburba

I was a huge fan of House of Heroes last album The End Is Not the End, and so I was really excited for this release this year. A concept album about living in suburban white middle-class America, the band has a flair for witty lyrics and catchy melodies, but what really gets me is the musicianship of the band: all their vocals, including background vocals, are sung around one old-fashioned group mic, producing some absolutely incredible sounds. This is just a straight-up rock album, and they reflect that by being willing to take legit guitar solos that are reminiscent of classic rock days, but with a very modern flair. Highlights include "Love Is For the Middle Class," "Salt in the Sea," and "Disappear."

8. Dave Matthews Band - Big Whiskey and the Groo-Grux King

I only really discovered DMB this past year, but I sure am glad that I did. Since I've been listening to all their albums, it was hard to pick one, but I'd say this is the one I've listened to the most. I don't feel like I need to say much about it--I love sax in a rock band, I love his voice, and I love the fact that everything they do sounds like the best kind of jam session. I hope I can see them in concert some day. Highlights include "Shake Me Like a Monkey," "Funny the Way It Is," and "Dive In."

9. Florence + the Machine - Lungs

My friend gave me F+tM's track "Heavy In Your Arms" for my birthday, and I was an instant convert. It's hard to describe their style...percussion-heavy, fairly symphonic rock with a Regina Spektor-like vocalist. It's just a vocal pleasure that sweeps you up in the sound. Hightlights include "Dog Days Are Over," "Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)," and "Howl."

10. Fleetwood Mac - The Dance

I've always loved Fleetwood Mac, who I discovered in the middle of high school, but I've found myself going back to this album over and over again. It's a live recording of their 1994 reunion tour, and features reinterpretations of many of their classic hits. I love the originals, but I love the redone versions of "Rihannon" and "Big Love," and "Landslide" is one of my all-time favorite songs. I'm not usually a fan of live albums, but this is one of the best.

11. David Crowder*Band - Illuminate

I know, Church Music is the one that just came out, and it's a good album, but having rediscovered this, their second album, it just can't compare. Something about the laid-back experimental style and the simple yet profound lyrics gets me every time, and I could just put this one on repeat for hours. David Crowder shows that you can be an explicitly Christian band and still make great, not just good, music. Highlights include "Open Skies," "How Great," and "Heaven Came Down."

12. Sara Bareilles - Little Voice

I was one of the people who originally downloaded "Love Song" as a free iTunes download and propelled it to a mega radio hit, but I didn't get the full album until this summer. I can't believe I waited so long. She has one of the most amazing voices in popular music, and every one of her songs is a beautiful, soul-stirring arrangement. Most albums peter off at the end, but the closing track "Gravity" is one of the most heart-stoppingly beautiful songs I've ever heard. Highlights include "Love Song," "One Sweet Love," "Between the Lines," and the forementioned "Gravity."

13. Relient K - Forget and Not Slow Down

I've been a Relient K fan since the goofiness of The Anatomy of the Tongue in Cheek, but unlike many of those high school fans I've stuck with the band as they've matured into a legit rock band, leaving their goofiness behind and demonstrating their gifted songwriting and a willingness to try something different. This album I actually was not a huge fan of the first few times because it's so different, but repeated listens propelled it to a status as one of my favorites of theirs. They have definitely completely left punk behind, and actually poppified a little bit in a good way. In contrast to their other albums, this is a fairly happy album, and displays their matured musical sensibilities well. Highlights include "I Don't Need a Soul," "Savannah," and the two-track closer "This Is the End (If You Want It)."

14. U2 - October

This has also been the year that I discovered the U2 beyond The Joshua Tree. Surprisingly, my favorite album of theirs so far is their second album, which produced no lasting singles and which most people don't care about. Yet something about the raw energy of this album, the first following Bono's conversion, just appeals to me, and his soaring vocals on tracks like "Gloria" and "Rejoice" stirs my soul. Highlights include the forementioned "Gloria," "Rejoice," "Fall Down," and the haunting title track.

