ornament 29 July 2005 ornament

Baptist Altar-ations

In his post “Fads and Fixtures: The Seven Deadly Trappings of Evangelicalism,” Joe Carter writes that one of the fixtures he finds troubling is the “altar call.” While I too find the altar call methodology troubling, this brings up a larger question in my mind for my own denomination:

Why do so many Baptist churches refer to the front of the church as the altar?

I’ve heard this terminology used in countless Baptist churches, even from pastors who should know better. The last time I checked, transubstantiation was not on any Baptist confessions of faith that I know of. Baptists believe that Christ was sacrificed once for all. In the Lord’s Supper Christ is not continually sacrificed, as Roman Catholics, the Eastern Orthodox, and others believe. We don’t burn offerings, and I haven’t really ever seen any kind of elevated structure other than a pulpit.

It’s clear that in Baptist practice, the term “altar” has become synonymous with the front of the church sanctuary, but why do we retain the term? We’re Baptists, after all. We don’t do altars. Can any of you more studious church historians enlighten me?

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ornament 24 July 2005 ornament

Travelogue: The Great American Ballpark

Saturday night, my dad and I made a quick jaunt up I-71 to Cincinnati to watch the Reds play the Milwaukee Brewers. Here are my notes:

  • Watching two bottom-dwelling teams duke it out can almost be as exciting as watching two pennant contenders. In the case of the Reds and Brewers the absence of good pitching from either team made for a fun night with lots of runs scored. The Reds lost, but thankfully neither me nor my dad are die-hard Reds fans—although we did pull for them last night
  • If, for example, you were managing a baseball team with a struggling pitcher who has: 1.) already given up 4 runs, 2.) has loaded the bases, and 3.) has just walked in a run; it would be a good idea to call the bullpen before you let him pitch to the batter who already homered in the previous at bat. It might just save you a grand slam…
  • While it wasn’t exactly a sellout crowd, the homeless people were out in full force as you walked from the parking lot to the stadium. Most were just sitting on the sidewalk with their hand-scribbled cardboard signs labeled “homeless.” One man was a little more unconventional, holding up a sign that declared:


    Apparently, the “honest” approach didn’t fare too well, as he only had about $0.75 in his collection plate.

  • The Great American Ballpark is a nice venue for a baseball game, and makes the old (now demolished) Riverfront Stadium feel like a paisley couch on shag carpet. The presence of future hall-of-famer Ken Griffey, Jr. made the trip appealing, but last night Griffey did what he’s done since he’s been to Cincinnati, which is virtually nothing.
  • Concessions have always been expensive at major league baseball games, but Cincinnati’s prices almost rival movie theaters in their tourist-trappings. $9.25 bought me a Dr. Pepper and a hot dog called the Big Red Hot. Thankfully, the restrooms are still free.

That’s all for this edition of Travelogue. Play ball!

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ornament 21 July 2005 ornament


Here’s a strange headline, from Forbes:

‘Abortion Pill’ Seems to Be Safe, Experts Say

Does that mean it doesn’t work?

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ornament 19 July 2005 ornament

SCOTUS Nominee John Roberts

Just when everyone thought President Bush was down for the count, he returns with a rope-a-dope. If Roberts is as originalist as they say, he’s the perfect choice. Any controversy will likely have to be manufactured by fringe leftists. If the nomination goes swiftly, it will be not only a victory for Bush and strict constructionism, but a victory for the country as well. The Democrats can only gain by helping to facilitate a swift nomination.

From what I’ve read in the past few hours of Judge Roberts, I’m more than happy with the nomination. The likelihood of a swift nomination should send the radical left into a tizzy, and it appears that the frenzy has already started

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Around the ‘Sphere

A few “must-reads” for your reading as you travel the blogosphere:

Phillip Johnson has nailed some theses to the door of evangelicalism, noting that the rampant money-grubbing, superstition, and pragmatism present today is often worse than that of medieval Catholicism. Johnson has more than enough valid points here to make him an evangelical porcupine. Also noteworthy is Tim Challies insightful response to Johnson.


Douglas LeBlanc laments the emergence of “office-like” church buildings, where the number one concern is making people feel comfortable in worship. He observes, “In an age when the exteriors of community centers and banks aspire to the same grand statements that churches once used, there’s a certain symmetry in having churches look like those soulless buildings straight out of Office Space.”


In “Television Termination at the Christian ‘Booksellers’ Convention,” Douglas Groothius describes his trip to the CBA amongst the Christian kitsch with his TV-B-Gone, where he managed thirteen TV kills in one day. I really have to get me one of those things…
(Hat tip: Joshua Sowin)


S.M. Hutchens has a thoughtful post on “Lying in Church,” where he grapples with the truth of what we say in many of our worship songs. No matter where you come down on the issue of contemporary v. traditional worship, Hutchens’ honesty is worth examination. He also has a follow-up post.


