Education as idol-servant

"Value-free education is a contradiction in temrs, and any hierarchy of values constitutes a religious system. Hence, all education is fundamentally religious.... When Christianity ceased being the dominant religion, other religious ideas quite naturally replaced it in the schools.

Page 210.


"His insistence that he knows better than ordinary people what should be done with their property and his desire that he and his fellow experts should have the power to dispose of it mark him as something more than a purveyor of technical expertise.... In a press conference of May 1962, President Kennedy explained that.... the problems we face are technical ones. This means that they are 'beyond the comprehension of most men.'... If [one] accepts passively [the expert's] expertise he is also accepting his values. There is no value-free expertise."

Page 194.

What's the Government For?

"When the provision of paternal security replaces the provision of justice as the function of the state, the state stops providing justice."
Page 184.

Jesus Gives Kant the Raspberry

"Although we no longer read Kant, we are part of an intellectual world that has been shaped by the responses to his teaching that there is an unbridgeable gulf between matter and spirit.... Those who believe in the Christian doctyrine of incarnation do not need to make choices [between matter and spirit] because there is an archetype for understanding how the world of flesh and the world of spirit make contqact. For if God was in Christ, and if the way to the Father is through the Son, then there is no need to accept a formulation that erects an unbridgeable gulf.... We do not need to choose between brute factuality and mystical derangement."
Page 175.


The Idol of Sociology

"Refusing to take an expressed idea at face value, assumes it is determined wholly by the context in which it is formulated, its social habitat... [This] is used as a debunking device.... The Freudian who dismisses an opponent as merely working off a repression or the Marxist who interprets social and political opinions as simple expressions of class interest.... This is little more than a sophisticated form of the logical fallacy..., the argument ad hominem... further evidence that these disciplines are not the sciences they claim to be.... Even if the debunker correctly identifies the motivation behind his adversary's position, that says nothing about the validity of the adversary's argument or the truth of his conclusion."

Pages 153-156.

De-deifying Science

"All systems of thought rest on assumptions or beliefs. An assertion about God is not logically different from a physicist's assumption that the physical world actually exists apart from anyone's mind.... Far from maintaining an objectivity denied to other pursuits, science is subject to the same array of personal vagaries as any human enterprise..."

Pages 143-144.

Everybody's got a god

“Anyone with a hierarchy of values has placed something at its apex, and whatever that is is the god he serves…. Western society, in turning away from Christian faith, has turned to other things…. Even atheisms are usually idolatrous… because they elevate some ‘principle of coherence.’”

Herbert Schlossberg, Idols for Destruction, Crossway, 1990. Pg 5-6.

Lurking assumptions

“Some academic disciplines, especially those in the social sciences, are profoundly anti-Christian in their effect, and it is difficult to counter that effect by dealing with their evidence or their arguments. The evidence is often good and the arguments sound. It is the assumptions we must question. No serious thought can be conducted without assumptions, but recognizing them – in our own thinking as well as in others – is vital if we are to avoid falling into serious error. Assumptions are beliefs; if they were proven they would not be assumptions.”

Herbert Schlossberg, Idols for Destruction, Crossway, 1990. Pg 8.

Back, for now

I'm officially on vacation, and finishing up a chapter in the best book I've read in a long time. Here come some quotes that probably won't do it justice...

We may not post much, as we're gone much of Monday, then Tuesday through Thursday...

Wife Week - Day 7 - Survival of the Fittest

Whew! The week has finally come to a close, and that means tomorrow starts a week of vacation for our family! There's the Reformed view of "perserverance of the saints," and then there's perserverance of the saints. This week we were called to perservere like never before:

Sunday pm/Monday am - Owen goes to ER with ear infection/burst eardrum
Thursday - Isaiah goes to doctor with ear infection/burst ear drum
Sunday (today) morning - Grace goes to ER with ear infection

Steve: Monday & Tuesday night meetings, Thursday pm Acension Day service, Friday pm wedding rehearsal, Saturday pm wedding and nephew's graduation open house, Sunday 2 services

Sara: Wednesday all day away with sister-in-law, Friday planted garden and potted plants, and general administration of antibiotics and medicines

God intervened and provided weather which threatened tornados, thus the Thursday pm service was cancelled. He also provided a much-improved back for me, enabling me to do all the extra work required with sick children.

Tomorrow we plan to start our vacation with a local hometown Memorial Day parade and pancake breakfast, then escaping for 2 nights to a cabin near Lake Michigan while the kids enjoy time with the grandparents. Time for a deep breath.... and then on with the summer!


