Friday, January 22, 2010

It comes to pass as I sit here and write this that my quest to find God's whole Truth (essentially to know Christ more fully) is not near over. Some days, I can picture being a Catholic with all that it means, while others, I simply sense of whole pile of unfalsifiable dogma, wrapped in a blanket of unfalsifiable ecclesial infalliability. I'd like to leap, and dare God to bless me, but as "Uncle Marty" might say, that's neither right nor safe to me at this time.

Worse still, I love my place as a student at a Reformed seminary. I think the men and women they will graduate will be shown to be noble warriors for the cause of Christ, and it is my distinct honor to call so many friends. People are in great need, and so many will find rest for their souls in such people. And each day would be a battle I'd gladly take up. The world most certainly does not revolve around me. Yet I am confident enough to say that my denomination and the people we serve would be better off with me in their lives. And priesthood of all believers or no, anyone who'd bother denying a special bond between the members of the ordained clergy is a filthy liar. I've looked forward to that, too.

Permit me this one vanity: I can preach it, brother. I don't really care (that much) to be thought of as a good preacher, but the very act of it has brought me joy, and that only in practice settings. But I just know: I'm good at part of this, at least.

Very few nobler things have arisen in Reformed (and/or) Protestant life than the expository sermon. Open the Scripture, and throw it down in the power of God's Spirit. I know you feel me. Schism or heresy aside, you Catholic brothers secretly dream of Catholic Spurgeons, Whitefields, and Edwardses. Stop lying to yourself and us :) I will drop it verse-by-verse on your forehead like MJ dropping 51 and 45 on back-to-back nights at 39. I have sometimes dreamt of being an elected official who could give a great sermon upon request. Not like those thinly veiled political commercials the Democratic candidates always get to make, while the party of alleged separation between church and state utters nary a peep. It's about the little people, you know? Predictably, Al Gore's text one morning had been James 2. State thievery clothed in religious authority and doctrine is still thievery. Next time you hear Obama utter that famous line, "I am my brother's keeper, I am my sister's keeper" add on, "with other people's money" just for a laugh. If you understand that joke, you are, or have been some kind of conservative/libertarian/Republican/non-statist/non-Democrat. If it were a drinking game, I think we'd be in trouble. But I digress.

What would happen if our elected officials didn't just play-act at being Christians? [It'd be like 1800.--ed.] Or maybe while making such a to-do about separating the two spheres, we've conflated them, and God in Christ lost, at least in our hearts, and in our squares. [Are you a theocrat?--ed.] Hardly. Notice the order. But Jesus isn't just for show, either. But for the record, if I ever ran for office and you invite me to your church to preach/speak/etc. expect a sermon or the like, with nothing overtly political whatever. I think most Christian people do a better job of separating the two than most of the people hectoring them about it. I digress again.

A sharp critique, if I may: I often hear Catholic people lament the ongoing biblical ignorance of Catholics, despite at least a couple of generations of explicit teaching from the leadership firmly exhorting the faithful to read it. Well, as an evangelical Protestant at least for the moment, let me say this: Every once in a while, have a priest exposit a text, and only that text. Refer to said text repeatedly in the process. Make it clear that at least a substantial part of his authority at that moment arises from the indicatives and imperatives of that text. One need not set aside Sacred Tradition, or the Magisterium, or any other thing. Make the people students of Scripture. If we Protestants have made errors, who better than a highly biblical, literate laity to show us, aided all the more by centuries of Church tradition? And for St. Peter's sake, stop taking it so easy on your priests re: the original languages! If they are the proper, appointed teachers of the gospel, (as you say) they should be able to be as least as literate concerning them as your average Protestant seminary-educated guy. (i.e., me) And your Scripture content overview classes ought to be as rigorous as mine, if they are not. (e.g., "Outline the book of Jeremiah.") No, I can't do that right now, thanks for asking. I don't know what I'm going to do. But I do know that every Catholic who's ever said, "I used to be Catholic, but then I read the Bible" is your problem, not mine, or Martin Luther's (despite what he may be guilty of).

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

5 Reactions To The MA Special Election Last Night

5. Elected officials: fear the Tea Party. They nearly won NY-23 a few months ago, and they won last night. I doubt what we're seeing is a simple resurgence of the GOP. What we are seeing is an ideological war for the heart of conservatism.

4. Ding-dong, ObamaCare is dead! The remaining tricks left to avoid a vote/filibuster are devious, even for the Dems. And besides, you don't think those are all Pelosi/Obama Dems in the House, do you? They'll jump ship if Obama tries to pass the Senate bill word-for-word in the House. Just watch. Man, I love American electoral Kabuki!

