July 15, 2009

And now . . . this - Jul. 15/09

A man in the United States popped out to his local petrol station to buy a pack of cigarettes - only to find his card charged $23,148,855,308,184,500. . . .

He says his appeals to his bank first met with little understanding, though it eventually corrected the error.

[Full Story]

I'm sure the bank has heard every excuse. Who hasn't tried to lie their way out of a $23 quadrillion overdraft? I know I have.

Since I heard of this story from the channel rats on #prosapologian, it's only fitting that I should respond according to the latest channel craze, a haiku:

Unreal overcharge.
Moral of the story is:
Smoking's bad for you.

July 13, 2009

John Calvin's legacy

For the last three days, this blog has been celebrating the 500th birthday of one of history's most influential Christians, the Reformer John Calvin. Today I wrap up the series with the fourth and final installment: some of the influences that John Calvin's life and theology has had on our time.

Separation of church and state

Calvin believed that the church was not subject to the state; nor was the state subject to the church. Both church and state are subject to God's law, and both have their own God-ordained spheres of influence. For example, the church does not have the authority to impose penalties for civil offenses, although it can call on the civil authorities to punish them. Conversely, the state may not intrude on the operations of the church. However, it has a duty to protect the church and its ability to function as the church.

Calvin was a magisterial reformer. He thought of the state as a Christian nation, rather than a secular one. He did not advocate religious freedom in the same sense as the Baptists, for example, later would: this is why he did not oppose the death penalty for heresy for Miguel Servetus. However, his ecclesiology sowed the seeds of the modern secular democracy.


It is often assumed that vigorous evangelism or missionary activity is contradictory to Calvinism. If so, someone forgot to tell John Calvin.

Geneva became a safe haven for Protestant refugees: from Calvin's homeland of France, but also from over Europe. Calvin founded a school to train men in Reformed theology, and then to preach the Gospel and plant churches at home. The city became the nucleus of missionary activity in Europe. In 1561, for example, 140 missionaries are recorded as having left Geneva.

Calvin's evangelistic concern was mainly for France, but Geneva's missionary influence extended all over Europe: to Scotland, home of the Presbyterian Church (whose founder John Knox had been an expatriate in Geneva), England, northern Italy, the Netherlands, and even Poland. Calvin also commissioned the first two overseas missionaries in the history of Protestantism: an expedition to Bazil in 1556.

Bible translation

Bible translation is closely linked with missions and evangelism: a Bible in the common language, that can be read and understood by all, is a major aid to bringing knowledge of God to a culture. Not surprisingly, John Calvin had his hand in creating vernacular Bibles.

Calvin assisted his cousin, Pierre Oliver, to translate the Scriptures into French; the result was the Olivétan Bible, which had the same influence on French Protestantism as Luther’s Bible had had in Germany. Calvin himself wrote the preface.

In England, the accession of Mary I to the throne resulted in the restoration of Roman Catholicism as the official state religion, and the persecution or execution of hundreds of Protestant dissenters. Many English Puritans fled to Geneva to escape "Bloody Mary" and the flames. While there, they produced an English translation under Calvin’s supervision: the so-called Geneva Bible was first published in 1560. Until legislation made its publication illegal, in its day the Geneva Bible was more popular than the later, officially sanctioned Authorized Version. This was partly because of the Calvinistic explanatory notes in the margins. When the Pilgrims sailed to the New World on the ''Mayflower'' in 1620, they took the Geneva Bible with them.

The Protestant work ethic

Calvin repudiated the distinction between "sacred" and "secular" duty, and the conventional wisdom that work was a necessary evil. Instead, he taught that all work is a calling from God. Therefore, it glorifies God to work diligently and joyfully. One of the rewards of hard work is wealth. Calvin did not invent capitalism, but his philosophy of work allowed capitalism to flourish where it was practiced.

That wraps it up for this all-too-brief look at the life and work of one of history's most significant figures. This material was originally presented as a Sunday school lesson at my church on July 4, 2004 (almost exactly 1/100th of the time since Calvin's birth). If you are interested in exploring this subject further, my sources were:

Until next time, thanks.

