Tuesday, December 18, 2007


Well friends, after some careful consideration, I've decided that I'm not getting quite what I wanted out of blogger, so I'm moving my blog to wordpress.

here is the link to my new address:

Please update your links, and check out the blog I'm working on over there.

playing with my blog

hey, I'm working with some new options for my blog, I'll be tinkering for a little while, but things should get back to normal soon.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Expressions of the Christian Faith in Narnia -- Part 3

In this, the long delayed third installment of my series on Expressions of the Christian Faith in Narnia, I’ll be discussing the third book in C.S. Lewis’s Narnia trilogy entitled, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. For Background, you can see the previous entries in this series: Introduction, Part One, Part Two.

The adventures of this third book take place after those of Prince Caspian. In this story, we once again see Edmund and Lucy Pevensie, but we also meet their cousin – the spoiled brat Eustace Scrubb. As this story begins, Edmund and Lucy are visiting with their aunt and uncle – Eustace’s parents, when suddenly they are sucked into the world of Narnia. Immediately, the children find themselves in the ocean, only to be rescued by the nearby Narnian vessel, The Dawn Treader. Aboard the vessel they meet none other than King Caspian X, their friend from their previous visit to Narnia.

The children soon discover that Caspian is on a voyage to explore the sea and search out seven lost Nobles who had been loyal to his father. The Dawn Treader is the first of Narnia’s sailing vessels since the time when the Pevensies had ruled Narnia centuries before. Along the journey, the friends encounter many islands, reclaiming some and discovering others.

There are a few themes which Lewis discusses in the book, but perhaps one of the most central themes is that of sin and redemption. Eustace learns a valuable lesson and is changed, from a spoiled, bullying, rotten, greedy person, into a truly good and decent human being.

One of the first places that the Narnians visit are the Lone Islands, which are the rightful domain of the King of Narnia. It is here that Caspian and the others encounter one the first of the lost Nobles. It is also here that he saves them from slavers who have infested the islands. The lord tells Caspian that the governor of the islands will probably not be happy to see the king, so they devise a plan whereby Caspian and the others land on the main island where they parade through the city up to the governor’s palace. Here, a time of reckoning takes place for the governor and his men.

When Caspian meets the governor, Gumpas, it is clear that the man has forgotten that it is he who serves the King. He has become pompus and enthralled by his own power. When Gumpas protests at the King’s reminders of unpaid tribute and refuses to take responsibility for the abolition of slavery in the Islands, Caspian deposes him, replacing him with the loyal Lord Bern, whom he makes Duke of the Lone Islands.

This episode is a picture of the reckoning which will take place at the end of the age. The Bible tells that the rightful King of all creation will return, and this time He will not permit Himself to be refused. Instead He shall judge each of us. We all will be called to give an account of what we have done on that day of reckoning.

As the Dawn Treader makes its way eastward over the sea, the crew encounters a number of islands. The events occurring on the ship are told both by the narrator, and occasionally from the selfish perspective of Eustace via his diary. One of the islands that the crew encounters serves as a location for repairs and resupplying the ship. As the crew is hard at work on this seemingly uninhabited island, Eustace steals away to avoid the work. He becomes lost and encounters an old dragon just as it breathes its final breaths. He discovers its cave and falls asleep amidst the pile of loot. However, upon waking, Eustice soon discovers that he himself has become a dragon! Finally, he must reveal himself to his friends. He cannot speak, but communicates his true identity to them by writing on the sand of the beach.

For many days Eustace lives as a dragon. He is miserable and outcast from the group. He finds ways to make himself useful, but he behaves, according to his dragonish nature, in ways that disgust even himself. Eustace longs to be a boy again, but through this time he recognizes how badly he had treated everyone around him, and that they merely had his best interests at heart.

One night Eustace meets Aslan, who invites him to a small pool in a distant clearing. Aslan tells Eustace to disrobe and bathe. Eustace tries in futility to remove the dragonish scales, discovering layer upon layer of them covering his body. Finally, he submits to Aslan, who removes the scales and washes him, making him a boy again. Only this time, Eustace is a new person. He has been reborn, changed forever by Aslan.

I find this part of the story to be particularly moving. I did not always, but more and more I see that I am Eustace. I see how "dragonish" I can be, but God cuts through all of that in a unique way. When we allow Him to, He can clean us and change us. And like Eustace, once we've encountered God, we are changed for the best.

The company encounters a number of other islands. One of these they name "Deathwater Island," for it is here that they discover a pool which has the power to turn anything its water touches to gold. As they confront their own greed, they discern the golden figure of a swimmer at the bottom of the pool. Here, they realize they have found another of the lost nobles. They also learn a valuable lesson of the destructive nature of greed.

On another of the islands, the crew of the Dawn Treader encounters a race of invisible people who claim to be under the spell of the magician who rules the island. As the friends so find out, the magician is not evil, rather he has the best interests of the other inhabitants at heart, only they are too simpleminded and stubborn to realize this. Still as a loving master, he cares for them in after a paternal fashion. On this island the children, especially Lucy, learn quite a bit. However, one of the most significant things here is the relationship of the magician with the simple servants. While he, somewhat symbolic of God, cares for them and wants what is best for them, they are dissatisfied and rebel against him -- to their own detriment. While they are humorous and obviously quite stupid, sometimes we can identify with them.

The next island the crew encounters is a dark island, where they take a lone stranger aboard. He is quite insistent that they must not go ashore, for this is an island where nightmares become real. As they turn and row with all their might away from the island, they learn that this is yet another of the lost nobles of Narnia.

The final island on their journey is where they find the final three nobles; having discovered the first on the lone islands, the second as the dying dragon, the third turned to gold, and the fourth rescued from the dark island. When they encounter the final three, the men are seated at a magic table, deep in an enchanted sleep. The master of the Island is Ramandu, who had once been a star, but then grew old and descended to this island. Each day he and his beautiful daughter sing as the sun rises and a flock of birds come from the sun bearing a fire-berry which they give to Ramandu and he grows younger until one day he will be a baby and once again return to the sky as a star. Each evening on this island a magical banquet appears upon the table-- Aslan's table. Upon the table lies a stone knife, which they learn to be the same knife with which the White Witch killed Aslan. It has been brought here to be "kept in honour while the world lasts."

The friends learn that the three nobles sleep because they had taken up the knife against one another in a disagreement many years ago. In order to rescue the sleepers from their sleep, the crew must continue east to the end of the world, and leave one of their own, then return.

Caspian falls in love with the daughter of Ramandu, and promises to return for her. The Dawn Treader continues to the edge of the world, encountering mer-people, beautiful flowers floating on the sea's surface, and discovering that the water at the end of the world is a kind of "living water," which they drink and are sustained.

At long last they come to the end of the world. Here it is Reepicheep the mouse who volunteers for the adventure of traveling past the end of the world, to "Aslan's country." He and the children part ways with the crew, and go their separate ways. The children find that they are able to walk, for the water is shallow here, to a strange place where they encounter a lamb, who offers them a breakfast of fish (cf. John 21) and then turns into a lion -- Aslan. He reveals that He is known by another name in our world (i.e., God) and that Edmund and Lucy will not return to Narnia. After this, He sends the children home.

