January 16, 2021

The Weekend File: 11:29:08

John H at Confessing Evangelical suggests some devotional resources in the Orthodox tradition.

James White has some video from the John 3:16 Conference. Apparently some in the “crowd” of 600-800 don’t believe Calvinists are Christians. I certainly believe you can be lost in any version of theology or church, and I have no doubt that this brother is sincere, but a constructive conversation about Calvinism can’t proceed on the premise that Calvinists are lost. (And the ridiculous blaming of the SBC’s 6% Calvinists for decreased baptisms is right out front. White is correct that a conference like this mainly communicates that future ministers will be shunned if they have any Calvinism in their doctrine.)

When David Allen asks what unites Southern Baptists, I’d love to hear his answer to what he calls “Baptist distinctives.” Teetotalism? The Hymnal? And the “theological systems” he wants to avoid should include incoherent fundamentalism as well.

My Mac problems over the weekend solicited a lot of advice. (Thanks BHT and IM readers.) But none of it worked. I finally archived and reinstalled, which solved the problem, speeded up everything and used a bit more space than I like. But the culprit- I assume- was removing Gimp. This was a clean removal, and X11 is probably at fault. All I want is a simple program to reduce pics! But it was a full day of doing the same things over and over with the same result, which I think is the definition of insanity.

I am seriously bored with the blogosphere, and most of the blame goes to the week I just spent with Twitter. There are people updating their life every 3-5 minutes. “Drinking coffee and reading the paper.” “Walking to store.” I suppose one must do something with those hand held devices. Here’s mine. “Sitting in chair, typing.” Fascinating stuff, huh. I need to hone my experience.

/Film finds Milk less than incredible, and admits that message will surely overwhelm art in this movie’s future.

Cyberbrethren has some useful information about using the Treasury of Daily Prayer for Advent. If you’ve purchased the TDP from New Reformation Press or plan to, you’ll want to bookmark this post.

Abraham Piper asked an interesting question a few weeks ago: How many sermons do you listen to a week? I listen to too many. If I could, I’d just listen to one. Maybe something like Fr. Patrick Reardon at All Saints Homilies. I do believe there’s a lot of overkill as a result of the net’s ability to overflow us with information. Sometimes, I just feel nauseous at it all.

If you didn’t catch it, Victor Davis Hanson wrote 10 Very Un-PC things in a recent column. One of the most provocative pieces this year. Something to offend and delight everyone.

I have issues from being an only child, and one of them is difficulty when my friends talk about me or criticize me for trivial things. I’d hoped this would get better as I got older, and I’d master the “Crotchety old Curmudgeon Who Doesn’t Give A ____” routine, but I’m not doing well at all. I remember my dad getting his feelings really hurt badly when he discovered some of his coffee drinking buddies were talking about him. I never saw him so hurt. I don’t want to be like that, but I think it’s too late. Suggestions welcome.

So a 34 year old temporary at Wal-mart was trampled to death when a crowd at a Long Island store became a savage mob and threatened to break down the doors. The employee fell in the mob and was killed by….by…everyone who walked over him.

So who do you blame for that? How much do you sermonize on greed? (How much do southerners and modwesterners get to gloat that this happened on Long Island? Yankees do love their Wal-Mart.) How much does this point to our materialism?

People have been killed at Rock concerts, religious events, political events, etc. The stupidity of a mob isn’t restricted to Black Friday, but it’s not too hard to see that the bargain mania and manipulation of the whole idea of “Black Friday” has gone into some places in our culture that we don’t want to look at. We can be brutal, savage and dangerous when someone gets between us and what we want. If you don’t do the “Black Friday” thing, don’t feel too self righteous. I tell my students that if all of us had a free murder every ten years, we’d use up 95% of them in the first month.

In closing, I’m working on some form of a New Year’s resolution where I 1) read a lot less theology, 2) read a lot more biography, poetry and fiction and 3) don’t buy books, but use the Library (40 mile round trip) more. Any suggestions or wisdom are welcome.


