Monday, April 30, 2007

III Movies

So I have to admit that I am pretty excited about several of the movies coming out this summer, even though the vast majority of them are sequels. Actually--I found this amusing--most of the blockbusters this summer will be III movies, not just sequels. For example, the one's I'm really excited about:

Plus there are some III movies that I might see, although I'm not expecting much from them:

Then of course, there are a few movies that aren't III movies that should still be good:

Why do I bring this up here? No particular reason except that 1) I don't have time for a real post and 2) I'm going to see Spidy 3 at the midnight showing this week, so it's on my mind. Hope it lives up to its predecessors!

(And guess what? Batman Begins has a sequel coming out next year, with the original cast and Christopher Nolan back at the helm, and it's called The Dark Knight. So excited!)

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Odds and Ends IX

There have been a lot of good links I've found in a very short amount of time, so here's the next installment.

  • Hadley Arkes explains the significance of small steps in eradicating abortion, starting with Gonzales v. Carhart.
  • On a related note, Tim Challies examines a woman being charged with first-degree murder for killing her two-hour old baby, and ponders why a journey through a birth canal changes the killing from acceptable to murder.
  • Nathan Busenitz is beginning a series on guiding principles for Christians who blog.
  • Tim Challies also explains the Calvinist doctrine of Limited Atonement (or Particular Redemption) and its relevance to our lives.


  • FCN writes a brilliant satire piece that declares Harry Reid's reelection bid is already lost. Really, I don't know how college freshman can write at this level.


  • This is a personal item, but I had what was possibly the best day of my life so far last Sunday with a bunch of friends, and the amazingly talented Lydia Jane posted pictures of our excursion here. These are the days we remember all of our lives...
  • Superchick is offering a free download of their song "Hero" in memory of the Virginia Tech Massacre. I think the song is worth the download.
  • People can even make their books into art, as this website proves. Scary...
  • For all of you who don't know the difference between your second cousin and your cousin twice removed, here is a diagram that will solve all of your problems.


"Although the law of sin is in believers, it is not a law to believers. Nevertheless, even when the rule of sin is broken, its strength weakened and impaired, and its root modified, yet it is still of great force and efficacy. When it is least felt, it is in fact most powerful." --John Owens, Sin and Temptation

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The Matrix

If there was any movie designed for the kind of evaluations I like to write, it was this one. It's a worldview encapsulated in a film. There are, admittedly, analogies to Christianity, but ultimately it is a very New Age film. Dissecting all of the different paths this takes would be a much longer post than I have the time or the patience for, so I'll just touch on a few of them. (Once again, there are many spoilers contained in this review, and I'm writing it with the assumption that the readers are familiar with basic plot elements.)

People often point to a few different aspects of the movie to say, "Look, this is basically a Christian allegory." First, they point to Morpheus's explanation at the beginning when he says,

The Matrix is everywhere. It is all around us. Even now, in this very room. You can see it when you look out your window or when you turn on your television. You can feel it when you go to work... when you go to church... when you pay your taxes. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth...that you are a slave, Neo. Like everyone else you were born into bondage. Into a prison that you cannot taste or see or touch.
"See?" people will say. "That's a perfect description of sin. It's a prison that we can't sense, and it's universal to all humans." And those people are right. It's a good description of sin. However, I don't think that's what the directors were aiming for. As a matter of fact, I know it, and that's because of the very next line Morpheus says: "A prison for your mind." This line can certainly be interpreted to be Christian, but in the context of the rest of the film it most certainly is not. It is much more similar to the New Age thought that our minds are the only real part of our selves. The body is merely illusion, the mind is everything, and if you can properly understand your mind, you can gain great power. You can even become like a god.

Which leads me to the second evidence that people often point to: Neo as Messiah. He is the chosen one who will save the world (and it turns out he saves it through sacrificing himself, as I found out reading a plot synopsis of Matrix Revolutions, the final movie in the trilogy). Obviously, nobody says that he's a perfect allegory of Christ, but many people think it's the most Christian element of the film. And once again I agree, to a point. There are several parallels between Neo and Christ. However, these parallels are certainly not because the Wachowski brothers were aiming for it. On the contrary, as I've shown and as interviews with them demonstrate, they are much more New Age in their sensibilities.

