Wednesday, May 31, 2006

PZ on blogging ethics:

Blogging Ethics

The ethics of blogging need to be addressed.

A couple of serious, bad things are happening:

First, character assassination has become routine on blog sites, both liberal and conservative. People are saying and implying things, without substantiation or information, about personalities, and this comes under an old category: libel. The English newspapers were the ‘90s equivalent of today’s blog threads, and a number of successful prosecutions for libel made them more hesitant to make personal attacks on the front page. Those papers are still up to it, but they check their stories now.

A lot of what we are reading on the blog threads comes under the heading of libel. This needs to change. I believe we all know that.

Second, anonymous posts put authorities in various fields at the mercy of people who do not know what they are talking about. We say this is good – a democratizing tendency; that cyberspace knows no hierarchies or professional closed-shops. But it is not all good, at all. People who have no experience and no background in church life are able to attack people who have served for decades and who do know something about what they are saying. For myself, I am often labeled as “non-Anglican,” because I stress the Protestant dimension of the old Church, by people who seem to have fled into episcopalianism just a few years ago and simply do not like the actual history of the denomination into which they have fled. It is not right to be labeled as “non-Anglican” when you have grown up in that church forever and simply were fed by a different stream within it. I get the idea that some of the people who go on the attack here have just not read very much, or even experienced very much. The point is, anonymous bloggers get by with outrageous statements without having to give account for them.

Third, blog-threads have the potential to unleash deeply inbuilt aggression within all of us. Because we do not have to deal with the writer face-to-face, there is too little discretion and not enough thoughtfulness. When I dissent with someone whom I know, then I have to couch what I say in a way that can be “heard,” at least in principle. But when I don’t know the person – don’t even know if he or she is using his or her real name – I can say anything I wish, and just tear off in the opposite direction, without fear of having to look into his/her eyes. The potential for Original-Sin aggression to get in the mix on the internet is high. I know it in myself, and it is not good.

I would suggest – and several seem to be saying this now – that internet postings, and especially on those lethal blog threads, be limited to people who are willing to use their real names and list their actual e-mail addresses. Anonymous or coded names should be dropped. That would help. Also, something like libel legislation needs to be thought through in terms of the web. Innuendo and at times vicious personal attack really needs to stop. How many people who are reading this find that they are losing sleep after checking the threads on various sites? And I mean conservative as well as liberal, “reasserter” as well as “reappraiser.” How many people are going to bed mad? Ich frage nur.


Friday, May 26, 2006


Thursday, May 25, 2006

For All You Ladies:

"Susie has been bringing you Alaskan Bachelors Since 1987!"

Click Me!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Gerhard Forde on Sanctification:

from "Christian Spirituality"--

(pp. 31-32) "But if we are saved and sanctified only by the unconditional grace of God, we ought to be able to become more truthful and lucid about the way things really are with us. Am I making progress? If I am really honest, it seems to me that the question is odd, even a little rediculous. As I get older and death draws nearer, it doesn't seem to get any easier. I get a little more impatient, a little more anxious about having perhaps missed what this life has to offer, a little slower, harder to move, a little more sedentary and set in my ways. It seems more and more unjust to me that now that I have spent a good part of my life 'getting to the top,' and I seem just about to have made it, I am already slowing down, already on the way out. A skiing injury from when I was sixteen years old acts up if I overexert myself. I am too heavy, the doctors tell me, but it is so hard to lose weight! Am I making progress? Well, maybe it seems as though I sin less, but that may only be because I'm getting tired! It's just too hard to keep indulging the lusts of youth. Is that sanctification? I wouldn't think so! One should not, I expect, mistake encroaching senility for sanctification! "But can it be, perhaps, that it is precisely the unconditional gift of grace that helps me to see and admit all that? I hope so. The grace of God should lead us to see the truth about ourselves, and to gain a certain lucidity, a certain humor, a certain down-to-earthness."