Especially toward the end of the book, Lewis's symbolism of God and Aslan are more and more clear. The lion who is also a lamb is a clear reference back to the God of the Bible, who Himself is portrayed as both. It is here that Lewis, via Aslan, reveals at least part of his purpose with the books. Aslan says, "I am [there]. But there I have another name. You must learn to know me by that name. This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there." Indeed, Lewis sums up the purpose of his books, namely, that readers might learn about God by learning about Aslan and Narnia.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Quick Tidbit: Narnia Still on my Mind

I've been promising another Narnia post, and hopefully it will come once finals are over next week. In the meantime, as I'm planning the next installment of my Expressions of the Christian Faith in Narnia series, I've got something for you.

The new movie trailer for Prince Caspian is out as of yesterday. Check it out here from Narniaweb. Enjoy!

HT: Paul Joseph

Monday, December 03, 2007

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

(Side note: I've been away from my Narnia series for some time now, and hope to pick that back up with greater regularity as the semester comes to an end soon.)

This year is the first time that my wife and I have really observed Advent. This will be our second Christmas since we've been married, but I never celebrated Advent before either. It seems sad to me that so few Christians in America (and especially those of us from the Free Church-read "baptist"-tradition) today seem to know anything about the Ecclesiastical Calendar.

Perhaps the reason for this is because we (Baptists) have rejected a number of the liturgical customs, and in some cases the more disagreeable or even unorthodox doctrines that have tended to come along with them. However, I think that there can be some merit to customs such as Advent and some other Christian seasons.

The beauty of Advent is that it directs our focus toward Jesus, both His incarnation (His birth on Christmas) and His imminent return. For me, it's so easy to get caught up in the "hustle and bustle" of the Christmas season. I like to take time to re-focus on Jesus and to think about and celebrate His birth, and the precious gift that He is to all mankind.

Yesterday was the first Sunday of Advent, and my wife and I have started going through a book about Advent, entitled Celebrate Christmas: And the Beautiful Traditions of Advent. Last year and the year before I began a search for some good resources for reading and devotional times leading up to Christmas. This one is not bad from what I've seen, and actually it one of the better resources I've run across, but the trouble is the scarcity of material. Perhaps that's not such a bad thing. There are far too many Christian books on other topics (many of which I'm simply not that interested in).

We'll be lighting the candles in our Advent Wreath soon. I'd love to hear your thoughts on the season of Advent. Do you celebrate it? Are there any books/resources that you use and/or recommend?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The gods aren't angry at Rob Bell, but others are

Two weeks ago Rob Bell was in town on his "The gods aren't angry" tour. My wife and I went to hear him and, for the most part, had a good experience. I had not posted about it sooner, mainly because I've been busy with that end of the semester crunch at Seminary, but also because it's taken me a while to digest what he had to say.

Just today a friend directed me to a review of Rob Bell's nearly 2-hour presentation. You can read the review here. I think I agree with what the reviewer has to say.

Of note is the fact that recently Mark Driscoll (pastor of the other Mars Hill church) labeled Rob Bell a Heretic at the Convergent Conference in September. There's plenty out there in blogland about this now.

Here's my comment on the goings on. I'm not quite ready to label Rob Bell a heretic. I have listened to some of his teachings and even read his first book Velvet Elvis. I wouldn't recommend the book to believers who are not mature in their faith, but Bell definitely challenges us as believers to live out our faith. Further, his communication skills are formidable and his knowledge of Biblical backgrounds is impressive.

Have a look at the review. I'd love to hear what you think.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Thanksgiving: Now it's just "that holiday before Christmas"

I had a conversation just the other day with some friends (see their blogshere and here) about Thanksgiving. It seems crazy that Thanksgiving Day is next week! It has been about 80 degrees here in Fort Worth the last few days!

My wife and I were out Christmas shopping (she likes to get it done early) last weekend. We went into several stores and to a local mall. Many of these places were already decorated for Christmas. Soon some men dressed as Santa will take their places at the local mall. One local station has already started playing all Christmas music, all the time. (Yikes!)

Amidst all this Christmas holiday marketeering, where has Thanksgiving gone? It seems that our culture today has forgotten to stop and be thankful for the blessings that God has given us. It seems that we have become so enthralled with what we expect to get for Christmas that we lose sight of what we already have. Sadly, too often our greed and desire for more stuff drives us. Instead of thanking God for what we have, we ignore it and lust after more!

I realize this, and I am stopping now to say "Thank you" to God. He has blessed me with far more than I deserve. This season, perhaps I will be able to focus on His blessings, and then maybe I can be a blessing to others.

Let us not overlook Thanksgiving this year, but rather stop and give thanks, remembering that all we have comes from God.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Expressions of the Christian Faith in Narnia – Part 2

After a hiatus due to school work and life in general, now I continue my series on the Christian themes in C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia.

In Part One of the series, I outlined the story of book one, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and I attempted to highlight some of the spiritual themes of the first book in the Narnia series. This week I’ll look at book two – Prince Caspian. It seems especially timely that I should be discussing this series as the buzz is growing about another children’s series entitled His Dark Materials. The movie version of the first book in that series, The Golden Compass has gotten a lot of discussion of late.

Of the other, atheistic, series I have little to say now. However, Kevin Bussey has a brief discussion of the topic here. I will say, however, that I find it interesting that Nicole Kidman, herself a catholic, would be involved with this movie, but then what do I know about movies and moviemakers? Having said my piece, let us move on to Prince Caspian.

In this, the second Narnia book, the Pevensie children return to the magical land of Narnia to find that hundreds of years have passed, while only a few months have gone by in our world. Their beloved land has been taken over by the Telmarines, who have sought to remove every vestige of magic from the land. They fear the talking animals and magical creatures, and so they have driven them into hiding.

Among these Telmarines is a young man named Caspian whose uncle, Miraz, the king has raised him. The boy, Caspian, grows up under the tutelage of a Doctor Cornelius, who, unbeknownst to the king, is part dwarf. He reveals to Caspian the truth about Narnia, and that it is a magical land, and was once inhabited by the magical creatures. Caspian has a fascination with the “old Narnia” and longs to learn more of the old days. As he learns more, he also finds that Miraz is a usurper. His father, King Caspian IX, was the ruler before his death, and since that time Miraz had proclaimed himself king. This becomes crucial to Caspian when he learns that his aunt, the Queen has given birth to a son – and so he must flee into exile in order to save his own life.

As Caspian enters the mountains, he encounters the remnants of the “old Narnians” – the talking beasts and magical creatures. They recognize him as the true king and form a resistance.

Meanwhile the Pevensie children return to Narnia and encounter one of the old Narnians, who tells them of Caspian. They set out on their way to meet up with Caspian and his army, with many trials along the way. It is this part of the story which deals with the matter of faith. As they journey to meet Caspian, they lose their way. Lucy, however sees Aslan, while the other children cannot. She reveals that He wants them to follow Him. As the others believe her, putting their faith in Aslan, they are able to see Him too. Thus, in the story we recognize a critical spiritual truth that, believing is seeing.

Meanwhile, Caspian and his advisors must decide if they will trust in Aslan to send them aid in their cause, or whether they will turn to dark magic. Thankfully, they make the right decision, just as the Pevensies arrive. Perhaps the biggest of the issues that faces the characters in this book is the struggle of faith. The Telmarines generally have made a decision not to believe in Aslan or in “Old Narnia,” as a result they live their lives in a decidedly un-magical fashion. However, so many of the “old Narnians” themselves have lost faith in Aslan. He has not been seen in Narnia for many years, and so some have decided not to believe in Him.

