Saturday, September 27, 2014

Personal Life Update: A Promising View

On account of the fact that my internet-warrior phase left me with an unknown amount of enemies in unknown places, it's uncertain just where I would cause more harm than good to my future career prospects, if I go poking my head in. It's safer to lay low and try to avoid asking for help around my university. I already know that there are several faculty members there with the demonstrated intention to shoot down any such effort on my part, if they can help it.

So I can't, or rather, out of an effort to be wise, won't be giving out information regarding where I will be trying to solicit aid, or what field or what career path I'm considering. Nothing like that. I may reveal what I've done after I've been established somewhere. But I know better than to let myself be vulnerable, unnecessarily.

So all I'll say is that I've been able to have a conversation with somebody who was pleased enough with my knowledge of material and generous enough of themselves that they'd be willing to help me get the necessary things done to get a foothold in their workplace, or a workplace like theirs. And it is hopeful to me, because of its close relevance to the exact subject matter I studied just before graduation. An opportunity to use my degree has presented itself. It will take persistence and a number of phone calls to get started. But talking has never been all too difficult for me. :)

It'll take time, whatever happens, for me to get installed with a secure job where I'm now looking to do so. But the gears are set in motion. And it's giving me a more uplifted mood when I'm at work in ye olde fast food restaurant.

Now I have a vision. A hopeful goal to attain to. And as long as I keep the right perspective and don't neglect to pray and trust alone in God and not my own aptitude, I know that whatever the outcome, it will be the very best and at just the right time in His judgment.

The adventure continues.

~ Rak Chazak

I've Been Here Before...Pivotal Moments in My Journey

This will serve as the hub and first entry for a new series, where anyone who wishes can follow along and encounter the major moments that impacted the way I think about reality, and what is true.

My Testimony: Era of Uncertainty

I took a philosophy class in 2009 and chose to do some independent reading in the book I had had to buy for it, covering two chapters that were not focused on in the course. These concerned Neuroscience and Determinism. Determinism is simply the view that everything that happens is directly attributable to the immediately preceding state of the universe, and so on and so on. Reality is a complex machine that runs on physical laws and that's it. Technically, that's materialistic determinism. Determinism that allows for a supernatural aspect to the universe would hold that spiritual beings control your destiny and so whereas it's not all mechanically produced, you nevertheless do not have much of a choice in how your future unfolds. And neuroscience, from an atheist perspective, is often presented as a scientific argument against the soul, i.e. that all of your thoughts, emotions, desires, will, decisions etc are produced by neurochemical electrical interactions between the cells of your brain.

Take these two thoughts together, and what do you get? The idea that I couldn't trust my thoughts to be accurate, because my beliefs might just be deterministic phenomena, artifacts of physical processes in the brain, with nothing to connect them to truth or to give them meaningful significance. What if I only believed what I did because I was organically predisposed to believe it, and chance life experiences influenced my thoughts to produce that result? That there was no choice involved, and no transcendent truth.

Once the thought was comprehended, I couldn't ignore it. I had to deal with it.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Becoming a Christian Takes Work. ( Criticism of "Intellectual" Atheists and Others)

Staying atheist is certainly the more convenient option, if you are lazy. And let's face the facts, most people who live in the West and don't have faith in Christ are definitively lazy.

You have access to more knowledge in a day, without leaving the chair you're sitting at right now, than most people prior to the printing press had access to in their entire lives. A daily newspaper nowadays would be a month's worth of word-of-mouth overheard from travelers as they passed through your town.

The amount of time it took to copy a book just once was the amount of time it took for a person to gather together enough blank pages, ink, not to mention also a copy of the book, and then for him to rewrite every word on the blank pages, before binding the book and starting anew. Knowledge spread very slowly in a horizontal fashion (from one person to contemporaries, people alive at the same time), and knowledge spread through tradition, from parents to children (vertically) was much more effective. Consequently, a person's ideas could take a century or more to catch on, and they'd never live to see the effect of their work. But now history has come to a remarkable place.

We can access anything that anyone anywhere has found out about the past or found written in the past, so long as it has been transcribed or photocopied onto the Internet -- which is to say, any computer or database connected to the Internet information highway, so that anyone else can access the information as long as they are also connected.

And despite all this, the vast majority of people REFUSE to use the Internet to learn anything important!

