Hymnus Deo

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Location: Greensboro, NC, United States

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Fr. Richard John Neuhaus

I just learned that Fr. Richard John Neuhaus died this past January 8. He was a convert to Roman Catholicism from Lutheranism. He was the author of numerous books, a political activist, an EWTN commentator, and editor of First Things Journal.

There were many things on which I differed with Fr. Neuhaus, his Romanism being the first to come to mind, and his defense of the neoconservative approach to politics being another. Nonetheless, I appreciated his work, particularly his regular commentary called "The Public Square". His occasions on EWTN, which usually involved a special event in the life of the church, as he was flanked by commentator Raymond Arroyo, were also quite enjoyable. He was a well read and intelligent man, and will be missed.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

If We Had Only Listened

Economies throughout the world are collapsing. And Ron Paul said it would happen, but no one listened. Even now, almost no one in Washington wants to do what it will take to fix it.


Wednesday, January 28, 2009

New Pastor of Coral Ridge

This piece of news almost slipped past me. Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, which was founded by the late D. James Kennedy (known for his radio and TV ministries, political involvement, and the creation of the Evangelism Explosion training program), has finally chosen a new pastor. Interestingly enough, they have chosen one of Billy Graham's grandsons. His name is William Graham Tullian Tchividjian. The "Tullian" part comes from the early church father Tertullian, apparently. Here are a couple of articles about the choice of Pastor Tchividjian:

http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/local/breakingnews/sfl-coralridge0118,0,7957788.story

http://www.miamiherald.com/news/broward/story/861948.html

The most important aspect of this, of course, is that Tchividjian has a tan to rival that of his predecessor, Dr. Kennedy. I say this facetiously, of course, but it highlights a couple of concerns it raises in my own mind. The articles note that Coral Ridge considered about 150 potential pastors in their search, but also that they approached Tchividjian on three different occasions. Apparently they wanted this guy pretty bad. But why? I listened to one of his sermons today to get an idea of his teaching. The content was pretty good. And he preached for over forty minutes, so at least he doesn't preach sermonettes like so many contemporary ministers. But the shape of his preaching was very contemporary. His choice of words and his vocal inflections were all very contemporary.

This might seem a rather ridiculous observation on the face of it. But aesthetics matter, and everybody lives like they do, whether or not they realize it.

Prior to now, Coral Ridge's approach to ministry was very 20th century. Their corporate worship (at least, what they showed of it on TV week by week) was a mixture of tradition liturgical worship and American Revivalism. There were liturgical elements, like the procession of the choir, the traditional hymnody, the organ, and the robes that the choir and Dr. Kennedy wore. And yet a measure of the aesthetics of it, such as the slick production of the service, were of the Revivalistic tradition. While I believe that there is a need for liturgical change in every generation, some forms are somehow less bound to particular time periods, and carry more of a sense of transcendence about them. Liturgical robes, for instance, have been used in the church for most of the church's history, and this isn't simply because the church doesn't like change. Some art forms serve the worship of God better, which is simply to say that Relativism doesn't exist in the realm of art any more than it exists in the realm of morals. And, as R. C. Sproul says, all forms are art forms. This includes the shape of the songs we sing and the clothes we wear, not to mention the way we speak.

While Coral Ridge's worship needed some fixing, it was better than what goes on in most contemporary churches today. Tchividjian's approach, as of that of his current church, is more contemporary, however. If taking Tchividjian on as pastor means a further move away from traditional liturgy towards a contemporary worship approach, then things don't bode well for Coral Ridge. We can talk about being counter cultural all we want, and even criticize the culture on specific issues. But if the shape of the worship of the local church isn't counter cultural in some sense, then all of are criticisms will be in vain.

But this raises another issue. Dr. Kennedy often mixed church and politics in an improper way. His sermons in which he tried to prove that certain historical American figures, such as George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, were faithful Christians (at times dubious, especially regarding the latter figure) were inappropriate for the pulpit of the Christian church. Nonetheless, his speaking out on certain political issues, such as abortion, not to mention his political activism outside of the pulpit, were generally something to be admired and emulated. Tchividjian, on the other hand, wants to pull away from the "culture war" approach that Kennedy took. In one of the articles I linked above, the reporter states that Tchividjian "would not answer questions on current political issues, such as same-sex marriage." If he is simply steering away from a blind allegiance to Americanism, and seeking instead for local reformation, particularly by focusing on community within the church and the way that stretches out to the community around the church, then that's great. But as a Christian, one can't not speak out against the wicked decisions of the government over them. When God says something is evil, I don't then have the option to say, "no, I won't talk about that." When the opportunity arises, I must speak. I can understand how people can get worn out by the culture wars. But perhaps this weariness is just a sign that we need to reassess how we address the culture. It isn't a sign that we need to start acting like our differences don't matter. Considering the direction our country is going, this isn't the time to start getting sheepish about things.