Wife Week - Day 6 - Family Roots

Here's a photo of the Evert Schaap family. It might have been taken in the 1930's. Evert is seated on the left with his wife Hattie Poll sitting next to him. The tall skinny guy on the right is my maternal grandfather, Emerson Schaap, with his two sisters standing.

This is a family that understands roots. His grandfather, Otto Schaap, was born in Southern Holland to John Schaap. Otto immigrated to the US with his wife and all but 2 of his children. They were part of a group of Dutch immigrants who were seeking religious freedom and better times in America. They boarded the ship "DeLevere" and weighed anchor on May 21, 1848 with the Rev. Van Raalte. They sailed 44 days and reached New York on the 3rd of July. They then took a steamboat up the Hudson river to Albany, NY, then into a canal boat which in seven days brought them to Buffalo. Next was a four day trip on a steam boat to Milwaukee, WI, then a schooner took them across Lake Michigan to Grand Haven. Their goods were reloaded onto a horse drawn flat boat and they walked south along the lakeshore to the mouth of Black Lake (Lake Macatawa). One final boat ride took them inland to the Indian City (Holland, MI) on July 21. Two months of travel brought them to their new home: a log cabin deep in the woods built by Indians for a church. Here they rested for 6 weeks, then pressed on inland into the woods where the family was finally planted near Overisel, MI.

All this time Otto yearned for his homeland. Later on he would see God's hand in it all, bringing them to a land where they could get the pure Gospel of Jesus Christ. Their life in America went well and they were able to sing "Des Heeren Goedneid Kent geen palen" - Psalm 95.

Otto's grandson Jacob Gerrit Schaap settled on a densely wooded farmstead in Overisel. Here he and his wife worked the land and raised their family in the fear of the Lord. Prayer and Bible reading in Dutch was a daily tradition in their home. The church services and catechism lessons they attended were also in Dutch (and were so until the 1940's!). Incidentally, my husband Steve grew up in this very church in Overisel. The family held firm to the faith. Jacob's son Evert (photo above) left home to live next door, a mile and a half away. I spent the first 8 years of my life living in a home built between these two Schaap farms. There Evert worked pulling trees down to create his own farm.

His son, my grandfather Emerson, was born in that house and still lives in it to this day, 85 years later. He and my grandmother still take down the big family bible and read together over tea after dinner. I'm glad my children have gotten to know them and see evidence of God's faithfulness to this family rooted in God over 9 generations and 200 years. The roots run deep.


Wife Week - Day 5 - Gardening

I think being in "full bloom" myself (pregnant) has given me a strange attraction to growing things this spring. I went crazy with annuals, perennials and our garden this May! I just planted the garden this afternoon; Memorial Day Weekend is the typical time to plant here in West Michigan. We DID have frost last week! But I'm hoping that my plants will be safe now.

Of course, being a designer, I couldn't have a standard rectangular garden with straight rows of vegetables. I am stuck with a rectangular garden, and too small of one in my opinion, but I've never let constraints like that hamper my creativity before! So this year I laid out a formal diamond shaped garden with a triangular bed in each corner. The very center will be a tall spray of pink gladioli, surrounded by yellow bush beans then marigolds defining the diamond center. Around the diamond is a narrow walkway to allow access to the corner beds: one for herbs, one for climbing green beans, another for zucchini and the fourth for 2 tomato plants and some green peppers. All of this will be enclosed with a chicken wire fence laced with morning glories, sweet peas, and perhaps some more climbing beans (love beans). A huge climbing rose is the backdrop set up against our shed.

I also have several perennial beds, my favorite of which features all purple and yellow blooms. This year will be the first time my hollyhocks should bloom - I'm hoping for good 10-footers! Last year we had 9 o'clocks given to us, which opened up around 9:40 pm each night. No sign of them poking up yet. They are some of the strangest, if not coolest, flowers ever created by God. From bud to bloom in about 5 seconds! We invited friends and family over just to watch them open!

With all these flowers to care for, I'm hoping my back holds out until baby arrives. I have already started training my gardening staff (aka children) on how to water and weed the beds and containers. They are very effective, if not a bit overly exuberant in their work.

Any interesting plants or flowers that have been tried by YOU?


