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Hitchens v. Sproul Christmas Throwdown

Two perspectives on Christmas. The first, from Christopher Hitchens, well-known atheist and writer:

My own wish is more ambitious: to write an anti-Christmas column that becomes fiercer every year while remaining, in essence, the same. The core objection, which I restate every December at about this time, is that for almost a whole month, the United States—a country constitutionally based on a separation between church and state—turns itself into the cultural and commercial equivalent of a one-party state.

… the dreary, sinister thing is that the official propaganda is inescapable … Most objectionable of all, the fanatics force your children to observe the Dear Leader’s birthday, and so (this being the especial hallmark of the totalitarian state) you cannot bar your own private door to the hectoring, incessant noise, but must have it literally brought home to you by your offspring. Time that is supposed to be devoted to education is devoted instead to the celebration of mythical events …

Imagine that conclusive archaeological and textual evidence emerged to prove that the whole story of the birth, life, and death of Jesus of Nazareth was either a delusion or a fabrication? Suppose the mother had admitted shyly that, in fact, she had fallen pregnant for predictable reasons? Suppose we found the post-Calvary body?

Serious Christians, of the sort I have been debating lately, would have no choice but to consider such news as absolutely calamitous. The light of the world would have gone out; the hope of humanity would have been extinguished … If all the official stories of monotheism, from Moses to Mormonism, were to be utterly and finally discredited, we would be exactly where we are now … It takes a totalitarian mind-set to claim that only one Bronze Age Palestinian revelation or prophecy or text can be our guide through this labyrinth.

He’s a smart guy — he knows that without Christ, we’ve got no hope. But he’s utterly wrong, especially if you read the rest of his piece.

Now that you’re depressed, here’s R.C. Sproul, well-known Christian theologian and writer:

We celebrate Christmas because we cannot eradicate from our consciousness our profound awareness of the difference between the sacred and the profane. Man, in the generic sense, has an incurable propensity for marking sacred space and sacred time. When God appeared to Moses in the burning bush, the ground that was previously common suddenly became uncommon. It was now holy ground – sacred space. When Jacob awoke from his midnight vision of the presence of God, he anointed with oil the rock upon which he had rested his head. It was sacred space.

When God touches earth, the place is holy. When God appears in history, the time is holy. There was never a more holy place than the city of Bethlehem, where the Word became flesh. There was never a more holy time than Christmas morning when Emmanuel was born. Christmas is a holiday. It is the holiest of holy days. We must heed the warning of Jacob Marley: “Don’t be a Scrooge” at Christmas.

Beautifully put. I’ll go with Sproul. You?


In Defense of Plain Soap

If you’ve never listened to Glenn Beck, you should. From today’s show:

GLENN: I swear to you it’s like the mechanics of washing your face are not the same for men and women. I don’t know what it is. I don’t know how long it takes. Like hours. It’s a cowboy bath, it is. It’s just… she’s like, there must be like a horse trough there in the — she must fill the tub and then I don’t know why you need something to pull your hair back so you can wash your face. It’s a washcloth.

Stu, am I alone in this? Is it Lisa, is she like this as well? Is it just me? Dan?

STU: No, it’s the entire, I mean, the entire home is essentially a catalog from some, I don’t know, cream company, like cleansers or something. I don’t know what they’re doing in there. It’s very frustrating because I don’t know how much — I mean, I don’t know what the appropriate percentage of your salary that’s supposed to go to facial cleansers is, but I know I’m above it.

GLENN: Facial cleansers. Washcloth.

STU: There’s a time that there were bars of soap and people would use them on their face.

GLENN: Have you ever had a bar of soap? Like my wife once in a while, she will have bars of soap that have, like, sand in it. I swear they have sand.

STU: Isn’t that what you are supposed to be taking off your face?

GLENN: I don’t know what it is. It’s like the soap manufacturers are like, they were down at the beach one day and they dropped the bar of soap in the sand and they brought it home anyway and their wife was like, “This is fabulous.” And the guy was like, you know what, we just put little pieces of rock in it and women love it. They think it’s good for them.

STU: I don’t understand that because that is literally, you are trying to use sand to remove dirt.

GLENN: The only thing worse, the only thing worse, the bars of soap with, like, oatmeal. I don’t want oatmeal in my soap. Have you ever seen that?

STU: Oh, yeah.

GLENN: I stayed at a hotel here recently. Adam, what hotel was it that we stayed at? It was like, it was not like an expensive hotel. It was like Holiday Inn Express that I looked at and I’m like, it has oatmeal soap. And I really thought — I had to check the label because I thought, this ain’t oatmeal soap. This is someone who just washed their kid’s face and left all the oatmeal caked into the — that’s what it is. “That’s not — oatmeal soap is very good for your face.”

STU: That’s what they do, when they go to the vet, they tell me that, “Your dog is very scratchy. He’s going to need an oatmeal bath.”

GLENN: Give it to him for free because I ain’t paying for it and I ain’t giving him one. When was it that we — when did we become a society where dogs get oatmeal baths and have CAT scans and… when did we unhinge from — I think it was about the same time when our wives started washing with soap with rocks in it. And not because they had to go out and make the soap in a big barrel out of pig fat and they just happened to drop it on the way in and it had some dirt in it by accident. No, when they intentionally started putting dirt and sand and rocks in soap.

“This is a long-term project”

Great post last week from Russ Moore (he’s a dean and VP at Southern Seminary in Lousiville and preached at Heritage on a Sunday morning a while back) about parenting. Especially encouraging to those of us who are in the midst of doing the hard work of day-in, day-out parenting (and will be for the forseeable future).

Here’s an excerpt — actually, you know what? Here’s the whole post. It’s an easy read:

Yesterday I helped a toddler clean up a 44 ounce cup of Coke Zero he’d spilled everywhere (yes, it was mine; and no, there were not 44 ounces left remaining in it when he found it). I answered forty questions about whether Jesus made Lego blocks (so stay tuned for my new sermon series on “The Logos and the Legos”). And I disciplined a tantrum thrower and a sulker.

All of that was about the end times.

When we think of Christian eschatology, we tend to think first of prophecy charts or apocalyptic novels, but nothing is more eschatological than parenting.

A parent disciplining a child, for instance, communicates to the child the discipline and judgment of God in ways deeper and more resonant than any Sunday school lesson (Heb 12:5-11). A parent who will not discipline a child for disobedience, or who is inconsistent in doing so, is teaching that child not to expect consequences for behavior.

In short, a parent who will not discipline is denying the doctrine of hell.

At the same time, a parent who disciplines in anger or with harshness teaches a judgment of God that is capricious and unjust. An abusive parent, worst of all, ingrains in a child’s mind a picture of God as a ruthless devil who cannot be trusted to judge justly.

Parental discipleship and discipline ought always to have repentance and restoration in view, picturing a God who is both just and the justifier (Rom 3:26). Discipline should be swift and fair with quick reconciliation between parent and child. Long periods of “time out” do not communicate the discipline of God; they communicate the isolation and exile of hell.

Parents who spend time with their children, especially at meals, demonstrate something of the harmony they want their children to long for beyond this life. It’s a longing to eat at another Father’s table in the kingdom of Christ.

Moreover, we should teach children to respect and acknowledge authority, attributes necessary for citizens of a democracy for a short time, yes, but more necessary for subjects of a kingdom forever. Teaching children to refer to adults as “Mr. Smith” or “Mrs. Jones” or “Pastor Doe” and to say “sir” and “ma’am” (or the culturally equivalent signifiers of authority) is about more than politeness. It is training children to recognize proper hierarchy and authority when the veil is lifted and we see face to face.

Those of you who are parents probably grow weary and discouraged sometimes. I know I do. It seems as though you’re not “getting through” sometimes, that your children aren’t responding the way you thought they would. Keep hugging. Keep kissing. Keep chastising. Keep teaching. This is a long-term project. You’ve got a long-term project in front of you. And there’s a lot at stake.

After all, parenting isn’t about behavior modification. It’s about Christian eschatology.

(HT: JT)


Milton’s Paradise Lost

Yesterday was John Milton’s 400th birthday. He wrote the epic poem, Paradise Lost, presenting a panoramic vision of the fall of man.