Then there is the issue of the merger of the two churches. In order for Tchividjian to take the position, he wants his church to merge with Coral Ridge. But while Coral Ridge is in the PCA, Tchividjian's church, New City Church, is in the EPC, which is the PCA's slightly more liberal cousin. The EPC (Evangelical Presbyterian Church) holds tenuously to the Westminster Standards, allowing for departures from it even in regards to the Doctrines of Grace. It also allows for the ordination of women. The PCA isn't in the best shape itself, but Coral Ridge would be worse off going into the EPC. On the other hand, unless Tchividjian is willing to publicly renounce the EPC's stance on women's ordination, I don't think he should be let into the PCA. As of yet, it has not been announced which denomination the merged church would be in.

And then there's the celebrityism. He's the grandson of Billy Graham, and has "William Graham" as part of his own name. The news reports haven't hesitated to use his full name to highlight this, though he actually goes by the name "Tullian Tchividjian". But what is the likelihood of Coral Ridge choosing a no-name for the pastorate?

So, basically, Coral Ridge is choosing the grandson of a Christian celebrity, with soap star good looks, who is hip and surfs and listens to cool music, and who doesn't want to address contemporary moral issues when asked about them. As one of the articles above states, "Gasps, then applause, greeted Tchividjian's name as Dr. Dan Westphal, head of Coral Ridge's search committee, announced it during the morning service." Gasps? I hope Tchividjian is a godly man and a good pastor. But all of the above factors combined make me think that the motives behind choosing him should be suspect at the very least.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Ron Paul on Fox

Fox News, I am glad to say, has proved me wrong... for the moment, at least:

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Freedom

The relevant statement comes at the 2:46 mark:


Monday, January 19, 2009

What Lincoln Really Thought About Slavery

Today's event at the Lincoln memorial is more than a little ironic, in light of the following quote, which I wish was more well-known than it is:

"My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union. I shall do less whenever I shall believe what I am doing hurts the cause, and I shall do more whenever I shall believe doing more will help the cause." The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume V, "Letter to Horace Greeley" (August 22, 1862), p. 388.

I lifted the quote from here: http://home.att.net/~rjnorton/Lincoln78.html

Lincoln could have cared less about freeing slaves. The War Between the States was about States' Rights versus Centralism, not slavery.

Beck Beckoned By Fox

I just learned that Glenn Beck has officially moved from CNN to Fox News, and I must admit my feelings are a bit mixed. Glenn Beck was about the only conservative television commentator to give Ron Paul, the only major candidate worthy of election this last cycle, a reasonable hearing. Meanwhile, Fox News commentators ridiculed him at times, while at other times shutting him out completely. They supported the other Republican candidates, all fairly incompetent, and none of whom had a chance, in a nation obsessed with smooth speech and celebrity good-looks, against that great Socialist bearer of empty rhetoric, our new president Barack Obama (whom Doug Wilson has aptly dubbed "the Shining One", no doubt based on the Messianic aura that surrounds him).

I haven't made any attempt to find out why Beck made the change. But there was something nice about finding a conservative commentator on CNN. And now that he's on Fox, I can't help but wonder if he will be allowed the freedom to speak against the neo-cons that he had on CNN. Based on Fox's track record, I have my doubts.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Inauguration Inflation

Fox news notes that the tradition of the Presidential Inaugural Ball began with the inauguration of James Madison in 1809. The tickets for the Ball were $4. Today, they go into the hundreds of dollars. And remind me again why we elected Obama to the presidency? The cost of things isn't going up; the value of the dollar is going down. And Obama won't be doing what's necessary to fix this.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Historical Deconstruction Silliness

Greensboro's favourite Mormon science fiction writer, Orson Scott Card, tells of one of the latest manifestations of historical ignorance:

Just in case you had any doubt about the ignorance of "educated" Americans, I'd like to quote a line to you from a review in the Publishers Weekly of Dec. 8, 2008.

