Daily Archives: 8 Feb 2010

Total Depravity: Anthem Blue Cross of California

Greed, one of the many manifestations of total depravity, rears its ugly head not only in individuals but also in corporations.

A fine example of that is the greed exemplified by Anthem Blue Cross of California, who wish to raise their premiums 39%.

US Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Monday called on a health insurance company to publicly explain why it raised premiums for some customers by 39 percent. “With so many families already affected by rising costs, I was very disturbed to learn through media accounts that Anthem Blue Cross plans to raise premiums for its California customers by as much as 39 percent,” or 15 times faster than inflation, Sebelius said in a letter that was faxed to the insurer. The rate hikes were “even more difficult to understand” in the light of soaring profits at Anthem Blue Cross’s parent company, WellPoint Incorporated, Sebelius said. Wellpoint earned 2.7 billion dollars in the last quarter of 2009, she said, calling on the insurance company to “provide a detailed justification” for the increase.

The detailed explanation is simple- greed underpinned by depraved indifference to everything but money.  Corporate greed will be the destruction of American society.

Dealing With Doubt: Part One

In a powerfully persuasive and insightful section of his treatment titled Revelation and Reason, Emil Brunner examines the problem of doubt.

Over the next few days I’ll be excerpting segments from that section and expanding on them just a bit with my own observations.  Brunner’s observations will serve as a sort of ‘starting point’ from which I’ll launch.

First, Brunner opines

No one indeed should maintain that he ‘believes’ if he does not feel that he must believe.

What Brunner suggests here is that belief, the opposite of doubt, contains within itself a certain necessity.  Authentic belief believes.  But this belief is not blind or deaf- it is based on the only certainty- faith.

But, then, how do we deal with the doubt that stirs in all of us?  That’s the question to be addressed beginning in the next installment.

Another Odd and Sudden Parting

The Dean of Southeastern Seminary resigned abruptly recently and now the President of a Baptist school in Virginia has done the same, at the same time as he cut staff.

Michael J. Puglisi unexpectedly resigned as president of Virginia Intermont College Jan. 25, apparently at the request of trustees of the Baptist-affiliated school. And in what college administrators and trustees said was a move unrelated to the president’s resignation, the school announced it will reduce its staff by about 40 persons.

I’m of a suspicious nature (go figure) and when things like this happen ‘suddenly’ I always think there’s more going on than the public is being told. And secretiveness, quite frankly, does not serve the cause of Christ.

The 126-year-old Virginia Intermont, located in Bristol, Va., has around 550 students and 75 faculty members. It is widely known for its equestrian program. Its varsity equestrian team won national championships in 2006 and 2007.  Rainwater remains optimistic about the future of VI, citing increased enrollment of 40 percent in the fall of 2009 with enrollment in the 2010 fall term projected to be even larger.


An Admirable Cleric Indeed

Associated Baptist Press notes

As news of dissension among 10 Baptists from the United States jailed in Haiti leaked into media reports, the pastor of five of the volunteer missionaries said his church continues to support and pray for the entire group. National Public Radio reported that Pastor Clint Henry made little direct reference to Haiti in his Feb. 7 sermon at Central Valley Baptist Church in Meridian, Idaho, until near the end of the service. “I want the world to know our church loves and prays for all 10,” Henry said, referring to the jailed Americans, according to an NPR reporter present for the service.

Rightly. No one of the 10 is unworthy of prayer. Not even the leader who seems to be getting the bulk of the hostility in some quarters.   And I admire the Pastor for being concerned for all of them.  The report continues

“The Haitian government is receiving massive assistance from the United States, from both public and private sources,” [Richard] Land said in a letter quoted by Baptist Press. “Our nation’s churches are giving hundreds of thousands of dollars to relief efforts for the people of Haiti. These fine Christian men and women sought to do even more to help alleviate the suffering of some Haitian children. For the Haitian government to respond in this way to the obvious good intentions of these honorable Christians is outrageous.”

