Sunday, April 30, 2006 

American Baptist Association Votes to Split From the ABC Over Homosexuality

The Associated Press is reporting that "Delegates representing congregations of the American Baptist Churches of the Pacific Southwest voted overwhelmingly Saturday to recommend severing ties with the national denomination in a dispute over homosexuality." This move comes as no surprise to those who have kept up with this controversy that has been swelling over the past couple of years. The ABCPSW has written a statement regarding their views on human sexuality and its understanding from a Biblical standpoint and numerous leaders throughout the 1.4 million member convention have expressed their outrage at the Convention's lack of response to congregations in the ABC that have policies in place regarding homosexuals which do not correspond to the Biblical standards of morality.

This blog has never specifically dealt with the issue of homosexuality, but in the coming days I hope to post a response to a recent controversy here in Kentucky over the dismissal of a student at a Baptist college because he was open about his sexuality on his MySpace homepage. The actions of the ABCPSW once again highlight the growing rift between Evangelical Christians and mainstream America over this issue. More and more we are seeing religious leaders, politicians, celebrities, newspaper columnists, and even common Americans throw around words like "bigots," "extremists," and "homophobes" to describe those who are trying hard to hold on to the essence of the Biblical message regarding sin and at the same time minister to those caught in a web of immorality. I applaud those, who like these Baptist churches, take a stand for truth in an age of accommodation. J. Greshem Machen wrote in his famous work, Christianity and Liberalism, "In the sphere of religion, as in other spheres, the things about which men are agreed are apt to be the things that are least worth holding; the really important things are the things about which men will fight."

But let us remember that breaking ties with those we love and cherish is never easy and never done without great grief and prayerful yearning for reconciliation. Jesus, after describing in Matthew 18 how to discipline a brother in sin, gives his followers this exhortation to comfort them in the midst of grieving over their experience: "For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst" (NASB) What comforting words from our Savior when we find ourselves standing for Truth and opposing sin!

baptist issues, Bible, Christianity, Culture, evangelicalism, Liberalism, Ministry, News

Friday, April 28, 2006 

Updating the Blog

I have made a few minor modifications to the sidebar of the blog of which I wanted to make you aware. Gone are a few links, including the entire "Moderate, Liberal, and Emergent Blogs" section. Replacing it are two new sections of links -- "SBC Issues," which is a section of blogs dealing specifically (or at least mostly) with the Southern Baptist Convention (Dr. Mohler's new website mentioned below will be included as soon as the URL becomes available), and "Other Blogs I Read," which incorporates some of the blogs in the aforementioned deleted section, as well as a few new links that will be coming in the future. Additionally, I have added a link to my My Space page for those of you into that sort of thing. Finally, I have added a new Blog group, Band of Bloggers, birthed out of the recent fellowship at the Together for the Gospel Conference (another new link added under "Ministries") that will hopefully be up and running soon.

As for the future of the blog, I had been posting sporadically (as many of you know who have emailed or posted to remind me of my infrequency), but that will soon change. I am going to start posting more, even if it is only an article or a link with a brief commentary. I hope to do more book reviews in the future, as well as some mini-reviews which will offer reaction to certain principles or ideas in other books that I skim or scan, but do not read exhaustively. The first one of these will be up soon on Kevin Phillips' new provocative book, American Theocracy. I was recently able to attend a standing-room-only lecture he gave at Bellarmine University here in Louisville on this book. Overall, look for more from Christ and Culture in the future. And thanks to those regular readers that keep me on my toes every day with your comments and emails.

**Update. Thanks to Art (see comments on this post), I have become aware of the fact that Beacon Churches has reposted a couple of my articles from the past week. I have added a link to their news page (where you will find my articles), as well as to their main ministry page. Art wanted me to point out that they do offer an open forum for discussion that is available to all that register an account on the site.