  1. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    I am seriously bored with the blogosphere, and most of the blame goes to the week I just spent with Twitter. There are people updating their life every 3-5 minutes. “Drinking coffee and reading the paper.” “Walking to store.”

    I understand Twitter has a SERIOUS word limit (only a hundred or two) on each post, so it’s the blog equivalent of flashfic. (Or blipverts from the original Max Headroom.)

    And factor in Twits (yes, that’s the actual word for Twitter users) always have a Blackberry permanently grafted to their hand, just like a hands-free celtel permanently grafted onto their ear, and you get the results of constant updating and telegraphic shorthand.

    I suppose one must do something with those hand held devices. Here’s mine. “Sitting in chair, typing.” Fascinating stuff, huh. I need to hone my experience.

    What? No text-message abbreviations?
    “Stng n chr, typg.”

  2. So do I need to dump all these people i’m following? I guess I’m still in Facebook mode. I mean the drivel is unreal.

    BTW READERS: Any suggestions for good biographies or autobiographies welcome.

  3. If anyone out there wants to give me some simple advice on improving the Twitter exp, I’ll listen. But wow. Ugh.

  4. A great and simple program I have never had any trouble with is paint.net, but it is a windows only program. Picassa is also good, but it is only for windows or linux. I find gimp unnecessarily complex for my use. Have you tried JetPhoto Studio for macs? It’s free and can be downloaded here:

    As far as Twitter goes, I use it, but usually unfollow people rather quickly if they have nothing useful or interesting to say (of course, I might have to unfollow myself if I applied this criteria too closely).

  5. Don’t worry too much about Twitter. I got an account because “everyone else is doing it” but I’m finding myself checking it once in a while and not posting too much. I’d rather update my Facebook status, and even then, about half the time I’d rather make some comment to get comments from others. It’s a way of making small talk in the digital world in an attempt to get to know some of the people who are friends online only, but we all seem to have at least one thing in common (usually that we all seem to follow the same group of Christian thinkers).

  6. I joined for two reasons;

    I need to use it to make IM updates available to people who won’t subscribe.

    I wanted to see the actual effect on the BHT.

    I think I could enjoy it more if I’d drop about 100 people. But I”m a Southern Baptist. Once we get you on a list, we never remove you.

  7. Respond directly to tweets you find interesting. Dump people who never post anything interesting.

  8. “Baptist Disinctives”… I like how they were undefined. The only thing really to unite completely on is believer’s baptism, because alcohol is becoming more of a dividing line, and so many churches are throwing out their hymnals (sad reality).
    Like the blog, glad you got your Mac working.

  9. Yes, drop people you don’t “know” or aren’t really that interested in. If you feel self-conscious about it, just tweet a little notice: “Unfollowing some to make my Twitter feed less unruly. Nothing personal.” Or something to that effect.

    You don’t have to reciprocate everyone who follows you and nobody should expect you to.

    Honestly, I’m more interested in a friend’s “Going to Wal-Mart” than I am some stranger’s “Working on my rocket ship” anyway.

  10. iMonk, I was thinking about the Wal-Mart tragedy all morning and my conclusion is similar to yours: I’m responsible for plenty of greed and consumerism and wanting to score a good deal on useless crap. But at the same time, I can’t help but think of the incident in the context of the Christmas season and the whole “War on Christmas” thing that got popular a couple of years back. This stuff represents a real war, complete with real violence (locally, two people got into a gunfight at a Toys R Us Black Friday event). I don’t think FOX News could have predicted what would end up happening. I guess the question is if this is a war, how do we “fight” back?

  11. Here’s a couple of suggestions on books:

    Reading Lolita in Tehran. I still remember what was in the book, one of the best I have read.

    Boone. The latest Daniel Boon biography. I read an earlier biography and found the life of this man to be very interesting.

    Dennis Veith

  12. John Adams by David McCullough is a great book.

  13. Mr. Whipple says

    To reduce picture sizes, just open your pic in Preview (included in Mac OSX) the go to Tools | Adjust Size. I also downloaded Gimp for the same reason; then I discovered Preview. Really nice.

