Tuesday, July 31, 2012

A semi-Pelagian catechism

The Semi-Pelagian Narrower Catechism

1. Q: What is the chief end of each individual Christian?
A: Each individual Christian’s chief end is to get saved. This is the first and great commandment.

2. Q: And what is the second great commandment?
A: The second, which is like unto it, is to get as many others saved as he can.

3. Q: What one work is required of thee for thy salvation?
A: It is required of me for my salvation that I make a Decision for Christ, which meaneth to accept Him into my heart to be my personal lord’n'saviour

4. Q: At what time must thou perform this work?
A: I must perform this work at such time as I have reached the Age of Accountability.

5. Q: At what time wilt thou have reached this Age?
A: That is a trick question. In order to determine this time, my mind must needs be sharper than any two-edged sword, able to pierce even to the division of bone and marrow; for, alas, the Age of Accountability is different for each individual, and is thus unknowable.

6. Q: By what means is a Decision for Christ made?
A: A Decision for Christ is made, not according to His own purpose and grace which was given to me in Christ Jesus before the world began, but according to the exercise of my own Free Will in saying the Sinner’s Prayer in my own words.

7. Q: If it be true then that man is responsible for this Decision, how then can God be sovereign?
A: He cannot be. God sovereignly chose not to be sovereign, and is therefore dependent upon me to come to Him for salvation. He standeth outside the door of my heart, forlornly knocking, until such time as I Decide to let Him in.

8. Q: How then can we make such a Decision, seeing that the Scripture saith, we are dead in our trespasses and sins?
A: By this the Scripture meaneth, not that we are dead, but only that we are sick or injured in them.

9. Q: What is the assurance of thy salvation?
A: The assurance of thy salvation is, that I know the date on which I prayed the Sinner’s Prayer, and have duly written this date on an official Decision card.

10. Q: What is thy story? What is thy song?
A: Praising my Savior all the day long.

11. Q: You ask me how I know he lives?
A: He lives within my heart.

12. Q: And what else hast thou got in thine heart?
A: I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart.

13. Q: Where??
A: Down in my heart!

14. Q: Where???
A: Down in my heart!!

15. Q: What witness aid hath been given us as a technique by which we may win souls?
A: The tract known commonly as the Four Spiritual Laws, is the chief aid whereby we may win souls.

16. Q: What doth this tract principally teach?
A: The Four Spiritual Laws principally teach, that God’s entire plan for history and the universe centereth on me, and that I am powerful enough to thwart His divine purpose if I refuse to let Him pursue His Wonderful Plan for my life.

17. Q: What supplementary technique is given by which we may win souls?
A: The technique of giving our own Personal Testimony, in the which we must always be ready to give an answer concerning the years we spent in vanity and pride, and the wretched vices in which we wallowed all our lives until the day we got saved.

18. Q: I’m so happy, what’s the reason why?
A: Jesus took my burden all away!

19. Q: What are the means given whereby we may save large crowds of souls in a spectacular manner?
A: Such a spectacle is accomplished by means of well-publicized Crusades and Revivals which (in order that none may be loath to attend) are best conducted anywhere else but in a Church.

20. Q: Am I a soldier of the Cross?
A: I am a soldier of the Cross if I join Campus Crusade, Boys’ Brigade, the Salvation Army, or the Wheaton Crusaders; of if I put on the helmet of Dispensationalism, the breastplate of Pietism, the shield of Tribulationism, and the sword of Zionism, having my feet shod with the gospel of Arminianism.

21. Q: Who is your boss?
A: My boss is a Jewish carpenter.

22. Q: Hath God predestined vessels of wrath to Hell?
A: God hath never performed such an omnipotent act, for any such thing would not reflect His primary attribute, which is Niceness.

23. Q: What is sanctification?
A: Sanctification is the work of my free Will, whereby I am renewed by having my Daily Quiet Time.

24. Q: What rule hath God for our direction in prayer?
A: The rule that we must bow our hands, close our heads, and fold our eyes.

25. Q: What doth the Lord’s Prayer teach us?
A: The Lord’s Prayer teacheth us that we must never memorize a prayer, or use one that hath been written down.

26. Q: What’s the book for thee?
A: The B-I-B-L-E.

27. Q: Which are among the first books which a Christian should read to his soul’s health?
A: Among the first books which a Christian should read are the books of Daniel and Revelation, and The Late Great Planet Earth.

28. Q: Who is on the Lord’s side?
A: He who doth support whatsoever is done by the nation of Israel, and who doth renounce the world, the flesh, and the Catholic Church.

29. Q: What are the seven deadly sins?
A: The seven deadly sins are smoking, drinking, dancing, card-playing, movie-going, baptizing babies, and having any creed but Christ.

30. Q: What is a sacrament?
A: A sacrament is an insidious invention devised by the Catholic Church whereby men are drawn into idolatry.