Wednesday, April 26, 2006 

Al Mohler to Start Weblog on Southern Baptist Convention

This afternoon I was blessed to be able to attend the Band of Bloggers meeting at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. It was an event birthed out of the heart and mind of Tim Brister of Provocations and Pantings and hosted by the seminary in conjunction with the Together for the Gospel Conference which is being held here in Louisville over the next three days. The event is expected to draw thousands of Evangelicals to this heavily Southern Baptist city from a range of denominations including members from the Presbyterian Church of America, the Baptist General Convention, and a group of churches under the banner of Sovereign Grace Ministries. Earlier today R.C. Sproul spoke in chapel at Southern Seminary and will be one of three special guest speakers at the conference, along with John Piper and John MacArthur. The conference is being hosted by four leading voices in Evangelicalism: Mark Dever, Ligon Duncan, C.J. Mahaney, and Albert Mohler.

So, this afternoon a group of bloggers got together for a time of fellowship and to hear discussions on blogging by a panel of well known Evangelical keystrokers. Along with Dr. Albert Mohler, others on the panel included Tim Challies of Challies.Com, Justin Taylor of Between Two Worlds, and Dr. Russell Moore of the Henry Institute and a regular contributor to Mere Comments. The discussion centered around issues ranging from "what is blogging?" to "pros and cons of blogging in a postmodern world." After a short dialogue between the panel speakers led by Dr. Mohler, the floor was opened up for questions.

About halfway through the dialogue, Dr. Mohler began speaking about the nature of the content of weblogs and made a startling announcement that many will be glad to hear -- in the next week or so, Dr. Albert Mohler will be starting a new blog specifically dealing with issues in the Southern Baptist Convention. The blog will be called Conventional Thinking. He had little else to add, other than he hoped to target those who are interested in what is happening right now in the SBC.

In light of this and the fact that many (including myself) have been critical of Mohler's "slow to speak" reputation on issues pertaining to the SBC, I would like to throw out a few questions for those of you interested in this sort of thing to ponder and to which you can respond in the comments section.
  1. What sorts of issues going on in the SBC would you like to see Dr. Mohler address?
  2. Do you think Mohler's decision to start a weblog on the SBC is going to be a positive or negative thing for the SBC? For Younger Leaders? For Convention Leaders? For his reputation?
  3. Do you think Dr. Mohler will tow the convention line or will he surprise some of his critics by writing things that tend to go against the Establishment's views?
  4. Knowing that Dr. Mohler's web-writings don't allow for comments, do you think that his weblog on this subject will be of much benefit? And if you think it will, what is the best way for people to interact with Mohler's views?
  5. Finally, do you think his opinion will change anyone's minds in such a way that it could squash any minority views or bring any of them to fruition?
As a blogger and a young observer of the SBC, this fascinates me that Mohler has chosen this time -- only a couple of months away from what promises to be an important meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention, one in which Marty Duren of SBC Outpost (who has been writing for months on the subject of the SBC) has stated, "Greensboro '06 is Houston '79 is the future of the SBC" (emphasis his). What will Mohler's commentary mean for the upcoming convention? Right now we can only guess, but I am sure come June we will know.

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Monday, April 24, 2006 

More Problems With Public Schools

As if I needed another excuse to feel the way I do about the public schools, along comes another incident (with commentary from Dr. Albert Mohler). Here is the link.

Just as this story breaks, showing once again that public education is concerned less with diversity and more with pushing an agenda, the former Southern Baptist dissenters, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, along with other moderate to liberal Baptist groups have been asked by the Baptist Center for Ethics, who apparently operates the online "news" magazine, Ethics Daily, to sign a statement affirming the public schools. The document begins by saying, "The time has come for Baptists to speak positively about public education and to take proactive initiatives that advance a constructive future for America's public school system." The author of the document (available here), Robert Parham, later gives the following challenge:

We call on Baptists to recommit themselves to the nation's founding principle of "E Pluribus Unum." A society based on unity out of diversity will embrace every child and recognize the vital role public schools play in achieving national unity.

