24 November 2002

Autumn Walk

It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon: cool, crisp, sunny, with the scent of wet soil in the air, leaves crunching underfoot, and the last remnants of fall color left in the now mostly bare trees. Though we live in Philadelphia, the city boasts one of the largest stretches of urban parkland of any city, and it all lies at the end of our block:

Thus it seemed the perfect day to take the dog along as Laurel and I went for a nice long walk, with baby Claire in her carrier, held tight to her mommy's chest:

Though most the trees now stand as empty dark branches and twigs against the sky, the ground remains strewn with the remains of the bright hues of autumn, like a collage:

About halfway through our walk we passed by what is known as "Kelpius' Cave"--it's stone entrance leading into the side of a hill, where Johannes Kelpius sought shelter and solitude for his meditations in the late 1600s, after his arrival in Philadelphia:

According to the stone monument, Kelpius was the founder and first minister of a group of Rosicrucians in America, then known as the "Monks of the Ridge," referring to the high ridge upon which this part of the city is built.

After about an hour of hiking the trails, climbing over fallen trunks, and crossing trickling streams, we made our way home. We are always grateful to have such immediate access to the glories of God's creation only just outside our door.

22 November 2002

C.S. Lewis

Today commemorates the 39th anniversary of C.S. Lewis' death, one of the most popular Christian authors, scholars, and apologists of the 20th century. A prayer:Almighty God, whose servant C.S.Lewis received of your grace singular gifts of insight in understanding the truth in Christ Jesus, and of eloquence and clarity in presenting that truth to his readers: Raise up in our day faithful interpreters of your Word, that we, being set free from all error and unbelief, may come to the knowledge that makes us wise unto salvation: through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. AmenPrecious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.

The World's End

Laurel took the "Which Chronicles of Narnia Book Are You?" quiz and turned out to be The Horse and His Boy. It turns out that I'm Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Maybe I should travel more?

21 November 2002

Church and State

In the US, issues of the relationship between the church and politics are often framed within a particular context of American history, the disestablishment of religion, and various issues of church-state separation. In the UK things are not the same, having both an established church and a monarchy.

Within this context, N.T. Wright provides some interesting reflections on the church, politics, establishment, and monarchy in his lecture "God and Caesar, Then and Now," a talk given back in April at Westminster Abbey in honor of the jubilee of the Queen's reign.

18 November 2002

John Bell of Glen Rose Farm links some beautiful black and white photographs of the Russian Orthodox monastery at Valaam in Russia. I particularly liked this one:

The monastery is about a 1000 years old, though the present main structure dates from the late 1800's. During the Soviet era, after the Second World War the island on which the monastery sits was ceded to the USSR and was unoccupied by monks from 1944 until 1989.

Russian Orthodoxy at present is full of both great promise and serious problems, as it adjusts to post-Soviet Russia, which allows for both a renewal of historic Russian faith, especially among the young, and the problematics of an institution that has had a long history of unfortunate collusion, nationalism, and xenophobia. There is also a Reformed presence in Russia, along with other manifestations of the historic Christian faith. May God bring blessing to his church in Russia in all its various branches.

17 November 2002

Quiz Answers

I've closed out the "Friend Test," so if you entered your e-mail address, you should get a copy of the answers. To my amazment, 37 people took the quiz. Here are the answers.

[1] Besides Pennsylvania, I have only ever lived in New York State, during graduate school. 21 of you got that right. 9 said Virginia, 5 Ohio, and 2 Missouri. I've never even visited Missouri.

[2] My first name is Stephen, though I've always gone by "Joel." 30 of you answered that correctly. 3 answered "Sinclair," 2 said "Samuel," and one each said "Stafford" and "Calvin."

[3] If our baby had been a boy, I would have liked to have named him "Alaric," after the Visogoth who sacked Rome. Only 6 of you got that right. 16 of you said "Tristan," which was actually on our short list of boy names. 7 suggested "Bucer," which is really cool, I think, though Laurel vetoed it. 5 said "Bonaventure" and 3 said "Padraig" (Irish for "Patrick").