3. Brown seems like a normal, good guy. Don't foul it up, sir.

2. I think I can retire all those "People's Republic of Massachusetts/Taxachusetts" jokes for awhile.

1. The whole legislative branch will be Republican come fall of 2012. You might want to dust off those inspirational speeches and find your inner Bill Clinton, (in a good way) Mr. President.
P.S. Note to First Things: Embedding people's mostly political blogs on your site is dumb if you care more about your message.
Instapundit has a link to Gateway Pundit, noting the fact that President Obama's nominee to head the Transportation Safety Administration, Erroll Southers, has withdrawn for allegedly making controversial statements comparing pro-life advocates to race terrorists. So I watched the video. My conclusion is: The game of "gotcha!" must stop. Put it this way: I consider myself pretty right-wing. I'm about to receive an NRA membership for my 30th birthday, and I couldn't be happier. I almost wrote in my friend Peter G. Klein for president in 2008. In fact, if you are looking for that perfect fusion between Reagan and Ron Paul, I am that guy. [You shored up your right-wing bona fides by voting for Obama.--ed.] Exactly. The point is, if you take the novel step, of you know, listening to the guy, he didn't say pro-lifers were terrorists; he merely noted (somewhat pointlessly) that a sub-group of white supremacists will identify as pro-life, probably as an excuse for more violence. Futhermore, the "Christian Identity" movement is a group within known white supremacist groups. Read a book; read half a book. Don't believe me? Watch it yourself. This poor guy was trying to convey useful information, and got drummed right out of politics. Southers didn't offend me.
Alomar, PED, and the Hall of Fame

There has been something of a minor furor over Roberto Alomar’s narrow failure to be elected to baseball’s Hall of Fame by 8 votes. Alomar, the celebrated second baseman whose prime in the 1990s was celebrated even at the time, famously spat in the face of an umpire while playing for Baltimore. In short, the word is that he may have ruffled more than a few feathers. And so the cycle begins anew each year, as decorated players from the media age end their careers with impressive but not certain cases for election. Sometimes, we get the added bonus of a personal cloud hanging over a player, as in this case. The age-old questions arise: Do we compare him to his contemporaries? Is dominance the measure of worthiness? To what extent do we consider his position, and the expected offensive (or defensive) production commensurate with it? For the era itself, we ask if league expansion has diluted the quality of competition. And surely we ask if the use of performance-enhancing drugs (PED) has distorted statistics in any one case; it certainly has in general. We’ll return to PED in a moment, but it is noteworthy that Alomar has never been even suspected, much less found guilty, of using them.
The pro case is fairly easy to make: the only peer at that position with Hall-worthy stats is Houston’s Craig Biggio. Alomar sports a career .300 batting average. That mark is generally considered one of the benchmarks of excellence for hitters. To accomplish it on average over 17 years is impressive indeed. He notched 210 home runs, a more than respectable total from that position, which to this point has not been considered one where offense is the player’s primary responsibility. He had 1134 runs batted in (RBI) and crossed the century mark for RBI in a season (another traditional benchmark of excellence) twice while narrowly missing 3 other times. He collected 474 stolen bases (SB), eclipsing 20 SB in a season 10 times, surpassing 30 8 times, eclipsing 40 four times, and 50 twice.
However, only once did he transcend his position in terms of driving in runs, with Cleveland in 1999. Most of the time, he was an above-average hitting second baseman, and not terribly consistent. Keep in mind that RBI can be team-dependent. To check for this, we would expect a very anomalous season of high RBI on a team that were the champions that year, or very close, and this is what we find in 1992, 1993, (the Blue Jays were world champs back-to-back) and 1999, with a still talented Indians team only 2 years removed from an appearance in the World Series. On the other hand, ’91-’93 were years in which he finished in the top ten for MVP voting, finishing sixth each time. He won 4 Rawlings Gold Gloves for defense at second base, an achievement we should not begrudge him, even if the Gold Gloves have been known to fall into a player’s hands for his offense.
On the whole, I’d say Alomar is a better-than-borderline Hall of Famer. It won’t be an outrage if he’s elected, but neither is it an outrage if he fails to be one.
In recent days, we have had the admission by Mark McGwire that he used steroids throughout his career, and especially during his record-breaking year of 1998, when he hit a then-record 70 to set aside Maris’ 61 in ’61. If these numbers had not been tainted, both the 70 HR and the 583 career HR would have made him a mortal lock, as they say, for Cooperstown. Now, I should preface this by saying that I’m a native of St. Louis, who lives and dies by the Cardinals. And no one gave any of us more joy or pride during that time than Mark McGwire. But…he wouldn’t get a vote on my ballot. Not today, not ever. We simply cannot evaluate him alongside the other greats of the game due to the substances’ impact. It’s not moralism, it’s just reality. I suggest a standard 100 HR penalty for purposes of Hall election for any known user of PED. Keep the records, but adjust. If the player still falls above that previously hallowed 500 HR level and/or has other things to recommend him, by all means, open the doors. I would note that a 100 win (or save) penalty would end PED use among pitchers immediately. But I digress. The obvious conclusion in light of my suggestion is that McGwire simply wasn’t good enough, given what we know, for the Hall of Fame.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

5 Songs In My Head When I Woke Up This Morning (Or Lines Therein)

5. "When it feels like the world is on your shoulders/And all of the madness has got you goin' crazy..."

4. "Oh when you walk by every night, talkin' sweet and looking fine/I get kinda hectic inside..."

3. "My love, there's only you in my life/The only thing that's right..."

2. "When can my heart beat again?/When does the pain ever end..."

1. "Sure, I think about you now and then/But it's been a long, long, time..."

Bonus Track: "There was a girl from a wagon train/Who headed west across the plains..."