You there, o atheist. You who have the knowledge of all the world's history at your fingertips, day in and day out, do you go looking for information that confirms and points to the Bible being true and its admonitions having the force of an ultimate Lawgiver behind them? Do you try to prove the Bible and do you go looking for evidence to utterly convince you that Jesus Christ is God, you are a man of sin, you need to repent, and you deserve His judgment but are utterly at the mercy of His unmerited favor in order to escape?

You can't make this claim. And I know from experience (the other benefit of the Internet is that it allows you to sample large amounts of people at a time to see how they think and consider their personal testimonies) that most people who are atheists are not so from being scholarly, studious and disciplined. They took the first lame reason to reject faith they could find, and clung to it, and now they're monstrously irrational and as a consequence of choosing not to think, CAN NOT think.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Always Happy to Reconcile with the Repentant

Work has presented a number of interesting opportunities to consider the relationship I have with other people, and to contemplate from this the relationship God has with us. People in a fast food establishment are typically not your smartest, most responsible, kindest, most mature, most easygoing or for that matter the most Christian people you're going to meet in life. And yet, because you can't run away, you can't scream in agony while on shift, you can't quit and you can't fire them, you're forced, as a co-worker, to just take it, whatever they dish out, whether good or bad.

And it is good and bad. Because no matter how well behaved they might be compared to others, they are still evil. And they are all made in the image of God, and able to do good, and are therefore likable, but even despite this, they may not know God and therefore they don't have His sustaining joy inside and sooner or later show you just how bafflingly unpleasant they can be. Because you don't have the opportunity to end it all, either by walking off, or by forcing them to behave, or by eliminating them from employment, your day-to-day life becomes a prolonged exercise in implementing forgiveness. You can't hold grudges, because you are forced to interact, and are therefore unable to cut them off completely and ignore them, much as you may like. And that also means that no matter how cruelly they may have treated you, no matter how disrespectfully, or ignorantly, or hatefully, in a few days' time they might laugh and be jocular in your presence, and you might tire of your hurt feelings and even chuckle, yourself. 

It's a strange thing. But it doesn't mean they were less wrong. It doesn't mean they are good people because you have to treat them as if they are. It doesn't mean anything like that. It's just easier to let things go than to hold on to them, because the sheer amount of insanity you experience at a workplace like that is too much to remember, frankly. It only hurts you to recall it all. Letting it go--forgiving it--is better for your heart.

Formatting Changes on the Sidebar -->

I'm going to take some time off to work on longer projects (you can find evidence of this backlog if you look for posts where I promised that I was working on some article months ago, and it is nowhere posted). So today, I took a little time and did some less mentally intensive work--collecting links to sites I recommend (or at least visit from time to time, myself--or made heavy use of in the past, when I was doing a lot of research in 2010).

These are on the sidebar. I also moved my 'pages of interest' up in the list, so that the quick-links to my Hubs are easily reachable for convenience. This also puts my "Statement of Faith" higher up where it follows quite reasonably after the 'About Me' blurb. Now I have done more to let the casual reader learn more about who I am and where I'm coming from in writing, so that there's less cause for concern that my blog is just text on a page with no assurance that the author can be vetted and recommended for others.

I'm a real person, promise. And by showing what I read (sifting through stuff I don't quite agree with at all times [that's what the SoF is for, to help you figure out]), I am hoping to make it easier to figure out if you want to consider me worth reading.

Alrighty then! Headed home to do something productive. Or maybe play video games. It could go either way. I have weekends off, now. So strange. I feel like a normal person.

~ Rak Chazak

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

AWPATT XI: September 5-16 (Thoughts 97-108)

97 I remember reading somewhere in one of the online medical websites that it’s dangerous to blow into a vagina, because of how vascular it is (lots of small blood vessels and thin skin), since bubbles of air can enter the bloodstream and cause a heart attack if they travel to the heart. Duly noted. So that’s something I’ll never do. Making farting noises with your mouth to be silly, for example, is off the table.

98 After an encounter with a young lady who had done missionary work, I realized that I like getting stared at intensely—in a certain way, of course. When she revealed her professing faith, she was smiling and acting naturally, but her eyes, I could tell, were looking me over keenly to gauge my reaction. Why should she care? I can only imagine she was evaluating me based on whatever she could glean about my faith from my response to her. This is the thought that made me like it. Because whether she’d conclude that I’m partner material or not, the great thing is that she’s judging me to see what she’ll decide! So go ahead and judge me! :D It’s a far better feeling than not being scrutinized because I’m not even considered for the possibility of being relationship material.

99 I have an eerie sense, not a superstition but a feeling similar to it, that I won’t be married until I am finished with everything I want to write first. I have a long list of unwritten-about subjects, both for my private Journal and for the blog, and then there are these AWPATTs. It could perhaps be psychological, that I wouldn’t give myself the freedom to search for a wife until I ‘feel’ that I am ready. It would certainly be satisfying to get through all of my projects before I meet her, since one of the major goals of my writing is for her to be able to get to know me very fully, very quickly, by reading what I’ve written and so coming to be acquainted with my mind.

100 It’s a lofty goal, trying to capture the essence of who I am, my past, and what I believe, in writing. Can a person be contained in a book? Or, can everything you need to know about a person be contained in a book? My mind travels to the Bible. If God can be content that we have everything we need to know about Him in the Bible, then surely it must be possible for me to find that same contentment in an extended love letter to my spouse. I am a far lesser person, after all, so there shouldn’t be very much more remaining to document.

1/10th of the way!

101 I recently found myself flipping through bridal magazines out of passive curiosity. I wondered if there would be anything educational therein, or if I would find new things to hate. Well, both of those were satisfied by the same things, for the most part. One example was the assumption that you had to hire a band. Since when? This is my knee-jerk response to a plethora of modern wedding traditions. Why should I do what a wedding magazine tells me I have to do, and pay for a band? It’s clear that the publishers have a vested interest in increasing the consumerism of couples-to-be, since the various caterers etc paid then advertise in the magazines. In other words, it’s not primarily associated with meaning and significance, but money money money.

102 One thing that I will not have in my wedding will be a veil. The veil has one of two meanings: in either case, it refers to the idea that the groom will never have seen the bride’s face prior to that very moment. This could only be the case if the marriage is an arranged marriage and he’s never spoken to his bride personally. Or it could be the case if he is marrying a muslim woman, who is religiously required to cover her face. Is my marriage going to be an arranged one or to a muslim woman, such that I would never have met her in person or seen her face? No. So there is no place for a veil.

103 To have a veil present would be to subtly promote the practice of covering women up as sex objects, or restricting them from making male friendships because they can’t be trusted to remain pure if not supervised. Either way, horridly sexist and simply a denial of the equal moral agency of women to men. Why would I want to promote sexism at my wedding? Maybe now you can see why a simple article of clothing like a veil can be so wrong. It’s more than a piece of cloth. It’s a statement.

104 The fundamental thing, after consumerism, that bridal magazines take for granted in promoting, is the idea that the wedding is all about the bride. All about making her feel special, glamorizing her beauty, and putting the focus on her. From a Christian theological perspective, it’s not about the bride at all, nor is it solely about the groom. The reason for that is that both are servants of God and therefore find purpose in redirecting attention from themselves to Him. It is their union that is symbolic of God’s redemption of His children. It represents the bliss of being united in perfect harmony with Love Himself. To put the focus on the bride would be to symbolically state that the redeemed should have the focus on them. But Christians have their eyes fixed on God. To be told that “this is about you,” to any learned believer, is unnatural and uncomfortable. It simply is NOT about us. And consequently, if marriage is a picture of God’s union with believers, then it can’t be about the bride.

105 A side note to this is that, departing from the symbolism and getting to the individual aspect, having the focus be completely on you is pride-forming. What good can possibly come from the indulgence into a fantasy that you ought to be the center of attention for your own sake, so that you can…what? Feel pretty? Be given the worship you deserve? Experience heaping accolades and revel in your own greatness? One bridal mag said something to the tune of “there’s nothing wrong with showing a bit of skin/being sexy on your special day,” and showing pictures implying that provoking people to lust over you is perfectly fine, because after all, it’s not about purity and dignity and joy, it’s about you feeling good about yourself, and having people desire you sexually is a tried-and-true way to feel good about yourself. This is nothing strange when you consider that it comes from the central lie that it’s about making the bride feel good. If that’s all there is to it, there is no limit to how much skin can be revealed. The ceremony isn’t sacred. Her feelings are. And that’s all geared to feed into a sin of arrogance and self-worship, feeding into greed and further consumerism, driving profit for companies with no incentive to ensure the dignity of marriage but only to capitalize off of marketing ploys manipulating foolish women’s selfish desires.

106 The dozens of pages in a single magazine devoted to telling you what you had to have in terms of flowers stoked my ire. It was assumed that not only would there be flowers at everyone’s wedding, but every bride, without exception, would assuredly want to have them, and need the bridal mag’s advice on what color, etc, to have. Why do there need to be flowers at a wedding at all? Who says? When did this fashion, for that is what it is, begin? If having the focus be on your own emotions is off-base, what point is there to having a focus on gimmicks like flowers? I think flowers look fine, in nature. But as a part of anything not connected to growing fruit trees, they are functionally useless. Whenever I see obnoxious baskets of flowers inside, I wonder, what are they there to distract attention away from? There’s no need to be any flowers at a wedding, certainly not for them to be bought at revolting sums of money just to sit around for a few hours, getting in people’s way.

107 And what is this nonsense about cakes? And cakes you can’t eat, at that! And obnoxiously large and baroque monstrosities that cost you severely for the decoration, which will be ruined the moment it’s actually eaten. How about we bake a cake, or a couple dozen cakes, in our own oven, together as a couple with our families over a weekend? Major bonding experience, quality time, and huge savings. Question the traditions: why should we have to do what everyone else does? Who says? What purpose is there to it? I see no Biblical symbolism, let alone a mandate, for bizzarely concocted half-cake, half-plastic creations. Cake is for dessert. It’s not good for anything else. It’s like gold toilets. In the end, it does the same thing the cheaper variety does, and why then was there a drive to pay more for it?

108 Why should dresses cost so much? What material is it made out of that skyrockets its value? The silk of the last living 1,000-year old silkworm? Gold thread? It just needs to be tasteful in its proportions, and of a color we settle on choosing. I am so offended by the idea of $10,000 wedding dresses that I might bring up very early that I want my future wife to find a nice looking prom dress to wear. I’m all about being practical and when I encounter a tradition that doesn’t have any apparent purpose except extravagance, I am against it. It will not endure. I will throw it down from the high places, dash its image asunder, and cleanse it from the temple. That’s to say, I feel pretty confident this is a righteous anger. Let the savage worldly women keep their pomp; my bride to be need only be dressed simply. Her beauty cannot be improved upon by the dollar amount of the clothes we hang on her. Let her simplicity be its own allure, and her wardrobe be one less distraction from the real centerpiece of the wedding: our vows.

~ Rak Chazak

Monday, September 15, 2014

Texting Treatise: Pragmatism is Impossible in an Infinite Universe

"Just came across a tidbit on the traveling atheist that has interesting implications. It's a conditional that applies to anyone who'll say that the universe is infinite in either time or space or both, and for whom morality is defined as doing the greatest good for the greatest number of people. And diminishing suffering. That's actually logically incoherent.
In an infinite universe, there'll be an infinite amount of happiness and an infinite amount of suffering, so nothing you do will have an impact on the total number of either. Consequently, a morality based on the greatest benefit for the greatest number CANNOT BE TRUE if the universe is infinite in any aspect. It is logically contradictory. Therefore, the moral imperative for doing good rather than evil CANNOT just be a pragmatic decision. It must be justified some other way.
'Love logic."

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Personal Life Update: Discipline

I'm thrilled to pieces over the fact that for three days running, I have gotten up before sunrise and run at least one mile. My fastest time was on the first day, (7.35/mi.) whereas yesterday and today (8.45), I've done worse, probably because of soreness and tiredness from the sudden restart of a routine that I haven't trained myself to do in a very long time. If I can keep up the consistency, then I should be able to improve by leaps and bounds over the coming week or two, and after that, it'll keep getting easier.

I'm really strongly motivated to once and for all get back to my high-school habit of running every single day. I have stellar cardiovascular health as of now (120/70 blood pressure and 64 bpm resting HR), but my pulmonary and muscular endurance is embarrassing. I shouldn't be out of breath after one mile, when I could run 3 miles straight at a minute's faster pace at the age of 17 and not be as winded. I'm not running for Calorie loss, as I've noticed it's become popular to do: increasing and decreasing your speed to keep your body from becoming more energy efficient, so you burn more fat. No, I'm running to build up my long-distance endurance. I want to be able to run 15 miles at a 6:30-minute-mile average clip and feel relaxed and rejuvenated at the end. I once had that. After incorporating situps into my daily routine, I almost never experienced abdominal cramps again, and I have never had chronic pain in my knees or ankles or shins.

I want to experience that again. And the physical benefits will of a certainty accompany the exercise, because a 6-mile run will burn 500+ Calories without having to gimmick your muscles into utilizing glycogen stores, as the heady modern technical body-sculpting think-tanks now recommend.

I have a suspicion that my idle time outside of work is given to me in this period of my life to allow me to work hard at becoming a better man: to train in matters of fiscal responsibility, time management, physical fitness, practical theology, developing a disciplined routine, and accomplishing the task of "completing" this blog so that I will have no concern that I "missed something" by the time I become de facto disqualified from writing as a single man.

