Friday, January 30, 2009

Guy Hunt

Former Alabama Gov. Guy Hunt died today after a long bout with lung cancer. Hunt was a Primitive Baptist preacher, Amway salesman and county probate judge before being elected the first Republican governor in Alabama since Reconstruction in the late 1980s. Hunt's election brought a two-party system to state politics after he was swept into office amid Democratic infighting. He'd been a darkhorse candidate for several prior elections. I shot this picture during his re-election bid, which he won, only to be ousted on an ethics scandal. The wind began blowing the flag over the governor's face during former President Ronald Reagan's speech, making the perfect shot, as Hunt was figuratively wrapping himself in the flag by having Reagan campaign for him.

Here's a shot of me preparing to take the previous pix:

Monday, January 5, 2009

Traducianism vs. Creationism

Of the theories on the origin of the human soul, only two appear compatible with evangelical theology: creationism and traducianism. Creationism asserts that each soul is created by God ex nihilo, or out of nothing, while traducianism puts forth that the soul is passed down through the parents the same as is the body (Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, Walter A. Elwell, pp. 1037, 1106). Each theory has its strengths and weaknesses as well as its adherents among noted theologians.

Creationism, followed by Aristotle, Jerome, Pelagius, John Calvin, modern Roman Catholicism and Reformed theologians, says that each individual soul is created immediately (by his direct hand, without using outside help) by God and is placed in the body at conception or soon afterward (Theologia, David H. Wietzke). The material body is passed down through generations by the parents, but the soul is created by God and placed in the body. The Genesis account of creation states that the body was taken from the earth, while the spirit came directly from God. "This distinction is kept up throughout the Bible, where body and soul are not only represented as different substances, but also as having different origins," says L. Berkhof in his Systematic Theology (p. 199).

Scriptures commonly used to back the creationist view include: "The dust (body) will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it." (Ecc. 12:7); "O God, God of the spirits of all flesh." (Num. 16:22); "Thus says God … who gives breath to the people on (the earth) and spirit to whose who walk in it." (Isa. 42:5); The Lord "forms the spirit of man within him." (Zech. 12:1).

This view boasts many strengths. Wayne Grudem points to Psalm 127:3 ("Sons are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward.") as an indication that the entire person, both soul and body, are a creation of God and can therefore not be attributed to the parents alone. (Systematic Theology, pp. 484, 485.) Berkhof (p.199) points out that creationism prevents a division of the soul, which he says traducianism requires. Also, he says, it prevents the conclusion that Christ shared in the guilt of Adam’s sin. Had Christ’s soul been imparted from parent to child since Adam, Christ would have inherited original sin.

These arguments notwithstanding, creationism also has its weaknesses. Augustus H. Strong in Systematic Theology (p. 493) argues that the theory makes God the author of evil since he would be creating a sinless soul and forcing it to become corrupt by uniting it to a fallen body. Berkhof (p. 200) points out that it might be said creationism "ascribes to the beast nobler powers of propagation than to man" since animals reproduce after their kind, but man needs God to reproduce the spiritual portion of himself. Further, says Berkhof, it ignores the fact that God now works through secondary causes. But he notes that the objection isn’t very serious to those who don’t hold a deistic worldview. Finally, William G.T. Shedd in Dogmatic Theology (Vol. 2, p. 28) says, "The few texts that are quoted in favor of creationism are as easily applicable to traducianism." (e.g. Isa. 57:16, "The souls which I have made." There is no distinction between soul and body proved.)

The strongest objection appears to be that of God creating sinless souls that are forced to sin. Roman Catholics believe man is no longer created in the image of God, but receives this gift, so the objection for them becomes moot. (Wietzke, Cornelius Jaarsma, A Christian Theory of the Person). For Reformed theologians, this is a more difficult objection to answer. Certain passages, such as the Heb. 7:10 reference to Levi in the body of Abraham paying the tithe to Melchizedek, would probably be ascribed to metaphorical language. (Wietzke.)

Traducianism, followed by Tertullian, Martin Luther, the Eastern Church and some Reformed theologians such as Strong, asserts that since man reproduces after his kind, the soul is part of that which is procreated along with the body. While God is the Creator of the individual soul, this creation is mediate – it is done through secondary means (Elwell p.1106). God created for six days, then rested from his work of creating on the seventh day and has been at rest since. Scripture says that God breathed the breath of life into Adam, giving him a soul, but no mention is made of God giving a soul to Eve or any human descendant thereafter (Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, p. 254). And Heb. 7:10 credits Levi with paying a tithe to Melchizedek because, though unborn, he was in the body of his ancestor Abraham (Wietzke).

Scriptures cited by traducianists include "(God) rested on the seventh day from all His work which God had created and made" (Gen. 2:2); "(Levi) was still in the loins of his father when Melchizedek met him." (Heb. 7:10); "For man does not originate from woman, but woman from man." (1 Cor. 11:8).

The traducianist position makes for a simpler understanding of how Adam’s descendants are culpable for original sin. Perhaps the creationists are correct that the corrupt nature is imputed because of Adam’s federal headship, and thereby a representative of humanity as a whole. But if this assumption is incorrect, it may be difficult to explain why this imputation is fair. It may be argued that imputation of sin is no less fair than imputation of Christ’s righteousness to the Christian since neither is deserved. But for those who cannot conceive of a God who declares rational beings corrupt before they have done good or bad, traducianism is the only logical choice since it says the soul is passed down from sinful parents. And an Arminian could argue further that there is indeed a difference between imputation of sin and imputation of righteousness since no human ever chose to be born, but some have chosen to be "born again," thus doing something to receive the reward of imputed righteousness.

Tertullian was said to have argued that "our first parent bore within him the undeveloped germ of all mankind." (Shedd, p. 7) This might be looked at the same as a single-cell zygote that divides into two cells, then into four, etc., until something more resembling a human being develops. The single cell was the complete human at that time, although some years later it became a fully mature person. Adam (the male and female together) was complete humanity at the moment of original sin. Through procreation, humanity has since come to encompass millions more persons, just as the zygote divided cells. I am of Adam just as I am of a single-cell zygote. And if my body is of Adam, why not my soul? As a result, Shedd says (p.14), Adam’s posterity "sinned the first sin being seminally existent and present."

Hodge (p.255) notes that one of the strongest arguments in favor of traducianism is the fact that "ethnical, national, family and even parental peculiarities of mind and temper" are transmitted to children. This would point to a derivation not only of body, says Hodge, but also of soul. This argument, however, also leads to one of the strongest objections to this theory.

Creationists say that if the traducianist view is valid, then the soul of one or both parents must give of part of itself. Says Berkhof (p.198), one of three theories must be used to avoid this problem: (a) the soul of the child had a previous existence; (b) the soul of the child is potentially present in the seed of the mother and/or father, which equates to materialism; or (c) the soul is created in some way by the parents, making them creators. Further, Christ, if fully human, would have inherited original sin through Mary since he would have obtained his soul through her. Perhaps God created a special human soul for Christ, but that would make him of a different human race than the rest of humanity, negating his ability to redeem the fallen (Wietzke).

But one or both of the parents giving part of their soul to create the new one isn't really necessary any more than one or both parents give part of their body to create a new one. Certainly, the father contributes semen and the mother contributes an egg, but these are in their bodies, not part of them.

As to the objection of soul division, one needs only look to the animal world. A starfish, for example, can be cut into five equal parts and each part will regenerate a completely new starfish (Lynda Harding, California State at Fresno, Asexual Reproduction) An animal that previously possessed one spirit or consciousness now possesses five. While a starfish is not a human able to know or reject God, it is certainly not a plant and so it has consciousness. It may be impossible to fathom that a single thinking entity, no matter how primitive, could become five distinct entities, yet this is the case with the starfish. Is the consciousness of this animal divided or are four new ones created? It is impossible to know, but by whichever means, it does happen.

As to Christ inheriting original sin through Mary: Following traducianism’s linkage of the body and soul, it is possible that no human inherits sin through his mother’s soul any more than he inherits mitochondrial DNA from his father. Mitochondria are life-giving organelles that power every organ of the body (Charles Pellegrino, Return to Sodom and Gomorrah, p.67) but they are passed down only through the mother. In the same fashion, only the father can pass down the Y chromosome. Is it possible that only the father can pass down the corrupted nature? If so, why wouldn’t the mother contribute, being fallen herself?

