Ukraine #2

Back in the old days, when Americanism was more robust than it is now, it used to be said that “politics stops at the water’s edge.” What this was supposed to mean is that our domestic disagreements paled in comparison to whatever it was the Nazis were doing. Now there was a time when this was at least plausible, whether or not it was correct. When there was, or seemed to be, a more cohesive cultural unity tying us all together domestically, it was easier to present a united front to the world, and it was easier to get Americans to all pull together in order to do so.

But at home that cohesive cultural unity is now long gone, and it is taking conservative Christians some time to recognize that it is long gone overseas as well. In short, if Obama is creating so much wreckage here at home, as we all recognize, then why should we believe that he is somehow spreading sweetness and light abroad? If Hillary is as corrupt elsewhere as she is here, then we have every reason to believe her flights around the world were simply an International Shakedown Tour. Why should I unite behind that?

We need to get loose of the simple binary formula that has America in the automatic white hat, with the baddies being anyone we identify as such. However, some critics of American foreign policy don’t want to let go of the standard binary system — they have kept the system but simply switched their default sympathies. But America shouldn’t get the automatic black hat either. It ain’t that simple.

The Last Enemy

“At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Ps. 16: 11)

The Basket Case Chronicles #183

The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death” (1 Cor. 15:26).

In the verse just prior to this one we are told that Christ must reign as He progressively puts down all opposition to His rule. All rule and authority and power is being made subject to Him, and in this verse we see His triumph over the last and greatest enemy, which is death. On a personal note, this was the verse I tripped over when I became a postmillennialist. Some might say I tripped over it and hit my head, but here was my thinking on it.

In the more common views of Christ’s reign, death is the first enemy to be destroyed. Human history goes along doing its thing until the Second Coming dramatically interrupts it. The dead are raised, and then comes the millennium (if you are premill) or the eternal state (if you are amill). But in both cases, death is the first enemy to go down. In this scenario, however, death goes down after all rule, authority, and power—with the assumption being that this is all rule, authority, and power that is opposed to Christ—has been defeated.

This means that our task, prior to the Second Coming, is through the gospel to casting down imaginations, to be casting down every high thing that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and to bring every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. The lion will lie down with the lamb, children will play with cobras, tornados will be diverted from their courses, and Congress will start doing good things. A man considered by his neighbors as accursed will die when he is one hundred. And after all this, with so many wonderful things accomplished, and the earth being as full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea, God will give the signal for the final trump, and death will be destroyed. Death and Hades will be thrown in the lake of fire.

Ukraine #1

In the past, I have made passing references to Ukraine, and those references have made clear my distaste for Putin’s brand of Russian adventurism, along with my sympathies for Ukraine, stuck as they are with us on their side, us being such a hapless chump of a superpower. For example, after the breakup of the Soviet Union, Ukraine had a bunch of nukes. We talked them into surrendering those nukes in exchange for us guaranteeing their borders. They were stupid enough to believe us, so it is partly their fault I guess.

But this promises to descend into the particulars too quickly. I do want to get there in subsequent installments, but first I want to make some distinctions between two different kinds of political issues. There are the “do triangles have three sides?” issues, and there are the “did Smith shoot Murphy on the night of the 13th?” issues. Whether minimum wage laws are a good idea is the former kind of issue, and who should own the Crimea is the latter kind.

Unfortunately, the latter kind of issue is the kind that winds up in shooting wars, when the issues are often far more murky than people like to pretend, while the former kind of issue is the kind where people are prone to adopt a live and let live approach. You know, some Christian traditions believe that it would be more generous and more in keeping with the social justice spirit of Christ if we let triangles have four sides, or perhaps even five.

Authorisms

Authorisms (New York: Bloomsbury, 2014)

All books are full of words, but I really enjoy books that are full of words about words. Paul Dickson has written other books I have enjoyed as well — this one is a review of the different words that different authors coined and managed to get into circulation. I really enjoyed finding out how recent some of them are.

For example, Oliver Wendell Holmes coined the word “unconscious.” Milton coined “the light fantastic” to describe dancing. The first sighting of “T-shirt” is found in F. Scott Fitzgerald. The word “scientist” was coined by the Rev. William Whewell in 1840.

Good stuff.

Eclectic Guitar 2015

Logos Dads Band | 2015 Concert Promo from David Johnson Productions on Vimeo.

The Logos Dads’ Band is an eclectic collection of musicians associated with Logos School, and some of us even play eclectic guitar. We periodically hold a fund-raiser concert to help raise funds for the music program at Logos School. For some it is just an opportunity to listen to music and donate to a great cause. For others it is more of a cautionary tale — kids, you need to pay attention in your music classes so that you don’t turn out like that. At any rate, we have a wonderful time playing covers from the classic rock era, and our next concert is being held the Thursday night right before the opening of the Grace Agenda. We hope to see you there.

Book of the Month/March 2015

As it happens, three years ago this month I began posting a monthly book review of books that I wanted to promote, and the book I selected to kick off this feature was The World-Tilting Gospel by Dan Phillips. As it happens, on the three-year anniversary of this salutary custom, the book I have selected is another book by Dan Phillips, this time his book on Proverbs called God’s Wisdom in Proverbs. I want to beat the drum for this book for three reasons.God's Wisdom

The first is that this generation of Christians needs the sanctified horse sense of Proverbs in the worst way. The grace of God is present in the miracles of Scripture, sure enough, but the grace of God is also present in the way the world usually runs. And nothing is better at describing how the world usually runs than the book of Proverbs. A little sleep, a little slumber, and you don’t usually win the lottery. It is not legalism when things fall down as you drop them. It is not binding the conscience to observe that wringing the nose bringeth forth blood. Describing the grace of God does not run contrary to the grace of God, and the book of Proverbs describes the ways and means of grace in a way that our cheap grace generation needs to hear. Whatever we can do to convince the general Christian populace that Proverbs actually is the Word of God would be a great blessing.

The second reason is that Phillips has done something that is very rarely done. He combines acute scholarship and interaction with the original text alongside with a discussion of the message of Proverbs that is accessible to the average layman. In other words, many writers try to make things accessible by writing in a pop style, and others try to make things seem learned by writing in a style best described as High Turgid. Archbishop Usher said it best when he said, “Ah, my brethren, how much learning it takes to make things plain.” This book accomplishes that high achievement in spades. An average Christian would be greatly benefited by reading this book, and a pastor preaching sermons on Proverbs to a congregation full of endoctorated brains with feet would be greatly helped. This book has range.

And third, Phillips writes the kind of pungency that the book of Proverbs itself represents. In other words, Phillips is an adept student, and has successfully imitated the heart of what he is studying. Too many  commentaries on Proverbs are nothing at all like Proverbs.

“What note does this strike? Does this sound like a cultured lady politely requesting another napkin in a fine restaurant?” (p. 117).

“The first envisions the man of the world, talking big and walking proud” (p. 101).

“Proverbs by definition are short and pointed. They burst in the front door, bang a cup on the table, have their say, and then exit with a slam” (p. 27).

Phillips is an interested reader, and therefore is an interesting and arresting writer. This book is the good stuff.