31 July 2005

pentecost 11

Almighty God,
your Son Jesus Christ
fed the hungry
with the bread of his life
and the word of his kingdom.
Renew your people with your heavenly grace,
and in all our weakness
sustain us by the true and living bread,
Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who lives and reigns
with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

29 July 2005

cough cough

I had been planning on posting several things here this week, but got sidetracked with some other responsibilities and getting sick with a mild virus for a couple of days.

While surfing around on the Web I did note that the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals (ACE) has now caught up with current technology with an online magazine and even a blog. Ever since Modern Reformation and White Horse Inn parted ways with ACE, I was curious whether the Alliance would renew and maintain some kind of media presence and what that presence would look like, particularly given the re-organization of ACE around a more decisively Presbyterian/Particular Baptist axis.

We'll have to see how the webzine develops. The book reviews may be useful, at least inasmuch as reviews generally summarize the contents of a book, allowing one to preview a publication to make sure it will be worth the time and effort of actually reading it. I also expect to enjoy Phil Ryken's "Windows on the World" and, though with a rather different style from Phil's, Carl Trueman's "The Wages of Spin."

Many of the main articles, however, seem to carry forward the current obssession with discussing the so-called "New Perspectives on Paul," a discussion that, for the most part, has been disappointingly unproductive, at least outside of more narrowly scholarly cirles. Fortunately, these things have a way of burning themselves out sooner or later.

At any rate, with a bit more napping today, I fully expect to be back in the swing of things soon and perhaps will post some items here in the coming days.

26 July 2005

human trafficking

Several years ago La Salle's "Diplomat-in-Residence" program sponsored its annual conference with a focus on the issue of human trafficking, a problem particularly in parts of Asia, deeply connected with global poverty, and typically intertwined with the sex trade and forms of slave labor.

At the time my colleague who runs the program had asked me the level of awareness and response among confessional Protestants to the problem of human trafficking. While I could point her to various resources, I had to admit that the level of awareness was probably rather low among evangelicals.

One important way in which we, as Christians, can address this global problem is through increasing our awareness and discovering ways in which the Gospel can address and bring deliverance even to the patterns and effects of human sinfulness at play in an issue as large as this.

In this connection, all this week Common Grounds Online (which you all should be reading in any case) is providing a series of posts by Heidi Metcalf, Vice President of Geneva Global, outlining the problem with some stories that put a face on the horror, bearing witness to the work of Christians ministering Christ's love in the midst of it, and offering some ways in which we might all help.

25 July 2005

infused vodkas

I first read about the idea of infused vodka in the Wine and Spirits magazine published by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control board, but the idea seems to be enjoying some popularity with the Cocktail Times website providing instructions for an infusion party and an entire Vodka-Infusion website selling (largely unnecessary) equipment.

The basic idea is simple enough: you take a good quality, triple-distilled (and thus essentially flavorless) vodka, pour it into a glass jar, drop in whatever flavor-giving ingredients you want, and let it sit until the vodka takes up the flavor to the degree that you like. Some things (such as vanilla beans and cinnamon sticks) infuse quickly, while others (such as ginger) take much longer. The vodka, where appropriate and desired, can be sweeted later with superfine sugar.

So far I've tried infusing rosemary, vanilla bean, cinnamon sticks, juniper berries, and a combination of cinnamon, bay leaf, citrus zest, star anise, and saffron. I like to make very small batches, using medium size glass spice jars and only about 5 ounces of vodka. The infusion time, it seems, is also shorter with such small amounts.

Here are some of the more successful cocktails I've tried mixing using the various infusions:

Rosemary-Peach Cocktail
1 1/2 oz Peach Schnapps
1/4 oz Vodka
1/4 oz Rosemary-infusion
a squeeze of lemon

Cinnamon-Apple Cocktail
1 1/2 oz Apple Pucker*
1/4 oz Cinnamon-infusion
1/4 oz Vanilla-infusion
(*or use whatever your favorite apple beverage is: apple juice, hard cider, Applejack, etc.)

Poached-Pear Cocktail
2 oz Woodchuck Pear Hard Cider
1/4 oz Saffron spice-infusion

This last one I adapted from the ingredients in a dessert recipe for poached pears. Cinnamon is also good with cherry brandy and the juniper is nice for kicking the juniper flavor of a gin up a couple notches.

In any case, I enjoy the experimentation and trying out flavors that are often wedded together in other recipes, but don't often make their way into a cocktail.