PW is the news-and-reviews magazine of the publishing and bookselling trade – reviews in PW are quite influential in helping booksellers decide which books to order and stock in their stores.

So I'm reading a review of the historical mystery The Bellini Card by Jason Goodwin, and the reviewer refers to "a portrait of Mehmet the Conqueror (who reclaimed Constantinople from the Christians in 1453), painted by the legendary artist Gentile Bellini."

What matters here is the parenthetical phrase, in which the reviewer actually makes the appalling claim that the Muslim conquest of Constantinople in 1453 somehow represented a reclaiming – which implies that Constantinople had once been Muslim and was being retrieved from Christian rule.

Here are the facts – which once were known to every college graduate, if not to every schoolchild: Constantinople was never Muslim until the Turks flat-out conquered it in a naked act of aggression in 1453.

Read the rest here:

http://greensboro.rhinotimes.com/Articles-i-2009-01-08-190020.112113_PC_History_Ambiguous_Fiction_Best_Books.html

Sunday, January 11, 2009

L. A. Story

Out of the numerous gifts I received for Christmas, one friend gave me a copy of the Steve Martin film "L. A. Story". I had actually just remembered it a couple of months ago, and subsequently added it to my Amazon wish list.

Sometimes you think back with fondness on a movie that you enjoyed at an earlier point in your life, but upon watching it again, realize that your enjoyment was determined by and confined by the point you were at in your life when you saw it. One can grow out of a movie, just like one grows out of other things.

I found this wasn't the case for me with L. A. Story. It was released in 1991, and so the clothes and music are dated. But if one can get past this, the film is brilliant. It is essentially a comedic love story set in Los Angeles, but it is far deeper than most films that would fit into that category. The first thing I noticed in re-watching the film was the many quotes and allusions to Shakespeare. I am fairly unread in Shakespeare, but I'm knowledgeable enough to pick up on some of the allusions. After watching the film again, I skimmed through the IMDB discussion board about the film and learned that it is essentially based off of A Midsummer Night's Dream, though there are references to several other Shakespeare plays present.

The film is full of absurd moments, intended in part to highlight the eccentricities of L. A. life. And it is also full of details that only emerge upon repeated watchings, which make it a much richer film.

There are aspects that one should beware of. There is some profanity, a moment of brief nudity, and a couple of sexual scenes, though not graphic. So it's a film for adults. But if one is okay with these, the film is well worth the watching.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

The Anniversary of My Father's Death

Today is Epiphany, as I mentioned before, though the day is almost over. It didn't occur to me until a year or two ago, however, that Epiphany, January 6th, is also the anniversary of my father's death. Having grown up without the church calendar, I always thought of it as the anniversary of my father's death rather than Epiphany. He died on January 6, 1985, which happened also to be Sunday, the Christian Sabbath. To add even further to significance of the dates of his life, I might note that he was born on St. Valentine's Day.

I sure there are plenty of fortune tellers and mystics that would love to read things into the convergence of these dates. I note them simply as a matter of curiosity. Nonetheless, they are a God-ordained curiosity, and an illustration of how strangely, from our perspective, God works at times.

And were it not past eleven o'clock, I'm sure I would have more to say about that. But I can't seem to muster any more energy by which to do so.

The Hornes on AFV?

So I was just flipping around on the TV and passed by America's Funniest Home Video when, lo and behold, there was a picture of Mark & Jennifer Horne with their little ones on the screen. I think maybe they won some contest or something - they cut to a commercial just as I passed the show. Anyway, I've seen their pictures online before, but I didn't expect I'd see them on my TV screen any time soon:

http://www.hornes.org/mark/

http://www.hornes.org/jennsblog/

Saturday, January 03, 2009

It's Still Christmas

It is now January 3, and most people are glad to be able to forget the busyness of Christmas, and to get on with life, whatever "getting on with life" may mean. But contrary to popular conception, we're still in the Christmas season. According to the traditional Western Church calendar, this is the Tenth Day of Christmas (you know, with those Lords a-Leaping). Christmas officially ends with January 6th, which is Epiphany, the celebration of the visitation of the Wise Men to Jesus.