[4] I teach at La Salle University as 35 of you answered correctly. I know one person accidently marked "St Joe's" and another answered "Villanova."

[5] Laurel and I met through a bookclub associated with our church, which 16 of you got right. 12 of you thought we met during college. 4 said a prayer meeting--how pious! 4 also said a Pearl Jam concert--which Laurel would never have attended (our tastes in music diverge at some significant points). And one weirdo suggested we met through an internet dating service.

[6] Nietzsche is my favorite 19th century philosopher among those listed, which 11 of you figured out. 12 of you said "Schopenhauer" (can someone actually like Schopenhauer?). 11 said "Hegel" (who I like, but also is apt to cause brain hemorhages). 2 said "Peirce," who I fairly despise. And only one person said "Marx" who, given this list, actually would be my second favorite after Nietzsche (though on a broader list Marx would be beaten out by folks like Kierkegaard).

[7] Politically, I am a Democrat (gasp!), as 21 of you seemed to know already. 6 of you guessed I might be a libertarian (though I outgrew that years ago). 4 each suggested "Republican" and "Socialist Labor." When I first registered to vote at age 18, it was as a Republican and at one time I did subscribe to the newspaper of the Socialist Labor party. 2 guessed "Constitution," which is odd since I'm not even sure what that party is.

[8] As for underwear, I like my overpriced Calvin Kleins, thank you very much. 7 of you seem to understand the irresistable softness of CK cotton. 13 answered "Fruit of the Loom," 11 said "Hanes," and 4 "BVD." Only 2 said "Jockey," which is actually the only other brand I've ever worn regularly (I know, "too much information").

[9] Baby Claire's middle name is "Elise," which 26 of you knew. 7 said "Eleanor" (the name of several of my aunts). 3 said "Elizabeth" and 1 said "Elinore."

[10] Finally, in late September Laurel and I attended the Celtic Classic festival in Bethlehem, PA. Though we have been to the Philadelphia Orchestra, it was not in late September, as 2 of you suggested. Nor have we gone swing dancing that recently, as one of you thought. And while I would enjoy Linkin Park, Laurel thinks their music sounds like it comes out of the pit of hell. So the person who though we went to one of their concerts together was mistaken.

Thanks for playing. I enjoyed looking at your answers.

13 November 2002

How well do you know me? Take my "Friend Test" (quiz closed) and see.

Once Again, Calvin on Baptism

I'm not always a big fan of Credenda or some of the things that have come out of Moscow, Idaho, but I have been reading "Reformed" Is Not Enough by Doug Wilson. At one point Wilson quotes Calvin's Antidote to the Council of Trent with regard to baptism. Here is that quote in a bit more context:We assert that the whole guilt of sin is taken away in baptism, so that the remains of sin still existing are not imputed. That this may be more clear, let my readers call to mind that there is a twofold grace in baptism, for therein both remission of sins and regeneration are offered to us. We teach that full remission is made, but that regeneration is only begun and goes on making progress during the whole of life. Accordingly, sin truly remains in us, and is not instantly in one day extinguished by baptism, but as the guilt is effaced it is null in regard to imputation. Nothing is plainer than this doctrine.Later Calvin makes the helpful observation that in the sacrament of baptism, "Man is merely the hand; it is Christ alone who truly and properly baptizes." Since baptism is the place in which Christ is present and working to give remission of sins and to regenerate us, Calvin teaches that baptism is ordinarily necessary for salvation. He writes:We, too, acknowledge that the use of Baptism is necessary--that no one may omit it from either neglect or contempt. In this way we by no means make it free (optional). And not only do we strictly bind the faithful to the observance of it, but we also maintain that it is the ordinary instrument of God in washing and renewing us; in short, in communicating to us salvation. The only exception we make is, that the hand of God must not be tied down to the instrument. He may of himself accomplish salvation. For when an opportunity for Baptism is wanting, the promise of God alone is amply sufficient.Also, for Calvin, baptism did not suffice merely for initial washing from sin, but for a whole life so that forgiveness of sins was continually enjoyed through a remembrance of baptism in faith and repentance. He writes,For we ought to turn our thoughts not only to the sprinkling of water, but also to the spiritual reality which begets the confidence of a good conscience by the resurrection of Christ...Such remembrance, I say, not only makes sins venial, but altogether obliterates them. Whenever there is any question of forgiveness of sins, we must flee to Baptism and from it seek a confirmation of forgiveness. For as God reconciles us to himself by the daily promises of the Gospel, so the belief and certainty of this reconciliation, which is daily repeated even to the end of life, he seals to us by Baptism.Why is it that this kind of perspective is so absent from our Reformed piety today?