We, the undersigned, pledge therefore to

  • pray for public schools;
  • show our support for public schools through worship services that affirm all
    school-related personnel;
  • advocate for a high wall of separation between church and state that is critical to good public education;
  • pursue a just society that benefits every child;
  • speak up for the role public education plays in democracy, especially the unity it creates in the midst of diversity so necessary in our society;
  • challenge religious voices who demonize public education; and
  • share this letter with others
Now, as someone who is currently working in the public school system, and sees it at its worst one day, and its best the next, I look at this list of pledges and laugh. Nothing here, save the calling for prayer, offers any solutions to the prevaling problems in the public schools. Liberals for years have challenged discipline in the public schools and now there is none. These people don't seem to have a clue as to what is happening in the public schools. There is no mention of academic problems, though a number of public schools' students (and in my experience the vast majority) today suffer from a lack of education under an environment that is completely unconducive to learning. Yet these Baptists seem to be unconcerned with those facts.

Dr. Bruce Prescott, a signer and advocate of the public schools in their current state, has made it clear in his blog that his worry is not over the problems in the public schools, but rather ovver those that do not desire to train their children in environments that teach things that are contradictory to the Christian faith and over those that advocate homeschooling and Christian education (he mentions in quite a few blog posts that these people don't educate their children, but rather indoctrinate them). Numerous times he has commented on this or has pointed his readers to others with whom he agrees. You can find examples of this here (where he seems worried more about government money than test results that show school children are not performing well -- see "Jeff the Baptist's" helpful comments), here (where he quotes Ed Hogan's extremely biased article on homeschooling and then charges Christians again with wanting more government money), here (where he uses his opposition to a new grand vision of education by Ed Gamble -- which doesn't involve government money in any way -- to again attack Southern Baptists on many fronts), here (where he takes issue with John Stossel's report on the failings of the public schools, despite the fact that conventional wisdom and many of my fellow teacher's experiences is on Stossel's side on this one), and here (where Prescott attacks everyone who supports alternatives to public education, charging them with everything from implicit racism to indoctrination to a hatred of democracy).

The reason why I bring up Bruce Prescott (again!) is because he (and those he is associated with) seems hell-bent on pushing an agenda for support of the public schools with, like almost all moderates and liberals, a complete ignorance of the actual problems of the school systems and absolutely no solutions to those problems. It is akin to the whole coming failure of the Social Security system. Liberals continue to deny the problems, offering no solutions, content to shoot down the suggestions of other, all the while the system grows closer and closer to complete self-destruction.

I, for one, am sick of all the rhetoric and blindness pushed by the moderate and liberal Baptists. When are these guys going to wake up, look behind them, and see that they have done little more than oppose what everyone else was busy accomplishing for the Kingdom of God? The public schools are in bad shape -- period. And while I oppose a complete exodus from all public schools, I think it's time to take a good, hard look at where they are headed and start discussing a contingency plan when they completely bottom-out. I have some ideas about this, and I hope to share some with you in the coming days. Stay tuned...

And if, in the meantime, you need any more proof about the failure of the public schools, read Joel Belz's article in World Magazine entitled simply, "F". He has some insightful things to say regarding the recent Time Magazine article on the public schools (HT: Brent Thomas of Colossians Three Sixteen).

Tuesday, April 18, 2006 

LifeWay Advertises New McLaren Book

Four months after my wife and I moved out of the dump in which we were living, we have been found by all the mail-order catalogs and advertisements that we previously left behind. Just today we received in the mail the new LifeWay Christian Stores' circular for Mother's Day. Of course it is filled with a bunch of junk gift items like embroidered pillows that say "FAITH," "HOPE," and "LOVE," along with all the new Christian CD's and books that they can pack into 40 pages. Around p. 30, I noticed that smashed between Dan Miller's 48 Days to the Work You Love and You Matter More Than You Think by Dr. Leslie Parrott was Brian McLaren's new book, The Secret Message of Jesus: Uncovering the Truth That Could Change Everything. The book description given on says the following:

Brian McLaren, one of TIME magazine's "25 Most Influential Evangelicals in America," is back, this time to lead readers on a journey that will prove to be as unsettling and groundshaking as it is thrilling and life-changing. Unafraid of controversy or the uncomfortable gray areas of life, McLaren's quest is to find the essential message of Jesus' life-even if it overturns our conventional ideas, priorities, and practices."

