Song 13: Flag
New Track: I Want to Want to Be Good
Song 11: Tall Tales for the Young
The Opposite of a Restraining Order
Today at the hospital I told Eli that I had filed a •constraining• order against him. He had to stay within 8 feet of me. Of course I lost him tout suite. He was making cocoa in a waiting area; two cups. He's a keeper.
Song #10: "Zina Lahr"
This song is about Zina Lahr.
Track 9: "A Rock Chorus"
Inspired by T.S. Eliot's Choruses from 'The Rock'
Track 8: Delicious Distraction
New Song: Lose Myself in the Radio
(I really like this one)
The PCA's Cruel Pastoral Training and Calling Process
The Presbyterian Church in America operates an unethical and cruel system of pastoral training, calling, and support, and we ought to do something about it. If you think I'm exaggerating, read on.
As background, take a minute to read the heartbreaking story of one of my seminary classmates: "A Time to Quit"
In the PCA, local churches search for, find pastors, and then extend a call to the man they choose. Generally, the minister and his family then move to the town where the church is located and begin their service. Before the pastorate is all completely solemnized, the minister must go before the presbytery to receive further scrutiny. At this point, even if the man is a member in good standing in another presbytery, the new presbytery may shut the door, denying the congregation's choice and leaving a man in a tough spot. The standards employed by each presbytery are far from uniform. While all have the same formal standard, the scriptures and the Westminster standards, presbyteries apply different degrees of leeway when considering a candidate's exceptions to or quibbles with the Westminster standards. Thus we have the odd situation where there are ministers in good standing in the Missouri presbytery who teach at the PCA's official seminary yet who could not be ordained in some of the denomination's presbyteries!
Congregational churches (with local autonomy to call the pastor they choose) have problems, no doubt. There is often no authority beyond the congregation to which appeals can be sent when there are scandals or pastoral malpractice. Most congregational bodies have associations to deal with this problem, but many exist in situations where there is no ecclesiastical authority higher than the pastor. Presbyterianism, as practiced by the PCA, avoids many of the pitfalls of congregationalism but it has its own problems as well. The presbytery itself is supposedly a congregation. It does not, however, do the hard work of interviewing and selecting a pastor for its member churches. Member churches often conduct a months long (even year long) search for the man they believe the Holy Spirit wants to bind to their church as pastor. No matter the approach to controversial points of doctrine taken by the congregation (paedocommunion, age of the earth, deaconesses, etc) the presbytery can override the church's choice based on a contradictory opinion on those same contested points. This brings great trials to churches and to the men whose calls are aborted.
Several remedies are possible for this situation:
1. Pastoral search committees could include a certain number of presbyters from outside the congregation. The committee could be prohibited from extending a call to a man without the consent of the outside presbyters and a man so called could not be denied transfer or establishment of credentials by the presbytery for positions already in evidence before the call was issued.
2. The general assembly could impose uniform standards on exceptions to the Westminster documents, thus every presbyter will be fully aware of the standard that will be applied to him when he seeks ordination.
In short, with regard to training and ordaining ministers, the PCA has major problems. It is cruel to train men only to throw them to the wolves. I wasn't exaggerating when I said the system is unethical. If your money or energy goes into the PCA then it is worth asking how complicit you are in this mess. I know I'm complicit given that I'm a member of a church in a state that wouldn't even ordain some of my seminary professors. I don't know what I could do about it, but I'm sure some of you have ideas--please share them in the comments.
New Track: "Torquemada Politely Declines to Attend his High School Reunion on Facebook"
New Song: Lullaby for the First-World Husband
New Single: "Bookish Southern Man"
My longest song to date, and also the first one where I play electric guitar.
My New Single: "Gotta Work"
Recent Natural Law Debates
I have not really been a big part of the recent arguments about natural law except maybe a stray comment here and there on Facebook, and by disposition I'm more in the Rodney King school when it comes to epistemology discussions between reformed Christians, but I thought maybe I could explain a little bit about why I personally bristle at the more recent enthusiasm (some would say 'recovery') of natural law in reformed circles. Witness a quote from my online friend, and a much smarter guy than I, Steven Wedgeworth:
"...people do not have to know how or why something is true to still know that it is true. Most self-evident truths operate efficiently apart from self-reflection." Source
Steven represents a resurgence of young, intelligent, well-reasoned Calvinistic guys who appreciate natural law and take issue with guys from my generation who grew up reading Van Til and generally being skeptical of natural law. The context was important, though. We were thinking about apologetics a great deal. And one of the key linchpins of the Westminster apologetics was to remove all excuses from unbelief. The world was not divided into evidence for and against God's existence. We were uncomfortable treating God's existence as a hypothesis to be tested. Natural reason could not stand in neutral relation to the facts of the world and proceed by a process of induction or deduction to marshall those facts for a conclusion on the "god question." Facts and their relations to each other came into existence and coherence in God's all conditioning power and love, and so a more indirect approach took shape--showing that apart from the story Christians tell about the nature of reality, skepticism wins. Nature doesn't contain within itself a warrant for induction or, worse, for morality. In the words of Love and Rockets, "you cannot go against nature because if you do, it's part of nature, too." If the world is as the naturalist claims, Hume wins.
The real emphasis was not on a theory of perception or even on what people know. Van Til often returned to Romans 1 to emphasize that all people know God in some sense. No, the emphasis was upon justification of knowledge, or warrant. This is why so many of us focus on denying a place for the natural man's natural reason in adjudicating the existence of god or in determining the good. It matters little in an apologetics context whether one party knows the truth. What matters is making the natural man conscious of the stark impossibility of his knowing anything or offering warrant for his true beliefs if the universe is not as the Christian claims it to be.
Yet then comes along someone like Feser, a notable and strident Thomist with a boorish intransigence, into this happy encounter between unbelief, that cannot justify even induction based on its natural reason, and the Christian who believes in a world in which the unbeliever's intuitions about induction and morality actually make sense. Feser takes aside the natural man and gives him a pep talk. "You can use pure philosophy and come up with truth--don't listen to that skeptic in Christian clothing over there. Hume was wrong, Aristotle had it right."
When I scratch the surface, It always seems to me that Feser wins almost every one of his arguments via language games. Essentially everything has an aim, an end. Reason has an aim, ergo reason cannot choose rationally to go against the proper ends of humans with respect to X (where X is marriage, for instance.) Everything comes down to a dilemma between affirming the good and embracing irrationality.
In other words, he is saying that people can know things because the world is a certain way. But that's the very issue at stake in an apologetical encounter--what is the world like? The atheist says the world is like X, the Christian says Y.
Van Tillians, dudes like me in their forties, and people like David Hart aren't denying the intelligibility of the world, the amenabilty of the human mind to the world, or even the power of philosophy as a science. They are denying that the world, were it like the nonbeliever paints it, provides the necessary ingredients to brew up justified belief.
At a certain level, I recognize that classical apologetics and the Vantillian approach can be harmonized, and I appreciate John Frame's way of doing this. But these are very different intellectual dispositions that also appeal to people of very different personal dispositions. And fallacious or not, I think the role of personality here is huge.