If the body and soul are indeed linked, one might consider the difference between the male and female gametes. A female is born with every egg she will ever possess*, but the male produces sperm throughout his lifetime. So sperm is perpetually produced inside a corrupted body, but the ovum might theoretically be traced back to Eve before she committed original sin. If the ovum is considered uncorrupted then a supernatural fertilization from the Holy Spirit would produce a sinless person who also shared in our same humanity.

Another objection to traducianism is that it asserts that God only acts mediately, or through secondary causes, since the original act of creation (Berkhof, p. 198). While this may be the position of some traducianists, it is not an ironclad rule. God could possibly create souls through secondary means yet still create other things immediately. One does not imply the other.

In the end, traducianists seem to have the more solid arguments, though there is no absolute biblical proof for either side. Realizing this, it is best to agree with Augustine that this subject, while intriguing, should not be overemphasized. Rather, all should agree that the soul’s "proper abode" and "homeland" is with God (Elwell p. 1037).

*Research in 2004 challenged this assertion, but later research affirmed it.

(See this article in Portuguese.)

Sunday, January 4, 2009

A new day, a new blog for Owen Tew

With the demise of Journalspace, I've moved what I could here to Blogspot.

The Owen Tew online adventure began in 1997 with "Et Tu?" by Owen Tew on But I guess the real beginning was a religion column I wrote for my hometown newspaper after spending time as a reporter and wire editor there.

At the next newspaper I worked for I wrote occasional columns, some of them with a religious bent, and I also edited the Religion section, writing most of the local religion stories.

I pitched a religion column at the third paper I worked for, but the editor nixed it, so I tried syndicating, without success.

Then the Internet came along. Averse to technology, I bought a computer with the sole purpose of writing my column on the Web. It was a used 486 with a 28.8K modem, but it got the job done, albeit slowly.

I bought my own domain name and started to work away. I had chosen the pen name Owen Tew. (As a teenager I had wanted a cool nom de plume like Sam Celemens had with Mark Twain and found it when I heard baseball announcer Vin Scully say "the count is 0 and 2.")

I wanted to spell it Owen Tu, but was harassed by friends into changing the spelling since I'm not Asian. I argued that I am 1/16th Cherokee but with my pale skin and formerly bright red hair don't look it, so I could just as easily be 1/16th Chinese. They didn't buy it.

To make sure people knew how to pronounce it (It isn't TYOO.) I came up with "Et Tu?" by Owen Tew.

I ended up writing Owen as a fictional character who was a newspaper reporter five years younger than I was. (That made me able to be slightly wiser than him.) He had a girlfriend named Holly Gooden and a best friend he'd held on to too long named Tim Terry. Phil Durt became his friend after Owen covered a protest Phil led. Oh, and the next-door-neighbor temptress was Kate Forney.

I also wrote commentary on the site, but eventually decided I'd need to blog once that became popular. I moved some of the better stuff over to the blog site.

I tried several blog sites, including Blogspot, but couldn't figure out how any of them worked. Journalspace, on the other hand, was easy, so that became the new home of Owen Tew. The other characters faded, though I'd mention them as fake inspirations or tempters from time to time. And Phil Durt and Tim Terry would leave comments on my postings.

I made lots of e-friends on Journalspace, and, most importanly, met my wife there. That's the saddest part of it being gone.

Now that the incompetent owner of Journalspace has let all his data be lost, I've grabbed the best stuff out of the Google cache that I can. (Obviously, Blogspot has gotten easier to use.) I can't find the traducianism vs. creationism article either there or on the Internet Archive of I do have it on a hard drive backup, though, and on actual paper, as it was written for a college class. That article was cited in at least one post-graduate paper and on other Web sites debating traducianism, so I'll work on getting it back on the Web soon.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Sarah Connor Chronicles -- My own worst enemy

October 20, 2008 | At: 9:02 PM
I don't know who Denise The' is, but I wish she'd write more episodes. This is the best one yet, and I had my notebook out all ready to skewer. Go figure.

Still, there was the obligatory shot of the RAM logo on the side of the truck that sponsors the show. What will future generations think when they watch these on whatever replaces whatever replaces Hi-Def DVD/Blu-Ray? "What's with all the shots of the truck's name? Is it some kind of symbolism?" Yeah, that's what you want viewers thinking -- that "dodge" is something the heroes are going to do.

Of course, it did pay off that John dodged that bullet -- literally -- else who would have saved the world from Skynet? Of course it came from his own gun he was cleaning (or was he?). Anyway, he's doing the same thing with his life. In the flashback he got all bent out of shape that Mommy forgot his birthday that they sent the robot out to get him a cake -- just then, a bad guy comes in to steal "some computer stuff" and it woulda been real handy to have a super-strong killer 'bot at about that time. Good going, selfish John. You're supposed to be The One -- like Neo or Superman or, say wasn't there some other man who was supposed to save all humanity?

Then there's the fact that if they'd left the psychiatrist alone he would've gotten killed and been unable to help Skynet "grow up." Why does Skynet need to create itself when it appears John's doing a pretty good job creating it himself?

And how 'bout that red-haired Irish bot? She's learning to be a better mother than human Sarah. That's gotta be a kick in the teeth.

Well, despite the good writing, this episode still had its moments.

First, there's the fact that nobody worried about the near-grown man tying the shoe of the unattended little girl. In the real world somebody would have screamed, "Pedophile!" -- especially with that "squirrel in the tree" line. Apparently Sarah, terrible mother that she is, still managed to have a little fun teaching John to tie his shoesies. Guess you can't save humanity if you're tripping over your Bruno Maglis.

Anyhoo, good luck for John that his head was turned away right up to the split second the red-haired Irish robot walked away.

Who was the mouse-faced 'bot with the frizzy hair they sent back this time? Did Skynet finally run-out of supermodel 'bots? Or was this the only actor the producers could find who was a contortionist? And I want to know why they don't just send back the super-duper models that can shape-shift, like Miss Red Hair? Shouldn't they always send back their top-of-the-liners? You're trying to KILL JOHN CONNER for crying out loud!

Meanwhile, Brian Austin Greene's old love interest has come from the future because she misses him and needs a break. So does he, so they wrinkle the sheets, and she wants him to come up with a new word for what they just did. Common decency prevents me from helping him.

All the while they were whatever-ing, he never noticed the pile of 8x10 glossies of spy shots of him and the Conner clan right beside the bed. After BAG goes to tinkle, she slides them under the bed. Whatever happened to the cigarette as an after-_____ing treat? 'Cause maybe ROBOTS CAN'T SMOKE!

Well, there'll be no new episodes for two weeks. And there was a skip last week, too. Maybe that's what they need for the good-writin'. Just skip every other week, dudes. The all-new Dodge Ram pickup will wait. It's got super-powers!

Sarah Connor Chronicles: Product placement and the Bedell you know

October 6, 2008 | At: 11:50 PM
John Connor & Co. fight the machines with The All-New Dodge Ram pickups. Writers say, "We went on strike for this?"

Turns out there are exactly three Martin Bedells in the neighborhood: One to get killed by a Terminator robot and make the news, thus alerting the good guys to the trouble; one to be a little boy to further the ongoing story of developing Sarah's parenting skills; and one to be the right one the Terminator is trying to kill and prevent a future victory by the humans.

When will the robots figure out they never succeed in killing people in the past? They should focus on the battles in (their) present. And why do they keep sending back those old-school Schwarzenegger models that are far easier to kill than the ones that morph? Garbage in, garbage out, I guess.

When J.C. and his disciples want to check to see how many Martin Bedells might be in trouble they pull out the phone book since that's what super-intelligent machines from the future would do. Lucky for the machines, the one they are looking for is listed even though he's he's a teenager in a military academy. Even if they do let him have a cell phone at the military academy, he ain't in the White Pages.

And neither is the 10-year-old kid Sarah rescues just as bullets fly through the front door. Somehow she gets inside his locked house without notice, but the robot that could walk right through the wall has to resort to ringing the doorbell. (At first I'm thinking he's Martin Jr. and his dad's in the book, but then the 'bot doesn't try to kill daddy, so I guess not.)