"Through the years, I have frequently had an uncomfortable feeling:" writes McLaren, "that the portrait of Jesus I found in the New Testament didn't fit with the images of Jesus in the church" Out of that nagging discomfort arose this book, promising to be McLaren's most revolutionary to date. He writes, "I'd like to share my search with you, and invite you to be a part of it. I don't want to spoil the ending, but I'll let you in on this: the farther I go on this search, the more inspired, moved,
challenged, shocked, and motivated I become about the secret message of Jesus."

Now, I must admit that I haven't read the book, but given his previous works such as Generous Orthodoxy and Adventures in Missing the Point (with Tony Campolo), along with the three book series that began with A New Kind of Christian, I would say that it is a bit early for LifeWay to be advertising the book. Selling this book in LifeWay is really not a problem for me and neither is purchasing the book (which I plan to do), but I think LifeWay, being a Southern Baptist entity should be careful about what they advertise and thus should take seriously their role in shaping the hearts and minds of not only Southern Baptists, but millions of other Christians. Advertising the book in their circular with a very favorable description is, to most readers, at least an approval, if not a outright endorsement. The description found next to the book reads:
In a book that will keep you on your toes, Brian D. McLaren searches for the true Jesus of the New Testament, even if this Jesus doesn't match who is portrayed in today's churches. Join McLaren in his search for the secret message of Jesus.
So far I have found McLaren to be the one on the adventure of missing the point of Christianity. If his latest book is like the others, then I think LifeWay has made a grave mistake here in advertising a book that does not accord with the theology of our great denomination, whose history is rooted in the historical-grammatical hermeneutical method, along with the belief in substitutionary atonement -- two things that McLaren seems to reject. I do plan on reading it in upcoming days, so look for my review to be up in a couple of weeks. In the meantime, here is a review by Matt Adair that I think is worth reading.

Saturday, April 15, 2006 

Book Review: 1776

McCullough, David G. 1776. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2005. 400pp.

"The year 1776, celebrated as the birth year of the nation and for the signing of the Declaration of Independance, was for those who carried the fight for independance forward a year of all-too-few victories, of sustained suffering, disease, hunger, desertion, cowardice, disillusionment, defeat, terrible discouragement, and fear, as they would never forget, but also of phenomenal courage and bedrock devotion to country, and that, too, they would never forget.
Especially for those who had been with Washington and who knew what a close call it was at the beginning -- how often circumstances, storms, contrary winds, the oddities or strengths of individual character had made the difference -- the outcome seemed little short of a miracle."

Overview of the Book

So closes, does the above quote, McCullough's magnificent book about the battles that raged and the people who pursued independance in that incredibly important year of American birth, 1776. From opening sentence to those final words, McCullough's 8th book does not disappoint the reader when it comes to suspense, intensity, and depth. Though properly named after the year on which it focuses, the book is really about the significant battles that took place in the northern states between the American "rabel" under General George Washington and the stalwart, disciplined army of His Majesty's, King George III's, forces.

McCullough's book begins in the year 1775 -- October 26, 1775, to be exact -- with King George III's speech to the British Parliment concerning the military action which he felt needed to be taken against the American rebels. As he informed Parliment that the Americans intended to seek independance from their rule (though the Congress had not declared such, nor had they yet even taken up such a discussion), a large regiment of British soldiers across the Pond in America were licking their wounds from the Battle of Bunker Hill, a skirmish that though won by the British would prove to be a moral victory for the Americans.

