Monthly Archives: June 2007


Today was Evangeline’s softball party for the end of the season.

Here she is in uniform.

In uniform

Calvin was tired (they are all tired) so most of his pictures are rather down. I did get one action shot when he was charging me as I snapped the picture:


After eating in the school gym, we went out and played on the jungle gym–mostly freeze tag. But here’s shot of Nevin helping Charis up.

helping sis

You can check out more at our flickr account.

Do hippies need fatherly approval?

In keeping with my observation on the Kevin MD post about Google and their health advisors, I notice this observation regarding the iPhone:

It is in some ways astonishing that AT&T and Apple are partners at all. AT&T is the oldest of the old school—the most ancient major high-tech firm in the United States, founded in 1878. Unfazed by spending the last 23 years in suspended animation (after the great breakup of 1984), AT&T is back to its classic business model: own the largest networks and everything on them. Apple, meanwhile, is the original hippie computer company, a child of the 1970s, not the 1870s. At least in its origins, Apple is an ideological foe of IBM and AT&T. (Remember that 1984 ad?) Considering that these firms were born on the opposite sides of the tech Kulturkampf, the iPhone cannot help but be a little strange.

Is it strange or is it ubiquitous? The revolutionary envisions a new society and marginalizes himself in the old one to advocate the new. But, whatever his vision, personal eschatology trumps the cosmic. He can envision no better vindication for himself than to have the approval and acceptance of the ancien regime.

That said, I’m still hoping that AT&T will truly want Apple to change them and/or that the Slate writer’s optimistic scenario is true:

If you’re an optimist, the more intriguing possibility is that Apple’s iPhone is a Trojan Horse. The iPhone is fatally attractive to AT&T, since it gives the firm a chance to steal tens of thousands of new customers from rivals like Verizon. But Apple may be betting that, once it has its customers, they’ll be more loyal to Apple than AT&T. With its foothold in the wireless world, Apple may be planning to slowly but inexorably demand more room. If iPhone 2.0 is a 3G phone that works with any carrier and supports third-party apps, then industry power will begin to move away from the carrier oligopoly and toward Apple and other Silicon Valley firms. Now, that would be a revolution.

(Hat tip: Reformed Chicks Blabbing)

Reading Witsius: defining the covenant

I mentioned ealier Witsius’ “purple prose” in writing to King William. Here’s what I mean. Referring to an event in which it was thought that the King had been killed in battle but had, in fact, only suffered a wound, Witsius writes:

O! the wisdom and goodness of propitious heaven! O! a day for ever memorable in our calendar! How near were your enemies to exult with solid joy, who now, deceived by the false reports of your death, made themselves ridiculous to the world by a theatrical and unmanly show of indiscreet rejoicing? Great Prince, whith these eyes I saw, in these hands I held, to these lips I applied that military tunick, whose wide rent testified the greatness of your wound. Those precious spoils I saw purpled with your blood, and I mixed my affectionate tears with the royal gore.

Though I think that last sentence is the worst of it, there are pages of this sort of thing in his dedicatory letter.

In his “pacific address” to “celebrated professors of divinity,” Witsius says a great many remarkable things that would be excellent aphorisms for Presbyterians and Presbyterians Together. For example,

Let us preach the good tidings of the gospel, let us congratulate the church on account of them; and make the best use of them ourselves we can. Let no one who has in general expressed the truth in eloquent language, e heinously censured on account of an improper word, or harsh expression which has slipped from his pen… Yet, let us all endeavour to express ourselves as accurately as possible; and not take upon us to defend what has been imprudently said by our friends, or ourselves, lest others blame us for it; but as far as ingenuousness, truth, charity, and all good men will allow of it, let us pass by, cancel or correct any mistakes; which has been the practice of some great men, both among the ancients and moderns, to their very great credit. Let none of our brethren be stigmatized with the brand of heresy, on account of what is supposed to follow from any of their expressions, when they themselves deny and detest the consequence.

I wonder what Witsius would say about calling a brother a heretic on account of what doesn’t follow from any of his expressions.

