Thursday, June 24, 2004

Of Sunsets & Such

Tonight's sunset was very pretty. The western sky was edged in soft shades of pink and red. "Red sky at night, sailors delight." the old saying goes. I made myself take some time and go outside and enjoy the painting of the Great Artist of all artists. What He painted tonight was very beautiful.

There was a time when I use to watch the sunsets on a fairly regular basis. I know now that "sunset watching" at that time in my life was a defensive measure to keep some degree of sanity through some very troublesome times. Watching the sunset helped me focus on Him who being God of all things, is God of the sunsets. In all the turmoil and uncertainty of those times, He was in control, arranging my steps and guiding me through that contentious situation to where we are today. "Hitherto has the LORD helped us."

The Psalmist tells us that the creation declares the glory of God. The sunsets of our life are a precious part of that awesome declaration.

Praise to Him who being Lord of all, is Lord of the sunsets, and Lord of the colors of the sky, and Lord of the wind, and Lord of the trees, and Lord of the grass of the field, and who is Lord of our lives. Praise the LORD.

~ The Billy Goat ~

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Calling All New Testament Greek Scholars

My find of the week is the The Greek New Testament Gateway page found at Dr. Mark Goodacre's The New Testament Gateway site.

The New Testament Gateway describes itself as "...the award winning web directory of internet resources on the New Testament. Browse or search annotated links on everything from the Greek New Testament to Jesus in Film."
The Greek New Testament page contains links to a number of on-line sources and texts relating to the Greek New Testament.

I came across this when getting into the Greek New Testament Audio Files at Christian Classics Ethereal Library. These MP3 files were narrated and compiled by Marilyn Phemister using "the public domain Westcott and Hort text, which is almost identical to Nestle-Aland."

Each chapter of the Greek New Testament has its own file. The file names are constructed to allow identification, and also retain the New Testaments sequential order by book and chapter.

Over the past several weeks I've been in the process of downloading these MP3 files. The idea is to listen to the readings while following along in my Greek New Testament. The hope is that in doing so, I will retain what little Greek I still remember from my seminary days so long ago. The downloads are really slow on my dialup connection, but those of you with high speed internet will find the downloads a piece of cake.

Now, where are those Hebrew Old Testament MP3 files?

~ The Billy Goat ~

Friday, June 18, 2004

Ronald Wilson Reagan

1911 - 2004

In 1980 we were still coming off the disillusion and malaise resulting from Vietnam and Watergate. It was a pessimistic time, and it was hard to see much hope for the future. What could we expect from a former movie actor from California, even if he had been a state governor?

I remembered him from that old TV show; the one where he would introduce the stories. The kind of stories of the old west that in retrospect were very similar to the Louis L'Amour short stories I came to enjoy as an adult.

He was optimistic in a pessimistic time. As I watched the debates, he had a way of exposing the intellectual sophistries that had become prevailing political dogma. He gave voice to those fundamental things we had found difficult to articulate in those dark times.

On Election Day, I sat at the table in the place where our precinct was to vote, representing the party that had nominated him for the highest elected office in the United States of America. They came in to vote. Young and old, the common trait was the sober and serious faces, concern written across their countenances. The voting was heavy in our blue collar, union precinct.

Then came a renewal of hope; a renewed vigor of spirit. Once again we could look to the future with some degree of confidence.

I can remember as a child, the building of the Berlin wall. That wall typified the fear and weight of conflict we of the post WW-II generation had carried all of our life. I never believed I would live to see the day that wall would be torn down. But he issued the challenge, and some time later we all watched in amazement as the medium of TV carried all over the world the images we never thought we would see. For the first time in our post WW-II lives, we had a sense of a degree of peace and safety.

Of the eleven presidents that have served in my lifetime, the greatest was Ronald Wilson Reagan. In my mind he ranks with Washington and Lincoln. To quote another, he now belongs to the ages. Those of us who grew to love and respect him will miss him.