From there, McCullough guides the reader through the world according to George Washington. Drawing on private letters, public correspondance, and written accounts, he wraps the storyline around this dynamic character who must learn military strategy by experiencing devastating mistakes and incredibly sophisticated sucesses while commanding an army that proves its worth at times in retreat, and yet shows cowardice and a lack of integrity in numerous battles. The entire hope of American independance is put on the shoulders of Washington, who readily admitted even from his appointment "that [his] abilities and military experience may not be equal to the extensive and important trust" asking Congress at that time that ". . . lest some unlucky event should happen unfavorable to my reputation, I beg it may be remembered by every gentleman in the room that I this day declare with the utmost sincerity, I do not think myself equal to the command I [am] honored with." Little did he know at this time that during 1776 he would experience many of these unlucky events which would prove very unfavorable to his reputation. Still Congress, and a few of his officers, never wavered in their support of him, eventually causing John Adams's prophecy -- that Washington would eventually become "one of the most important characters in the world" -- to become a reality.

McCullough details battles and skirmishes that take place from the seige at Boston through to the stunning victory at Princeton in the first days of 1777. Throughout it all several things are apparent. One is that Washington, though a neophyte in military strategy, was a quick learner and an able leader. He looked the part at all times, even his very appearance causing many soldiers to take on attitudes of bravery and patriotism. Another obvious point is that the soldiers were terribly unskilled and often broken by sickness and fatigue. They often frustrated Washington, who wrote numerous times of the soldiers' cowardice and lack of discipline. Finally, it was easy to see that the failure of the British to take the Americans seriously resulted in many lost opporunities to end the war in 1776.

Why Christians Should Read This Book

What is most surprising about McCullough's book is that it paints a picture of the American troops that one does not often find in high school and college history books. The soldiers are revealed to have been lazy, undisciplined, and lacking in hygiene and integrity. It is eye-opening to see that few ordinary soldiers acted like the Godly men they are often portrayed as, and yet how often the generals showed themselves to be serious followers of Christ, ultimately leading to the success of the Americans. Were it not for the resolve, faith, and integrity of men like George Washington, Nathanael Greene, and Henry Knox, America might never have realized the dream of independance. Christians should be aware of not only America's righteous history, but also of its unfortunately past that is marred by sin and human depravity.

Another reason why Christians need to read 1776 is that it presents an understanding of war that many in this country have forgotten. War, death, and peril were a part of life for the Americans for many years, this after a similar lifestyle under the British, who participated in the bloody Seven Years War, or as it was know in the colonies, the French and Indian War. Though not celebrated, war was considered a necessary evil, due to the depravity of man and the ever present need to defend one's family. The men that fought in the American Revolution, many of whom were clergymen and dedicated Christians (some even Quakers, who have always been classified as pacifists), did not see war as unChristlike and in opposition to their faith, but rather as a means to end government tyranny and the resultant suffering of men under the heavy hands of a vile dictatorship. One may well come away from the book with a different view of combat.

Problems With the Book

Though McCullough, a Pulitzer-Prize winning author, writes with flair and depth, he seems at times to lose the reader in a sea of facts without adequate background or reference. An example of this is found in the second chapter where McCullough fails to give the reader a real picture of the layout of Boston, despite vividly portraying the Americans couragous midnight move to take Dorchester Heights, securing the city for the rebel troops. One must look at a map of Boston in 1776 (the one provided by McCullough is woefully lacking in detail) to understand the amazingly brilliant and dangerous move on the Heights. Another problem with the book is that McCullough focuses entirely on Washington and the troops under his command. Nothing is mentioned regarding the attitude or situation in the Southern colonies and most disappointing is the lack of details regarding the signing of the Declaration of Independance, which McCullough notes was of great importance to the morale of the soldiers and the will of the officers.

