Saturday Ramblings: June 11, 2016

1951 Nash Rambler Deliveryman Foldout-01

Yes folks, yard work and gardening is in full swing here in the Midwest these days. I suspect that I’ll be making multiple trips to the home improvement store this weekend, loading up on outdoor essentials. Too bad we couldn’t just call Mr. Bushie and have him deliver what we need in his sharp 1951 Nash Rambler “Deliveryman” vehicle!

Oh well, in between the times you spend rambling around on errands this weekend, I’ll hope you’ll join us as we ramble through some of the interesting flowers, vegetables, and weeds growing in things we’ve read this past week.

• • •

088911-yellow-road-sign-icon-business-tool-wheelbarrowl2-sc44“He was a drug addict, an astrologist, an alchemist, a member of one or other esoteric sects,” writes Brent Plate at RNS.

Plate is referring to Hieronymus Bosch, who died 500 years ago this year. Two major exhibitions in Europe about Bosch are expected to break attendance records, as crowds flock to view his remarkable works. He notes how “Bosch painted in radical new ways for his day,” that he was an “apocalyptic” painter, and that “Bosch gave us many of our modern visions of hell.”

Bosch smallBased on the amount of time visitors spend peering into the nooks and crannies of Bosch’s hells, there’s little doubt the nightmarish scenes are what lure most spectators: human bodies broken open, half-human/half-creature devils scurrying about, scenes of torture, disfigurement and dismemberment. Much of it isn’t for the squeamish, even in today’s horror-bathed media culture.

Let’s be clear: “The Simpsons” and “The Exorcist” didn’t borrow Bosch’s scenes of the idyllic Paradise or images of Jesus, but images of demons, flying fish, bodily torment, a cryptic tree-man and a great bird-devil who consumes humans and then defecates them into a gaping hole in the ground.

Paintings such as “The Garden of Earthly Delights” triptych (permanently installed in the Prado) and the  “Temptation of St. Anthony” triptych (on loan from the National Museum of Ancient Art in Lisbon) are large, colorful visions of life on earth, with its sins and temptations, and a potentially tormented afterlife. One could stand for hours and sort through the figures that litter the landscapes, trying to make sense of them, as audiences and art historians have been doing for years.

Imagine a page of “Where’s Waldo?” but with darker colors and beasts scattered around a surreal landscape of dead trees, burning cities and ruined castles.

Brent Plate observes that Bosch died the year before Luther posted his 95 theses, inaugurating the Reformation, and that his horrific visual depictions of judgment may “demonstrate why the Lutheran doctrine of grace might have been so attractive at the time.”

088911-yellow-road-sign-icon-business-tool-wheelbarrowl2-sc44Speaking of visual depictions, Jesus may get a sequel.

According to Dana Harris at Indiewire, Mel Gibson is working on a sequel to his successful 2004 film, The Passion Of The ChristThe article notes that the first film “earned $612 million worldwide and is acknowledged as the most successful independent film of all time.”

Writer Randall Wallace, who was a religion major at Duke University, told the Hollywood Reporter, “I always wanted to tell this story,” he says. “The Passion is the beginning and there’s a lot more story to tell.”


Well yes, there certainly is more to the story. However, in my personal opinion, visual media such as TV and movies have never been good vehicles to showcase the biblical narrative.

Michael Spencer agreed. The iMonk wrote a post about the Narnia films, in which he discussed how visual media tends to “shrink greatness to fit the screen,” saying:

…an evangelicalism that trades books for movies will be diminished. Film cannot take us inside the human experience in the same way as literature, and the recreation of beasts and battles with CGI is a purely temporary pleasure.

What do you think?

088911-yellow-road-sign-icon-business-tool-wheelbarrowl2-sc44Illusionist David Copperfield is trying to help get Congress to pass a resolution that would that would recognize magic as “a rare and valuable art form and national treasure.”


According to NPR, House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions, Republican from Texas, is leading the effort. But there has been some pushback.

Another supporter, Wisconsin Democrat Mark Pocan, acknowledged that some may see this resolution as bad optics.

“Unfortunately, it got introduced at one of the peak periods of congressional inefficiency,” he said. “And so I think it was easy to say, ‘Oh look, they’re going to recognize magic as an art, but we can’t pass a budget?’ Yeah, that could sound on its face kind of ridiculous.”