The action comes to a climax in a single-combat match where Miraz faces off against Peter. The scene is somewhat reminiscent of a David and Goliath type conflict, pitting a man, Miraz, against a boy, Peter. In the end, Peter defeats Miraz, but it is the Userper’s own treacherous lieutenants who kill him. A battle ensues and the Narnians, let by Caspian, Peter, and Edmund are soon joined by a second Narnian army, reawakened and led by Aslan himself. The Telmarines are defeated and Caspian is recognized as the rightful ruler of Narnia.

As a result of the battle, Narnia is reclaimed by the magical creatures who had inhabited it. Curiously, Lewis introduces a number of pagan mythological figures, namely Baccus and Dionysus. (In this we can be certain that he is no Baptist). However, each of the gods introduced recognizes Aslan as superior. I believe that this is one of several cases where Lewis chooses to use fantastic or mythological elements to advance or enhance his story, but where they serve no real theological purpose.

At the outset I tried to make it clear that these books are not theology books, nor are they to be taken for gospel. They are stories, but they do have a number of elements, as I am trying to show, which are Christian in nature and give the books themselves a Christian bent.

As the story draws to a close, Aslan questions Caspian, much as God comes to Solomon in 1 Kings 3. Aslan asks Caspian if he feels worthy to be king, to which Caspian replies that he is only a boy. Aslan blesses him, acknowledging that his humility is a great virtue and giving him the promise (as God gave to David) that his children would always sit on the throne of Narnia.

Finally, Aslan shows mercy. He shows mercy to the mouse, Reepicheep, by restoring his tail (a mouse’s glory), which had been cut off in the battle. In addition Aslan reveals that the Telmarines were originally from our world. They had entered into Narnia from a magic cave on an island which their ancestors (pirates) had discovered. Aslan provides an opportunity for those who wish to return to that island. And he sends the children back to England.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Barriers to Following Christ

I know I've missed a few days, and a Narnia post will be coming soon, but in the meantime here's what's been on my mind lately.

In my Sunday morning bible study class we've been going through the Gospel of Matthew. Over the last three weeks we've looked at Matthew chapter 8. During this time, we've witnessed Jesus' demonstration of His divine power, but also of His love for those that society rejected. In the first part of the chapter, Matthew gives account of three healings that Jesus performs.

Jesus first heals a leper who comes and bows down before Him (Mt.8:1-4). It stirs my emotions when I see that Jesus, who could have healed with a word, touches this leper. Secondly, Jesus encounters a Roman Centurion (vv.5-13). Here we find a Gentile, who, according to Jesus, has more faith unlike any in Israel. He believes Jesus to heal his servant, even while they are some distance away. In the third and final healing story in this chapter, Jesus heals a widow - Peter's own mother-in-law (vv. 14-15). After this he proceeds to heal many others. I find it fascinating that Jesus breaks so many stereotypes here and shows His power and compassion to such people as these (who remind us of ourselves sometimes).

This sets us up for the section that the title of the post refers to (vv.18-22). Two men in particular are highlighed in these verses. The first is a "scribe" or "teacher of the law", notice he's not a novice, and he already has a career. He declares to Jesus that he will follow Him "wherever you go." But Jesus seems to just shoot him down, declaring that while foxes may have holes, and birds nests, Jesus Himself (the Son of Man) is homeless. And that's all we ever hear of this gentleman.
Next another man says he wants to "bury his father." This can seem pretty deceptive to us today. Some commentators explain that the man's father is not necessarily dead, but that this guy wants to stay with his father in order to collect his rightful share of the inheritance (perhaps he's the eldest and stands to collect 2/3 of the total). In this case, Jesus again seems to put him down hard, declaring "let the dead bury their own."

This sort of thing seems typical of Jesus. He has a way with people. Think with me about the people who claim that they want to follow Jesus. He seems to put many of them down hard. The rich young ruler, for instance, is confronted about his wealth and goes away sad. Jesus has a unique way of cutting to the heart with the people that He encounters. In this passage, as with the others, Jesus identifies the real issue in the hearts of the individuals. The first man seems to have had an issue about his home or his comfort. Jesus speaks to the main barrier in his life - his home. With the second, He deals with the man's desire to collect his inheritance, or perhaps His relationship with his father. Whatever the issues are, Jesus cuts straight through all the smoke and mirrors and straight to the real matter.

You and I all have things in our hearts, we may seem to emphasize this or that, but Jesus knows what's most important to us. When we encounter Christ, He demands to be #1 in our lives, whatever is currently in the #1 spot of our hearts must take a back seat. I know that for me, when we discussed this, I was challenged to consider my priorities and values. Was there a barrier that was keeping me from following Christ? This is a question we must all ask ourselves, because Christ demands preeminence in our lives.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Expressions of the Christian Faith in Narnia - Part One

Today I’m continuing a series I announced last week. The series is entitled “Expressions of the Christian Faith in Narnia.” Last week I discussed some of the difficulties with such a series, but I hope to bring out some meaningful insights in this and future articles.

In this first installment I’m looking at book one (although the books have been re-ordered in recent versions of the series, this was still the first book): The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

In this book we encounter the four Pevensie children, who are sent to live in the British countryside during the “Battle of Britain” to avoid the Blitz. The children--Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy – move into the home of old Professor Digory Kirke (perhaps a representation of Lewis himself, or one of his own mentors).

While living with the Professor, they encounter a magic wardrobe, through which they gain entrance into the magical land of Narnia. Now, if you’re reading I am going to assume that you’ve read the books, and will feel free to give away some key plot points. When they enter Narnia they learn that the land is being ruled by the cruel, usurping White Witch, who has caused the land of Narnia to exist in perpetual winter (but never Christmas). This White Witch, in most respects represents Satan, whom the Bible refers to as “the prince of this world” (and other similar titles). The true King of Narnia is Aslan, the son of the Emperor beyond the Sea (recognize him as representative of Jesus, who is the Son of God). Aslan has not been in Narnia for many years, though the residents of His lands expect his return and wait with great anticipation (much like the Jews look for the return of the Messiah). There also exists a prophesy that foretells the coming of two sons of Adam, and two Daughters of Eve, who will come to claim the throne of Narnia.

Once they enter Narnia, however, the children realize that their brother, Edmund, has (like Judas) betrayed his brother and sisters to the White Witch. He has done this because the Witch gives him Turkish Delight and offered him the promise of ruling over Narnia at her side. This series of events can be all too familiar for some. While we may not be giving up our right to a throne, or delivering our own flesh and blood to an evil witch, perhaps we have passed up some good things, or exchanged God’s blessings for temporal pleasures. Of course, we know – and Edmund soon finds out—that the Witch has no intention of making good on her promise.

The children are saved, however, by the return of Aslan. At His return, the winter begins to melt away (but not before Father Christmas comes). Aslan’s reappearance forces a confrontation with the Witch. Recognizing (with fear) Aslan’s power, the Witch plays her trump card. She informs Aslan that according to the laws of Narnia, she has rights to the blood of traitors (i.e. Edmund). Aslan recognizes this and purchases Edmund’s freedom by offering Himself in exchange. As Christians we recognize that we were like Edmund – sinners, and were guilty before God. However, God chose to send His only Son—Jesus to die in our place in order to pay the penalty.

That night, Aslan, accompanied by Susan and Lucy, has His own Gethsemane experience. Afterward He proceeds to meet the Witch as the pre-assigned location – the Stone Table. Then, as Susan and Lucy look on from their hiding place, the Witch and her henchmen bind Aslan, shave His mane, and mock him. At this the girls recognize that Aslan, had He so chosen, could have stopped them, but He does not. Finally, the Witch takes her dagger and kills Aslan.