On a related sidenote, I'd like to point out that the concept of a Messiah fits well into New Age thought, because many New Agers believe that some humans will move or evolve to a higher consciousness and that by doing so will pull the rest of humanity with them. For example, Marilyn Ferguson states "The proven plasticity of the human brain and human awareness offers the possibility that individual evolution may lead to collective evolution" (The Aquarian Controversy, p. 70). Sounds a little bit like Matrix, doesn't it?

What is my point in all this? Essentially, it's to point out something that the Apostle Paul addressed well in Romans 1: mankind knows the truth, but in his pride and self-sufficiency he suppresses the truth. Man doesn't want to believe that God is in control, so they invent their own world and force themselves to believe in it. Thus they simultaneously know the truth and don't know the truth. Yet God still loves them after that, and he pours out what is known as common grace to all men, allowing them to demonstrate aspects of his character without knowing it. He stops them from being as bad as they could be. Men still try to construct their own worlds, but because they know the truth they can merely borrow from the truth (albeit subconciously) to construct these worlds. Paul acknowledges this in Acts 17 when he speaks to the Athenians, telling them that their poets had the right idea but applied it to the wrong place. They were decieved, but they had a nugget of truth.

Matrix contains many of these nuggets of truth, possibly more than most movies. The idea of a prison that we're all trapped in and a Messiah that will come to save us from it comes straight from Christian doctrine. Yet the ideas are misapplied into a New Age sensibility. It's like a gigantic non sequitur, a logical fallacy that literally means "doesn't follow. It describes the fallacy wherein the premises are established and then a conclusion is drawn that completely doesn't follow from those premises. That's how the depraved mind works: it knows the truth, but it draws the wrong conclusions because it refuses to draw the right ones.

But there is common grace, or else this movie would be worthless. A Christian can watch The Matrix and appreciate all the nuggets of truth scattered throughout the movie. For example, at one point, Cypher, as he agrees to betray his crew, states that "ignorance is bliss." He knows what the truth is, but he'd rather have the illusion because it's easier, less painful, and he can get a juicy steak. That's how so many people are with Christianity. They are brought to the point where they know what the truth is, but they refuse to accept it because accepting it would make them lose control over their life, or because it scares them. They would rather not know at all, be ignorant of the truth, so they can go on being comfortable.

It's a beautiful analogy of responses to Christianity. Is that what the directors intended? Probably not. But the truth got through anyway. So as I watch this film, I can appreciate the common grace evident in the movie, and think about the obvious areas of deception. It's a valuable movie for prompting a reevaluation of my concept of reality. And it leads me to pray for the Wachowski brothers and the other New Agers who are still deceived. Common grace is amazing, but only saving grace will open their eyes to the whole truth.

Disclaimer: this film is rated R for language and violence. The violence is relatively non-graphic, most of it being kung-fu and gun-fighting, with blood sometimes coming through the mouth and one image of a character's face which has been severely beaten. There is also a scene at the beginning that takes place in a club that is sensual and not necessary to the plot. Please use discretion.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Odds and Ends VIII

  • Easter was two weeks ago, and over at Pulpit Nathan Williams explained why the resurrection is so important to the gospel and our faith.
  • Al Mohler praises the new "dinner party test" that seems to be reducing abortions in Great Britain: people don't like to say "I'm an abortionist."
  • Centuri0n addresses the different forms of apologetics, and why people who can't identify the differences between them make lousy apologists (see key quote below).
  • Tim Challies describes Satan's skill at perverting the good to make counterfeit pleasures.
  • Centuri0n also explains why our churches should imitate Sonic (the restaurant) by focusing on our famous product and demonstrating its tastiness to the rest of the world.


  • Dave Barry is one of my favorite humorists, and every year he writes a "Year in Review" column for the Washington Post. I only just found this year's, so here it is in all of it's glory.
  • Down at Southern Baptist, someone got pictures of the pick-up game of the decade: C.J. Mahaney, John MacArthur, and Thabiti Anyabwile versus three seminary students. The old guys even won a game!
  • Gene Kelley's "Singin' in the Rain" is one of the classic film moments of all of course it was a prime candidate for a Volkswagon commercial parody. Never thought I'd see Kelley pull moves like that...


