Archive for September, 2008

Distortion: The Name of the Game

September 28, 2008

The number of misrepresentations that have occurred in this campaign (on both sides) is truly distressing.  We live in a society that favors soundbites rather than substance.  Politicians master the art of spin, and we are all worse off as a result, because there can be no true battle of ideas if those ideas are not accurately presented to the public.  If more Americans started visiting Factcheck.org regularly, politicians might have to start representing the facts more accurately. 

Last semester I took a seminar taught by Dr. Bruce Ware on the doctrine of providence.  We studied the whole spectrum of views of God’s relationship to the world: process theism, open theism, classical Arminianism, Molinism, Calvinism, and modified forms of Calvinism.  Dr. Ware is a modified Calvinist, and he has written in opposition to other views, specifically subjecting open theism to a thorough critique.  But I was impressed throughout the course of this seminar at how hard he worked to ensure that we accurately understood the claims made by all sides.  If we were discussing the weaknesses of another position in class, and we made unguarded statements that misrepresented open theism (or Arminianism, etc.), then Dr. Ware would call us on it.  He would ask us if the proponents of that view would be happy with the way we had represented them.  It is only when you can answer that question affirmatively that you are then in a position to offer a credible response. 

Critiquing a view that nobody holds not only is unhelpful, it is also unethical.  No matter how much we disagree with someone else, we always owe that person the respect of letting his or her voice be heard on its own terms.  If we filter everything through our own spin machine, we suppress otherness, disrespect a person made in God’s image, and fail to make any true progress for our own positions.  I only wish the game of politics didn’t work in precisely this way.  It will only happen as long as we, the public, allow it to happen.

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A Taste of My Ancestral Heritage

September 27, 2008

My last name is O’Kelley.  That means I have some Irish blood in me, though I have never really explored that very much.  I grew up in Texas, and my paternal grandfather’s family came from Georgia.  We were already well-assimilated into the American South by the time I came along.  The Irish have a much more noticeable presence here in Louisville, where there is a sizeable Catholic population.  St. Patrick’s Day actually means something here.  When I tell people my name, they understandably assume that, as a person of Irish descent living in a town with a distinctive Irish subculture, I would be in touch with that subculture.  I am not.  (For one thing, I’m a Southern Baptist.  You connect the dots.) 

But I’m hoping to change that.  Here is a small taste of Irish culture, brought to you by an American, Dennis Leary.  I first heard this song when I was in college, and I have always loved it:

If, while listening, you didn’t catch some of the lyrics, you can find them here.  Plus, if you want to pay $9.99 a month, you can even make this song a ringtone!

Big News

September 24, 2008

According to Newt Gingrich’s American Solutions organization, Congress has decided to allow the 26-year-old ban on offshore drilling to expire.  This means the “Drill Here, Drill Now, Pay Less” campaign has reached a major milestone.  We have taken a major step toward energy independence.  This is the best economic news I have heard in a while.

A Christian View of the Economy

September 24, 2008

In his most recent blog post, Southern Seminary president Albert Mohler offers some good thoughts on how a Christian should evaluate the current economic situation.  Here is a quote I found especially helpful:

“The desire for a profit, for income, and for material gain is not in itself greed.  The Bible clearly teaches that the worker is worthy of his hire and that rewards should follow labor, thrift, and investment.

“Greed raises its ugly head when individuals and groups (such as corporations or retirement funds) seek an unrealistic gain at the expense of others and then use illegitimate means to gain what they want.”

My Week Off

September 19, 2008

To this point, my semester has been extremely busy.  I have been playing catch-up at my new job while trying to finish out a long reading list, preparing for comprehensive exams, and pastoring a church.  I have also been trying to publish some articles recently, and that in itself requires an investment of time that is more than I usually want to give. 

And then Sunday the edge of the remnant of Hurricane Ike hit us, producing the strongest sustained winds I have ever seen.  Half of Louisville was without power (thankfully, I am part of the other half).  Schools have closed for the whole week.  Businesses that you can count on to be open at virtually any hour that you might want to visit them (McDonald’s, Kroger, etc.) were closed for days, some of them still not open yet.  The two schools that dominate my life–Dorothy Sayers Classical School and Southern Seminary–canceled all classes for the whole week.  Basically, that means I got a week off. 