And on a lighter note, Colby Willen, still locked in his basement after five years, wonders if there are any Y2K updates. We’ll let you know if we hear anything, Colby. In the meantime, don’t eat all the Oatmeal Creme Pies in your stash—you may need them if the power grid fails…

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ornament 18 July 2005 ornament

Cartography on Steroids

I rarely have to prove to anyone that I’m a nerd. Usually, the taped glasses, hiked-up pants, and pocket protector readily betray the fact. However, if someone does doubt, I tell them that when I was in elementary school I carried around (and subsequently wore out) The Rand McNally Road Atlas and The Rand McNally World Atlas everywhere I went. I wished for and received a globe for Christmas in third grade (thanks, Santa!), and it wasn’t long before I could locate the Marianas Trench, the Dead Sea, and Mt. Everest quicker than any kid on the block. Any doubts now?

My geographic nerddom recently got a boost with the release of Google Earth, which gives new meaning to the idea of “looking down upon someone.” It’s like the satellite feature in Google Maps, but Google Earth has many more features like panning, tilting, zooming, and “flying” from one location to another. If I have your address, chances are I’ve already taken a look at the top of your house (you might want to think twice about how “free” you get with your backyard sun-tanning from now on…) and placed a marker on it. It’s a cool, fun, and—despite what Walt Mossberg says—useful product. The price is right, so download it now.

(Hat tip: TulipGirl)

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ornament 15 July 2005 ornament

Advertising and Naiveté

If you listen to the prevailing rhetoric of most activists, advocacy groups, and plaintiffs today; you might conclude that Americans are quite naive. So naive, in fact, that unless the activists weren’t there to protect us, most of us would end up covered in third-degree burns because our coffee wasn’t properly labeled “HOT!”

Take the latest battle against sugared soft drinks, for example:

A consumer group called on the government to require warning labels on sugar-laden soft drinks, claiming they are the biggest source of calories in the American diet.

Warning labels are now so ubiquitous we seldom even read them anymore. My son’s car seat has so many warning labels (in many different languages) that it’s hard to tell even what color it is. If that’s not bad enough, you still cannot—under any circumstances—eat silica gel.

Even the keyboard with which I am writing this post warns me:

To reduce risk of serious injury to hands, wrists, or other joints, read Safety and Comfort Guide.

I have no idea where my Safety and Comfort Guide is, so I guess I’ll just live on the edge and continue writing. Does anyone ever really read warnings anymore? Has the safety/health warning gone the way of the car alarm? You’d better watch out, else you’ll end up dying from Coca-Cola sugars before your lawsuit is finished.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

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ornament 14 July 2005 ornament

A Church-State Solution?

In the July 3rd edition of the New York Times Magazine, Noah Feldman, professor at NYU School of Law, presents what he proposes is a possible solution to America’s current church-state crisis. “A Church–State Solution” is a compelling article that should be read if not for the background information alone.

Feldman gives a brief history of church-state relations in America, and notes the emergence of two groups in the present-day. The first are what Feldman calls “values evangelicals.” This group is not limited to evangelical Christians and can include Catholics, Jews, Muslims, and anyone else who are interested in “promoting a strong set of ideas about the best way to live your life and urging the government to adopt those values and encourage them whenever possible.”

Feldman labels the next group “legal secularists.” People who follow this line of thinking about church-state relations “see religion as a matter of personal belief and choice largely irrelevant to government.” They are “concerned that values derived from religion will divide us, not unite us.”

Continue reading…

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ornament 12 July 2005 ornament

How About Explosion Engineers?

PC absurdity has reached a new height in the BBC’s decision to edit the word “terrorist” out of its London bombing coverage:

The BBC’s guidelines state that its credibility is undermined by the “careless use of words which carry emotional or value judgments”.

Consequently, “the word ‘terrorist’ itself can be a barrier rather than an aid to understanding” and its use should be “avoided”, the guidelines say.

So as not to cause a barrier, the perpetrators are now referred to as “bombers,” a term that apparently carries less of an emotional or value judgment. Aren’t they selling these pyrotechnics artists a bit short? At least call them demolitions experts or something that will boost their self-image.

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ornament 11 July 2005 ornament

Ethics, Journalism, and Confidentiality

The New York Times is lauding its reporter Judith Miller as a hero, placing her in the same company with the instigators of the Boston Tea Party and the Underground Railroad, with barrier-breakers such as Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, and oddly enough the more recent “hero” to the Times, Mark Felt. The paper feels that she has done a great civic duty by defying a federal court order to reveal her journalistic sources on the matter of the leaking of a former CIA agent’s identity.

The martyrdom that the Times wishes to bestow upon Ms. Miller has its source in the idea that journalism is purely a public service and is always, by nature, in the public interest. Closer to the truth is that journalism is first and foremost a business—a fact that does not lessen its importance to our great society. Like any other business that is important to a free republic, journalists must operate within the confines of the law. Miller’s hubris-filled “stand” is more a self-serving business decision than heroism. If she outs a source, she doesn’t get any more delicious scoops with which to sell papers.

Truth is seldom served a great interest by the use of “anonymous sources.” More often than not, people are led more into ignorance than knowledge from these nameless individuals because they’re left unsure of who to believe. Perhaps journalism would be better served by taking some cues from the world of academics, where the citation of sources is not only encouraged, but required.

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