July 12, 2009

John Calvin's theology

July 10th was the 500th anniversary of the reformer John Calvin's birth. This is the third post in a series about his life, theology, and legacy. Today, I will summarize the key points of John Calvin's theology.

John Calvin was a prolific writer of theology. His most notable work was the Institutes of the Christian Religion, the first edition of which was published in 1536, when he was 26 years old. Calvin revised the Institutes thoroughly several times. The first edition was a small, compact work of a single volume that could be carried in a pocket. However, the final edition, published in 1559, was a thorough systematic theology comprising four volumes.

Calvin's biblical commentaries cover most of the Bible. His Old Testament commentaries excluded the historical books after Judges and most of the wisdom literature (he did comment on the Psalms). His New Testament commentaries are complete except for 1 and 2 John, and Revelation.


Calvin said that there could be no knowledge of self without knowledge of God. All men have a natural awareness of divinity, which is both planted in their minds and made evident through creation. However, man has suppressed or corrupted this knowledge, and confused the creation with the Creator.

Paradoxically, without knowledge of God there can be no knowledge of self. It is only when men contemplate the greatness of God that they can come to realize their own inadequacy.

God is providentially in control of all things that come to pass, including evil things. However, this does not make him the author of sin or evil.


Man is created in the image of God. This image has been marred by the Fall, but not destroyed. Before the Fall, man's will was truly free; however, because of the Fall it is now corrupt and enslaved to sin.

Jesus Christ

The person of Christ provides the solution to this moral dilemma. Christ, being God made man, is the only possible bridge between God and men.

In the Incarnation, God and humanity were joined inseparably in one person, though not in such a way that the divine and human were confused. The relationship between Christ's human and divine natures is paradigmatic for Calvin’s theology whenever the divine touches upon the human.

Calvin was the first person to describe the work of Christ in terms of the threefold offices of prophet, priest, and king:

  • As prophet, Christ's teachings are proclaimed by the Apostles for the purpose of our salvation.
  • As priest, Christ’s sacrifice of himself, and his mediation before the Father, secures the salvation of men.
  • As king, Christ rules the Church spiritually in the hearts of its members.

The Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit unites men to Christ when Christ is apprehended through faith in the promises of Scripture. The Spirit leads men to Christ; without him, saving faith is impossible.

Justification by faith

Justification by faith is called the material principle of the Reformation. It is based upon the mercy of God, not the merits of humanity. Although the doctrines of election and predestination are linked with Calvin's name, the doctrine of election actually plays a relatively minor part of Calvin’s theology. As a second-generation Reformer, his primary concern was organizing and governing the church, rather than theology. Nonetheless, Calvin believed in unconditional election and double predestination.

The sacraments

Calvin taught two sacraments: baptism and the Lord's supper. He differed from sacramentalists, such as Roman Catholics, who believe that the sacraments were a means of receiving justifying grace. Rather, he said, they are the badges, or marks, of Christian profession, testifying to God's grace.

Calvin was a paedobaptist, believing that infants were the proper objects of baptism. He differed from Catholic and Lutheran paedobaptists in arguing that baptism did not regenerate infants. Rather, just as circumcision symbolized entrance into the Old Covenant, baptism did into the New Covenant. His argument for infant baptism draws many parallels between the two signs.

Luther and the Roman Catholic church believed that Christ's body was literally present in the Eucharist, while Ulrich Zwingli taught that the Lord's Supper was a mere memorial. Calvin took a middle ground between the two positions. The elements were a symbol, and therefore could not be the thing they signified; the doctrines of transubstantiation and consubstantiation confused the symbol and the substance. On the other hand, Zwingli's memorialism divorced symbol and substance completely. Calvin taught that when one receives the bread and wine, which are literal food and drink, in a spiritual sense he receives the spiritual food and drink of the Christian. Christ is spiritually present when the Eucharist is received by faith.

Church polity

Calvin is the founder of the presbyterian system of church government.

At the local level, Calvin's system involved a council of pastors representing the local assembly, and responsible for teaching and shepherding the churches. The Consistory, a larger council comprising pastors and lay elders elected according to district, was responsible for maintaining church discipline and watching over the moral lives of church members. At the regional level was the presbytery, then above this were provincial and national synods.