  • ESV is releasing the new Literary Study Bible which evaluates the Bible as literature. Intriguing...
  • John Mark Reynolds posted the thirty books he thinks every college student should read, ten books everyone should read to be civilized, and ten modern books everyone should read. I have five of the ten civilized books down (seven if you count the one or two poems I studied of Donne and Wordsworth in Brit Lit). Not too shabby.
  • Even telephones can be made into art...for example, a flock of sheep. What will they think of next?


"Many of these lousy apologists cannot identify these categories, and therefore they are constantly in the wrong mode of approaching people with their apologies for the faith. And most often, it’s not that they are erring on the side of being too philosophical for people: it’s that they are usually wielding a very big hammer to drive in a finishing nail, and sadly when they do get the nail in, they often have set the molding crooked, or upside down." --Centuri0n

Thursday, April 19, 2007

United 93

Some movies are hard to watch because they are brutally graphic. Some are hard to watch because they portray something that makes us squirm. Some movies are hard to watch because they hit so close to home. United 93 falls into the latter category. It's the story of United Airlines Flight 93, one of the four planes hijacked on 9/11 and the only one to not reach its target, crashing into a field in southern Pennsylvania. (Warning, this review contains major spoilers, although I think everybody is pretty familiar with this story as it is.)

The movie starts as a normal morning in the United States, moving around to different airports and control centers as the morning rush begins. Things progress in an unremarkable way...until American Airlines Flight 11 stops responding to air traffic controllers. It disappears over Manhatten as flames shoot out of the North Tower of the World Trade Center. The story quickly unfolds as two more planes stop responding, and the film hops to all the different control centers trying to figure out what's going on as the South Tower gets hit, then the Pentagon.

Throughout all of this, interludes are taken with the passengers of United 93, who are unaware of everything that's going on except for the four Arabs scattered among the passengers. Finally the terrorists jump out of their seats, shove everyone to the back of the plane, and take over the cockpit, killing both pilots and a stewardess. The passengers huddle in the back, sneaking calls on their cell phones until they discover that the WTC has been hit. They decide that this must be a related hijacking and decide to take the terrorists out. The film ends as the men charge and incapacitate the two terrorists guarding them, and then break into the cockpit and, while trying to wrench the controls out of the hands of one of the remaining terrorists, crash the plane into the ground. As the ground approaches on the screen, it goes black and silent.

I can honestly say that of all the thrillers that I've seen, my heart has never pounded so hard as when those men charged the cockpit. Even though I knew the ending, the way that the tension had built and built until it finally broke in those last five minutes left me almost gasping for breath as the credits rolled. I felt a stirring in my heart, a pride in the selfless, self-sacrificing bravery of these men who knew that they were saving countless lives by giving up their own. It was an emotional ride.

For most of the movie, I felt like I had a fist in my gut, just waiting for the next blow to fall and knowing it would come. When the second plane hit the WTC, it was like I was seeing it for the first time, and it was just as shocking and just as painful to watch. That's what makes this film so hard to watch for most people: it strikes so close to home. When watching a movie on other great American tragedies, such as Pearl Harbor or Lincoln's assassination, it's possible to watch without being too emotionally attached because the events took place so long ago. Not so with this movie. These events took place only six years ago, and the memories are still fresh in most of our minds of the horror we experienced on that day.

There are two movies that I think everyone who is emotionally and mentally prepared should see at some point in their life: The Passion of the Christ and Schindler's List. Both should be seen because they remind us of the depravity of man and of the providence of God. They remind us of our own sorry history as a human race, but also of the possibility of redemption. I think every person should be forced to face the horrors of the Holocaust at one time, because it keeps us humble and in awe that God would choose to save monsters like us. And I think that every person should be forced to face the horrors of the Crucifixion, because it was only through those horrors that mankind has redemption.

However, I'm considering adding this movie, United 93, to that list. Why? First, it shows us that our sorry history didn't end with the Holocaust. It continues up the present day. Second, it shows us as Americans what we're up against in this war: fanatic Muslims who are ready and able to destroy us. We can't sit back complacent because they are not complacent. Third, it is a reminder of the depravity of man that anyone would be shocked by, but it is also a reminder of the common grace that God has poured out on mankind. Fourth, it is a wake-up call that we don't know what tomorrow brings. None of those people got on that plane expecting to die. They were expecting to get home, to talk to their family, to get back to work. They were thinking about the present, and the future never came. We need to seize every moment we have, because every moment could be our last.