For Pocan, a former magician, it has been a useful tool to communicate with his constituents. He hosts a regular YouTube series, “Magic Mondays” in which he performs simple tricks and talks about what’s happening in Washington. He does magic when he visits schools back in his congressional district, and he hands out pamphlets on how to do magic tricks to kids he meets on the campaign trail.

Hey you guys, maybe we could get a little magic to get Congress working again? Or I know, here’s a great idea: why don’t you find some magician who can make Trump and Clinton disappear?

088911-yellow-road-sign-icon-business-tool-wheelbarrowl2-sc44In nearby Cincinnati, Judge William Mallory handed out a creative sentence a few weeks ago.

It seems Jake Strotman, a 23 year-old hockey fan, went to see the Cincinnati Cyclones play the Fort Wayne Komets on a Saturday night in January. He was well-lubricated and in good spirits when, after the game, he approached some Baptist street preachers who were, as he puts it, condemning him. He started bantering with them.

Long story short, a few others got involved too and before you know it, it was a regular Batman and Robin Bam! Pow! fracas. Strotman found himself under the pile and allegedly assaulted one of the preachers.

intro page 2011

Here’s how things went at the trial when the judge asked Strotman for suggestions about how he thought he should be sentenced:

“Your honor, if I may, I would be more than happy to serve a church of your choosing.”

Mallory: “Time out. We may have an answer here.”

He addressed his thoughts to [the preacher Strotman had assaulted].

“So for his penance, what if I make him go to your church a number of Sunday services?”

Strotman would be sentenced to attend 12 consecutive Sunday services at Morning Star Baptist Church. He was ordered to attend each entire 90-minute service. He must get the weekly program signed by the minister. That’s 18 hours of solid Baptist teaching.

He also paid $480 in court fines and a $2,800 lawyer bill.

Depending on your point of view, that’s either a light sentence or unacceptable torture.

088911-yellow-road-sign-icon-business-tool-wheelbarrowl2-sc44Best article title of the week:

“Evangelicals need to sit in a room and say nothing for a long time, by Ed Cyzewski.


088911-yellow-road-sign-icon-business-tool-wheelbarrowl2-sc44Cartoon of the week:

John Piper must have visited many families after the births of their babies. I wonder if Piper, who believes the Bible teaches that babies are utterly depraved, ever saw evidence of that at the time of the blessed event? Naked Pastor cartoonist David Hayward drew an illustration of what that might have looked like if he had:


088911-yellow-road-sign-icon-business-tool-wheelbarrowl2-sc44Modern warfare destroys the brain.

Robert F. Worth’s article in the NYT, “What if PTSD is More Physical than Psychological?” explores the implications of a new study by neuropathologist Daniel Perl that found “a distinctive pattern of tiny scars,” a “brown-dust” type pattern, which suggests that the bomb blasts of modern warfare injure the brain in ways not sufficiently understood in the past.

Previously, scientists assumed that traumatic brain injury in warfare affected the brain like concussions or automobile accidents.

storyimages_1338310192_braininjuryPerl and his lab colleagues recognized that the injury that they were looking at was nothing like concussion. The hallmark of C.T.E. is an abnormal protein called tau, which builds up, usually over years, throughout the cerebral cortex but especially in the temporal lobes, visible across the stained tissue like brown mold. What they found in these traumatic-brain-injury cases was totally different: a dustlike scarring, often at the border between gray matter (where synapses reside) and the white matter that interconnects it. Over the following months, Perl and his team examined several more brains of service members who died well after their blast exposure, including a highly decorated Special Operations Forces soldier who committed suicide. All of them had the same pattern of scarring in the same places, which appeared to correspond to the brain’s centers for sleep, cognition and other classic brain-injury trouble spots.

Then came an even more surprising discovery. They examined the brains of two veterans who died just days after their blast exposure and found embryonic versions of the same injury, in the same areas, and the development of the injuries seemed to match the time elapsed since the blast event.

…If Perl’s discovery is confirmed by other scientists — and if one of blast’s short-term signatures is indeed a pattern of scarring in the brain — then the implications for the military and for society at large could be vast. Much of what has passed for emotional trauma may be reinterpreted, and many veterans may step forward to demand recognition of an injury that cannot be definitively diagnosed until after death. There will be calls for more research, for drug trials, for better helmets and for expanded veteran care. But these palliatives are unlikely to erase the crude message that lurks, unavoidable, behind Perl’s discovery: Modern warfare destroys your brain.

