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“Winning isn’t everything.” Whatever happened to this slice of wisdom? In Columbus, Ohio, a team of baseball players has been ejected from their league for being “too good”! (Read the story here). The parents of the teams being slaughtered by the better team complained that losing was seriously detrimental to their kids’ self-esteem. Therefore, the league decided to reward the hard work of the winning team with expulsion. Winning isn’t everything, but apparently, losing is.

What this league and the supporting parents are in fact saying into their children is this: “If someone is better than you, they don’t have a right to be around.” Apparently, competition is only a good thing as long as it doesn’t lead to winners and losers. Perhaps the league ought to enact a ‘run subsidy’ program. Everytime the better team scores ten runs, the losing team is spotted ten runs; you know, to stay competitive.

The parents and the league here are undercutting one of the prime values in sports: the experience of humility. Sure, “having fun is what’s important,” but fun is not the only important thing. What about craft, dedication, work ethic, perseverance? But by eliminating the better team from the league, the league has said to all the children involved that the only thing that matters is winning; Instead of kicking out the kids who have worked hard, why doesn’t the league remind everyone that there is more to their league than who wins and who loses? By cultivating a ‘competition-free’ culture, this league has undermined the very lessons sports exists to teach. What happens when this culture works its way into the market? (For a more general discussion of how competition is discouraged in education, see "The Competitive Edge" by Joseph Klesney.)

Courtesy the Evangelical Ecologist, “A group called ‘Operation Noah’ has re-written parts of Scripture to fit their climate change message,” and goes on to compare two “versions” of Psalm 24.

I suppose this is just the next logical progression; if Scripture can’t be twisted by some perverse hermeneutic to fit your agenda, just change the text!

Author Ruth Jarman writes, “I hope it doesn’t look sacrilegious to re-write the word of God according to Ruth.” No matter if it actually is sacrilegious…just so it doesn’t look like it.

Otherwise, how would this bit of (unaltered) Scripture apply?

Having been tagged by Kathryn at Suitable for Mixed Company, I duly submit my list within the guidelines of the following (and pledge not to repeat any placed on my initial list):

Imagine that a local philanthropist is hosting an event for local high school students and has asked you to pick out five to ten books to hand out as door prizes. At least one book should be funny and at least one book should provide some history of Western Civilization and at least one book should have some regional connection. The philanthropist doesn’t like foul language (but will allow some four-letter words in context, such as expressed during battle by soldiers). Otherwise things are pretty wide open. What do you pick?

  1. The Abolition of Man, C.S. Lewis – A must read for anyone currently involved in education, has ever been educated, or has ever thought anything about education.
  2. The Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison – The most formative book of my high school years, I will try to sneak this one past the censors (I can’t recall if the profanity, if there is any, meets the requirement of appropriate “context”).

  3. Sand County Almanac, Aldo Leopold – “A classic of nature writing,” I’ll submit this as one with some regional connection (Wisconsin).
  4. Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger, Twentieth Anniversary Edition, Ron Sider – This applies to the twentieth anniversary update only…a challenging, authentic, and worthy call to Christian living, with at least some economic sensitivity.
  5. A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations, Kate Turabian – A necessary resource for any student.
  6. Ecumenical Creeds and Reformed Confessions, CRC Publications – This one I submit as providing background primary texts for the formation of Western civilization.
  7. Clan of the Cave Bear, Jean Auel – The first in Auel’s fiction series, Earth’s Children.
  8. The Art of Rhetoric, Aristotle – An oft-overlooked classic text.
  9. The Boy Who Looked Like Shirley Temple, Bill Mahan – Read this as a youth, and it stands out as one of the funniest books I’ve ever read (this one too might have trouble making it past the censors, however. I recall the boy having a foul mouth).
  10. A Wrinkle in Time, Madeleine L’Engle – Although a children’s book, worth reading at any and all ages.

I tag Bunnie Diehl, Stacy Harp, and Josh.