John and his uncle Brian Austin Green open the tailgait of the an All-New Dodge Ram pickup then get inside the cab where they take advantage of the built-in navigation system. (Win yours today!) John is enrolled as a student, where he'll help protect the only important Martin Bedell, and the commander of the joint takes one look at the dishevelled uncle and realizes he's perfect as a fill-in instructor for the next week as he awaits a new teacher. No need to shave once you punch the time clock either. What do you think this is, a military academy?

Take two steps closer to that razor?

Side Note: Why is John Connor always conveniently absent from the flash-forwards?

The military academy has a seamstress on duty 24/7, so John and Brian Austin Green both have their fake last name "Baum" sewed onto their uniforms by breakfast. The idiot who makes a crack to the war vet Brian Austin Green about how many cool kills he has has "Pyle" sewed onto his uniform. You think they'd have stopped taking anyone from this family after Gomer.

In another story, the FBI dick is probing the meltdown at the power plant that we were reminded of in the "Previously on The Sarah Chronicles" section of the program, as well as in a passing reference in the script. The local barkeep looks likes he's been partaking too much of the product himself, but it just so happens he remembers a hot chick talking to the power plant employee who took the blame for the meltdown the night before the accident. Oh, yeah, and he also just happens to remember somebody was having a birthday party that night. Oh, yeah, and there just happen to be pictures from the party all over the bulletin board positioned right here where we don't need to move the camera or re-set the lights.

Hmmm. Let's see .... nothing, nothing nothing. Wait, who's that in the very last photo, way back in the back and just barely in the frame? Normally, she wouldn't be in focus or adequately lighted by the point-and-shoot camera's flash, but there she is: Sarah Connor.

Back to the domesticity of the Connor hideout: Good robot Cameron is making a PBJ for the 10-year-old Martin Bedell they're hiding. Neither Smucker's nor Jiff brought you this episode with limited interuption, so all we see of either jar is the Nutritional Information panel.

The 10-year-old is more worried about not doing his book report than he is about being killed, so Sarah goes through the books in the house they're summering in. "The Wizard of Oz." Perfect, Sarah says. It's her son's favorite. Oh, that's why he and Brian Austin Green have "Baum" sewn onto their uniforms.

As Sarah reads the scary story to the boy, J.C. and the whole Hee-Haw gang are fighting the Terminator sent for the military academy Martin Bedell and shot-for-shot it lines up to Dorothy and her three pals as if it were a Pink Floyd album. But really, is this story of a girl "about your age" who's life is in peril the right reading material for a boy who's been shot at and is in hiding?

Meanwhile, John and Brian Austin Green melt the bad robot in the La Brea Tar Pits as Cameron somehow witnesses this. See, sister, that's what they've got in store for the likes of you. They don't care that when you grow up you want to be a real girl.

With the bad 'bot taken to the local recycling facility for carbon credits, Sarah releases the child back into the wild, directing him to the only pay phone left in Los Angeles.

The All-New Dodge Ram Challenge!
And ... scene.

Sarah Connor Chronicles: Indestructible Watermelons, emoting robots

September 30, 2008 | At: 2:11 AM
Being neo-Amish and a hater of technology, I'm naturally a "Terminator" fan. Kill the machines before they kill us. Stop Skynet now.

I like this season better than last, though I couldn't understand why all of Cameron's flesh wasn't burned off in the season premiere except that the script didn't allow time for her to regenerate the flesh before storming back into the house. And speaking of that, why was the entire opening scene in strobe effect except for shots of Cameron leaving the car and walking into the house? Clearly, she was supposed to be strobed, too, but her limp wouldn't have been detectable.

Skipping last week's episode, because I don't remember anything to criticize, let's move on to this week:

Cameron spaces out for a reason that isn't technologically explained and "remembers" being a human being in the future named Allison. She's been sent grocery shopping by future human resistance leader John Connor because what else do you do with a robot from the future who has already short-circuited once recently and tried to kill you? Why not see if she can use her reprogrammed human killing software to select food products that she doesn't eat all the while coming in close proximity to bar-code scanners.

Am I Judas? Note the red apple of temptation and the red "Judas Iscariot" hair on the fellow shopper.

But the infrared scanner doesn't get her; the actual bar-code does. It triggers a false memory that causes her to examine a Red Delicious apple, bringing up symbolism of the Forbidden Fruit perhaps. Perhaps, but again, no technological, nor emotional, explanation. And emote is what Cameron does next. She zones out and knocks over half a watermelon display, though not one watermelon splatters open. Must be Indestructible Mechanical Watermelons FROM THE FUTURE!

Nice clean cuts on the corners of the "busted" box. Who'da thunk a light tap from a shopping cart would do it in?

The cops are called, because that's what you do when a grocery store customer has an accident and doesn't respond to fellow customers. No "Cleanup in the Produce Department!" and "Ma'am, don't worry about that. Accidents happen, and we don't enforce ''You Break It You Bought It'. ... Oh, wait, you didn't break it. I forgot, those are our Indestructible Mechanical Watermelons FROM THE FUTURE!"

The cops, of course, determine that a young woman who says she can't remember who she is and has no ID should be put in the slammer with other hardened criminals, not referred to a psychiatrist. But they let her go when the store decides not to "press charges." Charges? She accidentally knocked over watermelons, didn't hurt them, and furthermore produced a fat wad of cash from her pocket which would have more than compensated the store if she had. Why is she being mugged and printed?

Oh, yeah: It's so she can meet the runaway street girl who befriends her in the holding cell and gets sprung simultaneously. She notes the wad of cash Cameron gets handed by the cop manning the property and decides she and Cameron the amnesiac are now Bestest Friends Forever -- but not like you're thinking. (OK, so they get a little too close on the top bunk later on, but that's just to fan fanboy fantasies. Besides, are these Terminator robots anatomically correct? And if so, why?)

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the 11-month-pregnant chick who lives next door to the Connor clan is bleeding, so Sarah has to rush her to hospital (or THE hospital, as we Yanks say). Baby Daddy is out of the picture, so Sarah has to stay with her even though she knows she should be about the business saving the future of the human race like she does all the other 364 days of whatever year this is. The hippy-dippy young mommy-to-be shares some wisdom about how much she cares about that gigantic son inside her abdomen, which will likely go on to star as the kid on "Two and Half Men: The Next Generation." SPOILER ALERT: Next week, Mommy delivers the bushel of joy as an Indestructible Watermelon FROM THE FUTURE. Let this be a lesson, ladies: Do not have carnal relations with a man who claims to be a cop and asks throughout coitus "Have you seen this boy?"

That's right, Baby Daddy shows up -- and he's a cop. "Oh, great," Sarah sarcastically acts with her face. "This is just what I need. Next, they'll be busting me for knocking over the hospital Jello. Oh, wait, I'm unaware of that scene."

She excuses herself and calls John so he can fill her in on the grocery store scene, but he refuses. Normally, he'd call his mom to explain he'd lost his robot, but then she'd be forced to choose between dropping everything to fix this major calamity or hanging out with the neighbor she barely knows, and besides, scheduling conflicts obviously made it impossible for Sarah to shoot any scenes with John or Cameron this week. And Brian Austin Green couldn't even be gotten out of his trailer, though Pretty Boy sure did get his name in the opening credits anyway, didn't he?

Anyhoo, Cameron remembers she's a robot from the future and tells as much to the shrink at the halfway house that she and her "just-friends" friend have checked into. (Cameron gave her wad of cash away to some bully that her robot amnesia prevented her from knowing she could kill with her pinkie.)  The script  has already had the counselor set up that everything is confidential -- unless she reveals she wants to harm someone. And want to harm someone she does: one JOHN CONNOR. Cue the cops, who really get upset when they realize they've let a watermelon molester back on the streets and this is the thanks they get.  

Cameron and friend use the old Escape From the Window ruse to foil the coppers and high-tail it for her buddy's parents' house. John has caught up to them, but can't do a darn thing but follow since Cameron doesn't remember who he is. Lucky for him, now that she knows she's supposed to kill him. The girls have no means of transportation other than their feet, but John follows them in his All New Dodge Ram (Win Yours Now!). Now aware again that she's a robot, Cameron nonetheless doesn't use her human-killing skills to notice they're being followed.