088911-yellow-road-sign-icon-business-tool-wheelbarrowl2-sc44Finally, this week in music

Paul Simon, one of our greatest singer-songwriters for the past half century, has a new album, called Stranger To Stranger. On it, Simon continues to explore a broad range of rhythms and melodies in the service os strong lyrical content. In his NYT review, John Pareles calls it, “a set of songs that crack jokes and ponder questions about love, death, spirituality, baseball, economic inequality, brain chemistry and music itself,” adding, “It’s the latest ambitious, tuneful installment in a career that has had far more to do with curiosity than crowd-pleasing.”

Here’s the first single from the record: “Wristband,” a whimsical song about a singer getting locked out of his own show, turned social commentary.


130 thoughts on “Saturday Ramblings: June 11, 2016

  1. 1 John 5:19
    We know that we are of God, and that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one..

    Jesus referred to the Devil as the “ruler of this world.’

    The world is simultaneously God’s perfect creation and deeply marred by sin. Looking at only one side leaves us with a terribly skewed view. Rainbows and Unicorns on one hand and dark wretchedness on the other. It does not help to deny crucial truths on either side.


  2. My belated but somehow still timely alternative music video pick of the week:

    Best cover version of Purple Rain ever.


  3. Or in confronting tragedy, when people are in pain and need hope, with statements about divine judgement? Isnt there so much kicking people’s faces to the dirt already? Are you about good news or bad news. Hope or despair? Self emptying love or Hell?

    As I said above, I wonder why Piper’s Twitter finger hasn’t weighed in regarding the Orlando Mass Shooting. He’s never been slow to Twitter about tragedy before. (Coming across like all the expected media chatter except “What an opportunity to Advance MY Theological Agenda!” instead of “Political Agenda”.)


  4. I don’t think that will come across anytime soon in “Christian” film, though, because of its outright refusal to display dark realities in the name of being family friendly.

    Christian(TM) Film is a waste of celluloid (or is it bits & bytes nowadays?).

    Zootopia managed to touch on “dark realities” and still remain family friendly; the secret is they let it flow naturally from the story and background universe instead of imposing Ministry of Propaganda Important Message talking points (such as, say, Waterworld).


  5. My comment on that comment was “never mind all the pulpit screaming about “Vipers in Diapers”, THAT is Total Depravity in action.”

    “Let us leave this house of Hell.”
    — G.K.Chesteron, one of the Father Brown Mysteries


  6. Piper’s theology, as is the case with most systematic theologies–especially of the Reformed flavor (but not restricted to that), is an effort to determine who’s in and who’s out…

    Especially when “who’s in and who’s out” is actually pretty simple:
    Everything else is word salad around the One-Upmanship.


  7. Two days since the Orlando mass shooting and I haven’t heard of any Twitter tweets from Piper or interviews from Pat Robertson shooting their respective mouths off. Maybe some subordinate had enough sense to disable Piper’s Twitter feed?

    Other than that, we’re getting all the usual reactions from the usual suspects all over the media. So why haven’t these guys joined in?


  8. And as has been pointed out in other blogs, all too often Total Depravity(TM) becomes One Upmanship Bragging Rights for the Elect and/or an Excuse Machine.


  9. “Church of Satan” as in ex-carny Anton LaVey’s con job?

    LaVey’s “Satanism” was actually a direct knockoff of Ayn Rand’s Objectivism with all the labels swapped out for Crowley knockoffs with a topcoat of generic occult mumbo-jumbo.

    And Christians swallowed it whole just like his Celebrity/Bored Aristocrat target marks.


  10. “I will not entertain mental images of the Ghost Busters fighting Donald Trump.”

    Original 1984 Ghost Busters or the recent Rule 63 remake?

    “Don’t cross the beams.”


  11. Piper’s theology, as is the case with most systematic theologies–especially of the Reformed flavor (but not restricted to that), is an effort to determine who’s in and who’s out based on the assumption of the “Separateness” of God from his creation and especially from “sinful humanity”. IMO, such theology is “worldly”–and I’d go as far to say “demonic”–because it’s based on the same system which is “normal” in this world; quid pro quo/transactionalism–and such is just “old time religion” who’s main concern is appeasing and controlling an angry god.