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Rod Rosenbladt quote/photo (feat. Dave Zahl):

from "Solus Christus and the Pastor"--

(pp. 39-40) A Reformation pastor is called to preach Christ crucified to the congregation and to administer the sacraments to the congregation. Someone says, "But surely you don't mean that the pastor should be evangelizing believers from the pulpit?" Most evangelicals have no category for preaching Christ to a congregation of believers; their only category for preaching the Gospel is the evangelizing of pagans. But important as the latter is, the former is no less important.
Think of the inner soliloquy many Christians experience week by week. "There may have been grace for me when, as a sinner, I was initially converted. But now, having been given the Spirit of God, I fear that things have gotten worse in me rather than better. I have horribly abused all of God's good gifts to me. I was so optimistic in the beginning, when the pastor told me that Christ outside of me, dying for me, freely saved me by his death, and that the Holy Spirit now dwelling within me would aid me in following Christ. I looked forward to so much. But it has all gone badly (!). Others have no doubt done what God equipped them to do, but not I. I have used grace and Christ's shed blood as an excuse for doing things I probably wouldn't even have done as a pagan. I have rededicated myself to Christ more times than I can count. But it seems to stay the same, or even get worse, no matter what I do. Whatever the outer limits of Christ's grace are, I have certainly crossed them. I have utterly, consciously, and with planning aforethought blown it all.
"I guess I was never a Christian in the first place, because if I had been, I would have made some progress in the Christian life. Maybe I was never part of the elect. If I wasn't there's nothing I can do about that. Anyway, I am now beyond hope. I'll try going to church for a while longer, but I think I've tried every possible thing the church has told me to do. After that, I guess I'll return to paganism and 'eat, drink, and be merry' for the time I've got left. What else is there to do?"
First of all, he recognizes that the Law has done, and is doing, its work on him or her. The pastor realizes that what is needed in this case is not the Law but the Gospel. One of the effects of Wesleyan revivalism in this country has been the common conviction that genuine conversion always shows itself in measurable moral progress (and correlatively, the lack of such progress is evidence that no true regeneration has taken place.) so the still-sinning believer is led to believe that he is not now a believer at all. Luther recognized the deadliness of this sort of theology. He knew that any counsel that turns us back into ourselves for assurance is no assurance at all. To put the matter bluntly, Luther knew that the death and resurrection of Christ in our stead was strong enough in its effect to save even a Christian!

J. Budziszewski quote:

On the prolongation of adolescence, JB reminds us that "Adolescence is the span of time between the biological readiness to begin a family and the moral readiness to assume its responsibilities" (p.174) and he finishes the section with this paragraph:
"The unnatural prolongation of adolescence poses a variety of moral problems. Normal erotic desire is transmuted from a spur to marriage to an incentive for promiscuity. Promiscuity thwarts the attainment of moral wisdom, and makes conjugal love itself seem unattractive. Furthermore, prolonged irresponsibility is itself a sort of training, and a bad one. Before long the entire culture is caught up in a Peter Pan syndrome, terrified of leaving childhood. At this point even the responsibilities of marriage and family begin to lose their transformative character. Men in their forties with children in their twenties say “I still don’t feel like a grown-up,” “I still can’t believe I’m a father.” Their very capacity to face the moral life has been impaired."

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Elert on "the question of the law's third function" --

(taken from Law & Gospel, pp. 38-39, - thanks Jady Koch!)

Is there such a thing as a "third use" or "third function" of the law in addition to the usus theologicus, elenchticus, or paedagogicus and the usus politicus? Melanchthon, the Formula of Concord, and Calvin as well, answered this question in the affirmative, but in different ways and for different reasons. Luther also is said to have "clearly espoused" the usus triplex legis (threefold function of the law), hence also a third function, at the conclusion of his Second Disputation Against the Antinomians held on January 13, 1538. Here in fact, at the conclusion, one finds the following sentences: "Why should the law be taught? the law is to be taufht for the sake of discipline ... that by this pedagogy men might come to Christ. Secondly, the law is to be taught in order to expose sin. Thirdly, the law is to be retained so that the saints may know which works God requires." One could hardly state the usus triplex more clearly. These sentences, however, represent a forgery.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Wittgenstein quotes:

from "Culture and Value"

"Christianity is not a doctrine, not, I mean, a theory about what has happened and will happen to the human soul, but a description of something that actually takes place in human life. For 'consciousness of sin' is a real event and so are despair and salvation through faith. Those who speak of such things (Bunyan for instance) are simply describing what has happened to them, whatever gloss anyone may want to put on it."

