Monthly Archives: December 2013

Laugh While Avoiding Heresy

If you’re at all interested in learning how to communicate the doctrine of the Trinity in a way that makes sense and avoids missing the mark, this little video can help. Not to mention, it’s hilarious!

Thanks to Evan Lenow for the tip!


Want to Publish? Build Relationships

55327_girl-writing_lgElizabeth Covart over at Uncommonplace Book graciously posted an article I wrote on networking. Dr. Covart is an early American historian and her blog is really fascinating. She covers issues in early American history, but she also writes on practical matters of interest for teachers and scholars. Uncommonplace Book is listed in my blogroll (“The Yarn”) on the right side of your screen.

Here is a portion of the article:

“How can I get my ideas published in book form?”

This burning question can sometimes animate a young scholar’s mind, body, and soul for months, sometimes years.

For most new Ph.D.s, the dissertation represents the deepest and widest river of writing and scholarship they have ever crossed.

Therefore, the question of how a new Ph.D. can get their dissertation published is not only natural, it is expected.

In my experience, personal and professional connections go a long way toward getting your revised dissertation published.

Just as significant to these connections are the questions that young scholars should ask themselves:

  • Whom do I know?

  • Do people respect my work?

  • Do others like me on a personal level?

  • Am I willing to ask my connections for help?

  • How willing am I to market myself to people who do not know me?

  • Am I willing to adapt my work, within sensible limits, to see it published?

She will be running two more articles from me in the next month or so. Thanks, Liz!

On Inmate Students, the Capetian Dynasty, and “Weak” French

Last week, I walked into the Darrington Unit to give my last lectures before the final exam. As I was putting my shoes back on after going through security, I found out that the unit was on lock-down. All the offenders in the prison were “racked up,” that is, they were all confined to their cells while the officers were searching for contraband.

End of year lock-down is a normal and routine procedure. At the end of the year, the officers at the prison clear out whatever contraband materials have made their way into the population. It usually lasts a couple of weeks. This year is different, because lock-down started a lot earlier than normal.

That meant that I had to record my final lectures. The students at Darrington will be watching my recordings as soon as their lock-down is over and they can return to the education wing where we have our “campus.”

This experience helped me to reflect a bit on what on earth I’m doing at the Darrington Unit. My students can’t get out of their cells because they’re on lock-down, for pete’s sake. I can come and go freely. I will be enjoying my Christmas holiday over the next few weeks. Surrounded by my family and my friends, I will be enjoying food, fellowship, and relaxation. I will also be at ease in my study, working on my book project.

My students will not be enjoying any of those things. Are they getting what they deserve? It’s certainly easy to say “yes” and move on. But teaching in the prison certainly gives me perspective on who I am before God, and my own need for reconciliation with Him through Jesus Christ. I can’t be flippant about the question of “deserve.”

On another note, I thought I’d post a sample lecture for you. If you are into the beginning of the French monarchy in the tenth century, enjoy! As you watch, lift up a prayer for those men who are confined to an 8′ x 12′ cell for the next seven days, (and a maximum security prison, many of them for life) and be thankful for your freedom.

Second Sunday in Advent Music Video

Listen to and enjoy this prayer of Charles Wesley sung to Cross of Jesus–

Necronarcissism and the Death of the Funeral


Coming on the heels of my recent post on graveyards, let me direct you to this interesting article from The Federalist on the trend of turning funerals into parties, aka “celebrations of life.” What’s wrong with focusing on the positive in the midst of the most profound of losses? Chad Bird explains here. The ramifications matter. When a person, a community, or a culture denies the meaning and reality of death it runs the risk of devaluing life. In trying to de-emphasize death to the point of ignoring the reasons (both physical and spiritual) for it, the suffering it causes, and its impending inevitability, people are ostensibly trying to emphasize life. But all that is being accomplished is the sanitization of death, and this has the  effect of trivializing both death and life. What’s needed is balance.