This system, intended to function in a time of persecution, is an efficient and flexible one. The local church appointed its own officers and could continue to function with the loss of a minister. Alternatively, if the presbytery/synod failed to meet, the church could continue at the local level.

Church government is closely tied to church discipline. Discipline is the ordering of church life in obedience to Christ in response to the teaching of Scripture. It has a threefold aim: the glory of God, the purity of the Church, and the correction of the offender.

The power of the Church to punish offenders was limited to excommunication. Typically, this meant denying them the Lord’s Supper, baptism for them or their children, or marriage. While these punishments might sound rather trivial today, they would have been significant in a community that had only recently abandoned Roman Catholic sacramentalism, in which baptism and the Eucharist were seen as the means by which divine grace were conferred.

Calvin and Calvinism

Calvinism is the system of understanding soteriology that was codified at the Synod of Dort in 1618-19, in the so-called Five Points of Calvinism. Calvin himself was not the source of these articles. A later Protestant reformer, James Arminius, opposed his teaching on predestination. A number of his followers drew up a document in 1610, titled the Articles of Remonstrance, in which they outlined five points of disagreement with Calvin's soteriology. In response, the Reformed churches convened in Dort in 1610 to answer the Remonstrants with five points of their own, which are remembered by the acrostic TULIP:

  • Total depravity: Man's whole being is corrupted by sin, such that he is an enemy of God, unable and unwilling to come to God and be saved.
  • Unconditional election: God chooses men for salvation based on his own good pleasure, not because of any foreseen merit they possess.
  • Limited atonement (or particular redemption): Christ's death on the cross was specifically designed to secure the salvation of the elect, and has no salvific benefits for the reprobate.
  • Irresistible grace (or effectual calling): Those whom God calls to salvation and extends his saving grace, will certainly come to him and be saved.
  • Perseverance of the saints: Having secured the salvation of the elect, God keeps them in a state of grace such that they will never finally and irreversibly fall away from faith.

There is some debate whether Calvin himself affirmed all these five points. In his writings, he explicitly affirms total depravity, unconditional election, irresistible grace, and the perseverance of the saints. However, his affirmation of limited atonement is implicit at best. Some scholars, such as Norman Geisler, have denied that Calvin believed in limited atonement; others, such as Roger Nicole, say that he affirmed all five points. Personally, I am persuaded that he did believe in a limited atonement, based on excerpts such as the following, which comes from a treatise he wrote against a Lutheran theologian, Tilemann Heshusius, and his view of the Lord's supper:

I should like to know how the wicked can eat the flesh of Christ which was not crucified for them, and how they can drink the blood which was not shed to expiate their sins.

Tomorrow I will wrap up this series on John Calvin with a brief look at the legacy he left the church and the world to this day.

July 11, 2009

John Calvin and the Servetus incident

Yesterday, July 10, was the 500th anniversary of the birth of the great Protestant reformer, John Calvin. I blogged about his early life and ministry. Today, I continue with the latter part of his life. In subsequent installments, I'll discuss Calvin's theology, and his legacy.

Calvin had been banished from Geneva in 1538, after he defied an order, issued by the adversarial civil government, not to preach on Easter Sunday. After two years, the Genevans decided they were worse off without him, and entreated him to return, which he did in September 1541. Calvin's invitation to return to Geneva was a clear mandate to reform the church and the community. His previous conflict in Geneva had shown that he lacked pastoral experience, but after three years ministering to French evangelicals in Strasbourg, he was a more seasoned churchman.

This second Genevan period has been mischaracterized by many historians as a virtual reign of terror, with John Calvin as the dictator of the city. In fact, even though they begged him back, the civil authorities in Geneva were no happier to have him in the city. He was not a citizen, but a legal resident alien - a habitant - and tolerated as pastor only because no native Genevans were qualified. His political influence extended only as far as his powers of persuasion would carry it. In fact, the next 13 years were marked by constant conflict between Calvin and the city council. They attempted to interfere with the operation of the church, and Calvin opposed their encroachment on what he argued was his rightful sphere of authority.