The Witch rejoices at her victory and rallies her army for the final showdown with Aslan’s army, now under the leadership of Peter. Yet, as the dawn comes, the girls (mourning Aslan’s death) recognize that He is not on the table, but has Risen from the Dead! This, of course is a direct parallel to the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ). Aslan then frees the captives of the Witch and returns to lead His forces to victory, and kills the Witch.

Afterwards Aslan sets the four children upon the thrones at Cair Paravel, from which they reign in peace over Narnia for many years. Then one day they happen upon the place from which they entered Narnia and all tumble out of the wardrobe to realize that in our world, no time has passed at all.

This story, while much of it is simply a fantastic children’s story, contains great themes of redemption, good versus evil, and tells the story of Christ’s mission to redeem us, His people. We are all Edmund. All of us have done something that makes us guilty before God, and as a result we must pay the price (death – viz, Romans 6:23). However Jesus, like Aslan in the story, came and offered Himself as a sacrifice on our behalf. Neither death nor Satan defeated Him, rather He defeated them, just as Aslan defeats the Witch in the story. The children recognize, just as you and I should, that Aslan (in our case God) rewards those who are His and blesses them. You and I, if we accept Christ’s sacrifice, and give ourselves to Him, will receive blessings in Eternity as we spend it with Him in Heaven.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

A Touching Story

I am a latecomer to this video/story. The story is one of cellphone salesman Paul Potts, contestant on Britain's Got Talent. I heard about this video recently and finally saw it. It's quite moving.

Paul went on to win the competition and his new cd is out, and you can see his website here.

Monday, October 22, 2007

As promised, the new Paige Patterson Portrait

A few days ago, I posted about the unveiling of Dr. Paige Patterson's portrait at SWBTS. Today, having found the link I am proud to share the portrait with you here. To see the full view you can click here. To compare with the SEBTS portrait, you can click here.


Friday, October 19, 2007

Which Preachers Do You Like to Hear?

This is my third post in as many days. It's highly uncharacteristic of me, but I've had a good bit to say lately. I've just recently added another section of links on the right-hand side. -------------------------------------------------------------------->

I've entitled this section "Sermon Spots." This is where I've been going lately to listen to some of my favorite preachers. Lately I've begun listening to sermons during my free time, and I've gotten a lot out of it. Some of my favorite preachers (apart from my pastor) are: Dr. Greg Belser, my parents' pastor; Pat Hood, for whom I have a lot of personal respect, at FBC Smyrna; Rob Bell, who has a unique way of making the scriptures applicable, at Mars Hill; Andy Stanley, who is a phenomenal communicator; and Ed Young Jr. who is also an amazing communicator. In addition to these, you can find hours upon hours of sermons and other great listening resources at "One Place."

Who are some preachers that you enjoy listening to? What do you like about them?

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Expressions of the Christian faith in Narnia - Intro

Today I'm starting on a new series of posts that I will continue working on periodically. I invite your input, opinions, and thoughts on these matters.

First off, I want to start by saying that I have never been a big fan of the perennial fad books that seek to “find God” in whatever the latest thing may happen to be. I used to work in a Christian bookstore and came to despise the blatant commercialism that often goes on in the realm of Christian media. Several years ago, I remember nearly losing it when I encountered a devotional entitled Walking with Frodo. I don’t mean to slam the author of this book or others, but I do resent the system that has been built around claiming the latest pop culture item (cf. “The Gospel According to [insert pop culture item here]).” There was a time, not too long ago, when C.S. Lewis and The Chronicles of Narnia were that fad icon. And I have a feeling that they will come back to the front shelf of Christian stores everywhere when another Narnia movie comes out.

Having said all that, I'm not looking at these books to be faddish. Earlier this year my wife and I sat down and re-read C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia. She had never read them – I was shocked, and knew that this was a situation which I must immediately remedy. As we read through them, I gained some valuable insights.

One of the superficial benefits of reading children’s stories like these was that they provided me an opportunity to practice the “oral interpretation” skills that I had been learning about in my preaching class with Dr. David Allen. (SIDE NOTE: The Bible is far more important a book than any other, and after listening to some books on tape, I realized that I much preferred listening to those where the reader made the text come alive. Surely preachers of the gospel ought to cultivate that skill in the reading of the holy Scriptures.) I did enjoy getting to practice some of the voices, and it gave me a great chance to spend time with my wife – reading together is a great activity.

However, some of the deeper insights I gained had to do with the spiritual truths that Lewis actively conveys through these stories. He conveys many of the great themes of the Bible – redemption, Christ’s substitutional atonement, sanctification, forgiveness, the Lordship of Christ, child-like faith, the nature of sin and grace, Creation, the Fall, and the Return of Christ just to name a few. In some upcoming posts I hope to discuss some of these themes, recognizing that these are fictional books, but at the same time looking at these often parabolic stories through a Biblical worldview. The allegories are never perfect, but then, none ever are. Still, re-reading these books as a seminary student, I was able to pick up on some of the spiritual facets of the books that I had previously overlooked or forgotten about.

Over the coming weeks, as I get some of that ever-elusive "free time," I intend to post about some of these spiritual themes that we find in these much-loved children's stories.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Portrait Unveiled, and Yes the Dog's Still in it.

Last night, in the midst of the annual SWBTS Trustee meetings, the portrait of President Paige Patterson was revealed at long last. I must say, it's nice that he finally was able to stand still long enough for the portrait to be made, and it completes the set in the seminary's rotunda. I did, however, in good fun, predict to some friends that Patterson's faithful hound, "Noche", would be included in the portrait. Patterson's previous portrait at Southeastern set a precedent where another black dog was pictured sitting faithfully before his master.

I haven't found an online picture of this new portrait, but if I do in the near future, I'll post the link. As before, the portrait is well-done, but to be honest, the new portrait is quite similar to the SEBTS one.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Review: Communicating for a Change

I recently finished a great read, one which I highly recommend to anyone who preaches or speaks in public. The book of which I speak is Andy Stanley's Communicating for a Change.

The book itself is divided into two sections. The first section, written by co-author Lane Jones, is a modern day parable about a pastor who encounters a old trucker who teaches him the principles of effectively communicating. These principles are the foundation of Stanley's own method.

The second section of the book is from Stanley himself about his preaching method. Throughout this part, Stanley argues the case for his method, which revolves around focusing on a single point. He argues that many preachers today try to cram too much into their messages, and as a result the audience gets information, but no actual change occurs in their lives.

One of the best things about the book is that the reader gets to learn some of Andy Stanley's personal communication secrets. He takes on the issues around the preacher's use of notes, solid introductions and conclusions, finding your own effective style, and the authority of scripture. I highly recommend this book, but I must warn readers that only those who are willing to consider making some changes to their way of preaching should bother to read it. If you are willing to learn, I've no doubt you'll gain something from this book. It will certainly go on my shelf as a favorite.

I give this book 4.75 out of 5 stars.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

On College Football

I am really into College Football this season. There have been some recent seasons when I've been too busy or some such (like last year being a newlywed with a wife that could care less about football). But not this season. The staff at my church has even gotten into some college football picks. That said, I will also say that college football is So much better than pro. There's more teams to follow, I actually care about a few of them, including my alma mater, because my tuition money helped build that team -- I have an interest. And the biggest reason to love it is that these guys play because they love the game, not for money (there's no whining about contracts in NCAA football).