31. Q: What is the Lord’s Supper?
A: The Lord’s Supper is a dispensing of saltines and grape juice, in the which we remember Christ’s command to pretend that they are His body and blood.

32. Q: What is baptism?
A: Baptism is the act whereby, by the performance of something that seems quite silly in front of everyone, I prove that I really, really mean it.

33. Q: What is the Church?
A: The Church is the tiny minority of individuals living at this time who have Jesus in their hearts, and who come together once a week for a sermon, fellowship and donuts.

34. Q: What is the office of the keys?
A: The office of the keys is that office held by the custodian.

35. Q: What meaneth “The Priesthood Of All Believers”?
A: The Priesthood Of All Believers meaneth that there exists no authority in the Church, as that falsely thought to be held by elders, presbyters, deacons, and bishops, but that each individual Christian acts as his own authority in all matters pertaining to the faith.

36. Q: Who is the Holy Spirit?
A: The Holy Spirit is a gentleman Who would never barge in.

37. Q: How long hath the Holy Spirit been at work?
A: The Holy Spirit hath been at work for more than a century: expressly, since the nineteenth-century Revitalization brought about by traveling Evangelists carrying tents across America.

38. Q: When will be the “Last Days” of which the Bible speaketh?
A: The “Last Days” are these days in which we are now living, in which the Antichrist, the Beast, and the Thief in the Night shall most certainly appear.

39. Q: What is the name of the event by which Christians will escape these dreadful entities?
A: The event commonly known as the Rapture, in the which it is our Blessed Hope that all cars driven by Christians will suddenly have no drivers.

40. Q: When is Jesus coming again?
A: Maybe morning, maybe noon, maybe evening, and maybe soon.

41. Q: When the roll, roll, roll, is called up yonder, where will you be?
A: There.

42. Q: Hallelu, hallelu, hallelu, hallelujah!
A: Praise ye the Lord!

43. Q: Praise ye the Lord!
A: Hallelujah!

44. Q: Where will we meet again?
A: Here, there, or in the air.

45. Q: Can I hear an Ay-men?
A: Ay-men. 


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Plato on Education (II) How do we educate?

In the previous post on education in Plato's Laws, I suggested that the goal of education to instill virtue in children. Specifically, it is to teach them to be just in both leadership and service. In this post, I'll discuss how Plato suggests we go about doing this. How can virtue be taught?
First, according to Plato we have to realize that "education" is not a discrete period in a person's life, but rather a way of life itself. We shouldn't think of learning as something we do beginning in kindergarten and ending when we graduate from college. We should think of it as something we never cease doing. Plato drives this point home when he discusses two things: 1) pre-natal education; 2) the use of alcohol in education.
Wait, what?
That's right, according to Plato, education begins in the womb and may at some point involve appropriate amounts of liquor. In terms of education in the womb, Plato says:
All bodies find it helpful and invigorating to be shaken by movements and joltings of all kinds, whether the motion is due to their own efforts or they are carried on a vehicle or boat or horse or any other mode of conveyance. All this enables the body to assimilate its solid and liquid food, so that we grow healthy and handsome and strong into the bargain. [Therefore] A pregnant woman should go for walks, and when her child is born she should mould it like wax while it is still supple, and keep it well wrapped up for the first two years of its life. (The Laws, 789)
Which obviously isn't quite as bad as it initially sounded. This was essentially the ancient version of pregnant yoga. But we see here two important points. Education begins young and is inseparable from physical health. Plato refuses to let us compartmentalize: virtue belongs to the young and old, and includes the virtue of taking care of your body. The proper form of education, Plato says, "must show that it is capable of making our souls and bodies as fine and handsome as they can be." (The Laws, 788) To be truly educated it is not enough to train the mind, both body and soul must be conditioned in the school of virtue.

This is where the use of alcohol comes in. What do you do with a generation of people that has not been educated from the womb? For adults, it is simply too late to begin the proper work on the body and soul that should have begun before birth. What hope then is there? Fortunately, there exists a popular and pleasant drug which -when taken in the proper amounts (and Plato does mean proper amounts- he says that if a population can't drink temperately, the state should outlaw it all together)- reverts adults to the point where they have the openness and flexibility of children: alcohol.
We are looking for an inexpensive and [harmless] test we can apply to people [to determine which virtues and vices they possess], which will also give us a chance to train them, and this we have in the scrutiny we can make of them when they are relaxed over a drink. Can we point to a more suitable pleasure than this- provided some appropriate precautions are taken? (The Laws, 649)
Alcohol may loosen up adults so that they can be tested for the presence of virtue or vice, and then prepared for a better education. The point of this is not to make college students cheer for the Plato they never knew, it is rather to point out the kind of disposition necessary if we're going to fix a broken educational system. We must not be stubborn in clinging to traditions and forms that are already established, we must rather have the wonder and openness of children and the slightly buzzed. Likewise, as we are making changes to the system, we should do it (if at all possible) in a way that is pleasant to those affected. [Insert NCLB reforms comment here.]