As noted in an earlier post, this week is marks the 790th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta. Five years ago, Religion & Liberty published a series of essays on foundational documents in the history of Western civilization, or, as Edmund Burke called it, "this fierce spirit of liberty." The first of these essays was on the Magna Carta, "In the Meadow That Is Called Runnymede." Here are the others:

A quote from a speaker at the CRC’s Synod 2005, endorsing the Micah Challenge and the ONE Campaign.

He also intimated that churches could never hope to match the $40 billion pledged recently to cut aid debt for African nations.

Tell that to all the people and companies that gave a record $249 billion to charity in 2004. Religious organizations got the biggest portion of that number $88 billion.

Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t think he’s giving the Church enough credit. Why beg for scraps at the government’s table when you could build your own?

In case Clark Pinnock refuses to take theology lessons from Loretta Lynn, perhaps he might deign to do so from Luther. Here he is on Genesis 6:

But here another question is raised. Moses says: “God saw that all the thoughts of man were evil.” Likewise: “and He was sorry that He had made man.” Now if God foresees everything, why does Moses say that God saw only now? If God is wise, how can it happen that He repents of something He did? Why did He not see this sin or this corrupt nature of man from the beginning of the world? Why does Scripture attribute to God a temporal will, vision, and counsel in this manner? Are not God’s counsels eternal and ἀμετανόητα (Rom. 2:5), so that He cannot repent of them? Similar statements occur in the prophets, where God threatens punishments, as in the case of the Ninevites. Nevertheless, He pardons those who repent.

To this question the scholastics have nothing else to reply than that Scripture is speaking in human fashion, and therefore such actions are attributed to God by some figure of speech. They carry on discussions about a twofold will of God: “the will of His sign” and “the will of His good pleasure.” They maintain that “the will of His good pleasure” is uniform and unchangeable, but that “the will of His sign” is changeable; for He changes the signs when He wishes. Thus He did away with circumcision, instituted Baptism, etc., although the same “will of good pleasure,” which had been predetermined from eternity, continued in force.

I do not condemn this opinion; but it seems to me that there is a less complicated explanation, namely, that Holy Scripture is describing the thinking of those men who are in the ministry. When Moses says that God sees and repents, these actions really occur in the hearts of the men who carry on the ministry of the Word. Similarly, when he said above: “My Spirit will not judge among men,” he is not speaking directly of the Holy Spirit as He is in His own essential nature or of the Divine Majesty but of the Holy Spirit in the heart of Noah, Methuselah, and Lamech, that is, of the Spirit of God as He is carrying on His office and administering the Word through His saints.

It is in this manner that God saw human wickedness and repented. That is, Noah, who had the Holy Spirit and was a minister of the Word, saw the wickedness of men and through the Holy Spirit was moved to grief when he observed this situation. Paul also similarly declares (Eph. 4:30) that the Holy Spirit is grieved in the godly by the ungodliness and wickedness of the ungodly. Because Noah is a faithful minister of the Word and the mouthpiece of the Holy Spirit, Moses correctly states that the Holy Spirit is grieving when Noah grieves and wishes that man would rather not be in existence than be so evil.

Therefore the meaning is not that God from eternity had not seen these conditions; He sees everything from eternity. But since this wickedness of man now manifests itself with the utmost violence, God now discloses this wickedness in the hearts of His ministers and prophets.

Thus God is immutable and unchanging in His counsel from eternity. He sees and knows all things; but He does not reveal them to the godly except at His own fixed time, so that they themselves may see them too. This seems to me to be the simplest meaning of this passage, and Augustine’s interpretation differs little from it.

Martin Luther, Lectures on Genesis: Chapters 6-14, vol. 2, Luther’s Works, ed. J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999, c1960), Genesis 6:5-6, p. 43-44.

Max Blumenthal has responded to an earlier post of mine, which criticized him for a misunderstanding of the nature of freedom.

He states that my response “basically proves” his point re: clerical authoritarianism. He then goes on to ask what I mean by “theological relatives.”

First I must apologize for using such an opaque phrase. Perhaps I could have said it better by stating that if Blumenthal’s idea of freedom were translated into theological terms, it would be a sort of antinomianism, a heresy with a long historical heritage.