Overall, today has been a good day for college football. I grew up a Mississippi State fan, and they won. But, may alma mater, Liberty managed to lose to Toledo in a last-minute comeback, making the final score 35-34. But finally, on a bright note: USC, quite possibly the most overrated team in the history of football lost--to an UNRANKED instate rival -- Stanford. Go Stanford! I salute you!

I hope that you're enjoying college football season, and look forward to getting back east into SEC football land, though big 12 isn't so bad I guess.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Absurd Litigiousness Continues in America

This morning I read a number of news stories, many of which reported more lawsuits in America. How absurd can we be? Well we've already seen people suing God. Now today I've seen stories about a student suing the University of Massachusetts because he received a "C" in one of his classes. I can't help but scratch my head on that one. Maybe he's being done an injustice, but there's got to be a better way to solve the issue. Oh, and by the way, he's not some 18-year-old kid - the guy's 51. He should know better.

The second suit that I read about today involves a man suing his priest. According to the story, the man called the priest and left a critical message on the priest's answering machine. The priest played the message in church on sunday, and allegedly told the congregation, "This is the person in charge of religious education here last year. That's why it is no surprise to me [that] we had the kind of religious education we had. That's why we didn't get altar boys. What should we do? Should we send him to hell or to another parish?"

The story says, "[The parishioner] claims in the lawsuit filed this week in McHenry County that he was defamed and suffered "immediate emotional distress, embarrassment and humiliation."

Where do we even begin with something like this? Should I say that if you're bold enough to say unloving words to your pastor or priest, you ought to be willing for others to hear them? I think this guy needs to look for another way to deal with the issue. This goes back to the issue of Christians suing one another, and how the Bible teaches that we ought to take our disagreements to the church (1 Cor. 6) instead of taking one another to court. There are plenty of examples of this, but the point is that it makes us look really bad, and gives Christ a bad reputation.

What can we do to curb the overabundance of litigation that mires our court system in pointless actions?

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Tired of the Guilt

In the news recently, the latest case for the 24-hour news media has been the case of the so-called "Jena Six." Since I listen to the radio and watch tv, I feel that I am at least moderately (if not severely) informed about the case. As if this weren't enough, we have Jessie Jackson, Al Sharpton and a number of other "civil rights" leaders stirring the pot on the issue and milking the situation for all it's worth.

See, that's what bothers me about cases like this. And I don't think I'm the only one. I believe that so many Americans, and especially young white Americans are tired of the load of guilt that Jackson, Sharpton, and others attempt to foist upon us every time there's an issue to which they devote themselves as they make it a "race issue." To tell the truth, the more I learn about Jena, the less it all makes sense to me.

Recently I read a great book written by Shelby Steele entitled
White Guilt: How Blacks and Whites Together Destroyed the Promise of the Civil Rights Era
. I must say it was a fascinating and truly enlightening read. I highly recommend the book. In it Professor Steele discusses the history of the Civil Rights movement and deals with where he believes it all went off course.

He discusses the issue of moral authority as a central theme of the book. He discusses how prior to the 1960's in America, white supremacy was seen as a legitimate source of moral authority, along with the other "traditional" values of American society. Steele explains that when white supremacy was recognized as evil, Americans threw the baby out with the bathwater--that is, our society delegitimized other traditional values of which white supremacy had been one. In this process, he explains, moral authority was transferred to the unjustly oppressed minority (Black Americans). However, social power remained in the hands of wealthy white men.

In America today, Professor Steele says, the white elites still have the power, but they still lack the moral authority to wield it. This authority is something that Black "civil rights leaders" have made a business of trading to these white elites. You see, Steele's point is that these leaders, like Jackson and Sharpton, profit nothing from Black Americans achieving a higher status or becoming powerful. Rather, they benefit in using their inherited moral authority to leverage those in power to do their will. This works because the authority figures live in fear of being called racist. Of course we know that today there are few things worse than being called racist. Read the book, it's very enlightening.

Today so many of us are tired of being held hostage by those like Sharpton, Jackson, and others who are constantly trying to leverage their authority for more power. The plight of minorities in America is not as they would have us believe. Our society does care about people, regardless of their color or background. There are opportunities for anyone who is willing to look for them and work for them. So often I hear more and more young whites (usually men) complain that they are often denied opportunities because of their race or made to feel guilty because of the sins of previous generations. It's time to move on. I'm tired of the guilt, and I'm over it.

Anonymity, Pseudonymity, and Reality

Here's a post that I posted some time ago, and given some of the debate that's been going on lately, perhaps it's timely once again. I hope you enjoy:

The internet is an amazing thing. It allows dialogue on a scale that has never been accomplished before. In fact, through the internet now everyone can have a say about anything--and quite often they do. All of us have seen the results of this new freedom. People get to express their thoughts, opinions, and feelings on a myriad of issues with or without their true identity being known.

The problem with this is that often too many hide behind the mask of anonymity (being anonymous) or pseudonymity (using a fake name) as they say things which may or may not be true or good. In the years that I've been using the internet I've discovered an intriguing phenomenon. Whether they be bloggers, internet gamers, or anyone else--people often become who they really are, or wish they were, when they interact with others via the internet.

Here's what I mean: If an introverted person has thoughts and opinions that they would not or could not share in real life, they can be heard and even become influential via the internet. Conversely, if a person seems quiet or non-confrontational in real life, they might take on an assertive or belligerent persona on the internet. I've seen many so-called "computer geeks" become many different things within the guise their internet persona. I believe that this can be a good thing or a bad thing, but it depends on the character of the individual.

The blogosphere is an excellent showcase for this principle. There are some who are the same in real life and on their blog--I try to be one of these people. There are others who say things on their blog that they would never dream of saying in real life--some of these things may be good ideas, but others should never be said anywhere.

As I've said before there is a responsibility that comes with the anonymity or pseudonymity that we have on the internet. We have a responsibility to speak (or write) words that uplift and build up the body of Christ. Sometimes these words may be criticisms, but they are never lies, never malicious rumors, never personal attacks. Paul gives good advice for sound thinking, and I would add, sound speech when he says: "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things" (Philippians 4:8, ESV).

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Liberty Flames Football - Looking for a good season

I'll be the first to say that I might not be too thrilled about cheering for a team called the "flames" especially with all the negative connotations today of "flaming" things. However, what I am excited about is the possibility of a winning season for my alma mater's football team.
It's Coach Danny Rocco's second season at Liberty and the program is growing into something that I and other LU alumni can be proud of.

After last week's win in our opener against Tusculum (38-14), I'm anxious to see what the Flames can do against Shippensburg tonight. Oh how great it would be to have a winning football team to cheer for!

I am not disappointed! Liberty wins 35-14, making us 2-0 and off to a good start for the season!

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Leaning on Christ

It's been a tough week. I am a full-time seminary student at SWBTS and work part-time at my church. My wife lost her job at the end of last week and we are trying to cope with the difficulties of paying bills and finding her a new job. I am already beginning to see how God is using this time to strengthen our faith as we wait on Him for my wife's new job.

I was encouraged earlier today when I visited one of my favorite blogs. Monk-in-Training quoted Psalm 37 at length. It's interesting because that is one of the passages that has been on my mind over the past few days.

A few verses in particular have given me great comfort and assurance that everything is going to be ok. Psalm 37:5 says, "Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act."
Verses 23-25 also speak to me:

23The steps of a man are established by the LORD, when he delights in his way;
24 though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, for the LORD upholds his hand.