So there's four big areas in which I'm striving to apply and strengthen discipline:

  • In a daily routine, to ensure that I go to bed early enough to be able to wake before sunrise.
  • In a fitness regimen, to become outwardly the man a wife deserves, and for many more reasons.
  • In career searching, to minimize the time spent in a rut, living at home.
  • In writing, to deny the time outside of work to be wasted, so that my sojourn in economic dependence can not be said to have been a wasted period of my life. To complete the purpose of the blog, so that I can mentally move on to the next phase of my life's adventure.

And it's a daily choice to work at it. So far, I've made it 3 steps without stumbling. I'm encouraged by the thought of what I can accomplish with my hands (and feet! :) ) over a longer period of time, if I do not grow weary in being diligent with the time I'm given.

Time, after all, is a gift from God. Rather than see it as a curse (loneliness, prolonged debt), I will see it as a blessing (time to improve myself in other areas, and to reach out through this medium to glorify Him in the intervening time).

~ Rak Chazak

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Texting Treatise: Pure Fantasy?

[To a friend who had sent me excerpts of a book she's reading]

I have to tell you….after reading the texts you sent yesterday, I was reminded…last night before bed, I indulged in fantasy. A gaggle of girls far too young for a relationship, but high school aged and physically grown, came in to the store a third time (I recognized them and the mom of a couple of them) yesterday. It strikes me that a worldly man—yea, I may even be tempted to, in weaker moments—may respond to their vibrant youthfulness and beauty by giving himself over to mentally desecrating them in his mind, to try to gain satisfaction and/or put the thought of them out of his consciousness. But I have been amazed to realize that God has even been reforming my thoughts to the level of interfering with my daydreams about lovely women—I’ve never been tempted toward younger ones, but recently I’ve found myself imagining scenarios wherein which I take advantage of a vulnerable young girl willing to be influenced by me by preaching the Gospel to them and by my abstinent example showing and leading them the way to true love. As a mentor.

And so, I found myself, before sleep fell over me, having a clean fantasy, where my inner desire to bring joy to a woman’s heart was consummated not by intercourse but by loving them with my words as I told them the Truth. It felt really good. I had another experience like this a week or so ago when I imagined a conversation between me and my wife in bed. I was actually brought to tears that time.

Praise God that He is working on me, to overcome my sexual depravity in my mind and replace it with pure and good thoughts, day by day. Few things can give better encouragement than noticeable change in one’s own character, from more worldly to more holy. Is God too lofty to concern Himself with sexual thoughts? Nay, He is near to our hearts and can impress us with how uncharacteristically pure our thoughts about a lovely member of the opposite sex can be, if only we meditate on His Word and Gospel so that it becomes a fixture in our minds that affects every aspect of our lives.

It feels so good to honor someone in your heart rather than using them.

Thanks, God.

~ Rak Chazak

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Meta-Talking: Talking About Talking

The title says nearly all. I have long been aware that in a lot of my writing, I “think about thinking,” meaning that I not only discuss the content of thoughts I have, but the thought process itself, the better to introspect and analyze whether my reasoning is correct and appropriate. It helps me ensure to myself, or prove to others, that my conclusions and observations are truthful and beneficial. It’s also fascinating to peek under the hood and go beyond ideas into investigating the “why” behind those ideas. But until very recently, I didn’t consciously catch myself in the act of ‘talking about talking,’ while having a face to face conversation with someone else.

It took a casual conversation wherein which I was flirting occasionally with a young woman I ran into at the gym, for me to notice that I wasn’t merely talking to her, I was talking about how I talk, with her. And acknowledged it in the conversation. “Going out of the plane of conversation” is a fun thing to do, because it’s so unusual. It generally garners amused interest in the other person, from what I can tell. See, in an act of meta-talking, I tend to ask if I’m talking up too much time (not a typo), if they’d like to leave but are too polite to tell me, or if they’re actually interested. It’s socially incorrect. I love it. It’s one of the things that make me a bit unique. I might not have a musical talent or be a world-class athlete or have a modelesque appearance, but I’ve got a peculiar mind. What better thing to be the most “out-there” when I meet and get to know someone, since of all the aspects of my person, my mind is the most accurate definition you can point to to say, “this is who I am?” I have a deep desire to be known and understood by my wife. I’m thrilled to pieces to realize that the personality I’ve developed through the way I think and talk has made my uncharacteristically eccentric thoughts so prominent and inescapable, that I’m guaranteed to only one day wed the woman who can tolerate this social weirdness and interact with me on the same level. All others will be made uncomfortable, overwhelmed by the intensity, unable to understand what I’m saying, or just plain uninterested, for any of these reasons or just that it turns them off personally. What a great way to avoid getting involved with the wrong people.