Wife Week - Day 4 - Hemmeke Ha-ha's

We've had some great one-liners around here lately:

Sara (while trying to impress Steve on her supposed literary prowess): "Don't you see how that line by Tolkien relates to Paul Bunyan's "Pilgrim's Progress?" (Paul Bunyan is a legendary giant-sized logger who had an equally large blue ox named Babe whose footprints created the Great Lakes. Standard 2nd grade level Michigan folk lore)

Owen (said through tears after stubbing his toe): "It's ow-ier than brussel sprouts!"

Owen (upon spotting spinach bits in his pasta): "Hey! Who put grasshoppers in here?"

Isaiah (during bedtime prayers): "... if I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to tape."

Grace (while discussing my pregnant belly) "What if your stomach gets so big it explodes?"

Wife Week - Day 4

Yikes! It's Thursday already?! OK, so the "Wife Week" posts have been s-l-o-w in coming, but there's a good reason: two boys with ear infections. Today was unexpectedly eaten up by brining the kids to the doctor, out to eat, then to the grocery store and pharmacy. That's a big feat for a 31-week prego to do on her own (especially with a 2 year old in pain who cried for the last 1.5 hours of the trip). Yesterday was a day out for me and my sister in law to a 14 acre flea market in Indiana. Didn't buy any fleas, though. :)

Today's Topic: SANITY! Most of you can relate to a hectic day (or week), and it seems that I've had quite a few of those in a row, lately. It seems that we cram way too much into a 24 hour day, then beat ourselves up when we forget an appointment or don't check off all the items on our to-do lists. So how to manage it all and stay sane, not to mention even happy or flourishing?

I was voted "most organized" in high school - mostly due to my neatly tabbed 3" binder for my human anatomy class complete with hand-drawn diagrams - and have tried many different "systems" to conquer the chaos in life. Let's review:
  1. To-do lists - these are handy little lists of everything your crazy mind can dream of, jotted down on random scraps of paper, post-its, envelopes, receipts, etc. I have found them handy for very short term projects, like getting ready for a dinner party. Beyond that, my lists grow legs and run away to be lost forever. And being organized by not very self-disciplined, I tend to write a lot of chores on a list that never get done.
  2. Planners - I was a devoted Franklin Covey planner gal for a while. This is a glorified version of the post-it to-do list in a swanky leather binder. They take up a lot of space, cost a bundle, and the hundreds of pages to flip through make figuring out where you are in life a bit tricky. My Franklin is in storage somewhere....
  3. Wall Calendar - The bigger the better, provided you've got the wall space to devote to it. But don't hang yours behind a door, as I have done, because you or anybody else of reading capabilities in the home will never look at it! Not so great for organizing the daily needs of your life, best for synchronizing schedules of various family members.
  4. Online Drill Sargeants - there are various forms and methods out there to keep you in line with everything from menu planning & housekeeping to dieting & excersize. Their influence bounces off your computer screen with all the other phosphorescent electrons. You may feel "techy" but the automated messages tend to lose their punch after a week.
  5. PDA - I have every bit of personal information in my Palm Pilot, including the pregnancy statistics from EVERY prenatal visit for my three children. You know, just in case I need to know what my blood pressure was at 29 weeks pregnancy 4 years ago. I've used this for grocery lists, menu plans, chore schedules, calendars, contacts, yarn conversion charts, even have the Periodic Table of Elements on there (yes, I'm a geek). For the downfalls of this plan, see "Planners" above and add in the frenzy that can be created when your battery dies (ask Steve).

My experience has taught me that these handy-dandy tools actually create more chaos in my life. My dear 85-year old Grandma has been the most helpful tool for eliminating the frenzied feelings that can develop and disable me. No big secrets here - her long life has given her PERSPECTIVE. Here's my take on it:

  • God gives you only what you can bear and will also help you through each moment
  • reread the above: each moment - focus on what's at hand and don't worry about tomorrow
  • leave some margin in each day: mental, physical, time, financial.... don't overbook!
  • laugh a lot - a whole lot! That microwaved cell phone will most likely make you laugh, not cry, tomorrow.
  • remember whose life you're living - not your own, but the one God has given you by his grace (that should make you reschedule a few things, eh?)


Wife Week

Steve may be too busy to blog, so I thought I'd declare this Wife Week and take over the blog for a while. I'll try to vary my topics each day this week to please our varied readers. But don't look for reviews on Spurgeon or my thoughts on eschatology - my brain doesn't operate in those realms too often!