24 July 2005


Every time I take this thing I get a different result. Figures. The most recent:

You scored as Neo orthodox. You are neo- orthodox. You reject the human-centredness and scepticism of liberal theology, but neither do you go to the other extreme and make the Bible the central issue for faith. You believe that Christ is God's most important revelation to humanity, and the Trinity is hugely important in your theology. The Bible is also important because it points us to the revelation of Christ. You are influenced by Karl Barth and P T Forsyth.

Neo orthodox86%
Reformed Evangelical68%
Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan57%
Roman Catholic57%
Classical Liberal39%
Modern Liberal29%

What's your theological worldview?
created with QuizFarm.com
Probably not too far off the mark in some respects.

pentecost 10

O God, the protector of all who trust in you,
without you nothing is strong, nothing is holy.
Increase and mulitply upon us your mercy,
that with you as our ruler and guide,
we may so pass through things temporal,
that we lose not the things eternal;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns
with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever and ever.

23 July 2005

hp discussion

Oh dear. That last post was a bit snarky. Good thing I wasn't thinking about theology and the recent unpleasantness in some conservative Reformed circles when I wrote it.

Regarding Harry Potter, the discussion over at Jon Barlow's blog is as thoughtful and stimulating as any I've seen.

In coming days on this blog: a review of Enns's Inspiration and Incarnation, some thoughts on "evangelicalism" and D.G. Hart's attempt to jettison the term, a translation of a Latin letter by John Davenant, some theological autobiography, and a discussion of Peter Candler's recent essay that shows Aquinas is more rhetoric than logic after all.

22 July 2005

something to blog

Hmm. I've not blogged in a while. There's plenty to blog about, but we've been busy reading Harry Potter aloud for much of the past week, at least while Claire was napping or put to bed for the night. Personally, I think it is the best of Rowling's series thus far.

On Thursday we went down the shore for the day, which was pretty good, if one likes the beach (and doesn't mind postponing the completion of Harry Potter for a day). I'm not much of a beach person, though I think if we got rid of the sand, sun, and saltwater it might well be tolerable, which is probably why the amusement piers, taffy and fudge shops, and restaurants--all a safe distance from the beach--are a highlight for me.

The beach always raises a couple of issues in my mind.

First, why is it that, after a gazillion episodes of Oprah, The View, Good Morning America, and other such shows trying to instruct folks about what kinds of beachwear are flattering and unflattering for their body-types, do some folks still continue to make the worst possible fashion choices? And what's up with navel-piercings? And, no, a tank top that says, "My Boobs Are Real" is not amusing, even if you are 20 and still have a very perky bosom.

Second, why do people think that having a good tan is attractive? In a different era a good tan would have indicated that you were a peasant who couldn't afford to stay indoors. But that was an era that idealized milky white, alabaster skin. Still, unless one's European ancestors dwelt on the Mediterranean for the past 1000 years or so, a tan doesn't necessarily enhance one's personal appearance. When one's skin tone grows darker than one's hair color an important line has been trangressed. I suppose, however, if one would like to spend retirement looking like an old scrap of well-worn leather, that's none of my business.

In any case, as you can probably tell, a trip to the shore, along with over-exposure to the sun, leaves me in a slightly punchy mood, which of course can be cured by administering a generous dose of hard liquor...which reminds me that I'll have to blog about the fun of infused vodkas one of these days. Rosemary-infused vodka with peach schnapps and a bit of lemon is worth blogging about.

17 July 2005

pentecost 9

Almighty God,
your Son has opened for us
a new and living way into your presence.
Give us pure hearts and constant wills
to worship you in spirit and in truth;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns
with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

16 July 2005

it arrived

Deep into Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Will re-emerge when finished. Don't expect much until then.

15 July 2005

baptist manifesto

While I'd note that the writing of manifestoes is as much a modernist impluse as the items the manifesto critiques, "Re-Envisioning Baptist Identity: A Manifesto for Baptist Communities in North America" is an intriguing document in its advocacy of what might be seen as a Baptist kind of catholicity. I had probably seen the text before, but ran across it again today.

The manifesto seems to have been drawn up by a selection of Baptist scholars including Mikael Broadway, Curtis Freeman, Barry Harvey, James Wm. McClendon, Jr., Elizabeth Newman, Philip Thompson, and others and appeared original in Baptists Today in 1997. A number of other Baptist scholars, university professors, pastors, and others have subsequently signed it. I detect traces of Hauerwas, Yoder, Milbank, and some others percolating up through it.

