January 20, 2021

Saturday Ramblings 6.1.13

RamblerThis is the storm shelter version of Saturday Ramblings. As I write, massive storms are moving across Oklahoma City, 100 miles to my west. I have been watching live shots from an OKC TV station with my heart down around my shoelaces. We have storms heading into Tulsa, and they are making a lot of noise, but nothing like what is happening in our capital city. Tornadoes are also reported in St. Louis at this time. When you are reading this Saturday morning, news reports will tell us of fatalities and damage from this line of storms. Pray for those whose lives have been torn asunder by the power of nature. Now, with heads bowed, shall we ramble?

Let’s start off with a history lesson from Ken Ham, shall we? Question one: True or False—The earth is billions of years old. Question two: True or False—Dinosaurs lived millions of years ago. I hope you answered False to both questions if you want to be able to pass the pop quiz given to fourth graders at Blue Ridge Christian Academy in South Carolina. The text followed a DVD from Ham’s Answers in Genesis. Glad these little scholars are getting off on the right foot.

Meet the new Baptist boss. Same as the old Baptist boss? Russell Moore is a bit more up-to-date than his predecessor as head of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. For instance, Moore tweets. I guess to some, that is important. Baptist pope Al Mohler approves of Moore and, apparently, tweeting.

Mohler has also identified the greatest crisis facing the evangelical church today. Wanna guess what it is? (If you miss this, I’m sending you for remedial studies at Blue Ridge Christian Academy …)

New York Times columnist T.M. Luhrman often offers a unique perspective of evangelicals. Here she explores the part belief plays in the life of faith. Some interesting ideas. Your thoughts?

N.T. Wright has a new book coming out that he didn’t write. He has never met his co-author, even though a blurb on the book touts, “Celebrated theologian N.T. Wright partners with Tim Suttle to discuss how Christ, as the fulfillment of God’s promise, has become the source by which we perform truth in the world.” As a matter of fact, Wright didn’t even know this book was being developed. Perhaps one day we’ll take a look behind the curtain of publishing and see how such a thing could come about. Not today, but someday.

Richmond (Virginia) Outreach Center will need a supply preacher for a little while. The megachurch had two of their leaders taken to government-sponsored housing this week for breaking the law. No word yet as to what evangelical leaders are rushing to support these two as they did with C.J. Mahaney.

The Catholic Church’s top exorcist claims to have sent 160,000 demons back to hell. But at 88 years old, he is asking for some help. He wants the pope (who may or may not have performed an exorcism recently himself) to allow all ordained priests to perform exorcisms. Why do we not hear of many exorcisms in Orthodox or Protestant churches? Any ideas?

Pope Francis didn’t exactly conduct an exorcism, but he did sternly rebuke the Mafia this week. Question for Martha: Is it better for a hit man to do his deed before or after attending mass?

Maybe the pope would be more open to La Cosa Nostra if they could help supply communion wine to churches in Venezuela. There appears to be a shortage.

And finally, you may have heard that Michele Bachmann is not going to run for re-election in Minnesota. It seems God told her she could make a lot more money as a lobbyist. Ok, ok, so The Onion is satire. Tell me that this couldn’t be true…

Hippy Happy Birthday was wished this last week to Hal David; Miles Davis; Sir Ian McKellen; Mike Myers; Peter Cushing; Brent Musberger; Levon Helm; Stevie Nicks; Hank Williams, Jr.; Sally Ride; Vincent Price; Bruce Cockburn; Peri Gilpin; Ian Fleming; John Fogerty; Bob Hope; Dolores Hope; Mel Blanc; Clint Eastwood; Joe Namath; John Bonham; and Peter Yarrow.

Yes, I know there will be those who want to hang me in effigy for not posting a video of Bruce Cockburn, and there are those who want to  hang me for real because I am not posting a song from Miles Davis. But Levon Helm—c’mon. Here he is from the best concert film of all time, The Last Waltz. Enjoy.

[yframe url=’http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RDnlU6rPfwY’]


  1. Marcus Johnson says

    So, according to Albert Mohler, the issue that defines our current culture crisis is homosexuality.

    And before that, it was abortion.

    And before that, it was rap music and MTV.

    And before that, it was the feminist movement.