"Predestination: it is only possible to write like this out of the most dreadful suffering -- and then it means something quite different. But for the same reason it is not possible for someone to assert it as a truth, unless he himself says it in torment. -- It simply isn't a theory. -- Or, to put it another way: If this is truth, it is not the truth that seems at first sight to be expressed by these words. It's less a theory than a sigh, or a cry."

"Rules of life are dressed up in pictures. And these pictures can only serve to describe what we are to do, not justify it. Because they could provide a justification only if they held good in other respects as well. I can say: "Thank these bees for the honey as though they were kind people who have prepared it for you"; that is intelligible and describes how I should like you to conduct yourself. But I cannot say: "Thank them because, look, how kind they are!" -- since the next moment they may sting you.
Religion says: Do this! -- Think like that! -- but it cannot justify this and once it even tries to, it becomes repellent; because for every reason it offers there is a valid counter-reason. It is more convincing to say: "Think like this! however strangely it may strike you." Or: "Won't you do this? -- however repugnant you find it."

Friday, May 12, 2006

Blacklisted: Is Stephin Merritt a racist because he doesn't like hip-hop?

--taken from

Stephin Merritt is an unlikely cracker. The creative force behind the Magnetic Fields, Merritt is diminutive, gay, and painfully intellectual. His music is witty and tender. He plays the ukulele. He named his Chihuahua after Irving Berlin. And yet no less an influential music critic than The New Yorker's Sasha Frere-Jones has used that word—"cracker"—to describe him. Frere-Jones has also called him "Stephin 'Southern Strategy' Merritt," presumably in reference to Richard Nixon's race-baiting attempt to crush the Democratic Party. These are heady words, part of a two-year online campaign of sorts by Frere-Jones (also a former Slate music critic) and the Chicago Reader music contributor Jessica Hopper to brand Merritt a racist. The charge: He doesn't like hip-hop, and on those occasions when he's publicly discussed his personal music tastes, he has criticized black artists.

The bizarre case against Merritt came to a head last month at the Experience Music Project's annual Pop Conference. Merritt was the keynote speaker, and in a panel conversation he described "Zip-A-Dee Doo-Dah," from Disney's legendarily racist 1946 musical Song of the South, as a "great song." He made clear, according to a partial transcript of the panel provided by his band mate Claudia Gonson, that he did not actually like Song of the South, calling it unwatchable and saying that it has just "one great song. The rest of it is terrible, actually."

This was too much for Hopper, who was in the audience and had already written on her blog that she intended to confront Merritt. She walked out in anger and wrote, falsely, that, "I did not have to ask Stephin Merrit [sic] of Magnetic Flds whether he was racist, because his nice, long elucidating comment about his love, NAY, obsession with racist cartoon, Song of the South, served as a pre-emptive answer. It's one thing to have 'Zippitty Doo Da' be your favorite song. It is another to lay in for Uncle Remus appreciation hour amidst a panel—('I love all of it,' he says)."

Of course Merritt had said no such thing. Later, when confronted with a transcript of the panel, Hopper retracted her comments. But not before other bloggers picked up the meme. Frere-Jones linked to a list of favorite recordings of the 20th century—one for each year—that Merritt had written for Time Out New York six years ago and noted that few of the artists or composers were black. I have never met Merritt, and I have no idea whether or not he hates black people. But neither do Sasha Frere-Jones and Jessica Hopper. The evidence on which they base their claims and insinuations—the fact that Merritt doesn't enjoy listening to select black artists and doesn't like most hip-hop—is flimsy stuff. Moreover, the whole of their sustained attack against Merritt is founded on the dangerous and stupid notion that one's taste in music can be interrogated for signs of racist intent the same way a university's admissions process can: If the number of black artists in your iPod falls too far below 12.5 percent of the total, then you are violating someone's civil rights.