~ The Billy Goat ~

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

More Cogitations on "The Lost Cause" Understanding of the Civil War

In response to my "Unrepentant Yankee" post of 06/11/04, Topher asked for a short statement regarding what is meant by "The Lost Cause". The short answer is taken from a Claremont Institute article titled The 'Lost Cause' In Retreat"

"There are two parts to this (Lost Cause)interpretation (of the Civil War). The first is political, insisting that the cause of the war was not slavery but the oppressive power of the central government, which longed to tyrannize over the Southern states. The South desired merely to exercise its constitutional right to secede, but was thwarted by a power-hungry Lincoln. The second part is military: the noblest soldier of the war was Robert E. Lee. For three years, he and his army proved the backbone of the Confederate cause, fighting in Virginia, the most important theater of the war. But though his adversaries were far less skillful, they were able to bring to bear superior resources, ultimately overwhelming the Confederacy. "

In another Claremont Institute article, How the Confederates Won, Mackubin Thomas Owens reviews David Blight's book, Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory. This extended quote from that review sheds more light on the issues of the "Lost Cause" interpretation of the Civil War.

"According to Blight, the post-war era engendered three competing memories of the conflict. One, arising out of the Emancipation Proclamation and Lincoln's Second Inaugural, remembered the war as a struggle for freedom, a rebirth of the Republic that led to the liberation of blacks and their elevation to citizenship and constitutional equality.

A second, the "Blue-Gray reconciliationist" view, developed out of the necessity for both sides to deal with so many battlefields and so many dead. It focused almost exclusively on the sacrifices of the soldiers, avoiding questions of culpability or the right and wrong of the causes. In this view, the war was the nation's test of manhood. There was nobility on both sides. The essence of this view was captured by Lew Wallace, a Union general who wrote Ben Hur: "Remembrance! Of what? Not the cause, but the heroism it evoked."

The reminiscences of the soldiers who fought the war lay at the heart of this view. Most symbolic of this memory were the Blue-Gray reunions in which soldiers of both sides gathered for "fraternalism and forgetfulness." The soldiers, writes Blight, sought to "reassemble the chaos and loss inherent to war into an order they could now control. While doing so, they cleaned up the battles and campaigns of the real war, rendered it exciting and normal all at once, and made it difficult to face the extended political meanings of the war."

The third memory was the white supremacist vision arising in part from the Democratic Party's counterrevolution against radical Reconstruction. The South may have lost the war, according to this view, but it triumphed over Reconstruction and the radical Republican legacy of corrupt, carpetbagger government and the anarchy of Negro rule. It restored labor discipline and economic dependency among blacks, thereby saving white civilization.

The white supremacist view was reinforced by the "Lost Cause" account of the Civil War. As Edward A. Pollard wrote in the 1867 book that gave this interpretation its name, "all that is left the South is the war of ideas." The essence of the Lost Cause thesis was (and remains) that the war was not about slavery, but "states' rights." It is neatly summarized in an 1893 speech by a former Confederate officer, Col. Richard Henry Lee. "As a Confederate soldier and as a Virginian, I deny the charge [that the Confederates were rebels] and denounce it as a calumny. We were not rebels, we did not fight to perpetuate human slavery, but for our rights and privileges under a government established over us by our fathers and in defense of our homes."

The Lost Cause interpretation of the war was the South's response to physical destruction and the psychological trauma of defeat. In this view, the Old South was a racial utopia, an organic society composed of loyal slaves and benevolent masters. The war pitted this "slave democracy" against the "free mobocracy" of the North, and the noble side lost. The matchless bravery of the Confederate soldier succumbed to the "juggernaut of superior numbers and merciless power." As Robert Penn Warren once wrote, "in the moment of its death, the Confederacy entered upon its immortality."

[Full disclosure requires me to disclose that before David Blight became Dr. David Blight, the Amherst College professor of history, he and I were roommates for one and a half of our undergraduate years at Michigan State University. It was Dave who introduced me to the Civil War battlefields when we took a couple summer trips together for that purpose.]

Owens again describes the "Lost Cause" perspective in another article, The Case Against Secession:

"It was an article of faith among advocates of the "Lost Cause" school of Civil War history that Southern secession was a legitimate act and that the North had no right to prevent the South from leaving the Union. The view that the South should have been permitted to depart peacefully resonates today among several disparate groups on the political right: the "neo-Confederates," the heirs of the Lost Cause school, who see the South as the exemplar of everything decent in Western civilization; some Christians, who see the supposed virtues of the ante-bellum South as preferable to the crass materialism of the commercial society they believe was created by the Union victory in the Civil War; and libertarians, who, lament the growth of the federal government and its incursions into the private sphere.

