Category Archives: miscellany

Ergun Caner Investigated

I am still withholding judgment on the internet musings (see here, here, or here – to list only a few)  regarding Ergun Caner.  However, I knew the allegations that he intentionally embellished his testimony (post 9/11) were gaining steam when Christianity Today and other “mainstream” news agencies began reporting on this story.

It appears that Liberty University is taking these allegations seriously as well and have formed an internal investigative committee to study all the facts involved.

I suspect this is such an important story because a seminary president at one of America’s leading evangelical universities is being accused of lying and manipulating Islamiphobia for the purpose of gaining celebrity and expertise.

If these allegations prove to be true it will be another example in the long line of Christian celebrity moral failures (another reason that “celebrity” is antithetical to the servant nature of Christianity).

“Cheap” Atheism

I came across this article from David B. Hart regarding the “New Atheists.”  The article is a true example of deep thinking and thoughtful critique.  Hart writes with genuine rhetorical flourish.  I will reproduce a lengthy portion of his critique below.

The principal source of my melancholy, however, is my firm conviction that today’s most obstreperous infidels lack the courage, moral intelligence, and thoughtfulness of their forefathers in faithlessness. What I find chiefly offensive about them is not that they are skeptics or atheists; rather, it is that they are not skeptics at all and have purchased their atheism cheaply, with the sort of boorish arrogance that might make a man believe himself a great strategist because his tanks overwhelmed a town of unarmed peasants, or a great lover because he can afford the price of admission to a brothel. So long as one can choose one’s conquests in advance, taking always the paths of least resistance, one can always imagine oneself a Napoleon or a Casanova (and even better: the one without a Waterloo, the other without the clap).

But how long can any soul delight in victories of that sort? And how long should we waste our time with the sheer banality of the New Atheists—with, that is, their childishly Manichean view of history, their lack of any tragic sense, their indifference to the cultural contingency of moral “truths,” their wanton incuriosity, their vague babblings about “religion” in the abstract, and their absurd optimism regarding the future they long for?

I am not—honestly, I am not—simply being dismissive here. The utter inconsequentiality of contemporary atheism is a social and spiritual catastrophe. Something splendid and irreplaceable has taken leave of our culture—some great moral and intellectual capacity that once inspired the more heroic expressions of belief and unbelief alike. Skepticism and atheism are, at least in their highest manifestations, noble, precious, and even necessary traditions, and even the most fervent of believers should acknowledge that both are often inspired by a profound moral alarm at evil and suffering, at the corruption of religious institutions, at psychological terrorism, at injustices either prompted or abetted by religious doctrines, at arid dogmatisms and inane fideisms, and at worldly power wielded in the name of otherworldly goods. In the best kinds
of unbelief, there is something of the moral grandeur of the prophets—a deep and admirable abhorrence of those vicious idolatries that enslave minds and justify our worst cruelties.

But a true skeptic is also someone who understands that an attitude of critical suspicion is quite different from the glib abandonment of one vision of absolute truth for another—say, fundamentalist Christianity for fundamentalist materialism or something vaguely and inaccurately called “humanism.” Hume, for instance, never traded one dogmatism for another, or one facile certitude for another. He understood how radical were the implications of the skepticism he recommended, and how they struck at the foundations not only of unthinking faith, but of proud rationality as well.

A truly profound atheist is someone who has taken the trouble to understand, in its most sophisticated forms, the belief he or she rejects, and to understand the consequences of that rejection. Among the New Atheists, there is no one of whom this can be said, and the movement as a whole has yet to produce a single book or essay that is anything more than an insipidly doctrinaire and appallingly ignorant diatribe.

To be fair there are Christians who display the same sort of thoughtless group-think and buy into a “cheap” faith.  It is important to have a faith or faithlessness in which one has considered as many presuppositions, consequences, and implications as possible.

I Don’t Think We Know Each Other That Well…

How well do you have to know someone to ask them to help you move?  I mean, do you really want some casual acquaintance carrying your underwear drawer or helping you sort through your comic book collection?

At what point is it appropriate to ask someone when they plan on having kids?  This is a question that my wife and I are asked often.  I usually respond by asking the inquirer when they are planning on having kids.  If they have the Duggar-syndrome, I ask them when they are going to stop having kids or just inform them that they have enough children for the both of us.

Social conventions are just weird.  For example, when you randomly talk to someone that you’ve never met before (maybe at a restaurant or in an elevator) and you say, “How’s it going?”  What do you do when they start unloading all of their baggage?  It seems appropriate to be kind and gracious but it’s still awkward.