    Jesus does NOT present that kind of picture of our Father.

    Piper reads his Bible through eye of the Accuser. Jesus and Paul read their text through the eye of Mercy–for ALL, not just a chosen few.

    Confession; My name is Tom and I’m a recovering 5-pt caged Calvinist.


  12. Exactly Danielle.

    Augustinian/Reformed theology DEMANDS that we view the world through eyes of Darkness. I think Jesus was addressing this “eye” view;

    Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light, but when it is diseased, your body is full of darkness. Therefore see to it that the light in you is not darkness. If then your whole body is full of light, with no part in the dark, it will be as full of light as when the light of a lamp shines on you.

    (NET. Peterson’s version is very “accessible” in its word choices.)


  13. Considering that, perhaps it’s not such a good idea if many evangelicals sit in a room and say nothing for a long time?


  14. And one of the comments from the above thread, from “The Girl Who Was Thursday”:

    When I was a pre or early teen, a traveling home school family, with a traveling home school family business of “rods” made a stop in the area. The homeschooler moms in our area had, like, a Tupperware party of thing to beat your kids with. Many of them brought their kids along to the presentation- including my mom.

    The mother of the family described how she would go quietly through the house and watching to see if the children were performing well enough. If they weren’t, she would surprise them with a sharp little snap on the legs or buttocks.

    The beating-ware party was decorated in the horrible overly floral pseudo-Victorian style that I remember seeing a lot in the homeschooling version of the ’90’s. The man of the family was clean cut and slimy. He didn’t say as much but he handled the money. The woman gushed about her product. Her ten or twelve children didn’t talk much unless the script or social niceties required them to. They stood in the background with wide, matching smiles, brought out their instruments and played music when they were required to. Hung back and smiled again.

    There were strawberries dipped in chocolate on silver trays. The moms were all talking and laughing. And giggling.


  15. and then beats the little newborn when it cries to ‘break its spirit’ a la the Pearls and their instructions on how to whip infants with cords . . . . God have mercy!

    Never mind cords (or even quarter-inch plumbing supply line). There are purpose-built nylon whipping rods sized to fit in your purse — like a “balanced and easy to use” dirk-sized fishing pole with a “cushioned vinyl grip” for $8 a pop (S&H discount for orders of 6 or more). Oh, and with SCRIPTURE zip codes:


  16. The total number of US Quakers could fit in a large stadium (there were about 86,000 in 2007) though meetings often have regular attenders who aren’t official members. However they’ve never been a large denomination. It is just when they decide on something they tend to be quietly persistent.


  17. “I will not entertain mental images of the Ghost Busters fighting Donald Trump.”

    “I will not entertain mental images of the Ghost Busters fighting Donald Trump.”

    “I will not entertain mental images of the Ghost Busters fighting Donald Trump.”


  18. You may be right, Charles. Using the chink in the armor that this sanction could provide, the dark forces might conjure an illusion that results in tens of millions of Americans supporting a candidate for high office who not only has no experience or expertise but also is driven by malignant, despotic and narcissistic ambition, a liar and snake-oil salesman who will Pied Piper the nation into a demonic abyss and–

    …..Oh, uh, never mind.


  19. A lot of evangelicals sitting in a room and saying nothing for a long time? There’s a snowball’s chance in hell of that happening. Even most Catholics aren’t up to it, and they have institutions specially built for doing just that. The Quakers do it,but you see how many of them there are. However good an idea it is, it’s totally unAmerican.


  20. @ Charles, That’s the first time I’ve ever heard him referred to as Al Crowley. I don’t think the old Beast would appreciate your informality with his name.


  21. With the exception of Catholic ones, new hospitals don’t have have chapels anymore; they have Meditation Rooms.


  22. What is perhaps saddest is the fact that this action comes from a belief that this is what God demands. God is the dragon.

    It is a terrible thing to fear. With a long shadow.


  23. +1 Love the quote, Mike H.

    This is where Piper and his ilk really fall down. Whatever your theology happens to be, where is the pastoral sense in needing to counter the sense of joy and goodness people have about the gift new life is with a reminder of evil. Or in confronting tragedy, when people are in pain and need hope, with statements about divine judgement? Isnt there so much kicking people’s faces to the dirt already? Are you about good news or bad news. Hope or despair? Self emptying love or Hell?

