Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Why Is It...

That atheists always seem to come across as crabby and humorless in the paper?

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

TS O'Rama Isn't Going To Like This...

...but I utterly oppose reunifying Ulster with the Republic of Ireland. In fact, I intend to wear my orange sweatshirt on St. Patrick's Day (this Thursday). It's not a Protestant-Catholic thing for me (and it shouldn't be for anyone else, given that the Northern Irish tend to be Anglicans anyway), especially as I've got plenty of each in my ancestry, including Scots who were kicked out for being Jacobites and people who were literally the only Protestants in their ghetto neighborhood of mostly Irish, Poles, and Puerto Ricans. The very small amount of Irish blood I have is Northern Irish. To me, it's simple. The main people who seem to be agitating for reunification are the IRA/Sinn Fein and Americans of Irish background with a Romantic bent. The IRA/Sinn Fein are Marxists, and even the people in the Republic of Ireland apparently don't really care for them. As for the Americans, how many could really explain the situation? I haven't noticed the Irish Taoiseach demanding Ulster from the British Prime Minister lately. Perhaps most importantly, the majority of Northern Ireland appears to prefer union with Britain. Given these things, orange will be my color for Thursday.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

What I've Been Listening To

3 Doors Down - Kryptonite
Sort of "Cowboy Rock," a category which appears several times in this list. A sad song about a man worrying about his limits. Chorus: "If I go crazy then will you still call me Superman? If I'm alive and well, will you be there holding my hand?"

Audioslave - Like a Stone, I Am the Highway
This band is something of a superband, formed when the lead singer for Rage Against the Machine left the band (to focus on Communist activism) and was replaced by the lead singer for the former hit band Soundgarden, Chris Cornell. It's known that Cornell got involved with "spirituality" after the breakup of Soundgarden, and some wonder if that didn't involve Christianity. Chorus from Like a Stone: "In your house, I long to be/room by room, patiently."

Cake - Short Skirt Long Jacket
Everyone likes Cake. The vocalist actually talks, Nancy Sinatra-style, instead of truly singing. There's wacky lyrics, a trumpet, and even judicious use of the vibra-slap (perhaps the greatest instrument ever). I'll be honest: I don't really know what this song is about. Great line: "With fingernails that shine like Justice and a voice that is dark like tinted glass."

Cowboy Mouth - Jenny Says
Country Rock's second appearance on this list. What can I say? I just really like the genre, and I remember this song from high school. Great line: "My name is Cain and I am now un-Abel."

Dirty Larry - The Long Way Home
Modern, "fourth wave" ska, heavily influenced by punk. In fact, ska as a genre is probably dead, though it survives as an influence with the use of brass instruments and emphasis on the upbeats. I would list the chorus, except that the horns are louder than the vocals at that point, and I don't know what's being said. This is both tragic and awesome.

Doctormanette - Bonkers, Under Over
I have an unfortunate tradition. Whenever I discover a band I really like, it turns out that they've broken up, either the week before or five years ago. Doctormanette was a truly great "fourth wave" pure ska band, with a stellar mix of the simple and the complex. Compare the bridge of Bonkers, with the brass repeating a simply melody and the electric guitar playing the exact same note repeatedly for about 32 beats, with the end of Under Over wherein the same melody is played about five times, but each time with subtly different instrumentation on various beats each time.

Down By Law - 500 Miles
I love ska/punk covers. Down By Law's cover of the hit by The Proclaimers is great, though perhaps they could've avoided adding the f-bomb.

Five Iron Frenzy - Giants
A Christian ska band which I didn't really like very much before, but am growing to like (natch, they broke up in 2003). Giants isn't really a ska tune, but perhaps more Broadway. I'm not sure where I stand regarding some of their pet issues, such as American Indians and Capitalism, but they're sincere, and it's worth checking out.

Gin Blossoms - Follow You Down, Hey Jealousy, Allison Road, Mrs. Rita
Perhaps the culmination of this list, as they're not only Country Rock, but also broke up before I got any of their albums. Their lead songwriter also committed suicide, which doesn't help, either. They've just got a great jangly sound which I'm really coming to like. Try listening to Follow You Down and Hey Jealousy without being moved. Chorus to Follow You Down: "Anywhere you go, I'll follow you down. Any place but those I know by heart. I'll follow you down, but not that far."

Gravity Kills - Guilty
This was one of the first songs I remember really liking on the radio. It's kind of industrial rock, which is usually too Goth for me (though I do like Rob Zombie's Dragula), though this is a little brighter. I also like the name of the band. I seem to remember that they had another song which got a lot of airplay, but I can't find it on Napster. C'est la vie.