I suppose we must agree to disagree. Blumenthal finds that any sort of external moral check on individual autonomy amounts to “clerical authoritarianism.” And I’ll repeat my previously stated position on the matter: Freedom and morality are not contradictory, as Blumenthal assumes, but rather complementary. And that, contrary to Blumenthal, any explicit attempt to bring “God,” “religion,” or “morality,” explicitly into political discourse is not co-identical with “clerical authoritarianism” or “theocratizing.”

Blumenthal’s juxtaposition of the two ideas amounts to a false dilemma. He sets this logical fallacy up by inflating the the idea of “clerical authoritarianism” to refer not only to political power wielded by the institutional church but also to moral reflection by Christian leaders or laypersons. Perhaps he should have said “biblical authoritarianism” instead.

This post at Davids Medienkritik, “Die Sueddeutsche Zeitung: One-Sided Attack Journalism as News,” gives us a perfect example of what can happen when the media becomes unmoored. And I’ll take it as a piece of concrete evidence supporting the conclusions of my earlier post today.

The article I referenced a couple weeks ago about the trends in conservative think tanks and philanthropy noted that the first phase was ushered in by F. A. Hayek. In some ways, the arc that Piereson sketches follows a change in the relationship that Hayek observed between what he termed “academics” and “intellectuals.”

In his 1949 essay, “The Intellectuals and Socialism,” (PDF) Hayek defines an intellectual in this way:

The term intellectuals, however, does not at once convey a true picture of the large class to which we refer and the fact that we have no better name by which to describe what we have called the secondhand dealers in ideas is not the least of reasons why their power is not better understood. Even persons who use the word “intellectual” mainly as a term of abuse are still inclined to withhold it from many who undoubtedly perform that characteristic function. This is neither that of the original thinker nor that of the scholar or expert in a particular field of thought. The typical intellectual need be neither: he need not possess special knowledge of anything in particular, nor need he even be particularly intelligent, to perform his role as intermediary in the spreading of ideas. What qualifies him for his job is the wide range of subjects on which he can readily talk and write, and a position or habits through which he becomes acquainted with new ideas sooner than those whom he addresses himself.

As you can see, Hayek does not mean the term to be especially praiseworthy. He rather views the intellectual as a sort of gatekeeper (in his words an “intermediary”) between those who have expert knowledge (academics/scholars) and the public. This particular article by Hayek argues that the role and importance of intellectuals in the formation of public opinion is generally overlooked, and that their function needs to be better understood in order to better disseminate conservative ideas.

None of this, however, takes away from the importance of having and producing the ideas to disseminate in the first place. Piereson’s piece paints a picture of conservative philanthropy having gradually moved away from an emphasis primarily on ideas and secondarily on method of dissemination (enter the intellecual). The reverse has rather become true: the talking heads and intelligentsia have become the primary focal point.
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Making poverty history?

Much has been written in recent weeks about Live 8, a series of concerts that will take place on July 6 in London, Paris, Berlin, Rome and Philadelphia. The name refers not only to the original Live Aid concerts that took place in 1985, but is also a reference to the G8 meetings that will be taking place in Edinburgh, Scotland at the same time as the concerts. G8 organizers are planning for massive protests which have been urged on by concert organizer Sir Bob Geldof, who has called for one million people to show up in Edinburgh to call for increases in aid and trade reform for Africa.

Geldof’s goals are threefold: “By doubling aid, fully cancelling debt, and delivering trade justice for Africa, the G8 could change the future for millions of men, women and children.”

Yesterday, Geldof participated in a conference call with a number of bloggers spanning the political spectrum, all of whom came away impressed with his knowledge of and passion for the issue of African poverty. Most interesting to those of us concerned with free markets is the fact that Geldof is placing a heavy emphasis on trade as a potential solution to Africa’s problems.

As I noted in an earlier post, there is good reason to be skeptical of claims that increased government-to-government aid is the cure for what ails Africa, and Live 8, like many other well-intentioned efforts, suffers from too much emphasis on that same old "solution" that hasn’t worked in the past. But in the sense that Live 8 introduces a free-trade element into an advocacy mix that has, in the past, been totally leftist in outlook, it may be an event worth monitoring.

More blog reaction at Captain’s Quarters and The Indepundit.
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