    There is something sacred in people’s feelings about these things, a longing for the world be right, a connection to something good. Let them have it. Such things should be protected and held close. We need them later.


  24. No, it isn’t just silly superstition.

    I would not use the word “silly”, since it is not only a subjective deprication but also impossible to define. It is, however, superstition in the objective sense of the word. I dare say Copperfield et al hadn’t even thought to qualify “magic” since anything other than “slight of hand” showmanship is a fairy story.


  25. and then beats the little newborn when it cries to ‘break its spirit’ a la the Pearls and their instructions on how to whip infants with cords . . . . God have mercy!

    these people that worship the god of wrath are still offering sacrifices in the form of their own children, like the people in Siloam who fed the dragon their livestock until they ran out, and then they fed the dragon their children

    heartlessness even to infants . . . seems so extremely satanic


  26. Have any of you seen this clip of Billy Crystal at Muhammad Ali’s funeral service? This is wonderful. It even preaches. Jew and Muslim, friends forever.


  27. Love this. I mean, who, when a child is born, lifts it up and declares, “Sinner!! Totally depraved!!!”


  28. Because they haven’t actually done anything bad. I cannot express the depths of my disgust for the idea that humans are somehow dirty simply by natur e of existing. It is the theology of a psychopath.


  29. Thanks so much for the link to Ed Cyzewski’s article, “Evangelicals Need to Sit in a Room and Say Nothing for a Long Time.” Having just read the article in Time Magazine about right-wing evangelicals rallying around The Donald, this article’s title was highly relevent.

    There is one terrific, take-away Cyzewski line: “Those who haven’t had a crisis of faith yet are the ones who could really use it the most.”

    Brilliantly clever.

    And wise.


  30. This, IMO, is a truer response to the birth of a child:

    May these words be the first to find your ears
    The world is brighter than the sun now that you’re here
    Though your eyes will need some time to adjust
    To the overwhelming light surrounding us
    -Sleeping At Last

    Human sin isn’t the first or last word.


  31. What is intended by original sin and total depravity isn’t always clear to me. Neither are forensic statements that should be interpreted as “inherited guilt” or that humanity has snuffed out the image of God and that God generally hates you, though that’s what’s typically done with them.

    Isn’t “original blessing” more original than “original sin” when it’s all said and done?


  32. It is not entertainment that is the problem here, but official approval at a governmental level, which conveys legal permission to operate if invoked. Entertainment has its own problems which can be avoided. Official government sanction can not be easily avoided and affects everyone. whether wanted or not. The warrant is not in Scripture but in the Congressional Record, if instituted. Dark forces will take whatever power you are willing to grant them, and they don’t care if you don’t believe in them, actually prefer it. A simple qualifier would avoid the whole problem. Excuse me, I have to go press a refrigerator.


  33. Few things create meaningless in life more effectively than this sort of “age of accountability” nonsense, the biblical proof texting that supports it, and the theology that necessitates it in the first place. We’d all be best off dead before age 5, or whatever age gets made up.


  34. Is it just me, or is Piper a master at word salad? That quote doesn’t even make sense. I always get the sneaking suspicion that those who cannot communicate breviloquently haven’t actually got anything to say…



    maybe the little guy said what he did because he was afraid of being punished . . . sounds to me more like your son was exhibiting a healthy instinct for survival rather than behaving like an evil spawn


  36. I am actually concerned about a sentence that involves forcing someone to listen to religious dogma. On the other hand, he volunteered for it, so kudos to the judge for a sentence that doesn’t involve spending tax payer dollars.


  37. I agree with Burro, but that may be because I hold to an Orthodox hamartiology. I think conversations about being born sinners or not kind of miss the mark for the simple fact that what we are really skirting around is if we are born with a will. Probably too long for a blog comment. I do think pastors who talk about “sinful” babies are basically clueless, since they are gutting a basic human experience of joy in the name of ensuring everyone around them knows they have “correct” doctrine. It is sort of a Jesus Juke.


  38. Wandering from here out to “total depravity” and “original sin” or being “born a sinner”:

    In the context of what I just wrote, it’s not clear what these phrases mean. Unless you mean that from the beginning I was formed within and enmeshed in a world that might be characterized as “sinful” or “depraved.” If so, that is fair enough. These are major features of the landscape.