Overall Rating

McCullough's latest book is deep, insightful, well-researched, and easy to get into, and thus deserves an overall rating of 8 rebels out of 10. This book has opened my eyes to many aspects of the American Revolution about which I never before considered. It gives the reader a framework for understanding the miraculous results of the war born out of the desire to be free from the rule of a tyrant king and his loyal subjects in Parliment.

Friday, April 07, 2006 

John Piper on BP News

John Piper's controversial article, "Don't Waste Your Cancer" was picked up by BP News today and posted under their "First-Person" editorial section. I wanted to take this opportunity to commend the editors of BP News for making such a bold move in light of recent controversies over the article itself (which this blog touched on almost two months ago) as well as Dr. Piper, himself, who has been accused by at least one prominent denomination leader of subscribing to the heresy of Hyper-Calvinism. I hope this action by BP News will accomplish at least two things:

1. Raise the bar academically, theologically, and spiritually for future "First-Person" editorials
2. Bring awareness to the ministry of John Piper, Desiring God, which has been a catalyst for spiritual and theological growth throughout evangelicalism

Dr. Piper is the type of columnist that BP News needs to highlight more often. As a fellow Baptist and conservative Christian, his cooperation should go a long way to uniting us as a denomination with other like-minded Christian organizations.

And speaking of John Piper's article on cancer, another recently diagnosed cancer patient, Dr. David Powlison, Editor of the Journal of Biblical Counseling and a professor at the Christian Counseling and Education Foundation, has recently "added some helpful expansions to John Piper’s 'Don't Waste Your Cancer' article," according to DesiringGod.Org that are worth reading.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006 

Book Review: Game of Shadows

Fainaru-Wada, Mark and Lance Williams. Game of Shadows: Barry Bonds, BALCO, and the Steroids Scandal that Rocked Professional Sports. New York: Gotham Books, 2006. 352 pp.

"So with few exceptions, the more than three dozen athletes who appeared before the grand jury admitted taking steroids . . . They weren't asked why. Perhaps the answers were too obvious: It was to run faster, jump higher, hit the ball farther, and ultimately, make more money. Some of the confessions were grudging and evasive. Others were extremely forthcoming. It came down to the same thing: Competitive sports, it turned out, was part mirage, a game of shadows" (p.197, emphasis mine).

Overview of the Book

Game of Shadows is a book that is hard to read for a sports enthusiast like myself. It reads more like a seedy novel about local government corruption than an expose on the recent steroids debacle in professional baseball and Olympic track and field. Lies told before the grand jury; greedy, angry track coaches turning state's evidence, and egotistical, success-driven athletes willing to put their lives on the line for the edge that might secure their own immortality are just a few of the storylines you will find in this book by the two San Francisco Chronicle reporters that first broke the story of the grand jury probe into the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (BALCO) and its hippie-turned-nutritionist-turned-steroids-dealer-to-the-stars Victor Conte.

The story begins in 1998, barely two months into the baseball season that would serve to resurrect the sport still ailing from almost three decades of labor disputes, culminating in the August 1994 strike that "led to the only cancellation of the World Series since World War I" (p.xi). In that year Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa would awe the fans with their race to Roger Maris's record-breaking 61 homeruns. McGwire would ultimately take the coveted prize, racking up 70 homers to Sosa's 66. But that year would also eventually be clouded by a bottle of pills labeled "Androstenedione" found in McGwire's locker by a curious reporter. This led to speculation regarding legal supplements used by baseball players. But that was only the beginning . . .

In Chapter One Victor Conte is introduced as the genius behind the success of the track and field superstar Marion Jones. Over the course of the next few chapters the authors in dramatic fashion weave a tale of backroom deals, money-laundering, and good old-fashioned sports doping, to arrive at what would prove to be the largest network of steroid trafficking in both baseball and track and field in U.S. history. And behind it all was Victor Conte, with his premier athletes: the future Hall of Famer Barry Bonds, and once crowned "world's fastest woman," Marion Jones.