I’m meta-talking right now.

There’s a quote I can’t remember the middle of, which goes something like this: “boring people talk about other people. Interesting people talk about ___ (events?). And inspiring people talk about ideas.” I make use of small talk about random trivia I might have on my mind, in beginning a conversation with a stranger or acquaintance, but I can’t sustain a conversation based only on that. I quickly move beyond the base facts and bring up theories, educating my listener with concepts they may not have heard of before, or heard explained in just the way I am then doing. I’d like to think that by lifting up their own consciousness out of the realm of people and things, into the realm of big ideas and the connections between the things we see, that I’m adding something to their experience instead of just taking up their time. I hope that I can give every person who listens to me something to think about, that will be beneficial to them. I don’t want to open my mouth otherwise, if I can’t do that. And I am hopeful, because testimonials from people I’ve had long conversations with tend to support the belief that I “really have something here” with how I talk, and talk about talking.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Tim Challies Explains My Own Thoughts on Mark Driscoll To Me

I had the fortune of finding this in one of those "people who read this also read..." links in Facebook, and I'm pleased to say it's nearly identical to what I was thinking to myself, and am glad that someone with more wisdom and know-how could validate the reasonableness of my view.

When I exited Phase I of my Christian re-education (apologetics and logical proofs), and got into learning theology, the most practically helpful resources were short articles (a la GotQuestions) and short video clips (a la Mark Driscoll's, John Piper's, etc) on Youtube, which made it easier to learn individual concepts quickly and to pick up and leave off whenever it suited, considering that I was struggling to make personal gains in time management at college (both with respect to classes and when to eat/sleep) at the same time.

A big part of my education in Reformed Theology consisted of very theologically accurate snippets of sermons from Mars Hill Church in Seattle that existed on Youtube. I could find nothing in any of the videos I watched that turned out to be wrong from a theological point of view. Perhaps confrontational in the language chosen, but as a young single man with a baptism of public education, I strongly appreciated the rawness of the messages. They weren't "uncensored," what I could find--he made reference to swearing in the past, but from the lack thereof in recent video clips, it seemed that he had grown and matured past that. What I liked about them was that "he didn't mince words" -- he didn't walk back the severity of the message lest arrogant 20something boys miss its seriousness. Testimony from others in the comments confirmed that most young men and many women saw those videos as a "wake-up call" to immature men, and greatly appreciated it for that.

Then, the fact that I found comments from John Macarthur, Albert Mohler and Todd Friel, one by one, as I began to become acquainted with their ministries, which were unanimously critical of Mark, made me somewhat uncomfortable. They didn't call him a heretic, but they made seemingly vague references to immaturity and inappropriate behavior that I couldn't actually find the evidence of, at least in the short videos posted online (and I didn't want to put in the effort to watch every single archived sermon to investigate).

Having learned well enough, and especially when I moved back from college (greatly diminishing my activity on Youtube), I determined that I didn't need to draw from the theology of Mark Driscoll--which as far as I could tell, was never the issue in the public opinions of these other learned men in the Faith. So I devoted more time to listening to downloads of Wretched's free broadcasts, which coincided very well with the fact that I'd now moved on from learning the heavy reformed theological doctrines, and was able to take instruction in applying that theology, which Wretched focuses much air time on. Phase III.

I had the luxury to wait and see if anything would come out to make this subject clearer for me. And it appears now that it has. I know very few details, but Mark has acknowledged some recent wrongdoing and because of the attention, has taken a leave of absence. Pursuant to that, Tim Challies wrote a very helpful article.

Read "Character is King" on Tim Challies' website here.