Green Day - Boulevard of Broken Dreams
You know, I find Green Day's politics reprehensible. However, they're really good at pop-punk. Their entire album Warning was fantastic, and American Idiot probably is pretty good too, except for all the Bush/conservative bashing. As much as I like some of their punkier songs like Basket Case, I think I prefer the slower ones such as this, which are pretty heartfelt and moving. Chorus: "My shadow's the only one that walks beside me, my shallow heart's the only thing that's beating. Sometimes I wish someone up there will find me, till then I walk alone."

Home Grown - Barbie Girl
Punk covers don't get any better than Home Grown's version of bubblegum euro-pop band Aqua's hit. It's also a fairly dirty song, if you listen closely. Come on Barbie, let's go party.

Jesus Christ Superstar - Heaven on Their Minds, Superstar, Simon Zealotes/Poor Jerusalem
Maybe I'm just perverse, but I think that the best songs from the musical are those sung by the disciples Judas and Simon Zealotes trying to get Christ to be a different kind of Messiah than He was (and is). Bridge from Heaven on Their Minds: "Nazareth, your famous son should have stayed a great unknown, tables, chairs, and oaken chests would have suited Jesus best, He'd have caused nobody harm, no one alarm."

Johnny Cash - Hurt
This cover of Nine Inch Nails' song from the American IV album may rank as number one cover of all time. See the video. Don't tell me you didn't tear up. I don't like much modern country, but I've always got room for Johnny Cash and Johnny Horton.

Kansas - Carry On Wayward Son
People either love or hate this song. Lead singer Kerry Livren's Christian-inspired lyrics are wonderful, and the guitar work is magnificent. 70's rock at its finest. Bridge: "Carry on, you will always remember. Carry on, nothing equals the splendor. Now your life's no longer empty, surely heaven waits for you."

Kanye West - Jesus Walks
This song has gotten a lot of press, both good and bad. West describes himself as a Catholic, but one not walking the way he should be, and this song reflects this. It's about how much our society needs Christ and how much we struggle, but has a lot of profanity and some explicit imagery. The rest of the album is the same way, alternating between spirituals and vicious mockery of the rap scene. Great line: "I'm just tryin' to say the way school needs teachers, the way Kathie Lee needed Regis, that's the way I need Jesus." Another great line: "I wanna talk to God, but I'm afraid 'cause we ain't spoke in so long."

Newsboys - Shine, Breakfast, Love Liberty Disco, Live in Stereo, Spirit Thing, Praises, Cornelius
I got a chance to see these guys in concert a few months ago, and they were fantastic. They're also the real deal as Christians. It's Australian Christian pop, but very clever. Whistling is also incorporated into several of the songs, which is awesome. Chorus from Spirit Thing: "It's just a spirit thing, it's just a holy nudge, it's like a circuit judge in the brain."

Nickelback - This is How You Remind Me
I was in a fast food restaurant a little while ago while this was playing, and on my way out I noticed that every single person inside was mouthing the lyrics along with the song. I also heard a worship band cover this one time at a service, and it worked very well. It's just a really catchy, almost Country Rock song. Chorus: "These five words in my head scream 'Are we having fun yet?'"

Nirvana - Smells Like Teen Spirit
This was the song which launched the modern Alternative Rock movement, starting with grunge. Singer Kurt Cobain famously committed suicide in the mid-90s, but drummer Dave Grohl went on to become the frontman for Foo Fighters and to assist on drums for Queens of the Stone Age. If you don't know this song, you don't know modern rock music. Chorus: "Here we are now, entertain us."

NOFX - Champs-Elysees
Just a sweet French-language tune by punkers NOFX. Basically, it's about a guy who walks along the Champs-Elysees enjoying life who meets a girl, goes to see a rock show with her, and falls in love with her.

Notorious B.I.G. - Mo Money Mo Problems
When I was in 9th grade, the gang war between Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls exploded, with both eventually being shot and killed. Mo Money Mo Problems was the tribute arranged by Puff Daddy and Mase for Biggie Smalls. Tupac Shakur went on to release multiple albums after his death. Puff Daddy went on to become P-Diddy, date and lose J-Lo, and steal songs, add a few elements, and sell them as his own. Mase went on to find Christ and is now back, cleaned up.

O.C. Supertones - We Shall Overcome, One Voice, Supertones Strike Back, Return of the Revolution
Like Five Iron Frenzy, one of the main Christian ska bands of the 1990s. Unlike FIF, I got to see them in concert and hopefully may get to see them on their farewell tour this year. Their albums Supertones Strike Back and Chase the Sun were their best, though portions of Loud and Clear and Revenge of the OC Supertones are also pretty good. Their live album is fantastic. Chorus from One Voice: "And can we sing with one voice, if we all love the same God, can we agree to disagree?"

Offspring - Hit That, Pretty Fly
With Green Day, probably one of the premier pop-punk bands still around. Often very pointed in their message, Hit That is about the troubles associated with the hook-up culture. Chorus from Hit That: "Everybody's getting with I say, consequences are a lot but hey that's the way it, that's the way it goes."