In 1549, Calvin's wife Idolette died after an illness, leaving him to raise his two stepsons alone. Calvin and Idolette had had only one child together, a son who died in infancy.

The continouous conflict between the civil and ecclesiastical authorities in Geneva is best exemplified by the controversy over the arrest and execution of Miguel Servetus. Servetus was a Spanish physician, credited with first describing the operation of pulmonary circulation. But his scientific accomplishments were overshadowed by his theological innovations. Servetus was a heretic: in 1531 and 1532, he had published three works denouncing the doctrine of the Trinity. He had also developed an interest in the young John Calvin. In 1534, he had arranged to meet with Calvin in Paris. Calvin, thinking perhaps he could be of assistance to Servetus, returned in secret to Paris, but Servetus did not meet him.

In 1553, Servetus was arrested, imprisoned and condemned to death in France for his anti-Trinitarian theology. He escaped and fled to Geneva. However, when he attended church while Calvin was preaching, he was recognized and arrested. He was tried, convicted, and again sentenced to death by burning at the stake.

Though Calvin is commonly assumed to have been responsible for Servetus' execution, in reality he simply did not have that authority. The civil government enforced the civil law, which included laws against heresy. Calvin was a pastor, so his authority was limited to exercising church discipline, which might involve withholding of communion or baptism to children, or at the most excommunication from the church. It was his civic duty to denounce Servetus to the authorities and, as the city pastor, to be an "expert witness" in theology at the trial. In fact, in his capacity as pastor, Calvin tried as far as he was able, to assist Servetus. He visited him in prison and attempted unsuccessfully to persuade him to recant his heresy. He also pled with the city council to have Servetus beheaded, a faster and more humane form of execution than burning. Predictably, they refused, and Servetus was executed at the stake on October 27, 1553.

We must judge Calvin's consent to Michael Servetus' death according to the prevailing wisdom of the day, rather than by today's more progressive standards of religious liberty. In the 16th century, heresy was considered both an ecclesiastical and a serious civil offense that threatened public peace. Servetus had already been convicted and condemned in a Roman Catholic country. The opinions of other governments and reformers were sought - incuding Bucer, Farel, Philip Melancthon, and Theodore Beza - and they unanimously agreed that Servetus must die. In hindsight, nearly everyone now agrees that the burning of Michael Servetus was a serious error. However, John Calvin was not the one responsible for his death. He is vilified for it by those who despise his person and his theology, not because he bore any more responsibility for Servetus' death than any other religious or civil authority in that day. Conveniently for Calvin's detractors, he could be blamed because the incident occurred in Geneva during his service as pastor, and because he seemingly lacked the foresight to see that his theology would lead to the idea of religious tolerance a few centuries later.

But the political situation in Geneva was changing. Over the years, the number of French-born bourgeoisie had increased. These were resident aliens who had bought the right to vote. In 1555 (two years after Servetus' execution), they had sufficient numbers to elect a city council sympathetic to Calvin and his reforms. Finally, John Calvin was able to do his pastoral work without the distraction of government interference. He also turned his attention to foreign missionary work, particularly in his homeland, France. Between 1555 and 1562, hundreds of missionaries were sent from Geneva into France, where they established 1200 evangelical churches, as well as many others all over Europe.

In 1564, Calvin's health began to deteriorate. On April 24, he wrote out his last will and testament, in which he wrote:

First, I give thanks to God, that taking compassion on me whom he had created and placed in this world, he not only delivered me by his power out of the deep darkness of idolatry, into which I was plunged, that he might bring me into the light of his gospel, and make me a partaker of the doctrine of salvation, of which I was most unworthy; that with the same goodness and mercy he has graciously and kindly borne with my multiplied transgressions and sins, for which I deserved to be rejected and cut off by him; and has also exercised towards me such great compassion and clemency, that he has condescended to use my labor in preaching and publishing the truth of his gospel. I also testify and declare, that it is my full intention to pass the remainder of my life in the same faith and religion, which he has delivered to me by his gospel; having no other defense or refuge of salvation than his gratuitous adoption, on which alone my safety depends. I also embrace with my whole heart the mercy which he exercises towards me for the sake of Jesus Christ, atoning for my crimes by the merits of his death and passion, that in this way satisfaction may be made for all my transgressions and offenses, and the remembrance of them blotted out. I further testify and declare that, as a suppliant, I humbly implore of him to grant me to be so washed and purified by the blood of that sovereign Redeemer, sited for the sins of the human race, that I may be permitted to stand before his tribunal in the image of the Redeemer himself. I likewise declare, that according to the measure of grace and mercy which God has vouchsafed me, I have diligently made it my endeavor, both in my sermons, writings, and commentaries, purely and uncorruptly to preach his word, and faithfully to interpret his sacred Scriptures. I testify and declare that in all the controversies and disputes, which I have conducted with the enemies of the gospel, I have made use of no craftiness, nor corrupt and sophistical arts, but have been engaged in defending the truth with candor and sincerity.

On May 27, 1564, John Calvin died at the age of 54.

In tomorrow's installment, I'll discuss the salient points of Calvin's theology.

July 10, 2009

And now . . . this - Jul. 10/09

Hoo boy . . . some people have way too much time on their hands - including NY Post reporters who are having way too much fun writing these stories.

Superman and Batman took on New York's Finest last night in an epic Crossroads of the World battle that left the Caped Crusader in cuffs.

Stunned Times Square tourists and office workers watched agog as cops struggled to subdue Clark Kent's alter ego without kryptonite.

"The Man of Steel didn't go down with just two officers, it took seven officers!" witness Ryan McCormick said. "He was putting up a good fight. Little kids were like, 'Mommy, it's Superman!'"

If that wasn't weird enough, McCormick turned and saw the Dark Knight handcuffed to a chair like a common villain.

[Full Story]

Meanwhile, New York's finest are stepping up their patrols of the city, in case Lex Luthor, the Joker, or Mr. Mxyzptlk try to take advantage of the situation.

Happy birthday, John Calvin

Today is the 500th anniversary of the birth of John Calvin - along with Martin Luther, one of the chief architects of the Protestant Reformation, and one of the most important shapers of Western civilization.

Calvin was born Jean Cauvin in Noyon, France to Gerard Cauvin, a successful attorney, and Jeanne le Franc, a devout Catholic. The name Calvin is derived from the Latin version of his surname, Calvinus. Nothing is known about his childhood, and very little about his early years. As a student in Paris, he studied the liberal arts before continuing his studies in theology at his father's request. Later, when Gerard had a falling-out with the local bishop, he instructed John to pursue an education in civil law, which he did in the French city of Orléans. After graduating in 1531, he returned to Paris.

Calvin had wanted to be a man of letters, not a professional lawyer. In 1532 he self-published a commentary on the Roman philosopher Seneca's Treatise on Clemency. While Calvin's book evidenced considerable rhetorical skill, it otherwise went unnoticed.

Something else happened during his time in Paris: Calvin became an evangelical Protestant, and then an informal leader to other Paris evangelicals. He said or wrote little about his conversion. All that is known about the occasion is what he himself says in the preface to his commentary on the Psalms:

To this pursuit I endeavored faithfully to apply myself in obedience to the will of my father; but God, by the secret guidance of his providence, at length gave a different direction to my course. And first, since I was too obstinately devoted to the superstitions of Popery to be easily extricated from so profound an abyss of mire, God by a sudden conversion subdued and brought my mind to a teachable frame, which was more hardened in such matters than might have been expected from one at my early period of life.

Two crucial incidents took place during Calvin's time in Paris. On November 1, 1533, his friend Nicholas Cop preached a strongly pro-Lutheran sermon in defense of Queen Margaret of Navarre, his patroness and a supporter of reformation. This address enraged both civil and church authorities, compelling Cop to flee Paris. Second, on October 18, 1534, a number of handbills attacking the Mass were affixed to public buildings. As a result of the so-called Placard Incident, Paris became a dangerous place to be an evangelical. Calvin decided to flee to Basel, which was a safe haven for Protestants.