Here is a taste–

The other danger revolving around a Celebration of Life is harder to detect, for it is camouflaged by euphemistic language and wears a smiling mask that whispers half-truths that we, especially in the throes of grief, want to believe as if they’re nothing short of gospel. The danger is simply this: that we downplay death and, in so doing, fail to fully appreciate life. Stripped of its euphemistic language, the get-together billed as a “celebration” or even a “party” is, in truth, a gathering of mourners around a corpse. And that dead body not only preaches that death has claimed this particular life, but it betokens our own inevitable demise. To the extent that we bury our head in the sand when confronted with the reality of death, to that same extent we miss out on an opportunity to learn more about, and to appreciate more deeply, the life that is ours.

It should come as no surprise that a culture which has euphemized the beginning of life has also euphemized its end. A woman is not pregnant with a child, but an “embryo” or a  “fetus.” If that “fetus” is unwanted, the “patient” can opt to exercise her “reproductive rights” by going to a “medical professional” to “terminate” the pregnancy through “abortion.” These euphemisms are convenient shields behind which one can hide when confronted with the truth that a mother can hire someone to kill her baby. They are verbal enablers of self-deception, vague, generic utterances into which we can stuff whatever meaning suits our fancy or pacifies our conscience. In the case of abortion, euphemisms enable our culture to look the truth of life square in the face and deny its existence. In the case of a Celebration of Life, euphemisms apply the makeup of life to the face of death.

O Come Quickly!

Advent is such a wonderful time of year. The four Sundays of Advent anticipate the coming, the advent, of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race. We look forward, during Advent season, to the celebration of the birth of Christ, his birth of a virgin as foretold in Isaiah 7.14.

But Advent season is much more than that. It is also anticipating his second advent, the second appearing of the Lord Jesus Christ. In that day, Christ will return and make all the wrong things right.

The hope of the gospel is wrapped up in anticipating the coming of Christ–first, to defeat the power of sin and death by his atoning work on the cross. Second, to establish his personal reign among us, and to usher in a new heaven and a new earth, and thus, the eternal age.


On that day, “he will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21.3-4).

Won’t you anticipate his coming by becoming his disciple?

Is Anyone Concerned About This?


Congressional approval ratings have hit a new low according to a recent poll out from Economist/–six percent. According to the poll, that’s lower than any other occupation in America, including car salesmen. Wow.

Doubtless, the late night TV personalities will get a kick out of this. But this strikes me as more scary than funny.

The fact that most Americans don’t trust car salesmen is a fact that has no impact on the life of the nation whatsoever. When it comes to the national debt, nuclear proliferation, national security, or the protection of basic freedoms, who cares what people think about car salesmen?

But the fact that 94% of Americans view the national legislature in such unfavorable terms is alarming.

The framers of the Constitution envisioned the Congress to hold most of the levers of power in the federal government. Congress has the power of the purse. It has the power to declare war. It can overturn a presidential veto. Just read Article One of the Constitution–clearly the framers put enormous confidence in the Congress when they designed it.

For the American people to be so contemptuous of the branch of government that has such power and the one that is closest to them is ironic. It’s true that this poll is only asking folks to rate Congress in general. The poll isn’t asking about how people regard their own representatives and senators. Still, who elected the people who sit in the House and Senate? They didn’t end up in the Congress by some feat of magic.

The Congress most closely resembles the people it represents. If the Congress is so bad, what does that say about the people who elected them? And if the Congress is overhauled in 2014, what do you think the chances are that approval numbers will bounce to, say, the 50s? Low approval numbers for the US Congress are here to stay, and I suspect it has something to do with the toxic partisanship that members of the House and Senate trade in each day.

What is the source of the partisanship in Washington? Is Washington the only place where people of different political and social views disrespect one another so?

Doesn’t the partisanship in Congress reflect the lack of civility in the electorate? Doesn’t partisanship among the people pay a dividend to the same Congressmen and senators that the people love to hate?

The American people have to face up to this. It’s easy to blame the “do-nothing,” “hyper-partisan,” “childish” Congress. Do they deserve blame? You bet. But the American people share in the blame, because the American people are just as bitterly divided amongst themselves, and they feed the partisanship in Washington by their own attitudes and behaviors.

If we want to keep our republic, it behooves us–the people of the United States–to work toward civility rather than drawing battle lines within our own national family.