Sponge - Plowed, Wax Ecstatic
These guys broke up pretty much the day before I learned about them. Again, Country Rock. It turns out that all my friends grew to hate Wax Ecstatic, as it was played to death one summer while I was at camp and thus immune.

Weezer - Hash Pipe, Island in the Sun, Undone - The Sweater Song
Who doesn't like geek-surf-rock band Weezer? From slow builders like Undone to repetitive ditties such as Hash Pipe, they've just got a catchy and infectious sound. Chorus to Undone: "If you want to destroy my sweater, pull this thread as I walk away. Watch me unravel, I'll soon be naked. Lying on the floor, I've come undone."

Wisecracker - Porque Te Vas, Ya Paso, Ambition
This German ska band seems to have a penchant for singing in Spanish. Porque Te Vas is a cover of some Spanish pop-tart's song, while Ambition is all about the singer's lack thereof. Very catchy, though mostly unintelligible.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Spring Break

I just got back from my Spring Break mission trip which I led to Chester, PA. More to come.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Blast from the Past

This was so funny when I saw it over a year ago that I really fell out of my chair laughing. Check it out.

Working on Getting Myself in Increasingly Hot Water

I have a theory. Originally, pastors (priests, ministers, whatever you choose to call them) wanted those in their care to evangelize, pray often, read Scripture regularly, serve others, and go to a church meeting place to worship God and fellowship with other believers. However, some people weren't willing to do all of these things, and in some cases may have balked at all or nearly all of them. So, in desperation, over time, pastors took the "lowest common denominator" approach and simply stressed, possibly along the lines of "if you won't do ______, at least do _____," the simplest thing. The simplest thing was going to church, because you didn't really have to participate if you didn't want to, and a lot of the time it was fun anyway (and besides, there were often young, attractive members of the opposite sex there anyway). Eventually, the Christian culture came to think that all that was really required of Christians was going to a meeting place to worship, perhaps with some mild prayer and a little giving to the collection plate. And that's where we are now. The problem is that when we do that, we aren't growing. And as any study of biology knows, if something's not growing, then it's dying (or is dead, or was never alive in the first place). That's why Western Christianity is in such a sorry state, and why we're not respected by those who don't believe. Why do you think?

While We're Talking About Possible Heresies...

While talking about Eternal Security, I started thinking about the concept of Purgatory, as it would seem especially necessary if we can sin to no end so long as we've accepted Christ and still go to Heaven. Try this: don't think of it as an eon of burnination called Purgatory. What if we called it "Final Sanctification" and allowed that it could be instantaneous, painless, and not occur in a specific place? How would that work. After all, few if any of us are completely sanctified by the time we die. However, we can't be allowed into Heaven until our sinful nature has been removed. Therefore, there must be something between physical death for believers and admission into Heaven. Of course, one could also argue that Purgatory is just the outermost portion of Heaven, not truly in God's holy presence, and thus not subject to the prohibition of sinfulness. It may well be. The point is, some sort of purging/purification must take place after death.

Thinking about areas that aren't earth, Heaven, or Hell also got me thinking about Sheol. Traditionally, this is where the Jews believed that those who were faithful to God (and trusted in the coming of the redeeming Messiah) went after they physically died, as Heaven was closed off to mankind until after Christ's Atonement. They weren't yet fit for heaven, having not yet been Redeemed, but certainly didn't belong in Hell. So, the Bible says that they slept in Sheol, which means "the grave" in Hebrew. This may also be the same as the Roman Catholic idea of Limbo, but I don't know. In any case, when God the Father showed Moses and Elijah to Jesus, Peter, John, and James, where did they come from? They could not have come from Heaven, and certainly not Hell. When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, where was Lazarus for those four days? To believe he was in Heaven brings up the image of an angel tapping him on the shoulder and saying "I've got some really bad news, man." And in the parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man (which is probably about a different Lazarus), the rich man goes to Hell but Lazarus goes to "the bosom of Abraham." If this meant "into the presence of God," why not say so? Instead, it implies that Lazarus was wherever Abraham was. And, when God says that He IS the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, it means that they're still alive. They're obviously physically dead, but God is speaking of the spirit, as when Christians are declared the children of Abraham. On the cross, Christ told the Good Thief (traditionally known as Dismas) that he would be with Him in Heaven that very day. Christ died before Dismas, thus opening up Heaven and releasing those in Sheol. The logical consequence of this is that people can no longer be raised from the dead, as they would either go to Hell or to Heaven (through Purgatory), and would not be simply waiting in Sheol. Now, it could also be argued that, similar to Purgatory, Sheol is simply part of earth, and I wouldn't object to this, though I don't know that it's correct.

