July 31, 2009
Jaime Ibarra‘s photography is some of my favorite. He has a great eye for color.
Click for full size.
In other news, women continue to be popular subjects in photography. 🙂
July 31, 2009
Over the last few weeks, I’ve been enjoying Ryan Bingham’s debut album, Mescalito. This is some of the finest (traditional) country music that I’ve ever heard. The lyrics are full of old Western clichés, but this is easily forgiven by such well-crafted music. Click here for the video for the lead track, “Southside of Heaven.”
July 29, 2009
July 28, 2009
Among all of the confessional Protestant critics of the contemporary evangelical (and mainline) scene, Michael Horton is the best. In fact, he’s one of the few that I even care to read. It is rare to find commentary with any great depth about the inner dynamics of what drove, historically, the oscillations between stoic-like, objective-oriented realism and idealist, subjective-oriented romanticism. Each age can find representatives on both ends, typically working as correctives to the other’s inability to provide a satisfying worldview and ethic. The lesson should probably be that it is impossible. Nonetheless, the theologian is tasked to proclaim the priority of God, with his prerogative to define himself and his means for communion with himself. Michael Horton has been such a theologian for our age — an age where the idealist wing has dominated — and he understands the history (the events and the persons) that have led us to where we are. Likely, others will need to come along and correct his over-corrections, but I am very grateful for the work he has done. And I say this with a firm belief that a pietistic and revivalistic element is fundamental to the vitality of Protestantism, just as confessionalism is equally necessary and more fundamental. (Thus, by the way, we should look at Jonathan Edwards not as a compromiser and a fount of ills; rather, he was one of the few to brilliantly understand the essential yet subordinate role of experience in the manner of renewed aesthetic desires and joy. He struck the balance — a balance rarely struck.)
Here is a fine example of Horton’s analysis, from the final volume of his four-volume covenant theology:
Ralph Waldo Emerson, that quintessentially American thinker, captured this fear of meeting a stranger well when he said, “That which shows God in me, fortifies me. That which shows God out of me, makes me a wart and a wen. There is no longer any reason for my being.” Already in his Harvard address in 1838, Emerson could announce that “whatever hold the public worship had on men is gone or going,” calling us to turn inward. Yet this inner spark, inner light, inner experience, and inner reason that guides mysticism, rationalism, idealism, and pragmatism in all ages — this is precisely that autonomous self which, according to the New Testament, must be crucified and buried with Christ in baptism, so that one can be raised with Christ as a denizen of the new age.
To whatever extent Romanticism, idealism, and existentialism — and now, postmodernism — represent reactions against certain features of the Enlightenment, they all belong to a family quarrel. Curved in on ourselves we trust what we see rather than what we hear, what we control, manipulate, and assimilate rather than what remains mysterious and different, what we can find within ourselves rather than outside of ourselves. By contrast, the word creates extroverted, evangelically constituted,and ecclesially shaped community.
The root of all “enthusiasm” is hostility to a God outside of us, in whose hands the judgment and redemption of our lives are placed. To barricade ourselves from this assault, we try to make the “divine” an echo of ourselves and our communities: the very sort of motive that the prophets ridiculed in their polemics against the idols –and so did Feuerbach, Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud in their description of religion generally. The idea of being founded by someone else has been treated in modernity as a legacy of a primitive era. In line with Emerson’s comment above, we have come to think that what we experience directly within ourselves is more reliable than what we are told by someone else. Thus, we are always ready for new awareness or new advice, but not for new news that can only come to us as a report that is not only told by someone else but that is entirely concerned with the achievement of someone else for us.
People and Place: A Covenant Ecclesiology (WJK Press, 2008), p. 76.
July 26, 2009
I recently read Joel Beeke’s Living for God’s Glory: An Introduction to Calvinism (Reformation Trust, 2008). Here’s my take:
I’m ambivalent about this book, but mostly negative. I’ll put what I like first, then what I didn’t like.
