We’re #1

My alma mater, the University of Oklahoma, is rated #1 in all four of the major preseason polls for NCAA football.  I’m realizing that I’d better brag now, before the games actually start, since, if history is a guide, the Sooners’ pre-eminence is likely to fade once they actually start to play some games.  Still, I am proud.   The four polls also agree in ranking Alabama #2.  After that, opinions differ.

Check out the polls:  2011 NCAA College Football Polls and Rankings for Week 1 – ESPN.  Where do you think the prognosticators get it right and where do they get it wrong?  And before the games actually begin is the right time for predictions:  Who do you think will end the season as th #1 team?

Make a good shoe

A while ago I blogged about Tullian Tchividjian–Billy Graham’s grandson and the successor to William Kennedy as the pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church”–and his reaction to Lutheran novelist Bo Giertz.  (He offered a clarification to that post:   “I didn’t say that Giertz caused a Copernican revolution in my preaching but that the conversation between Henrik and Linder described the Copernican revolution that took place in my preaching a number of years ago.”)

He since has written an interesting post about vocation:

Martin Luther was once approached by a man who enthusiastically announced that he’d recently become a Christian. Wanting desperately to serve the Lord, he asked Luther, “What should I do now?” As if to say, should he become a minister or perhaps a traveling evangelist. A monk, perhaps.

Luther asked him, “What is your work now?”

“I’m a shoe maker.”

Much to the cobbler’s surprise, Luther replied, “Then make a good shoe, and sell it at a fair price.”

In becoming a Christian, we don’t need to retreat from the vocational calling we already have—nor do we need to justify that calling, whatever it is, in terms of its “spiritual” value or evangelistic usefulness. We simply exercise whatever our calling is with new God-glorifying motives, goals, and standards—and with a renewed commitment to performing our calling with greater excellence and higher objectives.

One way we reflect our Creator is by being creative right where we are with the talents and gifts he has given us. As Paul says, “Each one should remain in the condition in which he was called. So, brothers, in whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God” (1 Corinthians 7:20,24). As we do this, we fulfill our God-given mandate to reform, to beautify, our various “stations” for God’s glory–giving this world an imperfect preview of the beautification that will be a perfect, universal actuality when Jesus returns to finish what he started.

For church leaders, this means that we make a huge mistake when we define a person’s “call” in terms of participation inside the church—nursery work, Sunday school teacher, youth worker, music leader, and so on. We need to help our people see that their calling is much bigger than how much time they put into church matters. By reducing the notion of calling to the exercise of spiritual gifts inside the church, we fail to help our people see that calling involves everything we are and everything we do—both inside and, more importantly, outside the church.

I once heard Os Guinness address a question about why the church in the late 20th century was not having a larger impact in our world when there were more people going to church than ever before. He said the main reason was not that Christians weren’t where they should be. There are plenty of artists, lawyers, doctors, and business owners that are Christians. Rather, the main reason is that Christians aren’t who they should be right where they are.

“Calling”, he said, “is the truth that God calls us to himself so decisively that everything we are, everything we do, and everything w eare, everything we do, and everything we have is invested with a special devotion, dynamism, and direction.”

via You’re Free To Stay Put – Tullian Tchividjian.

I urge you to go to the site and also consider the discussion in the comments.  Some people pushed back against the doctrine of vocation, insisting that spreading the Gospel is the only way we truly serve God, with others citing the influence of Lutheran theology on their evangelicalism (contrary to an earlier discussion about how that doesn’t happen much!).

By the way, do you see anything missing in this particular account of vocation?

The latest on confession and indulgences

Todd alerted me to this story from Reuters:

The Vatican has granted priests the right to forgive the sin of abortion when hearing the confessions of hundreds of thousands of young people attending a Roman Catholic youth festival in Spain this week.

The termination of pregnancy is a sin punishable by excommunication under Church law. The World Youth Day (WYD) pilgrims will attend a mass confession in the presence of Pope Benedict on Saturday in a central Madrid park.

“This (concession) is to make it easier for the faithful who attend the World Youth Day celebrations to obtain the fruits of divine grace,” the Madrid archdiocese said in a statement on its website.

