Friday, September 30, 2005

Note to My Two Readers

The blog was quiet due to an extended absence from home...okay three days. I'll be back.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Is it possible that Jesus was confronting a powerful religion in His day that gave those members of that system a place of power and authority that determined who was close to God and who was not? Who's in and who's out? Seems to me like He was and it seems to me that it is awfully easy for we evangelicals to be that same type of religious system.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005


Sometimes you have to watch somebody love something before you can love it yourself.

Those are the words of Donald Miller in his "Author's Note" in Blue Like Jazz. Seems like I've had this book for three years, and I'm finally getting around to reading it. I enjoyed another book of his very much, so I'm not surprised that I like this one so far. Back to the's true. While I've always been a Red Sox fan and followed (endured?) them since I was a kid, I never loved baseball until more recently. In college, that began to change and I owe it all to a- hold on to your hats now- a Yankees fan. Yes, it's Navid Mahooti's fault.

Navid played on the baseball team and lived on my floor sophomore year and then in the apartment across from me senior year. Navid loved baseball. I liked it well enough, but certainly couldn't understand how you could watch more than 2-3 innings, especially early in the game. So one day I decided to watch a game with Navid. I asked him to help me watch the game the way he does, and he did a pretty good job. Every year since then, my like for baseball has grown to the point where I can say I love in cheap sense of the word love, not like I love my wife or daughter- duh. This love, of course, was enhanced by my participation in softball leagues, even though I don't pretend to believe that baseball and softball are all that similar. Either way, thanks Vid.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Good Blogs

Here a few blogs I read on a regular basis:

Jesus Creed I first mentioned Jesus Creed here. It is the blog of Dr. Scot McKnight, author of The Jesus Creed and the K arl A. Olsson Professor in Religious Studies at North Park University.
He blogs on a variety of topics, including baseball, and is always stimulating to read.

Tony Jones is worth checking out, though he isn't blogging as consistently as he used to.

Doug Pagitt. Good when he gets going.

Naked Religion Brad Bergfalk, Covenant pastor. Good stuff.

Bloglines is a good way to keep track of your favorite blogs.

I read more blogs than these, but that's all you're getting today.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

I Got a New Job!

A week ago today I got a new job. Well, not really. I had a different job for a night. I went up to visit my sister, her husband and my niece and spend the night. In the morning I was going to visit the Bruins rookie camp at their training facility. My sister mentioned that she would probably be working that evening at the restaurant that her husband owns. They live above the resturaunt, in an apartment, I told her to take the night off and put me to work. She agreed (pretty quickly!) and I became the “bar back,” which I think is a real restaurant job.

The restaurant had been closed for some time after a fire in the basement and had reopened for only a couple of days. The Patriots season opened that night, so it was a festive atmosphere with Pat’s fans excited to watch the game and regular patrons excited to be back and to see the renovations.

I had a blast. I suppose it was easy to enjoy since I knew it was a one night only thing, but still, it was great. I brought food out to the bartender when it was ready, bussed the dirty dishes, restocked beer in the refrigerator, helped the dishwasher for a little while, chatted with regulars, and even scored some buffalo wings. (They were great.)

Interesting Dialogue Partners?

Sallie doesn't think Rob Bell understands what Jesus meant. Check it out.
Doug Pagitt doesn't think Sallie understands Jesus. Check it out

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Rob Bell and Know it Alls

"There will always be Pharisees...God is on the lookout for disciples."

I love Rob Bell. I believe that God is using him in a powerful and prophetic way. The quote above is from Rob in his sermon given on Sunday, September 11. At the end of his sermon he's addresses some of the stuff that has been brought to his attention- the controversy surrounding his book Velvet Elvis. My guess is that it has to do with the "reader reviews" at and perhaps some bloggers who don't like the book.

He addresses it well, I'd say, and encourages his defenders, essentially, to put down their swords and use their energy in better ways.