Since I have only limited contact with Baptists, I'm curious if anyone knows how this document was received in wider mainstream Baptist circles, particularly in America. I would guess that the document's rejection of "soul competency" might run afoul of some Baptist sensibilities, though arguably the particular complexion that notion receives in America is not truly essential to Baptist theology. I also imagine the final section discussing politics might rub some pious Republican Baptists the wrong way.

14 July 2005

flaking out

I've not been watching TV or paying much attention to the news this week, so I almost forgot that the item to the right will be arriving on Saturday. Silly fellow that I am, I await with eager anticipation.

I could be wrong, but I'm persuaded by the suggestion that the trajectory of the series will require, likely in the final volume, that Harry not only lay down his life for his friends, but even also for his muggle persecutors, in particular, the Dursleys. We'll have to wait another couple of years to know for certain, however, I suppose.

13 July 2005

braaten on the elca

My LCMS friends will no doubt say, "Of course, we told you so. We knew it all along. Damned liberals." But this letter by Carl Braaten, one of America's leading Lutheran theologians, assesses the current state of affairs within the ELCA.

12 July 2005

the keys of the kingdom

An email correspondent recommends James L. Ainslie's study, The Doctrines of Ministerial Order in the Reformed Churches of the 16th and 17th Centuries (T&T Clark 1940) as an interesting overview of the role and theology of ordained office within historic Reformed ecclesiology.

Reformed ecclesiology is, of course, a wide-ranging topic, encompassing a variety of matters: not only the ordained ministry as such, but also the preaching of the Word, the administration of the sacraments, church life and the communion of saints, the nature of the church in its visible and invisible aspects, the doctrine of the covenant, and so on. Moreover, recent Reformed figures (Kuiper, Clowney, Berkouwer, Barth, Newbigin, etc.) have developed the tradition in various ways and their contributions need to be critically evaluated.

With regard to the "power of the keys," Ainslie's study includes transcriptions of French and a Scots Reformed rites or forms for excommunication, as well as a Scots form of absolution from a sentence of excommunication. From the French Reformed Synod of Alai in 1620 we receive the following rite that would have been used in a public declaration of excommunication:

We Ministers of the Word of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, whom God has given power on earth to bind and to loose...do cut off N and hereby aforesaid from the Communion of the Church, do excommunicate him, and do cast him out from the Society of the Faithful, that he may be to you as a "heathen man and a publican," and that among true believers he may be Anathema and a Curse...Which sentence of excommunication the Son of God will ratify and make efficacious to him, until the sinner, confounded and abased before God, glorifies Him by his return, and freed from the bonds of Satan, mourns over his sin with tears of penitence. Beloved Brethren, pray God that He may have mercy on this poor sinner, and that this fearful judgment which with regret and great sadness of heart we by the authority of God’s Son pronounce against him, may serve to humble him, and bring him back to the Way of Salvation, a soul that has wandered from it. Amen.

Going back further, the 1571 version of the Scottish Reformed Book of Common Order a similar rite which reads, in part:

We farther give over into the hands and power of the devil the said N, to the destruction of the flesh...And his sin (albeit with sorrow of heart) by virtue of our Ministry we bind and pronounce the same to be bound in heaven and earth...Thy Church from which this day (with grief and dolour of our hearts he is ejected.

The ritual forms used to absolve an individual of the sentence of excommunication are quite similar. One example, again, from the Book of Common Order, will suffice:

In the Name and Authority of Jesus Christ, I, the minister of His blessed Evangel, with the consent of the whole Ministry and Church, absolve thee, N, from the sentence of Excommunication, from the sin by thee committed, and from all censures laid against thee for the same before, according to the repentance; and pronounce thy sin loosed in heaven, and thee to be received again to the society of Jesus Christ, to His Body and Church, to the participation of His Sacraments, and finally to the fruition of all His benefits: In the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

We can make several obvservations regarding these rites. First, they show the utmost seriousness with which Reformed churches have taken church discipline and the sentence of excommunication. One must also remember than in the Scottish and French contexts, unlike modern America, the excommunicant had little relief from his sentence and couldn't simply slip off to the next church down the street with impunity. This was due to the pervasive role the church held within society, the continuation of the local geographical parish system, and the virtual monopoly that the Reformed churches held ecclesiastically, unless the excommunicant were willing to turn to the Roman Catholic church.

Second, these exhibit a strong understanding of the ministerial exercise of the keys. While, for the Reformed tradition, the preaching of the Gospel itself is the primary form in which the keys are exercised - opening the kingdom to sinners through the free offer of the Gospel - there is no neglect of other ways in which the keys are exercised, whether through teaching, the administration of the sacraments, pastoral oversight, and, indeed, excommunication and absolution.