    And before that…

    Wow, keeping up with the Joneses in this sham culture war is exhausting. It would be so much easier if we just got out of the game of trying to win the battles we were never meant to fight.

  2. That Other Jean says

    Uh, Jeff–you meant Peter Yarrow, of Peter, Paul, and Mary fame, right? Clearly, this was an excellent week for the birth of singers and actors. Any week that celebrates the birthdays of both Ian McKellen and Vincent Price has to be pretty freaking fantastic.

    And Ken Ham should be horsewhipped for destroying the science education of unfortunate children whose parents (and teachers?) know no better. “Christian Academies” should not be in the business of lying to students. How ill equipped will these kids be to deal with the real world if this is an example of their educational standards?

    • How equipped will these students be to deal with the real world? They aren’t equipped at all, they’ll freak out, do “bad” things, and some will leave religion of all kinds forever while many will come crawling back, filled with terror at all the terrible things in the world and become even more isolated and afraid. Their parents will praise God that He brought their errant child back and the kids will nod their heads that mom and dad were right all along. The world IS full of evil!

      Some Amish let their young go out, dress and act like the so-called English and experience the world. A great many of them come back to the Amish. Why? Because they embrace the beliefs? No, I suspect it’s because most of them have developed no skills for dealing with the real world, have no other support system besides their family and fellow Amish, and have to go back to their protected environment to survive. Many folks of all kinds of religion are doing the same thing to their children.

  3. Robert F says

    Regarding exorcisms: well, isn’t there a lot of exorcism going on in charismatic/pentecostal churches, on such a routine basis that people don’t even keep track of it? You post-evangelicals should know better than I do about this. As for mainline Protestant churches, the fact is that the vast majority of clergy and probably most lay people don’t believe in demons or evil spirits or that possession actually occurs, and consider the whole subject an embarrassment. Which is interesting, because a significant minority or perhaps the majority of the laity do seem to believe in ghosts. As for the Orthodox, I don’t have any idea how they view possession and exorcism; I would be surprised if they didn’t have a rite in place for exorcism, and if they didn’t use it.

    • Robert F says

      Come to think of it, exorcism is routine in many liturgical churches, which means some of the mainline churches, because exorcism is a part of the rite of baptism, so every baptized person in those churches has been exorcised at least once, though they may not realize it.

    • I suppose it probably depends on the particular church or denomination, but I would say that reputation is probably a bit overblown. As someone who grew up Pentecostal, I can only think of one or two times when I ever encountered things that were directly attributed to demon possession. I heard a lot of bravado about it from speakers at different events, but I didn’t see a lot of it actually happening. It seems to me that in the US, the height of trying to cast demons out of everyone and everything probably crested in the 70s and 80s. Though you did hear about some things happening at some of bigger Charismatic revivals every now and then in the 90s as well.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        As recently as three years ago, someone tried to convince me that a bout of depression was due to a DEMON entering my house inside a picture I’d bought at an SF convention’s art show a month or two before. (Source referred me to a “spiritual warfare expert” whose last claim to fame was a 2008 Special Revelation where God commented on Obama’s election with “Now My Judgment on this land begins.”)

        There are too many Spiritual Warriors out there who should have gotten turned on to Gary Gygax first. Then they could be mighty Paladins and Magic-Users and Clerics fighting Demons with pencil/paper/funny dice instead of LARPing with all the rest of us as NPCs.

        • Kerri in AK says


          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            And I can also tell you exactly how acquiring that picture threw me into a depression, no supernatural explanations necessary. Some of the circumstances around acquiring the picture parallelled those from my breakup with my only girlfriend some years before, triggering a flashback memory where I relived my breakup with Ann at full emotional intensity. No picture-piggybacking demons necessary.

  4. Cedric Klein says

    OK, you got Vincent Price & Peter Cushing, but how did you miss that Price shares his birthday with SIR CHRISTOPHER FRANK CARDINI LEE (aka Count Dracula, Scaramanga, Saruman, Count Dooku, & best of all, Lord Summerisle)?

  5. The glimpse into the N.T. Wright/Tim Suttle controversy is fascinating to me. It appears the fault is not with Suttle, but with the marketing of the publishing industry. Jeff, I would love a series of articles on this subject.

    I have seen it with non-Christian publishing also. Any bookstore’s financial section has scores of books with Warren Buffet’s name that he had nothing to do with.