These are just some thoughts inspired by the movie. It was amazing, one of the most amazing films I've ever seen. Paul Greengrass as director did a marvelous job making it real. They weren't actors talking for a camera, they were real people going about their real lives and real jobs. He actually managed to secure around 15 people to actually play themselves in the movie (various men around the air control centers, both civilian and military). The film was shot with a handheld camera that moved around, jerked and bumped, had to maneuver around people in the way, as if it was just a home video being taken of these important events. The movie was technically and artistically excellent. But more importantly, it was thematically excellent, and treated this true story with the respect it deserved. Greengrass deserved his Oscar nomination for directing, and maybe should have won it. Either way, this is an excellent film, one which I would highly suggest for those prepared for it. But be warned: you'll come out changed. There's no doubt about it.

Disclaimer: This film contains strong language and some graphic violence. Most of the violence is hurried and not focused on, but there are still stabbings, beatings, etc., as first the terrorists and then the passengers fight to take over the plane. Additionally, it is an emotionally moving film that could easily disturb the viewer. Please use discretion.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Virginia Tech and Providence

I'll make this quick, but Centuri0n posted some thoughts on the Virginia Tech massacre that also dealt with the concept of God's providence. He made what I thought were two crucial points:

1) "I am just like Cho Seung-Hui -- not that I am unlike him and he's the one who did something God hates. I am like him. If I am honest, I can see in my own life the moments when I could have gone one step farther than I did in some sinful act and stepped into a life which would have meant that I was the one who would have killed 30 people who didn't even get a chance to be grown-ups yet...He could have been me: I am a sinner, and I am the cause of sin."

2) "God allows these things in order that a greater redemptive purpose can be manifest in Creation. So that nobody gets their nose out of joint more than I mean to put it, this purpose is God's purpose for God's own end and intention -- but it saves men."

He at the same time points to the depravity of man, but also to God's sovereignty even over such a brutal, mind-numbing event. This ties back to the discussion we had a month or two ago about predestination, because ultimately I may not understand God's purpose in allowing sin, but I know that he is sovereign over it. It's a mind-boggling thought, but it's comforting in a time like this.

I'd encourage you to read the whole article, he makes some very helpful points.

Monday, April 16, 2007

A Tree Falling...

On my English wwwboard, we had a random little discussion about the age-old question, "If a tree falls in a forest, and nobody's around to hear it, does it still make a noise." I thought that the direction the conversation went showed how you can approach an argument from a presuppositionalist point of view (not that I did an especially good job at it, but the idea is there).

Karyn: Question...if a tree falls in the forest and nobody is there to hear it does it make a sound? I think it depends on what you think sound means, does the tree make the air vibrate aboud it becasue it fell...yes. But is there anyone there with ears that can convert the soundwaves into hearable So what's the answer? I don't know, and thoughts on my random question!

Madison: Yes, the tree makes a sound when it falls. Even if no one hears it, it still makes a sound because every other time that a tree falls in a forest it does make a sound, and so why should it be different whether or not there's someone there to hear the noise?

Karyn: True, the sound waves are still there, but is sound the waves themselves or our ears interpretation of them?

Sam: Can you prove that the soundwaves are still there? Can you be absolutely sure of something you cannot observe? Or is the most you can say that since every other time a tree has fallen it has made noise, it must have made noise that time? You are using inductive logic to make that assumption, which can only ever be probably true, never absolutely true. All of science is inductive, so none of it is absolute.

I'm giving the ideas of David Hume here, the great skeptic. Question everything, he said. However, since my worldview is not founded on science, but on the absolute Word of God, and that Word says that God has set certain laws in place to govern nature, I can be absolutely certain that the tree made a sound when it fell.

This is something I've been learning this year: everything comes down to worldview and basic presuppositions. Even a question as "simple" as that.