25I have been young, and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging for bread.

These verses remind me that God does care for our physical, spiritual, and financial wellbeing. He wants us to submit ourselves to Him, and when we do, He does bless us, because He ultimately wants what is best for us, and He knows what that is, even if we don't.

A New Look

I'm trying out a new look for the blog. I'll be playing with it a bit more, but I hope that you like it. I thought it was time for a change. More to come later.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Michael Vick Finds Faith in Christ?

This morning I heard part of the Michael Vick press conference after I got out of classes at Southwestern. I was surprised at what I heard Vick say. I'll let you watch and judge for yourself, but I must say what he says here is impressive. I've never been a big Vick fan, but I pray that what he says here is sincere.

In the conference he apologizes to his teammates, his fans, kids that looked up to him, and everyone that he let down. He owns up to what he's done and doesn't make excuses. He encourages others to learn from his example and to make better choices than he has made. He says he will now have plenty of time to think about what he's done. Most importantly, however, Vick says that he's found Jesus and given his life to Him.

Now when I heard that in my car this morning, I must admit my first thought was, "yeah, sure - that's a great way to get sympathy, claim religion." Then I realized that he could be for real. Shame on me or any of us for judging the man who claims that he has found faith in Christ! I pray that he truly has and that Christ will change Michael Vick. To some, this may just seem like a convenient excuse, but I can think of no better time to turn to faith than when we're losing everything else. Could it be that God allowed Vick to get caught and to potentially lose everything in order that Michael Vick might gain eternal salvation through faith in Christ? I think it's a real possibility.

I look forward to seeing what comes of this in the future. What do you think? Is Vick sincere? See for yourself:

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

A Word on Perseverance or Finishing What You Start

The school year is once again at hand. As a seminarian I am looking forward to starting classes again both with optimism and with a bit of disappointment. I enjoy going to class and learning and am very much looking forward to finishing my M. Div. and receiving that diploma from SWBTS at the end of this academic school year (Lord willing). However, on the other hand I will miss summertime. I've been busy and have enjoyed doing many things that do not involve seminary work (although I did spend a good portion of my summer in class -- but that's for another post), but I've also gotten to relax a little bit.

As I prepare to go back to class I'm reminded of a subject that is close to my heart and one that I wish were as dear to the hearts of my fellow seminarians, namely, perseverance. As I look forward to the first days of class I have no doubt that many of the classes I will attend will be full of students who are eager to learn, hungry for knowledge, and present in class. However, over the past two years at seminary I've recognized a disappointing trend. While many, if not most of my classes will be full for the first few weeks, a number of these classes will have dwindled significantly before the semester is over. Why, I have often asked myself, is this the case? Why is it that so many who are called to the hard work of the ministry leaving the classes to which they committed at the beginning of the year?

Even now, I do not have a satisfactory answer to this question. I'll not accuse any of laziness or academic ineptitude, but rather I will endeavor to admonish my fellow seminarians, and indeed others who walk in other paths now, to remember the importance of finishing what we start.

Every semester at school we all register for classes. Some of the classes are those which are required, others are elective classes that we choose because we think that we might enjoy them or benefit from them. Sometimes we choose easy classes for whatever reason, other times we choose more difficult classes for an equal variety of reasons. One thought that occurs to me is that I have made a choice to be in school (even though I am tired of spending my life as a student now that I have reached adulthood). My choice was made as a response to God's calling on my life to ministry. I know that in order to be the best minister I can be, I am called to prepare in a myriad of ways, one of which is in the area of academics.

To me it is important for a Christian minister to be willing to work hard and persevere in a good work even if and when he or she may not enjoy it. Sometimes seminary can be that way. There are times when I find myself neither enjoying nor excelling particularly in some of my classes, yet I recognize that they are part of the package when I signed on for seminary.

There's another aspect of the problem as well--I pay for my education. Perhaps it's a matter of pride, but God has blessed me with work and a steady paycheck so that I can pay the CP subsidized tuition at my Southern Baptist seminary. I'm strongly convicted every time I hear it said that higher education is one of the only areas in which people want to get less than they pay for. I do want to get every bit of the education I am paying for. I also recognize that I only pay half of my tuition -- there are ordinary people sitting in the pews of Southern Baptist Churches who match every dollar I pay in tuition. I would be ashamed to squander their money by failure to go to class or failure to complete a class that I've signed on for.

I say all this to encourage my brethren (and sistren) to persevere. It makes me sad and considerably disappointed when I see so many of my fellow students dropping out of their commitments to their professors and to the members of the convention by quitting their classes for whatever reason. If you commit yourself to something, follow through! Don't quit.

Also a word to those who are no longer or not yet students, perseverance and following through on commitments are critical character traits for all of us. No boss wants to hire a quitter, nor do you and I work simply for an earthly boss, but for God (Col. 3:23-24) I also think of the importance of honoring our commitments and honoring our word. (Ps. 15; Mt. 5:37; James 5:12)

Monday, August 20, 2007

Back in the Saddle Again

It's been some time since I've posted anything. I've been away this summer and have been quite busy. This summer was a time of learning and growing for me. I've spent the last 12 weeks on Air Force bases learning and ministering as I continue toward my goal of becoming a chaplain.

The ministry was great. I was reminded of just how insulated I can be going attending a Southern Baptist seminary, and working in a Baptist Church. Getting outside of the Christian culture was a real eye-opener in many ways. I value the time that I had and the people I met over the last several weeks. Perhaps in coming days, as I get back into the swing of things here in Fort Worth, I'll share some of the insights and lessons that I was able to glean from my experiences this summer.

And now, after being away for so long, I get to turn back to the task of studying to show myself approved, and making the grades so that I can finish my Seminary Degree (Lord willing) at SWBTS at the end of this academic year.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Jerry Falwell Home at Last

Today I was traveling back to Fort Worth and listening to the radio when I heard the report that Dr. Falwell had been found unconscious and rushed to the hospital, moments later a friend who still attends Liberty called me to deliver the news that Jerry Falwell had gone on to be with the Lord.

There aren't many things that I can say about Dr. Falwell that haven't already been said. For four years I was a student at Liberty University and during that time I had the opportunity to be a part of Thomas Road Baptist Church and to witness firsthand just what kind of man Jerry Falwell was. I fondly remember his passion for the Lord, the Bible, conservative politics, and LU sports. He was, in many ways, like a grandfather to the students and will be sorely missed.

I for one will treasure the memories of Dr. Falwell - the things I admired about him and the things that I learned from his mistakes, as well as those few times when I got to meet him face to face. Jerry Falwell always had time for people, and was always generous - he even had to have assistants to stop people from asking him for things because he would always give. I recall a time when some close friends of mine asked him for a steak dinner - and he delivered, taking them (several of them) out to one of the town's premier steakhouses. That's just the kind of guy that he was.
I shall also remember his passion for young people to embrace the spiritual disciplines of earnest prayer and study of the scriptures. Jerry Falwell was many things, but to those of us who have attended his school he'll always be our Chancellor.

Lastly, when I heard the news of his passing I could not help but think of a saying he had: "Until God is through with me, nothing can harm me--I'm bulletproof until He calls me home." I smile as I think of the wisdom of his words, indeed those were words he lived and died by. Now that God is finally through with him, he can rest in the presence of his Savior.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Made for More than Ordinary

Do you ever get that feeling, you know the one, where you feel that you were made for something beyond the ordinary. Lately, I’ve been humbled by the realization that God does extraordinary things everyday. Last Saturday my church conducted what we called “The Big Event.” It was an opportunity for the church to reach out to our community in tangible ways. We sent out teams to: wash cars, plant shrubs in apartment complexes, paint local buildings, remove brush from local houses, and do other various landscaping chores for individuals in need all around our area.

