The Right to Be Wrong

The founder and chairman of the BF just published “The Right to Be Wrong,” which title explains exactly what the Fund defends. The book party is Wednesday night. I can’t believe they are paying me to read interesting books and attend book launches!

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You can buy the book here.

Arminians v. Calvinists

By way of a native Turkish Presbyterian pastor in a coastal town in Turkey (the commentary at bottom is his):

Excerpt from Spurgeon’s Sermon: Free Will- A Slave
The Prayer of the Synergist …Any one who believes that man’s will is entirely free, and that he can be saved by it, does not believe the fall…But I tell you what will be the best proof of that; it is the great fact that you never did meet a Christian in your life who ever said he came to Christ without Christ coming to him. You have heard a great many Arminian sermons, I dare say; but you never heard an Arminian prayer – for the saints in prayer appear as one in word, and deed and mind. An Arminian on his knees would pray desperately like a Calvinist. He cannot pray about free-will: there is no room for it. Fancy him praying,

“Lord, I thank thee I am not like those poor presumptuous Calvinists Lord, I was born with a glorious free-will; I was born with power by which I can turn to thee of myself; I have improved my grace. If everybody had done the same with their grace that I have, they might all have been saved. Lord, I know thou dost not make us willing if we are not willing ourselves. Thou givest grace to everybody; some do not improve it, but I do. There are many that will go to hell as much bought with the blood of Christ as I was; they had as much of the Holy Ghost given to them; they had as good a chance, and were as much blessed as I am. It was not thy grace that made us to differ; I know it did a great deal, still I turned the point; I made use of what was given me, and others did not-that is the difference between me and them.”

That is a prayer for the devil, for nobody else would offer such a prayer as that. Ah! when they are preaching and talking very slowly, there may be wrong doctrine; but when they come to pray, the true thing slips out; they cannot help it. If a man talks very slowly, he may speak in a fine manner; but when he comes to talk fast, the old brogue of his country, where he was born, slips out. I ask you again, did you ever meet a Christian man who said, “I came to Christ without the power of the Spirit?” If you ever did meet such a man, you need have no hesitation in saying, “My dear sir, I quite believe it-and I believe you went away again without the power of the Spirit, and that you know nothing about the matter, and are in the gall of bitterness and the bond of iniquity.” Do I hear one Christian man saying, “I sought Jesus before he sought me; I went to the Spirit, and the Spirit did not come to me”? No, beloved; we are obliged, each one of us, to put our hands to our hearts and say-

“Grace taught my soul to pray,
And made my eyes to o’erflow;
‘Twas grace that kept me to this day,
And will not let me go.”

From Spurgeon’s Sermon, Free Will – A Slave

Comment:Consider the following prayer which is a summary of Spurgeon’s “prayer of the synergist” above:

“Thank you Lord that I am not like other men who don’t have faith… I made better use of your grace than did others. Some did not improve on it, BUT I DID

This is the boastful prayer of the Pharisee, but its theology is consistent with what many of us believe. If evangleicals simply believe we can reach out and accept grace or reject it, without being first transformed/quickened by grace, then it reveals that there is still self-righteousness left in many of us. What is the cure? The belief in the sovereignty of God in our salvation. That alone keeps grace as grace. It is only the grace of God alone which makes us to differ from others. God not treating us as our sins deserve.

The Backstroke of the West

Tom showed me this great series of subtitles from a Chinese bootleg of Revenge of the Sith (translated “Backstroke of the West”), and it is beyond us why there are English subtitles for English dialogue and how the subtitles got to be so bizarre.

But this makes me think of the Shoe Incident:

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More hilarity can be found here.

Rainy Aubade Part II: How Sam lost his shoes

Sam stopped by to say hello because he is just a wonderful person and loves his flock. He even brought yummy strawberry cream puffs. He stays for a little bit, chats with people, and eventually he says goodbye and prepares to go home to his wonderful wife and four lovely children who, among other things, are homeschooled and went to dinosaur camp this summer.

Everybody took their shoes off because it was wet outside and I didn’t want to track wet into the house, so Sam goes looking for his shoes, brown lace-up boots. He looks everywhere, but he just doesn’t see them. Katie and I keep pointing at a pair of brown boots and asking, Are you sure these aren’t yours? (as though a man would not know his own shoes). Sam says No. No, they are not, in that steady cadence he has. He sort of mumbles, The laces were–broken, but they were still, well, still a pretty nice pair of boots. The look on his face at this point is bewildered. It’s just so weird, to lose one’s shoes.

I am feeling kind of embarrassed, like my pastor came to my party and someone stole his shoes. Sam is totally cool about it, but I feel this somehow reflects poorly on me. I am imagining him having to walk home with plastic bags on his feet because he is too heavy for us to carry all the way home. I am picturing people saying, That Angela, don’t wear shoes to her parties, because you’ll lose them.

