Elves

I have just finished reading two books concerning elves. The first is Summa Elvetica (.pdf download) by Theodore Beale, aka Vox Day. This is an adult fantasy set in a world where humans coexist with elves, dwarves, orcs, goblins and other creatures. The protagonist must not only decide whether or not his future lies with the Church or elsewhere, but whether or not elves have souls. The answer to the latter question will help shape a future filled with peace -- or war. I am not generally a fan of the fantasy genre, Lewis and Tolkien excepted, yet my one complaint about this story was that it ended all too soon.

The second is a children’s book, the
Adventures of Piffles the Elf, written by David Babulski. David’s wife attends our church so I had the opportunity to talk with him about the book before it was published. A young elf ventures into the world of humans. Was this the rash action of an idealistic youth or the fulfillment of ancient prophecy? Will the consequences wreck destruction upon the elves or will there be a new era of peace between the two races? This is the first book in a planned series of three; the second should be out in 2009 or 2010. While Summa Elvetica is set within a Christian worldview, Piffles has more of a new age flavor. I found it interesting to see how these different worldviews influenced the motivations of the characters.
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Gun Show

C, B, D and I attended the gun show at the North Atlanta Trade Center. Before leaving I had taken some medicine on an empty stomach which wasn’t the smartest thing to do. I decided to take a break and took a seat next to a man who had a .22 rifle which looked like my very first gun. If I remember correctly, my Dad bought it for me at a Western Auto store in Arkansas when I was 14. I can remember walking down the streets of Judsonia with that rifle, heading to a gully across the train tracks to shoot. Any kid who tries that today would be surrounded by a SWAT team.
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Election

A lesson by Mike Baer, as part of his “Foundations of the Faith” series, delivered on 1/25/08. A worthwhile 45 minutes.

01.25.08-Foundations of the Faith

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Baptism, Part Two

I had planned to follow up my previous post, which dealt with the definition of “baptism”, with a post on the practice of baptism in the early church. But as I was collecting my notes, I found that David Heddle, author of the “He Lives” blog, had already done it, and much better than I could have. So, head on over to “Church History Lesson 12 (Worship in the Early Church)”. The article covers charity, baptism, and communion.
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Italian Restaurant

For our date night, Becky and I dined at Luciano’s Italian Restaurant on Sugarloaf. This was our second time at this establishment and the food was magnificent. We split an appetizer of provolone sauteed in grappa and extra virgin olive oil, topped with arugula. For the main course, I had the Chicken Francese and she had the Sauteed Grouper and Scallop. We split a dessert of peanut butter ice cream which had been dipped in chocolate. I forget the exact name. My only complaint was that the “Lemontini” was $10.00. Slightly pricey, IMO.
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New Restaurant

Tonight, Becky and I tried a new restaurant called Asian Table in Cumming. For appetizers we ordered the basil rolls and roti. We normally don’t get two appetizers, but I’m helpless before a good roti and she really likes basil rolls.

For our main courses, she had the spicy mango chicken from the Thai menu and I had the Singapore chili prawn, two times Thai hot. The owner of the restaurant claimed to have a pineapple tree in his back yard from which he gave us a 1/4 sliced pineapple for desert. It was the finest pineapple I’ve ever had.

The waitstaff was very friendly and, since we dined early before the restaurant got busy, took the time to chat with us.

The outstanding food, service, and conversation made for a thoroughly enjoyable meal.

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Baptism

The word baptism comes into English straight from the Greek word baptizo (baptizo). It appears 65 times in the New Testament. In only two cases is it translated into English as “wash” (Mark 7:4) and “washed” (Luke 11:38). All other times the Greek word is used.

It is commonly held that baptism means immersion in water. One passage that supports this view is Mark 1:9-10a (NRSV):

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water...

However, this is a simple view that does not take other passages into account. For example, in Matthew 3:11, John the Baptist says this about Jesus:

He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.

So, perhaps baptism means “immersion into some medium”, since we now have examples of water, fire, and the Spirit. But even this definition doesn’t fit all of the New Testament usage.

In 1 Corinthians 10:1-2, Paul wrote:

I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea...

Certainly the Israelites were not “immersed” into Moses. They passed under the cloud, not through it, and when the Israelites went through the sea it was the Egyptians who got wet.

In Luke 12:50, Jesus says:

I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed!

This refers to His coming crucifixion in which He takes on the sin of the world.

So baptism has an even wider meaning than just “immersion”. The circumstances are lost in the fog of almost thirty years of time past, but I remember either my Greek professor, or a teacher who was an expert in ancient semitic languages, telling me that the Greeks would make pickles by “baptizing” cucumbers. The cucumbers were immersed in vinegar until they took on the quality of the vinegar.