I was truly impressed with the response that we received. I met a few individuals who simply could not believe that we were doing these things. They wanted to know why? What was our angle? We just expressed that we were taking the opportunity to serve others because Christ has blessed us. Many of our church members were able to worship with a shovel, a broom, or chainsaw, or even sponges and towels.

As I was digging through my (small, but expanding) library I happened upon a book that I’ve not yet read – Louie Giglio’s The Air I Breathe. It’s a book about worship. He says that we’re all worshipers, every single person living. It’s who we are and what we were created for. He says worship is simple about value. It’s our response to what we value most.

I love how he communicates. One of my favorite books of all time has to be another of his, I am not but I know I AM. I was reminded, looking through this little book on worship that God is constantly showing himself to us. It was really neat to see Him this weekend as Christ was imitated by many people around North Richland Hills, Texas.

I pray that people will keep seeking God, and finding Him. And maybe, just maybe I was able to be a part of that by following Christ’s example and serving others. Doing simple chores? It seems pretty ordinary, but God has big plans, and sometimes those involve doing big stuff with regular folks like us.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Paige Patterson on Campus Violence

Last week in a chapel service at SWBTS, seminary president Paige Patterson admonished the male students to be prepared to stand up to, and stop a campus shooter, should such violence ever occur at the seminary. The clip can be found here (4/18).

Yesterday, the seminary released a statement, written by Dr. Patterson expanding his remarks.
Since his original remarks last wednesday, many have criticized the president for "being insensitive" and for a myriad of other charges, most stemming from each pundit's interpretation of his motives.

I will not make apology for his remarks. Dr. Patterson has been called many things, but "sensitive" is not usually one of them. I do, however believe it is important for us not to judge his motives, only God and Dr. Patterson can know those. I will agree, even as a current student of the seminary, that his remarks struck me as quite bizarre. Upon reading the press release, however it appears to me that he does raise a legitimate viewpoint. Dr. Patterson views Christianity as a faith of selflessness and sacrifice, and rightly so for this is what the Bible commands of us. I agree with Dr. Patterson that the values of courage and sacrifice are important and ought to be taught at our seminaries.

How then should our faith work itself out in our lives? Does our faith lead us to attack a gunman in order to save the lives of others? Or does it manifest itself in other ways? I pray that the day never comes when someone with intent to kill enters our churches or seminaries (again), yet if and when that day does come, we should have an idea of just what our faith does call us to do. Are we to show our faith through quiet martyrdom, or are we to actively struggle against one intent on doing harm? Each of us must answer that question for ourselves.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Feeding the Beast

I am consistently amazed at the lengths (and depths) to which the news media will go in pursuit of a story. In recent days we’ve seen several big stories, and great tragedies. While my heart goes out to those families touched by the events at Virginia Tech and NASA’s Johnson Space Center (story) in Houston. I can’t help but notice the ways in which many of our nation’s news outlets have injected themselves into the news.

Sadly, it seems that the news industry is willing to do anything to get “the big story” and that includes making stories happen. Please do not misunderstand me; I’m not advocating conspiracy theories or anything like that. Here’s an example of how the news organizations themselves are in the news. Virginia Tech shooter Cho Seung-Hui sent a package to NBC. This package included video footage of him expressing his viewpoints and murderous intentions. Of course NBC dutifully aired the video. As a result of their choice to do so several families of the victims opted not to appear on the network (story).

Whether they should have done it or not is still a matter that is up for debate. Obviously NBC and other major media outlets believed they had a “journalistic obligation” to air the footage. The question that ought to be asked is, “where should the line be drawn?” How far can the news go before they cease to be informing the people, and start ruining lives?

There are some cases that have been in the news that I thought would ruin my life. The Anna Nicole Smith ordeal, you’ll recall dominated the 24 hour news networks for what seemed an eternity. I watched for a while, hoping that some other news would knock the fight to be her baby’s daddy off the news, but in the end I boycotted the 24-hour news networks for a few weeks.

There are countless stories of how the news organizations themselves have sought to be the story rather than simply reporting the stories. Here’s another example: Don Imus. I seriously doubt that he would have been fired had someone not decided that his gaffe was worthy of “top story” status. Once the pack of ravenous wolves that is the news media jumped on him, he was done for.

Here’s the bottom line – the news media is a ravenous beast that either finds or creates news to feed itself. Professional journalism in America today has become a machine that devours anything remotely tragic or sensational, even to the point of making it so for the sake of the story. In the process the news machine uses, chews up, and spits out those whom it exploits for the sake of getting “the story.”

Would we be better off without 24-hour, up-to-the-second, coverage of the “news?” You decide.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Antiplagiarism Service Sued For Copyright Infringement

Last week, this story was published about a lawsuit against a company that offers an anti-plagiarism service to schools across the country. According to the Washington Post, two high school students from Mclean, Virginia are suing iParadigms, LLC--the California company which offers the Turnitin anti-plagiarism database. Turnitin is a service, “seeks to root out cheaters by comparing student term papers and essays against a database of more than 22 million student papers as well as online sources and electronic archives of journals. In the process, the student papers are added to the database.” And that – the fact that student papers are added to the database – is the heart of the lawsuit.

I have a particular interest in this case because SWBTS (where I am currently a student) uses Turnitin to screen papers and major assignments for most of its classes. According to the story, "Turnitin is used by 6,000 institutions in 90 countries, including Harvard and Georgetown universities, company officials have said."

The suit charges that Turnitin unlawfully adds students' papers to its database without the consent of the authors, and offers no remuneration to the students. These high school students object to the use of their intellectual property (their papers) by a for-profit business without their consent. The lawsuit, filed last week in U.S. District Court in
Alexandria, seeks $900,000 in damages from Turnitin.

Read more about it here.

What do you think? Is it wrong for this service to use student papers in this way without giving them any compensation or even getting their permission? Is the company doing the same thing (using someone else’s work without giving them credit) that its service seeks to prevent?

On a personal note, I believe it is sad that plagiarism is a problem in seminaries. Conversely, I think it borders on the ridiculous that we must be constantly warned (and threatened) about plagiarism to the point where professors are lecturing us on the evils of “unintentional plagiarism.” Plagiarism is bad, but the remedy must never be worse than the cure.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Could This be the New Northworst Seminary Chapel?

After reading up about Northworst's plans for a new chapel, I've found pictures from one of the contractors in negotiations to build this new chapel. Perhaps it's a bit showy for Northworst. I doubt President Whipple will go for it. What do you think?The proposed chapel would include new state-of-the-art, comfy chairs and an increased seating capacity beyond the seminary's current facilities.

The proposed chapel also includes easy set up and take-down, making it not only high-class, but also highly portable. Do you think this contractor will get the bid for the new chapel?

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Having an Examined Faith

In recent weeks I've heard about something called the Blasphemy Challenge. A lot of people are talking about it now, and so I recently decided to look into it and see what they have been talking about. I'll not go into great detail here, but suffice it to say that there is a group of atheists who call themselves the Rational Response Squad. They have sponsored something that they call "the Blasphemy Challenge." They cite Mark 3:29 which mentions "the unpardonable sin" which is blasphemy of the Holy Spirit and then encourage people to make a video in which they may say or do anything blasphemous so long as they include in it a verbal rejection of the power or existence of the Holy Spirit. As I looked at the site and some of the videos I was saddened and sobered by what I was seeing.