    • Not to mention all the techno-thrillers churned out with “FAMOUS AUTHOR NAME” in large text across the top, and in the smallest possible writing the real author’s name on the bottom of the cover: “Latest bestseller from Saxon Manley!” really means “Latest bestseller written up from a shopping list found in the bottom of Saxton Manley’s wastepaper basket by a starving hack we paid peanuts”.

      • Richard Hershberger says

        The difference is that in those cases, FAMOUS AUTHOR (or his estate) is in on the scam, receiving a piece of the action. These books are invariably awful. Romantic notions and some notable exceptions notwithstanding, there usually is a good reason why starving artists are starving. So being once burned, any reader with any discrimination whatsoever learned to examine covers carefully.

    • I wonder if Wright entered into a multi-book deal and was unable to fulfill the contract himself, thus enters the ghost writer? That may be the real story here. Publishers want long-term agreements for multiple books for maximum sales. The author who was inspired to write and publish one special book is of no interest to publishers. I’ve heard stories of the record industry putting bands under similar multi-release deals, resulting in one really good initial release, followed by lousy, uninspired, low-quality rush-jobs to meet contract deadlines.

  6. “Question for Martha: Is it better for a hit man to do his deed before or after attending mass?”

    In the best Catholic manner, I answer that the question needs to be rephrased 🙂

    Should a hitman attend Mass? Well, if he’s a baptised Catholic and has not formally defected, he is obligated to attend Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation.

    It is also beneficial for him to attend, not just to fulfil the Sabbath observance, but to receive the graces necessary for his state of life – and if he’s murdering people for money, he is in bad need of grace. If he attends before performing a hit, he is not attending in the correct spirit but rather in a superstitious manner and it does him no good, so it would be better if he did not attend. Therefore if he intends to carry out the contract, it would be better if he attended afterwards in the hopes of repentance. Either way, he cannot present himself to receive Communion unless he is in the state of grace, and intending to commit or having just committed a murder means he is not in the state of grace, so he needs to make a valid and sincere sacramental confession – which will mean that in accordance with the necessity for ‘a firm purpose of amendment’, he has got to give up being a hitman or he can be refused absolution.

    On the other hand, there is always the possibility that even if our hitman still refuses to give up the job, does not go to confession, yet continues to attend Mass (even if it is in a sporadic and superstitious manner), the grace of God can and may break through the hardness of his heart and he will repent. So even imperfect attendance is better than none.

    I hope that serves as an answer 🙂

    Also, once again, the Pope did not carry out an exorcism, and Fr. Gabriele Amorth is not so great a credible witness. Whatever he may have done, in recent years he has something of a bee in his bonnet about exorcism and demons and the rest of it, which is one reason the Vatican is not relaxing the requirements for the training of exorcists. Of course, the papers love having a reliable source that they can get a sensational quote from, so they’re not going to be too rigid in checking out if what he says is so or not.

  7. Robert F says

    When Luhrman writes that if we just sidestep the question of belief, it can be seen that the evangelical view of the world is full of joy, it raises a few questions for me: Does not a “view of the world” by definition involve belief, even if that belief is implicit rather than explicit? Is there one evangelical “view of the world,” or are there multiple evangelical views of the world? And is it (or are they) really full of joy? My time spent reading this blog would lead me to think that in fact the evangelical view(s) of the world that the commentators here have experienced is (are) in fact not full of joy. In fact, many of the commentators here have found precious little joy in any community of believers, and yet they are driven to keep seeking faith practices and community that reflect their own deepest experiences and understandings, despite often significant pain involved in the search. Why? My own guess would be that for many of them it is because their faith, their religion, as it were, is contingent not on the merely human joy or pain that any community might or might not offer to those inside it, but on an encounter with the transcendent and living God as known in Jesus Christ that goes beyond felt joy or pain, and sets aside the merely practical considerations that Luhrman puts so much weight on, to a deeper loyalty and love that can’t be measured by any outside observer by assessing emotional pay-offs involved in merely human community.

    • An excellent set of observations, IMNSHO.

    • I don’t think the people who come to this blog from Evangelical churches are representative of the typical Evangelical. I used to think that most people who appear happy-clappy in those churches were just faking it, but now I’m not so sure. I think most people simply aren’t all that introspective. American culture at large doesn’t make much room for that type of person, and American Evangelicalism reflects that.