Two hundred white portable confessional cabins have been erected in Madrid’s Retiro Park where hundreds of priests will take confessions in different languages from the pilgrims who have travelled to Spain from around the world.

The pontiff will sit in one of the booths on Saturday morning to hear confessions from three visitors, ahead of a mass with up to 6,000 seminarians.

The Vatican already announced on August 11 that it had authorized a plenary, or full indulgence, to all the young people attending the celebrations.

An indulgence is a remission of the temporal punishment a person is due for sins that have been forgiven and is traditionally granted to WYD pilgrims.

via Priests to forgive abortion in Pope youth festival – Yahoo! News.

First of all, could this be one of those many cases in which the reporter completely misunderstands a religious teaching?  Can it be true that in the Roman Catholic Church a woman who has had an abortion cannot normally repent, confess, and be absolved of that sin?  (Please, may a Catholic reader clear this up for us.)  If this is true, we see again the difficulty of finding full forgiveness under the Roman Catholic penitential system.  More certain, I suppose, is getting an indulgence.  Rome doesn’t sell them anymore, but gives them away for the good work of attending a youth rally!

If this is a correct account, it shows how Lutherans actually have a higher view of confession than Rome does. We also have a higher view of Baptism, which deals with all sin throughout one’s life, not just original sin, and the Lord’s Supper, which we receive for forgiveness, not having to already be pure in order to take it.

UPDATE:  Mollie Hemingway has confirmed with canon lawyers that priests cannot forgive the sin of abortion without special arrangement.  She gave me this quotation linked from a comment in her own discussion of World Youth Day:

“Elaine, I am a canon lawyer. The article is correct. Not all priests have the faculty to absolve the sin of abortion with its attendant automatic excommunication. If a person goes to Confession and confesses abortion, and the  priest does not have the faculty to absolve it, he will request the person come  back a few days later. In the meantime, he will notify the bishop and ask for  the faculty to absolve the sin and lift the excommunication. When the person comes back, then the confession is completed and absolution is given. Many dioceses (such as the one where I work) have granted all priests in the
diocese this faculty.”

So forgiveness comes from the bishop rather than the Word and the promises of the Gospel.

 

 

Obama’s new stimulus plan

President Obama will soon propose a new economic stimulus plan, one that will combine tax cuts, lots of new spending, AND deficit reduction:

President Obama has decided to press Congress for a new round of stimulus spending and tax cuts as he seeks to address the great domestic policy quandary of his tenure: how to spur job growth in an age of austerity.

Obama will lay out a series of ideas in a major address right after Labor Day, when he and  a largely antagonistic Congress will return from vacation, the White House said Wednesday.

The president is thinking about proposing tax cuts for companies that hire workers, new spending for roads and construction, and other measures that would target the long-term unemployed, according to administration officials and other people familiar with the matter. Some ideas, such as providing mortgage relief for struggling homeowners, could come through executive action.

Obama also plans to announce a major push for new deficit reduction, urging the special congressional committee formed in the debt-ceiling deal this month to identify even more savings than the $1.5 trillion it has been tasked with finding.

In packaging the two, he will make the case that short-term spending can lead to long-term savings.

“We can’t afford to just do one or the other. We’ve got to do both,” Obama said Wednesday in this farming town in northwestern Illinois, population 671, the last stop of his three-day bus tour through the rural Midwest.

via Obama to issue new proposals on job creation, debt reduction – The Washington Post.

Notice how even Democrats see that tax breaks are necessary to improve the economy.  But consider the main approach:  Both more spending AND more cutting.  That should work.

Normalizing “minor-attracted persons”

First we accept homosexuality, some social conservatives said, and next we’ll accept pedophilia.  If we legalize gay marriage, they said, next we’ll have legalize polygamy.  “Nonsense!” came the reply.  “You’re committing the slippery slope fallacy.”  Well, we are slipping and sliding on that same slippery slope.  That’s the point made by  Joe Carter, who analyzes the latest effort to de-stigmatize pedophilia; that is, to use a more politically-correct term “minor-attracted persons.”