    Still, I don’t like the concepts and what they seem to signify to people – they feel confusing or extraneous. They often seem to guide people beyond saying that temptation and sin are problems into which everyone falls, or that I am a creature who will inevitably share in the brokenness of my world.

    They seem, fairly often, to deny that I would also, just as much, be a creature that participates in the goodness of the world and that has potentiality. In other words, sitting behind the concept is a larger picture of the world as dark or the domain of evil. I part ways with the conversation at this juncture. Been there, done that: it makes me want to see darkness everywhere, which makes me want to die, and I don’t particularly like dying, but I do want to see beauty in things and participate in it. If the shore is really 100 miles off and I can swim a mile, then I’ll swim a mile and drown. But at least I’ll have had something nice to look at and something to go towards. So, with respect Total Depravity: au revior, it’s been grand.

    I don’t think we really need these concepts to talk about what the world is like or what the human dilemma is. There is good and evil in the world, I am part of the world, and I need God.

    Specifically, I need a God who is capable of loving and being in the world, the “1000 places God” from Hopkins poem last week, the incarnational God, whose action would mean that the world *isn’t* the domain of evil.


  39. I see no warrant in Scripture for the “entertainment as trojanware for demons” school of thought. It credits them with far too much power in light of their defeat at the Cross.


  40. I’m satisfied with the biblical case for it, and it matches the behavior I see in humanity every day. A pretty strong combination.


  41. I simply dispute the Augustinian basis of his answer: “Babies are participants in original sin.” Therefore, unless God somehow “covers their sin” they would be condemned.

    I don’t see this at all in scripture. It is theological speculation based on philosophical categories not represented by the authors of the Bible.


  42. The difference is, I don’t think the Bible teaches explicitly that babies are sinful and culpable because of Adam’s sin.

    Too much Christian theology gets into philosophical, ontological territory when it says things like: humans have a “nature” and it is defined thus and so. The Hebrew Bible in particular is much more observational about how humans behave rather than speculating on whether or not we have a “sinful nature.”

    What is clear from the scriptures is that babies and young people go into life morally unformed or “simple.” Because we are human, and therefore limited in perspective and power to resist the forces that are prevalent in this world, we all inevitably sin. The problem lies in our very humanness, pictured in Genesis as having been created both of earthly dust and heavenly breath. We are limited, vulnerable creatures, with the capacity to listen to a variety of voices and choose among various options. Adam represents Israel, whose story clearly shows how this goes. And he represents us all, as Paul says.


  43. The Church of Satan is pretty much a joke. There are dark forces at work behind the scenes that are anything but a joke. Giving them official permission and approval in the name of entertainment, however innocent and naive and unintended, might not be to our best advantage. Just sayin’.


  44. I think much of the difficulty in such discussions comes from confusion between “sin” meaning a discrete act and “sin” as a state of being. Some older works use the word “crime” for the first sense. This has some baggage of its own, but it does clarify the senses of the word “sin.”

    This also relates to the Lutheran concept that we are both saint and sinner. The Reformed tradition, and the traditions that derive directly or indirectly from it, are not good about this notion. Perfectionism is not a Lutheran vice.

    So bringing this around to infants, a newborn is not a sinner in the sense of having performed sinful acts. The kid hasn’t had a chance yet. But give him time. Sin, in the sense of a state of being, is the human condition. The newborn is both saint and sinner, just like you and me.


  45. …and that most people don’t even know what prestidigitation means.

    “It means he presses refrigerators.”
    — The Three Stooges (NYUK NYUK NYUK!)


  46. How can one of the ‘megas’ not have a prayer chapel?

    They needed the room for “Just Like Starbucks, Except CHRISTIAN(TM)!”
    Or the onsite recording studio worthy of Prince.
    Or the onsite amusement park for the youth groups.


  47. We have people in our church who have a constant complaint that we are not DOING enough, that we are not “on fire for God”! Yes, please, let’s just sit & shut up for once. All the noise is drowning out the Still Voice that may be trying to speak.

    Two words: WRETCHED URGENCY.


  48. Much thanks for the PTSD and Paul Simon stories; I would have missed both of those if you hadn’t posted them. Some of my best memories of highway ‘rambling’ are from driving late night listening to Mr. Simon.


  49. Eeyore, I can go with that–which is quite different from saying, “We are born sinful.”… I believe humans are born morally unformed (the biblical term is “simple”) and susceptible to temptation (which, by the way, none of us conquer perfectly).