A week off for a graduate student is not so much a vacation as it is a flotation device for a drowning person.  Normally, when I get unexpected time off, it gives me the opportunity to pour myself into my work and get caught up.  That, in turn, lifts an enormous burden off my shoulders, for every year when September and October roll around (corresponding to February and March in the spring semester), I feel like I am struggling to survive all the demands that have been placed upon me.  This week would have been a great time to get rid of that burden, but it has not happened.

My two-year-old son had his tonsils and adenoids removed on Tuesday.  I spent the whole day and night at the hospital with him.  Everything went well.  We brought him home Wednesday morning, and I was exhausted (hospitals are one of the worst places in the world to try to get any sleep).  Today I have spent several hours taking care of Benjamin while my wife has been away at an important pro-life event.  I haven’t accomplished much this week, at least not in the sense of producing anything with measurable results.  Plus, I just found out yesterday that an article I submitted for publication has been rejected.  It was disappointing, because I really thought this one would make it. 

But I have done the following: shared ice cream with a two-year-old, sung “The Itsy-Bitsy Spider” numerous times, said “I love you” and then heard (for the first time from his little mouth!) “I love you too,” read a book about an owl who said “Boo” instead of “Whoo” and another about Corduroy the teddy bear, played with puzzles, watched “Dora the Explorer,” poured juice into cups, and said prayers. 

All in all, not a bad week.

A Picture for You

September 16, 2008

I just now realized that now that I have DSL, uploading pictures to my blog has become a feasible activity.  Trying to upload pictures with a dial-up connection makes you want to tear your hair out, and that’s why I haven’t posted any for the last two years.

Here’s one from back in April at the Together for the Gospel conference.  My brother Andrew came up from Texas, and he really wanted to meet John Piper.  So I waited in line with him, and this was the result:

(By the way, I’m the one with the nametag that says “Aaron O’Kelley”).   As you can see, both of us are taller than John Piper.  But don’t be fooled by his small, thin frame.  He preaches with the passion, energy, and volume that must be every bit as powerful as Spurgeon’s was.  At the conference we were blessed to hear his passionate appeal for ministers to endure suffering willingly for the sake of the gospel.

Fun with the Electoral College!

September 15, 2008

If you haven’t visited 270towin.com, you really must.  It has an interactive election map where you can project what combinations of states are necessary for your candidate to win in November.

As the name of the website indicates, a candidate has to win 270 electoral votes to win the presidency.  Presidents have never been elected by a straight popular vote in this country.  The race for President is really not one race.  It is fifty-one races (all fifty states plus D.C.).  This way of doing it serves to protect less populated states from being overrun by the will of major population centers, which would be the case if we went to a straight popular vote election.  Al Gore received more votes than did George W. Bush in 2000, but if you look at the electoral college map, Bush had a more widespread popularity.  The fact that major population centers (mostly around the coasts) heavily supported Gore, thereby moving him ahead in the popular vote, is not a sufficient basis on which to elect a President to represent the whole country.  So I’m glad we do it the way we do it.

According to Rasmussen Reports, it is pretty safe right now to chalk up 200 electoral votes to McCain and 193 to Obama.  If you count the states that are leaning one way or the other, you end up with McCain at 247 and Obama at 259.  That leaves four states that are pure toss-ups: Colorado (9 votes), New Mexico (5 votes), Nevada (5 votes), and Virginia (13 votes). 

Now I have imagined a very interesting scenario.  What if everything plays out the way described above, and then McCain ends up winning Colorado and Virginia (as I suspect he will)?  That will put McCain at 269 electoral votes.  If Obama takes New Mexico and Nevada (which also seems quite plausible), he too will have 269 electoral votes.  We could end up with a tie in the electoral college.  In that case, the House of Representatives would decide who would be President.  It would not be the House as it is now but the “updated” House from the 2008 election.  All the projections I hear indicate that the Democrats will retain a majority in the House, so a tie would probably work to Obama’s favor.  On the other hand, would Democratic representatives from conservative states that had voted for McCain feel obligated to vote with their constituents?  I don’t know.  That would be an interesting scenario, but one I hope never comes to pass.