Once inside the folks' house, Cameron realizes the girl's been lying to her and this triggers a memory of the real girl Allison, whom she's been modeled after, lying to her when Cameron first sets out after the adult John Connor in the future. Cameron grabs Allison by the throat and sends her to her Maker. She repeats the "You lied to me" line to her present-day buddy and gives her the old Warm Winter Scarf treatment, too. Just then, John Connor bursts in and finds the girl on the floor.

"Did you kill her?" he asks.

The girl gurgles and starts to regain consciousness, setting up my favoritest line of the night from Cameron: "Apparently not."

With this, all is right with the world. Cameron once again recognizes John and is back as his Tonto, or his Yoko Ono, or whatever other sidekick has only O's for vowels.

There are several scenes with Agent Ellison back-and-forthing with the red-haired British robot who's trying to hire him away from the CIA to -- get this -- catch robots. For some reason she can morph into a urinal and wait around all day while guys she isn't going to kill take a whiz on her, then morph back to the red-haired woman the second a middle manager delivers the set-up to her pee-pee double entendre so she can off him. But find other robots like herself, she can't.

We also learn that Ellison's ex-wife has just remarried, but "kept her name." Uh, Ellison would be HIS name. I wonder how hubby No. 2 felt about that. Probably just like No. 2.

And one last thing: I want to find out where Ellison's ex finds the place that blows up her vacation print, and mounts and frames it in under two weeks so it's hanging in Ellision's line of sight as a conversation starter and perfect scene transition? Always takes me three.

(Read Television Without Pity's Weecap, which probably wasn't written at 2 a.m. -- and they took notes.)

Rerun Requiem

Fred Berry 1951-2003

I just mentioned on this blog a few days ago that I'd once seen Fred Berry in person. That doesn't mean I knew him, of course. In fact, I didn't even speak to him -- just saw him on the other side of the room. But it still makes you sad he's gone because you feel like you know him.

He hasn't really done anything in the public eye since he played Rerun on What's Happening!! except ... play Rerun. And that was just fine with us. We loved Rerun, so rerun him forever, we said.

Who else from that old '70s TV show do you ever see anymore? We don't even know the actors' names. And yet, Rerun, who wasn't even the main character just kept popping up. Most recently, I saw Fred Berry on Scrubs, as Rerun of course, all decked out in his red beret and suspenders. The whole Scrubs cast donned the attire and did the Rerun dance with him.

I guess it would be hard for the guy who played Raj to make a side income being Raj for the rest of his life. What would he do -- walk up and sit in a chair backwards? DeWayne could say "Hey, hey, hey!" but he's got no visual to go with it. A chubby guy with a big smile and red beret, though, that's the stuff.

He was the Kramer of What's Happening!! The Maynard G. Krebs. The Goober Pyle. I saw George Lindsey on Oprah a couple of years ago, and he was wearing his Goober outfit. That's what I'd hoped for Rerun -- seeing him on TV in his 70s still doing his thang. Michael Richards won't do that; too good to be Kramer for us when we want to get all nostalgic in the '10s.

Alas, poor Rerun. I knew him.

"My name is Steve, and I met my mistress, Sharon, on I love my wife, but sometimes you need that little extra spice that you don't get from a wife who works all day, cooks dinner, helps the kids with the homework and finishes up doing the laundry. She's always exhausted and unable to meet my needs, which I get from looking at the Internet during my 'alone time' in the evening. Sharon and I are having a great time, and there's no commitment. And any time I want to dump her, DisHarmony is there for me to start anew."

"My name is Susan, and I met my married lover on He's going to divorce his wife and marry me eventually, because he doesn't really love her; he's just having to stay with her because she makes most of the money right now. As soon as he gets the new job he's been interviewing for he'll leave. I'm tired of them jerking him around. It's been nearly two years now. It's the economy. They're waiting for a better quarterly financial statement before taking him on. But as soon as they hire him he's divorcing that dried-up old hag he's stuck with. Thanks, DisHarmony."

After years of having to meet at the office and carry on affairs under the glare of co-workers knowing eyes, DisHarmony unites people with common interests through its patented personality profile. We've matched hundreds of unhappily marrieds and needy people willing to "settle." And if you sign up now, we'll give you the personality test -- a $40 value -- for free. We tabulate the results then throw them away, because the best part of being in a bad relationship is the surprise.

"I'm Larry, and I met my girlfriend on DisHarmony. Her kids love me, and she thinks I'm going to marry her. But I'm not. I'm just in it for the sex. I've told her, but she doesn't care; she just keeps clinging to me, convinced one day I'll change my mind. Meanwhile, it's fun, fun, fun -- with no commitment. Thanks, DisHarmony!"

On the Eucharist

Some of his body becomes part of my body. Some of his blood my blood.

Some of it goes through my system and back out again in smelly and vile form.

In this fashion I treat his holy body. Some I allow to mesh with me, some I turn into refuse and excrete.

For this reason I must feast upon him week after week lest I lose him entirely.

It is not what enters the body that is unclean, but that which proceeds from it: Envyings, lies, malicious talk.

Blessings and cursings from the same mouth. This ought not to be.

I am a dog, who leaves his messes for all to see. And when the unbeleiving think of his name, it is my fault that they think of it with contempt, because I have made his body into dungheap. Selah

But you, O Lord, cover over my sins with your blood. You fill me with your Spirit. You pull me from the pit. Praise the Lord of Hosts!

Then They Came for Me

The local news anchor just called a racial slur a hate crime.

Here's what happened: Some moron wrote the slur on a piece of paper and taped it to the door of the NAACP chapter at the University of Alabama. This has been reported for days, but no threat has ever been mentioned. Obviously, the perpetrator hates black people, but calling them a name is not a crime. Unless the note contained some sort of threat, and this has yet to be reported, this is not a "hate crime."


Well, it is a big deal if a news anchor, not quoting anybody, but speaking on her own behalf, refers to a racial slur as a crime. I am free to hate anyone and anything I like, and it is not a crime. I can even call you a name if I want to, and regardless of the indignity you suffer, I have in no way violated your rights.

Do I think it is good that a person used a racial slur? Absolutely not. It is immoral and boorish. It is a sin. It is not, however, illegal, and therefore not a crime.

People who act this way toward their fellow humans should be ostracized from society. But they should not be jailed. Free speech is still a protected right.

I could look the other way. After all, who wants to face the arrows surely to be incurred from defending a redneck reprobate? But the words of the German minister Martin Niemoller cry out against me:

“First they came for the Communists, but I was not a Communist so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Socialists and the Trade Unionists, but I was neither, so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Jews, but I was not a Jew so I did not speak out. And when they came for me, there was no one left to speak out for me.”

If some uneducated college student wants to call black people horrible names, and that's all he does, but we want to get it into our minds that it is a "hate crime," what further words might we decide are crimes?

Suppose I fail to bow at the altar of tolerance? Shall I be cast into the lion's den? While I certainly respect the right of others to hold contrary opinions to my own, my personal religious convictions are exclusionist, and so some would call them "intolerant." If I say, "It is my way or the highway (to hell)," am I committing a hate crime because I've offended all other religions?

If I offend you, I am sorry, but to hold to my religion's precepts, I must claim it is exclusionary. I make every effort to be at peace with all people, but there is inevitably the debater who will paint me with the broad brush of Falwellianism simply if I say that I am a Christian.

This is my cross to bear, and I do it without complaint. But I shall not sit down and shut up just because Pat Robertson says things in the name of Christ that are stupid.
You can jail me if you will, or you can shoot me in the head. It is the only thing that will still my tongue.

Perhaps I have forgotten to take my Lithium. This is America, after all. Such things would never happen here. We are the apex of civilization.

Tell that to Dr. Bonhoeffer and 6 million Jews, Neville.

The Idiot Factor

Justin Timberlake, Janet Jackson and former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore must have gone to the same school. They all use the same ineffective methods of persuasion.

While liberals and conservatives have been trying to win their respective sides of the culture war through incrementalism, Justin, Janet and Roy end up throwing wrenches into the very causes they hope to further.

It's the old story of successful frog boiling: If you toss the live frog into boiling water he'll hop out, but if you put him into tepid water then slowly bring it to a boil he'll be cooked before he realizes it.