I can count on one finger the number of times I’ve agreed with Richard Land, and this is that one time.  What can the government of Haiti be hoping to accomplish with the continued imprisonment of persons who simply failed to grasp procedure?   For my part, I hope what that government has done doesn’t generate ill will among those very much concerned for their land.

I’m not worried, though, about the reputation of Baptists.

The Jew and the Pope: Neusner Visits The Vatican

A new essay in Bible and Interpretation is worth reading as it recounts Jacob Neusner’s visit to the Vatican and his discussion with Ratzinger on Jesus.

Total Depravity: The Dad Who Used Waterboarding on His 4 Year Old Daughter

The Daily Mail reports

A soldier waterboarded his four-year-old daughter because she was unable to recite her alphabet. Joshua Tabor admitted to police he had used the CIA torture technique because he was so angry. As his daughter ‘squirmed’ to get away, Tabor said he submerged her face three or four times until the water was lapping around her forehead and jawline. Tabor, 27, who had won custody of his daughter only four weeks earlier, admitted choosing the punishment because the girl was terrified of water.

He shouldn’t have custody much longer. At least one hopes the little girl can be raised by someone who loves her and doesn’t resort to depraved violence for trivial (or any!) reasons.

Tabor, a soldier at the Lewis-McChord base in Tacoma, Washington, was arrested after being seen walking around his neighbourhood wearing a Kevlar military helmet and threatening to break windows. Police discovered the alleged waterboarding when they went to his home in the Tacoma suburb of Yelm and spoke to his girlfriend. She told them about the alleged torture and the terrified girl was found hiding in a closet, with bruising on her back and scratch marks on her neck and throat. Asked how she got the bruises, the girl is said to have replied: ‘Daddy did it.’

How parents can hurt their children just makes no sense. It really is the clearest example of total depravity available for consideration and proves the doctrine absolutely.

[I heard of this story on FB via Chuck Jones].

Lecture Announcement: New Directions in Archaeology

Bible Lands Museum Jerusalem

Wednesday evening lecture at 19:30

10.2.09 –Lecture II: New Directions in Biblical Archaeology?

Enemy at our Gate: Reexamining an Archaeological Phenomenon in Light of Biblical History, Dr. Nili Wazana, Hebrew Univ. In Hebrew. This is a Lecture Series concerning new approaches in the research of Biblical Archeology, presented by leading archaeologists and scholars.

Lecturers: Dr. Doron Ben-Ami, Dr. Nili Wazana, Prof. Amihai Mazar,
Prof. Israel Finkelstein, and Prof. Avraham Faust on his research with
Prof. Shlomo Bunimovich. For Details, Check out their website: www.blmj.org.  Via Jack Sasson.

Congratulations, Dr Chris Tilling

Chris has successfully defended his Doctoral Dissertation and is from henceforth and forever to be known as Dr Chris Tilling.  Congratulations, good sir and brother.

I had the chance to read Chris’s work at several stages and I found it really tremendously interesting and amazingly well formed.  I hope it’s published soon.  And from what I hear, it may well be.

Emil Brunner: On Atheists

“… convinced atheists, who deny the existence of God, are not usually outstanding thinkers…”  – Emil Brunner

The Pope Calls it a ‘Violation’ of Children’s Rights…

While the rest of the world calls it a depraved and evil crime.  ‘It’ of course is sexual abuse.

Pope Benedict XVI, poised to write an open letter to Irish Roman Catholics addressing sex-abuse scandals that have rocked the church, said some clergy violated the rights of children. While the church’s mission was to protect minors, “unfortunately, in different instances, certain of its members went against this commitment and violated rights,” the pontiff said in a speech to members of the Pontifical Council for the Family that was posted on the Vatican Web site today. “The Church will continue to deplore and condemn such behavior”.