Contrast this view of John Milton from yesterday’s Writer’s Almanac:

It’s the birthday of the poet John Milton, (books by this author) born in London (1608). He was well-known in his own time for his political essays. He wrote a pamphlet arguing for the right to get a divorce on the grounds of incompatibility. He had married a woman named Mary Powell, and she left him almost immediately after their honeymoon. And he wrote the tract Areopagitica (1644), an argument in favor of freedom of the press. But he’s most famous for his epic poem Paradise Lost (1667). Many readers come away from it feeling that Satan is the most interesting and sympathetic character.

With this perspective from Leland Ryken, a professor of English at Wheaton College (H/T: Justin Taylor):

What are some of the misconceptions readers have about Paradise Lost?


The most frivolous misconception is also the most widespread, namely, that Satan is a heroic and sympathetic character in Milton’s story. Such a verdict is actually self-revealing on the part of a reader who accepts it.


Christian readers should begin by reminding themselves that they live not only by a Christian world view but also by a Christian world picture. In addition to the great doctrines of the Christian faith, we live by the great images of the faith. Milton’s poem puts us in touch with the images of the Christian faith—images of Satan and hell, of God and heaven, of Paradise and original perfection, of temptation and fall, of sin and salvation.

Anyone ever read it?


Kids: Worth It?

Things I would do (or attempt to do) if I did not have kids:
–Bike across the United States (or at least Iowa)
–Buy a digital SLR and learn to use it well
–Climb Mount Kilamanjaro
–Hike the Appalachian Trail
–Read, read, read
–Write, write, write
–Buy gadgets like an iPhone
–Buy a Jeep
–Go to more baseball games – at least one in every stadium
–Go on mission trips
–Play lots of tennis
–Fill my passport up with stamps

Things I would not get to do if I did not have kids:

–Watch them learn to crawl
–Answer their questions about heaven
–Show them how to kick a soccer ball
–Talk to them on the phone
–Watch the wonder in their eyes when they see something new
–Listen to sleepy voices talking (that’s when they’re the cutest)
–Take them to church
–Lay beside them in bed
–Protect them
–Buy toys for them
–Teach them to ride a bike
–Show them how to take pictures with our camera
–Take them to a baseball game
–Read to them
–Feel their little arms around me
–Tell them about Jesus
–Listen to pure, unadulterated joy in their laugh

So is it worth it?

Yeah, it’s worth it:

img_2423  Continue reading

Getting Paid to Blog

So I figured out a way to get paid to blog: start a new blog for your workplace.


Check out KWConnect, the official blog of Kentucky Wesleyan College. It will focus on all things Kentucky Wesleyan of course, and I’ll also do some links and news items and stuff similar to what I’ve written on here. I’ll still do some things on here b/c the KWC blog isn’t really my thoughts — its purpose is to connect KWC alumni, students, friends, etc. and give them all an easy way to keep up with the college. Plus they probably don’t particularly care about the adventures of two little Hoak boys who show up here from time to time.


But if I don’t post here for a while, that’s probably why. Either that or I can’t think of anything to write about. Or I’m lazy. Or I don’t have time. Take your pick.


You can find it the blog at www.kwcblog.net or there are links to it from www.kwc.edu. Let me know what you think.


Speaking of KWC, if any Owensboro people want to go to KWC basketball games at the Sportscenter this season and are in need of tickets for any particular game, check with me. Faculty and staff get free tickets. I’ll probably go to some games, but if I’m not planning to go, I’ll have some tickets available for any home game. Even if I go, I may still have an extra ticket, so just ask. We’re 6-0 so far this year and ranked No. 12 in Division II.


What Have You Done Today?

Hebrews 1:3

He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,

As men, we tend to think we’re a big screaming deal (to quote Hobbes of Calvin and Hobbes). But we’re not. We’re not glorious, we’re not one with God, we’re not all-powerful, we’re not merciful or atoning or pure, we’re not exalted and our work is not finished. But as Christians, we serve a Lord who is all of those things, a Lord of whom we are not worthy, but who chose to make purification for our sins. And that is a big deal.