The authors explain how Conte took his knowledge of nutritional products (which ironically many doctors dismissed as foolhardy) and, when facing bankruptcy, turned it into a multi-million dollar drug trafficking operation. Conte's assent to the throne of sports infamy began with a small nutrition store he and his then-wife Audrey opened in 1983. From there, his intelligence and quick learning aided him in winning many clients beginning with Willy Cahill, a former judo champion, to invest in his ideas about mineral deficiencies in athletes. Capitalizing on this, his small outfit he named the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative or BALCO for short, attracted many more clients, some of whom would provide him with the connections that would lead him to superstar athletes like Bonds and Marion Jones.

Conte was able to meet men like Patrick Arnold, who was busy developing a substance nicknamed "The Clear" from the all but forgotten Russian-developed steroid norbolethone, and Emeric Delczeg, a 47-year old bodybuilder that supplied Human Growth Hormone (HGH) to professional bodybuilders and NFL players like Bill Romanowski. Through these men he met others like Greg Anderson, Barry Bonds childhood acquaintance who became his personal trainer and supplier of performance-enhancing drugs, and former Soviet track coach Remi Korchemny, who now trained many elite U.S. track stars and had connections to countless others. Eventually Conte used the marketing of his legal product, ZMA (zinc magnesium/monomethionine aspartate) to front his steroid trafficking.

In 2003, Conte's world began to unravel. Jeff Novitzky, a Special Agent with the IRS's Criminal Investigations unit (IRS CI), started to investigate BALCO for money-laundering and drug trafficking. Later that year Trevor Graham, the track and field coach for Tim Montgomery who had previously had a falling out with Conte, decided he would get back at his former steroid supplier and called a reporter in North Carolina with news that he had a syringe with a substance undetectable to drug tests that athletes on the West Coast were using to enhance their performances. On December 3, 2003 agents raided BALCO's storefront offices on the Peninsula near San Francisco and by the end of the next year over a dozen premier athletes would testify before the grand jury as to their involvement with Victor Conte and their use of illegal and banned performance-enhancers.

For his part, Barry Bonds never admitted to using the drugs. He claimed he did not know which products his trainer Greg Anderson was providing him, despite documents and testimony to the contrary. Marion Jones played the same denial game, eventually pulling out of competition in 2004 amid rumors that the new tests for THG (the name given to "The Clear" by the scientists that first examined it for the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency [ADA]), had stunted her ability to compete on the level to which she had previously been accustomed. In the end, the authors leave you with a bad taste in your mouth for competitive sports and wishing that you hadn't taken the red pill and didn't know how deep the rabbit hole would go.

Why Christians Should Read This Book

Toward the end of the book, the authors report on the now infamous hearing that took place before the House Government Reform Committee in which baseball stars Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro, and Sammy Sosa testified about steroid use in baseball. Among those who would testify were baseball commissioner Bud Selig, players' union chief Donald Fehr, and Denise and Ray Garibaldi, parents of Rob Garibaldi, a former junior college baseball standout who took his life on October 1, 2002, likely suffering from depression brought on by extensive steroid use that Rob claimed was necessary if he was to make it to the Big Leagues. Rob explained to his mother when she confronted him earlier in 2002 that he knew that major leaguers were using the same illegal products he had been injecting into his young body for the past five years. The Garibaldi's sat in stunned silence as the athletes at the hearing dodged questions regarding steroid usage.

This story illustrates the fact that steroid use has become rampant among high schoolers who see their idols bulking up in inexplicable ways to the detriment of their futures bodies. Steroids are already common in bodybuilding, but in recent years, amid weak testing and blatant ignorance, they have tricked down into the locker rooms of would-be athletes, many of whom are impressionable Christians pressured to perform by teammates, classmates, administrators, fans, and unfortunately, even parents who dream of elite scholarships and big professional contracts for their children. All Christians need to come back often to the reality that men are depraved, that "the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?" (Jeremiah 17:9, KJV) It is important for us as Christians to have a reasoned response to those who destroy their bodies in pursuit of vain glory. This book, above all else, shows evil men engaging in wicked acts to fuel their perverse egos. We should all take inventory of ourselves and those around us who may fall into the same traps.