If a small group of psychiatrists and other mental health professionals have their way at a conference this week, pedophiles themselves could play a role in removing pedophilia from the American Psychiatric Association’s bible of mental illnesses — the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), set to undergo a significant revision by 2013. Critics warn that their success could lead to the decriminalization of pedophilia.

The August 17 Baltimore conference is sponsored by B4U-ACT, a group of pro-pedophile mental health professionals and sympathetic activists. According to the conference brochure, the event will examine “ways in which minor-attracted persons [pedophiles] can be involved in the DSM 5 revision process” and how the popular perceptions of pedophiles can be reframed to encourage tolerance.

Researchers from Harvard University, the Johns Hopkins University, the University of Louisville, and the University of Illinois will be among the panelists at the conference.

B4U-ACT has been active attacking the APA’s definition of pedophilia in the run up to the conference, denouncing its description of “minor-attracted persons” as “inaccurate” and “misleading” because the current DSM links pedophilia with criminality.

“It is based on data from prison studies, which completely ignore the existence of those who are law-abiding,” said Howard Kline, science director of B4U-ACT, in a July 25, 2011 press release. “The proposed new diagnostic criteria specify ages and frequencies with no scientific basis whatsoever.” . . .

Berlin has similarly compared society’s reaction to pedophilia to that of homosexuality prior to the landmark 2003 Lawrence v. Texas decision that decriminalized sodomy.

B4U-ACT’s own website puts Berlin’s views front and center. “Just as has been the case historically with homosexuality,” he writes, “society is currently addressing the matter of pedophilia with a balance that is far more heavily weighted on the side of criminal justice solutions than on the side of mental health solutions.”

via Normalizing Pedophilia | Conference | Mental Illness | The Daily Caller.

The end of cursive handwriting

When I was in grade school, penmanship kept me off of the honor roll.  Today most schools have not only dropped penmanship, they do not even teach cursive writing anymore

Most states don’t require children to learn cursive writing anymore. Some 46 states have adopted the Common Core Standards, a set of educational guidelines that do not require cursive writing as part of a school’s curriculum. The state of Indiana recently announced it would drop a district requirement to teach cursive writing as of this fall. Instead, students must be able to type on keyboards.

Technology has pushed cursive writing off the agenda of many school systems across the country. As a result, Handwriting Without Tears founder Jan Olsen sees more sloppy handwriting in schools today.

“If you stop teaching handwriting in the second grade, you’re going to have a generation of people who write like second graders,” says Olsen, whose company teaches a clean and simple style of cursive that avoids the fancy curls and swirls of old-fashioned script. . . .

“Handwritten documents convey important cultural information about authors,” says Davis Schneiderman, novelist and chair of the English Department at Lake Forest College. “These documents also suggest an authenticity that electronically produced documents do not. The Declaration is an index of its time as well as clue to the physicality of its signers. Imagine ‘John Hancock’ typed in an 18-point Times New Roman font. The proud fury behind his oversized signature would be lost.” . . .

Granted, most workplaces are more likely to be dominated by computers and technology than pens and pencils and handwritten thank you notes. Its makes sense that computers are the go-to resource for researching and writing papers and other homework assignments.

And some writing experts aren’t worried about children not being able to read the original Declaration of Independence or sign their names in cursive. Historical documents can be reprinted in print form and children can be taught to sign their names in cursive for legal documents and birthday cards.

Yet teens who can’t write legibly — multimillionaire teen celebrities aside — do suffer. Even though many children use computers to write papers at home, most writing done within the school walls is still done by hand. (The country’s ongoing economic problems won’t likely add many computers to our nation’s public school classrooms in the next few years.)

“Without it [cursive handwriting] you lose the sense of having your thought process through your hand movements to create your language and thoughts to someone else,” says Michael Sull, a master penman in Spencerian script; past president of the International Association of Master Penmen, Engrossers and Teachers of Handwriting; and author of four books on handwriting including, “American Cursive Handwriting,” which was released last month. “There is a great loss in the progress that could be made with children fostering their motor skill development, literacy training and concepts of communication.”

via Nation of adults who will write like children? – CNN.com.

Should we just let cursive go, like cuneiform, in our new word-processing information environment?  Shouldn’t we at least teach kids to, you know, sign their names, something that credit cards and legal documents still require?


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