Karyn: nice answer Sam. Personally, I think that sound is only present in the mind, that is, moving airwaves are not "sound" until they enter your ears and then your mind iterprets them. So I would say no, the tree did not make a sound. But I see your point, and agree with it. Again, it all comes back to what you see as "sound".

Sam: Here's an example from David Hume: you hold a marble in the air and let go. What happens? It drops to the ground. Why does it drop to the ground? We want to say its because of gravity. Gravity pulls it towards the ground. But what is this gravity? How can you prove it exists? Well, we've done lots of tests on it and we know that when you let go of anything and it's not being supported, it will drop to the ground. That's the force we call gravity.

Here's where Hume throws in the twist: How do you know that gravity exists at all? Why couldn't it be that when you let go of the ball, the ball just happens to decide to fall at that very moment, and our experience is merely a series of coincidences that support our construction of gravity? This seems highly unlikely, but we can't discredit the idea entirely because we cannot prove that everytime anybody anywhere falls to the ground it's the result of gravity. Gravity could be nonexistent for all we know.

By extrapolation, you can never prove that causes and effects exist in general. It could very well be that we have the most remarkable set of coincidences taking place time and again, but one thing never certainly caused another to happen. That's the very heart of skepticism: how can you know anything?

Therefore, it goes even deeper than defining sound. You can't even prove that the tree obeyed any laws of nature as it fell. It didn't have to produce sound waves, because there is a possibility that sound waves exist independently and are not caused by anything. So even the question of whether or not the air vibrated when the tree fell is up for grabs with this question.

Madison: Okay. So why can't I jump off a cliff and fly? If there's the possibility that gravity doesn't exist and it's my choice, why can't I fly? And marbles have intelligence? Because if it decides to fall, then it must have a brain of sorts. If everything is coincidence and choice, then everything must be able to think.

And does China exist?

And if a tree falls in the forest and there's no one there to hear, does it really matter if it makes a sound?

Anyway. Some things we accept as true, whether or not we have actual proof. If a person is present when a tree falls, the person hears a noise. The chance the the tree would not make a sound falling, whether or not the sound is heard, is very, very small. The tree falling will cause vibrations, or sound waves. That the fact would change because someone is not there is improbable.

Claire: To add my two cents...

"If everything is coincidence and choice, then everything must be able to think." Nope, that doesn't logically follow.

You do understand the difference between inductive and deductive reasoning, right, Madison? All science can give is probability. Something completely different than what we hypothesize might be going on.

Does China exist? I believe so, but I don't know so. That's an important distinction. I believe in God's existence more firmly than I believe in China's existence. When you boil it down, the argument to convince me China does exist would run something like "well, lots of people say it does."

"And if a tree falls in the forest and there's no one there to hear, does it really matter if it makes a sound?" Maybe not. How many angels can dance on the head of a pin? :) The larger point here is that you're willing to take scientific probability as the only convincing way to "prove" something. In other disciplines, you can prove something logically, but in science, you can get only a probability. Scientists have been proven wrong time and time again throughout history. They constantly revise their ideas - the definition of scientific fact is basically one that the general scientific community supports. Science doesn't claim infallibility. In fact, it's the worst discipline in which to seek truth.

Madison: Going by Sam's example of Hume's work. If the marble decides to drop, then logically it has to have some sort of brain. Something can't decide to do something without being able to think. If the marble does decide to drop, then something inside that marble is telling that marble to drop, if it's not gravity forcing that marble to drop.

Okay. So if everything is coincidence, then not everything has to be able to think. But if everything is choice, then everything must be able to think to some extent. If everything is coincidence and choice, then many objects must be able to think to some extent.

Inductive is inference; deductive is...where's my geometry book when I need it. But yes, I know the difference.

Really, nothing is the best discipline in which to seek truth. Honestly, nothing really can be proven to be certain. cogito ergo sum. The only thing Descartes knew for certain was the he was real. But you can't even know that for certain. How do I know that I'm real? I don't. So how do I know anything is real? I can assume, but that doesn't make it true.

That's what scientists do. They carefully observe and determine what is most likely to be true at the moment. And if they're not certain, they'll keep searching. Otherwise, there wouldn't be scientists. Scientists search for ways to explain this world and why it works the way it does.
What can you prove logically? Very little. Just geometry proffs. :-)

I'm open to logical arguments, but the fact is that you cannot logically prove philosophical questions. Philosophic beliefs are what many thinkers thought were logical, but maybe really aren't.