There are, in our time and place, two ways of ordering time. One is the secular calendar. It begins its calendar year on January 1st, and is a blending of sacred and secular holidays, all of which exist to serve the interests of the State. Then there is the traditional Church calendar. It begins with Advent, the season preceding Christmas.

It is commonly thought that Christmas season is the time after Thanksgiving, leading up to Christmas Day, and ending with December 25. Accordingly, it is common for radio and TV stations broadcasting special Christmas programming to cease doing so the day after Christmas. But this approach to the season has been dictated by the marketing gurus of our society. Their interests intersect our own only insofar as they can benefit monetarily off of us.

Sadly, the church calendar has at times been used in a similar way. Rather than educating the laity in Scripture's teaching on Christian devotion, sub-Biblical devotional practices often arose, sometimes merely as a way to keep the people in line. It's much easier to control people when they are ignorant, after all. Some teachings contrary to Scripture, such as the notion of the canonization of certain individuals as saints, supererogatory works and the treasury of merits, linked closely with a faulty notion of salvation, were tied in to the idea of days devoted to certain saints. Observance of certain days were required for salvation, and observance of other days served as an aid for a quicker escape from Purgatory.

Let me state clearly that I oppose all such notions. As a son of the Reformation, the observance of the church calendar is something I consider to be optional. But I also believe throwing the baby out with the bath water is out of order here, too. There are certain benefits to observing a church calendar that I think should be preserved. And it is perfectly possible to observe the calendar on some level without resulting in the false teachings of the medieval church. It is even possible to observe days dedicated to certain godly men and women of church history without holding to the false notions of salvation linked to them. We celebrate birthdays, not only of those who are living, but also of those who are dead (such as Presidents' Day). Why is it not even more appropriate to celebrate the history of those saints who have died before us?

One of the key questions in my mind has to do with what defines us as individuals. Am I, first and foremost, a servant of the State? Or am I, above all else, a child of God, and therefore united to all saints, in both heaven and earth? To the Christian, this should be an easy question. Why, then, do we allow the Civil calendar to be the primary way our consciousness is shaped regarding time? Nations rise and fall, but the kingdom of our God and of his Christ will last forever. And our enjoyment of this kingdom begins now, for realm over which Jesus reigns includes both heaven and earth (Matthew 28:18).

Another key question is this: why do we let those who market their wares to us dictate our lives? Now, it's true that we need things to survive. And there's nothing wrong with desiring something we don't have, so long as it doesn't become an idol and so lead to covetousness. But our approach to the Christmas season has come to be largely determined by material possessions, such that Christ birth becomes an appendage to the season. Buying gifts for others is a good Christmas practice, and a demonstration of Christ's love. But we have become enslaved by greedy corporations, and this is something I think we need to examine more carefully.

And both these masters - the State and Corporate America - cooperate with one another in order to benefit off of us. As sales increase, so do the tax revenues that pour into the pockets of the State. And as the Government is benefited, so it makes decisions that benefit the executives of Corporate America. If recent events in our economic crisis hasn't made that obvious, then we haven't been paying attention.

So one of the best ways we can counter those that would seek to enslave us, I would suggest, is to observe the Church calendar. In so doing, we proclaim that Christ has authority over all things. He owns me, both body and soul, and that includes my time.

Lastly, one other practical outworking of observing the Church calendar, it would seem to me, would be as a means of creating, for lack of a better term, "psychological well-being". I think of this particularly with regard to the sort of "post-Christmas depression" that many struggle with. We are creatures bound by time, and as such are defined in our identity in part by the succession of time and the meaning of those days which we inhabit. When one observes a truncated calendar, such as is done in secular America, it isn't surprising when a person finds himself looking for purpose after investing so much time and emotion in a holiday. But if all of time is sacred, and this fact is manifested in regular church calendar, then one may find comfort in the practical celebration of this reality. And one may practically celebrate this reality, I would suggest, in the observance of the Church calendar.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Obama Plans to Meet With Presidents

According to news reports, Barack Obama, in his plan to visit with congressional leaders in Washington in the next few days, is also planning to meet with George W. Bush and the three living former presidents. Rumor has it that an intern suggested also bringing in the remains of Peyton Randolph for the meeting, but neither the current president, the incumbent, nor the former presidents knew who Peyton Randolph was.