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Saturday, May 23, 2009

The 5 Best Things About Reformed Theology and/or Calvinism:

5. (And ironically, it can be one of the worst) Their understanding of predestination. While it may well lead to monstrous determinisms, according to some, had I been a member of the Dutch Reformed Church at Dort, I know which side I'd choose. A brief note to Drs. Walls and Dongell at Asbury--and it is spoken with all the charity I can muster--your book stinks. Did you purposely avoid the relevant scriptures, or was it a mistake?

4. Biblical fidelity. Leaving aside the critiques which come from many quarters on this point, (and many others) there should be no doubt that the Reformed value the Bible and its teachings highly, and their reputation for knowledge and zeal for God's Word is well deserved.

3. John Calvin. Now, before you jump on me, and I get letters from Hillaire Belloc's grandson and the Servetus Admiration Society reminding me that Calvin was a heretic and a monster, let me point out that, while far from perfect, Calvin deserves a much fairer portrait than his harshest critics would give him. By my arguably limited read of things, he was a warm man who cared deeply for Christian people. Whether he is a heretic depends largely on one's read of the historical situation, and the definition of proper hermeneutics. (Though of course, not objectively, in the mind of God; He knows.) I do know that he was a much more careful theologian and teacher than I would be/am.

2. The unity of the Old and New Testament/biblical theology. The Reformed do not make a regular practice of disdaining the Old Testament (as they understand it). Quite the opposite. They rightly attend to the Scripture as a narrative, from which we may draw the truth of God at any point in the story. Yes, it is right to rejoice in and prioritize the New Testament, because it is the fullness of the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ. However, none of us should forget that our New Testaments would make very little sense without the Hebrew Scriptures, and that our Reformed bretheren try hard to ascertain how to apply them rightly for us today.

1. Covenant Theology. The deceptively simple notion that God relates to his people always through a mediator who intercedes for them, never (primarily) as individuals. Now, of course, we relate to God through our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom all the others pointed, in some sense. The Reformed are not alone in this notion, but I know that it finds no more complete expression among Protestants than among the Reformed. (In my experience)

Friday, May 22, 2009

My lists of 5 are spreading. Seeing Tim's list there, then, I must do my own. [Warning: Hopelessly mainstream and popular. Logic: If real people (not art-house snobs) don't hear it, it ain't "groundbreaking" is it? And it's my list!

My 5 Most Influential Albums (that is, to me)

5. Weezer, by Weezer. Known by fans as "the Blue Album" for its blue cover, this disc restored some of my faith in rock. And though I love deep lyrics, this album may prove that they aren't necessary.

4. August and Everything After, by Counting Crows. Adam Duritz (lead singer and songwriter) may be weird, and you can listen 50 times without understanding, but I defy you not to enjoy and sing along.

3. The Day, by Babyface. Not even his best release, but made when he was at the height of his influence in 1996, and not a weak track on it.

2. No Fences, by Garth Brooks. This isn't his best one either, (you can frankly make an argument for all of them) but this made sure that it's Garth's world, and we're just living in it. Second-best selling album in US history, right?

1. For The Cool In You, by Babyface. The quintessential Babyface, from America's best singer-songwriter, at least of the last 25 years. At first listen, there are tracks one doesn't like. After a few listens, you cherish those tracks above the "hits." Crafted in the early '90s, when R&B or soul and rap were NOT the same thing, this album defines "crossover." I doubt that white young people of my generation would have explored black vocal pop (Boyz II Men, Dru Hill, Mariah Carey, etc.) without his subtle and not so subtle influence. He's a legend, pure and simple, and this album is one of the reasons.
During this season of theological exploration/appreciation, I dutifully present:

My 5 Favorite Words in Catholicism (snarky, affirmative, hopefully humorous comments included)

5. Reconciliation [Because if you are not "down with" confession and pardon, you have major issues, dawg!]

4. Tradition [The defense against chronological snobbery since 33 AD] (Note: I know the phrase "chronological snobbery" is in a book, but since I've not read it, please don't sue me.)

3. Magisterium [Presumptively ensuring that the essentials of faith are not defined by warm fuzzies]

2. Eucharist [Mysterious, possibly even creepy, and complicated? Yes. Superior to Zwinglianism? Infinitely.]

1. Charity. [How Catholics define saving love, to distinguish it from seedy, immoral romance novels]

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Top 5 Ways To Tell You Are Theologically Confused:

5. You read theology and say, "He doesn't sound like a [insert denomination]."

4. You start paying acute attention to the differences in Bible translations.

3. You even pray confused.

2. You make up words to describe your confessional position.

1. You start asking Jesus what his confessional position is.