    I don’t see the difference between being “prone to sin” and “sinful” – and I don’t accept the concept of a “neutral” setting between inclining towards good and inclining towards evil. If that’s not ‘nuanced’, I can live with that, unrepentant Augustinian that I am. 😉


  50. I am going to set aside theology for a moment and think about what we currently think we know about development.

    However we theoretically start out – even we all start as “tabula rasa”- the brain and the rest of the organism is self-assembling at a fantastic pace in response to a combination of genetic programming and environment. It We’re “programmed,” to use an imprecise term, to grab as much information as we can get about where we are, as quickly as we can, so that our brains and bodies can be properly adapt. There is no hard division between “nature” and “nurture” – it is always both. We have all this very complicated genetic programming and how genes are expressed is environment-dependent, experience-based.

    The process is intense in utero and throughout childhood, and then it cools down, but it never stops. We’re still in the stone age where understanding the brain is concerned. One thing appears clear: its a lot more plastic than we thought it was.

    I think what this means is that there isn’t a point of at which we can talk about an inherent nature and acquired nature. There’s always a context and a history that is “part of us” and will remain so, and there’s potentialty as well. That is what we “are.”

    Whatever we mean by words like “innocence” or “sin,” the terms really have to be defined and then related to what is actually going on in people are they develop.


  51. I think season-length plot TV is starting to explore things well in a way I didn’t think could be done on the screen instead of a book. Jessica Jones is an amazing dive into the wounds, daily struggle, and empathy of abuse survivors. Part of that is the way it uses visuals in a way unique to the medium that a book would not do.

    I don’t think that will come across anytime soon in “Christian” film, though, because of its outright refusal to display dark realities in the name of being family friendly. If you take the “just use the nice part of the Psalms” approach from your evangelical church experience into film, what you get is incapable of even scratching the surface of the human experience.


  52. Christiane,
    Funny anecdotal story. We had a group of Franciscan nuns visit our parish. They toured our elementary school and one of the teachers asked them “so what do you all do?” They responded “We pray.” The teacher asked again, “no, no, no, what do you DO?” Again the Sisters responded, “we pray.” The teacher dared to ask a third time with additional clarity, “What I mean is what do you do all day when you’re not praying?” Finally the Sisters answered, “well, we sew the habits and vestments for our Franciscan brothers, but we pray while we’re doing it.”

    Even in a Catholic setting, the emphasis can also be on the doing instead of just being. The “megas” haven’t cornered the market.


  53. I’ve written about this and I think the concept is more nuanced than Augustinian theology makes it. I wrote a series called “Fall or Folly” in which we discussed this.

    Here’s one of the posts –

    In brief, I believe humans are born morally unformed (the biblical term is “simple”) and susceptible to temptation (which, by the way, none of us conquer perfectly). All are sinners, but not because we are born corrupted.


  54. We aren’t anything just by ourselves.

    We are born into a web of sin, exchanging sin for sin; compounded and with interest carried. There was no escape from it, until Jesus came, and there is still no escape from it without His grace.


  55. I understand that David Copperfield is not Al Crowley or Jerry Bosch. I understand that common usage does not distinguish between magic, however spelled, and prestidigitation, and that most people don’t even know what prestidigitation means. Nonetheless, to even consider officially recognizing and approving “magic” without qualification strikes me as some kind of final nail in the coffin. There is legerdemain, and there is what often is called white magic and black magic. To throw those all in the same pot strikes me as wedging open the door to Bosch’s nightmare. No, it isn’t just silly superstition.


  56. We are both in the image of God AND marred by and prone to sin. Simultaneously. From the get go. Reformed/Calvinist theology tends to lose sight of the former, but there is also danger in refusing to recognize the latter.


  57. Steve,
    But we are also made in the image and likeness of our Creator.
    And in that image and likeness, a divine spark resides within us – from the beginning – at all times.

    Born dead – no.
    Total depravity – certainly not.
    Born self-centered – yes.
    Living lives built upon rationalizing, manipulations and a little bit narcissistic – of course yes.

    Starts when we’re young and is honed to a fine skill as we move through life. And from this our sin is born. And against this the divine spark burns within us – unceasingly.