"I've obviously said it already," Hopper told me when I asked her flat-out if Merritt is a racist. "I think there's some real questionable shit in what he thinks about race and music." Asked where that "questionable shit" can be found, Hopper referred me to a 2004 Salon interview in which Merritt said that he liked "the first two years of rap," including the first Run DMC record, but that he finds contemporary hip-hop boring and—wait for it—racist. "I think it's shocking that we're not allowed to play coon songs anymore," Merritt said, "but people, both black and white, behave in more vicious caricatures of African-Americans than they had in the 19th century. It's grotesque. … It probably would have been considered too tasteless for the Christy Minstrels." In the same interview, he made the moral error of not liking OutKast, whose single "Hey Ya!" was at the time serving as America's background music: "I'm desperately sick of hearing it."

Around the same time, in a New York magazine interview, Merritt again dared to publicly express his boredom with OutKast and furthermore said of Justin Timberlake: "I'm not really exposed to him except as a photographic image. He gives good photo shoot." Of Beyoncé and Britney Spears: "[Spears] would be absolutely meaningless if we didn't see pictures of her. Beyoncé is not famous for her songs, she's famous for that outfit. Which is not necessarily a bad thing."

A reasonable person would understand two things from these comments: 1) that Merritt believes contemporary popular music, whether it's produced by white people (Timberlake and Spears), or black people (Beyoncé), to be more concerned with selling an image than recording and performing songs; and 2) that, like much of America, he had heard as much OutKast as he cared to. Frere-Jones, who writes cogently and seriously about hip-hop and plays guitar and sings in his own carefully disorganized (and quite good) rock band, surveyed the above and reacted as though Merritt had stood in the doorway of the University of Alabama's Foster Auditorium and declared that OutKast shall not pass. "[N]ote how eager Merritt is to dismiss Beyoncé, OutKast, Britney, and Justin, not just as singers and songwriters but as bearers of meaning. That's a bias. Two women, three people of color and one white artist openly in love with black American music. That's who he's biased against. You could say there's no pattern here. … You would then, hopefully, let me get a taste of whatever has made you so HIGH."

The final count in Merritt's indictment is a Playlist he wrote for the New York Times' Sunday Arts and Leisure section in May 2004. According to his band mate Gonson, the Times presented Merritt with a stack of forthcoming CDs to write about. He chose seven, and all of them were by white artists. To which Frere-Jones responded: "The new idea for Playlist at the New York Times is to find some rockist cracker and let him loose. … Let's watch Stephen [sic] Merritt swing a scythe through the fields of popular music with a blindfold on. Huh! Seven 'great' new pop records and not a person of color involved in a single one. That's one magical, coincidence-prone scythe you got there, Stephen."

I would refute Frere-Jones' posturing, but upon inspection there is no argument to refute. There is nothing but innuendo and implication. Frere-Jones is either too cowardly or too prudent to call Merritt a racist, but he doesn't have to—he lets sophistry do the work for him. It would be one thing if Frere-Jones were just some disgruntled OutKast fan with a MySpace page. But he is in fact a disgruntled OutKast fan with access to The New Yorker's pages and all the credibility and authority that go along with that. He ought to take the things he writes on his blog seriously.

I asked Frere-Jones what, precisely, he was trying to say about Merritt, but after promising to reply via e-mail, he never did. So, we are left to assume that his argument is something along the lines of: In order to not be racist, you have to like Beyoncé, or at least pretend to. Or we could give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that he simply means that you must like, or publicly profess to like, some minimum number of black artists relative to the total number of artists you like. Which puts him in an awkward position with respect to Merritt, considering he has no earthly idea what other artists Merritt listens to, or why.