      I actually think Luhrman’s observation is probably correct. I think many people choose to attend their church because it gives them a feeling of happiness and it makes them optimistic about the future in some way or another. I don’t know how many people I’ve talked who don’t like liturgical churches because they equate them with being depressing.

      • Robert F says

        But Luhrman is applauding precisely this: Christianity as feeling good together. She doesn’t have a problem with that, because she believes that’s of the essence of all religion. The people at iMonk do have a problem with it, because they know it’s not real, and they are searching for the real thing that is missing from those churches and that Luhrman doesn’t think is essential, and that is real, life-transforming, Jesus-shaped life and convictions.

        • From an outsider’s perspective, though, I don’t think you can be too hard on Luhrman for writing what she did. If she sees that people are attending church to have their felt needs met (which, to be honest, I think is probably true for the vast majority of people) rather than being crazy ideologues, it’s positive – especially coming from the New York Times.

          Honestly, though, would you attend a church that you felt was doctrinally correct, you believed what they taught, but yet had no happiness in going to the services? I certainly wouldn’t. I don’t want to equate going to a church with something like knowing I need eat my vegetables.

          • Robert F says

            I guess we can agree that Luhrman doesn’t exactly know what she’s talking about, but I’m less inclined to cut the knowledge-class slack when they don’t know and speak nonetheless.

            Actually, I find neither doctrinal coherence nor any reliable joy in my churchgoing experience; I doggedly continue because I hope to have an encounter with the living God like the ones I’ve had before, a few times in church, but not most.

            And I’ve learned to like spinach.

  8. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    N.T. Wright has a new book coming out that he didn’t write. He has never met his co-author, even though a blurb on the book touts, ”Celebrated theologian N.T. Wright partners with Tim Suttle to discuss how Christ, as the fulfillment of God’s promise, has become the source by which we perform truth in the world.”

    Sounds like Tim Suttle (or his publisher) signed the more famous man’s name on the book to boost sales. Like a CELEBRITY name in large print on an otherwise-mediocre book to boost it into the best-seller lists, whether the CELEBRITY had anything to do with it or not.

    Just like Heinrich Kramer signed Jacob Sprenger’s name on the Malleus Malefacarium so the more prestigious churchman’s name would make his demon-witch sexual fantasy tome more respectable. (It did, and the Burning Times were the result.)

  9. Robert F says

    I really disagree with much of what Luhrman has to say. She is reducing religion to a merely human phenomenon, and she is including Christianity as just one among many other religions, all of which are really the result of the human need to be part of a flock, so that we can FEEL better about the world and ourselves.

    There is no question that all religions involve human projection; the question is really whether they are also more than that, whether the projection illuminates something real beyond felt needs and wishes. Every major world religion would answer affirmatively that their practices and beliefs are about more than merely human community and the human felt need to be part of something larger than ourselves. Lurhman and her minister friend sitting on the proscenium coldly considering all this from a merely sociological and academic perspective are not in a position to understand what is happening inside the lives of people who have found themselves in the grip of a truly transcendent loyalty; they, and she in her article, can not help but be involved in a project of reductionism, a project blind to its own more than merely human loyalties and implicit beliefs. Talk about being trapped in a post-Enlightenment perspective and understanding! The whole article reeks of just such entrapment.

    Leave it to the New York Times and its contributors to not really understand what religion is about!

    • And yet, in a way our very scriptures prove her right. The jews of old kept reverting to exactly the style of religion that she describes, and then the prophets or a theophany shocks them when God reminds them that he IS. The sitation leading up to the book of Malachi seems a good example in particular.

      So I think she’s right about the human approach to religion, she’s just missing the result of the actual presence of the Holy Spirit existing and doing his thing.

      • Robert F says

        Well, I said that: religion involves human projection, and that includes Christianity. But mathematics involves human projection, too; does that mean that the symbolic language of mathematics does not correspond to something beyond mathematics? Hardly.

        What she gets right she gets right for the wrong reasons, and that means that she is unable to appreciate that, for example, Christianity involves not just joy but rigor, not just belonging but prophetic criticism (to which you referred) and distance from merely human community.