This, however, is only the beginning of education in Plato. What does the actual process of raising someone in virtue look like?
First and most important is what goes on at home:
The state's general code of laws will never rest on a firm foundation as long as private life is badly regulated, and it's silly to expect otherwise. Realizing the truth of this, they [private citizens] may spontaneously adopt our recent suggestion as rules, and thereby achieve the happiness that results from running their households and their state on proper lines. (The Laws, 790)
No matter how good the laws of the state are, if people are living dissolute and unrestrained lives at home there can never be any hope of achieving true virtue. The work done by the school system will be undone the second the child returns to his parents (consequently in the Republic Plato had toyed with the notion of removing children from parents completely and instead having a community of wives and children). Notice that Plato does not extend the power of the state to force parents to carry out laws at home. Instead, he only hopes that responsible adults will recognize the importance of a virtuous upbringing and embrace the laws by choice. In the same way, we shouldn't expect the state to force parents to discipline their own children, make them do their homework, and study; while at the same time we should expect decent parents to do just  that of their own free will.

In terms of what goes on at school, education has two components: mental and physical.
The mental components of education should begin with stories and literature (for the very young), but only stories and literature that convey virtue. Crass comedy and tragedy should be censored, as should stories that encourage vice. As the children age and grow more capable, the curriculum should be expanded to include music, mathematics (which should start early), and astronomy (which keeps us pious and teaches us to search for heavenly truth). Specialized skills such as foreign languages come at the very end when the basics have been covered.
Physical training begins with games for the youngest children. These must be carefully crafted and regulated:
I maintain that no one in any state has really grasped that children's games affect  legislation so crucially as to determine whether the laws that are passed will survive or not. If you control the way children play, and the same children always play the same games under the same rules and in the same conditions, and get pleasure from the same toys, you'll find that the conventions of adult life too are left in peace without alteration. But in fact games are always being changed and constantly modified and new ones invented, and the younger generation never enthuses over the same thing for two days running. They have no permanent agreed standard of what is becoming or unbecoming either in deportment or their possessions in general; they worship anyone who is always introducing some novelty or doing something unconventional to shapes and colours and all that sort of thing. In fact, it's no exaggeration to say that this fellow is the biggest menace that can ever afflict a state, because he quietly changes the character of the young by making them despise old things and value novelty. That kind of language and that kind of outlook is -again I say it- the biggest disaster any state can suffer. (The Laws, 797)
Early in our lives our attitude towards games shapes our attitude towards rules and laws, and so must be strictly watched and gently corrected. 
In later education, games are to be gradually replaced by sports, hunting, and military training. This last is the culmination of virtue, because it involves both personal development and defense of the community. As such, we find it the primary battleground between selfishness and virtue, especially when the state is at peace. When there is no war to fight, the temptation is (encouraged by greedy politicians) to slack off military training until such time as it is again needed. When the happens, citizens get lazy and corrupt leaders rise to power. Once in power, they further prevent military training so as to prevent any capable from withstanding their rule from rising against them. A state must be disciplined in its physical education both to keep up personal virtue and to maintain freedom from tyrannical and wicked leaders.

Clearly, Plato's view of education both overlaps and opposes ours, maybe in a future post I'll compare and contrast the two.

Book Review: Allison Hewitt is Trapped by Madeline Roux

The last zombie book I read left me thinking, “this was great, but what it really needed was a good dose of feminist angst.” Fortunately, I stumbled across Allison Hewitt is Trapped. In this book, the title character blogs her way through the zombie apocalypse. Beginning at the bookstore where she worked, she and a group of friends fight their way through the undead on a quest to find her mother and ride out what seems to be the end of the world. Will she survive? Will she find her mother? What about true love—is that even an option once the dead have risen? The book itself is a series of blog posts, and this fairly unique format helps maintain respectable pacing, a solid narrative, and just the right amount of tension to make a decent read, even if there was more “I’ll get angst-y and go off by myself because I just can’t handle people right now” than I really like in a book.

Read the rest here


Friday, July 13, 2012

Movie Review: The Amazing Spider-Man

I went into The Amazing Spider-Man with two things in mind: the question of whether or not Martin Sheen’s still got it (he does); and a sense of entitlement. And as an American I know the feeling of entitlement like the back of my hand. Frankly, after Spider-Man 3: Peter Parker pansy-walks to awful disco music, Marvel owed me a good Spiderman movie. Fortunately, they delivered. Not that it’s a great movie, mind you, but it’s a good solid superhero flick.

Read the rest at: