Monday, October 08, 2007

Moving Day

I have grown to appreciate the blogging service WordPress more and more, and I have begun to dislike Blogger proportionately. So, Andrew and I are shifting our blog from here to a new WordPress blog at The format and template is a work in progress, but WordPress gives bloggers the convenient option of simply importing old posts. So, I have already imported this blog, but also the old blog that I had before Andrew and I joined forces. Andrew is in the process of uploading his old blog.

Additionally, it will be important to know that some of our intra-blog links (that is, those that point to other posts that we ourselves have written) will still point to our Blogger blog. We will be working on updating those over time, but please be patient. All the dates should be the same, though, so there shouldn't be too much trouble accessing old blog posts through our archive.

So, take the red pill with us, and we'll see you on the other side!


Sunday, October 07, 2007


OMAHA, Neb., Dec. 5 -- Jacob Gerber is once more in Omaha, having escaped from the Siberian exile to which he was deemed a year and a half ago. He arrived in the city last night after an absence of twenty-one months. After being a resident of this city for six years he returned to Russia to dispose of what property he had there and to bring his family to this country.

Read the full article.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

A Happy Ending

As some of you know, my iBook has had logic board problems since I bought it. It was a widespread issue with the G3 iBooks, so much so that Apple created an extended repair program covering the issue. I had my logic board replaced three times under the program, and it just failed again a few days ago. Upon calling Apple Support, I discovered that the program had ended a few months ago, and so the only solution was an expensive out-of-warranty repair.

Not knowing where else to go, I sent the following email to Steve Jobs:
Dear Steve,

Today the Apple technician at my university diagnosed my Apple G3 iBook (serial # UV342######) with logic board failure. This is the fourth time that my logic board has failed since I purchased it in May 2004, just over three years ago. I called technical support this afternoon only to discover that the iBook logic board repair extension program has recently ended and thus, in order to fix my computer, I would need to pay hundreds of dollars for an out-of-warranty repair.

I'm very disappointed with the way in which Apple dealt with the iBook logic board problem. Apple acknowledged from the beginning that logic board failure on this particular iBook model was widespread and recurrent, as evident in my case, and yet each time they only replaced the logic board rather than fixing the issue. As a student, it was an extreme inconvenience to repeatedly send my computer to Apple each time this occurred (the third time the repair took a month to perform) and be without my computer during the college semesters. When I called tech support the third time (April 2006) and asked if a more permanent remedy could be found, such as replacing the defective iBook with a newer model, I was told that they would repair this issue three times and then replace the iBook on the fourth occasion. Yet now, because the fourth failure occurred just a few months after the program ended, I'm stuck with a defective computer in the middle of my first semester of graduate school.

I was very impressed with the user interface of my iBook and with Apple's craftsmanship in other products (my iPod has always worked perfectly) and so I was even more surprised and disappointed that instead of recalling and replacing a defective product, in this case Apple merely used stop-gap repairs that never actually fixed the problem. Now I'm left with a defective product and no affordable solution.

I was expecting at most to receive an apology and maybe a iTunes gift card or something. Instead, today I received a phone call from one of Jobs' representatives who said that they reviewed my case and thought that a full replacement would be the best solution. Since the iBook is no longer produced, they're sending me a brand new 2 GHz MacBook, which should arrive by Friday.

I guess the moral of the story is that there are still some companies like Apple who take legitimate complaints seriously. Now I wait for my shiny new MacBook.

"I will open my mouth in a parable..."

Psalm 78 opens by declaring:
1Give ear, O my people, to my teaching;
     incline your ears to the words of my mouth!
2I will open my mouth in a parable;
     I will utter dark sayings from of old,
3things that we have heard and known,
     that our fathers have told us.
4We will not hide them from their children,
     but tell to the coming generation
the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might,
     and the wonders that he has done.
It is interesting that, on one hand, the psalmist describes his psalm as being a "parable" and an utterance of "dark sayings from of old," which suggests some form of mystery. (Think, for example, of how Jesus specifically used parables to veil the mystery of who he was.) On the other hand, the psalmist insists that he is writing merely things "that we have head and known/that our fathers have told us."

Certainly, much of the psalm is a survey of Israel's history, and therefore a story with which ever good Hebrew would have been intimately familiar. I think, though, that the psalmist sneaks in the mystery at the end of the psalm, masquerading its glory as something very obvious in Israel's history:

70He chose David his servant
     and took him from the sheepfolds;
71from following the nursing ewes he brought him
     to shepherd Jacob his people,
     Israel his inheritance.
72With upright heart he shepherded them
     and guided them with his skillful hand.
What is so mysterious about describing David as the shepherd of Israel? Well, in three of the psalms directly surrounding Psalm 78 (Psalm 77:20, Psalm 79:13, and Psalm 80:1), God himself is described as the Shepherd of Israel. How could both David and God be the Shepherd of Israel?

"I AM the Good Shepherd..."

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Tuesday, October 02, 2007

For Your Information and Edification

In case you didn't know, Indelible Grace is on the verge of coming out with a fifth album, entitled "Wake Thy Slumbering Children."

Maranatha, IGrace 5.


Saturday, September 29, 2007

Outward Sign, Inward Reality--Part Three

Several months ago, I wrote two posts about the connection of the outward signs of circumcision and baptism to their respective inward realities: circumcision of the heart and baptism of the Spirit. You can read those posts here: Part 1 and Part 2.

In the first post, I discussed the Bible does not speak of circumcision and baptism as ends in themselves, but as signs and seals that point to inward spiritual realities; thus, there is an important link between between the sacraments and regeneration. In the second post, I wrote about the fact that there is not a causal relationship between the outward signs and the inward realities--that is, just as being physically circumcised by itself did not save anyone, neither does water baptism by itself save anyone. So, one big question remains: How, then, do the outward signs correspond to the inward realities?

Let me begin this issue by referring to one of John Piper's arguments against infant baptism. In fact, in the sermon that he discusses these things, he notes that this particular argument has become one of the most important reasons that he is still a Baptist. He argues:

When the New Testament church debated in Acts 15 whether circumcision should still be required of believers as part of becoming a Christian, it is astonishing that not once in that entire debate did anyone say anything about baptism standing in the place of circumcision. If baptism is the simple replacement of circumcision as a sign of the new covenant, and thus valid for children as well as for adults, as circumcision was, surely this would have been the time to develop the argument and so show that circumcision was no longer necessary. But it is not even mentioned.
Now, I should first note that Piper is one of my heroes, and I think that he is one of the most godly men living. His unbridled passion for Jesus Christ humbles and encourages me every time I hear him speak or read something that he wrote. Still, he and I disagree about the nature of baptism. So, allow me to respectfully disagree with the reasoning behind this argument.

I would say that the reason the Jerusalem Council did not bring up baptism as "the simple replacement of circumcision" is that to do so would have given the completely wrong impression to those who believed that a person must become Jewish first, and then a Christian, in order to be saved. The big theological problem behind this dispute was that many Jewish converts to Christianity were understanding their salvation as being rooted in Jewish identity (especially in regard to their being circumcised) and merely continued by Christ. Paul argued vehemently against this reasoning, declaring that Christ is not only the capstone of a Jew's salvation for being Jewish, but the foundation and the capstone (and everything in between) for salvation on the basis of faith.

So, to tell these confused Jewish Christians that baptism was "the simple replacement of circumcision" would have been extremely misleading. It would have confirmed their presuppositions that salvation comes on the basis of being Jewish (with Christ as the capstone of Jewishness), and it would have simply given them a different means of being Jewish--baptism instead of circumcision. Instead, the Jerusalem Council had to proclaim that Jesus Christ alone is the ground of salvation.

(By the way, Piper's whole sermon from which I am quoting is intended to demonstrate that there is not a definite link between circumcision and baptism. I believe that there is, and I have discussed this elsewhere, but I cannot spend too much time defending that point now. I already have enough to say.)

So, why do I bring this up when I said that I intended to write about what baptism actually does do? Mainly, I want my terms to be clear in how I describe the sacraments: Christ alone saves, so the sacraments cannot be more than the means through which Christ saves, rather than the basis of salvation.

This is the thrust of Paul's argument in Romans 4: Abraham was counted righteous by faith before he had received circumcision, partially to show that salvation comes by faith alone, and partially to "make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well, and to make him the father of the circumcised who are not merely circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised." (Rom 4:11-12) Abraham's salvation by faith became the example of how all who followed him would be saved.

So, what role is left for the sacraments to play in salvation? Since this post has already become quite lengthy (this perhaps should have been two posts), I will suggest only one idea about how to think about the relationship of the baptism to the Christian's salvation: I think that it would be helpful to think of baptism as a seed planted in our hearts, along the lines of Jesus' parable of the sower.

A seed by itself is nothing, and until the seed can find a home in the rich soil of faith (rather than being snatched up or falling on rocky or weedy soil), it cannot produce any fruit. But, because God actually makes use of the outward sign of our baptism in order to cause the inward reality to blossom, baptism is extremely important. I simply think that there is too strong of a link in Scripture between water baptism and Spirit baptism to argue that water baptism is merely symbolic of salvation, but I think that the Scripture too clearly delineates between the two for there to be a absolute causal link. In my judgment, using the metaphor of a seed is a very helpful way to steer clear of these two extremes.

Now, a couple of clarifications for thinking about this metaphor. First, God does not need a seed to cause something to grow. Is God not able to raise up children of Abraham from mere stones? (Matt. 3:9) God normally uses a seed, but in certain cases he can certainly save someone without their being baptized. Salvation is found in Christ alone, even if God generally uses baptism as a means of communicating that salvation.

Second, baptism is often not the first seed planted in someone's life. I grew up in a Christian family, but I was not baptized as an infant. Furthermore, there are plenty of believers who did not even grow up in Christian families. Therefore, the first seed sowed in such lives was the word of God. (Presbyterians understand the grace communicated through the sacraments as being the same grace communicated through the word.) In that case, where the word of God was the seed planted, baptism would not be a second kind of seed, but would be the watering (pardon the pun!) on the seed. In cases where children of believers are indeed baptized after birth, the word that they hear read and preached as they grow up would water their seed of baptism.

In any case, no matter who plants and who waters, "God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth" (1 Cor 3:6-7). In the end, all glory goes to the Father who chose us, to the Son who died and rose again for us, and to the Spirit who enlivens our souls to see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. All glory be to the Triune God!

So, I hope that you find this metaphor helpful because I think that it communicates an important truth: we are not saved by baptism per se, but by Jesus Christ. Still, God's ordaining the ends of salvation does not mean that he did not ordain the means of communicating that salvation, and among those means (e.g., the proclamation of the word) would be the sacrament of baptism.

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Friday, September 21, 2007


A quick link to something I may begin using as a training program to survive grad school:


Thursday, September 20, 2007

When in Rome...

For my Worship Leadership class, we are required to visit two different types of churches (different from each other, and different from our own denomination) and to write papers where we discuss what we saw in the worship services that might be instructive for our own worship. So, a couple of weeks ago, I attended a Sunday evening Catholic mass with a couple who are my friends and members of the church. It was a very interesting assignment, so I published the paper that I wrote, which you can read here.

Also, if you want to read through the liturgy of a Catholic mass, you can see it here.

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