Getting to the work itself, chapter one of the first book is “Of the Divine Covenants in general.” Witsius, correctly I think, argues for an “improper” use of the word when it stands for “promise” or “precept” (though I think the word “improper” can probably be improved upon–perhaps “informal”?). But the “proper” use is ” a mutual ageement between parties, with respect to something.”

Witsius has evidence for his view, but he also seems to not be concerned about questions that might spring from a more individualistic age. For example, there was some voluntary oath-taking on the part of Israel to covenant with God, but wasn’t every Israelite born involved in that covenant? It seems to me that there is a structured relationship between God and the average Israelite that the average Israelite did not enter into through an agreement. He may have been required to voluntarily re-affirm this relationship, but that requirement would itself be from God’s covnant. Agreement between two parites may define some covenants, but it is not at all clear to me that it defines all of them, is the proper definition, or is the best single-sentence definition for the covenant between God and his people.

(By the way, where is the definition of a covenant in the Westminster Standards? Nowhere. The Westminster Assembly sidestepped the entire issue in chapter 7 of the Westminster Confession and everywhere else.)

Witsius seems to want to go in a couple of (what look to me like different) directions. On the one hand he wants to emphasize the voluntary nature of the covenant so that, for example, when Israel agreed to the covenant “submitted to punishment, if impiously revolting from God, they slighted his covenant.” On the other hand, in dealing with God’s covenant with Adam, Witsius clearly believes that God’s covenant making activity was a reflex of his character, not simply his justice but his kindness and generosity, and that man’s acceptace of the covenant was his natural obligation as a creature. Then how can one really define the covenant as something apart from and above the generosity of God in making Man in His image in the first place? Backing up this observation is that people I know who really admire Witsius (Meredith Kline, Bill Baldwin) have actually disagreed with the statement in WCF 7.1 that “The distance between God and the creature is so great, that although reasonable creatures do owe obedience unto him as their Creator, yet they could never have any fruition of him as their blessedness and reward, but by some voluntary condescension on God’s part, which he hath been pleased to express by way of covenant.” It seems to me that Witsius could be seen as taking either side in that debate.

I wonder if part of the issue is that Witsius already has such a strong connection in his mind between the Mosaic Covenant and the Adamic Covenant. This would mean is some way he wants to take the situation in Sinai, in which God graciously elected a people from all on the earth with the situation in Eden when God was creating man and there was no sin or redemption to consider.  But more on that later.

links for 2007-06-30

Trying to develop something constructive

Since the PCA’s 2007 General Assembly, by approving the report, did something that was egregiously unconstitutional (pass sentence on the doctrinal orthodoxy PCA ministers without due process), contrary to the Westminster Standards (by approving a report that mistated their doctrine), and against the Word of God (by preferring a human council as the final appeal in a religious controversy) it is worth bringing up at least every other day. Just when people think the enemy is dead and buried is, in the Church, precisely when the real conflict begins and the question of “confession or more cover-up” begins to be felt as a physical pressure.

However, it might be worth pointing out that more constructive paths are also possible. So here is a conversation starter:

The reason I am so far unimpressed by claims that the “Federal Vision” denies justification by faith alone is that all the arguments on offer, if applied consistently, would prove that the Westminster Confession and Catechisms deny justification by faith alone.

I can stop there, but I’ll point out a couple of things.

My claim above has premises. A couple of them are:

  1. The Westminster Confesson and Catechisms accurately sum up the teaching of the Bible.
  2. The Westminster Confession and Catechisms accurately teach the Protestant doctrine of justification by faith alone.

I hope this will be seen as a “middle way” since Premise #1 allows those who think it is a waste of time to consult their Bibles since we’ve already done all the necessary exegetical work in the last few centuries of the Church to engage the question.

For evidence, I appeal to the committee report and point out some confessional statements that are obviously at the heart of the whole issue that were entirely ignored. Consider, for example, some brief expositions I have written on the Westminster Standards:

These deal with statements, I submit, that the Committee on the Federal Vision either entirely ignored, or nodded to but made no effort to study, though they are obviously at the heart of the reason why this debate exists.

That last statement, in my opinion, is obviously true. One need only read the statements from the Westminster documents to know immediately why there is an “FV controversy.” However, I’ll offer some evidence anyway. Consider the SBC and then consider the Lutheran Church MO Synod. Has any “movement” in the SBC ever taught an efficacious Baptism? Has any movement in the LCMS ever caused controversy on teaching that good works are necessary to salvtion?


