Ghastliness

Worried after a week of increasingly bizarre conversations with his younger brother, Glen Birdow drove to Fort Worth last weekend, hoping to understand why his brother was saying people were trying to kill him and that someone had stuck a needle in his arm.

Derrick Anthony Birdow was fidgeting and acting paranoid, but refused to check himself into a hospital. The 33-year-old married father of four insisted he was fine, his brother said.

But Derrick Birdow left his Fort Worth home Monday, passed by numerous churches and rammed his car into the side of Greater Sweethome Missionary Baptist Church in nearby Forest Hill. There, he got out of his car and beat the Rev. Danny Kirk Sr. to death with an electric guitar.

“The person that I knew was loving and caring, and he was not a killer,” Glen Birdow, 39, of San Antonio, told The Associated Press on Tuesday. “I just don’t know what happened. I’m so sorry for the pastor’s family.”

Derrick Birdow did not know the pastor or attend that church, though his wife might have gone there a few times, his brother said. Derrick Birdow enjoyed his job as a truck driver and didn’t have a history of mental illness, his brother said, adding that he didn’t believe that his brother used drugs.

Random acts of senseless murder and horrific violence.  Unbelievable.

Ok, Let’s Hear The Derision Reserved for Pat Robertson Leveled at Oliver Stone

If Pat Robertson got on his 700 Club and made the claims that Oliver Stone has, about Sandy being ‘punishment’ for something or other, people everywhere would be on him like white on rice.  So where’s the derision of Oliver Stone?  Or are Hollywood sorts exempt?

Ever-honest director and author Oliver Stone stopped by HuffPost Live on Tuesday to discuss Barack Obama’s presidency, climate change and his new book and documentary series, “The Untold History of the United States.”  Stone is an equal opportunity critic, arguing that neither Obama nor Mitt Romney tackled climate change in a substantive way. “I was a little disappointed at the third debate when neither of them talked about climate control and the nature of the situation on Earth,” Stone said. “I think there’s kind of a weird statement coming right after … this is a punishment … Mother Nature cannot be ignored. That’s all I thought about.”

Oliver Stone, Hollywood’s own Pat Robertson.  Let the snark commence.  (But I won’t hold my breath).

Richard Land’s Meaningless ‘Endorsement’ of Mitt Romney

I hate to put it bluntly, but Mitt Romney is not a Christian.  He doesn’t accept the teachings of historic Christianity and he doesn’t believe what the Bible teaches about salvation.  He. Just. Doesn’t.  He can’t.  He’s a Mormon.

Given those facts, the willingness of Richard Land, the disgraced (and frequently disgraceful) head of the SBC Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission‘s ‘endorsement’ of Romney is utterly without meaning.  An SBC leader endorsing a Mormon, for anything, is like a Roman Catholic endorsing Martin Luther for Pope.  Further, since Land has now lied about refusing to endorse a politician by so endorsing Romney, he isn’t deserving of trust or respect.

But Land is willing to do so because politics have trumped theology for him, just as it has for the formerly great and eminently respectable Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.

Christians in general and Baptists in particular who are bending over backwards to support someone who’s theology is erroneous and justifying it because of fiscal policies and the false opinion that Romney is ‘pro-life’ and ‘pro-marriage’ are either intentionally blind or simply fools.  They are, worse, idolaters.

[And before you get your big girl undies in a wad, remember, I’m not supporting any politician, so don’t bother attempting to accuse me of partisanship.  I’m smart enough to know that there aren’t significant differences between any of them].

When You’ve Been Let Go, It Gives You A Better Perspective on Those Who Suffer Similarly: LeDonne on Pahl

Anthony LeDonne has posted a brief entry on the Pahl debacle.

Taliban ‘education’

Notice that, in the official statement of Dr. Pahl’s dismissal, there is a clear indication that the constituency and trustees hold sway over the interpretation of the doctrines listed. They are in a position of power to decide who “concurs fully” with their worldview and who does not. If I were a parent considering Cedarville University for my children, I would be very concerned that the worship of media and money has been placed in idolatrous prominence over the worship of God. I would be concerned, further, that an administration, board of trustees, and constituency that demotes the belief in God to second place might not be the best arbiters of Christian doctrine.

He has a unique perspective having himself felt the ax of Taliban-esque administrators.  Give it a look.

Michael Brown is the LAST Person Who Should Give Advice Concerning Disaster Response

And yet, because the world is as it is, he has accused President Obama of, get this, responding to Hurricane Sandy TOO QUICKLY!

Former FEMA Director Michael Brown offered criticism of President Obama’s early responses to Hurricane Sandy yesterday, including a dig at the administration’s response to last month’s attack in Libya.

Yesterday, ahead of the storm’s pummeling of the eastern seaboard, Brown gave an interview to the local alternative paper, the Denver Westword, on how he believed the Obama administration was responding to Sandy too quickly and that Obama had spoken to the press about Sandy’s potential effect too early.

Mr Brown, anyone who listens to your advice on disaster response is as foolish as someone who listens to Simcha about biblical archaeology or Little Honey Tee-Tee on intelligent interpretation of the Bible.

Regarding The Earlier Post on Theodicy

Here and there on Facebook and the Twitter I’ve seen complaints about my little piece from earlier which only the dimmest would take for a full-blown explanation of a complicated problem.  To those who have weighed it in the balances and found it lacking, a word from Soren Kierkegaard is in order-

Critics are like eunuchs.  They know what’s supposed to be done, they just can’t do it themselves.

So to all the carpers I say- I await your contributions to the discussion.