Today's topic: Knitting (I'll get this over with for those non-fiber inclined folks). I finished the beautiful Hedera socks. What a lovely lace pattern! Easy to memorize and knit, nice and stretchy... but I washed the socks and they shrunk just enough to not fit my size 10 feet anymore. Happy Birthday Mom.... I've got some lt. purple merino wool in the stash for another (larger!) pair.

So I started another lace project - the Ella Shawl from knitty.com. I have a great slubby cotton blend yarn in shades of green. The pattern was irresistable - it shares the same name as my favorite singer: Ella Fitzgerald! The yarn reminds me of the forest of Lorien from Lord of the Rings. All vine-y and tendril-like. Definitely elvish. The pattern even looks like large mallorn leaves! But it's been slow going because...

I started in on a baby cardigan for Jr. Hemmeke! With only 9.5 weeks to go in this pregnancy, I needed something to remind me of the joys of bearing children (namely, the end result). I'm modifying a pattern of a seed stitch cardi with a few cables here and there. Since we're having a boy, I can't really do all the cutesy lace patterns or the funky granny square sweaters I've seen. I'll save those for Grace and me. :)

And there's a ton of new sock yarn in the queue. Stripes and more stripes. For friends and myself. And I'm determined to learn how to knit two socks at once on one needle. And all those leftover bits of sock yarn will most likely become baby socks. Maybe I could figure out how to do 4 or 6 baby socks on one needle! There's the ultimate in multi-tasking!

Grace learned how to knit on a circular knitting loom this week. Owen turned his project into a spider web. I have visions of a family cottage industry floating in my head! Perhaps we'll teach the kids to spin on a drop spindle and convince Steve we need a few sheep roaming in the backyard! "But it will cut down on lawn mowing, honey!"


Blog hiatus

No blogging for a while. Here's why:

Today: 3 meetings
Tuesday: Consistory
Wednesday: Sara gone - watching kids solo in evening
Thursday: Ascension Day service
Friday: Wedding rehearsal
Saturday: officiating wedding
Sunday: 2 sermons, as usual

Thank the good Lord that Sunday begins a week of vacation.

On top of it all Owen and I made a trip to ER and pharmacy for ear infection between 12:30am and 2am, and he was up and in pain 10pm to 3:30am. Not a stellar start to this week!

Anyway, see you again on the other side of this craziness.


Thought for the Day

"Pluralism is simply another name for polytheism."

Rest of the quote is pretty good, too...


Big Toe in the Water

Homeschooling has been in my head a lot lately, and tonight I think I officially stuck my toes in the water: I attended my first small group meeting of local homeschool moms. Even had the hostess's twin daughters watch our kids while away (the girls had to trade off due to schedule issues, but since they're identical twins I'm not sure that my kids even noticed!). It was a good start to get me thinking outside the 4 walls of our home. Being a stay at home mom can cause one to get in a mental rut at times!

We talked a bit about balancing the spirit and joy of youth with order and discipline, something that we are constantly working on with our 4, 3, and almost-2 year old kids. Hoo boy, our home is ABOUNDING in spirit some days! And why does it seem that those are always rainy days?? With 10.5 weeks of pregnancy left, I find it difficult to stay on top of things that should've been nipped in the bud days ago. I won't elaborate on my boys sprinkling brown sugar around the kitchen and living room (a bud-nipping delayed one day too many!).

I occasionally will think "Why on earth did God call me to have 4 kids in under 5 years, and then to decide to homeschool them on top of that?!" Many folks think we're nuts. Especially the folks in the grocery store. But I think I saw a hint of envy in their eyes when they saw how fast those six little hands can unload a grocery cart onto the conveyor belt! So maybe we are nuts, but God still called us to this, and we will do our best to remain faithful to His call.


Da Vinci's Bible

Giving the pre-reformation history exam at classis today, and realizing the importance of knowing history to giving us confidence in our faith and answering skeptics and doubts, I found myself back in "Da Vinci Code mode." Coming in at #2 on the Itunes podcast charts: Josh McDowell's "Da Vinci answers." Some great stuff, including this quote.

"I know a certain gospel, which is called the Gospel according to Thomas, and a Gospel according to Matthias, and many others here which we have read. Lest we should in any way be considered ignorant because of those who imagine they possess some knowledge if they are acquainted with these. Nevertheless, among all these we have approved solely those which the church has recognized, which is that only the 4 gospels should be accepted."

Origen of Alexandria wrote this in the 200s! Before Constantine and councils were around, which Dan Brown says suppressed those gospels.