And even if he did: If black artists are underrepresented in my CD collection relative to the frequency with which black people are found in the general population, does that make me a racist? To even begin to believe that it does, you have to first maintain that racial preferences somehow logically relate to music preferences; that racists avoid music made by black people, and that people who aren't racist don't pay attention to the race of the artist when evaluating music. Both propositions are ludicrous. Anybody who has been to a frat party knows that people can simultaneously a) entertain racist attitudes and b) enjoy listening to hip-hop music created by black people. (In fact, Merritt's argument is that the latter tends to reinforce the former.)

By the same token, perfectly reasonable nonracist people take race and ethnicity into account in their musical preferences all the time. Hopper herself, whom I presume Frere-Jones would certify is kosher when it comes to the race-music axis, has complained bitterly on her blog of the "whiteness"—which she describes as "purposeful," "icky," and "dangerous"—of Merritt's music. So, if it sounds dangerously white, we can infer that she'd like it to sound like something else. More … what?

The closest thing to a coherent argument that can be gleaned from what Frere-Jones and Hopper are saying is that a genuine respect for our common dignity and humanity requires that we enjoy listening to hip-hop, and that we bend our intuitive aesthetic judgments about music to a political will—like eating our vegetables and avoiding dessert. "Zip-A-Dee Doo-Dah" may be catchy and delightfully mindless, but an understanding of its context requires you to reject its charms. And Beyoncé may be trite and boring, but your subtle racist ideology provokes that reaction, so you must find a way to appreciate her music.

And if you can't? Try harder, cracker.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Lindstrom & Prins Thomas

Great current music coming out of Norway:

Eskimo Recordings are proud to unveil their debut artist album release, produced by two of the hottest leftfield dance artists around, namely Hans-Peter Lindstrøm and fellow Norwegian, Thomas M. Hermansen (aka Prins Thomas).

Lindstrøm is rapidly becoming one of the biggest new names on the electronic dance circuit, with a string of highly regarded EPs under his belt, including the recent underground smash ‘I Feel Space’. Often working alongside fellow Norwegian Prins Thomas, he’s remixed artists for labels from Wall of Sound to Clone and Kingsize and no remix package is complete these days without one of his analogue-heavy, Italo-esque reworkings.

Prins Thomas has made a name for himself as the remix king from Norway, working the likes of Kango’s Stein Massiv, Martini Bros, Flunk, Diskodans, Bermuda Triangle and Jackmaster Dahle amongst a host of other tip top names from the underground as well as releasing his own music on Feedelity and Rong Music.

Lindstrøm and Prins Thomas joined forces in 2003, after mutual admiration and inspiration of each others productions. Lindstrøm as muso-wizard and Prins Thomas as the nu-skool remix-champ. They both have a background from different Norwegian, and rather admittedly shameful, band-projects; ranging from punk to gospel via country to heavy metal to folk and psychedelia but they also share the same passion for collecting records and run their own labels Feedelity, Full Pupp and Tamburin from their Scandanavian liar. Besides working on various solo-projects, their main priority is their joint venture into the ever-expanding outer limits of futuristic disko and universal boogie! They both DJ, as well as performing a semi-live laptop-set which will be seen on a full world wide tour this autumn.

The Oslo-based producer/DJ Lindstrøm has been releasing tracks through Feedelity (the label he formed himself in 2003) and Steve ‘Fella’ Kotey’s like-minded Bear Funk imprint, garnering international acclaim which has recently seen him remixing the likes of LCD Soundsystem, The Juan McLean, Chicken Lips and Alden Tyrell. Now alongside Prins Thomas the duo unleash their highly anticipated debut long-player on the label that has given us defining mix CDs from The Glimmers, Optimo, Recloose, Rub N Tug, Headman, Ivan Smagghe and most recently Chromeo. Featuring Italo, funk and disco-influenced productions alongside the production spark genius that defined those lost halcyon releases of the post disco/punk era circa ’78-’84 Lindstrøm and Prins Thomas provide us with lush basslines, sublime melodies and rolling rhythms that cascade like snowflakes being hit by harsh early-morning sunlight – icy, but with a heart bursting with pure emotion. Throughout you can find the experimental energy of the continental space-disco of the Eighties which the pair still adore: melodic, synth-heavy and Moroder-esque, with arpeggiated basslines set to proto-house 4/4 grooves.