This gets back to my blog a couple of days ago about Brian McLaren. What is so dangerous about Brian, Emergent, Rob Bell and the like? I think it has something to do with faith and control. Let's face it- genuine faith, by definition, relinquishes control in some way. Yet there are many Christians- good, honest people, to be sure, whose faith seems less like faith and more like control. The "This is the way it is- here are the answers" types, without realizing it perhaps, lack faith. They want to define exactly what truth and salvation is. A person who asks questions that might lead to a bigger picture or understanding than they've imagined or believed, is immediately dangerous because suddenly there an element of uncertainty is introduced to the mix- suddenly some faith is required and that is scary, no question.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Simple Pleasures

I never thought I would enjoy flushing the toilet so much. You see, for a long time, there was a problem with my toilet. Unless you opened the tank and pushed the arm holding the flapper valve down creating a seal with the valve seat, the water in the tank would slowly leak out, causing the toilet to refill every 10 minutes or so. I tried a few different flapper valves, but none worked. (So much for "universal" flapper valves.) Recently, while walking through Home Depot, I happened to see a valve seat replacement and flapper valve package. Though the flapper valve was different from my ball-like valve, I was able to rig the system so the toilet would flush. Long story short: no more opening the tank, pushing the valve (after waiting for the water to properly drain) and replacing the tank. It is a small pleasure, but a pleasure nonetheless. It got me thinking about other simple pleasures I enjoy:

  • Foam soap, especially the kind at TGI Friday's in Seekonk.
  • Freshly washed sheets on the bed
  • The smell of sweaty hockey gloves (really)
  • The smell of a new guitar case
  • Taping a new hockey stick
  • Making my wife laugh
  • Playing softball
  • Depositing a floor hockey ball under the crossbar (hitting the water bottle is even better)
  • When a kid makes a significant spiritual decision or discovery
Then there are several that involve my daughter:
  • Post-bath cuddle time
  • Listening to her laugh
  • The way she says "baseball," which is "boo-ball"
  • The "Dada!," squeal, and quick little footsteps I hear when I come home
  • The way she'll sometimes rub my shoulder when I hold her

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Terri King, of Notes From The Journey, had an interesting blog where she mentions her Apologetics class. In an earlier post she listed her assigned books for all her classes (which I hope she’ll continue to do as she works on her degree…hint, hint Terri.) I mentioned that, based on her booklist, it seemed that her prof. would not be a fan of Brian McLaren. She then commented on my blog, the following:

His (her prof's) main objection to BM is that loss of objective truth. He doesn't see him as having a philosophy that is defendable b/c (he says, I don't know, I've read only 1 part of a book he wrote) BM takes a stance that denies objective truth.

I’ve heard personally and heard others report many times, this criticism of Brian McLaren and Emergent in general; that is, that they deny objective truth. (Terri, you'll notice, wisely avoids this mistake by acknowledging she hasn't actually read enough of his work to assess it and won't make judgements based on secondhand information.) It honestly baffles me when I hear this and I wonder if these folks who make these criticism have actually read Brian or any other emergent types.

For instance, in Emergent’s Response to Recent Criticims they write:

contrary to statements and inferences made by some, that yes, we truly believe there is such a thing as truth and truth matters – if we did not believe this, we would have no good reason to write or speak; no, we are not moral or epistemological relativists any more than anyone or any community is who takes hermeneutical positions – we believe that radical relativism is absurd and dangerous, as is arrogant absolutism;

Apparently, what people really object to is that that last statement whereby relativism is declared to be the other side of the absolutist coin. Brian McLaren's assumption is that there is absolute objective truth…the truth is out there, as the TV show said. (At least, that’s what I hear…never did watch The X-Files. Maybe they never actually said it?) Yes, the truth is out there, but the problem and the question really is, who can claim to know it fully? Emergent sees the absolutism that extists in relgious groups to be particularly dangerous- whether these groups be Christian, Muslim or other. Our more conservative brothers and sisters (er, well, when the sisters are allowed to speak, I suppose) are very good at making absolute statements and get really upset when others won’t. (For example, see Al Mohler’s review of Mclaren’s A Generous Orthodoxy.) And so I wonder, is the concern really about truth or defending one's territory? Are Christians more concerned about being right than they are concerned about loving their neighbors? What did Jesus mean when he talked about giving a 10th of our spices but neglecting the greater things of the law?

I’m cutting this blog short, before I get myself into too much trouble, but I may have more to say on this topic later. I think it is fair to say that I think McLaren is on a better path than Mohler.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

This past summer I participated in an event called Youth Nexus at Northpark University. The program was designed for a youth leader and two students to spend a 5 days at Northpark, studying a given topic with a Northpark professor each morning, with an experiential event around that topic in the afternoon. For instance, when our topic was "justice" we visited the Cook County Jail. It was a great experience, both for me and for Andrew, the student I brought with me.