If a tree falls in a forest and there's someone there to hear, the tree makes a sound. How likely is it be different? The tree falling will cause vibrations which will carry sound. And something will be there to hear. Like other trees, and maybe a squirrel or a fox. Maybe not a human, but other things can receive sound too.

Basically, it's a matter of what you're willing to believe. I'm willing to believe that the scientists tell me, if it also makes sense to me. But I'm not willing to believe my chemistry book because it tells me that there's no way to really prove that atoms exist, which is utterly ridiculous because in my geometry book, there's a picture of gold atoms taken by Japanese scientists in 1979. :-)

Sam: You're actually proving my point with what you're saying, Madison. Here's why: my basic point is that you cannot know with certainty that the tree makes noise when it falls. You can only know that it most likely makes noise. You can never prove it absolutely, as you've admitted. But my point is that, by extension, how can you truly be certain of anything? You say "I'm willing to just trust the scientists." Scientists have been proving themselves wrong since time began (just think of Aristotle, who single-handedly set scientific process back 1000 years with his wrong-headed theories). You really can't be certain that there are causes and effects to anything because of the possibility that there are just a mass number of coincidences taking place in our perception.

Here I'd like to clarify something: using "decide" to describe the ball's actions was unhelpful. I did not mean that it actually made a conscious decision to fall, but rather that it just happened to fall to the ground at that exact moment.

You summed up what I'm trying to say here: "How do I know that I'm real? I don't. So how do I know anything is real? I can assume, but that doesn't make it true." That's exactly what I'm trying to tell you. You don't know anything for sure, but the reason you don't is because of your basic assumptions about how life works. Are you truly willing to base your very notions about reality on the work of scientists who have been proven wrong time and again? People you can never be sure are right?

That's the benefit of Chrisitianity: because of my basic assumptions about reality, I have complete confidence that when a tree falls, it makes a sound, because I believe that God created the laws of nature and the laws of cause and effect. Do you see how that works? Your basic assumptions about the world only lead you into uncertainty about the nature of reality, while mine allow me to be certain about that nature.

Sadly, it was at that point that Madison, with whom we've had many arguments of this vein before, decided that she didn't want to have another religious argument and withdrew. And to be honest, I don't totally blame her. Hopefully, though, this has planted a seed that may someday bear fruit. I can only pray.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Exult in the Gospel!

Just a quick thought today. I listened to a fabulous sermon from the Resolved Conference the other day by a professor named Rick Holland, and he talked about the greatness of the gospel using Romans 5:6-11. He concluded by drawing our attention to verse 11, where it says,

We also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

He pointed out that the Greek word here translated "rejoice" is also translated "exult", and he read the definition of exult from his Greek dictionary:

To overflow with gladness, to jump up and down with happiness, to spew forth joy

We are called to exult in God's goodness, to exult in the Gospel, to let everybody know about what he's done for us. He cited an illustration from a preacher he once heard who stated that it should be like we're carrying a bucket filled to the brim through a crowd of people, and every time we bump somebody some water spills onto them. Holland laughed and said that the illustration didn't go far enough. No, it should be like we're carrying a fire hose through the crowd, and everybody we look at gets blown away. That's the kind of joy we should be carrying around. It should be immediately obvious to everyone who sees us that we are filled with joy and gladness.

Do you exult in the Gospel? Do I? Or do we need to meditate once again on the marvelous work Christ did for us to acheive our reconciliation to God?
(Pssst. This is my 50th post on this blog. Just thought you might like to know.)

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Happy Easter!

I saw one hanging on a tree
In agony and blood
Who fixed his loving eyes on me
As near his cross I stood
And never till my dying breath
Will I forget that look
It seemed to charge me with his death
Though not a word he spoke

My conscience felt and owned the guilt
And plunged me in despair
I saw my sins his blood had spilt
And helped to nail him there
But with a second look he said
"I freely all forgive
This blood is for your ransom paid
I died that you might live"

Forever etched upon my mind
Is the look of him who died
The lamb I crucified
And now my life will sing the praise
Of pure atoning grace
That looked on me and gladly took my place

Thus while his death my sin displays
For all the world to view
Such is the mystery of grace
It seals my pardon too
With pleasing grief and mournful joy
My spirit now is filled
That I should such a life destroy
Yet live by him I killed.