Problems With the Book

Despite the overwhelming evidence that the authors skillfully adapt into a dramatic narrative, they, in the interest of this approach, often leave the reader confused as to when events transpire and as to the timeline in relation to other occurrences detailed in the book. It would be helpful to the reader for them to include another Appendix in the back with a timeline covering major events in relation to each other. Also, the authors employ a moderate amount of profanity, mostly through quotes made by the major players in the narrative. Still, the Christian reader should be informed that were the book a movie, it would receive an 'R' rating. And finally, despite the fact that the book is well-written and incredibly informative, the authors at times go overboard to provide details that serve more to bog down the narrative than to inform the reader. An example of this is found in Chapter Seven when the authors detail the blossoming relationship between Greg Anderson and Barry Bonds. The authors could have sliced this chapter in half and still given the reader all that he needed to connect the two.

Overall Rating

I would give this book an overall rating of 7 syringes out of 10. The book was informative, well-written, and hard to put down. The authors cover a great deal of material in a short format and from the beginning they suck the reader into a story that is bound to keep us intrigued for years to come, especially now that Major League Baseball has launched a new investigation into steroid use by its players and as Barry Bonds continues to receive criticism from fans.

Monday, April 03, 2006 

Resolved: Read More, Watch T.V. Less

I was involved in a discussion over at The Joseph Kennedy Experiment regarding a new Christian alternative to MySpace. During the discussion Joe Kennedy made the point that the sexually provocative ads, and even profiles, found on MySpace are really no different from what people see on television. He made a good point here and while I agreed that he was right, I pointed out that we should not allow our children, if humanly possible, to be exposed to such things regardless of the outlet. And I further suggested that we, as adult Christians, should limit our exposure as well. But I have to admit that lately I have not been following my own advice. I must make a confession: I watch too much television. I am exposing myself to sexually provocative ads, to profanity-laced television programs, and to a culture that makes normative those things the Bible calls heinous and immoral. Recently, as I was scanning various Christian blogs, I came across one in which the author noted his affinity for the hit television show Grey's Anatomy, but admitted that he felt conflicted as he found himself hoping certain individuals in the show would "get together" forcing one to cheat on his wife and then get a divorce and the other to be complicit in the former's adultery. I must admit as well that I have had similar feelings of conflict watching various television shows in which the protagonist must choose between sins rather than between what is right and wrong.

Because of these thoughts, I have come to the realization that I must turn off the television and begin reading again. Very little knowledge of the world, or of history, or of God is had by watching mindless programs that are set in unreal situations. Real knowledge comes through intential learning and through personal experience. I have enough personal experience right now as I wade through the cesspool that is the public school system, still hoping to find signs of life. What I really need is to broaden my mind though reading. So, I have chosen several books over the next couple of months. Among them are:
  1. Game of Shadows : Barry Bonds, BALCO, and the Steroids Scandal that Rocked Professional Sports.
  2. 1776.
  3. The Secret Message of Jesus : Uncovering the Truth that Could Change Everything.
  4. Manhunt : The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer.
  5. The Catcher in the Rye.
  6. Churchill : A Life.

While those are not in the particular order in which I plan to read them, I am currently reading Game of Shadows and hope to have a review up in a couple of days. In the interest of discussion let me know what books you think I should add to this list and what books you have been reading lately (and whether or not you would recommend them).

About me

Paul was not interested merely in the ethical principles of religion or of ethics. On the contrary, he was interested in the redeeming work of Christ and its effect upon us. His primary interest was in Christian doctrine, and Christian doctrine not merely in its presuppositions but at its centre. -- J. Greshem Machen.

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