That experience got me thinking: Why not organize youth group the same way? We could focus on a given topic for say, 4 weeks, and then take a field trip, so to speak.

Our first topic is going to be "creation". I plan to focus on being good stewards and caretakers of creation, some Psalm 8 type stuff, and a look at Creationism (both young earth and old earth) Darwinism and Intelligent Design.

I used to be pretty big on creationism, young earth even. These days, I'm not sure it is so important. I'm hoping to help the youth understand that the Bible is bigger than these theories and its truth is bigger than all of them. For instance, many creationist insist on some sort of literal reading of Genesis and insist on this otherwise, they claim, you can't trust the rest of the Bible. If Genesis, the foundation of the Bible (they claim) is false, then the rest must be too. Foundationalism and its problems aside (see Brian McLaren for starters) it raises questions about truth. Does something have to literally happen in order to be true? Is the parable of the Prodigal Son a true story? If by true story we mean that there was really a son who asked his dad for his inheritance, squandered it etc. than I think we would say it is not true. After all, it is clearly a story that Jesus made up. However, the story of "The Prodigal Son" (or, as Robert Capon would say, "The Forgiving Father") is one of the truest of all stories. Genesis 1 is true, regardless of whether it happened exactly as it says it happened.

Not surprisingly, fundamentalists exist on both sides of the discussion.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Good Article

No new post for today, but you can check out this article on Biblical authority by NT. Wright.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Beautiful day yesterday. I had the opportunity to try wakeboarding, which is like snowboarding on water except instead of going downhill, a boat pulls you. I've never been a waterskier, tried skiing once in high school, never snowboarded (or even skateboarded for that matter) so I had my work cut out for me.

It was ugly. Tried about 10 times to get up and fell every time. Then my friend told me try boarding off the boom (holding an arm that extends out from the boat, which is easier to do.) That was really helpful, at least I could get a sense of what it felt to ride the board. Tried it again behind the boat, and about 5 tries later, finally got up. Had two decent rides and then I was pretty tired.

It was pretty cool though, well, at least the riding part. I'm glad I didn't give up, though I did think about it a couple of times. I'm pretty sore today, which I expected to be, but it's not too bad.

Tomorrow and youth ministry/ I.D. post. Maybe.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Sports Post- Bruins

Since it's Saturday, I figured I'd have a little sports post. What does Saturday have to do with sports, you ask? Well, I don't know, but Saturday is a good sports day.

It's funny being a sports fan of our New England teams. I've never had it so nice. The Patriots are killing everyone and the Red Sox won a World Series. I don't care too much about the Celtics (the NBA bores me these days) and now I just need my beloved Bruins to come through. The Bruins have been my favorite team in my favorite sport for as long as I can remember, and they last won the Cup in 1972...two years before I was born. I've never been a fan of their owner, Jeremy Jacobs, but with a salary cap in place his miserly ways should no longer be a prohibitive factor in their success.

As for the Bruins, I expect Joe Thornton to have a big year, especially in the playoffs. I was convinced that he was going to be huge in the playoffs last time they played, but then he suffered torn rib cartilage late in the season which severely limited his ability to perform.

Assessing the Bruins for this season:

For as long as I can remember, the Bruins have always lacked a solid second line. This year, that problem appears to be solved. Assuming they sign Andrew Raycroft, the team looks pretty good in the net and on the forward lines. It's the defense that is a little scary. Assuming they sign Nick Boynton, their defense will look something like this:

Boynton - Leetch
Gill - Slegr
Which leaves
Moran, Girard, Stuart, and Jurcina to fill out the last two slots...oh boy.

There's not much there to stop guys from going to the net is there? Sure Gill is big, but he has always seemed hesitant to use his size to full advantage. Boynton is as tough as they come, but I'm not sure his size really scares any forwards on the opposing teams. He's their best d-man, but is that enough? Leetch is an okay addition (though probably overpaid) but his best days are more than likely in the past. I was never terribly impressed with Girard, though if they enforce the new rules, Girard, assuming he's fully recovered, might create a lot of offense for the team. It seems as though the Bruins are hoping Stuart or Jurcina will be able to step up, and perhaps Moran and Girard will be fighting it out for the last spot.