So stick it on and wrap yourself up in the basslines and melodies of Lindstrøm and Prins Thomas’s sublime norse code.

Listen to audio clips here:

Click Me, then choose "scando-med cosmic disco - lindstrom, prins thomas & todd terje" on the right, under "special features" section

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Karl Holl excerpt:

taken from "The Reconstruction of Morality" (pp. 74-78)

"Luther also attacked the Nominalist position on the basis of actual fact. He said the idea that the supreme achievement of morality, to love God above all things, can be realized on the basis of pure reason is a gross self-deception. The presupposition that the will is able and willing to carry into effect what reason dictates is false. For the will secretly goes its own way alongside and in spite of reason. Because the will is fundamentally selfish, it would rather have no God at all or be God itself than surrender completely to him. We are unable, by natural effort, to give the invisible God what we owe him, our whole will.

"In opposistion to the Scholastics, Luther refused to recognize as moral in any sense the still lower level of action, the deed without any reference to God, the morality without religion. Such action is defective in its decisive element: motivation. The inescapable conclusion is that where love of God is not the decisive thing, self-love prevails. There is no inbetween, such as a 'neutral act'. Luther was not impressed by the Nominalistic sophism that in that case someone who does not commit adultery, murder, or theft would be committing a sin. He affirms this conclusion wholeheartedly. The statement would be absurd only if the one who avoids the crude offense were also free from the secret impulse of desire or anger. With this in mind, one should not hesitate to call even nonadulterers sinners according to the Sermon on the Mount. Even if we grant the improbable -- that a person might act completely virtuously -- the final motive can only be a selfish one when the thought of God is completely excluded. Thus even a deed that is pure in itself becomes sinful in God's sight, since its author is really obliged to serve God.

"Luther thus consciously destroyed all the tendencies toward a so-called autonomous morality which Scholasticism had developed. In the Lectures on Romans he sharpened the judgment of Augustine concerning the virtues of the heathen and vented his full fury upon Aristotle as a moral philosopher. this was not due to a lack of education or theological narrow-mindedness. He saw that no one is devoid of good impulses, and that an autonomous morality indeed represents an ennobling of the person. But he clearly saw the profound contrast between a religiously determined and a self-centered morality, and after the pattern of Paul did not hesitate to draw our the ultimate deductions. These two interpretations of morality are not related as two stages, in which there can be progress from one to the other through the attainment of a higher point of view. They are opposites. For the attitude is fundamentally different in each case. In one case, the ultimate goal is purely immanent; moral effort aims at self-perfection. In the other, duty is defined by an a priori divine order, and there is awareness of conditioning by another will. This does not mean submission, in apathy or ease, to one's fate. One can -- and according to Luther, one should -- freely affirm the duty arising from such submission, as well as the submission itself. Only by doing so does one assume the attitude toward God which God himself regards as alone appropriate. A forced service does not please God. When Luther emphasized the freedom of this submission as essential he laid the basis for an autonomy of a higher type with respect to the obligations imposed by God. At the same time he was perfectly aware that such an affirmation of the will of God demands a rupture, a renunciation of self-seekinf, and above all the recognitions that self-seeking even in its refined 'moral' form is a violation of God's rightful claims. The self-awareness of the merely 'moral' person will always struggle against such a recognition and just for this reason a religiously determined morality, as soon as it correctly understands itself, will always regard an 'autonomous' morality as a hindrance rather than as a preparation.