Books I bought today

The Hunt for Red October, Tom Clancy
McGuffey's Eclectic Primer
Bobos in Paradise: The New Upper Class & How They Got There, David Brooks
The Gnostic Empire Strikes Back: An Old Heresy for the New Age, Peter Jones
The Birth of the Modern: World Society 1815-1830, Paul Johnson
The Gulag Archipelago: Alexander Solzhenitsyn

All for $20! Great used bookstores around here.
Who knows when I'll get to read them.

On receiving from others

“It is difficult having to accept [help] all the time!…. But unless we did, how could the others have the pleasure, and the spiritual growth, of giving? And – I don’t know about you, but I was very proud; I like the superior feeling of helping others…”

Joy Lewis (Jack's wife), Letters to an American Lady, Eerdman’s, 1967, pg 75-76

A Movie Allergy

“I read [a certain book] some years ago, but can’t imagine how it could be made into a film. I suppose they drag some love story into it? (But then I’m, as you know, rather allergic to the films).”

C.S. Lewis, Letters to an American Lady, Eerdman’s, 1967, pg 59.


Consumer is King at Christmas

“I’m afraid I hate the weeks just before Christmas, and so much of the (very commercialized and vulgarized) fuss has nothing to do with the Nativity at all. I wish we didn’t live in a world where buying and selling things (especially selling) seems to have become almost more important than either producing or using them.”

C.S. Lewis, Letters to an American Lady, Eerdman’s, 1967, pg 50.


The problem

"Under communism, man exploits man.
Under capitalism, it's exactly the reverse."
John Kenneth Galbraith

The problem is in the nature of man, not the political system.
Source: James Boice, "Body Life" on Ephesians 4

I'm not saying the systems are morally equivalent, just that capitalism isn't our savior.


Cure for bitterness

“I mustn’t encourage you to go on thinking about her. That, after all, is almost the greatest evil nasty people can do us – to become an obsession, to haunt our minds. A brief prayer for them, and then off to other subjects, is the thing, if only one can stick to it.”
C.S. Lewis, Letters to an American Lady, Eerdman’s, 1967, pg 28.

“The allegorical sense of [Mary Magdalene’s] great action dawned on me the other day. The precious alabaster box which one must break over the Holy Feet is one’s heart. Easier said than done. And the contents become perfume only when it is broken. While they are safe inside they are more like sewage. All very alarming.”
C.S. Lewis, Letters to an American Lady, Eerdman’s, 1967, pg 35-36.


True Holiness; myth of independence

“How little people know who think that holiness is dull. When one meets the real thing… it is irresistible. If even 10% of the world’s population had it, would not the whole world be converted and happy before a year’s end?”
C.S. Lewis, Letters to an American Lady, Eerdman’s, 1967, pg 19.

“It is good for us to be cured of the illusion of ‘independence.’ For of course independence, the state of being indebted to no one, is eternally impossible…. Of course you ought to be dependent on your daughter and son-in-law. Support of parents is a most… acknowledged duty.”
C.S. Lewis, Letters to an American Lady, Eerdman’s, 1967, pg 20-21.


Smoke machines

"Christian ministers are responsible to lead the people of God when it comes to the great and pressing issues of the day, to be true men of Issachar. For example, I mean issues like the fact that homosexual behavior is a sin, which has been clear to the universal Church, east and west, north and south, last century and the ones before that, to most bishops and all stable hands. This important datum is being currently blurred by professional and highly educated fog-mongers, but that does not alter our duties in the slightest. These faithful conservative ministers, with their faithfulness in leadership established on those issues which every Christian (with eyes in his head) can see, will have then earned the trust of Christians generally when it comes time to lead them in some challenging areas. That way, the hermeneutical spiral need not be circling the drain.

"The problem is that subtle minds want to be subtle all the time, and everything ain't subtle. The problem is that simple minds want to be simple all the time, and everything ain't simple. Scriptural leadership means being simple where God is simple (what part of "thou shalt not" went over your head?) and subtle when God is subtle (some things in Paul's letters are hard to understand, and which ignorant and unstable people twist to their own destruction)."

Doug Wilson

Views of Paul

One of the benefits of living in West Michigan: publishers' direct bookstores.
For a pittance, I picked up these two gems to look into the New Perspective on Paul...

and the Old Perspective on Paul:

If I ever surface from these heavy tomes, I'll let you know what I thought.