My only solution is to find people that you can really get to know well.  Share your life with those people.  Then it won’t feel awkward when they ask you to help them move, share their problems with you, or question you about your reproductive plans!

Lessons from Verizon

Today is the day!  Today is the day I again get high-speed internet access at home.  You would think this was a simple task, but not if Verizon is involved.

Their customer service structure is so segmented and dysfunctional that I’m surprised anyone can get home phone or high speed internet service from them.

I am convinced that Verizon’s customer service setup is intentionally designed to make their agents and customer helpless.  Follow me on a verbal reenacment:

First, the customer calls the Verizon customer service hotline and is greeted by an automated voice.  Automated machines are not bad IF THEY WORK! After ten or so minutes of going through every possible automated menu the customer is reduced to screaming at a non-sentient machine asking to speak to a human being!

Finally, a customer service agent answers (after another five minutes of ’90s elevator music).  The customer service representative is inevitably sweet, sensible, and harmless.  However, they have no actual power to do anything.  Customer service can merely transfer you to the appropriate department.  There is no one stop problem solver.  After talking to repair, billing, dispatch, dsl, phone… there is no end in sight.  A mile wide and an inch deep.

Are you feeling the beginnings of my frustration?

After experiencing this situation I couldn’t help but compare it to my role as a pastor/elder in the church.  I think there are a lot of lessons about communication and problem solving to be learned.  The most significant lesson I learned was about empowering people to fulfill their duties.  You have to trust the people in your company to use their wisdom, creativity, and skills to solve-problems and do their job.  You cannot always limit them to pre-programmed responses.

In the same way, as a pastor, my job is to “prepare God’s people for works of service” (Eph. 4:12).  I think that churches often try to function like businesses and corporations with a top-down hierarchy when the Bible speaks of unity and equality.  To be sure, there are leaders in the church, but they lead with a humble example and the result is that other Christians are equipped to do ministry.  Each Christian is a fully-called, fully-capable, fully-commissioned minister of the gospel

Walk the Dog

In true Dave Black fashion I am showing pictures of taking my dog on a walk.  These picture are not merely gratuitous as we made quite an intriguing discovery in the back of our neighborhood.

Tucked away behind the shiny, new houses near the river that runs behind our neighborhood, Freckles found a beautiful, historic family burial spot.

The sign attached to the burial spot indicates that the graves belong to the “Wright Family.”  Most of the graves date from the early 19th century.  I am aware that the developer of this suburban oasis bought and converted what was originally farmland into its current incarnation as neighborhoods.

Another Little People Show? Really?

Time for a rant.  What’s up with TLC and their obsession with little people.  I understand the why people are drawn to such shows — morbid curiosity.  They want to stare at little people on TV.  TLC obtained initial success with the reality show “Little People, Big World” that chronicled the life of the Roloff family.  That show explained the daily difficulties of little people.  However, it also showed that little people are just people.  Their families are just as average as every other normal family (needless to say I am not too impressed with the Roloff’s parenting skills).

Then comes the show “The Little Couple.”  To be fair, I like the couple in this show a whole lot more than the Roloffs.  Bill and Jen (aka “the little couple”) are very normal, well-adjusted, loving people.  My biggest problem with this show?  It majors on the mundane.  The producers spend time following the couple on benign vacations and birthday celebrations while failing to explain all of the triumphs and successes that had to occur for Jen to become an intensive care pediatrician!  Essentially, this show follows very normal, intelligent, average people who happen to need a step stool to cook dinner.

I am not trying to minimize the difficulties of little people.  I understand life is more difficult for someone with dwarfism.  I just think we’ve turned disabled people’s lives into a carnival freak show.  We pay the network our money and stare at the “Little Couple,” “The Little Chocolatiers,” or the “Little Parents.”

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I saved my TLC rant about shows featuring morbidly obese people, or families with 20 kids, or anyone who is getting married…

The Renrut House

You may have noticed an absence of posts the last few days.  The simple explanation?  My wife and I bought our first house!  Between the walkthrough, closing, painting, and moving I haven’t had much time to write (or do anything else).

Needless to say, I will be back at it come Monday.  I have plenty of thoughts on current events (think Men’s Figure Skating) and some book’s I’ve been reading (I’m on an N. T. Wright kick these past few weeks).

Hope all is well, here is a picture of our new homestead.