  14. Re: GIMP and image resizing. I’m not a Mac user, so please take this with a block of salt, and listen to your fellow Mac users. Photoshop is overkill for simple things, but is there something like Photoshop Elements? Or, Fireworks might do the trick. (Used to be part of the Macromedia suite of web design apps until Adobe bought them.) If that’s out of the range of the budget, is it possible for your school to get some kind of grant for technology to get software for labs and staff?

  15. Have you ever thought of inviting Eve Tushnet to the BHT? You’re woman-less at the moment…and so is she!

    Plus, her perspective on Catholicism would be quite different from the lines you are so tired of hearing over and over.

    (I am not her publicist. I just think she’d be a great fit — I originally discovered her blog through a BHT link.)

  16. That Other Jean says


    I highly recommend Robert V. Remini’s biography of Andrew Jackson. Also, there are some great free out-of-copyright books available for download, read-off-the-screen, or as an ebook at Project Gutenberg. If I can ever afford an e-reader, I’m going there first.

    Please, please, drop some people from your Twitter account. There’s such a thing as information overload. You need more stress?

  17. Spence, see if your school’s library can join the nationwide interlibrary loan system. Then you can borrow books from anywhere.

  18. Michael, I tell you it is really eerie how often your posts parallel my own state-of-mind.

    Boredom blogosphere: ditto.
    Twitter: ditto.
    Theology: ditto.

    I was just thinking today, “I’m so bored with theology books, it is time to get back to great works of fiction, starting with Patrick O’Brian’s books, then perhaps Tolkien.”

    And it got me to thinking. Do you think there is a problem, and a big difference, between those who read theology for the sake of their service to others, and those who read theology as a personal hobby?”

    I’m thinking the theological/Christian blogosphere gets depressing because we have theological hobbiests doing most of the gabbing. Theology is their past-time and hobby.

    I don’t know, just some random thoghts that are passing through my mind lately.

  19. I find the blogosphere to be so dominated with similar personalities/ages/interests that it really distorts my view of the world.

    I’m also realized that only about 5% of the blogosphere is anywhere near my age, which isn’t a good thing for me.

    You’re quite right to speak of a theological hobby. II can’t say that’s all bad- there’s worse things to be interested in- but you are correct that theology should connect.

    I’ve been exploring other parts of the blogosphere lately, especially blogs related to film.

    My problem is that baseball season is over 🙂

  20. You might want to have a look at a little free Mac program called ImageWell. It performs some basic image manipulation functions, among them resizing.

    As a rule, I’d avoid trying to use X11 packages on the Mac. It works, but unless you’re really a *nix geek, it’s a good way to get into trouble. Like I need to tell you.

  21. I dont understand how anybody could argue that Calvinists are not Christians. I find this ridiculous, and as far as I know the percentage of Calvinists in the SBC is around 10% much higher than what some people in the SBC would lead to believe, hence the backlash of the last 10 years.

    I have often heard of the tactics of the reformed pastors and how they take over parishes, without the knowledge of the elders in any particular church. I can not say if I believe those stories or not, I have never seen one, though I have warned my wife of pastors like that and know what to look for.

    I would recognize that the system by which pastors are brought to congregations does lend it self to abuses. My wife told me that if they want the congregation can vote them out (interesting) though I imagine that if a pastor is cleaver enough he can make the reformed process so slowly that they won’t even notice it. Again that is if you believe those stories.

  22. Giovanni,

    I live in the middle of those stories, so let’s look at your various assertions.

    1) Lifeway research did an extensive survey and came up with 6% of SBC pastors identified themselves as Calvinists. I’ll promise you that the percentage of laypersons is about 3% on their best day.

    2) SBC congregations are autonomous. They call, hire and fire their own ministers. They only way a Calvinist slips by is 1) no one asks or b) they lie. And I assure that these days everyone is asking.

    3) Few SBC churches have elders. Most have a ruling body of deacons. Pastors are called by a pastor selection or search committee, and presented to the congregation for evaluation an questioning.