What I Like
Professor Beeke’s intention with this book is to present a full scale overview of the Reformed faith: her history, her theology, her philosophy, and her practice (worship, family life, vocations). This is a great idea, and much of the peripheral material was well done, such as the first two chapters on history and the confessions. Beeke enlists a few other writers for some excellent (though very brief) chapters, such as Ray Lanning on worship, Robert Oliver on preaching, and Ray Pennings on practical theology. Pennings’ three chapters were especially well-done. So, the thing I like most about the book is the breadth of material covered. Also, as a minor point, I highly appreciate the craftsmanship of the book: the binding, the typeface, the font size, the paper, the design of the cover — all excellent!
What I Didn’t Like
The bulk of the book is written by Beeke, and I have to say that I’m not a fan of his style. He is competent in his knowledge of the material covered, but it is less than cohesive or flowing. The reading is “jumpy,” largely because it reads like a series of quotations. There is no doubt that Beeke is well-read, but unfortunately he is too anxious to quote EVERY quote that he likes on any given matter. The quotes are often good, but they rarely serve to illumine the issues with any greater depth. It come across like a string of platitudes — nice sounding but largely ornamental. As a result, the sections on soteriology and piety are quite tedious, and this is the bulk of the book and the most important parts. Moreover, the arguments lack any frame or structure to guide them. The systematic skill to build on prior work in, for example, the doctrine of creation which is then arched back and forth with Christology and anthropology — there’s none of that here. Not only does it fail as a compelling system, but there isn’t any real exegetical work done either. Scripture is quoted, but in a piecemeal fashion, much like the ubiquitous quotes from the Puritans. So, there are better places to go for an introduction to this material.
I was also highly disappointed by the chapter on philosophy by James Grier. I don’t think Dr. Grier had a clear idea of what he wanted to accomplish with the chapter. It was very, very basic — far too basic, even for an introduction (yet, curiously, a lot of philosophical terms are undefined). Grier’s entire thesis is that Calvinist philosophy is governed by Scripture, thus metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics all require attention to the God of Scripture and His will. This is all well and good, but Grier completely avoids any of the issues that have made Calvinist philosophy unique from, for example, Roman Catholic Thomism. There is nothing about natural theology or the use of evidences. I didn’t expect a full scale treatment of Van Til, Brunner, or Barth, but I did expect at least some cursory acknowledgment of the issues. You won’t find it here. Reformed theology’s relationship to classical philosophy is an important issue, and it has shaped most of the important debates in Reformed theology for the last century (and it continues unabated). Unfortunately, the reader of Grier’s essay would not know this.
So, I probably won’t be recommending this book to anyone as an introduction to Calvinism. There’s better stuff out there, just not all in one book. I would only recommend it to someone who is already fairly well-read and wants to cover their bases (and perhaps be introduced to some areas that he may not be familiar with).
July 22, 2009
If you are looking for a good classical music station, with high quality online streaming (for free), then you should check out WDAV classical public radio. This is the public radio station serving the Charlotte area, based out of Davidson College, a few miles from where I grew up. They have a 128k streaming connection with the option of four different players (click here for the Windows Media Player stream). Also, the top of their homepage always displays the current track information (title, composer, conductor, etc.).
As for the playlist, it is a good variety. Most classical radio stations lean too heavily toward the late 19th century (Wagner, Mahler, etc.), since this style appeals to nouveau listeners. Thankfully, WDAV gives due weight to the Baroque and Classical periods (Telemann, Bach, Mozart, etc.) while not neglecting the Romantics and their contemporary heirs. I’d say it’s about half pre-1820, half post-1820. At noon (EST), they do “Mozart Café,” an hour of Mozart and other 18th century composers.
Books & Culture has a review of an interesting book, The Word and the World: Biblical Exegesis and Early Modern Science, edited by Kevin Killeen (University of Reading) and Peter Forshaw (University of London). The first essay, by Peter Harrison (author of The Bible, Protestantism, and the Rise of Natural Science), sets forth the argument that:
“‘the Protestant call for a return to literal interpretation provided the intellectual conditions and the hermeneutic mode conducive to the development of science.’ By eschewing the elaborate, often abstract modes of allegory common in Roman Catholic discourse, Protestantism fostered a kind of scientific consciousness, one given to reading God’s other book, nature, as attentively as it did the Bible.”
Other essays supplement, refine, or challange this thesis.