15. 30 Seconds to Mars - This Is War

I've never been much for modern rock, so 30 Seconds to Mars' earlier albums never held much appeal for me besides as an adrenaline boost. In this album, though, they really vary things up, experimenting with atmospheric sounds, full choirs, and even a more electronic overall feel. The result is an album that is a pleasure to listen to and which has been my default rock album for the last year. Highlights include "Night of the Hunter," "Kings and Queens," "Closer to the Edge," and the title track.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Playlist fun

Since I obviously have nothing better to do with my time, I have decided to post twice this weekend on my blog. This post is really totally self-indulgent, though...it's completely preoccupied with my obsession with organizing iTunes.

As many of you know, constructing a good playlist is an artform. You need to know what mood you're looking for and then, among all the songs in your library (in my case, that's a lot of songs) pick just the right ones to foster that mood. You need a focal point which all the songs rotate around, adding variety but not moving too far from that center.

I had a barbeque at my house last weekend, and I decided to construct a new playlist for it. The original version was about 7 hours long, but after listening through it once I shortened it to about 5 hours...just the right length for a good party. I wanted something with an alternative rock flavor, leaning towards classic rock, especially focused on a certain style of guitars and a certain flavor of beat. There ended up being a ton of U2 with a lot of The Clash and Switchfoot, to give you an idea of what the sound was. I'm very pleased with the result, so I thought I'd share it here. Enjoy!

"Oh! Darling" --The Beatles
"Everybody's Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey" --The Beatles
"You May Be Right" --Billy Joel
"Livin' On a Prayer" --Bon Jovi
"Keep the Faith" --Bon Jovi
"More Than a Feeling" --Boston
"Peace of Mind" --Boston
"You Got Your Man" --Brother Henry
"Beautiful" --Audio Adrenaline
"Born in the USA" --Bruce Springsteen
"California Bound" --Carolina Liar
"Magic" --The Cars
"Hateful" --The Clash
"Rudie Can't Fail" --The Clash
"Up Around the Bend" --Creedance Clearwater Revival
"Foreign Language" --Anberlin
"A Day Late" --Anberlin
"Shake Me Like a Monkey" --Dave Matthews Band
"The Nearness" --David Crowder*Band
"We Win!" --David Crowder*Band
"Open Skies" --David Crowder*Band
"Heartache Tonight" --The Eagles
"Go Your Own Way" --Fleetwood Mac
"Some Kind of Wonderful" --Grand Funk Railroad
"Sweet Child o' Mine" --Guns N' Roses
"I'm Confused" --Handsome Furs
"Disappear" --Jars of Clay
"Work" --Jars of Clay
"Collide" --Jars of Clay
"I'm Alright" --Jars of Clay
"Closer" --Jars of Clay
"Sweetness" --Jimmy Eat World
"Any Way You Want It" --Journey
"What's on My Mind" --Kansas
"Silhouettes in Disguise" --Kansas
"Power" --Kansas
"The Imposter" --Kevin Max
"Return of the Singer" --Kevin Max
"Angel With No Wings" --Kevin Max
"When You Were Young" --The Killers
"Use Somebody" --Kings of Leon
"Suddenly I See" --KT Tunstall
"Rock and Roll" --Led Zeppelin
"Sweet Home Alabama" --Lynyrd Skynyrd
"Gimme Three Steps" --Lynyrd Skynyrd
"Real World" --Matchbox Twenty
"Spotlight" --MuteMath
"Electrify" --MuteMath
"Typical" --MuteMath
"Cornelius" --Newsboys
"Beyond Belief" --Petra
"Message In a Bottle" --The Police
"Sunsets" --Powderfinger
"Dani California" --Red Hot Chili Peppers
"Come Right Out and Say It" --Relient K
"I Don't Need a Soul" --Relient K
"Roll With It" --Steve Winwood
"You Need Love" --Styx
"Redemption" --Switchfoot
"You Already Take Me There" --Switchfoot
"Stars" --Switchfoot
"American Dream" --Switchfoot
"Refugee" --Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
"She's On Fire" --Train
"Even Better Than the Real Thing" --U2
"Mysterious Ways" --U2
"Beautiful Day" --U2
"Elevation" --U2
"Vertigo" --U2
"I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" --U2
"In God's Country" --U2
"Desire" --U2
"Hawkmoon 269" --U2
"Pride (In the Name of Love)" --U2
"Seven Nation Army" --The White Stripes
"I Can See for Miles" --The Who
"Darling, You Were Beautiful Once" --William F. Gibbs
"Go Go Go" --The 88