Yet both these groups are tremendously larger than the PCA. Statistically, if this is all random human perversity then these “heresies” should pop up there as well, in even larger numbers than in our much smaller denomination.

But it isn’t random human perversity; it is the Westminster Confession and Catechisms. The difference is that both the SBC and the LCMS have different doctrinal standards.

“Getting things done” has new connotations when I learn Allen’s on his fourth wife

Frankly, this article scares me.

Allen was a 23-year-old grad student at UC Berkeley in 1968 when he met a psychic named Michael who said he owed Allen a karmic debt over a past-life transgression. Michael began teaching him karate and sharing Zen concepts such as “mind like water. ” (It means that just as a pebble tossed into a still pond creates only gentle ripples, small events need not create big waves in our lives.)

Michael’s teachings convinced Allen that the life he was living was phony. He quit everything — school, drugs, his first marriage, his home — and took a job driving a cab. “I was just one wired, raw thing,” Allen says.

Thus began a spiritual quest that eventually led him in 1971 to John-Roger, an L.A.-based mystic who later formed a church called the Movement of Spiritual Inner Awareness that has courted controversy and attracted such high-profile adherents as Arianna Huffington.

“I knew in the first 30 seconds that he didn’t give a rat’s ass if anybody believed him,” Allen says. “He knew what he was talking about.”

Allen was inspired. He quit his job and moved to Los Angeles. For the next six years, he worked a series of odd jobs — landscaper, vitamin distributor, glass-blowing lathe operator, travel agent, gas station manager, U-Haul dealer, moped salesman, restaurant cook — until John-Roger started a personal-growth training program in 1978 called Insight Seminars.

Insight was based on a popular self-help seminar for young professionals called Lifespring, which employed potent psychological techniques to break down participants’ entrenched thought patterns and replace them with ostensibly more positive states of mind. Although many graduates swore that Lifespring changed their lives for the better, the for-profit company was also slapped with dozens of lawsuits claiming psychological trauma and even wrongful death by suicide.

One of its trainers, Russell Bishop, upset by the harshness of the Lifespring program, approached John-Roger about creating a more benign version of the weeklong seminar.

“Insight started with the heart,” Allen says. “We said, look, what people are really after is to love and be loved, and we just do it in weird and awkward ways. So let’s try to find out how we’re screwing that up and what you need to do to fix that.”

Within a few years, Allen was ready to become an Insight trainer. He turned out to be a natural — a gifted speaker with charisma, humor, and a quick wit. Among his students were many high-powered executives who wanted to use Insight to transform their companies. Around that time, Allen got an idea: Why not become a management guru?

He wasn’t the only one thinking this way. Lifespring and Werner Erhard’s Est were already tweaking their seminars for corporate clients. During a weeklong session that Insight conducted for Scott Paper, one exec excoriated himself for talking too much; another admitted he couldn’t control his temper. Bishop recalls that when then-CEO Phillip Lippincott stopped by, a senior VP broke down and apologized for fighting his boss at every turn.

The two men committed to repairing the relationship. “I have no idea what took place here,” Lippincott told the group, “but this process clearly needs to be nurtured.”

Such cathartic moments happened frequently during Insight training sessions, according to Allen. But he realized it wasn’t enough just to send people out into the world pumped up to change their lives. Somebody needed to show them exactly what to do when they got back to the office. (read the whole thing)

Maybe it’s a failure of character, but while I feel free to borrow and learn from various rationalist atheological types, learning that someone is from the goofy spiritualist “new age” leftifornia world makes me want to run away.

Sometimes I wonder if all this productivity stuff is a way of tricking the inmates into guarding themselves. Why constantly try to make your employees work all the time without stopping when you can get a guy to convince them it is empowering to do so on their own? There was a time when a business man on a business trip could read a book or catch a nap on the train without feeling like he was shirking work.

That being said, while I’m going to try to be more suspicious, I still appreciate what I’ve learned from the GTD book and am still confident I could learn more.

But there is now definitely a creepiness factor involved. I liked it better when I was blissfully unaware.