While in Basel, Calvin received news from Geneva that a reformation was underway there. He also got news from France that his evangelical friends were being persecuted and martyred. In response to the persecution, in 1536 he published the first edition of his systematic theology, the Institutes of the Christian Religion, and addressed it to Francis I, king of France. The Institutes were both a defense of the orthodoxy of Protestants and a handy aid for evangelical ministers to use to defend the faith, originally published in a compact octavo format, rather than the 4-volume opus we're familiar with today.

That same year, France offered amnesty to evangelical fugitives if they renounced their views within six months. Calvin took advantage of the amnesty to return to Paris and settle his personal affairs. He intended to move to the free city of Strasbourg, and live quietly as a professional scholar. However, a war between King Francis and Charles V of Germany obstructed the most direct route to Strasbourg. He was compelled to take a longer route through Switzerland, where he stopped overnight in Geneva.

The reformer Guillaume Farel was in Geneva at the time, and somehow word got to him that Calvin was lodging in Geneva. When he located him, he entreated Calvin to stay and participate in the Swiss reformation. Calvin wanted only to pursue his own course of study in Strasbourg, but the zealous Farel, unsatisfied, threatened Calvin with a divine curse his studies if he refused to stay. Calvin acquiesced and remained in Geneva, assisting Farel as a Bible lecturer.

Farel and Calvin were continually at odds with the civil government and inhabitants of Geneva, who thought their moral reforms too strict. Geneva had three classes of residents: there were the citoyens, natural, baptized citizens of Geneva who had the right to participate in all levels of city government; bourgeois, who purchased their franchise and were allowed to take limited part in government; and habitants, resident aliens that were not allowed to participate in politics. Calvin was only a habitant. He and Farel, both French, were barely tolerated within Geneva because there were no citoyens qualified to be ministers of the church. The Genevans continually resisted their attempts to reform the organization of the local church. In 1538, a government was elected that was openly antagonistic to the reformers, and they were ordered not to preach on Easter Sunday. They defied the order, and consequently were banished from the city.

Guillaume Farel left Geneva for Neuchâtel, where he remained until his death. Another reformer, Martin Bucer, persuaded Calvin to settle with him in Strasbourg - ironically, the very place Calvin had originally been trying to get to when Farel had persuaded him to change his plans. Calvin became the pastor of the French expatriates in Strasbourg. He published numerous biblical commentaries, as well as a revision of the Institutes in 1539. And he also found time to marry: to Idelette de Bure, a widow whose first husband had been one of Calvin's converts.

In Geneva, the absence of Calvin and Farel led to disorder within the church, and the Genevans began to have second thoughts about banishing them. The Roman Catholic bishop of the district of Geneva, Jacopo Sadoleto, had also written an eloquent open letter to the Genevan Protestants, inviting them to return to the Roman fold. The Genevans had no desire to return to Rome, but they did not know how to respond to Sadoleto's persuasive rhetoric. But Calvin had obtained a copy of the letter, and on his own initiative, he wrote a forceful reply to Sadoleto. This letter raised Calvin's esteem again in the eyes of many Genevans. Copies also reached Wittenberg, where Martin Luther read it and praised it highly: "Here is a writing which has hands and feet," he said. "I rejoice that God has raised up such men." Luther and Calvin never met, but Calvin's letter to Sadoleto was the occasion of some correspondence between them.

By 1540, the council of Geneva was ready to invite Calvin back to the city, and they sent a delegation to Strasbourg to persuade him to return. Initially, Calvin refused. Once again, however, thanks to the entreaties of Guillaume Farel, he reluctantly changed his mind. He eventually returned to Geneva on September 13, 1541.

Calvin's second tenure in Geneva was longer and more productive, but despite the invitation from the Genevans, they were still antagonistic to his presence in their city. And this period was also the time of his greatest controversy, which will be the primary subject of tomorrow's installment.

July 08, 2009

Gail the Ripper doesn't want you reading her books!

G. A. Riplinger, aka Gail the Ripper, is the KJV-onlyist crank who penned the outhouse-worthy book New Age Bible Versions and many other fraudulent tomes of biblical misinformation. Her latest book is titled Hazardous Materials:

Greek and Hebrew Study Dangers, The Voice of Strangers, The Men Behind the Smokescreen, Burning Bibles Word By Word. . . .