Fortunately, I don’t have to rely on my memory. My concordance has this note concerning the definition of baptizo:

The clearest example that shows the meaning of baptizo is a text from the Greek poet and physician Nicander, who lived about 200 B.C. It is a recipe for making pickles and is helpful because it uses both words. Nicander says that in order to make a pickle, the vegetable should first be 'dipped' (bapto) into boiling water and then 'baptised' (baptizo) in the vinegar solution. Both verbs concern the immersing of vegetables in a solution. But the first is temporary. The second, the act of baptising the vegetable, produces a permanent change.

When used in the New Testament, this word more often refers to our union and identification with Christ than to our water baptism. e.g.Mark 16:16. 'He that believes and is baptised shall be saved'. Christ is saying that mere intellectual assent is not enough. There must be a union with him, a real change, like the vegetable to the pickle!
    -- Bible Study Magazine, James Montgomery Boice, May 1989.

Whether or not you agree with his conclusion concerning the meaning of Mark 16:16, the examples from secular and NT usage show that the primary idea behind baptism is “identification/union”. A piece of cloth dipped into a dye can be said to have been baptized, since the cloth takes on the color of the dye. A piece of plastic dipped into the same dye has not been baptized, since no color change occurred.
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Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

I did.

With the release of the movie
The Watchmen I became interested in understanding the reasons behind the hype. A friend at church loaned me his copy of the graphic novel which I read over the next four days. The artwork was adequate, but not spectacular; the story was well plotted, the characters atypically complex, and the ending was satisfying. My overall reaction was that it was ok but I wasn’t compelled to see the movie.

Part of my reaction was to the sub-plot of the pirate tale. While it was woven well into the main story, it simply didn’t do anything for me. But this was a minor point compared to my indifference to the characters themselves. One of my earliest memories of comic books was reading
Captain Atom in Charlton’s Strange Suspense Stories, certainly issue #77 and possibly #76, in 1965 when I was ten. So I have a soft spot in my heart for Captain Atom and, later, Blue Beetle. To a lesser extent I followed The Peacemaker and Judomaster.

The characters in
The Watchmen were shadows of the Charlton characters. Dr. Manhattan was Captain Atom recast; Rorschach was The Question; Nite Owl was Blue Beetle; The Comedian was Peacemaker; Ozymandias was Peter Cannon, Thunderbolt; and The Silk Spectre was Nightshade. Dr. Manhattan, being a poor copy, simply soured me on the story. Instead of the atomic man who explored the mysteries of space, the most powerful man in the world was paralyzed by his philosophy. I usually enjoy exploring the effects a worldview has on people, but not with my childhood hero.

But then the superdrive in my Macbook Pro stopped reliably burning dual-layer DVDs. So on a Saturday I took it to the Apple store, they had one part available, and they would try to effect the swap that day. Since they had my laptop, I looked for something to do. So I went to the movie.

I was blown away. The graphic novel came alive. The special effects were spectacular, especially
Manhattan’s “fortress of solitude” on Mars. I remember thinking, “Oh, that’s what the comic imagined.” After the fact, it was obvious, and I shouldn’t have missed it when I read the novel; but that doesn’t lessen that moment of awe. I was able to put aside the distortion of my childhood heros and enjoy the story for itself.

It is a dark movie. The line between “good guys” and “bad guys” is sometimes nonexistant. This is a good thing, since it is true to life, even though we don’t like to admit it. There is graphic, disturbing, violence. There is graphic nudity, both male and female. One character declines to wear any sort of costume to show his disassociation with mere humans. There is graphic sex, voluntary and otherwise. The ending shows the futility of human knowledge. It may have been the author’s intent to show the futility of human existence, that left to ourselves we are doomed to suffering and strife.

But this is an old theme: compare with the book of
Ecclesiastes in the Bible. Fortunately, we have not been left to ourselves.
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He Is Risen!

For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. -- 1 Cor 15:3-8

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Church Merger?

Tonight my wife and I went to dinner at Fusion Asian Cafe which we always enjoy. Afterwards, we stopped in Books For Less to just browse around. I picked up “Church History in Plain Language” by Bruce L. Shelly, opened to a “random” page, and read:

Finally, the Zurich council lost all patience. On 7 March 1526, it decided that anyone found rebaptizing would be put to death by drowning. Apparently their thought was, “If the heretics want water, let them have it.” Within a year, on 5 January 1527, Felix Manz became the first Anabaptist martyr. The Zurich authorities drowned him in the Limmat, which flows through the city. Within four years the radical movement in and around Zurich were practically eradicated.

This was interesting because the church we attend, a small non-denominational community church, is considering merging with another community church, which is Baptist in everything but name. The cultures are not identical and it will be interesting to see how things progress.

We are an elder run church - the congregation does not vote on matters pertaining to the body. They are generally elder run, but their congregation votes on five aspects of body life. In order to be eligible to vote, a person must be a member, and baptism by immersion is required for membership.