--John Newton and Bob Kauflin

"But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” And they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest."

--Luke 24:1-9

The Lord is risen indeed! Have a blessed Easter as you remember our Savior's glorious death and resurrection!

(photo credit: Brittany Kauflin)

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Odds and Ends VII

Someday these posts might actually come on a regular day, on a regular week-by-week basis. Today is not that day, however. There's a good line-up this edition, though, so enjoy it anyways!

  • Phil Johnson blogged last week on why every Christian is a Calvinist of sorts, whether they believe it or not. I thought this was particularly applicable to the discussion we had a few weeks ago (and which I have every intention of restarting in the near future).
  • The Washington Post published an editorial a few weeks ago which admits that the "surge" in Iraq may be succeeding. Coming from the Post, this means a lot.
  • Dan Phillips explains why Christianity is a rational religion.
  • Tim Challies compares Al Gore's "carbon offsets" to indulgences, and demonstrates the human desire for justice, even if perverted.
  • David Limbaugh condemns the politicization of the recent firing of eight U.S. attorneys with his signature wit and insight.
  • Al Mohler evaluates prominent postmodernist Stanley Fish and his statement that the Bible cannot be studied as just literature...and agrees wholeheartedly.
  • Tim Challies talks about the gray points of life (like two girls born conjoined in the torso), and how we can treat them with biblical discernment.


  • FCN gives a guide to girl's cosmetics...which seemed particularly relevant since I was forced to wear some of this stuff during Godspell.
  • Better be careful when you follow directions on Google Maps. It just might give you results such as these (look at step 20).
  • Beatboxing is cool, especially in the kitchen. I'll have to try this recipe sometime.
  • I guess the book is pretty difficult to use in some parts of the world...this reminds me of my mom's response sometimes when I'm helping her on the computer.


  • In light of my recent Godspell performance, I thought this interpretation of "All for the Best" was very amusing. I would have given a lot to see our Judas do this.
  • A library organization did a study to see which books appear the most on library shelves. Here is the very interesting breakdown...good to know the Bible was right at the top, but Mother Goose at number 3? That's a little strange.
  • A Spanish family has photographed itself every year for the past 30 years...and the progression is pretty cool to watch.
  • For my fellow David Crowder fans out there, this is great: a Bulgarian performance of "No One Like You."
  • And for my fellow Narnia fans, Douglas Gresham (C.S. Lewis's stepson) discusses the filming of Prince Caspian and the effects of the Narnia books on the world.


My handbook for membership to my church (my Starting Point journal) had this wonderful little clarification in it that I thought was remarkably profound.

At regeneration, the power of sin is broken and we are made alive in Christ. In justification, the penalty of sin is removed as we are declared righteous in Christ. In sanctification, the pollution of sin is progressively removed as we are made holy in Christ.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Testimony Tuesday

Tim Challies has declared today to be Testimony Tuesday for the Christian blogosphere, and I thought I would join the club and post my testimony. This is actually a revised version of a post I made on my Xanga over a year ago.

I was born in Shady Grove Hospital early on the morning of July 10, 1989, joining such illustrious alumni of that day as John Calvin and Jessica Simpson (no kidding, and those are the only two famous people born on my birthday. what a boring day...never mind). I was raised in a loving, Christian home, went to one of the most wonderful churches on earth, etc., but it didn't make any difference to me. From the beginning I was a rebel. I am still remembered by relatives and my parent's friends as never sitting through an entire dinner without being spanked several times and then being sent to my room (I didn't eat Thanksgiving dinner until I was seven).

When I reached grade school, I went to a small private school, where I quickly became well acquainted with the principal because I was in his office at least once a day during kindergarten and first grade. Some people still think that I should have won a special award for "Most Trips to the Principal's Office in the Space of One Year." Throughout all of this time I was arrogant, disrespectful, disobedient, and just plain mean. I always had a rotten attitude about everything. I was also best friends with Josh Tucker (who used to be a contributer to this blog), who lived across the lake from me (about a five minute bike-ride from my house). Two more sour, disagreeable kids it would have been hard to find. At least once a week, and normally more than that, we would declare that we never wanted to see each other again and march off for home with our noses in the air, only to see each other the next day for carpool as if nothing had happened.