For many such conservatives, Abraham Lincoln, far from being a great statesman who re-founded America on the basis of the original principles of the American Revolution, is a villain. By using force to prevent the peaceful exodus of the Southern states, Lincoln caused a bloody and unnecessary war. While might was on the side of the North, right was on the side of those who wished to secede.

But this is bad history that lends itself to worse constitutional theory. When the Neo-Confederates and their libertarian friends make Lincoln out to be a scoundrel who plunged America into an avoidable war, they ignore the fact that his views on Union and the nature of republican government differed not at all from those of such luminaries as Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Andrew Jackson, and Daniel Webster. They also ignore the practical reasons why the president of the United States could not permit the Union to be torn asunder. Far from avoiding war, the breakup of the Union would have meant perpetual conflict on the North American continent."

The issue at stake in this for Christians is a truthful accounting of history. I have seen more then a few conservative Christians embrace a romantic view of the "Lost Cause" based on the obvious Christian character of men such as R. E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. What is not remembered is that these men, as good as they were, were still imperfect men and still influenced by their times. If we want to know what succession was about, we need to look to the acts of succession, and the speeches and rehtoric of those advocating succession. That I will save for a latter time. In the meantime, I remain the "Unrepentant Yankee"...

~ The Billy Goat ~

Saturday, June 12, 2004

Finding The "Perfect Church" was Never the Issue

Three yeas ago my family and I were in the midst of a process that eventually brought us out of a church we had been involved with for over 25 years. In the midst of that process more then a few people made the remark, "No church is perfect." or, "You'll never find the perfect church." These statements were true enough in and of themselves, but were pointing to a matter that was never the real issue in all the cogitations and wrestling of soul that lead us out of that church. In fact those who made those remarks were actually way wide of the mark, and missed the real issues at hand. The "no perfect church" mantra became a smoke screen to avoid the real issue.

The real issue never was that of finding the "perfect church". The real issue was a toxic spiritual culture that was antithical to the advancement of true spirituality. We were not talking about an imperfect church, we were talking about a destructive church that was choking and smothering true Christian spirituality.

As I look back over the years in that church, I realize that any real growth I had in true spirituality was when I was standing against some of the prevailing tides that would sweep over that particular congregation; the times when I refused to accept the pulpit pronouncements on this or that, and forged my own opinion on the basis of my own study and wrestling before God, and my own observations of the wider cultural scene.

But over all the toxicity corroded the soul and heart to the point where I knew if I stayed, true life would be extinguished and I'd become another spiritual; zombie in the congregation of the "Stepford Christians".

It is amazing to me in looking back, how some who should have known better, would go to such lengths and twisting of reason to justify issues and actions that were just plain unjustifiable. I observed a Protestant version of Jesuit like casuistry that was very cultic like in its fruits.

So the next time someone tells you there is "no perfect church", please tell them finding the "perfect church" is not, and never was, the issue.

~ The Billy Goat ~

Friday, June 11, 2004

The Unrepentant Yankee

I was browsing around the The Claremont Institute, and came across some articles of interest having to do with the American Civil War.

In an article titled Dividing the House, Tom Krannawitter marks the 150th Anniversary of the Kansas-Nebraska Act:

"Not as well known, much less remembered, is the Kansas-Nebraska Act, signed into law 150 years ago, on May 30, 1854, by President Franklin Pierce. Historian David Potter has commented that no event has "swung American history away from its charted course so suddenly or so sharply as the Kansas-Nebraska Act." The Kansas-Nebraska Act brought anti-slavery and pro-slavery forces into a thundering political clash, paving the road for Abraham Lincoln's presidency, and seeding the ominous clouds of civil war.

To know the story of the Kansas-Nebraska Act is to better understand the problem of race in America and the difficult struggle for equal civil rights. The history of the Kansas-Nebraska Act teaches us what is most important in America. We are reminded of the promises and challenges of the American experiment in freedom, and we see why the noble aims of Brown v. Board have not yet been achieved."