The cognoscente on both sides, though the liberals do it more effectively, seek to boil the frog slowly, and so the public accedes to their viewpoint without ever knowing they've been manipulated. But then a Roy Moore does his Ten Commandments dance and prostitutes something God meant to be holy or Janet and Justin bow at the altar of shock -- and their causes are set back, not advanced as they'd hoped.

Though at the opposite ends of the morality spectrum, Roy and Justin-Janet are really the enemies of their own goals. Roy wants more people to be Christians, but his methods smack most of shove-it-down-my-throatism, and so even fewer are likely to be brought into the kingdom of God. Justin-Janet hope, on the other hand, to bring more free expression, but their Super Bowl halftime display instead was so offensive to most people that NBC ended up editing out a planned breast shot from its Thursday night ER episode.

Without the Super Bowl fiasco, the ER shot would have gone little noticed, and incrementalism would have won a small battle toward its eventual goal. Now, we'll have to wait a few years longer before public nudity becomes a constitutional right.

By the same token, Roy Moore flashing his breastplate of righteousness has made it more difficult for me to convince people of their need to know Jesus Christ as savior. If only there were a way for the church to fine Roy's inappropriate behavior -- but, alas, most of its members agree with him.

Strange fire

So what did Nadab and Abihu do that angered God so much he burned them to death in the tabernacle? Leviticus 10 says only that they offered "strange fire." But what does that mean?

Obviously, they didn't follow directions for proper sacrifice, which had just been given in exacting detail. But were they being rebellious, or did they just think it didn't matter that much? The text doesn't say -- which makes for interesting conjecture.

But the real point is that they didn't do exactly as told. Exactly what they did do isn't as important as the fact that they thought they could monkey with God's commands and he wouldn't really care.

Many of the same questions people have about Nadab and Abihu's actions are brought out in Genesis 4, where Cain and Abel offer sacrifices. God regards Abel's sacrifice favorably, while he had no regard for Cain's.

The text hints that Cain didn't offer a proper sacrifice, but it doesn't say what was wrong with his -- or what was right with Abel's. Some have argued that because Abel's was meat, it was a foreshadowing of Christ's sacrifice. Other's have pointed out that the text notes Abel gave of the firstborn, while Cain's is not referred to as firstfruits.

Despite these theories, the interesting thing, again, is the vagueness. Readers of the text are left to wonder exactly what Cain, Nadab and Abihu did wrong, and as a result they must be even more vigilant not to repeat their mistakes.

It's like if you started a new job and your boss gave you a list of do's and don'ts, warning that he tolerates no rule-breaking. Then you find out a guy was fired one week after getting the rules, but you aren't told what he did.

What do you do? You read the rules carefully and try to follow all of them to the letter.

But if someone tells you the guy was fired for embezzlement you might get a little more slack. Of course the boss would fire him for embezzlement, but he would never fire you for being habitually 10 minutes late, would he?

So we are in our spiritual lives. Sure, God struck Ananias and Sapphira dead for lying to the Holy Spirit, but my copying of software isn't like that. After all, Bill Gates has all the money he needs, right? And my cussing those idiots on the freeway isn't all that bad since it is their stupidity that's fueling road rage. If not for them I'd be a peach.


You'll want to divorce me from your favorites list

Several entries ago I mentioned a doctrinal disagreement I have with my church. Actually, it is with most churches and most Christians, or for that matter, society in general.

I declined to name it because all discussion of the issue ever does is create enemies, but one reader said I should talk about it, and after much thought, here it is: divorce and remarriage.

My position is that divorce and remarriage constitute adultery. I take this position from a literal reading for the gospels of Matthew and Mark and from First Corinthians.

In Matthew 5:31-33 and Mark 10:2-12, Jesus says that whoever divorces his wife for any reason other than that she has had sex outside the marriage causes her to commit adultery. And, he adds, a man who marries a divorced woman is committing adultery.

When some members of his audience ask why Moses, then, had given permission for a man to write his wife a bill of divorcement, Jesus responds that it was because their forefathers' hearts were so hardened that he allowed it, but that this plan had not been God's intention from the time of creation. Instead, God had meant for a man and woman to marry for life. It was only after one of the spouses had died that it was permissible to remarry.

In the First Corinthians passage, the Apostle Paul says that a Christian should not divorce a non-Christian, but should allow the non-Christian to leave if he or she refuses to stay. However, he adds, the Christian should remain unmarried or be reconciled to his or her spouse. This appears to be a reference to Jesus' command that divorce and remarriage constitutes adultery.

Objections to my arguments include the fact that the Bible does include guidelines for a "biblical divorce." And that it does, including adultery and/or abandonment by one's partner. While I agree that the Bible condones both these reasons for divorce, it does not condone remarriage even then. First Corinthians clearly states that one must remain unmarried or be reconciled to his spouse.

Another objection is this arugument: "What do you expect a person to do -- never be married again and remain celebate for the rest of their lives?"

My answer to this question is "Yes." It is a difficult answer, but Jesus himself says in these passages that it is a hard thing for most to accept.

Another question: "What are people who are remarried supposed to do, especially if they have children by the second marriage?"

I admit that this is a difficult situation. If there are no children, I'd say they should probably separate. If there are children, they should stay together but refrain from sexual relations.

Now you can see my dilemma. You perceive that I'm calling you or your family members or your best friends adulterers. And for that you have lost any warm feelings you might have had for me.

So why is this such a burning issue with me? Because First Corinthians 6:7-10 lists a group of people who will not inherit the kingdom of God. Among those people: adulterers.

I'm not trying to be judgmental or critical. But my religion requires me to warn people against eternal damnation. You may disagree with me, and that's your right. But that doesn't require me to accept a view of relative morality. My exclusivist views push me to state my case, which you are then free to accept or reject. That notwithstanding, state them I must.

If only I'd been born 50 years earlier.

More on Adultery

I received a note from someone wanting to discuss the adultery issue further, and I have permission to post our conversation here:

ANONYMOUS: Do you mind if I ask you a couple of questions related to your opinion about divorce and remarriage? With the understanding that my intent is not in any way to argue with you, because I do not disagree with your position. I just have further questions and I would really like your opinion.

OWEN TEW: No problem. Ask away.

A: Okay.

I have been told before that if you have sex with someone, you have been married in God's eyes.

Do you agree?

OT: I don't know. I base my theological opinions solely on Scripture and there is no Scripture that specifically states that if you have sexual relations with someone you've married them. Someone might infer it from some particular passage, but it is not irrefutable, so I personally do not judge someone to have been married if they are not a virgin. However, in my constant quest to "be on the safe side" I am looking in my own search for a wife for someone who has either never had sex or who is a widow.

A: There are several references (although I don't know scripture and verse off-hand) that state that a man "went unto" a woman, and took her as his wife. There doesn't appear to be a marriage ceremony other the consummation in several references.

And there is a reference in the NT where a harlot approaches Jesus ... and... my memory is very fuzzy, but Jesus asks her something regarding her husband, and she tells him she has no husband, and he tells her, in so many words, that she is not being truthful. That passage is the major one that the pastor used to back up his belief that if you had sex you were considered married in God's eyes.

Are you familiar with that passage?

As far as what you should do if you are in your second (or third, or whatever) marriage before you realize the folly of your ways, I do not believe that continuing to stay in a sexual relationship with the spouse would be to continue sinning. I think at the time of forgiveness, you are forgiven for all of your past sins, as if they never occured. It is not a sin to be married, therefore, if you are married at the time of forgiveness, you can only be guilty of adultery if you commit adultery after that point... and adultery would not include having sex with your spouse.

BUT ... that last paragraph was just my two cents worth, and probably not necessary...

BUT... I have another question.

I have been taught before, that under the new law laid out by Jesus in the NT, if you even think about committing the sin, in God's eyes, it is af you have committed that sin. What is your opinion on that topic?

OT: I'm familiar with the passages you quoted, and they are part of my reason for wanting to marry only another virgin (for safety's sake). One instance you talked about is when Rebecka is brought to Isaac: He takes her into his mother's tent and "marries" her. Obviously, he had sex with her, but when you are living in the middle of the desert as a nomad how else do you marry? There's no religious of civil official around to perform a ceremony, so you lie with you wife and boom, you're married. As a result, I don't think the proof is conclusive.