On the one hand, I am sympathetic to the Anabaptists: if a person wishes to be baptized by immersion after coming to faith in Christ, then they should be free to do so. On the other hand, baptism by immersion does not make a person “more Christian” -- a point of agreement between both parties.

I therefore have a real problem with giving the franchise to a subset of Christians. In effect, those who do not agree with this particular practice are second class citizens. This has nothing to do with the argument between infant baptism or believers baptism; or whether baptism should be via sprinkling or immersion. They can take communion but cannot vote.

When I became a believer at 23 years of age the first churches I attended were Baptist. I didn’t know any better. But for the last 17 years I have moved away from typical Baptist understanding and practice, generally becoming more Reform.

This is likely going to be one of several “deal breakers” which, if the merger is consummated as I expect it to be, will engender our exit from the church. Hier stehen wir. Wir können nicht anders.

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Belated Blogiversary

My first post was on 3/2/08 and in a year I posted 65 articles. Not the most prolific of endeavors. But even if she is sometimes resting the muse will not be silent. I just wish I had more time to write recreationally than professionally. Work still has to come before leisure.
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Angry Software Engineers

If I were even one-fourth the writer Harlan Ellison is I wouldn’t be a software engineer. Yet while the skill sets differ, the craft, the art, and the trials and tribulations are similar. In “Somehow I Don’t Think We’re in Kansas, Toto” anthologized in The Essential Ellison, he tells of one dark experience with Hollywood:

Six months of my life were spent in creating a dream the shape and sound and color of which had never been seen on television. The dream was called The Starlost, and between February and September of 1973 I watched it being steadily turned into a nightmare.

The late Charles Beaumont, a scenarist of unusual talents who wrote many of the most memorable Twilight Zones, said to me when I arrived in Hollywood in 1962, “Attaining success in Hollywood is like climbing a gigantic mountain of cow flop, in order to pluck the one perfect rose from the summit. And you find when you’ve made that hideous climb... you’ve lost the sense of smell.”

In the hands of the inept, the untalented, the venal and the corrupt, The Starlost became a veritable Mt. Everest of cow flop and, though I climbed the mountain, somehow I never lost sight of the dream, never lost the sense of smell, and when it got so rank I could stand it no longer, I descended hand-over-hand from the northern massif, leaving behind $93,000, the corrupters, and the eviscerated remains of my dream.

Ellison’s parting words to writers is just as applicable to software engineers:

It is the writer’s obligation to his craft to go to bed angry, and to rise up angrier the next day. To fight for the words because, at final moments, that’s all a writer has to prove his right to exist as a spokesman for his times. To retain the sense of smell; to know what one smells is the corruption of truth and not the perfumes of Araby.



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Ontology Precedes Epistemology?

In his book Naming the Elephant, James Sire argues that “Ontology must precede epistemology in worldview formulation.” He writes:

What counts against putting meaning first is the commonsense notion that something has to be before there can be meaning. A worldview certainly can be “expressed as a semiotic system of narrative signs.” But it has to be something else first; it is not created by the signs by which it is understood. The pretheoretical categories themselves seem to be universal: being and not-being (is and isn’t) are fundamental and carry truth value; that is, they label something that is not just linguistic. ... So while Christians recognize the symbolic nature of reality, we also realize the substantiality of that which is symbolized. A postmodern can answer, “It’s language all the way down.” A Christian ought not. [pgs. 71-72]

But is this really so? I would answer that it is language all the way down:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

The “something” that “has to be” is, in the Christian worldview, “language”, “meaning”, Logos. Our worldview must be grounded in the Trinitarian nature of God, where being, meaning, and interpretation are co-eternal and cannot be separated.

Or am I missing something?

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There Are Four Stoplights!

No, I didn’t plan this just so I could use this headline. Post updated accordingly.
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March - In Like a Lion

Yes, this is a month late, but my wife took pictures and I want to post them. These were taken on March 1.


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Dirty Discing

Back in March, I played a round of disc golf with Mike, which he recounted here. I have been remiss in not announcing to the world that I am a consummate klutz and that it was I who slipped off the pad and fell head to toe into the mud puddle.
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Have I Now Seen Everything?

When I drive to work, I make a left turn onto a main highway where the lights are usually timed so that if I travel a bit above the speed limit I can make it through four lights then to QuikTrip for my daily dose of caffeine. This morning, as I approached the fourth light, the car in front of me started slowing down. We were in the left lane and I wondered if the car wanted to move to the far right in order to exit onto the interstate. But, no, it came to a complete stop. At a green light. I’ve never had a car stop at a green light before. It hadn’t been red and then turned green; it had been green the entire time. Perhaps the driver wasn’t paying attention and was looking at the two adjacent red lights in the left turn only lanes. Whatever, I honked, they moved, and I still made it through the final light.
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Hiatus

Work has been physically exhausting and mentally numbing. For far too long.
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