Those still enamored with the "Lost Cause" mythology will take excerpt to Krannawitter's comments on the reason for succession:

"Immediately after Lincoln's election in November of 1860, southerners began a movement for secession from the Union. In Apostles of Disunion, historian Charles Dew reviews the speeches of "secession commissioners" as they traveled throughout the South during the secession winter of 1860-61, trying to persuade fellow southerners to leave the union. In this critical moment, with nothing less than the future of the United States and constitutional government at stake, the arguments advanced to justify secession had little to do with states' rights or the old squabbles over tariffs and banks. The turning of the tide toward disunion and civil war rested squarely on the question of race and slavery, and the moving force within the South was a powerful fear that blacks would come to be viewed as the equals of whites."

Mackubin Thomas Owens' article The 'Lost Cause' In Retreat has the audacity to question some of the accepted cultural icons of the Civil War.

"Yet, an increasing number of historians have come to reject the Lost Cause argument that Virginia was the decisive theater of the war. The key to Union victory, they hold, was the West. Here Union armies used the Tennessee River as the main line of operations, penetrating deep into the Confederate heartland early in the war. By the end of 1862, they controlled all of the Mississippi River except the stretch between Vicksburg and Port Hudson. This fell in the summer of 1863. Union armies in the West then penetrated the Appalachian barrier at Chattanooga, opening the way to Atlanta, the fall of which ultimately doomed the Confederacy. They inflicted defeat after defeat on the main Confederate army in the West, the Army of Tennessee (not to be confused with the Union Army of the Tennessee), and captured vast tracts of territory that were essential to the confederacy survival."

In another part of this article Owens gets into the comparison of R. E. Lee and U. S. Grant. Some of the popular assumptions regarding these two major players in the conflict are not as cast in stone as some would think. My "Lost Cause" friends will have to pardon me as I still remain the unrepentant Yankee. And for the rest of you, there is another side of the story of "The Lost Cause" you would do well to be familiar with.

~ The Billy Goat ~

Thursday, June 10, 2004

I was browsing Terry Mattingly's archives and came across an article he wrote about Ship of Fools(SOF). One of the items of interest at the SOF site is the Mystery Worshippers . Here is a take on what that's all about:

"Ship of Fools has an intrepid team of Mystery Worshippers travelling incognito in the British aisles and beyond, reporting on the comfort of the pews, the warmth of the welcome, the length of the sermon... The only clue that they have been there at all is the Mystery Worshipper calling card, dropped discreetly into the collection plate."

You may want to check this out and see if your church has been featured.... Or perhapes your former church too...

~ The Billy Goat ~

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Blog-Tech Stuff

OK... So somtimes I'm a little slow at this blog-tech stuff... Duh...

I finally realized how to post to this blog and enable the comments feature. I've gone through and edited all the archives, so now, if you want to, you can go back to some of those old posts and add your comments.

So consider this your invitation to add your two cents to ~ The Billy Goat Blog ~.


~ The Billy Goat ~

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Why Biblical Counseling is Unbiblical (Take 2)
John H. Coe
Rosemead School of Psychology
Biola University

In contrast to the BC position, the scriptures and particularly the Hebrew sage reject a positivistic and reductionistic approach to the human sciences which affirms the fact/value distinction. Rather, the OT sage is convinced that one can discover facts about values from facts about nature, particularly from facts about human behavioral, interpersonal and intrapsychic phenomena. Thus, the sage provides us with a primitive and sketchy model for the social sciences as being, in part, a science of values and human nature which is opposed to the BC position. The sage's approach to science and especially a science of values involves the following theses:

(I) Objective Source of Values Thesis: There exists an objective extra-biblical source of values and wisdom in the patterns and dynamic structures of nature, particularly in human phenomena, which can be discovered by human observation and reflection.

(II) Science of Values Thesis: Values and wisdom for living are discovered from the facts of nature, particularly facts having to do with human behavioral, interpersonal and intrapsychic phenomena, which in turn makes possible a science of values.

(III) Nature as Normative Thesis: Both the objective source and science of values are theoretically grounded in the Hebrew cosmology and Creation theology which affirms that (a) "nature. is a normative concept inasmuch as the original creation was created good and that (b) persons created in the image of God in part retain that nature and are capable of discerning it even after the Fall.

(IV) Constraints Thesis: Certain constraints, guards and qualifications should be explicitly addressed in a science of values inasmuch as this science must account for the nature of personal agency as well as the radical nature and effects of the Fall.