11 November 2002

Extra Calvinisticum

I was in the process of blogging something about divergences and convergences between Lutheran and Calvinistic christology...but, alas, the post seems to have been lost.

In any case, the term "extra calvinisticum" was the term used (pejoratively) by Lutherans to refer to the Reformed teaching that divinity of the one divine Person of Christ was not bounded by his humanity, but went "beyond" (extra). While both Lutherans and Reformed sought to understand Christology within the limits set by the definition of Chalcedon, the Calvinist emphasis on "without confusion" tended to push them in a direction that Lutherans saw as incipiently Nestorian, while the Lutheran emphasis on "without separation" tended to push them in a direction that Calvinists saw as incipiently Monophysite.

I had planned on saying more on that, attempting to sweep away misunderstandings and caricatures in order for our real agreements and disagreements to be made more clear. But what I had written was lost. So perhaps some other time.

07 November 2002


Joel is being yet another copycat. Joel is doing this "googlism" thing. Joel is listing the results below:

  • joel is fuming mad (grrrr)

  • joel is still angry (after all, one doesn't easily get over being fuming mad)

  • joel is a really cool person (yeah...tell me something I don't already know)

  • joel is the largest australian owned auction house (ozzy, ozzy, ozzy! oy, oy, oy!)

  • joel is visited by a man in a devil suit who demands candy (I said he could have some if I could have his soul)

  • joel is cool wednesday june 27 (dang, and I had hoped it would last)

  • joel is earning his chess federation seargent stripes by bashing all comers (drop and give me a white bishop to E6, private!)

  • joel is manufactured by todd smith products in cleveland (so that's why I'm adopted)

  • joel is not amused when maggie takes over his birthing class (repeat after me: "I want an epidural")

  • joel is the one and the only quintessential studmuffin (what can I say?)

  • joel is not in fact a rabbi (though I play one on TV)

  • joel is coming to terms with taking medication for ADD and is prickly about it (you mention Ritalin again and I'll pound you)

  • joel is planning to open an upper crust pimp house in manhattan (but I promise not to hit my 'ho's with my pimp stick)

  • joel is married to frances mcdormand (shhh...don't tell Laurel)

  • joel is afraid (eek)

  • joel is best known as the lead singer of stewart mckenzie's east coast band (and you thought I was just a philosopher)

  • joel is certainly not one of the most overrated pop idols (no, in fact I'm dreadfully underrated)

  • joel is also a total care facility providing for as many as 60 children (well...after the paternity suit...)

  • joel is trapped on the satellite of love (orbiting planet Elvis)

01 November 2002

My Little Girl, the Gourd

We did the Halloween thing last night. Our neighborhood is great fun for Halloween, with the Connelly's across the street turning their old Victorian house into a haunted mansion and the troupes of young children parading by as pirates, witches, dinosaurs, and goblins.

Claire got in on the fun by masquerading as a very cute orange vegetable:

Maybe now she could join with Larry the Cucumber in singing a silly song?

A Collect for the Feast of All Saints

O ALMIGHTY God, who hast knit together thine elect in one communion and fellowship, in the mystical body of thy Son Christ our Lord; Grant us grace so to follow thy blessed Saints in all virtuous and godly living, that we may come to those unspeakable joys, which thou hast prepared for them that unfeignedly love thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.