  58. Going to the source: What John Piper has actually said –
    “Why do you believe that infants who die go to heaven?

    I believe it not because of a sentimental notion that babies aren’t participants in the Fall. They are. Babies are participants in original sin.

    The question is whether God has a way to cover their sin even before they have a chance to believe. Babies are not mentally able to put faith in Jesus yet, at least not in any terms that we ordinarily understand. And so I think that God provides another way to cover their sin.

    I base my belief that God does not condemn babies who die on Romans 1:19-20:

    For what can be known about God is plain to them [that is, to mankind] because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. Therefore, they are without excuse.

    The “therefore” at the end says that mankind would seem to have an excuse if they had not seen clearly in nature what God is like. And so, because I don’t think little babies can process nature and make conclusions about God’s grace, glory or justice, it seems they would fall into the category of still having an excuse.

    The way I see it is that God ordains, for his own wise purposes, that at the judgment day all the children who died in infancy will be covered by the blood of Jesus. And they will come to faith, either in heaven immediately or later in the resurrection. And God will not condemn them because he wants to manifest openly and publicly that he does not condemn those who did not have the mental capacities to put their faith in him.

    I don’t think imbeciles have that capacity, and I don’t think babies do. Therefore I hold out hope to parents that the loss of an infant is not their eternal loss. ”
    So you’re not a John Piper fan? Fine: But let’s not lie about what he teaches.


  59. Sadly, “Komets” is only slightly less stupid a name for a sports team than “Cometz.” It’s like they were circling around a non-twee name, but couldn’t quite nail the landing.


  60. When my son was about 2 years old, his grandmother came into the kitchen and saw that a bowl of cereal had been knocked down was on the floor. When she asked if my son did this, he turned an pointed to the dog and said “No, no, no”. The dog was a miniature schnauzer. Don’t tell me that sin is taught and not part of our human nature.

    St. Paul states it most clearly in Ephesians 2:1-2 “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.”

    We are all born dead in our transgressions.


  61. I trust the Psalms to convey imagery via the use of various forms of metaphor which is not definition or proof, but rather serves as illustration of perceptions.

    For every “YHWH you are faithful” I can find at least one “YHWH why have you turned from me?”


  62. If you don’t trust poetry aso the basis of doctrine, you lose a lot of conceptions of God’s love and faithfulness (as well as a lot of messianic prophecy) from the Psalms. Don’t throw the… no, I won’t sink to the pun. 😛


  63. That reads like “blame the victim”.

    I certainly think what Jesus said is true.

    I do not trust poetry as a basis for doctrine.

    My experience with my own children indicates that they didn’t begin to lie until they had been around other children and adults.

    It’s one thing to say that babies are born “full of sin”. It’s quite another to observe that all humans have a self preserving reflex that we use to deal with fear and danger–real and otherwise.

    Maybe we’re not talking about the same thing when we say “sin”?


  64. How can one of the ‘megas’ not have a prayer chapel? Even hospitals have them. Even hospitals that are secular have prayer chapels. It can’t be for lack of money. It must be for other reasons, but what are they? I’m confused about why evangelical prayer is now a matter of praise bands instead of the service of prayer in community in the way of early Christians. What has changed in their ‘kneeling theology’ that quiet contemplative prayer no longer has a place in these Churches???


  65. If, as Jesus said, evil works come from within; and the Psalmist’s allusion to being sinful from the time his mother carried him in her womb; and, parents out there, tell me, did you have to teach your children how to lie?

    I have my reasons. YMMV.


  66. We are hard-wired to find babies attractive. Other than that, and pure sentimentality, why should we not believe babies are born sinful?


  67. “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” – Blaise Pascal, *Pensees*


  68. The article by Ed Cyzewski with the excellent title is an excellent piece! So true. We have people in our church who have a constant complaint that we are not DOING enough, that we are not “on fire for God”! Yes, please, let’s just sit & shut up for once. All the noise is drowning out the Still Voice that may be trying to speak.


  69. FWIW, The hockey team is the Fort Wayne Komets (
    Hockey is known for fights, so maybe this young man was just doing his own version outside the arena. Sentenced to attending church could be some church’s new marketing tool. Partner with the courts for a lighter sentence if you come to services for X number of weeks. It could happen…


  70. As for that poor sap sentenced to sit in Baptist services on consecutive Sundays, here’s a song from my favorite Blur grass band, Blue Highway, “Seven Sundays in a Row”.


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