You will learn such things as the connection between new version editor and child molester C.J. Vaughan (whose all ‘boys’ school parades their cross-dressing perversion in one, amongst the many never before published photos in this book) and tools such as Strong’s Concordance, Vine’s Expository Dictionary, the Unitarian J.H. Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon, Moulton’s Lexicon and Vincent and Wuest’s Word Studies. Heresy trials deposed editors of the popular Hebrew-English Lexicon by Brown, Driver, and Briggs and the New Testament Greek-English Lexicon by Frederick Danker. All Greek-English New Testament lexicons plagiarize the first Greek-English lexicon written by Scott and Liddell, who harbored the pedophile author of Alice in Wonderland, who took improper photographs of Liddell’s child and remains a suspect in the Jack the Ripper murder case. The book demonstrates that Greek texts from UBS to TBS fail to reach the perfection of the Holy Bible, where God’s words shall not pass away. Why are good Christians putting aside their inspired Bibles to look for light in conflicting and uninspired Greek & Hebrew tools, made by men who denied its truths?

No, really. Every one of Gail the Ripper's books becomes successively more weird and wild-eyed in its insinuations, accusations, and outright falsehood. If she wigs out any further, she'll look like Sinead O'Connor.

It gets funnier. Someone recently attempted to purchase a copy of this book for James White, and got this response from A.V. Publications, the Ripper's vanity imprint and online bookstore:

Thank you for your order. However, we will not fill orders for Mr. James White.

O NOZ!!11!!

Of course, a child could figure out how to circumvent that ban. But it does tell you how blatantly cynical Gail the Ripper has become. She isn't even trying to write factual materials that would withstand the scrutiny of reviewers (or, for that matter, anyone with a library card and a few hours to spare), if she is unwilling to sell Hazardous Materials to someone who might question it. Credit cards welcome (gullible readers only, please).

You gotta laugh.

July 03, 2009

You can be a senator, or you can be a fool

I thought I'd finish off the last four weeks of 80s nostalgia not with a bang, but a - well, not exactly a whimper, but nothing spectacular. Just a catchy, upbeat, solid hit.

Paul Hyde and Bob Rock got together in B.C. in the late 70s and formed a band called Payola$. Their first chart hit was 1982's "Eyes of a Stranger." Wanting to break into the U.S. market, they later revamped their style to a more mainstream rock format and changed their name to Paul Hyde and the Payolas, perhaps fearing that the "Payola$" name alone would prejudice radio stations against playing their singles, thanks to the 1950s' payola scandals, in which deejays and radio stations accepted bribes to increase airplay of certain music and generate popularity for it. But after disappointing sales caused their label, A&M, to drop them, they resumed recording with Capitol/EMI records under the new name Rock & Hyde. The lead single from their new album, 1987's Under the Volcano, charted respectably in the States - better than in Canada, in fact. But in my opinion, the better song is the followup "I Will":

Unfortunately, Rock & Hyde never achieved the commercial success they hoped for, and by the end of the 1980s they had split amicably. Paul Hyde pursued a solo career, though with little success. Bob Rock, on the other hand, became a major hard-rock producer, most notably working with Metallica, starting with the Black Album until St. Anger, on which he also played bass. More recently, he has reunited with Hyde and the Rock & Hyde lineup of the band, again under the name Payola$.

Thanks to all of you for your attention, especially my "friends" on Facebook for your many comments. I hope the last four weeks have been as much fun for you as it has been for me. I have no immediate plans to do this again, though I would love to and there is no shortage of music to choose from. (If anyone wants to suggest a theme for a week, I'm all ears!)

July 02, 2009

The crowd still wanted blood - well, they were in for a big surprise

In the 1980s, Montreal produced two New Wave bands of note. The first is, naturally, Men Without Hats, of "The Safety Dance" Fame. The second was The Box. (In fact, founder Jean-Mark Pisapia had briefly been a member of Men Without Hats early in their existence.) In my first year of university, a classmate and I once disputed over which of the two was a better band. To this day I remain firmly in the Men Without Hats camp.