As far as that is concerned, I like to pick a player each year at camp, a guy I never heard of, as , (to borrow Michael Holley's Phrase) "my guy." The best "my guy" I ever picked was PJ Axelsson. Ivan Huml was the most disappointing, though he was "my guy" with the caveat that he add some size and strength, which he apparently never has. Last year, "my guy" was Milan Jurcina. Love his size, skating and the way he takes the body. Word has it though, that he needs to use his size more and play tougher. We'll see, but I'm hoping he steps up. If he and Stuart (who most people seem to be pretty high on) come through, it could make things interesting. Still, the defense has to have you a little concerned, no?

Lineup should look something like this:

Thornton centering Murray and Isbister
Zhamnov with Samsonov and Bergeron (Finally! A good second line!)
Scatchard with Axelsson and McEachern
Green with Boyes Fitzgerald and perhaps Orr

Toivonen and Raycroft in goal.

Should be a decent team, assuming the defense is halfway decent.

Friday, September 02, 2005

In the movie Rounders, Matt Damon's character, Mike, makes the following statement:

In his Confessions of a Winning Poker Player, Jack King said, "Few players recall big pots they have won- strange as it seems- but every player can remember with remarkable accuracy the outstanding bad beats of his career."

While I have found this to be the case for myself in poker (not that I have a poker career or anything, but I have been known to play with friends now and then) I wonder if it is true in baseball and softball as well. Do I remember the mistakes and failures more than I do the good plays?

Brad Bergfalk has a great post at his blog Naked Religion about watching his son play baseball. His son makes a great play one inning and a bad play the next and his son's team loses.

I love playing softball, I really do, and no "love" is not too strong a word. I have to admit though, there is something masochistic about the sport. It is the most individual of all team sports, both defensively and offensively. When the ball is hit to you (or near you) you either catch it, field it cleanly, or not. There's not a whole lot your teammates can do for you. Sure, in the outfield they can warn you when you're about to run into the fence, or, occasionally, help you gauge the depth of the ball, but really, you're on your own. Team play only comes into play (hehe) after you have made the play (or even if you flubbed the play). Likewise at the plate, you either get on base or you don't. Beyond offering encouragement, there isn't much your team can do for you.

With this comes great joy and pain. I can clearly recall a ball bouncing off the heal of my glove two years ago and our team losing. Unfair as it is to myself, I was convinced that if I make that catch, we win. (A catch would have ended the inning and instead the other team took the lead and we ran out of innings to get it back.) I remember making the final out in our first playoff game this season. It's an awful feeling when you feel like you let your team down.

Unlike poker, however, I do remember some big plays as well. A bases loaded double early in my softball career that won the game for us. (Yes, unlike poker, I do have a softball career…just not one that pays.) I remember some big catches and even batting 6-6 with two BB in the next two playoff games which we won, one in a dramatic come from behind fashion. There was a grand celebration following both those games, complete with a champagne simulating water bottle.

Perhaps that's why I love softball so much. There's pressure- and it's on you. The highs are real high and the lows are real low.

Can't wait for next season.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Dr. Scot McKnight, the Karl A. Olsson Professor in Religious Studies at North Park University, wrote this at his blog:

I found two major weaknesses in Calvinism’s theology (and also a disorientation in its architecture): first, the emphasis of its architecture is not the emphasis of the Bible. Its focus on God’s Sovereignty, which very quickly becomes much less a doctrine of grace than a doctrine of control and theodicy etc, and its overemphasis on human depravity are not the emphases I found in the Bible. I do not dispute the presence of these themes; I dispute this is where the gravity of emphasis is found in the Bible…

I think part of the problem has to do with Paul's letter to the Romans. If Paul is trying to help Jewish believers understand why the Gentile believers don't have to follow the law (which I beleive is a significant objective of Paul's in this letter), he has to emphasize our inability to save ourselves. Over time, and given the abuses of the church at Luther's time, this emphasis became all the more important, thus elevating human depravity in the Calvinistic system to a totality that essentially eliminates any concept of humans as created in the image of God.

McKnight continues,
Second, the exegesis of Calvinism on crucial passages I found wanting and sometimes dead wrong.

He goes on to question eternal security in a series of blogs on the book of Hebrews. While I tend to like Calvin's insistence on grace and the work of God in salvation (and thus I accept eternal security, though perhaps not quite in the same way the Calvinist does) I do believe we are free to reject this gift (hence the difference with Calvin). This would seem to square with his reading of Hebrews…we are free to reject.

Several interesting posts at his blog. Worth bookmarking and checking often.