I'll quote a few lines and make my way to the exit.
"As I read his book in 2005, and followed it with Confessions of a Reformission Rev in 2006, I felt both admiration for what Driscoll taught and concern for how he taught it. I loved most of his theology, but was concerned about his coarseness."
"Many of us felt the same way. We didn’t quite know what to think about the man, but we loved his theology. "
"We had concerns, but the Lord seemed to be using him. So we recommended his podcasts, or bought his books, even if we had to provide a small caveat each time."
" A young movement responds eagerly to things a mature movement does not. I doubt we will see another Mark Driscoll anytime soon—someone known equally for crudeness and for gospel preaching. "
He concludes that this should be an opportunity for reassessment of how "The New Calvinism," the movement he mentioned, should approach new teachers it discovers.
"Let’s allow this tragic situation to cause us to look with fresh eyes at the biblical qualifications for a man who would be a leader within the church. "
Those qualifications, mentioned in Titus 1:6, "a man above reproach," and 1 Timothy 3:7, "having a good reputation with those outside," would seem to my older, wiser, more Biblically centered self to disqualify Mark from pastorship. Not from being affirmed as a Brother or from being accepted after it has become clear he has repented and been healed from his past sinfulness. But because of this circumstance, the Bible is clear, and there are many possible reasons why that come to mind...he should not return to hold the office of pastor or elder in any church. But that is because of the sanctity of the position. It is not a condemnation of him, it is because what his further association therewith will do to harm "those outside," and put a stumbling block in the path of those who are weak believers or unbelievers.

Despite this, I have a settled conscience with regard to what I had watched and learned from him before, and the times when I've passed along a good video to others (two instances of this are on this blog). But the takeaway is that yes, the theology is solid. BUT, we do not need Mark Driscoll to learn it. So I have moved on, but have no regrets over my crash course in Calvinism that I got from his videos on Youtube. I may even post some of these videos on the blog, but I'll make sure to link back here.

It is, after all, God's Holy Spirit who illuminates the Biblical truth to us when we read it or hear it, whatever the context. As I explained in my short treatise on Sanctification, I believe that whether a source is good or not, if we learn something from it, it is always to God's credit, not the path or instrument through which He teaches us. Whether I learned theology from the embattled Mark Driscoll or the esteemed John MacArthur, it was really God who was my true tutor, and so we should be very resistant to make too much of the men who preach the truth. Should they falter, we know not to be surprised, because they are sinners as well. So let's be cautious of developing cults of personality in our Reformed Christian circles. Let our focus always be on God, and let us minimize our adulation of men as much as possible.

~ Rak Chazak

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Movie Reviews: Guardians of the Galaxy, Catching Fire, 47 Ronin, and More…

Redbox has become a middle road between the convenience of Netflix and the tangibility of what once was Blockbuster. Do you remember Blockbuster? It was a movie library, where you could go and peruse the classics on the shelves as well as pick up the new releases advertised around the wall. This was how I saw Terminator as late as 2008. But the internet era killed Blockbuster. The prices for rentals and the 7-day return was a relic of a pre-internet era. I mean, most of the movies were in VHS format! After this, my family finally joined the 21st century and got ourselves a DVD player. Now a new contender has popped up, taking advantage of the ease of storage of DVDs and securing a reliable business model with one-day rental, allowing the prices to be low, ensuring customer loyalty. Redbox has become an overnight hit and I see them everywhere. There are at least five that I’m aware of in my town, at gas stations and supermarkets, but there are probably several more, and we’ve definitely taken up the habit of bringing home a movie in the evening some days and returning it the next morning after watching it. The calculus is too appealing to forgo: I can go to the movies and pay $8 for a ticket, $13 for 3D, and double that price if I’m paying for another person because I’m treating them. Compare this to the $1.20 price (increased once, so far, after starting at a flat rate of $1) of any DVD at Redbox. I can watch every single blockbuster of a single year for the price of taking me and one other person to the movies. This leaves plenty of room for snacks, not to mention that I can choose when to watch it, which is a convenience not afforded by small theaters, and it offers the opportunity to watch a broader range of movies than I might otherwise bother to go to theaters for. I would suspect that Redbox has therefore been a boon to independent films, and films that don’t get wide releases or make it to the aforementioned small theaters. In summary: all but one of the following I have watched on a Redbox rental, the sole exception being Guardians of the Galaxy, which we had to stay up til 9:30 for the latest showing, getting out around midnight, all just to avoid giving 3D a chance to ruin it for us. I don’t need 3D gimmicks to tell me that Object X is in front of Object Y. My eyes’ depth perception works just fine with a flat image, and the 3D glasses make the picture less sharp, which is my biggest irritation with it. A useless gimmick is one thing, but for it to reduce the picture quality? Why am I paying more for this, again?!

On to the reviews!