"This point of view matches the severity with which Luther maintained his demand for a constant, conscious relationship to God in contrast to the more moderate expectations of Scholasticism. While the constantly repeated slogan of the 'good intention' was ringing in his ears, he noted but little real earnestness in this connection. He accordingly characterized the idea of a 'virtual intention' as an easy self-consolation that surely makes Satan rejoice, since there is no better way to teach people to neglect their perpetual responsibility toward God. In the 'actual intention' he now recognized the basic error of the Scholastic interpretation -- a deficient appreciation of the depth out of which a true act of the will must be born. The idea in the church was that an individual had accomplished somthing if a momentary good intention had been induced. But such an act is nothing more than a fleeting frame of mind, a wish , a quickly forgotten resolution. If one were serious about arousing an act of the will, the question would soon arise whether a good intention is really attainable that easily. It would then become obvious to everyone that the will is divided and, more important, that a conscious act is always influenced by the impression left by one's total previous behavior on the substratum of the personality. Every attempt at an elevation of the soul has the whole leaden weight of one's natural being to contend with, along with the results of one's development. The effort must go much deeper; it must continually try to encompass the unconscious, too, and where the ascent to God is ernestly soulght, a furious battle takes place in which success can be given only by God himself. The awakened act praised by the church is at best only a feeble 'willingness to will'; in the spirit of Jesus one must judge even more severly that it is hyposcrisy. For the actual person, the always self-seeking ego, is not at all affected by it.

"Luther thus accomplished in the moral realm what he was accomplishing in the religious realm. He cleared out everything alien and inferior, all dilutions and accommodations by which the moral idea of Christianity had been distorted in the course of its evolution, and thus restored its original vigor. To return to the New Testament interpretation of morality was equivalent, however, to perceiving once again the chasm that separated it from the ordinary secular interpretation of life and the general principles prevailing in state and society."

Monday, May 08, 2006

Katie Holmes & Tom Cruise's Baby: A 'Blue-Eyed Beauty'

Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise "joyously welcomed the arrival of a baby girl, Suri, today," Cruise's rep said in a statement after PEOPLE first broke the news Tuesday afternoon.

"The child weighed 7 pounds, 7 ounces and was 20 inches in length. Both mother and daughter are doing well."

Suri was born in an L.A.-area hospital – just down the hall from where Brooke Shields gave birth to her daughter Grier on the same day.

The birth went so smoothly that Holmes left the hospital within 24 hours. Holmes, Cruise and baby Suri are back home now and doing well.

Suri "has lots and lots of dark hair and big, blue eyes," says a source close to Holmes's family. "She's going to be a beautiful baby."

Adds Cruise's friend Kirstie Alley: "Tom does everything 150 percent, and fatherhood he does 300 percent. They're going to have a great kid."

The name Suri has its origins in Hebrew meaning "princess," or in Persian meaning "red rose."

Last October, barely six months into their romance, an ecstatic Cruise and Holmes revealed that they were expectant parents.

Cruise, 43, and Holmes, 27, had made no secret of their desire to start a family together: When asked by PEOPLE last June if they were planning to have children, Holmes smiled and said simply, "Yes."

Friends of the Toledo, Ohio-bred Holmes called her perfectly suited to her upcoming role. "She almost seems born for motherhood," said Oliver Hudson, actress Kate Hudson's brother and an old pal who costarred with Holmes in Dawson's Creek. "She's a nurturer. She's got mother qualities a lot of girls her age don't have."

Cruise, meanwhile, is "a great dad already," according to his pal, actress Leah Remini. He has two children from his marriage to Nicole Kidman: Isabella, 13, and Connor, 11, whom Cruise and Kidman adopted as infants. Remini told PEOPLE that both kids are "so cool…You can sit and talk to them about life."

As for marriage, Cruise and Holmes plan to tie the knot soon, Cruise said on the German TV program Wetten, dass..? on April 1. "In summer we want to get married. I won't let this woman get away."

Immediately ahead for the new dad: the May 5 release of Mission: Impossible 3. Holmes stars in the recently released satirical film about Washington politics, Thank You for Smoking.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Two exceprts from PZ's most recent "State of the Church" posting:

It is amazing. I heard about a sermon preached recently at a large and celebrated evangelical church (not in Pittsburgh), and it was that massive same-old, same-old. The preacher said that there are two questions we shall all be asked on Judgment Day: One, did we accept Christ? And Two, how did we do after we had accepted Christ? He said that he “guaranteed” that we would all be asked these two questions.