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Great Mac Debate

Let it be known up front that I have always been a Mac-hater. Some would attribute this to a tendency which I’ve identified in myself before in this space: to hate something just because everybody else likes it. I’ve often wondered if that was the reason myself. So many of my friends like it, could I just be reacting to them and not to the product itself? Yet every time I used a Mac something else about it turned me off. My friends would tell me I just had to use it for a while and (like the new Facebook) once I got used to the different features I would see how superior of a product it was.

When I started working this summer, they set me up on a MacBook Pro with Snow Leopard on it. I immediately saw this as an excellent opportunity to clear things up in my own mind. Using it every day for three months would grant me that longevity of experience that is truly necessary to make an informed judgment about it. I did my best to approach it with an open mind and an understanding that an adjustment was needed as I transitioned between a PC and a Mac.

I didn’t need three months. 160 user hours later (give or take) I have already come to a decision within my mind: it wasn’t just my tendency as a hater. I will never, ever own a Mac. Why? Well, I thought it would be easier to break it down into what I do like about Macs (to show why I’m not an irrational hater) and then explain what I don’t.

I should also explain before I start that I use Windows 7, which changes a lot of my comments. If I was still suffering through Vista, I may see some of these things differently. For instance, connecting to wireless networks was terrible in Vista—it was a complicated, multi-step process that was an absolute pain. Mac, however, had a very usable one that is very streamlined and made it easier. However, W7 took the Mac concept and made it better, more informative, and more useful, so that I much prefer the W7 system over the Mac. Realize that this will be an often unstated thread running through much of this post.

Things I Like About Macs

Spaces and ExposĂ©: I’ll admit, these are two incredibly powerful tools for organizing and locating your windows. Windows has tried to do things like it, but has failed miserably. I love using them both, and if they were the only criteria, I would be on a Mac in a second.

Dashboard: Again, Apple has figured out widgets in a way that Microsoft and even Google have not. Seamlessly integrated and easy to use with tons of choices…again, Mac wins. Sidebar? Puh-lease. Not even in the same league.

Hot Corners: Some laptops have this feature as well, but it seems that Macs is better than any PC version I’ve used. Especially when there is no key combination to lock your computer (a la WINDOWS + L), it’s easy to just move your mouse down to the corner to pull up the screensaver. It’s a nice feature.

Power Cord: This one’s tricky. The cord is a double-edged sword, but I’ll address what I like about it here, and what I don’t like down below. What I like is the magnetic power port, especially on the new ones where you have that snazzy little bar that clips on. Besides just looking cool, it’s a great idea to avoid getting your laptop whisked off the table. Brilliant, Apple.

Desktop Usability: The idea of having hard drives, CDs, flash drives, etc., show up on the desktop is a good one. It’s always easy to find what you’re looking for (especially since you can’t find it in Finder…but more on that later). This is enhanced by…

Window Layout: Mac seems to have an absolute fear of letting window corners take up the whole screen. You should always be able to see multiple windows in Apple’s mind. This makes it easier to use the Desktop as well. It’s generally a good system, and one I seek to implement in my own PC.

Basic Systems Settings: It’s easy to change your desktop, screensaver, power options, etc., in Mac. W7 improved the Control Panel for PCs, but it’s still not as simple and functional as System Preferences. Especially on two-screens, this is very helpful.

See, there are lots of things I like about Macs. But obviously that’s not the whole story, or I’d be going out to buy one now.