    4) External “reform” is a murky subject. I am not a Calvinist but I do not support the public invitation and I do support elders. Plenty of non-Calvinists see abuses in the invitation system and endorse the Biblical teaching on elder led churches. But you can’t change a church’s confession of faith by stealth. They have to vote those things through. In a Baptist church, pastors have the power that is given them, and it can all disappear at the next business meeting.



  23. Dr. John Thornbury did a study on what makes a church SBC. The answer is a church is SBC if they give money to the SBC. Period. I tried to find a hole in his logic, but there is none. Follow the money.
    John Adams is a GREAT read. I took a day off and read Orson Scott Card’s “Invasive Procedures” quick escapism. His “Ender” series is worth reading.
    Worthwhile on the web ” Things I wish I knew before I became a pastor” Dr. Larry Taylor. It is on my list of things I wish I read before I was a pastor. You can see how he grew.
    As fellow only child of same age I offer this advice from Don Henley of the Eagles. “I’d like to find my inner child and kick his little ass” Why be cruel to some kid’s diminutive donkey? There must be a reason.
    Theology is not the study of God. It is the study of men who study about God.
    Frank Herbert’s “Dune” is worth reading if only for the theories on religion.
    I know a few SBC churches moving to Elders.
    Step away from the keyboard, twitter is for twits as kicks are for kids. Ridiculous.
    Ok that’s all I got. I hope it helps.

  24. Thornbury is correct in a sense so strictly technical that I wouldn’t counsel anyone to try it.

    The Georgia Baptist Convention just sent back the financial gifts of FBC Decatur. They have a woman pastor. See Baptist Faith and Message 2000 for the non-binding reason why. 🙂

    Sci fi: no, no no……Calvinism and Sci Fi geekdom = the blogosphere 🙂

  25. many laughs on your math!
    If the rule is no no, no non, on nanu nanu, then they “Never Again” by John Ashcroft, it is a good read, surprisingly!
    and Jon Meacham’s “American Gospel” .
    Is there a correlation between the F&M 2000 and the 7 day challenge?

  26. iMonk,

    I’m also realizing that only about 5% of the blogosphere is anywhere near my age, which isn’t a good thing for me.

    i actually disagree. it’s really refreshing to read something other than the fashionable theological reflections/denominational lamentations of people my age or thereabout (I’m 23).

    You have any idea how much more I’d like to read of people like you and nakedpastor who might have a bit of gray hair and stories about raising children to adulthood and actual ministry experience? It’s a breath of fresh air. keep writing, and keep dating yourself. we whippersnappers need it.

  27. I heard of one pastor several years ago trying to get the SBC to go back to its Calvinist roots. Was it rooted in Calvinism?

    Twitter? Facebook? Call me old fashioned, I merely blog… Sometimes I listen to one sermon per week.

    “My problem is that baseball season is over” Only two months plus to spring training. Go Giants!

  28. The founders of the SBC were, for the most part, Princeton trained and/or Calvinistic. But when the second Great Awakening took Baptists to the frontier and their ministers down the educational ladder a few notches, they became thoroughly revivalist. By the turn of the century, few Calvinists were left in the SBC. But in the 1960s Calvinism came back to the Baptist movement via the UK, and took root in the Founder’s movement in the SBC. This movement benefited from the conservative resurgence. Now that you have a lot of young ministers reading their Bibles and a lot of theology, Calvinism has actually taken a real foothold in some of the seminaries and colleges. Add in Piper (non SBC but influential), Macarthur (same), 9 Marks, Sovereign Grace, etc and it’s a resurgene of Calvinism in the SBC. Back to its own roots confessionally speaking.

    Willoh: No. Baptists are afraid of having sex. It could be mistaken for dancing.

  29. I understand why someone would refer to Calvinists as being unsaved. Nearly every Calvinist I’ve talked with has followed the mindset that if I don’t agree with everything St Calvin said, or that they think he said, then at best I need to check myself. At worst I am not of the elect. If you run around telling everybody how wrong they are all the time, eventually someone will question your love of the brethren and thereby your connection to Christ. The usual response is that they do love the brethren (read: those who think like them) and the rest of us our loved by their rebukes to us.