Now here is this preacher acting like Britney Spears: “Oops! I did it again.” Oops, I preached the Law again, to Christians. I started by preaching the Grace of God – that is, before you accepted Christ – but then, after you became a Christian, it’s the Law for you!

This is just the same thing we hear everywhere and Sunday after Sunday, from here to eternity. You preach forgiveness to sinners, then once they respond in joy to that great enabling word, you place their necks securely under the Law.


The best alien story ever written is the story of Christ’s coming to the earth. Why? Because it is truly an alien story. The gift of Grace is alien to the human condition. Grace is not Law. It does not accuse, nor does it demand, nor does it legislate, nor does it require. It sets all that aside. The best tag-line for a science-fiction move that has ever been written was written by St. Paul, when he said, “Christ is the end of the Law, for them that believe” (Romans 10:4).

That is alien wisdom. It could never have come from a human hand.

We would have put in requirements, or conditions, or “tweaked” it (a truly Legal phrase), or talked about “good cop, bad cop,” or put it in our own action-consequence lingo. We could never, ever have come up with something like, “Christ is the end of the Law.” And for Christians, no less.

St. Paul was not a “covenantal nomist.”

Flee churches that place nice Christian sufferers under the Law.

But… where will you go?

Click Me to read it all!

Fitz Allison quote:

from "Fear, Love, & Worship"--

(p.12) "A lot of nonsense is talked about our looking for God and our trying to find him. Yet, actually, the reverse is the case."

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Simeon Zahl comment:

(excerpt taken from comment thread on Pontifications blog: Click Me to Read the full post and thread!)

"For me anyway, the thing I really disagree with about the ontological change model is that it assumes that the ontological change alters the individual’s relationship, pastorally, to the Law. That is why I am very nearly as unhappy with Calvin as with the RCC! Lex semper accusat. I have never met anyone who really experienced it otherwise, at least for any length of time, though I’m sure you will say your experience has been different in this regard than mine. If you can describe ontological transformation in such a way that a devolving of pastoral care into a course on the 3rd use of the Law is avoided, I might be able to subscribe to it, but I’m pretty sure that’s not possible.

"For the meantime, I will stick the simultaneous model which provides both hope and change, and a great deal of compassion, but also has proper wariness about the so-called 3rd Use. A former Christian recently referred to the 3rd Use as Christianity’s “bait and switch” tactic in terms of grace: they say it’s all grace, and then as soon as you’re “in” they turn it all around and it’s all about law again. I feel very strongly that this “bait and switch” is not the gospel, and that a justification that feels like that is not justification at all.

"I already responded to you at length a few months ago on John Camp, as you know, why, scripturally as well as pastorally, I cannot accept the infusion/ ontological change model. My position now is the same that it was then. I posted today simply to show support for Nathan, because I had noticed recently precisely the same (what I felt was a) misunderstanding on the part of many Catholics about the Lutheran conception of justification that he was lamenting. I don’t really expect to change your mind, Al! But I think it is significant that two people who agree with Luther but who don’t know each other seem to find the common RC characterization of the Lutheran view of justification wanting in precisely the same way. I think my previous response to you about infusion/ imputation covers the territory of why precisely it is wanting pretty well, or at least as well as I know how ( Click Me! )."

Monday, May 01, 2006

(mock) Contemporary Worship Song Titles -- a list by Art & John Zahl

"Fountain of Management"

"What I Want"

"Lord, May I Borrow Your Cup?"

"Land of Honor"

"All His Compartments"

"Lord, Your 'Yes' Is My 'If'"

"We Want To Be Real Jews"

"Double-Barrel Undone"

"Did You Mean It?"

"I'm Gonna Run for Jesus (the runner's theme)"

"We Are Your Gym"

"Kingdom Jamboree"

"God, You Are A River"

"See Thee In Me"

"Peel Me, God"

"Piece of God"

"Mighty Man of Categories"

"You Lord, My Favorite Choice"