Things I Dislike About Macs

Finder: I’ll just get it out right now. I hate Finder. I always have, and no matter how much I use it, it continues to frustrate me with its remarkable lack of usability. Now, it’s very good for a very specific kind of search. If all you’re doing is trying to find a file, then it works great. Try to do anything else, however, and you’re going to run into problems. Moving files to different folders is remarkably cumbersome, as is basically any kind of arrangement process. It essentially requires you to have two windows open to do anything, and if you’re a file structure geek like me, its complete lack of any flexibility in viewing options is incredibly frustrating. Try as I might, Finder remains the thing I hate most about Macs. There is close competition, however, from…

The Dock: Okay, seriously? When was this ever a good idea? The Dock makes Expose necessary by completely removing functionality. Basically all that it’s good for is launching programs, but once the program is launched, you have to use Expose to find it again. Minimizing is even worse, because the file becomes a screenshot of the window without a name, which is frustrating to use. Now, in W7, I think they take the good things about the Dock and the good things about the Windows taskbar and make it incredibly functional. Big moveable program buttons (just like the Dock) with the flexibility to either give separate windows when they’re open or group them all under the icon…it looks great, is incredibly functional, and adapts to meet different organizational styles. It’s what the Dock should be.

Obsession with Floating: I already said above that I like the way the various windows float, making the desktop more usable and making it appear that you have more screenspace. In an effort to reduce clutter, however, Mac took floating way too far (or at least, that’s the only explanation I can think of). Opening even a remotely complex program means that multiple windows are going to open and get lost in the Expose shuffle. Nowhere is this clearer than with…

Office for Macs: No matter what anyone says, open-source word-processing programs suck (even OpenOffice…sorry guys). Nothing is as usable or as powerful (or, admittedly, as frustrating) as Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. Yet Office for Macs is terrible. Half of the functionality even of Word 2003, much less 2007 or 2010, is gone or incredibly difficult to access. All the toolbars float, so if you’re working in multiple documents and moving them around, especially on multiple screens, your toolbars are never in the place you need them to be. On a PC you always know exactly where to find the tool you need: it’s always at the top of the document you’re working in. On a Mac, you never know. It could be anywhere, and it’s probably collapsed anyways. In Excel the most important part, the formula bar, disappears everywhere. It’s never in a convenient place. I could go on, but you get the idea. The world’s most powerful word-processing and spreadsheet-creating programs are frustratingly unusable on a Mac.

Main Toolbar: Moving right along with the obsession with floating, part of Mac’s solution is to always put the main toolbar on top of the screen. No matter where the window is, you always know where to find the toolbar. This is incredibly inconvenient, though, since it usually involves using your cursor more to move around the screen trying to get to the toolbar (it seems like a minor point, but it’s a big part of computer usability), and creates an extra step or two to access it for any other program. It’s annoying and unwieldy.

Power Cord: Here’s the other half: the rest of the power cord (besides the actual power port into the computer) is awful. The huge bulky surge protector is nice for wrapping up the cord, but try and plug it into the wall and it hogs the entire outlet and falls out. If the outlet is even a little bit sunk it, it’s unusable unless you get the other half of the cord, which is three prong and doesn’t work in half the outlets. It’s clunky and (in my opinion) ugly. Not that PC cords are good to look at, but I don’t expect them to be like I would from Apple.

Right-Clicks: I don’t care what everyone says—CTRL+Click is not “just as usable” as the right click button. Sure, it’s not much extra work, but when you already use a million shortcuts, making the button two spaces over into the right click causes immense confusion and mistakes. I know this is something that becomes more natural with time, but I don’t like having to use two hands when I don’t have to. It’s a minor thing that is a big usability issue, and you’d think Apple would have figured that out by now. (I know that the new mice come with the two-finger-click ability, which is nice, but still to my mind not as functional as a straight-up right click.)

Network Controls: I have to use a network extensively at work. Finder is terrible at networks. It’s hard to connect, hard to find where you want to be, hard to make usable shortcuts, and all that. Here’s a small point that has caused much pain for me: if you set up an alias (really, an “alias”? That’s the best you could come up with?) to a folder, when you click that alias it doesn’t give you the filepath you followed. So say you want to move one folder up. You can’t. You have to go back to the beginning and find your way there. It’s terrible for navigating. (This is really just my point about Finder restated, I suppose.)