I determined that I could group some of the observations I made from these into different categories. Seeing everything through a lens of Christian theology is making me pick up on intriguing themes, whether intentional or unintentional as far as the director/producers are concerned. Some of the movies have little applicable themes, like Lone Survivor, which since it was made to be an accurate retelling doesn’t try to go outside of its realm, artistically speaking. The Last Days on Mars is another example of one without any sort of Christian parallels, seeing as it was (to my surprise) a good old-fashioned space zombies horror thriller. I’m honest with this and if I don’t pick up on something that I consider poignant, I won’t try to pigeonhole a movie to mean something it doesn’t. Yet, several of the movies were fascinating in this regard. Others were just good because they didn’t have “unnecessary gratuitous boobies” or suchlike.

There will be some spoilers.
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Thursday, September 4, 2014

AWPATT X: August 28-September 4 (Thoughts 89-96)

89 I also stumbled on the idea that when you have another married couple as your friends, there’s wisdom in not going directly to the opposite-sex spouse, absent the presence of theirs, for advice on how to walk your walk in your marriage or how to handle an issue with your spouse. That sets a precedent that could open the door to impropriety. You do everything together as a couple, which means making friends, too. The only person you can talk to privately ought to be your own spouse, and if not them (say you’re having an issue), notwithstanding a pastor/deacon, you should only talk to the same-sex person in the married couple you’re friends with. If you need to ask something from their spouse, you can ask their spouse to ask them for you, or speak with them both at the same time.

90 I don’t think that would extend to something so banal as “Hey Darlene, can you tell James to bring his specialty paddle for the Scouting rafting trip?” For example. It’s sensitive stuff that merits greater care. Talking about feelings and getting marriage advice is not something you should do 1-on-1 with your friend’s spouse. Nix.

91 [To a female friend, applicable to any female acquaintance of mine that I meet prior to either’s courtship]: I guess with us, by the time you’re married (perhaps engaged, but definitely when married), there wouldn’t be much of a reason for you to ask me my thoughts on certain theological subjects, in the sense of allowing me to inform your opinion. That would be your husband’s prerogative as your Bible teacher, although if you have a ready opinion formed and merely are curious what other believers think, that would be a different sort of way of asking a question. Sure we can talk about these things. But I suspect it wouldn’t be right for me to be your first go-to advisor, or the one whose opinion is more persuasive to you. Your future husband should supplant my role in that at some point.

92 Thinking about certain girls/women I do or have texted, chatted or mailed letters with frequently. Supposing that upon discovering that someone is interested in them, and that it could lead to courtship, if they wished to diminish or cut off most of our communication, that would be eminently reasonable. I would expect my fiancée-wife to become my main and at last my only female confidant and woman I have either deep or daily conversations with. It’s only logical that the corollary would also be true, that another person should supplant whatever role I may have/had in a young woman’s life when she is courted…

93 …Surely her most intimate companion ought to be her most prominent and influential, no doubt?

94 And to effect that end, I’d gladly withdraw my communication, to give room for a new relationship to form, and avoid causing myself to intrude upon her thoughts.

95 Selflessness removes any possibility to feel hurt by this. It’s only right that our best friends should be our spouses. That means that if you’re someone’s best friend before they’re married, you should expect to be deposed, just as you would have every reason to expect your own spouse to want all of your friendship to be… specially reserved for him or her. Simply by being fair and equitable in extending my thoughts on my relationship to apply to others’ as well, it makes it easy to accept my changing relationship with those who are getting married.

96 I’ve observed that Christian kids who don’t date frivolously, and take it slow, tend to have only one relationship. Nothing happens, nothing happens, and then BOOM! all of a sudden they’re engaged, and married in short order. Simply if the goal is marriage, courtship is demonstrably superior to casual dating in getting to that goal, from what I’ve seen in the relationships of other people.

~ Rak Chazak

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Cheeky Response to "God Wants You to Be Happy," Using Selected Bible Verses

I'm reposting this from somewhere on facebook, but in the event that the person who posted it won't prefer to have more exposure of their name outside of where they posted it, I will post it anonymously. That's not to take credit for it. Ultimately, after all, the credit is God's, because it's nearly completely composed of Bible verses.

Victoria Olsteen said that “God wants you to be happy.” These words are in fact in the Bible. They just do not appear in all together in the same place. Below is my suggestion as to which verses these words might have come from. 

The word “God” from Acts 14:21-22. “When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, 22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.”

The word “wants” from Matthew 16:44. “Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.’”

Alternatively, the word “wants” could be from 2 Timothy 3:12. “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,”

The words “to be” from Titus 3:1. “Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good,”

The word “happy” from Ecclesiastes 7:14. “When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider this: God has made the one as well as the other. Therefore, no one can discover anything about their future.”

~ Rak Chazak