Thank You, Professor Garbini

The tremendously kind Giovanni Garbini has sent along three of his latest tomes:

I’ve added them to the Garbini/ Liverani section of my shelves where they find a welcoming home and will, like the others, enjoy frequent consultation.

By the way, the one on the right is the latest and the one in the middle, on the Philistines, is the newly published second edition of that classic study by the same name by our dear author.

Thank you, Professor Garbini, I’m honored by your gift and even more by your long friendship.

The Problem With Natural Disasters For Christians: The Solution to Theodicy

Most Christians believe that God is omnipotent.  That is, they believe God is all powerful and therefore ‘in control’.  God is in control of the universe, and therefore the world.   I think most Christians (except maybe the Episcopalians) would accept that statement as a fact.

Weather, then, as part of the world, is also under God’s control.  Now whether or not God controls every cloud or simply sets the stage and allows clouds and winds and rain and such to fulfill his general will is not really the issue; the fact is, that given the premise that God is in control because he is all powerful, when storms erupt and destroy human structures and lives, God is somehow or other responsible because he either sets in motion the events to take place or allows them to take place and could, if he wished, stop them.

An absent God who ‘sets the clock and lets it run’ may be a comfort to some but it has no place in Christian theology.  We are left, then, with two facts:  1) God is in control; and 2) God allows disasters (if not outright causing them).

That discomfiting fact causes Christians all kinds of problems, I think we would all confess.  ‘How can a loving God allow such a thing’ or ‘God sent this as punishment for sin’ or ‘God is holding us accountable’ are the statements that inevitably surface at such times.

Is there a way out of this dilemma?   Is there a solution to the problem of theodicy?  Yes.  And here it is- found in a little verse tucked away in a little story secluded back in the Old Testament where people scarcely read anymore:

Then He said, “Go out, and stand on the mountain before the LORD.” And behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice (1Ki 19:11-12).

God speaks- but he doesn’t speak in violence. Winds, earthquakes, fires… they all happen- but they aren’t the voice of God. If you wish to hear God’s voice in disasters you have to listen past the noise. If you wish to find a solution to the problem of theodicy, you have to remove yourself to a quiet place so that you can actually hear God’s voice.

When bad things happen we’re usually so busy crying out and lamenting and screaming at God that were he even to say something the noise of our own ideas would drown him out. That’s why we don’t ever hear ‘why’ this or that happens. If you wish to hear God speak, be quiet. Then you may learn something. You may even hear an answer to life’s most pressing questions.

Or in the words of Habakkuk-

וַֽיהוָ֖ה בְּהֵיכַ֣ל קָדְשׁ֑וֹ הַ֥ס מִפָּנָ֖יו כָּל־הָאָֽרֶץ׃

The Gay Republican Who Lied About Being The Victim of Bias

Anything for the cause, right?

Kyle Wood, an openly gay Republican campaign worker in Wisconsin, admitted on Monday that he faked a bias attack against himself.

Last Thursday, The Daily Caller reported Wood’s allegation that he was the victim of vandalism and assault because he was a gay man working for straight Republican Chad Lee in his congressional race against gay Democrat Mark Pocan.

“A spokesman for Rep. Mark Pocan and an attorney representing his partner, Philip Frank, said they were considering suing for libel over claims that Frank threatened Wood,” The Daily Page reports.

Anything for the cause… even deception (and this happens, it appears, pretty regularly).  Just keep crying wolf.  Then, when actual bias attacks take place no one will pay any attention.

The Latest from Lawrence Schiffman

The purpose of the presentation that follows is to argue that the Qumran sectarians, usually identified as the Essenes described by Josephus and other Greek-writing authors, prohibited carrying from domain to domain on the Sabbath, basing themselves on certain biblical passages, and that these ancient Jewish sectarians did not have an institution such as the eruv to mitigate the difficulties caused by this prohibition. Further, we will argue that the combination of this prohibition with the absence of an institution to ease the difficulties that it presents characterizes the exegetical trend of the priestly, Zadokite-Sadducee form of Jewish law, as opposed to that of the Pharisaic-rabbinic trend that developed the laws of the eruv.

Much more follows.  Via Larry’s fine blog (which you should bookmark and read regularly).

Twitter Lies and the Liars who Pseudonymously Tweet Them

The twitter user @comfortablysmug is one of a handful of pseudonymous Manhattan professionals who keep their widely-followed Twitter voices separate from their careers. His bio describes him as “My Interests: Finance, Gin, Politics, Books, Food, Fine Clothing, Meeting Strangers #Mitt2012” and links to a Romney campaign donation page of the sort that credits bundlers for the cash they’ve brought in.

His 6,000 followers include political and business reporters, and he’ll occasionally tweet of getting a drink with Business Insider’s Joe Wiesenthal; once with BuzzFeed editor Ben Smith.

And in the chaos around Hurricane Sandy, he veered into new territory: Trying to trick his media followers, and their followers and readers in turn, with fake news. He reported, falsely, on a total blackout in Manhattan, on a flood on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, and other things that didn’t happen.

He, in short, is a liar.  But those who believed him, those who fell for his lies only have themselves to blame.  For, you see, trusting someone who won’t use their name is the same thing as asking to be deceived.  Indeed, you’ve already bought into the deception by accepting as true what has been said from a foundation of falsehood.

Pseudonymity and anonymity online has no place in Western culture.   Sadly, the people at CNN aren’t smart enough to know that.  So they took this guy’s lies global.

Liars lie.  It’s what they do.  It’s who they are.