For today's installment, I've chosen their song "L'Affaire Dumoutier (Say to Me)" from 1985. It has the distinction, I think, of being about the weirdest single to hit the charts. How many bands have released a psychological murder mystery to the radio?

"L'Affiare Dumoutier" is probably The Box' best-known song, strictly because of its quirkiness. Their third album, Closer Together, was their most commercially successful. While the Box were quite well-known in Canada, they had only limited success in the U.S. I believe their song "Ordinary People" received a fair bit of airplay.

July 01, 2009

This is my home: Canada Day 2009

Today is Canada Day: the 142nd anniversary of Confederation. (This, for the record, makes Canada 103 years and 5 months older than me, give or take a week or two.) As always, Ottawa is Celebration Central, and Canadians and tourists alike shed their usual reservedness for one day of overt patriotism.

Every Canada Day, I post the story of one Canadian patriotic song. Since right now I'm caught in the middle of a week of Canadian hits of the 1980s, it seems fitting that this year's song also fit that theme.

During Vancouver's centennial year in 1986, the city hosted the 1986 World Exposition on Transportation and Communication - better known as Expo '86. This was the second time a World's Fair was held in Canada, the first being Expo '67 in Montreal, during the Canadian centennial year. Expo '86 had pavilons from more than 50 nations, most of Canada's provinces and territories, and many corporations, and was attended by numerous VIPs, including Prince Charles and Princess Diana, Margaret Thatcher, and then-U.S. vice president George H. W. Bush. Despite losing more than $300 million, it was considered a resounding success. After the fair was over, much of the land was redeveloped into parkland and condominiums, and a section of it is now being turned into the Olympic village in time for the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Vancouver-based, avant-garde composer Bob Buckley penned a theme for the Canadian pavilion: "Canada: This Is My Home." The song is nothing profound: it's simply a stirring, sentimental piece about how wonderful it is to live in Canada, "from sea to sea." Naturally, it's bilingual (and since my French is barely passable, please excuse any mistakes in the transcription, I've done my best):

From sea to sea, a tapestry of colour, shapes and sounds
We're a people bound together by the visions we have found
From place to place, face to face, we share this common bond
It's a feeling lying deep within, where only dreams belong
Et quand on partage un rêve on va beaucoup plus loin
Viens plus loins, prends ma main, tout un pays se rejoint

This is my home O Canada
This is my home O Canada O Canada

Je découvre avec moi des splendeurs et des coeurs
Des façons de vivre et des pouvoirs createurs
It's here where you realize the heart and home are one
Canada, Canada, we're your daughters we're your sons

This is my home O Canada
This is my home O Canada O Canada
On est chez nous Ô Canada
Chez nous partout Ô Canada Ô Canada
This is my home

O Canada, this is my home
Chez nous partout Ô Canada Ô Canada
On est chez nous Ô Canada
This is my home O Canada O Canada
This is my home

Since Expo '86, the continuing popularity of "This Is My Home" has made it practically an unofficial national anthem. I've heard it performed live twice on Parliament Hill on July 1 (and probably only missed it the other times).

Once again: Happy Birthday, Canada.

Previous Canada Day songs:

She's got a heart of gold, she'd never let me down

In 1985, Bryan Adams' album Reckless was not only Canada's most popular album, but the world's. Reckless spawned numerous notable singles, including "Somebody," "Heaven," and the redoubtable "Summer of '69." But until "(Everything I Do) I Do It fo You" topped the charts everywhere in 1991, it was Reckless' lead single that was Adams' biggest hit - "Run to You":


Lyrically, this song is about a love triangle: the vocalists romantic loyalties are divided between two women, one loyal and the other sexually attractive. Oddly, the video suggests that the latter is his guitar.

I have a theory that many good songs are considered so on the basis of one notable, very short musical hook that grabs your attention and causes you to listen for it every time you hear the song. (This is, of course, purely subjective and entirely unscientific.) I originally formed this idea after hearing "Run to You": its hook comes after the second verse and refrain, a moment of silence followed by some unaccompanied guitar chords. "Run to You"'s hit status isn't deserved for its remarkable originality, but that's a good few seconds of music.