You're going down

Reading Acts 23, of Paul's arrest and interrogation by the Jews in Jerusalem, I came across a powerful OT reference. When the high priest commands Paul to be struck for saying he lived in good conscience before God, Paul responds: "God will strike you, you whitewashed wall!" (Acts 23:5)

Now read Ezekiel 13:10-15 (NIV):

“‘Because they lead my people astray, saying, “Peace,” when there is no peace, and because, when a flimsy wall is built, they cover it with whitewash, 11 therefore tell those who cover it with whitewash that it is going to fall. Rain will come in torrents, and I will send hailstones hurtling down, and violent winds will burst forth. 12 When the wall collapses, will people not ask you, “Where is the whitewash you covered it with?”
13 ”‘Therefore this is what the Sovereign LORD says: In my wrath I will unleash a violent wind, and in my anger hailstones and torrents of rain will fall with destructive fury. 14 I will tear down the wall you have covered with whitewash and will level it to the ground so that its foundation will be laid bare. When it falls, you will be destroyed in it; and you will know that I am the LORD. 15 So I will spend my wrath against the wall and against those who covered it with whitewash. I will say to you, “The wall is gone and so are those who whitewashed it, 16 those prophets of Israel who prophesied to Jerusalem and saw visions of peace for her when there was no peace, declares the Sovereign LORD.”’

What's a woman to do?

On Proverbs 31

"This passage denies that a woman's place is in the home. It affirms that her priority is the home." - Doug Wilson

"And it pampers all of them"

Check out King of the Hill's take on church shopping and the mega church.
5 minute clip from the TV show.
Great stuff - I was laughing out loud.


Perpetually horrified?

"Is it the mission of the church to be shocked and offended every time the world thinks and acts opposite to our beliefs? Or is it our mission to weep for the lost and to bring the gospel to them? Are we to keep pointing our fingers at nonbelievers, or are we to wrap our arms around them and lead them to the Truth?....

I don't see my calling as one which puts me in the position of being perpetually horrified by what is going on around me, but one which compels me to help people fall in love with God. The apostle Paul's attitude toward the immorality and spiritual ignorance in the world of his day was not to condone those things, certainly, but to say, 'That's the way people apart from God are. Let's pray for them that God would open their eyes and release them from their captivity to the devil.' What shocked Paul instead was what he saw going on in the churches."

Rev. Steve Bierly - Sunday School Guide, April 23, 2006


Tiptoe Thru the Tulips... -Sara

Ah, it's that time of year again on the West Coast of Michigan.... all the snows have melted away (usually) and the queen of spring bulbs makes her grand appearance for the annual Tulip Time Festival held in Holland, MI. It all kicks off tomorrow night with over 700 Dutch Dancers klompen dancing in a park by Lake Macatawa, followed by a fireworks display. And lots of food too! I missed the elephant ears last year and don't plan to make that mistake again!

So I thought I'd share some pictures of yours truly dressed up in my Dutch costume when I danced in high school. Because not many guys opted for this extra-curricular activity, my 5'8" stature (and short Polish partner) meant I ended up being the Dutch guy in this pair. No jokes about cross dressing please. (It was at this time I met Steve, so if he stuck around for this piece of work, it couldn't have been that bad of a costume!)

My costume is from the province of Urk, on the seashore. Urk guys usually were fishermen, thus the high-wader pants. They tied their wedding rings onto their scarves for security. I'm not sure where the stylish hat fits into fishing life, but bows in front or back was my only option. There were 3 or 4 stripe patterns to choose from for the shirt. And yes, I'm wearing 8 pairs of black knee socks to cusion my feet in those hand-carved clogs. All costumes are hand sewn (thanks Mom!) and must pass a rigorous inspection to make sure they're up to snuff. Forget one part of your costume or wear it incorrectly and you can't dance in public!

Here's my partner, Megan, in her Middlebury costume. She had to wear gold wire coils called kissers under her multi-layered starched lace hat. The coils stuck out from the sides of her head and supposedly a gal would hang jewels off them to show her family's wealth (and attract suitors). She also wears a petticoat and apron with her black skirt, which got to be quite heavy after doing 25 minutes of high kicks throughout the dance!

The dance itself it done in groups of 6 couples. There are three parts, including a waltz and some fancy windmill and star formations. Dancers start learning the routine in January with weekly practices until May. Five or six area high schools supply the hundreds of dancers (each paying for their own costume and shoes!!). Many alumni dancers participate as well. I think I read there will be around 1800 dancers this year. Pretty impressive when you see about 800 clomping all at once around one city block-sized park. And a few wooden shoes have been known to get kicked off and go flying into the crowds (or split in two while dancing).