As far as Jesus saying that if you look upon a woman lustfully you've committed adultery in your heart, well, that's true; that's exactly what he said -- and exactly what he meant. And what he was getting across is that when you look down on a person who has committed adultery you are no better yourself if you've ever lusted, so don't look down on others for their sins, and don't lust either. But he isn't saying that if you've "committed adultery in your heart" anyway you might as well just go ahead and do the act too.

A: I do not blame you at all for wanting to marry a virgin, for safety's sake, as well as several other reasons. Do not take my discussion to mean that you are wrong or too "careful" to do so. I do not disagree. My discussion here is more to help me sort out my life, not yours.

As far as the discussion about looking upon a woman lustfully... I did not mean that if you have lustful thoughts that you might as well commit the act since you are already guilty. I guess my question is more along the lines of... if you look upon a woman (or a man) lustfully, even if you don't act on that lust... have you committed adultery?

OT: If you lust after someone, have you committed adultery? Yes and no. Yes, according to Jesus' example, but no, you haven't really had sex with them. I don't think it would be a case for marital counseling if someone looked at another person besides his/her spouse and felt lustful. He/she should strive not to do so, though. However, if he/she is a porn addict or doesn't even try to control his lust and is constantly looking at other people lustfully I'd say that person needs counseling.

A: Based strictly on what Jesus said, if someone looks upon someone who is not their spouse and thinks lustful thoughts, is that person and adulterer in God's eyes? I am not concerned with whether he/she is an adulterer in the opinion of anyone but God.

OT: Taken literally, he/she has committed adultery. I don't know about the female brain, but under this rule every man who's ever lived, save Jesus himself, is an adulterer. It's possible Jesus is using hyperbole to make a point. Since I can't get inside Jesus' brain I can't give you any better answer than that.

A: I take it literally. Which causes me much grief because... as you said... the Bible clearly states that adulterers shall not inherit the kingdom of God. Which is where I become confused.

What are we to do if we find ourselves lusting?

Ask forgiveness every time?

But how many times are we allowed to ask forgiveness for the same sin? At what point are we disobeying the commandment to repent and sin no more?

OT: I suppose you could. As far ask asking forgiveness for the same sin, Jesus commanded us to forgive our brother "seventy times seven" times per day, which I feel is safe to say was a euphemism for endlessly (since the question was whether it should be done "up to seven times" as the religious officials taught.) I don't think he'd hold himself to a lower standard.

But I'd never consider myself an adulterer because I caught myself lusting from time to time. And remember that a temptation isn't an act of sin. One might see someone and feel inclined to lust, but then realize they shouldn't. Lingering on the thought and having a fantasy in your head -- that's what Jesus is talking about, I think.

A: Good points. I really appreciate the respectful discussion.

I'm dying here

"Wangwangwangwangwangwangwang!" the Chinese restaurant manager said to the cashier.

"Wangwangwangwangwangwangwang!" the cashier replied, casting an eye in my direction.

This back and forth went on for 10,000 years and still they were not satisfied.

Once again, I explained, I was NOT going to pay for someone else's meal who had already paid for it himself. By this point, I was well past exasperation and was now beginning to make a scene. Any other restaurant would have thrown up their hands way earlier and been done with it. Apparently, this was a cultural thing.

I had paid for my own meal without incident. It was the only meal I had eaten. But as I was walking out the door, the cashier called me back. One of the meals on the check had not been scratched off. Turns out, the guy who ate that meal had needed to leave before the check came, so he just paid before he left. As each of the other people at the table left they handed the common check to the cashier, who charged them for their meal and scratched it off the list. I was the unhappy person to present the check last, and the guy who had already paid, before the check came, had not had his meal marked off. It was a busy day and they didn't remember him paying, so now they wanted me to pay for it.

I explained the situation to them, but something was lost in translation. "It's not scratched off," or words to that effect was all they would say as if I should understand and pony up for the meal. I explained that I had paid for my own meal and that I had never even met the guy before that day.

"But he was sitting at your table," they accused.

"I was sitting there first, and he came up and sat down," I said. "I didn't have any control over him sitting down there. He sat down with his sister and brother-in-law, who are friends of mine. I don't even know what his name is."

"But he was sitting at your table."

"And he was sitting in YOUR restaurant. And I don't know him any better than you do. Besides, I saw him pay. He had to leave before your waitress brought the check."

"But it's not scratched off," they reasoned.

"It's not my problem," I taught them.

"But he was sitting at your table."

"If it's MY table then I'm taking it home with me."

That didn't get me anywhere, but a friend promised them the brother-in-law of the guy would call them and take care of it. It was a lie, of course, but it mollified them.

That was two or three years ago and it still makes me angry. I refuse to go back and eat there.

Sometimes, when I wonder why I don't hear the voice of God anymore, I remember this incident and ponder what I should have done differently.

According to Jesus, if someone forces me to go one mile, I'm supposed to go not only that mile, but one more as well. I guess I'm supposed to show him that he might force me to do something, but I still can choose to do something for him. So according to that directive, I should have asked how much the man's unscratched bill was, then double the amount and pay that.

But I'm an American, a rugged individualist, and I will not be forced to pay anything I do not owe. What would have been gained by me double paying for a meal that was already paid for? Surely these restauratuers didn't know that I had just left church that Sunday at noon. Certainly they wouldn't have felt the the love God from my gesture.

Today, I am facing a similar problem: My doctor had written a prescription for four mail-order drugs in November, but I had saved the prescription until I needed it. In December a surgeon undeviated my septum and now I don't need three of the drugs my GP had prescribed. So I filled out the form that accompanies my mail-order and requested only the Plavix. I included enough money only for the Plavix.

On Friday, I got a box with all four medications and a bill for $30.

I called the mail-order pharmacy today and was told that since some people don't fill out the form completely, they just go by what's on the prescription. Also, they have no policy for taking back my useless drugs nor for refunding my money. I'll just have to send them $30 and throw away three-quarters of the medicine, and, next time, stick a note on the prescription.

"There will not be a next time," I replied. I will just die an earlier death because of my high cholesterol and it will be Aetna Home Delivery's fault, not my own stubborness'. But that will be fine with me because I will no longer have to deal with Aetna Rx Home Delivery or with Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Delaware or with Dell Computers or with United Parcel Service or with any of the other companies that are driving me to an early grave with their moronic practices.

Nevermind that I followed the rules for filling out the form, and nevermind that the form's instructions said nothing about attaching a note if you didn't want everything listed on the prescription. No, it seems that because some people aren't smart enough to fill out a form correctly, I have to pay for drugs I can't even use. This is what that say in the offices of Aetna Rx Home Delivery: "Let's make a form for people to send in with their mail-order prescriptions. But since most people don't fill the form out completely we'll just go by what's on the prescription. If anyone fills out the form correctly and we accidentally send them drugs they can't use, that person, who is competent at filling out our form, will just have to keep his useless drugs and, furthermore, send us even more money for them. If he refuses, we'll ruin his credit."

That's some catch, that Catch-22.

If I were to listen to Jesus, I would double what Aetna Rx Home Delivery requests of me and pay them $60. And I would tell them to keep the change. I certainly know I was much happier back when I had the change.

Stupid mistakes, positive influences

Cecile DuBois has created her own meme and tagged me with it. So now I must answer personal questions about myself and tag someone else:

1. What were three of the stupidest things you have done in your life?

A. Being insensitive to the feelings of others. This has been a lifelong malady. The first time I remember was at my birthday party where I said, upon opening a present, "Oo, I didn't want this!" The girl who gave it to me cried. And just last week I joked that a friend was an ***hole then told him about it, thinking he'd get a big kick out of it. He didn't.

B. Not telling someone I loved her until it was too late.

C. Getting drunk every weekend on a regular basis when I was a teenager.

2. At the current moment, who has the most influence in your life?

I'll say two of my pastors, who also serve to keep me accountable. In trying to develop a deeper spiritual walk, and their oversight is invaluable.

3. If you were given a time machine that functioned, and you were allowed to only pick up to five people to dine with, who would you pick?