In the ritual forms above, for instance, we see [a] the ministry of discipline understood in terms of the authority to bind and loose sins and [b] the expectation that the ministerial exercise of the keys is "ratified and made efficacious" by Jesus in heaven. As such, these historic forms are significantly more strongly worded and represent a more highly developed understanding of ministerial authority than those currently in use in most Reformed denominations, at least in America.

Recent years have brought attention to the recovery and development of a biblical and Reformed ecclesiology and a historical perspective will have an important role to play in such a project.

10 July 2005

pentecost 8

Almighty God,
you have made us for yourself,
and out hearts are restless
til they find their rest in you.
Give us peace in your service,
and in the world to come
the joy of seeing you face to face;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who live and reigns
with you and the Holy Spirit
one God, now and for ever.

08 July 2005


Among the counter-modern Christian philosophers lauded by Milbank (and von Balthasar) alongside Vico, Cusa, Jacobi, and others, is Johann George Hamann. See also this essay by Gwen Griffith-Dickson from the Standford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

07 July 2005

tag! i'm it

One of these questionaire thingummies is circulating and I asked Barb to tag me since I've been feeling very uncreative the past couple of weeks and wanted something relatively easy and fun to blog.

So here goes:

How many books do I own?

Umm. This would start out with a tricky question. I've not counted each and every volume, but, all told, a rough estimate would be around 3,000. That includes a several hundred children's books, but is overwhelmingly philosophy, theology, and literature

What's the last book I bought?

I bought three books in the same recent purchase:

[a] Peter Enns, Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament (Baker Academic 2005);

[b] Daryl G. Hart, Deconstructing Evangelicalism: Conservative Protestantism in the Age of Billy Graham (Baker Academic 2004); and

[c] Robert Bruce, The Mystery of the Lord's Supper, ed. by Thomas F. Torrance (Rutherford House/Christain Focus 2005 [1958/1589]).

What's the last book I read?

I'm in the middle of reading (and should soon finish) both the Enns book and the Hart book listed above. I'm also poking my way through E. Brooks Holifield's, Theology in America: Christian Thought from the Age of the Puritans to the Civil War (Yale 2003), which I read while waiting various places (doctor's office, train, meeting friends, etc.), as well as Conor Cunningham's Genealogy of Nihilism (Routledge 2003), which I read sometimes before bed.

The last book I actually completed sometime last week was a work of teen fiction by Walter Dean Myers, entitled Monster (HarperTempest 1999), written mostly in the form of a screenplay by a 16 year old African-American kid on trial for felony murder.

What are the five books that mean the most to me?

This is the most difficult question of the bunch and my views on this will likely change, but I'd list the following (in no particular order):

[1] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion. I read sections of Calvin's Institutes while growing up, but finally plowed through the whole four books sometime late in high school. Book 4 blew me away and registered a significant disconnection between Calvin's ecclesiology and that of dominant American evangelicalism. Calvin's sacramental piety, moreover, helped deepen and expand the high regard in which the holy sacraments were held within my own Reformed Presbyterian (RPCES) tradition.

[2] Hans Urs von Balthasar, particularly Mysterium Paschale, but also large helping of his great Trilogy and other works, a theologian who, in many respects, was a sort of Roman Catholic version of Cornelius van Til. I'm not quite sure how I ran into von Balthasar, but it was likely a reference in van Til, some interaction with Barth, and via de Lubac, particularly in the context of interacting with evangelical Roman Catholics in college. Von Balthasar gave me a framework, stretching from the early Fathers and through a number of counter-modern figures, that moved me along considerably in my ability to navigate the narrative of Western thought from a theological perspective. He also drew my attention sharply to the christocentric and cruciform revelation of God as Trinity and its implicatons for philosophy and theology.

[3] Richard B. Gaffin, Resurrection and Redemption: A Study in Paul's Soteriology (though the version I read was the 1978 Baker edition, entitled, The Centrality of the Resurrection). When I read this in high school, it brought a focus to my understanding of Paul and New Testament soteriology as eschatology, paving the way for my later appreciation of Ridderbos, Vos, and so on, as well as my re-reading of Calvin, particularly as understood by an interpreter such as Brian Gerrish.

[4] Georges Bernanos, Diary of a Country Priest. This is still my favorite novel, which probably says more about me than Bernanos. While the book is, in many respects, melancholy, the primary message remains, "Everything is grace."