I don't know how sure I am of these two doctrines. On the Fran Sciacca-meter, I'd be willing to take a few punches for these two doctrines. I wouldn't really be willing to get seriously beaten up for them or die for them, at least not yet. And, these two seem to me to be more a matter of how things work, rather than essential or very important to the Gospel. Still, they seem to make sense to me at present. If you can find a flaw, let me know, and I'll be glad to either address it or recant. I simply want to teach what's true, whether it reflects well on me or not.

I Have An Audience?

Well, regarding the situation I mentioned before, it's been semi-resolved. The issue was over whether or not a believing Christian could lose his or her Salvation. Those directly above me in a certain organization (I won't name it, or whether it's at Tech, home, online, or wherever) believe in Eternal Security (aka "Once Saved, Always Saved"), while I believe a Christian can still turn away from God and lose their Salvation. I've got an official position in the group, and was asked not to teach that doctrine. I wasn't happy about this at all, but I submitted to authority. However, when the issue actually came up while some of us were meeting, and I was conscience-bound to keep quiet, that bugged me. I figured I had three options. The first was to defy my bosses and teach it anyway. This wouldn't have been right, and in any case my co-leader knew I wasn't supposed to teach the subject (because I told him of my being prohibited when it happened). The second option was to keep the status quo, which was also unacceptable, as I believe this doctrine to be extremely important to the message of the Gospel. The third option, which I took, was to step down from a leadership role, thus removing my leaders' authority over my teaching without defying them. I believe it was the only honorable solution. In terms of organization, nothing has truly changed, as I still go to meetings and help my co-leader prepare. The only real change is that he now initiates topics, while I unofficially try to help him steer things and explain them.

I've been meeting with some people who don't agree with me, discussing the subject. If I'm mistaken, I'll joyfully recant and repent in (metaphorical) sackcloth and ashes. I've also been reading Eternal Security by a former president of the Southern Baptist Convention. I'm in about chapter seven of twenty-three right now, and I'm a little frustrated. The author has a very clear writing style, and does an excellent job of describing many aspects of Salvation. In many cases, I'd happily quote his explanations for things, like why it was necessary for the Son of God to become a man and die for our sins. He also does a pretty good job of diagnosing the main objections to Eternal Security, which are basically:
1. If we have free will after being Justified, why can't we choose not to be with God, by leaving him out of our lives completely?
2. Some sins are too bad to be forgiven by God.
3. We're constantly flickering between having and losing salvation, and so doing too much bad stuff will separate you from God.
The author does a very good job of demolishing the second two arguments. Unfortunately, the first argument is the one I use, and while he constantly touches on it, he never stays with it long enough to offer much of a criticism. To my eyes, much of the book is simply setting up and knocking down strawman arguments and asserting things ipse dixit. Too often, there are statements along the lines of "Those arguing against Eternal Security for this reason are clearly wrong, as we all know that such and such happens." However, he doesn't bother to prove that "such and such" actually happens, but seems to simply assume it. I want the proof. I've been taking notes in the margins, and much of the book is simply filled with short things such as "prove this," "the analogy doesn't work," or "assumption."

The doctrine of Eternal Security has not been recorded as being put forth by anyone before the 1500s, by John Calvin. Fifteen hundred years seems like a pretty long time for an essential doctrine to be put forth (and, of course, any arguments such as "Christ/Paul/the Bible says it" are to be disregarded as cheap, as we're arguing precisely over what Christ/Paul/the Bible" says). Did any other important doctrines take so long to develop? It also seems odd to me that other than those from the Baptist, Presbyterian, and Anabaptist traditions (which includes the "non-denominational" Christians who are theologically indistinct from the preceding), no other denominations subscribe to it. The Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Anglicans, Lutherans, Methodists, Pentecostals, and pretty much any other denomination you care to name disagree with "Once Saved, Always Saved." For that matter, many Baptists also dissent. Augustine, Aquinas, More, Wesley, Chesterton, and Lewis disagreed with it. These things don't themselves prove my position correct, but at the very least, they are worth considering as circumstantial evidence.

I've also been indebted to two websites in particular for resources, those being Once Saved, Always Saved is Wrong and The Nazareth Resource Library. I've got at least thirty-five verses/passages from the New Testament alone which clearly argue against Eternal Security. The majority of Christians do not subscribe to it. The majority of Protestants don't even believe it. For over fifteen centuries, the doctrine was unknown. The Church Fathers and some of the greatest theologians in history don't agree with it. I encourage you to look into it as well, and see what you think.

Thursday, March 03, 2005


If you like short, powerful videos, check out Hurt by Johnny Cash. Simple but powerful.

I Want More

And so do you. I remember finding this short film several years ago and finding it very moving and memoraable. It's only six minutes, but check it out.

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