Albert Einstein, Jesus, Søren Kierkegaard, Orson Welles and Ingrid Bergman. I know that Charlie Kaufman's brother, Donald, said in Adaptation that everybody says Einstein and Jesus, but I really mean it. I actually have pictures of both of them on my walls. If you just had Einstein and Kierkegaard they could answer almost any question in human learning you'd want to know. Jesus, of course, could set straight any misconceptions we've had about him and his teaching over the past 2,000 years. Kierkegaard would be happy to meet him as well, so he'd be appreciative I chose him. Welles was a master storyteller and at setting up shots; I wish I could do both, and would settle for just meeting someone who can if that's all I can do. I'd get Bergman just because I'd want at least one beautiful woman there, although it might be little awkward with Jesus at the table. It's also unlikely she'd pay me much attention with the other four there. But you might as well get someone perfectly sculpted and classy and smart to boot. I know that there are plenty of modern-day hot women, like Eva Mendez or your friend Flavia, I would want there, but you wouldn't need the time machine for them, so why waste it?

4. If you had three wishes that were not supernatural, what would they be?

1. I would be happily married to a beautiful, smart, classy woman like Ingrid Bergman, except she wouldn't leave me for Roberto Rossellini.

2. I would practice my religion perfectly.

3. And I would have unlimited money and time to do whatever I wish. (Got this one from Cecile.)

5. Someone is visiting your hometown/place where you live at the moment. Name two things you regret your city not having, and two things people should avoid.

Birmingham does not have adequate theater. There are good shows from time to time, but they are few and far between. Mostly, it is either watered-down pablum made to appeal to the masses or it is so avant-garde that it will shock any but the unshockable. Also, Birmingham lacks a good reputation, thanks to the '60s civil rights atrocities. And many people who have never been here think it hasn't changed.

Things to avoid: Avenue U (or the Ensley area in general, for safety's sake), and rush hour on U.S. 280. It will be like a parking lot.

6. Name one event that has changed your life.

Mainly, "getting religion" changed my life, because I honestly feel I'd be dead now otherwise. I was a depressed, lonely and ready to cash in and it gave me a purpose and hope.

I did it the easy way

In eighth grade, the band director moved me to the bass drum because I was incompetent at learning more than a few musical notes. By ninth grade I was the percussion section leader and playing the snare.

This is not an essay on what a quick study I am, but rather on my propensity to take the easy route. Drums don't require multiple notes. One is expected to learn the flim-flam paradiddle, but I didn't do it. I just self-taught and made do since my high school band had only 35 members anyway; if they'd thrown me out they'd have lost almost 20 percent of their drum line, not to mention their best drummer.

My other passions, visual arts and writing, suffered the same fate: I went with photography, which requires nothing more than capturing an existing scene, not re-creating it with your own hand. And my writing drifted to newspaper journalism since I was too lazy to write anything of length. Today I blog.

I don't mean to downplay the importance of photography, newspaper reporting or blogging, but even Ansel Adams would have to admit it was easier to shoot Yosemite than to paint it.

And while these are mere venial sins (They pass Kant's Categorical Imperative in that my failure to fully develop my talents causes no breakdown of the societal structure.), what they point out is an overall character flaw which likely bleeds over into other, more important, areas.

For instance, why am I unmarried at 40? Why are my failures practicing my faith so profound?

The answers to these questions aren't mere lazyness. Regarding the marriage question, there's the whole issue of abandonment by my mother at age 12. But many a person is able to overcome such issues in their 20s. And failure to perform religious duties to perfection is a common grief. One shouldn't expect perfection, but one should expect to perform to the best of one's ability, grace notwithstanding.

In a buy-it-on-credit, lose-it-with-a-pill world, I find few signposts pointing me in the right direction. And if I don't want to work, the radio says it's just fine if I want to bang on the drum all day.

How I Became the Syncopator Familias

This question comes up all the time, so today I will share the origins of the Syncopator Familias.

It all started in the sixth grade when three friends and I formed the band Black Fang. The first thing you do when you form a band is to create a cool logo, the more evil-looking the better. So Hobe drew one up wherein the words "Black Fang" were written in a neat script and the top horizontal line of the "F" extended all the way across the word "Fang" and even slightly beyond the "g." Onto this hangover part of the "F" Hobe dangled a couple of triangular shapes that represented serpent fangs.

There you had it: We were destined to be the next KISS. All we needed now was to assign instruments.

Hobe already played trumpet in the junior band, so he naturally was assigned to play bass. I played clarinet, so I was made drummer. Paul and Stanley didn't play any instruments, so they were assigned lead and rhythm guitar.

Black Fang simmered for while. We had a couple of groupies latch on, but when we didn't get any gigs they drifted off. It was not yet the time for Black Fang to take the world by storm. That day would come when we were adults -- say, in ninth grade.

One day turned into another and Black Fang faded from memory -- until Hobe brought it up in eighth grade.

"Remember Black Fang?" he noted in Social Studies class one day. "We were such stupid kids back then."

Thing was, though, I had taken up the drums.

Not much for practicing, I never progressed on the clarinet. Also, the clarinet was considered a sissy instrument at this "county school," so it wasn't helping my image as a future member of Black Fang. Anyway, my clarinetting was so bad that at one concert band contest in seventh grade the band director drafted me to play bass drum when we had no one else to do it. Next marching season I was the official bass drummer.

Within one year I had become section leader and snare drummer. I wasn't great, but, then, neither was our marching band.

When the former members of Black Fang got driver's licenses we bought instruments and held two practices. Both were disasters. It may have been because we barely knew how to play. It may have been because we were drinking Evan Williams Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey.

I quit drinking Evan Williams Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey three years later and, for a time, I played in a small country church that had a drum kit but no drummer. I wasn't very adventurous. I was partial to keeping time with the high hat and snare, and not much for going to town on the toms. It seemed somehow irreverent to me to doodle-doodle-doodle-doodle-doodle-doodle CHING! during a hymn.

"Play them other 'uns," urged the pastor/guitarist/singer between songs, pointing to the toms and the cymbal. I compromised by lightly hitting the cymbal on the choruses.

The tiny church dwindled in attendees until hardly anyone was left. One Sunday night the pastor showed up with nobody to preach to but his wife. At this I'm told he literally wiped his feet at the front steps of the building, consigning us to perdition, and moved on to greener pastorates. The drum kit had belonged to his son and disappeared with the pastor, so my avocation as a percussionist took a detour. Later gigs consisted of me drumming on my desk at work. Occasionally someone requested "Wipe Out." People are always impressed when you can play "Wipe Out."

In my mid-30s, I bought another used drum kit. I played around on it and wasn't half bad, but I had no illusions I'd ever be in Black Fang again.

Then came the fateful day: The Director of Music at my current church asked for volunteers for the worship team. Among others, our drummer had moved away.

"If you want someone to play the drums badly I can certainly play them that way," I sold myself to The Director of Music. I became the interim drummer.

It's been three or four years now, and they still haven't found a permanent replacement. I do switch off with an up-and-coming kid now, and soon enough I'll be eclipsed by him. Then I'll be left scaring the dog an the cats at home as play with CDs and remember the glory days.

I wonder if the guys would want to get Black Fang together again.

Predestination and Free Will (Molinism)

It's all a simple matter of counterfactual conditionals.


Let's call them counterfactuals for short. They're something that could have been but wasn't -- such as the Allies losing World War II. Could've happened, but it didn't. Or a Cubs-Red Sox World Series. Again, possible but ...

And it could have been that I never reconciled how human free will and God's sovereignty over who becomes "elected" to eternal life could co-exist. But I did so through the concept of counterfactuals.

For centuries Calvinists and Arminians have argued over how people become "saved." Calvinists insist it's through election. Armenians counter it's through choice.

Calvinists say mankind gave up his right to freely choose righteousness when Adam and Eve ate from the forbidden fruit. As a result, all humanity is hopelessly lost. But wait! God has chosen some to be redeemed. He calls them through irresistible grace. At first blush it seems unfair that God would redeem a few, but leave the rest to suffer eternal punishment. But Calvinists answer that God isn't required to save anybody; therefore, those whom he does save are simply unworthy beneficiaries of his kindness. All are incapable, because of the fall in the garden, from choosing God, but he, in his graciousness, allows some to come to him. And they must come, since God is sovereign, or has control, over everything.

Some Arminians call this a puppet show. If God essentially causes everything to happen, there is no free will at all, they say. As a result, God would be unjust in holding people accountable for their actions. After all, how could Edgar Bergen punish his ventriloquist dummy Charlie McCarthy for sassing him when it was Bergen himself who forced poor Charlie to say it? But if Bergen's daughter, Candice, sassed him it was something that she had made a choice to do, and she could be sent to her room without supper.