Other Things: I think the location of the COMMAND key is poorly chosen. CTRL is easy for shortcuts because it’s in a corner, but there’s always some gymnastics going on when I use COMMAND. I know that you get used to it, and I have, but I just think it’s poorly placed. I could go into Mac’s incompatibility with everything, which is important, but which I don’t have the expertise to talk about, or into it’s lack of “smartness” (it’s ability to remember what I did the last time I took an action), or even into my dislike for the design (grey just doesn’t do it for me). But I won’t. I think I’ve said enough.

Overall, the thing I dislike the most about Macs, if I had to sum up everything I’ve said, is a lack of flexibility. Macs are made so that people learn the one process that Apple wants you to follow and then do it every time. If you want to do something differently, it doesn’t like that and it fights you. PCs may be a little more clunky and not quite as streamlined, but you can always find a way to do what you want to do in a way that’s useful for you, not for Microsoft. Apple seems to need to control what its users do. That’s why it hates open-source so much. If you have anybody else coming in and writing code without being under your direct control, things get clunkier. But in this instance, clunkier is more powerful. If you need smooth and streamlined because you’re a photographer or a graphic designer, than Macs are great. But if you actually want personalization and flexibility to use your computer the way you want to use it, not the way it wants you to use it, than PCs win hands-down.

That’s why I will always buy PC.

Oh, and one more thing: my Mac is just as glitchy as my PC. People say Macs aren’t glitchy, but that’s just because AppleCare is so good and replaces everything. Handy, yes, but it doesn’t remove Apple’s problems.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Is Jesus My Boyfriend?

I read two blog posts today that I don't think are directly related to each other, but which couldn't correspond any better if they were.

The first is a post on one of my favorite blogs, Abraham Piper's 22 Words, which had the title "The problem with disliking Jesus-is-your-boyfriend music is that Jesus is (y)our boyfriend":
I’m uncomfortable as anyone with Christians being Jesus’ lover.

But that’s my fault. I shouldn’t blame those who thrill to this metaphor.
The purpose of this particular blog is to have the entire post be under 22 words, so obviously there's no room for exposition of his view (this also explains the rather long titles).

The second is a post from Professor John Stackhouse (Regent College) entitled "Jesus, I'm NOT in Love with You," in which he argues against "Jesus-is-my-boyfriend" music by saying that loving Christ and being in love with Christ are two completely different things, and that being in love with someone is something reserved only for your spouse. He goes into much more detail than Piper does, and I think his most compelling argument is the following:
But the New Testament never calls Christians Jesus’ fiancĂ©es or his brides. Instead, it is the Church collectively, and only the Church as a whole, that relates to Jesus this way–just as individual Israelites did not relate to Yhwh as so many spouses, but only the nation of Israel as nation was his beloved bride.
So who is right? Is Jesus my boyfriend or not? Are those songs helpful or not? I think the question comes down to the nature of an individual's relationship to the community.

My initial thought is that although Stackhouse is basically right, I don't know if the community can be separated from the individual that dramatically. I think there's overlap where it's not necessarily a problem to sing those songs, although I think there are maybe better things you could be singing about.

But those are just my preliminary thoughts. What are your thoughts?

Friday, August 07, 2009

Allegiance to...who?

So Dr. Richard Gamble, the professor who influenced my last post on system building so greatly, has just written a review for the American Conservative of the American Patriot's Bible (which, coincidentally, I first directed his attention to several months ago...at least I think I was among the first). Within his scathing review, he states much more eloquently than I can the system constructed by the modern evangelical movement.
Modern American evangelicalism has its own way of reconciling church and state. It imagines an ideal American founding on Christian principles, blames the nation’s decline on secularists, and mobilizes politically active believers to “reclaim” America as God’s chosen land. It sees no inherent conflict between America and the gospel. Christianity is safe for America’s political and economic order. In fact, a return to the Bible’s wisdom and morality would automatically heal the nation and secure its bright future. No one need choose between allegiance to Christ and allegiance to America.
It's a great article in general, which I highly encourage you to read.