As I looked over the website I also came across an interview that they had with Dr. Ergun Caner, the President of Liberty Theological Seminary, the seminary at my alma mater. Since I've gotten to spend a little bit of time around Dr. Caner, I have great respect for him and enjoy listening to what he has to say.

I had a listen to about three hours of unedited debate between him and the rational responders. During that debate they covered a wide range of topics from the trustworthiness of scripture, to original sin and the problem of evil, to name a few. However, what I found to be the most valuable nuggets that came from this were insights into today's growing young atheistic movement. These people are young, smart, well educated, and can make a persuasive argument. At the end of the interview Dr. Caner got to ask some questions about what they believed about Christians and why. I do encourage you to have a listen and hear what they had to say.

It is of concern today that there are groups like this who are gaining influence with young people today. However, what is of greater concern to me is the reluctance of the church culture to engage those who challenge what we believe. Dr. Caner invited the Rational Response Squad to speak to students at Liberty University. For some this is unthinkable, but the unoffical motto of the seminary at Liberty is "an unexamined faith is not worth having." The fact is that we simply cannot get away with expecting the people in our pews to be Christians, "just because," or simply with a vague "because the Bible says so."

We must never be afraid of questions because we know that we have the truth. It is alright to ask "why?" or look to look critically at our faith. God promises that when we seek him, we will find him if we seek him with our whole heart.

Check out the related information from Dr. Caner and Liberty here.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Testing America's IQ

I've been too long without a post, so this seems like one I can have fun with. I'm not one that generally believes that Americans are stupid, but let's be honest--there are a lot of people who are either uninformed, lazy, or just plain ignorant living among us.

Tonight Fox debuts it's first full episode of a new series entitled, "Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?" Jeff Foxworthy hosts the show, which challenges contestants to answer questions from fifth grade textbooks. Here's what the network says about the show:
Unlike the typical game show that measures intelligence, ARE YOU SMARTER THAN A 5th GRADER? tests adults’ lack of knowledge – as revealed by how much they’ve forgotten since elementary school. Grownups will again find themselves in a classroom setting, revisiting their youth, as they tackle subjects they’ve already been taught, ranging from art to geography and math to social studies. For example, test questions, which are taken from actual textbooks from 1st grade through 5th grade....

I'm curious to see this in action. I think that Jeff Foxworthy himself will make this a fun show, although we'll have to wait and see how it fares in the long run. Will this be worth tuning in? I'm not sure, but I think I'll tune in tonight to give it a look.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Congrats to Tony Dungy and the Colts

Like most of America, last night I was firmly planted in front of a television set, watching the Colts and the Bears as they played Superbowl XLI. It was a good game and I had a great time watching with some friends from church.

What was most impressive to me, however, was not only what the players did during the game, but also what happened around the game. I mean the coaches and the organizations and how they conducted themselves. In this regard I was so proud hear Colts owner Jim Irsay emphasizing the importance of Christian faith in the organization and the dignity with which he and coach Tony Dungy conducted themselves. Today, watching Sportscenter I heard over and over again the praise for Coach Dungy.

I too have respected this man since hearing about the strength and importance of his Christian faith. Faith plays an important role in Dungy's life, and this has been apparent especially in the last 14 months following the death of his son. Sunday morning I found out about a website sponsored by Athletes in Action, which highlights the faith shared by Colts coach Tony Dungy and Bears coach Lovie Smith. This site is www.beyondtheultimate.com
and tells visitors that there is more to life after football, more than what we might consider "ultimate" achievments here on earth. Beyond what is "ultimate" here, there is a very real God that each of us have the opportunity to know, and each of us will one day face.

These men are great coaches. Both had the distinction of being the first African Americans to coach a team to the Superbowl, and they are role models to athletes everywhere, of every race because they are good at what they do, and they recognize that after the game is gone, their faith will still remain.

Tony Dungy is one of my heroes, and I've really cheered for Peyton Manning for a long time. Congrats to the Colts.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Mississippi Baptists Remember Abortion Victims

I recently read this story from Baptist Press and found it especially noteworthy. The Baptist convention from Mississippi (my home state) has come up with a unique way to remember the lives that have been extinguished by Abortion, and at the same time to raise money, "to create a permanent endowment fund for pro-life projects, such as assisting with the operations of crisis pregnancy centers and other efforts for women with unwanted pregnancies."

What are they doing? They have built the "Memorial to the Missing," a 12-by-16 foot clear building, made of bulletproof glass to contain 50 million pennies. The memorial stands in front of the Mississippi Baptist Building, across from the Mississippi Capitol Building in Jackson. Visitors can contribute by dropping pennies into the memorial or by mailing them in to the Convention Offices. According to the report, over 26 million pennies have been collected to date toward the goal of 50 million.

Here's one of the coolest parts of the story, to me:
The Memorial to the Missing itself is weighty. When Mississippi Baptists finish contributing 50 million pennies -– $500,000 -– to it, it will weigh 156 tons or 312,000 pounds, roughly as much as 100 automobiles. Pylons driven 15 feet into the ground support the glass structure, built free of charge by a John Laws III, a Presbyterian layman who owns a construction company in Flowood, Miss.

I must say, I'm impressed by this effort and think it's a great idea to raise awareness and money to save these unborn babies. Jim Futral, the Convention's Executive Director-Treasurer had this to say: “We want people to know when they see the memorial that these children are not out of sight and out of mind.” It's most important to me to see that not only are Mississippi Baptists raising money, but they are also remembering these families and that lives are being impacted. This sunday, January 21st, Mississippi Baptist Churches will take a special offering "in remembrance of the unborn" and to go toward helping mothers choose life for their unborn babies.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Blogging on the Decline?

Recently I read an interesting post from Washington Post contributor Marc Fisher. You can find it here. This piece discusses media research that suggests that blogging is on the decline. It's no surprise to me, and I know that we have witnessed such decline even recently as a number of blogs in the SBC ghetto (for lack of a better word) have closed shop in the past few weeks.

Overall, the novelty of blogging seems to have worn off for many who have entered the forum. While this could be a good sign--and perhaps a sign of the free-market process whereby many blogs are culled so that the remainder are of higher quality, I am not convinced that this must be the case. While we may see an improvement in overall quality of the writing and content in the blogosphere, I believe that we've lost a number of good bloggers who have lost interest as well.

Perhaps the question is to be considered, "Is blogging ultimately a worthwhile pursuit?" Personally I maintain that the forum has great potential and there are worthwhile ideas being exchanged. However, I also recognize that many blogs are simply for people with too much time on their hands and too much "hot air."

At present there seems to be a lot of discussion that, while it may at some point prove worthwhile, currently amounts to a lot of wheel-spinning chatter. That is not to say that the issue of who will run the SBC and who will be welcome there is unimportant. There are a number of theological and practical points that need to be made with regard to this debate. Many of these points are in fact being argued even now. My concern however is that we are focusing too much on minutiae and, in so doing, losing sight of any bigger picture.

To me the current dialogue among many baptist blogs feels reminiscent of trench warfare. Both sides are quickly becoming more and more entrenched and consequently, little ground will be gained by either side anytime soon. It remains to be seen yet whether there will be changes made in the SBC as a result of the discussion here in the blogosphere. In short, there's a lot of talk, but will it amount to anything of substance? This is the real question.