I don’t know- calling sexual abuse a ‘violation of rights’ makes it sound almost like the Priests involved simply took crayons from them or changed the tv while the kids were watching cartoons. ‘Violation of rights’ just is not strong enough language. The Pope should have spoken far more forcefully. He needed to. He still needs to. He needs to call the sexual abuse of children a deed of Satan and those who do such deeds servants of the Devil. Because that’s precisely what they are.

More Pastoral Misconduct

From Detroit,

A Downriver pastor accused of sexually assaulting an underage boy is scheduled to be arraigned on criminal sexual conduct charges Monday afternoon. River Rouge Police Chief Robert Alderman said the Rev. Russel Schaller, 35, is facing six charges of third-degree CSC charges for having inappropriate contact with the boy. Schaller is the senior pastor at Greater St. Johns Missionary Baptist Church on Chalmers Street in Detroit. He is a resident of River Rouge.

Here’s his mugshot.

Of course he’s innocent till shown guilty.  That’s what we all say anyway.

The Berne Theses: 2

Part two of our weekly series, the Berne Theses, still speaking today.

2- The Church of Christ makes no laws and commandments without the Word of God. Hence human traditions are no more binding on us than they are founded in the Word of God.

It was an error of the Church of the fifth magnitude when it diluted Scripture with Tradition. While tradition certainly has a part to play, its part ends where Scripture speaks. Where Scripture is silent, tradition is free to share it’s opinion.

The vaunting of tradition to a voice co-equal with Scripture has caused,throughout the history of Christianity, nothing but problems. This is precisely why the framers of the Berne Theses rejected such co-equality.

Catholics, though, are not the only ones immersed in a sort of ‘traditionalism’ which usurps Scripture. Baptists and Methodists and Presbyterians too can be found to practice a ‘we’ve never done it that way before’ spirituality. Tradition often serves as a master rather than an informer.

For all Christians, however, Scripture alone is the final court of appeal. Not practice or tradition or personal opinion. That is what Berne asserts.

The Berne Theses of 1528

So far as I have been able to discover, what follows is the only English translation of the Theses online. Which is a shame, since the theses still speak quite powerfully. Written by colleagues of Zwingli and revised by the Reformer himself, the Theses were adopted in 1528 as the guiding principles of the Swiss Reformation.

1- The holy Christian Church, whose only Head is Christ, is born of the Word of God, and abides in the same, and listens not to the voice of a stranger.

2- The Church of Christ makes no laws and commandments without the Word of God. Hence human traditions are no more binding on us than they are founded in the Word of God.

3- Christ is the only wisdom, righteousness, redemption, and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world. Hence it is a denial of Christ when we confess another ground of salvation and satisfaction.

4- The essential and corporeal presence of the body and blood of Christ can not be demonstrated from the Holy Scripture.

5- The mass as now in use, in which Christ is offered to God the Father for the sins of the living and the dead, is contrary to Scripture, a blasphemy against the most holy sacrifice, passion, and death of Christ, and on account of its abuses an abomination before God.

6- As Christ alone died for us, so he is also to be adored as the only Mediator and Advocate between God the Father and the believers. Therefore it is contrary to the Word of God to propose and invoke other mediators.

7- Scripture knows nothing of a purgatory after this life. Hence all masses and other offices for the dead are useless.

8- The worship of images is contrary to the Scripture. Therefore images should be abolished when they are set up as objects of adoration.

9- Matrimony is not forbidden in the Scripture to any class of men, but permitted to all.

10- Since, according to Scripture, and open fornicator must be excommunicated, it follows that unchastity and impure celibacy are more pernicious to the clergy than to any other class.

A Little Poll

The Superbowl’s Best Advert

The Superbowl’s Best Moment


What person can have watched the way Brees interacted with his little boy and not get a tad misty eyed?  Not me.  This was, for me, the best moment of the entire game (though I only saw it from halftime to the end, I can’t imagine anything better than this taking place).

The Bible: A History, Reviewed

The Independent didn’t like it.  I didn’t see it.  If the Independent’s report is to be believed, I doubt I would enjoy it.