Which is it?
So we appear to have a choice to make: free will or predestination. But it's not that easy; there appear to be passages in the Bible that support both positions. This dilemma is hardest on biblical literalists since they believe every word in the Bible to be the very breath of God. So now we have to figure out how God is sovereign, or in control of everything, yet can still hold us accountable for our "choices," if they really indeed are that.

Some Calvinists reconcile these two seemingly contradictory positions through something they call soft determinism. One position states that while people's actions are indeed made through free will, it is of a different sort than most think. What happens, they say, is that God has decided what will happen then organizes events so that the person can make no other choice. So the choice is freely made, but because of the person's previous experiences combined with his or her personality there is only one "choice" that the person will make. It's like if you hit your finger with a hammer, you'll scream out in pain. You really have no other "choice" than to holler and try to do something to alleviate your suffering. But some people will use profanity while others will simply scream, "Ouch!" or something else printable, based on their personalities. Anyone can cuss, but some won't because they rarely or never do, and so their choice is "made" for them ahead of time.

A more popular form of soft determinism says that God uses people's free choices to determine what will happen. In other words, people choose to do whatever they want, but God's knowledge of the future allows him to know all those free choices ahead of time and so they are fixed and unchangeable --predestined. So if I make plans to meet you for lunch tomorrow, then I decide not to show up, it was predestined. After all, it was something that was always going to have happened since the beginning of time. I made the choice to stand you up, but it was destiny nonetheless.

Both these positions have weaknesses that make me unable to accept them. The first one does nothing to get rid of the cosmic puppeteer view. God is still orchestrating what happens; he just "uses" free will to do so. The second view robs God of his sovereignty, which means that he isn't in charge of everything that happens after all. But the Bible clearly states that God has predetermined who will be saved, and even the good works they'll do. Our conundrum has not been solved.

But the Arminians are of even less help. They simply argue that God's sovereignty is like that of a king. A king can't force his subjects to obey his will, but he does have authority over them and can punish their disobedience. In the end, we can do whatever we want and "sovereignty" has to be defined down.

On the far end of the spectrum are "open theists" who believe that God chooses to not even know the future, and so how can he predetermine it? He can know it, of course, but chooses not to.

Both these views make prophesy something of an educated guess. Although they say God can ensure his prophesies come true by intervening himself to point things in the direction he wants them to go.

So I'm left unhappy with my "choices" in this argument, if you'll pardon the pun. And that's where another option is open to me: counterfactual conditionals.

Simply stated, God knows not only everything that has ever happened and ever will happen, he also knows everything that could have happened. And there are an infinite number of alternative scenarios since there are "choices" being made by individuals all the time. STOP READING THIS. Did you? If you're still here you made the choice to ignore me and keep reading. But you could have said, "Fine, this essay is stupid anyway." God knows what would have happened if you'd stopped and what will happen since you didn't. Will it make much of a difference? Maybe, maybe not. But a lot of our other choices in life do indeed make huge differences in how our lives, and the lives of others, turn out.

Should I marry, and if so, whom? What should I do for a living? Should I try to find another job? Should we have children? All of these are choices that make a difference in the world. What if Hitler's parents had never married each other? But they did.

Before he spoke creation into being, God could have looked at every possible world that would exist. In many of these possible worlds people would have been able to make free choices. God then picked the one he wanted to "actualize" into being. He knew what would happen in the world where your parents never met -- and he chose not to create that world. So in that sense, he knew he would create you from the beginning. And he also knew every free choice you'd make in this factual world and in all the counter-factual worlds in which you would have existed. He picked this one to actualize, so in a sense he predestined your "choices." But you've freely made them nonetheless.

And so, in this model free will and predestination are able to stand side-by-side without one canceling out the other -- if you choose to believe it.

Predestination verses

"… also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the council of His will .." – Ephesians 1:11 NAS

"For he (God) chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love, he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will …" – Ephesians 1:4-5 NIV

"For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called he also justified; those he justified he also glorified." – Romans 8:29-30 NIV

Free will verses
Ephesians 1:11 does not mean that God works out everything, just that everything he does work out is done so according to his will. – Bruce Reichenbach

"But the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected God’s purpose for themselves." – Luke 7:30 NAS

"You have not because you ask not." (Proving the future can be changed by our requests). – James 4:2 NAS

God had to "start over" with Noah (Genesis 6-9), and with King David (1 Samuel 15-16).

"Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God" – James 4:4b

NIVNew American Standard and New International Version used by permission.

Copyright (c) 2003 Owen Tew

Suggested reading: Predestination & Free Will: Four Views of Divine Sovereignty & Human Freedom by John Feinberg, Norman Geisler, Bruce Reichenbach and Clark Pinnock (Edited by David Basinger and Randall Basinger.

Here's a comment left from when this was posted on my old Web site:

So God has contingency plans for each and every person in the world to try to draw us to Him. He will use every means possible ("the hound of heaven"), but the choice to choose or reject Him still exists. Even though He has the knowledge of how an individual will respond to Him, I don't believe He ever utterly abandons him from the start. I think He still uses everything possible to break through the barrier of that person's heart. All are invited to join the wedding feast, but few choose to come (see Matt. 22:1-13).

This sounds fine, but it isn't scripturally sound. For instance, what is God's contingency plan for Pharaoh? Did he really use "everything possible to break through the barrier of that person's heart."? I see that:

And the LORD said unto Moses, When thou goest to return into Egypt, see that thou do all those wonders before Pharaoh, which I have put in thine hand: but I will harden his heart, that he shall not let the people go."

We must cleave more strongly to a few biblical ideals. It is not good to systematize your biblical theology to the point that you give a little from each side (free will and predestination) so that the resulting theory doesn't offend any biblical sentiment TOO much. Your systematic theology must NEVER and in NO point offend your biblical theology. We must cleave to the fact that God strongly implies that men have a choice and Jesus asks us to choose him and God hardens hearts and predestines saints. (cf. Mark 11:22, Joshua 24:15, Exodus 4:21, Ephesians 1:4-6). All these points are true, there is no contesting this fact. God chooses, men also choose. If this bothers you, trust God! It can be understood by numerous analogies. I like one in particular:

Imagine a lion sitting before a huge bowl of fruit loops, deliciously poised on a podium with a spoon to the side if he chooses to use it, and slightly to the side of the bowl of fruit loops, there is a large pile of slightly rotting gazelle. Which will he choose? He chooses the gazelle not because he has no choice and it was predestined by the ones who put the two choices before him, but because he's a lion!! A sinful man chooses to spit into Jesus's face and crucify him daily (That is, of course, deny the gospel) because he's SINFUL. The only reason a man would choose to follow Jesus is because he's not sinful anymore. This would be the Holy Spirit acting in what is called regeneration. The Holy Spirit takes away a man's heart of stone and gives him an heart of flesh making him able to respond to the gospel. Then he sees the fruit loops for what they are: non-nutritious, defiling rank stench and the gazelle (gospel) as fulfilling, great and wonderful. I hope this helps someone. Let me know what you think of my article. Feel free to e-mail me. again that is dartme18 at yahoo dot com. Talk to you later


owentew says:


I agree with your statements, but I think you have misunderstood mine.

I am willing to admit that my views are just a theory and quite possibly wrong. But I did not arrive at them apart from biblical theology. In fact, my point is that I am a biblical literalist, yet the Scriptures seem to both justify human free will and predestination by God. My theology is based on an attempt to square all the Scriptures with each other, not to mesh Calvinism with Arminianism.

Your view might well be right and mine wrong. I don't think anyone will end up in hell based of whether he is an Arminian, Calvinist or Molinist. I believe there will be people from each group in heaven together. There also will be people who never think about such issues.

I'm fine with everyone believing whatever makes him or her comfortable on this issue. I present this argument here only because I've had people ask me how both free will and predestination can both be true. And this is my theory.

The issue of salvation is exactly as you said: regeneration by the Holy Spirit. If you get that right, and you experience it in your own heart, you are right with God, and that is all that really matters, not these deep theological issues that God is probably laughing at all of us for fighting over. If he ever lets us know the truth on this issue, we'll probably all be red-faced.