[5] John Milbank, Theology and Social Theory: Beyond Secular Reason (Blackwell 1990). While a lot of other reading had prepared me for this volume in various ways (from van Til to von Balthasar), Milbank brought everything together in a way that allowed me synthesize my philosophical and theological training in a postmodern context.

It's now my turn to tag three people. Since I don't want to impose, let me know if you'd like to be tagged.

04 July 2005

4th of july

Almighty God,
you have given us
this good land for our heritage.
We humbly beseech you
that we may always prove ourselves
a people mindful of your favor
and glad to do your will.
Bless our land with honorable industry,
sound learning,
and pure manners.
Save us from violence, discord, and confusion;
from pride and arrogance,
and from every evil way.
Defend our liberties,
and fashion into one united people
the multitudes brought here
out of many kindreds and tongues.
Endue with the spirit of wisdom
those to whom in your Name
we entrust the authority of government,
that there may be justice and peace among us,
and that, through obedience to your law,
we may show forth your praise
among the nations of the earth.
In the time of prosperity,
fill our hearts with thankfulness,
and in the day of trouble,
do not allow our trust in you to fail;
all which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord.

03 July 2005

pentecost 7

Almighty God,
your Son Jesus Christ has taught us
that what we do
for the least of your children
we do also for him.
Give us the will to serve others
as he was the servant of all,
who gave up his life and died for us,
but lives and reigns
with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

02 July 2005

live8 philly

Ok, so the media is pooh-poohing the idea that Philly actually had 1 million people show up. I'm not so skeptical.

The standard estimate for filling the Ben Franklin Parkway from the Art Museum to Logan Circle is around 400,000 people. The Parkway wasn't as jammed full of people as it could be, but the crowd extended all the way up to Love Park and City Hall. Factor in the amount continual turnover - people leaving, more people arriving - and the 1 million estimate doesn't seem so far-fetched, taking the entire stretch of time from noon until 8pm.

In any case, Live8 was a blast. I got there around 3pm and left sometime after 7pm, so got back not too long ago, tired and hungry, particularly since I biked there and back.

The place, especially up toward the stage, was super-packed and very hot, with lots of riled up college and post-college folks having a great time, singing, shouting, bouncing around beach balls, with empty cans of beer littering the ground and a faint scent of pot in the air.

The music line-up was an odd mix ranging from hip hop to country, which turned out to be pretty cool, even though I still would have prefered being in London. I was here live for Linkin Park with Jay-Z, Def Leppard, Sarah McLachlan with Josh Groban, Maroon 5, Keith Urban, and Stevie Wonder - at least those were the ones I could identify, when I wasn't trying to weave my way through the sea of people, mobile blogging and snapping pics.

In between the live acts they broadcast performers from other venues including Green Day from Berlin and Pink Floyd from London, as well as Elton John who will be appearing for the big free 4th of July pre-fireworks concert in Philly on Monday, along with Patti Labelle, Bryan Adams, Rufus Wainwright, and Peter Nero and the Philly Pops.

That's City Hall, above, by the way - a lovely old building, designed by a 19th century architect who was also a deacon at our church and designed the church building we worship in.

So far live: linkin park,

So far live: linkin park, def leppard, sarah mclachlan.

With this crowd (biggest of

With this crowd (biggest of any of the venues) i'm glad i didn't bring my laptop.

I've been at it 4

I've been at it 4 more than an hour but i'm slowly making my way closer 2 the stage.

We're headed out to a

We're headed out to a b-day party for one of Claire's friends, but i'll try mobile blogging (like I'm doing now) from live8 later.

01 July 2005

time to party

July 4th weekend is once again upon us here in the city where it all began and, once again, Philadelphia has been hosting a big party.

Today, assuming the weather holds out, there's a big dance at Strawberry Mansion Bridge over the Schuylkill River followed by fireworks. We probably won't go, but if the weather is clear enough, the fireworks should be easily visible and audible from our roof.

Of course, the really main event - that one that will max things out to capacity - is the big Live8 concert tomorrow, free on the Ben Franklin Parkway. While the Philly line-up is okay, I have to admit that I'd rather be in London. Still, Bon Jovi, Linkin Park, and Sarah McLachlan may motivate me enough to make an attempt at going down to the main stage area, which is easily within biking or, if I'm a bit more ambitious, jogging distance.

If I do make it to the concert, Philly has an open access wireless network along the whole Parkway, so perhaps I'll take my laptop and blog live from the event.

Well, for now I guess I'll go clean out the gutters, trim some bushes, and stake up some of our runaway cucumber vines.