Next week our family plans on taking in some of the events which include a Town Crier competition, the Queen's Cavalrie military drills on the shores of Lake Michigan, and of course plenty of grease vendors, er, I mean food stands including plenty of the famous Dutch Fat Balls. So I leave you with a photo of our own Dutch fat ball, daughter Grace, in her Dutch costume and wee wooden clogs, taken 5 years ago:


Should we read Da Vinci?

Had a reader ask if I should have read Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code.
Here was my response.

Philippians 4:8 kept me from reading Da Vinci for quite a while.
What got me reading it was:
1. Hearing whiffs of the questioning of the New Testament witness. I wanted to know how this was questioned.
2. I'm giving the early church history classis exam next Tuesday, so wanted to be familiar, as several heresies from then are represented in the book.
3. I came across it at the library, so it was convenient.
4. People say (I'm not sure) it's the best seller of all time, besides the Bible.

I almost never read novels like this b/c of Phil 4:8. Only when several factors converge like these do I consider it.

Be assured there wasn't gratuitous and detailed sexual stuff in it beyond one scene. (Sidenote: gratuitous means not necessary to the plot - added for sensationalism; it doesn't mean excessive). What was more wicked than the description of the sex rite was that the main character "grew" from being initially horrified by it, to understanding it was a natural, worshipful thing to do. THAT is the concern, far more than the exposure to the sexual.

I believe there are things mature Christian adults can read/watch that immature Christians shouldn't. This seems to be the point of Romans 14-15. Part of maturity involves discerning and filtering stuff well, so you are edified by the good and not corrupted by the bad. But this shouldn't be used as an excuse to take in immorality either. Nor should we read something, just because we can.

Sin (swearing, sex, whatever) depicted in a work of art isn't always gratuitous (without purpose). It becomes so when it strays from the author's literary purpose. (As a side conclusion, it isn't always a sin to depict sin in art.)

A better question than "what is okay to read?" is "What is the best to read?" Think Andrew Stanley's question: what's the wise thing to do/read? instead of "what can I get away with reading?"

We don't want to fill our minds with evil and untruth, but you must know the lie in order to refute it. Just dismissing Dan Brown without answering him is the church's temptation today, but his basic assertion questioning the NT texts must be answered b/c people are obviously believing it.

Balance of quantity in what you read is part of the equation here. Keep your reading 4 parts Bible, 3 parts great Christian thinkers (Augustine, Athanasius, Aquinas, Calvin, Luther, Edwards, Puritans), 2 parts great classical literature (Plato, Melville, Shakespeare, Dumas) and 1 part contemporary stuff. See CS Lewis' "On the Reading of Old Books" for more there.

Thinking them in

I've been coming across some apologetics material lately, comparing 2 different schools of thought, both rooted in Reformed theology. Let's take a look...

1. Classical, or evidential - rooted in Benjamin Breckenridge Warfield, and modern advocates like RC Sproul, this school uses reason to argue with unbelievers for the existence of God and authenticity of the Scriptures, using evidence. It assumes there is enough sound reason with the unbeliever to communicate a convincing argument to him, which can at least set him to wondering.

2. Presuppositional - finding its roots in Abraham Kuyper and its full incarnation in the late Cornelius Van Til and Greg Bahnsen, this school says you can't use reason as a standard to prove God's existence or the truth of Christianity, because that would make reason the ultimate standard for truth instead of Christ. But if you start by presupposing (thus the name) the truth of God's revelation in the Christian Scriptures, you then have a proper perspective of reason from which to conclude other things God has revealed.

The classical school critiques the presuppositional school for simply begging the question of God's revelation, providing no logical support for it.

Personally, I'm firmly in the "undecided" camp, here. I think there's some truth in both, but the question seems to hinge on how sound our reason is. It is fallen, and thus, as the presupp-ers like to point out, "The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them" (1 Cor 2:14). They take this verse as a description of the condition of fallen reason. Incapable of discerning spiritual things. Okay, but the image of God within us (reason being part of that image) is not obliterated in the fall. It's in pieces and may not work well, but unbelievers can add, run experiments, even send ships into space it seems. They have enough reason left within them, and God communicated clearly enough for them to get it. But they have rejected it, and only THEN did their thinking become futile (Rom 1:19-21).