There is one more curveball to throw into this mix.  Both Maine and Nebraska divide their electoral votes.  Maine is a blue state, but if McCain has high popularity in the right place, he could pick off one electoral vote.  The converse is true for Obama in Nebraska.  I haven’t seen any polling on the likelihood of either one of these scenarios happening, but in a race this close, one electoral vote may make all the difference.

Why I Am a Christian, Part 3c

September 5, 2008

[See parts 3a and 3b if you haven’t already; parts 1 and 2 might also be helpful].

All of the alternative explanations to the claim that Jesus was raised bodily from the dead have been found wanting.  As N. T. Wright argues in The Resurrection of the Son of God, the empty tomb and the resurrection appearances are individually necessary conditions for demonstrating the historical validity of the resurrection, but neither condition is sufficient on its own.  Together, however, they are jointly sufficient conditions for demonstrating that claim.  Take the empty tomb without the appearances, and grave robbery would be the most likely conclusion.  Take the appearances without the empty tomb, and hallucination seems plausible.  But taken together, the empty tomb combined with the appearances of Jesus to his disciples alive after his crucifixion makes a sufficient case for the historical event of the bodily resurrection of Christ.

This is one of the major reasons I am a Christian.  It is not just because I believe something supernatural happened.  The supernatural in and of itself does not establish a truth claim.  Satan can perform miracles too.  My point is not simply that a man being raised from the dead automatically qualifies him to be the Messiah.  My point is, rather, that this particular man, who made these particular claims, was raised at this particular time and place and in this particular way.  The resurrection of Jesus validates his personal claims about his own Messiahship and divinity.  It demonstrates that God is on his side, not the side of those who rejected him.  It fits right into the story of Israel like a hand in a glove, bringing the promises of a renewed people and a renewed world to a proleptic fulfillment.  It establishes that his sacrifice for the sins of his people has been accepted by God and that he no longer lies under the curse (nor, consequently, do those who find refuge from the curse in him).  The penalty for sin has been exhausted, for death no longer holds him in the grave. 

With the exception of Judaism (the parent of Christianity), no other religion in the world that I am aware of rests on the claim of a major, verifiable, historical event.  God has given us sufficient evidence to conclude that, in Jesus Christ, he has brought his saving plan to fulfillment, and that as a result everyone has an obligation to receive Christ as Messiah, Savior, and Lord.

Personal Update

September 1, 2008

Life has changed dramatically for us since the last time I gave you a personal update.  We are now back in Louisville, loving our new house and location.  We have a great deal more space than we did in our trailer in Milton.

And it turns out, we’re going to need it.  We just found out a week ago that we’re expecting another baby!  The news came as a surprise to us, but it was a welcome surprise.  We had originally planned for Joni to pick up a part-time job to help supplement our income, but this new development has canceled out that idea.  But God has been gracious.  On the very day that we found out Joni was pregnant, I found out about a job opening for Latin tutors at a classical school here in Louisville.  I inquired about the position and got hired the same day (they needed someone quickly). 

I teach third and fourth year Latin students on Tuesday and Thursday mornings.  The students range from about the 7th to the 10th grade.  They are wonderful students who work hard, are well-behaved, and know their material well.  I am not in any way an expert on Latin, but I believe that I will be eventually.  Nothing makes you learn a subject like being responsible to teach it!  So this is going to help me a great deal on my dissertation, for which I plan to consult a number of theologians and documents from the Middle Ages and Reformation era.  Plus, I get paid for it! 

Life is very different now from what it was just three weeks ago.  Some changes have been expected, and some have been unexpected.  But the loving hand of providence has brought us here and will lead us on to the end. 

‘Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.–John Newton