Monthly Archives: May 2008

Telling people lies is not right

I just saw this story (hat tip).  Mother’s Against Drunk Driving has managed to institute some sort of campaign in which trusted the police come and issue a false report on the death of a classmate.  The ruse is admitted to an hour later.

I just don’t think there is any way to condone this.  Lying is not always wrong, but I simply don’t see how it can be justified in this case.  The self-righteous, Messianic rhetoric used to defend the strategy is even worse.

How much do you charge?

I haven’t written about writing lately, so I direct your attention to this blog post, with which I interacted.  The occasion of the post was that Robert Bly saw a recommendation that, unless your customer complains, you are not charging enough.

I don’t need to repeat my own appraisal of that advice here.  Another calculation was made: you should charge your client ten percent of the value he will receive.  If you can promise your client $10,000 from your work, then you charge $1,000.

I think this is great when it can be done, but I’m not satisfied with the formula.

  • What if it would take you 1000 hours to produce copy that would make a client $10,000?  Would you work for a dollar an hour?  On the other hand, what if a client knows of an audience and will pay you $5000 at a satisfactory hourly rate of pay for work in order to make $5,000 profit?  If he is basically leveraging his knowledge of the market to turn a profit, and getting you to do all the other work, then this would still be a win-win situation, even though the ratio is 1:2 rather than 1:10.
  • In many cases, writing involves a risk-taker who hires out the development of content.  In such cases the writer is in no position to say much with certainty.  The enterprise might pay big for the investor and it might not.  Naturally, the investor will want to pay as little as possible and Craigslist.com is filled with the lowball offerings of some web dreamers.  The issue then becomes, what do you need to be paid to make it worth your while?
  • It is a mistake to think that even everything done in business can be quantified.  An internal company newsletter or a newsletter to present customers can be desirable and needed without a precise way to determine its value.  But whoever you get to write and edit the newsletter still needs to be compensated for their time and work.

So while I’m sure there are circumstances where the 1:10 rule works, I don’t think it covers all the situations.

The character of justifying faith and the object of faith

Listening to a Sinclair Ferguson lecture, “Acquitted Through Faith,” I hear him insist that the efficacy of faith is not derived from the character of faith but from the object of that faith.

This is so much clearer than claiming that faith is “passive” in justification which will tend to make people focus on the character of faith and encourage them to perversely work at making sure it is completely passive.  It will also show that we can actually believe what the Bible and the Reformed Confessions say about justifying faith–that it is actively obedient–without in the least making faith a meritorious ground of justification.

That said, parts of Ferguson’s lecture seem to play off trusting God’s promises against trusting God to keep his promises in His sacramental action.  He also, it seems to me, might lead readers into contortions regarding assurance since he reproves people answering the question, “How do you know you are saved” with a statement that begins “Because I….”

The eternal quest for the right quality of faith seems to come up and stalk us even when we repudiate it.

Is it by faith or not?

One finds in the Bible warnings against professing believers (called “brothers” and “saints”) that they must not abandon their faith lest they come under the eternal wrath of God.

Professing calvinists today often treat these warnings as if they are “problem texts” that challenge God’s sovereign work in preserving the elect.  But if this were true, then all passages calling on sinners to repent and believe in order to be saved would also be problematic.  God is sovereign over initial faith as well as continuing faith.  If calling on people to do one is an offense against God’s sovereignty in grace, then so is the other.

The objection is an irreducibly hypercalvinist perception.

Who is in more danger?

The professing Christian who, by misunderstanding Scripture and/or “the proper form of the doctrine” refuses to proclaim justification by faith alone.

OR

The professing Christian who twists Scripture or denigrates any passage he feels he needs to in order to “defend” his understanding of justification by faith alone.

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Personally, I really prefer to actually own the book, but this is still really cool:

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Degrading perspecuity

It is no surprise, given the size and complexity of the Bible, that when you have read it all repeatedly you will be in a position to correct people who come to premature conclusions about what a certain passage is saying when they have not taken the time to read the rest.

It is simply common sense that one should make sure one has wide exposure to Scripture before insisting on a particular meaning for a particular part of it.

Still, the doctrine of the perspecuity of Scripture (the clarity of Scripture) as commonly abused is actually a dogma that the Bible is unclear and a license to attack others for daring to appeal to the wrong passage of Scripture. It sets up a standard of truth that is outside of Scripture and above Scripture–a list of texts that one is permitted to believe and use. Go outside of this, and you will often find that the very fact you appeal to the allegedly unclear verse is enough to rule you out of bounds. No other counterargument from Scripture is offered.

This isn’t a God-honoring way to use Scripture. When used in the service of truth, it gives the truth the appearance of being a lie.

When saying the right thing means the wrong thing: Hebrews warning passages again

To point out that Hebrews is a covenant document is to say something true and important.  But it is a dangerous thing to point out.  Because it is possible to communicate by those words the gross falsehood that Hebrews is a special subchristian kind of document.  Romans 8 is the pure truth about believers and their absolute assurance of salvation, but Hebrews only contains the  warnings it does because it is a “covenant doecument.”

But the truth is that Romans is a covenant document too.  And so is the Bible.

Charity & Recreation

One of the best (and worst if one is not used to being humble) aspects of our current situation (business took a nose dive, looking for work) is the number of people who show their love to us by sacrificially giving us gifts.  It is just amazing.

Recently, that charity included a McDonald’s gift card.  I think that was an awesome gift, because it addressed one of the most intense pressures anyone feels when one is given help: What do you get to spend the money on?

Frankly, nothing causes more strain than trying to figure out what one can do with what one has been given.  Towards the end of the year, the kids were “given” class field trips that were almost purely recreational and required money from us. Do we opt out?  (We didn’t?)  We have opted out of lots of other things (no more TV that isn’t free or DVDs).  But this issue keeps coming up.  It is hard. (Though someone at the school found out what we were going through and, among other kindnesses, someone voided an expense check and sponsored the outing him- or herself–I have no idea who).

And it isn’t something the Bible addresses because life was utterly different.  Charity used to always include recreation but not as a budget item:

You shall keep the Feast of Booths seven days, when you have gathered in the produce from your threshing floor and your winepress. You shall rejoice in your feast, you and your son and your daughter, your male servant and your female servant, the Levite, the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow who are within your towns. For seven days you shall keep the feast to the Lord your God at the place that the Lord will choose, because the Lordyour God will bless you in all your produce and in all the work of your hands, so that you will be altogether joyful.

This was probably the most intense feast, but it was not the only one. (Side remark: when Plutarch discussed which god the Hebrews worshiped, his conclusion was Dionysius/Bacchus, based on the worship and lifestyle they witnessed).  It was one of the three national religious festivals and was complemented by local ones as well.  This was in addition to a third of the required tithe:

When you have finished paying all the tithe of your produce in the third year, which is the year of tithing, giving it to the Levite, the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, so that they may eat within your towns and be filled, then you shall say before the Lord your God, “I have removed the sacred portion out of my house, and moreover, I have given it to the Levite, the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, according to all your commandment that you have commanded me. I have not transgressed any of your commandments, nor have I forgotten them. I have not eaten of the tithe while I was mourning, or removed any of it while I was unclean, or offered any of it to the dead. I have obeyed the voice of the Lord my God. I have done according to all that you have commanded me. Look down from your holy habitation, from heaven, and bless your people Israel and the ground that you have given us, as you swore to our fathers, a land flowing with milk and honey.”

So plainly, the idea here was that holiness and sharing went hand in hand and that one was blessed with prosperity as one gave away.

But we don’t really do parties any more, or at least they are always peripheral to the meaning of the word “recreation” in the way we think.  Part of the industrial revolution with its technological breakthroughs and the division of labor means we never get together and sing (and churches are more and more getting rid of this in favor of performances).  It is alien. Recreation is having professional musicians available 24/7 through individually owned technology.  It is video game consoles and dvd players.  And it is often the kids trained to beg all the time for the excitement of Chuck E. Cheese or the big clown of the “happy meal.”

And it is continual guilt about how you spend your money if you are “between jobs.”  With all the blessings of the division of labor and economic individualism, there are also new liabilities for people who fall into the shadow.

(I mentioned how rapidly this has changed.  In the original Star Trek it was completely normal for Uhura to sit in the rec room with a Lyre (or Vulcan equivalent) and sing songs to a group.  A lonely engineer on another deck got as much comfort as he could by using the intercom to listen in and pretend he was with them.  In the late sixties this was still taken for granted as a way of living.  No one thought it was dorky.  No one thought the world would be better served by an MP3 player with several gigs of flash memory surgically implanted into a person’s brain, which I’m sure will be normal in the 22nd century.  We get cut off from each other in ways we don’t realize, and when some experience the liabilities, it is hard to even figure out what is going on.)

Here’s another example (from one of the scariest episodes).  Even the Vulcan’s enjoyed music!

Uhura singing with Spock in public