    I don’t really agree with either line of thinking but I understand the response to Calvinists.

    As far as sermons go, I listen to at least the Sunday sermon at my church. I also listen to several podcasts because, quite honestly, my pastor has a lot of love for people but his sermons tend to ramble as I think he has ADD. Most of the congregation are also relatively new Christians so he needs to cover some ground that I am well acquainted with. Therefore, I get a good meal somewhere else. I even recommend some of them to my Pastor…after all, he needs to just sit back a listen instead of toiling over the sermon sometimes too.


  30. My experience with Calvinism couldn’t be more different on that count, but the Founder’s guys are really an outstanding group. I have met more than a few Reformed Baptists on the net who seem to believe most all professing Christians are actually lost.

  31. That’s a great new year’s resolution.

  32. I listen to too many sermons and read too many theological books, but I’m a young guy trying to get a grip on theology that can inform the roles I’m starting to play in my church. I’m hopeful to skip any cage phases by listening to crotchety old guys. I think it’s working.

    When people use twitter for micro-blogging, rather than tracking friends, it’s quite common to have an asymmetric following list. Do you subscribe to the blog of every person who reads yours? Hopefully not. I don’t know how you would get anything done. Most people will be following your twitter feed for your writing, not your friendship. It’s not a breach of any etiquette to drop most people on your list. Do it. You’ll enjoy twitter more. Statistically you’ll bother some people by dropping them, but most people probably didn’t expect you to follow their feeds in the first place, and a bunch won’t even notice.

  33. Hey, iMonk, if you want to “unfollow” me, I won’t be offended. I’m a pretty boring guy anyway. 🙂

  34. Hey Michael,

    One of the best books I ever read was “Maverick: The Success Story Behind the World’s Most Unusual Workplace”. I bought it in a dollar store for only God knows why, but started it and could not put it down. It is part biography, part cultural lesson, study in human behaivior, and part buisiness blueprint.

    I realize I am not selling it very well, but it is really worth the read. I actually cried at times, for whatever that is worth.

    I am going to check out some Wendell Berry stuff and have been reading a bit of Robert Frost lately.

  35. On the Mac thing, you can eventually trash most of the stuff in the archive folder. Just don’t do it right away. And perhaps make a full backup of your current hard drive so if you did delete the wrong thing you could restore it to this (working) point.

    I’ll also recommend the John Adams book. McCullough is an excellent writer.

  36. Concerning the tragic Walmart death…….it shouldn’t have happened. I recently saw a documentary on the extreme lack on the part of Walmarts around the nation concerning safety. Many, many, many crimes and deaths happen in Walmart parking lots because the corporation won’t put out the money to provide security…other than indoors to prevent theft. Numerous lawsuits have been filed….many still pending. The general attitude concerning safety and related liability…outside the doors…I think could likely have been at fault with the trampling. As a former teacher, the one thing we learned first and foremost…was to PREDICT and IDENTIFY areas of danger. Who would not expect a crowd like the one at Walmart to PUSH!
    I extend my deepest sympathies to all involved. But I do hope the trampled man’s family through litigation can get Walmarts attention concerning their responsibilities to consumers and employees who move through Walmart stratospheres.

  37. You’re right! Theology is boring! But I get ‘high’ often on studying the past, present, and future of who we are, where we’ve been, where we are, where we’re going, what has-is-and will happen globally, and what do I do in relation to all truths everywhere. And I find all that in a little book called the Bible. I know the God of all things did write the Book. I believe Him. I believe THE BOOK. Hey, call me stupid. I don’t mind.

  38. Two books that I have enjoyed are: “Michael and Natasha” by the Crawfords. It’s the story of the last Tsar’s brother and his wife. Very interesting, and poses the question, if Michael had be Tsar, would the Russian Revolution turned out differently?