        In missing the divine side of the issue, the Holy Spirit, she ends with completely wrong conclusions and deep misunderstanding of the relationship of belief to faith and faith communities. It’s the perspective of someone who is an academic before a practitioner of any specific religion, someone who measures religion on the basis of the utterances of sociologists (Is sociology a real science? Not according to the physicists, it isn’t.), proceeding from a position of methodological atheism

        • Robert F says

          In fact, Tokah, Luhrman thinks that there is no problem with the style of religion that the prophets condemned, she thinks that as long as people feel joy (feel good) it doesn’t matter how true a religion is, because belonging is what religion is about, not truth. That’s why she devalues the function of belief in her assessment.

          She would have told the prophets to chill and join the party; after all, it’s not about truth, it’s about having a good time feeling bigger than ourselves. In the meantime, she doesn’t really mean it because she’s committed to her own agenda of values which are rooted in her own implicit assumptions about true/false, right/wrong, probably shared with her academic colleagues, although she seems to be blissfully unaware of that fact, A true believer.

          That sounds pretty close to a Biblical understanding of idolatry.

          • I actually don’t disagree with you, Robert. Christianity absolutely should be more than the common human religion she observed. Unfortunately, many times we christians fail to take our own deep and challenging cosmology seriously.

  10. Whichever way things turn out, the situation at the ROC is a lose-lose situation. They are more of a para-church group that seems to have worship meetings on Sundays than a church in the traditional sense, but their outreach to the community is deep and real. Even donations to their thrift store seem to be down since this dust up started. So I hope the truth wins out and justice is administered well, but I grieve for southside Richmond.

  11. I took the Blue Ridge Christian Academy dinosaur quiz. The teacher would have given me an “F.”


    • From your link:
      “Conclusion: With a Biblical and scientific foundation like this, no doubt some of these kids are ‘Already Gone.'”


  12. Jeremiah says

    Seriously? No Bruce Cockburn? You couldn’t even muster up the desire to do a double video day? For shame!!!

    Here he is performing “Waiting On A Miracle” with Phil Keaggy & others:

    Wonderin’ Where The Lions Are:

    And finally “Lovers In A Dangerous Time”:

    That line “you gotta kick at the darkness ’til it bleeds daylight’ has more than once become a word from God to me helping me through some dark times… so if you won’t give out some Bruce Cockburn love I will!

  13. Gotta love Ham’s rebuttal to the criticism:

    “These atheists have willfully suppressed the truth that there is a Creator and that His Word is true. We need to sincerely pray that these people will come to repentance and believe the gospel of Jesus Christ before it’s too late.”


    Yes, if you don’t agree with Ham, you are lost and in need of repentance. 🙄

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      I read that more as Grand Unified Conspiracy Theory defense, where everything outside of the inside of that one stable (i.e. The Truth) is Part of The Conspiracy.

      The Dwarfs are for The Dwarfs, and Won’t Be Taken In.

    • …and you’re an atheist.

    • …and your mother was a newt and your father smells of elderberries. 😛

      • Klasie Kraalogies says


        Of course, elder branches were the traditional material thought to be used to make witches’ brooms.

      • Um, your mother was a hamster . . . The witch turned him into a newt. Come on, get these things right! 🙂

      • The point being that Ham’s response demonstrates classical fallacious name-calling, which is one step down from ad-hominem.

  14. Cedric Klein says

    Indeed, the one & only Wicker Man! Btw, while it doesn’t match the glory of TWM, I have to recommend its “spiritual sequel” The Wicker Tree which has a cameo by Sir Christopher.

    TWT does not approach the greatness of the original TWM but it’s miles ahead of the Nicolas Cage abomination.

  15. I was surprised not to read a comment on Francis’s controversial remarks about atheists. Was that this week or last week?

    • Josh in FW says

      Last week the following was said:
      “If the pope is not an exorcist, is he a heretic? He created quite a stir when he dared to say Jesus has redeemed the entire world, even atheists. Who does he think he is, saying something like that? One thing I know, Pope Francis is no heretic. What I wouldn’t give to sit at tea with Robert Capon and Pope Francis …”
      and a couple of related articles were linked.

  16. Speaking of things that keep Mohler up at night (besides the things that obviously don’t), will there be any upcoming discussions regarding the recent ELCA bishop appointment?

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