I prayed the "Sinner's Prayer" many times throughout my childhood, but never really meant it. I knew all the answers, but I never applied them to myself. I enjoyed my life and my sin, and didn't really see why I needed to change. As I got older, the sin went from external to more internal. By the age of ten I was an okay kid, certainly not as visibly sinful as before, but more sinful inside. I was still disrespectful, unkind to my siblings and my friends, and concerned mainly with satisfying the desires of my flesh. As a matter of fact, I managed to drive off most of my friends or be banned from their houses during this period. It was during this period of my life that I moved to a little brick house on Georgia Ave., where I only found more ways to sin.

Then the amazing happened. One night during Christmas break, my brothers were spending the night at somebody's house and I had my room all to myself. Taking advantage of this, I grabbed my CD player and brought it up to my room to listen to Christmas music , specifically the compilation God With Us (during that time I absolutely loved the Christmas season. I loved everything about it: the music, the decorations, the movies, the presents, the family. I kind of went crazy every December with artificial Christmas spirit).

Somewhere between Out of the Grey's "O Holy Night" and Cheri Keaggy's "What Child Is This?", the Holy Spirit swept on to me, revealing what a horrendous sinner I was and that "the Babe, the Son of Mary" had come down to save me. It was nothing short of miraculous, since I was involved in some serious sin at the time and had no desire for God. Fortunately, he had a great desire for me. As he revealed the truth of the gospel to me, I realized my need for a Savior and prayed that God would cleanse me of my filthy sin and clothe me in his righteousness. As I did so, I felt an a joy like none I'd ever felt before sweep over me, almost physically lifting me off the bed. As I lay there, I must have had one of the biggest smiles ever as I relished my newfound freedom from the burden of sin I hadn't even acknowledged I had earlier that day. It was an amazing feeling, and the unexpectedness of it demonstrated how far God had to come to get me. There's no telling what God will use to bring his children to him.

After that night, things changed. My natural tendency is to keep things to myself, so I didn't share my conversion with my parents at the time, but they noticed an immediate difference in me. I was kinder, more respectful, quicker to apologize (none of this was a huge difference, but it was definitely an improvement). God was transforming my life. I began to actually bring my dad into my life (which is still an area that I need to grow in, but I've improved), confessing hidden sin. It was all evidence of God's grace in my life.

I slowly grew in godliness, becoming more involved in the church and actually began to really enjoy worship and the sermons at church. About three years ago, however, God revealed himself to me anew at the youth retreat, giving me just a glimpse of his holiness during the ministry night that struck me to my knees and set me crying uncontrollably (something that doesn't happen often, let me tell you). Since then, I have been blessed with amazingly godly friends who have helped me grow in so many ways, with amazingly relevant sermons that have challenged my faith and helped me grow, and with amazingly godly parents committed to helping me grow. My life has been just one sign of God's mercy after another, and I am so humbled that he would pour out his favor on me.


Since writing the above testimony post last year, lots of things have happened. I have encountered God in a different way than I communicated then. I think I can say that those years were my "honeymoon" period, where everything was amazing. Especially this last year I have learned to trust God through trials. The trials haven't been incredibly dramatic, but they invloved a lot of what I communicated in my post about Godspell's production week. I've been learning a lot about trusting God even when I things happen that I don't expect, or happen when I was expecting something else. I've gone through dry spells, relationship problems, and have been constantly battling sin that it feels like I should have defeated a long time ago. It seems that the lesson I've been learning this year is this: "God is good." Three simple words that have revolutionized my life. No matter what happens to me, I can rest assured that God is good, and is working things out for me.

So life as a Christian is no longer all joy and smiles and sparkles. I guess everyone has to leave that phase eventually. I'll miss it, but to use Paul's metaphor, it's time I moved past milk and got some more substantive food. I'll be heading off to college next year, entering a new phase of life, and I can honestly say that I will be so much better prepared because of all the lessons I've learned this year.

I know I've said it before, but I can't think of a better way to end this post than this:

God is so good.