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I'm Back - and some questions for Fundamentalists

Friday, December 28, 2007

I know things have been a little quiet here. I am looking forward to the new year.

I had a great Christmas with my in-laws in Ohio, but I found their internet service to be somewhere between unreliable and nonexistant.

We did get a good chance to visit with some relatives and it was nice to see Mom Mom, Grandpa, and Great-Grandma, as well as Missy's Aunt Bev and Uncle Bob and Aunt Rosella and to see Mark and Keith and their families.

Josiah and I took advantage of the trip to Ohio to take a day and visit the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. It was a good trip and some good father-son time as we drove the 2 1/2 hours from the in-laws and visited the Hall of Fame. I had visited it once before, but my previous visit was with a non-football fan, so it was nice to be able to visit with my son. I will probably post a little more about that visit a little bit later.

I discovered that Fundamentalist uber-blogger Don Johnson has moved migrated over to his own domain (his new blog is called, An Oxgoad, eh? and has made an interesting post in which he asks some questions of Fundamentalists (based on some questions asked of some leaders in Evangelicalism by Touchstone magazine).

I will probably not have time to answer the questions until after the New Year, but I wanted to put these out here for others to think on as well - as Pastor Johnson has done.

How do you define “Fundamentalist” in a way that distinguishes Fundamentalists from other believing Christians? And has this definition changed over the last several years?
Has Fundamentalism matured since the 1950s, and if so in what ways?
Has Fundamentalism lost anything in the process of maturing (if it did)?
Are there any fundamental differences within the Fundamentalist movement today, and do you think they will deepen into permanent divisions, or even have already? How might they be healed?
What does your movement, speaking generally, fail to see that it ought to see?
What would you say to a Fundamentalist tempted to become Catholic or Orthodox?
What has Fundamentalist to offer the wider world that it will find nowhere else?
What else would you like to say?


Take some time and think about how you might answer these questions and then post about it (if you have a blog) and let me know about your post.

Don has already made a post in which he answers the questions - On the State of Fundamentalism .

Super Deacon and occassional blogger Andy Efting over at Unsearchable Riches has also posted his response, entitled, A Fundamentalist Answer the Touchstone Questions

Blogging Comments

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Within the last couple of weeks, I read on someone else's blog regarding an adjustment on their policy regarding comments. (I am sorry I don't remember whose blog at this moment.)

I though the comments that were made made some sense, but I did not adjust my policy at that time for a couple of reasons - 1. I realized I no longer had a policy posted (I am pretty sure I had made a policy and posted it on an earlier template, but apparently I never transferred that policy over onto this template) and 2. I have not really had much reason to be that concerned with comments on the blog. I think I have deleted less than five comments in the entire time I have had this blog (thankfully Blogger does a pretty good job of catching most "spam" comments).

However, some recent comments on this blog and some comments on another blog that I administer have led me to re-think some things regarding comments, although this will not be a problem for most comments and commenters.

In the past, I have kind of viewed this space as an open forum and generally let anything stand unless it was extreme. The blogger I mentioned earlier who got me thinking about this, made an analogy that I kind of think fits. Rather than the blog and comments being an "open forum", it is more like this is my house - or at least a gathering that I am hosting.

As such, a couple of clarifications are made:

I have no problem with disagreement with me or others, as long as it is handled in a civil manner. I appreciate the interraction with those who disagree with my positions on things and believe this can be profitable.

I do have a problem with unacceptable speech - vulgarity, slander, crude, etc.

I do have a problem with running down those I love and refering to them with derisive names - and that includes my God.

I do have a problem with those whose agenda seems to be only to argue without a willingness to listen and interract with those who differ.

I am sure there are more things that will come up, but I recenly had the first three things violated both here and at another blog and thought I would think through this and post it.

Also, please do not assume that any comment that is left to stand has automatically passed through these qualifications. It may be that I have missed it (which is entirely likely - especially when it is comment added after a post has died down) or may be that for some other reason I have let it stand (perhaps as a testimony of its own stupidity in some cases).

Just my thoughts,

Frank

A Question for those who record their sermons

Monday, December 10, 2007

I am not having much success getting responses when I ask for ideas from here, but I thought I would try it at least one more time.

This question is regarding the recording of sermons (or other things that you may record).

1. Do you record both a cassette master and a digital master (CD, Mp3, etc.) or do you just make one master?

2. If you only record one master - which type is it?

3. If you record only a digital master - do you (can you) make a cassette copy off of that digital master or are cassettes essentially obsolete?