    “Buffalo for the Broken Heart” about a man deciding to raise buffalo rather than cattle in South Dakota.

    One that looks promising, but I’ve read too much about WWI to want to try it, yet. “King, Kaiser, Tsar, Three Cousins who led the world to war”

  39. Michael,
    Occasional poster here, a good group biography I just finished recently was Joseph Ellis’ “Founding Brothers” which is about Washington, Burr, Jefferson, Madison and John Quincy Adams.
    Also I second the suggestion of getting your school library to join a library system, as long as your school is nonprofit it should be easy.
    Interlibrary loan is a great way to get the books you want to read but can not afford to buy.

  40. For what it’s worth, I think the fastest and easiest way to resize a photo on a Mac is in Preview, believe it or not. I was quite surprised to find that if you open a photo in Preview and click on tools … there are numerous editing options, including resizing. It’s easy-breezy … and beats Gimp hands down for something simple like resizing.

    I was actually thinking about deleting Gimp. Hearing of your woes, perhaps I will just leave it alone.

  41. American Scoundrel by Thomas Keneally. It’s been out for a long time, so it’s available in paperback. Lincoln’s First Nomination: Champagne, Deals, & Dirty Tricks by Jay C. Miner is also good. Of course, I actually know Jay C. Miner, so I’m prejudiced. Thomas Keneally also wrote a book about Lincoln, but I haven’t read it.

    I don’t know how you feel about Sci-Fi/Fantasy, but Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman is one of my favorite books.

    Anything by Sarah Vowell is fun. She’s a bit of a smart-butt, and I have deep affection for my fellow smart-butts.

    What is the invitational system? Help a confused Quaker out.

  42. One more Mike says

    Biography: “A prince of our disorder” by John E. Mack. Bio of T.E. Lawrence, and best bio I ever read. It will keep you busy for a while.

  43. Anna A reminded me of another book, by Robert Massie, titled Nicholas and Alexandra, about the last Tsar of Russia. It’s a blend of history and biography, written in the style of a novel. It’s long, but both good and informative. If you like it, Massie also wrote Dreadnought, a similar kind of book about the naval arms race leading up to WW1.

  44. R. A. Salvatore, and his “biographies” of Drizzt Do’Urden.

    Watch CSPAN2 on Saturday and Sunday nights and get recommendations and listen to authors on Book TV. Here is a link to the schedule:


    They also show an episode of Booknotes. There are always good recommendations on that show. Here is a link to the site where they have clips to view. Excellent for Histories and Biographies.


    “Gringos in Paradise” is a funny take on retiring south of the border.

    I grew up in South Dakota and a couple years ago ran into the Buffalo book at the library. It’s a good read.

    Speaking of South Dakots, have you read any of Kathleen Norris’s books? I really liked “The Cloister Walk”

  45. Hey Sir,

    If you’re moderating this, please fix my last typo, wasn’t paying attention, I guess.

    Speaking of South Dakota, (in the last paragraph)

  46. Michael, I just finished a book from the library that was very good. It is “Judging Thomas: The Life and Times of Clarence Thomas” by Ken Foskett. It was published in 2004. Last year I read Thomas’s book “My Grandfather’s Son: A Memoir”. These two books are complementary; each book has a lot of information that the other one does not.

  47. sixsevenfive says

    With regard to number of sermons listened to per week: I have wondered whether the availability of so many sermons has had a negative effect on my ability to appreciate the weekly sermons delivered to my church.

    Before mp3s, the only spoken Christian ‘sermon audio’ I had was our pastor, once a week – quite an influence, relatively. Now, by the time Sunday comes around, I’ve listened to so many sermons by so many great preachers, that our pastor can’t possibly compete. My desire to sit through a sermon is, partly as a result, not as strong as it used to be, when it was a highlight of my week.

    On a related note, having gotten used to commuting, exercising and house-working to mp3 sermons and other podcasts, it now feels like merely sitting there on Sunday morning while I listen is a misuse of my time. All this multitasking makes me fear that I’m losing the ability to be still.

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