Eventually someone says the Guy from New Jersey, he came here with brown boots. Aha, he must have worn the wrong ones. Sam says, But mine had broken laces. I call the Friend from New Jersey. Cellphone, no answer. Home phone, no answer. He must be on the PATH. I leave a message asking, Can you tell me what shoes you wore home? Sam goes home with the wrong pair of boots and they fit, but they’re a little too snug. I am glad that he only lives five blocks away.

The Friend from New Jersey calls back, laughing. We are all laughing, and everyone in the room laughs harder when I say to him, “I can’t believe you took off with the shoes of a Presbyterian minister.” So I think the Friend from New Jersey and Sam did a brown lace-up boot exchange this morning and that is How Sam recovered his lost shoes.

I’m so glad nobody actually stole them, it would leave me with a strange feeling everytime I got into an elevator with a neighbor. I would be checking out their feet all the time.

Rainy Aubade

A host of friends were here last night, in from the downpour. Kind of a goodbye, see you later, sorry for your (my) loss. Not that DC isn’t the nation’s capitol, but none of these fine people live there….

The People

They are interesting, engaging, and loving, and they make this big city a small community. I know people who (separately) sew for a living and are going to live in Siberia for a year and just wrote a book on the history of the trial and eagerly wake up for 7am prayer meetings every Tuesday before work and do First Amendment law and love film and write film and teach and are musicians and libertarians and librarians and Republicans and liberals and ragamuffins and art historians and Calvinists. Plus they are kind, generous, and make time for everybody who needs some time. Sometimes I think it’s almost prideful to love my interesting friends so much, but they’re just so great. I like listening to them talk. I like listening to them think. I like listening to them play the guitar. I like listening to their problems because they go after them with such heart. God lives in fellowship Himself, it can’t be too wrong to enjoy being in it so ourselves.

The Music

For some reason, people only talk to strangers comfortably when there’s background noise. Bought this in Belgium years ago just because I liked the cover photo:

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The Food

Then it was midnight, and I was hungry. (No dinner.) People are distracted by The Ice Storm (for those who want to know what 1970s American suburbia was like, see this by Taiwanese director extraordinaire Ang Lee), which was playing on my projector against the screen paint wall. But Apryl the former gourmet chef says, “What do you have?” “Absolutely nothing,” but really I am thinking I wonder whether she is going to do one of those amazing tricks that people who are amazing cooks do and make something great. She starts opening shelves and refridgerator doors and gets excited over shallots and roasted seaweed and fromage blanc (which I keep saying is bad and I want to bring it back to the store but she points out it’s just fat free, which to me means it’s bad, I don’t believe in fat free dairy products). She somehow makes something. And we are now eating incredibly yummy scallion omelettes–they are fluffy, but substantial, I keep saying, like an amazed idiot. And we are eating mushroom polenta on a bed of spicy tomato sauce with peppered fromage blanc on top. How did this happen? And why has Apryl not cooked for us before. She claims to love it! I have a German (yes, German) kitchen!

The End

People are here until 2 in the morning. I actually leave them hanging out in my living room and I go to sleep, because I am getting too old to stay up late. I can’t believe it, but it’s true. Too old.

This is for the New Yorkers

(and everybody who knows how much I love New York)

I was in DC yesterday for my first day of meetings (before I actually move down from NY more permanently this Sunday afternoon). I was there at the behest of my future employer, which asked me to meet with a delegation of human rights lawyers from a developing country doing the rounds with the National Endowment for Democracy, a Congressman, and some Congressional Committee on Something.

At an 8:30am breakfast, a woman from Texas walks in. She has a Southern accent, big Southern blond hair, Southern clothes, lots of Southern make-up, and Southern manners. In the midst of a bunch of foreigners, at first I am confused; we haven’t been introduced. Then it becomes clear she’s in charge, and it turns out she’s the reason these people are able to be here, meeting with government officials and potential grant-making organizations who can support their (sometimes dangerous) work. She’s a woman with a big heart, larger than life, warm, organized, and completely unfazed by a swirling group of a dozen people speaking a language she doesn’t understand. She and her husband and other Christians they know in Texas have been heavily involved in human rights issues in Asia and Africa. She tells me how, using solar power and a generator, her husband put in an internet connection in an area of Southern Sudan that is the size of Texas and had only 34 miles of paved road and no electricity, and how that was the only way anyone could get information from the wartorn region at one point. I ask her What does your husband do? In a thick Texas accent, she says with a laugh, “He’s in oooil. And he funds all my activities!”

New York is the most diverse city in the world, but this is a whole different kind of diversity. If any of you have ever wondered what a bunch of rich, white Christians in Texas do with their time and money, here is your answer. They pray and give to the oppressed, persecuted, and hunted in the Sudan. Washington, DC is going to be an education for me, and I may have to leave some of my own prejudices at the Mason-Dixon line.

Turns out you go to New York to meet the world, but you go to DC to meet the rest of the country.

So I’ll be working starting Monday as Legal Counsel and Director of International Advocacy. It’ll be an interesting way to meet the world and the country. You can read more about what The Fund is doing for people around the world here.