3b. If you copy from a digital master to a cassette, how do you do that? Is the process complicated?

Thanks in advance for your help.

Just asking for your thoughts,

Frank

Article about Blogging and some Blogging questions

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Tim Challies has listed some good suggestions about blogging over at challies.com in an article entitled, "Feedback Files: All About Blogging"

Since Tim is one of the heavy hitters in the world of Christian blogging - I think he is billed as something to the effect of "The World's Foremost Christian Blogger", I thought some of my blogging friends may be interested in his insights - and while I am at it, I thought I would ask a couple of questions about some blogging related issues about which I have been wondering.

1. I have noticed that I often tend to get a little lengthy on my posts (sorry). Unlike Wordpress, Blogger does not have a built in "read more" feature that truncates longer posts. In searching for a way to remedy the problem, I noticed that some people really don't like the "read more" type of things on blogs (although it has never bothered me when I read other people's blogs). Do you have any opinions about this? Does a "read more" link usually result in you not bothering to "read more"?

(Part of the reason I would like to add this feature is so that when someone follows a tag - such as books - they can get a quicker overview of what is there without needing to scroll down through each long book review.)

Anyone care to comment on this feature? (Also, if you know a good and effective way to do this in blogger, I would not mind a link for that, as well.)

2. One of Tim's comments about blogging was regarding consistency? I asked him a version of this question, but I thought I would ask my actual reader(s) as well. If a particular time yielded extra posts, would it be better to post them at that time realizing that the pace is not going to last or would it be better to hold extra posts in que until things are busy and put them out during the weeks when I end up having little to no time to blog (so I don't have one week with 5 posts and then the next week with 1 post)?

3. I have been toying with a few ideas over the last year of trying to figure out a way for the computer to pay for itself. While I am not planning on advertising on A Thinking Man's Thoughts, I have worked on a few ideas of some type of blogs or information sites that I could try to direct some traffic towards and see if I could get any advertising revenue going on those sites. Is there anyone out there who reads my blog who has experience with Google adsense (or similar program) that has any comments about whether it is actually feasible to make this profitable? Not looking to get rich, but if I could write some things in an area that interested me and pay for my internet connection or something, it would be awesome. (One of the sites that I have been toying with would be a history blog with a daily Christian history feature that I am calling What Happened On This Date? - I did a couple of practice posts in May and they can be found at http://whathappenedonthisdate.blogspot.com. )

Anyway, I am just kind of winding down and thought I would throw these things out there.

Just my thoughts - asking for your thoughts,

Frank

Amazon Kindle - This is cool!

Saturday, December 08, 2007

I have recently been drooling over the concept of Amazon Kindle.

If you have not heard of or seen this device yet, you should at least stop over at Amazon and check it out.


Amazon describes some of its features as follows:

* Revolutionary electronic-paper display provides a sharp, high-resolution screen that looks and reads like real paper.
* Simple to use: no computer, no cables, no syncing.
* Wireless connectivity enables you to shop the Kindle Store directly from your Kindle—whether you’re in the back of a taxi, at the airport, or in bed.
* Buy a book and it is auto-delivered wirelessly in less than one minute.
* More than 90,000 books available, including more than 95 of 112 current New York Times® Best Sellers.
* Free book samples. Download and read first chapters for free before you decide to buy.
* Top U.S. newspapers including The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post; top magazines including TIME, Atlantic Monthly, and Forbes—all auto-delivered wirelessly.
* More than 250 top blogs from the worlds of business, technology, sports, entertainment, and politics, including BoingBoing, Slashdot, TechCrunch, ESPN's Bill Simmons, The Onion, Michelle Malkin, and The Huffington Post—all updated wirelessly throughout the day.
* Lighter and thinner than a typical paperback; weighs only 10.3 ounces.
* Holds over 200 titles.
* Long battery life. Leave wireless on and recharge approximately every other day. Turn wireless off and read for a week or more before recharging. Fully recharges in 2 hours.
* Unlike WiFi, Kindle utilizes the same high-speed data network (EVDO) as advanced cell phones—so you never have to locate a hotspot.
* No monthly wireless bills, service plans, or commitments—we take care of the wireless delivery so you can simply click, buy, and read.
* Includes free wireless access to the planet's most exhaustive and up-to-date encyclopedia—Wikipedia.org.
* Email your Word documents and pictures (.JPG, .GIF, .BMP, .PNG) to Kindle for easy on-the-go viewing.


They even have a video up on the site of how this works and it seems, well, cool.

I doubt I would get one right now, however, for a number of reasons.

1. Economical - well, I have a hard time justifying any book expenses right now (that is one reason why I write reviews for SI - they give me the book I am reviewing.)

2. I don't generally buy new technology until it has been out long enough to work out the bugs that invariably show up.

3. This seems geared presently to popular works, though as the product matures and finds a market, that will hopefully adjust.

4. While there are already over 90,000 Kindle titles, the titles I would be most interested in are still in short supply. (A search for the words "Bible Commentary" at the Kindle store only showed 127 entries and many of those were not actually Bible commentaries - and some that were I already own in the old fashioned "dead tree" format. Some of the few "commentaries" they actually did have at this point were F.F. Bruce on The Epistles of John and Thru the Bible by J. Vernon Magee and a number of MacArthur Bible Studies - not his commentaries.) By the way, if you like Mac a lot, they have around 20 of his books available for Kindle already.

In light of our current discussion on Fundamentalism and scholarship, I thought it was fitting that they actually had this title available for Kindle - apparently Marsden is as concerned about the charge that Evangelicals were anti-intellectual as I was about the same charge against Fundamentalism.



Anyway, I am not ready for one yet, but it definitely looks like a cool product and if you decide to get one - please use my link :) - $cha ching$. For any family or friends who may be reading this, this is not a Christmas request - wait until next year to see what kind of new titles become available :)

Just my thoughts,

Frank

Book Review of When You Pray by Philip Graham Ryken

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

In light of our current discussion that stems from someone else's book review, I remembered that I had never posted my book review of When You Pray over here on A Thinking Man's Thoughts. This version is substantially the same as the one that was published at SharperIron, but there are some things in here that did not make the cut due to space considerations over there.


When You Pray: Making the Lord's Prayer Your Own by Philip Graham Ryken - A Review by Pastor Frank Sansone

When Jesus' disciples recognized their need to pray, they asked Jesus Christ to teach them to pray. The answer that Jesus gave to their request is found for us in Matthew 6 - a prayer commonly called "The Lord's Prayer." In When You Pray: Making the Lord's Prayer Your Own, Dr. Philip Graham Ryken provides a helpful study of that prayer and encourages the reader to not view the Lord's Prayer as something merely to be recited, but something to actually learn from. As Dr. Ryken correctly points out early in the book, "Jesus' teaching about prayer begins with an urgent request: ‘Lord, teach us to pray' (Luke 11:1). Not ‘teach us how to pray,' notice, but ‘teach us to pray.'"(p. 13, emphasis n the original), and it is that desire to teach us to pray that seems to direct Dr. Ryken as he writes this book.

In the introductory chapters, When You Pray starts by discussing "How to Pray Like a Hypocrite" and "How to Pray Like an Orphan." In these chapters, When You Pray deals with verses in Matthew 6 that precede "The Lord's Prayer" and encourages the reader to pray in secret and to avoid the error of praying repetitiously. As Dr. Ryken points out "the prayer babbled more than any other is probably the Lord's Prayer. How ironic!" (P. 36).

After instructing us to avoid the hypocritical and repetitious prayer, chapter three encourages us in "How to Pray Like God's Own Dear Child" with an excellent chapter that deals with the familial aspects of the prayer - that this is a prayer to Our Father, suggesting not only a father- child relationship, but also a reminder that this is not just for us, but rather it is prayed in the plural with our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Following the three chapters of introduction, Dr. Ryken then proceeds to spend the rest of the book breaking down the prayer into ten phrases and discussing each of those phrases in detail. Rather than just dealing with the academic details of these phrases, however, Dr. Ryken does a good job of filling the explanations with practical encouragements to not only understand what the passage is teaching, but to actually do what the passage is teaching.

As the subtitle of the book indicates, Dr. Ryken's goal is not merely to explain the passage, but rather to encourage the reader to "Make the Lord's Prayer Your Own". The writing style bears this out, as it is a very readable book. In fact, it comes across as though this material was originally preached and then edited into book form. The book is also filled with personal comments and pastoral insights rather than a mere third-person academic accounting of the Lord's Prayer. At one point, Dr. Ryken comments, "My goal as a minister is to keep the proclamation of God's Word and the prayers of God's people at the center of church life (see Acts 6:4). The great difficulty, however, is that this requires me to be a man of prayer as much as a preacher (p. 13)."

In addition to being a warm-hearted exposition of this passage, the book also manages to bring in a presentation of the Gospel in a number of places. At first, I thought this was odd, considering the fact that this is a book on prayer, but considering the interest in the Lord's Prayer even among those who do not attend Bible-preaching churches, I found this to be a wise thing.

The book is also set up in such a way as to make is useful as a book for a Home Bible Study or an Adult Sunday School class. It has discussion questions at the end of each chapter and is broken down into thirteen lessons (to fit in nicely with the typical thirteen week Sunday School quarter).

The strong dispensationalists needs to be aware that this book is clearly not written from a dispensational stand point. This does not negate the book's value, but it does effect some of the areas of interpretation that are presented in the book - particularly in Chapter 6, which covers the phrase "Your Kingdom Come."

The book also does something interesting in regards to the text of the prayer. Even though the chapter headings reflect a more modern translation, most of Dr. Ryken's exegesis and quotes actually come from the King James Version's rendering of this prayer - the one many have memorized. When it comes to the doxology, Dr. Ryken tries to walk a little bit of a tight-rope. He follows many modern textual critics in stating "on the basis of this somewhat contradictory evidence, it seems best to conclude that the traditional doxology possibly was not part of the original text of Matthew, but certainly was in use from the early days of the church (pp. 174-175)." However, he still provides some good material on the meaning of the doxology and comments that "it hardly seems right to consider the traditional ending of the Lord's Prayer a mere trifle or a matter of taste, for it is a highly appropriate way for the prayer to end (p. 175)."

I would also encourage the publisher to consider handling the notes in the book differently. The book employs the practice of adding end-notes rather than footnotes. I am the kind of reader who likes to see what the author is going to say when he makes a note. Going to the end of the book to find out is annoying. Since almost all of the end-notes in this book were of the merely bibliographic variety, this merely added to the frustration as you get back to the note and find out that you did not need to look up the note after all. It would seem better to provide in-text citations for those notes that were simply bibliographic in nature and then footnotes for the few notes that actually added information.

Despite the formatting issue (which seems to be becoming an industry-wide problem) and the other issues, this book is definitely a book worth adding to your library. For the serious layman, this book provides a lot of good material to help you not only to better understand this important passage of Scripture, but also to help you if you want to know how to pray better. For the Pastor, this book provides some sound exegesis and is packed with enough pastoral insights to make this a very helpful book for the Pastor who is preparing to preach on the Lord's Prayer.

Just my thougths,

Frank

Some thoughts on scholarship and presenting of arguments

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

I recently read a review written by a Dr. Paul Henebury of Dr. Rolland McCune's book Promised Unfufilled: The Failed Strategy of Modern Evangelicalism. I have not finished reading the book (I admit to my shame), so my comments here are not intended to be a defense of the book, but rather some thoughts about a couple of comments found in the review that I found to be interesting. (Dr. Henebury's review can be found here. For a more detailed review and a response from Dr. McCune, check out the review by Andy Neselli.)

Anyway, my comments are not really about the book, per se, but about something I read in the review.

In the fifth paragraph, Dr. Henebury comments,

"...the most glaring fact about this chapter is McCune’s reliance upon the very people whom he criticizes in his book! The names of Nash, Marsden, Brown, McGrath, Demarest, Davis, and Schaeffer (who is identified as neo-evangelical later on) are appealed to for the substantiation of the writer’s data and critique. And while a writer may legitimately quote an author with which he disagrees, it should be recognized that no fundamentalist is called upon in this chapter - an indication at least that the charge of anti-intellectualism against American fundamentalism does contain enough adhesive power to call any critic of neo-evangelicalism to a little self-examination once in a while."


Now, as far as I know, I have not met or interracted with Dr. Henebury before, so I hope that those reading this do not view this as an attack on him, instead I am using this statement as simply a representation of many similar statements I have heard and read over the years.

When I read a statement like this, two particular questions come to my mind:

1. What is so glaring about quoting from people within a movement to help make a case against the movement?

It seems to me that this is actually a good strategy, rather than a glaring weakness. Calling a proponent of an idea or position or institution as a testimony against that very same idea or position or institution seems even more condemning that merely quoting from opponents or stating your own case. A proponent who admits to a particular problem or error seems to add some credibility to the idea that this is not just an outside observer who recognizes this, but that even some on the side being criticized even recognize this. It is also harder for other proponents of that same issues or institution to argue against or to just dismiss, whereas if the same thing were said by someone who was from the outside or viewed as an opponent, it could more easily viewed as something from someone who just has an "axe to grind" or "has it out for" the particular idea or institution.

Is this not part of what Paul is doing in Titus 1:12?
One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, The Cretians are alway liars, evil beasts, slow bellies. (Titus 1:12)



2. Why does a lack of writing or a lack of being published equal "anti-intellectualism"?

The charge of anti-intellectualism - or at least of a lack of scholarship - has been leveled against Fundamentalism from many sources. It has gotten so much press, that it has become a "self-evident truth" that does not even seem to need support by the one making the claim - after all, everybody knows that Fundamentalism is anti-intellectual.

One of the "proofs" often thrown up regarding this is the lack of writing by Fundamentalist. In fact, it was a discussion on this topic a couple of years ago that led to my original "The Best and the Brightest" post.

Here's part of the problem with that thinking.

* It assumes that the end of scholarship is the production of a book.

While I think it is great to produce a valuable book on an important topic, the assumption that "published" equals scholarly and that "non-published" equals "non-scholarly" is unsupportable. Many pastors and professors have made the conscious choice that the focus of their lives and ministry - and study - is to be the maturing of saints for the work of the ministry. They do not denigrate the value of books - yea, the ones I know love books, but they do make a deliberate choice to directly pour their lives into people, not pages.


* It fails to recognize the reality of unpublished scholarship.

Every published scholar was, at one point, an unpublished scholar. While it is certainly true that the act of refining material to produce a book may enhance a person's understanding and expertise in a subject, the usual reality is that a person who knows his stuff is a "scholar" even if he has not yet - or ever is - a scholar. Dr. Barrett did not suddenly become a "scholar" by the publishing of his first work - the publishing of the first work merely confirmed to a wider audience the nature of Dr. Barrett's scholarship.

Not only do men not become a "scholar" by publishing, some of the wisest and most scholarly men were unpublished.

The obvious example of this, of course, is Jesus Christ. In speaking regarding the judgment due to those of His generation that rejected Him, he commented that, while the queen of Sheba had come "from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon," that He Himself was "greater than Solomon." (see Matthew 12 and Luke 11).

In the secular realm, most people consider Socrates one of the world's greatest philosophers, yet we have nothing written from Socrates.

In more recent days, it was said of Dr. Charles Brokenshire (a former professor at Bob Jones College before it became Bob Jones University) that "on his faculty record (dated 1930), one finds an impressive list of the languages of which he had mastered a reading knowledge or better: French, German, Dutch, Spanish, Italian, Swedish, Norse, Latin, Greek (classical and koine), Hebrew, “Chaldee” (Biblical Aramaic), modern Greek, Yiddish, Arabic, Syriac, Samaritan, Ethiopic, Babylonian, Coptic, Egyptian Hieroglyph, and Esperanto (an artificial “universal language”). By the end of his career he had added Chinese, Japanese, and Russian to this list." Does Dr. Brokenshire's lack of publishing make him less of a scholar?


* It fails to recognize the reality of publishing

While this is beginning to change due to the decreasing cost of some publishing forms, the publishing of a book requires more than just the producing of quality materials. Book publishers are wanting materials that will sell. A scholarly work on "A Study of Greece in the Fourth Century B.C., from the Peloponnesian War to the Reign of Alexander—404 B.C. to 336 B.C" (Brokenshire's Master's Thesis) is not as likely to be put into print as "Five Ways to Grow Your Church" by Mega-church Pastor. The Mega-Church Pastor already has a larger potential audience and is writing on a subject more likely to produce revenue.

* It fails to understand the financial and workload issues at play.

When someone like John MacArthur writes a book, a lot of the work is done by his editor, Phil Johnson (of Pyromaniacs fame). Someone takes what MacArthur has preached and does some of the necessary research leg-work and then they go over the final product and re-write sections, etc. with the main author. Others take writing sabbaticals. That is great, if you have the funds available from your church or institution to hire a guy like Phil Johnson to help with the writing/editing of your material or to pay the Pastor or professor while he is on sabbatical. Most Fundamentalist churches and schools do not have that kind of finances. Not only do they not have the finances to hire someone like Phil Johnson to do a lot of the leg-work, the churches are not generally large enough to have enough Pastors on staff to cover for a Pastor on extended sabbatical. In addition to this, many of the professors at the Fundamentalist schools are teaching a full-load and don't have the kind of extra time needed in order to write a book.


I would love to eventually get to the point where I can actually write a book that others would want to read and I rejoice that we are starting to see more and more books become available that are written by Fundamentalists. I just think that we need to re-think this idea that "scholarship" = "published" and its reciprocal, "unpublished" = "anti-intellectual" (or at least, "unscholarly").

Just my thoughts,

Frank