I would compare this to discussions about how effective the sacraments are. I believe they are means which communicate grace to the believer. They nourish a pre-existent faith, they don't create it. Yet without it, we have little support for our faith (unless God nourishes us through other means, which He can and does do). Same with how effective reason is in one's coming to faith in Jesus. Reason does have a helping role to play, but it isn't the establishing standard and starting point.

That probably puts me in the presupp. camp, essentially, but I'm quite uncomfy with many of their derisions of classical folks.

When talking with an unbeliever, pray for them, try to communicate what you believe and why, and feel free to use reason in the discussion if you sense that is a primary standard for him. You need to answer people's objections. This is a means of evangelism God has given us to use, not despise. "To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law" (1 Cor 9:21). You can easily translate this: to those who take reason as the standard for their beliefs, I became as one who does the same. Of course that might lead you to Eccleasiastes 2 with them (reason alone will lead to nihilism), but at least you're talking with them.


Da Vinci Code review

Well, I was prepared for the attempted debunking of the New Testament witness to Jesus.

I was not ready for what Dan Brown replaces it with: pagan, fertility goddess worship. And literal worship, too. Secret societies peforming the same kinds of sex rites the Canaanites did long ago, for which God destroyed them and Israel when Israel followed suit. On the last page, the main character kneels reverently in thought of the "sacred feminine." This was wacky stuff, which Brown tries his level best to make plausible and authentic. These things aren't included peripherally. They are part of the main plot, and the worshipers are dear, loving, grandfatherly relatives.

Dan Brown tries his best to make paganism attractive and to make the orthodox faith repulsive. Not to overdo the point, but at many points I had to stop, turn to the back inside jacket photo of the author and just ponder: how possessed by Satan is this man? Perhaps a bit sensational, but no one can outdo Dan Brown himself for breathless sensationalism.

There is a lot of half-truth mixed in with the lies, to make it plausible to a certain kind of person. This book incarnates the cliche: a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. On the half-truth side, he does give lots of historical information that has some explanatory value for things we live with today. The source of the 4 suits in playing cards, numerical patterns in creation based on the PHI number 1.618. Things got really interesting when he came to Da Vinci's The Last Supper painting. Is John, seated to Jesus' right, with no beard, a feminine appearance and long red hair, actually Mary Magdalene? I have a copy hanging in my home study, so I went to look. Huh. Plausible, but not convincing.

Sorry if I'm running ahead of myself here. The basic assertion of the book is that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene, and they had children with a family tree that continues today. Jesus wanted Mary to lead His church after His death, but those woman-hating apostles took over (note Peter's threatening gestures toward "Mary" in The Last Supper). The church has been suppressing the truth ever since, to preserve its own power, stamping out other texts like gospels of Thomas, Judas, Mary Magdalene, etc. Secret societies retain knowledge of the truth, and their members - like Leonardo Da Vinci - drop clues to the truth in their art work.

But doesn't it make just as much sense that the New Testament Gospels were copied and circulated because they were more true to the apostles' experience of Jesus than the wacko stories you find in Thomas and others? Dan Brown pooh-poohs conspiracy theories, but his whole argument is based on one: the church intentionally covered up the truth about Jesus with a propaganda machine involving a list of approved books (our New Testament), Nicea's statment of Christ's divinity, Constantine merging Christianity with pagan holidays, etc.

There is more crazy stuff than I've got time to write about, and it really wasn't worth the time it took to read the book, either, although I'd rather face the disturbing fact that so many people are reading such dark stuff. I'm not sure what to make of the book's popularity. Are people looking for an excuse to stay away from the Church? It has to be more than that it's a page-turner; there are lots of those. Is there a resurgence of paganism under all this? Possibly. If so, this book will go down in history as a significant vehicle to paganism's popular revival. I take it as yet another indication that we're becoming more and more like the ancient, pagan Roman empire: pleasure-loving, pluralistic religion, anything-goes spirituality. May God grant us more Augustines to see beyond our kingdom's decline and fall to our priority of living in the city of God, in whatever sort of culture we find ourselves.

I might be back with more on this after reading May's Tabletalk. Its title is "The Da Vinci Hoax." For now, I'll leave you with a quote that, apart from strong anti-Catholic and orthodox Christian themes, sums up the book religiously: "Rosslyn Chapel was a shrine to all faiths... to all traditions... and, above all, to nature and the goddess." My basic response: yeah, right.