Jaime Ibarra

July 31, 2009

Jaime Ibarra‘s photography is some of my favorite. He has a great eye for color.

Click for full size.

Something Street by jaime ibarra

Azuleja by Jaime Ibarra

In other news, women continue to be popular subjects in photography. 🙂

Ryan Bingham

July 31, 2009

Bingham

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.”

Why Everything Sucks

July 29, 2009

God bless Craig Ferguson and his Scottish common sense.

[HT: Edward and R.R. Reno]

The God Outside Us

July 28, 2009

horton_peopleandplace

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:

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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.

beeke

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).

I’m ambivalent about this book. I’ll put what I like first, then what I didn’t like.

WHAT I LIKE

Joel 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, work ethic). 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. There are better places to go for an introduction to this material. Off hand, I would sooner recommend Boice’s The Doctrines of Grace: Rediscovering the Evangelical Gospel or Hoekema’s Saved by Grace for soteriology or anything by John Piper for piety.

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 have to say that I probably won’t be recommending this book to anyone as an introduction to Calvinism. There’s better stuff out there, just not in one book. I would only recommend it to someone who is already fairly well-read and wants to cover his bases (and perhaps be introduced to some areas that he may not be familiar with). Like I said, some of the essays are good — good enough for me to rate the book at three stars instead of two.

WDAV

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.

Mozart Café

series index

July 16, 2009

I gathered the links for the seven posts on “The Canon in Protestant Dogmatics” onto a single page, with proper citation:

Click here

If I were more industrious I would gather them into a single Word document or pdf, which would be a good idea for printing out.

Lecerf - Reformed Dogmatics

series index

Here, finally, is the last part of this series, which is largely a reproduction of Auguste Lecerf’s treatment of the canon in his Introduction to Reformed Dogmatics. As I said in the first post, I’m doing this in order to make some of Lecerf’s work available to the public, without spending $50+ in order to acquire his Introduction. For those who find his work germane to their own interests or research, you should buy the book. Among contemporary theologians, Lecerf’s approach to the canon and ecclesial authority is congenial with that of John Webster in his Holy Scripture: A Dogmatic Sketch, sharing many of the same emphases though expanded in the latter (such as, doctrine of God systematic relations, sanctification, “economy of grace,” et cetera). Webster’s book is a vital addition to anyone’s study of these issues from a Protestant — especially Reformed — perspective.

Here are the closing pages of chapter 10, “The Testimony of the Holy Spirit and the Authority of Scripture: The Canon of the New Testament,” which I’ve reproduced in its entirety beginning with part 4.

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The existence of the New Testament is thus the first fact. But it may be asked, especially by those who do not believe that the Church has any right to impose its authority on the Word of God: whence does this canon derive its sanction? To this question we reply with another fact, one in the spiritual order, which is attested immediately by our knowledge. When the Church tells us that God speaks in the New Testament as He spoke formerly to His elect people in the Law and the Prophets, she has no difficulty at all in making us feel the reality of her assertion. In order to convince us of this, she can send us with confidence to meditate on the teaching which it contains: no Christian can fail to be touched by the divine character impressed upon it and reflected by it.

This immediate sense of the presence of a divine revelation, of a message which awakens confidence in the heart of the believer, is surely a manifestation of the testimony of the Holy Spirit. “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them and they follow Me” (John 10:27). But among this number are some who still remain outside the faith of Protestantism, or who fancy themselves to be “progressive thinkers,” when they are merely reverting to the proto-history of Protestant dogmatics, to the primitive stage of Luther and Zwingli. Calvin, who had himself experienced this sentiment, declares that the divinity of Scripture may be recognized as one distinguishes the sweet from the bitty, the white from the black [Inst. I, vii. 2]. But the gifted exponent of the doctrine of the witness of the Holy Spirit, by his more penetrating analysis, distinguished another fact to which  he was, we believe, the first to give theological expression because he was the first to see that in that way alone the Christian consciousness could be guaranteed a truly formal rule which would deliver it alike from the tyranny of clerks and from the aberrations of individualist subjectivism.

Read the rest of this entry »

Word_World

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.

Mindy Smith

July 14, 2009

This is a highly competent cover of Dolly Parton’s classic, “Jolene.”

“Jolene” by Mindy Smith, from One Moment More

Also see: “Come to Jesus” by Mindy Smith